Monday, August 31, 2009

Mickey Mouse buys Peter Parker

Have you heard the news? Disney is buying Marvel for $4 Billion in cash and stock.

Given how ludicrous that statement seems, I'll pause for those who just heard.


OK, feel better? Newsarama has already talked to several people 'In the Know' and slapped together a decent reaction story at THIS LINK, so check it out.

This is already one of those 'Internet cracked in half' moments, with every fanboy out there needing to run his mouth about how horrible a move this is or how wonderful. Personally, I have no opinion whatsoever, other than simply surprise, since NOBODY knows what this will mean for any of the parties involved. More than likely, the changes will be minimal. I mean. Joey Q is keeping his job. And Marvel's movie-rights deals are going to have to be honored. Really, the most pressing concern in the comic book world should be the status of Boom! Entertainment's many strong Disney titles.

This is a wait and see sort of deal. Still, this merger is very surprising, and something to keep an eye on over the next few years and beyond.

If I could have one and only one wish, though, I have to admit a Pixar X-Men movie would be just about the greatest thing since the Chipwich...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"Batman: Arkham Asylum's" Best Moments; Ideas for Sequel

Check out my full review of "Batman: Arkham Asylum" at THIS LINK. As you will read, I fell head-over-heels in love with this experience, only to be sorely disappointed in the final moments in such a way that only "Fable II" had done before.

Consequently, I am not as quick as some others to anoint this the greatest comic book game of all time (I have a lot of appreciation for the "X-Men: Legends" series). What I will say is this is a strong contender for that role, as well as a strong contender for 2009 game of the year, because there was just so much to love in the first 95% of "Batman: Arkham Asylum." Here are my Top 5 favorite moments of the game, and the Top 5 things I want to see in a sequel.

My Top 5 Favorite Moments (PLENTY of Spoilers):

5) The revelation of the Batcave. There are moments in comics when you can't help but step back and say "Damn, Batman is cool." When Bruce reveals he has his own mini Batcave underneath Arkham Island, I had one of those moments (and another one is when he called in the Batwing out of nowhere just to get his zipline tool, which I cannot remember the name of at the moment). In truth, there were not that many uses for this Batcave. Sure, he concocts the Titan antidote here later in the story, but I image writer Paul Dini could have let him use an Arkham lab if he wanted to. No, the Batcave was just in this game because we had to see what a badass cool guy Batman is, and the moment delivered.

4) The opening sequence. Yes, it sounds weird that glorified opening credits ranks among my favorite moments, but few things compared to the glee I felt, playing this game early on the morning of its release, on little sleep, having awaited this game for so long — and as the Joker was wheeled through the halls of Arkham his voice and words felt as authentic as possible. Any fears I had for the storyline or realism were immediately washed away and I was immediately sucked into the world those characters inhabit.

3) The room near the water pumps patrolled by gunmen. This was the last and the toughest of the patrols to take down, and honestly it did take me a few tries. As far as I was concerned, rooms like this brought players as close as possible to Batman's true (if he wasn't fictional) way of operating. This particular room offered very little cover in the sky, so if a gunman spotted you at all, you best go down below into the grates and vents, not up, or else you're swiss cheese. The multiple walls to pull down also provided this room with the most potential for setting traps. A close runner up in the category of best rooms full of gunmen would have to be the one with the sabotaged gargoyles.

2) The welcoming committee when arriving at the party. I didn't have "Detective Mode" on when entering my favorite place on the Island (how cool was the Joker/TV interaction at the visitors center throughout the game?), so when I stepped inside and there were 20 thugs waiting for me, it was a shock. The only bigger shock? When they all started cheering for me, the guest of honor. There was no moment that better encapsulated the nutty personality of this storyline. And then, of course, I beat them all up.

1) The final Scarecrow hallucination. All of the Scarecrow moments were fun, but this was far an away the best idea Dini had in the game. Watching Joker drive Batman back to the Asylum at the outset of the delusion was the perfect way to knock players' minds for a loop, and then the choreography as Bats was wheeled into the Asylum was simply spot-on with the game's intro. And what would the scene be without nurse Harley at Mr. J's side?
P.S. — To be honest, I began this hallucination in a state of fear myself ... I've experienced The Red Ring of Death before, it was actually ironically sparked while playing "Lego: Batman," and the screen malfunctions at the start of the dream sequence made me briefly think I was about to go through it all again!

Top 5 Things I want to see in a Sequel

5) Wayne Manor, and the rest of Gotham. While the concept of locking Batman inside the loony bin with the loons gave "Arkham Asylum" an immediate hook, the execution of it, using the entire Arkham Island, proved this game was much more like Batman in a small town than one Asylum. So why not let our Dark Knight head home to Gotham proper for the sequel? In doing so, we would be allowed to explore the real Batcave and Wayne Manor, which would lead to what are always exciting moments in Batman stories -- when Wayne Manor becomes compromised. It worked in "Batman Begins," it worked in "Batman: R.I.P.," it worked in "Knightfall" and it would work here.

4) Matches Malone. As I said, I would want a sequel to deal in a large chunk of the Gotham we know and love, which would inevitably lead to more opportunities for detective work and possibly the need to go undercover to learn clues. Allowing us to play a level as Matches Malone, Batman's favorite undercover alias, in order to uncover the truth, would be an innovative concept every Bat fan could get behind.

3) More side quests. While enjoyable, "Arkham Asylum was extremely linear for an open-world game. Hunting down the Riddler's riddles was just about the only distraction from the storyline. A possible sequel would be wise to take a page from "Fable's" book and provide ample side tasks to fill out the surrounding world. Heck, there's always crimes to thwart in Gotham, right?

2) Robin. How many games nowadays don't offer multiplayer? And, a better question, how could this series neglect to add multiplayer when Batman so often works with sidekicks? He's got Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Huntress, Spoiler ... need I continue? Obviously, Robin (Tim Drake, preferably, in order to keep the Nightwing options open) would be the logical choice to give players the option of progressing through the bulk of the storyline in multiplayer. Given the importance of stealth in the game, multiplayer might actually make things tougher for a change.

1) Many, many more boss battles! The only consistent problem you can find with "Batman: Arkham Asylum" is the major lack of boss battles. Killer Croc is always lurking, but you never get to fight the brute. Sure, the sewer sequence was unique and challenging, but it wasn't a real fight. I LOVED the Scarecrow sequences, but it would have been helped by a fight with the over-sized Scarecrow at the end of the last of the sequences. And did I mention how horrendously weak the fight with the Joker was? In a game with so many monsters and A-list villains, the only real boss battle was with a giant plant.
I understand with a character like Batman and a rogues gallery such as he has, it's difficult to create challenging fights. But this game was sorely lacking in the "Legend of Zelda"-esque fights in which Batman can use a combination of his gadgets to take down challenging creatures. These developers could have done much better than pulling the Joker down with his back turned.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Buy Pile Report

Alright folks, we're going to make this quick. And no, it's not so I can get back to playing "Batman: Arkham Asylum." It's so I can go to bed ... in order to wake up extra early to play "Batman: Arkham Asylum."

What?!? There's a difference! I'm not an addict! I can quit anytime I want!

Where was I? Oh yeah, this week's comic books. And highlighting the week was one of the juiciest (yes, I said juiciest!) "Blackest Night" tie-ins yet: Green Lantern #45. This one had everything you could ask for and all without the use of any of the four Earth GLs (with the exception of two pages at the outset). So what did it have, you ask? Well, Sinestro and Carol Ferris have a heart to heart, with Carol showing her mettle and Sinestro really cutting loose with more pure power than we've seen out of him in a long time. We saw dead Sinestro Corps., lurking Black Rings, and we even saw Pariah making a very welcome cameo in his own special way.

And -- serious spoiler alert here -- does it get any better than the end of this book, with Larfleeze surrounded by Black Lantern Orange Lanterns?!?

While most comic events aim to reward readers for their anticipation, "Blackest Night" has an incredible talent for only making me anticipate the event more and more as the books roll on. And who doesn't love this production schedule, with at least one tie-in out every week?

Speaking of which, there were two "Blackest Night" tie-ins this week, the second being Blackest Night: Titans #1. I was on the fence about buying this mini or not, and now I am sure glad that I dug into my wallet for those extra three bucks. Not only did this book flat-out break my heart at one point (poor Donna Troy!), but it revealed something that's going to play into the main "Blackest Night" story (or at least I think it will). In these pages we see two Doves ... well, plenty of dead dove birds, but only two Dove heroes. We see Don Hall once again, still resistant to the Black Rings, and we see the woman who took up his mantle, Dawn. We also get to see Dawn's aura -- bright white. No predominant emotion. And the Black Ring could not read it. If you're looking into that "White Lantern" theory, there's a big clue right there.

And oh, by the way: Gar ... ew. Folks, this is NOT the mini to pass on.

So what else did we have this week? Superman #691 concluded the "Codename: Patriot" storyline with dubious and predictable results. General Lane's gambit played out with his desired result -- Earth now hates Kryptonians and all things Superman. predictable, right? But also incredibly dubious, seeing as Superman has to be about as popular and trusted as Jesus. How many times has he protected Earth? And we're not going to hear him out? This was dubious 25 years ago during the "Legends" crossover (yes, Morgan Edge, nice Glorious Godfrey impression), and it's dubious now.

I think I just set a world record for most times using "Dubious" in a paragraph.

Similarly dubious, for entirely different reasons, was X-Force #18. Overall, this issue is not bad. We just chug along with the storyline, Wolverine and Cyclops have a nice get-together, we get some cleanup from the last issue and Laura has a real pain in the ass day. But two pages are spent teasing to the upcoming "X-Force," "New Mutants," "X-Men: Legacy" crossover, "Necrosha." This tease included a man by the name of Eli Bard using his blackened hand to reanimate a corpse.

Yes, "Necrosha" will include a man who looks perfectly normal except for his black hand that can reanimate people. Where have I heard of that before? Damnit, this is going to drive me nuts. It's on the tip of my tongue.

Let's just move on, I'll think of it eventually.

I got two more and only little patience. Here's some quick thoughts:

Flash: Rebirth #4: Not the worst story, but if Geoff Johns' cards are all out there on the table now, then this event has to be considered a disappointment. The whole thing is feeling pretty convoluted right now, and if this is where Johns is taking these characters, I'm not sure I want to go along for the ride. Hopefully he finishes strong, but having to wait so many months for this issue made it easier to dislike this issue.

Justice Society of America #30: You'll love the use of new Doctor Fate, but we're starting to see the seeds for the JSA's split in this issue and I'm already not buying it in the least. Here's the problem -- we know too much of Magog's (likely) future. We know what he (likely) becomes. So even if his points have any merit here whatsoever, I cannot help but read all his actions as very misguided, if not flat out wrong. Consequently, I find myself very worried about the future for my favorite superhero team right now. But, as I've said the last couple of months, I trust Bill Willingham and Matt Sturges, so we'll see.

Whew! All done. Back to Gotham!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Finally, a complaint about "Arkham Asylum"

After 12 and a half hours of gameplay, I finally have a single complaint about "Batman: Arkham Asylum." As I said last night, I can pick nits, but in terms of big complaints, this game has me giddy.

But finally, I have one. My angry little heart is almost happy that I finally have a complaint. Just before I had to shut off the Xbox and head into work, The COOLEST cinematic yet began playing. Literally, my jaw dropped. The only problem is, without warning, it stopped being a cinematic and I was dead. If I get the chance to do it again, I will sure as shoot be ready for it next time ... the only problem is, I won't get a next time.

As I said, I had to go into work. So instead of choosing "Retry," or doing what I normally do, which is just hold the power button on my controller, I (for some God awful reason) chose "Quit," which did not take me to the title screen, it took me to a graveyard I'd never seen before.

So there you go, my complaint, "Quit" made me miss something (which I will probably see once I play through the game again very soon).

I'm telling you, though, this game is THAT good.

The Joker has hijacked this week's comic expectations

There will be no details on what to expect out of this week's comics. Check out the list of releases at THIS LINK.

If you're disappointed, blame the Joker. I rolled out of bed this morning, powered on the Xbox and proceeded to play "Batman: Arkham Asylum" for 11 of the next 14 hours. It's that good, folks. I cleared my schedule and made darn sure I wasn't supposed to do anything today, and boy was it worth it.

Don't get me wrong, I could pick nits if I really wanted to (and I likely will when writing the full review), but I have not been this thrilled as a comic-reading gamer since "X-Men Legends" came out.

As I said, I'll have much more to say very soon, but for now I need a little sleep so I can get in a few more hours of gaming before heading into the office on Wednesday. Good Night Gotham!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Closer look at Project Natal

Our good friends at ... OK, we've never met, but I'm sure if we met we'd be friends ... What? I can be personable and make friends sometimes! ... Where was I? Oh yeah, our good friends at took a much more in-depth look at Microsoft's upcoming "Project Natal," so visit THIS LINK to read all about it.

IGN also raises the same questions I've had about the technology all along, wondering just how much something like this would help classically controller-based games. I have a feeling we're going to have to wait until launch to get a good answer.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

So what if "Final Fantasy XIII" is three discs on Xbox?

Follow THIS LINK to read what I'm telling you right now, "Final Fantasy XIII" will come packaged as one Blu-Ray disc for the PlayStation 3 but likely three (if not four) discs for Xbox 360.

The link will also tell you the games will look pretty darned near identical visually.

To this I can only respond, who cares if "FF13," or any game, is on multiple discs? I've heard over the years how Sony loyalists treat this Xbox flaw as some "PlayStation will prevail!" rallying cry, but I just don't see it.

Why? Because "Final Fantasy" titles have a long and successful history of multiple discs. I've played all of them, and they've never bothered me in the least. Heck, "Final Fantasy VII" even incorporated the disc break into their storyline. Back in the day, the only thing more epic than the concept of Aeris — decade-old spoiler alert — dying was the fact that the moment marked the end of a whole disc. As me as a youngster, this combination was packed with more mythos than was previously humanly possible.

I, for one, will walk fearlessly forward on my way to playing "Final Fantasy XIII" on my Xbox, disc changes or no. If we're lucky, it might even add to the experience once again.

Buy Pile Report

Well, as anticipated, it was up to Black Lantern Earth-2 Superman to save the day.

And while Kal-L wasn't quite enough to make up for the rest of the waste of space books out this week, but he sure was awesome.

Blackest Night: Superman #1 was everything you could ask for in a tie-in. For one, it's pretty clear that you really don't NEED to read this issue to follow "Blackest Night" proper. For two, any Superman-family fan will gush over this. With the possible exception of Power Girl's absence, given her connection to the character, James Robinson wrote the perfect zombie Kal-L story. I say that because it wasn't enough for him to simply write about Kal-El meeting again with Kal-L, he includes Superboy as a main character, and considering how "Infinite Crisis" played out, the choice was brilliant. Also, Kal-L brought another Black Lantern friend back with him that I wasn't expecting whatsoever (No, it's not Pa Kent, at least yet), but she too was just a perfect choice.

On top of all those good choices, we also get a strong first issue to this storyline which, while didn't include all that much action yet, definitely showed the potential for plenty. Also of note, this was the first time in the "Blackest Night" event that we have seen characters exude more than one emotion at once. Frankly, to me, this looked like a slight editorial mistake. But, if Robinson's script was on the level, then Superman showed the potential to wield just about any emotion you can ask for.

Unfortunately, the other three books I picked up this week were pretty disappointing.

Supergirl #44 was the third installment of the four-part "Codename: Patriot" crossover. Or, at least it called itself the third installment. Very very VERY little was advanced here, which, frankly, was a shock considering how short this crossover is. General Lane showed his plan is moving along, but we already knew the plan was to make Krypton look like a much bigger threat than it is, so what's new there? Lois Lane was still acting irrationally bitchy toward Supergirl, so what's new there? The only thing that we really saw was that that Mirage girl is fixing to trick Nightwing, Flamebird and Supergirl into looking very bad. That's it. Waste of time and money.

But, not as big of a waste of money was Superman Annual #14 was. This book, the "Secret Origin of Mon-El and his World," rarely even featured Mon-El!!! It was literally just the story of how Daxam was founded, and the big reveal was that for some God awful reason Robinson chose to make Mon-El's great great great great grandfather an Earthling. Let me tell you, when DC said it would be bringing the concept of annuals back a couple of years ago, I was thrilled. I loved annuals growing up and how they provided exciting, self-contained stories as a bonus to what I was following on a monthly basis. But, if DC keeps insisting on making these annuals glorified back-up tales, the concept is going to die again.

Speaking of back-up stories, Justice League of America #36, the second part of a three-issue story featuring the Royal Flush Gang -- a story which surprisingly had a very strong first issue -- spent most of its pages explaining the origin of the Gang. Let that set in for a moment. If you can picture a freight train coming to a screeching halt, that's what happened to the momentum this story built last issue. It's almost as if Len Wein had two-issues worth of story to tell and DC told him they needed three.

Oh well, at least we got more glorious zombie action this week. And now, back to "Shadow Complex." Jealous?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

'Shadow Complex' review

As soon as I get home tonight, the first thing I'm doing is getting on my Xbox and downloading "Shadow Complex." I'm sure I'm not the only one.

You've heard of it, haven't you? Epic Games' new 3D, 2D-shooter which plays like a combination of "Metroid," "Castlevania," and "Legend of Zelda" combined. Yes, I have to stick 'ole faithful "Zelda" in there, since a good portion of this game revolves around puzzle solving. It was just released today, which is making sitting at this desk that much harder.

Need to know more? Click THIS LINK to the Journal's Gaming page for a full review. Until "Batman: Arkham Asylum" comes out next week, "Shadow Complex" is going to be my life.

'Fable III' announced!

Well, the long part of my week actually just ended. And it just so happens that the first news I read after my long week ended was cause to celebrate:

"Fable III" was announced today, with a release date of late 2010 (which likely means summer 2011, but beggars and chooser, you know?).

Check out THIS LINK to for more news and descriptions of what to expect out of the threequel.

Two things of note here:
1) "Fable III" will begin by reading your "Fable II" game save, so you're going to want to really have the sequel mastered by the time you pop in the new game.
2) Unlike previous installments of the series in which you played a fledgling adventurer looking to make a name for himself, this time around you become ruler of all of Albion. BAM! It could be an awesome change, or it could make the game much too much of a resource allocator like some hospital management game. Still, it's something to anticipate.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

This week's comic book expectations

Well, it's been a long day. Tomorrow looks like a long one too. So what is my light in the distance?

Black. Lantern. Earth-2. Superman.


Well, that and a chipwich.

We're staring a slow comic week dead (no pun intended) in the eyes, but all that could be forgiven if Blackest Night: Superman #1 is as good as I'm anticipating it to be. Check out the full list of this week's comic releases at THIS LINK.

Last week, any remaining fears any of you may have had regarding the validity of "Blackest Night's" tie-ins should have been put to bed for good. "Blackest Night: Batman" debuted with the perfect mixture of humor, heart and horror (which, I now think DC should adopt that as the event's new tagline), and "Green Lantern Corps." once again showed how to add to a storyline without stepping on its toes. I can only expect a lot more of the same from "Blackest Night: Superman," which will feature Zombie Kal-L's return, as well as PA KENT. Could there possibly be more potential for humor, heart and horror?!? (See, it works!)

We've yet to see New Earth's Superman show up in "Blackest Night," so it should be interesting to see how Clark handles his dad and, well, himself rising from the dead. I am also curious as to how far into the Superman family of characters writer James Robinson digs here. Will he include Supergirl and her father? Will Superboy show up, and, if so, didn't Tanya Moon die? We'll see here and I'm guessing we won't be disappointed, despite my growing fear of anything Robinson writes nowadays.

Speaking of the Superman family, Supergirl #44 marks the third quarter of the "Codename: Patriot" storyline, which has me interested in General Lane's machinations for the first time in a while. Granted, I think we can all be pretty sure he's going to be double-crossing that Kryptonian "Patriot" real soon, but it's still the first one of his plans that has grabbed my attention. I'm also looking forward to the reunion of Kara and Thara. Personally, I would love to see those two kids kiss and make up (no, not that way, perverts), which would really fill out Supergirl's supporting cast as the series goes forward. That said, I'm pretty sure Nightwing and Flamebird will be making a mortal sacrifice within the next year. Just a hunch.

I'm much less hopeful for Superman Annual #14. For one, I think my feelings on Robinson's work of late is well documented. For two, this story will center on Mon-el's past life in Daxam, and the history of his people. Is anyone interested? I mean, Mon is a pretty decent character and all, but I just don't see where his past is going to become important. And didn't Peter Tomasi already paint us a perfect picture of Daxam when exploring Sodam Yat?

And don't forget about Batgirl #1 (we finally get to see if DC made the giant mistake of replacing Cassandra Cain!) and Justice League of America #36 (the second of a three-part series written by Len Wein which had a surprisingly strong debut despite the Royal Flush Gang).

Marvel's got less this week, but they do have Daredevil #500, a milestone issue in which Ed Brubaker promises to explain plenty about Kingpin and Lady Bullseye. If you've been following all along Matt Murdock's story, then you know this is a must-buy. If you haven't been reading, you should know this is a must-buy in trade form, and you should also know that issue #501 is likely going to be a real nice place for new readers to jump on board.

The only other books that are (somewhat) of note are Mighty Avengers #28, Punisher Noir #1 (yes, another "Noir") and X-Men: Legacy #227 (a "Utopia" tie-in).

And before I go, you may also be interested to know Archie #600 is out this week. Yes, THAT issue. The one titled "Archie marries Veronica." The one that got at least one fanboy to lose faith in humanity. I have to say, I am a bit interested ... if only because I have a sneaking suspicion the book will twist with Archie getting with Betty after all, and all those angry "Archie" fans can feel oh so foolish.

PS3 Slim Officially only $299

Big News! Sony has dropped the cost of the PlayStation 3 to $299!

Bigger News! Sony just announced the PS3 Slim officially, at a cost of $299! (Read more HERE). It will be out the first week in September.

In other words, it will soon be the right time to finally buy a PS3. Just don't buy one just yet, unless you're fine with outdated electronics which are 66% bigger than they need to be.

Frankly I was going to buy one anyway soon, with so many big games coming out in the next year ("DC Universe Online" and "Mod Nation Racers" should be enough alone), but this price means, definitively, Microsoft once again has competition to worry about.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Ballad of Ocho Cinco's Maddenoliday

Click THIS LINK to read all about Chad Ocho Cinco's harrowing experience trying to get online to play "Madden NFL 10."

It's about as intelligent as you would expect from a man who needed to change his last name to poorly-translated spanish. It's also about as intelligent as you would expect from someone who feels the need to tweet so much.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fanboys like all sorts of comics

Through the magic of the AP wire, I present to you the world's biggest "Archie" fanboy:

DALLAS — When comic book store owner Dave Luebke heard that after 67 years, the carrot-topped everyman of the comic world, Archie, was proposing to va-va-voomy rich girl Veronica instead of girl-next-door Betty, he decided to protest by selling his copy of the series’ rare first issue.
Luebke’s Archie Comics No. 1 sold for $38,837 when Dallas’ Heritage Auction Galleries offered it Friday. Heritage spokesman Noah Fleisher said the buyer was a longtime Archie reader and collector from Virginia who did not want to be identified.
“Betty is it. Not Veronica,” said Luebke, whose Richmond, Va., store has more than 1 million comics in stock. “This is serious.”

Thursday, August 13, 2009

'Blackest Night' top dog revealed

Click on THIS LINK to see the cover to "Blackest Night #5" and learn who the main villain behind the event is. Needless to say, spoiler alert!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

This week's comic expectations

Ladies. Gentlemen. Prepare for one whopper of a week for DC Comics. I can barely count the number of DC books in this week's buy pile on my hands, and I need to take my socks off to count all the books I'm taking home. Check out the full list at THIS LINK.

So, where to begin? On any other week like this, "Blackest Night" would have to take center stage — and there is plenty of "Blackest" to go around — but I am going to have to give Adventure Comics #1 the nod for where to start this time. What's so intriguing about this book is, even on the eve of its release, I'm still not sure what exactly we're going to get. On the one hand, it's a Superboy main feature with a Legion of Superheroes co-feature. On the other hand, the Legion will play a role in the main feature, as will Superboy's former Teen Titans teammates. On the other hand, we should expect to see all three different Legions in these pages in the months to come, and Superboy Prime by the fourth issue. Oh, and on the other hand, Francis Manupal said this book will reek of Americana. That's a lot of hands!

But enough about the mystery which is "Adventure Comics." As I said, there is a lot of "Blackest Night" to go around, starting with Blackest Night #2. When last we left our heroes, the Dibneys had just killed the Hawks, consequently making the Hawks black lanterns themselves. Scar had taken the rest of the Guardians hostage, Ray Palmer was freaking out missing Jean Loring (don't worry, Ray, I betcha you'll see her soon!), and Aquaman was about to get turned to the dark side (not to be confused with Darkseid. Oh, and Hal Jordan and Barry Allen were just about to face off with former teammate J'onn J'onnz, but that fight has already been won by the Martian in the last issue of "Green Lantern." All caught up? Good, because I don't have a clue of what Geoff Johns will be pulling out of his rear this time around!

Green Lantern Corps. #39 will be the first issue that really deals with the Green Lantern-specific side of "Blackest Night," as a good part of the issue will be centered on the situation on Oa — dead Green Lanterns turned Black. I'd also bet we'll see the next step in the Sinestro/Mongol showdown here, as well as Sodam Yat's story fighting Mongol on Daxam. I'd also bet "GLC" will be the place for seeing more on the ongoing "War of Light" between the other color lanterns, so this is one must-read book if you're following "Blackest Night."

The "Blackest" content also spills over into the first of the six three-part mini-series to come, Blackest Night: Batman #1. Two reasons to read this one: 1) Deadman, a longtime member of Batman's supporting cast, has got to have some fun things to say about these black rings. 2) Dick Grayson vs. the Flying Graysons. Need I say more?

I'm also psyched (yes, I used the word "psyched" past 1994) about JSA vs. Kobra #3, the next part in the six-issue mini-series depicting Kobra's beatdown on the Justice Society. Well, so far it's been a beat down. We all know the good guys will come back. But, in the meantime, writer Eric Trautman has been spinning an expert tale by narrating from Kobra's point of view for a change, which has really helped show the reader just how far ahead the bad guys are right now. No JSA fan should be sitting this mini out.

Other top DC books out this week include Red Robin #3 (which features Ra's Al Ghul), Action Comics #880 (the second part in the "Codename: Patriot" crossover) and Booster Gold #23 (which begins to reveal the secrets behind Black Beetle).

Marvel's offerings this week are far more sparse, with a couple of exceptions. The Marvels Project #1 may turn out to be a decent series, even if it's just the latest in a growing and lengthy list of "Secrets of the universe's origin!" tales. This particular series will look at the dawn of the Marvel Universe proper, and the origin linking The Invaders in 1939. Why could this one actually be good for a change? Look no further than the creative team, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting, the guys who brought Captain America back to prominence.

That said, I'm trade-waiting this one, since I have so little faith in these "secret origin" stories.

And speaking of Marvel stories I have no faith in, the relaunch of the Ultimate Comics Universe continues this week with Ultimate Comics Avengers #1 and Ultimate Comics Spider-man #1. The good news is, Mark Millar is back on Avengers and Brian Bendis is still on Spidey. The bad news? Can anything undo the stink left on the Ultimate Universe by "Ultimatum?" The Ultimate Universe was built as a continuity-free playground where writers like Bendis and Millar could stretch their creative legs. Did anyone at Marvel actually think the way to reset that universe was by killing off tons of characters and decimating the land? Isn't that just a crapload of continuity to work around?

Also of note from Marvel this week is Cable #17, Uncanny X-Men #514 (the fourth part of the "Utopia" storyline), and Incredible Hercules #132.

Stride aims to "Save The Arcades"

Get a load of this press release sent over the AP Wire by the makers of Stride gum. Keep in mind, they wrote this, not an AP writer.
With classic video game arcades facing the ultimate "game over", the makers of STRIDE, The Ridiculously Long Lasting Gum , want to do everything they can to help keep the elbows bumping and quarters flowing. Enter Save the Arcades — a nationwide campaign to stop the disappearance of this beloved and endangered form of gaming.
Last week, STRIDE discovered that a Philadelphia-area arcade called Challenge Arcade was within days of closing down, so they decided to help. By providing $10,000, STRIDE ensured that Challenge will stay in business and continue to offer gaming goodness, world record events and tournaments to the community.
"What a wonderful gesture!" said Joe LeVan, Owner, Challenge Arcade. "I can’t say enough good things about the folks at STRIDE who helped me stay afloat during this difficult time."
"Well, we couldn’t launch ’Save the Arcades’ without actually saving an arcade!" said Gary Osifchin, Marketing Director, STRIDE. "Now that Challenge Arcade is safe, we’ve identified four other arcades that deserve a long lasting existence, and we’re asking everyone who cares about gaming to help preserve this long lasting tradition and keep those quarters rolling in."
STRIDE is inviting gaming enthusiasts everywhere to join the movement to save the arcades by choosing the next arcade to receive some financial support.
Now, I really like the idea behind this ad campaign (and yes, don't fool yourselves, for as good as the cause is, it's still an ad campaign), but there are two just horrendously funny things here:

1) The quote from Challenge Arcade's owner. You're trying to tell me that wasn't written by a PR guy? If someone gives you $10,000 and saves your business, I doubt if you would use the phrase "What a Wonderful Gesture!" Far more sincere would be "Holy eff'n Cr@p man!"

2) The marketing director just happens to slip in Stride's catch phrase into his mission statement. "... we’ve identified four other arcades that deserve a long lasting existence ..." Really, Gary? A "Long Lasting Experience?" Where ever did you derive your choice of words from?

Still, since the campaign seems like it could do some good for some people, I'll tell you to visit for more info.

This week's video game releases

I'm a little late with THIS LINK to this week's video game release list. I was busy playing "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10" for the better part of the last 24 hours ... which, by the way, I shot a 59 on my first full round playing Baniff Springs. I also downloaded yet another course, Cog Hill (on sale this week for 33% off, which makes it $5), but you can find my thoughts on that HERE.

Anyway, it doesn't take a genius to know this week "Madden" is the word, out at midnight on Thursday night. It does take a genius to figure out why ESPN insists on calling their Thursday night preseason Super Bowl rematch, which is a promotional tie-in to the "Madden" launch, the premiere of their "Monday Night Football" season. But I digress.

If "Madden" isn't your thing — or if you just wonder if this year's game is enough of a step up from last year's to drop another $60 — other releases are pretty bare, but include a promising first-person shooter for the DS called "C.O.R.E.," and a Namco/Bandai Wii exercise game (yes another one) called "Active Life: Extreme Challenge," which includes base jumping. Yes, Base jumping. If there is one activity I doubt the Wii can replicate, it's base jumping.

Monday, August 10, 2009

'Batman: Arkham Asylum' demo

Rarely have I ever looked forward to a demo like I looked forward to the demo for "Batman: Arkham Asylum." If you haven't taken the time yet, it's available for free download on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network.

I finally got a chance to play the demo last night and it both excited me and worried me at the same time.

There is plenty to drool over here. The demo allows you to beat up a few henchmen, use your batarang, and show off exactly how "Detective Mode" will work, by highlighting areas of the wall that you can grip to and highlighting where in the room henchmen are hidden. Most importantly, this one-level cross-section of the game makes it obvious that charging headstrong into a pack of armed criminals will only result in bloody, bloody death. Instead, Batman will have to creep around in air vents and skulk the ceilings in order to get the drop on villains. The second part of the demo forces you to take out a room of five henchmen one by one without getting caught.

The whole thing, between the game mechanics and voice work by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, feels uniquely Batman.

The one flaw which really worries me, though, is the speed at which Batman moves. You feel much more Michael Keaton than Christian Bale. The man walks like he's enjoying a sunny day in the park. And yes, there is a button specifically for running, but it doesn't feel very organic. Here's hoping the speed at which the Dark Knight moves doesn't prove to be this very promising game's downfall.

All in all, though, this demo did nothing but encourage me to take August 25th off from the office.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

'Wii Sports Resort' impressions

In an event so rare it ranks up there with Bigfoot sightings, solar eclipses and Jeph Loeb books of redeeming value, I was given both Friday and Saturday off this weekend.

I'd cue the choir of angels for celebratory music, but they're probably exhausted from my cuing them so often already.

Anyway, the bad news is, I was far away from my Xbox 360 all weekend, so I have still yet to get my hands on the "Batman: Arkham Asylum" demo. Rest assured that I'll be fitting that in between "True Blood" and "Entourage" once I'm out of work later. The good news is the girlfriend and I finally got a good chunk of time to try out "Wii Sports Resort."

Keep in mind, this is no formal review, as I generally don't review games until doing more than playing for three hours with a Wiimote in one hand and stuffed-crust pizza in the other, but it doesn't require very much time to see "Wii Sports Resort" does, in fact, fall into that rare category of party games for the Wii worth your time — a category so rare I wouldn't even include "Wii Play" in it, were it not for the pack-in controller.

"WSR" includes 12 mini-games, most of which are new to the "Wii Sports" series, and all (ok, most) do have that same easy precision control that made the original title such a party-game favorite. Included in the 12 games are a new bowling (which I didn't try), ping pong (which plays similar to "Wii Sports' " tennis) and golf.

Surprisingly, of all these 12 games, I may have spent the most time of with golf, partially because the "Wii Motion Plus" makes the game very smooth and partially because of the inclusion of 18 holes, including nine taken directly from the very first Nintendo golf game ever, simply titled "Golf." My dad and I may have played over 100 rounds on "Golf's" lone course, so playing those holes again is truly a thrill, even if the nostalgia is lost on 98% of those who pick up "WSR."

If any of these new games break out in popularity like "Wii Sports' " bowling did the first time around, I predict it will be archery. With three different difficulty levels, each with four different competitions, this mini-game tests your ability to aim through differing levels of wind, elevation and obstacles. It can become competitive very quickly, especially since one bad shot can make it tough to come back, and concentration is a must. Unfortunately for me, the girlfriend is apparently a natural when it comes to firing virtual arrows ... let's just move on.

I also really enjoyed the frisbee mini-game in which you need to throw your disc as close to a target as possible, and also get your little virtual puppy to catch it. While not the toughest game ever, there's something enjoyable about having a happy little dog go that extra mile to catch your throw and score points for the team.

Unfortunately, this game falls a little short in the depth category. A couple of the games require very little skill, like wakeboarding and sword fighting (the game I was most looking forward to and consequently most disappointed by), while others were hampered by bugs, like basketball which was just very awkward (and I play basketball!) and canoeing, the only game that really had difficulties reading the "Wii Motion Plus" sensor when switching from one side of the boat to the other.

And you know, I really hope that I just gave up on sword fighting too quickly and find out that I love it once I give it another chance, because isn't that the game we all hoped to get the most out of the "Wii Motion Plus" innovation? Upon first try, sword fighting just feels like the player who whacks the other as fast as they can is the winner. There's very little reward for strategy and patience. And really, if this version of sword fighting stunk so hard, what does that mean for our future hopes for a lightsaber game? As I said, I really hope I just gave up on the mini game too quickly. I guess you can judge for yourselves.

Overall, I'm very pleased to have "Wii Sports Resort" in my game library, and yes, "Wii Motion Plus" does make a world of difference in Wii games, even if the sensor has to be reset from time to time.

Will it reach the same wild popularity that "Wii Sports" had? No, certainly not, but that's mostly because "Wii Sports' " popularity was mostly borne of the Wii's own novelty. That will never be reproduced, or at least not until Project Natal launches. In the meantime, the best you can say for "Wii Sports Resort" is that it plays and feels like the direct successor to "Wii Sports," and that should be all the endorsement you need.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

This week's comic expectations

To quote "Blues Brothers," "We're on a Mission From God."

That's us. This week. Mission From God.

What is this mission, whether you choose to accept it or not?

Get "Irredeemable's" sales numbers to where they should be!!! Headlining this week's comic book releases is Irredeemable #5, priced at 99 cents! Check out the list of this week's stuff at THIS LINK.

I've been doing my part to get the word out on how fantastic Mark Waid's tale of Superman gone wrong is. It is at once the most cerebral read and the most marvelously horrific read on the market. And yet, the sales numbers have never even reached the 14,000 mark, and they've been stumbling.

Folks, you want to be reading this book several times an issue. It isn't just that Waid is telling the tale of Earth's greatest hero turning into its greatest enemy, Waid finds the most creative and well-developed ways to use The Plutonian's powers to their most devastating extent. And it's not always in the flexing muscles sort of way — in the second issue The Plutonian turns an entire office of people into psychological wrecks simply by pointing out the many downsides to finding out his secret identity. And all the while, we slowly learn more and more about where The Plutonian comes from and how he slowly spiraled down the rabbit hole.

I would gamble my salary for the next five years — there are many, many, many more of you that would love this book than the piddly 11,000 or so it averages now. At 99 cents, you all had better be buying this book!

Marvel's top book in a slow week is Captain America: Reborn #2, continuing the story of Steve Rogers' return to the land of the living. Now, I've been as big a fan as anyone of Ed Brubaker's run on Cap, so I trust his storytelling and long-term plans. That said, Bru's got a lot of 'splaining to do over that last issue. First off, I am going to need to see much more before I classify this whole "lost in time" thing as interesting in the least. For two, I am hoping against hope that this doesn't turn into yet another Norman Osborne-dominated story. "Captain America" has been my last refuge from "Dark Reign" stories, so the climax to the story had better not revolve around it.

But, I do trust Brubaker and find myself anticipating this release, mainly because the biggest mystery of this run, ever since issue #1, has been the Red Skull's master plan. At this point, even knowing Cap is lost in time, we still don't know what that endgame is. And so, I keep reading.

Also from Marvel this week is War of Kings #6, the conclusion to the Inhumans-centered space epic. Plenty of big, BIG developments have already taken place in these pages, from Crystal's marriage to Ronan to the Inhumans getting serious about killing to Lilandra's death. Amazingly, though, we enter this final issue with still little idea of how this will all shake out.

Will Vulcan survive? That's the biggest question on my mind, mainly because I've felt like Brubaker created this character of great potential (between the relationship to Cyclops, relationship to Shi'ar and his bratty personality), and yet we have not gotten to see that potential play out yet to the fullest — attacking the main X-Men team in an all-out war. If he does survive then the next logical question is, will Havok survive? I doubt this series will end without a confrontation between the two, and neither is likely to show any mercy. And oh, by the way, with all this talk of killing, Black Bolt was just about to use a weapon that would kill him, wasn't he? So who will lead the Shi'ar? Who will lead the Kree? Will the Inhumans succeed in advancing the Kree's evolution? So many questions!

From DC, Superman: World of New Krypton #6 kicks off the four-part "Codename: Patriot" crossover encompassing the Superman family of titles. Last issue closes with the apparent murder of General Zod. Apparently Zod told the guy to kneel one too many times. If you read solicitations, it seems Zod may survive, but that's besides the point. The point is, one minute Zod is putting Kal-El on trial, the next moment Kal-El needs to go hunt down his killer, who is heading to Earth. Do I smell a reunion show? Seinfeld has me in that mood.

Meanwhile, Justice League: Cry for Justice #2 is out this week, and this is a pivotal issue for the series. The debut issue of this long-delayed mini was, well, a piece of crap. All that beautiful painted art readers waited so long for was only given pages upon pages of dialog in which the only thing each character said — individually, I might add — was that they wanted "Justice." The saddest part about it was that in every instance where the characters wanted "Justice," they didn't actually want "Justice," the wanted Revenge. So this was either a case of James Robinson not knowing the differences between the two words, or maybe this is the entire theme to his story, the characters learning the difference, in which case we're looking at a real dud of a mini-series.

On top of all that first-issue-sucking-pressure in this second issue, we now know Robinson will be taking over the main "Justice League of America" book following this mini, and carrying some storylines and characters over. Which means, if this mini continues to be as horrible as it began, then we're not looking at a case of one bad mini, we're looking at a case of the whole Justice League line of books being taken down by this bad mini. And after the years of Dwayne McDuffie's horrible Justice League stories, I cannot take more crapage.

As I take my leave of you, remember, we're on a Mission From God this week. Go buy "Irredeemable!!!"