Game Review: Diablo 3

Diablo 3 is out. But is it a game? Or is it the most brilliant money making scam in internet history?

Movie Review: The Avengers

Okay, okay, I posted my Avengers review. Get off my back already, geez.

The Most Important Comic Book You've Never Heard Of

Action Comics #1. Detective Comics #27. Why is All-American Men of War #89 as important as these great comics -- and why have you never heard of it?.

Tales From the Vault: Lois Lane #93

If you thought Superman was a total tool before, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Mass Effect 3: The Official Review

Mass Effect 3 isn't the end of the world, it just portrays it.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

DC Comics Goes Completely Nuts

So, here we are, minding our own business, getting ready for the Green Lantern and Captain America movies next month -- and then, all of a sudden, DC Comics decides to go completely, off the reservation crazy. Sigh.

I guess we might as well dig in and try to make sense of this.

For those of you who haven't heard the news, here's the deal: this August, DC is rebooting their entire universe. Yep. New versions of all their characters, apparently with new costumes and in some cases new origins and powers as well.

And that's not all: to kick this off, they aren't going to half-ass it like they did after Crisis on Infinite Earths; no, this time around their entire line will relaunch, with every single title starting over at #1. That includes, you know, Batman, Superman, Detective Comics and Action Comics -- those last two, in case you were wondering, having maintained their current numbering system since they debuted in 1937 and 1938 respectively.

But those are just the details, because hidden beyond the character reboots and the renumbering firestorm sure to follow (which I may or may not start momentarily) is an announcement probably even more important to the comic book industry: DC is also going to begin offering all of these titles digitally, online, on the same day they go on sale at comic shops. In other words, goodbye, comic shops, hello iPad, because the future of comics is apparently here right now.

Whew. That's a lot. But wait, there's a little more: the details of the reboot, which involves Jim Lee redesigning all the characters (even though, as his atrociously fug Wonder Woman outfit proves, his designs mostly suck); a new Justice League title by the team of Geoff Johns and Jim lee, which will form the center of this new DCU; and a new lineup that will include 52 different titles. A number, of course, that has special significance in the DCU since there are 52 alternate universes -- a "coincidence" that has more than one fan or blogger already speculating that this entire new line is actually going to be just DC's version of the Ultimate universe.

So first, my knee jerk reaction: I don't care about rebooting the characters at all, in part because I don't follow current DC continuity anyway. And to be frank, it's so confusing at this point anyway -- just in the last few years we've had Infinite Crisis reshaping reality in undefined and random ways and the multi-verse returning with 52 alternate worlds, not to mention the confusing mish-mash that was Final Crisis -- that maybe a reboot is the only way to clean it up.

However, it will come as no surprise to anyone that I am opposed on all levels to renumbering Action Comics and Detective Comics, not to mention Superman and Batman. In the case of Action and Detective, I just feel that those numbers represent something important -- not comic book continuity, but continuity with our own past and the industry's history. Action and Detective and their numbering means something to comic book readers; they mean something to me; and it's unfortunate they it don't apparently mean much to Dan Didio.

Not that I expect any numbering change on those titles to be permanent in any sense of the word. I have no doubt that, by the time we get to what should be Action #1000, they will revert the numbering as yet another blatant, cheap sales ploy. But really, are they so desperate for a few extra bucks that they can't figure out a way to just keep the stupid numbering out of respect for all the creators and fans that have gone before them? What kind of legacy is that, exactly? "Dan DiDio, the guy who ran DC so far into the ground that they had to renumber Detective Comics after 74 years." Congrats on that.

I also think it's unlikely that this is an Ultimate universe situation, though the reverse may be true. In other words, 52 titles is just too big for this to anything but the main universe; heck, they're only putting out like 30 right now. But they might find a way to continue certain creator driven series like Grant Morrison's Batman titles by keeping them on as some sort of alternate world, multiverse storyline for old timey fans.

Finally, of course, the big news really is the distribution system. Comic shop owners are already pitching a fit about the fact that DC will be selling the titles digitally on the same day they come out in hard copy, as it deincentivizes people from going to the comic shop. of course, I don't think this will have a big impact at first and perhaps, as DC is hoping, it will even drive new audiences to try the comics since they will be able to just download them on their iPad or whatever instead of trying to track them down in some grubby basement comic shop filled with weirdos like you and me. I certainly hope so. Eventually, of course, I think this will have a major impact on the direct sales market, but let's face it -- it was inevitable, and by taking the lead, DC has probably done a smart thing by stealing the march on Marvel.

One thing is sure, though: after today, changes are coming, not just to the DCu but to comic books as we know them. Whether the changes are good or bad is something we'll all have to wait to find out.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Movie Review: Thor

Hey guys, what's up. It's been a while since our last fandango, but I've been pretty busy -- you know, training for top secret missions in Pakistan, sorting through my fan mail, that sort of thing. Only, totally different. Yet even with my busy schedule, I've still managed to find the time to slip out to the theater and catch this month's biggest superhero blockbuster: Thor.

And I have to say, this film is exceedingly difficult for me to review. That's because Thor is a pretty idiosyncratic comic to begin with and it has become even more idiosyncratic up on the big screen. Though Thor rubs shoulders with his fellow Avengers in the pages of many a superhero comic, the character and the stories in his own title aren't really related to the superhero genre at all. Ever since Stan and Jack introduced Tales of Asgard to the series back in Journey Into Mystery #97, the series has been much more of a combination of high fantasy and epic science fiction than a traditional superhero comic.

All of which makes judging Thor the movie pretty hard to do considering there's not a whole lot to judge it against. As a superhero movie, well, it's downright weird. As an epic fantasy, though, it's almost weirder, because it exists within the framework of Marvel's interconnected superhero universe, meaning film fans will see characters and ideas from the Iron Man franchise pop up right in the middle of what otherwise is a fantasy movie.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Thor can only really be judged under one criteria: how good a Thor movie is it?

The answer? Pretty good.

What Thor gets right outweighs for the most part what it gets wrong. Here's a quick overview that isn't much of a spoiler since it's based very closely on comics that came out nearly 50 years ago: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) gets himself in hot water because of his hot head, so Odin banished him to Earth to learn some humility and prove his worthiness. Once he does so, he regains his godly powers, returns to Asgard and fights some monsters.

And all of that is handled pretty well, though there were a few things I thought they could have done differently in terms of pacing. It was wise of director Kenneth Branagh to begin the proceedings with a quick look at Earth, but I think things would have gone better -- especially for newcomers to the Thor milieu -- if the story had just stayed on Earth for the first half instead of immediately jumping up to Asgard for 30 minutes. Not that I minded what was happening in Asgard, but there's no question that the scenes on Earth, where Thor meets Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), contain much more humor and, you know, fun, than the portentous action sequences in Asgard. As a result, I think the film -- which is inherently harder to get into than most superhero or action films anyway -- becomes even more difficult for newbies to get into than it had to be.

Having said that, though, if the film hasn't lost viewers by the time Thor comes to Earth, then they are likely to really enjoy the film, because it picks up in a big way after Thor meets Jane Foster and begins stumbling around New Mexico in search of his hammer, Mjolnir. Sure, Portman doesn't have a whole lot to do, but what she does, she does really well; she and Hemsworth have pretty good chemistry and once Thor returns to Asgard to deal with Loki (the excellent Tom Hiddleston), you do feel a tug at the thought of the two being separated just as they were starting to dig each other.

There were a few other minor concerns I had about the film as well. For instance, though I love the Warrior's Three in the comic, I'm not sure they really came across on the screen for non comics fans as anything more than somewhat goofy sidekicks. And, like Iron Man 2, some of the action sequences came up a bit short, particularly the big throwdown between Thor and The Destroyer, which was okay but not nearly as epic as it could or should have been.

But those are quibbles. For the most part, Thor is an entertaining, occasionally fun and perfectly competent film that any fan of Thor will enjoy.

And if you're not a fan of Thor? Well... give it a try, because if you end up liking it, there's a half century of cool stories waiting to be discovered. But Thor is just so very, very Thor that's there's really no way of knowing if you'll like it until you try.

My Grades: For Thor fans, a solid B+. For everyone else, a random grade somewhere between A- and C-. The film has good acting and solid directing, so it's not going to go below that, but there's no way of really judging this movie outside of the strictures of Thor itself. The bonus scene after the credits gets an A+ for setting up both Captain America and Avengers at the same time while also giving Marvel fans a major woody.

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