This Week’s Reads: March 29

Wow! What a slow week. I only picked up three titles, and one of them was a back issue. That’s ok, though, I suppose. Saves me a bit of money! I am trying to catch up on stuff that I wasn’t reading until recently, like Deathstroke, as well as old stuff that I never got around to reading, even though I should have (Sandman. Yes, it’s true, I never read Sandman. Don’t judge me!)

Justice League of America #3

The Extremists part 3. The JLA find themselves aiding in a rebel coup to oppose the Extremists, who now control an entire nation. Can even Batman come up with a plan for that? By Orlando and Neves

Titans Annual #1

Nightwing, Tempest, Wally West and Donna Troy find themselves imprisoned with their former mentors Batman, Aquaman, Flash and Wonder Woman and must unite to face the threat of the Key! By Abnett and Jung

 

Spoilers Follow

Well, there’s not all that much to talk about this week. I feel as though I must have missed something, but checked twice in the list of this week’s releases at Comixology. I was tempted to pick up some titles that I don’t regularly read, but with a Titans annual released this week, I have to assume that more annuals will be out shortly, so I will put aside the cash for them.

JLA was fairly average this week. I am not actively liking or disliking it. It’s just ok. I feel that characters are not really being used. The focus is pretty much on Batman, which I suppose should be expected, but the other characters really should have more involvement than they do at the moment. It’s only the third issue, though, so I will give it a bit of time to develop, but I hope that it picks up soon.

Titans was good, though. I enjoyed seeing the former sidekicks working alongside their mentors again, particularly Batman and Nightwing, and the two Flashes. What was a bit off for me was the interaction between Wonder Woman and Donna.

Having been plucked out of their daily lives and deposited in a seemingly abandoned facility by an unknown force, the Titans and JLers were understandably cautious about what was going on. After all, if someone had the power to teleport them into a secure facility that their equipment and assorted heightened senses could not penetrate, it was logical to think their teammates and friends might be some sort of simulacra. Most of the character were willing to trust one another, however, except for Batman (no surprise there) and Wonder Woman (big surprise). While Batman was at least willing to work with the others without fully trusting them until he could figure things out, Wonder Woman was less trusting and bordered on hostile to Donna.

I initially accepted Wonder Woman’s attitude as being a result of the events of her own book, which have been causing her to question pretty much everything she knew. As the story went along, however, she continued to be kind of… bitchy. This is Wonder Woman, the embodiment of love and friendship, the person who strives to bring people together. That just didn’t feel right at all, no matter what else she might be going through.

I’m wondering if there may also have been a small mistake in the story. At one point, Batman comes into possession of a device that can scan for the presence/ proximity of organic beings. Despite the fact that there are 4 members each from the Titans and Justice League, the scanner only detects 7 organic beings, with Donna showing up as something different.

Diana is forced to admit the truth of Donna’s origin as a clay statue brought to life, which leaves Donna in an emotional crisis. That is all well and good, but I am wondering if the scanner should have picked up only 6 organics. Though I haven’t seen the quote myself, it seems that Greg Rucka has stated that Wonder Woman’s origin as a statue brought to life will be restored. If that is the case, I suspect that they don’t want to reveal it here, but it is unfortunate because it will result in continuity errors.

The issue also included allusions to a character pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Whether that person is Mr Oz, Dr Manhattan, or some other character is unknown, but it does appear that he is working as part of the greater Rebirth narrative.

So, what are your thoughts and theories about Rebirth? Tell me down below and let me kow what your current favourite title is!

Craig

 

Spider-Man Homecoming Trailer 2 Released

Yes!

Today is the day I have been waiting for, with a new trailer for Spider-Man Homecoming. Spidey is probably my all-time favourite hero and I have been looking forward to this movie for some time now. I really enjoyed Tom Holland’s take on the character in Captain America Civil War and have high hopes for Homecoming.

So, having finally seen the new trailer what did I think? My reactions follow the trailer below.

Well… I have kind of mixed feelings, actually, but I’ll start with the good stuff.

I really like Tom Holland, even though we haven’t seen much of him yet. Since we are back to the start of Peter’s career as Spider-Man, I am glad to see a young actor in the role, which makes his inexperience and earnest demeanor much more believable. It also has the added bonus of him being young enough to stay in the role for several movies.

Visually, I think it looks great. Spidey moves the way he should and I while I can appreciate darker, moodier superhero films, I am a big fan of bright colours and more optimistic heroes. Spider-Man has been through as much grief as pretty much any other character, but he has usually managed to keep an upbeat view on things.

Seeing Spider-Man in the MCU is where I start to have the mixed feelings, though. I love that he is able to interact with the Avengers in theory, but the film looks like it might have the same issue that the comics themselves have when heroes cross over into each other’s books, and that is the way that the title character usually becomes less competent in some way.

In this case, Spidey need the help of Iron Man to combat the Vulture, played by Michael Keaton. In the comics, Vulture isn’t that much of a threat that Spider-Man should require help. He’s always managed to defeat him on his own. I can overlook this to a degree, given that this is a somewhat inexperienced Spider-Man, but this is also the solo debut for this iteration of the character, so it is vital that he be able to stand on his own, rather than depend on help. This sets a precedent that will have fans asking why he doesn’t call for the Avengers every time he is having difficulty in future films.

The fact that Tony supplies him with a high-tech suit makes this worse. Peter is supposed to be a genius, equal in his own way to Stark or Banner. Having Tony design and provide tech to him undermines him. Peter himself says “I’m nothing without this suit” in the trailer and I have a big problem with that. I can write it off a bit as Peter’s own insecurity, but the fact is that the trailers released thus far do make him look like a bit of a tech-based hero. He may not have actual armour like Tony, but he seems to have gadgets in a way that we are more used to seeing on a hero like Batman….

I’m not going to comment on “Aunt Bae” other than to suggest that is the de-ageing trend continues, a future reboot might see her as his slightly-older cousin.

And why do we always need the heroes to be unmasked during a battle with the primary villain? That drives me nuts. I don’t really need an answer, though, because I know that studios pay for an actor in a role and want to see their faces on screen. I have a feeling, however, that having Vulture see Peter’s face is going to be a death-sentence for him, unless they want to have him continually threaten to reveal his secret identity… (Sudden, frightened thought: I really, really, really hope that they don’t have Peter go public with his identity.)

Anyhow, I don’t want to be hating on this without seeing it. Truth is, I am very excited for it. I’ll be there opening night. I find it frustrating though, to have a film come so close to getting things just right, only to have small, nitpicky things throw me off. It’s similar to how I felt with Man of Steel, where we finally had the technology to show Superman at full-power, which is something we have waited decades for, only to have him dress in dark colours, be depressed and kill his enemies.

I also have to wonder what’s going on with the announced “spider-verse” films starring Venom, Black Cat and Silver Sable (supposedly). It’s been said that they will have no ties to the MCU, which is a bit confusing. Why make the effort to integrate Spidey if everyone else in his world will be separate? I don’t really need Venom teaming up with HYDRA, for example, but if they take the approach that they are not in the same continuity, but just without crossovers, that is a bit weird.

Spider-Man Homecoming releases July 17, with me in line at the theater.

What are your thoughts on the trailer and the direction the film is taking? Let me know!

Craig

 

SuperHeroStuff - Shop Now!

Batman the Telltale Games Series

I Am Vengeance!

When Telltale Games announced that they were doing a Batman game, I was both thrilled and a little apprehensive. I love Batman and I had played two of Telltale’s previous games– the Wolf Within and Walking Dead Season One– which I had enjoyed quite a bit, so on that front, I was excited. Having become accustomed to the style of the Arkham Asylum games, however, I wasn’t sure exactly how such a dynamic character would be handled in a Telltale’s narrative style.

 

I Am the Night!

So, what is Batman the Telltale Series?

If you ever read Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, proceed to paragraph 6.

If you never read Choose Your Own Adventure books, go to the next paragraph.

When I was growing up, I couldn’t get enough of the Choose… books which– as the title suggests, allowed you to make decisions as you read. At certain moments in the narrative, you would be offered two or more choices on how to proceed with the story. Each decision would guide you to a particular page number to continue the story, sometimes resulting in a heroic triumph, but other times resulting in your character’s defeat or even death. I remember reading these books with each finger tucked between different pages to mark the various crossroads I had reached– kind of an old-fashioned Save Point…

Batman: The Telltale Games series is like those old books in video game form. Fully animated and voice-acted, the games from Telltale allow you to make the same kind of decisions as the CYOA books used to. When confronted with the alluring Catwoman for example, are you going to flirt with her, or arrest her? The decisions you make alter the course of the story and affect your relationships with other characters.

There are action scenes as well, consisting of timed button presses corresponding to what appears on screen. A certain margin of error is allowed, with Batman having something of a health meter, but for the most part combat is not terribly challenging.

I Am Batman! Or, Well, Bruce Wayne Most of the Time, Actually.

Much of the game focuses on Bruce Wayne, rather than Batman, with the story set in what would correspond best to Year One of the comics. There is no Robin and Batman is still largely dealing with organized crime as opposed to his better-known enemies.

Bruce must deal with startling revelations about his family while trying to establish himself as Batman and helping Harvey Dent in his bid to become next mayor of Gotham. Much of the plot is driven by his friendship with the pre-Two Face Harvey, who edges closer to darkness as the story progresses.

The other main plot point concerns the Children of Arkham, former inmates of Arkham Asylum with a surprising link to the Wayne family. Lead by the mysterious Lady Arkham, the Children seek to bring down the upper class of Gotham society.

Thrown into the mix is Oswald Cobblepot, a childhood friend of Bruce’s, better known to Batman fans as the Penguin, and a certain grinning patient at Arkham Asylum. Other supporting characters include the ever-loyal Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, Catwoman and Officer Renee Montoya.

Or Is It Puppyman?

There are a number of things that I like in the series, but there are just as many that I don’t. One in particular that drove me nuts was the facial reactions of some of the characters. Bruce in particular would often make what I like to call a “puppy dog face,” when surprised or concerned, which made it harder to take him him seriously as the Dark Knight. The fact that he was physically smaller than Harvey Dent also made Batman seem less impressive. For a lawyer, Harvey is inexplicably built like a bodybuilder, making Bruce seem small in comparison.

The strength of the Telltale games is the ability to influence the story via the choices the player makes, but I found it less effective here than in previous games. In the Walking Dead, for example, I knew nothing about main character Lee Everett and was thus free to play him how I wanted, but I didn’t feel the same freedom in playing Batman, acting instead the way I felt Batman should act in light of my experience with him in the comics. I appreciated the opportunity to play as Bruce Wayne, given that other games by necessity focus on Batman, but I didn’t always like the way he was portrayed.

Telltale has a bad habit in the way the present story and dialogue options. If I am presented with a situation that could affect the outcome of the game, I like to have accurate, easy-to-understand choices. In both of the other Telltale games that I played and again in Batman, the options presented don’t always match up with what actually transpires.

For example, you may encounter a character who is about to take an action that you don’t approve of, but which is not anything that you would be too upset over. You might receive the options 1) Ignore him 2) “I don’t think you should do that” and 3) “Go ahead and do it. I don’t care.”

After taking a second or two to think it over (there is a timer that counts down quickly before forcing a decision), you decide that while the action in question isn’t a big deal, you’d prefer the other character to not do it, so you choose the innocent-sounding “I don’t think you should do that.”

As it turns out, upon making that choice, your character assumes an aggressive stance and says “If you try to do that, I’ll break your arms and legs and dump you in the river.” The other character then gives you a very-displeased look and a small notation appears in the corner of the screen saying He’ll Remember That…

Great. And this happens far too often.

I also found the voice acting to be rather weak, which is surprising given that there are a number of very talented actors behind the characters. I am not sure if the voices are weak due to poor direction, or because of the way the dialogue has to be responsive to choices, but it was distracting to me.

Other things that left me somewhat nonplussed were the sometimes-significant changes to established characters both in terms of their personality/ history (Thomas Wayne) and their appearance (Penguin). While I appreciate that each new iteration of Batman has it’s own interpretation of events and characters, the changes made for this game simply did not work for me.

And Bruce and Alfred should be addressing each other as Master Bruce” and “Alfred”, not “Bruce” and “Al.”

The Game We Deserve, or the Game We Need Right Now?

I’d actually say neither…

I won’t go so far as to say I didn’t enjoy the game at all, but I didn’t really like it overmuch either. I thought it was ok, overall, but the Arkham games set such a high standard that it’s difficult to look at other Batman games without comparing them unfavourably.

If you are a big fan of the Telltale games, or of Batman, or if you just really want to play a game focused on Bruce Wayne, then I suppose I can give the game a mild recommendation. However, if you are looking for a game with action, fun combat or an accurate portrayal of the comic mythology, then you may want to pass on this and dig out Arkham Asylum, City or Knight.

Of course, if you have played the game and think I am totally wrong, let me know. Tell me what you thought about the game. Would you play a sequel? Would you like to see other characters like Superman receive a similar treatment?

I’d love to hear from you.

Craig

From virtually no tech skills to my own site! Find out how you can do it too!

This Week’s Reads: March 22

I keep playing with the idea of dropping certain titles, and yet I pick them up anyway, while looking at adding more. Sigh. If only time and funds were unlimited… I’d love to read more. There are a number of titles that I would happily try out if I had the money for it.

Oh well.

I only picked up 5 titles this week, but enjoyed them all, for the most part:

Teen Titans #6

Continuing the origin of Aqualad, which fortunately comes just as there is a mysterious 400% increase in shark attacks in San Francisco… Quick: what DC villain do you associate with sharks? By Percy and Pham

Wonder Woman #19

The Truth part 3. Reunited With Steve, Etta and Ferdinand, Diana returns to action and goes searching for Barbara Ann, bringing her face-to-face with Poison. By Rucka and Sharp

The Flash #19

While searching for information on the Reverse Flash,  Flash and Kid Flash have fallen into the clutches of the Weaver Clan thanks to Captain Boomerang. Unable to escape on his own, Flash just might need help from his old enemy Captain Boomerang to survive. By Williamson and Merino

Detective Comice #953

League of Shadows part 4. Things look grim for Batman and his allies as the League of Shadows wreak havoc in Gotham and Orphan faces a personal crisis. Will the appearance of one of Batman’s greatest foes help or hinder the Dark Knight? By Tynion IV and Blanco/ Duce

Action Comics #976

Superman Reborn finale.  Another major change for the Man of Steel, his loved ones and the DC Universe as a whole as Superman and Lois Lane face Mister Mxyzptlk with the help of… Superman and Lois Lane? By Jurgens and Mahnke

 

Spoilers Follow

A number of good reads this week, with Action Comics being my pick of the week and Teen Titans being the weakest of the bunch, though Flash almost tied for last place…

Wonder Woman continues to be one of the titles that I look forward to the most. I am enjoying both of the stories alternating through the book, but I have to admit that I am getting anxious for some elements to be resolved. I suppose, however, that this is an indication of how invested I am in Diana’s current adventures.

Detective is also typically a good read. The League of Shadows as presented here is dangerous and challenging to Batman and his allies. They actually pose a threat. Now, I have seen some other reviews saying that this is a poorly-written issue and I won’t say it is a masterpiece, but I am enjoying Tynion’s take on Batman much more than Tom King’s. I had expected to dislike Detective because I wasn’t really looking for a team Batman book, but I find that I actually like seeing Bruce’s interactions with the other characters and I have become a fan of Batwoman, whom I hadn’t really cared about previously. Even the addition of Clayface, which seemed kind of dumb to me at first, has been enjoyable.

I do wish we could see more Bruce Wayne, though. Since the beginning of Rebirth, there have only been a handful of Bruce Wayne sightings and that’s unfortunate. I know that between the two identities, the Batman persona is the more “real,” but I’d like to see Bruce from time to time.

Over in Action Comics this week is where the real action (ha) is taking place, as Superman, Lois and Jon face off against Mister Mxyzptlk. While it didn’t give me the same emotional rush that the previous issue did, I still totally enjoyed it, even if it left me with a few questions.

It seemed pretty obvious that they would reveal that pre-New 52 Superman and his newer counterpart were one-and-the-same. I mean, it’s not like Superman has no experience being split in two… Plus, it just seemed obvious. I was thinking months ago that this would be the resolution, though I have to say that– as written– it wasn’t as exciting as it could have been, and it raised more questions than it answered.

For example:

  • Lois and Clark knew who Jon was in Superwoman, but once they manifested in this issue, the no longer had any idea.. Why would that be?
  • Why was the older, more experienced Superman also the one who was brighter and more optimistic? Things aren’t generally portrayed that way in fiction.
  • Are other character split into two selves? If not, why not?
  • Do the event of this issue impact all other titles in the DCU? It sure sounds like they should.
  • So, Clark has two sets of memories now? Or does he have a composite? Does he remember dating Wonder Woman while being married to Lois? There’s one for Superdickery.
  • Will this clear up Batman’s illogical timeline?
  • Why was the original Wally West simply removed from reality instead of altered/ split like everyone else?
  • If other characters are split like Superman was, why is Wally’s simple presence enough to have everyone remember the previous reality (well, except for Linda Park, for some odd reason…)
  • What does this mean for characters like Hank Henshaw?
  • Is this the reason for multiple Jokers?
  • What is so special about Jon Kent?

There are a ton of other questions, but those come to mind first.

My initial thought– which may still come to pass– was that the old universe would be restored, with everything snapping back into place, but with everyone remembering what had happened in the New 52, like a dream or alternate memories.

I am not really going to complain too much about whatever happens; overall, I am just happy to see the legacy and history of these characters return. I’ve enjoyed the vast majority of what I have read so far and am hopeful that this trend will continue. I just have a small wishlist. Maybe I am being unreasonable asking for more, but they are doing a great job so far and if they miss a few of the points I am hoping to see, I will have a hard time seeing Rebirth as a complete success.

Basically, the things that I would love to see are:

  • Batman’s timeline being worked out. It is not logical at the moment
  • Improved relations between Batman and Superman in particular, but heroes in general (which does seem to be the point of Trinity)
  • The entirety of the old universe being restored
  • The return of Captain Marvel. I will never call him Shazam, no matter how much they try to force me. Almost as much as Superman needed it, Captain Marvel needs to be Reborn.
  • The return of colour, fun and heroic heroes.

That’s really about all I can think of right now, though I am sure other things will come to mind with time.

Do you have any wishes for the second year of Rebirth? Is there anything that you desperately hope to see happen or not happen? Do you have a theory on how it will all play out? I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below.

Craig

Remembering City of Heroes Amidst New Pain

City of Heroes, the MMO that ran from April 2004 until it was shutdown in Novermber 2012, was seriously one of my favourite games of all time. It was, in many ways, a perfect game for me and I have yet to find anything that is capable of filling the void that it left behind. Now, old scabs are being peeled away by the upcoming Master X Master beta, which has chosen to include one of CoH’s signature characters.

When I first started playing City of Heroes, I had virtually no experience with MMOs. I started playing and for the most part soloed everything, as I didn’t want to get involved with a team unless I absolutely had to. My ideal superhero at the time was one who could face all opponents alone, without the need of a team. Sure, I enjoyed team comics, like the X-Men, but I preferred solo heroes like Spider-Man or Superman.

Some time after the release of the game, I started working nights. My wife would be left at home with our elder son who was still a toddler, so she would sometimes go online to pass the time. One night, she discovered CoH and started playing. I was very surprised to discover her character one day as I sat down to play, and asked her about it. She was enjoying it about as much as I was and unlike me, she had started teaming with a small group on a regular basis. I was fortunate enough a short time later to switch from working nights back to days and we started playing together after I picked up a second computer. Having your wife or girlfriend join you in gaming (especially so enthusiastically) is pretty much every male geek’s fantasy. I was thrilled to play together.

My wife introduced me to the core of what would become Our Group, playing together on a nightly basis for a number of years. We started as four (the Fab Four, as we came to be known). There was me, my wife, a guy from Toronto (Polar Star) and a woman from Chicago, I believe (Lady Ember). In short order we were joined by another player from Alabama (Switch). This group stayed pretty regular, but several others joined us, coming and going– sometimes repeatedly– over the years. My wife’s work and a return to school eventually took her away from the game, but I played up until the final day, when the servers were shut down.

I don’t think I have ever invested myself in any game as much as I did with City of Heroes. I spent countless hours (and dollars) playing. I made dozens of characters, almost always with a fairly extensive backstory. Most of them were even tied together in some way. The game rekindled my love of writing. I wrote short posts about my characters on a regular basis, which eventually culminated in at least two novellas featuring the heroes that I and my teammates had created. I have hundreds and hundreds of pages of fiction involving these characters.

The people I played with were an amazing bunch. I totally loved getting together with them each night to save Paragon City, over an over again. I miss them horribly. The rest of the community was also pretty amazing. I have never seen a game with so many honestly helpful and kind players. Perhaps the act of playing superheroes brought out the best in people, or maybe the game simply attracted that type of person from the beginning. I am not sure. All I know is that there were a tremendous number of warm, genuinely kind people playing that game. Fortunately, that community has largely continued in various Facebook groups. Most excitingly, perhaps, is that Paragon City has somewhat returned in the form of what some call a “virtual chat room,” allowing former players to create a character and log in to several of the city’s zones, where they can interact and chat, but no longer fight crime.

The intense love for and loyalty to CoH has led various groups to start work on different successor projects that aim to recapture the feel of the original. At this moment there are at least four:  Valiance Online, Heroes and Villains, City of Titans, and now Ship of Heroes.  I expect to try them all, though I am not certain that any of them will manage to capture the magic of the game I loved. This was a game that could be (and was!) played by little kids, their older siblings, parents and grandparents. My son had just started playing when the game was shut down. He was 9 at the time. I knew players in their teens, 20’s, 30’s… The oldest player I met was, I believe 68. There was also a large female demographic in the game.

I never understood why City of Heroes was shut down. Simply put, there was no reason to close the game. It still had plenty of subscribers considering how old it was, and they were fiercely loyal. The game was even managing to attract some new players and was making a profit. The Marvel Cinematic Universe was already well under construction, kicking off a renewed interest in all things related to comic books and superheroes. The game could have easily parlayed that into greater success and, many thought, a sequel. Unfortunately, CoH was shut down with very little advance notice and virtually no explanation, leading to sadness, frustration and outright anger on the part of fans that continues to this day.

Just how much anger still lingers is evident with the announcement of NCSoft’s Master X Master (what kind of name is that?) including City of Heroes’s Statesman as a playable character. His bio on their info page indicates that this is a continuation of the storyline that was developing in CoH… the storyline that we didn’t get to participate in.

I have seen several dozen shares on Facebook about Statesman’s “return” and several hundred vitriolic comments from former players, many of which I won’t repeat here due to language… The general consensus, however, is that NCSoft is spitting in the faces of former fans.

Personally, I had a brief hope that given the continued love for CoH exhibited by fans and the continued success of various superhero franchises in other media, that perhaps NCSoft was testing to see if fans were truly willing to part with their money to have their beloved Paragon City back again. Most others that I have spoken to, however, consider it to be a move made to lock up the IP for several more years, ensuring that fans will never gain access to it. Many are calling for all former fans to sign up for MXM beta access in order to fill up the server with countless Statesmen all chanting “bring back CoH.” I love that idea, but I know it will accomplish nothing.

I have sadly come to accept that I will never walk the streets (or fly the skies) of Paragon City again, ouside of my own imaginings or continued stories.

I’m hoping to play one of the successor projects soon. I know it will likely pale beside memories of City Of Heroes, but at least it will be something. I doubt that I will see the majority of my old gaming group again, but I’m hoping that I will see a couple of them and maybe find some new friends.

Nothing will replace City of Heroes. I won’t ever forget all the fun that it gave me. I also won’t forget what NCSoft took away for no reason.

Will you be playing any of the successor games? Which ones? If you plan on playing more than one, which one interests you the most, and why? What is your favourite Paragon City memory?

I’d love to hear from you.

Craig

From virtually no tech skills to my own site! Find out how you can do the same!