Comics Reviews (August 24th, 2016)

Chew #57

Three to go.

Deathstroke #1

Good, competent stuff. I'm still not sure the non-chronological storytelling has a point as opposed to just being a thing Priest likes to do, but it's at least a better way to introduce an important "old friend" character than many approaches in comics. Unless Wintergreen's a longstanding supporting character; it's not like I know Deathstroke's supporting cast well. But still, Priest is working to introduce him, and the non-chronological story helps with that, even as it leaves the actual status quo of this book a bit muddy. This hasn't grabbed me yet as such, but I'll persist for an arc or so.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #10

A frustratingly unfocused issue that sutures two half-issues together without much in the way of payoff or connection. Still good, as this book always is, but an obviously lesser issue that ends up feeling like it's wasting a Ms. Marvel guest-slot, which, as I think about it, is probably the thing that's most knocking this down towards the bottom of the list this week. 

Snotgirl #2

Has the typical second issue problems of a modern ...

Failure is Always an Option

So I've been playing a lot of Sonic Generations lately. This is partly because it's Sonic the Hedgehog's 25th Anniversary in 2016 and while SEGA has announced two special games to commemorate this event, neither will see release until 2017 because SEGA. So I figured I might as well mark the occasion by revisiting the last milestone anniversary Sonic game. Also, I just recently got a somewhat hefty new gaming laptop to replace my aging workhorse with the cracked monitor and failed hard drive I used to write to you all on that was as old as Sonic Generations, and I've been putting it through its paces with a collection of PC games I've had saved in my Steam library but have been unable to, you know, actually play until now.
 
For a five year old game, Sonic Generations has held up *exceptionally* well. Even just in terms of sheer visual appeal, this is a gorgeous, gorgeous game, especially if you download and install the optional shader effects to unlock the full lighting range of the Hedgehog Engine. For those of you who might not know, the Hedgehog Engine is a proprietary game ...

Of Spaghetti, Myths, and Donuts

No, I'm not going down the rabbit hole writing an essay on spaghetti, myths, and donuts.  It's just a clever title to cover up the fact that I haven't had time to write in a while as I've been whipping The Last War in Albion: Book One into shape, and it's finally given up and submitted to my ministrations.  It looks like it's clocking in at 237,000 words and 210 pretty pictures, covering 760+ pages.  Whew.  So that should be coming out pretty damn soon. 

In the meantime, though, I was able to squeeze in some rather lovely conversations with some rather lovely people.  A few weeks ago I sat down with James and Kevin of Pex Lives to discuss some Westerns and some Doctor Who.  We've got three Sergio Leone flicks on tap -- A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.  This "Man With No Name" trilogy (which, by the way, totally applies to LOST) is juxtaposed with the fan-favorite Tom Baker classic, Underworld, which I chose especial for this chat. "What on earth ...

You Should Have Been a Mother (Earthbound)

A Guest Post By Anna Wiggins

As any die-hard EarthBound fan will tell you, in Japan EarthBound is called Mother 2, and is the middle of the three-part Mother trilogy. As a child, I just knew that I didn’t like EarthBound very much. The game is full of unpredictable tonal shifts, genre pastiche, self-awareness, and quirky humor, and these were either things I didn’t fully grasp or just didn’t enjoy. Somehow, the game just left me feeling vaguely alienated. Possibly, I just wasn’t ready for it.

Part of this may have been the gameplay, too. The basics are familiar to any JRPG fan: wander around, get into fights, select actions from menus, pray quietly to yourself. But the game is difficult, even by the standards of the day. It falls prey to a lot of common design flaws in JRPGs that raise the difficulty without adding fun. For instance, many enemies summon ‘backup’ occasionally, but with no bounds on how frequently this happens in a single fight, fights can become increasingly resource-draining without bound. Critical hits from enemies are far too common, and respawn rates are high enough to make getting anywhere a slog.

Aesthetically, the game is very distinct ...

The Control of the Form

I won't repeat myself by going into detail about living with chronic pain and it's effects; so let's just move on to what I've decided to post today. I'm not just any writer, I'm a writer of poetry and I've been missing that form of communication lately. If I learned anything from my graduate school experience in a masters of fine arts program aka creative writing MFA, it's that while I may love poetry I don't expect others to appreciate it. My audience, when I'm writing, was never as distinct as to feel helpful. Instead, I left academia in part because I realized poetry had always been its own answer.

When we go to school to study we often find ourselves asking why. Why do things work the way we do? A key part of learning to be a better reader of poetry was learned studying under Mark Jarman in Prague. Every day, we would start with the form of the poem. Why was it written just this way? The way the stanzas fit together, the length of the lines, and the visual appearance of the words on the page ...

Are You Sitting Comfortably? - First Movement

Stories belong to all of us.  Sounds like a trite, sentimental truism, doesn’t it?  So let’s add a vital corollary: Because we make them

Let’s put it another way: the wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails (and probably any form of class society, if you ask me), presents itself as an immense accumulation of stories.  Our investigation must therefore begin with the analysis of a story.

In the original lines that I’ve just travestied, Marx is actually talking about commodities, but he recognises stories as commodities, as – in other words – one of the things that are made for the market in capitalist societies.  He goes on to say that a “commodity is, in the first place, an object outside us, a thing that by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or another. The nature of such wants, whether, for instance, they spring from the stomach or from fancy, makes no difference”.  Here we shall concern ourselves with those that satisfy fancy.

Just as surely as the material products of human labour should be controlled by those who produce them, just as surely as the ...

Comics Reviews (August 17th, 2016)

Demonic #1

Perfectly serviceable cop-horror story, and competently executed, but painfully by the numbers. The main character sells his soul to demons, which is a perfectly good hook, but it's all executed so quickly that there's no room to make him interesting before that, and Sebela is stuck establishing him entirely in terms of cliches. The big turning point when a demon shows up to offer him a deal on page thirteen should probably have been the cliffhanger. Still, if demons and cops is a genre setup you like, this'll probably satisfy.

The Ultimates #10

As with the last issue, a bit of a mess between the brilliant art of Kenneth Rocafort and the bland and lumpy faces of the guest artist who does half the work on this issue. And it's a bit of a mess with Civil War II. But Ms. America kicks ass and takes names, Black Panther gets a genuinely hilarious moment, and Al Ewing remains entertaining. Still, this is not a great stretch of this book, I fear.

Deathstroke Rebirth #1

Came out last week, and paid for by a reader. Nice to see that Priest's still got it after ...

Hyrule Haeresis 2

Video game sequels are a different beast than sequels in other mediums. In video games, a sequel is typically expected to improve upon its predecessor because video games are intensely technical. Since a game is thought of at least partly as a feat of software engineering, sequels are approached as a honing, refining and improvement of the original as much as they are a thematic and aesthetic continuation of them. In other words, we should think of video game sequels as new and improved models as much as the next chapter of a story, if not more so. On the other hand, the nature of a sequel demands in any medium of genre demands narrative escalation.
 
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is a classic example of this duality. In an attempt to avoid repetition and falling into a rut, Shigeru Miiyamoto set out to create a game that was fundamentally different from Zelda no Densetsu and even brought together an entirely new development team in an attempt to push his designers creatively. From a mechanical standpoint, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link seems to be doing everything in its power to be as different as possible from Zelda ...

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