Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This week's comic book expectations

No, April Fool's Day is not a federal holiday, comic books will come out today. Unless this is an April Fool's Joke, in which case, I'm making all of you take a trip to your local comic shop for nuttin'.

It's a pretty good week to be a DC fan, and a Geoff Johns fan in particular, while Marvel has a balanced plate from all of its events. Take a look at THIS LINK.

The book I'm most excited about, if only because we'll no longer have to see those two-page ad spreads in every issue, is Flash: Rebirth #1. Now, is this going to be as important a mini as "Green Lantern: Rebirth" was? Probably not. In fact, I agree with those out there whole feel like this is just the first in a string of DC overusing the "Rebirth" title. That doesn't change the fact that I'm very eager to see Geoff Johns reset the Flash corner of the DCU in his image. And if the promise of hearing more about Barry Allen's return to the land of the living is not enough to entice you, how about the simple fact that all four scarlet speedsters will be under the same (metaphoric) roof? Yes, I hear you Wally West fans, this probably will take away a good deal of his visibility. But wasn't Wally spread a little thin already? Frankly, the only character I see getting the shaft here is Bart Allen ... unless he and Conner Kent both join the Legion of Superheroes....

The second Johns book of the week, co-written by Jerry Ordway, is Justice Society of America #25, the conclusion of the three-part storyline featuring the Marvels and the penultimate issue in Johns' run with the JSA. Expect this book to wrap up several key issues in a hurry, from Isis' evil turn to Black Adam's legal status to Mary Marvel's S&M problem to the fate of the rock of the eternity. And did I mention something needs to be done about Captain Marvel's lost powers? I agree with those who feel this title has featured way too many guest stars and not enough of the actual team, but with guest stars like these in such a short story arc, I'm not complaining.

Also of note from DC this week is Teen Titans #69 (no snickering, this one isn't just a dirty number, it resets the lineup), The Mighty #3 (I strongly urge you all to pick up this maxi-series) and Battle for the Cowl: Man Bat #1.

Now, if you're a Marvel fan, there is something for everyone this week.

First and foremost, there are of course the weekly buffet of "Dark Reign" titles. Take your pick between Agents of Atlas #3, Black Panther 2 #3, Secret Warriors #3, New Avengers: Reunion #2, Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #2, Deadpool #9 and Invincible Iron Man #12.

Personally, I am more interested in War of Kings #2. When last we visited those zany Shi'ar warmongers, Vulcan had led an assault on the Kree homeworld, breaking up the marriage of Crystal and Ronan (that's one good deed Vulcan did). Oh, and after "X-Men: Kingbreaker" wrapped up, the Starjammers, led by Alex Summers, had joined forces with the Kree/Inhumans. After a blockbuster first issue, expect this one to be scaled back a bit, allowed for the actual storyline to start developing. What you can count on, though, is more badass Inhuman plans, and who has really been disappointed with the path their story has taken? Show of hands? Yeah, I thought so.

Speaking of Summers boys, I am also highly anticipating Cable #13, part two of "Messiah War" crossing over "Cable" and "X-Force." As I said last week, I thought the first part of this event, the "Messiah War Prologue," was just a step behind the first part of the "Sinestro Corps. War" in terms of getting things started on the right foot. X-Force has found Cable and Kid only to learn they've stumbled into a time trap. Deadpool is still alive in the future and raring to go. Bishop aligned with Stryfe (who I could have sworn was dead... though "X-Force" has become known for bringing villains back from the dead with no good explanation, so I guess it's OK). I still say the payoff of this series HAS to be showing off what Hope Summers' ability is, but at this point enough good, fun story elements have been brought together where I am no longer concerned with the outcome and am just ready to enjoy the ride.

OK folks, that's it. Check back tomorrow for the Buy Pile Report and more on "X-Blades."

Game along with the Geek: X-Blades Day Two

I'm now in my third day playing "X-Blades," (despite the titles of the last two posts), and I am realizing something important -- I don't want to play it for more than an hour at a time.

If your gaming habits are anything like mine, you'll find this as odd as I do. I mean, when I'm enjoying a game, be it RPG, platformer, shooter, sports title, whatever, when I'm enjoying it, I'm playing more than I'm sleeping. But, not "X-Blades."

This isn't a statement on the quality of this game, either. Six hours or so in, I'm still having a good time. But, given how repetitive each level is, and, given how tough some of the levels are, by the time an hour has gone by, I'm just ready for a change of pace. I played three sessions today (not to mention a couple of hours playing XNA Community games), all lasting about an hour.

In case you are wondering, yes, I took care of that Spider. I also took care of another talking wolf (this one was evil), as well as a particularly annoying enormous dragonfly.

While the storyline is still nothing to write home about (I get the feeling this is going to end with some cliche statement on good vs. evil and infecting souls and whatnot), I was relieved to see the I am only about halfway through the tale. Given how intense the level just before the evil wolf fight was, with literally 35 consecutive minutes of just melee action, I was worried this $59.99 game was only six hours long.

The bad news of this halfway point was the realization that the game designers apparently got a tad bit lazy. At this point, right after beating the second wolf, I began having to go through the ruins a second time, this time in the evening. Yes, the demons are much more difficult this time around, with that particularly annoying dragonfly, but the level designs are identical.

And about that damn dragonfly. You know those little dragonflies that shoot lasers from their cyclops eye? Well this is an enormous one. Further, it controls six of the little tiny T-Rex looking things. SO, I go in there and cut down the little'uns in order to get the Dragonfly unprotected. I kill the dinos, and, thinking how powerful this dragonfly must be, I say to myself, I need a stronger spell to hit him with. After all, I've had the fireball spell all game, it must be weak. So I pay 25,000 souls for the spell, use it on the dragonfly -- and no effect. At which point, I check the bestiary and read two things: 1) You can't kill the dinos, he'll just spawn more and, 2) the dragonfly is vulnerable to -- you guessed it -- fire. What a pain in the rear.

Anyway, at about an hour into my session I encountered a "Dark Elemental" I didn't know how to kill. Soooooo... end of session.

In a nutshell, some of these battles are a pain, the repetition is wearing on me, but I sure as heck will be fighting that elemental tomorrow morning. For now, "Spaceballs: The Animated Series" is on G4. Enjoy!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Game along with the Geek: X-Blades Day One ... kind of

I just recently started digging into a game I was curious about for a while before it's release a month ago, "X-Blades" for Xbox 360 (available for PS3 and PC also). Actually, I played a couple of hours of it last week, but then got pulled away in several directions for most of the week. But, I got back into the swing of things last night for another couple of hours, enough so that I can deliver some impressions to any of you as curious as I was about the SouthPeak-published title.

However, I do have to mention one major sticking point before getting into anything to do with the game play. As you can see in the box art to the right, the protagonist, Ayumi, is a young scantily-clad girl. If it were to end there, I would be OK with it. I mean, I've played too many SquareEnix games to count featuring similar heroes. But, I can't help but feel like SouthPeak is really trying to stuff sexual appeal down our throats here. What you can't see on the box (though Japanese box art did show it) is that she's wearing ASSLESS CHAPS. Unless she's planning on performing "YMCA" down at the Blue Oyster on karaoke night, there's no reason for us to see Ayumi's buttcrack every time she runs forward. Further, when she is running toward you on the screen and comes to a stop, there is a definite ... umm... jiggle in her top floor. Is that really necessary?

Heck, the PR sheet SouthPeak sent out ends with a note saying to contact them with any questions about the game or about Ayumi's turn-ons and turn-offs. Really, guys?

Well, I can't hate on the good people at SouthPeak too much, they are my video game sugar daddies, after all, but is all this sex really necessary? I don't know about you, but I don't think there are very many of us old enough to play this M-Rated game that will fall for such tactics.

All SouthPeak really needed to do was let us play a few levels of this hack-and-slash to justify purchasing. So far, three hours or so into "X-Blades," I'm having a pretty good time.

You've played games like this before, where armed with a couple of swords (which double as guns) and a growing number of spells, you fight off hordes of demons. The slight twist on it here is an almost old-fashioned level structure. Each level is a small section of the castle/ruins place Ayumi is exploring, with a set number of demons that must all be vanquished before you can move on to the next section with its own demons. Whereas most hack-and-slashes go hand-in-hand with dungeon crawlers, "X-Blades" simply wants you to achieve a set goal before moving on. Which means, in the words of King Leonidas, "no escape, no surrender." Each level also has hidden artifacts to find for points that can be used to upgrade your attributes.

At times, yes, the battles can get repetitive. For instance, when fighting enemies on ground, all you really need to do is fight with your swords just long enough to build up enough magic to cast an "Earthquake" spell knocking everyone back. Then you do it again, and again, and again. I had a bit of a tough time fighting a giant fire-breathing monster a couple of levels in, until I realized all I really needed to do was stand underneath him, and keep on using that same "Earthquake" spell.

On the other hand, as I am progressing and there are a larger assortment of demons in each area, including flying ghosts that remind me of the poes (which used to be named Wizrobes) from "Legend of Zelda," "X-Blades" definitely takes on a much more reflex-based frenetic pace. I am quickly learning, this is not the game to play at 6 a.m. right before trying to go to sleep.

When I stopped playing last night, I was just about to fight an enormous spider, who has little demons circling him to block spells ... which, again, reminds me of old-school original "Legend of Zelda," which is a good thing.

You might have noticed, I haven't mentioned the storyline yet. Well, it involves good and bad talking wolves and dark and light magic. So far, though, it's really not much to speak of. Hopefully once I kill this spider, I will learn a little bit more about why I should care about this girl's story. For now, though, if you like hack-and-slash games, this has not been bad a couple of hours in. Check back later tonight (hopefully) or tomorrow and I'll have more on the next few hours of action.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Buy Pile Report

When is DC going to realize how big they are screwing up what really should be its flagship book? Justice League of America #31 is a disgrace. Right from the first page, with artist Shane Davis drawing Wonder Woman when he clearly was supposed to be drawing Black Canary -- and no editor caught it -- things started bad and just got worse.

The bulk of the issue deals with the fact that Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen have started a splinter Justice League... the only problem is, they haven't done that yet and won't until the start of the "Justice League: A Call for Justice" mini-series launches in July. Meaning, if you haven't been keeping an eye on DC's news releases and convention panels, you won't have a clue what Black Canary is so mad about. Heck, I'm waiting eagerly for the crossover and I was confused for a good deal of time. Further, I don't buy the whole "splinter group" angle in the first place. With Hal and Ollie's relationship with Dinah, I was picturing a much more amicable relationship between the two leagues. It felt very forced, in an effort to artificially back Dinah into a corner, as did the higher-than-thou attitude shown by Superman and Wonder Woman.

The worst part was, given that this was supposed to be a "Final Crisis" aftermath issue, the group should have had legitimate concerns and problems to deal with, not this artificial Dwayne McDuffie-induced crap. This could have been a story of the League showing their resolve and rebounding stronger than ever. Supes, WW and Flash could have all taken their leave with much less fanfare, and we could have all could have happily moved on. Instead, we get more of this mediocre junk. Who else is finally dropping JLA next month?

Of course, speaking of the impending James Robinson-penned JLA mini-series, I am quickly losing what little enthusiasm I had left for Mr. Robinson. For as fantastic as the Superman family of titles has been, he has unquestionably provided the weakest material. Case in point, Superman #686. Didn't we already get this issue already? Superman said his farewells, he put Mon-El in charge, he left the planet -- did we really need to watch Superman say goodbye to EVERYONE in Metropolis? This issue could have been four pages long! Mon-El met the Guardian and Steel, then we saw where he will be working. THE END. And, given how horribly decompressed Robinson's last main arc was, a four-issue long fist fight between Supes and Atlas, I am not optimistic for the scribe's ability to use his space.

For once, DC was the disappointing company. Marvel, in fact, was fairly strong this week.

Captain America #48 was more of the same from Ed Brubaker -- and that's not a bad thing. I've said it before, I'll say it again, I love Bucky Barnes' character, and I love the Black Widow in relation to him. Add that to an enraged Namor and you have the makings of a good final part to this three-issue arc. These past three issues have been a clinic in the art of writing good comics that don't have to have "end of the world" ramifications.

Another satisfying conclusion came in X-Men: Kingbreaker #4 (of 4). While we didn't quite get a resolution out of this mini-series (I get the feeling "War of Kings" robbed this mini of it's true intentions), we did get a high-powered final issue with a decisive rumble between Havok and Vulcan ... even if that whole "absorbing a star" thing was kind of questionable. What was nice to see was, finally, Vulcan was treated as a beatable villain. Yes, I know, we all want our villains to be an unbeatable threat, but Vulcan is simply a Summers brother. He should be powerful, but not so powerful. Finally here, Havok put the youngster in his place. And, of course, it all filtered nicely into "War of Kings." The only real question left was... where did the phoenix go?

And before we get off conclusions... X-Infernus #4 concluded one of the worst mini-series since "X4." Remember that? It was disgusting. "X-Infernus" was a step better. I'd rather not discuss it further because I am trying to erase it from my memory already.

It's OK, though, because X-Force/Cable: Messiah War Prologue #1 was a thing of beauty. A thousand-year-old Deadpool? A pact between Stryfe and Bishop? Could this crossover event have started out any better? It was no big-bang "Sinestro Corps." opening, but the table is certainly set for a good time. Again, I implore you all to go back and read the first 12 issues of "Cable" to get the full story on his and Hope Summers' travel through time, but if you haven't read it and don't plan on it, this special one-shot does fill you in on plenty of the details nicely, without turning the whole issue into a retrospective. Clearly, Craig Kyle and Chris Yost packed the Travel Connect 4 for this one.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

'Gaming for Hope' at Marist

I just received a press release from Marist, letting the world know the school's annual gaming marathon, "Gaming for Hope," will be held at the James J. McCann Center on Saturday, April 4.

We'll have more on the event in the journal very soon, but until then, the key info is that the event runs from noon to midnight with FREE ADMISSION to all. Donations for Child's Play, a charity which donates games and toys to hospital-bound children, will be accepted.

Among the games to be played are: Halo 3, Madden Football, Gears of War 2, Mario Kart Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Soul Calibur 3, Rock Band, and Marvel vs. Capcom 2. PC games will include Counterstrike Source, Team Fortress 2, and Worms.

New 'Zelda' game coming for DS

CLICK THIS LINK to IGN and Behold: "The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks."

While it's not the Wii Zelda some had hoped for, and it's not the retro 8-bit remake I had hoped for, it's an honest-to-goodness full-fledged "Legend of Zelda" game, so rejoice!

Yes, I'm a bit of a fanboy. Frankly reading this news makes me want to pull out my DS just to play "Phantom Hourglass" all over again.

According to IGN, Nintendo says the game will be out later in 2009... which likely means it will come out around this time next year. Oh well, we can hope for a Holiday release, right?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

This week's comic book expectations

For a pretty exciting time for comics right now, with plenty of mini-events going on for both major companies, you would think last week's malaise would be quickly rectified. Not quite.

Don't get me wrong, the pace picks up a bit from last week. It's just... well... you can see for yourself at THIS LINK.

It's a close race this week as to which issue owns the grand spotlight, but I have to give it to New Avengers #51, which will begin to answer the question of who will takeover Doctor Strange's mantle as "Sorcerer Supreme." Frankly, given Marvel's devotion to the status quo, I doubt Stephen Strange will be out of the funny books for very long. Which means, this is likely a short-term-event driven move to bring a character to the fore in a hurry... say, a character like Wanda Maximoff? (And yes, I agree, it would be a poorly-conceived move to have her take over for the good doctor, and yes, I agree, if she becomes a good guy again, then why wouldn't she just undo "M-Day?" regardless, she's my guess.)

Speaking of "Dark Reign," you also may want to pickup Thunderbolts #130, the second of a four-part story featuring Deadpool (after Ryan Reynolds lost his face) hunting everyone's favorite group of "reformed" villains. When is Deadpool better than when hunting similarly conscienceless prey?

Over in the X-Men family of books, X-Force/Cable: Messiah War Prologue #1 is out this week, an event I've been eagerly awaiting, if only because I've been avidly reading both titles. Now, the problem with this event is that we already have been hinted to the fact that not much of the status quo will change in the aftermath. However, what I'm looking forward to is both the reveal of what Hope Summers can do (which, I am guessing, will be revealed here) and the opinions of the other X-Men when they finally get a chance to meet this "savior" they've all made top priority. Will we see dissension in Cyclops' ranks? Keep reading, true believer!

No idea why I felt the need to impersonate Stan Lee.

There are also a pair of X-Men mini-series conclusions this week, X-Infernus #4, the falsely labeled "Inferno" sequel, and X-Men: Kingbreaker #4. Both conclusions are only really interesting in that we'll get to see who survives. We already know Vulcan will survive Havok's attack, as Gabriel Summers has already appeared in "War of Kings," but will Alex, Lorna and Rachel make it out alive? My guess is Lilandra bites the dust. In X-Infernus, will Illyana come back to the land of the living?

Also of note from Marvel this week is the great Captain America #48, Immortal Iron Fist #24 and Daredevil #117, featuring a pact between Daredevil and Kingpin. Whaaa?

DC has similarly middle of the road offerings this week, headlined by Superman #686, the first issue under the "World Without Superman" banner ... you know, since the last time DC used it. I don't know about the rest of you, I am curious as hell as to how Mon-El's story in Metropolis will play out, if only because I cannot wait until the Magic-based Atlas comes back looking for a rematch, only to find Mon, a Daxamite without a weakness to Magic, waiting. Just, please James Robinson, no more giving Krypto so much screentime, please.

I am also eager to read Justice League of America #31, if only because I have a feeling it will be the next installment of the post-"Final Crisis" trainwreck. This is to be the issue that ties together with the recently-ended DC event, and yet, I don't quite get the feeling Dwayne McDuffie was properly briefed on how "Final Crisis" would play out before writing this issue. If you think about how the event went, the League, and the rest of the Earth, should be devastated... but I have a feeling we're not so much going to see that here, and hilarity will ensue. I guess we'll see.

That's it folks, I'm off to continue playing "X-Blades" for the Xbox 360. I'll have a progress report here very soon.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Action Comics #1 sells big

Not surprisingly, an original copy of "Action Comics #1" sold for big bank on an Internet auction — $317,200.

The comic was bought by John Dolmayan, drummer for the rock band System of a Down. He said he was purchasing it for "client" he declined to identify.

Only about 100 copies of Action Comics No. 1 are known to exist.

Frankly, I'm only surprised Nicholas Cage wasn't willing to pony up $320,000 as a gift for little baby Kal-El. Guess his copy of Superman #75 will have to do.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why I am disgusted with you, America — Amazing Spider-man #583's sales

The Sales Estimates for January comic books came out today, and I am once again disgusted with you, America.

Obviously, "Amazing Spider-man #583" led the month in sales, with something like four or five printings of the issue where Marvel proved drawing Barack Obama = under-handed sales. Well, guess how many copies Marvel actually sold on that book?


The second-place book of the month was "Dark Avengers #1," with 118,546 sold.

Oh, and guess how many copies "Amazing Spider-man #582" sold? 59,916!

It doesn't take a math wiz to figure out Marvel sold almost 300,000 more copies than they should have, had "The House of Ideas" not had the idea to stick Mr. President into the book.

Multiply that by the $3.99 cover price on he book and you have "Amazing Spider-man #583" selling over $1,407,895!!!

And for that, I blame YOU America, for helping Marvel get away with this bottom of the barrel grab for money. You let it happen, and you perpetuated the sales strategy so that Marvel will end up doing it again.

I don't want to hear any more complaining about the economy, folks, not when America can spend over $1,407,895 on a drawing of President Obama.

Buy Pile Report

So, if you are wondering where the weekly "Expectations" post was, I was sick (again!) last night. Frankly, I am starting to think I'm dying. Or just gassy. Either way, the bigger question is, are any of you actually loyal enough readers to even realize when I miss posts?

Who knows?!?

Anyway, you probably didn't need me to tell you the top book this week is the long-awaited Battle for the Cowl #1. Unfortunately, the first issue of this three-part event was pretty underwhelming. While I certainly wouldn't call it a disaster or anything, the problem is that all Tony Daniel really does is set up the same old ground work we already have either read in the "Last Rites" books or heard at conventions -- Robin thinks someone needs to step into the Cowl, Nightwing doesn't, and some third party is going to step into the role in their indecision. Bring on issue #2, since this one really didn't do much of anything except paint Damien in a much more impotent light than ever before.

Action Comics #875 was a little more illuminating. But before I get to the actual issue, did you happen to notice the banner at the top of the cover? "World Without Superman"? Umm, DC, you kind of used that title already. At least this issue answers plenty of questions. It brings up more questions along the way, but at least we get those answers too. Yes, we do learn the identities of Nightwing and Flamebird (our popular guesses were half right), and yes, we learn why the duo has changed their costumes. What we don't know is who, exactly, these sleepers are, and more importantly, what is wrong with Nightwing? (I'm trying very hard not to spoil things for you all!) It all equates to an decent first of 12 issues from Greg Rucka.

Lastly, Green Lantern Corps. #34. And, I've said it before, I'll say it again, Patrick Gleason's art can completely ruin abook. From Sodam Yat looking like a crazied skeleton to Mongol and Arkillo's fight being just indecipherable to the unclear Red Lantern transportation toward the end, Gleason took an enormous story from Peter Tomasi and reduced it to a quick get in, get out reading experience. And really, in the GL Universe, can you get any bigger than Sodam Yat breaking out fromhis stoic exterior and showing off a beast within for the first time or can you get bigger than Mongol and Arkillo battling to the (near) death? And yet, the issue really had no impact on me. I blame Gleason.

Friday, March 6, 2009

'Watchmen' Review

Never will you find a more faithful comic book adaptation than "Watchmen," ironically a movie which many thought could never be translated to the big screen. Sure, the vehicle through which the resolution happens has been changed (arguably for the better), but if you've read Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' classic, this film is nothing short of that book come to life.

And because of it, I could not recommend "Watchmen" more.

Unfortunately, just because the film brought the book to life, it doesn't mean there wasn't plenty lost in translation. I feel like director Zach Snyder's familiarity with the original work caused him to neglect some of the mystery and tension Moore was able to inject into the story. Before I get to the execution of the story, though, which would make the 'ole spoiler alarm go off, I'll get to the aspect of the movie I most fear will turn off the vaunted "mainstream" audience: pacing.

Just like the story, the pacing for "Watchmen" has been taken straight out of the book. Consequently, the film has an almost schizophrenic pace, jumping through the many flashbacks from the 1980s to the 1940s. Now, I don't presume to guess how a "Watchmen" newcomer will perceive this pace, since I was ready for each jump as it happened, but Snyder does throw an endless stream of exposition at the audience in a very quick fashion. As I said, for me, it worked. I would guess my previous knowledge of the work helped that, though.

Many of Snyder's other choices didn't quite work as well, though. For one, the soundtrack bounces back and forth from being simply acceptable to downright ridiculous. For examples of the ridiculous, go watch the scenes of Dr. Manhattan in Vietnam and the -ahem- nighttime scene in the Owl Ship. I can't imagine musical choices that would have taken me out of the movie more.

Visually, I also wasn't a big fan of the look of the movie altogether. Frankly, if I'm Alan Moore, I'm thrilled with this movie. If I'm Dave Gibbons I'm thinking "They turned my work into 'Batman and Robin!' " Nothing quite looks as realistic as it should be, not the least of which are the scenes with Nixon.

What did look fantastic though, was the casting ... for the most part. Jackie Earle Haley was the Rorschach I had always pictured in my mind, right down to the perfect pitch for his gruff voice. Haley should give lessons to Christian Bale before the next Batman movie. Jeffrey Dean Morgan was likewise as believable a jerk as The Comedian, and Patrick Wilson took one of my least favorite characters from the book and gave Nite Owl some real heart. Even Billy Crudup's Dr. Manhattan hit the right tone with me ... you know, minus the lots and lots of exposed blue penis.

Malin Ackerman's Silk Specter? Well, she sure is pretty to look at. Can we all agree on that? Good, because I don't want to hurt the girl's feelings too badly when I say Miss Piggy might have been a better dramatic actor than Ackerman in this film.

Let's put on the 'ole Spoiler Alarm on now, shall we?

I loved the Silk Specter's character in "Watchmen" the book. Of all the characters, she was the only one who felt like she had no choice and no desire to take part in that superheroic lifestyle, making her eventual role of re-igniting Dan Drieberg's love of heroing and convincing Dr. Manhattan to intervene all the more touching and important. That was never her world to occupy, after all. Unfortunately, between Ackerman's wooden acting, combined a bit of glossing over her story in general, Silk Specter's character is very lost in the film.

And then there is Matthew Goode's Ozymandias. Could Snyder have done anything more to give away Adrian Veidt's role of main villain from the outset? Aside from the fact that we kind of see that he is the one murdering the Comedian, Goode spends all of his scenes looking menacing and staring into the camera is if to wink at the audience.

As I said, consequently, all of the tension and mystery that Alan Moore injected into the story is lost. Again, this may be because I am so familiar with the material, I cannot presume to know how a newcomer to "Watchmen" perceives the story, but I fear that Synder's familiarity with the book caused him to give away much too much, much too early.

What really saves this movie, though, is how well Snyder succeeded in recreating some of the more memorable scenes in the book. Rorschach's initial meeting with Nite Owl is spot on, as is his prison breakout. Dr. Manhattan's perception of time is also accurately described, which I think adds a lot to his character. I was also a big fan of the Comedian's interaction with Dr. Manhattan in Vietnam. The scene really drives home two of the key aspects of the storyline 1) That the Comedian is much more sane and wise than he's given credit for, and 2) Everything comes down to Dr. M's whims.

And that brings us to the ending. For as much as I was disappointed with the interaction between the Specter and Doc Manhattan on Mars, I felt the final confrontation in Antarctica was spot on, capitalized by Rorschach's final words stealing the whole movie. And while I was no fan of Goode throughout the film, the look of dejection on his face, even after saving the world, was really what his character was all about.

"Watchmen" has plenty of flaws. Does it succeed as well in the movie medium as it does on the drawn page? No way. But it is still a memorable movie experience that I would recommend to anybody, of the appropriate age, of course. We don't need the young'uns staring at Dr. Manhattan's ding-a-ling, after all.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Buy Pile Report

I guess I was in a rush today, because I left a chunk of my Buy Pile on the shelves. I don't know what I was thinking, especially since I was really eager to read a couple of the titles I forgot about, like The Mighty #2 and X-Men: First Class Finals #2. So I guess some of the Buy Pile will have to wait.

But, I did make sure to pick up the very most important books of the year. For instance, the first book I picked up to read after work was Superman: World of New Krypton #1, and the writing team of Greg Rucka and James Robinson did not disappoint. The most important thing the issue does is establish Kal-El's status on his new world, both politically and physically, setting the stage for the next 11 issues. But, what the issue also does is bury the readers in foreshadowing. Supes spends most of the issue talking to his Aunt Alura and General Zod, the two presumable villains of the story, so I'm sure we're going to be able to look back at this issue in a few months for a few "ah-ha" moments. Whether you like this Superman status change DC is putting us through or not, this was definitely a must-read issue for any Superman fan.

Where "New Krypton" shows how to open up a series slowly (and effectively), War of Kings #1 begins Marvel's space epic with a bang. Actually, it opens with several many bangs, and most of them came off the fists of Gladiator. Writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning waste no time in bringing the noise, as this issue was 2/3rds throwdown between the Inhumans and the Imperial Guard. If there was one drawback to the issue, it was that I'm left feeling like this mini-series will lack the depth I had hoped for. The Shi'ar attacked the Kree, the Kree and Inhumans will apparently strike back, and right now that's about as deep as it feels like we're getting. That said, this issue was a clinic in how to write a great fight scene, the likes of which Brian Bendis really could have used in order to streamline "Secret Invasion."

I'll hopefully have more for you tomorrow after heading back to the comic shop. Until then, go out and buy yourself these two issues, if you know what's good for you.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

This week's comic book expectations

Well, we're in for an exceptionally slow week for both of the major publishers. HERE'S a full list. What the week lacks in top-tier titles, though, it makes up for in odds and ends... if that actually makes up for it.

Headlining the week is a DC title fans have been waiting for for a good six months -- Superman: World of New Krypton #1. After the lengthy "New Krypton" crossover wrapped up, it's been a bit of a lame-duck situation waiting for Kal-el to finally move up to the stars. But, Supes' status quo has finally changed for the next year, so we're finally going to get to see how Kal, Alura and General Zod co-exist on Krypton. Whether you're a fan of this change (publicity stunt?) or not, the curiosity surrounding the Superman titles for the next year is undeniable, and it begins this week.

Speaking of absentee heroes, Gotham Gazette: Batman Dead? begins the path to "Battle for the Cowl" with a supporting character-driven story looking at the current state of Gotham without its Dark Knight. I particularly like the inclusion of Vicki Vale as the reporter looking to crack the Bruce Wayne/Batman issue, even if I know there is no way DC would allow that secret to leak.

And then come the odds and ends: Batman Cacophony #3 wraps up Kevin Smith's tale, Solomon Grundy #1 begins the seven-part mini-series that spun out of that lack-luster "Faces of Evil" title, and The Mighty #2 continues a pretty darn good realistic alternate reality superhero murder mystery story.

Marvel's offerings this week are equally undistinguished, highlighted by a laundry list of "Dark Reign" titles. Personally, I am looking forward to reading Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #1, if only because I feel like the story will be much closer to an in-continuity Fan Four story than what we've been getting from Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, if only because the mini will be written by incoming-scribe Jonathan Hickman.

Continuing from "Secret Invasion," New Avengers: The Reunion #1 (of 4) will tell the story of Ronin (Hawkeye) and Mockingbird getting to know each other all over again. If you're not a fan of the couple, we can at least hope for some background information on how the Skrulls abducted Mockingbird in the first place.

Other "Dark Reign" titles include Black Panther #2 (featuring Dr. Doom!), Agents of Atlas #2, Secret Warriors #2, and Deadpool #8.

And how could I forget War of Kings #1? Even though "X-Men: Kingbreaker" is still going strong, Marvel kicks off its next intergalactic saga this week, and the battlelines are pretty easy to see: Vulcan and the Shi'ar vs. Black Bolt, the Inhumans and the Kree. Even if Blackagar was not being written as such an incredible badass of late, I would still be recommending this series, if only for the eventual throwdown between Black Bolt and Vulcan. Hopefully when it's all said and done we can get to the main event -- Vulcan vs. the X-Men.

And speaking of the merry mutants, be sure to pick up Cable #12 as well this week, the last issue leading up to the "Messiah War."

Well, when I put it like that, it doesn't seem so slow after all, eh?

'Halo Wars' review

In case you didn't catch it, my review of "Halo Wars" is up on the Journal's site at THIS LINK.

If you remotely like RTS titles, this is one game you should be playing.