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Tuesday, 27 March 2012 15:11
Alone in the Universe Well there is no better time than now. DC Universe Online has become free to play. This includes no monthly fee and the game is free also. What will the free version get you, you ask? It will get you free game updates. Access to DLC expansion packs, which you can choose to buy, two character slots (you can choose to buy more.) It also comes with 28 inventory slots, of which you can buy more, twelve banks slots, 1500 in game currency max, 6 text chat messages per 30 seconds, Mail is text only. Read more...
Tuesday, 07 February 2012 10:58
He has given us some of the most exciting new characters whilst crafting tales of universes we already know and love and leaving an indelible mark upon them. The Mind of Jimmy Palmiotti Read more...
Published in Interviews
Friday, 16 September 2011 19:47
Professor Brand-X in an eXpertComics Month-Long Event featuring The New 52 from DC Comics ON THE PROFESSOR’S DESK THIS WEEK: Deathstroke | Grifter | Resurrection Man | Suicide Squad G’day class and welcome again to my School for Gifted Comics Readers. This week your bald-but-beautiful Professor continues his month-long lecture on the biggest comic book event of the year in DC’s New 52 (wait, did I just shift into third-person there?) If you’re new to the class, please have a look at previous sessions, particularly part one of this series from last week. And of course don’t forget to check out additional curriculum from the other esteemed members of the faculty – Dave, Lisa and Steve (see the handy sidebar with their nifty icons to the left). A quick note on my grading system: Script – plot, dialogue & characterization | Art – aesthetics, style & storytelling | Accessibility – new reader-friendliness & demand of commitment. This week’s concepts are: a badass mercenary still kicking ass, a small-time conman hearing alien voices, a man who dies but cannot stay dead, and a captured band of villains strung up for questioning. Let’s dive right in. **Fair forewarning: some spoilers may ensue (and I apologize in advance for any, ahem, parenthetical digressions). Deathstroke #1 Title: “Back to Basics” Writer: Kyle Higgins Artist: Joe Bennett Cover: Simon Bisley Originated as: Deathstroke the Terminator #1 (1991, by way of The New Teen Titans #2 in 1980) For a DCU outsider/Marvel zombie like me, Deathstroke seems like one-part Cable (out of the mask) and one-part Deadpool (in the mask) – both are Marvel characters. However, that’s where it ends because while “the Merc with a Mouth” Deadpool has the antics and nutty wise cracks that bring to mind Spider-Man on crack, Deathstroke doesn’t cut it up like that (think more like Cable’s gruff personality, or the Punisher’s). Obviously Deathstroke, a co-creation of legendary writer Marv Wolfman and legendary artist George Perez, predates both Deadpool and Cable with his first appearance in The New Teen Titans back in 1980. I know in the past people had accused Rob Liefeld of basing his co-creation of Deadpool on Deathstroke, even down to their alter-egos: Slade Wilson is Deathstroke, while Wade Wilson is Deadpool. Not sure what role co-creator Fabian Nicieza played in those aspects, but nonetheless, the “copy” became far more successful at Marvel than the supposed template did at DC, likely because Marvel played up Deadpool’s less-villainous antihero status. As “the scariest badass on the planet” Deathstroke is not a traditional hero. In fact, historically he’s been a great villain in the DCU, even debuting in that second issue of The New Teen Titans professing to have killed most of that young team himself. With the New 52 initiative it looks like DC aims to change that with this new series where it appears he will be more of an antihero in the vein of Deadpool, Venom, or the Punisher (the latter’s fans should love this series). Hailed as the best mercenary in the DCU, the aging white-haired Slade Wilson has recently earned the reputation of being a little too long in the to tooth honor that title. Well, as the badass Deathstroke, he pulls an out-of-early-retirement Michael Jordan and proves to all on notice that, nah, he ain’t done being “a major damn badass.” His agent Christoph pitches him an offer he’s just going to love: a little assassination and recovery, with a twist. It’s a big impossible as it gets gig that he simply can’t refuse, unless of course the old man just can’t cut it. A man like Slade Wilson doesn’t back down from a challenge like that, so he’s in, if reluctantly. Christoph throws him a curveball when he suggests he work with some young up-and-comers still too green to play in this man’s game. At first I thought this young crew of mercs – the Alpha Dawgs aka Harm Armory – despite their typical generation Y traits would make a nice supporting cast, providing an old-school vs. nu-skool dynamic, but a plot turn in the story later changes my mind about that rather definitively. After the mission takes a very interesting turn and things get explosive and rather bloody, we are left to believe by issue’s end that, yep, old man Deathstroke has still got it. I felt that the script by Kyle Higgins was very solid with dialogue that never got clunky or awkward, and a very fast-past, hit-the-ground running plot that is actually self-contained as an introductory issue, since the end isn’t really a cliffhanger like virtually all the other New 52 books I have read so far. This has a complete arc of beginning, middle and ending that pretty much gives the reader everything they need to know to move forward if they choose. As for longtime fans of the character, I can’t answer as to what’s missing or included in the character’s background, but I think only the grumpiest of fans could be remotely unsatisfied with this issue because it does not seem to be bogged down by any baggage; a plus in my opinion. Joe Bennett’s art recalls some of the best parts of both he 1990s and 2000s styles. There was great clarity in his visual storytelling but it almost seemed like his layouts wanted to bust out from their confines to be taller and wider than they’re forced to be on the page. All in all, for me, a surprisingly good read. It’s perhaps the most assessable of the New 52 I’ve read so far. I definitely want to read more of this series, if only to see if the old man really does still have it. – Professor’s Grades: Script = B+ | Art = B+ | Accessibility = A- Grifter #1 Title: “17 Minutes” Writer: Nathan Edmondson Artist: Cafu w/ Jason Gorder Cover: Cafu w/ Bit Originated as: Grifter #1 (1995, by way of WildC.A.T.s #1 in 1992) Just like Stormwatch in last week’s edition, I have deep, rich and nostalgic history with Cole Cash, codenamed Grifter, that runs back to the early 90s during the dawn of Image Comics, particularly Jim Lee’s WildStorm Productions which published other great series such as Deathblow, Gen 13, Wetworks, Team 7 and Backlash (to name a few). Yes, I have a fanboy’s bleeding heart for old WildStorm comics – don’t judge me. The sale-off and eventual demise of the imprint still stings today (that’s a whole other column for another day, believe me). And I’ll confess that as a 22-year old fanboy I had plotted out my, um, hypothetical run on a Grifter solo series because I just knew as the character’s biggest fan that I could write him better than Steven T. Seagle or Steven Grant (and I still have those plots today – like I said, don’t judge me). But I digress (hey, a completely unrelated and obscure Peter David reference). So, this new Grifter is apparently a completely rebooted version of the character, which is well and fine. It makes sense considering the complete dissolution of the WildStorm Universe (last December) from where the character originated. Unfortunately I can’t help but notice the contrast of the old and the new. This is where I’m supposed to sympathize with the longtime DCU fans who are forced to endure this change to their beloved comics universe, and I do to a degree, but really they should be sympathizing with me because the plight of a WSU (not the college) fan is far more bleak – at least DCU reads still have a universe, new or not. Yet, again, I digress. The skinny on this first issue of the new Grifter is: Cole Cash is hearing strange alien voices telepathically and he’s the only one who can hear them. These voices are coming from unseen creatures in the guise of humans. Those familiar with Grifter’s WildC.A.T.s past will instantly attribute this to the dreaded Daemonites of that series. They were an ancient extraterrestrial demon-like, shape-shifting race engaged in a millennia-old war with the more humanoid alien race called the Kherubim. It’s a long story best defined by Alan Moore in 1996 (buy the trades, you’ll love them). It is unclear if what this new Cole Cash/Grifter is dealing with is a new version of the Daemonites. But his encounter with them on an airplane puts his life (and others) in danger because naturally these creatures do not want to be exposed and since he’s perhaps the only one who can sense their presence, he’s got to go (I’m putting money on Voodoo getting involved in this stuff later down the line in her series). Only with a staged act of terrorism is he able to escape them to temporarily live another day, but in the process he blacks out for an indeterminate amount of time. Was it really only 17 minutes, as the title suggests? Grifter thinks differently, pointing to something larger and perhaps more sinister at play in the unseen scheme of things. The premise of story is bad, but I wonder if it would not be all THAT bad with more chapters to flesh it out into a larger story and get deeper into the mystery. My problem more or less lies with the dialogue (ugh!) and characterization of this new, blank slate Grifter. And the artistic depiction of him (and his brother, whom I was wondering about just before he showed up on the page). I know Jim Lee and Travis Charest are not drawing this book, but CAFU’s rendering of Cole Cash did not appeal to me. I’m not used to a schmucky, un-cool, unsophisticated conman version of Grifter. He wasn’t “smalltime”. In the back issues of his various misadventures, the Grifter was a confident dude, not a “Oh my god…what in the world is going on?” kind of schmuck. No, he would have already had it figured out instantly, or at least an idea because he was simply a bad mutha—SHUT YO MOUTH! Mama said. A friend of mine mentioned the lack of Grifter’s trademark mask. That didn’t bother me as much because the human aspect is being established before the hero aspect. I get that. But I just don’t know if I can get behind this new version of my beloved Grifter and smile about it. This book is a bit confused, I think. – Professor’s Grades: Script = C+ | Art = B- | Accessibility = C+ Resurrection Man #1 Title: “Pronounced Dead” Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning Artist: Fernando Dagnino Cover: Ivan Reis w/ Joe Prado & Rod Reis Originated as: Resurrection Man #1 (1997) How fitting is it that Resurrection Man’s original co-creators, the inseparable Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are assigned to shepherd his New 52 series? The only co-creator missing from this party is veteran artist Jackson “Butch”Guice who tends to work a lot with Ed Brubaker these days over at Marvel. Mitchell Shelley aka Resurrection Man is a relatively new character, having joined the DCU in the late 90s. I know very little about him but it seems that the core essence of the character is still intact, like much of the characters in the re-launch. Mitch Shelley is a fella who can’t die, at least not permanently. Not terribly long after he is killed he gets mysteriously, supernaturally – or more specifically – metaphysically resurrected. Each time he arises he has a new ability (i.e. superpower) that in essence resembles the method of his most recent death. The main action in this story takes place on a plane to Portland that Mitch felt compelled to take or urges unknown. On this flight he meets a suspicious female calling herself “Sue” but within a few pages we learn quite definitively that she’s no mere Sue. In her new form, she keeps telling Mitch that his soul is overdue, that it’s become too precious, a prize; it’s too valuable to lose. A plane crash and many lives lost later, Mitch finds himself dead-and-arisen again. But why? What’s his purpose? Who is behind all of this? Are the forces at play divine or diabolical? Perhaps both are in play here. The poor guy is left to wonder if so many people’s lives have expired all because of him. He is left with so many questions which he has no hope of answering. What a miserable existence as well as brief, um, un-existence for this fella. Before the issue closes we meet two more villainous females who have a really nasty mean streak. Will they get their comeuppance? The writing, while not all that sophisticated, is serviceable with a decent plot. Like the Grifter book, The dialogue and internal monologue is probably the weakest link here. Dagnino’s art is perfectly moody to match the atmosphere of the somber, mysterious story, but it’s inconsistent in quality at times. Still it has effective visual storytelling with good layouts. However I am on the fence about this one. The concept is certainly intriguing enough. It probably would have been a lot more interesting to me as a Vertigo title. – Professor’s Grade: Script = B | Art = B | Accessibility = B+ Suicide Squad #1 Title: “Kicked in the Teeth” Writer: Adam Glass Artist: Federico Dallocchio w/ Ransom Getty & Scott Hanna Cover: Ryan Benjamin Originated as: Suicide Squad #1 (1987, by way of Legends #3 in 1986) From the press copy: They’re a team of death-row super villains recruited by the government take on missions so dangerous they’re sheer suicide. Harley Quinn! Deadshot! King Shark! Defeated and imprisoned, they’re being interrogated [and tortured I should add] about their mission and about who’s pulling the strings behind this illegal operation. I really don’t think this book is for me. In theory I can totally dig the concept of a team of villains as the protagonist of a story, but in practice that is a tricky concept to make endearing to the reader. Reading this story my emotions remained almost completely flat, and there was nothing in it that titillated my intellect. The tiny bit of emotion I felt was during a flashback when Chato (or El Diablo) had discovered that he had unintentionally and regrettably killed innocents in one of his pyric rampages against gangbangers. That was on page seven. Villains are bad people, but the key word there is people. You have to care about or at least respect them as people. In fiction things can go 1 of 3 ways, and the third one is a combination of the first two: Either 1.) You care about the characters and what happens to them; 2.) The story appeals to your intellect and general sensibilities, or 3.) Both. If it’s the unlisted fourth option which is neither, then it’s game over, at least for me. This book falls into that category, unfortunately. It’s a shame because I really wanted to like it. It’s not even an issue about the content which I noted contains bits of torture and very dark character attributes with nothing glowing form the brighter side of humanity. That’s all well and good…if there’s a bit of charm to the characters, or something thrilling and intriguing about the story. I didn’t get a sense of that here. I guess the blame rests at writer Adam Glass’ feet here because Dallocchio, Getty & Hanna’s art is actually pretty good and probably the saving grace for this story as a comic book. Not having read the previous incarnations of this title, particularly the John Ostrander original in '87 or even his post-Identity Crisis one, I’m probably at a loss for what I’m missing the point on. So that would suggest that this book is not quite for the uninitiated. Perhaps it’s one of those comics that would play better in long form with a trade paperback that contained the entire arc? Very unlikely that I’ll stick with it to find out. – Professor’s Grades: Story = C- | Art = B+ | Accessibility = D+ Next Week: More DC The New 52 titles will hit the Professor’s desk, so be here for reviews of Birds of Prey #1, Nightwing #1 and Red Hood and the Outlaws #1. Until then, X out! ©2011 | Professor Brand-X Read more...
Published in Comic Book Reviews
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