Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Cable, Vol. 1-2

In the dystopian future Cable’s on the run and Bishop’s on the hunt in this effective follow-up series to Messiah Complex.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

marvelWriter: Duane Swiercynski

Artists: Ariel Olivetti, Michael Lacombe,  Ken Lashley (King-Size Cable)

Issues: Cable (2008) #1-10, King-Size Cable #1

 

I watched the first two Terminator films at a fairly young, impressionable age. I fell in love with the concept of a badass warrior-soldier from the future, and Cable was essentially Marvel’s version of that character. He quickly became a very 90stastic creation, with overly convoluted plots and ridiculous situations. He was also extremely powerful, and for while it seemed like Marvel didn’t know what to do with him.

In the mid 2000s we were blessed with Cable & Deadpool, where our future soldier was paired with an equally ridiculous 90s creation, and it worked beautifully. Towards the end of that series, the X-Men went through the epic Messiah Complex event, in which Cable would finally play a major role – taking on the sole burden of protecting the mutant hope for the future, the first mutant baby born since the House of M and Scarlet Witch decimated the mutant population.

Cable received his first solo series in years in 2008 as a direct follow-up to the events in Messiah Complex. While it’s heavily broiled in X-Men continuity, Cable mostly stands on its own as the effective story of our hero protecting the child from the dangers of dystopian futures, and from the unrelenting hunt of former X-Men Lucas Bishop. Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Cable, Vol. 1-2”

The Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw, Vol. 1 Review

The concept of a magic-filled world of complex animal societies that sprung from a dystopian sci-fi world of humans is absolutely fascinating.

Read the full review at CG Magazine

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My experience with anthropomorphic animal-creatures is mostly positive, but also rather childish. I loved Saturday Morning Cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ducktales. Creating humanoid animals and assigning them familiar human traits and livelihoods is a classic story-telling device that speaks especially well to children and young adults.

The Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw eschews most of the familiar trappings by throwing its huge variety of creatures into a far-flung future of magic spells, floating cities, and racial divides. The new series from Image Comics also contains a decidedly mature tone with language and violence akin to your favorite swords and sorcery HBO show. While the story-telling feels more suited to a traditional novel format (complete with mini-short stories accompanying each issue), the incredible artwork and intriguing world-building create a visual feast and a fun introduction to this strange new world.

Read the full review at CG Magazine

Classic PC Games Find New Life on Mobile

If you grew up with PC gaming in the ’90s and ’00s, the mobile marketplace has suddenly become one of the most exciting spaces in gaming.

Read the full article at Pixelkin

classic pc games

It was the summer of 2000. The summer of Diablo 2, one of the most anticipated games in my teenage life. It was also the summer my family vacationed in Hawaii. That was a magical experience, but I mostly wanted to play Diablo 2. Being away from my PC meant I had to settle with reading the latest issue of PC Gamer. I poured over the review and the few tiny screenshots to get my fix.

I distinctly remember sitting on the plane, clutching my Game Boy Color, and wishing I could be playing my growing library of awesome PC games like Diablo, Starcraft, Fallout, and Baldur’s Gate.

Fifteen years later, as I load up Heroes of Might and Magic III on my iPad, I realize that dream has finally come true.

Read the full article at Pixelkin

15 Great Indie Games That Shouldn’t Be Dismissed

Here’s a list of 15 indie games that shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed.

Read the full list at Playboy

Deceiving Indie Games Intro

We’re told not to judge a book by its cover, but we do it anyway. Our brains are wired to make snappy judgement calls, from the people we meet to the media we consume.

With so many great indie games out there it’s easy to quickly judge them based on their cutesy art styles or fairy tale stories. But you’d be missing out on some incredibly deep, rewarding gameplay if you didn’t give these ones a deeper look. Here’s a list of 15 indie games that shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed.

Read the full list at Playboy

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Ghost Rider (2006), Vol. 1-3

Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider so effectively embraces its campy grindhouse themes that I can’t help but love it.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

marvelWriter: Jason Aaron

Artists: Roland Boshi, Tan Eng Haut, Tony Moore

Issues: Ghost Rider (2006) #20-35, Annual #2

 

Next Issue: Death Race on Ghost Cannibal Highway OR Cycle Nurses Kill! Kill! Kill!

There’s a moment near the end of Volume 2, when Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze) confronts his misguided brother Danny Ketch. Ketch had been absorbing the power of other Spirits of Vengenace around the world, and was prepping for a final battle against the last few holdouts. He challenges Johnny to a race around the world, and Johnny points out the absurdity of going on a silly race in the middle of a giant battle. Then they promptly race, which includes soaring past pyramids and over oceans, complete with Ketch picking up a shark and hurling it at Johnny.

Your reaction to that last sentence is a good indicator of whether or not you would enjoy Jason Aaron’s run on Ghost Rider circa 2008-09. I try not to throw the phrase Ridiculously Awesome around too much but Ghost Rider so effectively embraces its campy horror-grindhouse themes that I can’t help but love it.

My previous experience with the motorcycle-ridin’, skull-flamin’ vigilante was limited to Nicholas Cage. I never had much motivation to actually read a comic, but my best bud and comic aficionado recommended this run as a good jumping on point for an awesome arc – and I couldn’t agree more.

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Our first story picks up after Johnny Blaze had just been given a startling revelation about his past – his powers come not from Hell, but from Heaven. Specifically directly from God as avatars of justice, overseen by the archangel Zadkiel. Zadkiel acts as a mostly off-screen but menacing super villain throughout the arc as he storms heaven’s gates to usurp God.

“Hell Bent and Heaven Bound” (#20-23) eases us into the life and times of Johnny Blaze by having our anti-hero get mixed up in a creepy small town filled with undead ghouls, hillbilly cannibals, and busty cycle nurses. Blaze ends up following a lead on a young man that experienced a near death experience – and actually saw Zadkiel. The plot leads to multiple factions literally running into each other in an explosive finale in the town square. It’s super campy and a hell of a lot of fun, particularly how Blaze simply gets caught up in these crazy events.

The plot slows back down when Blaze puts himself in prison to follow yet another lead on Zadkiel in “God Don’t Live on Cell Block D” (#24-25). It mostly serves to introduce the gigantic villainous Deacon, a monstrous tattooed man with daggers that spews Bible verses as he kills the unbelievers.

Ghost Rider #29

In “The Former Things” (#26-27) we’re introduced to the new important character of Sara, a nun that finds out her long lost grandfather is the Caretaker of the Ghost Riders. The old caretaker is slain by a motley crew of villains (presumably from Ghost Rider’s rogue’s gallery) and Sara gains all his knowledge, eventually going through a nice character arc from meek nun to Sarah Connor-esque badass.

We’re first teased with Danny Ketch – Blaze’s long-lost brother and former Ghost Rider in the first Volume. “The Last Stand of the Spirits of Vengeance” (#28-32) continues Ketch’s quest to absolve all the Ghost Riders and absorb their powers. He’s funneling the power directly to Zadkiel, which is bad, and Blaze and Sara have to meet up with the few remaining survivors to battle him.

Ghost Rider #31Seeing other people as Ghost Riders is a lot fun, and Aaron really gets inventive as we go international, with brief glimpses of Ghost Riders riding bears, elephants, and even a shark! Such greatness.

In Issue #33 we even get a fun history lesson on past, present, and future Ghost Riders, from World War II vets with hellfire tanks to the Prohibition era Undead G-Man. How about some cybered-up Ghost Riders from the future? Hell Yeah!

The last stand is gloriously action-packed, but Ketch, along with an army of Zadkiel’s angels, ultimately wins. Zadkiel storms the golden city, but we’re only teased about what happens next.

The final Volume (“Trials and Tribulations” #33-35) acts as an epilogue of sorts, each issue starring one of our main cast (Ketch, Sara, Blaze). It’s surprisingly entertaining with good old fashioned horror stories, especially Danny Ketch battling a satanic ghoul-trucker on the highway. The major plot and the battle for heaven concludes in the six-part mini-series Ghost Riders, which I’ll save for later.

I honestly didn’t think I’d love Ghost Rider as much as I did. It also helped that the art steadily improved with each new artist on each volume. Volume 1 had a cheap, simple look that I wasn’t quite into (though it fit the campy theme well enough) but by the end the art looked great without ever getting too glossy or polished. The major exception being Ghost Rider Annual #2, a one-shot about Blaze battling a demonic sheriff in a small town, with super glossy, ill-fitting art.

Jason Aaron effectively combined campy B-movie supernatural horror with memorable characters and an impressive overarching plot that lasted nearly two years. Blaze’s quest to find Zadkiel and meeting up with Sara and other Ghost Riders is just as entertaining as the random creepy side adventures they get into. For someone that wasn’t into Ghost Rider or really into horror or supernatural stuff at all, I absolutely loved it.

Shadowrun 5E “Splintered State” Epilogue & Recap

Our very last recap episode of our final Shadowrun adventure, “Splintered State.”

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Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central. Catch up on previous sessions on YouTube.

And so we come to the end – not only of our latest Shadowrun mission, but also our campaign, and Shadowrun Fifth Edition. The official published adventure “Splintered State” acted as our grand finale, after some modifications. From here we’ll be moving on to Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition for a change of pace.

This was probably one of our more interesting recap episodes, since this was the first pre-published adventure for Shadowrun I’d ever used. Our previous three adventures were all originally written and crafted by me, for better or worse, and I wanted to try using an official adventure at least once.

Some time during our previous adventure I decided that I’d had enough with Shadowrun’s obtuse rules and complex systems, and wanted to draw our campaign to a close. Though “Splinterd State” would only be our fourth mission, we’d have been running our campaign for six months. Given my players’ recent run-in with Knight Errant law enforcement in the form of a refused quest-giver, I decided that “Splintered State’s” introduction via arresting all the players would work perfectly.

I tweaked a bit of plot and switched out several NPCs to make them work for our campaign. My players got a kick out of seeing these returning NPCs. The various characters I created along the way were defeinitely the highlight of the campaign – from Jeremiah Redd the cockney-accent ork gang leader to a rival street-runner gang that had escaped them before, I had a lot of fun bringing in old friends and foes back into the mix [Session 1].

shadowrun

Unfortunately the plot of the adventure is needlessly steeped in backstory and information, when it simply comes down to having a McGuffin that other factions want, and will kill for. I’ve learned that my players are not fans of not knowing what to do next, but I feel this adventure did a good job presenting the options clearly and laying out their next steps, such as Dietrich calling them directly to buy the commlink at the zoo [Session 2].

The zoo (Session 3) went over really well. I was impressed how the PCs handled scouting it out, smuggling in guns and generally being very prepared. Too bad they got ambushed anyway! It felt very ‘Gotcha!’ since there was nothing they could have done when the elite Chimera assassins showed up. Thankfully the assassins leave quickly before murdering the players, but it was a nicely tense situation. Dietrich suffering from multiple personalities was also a fun roleplaying opportunity for my players to deal with.

For some reason every adventure has one player that takes the majority of the damage. Previously it’s usually Ursev but this time Falkirk took heavy amounts of stun damage, and actually dropped unconscious during the final battle back at the safehouse – from an ally NPC’s errant grenade [Session 4]!

Before the final battle the PCs had the choice of who to sell the commlink to – opting to only even talk to the ‘good’ choice, the underground resistance trying to undermine the evil racist Governor Brackhaven. The published adventure has lots of different options and outcomes available, which meant as a GM I had to build a TON of NPCs and we ended up using less than half of them. Wouldn’t have been so bad if I could’ve used them in future missions but as I mentioned above – this was our final Shadowrun adventure.

shadowrun splintered state

Everyone was generally very positive and pleased with this adventure. They loved seeing old NPCs crop up and have meaningful roles, and they enjoyed having a clear objective halfway through (meet Dietrich at the zoo) but different options on how to approach it. They weren’t terribly keen on using their contacts during the initial commlink investigations. We hadn’t used the contact system very well in previous adventures, and it’s another obtuse and somewhat strange system in Shadowrun.

I love Shadowrun’s setting. When we first started talking about doing online role-playing again early this year, I immediately jumped at the chance to do Shadowrun. The sci-fi cyberpunk setting with fantasy races and magic is just so damn fun and interesting. Too bad the rules are kind of awful! After six months I don’t have much of a better handle on many of the systems, and we purposefully cut out many of the more complicated things like recoil and most matrix stuff. The fifth edition rulebook is also a bloody mess that’s terribly organized.

After six months I’m ready to move on to a different rule system and setting. I miss monsters, I miss loot, I miss dungeons. I think my players will really excel at the D&D gameplay and story flow more-so than Shadowrun’s. I’m really glad we tried Shadowrun and I’ve learned a lot as a GM, and look forward to continuing our online role-playing adventures with a fresh ruleset and setting. I’ll definitely keep the Shadowrun mantra of Shooting Straight, Conserving Ammo, and Never Dealing with a Dragon.

Shadowrun anniversary cover

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central. Catch up on previous sessions on YouTube.

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Moon Knight (2006), Vol. 3-4

Moon Knight tackles werewolves, Thunderbolts, SHIELD, and his own inner demons.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

moon knight 2006 vol 4Writers: Charlie Huston, Mike Benson

Artists: Mark Texeira, Javier Saltares

Issues: Moon Knight (2006) #14-25

 

My initial introduction to Moon Knight was of a tortured, violently psychotic and most likely insane vigilante. As Marvel’s resident Batman, Marc Spector is a giant asshole that alienates his few friends and girlfriend and gets the shit kicked out of him on a regular basis.

It can be refreshing to read a Marvel comic that practically demonizes its own title hero but the third and fourth volumes of this series keep repeating the same self-pitying mantras, and I was ready for Moon Knight to get his shit together.

Marc continues to wallow in the hell he’s built himself, even after becoming officially registered with the Superhuman Registration Act by pure manipulation. “God and Country” (#14-19) sees the return of an old Moon Knight villain (I assume), Black Spectre. Spectre is a recent parolee and soon delves back into a life of crime, with his shtick of dressing up in full medieval plate mail and wielding maces and swords. He leaves calling cards designed to blame Moon Knight for a series of deaths, and soon the authorities are after him. It doesn’t help that Moon Knight takes out bad guys through gruesome maiming attacks – he rages against his moon god’s desire to kill but still leaves a wake of twisted and broken bodies in his wake.

Moon Knight 2006 #16

Iron Man gets wind of Moon Knight’s Punisher-style brand of violent loner vigilantism. The story builds to a climax with Black Spectre stealing some kind of goofy nanite-controlling weapon and unleashing it on a crowd. Moon Knight actually kills him by tackling him off a roof to save everyone, and Tony Stark soon shows up to raid Moon Knight’s base.

The integral tie-in to the larger Marvel world at the time (post-Civil War with Director Stark) is nifty, and I found myself enjoying Moon Knight’s supporting cast far more than the main anti-hero. His old war buddy Frenchie, damaged but trying to do better fuck buddy Marlene (“We’re not dating, we’re *****”). Even his angry young man pilot whom I can’t remember the name of is more interesting than Marc’s tiresome self-loathing. At the end SHIELD agents symbolically drop the statue of Khonshu and you think that maybe Marc will make some real advancement as a character. But no.

“In the Company of Wolves ” (#20) is a rare one-off issue in this series of giant story arcs, and it’s quite entertaining. A werewolf from Moon Knight’s rogue’s gallery has been captured, and his blood is being used to make new temporary werewolves for use in a dog fighting arena. It’s a dark but cool idea, and a great setting for Marc to unleash his inner beast when he infiltrates it.

Moon Knight 2006 #24“The Death of Marc Spector” (#21-25) is heavily tied into the Volume 3’s continuity, with Marc still on the run from SHIELD. At this point in the timeline, however, Norman Osborn is Director of the Thunderbolts and is given permission to hunt and capture Marc. Although Moon Knight has no actual super powers other than badassery and some moon knives, he’s able to withstand multiple attacks from the entire Thunderbolts team (the brief battles with Venom are especially disappointing).

In the end it comes down to the Thunderbolts’ secret weapon – Bullseye. Mike Benson does a great job picking up the Thunderbolts for their guest run here, accurately portraying their quirks, personalities, and inner drama. Bullseye had been built up as quite the badass, and he’s actually a great foil combat-wise to Marc. Moon Knight knows he can’t beat him in a straight up fight, so he lures him to an underwater hideout and rigs the whole thing to blow. Both are able to escape but Marc Spector is presumed dead, and goes into hiding.

I can definitely see Moon Knight‘s appeal. It’s interesting to see an anti-hero that’s much more realistic – he suffers from mental issues, he’s constantly bruised and bleeding from every fight, and his relationships are strained at best. But at some point it just gets to be too much. A clever plot or exceptional art style could elevate Moon Knight but neither are anything special. I did enjoy and respect the use of Tony Stark, Norman Osborn, and the Thunderbolts within the greater Marvel continuity at the time, though it probably had more to do with a lesser focus on Marc himself.

Moon Knight definitely needs an adept writer to keep him fresh and interesting and not retread the same ground. Moon Knight would go through several more series and reboots before settling on the acclaimed series that began in 2014. I’ll get there eventually!

Moon Knight 2006 #22