Tag Archives: New Comic Wednesday

Joker (re)turns terrifying

It’s been a while since I’ve done a New Comic Wednesday post, but it’s been a while since a week has really deserved one.

I’ve been keeping up with a few of the Batman series since the reboot, but I’ve fallen off some of them here and there. The main book stayed strong and I liked the Court of Owls arc, but Batman & Robin lagged a bit, and I dropped off the others pretty quickly. This week they made good on a plot thread inserted in the very first issue of The Dark Knight — the Joker and his missing face. To be honest, I hated that story beat, but this latest issue made it work.

Joker is a hard character to write well. It’s tough to balance the dark humor and sadism — he’s more the latter than the former, I think. And it’s easy to miss that he’s meant to be almost as brilliant as Batman, just in a completely chaotic way. This issue nailed those elements. He actually has an interesting motivation, but he’s acting more unhinged than usual — to the point that even Harley pulled away. That alone was a really striking way of showing just how wrong all of this was going. This arc is looking interesting, and I’ll be looking forward to more. But I’m still likely to stay away from most of the other Bat-books.

Avenging Spider-Man was actually pretty hilarious; the Deadpool jokes were hit or miss, but the hits were funny enough to make the difference. And Uncanny Avengers was a good start to a series, but the ending went into pure Silver Age silly territory. I’m curious to see where they go with that, if the book will turn silly or continue trying to mix the two.

  • Speak of the devil.
  • One of these days I’ll hook up my OnLive mini-console again. I actually still have games I never finished on that thing.
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Batman gets weird. Well… weirder.

Batman comics always have some pretty strange overtones. We are talking about a borderline lunatic who took the death of his parents as the catalyst to train himself into a weapon, after all. But this week, with its two Batman comics, were a little more off-kilter than normal.

Batman told a little self-contained story as we hold for the issue zeros, and it started off well. It was about a brother and sister, and the brother who was gay kept getting hassled. When his sister tried to stand up for him, they both started getting beaten, and Batman stepped in. That’s a nice enough little one-off. Then it turned to the girl messing with the electrical grid and figuring out way too much about Batman, and then being determined to keep meddling after he flat-out told her to stop. It seemed like it was aiming to end on a note of determination and perseverance  but it came off more like this girl was going to get herself killed because she didn’t listen.

Batman & Robin closed up the story arc of the terrorist Batman impersonators. I thought I had heard it went on-hold due to the events in Aurora, so I’m not sure if we missed an issue or what happened — but this all felt a bit rushed and slipshod. This is a story that could be handled well with a deft hand, but this wasn’t it. The book alternated between being a fun group action book and having some pretty grisly imagery. I’m not sure what to make of it, but hopefully after issue zero they start a new arc with more legs.

Spider-Men was characteristically fun, with some great little jabs at comics and ret-cons in general. It was mostly set-up and dialogue, but I actually prefer that to all action, or brainless action. It was clearly set-up for what will mostly be an action book next time, but they’ve wrapped up the emotional stakes and now we can get down to punching Mysterio square in the jaw.

  • The Papo & Yo trailer is probably one of the better ones I’ve seen in a while for setting a tone and mood, even if it doesn’t communicate much about the game itself.
  • I’m kind of interested in the Leviathan DLC, but not for an extra line of dialogue or two at the end.
  • One of those reviews I mentioned last night is Hybrid, which I’m looking forward to cracking into. I was sorry to hear about its launch troubles, but word is they’re fixed now so I’ll start it up tonight.
  • Indie Uprising always has a few gems that I like. Epic Dungeon and Cthulu were particular favorites of mine.
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A very Spider-Wednesday

It occurred to me only after taking my weekly picks to the cashier that all of them featured Spider-Man on the cover. The clerk even gave me some ribbing about it after I realized and pointed it out. What can I say? He’s the best.

The non-Spidey book was AvX, which continues to pick up steam. We’re entering the phase now where several of the principle characters are starting to have rifts and disagreements, and no one is objectively correct. The Phoenix Force is wreaking havoc on the Four’s psyches, and they can tell it’s happening but just barely hold it back. Cyclops seems to be the only one keeping it together, and the ending implies some kind of savior role for him. But in regards to Spider-Man, it featured him on the cover because he took a heroic beating in a fiendishly clever plan to deal with two of the Phoenix Four. And best of all, his plan worked. A few broken bones later, he emerged victorious.

He’s the best.

Avenging Spider-Man was good; a little funnier than last time, but also a bit more heavy-handed. When you make direct reference to the Occupy movement and have a character literally say “corporations are people,” you might be trying too hard. But it was in service of a sweet moment with the anti-villain. Ultimate Spider-Man continues to be excellent. I’m running out of effusive praise. It’s juggling a lot of plots with a very deft hand, though I think they could probably do without referencing the “Divided We Fall” crossover story. It just seems like a side-note to all the other action going on.

  • I didn’t play the original Witcher, but I liked Witcher 2 alright. It felt a bit restrictive in some ways, though, so hearing about Cyberpunk’s customization features might just tempt me over.
  • Jay Z now has 98 problems, as “never produced a video game” was number 87.
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Flash is the loneliest number

My online resources claimed that this week wouldn’t be bringing any of my usual comic pick-ups, but I visited the shop anyway just to check it for myself since it’s been wrong before. It wasn’t, but I picked up Flash anyway. Partly because I wanted something to read, and partly because it is super-awkward to walk into a nearly empty store where you buy something every week and then walk out empty-handed.

This issue was a vast improvement in terms of the storytelling actually making sense. I had initially dropped the comic mainly because the stories were going into such strange hard-to-follow areas that I just couldn’t follow. The writing dipped into the cheesy in a few spots, but the plot flowed well enough. I still had a serious problem caring about any of the characters, but between gorgeous art and a story that seems to be a little less convoluted, I might start picking it up again. As long as it falls on slow weeks.

  • The multiplayer in Fall of Cybertron doesn’t look terribly different than War for Cybertron, but it seems to have some more customization options so that might be enough to tempt me in for a few matches.
  • If I weren’t already overfull with games, I would pick up the Indie Royale July bundle. It looks like they have some very cool old-school homages in there.
  • And speaking of things I’m tempted to buy, L4D2 for five bucks is a steal. Even though it would run terribly on my MacBook, just having it in my Steam account for sometime in the future has appeal.
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AvX takes a turn for the Highlander

I’ve been pointing out that AvX is getting better, and this week moved the plot forward again nicely. This issue established that each defeated member of the Phoenix Five has his or her power split among the remaining members. (Phoenix Four still works with the alliteration, I suppose.) I have to imagine this is leading to some kind of Highlander situation with inevitable in-fighting. I’m not sure if I love that idea or hate it. I suppose it depends on how well it’s handled, but off the top of my head it seems like it could be incredibly hokey. But the plot progressed in other areas as well, with the Avengers generally scattered and disorganized, and even Professor X getting into the act by threatening Cyclops.

Wonder Woman introduced two new Greek goddesses, and I always love their takes on those myths. The current plot really seems like it could be a missing page from Greek mythology, they’ve really captured that tone well. Justice League felt like a placeholder. The Wonder Woman fight scene seemed tacked on because it didn’t have any other fight scenes, and the more I read of Graves the more he feels like an “edgy” version of Scarecrow.

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Spiders ramp up while the Bats fizzle a bit

Comic day was a bit overwhelming this week, so much so that I even decided to drop Scarlet Spider from my rotation. It underwhelmed me last issue, and it just couldn’t keep up with all the other books out this week. Because holy cow there were a lot of books out this week, with strong entries.

Spider-Men really got a lot of my attention, because it’s such a clever cross-over event book. Unlike the last issue, this one actually drove the plot forward in some pretty meaningful ways. The action was a bit hard to follow thanks to the Mysterio illusions, but maybe that was the point. At any rate, this one created some real forward momentum for the story’s emotional side, which was always the appeal for me. Fighting is nice, but give me some dialogue any day.

Speaking of Spidey, Avenging Spider-Man was pretty fun again. It didn’t quite live up to some of the best issues like his team-up with Hawkeye, Cap, or She-Hulk, but as a sort of back door to launching the new Captain Marvel it wasn’t bad. I actually sort of like the “villain” of the book, despite being a tad heavy-handed.

AvX (the fight book) had some truly spectacular art this week, with two very different art styles. The Daredevil/Psylocke battle was more traditional comic art and drove the plot forward, while Thor/Emma Frost took a much more stylized approach. It also got weirdly sexual and emasculating there for a second, which I guess is sort of a thing when Frost is involved.

Batman & Robin introduced a new villain, or tribe of villains I suppose. It wasn’t bad, but it seemed to only pay lip service to the subplot of Damien showing up the other Robins. I guess they don’t want that to be the current “event” but it’s a much more interesting arc. Batman closed out the Court of Owls storyline, and it felt like they pulled back a little on the big twist from last time. They left it a possibility, but it’s a hanging question, so it seems like they were afraid to follow through with it. Also, the Owl monologued way too much, but at least it wasn’t Batman himself flapping his lips. Maybe they were trying to carry the theme of making them polar opposites.

  • Speaking of comic books, what a fortuitous day for my 1UP article on comic book and game narratives to go up. I basically break down how similar the progression of storytelling has been between the two mediums. It’s one of my favorite recent 1UP pieces.
  • Some of the powers in the new ME3 Earth DLC sound pretty interesting. I wish there were a more reliable way to unlock new classes, because I’d like to give one a try. I just know that I could grind forever and still not end up with one.
  • I think it’s interesting that some readers thought I was personally upset about the supposed new direction for the next Rocksteady Batman game. Honestly, Rocksteady has garnered a lot of goodwill from me, and I’m curious to see what they’d do with a lighter take on Batman. I’m not one of the character who think the show has to be brooding and dark — I love Brave and the Bold, for example. My comment was more speculating on how the core market might react to such a dramatic shift in direction.
  • I never got into the Max Payne 3 multiplayer, or even the single-player for that matter, but I love the cheater pool concept.
  • This trailer for Little Inferno is seriously pretty creepy, in a very classic subtle way. Love it. Curious to see more.
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The Opposite of Uncle Ben

It’s kind of interesting that Amazing Spider-Man came out this week. It retold the origin story of the Peter Parker iteration of the character, the same week that Ultimate Spider-Man continued subverting it. This issue was mostly a prolonged fight scene with his Uncle Aaron, who (as another character pointed out) was trying to make him an enforcer. It ended with Aaron’s (very timely) death, and delivering one final message to tell Miles that they were alike. I imagine that will continue to haunt Miles going forward.

I felt a bit lukewarm on the ending at first. The issue as a whole was strong, but it seemed like such an obvious untruth that Miles should see right through it. Bryan astutely pointed out that this made him the anti-Uncle Ben. Instead of delivering an inspiring message as he died, he used those moments to discourage his nephew. This also serves as the inverse of Peter’s motivation — instead of living up to an ideal, he might be fighting against that image of himself.

I suppose it still rubs me the wrong way a bit. I didn’t think Miles needed an analog for Ben. He’s been living in Peter’s shadow, and I thought (and still think) that’s a much more interesting character motivation. Hopefully that doesn’t get too overshadowed with misplaced guilt.

Avengers vs X-Men was pretty good this week too. Maybe not as amazing as last issue, but I expect that’s partly due to lowered expectations. This issue was good, and moved the plot forward, but it didn’t pack many surprises. I do think they’re creating a more interesting internal conflict with Cyclops, who’s being written as more interesting character than the annoying whiner he was at the start of the series.

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Spider-Men (slows to a) crawl

Spider-Men was probably my most anticipated book this week, and maybe that puts some unfair expectations on it. It wasn’t a terrible installment by any means, but the mechanisms of slowing down to explain this stuff really made for some wonky pacing. Peter Parker really shouldn’t be this confused about alternate dimensions, and Miles (or Nick Fury, who had a cameo) should be more comfortable with just laying it out simple-like. It seemed like everyone was just avoiding talking about the subject to keep the confusion going, which got a bit tiring. It was more of a stage-setting book, I suppose, but hopefully the plot picks up a bit next issue.

My only other book this week was Justice League, which was equally lackluster. We learned a little more about the new villain Graves, and it resolved the issue of Trevor betraying the team, but other than that I was mostly just confused. The league had the life sucked out of them by using their grief? Or something? I honestly don’t know. The dialogue didn’t quite crackle like it has in past issues either.

Neither of these were outright bad, mind you. Just kind of serviceable placeholders as we wait for the real plot to begin.

  • I published the first of several planned Dawnguard Diaries today, chronicling my trip through the Skyrim DLC. From here it will split into both choices.
  • Right on the heels of yesterday’s concerns about BioWare nixing single-player DLC plans in favor of the Extended Cut, it turns out maybe those new stories were merely delayed instead of canceled outright. Carry on, then.
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AvX shocks world, doesn’t suck

Despite knowing it’s terrible, and the warnings from friends, I’ve kept buying AvX. My reasoning was simple: yes, it’s bad, and fumbling, and awkward, and forced, and dumb, and shoddily written, and terribly plotted, and the artwork isn’t great. But hear me out! It’s also my first event book, and as a new comic fan, I wanted to see it through to the end. I figured a few bucks per month isn’t going to break me, and finishing my first big comic event start to finish would be something to remember no matter how rough the ride.

This came to a head in the last issue, when Iron Man split the Phoenix Force up into five pieces, making it go into five random X-Men newly dubbed the Phoenix Five. You might notice this sounds extremely stupid. Regardless, I sighed and picked up my copy today. Imagine my surprise when it occurred to me, as I flipped through the pages, that this was actually good. I say that without a hint of sarcasm or irony. This issue was more interesting than the other five issues combined.

The Phoenix Five (ugh) are making serious strides in the world, but are showing internal hints of getting carried away. The Avengers, meanwhile, mistrust them despite that they’ve done nothing wrong. So the X-Men are split on how much they can use force to impose their will in the spirit of improvement, while the Avengers are split on whether they should even be considering killing this group that’s ostensibly doing wonderful things for humanity. In other words, neither party is objectively right and both have understandable differences of opinion. Imagine that!

(The art also seems moderately improved, but still not blowing me away. It’s a bit inconsistent still, with some great looking panels and others that just look rushed.)

This is apparently the start of the second act, and I’m back on-board. I’m not sure if this is the product of Jonathan Hickman taking over as the writer, or if this is just the spot they were aiming to get to and all that hackneyed crap was them taking shortcuts. But either way, I hope this standard of quality continues through the rest of the event series. You’ve finally won me over, Marvel. Now don’t screw it up.

Speaking of Marvel, Avenging Spider-Man was a bit off its game this week. It had a clever moment or two, but in a book that I primarily enjoy for the witty writing, it just didn’t deliver much on that front. But in a procedural buddy-comedy, some are going to duds. It’s too bad, though. Fellow comic enthusiast Bryan loves Dr. Strange, so I was curious to see that character with the accessible window of Spider-Man. In the end he was fine, but nothing special, and I got the feeling he can be better written. Wonder Woman finally resolved the Hades saga. While I’m disappointed that it didn’t prove my theory that she’s in love with her pregnant pal, they wrapped it up about as well as could be expected — even if they used a cheat to defang the major threat from the last issue.

I also picked up a reprint of the first issue of Saga, because I love Brian K. Vaughan. Honestly, I have no idea how I felt about it. It was very creative, but maybe a little too disconnected from reality for my tastes. It felt like he was trying very hard to be otherworldly, maybe a bit too much. We didn’t really get a clean entry point into this world. Do any of my comic reading friends know if later issues help ease us into the plot?

  • As promised, here is my Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor review. You’ve probably heard from various sources that it is one of the worst Kinect games yet. You have not heard wrong. Though, to pat myself on the back, I actually finished the game. I wrestled that twitchy little bastard into submission. You certainly can’t accuse me of not doing my due diligence.
  • We’ve been opening up editorials lately at Shacknews, and I had something on my mind. Namely, that the Vita needs its own experiences. You’ll only get so many people willing to buy two copies of the same game just to play it on the go.
  • I’m fairly certain my brother and sister-in-law still play Dragon Age Legends. So, good news for family!
  • As someone who values education, this story about Steam for Schools was really quite cool to report on. Valve was in a perfect position to do it, so they went ahead and did it. Kudos.
  • Another Japanese fighting game developer says paid character DLC is a no-no. I’m wondering if this is the start of a sea change, or just rebelling against the inevitable tide.
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Spider-Men headlines a week of comic overload

After several light weeks in a row, today had a total of five new books to pick up. I was a very happy reader, especially since one of them was the debut of Spider-Men. This is an event book that Marvel has been teasing for a while, crossing 616 (“Amazing”) Spider-Man with the new Ultimate Spidey. For those unfamiliar, 616 is Peter Parker, but Ultimate was replaced in the past year. Peter Parker died in the Ultimate universe, and a kid named Miles Morales took over to carry on his legacy.

It still carries the same themes — that if you have the power to act, you have a moral obligation to act — but it turns them on their head in an interesting way. Instead of feeling that responsibility hit home because of the death of a family member, Miles is inspired by the death of Peter himself. It’s a really poignant look at how heroism breeds heroism.

So this event book has been pretty highly anticipated, as it will involve (a version of) Peter meeting Miles for the first time. This comes at a time during the Ultimates series that Miles is learning how to be a hero, and dealing with competing influences. The book seems aimed at setting him on the hero’s path while simultaneously handing over the mantle for good.

This first issue was mostly set-up, but it was carried by some great inner monologue from Peter and Sara Pichelli’s amazing artwork.

This definitely wasn’t the only big event going on. Batman is starting to close up its Night of the Owls story, with a pretty big twist that capitalizes on the freedom of the New 52 reboot. I won’t spoil it, but suffice to say it’s a trope that has been done plenty of times before. That makes it run the risk of being trite, but the arc as a whole has been really well-executed, so I see some longevity potential in this new villain. You can click here if you just want to spoil the twist, but if you can manage it I’d recommend reading the arc from the start. It begins pretty much at the start of the New 52 reboot, if I recall.

Batman & Robin is starting a new arc in which Damien tries to prove himself to the former Robins, which seems like a reasonable enough place for the character. Avengers vs. X-Men (the fight book) was fun, though the fights were a bit hampered by being so evenly matched. I prefer when the match-up is more asymmetrical. And Scarlet Spider was passable, not offensively bad but not as good as some of the issues that won me over. I’ll give it another issue or two to see if this current arc with Kraven the Hunter picks up.

A few quick gaming-related links. If you’re interested in writing reviews, or just interested in reading about the craft of writing them as an intellectual exercise, you should read this essay declaring a moratorium on snark. Also, while calling your detractors losers who live in their parents’ basements isn’t exactly the most effective way to get them to stop trolling, I have to give a hand to Aisha Tyler for her poetic verbal smackdown. She did a great job hosting the Ubisoft press conference, and haters be hatin’.

  • It seemed like the E3 language was very measured, so it only makes sense that games with two GamePads are a long way off. Reggie just confirmed it.
  • I got this Xbox 360 update last night and saw no apparent changes, so that’s at least one confirmation that it works as advertised.
  • I suppose this 38 Studios Spouse letter is pointing a pretty direct finger at the company, but I thought it was more interesting just to read what it’s like to go through all that from a first-hand perspective. Regardless of who’s at fault, her account is pretty heart-breaking stuff.
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