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.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tales From the Vault: Lois Lane #93

Welcome back to another gripping installment of Tales From the Vault, where we read comics so you don't have to. Or something like that. So what's on the docket today? How about a prime example of some Silver Age superdickery, courtesy of Lois Lane #93, guest starring Wonder Woman? Grab your kryptonite and cinch up your red underpants, because this one is a doozy.

And don't forget to click on the images to enbiggen them.

Details: This issue of Lois Lane (technically, the series is titled Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane, but I refuse to use that title for reasons that are about to become obvious) has a cover date of July, 1969. The comic doesn't have any credits, because DC was really into the whole corporate factory thing at this point, but it's by writer Robert Kanigher and artists Irv Novick and Mike Esposito. Anyone who knows Kanigher has a pretty good idea of the madness that is about to ensue, so it's probably just as well they didn't scare the kids by putting his name on the first page.

Synopsis: First off, this issue came out during the short-lived I-Ching era of Wonder Woman, which for those of you who aren't Chinese means the brief period when Wonder Woman lost all of her super powers, got rid of her costume and fought crime using amazing kung-fu taught to her by her blind Asian mentor I-Ching. That's a real thing. I did not just make that up.

So, to the story: Wonder Woman is in Metropolis to help Superman out by performing with him in the circus. Finally, someone realized what a freak that alien tool is. Or, actually, it's for charity. Naturally, Lois is on hand to cover the story for the Daily Planet, and just as naturally she immediately becomes insanely jealous to the point of having nightmares about the possibility of Wonder Woman stealing her man. Here's a tip, Lois: If he can be stolen, he's not really your man. Think about it.

Anyway, Perry White loves the article so much that he assigned her to follow Wonder Woman and Superman around. This plan goes wrong right away as it's clear that Superman is, in fact, falling for Wonder Woman. So she tags around behind them like a lame duck while they do things like try on wigs at Wonder Woman's boutique (don't ask) and go dancing at a hippie night club. No, really:

In fact, Superman gets so into the dancing that he accidentally uses his super speed and sets the dance floor on fire. Now that's cutting a rug. Anyway, irritated by the gathering crowd, he and Wonder Woman fly off to enjoy themselves in private, ditching Lois in the process, who can only watch forlornly as they fly off - something that will happen more than once in this comic (foreshadowing!).

Lois, though, is made of sterner stuff, so she decides to fight for her man. Literally: She hires a judo and karate expert to train her. And after a super cool training montage, where Lois becomes a martial arts master, she's ready to challenge Wonder Woman. Oh, it's on!

Unfortunately for Lois, Wonder Woman without her powers is still Wonder Woman, so she immediately decks Lois, throwing her ass-over-teakettle, slamming her into the ground and then pimp-slapping the hell out of her, all while Superman perches on a rock and has the time of his life, no doubt concealing a super-boner as the ladies catfight for his love. You'll want to click on this to see it in all it's... glory:

Honestly, it's downright disturbing. Here's a closeup of his face as he watches the fight:

Nothing gives him as much pleasure as seeing Lois get beat to a pulp. Think I'm exaggerating his super-assholitude? Check out the end of the fight where, unable to walk, Lois crawls on her hands and knees, literally praying for Superman's love. His response? He flies off with Wonder Woman again, leaving Lois broken, bloodied and lying in the dirt:

As it happens, though, Lois still has an ace up her sleeve. See, all along Superman has told her that he can't marry her ever because, as a normal human, she would be an easy target for villains bent on revenge. And since Wonder Woman has no powers any more, it means Superman can't marry her. Which is why Lois is so shocked and horrified when Wonder Woman suddenly saves an exploding NASA rocket using flight, invulnerability and super strength. How? Why? WHYYYYYYYYYY?!

Well, it doesn't matter why, because now that Wonder Woman has powers again, it's a done deal: Superman proposes and she accepts. Better yet, Lois gets the assignment to cover the wedding, so she has to trail around behind Wonder Woman while Diana shops for her wedding dress. And she's totally bitchy about it too, delivering the stone cold line "Now you can come and watch me shop!" when Lois asks if she can instead get a look at Wonder Woman's new mansion.

Lois isn't the best reporter in Metropolis for nothing, though. She figures something must be up. And sure enough, she quickly (well, it's page 18, so not that quickly) uncovers the truth. Sneaking over to Wonder Woman's new mansion, she discovers the real Wonder Woman locked in a basement cell. Turns out the Wonder Woman who has been wooing Superman is actually a Kryptonian imposter, escaped from the Phantom Zone. But before Lois can rescue Diana, the fake Wonder Woman returns, and, after declaiming her origin, blasts Lois with a disintigrator ray.

Except! Superman flies in out of nowhere and destroys the ray gun before she can fire it. Then he frees Diana and Lois and shunts the villainess off to the Phantom Zone. So how did Superman know what was going on? Was the whole charade a clever plot on his part to uncover her evil scheme?

Well, no. Turns out he happened by totally by chance. See, he was looking for Lois to tell her he had decided not to marry Wonder Woman after all. So for those keeping score, everything Superman did in this issue -- acting like the biggest a-hole in the universe, two-timing with Wonder Woman and then proposing to her -- it was all totally real, because Superman had NO IDEA she was an imposter. And forget about how crappy Lois must feel about all this, imagine how totally awkward Superman's next conversation with Wonder Woman must have been. "Wait, you fell in love with 'me?' And you got engaged to someone you thought was me? Did you guys, like... do it? You know what, I don't even want to know."

Really, how creepy is that?


Extras: There's a letter from DC in the back of the book explaining why they had to raise their price from 12 cents to 15 cents. It had been a dime since issue #30, but it would only be 20 issues before the price was raised again with #112. There's also a full page ad with a bunch of comic book covers and a giant blurb that says "Dynamite's Coming!" in huge letters. What does that mean? Who the hell knows. I'm guessing they were just trying to think of words that started with D and C.

My Grades: For sheer WTFness, this issue gets a solid A. Superman, on the other hand, gets an F for being the worst "boyfriend" ever and just for being a gigantic douchenozzle. Lois is a toss up; on the one hand she shows guts and gumption, as usual, battling Wonder Woman in hand to hand combat. On the other hand, she's still in the lovelorn fool mode DC stuck her in for pretty much all of the 1950's and 60's. So I'm giving her an Incomplete. I-Ching Wonder Woman, though, is tops, so she gets an A for not kicking Superman right in the junk when she found out he was banging her doppelganger. Even though I would pay a lot of money to see that happen -- the kick part, not the banging part.

Free Lois!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Video Game Review: Mass Effect 3

So, where was I?

Oh yeah, reviewing things all up in there. And this time around we've got something pretty epic to review, namely Mass Effect 3, which came out earlier this month after years of build up -- and, according to many sources, provided a great deal of let down.

With that in mind I'm going to cut right to the chase and address the controversy over the ending of the game. For those of you who don't sleep with a controller under your pillow, some fans were upset -- and extremely vocal about it -- over the ending because they felt that, after three games worth of being able to affect every aspect of game play with your decisions, nothing you do at the end has any consequence.

Now, this is not an entirely unwarranted complaint, because, without getting into too many spoilers, all three of the possible end scenarios feature nearly identical build-ups and epilogues. However, at the risk of getting too semantic on y'all, I didn't really have such a big issue with this because while it's true that your decisions don't affect game play much at he end, they do have a huge effect on the future of the Mass Effect universe. It's simply that none of those affects are actually shown to the player.

Granted, I might be splitting hairs, because either way your actual playing experience is going to be nearly identical no matter what you chose at the end. But within the context of the story, your choice literally decides the fate of every living being and civilization in the entire galaxy. And for me, I was into the story -- the feel of the universe -- so much that knowing my decision had such massive consequences was enough, even though I couldn't actually see any of those consequences in-game.

Honestly, I'm not sure that makes any sense, but the bottom line is that while I do wish BioWare had spent a little more time giving us unique endings for each decision so that the experience felt more complete, what they did give us was epic enough for my tastes anyway.

That's because, before you get to the ending, you do have to make major choices that, even if they don't change the ending, drastically change the gaming experience both for the player and for the main character. Like the both the Dragon Age games and the previous Mass Effect games, BioWare has crafted a game that makes you think about the consequences and potential consequences of your actions more than any other game I've ever played.

And the ending aside, those consequences are often dire and permanent. Again, without giving too many spoilers, there was one decision in particular that I had to agonize over and after seeing the terrible consequences of my decision, I felt compelled to replay the previous 45 minutes of the game in order to choose a different option. BioWare must hold the record for the most extended pauses in gaming history, because I often found myself staring at a menu, unable to decide whether to cut off my left hand of my right foot. Sometimes no matter what you choose, something crappy happens and that's why, as the commander, you are called upon to make the tough decisions.

Mutliplayer: Another thing that has a bug up some people's ass is the multiplayer in Mass Effect 3, which frankly I think is pretty sweet. In Multiplayer, you join a four person squad sent to some random outpost to battle Reapers, Geth or Cerberus agents. The actual missions themselves are pretty much always the same, but what's interesting about the system is that playing in multi-player affects your single player campaign. The more missions you complete in multiplayer, the higher your "galactic readiness" score is in single player, which in turn affects which cutscene you get during the ending of the game.

Now, obviously, there are those who don't think multi-player should affect single player. But for me, I found this to be unexpectedly enriching in terms of universe building. As Commander Shepherd, you spend your time on high level missions, protecting diplomats and building coalitions, all while the Reapers are attacking across the galaxy. By playing in multi-player, where you control other, customizable characters, it provides a glimpse into just what is happening on the ground around the galaxy, the soldiers who are buying you the time you need to finish your mission, often with their lives.

Plus, when you get to level cap in multi-player (which, at 20, is not hard to do), you can promote your character to single player, at which point in your single player campaign, Shepherd gains a new war asset -- i.e. your fully trained commando -- to help raise your galactic readiness and military strength more. I found it to be really well thought out over all; even if it lacks a little in variety, it makes up for it by enriching the single player experience even more.

Technical: The graphics are very nice, though there are some random clipping issues sometimes during cutscenes. The game froze on me a couple of times as well, but more irritating were a couple of rare brain farts from BioWare, again during the ending cutscenes. Specifically, the cutscenes showed members of my crew doing things that they could not possibly have been doing due to the fact that I had selected those specific team members to join me for the final mission. I'm not sure how that slipped through.

On the other hand, the game really is pioneering a new type of immersive experience by importing data from the previous games, so that choices you make in Mass Effect 1 or 2 have lasting repercussions; characters that died during my suicide mission at the end of Mass Effect 2 remained dead for me in Mass Effect 3, while they are available for players who made different choices in previous games. It's really amazing.

And the voice acting is stellar.

My Grades: Despite the wonky ending, I still think Mass Effect 3 is a masterpiece. The ending and some of the technical glitches, though, force me to only give it an A- overall. The game does get some bonus points for its inclusive take on sexual and gender issues, though; the gay pilot mourning his dead husband was an interesting subplot and given the testosterone-jacked nature of at least some parts of gaming culture, may be a step in the right direction towards opening some minds.