Saturday, June 25, 2011

My Dark Side deck for Decipher's Star Wars Collectible Card Game!

(last edited 6/25/11)

(Note: The following casual deck is NOT intended for use in serious tournament play. Also, it hasn't been play-tested yet!)

Dark Side

Starting (8):
Hoth: Ice Plains (v)
Prepared Defenses (v)
All Wrapped Up (v)
Combat Response (v)
Rise Of The Dark Lord (End This Destructive Conflict v)
Vader's Bionic Limbs (Physical Choke v)
Vader's Cape (v)
Vader's Mask (Vader's Eye v)

Locations (10):
Hoth: Defensive Perimeter
Hoth: North Ridge
Coruscant: Imperial City
Coruscant: Galactic Senate
Dungeon (Jabba's Palace: Dungeon v)
Jabba's Sail Barge: Passenger Deck
Tatooine (Premiere)
Tatooine: Marketplace

Characters (19):
Boba Fett, Relentless Bounty Hunter (Quick Reflexes v)
Bossk (v)
Commander Praji (v)
Coruscant Guard (v) x2
Cyborg Commander, Hunter Of Jedi (Twi'lek Advisor v)
Darth Maul
Darth Sidious
Darth Vader, More Machine Than Man (Darth Vader v)
Dengar (v)
General Nevar (Commander Gherant v)
Guri (v)
IG-88 (v)
Jabba The Hutt (v)
Keder The Black (v)
Prince Xixor (v)
Veers (v)
Zuckuss (v)

Starships/Vehicles (12):
Blizzard 1 (v)
Blizzard 2 (v)
Blizzard Scout 1 (v)
Devastator (v)
Hound's Tooth (v)
Jabba's Sail Barge (v)
Marquand In Blizzard 6 (Prepare For A Surface Attack v)
Mist Hunter (v)
Punishing One (v)
Stinger (v)
Vader's Custom TIE

Weapons/Devices (5):
AT-AT Cannon (v)
Dark Jedi Lightsaber (v)
Darth Vader's Lightsaber
Fett's Blaster Rifle (Double Back v)
Maul's Lightsaber

Interrupts (3):
Double Back
Walker Garrison (v)

Events (3):
An Enemy Of The Republic (Dead Jawa v)
Bounty (v) x2

My Light Side deck for Decipher's Star Wars Collectible Card Game!

(last updated 6/25/11)

(Note: The following casual deck is NOT intended for use in serious tournament play. Also, it hasn't been play-tested yet!)

Light Side

Starting (7):
Tatooine (Premiere)
Harvest (v)
Tatooine: Lars' Moisture Farm (v)
Lars' Hydroponics Station (Hydroponics Station v)
Lars' Vaporator (Vaporator v)
Maneuvering Flaps & Nick of Time (Maneuvering Flaps v)
Squadron Assignments

Locations (10):
Coruscant: Galactic Senate
Hoth: Defensive Perimeter
Hoth: Echo Corridor
Hoth: Main Power Generators (v)
Hoth: Snow Trench
Spaceport Scoundrels Guild (Tatooine: Anchorhead v)
Spaceport Street
Tatooine: Watto's Junkyard

Characters (20):
Bail Organa, Father of Rebellion (Palejo Reshad v)
Beru Lars (v)
Biggs, Rogue Legend (Biggs Darklighter v)
Chewie (v)
Dack Ralter (v)
General Carlist Rieekan (v)
Han Solo, Courageous Smuggler (I've Got A Bad Feeling About This v)
Lando Calrissian (v)
Luke Skywalker, Rebel Hero (Captive Pursuit v)
Luke Skywalker, Strong In The Force (A Jedi's Concentration v)
Master Qui-Gon (v)
Mirax Terrik
Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padawan Learner (v)
Owen Lars (v)
R2-D2 (v)
Senator Leia Organa (Princess Organa v)
Senator Mon Mothma (Mon Mothma v)
Senator Padme Amidala (I've Decided To Go Back v)
Wedge Antilles, Legendary Rogue (Wedge Antilles v)
Zev Senesca

Starships/Vehicles (9):
Alderaan Consular Ship (Masanya v)
Booster in Pulsar Skate (Pulsar Skate v)
Gold Squadron 1
Red 2
Red 3 (v)
Red 5 (v)
Rogue 1
Rogue 2
Rogue 3

Weapons/Devices (6):
Dual Laser Cannon (v)
Luke's Bionic Hand (Bionic Hand v)
Luke's Blaster Pistol (v)
Luke's Lightsaber
Planet Defender Ion Cannon (v)
Qui-Gon Jinn's Lightsaber

Interrupts (4):
Beru Stew (v)
Desperate Tactics
Sorry About The Mess & Blaster Proficiency

Effects (5):
A New Secret Base
Credits Will Do Fine
Echo Base Operations
Sai'torr Kal Fas (v)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dinky Reviews!

Thor (2011).

When I describe myself as an old-school Avengers fan, that isn't to say I've been one for some great length of time (unless six years seems like a lot to you), but instead to suggest that I'm primarily a fan of the old-school (i.e. pre- Brian Michael Bendis) Avengers.

Perhaps a bit of an explanation is in order. To make a relatively long-ish story short(er): My undergraduate thesis was a 36-page mock series bible for a hypothetical Marvel comic book series. I'd recently picked-up about half of the first Secret Wars from a nearby flea market - and I found myself fast becoming fascinated by Kang the Conqueror. I mean, what was this guy like when he wasn't relegated to the shadows of Victor von Doom?

I bought the Kang: Time and Time Again trade-paperback to find out - and I discovered that the eponymous Conqueror is primarily known as an Avengers villain. This led to my purchasing the Council of Cross-Time Kangs storyline from issues 291 to 297 of said team's series - and while I'd eventually go on to use him in my aforementioned academic proposal, I was no longer satisfied with just reading about Kang alone.

No, I was now actively tracking down anything Avengers-related - my wont for ascribing the modifier "old-school" to myself (due to Disassembled having rendered far too many of my beloved characters either functionally irrelevant, or literally deceased) notwithstanding! So what's my opinion of this movie, given that I'm sufficiently familiar with the source material?

In a word: It's awesome.

Seriously - this does a lot to redress my misgivings after the generally lackluster Iron Man 2! Sure, it isn't absolute perfection - Brain Blessed's absence alone is criminal (I would've even accepted John Rhys-Davies as Volstagg, instead of whoever it was that we actually got!) - but it's still by far the best cinematic outing we've seen from a Marvel character since Robert Downey, Jr.'s initial foray into the genre!

What more could you possibly ask for? How about an unexpected big-screen debut from a character who's going to figure more prominently into future films - and the now-obligatory bonus scene after the end credits as well!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Please, Just Hear Me Out...

Game of Thrones (2011).

I've met many fans of author George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series over the years. I can count amongst them close friends, personal acquaintances, and even individuals whom I've never met, but have instead merely respected from afar - admiring them for the quality of all the work they have done. However, the rate at which I read straight prose is prohibitively slow - so I awaited this particular adaptation with much anticipation.

As I entered this fictional universe for the first time, my expectations were nothing short of outright loving the experience - and in the very first scene, a great deal of that potential had already seemingly paid off! Was what we just witnessed some form of necromancy... and if not, would there - or, dare I even suggest it, could there - be an alternative explanation forthcoming?

So the show was successful initially - quickly capturing my imagination, because the opportunities therein seemed to be truly endless. Could it possibly be that television audiences were about to receive the actual fantasy that had, for so long, completely eluded former 'fantasy-fiction' programming?

Granted, some dire wolves do eventually emerge further on into the first episode. In and of itself, this isn't so far-fetched - not when one considers that, as an extinct species of their more familiar modern-day descendants, these wolves could conceivably have co-existed with humans in this (albeit fictionalized) era. As for the rest - well, the uninitiated might easily mistake most of it as being part of some unidentified film belonging to the historical epic sub-genre.

Most, that is... but not all.

I've been struggling to find the right words to use - fumbling for the correct things for me to say - even now, as I'm writing this. There is one reoccurring thought, however - a singular idea that I keep mulling about, yet still remain unsure regarding the best method of expressing - so perhaps I should simply just say it: Your opinions really do mean something to me.... in fact, they matter a lot!

Whew - that was more difficult admission than I might have ever guessed! Still, at least I can rest a little easier in the knowledge that you can hopefully better appreciate it when I say the following: I didn't approach Game of Thrones with any negative preconceptions - nor were any overly-judgmental attitudes present on my part.

Instead I must confess that my expectations for the show were actually quite optimistic - in fact, I honestly believed that I'd have given it all due credit by now! So I'm left to ponder whether or not it's even worth it to jeopardize whatsoever positive regard other people have for me - to risk alienating myself from those individuals whom I actually care about - by expressing an opinion that's in any way contradictory to the one which is most commonly believed.

All of which is my way of saying (though it pains me to do so) that I cannot - in good faith, and with a clear conscience - give this program my unreserved recommendation.

And that's because you might as well call it "Rape of Thrones."

It's almost as if, back in the day, George R. R. Martin said to himself: "This Tolkein stuff is pretty good... but you know what it needs? More rape."

Look - I love Alan Moore's "Watchmen" (as a stand-alone entity; I won't be discussing any adaptations or apocrypha herein). It too took a more innocent storytelling tradition - comic books - and infused it with adult content and themes (as well as literary techniques heretofore unseen in said format). But you know what the difference was there?

One word, my friends: "Attempted."

And I understand that rape already had existed in fantasy fiction beforehand, by way of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian... but then I'd ask that you watch John Milius' film of the same name, and tell me what the difference is.

That's right - they didn't show it.

I honestly did give Game of Thrones two chances to win me over. When the first episode featured a graphic depiction of rape, I thought to myself, "Maybe this was just an anomaly." But no - not fifteen minutes into the second episode, our collective sensibilities are similarly assaulted once again.

I've since heard about further happenings in future episodes... but I don't care that the perpetrator eventually gets his comeuppance (and speaking as we were about Conan: Thanks for ruining Jason Mamoa's entire acting career forever for me, HBO!); nor that his victim somehow inexplicably forgives him.

But watching rape - even of a simulated and fictional variety - is not my idea of entertainment. And it shouldn't be anyone's.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Randomly-Offered Musings!

Although I was actually born in the mid-Seventies, I consider myself to be a child of the Eighties (and since my earliest recollections stretch back no further than 1979 at most, it would be disingenuous for me to claim otherwise!). And what a great time it was to be a kid! We (by which I mean boys... and all of the coolest girls, of course!) had the best action figures; the best cartoons, which were based on those action figures; and even the real Indiana Jones and Star Wars in movie theaters!

Now it's not as though I'm somehow completely unaware of the fact that subsequent generations have also enjoyed many of the same things that I did when I was younger (chronologically speaking, at least - I'm still just a kid at heart) - '80s nostalgia is seemingly still big business today, if modern filmmakers (and toy-makers - and um, clothing-makers? - and...) are any indication! But there is one facet of Eighties life which is fast becoming just as foreign a concept as 8-track tapes were in my own time: that most endangered species amongst dying breeds known simply as... the arcade.

Right about now you're probably thinking about that one mall you still occasionally go to whenever you find yourself getting bored with those other three malls - it contains a small arcade, after all! But there's a big difference inherent in its floorspace usage and the all-important price-per-play ratio therein.

I mean, when you really think about it... isn't that place pretty much overrun with over-sized cabinets easily two or three times the size of one standard arcade game? To say nothing about the similarly-huge gimmicky controllers (I haven't forgotten about old-school machines like Super Hang-On and After Burner - but back then those were the exceptions to the norm)...

And how much would you be willing to pay to play that racing game - a dollar... possibly more? Better get your quarters in order before you begin, in any case - you'll have to chip in again whenever you don't cross the finish line in first place (W. A. Stokins from Fuldigan, HA called - he wants his money back)!

No, I'm talking about real arcades here - the ones where your parents would give you a five-spot and set you loose every year on your birthday... and you'd never even play the same game twice, if you could possibly help it (and although I've also heard the horror stories about shadier establishments which would deal *ahem* mind-altering substances out of the back room, I was fortunate enough never to encounter any of them myself)!

Particularly-astute readers have probably already guessed that this series isn't exclusively based on any actual arcades from that bygone era. No, the focus is instead on the types of games that were typically contained therein - and what really needs to be said is that emulation doesn't have to be a dirty word!

First thing's first though - your keyboard just isn't going to cut it when it comes to taking on these classic ROMs! And to that end, might I recommend Tomee's SNES USB Controller? Sure, it might not accurately emulate the actual arcade experience without either a true joystick or those shiny red buttons (the jolly candy-like buttons!) - but I got mine so I could play console games that I already own on my home computer (but that's a discussion best left for some other time)!

So to start with, here are my Rules of Responsible ROM Usage - Arcade Edition (more like recommendations, really - but would you buy a list called "Suggestions of Responsible ROM Usage"?)!

(Note: I might have unintentionally left out something important - so I'll remove this notice once I've figured out whether or not I actually remembered everything I really wanted to include...)

If - after successfully cross-referencing Wikipedia's "List of arcade games" article with arcade-museum dot com's Killer List of Video Games (better known by the acronym KLOV) - you've determined that the following criteria have (or have not, as the case may be) been met, it is morally permissible (if not always, in the strictest technical sense, legally well-advised) to download arcade game ROMs for personal use in emulation:

1. You already own a legitimate copy of the ROM in question.

Although this applies just as much to arcade games as it does with console titles, it's not going to come up quite as often. I mean after all, why would you ever play something on your PC when you could just as easily do the same on your big-screen TV - and with an Xbox 360 controller to boot? Still, the option's there if you need it - and I actually have a practical, real-world example of the same:

I own a copy of Capcom Classics Collection Vol. 2 for the Playstation 2. However, the spindle inside the case was just too big - which created small fractures radiating outwards from the middle of the disc. This, in turn, effectively rendered the game unplayable - but when it was working, it gave me the ability to play the twenty included titles in emulation on my PS2. Shouldn't those rights also extend to my laptop as well?

2. At no point has the game ever received an official release, in any format whatsoever, for your current country of residence.

Basically what it all boils down to is this: Is there now, or has there ever in the past existed a means by which an average individual might reasonably have rendered payments due to all responsible parties for the rights to play this particular game?

Here's one qualification which is actually easier to investigate with arcade games than it is for those titles only intended for home use. Could it have ever conceivably appeared at your local arcade - and if not, was it ever ported over to any of the home consoles? Well, that last part's gonna be a little bit trickier.

First thing's first: You're gonna want to check out Wikipedia's "List of Playstation Store games;" the "List of Xbox Live Arcade games;" and the "List of Virtual Console games," in addition to the two sites mentioned previously.

This rule also applies to Neo-Geo titles as well. I know that it's tempting, what with those games being so expensive otherwise - but the fact remains that none of SNK's home systems have regional lock-outs. What this means is that any Neo-Geo console can play any game ever designed for the system - regardless of where the title was first manufactured and/or distributed.

3. The game was released for arcades in your area - but it was never made available for home use (or else it was only ever offered as such in other countries).

As the old saying goes, "I would if I could - but I can't, so I won't." To better illustrate my point, I offer by way of example my all-time favorite video game (that's including both arcades and home consoles): Taito's Night Striker.

If some place nearby still had that machine... well then, I probably wouldn't even be writing this right now! Instead, you'd always be able to find me right there - spending all my time, and most of my money on it. I love Night Striker so much, in fact, that I even imported it for the Japanese Playstation... despite my having no way of actually playing it!

Clearly the issue here isn't my unwillingness to pay... it's my complete inability to do so. Emulation represents my only viable option for playing this game at present - it isn't even available on any of the Taito Legends compilations!

So don't let considerations such as these keep you from ever experiencing what are some truly incredible titles - for instance, all the best shoot 'em ups ("shmups" to those in-the-know) were only ever released for Asian markets...

4. The available home versions are all vastly inferior to the arcade original.

This one's clearly debatable, because so much of it is based on personal judgment. Caution, however, is always advisable in any situation such as this...

Before the release of Midway Arcade Treasures 2 in 2004, I'd always considered NARC to be the unofficial poster-child for this particular phenomenon. Perhaps the title should now be passed onto 1981's Vanguard? But just in comparison to its Atari 2600 counterpart, of course.

Thanks for reading - and please, keep on reaching for those high scores until the next big installment of Randomly-Offered Musings!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dinky Reviews!

Source Code (2011).

When it comes right down to it, there's just one thing you wanna know about Source Code.

I can't blame you - I'd been wondering the same thing myself.

Got part of my answer when I finally noticed it was from director Duncan Jones - the man behind 2009's Moon. This inexplicably isn't mentioned in any of the film's advertising. Had I known this sooner, I myself - and doubtlessly others like me - probably would've seen it on its opening weekend.

Moon's theatrical run was extremely limited. Because of this, the film remains relatively unknown amongst general audiences - at least in comparison to the wide releases which most other movies receive. So focusing on Jones as the director might only have appealed to what otherwise would have been a very narrow - albeit also a vocal, and supportive - market.

And yet, none of this is the worst offense committed by the film's ad campaign. For that, we must travel back to the aforementioned question - which, in the simplest terms, is this: Is Source Code really just 2006's Déjà Vu all over again?

I'm glad to report that the answer is a resounding no. While the director's sophomore effort fails to achieve the same dizzying heights of his first film, Source Code does manage to rise above most of the unfortunate comparisons that one could make (for instance, the Nicolas Cage movie Next).

Are there any other films which might arguably tackle similar issues in a more satisfactory manner? Sure, I might make a case for Los Cronocrímenes/Timecrimes being better - but that's apples and oranges, really... and both films are ultimately enjoyable on their own merits.

In summation, while Source Code is unlikely to ever change your world, at least you should still leave the theater feeling entertained... and, more importantly, not at all like you've wasted your time and money (and in the end, isn't that what really matters?)!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Will I EVER get noticed?

I was just going through one of the other blogs that I follow ('Follow?' What's that, Kit?) when I ran across the following line:

"It (Magic: The Gathering)'s been around forever. I actually built a deck in 1995..."

Hey - what a coincidence! It was during that same year - my first terrible semester as a college undergraduate - when I...

"...when I was in fourth grade."

...and suddenly, all of the big words that I usually rely upon so heavily failed me completely.

Still, I'd already been pondering such things lately - and as these thoughts now seem to be particularly important: What does my voice bring to the already-overcrowded community of online commentators that could possibly be at all unique, anyway?

And how can I ever hope to achieve any sort of relevancy in comparison to the sheer magnitude of all the other work that's already out there - competing with the dedicated websites which exclusively feature the talents of those aforementioned creative young people?

At any rate, I hope to explore these issues more thoroughly in the weeks to come. Seeing as though I have very little time at present for anything other than my job and my continued education, for the moment I guess I'll just have to label my further ramblings on the matter as merely being works-in-progress.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Grouchos!

Best Supporting Actor - 1970.

It's true - Burt Young should've won Best Supporting Actor.

Now I know what you're thinking: Rocky, right? "Hey, Paulie!" and all that?

Actually... no. No - not Burt Young as Paulie.

Not even Burt Young as Burt Young! But now I'm getting ahead of myself.

Sites across the internet - as well as the various pop culture publications and/or other entertainment-related magazines that once ruled newsstands in that era wherein big print media was still the undisputed king - have long conjectured as to any surprise 'snubs' and/or outright omissions which are made whenever the Academy awards its chosen recipients.

This is not one of those films. While I suppose that I like it well enough myself, this really isn't some hidden gem - no lost treasure here, simply waiting for the chance to be rediscovered by a more receptive and appreciative audience...

In fact, there's no real reason to believe that the Academy even saw 1970's Carnival of Blood. And I don't just mean during the year of its original release!

No - I mean that it's likely that they never saw Carnival of Blood AT ALL.

And who could really blame them? What little information exists online about this film - i.e. its IMDb entry - is threadbare; and its wiki? Completely nonexistent.

You know how they added all those fake film scratches, emulsion bubbles and excess 'dirt' to the virtual negative of Rodriguez and Tarentino's Grindhouse to make it look more period-accurate and authentic?

Yeah - apparently every still-existing print of Carnival of Blood pretty much looks just like that.

So what, if anything, makes it worth recommending? Well, it is an interesting artifact from a time and place that I myself will never get to experience first-hand - i.e. the Coney Island amusements at their former absolute height. Similarly, the haunting refrain of the film's theme is one melody that's likely to stay with you for an eternity: "Carousels of my mind - of my mind..."

Also, if you're able to suspend your disbelief regarding an ordinary person having access to technology that even today still doesn't exist (you'll know it when you see it), then it actually makes for a halfway-decent little murder mystery!

And then there's John Harris - sorry, Burt Young - in the role of Gimpy. Say what you will about any other aspect of this film - literally anything at all! - but Young's performance alone is enough to make Carnival of Blood worth watching.

Seriously, the man elevates the otherwise-lowly character of Gimpy to such an extent that he actually becomes a legitimate work of cinematic art! And for that, Burt Young more than earns the Groucho for Best Supporting Actor of 1970.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dinky Reviews!

My sealed "brick" of Giant-Size X-Men HeroClix (+ 1).

It should have been terrible - in fact, I half-expected that it would be.

But before we get into that, let's talk for a moment about super-boosters. "Super-boosters" are the width and depth of two regular boosters - and they take the place of the same in each brick (you can also buy additional super-boosters separately - thus the aforementioned plus one). Each super-booster contains one of six possible over-sized HeroClix figures - so the more that you buy, the greater the risk you run of unwanted duplication.

So why were my expectations so low in this particular instance? Simply put, I'd done even better on my last go-around than I ever could've hoped for - and with the unwritten law of universal averages being what it is, I figured that my 'luck' was due for a downturn.

Now because any expenditure in excess of a hundred dollars isn't an inconsiderable one for me personally, I actually prayed extensively regarding the contents of both this brick and my previous one of DC 75th. This time however, my pleading was different: Instead of requesting the exceptional, I merely asked for acceptable.

The first and most obvious thing was the contents of my super-boosters. Would the same excitement for these over-sized characters that led to my ordering one extra turn around to bite me by my receiving two of the same non-generic figure?

No. I pulled Apocalypse - my first instance of said character. And Onslaught!

But what about the standard-sized boosters? Well, when my third of such yielded SR (Super-Rare) Magneto ("Playtime is ended," indeed!), I literally said to myself, "I don't even care what's in the rest of my packs!"

But somehow, I managed to open the rest of the packs anyway - and my efforts were rewarded with SR The Captain from Nextwave (however, I didn't get every character I need for the complete team - I'll have to pick up Monica Rambeau at some other time), and the SR Cyclops/Phoenix duo figure (or, if you prefer, Scott Summers and Jean Grey)!

So not too shabby, all things considered!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Grouchos!

Best Supporting Actor - 1981.

It perhaps isn't any great stretch of the imagination to propose that, by this point in time, most people likely recognize the Academy Awards for what they have sadly become: a near-total farce. Whatsoever merit legitimately exists is all too often ignored in favor of politics which have nothing to do with the actual films themselves, or the behind-the-scenes talent therein.

However, it should also be noted that this series of articles is in no way intended to denigrate the work of those few truly deserving recipients - it's just that, sadly, those are usually the exceptions to an unfortunate norm.

That said, the Groucho for Best Supporting Actor - 1981 goes to Jack Albertson for Dead and Buried. As William G. Dobbs, his performance was nothing short of masterful.

Like most of my heroes, Albertson had every good reason to give up. Even as he was dying of cancer, he kept his condition a secret so that he could continue to work. He refused to make excuses - and Dead and Buried ended up being his final film. I submit to you now that it was also most probably his finest performance.

Yes - surpassing even the role for which he is perhaps best remembered: that of Grandpa Joe in 1969's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Even if he had actually been nominated for the award (hint: he wasn't), he sadly wouldn't live long enough to witness the same. Jack Albertson lost his three-year-long battle with cancer less than six months after Dead and Buried was released. But still, he deserves to be recognized for his efforts - no matter that it's only happening now, posthumously!

So this Groucho is for you, Mr. Albertson - as well as for those who knew you in life, and all of the fans who love you. Because without you, Dead and Buried wouldn't have been what it turned out to be: my all-time favorite movie.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Please, Just Hear Me Out...

DC's Countdown.

Look - I agree with each and every criticism that's out there regarding DC's Countdown (issues 51-27)/Countdown to Final Crisis (26-1)... except, that is, for one. Even then, I'll grant that the topic currently up for discussion was deeply flawed in execution - and a complete failure in actual practice.

I ask you, though: Why can't Jimmy Olsen's girlfriend be an alien woman with (largely superficial) insect-like features? True, the relationship between "Superman's Pal" and New Genesis-resident Forager was entirely mishandled - and to be sure, there's no reason that a humanoid insect should have ever been portrayed as being better-endowed than even Power Girl! - but still, the concept itself is sound.

Under a different and much-better creative team, this same material could potentially be fascinating! The two would literally be star-crossed (and, post Final Crisis, extra-dimensional) lovers! And in a world where it's already common knowledge that aliens do in fact exist, Jimmy (writing anonymously, one would assume) might just have a great new angle for a series of articles regarding his experiences with interplanetary dating, as well!

"Thank god she's still alive... and weirdly gorgeous!" Indeed, Mr. Olsen - indeed. So who can we get to rescue this one good idea from the retcon hell to which the rest of Countdown has been banished?

True love is in danger, Star Sapphire Corps! To arms!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What I Dislike About...


There are actual gods of this particular craft - gods you can attempt to reach out to; gods you can try to contact through this electronic ether.

Here's the thing, though: You'll only be met by empty silence. Much the same as it is with any of their more-ephemeral counterparts.

I used to daydream so fondly about what it'd be like to contact an honest-to-God (see what I did there?) celebrity! Which one would it be? Ah, how I'd waste away the hours - imagining what it would be like to preface my correspondence with, regardless of cliché, the likes of, "You might not believe this - but this is the first fan-letter I've ever written!" And so I finally took the plunge.

What a fat lot of good it did me.

Look, I can't pretend that I'll ever achieve even the merest fraction of the renown that other internet personalities can rightfully claim. Heck, most of my site traffic comes from my having mentioned Magic: The Gathering a few times here and there... and that was almost two years ago!

I am, however, a full-time graduate student - as well as an unpaid intern. And at that job as it is with this, I am strictly a volunteer.

Unlike you, I don't get paid to create new material for the internet. Unlike you, I've never received even one single piece of feedback.

Yet even in that unlikely event I would still like to think of myself as being somehow capable of marshaling the tremendous effort requisite to typing up something like this: "Thank you for taking the time and the effort necessary to write to me, and for sending me this email."

And you don't even have to type in the return address! Or is hitting the 'Reply' button simply beneath you now?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What I Dislike About...

Missed opportunities.

There's a distinction that, to my way of thinking, I'd make between a missed opportunity and mere wasted potential (the latter having been discussed briefly in my Aquaman article). Although neglected thus far, the possibility still remains that Aquaman may someday be taken in those selfsame aforementioned directions. However, in the example that follows, perhaps the most difficult task - doing the actual work, and then setting everything into place - had already been accomplished. Regrettably, all of the preparation in this particular instance would never be used to any real advantage. Meanwhile, the subsequent actions of individuals not directly involved would only serve to further derail whatsoever benefit there might have been in actually doing so.

It was a little over a year ago when I first read Brian Reed and Lee Weeks' Captain Marvel: Secret Invasion - collecting as it did the Civil War: Rebirth one-shot, and also the subsequent Captain Marvel mini-series. I loved it. Here was a book that skipped right to the heart of that which should be monumentally important to every single one of us! Through its protagonist - Mar-Vell, hero of the Kree-Skrull War - we're taken along on a journey of mutual self-discovery. It allows us to question the very nature of identity: what it is that makes each of us, deep down, who we really are inside.

Are we the sum of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions... or of some combination thereof? And is our heredity - the sheer random chance of our genetic heritage - in any way connected to our unique state of being, our individual sense of self... or even, as some might suggest, our 'souls?' In this, Reed and Weeks achieved the seemingly impossible: They made Captain Marvel infinitely more fascinating than he'd ever been before. Naturally, I began extolling the praises of Captain Marvel: Secret Invasion to anyone who would listen - even going so far as to mention it in the same breath as Silver Surfer: Parable (which is very high praise indeed)!

But then I (recently) read the core title of the Secret Invasion company-wide cross-over event storyline - the mini-series of the same name by Brian Michael Bendis and Leinel Yu - and I made an unfortunate discovery: The intriguing thought-experiment begun in Captain Marvel: Secret Invasion also ended there. There would never be anymore follow-ups along those same lines - in fact, it was all jettisoned in favor of some Johnny-come-lately poseur character named Noh-Varr (just check out the guy's wiki - he's more of a wannabe Brood than he is a Kree)!

And, perhaps most disheartening of all: It turns out that, through it all, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have been wanting to use the Captain Marvel character themselves! So basically this whole endeavor (or fiasco, as I prefer) was just a clever way for Marvel's veritable unofficial creative director to officially say 'no' to two of the best writers at the entire company. *sighs*

Monday, January 17, 2011

What I Like About...

Brightest Day Volume One.

The basic premise of Brightest Day couldn't be simpler: Twelve dead super-folks, consisting of a mix of both heroes and villains, are brought back from the great beyond by the Entity - avatar of the light of life itself, from which the White Lantern battery draws its power - to go on to serve some initially-unknown (presumably higher) purpose.

But why were these specific individuals chosen? Why were other, seemingly equally-deserving deceased superheroes not also returned to the land of the living - and why were there ever even any villains in the mix to begin with?

All of these issues and more are wrestled with by those who were resurrected to play some important role in the titular 'Brightest Day' that is still yet to come. And at the end of this first collection, these answers are indeed revealed... albeit in a typically-cryptic fashion.

Although the following example is also vague, I will not intentionally spoil which of the twelve characters received this particular revelation. Still...

[mild SPOILERS!]
(Paraphrased) "You have already done all that was required of you. Good job! Enjoy being alive again."
[/mild SPOILERS!]

Sure it's just a small thing... but man, is it ever cool!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dinky Reviews!

The Last Exorcism (2010).

What a profoundly stupid little movie.

I could've written a perfect ending for this film. And to make matters worse... they totally set it up for it! In fact, I'm almost completely certain that many others could, have and/or will reach the same conclusions that I have.

Therefore, I propose the following experiment: For those who haven't yet seen this movie, please go into it with the thought that there's going to be some huge twist ending... and then try to figure out what it's going to be beforehand.

Now, having done so: Do you see what I mean? I'm sure I'm not the only one who sees it... am I?

Addendum: Whenever this film debuts on the pay movie channels (i.e. I don't have to buy it specifically - I'll just run a tape instead), I'm going to try to make a point of actually sitting down and typing up what I myself believe - and those who agree with my personal assessment regarding the same will likely concur - would've been a much better (and, in a perfect world, a proper/the "real") ending!

And here I was, all ready to log on and declare this to be my favorite exorcism film of all time... *sighs for what might have been*

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dinky Reviews!

My sealed "brick" of DC 75th HeroClix.

In HeroClix, a "brick" is a sealed set of ten unopened booster packs - in other words, half a case's worth of figures. HeroClix itself is a game wherein players use pre-painted miniatures representing popular comic book heroes and villains to square off against one another. As its name implies, the DC 75th expansion is a celebration of DC's seventy-five years of continued publication - albeit with an additional focus on the Blackest Night company-wide cross-over storyline.

As a customer, the brick that one receives is random - however, there is now a fixed structure of figure selection and rarity distribution within each individual pack therein as well. This is a relatively new advent with HeroClix releases - and, in my opinion, it is also a good one. For me, my reasoning behind this is simple: With the last expansion that I bought a brick from, DC Crisis, the contents were truly random. This turned out to be a problem for me because with that set, I only received two Super-Rare figures instead of three (which was the stated average amount). Not that big of a deal... until you realize that whoever bought the other brick from the same case as me ended up receiving a whopping five or six Super-Rares at my expense!

With DC 75th, I not only received three different Super-Rares - but I also got my guaranteed one-per-brick chase figure as well! However, this newly-fixed distribution within the bricks themselves has had regrettably unfortunate consequences for some other individuals, in that they purchased multiple bricks - only to find out later that they'd unwittingly bought the same one twice... right down to character selection and figure placement within every pack! For those like myself with limited budgets - those who only intend to buy a single brick - it shouldn't be a problem; but for anyone intending to procure greater volumes of product for themselves, I recommend proceeding with all due caution. There have also been reports of quality control issues concerning merchandise arriving in damaged and/or incomplete condition. I myself have, thankfully, seemingly sidestepped this issue in this particular instance.

I'm pleased to report that, overall, I'm quite content with my brick of DC 75th HeroClix. Although I'm a confirmed fan of the cosmic titles produced by both DC and Marvel, I knew going in that - realistically speaking - I would not be getting every Green Lantern-related character in this set. Now that I know which ones I already have on-hand, I can simply pick up additional figures on the secondary market. As far as Super-Rares go, I got: the Golden Age Green Lantern, Allan Scott - insanely good, gameplay-wise; the Golden Age Wonder Woman, one of the best versions of said character in HeroClix; and the first non-lantern, non-Crisis on Infinite Earths, non- Starro-slave incarnation of Barry Allen as The Flash. And, speaking of The Flash: My chase figure, Barry Allen as a White Lantern, has been described by authoritative HeroClix website HCRealms dot com as the "Best. Flash. Ever."

Additional musings:

Received two of every generic - except for, unfortunately, the Zamorons.

Six non-generic duplicates: 4 commons (Donna Troy, Crimson Avenger, Bart Allen and Green Arrow) and 2 uncommons (Queen Aga'po and Detective Chimp). Fortunately, whenever I get duplicates of non-generics, it usually makes up for one of the two having a truly horrendous paint-job (and thankfully, I didn't get any triplicates this time around).

Two common Dominators - yet no uncommon Ruling-Class Dominator to lead them. Similarly, no Solovar to guide my Gorilla City Warriors into battle. This situation will have to be remedied.

One of my two Easy Company Soldiers was in the same pack as Sargent Rock. Groovy.

One of these days, I'm going to need to pick up the super-rare Wonder Twins duo figure from this set in order to round out the Super-Friends!

I'm still missing three of the variously-colored Lantern guardians from the set. This includes, obviously enough, the super-rare Sinestro - I haven't got either of the Yellow Lantern incarnations of this character, and so Sinestro Corps Mongul will just have to suffice. I am therefore going to end up breaking down and purchasing Indigo-1, Carol Ferris and - sadly enough - a character that I totally love, Saint Walker, from the secondary market.

The issue isn't that I ended up getting Black Lantern guardian Scar - it's that, because of the overwhelming scarcity of other members of the Black Lantern Corps (at a rate of one in every sixty packs - that's a single figure per three cases! - from a previous HeroClix expansion, The Brave and the Bold), I'll probably never be able to build an actual team with two or more Black Lanterns...

I already owned all the good versions of Kyle Rayner, save for the limited-edition figure of the same name from the Collateral Damage expansion set, prior to this - however, the benefits available to this new version (post- Sinestro Corps War uniform, free telekinesis) guarantee that the new one will see some play from me.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What I Dislike About...

Unresolved plot threads.

Although my long-standing disdain for this particular phenomenon extends to pretty much any blatant instance of such abject laziness in overall basic storytelling technique, it's only recently been brought back to the fore and generally exacerbated by my having read Marvel's cosmic titles - from Annihilation through War of Kings - in their near entirety.

In all fairness, it's not my intention to single-out comics as being somehow guiltier of this practice (or even necessarily doing so more often) than anything else presented via other types of media. To that end, I present the following example (one of several I can think of off the top of my head - and bearing in mind that I haven't watched this show for over a decade) from Babylon 5:

The through-line of the series (except for an unplanned-for fifth season - one wherein they received a new budget from TNT after the series finale had already aired, only for the now-renewed show to be constantly rescheduled and barely ever shown thereafter) is mostly a build-up to a war against an evil race of aliens known simply as "the Shadows" - with said war ultimately playing out during season four. Anyway, it's eventually discovered that the planet shown in the background of every medium shot of the titular space station is actually home to an ancient device of incredible destructive power.

It's just the kind of thing which might turn the tide of that aforementioned war! In fact, two entire episodes are devoted to securing the weapon, and restoring it to its former fully-operational glory. So it comes as somewhat of a shock when the war is finally over, and the realization sets in with the viewer... that this so-called "super-weapon" was somehow completely forgotten, and ultimately remained unused!

The mere mention of unresolved plot threads from Marvel's post-Annihilation cosmic titles probably brings one thing to mind most readily for readers: Wraith. Here was a character that was introduced during Annihilation's sequel storyline Conquest - one who even got his own self-titled mini-series - and he was intended to then function as part war veteran, part folk hero to his people (the Kree) immediately following the story's resolution.

Now imagine what it would have been like if Lando Calrissian hadn't shown up in Return of the Jedi... and he was never mentioned again. Yeah - dropping Wraith was kind of like that.

But lest you think that I'm unfairly beating up solely on the architects of Marvel's recent cosmic series - Giffen, Abnett, Lanning, et. al. - I actually wanted to instead focus now on something that's been bugging me ever since I read Secret Invasion: a company-wide cross-over event, albeit one with admittedly cosmic (re: alien) origins.

All the signs from an ancient Skrull prophecy - a legend which tells of the alien race successfully conquering Earth (and that, in and of itself, begs an additional question: Just how long have the Skrulls known about Earth, anyhow?) begin to come to fruition. And then, whenever something goes wrong throughout the course of the actual invasion that follows, the Skrull Empress almost immediately makes a comment along the lines of, "This too was foretold!"

Now, putting aside for a moment the many contingency plans that the Skrulls had in place long before this invasion had even begun (almost as though they were still unsure about the final outcome) - and somehow also ignoring the fact that, even armed with the requisite foreknowledge, the Skrulls dutifully went ahead and made the same mistakes that they surely must have already known they were going to make - and once you've slogged through this entire series, you're left with the following sad conclusion:

So the Skrulls' prophecy is seemingly one-hundred percent accurate - that is, up until the exact point where it turns out that [SPOILERS!]the Skrulls still lose.[/end SPOILERS!] And naturally, Brian Michael Bendis offers up no explanation as to why the prophecy upon which this invasion was so clearly predicated somehow manages to get the most important part wrong.

Monday, January 3, 2011

What I Like About...

War of Kings.

If the original trilogy was intended to be the story of Anakin Skywalker's redemption, then surely Marvel's War of Kings must represent the redemption of Crystal.

Granted, I've read the explanation given for Crystal's status as co-narrator in Spotlight: War of Kings - but still, I'd like to imagine that it actually went a little something like this:

"You know who sucks? Crystal."
"Yeah, really."
"So let's take Crystal... and make her frickin' AWESOME!"

Seriously, I went into this storyline all ready to hate Crystal. Now, as it is with anything in which Jack "King" Kirby had a hand in creating (whether that be in whole, or in part), the potential was certainly originally there... but it had since been completely squandered by massive mishandling on subsequent writers' parts.

This was Crystal prior to War of Kings, in a nutshell: 1. Married Quicksilver, Magneto's son and long-time member of the Avengers, and bore him a daughter; 2. Conducted numerous extramarital affairs, both before AND after the birth of said child; and 3. Divorced Quicksilver after the fact, using the flimsy excuse that because she's royalty and he's a lowly commoner, they never should have even been married in the first place!


But under the watchful guidance of War of Kings collaborators Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, something wonderful happened: We were given unprecedented insight into Crystal's innermost thoughts and feelings, as they were occurring! True, any potential attempt at excusing Crystal's previous behavior was predestined to fail... so these guys didn't even try. Instead, they took a sort of 'from here on out' approach to writing her - almost as if to say, "That mess was all some other people's fault!" So what did we, as an audience, learn from this?

As re-imagined by Abnett and Lanning, Crystal has grown so much as an individual that she now truly cares about those in need - regardless of who they are, or how society sees them - entirely without any thought of herself. Meanwhile, her budding romance with Ronan the Accuser is truly heartfelt and honest - a fact that's readily apparent to most any reader who's ever been in love... and not at all the sort of forced and ultimately false relationship which one unfortunately encounters far too often in popular fiction!

Plus, you've gotta admit: When Crystal took control of that enormous stone statue, and had it mimicking her every move? That (and therefore, by using it in such a fashion against her enemies, she) kicked ASS!