Friday, January 30, 2009

Why 'Final Crisis' is both a success and a monumental failure

I'm going to say something right now that will sound like it goes against all of my previous opinions on the subject, but just hear me out.

"Final Crisis" was undeniably successful in doing what it set out to do.

Oh, and it was also one of the worst series DC has put out, ever.

As I said, hear me out. Grant Morrison had a story he wanted to tell. He wanted to involve the New Gods and bring a conclusion to Jack Kirby's dreams. He wanted to explain his love for the DC Universe by telling a quick-hitting, wide-spanning tale which truly ignores all the details in order to show the DCU at its core. And, after learning this story would be a "Crisis," Morrison wanted to incorporate his ideas on the Monitors' mythos and bring a conclusion to their tale. Oh, and it had to fit into seven issues.

Yeah, readers were given absolutely nothing but bare-bones events happening one after the other after the other, but that's exactly what Morrison wanted in order to strip each character down to his or her essence.

Whether you were able to follow Morrison's oddball concepts along the way, is one thing, but by the end of the story (if you bought a couple of tie-ins as well) it was even impossible to say the story as a whole was confusing, because it was all out there on the table. It may not have made sense, but it wasn't confusing.

In all this, his tale was a success, with flying colors.

The problem is, Morrison's goals were in direct conflict with what DC was trying to sell fans.

The idea of a DCU "Crisis" implies certain truths that fans have come to expect:
1) "Crisises," especially those involving the Monitors like "Final Crisis," have ALWAYS been in direct continuity with the rest of the DC events leading into the story.
2) Because of that continuity, the series has its impact felt in the rest of the universe, creating cogent tie-ins and a lasting aftermath that must be dealt with.
3) The storyline itself is told in a much more conventional manner, in which one issue leads directly into the next and the antagonist actually makes appearances before the final issue.
4) That antagonist, as well as other story points, like "Lord Eye" and the "Miracle Machine" also come from a logical place, not from the depths of one writer's imagination at the last minute in a feeble attempt for drama.

"Final Crisis" should NEVER have been a "Crisis" at all. If this story was released as a side mini-series, possibly even out of continuity, with no need for all the fanfare, then "Final Crisis" would not have needed the Monitors involved and it would have likely gone down in DC history as the greatest Darkseid story ever told. We wouldn't have expected it to adhere to continuity, the "channel zapping" story telling style would have been praised from the mountaintops, and the HORRIBLY GLARING lack of an aftermath would not be a major issue.

DC's first mistake, was making Morrison's story become a "Crisis."

DC's second mistake was letting Morrison, a man known for his wacky concepts and higher-than-though attitude when it comes to continuity, do whatever the heck he wanted to with this story, regardless of what else was going on in the DC world. The other side of this same problem is, DC editorial failed to accurately get Morrison disclose all of "Final Crisis" in advance, which would have allowed for proper lead-ins.

What resulted was "Final Crisis," "Countdown" and "Death of the New Gods" crashing together in one massive trainwreck of continuity before the event even began. Once the event began, DC also had the problem of characters acting differently in tie-ins and the "Final Crisis" mothership. In "Rogues' Revenge," the Rogues are looking to get out of the evil business, in "Final Crisis" they're in the thick of Libra's meetings. In "Revelations," Catwoman and Batwoman are attacking a church and The Question is helping the Spectre, in "Final Crisis" they are thralls with The Question sailing around the Multiverse. In "Submit," Mr. Terrific is busting out of his fortress with the power of the OMACs fighting the Anti-Life equation, and in "Final Crisis" Mr. Terrific is running away to a different universe and the OMACs are barely seen. Heck, Morrison could not even let his buddy Geoff Johns know how to introduce Superman to "Legion of Three Worlds."

NONE of that could be communicated to anyone else? Really? None of it?

It all comes down to DC editorial needing to do a better job of keeping its talent in check. I don't care how much reverence for Grant Morrison there is out there, if he's writing a company's flagship event, he has to be able to be a team player. I don't know how hard series editior Eddie Berganza worked at keeping Morrison within the parameters of the DC Universe, but it wasn't good enough.

Because I wasn't looking to buy a "Look at how funky Grant's mind is" story. In fact, I tend to avoid Morrison's work because I know I don't like how he thinks his wonky ideas should be viewed as intelligent and coherent. I wanted to buy a "Crisis" book and a DC Event book.

But none of it fit together as anything more than a thesis by Grant Morrison on "This is why Superheroes are cool." Which would have made for a monumental mini-series.

Unfortunately, DC took a great story and tried to make is 10-times bigger and more inclusive than it was.

Want the proof of this? Even DC isn't trying to use any of the story points from "Final Crisis" in the coming months or spin-off any mini-series.

When have you ever heard of that? Every single DC book next month should deal with the fallout from Darkseid's onslaught. Mini-series should be popping up on the New New Gods on Earth 51, or on Nix Uotan.

But no. The only series springing from "Final Crisis" are the ones created by DC mandates. DC wanted Flash back, so "Flash: Rebirth" is on the way. DC wanted Bruce Wayne dead, so "Battle for the Cowl" is on the way. Heck, DC wanted Arthur back as Aquaman so a tiny little throwaway panel with Arthur was in "Final Crisis #7" for no good reason.

DC is not carrying on any of Morrison's ideas or plot threads, because even DC knows it made a mistake by giving Morrison the creative keys to the castle.

And so, I've come to my conclusion. "Final Crisis" was a peerless success in achieving what it set out to do. But it failed miserably in giving most of us what we were sold, and because of that, "Final Crisis" will be a blackeye for DC for years to come.

Bring on "Blackest Night."

Buy Pile Report

So, "Final Crisis" has now come and gone. Am I the only one left unfulfilled?

Frankly, I don't know where to begin with this final issue, Final Crisis #7. I'll have a more wide-spanning look at the even as a whole tomorrow, but for now, we're going to try and evaluate this final issue on its own. Just like the rest of the series, though, this issue a chock full of contradictions. (And Spoilers are coming...)

For one, I loved the narrative advice of using Lois Lane to jump around in time -- but frankly, I was left wondering if all of creation is being threatened here, who, exactly, is she hoping will find that final issue of the Daily Planet? And how the heck did they assemble the Fortress of Solitude, where they printed the paper, onto the satellite? And if all of creation was being unmade, how was Earth 51 OK for Mr. Terrific to go to? And is Mr. Terrific still there living with the New Gods?

OK, I am bring a little negative, let's get back to the good: Superman did get to confront Darkseid. Unfortunately, the Flashes' attack on Darkseid was pretty darned predictable, and the big baddie was dying anyway. Speaking of which, was anyone intimidated by Darkseid at any point? All he did was put the Anti-Life equation out there, then sat on his ass inhabiting Dan Turpin. Big Deal! Oh, and why was Arthur of Atlantis randomly placed into that final scene with Darkseid?

Positive again, here we go: You have to love Lex Luthor's involvement in the resolution, even if that too was predictable. But, in that same scene, what the heck was up with Wonder Woman? She was really under Darkseid's spell all this time? What a rip-off.

And yes, the assembling of so many Supermen was cool. That doesn't change the fact that I have questions aplenty here too. For one, why did The Question have to be with them? Given her involvement with "Revelations," it would have made more sense for her to be absent from these scenes. Speaking of which, why are Radiant and Spectre at Mandrakk's feet? Didn't DC editorial discuss the endings to these two events and swap notes?

But I guess that belittles the bigger annoyance of, Where the hell does Mandrakk pop up from anyway?!? Nice that he didn't appear in "Final Crisis" proper up to this point. Good thing Captain Carrot was there to stop him, though. We really needed Captain Carrot, Grant. Really. We needed him. Captain Carrot. Thank You.

I'm sorry, I tried to stay positive with this issue, I really did -- especially since I do have a new perspective on the series as a whole which I will share with you tomorrow -- but this issue was nothing more than a collection of decent scenes wrapped in a VERY THIN THREAD. And don't even get me started on the lack of a resolution.

All that said, Final Crisis: Revelations #5 was a brilliant ending to one of the best tie-in series you will ever read. To be perfectly honest, I've never cared for The Spectre. I've also never been much for the ground-level style Greg Rucka is known for. But after this series, I will read anything Rucka writes in the future, especially if it features The Question or The Spectre. Up against a wall of Cain-led Anti-Life, it's down to The Question to come up with some way to save the day at the last minute -- and boy does she find an unorthodox way to get the job done. Along the way, as predicted, Crispis Allen does grow into his role as The Spectre, and it's handled in such a way that I have 100% more appreciation for the character's place in the DC Universe. This is the sort of comic series that proves the genre should be considered true literature.

Keeping up with that theme of Former writers of "52" (sorry, I read nothing from Mark Waid this week), Justice Society of America #23 is a pleasant return to the Geoff Johns-penned team that really gained steam before Kingdom Come Superman popped back up, even if the issue is nothing spectacular. A good portion of this issue handles the aftermath of the recent Gog-filled events, as Jay, Allan and Ted debate who should stay and who should go. While this is only logical given the recent events, I do find it odd that Johns would shake the roster like this right before handing the team off to a new writing duo who will likely have their own ideas.

The second half of the issue sets the stage for the rest of this Black Adam-centric arc, showing how Teth Adam recovered Isis and how he and Isis usurped Billy Batson off the Rock of Eternity, which all led to a fantastic final couple of scenes in young Billy's Kitchen. That said, I do have to wonder about Johns' handling of Isis' character here. I don't know if it is just me, but she seems much too severe, given her former merciful nature. Oh well, I do trust Johns here.

The only issue really worth mentioning from Marvel this week is Captain America #46, which continued Ed Brubaker's subtle examination of Bucky Barnes' current life. I've said it before, I'll say it again, this is a series EVERYONE should be reading. I don't know what was better in this particular issue, Bucky's interaction with old friend Namor, the Black Widow's discovery of Bucky's past, or the strange experiments Bucky's friend Professor Chin is up to. A good amount of this issue is simply laying the groundwork for more explosive issues coming up, it's true, but the quiet character work done on Bucky is just as sharp as ever, as Brubaker has quickly made him the most interesting character in the Marvel Universe.

That's it for me, but on Friday I will have a deep look at "Final Crisis" as a whole, so tune in then!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

X-Men Animated Series on DVD!

Well, if ever I needed good news for the aforementioned crappy day, THIS LINK is it.

X-Men the Animated Series is FINALLY coming out on DVD. April 28 will see the release of the first two volumes.

Snow Day for Comics?!?

I guess I now know what "Final Crisis" truly means. DC was talking about the snow hitting the mid-Hudson Valley today.

Am I the only one experiencing this "Crisis" right now? Both of my area comic shop options, Upstate Comics in Freedom Plains and The Dragon's Den in Poughkeepsie, are CLOSED due to the snow.

I'm not sure about Alternaverse in Salt Point, I've never been there, but I was getting into the office late enough so I cannot swing by there anyway.

Whatever happened to "Nor rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night will keep this guy from his appointed rounds?" Wait, that's the post office. And it's a horrible paraphrase. The comic shop owner code probably includes the phrase "In brightest day..."

So, "Final Crisis #7" is going to have to hold on for one more day. No word on if Wilson Philips will be performing.

And right now, I'm pretty cheesed off about it, only because tonight is going to be a VERY SLOW night for me here in Poughkeepsie Journal central. With the snow, the high school games have been canceled so the phones won't be ringing. Meaning, I would have had BUCKETS OF TIME to read the comics I was supposed to be purchasing today.

Adding insult to injury, Newsarama has the first part of their Grant Morrison "Final Crisis" exit interview available at THIS LINK. I spotted it this morning and get excited to read it as soon as I finished "Final Crisis #7." Guess that will happen tomorrow, huh?

In fact, 75% of the Web sites I go to when I need to kill time are likely to have some sort of spoilers on this week's releases, meaning tonight will be a very very boring night for me. Thank God for Duke basketball.

If this isn't what DC meant by "Final Crisis," I don't know what they could have meant.

This week's comic book expectations

It's Finally Finally Finally Here! CLICK HERE for the full list of comic book releases, including a book DC fans have been waiting for for years...

Ever since the beginning of "Countdown," with that scene featuring Darkseid and the chess board, it was obvious an enormous event was on the horizon for the DC Universe. Flash forward 21 months or so, and here we are: Final Crisis #7. For better or for worse, the end is finally here. And if ever there was a time when "for better or for worse" had such a subjective and divisive meaning, I don't know when it was. Grant Morrison's tale has been a bit of a trainwreck, with pieces flying in every direction, the only question is whethere you feel like that trainwreck has been fun to look at or tragic to watch.

This final issue looks to be no exception. Have you seen the preview for this thing? Get a load of it HERE. Are those really the opening pages of the book? When did any of that happen?!? This issue is going to have to go a VERY long way before the majority of readers are happy, and frankly, I don't think Grant Morrison has any interest in doing it, and I don't think DC has any ability to get Morrison to do it. What are we going to need out of this issue? Well, Supposedly the Dark Monitor Mandraak is the biggest big bad. We're going to need a good reason for that. We're also going to need to check in with Darkseid and make sure Bruce Wayne's handywork is working like it should. Speaking of Bruce, I have a feeling we'll learn more of his fate here. Oh, and did I realize we're actually going to need a Resolution to this thing?!? My prediction is this book will be very light on giving a damn and just goes full speed toward the ending, whether readers are along for the ride or not.

Believe it or not, I am actually more enthusiastic over Final Crisis: Revelations #5. Greg Rucka's tie-in has been the best part of "Final Crisis" overall, as far as I'm concerned, placing Renee Montoya in the middle of a theological arguement with God's Spirit of Vengenance and Spirit of Mercy. At this point, the Spirit of Vengenance is killed, if such a thing can be done, and he is at the mercy of Vandal "Cain" Savage. The Spirit of Mercy, meanwhile, has lost faith in God. And it has all been handled beautifully. Again here, we're just looking for what can possibly bring a resolution to the situation. What will restore God into this hopeless situation? I have a feeling it has a big thing to do with the Spectre not only rising from "death" but also rising to the occasion.

Also from DC this week, I'm looking for Justice Society of America #23 to be a return to the good stuff many fans missed during the Superman 22/Magog epic storyline. Jerry Ordway is helping Geoff Johns on this arc, which features Black Adam and the Marvel family. Given that it occurs on the week "Final Crisis" ends and the Marvels had a big part to play in the story, I am thinking we're going to learn something about their post-"Crisis" future here. Also, as I understand it, a good deal of the story will center on Adam and the formerly missing Isis, who when we last saw her was stuck as Faustus' slave. Should be a fun ride, folks.

Over at the "House of Ideas," Captain America #46 begins a three-issue arc which I'm pretty excited about, a story of Bucky reuniting with his former Invaders teammates, namely (in this issue) Namor. Say what you will about James Barnes, I'm more interested in this Captain America than I was in Steve Rogers for a number of years, if only for stories like these, in which Bucky finds himself struggling to reunite with a life he used to know. Something about Ed Brubaker's handling of the character, and his relationship with the Black Widow, really strikes a cord for me.

That's about it for me for now. Be careful on the roads while heading to the comic shop!

This week's video game release list

"Afro Samurai?!?" After a slow month and a half, we're starting to get back to our pre-fall-rush normal video game weeks. HERE'S the full list.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This week's comic book expectations

DC has had its fun in the sun, now it's Marvel's turn. Big Big week for Marvel's "Dark Reign" event (can you really call it an "event"?), even if DC has a couple of good issues out of their own. HERE'S THE LINK for the full list.

Dark Avengers #1 headlines the week, as the world will finally get to meet the team Norman Osborn built. Through this whole "Dark Reign" nonsense, "Dark Avengers" is going to be place to be for the biggest news, so get on the bandwagon early. Frankly, I find myself wondering when the Avengers took over every Marvel storyline, but I guess a good story is a good story -- will this be one? Was "Secret Invasion" or "Civil War?" I think you all know my answer to that...

I'm actually more excited for Mighty Avengers #21. For one, it's written by Dan Slott, a writer a trust. For two, it introduces an all-new lineup in order to distance itself just a bit from the epicenter of the "Dark Reign" tremors. And, oh, is that Scarlet Witch I see on the cover? It's just too bad that because this book is written by Slott and not Brian Bendis, this will probably be a little more of an ancillary Avengers title.

Thunderbolts #128 also revamps the roster for the sake of "Dark Reign," seeing as Norman Osborn is a little bit too busy to be running the 'Bolts full-time. Uncanny X-Men Annual #2 will also tell the tale of why Emma Frost wanted into this "Dark Cabal" (how dorky of a name is that, anyway?) in the first place.

Speaking of Emma and the X-Men, it's also a pretty big week for the Children of the Atom, what with Astonishing X-Men #28 (Finally after those awful "Ghost Boxes" tie-ins, we get to see more about those Chinese X-Men), X-Men: Kingbreaker #2 (Will the Starjammer break Alex Summers free this issue or next? You know it's happening soon!) and X-Men: Legacy #220 (Rogue returns to the fold).

Sound good? Well there is plenty to like from DC too.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 will hopefully fill us in on how Superman got from his Universe-spanning adventure to the 30th Century in last week's "Final Crisis #6." More importantly, I want to learn more about this "Dark Monitor," especially since Grant Morrison really only has this one issue to build him up into a villain worthy of being the "big bad" for this whole event. Oh, and did I mention this issue will be, again, in 3D? I'm not so nuts about it, but some of you may be enjoying that stunt.

"Rage of the Red Lanterns" continues in Green Lantern #37. I just bought my Red Lantern T-shirt last week, so I'm all set to geek out on this one. If you remember back a couple weeks ago, Hal Jordan was just told he will be the greatest of the BLUE Lanterns. Exqueese Me? A Baking Powder? That comes across funnier when Wayne and Garth do it. Either way, I'm pumped to see this story develop.

Personally, I'm also excited for Robin #182, which wraps up the "Search for a Hero" story arc and the penultimate issue of the series. If you haven't been reading, Tim Drake has been doing a helluva job filling in for the Caped Crusader -- even if it does seem the job is changing him for the worse. Now, wearing a hood to hide horrible scars, we're about to see if all his plans for a cleaner Gotham come through. This has been a great lead-in to "Battle for the Cowl," and I highly encourage all of you to pick up the arc in TPB form if you haven't read along.

Supergirl #37, the first issue in a while to not directly tie-in with the rest of the "Super" titles, begins a five-issue arc titled "Who is Superwoman?" Now, while I am looking forward to this new direction of the series, my bigger question is "How is Kara not on New Krypton?" Didn't she take off with her Mother at the end of the 10-part "New Krypton" story? I guess We'll learn here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

SPOILER: 'First' Black Lantern revealed

This is why I hate advance solicitations but can't turn away from them... the solicitations for the first series of "Blackest Night" figures includes a revelation of who the "first member of the lifeless, emotionless, Black Lanterns" is. Spoilers coming after this promotional picture, which coincidentally blacks out this character's image but still tells us who he is in the text...

The "first" Black Lantern to be revealed will be Earth-2 Superman. So apparently Geoff Johns really is going to revive everyone and the kitchen sink for this series. Thank you solicitations.

Just for good measure, the solicitations for the April issue of "Green Lantern" also spoils Hal's future.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Game along with the Geek: Banjo-Kazooie Day 1

I FINALLY got a chance to start playing "Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts" last night, to begin the second leg of the "Game Along with the Geek" feature on this blog. You are all planning on playing along, aren't you?

Unfortunately for me, since I only really had two hours last night to get started on the game (I like to start games with segments of no less than four hours of game time), and I consequently am really not hooked on this game yet. I think the main problem is the lengthy tutorial. While it's somewhat funny and somewhat informative, with plenty of wink-wink video game industry jokes and information to catch up newbie gamers on the history of this series, it still takes a VERY long time for the game's narrator (The "Lord of Games") to explain all the many new aspects of this version of "Banjo-Kazooie."

Rare (the developer) could have saved a whole bunch of time by just saying "you're going to build faster and faster cars for use in a knock-off 'Super Mario' game," because as far as I can tell, that's all that's really going into this one... you know, if you switch collecting stars for collecting jigsaw puzzle pieces.

Check that, you're not collecting jigsaw puzzle pieces, you're collecting "jiggies" ... you know, because that makes them sound like what the cool kids would call them. No word on whether or not Will Smith wrote the soundtrack.

The only problem is, while "Super Mario" games generally start players off with simple levels that really do capture the feel of how the tougher levels will eventually play, "B-K: Nuts and Bolts" starts you off with a few clunky time-trials. If slow kart races are all I really have to look forward to in this game down the line, you may have to count me out before the final gun.

I was especially confused by the third task I played, in which three lava balls needed to be cooled down in a short period of time. When I finished the task with 2/3rds of my time to spare, I could only wonder "Was I not supposed to know putting the lava ball into water would cool it down? Is this the level of intelligence Rare made this game for?"

I'm hoping to have a lot more time with the game tonight, so hopefully I will have a much more cheery disposition this time tomorrow. For now, I am actually left missing the clunky jumping and problem solving Lara Croft offered me.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Buy Pile Report: Obama vs. Batman

You may have noticed I omitted Amazing Spider-man #583 from the list of this week's comic book expectations. It was NOT a mistake.

Aside from my overall disgust for that title in general (see any post on "One More Day" or my post on how inconsequential the Spider-man stories are because of it), I, for one, am entirely against this sort of desperate and blatant grab for media attention Marvel is becoming famous for.

Don't believe Marvel EIC Joe Quesada, folks, he didn't feature President-elect Barack Obama in this week's Spider-man due to his love of the character, he featured the soon-to-be commander-in-chief because he knew he would be able to be on CNN THREE TIMES because of it, and get the story on the Associated Press wire, which is where I first saw it.

It was a horrible, horrible grab for the wrong type of mainstream attention and mainstream dollars.

It also, with DC's help, painted the undeniable picture of how Marvel is able to kick DC's rear end in sales every month, despite inferior products. Because while the mainstream media was gushing over our "Nerd" in the White House, DC quietly ---- SPOILERS COMING ---- "Killed" Bruce Wayne!

You remember Bruce Wayne, right? One of the characters that ever-so-desirable mainstream audience drooled over all summer while watching "The Dark Knight?" You couldn't do a better job promoting that one, DC?

Of course, as a fan, I am thrilled the mainstream media (I use that phrase despite my Gannett salary) didn't ruin the moment for me like they did with Steve Rogers' death, but as a realistic analyst who is dying for DC to climb out of the second-place sales-cellar, I am left wondering how DC let this moment pass without fanfare?

Oh well. Joey Q, your publicity stunts have bested DC's quality once again.

I guess I should get to the actual comics for the week, huh? That moment happened in Grant Morrison's Final Crisis #6. Read his thoughts on the issue at THIS LINK. And while Bruce Wayne's "Death" was just the best big moment in a collection of big moments here, unfortunately, that's really all this issue -- and this series -- has amounted to. This issue includes plenty of great moments, from Batman's exit to Superman's entrance to Black Canary's leadership to Metron's speech. But, it only comes together as well as the previous issues have.

In order to get the whole story in "Final Crisis," you really have to read all the tie-ins for color and very small bits and pieces. For instance, if you didn't read Batman #683, you would have never seen how Bruce breaks free of his torture chair. And I have a feeling if you are not reading the soon-to-be finished two-parter "Superman Beyond" then you are missing out on a big chunk of this "Dark Monitor's" storyline. The problem is, even all that isn't enough to tell you the full story without you using your own imagination to fill in the blanks. Morrison only gives you small tastes of moments, opting to spend the most of his pages on the big moments, leaving us to picture the action around the world for ourselves. And consequently, I feel like the scope of this amazingly catastrophic reality-warping "crisis" is left feeling much smaller than it should seem.

But, I do have a couple of very distinct thoughts on this issue, which, while disjointed, may have been the best of the six issues yet:

1) Wonder Woman is faking. If she was under Anti-Life control, would she be able to say "Look! Up in the Sky..."

2) Bruce Wayne is NOT DEAD. As Morrison states in that interview, he still has a story to tell. And remember what happened to Shilo Norman when he was hit with the "Omega Sanction," he wasn't dead either, just trapped in a string of oppressive lives. My prediction? Bruce showed in "Batman #682-683" he can overcome that oppression, so he will instead become:

3) The new New Gods will be certain heroes we know, including Bruce Wayne. After a life of struggling to be the human in a world of superhumans, Bruce will become a God himself.

Speaking of which, I am really not a fan of Grant Morrison, but this scene with Bruce, this swansong, was the most perfect death in comic book history. Humanity's best found a way to rise to the occasion and slay the God of evil, at a time when evil had supposedly stripped mankind of its will. And while that evil preached the perfection of Anti-Life, Bruce made the ultimate statement of life's free will -- the ability to willingly give that life up for the greater good of all humanity.

This is a man who, while always ready for the occasion, has always had an underlying insecurity around his peers. For Bruce to end his life taking down a God when none of his superpowered peers could... For as shitty as the execution of this whole event has been, this one moment of dichotomy is a CLASSIC comic book moment.

OK, as far as I'm concerned, the rest of the Buy Pile can wait. "Final Crisis" is all we should be thinking about right now. In fact, I'm going to go re-read it before bed. Night!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This week's comic book expectations

It's another big week for DC, as the fall "Final Crisis" delay continues to payoff on the back end. HERE'S THE LINK to the full release list for the week.

Perhaps I've just been turned off too much by Marvel in the past year or so, but there's only really one title from "The House of Ideas" that interests me this week, X-Infernus #2, which continues the "sequel" to 1988 crossover "Inferno." If you missed part one, you didn't miss much, other than Illyana showing up in the X-base. Still, given the greatness of "Inferno," here's hoping this series picks up.

Everything else worth caring about this week is from DC, namely Final Crisis #6. In case you forgot, when last we left Grant Morrison's epic (or at least wannabe epic), Darkseid had just been reborn and gave the 'ole failing grade to all of humanity. Still, the heroes have several vestiges of hope still left, from Mr. Terriffic's plan for the OMACs, the Flashes' still unknown plans, Superman's inter-dimensional adventure (which, it seems like this issue happens AFTER next week's "Superman: Beyond #2"), and, oh, did I mention Batman had just knocked around his captors a little in a recent "Batman" issue?

Speaking of the Caped Crusader, remember this is the issue that tells us the final fate of Bruce Wayne, officially finishing off the whole "Batman R.I.P." thing, although I really don't see how the two storylines mesh together. I guess we'll find out here. I'm also hoping we get to see Darkseid do a little hands-on damage, especially since we still have yet to see the true big baddie of this series, and the mystery villain will need some screentime of his own in the final issue.

Another big one from DC this week is Action Comics #873, the finale of the 10-part "New Krypton" story, although it would seem this arc has a long way to go before it's truly over. Frankly, other than boosting sales numbers, I don't quite see why this needed to be an "arc" onto itself rather than just the beginning of the long-running story it is. The Kryptonians are pissed and Supergirl's Mom is a nutbad. Supergirl herself is more confused than ever, and Earth's mightiest heroes are looking to put the citizens of Kandor back in their place. And, oh yeah, the U.S. Government is still behind the scenes pulling strings.

Frankly, at this point, if all the threads in "New Krypton" are wrapped up in this issue, I would be disappointed. Instead, this seems to simply be the opening verse of one long song which, if the information I've heard is accurate, will lead to Superman & Co. leaving Earth for a while.

The third and final Class-A DC title this week is Green Lantern #32, concluding the Lantern's lengthy battle with the surprisingly crafty "Kryb," creator of orphans and stealer of babies. It's all come down to Kyle Rayner, Mr. Torch-Bearer himself, and while something tells me he will come out on top, this little story has been so good the predictable ending is alright with me. Obviously, this issue is also continuing the road to "Blackest Night," and Mongol will be making a major appearance.

Well, "American Pie" on "Encore" is almost over, so it's time for me to say goodnight. Enjoy the week, meet me back here tomorrow for a "Final Crisis" report.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Game along with the Geek: Tomb Raider Day 4 - DONE

Considering how clueless I was at certain parts of "Tomb Raider: Underworld," it's either an extremely short adventure, or developer Crystal Dynamics decided inducing hours of utter confusion counted as their final expected playing time for the game.

Either way, I am finished. So plenty of spoilers ahead:

I am still trying to figure out my thoughts on the final level, though. On the one hand, I was thrilled that the confusion that ran rampant across the first few levels was absent here. Getting into the underwater castle was a straight-forward excavation mission. Finding your way to the door Natia needs you to open is also fairly simple, as what you can jump on and what you cannot is very clearly distinguished. Even the fact that Lara's hands were glowing as soon as you get into the room was a clear indication that you would have to hit some switches before heading over to the door. And then the final puzzle, the machine that would awaken the Midgar Serpent, was easy once you see the grapple hooks have a floor beneath them.

Am I being a hypocrite to say I wanted to be challenged mentally more at the end of this game?

Speaking of simple, what did I say yesterday about Thor's Hammer? Cool as it is, the hammer made the boat level impossible to screw up, and made fighting hordes upon hordes of thralls (in that one corridor before the machine area) a breeze. I even killed eight or nine sharks with that thing.

Overall, I have to say I was not satisfied with the last moments of "Tomb Raider: Underworld," and as such, I give it a failing grade.

It was just all unfulfilled potential. The storyline was fantastic, but you only really learn what Lara found and how she put the pieces of the puzzle together if you take the time to stop and read her journal. The character of the Doppleganger was great, but in the end you don't even get to fight her. And all during that final room with Natia flying overhead hurling fireballs at you, you don't even get to try to hit her back. Not once.

And Mostly -- I WANTED TO FIGHT A SERPENT! How cool would it have been to have an enormous serpent wake up, and you have to jump from scale to scale, while he moved, and hit him in certain places with Thor's Hammer? Where's the imagination?

Don't get me wrong, there were definite redeeming qualities to this ending. Especially the direction when Lara finally "meets" her mother and when Amanda and Lara need to escape.

But too much was left in cutscenes and out of our hands for the ending to really feel like you accomplished anything. And after dying oh so many times on so many levels, this was a game that really needed to pay off with some good hands-on action in the end.

Oh well, maybe the downloadable content will be worth it. Or, maybe it will just a waste of another $10. I guess we'll see. For now, if you haven't been playing along, I would not recommend this game as anything more than a rental.

And with that, we're moving on. The next game we feature will be Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, so go find the game and get ready to play along. My first night playing will likely be Wednesday night, so the first post will come Thursday.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Game along with the Geek: Tomb Raider Day 3

Snow behind us, last night I got back to "Tomb Raider: Underworld" where, ironically, I was trooping around the snow all level.

Again, for spoiler reasons and so you know, I have just finished the mountain level and am now starting the boat level.

And remember a couple of days ago when I said the game's positives were far out-weighing the many negatives? Well, the hammer room was enough to make me change my mind.

You see, my friends, I have a confession to make. Up to my ears with frustration after spending over an hour trying to figure out how to mount that final hammer, I gave in for the sake of finishing the game at some point and - gulp - looked online at a walkthrough, being very careful not to read anything but the section on the hammer room.

To my relief, it turned out I needed no help whatsoever in solving the puzzle of the room, I simply didn't realize tapping the "Y" button allowed me to climb across that metal chain fast enough to not get carried into the wall for the one-billionth time. I cannot even give you a ballpark on how often poor Lara died in that final hammer room.

The sad part is, before that room, I was really enjoying the puzzle on the whole from that section. I was stumped in a couple of sections, but not for so long and not without options of what my next move would be. I even find it pretty ingenious to begin the level with a sliding piece of pavement and then force you to use other slanted piece to jump to the necessary ledges. It took me a while to find my bearings and know which hammers to ride and which to take only as far as the wall, but all along I was mentally challenged, not angry at flaws in the game.

If only I knew what the "Y" button could do ahead of time.

That said, how cool is Thor's hammer? I tried it out a little bit on the boat before turning the Xbox off for the night, and that hammer really sends enemies flying. This also tells me the game is on its way to wrapping up, since you generally don't get such a powerful weapon if you've long to go before the final challenges. And, after how aggravated I was at that last hammer room, I'm not sure if I will be sad to see this adventure end.

I'm heading home now for another long session with Lara. Hopefully I'll have time tomorrow to tell you all about it.

By the way, given the subject matter, I thought you all would love reading THIS KOTAKU SCOOP.

Comics sales for 2008

We got a curious news story on the Gannett Company wire today from USA Today, briefly looking at Comics sales for 2008. Unfortunately, it's such an obliviously irrelevant piece of news that I wouldn't even mention it, except for two points of contention:

This is the lede:

"The comic-book industry, helped by the enormous success of films such as 'The Dark Knight,' showed continued growth in the burgeoning graphic novel category, according to an exclusive look at top sellers."

To which I can only ask, do you really need to tie-in "The Dark Knight" to EVERYTHING now that it was a success? The movie was a mainstream masterpiece, no question about it, but the bulk of the monthly-buying comics industry has been in place for years, that movie had nothing to do with the genre's popularity, and to claim such belittles us fans in a most ignorant way.

Here's my second problem with this story: You cannot create a list of the "Top 10 Comic Books" of 2008 based on individual sales, and this story attempts to do so as extra material to run with the story.

Here's the list:
1 Secret Invasion No. 1 (Marvel)
2 Secret Invasion No. 2 (Marvel)
3 Secret Invasion No. 3 (Marvel)
4 Secret Invasion No. 4 (Marvel)
5 Secret Invasion No. 5 (Marvel)
6 Secret Invasion No. 6 (Marvel)
7 Uncanny X-Men No. 500 (Marvel)
8 Secret Invasion No. 7 (Marvel)
9 Final Crisis No. 1 (DC)
10 Secret Invasion No. 8 (Marvel)

Anyone else see why this is so needless? Because the most popular "event" comic of the year, with so many chapters to it, will ALWAYS dominate a Top 10 list! With the best event of the year, the number of readers will stay constant throughout the event, making big sales all around.

It would be more accurate to look at the highest-grossing series of the year and rank them, so that mainstream readers don't go thinking there is only two or three wildly popular comic books out there.

Huff. Mainstream stories are bothersome sometimes.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

This week's video game releases

HERE is your link to another sparse video game week. Things don't really kick back up until mid-February, so sit tight.

Game along with the Geek: The Price is Right?!?

I remember back a few years ago, a snow day meant nothing but video games for me. Heck, the last time I beat "Super Mario Bros. 3" was on a snow day three or four years ago when my younger sister told me she had never seen the game beaten. Well, she as Luigi and me as Mario beat that sucker with snow covering our town.

However, this time the snow last night meant I could not get home, which meant no progress on "Tomb Raider: Underworld" for me. I'll be playing again tonight, with a report Monday afternoon.

Instead, I got in some quality time with my trusty Nintendo DS while hanging in the Econolodge last night, playing "The Price is Right."

Yes, I spun the wheel, I bid on Contestants' Row, I even dropped a few Plinko disks.

Unfortunately, I was left kind of annoyed at the goofy title, which I was kind of looking forward to playing. Here's a quick break down of my thoughts, since I'm not feeling paragraph form at the moment:

- Plinko is irresistible.
- Cliffhanger includes authentic music, which I've now decided needs to become my Ring Tone.
- There is a decent variety of pricing games.

- Bidding One Dollar does NOT WORK. It seems your three fellow contestants on Contestants' Row will always bid one ridiculously high, one slightly lower, and one very much lower, which means all you have to do to make it on stage is bid just above the very much lower contestant. However, bidding one dollar does not work. What are us jerks to do?
- No Bob Barker or Drew Carey. OK, I could care less if Drew Carey was there, I wanted Bob, and no luck. Don't we all want to use our stylus pen to kiss Bob's cheek?
- The prices themselves are a little wonky. I was supposed to bid on a package of Chips Ahoy cookies, so I entered $2.59. The actual retail price of that item was $0.56. FIFTY-SIX CENTS for a pack of cookies?!? I know "The Price is Right" has been on the air for a long time, but the game did not have to use the prices from the show's debut year. Wherever those game developers are shopping, I want to go there.

As you can see, the bad out-weighs the good. Such a disappointment.

What good is a "Price is Right" game without accurate pricing games? It's like peeing in the dark, friends. Peeing in the dark.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Game along with the Geek: Tomb Raider Day 2

It's 9:35 p.m. right now, and I've been very tired all day. Despite the fact that I planned ahead of time to wake up early and get into the office ahead of the snow, I was still up until 6 a.m. playing "Tomb Raider: Underworld." Unfortunately, I wasn't enjoying myself.

Well, that's a bit too harsh. Parts of my five-hour gaming session were downright fantastic, mostly thanks to the storyline fitting the game so well. So that you know for the sake of Spoilers, I have just finished recovering Thor's belt and am now headed into the snowy level, where ever that is. So, if you're not that far yet, quit reading or be spoiled.

As I was saying, the storyline reeled me in, especially with the segment at Croft Manor. I was pleasantly surprised to see the opening flash-forward/flash-back for the game was NOT the end of the game, but rather a middle point. All too often we are at the end of a story in the very beginning before flashing back, so this was a nice change of pace. And while the concept of dopplegangers has certainly been done before (just ask "Frisky Dingo's" Mr. Ford or "SeaLab's" Captain Murphy), I am always a sucker for it. I think it's because of my love for "Legend of Zelda."

Oh, and who could resist that line when Lara says to the effect of "I need Thor's Hammer to Kill a God."

What I wasn't a fan of, was the execution of the many puzzles this section of the game presented. And I've actually given this point a good deal of thought, because I feel like game developers spell out the solutions to puzzles much too easily all too often, and I've often desired a game that really makes you think.

After all that thinking, I realized my problem with this game is not the fact that you have to work hard to figure out these puzzles. My problem is that between the camera ruining players' perspectives and the ledges that may or may not be within jumping reach depending on the level, it's very difficult to connect the dots on obstacles and formulate a plan for solving the puzzle as a whole.

I spent 10 minutes turning those gears at the Mayan ruins, waiting for the uneven gears to matchup, thinking they must at some point, before I realized the stupid skull pedestal could move. I spent even longer in the Mayan crypt, first trying to formulate a plan at that part where you have to swing from skeleton pillar to skeleton pillar, and longer still to actually execute that many jumps in a row.

The big wet room with Thor's statue was the one that really ruined my sleep pattern, though. Being in a room like that, it's obvious that you're close to the end of the level, and I wanted to finish that level before going to sleep. Little did I know that room had enough odd little angles and edges to drive anybody insane. The part that really made me want to throw my controller to the floor was the whole "OK, I have the belt, how the hell do I get back up?" moment, which must have lasted 30 minutes in itself (I wasn't counting).

But then, the whole point of this feature is that you all play along in the game as I do, right? You must realize how infuriating this game can be sometimes! Or, maybe I'm still just playing like a noob. Who knows?

What I do know is, there is enough cool segments of this game, from the doppleganger, to the motorcycle, to the storyline in general that I am definitely in it for the long haul here, no matter how much aggravation it causes.

Speaking of which, I ran over a panther! How great is that?!? Finally, I get rewarded for my talent for hitting wildlife with my vehicle.

That said, if I cannot get home tonight thanks to the snow, I will likely not have another chance to play until Sunday night, so you may have to wait for the next installment of "Gaming along with the Geek." Deal with it.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Game along with the Geek Beginning NOW

The problem with the big fall video game release season is, nobody, not even a professional geek such as myself, has time to play ALL the games you want to play. The other problem is, of course, after the game companies purge all those games in a three-month span, it takes a couple of months for the next top-flight title to hit the shelves.

This year, I've decided to combine those big problems into one glorious solution. I have a large pile of games that were either bought, given to me as gifts, or sent to me by companies looking for reviews, all sitting on top of my VCR at home. (Yes, I still have a VCR and I love it.) For the next couple of months, I plan on playing through these still-cellophaned games.

And, I'm inviting all of you readers to play along with me. Every night I play, I'll get on here and give a report on my progress, and you all can do the same for your own progress in the comments section.

The first game I'm playing is "Tomb Raider: Underworld," which will be followed by (in no particular order) "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed," "Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts," the upcoming "Fable II" expansion, "Prince of Persia" and a couple of older Wii titles I've had for months. I also might pepper in a night of original Nintendo once in a while. Hopefully the pile will last until we start getting a decent game here and there beginning in late February.

Ready? Then let's begin now:


Last night I began playing the Xbox 360 version of "Tomb Raider: Underworld," and spent nearly five hours with the game. Although, I am probably only technically around three hours into the story, since I am sorry to admit to playing like a bit of a noob for a while before getting a feel for the title.

I haven't played the first game in "Tomb Raider's" next-gen rebooted series, "Tomb Raider: Legend," so it took me a little while the learn what to expect. And it didn't help that developer Crystal Dynamics throws you into the deep end — literally — right out of the box.

Without really filling us players in on what, exactly, we're doing there, you (as Ms. Croft) are out on a yacht in the middle of nowhere and you need to jump into the ocean. Sure, it doesn't take too long to learn you're supposed to try and reach the bottom of the ocean, but even after you get there, it takes a good deal of blindly searching around the ocean's floor to find the caves you need to enter to unlock the door leading to the actual beginning of your adventure.

Personally, I cannot believe any game developer would want to begin an action game with such boredom, because by the time 45 minutes had passed by and I was still navigating jelly fish, I felt like "Underworld" had to be a horribly put-together flop of a game.

Luckily, I kept playing, found the necessary keys, got out of the water, and am happier for it. That's not to say I stopped playing like a noob, though. Maybe I have just been playing too many "God of War"-type games lately, but when I first saw a Kraaken in my path the thoughts going through my head were along the lines of:
"OK, I must have to hit his tentacles free first, then his eyes will open up, and I'll have to hit him in the eyes to stun him, then I can flip a switch and drop the spikey ceiling on him, then I'll have to do it twice more before he's dead."

But nope, all I had to do was jump from cliff to cliff, hit a few switches and drop the hammer once to clear my path. Some fight, huh? All the same, I wasted another 30 mins or so trying to fight the beast before learning how to handle the situation.

I also do see myself dying an inordinate amount of times, just based on depth perception issues. Is the ledge too far away? Gotta jump to find out! Heck, I pity the poor gamers who have to play this game without an HD monitor, since I'm having a hard enough time discerning ledges from certain doom with my nice big TV.

That said, now that I've gotten that whole Kraaken situation figured out, and I jumped my way around the jungles of Thailand, I find myself enjoying this game more and more. While I still feel like the game is fairly linear, as the story rolls on I'm finding an increasing number of places where you can do things several different ways, which encourages a little more creativity than I've seen in previous "Tomb Raider" games.

Just to keep you updated, since I know I only touched on Thailand and its awesome lizard men and tiger fights (I love my shotgun) very quickly here, I am currently finished with the first two chapters and about to explore Lara's father's crypt. But, to close out today's post, I just needed to complain about my one true complaint so far:

The camera in this game is TERRIBLE. I say this fully knowing it would have been very difficult to make a good camera for this game, since Lara is up against walls and obstacles nearly all the time. That said, for a game that requires so much jumping backwards and reaching for ledges and cliffs, you'll find this camera costs gamers several minutes of time in certain spots. Coming out of the second room housing Thor's gauntlets (or rather, it used to house Thor's second gauntlet), it took me a good 15 minutes at 6 a.m. just to use a wall grapple to get across from one ledge to another, just because of how the camera naturally moved as you jump. You can imagine how much yelling was going on with such frustration so late at night.

Oh well. Tonight, I venture into the crypt after work. I invite you all to join me!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Buy Pile Report

Well, it was a light week. All the same, the lone true "event" comic didn't fail to disappoint.

Secret Invasion: War of Kings changes the status quo for one of Marvel's oldest super groups. The Inhumans have been taking a major beating the last few years, from Quicksilver to the U.S. Government to the Skrulls... especially the Skrulls. And, as is detailed here, when you think about it, the Inhumans have been one of the most docile societies of super-powered characters you're ever going to see, opting to stay away from battles for the most part and even fleeing from Earth to the Moon in search of a peaceful existence.

If you've been along the ride for all of that, you're going to find this early precursor to the "War of Kings" to be an eye-opening experience. They're mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore -- as the Skrulls and other races (I don't want to spoil things) find out here. And if the mobilization and militarization of the Inhumans wasn't enough to shock you, then the end of the issue revelation will do the job.

As a fan of Vulcan's reign as Shi'ar Emperor and as a fan of the Inhumans, I am pumped for the "War of Kings." However, from the category of beggars can't be choosers, I felt Marvel could have done a much better job with the free War of Kings Saga issue. While the issue did a great job recapping the Skrull Invasion and the current Inhumans' situation, it didn't even touch on the events of "Annihilation," and frankly, I would think of the three components that filter into "War of Kings," "Annihilation" was the least read. Oh well. Beggars choosing.

Unfortunately, another issue I was curious about today, Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy, was pretty weak. A lead-in to the seven-part "Grundy" mini-series kicking off in March, this "Faces of Evil" one-shot did absolutely nothing other than show Grundy dying and being born again. Literally, nothing of note happened until the last page. This entire one-shot could have been the first three pages of the first issue of the mini-series once it begins. And while I have no problem with being teased to a future mini-series, I do have a problem with it when I have to pay full cover price for a glorified prologue.

But, DC did make up for it in the most uncommon place. Trinity #32 was actually pretty darned good. Now, take this with a grain of salt, because if you want to get on-board the "Trinity" train at this point, you're going to have to do some research just to get yourself caught up with how weird and unusual the story has become. That said, this issue was one of the strongest the series has seen so far, and it's mostly thanks to back-up writer Fabian Nicieza's character work with Tomorrow Woman and Triumph.

Since I was pretty impressed with this issue, I just decided I'd put out a quick plug and say this series has really been pretty good for a while now. Don't get me wrong, the story is pretty ridiculous, but Kurt Busiek has weaved a tremendous concept together and executed it in an entertaining fashion. More than that, though, contrary to all advertisements for the series, the story has encompassed ALL of the DC Universe, not simply focusing on Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. Heck, the "Trinity" has hardly shown up of late. If you're willing to invest some time and money to get caught up, this has been an entertaining ride so far.

That's about it for now. Next week should be a much stronger comic offering, however. Two words: "Final Crisis."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

120 runs in one inning

I have a pile of new games still leftover from the big annual fall game explosion just waiting to be played. However, I've been too sidetracked to play any of them.

Instead, I've been playing my Nintendo, which I just took apart and fixed and is now working beautifully, and namely I've been playing my original baseball game, "Major League Baseball."

Why do I bother telling you this? Because tonight I climbed the Mount Everest of achievements in that game.

Three home runs to lead off the game and five in the first inning overall. A 32-run fifth inning. A 20-run sixth inning. All leading up to a total 120 runs in the game on 127 hits.

I've always wondered what would happen on the scoreboard when I passed 99 runs, and just as I expected in true Nintendo fashion, my score reset to zero.

Yes, I know, I'm amazing.

This week's comic book expectations

Last week was one of the deepest and best weeks in comic land in recent memory. This week.... not so much. HERE'S the full release list.

As you can see, sparse pickings. It seems both major companies are taking a week off from their respective big events, which puts you readers in a situation where you can either save up that pocket money or take a chance on something that hasn't been promoted like mad.

If you're a DC fan, here's a few titles you may want to pick up:

Faces of Evil: Grundy #1: For those of you who think Solomon Grundy is nothing more than that guy who speaks in the third-person on the "Super Friends" cartoon, this one-shot will detail the immortal villain's history and powers. Dying and coming back all the time isn't easy, after all. While Geoff Johns' name is attached to this book, it's mostly the work or writer/artist Scott Kolins, who has a real passion for the character and does do good work.

Black Lightning: Year One #1: Is it just me, or is Jefferson Pierce getting a major push from DC editorial lately? Either way, these "Year One" titles are very hit-and-miss. While the brand started strong, recently series like "Metamorpho: Year One" have definitely left some sour taste. All the same, this is one major hero I would bet most don't know the backstory of, so maybe pick this first of six issues up and learn a thing or two.

For Marvel fans, here are some suggestions, including one issue I am very excited for:

Cable #10: If you haven't been reading this series, you're missing out. Bishop is one crafty sonvabitch and he's using that big ole' brain of his to simultaneously create a headache for the present-day X-Men and Cable in the future. This issue concludes the current storyline, and hopefully brings a little bit of resolution to this Bishop-Cable cat-and-mouse game for a while, or at least until the "Messiah War" storyline comes up in a few months.

Punisher #1: I'm enjoying how Marvel is doing a better and better job of including Frank Castle in its regular universe, and with "Dark Reign" starting up, it's time for the Punisher to get in the game. In this new series, Castle has gone (back) off the grid and it seems he's no fan of Osborne's new regime.

......OK, I lied. There is one semi-big deal going on after all this week. The "War of Kings" is breaking out. Unfortunately, with the timing and lack of promotion for it, I don't think Marvel is going to make this event as great as it could be. I'm also wondering why this event is going down at the same time as the "X-Men: Kingbreaker" event. After all, pitting the major extraterrestrial leaders against each other in an all-out war should be a big deal, right?

Anyway, Secret Invasion: War of Kings #1 kicks off the whole shebang this week. If you're wondering how "Secret Invasion" ties in then clearly you're forgetting what the Skrulls did with Black Bolt. The Inhumans are no bigger fans of the Skrulls than the humans are lately. Also, don't forget that for FREE this week -- Yes, FREE -- you can pick up War of Kings Saga #1 to catch you up on all that has gone on.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

This week's comic expectations

Hi, stranger. I've been away for a bit for several reasons, not the least of which being a long vacation that was more hectic than anticipated. But, my vacation is over (sadly), and while I'll have a couple of posts weighing in on topics from the past couple of weeks in the next day or two, for now let's just get down to business with this week's comic book expectations.

CLICK THIS LINK for the list of FRIDAY'S releases. Darned federal holidays screwing up the release schedules and my Netflix rotation to boot, eh?

So, I know that you know I'm a much bigger fan of what DC's been publishing lately than Marvel. That said, believe me when I tell you DC is the All-Star of the first week of 2009, something I hope will become the trend.

Don't believe me? Here's what's on the DC slate:

Justice Society of America #22: The final issue of the epic (at least epically long) sequel to "Kingdom Come," which has heated up in the past couple of months, to say the least. Gog needs to be separated from Earth before he sucks it dry, is the JSA up to the task? Will Jay Garrick return to his non-speed-force state? Will Starman go nuts again? Will KC Superman find a way home? Is "epically" a word? We'll find it all out! Well, most of it.

Green Lantern #36: "Rage of the Red Lanterns" continues, as we learn more about the Orange Lanterns and the Blue Lanterns. As far as I'm concerned, every remotely Green Lantern related book is a must buy until the end of "Blackest Night," the early front-runner for predicted event of the year.

Superman #683: "New Krypton" part 9 of 10. When last we left our happy bunch of Kryptonians, the whole crew, misguided leaders included, was getting pretty pissed off at being treated like villains... you know, since murdering humans is apparently not a crime to them. Personally, I tend to think if I just broke free of being trapped in a bottle for decades I'd be a little more careful not to make waves. But, what do I know, I've never been trapped in a bottle. Yet.

Final Crisis: Secret Files: To be honest, this issue strikes me like filler, and an attempt by DC too milk an event which hasn't been milked too much. The story seems to center around Libra's backstory, though, and while Libra has seemingly taken a backseat in the "Final Crisis" mothership of late, I'm still awfully curious to learn his identity. I think if DC had milked "Final Crisis" more often, I'd be passing on this, but since it's a rare grab at extra money, I'll give it a go.

Batman #684: Not to be confused with last week's Gran Morrison-penned "Batman #684," which concluded the two-part Alfred-driven tale he was telling, this issue concludes the two-part Dennis O'Neil "Last Days of Gotham" story he began in "Detective #851," depicting life in Gotham post-Batman, pre-"Battle for the Cowl." Frankly, part one didn't go very far, so I don't really know what to expect from part two, but I give O'Neil the benefit of the doubt.

All that and Justice League #28 and Kevin Smith's Batman Cacophony #2 don't even rate in the top five!

In fairness to you die-hard Marvel fans, though, there is a lot to read coming out of the "House of Ideas" as well this week.

Captain America #45: Even with the whole "Death of Captain America" storyline concluded, Ed Brubaker's masterpiece of an ongoing title has remained very strong, just as Bucky has been proving himself an intriguing replacement for Steve Rogers. This issue sees the conclusion of the whole Bucky vs. Batroc thing, but it definitely seems a much bigger Winter Soldier-centric tale is just beginning.

Avengers: The Initiative #20: This should actually be an interesting read, in only that reality has to set in here... just as Marvel went and torched the whole post-"Civil War" setup, the Marvel Universe has to deal with the fact that "The Initiative" was simply a Skrull ploy. Should be interesting to see what convoluted discussion takes place in this issue with the characters trying to justify keeping "The Initiative" alive.

Fantastic Four #562: Personally, I have HATED Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's run on Marvel's First Family, as the characters have been, well, out of character, and the good ideas thrown against the wall are the ones going undeveloped while more outlandish ideas are taking center stage. Oh, not to mention the tardiness of every issue. But this issue "A Fantastic Four Wedding and a Funeral" is a pretty big one for those of you still giving Marvel money for this junk.

War Machine #1: I want to be excited about this book. I really do. But, somehow I feel like this title is just a mad grab by Marvel to cash in on the fact that the "Iron Man" movie somehow gave plenty of fans Jim Rhodes Mania. Until we learn the purpose of this book (hopefully Greg Pak tells us sooner rather than later), I'm going to be hesitant. Especially since the solicitation includes the word "ginormous." Ugh.

I liked "Elf" as much as the next guy, but "ginormous" doesn't have to be used every single time we need to describe something as "big" nowadays.

That's about it for me. I will be back with a few catching up posts tomorrow or Saturday. Please remember to tip your waitress.