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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dark Wolverine Volume 1: The Prince


Title: Dark Wolverine Volume 1:
The Prince






ISBN: 9780785139003


Price: $24.99


Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2009


Artist: Guiseppe Camuncoli, Tommy Lee Edwards


Writer: Daniel Way


Collects: Wolverine #73-74, Dark Wolverine #75-77





Rating: 3.5/5




The story of Daken Akihiro, better known as Dark Wolverine, is an intriguing
one, filled with half-truths, misconceptions and allusions that leaves us with
only more questions. Is Daken really as evil as his father, Logan, believes? Is
he a bad guy? What are his motives? While these questions aren’t exactly
answered in “Dark Wolverine: The Prince,” which is a collection of issues 75-77
in the series and issues 73 and 74 in “Wolverine,” the series is an absolute
blast to read through and prove that Akihiro, just like his father, is the type
of character worth digging your claws into.



Co-written by Marvel vet-Daniel Way and novelist Marjorie Liu, the trade has
a sneaky feel to it, as you never quite know what to expect. With sprinkles of
Machiavellian quotations in between the dialogue, which mainly consists of the
inner thoughts of Daken, as he hatches his master plan, this trade has the feel
of a novella, rather than a comic book.



That’s anything but a problem though, as this character is as deep as a
tortured soul in a work by Poe and as brash as a Hemingway hero. Simply put, after
reading these issues that comprise this trade, you’ll be running to find the
next one. As cool as James Bond and as tough as his father, Daken is a walking
oxymoron- a philosopher and student of life that refuses to use his
intelligence when in combat, a manipulator with a heart and a lover without a
soul.



If anyone ever wondered if “House of M” was worth it in long run, the birth
of this character has to be a huge selling point.



With a fresh spin and tons of potential, “Dark Wolverine” is a series worth
keeping your eyes on and “The Prince” is living proof of that.



Away from the writing however, the art, done marvelously by Guiseppe
Camuncoli and Tommy Lee Edwards is both a tribute to the old Wolverine comics
of yesteryear [one panel in particular shows Daken, in his father's costume
with an olive from a martini in his mouth- the resemblance here to papa claws
is uncanny] while being chic and savvy enough [using tons of color and huge
panels for action scenes] to attract new readers. This, coupled with covers by
Adam Kubert and you have a great looking book that compliments the solid
writing beautifully.



Because of the level of the writing and polish in the visuals, regardless of
one’s affinity for Marvel’s most popular character or not, any fan of the medium
owes it to themselves to check out this trade. Full of original thought,
sexiness and pizazz, it’s a rare treat for anyone sick of the same old
characters in the industry today.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

G.I. Joe: Retaliation


Title: G.I. Joe: Retaliation




Rating: PG-13

Production Company/Year: Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Skydance Productions,

Hasbro, Di Bonaventura Pictures,
2013

Director: Jon M. Chu

Writer: Rhett Reese,
Paul Wernick

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1583421/?ref_=hm_inth_t1




Rating: 3.5/5



After the disappointment that was G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, I wasn't quite sure if I actually wanted to see this movie. Before Rise of Cobra, I was psyched due to my childhood love of G.I. Joe and I didn't want to get betrayed again.



After they pulled this movie from it's original June 2012 release date to make it 3D, I really had my doubts. I felt that if it couldn't stand alone with its story and FX without the addition of 3D, it would be another letdown. After the awesomeness that was the Avengers movie, I understand why the execs for this movie decided to push it to a 2013 release.



After all my initial misgivings about this movie, I decided to go and watch it anyways.



Though much of the original cast didn't return for this sequel, and Channing Tatum as Duke didn't last very long, I think that may have been for the better. There was not much mention to what actually happened to people like Scarlett, Ripcord, General Hawk, Heavy Duty, Baroness and Mainframe.



I appreciated that it looked like the writers actually had read some of the original comic books. Fans of the original Marvel series should appreciate the Arashikage Mind-Set being used and a great homage to the "Silent Issue". There is a great deal of ninja action packed into this movie, but thankfully it doesn't go overboard and introduce the Ninja Force. (Read the later issues of the original run of Marvel's G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero series to understand that reference.)



I was hesitant about seeing Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in this movie since his movies have been fairly hit-or-miss, IMHO. I think Johnson's performance was good and held the film together. I know that he has recently returned to wrestling in an effort to better promote his movies.



Ray Stevenson's portrayal of the Cobra saboteur Firefly was excellent, although I think that the motorcycle that split into separate rocket pieces was a little out there. Since I just finished reading the stories in the TPB's involving Firefly as a ninja, I was glad to see that the writers didn't take it that far for the character.



Whoever designed the costume for Snake Eyes in the original (Rise) movie should be very ashamed of themselves. Whoever designed the costume for the current incarnation of Snake Eyes should be commended. This was true to the Snake Eyes I remember as a child and what I've seen in the TPB's. This costume made my inner child very giddy.



Another aspect of the original comics was to promote the toys. I'm glad that this movie didn't have to sink so low as there is only a single reference to a named vehicle: the HISS tank. The new HISS tanks are a better concept that the original ones from the comics or the cartoons. I didn't feel that I had to suspend my understanding of reality to belief what I was seeing.



Of course, the ending was very open for a sequel, so I expect a final installment of the G.I. Joe series will come to us in 3-5 years.



One other side note... There were promo posters in the lobby of the Regal theater I went to. Here's what they look like on the front:



On the back of this poster, they are already promoting the release of the Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital combo that can be preordered at Walmart. I just had to laugh when I saw that.



Tuesday, March 26, 2013

System's We Play: D&D

Dungeons & Dragons-



If there were a book about the history of role playing games (which there may be and I have not yet read it), it would undoubtedly reference Dungeons & Dragons as the first published RPG system. This is where I first cut my teeth in role playing. My first characters were based on the rules from the original "Red Box".



The rules evolved through many incarnations: Expert, Master, Immortals, Advanced, 2nd Edition, 3/3.5 Edition and 4th edition. From this spawned Pathfinder... but that will be for another posting. Where D&D originated from TSR, it is now owned by Wizards of the Coast, which is owned by Hasbro.



In the beginning, the armor class system worked much differently than what we use in today's incarnations of Dungeons & Dragons. There was a score called Thac0, which stands for "To Hit Armor Class 0". There was even an easy to use dial to help you understand Thac0:







To some people, Thac0 was a confusing trait. When you know your Thac0, you can calculate what you need to hit any armor class by adding or subtracting from that number. In those days, armor class started at 10 and worked it's way down rather than the higher your armor class the better. If you Thac0 is 17, then you would need a 13 to hit a creature with an armor class of 4 and you would need a 20 to hit armor class -3.



There also wasn't all the classes, feats and skills that 3rd edition introduced. Did this make earlier incarnations of D&D harder to play? Not to me. I feel that the addition of feats and skills do help to improve the game, but I have also seen where feats also hinder players when they are unfamiliar with how exactly the feats they choose work.



I don't remember D&D going overboard on the number of books they published until around 2nd edition. This is also when I decided I wasn't going to play as much and didn't buy the books. I believe it was at this time when a budding Wizards of the Coast began to influence the game. After Wizards purchased TSR, the books just seemed to keep rolling-out. This became all too evident when the officially released 3rd edition. The number of books that were published were just exorbitant. When my interest was drawn into 3/3.5 D&D, I too was sucked-in and purchased the books as they became available. Thank goodness I was working at a bookstore and received a discount.



Even though I didn't play all that often, I continued to purchase the new books until I left my position at the bookstore. The good thing about having all these books was that many of them kept their value, and a few even increased in value. When I sold my collection of 3/3.5 Dungeons & Dragons book, I started with the books I could live without. I kept the core books plus the primary settings materials and sold the rest. That got me through several months of being unemployed. A few years later, in another bought of unemployment, I would sell the rest of these books.



While I was working at the bookstore, I collected a set of the AD&D hardback books: Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, Monster Manual 1 & 2, Fiend Folio, Legend & Lore, Greyhawk Adventures, Dragon Lance Adventures, Manual of the Planes, Unearthed Arcana, Oriental Adventures, Dungeoneer's Survival Guide, Wilderness Survival Guide & even the Forgotten Realms Adventures boxed set. I also have a large collection of maps from various adventures, magazines, boxed sets and other places to use for just about any type of adventure. I don't pull these items out, but they make a great addition to my collection and it reminds me of my RPG roots. If I ever find a group of players who will run or play Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, I'll be ready.



When TSR first released their tome of God's, it was names Deities & Demigods. I remember checking this book out from my local library on several occasions. I think this book was what originally inspired me to research religions.







The first printing of Deities & Demigods included the mythoi of Cthulhu and Melnibone.  The ideas behind the Cthulhu mythos were in the public domain at that time, but copyright on the Cthulhu books in print was owned by Arkham House, who had licensed Chaosium to create a Cthulhu RPG based on those books.  TSR thought the public domain status allowed them to create game representations of whatever Cthulhu creatures they desired, and so that mythos was added to Deities & Demigods.  TSR then contacted Michael Moorcock, who gave permission for TSR to include the Melnibonean mythos in Deities & Demigods. However, again, Chaosium had already arranged for a license to create an Elric RPG.



Chaosium became upset that TSR was apparently violating Chaosium's licenses, and the print run of Deities & Demigods was halted while the two companies sat down to talk.  Eventually, they agreed that TSR could continue printing the books with the two mythoi as is, on the condition that a note be added to the preface: 'Special thanks are also given to Chaosium, Inc. for permission to use the material found in the Cthulhu Mythos and the Melnibonean Mythos.'  The printing plates were changed, and the first printing continued.



When the time for a second printing came, the Blume brothers decided that a TSR book should not contain such a prominent reference to one of their competitors. They decided to remove the two mythoi, and thus the need for the note.



Legends & Lore has identical contents to Deities & Demigods; the cover artwork was updated in-line with the other 1983 AD&D manuals, and the title was changed to avoid potential conflicts with fundamentalist Christian groups.







When I first started working at the bookstore, I found that there were several people listing the "Cthulhu" 1st edition of Deities & Demigods under the 3rd edition ISBN on Half.com. Most of the prices for these books on Half were not even close to what the actual book was selling for on eBay and to collectors. Like the Capitalist I am, I bought as many of these as I could and flipped them for a nice profit. I saved 1 copy for as long as I could. When unemployment hit, my last copy with "Cthulhu" was sold.



I was fortunate that my parent's were supportive of my growing imagination. I'm not sure when it was, but I do remember that my first D&D book was Fiend Folio given to me on Christmas.







The good thing was that it was a book that none of my other friends ever had. The bad thing was that I remember not really caring for any of the monsters it contained. I hardly used it until I was in high school and I began to appreciate a few of the creatures contained within its pages.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Walking Dead Volume 16: A Larger World





Title: The Walking Dead Volume
16: A Larger World





ISBN: 978160706553


Price: $14.99


Publisher/Year: Image, 2012


Artist: Charlie Adlard


Writer: Robert Kirkman


Collects: The Walking Dead #91-96





Rating: 4/5





The 'Walking Dead' series has had far more ups than downs so all I had
to do was hope that volume 16 took things back on an upward path rather than
the other direction. It's a slow path upwards but 'A Larger World' does start
to move things in the right direction again.



Supplies are growing dangerously low in the settlement and the surrounding area
has been picked clean of anything useful. Trips further afield are in order and
one such trip reveals that Rick's community isn't the only one trying to
survive. New encounters invariably mean new problems to solve though and Rick
and his friends must face up to some tough decisions if their community is
going to make it through the winter...



'A Larger World' has similar problems to the previous volume in terms of just
how safe the characters all are. There's a big walled settlement for shelter
and even the weakest character has killed enough zombies for that not to be an
issue either. A little bit of the tension is missing then but Kirkman sidesteps
this rather neatly by throwing the wider setting into sharper focus. There's a
whole new world out there and Kirkman shows us the potential here for new tales
yet to come.



If there's a problem here it's very much that all these tales are 'yet to
come'. 'A Larger World' is all about setting things up for future volumes so be
prepared for not a lot to happen at times. Balancing this out though is the air
of menace that Kirkman builds up over the course of the book; 'A Larger World'
isn't just filler, things are being laid in place that promise something
explosive in the very near future. This is what I'm after and I don't mind
waiting a little bit longer if I know it's coming.



There are also more developments, on the personal front, for our band of
survivors and it's all credit to Kirkman that he keeps things becoming too much
like a soap opera. These are people learning to feel again, after some
traumatic events, and I think Kirkman captures that perfectly.



Like I said then, it's a slow road but 'A Larger World' sets the plot back on
an upward trajectory. I’m all excited again about seeing where the series takes
us next.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

RPG System's (Prelude)

Something I've been thinking about over the past few weeks is the number of different systems there have been over the years. From Dungeons & Dragons to Shadowrun, there have been numerous incarnations of virtually every concept.



In my 28+ years, I have had the opportunity to learn, play and often times run a multitude of systems. I thought I'd begin a process of bringing them to light, as some of the younger generations may not know the vast history that encompasses role playing games.



From GURPS to Legend of the 5 Rings. Middle Earth Role Playing to Star frontiers. Over the next several months, I'll be positing about the various systems that I've had the good (or sometimes not so good) fortune of tackling. I welcome your comments and suggestions. Also, I would like to make an open invitation to anyone who would chose to write an article about a specific system they've encountered.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Walking Dead Volume 15: We Find Ourselves


Title: The Walking Dead Volume
15: We Find Ourselves






ISBN: 9781607064404


Price: $14.99


Publisher/Year: Image, 2012


Artist: Charlie Adlard


Writer: Robert Kirkman


Collects: The Walking Dead #85-90





Rating: 3.5/5





After the events of ‘No Way Out’ (Volume 14) the community is trying to
rebuild itself and look to make itself stronger for a safe future that Rick
really wants for Carl. Will Carl see that future though? He’s in a coma and
showing no signs of waking up. There are also ominous rumblings from longer
term residents that the arrival of Rick and his band has spelt nothing but
trouble for them. They were safe before but now they’re dying at a tremendous
rate, Rick and his friends have to go... one way or another.

Will Rick be able to deal with all these new developments though? Rick is
reaching his limits and cannot live with what he has become...



Long term readers of the ‘Walking Dead’ series will notice that there’s a well-defined
pattern to how the story plays out. Rick and his friends get settled, start to
make a life for themselves and then it all comes crashing down in a series of
violent events that will leave at least one main character eaten by zombies.
Pieces are picked up and the whole thing starts all over again. This is very
much what ‘We Find Ourselves’ is, a transitional piece where everyone gets a
chance to take a breather before they start again. This time though, this
approach doesn’t work nearly as well as it has done in the past.



The bottom line is that there is no real sense of danger to give the plot any
urgency whatsoever. In the past, transitional books have been driven by the
fact that zombies are still out there, often quite literally snapping at the
heels of the survivors. Rick and his band have to find shelter before they can
begin to recover.



This time, the gap in the wall is filled in and... That’s pretty much it. A
small group of zombies is picked off with almost contemptuous ease and the one
or two others encountered have been frozen, its winter, so can be picked off
even more easily. You’re probably thinking that’s ok though; after all we have
a rebellious faction within the community itself that should make for an
interesting turn of events. That rebellious faction has potential but this is
wasted by the fact that Kirkman not only uses them too soon but clearly doesn’t
give them a brain cell to share between them all. They are also taken care of
far too easily (having never really had to fight for survival like Rick and his
friends) and the status quo resumes too smoothly for my liking.



The story really needs the walls of the community to come crashing down, in
order to spice things up, but at the same time the logical step for the
survivors is to make those walls even stronger so they can settle down and
live. It’s an interesting conundrum for the series and one that suggests to me
that the ending can’t be too far away now, however it turns out.



In the meantime, Rick’s introspection (and having to rebuild his relationship
with Carl) doesn’t quite balance out the fact that nothing is really happening
here. I get that you can’t have zombies all the time but you’ve got to replace
it with something that keeps the story vital and interesting. There’s very
little of that here; just hints for the future that don’t match what has gone
before.



‘The Walking Dead’ hasn’t let me down, on the whole, so I am more than willing
to be proved wrong as the story continues. Right now, things just felt a little
lackluster (including the artwork), like the story was just marking time
instead of actually doing something. That doesn’t bode well for the future but,
like I said, I’m willing to be proved wrong.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Games We Play: RPG's Based off of Movies or TV

I have tried my hands at many different games that were originally based as a movie or television show. Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. Who, Battlestar Galactica, James Bond 007, Serenity, Lord of the Rings, Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Conan, Robotech and there are probably others I can't quite remember. The one thing that seemed to span across all of these games was the metaplot. Since I enjoyed watching these shows or movies, I was also more inclined to either have my characters interact, or have my players interact with at least some of the characters from the show or movie.



For example...



A storyline I have always thought would be interesting for a Star Wars campaign would be a small group (or single individual) of bounty hunters who were contracted to help hunt down and bring rouge Jedi to the Empire. The initial start of this game would take place before the events of "A New Hope". After the Death Star was destroyed in the Yavin system, my thought was that the group (or individual) would then be contracted to bring in Luke.



The intention was that no mater how hard the characters tried... and I would provide clues to help them along so the players don't feel like they're cheating... they would eventually come a little late to actually find Luke and the Rebels. (i.e. Getting to Hoth after the Empire had left or arriving at Dagobah after Yoda's passing.)



When the Empire is destroyed, the players would find a new calling in the New Republic, and receive the out-of-character reward of finally meeting Luke and the rest of the gang. A bit of desert for all their hard efforts.



When I first bought the Serenity core book, I remember my wife trying to run a game for me. She couldn't think too far outside of the series, so my character was another member on Serenity. That was short lived, but I enjoyed myself. I especially liked using Chinese food names for profanity like "Kung Pao chicken, it's hot out here."



I know there have been times where I've been a player in these games and we haven't gone towards the meta. That never bothered me, but it was always interesting when my character got to meet someone I could connect to the actual series or movie.



Good times... and more to come.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns





Title: Batman: The Dark Knight
Returns





ISBN: 1563893428


Price: $14.95


Publisher/Year: DC, 1996


Artist: Frank Miller


Writer: Frank Miller


Collects: Batman: The Dark
Knight Returns
#1-4





Rating: 3.5/5





Frank Miller changed the rules and wrote the Batman story no one else
would write.





Sure, people had written stories before about an aging Batman. Usually,
they were cute tales about the retired and happily married hero beaming proudly
as the former Robin takes his place in the cape, and his young, blond son
became the new sidekick.





But Miller did something a little different. With The Dark Knight
Returns, first issued in collected form in 1986, he redefined the genre of
comics forever. As Alan Moore, himself an innovator in the genre, wrote in his
introduction, Miller "has taken a character whose every trivial and
incidental detail is graven in stone on the hearts and minds of the comic fans
that make up his audience and managed to dramatically redefine that character
without contradicting one jot of the character's mythology. ... Everything is
exactly the same, except for the fact that it's all totally different."





In the first of four chapters comprising the series, Miller introduces
us to an aging Bruce Wayne who's been retired as Batman for 10 years and is
obsessed with his own death. Commissioner Gordon is still around, but he's
being forced to retire from the police force on his 70th birthday, one month
away. And Gotham City is going to Hell, the victim of a heatwave and a massive
upswing in violent crime.





Then we learn of the release of reformed criminal Harvey Dent, the
former district attorney who became Two-Face when scarred with acid. A leading
psychiatrist vouches for Dent's new found mental stability, and a top plastic
surgeon has finally restored Dent's face to normal. But then Dent disappears
and a new crime wave begins.





And suddenly, witnesses are reporting a large, bat-like creature
attacking crime all over the city. For a while we get glimpses -- a boot, a
glove, a crippled criminal -- interspersed with news reports and
man-on-the-street interviews with people debating the existing of Batman.





Our first glimpse of the hero, leaping after a getaway car, sets a
standard for dramatic artwork which helped to remold the look of comics in the
years since its first release. Although Miller was assisted in the art by inker
Klaus Janson and colorist Lynn Varley, the overall look of the book is his own
-- and he did a tremendous job with it. There are better artists out there, but
Miller's bold, sometimes repetitive presentation borrows some visual ideas from
film-making and, coupled with the text, provides a new style in story art.





It is also during this first chapter that Miller remakes the moment
that made Batman. Sure, the basic story is the same -- heading home after
seeing The Mark of Zorro, the young Bruce Wayne watches his parents brutally
gunned down by an alleyway hoodlum -- but the details, down to the pearls
falling from his mother's broken necklace, have been copied and recopied by
countless Batman artists since.





Chapter two gives us a different sort of criminal -- no less colorful
than the Jokers, Penguins and Two-Faces, but far more real to many contemporary
city dwellers. The Mutants, as the gang has been called, is made up of young
anarchists with a thirst for violence and no concept of innocent bystanders.
They kill for fun, for kicks ... and they have the weaponry to make it hurt. In
a way, these kids are more evil than all the plots and machinations of
Batman's usual costumed foes.





Again with the splashy full-page entrance ... Batman's attack on the
insane Mutant leader is visually awe-inspiring. The battle which follows is a
heart-stopper. And the rematch ... oof.





This chapter also introduces the new Robin, an acrobatic girl sold on
legends of the old Batman. Her entrance into the action is a surprise, more to
the Batman than to the readers, but she makes a noteworthy addition to the
ranks of Robins who've worn the gaudy costume.





Chapter three -- the Mutant threat is over, but the former gang members
have splintered into violent pockets. Some continue their reign of terror on a
smaller scale, while others become the Sons of the Batman, a vigilante group
for whom there is a very thin line between criminals and victims.





Growing turmoil in Gotham mirrors a global crisis in Central America.
One man is called upon to handle both -- and let me give you a hint, he's
faster than a speeding bullet.





In the past, Batman and Superman were often paired as good friends. In
the new DC universe, writers have followed Miller's lead -- the two heroes with
such drastically different approaches are respectful allies, not pals. There
are walls between them that even Superman can not leap.





In this portion of the story, the conflict between Superman and the
Batman begins to grow. Superman is acting under federal orders to stop the
vigilante, but his efforts are delayed when international events go nuclear. To
make matters worse, the Joker -- long held quiescent in Arkham Home for the
Emotionally Troubled -- escapes, leaving hundreds dead in his wake.





And the Batman wonders how many deaths he's responsible for, simply
because he never put a final stop to the Joker's ruthlessness.





The third chapter is the real climax of the series, with the final
conflict between the Batman and the Joker digging more deeply into the heart
and soul of these characters than any writer has ever done, before or since. A
priceless moment: Batman, wounded and in pursuit of his foe, pauses to admonish
a small boy for his language. Priceless!





The police, now led by a young, anti-Batman commissioner, are an additional
stumbling block in Batman's path.





Throughout The Dark Knight Returns, Miller takes a step away from the
standards in comic-book crime. There aren't so many of the grandiose schemes,
full of costumed bad guys, outlandish props and corny mayhem, which marked so
much of Batman's prior history. Instead, we have people who've turned to crime
as a means to end -- money, power, cheap thrills -- and the casualness with
which some of them kill is like a bucket of cold water. This isn't four-color
fantasy, this is real life, lifted from the newspaper and replayed on the pages
of a comic book.





And this Batman, too, is different. He's not afraid of violence, he
uses it as a weapon against his foes. Unlike the standard comic-book Batman, he
will occasionally employ firearms in his fight, although he still draws the
line at killing. And wait 'til you see Miller's rendition of the Batmobile.





The public reaction to the Batman's return is also a cold dose of
reality. A vigilante in the real world wouldn't receive the black-and-white
response usually seen in comic books, from the 100 percent adulation given DC's
Superman to the distrust and hatred pointed toward's Marvel's various X-groups.
The debate over the rights and wrongs of the Batman's methods, played out in TV
broadcasts scattered throughout the book, shows a broad range of public
mindsets, from outrage to acclaim -- and support from some folks whose praise
Batman would probably loathe to be associated with. And there are people
inspired by the Batman -- and not all of the results are positive. And when a
new gang emerges, feeding on criminals....





Another hit of reality -- doing what Batman does, especially at his
age, hurts. He's not a young man anymore, and muscles, lungs and even his
powerful heart can only take so much. Miller doesn't soft-pedal that aspect of
heroing -- his characters don't take a near-mortal blow in one panel and act
perfectly healthy on the next page.





Throughout the book, the broadcast media takes a beating. I can't say
it's not well-deserved.





Miller inserted some clever cameos into the storyline, including the
pre-Crisis Lana Lang as managing editor of the Daily Planet in Superman's
Metropolis, broadcasting mogul James Olsen and a very Reagan-like U.S.
president, painted with a broad brush of satire. There's an almost-David
Letterman and a nearly-Dr. Ruth. Former Catwoman Selina Kyle now runs her own
escort service. (Before recent revisionism, Kyle was a prostitute before she
was a thief.) We learn where Diana (Wonder Woman) and Hal (Green Lantern) have
gone. Oliver Queen, the former Green Arrow, makes the best entrance of all,
leaving more questions than answers in his wake but adding a necessary edge to
the climactic conclusion.





It's touches like this which push Miller's work even further beyond the
pale.





The final chapter begins with a near-Apocalyptic Gotham. Superman, for
all his vaunted power, apparently isn't as clear on the physics of nuclear
explosions as we'd like. He deflects the bomb, but the otherwise harmless
explosion blankets the city in artificial night and artificial winter. Panicked
residents riot over food and guns, and a powerless jet falls from the sky. The
scenes as Batman gallops through the city on horseback, gathering followers to
control the outbreak of mass hysteria, would make an incredible movie sequence.





But finally, Superman returns, as we know he must, carrying a federal
order to stop the Batman. What follows is a clash of titans worthy of the
legends both characters have generated over the years. To say any more would
ruin the ending ... so, if you haven't read this one yet, do so. You won't be
sorry.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

When I Was Younger...

Growing-up, I remember that we only ever had a single comic book show around my area: the Portland Comic Book Show. It was promoted by a group called Second Genesis. It was great back then. They were able to bring in some great talent for signing, and the bigger talents would charge $0.25 per autograph which would go to support a local charity. It was great!



Over the years, I'm not sure what happened. The talent wasn't as big of a draw, even though they were able to get several of the local talent... which was good. It became to be known more as a flea market than a reputable comic book show. In more recent years, several of the show's were cancelled due to scheduling conflicts around other events that take place in the same area. If there's a scheduled NBA game, then there couldn't be a comic book show. Even though both events were in separate venues, they are too close together and share parking.



Three times that I can recall, my city actually had a comic book show. A few of the local artists were invited, but they were primarily a flea market show as well. The first of these shows is where I first met Randy Emberlin and decided I wanted to take-up inking. You can read about my experiences as an inker here.



Over the course of the past 10 years, it seems like comic book shows have now given way to conventions and there are more available. Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, Stumptown Comic Fest, Rose City Comic Con and Wizard World in Portland. I'm not trying to imply that I'm unhappy, but where did they all come from? Will Oregon see additional comic book related events in the future?



I for one hope so.



Since the inclusion of a convention center in Salem, I have wondered if it would ever draw something of interest like a comic con or some other pop culture related event. To date... never. If I had the experience, know-how and money, I would endeavor to make this become a reality.

Monday, March 4, 2013

GM's Day Sale




GM's Day Sale





GM's Day
is Monday, March 4th at 10am Eastern (USA) and runs all week. For 2013's sale, we have over 300 particpating publishers and over 12,000 digital titles on sale! Yep, over twelve thousand
PDFs and other downloadable goodies from publishers like White Wolf,
Mongoose, Wizards of the Coast, Catalyst Game Labs, Chaosium, and more.

GM's Day Sale



Sunday, March 3, 2013

Batman & Superman: World’s Finest








Title: Batman & Superman: World’s Finest



ISBN: 1401200826

Price: $19.95

Publisher/Year: DC, 2000

Artist: Dave Taylor, Peter Doherty, Graham Nolan, Tom Morgan

Writer: Karl Kessel

Collects: Batman & Superman: World’s Finest #1-10




Rating: 2.5/5





Karl Kesel's
Batman & Superman: World's Finest is not the best of the Superman/Batman
team-up miniseries (I reserve that honor for Dave Gibbons and Steve Rude's
World's Finest). It does, however, does have an interesting premise in aligning
the disparate events of the Superman and Batman worlds into one cohesive story,
especially the death of Jason Todd with Superman executing the Phantom Zone
criminals, and "Reign of the Superman" with "Knightfall."





Sterling
Gates's new World's Finest takes a similar approach, bringing together the
current "Batman Reborn" and "New Krypton" storylines. I
wouldn't venture there's anything earth-shattering here, but the book is big on
fun and Gates gets all the characters' voices right; for those of us who enjoy
understand how the DC Universe coincides, this is a satisfactory excursion.


[Contains
spoilers]





Notably,
Gates ducks some of the easier team-ups at the start of this book, choosing to
pair Red Robin with the Kryptonian Nightwing rather than with Superboy, and
absenting Mon-El altogether in favor of the Guardian with Robin Damian Wayne. I
might've liked to see Batman Dick Grayson's response to his new Nightwing
namesake, but I appreciates that Gates follows up on a small but poignant scene
from Kurt Busiek's Superman run, remembering the impact Tim Drake had on
Superman's adopted son Chris.





While the
story feels maybe mildly incomplete without Mon-El, the Guardian is the better
fit of the "Metropolis characters" to pair with Robin because of his
previous friendship with the Newsboy Legion. I liked that Gates didn't feel
compelled to have the Guardian or Robin learn anything, but rather part
mistrusting one another, not unlike Superman and Batman have in the past.





Further,
after Peter Tomasi's general mis-characterization of Damian Wayne in Blackest
Night: Batman, I had some concern whether Gates would get Damian's ten-year-old
assassin brattishness quite right; he does. As a matter of fact, I specifically
read World's Finest as the "next appearance" of the Stephanie Brown
Batgirl after Batgirl Rising, a book in which Damian is a key player; no doubt
Gates can write Batgirl, given that he ably handles Supergirl month in and month
out, but whether Bryan Miller's distinct Batgirl/Robin interplay seems much
harder to duplicate. Gates delivers, however, and even adds his own touch in a
funny end panel where Supergirl lectures Damian for calling Batgirl names. As I
mentioned in my Batgirl review, there's a way in which the "Batman
Reborn" characters are more of a family than they have been previously,
and I like this familial aspect a lot.





There is
not, at the end of World's Finest, any deep meditation on the nature of the
Superman or Batman families or their differences. If anything, whereas everyone
claims to miss Bruce Wayne, Superman notes he and Dick Grayson's first
"world's finest" team-up with the implication that Dick is perhaps
easier to work with than Bruce, and the reader knows it's true -- one wonders
if that's something Bruce will have to deal with, not being the
"favorite" Batman, when he returns.





As the
Super-titles are Gates's bailiwick, World's Finest ends with a connection to
"New Krypton," and really not at all with "Batman Reborn"
-- which is fine. I'm not sure either series will actually pick up on World's
Finest, but it's enough that World's Finest ties in to something both in terms
of the characters and the plot; the best team-ups, in my opinion, forward the
series of all the characters involved, and World's Finest does that
sufficiently as far as I'm concerned.





Rounding out
this collection are a DC Comics Presents Superman/Robin Dick Grayson team-up
from 1981, and Action Comics #865 by Geoff Johns, from 2008. The latter is a
prime example of what Johns does for comics; while other writers might have
scratched their heads (or started from scratch), Johns offers a fairly simple
story that returns Toyman Winslow Schott to his roots, preserving and at the
same time overcoming the violent Dan Jurgens story that saw Toyman kill Cat
Grant's son Adam.





This is one
of two previously uncollected issues from Geoff Johns's recent Action Comics
run -- included here because of the Toyman's role in this story -- and I
appreciate that DC gives it the light of day; only, I wish they hadn't left off
the last page. That page features Cat Grant just before Superman: Brainiac, and
while it wasn't relevant to World's Finest per se, I would have liked DC
keeping it for the issue's overall historical value.

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