Brief Comic Updates.

I’ve really been behind my comic book reading as of late, (anywhere from 2-4 weeks per book title), but as a brief highlight I can give you my take in the following highlights:

  • Darkest Night cross overs happening with the Green Lantern family of books over at DC is much better than Final Crisis and Countdown combined.  Awesome artwork and a really grand and episodic format that weaves amongst all the books makes this the best thing DC has put out in a while.
  • What the hell is happening with Teen Titans?  Ever since Superboy died mid Identity crisis this book just can’t seem to find it’s footing or traction.  I’m giving up.  Too many roster changes and silly arcs to keep me going.
  • Same with Batman and the Outsiders….it just seems stalled….giving up for now.
  • Secret Six…A ‘B’ book which can easily be considered one of the better B books DC is putting out.  A lot of good stories, twisted and bizarre and good character development…of course courtesy of Gail Simone.
  • X-Force and Messiah War crossover – So far very good.  Artwork on X-Force shines, and nice solid story.  Too bad X-Men Legacy and Uncanny are suffering right now.
  • All Avengers books and Dark Reign ties in are really good.  I’m liking this better than Civil War.  Norman’s Dark Avengers is a fun read. 
  • Dare Devil always seems fresh, even though Kingpin is back yet again.
  • G.I. Joe from IDW…’meh’.  The origin one-shots and Cobra mini series is better than the core title.  The idea of Destro with little bots infiltrating the PITT for the first three episodes seems too campy and drawn out.  Where’s Cobra Commander already?

The return of Captain America

Captain America, aka Steve Rogers

Captain America, aka Steve Rogers

Here is a story I copied from CNN:

NEW YORK (CNN) — Perhaps he should be called Captain Phoenix?

Rising from the dead after being killed off over two years ago, Captain America is being resurrected by Marvel Comics.

Though the circumstances of his return are being closely shielded, the star-spangled superhero returns July 1 in a five-comic-book series, “Captain America Reborn.”

A big-budget movie in development by Marvel is also expected in 2011.

After close to 60 years in print, Marvel Comics killed off Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, in 2007, one of its most famous and beloved superheroes, amid a controversial story line.

He fought and triumphed over Hitler, Tojo, international Communism and a host of super-villains, but a sniper’s bullet cut Captain America down in 2007, a move that shocked many of his fans.

“The reaction was amazing,” says Marvel Executive Editor Tom Breevort. “It certainly was like the world went crazy for three days. Everybody had a point of view about it, including fans who hadn’t read the comic for 30 years.”

In the comic series, Rogers was to stand trial for defying a superhero registration law passed after a hero’s tragic mistake causes a 9/11-like event. Marvel said the comic story line was intentionally written as an allegory to current real-life issues like the Patriot Act, the war on terror and September 11.

Rogers eventually surrenders to police. He is later mortally wounded as he climbs the courthouse steps. It was a violent and strange end for an American hero and icon.

The primary shooter, Crossbones — working under the orders of Captain America’s longtime nemesis, the Red Skull — was caught. The identity of a second shooter is revealed in issue 600, which goes on sale Monday.

Many felt Captain America’s death in 2007 was symbolic of the time. And his return now?

“The tenor of the world now is when we’re at a point where we want to believe in heroes. Someone who can lead the way,” said Breevort. “It just feels like the right time.”

Captain America first appeared in 1941, just as the United States entered World War II. He was a symbol of American strength and resolve in fighting the Axis powers.

As originally conceived by creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Rogers was born before the Great Depression in a very different America. He disappeared after the war and only reappeared recently in the Marvel timeline.

Keeping superheroes dead and buried does not come easy. Even Superman, who was killed off by DC Comics in 1993, came back to life a year later.

And what of Captain America’s sidekick, Bucky Barnes? After taking up the shield and mission of Captain America for the past year, it’ll be time to relinquish the mantle. Is there room for two sentinels of liberty? Stay tuned.

Kablam’s take:  Well it seems to be a bit more ‘in-vogue’ these days to kill off main comic book characters in what I can only imagine is some strange publisher reason to either A) shake things up, B) create a sales spike or collectors edition, C) introduce a sweeping story arc, or D) perhaps something else altogether.  But I think we all know that iconic comic characters always return.   However it does seem that DC uses this tactic a little more freely than Marvel does (Superman, Batman, Jason Todd, Hal Jordan, Wally West, Green Arrow, etc., etc., etc.).

The way that Marvel handled Cap’s death in my opinion was done very well, and Marvel has done a a very good job of keeping the Captain America title running for two years without Steve Rogers, and bringing up Bucky (aka Winter Soldier) as a credible replacement.  Marvel took it’s time and crafted a very well paced yarn spotlighting many of Cap’s supporting characters to help fill the void, and many of these characters got some nice attention.

But did Marvel bring back Steve Rogers too soon?  In my opinion, yes.  Although it has been two years in publishing terms, it has only been a few months in comic continuity with Steve really only missing the Skrull invasion.  With Bucky finally getting the traction and recognition of being the ‘new’ Cap and participating in Avengers story-lines, its my opinion again that they could have waited on Steve’s return a while longer.

I’d personally like to see Dark Reign playout with Norman Osborn and the continued development of new baddie The Hood and the return of Nick Fury to take shape in the Marvel universe and allow for some of these other B-string heroes get due attention as well.  We just saw U.S.Agent come back to the forefront, a new development in the Thunderboldts and Norman’s Avengers.  In the aftermath of Civil War, M-Day, and the Skrull invasion we’ve also seen the apparent demise of Carol Danvers and Dr. Strange in recent weeks.

Can we just slow down a tad?

Captain America is by far one of the most iconic and recognizable characters in Marvel and I think it would mean so much more to bring Steve back in a very epic way, when the time is right and readers really aren’t expecting it.  To bring him back after such a short time, and especially around the 4th of July just seems a bit cliche and underwhelming at this point to me, and thus diminishes the grandeur of Captain America.

Cosplay anyone?

11301_NewsSPI guess cosplay is still a bit new to me and fascinating. 

The most exposure I ever had to it (without knowing it was even called ‘cosplay’) was going to the San Diego Comic Cons and seeing al these people dressing up in their homemade costumes.  It wouldn’t be long before I realized that it was and ‘is’ quite prevalant at gamer and anime conventions as well.

And now that I started to read a little manga on my own (english of course), my eyes were really opened to how wide spread and popular it really is.

And sexy.

I’ll post a few ‘cosplay’ outfits that are homebrewed, and well, put a little zing in your step.  Anyone know who this character is supposed to be?

Mickey Rourke as Whiplash

WhiplashCame across this photo earlier today with Mickey Rourke in costume on the set of Iron Man 2.  Note that his chest plate has a similar look to Tony Stark’s armor, as the technology is clearly based in the same roots.

Rourke plays Ruskie, Ivan Vanko who constructs his own suit to battle Iron Man.  Also expect to see Natasha Romonav, aka Black Widow, to also appear in the film. 

Perhaps Widow may even join The Avengers ensemble cast in a few years once Captain America and Thor movies drop.

E3 2009: Microsoft Impressions

Since I own a 360 myself (and still waiting for Sony to drop their price), I was really looking forward to what on tap from Microsoft.  In today’s climate of financial skepticism, shovelware (Wii), and over-hype with little delivery, one has to be very careful in picking and choosing were one is going to drop their $60 for a title.  And as a side note…why again are next gen console games anywhere from $10-15 more than their PC counterparts?  I think that if Microsoft really wants a leg up on Sony, since Sony doesn’t look like their going to reduce the cost of a new Playstation, that Microsoft should drop the price of new games by $5-$10 to a price point model closer to Nintendo.  I myself have a psychological aversion to spending $59 on a new game, and would feel much more willing to gamble one a title if it was $49, but that’s just me.

Anyway, onto the Microsoft press conference:

  • LAST.FM: Later this year, we can expect to stream music from the online service at no extra cost.  Seems like a pretty nice bonus for those that don’t already having digitable cable or sattelite radio in their homes.  I for one will be checking this out for dance channels and a little something else.
  • Twitter: Well there’s a new interface to use here, but with lack of a full keyboard, I’m not going to be sitting there using my controller to hunt and peck out messages.  I understand why Microsoft is doing this, but since I have an aversion to Twitter, I don’t see myself using this, nor most of my friends.  If we already have live chat, cell phones, email, FB and more, do I really need yet another way to read micro blog posts?
  • Facebook: Not sure exactly what to think about this move.  It uses the new NBE layout to navigate, and it looks good for viewing pictures and ties in smoothly to your Xbox friends profiles…but again, I just can’t see myself using it to type updates or all the other apps, when I have a PC that is so much easier to use for this type of thing.  Again, I understand why Microsoft is leveraging the popularity of Facebook, but the too early to tell how easy it will be to use or what people will use it for.  This one could go either way.
  • Avatars:  Microsoft said that you can expect unlockable items, (finally), in titles that will be appearing starting this fall to further customize your avatars.
  • 1 vs 100: The beta finally hit, and after we saw a glimpse of it when it was announced last year…and then delayed for whatever reason…I guess we can finally expect to see some live gameshow style events later this year.  I’m actually looking forward to this, and still wonder why it will take almost 1.5 years from it’s initial announcement to launch (pratically a year late from it’s intial planned debut).
  • Microsoft Points: May be going the way of the Do-do bird…meaning it’s rumored that MS points will lose their ‘point’ status and revert to ‘real money’….thank God.  I always hated tring to figure out the conversion that something cost , 160, 800, 1200, 1600 pts.  Just tell me how much already, I don’t want to think about it.
  • Zune: Looks like the next version of Zune hardware/software will integrate even more by the end of this year and loads of new content will be available through Xbox marketplace making Zune more of an extension of the Xbox similar to what the iTouch is for Apple and PSP Go is for Sony.  Video services will be relaunched at this time as well, and expect more HD content than ever.
  • Netflix: Update to make queing movies directly from Xbox instead of a PC.  Easier navigation as well.
  • Xbox originals: This service will be discontinued soon, or at least no new titles from first gen Xbox will be appearing.
  • Crackdown 2 (Ruffian Games): I’m jazzed about this as the first game was so much fun.  It didn’t get the recognition it should have as it was over-shadowed by Halo 3 at launch, but it has quite a cult following and is a blast!.  Anyway, expect better graphics (of course), 4 player co-op!, and 16 player versus modes.  Not too much details were given yet, just a teaser.
  • Halo Reach (Bungie): Just announced for a 2010 release and open beta for those that pre-purchase Halo ODST.  No details…just a tease.
  • Halo ODST (Bungie): Show some gameplay, of course looks great.  The setting is 3 weeks before the events in Halo 3, and you play a new character (not Master Chief).  Expect new weapons come Septermber 22nd, 2009.
  • Left 4 Dead 2:  Wow, I’m surprised how fast this sequel was announced and it’s progression in development.  Makes me wonder if some of the ideas/content was originally slated for the first, but didn’t make the deadline.  Or they new the 1st was going to be a hit, they had already started working on the sequel before the 1st was released.  Expect new weapons including chainsaw, melee weapons, characters, etc.
  • Metal Gear Rising: Announced for Xbox, but no details.  Just a big fat tease that have MG & Xbox fanboys screaming.
  • Rock Band Beatles (Harmonix): Opening trailer looks really neat and stylized to compliment the look of old school Beatles graphics.  Yoko One and Harrison’s widow comes out on stage…they wave…and walk back.  WTH?  How much did they pay them just to wave.  Could care less about them, and they didn’t sell me the game….waste of money and PR in my opinion.  Wait….Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney walk out as well…Why the hell is Paul chewing gum…I don’t care if he’s an icon or not…looks silly chewing gum.  He and Ringo say something unintelligible and then leave just as fast.  Wow…I would have hated to write them a check for that worthless appearance. “All You Need is Love” will be an exclusive Xbox track.
  • Joy Ride: XBLA arcade style kart game.  It’s free and utilizes your avatars, but lokks ‘okay’.  Good thing it’s free.
  • Shadow Complex: XBLA exclusive.  Pretty side scroller which will debut this summer.
  • Forza Motorsport 3: Shipping this fall.  I don’t know what to say about these racing games.  To me, they all look amazing whether it Project Gotham or GT or whatever.
  • Alan Wake: Gameplay footage is shown from this game that seems to have been in development forever.  They say Spring 2010, but we’ll see.  Not holding my breath, but looks pretty awesome nonetheless.  Look like a cross between Silent Hill and other freaky, tense, horror stealth titles.  Good solo game for playing at night near halloween.  Yeah, that type of scary and tense game.
  • Knights of the Old Republic (Bioware): Oh, nerdgasm.  Showed an epic trainler set in the SW universe.  Jaw dropping and Xbox exclusive.  I am really looking forward to this one.
  • Mass Effect 2 (Bioware): 2010 release.
  • Project Natal (MS): Working title and most likely change.  Looks like MS is entering the motion control arena
    Natal

    Natal

    with there own sensor bar that you don’t need any controller at all….just your body.  They demonstrate some prototype games including racing sans steering wheel, a version of the classic ‘breakout’ called ‘Ricochet’, skateboarding, etc….Looks slick, but no launch date or price is mentioned or games for that matter.  Does voice and face recognition and can automatically sign you into XBLA when you walk into a room.

While I was indeed happy with what I saw (and I’m not metioning many of the cross-platform titles, ala Modern Warfare 2, DJ Hero, Assassins Creed 2, Bioshock, etc.), Microsoft seems to be focusing a lot on social networking this time around.  While I am happy with some of the AAA titles and some of the exclusives mentioned, I have a feeling that Sony may have a bit more up their sleeve this year than they did last year and may up the ante on Microsofts offerings.  Nintendo also better deliver this year as 2008 was disapointing and underwhelming.  They may have a lock on console sales, but the games are mostly crap right now with only a few bright spots in their IP offerings.

E3 2009: Ubisoft Impressions

I’m a little late in making any E3 posts as I have to tape the live shows and watch them later in evening when I get home from my regular day, so while today is Wednesday, the Ubisoft press conference took place on Monday this week.

Instead of tackling games per platform, I’ll just offer up some highlights and general notes on games and developments (in no particular order) showed during Ubisoft’s presentation:

  • Commented that ‘tween’ demographic is one of the largest growing segments in gaming right now, mostly appealing to young girls and that many companies follow their lead.  They place a heavy emphasis on their ‘imagine’ line of games for DSi, Wii, and PC.  Of course you can expect to see more ‘Petz’ titles this year as well as some new fashion orientated games that allow players to mock up pictures they may take with their DSi camera’s.  Players can also trade pets and/or data using the DSi’s built in WiFi.  Ubisoft calls this ‘inter-connectivity’, and finally metioned the ability to create items such as jewelry, and then pruchase your creation online, and then have an actual physcial item shipped to your.  The example they used was a necklace in which a young girl designed it via her stylus and DSi, and then finished product was shipped to her home.
  • U-Play: Ubisoft seems to want to make a more interactive web/forum experience for those that purcahse their products.  U-Play looks somewhat similar to the new X-Box experience, by having 4 ‘blades’, each having a specific purpose such as  walkthrough/hints, store, etc.
  • Assassins Creed 2: I never played the first one, but I understand it was one of the best new and fasted selling IP’s of 2007.  Expect them to expand on all the previous features including swimming, new stealth based kills, larger areas, and new characters.  They seem to be taking this one pretty seriously, and the trailer they showed was stunning.  Now that the original has dropped in price as a platimun hit at $19.99, I may go back and pick it up in preparation for the sequel.  Ubisoft claimed thay have over 400 people working on this title!
  • Raving Rabbid’s Go Home (Wii): Looks like this franchise is departing from it ‘party-game’ format into something a bit more structured and customizable.  There is now a plot in which the rabbid’s want to get off the earth and make their new home on the moon….but how do they get there?  Well, they feel the need to take ‘stuff’ and build a tower of random junk that will lead to the moon.  There are some open sand-box play fields and some mini-games as well.  You can also customize the individual looks of your rabbids and unlock additional items as you progress.  Of course a lot of silly humor goes into this over the top cartoon stylized game and it appear there may even be some co-op gameplay.  This is worth a closer look as more details will come and looks like a cute, smash, fun time-sink game.  Probably good for kids and non hard-core gamers.  Because of the open play field, story-mode, and campaign, this may breathe new life into this IP.
  • RUSE: They showed a pretty intense trailer that led one to believe it would be a real time and epic military strategy game that looks akin to something in the Tom Clancy universe, but instead of controlling individual people, it looked more like broad units, platoons, brigades, etc.  Kind of like a very detailed game of Risk they uses ground, air, & sea elements.  Not much was said, just the trailer.
  • No More Heroes 2Desperate Struggle (Wii): Long awaited sequel in the works from the surprise adult-orientated wacky Wii title.  Will help fill the serious gaping gap that hardcore Wii users are so frustrated about.
  • RedSteel2_BoxartRed Steel 2 (Wii): Utilizes Nintendo’s new Motion Plus controller and another adult themed title that again addresses Wii’s lack of hardcore software for the more serious player.  The showed what looked liek a very nice opening cinematic trailer and then about 10 minutes or so of actual gameplay.  Looks very nice, both in graphic style and art direction.  I was amazed how well the sword handled with the Motion Plus and nun-chuck controller tethered on.  While the first Red Steel never lived up to its once-hyped potential, I have a feeling this one will deliver.  RS2 and NMH 2 may give me a compelling reason to but a Motion Plus accessory.  Will be out in December of this year and no multiplayer mode.
  • Splinter Cell – Conviction:  Oh my!  Looks just as awesome as some of the others AAA titles coming out and a welcome return for Sam Fisher.  Ubisoft looks to be on a roll this year at E3 and Conviction should be out Q4.  The gameplay demo’d look fantastic.  The art direction and lighting has come so far in this franchise.  The devs emphasized that while stealth is still very important to Sam Fisher, this will be slightly faster paced, and Sam will be relying much more on both the actual environment and low-tech objects he finds.  The devs also are introducing some great story-telling methods in the game with the use of real-time flashbacks….hard to explain, but you have to see it in action and it will maek sense.  Objectives also are displayed during game within the game in a new twist, ala, Fringe (FOX TV series).  Lastly, Sam uses a new combat mechanic that allows him to ‘mark’ shots in a queuing sequence before he takes action.  Again, you have to see it to undertsand, but it’s really slick, looks easy to use, and really pumps up the adrenaline factor in this stealth based game.  Most likely a ‘must-buy’ for me.

DJ Hero gameplay, first impressions from E3

Djhero-peripheral

Turntable with crossfader

X-Play correspondent (G4), Blair H, was able to get a sit down hands on look at Activision’s new rhythm game DJ Hero earlier this week at E3, and from what I saw, I’m totally jazzed.

A few weeks ago I posted a picture of the turntable controller, and now that I’ve seen an actual demo played live I’m happy to see there is an additional peripheral as well on top of the turntable….that is the cross fader.  No price has been announced and no actual release date, but Activision led viewers to believe it would be ready this fall just in time for the holiday season.  At launch DLC content will also be made available on top of tracks released with the game on disc.

In the demo I saw the graphics are somewhat similar to the cartoony look of the Guitar Hero, but with a slightly more urban slant.  I was also happy to here that some songs will also allow players to use their GH: World Tour microphones and maybe even a guitar for bass inspired riffs for multiplay action!  That’s pretty cool…even this white-boy will get a chance to rap.

Djhero1

Beta screenshot

The song they demo’d was a Gwen Stefani and Rick James mix of his classic,  ‘Give it to me baby’, and it sounded great! Game controls use both hands….one of the cross fade and sampling buttons, the other on the turn-table with three button note controllers.   The game track looked nice, and instead of GH’s ‘star power’, DJ Hero uses ‘euphoria’, and when built up, will allow for bonus points and other effects.