You had to expect I'd have some kind of fun with that, right?
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
I have yet to hear a poor offering from Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society. Seriously, and Zakk has been doing this for quite some time. This is his tenth studio album with Black Label, and if you count his solo work and live albums he is up to fourteen now, all since the late 90s. This is all while working with Ozzy Osbourne (for most of that time, he’s bounced back and forth) as well as tours like “Experience Hendrix” which my father recently went to and was completely floored by.
Catacombs of the Black Vatican is a typical Black Label album in its structure. It’s incredibly heavy and powerful from the very first note and keeps you engaged throughout. Now, as with most Black Label offerings, we get to hear a softer side of Zakk every now and then, not so much that it becomes a mellower album, but enough to break up the weight of the other songs. As someone that really enjoyed Hangover Music Vol. VI, his mellowest of albums, I find this softer offerings to be incredible examples of Zakk’s songwriting ability. He could very easily be a one trick pony, playing crushing riffs and killer solos until his hands fall off, but the fact that he throws in little nuggets like “Shades of Gray” (one of my favorite songs on the new album by far) and “Angel of Mercy” shows how much respect he has for Black Label fans. We’re not all mindless drones, only wanting to bang our heads in unison. We like variety in our music, and Zakk has given that to us. The fact that he has grown as both a lyricist and a vocalist in the last fifteen or so years helps as well.
Ok, so we’ve covered the softer parts of the album, which are incredible in their own right. Let’s now take on what we all love about Black Label Society, the sheer power and weight that Zakk puts behind all of his music. The rest of the band is as impressive in their musicianship as well, and while the departure of longtime Black Label mainstay Nick Catanese is not apparent in the studio album, I’m sure that once they get on tour he will be missed. Zakk and the Black Label boys just don’t let up. When they are playing one of their heavier offerings (nine of the thirteen tracks) they keep the foot on the gas the entire time. There is an element of punk music in there, the relentless pounding of the music into your skull, broken up only by the very non-punk like killer guitar solo. This is what Zakk has built and refined over the years, taking southern rock, blues and metal influences, mixing them all together and coming up with the current Black Label Society sound. Is it a little more polished than his early offerings? Sure. Is it any less powerful? Not at all.
The problem with an album this good, and this consistent, is that there are no real definitive standout tracks (aside from the aforementioned “Shades of Gray”). “Fields of Unforgiveness” is a perfect opener for the album, while “Beyond the Down” at just around the halfway point keeps the album moving briskly along. “Empty Promises” is great as the last heavy song before the album closes with “Shades of Gray” (the Best Buy exclusive adds two tracks: “Dark Side of the Sun” and “The Nomad” at the end of the album, and honestly, why wouldn’t you get the album with Bonus tracks?). There is not a weak link in this chain. Shot to Hell, Black Label’s 2006 album was a bit of a downer in terms of quality (it just wasn’t as consistent) but since then it’s been all uphill (and it stands to reason that the move from putting out a new album every year to every few years helped Zakk weed out some of the kinds of songs that made it onto Shot to Hell in the first place).
In short, my completely biased opinion is that this is one of the best albums in the Black Label catalogue, but my unbiased opinion is that this is one of the best albums in the Black Label catalogue. So make of that what you will. Regardless, if you want a metal album by one of the genre’s best at the height of his power, buy this album.
Monday, April 28, 2014
Friday, April 25, 2014
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Are you ready for a bro-tastic issue filled with Vance Astro and Captain America doing eachother’s hair and swapping stories about growing up in the thirties/living in the thirty-first century? No? Well good, because that’s not what this issue has in store for you anyway.
We do open on a training session between the two abovementioned best buds, which devolves into full-on weirdness when Dr. Druid shows up to make the claim that the shield that Cap has and the shield that Vance has “can never touch” because if so it will rip a hole in time and space, etc. While this is a decent plot-point to have if it went somewhere, this is the Guardians of the Galaxy, where plot points go to die.
Ok, bear with me because there is so much going on in this standard 22-page issue that we’ll be jumping around a lot. First up we check in on the remaining Guardians as they are now parked outside the Badoon homeworld. Unfortunately, the Badoon know they are there and of their intention to blow them up, so they have their missiles trained right on the Guardians’ ship. Any small power surge by the Guardians’ ship (signaling the firing of a missile) will cause the Badoon to release their arsenal on the Guardians.
Next we make a quick jump to Starhawk, who is out in space, struggling with the fact that Aleta is kicking his ass from the inside. Could she actually win this time and assume the form of Starhawk? We’ll see.
Another quick jump to New York City (in the thirty-first century) where the Comandeers are all but wiped out by Retox, the gang that took over once the Punishers were wiped out. The whole goal of Retox is to have Realiteevee turned back on. They know that the Comandeers know where the command center was and how it got knocked offline to begin with, and they’re torturing the last two members, Old Redd and Tarin, until they give up the location.
Back in the past at Avengers Mansion, Dr. Druid is casting a spell on the two shields so that they don’t touch, ever. Basically he polarized the shields to prevent contact, kind of like if you have two magnets that refuse to touch.
Back on the Guardians’ ship, the Badoon have called up the Guardians, proposing gladiatorial combat in order to settle their differences. If the Guardians win, they get to conquer the Badoon homeworld, if they lose then their ship and lives are forfeit. To show the Guardians that the Badoon mean business, they even disclose the location of their egg hatchery. The Badoon are reptiles, so this basically means that if anyone tries any funny business then the Badoon will lose an entire generation.
Now we’re back on Earth in the thirty-first century, where Doctor Doom an Rancor are getting into it, as Rancor is not a fan of being held against her will, or doing anyone else’s bidding. Doom persuades her with force, and she goes back to brooding.
Now it’s time for some bro-fun as Captain America and Vance Astro are pretending they’re Ninja Turtles and running along rooftops while having a (seemingly) meaningful conversation on what it is to be a leader. They stop outside Dr. Strange’s house as Cap knows that the Doc will be able to transport Vance to the Badoon homeworld easier than a spaceship can. Now, I have no idea about Dr. Druid’s powers, but can’t he do that to? And he was right at the mansion…
Back on the Guardians’ ship, Charlie, Nikki and Talon are having a conversation as to who should be the one to go down and fight mano y mano with the Badoon champion. Obviously they all make a pretty strong case for themselves, and of course, they can’t come to a consensus, so it devolves into violence. Nikki knocks Charlie out and threatens to do the same to Talon unless he calls the leader of the Badoon and proclaims that Nikki is the challenger. He does, and honestly, the leader of the Badoon doesn’t care because he has a Badoon who possesses the power of Captain Universe on his side. Remember last issue, that red squiggle of energy that hitched a ride on Vance’s transmission? That was the Captain Universe energy.
Next Issue: The Guardians fight for their lives against the power of the Universe, and Vance goes to the Doctor (Strange, that is).
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Monday, April 21, 2014
Friday, April 18, 2014
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Please welcome to the fold, new regular penciler: Kevin West! Let’s watch over the course of the rest of this book as West transforms from a fairly good, fairly realistic penciler, to another shitty Liefeld clone. I have a feeling this had more to do with Marvel requesting that West adhere more to their house style in the 90s (which happened to be crap) than with him actually doing this on his own.
We open this issue on a heated argument between Vance and Charlie as the original mission of destroying the Badoon has resurfaced now that the whole doppelganger bullshit has finished. As they fight, Starhawk jumps in to stop them, meaning that he somehow got control of his body back from Aleta last issue (which would explain her scream I suppose). While Vance stays behind, the rest of the Guardians head to their spaceship and make out for the Badoon homeworld.
Let’s make a quick stop under the dome, where Rancor and the mutants are being held. Rancor is pissed, scratching and clawing at stuff like an angry cat, until Dr. Doom shows up.
That’s it for that, back to Vance, who is actually thinking of betraying his teammates and warning the Badoon of their impending arrival, even though it means that he’ll most likely be condemning his friends to death. Not only is he thinking about it, he actually sends the transmission, tattling on his teammates (which picks up a strange entity along the way). Vance Astro is a douche. I know that he is saving the Badoon from extermination, but this move still makes him a douche.
On the Guardians’ ship, Starhawk is struggling with Aleta trying to overtake his body. It is apparently emitting so much energy that Charlie banishes him from the ship, lest he destroy it completely.
Talon, the only member of the team left that was not personally touched by the Badoon tries to reason with Charlie and Nikki, stating that their preemptive strike might not be a great idea. Nikki reassures him be regaling us all with her history and then crying about it. I understand that she is probably quite emotional about this, but what I don’t understand is how someone that has such a high body temperature is even able to cry without the tears immediately evaporating. Those tears seem to convince Talon of the validity of their quest though.
On the Badoon homeworld, Vance’s transmission has come through, but so has the stowaway. An energy surge hits the Badoon manning the controls, momentarily knocks him out then brings him back full of power.
On Earth, Vance terminates the signal, having a change of heart about tattling on his friends. Little does he know that the damage is done.
On Earth in the thirty-first century, the Punishers are slowly but surely being defeated by the Commandeers. Unfortunately, the Commandeers have bigger fish to fry as Retox, a gang based around the Realiteevee that the Guardians destroyed many issues ago, are looking to get their fix and make things miserable for everyone.
Back in the present day, Charlie loads a nuke to destroy the Badoon and Vance continues to brood about his decision, until he gets stopped by Captain America.
Next issue: It’s a bro-tastic adventure as Cap and Vance go all Thelma and Louise…just kidding. It’s Guardian vs. Guardian as the slow demise of Kevin West’s talent continues.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Please note, the names in italics are the movie/comic/cartoon/game that the villain appears.
Ganon Legend of Zelda (2) vs.
Joker Batman (2) –
Matt- Somehow, out of nowhere, Ganon took out Darth Vader last round, and what we are left with is this stunning matchup between two heavyweights in their respective genres (two heavyweights that still were not able to garner a number one seed surprisingly). What we get is Ganon, the holder of the Triforce of Power and the scourge of Hyrule versus the Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime and Batman’s arch-nemesis. Like we did last year, Nik and I will each espouse the merits of one particular combatant and let you be the judge.
I know how much Nik loves Ganon, so I’ll let him take that position, while I’ll paint the picture why the Joker should win. My argument here is much the same as my argument for why Joker should have beat Shredder in the last round. He is a cross-platform, multimedia villain. Portrayals of the Joker, from movies, cartoons and video games have been highlights in the careers of the actors that have brought him to life. This is not only a testament to their skill as actors but also to the source material. This is pretty impressive for someone that is probably one of the most unlikable villains in history, to have him become the gold-standard when it comes to villainy. There is no ulterior, save all the people by enslaving them motive when it comes to the Joker. He’s nuts, he loves death and destruction and getting under Batman’s skin, and he will do anything to those ends, regardless of who it hurts. Joker is truly the most evil villain in the entire bracket.
Beat that, Ganon.
Nik- Oh. Snap. I’m sure that everyone can imagine my utmost glee that Ganon actually made it here.
Now’s his time to shine.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Legend of Zelda lore, each new game brings a brand new Hero of Time, and a new descendent (or ancestor) of Zelda. The same cannot be said for Ganon. The Ganon we fight every single time is always the same Ganon. Whether he’s that nasty Gerudo, or in his monster pig form as Ganondorf, he always breaks free of his bonds to cast Hyrule into darkness.
Ganon is the stuff that nightmares are made of. He is the wretched tales told by grandparents who lived through his reign of chaos. He is an evil that spans generations. He is never killed, he is only contained, if only for a few hundred years.
Yes, the Joker is BA, I totally give you that. But he is merely mortal. Ganon is much more than that, hell-bent on casting the world into darkness for all of eternity, so that he may sit at the throne and watch it all.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Friday, April 11, 2014
Thursday, April 10, 2014
So what’s better than a comic involving a bunch of characters that aren’t that appealing to begin with? Doubling those characters of course! It’s doppelgangers galore!
Jim Valentino’s final issue on the book (he would go on to be one of the Image Comics founders shortly after this, with his book Darkhawk) starts out pretty crappily. Now, he only offers the plot on this issue, leaving the scripting to new writer Michael Gallagher, while JJ Birch takes over the art duties for this issue. Birch is not as bad as Trimpe, but he’s not that good, as evidenced by the opening shot of Charlie’s face.
The battle between the Guardians and the bad guys (Doctor Octopus, Gargantua, Puff Adder and Shocker) begins and is as underwhelming as you might expect when the villains are Gargantua and Puff Adder (two guys I had never heard of before this series). As that battle rages, another one is going on as well, as Starhawk is fighting his doppelganger. No matter how many times he defeats it though, it keeps coming back. Aleta, who is still inside Starhawk in case you forgot, suggests that Starhawk let her take over the body, therefore not giving the doppelganger anything to absorb (since that’s the whole reason the doppelganger is there, to absorb his “double”). Starhawk doesn’t want this to happen because he knows Aleta will never relinquish control of the body back to him.
Back to the Guardians, and we have an incoming of doppelgangers, of both the heroes and villains. Of course, that doesn’t matter as Vance is fighting Puff Adder and utters the single greatest line in comics: “The name is Major Victory….Remember it when they’re filling out your report in the emergency room!”
Okay, are you done laughing? Let’s break down that statement real quick.
A. Why would Puff Adder go to the emergency room? Something tells me that’s not a place frequented by super-powered villains.
B. Even if Puff Adder went to the emergency room (on the off-chance that he wanted to take that risk) what does Major Victory’s name have to do with anything? When would that come up in conversation? Would a doctor, who is treating a dude dressed up like a snake, really ask him who it was that beat him up?
C. If Vance Astro hit Puff Adder with a psychokinetic blast, how would that be treated medically at all, much less in an emergency room?
Anyway, the rest of the heroes and villains are fighting their own doppelgangers, but that’s nothing compared to the struggle within Starhawk. Aleta is finally taking control, and not a moment too soon as Starhawk is about to lose to the doppelganger. Aleta wins but not without apparently sustaining some damage from a mysterious source.
Back to the Guardians, who have now teamed up with the villains they were just fighting to stop the bigger threat of the doppelgangers…which they do. Just like that, the status quo is restored. As the dust settles, Doctor Octopus wants the villains to attack the Guardians, even though they are outnumbered, but because the Guardians just helped those villains survive an attack on their lives, they turn on Doc Ock instead.
To top things off, Jarvis shows up with brooms so that everyone can help clean up.
Next issue: They all get jobs as janitors, or something.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Please note, the names in italics are the movie/comic/cartoon/game that the villain appears.
Joker Batman (2) –
Matt- I like Shredder, but I think his villainy is a little uneven. Sure, in the original comics and the movies he’s pretty badass, but in the 80’s cartoon series he’s a shell of his former self (it was a kid’s show after all, so I get that). However, if you look across all of the various iterations of Joker, he’s pretty much a homicidal maniac in all of them. While the fact that Uncle Phil was the voice of the Shredder, and that is a big plus in his corner, Mark Hamil’s Joker work, as well as the live action movie versions by Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger really cement Joker’s place in the final for me. Joker is the quintessential villain.
Nik- Cannot agree more. Shredder put up a helluva fight to get here. He gets credit for that much. But, like Matt said, the Joker has had much more in history to prove how awesome he is. There are very few iterations (and there are so many) where he's kinda lame. And even when the Joker's lame, he's still one of the coolest Batman villains comparatively. So I'm thinking Shredder has lasted as long as he could here.
Ganon Legend of Zelda (2) –
Matt- Fresh of dispatching the Predator, I anticipate Vader keeping up his momentum. I know, you have a soft spot for Ganon, Nik, and I would have been more inclined to pick him as well, but just having finished A Link Between Worlds and seeing that he is not the big bad guy kind of cemented Vader’s status here.
Nik- This isn't fair. I want a recount. Hanging chads! I call hanging chads. Needless to say, I think this may be the end of Ganon. Vader is just too cool, too mainstream, too BA to not keep going here. I kind of knew he'd have a huge steamroll party, and I'm just pickled tink that Ganon has made it this far. Even though I'm thinking that Vader will win, my vote still goes to Ganon here. I think that he just may have a slim chance to get by the Darth here and get walloped by Joker next week.
Monday, April 7, 2014
Friday, April 4, 2014
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Let’s check in on the thirty-first century superheroes, time displaced into the 90’s (at least they fit in fashion-wise). Oh hey, this issue comes complete with guest penciller…Herb Trimpe! You all know my feelings about 1990s Herb Trimpe, so suffice it to say, the artwork in this issue will be terrible. How’s the story though? Let’s see…
Okay, so the Guardians go back in time, which means that they have a massive amount of villains to fight, and because they are not affiliated with any one team, they can have anyone’s villains, Avengers, X-men, whoever. Who do they get? Doctor freaking Octopus, in all his spandex glory and a team of retarded misfits that wouldn’t scare Aunt May on her worst day. Not only that, but Trimpe draws them just as you would expect, like Rob Liefeld broke his hand and instead of taking an issue off, just duct taped a pencil to it and kept going.
One of the villains is Yellowjacket (not Hank Pym, the girl Yellowjacket) who wants to be an Avenger but just tagged along with the villains because…she wanted to belong? I guess? Anyway, because the heroes were all apparently killed in the beginning of the Infinity War storyline, this delightful group of villains is hell-bent on attacking the Avengers Mansion and taking the technology therein for themselves. This just so happens to be where the Guardians are heading as well (what a coincidence).
Of course, before the Guardians can fight Doctor Octopus and his Z-List All Stars, they have to fight Jarvis with a vacuum cleaner (seriously). Of course that fight ends quickly as a Dyson’s got nothing on Captain America’s shield. Luckily as soon as they are done there, the League of Sub-Par Supervillains shows up. The Guardians start fighting them and with all the jumping and strange poses Trimpe puts these characters in, it just highlights the fact that the heads on all of his characters, especially the muscle-bound ones, are two sizes too small (of course that goes along with the ankles and feet of the characters which are too small to hold up the massive frames). I know Trimpe was basically just aping a “house-style” at this point, but damn, this is ridiculous and borderline unreadable.
As everyone is fighting, we get the next entry into the “shit I don’t want to see from this comic book” in the form of another doppelganger! This one is of Starhawk, hooray!
Just as we the Guardians have defeated the shitty villain patrol, Doctor Octopus shows up, triumphantly, with more villains! These guys aren’t much better than the others, but the Shocker is in there, so there’s that.
Next issue: There’s more Z-List supervillains, and more dopplegangers, and more regret on my part that I’m reviewing this series.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Please note, the names in italics are the movie/comic/cartoon/game that the villain appears.
Comic Book Region:
Joker Batman (2) –
Matt- Galactus just barely got by Loki but he won’t make it past Joker. If this was just about who would win in a fight, the trophy would have been awarded to Galactus three weeks ago. This is about who is the most evil, the worst villain out there. The fact that the Joker is so damn nuts makes him the perfect candidate to advance from the comic book region.
Nik- Agreed. I’m pleasantly surprised to see Galactus having made it this far. But I do believe it to be the end of the line for the big planet-eating cuddle bug. The Joker is just too cool, and as Matt said, too evil, to not keep up his momentum.
Shredder Teenage Mutant Ninja
Turtles (3) –
Matt- Megatron squeaked by last round, almost succumbing to the might of Mumm-Ra. Shredder proved he was the baddest mofo (yup, I just said mofo) in the Turtles universe, and now he takes down his 80’s counterpart.
Nik- Again, gonna have to agree here. There is too much nostalgia for the Turtles and Shredder here. I know the same generation that had Turtles had Transformers too, but I just think that Shredder had more of a role. I think we like the Turtles (and therefore their villains) more because they were more relatable in some bizarre way (i.e. not robots).
Predator Predator (2)–
Matt- By the narrowest of margins the Predator squeaked by the Xenomorph last round. Alas his luck has run out and Vader Imperial Marches all the way into the final four.
Nik- So sad to see the Xenomorph taken down here. But, as every crummy Aliens vs. Predator movie has taught us, the one human survives to tell the story. In this case, Anakin Skywalker just so happens to be that person. But he’ll definitely put up one kick-ass fight.
Video Game Region:
Ganon Legend of Zelda (2) –
Matt- Bowser is awesome, but it has to be Ganon here, right? At least Ganon has mixed up his evil plans over the years while Bowser is still capturing the damn princess. Koopa’s reign is over.
Nik- I hate to do it, but I agree with Matt on this whole lineup. Yes, Bowser is one of the original baddies. He’s incompetent, a single dad, and never gives up, no matter how many times those little Italian stereotypes thwart his plans. He should have his own sitcom! That being said: you all know that I will go with Ganon to the end. Too cool not to win it.