Super Sons #1 Review

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Jorge Jimenez
Colours by Alejandro Sanchez
Published by DC Comics
Cover price: $2.99 USD

Peter J. Tomasi is a writer who has always excelled at sentiment. From the restless Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner in Green Lantern Corps to the father-son dynamic in Batman and Robin, to the more recent, and different, father-son dynamic in Superman, it’s clear Tomasi has an affinity for pulling at the heart strings in the superhero genre. Super Sons is Tomasi taking a stab at writing boyhood adventures, and, to nobody’s surprise, he knocks it out of the park. Super Sons #1 is a really fun comic about two boys and their budding friendship doing what boys their age do, only with more capes and fighting and less parental supervision. Continue reading “Super Sons #1 Review”

Justice League of America: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap

Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Oclair Albert
Colours by Marcelo Maiolo
Published by DC Comics
Cover price $2.99 USD

Review and Recap is where I give a quick review of a comic, usually less in-depth than my regular reviews, before recapping it and adding some commentary here and there. Obviously spoilers abound in the commentary section. Anyway, here’s my Review and Recap of Justice League of America: Rebirth #1.

The Review:

The name ‘Justice League of America’ hasn’t had much luck in the last few years. Geoff Johns’ series seemed to exist solely to tie-in to his Trinity War and Forever Evil events, and Bryan Hitch’s version was so unremarkable that I’ve heard nobody speak of it outside of maybe one scene and bemoaning its numerous delays. But third time’s the charm, right? Surely Steve Orlando can take a team of B-list, Arrowverse-friendly characters (and Lobo) and finally give the name something worth a damn, right? Apparently, yes. Thanks to a clear mission statement for the team and motives for its cast of interesting characters, Justice League of America is off to a promising start.

The story is fairly straightforward — Batman recruits his Justice League. But Orlando does a good job clearly giving reasons for the characters (well, most of them) to join, while also setting up the various team dynamics. It’s nothing remarkable, but there’s a lot of potential for future stories set up, and the various relationships are interesting and set up well. The team’s mission statement, according to Batman, is to be a team that people can know and be inspired by, as opposed to the gods of the Justice League. It’s a good idea, and would mostly work if it weren’t for the presence of Batman himself, who has a secret identity, a mythic quality to him and is a Leaguer. That aside, the set-up is very well done while maintaining a good pace.

Something that helps the issue is that its characters, none of whom could be considered A-list aside from Batman, are fair game for whatever Orlando wants to do with them. Unlike the cast of Justice League, most of the cast of Justice League of America don’t have any other ongoing comic that their development is reserved for. Steve Orlando is free to develop his characters how he sees fit, so it’s much easier to get emotionally invested in the characters, rather than just the plot. It might be my cynicism, but as it is, it’s far more likely that I’ll be invested in whatever happens to Lobo in this series than Barry Allen and Jessica Cruz dating in Justice League, since I know there’s no Lobo ongoing that’s more important and already has a love interest for him.

Ivan Reis’ art is mostly good, with his usual flair for lighting and expressive faces for the most part. However, it feels a bit rushed, whether that be some more ill-defined faces or just rushed inking from Joe Prado and/or Oclair Albert. While it’s by no means weak — Reis, Prado and Maiolo are still a treat — the art is just not quite up to the standards I have for this art team.

Justice League of America: Rebirth #1 is a superhero comic with an interesting cast with interesting relationships and a great art team. While its B-list cast could’ve been a hindrance, Steve Orlando knows how to get readers invested. If this issue and the previous one-shots are any indicator, Justice League of America is shaping up to be the Justice League comic worth reading.

4/5 – Very Good

Join me after the jump for the commentary! Continue reading “Justice League of America: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap”

Killer Frost: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap

Written by Steve Orlando and Jody Houser
Art by Mirka Andolfo
Colours by Arif Prianto
Published by DC Comics
Cover price: $2.99 USD 

Review and Recap is where I give a quick review of a comic, usually less in-depth than my regular reviews, before recapping it and adding some commentary here and there. Obviously spoilers abound in the commentary section. Anyway, here’s my Review and Recap of Killer Frost: Rebirth.

The Review:

It’s taken a while, but DC has finally decided to push Killer Frost in their comics. She obviously has a bigger profile now, since Caitlin Snow (the most recent version of the character) has been appearing on The Flash since its first episode. Sure, they gave her a Villains Month one-shot, but that was oddly timed, since that was about a year before her live-action debut. Regardless, Dc has finally seen fit to utilise the character more, and while I found her appearances in Justice League vs. Suicide Squad — to which Killer Frost: Rebirth acts as a pseudo-epilogue — to be a mixed bag, Killer Frost: Rebirth does a much better job of making me care about the character.

Killer Frost finds herself tested by Amanda Waller before she can leave the Suicide Squad to join the Justice League of America, and it’s not played as a moral dilemma. It’s not about Frost questioning using her powers, as using them to drain heat, which she needs to do, would kill someone — if she does it, Waller has an excuse not to release her into Batman’s custody. Orlando and Houser do a very good job of getting you to care about Killer Frost, without going out of their way to paint her as some overly heroic victim, which was one of my problems with Joshua Williamson’s writing of the character. Orlando and Houser actually play with Frost’s morality a bit; Frost is played as mostly good for much of the issue, before a twist is thrown in that messes with that. It makes her an infinitely more interesting character. She has some heroic traits, but the ending leaves her morality up in the air, though it does clash a bit with one or two boxes of her narration.

Mirka Andolfo’s art is expressive enough to get you invested in Killer Frost’s story. While it sometimes leans a bit too much towards cute for this type of story and setting, it still works, as Andolfo is versatile enough that he can swing between a cute Frost to a stoic Frost. Surprisingly, Frost’s powers are underplayed, which is very surprising given the rest of these one-shots. It works for the story, though, given her situation. I just wish Andolfo got to cut loose a bit more. Prianto’s colours get the job done, and does a good job playing with lighting to keep things visually interesting in mostly same-y settings.

Killer Frost: Rebirth tells a good done-in-one story that, of the JLA one-shots, links the most to the actual ongoing and why its protagonist will be joining the team. It has enough ambiguity to make Killer Frost interesting, and makes you want to read more of her, just not as a narrator. If nothing else, it got me on board for the character to be in Justice League of America.

4/5 – Very Good

Join me after the break for the commentary! Continue reading “Killer Frost: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap”

The Ray: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap

Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Stephen Byrne
Colours by Stephen Byrne
Published by DC Comics
Cover price: $2.99 USD 

Review and Recap is where I give a quick review of a comic, usually less in-depth than my regular reviews, before recapping it and adding some commentary here and there. Obviously spoilers abound in the commentary section. Anyway, here’s my Review and Recap of The Ray: Rebirth.

The Review:

The Ray is, like the Atom and Vixen before him, a character I’ve had little to no exposure to. I know he’s in the Freedom Fighters, a pretty cheesy group of patriotic superheroes, and that he’s gay (and it turns out I was even wrong there; he’s gay as of this issue, so I don’t know why I thought he was gay beforehand). He’s got a cool aesthetic, but other than that, I’ve never really cared for him. This issue inches me closer to caring, but doesn’t quite get there because it’s just a bit too frustrating.

The Ray: Rebirth is more or less about Ray Terrill (yes, ‘Ray’ is his real name, really), a man who grew up under the impression that exposure to too much light would kill him. The issue does a good job focusing on Ray and his problems with people, and you get a sense of who he is and why he avoids people the way he does. But what gets him to do so is just a bit contrived, as is the happy ending to a degree, as Ray suddenly gets a big dose of development off-screen. Plus, Ray himself comes off as a bit — and I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic — whiny. He just doesn’t seem to understand the seriousness of his condition, and it bugs me.

But the story does a nice job incorporating homosexuality into its story without ever preaching to you. The entire story is basically Ray coming out to the world as the Ray, but this is subtly woven with metaphors for realising one’s sexuality, and just problems that some LGBTQI people may come across, such as fear of condemnation for being different (and this is definitely subtler than any X-Men comic has been in recent years).

The art works for the issue and is versatile. When Ray’s a child, the art is cartoony enough that the expressions come across well and you get the feeling that Ray views the world this way. However, it never veers into being too cartoony. It has a nice clean look to it. When he’s a teen, the lines a less pronounced and everything has a softer look, while not feeling like there’s a huge shift in art style. Oh, and [ARTIST NAME] excels at making Ray’s powers look cool, and he obviously really enjoys letting loose with Ray’s powers just as much as Ray himself does. The comic also has a nice thing where light is played on, with the more depressing stages of Ray’s life taking place in the dark, with subdued colours. It’s a nice little thing that makes sense, given his powers.

3.5/5 – Good

Join me after the break for the commentary!
Continue reading “The Ray: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap”

Marvel/Square-Enix Project Speculation (Industry Talk)

What’s that, you want two weeks late speculation? I gotcha covered. Sorry about the lateness, but I had personal problems come up this last week, but I just wanted to get this out there, since I’m obviously a big superhero fan.

Marvel and Square-Enix are partnering up for a number of video game projects, and the first thing “announced”, if you could call it that, is something Avengers-related, marketed with the hashtag #Reassemble, developed by Crystal Dynamics, the developers of the most-recent Tomb Raider reboot games, and Eidos Montreal, developers of the new Deus Ex and Thief games. The brief video features the destroyed or abandoned equipment of the Avengers, well the MCU-relevant ones, and a woman (who I’m guessing is Maria Hill, even if she sounds more like Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Hill and less like Cobie Smulders) narrating about a lack of heroes, and the need to reassemble.

Marvel are billing the game as the beginning of “a universe gamers can play in for years to come.” So it’s either the beginning of a Marvel video game universe (the MVGU? Yeah… doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue) or maybe an MMO. IGN theorises that is could be set in the MCU, but I really doubt that. But the MMO idea seems sort-of likely, given the need for “more heroes”, and it reminds me of the premise for DC Universe Online. Personally, I’m all for an MMO. I like the idea of creating your own superhero in an already familiar universe and interacting with all — except maybe not the X-Men and Fantastic Four, because license bullshit — of your favourite superheroes and villains. However, given that Square-Enix is the publisher and is still supporting Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, it would be strange of them to release a  competing MMO (as if that would actually be a contest; Marvel MMO wins, hands down).

I think the more likely answer is that the game features an original universe where the Avengers are already well-known, but have disbanded, and your original character will put the team back together for whatever reason. Superhero games are usually aimed at a much more mainstream or casual audience, so I expect the game to be a sandbox, akin to the more recent Spider-Man games, which feature a plethora of guest characters. Though if it is indeed a sandbox game, it kind of lends credence to my theory that the PS4 Spider-Man game is indeed basically a tie-in to Spider-Man: Homecoming. Though sandbox games aren’t exactly meant to be releases that are hugely supported post-launch, so maybe the Avengers project will just be released in 2018, to avoid having to battle Spider-Man while also tying into the release of the Infinity War movies.

The other option I’m thinking of is that the game is more like X-Men: Destiny, and is linear but features choices you can make (at least I think you could make choices in that game?) regarding who you work with. With the Avengers being central and the general lack of compelling or interesting Marvel villains that the mainstream casual gamer is aware of, I doubt you will be siding with villains. Maybe you just pick what Avengers to work with, and maybe a mentor for your new character. Actually, just typing that out brought back memories of Infamous, and I guess your original character could be like Delsin Rowe in Infamous: Second Son and just be a discount Rogue, which would work well with the different Avengers while not feeling too restrictive in the character creation aspect.

Anyway, those are the types of games I think will be the first game to come out of this partnership. Maybe I’m wrong and we’ll get something more varied; Crystal Dynamics has been messing with stealth just that bit more, and Eidos Montreal is definitely experienced in that regard, so maybe you play as Hawkeye or Black Widow and you’re reassembling the Avengers or something. Whatever the game turns out to be, with the pedigree of both Square-Enix, Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal, as well as my general love of superhero comics and superhero video games, I’m excited to hear more.

Side note: Please put the game on PC, Square-Enix. Just… please do it. And don’t make the port crap. You usually don’t, and your PC ports are actually pretty good, but don’t slip because you think the license will let you get away with it. Arkham Knight showed that’s just not the case. It feels bad that I even felt it necessary to mention this.

For Honored Closed Beta (Impressions)

Developed by: Ubisoft Montreal
Played on PC

Impressions is where I talk about my experiences with playing unreleased games, either at expos and conventions, or in alphas and betas. They’re done quick-and-dirty, as I’m on a limited time-frame when it comes to playing these games, and don’t feel comfortable giving an extensive review on an unreleased product that’s usually entirely gameplay-focused. Anyway, here are my impressions of the For Honored closed beta.

For Honored is Ubisoft’s upcoming melee-based multiplayer game, announced last year and due for release in a little over a week. I had the chance to play in the closed beta — though at this point, it’s one of those “obviously a demo” betas — and my conclusion is that it’s just not for me.

The game has some decent mechanics, as you have to angle your attacks unpredictably so that you don’t attack in the same direction that your opponent is blocking. It’s a nice mechanic, and it helps the game feel more polished and combat more precise. However, it’s just to easy to block attacks, so if you’re paying enough attention, you will rarely get hit by basic attacks, never mind the slower heavy attacks.

There are combos you can do with certain characters, and this gives the game more of a fighting game feel than I thought it would have. However, maybe it was just the people I was playing against, but I rarely saw anyone perform these combos. Fights generally devolved into seeing who was willing to risk getting in close to kick first and put their opponent on the defensive.

Kicking is the solution to blocking, and landing a kick breaks your opponent’s guard and stuns them, though it has a very short range. However, there’s really no defence against kicking aside from a dodge, but it doesn’t seem to be fast enough since the kick is pretty fast. The dodge is mostly used to gain distance without exiting the “combat mode”.

The game allows players to switch in and out of a combat mode, which is how you can attack with more precision via directional attacks. You can attack outside of this mode,a and you move faster outside of it as well, but these attacks are imprecise and are usually reserved for finishing off fleeing opponents or killing the constantly spawning minions on the map, which restores health.

These minions are basically those things you kill to gain exp in MOBAs, and I have mixed feelings about them. They get in the way of action and are never a real threat; merely a nuisance. But they are interesting as a way for you to throw off your pursuers, as you don’t phase through them; they can actually slow you down. Plus, they add to the scale of the combat, which is… not what the trailers made it out to be.

While the trailesr advetised giant battles like something you’d see if Battlefield and Chivalry had a baby, it’s much more tame. Matches were limited to 4v4 at largest, and most of the fighting between players takes place away from the main battlefield, which is where the minions won’t go. It’s a bit disappointing, even if I can understand why they made the decision, given how bad fights can get if there are too many participants.

And that’s one of my problems with the game, and this is something that I’m sure is just a “you need to play in a group” thing: if you’re outnumbered, run. It’s just too easy to gang up on people, but there are always people who run off solo. It’s frustrating when it happens, and unlike with other games, you don’t have a chance. You’re just screwed.

The controls, on mouse and keyboard anyway, are a bit too clunky. Movement is mostly fine, but the actual directional swinging is unintuitive.  You’re forced to enter an “attack mode” and any mouse movement from there on will direct the movement of your block and attack, and this just feels restrictive. I don’t think I ever got the hang of what key switched targets, which is the one thing the tutorial didn’t stretch out teaching you. The movement is also a bit problematic, and I’ve seen people fight by poking each other on ladders, and it just looks ridiculous.

However, the map design is pretty good. There are different levels to the maps, and they feel big without feeling like you could get lost. Navigating them is pretty intuitive, and it helps that most, if not all of them are symmetrical. looks great. Oh, and I don’t think it needs to be said, but the game

The different factions come together surprisngly well, and the aforementioned maps look war-torn without being too drab. Graphical fidelity is great, though you’ll likely not notice, with how intense this game can get.

Despite my criticism, the fights themselves, when there’s a decent amount of people switching targets and tagging in and out, are very fun. Everything has great feedback, and while mouse and keyboard controls are pretty bad, I’ve heard the game plays much better with a controller (although apparently the console betas had network issues). Controls, though unintuitive, feel fairly responsive, though there’s a sluggishness to your actions that I’m pretty sure is intentional, given the size of your character.

Speaking of which, there’s some customisation involved. Progression exists in the form of equippable items that change your stats, but I never really noticed a difference. It’s there if you want it, and I’m sure there will be some good late-game loot for those invested in the game, but so far it seems like a cosmetic thing, and that’s just what I’ve been told; I barely noticed a difference. Oh, and your characters are like heroes, complete with separate “combos”, though I really only played one character in the time I played. Also, there are faction wars, which I think is the three factions fighting for dominance of a big map; it doesn’t seem that important and you can probably safely ignore it. Inf act, dont’ worry about factions like I did before starting: they in no way affect who you can team-up with.

For Honor looks to be a game with more depth than it gave the impression it had, and that’s a double-edged sword. For players of games like Chivalry, this game is for you. It’s more polished, looks prettier, and has tons of depth. but if you’re like me and just wanted a simple, pretty game where you hack people in different directions, you’ll probably struggle to get into it. Maybe the skill ceiling was too high, since I’m told tons of Twitch streamers were playing the game, but it was just a bit too much for me. I might check out the Open Beta, I might not, but as it stands, For Honor just isn’t for me. It looks like it will be a good new IP for Ubisoft, and a lot of fun, though, so if it sounds like something you’d like, enjoy.

P.S. I forgot which key screenshots things in UPlay, so my bad for the lack of screenshots.

RIP Good Game, the Show Made by Gamers for Gamers… And Everyone Else as Well (Industry Talk)

On January 31st, it was officially announced that Australia’s longest running video game TV show, ABC’s Good Game, was cancelled. Their show targeted at younger viewers, Good Game: Spawn Point, will be continuing with Steven “Bajo” O’Donnell and new host Angharad “Rad” Yeo. Meanwhile,  Kotaku is confirming that exiting Good Game hosts Nich “Nichboy” Richardson and Stephanie “Hex” Bendixsen will be starting a new video game related show on Channel 7, and hopefully this new show is just as good as Good Game was.

While I had largely stopped watching Good Game, I was a big fan of their internet content, namely Good Game Pocket, and it’s sad that a mainstream video game show that ran for 10 years is ending. While Spawn Point will continue under a new brand and format, due to its channel it just can’t approach gaming like Good Game and Pocket could. So here’s four paragraphs of me lamenting the show’s loss; a show that made gaming just that little bit more mainstream in Australia, embraced its status as an Australian show, and approached gaming with maturity.

Good Game provided mainstream audiences with easy access to video game culture. And its expansion with Good Game Pocket, which birthed an amazing community, showed that it was adaptable to modern trends while remaining accessible. Good Game was a gaming show that was truly made by gamers for gamers, but was still able to bring average people into the medium and subculture. There were reviews and previews, but there were also history pieces, and segments that delved into issues such as hacking. Good Game was approachable, but didn’t talk down to you. It was fun, but still credible. It embraced gamer culture without wallowing in it. Good Game, like its catchphrase said, was a game by gamers for gamers — but it accepted everyone.

Beyond just being a good gaming show, Good Game was a good Australian gaming show. It promoted Australian video game development, something that is already difficult and often overlooked. But Good Game showcased these games and their creators anyway. Good Game approached gaming as Australians and gave us insight into Australian gaming issues and history, while also just representing Australian developers and promoting software development in Australia. Good game was unique in how it embraced being an Australian video games show.

But what made Good Game truly standout was its maturity. Good Game treated gaming as an adult hobby when it was still seen as childish. With video games as prominent as they are, being the biggest entertainment industry in the world, it’s important that there was a show that brought a degree of credibility to the hobby, at least for Australians. While Spawn Point will undoubtedly continue to entertain and help bring people into gaming, its channel and target demographic severely limit what it can do and how it presents gaming. It was never a replacement for Good Game — and indeed it never could be; it was a companion piece. Good Game approached gaming with an adult mindset. It discussed relevant issues such as gender representation, LGBTQI representation, industry trends and even foreign politics. Spawn Point can’t do this, because Spawn Point‘s entire reason for existing is to be targeted at children (there’s even a hilariously cringe-worthy robot!). But Good Game could and did. In a world where SVU demonises gamer culture, that’s important. Good Game helped elevate gaming just that little bit by saying, “hey, it’s not “just a game”.”

The cancellation of Good Game was short-sighted. Gaming is one of, if not the biggest entertainment industry in the world. And Good Game approached gamer culture with an adult mindset and exposed others to it. I hope the new gaming show by Nich and Hex does everything Good Game did and more. Because the audience for a mature gaming show is there. And if you build a show relevant to them, if you build a show that doesn’t talk down to them, if you build a show that discusses relevant issues and is allowed to do so, they will come. Up until now, they’ve had a little show called Good Game. Let’s hope whatever follows can stack up.

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