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Archive for October, 2011

I’ll get right to it, Batman: Arkham City is my favorite video game in the whole world.

When I was in high school, I wanted to be Batman. I never had this compulsion when I was in elementary or junior high school, but during my freshman year I began to plot how I would somehow become a multimillionaire (without losing the lives of my parents) while studying martial arts and nonlethal combat. I excelled in math and science and applied to colleges for mechanical engineering so that I could fabricate my own devices. I snuck out at night on weekends when my parents were out of town and went on foot patrol to the local park, where I would sit at the top of the slide in my jean jacket, hoping for evil doers to stroll by, armed with a shortened broomstick handle. As a late-blooming 14-year-old, I was about as formidable and foolish as Kick-Ass, and it was a miracle that I was never beaten to a pulp.

(On a side note, remind me to join the class action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of 30-somethings looking to sue Mark Millar for stealing Kick-Ass from their pubescent experiences.)

As an adult, when I drive into a new city, I look up and imagine plotting a course via ziplines and grappling hooks above the pavement and swashbuckling from flagpole to window ledge to back alley street fight.  Mature thoughts and a fear of sleeping in a body bag mute my aspirations, while my real fights are more likely to involve a mortgage contract or a vending machine. But sometimes, those bat-dreams won’t stay quiet.

Last year I picked up Batman: Arkham Asylum and was floored by the game. Finally, I could sit on my Xbox and beat the stuffing out of Bane, Harley Quinn, and other Batman villains. I could use my utility belt to solve puzzles and do some breaking and entering. I could even use my grappling hook gun to soar to the tops of buildings… on the grounds of the Arkham Asylum Mental Institute. In the background, I could see Gotham, taunting me and whispering “you can’t go here, this game isn’t  Grand Theft Auto: Batman”.

Well, now it is.

Holy Pixels, Batman!

Arkham City is a sprawling fat greasy slice of Gotham City, and you can, indeed, swing and glide and climb and dash and jump across the buildings and alleys. It’s pure freedom. Beautifully rendered and wonderfully animated, Gotham City comes to life, even if you’re only in the slums for the duration of the game. (Sequel?)

Last night I played with feverish delight trying to find Riddler trophy puzzles and going on a hectic run across the city to intercept payphone calls from the serial killer Zsasz. In one of the many side missions, you play an on-foot version of Crazy Taxi but with lives on the line. Every time I pass a payphone in the game, I tense up anticipating a piercing ring, wondering if I needed to pause the game for a bathroom break in case Zsasz is on the line and I have to start sprinting and swinging.

At 1:55 AM, I had the creeping dread of work, so I reluctantly turned off the Xbox.

I can’t imagine a student, after playing this game, telling their guidance counselor that they would want to be anything but a superhero. Who wouldn’t want to be in top physical condition, a genius entrepreneur and detective, AND beat up bad guys? What’s the downside if you fail? You tried and you got better. Heck, I’d take a gig as Robin if I wasn’t good enough to be The Bat.

But in this game, you CAN be Robin… or Nightwing… or Catwoman… thanks to the downloadable characters. With my limited edition bundle, I now own the Dark Knight Returns costume skin, so I can even play as Old Man Wayne and beat up the young whipper snappers.

The game is one of the best I’ve ever played, and crossed the line to truly interactive entertainment. At times, it felt like I was directing a motion picture. Fans of the Batman: The Animated Series will love that Mark Hamill returns as the voice of the Joker. Next to Kevin Conroy, Mr. Hamill has become one of the most iconic voices in Batman mythology. The first moment that I heard his warbling cackle (put those words together, it makes sense) I got goosebumps.

Someone once said that if words fail you, use someone else’s. I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the GamesBeat section of VentureBeat for the great review below, because it says just about everything I can’t right now. 

http://venturebeat.com/2011/10/21/review-catwoman-steals-the-show-in-batman-arkham-city/

(I politely disagree though on their points regarding dialog…)

Thanks for reading. I’ll see you later after I catch Zsasz…

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Damn Allen Turner.

If you’ve been reading along, you know of my ongoing battle against my comic collection, which I should start calling the Hive since it’s kept in a semi-walk-in closet and is my own personal vault of terror. I’m sure that Umbrella Corp. could store some really nasty stuff in my comic boxes before I would ever uncover it. Too much exposure in the Hive does cause early onset zombification.

Last month I took a break from the Wanye Toy, Comics and Collectibles show to do some trips, and unfortunately I had to leave some boxes still on the first floor of my house. Hauling a long box of 300 books up one floor and into the Hive is not something you want to do after a day in the office. I would relocate these books downstairs, but my girlfriend makes very good points about clutter. I had read a recent article in the Comic Buyer’s Guide (I couldn’t find it in their online archives) about the horrible crawl and sprawl of comics that infested one man’s house, and I needed to act. The whole goal of the shows I’m going to is to sell off my junk. I have had luck so far dealing a couple of high-end items and a plethora of low-end/high volume stuff, but it’s still moving a beach full of sand with a spoon.

At the same time, I’ve been planning on using the profits as well as some thrifty savings plans to pay off my mortgage ahead of schedule. It’s aggressive and feels overwhelming, but I visit The Simple Dollar finance blog every day, and it kind of sticks in your head; this is possible.  Comics should help me out.

But I hope Allen Turner burns in hell for what he did.

Allen has shown up and seen my comic cave-oops-the Hive (gotta get used to the new name) about 3 times in the past 3 years. He likes to sit with my golden age books and glare at the covers. I don’t usually mind, but he’s always asking to make one more visit and it gets kind of annoying. Allen has to travel a distance to get to my house, so you have to plan out the entire visit, but he’ll still give you short notice and say “I’ll be there next week”.

Plus, Allen’s not a cheap date.

I calculated that Allen has probably cost me about $800 to be my guest. I don’t know how it adds up so fast, or where it comes from, but you can’t meet Allen without blowing some cash.

Call him Mr. Popularity. The last time Allen was going to come over, I got jerked around at the last second and he routed his trip to another house across the country. Allen is the type of person who makes any excuse possible to fly.

So last week, I find out that Mr. Turner may be coming out, he’s putting out feelers. I looked at my wallet and decided that I needed to get some closure with Allen and tell him this type of shit has to stop. I don’t care if he’s a Big Shot, I’m going to put an end to it, which is still going to cost me some money, money that I don’t want to spend right now.

I waited last night to hear back from Allen. And waited. And waited. Then suddenly I found out that he was coming to see the Hive, and he told me that he wasn’t going to cost as much as last time. Allen’s not in the shape he used to be in.

Today I sit with my confirmation of Allen’s trip and his promise that yes, this is the last time. Now I can finally put all of Allen’s trips together into one single adventure and close a chapter in my life. But dammit Allen, you’ve cost me a lot of money over the years. I’m glad I can stop being your groupie.

Allen isn’t an ordinary person. He’s a multimillionaire who also goes by the name of Skyman. Finally, I have a copy of issue #2 of Skyman, and I finally have the complete four issue series. I won it on a moderately low bid on eBay and used money from some sold video games to fund the purchase. It’s pretty beat up, but well worth it. I’ve attached a scan of what the original cover art looked like as it appeared in 1942. Mine won’t be anywhere near as sharp and crisp, but it’s mine, and I can put all four issues into the Hive.

Allen Turner. You just put my mortgage plans back about $80. Dammit.

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Ahhh Halloween, time to break out the spooky comics. Right to chase, I thought I’d share some of my favorites!

Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #1

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A bit of a misnomer, Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love was a horror/suspense series in the tradition of other DC mystery series such as House of Secrets and House of Mystery. I’ve only read a few issue bits online, including the series’ name change to Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion, and yes, there is no article of “the” in the title, but it’s creepy fun. The awesome cover art is suitable for framing if you’re looking for illustrations that blend from the macabre to kitschy horror.  If you’re too lazy for the wiki link above, here’s issue number five:
File:FTDM05.jpg

“They all came to die!” Who doesn’t love that???  You can pick up a lot of good reader copies on eBay for $20-$40, and yes, that link takes you right to a search in the comic category. And check out the cover of issue #3 if you’re poking around… it’s pulp art perfection.

Batman: Vampire

This is one of the greatest alternate reality series DC has ever made. Batman: Vampire is the collected paperback for the Red Rain trilogy (Red Rain, Bloodstorm, and Crimson Mist) and covers the full arc in one long sitting. For those not familiar with the term, alternate reality comics are taking the existing character out of the current longstanding story and putting them into a divergent or alternate timeline. In this case, Dracula comes to Gotham City, and the world’s greatest detective must disect the nature of good and evil; the only path to victory is the darkest road. You can find the separate books in stores and online, but I highly recommend the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am of the collected edition.

I could write an entire article about Kelley Jones’ horrific art, which probably has the finest vivisections and decapitations you will ever see illustrated, but his Batman work on the ongoing series is fantastic. I’m at a loss for adjectives. Want to know why criminals fear the Batman?  Kelley Jones reminds us why:
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For homework, look up Kelley Jones’ series The Hammer and Zombie World.

Zombie Books

If you don’t know The Walking Dead, you need to brush up on pop culture.

If you don’t know Zombies Vs. Robots, you’re welcome.

If you’re into collecting, there are a couple of CGC 9.9 graded copies of The Walking Dead #1 out there, but they will cost you a pretty penny; a CGC 9.9 is the rarest of the rare. Go for the collected editions so you can read full story arcs in detail, and then pick up some zombie-on-robot action too.

Wildstorm Spotlight #1

Here’s a hidden gem you can buy on the cheap.

Image Comics’ Wildstorm imprint did a single issue of an intended ongoing series featuring Mr. Majestic at the end of time. The story is not a traditional horror story, but it is about the despair, desperation, and loneliness that would come from being the last organisms alive at the end of time. It features a small band of super-heroes, legendary figures, a vampire, a god, and anthropomorphic concepts. Yes, even mathematics must face death. Imagine the introspection from I Am Legend* on a galactic scale, and we finally discover what happens at the exact end of time.

*An honorable mention for the Steve Niles adaptation of Matheson’s work. You can search for that on your own for extra credit… which brings me to…

30 Days of Night

Steve Niles makes snow terrifying. You will never be as afraid of the dark as the residents of Barrow, Alaska in the original 30 Days of Night miniseries, which is also available in trade paperback and hardcover. I know, Josh Hartnett was in the movie adaptation (which I did enjoy) but the book puts a less handsome couple in the lead roles and conveys the brittleness of the everyman-turned-hero metaphor as the protagonists face an inevitable horrific death. Niles’ limited palette of inks and washes adds to the dread and menace of being alone, in the dark, and being hunted in your own home. I’m going to omit an image so that you can discover it on your own. Spoilers abound in the google image search, so be warned; this is not a book to thumb through when you pick up. Just look at the first couple of pages, nod, and buy it.

Dishonorable Mention: X-Men 40

The X-Men meet Frankenstein. I own a CGC 8.0 copy. This makes Scooby Doo and the Harlem Globetrotters look like Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman in Se7en.
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Happy Halloween to everyone… I’m already thinking there may be a part two of this list…

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