Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Eat @ Shrimpy's 2013 Year in Review

I have combed through my reviews this year to bring you a best of list.  If you neglected my recommendation the first time*, follow the links to re-read the reviews and make some post-New Year’s purchases.  If I neglected something, or you think I ranked one too low, please let me know in the comments, we’ll start a dialogue.

*Where I have failed to provide a previous review there will be a small blurb as to why I included that particular thing.



Comic Series:

1.  Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye
2.  Transformers: Robots in Disguise
3.  Sons of Anarchy - I was going to wait to do a full review until after the six issue series concludes, but the long and short of it is that this is a pitch-perfect series that captures the true "voices" of the characters with good artwork that, for the most part, keeps everyone "on model" in terms of their appearance.  This couldn't have been written with any more eye toward the characters if series creator Kurt Sutter had done it himself.
4.  Bodie Troll
5.  Transformers: Monstrosity

Video Games:

1.  Ducktales Remastered - If you grew up in the nineties, there's a good chance you played the Ducktales game.  If you have even the slightest of fond memories of Uncle Scrooge bouncing up and down on the heads of his enemies using his cane then you owe it to yourself to drop the $15.00 on this digital title (you can get the hardcopy version as well, but it's an additional $5.00).  Everything is as you remember it, but the graphics are ten times better.  I kind of wish someone would get the urge to do this with the Mega Man games.  The only knock on the game is that it is so short, but you can't fault the people who created it twenty-plus years ago, as that was probably a pretty lengthy game back then. 
2.  Lego Marvel Superheroes 
3.  Donkey Kong Country - 3DS - If you like the Wii version of the game, you're in luck because this is basically the same thing but in a hand-held format.  Unfortunately it also comes complete with the horrible barrel-riding levels that are at best the worst thing to happen to a Nintendo property since Link went 3D.
4.  Transformers Prime - 3DS
5. Skylanders Swap Force

Monday, December 30, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

Dear Hayden

I know that this is far from what you would expect from this site.  Usually it is humor (or feeble attempts at it) and some light commentary.  My reason for doing this, and airing it in such a public forum is that my son is now six years old.  In a few years he will be more internet-savvy than I am (he’s already pretty good with a tablet or smart phone).  When he gets to that level of experience, he would probably do what most people do and Google himself.  I hope that this is one of the first entries that pops up, so that he can read this without his mother filtering it.  Bear with me, and I’ll get back to the humor next Monday, I promise.
Dear Hayden,

                Today is December 27, 2013.  It has been sixty-two days since I have seen your smiling face.  It has been twenty-two days since I have heard your voice.  In that span of time, I have tried repeatedly to remedy both of those situations.  I have asked to see you on multiple occasions and nearly twenty-two straight nights now I have asked your mother if I could speak to you and your brother only to be either ignored or flat-out told no.  Your mother wants me to give up on you, and I don’t know what she has told you, whether she has said that I already have or not, but believe me, that is far from the truth.  You were the reason I was there from the beginning, and you and your brother are the reason I will keep fighting every day.  This is not a matter of me versus your mother, this is just me trying to see you, to help raise you in the best way possible and to make the best of a bad situation. 

                I know that things are moving incredibly slowly since the day your mother took you from me, and I know that some days it can be hard, it’s hard for me too, but in the end we will be together.  All of the good times that we had in those five years you were in my care will come rushing back as our relationship is renewed.  We will pick up right where we left off, like nothing happened, like your mother didn’t secretly spirit you away and keep you from me for months.  We will make up for lost time and create new memories that will replace any negatives ones you may have of the last few months. 

                From the moment I met you I knew you were going to be my best buddy, that we would be inseparable, and for the good part of five years we were.  You were always by my side, helping me cook, shop or even at work, we were once the best of friends and we will be that way again.  Having you ripped away from me is like having a piece of my heart ripped away, in fact I would prefer that, as everyday without you my heart breaks a little more.  I am trying to stay strong for you, as I know you are trying to stay strong for me.  You have always been tougher than I am and I know that won’t change.  We’ll be strong for one another and before you know it we’ll be together again.

                I’m not the only one that misses you.  Your uncles, your grandparents, Jake, Lisa and even the dogs can’t wait to see you again.  That’s all they talk about and they are all constantly asking me about you.  No one has forgotten about you, nor will they ever do so.  You are the first grandson and that is a title you will always carry, regardless of how infrequent they see you. 

                There are so many things we missed this year.  I was not there for your birthday or your first day of school, I was not allowed to be there for Christmas, and our Red Sox won the World Series this year! While you were there to see one of the games (remember that? You stayed up late to wait for me to get home and we wound up staying up past midnight to watch the end of the game?), it would have been great if you were there for the clincher as well (it was a great game). While these are all events, and things that come around every once in awhile, it’s the everyday events that I miss the most.  I miss not being able to come in the door after work without seeing your smiling face, either eating dinner or running to me to get me to play with you before I’ve even removed my shoes.  I miss our lazy weekends where we could sit and watch cartoons in our pajamas and eat pancakes for breakfast.  I miss scraping the sauce off your pizza because there is “green stuff” in it.  I miss our dinner dates to the pancake house.  I miss going to school with you, accompanying you on a field trip or helping you on “build a boat day”.  I miss everything about you. 
For the better part of five years you and your brother were my light in the darkness, you are what kept me going and made me want to be a better person so that I could in turn be a better father for you.  I have not given up on that, as I am your father, regardless of what your mother may say, or who she may try and bring in to replace me, and our relationship is only taking a break.  You know in Transformers, when Optimus Prime dies and then comes back to life?  You know he’s not really dead, that he’ll be back.  He’s too powerful and too important to stay dormant for long.  That’s us.  We are Optimus Prime.  Our relationship right now is dormant, but just like Optimus Prime it will come back, and be stronger than before.  If you believe, like I believe, then we will weather this storm and find our “Matrix of Leadership” and come back to life.

                Life is full of a lot of instances that will test you, that will try and beat you down unless you fight through them.  Usually you have to wait until you are a little older for that to happen.  It just so happens that life hit you with one at a young age.  We will get through this together, you and I, hand in hand just like we have done for years.

                I love you more than words could ever say,

Cowboys vs. Eagles Round Two: The Shitty Sequel

               How many movies are classic and then completely ruined by a shitty sequel (Hey Anchorman 2!)?  Well be prepared for the NFL equivalent of that this Sunday night when the Cowboys and Eagles take the field for a winner-take-all showdown between the two hottest teams in the…

…wait, what’s that?  The Cowboys needed a last second, fourth and ten touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Demarco Murray just to make this game count for something?  In doing so they snapped a two game losing streak?  They also lost their quarterback for the rest of the season (regardless of what Jerry Jones tells you) and their defense hasn’t stopped anyone all year except for the Eagles (who were on their third-string quarterback at that point)?  

What’s that?  The Eagles lost just two weeks ago to the lowly Vikings without their only legitimate offensive weapon? 

What’s that?  The Cowboys just signed a math teacher who hasn’t played pro football in two years to be their backup (I really like Kitna, but damn if that’s not desperation)?

What’s that?  The Cowboys coaches are likely coaching for their jobs and said as much before last week’s Redskins game?

Okay, never mind.  Maybe this won’t be the game of the year after all, and whoever wins will most likely be bounced in the first round of the playoffs, ensuring themselves a spot in the draft-order come this spring that will likely amount in not much (and for a team as defensively deficient as the Cowboys, they need something much more than “not much”).  Will I still watch it?  Sure.  I endured the Dave Campo years in Dallas, so I can endure this.  Plus, if the Cowboys lose, at least my girlfriend will be happy, and if she’s happy, then I’m…happy (that’s the right answer, right?).  

I am the 1%

I think it's safe to say that if we could all say that we were the 1% we would be happier...also it wouldn't really be 1% if we all said it.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Not So New Comic Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (1991) #15

                 We open this issue with a marriage proposal.  For those of you that were looking for a Yondu-Martinex partnership (you creepy bastards) you are out of luck.  Admittedly, it’s difficult to discern how much time has passed from the start of the series, but Vance, after not too long in my estimation has decided that the best course of action would be for him to marry Aleta.  The circumstances are a little strange (given that Aleta’s ex-husband and the guy that used to share her body is on the same team, plus the fact that Vance is covered in a containment suit that he cannot remove except when he is in his specially formulated room.  I suppose if that’s how Aleta wants to spend the rest of her life, then more power to her, and I guess I have no place to talk considering the fact that I’m not an interstellar space traveler and therefore don’t know what he’s going through and what it would take to get him to want to propose to someone under those strange circumstances.  It’s just strange is all.  It doesn’t help that Mephisto is watching all this on his giant TV rock and laughing at it.  When the devil thinks you’re making a bad decision, then you’re making a bad decision. 
                What’s even better is that we get a few more pages of exposition from Mephisto, where he basically owns up to manufacturing everything that we’ve seen over the last fourteen issues.  Does this mean that Valentino is the devil?  I guess anything is possible.  While you could probably see this as a cop-out, having Mephisto be responsible for all of the machinations of the past year’s worth of stories, it’s also a novel idea that actually ties everything together and gives the whole series a greater sense of continuity.  The fact that everything that has happened has all been leading up to this gives this storyline an even greater sense of importance as well. 

                Now, we are introduced to the focal point of this story, and apparently the focal point of the whole series to this point if we’re to believe Mephisto…The Protégé.  Remember the Universal Church of Truth from the Ghost Rider issues?  Apparently this little kid is the living embodiment of their god, the Magus (for those that don’t know, The Magus is a Jim Starlin creation that coincides with Adam Warlock, and is utilized mostly for Starlin to speak on his views regarding religion.   The whole premise of this storyline is that there is a huge tournament going on to basically be The Protégé’s nanny.  The cool thing about The Protégé is that whatever power he sees, he can replicate, so part of the reason the tournament is going on is so that The Protégé can up his arsenal and be as powerful of a God as the people think he is.  Malevolence, the daughter of Mephisto is convinced that she will be the one to win the tournament and be the nanny, thus shaping The Protégé and turning him evil in the process. 

Malevolence quickly dispatches a member of The Stark, and before we can go any further, it’s origin-story time!  This one is of Interface, leader of Force, the group that is being tricked into helping Malevolence because Brahl is a giant douche and went behind their back.  The origin for Interface is pretty similar to everyone else’s in the future.  He was fine, having a good time when an invading force came through and wiped out his entire world.  For most of the others in the Guardians of the Galaxy, that invading force was the Badoon, an alien race.  It’s the thing that bonded them all together.  For Interface, the invading force was the Universal Church of Truth, which adds an air of intrigue to the fact that he is currently working so closely with them, even if it’s against his will. 

We are now back on the Guardian’s ship where Replica cowering in fear because of religion, Nikki unveils her new, Western-inspired costume, and Aleta and Starhawk have a nice conversation in the sick-bay about Aleta’s impending nuptials. 

Back on Homeworld, Malevolence is the victor, dispatching anyone and everyone that comes around. 

Back on the ship, everyone is pissed at Starhawk because he has no idea what’s going on (remember, he was stabbed by Ghost Rider’s bike and is no longer the one who knows).  Martinex then turns to Replica for assistance in trying to figure out these church whackadoos by creepily calling her “baby” multiple times, but before she can offer anything Force shows up, right on the Guardians’ ship!  You would think there would be safeguards against that sort of thing, but what do I know.  Everyone starts facing off against the same member of the opposing team that they fought in their first meeting while Photon goes in search of Yondu, who is conspicuously absent from the fracas.

They are not separated for long and all of a sudden it’s origin time again as Photon begrudgingly tells her tale, but only because it would “amuse her to do so”.  Her tale is a tragic one of persecution.  Her parents both died because she was a mutant that had laser beam eyes and she was all alone until Interface found her and adopted her, raising her as his daughter. 

We quickly cut back to the action, where Aleta punks out on the Guardians, much like Starhawk used to do, and speaking of Starhawk, in his new intangible form, he can apparently punch the intangible Brahl, knocking him out.  Eighty-Five is about to beat up Replica, but because she’s still in whiny religion mode he refuses to because of his Kree code of honor (which has apparently been conspicuously absent the whole time he was a villain).  Upon hearing that he’s a Kree, Replica’s true colors come out and she attacks him.  Replica reveals that she’s a Skrull (hence her shapeshifting powers) a sworn enemy of the Kree.  This distracts Nikki, which gives Scanner a chance to knock her out.  Charlie and Broadside decide not to fight and Marinex and Interface realize that there’s bigger fish to fry than just their little squabbles. 

As the issue ends, Aleta shows up to challenge Malevolence as nanny for The Protégé, Scanner is about to kill Nikki, Replica is about to kill Eighty-Five and Yondu realizes that he’s probably going to have to kill Photon.  And next time, one of them actually dies!

Speaking of next time, it’s a double sized issue, just for the hell of it apparently, because Jim Valentino is an animal! 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Miracle

Have a good one everyone!  And if you don't celebrate Christmas, have a good December 25th.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Masochist Music Review: KISS - Music from "The Elder"

What can I say, I’m a masochist when it comes to music.  I like to have complete catalogues when it comes to my favorite musicians.  Sometimes this is a good thing (Alice Cooper, AC/DC) but oftentimes it’s not.  Not only that, but I used to fall into the trap of hearing one or two great songs and purchasing a whole album because of it, which sometimes produced a diamond, but usually only coal.  During this series, we will dwell on some of the albums I have in my collection that are downright terrible.  I will re-listen to them all and give you my impression of them.

Now this is only my opinion, so don’t take it as gospel.  If you like a particular album in this series, let me know, we’ll open up a discussion about it.  I’m always open to discussing the merits of any particular album, and if you have any suggestions (and especially if you have the album itself and are willing to share your views) then let me know and I’d be happy to add it to the list.

Album Name:  Music from “The Elder”

Artist:  KISS

Release Date:  1982

Why you bought it:  I had all of the original KISS albums (the ones with all of the original members) and I had recently started to branch out and purchase the later albums from the 80s.  I remember hearing negative reviews of this album, but like Unmasked, I wanted to determine for myself whether it was a bad album or just a poorly reviewed album (as many of the original KISS albums were). 

First impressions:  I didn’t really get it, to tell you the truth.  It wasn’t like anything I had heard from KISS before.  The only song that I recognized was “A World Without Heroes” from the KISS box set that my girlfriend at the time had given me for Christmas that year.  It was odd, better than Unmasked in terms of the fact that it wasn’t so poppy, but the whole album just felt like it was trying too hard.

Impressions upon listening to it recently:  I can still sense a bit of desperation when I listen to it now.  KISS really wanted a hit after Unmasked was a flop, so they put a lot into this album, it was just not a good album.  The music on it is actually pretty good, with a few decent guitar solos by Frehley, but the fact that it was a concept album really hindered anything interesting that it could have been.  Instead of singing about women and rock and roll, they were singing about the training of a boy into a secret society.  That being said, some of the songs, or at least parts of the songs, aren’t that bad.  There’s a nice guitar solo on “Just a Boy”, “Under the Rose” isn’t horrible, and “Dark Light”, Frehley’s lone vocal contribution, is one of the standouts and sounds the most like a traditional KISS song from Love Gun or Rock and Roll Over.  One of the things that really surprised me about going over these “bad” KISS albums is just how much Ace Frehley contributed to the band and kept them on the old school path.  Whenever there is a bad KISS album that Ace is a part of, there’s a good chance that the best song on that album will be the one that he is singing (he also saves the best guitar work for those songs as well).  I understand why things happened the way they did between the members of KISS, but up until this point I was almost blindly following Paul and Gene while dismissing the contributions of Ace and Peter, which is wrong.  Ace had his demons, sure, but listen back to the KISS albums that people aren’t generally a fan of and you’ll hear an incredible amount of talent and consistency out of Ace.

Any saving grace?:  Ace does a great job on the guitar parts, and honestly, if you just listen to the music, it’s a decent album.  “The Oath” has almost a pre-80s hair metal feel to it, like KISS were a few years ahead of their time, and “A World Without Heroes” is a decent ballad.  Taken on their own, the songs stand up a little better.  They are not the highlights of a massive catalog of songs, but they are solid role players, the Jarrod Saltalamacchias of the KISS catalog (for all you Red Sox fans out there).

Was it worth the purchase?:  At the time, no not at all.  Looking back on it, it was worthwhile, especially since, being so poorly regarded, it’s probably infinitely cheaper than most other KISS albums.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Not So New Comic Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (1991) Annual #1

                Remember the good old days when you could expect a sixty-four page comic of your favorite title once a year?  And back in the day (1991) it only cost $2.00!  That’s at least half the price of most comics nowadays ($3.00 less than most Marvel comics).  Ah the good old days.

                The best thing about this issue (in my opinion) is that it’s written and drawn by Jim Valentino.  That means that Valentino created not only the twelve 22 page issues that comprise a normal year’s worth of publishing, but also found the time to write and draw a 64 page annual.  Now I was not collecting the book when it was released so I have no idea if the regular series was delayed while Valentino worked on the annual, but I highly doubt it.  In twenty years we went from this (which was not the norm but far more standard practice) to artists that could not finish six issues a year.  Oh I miss the good old days. 

                The real question here is, how is the comic?  Is it rushed or low quality because Valentino is also trying to push out a monthly series?  That’s the main thing I will be trying to discern throughout this review. 

                These annuals were usually so large and so much was packed into them that they needed a table of contents/title page.  This is for a 64 page comic.  Nowadays, 20 page Marvel comics have title pages, sometimes spread out over two pages.  Okay, sorry.  Enough of me showing how far comics has gone down the tubes and onto the actual comic itself.  Because the Guardians of the Galaxy series started in the middle, with the team already formed and on a mission, the Annual smartly goes back in time with its first feature and tells the origin story of the team.  This is something that has been mentioned a few times before but was never expanded upon like it is here.  It’s still only three pages in the Annual but Valentino packs a lot of information into those three pages.

                The next story, the one that takes up the majority of the space in this issue, has to do with the Korvac saga.  Korvac is a near god-like villain from the Avengers comic in the late 1980s (a comic that the Guardians guest-starred in).  This annual seems to be one of the cross-over annuals that Marvel was fond of producing in the 80s and 90s where each annual told a complete story, but they were also part of a larger overarching narrative that, when pieced together, created a huge story.  Not many of these were too memorable as I doubt the writers wanted to waste a really good story on a bunch of annuals that readers may or may not pick up. 

                The main gist of this story is that the Guardians have gone back in time to try and stop Korvac from being Korvac.  To talk some sense into him or strong arm him into not being a total douche.  Korvac actually stole Galactus’ power and is using it to make himself near omnipotent.  The Guardians get a shock when they go to confront Korvac and find that they are instead confronting his father (Korvac is in the process of being born) who wields the same power.  What the Guardians come to find out is that Korvac is more of a parasite than just a normal villain.  The power transfers from the father to the son upon the son’s birth, killing the father.  Dr. Strange and his apprentice, Krugarr, show up and encase the baby in a bubble of mystic energy so that they can deliver him to Galactus.  Galactus doesn’t care about the child as much as he does getting his power back (which he does) and after that the Guardians have to deal with the moral quandary of letting the baby live to grow up and become their enemy, and one that will do massive amounts of destruction.  It’s the same philosophical argument people have when it comes to time travel.  Would you go back in time and kill Hitler as a child?  Rick Remender (I believe) stole the same plot for Uncanny X-Force a few years ago but involved baby Apocalypse. 
                The Guardians choose not to destroy the baby, instead delivering him back to his mother, while also telling her that the father did not make it.  As we leave her, we hear her telling the child that he needs to grow up and take revenge on the Guardians for the death of his father.  I’m not sure if Valentino is subtly telling us that women are the root of all evil, but I’m not totally ruling it out either.  Finally, just to prove that all of this happens before the first issue of the regular series, their mission for Captain America’s shield is set up in the closing pages of this story. 
                Next up we have some interesting extra bits.  I’m not sure if Valentino jus needed extra stuff because he didn’t have enough story pages or if this was by design, but it was an interesting addition.  We get, in order: The difference between Vance Astro and Marvel Boy, Guardians of the Galaxy Clip and Save villain trading cards, a page explaining the friends of the Guardians, a pinup page of Aleta, a double page spread of the team, explaining who they are, Charlie and Nikki paper dolls (no really), Questions and answers about Starhawk and facts about Martinex.  This is one of the better ways that I have seen to fill the space of an annual, and Valentino does a great job of treating each page with the same care in terms of story and art that he does with the regular story pages. 

                Our final story is a prequel that goes back even further.  This one seems to fit between the first two stories, where the core four Guardians (Vance, Charlie, Yondu and Martinex) are together but not yet officially the Guardians and without the other members.  The team is not cohesive as a unit yet either and that comes through in their minor squabbles.  This story shows how they got not only their original costumes, but also their first ship.  They apparently lucked into an underwater base that not only has a breathable atmosphere but also plenty of food and supplies for the team to live for months. 

                All in all, this was more than just a fill-in throw away book.  It actually filled in a lot of information that we missed out on coming into the series like we did.  I don’t know about the rest of the annuals (which we will get to) but the first one was required reading if you were a fan of the series.  Valentino does a great job of staying consistent in terms of the story and art and also shows us growth of character from one story to the next by cluing us in to just how dysfunctional these guys were before they actually came together as a team.  A great effort with some really impressive and unanticipated extras.    

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Arguments for Both

When Milli Vanilli comes into the conversation, the rest of your argument is invalid.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Masochist Music Review: Ozzy Osbourne - Under Cover

What can I say, I’m a masochist when it comes to music.  I like to have complete catalogues when it comes to my favorite musicians.  Sometimes this is a good thing (Alice Cooper, AC/DC) but oftentimes it’s not.  Not only that, but I used to fall into the trap of hearing one or two great songs and purchasing a whole album because of it, which sometimes produced a diamond, but usually only coal.  During this series, we will dwell on some of the albums I have in my collection that are downright terrible.  I will re-listen to them all and give you my impression of them.

Now this is only my opinion, so don’t take it as gospel.  If you like a particular album in this series, let me know, we’ll open up a discussion about it.  I’m always open to discussing the merits of any particular album, and if you have any suggestions (and especially if you have the album itself and are willing to share your views) then let me know and I’d be happy to add it to the list.

Album Name: Under Cover

Artist:  Ozzy Osbourne

Release Date:  2005

Why you bought it:  Ozzy was one of my first “favorite bands” when I was growing up.  Since that time I have devoured anything I can from him, for better or worse.  It just so happens that Under Cover wasn’t for the better. 

First impressions:  I generally like to hear covers of songs just to see how an artist I enjoy puts their own spin on a traditional song (Marilyn Manson is probably my favorite both in terms of his choices of songs to cover and their overall execution).  Ozzy was no different in this respect, except for the most part he stayed a little too “true” to the originals and didn’t even really attempt to make them his own (aside from his voice that is).  That’s not to say that the song choices were all bad, in fact tracks like “Mississippi Queen”, “Rocky Mountain Way” and “Sunshine of Your Love” are excellent choices for a cover album.  The main problem was that nine of the thirteen tracks on this album actually came out earlier that year in the Prince of Darkness box set.  Picking four or five of his favorite tracks from the box set and filling out the rest of the album with ten new covers would have been ideal.  As it was, this seemed like a cash grab during a time when Ozzy’s popularity had exploded (this was shortly after The Osbournes took over television).  While I can understand why they would do it (especially if someone didn’t want to drop the $50 or whatever it was for the four disc box set) for die-hards like me, it felt like overkill and left a sour taste in my mouth from the get-go.

Impressions upon listening to it recently:  It’s not a horrible album by any means.  The songs chosen were pretty much all tracks that I enjoyed in their original iterations, so hearing Ozzy cover them was a bonus.  I still wish there was a bit more “Ozzy” to them though.

Any saving grace?:  Sure.  Like I said, it’s not a bad album.  The main problem was purchasing this a few months after over half the tracks were released on another album.  If I was faced with the same decision today, I would have just purchased the individual tracks for a dollar apiece off Amazon or something like that.

Was it worth the purchase?:  If you love Ozzy or just well executed cover songs than yes, absolutely.  If you already own the Prince of Darkness box set than no.  Just download the four missing tracks.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Eternal Debate

I wrote this strip back in 2006 and it still rings true.  The debate may rage on but there's one thing we can agree on, Gary Cherone was not a good fit for Van Halen.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Sure, all art is just dots or lines on paper, but I was never one for this particular kind of art.  The only thing worse than this is when some kid does something similar and his yuppie parents think it's worthy of a gallery show.  Seriously, I've seen it happen before.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Not So New Comic Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (1991) #14

                When last we left the Guardians, religion had basically screwed everything up (isn’t that always the case?).  The future version of Ghost Rider had marked our intrepid heroes for termination, and what the Spirit of Vengeance wants, he usually gets.  Before we get into all of that though we get two pages of backstory to bring us up to date on the goings-on of the Guardians, just in case you haven’t been paying attention for the last few issues.

                With that out of the way it’s back to the action.  By back to the action I mean that the Guardians are yet again severely overmatched.  This is all obviously a huge misunderstanding as the Guardians are not the priests that Ghost Rider is looking for, but that doesn’t stop things from escalating.  Eventually it’s Aleta to the rescue again as she separates Ghost Rider from the rest of the Guardians, just in time for the actual priests (priests with spaceships no less!) to surround the Guardians’ ship and threaten to blow them out of the sky.  This actually convinces Ghost Rider that the Guardians were telling the truth and he leaves, trying to draw the priests away with him, which would allow the Guardians to escape.  Of course, no one really follows Ghost Rider (the guy they were looking for in the first place) and instead decides to stay around and destroy the Guardians for harboring a terrorist. 

                In order to avoid being blown to smithereens, the Guardians call on Replica to plead with the boss of the Universal Church of Truth for their lives.  The thinking is that she should be able to reason with him because she is a member of his religion.  I just want to take a second to comment on the leader of the church’s appearance.  Actually, instead, I’ll just show you a picture of him and let you make your own joke.

                Okay, feel better?  The leader decides to bring the Guardians to his planet in order to interrogate them.  Before we can get to that, we get a quick stop in with Force and Malevolence who are now in official team-up mode (we’ll get back to them next issue).  Onto the planet, where the Guardians are supposed to answer for their crimes but instead just start fighting even though they are severely outnumbered.  Charlie, Nikki and Martinex hold them off while Vance and Yondu run to see if they can find Ghost Rider.  Once the three have been captured and taken away to have their souls “saved” the leader questions Replica about the Guardians’ star emblem (the thing that makes them teleport back to their ship and communicate).  She says they are purely ornamental, committing the mortal sin of lying to the leader of the religion.  Valentino does a decent job of showing her struggle with the emotions as she is slowly coming to grips with the fact that the religion she follows so devoutly is a bunch of murderers and zealots. 

                Vance and Yondu decide that now is a great time to get a beer and wander into one of the local bars in town.  Vance claims that he is looking into gauging the locals, which would be fine if his teammates weren’t currently locked up by religious zealots.  Oh Vance, that’s never what Cap would do.

                We make a quick detour to Aleta, who is out in space to rescue Starhawk (who is currently floating on a meteor).  Starhawk takes this opportunity to try and reabsorb Aleta (which has some pretty creepy rape-connotations to it, far more than you would expect in a 90’s comic about guys with giant ray guns).  Aleta pushes him away and then encases him in one of her light-bubbles so that he can’t get to her while she flies to the homeworld because there are prophecies about to come true (more  on that next issue).

                Now we’re back on the planet, where the Guardians are being downright tortured by the church because they are non-believers.  This is all based on Jim Starlin’s work in his old Warlock books and it’s pretty damn spot on to a lot of the worst aspects of some religions both past and present.  I won’t get into a philosophical discussion about religion with you, because I wholeheartedly do not care what your religious views are (as it should be) but I hope for your soul that you are part of one of the good ones that Ghost Rider approves of.
                Speaking of Ghost Rider, he actually shows up and kills a couple priests (after they kill some civilians) which Vance calls him out on.  This guy that not only is trying to save his life, but that of his friends is getting a stern talking to by Vance.  Unfortunately, that’s probably exactly what Captain America would do.
                We are back in the cell now, where the leader bursts through the door to set the Guardians free, stating that they have been saved.  Except, it’s not the leader, it’s Replica doing her replica-thing.  We find this out because the real leader just happens to come through the door at that moment.  Replica gives the Guardians their stars so they can teleport away, just as Ghost Rider comes in and stabs the leader with his flying flaming motorcycle.  We’re back on the spaceship and Aleta tells the Guardians what their next mission is.  It involves getting to Homeworld because she is now “the one who knows”.

                Next: We take a trip back in time with the Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1 before returning to the regularly series in two weeks. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Twerk Jerk

Seriously, if twerking is something you do with any regularity it may be time to rethink your life path.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Video Game Review: Lego Marvel Super Heroes

                 Okay, we all knew that if you combined a Lego game (already known for having an incredibly high quality gaming experience) along with Marvel Super Heroes (on an unbelievable high in terms of popularity right now) you would get a quality product, right?  The real question pertains more to whether the parts complement each other enough to make a superior product, or whether it’s just good because it’s a Lego game, or because it contains Marvel characters.

                The short answer is yes, it works with some slight exceptions.  If I was going to stick with short answers though I would be more active on Twitter.  Here’s why it works, and it’s not entirely why you think.  I love the addition of Marvel characters to the Lego video game mythos, and the amount of characters that they pack into this game is phenomenal, but this is not a perfect game and it gets less and less perfect the more you unlock.  First of all, while I like the amount of characters included, there are some glaring exceptions (no Namor, Adam Warlock or Quicksilver, and how can you have a cavalcade of Marvel villains and include The Wizard but not Apocalypse?).  I can live with that though as the characters that are there are generally fun to utilize and of the gigantic cast I can always find someone that I want to use. 

                Unfortunately, that is a minor gripe when there are more major ones to be had.  As with the past two Lego games (Lego Batman 2 and Lego Lord of the Rings) the game is buggy.  It’s not as bad as Lego Batman 2, but it’s still a pain, and something you would think would be fixed by now.  The fighting mechanic is also subpar as once a button is pushed it seems to start a succession of punches, not just one per button push, so you usually see your character swinging at air halfway through a fight.  There are also instances within the fight itself where the character, instead of just swinging at a bad guy with their arms or legs will go into a convoluted animation, like a grab and throw, out of nowhere.  This is time consuming and gets old after awhile, which is why most of the characters (the ones without projectiles of some sort) are virtually useless except for their assigned tasks (telekinesis, super strength, etc.) and even then you can usually find a projectile-wielding character that has one of those other qualities if you have enough time and Lego studs.  I like the fact that if you “kill” en bad guys in a row you get to multiply the studs collected by ten for a few seconds, but getting to that point is a pain in the ass (especially since your ai character(s) rarely defeat bad guys by themselves). 

                The flying mechanic is also hard to control, which wouldn’t be that big of a pain if it wasn’t for the fact that a lot of the bonus content (the gold bricks) are won by racing through the sky.  I’ve tried many of the different races and have not won one yet.  I have a feeling once I unlock all the rest of the content I will just have to go back through and keep trying.  It shouldn’t be that hard though, especially if it’s something that is so closely tied to the overall completion of the game. 

                The campaign itself is relatively enjoyable.  The levels are lengthy, but with multiple checkpoints you can stop and be assured that your progress is saved (unless a bug hits and you freeze halfway through).  The way that the story interweaves all of the Marvel heroes together (something it did not do until the final few missions of Lego Batman 2) is equal parts interesting and admirable.  I wish the real Marvel crossovers were written this well.  The characters are pretty spot on in terms of the way they act and interact and I enjoy the traditional Lego humor that is added to the game.  The post-credits scene once you beat the game (reflecting the same trait that all of the Marvel movies harbor) is a great touch as well.  Of course, the real fun of the Lego games are not the campaigns in their truest form, but instead the “freeplay” aspect.  This is not only the running (or flying) around New York City, collecting all of the gold bricks and character/vehicle tokens, but also going back through the levels and using whatever character you want to complete the task at hand. 

The replayability of this game is through the roof as I beat the campaign well over a week ago but still find myself firing it up to go back  through the levels and finding everything necessary to accomplish 100% completion.  In fact, once I beat the initial storyline (and found a few extra bricks/tokens along the way) I had only completed around twenty-five percent of the game.  That left seventy-five percent of extra shit to find and do!  Needless to say, I still have a ways to go.  In addition to going back through the levels, there are smaller levels open and available once you beat the game.  These “Hubs” as they’re called, are usually one room and the more gold bricks you get, the more open up.  You can beat them and then go back through them in free play to get all of the things you missed out on the first time, much like a regular level.  Here, you get the super powerful red bricks (called Deadpool Bricks here) that allow you to do things like multiply your studs times upwards of ten, or it will provide markers to show you where all of the minikits, gold bricks or tokens are.    

Most of the fun of this game will be when my son finally gets to play it and he can fly around New York City as Iron Man or Thor, or whoever.  His love of superheroes is on par with my own and the joy on his face when he blows me up with an errant Iron Man laser blast will be well worth the price.  If you have kids, or are a kid at heart, I suggest that you invest not only your money but also your time in this title.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The value of art

As many of you may know, I was at a craft show this past weekend, trying my damndest to sell painted wine bottles through Broken Hand Wine Design.  While the weather was spotty all day and the location was horrendous, it was the people that made the experience excruciating.  I am not what is known as a "people person" to begin with, but being amongst the masses seemed like a necessary evil in order to sell crafts that I thought would make wonderful Christmas gifts.  Were they highly priced?  Sure, but no more so than they should have been (and honestly, if I was going to charge based upon the work that I put into them I could probably double the price).

Anyway, I think the main issue is that the patrons of this particular craft fair did not understand the value of art, an artist, or a one of a kind craft.  I had many, many people come by the table and they marveled at my "Grinch" bottle.  They said that it was the best interpretation of the Grinch at the whole Christmas in Mexico event.  Yet by the end of the show, it still sat on the end of the table.  At one point I wanted to yell out that this was not a gallery show and people could actually buy the pieces on display, but that seemed a little too "get off my lawn" for the moment (time and place, time and place).  Everyone that came by the table (and admittedly there were not many) looked at the bottles, some even stopping to pick one up that particularly caught their eye, be it one of the cartoon characters or sports logos, and yet they all put them back down.  Those people are fine in my book, they were there more to look than they were to buy something.  That's fine.  Though it would still irk me a bit when they would go to the next table over and purchase some re-purposed Dollar Store chincy crap after passing over something homemade.  I was warned that this was entirely possible, that the crowd I was playing to there may not be as accepting of what I was producing as in other places, and I rolled the dice anyway.

All of that is fine, but what is not fine is the individuals that came up to the table and said "oh, I should have (husband/wife/brother/etc) do this with their empty wine bottles".  Thanks lady, because I am not here to sell things, only to inspire you to nag your significant other.  Or the woman that came by the table, looked at one of my bottles (one of the sports logo ones) and say, and I quote "I can't even paint and I could do that".  Thank you so very much for marginalizing what I do.  I admit, the sports logo ones are not nearly as difficult as the faces or scenes, but they take time as well, time that many people aren't willing to put into a craft.

The whole point of paying for goods and services is because someone is willing and able to do something that you are neither willing or able to do.  Even if you could do that, it doesn't make much sense to go by the vendor offering that good or service, who may or may not have stayed up late the night before finishing pieces in anticipation of selling them the following day, and state how you can do what he does.  That's pretty bad form if you ask me.  Especially if you are going to go buy some marked up crap you can find down the road at a department store instead.

Here's a sincere question for those who are still not 100% on my side.  Would you pay $35 (what I charge for the regular-sized bottles) for an original painting, say 10"x14"?  Sounds like a pretty decent deal, right?  When that same painting is translated to a cylindrical shape, sometimes with embellishments (like the hats on the Grinch and Santa, or the turkey feathers) why does the value drop?  How are any of these any less in value than something painted on a board or canvas?  The answer is that they are not, and anyone that thinks otherwise probably belongs at a different table buying knick-knack garbage.

While I am using my experience this last weekend as the platform, this is a pretty common practice that needs to be fixed.  First of all, artists need to realize that you shouldn't have to bow to the public's view of your art.  Do you think your art is worth $50 per piece?  Then charge $50 per piece.  Don't let the masses undervalue your art.  Did you put four hours into a painting?  Shouldn't that original be worth more than the $10 most people are willing to pay for it?  Have some pride in yourself and your work and if we all stick together then we won't be undercut by people with no self-worth.

And to those prospective buyers out there: yes, there are individuals that are trying to gouge you in terms of the price they have placed on their work.  Is that the norm?  Not at all, and probably even less so than that purse you paid $80 for even though it cost about $3 to make.  And if you don't want a piece of art, original or otherwise, or a craft that someone is selling, then move along.  It's okay to look, it's even okay to compliment the artist and strike up a conversation (while they don't pay the bills, compliments are still nice to get) but when you marginalize something that some of us have spent upward of thirty years and tens of thousands of dollars cultivating with an "I can do that" it makes me want to shove one of my hand-painted, one of a kind bottles up your ass...large end first.