Wedneday’s Reviews: Osborn #5

Lots of comics came out this week, but only one deserves to have its own dedicated post.

Osborn

Osborn #5
Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer), Emma Rios & Becky Cloonan (pencils), Jose Villarrubia (colours), Clayton Cowles (letters), Ben Oliver (cover). $3.99

Grade: Go out and buy every back-issue to read the Best Mini-Series of 2011.

Comic Book Video Games: A Brief Run Through

I’ve been playing a LOT of The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction for my Xbox 360 as of late. Yes, it’s the game based off of the Edward Norton movie, however, it’s actually pretty good.

To elaborate on what the game is like, imagine you’re playing Grand Theft Auto 3, but you’re the Hulk.

Incredible Hulk: Ulimate Destruction

I’m not kidding! (And take THAT, Bi-Beast!) The Hulk game features the actual landscape of Manhattan – landmarks and all – for you to destroy. It’s a vast improvement on other superhero video games, and I’m always drawn back to it because it’s open-ended, mindless destruction, yet constant fun. It’s sort of mind-boggling how well the game is crafted despite it being based off of a movie, as usually movie-based games are garbage. It’s far-superior to Eric Bana’s movie-based game, simply called Hulk, and of course, it is much more dimensional than the original Sega Genesis game. And no, not just more “third-dimensional.”

But I do believe that Batman: Arkham Asylum is the best superhero video game ever created. (Awaits the Billy Madison references). It captures everything which is Batman in a brilliant and exciting game. There’s no doubt about it, Arkham Asylum nails the board on the head when it comes to make a great game. Although it does not have much replayability, it triumphs in excellent gamepaly. It did such a great job in fact, that Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions was trying to imitate the scope of the game.

Now that I have myself thinking. . .

Spider-Man Game Boy

Let’s go back to when these games really started to rise. I obviously cannot talk about EVERY game, but I’ll try to hit the main ones on the head. Most importantly, ones I’ve played.

The earliest superhero game I can recall playing was The Amazing Spider-Man on my Gameboy, back in the 90’s. Look at those sweet graphics. You can almost tell it’s Spider-Man from them! All I can remember was always being out of web-fluid. Man, being Spider-Man IS hard. With no power came tons of responsibility to beat this game.

Silver Surfer Nintendo

But the game was not as hard as the Silver Surfer. This game would have me screaming at the television, while throwing my Nintendo controller away, freezing my console and possibly wrecking a vase or three. I’m sure you’ve all heard by now the notoriously difficult struggle this game was to everybody who played it. If you made it past the first stage on any level, you’ve gone further than I have. I mean, look at Mephisto’s face there. He’s scary as heck, and he wants me to get through his level without touching anything? You ask the impossible, sir.

X-Men Spider-Man Arcade's Revenge

Does anyone else remember The Tick? He was fun! He was a breath of fresh air after the mind-numbing game play of Silver Surfer. In fact, him and Spider-Man/X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge were a blast! A large variety of characters to chose from: Spider-Man, Cyclops, Storm, Gambit, and Wolverine – each with their own levels. Oddly, Cyclops had his X-Factor costume in-game, but I’d just be looking like a real nerd if I’m reaching for continuity in a Nintendo game. I still remember seeing the commercials for this game back on my VHS copy of the X-Men pilot episode “Pryde of the X-Men.”

That’s right. I own it – Australian Wolverine and all.

Incredible Hulk Sega Genesis

Lucky for me, after X-Men another great game came out: The Incredible Hulk for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. I remember paying $50 back in the day for this game at a local independent video game retailer. Yeah! Those existed too! You started off as Bruce Banner and had to get beaten up to turn into the Hulk. And man, it was a blast! Villains like Rhino, Abomination and Tyrannus were such thrills to fight – but challenges too. I always had a hard time beating Tyrannus – who was the second-last boss, next to the Leader.

Spider-Man Maximum Carnage

Since Marvel was kicking so much butt in the video game business, why not release something else crazy? Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage was probably one of the most exciting video games to be released in that day. With a large roster of villains, an over-abundance of cameos, plus playing as Venom – this game was a child’s dream! Cloak and Dagger! Hooray! Too bad that the game was SO FRIGGEN’ HARD! I was always to happy to play it, but once you get into that second stage, climbing the building, it was all over. I hate you, Shriek!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2

Fortunately at this time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade fell into my lap. Suddenly everything became brighter. I don’t think I need to say much about this game. It was, and still is the best TMNT game in existence. It surpassed the first game immensely, while made us laugh at how repetitive the third game was. This is what defined side-scrollers to me at such a young age. This game was, and still is, relentless fun. Unfortunately, the fun of side-scrollers were about to fall into the gutters again, when I played X-Men for the Sega Genesis. I just couldn’t win, could I? Faulty game play, plus ridiculously difficult levels made for a frustrating series of questions like, “Why did they make this game?” or “Why did we rent this again?” Ah, as kids, we didn’t know what we were doing.

X-Men 2 Clone Wars

Well X-Men learned from its mistake, as X-Men 2: The Clone Wars came out with not only a great game, but had such an effective first-level song that I still play on it my bass guitar every-so-often. I can still remember teleporting with Nightcrawler becoming tremendously more fluid than that of its parent game while the controls also smartened up. Beast was fun to play as, while Psylocke also made a great player. No one ever plays as Psylocke. I did! She rules. Result!

Batman and Robin Sega Genesis

Speaking of results, The Adventures of Batman & Robin was another great game. Based from the animated series, this DC game triumphed where Batman Returns failed, and Batman Forever was going to fail. Not to mention, it just looked really sharp and clean in comparison to Batman Returns.

With the release of the PlayStation, the world was lucky to retrieve my favourite Spider-Man game to-date, aptly called, Spider-Man. With the original voice actors from the ’90s cartoon series for Spider-Man, Doc Ock, and Black Cat, this game was a sure-fire hit for me. Bonus marks were awarded to this game with incredible alternate costume selections, including Captain Universe, plus a great alternative gameplay: What If? mode. I can remember countless hours of my life going into this game as it was probably one of my favourite releases for the PSX. The game was released on the Nintendo 64, however the What If? mode was removed for it. Lamesauce. The sequel wasn’t too bad either. Y’know, Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro?

Spider-Man PlayStation

Speaking of lame, remember Superman for Nintendo 64? It was probably one of the worst games I’ve ever played. Nothing says “Superman” like literally flying through hoops for points. Aquaman GameCube Not to mention, the graphics were beyond sub-par for a game of its caliber. There was really no excuse for this mess. And to continue this mess from DC, none were as atrocious as Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis for the Nintendo Gamecube. What’s that? You didn’t hear of it? Neither did the rest of the world. Lucky them.

Much like the first X-Men game which improved with a sequel was the X-Men Legends series with X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse. The first game was a bit of a flop with graphical issues and camera angles ultimately ruining the gameplay, but the sequel was mind-blowing fun. X-Men Legends 2: Rise of ApocalypseOnline multiplayer, mixed with a great roster of characters, Marvel and Activision went all-out with an incredible game and tons of nerdy tidbits for X-Men fans from all over.

Shortly after Legends 2 release, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction cames out, and still, I’m having a blast rampaging throughout Manhattan. Whatta rush!

But no! Another Marvel mutiplayer-based game comes out, and pummels away with another great sequel: Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2. The first game featured a unique storyline about Dr. Doom taking over the world, and also features over 140 Marvel characters throughout the entire game. A well-paced, well-rendered game with monumental cut scenes left my jaw dropped to the floor. Its sequel featured stories from Marvel’s Secret War and Civil War storylines and added in quite a hefty amount of Marvel’s B-listers, showcasing how vast the Marvel Universe is. Although the story was not nearly as exciting as the first game, action and excitement lurked every corner. Not to mention the game made me feel terrible after I beat up Patriot for the first time. The second time – not so much.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

Following Marvel’s run of great games, DC fought back hard and rocked the boat with Lego Batman: The Videogame. If anyone has played any of the Lego-based games thus far, you know how much fun they are. Simply put, the Lego games bring out the child in all of us, while Lego Batman brought out the fanboy. Mixed characters from all over the Batman universe appeared and made for excellent gameplay.

Batman Arkham Asylum

And with DC’s Batman, up next could only be the greatest superhero game in existence: Batman: Arkham Asylum. ‘Nuff said.

With Batman: Arkham City coming out shortly, plus Marvel’s new games, Thor, X-Men Destiny and Spider-Man: Edge of Time coming out, we’ll be riddled with plenty more superhero games and more memories to be made. P.S. Edge of Time is written by X-Factor’s Peter David. I’m really excited for that!

And don’t worry that I hadn’t mentioned EVERY single game out there. I’m purposely forgetting games like X-Men: Mutant Academy, Marvel: Rise of the Imperfects, Marvel vs. Capcom series (as it’s not 100% comic hero), Marvel vs. Street Fighter, Spider-Man: The Movie, Fantastic Four, X-Men Origins, X-Men: Arcade (“Welcome to die!”), Astro Boy, Iron Man: The Movie, plus various X-Men and Spider-Man Game Gear games, etc., solely because they’re forgettable.

Since I can, I suppose my top-five favourite superhero games are as followed:

1. Batman: Arkham Asylum
2. Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
3. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2
4. Spider-Man (PSX)
5. X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse

What are yours? Did I miss anything really crucial that I should have covered? Am I entirely wrong with some of my discussions? Do I just really suck at The Silver Surfer? Fire some messages below!

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’.

Oh. And The Fantastic Four. PC. 1985. Don’t you forget it.

Fantastic Four PC

Comic Animation and Boobs: Taking Women Back 50 Years

Women in Comics

As a kid in the ’90s, there was one thing on my mind – action! I loved watching the ’90s Batman, X-Men, and Spider-Man cartoons. I gathered myself around the television daily to witness the sheer brilliance these cartoons possessed.

On this site, you may have read my views on how Body Images are seen in comics, or how poorly Women are Portrayed in comics. It wasn’t until I sat down and watched DC/Warner Bros. newest animated film, Superman/Batman Apocalypse, did my mind erupt with anger.

I am well-aware the movie is based off of a comic book run by Jeph Loeb & Michael Turner. I am also quite aware that the animation in the film is very similar to that in the comic. What I am shocked over is how blatantly awful the film was for younger viewers. From the camera angles chosen, to how much “bounce” particular breasts were given, it was completely over-the-top and wrong.

Taking the Cake

Now to be fair, looking back at the X-Men cartoon in the ’90s, Rogue wasn’t really a conservative girl, nor was Wolverine a regular looking guy with being shirtless in plenty of episodes. However subtle those instances may have been, Superman/Batman Apocalypse took the cake.

I will also mention that Superman/Batman Apocalypse is rated PG-13. However, if you have a kid in a video store and you see a Superman cartoon movie for them to watch, the last thing you check for is the rating. It’s a cartoon movie from a beloved world icon – what could go wrong.

Yet, if this is only for teenagers to watch, what kind of message is it giving them?

Supergirl Middrift
The first thing I’d do when I crash land on a different planet is show as much skin as possible.

The basis of the movie is that Supergirl, or Kara, came to Earth and is trying to fit in with society and find herself a home. Without really going into the story, there’s a montage where Supergirl takes women back to the Stone Age.

“What is like to be a girl in the city?” Kara asks Superman.

Cue montage of Supergirl getting her nails done, shopping for clothes, and being the stereotypical “rich girl” while good ‘ol handsome-boy Clark Kent pays the bills. Ah, being a girl is sweet, isn’t it? That is, as long as you have a strong, rich man to pay for everything.

Supergirl Changing
“Don’t you like my new bathing suit, cousin?”

Ah, Kara Zor-El. Welcome to Earth. Learn our archaic ways.

Is Supergirl Dressed
Isn’t she like, 14?

For those familiar with the story, you will also know that Kara gets kidnapped by Darkseid to become the leader of his army. Superman and Batman get Wonder Woman and Big Barda to help out with the rescue. Of course, when they ask Barda to help, she just took a shower. How inconvenient for the viewers.

Bare Barda
“Thanks for stopping by. Don’t mind me. I won’t get changed.”

And once the team travels to Apocalypse to save Kara, Wonder Woman and Barda get caught up fighting the Furies. Thanks to some particular camera angles, we can see why the Furies want to fight them. They’re jealous of Diana’s “attributes.”

Diana Double Ds
Tons of thought goes into these camera angles.

Luckily, Superman knows where Darkseid has hid Kara, so he’s goes in to save the day – only to find out that Kara is now mind controlled by Darkseid. AND! She’s changed wardrobes too, ’cause, y’know. Less clothing makes you more evil.

A New Supergirl Costume
Is this legal to watch?

So you can probably see some of my conundrums with this film. Of course, there’s tons more to show. The movie is riddled with women being hyper-sexualized beyond belief.

I am aware that this isn’t the first movie or comic book to do so. If you looked at my previous entries I linked at the beginning of this blog, you’ll notice that I’m ragging on Marvel very hard for what they’ve done before.

And while, sure, the movie art matches how the comic was drawn, by no means did it need to be done this way. By no means do the particular camera angles chosen NEED to be there.

Taking Women Back 50 Years

I’ve shown you the physical proof of what the movie provided. What stuck to me is the lasting effect it would leave upon others.

Arguably, comics are directed towards young boys. Obviously, showing women the way they are in this movie would definitely drive those sales. What is wrong is the movie takes one limp forward and multiple steps backwards.

For sure, Kara learns a lesson in this film about finding herself. But at what cost?

If I were a young boy watching this movie, I’d be excited for the action, and even more blown away by how attractive all of the women are. Kara is just being a young girl, barely old enough to be allowed to watch the movie she is starring in. Men on the other hand are the strong and mighty. Although women can fight, they’re not nearly as cool as Superman or Batman. All they like to do is shop or get kidnapped and wait for men to rescue them. Your typical hero story.

Wonder Woman may be considered an exception as she “owns” an Amazon Army. However, the army loses a battle and Superman is left to save the day.

Now if I were a young girl watching this movie, I would notice that shopping is a lot of fun. I would love to look as good as Kara in those clothes and it would be even better if I didn’t have to pay! Wonder Woman has her own place, but cannot defend it unless Superman is there. Then the Furies fight Barda and Wonder Woman, I would be bombarded by breasts, hips and lack of clothing. By the end of the film, I would be happy that Supergirl found her way, but still be left to feel empty. There would be no reason for me to re-watch that movie and the images shown would be imprinted in my psyche forever.

In fact, the movie insults the strength of the already-strong female characters as men save the day.

What Now?

I know that comics can never really change. They will always be marketed towards boys, and that’s just how it is. But what can change is a mindset on how women should be portrayed.

Comic panels do not need to have massive breasts on every female character, nor does a movie need to shift camera angles to show particular features to its characters.

If you’re looking to impress boys, you do not have to do it by taking women back years of progress. But by doing so, you’re preventing a female audience from even caring, while still damaging them in the process.

It’s not a double-edged sword unless you make it to be one.

Keep on Space Truckin’.

Wednesday’s Reviews: Avengers & X-Force

It has been a while since I last did a review, let alone many reviews. I’ve been unbelievably busy, so I have had this on the back burner. Despite the lack of updates, traffic on my site has still been exceptional.

I really have to give a big thank you to my readers for making me want to update this more often. Without you, this site would have no meaning. (Did I just discover the reason for life, itself?)

I definitely have two major updates these next few days. The first is reviews, as you can probably tell from this title. The second will be a discussion about a recent movie I watched: Superman & Batman: Apocalypse. But more on that later.

P.S.: Two weeks of back-to-back Uncanny X-Force is mind-blowing.

Avengers

Avengers #12
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), John Romita Jr. (pencils, cover), Klaus Janson (inks, cover), Dean White (colours, cover), Cory Petit (letters). $3.99

Indeed, Iron Man wields the Infinity Gauntlet with the final chapter of the Avengers versus Parker Robbins story. With the last issue leaving us at a complete jaw-dropping standstill between Robbins and Thanos, who knew what would come next?

A very delicate, yet powerful conversation between the titan of death and Robbins stirs up a whirlwind of excitement for the reader. What will Thanos do to Robbins? More importantly, what will Robbins do to Thanos? All of it leads up to a climatic battle and a rekindling friendship all in this issue.

When the Avengers get tied into the mix and Red Hulk has a Power gem, you know there is hell to pay. It all leads to a vengeful slug-fest between Robbins and Hulk, with Robbins finally using the Reality gem to show how ridiculously powerful these Infinity gems are.

Brilliant pacing throughout the story makes each page another excitement to turn. I would argue this is Romita’s best work in Avengers so far, with very few issues on character feeling too stiff. The battle between Red Hulk and Robbins is truly a wonder to see, as a great panel-by-panel fight features art in the background of old Marvel events long-gone due to the Reality gems magic. Oddly enough, the events were actually ripped out from the original works and Romita simply placed the Rulk/Robbins fight over top of them. With two very contrasting styles of art, it literaly makes the panels pop-out at you. This too is because of White’s dynamics of red and brown tones over the gray-scales.

With very few problems in this issue, I am floored by how great this arc concluded. And most importantly, by the end of this issue, the reader will get yet another Marvel U shattering ordeal that only Bendis could effectively pull-off.

Sure, I could nick off marks for suddenly leaving the Watcher out of the story. I could also nick off marks for seeing yet another page like this. But they are minuscule in the grand scheme of how powerful of an issue Avengers #12 was.

Grade: 7/10

Uncanny X-Force

Uncanny X-Force #8
Rick Remender (writer), Billy Tan (pencils, inks), Dean White (colours), Cory Petit (letters), Esad Ribic (cover). $3.99

The team goes to rescue a captive Deadpool, while Psylocke battles the Shadow King in yet another explosive issue of Uncanny X-Force. Oh, and Archangel’s about to burst.

Right off the bat, the reader is dropped into a plot where Deadpool’s on a reconnaissance mission, while Psylocke is helping Warren deal with the Death persona. Fantomex also shows Deathlok around the base, making me wonder if he will be a permanent part of the team. (Eee!) Lots happen within the short timespan of this book, yet all is paced so ridiculously well, that you know this is a Remender book.

Needless to say, if you’re a Psylocke fan you’re in for a huge treat. This is her book. After Deadpool fails to check in with X-Force, the team goes to find him. Upon arrival, most of X-Force becomes mind-controlled (minus Fantomex due to his neural implants) – leaving Psylocke the only one able to fight up against their foe – the Shadow King.

If it’s not good enough that this story is primarily about Psylocke, we’re also given huge depth with Warren about his Death personality. In so-few pages, Remender intertwines all of the subplots in one grand scheme with an absolute flawless script.

By no-means is Wolverine or Deadpool the main-characters of these stories. This book is a Psylocke/Archangel/Fantomex story guest-starring everyone else.

Tan’s art is nothing less than incredible. A particular panel with Archangel screaming shows his anger and near-insanity. Don’t even get me started on how beautiful Psylocke is drawn in her old costume.

Dean White was on double-duty this month doing both Avengers #12 and this issue. While you can see similarities with both books for colours, he definitely has a knack for not over-doing things, yet still placing emphasis where needed. I definitely prefer his colouring style with Tan’s art. Actually, it would have been great with Ribic’s and Opena’s too. Of course he did a great job in The Avengers too with Romita.

A few weeks ago, Uncanny X-Force released a .1 issue and it stood out as a great one-shot. The idea of the .1 issues were to get new readers on board.

Uncanny X-Force #8 arguably repeats the same process while still continuing the main storyline. I think I’ve said this at the end of every Uncanny X-Force review, but it needs to be said again.

If you haven’t started reading Uncanny X-Force, START!

And doesn’t Esad Ribic deserve a “best cover” award? Look at those colours! Wonderful!

Grade: 9/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Writing, Drawing, Inking & Exploding

And not in that order.

Personally, I have been unbelievably busy being creative. (Hooray for alliteration!) In fact, I’ve completely put off many other things in order to muse myself. It’s been pretty ridiculous, actually.

I’m holding off on reviews again this week – despite so many exciting comics coming out – only because I’d rather focus my energy elsewhere. My mind has been going at a mile a minute, you’d think I was on uppers. (I’m not, don’t worry.)

However, I feel an apology coming on because I’ve sort of let this site slip in the past few weeks. I know what it’s like to check back and not see an update when expecting one. I read WebComics regularly, and on some I see reasons why they’re on hiatus. Alas, I am not going on hiatus, but am just going to post whenever I can instead.

This means “Wednesday’s Reviews” may appear on Friday with only one review, then reappear on Tuesday with two more reviews. This way, I can spread my time out more effectively rather than explode over crunch time.

The funny thing is that I was not planning on writing that last paragraph at all, but it just sort of made sense to me.

One thing I will mention about this weeks comics is that Mike Carey made a killer turnaround with the Age of X story he’s working on. If you haven’t touched upon any of them yet, for the love of all that is holy, do it! It’s been quite the ride so far.

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Classic Comic Special: Comics, Covers, and Barcodes!

On the beginning of every month, I usually do a review of a classic comic from my own personal collection. This month, I decided on something a bit different to review.

I’m not going to critique a book, but rather talk about something which affected a few covers of Marvel and DC from the late 70’s and early 80’s. Guess what it is?

Barcode Strikeouts

What are those? Let me show you:

For comics coming out at a time when technology didn’t move so fast, there had to be assurances for companies like Marvel and DC. But more on that soon.

Here’s my copy of X-Men #126 from October of 1979. By all means, I invite you to click on the image to see it larger. Please pardon the quality of my old camera.

XMen

Let’s take a closer look at the bottom-left corner of the comic.

BarcodeStrike

I remember when I first started collecting, I had no idea why someone would put black strikes through the barcodes. Eventually, it dawned on me how the strikes only seemed to have affected a particular era of comics. Also, they weren’t drawn – but printed over. I wanted to know what it meant (and I’m sure you do too)!

Three of the following X-Men comics I have had strikes up until X-Men #130, from February of 1980.

XMen

Then issue #131 – a month later – it didn’t have a barcode at all!

XMen

Instead of a barcode, I see. . . a picture of Spider-Man? But I’ve seen issues of X-Men #131 with a barcode! What happened?!

This Can all be Explained

Firstly, a crossed out barcode means the comic is a Direct Edition. Well, what’s that?

In a nutshell, there are two “types” of editions: Direct and Newsstand. A Direct Edition is sent to the comic book store and sold there. A Newsstand Edition is something which a newsstand would carry (seems obvious, right)? However, this was not just exclusive to newsstands, as malls, convenience stores, and drugstores could also receive Newsstand Editions.

A Direct Edition comic is crossed out due to a variety of things. One is because it tracks sales for the publisher, while another reason is to stop the store owner from returning the comics they did not sell. A crossed out barcode means the barcode could not be scanned into inventory.

Obviously, that means the Newsstand Editions could be returned back to the publisher.

Arguably, Direct Edition comics are more sought-after because they would have been treated more carefully, as they wouldn’t have been placed in spinner racks. They were also bought by the dealer at a lower price presenting another reason to why dealers were unable to return them.

That being said, do you remember The Amazing Spider-Man #36? It was called the “Black Issue” as it was a tribute to the events of 9/11. I personally own a copy of that comic. Comic book dealers would have received one without a barcode on the cover at all. I bought mine at a local variety store which did have a barcode on the cover.

Believe it or not, if you have a good quality copy of that book WITH a barcode, it’s actually WORTH MORE because it is considered rare to find good-quality copies of Newsstand Edition comics.

As I said before, Direct Edition dealers/comic book store owners were not able to scan the comics. The funny thing about that is most Direct Edition carriers did not have scanners for barcodes at the time. The technology simply wasn’t there yet!

Due to the lack of technology from many of the comic dealers, Marvel replaced the barcodes with things like the Spider-Man head, or DC with Batman. On top of that, it was a way to promote extra little tidbits. Who doesn’t remember “50 Years of Captain America”, or “Spider-Man’s 35th Anniversary”? It was printed on every comic where the barcode should be.

Nowadays, since everyone is on par with technology, barcodes have returned and comics just state whether or not they are Direct Editions. For example, here is a picture of Uncanny X-Force #1 from October of 2010. What does it say right next to the barcode?

Until next time folks, keep on Space Truckin’!