Monday, November 26, 2012

"It is the future you see:" Some speculation about Disney buying Lucasfilm

We will never get this again, but that's okay, because we already got it once
Ever since the news came out that Disney bought Lucasfilm, the fan reaction has been astonishing. Reactions have run between "NOOOOOOO" and wild optimism, with fans on both sides digging up every picture of a Disney character dressed as a Star Wars character ever created for Star Wars Days at Disneyland. Countless fans have said they hope the sequels will deal with the Thrawn Trilogy, with just as many fans hurriedly jumping on them to point out how unlikely that is. And, yes, Leia is now a Disney princess, and both the Death Star and the binary sunset on Tatooine can be Photoshopped to add Mickey ears.

Now that I've had time to think about it, I will say: I've gone from cautiously optimistic without getting my hopes up to fully optimistic, with hopes raised high. I'll give a few quick reasons why.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Saga

This image, and all others, taken from
 I'd been hearing a lot about a new trade paperback, and everything I heard made me want to read it. First, it was written by Brian K. Vaughan, who wrote one of my favorite graphic novels ever, Runaways. It was drawn by Fiona Staples, whose art had been one of the reasons I enjoyed North 40 so much. The plot of Saga sounded great, too: an epic story that combined elements of fantasy with science fiction, concerning a young couple from opposite sides of a war who must protect their newborn daughter. All of these things sounded good, but I was still surprised by how much I ended up enjoying the first volume of Saga.

Friday, November 9, 2012

People Love Star Wars: Star Wars Fan Films

Chances are, I don't have to explain to you what a fan film is. If you're reading this blog, you may well have even considered making one yourself. The fan film comes from a pure well: people love Star Wars. When that passion gets to be too much, fans join in the saga by adding their own stories to the stories they love from the films, comics, video games, and books. People put weeks, if not months and years, of their lives into a fan film. It's a big love letter to the franchise that gave us so many happy memories.

Also, people want to see themselves holding lightsabers.

But the fan film has changed since I was a teenager. There was a time fans would put on bathrobes, go out into the woods behind their houses, and hit each other with lightsabers that they later added cheap glow effects to on their computers. Then came an age when fans would share their work with each other and collaborate on things like special effects, sounds, and music. Now, we have come into an age when fan films actually have budgets (albeit small ones). With a little imagination, you can feel like you're actually watching a new Star Wars movie (or, if we're honest, at least a TV show).

Who wouldn't want to be the hero of Star Wars? (from Dark Horse)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Review of Avatar: the Last Airbender - The Promise

 I love Avatar: the Last Airbender. It's my favorite animated show of all time. I love the story, the characters, and the setting. I love The Legend of Korra, and I long to cosplay Tenzin. I have written fanfiction for the setting, and I consider it to be one of the best fanfiction stories I've written. So when I learned that they were releasing a comic series to bridge the gap between Avatar: the Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, I had no choice but to read it. Alas, it did not live up to the greatness of the show.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Prophet is the best galactic post-apocalyptic barbarian story I have ever read

The first issue of Brandon Graham's run on Prophet begins with an ancient capsule burrowing its way out of the ground. John Prophet emerges from the capsule, awaking from suspended animation on an Earth that has been colonized by aliens. Prophet is driven by a single mission: to make his way across the blasted landscape, climb the towers of Thauili Van, and re-awaken the Earth Empire.

The Highlander reboot starring Ryan Reynolds may be a good thing

If you were to tell me that Hollywood was planning on rebooting a science fiction franchise that I like, and that it would be starring Ryan Reynolds, in almost every case I would be horrified. Can you imagine an X-Files reboot with Reynolds as Mulder? But apparently that rule has an exception, because Ryan Reynolds has been confirmed to star as Connor Macleod in a Highlander reboot, and I think it might just work out for the best. Here's why.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Why the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the best superhero setting

You already know that Joss Whedon's Avengers movie has been one of the most successful superhero films, both among fans and critics. Of course, the Avengers is the latest in a series of  films introducing each of the main Avengers, which were all at least fairly popular, and some blockbusters in their own right. My fellow superhero nerds can't help comparing the characters in the films with their comic forebears, wondering why certain things were left out and speculating about whether certain characters and plots from decades of comics will appear in the films' sequels. The feeling seems to be that the films are dumbed-down versions of the "true" stories as told in the comics, but I'm having trouble agreeing with that. Lately I have begun to make my peace with the fact that the films are exactly the sort of superhero entertainment I want to see. Here's why.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Book Review: Goliath; and, Don't forget your Manual of Aeronautics, "Mister" Sharp!

As you may recall, I loved the first two books of Scott Westerfeld's "Leviathan" trilogy, and the third book wraps up the trilogy admirably. Goliath, like Leviathan and Behemoth before it, is illustrated throughout by Keith Thompson. His gorgeous black-and-white images throughout the book give it a great sense of lively adventure, and his beautiful, full-color illustration for the inside covers (above) is just as vibrant and evocative as the ones he did for the first two novels. As you might expect from the third novel of a trilogy, the stakes have never been higher for Alek and Deryn, as they race on board the Leviathan on a mission that may be the last chance for peace before the war gets out of control.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Hole Behind Midnight: Clinton J. Boomer is a twisted individual

The Hole Behind Midnight, by RPG enthusiast/author Clinton J. Boomer, reads like it was written specifically for review blurbs. Watch: "The Hole Behind Midnight features gun-happy teenage goat-men, a homeless prophet, a maniacal demon clown, insatiable 'shemale' spirits, and a supernatural power play that might destroy America as we know it. Caught up in the middle is Royden Poole, a Hindu dwarf who dearly wishes that he could go back to letting people think he's dead..." See? It's like Boomer wrung out his twisted imagination and wrote a list of the first dozen things he could think of and then wrote the novel around them. As a result, one thing is for sure: The Hole Behind Midnight is unlike any other novel you've ever read.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

First Squad: The Moment of Truth - Fantastic Idea, Mediocre Execution

When I first heard about First Squad: The Moment of Truth, I was elated. A joint Russian/Japanese anime set in World War II, featuring Soviet kids with superpowers fighting the Nazi occult menace? It sounded like it was being made specifically for me. As I heard more about it, my excitement continued to grow. But then the film ran into distribution trouble, and it was several years before the DVD made it to America. By the time it appeared on Amazon, I had seen several lackluster reviews that somewhat dampened my spirits. Still, the idea behind it was so relevant to my interests that I had to watch it, so we got the DVD from Netflix and gave it a watch. After such a long wait and so much anticipation, the movie wasn't bad, just sort of underdone.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

PnP RPG Confession: I have a lot of theory, not much experience

All of the art in today's post is by the insanely talented Jason Chan
I love to write about Pen-and-Paper Roleplaying Games, but there is something you may want to keep in mind when you're reading what I write: I may be full of ideas and opinions about PnP RPGs, but when it comes down to it, the majority of the campaigns I have played in have fizzled out after only a handful of meetings. This has led me to a couple of realizations: first, PnP RPGs have a lot of amazing qualities, but not every player is interested in the same qualities; and, perhaps more importantly, it is very difficult to put together and continue a campaign over the weeks and months that it takes to tell a satisfying story.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Redline: So good it will traumatize you

In the DVD special features for Redline, the director comments that he wanted to make a movie that used only hand-drawn animation to recreate how he felt watching anime as a child. He goes on to say that he wanted the animation to be so good that it would traumatize the audience. He has a point: everything about Redline is over the top: the action, the vehicles, the characters, the setting, and the music will make sure that the audience does not spend a fraction of a second being bored.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

All great settings deserve a pen-and-paper roleplaying game

A map of the Avatar: The Last Airbender world, from AlisaChristopher's DeviantArt
Whenever I really get into a novel, a comic book, a TV series, a movie, or a computer game, I always want there to be a pen-and-paper roleplaying game set in the same world. I want to see maps of the world, stats for the various people and monsters that live there, descriptions of the roles my character can fill, and suggestions for what adventures I can have there. I already have a tendency to watch TV shows as if the main characters were PCs in a roleplaying game, so it's a small jump to imagining myself participating in another game in the same setting.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

King City: A Guy, A Cat, a City

Image from Brandon Graham's DeviantArt
Brandon Graham's King City is brilliant. The comics tell the story of a young man named Joe, his cat Earthling, and their adventures in King City. Joe is a Cat Master, an expert at the art of injecting his cat with a variety of juices that give the cat various superpowers. Early in the book, he injects Earthling and feeds the cat a key, and Earthling makes a perfect copy: copy cat. Later, we learn that the cat has a perfect memory: information cat-alog. Not all of his powers are pun-based, but just enough of them are. King City rules.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman: Keep Hunting

"Mirror... mirror............ onthewall," says Charlize Theron, pacing back and forth, when she first addresses her magic mirror in Snow White and the Huntsman. It's as though she knew she had to deliver the most iconic and necessary line in any Snow White movie, but didn't want to do it that way. You know, the way pretty much anyone would have said it. She tried to do it a different way, a dramatic and tense way. And it just kind of made me snort with stifled laughter. This is pretty much the pattern for the whole movie: it's like they're trying to do things their way, but something keeps getting in the way

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Discovered on the Intertron: Two Best Friends Play...

So recently, I stumbled across a series of YouTube video calls Two Best Friends Play.... The premise is simple: two dudes in their twenties record themselves talking while playing a video game. It's all about the hilarious banter, usually revolving around making fun of the game, making fun of each other, and hilarious tangents they go off on. Matt is has a gentle, kind of naive soul, and Pat has anger management issues. Naturally, they're both playing up these personas, but the clash of personalities is comedy gold. I should warn you that the things they say are at times misogynistic, vulgar, and crude. Some of their jokes are about harming women or are blatantly racist. That genuinely bothers me, and if they wouldn't go there, I could enjoy their videos much more.

I first stumbled across the videos when I was doing my usual search for ponies, and I found this:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why You Really Should Give Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes a Watch

 There are some spoilers ahead, but I'll try to keep them to the first part of the show.

One of my cohorts recently threw down the gauntlet (or possibly spandex glove) by comparing Young Justice to Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. As he pointed out, they are for different age groups, so it might not be entirely fair to compare them. While YJ gets to have complex storylines full of brooding and woe (and veiled references to drug use, with Red Arrow's latest story arc), A:EMH is much more about fighting bad guys and stopping cartoonishly evil schemes that usually consist of "taking over ____," revenge, and theft. This isn't to say that it's completely silly: Captain America still mourns over the loss of his entire world, Hawkeye and Black Widow have tension while going back and forth on just how evil Widow is, and at one point the Hulk is rejected and goes off to be alone. These moments are great, but they're fairly rare, because the show is about something else: it's about saving the world, and being mighty while doing it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Squids is now available for PC!

Squids was one of the first games I picked up for my iPad, and it remains one of my favorites. It deftly combines a colorful aesthetic with adorable character designs and simple but enjoyable gameplay to create a satisfying casual game that is perfect for handheld devices. The Squids website quotes the Escapist as saying Squids is "The adorable spawn of Angry Birds and FF: Tactics." Even though I have never owned either of those games, it was all the incentive I needed to try it out. Today they announced that Squids is available on PC, and it was already available for iOS, Android, and Mac, so there is no reason not to own Squids!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Avengers Spoilers: Oh, Internet, you DO love me!

At the end of the Avengers, once the main credits roll, there is a little Easter egg scene to set up the sequel, as there always is at the end of these superhero movies. But then, at the very end of the credits, there is another Easter egg scene that is absolutely brilliant. I'm hiding it under the jump, because you don't want it spoiled if you haven't seen it yet, but I realize most of you are probably reading this using a blog reader and you can see the whole post already, so sorry if I spoiled it for you.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Planet Hulk: Sword and Planet and Hulk

Stop me if this plot sounds familiar. An Earthling finds himself on an alien planet that is ruled by a cruel despot who oppresses his own people. The level of technology on the planet is a mixture between ancient and futuristic, combining flying ships with swords and shields. The Earthling finds himself on the wrong end of that despot's regime and winds up in a fight for his life. During that fight, he ends up crossing paths with a resistance against that ruler. The people of the planet who turn to the Earthling as the prophesied savior who will overthrow their leader and restore peace to their planet.

Oh, and the Earthling is the Hulk.
 "Hulk crush puny planet in giant hand!"

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Sisters Brothers is just as good as you may-or may not-have heard

Is that not a totally rad cover?
A while ago, Wil Wheaton posted about a tournament-style book competition where he was one of the judges. He had to read two books and choose which one he preferred. I had never heard of The Sisters Brothers, but his review of the book was so enthusiastic that I had to give it a shot. You can read his post about the contest here, which has a link to the actual review.

I don't normally read books based on reviews, even reviews from actors and/or writers I admire, but I just happened to be between two novels with no definite plans for what to read next, and Wil Wheaton's review was so intriguing that I decided to put a request in for it at my local library. A week or two later, I had it in my hands and I started giving it a read.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why Young Justice is better than Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes

This show is better...

...than this show
Having just finished watching the first season of Young Justice, and having previously watched the first season of Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, I think now is a good time to pause and consider what makes Young Justice a better show.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Film Review: The Avengers

In comics, I have a feeling that for a while Loki was the villain in most of the schemes the Avengers had to foil. When the Avengers caught on, they'd just send the Hulk to punch Loki whenever a scheme went down, because they knew sooner or later they'd connect him to it anyway, because Loki was just about always involved. After a while of getting his face rearranged by a giant green fist, Loki thought, "Screw it, if they think I'm always involved and punish me for it anyway, I will be always involved." After that, whenever any Avengers-related crime happened, Loki would haul ass as soon as he heard about it to join in. HYDRA attacks New York? Loki flew one of their ships. Crimson Dynamo? Loki gave him a magical power source. Some local hoods knocking over a 7/11? Loki held the door. If you're gonna do the time, you might as well do the crime.

Of course, that's only a theory, and as you can tell this isn't exactly a serious review of The Avengers. My serious review would be very brief: it's a great movie; go see it. It's some great action peppered with plenty of humor, and a theater filled with people laughing is the perfect environment for it. It's loud, wild, and full of the kind of huge emotional turns only a movie with killer aliens, Norse gods, and super soldiers can provide. In one tense moment that led to a huge moment of shining heroic glory, a kid in a row in front of me jumped up with one fist in the air. In another scene, the kid sitting directly in front of me hunkered down in fear covering his ears. It was just that kind of movie. Or maybe the speakers were just turned up too high. Deep down, this film speaks to what we love about superheroes. Yes, the weight of the world is on their shoulders. Yes, they are flawed and deeply human, despite being superhuman. And yet, at the very bottom of it, we all know that being a superhero would be fun.

 Superhero carnage, just like mom used to make.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Manga Review: 20th Century Boys

What if it were up to you to save the world? Not you as a suave secret agent, a mighty super hero, or a veteran special forces commando. You as you.

20th Century Boys is about a man named Kenji, who is a convenience store clerk and may be humanity's only hope. A new cult is gaining power in Japan, while there are reports of outbreaks of an unidentified deadly disease in major cities abroad. At first none of this seems to have anything to do with Kenji, who is more concerned with keeping his struggling store in business while taking care of his sister's baby. But something about recent events is eerily familiar to Kenji.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Legend of Korra: All Fears Dispelled

Ages ago, back on my original blog, I wrote about my initial excitement for The Legend of Korra, the followup to the Avatar: the Last Airbender cartoon. Now, the first two episodes of The Legend of Korra have been made available online, for free, in high definition! If you have not seen them yet, then I guarantee you that you have something better to do than reading my ramblings. Go get the episodes!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mass Effect: Artor Perinax's Inspirational Words

Move your asses, soldiers! Hut hut hut hut hut!
One of my favorite classes to play in Mass Effect 3's multiplayer is the turian soldier. In fact, before ME3 even came out, I wrote a character bio/fanfic for a turian soldier named Artor Perinax. Perinax is a career soldier, combat veteran, and a born sergeant. When the war against the Reapers begins, Perinax is a drill sergeant whose job it is to prepare turian soldiers for battle. He wants to do his part to fight the Reapers, so he calls in some favors and banks on his experience and knowledge to get himself appointed to Special Forces.

You can take the sergeant out of the boot camp, but you can't take the boot camp out of the sergeant. So what is it that Sergeant Perinax says to motivate his teammates when they're fighting to save the galaxy? Well...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Followup: You can safely avoid Gladstone's School for World Conquerors

Note: It's been a while since I finished Gladstone's School for World Conquerors, so this review is going to be more about my impressions of the series and the way I remember things playing out.
El Campeon is wondering why he's in this comic
How long should you wait before having a completely unnecessary crossover with a character from another comic series? I don't know, but you should probably wait until after the second issue. Give your own characters a chance to find their feet and grow on your readers before you throw in someone else's character for that "Hey kids, look who's here!" moment. But Gladstone's School for World Conquerors has a completely unnecessary appearance from El Campeon, from The Amazing Joy Buzzards. El Campeon adds nothing to the plot, and ends up taking up time that could have been better spent establishing the characters from Gladstone's School for World Conquerors. In fact, El Campeon's cameo gets almost as much character development as any of the main characters in the series.

Mass Effect: I Did It My Way

 We must live with the choices we make.

Much has been made of the romance options in Mass Effect. There has been speculation and rumor about whom you can have a relationship with, arousing all sorts of responses from fans. I used to think this was just about fanboys getting their kicks. Now I'm not so sure. I'm starting to think that it's a reflection of something else: just how deeply we get into the act of participating in storytelling.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Quick, Slightly Spoilery Thoughts on the ME3 Ending

Shepard's not feeling so hot. I hope that's not too spoilery
If you're a Mass Effect fan, you probably already know that the ending to Mass Effect 3 has been very controversial among fans. I'll say one thing: it's certainly got people talking. My wife and I finished the game together, and we spent the rest of the evening discussing what happened and what it meant.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

You should buy the Mass Effect 3 "From Ashes" DLC

The "From Ashes" Tarantino shot
It's all Mass Effect, all the time over here, but I don't feel guilty. For one thing, Mass Effect is amazing, and if someone doesn't want to hear about Mass Effect, I don't much care what that person thinks of my blog. For another, I know who the regular readers of this blog are, and I know that almost all of you play Mass Effect.

There was a lot of controversy surrounding the "From Ashes" DLC that was released for Mass Effect 3. Anyone who bought the Collector's Edition automatically received the DLC for free. Everyone else, including me, has to pay ten dollars for it. It comes with a mission, which was pretty cool and took me about an hour (though that's just an estimate; I lose track of time pretty easily when playing Mass Effect). But the real reason to get the DLC is to get the squad member it comes with. Is it worth it?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mass Effect 3: First Impressions

Welcome home
This is it: the final installment in the epic Mass Effect series. The stakes couldn't be higher, but everyone is gathering for the final fight. I have never been this invested in a video game. The hype was tremendous, and now I have had a chance to play it for several evenings. So how does it measure up?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mass Effect: My Bucket-headed Girlfriend and Bird-Dinosaur Boyfriend

The first Mass Effect game was fairly sparse with its romance options. Bioware believed that gamers would find themselves attracted to the human and human-like characters, so the only romance options were the soldier Ashley Williams (for a male Shepard), biotic Kaiden Alenko (for female Shepard), and the asari Liara T'Soni (for Shepards of either gender). Ashley and Kaiden are both humans, while Liara attempts to occupy the well-known niche of "hot alien girl who looks almost exactly human except she's blue." The less human squad members were not available for romance, and more's the pity, because one of them was the cutest quarian in the galaxy, Tali'Zorah vas Neema.
The official lithograph of Tali'Zorah, by Bioware (which I have on a wall in my apartment, thanks to my lovely wife)

Mass Effect: Who Is Shepard?: A Reaction

**WARNING: Some Reaper-sized spoilers ahead!**

I haven't used my power to post on this blog yet, but I thought I'd add something to the ongoing conversation about Mass Effect 2. I haven't played through the game three times the way his Lordship, the Baron von Chop did. I have only done so once, and to tell you the truth, as much as I love the characters and the story, I don't relish the thought of doing three times the hunting for raw materials on planets, playing the world's most boring metal detector simulator. I feel that if the game let you launch probes rapid-fire, instead of making you wait for each one to load, that mini-game might almost have been tolerable.

Because a game can only be so different, I had pretty much the same playthrough experience the Baron did, with one obvious exception: I had my own Shep. His life story is one filled with hardship and a remarkable change of heart. He was born in space, and his mother was (and still is) an officer in the Alliance Navy. At the beginning of the war with the geth, Shepard was best known for his heroic defense of a colony under attack, holding off the assault single-handedly and earning himself the reputation of a war hero. This experience, along with a long service in the Navy, made him think of himself as a career soldier, one who follows orders and does what is expected of him. He wasn't afraid to do what the mission required. Though obedient to his superiors, he also expected a lot of those under his command, and wasn't afraid to yank them back when they stepped out of line. He believed in heavy armor and bullets, especially his sniper rifle/assault rifle combo, and thought biotics are fine... for other people.

Shepard's method of dealing with obstacles: "Did you shoot it? And it's still a problem? Are you sure you shot it ENOUGH?"

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mass Effect: Who Is Shepard?

Recognize these three from yesterday's screen shots?
L-R: John, my first/main Shep (Paragon, Infiltrator, Colonist, War Hero). Macska, my wife's character (Renegade, Vanguard, Earthborn, Ruthless). And Anastasia, my alt Shep (Paragon, Soldier, Spacer, Sole Survivor). Illustrated by my lovely wife! Their personalities are perfectly encapsulated as they say "Hey!" "What." and "Um..." respectively.

In Mass Effect, every player plays as Shepard. You can play Shepard as a Paragon or a Renegade, choosing to either live by an uncompromising moral code or doing whatever it takes to get the job done, regardless of collateral damage. You decide which decisions to make whenever they are presented to you, but there are only so many options (usually Paragon, Renegade, and a third, neutral decision). Since most players choose to be either Paragon or Renegade and rarely deviate from making those choices in their games, it seems like all the Shepards of a similar alignment should be very similar.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

This Is Not a Review of Mass Effect 2

I have come to the realization that I can never post a true review of Mass Effect 2 because, frankly, it's just too epic and too good. That said, it's two weeks until Mass Effect 3, so I wanted to share some thoughts about Mass Effect before my anticipation core approaches critical.
Pose like a team because sh** just got real

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

Imagine that each step Titus takes sounds badass
What does badassery sound like? Is it the kdang kdang kdang of the footsteps of a man in sacred two-ton battle armor? Is it the brom brom of a stalker-pattern bolter popping the heads of Orks? Or is it the rarrrrzzzzzz of a chainsword powering through the throat of a warp-spawned demon?

If you want to know true badassery, play Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. You will know.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Old Republic

As you may already know, I got a chance to participate in the beta of Star Wars: the Old Republic, the blockbuster new MMO by Bioware. This is probably the most anticipated MMO since World of Warcraft. It's made by a superstar company riding high on the success on the Mass Effect franchise. They clearly know their way around the Old Republic era, having previously made Knights of the Old Republic, which is considered one of the best RPGs of all time. Bioware aren't just a sci-fi powerhouse: they are also well known for Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and the more recent Dragon Age. The one kind of RPG that Bioware has never attempted before is an MMO*. So did they succeed?
Paprika, the Smuggler, was the first character we created