Thursday, October 30, 2008

'Celebrity Sports Showdown'

I spent last night playing "Celebrity Sports Showdown" because, well, sometimes us game reviewers have to bite the bullet. I didn't have enough time to play "Spider-man: Web of Shadows" in time to write something up for Saturday's Gaming page, so I played another game I was sent to review, EA Sports' "Star" filled mini-game fest.

I put "Star" in quotes since, well, I don't really consider Avril Lavigne, Fergie or Keith Urban celebrities. I consider them annoyances I notice when I'm flipping between Comedy Central and G4 on my TV. Above, you can see one of these "Stars," LeAnn Rimes... skating in capris and a tube top. Who knew she was still alive? Last thing I remember her doing is singing that duet with Elton John and then fading into obscurity. Well, she's back, along with... Kristi Yamaguchi? But Figure Skating isn't even in this game!

Honestly, the biggest question I have with this game is, who picked which people would take part in this game? I picture a big board room full or executives debating if Gary Coleman is still considered a celebrity. The group of "Stars" in this game does give off a definite Danny Bonaduce feel.

To be perfectly honest, I mocked this game up and down... right up until EA told me I'd be getting a copy in the mail. That said, I was Pleasantly Surprised by this game. The celebrity aspect was the worst part of this game. Read my full review in Saturday's Poughkeepsie Journal Gaming page.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

This week's comic expectations

We've one of those "Something for Everyone" weeks ahead of us, with big news for Superman, Green Lantern, X-Men, Skrulls and the Project Superpowers world, among others. Click THIS LINK for the full list.

The titles I'm most looking forward to this week is Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns #1. And don't let the name fool you, this is hardly a "Final Crisis" tie-in. Instead, think back to that "Sinestro Corps. Special" Geoff Johns put out before the big Green vs. Yellow war really kicked off. That's the type of issue we're looking at here. Lots of future threads being built up, lots of explanation over what a Red Lantern is (you won't believe what that blood they spit out at their initiation is), and lots of looking forward to the DC event most people are looking forward to, "Blackest Night."

Speaking of DC events, Superman #681 marks the second installment of the "New Krypton" storyline, which promises to continue to answer the question of who was being "Atlas' " actions. But personally, I could care less right now about that thread, since the whole Kryptonians on Earth thing is so rich. We still haven't seen Kara's loyalties tested, we haven't seen if the group will listen to Kal El's teachings, and did you see that Whale last issue?!? Oh well, I guess that's what a nine-part story is for, right?

Finally from DC, while I'm not so excited for the supporting-star-filled Justice League of America #26 this week, I do find myself anticipating similarly supporting-player-staring Trinity #22. I know, pigs are flying. This must be why I saw snow driving to work today, the world has gone mad. I really am interested in Firestorm's foray into this new world, and I am curious as to what happened to the only semi-transformed villains of this series, now that Kanjar Ro has shown his face. "Trinity" has really proven to be a worthwhile read, against all odds.

Marvel has a couple of big issues of its own on the shelves this week, beginning with Avengers: The Initiative #18, which features the Skull Kill Krew and the true secret of why the Skrulls wanted to implement the 50-states initiative in the first place. The supporting "Avengers" tie-in issues have been the best part of "Secret Invasion," and this seems to be another example of it. Personally, I'm just eager to see if this issue dismantles the 50-state plan, which would be just another example of Marvel setting things up only to knock them down, without giving any room to live in the world they created.

Other "Secret Invasion" titles this week include Secret Invasion Thor #3, Nova #18 and Secret Invasion X-Men #3.

Speaking of X-Men, Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #1 is out this week. And, regardless of the problems I've had with this series since Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi took over a couple of months ago, I really just want to know why we need this two-part story, each story being 48 pages? How does this information, describing what Subject X has been up to before his suicide and what a Ghost Box is, NOT fit into the main "Astonishing X-Men" book? why couldn't Ellis just make the main story eight installments instead of six, and let a fill-in artist handle two of the issues? Bianchi's work is not so iconic we can't handle a fill-in artist now and then. Hell, I would prefer most any other artist on this book, and I would DEFINITELY take the particular fill-in artist handling duties on this special, Alan Davis. We'll see how this two-parter differentiates itself (although I'm not optimistic, if you couldn't tell).

Finally, I wanted to make special mention of the world of Dynamite Comics' "Project Superpowers." The first series for the title wraps up with Project Superpowers #7, and if you haven't been reading this story, buy the freakin' trade! This story, while confusing from time to time (what good story isn't?), has been a masterpiece. Watching these characters come back together as a team after the tragedy the Fighting Yank put them through has been a fun ride, while the underlying story of "green" vs. technology has been a unique and original way of telling a tale of the future. In a very short amount of time, I've not only gotten to know these characters but am cheering them along, something that doesn't regularly happen so soon into a comic series in today's world. Dynamite is also doing something genius, in my opinion. This week, in addition to the final issue of the first series of "Superpowers," Dynamite is also putting out Project Superpowers 2: The Supremacy #0, the first installment of the sequel series. This is a fantastic way to keep the momentum rolling, as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, that's it, enjoy the strong week.

Heroes Review: Eris Quod Sum

OK, I know I am late with this, and I have a confession to make. I found myself giving "Heroes" only a passing interest last night. I didn't plan on it, it just, sort of, happened. I was re-reading "The Watchmen" for the first time in years yesterday, and I found myself giving Chapter X of the story just as much attention as the brand new episode of "Heroes."

But, in my defense, this latest episode didn't do too much to keep my attention. There were entertaining parts, of course, but it all just didn't click together.

Mohinder, with the strength and agility of a super-human, flees from a man who can fly and a power-newbie, when he had already shown no compunction against violence to keep his plans hidden. And by the way, Mohinder, you put Maya in a cocoon, she's not taking you back!

Clare went off on her own again without calling her father, which has been the stupidest aspect of the last two seasons. Your Dad is Batman, start using him!

Elle decides to run into a building from which Peter had just been ejected from. It's not like these two don't know each other, Elle should know if Peter, of all people, is being attacked in a building, don't go in the freakin' building! I was really interested in Elle at the end of last season, loving how they went into her own emotional needs and issues with her father and getting used. This year, I first hoped she would get paired with HRG, where those issues could continue, but no. Then, tonight, when I saw her and Clare together, I thought "what a great alternative!" But no.

Oh, and, first Daddy Petrelli wants Peter alive to test on him, then he's all too eager to throw Peter out a window after one little escape? How is he any less viable a test subject now?

And, by the way, I love a good emotionally unstable character as much as the next guy, but is Sylar the dumbest sonofabitch in the history of television? Oh, I'm listening to my Mommy now, who I just met. Oh, I'm listening to my Daddy now, who I've known for even less time. This is NOT the same character we saw in the first season.

I know there is supposed to be an air of danger to these last two episodes, but I'm just not feeling it, and I'm feeling no emotional connection to ANYONE yet, save for probably Matt Parkman, because they're all just so freakin' stupid! Someone grow a set and a brain already!

For God sakes, writers, pick a story and go with it! Sylar's with HRG, Sylar's with Peter, Sylar's with Daddy. Clare's on her own, Clare's with Fire Lady, Clare's with Elle, Clare's with Peter. Peter's trapped in another dude, Peter's in the future, Peter's on his own, Peter's with Clare.

It's like a little bit of criticism over pacing last season has made these writers completely forget anything they've ever learned about story development.

Listen, these stories are still kind of entertaining, when you can follow them. The idea of the team of villains is still intriguing, and Robert Forster's Daddy Petrelli makes for a good head baddie. But there is very little linking week to week, episode to episode and character to character.

Last night, reading a 23-year old comic book while watching this show I formerly really cared about, it hit me just how far "Heroes" has fallen. Here's hoping it improves soon.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

This week's video game releases

"LittleBigPlanet!" "Fallout 3!" "Guitar Hero: World Tour!"

I guess this is the big week last week was supposed to be before the postponements!

Click THIS LINK for the full list.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Much more on "Fable II"

My full review of "Fable II" is available at THIS LINK... (and, if you're interested, my annual Halloween column is at THIS LINK), but I didn't get to say everything I wanted to in the review because I didn't want to drop spoiler after spoiler on an unexpecting audience.

So, you're going to read some spoilers right here. If you don't want to hear about the storyline, DON'T READ.

OK, ready? Spoilers starting NOW:

I don't know if it properly came across in my review, but this was the toughest, most conflicted review I've ever written. I love this game. I'm on my second tour of duty through the game right now, I would recommend this game to anyone of the proper age to play it. BUT, the ending to the game got me awfully pissed.

Let me set the stage for you: I had been playing for 14 hours already on Tuesday, after playing Saturday from 1-7 a.m., Sunday from 2-7 a.m. and a whole bunch on Monday, and it was about 8 a.m. on Wednesday. Still, I had just gathered the third mythic hero and I wanted to tackle this last dungeon, even if it meant being up until 10 or 11 a.m., since I wanted to clear my Wednesday night.

Then Lucien appeared. I thought "OK, no final dungeon, just a final fight."

Lucien tells me "By now my men have killed your wife and daughter," and my jaw drops.... my hero, however, no reaction. And no cutscene or anything documenting the atrocity. Since there was no cutscene, I thought to myself, "OK, so I'm going to have a chance to run by my house and save them, right?" BUT NO.

If you're reading the spoilers right now, you likely know the next parts, with that ridiculously out-of-place scene with the sister (or brother if you were a female hero) and the music box, and suddenly, you and the music box are in front of Lucien. Again, I thought "OK, at least this should be a good fight!"

After freeing the three heroes and Lucien was defenseless, I pressed "X" for my bigass Hammer... nothing doing. I pressed "B" for my awesome Force Push move... nothing again. So, again I thought "awesome, here comes the fight!" ... but then I pressed "Y," shot Lucien with one bullet, and Hammer tells me "You killed Lucien!"

I did? Seriously? That was it? Seriously? I've never been so unsatisfied in my life. If all I had to do was shoot him once to kill him, what did I need the three other heroes for?!?

Here's how that scene should have gone: You wake up from that sibling dream on your back in Theresa's home base. You then have your one last chance to level up and handle business before storming the spire. During that time, if you go back to your house, you find your kid trying to fight off Lucien's men (after all, the kid always said she wanted to be a hero), and you can help defeat the men and save your family. Once in the Spire, you have that one last dungeon, followed by an ACTUAL FIGHT with Lucien, not a simple bullet.

I know there is the option to wish your loved ones back to life, but come on! Show a little emotion, the whole rest of the game had it in spades! (That's right, I just used the phrase "in spades").

And for God Sakes, what was with Theresa at the end there? "The Spire is Mine!" Is there something I'm missing that I should know? One of the main reasons why I am playing again so quickly is simply to find out if I'm missing the boat on her.

All game, I was wondering what angle Theresa had in all this and how she knew so much. Was it something from the first "Fable" that I'm just not connecting? I don't remember that game too well, anyway.

BUT, I did love this game. Which is why I was so conflicted writing the review. And here's ten of my favorite moments from the game:

1) Nothing was better or more shocking in this game than the slavery sequence. Was I the only one willing to sacrifice XP for my principles? And I think "Final Crisis" made this sequence all the better. Anti-Life justifies my pain!

2) An off-shoot of that scene, the best part of it, was the execution of your fellow slave buddy. I mean, this game is dark, what with the killing of every one of your family members and your dog, but trying to coerce players to execute friends? Intense!

3) I thought the ghost/seducing Alex part of the story was also fantastic, and it was one of the few tasks when I didn't know what the right move to make was. I opted to keep Alex for myself and she eventually became the mother of my little girl, but at the time I thought I was doing the "evil" thing by stealing the ghost's girl.

4) In order to open one of the Demon Doors, you need to propose to a girl in front of it. So I did, and the lady sure was happy. We went into the Demon Door secret area, found the house, and I made sweet sweet digital love to that dame. Then, I left her in the secret Demon Door area, where she would never be able to escape.

5) My spell of choice was the Force Push spell. At first, it was because the quick one-on-one bursts provided a fun Jedi/Dragonball/Peter Petrelli feeling, but later I abused the wide-ranging circular spell like a madman, having leveled it to it's pinnacle, using it to dominate The Crucible, banshees, and (in what turned out to be the final battle) the monsters conjured by the floating Shard. I highly recommend using the spell.

6) One of my hobbies became seducing girls in strange places hoping to get Xbox Achievements. I really wanted to seduce a girl to come have relations with me on one of those dingy beds in Wraithmarsh, but a zombie killed her on the way to the shack. Oh well. I took the next girl to whats-his-name-rich-guy's mansion in Bloodstone. Much better ambiance. I also wanted to bring a girl to the sunken pirate's bedroom, but when I raised the water level, I lost my chance for love.

7) By the way, I loved the insane people in Bloodstone. A little breaking and entering, and those people got vicious! Amazingly, after killing three of them, I still had that halo on top of my head.

8) And who could forget the torture club? I think even better than the actual torture was the initiation (who thinks of this baby chicks stuff?!?) and the spiel the guy at the door says about the different tortures for different nights of the week, ending in "Friday is poker night, of course."

9) As far as choice of weapons, I loved my bigass mythical hammer, which was seemingly made out of a purple meteor. I picked it up in the same place where I left that poor sap of a girl I proposed to. It may have been slow to wield for the better part of the game, but later on when you buy the ability to charge your "X" attack, bashing in foes with the hammer is the most satisfying attack in the game.

10) I think my favorite part of the game, for only comedy purposes, was the characters' reactions to you after your 10-year slavery absence. Hammer has just been waiting around in the bar for you. Woulda been nice if you came in looking for me, huh? Your wife acts like you've only been gone for a week, but , oh yeah, your baby is a toddler. Thanks a bunch, folks, I'm going to go save your sorry asses now!

Anyway, I did love this game... and hated it at the same time. We'll see how things go on my second tour of duty in Albion.

Saturday's Gaming in the Journal

For the second time in three weeks, we have MORE THAN ONE Gaming page in the Poughkeepsie Journal in Saturday's Sports section (Pages 5C and 6C).

First, on page 5C, we have my FULL Review of "Fable II," and I'll have even more info on the game, including spoilers, right here on the blog on Saturday.

On page 5C we also have my annual Halloween Costumes column, a tradition here on the Gaming page, as well as the weekly fantasy football advice column.

Then on page 6C there is a full review of "Wii Music," written by the Associated Press.

So, if you love apple pie, the American Flag and your mother, you'd better pick up the Gaming page(s) in Saturday's Poughkeepsie Journal.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

This week's comic book expectations

I'm waist deep in "Fable II," approaching (what I think is) the end, but since I'm giving the borrowed Xbox a real workout today, I decided to let it cool down a bit while I got on here and (quickly) went through what to look for on the shelves this week.

CLICK HERE to see the full list, Jam-Packed with great titles. And, once again, it's DC delivering a good portion of those top titles. Marvel really blew their load over the summer with the "Secret Invasion" tie-ins and DC (partially because its own "Final Crisis" titles were all late) is reaping the benefits lately. Heck, everyone wins, right?

As I said, this is going to be quick, since I need to get back to my dog, wife and kid in Albion so I can get down to writing that review, so we're going to go full-on lightning round here:

Captain America #43: With the 18-part Steve Rogers Death/Bucky Ascension storyline over, we're going to see how Ed Brubaker handles writing Bucky on a month-in and month-out basis, beginning here with this story that looks back on Both of Captain Bucky's pasts (as Bucky and as the Winter Soldier). I'm predicting this book to stay VERY strong, with so many loose ends from the last 42 issues still going.

Final Crisis #4: Your guess as to what happens here is as good as mine, all I know is the Anti-Life Equation has been loose on the world for a month and all hell has broken loose. Personally, I am just looking for two things from this issue -- 1) I want to see Darkseid get his hands a little dirty, 2) I want to see a little of the lost month, and how things got so bad so fast.

Final Crisis: Submit #1: Maybe this is where I get to see that lost month. "Submit" is supposed to focus on Black Lightning teaming up with C-list villain Tattoo Man, as they try to keep their wits about them in a crazy world. Unlike the tie-in series, this one-shot does look very pertinent to the main story.

New Avengers #46: The Villains take center stage in this "Secret Invasion" tie-in issue, namely The Hood. Personally, I think it's taken Bendis FAR too long to bring the villains in on this. After all, if the Skrulls take over Earth, I think that would put a crimp in Doctor Doom's plans, wouldn't it?

Secret Invasion #7: And then there's the mothership, where we can expect a whole lot of knock-down, drag-out brawling between the wrinkle-chins and non-wrinkle chins. For as cool as this issue is probably going to look (deep down, we all love watching the biggest brawls, right?), if these final two issues is only this final big fight, "Secret Invasion" fell FAR FAR below expectations.

Superman: New Krypton Special #1: This is one no DC fan should miss. If you think 100,000 Kryptonians loose on Earth isn't going to DRASTICALLY impact all the DC Universe, you're insane, brotha'. How will Clark react, especially given his recent tragedy? How will Kara, who still remembers Krypton, react? And, um, not to mention the rest of the world suddenly dealing with "Kingdom Come" happening. Somebody call Future Peter Petrelli! We can't have a planet full of special people!

Thunderbolts #125: "Secret Invasion" plus a kind-of anniversary issue equals a BIG change for the "Thunderbolts" world, I'd put money on it. This issue will close the Thunderbolts' role in the war in a big way.

X-Men Legacy #217: This is the second part of the "Original Sin" crossover with "Wolverine Origins," and while I was far from floored with the first issue, both in the content and the characterizations, we'll see how this story of Professor X and Logan helping Logan's long-lost illegitimate son plays out.

Three Red Lights (Shipping) Update

Finally with a shipping slip, I went to Mailboxes Etc. today and learned two horrible facts:

1) This particular Mailboxes Etc. has packed and shipped so many Xboxes to the service center that they've established a flat formula and rate for shipping them. $15 bucks. Sure, a little pricey, but I just wanted it done with.

2) This particular Mailboxes Etc. HAS Shipping Xboxes overnight, supplied free from Microsoft. Remember, Supervisor "Jay" at Microsoft said they DON'T Ship Overnight, but did say she would send a note to the technicians to expedite my repairs.

So, unfortunately, this meant I had to call back Microsoft hunting for "Jay."

While the agent who picked up the phone, "Lindsay," said she wouldn't be able to get me "Jay," she seemed very sympathetic listening to my Sob Story, and told me that yes, they have shipped overnight on occasion, before putting me into contact with a new Supervisor, "Chris."

"Chris" told me two more interesting things: 1) He could've authorized the overnight shipping had I not just shipped my Xbox today. 2) He was SHOCKED that "Jay" told me she would send a note to the technicians asking for my repair to be expedited, since THEY CAN'T DO THAT!

So, basically, this woman "Jay" is just a dirty dirty liar. Thank you, Microsoft!

But, "Chris," on his first day back from vacation, apparently, said he would help me out by assigning me to a Special Repair Supervisor, who is, apparently, going to be calling me tomorrow and calling me on a daily basis to update me on the status of my repairs. Personally, this sounds like a bit of overkill if it's true, but after how I've been treated, I deserve overkill.

So, to make a long aggravating story short: I sent my Xbox in today and tomorrow, between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. I'm going to be hearing from my special agent. We'll see how that goes.

Heroes Report: Dying of the Light

Well, it's official. "Heroes" has become the most schizophrenic show in the history of Prime Time Television. By the way, I spelled "schizophrenic" correctly on the first try. I know, I'm awesome.

This episode was pulled in so many different directions, and in so many different directions from past episodes which were also pulled in several directions, that I'm finding it really tough to care about the over-arching season plot, or even keep in mind how each event is playing into it.

Despite that schizophrenia, for the second week in a row, I enjoyed what I watched. Just like last week, I'm wondering if I'm just in an above average mood. After all, I'm listening to a fantastic bootleg of a Billy Joel concert in Montauk from 1991 I just downloaded (which has an incredible version of "Everybody has a Dream" on it), and I've spent more time playing "Fable II" in the last three nights than I have spent sleeping.

But no, this time I'm sure it's the show that's just better than average, not simply my mood coming into it.

Because, again, despite the logical fallacies, this week's show not only entertained, but it helped return a tension the series has been SORELY lacking.

The first place that tension showed up was in the Puppet Master's little game of Russian Roulette (which, by the way, in Russia is it simply called Roulette? And if so, what are the Russian Casinos like?). With HRG far away from the action and since we've seen a much Darker Clare in the future, I really thought one of Clare's two Moms (remember "My Two Dads?" what a show...) was going to eat a lead sandwich. For the amount of whining Clare does, she sure could use a little tragedy to justify the whining, right? Oh, wait, I forgot, she lost the ability to feel pain, a tragedy the writers are sorely ignoring... anyway, I digress.

I'm a bit schizophrenic myself tonight, I guess. Yes, I really thought that either Clare was going to have to pull the trigger on one of her Mommies, OR, I thought Mrs. Bennett was going to kill Meredith. And since the Puppet Master's control was pretty omnipotent, I didn't see the way out of the situation.

That said, there were a good deal of logical problems with this situation. 1) If Clare has her Dad's files, should she have known to just shoot the Stun Gun before giving Puppet Boy a chance? 2) Isn't Meredith only there to protect Clare? Why is HRG now taking Meredith on his little adventures?

Anyway, that tension showed up again for the very end of the episode, when Daddy Petrelli did something that I hope hope hope becomes a permanent change ----- spoilers coming ------ he stole Peter's powers. Cue the music! Oh happy Day! Oh happy Day! Finally, something has been done about the fact that Peter was WAAAAAAAY too powerful. First Sylar was, sort of, de-powered, and now Peter, I love it.

This move also creates the first truly dangerous threat of the season. We've had a lot of evil guys running around, but none stood out among the rest. We've had this whole apocalyptic future thing going, but that hasn't really been a threat as much as it is a plot point. Daddy Petrelli, who can suck a power right out of you and now has ALL of Peter's powers, is the biggest threat this show has ever seen. And, again, I need to praise the casting department for getting Robert Forster.

Oh, and great casting on Mr. Puppeteer, too. After last year's horrible casting for Bob and Maury, both these roles were great to see this episode.

Now, the disappointing part of the show was Hiro and Ando. It didn't take much to see how Hiro avoided killing his friend, and then their bumbling adventures in Africa just made no sense. The writers' biggest sin this season has been not fully understanding how to make the characters utilize their own powers, and there is no bigger example of this than Hiro. All the little guy had to do in Africa was stop time and search the surrounding area while Mr. Precog was frozen in time. Instead, he left himself wide open to get hit in the noggin -- twice.

Oh well, I'm probably forgetting something big, but it's 4:30 a.m. so I'm going to wrap this up with the Random Thoughts:

1) Mohinder's turn to the dark side happened WAY WAY WAY too fast!

2) I'm kind of bummed Adam Monroe is dead. The writers really should have kept him in the ground for a couple of seasons instead of offing him so quickly.

3) I like how the writers are, so far, playing Daphne's backstory close to the vest. In fact, that actress has been pretty darn great all year.

4) And speaking of characters I want to see more of, Where is Micah's Cousin?

5) I love having Maya up on that wall. This episode was her best ever.

6) Peter and Sylar actually fought each other a little!!! It was like as if we were watching a show featuring powered-people!

7) By the way, I'm with Peter on this one -- Sylar has jumped on this "Mother" thing WAY too fast.

8) Where did this Pinehurst company come from, anyway? Who built it while Daddy Petrelli was napping?

9) Who wants to see Hiro, Ando and Parkman fight over Daphne?

10) I like how Tracy decided the only way to show Mohinder what she could do was to freeze an expensive and specialized piece of a equipment. How 'bout just freezing a pen, huh?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

This week's video game releases

OK, before you click THIS LINK to the week's video game releases, put on a bib for the drool.

Even without "LittleBigPlanet," this week is stacked, with "Fable II," "Legendary," "Wii Music," "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows," and "Rock Band 2" for PS3.

I'll have reviews of several of those games this week, so keep your peepers peeled.

Three Red Lights (yet another) Update

So... another two days passed, and STILL NO SHIPPING LABEL.

So, I called Microsoft again today, this time talking to a man named "Rudy." Together, we learned that my e-mail address was once again typed in wrong (despite the fact that I verified the spelling with BOTH "Ben" and "Jay" two days ago). Apparently, in Microsoft Land, the word "Cow" is spelled "Kow," no matter how many times the letter "C" is mentioned.


So, Rudy once again set me up for a new shipping label e-mail, only this time he assured me it would only take 3-4 hours (HOW THE HELL DOES IT KEEP CHANGING, BOYS?).

I checked my e-mail just now, and, yes, there is an e-mail in there with instructions on how to ship my Xbox, but it also says I will be getting TWO MORE E-MAILS, one of which will have my shipping label. Why this first e-mail didn't include my shipping label, I don't know.

What I do know is my blood is boiling just thinking about all this. Unless I get my next of three e-mails by tomorrow morning, I have to call up a FOURTH time and talk to a SIXTH PERSON.


If this has taught us all anything is, I really think I wouldn't buy another Xbox instead of a PS3 if I had to do it over again (and I will have to when the next generation rolls around!)

The good news is, I successfully borrowed my brother-in-law's Xbox 360 and already put Seven Hours into "Fable II" last night, so look for that review next week! I'm liking the game so far, even if it isn't exactly as advertised just yet... but I hold off on final opinions, of course.

Friday, October 17, 2008

'Fable II' in the house

The first of the many games I'll be reviewing next week has found its way to my mailbox... actually, it was put in someone else's mailbox in the office, so I just sort of committed a felony by taking the package out of their mailbox and getting our local Graphics Queen Sten Miller to assist my conscience and open it up... either way, "Fable II" is officially here.

So, look out for a full review next week.

Three Red Lights (another) Update

Another day, and still no overnight shipping slip in my e-mail. So, I had to call Microsoft. Again.

This time, I talked to Ben, who liked to repeat the phrase "Thank You." As in, "Thank you, Thank you." Ben helped me find out that Bob never took down my e-mail address properly, even though I double-checked the spelling with him three times. So I gave Ben a different e-mail address, only to be told that, again, I was going to have to wait 24-48 hours for my overnight shipping slip.

Obviously this was ridiculous, so I got him to go ask his supervisor if there was any way the e-mailing time could be expedited (my favorite word of the week). When he got back on the line, he told me I would be getting my e-mail between 20 minutes and 24 hours from now. And I double-checked again that it would be overnight shipping... only this time, unlike earlier in our conversation, he told me it would not be overnight.

Dumbfounded, I demanded to talk to his supervisor. So a woman named "Jay" got on the phone, only to tell me despite the fact that THREE DIFFERENT Microsoft customer service people promised it to me, she said there is No Such Thing as them giving free overnight shipping. I thought I was going to blow a gasket.

So I asked her if she would be able to just pick up a phone and call the shipping department to have this done immediately. She told me they have NO INTER-DEPARTMENT PHONE NUMBERS. That's Right, she expected me to believe she had no way to contact other departments in her company. She also told me I would be getting my e-mail between 24-48 hours. I said "Ben just promised me 20 minutes to 24 hours," and Jay said "Ben shouldn't have promised that." What the hell, man?!?

So, after waiting three days, I no longer have overnight shipping (like I ever did), I am still waiting at least another day for my shipping slip (if they got my e-mail right this time), and all I have is lip service from this supervisor "Jay" that apparently she is going to send a note to the technicians to handle my Xbox immediately. Somehow, I doubt that will happen.

Needless to say, I'm fuming. No wonder these people get sued so often, the customer service is the only thing worse than the construction of the Xboxes in the first place.

My silver lining in all this, though, is my brother-in-law was happy to help me out and lend me his Xbox, so I can get back to my hard-hitting job as a game reviewer. After all, "Fable II," "Legendary" and "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows" are all on my plate for the coming week.

But I swear, Microsoft, how horrible can your customer service get?!?

'LittleBigPlanet' delayed a week

So... we're going to have to wait an extra week (at least) for Sackboy. Sony is recalling "LittleBigPlanet" due to political reasons (READ MORE HERE), and the company says it will now ship the game the week of Oct. 27.

Frankly, though I cannot wait to get my hands on this game, there is more than enough to keep us occupied next week anyway.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Three Red Lights update

So, I woke up this morning (OK, it was 12:30 p.m.) and immediately reached for my laptop to check my e-mail. After all, I had to get my overnight shipping slip from my e-mail in order to take it to a shipping place and send out my Xbox before work, right?

Wrong. I had no e-mail. Upon calling Microsoft to ask, I was told the e-mail will get to me in 24-48 hours, not inside of 24 hours like I thought. You know, because e-mail takes that long to get places. I asked if there was any way I could have that e-mail just sent to me immediately (since, you know, its E-MAIL!), and was told no. Silly me for wanting my Xbox to get to the technician on Friday, rather than sending it Friday and them getting it after the weekend.

Not only that, if I don't receive my e-mail by tomorrow, I will simply be re-signed up for a shipping slip e-mail, which would again take 24-48 hours to get to me.

No wonder these people are getting sued left and right over this!!!

Hopefully tomorrow's update will include the phrase "I sent my Xbox."

Buy Pile Report

I need to start off talking a little X-Men. As you loyal readers likely know, the X-Men are the superhero team nearest and dearest to my heart. My first comic book growing up, before I could even read it myself, was "X-Factor #1," and ever since, I've made it my business to read every mutant book I could, both from the past and present.

So, forgive me if I get a little heated over the current state of the franchise. The series' two flagship titles were both released this week, and I am underwhelmed again, at best.

Uncanny X-Men #503
was a travesty. I don't where to begin with the horrible writing. Should I begin by saying Sam Guthrie has experienced too much in his life to be making such obliviously racist comments? Should I begin by pointing out this entire issue was based around the idea that Empath's powers could incapacitate veteran fighters so easily? How about beginning by saying Scott Summers would NEVER have a sexual tryst in the scene of a crime while his teammates are still in pursuit of a killer?!?

After all that crap, it almost seems forgivable that "writers" Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker are using a VERY VERY DEAD character, Madelyn Pryor, as their big shocking villain. After seeing that at the end of this issue (yes, sorry to spoil it, hopefully I saved you from buying it) I was peeved at this needless re-tread of a resurrection, but frankly, the more I think of it, this part of the story was almost believable compared to the other stuff. Honestly, how can ANYONE think the X-Men Franchise is really moving in the right direction?

Which brings me to Astonishing X-Men #27. Once upon a time, this series was a cut above all other X-Men stories for almost 15 years. Sure, it was always very very late, but reading it was something to truly look forward to, because it was such a perfectly written and imaginative X-Men comic. New writer Warren Ellis has not maintained the level of story Joss Whedon established. These past few issues have been overly sexualized to the point where I really wonder if Ellis needs a therapist. Some characters in comics talk like this. The X-Men do not.

But that doesn't even concern the story, which, while not bad overall, defies the geek laws of the Marvel Universe. The Marvel Universe does not have parallel Earths, that's the DC Universe. The Marvel Universe also does not allow huge mysterious parts of the planet go unexplored. SHIELD would not allow that. (I'm trying not to spoil anything here). But, the idea that SHIELD and SWORD knew of a mysterious "we don't know what's up with this place and can't tell by satellite" place, and they didn't go investigate is just unbelievable. It's as if Ellis just had a good idea for a Sci-Fi story and fit the X-Men into the roles he wanted to write.

I am thoroughly disappointed in both books.

Oh Well, on to the DC Universe... which, for all intents and purposes this week (and many weeks) was the Geoff Johns Universe. The book I most looked forward to this week was Justice Society of America #19. And while it wasn't bad per se, it was just, kind of, necessary. After last issue's birth of Magog, we got the expected scenes with Superman-22 talking to Magog. There were several tense moments of the team splitting down the middle (who is with Gog and who isn't), but we knew this had to happen for the next few issues to happen and the arc to wrap up. And while we got a couple of nice scenes between Earth-2's Mr. Terrific and Power Girl, as well an an interesting scene with Starman and another with Black Adam teasing to the first arc of 2009, this was definitely a plot-pushing issue.

Johns' Final Crisis: Rogue's Revenge #3 was much stronger. While we didn't actually see any Scarlet Speedster action here, we did get a definite ending, and one that shocked the hell out of me, considering much of the story's dialog. I'm not going to be the one that spoils it. However, what I will say is Johns again does a fantastic job of painting these Rogues as human and hardened at the same time. I will also point out that this whole series had almost NO IMPACT whatsoever on the main "Final Crisis" book.

Another tie-in that seems to have little-to-no impact on "Final Crisis" is Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #2, but it was pretty strong as well, mostly for the amount of content Johns packed into this book. To give a brief overview, the Legion of Supervillains was introduced in depth, as they recruited Mordru, we got to see the universe's final Green Lantern in action, watched the Legion debate the ethics of killing necessary foes, watched Brainy prove what a genius he is, and learned a little more about the nature of the current state of Justice in the 31st Century's Universe. On top of all that, Superboy Prime was his loveable bratty self... and yes, he was a little annoying at times, but isn't that what makes his eventual defeat all the more satisfying?

And speaking of the Super Family, the over-sized Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #1 was supposed to filter directly into the "New Krypton" story, making it pretty important. So far, I don't see how it could be important in any way, other than introducing (in depth) a possible upcoming villain. We watched Jimmy Olsen risk his life several times over in a search for an important career-making story for the Daily Planet, and along the way he uncovers an important truth he just so badly needs to get out to his pal Supes -- Someone (presumably Cadmus, given the info in the issue) is going to try to kill Superman. GASP! As if they haven't been trying for years already!

What really bothered me about this issue though, isn't the seeming lack of importance or the needless extra length (and subsequent extra cost), but it was that along the way, seemingly in an effort to give this story more weight, James Robinson killed one of my favorite Superman Supporting Characters! When I first saw this guy's face on the page I thought "Awesome, they're giving him something to do again!" Then, just a couple of pages later, he's dead. And for the amount of killing already in this issue, it was entirely unnecessary. I'm a REALLY not high on Robinson's work right now.

Oh well. I'd better get some sleep so I can wake up early and send in my precious Xbox for repairs. Keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Three Red Lights...

It finally happened. After a couple of years of luck, last night, at 2:48 a.m. (eastern standard time), in the middle of flying the BatWing on "Lego Batman," the infamous Three Red Lights made my innocent little Xbox 360 their home.

At first, it just seemed I was having problems with my video. The screen kept bugging out with fuzz and color bars, but would right itself when I paused the game. I tried unplugging and re-plugging my A/V cables to no avail. So, I tried simply shutting the system down and turning it back on ... which is when I saw, for the first time in person, the Three Red Lights.

And let me tell you something, the only thing worse than seeing that Red Ring of Death is hearing the cheery automated voice on the Xbox Support Line. Honestly, would you send that happy guy to a funeral? No! So why is he talking to me when my Xbox just died?!?

After talking to the automated jerk for 15 minutes, only then did he tell me Xbox Support is not a 24-hour service so I should call during business hours, which I did today at noon.

I pleaded with the customer service guy, Bob, to help me out with expedited shipping, since, you know, I'm a big shot video game reviewer. He believed me at face value that I needed my Xbox for work... which only said to me that he didn't believe me at all and was just humoring me. Either way, I was told I would get an overnight shipping label in my e-mail today. We'll see how that goes, I might need to call again and harass some more.

So, for the time being, I am stuck. And on such a busy impending week. Damn Red Lights.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wednesday's comic release list

It's a big week, for DC especially, who is starting to benefit from Marvel shooting most of its "Secret Invasion" load over the summer. HERE'S THE LINK to the full list.

A couple of "Final Crisis" books highlight my week, both by Geoff Johns. Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #2 (finally) continues what began as a fantastic story, after already shaking the Legion's core with the Durlan reveal in the first issue. Last issue we also saw Superboy Prime throwing another fit (as only Johns can do well), leading him to the future where his followers (?!?) were eagerly awaiting his direction. How come I think things are only going to get worse for the Legion, at least for a couple of months? And how come I also think we're going to have to wait at least another month until we see who was in that lightning rod? -cough, cough- Bart Allen -cough, cough-

Meanwhile in Final Crisis: Rogue's Revenge #3, we could be looking at a rather bloody conclusion, given the determined disposition of the revenge-hungry rogues at the moment. Will they kill Inertia? Will Zoom succeed in making Inertia Kid Flash? Will Barry Allen or Wally West have anything to say about it? This is must-read writing if you are into the Flash universe at all, and unnecessary but still strong writing if you're only interested in "Final Crisis."

If you've been enjoying the rebirth of "Kingdom Come" and the emergence of Gog, then you're probably chomping at the bit to read another Johns' book, Justice Society of America #19. Yes, I know, this "Kingdom Come" stuff has been going for almost a year now. And yes, I agree, it might have not been the best idea for such a popular and well-written book to spend so much time fairly outside of its own universe. That's in the past, though, since the current goings-on with Gog have returned the book to its almost top form. This issue, expect to see the JSA fighting amongst themselves, as some feel a biblical allegiance to Mr. Third-World Survivor. Frankly, I have no idea where these characters will be when all is said and done, and I have no idea what will become of the team as we know it, all I know is this is one story no JSA fan should be missing. If I can make one request, though? PLEASE don't let this be the end of Crazy Thom Kallor!

Meanwhile, I've read this Superman's Pal: Jimmy Olsen Special #1 feeds directly into the big "New Krypton" story. Other than that, I don't really know anything about it. According to the solicitation, Jimmy spends the issue investigating Atlas, and apparently draws the ire of some assassin named Assassin. Creative stuff, huh? Still, if this leads into "New Krypton," it may not be a bad idea to pick it up.

One last note on DC this week: remember Booster Gold #13 does not feature new writer Dan Jurgens, who doesn't take up the pen until issue #15. This week's issue is written by Rick Remender, and features Starro: The Conqueror... which likely means the story will be cheesier than others. Hopefully DC doesn't lose too many fans in the next two months...

From the "House of Ideas," Astonishing X-Men #27 debuts this week, and it's probably the biggest Marvel book of the day, despite the fact that this third part of Warren Elli's debut arc "Ghost Box" has not astonished anyone. The intriguing part of the story so far has been this concept of man-made mutants. The less than intriguing part is this whole ghost box non-sense. Maybe this issue will actually reveal why we should care -- or at least reveal how this title isn't simply "Uncanny X-Men" in a fancier wrapper.

Speaking of "Uncanny," Uncanny X-Men #503 is out this week, and if the cover is any indication, we're going to get a Cat Fight. Personally, I haven't much cared for "Uncanny" since the move to San Francisco became official, and before that I hadn't cared about "Uncanny" for a long time. Right now as far as I can see, we're just getting a month's worth of mis-characterizations and re-treaded stories. Plus, Cyclops is using sentences that end in"babe." Please, please, make this Cat Fight between the White Queen and Fetish Girl make this book worth reading again! Yeah, I know, I'm not going to get my wish.

OK, all this X-Men talk has made me angry. Hopefully this week's books will make me feel a little better.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Heroes Report: Angels and Monsters

I don't know why, but Monday's latest episode of "Heroes" felt like far and away the best episode of the season, and possibly the best of the past two seasons. I don't know why. Maybe I am just in a good mood after seeing the girlfriend for much of the weekend. Maybe it's because I'm on a geek-high after fixing two un-fixable computer problems in two days. Maybe it's just that last week's episode was SOOO BAD anything would look fantastic in comparison.

I don't know why, and I don't care, I just enjoyed this week's show. And I say that considering my new resolution from the start of the season, trying to go with storylines once the writers establish them and only crucifying the writers when they first come up with the initial bad idea to start a story.

While I still have plenty of reservations about this "Hunger" aspect to Sylar's and now Peter's powers (it turns Peter evil too easily and takes all the honor and mythos out of Sylar's possible redemption), Sylar really shined here. Between his interaction in the car with HRG (both early on while eating the apple and later trying to get underneath HRG's skin talking to Clare) was mischievous without seeming menacing, and saving Clare from the vortex was obviously a step in the right direction for the character. (Which, by the way, I now believe he and Clare are going to be shacking up sooner or later... his kid's name was Noah, after all...).

I also liked how he played the scene in which HRG tries to get Vortex guy to kill Sylar... Sylar could hear all that, right? Well, I just like the fact that Sylar didn't immediately run from the situation or try to attack Vortex Man. It not only showed a humility to the character, knowing he might not be strong enough to evade the vortex if need be, but it also showed that Sylar believed in the possibility that this dangerous powered guy may be just misunderstood, much like Sylar is hoping to become. Anyway, as long as Sylar did hear all that stuff going on, I thought it was a strong moment for him.

That said, my grand hope now is for Sylar and Peter to fight alongside each other at season's end, with Sylar sacrificing himself for Peter to live. That would not only get rid of one of these two impossibly powerful characters, but it would also solve the story problem with this simple fact: once Sylar goes good, turning him evil again would be pretty tough make people believe.

But, just to go back to the Vortex Man for a moment, how great was this power?!? I wanted him to stay around for a long, long time, just because his power was so cool. Plus, he did seem like a nice guy. Who knows, we may see him come back, since the whole idea of a vortex was pretty murky. For all we know, he may not be dead at all, just waiting to vortex himself right back onto Earth.

And before we get off of this group of people, I just want to know, what the hell was Clare thinking when she went into Vortex Man's home? Sure, she got the knocking him out part down, but what was her plan then? She didn't keep him sedated long enough to transport him, and even if she did, how was she going to move him? Little Clare wasn't going to be able to drag him to her car or anything! I'd call it bad writing, but she's just been a moron a lot of the time, so this was just a dumb move on her part.

Anyway, on to new business. Was I the only one who knew Maury was behind Linderman as soon as Linderman was seen talking to Daphne? Which, incidentally, bravo to the writers for that little trick up their sleeves. But, that said, I would have rather not seen Maury in this episode. I thought it was enough for them to show Parkman as their next recruit, dropping one last clue, before showing Maury in the flesh. Oh well, I guess there was a reason for the lack of deception at this point, one hopes. I do find this collection of characters very odd, though.

We're going to be looking at a team consisting of Knox and Adam (murderers), Daphne and apparently Hiro (both lovable non-murderers), they're going after a mostly straight-edge in Parkman, and if the clues so far have been accurate, another straight-edge in Clare and just a confused woman in Tracy. That doesn't strike me as a team that would work well together.

And speaking of Hiro, which time trick do you think he used to save Ando's life? I think he stopped time to add a whole bunch of fake blood packets to Ando's chest or something. No way is Japan's most dynamic duo since Godzilla and Rodan broken up yet.

Oh, and I love the casting choice for the leader of this little bunch, Daddy Petrelli. Robert Forster is a great actor to play an older mastermind, especially exciting given the odd choices for Bob and Maury last season.

OK, that's about it for the paragraph part of the show. Here are the Random Thoughts:

1) If I had that Puppetmaster's powers, I'd pull the "stop hitting yourself!" gag constantly.

2) Where, exactly, does Suresh secrete that webbing from?

3) On a more serious note, just how fast did it take for Suresh to go from do-gooder to serial murder?

4) Peter was going to murder his own Mother? Seriously/ You're not taking this "Hunger" thing too far or anything?

5) "Like the Cantina" is one of the best geeky Hiro lines in the past couple of seasons.

6) I miss Micah. More than that, I miss whatshername Micah's cousin. Her power had real potential.

7) One of the best things HRG had going for him was subtlety. He hasn't exactly been subtle lately.

8) Knox strikes me as an enormous tool. Just putting that out there.

9) When Meredith asked Mrs. Bennett if she "could do this (and created fire)," Mrs. Bennett should have lit a match.

10) Can it be that we've finally gotten rid of Maya for good?!?!? No, probably not.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

This week's video game releases

A slow week this time around, with a lot of shovelware. Click THIS LINK for the list, which does include EA Sports' FIFA 09.

Think of it as the calm before the massive onslaught of gaming coming right around the corner. Don't believe me? Check out this list of triple-A titles out NEXT week: "Fable II," "Spider-man: Web of Shadows," "Legendary," "Wii Music," "Rock Band 2" (for the PS3)... and, oh, did I forget "LittleBigPlanet"?!?

Get your sleep in this week, folks, There shall be no sleep for weeks to come.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

'NBA Live 09' review

HERE'S THE LINK to my review of "NBA Live 09." For a little more on the game, see the post directly below this one.

Friday, October 10, 2008

50% MORE GAMING in Saturday's Poughkeepsie Journal!

In the words of one of my 10th grade history teacher's favorite movies, The Gods Must Be Crazy.

I walked into the office today and found we had an extra unexpected half-page of space in Saturday's Poughkeepsie Journal sports section. I quickly set up a tent there and claimed squatter's rights, in the name of GAMING.

When you open Saturday's Poughkeepsie Journal Sports section you will find ONE AND A HALF PAGES OF GAMING!!! (Pages 4C and 5C). This marks the first time in Gaming's nearly three-year history that it spilled over a page.

And this only happened because we have GREAT Content throughout. On page 4C, you'll find a gianormous feature on "LittleBigPlanet," complete with a big 'ole photo of the ever-adorable Sackboy, as well as not one but TWO Fantasy Football columns and a brief on the debut date of the new "Xbox Experience."

On page 5C, you'll find an in-depth review of EA Sports' "NBA Live 09," written by yours truly. I, surprisingly, had a lot of fun playing this game. (I am VERY TOUGH on NBA games and basketball games in general). It isn't perfect, the defensive controls are still quite unpolished, but the game felt closer to real basketball than at any time I can remember since the jump from the two-dimensional Genesis/SNES days. (I still prefer to play "NBA Live 97" on the Genesis rather than any current basketball game, but this new game comes VERY close). I am also very eager to see how the games' "Dynamic DNA" works throughout the season.

Anyway, enjoy it all. Personally, I am thrilled for all this Gaming space, one and a half pages, I thought I would never see the day. When history looks back on this day, it will smile.

Make sure to check out pages 4C and 5C in Saturday's Poughkeepsie Journal!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Official 'Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe' Kollector's Edition box art released

I was just sent a press release with the brand new Alex Ross-painted box art for the "Kollector's Edition" of "Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe," and news that the special edition would include a comic book by "Mortal Kombat" co-creator John Tobias.

Take a look at the Alex Ross Goodness... though Wonder Woman looks like Flash just broke wind or something. You can tell by the distance Captain Marvel is staying away from him...

General Zod in 2008

KNEEL BEFORE ZOD... and vote...

Buy Pile Report

So, my day began with Action Comics #870 (you can read the previous post for the report) and it just kept getting better.

OK, so there were minor bumps on the road, but for the most part, the rest of my Buy Pile was some great stuff. And no comic this week was better than another Geoff Johns' finale, Green Lantern #35. In one swift motion, Johns not brought everything from this arc full circle with the current situation in the world of Green Lantern, but he also silenced the critics who questioned why we needed this hefty seven-part "Secret Origin" arc. In showing Hal Jordan openly question the Guardians, it better explains just how an inexperienced GL like Hal had been for a long time established such a give-and-take relationship with these revered "Guardians of the Universe," which certainly plays into the current situation of the Guardians changing the Book of Oa through their own fears. Granted, since the truly interesting sections of this arc were encompassed in Hal's interactions with Sinestro and the Guardians, the arc probably didn't have to last seven issues. But, good things come to those who wait, and this fantastic ending only has me more excited for the upcoming "Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns."

Now, while Johns has been regaling us with tales of Hal's past, the sister book of this series has been doing the heavy lifting. It continued in Green Lantern Corps #29, in which a good portion of the story was spent better detailing exactly who the Violet Lanterns of Love are. And sure, stories like this are not quite as awe-inspiring as GL #35 was, but in the end, when "Blackest Night" is in full swing, I can guarantee you're going to be glad you read this one. As a side story, we watched as Guy and Tora encountered some more relationship bumps (although, after the whole death, rebirth thing, can anything else be considered a bump), and it all made me anticipate, and fear, the idea that Tora may become a Violet Lantern. As a longtime fan of the character, I'd hate to see it happen, but since her Resurrection she has been pretty quiet, so maybe this has been the plan all along?

Say what you will about the inaccessibility of Final Crisis: Revelations #3, but for my money no series has detailed exactly how Darkseid's Anti-Life takeover happened like this series has. The duration of this story takes place in the moments right after the equation spread, and Greg Rucka does a fantastic job here of putting us in the shoes of a devine being as they wonder how a "God" is managing to defeat the wishes of the actual God they know and serve. Oh, and while they go through this crisis of faith and confidence, did I mention Vandal "Cain" Savage is hunting down the Spectre for a little payback?

I know "Final Crisis: Revelations" has been branded inaccessible, but you really don't need to know the backstories of these characters to take this ride with them. The series is just that well done, and for as almighty as some of these characters are, the questions of crises of faith are questions we can all relate to. I can only hope more readers give this series a try.

In the Marvel world, Secret Invasion: Inhumans #3 provided us all with a Skrull fix. And while this penultimate issue was largely spent pushing the storyline along, there was more than enough to find interesting if you at all know the story of the Inhumans. I won't spoil it all, but I will say in the pages of this issue, Crystal is promised to Ronan the Accuser. Yeah, you can figure that one out for yourself. But at the same time the Royal Family is rushing around to save Black Bolt, he's being tortured in a most human way by the Skrulls. Frankly, I loved the nature of torture, too, because its an idea I've thought about since this Invasion began. As I said, I don't want to spoil it. Either way, this is still my favorite of all the "S.I." tie-ins.

Finally, I picked up X-Men: Original Sin #1, the first of a five-part crossover between "X-Men Legacy" and "Wolverine Origins." I was not impressed. I haven't liked the idea of Wolverine having this son (who's character is basically what X-23 was two years ago, only a male), but more than that, I don't like when writers revert to writing Wolverine as a raging lunatic. And while I understand we're supposed to get that Wolverine is a desperate man in these pages, I just wasn't sold on just how many friends he flipped out on here, with a very short fuse. And, to make matters worse, the big reveal in the final page has been DONE already in "Ultimate X-Men." If the out-of character shenanigans continue like this, it's going to be a very long crossover.

Oh well, it was still a great week. And now, if you excuse me, I'm off to begin reviewing EA Sports' "NBA Live 09." Jealous?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Daily News, AP spoil Action Comics #870

I'm sure you've heard by now, both the Daily News and the Associated Press spoiled the events of Action Comic #870 for very many of you. I wasn't happy about it either.

However, the thing I was most unhappy about was the fact that these news sources Described the pivotal scene. It's one thing to say what happens, it's another thing to ruin the setting of the story.

Because, let's face it, most of us readers knew this was already going to happen. This wasn't another "Captain America #25" situation. Geoff Johns hinted heavily at the event (though I do have to applaud him on how he pulled it off!), not to mention Gary Frank's covers. And on top of that, DC's solicitations lately have RUINED plenty of big events, from last week's big reveal in "Batman #680" to the Magog reveal in "Justice Society" — and heck, most of "Final Crisis" has been described in solicitations.

That's the ridiculous part, not the news spoiling events, the Solicitations spoil us months in advance.

Oh, and if my little diatribe has not tempered those especially hot over this subject, thinking it a recent epidemic, I have news for you — Superman's death was spoiled in the news eight months before it happened. EIGHT MONTHS! I was sitting in my uncle and aunt's living room in Virginia on a family trip in 1992 when I saw it on the 6 p.m. news!

So, throughout the entire Doomsday fight, we all knew that Big Blue was going down. There have been worse infractions than this recent "Action Comics" spoil, and I'm sure we'll have worse spoilers in the future.

On a side note, the issue is absolutely amazing. This is the most heroic Superman anyone has written in years, and Johns has officially successfully made Kara Zor-El a great character again. Every DC fan owes it to themselves to read this "Brainiac" arc, and hopefully the start to the "New Krypton" story is just as good next week.

This week's comic book expectations

It's another slower than average week, but luckily we again have several good DC books and a couple from Marvel. HERE'S THE FULL LIST.

The triple A book of the week is Action Comics #870, the conclusion to Geoff Johns' fantastic "Brainiac" arc. When last we left our heroes, Brainiac had captured Metropolis, and is now poised to obliterate Earth. Well, of course this won't happen, but the ride is still a fun one, right? Personally, I am just interested to see how Clark manages to overcome this incrediblly powerful version of Brainiac. And, of course, this will all filter into the big crossover "New Krypton," which means it is of course must-read stuff for DC fans.

Speaking of Johns, Green Lantern #35 wraps up the "Secret Origins" arc, but more importantly, it leads directly into next month's precursor to "Blackest Night," "Rage of the Red Lanterns." We've seen Hal grow into his role as a Lantern, we've seen Sinestro as a teacher, now comes the part where it all ties together with the future (and, if the cover is any indication, shows the Guardians doing what they do best, hide the truth in a big way).

I am very excited about Final Crisis: Revelations #3, because personally I think every DC fan should be reading it. Greg Rucka's work is THAT GOOD. And I know, the knock on the series so far is how it is not new-reader accessible. Well, I have news for you, most stories are not. There has to be a jumping on point for any characters and any story. For most, the jumping on point for this Question was "52," but even if you haven't, no DC fan should not have a knowlege of the Spectre, and everyone should be reading anytime Rucka writes the Question. On top of that, the closing moments of last month's issue, with Montoya running into the anti-life Batwoman, was stunning. Frankly, I feel like this series is going to tell much more of that month of Anti-Life takeover than the main "Final Crisis" book will.

And don't forget your weekly "Batman R.I.P." tie-in, either, Detective Comics #849 -- which, again, really doesn't tie-in to Grant Morrison's main story -- but it hasn't been a bad Hush story so far. This is the (Geek Term Coming...) Penultimate issue.

From Marvel this week is X-Men: Original Sin #1, the first of a five-part story crossing over "X-Men: Legacy" and "Wolverine: Origins," which will not only show Professor X and Wolverine re-discovering their pasts together, but it will also, apparently, tell the truth of how Wolverine first joined the X-Men. personally, I am kind of sick of these "Hidden Tales of the Past" stuff. Can no writer think up new content anymore? All the same, if there is one character that knows about memory loss, its Wolverine, so it's only logical to crossover these two series right now.

I'm also excited for Secret Invasion: Inhumans #3. The Royal Family has fled the Skrull-infested Atilan in search of Black Bolt, who is currently in Skrull possession. And, to make matters worse, the Skrulls plan to harness his power as an ultimate weapon. Do I need to sell this book anymore?

That's about it. Still, please please PLEASE do not go buy Marvel Zombies 3 #1. Please. We have to stop encouraging Marvel of this nonsense. Write something well and original, for a change, Marvel!

Heroes Report on 'I am Become Death'

We're going to do things a little differently this week because, frankly, this episode's poor writing -- just the latest piece of poor writing in a growing list -- made me cringe.

So, instead of giving a full report on what happened here, I'm just going to poke holes in the writers' ideas (and add a comment or two), all in chronological order.

1) A combination of bad food and headphones gave Parkman the ability to paint the future? So... was the food or music made by a powered person? Otherwise, how is this accomplished with a special ability?

2) Why was Peter running from a handgun? He could have stopped time, or stopped the bullets, but instead he runs away like as if someone that powerful should be afraid of a handgun? And why does Clare keep chasing someone of Peter's power with a simple gun, anyway?!?

3) Ando and Hiro are stuck in a cell... why isn't Hiro just teleporting away?

4) After Peter was told someone in HIS time was about to make a formula that would change everything, why does Peter stay in the future and look for future Sylar instead of go back to the past and find scientists that could make this formula? How does Sylar's power help stop a formula from being made, anyway?!?

5) It's only been 4 years... Sylar has become THIS well adjusted?

6) Shouldn't Peter get Sylar's ability simply by being around him? Shouldn't he ALREADY have Sylar's power from being around him before? How does Fixing a Watch give Peter a power? And how does staring at a watch magically give him the knowhow for fixing it?

Was it just that Sylar needed someone to do some chores for him? "Hey Peter, go wash my car and you'll have magic car powers! Patch my roof and you'll have patching powers!" RIDICULOUS!

7) Again, in Costa Verde, why isn't Peter simply stopping time and neutralizing Clare and the others?

8) This isn't really a plot hole, but how big of a prick is Nathan, that he's back in the Senate, becoming well adjusted, and while he hasn't contacted his wife and kids yet, he's getting with Nikki/Jessica/Tracy AGAIN?

9) In the future, Nathan is President. Four Years in the Future. So... basically, Nathan rose to the Presidency in ONE TERM? Doubtful.

10) There were so many good instances over the past two seasons where Peter could have turned evil. There were so many ways. They need to make him evil by giving him a "Hunger?" And why did he need to cut Nathan's head open in order to understand intentions?

11) Hiro and Ando -- Can they really be this stupid? How long did Momma Petrelli really have to talk to these two to convince them to let Adam Monroe Free? And didn't Adam just try to kill Momma Petrelli? And what the hell is Adam going to do to find a formula?!? Honestly, this was the most ridiculous way to return Adam to the fold.

And also -- Adam was just imprisoned a few episodes ago. Did we really need him back so soon? Of course, that's just the latest infraction in a series of poor choices along these same lines: Nathan has "died" twice. Linderman died, now he's back. Nikki died, but she's back as Tracy. Sylar died, but now it seems he never will.

There are NO CONSEQUENCES for these characters, and consequently, no tension for us watching. Kill a few characters, Please! You may be sad by this (boo hoo, you lose one of your friends on set), but it will result in STRONGER stories.

This was one of the most disappointing episodes in Heroes history, as far as I am concerned. I felt like the rules these writers created governing this sci-fi universe were being re-written on the fly -- and that is the cardinal sin when it comes to convincing people to buy into a fantasy world. I'm pretty disgusted.

I've been trying to give these writers the benefit of the doubt, but this is just getting ridiculous.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

This week's video game releases

Decent-sized week of new video games, if you like the NBA (which I do).

Click THIS LINK for the whole list.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Saturday's Gaming in the Journal: 'Lego Batman' review

Finally, after weeks of promising it, I can deliver: On Saturday in the Poughkeepsie Journal's Gaming page (page 5C in the Journal's Saturday Sports section), we have a full review of "Lego Batman: The Videogame." It's available at THIS LINK.

After I received my copy on Wednesday, and getting very little time to play on Wednesday night thanks to my own stupidity (why I end up stopping and watching every movie that airs on HBO I've no idea), I played into the wee hours on Thursday night and found a way to finish the game on time to write a full review when I got into the office today. I don't think I've ever played such a silly game so intensely.

You know, that's the thing about being a game reviewer — just like any other type of news story, game reviews have deadlines that must be met. But when you complain about having to work through the night and getting 3 hours of sleep because of playing a video game, NOBODY has any sympathy for you. It's a hard-knock life for us.

Anyway, you all are going to enjoy this game, if you haven't played it already. While the story is very weak, I am more than OK with a Batman story that's light-hearted after dealing with Grant Morrison and Heath Ledger for a while.

By the way, one of the other copy editors and I were just discussing whether or not the Associated Press should have an accepted style for what letters to capitalize in "Shark-repellent Bat Spray."

Anyway, I'm sure I'll have more to say about the game soon, for now just pickup the Journal's Gaming page on Saturday Page 5C.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The new DS: DSi

Have you heard the news? At Nintendo's media event today, the long-rumored new DS was debuted, the DSi (which likely stands for "eye"), which includes, among other features, two cameras. Personally, I think the Wii "Punchout!" is MUCH bigger news, but it's not the reason I'm posting, so I'll save that enthusiasm for another time.

Click THIS LINK for IGN's full story from the event, which includes the other details on the DSi, which include a SD Card slot, built in Opera Browser, faster Wi-Fi, and music playing and sort of editing capabilities. You will also be able to download games to your SD card from a Nintendo online store similar to the Wii Shop Channel. The DSi is slimmer than the DS lite, which means the Gameboy Advance slot is GONE.

The DSi will be available in Japan this year for roughly $180, and won't be brought into the US until late 2009.... since the DS is region-free, I don't know why you couldn't just import one, but I digress.

Now, here's my question... where should I be getting so excited about this handheld? I don't see it as that much of an upgrade from the DSlite, and here's why:

1) Until I see a game that needs those two cameras, I don't want my DS to have them.

2) It's a music player, but will it be a good enough one to make me leave my ipod home? Probably not.

3) The Gameboy Advance slot is gone, but we can now BUY old games and download them... How do people keep falling for this trick? They convince us we don't need backwards compatibility to play the games we already own, then they resell us the games we already own. I still use my GBA slot from time to time, particularly when playing the classic nintendo games I already bought when they were resold to me on GBA!

4) Is it really such a chore to buy the Opera Web Browser for the DSlite?

5) The two handhelds may be apples and oranges, but one of the advantages for the DSlite against the PSP has always been its cheap price. The DSi isn't that much cheaper than the PSP.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to poo-poo technology. But, I like my DSlite. I still use it often. The companies developing for the DSlite are still finding new and fun ways to use the system. And if I have one problem with it, its that there isn't enough in the hardcore gaming area. None of these gimmicky add-ons make me feel the need to change my handheld.

Don't go believing something is a big upgrade just because you are told it is. If these new features really appeal to you, then go ahead and buy a new handheld. I just don't think Nintendo is offering much of an improvement.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

'Lego Batman' in the house

All of last week, I was quite the sad panda. Every time I walked through a video game section in a store, and I saw "Lego Batman" there on the shelves, my heart broke a little inside. You see, the game was available... but not for me. I still had my press copy of the game on the way. And frankly, I don't make enough scratch here to go out and buy every game I need to review.

But that has all changed. When I walked into the office today, I found my mailbox stuffed with mail — namely, my "Lego Batman."

That's right, Killer Moth! As soon as I get home, you're going back to prison... where, judging by your outfit, you might enjoy...

Look for a full game review in Saturday's Gaming page.