Archive for October, 2014

Ok, first thing’s first. I just want to put a general update about the current state of this blog, as much for my own accountability as for anyone reading this. So, if you’ve been paying attention to things here for the past two weeks or so, you may have noticed that I’ve fallen significantly behind and even gone some days without posting at all. Simply put, I’ve had a rough patch at my regular job scheduling-wise requiring me to completely upend my typical sleep patterns. It’s not a very good excuse, I know, but that’s the truth of the situation. I’m back on a more typical work schedule in the coming week, so things should be getting back to normal here…hopefully.

Getting more specific, I will say that everything that is currently on the schedule or will be placed on the schedule, will be coming, it’s just likely to continue coming late for some time longer. For the immediate future, I’m going to have to prioritize my new release/Nerds Unchained reviews over my backlog reviews (which are presently the Hellblazer reviews). As I said, it’s all coming, just for now things are going to be a bit late and probably a bit out of order.

What I Watched Today: Akame ga Kill (episode 17)

AkameGaKill

Good news! We don’t have to deal with the tension and anticipation of waiting for the next significant death on this series anymore! It’s here! Ok…so, maybe that’s not totally a good thing. On the one hand, it is something of a relief to have that tension lifted off my shoulders (not that I think by any means this was the last death on the show). On the other hand, Akame ga Kill does a fantastic job of making sure we care about a character or at least empathize with them before they kill them off. Adds to the the pain just a little bit.

And on the subject of causing their viewers pain, the team behind Akame ga Kill was definitely at the top of their game this week. Not once, not twice, but three times in this episode they made quite certain to show us aspects of characters backgrounds in an effort to give us a reason to care about them before crushing us with their deaths. Granted, one of these instances turned out to be a swerve, but that didn’t make the moment of “death” itself any less impactful. And while I’m giving the series credit for how effectively they pull off that little emotional trap, I have to also give them extra credit for even managing it with the villains as well. The first of the two actual deaths in the episode was a “villain” (notice I’m doing my best to dance around the names as to not spoil anything) and it brought me very close to tears. That’s a pretty impressive feat.

While it wasn’t the all-out bloodbath that I’ve been anticipating for weeks now, this may actually have been even more effective. Having only one or two deaths at a given time carries far more weight than if it had been a half dozen in one episode. The final images of the episode were particularly stirring and are certain to add fuel to the fire of the conflict between Night Raid and the Jaegers over the coming weeks.

AkameGaKillEpisode17

What I Read Today: Attack on Titan, vol. 13

AttackOnTitan13

Finally! I am all caught up on the Attack on Titan manga…well, at least what’s been published in English anyway, I’m aware that what appears to be the next two volume’s worth of content has already come out in Japan, but for my language capabilities, I’m exactly where I want to be. Seriously though, things are starting to get really weird…and the series has finally gone to that creepy place (I mean other than the giant, malformed humanoids that eat people).

Alright, we’ve got to talk about Krista Lenz, or I suppose it’s Historia Reiss now. As I’ve been saying talking about the last couple volumes, she has become a very important character in this series, which is something you’d probably never guess after watching season one of the anime or reading the first nine or ten volumes of the manga. I’d even say that she’s is the most important character there is in this particular volume. This was easily the most in depth look we’ve ever gotten into Historia’s history, and it was a little bit disturbing and a whole lot uncomfortable. First, let’s talk about her relationship with her parents, such as it was. Her only words her mother ever said to her revolved around wishing that she didn’t exist, and her father was completely absent until the day that she watches her mother get murdered, is sent away and forced to change her name. So yeah, she’s got a lovely family. No wonder the girl is a little off. Speaking of a little off, then there’s the scene with Historia and her “sister.” This was one of the more odd and out of place scenes in the entire series in my opinion. It’s a flashback sequence and for the most part it’s fine, until the end, when her “sister” leaves and Historia completely forgets about the sequence and her “sister” until the moment in the present day from which she’s remembering it.  All very, very strange.

And then, I can’t not talk about the first time (to my recollection) that this series has gone to that ol’ creepy sex place. It starts with “Eren” and “Historia” being kidnapped (speaking of, can we stop having Eren be kidnapped, it’s getting old), though it’s actually Jean and Armin in disguise. While in captivity, Armin, who sadly for him has an unfortunate resemblance to Historia, gets to deal with all kinds of bad touch. Frankly it’s a little strange (and frankly even more worrying) that the kidnapper who is molesting him never actually realizes he’s a male. That fact just makes the scene all the more creepy. The one redeeming factor for the whole sequence is that it provides the always welcome opportunity for Mikasa to be awesome (seen in part below). Now, I’ve just got to wait a few more days until volume 14 hits Amazon so I can see what happens next.

AttackOnTitan13_capture

Hellblazer6

Now being six issues into Jamie Delano’s Hellblazer, I’m beginning to notice something of a pattern…John Constantine doesn’t actually do a whole lot does he. I mean, I didn’t go into this series expecting him to be Superman or anything like that, but really, what does he actually do?

I will give the man his due, he saves Zed not once, but twice in this issue. Both of those situations though are more about Constantine being in the right place at the right time than they are anything else. Now, I’m not trying to look down on the idea of talking your way out of problems. Obviously that’s a better lesson to be teaching readers than punching away their problems. That said though, there is something incredibly unsatisfying about having Nergal create this demonic abomination out of four street thugs only to have it tear itself apart when Constantine points out the conflict between the opposing Chelsea and Arsenal tattoos on the monsters arms. All credit to Jamie Delano, it is a solution that he sets up from the very beginning of the issue, but it just didn’t sit well with me. Maybe it plays better for football (soccer to us North Americans) fans. While I’m giving credit to Jamie Delano though, I’d be remiss to not point out his willingness to tackle some heavy issues in this series. Last issue it was Vietnam, this issue put some focus prejudices in general (hence the story’s name, “Extreme Prejudice,”) and specifically on prejudice against homosexuals and people with aids. Obviously that can be a pretty delicate and touchy thing to talk about, probably even more so in the 80’s when this issue first came out, but it’s handled here with a fair amount of maturity and dignity.

While Constantine may not seem to do a whole lot some of the time, Hellblazer is still a very interesting series and I don’t think we’ve even gotten to the biggest conflicts yet. Last issue the Resurrection Crusaders were in the spotlight, this issue it was the Damnation Army again, just when I thought they may have been put on the back burner in favor of the Crusaders. Clearly things are going to be coming to a head at some point.

Hellblazer6_capture

Score: 8.0

Written By: Jamie Delano
Art By: John Ridgway and Lovern Kindzierski
Letters By: Todd Klein
Price: $1.99 (on ComiXology)

What I Watched Today: Log Horizon II (episode 4) & Sword Art Online II (episode 16)

Log Horizon II:

LogHorizon

I feel like I’ve used the term “detour episode/issue” fairly often in the last couple weeks, but there really is just no better way to quickly describe instances such as this one. I don’t want you to get the idea I only care about the action in these shows, but i do have to say that 20+ minutes of talking in a show where almost all of the main characters have a weapon of some sort seems just a little off, even for Log Horizon.

Part of my disconnect with this episode I think is that we spent so much of the last episode with Shiroe and the Depths of Palm Raid and then Shiroe and Naotsugu are in this episode for a brief moment and it is perhaps the least important scene of the entire episode. Even “The Teachings” which played a significant part in episode 3 for every member of Log Horizon not with Shiroe, got barely a mention this episode. So, griping out of the way, let’s get to something I did like about this episode. Shockingly, it involves Akatsuki (and coincidentally The Teachings). Between unrequited love, doubts of her own strength and an apparent lack of confidence (the later two likely spawning out of the former), Akatsuki’s journey through this episode is heartbreaking, making it kind of weird that this was something I liked about the episode, but I love Akatsuki, so it makes me happy that something interesting is being done with her character…even if it does make me feel like she needs a really big hug.

As much as I hate to say it though, Akatsuki was not the most important part of this episode. No, that distinction goes to the fact that it seems after 29 episodes, real death seems to have come to the world that was once Elder Tales. That hasn’t been confirmed as of yet, sure, but a character lying in a pool of blood at the end of the episode instead of being shown to respawn would seem like a pretty strong indicator. The cause of this death, Enheart Nelreth, who has kind of been lurking in the shadows throughout this season so far. I’m very interested to see where this story goes, it’s not quite enough to forgive almost completely ignoring the main story though.

LogHorizon_s2e04

Sword Art Online II:

SwordArtOnline2

Alright, from essentially no action in this week’s Log Horizon to all kinds of action in this week’s Sword Art Online. Say what you want about this series’ plot and how often it tends to go to the bad touch place, but when it comes to action pieces, the people behind this show know what they’re doing. The very first fight in this episode especially is beautifully done and is pretty much in a nutshell why I watch Sword Art Online.

On the topic of plot though, the Norse mythology has always been kind of there since the second half of season one, but I was not really ready for them to go the Ragnarok route. Now that they’ve brought it up though, I really want to go full throttle with. I think this is the first time in the series that I legitimately want Kirito and friends to fail. They spent this whole episode getting to the final boss for the quest they got last episode, and I want them to lose so we can get to some fire and brimstone, war of the gods, end of days, Ragnarok madness. admittedly though, I don’t really expect them to do it.

And finally, I have to show some love for the “it’s a trap” scene (a portion of which is pictured below). After spending the first half of this season with Kirito using a “trap” avatar, I really appreciate that when the party encountered a situation featuring a beautiful NPC that for all appearances seemed like it was probably a trap, that everyone in the party (except Klein) was convinced that it was a trap and wanted to ignore her. I also appreciate that there was an almost immediate benefit to saving her once Klein decided that his Bushido demanded that he do so.

SwordArtOnline2Episode16

Hellblazer5

It’s time again for another very uncomfortable journey through the world of Hellblazer. It’s uncomfortable for different reason than last issue, but what more could really be expected but discomfort when you through a smattering of the Vietnam War into things. Good things rarely follow when ‘Nam is added to these things.

I’m not actually sure that it’s the story elements revolving around Vietnam were the biggest source of my discomfort in reading this issue. I think that distinction goes to Constantine himself who is for the most part a passive observer of everything that happens in this issue, just standing idly by while terrible things happen right in front of him, either unable or unwilling to even try and help. It’s instances such as this that have earned the character the name bastard over the years. So, how exactly does Vietnam factor into a story set roughly twenty years after that particular war? Well, the story focuses on Liberty, Iowa, as Constantine refers to it “a twentieth-century ghost town” who lost many of its sons in ‘Nam and the one son that came home. Watching the events unfold in this issue, both in flashbacks to the war and the events in present-day Liberty (which acts as a mirror almost to happened happened in the war), manages to still be enthralling while being incredibly painful and unsettling to read. With rape, murder, obsessed townsfolk, religious fanatics and a next to useless protagonist, this issue is pretty much a (to use a bit of an overused term) perfect storm when it comes to crafting discomfort. Credit has to be given to Jamie Delano, whose almost poetic narrative makes the story readable (it easily could have gone the other way).

I may have gotten ahead of myself in talking about last issue and the impending conflict between the Resurrection Crusaders and the Damnation Army, but with the Crusaders having a heavy hand in the events of this issue the conflict between that faction and Constantine would seem to be just around the corner. It should be a lot of fun, at least when it isn’t being highly disturbing.

Hellblazer5_capture

Score: 8.5

Written By: Jamie Delano
Art By: John Ridgway and Lovern Kindzierski
Letters By: Todd Klein
Price: $1.99 (on ComiXology)

What I Watched Today: Constantine (episode 1)

ConstantineLogo

First impression: this was actually better than I was expecting it to be. It is definitely a little ham, the demon I assume was supposed to be Nergal especially looked pretty low budget. And it’s certainly not scary which you may expect a show featuring the occult to be (at least not this episode).

Now, John Constantine and the more magic section of the DC Universe are not things I am overly familiar with so I’m not going to be able to dive into the minutia here like I can usually do with the other comic book shows. All I can really say as far as connections to the comics is that I recognize Constantine’s buddy Chas from the first few issues of Hellblazer and that it was a nice touch including Doctor Fate’s helmet in Jasper Winters home. Just talking about the show itself, I have to say I’m not sure how I feel about Matt Ryan as Constantine. It’s not that he’s bad, there’s just something about the way he delivered his lines that felt a bit strange to me. It’s probably something I’ll get used to soon enough, I do actually like him in the role.

And then there’s Lucy Griffiths as Liv. Boy did that feel strange. They spent basically the whole episode building her up as this significant figure and obvious co-star for the series beside Matt Ryan, and then boom, gone. It could not have been more obvious that they had intended a larger role for the character and then changed directions. It’s a bit disappointing because I actually liked the character and would have been interested to see Liv and Constantine’s relationship develop as the series went on. I expect once Zed hopes into the spotlight though, i’ll forget all about Liv.

ConstantineEpisode1

What I Got Today: Loot Crate

So this has been sitting on the floor in my room all week just waiting for me to get around to this post so that I could actually open it. Well, that time is here, and now just like every month when I open these Crate’s, I am a happy man. The theme this month is “fear,” obviously, because Halloween. You can see the full haul below and then I will get into my personal highlights for the month, but first, a few honorable mentions. The Dead Rising 3 Sledgesaw. I’ve never actually played any of the Dead Rising games, but I can still appreciate how cool this thing is. And it’s also a pen, apparently. The Loot Crate magazine. Normally there’s not much special here, but this month’s has a Walking Dead style cover that is also in 3D (which is why they include the old school 3D glasses).

LootCrate_Oct_Haul

– Death By Kitten T-Shirt:

LootCrate_Oct_DeathByKittenShirt

Alright, so I’m generally a dog guy, not a huge fan of cats, except for lions and tigers (and bears, oh my) and the like. That said, form up a bunch of cats into the shape of a skull…and I never have to get a Punisher shirt ever because this thing is better than any actual Punisher shirt could ever be. No contest. Totally wearing this tomorrow.

– How to Survive a Sharknado

LootCrate_Oct_HowToSurviveASharknadoBook

So, I’m one of those people (one of the few, probably) who has managed to never watch Sharknado, but I can’t not appreciate a book like this. This is the kind of guide book nerdy dreams are made of. I hadn’t decided what to read next since finishing Attack on Titan, vol. 13. i think this might be the answer.

– The Walking Dead #132

LootCrate_Oct_TheWalkingDead132

Just like the shirts, I’ll always love getting comics in these Crates. And it’s even better when it’s a book I already like and am reading. Admittedly, I’m a little bit behind on The Walking Dead (#127 was the last one I read) but that just means that this is one issue I won’t have to buy when I get around to catching up on the series.

– Smite Gift Card

LootCrate_Oct_SmiteGiftCard

This one isn’t a personal highlight. I’m not playing Smite and really have no interest in playing it. MOBA’s just aren’t my thing, even when they have more of a third-person action style to them. So, why am I talking about this gift card? Simple. I have a code, and there’s no reason for it to go to waste, so I’m giving it away. All you’ve got to do is be the first person to follow me on Twitter and ask for it. I’ll follow you back and DM the code to you. And if you aren’t playing Smite and want more information you can check it out here.

Update: If you’re seeing this now, please note the Smite code has been claimed. You’re more than welcome to still follow me, but I don’t have any more codes to give away at this time.

Deathstroke1

It took a little more than three years, but Slade Wilson/Deathstroke now has two very interesting distinctions in the current state of DC Comics. If I’m not mistaken, the character is now the first in The New 52 to get a solo book after already having his solo book cancelled. He is also (again, unless I’m mistaken) the first character to be rebooted since DC’s line-wide New 52 reboot.

Granted, it’s a soft reboot, but it still kind of boggles my mind that this is a thing that is happening just slightly more than three years after DC Comics rebooted their entire superhero universe (to one degree or another, some pre-New 52 material is still considered to have happened). If the Slade Wilson character was “too old,” which seems to be the thought process considering how this issue ends, then why didn’t we go down this road in the initial New 52 Deathstroke series? It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. As far as the actual book goes, it worries me a little that there seems to be thought here to make Deathstroke some sort of hero. He even refers to himself as “a heck of a good guy.” Yes, everyone is the hero of their own story, but i’ve never seen Deathstroke as a character who thinks of himself as a good guy. He’s a mercenary and an assassin, he’s not a hero or a villain, he’s the guy that does the job he’s paid to do. Tony S. Daniel, Sandu Florea and Tomeu Morey do seem to have gotten the level of violence right for the character, though it was also part of the biggest disconnect in the book for me. I can understand not wanting to use “foul language’ in the book, but if that’s the decision you’ve made, then don’t have the character say something like “a-hole.” Self-censorship like that sounds strange at the best of times, but especially when it comes immediately after Slade drives the hilt of one of his swords through someone’s brain. Not the blade, the hilt, clearly a far more difficult and violent act.

As weird as I find the idea of this character getting a soft reboot, especially as just occurred to me when he looks like the same old Slade in all his Futures End appearances, I do find it intriguing and I’m interested in seeing where this story goes. And i have to say, the art is pretty spot on for what I’d want for this book. I definitely like the slightly new look to the Deathstroke costume. The language issue is the only real kink that i think need to be worked out. Either have characters swear or don’t Tony Daniel, please don’t go halfway and use censored curses. It just doesn’t sound real.

Deathstroke1_capture

Score: 7.0

Written By: Tony S. Daniel
Art By: Tony S. Daniel, Sandu Florea and Tomeu Morey
Letters By: Rob Leigh
Price: $2.99

What I Streamed This Week: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Dragon Age II

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor:

ShadowOfMordorLogo

I’ve done it! Over the span of two streams this week I finished middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, at least the story. I think i’m only at about 50% completion. The first stream is about three hours and I literally get to the last mission and call it quits because it was 6am. So, the second stream is roughly one third story, two thirds completion quest. I only played for about 90 minutes, the first 20 or so of which are the last story mission and the last hour or so is side missions and collection in an effort to up my completion percentage while showing off “The Black Hand” skin from the “Power of Shadow” DLC.

Since I don’t really have much interest in 100% the game, I’m probably not going to be playing the game much more, unless the release some story DLC. So, final thoughts on Shadow of Mordor, it’s a lot of fun. Like running around in the Arkham and Assassin’s Creed games, running around in Mordor and getting into fights with Orcs will never not be fun. And I definitely enjoyed this extension of the Middle-earth mythology, I would love them to do more. On that note, by the way ended, I’d be shocked if they aren’t already planning a sequel (as I say in the second video). My only disappointments with the game were the fights with The Tower and The Black Hand (i.e. the two last fights/culminating moments of the game). The Tower fight isn’t a fight at all. It’s a series of stealth attacks thhat culminates in a Quick Time Event. It plays a lot like the Mr. Freeze fight from Arkham City (or was it Asylum, I don’t actually remember), just withough the forced variety of attacks. And The Black Hand fight is entirely just a QTE and is completely anti-climactic. Other than that though, i had a lot of fun in the 15-20 hours I spent with the game.

Dragon Age II:

DragonAge2

In the middle of my three streams this week I played three hours of Dragon Age II. Three hours in which I completely ignore the main story. I do plenty of side stuff, including calling my Uncle out as a dick, getting Aveline a promotion and visiting the local brothel three times. That’s a once per hour average if you’re wondering. One of those time I may or may not have gotten some sweet elf lovin’, much to the dismay of my sister. Though the game doesn’t actually show anything, so who knows what really happened. Also, I kind of abandoned “the red line’ of dialogue choices that I had initially intended on maintaining in favor of just choosing the “most appropriate” option, which ended up making me more sarcastic than angry, which fits me better.