Sunday, January 29, 2006


Recent Comics I Have Read

New Avengers #15: I'm really liking the New Avengers, though I didn't really see the need for the relaunch. This is a great little issue with a narrative (in the form of a blog, no less) by an underused yet overexposed character, Carol Danvers, aka Ms. Marvel, fka Warbird, fka Binary. Also features good, if a little excessively cartoony, artwork by Frank Cho.

Batman #649: I really like Judd Winick, great writer, great with snappy dialogue. I really do NOT like the whole "Return of Jason Todd" thing. Can't ANYONE stay dead in comics? Ever? Jean Gray (DUMBEST. Rebirth. Evar.), Hal Jordan, Ollie Queen, Bucky Frickin' Barnes! And I like "The Exhumation of Jason Todd" even less now that it's tied into the whole Infinite Crisis bit.

Batman Legends of the Dark Knight #199: a crappy end to a clever little three-parter featuring Batman versus an extremely smart loser who looks like Nick Nolte. Bad, bad, ending.

Green Arrow #58: Green Arrow vs. Doctor Light, successfully shown as the lopsided contest it should be. I miss Judd Winick on this book, though. And, geez, do we HAVE to kill Speedy off? Wasn't it bad enough that she has AIDS? Special cameo by Dennis Quaid as the fire chief in an homage to "Frequency." What is it with DC and C-List celebrity guest stars this month?

Infinite Crisis #4: Three pages of exposition by Alexander Luthor revealing the evil ludicrous cumbersome "plot". Superboy-Prime kills a bunch of D-List heroes. Superman-2 is a villain (why?). Oh, and Barry Allen is back. Thank God for that, I was afraid for a minute there that just ONE death in comics would go disinterred. This whole mess is rapidly becoming as bloated, cumbersome and silly as Crisis on Infinite Earths. And unlike the first Crisis, which at least served to clean up DC's convuluted continuity, I have yet to discern a point to all this.

Iron Man #5. Retcon of Iron Man's origin, and very entertaining. I wonder about the timeline, though; Tony Stark is nearly killed by his own landmine in Afghanistan? Doesn't that make Iron Man only having been around for four years?

JSA Classified #7: I like the JSA alot; they represent a continuing history of new heroes (and villains) stepping up to fill the shoes of legends from the past. The artwork was not that great on this issue (which has been a continuing problem with the JSA titles) but the idea of a story narrarated by a semi-reluctant villain, the Icicle, was clever.

Noble Causes #16: I've started to like this book, as it is a sort of superhero soap opera, combined with a modern sense for the cult of media stardom. In this issue, Race Noble's wife is locked up because the Blackthornes are gunning for her.

Ultimate Extinction #1: For a concept that was supposed to ground superheroes in reality, the whole Ultimate line has sure jumped the shark. Now Galactus (sorry, Gah-Lak-Tus) is a 100,000 mile across killing machine from outer space? How is that thing hovering over New York any more "realistic" than a giant purple guy hanging off the Baxter Building? And what's up with the continuity here? This all happens BEFORE the Horde of Evil Foreign Liberals invades America in Ultimates 2 #9?

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Monday, January 23, 2006


Once You Get A Good Thing...

...Everybody copies you.




As I mentioned in a previous post, Neverwinter Nights was my first MMORPG, and still my favorite. Okay, yes, in some ways in suffers in comparison to World of Warcraft, especially in terms of graphics, and the fact that in WoW, you can actually swim, climb, ride animals and jump over small chairs. Same thing goes for City of Heroes. Okay, I admit it, it suffers A LOT. But NWN still gets the edge for one reason and one reason only: module play. The ability to make your own scenarios (which I lack the skill to do) or just running someone else's adventures with just your own little crew is essential for RPG snobs like myself who really have no burning desire to share some PW with noobs and munchkins who speak only internet-gibberish and wouldn't know role-playing if you jammed a red-hot poker into their eye sockets. Take City of Heroes, for example. Citizens run up to you gasping, "I've never met a hero before!" Huh? How? Heroes outnumber citizens like 100-1! And most of the heroes are, frankly, stupid; typically either monstrosities created by rules lawyers or Japanese schoolgirl types with huge...tracts of land. And can NO ONE ELSE be bothered to come up with a background for their character? How much frickin' effort does it take to put just a micron of originality or thought into your creation? I hoped against hope that City of Villains would siphon off the munchkins, and to some extent it has, but of course that only ruins the PvP areas for heroes, since A) you never know just how lonely the hero business is until it's just you and three other guys forming the Thin Spandex Line against a living wall of lame villains and B) it's no fun fighting lame villains. An old friend of mine once said, "Being a villain is always harder than being a hero because a hero merely rights the wrong while the villain must create them." Truer words were never spoken.
World of Warcraft suffers from the same glut of idiots who mock the very idea of role-playing and seem bound and determined to suck all the enjoyment out of the experience for everyone else. Could I be in town for just one frickin' minute without 257 morons challenging me to a duel? Eh, sigh.
Sadly, I'm probably swimming against the tide on this. PW games like WoW and CoH are probably just as much the wave of the future as pay-to-play. The loss of the ability to create modules is just one more example of an industry leeching all creativity out of players who are becoming increasingly passive cyber-potatoes. Seriously, though, folks, if you aren't interested in any kind of RP experience, couldn't you just stick to your FPS and leave the rest of us alone?

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Friday, January 13, 2006


The Once And Future Star Trek

Watching the new "re-imagined" Battlestar Galactica got me thinking: what about a re-imagined Star Trek: the Original Series? Think about how good the Defiant sets looked during the two-part Star Trek: Enterprise episode set in the Mirror Universe. We'd have the same characters, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, but played by new actors. The Enterprise should stay the same, at least on the exterior, but we could revamp the interiors from the old "Des Moines Holiday Inn" look and lose the mini-skirts, go-go boots and beehive hairdos. In fact, they should just use the uniforms from Wrath of Khan, since those remain fan favorites. So let's say we start the series in 2265; Commodore Christopher Pike is just about to turn over Enterprise to Starfleet's new golden boy, James T. Kirk. Number One (who will need an actual name) is resentful because she was passed over for command. Spock plans to leave to become XO on the all-Vulcan Intrepid but realizes he isn't welcome there. We could have a change of command ceremony on the Starfleet Headquarters space station from the old Franz Joseph Technical Manual, with Admiral Robert April in attendance, along with Admiral Nogura and Fleet Captain Garth of Izar (just for foreshadowing). Sulu comes aboard as a physicist, not yet helmsman. Hell, why not have Lt. Arex from The Animated Series? CGI would make it possible. Chekov is yet to be seen. The Chief Medical Officer is Dr. Phil Boyce. And Kirk's choice for First Officer is his old friend Gary Mitchell. The first season story-arc could feature ominous hints of Mitchell's instability, maybe an episode where he demonstrates some psychic ability, and end with a remake/update of Where No Man Has Gone Before. In fact, I think part of the appeal would be remaking some of the classic episodes from the original series; fans would think they know what's going to happen, and sometimes they'd be right, but other times...not so much. At the beginning of the second season, Sulu takes the helm (after Jose Tyler is killed by Mitchell) and McCoy becomes CMO (maybe Mitchell kills Boyce, too. That could be a creepy scene in Sickbay).
I wouldn't recommend changes quite as drastic as Battlestar Galactica, like randomly reversing the gender of major characters, but TOS always was a little male dominated. What if you added a strong female character, a reporter assigned by Nogura over Kirk's loud objections because Nogura wants to use the boy hero as a "modern day Ulysses" to increase public support for Starfleet? This could be the woman who is constantly immune to Kirk's charms and a reliable foil for him.
So, we have all the fun and high adventure of TOS, along with better production, better special effects, better science in the science fiction and the ability to tackle modern social issues (think Starfleet occupying a space empire in the middle of a brutal civil war and having to deal with terror attacks, suicide bombers and so forth). What do you think?

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006


It's Purpose & Origin, A Complete Mystery

Welcome, all fellow middle-aged dorks, goobers and nerds. With this latest time-wasting debacle, I will offer my bitter reviews of Fantasy and SF books and movies and share my twisted thoughts on role-playing games, comic books, computer games and other things you wouldn't normally let your more respectable friends know you are interested in.
My personal tastes run to paper and pencil role-playing and my personal favorite system is Iron Crown Enterprise's RoleMaster, which I have been playing in one form or another since college. Of course, back in the day, like all the rest of you, I played Dungeons & Dragons, and that's the engine I used to create the very first Hale of Angelthorne, an old style bard from the back of the Player's Handbook. Like probably most of you, I am a cranky old man when it comes to the latest version of that game excreted by Wizards of the Coast. Currently, I am involved in a Star Trek campaign using Decipher Games products (they have easily the crappiest web-site ever devised for a company that apparently actually wants to sell something). From time to time, I also play Champions, though my superhero role-playing began with the old Marvel Superheroes system from the late, great TSR.
I was reluctantly drawn into MMORPGs by Neverwinter Nights and am now addicted to City of Heroes and (to a much lesser extent) World of Warcraft.
I still sporadically collect comic books and graphic novels, and remain more of a Marvel than DC fan, though the balance has shifted quite a bit since high school.
In future installments, I review the latest books I've read and movies I've seen and offer my thoughts on the games I'm involved in.

"Songs will be written of this day, even if I must write them myself!"

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