Comics: G.I.Joe #36 (Devil’s Due run)

Cobra Commander pissed at series finale

Cobra Commander pissed at series finale

The promo tagline for the final issue of this incarnation of the G.I. Joe core book from Devil’s Due reads as such:

This is it! It’s all been leading to this issue! The war finally brings the G.I. Joe team and Cobra face-to-face! Every feud, every drop of bad blood, all the history between these two groups finally meet on the battlefield for THE knock-down, drag-out fight of G. I. Joe comics! Twenty-five years of payoff happens here!”

Bullshit!

This has to be one of the biggest disappointments of a series finale I have ever read.  Period.  Maybe not as bad on how Marvel once wrapped up Doom 2099 by letting the artwork go to hell as if to say to the reader “We gave up on this series, so enjoy the contractually obligated crap we have to churn out in the meantime”.  Well G.I. Joe, especially with the resurgence of many of the hot 80’s properties and current film adaptation underway deserved a much better send off.

I was actually surprised when I learned issue 36 would be the last.  It seems just a few years ago, the G.I. Joe universe was gaining momentum once again after that lackluster Image mini-series somewhat earlier.  Granted it would never approach the Joe heyday’s it had under Marvel with scribe Larry Hama, but it was exciting again.  Devils Due scaled somewhat back on the character roster, I can’t blame them…there were so many Joe’s and Cobra’s….it was impossible to keep track of who’s who and where are they with only book.

I thought they were doing well when they announced a Storm Shadow ongoing series (though the artwork is a bit off for my tastes), a few various one-shots, and Special Missions and Declassified books kept me going.

It was great to see the gloves come off with Cobra, and I enjoyed the ‘Coil’ arc, the introduction of Wraith, the hunt for The Baroness all happening in the core title of ‘America’s Elite’.  I was very excited to hear about the 12 issue arc World War III. 

The first few issues seemed ‘okay’, as if were about to ramp up the excitement factor, but sadly it just never got there for me.  It was only around issue 34 (part 10 of 12) did I learn that the series was coming to and end, and I had no explanation as to why it was ending.  With two issues left, I really began to worry as it just seemed like the story was stalling, or at least the elements concerning Cobra Commander.  By the end of issue 35 the Commander was headed to the Appalachian mountains were we were left to believe he was going to make his final, epic stand.

Issue 36 is a double sized issue.  Double sized of rushed plotlines, forgotten characters, tangential flashbacks, and very little pay off.  Of course the Joe’s win the battle, but my word, it was the cheapest and simpleton way to wrap up the series and hardcore fans should be as upset as I am.  Poor Larry Hama, I don’t care what he has to say in public…putting on a good game face for scribe Mark Powers, but Mr. Powers was able to drain any sort of epic adventure and character excitement out of the series in the last few issues that Larry spent so many years crafting and enter twining over at Marvel and Joe continuity.

So Recondo and some ex-Cobra schlep named Rourke have more face time than Snake Eyes?  Than the Baroness?  Destro goes to jail in one panel?  Alexander is shot and killed in two panels?

The biggest travesty in my opinion was the treatment, or lack of treatment of Cobra Commander.  The whole reason G.I. Joe was brought back into existence was the result of the formation of Cobra and its mysterious leader Cobra Commander.  After what seemed to be a promise at the end of issue 35, we barely see the Commander at all in the finale.  And to be taken out by a tackle by a crippled Joe wearing a jetpack at the end was horrific to the fans.

No last show down? Not a tense stand-off?  No last defiant speech or last ditch action on the Commanders behalf?  No face reveal after all these years?  WHAT THE F____??  I cannot and refuse to believe that Cobra Commander was simply tackled, knocked out, and hauled away.

The last two pages shows an unmasked Commander (we don’t see his face however) in an orange prison jumpsuit sitting in a chair making some last declaration that Cobra will survive…and it’s revealed that this isolation room is at the bottom of the ocean.  Oh, fuck me.  This is so bad. 

I can only hope…and pray…that Devil’s Due had to give up on the comic license with the film be launched next year…and maybe will be re-launched again at that time with a new number one that gives the fans some sort of payoff.  Maybe it will go back to Marvel?  I don’t know….but to tell me that 25 years…YEARS..of G.I. Joe and Cobra comic adventures is reduced to Cobra Commander sitting in an underwater prison because he was simply tackled and all the world is all apple pie after this is complete bullshit.

BOOOOO!

Personal gaming journal #2

Well, overall it was a pretty ‘okay’ weekend in my gaming life.

Friday night I was able to play Battallion Wars 2 on my Wii for a mission which was pretty darn fun.  I actually played it twice.  The first time I got a rank of ‘C’, and then I immediately replayed it again concentrating more on speed and improved my rank to a ‘B’.  Looks like I’m about 33% done of the campaign right now.  My eyes were seriously bugging out afterwards as so much seemed to be going on over my 42″ plasma that I was afraid to blink.  Wore out my batteries too with teh nunchcuk attahcement, so for $9.99 at Target, I bought a rechargeable battery pack for a single remote that charges via a USB cable and port on the back of the Wii.

Saturday morning I was able to play Wow for almost two hours.  I played my lvl 46 undead warlock and got him up to lvl 47 in the Hinterlands.  It’s been so long since I played that toon, it took the first 45 minutes just to re-acclimate myself to the spells and skills he has.  Thank goodness for my Void Walker as my personal tank.  I also am having a hard time gearing up right now as I am either cash starved, or there’s nothing good at the ‘ole AH.  Also working on my engineering as well.  I discovered I need a lot of raw materials from other players as ingredients to make my own engineering stuff that the products I end up making are just too expensive for what they are worth by the time I’m done.  I need to do a dungeon crawl and really get some money or good drops.

Finally, I really started to dive into GTA IV over the weekend playing a few hours both on Staurday and Sunday and had a blast.  I have a few complaints with GTA though….One, I hate if you fail a mission, you need to start all the way back at the beginning forcing the player to drive the same sequence leading up to the mission over and over again.  I’m doing a mission for Faustin right now that I have to kill some guy Lenny on a subway platform on another island.  Well, you need to drive to that island from where you pick the mission up from Faustin/Dimitri and actually do the mission.  If you fail (which I have), then you need to drive that whole sequence again and again.  Boo.  Second, even though it has an autosave feature, I hate that I have to go to my safe house and park my car in a special spot in order for an ‘actual’ save.  Lastly, the driving controls overall are wonky in the early part of your career and the traffic AI is bad.  NPC cars often don’t know how to make turns, or really get confused at merging intersections.   Putting that aside, the game really is beautiful the more I play it and truly feels epic and huge and living and breathing.  I’m gonna learn to love this game soon.  However, some of the achievents are ridiculous…like killing 200 ‘Flying Rats’ (aka pigeons) strategically placed throughout the city and this counts toward the 100% game completion achievment as well.  Seems a bit steep, and even more so for a casual gamer.

I had a coupon for 25% of off any one items at Borders, so I bought the Brady strategy guide for GTA and it ended up being $16 and some change.  Kinda pissed that Amazon has it for 32% off ($13.59).  Borders really isn’t a bargain despite all their coupons and promotions.  I can almost always find it cheaper elsewhere if I spend all of five minutes looking elsewhere.

Personal gaming journal #1

Wow, I’ve had such a busy week this week with work, friends, and chores it almost seems impossible to get some free time to play any of my favorite games.

When I was able to sneak a little time here and there, I look back and am surprised that I broke out some of my older games that I never finished.  Sometimes it’s true that “everything old is new again”, and it was refreshing not to be tempted so bad to purchase yet another game when I have plenty of solid hitters that had been collecting dust.

First up, Metal Gear Acid 2, for my PSP.  It really was shocking that when I booted it up, I noticed my last save game file was just over a year old.  Wow.  A whole year since I played it last, but after a few practice rounds, I jumped right back in and on my way to moving the story along.  Complete turn based, strategy card game I forgot how much I enjoyed.

Over at XBox Live Arcade I downloaded two demo’s: Too Human (see earlier post this week on my thoughts) and Go Go Break Steady (music rythym game set in a break dance world).  It’s animations were cute and its beats kinda cool, but after playing the demo for a while I won’t be unlocking the full game.  I also noticed there has been an expansion released for Puzzle Quest.  I’ll end up getting that later as I still have a way to go on the original, not to mention my wife is already addicted to the core game without getting the expansion.

Back over at my Nintendo Wii, I’ve been unlucky in getting my hands on a Wii Fit.  I have a good line on where to get one….a store of the beaten path that a coworker told me about where he walked in earlier this week and got their last one without even trying.  Anyway they told me to call back Monday, so perhaps if I am extremely lucky I’ll have one soon and hopefully trim my figure a bit. (Note to self: I should play both boxing and tennis this weekend as my cardio exercise).

I also broke out Battalion Wars 2 and I really like that game.  I finished about 30% of the game so far, and even on the easy levels, I can’t seem to get past a ‘C’ grade right on the missions right now.  My technique is always great, usually 100% or just under….it’s the speed that hampers me.  I can clear a level in five minutes, but apprantley, they would like to see me do it under four which can be a little tough for me.  It reminds me of a real time and vamped up version of Advance Wars.  It’s been quite a while since I played this last as well, clearly more than six months, and again I’m really looking forward to playing it this weekend.

Same for WoW.  My alliance Pally is now lvl 66, and I’d like to play a good dungeon this weekend and maybe level up to 67 in preparation for Lich King expansion.  I also played about an hour last Sunday my lvl 46 undead Warlock in Hinterlands.  I like that zone.  One zone I am bored to tears with though is Astranaar.  I have my lvl 30 Shaman and lvl 29 Priest stuck there now, grinding away for money to buy some better item so I can move beyond this infernal place.

Lastly my best news of the week is bittersweet.  I finally completed my first pass through of Mass Effect yesterday which is pretty monumental for me….to complete a single play through…and I loved every minute of the game.  The last boss battle was much easier than I thought it was going to be, but the ending left me a little jaded.  What?  I can’t go back and tie up the few loose ends?  Ahh man….  Plus I was so close to lvl 50 and the associated achievement unlock.  I was literally under 200 XP away from lvl 50 and I also never got the ‘Paramour’ achievement either in which I feel a little cheated on.  Overall a great game, though I’m a little dissapointed with the lack of DLC support that was promised for it.  One ‘episode’ is a far cry on what was promised.  Now, I may have to replay again on the next diffiuclty level and work on my sniper and shotgun achievements as well since I got assault rifle and pistol completed.

Comics: Secret Invasion #4

1 of 4 covers

1 of 4 covers

While it seems that DC’s Final Crisis is taking its sweet time to come out for its next issue and taking a little criticism to boot, (I heard that first few issues had lower than expected sales and there’s a notable percentage of readers who seem to be slightly let down so far, me included) Marvel is plugging away at Secret Invasion.

With issue 4 now out, (and four different covers) it seems there’s a brief sidestep of the agressive soryline that the first three issues really delivered on.  That’s not to say there is no action here in issue 4, we just aren’t hit with any new revelations or jaw dropping panels.  It seems that the heroes are taking a quick breath to collect their wits after what transpired in the Savage Land and the intense battle with the all new Super Skrulls downtown Manhattan.

We open with a captured Reed Richards being stretched out and interogated by the Skrulls, and a few panels updating readers the major hotspots.

Natasha Romanov (aka Black Widow) spies a confused Tony Stark and Jessica Drew (aka Spider Woman) Skrull imposter as Tony tries to repair his armor in a secluded area of the Savage Land (BTW: Where the heck did Ka-za and Sheena go?)  Natasha chases the fake Jessica away and tries to snap Tony out of his mental paraylsis when Wolverine comes on the scene.  Natasha has a few great lines here as she confronts the identity of Wolverine (I won’t give it away, but it’s classic Bendis).

In Manhattan it seems Nick Fury arrives with the calvary ( a group of new amateur/green heroes who just debuted last month) and helps the heroes limp away so they can regroup.  It appears many of the heroes are surprised by his return, and not quite sure if they can trust him or not wondering if this is just another Skrull imposter and another trap is about to be sprung.  For me, this story line and overall arc is a great way to bring Fury back into the mainstream Marvel universe.  Probably one of the best overall re-treatments of a character in a long, long time.

The one exciting moment for me, while brief, was the was the villain The Hood reacts to the Skrull invasion.  While his minions are happy to see the heroes duke it out with the Skrulls, he sees the bigger picture and to The Hood, it’s not about the heroes right now.  It’s about the humans and the Skrulls, and no way are the Skrulls taking over his territory.  So it looks like The Hood and his goons are going to join the fray on the sides of humanity,….another great way to take a B-list villian and not only flesh him out but elevate him in a way a reader would not normally expect.  Go Bendis!!

We close this chapter with everything in flux, but the last panel shows a sneak peak of what can only be Capt. America.  But which one?  Is it the new Bucky?  Is it an alien imposter?  Is it the time displaced Cap. from Secret Invaders?  Or is it our beloved Steve Rogers back from the presumed dead?

Games: Too Human Demo

Baldur Dash?

Baldur Dash?

I’ve been waiting for this game for quite some time, ever since I saw early snippets revealed on X-Play.  Those folks over at G4 seem to be quite riled up about it as well, either that or they’re taking some kinda of kickback or bribe from those over at Silicon Knights for how much coverage this game has gotten prior too its release.

Leasing upto last weeks E3, there even seemed to be more than average coverage of Too Human, and during E3 itself, Silicon Knights revealed a demo would be available for download on XBox Live on July 14.

I waited until yesterday to download it, all 1GB+ of it.  Prior to that I had read on multiple forums that people were finding the control schema a bit awkward and counter-intuitive, but before I make any judgements myself, I had to give it a shot myself.

What I found was a beautifully rendered game with cutscenes and all.  Despite only being able to play one class of character, the Champion, out of the five that will be in the final release, it gave me a good taste on what to expect.

While realizing it was only a demo, there wasn’t too much explanation on the very detailed equipment controls and offerings.  Apparently there will be quite a bit of customization with salvage, loot, and blueprint options.  There’s also a skill tree that was a little vague on understanding until you start adding point and begin to level up.  Once you play for a bit, it begins to make sense.

Unfortunately, while there is a pause option there is no save option in the demo.  So I tried my best to play what I could in the 75 minutes allotted to me as ‘free’ time.  I was able to take my Champion from lvl 1 to lvl 5, and only began to slightly overwhelmed once I hit this point in the demo.

The cutscenes are indeed beautiful and have a great spin on the techno-Norse mythology alluded to in interviews and previews.  They can be a little awkwardly placed at times dividing the present action into a sudden past-tense reveal then back into the action.  The first time this happened, I was wondering what the heck happened.  Was the level over?  Was the demo over?  Did I do something?  No to all of the above as once the scene was over, I was back in action where I had left off.  Slightly odd.

The animations are smooth, fluid, and very pretty.  The detail in lighting really sets the mood in the level I played and the environment lent to the idea that the place was big.  Really big.

Okay, so about the controls:  I can sort of understand the complaints that I’ve read on various boards, and even I’m surprised that Silicon Knights went with this control layout.  For people that have played plenty of FPS games (Halo, CoD4, etc.), the controls are gonna take time to get used to.  I think it will just take time to re-adjust, but certain actions just don’t seem intuitive to the way our hands and fingers have been trained.  Granted, I only just played once, but even after 75 minutes, I still found myself fumbling on what was the melee action versus which was the projectile action.  But again, that’s just being re-trained.  The most difficult and awkward mechanic was the camera controls and how you move.  The camera seems to be independent at times on where you are facing.  This can be easily corrected by hitting the left bumper button, but in the heat of battle where enemies are swarming from all directions the re centering of the camera to get your bearings can be a buzz-kill.  So can the auto-lock feature as well.  There were times I was locked onto a missile firing foe, just so my Champion then locked onto the projectile instead of my initial target thus throwing off my strategy.

Will I get this game?  Probably.  Hopefully Silicon Knights have heard some of the complaints and choose to address them (though this late in the mix, they probably won’t).  It has a lot of potential from a beautifully rendered game and excellent story telling so far to RPG and Hack/Slash fast action elements.  Not sure if it’s the next GoW though, and if the controls are still funny, I may feel more comfortable if it was at a $49.99 price point.

Comics: Uncanny X-Men 499 & Legacy 213

Xavier hurt for the 1000th time.

Xavier hurt for the 1000th time.

Ugh.  That what I have to say about the recent X-Men core titles.  I used to look so forward to the X-Men in general.  The good ‘ole days when X-Men launched a new #1 with a Jim Lee jam cover.  These were the days where X-Force was on fire (by Rob Liefield) and we had great arcs like X-Tinction Agenda and Age of Apocalypse.

Sure, I understand that the X-Men universe is in constant change.  It really started to take a nosedive in my opinion just after M-Day.  I still don’t understand who at Marvel was keeping track of the 198.  There sure seemed like more than 198 still running around to me, and all the other concurrent crap like Calypso and her tentacle arms and and how they were destroying Cable.

Then enter Joss Whedons Astonishing X-Men story and I can’t figure out who is where anymore and is Beast (aka Dr. Henry McCoy) a cat or not a cat?  Depends who was on pencil duties that month.  And don’t get me started on the whole Kitty phasing the bullet through the whole planet thing.  Booo.

Suffice to say I won’t get into a huge diatribe right now, but this is whats wrong with X-verse right now: Too many titles and characters spread so thin that stories just seem uninspired or rehashed or just plain confusing….i.e. no longer fun.  This whole “Divided We Stand” arc between all the X titles is just crap.  I say it’s crap because none of the editors have made it clear what is actually happening, what the deep ramifications are, and where are we headed.  It just seems everything (except Peter David on X-Factor) is just rushed just to say we got a comic out the door.

Case in point: the two core titles Uncanny and Legacy.

Legacy:  What the hell is going on with Gambit and Xavier and Shaw?  Gambit is all of a sudden better after his not too distant jaunt with Apocalypse and his dialogue is just so stupid as of late.  What even gets me more is that Xavier just spent a few issues comatose on a lab slab (thought to be dead) with his brain being repaired by the new Acolytes, just to be telepathically invaded by Mr. Sinister, just to be shot by some goon and bleeding to death….again.  Sorry, but this is just so un-original anymore, and this whole arc with Sebastian Shaw teaming with ‘happy days are hear again’ Remy just seems to be dragging on and on….which seems like an oxymoron seeing that writer Mike Carey insists on every page having a fight panel of some sort.  And also sorry but I seriously dislike Scot Eatons pencils.  Not one of my favorite artists by a long shot, so I have sadly have two very strong marks against this flagship title.

Uncanny 499: Yeah, we all expected a big lead up to issue #500, but splitting the teams into two and sending one to Russia (Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Colossus) and the others (Emma, Scott, Angel, and the others) to a psychedelic induced San Fransisco of the 1960’s is equally just filler material until someone figures out where they may be going with #500 and beyond.  However, I do like the art style, especially Mike Choi’s work on Emma Frost (hubba hubba) and the interpretation of Cyclops was very nice.  But again, they took a sleeper story and stretched it over four issues.  I can’t even tell you why or Colossus, Wolverine and Nightcrawler were even in the Soviet Union right now…because it was forgettable and again just seemed like filler material.  It was a nice surprise to see Omega Red, but the cleanup and resolution was too quick….Here ya go SHIELD.  When the sub plots of both teams wrapped up, the issue just made an abrupt cut like everything is back to normal again and just seemed to…well,…end.

Needless to say, all the X-titles are suffering right now, except maybe X-Factor….but that’s because you have a great writer and a much smaller sandbox he’s playing in right now.

Battlestar Galactica & Hulk come to Xbox

This past week, XBox Live announced that episodes of the late 1970 series “The Incredible Hulk” starring both Bill Bixby (Dr. Bruce Banner) and Lou Ferrigno as his alter ego (The Hulk) have been made available for download.

In similar fashion XBox Live has also stated that the original episodes of Battlestar Galactica (1978) have been available as well as well as the more recent Sci-Fi channel re-imagining of the series currently filming its final season.  The newer series is said to be available in both SD and HD flavors.  It is unclear if the dreaded Galactica 1980 is or weill be made available.  One can only assume the final season will be made available as well at a future date and the one-shot movie: Razor which featured the crew and adventures of the Battlestar Pegasus.