Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Flashpoint, New Era or Ill Omen?

DC recently announced that at the conclusion of Flashpoint, every single series in the DCU will be rebooting with a new #1. The line-wide change is going to be bolstered by a lead title written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Jim Lee, titled simply "Justice League". Not only is every book coming out in September going to be a new #1, but all issues are going to be released psychically and digitally on the same day. A number of changes are due to hit the DCU, and I am hesitant to go into fanboy-mode and just be upset over the sweeping changes. Instead I'm cautiously waiting and seeing. I've been reading the main Flashpoint series, and while I'm not going full force into the massive amount of tie-in mini-series that have been offered, there are a few series that I'm nonetheless planning to check out.

There's going to be endless fan speculation on what this means for the DCU and mainstream comics in general. On the one hand, I think this could prove to be a bold new move for DC - as they are finally challenging Marvel at their own game, with a big headline attracting change to the status quo. On the other hand, a lot of changes are due in store for various DCU characters. Superman, in particular, appears to be getting a heavily altered appearance and status. A new costume has already been speculated - but even more radical alterations might be in store. Superman might no longer be married to Lois Lane; superman might be much younger - all which are pretty big and shocking things to see happen. Some characters won't necessarily be changed at all, or at least not very much. We'll simply have to wait and see for now.

Yet, what worries me, is the unsure foundation this entire event is being based on. Flashpoint's origins seemed to begin with the launch of the new Barry Allen-lead Flash series. The series was done by Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul and went on for 12 issues. The series was received well enough, but suffered greatly from some mis-steps. The Flash Reboot series "Flash: Rebirth", helped to re-establish Barry Allen as the Flash, but didn't have the same impact as the likewise series Green Lantern: Rebirth. It simply wasn't as good - and that lack of enthusiasm certainly traveled over to the main book. Which, really, wouldn't have been that big of a deal -- but the lack of enthusiasm was compounded late issues. Francis Manapul is a great artist - but he's not a quick artist. The series seemed to bounce back a little with fill-in art by Scott Kolins, but the momentum of the series just feel completely flat. And this is suppose to be the foundation for Flashpoint?

The next problem that gives me pause -- we've seen this all before. Something changes history or reality, putting our regular characters into an alternate reality. It's essentially a re-tread of the Age of Apocalypse, House of M, Age of X, ect, ect. DC kept insisting that this would be different, but so far it isn't. Even with line-wide repercussions, this isn't different at all. Not to say that's bad -- but it leaves me a little less excited about it all.

Luckily the first issue did at least deliver in the quality department. Andy Kubert's art is great, and while initially annoying as heck -- seeing all sorts of tie-in mini-series being shoved at us -- the alternate-version characters given to us are compelling and interesting. It's still WAAAYY too many mini-series, but some of it seem pretty interesting and innovative.

Cyborg is being depicted as a top-tier hero of the Flashpoint Universe. He's the one who's at first initially trying to recruit all the other heroes to help him stop the warlord versions of Wonder Woman and Aquaman. This seems like Cyborg's big moment here - as he's already been confirmed to be a part of Johns' and Lee's Justice League series.

The Outsider simply looks cool. I don't know much about the character beyond him possibly being involved in illicit trading - but he's being written by Starman and JLA writer James Robinson. He seems to be one of the original new characters being developed, so we may possibly see him again after Flashpoint is all over.

Just in time for the Green Lantern movie, we're getting a natural and pleasant twist to Green Lantern's altered history, namely that Abin Sur never died and passed the Green ring on to Hal Jordan. As an alien he has no ties to Earth, but he appears to hold a respected presence in the Flashpoint universe. I know it's only because I'm feeling the hype of the movie, but I think I might check this mini-series out. There is another mini-series also worth noting - starring Hal Jordan simply as an ace air force pilot. So we get to see both sides of the classic "What If" scenario.

Captain Marvel has been re-conceived in a fun new way - where a group of children all combine to become Captain Thunder. I just love the inclusion of the huge tiger. For some reason this really feels like something that would have come from the mind of Grant Morrison. That's just speculation on my part, though.

The alternate version of the Batman, while very cool to see an ultra violent casino-owning Batman, is probably the most boring and least surprising reveal of Flashpoint #1. It's not actually Bruce Wayne under the cowl - it's his father, Thomas Wayne. This isn't the first time an alternate dimensional counter-part to Batman has actually been Thomas Wayne, so it just feels unoriginal. At least he turned Gotham into the Las Vegas of the Flashpoint universe; that's pretty cool in-of-it's self.

The alteration of reality has all been engineered by the Flash's biggest foe, Professor Zoom, aka the Reverse-Flash. In the regular Flash series we saw how Thawne was able to alter his own time-line, in various attempts to make it better. It's simply impossible to have a perfect life, despite being able to correct you're ever failing and mistake. Thawne's hatred for Barry Allen has lead him to do the reverse to him - altering Barry Allen's history is horrible ways. Before Barry Allen was ever the Flash, the Reverse-Flash managed to kill his mother and frame the father for the murder. Now that reality has been completely changed -- Barry actually has his mother back, alive and well -- but no powers - and seemingly the only one who knows the truth that everything is wrong.

What Flashpoint is doing right is effectively creating it's own world - where all the characters have real motivations, inspired or flipped from their regular continuities, often in surprising and fun ways. It's essentially the kind of unique story-telling we got from a series like the Age of Apocalypse, where the altered versions of our beloved characters where so popular, that it was eventually revisited; on numerous occasions. Weather these re-imagined DCU heroes will gain the same reception -- who knows?

Still, I gotta worry about how this is going to change everything when it's all done and over with. It's going to be pretty striking to see nothing but issue ones coming out in one month, and then nothing but issue twos coming out the next month, ect, ect. The only chance those numbers will begin to drift apart is when issues ship twice a month, or issues begin to fall behind and are late.

Another thing to point out about the numbering is that (and this just kills me) - we're going to see Action Comics reboot to #1. We had just reach issue #900 a month ago, and it seems like such a shame - being less than 10 years away from reaching a legitimate #1000. Of course, at a later date, DC can do what Marvel's has been doing for years - simply add the issue count from the rebooted series to the older issues - and voila: a sneaky cheat back to issue #1000.

I guess Action Comics, being the best example, is why I'm both nervous and excited about this entire venture. This could prove to be a wild success - something DC has been desperately seeking after years and years of falling behind Marvel. But is using perceived "stunt events" really the answer? And is flooding the market place, with so many books (52 new #1 in September), really a long-term solution? Marvel seems to think so - they seem to have been flooding the market with great success. Yet when you over-load fans with so many books -- you might scare off a lot of very dedicated fans.

Also, this really seems like a crushing blow for brick and mortar retailers. It's hard enough running a comic shop in this economy - but now shops have to combat against readers simply buying issues through the devices like the iPad. Yes, there apparently have been moves made to keep retailers in the loop, like them selling said digital subscriptions to their fans. But that only seems like a stop-gap measure. The only real advantage retailers had were that psychical issues where usually being shipped out first, with digital-readers having to wait before being able to buy the issue. Short-term, everything is probably going to be fine - there are still a lot of people who prefer physical copies compared to downloaded ones -- but long-term, this is going to eventually squeeze local comic shops out of the equation. And heaven forbid the day, because of the reduced over-head cost, digital versions of comics become cheaper than buying the regular issues. I just can't see same date shipping/digital sale of issues being good for real comic stores. DC might be spear-heading the charge into the future; but a LOT of very loyal fans are going to get left behind.

Again, I'm taking this all with cautious optimism. There are pros and cons to this entire situation. It's good that DC is taking such sweeping steps to bring the DCU into the modern-age. They are no doubt trying to make many of their characters more appealing to this new generation of readers. That's great and all, but if not done carefully - this could easily become huge and embarrassing disaster for DC. I think the likes of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are up for the challenge (they have proved their ability to reinvigorate failing series before) - but trying to do that for the entire DCU, and all at the same time, seems daunting for even the best of creators. I hope it turns out well.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Green Lantern: The Problem with John Stewart

At the beginning of the "War of the Green Lanterns" arch, we where warned that one of the Earth-based Green Lanterns would die at the end. I've been trying to figure out who, and I just can't escape the signs all pointing to John Stewart. Solicitations for future issues seem to indicate that Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner come out of the war alive. It wouldn't be the first time cover solicitations have been altered to maintain the surprise. Some of them are legitimately confusing the issue, with one cover showing John with Kyle's broken mask, but again the next month's issue shows Kyle alive and well. So we can't trust the solicited covers. There are other facts supporting my thought that Stewart is the one who's going to die. If Guy and Kyle are safe, it's down to Hal and John -- and with a big-time summer movie just about to hit theaters, I really doubt DC is going to kill Hal Jordan (again!).

Why would DC want to kill off John Stewart, then, you might ask? He has a lot of things going for him, from fan familiarity from the Justice League cartoon series, to the simple fact that he's one of the more higher profile African American Super Heroes. Not saying being black makes John immune to the grim reaper, but the subject of race forces it's self into the discussion. He was so recognized on the Justice League TV show that many people who don't read comics where confused as to why they changed Green Lantern into a white guy for the movie. That confusion, right there, might be a factor as well.

The clincher, for me, if any of the human GLs are going to die - is the simple fact that John Stewart has been floundering ever since Hal Jordan's return. Geoff Johns made a real effort to keep John relevant to the GL book, even as Hal invariably took center stage - but John is invariably still playing second fiddle to Hal Jordan.

John Stewart first appeared in older Green Lantern/Green Arrow issues. The book dealt with several social problems facing society, and John Stewart was a way to address the subject of race. The Guardians decided they needed another Green Lantern to help out on Earth, and appointed building architect John Stewart. Hal was actually called a racist for objecting. While race might have been the starting factor as to John Stewart's creation, it really turned out great, giving us one of the best Green Lanterns to date. John immediately set himself apart from Hal by refusing to wear a mask and hide his identity. The most deciding factor that made John different was his questioning authority.

When Hal Jordan gave up being Green Lantern at one point, John stepped in as the full-time Green Lantern. During this time he met and married Katma Tui. The beginning (for lack of better term) scar-ification of John Stewart began when he lost his powers, and his wife Katma Tui was murdered by the Star Sapphire during a scheme of Sinestro's. John was falsely accused of killing Carol Farris, the alter ego of the Star Sapphire. He was later accused of theft and tortured for weeks by the South Nambia. He was eventually freed and re-powered with the help of Hal Jordan.

With so much of his life falling apart, John Stewart left for the stars. It was during a cross-over event called the Cosmic Odyssey that John faced his worst and most defining tragedy, when he failed to save the planet Xanshi. John would blame himself for years to come, as the destruction of that planet could have easily been prevented, if John hadn't refused help from the Martian Manhunter, feeling he could save the planet himself. When he arrived to find the machine able to destroy the planet, John was horrified to find it was colored completely yellow -- his ring being completely ineffective against that color. John was unable to stop the planet's destruction.

After the destruction of Xanshi John became a much more stoic and complex hero, his failure perhaps grounding him a bit more than before; he simply would never act as arrogantly as he did on Xanshi again. This new attitude served him well when he became caretaker to Mosaic World, a patch-work set of alien lands from across the universe which where all brought together on Oa. These various peoples and societies where spirited away from their home worlds to find their neighborhoods and towns now next to any number of different alien cultures. John's talent and skill helped keep this fragile society together, and earned him the respect of the Guardians. So much so, that he became the only human Guardian of the Universe, known as the Master Builder. John was even rewarded by the Guardians by being reunited with his wife Katma Tui. The good times would not last, as around this time Hal Jordan became Parallax, destroying the Central Power Battery and the Guardians, robbing John of his powers and his revived wife.

Johns found new life, though, when he accepted an offer from the Controllers (an off-shoot of the Guardians), who wanted to create a replacement police force for the now destroyed Green Lantern Corps. John would command this new group, called the Darkstars. Yet in a continual string of horrible tragedies, John was crippled in battle against the villain Grayven.

From there John's story becomes that of a supporting role, bound in a wheel chair. He didn't lounge about, though -- he began focusing on his career as an architect, helping to build locations like the JSA Headquarters.

When Kyle Rayner became Ion, with supposedly god-like powers, Kyle set to work correcting many wrongs. Before giving up the power of Ion to restore the Central Power Battery, and the the Guardians of the Universe, Kyle helped give John back the use of his legs. Apparently an intervention by Hal Jordan, before he died and repented for his actions as Parallax, had tried to cure John Stewart's crippled body. It supposedly should have worked, but John remained bound in a wheel chair. Delving into John's past, it's discovered there's yet another tragedy he had tried to block out. When he was very young, John had gone joy riding in a car, with a puppy in the back seat. He had crashed the car and the puppy had been killed. It was soon revealed that it wasn't a puppy, but in fact John's little sister. This tragic memory, combined with all the tragedies he already suffered, prevented John from wanting to walk again. With Kyle's help John was healed. Before going off into space, to continue helping to rebuild the Green Lantern Corps, Kyle left John a power ring, asking him to mind the store while he was away.

The return of John as a Green Lantern was due in part to the Justice League cartoon series. His uniform now matched the cartoon, and while Kyle was off in space John served for a long while in the Justice League of America. This was probably the best point in the character's life - as it seemed like the tragedies he had where left behind him.

When Hal Jordan came back, the question of what to do with John Stewart came up. In the revived Green Lantern Corps all sectors now had two Green Lanterns, with John being Hal's partner. Geoff Johns took elements the Justice League cartoon show, like John's military background, and worked that into his character. John Stewart's architectural side wasn't lost, but further expanded upon - showing that all of his constructs where extremely detailed.

Still, what made John's character so good in the Justice League cartoon was that he didn't have to play second fiddle to anyone else. He was the only Green Lantern on the team, and that served to make him an important and powerful character. He further became more and more popular, especially regarding his romance with Hawkgirl.

Ever since Hal's return, though, John Stewart just hasn't been the same. There have been some valiant efforts to include him in the GL stories, like his continually dwelling on Xanshi, and wishing he could use his willpower to restore it. This might have made good character drama - but I think it hurt the character tremendously. Dwelling on the past was simply trapping John in a state of continual depression - which isn't very fun to read. During the Blackest Night mini-series Xanshi was restored, but rather as a nightmare planet made up of Black Lanterns. In a much needed turn around - John fought back against the darkness, triumphantly declaring that it was time to put Xanshi behind him, and finally move on, and Move Out!

From there John has appeared in issues of the Green Lantern Corps - which now leads to where we are now: the War of the Green Lanterns. I was cautiously optimistic that Xanshi, and all the tragedy in John's life where actually finally behind him -- but recent events in War of the Green Lanterns have brought us right back to where we started.

When the villain Krona took over the Green Lantern Corps, and infected every member with the yellow light of fear, making all GLs brain-washed zombies, Hal, John, Kyle, and Gardner abandoned their Green Rings in favor of other colored Lantern Rings. John took the Violet Light of Compassion. During their battle against the mind-washed GLs, John and Kyle embarked on a mission to free one of the most powerful Green Lanterns, the sentient planet Mogo. Mogo is instrumental to the GL Corps, as he directs all Power Rings across the universe. Yet Mogo was completely in Krona's control - and more and more tainted power rings where spreading accross the universe, threatening to destroy it. Warned of the dire implications, and how unstoppable Krona would become with each new recruited Green Lantern, John made the tough decision. He channeled the power the Black Lantern energy, and used it's awesome power to destroy yet another planet. Just like Xanshi, Mogo was annihilated - but this time it was all on John's hands. The situation had indeed called for that kind of action, but it's yet another scar to the already impressive list of tragedies to John Stewart's life.

The concluding chapter of War of the Green Lanterns comes out next month. Maybe I'm wrong, and John won't be the one to die; DC has been accused over the last year of not taking enough care to keep minority characters alive and kicking. But, right now, it's John Stewart who's the most directionless Green Lantern of the bunch. Either way, it just feels like DC has taken a great character - and impressively tarnished him at every single turn. If you play that rough with you're toys, eventually they might break. Which is what I think DC is doing to John Stewart.


The concluding chapter of "War of the Green Lanterns" finally came out - and I have to give credit to DC; they really did surprise me. Warning, Spoilers!

Comic Review: Action Comics #901

I have a review of Action Comics #901, which you can read here at Comic Book Revolution.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Comic Review: JSA #51

I have a review for JSA #51, which you can read here at the Comic Book Revolution.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Green Lantern Revival

With the Green Lantern movie coming out soon, it sort of shocked me to realize that the initiative to revive Hal Jordan, and thus the Green Lantern franchise, began only 5 or 6 years ago. Looking back, it's been a tremendously successful and entertaining endeavor.

It all began with Green Lantern: Rebirth - a 6 issue mini-series that I consider one of the most methodical and brilliant continuity-based stories to be written in comics. Geoff Johns took so many diverse and un-related elements of Green Lantern's troubled history, and somehow walked away not only with a complete redemption of the once driven-mad Hal Jordan, but also a complete revival of the Green Lantern franchise as a whole. The idea of making Hal Jordan's fall the result of a fear-based parasite was just genius - and worked so well with the already established history. Essentially nothing was actually retconed away - the fear-entity parallax explanation worked complete inside the already established frame-work. They made it look effortless - and even tied Hal Jordan's fall in with Sinestro's revenge against Hal Jordan -- that Sinestro had wanted to make Hal experinece the same fall from grace he had once experienced.

What was also great about the Rebirth series was, while Hal Jordan was again stepping in as the lead hero of the series - Kyle Rayner was not simply being given the boot, or disrespected in any way. I, and many other people, grew up with Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern - so the return of Hal Jordan did leave some of us with a bit of skepticism. What exactly was so special about Hal Jordan?

That's really the corner-stone of why I think the Green Lantern revival has worked so well. Geoff Johns came in with a very clear interpretation of Hal Jordan's personality - and what set him apart from other heroes. He's a cocky sure of himself flyboy - always ready to leap into danger -- and most importantly able to overcome great fear. The concept of fear has been a major theme in the series - and Hal Jordan's revised history, of seeing his father crashing his plane and dying right in front of him was used as a foundation for his reckless and danger-seeking personality.

Hal's history was further developed on a 7 issue origin storyline. I really loved the story, as for half of the book it wasn't simply about Green Lantern or space adventures -- it was about the history of Hal Jordan, and how he grew up into the hero he is today.

At the same time Sinestro's history is also expounded upon - showing that he wasn't always a bad guy; he and Hal Jordan actually got along at first. Sinestro's history was also inter-weaved with Abin Sur's history, as his friend and colleague had died trying to shed light on an untold Prophecy called "The Blackest Night" - a prophecy the Guardians of the Universe ignored.

Before the Blackest Night, though, some groundwork had to be done. The biggest addition to the Green Lantern mythos, of course, is the concept of the emotional spectrum. ROYGBIV. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. Each color represented an emotional power, and soon we had a Corps for each color of the rainbow.

The Green Lantern Corps

The Green Lantern Corps, of course, represent the middle of the emotional spectrum: Will Power. The Green Light of Will Power, being in the middle ground, has no effect on the user - the wielder is always in control, and always as powerful as their will can permit. The Green Lantern Corps revived in a big way, launching a mini-series, and later regular series. Creators like Dave Gibbons, Tomasi, and Patrick Gleason breathed new life into the secondary characters of the Green Lantern Corps.

The Green Lantern Corps series really captured the concept of inter-galactic police officers. Charactes like Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner, Kilowog and others where developed in this series over the years, to excellent results. New characters, like Sonanik Natu, have proved very popular - and concepts like the internal affairs-like element of the Corps, the Alpha Lanterns, brought dynamic new stories into the mix.

And, quite simply, the artwork of Patrick Gleason was probably one of the most powerful examples of comic artwork ever put to page; he was really allowed to run wild with his incredibly dynamic drawings.

The Star Sapphires

The Star Sapphires where reintroduced and lead to the Zaromons forging the Violet Light of Love into similarly colored rings as the Green Lanterns. The Violet Light, being on the edge of the color spectrum, means that the emotion has more power over the user, than the user over the power.

The Sinestro Corps

The Sinestro Corps, based around the yellow element of fear, lead to the the highly successful "Sinestro Corps War" storyline, which put Sinestro in a commanding new position - creating his own corps. The yellow lanterns where more akin to terrorists, striking fear into the hearts of victims - and nearly brought the recently revived Green Lantern Corps to it's knees.

The Red Lantern Corps

The Red Lanterns, lead by the villain Atrocitus, where based on the Red Light of Rage. Like the Violet Light, the Red Light of Rage is on the outermost edge of ROYGBIV - and the loss of control is quite apparent. When a person is overcome with great rage -- not just anger, but being hurt by a signifigant loss like the murder of a loved one, something that cries out for justice -- that kind of rage attracts a Red Lantern Ring, and without a lot of choice the Red Ring will consume you. You're heart will stop, as the Red Ring becomes your heart - with the rage inside you boiling over in a constant stream of boiling blood red vomit. It's a very startling and dynamic difference from either the Green Lanterns or the Sinestro Corps - and the loss of free will is so apparent, very few people can retain their sense of self. Atrocitus, for example, is fully in command of his faculties - and his hatred for the Green Lantern Corps is well justified, which makes his creation of the Red Lantern Corps all the more compelling and exciting.

The Blue Lantern Corps

The Blue Lantern Corps, based on the Blue Light of Hope, was formed by former Guardians Ganthet and Sayd - and are deisnged to inspire hope in the galaxy. Their rings work in conjunction with Green Rings - raising Ring power levels to 200% just by being in proximity to a Green Lantern. The Blue Lantern Corps are sort of like priests - representing faith and hope - and making it into something tangible. Their mantra is "All will be well". Just like faith in real life, results of "hope" are not always immediate - but the Blue Lanterns stick to their guns that "All will be well".

Saint Walker, the lead Blue Lantern, has proved very popular - and has even joined the Justice League of America.

The Orange Lantern Corps

One of the best and funniest of the Lantern Corps is Agent Orange, aka Larfleeze. The Orange Light of Avarice (or Greed) acts like a disease - compelling the user to simply always want things. In keeping with the theme of Greed, Larfleeze is the only weilder of the Orange Light - wanting it all to himself. He creates his "Corps" by creating Orange Constructs of various victims who where unlucky enough to stray into his territory.

Geoff Johns has said he writes Larfleeze like Daffy Duck. He can be cartoonish and funny, and endlessly entertaining - becoming a great hit with fans and one of the best new characters to be added to the DCU. The simple concept of Avarice is probably the most understood and sympathized emotion - since any comic fan and collector can attest to it's sway in some form or another. The Orange Lantern Christmas Special, where Larfleeze expected to get presents from Santa Claus, was one of the funniest and sweetest stories -- as Larfleeze had to come to the harsh realization that Santa Claus wasn't real. Among his monstrously long wish list - the one at the top, "My Family", sadly couldn't be delivered on Christmas morning.

The Indigo Tribe

The final group to appear was the Indigo Tribe. The Indigo Lanterns are able to channel and use the color energy of all the other Corps. They talk in a strange language which Green Lantern rings cannot translate. Their origins are still unexplained, but they proved invaluable during the Blackest Night.

The Blackest Night

The entire Green Lantern revival really came to a head when the Blackest Night mini-series began. The Prophecy of the War of Light, a war between all the colored corps, was slowly being full-filled in the main GL series. The antithesis of the emotional spectrum is death - and the entire universe would feel the darkness, as the dead where forced to rise and become Black Lanterns.

All sorts of dead heroes where revived, from the Martian Manhunter to Earth-2 Superman - it was a nightmare for all the characters of the DCU. There had been so many death and revivals in DC Comics in recent years - and that proved very useful in the various stories and confrontations that arose from these revivals. The corpses of the dead where given life - and their mission was to devour the hearts and emotions of the living. The series climxed with even the recently revived heroes, like Superman, Superboy, Green Arrow, Ice, ect -- they where also transformed into Black Lanterns.

During the series, to help fight back against the over-wheming forces they where facing, all the colored rings created emergency dupties - allowing certain DCU Heroes to take on the different lantern colors. This proved very exciting - as there where many characters that so perfectly fit the different colors for that moment.

The series all lead to a big revelation - what the Black Lanterns, lead by the villain Nekron, where after all along -- the White Entity of Life. The goal of the Black Lanterns was to kill the White Entity - and thus end all life in the universe.

In a shocking twist, it wasn't Hal Jordan who first connected with the White Light - it was Sinestro! He had seemingly achieved ultimate power - becoming the greatest lantern of them all. Yet his ego wouldn't allow him to retain the position. The Black Lanterns where defeated, though, when all the returned dead heroes where made into White Lanterns. At the end there was a surprise - various characters who should have returned to being dead, like all the other Black Lanterns, where kept alive. It lead into a series called Brightest Day.

The Green Lantern series continued on with Hal Jordan confronting a new threat in the wake of the Blackest Night. Someone was capturing all of the emotional entities (each group has one, similar to Parallax - a creature that is the embodiment of that particular emotion). Jordan was forced to join forces with all the lead Lanterns of each group - essentially becoming the "New Guardians".

The villain who was collecting the entities is actually an older Green Lantern foe - a former Guardian of the Universe named Krona. He wants to take revenge against his fellow Guardians, and is able to use Parallax to infect the entire Green Lantern Corps with fear - essentially mind controlling them. This leads Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and Kyle Rayner to abandon their Green Rings and take up different colored rings. This storyline, War of the Green Lanterns, is where the series is right now.

I'm very excited to see the Green Lantern franchise become as powerful and successful as it has been. Hopefully, with the upcoming movie, more people will be able to see what comic fans have been enjoying all these years. This feels like it's only the beginning.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Playstation Network's "Welcome Back" Package Disappoints

Update: Below is my reaction to the Playstation Network's "Welcome Back Package". I found it a bit underwhelming. Anyway - it seems like it might be a moot point for the moment, as the PSN is still having problems, with the store still down. It says here that the store will come back on May 24th. We'll see. I sure hope they decide to improve the Welcome Back Package, given all they are putting players through.


The Playstation Network is back online! And Sony has been promising a "Welcome Back" Package to make up for the extended time the network was down. (Also, to help us forget that Sony lost all of our personal information like credit card numbers and passwords) Anyway - seeing as my credit card hasn't been illegally used - I thought maybe this could turn out to be a good thing, and maybe I could get some cool free stuff to make up for the hassle.

I really should have known better. For starters, the Playstation Store is still down in my area. Sony went out and announced that the PSN was back on-line. And indeed it is; except for the store. I can imagine that Sony is getting bombarded by similarly excited fans trying to access the servers all at once. I know they had some over-load in regards to re-setting everyone's passwords -- so that explains why the store might still be down a full day later. Wouldn't it have been smarter, though, to open up regions in stages - instead of just announcing "the PSN is available in America again!" -- because I just wasted my day checking every so often to see if the PSN Store was open again.

Turns out, though, there really isn't a reason I should be so eager to log-on to the store anyway - because Sony's announced Welcome Back Package isn't very good to begin with. I do realize - I'm being argumentative about stuff being given away for Free -- but I really was expecting something a whole lot better. Here's what's going to be made available to people.

"All PlayStation Network customers can select two PS3 games from the following list. The games will be available for 30 days shortly after PlayStation Store is restored and can be kept forever.
  • Dead Nation
  • inFAMOUS
  • LittleBigPlanet
  • Super Stardust HD
  • Wipeout HD + Fury

For PSP owners, you will be eligible to download two PSP games from the following list. The games will be available for 30 days shortly after PlayStation Store is restored and can be kept forever.
  • LittleBigPlanet (PSP)
  • ModNation Racers
  • Pursuit Force
  • Killzone Liberation"

Again, as far as free stuff goes - many people will be very happy. Little Big Planet and Infamous are very good games. I should know -- I bought them. So immediately two games aren't very useful to me. Dead Nation looks like a top-down shooter... Not interested at all. Super Stardust looks pretty - but, again, it's not exactly what I'm looking for. I think I might enjoy Wipeout - but even with that, Racers aren't my first genre of choice. Oh, and I don't own a PSP - so that's useless to me too.

I then thought to myself - well, if I didn't own Infamous, this would be a pretty good deal. Yet you have to remember, all of these downloadable games require memory to store. I get the feeling something as big as Infamous might require a lot of memory. I'm one of the early PS3 adopters - with the "Fat" PS3, with 55GB of space. I have about 10 GB of space left -- so even if I wanted to, I might not even be able to download a game like Infamous.

It really all boils down to this - which would have been a much better offer to already annoyed fans -- let them pick the games they want to get to free! Or at the very least, offer more than 5 games!

Sony is just really letting me down over this entire ordeal. I thought I might have a little more restored faith in them, if they really could compensate us all for the trouble we've experienced. But, really, only 5 games? I'm not exactly singing Sony's praises right now...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Comic Review: Venom #2

You can read my Venom review here at the Comic Book Revolution website.

Sorry for only being able to provide a link. Apparently Google can penalize website's search rank ratings if the same review is posted at two locations. So to avoid that I'll just provide a link to it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Portal 2: Personalities Disected *Spoilers*

I've always hated the discussion, "Nature vs Nurture". It bugs me that it has to be one or the other, in determining how a person acts. There are clearly a wide degree of factors. Not everyone that grows up in an abusive household, for example, are necessarily going to be abusive people themselves. Yet that kind of environment, obviously, doesn't help. So it's a lot more complex than asking weather it's Nature vs Nurture when figuring out why some people are bad.

Portal 2, however, really broke it down for me. See, in the game you reactivate the evil AI System GLaDOS. Even though she's a computer, you just can't help but have animosity towards her. She's trapped you in an endless maze of test centers, with deadly traps and puzzles -- and when you reactivate her, she's even more ticked off at you because you killed her in the last game - so the feeling is mutual. You simply hate GLaDOS. Yes, she's ultimately a piece of software - but she's suppose to be a sentient piece of software, right? Either way, she's trying to kill you - so you're understandably upset with her.

In the course of the game a new character, a personality sphere named Wheatley, helps you defeat GLaDOS once again, by installing himself as the new AI of the facility. Almost immediately Wheatley is drunk on power and betrays you. You're immediately sent off for more testing. Eventually you run into GLaDOS again - discovering that Wheatley put her in a potato powered battery. Wheatley is just not equipped to run the facility, as it's clear the place is going to blow up. So you reluctantly team up with Potato/GLaDOS. You immediately think "I don't care if we have a common enemy, you're just as worse as the current guy." But through the course of your adventure through the bowels of the Aperture Science facilities, you discover the origins of GLaDOS. Her personality was originally based on the wife of Aperture Science's Founder, Cave Johnson. Cave Johnson wasn't going to live long enough for technology to be able to download his mind into a computer. So he made the scientists promise to preserve his wife's mind. Her name was Caroline, and her mind was the basis for what ultimately became GLaDOS. You begin to feel some sympathy for GLaDOS. With the rediscovery of her origins, GLaDOS even becomes a more supportive partner in defeating Wheatley.

What really began to show the inner working of GLaDOS, and what made her so evil to begin with, was seeing all the same forces that effected GLaDOS now effecting Wheatley. GLaDOS was programmed to always want to test. In fact, there's somewhat of a drug-like high she gets when testing. Wheatley is experiencing the exact same effect - as he struggles to put you through more and more puzzles. Apparently there begins to be an immunity to the High Wheatley is experiencing -- GLaDOS had a much more sophisticated (smart) system, and was able to cope with the highs and lows of the effect. Equally, it's shown that GLaDOS cannot give a test subject the answer to a puzzle - or it hurts her.

Essentially GLaDOS' programming we, as the players, so easily dismissed before -- it's all laid bare for us to see. She was truly trapped in her programming - with so many forces prodding her to be the relentless and evil testing machine she is. Being this way is a clear result of GLaDOS' nature. But what about the nurturing side of the equation? Yes, GLaDOS had the basis of Caroline's mind to rely on, but it clearly all went horribly wrong. I doubt the scientists of Aperture Science where very nice (or ethical) in how they programmed and used her either.

For GLaDOS the building blocks are very basic, especially in comparison to real people's personalities. The biggest tie-breaker in the Nature vs Nurture debate is, of course, free will. Even with all the programming and experience working against her - once she's reinstalled as the AI of the facility, does GLaDOS demonstrate free will? She's been on this big adventure with her biggest nemesis - and even learned about her origins as Caroline. You helped her regain her old position. So, do we see some gratitude? Did GLaDOS change? Did GLaDOS learn anything? In fact, she did! Rediscovering Caroline taught her a lot -- which is why she promptly deleted Caroline from her memory. It doesn't look good - GLaDOS is back in her old body, and is quickly returning to her evil ways. Yet -- she makes a decision. She releases the main character, actually bringing her all the way to the surface. She sort of rudely kicks her out, but GLaDOS did indeed keep her end on the bargain. Everything that made GLaDOS what she was, and even with everything she learned deleted, GLaDOS made a different choice than expected.

We real people, of course, make decisions all the time. They are so heavily informed on almost every aspect of our entire being -- but we ultimate use free will as that crucial tie-breaker between Nature vs Nurture. I know it was just a story in the game, but it really struck me as very instructive. GLaDOS went from a hated antagonist, to a sympathetic character you more fully understood, and ultimately now regard her as a more realized character. She's still no doubt going to be evil in the future - but once you see what motivates a person to be like they are - it changes you're perspective on them. We experience it all the time in real life - perhaps we hate a particular person, but later learned more about their troubles. You don't always stop hating said person, but knowing what motivates them to be so dislikable gives you a new perspective. We all have underlying motivations that make us all who we are, and it can be very informative for us to remember that before purely hating or judging someone. I'm not saying it's ever an excuse for someone, using their past and troubles to justify bad behavior - but it's instructive to for others, and maybe even the person in question, to realize what exactly is motivating their behavior.

Comic Review: Thor #620

My reviews from now on can be read at Comic Book Revolution. Click here for the my Thor review.

I'll still post my future Comic Reviews here - but I'll merely be directing you to it listed at the Comic Book Revolution website. (It has something to do with Google penalizing sites' search ranking, for having the same Reviews. It's suppose to combat spam, but seems like it hits legitimate things like this as well.)