Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This week's comic book expectations

I'm sick and annoyed at several different things. So, despite the fact that THIS LIST of comic book releases is pretty good, with several good monthlies like 'Green Lantern," "Justice Society" and "Captain America" hitting the stands, I'm not up to the whole spiel tonight.

What a funny word "spiel" is.

Anyway, blame the flu. I'll do better for you all next time.

'Deadly Creatures' review

Ladies, Gentlemen, I apologize for the delay in getting this up here. I finished "Deadly Creatures" on Thursday (?) night, but I have not had time to type up my review... until now.

You all are lucky I am in bed sick, because that's the only way I had time to do this today, too.

Anyway, HERE IS THE LINK to the review. I did not enjoy this game as much as some other reviewers, but I say I'm right. Neeners.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

'Deadly Creatures,' the first of many games this year

As I said before, I was away from civilization for a few days. It was nice. Nicer than being around you people on the Internet. The only downside is, I have a pile of games to play and I had no time to get started on them.

That is, until Wednesday morning, when I got all of one hour of time (that's right, a whole hour!) with "Deadly Creatures" for Wii, a game I have been looking forward to getting my mitts on for a long, long time, if only for the unique protagonists of the game.

Unfortunately, I've obviously not played enough of this game to really discuss it with you all, but I did get a chance to play both a level with the tarantula (which you start off as) and a level with the scorpion. So while I won't get into any story spoilers yet, I will give a few thoughts:

1) I really like the mixture of talents between the two main characters. While the tarantula can go many more places than the scorpion can, the scorpion is a far more potent-feeling fighter, giving each character their bonuses.

2) While stabbing something with your stinger can be fun, the combat just doesn't feel natural in the early-going. This may improve, I don't know, but for now, the more complicated combinations of hitting and swinging the Wiimote don't feel as responsive as they could and consequently feel like a chore.

3) The early level designs are fun, and varied. Again, maybe I won't be able to call them varied after a few levels, but for now I am having a good time exploring. In fact, on a couple of occasions following the tarantula up and down walls has made me downright dizzy.

That's about it for now, but we'll have much more and a full review in days the come. Tonight I plan on putting in some more time with "Deadly Creatures," but only after breaking into my steaming-hot copy of "Halo Wars." Yeah, it's nice to be back in civilization.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

This week's comicbook expectations

Sorry folks, it's going to be a slow week. HERE'S the full list, though there isn't much to see.

As sad as it is for a "Dark Reign" critic like me to admit, Dark Avengers #2 is probably the top book of the week. How's that for an illustration of how slow Wednesday will be? This issue will focus on the yet-to-be reveled Dark Avengers vs. Morgana Le Fay (Wait, from "Trinity?") and continue the overall mystery of who these people are, anyway.

The Marvel event I am more looking forward to is "War of Kings," and a couple of books this week pave the way to that. The first of those is, of course, X-Men: Kingbreaker #3, in which Vulcan is a little mad with power and looking to expand, even as Havok and Polaris have been sprung free. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how the Havok/Vulcan throwdown will go down, especially considering this mini is only a precursor to "War of Kings."

The other issue leading up to "WofK" which you may not have on your radar is Guardians of the Galaxy #10, featuring a massive Negative Zone melee led by Rocket Raccoon and Blastaar. If you're looking for the place to fill you in on the non-Shi'ar side of "WofK," this would be your place.

There are also a bushel of X-related books for you this week, from Uncanny X-Men #506 to X-Factor #40 to Young X-Men #3 and New Exiles #18, the series finale before a new Exiles book is launched soon.

And speaking of series finales, that brings us to DC's offering for the week, highlighted by a couple of Bat-Family finales in Robin #183 and Birds of Prey #127. Of the two, "Birds" is definitely the more intriguing title, as there is no official word of a new incarnation of the book on the horizon just yet. But since both lead into "Battle for the Cowl," Bat-fans should have both on their radar.

Supergirl #38 also drops this week, featuring the second part of the Superwoman mystery, and Justice League of America #30, the last issue before the fallout from "Final Crisis" takes effect, includes a battle with Starbreaker.

Heroes Report: "Building 26"

After a long break in which I literally did not touch a computer in five days (probably my longest stretch in six months), the first thing I did when I returned to the electronic civilization today was visit NBC.com to watch last night's episode of "Heroes."

Actually, the first thing I did was visit resignedgamer.com to check what yesterday's "Motivational Monday" post was, but then I went to NBC.com.

And while the highlight of the show may have been the "Chili's to go" bowl of chili I was eating while watching (It may be cliche, but Chili's does make great Chili), for the second straight week, I was able to watch a full episode of "Heroes" without getting a continuity- or logic-based headache.

I think the highest compliment I can pay the writers is that I did not even notice the absence of Peter, Parkman or Suresh until they (SPOILER ALERT) showed up in the final 20 seconds. After months and months and years and years of force-feeding these characters (Peter in particular) into every episode, "Building 26" shows there is enough going on in the "Heroes" universe to afford us a break from Peter & Pals.

That's not to say we didn't still see familiar faces, though. The four storylines we followed in this episode were anchored by four main characters. And while some worked better than others, the episode still advanced the overarching story to where it needs to be in every case.

Out in Costa Verde, Claire decided to play Freedom Fighter by warning a targeted special of his captors. In doing so, she draws the attention of the government (again), her father (again) and decides to throw another little tantrum by telling her Mom about HRG's new job.

But what I liked about this storyline was that while Claire was doing her same dumb-teenager bit, the writers didn't try to take this down the same old (poor every time they try it) path of making Claire hate HRG. On the contrary, I got the feeling that both characters wish they could just agree on everything, but their own personal compunctions are not allowing that. Frankly, I felt their scene in Claire's bedroom was the most touching of any Bennett Family moments since Season one.

Oh, and by the way, Claire is, apparently, trying to restart the Underground Railroad in her house. Smart girl.

In Washington ("Building 26?"), Homeland Security threatens to shut Nathan's project down, until "The Hunter" (honestly, the bald schmuck needs a name) secretly lets Tracy loose in order to have the Homeland Security Rep watch her freeze and kill a man.

More than any other storyline this episode, I was encouraged the most here. As soon as Homeland Security stepped in threatening to shut down the program, I remembered the mess that Volume III was and how many storylines it set up only to be quickly abandoned. I envisioned Nathan's project getting shut down, only to have "The Hunter" lead a secret, no-holds barred, operation of his own without the government's consent, and Nathan would become one of the hunted. But, to my surprise, the writers actually were able to keep a storyline going for a change. Let's have three cheers for basic plot development!

Believe it or not, I also enjoyed Sylar's roadtrip. Now, personally, I find this search for Daddy Sylar contrived and weak. It's like the writers don't know what to do with such a powerful character, so they're taking him off the board for a while. Which means, I also didn't care much for Zachary Quinto's heartfelt little speech about his wittle wed wagon (honestly, do people actually think he's a good actor, or do women just find him hot?). Further, if you're hunting Sylar, and you get a gun to the back of his head, pull the bleepity-bleeping trigger! Such horrible writing!

All that said, watching Sylar walk out of that van, dressed in full-commando black gear, with the laptop in one hand and the boy over his shoulder, I had a vision of just what kind of fantastic anti-hero Sylar can be in this storyline. He could be the hero hunting the hunters. He has their information, he knows he can take large groups of them as long as he doesn't get caught off-guard -- Sylar may become the Frank Castle of this storyline, and that would be the first truly great use of this character.

And oh, by the way, Hiro and Ando were in this episode, with Hiro deciding that by stopping a wedding, he became a hero again. That makes a lot of sense. So every redneck best man who sleeps with the bride the night before the wedding is a hero now?

Anyway, I'd have to say this was another good effort overall, and a good table-setter for the next phase of this storyline. Now the biggest questions are 1) What will HRG do for Peter/Suresh/Parkman; 2) What will Claire do with Aquaman in the closet (get it?); 3) What will the government do about Claire?

I guess we find out in six days. My interest in this show is slowly making a comeback, how about you?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Heroes Report on 'Trust and Blood'

I don't have all too much time to beat around the bush tonight, so I'll just come right out and say it -- tonight's episode of "Heroes," the second episode of "Volume 4: Fugitives," was pretty darned good.

I say that, mind you, considering there were still several flaws evident that I've spoke about in the past. But, all things considered, this episode, "Trust and Blood," felt like the "Heroes" of old. Which is ironic, seeing as the episode was written by Mark Verheiden, a first-time "Heroes" writer but a veteran of "Smallville" and "Battlestar Galactica."

As I said, it's late, I've an early morning, I'm going to make this quick. So let's get right into the positives for this episode:

- Nathan returned to being a three-dimensional character. Sure, it's still kind of ridiculous that he started this powers-hunting initiative in the first place, but at least here we saw that the man still has a heart. And more importantly, we saw this is the same old Nathan -- once again he's in waaaaay over his head. Kudos goes out to Verheiden for using Nathan's conversation with Momma Petrelli as both a framing device and a way of hammering Nathan's ineptitude home.

- For as cliched as HRG's character has become (Gee, Noah, you're doing all this to protect your family? Really?), it was also nice to see the writers have added to his old motivations. In this episode, we saw that he is not only looking to protect Claire, but also looking to protect the human rights of the powered people. And I cannot wait for the HRG vs. Danko throwdown.

- Speaking of Claire, I do find myself intrigued that she is receiving messages from -- was that Wireless sending out messages?

- It was also nice that we received a reason for Peter's confusing actions during the plane crash, explaining early on that he can only hold one power at a time. While there is no logical reason why this would be the case, it was still simply nice to hear that the plane fiasco was not simply shoddy writing.

- And finally, last but most certainly not least -- how kick ass was Parkman in this episode, taking over one soldier to kill the rest?!? That's the kind of power use we just don't see enough of in this series, and it was one of the best moments since season one.

However, it was also in that scene that was saw the same old negatives which are still plaguing this series:

- Killing Daphne is NOT a good idea. When fans like myself have said "Heroes" needs to kill characters, it means "Heroes" needs to kill some ESTABLISHED characters in order to return a sense of gravity to the series. Daphne would be just the next in a long, long line of new characters who have bitten the dust while the same old main cast survives. Now, Daphne will appear in at least one more episode this season, according to IMDB, so let's hope it's not simply a flashback.

- And speaking of Daphne and Matt, am I the only one SICK AND TIRED of this whole drawing the future thing? Especially lately, it just feels like lazy writing trying to put characters into place for events without giving a reason to do so. I imagine the writers' interaction to go like this:

"We need Matt at the crash site."

"Why in the world would Matt go to the crash site?"

"Ummm... let's force him to randomly paint the future in order to make him want to go there. Yeah, that's the ticket."

And could that painting scene be any goofier? The man breaks into a mobile home and comes out with his art supplies? Seriously?

- I'm also pretty darned sick of Sylar. The man is the Jason Todd of the "Heroes" universe, always showing up with a different personality in each episode. This time he decided to be Mr. Sentimental, helping out a young boy he identifies with. And in a most ridiculously contrite turn of events, the boy may be his half-brother. Give me a break! I don't care about Sylar's Daddy issues, and frankly, I don't care about Sylar, especially when the writers decided to give him phantom mental complexes just to get him and his insanely powerful talents away from the main storyline for a while.

- I'm also pretty sick of Mr. Rah-Rah Peter. We get it, you want to be a hero even without your normal set of powers. And I know the writers are trying to paint him as a heartfelt leader opposing Nathan, a leader who never listens to his heart. But right now Peter just feels like a whiny little Emo boy to me.

Remember back before the Season One finale, I said I wanted both Sylar and Peter killed off in the final episode? Let's see a show of hands of who thinks I was right?

As I said, this was a downright entertaining episode of "Heroes." But the same old problems still remain.

In all fairness, another six or seven episodes like this will prove a great deal in terms of the writers being able to navigate around those same old issues and still deliver entertaining television. But, until that happens, the horrors that were Volumes 2 and 3 are preventing me from trusting this series or its writers.

Friday, February 6, 2009

New York Comic Con panels!

The joy of New York Comic Con has begun, and more wealthy Web site have begun their live blogging from the many, many panels. To help you out, I'm going to post links to all the panels I can find, so keep checking this space for updates.

Superman: Building a Better Tomorrow

Marvel's War of Kings Panel

Marvel's X-Men Panel and here's news on X-Men: Forever?!?

An IGN interview on "Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2"

Marvel's Dark Reign

DC Nation

Battle for the Cowl

Cup O' Joe

DC Universe

Sunday Conversation with Dan DiDio

Mondo Marvel

More to come...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Buy Pile Report

I am back from my day trip to New Hampshire, and no book I picked up at "That's Entertainment" in Worcester, Mass., got me going quite like Final Crisis: Legion of Superheroes #3. If you've any love for the Legion at all, this book was better than crack. Oh, so many Legion members. Oh, so many villains. And, oh, so much more.

And before I even go into how much fantastic Legion action there was in this book, I need to talk about the opening pages featuring a good deal -- Geoff Johns, you property-tying genius -- Green Lantern news. In a short scene with the ageless Sodam Yat, there is plenty of possible "Blackest Night" foreshadowing:

1) Kyle Rayner dies at some point in Sodam Yat's past, at which point Kyle appoints Sodam the new "Torch Bearer."

2) Sodam recites a NEW Green Lantern Oath: "In Brightest Day, Through Blackest Night, No Other Corps Shall Spread it's Light! Let Those Who Try to Stop What's Right, Burn Like My Power, Green Lantern's Light!"

3) Sodam says he has "Done too many things that have stained my soul."

That last part is likely a throw-away random bit of future characterization, but the first two points are worth pondering.

Following the Green Lantern bit, there was just so much to love, from George Perez's gorgeous splash page of the Legions brawling to the Brainiac trio squabbling to Superman calling Superboy Prime "Clark."

And speaking of Prime, I know he's an awfully divisive character, but count me in the camp who loves this guy. I buy his motivations, I buy his characterization, and I even buy his over-the-top antics, seeing as this whole world he's mucking around was at one point completely fictional to him. If you at all see what I see in the guy, this was one issue where Prime shined. The only thing better than Prime burning a hole through Superman's hand was "Did YOU Do THAT?! IDontThinkSo."

But, of course, the showstopper was the man (or is he again a boy?) who shows up on the final page. Who called it?!? OK, at this point, everyone called it, but I remember being one of the first, back when Wally West first came back. And say what you will about delays and solicitations ruining big moments (I've certainly said plenty on the topic over the years), but Johns and Perez manage to keep a good bit of drama in this predictable moment with some stellar dialog and art direction.

What an issue. And worth the wait.

DC's other top book this week, as far as I am concerned, was The Mighty #1. Now, I actually just read a less than stellar review of the book on another site, but I, for one, am very happy to have given this first issue written by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Keith Champagne (who I normally don't like) a chance. Again, I may be in the minority here, but I am intrigued by this world inhabited by just one hero who attained his powers in World War II. The main character is actually the new head of his supporting "green beret"-esque force, a likable young guy who was forced to take the job after his mentor was murdered (cue the plot!). The series still has a way to go and even has yet to have its superhero "Alpha One" speak a word, but I felt this was a good first issue.

The only Marvel book in my Buy Pile worth noting was Cable #11, continuing the tale of Nathan Summers and Kid trooping around the desolate future. My one problem with this book is that the Messiah Child -- now named Hope for fantastically touching reasons -- is growing up too fast. This issue lists her as seven, although their count of days on the run age her at four and a half. Either way, this issue features some narration from Hope, for a change, and it really adds a sense of humor to an otherwise hopeless situation for the pair, jumping farther and farther into the future only to find less and less food and shelter. Given my current faith in the X-Men creative team on the whole, I am really nervous the upcoming "Messiah War" ruins this series in a couple of months. But until then, these last 11+ issues of "Cable" (counting the "King Size" issue) has been some must-read stuff. The only major flaw here? Replacement artist Jamie McKelvie was pretty horrible.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

This week's comic book expectations

Marvel's "Dark Reign" is settling in and "Final Crisis" has crashed to it's demise. I mean conclusion. Either way, this week is certainly slower than the last few, but it does have its share of charm.

From DC, Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #3 headlines the week. Suffering from months of delays, "Final Crisis" will have long since finished by the time this tie-in concludes. Still, seeing as the events take place a 1,000 years in the future anyway, I'm willing to bet the events of "Final Crisis" proper don't tie in too closely. In case you've forgotten (how could you have not? It's been months!), Superboy Prime's Legion has just attacked, and Prime himself just snapped the neck of the final Green Lantern, making his ring travel back to Oa, where Sodam Yat resides. Despite all this, Superman's plan is still to try and reform Prime, since stopping him would be darned near impossible. Meanwhile, Brainiac-5 has just summoned the other two Legions and confusion ensued. That about covers it, enjoy the show.

Speaking of the Legion, Adventure Comics #0 reprints the first story featuring the Legion of Superheroes. It also contains an "Origins and Omens" backup story, which likely contains buckets of details on the upcoming Legion reboot. All that, and it costs just a dollar.

Finally from DC, I am awfully curious about The Mighty #1, written by Peter Tomasi. The basic story for this first of 12 issues is a fairly familiar one: The world of "The Mighty" has just one superhero, who was given his powers during World War II... sound familiar? But, I do trust Tomasi's writing, it looks like Tomasi is going to be giving this book a decidedly human tone. It should be worth taking a look.

From Marvel, the Dark Reign premieres continue this week with Agents of Atlas #1 and Secret Warriors #1. It should be interesting to see what plans Marvel has for both groups, seeing as their respective purposes for existing were both closely tied-in with "Secret Invasion." My prediction is both groups keep that event-driven tone for a while longer and serve as resistance to Norman Osborn's plans. "SW #1" also marks the return of Nick Fury to monthly books, a character who was sorely missed by many.

By the way, I'm watching "Spider-man and Friends" in the background right now, and Ice Man just said "No more Mr. Nice Guy. It's time for Mr. Ice Guy!" You don't get great writing like that anymore.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Cable #11 begins a new two-part story, and yes, Nathan and the kid are still trooping around in the desolate future. But, if you're not reading this series, you're really missing out on some great character work by Duane Swiercynzski. The man is really making me feel exhausted right along with Nathan, mainly because Swiercynzski keeps creating supporting characters and situations that would seem perfect for Nathan to raise the kid in, only to steal it away. Oh well, I guess that's necessary to keep things interesting. Still, last issue's tragedy and surprises had some real weight to them, so I am excited to see what this two-part story brings.

Also this week, Black Panther vol. 2 #1 debuts with its new female Black Panther. Who is she? I can't tell you, hell, that's Marvel's whole hook here!

Anyway, that's about it, I'm off to watch tonight's episodes of "Scrubs." Surprised I didn't say some comic book-related show? I do have other interests, you know.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Heroes Report on 'A Clear and Present Danger'

I am not a fan of the "new direction" for this fourth "Volume" of "Heroes," otherwise known as the second half of season three. For one, the premise is ridiculous, seeing as Nathan wanted to flood the world with special people one moment and exterminate them the next. For two, making all your main characters go on the lamb is not the way to bring the sorely-missed human element back into the show.

That said, this first episode of the volume, "A Clear and Present Danger," was watchable. That's about as far as I'll go.

Once again, show-runner Tim Kring is trying to begin the story by putting all his pieces out on the table immediately and catapulting his characters into the storyline. In this first hour, we learn plenty:

1) In six short weeks, Nathan has become the head of a secret black-bag hero-hunting government agency, and both Angela and HRG are working with him.

2) Nikki, Suresh, Hiro, Parkman and Claire were all black-bagged and put on a plane to the government internment camp. Sylar was the only target able to evade the Hero Hunters.

3) Thanks to Claire, the group was able to break free mid-flight, and now they're about to crash land to their new fate as fugitives. Hey, the Volume title!

Sound simple? Sure! And for all I know, the heroes working together and staying alive could make for good television. But there wasn't much in this episode that encouraged me.

For one, the writers still don't know the physics they set up for their own show. Suddenly Peter needs to make contact with people to absorb their powers. Plus, the cliff-hanging ending of the episode features Peter losing grip of the plane, getting pulled by the suction of a hole in the plane... the only problem is, Peter can fly. Where's the danger there? If he gets sucked out of the plane, won't he just be able to fly back in? And frankly, with his aerial powers, should he even be getting sucked out right now?

This may sound like a fanboy nitpick, but I am a firm believer that Sci-Fi needs to follow its established physics, or else it's just make believe.

On top of that, the episode wasn't even put together well. Watch that scene with Parkman speaking to his African Spirit Guide and count how many continuity issues there are, just with the Spirit Guide's staff.

But those issues are just cosmetic, I suppose, compared to the bigger problem -- "Heroes" lost its emotional weight after season one, and nothing I watched tonight indicates this volume will recover it:

Claire is betrayed by her father, again. How many times is this now? And are we really going to have to endure another of their "heartfelt reunions"?

Peter and Nathan are fighting again. How many episodes before Nathan has another change of personality and all of a sudden it's the Petrelli Boys to the rescue once again?

Sylar is still looking for his father. Need I say more?

The fact is, these are the same old characters with the same old problems that were handled beautifully in season one, only to be dug up again and again. Want to know where "Heroes" went off the rails? Look no further than the end of Season One: Sylar was killed, Peter and Nathan blew up and Parkman was shot. Plus, Nikki was cured. If any of those plot-endings stuck, the show could have just moved on to different areas to explore.

Instead, "Heroes" has just tried to go to the same plot wells again and again, and this premiere looks to be no different.

Want that new and exciting direction, Tim Kring? Kill off half of your beloved cast and bring in new blood for new stories. Until you can deal with not seeing your buddy Milo or Zachary on set everyday, your show will continue to flounder.

But I suppose all we can hope for in reality is for the unspectacular but adequate action series this premiere seems indicate. Oh well.