Archive | June, 2012

Ten Reasons Why the DC is the Comic Universe to Read

30 Jun

Newsarama is one of my favorite comic book sites.  Usually, I find it to be a breath of fresh air for comics related news.  This week, though, I read an article that drove me insane, called “Ten Best Things About the Current Marvel Universe.”  Although I don’t care about Marvel comics, I try to keep up on what’s going on and thought I would enjoy it.  But this article highlighted why Marvel is a better comics universe than DC.  This kind of article always gets under my skin, so here is my response highlighting ten reasons the DCU is better than Marvel. 

10) Marketing – DC has found a way to reach out to audiences in new and exciting ways.  When was the last time you saw an actual commercial advertising a comic book?  I saw one last year.  It was the first time I ever recall seeing one.  It advertised DC’s new 52.  I have read comics for over 20 years now and only once have I seen the world react to comics this way.  And then “Before Watchmen” came out and it all started over again.  DC is storming the video game industry (Arkham City), movies (Dark Knight Rises), cartoons (Young Justice), etc.  I am thrilled!

9) A Big World – Many people like to brag that Marvel’s comics take place in “the real world.”  Almost the entire Marvel universe takes place in New York.  Yes, DC’s major cities are fictional. Metropolis, Gotham, and Coast City all are imaginary place.  But each have their defining characteristics that are important.  But even more simply, I know that if Skrulls are invading New York City, that they aren’t really there.  So how is Marvel the “real world?”

8) The Newsarama article commented on how the Marvel universe has been bumping up their young characters.  Though this doesn’t exactly excite me now that I am 31 and a father of 3, DC has done the same thing.  There are two Legion books, Superboy, Supergirl, several books starring Robins, Batgirl, the Teen Titans, Ravagers (starring Gen13 characters), etc.  DC has made sure the youth are represented for the future. 

7) The article also pointed out that the Marvel Universe is familiar.  This is a major selling point, I will admit.  I preferred the classic DCU, but the new universe is intriguing.  I am getting the chance to explore a new universe with twists on classic characters.  Some of what is happening could have happened in the regular DCU while other characters have changed completely.  Some have succeeded while some have failed.  But it’s all new which has my curiosity piqued.

6) We aren’t the only ones getting to know of these characters.  So are they.  For example, the recent issue of Justice League featured Cyborg explaining the different weaknesses that each character has.  Green Lantern was shocked to find out some of the information.  Flash is getting to know his supporting cast, as is Wonder Woman.  Each character is getting the chance to reveal in a new world.  This is a very different universe. 

5) The classic DCU had an amazing list of creators whose works have contributed to it.  The DCU is built on works by Alan Moore, Jack Kirby, Gardner Fox and the like.  Alan Moore’s works still influence Green Lantern and Swamp Thing.  Kirby’s New Gods have influenced the start of the Justice League.  The DCU may be new, but it is heavily influenced by comics’ greatest stars. 

4) Currently DC is featuring amazing work by Jeff Lamire, Scott Synder, and Geoff Johns.  These men will hopefully helm the DC universe to a new level.  Lamire’s Animal Man and Synder’s Swamp Thing have created a dark undercurrent to the universe.  Lamire and Johns’ Justice League titles promise to dominant the universe.  The Green Lantern books are full of excitement. 

3) The multiverse is in bloom.  It has always been a major part of DC’s history and I am thrilled to see it becoming an actual part of DC’s publishing arm again.  The DC universe is BIGGER than any other comics universe out there.  Books occur across the multiverse.  Meanwhile, time is a major part of the DCU.  Some books are in the distant past while others are in the future. Marvel doesn’t have the scope that DC does right now. 

2) Marvel has always claimed it was the house of ideas.  Currently, that idea is all war all the time.  From Civil War, to Dark Reign, Avengers vs Xmen, the focus has been war from start to finish.  And this week, Marvel announced there next big storyline.  Titled?  War!

DC on the other hand is trying all sorts of new concepts currently.  One of my favorites is Demon Knights.  It features a medieval big seven and is unlike any other book on the market.  Frankstein, Agent of Shade is an insane book of crazy concepts.  And every few months, the publisher announces some new type of book.  DC is where the ideas are found right now!

1)      Finally, though, DC is still home to the best characters in comic books.  Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Flash are classic characters that highlight just what comics are all about.  Aquaman has an edge for the first time in years. 

 I know people love Marvel and its characters.  I don’t blame them.  But DC is home to the most interesting characters and the most interesting universe out there.  And right now, you get in on the ground floor of a totally new universe.  Give it a shot!

More thoughts on Lego Batman 2

25 Jun

Last week I shared my early thoughts on Lego Batman 2 (link).  Over the weekend, a friend and I decided to kick the game into high gear and beat it.  This served multiple purposes.  I could write about the whole story mode, a bit of free roaming for stuff, but also share my thoughts on co-op mode, a major selling point to the Lego games as there is no link play.  I will say, that while this is the best Lego game to date, it is not perfect by a longshot.

The story is a major selling point to the game.  For one thing, it’s Batman and that is all kinds of fun.  As pretty much everyone knows, this ratchets that up a bit though by adding the Justice League to the mix.  My last review left off with the basics of Batman and Robin established.  When Superman entered the game though, everything changed.  The game did a respectable job on his powers. He is invulnerable, superstrong, flies, and has both heat vision (to burn specific items) and freeze breath (to freeze others).  He is a wonderful all around character, but I must admit flight is dodgy.  Maybe after logging more hours, it will seem fluid, but it just doesn’t seem as intuitive as I had hoped.  There are LOTS of things to find while flying though.

In the last two levels, though, the game gets even bigger.  Superman gets poisoned by Kryptonite but the Justice League arrives to pick up the slack.  Green Lantern, Flash, Cyborg, and Wonder Woman all appear in the last two levels of story mode which deals with a massive Joker bot controlled by Lex and the Joker.  Each of these characters offers gifts to the player, but several (the two I looked forward to the most) also offer unique challenges.  Cyborg plays great.  He has heat vision and is magnetic allowing him to climb or pull certain bricks like Robin.  Wonder Woman is also a joy to play.  She is invulnerable, flies, and superstrong like Superman.  But her tiara is basically a batarang in disguise and her lasso of truth functions similar to the grappling hook that Batman carries allowing her to pull specific things.  Unfortunately, Flash and Green Lantern didn’t play nearly as well.  Green Lantern, my all time favorite character, has the same flying issues as Superman.  His only plus is that he creates special green Lego constructs.  These have to be made from specific green blocks.  So if none are around, he is basically a goon.  Flash is even worse.  Yes, he has superspeed which will allow him to circle Gotham before anyone else is half way across the city.  But, at least in the level I played him as, the same power makes him incredibly erratic.  Before I realized it, he had traversed the level, missing my goal entirely.

When you beat the game, or if you like to go back to levels earlier, free play really opens up the game.  Any characters you unlock become available to use in levels like in previous games.  An interesting change for this game though has you opening the characters not unlocked in story play by wondering the newly free roaming hub, Gotham City.  Specific red search lights key you in on villains and blue lights leads you to heroes.  The bad guys are unlocked like you might expect.  Beat them and then buy them.  The heroes are slightly more difficult.  Throughout the game are hidden 250 golden blocks.  Some are gained by beating stages, some by saving hostages, and others just are randomly hidden.  The blocks are used as something of a supercurrency.  If you have enough, you can build specific golden doors at the blue lights.  Then you can buy a hero character who emerges from the doorway.  I believe this system makes free play (and replay) a little more worthwhile.

Finally, the co-op mode has been revamped.  I love it when I don’t hate it.  Gone is the traditional fixed camera of Lego games.  Player one can wonder a stage looking for hidden items while player two follows a linear, established path.  Once you are out of sight, the screen splits like many games.  Unlike most split screen games, though, one character isn’t dedicated top or left, with the other being bottom or right.  Whichever area of the stage you are in dictates whatever area of the screen you fill, which means if you are close together (but not close enough to show the entire area in one screen), you may wind up causing the splitscreen to circle around as you and your partner move around.  This caused many unnecessary deaths.  A bigger problem I have only noticed with a partner though is that sometimes a character will glitch and wind up frozen.  Nothing we did seemed to unlock the character.  And as the mobile player moved around the screen, the glitched character would randomly pop up all over the screen.  Eventually, we discovered if we dropped out, eventually we could walk over to the character and he would move again.  But it happened sporadically.  The first five or six times, he would stay frozen.  Some attempt later would restore the other character to “life.”

In spite of the problems I found with different parts of the game, I do believe this is the best Lego game by far and I believe that is a serious accomplishment.  The Lego games are fun parodies of popular concepts.  Each that I have played have provided myself, and my children, hours of entertainment.  Lego Batman 2 takes all of the fun of previous games, and provides new life simply by adding voices and a few other things.  The difficulty of the game is increased and this made it more fun overall for me also.  As a Batman fan, I would easily put it in the top two or three best Batman games also, as long as you are willing to realize Batman doesn’t always have to be so serious.  A little fun goes a long way for me. 

Early Thoughts on Lego Batman 2

20 Jun

Not a surprise with the title, I am sure, but I really enjoyed previous Lego games.  Now, as a 31 year old male, this may seem embarrassing, but the games are lighthearted fun that I can can sit down and play with my kids or watch them play.  I have played most, but not all, of the previous games.  I had waited for Lego Batman 2 with baited breath and today picked up my copy.  I didn’t get to play much but here are my thoughts on the first two missions.  

The game plays pretty similar to the first game.  The graphics were better than the first.  Everything seems a little crisper and cleaner.  Meanwhile, it plays a little more “real” than previous Lego games.  Instead of merely standing below a grappling hook spot, you can stand pretty much anywhere and throw your grappling hook.  You can even swing from spot to spot like classic Batman.  Also, Batman has to dodge security cameras in the first level which was a nice new idea.  But, because we are talking Batman and not Sam Fisher, you actually have to find a new Bat suit. 

Like the previous game, there are swappable costumes that have different abilities.  A specific costume allows Batman to become invisible and also comes with “detective mode” similar to Arkham City.  It seems like something you could expect Batman to wear.  The “bomb costume” from the first game has been improved a bit.  Instead of placing clunky big bombs, you throw explosive style batarangs.  Plus, due to the nature (I assume) of dealing with the explosive, Batman wears special guantlets with that suit that allows him to lift heavy object like Bane in the first game. 

Robin’s costumes also changed.  The magnet suit now provides a heavy duty magnetic gun device which allows Robin to move specific blue blocks, instead of merely walking up metallic blocks.  I also got a new suit for him, based on the original two Robins careers in the circus.  The acrobat suit allows Robin the ability to toss a stick to specific points and do gymnastic flips from spot to spot.  It also comes with a giant hamster style ball for Robin to roll around in.  So far, it seems to be mainly used to move objects on the screen like the normal green push blocks. 

Finally, I must confess unmitigated joy out of my Gamestop preorder.  Not only did I get a Lego Lex Luthor minifigure kit, but it also came with a code to download five extra villians.  I didn’t get to rid the entire list of the characters (and have yet to see them in game) but I did read that one is Bizarro and another is Captain Cold.  Things like this make me a happy customer at the end of the day.  I recommend you try this game if you have been a fan of any of the other games from Traveler’s Tales or if you like Batman.  I definitely think this will be a keeper. 

My thoughts on Avatar

18 Jun

I know I am a few years late, but I finally sat down and watched Avatar today.  My wife and son both enjoyed the movie when they saw it and convinced me I should give it a shot.  My older brother described it as a movie, “With enough of a romantic subplot for it to qualify as a woman’s movie and action for men to enjoy it.  Enough tree hugging to make democrats happy and enough of a fight to make republicans happy.” This interested me.  Having seen the movie, I must confess this seemed a good enough description for it.  As much as I liked it, though, it seemed very derivative to me. 

I didn’t watch it all this time because it seemed like everyone was watching it just because everyone was watching it.  Or they lauded it for being “big” or “cinematic.”  It was too artsy sounding to me.  But years of pressure finally wore me down today and I watched it.  It was a decent movie.  I love a good science fiction movie and it was decent.  But that’s it.  I still think people bragged about it because it was the reaction you were supposed to have. 

I enjoyed the characters and I enjoyed the science fiction aspects.  The alien animal species were fun.  I did notice that the horse animal sounded like a raptor from Jurassic Park.  I enjoyed the Bones squint who was a nerdy scientist in the show.  Many of the vehicles looked like things you would imagine in the future.  As a social studies guy, I liked that various religions influenced the alien species.  Even the title Avatar connects the movie with classical Hinduism and the different avatars of the god Vishnu. 

The movie looked pretty, true, but seemed overly CG.  I am tired of seeing western cultures portrayed as the bad guys in movies.  My biggest problem though was just how formulaic the movie was.  If you have seen any movie in which the “civilized world” comes into contact with the “native world,” you know the themes the movie has to hit on.  My favorite movie like this is The Last Samurai.  The two movies were very thematically similar.  The hero of the movies is hired to deal with a situation with a group fighting against “progress.”  In the midst of trying to do this, our hero finds himself brought into the native tribe and finds love.  The beauty of the native culture eventually wins him over and he fights the group he arrived with.  In a way, I even appreciate The Last Samurai’s conclusion even more.  The heroic side loses because more often than not in the real world, this is what happens. 

Once again, I know I am late, but I will say Avatar is a good movie.  It’s predictable but the acting is mostly good.  The star of the movie is one of my favorite new action stars.  It’s a fun look at different cultures I suppose.  After watching the movie, I checked it out on IMDB and see a potential sequel is planned, if not two.  I must confess I don’t see the need for it.  If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you give it a shot.  If you have seen it, I would love to see what you think.

Problems with the new 52

12 Jun

The new DCU has done many things right.  Unfortunately, it has also screwed up a lot of situations and looks to be perpetuating many of these mistakes.  The recent house cleaning and adding of titles seems indicative of these problems.  I have written at length about the “diversity” fiasco but here are a few other problems the new 52 seems to have.

Riding Batman’s Coattails

I like Batman as much as the next person.  Over the years, my love for the character has grown more and more due to great stories like Long Halloween, Snyder’s amazing run currently, and Nolan’s movies.  As a small child, like many of my generation, I watched Adam West save Gotham from the likes of crazy foes like Tut.  Recently, I made my kids watch (and eventually enjoy) Batman: The Brave and the Bold.  And I look forward to The Dark Knight Rises more than any movie since the embarrassment that was Episode 1, which premiered the night of my high school graduation (yes, as soon as I graduated I hightailed it to the theaters).  But the new 52 seems to live and die at the feet of Batman.  When it debuted, the Bat family made up 11 out of 52 titles.  When DC cut the first six titles and created six more, not a single Bat title was dropped and another was added.  Now, with the most recent title shift announcement, we are getting another Bat book.  This means 13 of the 52 titles are related to the Bat family’s exploits and this isn’t even counting his headlining in the Justice League.  This is a little much.

What to do with Superman?

As much as I love Batman, I love Superman even more.  He is easily one of my all-time favorite characters in comics.  Unlike most fans though, I never cared for his movies (comicsalliance just did a wonderful review of the series which highlighted a lot of issues I had with them).  But in the comics, Superman reigned supreme.  I got into DC comics with the death and return of Superman.  Before then, though I loved DC cartoons and shows, I only read Spiderman comics.  The early 90s though were a monumental shift in my comics buying.  When I was finally getting tired of the books at the time, they brought in my two favorite Superman writers ever, Jeph Loeb and Joe Kelly.  For those who don’t like this time period in Superman history, I can respect that, but I believe these two offered a wonderful reminder of why Superman mattered.  And though Lex Luthor as president never quite lived up to its potential, I still believe it was an incredibly gutsy move.

But today, the Superman family is floundering.  Jeff Lamire was doing a great job with Superboy before the relaunch, so of course they replaced him with Scott Lodbell who promptly killed the momentum.  Action Comics was coming off a great Lex Luthor run but now is meandering through Grant Morrison’s Super-T series.  Many like it but I could care less.  And the Superman title.  I was so excited to see George Perez on it.  He lasted six months and was announced to be leaving shortly after the series debuted.  He was replaced by my all-time favorite comic creator, Keith Griffen, and Dan Jurgens, the architect of the death of Superman.  I was thrilled.  After two issues, the two took to working on separate parts.  Now, right after announcing an “exciting annual” helmed by Griffen, it’s announced that the duo are off the book, to be replaced by Scott Lodbell.  I will now be buying 0 Super family books for the first time in a LONG time.

Too quick to judge

When the new 52 was announced, I recommended that titles get at least 8 issues before they were considered for the cutting block.  This way, excitement could be built regarding titles people may not pick up initially.  Look at the curious case of O.M.A.C.  The title was a revamping of an old Kirby idea that had recently been revised in the “old” DCU.  The title met with critical acclaim but its numbers weren’t great.  By issue 5 (IIRC), it was announced the title was being cancelled.  I don’t think that really was enough of a chance for a totally new character.  Similarly, some titles have shifted creators every three or four issues.  How can I develop any interest in a series that has no real flow from issue to issue because you don’t know who is working on it from month to month?

The number of books

I know that the whole idea of the new 52 wasn’t built around trouncing Marvel but the first few months they accomplished this.  A few months ago, Marvel reclaimed the lead in both money made and issues shipped.  But a careful look at the numbers reveals that Marvel isn’t way out in the lead right now and is publishing more titles overall.  If DC would publish more than 52 books, some of which are completely new concepts that will take time to build a fan base, they might be able to put up more of a fight month to month.

Subscriptions

There are other issues that I feel need addressing but I have “said” a lot more than I originally intended already.  But I do want to point out the problem with DC’s subscription services now.  Until last year, I always bought my titles in store.  My wife finally convinced me to subscribe to my titles because of the cost savings.  I was excited about the notion.  Half a year in, every title I subscribed to was cancelled because of the reboot and I had to decide which new titles to take.  True, most carried over to a new series of the same concept but some needed to be shuffled off to others.  As of two months ago I was subscribed to ten titles.  Last month I received four letters in the mail saying that titles I was purchasing would no longer be subscription titles.  In fact, when this new 52 was launched 30+ titles were available to be mailed from DC to me.  Now, half of that is eligible.  Some good selling titles were dropped, including Aquaman and Green Lantern: New Guardians, two titles that shocked me.  Aquaman has been a consistent top ten seller and GLNG is part of the huge Green Lantern franchise.

Overall, I have been mostly satisfied with the new 52.  I am enjoying more titles than pre-reboot.  How much of this is due to the reboot though, I am not sure (probably very little).  Mostly, I am enjoying the new concepts, like Demon Knights and O.M.A.C, that have been given a chance.  But DC needs to think about how they are running this system if they want to keep the extra money from me they have gotten over the last year.

Continuing to add to diversity to the DCnU

3 Jun

ImageI have written several times on the decline of “diversity” for the sake of diversity at DC.  Well adjusted characters like Barry Allen and Billy Batson have lost their families or their happy go lucky attitude.  Married couples are vanishing completely.  And now, this week, DC added another casualty of this sort to their list.  Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, will be “updated” in the ongoing new DCU. 

For those who don’t know about the Green Lantern concept, Alan came first years ago.  He survived World War 2 and started a family.  His ring was a magic ring.  Over twenty years ago, his children Jade and Obsidian first popped up.  These characters were great characters.  Obsidian was gay.  Now, though, they will probably not exist at all.  Instead Alan will be gay and have a boyfriend.  Meanwhile, on another Earth, Hal Jordan was given a ring that belonged to a dying alien and became the first human member of the Green Lantern Corps, a group of space police.  When the original Crisis happened, and the worlds merged, Alan became an older statesman and guided other characters.  This gave him a distinct and special role of a father figure to numerous characters, not the least of which were his biological children. 

I am not really sure what purpose this serves.  Replacing one gay character with another, ruining an entire family of characters.  I find it horribly unfair to Alan’s creators and numerous other writers and artists that have worked on the character.  It doesn’t add anything to the character at all while subtracting a lot of what made Alan a special character.  And now, he will become the “gay Green Lantern,” while losing the role of the father figure. 

To make it worse, I don’t know why they did this to a character concept they are trying to make into an icon.  Hal had DC’s lost big (albeit flop) movie, toys, video games, and a cartoon series.  Now, the news is reporting that “Green Lantern” is going to be gay.  This is going to cause a great deal of confusion in the marketplace.  It was bad enough when the movie came out and I had to explain that the black Green Lantern comes later.  Now, I will have to explain to people that the gay one is not the main one.  My head is going go to explode. 

I know this is rambling and I don’t care that DC will have another gay character.  I didn’t mind that there was a gay Starman.  I liked Mikaal in the Justice League and I liked Obsidian in the Justice Society.  I don’t however approve of taking a rare family man hero and destroying that for the sake of scoring diversity points in the news.