Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Comic Review: Justice League of America #50

James Robinson's re-introduction into the DCU hasn't been an entirely smooth process. For every incredible Mon-El and Jimmy Olsen story - there where plenty of issues that simply didn't pan out as expected. Cry for Justice is probably the best example - as the series under went many transmutations from announcement to actual print - with the end result being very controversial.

Robinson's tenure on the JLA has suffered the same uneasy fate. The actual team line up is nothing like what was originally announced, and the plot-lines have so far been rather lack luster. The recent JLA/JSA team-up became nothing but a plodding plot-line for 6 whole issues - and before that there was confusing foreshadowing, featuring the anti-New Gods and mysterious parts to a machine found throughout time; all of which have made the past year's worth of issues a blur in my mind. This is not to say nothing has been good. If there is one strength James Robinson always delivers on - it's his characterization. He's been making Donna Troy into an exemplary character, rather focusing on her future rather than her convoluted past. Dick Grayson as Batman has also been doing well, being in perfect synch with Donna. The only down-side to these characterizations has been an obscene over-use of dialogue boxes (taking the place of traditional thought bubbles). There where, at some points, 5 different inner monologues taking place at the same time! It was just insane - and another reason Robinson's run on the JLA hasn't been as good as his fabled tenure on Star Man.

All of those problems, though, seemed to vanish in this stellar 50th issue! The team line-up has been stabilized, with a core cast of Batman (Dick Grayson), Donna Troy, Super Girl, Jessie Quick, Jade, Starman (Mikall), and Congo Bill. Not a fault on Robinson's part, but this line-up isn't the fabled big-seven (Superman, Batman, WW, ect); while the series might continue to be ignored by some people because of that fact, Robinson has been using it to his advantage by bringing in lesser known and forgotten heroes and working his magic with them. This issue, especially, hammers out the great characterization that is being formed for these heroes. Jessie Quick's sudden change from the JSA to the JLA is explained more deeply by her experiences during the Blackest Night, and she finds genuine common ground with Supergirl, who has suffered similar personal tragedies. I'm actually always impressed by how Robinson can create these unique insights into characters, seemingly on the fly given the cast shake-ups he's had to suffer by DCU editorial. Simply put - this isn't the big-seven, and Robinson goes out of his way to point that out in their dialogue - but he's finally been able to hammer down a unique and solid line-up that mirrors the big seven.

The mirrored big-seven is further utilized when the JLA face the alternate reality duplicates of the JLA: the Crime Syndicate of Amerika. The CSA have been driven from their alternate Earth and have fled to the regular universe in hopes of saving their Earth. The characterization of Ultra-Man, Owlman, and Superwoman are spot-on, and the complicated past of characters Johnny Quick and Power Ring are simplified. The battle between the JLA and CSA seemed like a classic comic fight - to stellar effect. Mark Bagley's art really shines in this issue, especially in the fights. This extra-sized issue also allowed for some great confrontations between the JLA members and their duel opposites.

Also, the over-use of dialogue boxes I mentioned before? No longer present! The story flows exceedingly better with their exclusion; characterization is not diminished in any way.

Additionally, the confusing elements from over the past year - like the Anti-New Gods and parts of a mysterious machine finally converge - as the machine is turned on by Doctor Impossible. The history and origin of these Anti-New Gods is somewhat explored - but they are still a bit confusing as characters. But their goal is simply stated at the end, as they wish to resurrect Darkseid. What they get, though, is a powerful new foe: Omega Man.

This issue is simply the best improvement to Robinson's JLA - and I am now much more excited to see where this storyline continues. With Bagley's incredible ability to draw so quickly, this extra-sized issue delivers at it's price point of $5. There's no back-up tale written and drawn by someone else - it's simply a larger and bigger issue. It's avery nice change from the recent disappointments with the over-padded anniversary issues DC has been publishing of late. Really, simply, a stellar issue all around.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vote for the next leader of the Legion of Super-Heroes!

It's Election Season, and if you want to change the course of history or the 31st Century, then it's your patriotic duty to vote for the new leader of the Legion of Super-Heroes!

From October 20th to November 10th voting will be open. Just click on the link below to cast your vote.

You can vote for anyone who is an active member of the team. Fans have elected Legion leaders in the past, sometimes to surprising results. Dream Girl, once though to be one of the less useful Legionaries, was voted in by the fans -- but it turned out great, as Dream Girl was given a big boost in character development, making her into a now valued member of the Legion.

For me, I voted for Tyroc. His recent redesign has made him much more fashionably acceptable, and his character could do with some Leadership character improvement.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

NES 25 Year Anniversary

The NES turns 25 years old recently. X-Play on G4TV has been doing some retrospectives of the that superb gaming machine changed the world of gaming forever. You can find some of their videos on the subject here: X-Play Remembers the NES. Here are also some of my memories about the system.

I remember older kids having the NES before me, and I only got small glimpses of Super Mario Brothers 2. It seemed so out of reach, though, as it was obviously a purchase my Mom and Dad would have to make. And, eventually, I got the NES. My Dad woke me up early in the morning, telling me that Santa had come and help him hook up the system. I totally believed him, and we had a great time investigating the new system.

Super Mario Brothers was, of course, the first game - along with Duck Hunt. I got Dragon Quest (then Dragon Warrior) and it was one of those rare games both my Dad and I both played. He got addicted to it, and I benefited from his early journey and maps he made to help me.

The games that I remember the most where Super Mario Brothers 3 and Mega Man 3. Those games where pinnacle of perfection back then. I recall hours spent drawing and tracing the artwork of Mario and Mega Man from instruction manuals and Nintendo Power. I was that engrossed in the mythology and gameplay of those two games.

I even remember the last game I ever played on the NES: Mega Man 6. I believe it was one of the two final games ever made for the system. So determined not to miss a single Mega Man game, I managed to bring my NES out of storage and revive it just long enough to finish MM6.

The NES had sooo many great childhood memories. Congratulations on reaching 25 years, you scrappy grey box!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Final Fantasy XIV Sucks

I'm not a big fan of MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games), but I've occasionally tested them out just to see what I was missing. I tried the Free Trail for World of Warcraft, and while fun - it was simply too consuming for me, in both narrative and functionality. I found Final Fantasy XI much more to my liking - as the story seemed more immediate and it's own unique take on the Final Fantasy genre could be felt and appreciated from the very start. Again, I'm only speaking from a perspective of playing the Demo - but it was a fun week's worth of play before it ended.

So with the next Final Fantasy sequel once again being an MMORPG, I thought it might be worth trying it's demo as well. This review, from Gametrailers.com, certainly explains all of the reason why this game utterly and completely sucks. I'm really just flabbergasted by what an utter mess this game is. This is suppose to challenge the unstoppable juggernaut that is World of Warcraft?! If they had simply taken the original FF XI model and just updated the graphics - it would at least have been a decent game. But every single problem this review details is just incomprehensible, and quite disheartening that a quality game company like Square-Enix would release this kind of crap! And, not only that, but give it the honored spot on the continuing Numbered titles in the Final Fantasy series.

Just, watch the review and prepare to be stunned. I don't know what went wrong with the development of this game, wether it was rushed or mishandled, or it Square-Enix just decided to cut it's losses on an unsuccessful venture -- but it looks like this game is without a doubt the darkest stain on the venerable Final Fantasy series ever released.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Firemen Let Family's Home Burn Down in Flames

I just saw a news report that got me so emotionally upset, that it makes me loose faith in the world. You can read about it here: Tennessee Family's Home Burns to the Ground as Firefighters Stand and Watch

To sum it up, in this (and many) rural counties you have to pay a fee for fire service. It's called "Pay to Spray", and because a household forgot to pay, the Fire Department where required by law to let their house burn to the ground. The fire department only came because a neighbor called, not wanting the fire to spread. 3 Pets died in the blaze, as the firemen sat by and watched. The house owner took action into his own hands later on, going to the fire chief and assaulting him. He was arrested and is out on 5000 bond.


This has me so mad. What the hell is wrong with these people? One missed payment - and poof, there goes their home! I don't care what the law says - they should not be allowing houses to burn down like this. What the Hell is wrong with these idiots? Have they never heard of collection agencies, leans -- anything but letting a family's home go down in flames. 3 Dogs are dead because of the firemen's inaction. Where's PETA? Would a dead child wake people up to realize how stupid this "Pay to Spray" program is? I know cities are cash strapped, but there simply HAVE to be better ways to handle this then letting fires spread and robbing families of their homes.

@$%!$! Dammit! What the hell is wrong with this world! It makes me want to scream!!!!!!!

If this helps in any way, Tennessee -- I won't ever visit your city for any kind of vacation, event, whatever. I know - a worthless comment from someone who never intended to visit in the first place. But, damn, you just want to jump up and scream at the injustice of it all. They better let the owner off the hook for the assault -- intentionally letting man's house burn down can cause a man too it like that.

So, even though it won't matter - Tennessee is a place I'm going to avoid because of crap like this. There simply has to be a better way than letting an entire family's home burn down over a lousy $75.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Comic Review: Action Comics #893

I love Doctor Who, one of the most ingeniously written and produced shows. I love comic books as well. So when news of Paul Cornell, master writer who's synonyms with Doctor Who, was going to be writing Action Comics - you'd expect nothing but pure magic! Well, no quite... But it's darn close!

Since Superman is off on his "Super" Walk across the country, Action Comics has continued the theme of the last few years by not having Superman appear in the book. I've actually been fine with that, as I loved Nightwing and Flamebird's tenure on the title. Lex Luther has been doing pretty well with his stint on the title as well. Lex has a pecific mission in this series - and that's to reclaim the power he momentarily possessed during the Blackest Night event. He was made a deputy member of the Orange Lantern Corp, which derives it's power from Avarice. That emotional color of the spectrum has a profound effect on it's user - causing them to constantly want more and more. The greed is just unstoppable, and once the power was taken away from Lex - the craving for power remained. So he's begun searching for the remaining power left over from the Black Lantern rings. To help ground him on this cosmic journey he has constructed a robotic version of Lois Lane. She's the one face Lex can't argue with, apparently, and helps keep him in check when his greed kicks.

This issue takes Lex to the Jungles, where the latest source of former Black Ring energy remains. Someone else, though, found it: Gorilla Grodd. Gorilla Grodd is a great villain, bringing more than brute force to any battle. Not only is he super intelligent, but he's also psychic, and able to rip a person's mind apart along with his body. So when Lex comes into his jungle, Luther has to be prepared. It's right here, in the conflict between these two genius-IQ villains that Paul Cornell's style comes into true form. It's a battle of intellects, as Lex has to find ways to thwart Gorilla Grodd. One of the oddest, and uniquely Paul Cornell ideas, is that Gorilla Grodd can eat a person's brain and gain their knowledge. (As far as I know this is a new element to the character. Not necessarily out of character, but just bizarre and twisted enough to be an acceptable change in his persona.) Grodd decides he wants to eat Luthor's brain, and even comes charging at him in the jungle wielding a huge spoon. It's these kind of slap-stick details that, while ridiculous, is just so charming and delightful that I'll overlook it. Lex of course out-wits Grodd, gets what he wants, and is quick to make his escape. Lex doesn't escape fast enough, though, as Grodd manages to fire a laser gun at Lex at the last second, sending Luthor's body falling down dead. Now the second stroke of genius of Paul Cornell occurs - Lex Luthor is meeting Death of the Endless (From the Neil Gaiman Sandman series), who meets Lex with an umbrella and a smile.

This was an enjoyable issue. It wasn't the best issue - but it has so many charming and intelligent concepts behind it that you just have to smile about it. I am very much looking forward to Death's appearence in the next issue. Not only does she bare some weight in this story line (he is looking for the Rings powered by Death), but it's just a delight to see her in use again. Neil Gaiman is even helping writing Death's dialogue; so the character is going to be handled right.

This issue debuts the new Second Feature series starring another Superman supporting player: Jimmy Olsen. I've really loved Jimmy Olsen stories these past few years. He was perhaps one of the few positive characters to read about in Countdown, and he's been deftly written by James Robinson - who made Jimmy cool again by embroiled him in a great and complex mystery. So I was looking forward to this feature - but have been left supremely disappointed. This story seems to be drawing a lot of inspiration from the more corn-ball adventures Jimmy use to have during the 60s. He had an endless stream of wacky transformations during that time, and such incidents being used again (he's a Genie in this issue for awhile), while not handled as poorly back then, still seem to be taking Jimmy Olsen back to irrelevancy.

A social scene is set up for Jimmy Olsen, giving him two best friends, a new ex-girlfriend, and a rival who works at LexCorp. Except for the girl-friend, who is Chloe Sullivan of Smallville fame - it all seems painfully forced, having these friends and rival pop out of no where - just to be supporting characters TO a supporting character. Are supporting character suppose to have their own supporting characters? It just feels dumb and forced - as if a suitable adventure couldn't be created by focusing on just Jimmy Olsen. It's A 10-page back-up story! Not a regular series! Even as a regular feature in Action Comics, a Jimmy Olsen series doesn't need to be this cluttered with useless cast members. Oh - and the biggest crime of all? Jimmy Olsen is portrayed as supremely lazy. His new girlfriend, Chloe, dumps him because all he does it sit around playing video games. He's essentially just sitting around, waiting for adventure to happen. And in cartoonish form, adventure does come to his door step - like an alien invasion.

Awhile ago there was this awesome scene in a Supergirl issue, where Jimmy Olsen rides a motorcycle and is able to swoop in and rescue a little girl from falling debris. As Jimmy rides away to get closer to the danger, to get photos, the little girl says Jimmy is "Cool." Jimmy is now lazy - and definitely not cool. The entire back-up feature just seems like a joke. And a lazy joke to boot.