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

Wednesday’s Reviews: Uncanny X-Force, Generation Hope, Wolverine, Jubilee and “I Told Ya So!”

Now that I’m feeling 90% better, I can refocus on reviews again.

But first, I want to say how excited I am for an upcoming Marvel maxi-event. As I suggested in an earlier post, Alpha Flight would be back. Turns out I was right! What’s even better is that the Chaos War duo, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, are at the helm of this eight-issue series. Given the two are some of Marvel’s best writers, I am beyond excited to see how this series turns out. I clearly have foresight. Watch out during election time.

But on to the reviews!

Uncanny X-Force

Uncanny X-Force #5
Rick Remender (writer), Esad Ribic (pencils, cover), John Lucas (inker), Matt Wilson (colours), Cory Petit (letters). $3.99

Just when the triumphant ending of the last-issue could not make Uncanny X-Force any better of a comic, Remender continues his brilliant run with a brand-new arc featuring Fantomex. (And arguably, given the last issue, anyone could’ve seen this coming – and it’s awesome). In a nutshell, the X-Force team are trying to gather themselves post last issues events. The team gathers without Fantomex in Warren’s bunker to find out that Deadpool has called a meeting to discover Deadpool actually has feelings – and remorseful ones at that! Already Deadpool has been seen as an entirely different character in X-Force with hardly any humour coming from him at all. It’s also great when Wolverine recognizes that he’s being “pulled in all directions” when he complains he doesn’t have much time for meetings.

Meanwhile, early in the story, we learn Fantomex is growing a world. However, due to last issue’s events, he visits his “mother” in the French Alps when he is suddenly attacked by a cyborg Cyclops, Captain America, Elektra, and a few others! Barely escaping with EVA, they crash land only to be found by a particular cyborg who invokes “death.”

As previously stated, Remender’s run with Uncanny X-Force has been great so far. Necessary characterization push the stories boundaries to places where other writers seem to miss. However, I really want to speak about the art in this book – which really has carried the stories. Changing artists, Esad Ribic takes the helm of X-Force and really slams this comic home. One thing I usually dislike about changing artists is how the styles change so drastically between books. Ribic’s artwork, while on its own level, still echoes that of Jerome Opena’s, making the book have a great art transition. Then, of course, John Lucas and Matt Wilson take over with inks and colours which add incredible depths to the many different locations they have to work with. From winter, to underground, to a burning building with a cyborg-Thing being lit by fire – the duo accent Ribic’s art flawlessly, taking the grey-white tones from the previous arc on to a different level.

Why are you still reading this? Read or re-read Uncanny X-Force!

Grade: 8/10

Generation Hope

Generation Hope #4
Kieron Gillen (writer), Salvador Espin & Scott Koblish (pencils, inks), Frank Martin (colours), Dave Sharpe (letters), Olivier Coipel & Chris Sotomayor (cover). $2.99

One may ask why I continuously review this book after the hell I’ve put it through. Well, it’s because of issues like this – where it defies everything I’ve said in the past and pushes forward with an excellent story. That’s right: Generation Hope #4 has an excellent story and brilliant artwork. And you know what? It could’ve have happened without the past three-issues.

Generation Hope #4 really excels at storytelling as there is very little action to drown in. The Five Lights make it to Utopia unscathed, but all are shocked about the events which transpired in Tokyo. Remorse and excitement fills the new mutants as they try to figure out their own paths. After landing, Wolverine and Theo get the scuffle they wished to have in prior issues, while the rest settle in. Kenji – the villain in the first three issues – is brought before Scott and Emma to decide his fate. After revealing his sorrow and Emma finding out that the Tokyo incident was truly and accident, they accept Kenji into the island. Meanwhile, Dr. Nemesis puts the other Four Lights in tests to figure out their powers and limitations. Teon becomes like a protective dog to Hope, Hope kisses Gabriel, and Kenji becomes unsure with the future.

Definitely taking a change of pace, the storyline revolves around how the Five Lights interact with one another. No longer are they showing off their powers as so much they are trying to find themselves. In doing so, we get to see how they are as people, rather than weapons. I’d also have to give credit to both artists and colourists for making this the prettiest book I’ve seen from Generation Hope. Mixing Western art with anime in particular panels literally put a smile on my face – particularly one with Gabriel and Dr. Nemesis.

I’m already set for the next issue as this one – despite the lack of action – has me pumped for more.

Grade: 7/10

Wolverine and Jubilee

Wolverine and Jubilee #2
Kathryn Immonen (writer), Phil Noto (pencils, inks, colours), Nathan Fairbairn & John Raunch (colours), Clayton Cowles (letters), Nimit Malavia (cover). $2.99

The Curse of the Mutants Aftermath continues as Jubilee was last seen in a shipping container with tons of dead bodies. Fortunately with Wolverine being at her side, he took her to Siberia – where the shipping container originated from. (Yes, the book just starts there.) Turns out, Wolverine recognized the shipping serial code and wants to believe Jubilee is innocent for the killings. He just can’t trust her yet. Due to Siberia’s constant overcast, Jubilee can go outside unharmed. Convenient!

Wolverine decides to take Jubilee out to fight her – for some “tough love,” and the two later settle in for the night at their hotel. The two are approached by the hotel’s owner and are told about how people and animals in the town are disappearing and the undead are walking. The two go to check out the area and Jubilee ends up fighting off a horde of zombie-esque creatures. Back at the hotel, Wolverine is then awoken to Jubilee kneeling at the door with the mysterious woman from the first issue grabbing on to her.

I want to love this issue, but I can’t due to the lack of intrigue. While I enjoy the Wolverine/Jubilee dynamics, I don’t really have a grasp to what is happening in Siberia until the last few pages. To top it off, the final page cliffhanger really was not so much of a shock as I don’t know who this woman is, nor do I necessarily care. I know she’s responsible for the massacre in the container, but I’m just not attached to the threat as of yet.

What saves the book is Noto’s great pencils. Seeing Jubilee in her X-uniform was very nostalgic for me and Noto’s great use of her costume when battling Wolverine certainly shone. I also have to comment on his work on faces as the large diversity in expressions gave a lot of character to the two as they are really the only ones in the book. The doom-and-gloom of Siberia’s landscape with colours and inks definitely held strong throughout the story. Days felt like nights with the longing forecast disallowing any positive moods to come from the town.

With a promising first issue and decent second one, Wolverine and Jubilee still have a lot of story to tell in two more issues.

Grade: 6/10

As for favourite covers, this week’s favourite totally goes to Carlo Pagulayan for Silver Surfer #1.

Silver Surfer

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Classic Comic Fridays w/ Wednesday Reviews?!

Tuesday marked my one-month anniversary of the blog, meaning in one month’s time, I’ve had 680 views! I think that’s pretty fantastic so far, so thank you everyone who has supported this idea! Last week’s article about Women in Comics was a huge success. Thank you for the comments and feedback received. Believe me, I’ll definitely be doing more posts like that in the near-future.

As for this week, I was late getting my comics on Wednesday hence no review. So instead of doing two separate blog posts, I’ll slam together one epic-post involving my weekly reviews, plus my Classic Comic feature. Sounds good? Okay!

So I am planning on doing three reviews for comics I grabbed this week, plus the Classic Comic, thus my reviews will be a bit shorter than usual as I want to cram everything in and not bore anyone. Also, please keep ***SPOILER ALERT*** in mind for when you read these reviews.

So without further adieu, let’s start with the Classic Comic!

As I’m sure you’ve heard about The Increduble Hulk coming back to television, so is a favourite of mine, Cloak and Dagger.

So as such, I shall review Cloak and Dagger Vol. 2 #1 from July of 1985. The second volume only lasted eleven issues, as it followed from a four-issue limited series. Bill Mantlo wrote both series, while Rick Leonardi penciled Volume 1, and up to issue four on Volume 2, only to have each issue after that drawn by different artists. Needless to say, this was to be Cloak and Daggers big break.

C&D1

The comic opens with the duo stopping a child sex-ring, which makes the story start pretty dark for characters who flew out of the Spider-Man comics. A battle ensues with the gang who steals the women, where Cloak and Dagger both put an end to the nonsense. They manage to hold off any death until the police arrive, and they head back to their home – The Holy Ghost Church – their sanctuary.

There, the Father believes Cloak is a bad influence on Dagger and believes he is persuading her in a life of crime. They discuss with the Father that they are runaways (it’s written in bold in the book and thus explaining their cameo in the Runaways series) and give a brief story about who they are, and explain how Cloak saved Dagger and they are a team.

While taking refuge in the church for a few days, Cloak inexplicably attacks church goers and makes them see their darkest fears. Dagger attacks back, believing Cloak must have been angry at the Father for his judgment. However, during the battle, two red eyes appear from the darkness making the reader assume Cloak has been possessed. Dagger, unknown to this, thinks Cloak is arrogant and leaves him, giving the reader the understanding that the duo is no more. So ends the comic.

Cloak and Dagger #1 is dark and gritty – exactly how the duo are upon facing crime. They are misunderstood and believe in high-morals, fighting for what’s right while still dealing with their own demons. The first issue really emphasized the image of C&D, especially with inker Terry Austin at the helm giving us the looks of a grungy city.

Story-wise, it ended weak with Dagger being almost ridiculous with her reaction to Cloak. It seemed like something out of Degrassi. However, that lull at the end does not overshadow the true nature of the comic throughout. It was unfortunate that the series only lasted eleven issues. Although the two were back for Volume 3 in the late 80’s, their run only lasted nineteen issues and left the duo to guest star in comics from there on out.

They had been most recently seen in the Uncanny X-Men storyline during the Dark Reign saga under the belief that they were mutants. However, in the Cloak and Dagger one-shot released after Siege, the two discovered they were not mutants and went back out into the wild to find their place in the world. Apparently that may be seen in television next.

Grade: 7.5/10

As for the rest of the comics, I wanted to review three this week which I found were unbelievably awesome: New Mutants #18, Chaos War #2, and Kick-Ass 2 #1.

New Mutants as of late, have been trying to get some R&R post-Second Coming, but unfortunately they’ve been pulled into limbo and are fighting government-bred mutants over the life of Illyana.

NewMutants18

Written by Zeb Wells and drawn by my favourite local artist, Leonard Kirk, New Mutants #18 was a blast. Literally. The entire issue was dedicated to fighting for Illyana’s life – the New Mutants versus the government mutants. Each page splashed with colour of explosions and drama.

But what really makes this comic exceptional is Wells’ work on individual characters, such as the government mutants, mixed in with Kirk’s take on how to explain with art. For example, Cannonball flies towards a government mutant named Toko at full speed only to be repelled back instantly. What’s Toko’s power? Who is she? We can only see what is given to us, and it’s done so beautifully. When you take in the wonderful mix of bright red and orange colours, you get incredible contrasts which usually are not found in many comics today.

This comic was a pleasant surprise despite being all-action. Story is told through the little dialogue, but pushes enough through so someone picking up the series for the first time would not be lost. Over all, a great read.

Grade: 8/10

Now I feel bad for bashing Chaos War #1 two weeks ago. Pak and Van Lente definitely kicked butt with this comic. Keeping the plot line brief: the world is doomed and no hero is left to help but gods themselves.

ChaosWar2

All superheros/people in the world have been put into a coma by the Chaos King. Planes crash, people “die,” but are not really dead because the underworld is being turned upside-down. It’s a long story.

We see the underworld get turned into a crap-storm as characters such as Ares, Zeus, Banshee, The Abomination, and more, are summoned as dead heroes by Pluto (Lord of the Dead) stating he will set them free if they fight for him against the Chaos King. Immediately we see Zeus slain by the Chaos King, showing that in death, one can still die.

Hercules feeling his fathers death, realizes he needs to set up a team to defeat the Chaos King. Of all things, ETERNITY, is summoned from Hercules. If you don’t know who Eternity is, take the strongest thing in the universe and put it into this guy. Regardless, Hercules wants help, and Eternity says he cannot give it as the Chaos King is an Anti-God, Eternity’s opposite, and cannot fight him as it would be like fighting himself.

So lost, Herc calls upon some strong friends: Amadeus Cho, Venus, and Thor are already there, so he calls upon Sersi of the Eternals, followed by Galactus and the Silver Surfer, making them the God Squad.

It’s really a page-by-page, jaw-dropping comic. Beautiful art again by Pham shows us the immensity of the other worlds. Fire and brimstone trickle the battle fields and Hela’s appearance at Hades with her army really shows the immensity of this battle about to explode. Although the first comic failed to impress, sticking around really showed me wrong.

Grade: 9/10

And alas, the inevitable Kick-Ass 2, #1. Still written by Mark Millar and drawn by John Romita Jr., I can see where Romita Jr. put all his attention when he was drawing the Avengers comics. We get to see his great art again!

Taking off from the hit-comic-series-turned-movie, Kick-Ass is back, and kick-assier than ever! The comic kicks-off pretty much how the first comic ended, and we see Hit-Girl training Kick-Ass to be a better fighter. Although it doesn’t explain it, it seems like awhile has passed since the first comic.

KickAss21

I say that because shortly after training, we see our hero Kick-Ass, or Dave Lizewski, meeting up with another hero, Doctor Gravity. They walk the street and are approached by a gang – which in turn, they fight, split up, and meet up again at a underground lair where other superheroes have joined together, calling themselves Justice Forever. Superheroes are becoming a norm it seems.

Mindy is also battling her new dad, Marcus, about being a superhero. She is hiding it from him, but being a detective, he knows she’s lying. So she’s banned herself from being Hit-Girl as she promises Marcus she will not do it anymore.

Also, much like in the first comic, we get a small flash-forward to what is to come – Red Mist’s super villain army versus Kick-Ass’s superhero army in the middle of the streets. So we know what’s to come.

Over all, there’s no real threat aside from what was teased to us earlier in the issue. It is also hinted that Red Mist is gathering villains, but it is not really explained how it is known. We also see that someone Kick-Ass knows is brain-damaged, while his house is also blown up. I’m not a big fan of spoilers, but it seems as if we are given a bit too much information too early on. I already feel like I know the ending before the story began.

However! Kick-Ass 2 is, so far, a lot better than the first series. I enjoyed the first series greatly, but I suppose with already established characters, I feel connected to these people a lot more. It also seemed a bit darker – which Millar was going for – but I only got that feeling when he gave us a hint of what will happen, rather than what is happening. Mix the forward-moving story with great art finally coming out of JRJR, I have to say, Kick-Ass 2 did not disappoint!

Grade: 7.5/10

I also think this is an interesting read: Click here to read it. It’s the blog from the person who won the bid for lunch with Joe Quesada. The proceeds went to charity, The Hero Initiative, and he got a great day out of it! What really stands out is that he has the same views I have with breaking into the comics industry: the feeling of getting closer to the dream with each step you take.

And on a heavier, unrelated note, I had the KFC Double-Down the yesterday. Do not believe the hype. Although it may be two patties of chicken which replaces bread, the sandwich itself is no bigger than the palm of my hand. I had it down in four bites and it does not fill you what-so-ever. Is it worth the bragging rights? I don’t even know anymore. But I felt fine after eating it!

Until then, keep on Space Truckin’!