Top 5 Movies of 2014

Like everyone else, I am finishing up the year with easy to make lists. There were quite a few movies this year that I liked, but I don’t know that there were any that I really loved. There were a lot of good movies, but not a lot of great ones, maybe just the top three.

Before I get to the Top 5 I do have some Honorable Mentions, the movie that I would have had on the list if I’d done ten instead of five. I just didn’t think I saw ten really good movies this year. I could probably make a better top ten list out of films I wanted to see but couldn’t because I live in the middle of nowhere. If you include my honorable mentions, this list hits nine. The Lego Movie didn’t quite make the top five, but that may be because I saw it so long ago. It was fun and funny, but slight. The same goes for Big Hero 6, which I liked just a touch less than the Lego Movie. X-Men: Days of Future Past was also really good, if a touch cluttered. First Class hasn’t really stuck with me, but DoFP managed to merge the good of that movie with all the good stuff from the first two X-Men. And last is Muppets Most Wanted, which until a couple of days ago was the last movie on my list. It is just pure fun through and through.

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5) Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Marvel might have had their best year of movies this last year. Captain America 2 is the closest any of the Marvel Studios films have been to being more than just pop ephemera, but it is still just a superhero movie, though a supremely fun one.

godzilla-imax-3d-4) Godzilla – This could not be more different from the last time that an American company handled the King of the Monsters. It is a Godzilla movie that is not ashamed to be a Godzilla movie. It makes you wait to see the monster, but it really pays off one the big guy shows up.

307453id1_TheHobbit_TBOTFA_Teaser_Intl_27x40_1Sheet.indd3) The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies – Peter Jackson’s last trip to Middle Earth is not the strongest of his movies, it might actually be the weakest, but it is still a damn good time. Though there are some baffling choices made in the adapting and editing.

inter2) Interstellar – This is undoubtedly the best movie on this list. This movie truly deserves to be called epic, spanning across space and time, but is truly human at its heart. Ultimately, this is a film about a the relationship between a father and his daughter.

gotg1) Guardians of the Galaxy – While Captain America moved a bit away from being pure pop, but Guardians of the Galaxy embraces being nothing but pop. It is Star Wars as a superhero movie, but all the characters are Han Solo. I can’t imagine having more fun in the theater than I did with this movie.

Top 10 Games of 2014

It is the end of the year, the perfect time for pointless lists. I feel the burning need to toss mine on the fire. I played a ton of games in 2014, but all of the new ones were for Nintendo consoles. Which is fine, all of the best games came out on Nintendo consoles. There were a handful of games I would have liked to play on PS3, but I can’t say there was anything I really missed. The 3DS and WiiU are more than any person needs. So let’s get on with the Top 10 list.

aapl3 10) Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy/Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright –It is my list, so I can cheat and include two games in the last spot. I couldn’t separate these two. The Professor Layton game and his side of the team up are a perfect send off for one of the best video game characters to be seen in the last decade. This seems to be the end for Professor Layton, at least as we currently know him. There is more hope for Phoenix Wright, whose series recently had a revival. At least we got these two games, even if they are the last.

pq1 9) Persona Q – Like Layton v Wright, this is another mash up of my favorite series, this time Persona mixing with Etrian Odyssey. I was incredibly excited by this game, but it didn’t quite work out as well as I’d hoped. Not that it is bad, but the combination is not quite as smooth as I’d hoped. The combined casts of Persona 3 & 4 are mashed together and there just isn’t enough space to go around. It kind of kills the feeling of the big team up when the teams are reduced to one-note annoyances for the most part. Still, it is an excellent game if not quite as excellent as I’d hoped it would be.

mk82 8) Mario Kart 8 – This long and illustrious series has never really had a bad game. Still, this game manages to stand above most of the other Mario Kart games. Especially with the recent dlc that started expanding the game beyond just Mario, adding F-Zero, Excitebike and Zelda to the mix. The racing is great as always, but this time the junk items seem to be much less frequent. Just a great way to spend some time.

bayo2-2 7) Bayonetta 2 – The first Bayonetta was a great game, but it wasn’t really a hit, sales wise. Bayonetta 2’s existence seems like something of a minor miracle. Platinum Games hit it out of the park like usual, though. Bayonetta 2 might not quite reach the delirious highs of the first game, but it is a much more even game. It is great all the way through. Bayonetta 2 is just one of the best action games ever made.

satpc2 6) Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse – This game was delay a long time, but when it finally came out it was certainly worth the wait. It looks and plays almost perfectly, through it teases the idea of being a Metroidvania without really following through as well as it could. That is a small gripe, though, in an excellent game. It is just enough of a gripe to knock it from my top 5.

spikes2 5) 1001 Spikes – This game is one that I seem to enjoy much more than anyone else. This game is hard. It is cruel and mean, downright insidious. It is also addictive and delightful. Each victory is hard earned and all the more memorable for it. Then there are all the extra modes. The Tower of Nanaar would almost make my top 10 on its own. There is just so much charm in this game’s little sprites and its cruel difficulty makes it all the more memorable.

ct2 4) Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker – Not an overly ambitious game, but a perfectly realized one. This game oozes charm and there has hardly been a more appealing protagonist in a game this year. And while the puzzle platform gameplay is rather simple, it is done perfectly. This game might be getting a little bit of a boost by being so fresh in mind, but I want to just sit and play it all day right now, so it gets pushed up the list.

sk1 3) Shovel Knight – Kickstarter’s big success story. Shovel Knight actually came out just about on time and at least as good as promised. This game is the perfect distillation of what made NES games great, with 20 years of further game development to inform its design and make it all the better. Everything about this game is great, from the graphics to the music to the gameplay.

sm41 2) Smash Bros 4 – I am just going to combine both versions of the game and slot it here. This is where the WiiU game would go on its own; the 3DS might have made the list significantly lower. I have written enough about this game, but it was definitely one of the highlights of the year. It is almost everything someone could want out of a Smash game, except for the single player. The only game I enjoyed more was:

dk3 1) Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze – Taking the crown this year is DKC Tropical Freeze. I loved DKC Returns, and this game takes the same basic gameplay, removes some of the crappier aspects of the game, and piles on fun new stuff. Like extra companions besides Diddy. Dixie and Cranky Kong add a ton of variety in how players attack certain challenges. Then there is stuff like the theme level, such as the one that looks like the stage version of The Lion King. The game is just one of the best 2D (or 2.5D) platformers in years, including the recent New Super Mario Bros games.

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

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The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies is almost certainly the last time viewers will get to see Peter’s Jackson’s take on Middle Earth. It is sad, but also absolutely time. While this one is possible the weakest of the six, it is still a delight to watch. Thanks to the last minute split of The Hobbit into three films rather than two, The Battle of Five Armies is narratively slight. It is just a battle. Even though it has the shortest running time of the three movies it still feels padded. That was unavoidable, but there are still some odd decisions in the editing and adaptation of this part of the story. I don’t truly mourn the split into three movies, I am happy for every second of these movies, but makes me wonder about what might have been. Still, The Battle of Five Armies is an enjoyable romp with emotional moments that largely hit perfectly.

The biggest problem with this movie is that there just isn’t much story left to be told. It opens following up on the previous film’s cliffhanger with the dragon Smaug bearing down on Laketown. After he razes the town and is subsequently dealt with, it moves on to the titular battle. Thorin, Bilbo and the rest of the dwarves have taken the mountain. The Men of Laketown, having slayed the dragon but now left homeless want the share of the treasure promised them by Thorin. And Thranduil the Elf King arrives, wanting part of the treasure as well. Thorin begins to act erratically of goads the others into war, saved only from having his small band overrun by the arrival of a dwarven army. Just before they can start fighting, an orc army arrives and the three groups must put aside their differences and fight together.

While there are twists and turns to the battle and how it starts and progresses, that is nearly all the plot in this movie. While it is the confrontation that this series had been building to, it is a rather light. This movie is all action; really good action. There are plenty of personal conflicts. Thorin’s growing erratic behavior strains the friendship that has developed between him and Bilbo through the first two movies. Their arc is almost perfect. Their closeness at the start of the film is well earned and their break hurts. The other big one is the romance between not in the book lady elf Tauriel and the young dwarf Kili. That one feels more forced. There is some chemistry between them, but they haven’t spent enough time together for there to be anything more than infatuation.

The things the previous Hobbit movies do extraordinarily well, frenetic, rollicking action scenes, are continued here. While Lord of the Rings went almost exclusively for high drama, being super serious nearly all the time, The Hobbit is significantly looser. It does have the serious themes and moments, but it is also not afraid to be silly. It has trolls with rocks on their heads acting as living battering rams, dwarves riding around on hogs and headbutting orcs to death and Legolas grabbing a bat and riding it to battle. The action comes fast of is ingeniously choreographed. It is simply delightful.

There are some adaptation and editing issues on display here. For one, they added a ton of Legolas. His inclusion makes some sense, the elves fighting here are his people, but his prominence is distraction and seems to come at the expense of characters who were actually in the book. They also added the character Alfrid. He appeared briefly in the second film, but here he shows up again and again, adding nothing to the film but refusing to go away. Then there is the ending, which comes rather abruptly. While the battle rages forever, the ending almost doesn’t exist. In contrast to how long the warp up to Return of the King was, The Hobbit hits its climax and then just sort of ends. Many questions are left unanswered and plot threads left unaddressed, though the movie does take time to give Legolas plenty of closure. This seems like a problem that will be solved with the inevitable extended edition, which for the first time seems almost essential.

It is very much a continuation to the previous Hobbit movies. What was good in them is good in this one. Like with them, I love it. It is a rollercoaster of movie in the best possible way. It ranges far and wide in tone and emotion, each of them feeling completely natural. It does silly and serious equally well and rarely do the tones seem incongruent. The Battle of Five Armies really hurts from being the unnecessary third movie, but it continues Peter Jackson’s long run of excellence with Tolkien films.

****

JSA Re-Read Part 5 Injustice Be Done

I called the last story the end of the first part of this book, and it is. But the second part starts with a story that is largely a payoff to set up from earlier issues that also sets up the biggest arc of the series, the redemption of Black Adam.

JSA 16: Divide and Conquer

Johns/Goyer and Sadowski/Bair

The rhythm on this title so far, and with most superhero titles in general, is for a sort of cool down issue after a big story, a chance to show the fallout of what has just happened and adjust the relationships in the book. After the big double arc fighting Kobra and Extant this issue at first, if you ignore the cover, seems to conform to that, but instead veers right into the next big story, and the biggest one in the book yet.

The issue begins with a rogue speedster, like the Flash, killing people around the country. Who or whatever this is, a pretty big body count is racked up in the first few pages. The the scene switches to Dr. Mid-nite and Black Canary out on a date in their civilian identities. A man in a trench coat appears and taunts Dinah about Ollie (Oliver Queen, Green Arrow) being dead. When confronted by Mid-nite, he reveals he knows their secret identities and that he is Count Vertigo, a longtime Green Arrow villain and member of the Injustice Society. He attacks and the scene ends. It moves to Wildcat and Sand watching Raging Bull in a theater. They are accosted by two other patrons who turn out to be Geomancer and Killer Wasp.

Back at JSA Headquarters, the rest of the team is investigating the deaths by mystery speedster. They realize that he is spelling something out with his kills: Clariss. Flash knows the name, Edward Clariss was a villain he fought back in the 40’s under the name Rival, not dissimilar from the Silver Age’s Reverse Flash. He apparently died when he ran so fast he broke light speed and disappeared, which was then end of him. Of interest here is one of the series few editor’s notes, which states that this occurred in Flash Comics 104, which was the one story about Rival as well as being the last Golden Age appearance of Jay himself. Judging from the pattern, Mr. Terrific knows where Clariss will strike next: Keystone City.

Mr. Terrific gets reports from Canary and Sand about their attacks, when the rest of the Injustice Society shows up. Icicle, Tigress and Shiv. Shiv is a new member, first appearing in Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., Geoff Johns Star Spangled Kid starring book. She was Courtney’s rival there. They got in thanks to the Thinker. Wildcat mentioned back in issue 10 that the security system at the headquarters was based off of the old villains ‘Thinking Cap’ and patterned on his brainwaves. Shocking no one, the AI gained sentience and turned evil, becoming a new Thinker. Thanks to him, the Injustice Society not only has a counterpart to each JSA member, but also knows their secret identity and weaknesses. They immediately put this information to good use, with Tigress shooting Sentinel in the chest with a piece of Blackbriar Thorn.

This really changes things. Sentinel is undoubtedly the teams most powerful member, and with him incapacitated, they are really short on power. Mr. Terrific grabs Alan and rushes him to the on-site operating room, usually staffed by actual Doctor Dr. Mid-nite, leaving only Star Spangled Kid and Hawkgirl to deal with the four villains. In Keystone City, Flash catches up to Rival just before he can murder Jay’s wife. With the lovebirds, Mid-nite tosses a blackout bomb to give him and Canary time to change into their costumes and pervs on her a little bit.

In the theater, Sand and Wildcat fight with Geomancer and Killer Wasp, but the tide seems to turn against them with the arrival of Black Adam. That accounts for all of the Injustice Society, plus some extras, but no sign of Sorrow. At least until the last page, where Johnny Sorrow is breaking into the home of Louis Sendak, the Scarab, last seen in issue 4 of the series, where he is going to unleash the King of Tears.

This issue starts like a small issue, with the team relaxing, but it quickly ramps up into the opening act of a big story. After their defeat by Wildcat alone, the Injustice Society pumped up their ranks, adding Thinker, Shiv and Black Adam. This makes them, despite their earlier defeat, seem like a real threat to the JSA.

JSA 17: Cold Comfort


Johns/Goyer and Sadowski/Bair

This issue opens with Mr. Terrific performing heart surgery on Sentinel, while Icicle freezes the room from the outside and Thinker taunts him with the teams eminent destruction. He recaps the situation, with Sand fighting Killer Wasp and Geomancer, Wildcat fighting Black Adam, Dr. Mid-nite and Black Canary dealing with Count Vertigo, the Flash in a deadly race with Rival and Star Spangled Kid and Hawkgirl stuck in the JSA HQ with the rest of the Injustice Society. Hawkgirl and SSK are having trouble fighting Shiv and Tirgess. Dr. Mid-nite is able to disable Count Vertigo by making him vulnerable to his own power. Jay and Clariss run so fast that they start to disappear into the Speed Force, the power that gives all of DC’s speedsters their speed. One of them comes back.

With that ambiguous ending, the book jumps to Sand, who quickly dispatches both Killer Wasp and Geomancer. Then it is on to Wildcat, being held in the outer atmosphere by Black Adam. Black Adam threatens to kill Wildcat, unless Wildcat has a better suggestion.

Back at HQ, Hawkgirl is still fighting with Tigress while Star Spangled Kid is evading Shiv. Stat Spangled Kid gets the jump on her opponent and takes her out, befreo making her way to the control room for Thinker. Meanwhile, Tigress has gotten the upper hand on Hawkgirl and is about to kill her. Her life flashes before her eyes, but it’s not her life, but many different lives. This is just another note in the “what the hell is going on with Hawkgirl” file. A bright light shoots out of her and knocks out Tigress.

In the operating room, Mr. Terrific has just managed to stabilize Sentinel when the door bursts open to reveal Star Spangled Kid, who had knocked out Icicle and Blackbriar Thorn. There is no greater sign of Johns’ ascendency on this book than Courtney’s increased importance. She manages to single handedly take down some of most powerful Injustice Society members. Back outside the HQ, Sand meets up with Canary and Mid-nite, who have gotten from Count Vertigo that Sorrow is going after the Scarab to release the King of Tear. They head to his home.

They find Sorrow and Dr. Mid-nite attacks him, but Sorrow removes his mask, apparently killing him.

That is where the issue ends. The team manages to overcome their opponents, but superheroes fighting supervillains with nothing else at stake is not that interesting. There has to be something else going on and there is here, but this issue doesn’t really elaborate on that until the very end of issue. Once it gets into Sorrow and the King of Tears, the payoff to the story hinted at in issue 10, things actually start to get interesting.

JSA 18: Sorrow’s Story


Johns/Goyer and Yeowell and Sadowski and Bair

Like the title suggests, this issue is tells the history of Johnny Sorrow. It does this through his interactions with JSA team leader Sand.

With Dr. Mid-Nite apparently dead, only Sand and Black Canary are left standing to stop Sorrow. As he injects the Scarab with … something so he can use him as a conduit to bring forth the King of Tears Sand recalls the last time he faced Johnny Sorrow, way back when Sorrow was just a run of the mill crook and not a disembodied mask in a suit. Even though Sandman, the hero who Sand used to be the sidekick for, tells him to get away, Sand stays to fight with Sorrow, only to accidently hit him with his little harpoon gun on Sorrrow’s intangible vest and cause him to be apparently killed.

This is the first appearance of the gruesomeness that seems to overpower Johns’ work at times. Here, used as an outstanding moment in a story it is effective. When it happens too often it is just gross. The story then jumps to six months later. Sorrow appears in his current form and kidnaps Sand out of his bed. He takes him to an abandoned theater. There, with the bodies of another superhero team, the Seven Shadows, former team of the Scarab, that Sorrow has killed, he tells Sand his story. When Sand shot him he wasn’t killed, but transported to the Subtle Realms. There he found spirits that turned him into the being his is now and sent him back to secure the way for their king, the King of Tears. Once back he heads to find his wife, but to his horror discovers that showing her his true face kills her. So he took Sand to get revenge. Before he can do anything, the JSA arrives. The Spectre starts to go after Sorrow, so in response he summons the King of Tears.

After that, Sorrow teleports away, and the team tries to fight the indescribable horror that is the King of Tears. Flash and Green Lantern Sentinel fail to take it out, and Hawkman and Hawkgirl try. Knowing what is coming next, that part has more weight, seeing the two Hawks working together, secure in their transcendent love for each other.

The Spectre then steps in and eats the monster, only to find that he has no real power over it. The Spectre punishes the souls of the wicked, but the King of Tears has no soul. So he cries it out and they trap him as the Spectre’s tears. And so ends the flashback. At the current time, the King of Tears pours out of the poor Scarab and Sand and Black Canary stand alone against it.

This issue doesn’t push the story forward very far, but it does play to the JSA’s strength, their history. Showing the first encounter with the King of Tears in the 40’s and showing how the team defeated it then adds something to their fight with it in the present. Especially after seeing how ineffective the teams most powerful members, Flash and Sentinel, were against it. The only one that had any effect was the Spectre and he is no longer part of the team.

And that is where I am leaving things until next week, when I will go over the second half of Injustice Be Done.

Ready For Adventure!

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker flew somewhat under the radar among Nintendo’s more high profile releases this fall. With all of the Pokemon, Smash Bros and Amiibos, Captain Toad comes off as something of an afterthought. Still, a lot of care clearly went into the games creation. Much like Super Mario 3D World last year, Captain Toad just bursts with joy, creativity and fun. Captain Toad is like an indie game, with a simple core concept blown up into a full game, which has been given the full Nintendo polish. It may be a small game, but it is nearly perfect in its smallness.

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The Captain Toad stages were highlights even amidst the whole game highlight that was Super Mario 3D World. Playing as Captain Toad in a Mario style game was an interesting challenge. He has none of Mario’s athletic moves, thanks the weight of his backpack the little guy can’t even jump. Instead of hopping and bopping their way through the levels, players had to move carefully and study their surroundings. The player’s abilities are pared down to running and picking plants. Each stage is a little puzzle that the player must solve. With Treasure Tracker, the simple concept of those stages is explored to its fullest extent. The core never breaks down, but it is pushed. The game adds power ups, including 3D World’s Cherry doubler. There are touch screen blocks to move and wind-blown platforms and the majority of Mario’s usual baddies to fight. With Captain Toad’s limited skills, even a simple enemy like the lowly Goomba poses a threat.

Stages start out simple, to beat if not to get all the gems and complete the extra challenge, but before long the game starts to show its teeth. Players must learn how to exploit Toad’s capabilities they will die, repeatedly. The few bosses the game throws in, really only two bosses repeated a few times, are wonderful, tense challenges. While the game looks childish, it soon provides a moderate challenge.

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What really sets this game apart is the wealth of detail is shows. It looks great, like 3D World, but there are so many little touches that really make this game memorable. Like the bed in the train level. If Captain Toad stops on it, he will lay down to take a nap until the player moves again. At one point the two toads, Toadette is a big part of the game, are in a minecart that is rocketing down a hill. Captain Toad covers his eyes while Toadette throws her hands in the air in joy. There is a stage in the later part of the game where you ride a dragon. While Toad sits on its head and cheers, the player controls the dragon taking out hordes and enemies and tons of blocks. There is no threat, no danger or puzzle. It is just a victory romp, pure joy. Near the end the game also tosses up a few stages that are homages to other Mario games. The whole game is just a delight.

One neat trick is the story. It starts on pretty well worn footing, with Toadette being kidnapped and Captain Toad setting out to rescue her. After a dozen or so stages through, they flip the script and it is then Toadette setting out to rescue the Captain. After a section like that, the two are split up and looking for each other, alternating every handful of stages. It doesn’t really matter which one is used, they both play identically. It paints a picture of two mostly competent adventurers who are in slightly over their heads. Another big draw to the story is that there is no real incentive to their quest other than adventure. Yes, they are both trying to rescue the other at times, but they got “kidnapped” by going after stars in the first place. It is less a kidnapping that an unfortunate fall. The big bad bird takes the Toads away because they won’t let go of their prize that was stolen.

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The whole game is adorable like that. In gameplay, it feels like an indie game, like VVVVVV, built around a single concept and just going all the way with that. But there was clearly a level of money put into this game that most indies can’t match. Instead of simplistic, if possibly stylish graphics, Captain Toad looks as good as or better than Nintendo’s biggest offerings. It is also a unique look into the Mushroom Kingdom. Rarely does Nintendo give a glimpse without the plumber around and most of those are about the other plumber. This is a chance to see the world through other eyes, and it helps make Mario look all the better. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker may be a somewhat simple game, but it combines simply perfected play mechanics with loads and loads of sheer charm make it a winner.

JSA Re-read Part 4

This is the big ending to the first portion of this title, and one of the most disappointing arcs in the series. It isn’t bad, but it feels like a missed opportunity. This is a super team all about history and legacy. When they fight a time traveling villain that is an opportunity to exploit that, but they don’t with these three issues. This is still a fine story, but not one that seems too specific to the team. I think it is telling that Sylvester Pemberton, the original, and dead, Star Spangled Kid mysterious revived played all but no part in this story, other than a few conversations with Courtney. Instead of exploiting available storytelling space, this arc is used to clear the deck for what is to come. That is an ultimately forgivable fault, since what is to come is so good. Let’s get started.

JSA 13: Time’s Assassin

Johns/Goyer and Sadowski

This issue opens with a monologue from Mr. Terrific, who is new to this whole superhero game and not used to dealing with things like time travel and space gods, as the team flies through time in Hourman’s repaired Time Ship. The team understandably wants to know how Metron, the New God who crashed into their HQ, the Brownstone, came to in control of the Time Ship. He explains, through a flashback, that the other team found him adrift in the time stream, his time traveling Moebius Chair having been stolen by Extant. Flash even gets to show a puckish side by taunting him over this.

Metron explains that Extant is after the Worlogog, a map of space and time that Hourman was supposed to be guarding. He felt it too powerful, so he broke it apart and scattered the pieces. If Extant reassembles it, he will have control of the whole of the universe. As Dr. Fate explains who Extant is, formerly the hero Hawk who became villainous because fans figured out the Captain Atom was the hero supposed to turn evil in the crossover Armageddon 2000 his partner Dove was killed by his time traveling future self who had already become evil. Don’t look into it, it’s real dumb. Their conversation is halted when Extant attacks. They have a hard time fighting him because his powers can cause someone to age to dust in a second. Luckily, the team has a few immortals.

Unfortunately, Extant manages to escape after being wounded by Hippolyta. After everyone gathers themselves, he attacks again, using his powers to change history. He stops Jay from being in the accident that gave him his speed, turning him into just a man. He does similar things to Hawkgirl and Dr. Fate, removing them from the battle before Hourman catches on and uses his own time powers to everyone else from “chronal energy,” which sounds like something he ought to have done as soon as they knew they were fighting Extant. They fight back, with Sentinel (man, I really just want call him Green Lantern) making construct version of the heroes he killed in Zero Hour.

It only provides a momentary distraction for Extant, who proceeds to explode the Time Ship, apparently killing everyone except for Metron, who manages to pilot the mostly destroyed ship back to the brownstone. That ends the flashback, with the team now approaching the place in time where Extant is changing everything. Having assembled the Worlogog, he is starting to remake reality, creating a world that seems to be based on his former partnership, with everyone looking like Hawk or Dove.

JSA 14: Chaos Theory

Johns/Goyer and Sadowski

Now the team is on this crazy new world and fighting with the medieval knight looking inhabitants. They have more trouble than just a horde of Hawks and Doves. Sand’s seismic powers aren’t working right and neither is Starman’s Cosmic Rod, because the laws of nature aren’t the same in Extant’s new world, it being made out of just chaos instead of chaos and order. The team is able to fight off the knights, though. Afterwards, the ever helpful Metron tells them they are already doomed, unless they can get the Worlogog or Moebius Chair from Extant. Then, Sand pulls out his secret weapon; Fate’s Amulet.

The other team is not dead, before Extant killed them Dr. Fate managed to transport everyone inside his amulet, the same place that they imprisoned Mordru and where Nabu, along with all the previous Doctors Fate, live. Inside, the team is willing to try anything to stop Extant, including seeking help from Mordru. They aren’t happy about it, but they have to stop Extant somehow. It also plays up the difference between Hector Hall and Dr. Fate, though they are supposedly the same, Hector acts completely different with the helmet one.

Dr. Fate meets with Mordru, who tries to play some classic villain mind games with him, guessing that Hector is overwhelmed by being Dr. Fate before giving him two pieces of advice. The first should not have been necessary. Hourman kept a piece of the Worlogog when he split it up, what Extant assembled is incomplete. They didn’t need Mordru for this, Hourman is right there. The other piece is more essential: Extant has stashed Dove, his former counterpart, somewhere in this new world. The team needs to find her to help distract Extant. Before he leaves, Mordru drops one more piece of knowledge on Hector, his wife Lyta is still alive, somewhere. The team outside the amulet has found their way to a castle and inside they found the Moebius Chair. Shocking no one, Extant is also lurking in the castle. He quickly starts to take the team apart, but Sand and Mr. Terrific hang back. When Extant turns on them, he finds he can’t see their future. Sand then springs the rest of the team from Fate’s amulet.

That starts round two for most of the team with the villain. Meanwhile, the rest of the team sneaks off to find Dove, with they do in the castle dungeon. She springs from her chains into her superhero costume, which is where the issue ends.

JSA 15: Crime and Punishment

Johns/Goyer and Sadowski

This issue starts with narration from an older Star Spangled Kid, who in this future has married Atom Smasher. That is a relationship that the book spends a lot of time building, with the biggest hurdle they face is that Courtney is something like 15 right now and Atom Smasher is at the very least in his mid-twenties. She is remembering the end of one of their first big turning points, for her and Atom Smasher. She also quickly lays out where things stand, with Extant’s omnipotence momentarily blinded and Dove rescued from the dungeon. They start to fight, with Extant going after Hourman, but Dove jumps in the way.

While Extant is distracted by Dove’s death, Dr. Fate and Hourman put their plan into action. They are going to distribute the team throughout time and attack Extant at numerous points in time. Doing so weakens Extant, allowing Atom Smasher to grab him and pull the Worlogog out of him. Doing so reverts the universe back to the way it should be, including having the original Star-Spangled Kid disappearing, but not before he has a little heart to heart with Courtney.

Using the last of his strength, Extant tries to escape into the timestream. Metron and Atom Smasher go after him. They can’t stop, he has already started time traveling, but Atom Smasher has a plan. They head back to the point in time where Al’s mother was killed in the plane crash and they swap his mother for Extant, killing him and saving her.

That is the end of the conflict, now it is just time for the wrap up. Despite proving completely useless in this whole encounter, Metron scolds Hourman about not taking care of the Worlogog before disappearing with it. Good riddance. Feeling he failed, Hourman leaves the team. So does Jack Knight, gearing up for the end of his own title where he retires. Hippolyta goes as well. None of them will return to the team, though Hippolyta has one more story and we’ll see Hourman again. Atom Smasher and Dr. Fate also take a leave of absence, but neither of them stops being part of the team.

This is a turning point for the book. It is the end of Robinson’s JSA. The characters that leave are narrative deadweight for this title. Jack Knight is Robinson’s pet character, on loan but the JSA was never his story. Hourman had his own title; he was never going to be more than a bit player on the team. Hippolyta was only there as continuity quirk, a stand in for Wonder Woman’s Golden Age appearances. They were also characters that the writing team never did anything, or could do anything, with. They were part of the team that Robinson assembled in the first issue, with them gone it clear for the team to make the team their own. It is a change of tone for the title, with more emphasis on the characters and their relationships. This is the end of phase 1 of the title.

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Johns/Goyer and Buzz and Caton

This is hard book to place in this reread. Is the start of the new era or the end of the old? I’m placing it here as a coda to the early tenure of the team, if only because it is the last appearance of Hippolyta as a member of the team. Most of the events of the book don’t come into play in the main series until much later, though. The biggest point of note for this issue is that it features only the female members of the team, Hawkgirl, Hippolyta, Black Canary and Star-Spangled Kid.

The first part of the book, written solo by Goyer and drawn by Caton, details the origin of the new Nemesis. Nemesis, let’s see if you’ve heard this before, is an old DC hero moniker taken by a new character. Soseh Myrkos is a super-soldier created by “The Council” a shadowy organization ran by her father. When her mother died, her father used preserved eggs to create a pair of children. Then he performed all sorts of experiments on them to make them his perfect soldiers. At the start of the issue, Soseh is fighting the elite troops that sheand her sister were supposed to lead. They are still lead by her sister. They fight and Soseh wins, but is unwilling to kill her sister, so she must escape before being killed The Council’s troops. So she dives off the island into the ocean.

That takes us to the second part of the story, written by Johns and drawn by Buzz, is fortunately more than a fight scene and an origin. It starts out on Paradise Island, with the older team members, Canary and Hippolyta, sparring against the younger, Hawkgirl and Star. The more experienced fighters win, of course, much to the chagrin of Hawkgirl. Hawkgirl is actually showing more desire to be part of the team, along with again pointing out the scars from her attempted suicide.

Then Phillipus, one of Hippolyta’s aides, shows up. They have an intruder on the island. It is Nemesis, of course. There is a fight, of course, and then she goes over her origin again, in case the reader forgot it from the first part of the story. Hippolyta and Black Canary realize that this Council is responsible for several altercations with the JSA, including Sand’s fight with Geomancer in issue 5. Nemesis knows where a base of theirs is, in an abandoned missile silo on Crete, so they team up to go after them. There they find a Council cloning lab.

They also find that the missile silo is not quite as abandoned as previously thought. Black Canary calls on Oracle, her teammate from the other books she stars in, Birds of Prey, to help her disarm the warhead. Hawkgirl stays there to help Canary while the rest set about destroying the clones. Nemesis’s sister reappears and they fight again. While she got the codes to disarm the warhead, but it was rigged with another bomb to go off if the nuke was deactivated. Soseh fights with her sister, finding that she has bought in fully to her father’s schemes with the Council. So she kills her. The JSAers escape one way, but Nemesis disappears another, leaving them wondering if she made it out at all.

The epilogue has Nemesis seeting out to destroy all her father has built, and he threatens to unleash “The American,” a threat I don’t know was ever elaborated on, but his hand is stayed by his ally: The Ultra-Humanite.

Next Week: The Return of the Injustice Society

Better Off Ted

On the subject of TV shows tragically cancelled before their time, (of course we were on that subject, don’t be ridiculous) near the top of that list should be the duo of Better Off Ted and Andy Richter Controls the Universe, two shows created by Victor Fresco. Better Off Ted is amazing, feeling something like a cross between The Office and Arrested Development but with the wackiness turned up to eleven or a high class version of My Name is Earl. I am less sure about the quality of Andy Richter Controls the Universe, but only because I haven’t seen it since it aired. (if only it were on Netflix)My recollection and the word about the internet is that it is largely of the same quality as Better Off Ted. Maybe one day I’ll splurge on the DVD and find out. Better Off Ted, though, is unquestionably brilliant. It deftly combines heart and wit, with real characters in an unreal, or all too real, world.

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Better Off Ted is about Ted, who leads a research and development team at a giant corporation called Veridian Dynamics. His team consists of scientists, notably Phil and Lem, and product testers, Linda, and his boss, Veronica. The frighteningly truthful part of the show is the utter disdain Veridian shows for its employees and people in general. They are the epitome of the faceless monster corporation. They are constantly trying to find ways to get more from their employees while giving them less. The unreal side is development team, who are always at work on horrifying and impossible science experiments. The two elements combine for some hilarious and unusual scenarios.

I really can’t go on long enough about how great this show is. The central cast is perfect. All five are great. Ted is a great main character. He is much like Arrested Development’s Michael, a single father trying to wrangle a group of misfits and raise his child to do the right thing. He is different in that he is actually the good person Michael claims to be. Michael, while putting up a front as “the good guy,” is almost always willing to engage his family on their level. Ted general keeps to the straight and narrow, and when he does stray tends to come back of his own accord, not just from his failure. It wouldn’t be a comedy if he always lived up to his ideals, but Ted is at least shown to attempt to stick to them. Veronica, played by AD’s Portia de Rossi, is Ted’s cold, calculating boss. She doesn’t appear to care about anyone or anything, other than the company and her standing in it. While her character does soften in the second season, she never loses that edge. Linda is the weakest link, having not a lot to her character behind her like of Ted and her dislike of the company. Then there are Phil and Lem, a pair of essentially mad scientist who don’t realize that is what they are. Their experiments, hopeful products and general social ineptness drive a lot of the shows humor.

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It also has one of the most natural and entertaining love triangles seen in a sitcom, between Ted, Linda and Veronica. Linda and Veronica, as they relate to Ted, show his two loves: doing the right, moral thing and his work for the company. Ted loves his job, and wants to do well and be seen doing well at it. But he is also a good guy that cares about the moral ramifications of his work, if maybe not enough. Linda is all morality; she hates her job and actively, if in a tiny way, sabotages the company. Veronica cares for nothing but the job, any sort of moral concerns are all but nonexistent. It is not really a fair comparison; Linda is obviously the right choice for Ted. She brings out the best in him. But Ted brings out the best in Veronica, only he can get her to see the downside of the company’s amorality. The first few episodes set up a fine, if a bit too precious attraction between Ted and Linda. They both admittedly like each other, but are not comfortable with pursuing a relationship at work. This is further complicated by a relationship Ted had with Veronica. Ted and Linda flirt off and on, almost too much, and it feels natural. There is a palpable attraction there and in the first season things proceed smoothly, setting them up for a series long romance, though the series doesn’t last long enough for that to come to anything. However, in the second season Veronica makes her case. At the start of the show, she is completely cold and emotionless, more an antagonist than a part of the team. Her character is softened in the second season, and Ted’s attraction to her becomes more apparent and understandable. She is still cold and unfeeling, but she feels more a legitimate alternative to Linda for Ted’s affection. Most refreshingly, none of the characters ever really address it as any sort of love triangle, mostly because none of them are actually in a relationship. Ted gets along with both, and Linda and Veronica develop something of a friendship over the second season. Much of that is allowed by the softening of Veronica, who is show as less the instrument of the faceless company and more as another cog in its machinery. She is in a similar position to Ted, only few steps higher on the endless ladder.

I could go on longer about this show, especially about the complete sadness that is Phil and Lem, but the last part of the show that requires mentioning are the Veridian Dynamics interstitials, little scenes that are either Veridian commercials or employee training videos. They are uniformly hilarious, often ending with a great little sign-off statement, like “Diversity, good for us” and “Right and wrong, they mean something.” They are both funny and perfectly illustrate the complete evilness of the company, who cares only about money and how perception can cost or earn them money.

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Better Off Ted lasted two half seasons, for a total of 26 episodes. It was watched by no one apparently. I know I didn’t see it; I didn’t even know it existed until I looked up Andy Richter Controls the Universe, to see if it was available on DVD, and discovered that its creator had a second show that had been recently cancelled. Luckily, I found Better Off Ted on Netflix. It is there for anyone who wants to watch it. You should, if you like good television.

 

 

 

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Smashing Once Again

I’ve now spent a lot of time with the WiiU version of the new Smash Bros. At its heart it is the same game, but there are some significant differences between the two versions. Both are worthwhile, but the 3DS game is a fun distraction, the WiiU one is Smash Bros the way it is supposed to be played. It looks great, plays great and introduces some great new additions to the series.

The 3DS game’s exclusive Smash Run mode was a fun time waster; it wasn’t the best thing ever, but it grew on me the more I played it and was a decent way to change things up. That is replaced on the WiiU with Smash Tour. Smash Tour is a terrible single player mode; it is absolutely no fun without other players. As a multiplayer game it plays like something between regular Smash Bros and a very limited Mario Party. It makes it much less entertaining than Smash Run. If you have a group around to play Smash, then you likely want to play Smash, the other modes are for when you have to play alone. Smash Tour fails utterly as a single player experience.

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Really, the single player side of Smash Bros WiiU is severely limited. All-Star mode is still All-Star mode. The same goes for Home Run challenge and the Multi-man Smash modes. Those are all familiar and fun. Event mode is also back, and the varied challenges found there are excellent, though somewhat brief. I completed all of them after just a few hours. Nintendo did add coop play to almost all of the single player modes, making them worthwhile when there are exactly two players. The new target mode is now some Angry Birds knock off that I don’t quite get. I don’t enjoy it at all and would rather have the old individualized courses from Melee back. They also screwed up Classic. I’m not sure how to describe it, instead of the simple choices and series of matches from even the 3DS version; it is now just an asinine mess. I kind of hate it. Maybe the real fun is to be had with Master/Crazy Orders, which I’ve barely touched. Still, even more than on the 3DS game I miss the Subspace Emissary. As goofy and unnecessary as that was, I still really loved it. It is now the only reason to keep Brawl around.

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As disappointing as that stuff may be, it is all just a distraction from what really matters: the fighting. It is pitch perfect, looks, sound , controls, everything. There are only really slight tweaks from the previous games, but Smash Bros has played about perfectly since its inception. It has always been deceptively simple. This game’s (I really wish they had come up with a subtitle like Brawl or Melee) supersized roster seems, at least through a few dozen hours of play, to much better balanced that the earlier games. I ranked the fighters based on the 3DS game and even though it is the same roster for this one, if I did that list off the WiiU game it would be significantly different. I loved Jigglypuff the first time around, now I can’t use her at all. But Dark Pit, a character I quickly dismissed before, has fast become a favorite. The classic Smash fighting is h=just as broad and chaotic and addictive as ever.

The big revelation is 8-player Smash. Smash Bros has always been chaotic, but doubling the number of fighters just makes things insane. To account for this, Nintendo added a handful of supersized stages. It is amazing how much a fight can change just based on the stage chosen. 8-player in a small arena like Yoshi’s Island is just pure madness, with little to no way to control the battle; there are just too many variables. It is great. But a map like Palutena’s Temple is completely different. That map has more than enough space for eight fighters to find space and terrain suited to every character. It is about choosing your battles and battle ground. It takes a lot longer and is a completely different game, but it is still a lot of fun. No matter the map, the craziness of 8-player Smash is awesome.

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Like the rest of the series, Smash Bros WiiU is crammed to the gills with content. To go along with hundreds of trophies, there is also equipment and alternate specials. The equipment is not big deal, they are much like Brawl’s stickers and just as useless. That is not really true, there are a lot of things you can do with them, but it is fiddle and uninteresting. The alternate specials are a different matter. Each character has three versions of each of their special attacks, most only a slight variation on the normal take on it. I haven’t come close to unlocking all of them, but they can really change how a character works. For example, some attacks add a wind effect that pushes enemies away but doesn’t actually hit them. It is not effective for racking up the damage, but it great for pushing players off the edges. All of the alternate options let’s players customize characters within reason. It doesn’t completely remake them, but it can do enough to completely reshape how to go about using that character effectively. It is great.

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I don’t know that Smash Bros is my game of the year, but it is the game from this year that I am sure to continue playing for the longest. I am a little burnt out now, after putting 40+ hours on the 3DS and nearing that again on the WiiU, but I would guess that I’ll keep returning to Smash for years to come. That is how it has been for every other game in the series. Melee was the first Gamecube game I purchased and the last one I played. It is a similar situation with Brawl and it will be the same with this one. I love Smash Bros and this one is the best one yet.

What I Read in Nov ‘14

This month all my reading time was stolen away, again for NaNoWriMo. I still managed to finish a couple of books, though one was a reread. I’ll have to really tear through some in December to hit my yearly goal of fifty. Right now I am six books short. I’ll need to read quickly to catch up.

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Curse of Chalion

Lois McMaster Bujold

I read this yet again, this time for inspiration while writing my own stuff. It is still really great. My thoughts haven’t changed much from when I read it last year. It is maybe the best stand-alone fantasy novel ever.

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Dead Man’s Folly

Agatha Christie

A Poirot mystery, and not the best one. There are a lot of points of interest in this story, but the mystery is not really one of them. One of the characters is a mystery writer, a sure stand in or reflection for the writer, at least in some capacity. If I had liked the rest of the story more, I might have been interested in tangling out just what Mrs. Oliver is about. There are also some repugnant racial sentiments expressed by characters, though whether those are simply the opinions of the characters or the author is a question. A character is mentally challenged and several characters suggest that it is due to her mixed race heritage. The book also uses the conceit of a “murder party” something that I guess happens, though I’ve only ever heard of it in mysteries and every time someone is actually killed. This time, it is the assigned victim of the murder scavenger hunt thing. Poirot eventually sorts it out, and it is a pretty awful, in that what happened was terrible not that is was no good. While not exactly obvious, the solution was also not particularly surprising either. It is just not Christie’s best work.

JSA Reread Part 3

This brings us to the end of the first year of this book, with another one off cool down issue, like issue 6, and the opening act of the title’s biggest story yet. Also thrown in there is a goofy crossover title, that while far from essential in the big scheme does have some worthwhile developments. These are necessary issues to the feel of the title, if not strictly important ones. The fate of the world can’t hang in the balance in every story, there has to be some dramatic highs and lows. This is a bit of a low, though it is only a low by superhero standards.

JSA 10: Wild Hunt

Written by Geoff Johns and David Goyer. Art by Stephen Sadowski and Michael Bair

This issue, a bit of a breather between big arcs, is a solo issue for Wildcat, who had to sit out the last arc after Black Adam broke his arm in issue #6. It also introduces the Justice Society’s opposite counterpart, the Injustice Society. The Injustice Society is an evil version of the JSA. Like our heroic team, their focus is legacy. They are a combination of Golden Age villains and replacements for Golden Age villains. It is led by Johnny Sorrow, a Golden Age villain that can kill with a look. It has the 2nd Icicle, who inherited his powers from his father, and 2nd Tigress, who had two supervillain parents, one the first Tigress and the other the Sportsmaster. Count Vertigo and Geomancer are on the team, as is Blackbriar Thorn, an old GL villain. And lastly is Golden Wasp, who is another legacy villain who hides a secret.

The whole team breaks into the JSA Museum with Wildcat the only JSAer on the premises. In fact, he was taking a bath and maybe having phone sex with Catwoman. While Johnny Sorrow goes after a vial labeled The King of Tears in Flash’s lab, the rest try to take out Wildcat. Using his knowledge of the Museum and their overconfidence, Ted manages to separate and take them down. He runs down Geomancer and Count Vertigo with his catcycle, smashes Blackbriar Thorn in the elevator, traps Icicle on an operating table and knocks out Tigress and Killer Wasp. It also very heavily hints that Killer Wasp has some connection to Ted through Ted’s son who was kidnapped years ago. Of course, while Ted does this, Sorrow gets what he’s after and teleports everyone, other than the smashed Thorn, out. And Ted, knowing what’s really important, tries to get back in touch with Catwoman. The references to Catwoman are not just throwaways because they are both feline themed characters, there is a not terrible Wildcat/Catwoman miniseries (written by Chuck Dixon and Beau Smith and likely existing because they are both feline themed characters) where they team-up to stop/pull off a casino heist and flirt. It turns out that Wildcat trained Catwoman in his gym, though they only know each other as civilians.

Other than introducing the Injustice Society, there isn’t a lot to grasp in this issue. It is a relatively low stakes affair that gives Wildcat a chance to shine and to seed a couple of future storylines. It is a fun issue, but not a particularly important one.

Sins of Youth/Sins of Youth: Star-Woman and the JSA Jr.

Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Drew Johnson

This is a brief detour of a mini-event. Sins of Youth was primarily a Young Justice story, but every DC superhero team gets involved. Through machinations not worth going into, Klarion the Witch Boy manages to turn all of the child heroes into adults and all the adults into children. This affects every superhero and team in the DC Universe. It is gives the heroes and sidekicks a chance to see how things look from the other side of that relationship. The JSA, as the oldest heroes, get turned into the youngest children. Except for Star Spangled Kid, who becomes an adult.

In the JSA’s issue, they go with Doiby Dickles, a Brooklyn cabbie who was Green Lantern’s old sidekick and eventually left Earth to marry an alien princess, to the planet Myrg to get an age changing gun to try to fix everybody. Along for the ride is Merry Pembertonm Gimmick Girl, the sister of Sylvester Pemberton, the original Star Spangled Kid. She hasn’t taken too kindly the current bearer of that title, the JSA’s own Courtney Whitmore. As the lone adult on the team, StarWoman, as the adult Courtney calls herself, has trouble keeping all the toddler JSAers together long enough to help Doiby retrieve another ageing gun.

The only truly important part of this story is that Star Spangled Kid shows that she has the makings of a true hero, holding a team of super-powered children together through space. It is one of her first big steps in going from the bratty kid to a full team member. She also uses Jack Knight’s Star Rod, which he will give to her when he retires from superheroing in a year or two.

JSA 11: Split

Written by Geoff Johns and David Goyer. Art by Bair and Buzz

This issue starts a new two part arc. This is when the title really starts to dig deep into DC universe history. The title has always been about history and legacy, but it now it takes on a wider view than just the team. It brings in ties from Infinty Inc to Zero Hour to Blackhawks.

This one opens on a jet with an elderly woman, who identifies herself as Atom Smasher’s mother. As she chats with the woman seated next to her, the villain Kobra appears on a screen in the plane. He announces that he is taking over control of the plane and blows it up. Kobra is the last of the concepts Jack Kirby created in his time at DC. It was so late in his time there that it didn’t actually come out while he was still there and it was partially redrawn before it was published. Jeffrey Burr is Kobra, the leader of the Terrorist Cult called Kobra. He is a genius and also has a psychic link with his twin brother that makes them share experiences. He’s fought everybody from Wonder Woman to Batman.

Back in the JSA Museum. Mr. Bones, a former villain turned hero turned leader of the Department of Extranormal Operation (DEO) as well as inadvertent killer of the original Star Spangled Kid, is giving the team a rundown of the situation. He explains that Harold Jordan, a cousin of Green Lantern Hal Jordan, who operates as the hero Airwave, has been captured by Kobra. Airwave is just the kind of hero that the JSA, and the old DC Universe in general, overflowed with. In the Golden Age, Larry Jordan was the original Airwave until he got married and retired before training his son to take up his mantle. Kobra is planning on using his powers to take control of all communication and create and Age of Chaos. Kobra has taken over Blackhawk Island, the base of the Golden Age fighter pilot team the Blackhawks, and Mr Bones wants the JSA to take them out. The simple set up for this story takes a turn when Sylvester Pemberton, the original Star Spangled Kid remember, who was killed years ago by Mr. Bones, appears in the building.

Hourman immediately deduces that his appearance is Extant’s doing. Extant is the time traveling villain from the event Zero Hour and formerly the hero Hawk from the pair of Hawk and Dove. In that story he killed a handful of JSAers, the original Atom, Dr. Midnight and Hourman. So they call in all the reserves and split into two teams. Robot Hourman, Sentinel, Hippolyta, Flash, and the Star Spangled Kids board Hourman’s time traveling Viking ship and trek through time to find Extant. They discuss the danger that Extant possess and the SSKs have a little heart to heart. He is glad to see someone carrying on his legacy and offers to help her with the belt. Then they are gone for the rest of the issue and the next one.

Starman, Dr. Midnight, Sand, Wildcat, Black Canary and an understandably upset Atom Smasher go after Kobra. They infiltrate the island and are soon joined by the new Mr. Terrific. Mr. Terrific immediately shows his worth by using his “T-Spheres” to display a 3D map of the island and outline an attack plan. You’d think an attack plan would be something they had before they showed up on the island.

They split up, with most of the team going to take out the island’s generators. Sand makes his way to where they are holding Airwave, but before he can rescue him he is attacked by Kobra, who uses comic book science to freeze is his sand based body. He then proceeds to use Airwave’s powers to broadcast him executing Sand on Times Square.

JSA 12: The Blood Dimmed Tide

Written by Johns & Goyer, Art by Buzz

The next issue starts with Kobra gloating over taking out the leader of the JSA, going full villain monologue with how he plans to use killer satellites to destroy every city on Earth. Kobra is not a villain with a strong historical or thematic connection to the JSA. He is just a run of the mill conquer the world supervillain, this time with satellites set up around the world to destroy all major cities with X-Rays. He is quickly disappointed when he finds out that he executed a hologram made by Mr. Terrific and Sand is fine.

While Dr. Midnite helps Sand, Mr. Terrific fights with Kobra. Though he has the upper hand, Kobra manages to slip away. They free Airwave, who takes out the satellites, but Kobra activates the base’s self-destruct and escapes in a plane. Airwave takes off the stop the satellites, leaving the others to make their escape.Except Atom Smasher grows to as big as he can and snatches the plane out of the air. He then debates killing Kobra to get revenge for his mother’s death, but Jack talks him down. This anger is a problem that Atom Smasher tries to deal with as the series goes on, and Kobra is a villain that will be back later.

The team escapes the exploding island on an old Blackhawk plane and discovers that Blackhawk Island is a DEO base, they were dealing with a DEO created problem to begin with.As they have it out with Mr. Bones, something crashes onto the roof. It is Hourman’s Timeship, piloted by Metron, one of the New Gods. He quickly claims that the other team is dead and that they have only seconds to save the universe.

There big occurrence in this issue is Atom Smasher struggling with reigning in his rage. It is all action, not necessarily a bad thing but it doesn’t leave a lot to discuss. It is pure fun. That is where we stop for now. Next time the team will have to deal with this crisis, as well as the crisis of the swollen ranks.