Comic Reviews from late March

These comic reviews are about a week later than I wanted, but my comics came about a week late. Still, there was plenty of good stuff in this half of last months releases.

  • All-Star Western 7: Palmiotti and Gray get Hex out of Gotham for a while, and it mostly works. Nighthawk and Cinnamon are fun characters and the new villains, the August 7, have potential. The only problem is that the back-up story is nowhere near as good as the previous one. A-
  • Aquaman 7: This books is back on track after a somewhat too heavy handed previous issue. Reis’ art is some of the best superhero work around, and Johns is on his game with his Other League he is starting. Its too bad he has to fall back on having his villain kill one just to prove how dangerous he is. Still, a solid issue. B+
  • Batman 7: This is something of a comedown from the rest of rest of this series so far. Not that this is a bad issue, but it is certainly lower key than most that have come before it. There are finally some explanations, but at the expense of not having that much actually occur in this issue. B+
  • Captain Atom 7: This continues to be one of the most underrated books DC is putting out. This take on Cap. Atom has drawn comparisons to Dr Manhattan, which is accurate, but Nate Adam is neither as intelligent as he was nor as distant. Here we get his origin, as well as a little more inside Nate’s head. Another solid issue in what has been a solid series. B
  • Flash 7: This continues to be one of the best looking books out of DC, and is also one of the least dark. While Captain Cold’s powers have changed, his character really hasn’t. There is also an effective superhero love triangle, or maybe more of a pentagon, at work here. This is just a really good traditional superhero book. A
  • Flash Gordon Zeitgeist 4: Maybe it is just because I am still new to being a Flash Gordon fan, but this series has been really entertaining so far. While it is using all the same parts as the classic 1980 film, the only version I am familiar with, it still feels remarkable fresh. I would be outright gushing about it, except that near the end there is a page with the wrong speech bubbles on it. It really breaks the reading experience. C
  • Green Lantern Corps 7: While I have largely been a fan of Tomasi on this title, even since the relaunch, but this is an issue that didn’t need to happen. It is almost entirely John Stewart returning the body of the lantern he killed to save to corps home, and being really heavy handed laying on the guilt. Plus, the art is nowhere near as good as it usually is. C-
  • John Carter: The Gods of Mars 1: The previous Marvel Barsoom mini was very good, and this one starts out on the same level. This biggest change is in the art. Perez’s art is a big change from Andrade’s and while they are both excellent, I thing Perez is a better fit. This is just an all around great issue. B+
  • Justice League 7: I have to say that I like Gene Ha’s work much more than Jim Lee’s. Otherwise, this is more of a slice of life issue than the rushed adventure of the first six issues. Johns is building tensions between the League, the government and the populace, as well as doing more interesting with Steve Trevor than anyone in at least 25 years. The best issue yet. B
  • My Greatest Adventure 6 of 6: This anthology title sadly comes to its end. I think I am only of the only people reading this, but it is really good. The Robotman story is poignant, and Garbage Man is a not quite as good take on the same story. Tanga’s story is completely different, but not especially original. Still, there were some good weird stories with really good art. B
  • Supergirl 7: This is one of the best issues that is mostly a fight scene I’ve seen in a while. Kara is out numbered and trapped, but she fights smart. Asrar’s art is still really good. The world killers are some interesting new villains, they feel like a match for someone of Supergirl’s power and are connect to her, not Superman. B+
  • Superman 7: Giffen and Jurgens get Superman. There is plenty in this issue about boring Wildstorm villain Helspont, but the parts about Clark and Superman are really good. If The writing team can maintain that tone when they get to tell their stories, then this title should move up to be among DC’s best. B-
  • Wonder Woman 7: This has been one of my favorite titles since DC relaunch, but this issue is just a miss. It is a well written, well drawn miss, but a miss nonetheless. This issue answers a question that no one ever asked because it doesn’t make any sense to ask. Where do immortal warrior women get their children? It has been long established that they don’t have children, so there was no question to ask. I hope they quickly put this frankly stupid misstep behind them and get back to the great story they were telling. C-













Me and Anime

I’m not really the biggest anime fan. At one point, back in high school, I was, but I also hadn’t actually seen much of it. Sure, I had caught the occasional episode of Dragon Ball Z or Sailor Moon over the years while watching cartoons in the morning, but normally a late riser and those were on ridiculously early so I didn’t see much. My biggest experience had probably come from playing video games, RPGs like Lunar, Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy, that used that art style.

When I spent a summer sometime around 00 or 01 with some relatives is when I first really got to watch some, and I fell in love. I was mostly watching the Adult Swim anime block as I went to sleep, and I saw stuff like Cowboy Bebop, Trigun and Lupin the III. I went from a vague awareness that it existed to trying to stay up as late as possible to watch it. Unfortunately, my first experience left me with false impressions. I saw some of the best stuff first. Cowboy Bebop is to this day one of my favorite TV shows of any kind, and I still like Trigun and Lupin. Since all of the shows I watched were good (even Inuyasha was fairly entertaining despite its quickly tired formula) I expected everything else to be along the same lines.

So when I finally went away to college and lived somewhere with both cable and high speed internet, my misconceptions were quickly and painfully corrected. There was still good stuff on Adult Swim. The shows I’d liked were still in the rotation, and new stuff like Samurai Champloo and Case Closed were pretty entertaining. But the more I watched, especially my own illegal internet forays, the more I realized the most anime is crap. That really isn’t a strong condemnation, most TV in general is crap. My experience is what it would be like to have your only experience with American TV be Arrested Development, Firefly and Community; everything you’ve seen is so great, there is no reason to not expect similar quality from other shows. So when you turn on something like My Name is Earl (which I like a lot, especially the first 2 seasons), it suddenly becomes the worst show you’ve ever seen. For about a year, every anime I watched was the worst anime I had seen. I soon got tired of wading through the crap and watched other things. Like Arrested Development, the best TV show.

In the last few months, though, I’ve started watching some anime again. Mostly because my brothers were using my Netflix account to watch Fullmetal Alchemist and Gurren Laggan. (Quick digression: I find it really weird to share my Netflix account, because I am self-conscious about my viewing choices. Sometimes I watch weird crap because it is weird crap. Don’t you judge me!) On a friend’s recommendation, I … acquired and watched Vision of Escaflowne. I liked it quite a bit. It fuses mecha action stuff with sappy relationship junk in a way that is largely entertaining. I think maybe enough time has passed that I am willing to waste some time watching crap shows again with the hope that I’ll occasionally discover a gem. Plus, I now have more friends and acquaintances with knowledge of anime to help direct me, rather than blindly stumbling through.

So I guess the point is that I used to like anime, then I didn’t, now I kind of do again. I could easily decide it’s not worth my time again soon and go back to watching Dr. Who and Columbo when I use Netflix, but I hope not. Also, I am very open to suggestions for good shows that are available on whatever internet streaming service. So tell me some good stuff to watch. I like action shows and old stuff

Samurai Nonsense

Lately my Wii gaming time has been taken up with Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes. Not a classic by any means, but still a solidly fun game. In many ways, it seems to be a modern version of the brawler. You choose your character and beat up tons of generic dudes with boss battles interspersed. If you’ve played Dynasty Warriors then you know exactly what to expect. It isn’t a perfect game, but there is plenty of mindless fun to be had with Sengoku Basara.

When I say it plays like Dynasty Warriors (and Samurai Warriors), I mean that Sengoku Basara’s gameplay is stolen wholesale from Dynasty Warriors‘. I haven’t played much Dynasty Warriors in a long time, but Sengoku Basara basically steals its lunch. While there are some differences, they play about 90% the same. The big difference between the two series is in how they are presented. Dynasty Warriors has this veneer of historical accuracy. Not that it is accurate, but it seems like it could be. The Warriors series are like the Hollywood version of Chinese and Japanese history. Sengoku Basara takes some names and scenarios, but throws out anything that seems even remotely historically accurate. It is the anime version of the same events.

The style of Sengoku Basara is complete nonsense and I love it. Magoichi Saica blazes across the battlefield, blowing about Samurai with a variety of shotguns and automatic weapons. She keeps a dozen or so pistols in some sort of Gatling garter around her thigh. It is hilariously ridiculous. Ieyasu fights with his fists, even on horseback. There is nothing quite like galloping across a battlefield, leaning out of the saddle to punch dudes in the face. And Masamune Date wields his six katanas like Wolverine’s claws. Every battle is filled with ridiculous stuff, the kind of half-translated insanity one would expect from an NES game. Even with how simple the gameplay is, the craziness keeps it fun for quite a while.

There are a couple of problems. The first is that battles go on a little too long. Each map takes about 20 minutes to clear. That is just a shade too long. This isn’t a big problem, but after a few levels it does get tiring. If they could have cut that down by about a third, I think it would have greatly helped the pace of the game. The other problem is that there are only about 30 levels, so after playing about five characters you’ve probably seen about all of them. Maybe I’m being too hard on the game, since it is far from light on content. I first played as Ieyasu, then as Mitsunari. After that, everyone I played as had basically the same options as those two. Playing as Magoichi had me repeating 7 of the 10 levels of Ieyasu’s path, though I did have a choice of following him or Mitsunari. In the end, it just seemed like I was playing a lot of the same levels over and over. Since the levels are slightly too long, it made the whole thing stop being fun a lot faster than it should have.

Though I am calling Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes beaten, my completion percentage right now sits at about 10%. There is a lot of game I apparently haven’t seen, but I’ve had my fun with it. Rather than keep playing and get burnt out, I’ll put it back on the shelf. If it is truly the heir to Streets of Rage and Double Dragon, and I think it scratches a very similar itch to those games, then I’ll occasionally pick it back up for a play through for a long time. Sometimes you just want to hammer one button and see your enemies fall.