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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Vixen: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap

Written by Steve Orlando and Jodi Houser
Art by Jamal Campbell
Colours by Jamal Campbell

The Review:

Vixen (Mari McCabe) is, like the Atom, another character I’ve never really cared for. I enjoyed her enough on Justice League Unlimited, but only in small doses and as a way to counteract the boring dry wall that was John Stewart (that version of him, at least). But as a comic book character, I’ve just never gotten her appeal. She’s a fashion designer and model, but career has never interested me outside of one scene with the Wasp in Uncanny Avengers, where she talks about fashion as a way bringing other cultures to people… and Snotgirl, I guess. And her power-set always struck me as “discount Animal Man”. But there’s a Vixen on Legends of Tomorrow and she’s got an animated series set in the Arrowverse, so of course she’s got to be in Steve Orlando’s upcoming Justice League of America. And this introduction to her is.. underwhelming

Vixen: Rebirth is an okay intro to the eponymous heroine, but it just lacks something and has story problems. It just doesn’t have the same emotional weight to it as The Atom: Rebirth, and I think that’s because almost all of the emotional weight to the story (well, Mari’s) is told in flashback, so there’s just a disconnect. In The Atom: Rebirth, Ryan Choi started out as a shy, awkward nerd and he managed to start his hero’s journey largely due to finding a kindred spirit who believed in him in his teacher, Ray Palmer. Here, Mari just… does things. There’s a catalyst, but it’s not very powerful and in fact comes across as forced more than anything. There’s some development for her as a character, but none of it feels satisfying.

At the very least, the art is nice, if not to my tastes. His Vixen is what a supermodel would actually look like: strong facial features with more understated sexual characteristics, especially compared to what is in mainstream superhero comics. It looks suitably exotic, with Campbell’s colouring really selling it. The comic has a nice fantasy aesthetic when outside of the fashion and business world, and Campbell obviously has fun when depicting Vixen’s powers. It suits the character very well, and Campbell’s ability to alternate between said fantasy aesthetic and the glamorous style he employs in the fashion and corporate scenes really helps sell this comic. Even though I’m not a big fan of art like this, I can say with confidence that many others would enjoy it.

2/5 – Below average
Continue reading “Vixen: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap”

Marvel’s New Free Digital Comics System Is Crap (Rantings)

Marvel comics have long since been more expensive than DC’s, even before DC dropped most of their comics down to $2.99 (USD) per issue with their Rebirth relaunch. But Marvel’s issues also came with a free digital copy of the issue for their online service, which is also linked to Comixology, so buyers could sort of justify the higher price point. Well, no longer!

In a controversial move, Marvel announced that physical comics (excluding their all-ages stuff) will now come with two other digital comics, intended to “offer fans free entry points for current on sale collected edition”, rather than a free digital copy of the comic purchased. To me, this is just not good for most readers.

For one, the digital comic you’re given is just out of your hands. It’s up to Marvel to decide what you get, and it may even be something you already own. Hell, the first comic lined up is Civil War II #0, a comic I’m pretty sure 90% of Marvel readers have, since that was before everyone realised how crappy that event was. I’ve read that some people even sell the digital code they get with their physical copies, because it can offset the higher price point by a bit, but that options mostly gone now, since I can see lots of over saturation of the same issue.

There’s also the problem of whatever comic you’re being given is supposed to advertise whatever Marvel wants to advertise (the digital comic doesn’t seem to vary between comics within a given week). So whereas giving readers of X-Men: Prime a digital issue of Inhumans vs. X-Men would make sense, instead they’re given the first issue of whatever trade Marvel wants to push (who wants to bet there will be a decent amount of MCU-focused comics?).

There’s also this simple thing: Marvel already pushed free samples before. It was a while ago, I’ll give you, but not that long ago. Remember Amazing Spider-Man #1 from 2014? That comic was incredibly thick, not only because it was the launch pad for the entire Spider-Man line, but also because it had the entirety of Inhuman #1 included as a free sampler. But you still got the free digital issue of Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #1.

And finally, there’s the fact that whatever free digital comic you get is replacing the other comic you would’ve gotten. I know people who like to buy physical comics and support local comic shops, but find it simply impractical to read physical comics for a variety of reasons, but the free digital copy allowed them to still support their LCSs. And that Marvel is saying this new system is good for retailers is hilarious, because I know people who work at comic shops, and they’ve had nothing good to say about this. In fact, if anything this feels like an aggressive move against comics retailers.

This is just not a good move in my eyes, and the only people who benefit are new readers (and even then not that much, since the free issue is from a recent trade) and Marvel themselves. It pushes for more digital sales from people who were willing to buy physical, while taking those sales from retailers. I can’t say I support this move at all.

The Atom: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap

This is a new thing I’m trying where I briefly review (shut up, I totally know how to be brief!) a comic before providing commentary as I recap it. Just wanted to try something new, and where better to start than the start of Steve Orlando’s Justice League of America run?

Oh, and I totally stole this format from a Tumblr I use to read called Eee! Tess Ate Chai Tea, who I thought had stopped posting, but I guess not. Oh, and that awful name should inform you of the high calibre stuff I used to read.

Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Andy MacDonald
Colours by John Rauch

The Review:

The Atom: Rebirth was something I kind of just picked up out of mild curiosity. I don’t care about any of the Atoms, and I’m not a fan of Steve Orlando. But I decided to give it a go for the sake of testing the waters of Justice League of America, something else I wasn’t sure about, and it’s actually a good read! A nice and heartwarming, self-contained origin story for Ryan Choi’s Atom.

The comic has a nice sci-fi vibe to it, like if you combined the art style and general style of Marvel’s recent Ant-Man ongoing with a bit of Silver Age charmRyan’s relationship with Ray Palmer is a sweet student-mentor one, and he’s got something of a supporting cast built up, with his parents, roommate and possibly Jean Loring. While I’m not too keen on one of the few prominent Asian superheroes being an awkward nerd (complete with lots of allergies!), it was nice to see Ryan’s relationship with Ray bring him out of his shell a little. There’s decent potential for future stories, though how this issue sets up what it was supposed to (Justice League of America), remains to be seen. Regardless, The Atom: Rebirth is just a good story and introduction to Ryan Choi, with some stuff set up for the future.

4/5 – Very good

See? I can be succinct! Anyway, click below the line for the commentary! (Also, I stole this thing from Henchman-4-Hire’s Teen Titans reviews) Continue reading “The Atom: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap”