While waiting for Batman V Superman, some thoughts on Man of Steel

23 Mar

With Batman v Superman launching this weekend, I felt the need to try and defend The Man of Steel one final time.  Now, I understand that it is a film people either love or hate.  There seemed to be little middle ground in defense of it.  And that’s perfectly fine.  Our modern America is not one given to middle of the road viewpoints anymore.   But the movie is a complicated movie and needs a deeper look at some issues, I would suggest.   And before anyone states that I am a Snyder fanboy, who can’t view the movie through a fair lens, I must confess, that this is Zack Snyder’s only movie I love.  I did appreciate his Watchmen, but I can’t say I truly loved it and I can’t stand ANY of his other movies.

For one thing, although it’s a movie about Superman, it is an attempt to tell a more realistic version of the Superman story than the Christopher Reeves movies of our youth.  If beings truly could fly, crash through the moon, and burn the skin off other beings with a glance, we would be in a great danger.  The criminals are evil and Superman has great difficulty stopping them.  Plus, this is “Superman Year One.” He does not use his powers in the open and he is not familiar with having to stop a serious crisis like he faces.  Unless these basic facts are understood, the movie will be very difficult to appreciate.

A major concern in the movie is Kevin Costner’s Pa Kent.  People didn’t like that he told young Clark that he possibly should have let the bus of children die.  But if this was truly Jonathon’s only child, and Jonathon lived in the real world and knew that the government would be VERY interested in a child that could lift a bus out of water, he might be concerned with Clark using his gifts so openly.  Later, for much the same reason, he tells Clark to not save him during the storm so Clark can have a normal life, something he knows Superman will not be able to do.

The biggest concerns people had though with the movie was the final act.  The sheer amount of destruction that is unleashed on Metropolis and how Superman did not save everyone.  Once again, this is Clark’s first real crisis as Superman.  He is fighting an army of beings just like him, who are not holding back at all and are unleashing devastation that is unimaginable on the earth.  Any time he left the battlefield to save one or even one hundred people, the Kryptonian army would slaughter thousands.  Yes, it would have been simple to show Clark try and save a few people here or there, but the movie focused on the major issue, of the true terror Kryptonians would unleash on our planet.

Another issue a reviewer raised was the Superman left Metropolis to take out the machine in the Indian Ocean, where no one was, while a similar machine was destroying Metropolis.  But Metropolis had the military attempting to, and eventually successfully, destroying that machine.  The army would not have made it in time to stop the machine in the Indian Ocean.  Meanwhile, without stopping it, the world would be destroyed.  So Superman left Metropolis to the military while he saved the planet, from certain destruction.

Man of Steel is not a perfect movie and it isn’t the best superhero movie.  But it does a fantastic job I would argue of showing what life with godlike beings would be like for humans.  At the moment children from Krypton arrive on Earth, life would change forever. Snyder shows this and also shows that a young man can rise above his fears and personal shortcomings to save mankind.  From all descriptions in both the trailers and press releases, Superman will be much more like his classic form in his new movie this weekend.  Batman, meanwhile, will be an entirely different story.  

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Lego Dimensions

26 Oct

It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this blog, but I picked up Lego Dimensions last week.  If you have been here before, I really enjoy the Lego games, even though I am a father of three and a teacher.  In fact, it’s scary to say, but probably safe to say, but the Lego games just might be one of my favorite game franchises out currently.  But in spite of the love for the titles, and even though I bought the game several days ago, I have had extremely little hands on time with the game: about two hours Saturday morning.  Still, I wanted to share my thoughts for anyone considering purchasing the game and the myriad expansion sets.  

Even if I wasn’t completely sure if it was a game for me, I was completely sold in the first ten minutes of playing.  This was because of one scene I encountered in the first real stage: my Lego Batman was riding a Velociraptor, courtesy of Jurassic World, throughout Oz.  That was it!  At that point, you have completely in the palm of your hand Traveler’s Tales.  I’m stuck.  

The game is the newest in the line of toy/game hybrids.  It is competing against Skylanders, a franchise I couldn’t get into, and Disney Infinity, which won me over with the addition of Star Wars.  But their two major things that separates the Lego version from its competitors.  One thing, and easily the main selling point, is the sheer variety of franchises involved in Lego Dimensions: DC Comics, Back to the Future, Jurassic World, and Ghostbusters are just of the franchises included. There is also Dr. Who, the Simpsons, the Lego Movie, Scooby Doo, and more.  

The other major difference though is that these toys are really toys!  If you don’t enjoy putting together legos, then this would not be the game for you.  The two hours of play time I’ve had?  I was actually playing the game for about thirty minutes.  Right after you start, the game prompts you to put the controller down and build a stargate out of legos.  This then is attached to the portal and took me about 45 minutes.  Shortly afterwards, I constructed another device (15 min) and was off.  Then, because I suffer from minor OCD tendencies, I threw in some bonus characters I had and each had me construct a tool or ride for the specific character (30 min).  In that thirty minutes, though, I had the opportunity to fight the Wicked Witch and a horde of flying monkeys.  

So what did I buy?  And how far back did it set me?  I bought the PS4 starter pack: the game, three characters (including Batman) and the batmobile.  That cost $100 regardless of the system you purchase it on (including the Xbox 360 and PS3).  I bought the Back to the Future kit, which includes Marty McFly, the Delorean, a bonus stage, and his hover-board.  That cost $30 and oddly, it is the only set I didn’t use yet, even though it was the add-on I wanted most.  I bought the Jurassic World kit, two characters, a raptor, and the gyro-sphere for $25.  And finally, my 15 year old has an eerie love for the Wizard of Oz, which led to the purchase of the Wicked Witch and flying monkey pack for $15.  
Although I plan to say more when I have played more and explored the title, I definitely am excited right now.  It’s definitely a pricey franchise, which is why I didn’t buy it at launch, but it seems fun.  The fact that they will be doing four waves of add-ons, including levels, characters, and entire franchises is very exciting.  If you like the lego games and enjoy building, this is the game for.  But if you don’t enjoy both, I definitely recommend passing.  

The end of Fables

28 Jul

cover67350-mediumLike many, I came into the Fables universe late.  Last year, DC had an “essentials sale” in which they dropped the price of their most important graphic novels ever and I picked up several from their main line and for the first time ever, their Vertigo line.  I read the first volume of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run which was fun.  I read the first volume of Hellblazer and found it not for me, but I could see where people would enjoy it.  And I picked up the first volume of Fables and really liked it a lot.  Now, I must confess, I didn’t love it, but I really liked it a lot more than I would have thought.  I saw clear similarities between it and early seasons of Once Upon a Time, which I had watched with my wife and daughter.  But after that first volume, I moved back to my standard superhero fare.

A few months later, though, I decided to try the second volume.  The ongoing tale of the Adversary piqued my interest a little more.  The characters of Bigby, Flycatcher, and Boy Blue were very different from my typical heroes.  And the leading ladies of Snow and Rose Red were interesting, and not at all like the typical comic leading lady.  But once again, I put the series aside for a few months.

About two months ago, though, on a whim, I binge bought volumes three through five and it was done.  From that moment on, I fell completely for this series and have now read through volume 13.  At a con, this weekend, I bought through volume 18 and hope to read them soon.  And suddenly, through Netgalley, I have been given the chance to see the end before the middle.

I must confess, I really appreciate what was done here.  Although I don’t know everything that took me from the introduction of Mr. Dark to the death and return of a certain major character, I was able to follow along for the most part.  I don’t know exactly when Snow and Red’s relationship took such a horrid turn, but I found the conclusion of their story to be touching.  I am glad to see King Ambrose is still a noble leader and what happened to Pinnochio was perfect!

I really cannot wait to purchase this volume in print.  It is a fitting conclusion to one of the most interesting and original  comic series of the last thirty years.  I cannot recommend it enough and hope Bill plans on making a few return visits to the Mundy and Fabled worlds.  This is a classic for the ages.

Justice League Vol 6

14 Jul

The post Forever Evil world continued through volume 6 of Geoff John’s Justice League.  Now, I must confess, I have been a fan of Geoff’s since his Star Spangled Kid days.  I have also been a huge fan of the Justice League since watching Superfriends.  But for some reason, I have really been struggling through his Justice League series.  Some might suggest that it is due to the non-stop event status that has dominated the title, but honestly that doesn’t bother me.  I enjoy events as much, if not more, than the typical fan.  I buy comics because I want events!  But for some reasons, the Justice League title hasn’t worked for me.

But, I will say, that volume six: Injustice League was a lot of fun!  Lex in the Justice League is an idea that screams potential.  The new version of Amazo introduced could be great too, especially if they keep his mad on for Luthor even when Lex is out of the League.  The plague story was timely too as it was released in single issue form last year during the height of the Ebola scare.  And few creators can revitalize old concepts like the Doom Patrol like Geoff can.

The volume is far from perfect however.  The new Power Ring hasn’t really done much since being introduced.  In fact, she sat her second story (half the book) unconscious.  And if she ends up anything like Geoff’s last new Lantern, it will be a total waste.  Also, the volume goes through several artists, although all of the artists are talented.  I could definitely see why it might get on some people’s nerves.

The next volume promises to be huge, as the Darkseid War begins.  So perhaps this has been just the start to a renewed Geoff and a new start for the Justice League.  It’s going to be an amazing summer!

Gotham Academy

23 Jun

If there is a comic book that I wouldn’t think I would enjoy, it is Gotham Academy.  I am 34, a history teacher, and a father of 3.  Teenagers being overly dramatic is what my life revolves around and typically I want my entertainment to be about escaping those bounds.  I love Superman because he is the world’s greatest hero.  I love Green Lantern because he has a ring that can do anything and solve any problem.  Neither of those are options for me.  And yet, I have found, that a comic book about teachers in a school of crazy kids is one of the most original books out there and it really is as close to perfect as any other book on the market currently.

The book’s teachers are classic “B-rated” villains.  Bookworm was one of those crazy characters that could have only been in Adam West’s Bat-universe and yet he is the school librarian.  I can’t help but wonder when he will kidnap children in his quest to rule Gotham’s literary circles.  Aunt Harriet is the school ma’am responsible for the girls’ dormitory.  And yet, if you recall your Batman ’66, she is the woman who couldn’t figure out that special glowing red phone meant Bruce and Dick had a secret life (and not the type that Grant Morrison likes to allude to!).

And then there’s the kids.  One of the characters is named Maps! And she loves RPGs, one of my favorite gaming fixations.  And I am really not sure if she realizes life isn’t a big RPG, as she walks around and discusses her need for mail armor or lock picking skills.  The star reminds me of some of my favorite students: moody, bright, and obsessed with Batman. She has boyfriend drama and super-secretive teenage stalker issues.  And Killer Croc stalker issues, in one of the character’s most fun roles since Tiny Titans’ All Croc issue.

The entire book reads like a modern day Scooby adventure.  To help drive home that fact, there are fake ghosts hiding around every secret passage way you can find in the school.  The headmaster has that “is he the secret evil villain or just another red herring” personality that Scooby Do mastered in my childhood. And in closing, like my favorite Scooby episodes ever, Batman occasionally guest-stars.  I admit it: I am in love with a teenage angsty-drama!

Grayson Volume 1

9 Jun

I must confess when Grayson was launched, I really wasn’t all that interested.  The idea of Dick Grayson being a spy with a gun seemed to run counter to everything I liked about the character.  And honestly, I never really read many solo titles about him anyway.  I loved Snyder’s run with him as Batman in Detective Comics several years ago and I enjoyed the early volumes of his new 52 series but I hadn’t read much more than that.  And the promotional image telling fans we didn’t know Dick, just seemed……well, right up there with DC’s other promotional mishaps of late: the WTF covers from several years ago or the “Draw Harley naked and committing suicide” fiasco.  So imagine my surprise when I had the chance to read a promotional copy of Grayson volume 1 from Netgalley, and found that I really enjoyed the story.

Now, I do want to say, there were still parts of the book that I didn’t care for.  Although I am a huge fan of DC comics, I must confess I have never cared much for Grant Morrison’s writing, so I had no background information on Spyral and found the spy organization to be somewhat derivative of Chase, a wonderful and offbeat DC title from my youth.  Replace the mysterious leader with no face with Mr. Bones, the head of the DEO who has no face (just a skull) and you are good to go.  And I will say, at least in the digital promotional copy, the last chapter accidentally duplicates the prior chapter.  I hope they fix that in the print copy or regular digital copy.

Other than those two minor complaints, though, I will say the majority of the book was really fun.  The characters were fun to read.  Dick’s relationship with his partner (former Huntress) was interesting.  She is the classic spy who only sees the work and he is Dick Grayson, the hero with the heart of gold.  A brief romantic interest is introduced and handled in a way I didn’t see. Finally, the overarching mystery of “super body part implants” was a different type of threat than you normally see in the superhero comics I read.

From what I understand, Tom King, writer of the series, was in the CIA.  That fact is apparent when you read the series.  He writes the spy world the way I imagine it to be.  Cloaks and daggers are everywhere and outside of our title hero, probably no one can be trusted. I like that.  I believe this series has a great deal of potential and look forward to the second volume.

DC Deck Building Game

8 Feb

I have always enjoyed games.  I play computer games and video games as frequently as possible, which as a father, husband, and teacher is NOWHERE near as often as I would like.  But I also have always loved board games and card games.  Recently, I discovered a tiny store devoted to board games and card games in town.  It was an interesting trip which led me to purchasing an entertaining card game that I want to advertise. 

 

I came along at the right age to get into Pokemon, but I managed to avoid that compulsion somehow.  I did however find several collectable card games that I was interested in but rarely did my friends enjoy them.  Because two or more people need to be willing to invest for a collectable card game to be worth playing, I rarely bothered.  But little did I know the new card game style is the “deck building game.”  Deck building games are similar to collectable card games. You start a game with a small amount of weaker cards and spend points to buy more powerful cards.   These cards combine with one another in unique ways to create a veritable card army as you fight your way to victory.  The major difference, however, is that in a deck building game one master deck is bought for everyone to share from.  Instead of each person buying a sixty card deck and then expansion packs, the group buys one box of 200+ cards to share. 

 

Now, you might be wondering why I am writing about this on a site traditionally reserved for my musings on comic books.  Well, the game I recently discovered is “DC Deck Building Game” and I must confess, it is all kinds of fun.  The game is firmly entrenched in the “New 52” DCU but several pre-52 ideas are in the game.  At the start, you choose a hero based on the new Justice League: Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg.  Each of these characters has their own special “power.” For example, Superman gets benefits for playing “power” cards, Wonder Woman gains benefits for beating villains, and Green Lanterns gets a benefit by creatively matching different types of cards together. 

 

Once you have that idea down, the game becomes interested in beating specific supervillains.  Each of those provides a penalty to players initially and when beaten are gained to the decks of the person who beat them.  They then provide extreme benefits to those players.  If you cannot beat a supervillain, you have the option to buy other types of cards: powers, equipment, locations, heroes, and “regular” villains.  Each of these cards provide a benefit to the person who buys them also. 

 

The game is fun in general.  Everyone in my house has enjoyed playing it, and although it claims it is for fifteen and up, my kids are 9, 12, and 14.  Although I occasionally have to remind them of simple rules or effects of cards, they have taken to the game like pros, and routinely beat me. Meanwhile, I get a kick out of how the different cards symbolically link to their “real” comic skill.  For example, Ra’s ah Ghul is placed at the bottom of your draw deck instead of into your discard pile when played.  This is because, in the comics, when he is killed he has a special chemical bath that brings him back to life.  Swamp Thing is worth much more power if the player has a location card in play because he is attached to the natural (location) world. 

 

If you are a fan of card games, I recommend you try it or a similar game.  If you are a comic fan, I recommend you try.  If you are a fan of both, I whole heartedly suggest you buy it quick and give it a shot!  And if you already have it, take heart! An expansion is coming at the end of the month!