Dead Space..better late than never.

I have a hard time finishing games I start.  It’s not because I don’t enjoy them or I don’t wish to finish them, it’s that there have been so many this last year that have gotten my attention I just can’t seem to find enough time to play them all.

As it stands right now I am currently playing the following on my Xbox, but haven’t finsihed any of them: Grand Theft Auto IV, Assasins Creed II, Batman: Arkham Asylum, CoD Modern Warfare 2, Tiger Woods 2010, Dragon Age Origins, Mass Effect 2 (still in the cellophane), Saints Row 2, and Crackdown (yes, i still play the original Crackdeon).  Most of these I am anywhere from 50-75% done, although I think Grand Theft Auto IV and Saint Rows 2 is way down, but they have such an unforgiving failure structure in missions, I get frustrated if I have to start over so far back because there aren’t any real save points.

It doesn’t help there are also a bevy of games that all have high ratings that all came out or are about to come out as well, that I really want to play, but these $60 price points are just killing me these days.  There’s Red Dead Redemption, Splinter Cell Conviction, Alan Wake, Limbo, Gears of War 2, just to name a few. Oh, and I can honestly say I’m looking forward to two Wii games as well: Epic Mickey, and Kirby: An epic yarn.

All this being said, and realizing I need to get the most bang for my buck these days, I recently saw a preview for Dead Space 2. It looked pretty cool and then that seemed to trigger a lot of memories of all the positive buzz the original Dead Space got back in 2008. The whole action packed, horror/survival genre intrigued me and since I tend to get pwnd by players half my age anymore, the thought of me picking up the original Left 4 Dead and getting lambasted over the headset didn’t sound all that appealing to my ego.

I went to check out Dead Space and learned it is now part of the Xbox line of Platinum Hits, meaning it has a price point of $19.99, or a fraction (34%) of the original price. I went to Game Rankings and Wikipedia (89% favorable rate on average) to get their impressions and I was really surprised to learn that there is such a backstory and supplementary products and lore to support this franchise.

There are prequel comic books, an actual prequel novel “Dead Space: Martyr” (dated even earlier in the timeline of the comics), an anime movie, a Wii rail shooter (Dead Space: Extraction) that takes place days before the events of the original Dead Space game. In short, I love games or franchises that take on a life of their own and a new universe is created around them with so much deep and original content. I now have Dead Space fever and went out to buy both the Platinum Hits version of the game and also the novel, Martyr.

The book, Dead Space Martyr by B.K. Evenson clocks in at 414 pages and is a slightly oversized paperback. I started reading it today and am already enjoying the slow build of events that are taking shape all the way to my current page of 57. I will most likely read a good portion of this book by this week and it reall sits the tone and mood for events that I can only guess so far already took place just prior to the start of the game. So far it appears to me a very smart novel and not hokey schtick, minutae, or shovelware to get a few extra coins and milk this franchise. Already it makes me think of Indiana Jones meets “Abyss” meets the X-Files. Something spooky, mysterious, scientific, paranormal, alien, archeleogical, and conspiritorial all wrapped into one. If I enjoy this novel as well as I think I will, I just may have to buy the 6-issue comic collection and get the anime movie from Netflix to satiate my appetite and round my experience out.

Now about the game itself:  My initial impressions is that it is indeed very fun and a visual treat.  Right from the get go, there is a beautiful cinematic that sets up the initial quandry and within minutes I’m already tense.  This derelict planet cracking ship is quiet….too quiet.  With only the strained voices of my A.I. controlled, yet seperated from me crew members, its clear from teh get go I’m on my own and I need to survive.  From both lighting direction and sound design, my personal mental state is elvated on trying to be alert.  Not only am I being very cautious in my movements as I push the left analog stick forward, while looking all around with my right stick, I’m really trying to use my ears.  Everything makes an isolated sound, and the majority of the sounds are not that of a joyous ice cream truck looking to off load some delicious treats.  Nope, there are thuds, and scampering, and moan, and howls, and shallow breathing, and then nothing.  The silence is deafing, and even though I am on high alert, I am still scarred shitless at times.

The game is broken up into 12 chapters, and although I’ve taking my time (4 hours to complete the first 2 chapters), I have plenty aways to go.

The ship I am on, the USG Ishimura feels gigantic and vast.  I’ve only explored a few sections so far, but I am intrigued and in awe of some of the design and magnitude of the environments.  One minute I feel clausterphobic, pulse welder ready and aimed for discharge, the next I’m in a large mechanical ship bay, or medical lab that also feels too big, as if my sixth sense is telling me I’m not alone in here.

The environs are pretty diverse as well.  I’ve already experience both zero-gravity, and the dead silence of the vacuum of space.  I’ve run down blood stained cooridors, jumped when the lights flickered, and cringed at the sight of medically tampered fetuses in statis tanks.  There’s the sound of flies buzzing near body bags, cryptic blood drawn symbols on the walls, and then there is the occasional audio or video log tape that I find that fills in some blanks or drops a clue on what happened to the crew.  None of it is good.

The voice acting in above average, and the story is rich and tense.  No doubt the novel and anime will even do more to flesh everything out.  There are some criticsims that our protaginist Isaac clarke (an amalgam of Isaac Asimoc and Arthur C, Clarke me thinks) is a bit silent and uninteresting as we really never see his face or hear his thoughts, but in this case, I’m okay with it.  I hadn’t really noticed myself until I read that from other sites, and in no way do I think it affects my game.

Games controls are slightly different from other first person shooters I’ve played up to now, but the online ingame tutorial is both very unique and refreshing.  Once you get the hang of things, the U.I. actually seems very clever and intuitive and now I wonder why more games haven’t taken this approach before.  Here’s to hoping that EA keeps this formula in the sequel with only a few minor tweaks.

Weapons are unique to an extent and I like how they handle upgrade options in the game, either via used power nodes or found schematics.  Isaac’s HUD is really original as well, and really does have a futuristic feeling to it.  My only beef is with the amount of inventory he can carry on early in the game.  He’s very dependant on his plasma welder and thus needs to pick up ammo early on, but the ammo tends to take away from his ‘backpack’ space whcih can be frustrating early on until you get the hang of the game and work on your own personal strategy.  Now that I am starting chapter 3, I think I kinda understand the mechanics a bit better and I can do without as many plamsa clips.  The other weapons are pretty brutal as well, especially the line gun, alhough I’ve yet to buy/try the flamethrower.  You don’t need all these weapons thouugh…there is an achievemnt for completing the game using only the plasma welder which makes me believe the other weapons are for pure mayhem and eye candy value only.  However, that being said, the line gun has saved my ass a few times and I think a much better addition than the pulse rifle.

I don’t want to spoil anymore for you, but the necromorphs (aka bad guys) are downright scary.  While they may seem a bit repetitive (there may be more variety later on), they still seem gruesome in their size, stature, and movement when you do encounter them.  The animations of dismemberment and blood squirts and sounds are visceral to boot.

All in all, a great game, albeit from 2008.  A highly recommended buy for $19.99, and now I’m not sure if I can wait for Dead Space 2 to hit Platinum status in a year from now.  As a budget minded gamer, I may have to splurge at $39 or $29 when it happens.

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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.

Comics: Mighty Avengers #15

Mighty Avengers 15

Mighty Avengers 15

I was thinking about writing in regards to Secret Invasion #3 when I happened to pick up MA #15 and was really impressed by the overall story and artwork.  I’m a big fan of John Romita Jr’s work…he has a very distinct style….some may say ‘blocky’ when it comes to character renditions, but for some reason I’ve always found it visually appealing.

It should be said that Romita is credited with the ‘breakdowns’ where two other artists do the ‘finishes’, but clearly John Romita Jr’s work beams through on most of the panels.

With that said, the story itself stood out as a great pre-cursor to Secret Invasion in just how the Skrulls were able to infiltrate and impersonate some our the Marvel Universe characters.  At first I thought this was a very unique take on the plot, but after thinking for some time, it dawned on me that one of the plot points was very similar to a scene within the Indiana Jones movie ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’.  See, in the comic a young, attractive female college student is seen sitting in the audience making goo-goo eyes to Dr. Henry Pym as lectures on genomes and physics.  In RotLA, a female college student makes goo-goo eyes to Dr. Jones as he lectures on archeology in a fairly like manner.

But that’s where the parallels stop.  In MA #15 we get a glimpse of the tenuous relationship between Hank and Janet (aka ‘Wasp’) as Janet comes home one night drunk where Henry is working in his study.  I must say, Janet was looking ‘pretty good’ in her disheveled state (messed up hair, blouse unbuttoned, etc.) and as far back as I can remember this was the first time I had empathy for Hank and why he ‘may’ have a tendancy to ‘snap’ at his on-again/off-again wife.  Clearly there are two sides to every story.

As Janet gives up and leaves, we advance a few days or perhaps even a week, and shockingly Dr. Pym is shown in some very risque panels with his female student.  While tastefully done, there is some amount of ‘teasing’ the reader on Dr. Pym’s adulterous behaviors.  There are some great moments all within a few pages which you can understand just how the Skrull’s learn the weaknesses of their targets.

Without giving away the ending or ‘spoiler’, let’s just say the transition of Hank Pym now makes sense if you are a reader of The Initiative and we get a clue to the larger puzzle of how the Skrulls were able to do what they did.

As a stand alone issue, Mighty Avengers #15 won a lot a favor in my heart,

Comix: Final Crisis #2

Final Crisis #2So I eagerly picked up FC #2 yesterday trying to see if my slight dissapointment with the first issue could be alleviated.

Well, after devouring it from cover to cover all I can say is that I have mixed feelings, and not for the better.

Again, like issue number 1, the first few pages just seem like they came from left field.  We are introduced to a Japanese nightclub filled with numerous 20-something old powered patrons shown dancing and drinking and taking in the nightlife.  There is a brief altercation between a reknown popular superpowered sumo fighter and a mecha- suited guy looking to make a name for himself via a challenge.  So after 6 pages or so of this set up and build…..cut…new scene: DC heros mourning Martian Manhunter.

Um….okay?  What was that all about?  Why introduce all these Japanese characters in a nightclub scene?  It actually made me think about more questions such as: Why has DC never really focused on this segment before…that is supposedly established groups or even established metahuman cultures in other countries?  Yeah, there’s been some exposure to Soviet and even Chinese hero’s, but this just came across as way too casual.  See, when Superman flies by, even though he’s an established character, he still inspires awe and wonderment from the citizens of Metropolis or the world over….like ‘seeing’ a superhero is a ‘big deal’.  Apparently not so in Japan….it’s part of the ‘norm’?

Is it me or does Libra just not yet inspire grandeur of being a main player?  I still look at Lex Luthor and Vandal Savage as power players, and Libra just comes across as a costumed B-lister.  I don’t think Grant Morrison has done a well enough job yet in defining Libra’s motivations or powers.  After 2 issues (of the scheduled 7), I just don’t “get” Libra.

The rest of the DC Universe is investigating the murder of Martian Manhunter and Batman finds himself in a confrontation with an Alpha Lantern who seems to be shutting him down at every turn.  Hal Jordan also faces his ring being shut down by the Alpha Lanterns as he is to be arrested and investigated as well for his supposed ‘role’ in the Manhunters murder.  This upsets Superman.  But these sequence of events aren’t explored enough in detail to make logical sense.  I mean, how does an Alpha Lantern shut of Hal’s ring?  This is the same Hal whose ring as Parallex was virtually unstop-able…leading me to wonder why then if OA and the Lanterns have the ‘ability’ to shut off a ring at will…..then why the hell didn’t they do that eons ago when Hal was on a rampage?  And Batman being bested in his general approach to things and then captured via a Boom Tube by this rogue Alpha with ulterior motives…I dunno.

I have a suspicious feeling the way the Lantern Corps and OA are involved so far that Final Crisis is really no more than a pilot to get the next big DC arc of the ground…The Blackest Night…which would do the whole Final Crisis resolution a big disservice.

X-Factor #1: Quick and the Dead

Pretty Boy PietroI was never too much a fan of the early X-Factor days.  I think the only issue I can recall is X-Factor #5 (Vol. 1) because this is credited as the first appearance of Apocalypse.  My friend Brian Liles actually bought this back issue for me as a birthday present years ago because he knew how much I liked Apocalypse.

As a matter of fact I really wasn’t into most of the X-titles as there were just too many of them, and in my personal opinion some of the storylines, and characters for that matter, were just plain crap and filler material that Marvel was cashing in on for anything that had a ‘mutant’ in it.

But when Peter David came aboard to relaunch the title (Vol. 3) in 2005, I’ve been an avid reader ever since.  I truly believe that Peter David is one of the most profound and intelligent comic crafter and story tellers of both sci-fi and comics genres.  If you ever get a chance, please read his Star Trek: New Frontier series or even his run on DC’s Aquaman (Vol. 5, 1994).  Mr. David carves out a unique niche in the X-verse (if you will) and gives so much more depth, personality, and motivations to the characters he touches moreso than anyone else in the current X-verse.

So here we have this one shot #1 issue.  I didn’t even realize it was a one shot when I picked it up.  I just saw the X-Factor logo and figured it was the next issue.  As a general rule, I stray away from one shots unless it has so much hype around it or is critical to another comic event that I would otherwise be lost without it.  Most of the time 1 shots are highly forgettable and generally just fluff.

Surprisingly this issue was a personal treat after I thought about it for some time.  See, Quicksilver has been more or less a prick since the events of M-Day in which he played a pivitol role.  His arrogance and warped sense of justification had him basically on the brink of being considered a villain one again and he gets to a point were he attempts to murder Layla Miller (she knows stuff) of the current X-Factor roster after hurting and killing others.

We pick up the story of Pietro in a jail cell, mumbling names to himself, in the fetal position.  For the first time in a long time I really had the sense of bing in Quicksilver’s mind, and Peter David is able to tell an incredible journey in just a few pages of his personal torment that has been plaguing Quicksilver the last few months.  He’s at one of his lowest points both emotionally and physically, having sporting brusies and cuts from a recent altercation.  He is visited by his sister, father, daughter, and lover in part of his broken psyche until he begins to see the error of his ways.  It’s these flashbacks of historical context and conversation in which Pietro begin to gain confidence once again in himself. 

From his jail cell he witnesses a man beating his girlfriend, and when no one comes to her aid or listens to Quicksilver, he finds the reserve of energy within him to reactivate his powers (perhaps they were never gone to begin with…he just shut down…not his powers) and busts out just in time to save her.  At this point the art work grows from small dark panels within the pages to larger and brighter artwork until there is one large 1 panel splash page about 2/3rds through, clearly showing a new and invigorated Quciksilver.

Using his super speed (though I always thought DC’s Flash speed powers were displayed better) he runs the world in a carefree manner until he launches himself off a mountain…..hits a plane in midflight….falls to the ocean….and is rescued by a passing luxury liner.   Okay, I know that last part seems a little gay, but through the thought balloons and artwork, it actually does gel.

So Quicksilver is free and a good guy again and only time will tell when he shows up again.

There is only so much you can do in one issue, and Peter David did a great job.   But, and I do mean BUT, there are other aspects that have yet to be explored?  So after the events of M-Day, does this new found confidence aleviate fim from any responsibility for the deaths and destruction he caused?  Will X-Factor, or especially Layla, forgive him?  Will the Avnegers and various mutants forgive him?  Eh…just seemed a little too neatly wrapped up there at the end and hoepfully will be explored more in depth later.  I hate when comics leave major chracters or major events surround certain characters shelved for no particular reason like a bad cliff hanger that we as a reader never get any resolution of and everybody just seems to move on.

Comix: Final Crisis ….or is it?

Final Crisis 1 I suppose you can call this my inaugural post.  I spent the last few days wondering how I really wanted to breakout to the world and it just so happens there are a few major ‘events’ in spandex universes that are synonymous with summer.

Between the major two, Marvel and DC, we have the requisite universe spanning crossovers that are supposed to affect the majority of their respective titles and continuity for decades to come.  At least they always say that in Wizard, but you know how these go.  They’ll shake it up for a few months, maybe even a year or two, and then its back to the status quo.

Anyway for Marvel, their follow-up to last years Civil War and Initiative events, they have the Skrull Invasion.  A nice side mini-series that goes with it (but not mandatory reading) is the time traveling ‘Secret Invaders’ which brings back Captain America to life (dead in current era?) in a time-travelling yarn.  But I’ll leave all that for another post.

Today, I bring you Final Crisis #1, by DC.  It all started over two decades ago with the masterful ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ which was supposed to tighten the reigns on the DC multiverse into one cohesive universe where there would only be one Batman, one Superman, one Wonder Woman, and one history.  The reason being was at the time, those over at DC had a plethora of multiple main characters and parallel histories which often made the casual reader confused on which ‘history’ or ‘origin’ was the correct one.  When you have 50+ versions of Earth, each with its own brands of metahumans, including multiple Supermen and the like, you can see that eventually chaos reigns.

Anyway, the original Crisis, at least in my opinion, did a great job in condensing all the multiple histories and characters into one large DC universe.  Sure, there was some growing pains, some disgruntled readers and the like, but in the decade to come readers accepted this and all seemed right.

Fast forward to 2004 when DC decides to give writer Brad Metzler the green light to launch ‘Identity Crisis’, a 7 issue series that would lay the foundation for bringing back the multiverse to DC after almost 20 years.  Brad’s tale (along with Rags Morales on art duties) crafted yet another wonderful tale in which former B-list and even C-list villains raise there way to the top and make a name for themselves.  You see they discover some of the secret identities of the super heroes and begin to target their families, resulting in the death of Robin’s (Tim Drake) dad, the murder of Sue Dibny (wife of Elongated Man), the stabbing and eventual death of Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond), just to name a few.  In these 7 issues, the DC universe as we had been now been accustomed to began to change….and it was good.

These events then led to other events such as Countdown, The OMAC project, Villains United, and 2005’s ‘Infinite Crisis’ (7 issue series by Geoff Johns).  It’s here that some of the original heroes thought dead from the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” story, (Superboy Prime, Alex Luthor of Earth 3, Superman and Lois Lane from Earth 2) escape a pocket universe they have been living in and hatch a plan to restore the multiverse in which Lois Lane (Earth 2) will live once our Earth has been replaced by a more perfect Earth 2.  Superboy Prime reveals a disturbed side and begins to kill off even more heroes (Conner Kent, multiple Green Lanterns) and villains alike.  His psychotic nature leads him to the planet OA where he is captured by the Green Lantern Corps and imprisoned in a Sun-Eater.

While all this is happening, events begin to break down in the weekly published series 52 in which all the gloves come off.  It’s my opinion that 52 started pretty darn well and for the most part was a good weekly read, although some story elements seemed a little lack luster or used for filler material.  The best aspects that came out for myself was the emergence of an all powerful Black Adam and the World War III series.  After events of World War III, DC then begins its final push to by the new 52 week ‘Countdown to Final Crisis’ (May 2007) series which in fact now reveals that the multiverse is back in full swing with 52 varying versions of earth.  The Monitors are back and want to correct all the out of place ‘aberrations’ of both heroes and villains that have displaced over the years.  Of course Darkseid wants in on the action, some New Gods (Orion being one of them) end up dead by the hands of his father Darkseid, and Jimmy Olsen inherits some New God powers.  A Monitor visits the ‘Source Wall’ and learns of a looming ‘Great Disaster’ in which only our Atom (Ray Palmer) can stop, and oh, Superboy Prime has escaped and on the rampage once again to destroy all the sub-par earths in search of the perfect earth.  All the chaos once again brings us to ‘Final Crisis’ after other events suchs as Amazons Invade (Wonder Woman) and Death of the New Gods.  While Countdown had some entertaining moments, I found it to be sub-par as a lead into Final Crisis.  There were some silly moments, some confusing ones as well, and some loose ends that never were tied up…at least not yet. 

Suffice it to say, the saga of the multiverse is much, much more complex than I can espouse here is a simple post.  This post was supposed to to be about Final Crisis #1, so let me get into it…

Metron appears to give fire to the first boy of our Earth who defends his village against Vandal Savage, thus making the boy out to be the first superhero, if you will. 

Darkseid’s human avatar form Boss Dark Side reveals that he has given the anti-life equation to some recently abducted metahuman children.

The skies of earth turn red and OA send the Alpha Lanterns not only to investigate the death of Orion, but to put our Earth on lock down.

Meanwhile, Libra (I know…who?) calls together all the villians, both A-listers (Lex Luthor, Vandal Savage, Gorilla Grodd) to name a few, and some lower tier ones (Dr. Light, Mirror Master, Human Flame) and kills a captured and drugged Martian Manhunter in front of their eyes showing he means business.  To me the death of Martian Manhunter came across very weird, and I highly doubt he will remain ‘dead’ for any stretch of time.  As a matter of fact, I don’t even know how he was drugged, let alone captured.  supposedly this all happened during the events of Salvation Run.

The most mind-numbing portion of the story is the supposed trial of one of the Monitors for his role in the destruction of Earth 51.  It just seemed ill-thought out as it unfolded…the trial, that is.  Perhaps it will make more sense in upcoming issues, but so far other than Martian Manhunter being killed, and our Earth (with its red skies) on lockdown by the Alpha Lanterns of OA, I wasn’t to impressed with Final Crisis’s first offering.  Compared to the Skrull Invasion over at Marvel, I really think it fell short, with the only real meat so far provided by Libra and his newly resurrected Secret Society.

Welcome to all things KaBlam!

I’m sorta jazzed to start up this new blog.  I’ve always been a writer and reader by nature and have been looking to join a community in which I could find like minded people to discuss some of my own personal passions with.  Those passions include such things as video games, comic books, gadgets, and science fiction related materials in books, movies and television shows.

Like most blogs, I’m sure the content and look will evolve over time as I try and figure out and categorize the topics that not only I want to share and dicuss with you, but hopefully receive input from you as well as to suggestions on what I may need to add, or perhaps delete.

It will also be my virtual playground as I experiment with new widgets, layouts, and other things that WordPress will offer overtime.  I imagine I’ll have to learn more about CSS feeds and forums and how to incorporate them, and also things such as Flicker, Snapfish and Digg accounts as well.

As this blog is intended to be my personal outlet, its updates are soley based on the amount of free time I have and how something I come across that I feel is importnat enought to warrant a post or discussion.  There may be days I make a few updates followed by days where I write nothing at all; such is the nature of online blogging.

Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions, and as I am pretty open minded, I won’t be deleting much except for the occasional spam, flames, and topics that tread questionable subject matter.

Even if the first few weeks seem a little light, give it time and come back and see if there’s anything new that catches your fancy.