Month: December 2016

The State of Boss Fights in 2016 1

The State of Boss Fights in 2016

 

The final battle with Sephiroth’s one-winged angel form. Psycho Mantis reading the player’s memory card. Taking down the towering giants of Shadow of the Colossus. Boss fights make for some of the most iconic and memorable moments of gaming’s history. So, why are most of them today so boring?

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The boss fight is one of gaming’s oldest traditions, dating back to the special ships that would appear at the top of the screen in Space Invaders. Since then, even as video games evolved into different genres, bosses have always been a staple no matter the category. Platformers, first-person shooters, RPGs, fighting games—all have a history of taking down one super-powered enemy that dates back to their earliest days. This remains the case today: out of 54 major indie and AAA game releases in 2016, 32 feature boss fights, and most of the ones that don’t are puzzle or adventure games where it wouldn’t make sense. Yet, when you ask most players who the last memorable boss they fought was, they’d probably have a very tough time giving you a name.

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That’s not to say that there aren’t any. Of the games released this year, Salt and Sanctuary, Hyper Light Drifter, Enter the Gungeon, Star Fox Zero, Doom and Titanfall 2 all had interesting battles, with Bloodborne and the Souls series being the modern gold standard in terms of having epic, interesting boss fights. These games nail the core requirements of a good boss: character and playability. When making a game with bosses, each one should have an interesting design that conveys a unique personality. In terms of playability, there should be a unique strategy to defeat each boss that differs from the other in-game enemies. Ideally, a boss fight should have a central theme that ties together the setting, the boss’s attacks, and the boss itself. This makes them more fun for the player to fight since it feels like they’re actually fighting an individual something or someone, as opposed to the faceless grunts they’re usually going up against. The best bosses break up the action so that it doesn’t get tedious fighting the same enemy over and over.

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However, the grand majority of modern games don’t do this, if they do it at all. Look at the obnoxious bullet sponges of The Division; they come into an area where there are regular enemies and you shoot them as you would a normal enemy with larger health until they drop dead. A better example would be the final confrontation of Quantum Break, a game that, up until that point, had no boss fights. Suddenly, in the game’s climax, players are faced with the game’s main antagonist, Paul Serene, throwing waves of elite enemies at them, offering a brief opportunity to damage him when they’re killed, and repeat until he’s defeated. In a game built around creative and interesting time powers, a climactic battle against an enemy with the same abilities as you should be a wonderful canvas to paint wild ideas about how the player character and main antagonist would fight each other. Instead, they barely interact at all during what’s supposed to be the most intense moment of the game.

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Even more egregious is building up to a last battle against the villain, only to leave the player with a few elite enemies. Perhaps the most blatant offender in this category of 2016 is Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, where in the game’s last playable moments, you fight the same guards you were fighting in previous levels. The main antagonist, Gabriel Krueger, does do battle with the player character Faith…in an ending cutscene. Street Fighter V, a game in a series with a history of challenging and unique bosses, ends every story the same way: a fight against an AI-controlled M. Bison, with no differences from the character you can choose in the select screen.

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As players, we want to feel more involved in the stories of video games than those of film or TV. That means personally mowing down every enemy in our path, solving every puzzle and overcoming every challenge. When taking that into account, being the one to personally take down those responsible for the protagonist’s hardships is an experience unique only to video games. There’s a sense of satisfaction to defeating the best bosses—a feeling that you defeated an enemy more formidable than those that came before, a monster bigger than the small fry you’ve been fighting, a villain at the root of the conflict you must overcome. These battles are practically as old as video games themselves, and they’re integral parts of almost any story. Boss fights are great ways to break up the monotony of a game, to let the devs explore new and interesting ways for the main character to fight, for players to feel like they’re battling against a tangible enemy and win. This is what makes the lack of effort by developers into them these days disheartening.

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Some gaming traditions, like, say, film-licensed games, dissipate with the times. However, this shouldn’t be the case with the boss fight. As they are now, boss fights are obligatory—they’re there because they have to be, and often are not particularly well thought out. All we ask is: if they’re going to be there, then why not do something with them?

You, Me and an Interview with Patrick Gilmore 4

You, Me and an Interview with Patrick Gilmore

Anyone looking at a complete list of actors and various entertainers in the industry throughout the years will find a great number of them are born in Canada. The Great White North is a deep ocean of talent from coast to coast and many of them still work here, producing shows and films that are loved across the globe. Patrick Gilmore is one of those great actors. His roster stretches pretty long but he is perhaps best known for his character of Dr. Dale Volker on Stargate Universe, and is currently working on two new TV shows. A romantic comedy called You, Me and Her and a science fiction time traveling show, Travelers.

CGMagazine: How did you get into acting?

Patrick Gilmore: I grew up on an acreage in rural Alberta so I spent a lot of time running through the fields with my best friends just playing with our imagination. When I was about 10 or 12 years old, my dad came home with a video camera and that kind of started my obsession. It just grew from there. I went into drama class in high school, then community theatre and then—it’s a drug. So I just kind of followed that addiction.

CGM: So you’ve always wanted to act? There was no other career you wanted?

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Photo Credit: Karolina Turek

Gilmore: I was kind of a late comer to the, “What should I do when I’m an adult?” decision. I remember hearing, “What are you going to do when you grow up?” when I was in grades seven, eight and nine; junior high. The questions just got more and more persistent in high school. Just to get people off my back I’d say, “I’m going to be an actor,” and it was the only thing I actually enjoyed doing other than sports. I wasn’t exactly sure if acting was what I wanted to do and I wasn’t even sure how to make a living out of it. I didn’t know anyone who did make a living out of it. Edmonton’s not really not known for its film and television production but it did have an amazing and (if not well-classed) theatre and festival community. I just told people I was going to be an actor and kind of made it up as I went. I managed to meet a number of influential people who pointed me in the right direction and before I knew it, I was in Vancouver, and had an agent, and was auditioning and…I’m still not convinced this is what I want to do.

CGM: How supportive was your family of your acting career?

Gilmore: My family was supportive to a fault. There were times in my acting career when I kind of wished my parents would sort of put their foot down and say, “No. You’re getting an employable degree from a university,” but they were so supportive, even though they had no access, or influence, or an idea of acting or how the film and television or acting community works. They said, “Do whatever you want if it makes you happy, absolutely.” They insisted I stay in school and get a degree, just as a backup plan, which is probably one of the better things I did because my degree is outside of the realm of acting. Just a General Arts degree in Literature and History, but I think that offered a grounding (and also a basis) in storytelling that has helped me. They’ve been my biggest fans my biggest supporters, even when I wanted them to kick my ass and tell me to get a real job.

CGM: Would you say your degree helped you understand and appreciate the medium?

Gilmore: Yeah I mean, literature and history really comes down to storytelling which is exactly what I do for a living. I tell stories, and so a lot of the time I’ve drawn on books I’ve read, or structure of plot, and it’s helped me immeasurably, probably more than most people who get General Arts degrees because you can’t really get a job in English, there’s no history job. This was probably one of the best ways to apply the degrees I had is in the art of storytelling, even though it’s a different medium. It’s something I’ve never regretted. I would love to go back to school as well.

CGM: Your new show Travelers came out, how did you end up landing that role?

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Photo Credit: Karolina Turek

Gilmore: I want to say I was lucky but I was lucky enough to audition and land a role in Stargate Universe. When Stargate ended, this huge family kind of went their separate ways… I [started] auditioning and Brad Wright (creator of Stargate Universe) to writing. Earlier this year, I bumped into Brad, and auditioned for Travelers and he said, “No pressure but I wrote this role for you.” He told me this as I was going into the audition. Brad’s like family but I love that they didn’t just give it to me, that I had to earn it. I had to audition a couple of times but yeah I guess it’s a role that’s been kind of peculating since Stargate ended six year ago.

CGM: What do you like about working on Travelers?

Gilmore: I like that even though it’s sci-fi, it’s a show that’s rooted in reality. It takes place in present day. We say if you watch the show with the sound off you wouldn’t even know it was a sci-fi show, and I’ve always said that sci-fi works better for me when it is rooted in reality. I don’t have to suspend my disbelief very much. I can relate to the characters, relate to theI know, reacting to things h situation, relate to the time and that’s what this is. David’s just a guy I know, in a world doesn’t understand and that’s exciting for me. It’s a lot more accessible to my imagination than, let’s say, put on this cape and tights; you’re a superhero. As much as I’d love to do that, there’s a big leap from getting to who Patrick is to getting to who a superhero is. Get me in a world I understand are start mixing it up very subtly and very darkly and very nuanced, and it’s the best sandbox to play in.

CGM: I notice you do a lot of sci-fi shows and movies. Is it a coincidence or do you going looking for that?

Gilmore: It’s more coincidence than anything. When you’re starting in acting you kind of say yes to anything that you can get your hands on, just so you can get the experience. I moved out to Vancouver when I started becoming an actor, and Vancouver has been put on the map by sci-fi. This is where the X-files was, this is where Outer Limits was, and of course Stargate.  It’s been this beautiful little hot bed of sci-fi and when you’re working in the city you’re going to end up in that genre. So as much as I didn’t choose to be connected to sci-fi, I love that I am, just given the fan base. The medical procedurals, or the police procedurals, as much as they have fans, they don’t have that community that gets together online and discusses theories and shipping. The fandom is so overwhelming and I got a good taste of it in Stargate Universe. People loved the show, and it was intimidating but when you get to meet them, who else is passionate about a TV show? In sci-fi there’s this built-in structure of community and family that know each other and support each other that I can’t seem to find in any
other genre. I’ve been lucky.

CGM: What has been your favourite project to work on?

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Photo Credit: Karolina Turek

Gilmore: That’s tough because I’m learning, every time I do a different role, I learn something new and that’s always very exciting. The roles I enjoy, the projects I enjoy, are the ones that challenge me and put me outside of my comfort zone. A role I had on The Killing was fun because that’s a role I probably wouldn’t have been cast in because I’m not normally seen like that, as an obnoxious billionaire, and I loved playing that. But I’d have to say that I’d have to go back to theatre. When I started it was theatre, and I played a woman, I played a 100 year old man, I played 15 year old kids, I played a father I played a son. You’re stretching your muscles and getting out of this cocoon of comfort that you had. Once I got into film and television, you start getting cast as neighbour, deputy, friendly neighbour, deputy number two, it’s a lot of the same stuff. Rarely do you get a chance to, when you’re starting out, to kind of push those boundaries and do something that you’re not even sure you can, that’s the fun part. It’s hard to pick one role or one project but I got to play a drunken karaoke singer once, that was fun.

CGM: Is there anything in the future that you’re hoping to be a part of?

Gilmore: I think all actors would love to be part of a show that stands the test of time, whether it’s Lost or The West Wing or The Office. One of those shows that people go back to and watch over and over again. I’d love to be a part of something like that but you can’t tell that in the moment, you can only tell later on. Who knows, maybe I already have, maybe it’s Stargate Universe, maybe it’ll be Travelers but I’d love  to be a part of something that makes people, years from now go, “Oh, let’s watch this show again.” I guess it’s about being a part of something that matters.

CGM: Is there anything you’d like to say to anybody starting their acting career?

Gilmore: There’s no better time than now to get into film and television. When I started, getting a camera was a tough thing, I’m aging myself here but we didn’t have cell phones, let alone portable cameras. But now with the Youtube-oh my god, did I just say, “the” Youtube?

CGM: Yes you did.

Gilmore: Just put me in my grave! Given that iMovie comes with your computer, that your phone shoots better than anything that’s been accessible at home, anyone can start. When I started, I had to edit within the camera and getting a camera was complicated in itself. No one could watch my films because it was on a VHS tape that you’d have to lend out and it would be the only copy. Now anyone can do it so if you want to get started, just do it. There’s no one holding you back other than your own insecurities because you have it right in your pocket right now. Get a camera and just start filming yourself, putting stuff out on the internet and exploring what works and what doesn’t. The only way to do it is to do it.

Gilmore’s new show, Travelers, airs on Mondays on Showcase. You can also catch Gilmore on You, Me and Her.

Best of 2016: Anime 13

Best of 2016: Anime

In Japan, Christmas is sort of different. A lot of people still go to work, gift-giving isn’t as much of an ordeal, and one of the biggest customs is chowing down on Kentucky Fried Chicken. No, really—people preorder buckets in advance for fear of not being able to get it. But because we don’t live in Japan, us Westerners have to punch other shoppers for the right present and don’t even get to look forward to the greasy goodness of KFC on Baby Jesus’ birthday. The upside is that buying anime in the West is way cheaper than it is overseas. With that in mind, here are ten anime worth buying for the discerning otaku in your life. For the sake of this list, I’ve excluded sequels (so Evangelion 3.33 is off the table, despite being wonderful,) and only listed things that you can legally buy physical copies of in the West.

10) Wicked City

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Best of 2016: Anime
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Diskotek, one of the best publishers in the industry right now, rescued one of the 1980’s forgotten gems this year. Wicked City is a nasty, twisted little beast of a movie, packed with sex, violence, and weird combinations of the two. Yet it’s not all exploitation—Kawajiri’s compelling yarn of an attempted demon/human peace contract is a tight thrill ride of a film. Featuring some truly memorable set-pieces and an emphasis on unnerving body horror, this is one for your weird cousin who doesn’t leave their room all that much. Plus, Diskotek’s new transfer is crisp and clean, making it the best version of the flick on the market right now.

9) Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun

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Anime romance is usually pretty shallow and poorly depicted, mainly because it’s rooted in immature understandings of human interaction. That said, there are some diamonds hidden in the dirt, and Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun’s definitely one of them. It’s a cute, sweet tale about a high school girl who falls for a manga artist, and the wacky hijinks that follow. Nothing about it is too serious or heavy—it’s a pretty frothy, light little show from start to finish. Yet in a world where grimdark melodrama like Attack on Titan and Psycho-Pass pass for being “good,” there’s definitely a place for this sort of thing. It’s a funny, sweet show that almost anyone can enjoy, and good for giving warm fuzzies underneath the mistletoe. Plus, the comedy lovers out there will enjoy the funny visual gags in each episode.

8) Charlotte

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You know what I hate? “Let’s make a club” anime. Know what Charlotte’s about? Making a club. Wait, wait, hear me out! See, what makes the prolific Jun Maeda’s latest worthwhile is its staunch refusal to fit into a box. While the central premise is that the protagonists are gathering adolescents with superpowers, that concept is a simple framework for a more complex narrative to build upon. As the series progresses, insufferable moe tropes fall to the wayside in favor of thought-provoking fantasy and sci-fi. It actively builds audience goodwill before smashing it against the rocks, recalling Hideaki Anno or Tsutomu Mizushma at their meanest. It’s a roller coaster of a show, and while some parts of it are a little bog-standard, it ultimately ends up being more than the sum of its parts. Whether you have a sci-fi fan or a pretentious anime hipster like me in your life, Charlotte’s a safe bet.

7) Parasyte –the maxim–

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Few words can describe how on the fence I was about Parasyte -the maxim-. It was a modern riff on a classic manga, one that changed the art style of the show and cast Aya Hirano aka Haruhi Suzumiya as the murderous alien attached to the protagonist’s hand. Thankfully, I was wrong, and Parasyte is a stellar adaptation that even manages to find ways to improve upon the source material. It’s a blood-soaked action tale that’s punctuated by bits of dark humour and messed-up body horror, making it a perfect fit for that edgy teenager in your life. In terms of grim, punch action anime, you could do a whole lot worse than Parasyte -the maxim-.

6) MY love STORY!!!

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Another cute and sweet anime about teenagers falling in love, MY love STORY!!! wound up taking me by surprise. It’s one of the rare romance anime where the protagonists aren’t complete idiots and don’t even get together in the end. Instead, it’s a story where the adorably bashful protagonists get together in the first few episodes; the rest of the series is dedicated to them clumsily navigating the ins and outs of a relationship, albeit in a very comedic sort of way. The stellar art direction, great animation and spot-on voice acting make My love STORY!!! one of the most infectious, sweet titles of the year, and one of the better romance anime I’ve seen.

5) Prison School

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Here’s one for when your family leaves after the festivities are over. Prison School, which concerns a group of high school boys locked up in a prison camp for being perverts, is one of the most gleefully distasteful shows out there. It revels in its absurd premise, and takes full advantage of the TV-MA rating in the most explicit ways possible. But if you look past the fan service, it’s really a stellar anime and one of the best in years, in fact. It’s a ribald send up of masculine insecurity, one that’s rife with dirty humour and filthy punches at male sexuality. In spite of its over-the-top content (or perhaps because of it,) Prison School is one of the best adult comedies in recent memory, and definitely one for less prudish people in your life.

4) Sound! Euphonium

Best of 2016: Anime 9

Kyoto Animation’s mostly cranked out garbage in recent years, so imagine my surprise when they made something that was, in fact, not garbage. Sound! Euphonium is a surprisingly slow, nuanced human drama about a high school band trying to compete at a national level. However, it’s more than that; it’s a story about budding romance, tested friendships, and teenage insecurities, all rolled up into a slickly produced and brilliantly scored package. KyoAni came back in a big way with this show, and gave me faith that they’ve still got good work in ‘em. Plus, for the LGBTQ teens in your life, Euphonium does a great job of depicting same-sex romance in a positive, sweet light that doesn’t overtly sexualize its characters.

3) Only Yesterday

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Isao Takahata is Hayao Miyazaki’s second fiddle when it comes to Studio Ghibli productions. His tone, style, and themes are wildly different from his friend/rival, and by consequence, his films usually aren’t talked about as much. Which is a shame, because his works are some of the studio’s most interesting. Only Yesterday is, in fact, one of their best. It’s a touching tale of a woman’s dissatisfaction with her life, and her attempts to reconnect with her childhood dreams. This tale of an office worker turned farmer is a sweet, touching drama that moves at a leisurely pace, and ultimately reminds viewers to never lose touch with what truly makes them happy. Ghibli’s beautiful animation helps bring Japan’s lush countryside to life, along with a stellar cast and moving score. Only Yesterday is a beautiful movie that practically anyone can enjoy, and another reason to appreciate Takahata’s mastery of the craft.

2) The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

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The anime industry spent the last decade ripping off Haruhi Suzumiya, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down yet. However, copies will always be inferior to the original, and thus is the case with Kyoto Animation’s undisputed masterpiece. The funny, touching tale of a fickle goddess and the boy who loves her is just as entertaining today as it was in 2006, and Funimation’s mac-daddy release is as good as we’re ever going to get. Both seasons of the show are revolutionary, compelling yarns that pushed the medium to new heights and laid down a mould for other shows to lazily follow for the next ten years. It’s still one of the best shows out there, and this release is a must-have for fans or newcomers alike. Now if only the fantastic follow-up film would get a reissue.

1) Yurikuma Arashi

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If Haruhi set the mould, Yurukuma Arahi is a bold attempt to smash it to pieces. Ikuhara’s latest attempt to blow minds is a flagrant celebration of queer sexuality, a critique of the limitations of yuri anime, and a bold criticism of Japan’s reductive views towards gay marriage. It’s also just a flatout great show, with endearing characters, a tripped-out premise (lesbian teddy bears!) and some of the best art design in recent memory. As somebody who routinely loses faith in the anime industry, Yurikuma Arashi was this year’s reminder that people are still capable of making some great stuff. While some of the nudity in the show makes it a little inappropriate for younger audiences, it’s still a subversive trip of a show, and the best thing the medium’s produced in years. A must-have.

That about does it, folks! Hopefully, this list helps you figure out something worth getting for the anime fan in your life, regardless of their age. Be sure to check out CGM’s other Buyer’s Guides for comics, games, and movies!

Nintendo Dominates Holiday Sales figures

Nintendo Dominates Holiday Sales figures in Japan

The holidays are mostly behind us, and with them is the last big sales push of 2016. As 2016 comes to a close, Media Create reloeased it’s sales figures for the week of Dec 19, 2016 through Christmas, so it’s time to knuckle down and see who was a good little gaming company. We’ve covered these Japanese sales figures before, but following the holidays things can always get exciting.

It can’t really be a surprise to anyone that Nintendo and the Pokémon Company are on top in hardware and software, respectively. Usually, the newest Pokémon game, along with hardware to play on, are common wishlist items since the franchise’s inception back in the 90s. Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon sold a combined total of 322,830 units in the run up to the holiday, unseating it’s strong competitor Yo-Kai Watch 3: Sukiyaki in the process. There’s no doubt this helped the New 3DS sales numbers, but that’s not the only reason.

While not selling quite as many units as Pokemon Sun/Moon, the real star of the show seems to be Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS. The mobile port only released at the beginning of the month, and it is quickly approaching one million units sold, selling a total of 315,382 in this week alone. In fact, looking over the software sales, its no wonder that the 3DS dominated is hardware sales. Of this list of the top 30 games sold, 21 of them are 3DS games. The Last Guardian only sold a trivial 11,222 units while Mario Kart 7, a five year old game put out nearly twice that.

With that in mind, it’s no suprise the 3DS and all of it’s alternate models moved out a total of 229,575 units, more than twice the number of sales from it’s closest competitor, the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro, which only managed to get a combined total of 107,269 systems out the door. It was a great week for games of all stripes, but a very merry mobile market.

The Chimera Brigade #1 (Comic) Review 1

The Chimera Brigade #1 (Comic) Review

Alternate history can be a difficult genre. When done well it can lead to some of the most interesting and lasting stories out there, like Watchmen or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. When done poorly it ends up as a regrettable, forgettable mess, like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie. Luckily, the initial issue of Titan ComicsThe Chimera Brigade, amusingly titled Mechanoid Curie, falls into the former category.

The Chimera Brigade #1 (Comic) Review 2Chimera Brigade is set to tell the story of the lead up (and likely the events of) the Second World War, set in a world where superhumans and mad science are a firm, though concerning reality. While super soldiers and skull-faced Nazis are hardly a novel concept, Chimera Brigade pushes story to the forefront rather than bombastic battles and snappy one-liners.

The book follows Irene Curie, daughter of everyone’s favourite irradiated real-life physicist, Marie, as she is smuggled into a secret facility by power-armoured Russians to attend a mysterious superhuman soiree put together by the hypnotist/Nazi Dr. Missbrauch. What ensues is a lot of exposition, a little bit of action, and a bunch of bugs.

To be fair, the amount of talking in this book is going to turn off fans of more energetic titles, but I loved it. All of this grandstanding establishes an intriguing world that feels alarmingly lived in. Characters have their own motivations and allies and reasons to have those, rather than the two dimensional characterizations that can be so common in comic books. While the Russian organization known as We is harboring Irene, readers will definitely understand that while they may be working together, they represent very different nations and ideas.

The Chimera Brigade #1 (Comic) Review 3Furthermore, Stephanie Gess, the artist involved in this book, does a fine job painting a world that is visually interesting and manages to capture the awe-inspiring nature of super humanity while paying homage to the campy stories that inspired everything. Despite the dry, often bleak tone of the book, it’s hard not to smile at all the rivet strewn suits of power armour, the undead stormtroopers, or the big ole’ tiger dude (Appropriately named Tigrefax).

The primary drama proposed in Chimera Brigade seems to be about the histories and alliances of these meta-humans, and the divide between them. Here we have less ‘heroes versus villians’ and more of a clash in ideals between nations and the powered people that claim them as their own. In this war, Chimera Brigade looks like it will be painting a more realistic view on World War 2, though the world itself is fantastical. If this first issue is any indication, then this is a series I’ll stick with for many issues to come.



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