Month: December 2011

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How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The New 52

With the end of the year fast-approaching, it’s a perfect time to look back at the year that was in comics, and talk about the developments of the year in the world of comics, and look at what ultimately shaped the past year. Inevitably, the topic of discussion can’t help but fixate on DC Comics’ radical move to restart their entire line of comics in September, under the banner of The New 52.

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FF #12 Review

FF #12 Review

Since its launch earlier this year, FF has quietly developed a fantastic cast of characters in the Future Foundation, which makes this issue easier to enjoy and swallow. Although we don’t yet know how this title and the returned Fantastic Four will stand alongside one another, it stands to reason that now the kids are on their own, and are having adventures separate from Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman and The Thing. So after a year of being developed as supporting cast members, it seems that they were being groomed to take over as leads of this book. At least I very much hope that is the case, as Hickman’s work on them truly shines. He’s crafted Valeria and Franklin into extremely well-written, fully-fleshed out characters, and adds new dimensions to Nathaniel Richards as well (although I still miss the version of him that disappeared in the mid-90s, after the conclusion of Onslaught). Sadly, my favourite character of the cast, Dragon Man, has little dialogue in this issue, but the ongoing saga of Valeria Richards doing what must be done to save the future as told to her by Franklin Richards’ future self is progressing quite nicely. This particular issue is a great window into a quieter aspect of the ongoing FF/Fantastic Four saga, as Fantastic Four #600 focused on the Annihilation Wave, Inhumans, Kree, etc, all at the same time, and this issue quite cleverly breaks off from the pack, and tells a more isolated story that still has potentially huge ramifications for both teams.

However, despite an extremely strong script, the artwork by Bobilo is a huge disappointment. This title has boasted an array of extremely talented artists thus far, and although Bobilo’s artwork has a bit of charm to it, it fails to adequately tell the story in the script, and his character renderings are sloppy and ugly. If I felt that the artwork was rushed, I think that would have been preferable, because it would indicate a feeling that the artwork is normally better than this, but I don’t actually think that’s the case. The artwork was simply not suitable for this book, nor for the story being told, and the issue suffers quite a lot as a result.

Avenging Spider-Man #2 Review

Avenging Spider-Man #2 Review

Avenging Spider-Man is a rip-roaring team-up comic in the tradition of Marvel Team-Up, focusing instead on Spider-Man’s adventures with the Avengers. Zeb Wells’ stock in trade is telling fast-paced, action-oriented stories with a great deal of wit and humour interspersed, which is what has made him such a great writer for Spider-Man. With this book, he’s given the space to tell fun stories in the overall continuity for Spider-Man but outside the central title, which gives him more freedom in terms of the stories he tells and what characters he uses. This first arc, although ostensibly about his team-up with Red Hulk, also features J. Jonah Jameson heavily as he stands up to his captors for better or for worse (this being a Spider-Man comic, of course it’s more for the worse). The story is a simple one, with Spider-Man and Red Hulk discovering that they’re trapped underground amidst a civil war, while Mayor J. Jonah Jameson finds himself kidnapped as a representative of the overworld, trying to get information from none other than Mole Man.

When it comes to the writing, it’s the portrayal of Spider-Man and his odd team-up with General Ross’ Red Hulk which electrifies the script. They’re quite an odd pairing, although to be honest Red Hulk himself is an odd enough pairing in and of itself, with the intellect and curmudgeony attitude of General Ross married together with the super-strong, monstrous exterior of the Red Hulk. Their banter, or rather Spider-Man’s attempts at bantering with Red Hulk, are a true highlight of the issue. But not to be outdone, J. Jonah Jameson is also quite well written here in this issue, as Wells gives us a strong-willed Jameson who borders on silly but thankfully skirts the edge, reminding me a lot of how Scott Lobdell wrote Jameson back in Uncanny X-Men #346.

Speaking of Uncanny X-Men #346, it’s probably no coincidence that the illustrator of that issue was Joe Madureira. Madureira delivers some beautiful artwork in this issue, which has a great deal of motion and action in it. The latter is exquisitely handled, but Madureira manages to make even the quiet scenes captivating, particularly those with Jameson. There’s just something about how he illustrates Jameson that I can’t get enough of; he imbues him with a great strength and dignity, despite what ludicrous things he might just be saying.

This is a fantastic new book, it’s fun, it’s action-packed, and features excellent work by both Wells & Madureira. Either one of these guys would be a reason to try out this book, but combined, they are one hell of a dynamic duo.

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Roguelike – Game Length is not a Selling Point

About two month ago, I ordered Dark Souls from a certain unnamed Canadian store. They ran out, and as a result I got the game for about half the price. I’m a pretty big fan of getting games for cheap and an even bigger fan of getting them for free. And buying the game for a little less that day made me a little happier. I spent the next 70 hours – not all in one sitting – struggling my way through the dark dungeons of Lordran.

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Marginal Motion

 

It’s been a few years now, but I’m starting to wonder, “What exactly is the stand that the audience has on motion-based gaming?”

Motion controls really came into their own with the debut of the Wii, and since then, there’s been a rapid, monstrous rise in its popularity that just as quickly seems to have dwindled away. The Wii itself is not a fixture of the living room, and is not constantly being used as the primary form of entertainment. Most of the people that bought a Wii during the height of Wii-mania now let it either collect dust, or bring it out on occasions when guests arrive.

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The Adventures Of Tintin (2011) Review

Growing up the whole Tintin thing was somewhat of a mystery to me. Though available in North America, the series was never close to as popular as it is in Europe and frankly always seemed a bit lame compared to the costumed superheroes who took up most of my childhood comic book reading. A Tintin movie wasn’t something I was dying to see, but it was something that Steven Spielberg had been dreaming of for years.

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Amazing Spider-Man #675 Review

Amazing Spider-Man #675 Review

One of the most positive things to come out of Spider-Man’s Brand New Day era is undoubtedly the character of Carlie Cooper, Spider-Man’s now-ex-girlfriend. She was a bit of a departure when it came to Spider-Man’s usual love interests, a mixture between Gwen Stacy, Debra Whitman and Black Cat, and a fair bit different from Mary Jane Watson. As time has gone on, I’ve really come to love her as a character, and this issue is a great personal piece, as she tries to accept that Peter lied to her about being Spider-Man despite many opportunities to come clean and tell her the truth. How she doesn’t want to see him without the mask is a call-back to his relationship with Black Cat, when she didn’t want to think of him as being the boring Peter Parker, whereas with Carlie she doesn’t want to think of Spider-Man being Peter Parker because of the lies, etc. She’s more comfortable working with him as Spider-Man on a case than having to confront the man she thought she knew and thought she loved, but who kept a huge secret from her. As Spider-Man and Carlie Cooper work the same case together, trying to figure out how highrise burglaries are connected to some supposed jumper deaths, the Vulture operates his newest scheme, an almost cult-like family of Vulturions, for lack of a better term (as I don’t believe any actual term to describe them was used in-comic).

Slott writes an extremely scary and creepy Adrian Toomes in this issue, and it’s nice to see the Vulture back in the spotlight and given some real street cred. He’s one of those villains who’s often used as a bit of a joke, given his age, but here he’s twisted into a fascinating figure who has become a cult-like personality with his own group of devotees. Slott isn`t afraid to show that he’s still just as powerful as before – if not moreso, as he demonstrates to Spider-Man at the end of the issue.

The artwork by Camuncoli is fantastic in this issue, assisted by Janson and D`Armata on inks and colors, respectively. They had a great new dimension to his artwork, almost Romita-esque (both Jr. and Sr.) at times, in a positive way.

Slott tells a rich story here, simultaneously re-establishing Adrian Toomes as a physically formidable threat while at the same time further developing and deepening the character of Carlie Cooper and her relationships with Spider-Man, Peter Parker and Mary Jane. Peter Parker-sense tingling, indeed. Highly Recommended!

Defenders #1 Review

Defenders #1 Review

When this title – the most recent Defenders to be launched over the last few years – was first announced, I was pretty sure I was going to give it a pass. I’ve never really been a fan of the team, having grown up in the wrong era to be able to properly appreciate the concept. However, after reading the prelude story in Marvel’s Point One one-shot, I decided to give it a shot, as I was intrigued by how Fraction was writing Doctor Strange. This is a very off-beat comic, which is what one expects from the Defenders, but it works thanks to the unique characterizations that litter these pages. The tagline for the book is an apt one: “Protecting Humanity From The Impossible”, and Doctor Strange and his cohorts band together to do just that. However, Hulk isn’t on the team this time around, with his spot being filled by Red She-Hulk. Iron Fist is added to the roster as well, partially because he’s rich and has a jet that can get the team where they need to go (instead of having to use the Eurail, one of the funnier bits from this issue).

Although most of the issue is spent on gathering together the team, it does feel like there’s more going on these days than in most first issues, simply because we get a healthy dose of characterization for each member of the team. Fraction gives them all a unique viewpoint and voice, which is essential for making this issue as engrossing as it is. The threat – essentially a dark Hulk, the Breaker of Worlds – is on the loose, and it’s up to the unique powers and abilities of the Defenders to stop it, at any cost. The cliffhanger ending sees one member of the team in dire peril, as a foe from the Defenders’ past shows up to herald the arrival of the Breaker of Worlds. I’m interested to see how Fraction uses this character, especially considering the last time they made an appearance in the mainstream Marvel Universe just a few short years ago, as a supporting character in Cable & Deadpool.

The artwork by the Dodsons is everything one would expect from them artistically, both good and bad. At times, the linework is just sublime, with Dr. Strange in particular looking very scholarly; this is a great look for the character that is sometimes lost in illustration. However, there are some panels where characters look awkward, as the poses aren’t natural and make the characters look unnecessarily stiff.

There’s a lot of promise here , and what will make this title either work or fail is not necessarily in the action or even the villain, but in how Fraction makes the team work and how he explores their characterization.

Highly Recommended!

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (XBOX 360) Review 1

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (XBOX 360) Review

Earlier this year in February, after eleven years of waiting and hoping, fans of the seminal Marvel vs. Capcom 2 were delighted by the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3. The game saw a return to what fans of the series loved: fast-paced tag-team matches, eye-popping graphics and over-the-top action, punctuated by ludicrous hyper-combos which delivered a flurry of hits to opponents. However, the release wasn’t without its problems, as the game had far less characters than the last instalment, starting with 36 playable characters (plus 2 DLC characters) opposed to MvC2’s 56-character-strong roster. A lack of DLC-support for the title opened itself to further criticisms, as it seemed that despite the strong game that was released, the issues that fans had were mostly with what wasn’t in the game, as opposed to what was in the game.

Fast forward nine months to the release of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, a rerelease with twelve new playable characters to bring the total number of characters to 50. The question facing gamers who purchased the original version of the game is a difficult one: whether to support what Capcom has done and buy the new game, or stay put with the original release. The game was released as a standalone product and not just a series of DLC because of a delay in the production of the DLC earlier this year, thanks to the earthquake in Japan. This prompted the creators to scrap DLC plans and make this a full release. To Capcom`s credit, the price point on this title has been kept relatively low in comparison to the original release of the game, to the point where the DLC probably would have been more expensive if they had kept it for the original game.

Furthermore, there have been numerous tweaks made to the characters’ moves, with some characters’ either streamlined or with flat-out new ones. There’s been an effort to further balance the game and the mechanics, while at the same time adding in new stages. Characters now have a greater number of skins to utilize – six instead of four – to keep the game fresh and dynamic, so that there are more combinations for players to use visually. This aspect will appeal more to comic book fans who pick up this game as opposed to gaming fans, as the Marvel skins are specific whereas with the Capcom skins are more often than not nothing more than palette swaps.

One of the biggest problems with this title’s release is that it makes gamers who already purchased the first iteration of this title feel like they only bought a working-beta the first time around. I’m more of a comic book fan as opposed to a gaming fan, but from what I gather gamers are increasingly wary of Capcom and how they will rerelease games with minor tweaks and changes numerous times, making some wonder if this version of UMvC3 will soon be followed by yet another standalone edition of the game. The new characters are an intriguing bunch; from the Marvel Comics side of things, players get Ghost Rider, Iron Fist, Rocket Raccoon, Dr. Strange, Hawkeye and Nova, with Firebrand, Frank West, Nemesis T-Type, Phoenix Wright, Strider Hiryu and Vergil coming from the Capcom side.

It’s definitely an eclectic bunch. All of the Marvel Comics characters are new to the franchise, instead of bringing back old favourites from MvC2, like Iceman, Venom, Sabretooth, Cable or Cyclops, amongst others. For Capcom fans, the continued exclusion of Mega Man from this game will only prove to further infuriate fans of the beloved character.

The online play is definitely smoother with less of a lag than the previous version, and with the welcome addition of a spectator mode for online lobbies. It definitely makes being in an online lobby waiting for a fight more interesting and enjoyable, as you get to see the battle take place instead of seeing nothing but the health bars slowly diminishing, as was the case in MvC3. When playing in offline mode, there’s now an opportunity to play as Galactus against a computer-controlled force of three characters, but it really fails to deliver on the promise. Playing as Galactus is not a fulfilling experience in the least, with no controls even being listed. There’s supposed to be a new mode to play with called Heroes and Heralds, but it’s not yet available, but has been promised as an upcoming free DLC for the game.

The biggest drawback of the release of this game is that you are, essentially, paying $40 for the additional characters, but not much else at this time. You get some more skins for your favourite characters and the fun of the new characters, but there’s a lack of new modes or anything else to help justify the cost. Some of the rebalancing makes the gameplay a little deeper and more challenging to master. For those fans of the series who, despite hours of gameplay, are still not all that good at that game (such as myself), it can make the online matches even more frustrating. For fans of achievements and trophies, this is a game that is going to be almost impossible to complete to 100%, with an increased emphasis on online prowess, not to mention the amount of online time needed. The mission mode from the original release returns, and at times can be even less forgiving than before. The biggest drawback is that all the practicing in the world won’t help the typical, mediocre player improve, as the online gameplay moves at a frenetic pace that doesn’t let up.

There has already been a series of DLC previewed for this game, but sadly none of it includes new modes or characters. Instead, there are ten DLC skins packs to provide all of the characters with new costumes (save for the 2 DLC characters from MvC3, plus the 6 skins available for MvC3 as DLC). Gamers can either purchase them as they are slowly rolled out over the next few months at $4/each, or wait until March 6th and purchase all of them for $20, an effective savings of $20 if gamers can wait that long. Among the DLCs that stand out for fans include Nathan Spencer (Bionic Commando) in his traditional look featured in Bionic Commando: Rearmed, Zero as Mega Man, Spider-Man as Scarlet Spider, Phoenix in her ’90s outfit, Hulk in his World War Hulk costume, She-Hulk as Jennifer Walters, and Magneto in his House of M outfit, among many others. Zero’s DLC skin being him as Mega Man will likely just salt the wounds of those fans decrying his omission once again from this game.

Could this game have been more than it is? Yes, it could have expanded the game more to truly deserve a separate release from the original. The relatively small roster of playable characters is still an issue, as it’s still smaller than Marvel vs. Capcom 2. In the eleven years between the releases of MvC2 and MvC3, there was a lot of time for gamers to master and enjoy the game and hope that someday there would be a sequel. There was a lot of goodwill garnered over that time, and with the release of UMvC3 coming less than a year after the first release, it spends some of that sooner than fans would have hoped.



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