Saturday, December 26, 2009

Entering No Posting Mode - Holiday Edition

I'm off to visit family and friends for at least the next week. I might actually stumble across Internet access along the way, but I'm not betting on it. So before I vanish from the comic blogowhatchamafloogle for awhile, I'm leaving you with a hypothetical, posed to me by Alex.

Simple question: Which would you rather be able to play (assuming you've only the time to learn to master one), the cello or the saxophone?

Alex and I both picked the cello. I'm not sure of his reasons, and I was a little surprised at myself, since I often enjoy music prodyced by saxophones, but I felt that if I was an excellent cello player, that would mean I had excellent fine motor control in my fingers.

Which doesn't make any sense, as you probably need excellent fine motor control to play a saxophone well, but that was my off-the-cuff explanation for my choice. Which is your preference?

Until sometime in the New Year! Probably!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Is Bane Still Doing The Right Things?

Tuesday I looked at some recent developments in Secret Six from Scandal's viewpoint, what she was trying to accomplish and such. Since Bane was a major factor in those actions, we can look at his from his perspective as well.

In the first story arc, Bane was fond of saying that he only does what he knows is right. That included not taking Venom, refusing to sell out his teammates to Junior, adopting a paternal attitude towards Scandal, insisting Deadshot not be so rude to their prisoner and so on. Granted, he wasn't perfect, since he took Venom to save Scandal, an action we debated the meaning of back on March 28th. Since then, Bane has stayed away from Venom, so he hasn't given up on trying to do what he thinks is right.

So what's that mean? He took command of the team, ostensibly because as money-making enterprises go, the Secret Six are a disaster. They take jobs, but are unwilling to see them through, so Bane plans to change that. Does that mean they'll take less questionable jobs, ones that won't cause such deep divisions in the team, so it'll be easier to see it through? Or does it mean they'll continue to take the same types of jobs as before, but Bane won't allow the team to back out? That'd be interesting, considering he was one of the first to bail on the job of guarding the prison. In one sense, I'd think the right thing to do would be to take les morally questionable jobs, but that's from a personal standpoint. From a business standpoint, which seemed to be what prompted his coup, the morally questionable jobs probably pay better, so the right thing from a financial standpoint would be to take those jobs, but not get cold feet.

His second act was to boot Scandal off the team. That could be considered right in the sense that he's protecting her from harm, though she seems more resilient than he is. From the team standpoint, Scandal switched sides on the last job when Bane did, and was voicing doubts even earlier. She's friends with Jeanette, and she Bane do care about each other, and that kind of emotion could be said to interfere with the team's ability to succeed. They're more worried about each other than about doing the job. It could be considered right in a couple different ways. Of course, Scandal could also sink into a deep funk, which could make her a danger to herself and others, and that would be partially Bane's fault, since he set her adrift*. But if Bane's concerned primarily with the team, and secondarily with Scandal, and probably not at all with anyone else, then it's the right decision.

Then he welcomes Black Alice onto the team. She more powerful than anyone they've got currently, and she actually wants to join (we can certainly question the wisdom of choosing this route to get cash, but she's commited to it regardless). She's going to harass the team until they let her join, so best to just let her in so they can get on with business. She's not close to anyone on the team, so if Bane is trying to reduce annoying emotional bonds between the team so they'll focus more on the job at hand, it's the right move. Now, is it the right move morally, to let Alice in, to presumably encourage her to use her powers this way? I'd say no, but as Catman noted, she observed him telling another person how to torture someone and didn't flinch, so maybe it's too late to be worried about such things. Perhaps Bane has some brilliant scheme to expose her to such horrors that she reevaluates her life and leaves the team. That's probably the best thing he could do for her**.

But that would likely not be best for the team, so I doubt that's his plan. Again, though, I think Bane's concern for others ends at Scandal Savage. His teammates are means to an end, and beyond that, I don't think he cares much for them. I think Bane's definitely doing right by the Secret Six as an organization, but not so much for Alice or Scandal.

* I'm unclear on the current situation. She's off the team, but still hangs out with them? Do they still live in her house? If she told them to pack up and move out, would they?

** That and give her enough money to take care of her dad so she wouldn't simply turn to other criminal enterprises to raise the funds.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Once Again We See That Greediness Gets You In The End

Return of the Jedi was running on TV this afternoon, and watching the early part of it I found myself thinking that Jabba the Hutt probably wishes Luke's Jedi tricks had worked on him. If they did, he cheerfully lets Leia, Han and the rest go, and there's no trouble. Instead, he gets choked to death, and then whatever was left of him gets blown up with skimmer/skiff/floating pleasure barge thingamabob.

There's a lesson in there, something about listening when people make polite requests. Or, in the spirit of the season, it teaches us if one doesn't get into the spirit of giving, sharing, and good will, they and all their friends will die horribly in a miserable desert. That was the lesson of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, too, you know. Blondie didn't give Tuco his cut on their last scam, so Tuco hunted him down and tried to death march him across a barren stretch of desert. At the end of the film, Blondie has learned his lesson, and leaves Tuco half of the gold, as was agreed upon.

*sniff* Acts like that restore one's faith in the ability of people to learn and grow. What a wonderful thing.

OK, enough of that. Have a Merry Christmas, or if Christmas isn't your speed, then have yourself a nice December 24th, or 25th if you're across the dateline. Talk to ya tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


There are no reviews, because I bought no comics. Not by choice, but because, as of 3 o'clock this afternoon, the UPS guy had not delivered the week's comics to the store. Thus, there was no new issue of Guardians of the Galaxy for me.

Now I'm sure the comics weren't over six hours late because the UPS person is lazy, or incompetent, or in a drug-addled haze. No, I'm sure they were swamped with so many packages the sheer sight of them would have sent my sanity screaming into the darkest alcoves of my mind. Does not change the fact it left me in a foul mood, especially when combined with the usual dumbassed drivers one encounters on drizzly December afternoons. Like the elderly fellow in the pickup across from me at a 4-way stop, who was there before me, but still had to be waved ahead by me so he could begin the tortuous 27-year process of making a left hand turn.

I don't feel like driving back there tomorrow, so no reviews this week. More books for me to read when I next visit the store (that'd be me looking on the bright side). I've a few things planned for the next couple days, so the blog isn't entering No Content Mode - Holiday Edition just yet.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I'm Sure Scandal Had Some Larger Plan

Secret Six #14. Scandal is trying to explain to Bane why she said they needed the Bane who broke the Bat. They need the master strategist Bane was back then, the guy who wore the Bat down while observing and learning about him, the one who steadily took control of all organized crime in Gotham. She says she knows the Venom just makes him a monster, but that's what they needed, a Bane not encumbered with the concern he has for Scandal. So she took the Venom herself. Then that were-creature thing showed up, she tried to kill it while screaming at Bane to get lost, and so on. I'm confused as to what she was going for her.

1st possibility: She took the Venom to make herself into the monster she described. That'd be an admission that she cares for Bane, in some way similar to how he cares for her. Except there's her mention of the need for tactical genuis, and she said she knows the Venom doesn't help there.

2nd possibility: She hopes the Venom will make her act so horribly it will destroy the bond between her and Bane. That would go along with what she said a page earlier, when she tells Bane she feels the prison is inside each of them, destroying what holds them together. Bane doesn't buy into that, but Scandal does, and she might think Bane was just lying to keep her spirits up, which I can see him doing. If so, she might think that whatever the Venom would unleash in her is sufficient to finish the job. That Bane would no longer feel the same protectiveness to her he had been, and that would clear his mind, letting the brilliance shine through again.

3rd possibility: She had realized that there was no time to get Bane's mind straight, so they weren't going to be able to handle things in a clever manner. In which case, brute force would have to win the day, and since Bane refuses to take Venom, leaves her.

I think the 2nd is the most likely, and it might have worked. Not immediately, as Bane refused to abandon her against the Grendel thing (for all the good he did), and he didn't devise some brilliant scheme that enabled their escape. However, afterwards, Bane assessed how the team has done since he joined, found them wanting, and seized command. Not only that, but he said Jeanette agreed with the move, which means he must have been discussing it with her some time prior to their boarding the helicopter. He was solidifying his base before he made his move. Then he benched Scandal, and has since added Black Alice to the group. Black Alice does seem commited to the cause, and she's certainly more powerful and versatile than Scandal, so from those standpoints, it should bolster the team. Plus, Scandal's likely addicted to Venom now, and has less experience dealing with that than Bane, so she's unrealiable.

The fact Bane made that call in spite of Scandal's protests might suggest that her scheme worked. Bane is seeing clearly now, and making moves in the best interests of the group, regardless of personal feelings. Of course, one could also interpret his benching of Scandal asa protective gesture. Keep her out of the fight so she won't have an excuse to take Venom, or be put in more danger. It's a parental gesture, grounding the child, or keeping her out of some activity she wants to participate in over her objections. I'm inclined to think Scandal went for the second option, only it didn't work. Bonds aren't broken as easily as that, at least not when you're dealing with Bane.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hack, Smash, Hack, Smash, Hack and Smash Some More

A week ago I was discussing consecutive boss battles in games and how they frustrate me, and I used Genji: Dawn of the Samurai as my primary example, since it was the game drawing my ire at the time. But I hadn't done an actual review yet, so I thought I owed it one.

The game revolves around a young man, Yoshitsune, wo is trying to stop an evil clan from conquering Japan. Yoshitsune's a skilled swordsman, and early in the game, he meets Benkei, a huge fellow who favors clubs or spears as his weapons. After that point, you can choose which one you wish to use from mission to mission, each one having their strengths. Benkei's attacks do more damage, he's more resistant to damage, and he's capable of smashing obstructions that would block Yoshitsune's progress. However, he's much slower, less agile, and a bigger target. Conversely, Yoshitsune is quicker and harder to hit, which offsets his lower amount of hit points, attack and defense values. He's also able to leap and reach platforms that Benkei couldn't. Which means that whichever character you choose for a particular mission, you'll end up coming across some item or path which requires the skills of the other character to access, so you end up needing to play most levels twice.

The game does provide you with save points along the way, which will also give you the option of retreating to your current stronghold if you wish. Once there, you could switch to the other character and make the trek back to the place you were at before. It's handy if you know there's a boss battle coming, and you're low on health recovery items, but the downside is that all the enemies will have respawned so you'll be fighting your way through them again. I prefer Yoshitsune myself, as I favor speed over power, but you can make it work with both.

The gameplay is fairly basic. You go to a level, start running through it, and enemies appear. You beat the enemies and proceed, until you face more enemies. You keep an eye out for health items, power-ups, money, new weapons, whatever. Eventually, you reach a boss. So not disimilar from Spider-Man: Friend or Foe.

One twist is the Amahagene, which is a group of magical jewels, of which Yoshitsune and Benkei each have one. As you battle bosses, you can colect their Amahagene, which can be fused with yours. This increases the size of a bar that sits just below your health on the screen. If you hit the button, you trigger a sort of bullet time, except it isn't as simple as you moving fast while everyone else moves slow. It's more like the button-pressing challenges in Resident Evil 4. When you use it, your enemies will attack, and a symbol will appear over your head. You hit the corresponding button, and you'll dodge and unleash your own attack. This will continue until either all enemies are destroyed, you miss a button (or are too slow, either way you get hit), or you run out of the energy. I'm terrible at it myself, especially against the bosses. I'm lucky if I can get the first button press right, let alone the subsequent ones. Fortunately, you don't have to use it to win, though I'm sure it makes it easier, and more stylish looking, to boot.

The story is basic enough. Yoshitsune is the last surviving member of a clan that was defeated by these evil Heishi, and he's looking to stop them from conquering everyone. Benkei was loyal to your clan (and was fighting the Heishi to avenge them), so he's game, and you meet a rival clan lord who is trying to hold out against the Heishi. The baddies have the requisite oddbal, yet dangerous inner circle, including the twisted reflection type evil guy, who ultimately betrays his boss. So there's nothing new about the story, and I didn't feel drawn into it in any particular way, didn't find myself concerned for the characters.

The graphics are nice enough, for when the game was made, and unlike Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, I didn't feel the camera was working against me, though you don't have any control over it. The music is fine, the controls respond well, it's a solid game. There's nothing remarkable or ground-breaking about it, but it reminds me a little of Beyond Good and Evil in that, when the fights are going well, it's a highly satisfying feeling, because it looks really smooth. It's not on par with Beyond Good and Evil in any other way, but that's what it reminds me the most of at those moments, rare that they are.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Not That I'm Advocating It. . .

These Black Lantern rings are reviving corpses where the person had strong feelings at the time of their passing, right? It couldn't revive Dove because he was at peace, no strong feelings left over to work from.

When Blue Snowman was devoured by the Ix Negaspike, she was under the influence of Vartox' seduction musk, and consequently, was intensely attracted to him. Which might be construed as love. It's probably not really love, but the level of devotion the scent had produced in her seems beyond a mere physical attraction. Then again, maybe physical attraction is all it takes, if it's intense enough. So could she be revived as a Black Lantern (ignoring the fact her body is on its way to being digested, which might make things a little tricky for the ring)?

Also, if she hadn't been eaten, would her feelings have gotten her drafted into the Star Sapphires/Pink Lantern Corps? Or would their ring have been able to distinguish that her feelings were artificially induced, and so not real?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It'd Be Quite A Shift

Next month DC is releasing those special issues of series that were canceled but are coming back from the dead because it's Blackest Night and the dead will rise, and so on. Suicide Squad #67 is the only one I'm positive I'll buy, though there are a couple others I'm going to at least consider when I see them. One of the releases is Question #37, where Black Lantern Vic Sage Question will confront Renee Montoya Question.

Over the last two years or so, DC's been releasing trades of the Denny O'Neil/Denys Cowan Question series. I talked a bit about it back in early summer when I picked up Volumes 2 and 3. Volume 5 came out in October, and I'll buy it eventually. That takes the trades up to issue #30, and there were only 36 issues originally, which would suggest there's one trade left to go. I'm wondering if they'll include the Blackest Night issue in that trade, since it is a continuation of the series in a sense.

It probably won't fit with wherever the series ended at originally, what with the series having ended 20 years ago, and the main character at that time being dead now. It could be fun to have there as a comparison piece though. "Here's how they did it in the '80s, here's how they do it now" thing. It's more likely DC will opt to make a trade that collects all these "back from the dead", since they're all linked, but it could be interesting the other way. If nothing else, they'd have to finally start releasing some Suicide Squad trades so they could reach the end of the series and toss the Blackest Night issue in. Which is probably another reason they wouldn't go that way.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I'm Always Up For A Money-Motivated Villain

Prior to Power Girl #7, I'd never heard of the Blue Snowman, but she's my kind of villain. She had a gimmick, and she uses it to commit robberies.

Sure, the technology at her disposal is probably worth more than what she steals*, but you have to find some way to market it, set up a system for mass-production, and that requires capital, or selling your ideas to someone with capital, and since this is comics we're talking about, whatever businessperson Blue Snowman tried to make a deal with would undoubtedly tangle her in contractual mumbo-jumbo, and ultimately hoard all profits for themselves. At which point she'd swear vengeance, and get beaten up by some costumed do-gooder before she could carry out her revenge.

Better to just skip all that and go straight to jewelry store heists. Plus, if she's successful, it probably brings a greater sense of accomplishment than hammering out some deal with International Cooling Experimental, Limited. But you know me, I'm a sucker for the old-school villains that use their weird abilities for things other than revenge schemes on the hero, or random mass slaughter. It's what I like about The Blank, and it was nice to see there was at least one super-criminal left at DC that had the same goals. I'm sure there are others out there (I guess most of the Rogues would fit), but they seem badly outnumbered by the other types.

* Question: Do you think it a good idea for Palmiotti and Gray to have Power Girl and Dr. Mid-Nite actually mention that impracticality? Blue Snowman was being used as a joke villain, so discussing the absurdity of her strategy fits, but I'm not big on pointing out those sort of holes in superhero world logic, since it draws me out of the fictional world in question. I udnerstand that yeah, she'd probably make much more by patenting her ideas than by stealing in our world, but I'm willing to set that aside for the characters' world.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

We Can Never Get Right To Work

*ABP enters, tosses a suit coat to one side, rolls up sleeves on its shirt, and hops up on the computer table.* Let's go! {Why are you wearing a shirt?} So I can roll up the sleeves. It shows I mean business. {You always mean business.} There are lots of people to hug, no more time to waste! But first. . . *lights cigarette, pours tumbler of brandy* this pricey liquor, and smooth tobacco will help me think. {You're too young for that stuff, give it here!} Awww. {What, have been watching Mad Men or something?}

Bob needs a Hug, because Scourge cut him. I think Scourge needs a Hug, too. Venus' singing made him freak out, and I think he's had a bad time. {Putting it mildly.} The rest of the Agents need Hugs. {I think antidotes would be better.} Dr. Mid-Nite needs a Hug because he got sick, and Power Girl needs a Hug for having to deal with Vartox. Blue Snowman gets a Hug because her day just kept getting worse. Vartox' people need Hugs because they can't have kids anymore. {I want the Ix Negaspike to get a hug, too.} What? No! It ate Blue Snowman! {After she attacked it, which came after it was captured and hauled into an entirely different dimension to be used as part of Vartox' idiotic courtship dance. Then it was frozen and punched into pieces. It just needs love.} Then why don't you hug it? {Not my department. I"m in Suggestions and Sarcasm.} Really? {Yep.} What department am I? {Operations and Optimism.}

Cool. {So you'll give the Ix Negaspike a hug?} No. {Fine. Give Yellow Claw a Bonk.} Why? {He's the one who established the chemical weapons facility the Thunderbolts destroyed.} Oh yeah. Isn't he dead? {Like that stops you. Or maybe it wouldn't stop the old you. Not sure about this new you, who's stingy with the hugs.} I don't care what you say, I'm not hugging Ix Negaspike. {Fine. Then you can finish this without the help of the Department of Suggestions and Sarcasm. Oh yeah, and I'm also the Department of Dictation and Transcription!} What? Come back! You know it's hard for me to type! I don't have my typing wand! Aww, shoot. OK, the Ix Negaspike gets a Hug. Will you come back now? {Sure. What else?} Power Girl earned Applause for helping Dr. Mid-Nite, and those alien yetis get Bonks for making it so Vartox' people can't have kids. {It's a different way of settling things, you have to admit. Nobody was even killed.} It's still wrong to do that. {Oh absolutely, I'm just surprised their solution was something other than a bloody slaughter. It is the DC Universe, you know, where people vomit lava blood as a weapon.}

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What I Bought 12/16/09

I'm not a fan of Christmas music. When it's played, you hear it everywhere. It's inescapable if I want to go places. Normally, different businesses would play different stuff, but now, it's all Christmas. I guess people enjoy it, so I'm just a sourpuss. That's probably it. Comics!

Power Girl #7 - Vartox fails to protect his people from a contraceptive bomb, which renders them all sterile. Or infertile. Whichever. Rather than concern himself with his entire planet, Vartox focuses on finding someone for him to get his groove on with, and picks Power Girl. Lucky her. He interrupts her helping Dr. Mid-Nite capture the Blue Snowman, nearly kills Mid-Nite with seduction musk, which doesn't work on Power Girl, then releases an Ix Negaspike, which he plans to fight to impress her. This also fails miserably.

Vartox is quite the putz. He's like a more arrogant and stupid version of Hercules, which is saying something. However, I am intrigued by the glimpses of his homeworld. Chancellor Groovicus Mellow. General Peacemonger. Ghost Poets of Dimension Seven. I don't know whether these are concepts that were already with Vartox, or if Gray, Palmiotti, and Conner came up with them on their own, but either way, I wouldn't mind seeing more. It could be the start of a world-building process, like what Brubaker and Fraction did for Iron Fist. Maybe they could ditch Vartox and join Power Girl's supporting cast? Also, I like the inclusion of Blue Snowman. Pity what happened to her. There aren't enough villains using their stuff to rob banks these days.

Thunderbolts #139 - It was another small week, this has Parker writing the Agents of Atlas, so what the heck. Osborn sends the Thunderbolts to an Atlas chemical weapons facility in the swamps of Louisiana. They blow it up, Atlas arrives, stomps most of the T'Bolts, until Scourge, who is actually Nuke from Born Again goes nutty and possibly disembowels Bob.

Parker does a good job of getting people who may be unfamiliar with Agents of Atlas up to speed. I think he so, anyway. I was already familiar, so perhaps I'm a poor judge. The fight goes about like it ought to. The Thunderbolts are not only severely outclassed, but they don't work well together. Which is something else Parker did well. I'm not a regular reader, but it was easy to pick up on the various tensions within the group. Ant-Man wants out, and is worried he'll be killed first. Mr. X can barely tolerate his teammates. Headhunter doesn't like Mr. X. Nobody trusts the Ghost unless they have to. Like some of the team, I'm not clear on why Osborn sent them. Scourge thinks it's acceptable losses, but usually for losses to be acceptable, you have accomplish something. At that point, nobody on Atlas was hurt at all, let alone dead. So perhaps Norman is just removing people who outlived their usefulness.

I'm not a fan of the art. The coloring doesn't help, as everything is murky and frequently overshadowed, which seems to make the work less detailed. There are other times where I don't think it's the colors, it really looks as though Sepulveda didn't have a chance to add details, so some of the faces look poorly done. In one panel, I couldn't even tell who the character I was looking at was supposed to be. Duing the fights, there's more posing than any sense of movement to the characters.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It Ends Again, Then Starts Up Again

Normally, I'd do this on December 16, since that's marks the beginning of a new year here at the blog. However, this year the 16th is also New Comics Day, which means a review post. So, we'll celebrate the conclusion of Year 4 here at Reporting on Marvels and Legends, rather than the start of Year 5. Or we can celebrate both simultaneously, if you'd prefer. I'm open that way.

Year 4 had its ups and downs. I had my usual smattering of posts that I was really happy about, as well as the ones that were just me trying to get something posted. I really hate those posts, it feels like I'm being cheap. I feel I have to keep posting, though. I think if I let myself fall of the daily pace (or as close to it as I get), and wait to post only when I'm really inspired, I'd probably stop posting faster than you might think. Maybe it wouldn't turn out like that, but why take chances? Besides, every once and awhile those half-assed posts turn into something decent, assuming I can devote some thought to them, which is nice, but I never know when that's going to happen.

Biggest downer of the year was my computer being infected badly enough it had to be completely wiped. That was a month ago, I still haven't got it all the way back, and I'm wondering if it's even worth the trouble. The computer is about 2 weeks older than this blog, which is fairly old by computer standards, but I'm sentimental when it comes to things that have served me well, even if it's just a chair, a t-shirt, or a computer. My father's packrat sensibilities at work.

Enough of that. Looking to the year ahead, I can't say precisely what will be happening. The Year In Review posts are coming sometime in early January. I have a couple of hypothetical question posts I'm saving for when I travel over the holidays to keep you occupied. There might be some more stories, if the mood takes me. Beyond that, I don't know. I'll play it by ear. That's worked out fairly well so far.

OK, reviews tomorrow. See you then.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Whatever Happened To Zam?

It's an older lingering question I have about Abnett and Lanning's work on Nova. During the Annihilation: Conquest tie-in issues, the Worldmind briefly empowered a Kree officer by the name of Ko-Rel. She was de facto commander of a downed Kree ship, stranded on a distant world. She was needed to protect Richard Rider, who was badly damaged by slamming into the barrier the Phalanx erected around Kree space at faster-than-light speed. Ultimately, Ko-Rel died trying to fight a Phalanx controlled Nova and Gamora*, and the return of her protion of the Nova Force gave Richard and the Worldmind just enough juice to break free of Phalanx control. Apparently, Ko-Rel's memory patterns were stored in the Worldmind, and she's the basis for its current interface, after the last one was corrupted by Ego, the Living Planet.

Anyway, one of the things we learned about Ko-Rel was she had a son back in the hub of the Kree Empire named Zam. What she really wanted was to get back to him. Obviously, that didn't happen, what with her dying. Since then, nothing about Zam, and I'm left wondering. Did he survive the Phalanx occupation? Was he on one of the worlds Vulcan destroyed? What's he doing these days? We never learned anything about who he was staying with, a dad, a grandparent, some sort of government established set-up for the children of Kree soldiers. Let's assume Zam's staying with his dad, and they both survived. Aren't they curious about where she is? She'd been missing for over a year even before she became a Nova. Seems to me Richard owes it to her to seek out her family, if they've survived, and give them closure.

Granted, he'd need a spare minute to do that, but they could fit that in. Actually, I'm a little surprised the Ko-Rel Worldmind hasn't been using its abilities to access Kree databases and seek out information on Zam. You could always use something like that to stir a little conflict between the Nova Corps and the Inhumans. The Corps ought to be concerned about the Inhumans. They made a weapon that blew a hole in the universe, which clearly marks them as a threat to peace.

* I still contend killing Ko-Rel was a mistake. She'd make a nice contrast to Richard, and nothing says she would have to remain a Nova permanently. She could have retired after the recent recruiting drive. Mostly, I think she'd have been an interesting presence during Conquest, since Nova was across the universe for most of it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Couldn't I Have A Short Break Before The Next Fight?

Last time I complained about a feature of video games, it was lousy wingmen A.I. in flight combat games. Today, it's the consecutive boss battles with no save point.

It came up last night as I tried once again to beat what I think is the final boss of Genji: Dawn of the Samurai. From my last save point, I march down the hall and reach Evil Leader Kiyomori, who has a really powerful Amahagane (special mystical item), and once he kills me, he's gonna take mine and make his even more powerful. I beat him, but he makes a portal and escapes. I give chase and find he's combined his already awesome Amahagane with that of his 2nd-in-command, Kagekiyo, to make an even awesomer Amahagane. Except, oh no, Kagekiyo takes it for himself, kills Kiyomori, turns into a shiny gold guy, and I'm into another boss fight. Unfortunately, I exhausted most of my health recovery items fighting Kiyomori, and I was summarily stomped.

I understand the idea behind following the first boss fight with another, even harder boss fight. In the game world, the events are happening in rapid succession. There wouldn't be an opportunity for whatever saving the game represents in their world. Except, if we take that to its logical conclusion, there isn't sufficient time for the wounds my character sustained to heal, as they had by the time I started battling Kagekiyo. I'm not complaining about that, mind you, it probably bought me another couple minutes of life in the battle, but it doesn't jibe with the "no saving" issue.

The worst one of these had to be the conclusion to Phantom Dust. You face a copy of yourself (Fight 1). Then, your former best friend and his girlfriend (sort of) simultaneously, without having healed from the previous fight (Fight 2). Your health will replenish after this battle, which is nice, since the happy couple combine into a 3-story tall, half-mechanical, half-arthropod monstrosity (with 3 separate hearts, each one whose health you must exhaust) you fight as you run up a spiral staircase (Fight 3). Having beaten that form, you're faced with some sort of dark angel thing, which you have to defeat (Fight 4). If you're killed in Fight 4, you start over at Fight 3, rather than Fight 1, but there's no saving. You have to make it through all four fights in one sitting.

That's what bothers me about those scenarios. I like to beat games by consistently making a little progress. It's a nice thing about Thief: Deadly Shadows, because you can save whenever you wish. With the boss battles stacked one on top of the other, you either make a lot of progress, or you make no progress. It's more all or nothing than I like. I guess you're supposed to feel a major sense of accomplishment, but I usually just feel relieved that I made it through. Lots of big sighs and "Finally!"s coming from me when I succeed.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

That Would Have To Be Perturbing

This week's Secret Six. While they were all at the club, do you think Bane noticed the exotic dancer wearing a variation of his costume? If so, what do you think his reaction was?

We didn't see any reaction, so we might assume he either didn't notice, or doesn't care, but perhaps they went back inside to keep chatting after they agreed to let Alice join. Maybe he noticed then. Or maybe he saw the lady the first time around, and was able to hide his reaction. That doesn't mean he didn't have one.

I'm thinking he'd be perhaps mildly disappointed in the young lady's profession, and maybe a little annoyed to see his costume in such a place. He broke Batman after all. Doesn't that call for a little respect?

Thinking about it, I really wish Ragdoll had noticed. He surely would have made comments, and those might have garnered a more obvious reaction from Bane.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Must Be Lonely In That Giant Mansion

Batman Begins was running on AMC last night. While I was watching it I wondered what ALfred did during those years Bruce was out stealing, living in Chinese prisons, being trained by Ra, and so on.

Did he just clean all the time? I imagine that if he starts usting in one room and works through the entire house, by the time he's finished, the rooms he started with are dusty again. Perhaps he closed off certain rooms because they weren't in use. What would he do then? Do you think he had the plce redecorated to match his tastes? Maybe he invited his old buddies over, and they had a fine time, smoking cigars and drinking brandy in front of a roaring fireplace. Or he could have wild rave parties, because he loosened up a bit with Master Bruce nowhere to be found. Alfred on recreational drugs would be quite the sight.

Do you think Alfred privately financed his own search for Bruce, even after everyone else gave up looking? Or he busied himself by visiting bookstores, or the theater. There's an idea, maybe Alred did a little acting in local productions*. It'd be a productive way to pass the time, and he'd meet some new people, which would have to be an improvement over spending all one's time in a cold, empty mansion.

* I don't know if it's still in play, but The Untold Legend of Batman said that affer he served in World War 2, where he rescued prisoners and machine-gunned Nazis, Alfred returned to his first love, acting.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Briefly Debating The Graciousness Of Cyclops

CalvinPitt: {So, what's our bit this week?}

Adorable Baby Panda: Bit?

CalvinPitt: {What are we going to bicker about before we actually get to the business at hand?}

ABP: I'm in a good mood, I don't feel like arguing today.

CalvinPitt: {Oh. Then should we start?}

Sure! I have to Applaud Deadpool, after he helped the X-Men. I have to give him a Bonk for headbutting Colossus. {Colossus let go, it totally worked!} He let go because Deadpool threw up on him! {And because Wade took off his mask and showed his face, which was smashed up from headbutting a big metal Russian guy!} Deadpool's face always looks that way. {. . .} What? {That's mean. Why would you say something so cruel about our friend?} I, but, he does look, I didn't mean. . . Don't tell him I said it, OK?

I think Cyclops might need a Hug after everything that happened. {I think he needs a smack, not giving Deadpool his due.} Didn't you read the comic? He did say what Deadpool wanted to hear. {Sure, under his breath, when no one else was around to hear it. He'll probably deny it if Deadpool tells anyone.} Yeah, I guess. I'm still not hitting him for that. {Dang.} Black Alice needs a Bonk, she's not being smart. She could use those powers to get money some other way. {This is probably quieter. Using Zatanna's powers to rob a bank is a bit obvious. But if you're set on hitting her, give me time to be elsewhere.} I am. Hug for Gerardo Sanchez, the man who hired the Secret Six. {Wait until he gets a shower, or you're likely to get blood on your fur.}

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

What I Bought 12/09/09

It was quite windy here today, and since it's December, that means wind chill. Granted, the wind chill's only in the mid-20s, and I'm sure the readers up North are scoffing at that, but it makes me miss all the sunny November days we had. However, it does not make me miss the rainy October days.

Deadpool #18 - I don't have the cover up yet, maybe in a day or two, but Domino wears a domino around her neck now? I didn't realize she had a theatrical streak. I also didn't realize she was that endowed. Think Pearson may have overdone it a bit.

This month Deadpool takes care of the X-Men's image problem stemming from lying, deadbeat father/Osborn lackey Ellis Kincaid, and it doesn't involve killing people. OK, Deadpool does kill one person, but he was going to kill Kincaid, so it's cool. When it's all said and done, Deadpool has put one past Mr. Kincaid, Wolverine, Domino, Cyclops, and Norman Osborn. Go Deadpool! Even though it helps the X-Men, Cyclops is about as gracious as you'd expect, but I think Wolverine was legitimately impressed with Wade, which is nice. Maybe he won't stab Deadpool the next time they meet. OK, that's stretching it.

I have a hard time believing that was actually Deadpool's plan all along. Or maybe I just can't believe he saw it through. This is the guy that got sick of waiting for Bullseye to attack and went looking for him in a monster truck. I does serve to remind us that behind all the jokes and insanity, Deadpool is dangerous, and if not brilliant, at least capable of thinking quickly. He made Colossus let go of him by pulling of his mask, then spitting blood in his face. Or was he throwing up blood? I hope not, Geoff Johns might get sore Deadpool's stealing his bit. I'm not surprised the stint with the X-Men flamed out, but I wish he'd had a chance tos ettle in a little before it went to hell.

Secret Six #16 - That cover seems fairly similar to the one for this week's issue of Titans. Female character, sitting on something, legs crossed, dress showing off a little leg, wearing one of those neck bracelets (chokers?). Plenty of differences too (Donna Troy's at a 3/4 angle to us, Alice is facing us directly), but kind of strange those two would come out the same week.

The Six appear to be helping a child rapist and murderer escape. That did not give me a good feeling about this issue, but things turned a bit. It's still not a cheerful thing, and Catman's idea of a pep talk is creepy, but at least they aren't helping a complete scumbag. Black Alice arrives and demands to join the team. Deadshot and Catman refuse, and try to ditch her in a strip club. That doesn't work. The rest of the team shows up, including Scandal, and try to dissuade her, then she beats up some cops, and most of the team, and Bane lets her join.

This should be interesting, since no one outside of Ragdoll seems enthusiastic about having her on the team, albeit all for different reasons. Alice has that teenage gift to rationalize her actions, so she can probably do just about anything. Or maybe she really doesn't care. That would be troubling. I'm certainly on board for it. Pencils this month are handled by Peter Nguyen. Nguyen's work is a bit rough, though in places his faces remind me of Batbook artist Dustin Nguyen. Combined with the colors, there are lots of shadows in the book, and Peter's tendency to draw long, angular faces, makes the characters look a bit haggard, which adds an air of desperation or danger to them. So that's good. Peter draws a nice Alice channeling Phantom Stranger, though I'm curious why, if she got the Stranger's hat, opera cape and awesome medallion, why she didn't also get his pants. Maybe she only swiped the upper half of his power.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Who Opposes Someone With That Much Power?

The Sphinx is back in Nova's life, except he's actually demanding Nova's help this time. Whatever it is the Sphinx wants to do, someone is trying to stop him, and they're powerful enough (or have sufficient resources) to force him to call in help.

Who is it?

The Sphinx described what was going on as a contest of the gods, which as Reed Richards noted, might suggest he's battling Egyptian deities. That could be interesting, since that's not a realm of theology I can recall Marvel including much. There's Khonshu, of course, acting through Moon Knight*, and being otherwise mysterious in what it wants. Then there's Seth, the Serpent God of Death, who's the polar opposite, running around actively killing people, either with his own hands, or through his huge armies. Beyond that, I don't know of many of them being particularly active, though it won't surprise me if you tell me that Pak and van Lente used some others in Incredible Hercules**. Abnett and Lanning taking the opportunity to get a few more of them involved would be appropriate as well, if they really are setting things up for the Marvel Universe to be threatened by a universe on the other side of the Fault that's been conquered by honest to mind-shattering evilness Lovecraftian horrors.

However, I'm not sure it truly is a contest of gods. The Sphinx has a strong technological base for his power, another thing Richards noted when he mentioned the chronal accelerator. He further described the Sphinx as a would-be time architect on par with Kang or Immortus***. If the Sphinx wanted to alter things in his favor, it might stand to reason that Kang would intervene, right? He might do it as Rama-Tut, since that would fit with the Egyptian motif, and dueling with a time traveler would perhaps explain drawing people from different times to settle it. Or it's Adam Magus, since solicitations suggest he isn't dead (or there are 2 of them and the other one is in that damn cocoon thats been driving me nuts for the last year). That would satisfy my desire for a Kang/Magus/Sphinx mega-war, with all manner of related heroes caught in the middle.

Or maybe it's Dr. Doom. He's fed up with all this stupid bullcrap with Osborn, the Hood, Loki, Osborn's myserious attack dog. He sees the writing on the wall, that the "heroes" will triumph again, so why not take a trip into space, mop the floor with that Ka Stone wielding fool that might attempt to rewrite reality. Only Doom gets to do that, thank you very much! The nice part about that would be that it means the Sphinx picked Reed Richards solely just to tweak Doom a bit. Get the good Doctor focusing on Richards rather than vanquishing the Sphinx.

Yeah, long shot, I know. It was fun to consider, though.

* Or maybe Hawkeye, if you think Khonshu manipulated events in that West Coast Avengers story so Hawkeye would make the weapons Moon Knight would eventually use.

** Which doesn't mean you shouldn't tell me, 'cause I don't know for sure, just that it's something I would expect.

*** Why mention them separately? Doesn't Kang become Immortus eventually? Don't tell me they changed that, it was the one thing I was actually sure of about Kang's timeline, with all the Rama Tuts, and Iron Lads and such.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Getting To Know GrimJack - Manx Cat #5

We're back again for another round. Not learning as much about GrimJack himself this time, but a bit more about some other folks.

Page 1 - Even though it's probably very powerful, creatures of chaos like Mannachs will make deals with mortals. Why? I don't know.

Page 2 - I've mentioned previously that GrimJack has some experience with the odd things, astral projection, demons and such. He doesn't seem to have been pulled from a body he was hitchiking in and given a body of his own before, but he accepts it quickly enough, which is probably related to all the other experiences he's had.

Page 3 - According to Mannachs, St. John of Knives may wind up being endlessly reborn, and in one of those future lives, he'll be GrimJack. St. John has a fierce independent streak. GrimJack has either a realistic view of himself, or an overly pessimistic one. His comment about grabbing love while you can may be spoken out of experiences he had.

Page 4 - Lord Protector enjoys killing people with his hands, but might be out of practice when it comes to fighting. Brother Dryden (St. John's sidekick) is very skilled in the use of a sword.

Page 5 - GrimJack is unimpressed with threats of death and sorrow throughout his life. GrimJack has a Miller Medallion, and knows how to use it. What is it, and what can it do? It expands a crossroad.

Page 6 - Apparently one thing a Miller Medallion can do is summon every version of person that has will, or may ever exist. They all seem to adapt to the situation as easily as GrimJack did. GrimJack may be a natural leader.

Page 7 - GrimJack's observant in battle.

Page 8 - It's possible to bring someone back from a chaos crossroad.

Page 9 - Mannachs' power may not work the same in normal time and space. That may explain why its face shifted appearance a bit. If he's telling the truth, GrimJack has left a string of angry women in his wake. Doesn't seem to bother him much.

Page 10 - The Lord Protector does have enough power to trap Mannachs in a single place of existence. With a sword in his chest (which has been there for 6 pages at this point).

Page 11 - St. John of Knives is willing to give credit where it's due. The Lord Protector is not gracious about being stabbed and used. The Brothers of Kaddath have a strong sense of duty.

Page 12 - OK, the Lord Protector is really ungracious about being stabbed and used. St. John won't kill an enemy who has helped them. At least not at that moment, likely related to his belief in salvation.

Page 13 - Brothers of Kaddath become the Sleepless Monks. OK, St. John believes salvation is so impermanent that it has to be earned every day.

Page 14 - GrimJack isn't sure he is St. John reborn. Doesn't instinctively trust a chaos creature. GrimJack moves quickly, and his first concern is his friend.

Page 15 - GrimJack has no problem stealing a man's aircar when he needs it. GrimJack says the key to helping someone is not to make it worse. Speaking from experience?

Page 16 - GrimJack has some blades called 'St. John Knives'. Despite the friction between them, GrimJack and Gordon have similar worries. They're both concerned with another, just not the same person. Gordon keeps a gun behind the bar in addition to the knives.

Page 17 - GrimJack appreciates loyalty and camaraderie, but doesn't have much of them in his life. Oddly, tells Gordon something different from what he told the monks. Or he just isn't willing to make promises he thinks he can't keep to people he cares about. Not showing much confidence in his ability to save people.

Page 18 - GrimJack not completely on board with his own idea of showing loyalty to Gordon. Aircar's are not impervious to rocket attacks. Bad things happen to GrimJack when he gets lost in his doubts.

Page 19 - Normally, GrimJack would not have to worry about being shot when near BlacJac's place. BlacJac's well-funded army not enough to keep some people from attacking.

Page 20 - TDP (Transdimensional Police) not getting involved in Aristo's attack on BlacJac's HQ. Not helping the attack, but not trying to stop it either. Paid off? Outgunned? Not their job? They are on crowd control? What does that mean? Mannachs has gotten free enough of the Manx Cat to cast a noticeable silhouette against the sky. Either Roscoe can sense magic like GrimJack, or the outline is visible to non-sensitives.

Page 21 - GrimJack only revealing as much as he has to. Roscoe knows GrimJack well enough to read between the lines. GrimJack, in his own words, tries to make amends for his mistakes, but won't beg for forgiveness. GrimJack is responsible for Roscoe missing an eye, but he's tired of hearing Roscoe gripe about it. Roscoe willing to get an officer to land so GrimJack can "steal" his hoverbike. The TDP have hoverbikes.

Page 22 - Roscoe downplays GrimJack thanking him. GrimJack believes in luck. Average TDp hoverbike officer wears a gas-mask looking contraption. For the smoke? Because of difficulties breathing while riding the hoverbike? Just because?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Why Do Jerks Always Do Such Cool Stuff?

I've watched quite a bit of NCIS over the last few months and I've realized I have the same reaction to Special Agent Gibbs as I do to Batman. I frequently must grudgingly admit that Gibbs said or did something cool/awesome/badass. Yet I'm still irritated by his interpersonal skills, or lack thereof. So I find myself rather pleased when Gibbs has something go against him, or experiences a setback.

With regards to Batman, that might help explain why most of the comics I have with Batman in them are the solo titles of his various proteges, rather than his own titles. In other characters titles, there's a slightly better chance that if he doesn something thoughtless, rude, or bossy, he'll actually be called on it.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Game Systems, Always Trying To Cheat You

Recently I've been playing a lot of Secret Weapons Over Normandy, a World War 2 flight sim. I haven't been playing the missions, since I've already beaten those and the A.I. for my wingmen drives me nuts. What I've been doing instead is a sort of test to see which planes the game considers superior.

Basically, I'll chose a plane (say a Hawker Hurricane), take two wingmen, and go at it with four computer-controlled opponents in a different aircraft (maybe a Spitfire) for five minutes. Then, I switch, and play in three Spitfires against four Hurricanes, and compare the kill ratios of the two. In that example, when I was in the Hurricane I won 20 kills to 8, but with the Spitfire, I won 52 kills to 1. So yes, the game has the Spitfire markedly superior, as it should be.

It can be more fun than it sounds like, though it can also be less fun when comparing the less gifted aircraft. A Devastator/Stuka battle is dreadfully frustrating, with the planes being so slow, so unmaneuverable, and so poorly armed. It often takes a long time to get within range of the enemy, then you get them in your sights and start firing. And firing. And firing. Not that the other craft is necessarily a flying tank (though some of them are, the Mosquito, for example), but your weapons are just so terrible. On the upside, it makes me appreciate the abilities of the good airplanes all the more.

The thing I noticed was on a few occasions I'd be pursuing a computer opponent, and they'd be twisting, turning, diving and climbing, trying to get away, while I grow more and more frustrated that they won't hold still for just one second. As we duel, they keep getting closer to the ground, until, quite abruptly, they crash. It was especially irritating the first two times because I was trying to shoot down a Soviet IL-2, which was dubbed "The Concrete Airplane". It takes a lot of bullets to down one of those things, and when they crash, all the effort is for nothing, because you don't get credit for a kill. What's worse, normally crashing causes that side to lose a point. Except the computer cleverly saves these crashes for early in the battle, before it's racked up any kills. So it's essentially a freebie, no penalty, while its wingmen have been gradually chopping me to pieces as I chased that ultimately suicidal plane (my wingmen are only useful if they have the better plane, since their skill level iss et to the same level as that of the opponents). The crashed plane then respawns somewhere else a few moments later, completely repaired, all my effort washed away.

It's a strange, but effective trick, I must say.

Friday, December 04, 2009

We Could Go Round In Circles Like That All Day

Adorable Baby Panda: Were you saying the present I made you last year was bad?!

CalvinPitt: {Huh?}

ABP: Last week! You said you weren't cute enough to get away with making ugly gifts for people! Are you saying I am?

Calvin: {No, no, no. Of course not. I meant exactly what I said. I'm not skilled in arts and crafts, and people would call me on that. It has nothing to do with your skills. Promise.}

ABP: Why mention being cute as why they wouldn't tell you it was bad?

Calvin: {Because it went without saying that I'm not intimidating or rich enough for people to curb their tongues in my presence? Remember, our lovely audience doesn't know what I look like. They might be under the impression I'm a cute little waif myself.}


Calvin: {We past the crisis of confidence?}

Absolutely! I'm ready to work! I'm Hugging all those people that were helping Reed Richards check out that pyramid the Sphinx had. Sphinx kindapped them too, but nobody's worrying about them. {Except you.} Yeah, except me. I'm giving Sphinx a Bonk for taking people without asking, and making them help him. {Do you think any of the people he took would have helped if he gave them a choice? They could always choose not to help and see what happens. Might end up with someone worse to contend with.} They couldn't be worse. {Yeah, well I didn't think it could get worse than Tony Stark in charge of SHIELD, and now we've got Norman Osborn running things. First rule of the Marvel Universe: Things always, always get worse.}

I'm giving GrimJack Applause for promising to try and save Bob, and I'm Applauding Roscoe for helping GrimJack, even though he's mad at him, and I'm Applauding St. John of Knives for not listening to Mannachs. Maybe I should hit Mannachs for that. {Nah, it's trapped in a little statuette now, hardly worth it. Besides, it's a chaos beast doing its job. Can't really fault it for that. And it might have actually delivered on its promises if St. John accepted.} Are you under its control? {Am I moving like I'm asleep? Am I hissing? Am I attacking you uncontrollably?} No? {Then I'm probably not under its control.} Unless it got smarter! {It's an unfathomably old chaos being. How much smarter could it get?} I don't know, twice as smart? {Do you know that, or are you guessing? 'Cause if you knew that for sure, that'd be pretty cool, but I'd have to wonder if you were under its influence.} Me? I'm not being controlled! {Exactly what I'd expect someone being controlled to say.} Hey, cut it out! {You're right, this could go on forever. Let's call the whole thing off.}

Thursday, December 03, 2009

What I Bought 12/03/09

For some reason, UPS guy didn't reach the store with comics until almost noon. Which, when the store usually opens at 11, leads to sad comic shop owners. It gave me some time to peruse comics from the last couple weeks, and I came across Invincible Iron Man. I know they're heroes and thus better people than me, but geez, I think I would have debated whether to help Tony Stark out of his coma a little longer than Dr. Blake and the crew (excluding Pepper) did. Then again, I'm still not high on Tony Stark the character after all the, well, you know. Being in a coma is karma telling Tony to take his futurist line and shove it. I know, he did it to himself. I'd rather the heroes take their chances on bringing down Osborn without him. There are other smart people to lead the way, thank you very much.

GrimJack: Manx Cat #5 - St. John of Knives meets Mannachs. GrimJack's still tagging along inside St. John, until he's not. Then lots of GrimJack's attack Mannachs. Well, not exactly GrimJack's, but close enough. St. John and GrimJack are pulled back to their world, and drag Mannachs along for the ride, which would have been a terrible idea if they didn't have a Lord Protector nearby to help. GrimJack returns to his time, realizes he shouldn't have left the Manx Cat with BlacJac, and hustles off, first to get some tools, then to get the Cat.

There's something that Mannachs reveals, that potentially contradicts something established in GrimJack. It could be a trick, or it could be Mannachs having taken a look down GrimJack's lifeline a bit, and having seen what's there. Or maybe John Gaunt really isn't the first in the line. Hard to say. Truman's art is nice as usual, though there are panels where his style seems less realistic than usual, and a bit simpler. I think it's because he (or his inker) is using thicker lines than they did back in the day, and some there are fewer lines now. This issue was a little dry, but I'm eager to see how it ends.

Nova #32 - Nova and Darkhawk land before Nova's old enemy the Sphinx, who has brought them somewhere to assist him in a contest. Not sure yet what the contest is, but it involes murderous djinns, and giant crocodile monsters, which is either good, or bad, depending on your point of view. If Sphinx is assembling a team, it's a curious one, because he grabbed a Reed Richards from early in Nova's career (they play dodgy on what specific year it would be in the current timeline), a Black Bolt, and oh, that last page. I wasn't sure who it was until Nova said something, but man, that's a cruel trick for the Sphinx to play. He's gonna dangle her like a carrot in front of Rich's nose, I just know it.

Something about Darkhawk is making him a wild card. I don't think he's supposed to be there, because Sphinx can't seem to see him, and a barrier that prevents Nova from leaving the atmosphere doesn't affect Darkhawk. Which could give Chris Powell that opportunity to prove himself he's apparently been seeking for some time now. Oh, and we get to see Reed Richards say 'I don't know.' Three times! I bet Dr. Doom wishes he could have been there for that. Sorry, Dr. Doom does not wish for such things, as he no doubt observed it through means accessible only to Dr. Doom. Andrea DiVito continues to handle the pencils, which is fine with me. Everything's clear, easy to follow, and DiVitio draws quite a gator-monster.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Brave Hero, Comic Sidekick, Major Menace, You Know How That Goes

Nice thing about the PS2 is the massive game library, which I can pick through for whatever titles sound interesting. One thing I like to do with a franchise, take the earliest game (unless one of the sequels is just vastly superior), and give that a go. My reasoning is the first game is probably the most pure in concept, before they add mini-games and or bells and whistles to make the sequels seem different. Which brings us around to how I wound up playing the first Jak and Daxter and Ratchet and Clank games years after they first came out.

Of the two, I'd say I prefer Ratchet and Clank. There feels like there's less hoop-jumping, and the sidekick is actual useful. I understand Daxter can do stuff in the later games, but in this one, he's the irritating voice on your shoulder. You play as Clank sometimes, and in-story, he performs useful functions outside of drawing the hero into the story (He's necesary to pilot the ships they use to get from place to place).

The hoop-jumping. With Jak, you keep needing x number of power cores to open this thing, or to power your hover-scooter-thing so you can roll to the next area. So much of your action in a given area involves finding more power cores, or doing jobs for people so they'll give you power cores, or even buying power cores from people*. With Ratchet and Clank, you will do things for people at times, but the reward is a new gun, or maybe some information module which clues you in on where you need to go next. It makes it less blatant, because you get something that provides a clue, or something that makes your fight easier.

Beyond that, there are similarities. Lots of timing-oriented problems to work through, jumping here at the just the right moment, or getting the boss to do something just so, that kind of thing. I think Ratchet's story is a bit better, with the idea of a group having destroyed their world, so they'll build a new one out of the best parts of other worlds. It's still a Really Evil Guy Up To Really Evil Stuff, but it's a bit more creative. Plus, Ratchet lets me have a little ship-to-ship outer space combat, which is nice. With no annoying, useless wingmen to bring me down, either. Woohoo!

I don't want to give Jak the short end of the stick, though, because I did have fun playing it. Jak doesn't have an vast arsenal like Ratchet, so much of the action is related to jumping here and there, grabbing different colored blobs of energy which convey different abilities. I would say that while Ratchet is often about the most efficient way to dispatch the enemies before you, Jak is about finding the best way to get from Point A to Point B. Each game has some of the other action, but they focus in different areas, which is nice. It helps differentiate them a bit.

The character connections are interesting. Jak and Daxter are already old friends when the game starts, and it's their curious natures, plus Daxter's clumsiness that really gets the plot rolling. They also have some other friends who proide tech support or a kick in the pants as necessary. Plus, the ultimate victory involves sacrifice for the greater good on the part of one of our heroes. Ratchet and Clank meet for the first time in the game, and for a time, Clank's desire to help others meshes with Ratchet's desire to go out and explore. That doesn't last, and their partnership becomes strained for a time. Their ultimate victory comes through the two of them not just working together, but having a shared goal**. They don't have any allies or associates, though. They might briefly help someone in exchange for a tool, but there's no one consistently lending them a hand.

I'm not sure which narrative I prefer. Jak and Daxter's idea of two friends sticking together and saving the day from some crap they kind of helped kick off is appealing, but so is the idea that you never know where you'll find a friend, and sometimes you've got to move past revenge or personal desires to save the day because no one else has a clue what's happening.

* The Sonic the Hedgehog games I played on my Game Gear would have been a lot easier if I could have bought Chaos Emeralds off people, rather than hunting high and low for them, or portals that lead to them.

* It's mostly Ratchet getting on board with Clank's wishes, though Ratchet does it as much to save his home as anything else, I think.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Immortal Weapons Discussion

Immortal Weapons has concluded. So, which issue was your favorite, and which was your least favorite?

I'm taking the Bride of 9 Spiders issue for my least, because I didn't feel I learned anything about the Bride, her city, or her purpose, which means the writer was going for a presentation of her as a creature of mystery, but the art work against that, showing her in full view.

Favorite, despite strong competition from Fat Cobra and his amazing life, goes to the Dog Brother #1 issue. Timothy Green's on the art, which is a plus right there, as his style has grown on me since the Star-Lord mini-series. I also like the story, the idea of how the title is passed along, and how Dog Brother is a figure that seems more widely known outside the Heavenly Cities than the other Weapons. Or maybe it's just that the people who know of him are more varied.

Both it and the Fat Cobra story have a cyclical nature, but Dog Brother's is less hopeless than Cobra's cycle of get hammered, then doing stuff he'll forget until he has someone remind him, at which point he'll drink, forget, and screw up all over again.