Archive | July, 2012

Changes that need to be made

30 Jul

The New 52 has been interesting to say the least.  Some books have succeeded beyond my wildest expectations while others disappointed me terribly.  Some characters have received new life, while others languish unused, or worse, used horribly.  DC has, I would say, the greatest characters in the comic book field.  Here are a few characters that could benefit from some work and a look at their pasts. 

1)      The Martian Manhunter is the best example of a character who needs to be used.  The character is full of potential.  For one thing, he has an incredibly diverse set of powers.  For another, he has, until recently, been the “heart of the Justice League.”  For some reason, though, in the new DCU, the powers that be decided to divest him of this important role and shoehorn him into Stormwatch.  I tried it for a while because he was in it.  I liked what Cornell was doing with it, but it lost me when he left. 

 

So what could be done with Jonn?  Either put him in the League where he needs to be or give him a book done right.  Although I am not a big fan of Morrison, in a rare moment of brilliance, he added an excellent part to the character.  Due to his power set and history, he came up with the notion that Jonn doesn’t have one secret identity, but numerous identities around the world.  Other writers added to it so he had numerous costumed identities also, including one inept villain who screwed up missions to catch other bad guys.  This is the PERFECT set-up for a series, I believe.  Do it!

 

2)      Hawkman has a similar problem.  Several years ago, Geoff Johns, David Goyer, and James Robinson were all involved in a brilliant rework of the characters.  They took the characters, who revolved around reincarnation, and worked previous DC historical heroes into one coherent history.  Stories were able to be told around the history of the universe.  And then suddenly, Starlin was allowed to come in and confuse the characters in a one-shot that went nowhere.  And with the reboot, Hawkgirl is nowhere to be seen.  They don’t mention the concept of reincarnation.  And finally, “The Rob” got involved. 

To fix this, I believe they should jettison Rob, which I am glad to say, I heard was coming. They need to hire someone who can respect this history of the character and bring in Hawkgirl. Otherwise, they would have been better off using the Thanagarian version. 

3)      Green Arrow and Blue Beetle suffer from similar problems.  Blue Beetle (who should be Ted Kord) and Green Arrow are both wealthy individuals with their own companies.  They are, in a lot of ways, poor men’s Bruce Waynes.  This is ok because they bring in their own quirks to the concept.  Ollie is a knee-jerk liberal. DC, as a company, is most famous for its more conservative characters (Bruce, Clark, and numerous heroes who have a military background).  Ollie being a liberal is what makes him more interesting.  Meanwhile, he also has the “hunter” aspect.  Over the years, he has been a “superhero” but every so often, that part of his character is sidelined, when the “hunter” comes out.  He becomes a vigilante.  This puts him at odds with the rest of the DC superheroes. 

Ted meanwhile is a brilliant inventor and a joker.  He works best on a team basis and currently DC has a plethora of teams that could benefit from a sense of humor and genius.   Unfortunately, DC is convinced that Reyes is the only Blue Beetle. 

4)      Elongated Man and Sue Dibney would be perfect characters for DC right now.  Once again, DC has plenty of teams that need fun characters.  To go a step further, Ralph is brilliant in his own way.  His power set may not be the most amazing, especially in the DC universe, but a stretching character can be used in interest ways.  Also, you get the added benefit of Sue.  Sue is one of the most down to earth characters in any comic book universe.  Bring them back!

 5)      The final character who I think needs some work is Aquaman. Now, I must say, I am loving what Geoff and Ivan are doing in Aquaman.  The character is finally getting some respect.  The “Others” he introduced are fascinating and I hope some live, and even better, stick around somewhere. 

But, Aquaman needs Atlantis.  He needs to be king.  I want to see him interact with the surface, but also with the Atlanteans.  It makes Aquaman bigger in a lot of ways than many characters.  He is the link between two species.  The Trench were a great start.  I would love to see them at war with Atlantis.  You could also have potential conflict with the surface world.  I hope Geoff has plans for Atlantis to be an active, not sidelined, role in the Aquaman series. 

DC has a wealth of characters who deserve a chance to shine.  I am glad to say that they seem to be working on different ways to bring characters in.  Between the “Earth 1” graphic novels, anthology books, and now National Comics spotlights, many characters will get new chances.  The New Gods, the Freedom Fighters, the L.E.G.I.O.N. and the characters already mentioned are far too interesting to be sidelined.  Here’s hoping DC will show respect to their history while paving the future.

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Alan Moore’s Ongoing Rants…..

28 Jul

Like most comic book fans from the last thirty years, I respect that Alan Moore is the greatest comic book author of all time.  I have loved everything I have read by him.  He brought a maturity to comic books that few, if any others, have met.  Watchmen, Killing Joke, and a few Superman books changed how I see comic books.  But I must confess, I am getting tired of this Before Watchmen mess. 

For those who don’t know the deal, Alan Moore wrote Watchmen, widely regarded as the best example of a graphic novel.  I can accept that notion.  It’s a classic book, brilliantly written, introducing an unusual cast of characters.  According to Moore, he and David Gibbons had a contract stating that when the book was done in print, they would assume ownership of the characters and rights to the book.  So, according to Moore, DC has kept the book constantly in print, so they could continue to own the rights.  He has fussed about the movie (I don’t blame him as it was abysmal) and now has created a huge uproar over the prequels.  Now, he routinely fusses that undeserving hacks write new stories using characters he created or put his stamp on. 

I have a few problems with this theory though.  First off, this is his side of the story.  Gibbons, meanwhile, gave lukewarm approval to the prequels.  This week he came out and stated the he felt that it was a different version of the characters than his and Moore’s seminal work.  I respect that and I haven’t read any of the books because I currently don’t see a reason too.  Like Moore and Gibbons have both stated, their story was complete.  I enjoyed THEIR story, but I didn’t appreciate Moore stating anyone who read the prequels wasn’t the type of fans he wanted anyway because they weren’t faithful to his thoughts. 

The biggest problem I have with Moore’s arguments though is the one that gets stated by most people.  Moore has become famous (some would say infamous) writing other people’s characters, which he now fusses that others do.  His Superman stories, while the best written, are Superman stories.  As was basically his Supreme work.  Joe and Jerry created those characters almost 80 years ago.  Likewise, his Batman/Joker classic piece was based on Kane and Finger’s characters.  His one creator owned book that he still works on is based on classic literary figures.  And even Watchmen, the source of so much of his consternation, was based on DC characters for DC. 

Moore has become famous for writing truly brilliant works using other people’s characters.  Meanwhile, he has drawn a line in the sand stating that no one can write “his” characters.  This is patently hypocritical.  As he has gotten older, he has become more and more pretentious about it.  He would be much happier if he did like he claims he has and just ignore the whole situation.  Instead, every few months, he does a big interview in which he states how much he hates the whole media form now and has completely the situation behind him.  Would I love to read a new Moore story on characters he made his mark on?  YES!  And I would have loved to read his Twilight maxi-series he had planned.   But at this point, I would just assume he stick to his novels.

Batman Forever seemed to last forever

24 Jul

With Dark Knight Rises opening last weekend, the Burton/Schumacher Batman films played on the movie channels.  I have not seen any of them since they came out and decided I would watch each of them.  My DVR played against me however and I only got the chance to watch my favorite of the four, Batman Forever. I was about fourteen when it came out and remember enjoying it much more than Returns.  And I recall hating Batman and Robin, so I was ok with this development.

I just finished watching Forever though and am in a daze.  Like most boys of the 80s, I loved watching repeats of Adam West and Burt Ward jovially beating the daylights out of the “Clown Prince of Crime” and the like.  So I am used to Batman having his tongue inserted squarely in cheek.  But this was truly painful.  In fact, the entire movie can be summed up best by one of Riddler’s last lines.  After describing his master plan, he looks at Batman and asks, “Was that over the top?”

I remember that being my problem with Batman and Robin.  But upon rewatching this “masterpiece” I was floored at just how over the top the entire movie was.  While not as in your face as the leering view at Batman’s jockstrap in the Schumacher’s last movie, the full two to three seconds image of the Bat Butt will now be burned in my adult mind forever.  Watching Two Face cackle like Ceaser Romero on steroids, I feel I must go back and watch Dark Knight just to wash the taste out of my mouth.  And though I love seeing the aesthetic reappear in the Lego Batman games, the giant statues littering the Gotham skyline was horribly distracting.

I hate to say I really can’t think of a redeeming part of the movie now as an adult.  I want to like Kilmer as Batman but when the first line of the dark knight in a movie is “No, I will get take out,” it is difficult to view the movie with open eyes.  I hope I can sit down and watch the other three movies soon.  But as of right now, all I can think is thank goodness for Nolan.  Here’s hoping Warner can think of a way to continue this series.  Any possible return to the manic nature of the Batverse before is utterly terrifying. Much more so than hearing Prince sing of the glories of Gotham or watching Robin beat the daylights (nightlights?) out of the neon brigade of ninjas.

The Dark Knight Rose to the occasion!

20 Jul

I just got in from the midnight premiere of The Dark Night Rises. A lot has been said (and threats made apparently) about the movie and a lot will be said in the coming weeks. Expectations were unbelievably high for this movie riding on the prior two movies in Nolan’s triology. I don’t think it would have been possible for it to meet those expectations. What follows are my spoiler free thoughts.

First, I must state, The Dark Knight is my favorite movie ever. Heath Ledger gave the role of a life time with his Joker. Bale, Caine, Oldman, and Freeman likewise gave excellent performances. But to me, the rise and fall of Harvey Dent was the heart of the movie. I finally got the Two-Face story I always thought we deserved. And the conclusion, when Batman decided to take credit for Two-Face’s crimes, was beautiful. So when the announcement was made that this movie would take place eight years later, I was horribly disappointed. It took me several months to accept this but I finally made my peace with it a few months ago.

Dark Knight Rises is a very different animal from The Dark Knight. It was a wonderful movie but I believe it is missing the break neck pace and excitement of Ledger’s Joker or Harvey’s fall. Nolan’s concluding act is a slow boil, building to the final conflict. It is very entertaining and if you know your Batman history from the comic books, the movie is highly influenced by two great Batman stories from the last twenty years. But, by the nature of the story, it does slow down at points. This doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable, I truly enjoyed the whole movie, but I was hoping for more Dark Knight but like many paid reviewers point out, the last movie plays more like Batman Begins.

The origin of Bane is brilliantly told. He comes across as an unstoppable force, which plays like his original storyline in the comic books. I was quite surprised at just how well I thought he was done. I must confess, as much as I loved the Batman cartoon from Dini, I never thought Bane was treated with the respect he deserved. And this continued in all other versions until this movie. Finally, someone “got” Bane. Pretty much how I feel about everyone in the Bat-verse. Nolan gets this stuff.

Catwoman plays a lot like Ledger’s Joker. When I heard Anne Hathaway was going to be Catwoman all I could think was that it was insane. Disney’s princess could NOT be the ultimate femme fatale. I was blown away though. She IS Catwoman. Unlike previous Batman movie Catwomen, this story doesn’t require cats magically saving a woman and transforming her into a vigilante. And the costume is the best Catwoman costume since Balent did the art in the comics or the classic adventures of Burt Ward and Adam West.

Dark Knight Rises is not Dark Knight. It is a very different animal. Nolan brings about a wonderful conclusion to his trilogy. I still think the previous movie is better but this was a fantastic, slow building movie. The end of the movie played just how I hoped it would. I can’t wait until I can add this movie to my collection. To me, the movie is best summed up by a line from the last movie. Sometimes, we need our faith rewarded. Nolan rewarded his fans. I hate this was the end.

The best superhero video games out there

16 Jul

San Diego played host to the biggest comic convention of them all this weekend.  DC showed off a new trailer for Injustice: Gods Among Us, a game I am awaiting eagerly.  At the same time, Lego Batman 2 continues to draw attention and Lego created a brilliant whole line of hero superhero mini-figurines introduced at the convention.  I decided now was as good as any time to highlight my seven favorite superhero games of the last ten years. 

7) Justice League Heroes – The Justice League rarely has its own games which is very sad.  Justice League Heroes came out on the Xbox as it was closing its doors to prepare for the 360.  I hated that because this game was all kinds of fun.  Play was very similar to Marvel’s more popular Ultimate Alliance series of games.  Characters were pulled from DC’s vast pantheon of heroes.  Unlockables included various heroes for special missions and alternate costumes.  One of my favorite parts of the game was transforming villains into rabbits, using Zatanna’s magic. 

6) Ultimate Alliance – Marvel’s first big foray into the current generation of consoles, Ultimate Alliance was a brilliant game featuring a broad array of playable characters ranging from Spiderman to Ghost Rider and Venom to the Hulk.  There was a sequel game based on the Civil War storyline, but I don’t think it was nearly as entertaining. 

5) Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3 – I have loved fighting games since the original Street Fighter 2 (yes, I realize it was a sequel to Street Fighter).  I always preferred Capcom’s fighters compared to Mortal Kombat and years ago Marvel entered a healthy partnership with Capcom to create a series of fighting games based around a merged universe concept, like something right out of the comic books.  UMVC 3 is the most recent game of the series and is insanely fast and wild.  Every character has a broad variety of costumes.  Only two things would have pushed this game higher up the list.  First, I much prefer DC’s character list but even more basically, this game needed Mega Man.  Zero just isn’t the same thing. 

4) Lego Batman – The first Lego Batman game was a breath of fresh air.  The Lego games were fun but needed something new.  Enter, The Batman!  The game focused around an original storyline in which Arkham’s worst inmates are broken out of prison (ok, somewhat original storyline).  The game is simple because it is basically a kid’s game, but it has a great deal of replayability and achieving 100% competition is incredibly difficult. 

3) Batman: Arkham Asylum – Along a similar storyline, Arkham Asylum is based around a jail break at Arkham.  Batman is called in to save the city.  In a game that finally seems to get the concept of Batman correct, the character must sneak around the Asylum like Sam Fisher.  Many of Batman’s signature moves are present.  One minute you are in the ground, when you hear enemies approaching.  The next, utilizing a grappling hook, you zip up to a ledge of the building and wait for them to walk below you so you can drop upon them and beat them senseless.  The villains range from the famous (Joker, Bane) to the obscure (Mr. Zsasz). 

2) Batman: Arkham City – An even bigger sequel was waiting in the winds.  After the events of the first game, a sector of the city was broken off to function as a city asylum.  As Batman, you zip around many of the famous landmarks from Gotham City, including Ace Chemicals and Catwoman’s apartment.  The addition of Catwoman, Robin, and Nightwing made the game one of the best comic book games ever. 

1) Lego Batman 2 – Possibly the best comic book video game ever, Lego Batman 2 took much of the formula of Arkham City (a living Gotham City), the sheer fun of the Lego games, and added the entire Justice League to create a game in which 50 different characters each play a part to solve puzzles and missions.  Some characters are more valuable than others, but most offer some special value.  As a long time fan of these characters, it’s a joy each time you get a new one.  Plus, the end of the story mode offers a glance at a bigger sequel.  Hopefully it won’t be four or five more years to wait.

Continuing Thoughts On Lego Batman 2

3 Jul

I know I have written about this game twice already but I have to admit this is a crazy fun game.  It offers a great deal of surprises and if you use a little bit of sense, some of the puzzles make a beautiful sort of sense.  So what follows are a few more thoughts on Lego Batman 2. 

1) One thing that is different from the first Lego Batman game is the nature of the red bricks.  I must confess, I preferred the first game’s handling of these elusive and important bricks.  In the first game, you had to find special, secret rooms using a variety of characters to get these items.  In this game, the red bricks are out in the open, but you need special characters to open boxes.  For example, the Riddler opens several, including one right by him when you find him.  The Joker also opens these boxes.  Whether other people can or not, I do not know yet. 

2) I currently have found Killer Croc but have yet to buy him.  I am looking for Aquaman, but don’t have the money or gold bricks to get him yet.  This morning I was free playing a level early in the game and came upon a puzzle that required someone to walk across the floor of a pool.  I was kicking myself for not having already bought Killer Croc.  Then my seven year old suggested using Black Manta (my pre-order character) because he is an Aquaman villian. I hadn’t thought about that because in the game he is a heat vision character.  It worked and a few seconds later, I found not one but two mini-kits using Black Manta’s swimming powers. 

3) My all time favorite super-hero is Green Lantern.  I was horribly disappointed to see that he only uses his ring (basically) when green glowing bricks are found.  He then follows a pre-scripted routine to solve a puzzle.  I didn’t see any of these elusive bricks in missions, but now that I have Lex unlocked, I am finding several different areas with green glowing bricks which has given me new opportunities to use him.  Also, in a related point, I see Sinestro doesn’t seem to work with green bricks, which makes me wonder if there are yellow bricks out there to utilize.  Does anyone know?

4) I was happy to see I can use any character during free play missions by holding y like during the free roaming areas.  Unfortunately, you do lose the suits for Batman and Robin you may have found in mission.  This drives me insane because sometimes they don’t seem to reappear in the suit locations, if I can go back. 

5) If you are looking for easy gold bricks and don’t know where to look, I recommend you start at Gotham Funpark.  Many of the park games and rides can be played for gold bricks.  Another great place to find them is the Schumacher statues spread across the city.  Most of them have a gold covering on their heads or in their trumpets.  Heat vision them away and suddenly you get a gold brick. 

6) One disappointing character issue I have noticed, and this may only bother me, is found with Black Adam (and thus I am assuming Captain Marvel).  Black Adam, who sparkles electricity everywhere he goes and gets his powers via magical lightening, doesn’t count as an electric suit character.  Black Canary gets to count as a sonic character, as does Manbat, so it can’t be argued that they don’t want Batman’s suits to be important.  Instead, the Marvel family’s electricity doubles as heat vision.  Sigh……

I can’t recommend the game highly enough.  It occasionally has a screwy frame rate, and characters freeze randomly, and sometimes characters aren’t as useful as I would like.  But if you love DC heroes, or Legos, or just plain clean fun, this is a game for you.  My kids (7-12) love the game.  My “adopted” 15 year old had a ball playing it.  And I am 31 and can’t get enough.  Let me know if you know any brilliant parts of the game I haven’t noticed yet.  Enjoy!