Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – X-Men: Second Coming

Cable and Hope return to the present in this explosive, awesome climax to the past 2+ years of X-Men titles and stories.

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!

X-Men Second ComingWriters: Mike Carey, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Matt Fraction, Zeb Wells

Artists: David Finch, Terry Dodson, Ibraim Robertson, Greg land, Mike Choi

Issues: Second Coming: Prepare, X-Men: Second Coming #1-2, Uncanny X-Men #523-525, New Mutants #12-14, X-Men: Legacy #235-237, X-Force #26-28*

*Also read the Second Coming Revelations trade, which includes X-Factor #204-206, X-Men Second Coming Revelations: Blind Science, X-Men: Hellbound #1-3

 

“You’ll feel it, Hope. Like nothing you’ve ever felt before. It’l be like a switched turned on inside you. Like a fire. And once that fire’s lit…everything will change.”

Remember how much I gushed about how awesome the mega crossover X-Men event Messiah Complex was? Well the two-years in the making sequel, Second Coming, makes that look like crap. Which is to say it’s bloody amazing.

X-Men: Second Coming finally brings Hope, the young mutant messiah, back into our timeline. At the end of Messiah Complex Cable took the first mutant baby born since M-Day forward into the future to escape danger (even though just about every future scenario is super dangerous). Bishop, on a quest to prevent his own apocalyptic future, hunts them down through time. What followed was a pretty nice two year arc of Cable as a tough-love dad with Hope growing up knowing only war, danger, and survival.

Meanwhile with Xavier’s school destroyed, the X-Men relocated to San Francisco. Then when shit hit the fan, Cyclops moved everyone to the island of Utopia – arisen from Magneto’s old Asteroid M that had crashed into the ocean (Namor is a useful ally to have around).

Cyclops, who’s grown into a real wartime general that makes even Magneto bend the knee, also restarts X-Force as a mutant black ops group, tasked with trying to kill the bad guys before they can do more harm. It was a very bloody, very violent series with some spiffy art.

And at some point Marvel started up a mostly unnecessary but surprisingly decent New Mutants series. All of this means that X-Men: Second Coming, like all X-Men stuff is densely mired in continuity and current events. This makes it both off-putting for anyone trying to jump in, but rewarding for fans following the X-Men’s dire saga in the last few years. I’m in the latter camp, so I absolutely loved it. Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – X-Men: Second Coming”

Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Carmageddon: Reincarnation

Frustrating controls and frequent crashes prevent this nostalgic remake from stepping out of the shadow of the original 90s car-smasher.

I have finished another backlogged game via Rogue’s Adventures. You can read my latest Final Thoughts below and also on my gaming blog on Game Informer.

Developer: Stainless Games

Publisher: Stainless Games

Release Date: May 21, 2015

Carmageddon-Reincarnation

In the immortal words of Dr. Ian Malcolm (paraphrasing): just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes that applies to remakes of classic 90s video games.

I was a big fan of Carmageddon back in the day. The violent destruction derby combined standard racing with large, fully explorable zones. Racing through checkpoints was only one of three ways to win.

The others involved either destroying your fellow racers, or running over every poor pedestrian that wandered into range of your four-wheeled death machine. It was silly, over-the-top violence that was very 90s and very fun. An expansion pack added more fun, while a middling sequel suggested that the magic may have already died a bit.

Skip ahead to our current Kickstarter-addled, nostalgic fueled age. Stainless Games bought back the rights to their beloved car-smashing series and jumped onto the Kickstarter bandwagon back in 2012. An official remake was in the works.

Carmageddon: Reincarnation was finally released three years later after a hefty dose of time in open development via Steam Early Access. The result was a buggy, poorly optimized mess that I initially shied away from, despite being a Kickstarter backer. Thankfully a few months of post-launch patches and support have stabilized the gameplay and the result is a briefly nostalgic, but ultimately forgettable experience. Continue reading “Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Carmageddon: Reincarnation”

Nine Tips For Playing Yo-Kai Watch [Pixelkin]

A list of helpful tips and advice for playing Yo-Kai Watch on Nintendo 3DS.

Read the full article at Pixelkin

yo-kai watch

Yo-Kai Watch may be designed and marketed toward kids, but that doesn’t make it a simplistic game. Follow these quick tips and suggestions and you’ll be on your way to solving the mysteries of the Yo-kai around Springdale.

Crank-a-kai Everyday

You’ll soon discover one of the best treasure rewards in the game—those colorful Crank-a-kai coins. Return to the machine by the tree at the Wildwood Shrine where you got Whisper at the beginning of the game to insert them. Most of the time you’ll get a random item, but rarely a Yo-kai will pop out. There’s a rare chance you could get a very powerful A or even S-rank Yo-kai early on. Since you can use it three times a day, use it every day!

Read the full article at Pixelkin

D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Epilogue & Recap

We recap our four month long intro campaign to D&D Fifth Edition, and each player reveals their favorite moment.

d&d

Watch our sessions live on my YouTube channel every Sunday night beginning at 9pm Central. Subscribe and catch up on previous episodes!

We recapped our four-month long campaign in about two hours.

The final Epilogue & Recap session is something we’ve been doing since our Shadowrun tabletop days. First, it gives me a chance to elicit feedback from my players on elements of the game they liked or didn’t like. It helps me as a DM tailor the gameplay, story, and structure more towards everyone’s liking.

Second it offers a way to pull the curtain back on events and let everyone see the How’s and Why’s of the adventure. In this case I even went through all the dungeons and turned off fog of war and dynamic lighting. We all poured over the dungeon maps together for fun, and discussed how they tackled various situations.

And finally it simply gives me another week to prepare for our next adventure! In this case we’ll be transitioning from “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” right into “Princes of the Apocalypse.” “Princes of the Apocalypse” was published in Spring of 2015, and takes place directly to the East of Phandalin in the Dessarin Valley. It even includes specific plot hooks to get the players to travel East as they uncover, well, evil. I very much enjoy utilizing the official published adventures, thanks in large part to not having to make any maps, and only having to convert them into Roll20. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Epilogue & Recap”

Image Comics Final Thoughts – Copperhead, Vol. 1

Copperhead eagerly jumps into numerous Western tropes and characters while set on an alien planet.

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.

Of course, occasionally I may even explore comics outside of Marvel if they come highly recommended or simply peak my interest. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

Copperhead vol 1Writer: Jay Faerber

Artist: Scott Godlewski

Issues: Copperhead #1-5

 

The “Western but in Space” is always a fun setting. One of the reasons I was drawn to the original Starcraft, aside from my love of strategy games, was its grungy space theme. These settings evoke the freedom and anarchy of a Western setting, while infusing aliens and future technology alongside the familiar Western tropes.

So Copperhead‘s alien-Western setting isn’t exactly unique. What sets it apart is actually just how eager it jumps into all the tropes and stereotypes of the Western, while still having a ton of fun with them. Also, aliens. Continue reading “Image Comics Final Thoughts – Copperhead, Vol. 1”

D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 18 Recap

A final showdown with the Black Spider, meeting the leader of the Undead, and finding the Forge of Spells brings Wave Echo Cave and our four-month long campaign to a close.

d&d

Watch our sessions live on my YouTube channel every Sunday night beginning at 9pm Central. Subscribe and catch up on previous episodes!

A final showdown with the Black Spider, meeting the leader of the Undead, and finding the Forge of Spells brings Wave Echo Cave and our four-month long campaign to a close.

First the party had to deal with the flameskull. Though the guardian undead lay defeated, they learned it would rise again in an hour. Without the proper spells or tools to prevent its rejuvenation, the party had to go into D&D: Mythbusters mode involving the nearby smelter.

I don’t exactly have the extended lore or concrete details regarding flameskull regeneration other than if it’s destroyed the pieces will reform. However, I imagine if you can trap it in an effective manner, it would still be trapped. The flameskull has access to powerful fire magic, but that does it little good when its melted into liquid metal!

I was impressed with the way the party came together to work the smelter and agree on how to deal with the flameskull. It was a great act of improvising a solution, and I definitely allowed it to work – later teasing that the creature was banging against the inside of the smelter in impotent rage.

The task dealt with, the PCs retreated to the nearby barracks for a Short Rest. They planned on continuing East and dealing with the flameskull’s master, presumably another powerful undead. But the Black Spider wasn’t idly sitting by. One of the advantages with having a live DM is you can make a dungeon a truly living, breathing thing that reacts to the party’s actions. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 18 Recap”

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Fall of the Hulks, World War Hulks

A surprisingly fun, explosive event that brings together old and new gamma-powered heroes in a giant showdown.

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!

World war HulksWriters: Jeph Loeb (Hulk), Greg Pak (Incredible Hulks)

Artists: Ed McGuiness (Hulk), Paul Pelletier (Incredible Hulks)

Issues: Hulk #19-24, Incredible Hulks #606-611, Fall of the Hulks: Alpha, Full of the Hulks: Gamma, Fall of the Hulks: Red Hulk #1-4, Fall of the Hulks: The Savage She-Hulks #1-3, World War Hulks One-Shot

 

“There’s Too Many Hulks” sounds like a silly parody, but that’s pretty much the exact story concept Marvel ran with in 2010.

Planet Hulk and World War Hulk set the stage for some of the best Hulk-related stories ever. Marvel let Hulk rest on his haunches for a bit, introducing a mysterious new Red Hulk that was seemingly stronger and smarter, and had his own agenda. He would star in his own solo Hulk series beginning in 2008, and started out mostly sub-par.

Meanwhile the mantle of Incredible Hulk passed to Hulk’s son, whom we thought died on Sakaar because he wasn’t even born yet when his mother melted into lava at the end of Planet Hulk. Instead, Skaar inherits the powers of both Hulk and Caiera, allowing him to survive and grow up on the war-torn planet before making his way to Earth.

Neither of these storylines are totally necessary to understanding Fall of the Hulks, which in turn introduces a new Red She-Hulk and Savage She-Hulk, bringing our total number of Gamma-powered heroes to….well too damn many.

And yet, it’s super fun. The story is silly but also classic comic book fare, with an evil cabal, a master plan, and lots of fun twists. But it’s filled with awesome action sequences and some really incredible art, especially the Incredible Hulks series, drawn by Paul Pelletier of Marvel Cosmic fame (Annihilation: Conquest and War of Kings). Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Fall of the Hulks, World War Hulks”

2015: My Year In Gaming

I recap a full year’s worth of gaming in 2015, including new games and my backlog progress.

2015

I should really cut down on all these annual blog posts. The holidays are busy enough, and in 2015 I expanded my Top Ten list into ten separate posts, followed by my full Game of the Year awards and Most Anticipated Games of 2016 lists.

It’s all done in self-indulgent fun. My annual Year In Gaming post is probably the most navel-gazing thing I write on here. Part journal entries and part gaming calendar, I recap what I played on a month-to-month basis, and what really stood out.

2015 was the first full year of being a part-time freelance writer, and most of that was spent writing about video games. I maintained my blog both here and on Game Informer, appeared on podcasts, and can now say I’ve been published on Playboy. I also played lots of great games!

2015 backloggery

Though not as many as last year. I mentioned in my last recap of Rogue’s Adventures that I generally have less game time these days.

Since I enjoy recording my play times and my game library, it has helped me cut down on buying new games – which is painfully easy when you primarily play on PC thanks to rampant Steam sales. I played less games in 2015 but overall my “Progress Index” improved this year, so I’m pretty satisfied.

Progress Index is how Backloggery.com measures your finished-to-unfinished games ratio. Currently I maintain a Beaten ratio of about 63%, which has held fairly steady all year.

On to the monthly breakdown! Continue reading “2015: My Year In Gaming”

D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 17 Recap

A good old-fashioned dungeon crawl culminates in an awesome boss fight with a flaming skull and his zombie army in this giant 4-hour session.

d&d

Watch our sessions live on my YouTube channel every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central. Subscribe and catch up on previous episodes!

It’s amazing how much progress you can make in a marathon four-hour session. How about five separate battles, including an epic confrontation with a fireball-slinging Flameskull and his army of zombies?

We started our session a bit earlier on Sunday. At this point “Lost Mine of Phandelver” has lasted us nearly four months, doing weekly 2-3 hour sessions. We’re coming up to a busy schedule for me at the end of January/beginning of February: a gaming convention followed by a family vacation. Wrapping up this campaign and going on a brief but necessary two week hiatus would be extremely helpful to my sanity.

Thus not only did we start earlier, but we ended up going an additional hour later than usual! I was impressed by my players’ energy levels and enthusiasm throughout this session. They were in their element – this entire session was one big dungeon crawl filled with baddies to deal with, culminating in the biggest fight of their lives. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 17 Recap”

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Siege

Our heroes return in an explosive battle for Asgard, which also brings an end to Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign.

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!

SiegeWriter: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Olivier Coipel

Issues: Siege #1-4, Siege: The Cabal, Siege: Prologue*

*I also read the following tie-ins: Dark Avengers #13-16, New Avengers #61-64 + Finale, Thor #607-609, Siege: Loki One-Shot, Siege: Secret Warriors One-Shot

 

Finally we come to the end of what I’ll call the Bendis Era of Big Marvel Events. It began with 2006’s Civil War (and really you could go back further to House of M or Avengers: Disassembled), continued into 2008’s Secret Invasion, which gave way to 2009’s Dark Reign, and finally ends with 2010’s Siege.

This age of near constant mega-events would continue to define Marvel comics throughout the next decade, and with the recent success of Secret Wars, I don’t see it slowing down any time soon.

As an event, Siege is heavily embedded in Marvel continuity, specifically the cool but not exactly new-reader friendly Dark Reign. Dark Reign put Norman Osborn as leader of the initiative that was initially created by Tony Stark in the post-Civil War world. He built his own Dark Avengers team, a surprisingly awesome comic that further explored the bad guys-as-heroes dynamic that made Thunderbolts so great.

The political events have largely been a heavy-handed reflection of our culture of fear, and the dichotomy between freedom and security. Drawing parallels between 9/11 and America’s War on Terror is pretty low-hanging fruit to grasp, and nowhere is that more painfully obvious than Siege. Norman invades Asgard under manufactured pretenses, and starts an unpopular war that ultimately brings his reign to an end. Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Siege”