Friday, August 29, 2014
Thursday, August 28, 2014
First things first, let’s start with a one-page recap of the four storylines going on right now. Now that that’s out of the way, Hollywood can get his ass kicked by Overkill, the Stark warrior that keeps losing to the Guardians but comes back for more time after time. Will this finally be the last dance for Overkill or has he actually come up against someone that he can beat? My money is on Overkill’s track-record of futility, but let’s find out together.
The fight starts out as you would expect. Two characters pummeling eachother through deep space. It ends with Hollywood holding Overkill’s own gun to his head. This just proves how terrible Overkill is, and yet he just won’t die. Instead of killing himself and putting us all out of our misery, he surrenders and decides to tell his story to Hollywood. Now, Hollywood has no idea who this asshole is, so the idea that Overkill is going to recount his origin story to the guy that just kicked his ass makes a smidgen of sense if you think about it in terms of the fact that Hollywood probably wants to know what the hell just happened, but we’ve been reading this since day one. We know who Overkill is and what a terrible character he has turned out to be. I don’t need to hear his origin again. Of course that was all a ruse so that Overkill can fire upon Hollywood when his guard is down. There is no honor in shitty characters.
While Hollywood and Overkill continue their fight we look in on Starhawk and Aleta who have decided the best course of action is remove themselves from reality and go talk to the Hawk God directly, in front of the rest of the Gods (his superiors) to be precise.
Back to the Guardians, who are still having a Hell of a time with Mephisto (get it? Get it?) Out of nowhere, Talon decides to do a little magic and whisk everyone away. Why he couldn’t do this earlier, I don’t know. And don’t say it had something to do with his back because he doesn’t need to stand in order to cast a spell.
Back to Hollywood and Overkill, who is pouring on everything that he can in order to ensure victory…except it doesn’t matter because Hollywood is still Hollywood. Instead of dying like a decent creature, Overkill activates his self destruct sequence on his suit. Unfortunately the power generated by that blast will wipe out most life in the area, and not just silently smother Overkill with a pillow or something. This is a double bummer because Superman is nowhere to be found to throw him into the sun either. Hollywood just hugs Overkill instead, absorbing the blast that (hopefully) finally kills Overkill. We don’t see him die but if you pray hard enough to the Hawk God he won’t come back.
Next issue: after finally getting rid of Overkill I don’t care what they throw at us, but I bet it has to do with the Joffrey Protégé.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Last week there was a large outcry over a comic book cover by Milo Manara from the upcoming Spider Woman book from Marvel Comics. It shows the titular hero in a pose that shows off a great deal of her ass as she is climbing over the roof of a building. Is it cheesecake? Absolutely. Is it unnecessary? Well I guess that depends on your definition of the word.
For decades, comic books have sexualized, and often over-sexualized women, be they super-heroines or damsels in distress. Muscle-bound men and large-breasted women in spandex is comics’ stock in trade. That being said, there are many strong and strong-willed female characters in comics. Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Chris Claremont created so many strong female characters for the X-Men franchise that not only have they mostly overshadowed their male counterparts (aside from Wolverine, that guy will always be more popular than Jesus) but have become popular enough where a group of only X-Women were given their own book (granted it was only a couple years ago, but still). Even in the context of “team books” like Avengers, X-Men, Justice League, etc., many of the women characters are written as strong, necessary parts of the team. Where would the Justice League be without Wonder Woman, or the X-Men without Storm, etc., etc. Did it take superhero comics a long time to take women seriously? Absolutely, and the 1990’s did not help that with the over-sexualization of the early Image comics, and comics in general does a downright shitty job appealing to women in general, always has, probably always will. Mainstream comics also does a shitty job appealing to children, failing to realize that once all of their fanboys move out of their mother’s basements and have to start spending money on rent they won’t have the disposable income for comics that young kids might have (of course if they keep over-inflating the prices of these books they will price their way right out of that as well).
It's not just the ladies that get posed with their asses in the air. Manara's cover on the left and a J. Scott Campbell cover from the mid 2000's (I believe) on the right.
What I’m trying to say, in my usual long-winded way, is that a picture of Spider Woman’s ass is not an overt attack on women, it’s cheesecake. And it’s cheesecake from an artist that is known for his erotic comics. Seriously. Look him up, but take your safesearch off first or you won’t understand, nor will you find many images I’m assuming. That’s like being pissed that you went to KFC and got a shitty hamburger. They specialize in chicken, that’s why you go there. You don’t commission art from Manara and expect anything but the female form in all its glory. It’s cheesecake in an industry that was built on cheesecake. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Plus, it’s a comic cover, it will be on the shelf for three months, tops, then fade into obscurity. Instead of celebrating the fact that a fan-favorite female character is getting her own series, feminists (many of whom probably do not read comics anyway) attack the fact that one picture, a variant cover no less, is not up to their lofty standards of what women superheroes should look like. My answer to that is, draw your own superheroine. Market her, sell her, and profit off of her, instead of inciting anger over something as silly as the fact that too much of a character’s ass is showing.
I will admit, I am not someone that keeps up with pop-culture that much, but why is there such a stink being raised about this while Nikki Minaj shakes anything and everything that she has, shows more skin than any superhero this side of Chaos Comics, and spits right in the face of good taste, without so much as a questioning glance? Are feminists up in arms about this as well, or is it because she is a woman she gets a pass? Would that mean that if that cover was drawn by a woman that it would be ok? That there is a double standard, that a man drawing a woman in a scintillating pose is wrong but a woman doing it is empowering? This is an honest question, please enlighten me.
There are so many things that we can be raging about as a society…is this really the mountain you want to plant your flag on? I would much rather question Marvel’s choice of giving Greg Land another comic book to draw than the choice of who draws a variant cover.
Monday, August 25, 2014
Friday, August 22, 2014
Originally, Spud's opponent was going to be Sugar Ray Finhead, the creation of one of my former teachers,
but I never got the go ahead from him in time so I went with the Masked Hippo,
a character that has been kicking around since the very first issue of "The Masked Shrimp" sixteen years ago
(but if you owned "Shrimpology" you would already know that).
Thursday, August 21, 2014
We actually start out by checking in on the Galactic Guardians, who are trying to figure out where the Guardians have gone. Instead of figuring this out, we get a history lesson of things we’ve seen happen in the recent past. A recap is never a bad thing, when it doesn’t leave you with much, and feels like it was there to take up space it’s sad though.
When we do get to the Guardians themselves, they’re still chatting about Vance’s new suit. As they are marveling at the wonders of Vance’s alien suit, an earthquake hits, knocking everyone off their feet and throwing Charlie into a pit. Yellowjacket saves him by shrinking him with her Pym particles and everyone is safe and unharmed.
We check in on Starhawk and Aleta who are checking in on Yondu’s homeworld. It is safe and ready to be destroyed at a later date. I love happy endings.
Now it is time to look in on the Beyonder and the Protégé, to see what they’ve been up to. Oh, just hanging out with all of the cosmic gods, that’s all, no biggie. To show how cool they are, the Protégé and Beyonder grow as big as the Gods and try to destroy Eternity. Considering the fact that Eternity is the Marvel embodiment of the universe, this is a pretty stupid idea. Luckily It doesn’t work as eternity just reincorporates himself. This causes a big argument because apparently the Protégé thinks he should be able to destroy the universe if he so chooses. At this point I realized that Joffrey from Game of Thrones must be based on the Protégé, at least in terms of his temperament. Think about it for a second.
Back with the Guardians, Mephisto is tired of getting his ass kicked so he decides to turn into the giant dread-locked bird creature with the big gut and the long tongue. You know, his formalwear. As Talon is about to fight back, he is blasted in the back by Malevolence, to which he exclaims “unnngh! My Back!” while looking like nothing is wrong. Come on, West, let’s see some acting.
As the Guardians fight Mephisto, Hollywood is on the trail of Doom, which brings him to Overkill, who has the Realiteevee nasal implant that Sidestep provided to him last issue. As Hollywood goes to recover the implant Overkill ambushes him and he goes flying. Why Overkill wants to harm Hollywood so much beyond the fact that he wears a Guardian star I have no idea. However that explains why no one wants to be part of the club. It’s like walking through Philadelphia with a Dallas Cowboys jersey on. Bad news.
Next issue: Hollywood vs. Overkill. The matchup no one wanted.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
The WiiU is pretty sparse when it comes to titles in general, especially titles created specifically for that platform. Pikmin 3 is one of the only non-Mario WiiU exclusives out there that has received any kind of acclaim. Was it worth it, or was it just like any girl at the Kubert School…pretty by default. Let’s see.
First of all, even though the characters themselves are cartoony in nature, the backgrounds are completely realistically realized, and they are stunning. In fact, the backgrounds look even more realistic because they are populated by cartoony monsters and characters. The fruit that you need to collect is completely realistic as well and everything environmental effects abound. When it rains, everything looks wet. While that may sound like a “no shit, Sherlock” statement, the fact that no stone is left unturned in that respect is incredible. The designers could have easily made it so that the ground looked wet, or there was some “water” on the screen so you got the impression of rain, but no. I actually feel wet while playing it, it looks that real.
The story itself is a pretty basic one. You are pretty much on one giant “fetch-quest”. Something that would take up only a small part of a larger game like Skyrim or Dragon-Age is the entire game here. That could be why the game itself is fairly short. You mission is to find fruit for your home planet because (social commentary alert) your home planet mis-managed their resources. A good amount of your days are spent finding and harvesting fruit, while you also look for the other two members of your party. Once you have all of your party together, you turn your attention to finding Olimar (who I believe was the star of the first few Pikmin games, right? I never played them) as well as your cosmic drive key so that you can actually take the fruit back home. All of this is done in fifteen minute “days”. At the end of each day (literally from sunup to sundown in the game) you retreat back to your ship with the Pikmin you have amassed, only to pick back up where you left off the next day. Each day, you drink one bottle of juice (regardless of whether you have one, two or three people in your party) so you need to make sure you have enough juice, and have thereby found enough fruit in your daily travels. This makes a big part of your day revolve around resource management. Do I advance the story? Do I stock up on fruit and/or Pikmin? You have to make that decision almost on a daily basis. Completists may want to get all of the fruit, but you can’t always access the fruit locations until later in the game, and *spoiler alert* once you’ve beaten the game, you’re done. The game is so tied in to the story that once you have beaten the final boss, rescued Olimar and gotten your key back, that’s it. Game over. If you thought (like I did) that you would do all that and then be able to go back through and collect the fruit you were unable to get before (because it was underwater and you didn’t have blue PIkmin, or it was behind an electrified fence and you didn’t have yellow Pikmin) you are sadly mistaken, that is unless you want to beat the final boss again (you don’t, he’s a pain in the ass).
That is the one drawback to Pikmin 3. I loved the graphics, the gameplay worked pretty well, I could have done without the gibberish that they speak, but that’s just me, and even the length of the game was adequate, short but adequate (though if I had actually paid full price for the game I would have been a little pissed – luckily this was the Mario Kart 8 add-on). Being handcuffed to the story and completely sabotaging the replayability of the game because of it left a sour taste in my mouth though. I liked everything else about it so much that I looked forward to going back through and collecting the fruit I had neglected during the initial playthrough. Now, not so much. Will I pick the game up again at some point? Maybe. But a good game, with good replayability wouldn’t even leave me that choice. I would be drawn to play the game again after beating it, like Pikmin 3 was on the way to doing until the twist ending came along.
The final verdict for Pikmin 3 is, like many Nintendo games unfortunately: It’s good but not something I would willingly pay full price for. Pikmin 3 is a fun game, one that may not be suitable for kids based solely on the game mechanics, but is fun to play nonetheless.
Monday, August 18, 2014
Friday, August 15, 2014
Thursday, August 14, 2014
A visit from the Hawk God begins this issue of Guardians of the Galaxy. Why, pray tell is this omniscient being poking his head around the plane of mortals? Because his two “children” are acting like…well…children. At the end of last issue, Aleta and Starhawk were fused together at the hand because of their constant bickering and fighting. This is a punishment usually reserved for children on time-out, make them sit next to eachother and hold hands, but I guess a cosmic time-out isn’t the worst idea in the world, especially when the individual doing the disciplining is an all powerful demi-god.
Starhawk tries to be the voice of reason in the partnership with Aleta but she acts like a petulant child and flies off, with Starhawk in tow of course, their stuck together after all. Starhawk tries to calm Aleta down to no avail (she hasn’t shown the ability to trust him in forty-six issues) but, something flips in her head and she all of a sudden is fine with him, like nothing happened. She realizes she needs to work together with him in order to get out of their current plight. While I detest how Aleta is written in terms of her general attitude, having her flip-flop back and forth is just silly. She is easily the least-likable character on the team (and this is a team with Talon!). Anyway…Starhawk and Aleta blip out of existence to go back to the past and fix time, so Yondu’s homeworld can be destroyed later than planned (yup, that’s the reason for going back in time, not to save Yondu’s homeworld, just to prevent it from being destroyed so soon).
The rest of the Guardians are then teleported by the Beyonder so that they can destroy Malevolence and her dear old daddy Mephisto as well as deal with the Protégé (whether that means kill the kid or not I’m not 100% sure). Mephisto strikes first by removing the preservation spell around Vance Astro, the one that keeps him from aging at an accelerated rate. This causes him to turn into an old guy and fall to the floor, as most old guys tend to do.
We quickly turn back to Aleta and Starhawk and two pages later, the timeline is restored. Seriously, for having two uber-powerful characters on their team, the Guardians sure do get themselves in a heap of trouble every month.
After another quick interlude, in which Sidestep brokers a deal with Overkill (remember him? Of course you do) we travel back to the Guardians and old man Astro. Vance is writhing around on the floor, probably dying when all of a sudden the black on his costume springs to life. Those with even the weakest comics knowledge probably know of Spiderman’s black costume that was actually an alien. Spidey received that costume during the 80’s crossover Secret Wars from…you guessed it, the Beyonder!. It seems like Vance got his own version of Spidey’s black costume from the Beyonder and it’s cocooning him so that the atmosphere no longer causes him to age. Now, it never says that it de-ages him, so I assume that he is just hanging out in there as an old man, which would explain why he is such a miserable asshole all the time. The suit amplifies his powers though, which causes him to take care of Malevolence and Mephisto fairly easily. The Beyonder then shows up to reveal his backstage machinations and the Protégé (remember him? He’s still here) wants to fight him. Just as those two characters are ready to duke it out they are transported by the Living Tribunal to stand trial in front of a Celestial (Marvel’s giant god-like robots).
You’d think they’d try and keep this story going, seeing as how it may actually be interesting, but no. This story is to be continued so that we can make room for the dumbest back up story in comics. Apparently Marvel ran some kind of contest where readers could create a new hairstyle for Talon, and they ran the six “best” (and that’s a relative term) as a backup story here. Oh Marvel, what are we going to do with you.
Next issue: Talon does a little man-scaping.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
He was Mork from Ork; he was Mrs. Doubtfire; he was Peter Pan; he was Aladdin’s Genie.
He was Robin Williams
and he was severely depressed.
While not everyone that is depressed is depressed to the point of taking their own life, as is the unfortunate case with Williams, it should be noted that he lived sixty-three years before succumbing to his demons. Depression doesn’t always kill and if it does it doesn’t always do it quickly. Depression is a struggle and a struggle that you don’t have to go through alone. Seriously. Do you know how many people suffer from various degrees of depression? A lot, I promise. Depression can be managed. It’s not a death sentence, it’s not something that has to destroy your life or the lives of those around you. Help is available.
Obviously, if you get to the point where you feel suicidal, where things are so bad that you have a plan to kill yourself, you should call 911, but you don’t have to wait that long. It doesn’t have to be bleak before you get help. As much as I personally hate drugs used to modify behavior, they can help for depression in many cases. However, as with most things medicinal, you can eventually build up a tolerance to the point where the drugs alone will no longer work on the recommended dosage. Psychiatrists are also adept at identifying roots of depression and helping those with depression work through those issues, and the best course of action is a combination of the two. Seriously, if you have depression, you need to talk to someone about it. No, not the old lady running around Walmart in her sports bra, she has her own issues to deal with. Real, tangible, professional psychiatric help will get you on the road to management of your depression.
Depression is a lifelong struggle. It’s something that you will have to deal with one day at a time for the rest of your life. It’s a daunting undertaking, one that many people don’t want to do. However, the fact that you don’t have to do it alone is something you can take solace in. Robin Williams dealt with depression for years, sometimes self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, sometimes not medicating at all. He was a tortured genius that died well before his time and we should all learn from his death instead of just quote famous lines from his movies.
What happened to Robin Williams is tragic. It’s tragic for him and it’s tragic for his friends and family. But it doesn’t have to be the same for everyone. Depression does not have to end in death and it does not have to involve a shitty existence while you’re alive. There are people to talk to, a phone call away. 1-800-273-8255 is the national suicide prevention helpline. You may not think you need it, but before you really do, just call. All of my contact info is on the right hand side as well. I am not a licensed psychologist (and my psychology degrees came from online, for-profit universities, so take that for what it is) but I am always happy and available to help, even if it is just an ear to bend. No lie, drop me a line and I’ll talk to you, I’ll help if I can help, and if I can’t help I will direct you to someone that can. Let’s not let depression claim another victim. Let Robin Williams’ sacrifice be the wake-up call for those that need help to get help.
You are not alone.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Friday, August 8, 2014
Thursday, August 7, 2014
When last we left our stalwart galactic heroes, we were greeted with not only the return of fan-favorite character Yondu, but also, Starhawk (who I can’t imagine is a fan-favorite as he’s an uber-douche). Regular penciler Kevin West returns to the series following a brief hiatus and thankfully brings with him the style we’ve all come to know and tolerate.
We open with Aleta and Starhawk engaging in a bitter fight, one that has not gone unnoticed by Eternity and the Living Tribunal, two of the stranger members of the Marvel “Universe”. These two Marvel heavyweights take the Hawk God to task because he has let the two bearers of his power become shitty characters, or something like that. The Hawk God promises to do something about it, but before we get to see what that something is we look in on the Beyonder and the Protégé, still engaged in their battle from last issue. The Beyonder realizes that he cannot hope to win against someone that can mimic his powers, so he turns tail and runs, while Mephisto and Malevolence applaud the effort of the Protégé. Mephisto offers to shape shift into anyone the Protégé requires in order for him to be happy, which is kind of creepy.
Now we’re back to the fight between Aleta and Starhawk, just in time for the Hawk God to intervene. He scolds the two pains in the ass and before the Guardians can intervene they are attacked by the Badoon-Centauri hybrids we talked about last issue. The Guardians, along with Yondu, jump into action against their attackers.
Before we can see where that takes us, we check back in on Hollywood, who is still searching for Wolver-Doom. He comes across some really cool looking aliens, which reminds me of how much I enjoy West’s character designs. Hollywood has a “conversation” with a purple dragon looking thing, and by conversation I mean he beats up the dragon until it gives him the info he’s looking for. This, in turn, causes the purple dragon, not one to be trusted apparently, to turn on Hollywood and issue some very ominous threats.
We now find Eternity and the Living Tribunal arguing before we make a jump back to Aleta and Starhawk with the Hawk God and we get a fun little recap of their origin. The Hawk God, still being pissed at them does…something that causes a big bal of light to form around their conjoined hands, resulting in apparently a lot of pain. Back on the planet’s surface the Badoon-Centauri hybrids flee from the bright light and commotion overhead. This allows the Guardians to turn their attention to Aleta/Starhawk as they descend from the skies. After some pretty decent acting the West’s artwork, we get to see what has everyone so shocked…the hand of Starhawk has been fused to Aleta’s hand, creating one of the strangest final panels I have seen in all of comics.
Next Issue: the makeshift siamese twins have to use the bathroom.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, while a decent movie overall (not as good as the first one, but that’s pretty common) suffered from what looked like a lack of time put into the effects. The script was good, highly predictable in parts – to the point where I telegraphed the final interaction between Caesar and Koba before it happened, but good nonetheless. The acting by the humans was well done throughout. They obviously didn’t get a whole lot of screentime in a movie devoted to our hairier ancestors, but they made the most of it. No one will win any awards from their acting in this one, but it was full of quality performances. The script did fail the actors a bit in that it didn’t give them a whole lot to work with. Maybe this was intentional, but I cared more about whether any of the apes lived or died than I did the humans, and when one of the humans (I won’t give it away) sacrifices himself toward the end of the film, I didn’t really care as I was not given any reason to care. Seriously, two minutes of this guy crying over family pictures on his ipad doesn’t get me to care as much as you would think, and therefore doesn’t give much meaning to his death.
The apes were obviously the main focus, and Andy Serkis, who played Caesar, is a goddamned genius when it comes to motion capture. The way that the apes move in general, Caesar specifically because he is so prevalent on the screen was incredibly convincing. Not just the way he moves, but the way he emotes. While I know that a lot of Caesar’s emotions came through because for the animation, Serkis did a phenomenal job laying the foundation for that.
The plot itself seemed pretty standard, though it was a great follow-up to the first movie, fitting right in to the end of that one and springboarding us “ten winters” into the future. A future, mind you, that has seen San Francisco already turned back into wilderness and the apes setting up their own society in the redwood forest that they escaped to at the end of the last movie. I do find it hard to believe that ten years of unchecked growth would make everything pretty damn unrecognizable, but I understand what the filmmakers were trying to get at. That being said, the set-pieces were incredible. Crafting not only the ape home, but also the city of San Francisco was a feat of magic in itself and made for a wonderful backdrop for the rest of the film.
I had a couple issues with the movie, which was good overall, but could have been better in these respects. The talking apes were a little off-putting. I could deal with them speaking in single-syllabled words, “apes” “run” even “humans”, and I had no problem with Caesar talking, but when a bunch of other apes, including Caesar’s son (who oddly looks like Jared Leto) started speaking, or when Koba, the asshole ape, talks to Caesar closer to the end, it breaks from reality a little too much for me or my wife. We would have preferred if sign language was still the main source of communication. Maybe work up to apes fluent in English in the next movie, but this seems almost too soon for that kind of jump. Also, I couldn’t help but feel like this was an animated film through a large portion of it. While everything that was CGI-crafted was well done, it was not well done enough to make it totally believable. This was no more apparent than the opening scene that showed the ape hunting party. The apes looked okay, not totally believable but okay, but the elk and the especially the bear in the scene looked out of place. They didn’t look like they really belonged, which was sad. At this stage in the game, if you have the technology to make a gun-toting raccoon look believable, you should be able to craft a bear and force me to believe that it is an actual bear. That was unfortunate as it gnawed at me for the rest of the movie and really hampered my enjoyment. The movie felt almost like a cartoon with real actors thrown in, like Mary Poppins or Roger Rabbit which really took a lot of its credibility away.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was good, but for the amount of money that it takes to go to the movies nowadays, it’s not really worth it. I’d much rather stay home and watch it on DVD in a couple months.