Always Sunny Season 1, Episode 7

Charlie Got Molested.

This is the seventh and final episode of the first season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It is also the best episode of the season. The central problem of Mac, Dee and Dennis thinking that Charlie got molested and Charlie acting strange enough to justify that suspicion spin all four characters into hilarious directions. We see Dee and Dennis using competing half-baked psychological theories to help Charlie face his abuse, Charlie trying to avert a tragedy he inadvertently and drunkenly caused and Mac, showing his naïve vulnerable side as well as his complete asshole side tries to figure out why he wasn’t molested. Continue reading

Video Game Archaeology: Big Sky Trooper

It is time for more Video Game Archaeology! Video Game Archaeology is my monthly exploration of an artifact video game found during my excavations of various bargain bins and yard sales; an examination of a game cast off and long forgotten. This month’s game is Big Sky Trooper, an adventure/RPG from Lucasarts through JVC.

Honestly, I did not play this game as much as I did the previous entries; I probably did not play it enough for a fair assessment. The cause of this is twofold. First, my used cartridge is defective or just old and no longer holds a save. So any sort of sustained play is nearly impossible. Unfortunately, Big Sky Trooper is a big game, so I wasn’t able to see very much of it at all. I could have left my SNES on day and night to try to make progress, but that is not good on the machine. Or I could have downloaded a ROM and emulated the game on my computer (I strive to play these games in their natural habitat) but I didn’t. Which brings me to my second reason for not playing the game enough: I do not like Big Sky Trooper at all. Me and this game just did not click. Maybe if I had made more progress I would have come around, but the first hour or so put me off pretty thoroughly. I quit after an hour wholly bored with the experience. When I turned it on later to find no save waiting for me, I gritted my teeth and played that first hour again. I could not force myself to play it a third time. I started this feature to find obscure gems and “secret classics” (which are a thing I just made up). I know I would more than likely play many bad games looking for one that was legitimately good, but I take no pleasure in trashing a game, especially when in all reality I’ve barely played it. I did play it enough to get a general idea of what he game entails, though.

The fact that the game is from Lucasarts gave me hope that it would be good. Though they were best known for their PC games, in the early 90’s Lucasarts put out some phenomenal games. It was published by JVC, the company behind VHS tapes. They seem to have mostly published Lucasarts’ console games of the time, like Defenders of Dynatron City and the Super Star Wars games. Though it came out in the tail end of 1995, one would be forgiven for thinking this was an SNES launch title. The graphic do little to push the hardware. The game looks simple and cartoony, but not at all attractive. It’s just sort of charm-less kiddy looking fare.

After choosing a gender, the player is given a series of “tests” by a larger than life military commander who literally bursts out of the TV set on screen. The game seems to be striving for a Starship Troopers like tone, a satire, but the whole thing falls flat. Slugs are taking over the universe and the player, randomly drafted by the apparently incompetent military to lead the charge. The player is given control of a dog shaped ship called the Dire Wolf and controlled by a dog like AI. You are given a mission to reach a planet, seen on a map that shows several dots for planets, but you can’t just move straight to your goal. You must stop at each planet in between and eradicate the slugs. And before you can land on the planet, you mist play a crappy version of Asteroids to clear the path to the surface. The Asteroids clone is baffling. It is not a bad idea, but it is a really bad version of Asteroids. Your ship is huge on the screen and moves ponderously. I never failed to destroy the enemy ships, but that didn’t make those sections anything but annoying.

On the surface you shoot slugs with what appears to be a taser and ostensibly solve puzzles, though the only one I solved was simply standing on a switch to open a door. I assume the game becomes more complicated, but the first hour is dull and tedious. When you meet your contact, she tells you to go look for something else, again several planets away. So you must repeat the same tedium. I see from a map of the game world off Gamefaqs that the map eventually gets bigger, but that only implies increased tedium to me.

The world, the toothless attempts at satire and the graphics and the attempts at what I am guessing is humor, all fall flat. The gameplay is neither complex nor satisfying. It could easily get better after the first couple of hours. Maybe the gameplay options open up, maybe there are puzzles worthy of Zelda, maybe the writing hits is stride, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to stay to find out. The SNES has a library of great games, even some classics that I have not yet played (Super Star Wars for instance), I cannot justify spending any more time with a game that provides so little entertainment.

The Cutest Murderous Mob You’ll Ever See

A new Kirby game has been released and it has become my life. Fortunately, Kirby games are often short affairs, so it is dominion over my free time is sure to be short lived. (note: in the time between typing and posting this, I beat the game.) Kirby Mass Attack is a fitting last Nintendo game for the DS, as it seems like it may be. (I know that Nintendo is publishing Professor Layton 4 next month, but that is a Level 5 game, not a Nintendo one.) It is a platformer that combines the best of SNES era 2D gameplay with controls that are only possible with the DS’s touch screen. Mass Attack is the epitome of what the DS has offered over the last half-decade or so.

The best DS games, the one that aren’t ports or remakes, combine traditional types of gameplay with inventive use of some or all of the DS’s unique functionality. There are gems like Trauma Center, The World Ends with You and Kirby Canvas Curse. Canvas Curse is a great comparison for Mass Attack; they are both nontraditional Kirby games and they are possibly both the first and last great games for the system. While Canvas Curse was the game that announced the arrival of the DS as a full-fledged system and not a gimmicky blip next to the gameboy, Mass Attack is the culmination of five plus years of capitalizing on the potential Canvas Curse revealed.

Not that all uses of the touch screen or the second screen or anything else were good, but even some bad games had at least uniqueness to offer. There were disasters like Lunar Dragon Song but more often, there were interesting failures, like the various attempts to force a RTS on to the system. From Lost Magic (I’ve never played that one) to Heroes of Mana to Final Fantasy XII Revenant Wings, it was tried many times, but never was it wholly successful, though Revenant Wings came close. Mass Attack also attempts to be something of an RTS, but it succeeds by adapting that sort of gameplay to a style of game more suited to the DS: a platformer.

At its heart, Kirby Mass Attack is not too different from Kirby Super Star, right down to the different mini-games. However, the RTS touches add an interesting wrinkle. Many DS games have tried full touch screen controls and as well as they have worked some times — the Zelda games for example — there is an inherent loss of precision. This can be a killer in the intense portions of most action games. Mass Attack’s RTS elements help alleviate that by giving the player direct control of 10 characters rather than one. The lack of precision is made up for by the mass of avatars the player controls. Best of all, the stages are designed with the strengths and weaknesses of the controls and screen size in mind. There are fewer precise jumps, because that is hard to do with no jump button, but more flat line hazards, which are still difficult and less frustrating.

Mass Attack looks and feels like an SNES game, but controls and plays much differently. It manages to be deliciously old school and entirely fresh and innovative at the same time. It is a Kirby game, despite how much it deviates from the norm (which is more and more becoming the norm for Kirby), so it is fairly short and mostly easy. I beat it in less than a week, though my completion percentage is only 74%. Putting this game over the top from very good to great is the slew of outstanding mini games unlocked by finding medals in the stages. There is pinball game, and a fake RPG and a wholly enjoyable shooter and several more I haven’t yet played. This game really seems to be a labor of love, as the best games are. The days of the DS are waning quickly, and titles like Mass Attack are helping the best video game system of the millennium (so far) go out with a bang.

My NFL Picks Week 3

After the debacle of week 1, I recovered pretty well in week 2. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. In other good football news, I won my games in two of the three fantasy leagues I’m in. Unfortunately, my loss in the other league was downright embarrassing.

Some of the picks for this week are a little harder than they appear, as many of the favored teams are on the road. It would be easy to pick the Lions over the Vikings if they weren’t playing in Minnesota. I still am going to make that pick, but it gives me some pause now. How about Atlanta at Tampa Bay? That is an easier pick in Atlanta. Or the Patriots at the Bills. The Bills have been good enough so far to get some consideration against the Patriots at home. Still, I’m not sure I want to pull the trigger on that upset.

Then there are the teams with QB issues. Will Vick play? Would I pick the Giants if he didn’t? Tough call. Assuming he plays, how effective will Romo be with a broken rib? Then there is Blaine Gabbert getting his first start against the Panthers. Will he be as effective as Newton and Dalton have been so far? All in all, there are plenty of deceptively hard picks this week.

  • Patriots at Bills. Patriots 34-31
  • 49ers at Bengals. 49ers 20-16
  • Dolphins at Browns. Browns 21-17
  • Broncos at Titans. Titans 24-21
  • Lions at Vikings. Detroit 34-24
  • Texans at Saints. Saints 31-20
  • Giants at Eagles. Eagles 27-21
  • Jaguars at Panthers. Jaguars 28-24
  • Jets at Raiders. Jets 17-10
  • Ravens at Rams. Ravens 27-17
  • Chiefs at Chargers. Chargers 31-10
  • Packers at Bears. Packers 30-24
  • Cardinals at Seahawks. Cardinals 27-14
  • Falcons at Buccaneers. Buccaneers 31-28
  • Steelers at Colts. Steelers 34-17
  • Redskins at Cowboys. Cowboys 27-21

Last Week: 12-4
Season: 20-12

Comic Reviews (Non-DC)

I thought about skipping this since I wrote 3000 words about the DC relaunch earlier this week, but I do read comics that aren’t from DC, and some that I’ve read recently are really, really good. So more comic reviews.

John Carter, A Princess of Mars 1 (of 5).
Written by Roger Langridge. Art by Filipe Andrade.
I have been on something of an E.R. Burroughs kick lately, so when I heard that Marvel was doing an adaptation, written by Roger Langridge of Thor: The Mighty Avenger, I knew I had to check it out. (I know about Dynamite’s series, but the covers are a little too porn-y for my tastes.) This first issue was anything but a disappointment.
Langridge is doing an adaptation, so the base of the story is already laid down for him. He does change the opening up to get to the action more quickly, and it works. Much of the explanation of Martian life in the novel is no longer necessary with the accompanying art. Right away John Carter is established as a good man, if he is more sarcastic than in the books.
Andrade’s art is where the book really shines. His Mars really looks alien, perfectly capturing the dying world look of this Barsoom (as Mars is called in the books.) His characters are sketchy and bendy and fluid. It is really just a joy to look at.
This series seems to be avoiding the Dynamite one’s problems of porny-ness but eliminating the conceit that no one on Mars wears clothes, something that almost has to be done for a visual take on the book to not seem lurid. This is just a very good comic. [****]

Bonnie Lass 1 (of 4).
Written by Michael Mayne and Tyler Fluharty. Art by Michael Mayne.
Nothing I’ve read recently touches Bonnie Lass for sheer energy. It is a pirate western mash-up that at its best feels like Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky. The art is cartoony and colorful and, like the rest of the book, full of energy. There is some definite and fitting manga/anime influence. It is exciting. The story sets the stage for what promises to be a grand adventure. The titular Bonnie and her crew, consisting of her brother and one other buddy, get their hands on a treasure map and when the people who had sought to buy don’t come through with the cash they decide to search out the treasure for themselves. But first, they must escape the town because they have recently become wanted men. Action packed doesn’t tell the half of it, but it is almost a weakness. At times, like the brawl on their deck and the ship chase at the end, the action is almost perfect, but there is little downtime between action scenes, giving the book a bit of a hectic feel at time. Still, the seeds are laid for a great adventure, even if the characters haven’t been fully fleshed out yet. I’d rather this err on the side of too much action than too little. The problems with this book are slight enough that I can whole-heartedly recommend it to everybody. [****½]

Below the break are some quick reviews:
Continue reading

The Adventure is Over (for now)

Playing a pair of games last week, 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors and Touch Detective, made me finally realize that I don’t like adventure games at all. It took me a long time to come to this realization because point-and-click adventure games seem like something I would really like. They are a combination of reading, which I greatly enjoy, and puzzles, which I also greatly enjoy. Combined like they are in most adventure games, though, somehow makes them both less appealing.
At first I thought I just needed to learn the methods, the syntax, of the genre to enjoy it. Listening to the terrific episode of Retronauts about adventure games led me to believe this was likely the case. So I fought through games like Syberia, Beneath a Steel Sky and Lure of the Temptress. While I found the stories enjoyable for the most part, I thought the solving arcane and baffling.

I did play some adventure games that I likes, but they were all somewhat different than the traditional genre entry. The Phoenix Wright games, while they have enjoyable characters and plots, have much simpler and straightforward puzzles. Never are you presented with a problem that you can’t solve at the time you encounter it. The series goes out of its way to make sure you have the tools to solve all of its problems. Then there are the Professor Layton games, which divides the puzzles entirely from the adventure game parts. The puzzles are also more brain teasers more than environmental hurdles. Zack and Wiki have more traditional styled gameplay, but broken up into easier to digest discrete stages.

My first problem with “real” adventure games is that the puzzles are so sprawling that I have trouble identifying the puzzle. I know that is part of the solving of an adventure game, but I often find it needlessly obtuse. Such is the case for much of Touch Detective. I feels less like I am solving problems and more like stabbing wildly at crazed leaps of non-logic.

My other big problem is that they don’t let you skip steps. (I know this one is all on me.) Once I figure out the solution, the games don’t just let me put in my answer and go. I still have to go through the motions of solving it. This is what is supposed to be fun about these games and it annoys me. When I know the answer I don’t want to do the problem anymore. Noting this has helped me realize that adventure games are just not for me. And that’s okay. The genre shouldn’t change so that I (and people who feel the same as me.) can enjoy it. That would ruin what the fans of the genre like. There are certainly things that could be improved, but I’m more than content to just accept that this is a genre I don’t enjoy.

Rating the Relaunch

Its now three-ish weeks into the DC Relaunch and I guess its time for my take on the books released so far. I have read them all, and so far I’d call the relaunch a success. I’m going to give my take on all 27 of the books released so far with a brief review and a score from 1-10, going in alphabetical order because why not?

Action Comics.  Grant Morrison and Rags Morales.

The best book of the relaunch so far. Morrison gives us a significantly younger, less powerful Superman, as well as one who is more proactive. This issue moves at a frantic, frenetic pace, never really stopping to let the reader catch their breath. It is heavy on action but still manages to seed tons and tons of Superman stories to come. Most amazing is the fact that nearly throughout it all Superman is smiling. He may have a touch of Batman in his methods, but he isn’t dark and brooding. Just a great, great issue.

Animal Man. Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman.

Another truly great book. Lemire lays the ground work for an excellent horror tinged superhero family comic. Foreman’s sparse artwork complements it perfectly, especially in the terrifying dream sequence near the end. The only flaw, if there is one, is that it is pretty dense. Lemire uses an excerpt from a fake magazine interview to explain who Animal Man is that is as clumsy as it is effective. This is shaping up to be something different than the usual superhero fare and an excellent read.

Batgirl. Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf.

Gail Simone writes Barbara Gordon’s return to Batgirl, and walking, and it is something of a disappointment. This is not a strictly bad comic, but it is somewhat overwrought, especially that last page, and too focused on what came before. There is a tepid new villain and a potentially interesting roommate and some generic superhero action. Ardian Syaf’s art is adequate, at times very good but not consistently. Simone does occasionally tend to miss with her stories (though for every bad one there are 4 good ones) and I expect this comic to improve as it goes.

Batman and Robin. Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason.

Pat Gleason’s art is wonderful. It is detailed and elastic and a touch gruesome. I think he might be better suited for a book with monsters, like his previous work on Green Lantern Corps or something like Frankenstein or Demon Knights, but it is always very good. Tomasi lays it on a bit thick, perhaps, but subtly is not always a virtue. This is a book that new readers should be able to pick up and quickly grasp the relationships between the characters. It is little more than a simple Batman story, but it is a very executed one.

Batwing. Judd Winick and Ben Oliver.

This is a basically new character and this first issue gives the reader no reason to care about him. Winick actually tells the us very little about Batwing and introduces a ridiculous (in a bad way) villain named Massacre. The story is just unappealing and unexceptional. Oliver’s art has great figure work, but it is severely lacking in background detail. This is a problem and the books main selling point is that it is Batman in Africa, but there is little in the art to cue the reader in to the exotic locale. This is simply not a very good book.

Batwoman. J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman.

This is the best looking book of the reboot. Williams art is fantastic, with inventive page layouts and stunning attention to detail. He changes the look of the book completely depending on whether Kate is being Batwoman or not. The story is also very good. It might read a little too much like the continuing adventures of Batwoman for some new readers, but since there is really only one previous Batwoman story and it is excellent this is no big deal. It does establish who Kate Kane and her friends are. Just another great book.

Deathstroke. Kyle Higgins and Joe Bennet.

This sure is a Deathstroke comic. Higgins effectively, save for some over-the-top early captions, establishes who Deathstroke is and what problem he faces. Bennet’s art is clean and effective. It is a violent comic, but that is a feature, not a bug. It is not to everyone’s taste, it is not to my taste, but it works as what it is. A comic about hired killer trying to prove he isn’t over the hill could be decent, but it is not really something I want to read. It does fill its niche with quite well, though.

Demon Knights. Paul Cornell and Diogenes Neves.

Another good book. Cornell is setting up a swords and sorcery magnificent seven and it is highly entertaining. The cast quickly shows themselves, though there is barely time to establish the scene. Neves’ art occasionally looks sloppy, but there are some great facial expressions and some awesome dino-dragons. This issue is not quite as slum dunk as the concept, but it has the story moving forward and promises great things to come.

Detective Comics. Tony Daniel.

This is a bog standard, grim and gritty Batman comic. Tony Daniel tries to write like Frank Miller, not a bad goal, but doesn’t pull it off. His art looks really good for the most part, though. The problem is that this is mostly just a Batman versus Joker story, something that even people who don’t read comics have seen a thousand times, and a not particularly good one. It ends with a gruesome surprise, but it doesn’t feel like something that will stick. This is a bad issue.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli

Here Lemire sets up a science action team made of monsters lead by Frankenstein. He throws idea after idea on the page in the perfect Kirby fashion. This is an efficient and effective introduction. We meet the team, same as the Flashpoint mini-series plus a mummy, and get right down to the monster killing. Ponticelli’s art is scratchy and wobbly and a perfect look for the book. Big on action and on craziness, this is exactly the kind of book I like to read.

Green Arrow. J.T. Krul and Dan Jurgens.

This is a dull issue. Green Arrow has been nearly entirely rebooted. He is now much younger and more James Bond than Robin Hood. To go with this new look Green Arrow, we have art that is decidedly old fashioned. Jurgens work is not bad, but it looks like a book from the early to mid 80’s. An odd fit for a new take on an old character. The story is not bad, it is a simple superhero story. It is nice to have some of those, but this is not particularly interesting. Though I doubt Green Arrow fans will be happy with this new take, maybe the emerald archer will find some new life with this not uninteresting set-up.

Green Lantern. Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke.

This might as well be Green Lantern issue 68, since nothing changes from before. Just like at the end of the War of the Green Lanterns crossover, Hal Jordan has lost his ring and Sinestro has returned to the Green Lantern Corps. Two thirds of the issue is inept mess Hal on Earth, realizing that without his ring he is a horrible screw up and the other third is Sinestro’s adventures in space. Mahnke’s art is amazing, as always. He makes the unreal aliens that make up much of the cast look as real as the people. This is not a fresh new take, but it is still really good. Johns’ Green Lantern work has faltered occasionally, but this is a return to from.

Grifter. Nathan Edmonson and Cafu.

Instead of writing a good mystery in this issue, Edmonson wrote a dull one confusingly. It is not a complex story, but it is told in a way to make it hard to understand, all disjointed and out of order. The art is simply adequate. There is just not a lot to recommend here. It could develop into something interesting, a man fighting monsters only he can see, but this first issue is a mess.

Hawk and Dove. Sterling Gates and Rob Liefeld.

I don’t have the somewhat comical, hateful reaction that most of the internet seems to have to Rob Liefeld’s art, but neither do I like it that much. It is not so much stylized as sloppy. With him on it, I don’t think I was ever going to like this book. It doesn’t help that it was written to deliberately play to Liefeld’s strengths and not, it seems, to tell a good story. It is also odd that Hawk and Dove seem to have come through the relaunch completely unchanged, despite not being a particularly fresh concept. This is probably a treat for Liefeld fans, but it is mostly a mess.

Justice League. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.

The only problem with this comic is outrageous expectations, a problem DC brought on itself. Unlike nearly every other book, Justice League is an origin story. It is going show how the Justice League came to be. It might have been more effective to show the whole league in action, but I don’t see any reason to complain about the book being something it is not. Lee’s art is the same genre defining art it has been for 20 years, and Johns plays this issue a little more slowly than usual. Probably a bit too slowly. Batman and Green Lantern are the only members in most of the book, and their interactions ring true. GL is reckless and overconfident and Batman is more than a little dismissive, though he seems to see the advantage of the powers GL possess. This is not an outstanding issue, but it is a good one.

Justice League International. Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopresti.

Jurgens’ writing is a bit ham-fisted, with some clumsy team building pages and some nonsense about protesters outside the Hall of Justice, but the plotting is mostly tight. It sets up a varied cast for a U.N. controlled team that might not be under control for long. Lopresti is a terrific artist, and the book is bright, colorful and expressive. Maybe it is my attachment to these characters, but I am inclined to like this book.

Legion Lost. Fabian Nicieza and Pete Woods.

Legion Lost indeed. The Legion of Superheroes, DC’s super teens from the future, has a reputation for being impenetrable. Whether that is generally true or not, it is true for this issue. It is hectic and poorly explained and downright confusing. Pete Woods are is nice, but looks unfinished on some pages. There is the seed of a good series here, with heroes from the future being stuck in the past, but it needs to slow down and breathe.

Men of War. Ivan Brandon and Tom Derenick. Jonathan Vankin and Paul Winslade.

This issue introduces the reader to the new Sgt. Rock, grandson of the old Sgt. Rock. The concept her is solid, soldiers dealing with the wake of superheroes. The execution is also solid if not particularly great. This book simply lack oomph. This first issue doesn’t really take advantage of either its war book setting or its superhero connection. It just sort of is.

Mr .Terrific. Eric Wallace and Gianluca Gugliotta.

This is an intriguing but sloppy first issue. I am fond of Gugliotta’s art, but some panels and figures just seem off. The plotting is good, with a nice balance of action and world building, but the dailogue is sloppy. I am going to give Wallace the benefit of the doubt that this was supposed to have a snarky tone, but that is not effectively communicated. Everyone in the book seems like an asshole. If it finds a consistent tone this could be a really good book. This issue was simply okay.

O.M.A.C. Dan Didio and Keith Giffen.

This is simply wall to wall action.  Office drone Kevin Kho is turned into a monster but the mysterious Brother Eye then tears his way through Cadmus Labs until he finds and destroys what he is looking for.  It is a Kirby homage that throws as many of the Kings DC ideas into the book as possible. Giffen’s art captures Kirby’s energy. It is pure fun for 20 pages. There isn’t much that isn’t fighting some kind of crazy science creation, but there doesn’t need to be.



Red Lanterns. Peter Milligan and Ed Benes.

If the whole issue was like the opening I would have rated this issue much higher. The absurd and gleeful violence in this book is entertaining. Milligan plays it so close to satire but doesn’t quite go over that line. It is definitely self aware, but not mocking the concept. Benes provides his usual trashy but competent art, which looks much better when there are blood vomiting cats on the page than absurdly sexualized aliens. If it didn’t end with overwrought Earth violence and a backstory explaining soliloquy from Atrocitus this could have been a really good issue.

Resurrection Man. Danny Abnet and Andy Lanning and Fernando Dagnino.

This book seems perfectly crafted to not appeal to me. The art isn’t necessarily bad, but it is dark and scratchy I just find it off-putting. The main characters power is interesting, that he dies and comes back to life with a new power, but we don’t learn much about him besides that. The fact that he is wanted by both the forces of Heaven and Hell is not a plus, that doesn’t interest me in the slightest. This whole issue is dull and faux edgy.

Static Shock. John Rozum and Scott McDaniel.

This is an effective attempt to horn in on Marvel’s Spider-Man market. Rozum and McDaniel do a good job of mixing superheroics and family time while still communicating who Static is.  The villain team isn’t anything that interesting, but whatever.  The art is stylized and fit’s the story and character. My only problem is that I don’t particularly care for Spider-Man, let alone knock-off electic Spider-Man.

Stormwatch. Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda.

I expected better from Cornell. Sepulveda’s art looks rushed and sloppy, but it al least has a nice style. The writing, though, does little but clumsily introduce the cast. It is a good concept, though it doesn’t seem to be the same as the Wildstorm version was, though they share many characters. I know by issue 3 they are going to be fighting the moon, but this first issue is just clumsy.

Suicide Squad. Adam Glass and Federico Dallocchio.

No book got a more negative pre-realease reaction than Suicide Squad. Between the ill-advised character redesigns to the interviews with the writer that suggest a complete misunderstanding of the characters and concept, it seemed like this book would be a stinker. And it is. The art is inconsistent at best and the story is ugly and nasty and poor. There is nothing to recommend here.

Superboy. Scott Lobdell and R.B. Silva.

Superboy is another character who got a complete reboot. He, however, seems to be coming back exactly as he was when he first arrived. This issue is dense. It may be only 20 pages, but it covers much more ground than most of the other titles. Superboy is a lab experiment, with no morals because he has had no experiences. It is as much about the N.O.W.H.E.R.E. lab that he was made in than Superboy himself. Silva’s art is clean and expressive; it looks really nice. The only problem I can see is that it seems to tie in to Teen Titans, which looks terrible.

Swamp Thing. Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette.

Scott Snyder’s first book of the relaunch is something of a disappointment. Not that it isn’t good, it is, but because I was expecting great, which it wasn’t. There just isn’t much here. Too much time is spent trying to reconcile and recap Swamp Things history and not enough time is spent on the actual story. The story that is started and teased is intriguing, but it is unfortunate that in a comic titled Swamp Thing, Swamp Thing doesn’t appear until the last page. Paquette’s art is really good, though. This is a good start, but not a great one.

There are my thoughts on the first half of DC’s New 52. Most of the books I was really looking forward to have already come out, but there are still several good looking ones on the horizon. Wonder Woman looks great, as do Batman and Aquaman. While I have no idea what the writing will be like, I can say for sure that The Flash will be a good looking book, possibly challenging Batwoman for the best art of the relaunch. See ya later, space cowboys.

Always Sunny Episode 6

The Gang Finds a Dead Guy.

I’ll start by saying I appreciate Mac wanting to beat up Tom Brady, a sentiment I agree with. Of course, Dee is absolutely right, Mac is delusional. This is not one of my favorite episodes, though it does have some really good bits.

It starts as the title says, the gang finds a dead guy. This really isn’t much of anything until his granddaughter arrives and Mac and Dennis start competing to win her affections. This is one of the earliest spots that Macs proves he is, if not a better person at least more naïve than his friends. Yes, all four of them are awful, awful people, but Mac is often a little less awful. Dennis is a complete sociopath, Dee pretends to care but doesn’t really care for anything other than herself and Charlie is a monster man. Mac is a lowlife, but aside from the joy he takes in spreading STDs he is mostly a stupid but harmless lowlife. In dealing with the granddaughter Dennis is able to beat Mac every time because Mac has limits to how far he will take a lie. Dennis doesn’t.

This also triggers Dee’s story about feeling bad that the man dies old and alone and decides to visit her elderly grandfather. Unfortunately she has a not too funny exaggerated fear of old people. So she recruits Charlie to come with her and their grandfather mistakes Charlie for Dennis. He has a task for Dennis/Charlie, to bring him his war uniform so he can die in uniform. He also throws around a ton of anti-semitic slurs, alluding to the soon to come reveal.

While Dennis and Mac’s lies escalate, Charlie finds out that Dennis’s Pop-pop was a Nazi. He let’s Mac in on the secret and decide not to bring the uniform to the old Nazi, but to sell it. The terrific verbal beat down that the curator of the museum lays on the pair makes them decide maybe they can’t sell it.

As the episode goes along, Mac gets more and more frustrated while Dennis gets more outlandish and smug. It culminates when Dennis comes to gloat over his victory in the battle for the girl and Mac drops the Nazi grandpa bomb on him in front of the burning uniform. While Mac loses at every turn in this episode, he is able to ruin Dennis’s victory.

This is one of the weaker episodes in the series. Charlie has little to do and Dee’s fear of old people just isn’t that funny. Still, the Nazi stuff and Dennis and Mac’s little war keep the episode from being a complete loss. That bit with the museum curator is really one of the best in the show. I do like that this episode continues the feeling of not forcing the gang into outlandish situations, but letting them get there on their own. Except for Dee’s irrational fear, there is pretty clear escalation to every part of the episode.

My NFL Predictions Week 2

Ouch! So not only did I go only 8-8 on my week one picks, but the day after I predicted the Colts would play a home Super Bowl with Peyton missing a month or less, Peyton has neck surgery that is guaranteed to keep him off the field for at least half of the season. I believe I am well within my made up predicting rights to change my Super Bowl pick, but that is the path of pansies. I’m sticking with the Colts and a second half Peyton miracle. Why not? (Also, I’m changing my AFC Super Bowl pick to the Jets, in complete reversal of my previous thoughts.)

On to this week, in which I should see an improvement in my percentage. The first week is always a toss up; no one really knows who has it in any given year. Who saw the Chiefs playing that badly against the Bills? Or the Steelers terrible performance against the Ravens? Week 1 was weird, but it should give us some idea of what will happen in week 2. Here are my predictions:

  • Raiders v Bills:  Bills 27-20
  • Chiefs v Lions: Lions 31-21
  • Ravens v Titans: Ravens 31-13
  • Browns v Colts:  Colts 17-13
  • Buccaneers v Vikings: Vikings 24-21
  • Bears v Saints: Saints 34-31
  • Jaguars v Jets: Jets 24-7
  • Seahawks v Steelers: Steelers 28-14
  • Cardinals v Redskins: Cardinals 31-28
  • Packers v Panthers: Packers 35-13
  • Cowboys v 49ers: Cowboys 24-20
  • Bengals v Broncos: Broncos 23-17
  • Texans v Dolphins: Texans 34-27
  • Chargers v Patriots: Patriots 31-24
  • Eagles v Falcons: Falcons 28-24
  • Rams v Giants: Giants 28-24
Last week: 8-8.
Total 8-8

Thoughts on Lost in Shadow

After beating Sin & Punishment — on easy, if you must know — I started up several Wii games to see what would grab me. After trying out Epic Mickey, Muramasa and Cursed Mountain, all games I plan to return to, I finally decided to stick with Lost in Shadow.

Lost in Shadow is a 2D platformer from Hudson. It is hard not to compare it to the likes of Ico, if only due to the aural and visual similarities, but they have wholly different gameplay goals. It tries very, very hard to capture the ethereal moodiness of Ico and it succeeds fairly well. It is certainly more “gamey” than Ico is, being split into levels and tracking experience points, but what is loses in cohesion it makes up for in mechanics. Ico is a singular experience that eschews many video game conventions, like HUDs and separated levels. It is in many ways a more direct adventure game. Lost in Shadow takes the look and feel of Ico, but marries it to a more traditional video game set up. It actually plays very much like a 16-bit action/platformer. Which is absolutely a good thing.

You play as a shadow separated from its body, a la Peter Pan, and must traverse a castle to reunite with it. Being a shadow, your avatar can only travel along other shadows. So you must manipulate objects in the physical foreground to make paths in the shadowy background. It makes for some ingenious fun. The levels tend, at least in the early going, to be short, but they all have a satisfying puzzle at their heart.

One gameplay area Lost in Shadow does seem to take its cues from Ico is in the combat. Though how fun it was is debatable, when you fought in Ico it got across the feeling of being a small boy fighting with a stick. The shadow also swings his sword with little skill. It is hard to judge and ungainly, but perfectly responsive. The combat is slow and nowhere near as interesting as the puzzles are. Hopefully it stays a secondary concern ans doesn’t overwhelm the good parts of the game.

I am only about 35% through Lost in Shadow, and I have enjoyed it thoroughly so far. There is still plenty of time for it to screw up, but as long as it doesn’t go meat circus* stupid it should still be a pretty good game.

*The Meat Circus is the final stage in the seminal Psychonauts and is damn near unplayable. It is both stupidly hard and seemingly designed for a moveset the player doesn’t have. It nearly ruins one of the best games of the PS2 generation.