Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Matt's Weekly Comics: 11/28/12

Last week was dominantly Marvel pick-ups for me. DC is the alpha male this week. I'll start with the underdog just as I did last week.

Is it really accurate to say underdog, though? The only Marvel comic I bought this week is FF #1 and bro, it's my favorite of the whole bunch.

The art is stupendous! Oh my glob guys! It has this kind of retro, goofy look to it, and it's packed with color and personality. It's very expressive and quite wonderful. Jesus!

The overall tone of the book is not quite what I was expecting. I was more or less expecting straight-up comedy and cheese but it's really not taking that angle, and I actually appreciate that given what this book actually seems to be. It's fun, and moderately light-hearted, but there's more than enough serious undertone to set the stage for legitimate drama and sweet moments. This is going to be a wonderful comic, and it ties into the main Fantastic Four book in clever fashion. I skipped Fantastic Four #1 last week (or was it two weeks ago?) but after reading this issue I'll be getting it and keeping up with these both for the long haul. It seems too special not to jump on, right at the start.

On to DC.

I was pretty excited to read Batman Inc. #5, as this is an issue that continues upon a possible dystopian future for Gotham, first introduced in Batman #666 (which I unfortunately haven't read), in which Damian Wayne becomes Batman and things take a turn for the worst.

I read it, and you see, Grant Morrison's Batman work is incredibly dense and often times hard to follow. But it's just so interesting. There's a lot to chew on, and it's such high concept, strange stuff. I liked what was here a lot, but I'm still so confused. I've read all of his Batman Inc. work and half of his Batman and Robin stuff, but I still feel like I'm missing a lot.

I like reading his work despite feeling perpetually lost, and hey, his boy Chris Burnham knows how to draw.

What else, um... I read the new issue of Batman: The Dark Knight, which is up to #14 now. I've been reading ever since Greg Hurwitz jumped on board and I've been consistently enjoying myself, but this issue is kind of lame. Batman escapes the Scarecrow's dungeon but it's very sudden and anticlimactic. The girl who was stolen by Scarecrow is stupidly sympathetic towards the baddy and heavy-handedly skeptical of Batman. And then the ending very quickly sets up the Scarecrow's next plan, which is absolutely nothing that hasn't already been popularly done before.

There's what I believe to be a subtle reference to Penguin: Pain and Prejudice here that I enjoyed, and the art's great, but that's just about the most positive I can be about this book.

Pretty lame.

I picked up Aquaman #14, which I was very glad to do. I loved the first five issues of The New 52's Aquaman. Great stuff. Then all the "The Others" crap started and I bailed. Read like a sterile history textbook to me, albeit with some nice artwork. Not my cup of tea.

This is a lead into a Justice League/Aquaman crossover and it's looking pretty cool so far. I missed quite a bit skipping from what, I think I skipped 9-13? I read the zero issue. But yeah I missed a lot but I figured it all out I think. The new artist isn't nearly as nice as the old one but it's not bad.

Lastly I read Talon #2, which I have mixed feelings on. The Court of Owls remains an awesome clan of assassins, and this issue ushers in new and vastly superior art. This issue clearly paints Calvin and his old-guy assistant as interesting, morally-grey individuals, which I like even though it feels partially artificial at times. Calvin is depicted as quite selfish here, caring only about saving two friends of his that just sort of pop in out of no where. His actions and thoughts are arguably justifiable, considering what he's been through, but I feel like it's quite a leap from his heroic characterization of the first two issues. And it's something that I can just sort of forgive, but really, this one assassin with no super powers is really a threat to the entire Court? Freaking Batman got his ass kicked!

I suppose that's all. Bye. Go read comics and eat your vegetables.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale (Game) - Review

Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale was an interesting proposal when it was first unveiled. It looked to be a game seemingly copying the Super Smash Bros. formula, save for Playstation characters filling in for Nintendo's vast roster of plumbers and dragons and bounty hunters. Can Sony compete with the one modern Nintendo game that no "hardcore" gamer dares to dismiss? Well, while Playstation All-Stars is not the overwhelmingly passionate hunk of gold that say, Brawl is, it is incredibly fun, and it did for me something that I doubt future Smash Bros. games will be able to do: It made me feel as though I was playing a Smash Bros. game for the first time again.

Playstation All-Stars is a four-player fighting game taking obvious inspiration from Super Smash Bros., creating a more friendly, party atmosphere than serious fighters like Street Fighter 4 or Tekken do. Just like its inspiration it plays out on a 2D plane, has simple inputs for pulling off attacks, takes place in zany arenas rife with environmental hazards, and throws random items at the combatants to spice things up. But don't be fooled: PS All-Stars plays a great deal differently from Smash Bros. It has its own unique gameplay, making it more strategic and therefor less accessible. Regardless, it's very fun.

Smash Bros. has players wailing on their opponents to kick them off of the screen. KO is the name of the game. It works a lot differently in PS All-Stars. There are no health bars in PS All-Stars like it may seem so at first, but each player has an AP bar. Successfully attacking your opponents fills up your AP bar, and sometimes taking damage yourself subtracts from your bar. Once you fill the bar once, you can do a level one super, and once you do it twice, you can do a level two super, and the same for three times for a level three. Using these powerful and stylish attacks, which are a lot like special attacks in standard fighters like Street Fighter or smash attacks in Brawl, is the only way to kill your opponents.

This makes the game very strategic. If you fail to use your super attacks effectively, which get progressively more deadly from level one to two to three, you will lose. If you wait to build up a level three super and you don't manage to get any kills, you more or less lost yourself the entire match; perhaps without any kills. I absolutely love it. Matches are tense, and its very reliant on skill without ever feeling overwhelming. Learning this game and its characters and its stages is invigorating, as it gives me the illusion that I'm playing Smash Bros. again for the first time, but with playstation characters. What makes this faux-first-time even more entertaining is the very smooth online play, HD visuals, and the option to continue your progress on the go on the Vita, allowing this game to do things that Smash Bros. has never done before.

It is upsetting that it's not as widely as appealing as Smash Bros. PS All-Stars most likely won't appeal to the more casual crowd, and it will most likely be too complex for folks like young children. Smash Bros. is simple and easy to understand at its core, but it has hidden depth, while PS All-Stars is exactly what it seems like on the surface: It's strategic and a bit complex.

It's clear that Developer Superbot Entertainment is passionate about this game, and truly has a love for the Playstation brand. The team was able to capture the essence of all of the initial characters thrown on the disc. Fans of each character's respective game series will likely enjoy that character's move lists, animations, sound bites and story bits in the Arcade mode. I'm a big Sly Cooper fan, and I can definitely say that it made me feel good inside to see Sly hop in his sneaky TNT barrel, glide in his paraglider, and team up with Bentley and Murray to defend the Thievius Raccoonus from the thief known only as Nathan Drake. Superbot does equally cool stuff for the rest of the roster and it's fantastic. Superbot gets it.

Each character has his own arcade mode to play through, following a quirky and entertaining story that pits them against another playstation character, but unfortunately, two of the three included cutscenes for each characters' playthrough are simply compilations of still images. Each character also has a set of around 20 challenges to complete, but none of them are unique to that character. There aren't many stages, there's no survival mode or something similar, and the menus look bland. Some aspects of PS All-Stars come off as lazy, which makes me feel as though Sony may have rushed this game out. Hopefully frequent and reasonably-priced DLC can keep this game alive for a long time.

There are a plentiful amount of characters on the disc, though. The graphics are colorful, crisp and interesting. The voice acting is not phoned-in and done by quality talents. The original music is thumping and convivial, and the rest are good picks from various Playstation games. The presentation is not all bad.

Overall, Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale is a great game. It's not as accessible as Smash Bros. has proven to be, its not as charming as Smash Bros. irrevocably is, it's not as feature-rich as Smash Bros. games tend to be, but it's a great game. Superbot understands how to make Playstation fans feel good inside, and they managed to make the game unique in its own right. Its gameplay is tense and strategic; both perhaps arguably more so than its inspiration. Playstation All-Stars made me feel like I was playing a Smash Bros. game for the first time again, and it manages to be HD, capably-online, and portable first.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Matt's Weekly Comics - 11/21/12

My little ditty from last week about my weekly comics pick-ups was a bit of a frustrating experience for me. I couldn’t properly explain my feelings on Batman #14; so much that I had to update the article. And I still don’t think I got my point across that effectively, after that.

But nobody reads these posts, so it’s okay! Here comes this week’s!

This week was filled with an abnormal amount of Marvel goodness for me, all thanks to Marvel Now and a particularly packed week for the books I follow from the publisher. I bought 6 Marvel books, and one DC book.

Let’s start with the DC book!

Justice League #14! I really enjoyed this issue. This Cheetah-lady-baddy is expanded upon with some lore that fortunately manages to add to the plot without boring my face. The romantic relationship of Superman and the excessively-sexualized Wonder Woman also further develops, and it’s a little heavy-handed but it’s sweet enough. We don’t normally see two God-like superheroes in a relationship together, and it’s cool, so it’s appreciated.

What’s really amazing about this new story arc is the artwork from Tony Daniel. I was initially upset when I heard that he and his artwork would be replacing the legendary Jim Lee and his appropriately-blockbuster scribbles, as I found Daniel’s work on The New 52’s Detective Comics to be just-okay. I had no reason to be afraid, however, because he draws the friggin’ crap out of this book. My iPad has two new wallpapers.

Marvel timez!

The first book I read, thanks to Dan Slott’s masterful skill at cranking the hype-machine, was The Amazing Spider-Man #698. And, uh, yeah. Wtf, man.

Slott sure has a zany idea to change the Spidey status quo. I have no idea how it will turn out, and I mean that in regard to both plot progression and general quality.

I liked the art a lot.

Okay, um, I read Indestructible Hulk #1 after that, as it’s been one of my most anticipated comics ever since it was announced. It totally rules. Bruce Banner and Hulk are portrayed for all intents and purposes exactly how they are in The Avengers film, which should be enough to support my “it totally rules” thesis. The art fits this book perfectly and looks great, though I do think that the action can look a bit confusing. Hard to follow the smashes!

But yeah, awesome first issue, this is gonna be something very special.

Deadpool #2 is not as enjoyable as the first issue but it’s still very awesome, and it still brings the lulz. Deadpool takes a stab at Kevin James’s recent filmography, he’s seduced by overtly-sexualized Marvel characters, etc. The super-gory art is also very pleasing to my eyeballs. I like this book. Even though it’s lame and comes out twice a month. $6 a month Marvel?! I AIN’T RICH!

Captain America #1 is a comic I almost didn’t get, and it’s a comic that made me nearly-cringe with its convoluted-sounding solicit-details, but it turned out to be my pick of the week.
It opens with an incredibly satisfying theme, which is introduced in a flashback to Cap’s childhood and translated to a fun and quick set piece in modern times - a set piece putting Cap against a goofy-amazing bad guy. Then it translates into stuff with his girlfriend, raising the question: Can Captain America quit being a soldier and instead be a man?

And then the set-up for this story arc is introduced, answering that question with a solid “no.”
The artwork is also fantastic. It looks like rough sketches with careful coloring, which may sound bad, but trust me, it looks so very cool.

This book has me. Heart.

Daredevil #20 came out, and it’s really trippy. The villain introduced at the end of the last issue closes the door for the dark stuff that went on in past issues, but opens new doors for more dark stuff. The new dark stuff is done so cleverly that it’s not depressing, but it’s still messed up.
I like it. The art remains very pretty, as well.

Hawkeye #4 was also a thing. Aja didn’t do the art so it’s not quite as amazing-looking as it usually is - this issue isn’t incredibly PURPLE like the others - but it still looks good. The dialogue continues to be fun and clever, but the plot this time around doesn’t start and end in the same issue, and it’s actually kinda heavy, dire stuff. Those last two things aren’t necessarily bad, stories that go past one issue is fine, and heavy, dire stories are fine, but I just wish this was a done-in-one light-hearted romp like the first three issues. Those last three issues hit a real sweet spot.

It’s good. Definitely different than the last three, and the least compelling thus far.

I proofread and uploaded his from my phone on my way to the movies. I’m a pro, dammit! A PRO!

I’M GONNA WRECK IT! now. Peace.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Matt's Weekly Comics - 11/14/12

[minor spoilers ahead]

I had to work today. I don't normally work on Wednesdays. So this is why this is up so late. And I'm chilling out on single-issue releases, to save $$$. Which is why there are only four. I wanted Punk Rock Jesus pretty bad, but my iTunes funds are like a dollar or so off. I'll get it within the next week, most likely talk about it in my piece for next week.

But yeah, let's do this.

I was pretty damn excited for Batman #14; so excited that I bought, downloaded and read it on my iPhone before I got home from school today.

This Joker arc isn't as mind-blowing as I expected it to be, at least going off of these first two issues, but it's definitely high-quality stuff. I really love how Greg Capullo draws the Joker: So much that it's probably my favorite aspect of this story so far. I really like Joker's plan centered around screwing around with Batman's psyche, trying to convince him that his allies drag him down and that cutting them off is the only way that he can be the king that the court jester expects.

A big part of the story seems to be based upon the possibility that the Joker knows the secret identities of the Bat-Family. This is a scary and tense idea, but it comes off as a little goofy to me: A three year-old could figure out these people's secret identities. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief, as often must be done in the realm of mainstream comics, but when you take a silly comic book trope and try to exploit it for legitimate suspense and fear, it doesn't work especially well.

Now, if the Joker mocks their ability to keep their identities secret as harshly as I did, I'll probably have to eat my words. But right now it's not treated lightly by anyone in the plot, and really, honestly, I think he's bluffing, anyway.

Now I actually enjoyed Batgirl #14 a whole hell of a lot. It's my favorite book I read out of my four this week. It is a very well-executed throwback to The Killing Joke and manages to surprise and satisfy from start to finish. It's creepy, fun, and exciting in its sheer quality.

The last page is the type of dark, twisted storytelling I'm disappointed that Snyder hasn't yet delivered with Joker. Hell, the quality of this issue trumps anything Snyder has done with Joker so far if you ask me.

I also read Batman and Robin #14, and it's a fun read. It's a simple Robin-saves-the-day story. He fights zombies and goes rogue and has some funny little quips. His dad ain't too fond of his rogue-going but a touching reveal at the end turns it around. Good stuff all-around. The art seems better than this book's usual, even.

And lastly Saga #7. Thank GOD this book is back. It's funny, sweet, gorgeous, dripping with creativity and just a very good thing.

There's also an amazing picture of a fully nude and fully grotesque monster that fills a page. It's probably the best thing ever. I giggle at the prospect of Vaughn telling Staples to draw all of this shit.

That's all. A week in which Batman is my least favorite [but still a very enjoyable!] read, and Saga isn't my favorite.

God works in mysterious ways.

UPDATE/EDIT: I feel like I didn’t properly explain my feelings on my problem with Joker possibly knowing the Bat Family’s secret identities. Let me try this again:

I think that the Bat Family does a pathetic job of keeping their identities a secret. And I’m not willing to entirely forgive things like this, I am willing to suspend my disbelief and forget about things like this in grandiose superhero stories, because these stories are too enjoyable in their complexity to get hung up on something like that. I am not, however, willing to suspend my disbelief so much that the prospect of Joker figuring out their identities is some impossible, impressive feat. Because it just isn’t. I’m not scared.

If the writing chose to be self-aware, and Joker toyed with the heroes and mocked them for how poorly they kept their identities a secret, I would have really enjoyed this idea. But as it stands, it’s treated like a massively big deal, and I find that goofy.

I still did really like this issue, guys, don’t get me wrong. My one issue with it is just very nuanced. I love Joker’s dialogue, I love the art, and the central theme about Batman’s allies possibly weighing him down is brilliant. I’m just not impressed by Joker figuring out their identities.

And I think he’s bluffing anyways.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Matt's Weekly Comics - 11/7/12

Heeeeeeey y'allllll. New comics came out today.


I read Deadpool #1 first, because I thought that Deadpool #1 would be awesome, and Deadpool #1 indeed happens to be quite awesome. It's my favorite book of the week. It's hilarious. I LOL'd more than a few times. There are jokes about universal healthcare, Lincoln's assassination, and wheel chairs, and it's just grand. The creators made the bold move of getting rid of Deadpool's voices-in-his-head, and it's a decision for the better, as it makes it all easier to read.

Totally gonna be following this month-to-month.

Buy it. Support it. Love it.

I also got Iron Man #1 and... ehhhh. It was okay. The whole book just felt off to me, and it's hard of pinpoint why. Perhaps it's the super-serious speeches from Tony meshed with his blonde-bimbo-flirting. Perhaps it's the ginormous grins on 98% of the pictures of the characters' faces. The comic as a whole has a sort of forced, manufactured atmosphere to it.

But it's a pretty cool set-up, with some pretty cool bits sprinkled in. I like the villain, and the parallels it has to the crooks that made him become Iron Man in the first place. I like his super-cool suit that can jump from his suitcase in the form of liquid metal onto his body in its true form. I like how he gets the information he needs out of this issue's main baddy at the end.

Iron Man #1 is a toss-up. Not sure if I'll get the next issue. Don't particularly want to.

Rounding out my books from Marvel this week is Avenging Spider-Man #14, which as always is lots of fun. This time Spider-Man fights dinosaurs. And the art's really cool. The dialogue has extra-cheese. Great stuff.

Now onto DC.

Swamp Thing #14 and Animal Man #14 are pretty sweet. The art, writing and plot for these two books are consistently superb, and Rot World is going super-swell so far. William Arcane is also back, and his reveal in Animal Man is especially creepy.

Lastly, Batwing. Which I really enjoyed. The new story arc is twisted, badass and interesting. 'Nuff said.

And that's all. These pieces aren't too awful are they?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Campaign - Review

In an attempt to grab some big bucks throughout election season, Hollywood has spit out an obligatory comedy casting two of their most popular actors as candidates fighting for office, and I would bet that you people fell for it hook, line and sinker.

Yeah, you know, this movie is actually pretty great.

The premise is a lot more complex than the trailers make it out to be. Will Ferrel plays Cam Brady, a politician in congress who, at the beginning of the film, is about to accept victory by simply signing up to run, as he has no competition for 2012. Motch Corporation (one of the heads of this corporation is Dan Ackroyd, by the way) seizes the opportunity to pick a candidate to spar with him, in an attempt to get him on-board with political action that would benefit their business. The choose Marty Huggins, played by Zach Galifianakis.

The catch that I wasn't fully expecting is that this movie is completely ridiculous. I thought that the accidental punch of a baby on Cam Brady's part was pretty ridiculous when I saw it in the previews, but the movie goes much further than that; not just with that scene, which is expand upon in the actual movie to make it much more brutal, but with a myriad of other bits. It's a movie that grabbed my attention and didn't let go until it finished, because I was quite intrigued in how far the movie is willing to go. It's hilarious.

Considering how far a lot of these jokes go, and how utterly bonkers the stakes become, this movie can be seen as nothing more than a comedic exaggeration of American politics. I had to do a double take on Motch's evil plan: they're not "creating jobs" as a ploy to outsource jobs to China, they're doing it as a ploy for China to literally buy a part of our country, and host child labor there for fifty-cents an hour. The movie smartly jumps on other funny or strange things in our politics, such as our dogmatic fear of Marxism and terrorism, and sensationalist political ads. There's a nice touch of commentary, and it's entertaining.

The performances all-around in this film are fantastic. Will Ferrel is great at playing dunces, and his performance as the sex-crazed and selfish Cam Brady is no exception. Zach Galifianakis plays up his well-intentioned but nutty and weak character well. The supporting cast also does a fine job, including performances playing Marty's reserved and boring wife, as well as Motch's youthful yet soulless campaign manager. The icing on the casting cake is in the form of appearances from political commentators like Bill Maher and Pierce Morgan.

A disappointment, though, is that the movie plays it safe in terms of the positions the two candidates espouse. Marty is the Republican, and the movie makes sure you know by making him a humorously flamboyant stereotype of Christian-fundamentalists, and Cam is the Democrat, with an eery similarity to Anthony Wiener, but the movie doesn't do much beyond that. They both just seem to be fighting mainly for jobs, which serves the central plot of the evil "job-creating" corporation, but it's is also a bit disorienting and annoying that they play up these stereotypes but do next to nothing with them. A movie like this doesn't have to have commentary on the two parties or mainstream political views, but it feels missing because the set-up is all here.

It's a very good movie as a whole, though. Performances by not just Will Ferrel and Zach Galifianakis but also the supporting cast, matched with this movie's ridiculous plot spoofing our political system, make this movie hilarious. The safe move on the film's part of avoiding commentary on actual political positions is lame, but I didn't notice anything else about the movie that is particularly weak. It's a fun, dumb ride that just may bring some attention to America's often goofy politics.