Tuesday, October 27, 2009

This week's comic expectations

Hey Guys, this has to be a short one ...

Yes, I know, I only just returned from a lengthy absence and now I'm already cutting things short, but it's not my fault! Honest! If it makes you feel better, I've spent more time shooting video and editing it for poughkeepsiejournal.com in the last two days than I have sleeping. In fact, I think I've spent three-times as long on video than I have in bed.

Anyway, Check out the list of comic book releases HERE.

Obviously what immediately jumps off the page are the three "Blackest Night" books, with the mothership, "Green Lantern" and "Titans," all three of which have been out of this world and the later two have been required reading.

But there is more to love. "Superman: Secret Origins" was an instant classic from issue 1 last month, so I highly recommend #2 to any DC reader. Also in the Superman universe there is the first issue of the "World's Finest" mini to take a look at.

And don't forget the new issue of "Justice Society!" Is Mr. Terrific really dead?!? (doubt it).

And before we leave the realm of DC, the first issue of the "Arkham Reborn" mini is also out this week, so I'd be remiss if I didn't remind you of how strong the "Arkham" one-shot was during "Battle for the Cowl."

Marvel's got some books of interest this week too, though (Boy, suddenly this isn't such a quick post!), including two of the "Dark Reign: The List" titles of "Punisher" and "Wolverine."

And while there are plenty more "Avengers"-family books this month, I'd say all eyes for Marvel are on the "Necrosha" one-shot kicking off that highly controversial storyline. I wish Marvel would just admit to their thievery and be done with it, but oh well.

Whew! Back to video editing!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

'Borderlands' Review

Whew! Giving up every free hour I've had since finding the game in my mailbox Monday morning, my review of "Borderlands" is online at THIS LINK.

It's a little bit odd to review a game without having seen all there is too see, but even dozens of hours into my time in Pandora, there really is so much more to be found. This game is for MMO vets and loot lovers. Heck, I just read a feature on Kotaku.com in which Gearbox creative director Mikey Neumann said there are weapons even he hasn't seen yet, including one that shoots mushroom clouds. Mushroom clouds!

What I said in my review I really believe to be true, though -- I'm enjoying this game plenty, and it has been very hard to turn off, even as 2 a.m. becomes 4 a.m. becomes "I can get by on four hours sleep, right?" But, that said, I am really not that guy who loves grinding and leveling. It's my least favorite part of RPGs. I can only imagine what some of you out there are feeling over this game if you're just as much an MMO nut as a fragger.

What I do love about this game, though? The Skags. It's like shooting the Gatekeeper and Keymaster from "Ghostbusters." Don't worry, if someone asks if I'm a God, just call me Zeus.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Buy Pile Report

For the first time since I first started writing this blog, I am able to come on here and proclaim to you all that James Robinson gets not one but TWO passing grades.

Neither of his books were the best piece of writing he's ever given us, mind you. Far from it. But, given the legend's lengthy slump, both were pleasant surprises.

And we start with the relaunch of one of DC's tent pole books, Justice League of America #38, written by Mr. Robinson and Mark Bagley. And let's get the negative out of the way: Yes, killing a marginal character to start an arc has gotten out of hand and cliche. Yes, the JLA returning to Happy Harbor to reflect has become cliche. Yes, this particular bunch of JLAers has been doing WAY too much of that reflecting lately. And yes, Despero is one of those characters, like Doomsday, which has become a shell of his formerly-terrifying self, due to overuse and misuse.

(Like I said, this certainly was not Robinson's best work).

But there was glimpses of promise here. For one, I'm looking forward to seeing who is powerful enough to control Despero. My guess would be Dreamweaver, leader of the Extremists. For two, I really don't mind the idea of JLA tying into "Blackest Night" so soon into Robinson's tenure. I know many critics allowed failed JLA scribe Dwayne McDuffie sympathy by thinking his book was editorially forced to tie into big events too often, but a good writer finds a way to tell his story around those bumps and thrive off of it. Some of the "Justice League International's " best issues were the result of a tie-in. And immediately you see Robinson is looking to wrap his tale around the tie-in here.

I'm no believer in "Cry for Justice" yet, you know that. And you also know that I'm not entirely sold on Robinson's advertised JLA roster. But there was enough in this issue to give me hope for the future, and that's something I didn't have in two years with McDuffie.

I was even more pleased with Blackest Night: Superman #3, the conclusion of the Smallville-based mini-series. As I wrote last night, I looked at this as a litmus test for the many "BN" minis to come, following a fairly-disappointing conclusion to the Batman mini. Well there was nothing ground breaking here, and yes, there was a bit of the 'ole deus ex machina in there, what with Conner stealing Psycho Pirate's smile, but the ending offered a better sense of closure than the ending of Batman's story.

So yes folks, the yellow alert is over, you can go back in the pool it because it was just a Baby Ruth. "BN" minis are officially safe to empty your wallet.

And before we leave the Superman universe, Supergirl #46 concluded the "Hunt for Reactron" crossover with "Action Comics," with a bang. I've said it before, I'll say it again, Sterling Gates has made "Supergirl" a very strong wing of the Superman universe. Here, we get a reunion between Kara and Thara, a revelation for Kara and Lana's relationship and even a very nice and subtle moment of understanding for Lois, who has previously been blaming the Maid of Might for her sister's death.

But, beyond the titular character, this issue also contains some enormous moments for Nightwing and Flamebird -- so enormous that I wouldn't even want to hint at what it was for those of you who have been patiently following their tale -- and I've decided that I really like this pair of characters. If they weren't starring in a book in which half the readers are just waiting for Clark Kent to come back, I doubt if they could sustain a book all their own, but Greg Rucka and, to a lesser extent, Gates deserve all the credit in the world for fleshing out two brand-new characters (yes, Chris as a grown up is an all new character compared to kid Chris) and making them compelling and human (excuse the irony). In these pages, I found myself hoping that DC has long-term plans and a long-term home for these two.

And with that, back to Pandora. Review is coming soon!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This week's comic book expectations

You want pure fanboy crack? The solicitation for Incredible Hulk #603 claims Hulk and Skaar will be fighting Wolverine and Daken. Now, I haven't been paying attention to any of these four characters lately (I have too much taste), but aren't Logan and son enemies? Does it matter? No! Because this is the sort of book that fanboys dream of! So enjoy it fanboys! In the meantime, I'm going to be buying books of higher quality...

Check out the full list at THIS LINK.

And I am hoping Justice League of America #38 is of that higher quality, with James Robinson and Mark Bagley debuting. I've made no secret of my distaste for Robinson's work since returning to comics, but that doesn't change the fact that the man helped bring the Justice Society back to prominence. And did I mention "Starman"? Yes, his work on "Superman" has been mediocre at best. And yes, "Cry for Justice" has been corny and trite left and right. But I'm hoping that he is simply in a mini-series-induced rut. And I'm hoping he just needs a good team book to write instead of only a couple of characters in "Superman." And I'm hoping that team book does prove to be JLA, as the book has been fairly-consistently horrible since Brad Meltzer's departure.

Now let's just hope Robinson didn't carry over as much of "Cry for Justice" as he initially said he would. Because that junk ain't good. That's right, it's so bad I used poor grammar. Deal with it.

I'm also hopeful for Robinson's other book on the shelves this week, Blackest Night: Superman #3. For one, we have ourselves a pretty intense battle going because Kal, Conner, Dead Kal and Psycho Pirate. But more importantly, for me at least, this issue will serve as a litmus test. All three "Blackest Night" minis began with a bang. All three took only a slight step backwards in issue #2. Well, last week's "Blackest Night: Batman #3" was questionable at best. Don't get me wrong, watching the Demon Ertigan in action is always a treat. But the idea that the zombies can conjure an entire circus or apartment building out of thin are is only slightly more believable than Dick and Tim freezing their hearts to a stop only to revive themselves moments later.

So, will "BN: Superman" end with satisfaction? Or will it end colder than Dick and Tim? If Supes' mini ends just as poorly, it will go a long way in terms of creating expectations for Blackest Night minis to come. And since solicitations have already shown BL Kal-L will face Power Girl in "Blackest Night: JSA," I'm fearful of the answer.

It's worth noting at this point that I just started eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch, so if you notice a happier tone to my writing, its no coincidence.

Then again, it's tough to be positive when talking about Azrael #1, out this week. The last of the post-"Battle for the Cowl" tie-ins to come out, I can only wonder which of DC's marketing wizards came up with the concept of this book. I imagine the conversation inside the DC offices went something like this:

Marketing guy 1: Wow, this "R.I.P."/"Battle for the Cowl" stuff is going to be intense! Kind of reminds me of the "Nightfall" storyline.
Marketing guy 2: Hey, remember Azrael? He was a badass.
MG1: Dude! Azrael should be in "Battle for the Cowl!"
MG2: Yeah, too bad John Paul Valley is dead.
MG1: Or is he?

And somewhere along the line, DC remembered that yes, John Paul Valley is in fact dead, but by then the wheels were in motion.

Anyway, I have no idea who this new Azrael is. I don't much care. I'd bet dollars to donuts (yes, I'm apparently a 64-year-old man now) that this new Azrael lasts even shorted than JPV.

Other DC books out this week I expect to be strong are Supergirl #46 and Power Girl #6. Love those Multiversial Twins.

Meanwhile, Marvel is hitting us with a heaping helping of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. In Dark Avengers #10, our pal Norman Osborne (who is even more over-exposed than Wolverine and Tony Stark combined lately) continues his tumble back down into insanity. In Mighty Avengers #30, all five Avengers teams will be making an appearance in an enormous brawl (for once not with each other) with The Unspoken. Plus, two "Dark Reign"-specific titles come out this week, Dark Reign: The List - Avengers and Dark Reign: The List - Hulk.

But the Marvel book you most want on your radar this week is Invincible Iron Man #19, which concludes the "World's Most Wanted" storyline. If Matt Fraction's tale of Tony Stark's sacrifice for survival were not so strong it would be downright goofy. Good thing for us, he's made Tony's intellectual troubles not only believable but powerful. It all ends here. If you've been on board, it's been a nice ride, hasn't it? For those of you who haven't, that's what trade paperbacks are for!

And with that, I'm off to the World of Pandora, site of "Borderlands."

'Wet' review

Although I am now, officially, knee-deep in "Borderlands," I (finally) managed to get my "Wet" review up on the Web site.

Check out the review at THIS LINK.

"Wet" is enjoyable. It's got style. And frankly, there is one song I still haven't gotten out of my head.

But any shooter in which your aim is better when flying through the air than standing still is a game with major flaws. MAJOR flaws.

So Rubi, all I have to say to you is, Baby, you driving me insane (insane).

Get it?!? Well, if you play the game, you will.

Monday, October 19, 2009

'Mini Ninjas,' 'Borderlands'

Those two games in the title of this post have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

They're only combined because they are the immediate present and immediate future of my Xbox.

Last night I FINALLY got started playing "Mini Ninjas," a birthday gift from the girlfriend, after work and sickness kept me from having a chunk of a few good hours to sink my teeth into it. While I'm only three hours into it (and the three hours flew by, which is always a sign of a good gaming experience), but I'm really enjoying the game so far.

While the game can really be reduced to simply a hack-and-slash, even at its toughest level, I don't think I've ever played a game which can be more accurately described as "charming." The characters are bright, shiny and cute, without becoming sickeningly so, and you can even access your "spirit form" to possess the local wildlife.

However, I'm going to have to push off "Mini Ninjas" once again for the next few days. When I walked into the office today, I found a review copy of 2K Games' "Borderlands" waiting for me.

Goodbye happy, furry woodland creatures. Hello looting, pillaging and killing everything in sight. I'll hopefully have a full review for you good people up within a week.

In the meantime, get a load of the box art from "Borderlands." Is it just me, or is suicidal imagery just a step too far for a game which anyone of any age will be able to see on the shelves on Tuesday? (And yes, I know, I'm just as bad for posting it here).

Three reviews

In my current housekeeping quest, I just got three Associated Press game reviews up to our Web site, www.poughkeepsiejournal.com

Here are your links:

Brutal Legend

Uncharted 2

NBA 2K10/ NBA Live 10

IGN's top 100 Nintendo games

Anyone who knows me knows I'm just about the most rabid retro console gamer you're going to come across. Which is why when sites like IGN post lists like these, I'm a sucker.

Check out THIS LINK to IGN's countdown of the Top 100 Nintendo games. I cannot say I agree with every choice on the list, I would have put "Bubble Bobble" in the top 10 (and talk about what a sad substitute "Bubble Bobble Neo" is), but you have to love the choice to deny the original "Super Mario Bros." the top spot.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

This week's video game releases

After a busy couple of weeks for us gamers, we're slowing down a bit this week. Check out THIS LINK and see if you can use the week to catch your breath.

Highlighting the week is "Borderlands," a shooter which features one of the most mature box covers I've ever seen, and "FIFA Soccer 10."

Personally, I have a STACK of games I've been struggling to find the time to play, like "Mini Ninjas" and "Ghostbusters." (Yes, I cannot believe I've yet to play "Ghostbusters" either).

My exile

I'm back!

Did you miss me?

I'd love to say the reason for my absence was something cool, like exploring the timeline in a phone booth with Alex Winter or traveling the multiverse with Donna Troy (What? Just because "Countdown" sucked doesn't mean I can't make a snarky reference to it!) ... but I can offer no such cool excuse, only a blog post with a title sounding similar to an episode of "Scrubs."

Truth is, a whole lot changed here at Journal central, including heaping a whole load of new responsibilities on yours truly. So while I have been keeping up with my comic books, I haven't had much time to write about them. And while I've been done with "Wet" for a couple of weeks, I haven't written up my review (which begs the question of what good is reviewing a game without writing the actual review). I also got pretty sick there for about a week...

But enough with the excuses. Fact is, I'm back and rededicated to making this blog your source for comic book and video game news and reviews. We'll have that 'Wet" review up shortly, we'll have comic book thoughts throughout the week, and without further ado, this next post will get things started...