Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Fourth Annual Wherin I Rant Awards - 2013

Welp, it's that time of the year again, and once again I've brought together lists of my favorite games and movies and miscellany that I really really liked, ordered them from least-awesome to most-awesome, and written some words about each of them. Now, you get to read those words! Hurrah!

Top 5 Games of 2013

All right, let's get this out of the way. There are some pretty big gaps in my game library this year. I just didn't have the time or money to play everything that I would have liked to. Now, I played some pretty great games, and I've got a list of those here, but there are some things which I've either not touched, or only played a little bit of from this year. I have no doubt that Ni No Kuni, Zelda, Rogue Legacy, GTA 5, Tomb Raider, and quite a few other games are absolutely great, and would probably have pushed this into a proper top ten list had I played them. As it is, I just haven't played them, or at least haven't played enough of them. So, here's a list of some of what I did play, and really liked.

5.  Saints Row IV

You know what's awesome? The Saints Rows franchise. This is a franchise that, until late last year, had completely passed me by. I remember hearing some really good things about Saints Row 2 way back when, but never picked it up. Then, I remember back in late 2011 hearing some amazing things about its sequel, but was so utterly consumed by Skyrim at that time that I never got into that, either.

So late last year I finally picked up Saints Row: The Third only to find that, yeah, it's an amazing game. Saints Row: The Third, while not exactly as packed with content as I'd like an open-world game to be, has one of the funniest campaigns of all time, and goes up there, in my opinion, with the funniest games of all time, like Psychonauts and Portal.

Then halfway through this year, I got Saints Row 2 through a Humble Bundle, and found out that, once again, that game was amazing too! I played that co-op, and while it isn't as overtly funny or well written as The Third, it's much more feature rich, and is a very good game in its own right, dealing with an overall more serious tone than the third one..

So of course, as a part of the Steam Sale this year, I had to pick up Saints Row IV. Saints Row IV, or as I like to call it "The Adventures of Gimp-Suit-Uncle-Sam and Lazy Goku," because that's how I played it, is a great game. There are some things about it which bother me, particularly the eternal twilight and occasional deliberate graphical glitches spoiling the look of an otherwise great looking game, which might hold it back from being quite as much fun as the second one was, but it still brought the excellent writing and video game satire of the third game, along with a slightly darker tone.

Plus, the game switched gameplay focus from being a satire of Grand Theft Auto, into being something more along the lines of Crackdown, Prototype, or InFamous. I. Love. InFamous. This game playing somewhat like InFamous means I love this game.

I also just want to mention, this is a game that gets co-op right. Don't give me your seperate co-op campaign. Don't drop me into the world with a friend and tell me I can't do any of the missions or side activities. Just put me in the world with a friend, and let me play. This game does that, and that makes it all the more fun.

Saints Row IV is awesome, and I haven't even finished it yet.

4. Fire Emblem: Awakening

I want to get this out of the way: Purely in terms of gameplay alone, this is the absolute best game released in 2013. Without regards to characters, soundtrack, story, or any of that, and only talking about actually playing a game, this game is very, very close to being perfect.

And, don't get me wrong, the rest of the game is pretty great too. The characters are memorable (Lucina might be one of my favorite characters of the year), the art is great, the story is very by the numbers, but not bad. Those things weren't the draw, they were just icing on a very, very tasty cake.

Between Fire Emblem, SMT4, Zelda, Animal Crossing, and Pokemon, this game very nearly turned into "my top five 3DS game of 2013." Astonishingly, this year the 3DS went from being kind of a joke into becoming what I can say with confidence is my absolute favorite handheld of all time. The catalog this thing has gotten over the past twelve months is incredible, and I just want to make sure everyone knows that now is the time to buy.

Fire Emblem is brutally unforgiving on its higher difficulties, and it's some of the most fun I've had playing a video game in 2013, beating out a lot of quality experiences. This game is absolutely worth buying a 3DS for.

3. Pokemon X

But yeah, there was that other 3DS game that I liked just a little bit more.


I was, overall, pretty disappointed with Pokemon White back in 2011. I respected the fact that the game tried to tell a more nuanced story, and actually did it surprisingly well until the last hour or so, but I thought the new Pokemon designs were astoundingly awful, and the lack of old favorites to fall back on, while not inherently a bad idea, bummed me out since I only liked a very very small handful of the new designs (Bisharp and me are gonna go wreck things).

But I'm still a huge fan of Pokemon, and so when X and Y came out as the first 3D Pokemon games, I was still there day one, unsure if the magic could ever be recaptured, but willing to give it one more try. And, somewhat surprisingly, Pokemon X was great. I even think there's an argument to be made that it's the best Pokemon game of all time, though it's not an argument I would personally make (Soul Silver is the best one, for the record).

The new designs are almost all terrific. The 3D battles look great. The unique animations for the Pokemon were impressively broad. The new minigames like Pokemon-Amie worked well, and Super Training finally means I don't have to spend countless hours EV-Training the perfect Pokemon.

The improvements made to multiplayer alone made this a terrific experience. I was caught up in the zeitgeist of playing at launch, and I had tons of friends from all over the world playing with me. Having a friends list at the bottom screen at all times, and being able to send short messages, or ask to trade or battle with them at a moment's notice made the game exponentially more fun.

But not only did the internet work, the game was a blast. Although the game didn't tell even a story up to the standards of White (which was unfortunate), story has never ever been the draw to Pokemon, and, while the game was far too easy, I still had a blast with it, and sunk nearly 100 hours into it during October.

While there are probably other, technically better games that I played this year, there probably isn't a game this year I had more outright fun with than Pokemon X. It's a great game whether it's your first Pokemon experience, or you've been playing for over a decade like I have. Another one worth buying a 3DS for.

2. The Last of Us

All right, enough of that fun stuff, it's time to talk about what video games are really about-- Soul crushing depression.

Congratulations, Naughty Dog! You finally made a game I actually liked! The Last of Us is an amazing game. Every single thing about this game is good. The visuals are jaw-dropping, pushing the Playstation 3 to its limits as a system. The gameplay is some of the best stealth I've ever seen, with intelligent choices made every step of the way, and since it's a stealth game, you don't have to put up with hours and hours of awful, awful shooting like certain other, more Indiana-Jones-Esque Naughty Dog games.

And the story... My god. The one thing I can say for Naughty Dog, and has been true since Uncharted 2, is that their games are cinematic like no others. Uncharted 2 looked like a movie. The action was impressive, and didn't feel like something you would play. The Last of Us, from its heartbreaking opening moments, is absolutely that.

The Last of Us has twists, and turns. Every time I thought I knew where it was going, it threw me for a loop, but not in the way many video game stories do. Even as someone who absolutely loves video games for the way they can tell stories, I can admit there are very few games with stories that can stand alongside the best of other mediums. Mass Effect is always the example that jumps to mind. And yet, The Last of Us is absolutely on that list. The ending will leave you shocked, and emotionally destroyed, but not in the way you'd expect.

I don't care how burned out you are on zombie games, if you haven't played The Last of Us, you are missing out on one of the best games of the generation.

So what beats it?

1. BioShock Infinite


BioShock Infinite is a masterpiece. Let me be clear: Every. Single. Thing. About. This. Game. Works. 

From its opening moments, BioShock defies any expectations you might have after the first one. It is just such an incredibly great game, I don't know how I can even talk about it. I mean, to start off with, it's one of the best shooters out there. But I mean, even beyond being an incredibly solid shooter, everything else! The art is gorgeous! Look at it!

Look at it!

And the sound! Speaking of best soundtrack of the year, the sound design is a stroke of brilliance! The way this game uses music, the way it works it into the story in the most brilliant ways... I can't even tell you! Just-- JUST WATCH THIS CLIP!

SEE? SEE HOW BRILLIANT THAT IS? No you don't! If you haven't played the game, then of course you don't!


I love the original BioShock. I think it is one of the defining games of this generation. Infinite blows it out of the water in every aspect.

I can't talk about this game. I can't explain how great it is. It. Just. Is. Game of the year? Absolutely. Game of the generation? ...Mmmm, that's probably still Mass Effect 2, or maybe Fallout: New Vegas, but it's pretty close.

If you play only one video game from 2013, play BioShock Infinite. Full stop. If you don't like this game, I can't help you, because that means you are probably dead.

Top 5 Best Movies of 2013

5. The World's End

Until this year, I had never seen any of the Cornetto Trilogy. In case you're unfamiliar with that term, it's used to describe the three movies starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and directed by Edgar Wright, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World's End. They are completely unrelated films, but thematically linked enough that they are often mentioned together.

So, until this summer, I hadn't seen any of the three. Then, I watched Shaun of the Dead. It's amazing. Then, I watched Hot Fuzz. It's even better. Then, I watched The World's End. It's... Well, Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead are both probably funnier, but The World's End stands up as a very strong story, perhaps surprisingly so. The acting is great, the story is surprisingly touching and heartwarming, and, yeah, it's really funny.

4. Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 was a surprisingly divisive movie, with many fans loving it, and many hating it. I can only assume that the people who hate it are literally insane, because it's a fantastic film, perhaps my favorite of the Iron Man trilogy.

It's really hard to talk about this movie without spoiling the big reveal partway through, but suffice it to say that the film takes some shockingly huge risks which pay off incredibly well.

On a more personal note, the thing that makes this one of my favorite films of the year is the way it deals with Tony Stark's anxiety after the attack on New York in The Avengers. Speaking as someone with an anxiety problem, it's an issue that pop culture almost never talks about, and to see it actually portrayed really well-- Especially being portrayed by one of the superheroes I adore so much --personally touched me in a way no other movie managed to all year long (or even further back).

It does bother me that once it's time for the climax of the film they kind of forget about the anxiety problem they established Tony was having earlier in the film, and if they had handled that better this might have even made it to the number one spot on this list, but as it is, the film still works really well.

3. Frozen

Of course the new Disney Princess movie is on this list! I'm the guy who said Tangled was the best movie of 2010!

Frozen is not as good a movie as Tangled, but that's all right, because very few movies are. Frozen is, in a lot of ways, about defying every expectation you have about Disney movies. It takes many of the tropes commonly associated with Disney films, plays them straight just long enough for you to start rolling your eyes, and then BAM, turns them on their head mid-eyeroll.

The music is great. The characters are great. The story is extremely strong. It isn't quite the pitch-perfect success that Tangled was, but it comes really close. With three hits in a row, I'd say it's safe to say we're entering a new Disney golden age, and if the movies keep being as great as this, then I'm happy to be along for the ride.

2. Catching Fire

I love the Hunger Games books. I think that they're very well told page turning novels. They're my favorite YA series since Harry Potter, and I've read a lot of YA series.

And the first movie was good. It wasn't perfect, but it was good! This, however, is the difference between a good movie, and a great movie. I know I'm weird, and that Catching Fire is my favorite of the novels, but this is one of those movies where you are just captivated, and can't look away.

My favorite thing about the second book, and my favorite thing about the second film, might be considered a spoiler (even though the trailer totally showed it), so I won't talk about it here. Suffice it to say, don't miss this movie, whatever you do.

1. Pacific Rim

If you only watch one movie released in 2013, please make it Pacific Rim.

Pacific Rim was absolutely the most fun I had seeing a movie this year. I've said this a lot, but this movie is like what the Transformers franchise should be. Good robot designs. Excellent characters. Beautiful cinematography, and just an overall gorgeous LOOK to the film, part of which can be attributed to it being set primarily in Hong Kong, but a large part of which is just because of smart choices made with the film.

I've heard people criticize the movie for not having a good enough story, and... Yeah, ok, I can kind of see where they're coming from, but I don't agree. Story is not the primary thing you're coming to for this film, but it should still provide you with a good one. Here's the thing: It does. It's not the best part of the movie (that's the part where the robots are punching the monsters in the face), but it's competently done. The characters and the acting all really captured me, Mako Mori, Stacker Pentecost, Hannibal Chau, these are all very very distinct characters, and you really feel like you're only getting to see a little bit of a much more complicated life story with each of them. Even the background characters feel like fully realized characters who we're only seeing a little bit of. The stereotypical "RUSSIANS"? I think there's a reason those two have caught on in such a big way with so many people.

And here's the thing, I'd be lying if I called Pacific Rim some sort of deep, philosophical movie. I definitely think the movie has some interesting things to say, and I love the way the forces of the Earth have all grown together in the years since the first Kaiju attack, but at the end of the day I don't think it's trying to give us some deep insight on the meaning of life. It is, at it's core, an action movie about giant monsters and giant robots punching each other. But the thing is, not every movie needs to have some deep philosophical message. I like it movies do have some sort of deep meaning, but sometimes taking a fairly shallow concept and executing on it really, really well is just enough.

I re-watched this just the other day (for the record this is the first Blu-Ray I've felt the need to own since the best film of 2010, Tangled), and you know what? It still really holds up. This movie just does so many intelligent things. Taking a Kaiju film, and changing them from being a metaphor for the atomic bomb, like Godzilla, or even for 9/11, like Cloverfield, and turning them into what feel like a force of nature, into a hurricane, that's clever. Giving us a really fleshed out world, but then letting the audience figure out, or not figure out, a lot of the details of that world based on their own inference? That's brilliant.

And, yeah, the bits where the robots and the monsters are punching each other are really great too. I've been called a hypocrite for liking this movie so much, while still thinking that the Transformers film series is tantamount to a hate crime against people who like movies, but here's the thing: Every word I've just said, you can say the opposite about for those films. It's crazy how much more I'll enjoy a movie when I actually like the characters on the screen. It's amazing how much more fun I'll find the fight scenes when I can actually tell what's happening, because the cameraman isn't having a seizure. It's incredible how much more I'll like a movie when it's actually a good movie.

Pacific Rim didn't do super well in theaters this year, and that makes me really sad, because I can't even think of a movie that's as much sheer FUN as Pacific Rim is. The type of sheer glee I had when I left the theater, the only movie I can think of that match that was the last fifteen minutes of Cabin In The Woods (by the way, you should totally watch Cabin In The Woods), but this kept that dopey smile on my face for the full 2+ hours.

I would be willing to bet money that the story of Pacific Rim isn't over yet, and I don't mean in terms of a sequel (although please, please make a Pacific Rim 2). I see a future, twenty years from now, where people are still watching Pacific Rim. Where it goes down as one of the Sci-Fi Action classics. Until then, I'll just have to go watch it alone a few more times. But, seriously, that bit with the rocket punch? Amazing.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Very Night Vale Christmas [Fan Fiction]

Note: This is a Fan Fiction for Welcome to Night Vale. You can find Night Vale at http://commonplacebooks.com/welcome-to-night-vale/.

On today’s show: It’s Christmas in Night Vale, everyone’s favorite time of the year. What’s your favorite holiday tradition? Also: A very important message about the Christmas Spirit. And, as always, the weather!

Sleigh bells. A twinkling, in the darkness. Footsteps on the roof. Gunshots in the night. Welcome to Night Vale.

Season’s greetings, listeners. How is everyone doing today? I hope you are all doing well, this morning! Today is a wonderful day, Night Vale, as I get to start off the day with some good news!

This morning, as I was passing by the Ralphs on my way to the station, a hooded figure emerged from the dog park. Now, normally that would be frightening news indeed, but today is no ordinary day. The hooded figure was not wearing the usual robe, made of what appears to be shifting shadows. Instead, the hooded figure was dressed in-- You’ll never believe this-- Red! That’s right! For the first time, well, ever, a hooded figure was seen wearing a colorful robe!

A crowd grew together around the hooded figure as he emerged, despite the many warnings issued by the city not to come within fifty feet of any hooded figures, as if propelled by some unseen hands, drawing us all in like moths to a flame. The hooded figure began speaking in some ancient, eldritch language that I do not know, but was somehow able to understand. And do you know what he-- or she, it was pretty difficult to tell-- said?

It’s Christmas! Yes, Night Vale, that’s right! I hope you got all of your shopping done, because today is everyone's favorite day of the year-- Christmas! Oh, I do love Christmas!

As the hooded figure disappeared back into the dog park, looking downright festive in that blood red robe of his, which I still was not able to look directly at, Christmas day was officially kicked off!

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But Cecil, what are you doing telling us this? Shouldn’t you get Christmas off? Shouldn’t you be spending it with family? Or someone special, like, say, wonderful, perfect Carlos?” Well, you’re right. I should be spending the day with family. But you know what, listeners? You are all my family, Night Vale, so how could I not come spend some of this wonderful day with you?

I know we’re all huge fans of Christmas here in Night Vale. The Sheriff’s Secret Police require us to be. Why, it’s hard for me to even say what my favorite part of the holiday is! If I were pressed, though, I would probably say that it’s the gifts.

Opening presents has always brought me such joy, ever since I was a little boy. Oh the joy and delight of seeing what wonderful gifts I had been brought that year, is there really any happier time in a child’s life? And then, getting to burn those gifts, as a sacrificial offering to Krampus, your father or mother reading the traditional passage from an old Austrian book of spells which always seems slightly moist, being read in the original German, of course.

What a magnificent sight it is, seeing the wooden toys burn, the plastic ones melt, and any electronics spark slightly, before going dark forever, all to protect you from a terrifying beast who would otherwise surely devour you in the night. There truly are few sights as wonderful as seeing the toys you've so desperately wanted for so long being forever purged by flame. That sort of memory sticks with you for your entire life!

It sounds like word has spread about today being Christmas, Night Vale, because I’m receiving a report that the Night Vale Mall is doing its biggest business in years! Just minutes after opening its gates, the mall was flooded with shoppers, running frantically through the stores like packs of wild dogs, searching desperately, almost viciously, for the items they needed for their last minute Christmas shopping.

Now, I don’t want to judge, but really, this is why you do your Christmas shopping early! I got Carlos a gift way back in mid-July, I know, it seems like a long time ago now, and as a result, I don’t have to go to the mall this late in the season! Procrastination only leads to bad things, and while I, of course, hope that everyone gets exactly what they want this year for Christmas, I can’t say that I’ll be surprised if there’s a lot of disappointing presents this year.

To anyone who might be listening to this from the mall or its surrounding area, good luck with your holiday shopping!

And now, a word from our sponsors.

I know that the Christmas season has a habit of sneaking up on us. I mean, just yesterday it was mid-July, and one announcement spoken in some ancient demonic tongue later, it’s the end of December! But StrexCorp has you covered, friends.

StrexCorp has set up Christmas tree lots all over Night Vale. And the best part is, the Christmas trees are free! Well, they don’t cost any money, at least.

Here’s what you need to do. Head over to any one of the StrexCorp Christmas tree lots. Find the tree you like. I personally have always been a fan of those noble firs, grand trees indeed. Once you’ve found the tree you like, find the cauldron at the center of the lot. Pick up one of the knives located next to the cauldron, and create a small slit on your hand-- Don’t worry, listeners, it hardly hurts at all. Let a few drops of blood drip into the cauldron.

And that’s it! Your Christmas tree will be transported via blood magic all the way back to your home, where you will find it fully decorated, looking more gorgeous than you could even imagine. Isn’t that great? StrexCorp really has taken all the hassle out of Christmas.

StrexCorp Christmas Lots: Death free since 2011.

Listeners, I don’t want to ruin your Christmas day with bad news, so I’m just going to skip over the next few announcements. Let’s see… War declared… Tramplings at the mall… Economic collapse… Oh, here we are! This is a fun one!

Little Abbie Mills, one of the students at Night Vale Elementary, has decided to give up her Christmas day, and is spending it doing charity work. Isn’t that great? She’s decided to go around town today painting over graffiti, giving food to those less fortunate than her, and helping families protect themselves from any dangerous Christmas Elves they might come across.

I think I speak for all of us when I say, good job Abbie! Just make sure not to cover up any of the city’s Sheriff’s Secret Police officially mandated graffiti! Ha ha ha ha ha! You’ll be able to tell which graffiti is officially mandated by… Oh. Well, it says here that there actually isn’t a way to tell which pieces of graffiti are officially mandated. Hm. Well, good luck, Abbie.

Listeners, Christmas is always a fun time, but, like little Abbie just reminded us, it’s important not to get too wrapped up in ourselves this time of year. So, I’d like to get a little more serious, for a moment, and talk about the Christmas Spirit.

The Christmas Spirit is a dark, terrible thing. Do not take the Christmas Spirit lightly. No one knows for certain who-- or what-- the Christmas Spirit once was, but one thing is for certain, if you should be out and about on Christmas after nightfall, beware. The Christmas Spirit is the stuff of nightmares, listeners. It’s suspected to be the reason why Santa Claus hasn’t visited our town in nearly twenty years-- Oop! I’m sorry, I hope there weren’t any children listening. Uh… What I meant, children, was that Santa Claus definitely still loves our little community as much as anyone, and it definitely hasn’t been your parents putting those gifts under the tree. Moving on.

Should you see the Christmas Spirit, run. Do not look back. Do not think back, as thinking about the Christmas Spirit has been shown to attract it in the past. And, as you run, should you suddenly be possessed by a feeling of extreme merriment, then all I can say is, may god rest ye, merry gentleman.

An update on the mall story from earlier: I’ve received some reports that the Night Vale Mall has become something which can now only be accurately referred to as a battleground. The shoppers have formed tribes, and now hunt together not only for bargains, but for each other. They have fashioned everything from primitive weapons like swords and spears, to makeshift explosives, and are currently engaged in combat just in front of the RadioShack.

It appears there are two main tribes who have come out leaders in the struggle. The first are calling themselves “The Children of Nicholas.” They are based out of the Sears, and appear to wear festive sweaters stained by the blood of their enemies to identify themselves. The second, based out of the Best Buy, referred to themselves only as “Shoppers,” and, in their own words, “worship the malevolent god Consumerus.”

If you are near the mall or, even worse, inside the mall as you hear this, I urge you to leave as soon as possible, and retreat to the safety of your own homes. I’m afraid that, before I received this update, I sent intern Timothy to the mall to investigate, and only now do I realize I may have been sending him to his own demise.

Listeners, I’m afraid little Abbie Mills has accidentally painted over some of the Sheriff’s Secret Police officially mandated graffiti. The Sheriff’s Secret Police have taken the eight year old girl into custody. I don’t know what will happen to her, but I’m sure all of us here in Night Vale are wishing her the best, unless the Sheriff’s Secret Police tell us otherwise.

And now, the weather. Today’s weather has been cancelled. Because of that, I’m afraid our weather segment has nothing to report.

The open warfare in the mall was cut short today when one of the makeshift explosives created out of a propane canister which was being used by the Sons of Nicholas exploded next to a load bearing beam, leveling a section of the Night Vale Mall, and crushing both the Shoppers, and the Sons of Nicholas alike.

I’m afraid intern Timothy wasn’t able to make it out of the mall in time. And I regret to inform the audience, and his family, that intern Timothy has died in the line of duty here at the Night Vale Community Radio Station. Our hearts go out to all of those who knew intern Timothy and--

What’s this? I’ve just been handed a piece of paper updating me on the situation in the Night Vale Mall… Why-- This says that… Is that right?

Listeners, wonderful news! Intern Timothy has been… Found! Alive, no less! Rescue teams found him unconscious, pinned beneath the fallen Radioshack sign. Emergency armored medical vehicles are taking him to the Night Vale Hospital as we speak, and he is expected to live. It’s a Christmas miracle, everyone!

Well listeners, that brings us to the end of our show. And really, could anyone among us ask for a more perfect ending, than to find out that a citizen of our fair town wasn’t killed, but merely maimed and likely crippled?

Intern Timothy shall not be taken from us today, instead he shall get to know the many experiences left in life. The joys of falling in love. The pains of seeing your love leave you, either for another man, or for the one who takes us all, eventually, death. The utter sorrow of growing old alone and filled with regrets, until one day Intern Timothy will look back at his life, think of this day, and scream to a harsh, uncaring night sky “Why? Why couldn’t you have taken me then?” I don’t think there’s a more perfect ending to be had.

Stay tuned for six straight hours of your favorite holiday music, as a part of our fair town’s radio tradition “The Scares of Halloween.” Merry Christmas, Night Vale… And good night.

Welcome to Night Vale is a production of Commonplace Books. This is a not-for-profit fan work with no relation to Commonplace Books. Please, don’t sue me.

Today’s proverb: Rudolph the red nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose. Wait, that’s not a reindeer, that’s a bomb. Run away.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Comic Book Review -- Justice League 23.4: Secret Society #1

Villains Month is over. DC's third September of something completely different in a row (the past two being the New 52 launch, and the #0 issues) has come to a close, the 3D covers have sold out, and the many, many stories have been told. I would, overall, call this month a success. This month I've read good stories, I've read decent stories, and I've tried to avoid the bad stories (to some success), but it was, if nothing else, a refresher, and I enjoyed it.

I've got one of the 3D variants of Justice League #23.4 sitting on my desk right now, and, seriously, it's super cool. The hands are all totally reaching out at me, and stuff. Have you seen these 3D covers? They're so cool, you guys and-- That is not the point! I'm sorry, the point is, Secret Society #1, sitting on my desk, I've read it, would you like to hear about it? Well I'm going to tell you about it any way.

Secret Society #1 really shouldn't be called that. What it should be called is "Outsider #1," because the Trinity War villain is certainly the star of the issue, and make no mistake, it certainly falls into the "good story" category of Villains Month. It's all about his origins, and why he... Ok, you know what? There's no way to talk about this issue without spoiling the crap out of Trinity War and the premise of Forever Evil, so if you haven't read Trinity War yet, I'm about to tell you the ending of it.




The Outsider is the Earth-3 version of Alfred Pennyworth! He used Pandora's Box to bring the Crime Syndicate to Earth-1! The Justice League is dead, the world is ours!

Secret Society #1 is all about The Outsider's origin in greater detail. Specifically, just why does the Earth-3 version of Alfred look so pale? Why does he have that nervous tick of laughing? Ha.

Secret Society #1 is a good issue. It tells a compelling backstory for a villain, it gives us some reveals about Owlman and The Outsider both, and it has a cliffhanger that will definitely have you excited for Forever Evil #2 next week.

It's set in Earth-3 Gotham before The Outsider fled to Earth-1, and seeing Earth-3 Gotham, and just how corrupt it is (and keep in mind, this is compared to Gotham!) is a lot of fun. Seeing Owlman in action is great, and this issue is very heavy on set up for Owlman's character, especially in relation to the rest of the Crime Syndicate. We also get to see one of Earth-3's "heroes," although calling him that might be a bit much.

It's obvious that a lot of this issue is relying on you having read Forever Evil #1 (we get clarification on just what it was that happened to Talon in this issue, for example), and a lot of this issue is setting up things to come, especially, as with Forever Evil #1, relating to Nightwing, who it seems will have a very very major role in Forever Evil as a whole. There's striking imagery, and at least one moment that manages to have you genuinely sympathetic for Owlman, which is quite an accomplishment for a character who is literally just "evil Batman."

Because of the major things to come which this issue sets up, I would heavily recommend anyone reading Forever Evil pick this issue up.

The only major problem I had with the issue is the art. It's not bad, in fact it's quite good in parts, but it's very very dark, and sometimes that makes it almost incomprehensible. Sequential art relies on my being able to tell what's going on, and there are points in this issue where that's a problem. Still, it didn't get in the way of the story for the most part, and there are images in this issue that are very very striking which I don't want to spoil for you here. (To those who have read the issue: Talon. That is all.)

This might be my favorite of the Villains Month issues, and I read quite a few which I very much enjoyed. Consider this a strong recommendation. (Plus, seriously you guys, these 3D covers are, like, super cool.)

Trinity War's Successes and Failures, a Crossover Recap and Review

(Note: The following is adapted from a very long forum post I made to io9's Observation Deck forum.)

Trinity War was the big summer event that was supposed to feature the three Justice Leagues (the Justice League, the JLA, and the Justice League Dark) fighting each other over the mysterious artifact Pandora's Box. Pandora, The (Nu) Question, and The Phantom Stranger make up the "Trinity of Sin," who also feature heavily in it. Including tie-ins it was 11 issues long, and about four of those were worthwhile.

So here's the rundown (spoilers, obviously). As you may have heard, Superman and Wonder Woman are dating now. Well, the United States government decides that they don't like the fact that the two most powerful beings on the planet are now dating, and decide to create their own Justice League under (skinny) Amanda Waller, led by Steve Trevor.

The Justice League of America's goal was supposedly the same as the regular Justice League's, truth, justice, the American way, all that. Secretly (as in, even the members of the JLA don't know it, only Waller, Trevor, and a select few others do), they picks were specifically chosen to take down the Justice League should the need arise. The JLA was made up of Martian Manhunter (to counter Superman), Katana (to counter Wonder Woman), Hawkman (to counter Aquaman), Vibe (to counter The Flash), Stargirl (to counter Cyborg), Green Lantern (to counter... Well, to counter Green Lantern), and Catwoman (to counter Batman). Green Arrow eventually gets added to the team too, because he really wants to be on a Justice League, you guys.

Some of the picks were dodgy, but I actually thought the first five issues of the Nu52 JLA were pretty good. They featured the new JLA squaring off against a secret society that's recruiting various supervillains to their cause, led by a mysterious figure called The Outsider. It's recommended reading for Trinity War, because The Outsider and the Secret Society are the main baddies in that event. They end up taking down Professor Ivo, but The Outsider gets away (but not before some incredibly awesome foreshadowing about his identity. Basically he has a map of the Batcave, and he knows who Batman is).

Also during this time Waller has a certain scientist working for her, Dr. Arthur Light, examine a thingymabobber that the Secret Society hid. It explodes, and he's transformed into Dr. Light, who, in the Nu 52, is now a good guy! Oh yeah, and the Atom (a member of the Justice League) is actually a double agent for the JLA.

So Pandora's Box. Pandora #1, billed as "a prequel to Trinity War," gives background on Pandora herself. She is one of the members of the Trinity of Sin, the three greatest sinners in history, Pandora, Judas (The Phantom Stranger), and The Question, whose identity was erased from history, who were all sentenced to the curse of immortality by the council of eternity. Pandora (accidentally) unleashed the original evil into the world waaaay back when, and now she has Pandora's Box, and she's convinced that if either the person with a completely pure, or completely evil heart touches it, evil will be removed from the world (as well as the Seven Sins, who are actual physical monsters). So, in part one of Trinity War, she takes the box to Superman. Turns out even Superman has some evil in his heart, because when he touches it, it briefly turns him evil. Wonder Woman knocks the box from his hands, and he's back to normal... OR IS HE?! (He is.)

I'm not even going to get into the why, because this recap is already super long, but at this time Shazam (yeah, he's called that now) decides to take an urn of Black Adam's ashes, and spread them among the sands of his homeland, because even villains deserve an honorable burial, yada yada yada. The problem is that Kahndaq, Black Adam's homeland, is basically desert North Korea, and absolutely off limits to Americans. Shazam says it'll be fine though, because Wonder Woman and Superman went there themselves, disregarding the laws of the country, just a few weeks prior to free some hostages. Considering he's like, ten, I'll allow it.

The Justice League detects Shazam heading for Kahndaq, and decide they need to go get him out of there before it leads to an international incident. The JLA sees the entire Justice League headed there, and they decide that must be the Justice League finally deciding to overthrow the Khandaqi government, or something, and head after them in turn. The Justice League Dark is actually like barely in this comic, so they don't do anything.

So Shazam, the Justice League, and the JLA all arrive at Khandaq at the same time, and all start yelling at each other. Once they're there though, Doctor Light's powers start going haywire because he's next to the most powerful solar battery in the world, Superman, and he accidentally zaps Wonder Woman, and Superman gets really really angry, and, well...

SO THAT HAPPENS. About two pages later though, The Outsider is like "lol, just kidding, it was really me." I guess Kotaku didn't read that far into the issue when they wrote their article.

And that's part one. Here's where the problems with Trinity War actually start. Hardly anything happens between parts one and five, including tie-ins. It's a bunch of the Justice Leagues starting to fight... and then not actually getting into an all out brawl.

So in part two the Justice League and the JLA start fighting each other, but right as they start Superman yells "STOP!" and tells the JLA to take him into custody, and that he can't believe he lost control like that.

Wonder Woman decides very logically that the BOX THAT TURNED SUPERMAN EVIL might have something to do with WHY SUPERMAN TURNED EVIL (it doesn't). She decides to go after Pandora. Batman says that there was a mind controlling supervillain hiding in Khandaq at the time, so it was probably him that did it. The Justice League and the JLA start working together to figure out why Superman killed that guy, and Amanda Waller is like "oooh, hey, Firestorm, make me some kryptonite, because I'm definitely not evil or anything."

In Pandora #2 (Tie-in 2) Pandora goes and talks to Vandal Savage, and it turns out he can't use Pandora's Box either, because it turns him into a crying regretful mess when he does.

In part three Wonder Woman takes Pandora's Box to Hephaestus, who tells her that the greek gods don't actually know anything about it, they just took credit for it. Wonder Woman decides that to find Pandora, she needs the help of the Justice League Dark so halfway through the series they finally start showing up in a meaningful way (there's a bit with the Secret Society kidnapping Madame Xanadu, it doesn't actually matter). The Justice League and the JLA go after Wonder Woman, and for some reason don't want her to go after the box that looks like the most likely cause for Superman turning evil ("it's too dangerous," I think). Anyways, she basically says "no, I'm going to find Pandora anyways," and takes some of the heroes (Stargirl, Hawkman, Frankenstein, Aquaman) with her. The Phantom Stranger shows up and says "Hey Batman, I'll take you to Heaven so we can just ask Dr. Light who killed him." So Batman takes Katana and a couple others with him, and they go off into tie-in number two. Constantine, meanwhile, tells Shazam that he has some really nice candy in a windowless van parked out behind the House of Mystery, and they walk off to go chill in tie-in number three. The Question shows up and tells Superman he knows that he's innocent, and that he wants to help Superman prove his innocence. Superman (who's looking super sickly now, by the way) follows him and they break out, because reasons (remember that Superman believes that he is guilty at this point). Oh, and the Outsider mentions to the reader the minor detail that he has a mole planted in the Justice League.

Anyway, tie-in two, Constantine tricks Shazam into switching bodies with him because NuConstantine is a douchebag, and Shazam tricks him right back. That's... Basically the whole issue.

Tie-in three is actually a solid issue of the Phantom Stranger, but has almost no impact on the plot of Trinity War (which, I suppose, it could be argued that tie-ins shouldn't. I'll leave that debate for another day, especially since I really liked this issue). Batman, Katana, Deadman, and The Phantom Stranger go to heaven, freak out about how nice everything is there and how they'd love to just stay there forever, get over it, and then find Dr. Light. Dr. Light is in a heaven coma and it could be bad to wake him up, for heaven reasons, but Batman is like "Clark is my bro, I don't care about harming this innocent man! WAKE UP!" Aaaand Dr. Light knows absolutely bugger all. The Phantom Stranger is erased from existence because of stuff that's happening in his solo series.

Part four! Remember the mind controlling baddie who was in Khandaq? Yeah, they find him. It wasn't him. Superman shows up. The Atom admits that she's been a spy for the JLA all along, which increases tensions between the group. They decide that maybe Waller is behind Superman killing Dr. Light, since she wanted to replace the Justice League with the JLA, and destroying public confidence in them is a big first step. Not long after they get to the JLA headquarters however, it turns out that The Outsider planted a bomb in Doctor Light's body, or something, and he blows the JLA headquarters to smithereens.

Pandora takes the box to Lex Luthor, since she's looking for someone evil, and Wonder Woman shows up to get the box from her. Like an idiot, Wonder Woman grabs the box, and BOOM, it turns her evil. OK, bear with me here, this is where Trinity War actually starts being kind of good again.

Part 5 of 6 (which is actually part 9 of 11, for those keeping score) finally has the heroes fighting. Basically, when Wonder Woman grabs the box it somehow activates, and everyone nearby starts fighting over it. It turns everyone nearby except for Pandora and John Constantine evil (Constantine says he's unaffected because you "can't spoil a pot that's already filthy"). The heroes at the JLA headquarters help people out of the rubble, and such, and realize that it probably wasn't Waller. The JLA realizes just how badly they've been being played by Waller though, which is why they're going to become the Justice League of Canada soon (that's not a joke). So, basically, this issue is a big fight scene, but it's a well done fight scene, so I can't complain.

Nothing of consequence to Trinity War happens in Pandora #3, and I dropped the title immediately after that issue since all the issues I read were just boring, so I won't mention it any further.

So, the big conclusion. Would you like to know how this series ends? Incredibly well!

Constantine takes the box to the Temple of Hephaestus, where it was originally discovered (except for the fact that Pandora #1 contradicts that). A bunch more heroes show up, and one by one they start fighting each other for control of the box. Superman collapses, since he's super sick at this point. Firestorm checks him out, and realizes what's causing his sickness; He has a microscopic piece of kryptonite in his brain (this is what caused him to melt Dr. Light's face). How did it get there, you ask? The Atom put it there.

Turns out The Atom and The Outsider have been working together from the very start. They've also uploaded a virus called GRID into Cyborg, so he's been a traitor too, without even knowing it (upon this revelation the metal parts of Cyborg eject the human parts and form a fully robot body calling itself GRID, Vic is currently being kept alive by the green lantern).

So, just who is The Outsider, who has been being hyped up since the sixth issue of Nu52 Justice League? Oh, that's simple, it's Alfred Pennyworth. Kind of.

Guess what the "Trinity" in "Trinity War" stands for. Is it for the typical "trinity" of superheroes, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman? Nope. Is it for the "Trinity of Sin," The Question, The Phantom Stranger, and Pandora? Nope. Is it for the trinity of Justice Leagues involved in it? Not that, either.

It's for Earth-3.

Holy mother of god was that an effective plot twist.

Earth-3, in case you aren't familiar, is the alternate Earth where all the Superheroes are Supervillains, and vice-versa. Turns out that in the New 52, Earth-3 is a desolate wasteland destroyed by the Crime Syndicate (the evil Justice League). Years ago Owlman sent his loyal servant (and the man who killed his parents) Alfred Pennyworth to a parallel universe, along with another member of the Crime Syndicate, Atomica, who took the identity of The Atom in our world.

Pandora's Box? That's basically an ancient Boom Tube, used to travel between Earth-1 and Earth-3.

This is, to say the least, an awesome reveal. The Justice Leagues have pretty much already beaten each other, so the Crime Syndicate steps out of the portal created by Pandora's Box, wipes the floor with the Justice Leagues, and then takes over the world. That's why DC has been doing Villains Month this September, and that's what Forever Evil is about. The Crime Syndicate is claiming that the Justice League is dead, and have taken over the world, as well as destroying a large part of it. Now Lex Luthor has decided no one is going to take over the world but him, and he's going to lead a group of supervillains to fight the Crime Syndicate. Forever Evil seems awesome so far, I highly recommend checking that one out since it seems much, much better. If you want to read that, start with Forever Evil #1, and Justice League #23.4 (which is The Outsider's origin story, and I would call required reading).

Trinity War wasn't the worst story ever, not by a long shot. The art was very good throughout, and it started and ended really, really strongly. The problem is that the middle was a bunch of running around talking to different people, and that the tie-ins were almost all super boring (I love The Phantom Stranger series that's going on right now, and that issue was no different). For a series which promised us the Justice Leagues fighting each other in an all out war, it really didn't deliver on that until the very end, and when it did it used the cop-out of mind control. I would have preferred to see a simpler story. The ending, and the reveal of what Pandora's Box actually was, left a lot of unanswered questions as well. Who originally created Pandora's Box, all those thousands of years ago? Why did the box make people turn evil (they do handwave this by saying that Earth-3 is the origin of all evil, but I'd like more of an answer than that)? How did the Crime Syndicate get their hands on the box?
...That said, there's still a lot of stuff that works, especially toward the beginning and ending. Trinity War was a disappointment to me overall, but it's still worth a read if only to see the lead in to the (in my opinion) much more compelling Forever Evil event. Still, I can't help but wish it had hit the mark just a little bit more.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Comic Book Review -- Justice League 23.2 "Lobo #1" (Spoilers)

In case you haven't been following DC Comics news lately, PR hasn't been great for the company. Among the Harley Quinn nude-suicide/Batwoman not getting married debacles, there was a smaller bit of backlash when images of the new design for Lobo, a character who's always been straight out of 90's comics "RRRRR NEED MORE MUSCLES AND POCKETS" phase, were released.

This new Lobo design was announced to appear during DC's "Villain's Month," in Justice League 23.2, "Lobo #1," and many people, myself included, were skeptical. It wasn't so much that the design was terrible, it was more that it just wasn't Lobo. I'm not even a big fan of Lobo (although, like everything else about 52, he was great in 52), but if you're going to introduce a character who seems almost nothing like the original, then why not just make a new character entirely?

Even stranger was the fact that Lobo had already been introduced in the DC New 52, looking pretty much like he always had (which is to say like an albino Hulk Hogan), so the introduction of this new version of Lobo seemed a bit strange.

Well, as it turns out, despite the questionable choices being made at DC, we didn't have that much to worry about, because "Lobo #1" is just fine.

Let me back up a minute. "Lobo #1" is not a great comic. It's not some masterpiece, and the actual story of this one-shot isn't anything you haven't seen before. This is a very typical "Sci-Fi bounty hunter/smuggler" story, to the point where you can almost tell what's going to happen beat for beat. "Oh, Lobo's sitting in the crowd at this party? I wonder if he's there to kill someone?" "Oh, the mysterious cargo Lobo is smuggling is strangely heavy? I wonder what could be inside it?" "Oh, Lobo's cargo turns out to be *spoiler*? I wonder how this will turn out?"

However, as an introduction to this new/old character, this issue works well. The first thing to note is this: The new Lobo actually doesn't look half-bad. I don't think that concept art was very representative of what the new Lobo looks like in action, and in practice he's much more Han Solo, much less Edward Cullen. This version of Lobo is very quickly established as a very cold "only in it for the money and respect" kind of character. And... It works. 

But here's the thing that made this issue work for me, above everything else. And this is going to spoil the ending, so if you don't want to know how Lobo #1 ends, and what that means for potential future appearances of the character, stop reading now.

Are they gone? Ok, cool.

So here's what's up with the new version of Lobo (and I think DC may have mentioned this before the book went public, but I'm treating it like a spoiler any way). The Lobo who has been living on Earth for the past two years is not actually Lobo, he's an impostor. He is (I believe this is what this issue was implying) the only other survivor of the true Lobo's rampage and destruction of their home planet, Czarnia. At the end of the issue, the new Lobo receives his payment for the smuggling job, the location of the Lobo impostor, Earth. At the end of the issue, the new Lobo takes off, and heads for Earth, to finish off the only person to ever escape him.

All right, that's pretty cool.

I'm not sure where or when this storyline will be continued, but I'm eager to see where it goes. I'm not saying that I have complete faith that this storyline will be good, but I hope it is, and I can certainly see interesting places they could take it. I'm hoping what they won't do is have New Lobo show up and kill Lobo Classic immediately.

What I'm hoping is for an actual storyline involving a battle between the two, New Lobo showing off his bounty hunter skills to track Lobo Classic down, and maybe even show Lobo Classic trying to recruit the help of other villains, or the Justice League, to stop New Lobo from destroying everything in his path in search of Lobo Classic.

If that's where this storyline goes, and hopefully that's where they're planning on taking it, then count me in. This new version of the main man seems like a pretty cool character to me, and I have only the vaguest affinity for the original version, so I'm ready to see where things go. This is a much better way to introduce a new version of a classic character, and shake up the status quo, than, say, what they've done with The Question, which is to say completely ruined The Question.

But that's a topic for another time. The point is, "Lobo #1" is a solid, thought not outstanding, issue, and I'm intrigued to see where they take the character.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Marveling - (Wolverine and the X-Men #1-4)

I like comic books. I would imagine that's something people who know me have figured out by now. I think Superheroes are cool, and there's potential for a lot of excellent stories to be told uniquely through the comic book format.

The thing is, while I like things like the Marvel Cinematic Universe a lot, I'm still relatively unfamiliar with the actual Marvel comic universe, so not long ago I asked for some suggestions on books to help me get caught up, and I got a bunch! So, between those, some arcs I've decided I want to read on my own, and some cheap stuff I picked up at a con a while back (mostly because Brian Michael Bendis name was on the cover and he's awesome), I've got a good chunk of Marvel stuff to jump into. And I thought, hey, why not chronicle my journey through the Marvel Universe?

So here's a new thing I'm going to be writing precisely whenever. I'm going to jot down some thoughts about whatever it is I've just read! This is going to be pretty informal, spoiler-laden, and will probably be stream-of-consciousness-esque, because I really just want to focus on getting my thoughts on each comic down and putting them out there.

The first thing which jumped out at me out of the huge pile I've got sitting in my bedroom right now is Wolverine and the X-Men, by Jason Aaron, because I remember liking the cartoon from a few years back quite a bit. I looked it up, this series actually started two years after the cartoon, so I can only assume the idea was popular enough to gain it's own ongoing comic. Basically the idea is that instead of Professor Xavier, Wolverine is leading the X-Men/The Xavier Academy (well, in this it's "Jean Grey Academy") of Higher Learning. It really worked well in cartoon format, though the show was unfortunately short lived.

The comic takes that idea and does a slightly different spin on it. This is basically the various older X-Men (Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Beast, Rogue... Rachel Grey? I don't know who that is.) teaching a younger generation of X-Men, including a bunch of characters who, based on comments in the story I'm assuming are characters which had already been established, but who I'm not familiar with. These include characters like Kid Gladiator, an alien prince, Broo, a nerdy alien whose species is apparently quite vicious, other than him, Kid Omega, who is apparently a bad guy? ...Uh, my point. Even though I wasn't familiar with these characters until reading these first four issues, they do a very good job of if not giving you a ton of character backstory, then at least giving you a good idea of what each character's personality is.

This felt like a pretty good leaping on point to more modern X-Men comics to me, because (due to something they keep referring to as the "schism,") the X-Men have broken up at the beginning of this, and Wolverine is reforming them. And the characters they've picked to focus on tend to be the X-Men I've always liked in their various films and cartoons: Wolverine, Kitty Pryde, Beast, Rogue, Iceman, and the aforementioned Rachel Grey, who I'm assuming is related to Jean Grey.

The story for the first three issues involves around the opening of the school (and the inspection by the school board), and then the new King of the Hellfire Club, a twelve year old boy who apparently runs a massive arms corporation. The tone of the book seems to be more lighthearted than I expected, mostly focusing on comedy and school antics. I'm not totally sure if it works, to be honest, because while the tone seemed to be pretty goofy, most of the jokes fell pretty flat for me.

My major problem with the first three issues lies mostly with the artwork. It feels very disjointed and it tends to do extreme close-ups on everything, to the point where I can't tell what's happening. There were quite a few panels that I honestly just didn't know what it was supposed to be depicting, and in a comic book that's a pretty major flaw. It kind of felt like the comic book equivalent of Michael Bay cinematography. It might be showing the coolest stuff in the world, but you can't really tell if you can't see what's going on!

The reveal that the entire school has been built on an enormous living hunk of rock called Krakoa was pretty cool though, and the story seemed to function fine, it was just a major problem with the artwork really bogging my enjoyment of the comic down.

The fourth issue was much better. The art shifted to a more traditional style, and I could actually tell what was going on. This issue focused on the introduction of Angel, who has lost his memories during a battle with Apocalypse, and now believes himself to be an actual angel, as well as the introduction of another new student, "Genesis"/Evan, who turns out to be a clone of Apocalypse. I liked this issue for a couple reasons. First of all, there were actually some funny moments ("I found a gray hair [this morning]. The whole day I've been pretending it was an illusion and that we're secretly under attack by Mysterio."). Second of all, both the Angel stuff and the Genesis stuff seems like it's setting up some potentially very interesting plot lines (to say nothing of the actual final shot of a suddenly-pregnant Kitty Pryde).

So overall I wasn't totally sold on the first four issues of Wolverine and the X-Men, but I liked the last issue enough that I'll give the next trade a shot. I like the idea behind the series, the initial story seems like it has potential, and I'm very happy with their selection of characters to focus on, but I thought the humor fell pretty flat, and the artwork in the first three issues was pretty bad.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Comic Book Review -- Forever Evil #1

(Spoilers for Trinity War to follow.)

I'm just going to open with this: Trinity War was a disappointment. The much hyped summer event comic which featured the three Justice Leagues (The Justice League, The Justice League of America, and The Justice League Dark, for those counting) fighting each other started very strong with this:

And ended very strong with this:

But pretty much everything in between was just kind of pointless and lame. The three Justice Leagues didn't so much go to war as they did have a brief skirmish and then come to a polite understanding (although Trinity Polite Understanding wouldn't have been as catchy a title), and the tie-ins were all pretty bad with the exception of The Phantom Stranger #12, and that only worked as a Phantom Stranger story because the current run on The Phantom Stranger is fantastic and you should be reading that instead.

So, while Trinity War is far from the worst comic out there (or even the worst comic DC's put out recently), it had a strong beginning, a strong ending, and a very long, very mediocre middle, which ended in a fairly lame story overall.

Which makes me all the more excited to tell you that the first issue of Forever Evil, the immediate follow up to Trinity War, is excellent.

Forever Evil picks up shortly after Trinity War ended, with the Crime Syndicate, the evil doppelgangers of the Justice League from Earth-3, having used Pandora's Box to make it through to the Justice League's world and supposedly killed the Justice League.

The Crime Syndicate has used their resources, and their new member Grid, to black out the planet, announce to the world that it now belongs to them, and broken the world's super-criminals out of prison. As in, all of them. This, of course, leads into this month's special DCU-wide event, Villain's Month, where all of the DC Universe's titles have been replaced by #1 issues for their respective villains (Justice League 23.1-23.4, for example, will be "Darkseid #1," "Lobo #1," "Dial E #1," and "Secret Society #1").

And, in my humble opinion, Forever Evil #1 is an excellent start to the DCU-wide event which will be running from now until March.

Geoff Johns has gotten a pretty bad reputation among comic book fans lately, not entirely undeservedly, but this is him at his best. His talents have always seemed best suited to the massive, broad scale stories, and his smaller scale stories (which, unfortunately, Trinity War ended up becoming) usually fall a bit flat. Forever Evil provides a story of an impressive scale, and he seems to be jumping right in.

The Crime Syndicate present excellent villains, and having recruited virtually every supervillain in the world sets them up an incredibly powerful. The fact that our heroes are gone, and our "hero" for the series is now a famous supervillain himself (who is none too happy to let the Crime Syndicate conquer his world) gives us an excellent hook.

Even within the first issue, the plot takes several twists and turns, including several which seem like they'll have massive repercussions DCU-wide even after the Forever Evil event has come and gone. If Forever Evil can keep up this level of quality, it'll be a series to remember.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Doctor Wheuss

In November of '63, JFK got shot.
Doctor Who would premiere, but instead it did not.
The world had to wait just one week longer,
to see the Doctor appear, so viewership would be stronger.
The Doctor was a man, who wasn't a man.
He looked very old, and always had a plan.
He traveled space-time with his granddaughter,
Fighting Daleks, and Sontarans, and Jibbldygogglers.
In the first episode two teachers spied,
the Doctor's blue box, "bigger on the inside!"
The Doctor and his kin traveled for a time,
until the actor got sick, no longer feeling his prime.
But the show did well, and it's fans venerate,
so the creators said, "why, he'll regenerate!"
So Hartnell stepped down, giving Troughton his due,
playing the same man, although, different, too.
"The Doctor's a Time Lord! An alien!" they said,
"He doesn't die, he just changes instead!"
And so the Doctor's legacy would continue on,
first as Troughton, then Pertwee, Baker, and Davison.
He was a Time Lord, that much you knew,
but there were other Time Lords, just like him, too.
They weren't very nice, even the nicer ones,
always chasing him down, so he'd be on the run.
The Master was the worst, the Doctor's arch-rival,
and no matter what happened, you could count on his survival.
The Doctor travelled in a box, always doing what's best,
no longer with his granddaughter, she had to leave the nest,
but with new companions, like Sarah Jane, Ace, or K9
they were all sorts of people, each given a chance to shine.
Romana, the Brigadeer, the list goes on and on,
as it should, since the show's run for 50 years (it's not gone)!
But something sinister would happen in '89,
poor reception and low ratings meant that it was time.
The show would be cancelled, the fans would be ignored.
A dark time for our fandom, now they would be bored.
They tried a revival in the 90's, for fans to look at,
but it was really bad, let's not talk about that.
And so for awhile, it seemed memory of the show was getting hazy,
when out of the ashes rose a man, "Russel T. Davies!"
Davies was a fan as a kid, who wanted the show back,
so he told the BBC there was something they lacked.
He cast Eccleston, as a 9th Doctor,
and he cast a pop singer as Rose (this show would be hotter).
But terrible things happened to our old Time Lord friend,
an enormous war had brought his species to an end.
Fighting the Daleks, the two species warred,
until the Doctor became the last of the Time Lords.
So he travelled with Rose, running from his past,
and the fans who were watching were having a blast!
But Eccleston no longer wanted to be the role's tenant,
So along came a fan favorite, David Tennant!
The new show was edgier, but had it's charm too
(and the special effects no longer blew).
It had it's low points, like alien farts,
but it also had what it needed, a whole lot of heart.
Piper left the show, and we got Martha Jones,
the Doctor after all, shouldn't be alone.
The stories were good, kept you on the brink,
during the scary ones, "don't blink!"
And along came our good friend the Master,
the Daleks were back too, oh what a disaster.
Donna came along, but then she forgot it,
and the Doctor felt bad, because he had wrought it.
Then Tennant left too, giving us Matt Smith,
Davies left showrunner, leaving us with,
a guy who would surely make the show profit,
fan-favorite writer Steven Moffat.
The new show was darker, but a fairy tale too.
Kept you hiding your eyes, and wondering "Doctor Who?"
And that's where we are, with Amy, Clara, and River,
and it Hurts me to wait to see the show deliver,
it's 50th-year special this November,
we'll see David, and Matt, finally together.
And the show will continue, past 10 and 11,
and in my opinion watching the show is heaven,
because Doctor Who is about such magnificent things,
like a fairy tale filled with science and kings.
As far as shows go, Doctor Who is pretty fun,
so for now I've got just one word. Run.