Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Flash: Rebirth #5
There's a reason Geoff Johns won Spike TV's "best comic book writer" award. I've said in the past that the man could write the entire DCU and I'd be happy and I stand by that after reading this next-to-final issue of Flash: Rebirth. At the end of the previous issue we learned that the Barry actually created and generated the speed force and that Reverse Flash was generating a negative speed force to counteract the real deal. Naturally a battle ensues. This issue picks up with the team of speedsters trying to take down Reverse Flash. The team is getting their rear handed to them most of the issue. Meanwhile, back at the West home, Wally's kids realize that their power fluctuations and aging have been caused by the fact they they are sharing a single connection to the speed force. Iris/Irey touches Jai's hand and absorbs his part of the connection and she gets full speed powers. I assume this means Jai is a normal kid now but that remains to be seen. Irey, now calling herself the new Impulse, rushes off to help the speedsters against Reverse Flash. Wally uses a trick to give the speedsters a boost. This also serves to give a lot of them new costumes including Wally's own updated costume which Flash fans have known was coming for a while. (See below for an image of Wally's new duds.) But even after all this, the speedsters can't bring down Reverse Flash. Reverse Flash reveals that he's been the cause of everything bad that's ever happened to Barry throughout history and that he can manipulate time. He then rushes away through time to kill Iris and thus give Barry no reason to ever have escaped death all these years. The next issue is the final chapter in this saga and I am dying to see where this ends up!
Superman/Batman this issue with the return of Solomon Grundy as a Black Lantern. The story this issue centers around Fran Langstrom working with Frankenstein and the Bride to capture the Man-Bat and return him to his human form. While all this is going on, both Bizarro and a newly resurrected Solomon Grundy are wandering around Gotham. Bizarro comes across the team of heros as they are capturing Man-Bat. Thinking they are hurting his friend, Bizarro attacks the team and runs away with a mid-transformation Man-Bat in tow. But Bizarro's mistaken rescue is is cut short when he runs into Black Lantern Grundy only to have his own heart ripped out. Next issue... Black Lantern Bizarro? I sincerely hope so!
Score: 3.5 out of 5
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
5. Munchkin (Steve Jackson Games)
Like Apples to Apples and a few other games that didn't quite make this list, Munchkin is one of those games that you pick up out of mere curiosity and are just floored with how fun it is! The basic premise of Munchkin is deceptively simple. It's a parody of the fantasy RPG genre played with cards (all drawn by Dork Tower's own John Kovalic). Each player has a character that they arm with weapons and gear and try to accumulate as many levels and as much loot as they can. The winner is the first person to get their character to level 10 (or level 20 if you're playing with the epic rules). The fun comes in with the fact that the gear ranges from things like a broad sword that can only be used by female characters to the infamous boots of butt-kicking. Fantasy humor not your thing? That's okay because Munchkin comes in various flavors! There's Star Munchkin (sci-fi), Munchkin-Fu (kung-fu), Munchkin Cthulhu (Lovecraftian), Super Munchkin (comic books), Munchkin Impossible (spies), The Good the Bad and the Munchkin (western), Munchkin Bites (goth/vampire) and Munchkin Booty (pirates). And once you get 'em all you get Munchkin Blender and mix the rules up for all out chaos!
Check out the official Munchkin site and get your copy now!
4. Hero Quest (Milton Bradley)
This game came out in the very early '90s during my high school years and, to this day, I can't think of any game that kept me up so late on the first night of play. Me and a couple of friends picked this one up on a whim at Toys 'R' Us and opened the game right after dinner. The next thing we knew, the sun was rising and we took a breakfast break before digging back into the game. The brief description is that it's Dungeons & Dragons: the board game. It's a simple set of rules in which each player controls a generic fantasy character of the barbarian, wizard, dwarf or elf and another takes on the role of the Dungeon Mast... er... the evil Lord Zargon. It's all played on a single board with interchangeable pieces including doors, treasure chests, furniture and the like. The basic set includes a book of 14 scenarios and rules to create your own. There were several expansions that included new quests and new monsters but I only ever stuck to the core set. This games no longer being made, but if you ever run across it at a swap meet or somewhere online, it's definitely a keeper!
3. Magic: The Gathering (Wizards of the Coast)
The reason games like chess, checkers, and other classics stick around is that they are based on a simple premise but can be developed into include complex strategy. That's why Magic: The Gathering is still near the top of the heap when it comes to CCGs (collectible card games). The basis is deceptively simple. You collect lands which in turn power spells. Spells are played to reduce your opponent's life points to zero before he does the same to you. I've taught others to play this game in less than half an hour but after 16 years of playing, I can still learn a new strategies and ideas. Since I picked up an early beta deck back in 1993, there have been 10 revised core sets and 50 expansion sets (with more already planned). It's that kind of expansion and flexibility that makes Magic: The Gathering the one CCG that's going to be around when all the imitators that have come since are long forgotten.
The official Magic Experience website
2. Netrunner (Wizards of the Coast)
Speaking of CCGs that have been forgotten, Netrunner is a game from the creators of Magic: The Gathering that came and went back in 1996. Like Magic, the principle of Netrunner is simple. One player takes the role of a "runner" (translated computer hacker) and the other "the corp" (i.e. corporation). The hacker uses his deck to try and hack the corporations systems to steal data before he is killed by the security measures (dubbed ICE) within the corp's network. What I loved about Netrunner is the nature of the game itself. The runner and the corp both used entirely different sets of cards which allows for some amazing and fun strategies to develop. But the best part was that the corp plays it's ICE cards face-down so there is an element of bluffing involved. The runner doesn't know if the ICE he's about to attack will set off a minor alarm or fry his brain. Netrunner, while forgotten now, won all sorts of awards and accolades when it was released and I'll give it another now by announcing it as my favorite CCG of all time.
1. Dungeons and Dragons (TSR/Wizards of the Coast)
The granddaddy of all modern RPGs (role playing games), Dungeons and Dragons, was released by a small company called TSR (best known for making tactical miniatures games) back in 1974. At that time, I was still in diapers and more interested in sticking dice in my mouth than rolling them. It took nearly 10 years before I picked up my first d20 (that's a 20-sided die for the uninitiated) and graph paper but I've not been without them since. In the 35 years since it's inception, D&D has undergone a lot of changes. It became Advanced Dungeons and Dragons for a while. There have been multiple editions. Hell, the game itself was bought from TSR by Wizards of the Coast (the creators of Magic: The Gathering). To this day, avid players debate over which edition is the "best" but at heart I think they'll all agree when I say that D&D's central idea of some friends gathering around a table, rolling dice and creating their own tales of heroism with what I refer to as "collaborative storytelling" has never wavered. It is for that reason that D&D holds the top spot in my gaming heart and likely always will.
Visit the official Dungeons and Dragons website.
Man! Writing this list has made me want to play some games? Anyone up for Magic: The Gathering on Xbox Live Arcade?
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Action Comics #883
The World Without/Against Superman storyline has me all over the place. Some issues are great and others just seem bland. This issue is one of the better category. I like the idea of Nightwing and Flamebird and that they're somehow reincarnated Kryptonian heroes. This issue plays with that a bit and has Chris and Thara discussing and trying to grapple with that idea. On other fronts, Jax-Ur (one of Genral Zod's remaining sleeper agents on Earth) is worming his way into S.T.A.R. Labs and setting up some kind of plot to kill our Kryptonian heroes. But the big finale (and I warned you there'd be spoilers so stop reading if you don't want 'em!) is that Chris' accelerated aging kicks in again and he becomes an old man. And who do you think S.T.A.R. Labs brings them to on a silver platter? You guessed it! Things just went from bad to worse.
Score: 4 out of 5
The idea of Dick and Damien as Batman and Robin is another issue that I'm torn on. First off, I think the current writers really "get" the characters of Dick and Damien and really... I mean REALLY... enjoy them as the new dynamic duo. What I'm not sold on is the idea of dumping all of Batman's traditional villains in favor of new villains or trying to bring B-listers to the front lines. The villains are part of what made Batman books great and these new ones just haven't really excited me much yet. This issue opens with Batman and Robin delving deeper and deeper into Black Mask's territory, smashing up False Face soldiers along the way. There's an interlude in which Dick, Huntress and Oracle gets to attend a Gotham socialite party and basically they're just there to keep tabs on Tommy Elliot (now disguised as Bruce Wayne) and the Falcones. But the party takes an odd turn when the little girl from the Falcone family shows up dressed like a rag-tag Catwoman and does something. Robbing the place maybe? It never really explains. The girl sets off a bomb and gets away. The explosion somehow triggers Edward Nigma's psychosis and it seems he's become the Riddler again. The issue closes with Batman off again to track down Black Mask. He starts by questioning young gang members in the area where Black Mask is operating and ends up getting one of them shot. It's not a badly written issue by any means but Black Mask and Hush as villains are just boring me at this point. At least we've got the Riddler coming back so that's a comfort and something to keep me reading.
Score: 3 out of 5
Batman and Robin #6
Here we've got another case of the DCU trying to come up with new Bat-villains and falling flat. That is made even worse by the fact that the rest of the book is amazing! Frank Quitely's cover is stunning. Morrison's characterization and dialog of Dick and Damien is spot on and makes me care about these guys. The artwork by Philip Tan is very fitting for the gritty action sequences that are showcased. But it all doesn't add up since the main villain is the Flamingo. Who's that you ask? Just some daft-looking idiot in pink on a motorcycle who does nothing but grunt and try to kill people. It's obvious that they're trying to make him appear deadly and frightening like the Joker and he is laughable... but not in the good Joker way. The only drawback I've had with Batman and Robin thus far is the new villains. I liked Jason Todd's returning to the Red Hood but Todd's arrested this episodes so now even he's gone. It seems like we're going to be focused on El Penitente and his gang of thugs and freak assassins and I'm not overjoyed at that prospect.
Score: 3.5 out of 5
Green Lantern Corps #42
Okay, DC. The Bat-books may be lackluster and still finding their footing without Bruce, but the Blackest Night books are what's keeping the DCU at the top of my must-read list every week! This week's Green Lantern Corps picks up where the last issue left off with the Black Lanterns assault on Oa. The Green Lanterns, with the assistance of one of the Indigo Lanterns, are slowly losing their collective battle when the Black Lanterns' rings finally hit 100% and they all get the order to "consume will" and they all just stop mid-fight and attack the central power battery of Oa. The Green Lanterns come up with a few ideas to stop the attack including releasing Red Lantern Vice. Vice does a decent job slaughtering the Black Lanterns until Alpha Lantern Chaselon arrives and kills him. Then the Black Lanterns just kill Chaselon and return to trying to drain the main battery. The issue ends with a scene that I really didn't see coming. When Chaselon is killed, Kyle grabs the Alpha Lantern battery and flies into the center of the main Oa power battery with a slew of hungry Black Lanterns giving chase. Once inside the main battery, Kyle creates a dome shield and then detonates the Alpha Lantern battery, killing tons of Black Lanterns... but himself in the process. I assumed Kyle might die during the course of the Blackest Night series since Hal had returned as the main GL of sector 2814 but his death still shocked me. Well done, DC. Very well done!
Score: 5 out of 5
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Update: I just finished reading the first 7 issues of Kick-Ass and they are so much more awesome than this trailer lets on. I may have a new comic in my top 3!
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Below is a short piece of my fiction writing inspired by a recent writing challenge over at GeekGirlDiva's blog. I just liked it so I thought I'd share. Feel free to respond with your feedback and thoughts.
I looked into the mirror. My face stared back at me. Unblinking. My resolve began to falter. Could I really do this? I looked around at the candles; still flickering in the breeze from the open window even though there wasn't much left of them. The night had grown long and I was exhausted from my preparations. I glanced downward and praised whatever gods were with me tonight that the arcane symbols that I'd so meticulously drawn on the floor weren't smudged by my sweat and constant shifting.
My head shot up with a bolt at the voice. The sound had come from directly in front of me. I stared at my reflection in the mirror, looking for any signs that the magics had worked, and only saw my ragged self staring back.
It had worked! It was my reflection that was speaking! I started to answer but was too fearful and shaken to do more than spit a few nonsense sounds.
"That's how it is, eh? I get pulled from my sleep at this hour of the night to hold a conversation with a dumb mute?"
I licked my lips and spoke...
"No... I... I am Simon Wilcox. I have summoned you here to help me."
My own face sneered back at me from the mirror.
"Help you? I guess that's the plan so long as your protection holds. But if it doesn't... Heh heh... You'd better hope I like whatever it is you're asking of me."
I returned the vile smile back at myself.
"I'm not saying you have to like it but I have the feeling that you will."
"Get on with it then! I haven't got all night! I have a plump little one waiting back on the spit that requires tending to."
I started to speak "I want...", but my voice cracked. I began again, "I want release. I want to trade places with you."
My reflection stared back and his hideous crack of a smile grew enormous on the reflection of my haggard face.
"Indeed? Release you say? In that case, I shall like it immensely. But you realize what you ask of me? You will be doomed to live in my realm for eternity and I'll be free to do as I please in yours."
I began, "Yes. I can’t..."
"I don't care what you can or cannot do. The question is whether this is truly what you ask of me?"
I shocked myself by not hesitating and I heard myself say "Yes."
As the word came from my mouth, the room began to spin and the walls seemed to bend. The breeze from the window rushed in and snuffed the candles and all was beyond my comprehension.
It could've been minutes or hours but when the room righted itself and I could see clearly again, I looked out from within the mirror and saw that the circle of protection was scratched beyond any recognition and a trail of charred footprints leading out of the room.
I could still hear the faint whisper of my own voice snickering back at me and I wondered if what I had done was right. But I didn't care. It was over. I was going to be at peace and to Hell with the world.
I laughed at my own bad joke and turned to explore my new home.