Saturday, June 30, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D.

Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. is a motion comic originally released for download on iTunes in 2009. There are five episodes. They have been collected and are now available on Blu-Ray and DVD.
Bendis is Spider-Woman's #1 fan.

The storyline selected for this motion comic is a bit of an odd choice that leaves me scratching my head a bit. Who is the intended audience for this motion comic? Sure, I know why they chose this limited series - it's Bendis and Maleev. But the story itself isn't exactly accessible to folks who don't religiously read new comics every week. It's set in a very specific time in Marvel history - directly following the defeat of the Skrull alien race in "Secret Invasion." Jessica Drew was replaced by the Skrull queen (Skrulls are shape changers) and her reputation is ruined. You get little flashes of this during the story but I can't say the background is explained enough for those who never read the comics. But why would people who read the original comics want to buy the motion comic? As a storytelling vehicle, the original comics do a better job than the motion comic which could be described as "underdeveloped" at best.

Because of everything Jessica Drew's been through we're not presented with the typical Spider-Woman. This Spider-Woman is out for vengeance and contemplates doing some "dirty deeds" such as torturing/killing a captured Skrull warrior. Once again making this storyline an odd choice for a motion comic. Why not choose something a bit more representative of this character?

The overall tone of these motion comics is very dark and gritty. Spider-Woman finds herself in a shadowy game of intrigue. Maleev's art naturally lends itself to the seedy, dirty settings. The violence isn't presented as cartoony flashes of energy. Every fight Spider-Woman gets into is a knock-down, drag-out brawl. When Spider-Woman falls ten stories onto a car she doesn't walk away - she wakes up in the hospital.

While Maleev's art is great, I still have big problems with the motion comic format. At best it seems like a glorified PowerPoint presentation. Sure, they added in some CGI effects such as the flying cars. Those add some genuine movement to the story. And it is actually an improvement in this one that the characters mouths don't move. In other motion comics they just can't seem to get it right. But the end result is equivalent to a fancied-up puppet show.

So in conclusion, although the source material is certainly enjoyable, the motion comic fails to make the story accessible to casual fans and disappoints visually.

1LR REVIEW - 8 out of 20! It's a Miss!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad MMO - Future Foundation Spider-Man Unlocked!

I must say... as far as video games go, unlocking the Future Foundation Spider-Man was one of the more challenging endeavors I have succeeded in. Not as hard as beating the original Super Mario Bros. but still pretty hard!

To unlock him, a player has to complete 40 in-game challenges. Some of them are simple like going to a particular location but others are very complex and can take months in real-time. This summer I'll post my advice on various missions to help those following in my footprints.

Bittersweet victory... no more challenges?
One odd thing that bugs me - it's impossible to unlock all of the heroes. Even though I completed all of the challenges Mohawk Storm remains out of my grasp. This is because you're given free choice of six heroes but you're only given five opportunities to choose. This is frustrating to a completionist like myself. Please, MSHS MMO - figure out some way to let people earn or purchase the last unlockable hero!

Mohawk Storm is still locked!
My crowning achievement!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

300 Card List for the Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG

Do you see Redwing's Revenge? =)
If you're curious like me you'll want a list of all of the cards in the foundation set of the Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG. Well, you can find it here. I want to thank Mr. Fike from for pointing this out to me. You click on the link in the upper right that says, "DOWNLOAD CHECKLIST."

The checklist gives you the name of every card along with the character(s) that are activated by the card. It's an excel spreadsheet so you can sort the cards a number of different ways and even add your own data if you felt so inclined.

So how many Captain America cards are in the set? 12! How many Falcon cards? 6! So if you want to make a Cap/Falcon deck, at this point you're pretty limited...

One odd thing I had pointed out to me by a friend - the four loot cards aren't on the list even though they're playable cards. So even though they promote the game as a 300 card set it is actually 304!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Spectacular Spider-Man

The Spectacular Spider-Man was a cartoon that originally aired for one season on the Kids WB in 2008! on the CW network. The second season aired of Disney XD in 2009. In total, 26 episodes were created.

The Spectacular Spider:Man: Season 1 Movie Poster
Spectacular really does describe this show.
There have been quite a few Spider-Man cartoons before this one but Spectacular Spider-Man breaks considerable new ground.

While it's not afraid to blaze new trails, this series is EXTREMELY reverent of the source material. Almost EVERY character seen or mentioned is directly from the comics. Some of the references only longtime fans would even notice. For example, in one sequence Captain Stacy yells out another cop, calling her "DeWolff." You barely even see the cop but you know it's Jean DeWolff, an old character from the comics. All of the villains are straight from the comics. Not only do they have the big names like Venom and Doctor Octopus but also some smaller time villains such as Molten Man and Silvermane.

The series has extremely tight continuity. In fact, this is the first cartoon I can think of that actually moves its main character through specific months of the year and references them during the show. The first episode happens in September and the first season concludes in November so you actually see Halloween at the appropriate time in October. The second season runs from December to March. Althought they can be watched individually, storylines, subplots and characters develop from episode to episdoe. I can really tell the creators had long-term plans for the series because sometimes a plot hook will start a dozen episodes before it pays off. 

Beyond that, the show has an overarching theme of "The Education of Peter Parker." Each storyarc is broken down by theme under that larger theme so there are small groups of three episodes with themes such as "Biology," "Engineering," or "Human Development." The show never directly references these themes but they're there if you watch for them.

The show's pace is quick and every episode seems to have a great balance between action and Peter Parker drama. At one point, Aunt May sets a curfew for Peter and he has to call her before 10:00 every night. 

The animation is great. Spider-Man moves very quickly (like he should) and the backgrounds are often given motion-blurs to show the speed at which he's moving. 

In general, the character designs are great. The villains all get redesigns from the comics that keep their essences while giving them are modern overhaul. The only bone I have to pick with the show is the basic character design for the faces. The eyes are large with blank pupils. It's a small pick but they just don't look right to me and it gives the series an overly "cartoony" feel (I know that's odd to say about a cartoon).

While I find it hard to say that this show is better than the 1990's Spider-Man cartoon I can't help but think that if this show had been on longer it would have surpassed that show in every way. It wasn't cancelled because of poor performance but rather as a result of the deal in which Disney purchased Marvel in 2009. 

1LR REVIEW - 18 out of 20! It's a Solid Hit!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG: 304 Card Set?!?!?

The Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG has a 304 card "foundation" set. Now, 304 cards is a LOT. That means to have four of every card you would have 1,200 cards. Considering that a box of booster packs only has 240 cards in it you would need 5 boxes of booster packs to accomplish this feat. Right?

Wrong. Actually, the number is MUCH, MUCH higher than this. See, there are 84 rare cards. There's only one rare card in each booster and there are only 24 boosters in each box so there are 24 rare cards in a box of boosters. To get one of each rare card you would need to purchase 336 boosters (and that's if you got a perfectly even distribution which is almost entirely impossible) to get four copies of each rare card.

But wait - it gets worse. The set ALSO has 24 Super Rare Rainbow Foil Cards. These cards are only found once in every eight booster packs in the place of a rare. So it would take you 768 booster packs to get four copies of each super rare card, once again assuming perfectly even distribution. Now, of those 768 packs only 96 have Super Rares, leaving 672 packs you can get your rares from. That's probably a mathematically reasonable number for coming close to getting every rare four times.

But it actually gets worse. The Spider Armor loot card is in one out of every 288 booster packs. That means you'd have to open 1,152 packs if you actually wanted to get four of this card. To my knowledge there is no non-loot variant of this card either.

So let's see... 1,152 packs at $4 a piece would be $4,608 dollars. That's just crazy.

Even if you didn't want to go to those extremes and you wanted to just get four copies of every rare and super rare it would cost you $3,072! That's 32 boxes of booster packs!

Come on, Upper Deck. I understand rarity to give some cards increased value but don't you think this is a bit ridiculous. What this system actually does is it makes the game pretty hard to access. The size of the foundation set is large enough that players are looking at a couple hundred dollars just to have enough cards to make reasonable decks with.

What's my suggestion? Smaller, more focused expansions with fewer rares. The next set is probably going to be villains. Instead of a 304 card set, why not a 100 card set of just Spider-Man's villains.

I think rarity should follow booster deck distribution. A booster deck has 10 cards - 1 rare, 3 uncommon, and 7 commons. So in a 100 card set, 10 cards would be rare, 30 would be uncommon, and 70 would be common. You'd still need to purchase at least 40 booster packs to get four copies of every rare.

I really don't think there are very many people out there dropping $4,000 on this card game so I doubt a smaller set with less rares would lose Upper Deck money. But it would make the game more accessible to fans, thus making the players happier. And happy players buy more cards.
Who designed this game... a superfan or the bean counters?

Monday, June 25, 2012

2012: 1LR's Year of Marvel Media Mania (Schedule - Part 2: July 9, 2012 - February 4, 2013)

The Marvel library of characters just keeps giving and giving...
Starting with Blade on December 10th, 2011 1LR has sought to review every single Marvel comic book related screen shown on a screen. So far, we've finished the "Midnight Sons" block (including Blade, Ghost Rider, Dr. Strange, and Man Thing), the Avengers block (including Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and Nick Fury), the Men in Black block, and we're almost done with the Spider-Man block (including Spidey himself and Spider-Woman). In total, around 60 media ventures were reviewed - you can check them all out here.

But we're nowhere near done. In fact, you could say we're just warming up. As you can see by the list below, 1LR has plenty of raw material for its reviewing furnace! Here's the schedule:

July 9   - X-Men: Pryde of the X-Men
July 16 - X-Men (1992 cartoon)
July 23 - Generation X
July 30 - X-Men (2000 movie)
August 6   - X-Men: Evolution
August 13 - Mutant X
August 20 - X2
August 27 - X-Men: The Last Stand
September 3   - X-Men Origins: Wolverine
September 10 - Wolverine and the X-Men
September 17 - Astonishing X-Men: Gifted
September 24 - X-Men: First Class
October 1   - Marvel Anime: Wolverine
October 8   - Marvel Anime: X-Men
October 15 - Astonishing X-Men: Torn

October 22 - Fantastic Four (1967 cartoon)
October 29 - Fantastic Four (1978 cartoon)
November 5   - Fred and Barney Meet the Thing
November 12 - Fantastic Four (unreleased movie)
November 19 - Fantastic Four (1994 cartoon)
November 26 - Silver Surfer
December 3   - Fantastic Four (2005 film)
December 10 - Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes
December 17 - Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

December 24 - Punisher (1989 film)
December 31 - Punisher (2004 film)
January 7   - Punisher War Zone
January 14 - Daredevil
January 21 - Elektra
January 28 - Black Panther (Australian TV show)
February 4   - Black Panther (motion comic)

So Marvel Media Mania will be rolling strong into 2013! And that's not all! What else is left? Well, I may be saving the best for last because to finish 1LR's Marvel Media Mania I'm going to be pulling out some REALLY obscure stuff!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Spider-Man Week in NYC Kicks Off Tomorrow

Spider-Man™ Week in NYC
Spider-Man Week!
From June 25th to July 1st, New York City will be celebrating Spider-Man! There are a bunch of coordinated events to promote the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man film. Some of them are really cool! Previous Spider-Man shows will be screened at places like The Museum of the Moving Image and The Paley Center for Media. The Empire State Building will be lit Blue and Red to honor Spidey. The Bronx Zoo and The New York Botanical Gardens will both feature spiders. Best of all, Spidey will be making appearances at Yankee Stadium all week (Yankees? Everyone knows Spidey is a Mets fans!). You can get alll of the details at

Part of Spider-Man Week is "Be Amazing 2012" on Tuesday the 26th of June. In 10 major cities in the US, you can volunteer in literally one of hundreds of different ways. 1LR applauds this civic-minded community outreach. Imagine this - movie promotion that makes a positive difference inside local communities. Now THAT'S "amazing." You can check out all of the volunteer opportunities nearest to you at

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man 3, released in 2007, is the final installment of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie series.
This movie routinely gets trashed by critics but I don't think it's all bad. Sure, the third installment was a big disappointment and let a lot of fans down but I think that's a testament to how great the first two films were.
Spider-Man 3 introduced the awesome black suit.

So let's start with the silver linings.

First, there are several absolutely vicious fight scenes in this movie. The first is between Peter (out of costume) and a surprise attack by Harry as the New Goblin. Peter ends the fight by returning one of Harry's own pumpkin bombs at him, then clotheslining Harry with a web and sending him falling several stories to the ground where Harry lands with a bone chilling thud. Another brutal fight is the first Sandman fight. Sandman pounds Spidey throw the metal wall of an armored truck before it crashes. Ouch. The next encounter with Sandman shows Spidey grinding Sandman's face against a subway train and punching him so hard it breaks the sewer pipes they're fighting on. It's Spidey without a restraining conscious and it was something to behold. The final great fight is when Peter goes on the offensive and confronts Harry. It's not enough for Peter to defeat his foe, he then goes on to taunt him. When I saw Harry's scarred face from the pumpkin bomb Peter explodes next to Harry's head, I couldn't believe it actually happened. 

The best moments in the film are of the amnesiac Harry. With his vicious Goblin personality forgotten, he has fun with his friends and it leads to some great moments such as Harry and MJ cooking together and doing the twist.

Flint Marko, the Sandman, was given a great backstory and the character was really given dimension by showing his sick daughter. This wasn't just some power hungry super-villain - he was a dad desperate to help his sick little girl. 

Now, on to the rest. I'll give the flaws of the film but I'll be mercifully brief in describing each one. 

The Eddie Brown/Venom storyline was rushed and the villain was never given his due, leaving the fans to feel cheated. He dies after one fight from a single pumpkin bomb that disintegrates his whole body and the symbiote.

The Sandman suffered from bad CGI and his odd "sandstorm" power (which was without precedent in the comics) left fans scratching their heads. The huge, stupid giant-sized Sandman in the final fight was also ridiculous. While we're on the final fight, let's mention the very boring and unnecessary narration by the TV anchorman.

While the black suit Spider-Man looked great and was fantastic in battle, the black-suited Peter Parker was another matter all together. Sure, the idea was that he was suppose to be making poor choices that the other character didn't like but unfortunately the audience also stopped liking Peter Parker as well. When you permanently scar your best friend's face and (unintentionally) hit your girlfriend you're no longer a good guy in the eyes of the audience. Add to that the ridiculous 70's jive moves and cheezy lines such as "Find us some shade," and you've managed to wash away any good will the character of Peter Parker had built up. 

Finally, going back to the origin and shoehorning the Sandman as Uncle Ben's real killer offended Spidey fans on almost every level and barely seemed to make sense. 

Ultimately, this film just felt like it was trying too hard.

1LR REVIEW - 12 out of 20! It's a Glancing Hit!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Punch and Judy - Funny Video

I discovered Punch and Judy from reading the encyclopedia. The entry was too good to resist - it described a British "comedic" puppet show in which Punch beats up and usually kills his wife, Judy, among other characters. The British are so quirky that way. My interest was piqued so I had to check it out. Here's what I found:

1LR Midnight Movie: The Amazing Spider-Man

One Lost Road would like to formally invite you to the Frank Theatres at the Queensgate 13 in York, PA for the midnight showing of The Amazing Spider-Man 3D on July 3 (12:10 AM).  We're very pumped for the movie and decided to go deluxe so we upgraded our seats to D-BOX (motion seats). We'll be on the lookout for superfans in costume.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Gaming Notes: Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG #4

As my son and I continued to play the Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG, I thought one interesting match up would be the Iron Man starter deck versus the Avengers starter deck because the Avengers starter deck relies so heavily upon Iron Man.

I played as the Avengers, my son played as Iron Man. I thought this would be a slam duck for my son considering that the Iron Man deck has tons of gray cards but the Avengers deck only has three gray blocks.

Well, somehow I managed to win. I kept his keepers off the table and rolled with the punches otherwise. Thunderous Impact and Huge Breakthrough sealed the deal for me. Victory for the Avengers!

So, once again, my son and I have a tied record. When he turns six I think I'll never get another chance to win a game again.
Thor_-_Thunderous_Impact.png        Giant-Man_-_Huge_Breakthrough.png

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gaming Notes: Marvel Super Hero Sqaud TCG #3

I promise I won't report on EVERY card game I play but I'm still giving each of the introductory decks a test run and I wanted to let you know how they fared for me.

The record between my five year old son and I stands at .500 a piece. For our next encounter, we decided to test the Iron Man intro deck against the Spider-Man intro deck. I played Iron Man and my son played Spidey.

I thought I would have an easy win to be honest. After all, the Spidey deck is almost all level one cards for very little damage. But my son managed to figure out some brutal combos and left me in the dust. One such combo was One-Two Punch, Yoink, and then Web Slinger.

Spider-man_-_One_Two_Punch.png  Spider_Man_-_Yoink.png  Spider-man_-_Web_Slinger.png 
He really took advantage of the keepers he was able to get down as well.

Also in my son's favor was the fact that the power was at three FOREVER. So my son was playing card after card but I could play almost nothing at all. By the time the power started moving, I was already hopelessly behind.

Game over - my son beat me again! As if it wasn't bad enough the first two times this time it was with a wimpy level one deck!

Marvel Media Mania: Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 2 is the 2004 sequel to Spider-Man.
Taglines such as "Sacrifice" set the tone for Spider-Man 2.
First, let me say that when I first saw the trailer for this film I saw moved to tears. Seriously. It's a great trailer that really set the mood for the movie. The entire media campaign for this movie really set a somber tone for the movie - hardly what you'd expect from a big-budget superhero action movie.

The movie opens with a great title sequence that quickly and effectively retells the story from the first movie with some great Alex Ross art. This sets the stage for this sequel to be in very tight continuity with the first film. Even small details are attended to. For example, in one scene we can see Uncle Ben's car from the first movie in the garage of Aunt May.

The entire cast returns for the second film - even for two characters that died in the first movie! Of course, J. K. Simmons does a great job but its Alfred Molina playing Doctor Octopus who steals the show. Before the accident that turns him into a villain he is extremely likable. This gives Doc Ock, the villain, a deep sympathic quality especially when you consider that his mechanical arms are influencing him to do things he normally would never do. The best examples of his great acting ability in this film are the sequences in which he is talking to his metal arms. The audience understands both parts of the conversation even though we can't hear what the arms are saying. The Doc Ock character design really takes the concept and makes it a practical reality.

Like the first, this film has some very funny moments. A number of them come from showing Spider-Man in awkward real-life situations such as washing his superhero outfit at a laundromat, riding an elevator in costume, or changing clothes in a very full broom closet. Peter just can't win in this film as Bruce Campbell tortures him outside a theater, he just can't get any hors d'oeuvres at a party, and even his powers leave him, causing him to fall and hurt his back. I appreciated the nod to the 1967 cartoon when a woman (horribly) sings the theme song.

There is a dark thread in this movie as well. Sam Raimi really drew upon his horror roots for one scene in which Doc Ock's arms slaughter an entire operating room. Harry's growing obsession with Spider-Man causes Harry to slap Peter repeatedly in public (although this plotline seems oddly shoehorned into every scene Harry is in). Aunt May's house gets foreclosed on and she's evicted.

This movie comes across as being very full but it's not a bad thing. There are a bunch of characters all jostling around and time is given to all of them, not just Peter Parker. So we see the depths of Harry's obsession when he's alone. We see Mary Jane talking to a girlfriend about her upcoming nuptials. It's easy to forget that this is an action movie, especially since there's a large chunk in the middle in which Peter quits being Spider-Man.

But there are a few great action sequences in the film, in particular the brutal throwdown between Doc Ock and Spider-Man that starts at the clock and moves to the train. With the woman he loves threated, Spider-Man tears into Doc Ock without holding back. In the film's final sequence, Spider-Man's costume shows what he's gone through with the amount of damage it has suffered.

In many regards, the action of this second film very closely parallels the first movie. Peter is still in love with Mary Jane but can't tell her. There's a rescue of a child from a fire. Peter tests his powers by jumping off a roof, just like in the first movie, and ends up swinging into a wall again. New Yorkers stand up for Spider-Man again. Spider-Man must rescue Mary Jane again. The villain dies again. When I was watching the film these similarities stood out to me, taking me out of the film, and that's a bad thing.

The theme of sacrificing to do what's right is mirrored both in Doc Ock and Spider-Man's stories. Except, in the end, Doc Ock dies while Peter Parker ends up with Mary Jane after all. But the journey Peter goes on in being willing to sacrifice his own desires and dreams is a good one.

The film really sets up the villains for future films, perhaps more than any other superhero film. We witness Harry finding his father's Green Goblin lair and we know he's destined to take up his father's mantle. And, even though we won't ever get to see this Doctor Connors transform into the Lizard, we were certainly teased with him in Spider-Man 2.

Overall, Spider-Man 2 is a spectacular film but it falls just short of the first movie in the series.

1LR REVIEW - 18 out of 20! It's a Solid Hit!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Gaming Notes: Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG #2

My savior card!
Vowing revenge for my earlier losses, my son and I decided to rematch with two more 30 card intro decks. What's better than to recreate the battle between the Hulk and Wolverine from the awesome Hulk VS Wolverine DVD?

The first game I played the Wolverine deck and my son played the Hulk deck. It was looking like another easy victory for him at first. Once again he jumped out to a huge early lead. Then the power level was raised so I could play Savage Leap. I learned how powerful this card is. The ability to bypass the hand and go directly to the deck means the attack is much more likely to succeed. Well, I played two of these and then the finishing move was The Best at What I Do. Wolverine (and I) finally win!

The power boost on a card like this
is absolutely enormous.
The second game we played the same decks but I played the Hulk. I thought the Hulk deck was actually the better deck so I was surprised by my victory. This time, the battle was pretty well balanced the entire time. We traded blows and blocks alike. What put me over the top was that I was holding the card Stronger Than I Thought... until the power hit 7. Once it did, I unleashed these things, doing massive damage and winning the game. The green onslaught of this deck is simply tough to fight against.

So our record stands even - my son has won two games and so have I.

You just know there's going to be plenty of more games to report on...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Gaming Notes: Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG #1

The killing card -
"WE WIN!" on the wall is just for the sake of irony.
I'll admit it - the first two times I played the Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG I was beaten by my five year old son. And I wasn't holding back at all either. There he is, SHOWING ME HIS HAND because he simply doesn't know any better and I couldn't beat him.

Here's the details.

We were playing with the two 30 card decks that come with the Two-Player Intro Pack (we didn't add any to make them legal 40 card decks). The theme is Avengers VS X-Men. I played the X-Men, my son played the Avengers.

The first game, I started out holding my own. I even got a few good hits in. Then, my son just simply started wailing away at me with big attacks once the power got to 4 or 5. He wore down my defenses by causing me to use up my hand to block his attacks. The killing blows came with the Captain America cards, Stars and Stripes. He played two of them and I just simply didn't have the blocks to stop him.

Follow this with Huge Breakthrough
and perhaps your father will weep openly as well.
The second time we played, I was determined to take him down. How embarrassing to lose to a five year old, right? Well, my son came blazing out of the gate, perhaps inspired by his earlier victory. He took a commanding lead early with cards like Colossal Assistance. I tried to claw my way back into the game and I did a pretty good job. Actually, this game came down to one card - that's how many my son had left when he beat me. It was close, but a loss is a loss.

I'd be upset if I wasn't so busy being proud. I can't wait to play more MSHS TCG. I'm sure I'll win one eventually.

As for the decks themselves, I think it's fair to say that the Avengers deck is superior to the X-Men deck.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG Booster Pack Contents

I recently purchased 11 booster packs to the "Foundation" Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG. So what did I get for my $44? Let's check out the cards and find out.

I didn't get any cards with a scratch off code for online bonuses... drat!

One in eight booster packs is suppose to have a Super Rare in it instead of a regular rare. I must be pretty lucky because I got three super rares.
All three of these are fantastic cards... Strange Teleportation may be my favorite.
Of the eight rares I got, Eternal Sorcery is by far the best. It is an level 11 attack for 11 damage that allows you to play another card and recycles into your deck. That's pretty sweet. Risk It All is great for level 1 Spider-Man decks. Crash Course is a very versatile card. But I got two copies of both Strength Training and The Harder They Fall, both of which I feel has limited value. There may be a deck that you could use Flailing Wildly in but I'm not sure it's worth the effort.
Eternal Sorcery can make the difference in any game.

I got a bunch of great uncommons, but I'll only give you my favorite one from each color. The best uncommon I got overall is the red Sneak and Peek Black Widow card that allows you to look at the top card of your opponent's deck each turn. Sweet! The gray card Look What I Found! Allows you to play a card from your discard pile - always a good thing! Dive Bomb, the orange card, allows you to play a bonus card from your deck. Seeing with New Eyes is a great purple card that has a variable attack value. The blue Crowd Surfing is another fantastic card that can paralyze your opponent for a turn. And finally, the green card Review the Troops allows you to draw and card and have foreknowledge of the top card of your deck. Not too shabby!
Just like the Avengers movie, Black Widow steals the show.
Commons are the meat and potatoes of most decks. Still, some stand above their brethren. Yoink is a great gray card for a level one Spider-Man deck. The orange card Flipping Out can be fantastic with certain Elektra/Daredevil combos. Not only is Overpower a great green card the name is also ironic since Overpower is the name of a previous failed Marvel card game. I got two copies of the red The Man Without Fear, another great Elektra/Daredevil combo card. I love the purple common, Sudden Amnesia, because it forces your opponent to either block if from their hand or discard a card anyway. Magnetic Personality, a blue card, is another great card for level one Spider-Man decks.
With 66 commons did I get four of any one card? Nope. The most I got was three of the level one blue card, Sting of the Wasp.
Common doesn't mean worthless.
Of the 110 cards I got here's how they break down by level and by color.

Blue - 18
Gray - 14
Orange - 16
Green - 11
Red - 25
Purple - 22
Multicolor - 4

Pretty even distribution... I'm sure it would even out over a large number of packs. Multicolor appears to be synonymous with "rare."

Level 1  - 27 cards
Level 2  - 12 cards
Level 3  - 22 cards
Level 4  - 15 cards
Level 5  -   9 cards
Level 6  - 12 cards
Level 7  -   9 cards
Level 8  -   0 cards
Level 9  -   1 card
Level 10 -  1 card
Level 11 -  2 cards

Obviously, values higher than 7 are almost exclusively reserved for rare or super rare cards.

All in all, I'm satisfied with the cards I received. I do think that it would take quite a large number of purchases to get four of any given rare which is unfortunate.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Spider-Man: The New Animated Series

Spider-Man: The New Animated Series originally aired on MTV for one season of 13 episodes in 2003.
All 13 episodes were sold in one disc  collection.

This show represents the first all-CGI attempt at a Spider-Man show. The end result is fairly good. Sure, the CGI is stiff and some of the background characters move a bit robotically. Sure, the budget is reflected in the  small amount of background details (such as city streets with no cars on them, or a very sparse crowd of protesters).  But Spider-Man looked and moved really well. In particular his wallcrawling reflected the speed at which Spider-Man should move. The series really uses lighting to great effect including one sequence in which we see Peter change into Spider-Man in the strobe flashes of emergency lights.

The rest of the supporting cast was trimmed down significantly. J. Jonah Jameson, Mary Jane, and Harry Osborn are the only supporting characters from the comics or movie. Mary Jane, Harry, and Pete are given makeovers so they look cooler. Pete is very tech savvy, totting around a laptop and video taping himself with a digital camcorder.

Villains also got makeovers including Electro, Kingpin, Silver Sable, and Kraven the Hunter. The series introduced a few new villains such as Turbo Jet and Talon as well as supporting cast member Indria.

The series tries to capitalize on the success of the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie although the two share no official continuity link. So the writers made sure to line up the two versions. When the series starts Parker already has his powers and is a freshmen in college... right where the movie left off. In the first episode Mary Jane references, "That kiss," with Spider-Man and also comments that Spider-Man has saved her life before.  And an ongoing sub-plot in the series is Harry Osborn's hatred for Spider-Man because he blames him for murdering his father. And Peter and Harry's apartment is obviously laid out to reflect the one they have in the movie.

Although there are a few subplots that stretch from one episode to another, each episode is primarily self contained. The episodes move at a quick pace, giving the series the feeling of racing ahead.

Overall, the series is highly enjoyable despite the limited CGI success.

1LR REVIEW - 16 out of 20! It's a Hit!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Comic Book: The Movie

I recently watched Comic Book: The Movie. Why? Not because I had heard anything about it - simply because it was about comic books. I didn't evenknow Mark Hamill was in it.

Well, I do now. Hamill turns in a fantastic performance in this film. He plays Don Swan, a comic book store owner and teacher. I don't know how much of a geek Hamill is in real life but I'd believe it if someone told me he was an uber geek. Either that or he did a massive amount of research and could recite it from memory.

Now don't get me wrong - I'm not saying this is a good film. It's premise wears thin after about 10 minutes and the plot is sketchy at best. Sure, the guest stars are always nice to see but the other actors turn in B to D grade performances. Hamill, however, really shines.

80% or so of the film takes place at the San Diego Comic Con. It's unscripted so he's walking around the show floor having encounters with folks both famous and not so famous. Here this huge star from one of the biggest movies is simply hidden in plain sight at one of the biggest gatherings of geeks in the world and nobody recognizes him. His simple disguise only consists of glasses and combing his hair a different way. When Hamill engages someone it's all impromptu. It's in these moments that Hamill demonstrates the depth of geekdom, spouting off comic book trivia like an editor for Wizard magazine.

Hamill embraces the comic book geek and makes a commentary about the power of a geek's passion without making it seem like he was mocking us geeks.  

Bravo, Hamill. Bravo!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Bonus in Every Booster - Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG

That's a big "Double Thumb's Up!"
Wait! Stop!

Don't throw that the wrapper to the Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG booster pack! Why? Because printed on the inside of the wrapper is a game code that you can redeem for the online MMO for the Marvel Super Hero Squad.

Ten cards from the Rise of Heroes online booster pack... sweet!
What do you get with these codes? Why, an entire pack of digital cards for the online game, that's what!

Each real-world booster costs $3.99 for ten cards - that's forty cents a card. But when you consider you double your value by getting cards online as well that's not so bad.

A Rise of Heroes booster pack online costs 400 silver (in-game currency). You can buy 200 silver for 20 gold (in-game currency) so a Rise of Heroes booster pack is worth the equivalent of 40 gold. Since you can buy 500 gold for $4.95 real US dollars, 40 gold is roughly equivalent to 40 cents. So a digital Rise of Heroes bonus booster pack is like getting an additional 40 cent value with each real-world booster pack. Pretty good!

And, hey, if you like the real-world card game why wouldn't you like the online version? They're nearly identical!

Thanks, Upper Deck, for giving the fans a bonus in every booster!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man (2002) is the first (American) theatrical release for the character. It shattered box office records and its success cemented the place of superheroes in movies for the next ten years.
Do you believe a man can webswing?

This film is simply amazing. There's no other way to put it.

Sure, fans made a big deal about organic webbing and genetic spiders vs radiation in the origin but to me I can easily move past these issues. I find this origin story to be incredibly faithful to the comic books, including the wrestler Spider-Man fights. The one thing I can't forgive is eye color. In the movies but MJ and Peter have blue eyes. In fact, MJ even points out Peter's eye color. But MJ famously has green eyes in the comics and Peter, of course, has hazel eyes. Oh, the humanity! (I joke of course!)

I feel that the film goes out of its way to make Spider-Man fans happy. All of the film's major characters are directly taken from the comics including some secondary characters like Robbie Robertson. Plus, there are tons of hidden gems in the film that fans of the comics pick up on. For example, Dr. Stromm, the Green Goblin's first victim, is, in fact, a real (if little known) comic book character that worked with Osborn. The battle scene on the bridge with MJ falling was obviously suppose to mirror Gwen Stacy's famous death scene.

The story seamlessly weaves together a complex story with many narrative themes. First, the transformation into Spider-Man is used as a metaphor for puberty. Aunt May and Uncle Ben worry about Peter growing up and the choices he's making. And the father motif is a strong cord throughout the movie. Uncle Ben says, "I know I'm not your father," and Peter's last, stinging words to him are, "So stop pretending to be!" Ouch! Then to have the villain, Norman Osborn, take a "fatherly interest" in him in the film's climax brilliantly ties the film together. The motif of masks is integrated through the story even in the set pieces - Osborn's mansion is decorated with all sorts of creepy masks.

There is a surprising amount of emotional weight for a superhero movie. After Spider-Man stops the burglar that kills his uncle we're shown Peter coming home to a grief stricken Aunt May. It's a small moment but a powerful one. Likewise, after graduation, we see Peter crying on his bed. "I missed him a lot today," he tells his aunt. We get little glimpses into the worlds of the characters such as seeing Mary Jane's father chase her, yelling, into the street or, when Norman meets MJ, he checks out her body. These brief moments give us great insight into each character.

The movie is also has quite a few laugh-out-loud moments such as Peter crying out, "Shazam!" when he's learning how to fire a web ("Shazam!" would be how Captain Marvel activates his powers) and then swinging directly into a billboard. Peter tells MJ, "I hunch," to explain why he looks taller. And Aunt May tells Peter, "You're not Superman, you know." Funny moments like these really break the tension of the film.

Likewise, the special effects are absolutely astounding. Spider-Man's webswinging was done in a fashion unlike anything else before it. Not only does the camera go along for the ride with Spider-Man but we see him dodging street lights and you can actually see the physics of how a webline would work in real life.

William Dafoe and J. K. Simmons turn in absolutely brilliant performances while Toby McGuire and Kirsten Dunst merely hold down the fort. Simmons in particular absolutely nailed J. Jonah Jameson with his short, clipped sentences spit out around a cigar. William Dafoe had the additional obstacle of having most of his face hidden but the scene in which he walks toward the mirror while talking to himself in two personalities should be archived in the film hall of fame.

And, of course, this film has perhaps the most famous Spider-Man moment on screen - the upside-down kiss. How many guys have strained themselves trying to recreate that scene?

Two words: Simply amazing.

1LR REVIEW - 19 out of 20! It's a Solid Hit!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG - Hulk Intro Deck Analysis

The Hulk Intro Deck

The Marvel Super Hero Squad Trading Card Game has a series of one-player introductory decks that are themed around a single character. The fourth and final deck I will analyze is the Hulk's.

First the package comes with the rules, a cardboard Marvel coin, a standard booster pack, and the 30 card Hulk deck.

I feel like this deck is a great value - 40 total cards for $10 means each card is only 25 cents. 

The Hulk deck has the following 30 cards (I place an * next to the cards that are not actually Hulk related cards):
1x Strongest One There Is
1x True Power*
1x Have at Thee, Villain!
2x Double Slam Sandwich
2x Thunder Clap
2x Surprise Witness
2x It's Not Easy Being Green...
3x Steal Your Thunder*
2x Thunderous Impact*
2x Just Desserts
2x Hulk Get Angry!
2x Green Goliath
3x Stronger than I Thought...*
1x Invisible Squeeze*

Card Levels (the power cost to play the card):
level 1 - 4 cards
level 2 - 8 cards
level 3 - 5 cards
level 4 - 3 cards
level 5 - 4 cards
level 6 - 3 cards
level 7 - 2 cards
level 8 - 1 card
Shorting the number of level one cards means you have a greater chance of passing on the first turn. This isn't a terrible thing as it gives you a chance to build up your hand size and the deck makes up for it with plenty of level two cards. 

Card Factors
Red (Animal) - 6 cards
Green (Strength) - 16 cards
Blue (Elemental) - 2 cards
Purple (Energy) - 1 cards
Gray (Tech) - 2 cards
Orange (Speed) - 3 cards
This is the most color-focused of all the decks. Over half the deck is green and much of the other colors are used to support the green cards. This is a fantastic deck strategy as most of your opponents will only have between four to eight green blocks.

Red (Animal) -  5 cards
Green (Strength) - 6 cards
Blue (Elemental) - 4 cards
Purple (Energy) - 5 cards
Gray (Tech) - 6 cards
Orange (Speed) - 4 cards
The blocking factor distribution is very well balanced. 

Overall, this is one of the best starter decks. It's simple and effective. I'm not sure why Thunder Clap was included this deck because it is quite likely that it will destroy some of your own keepers. The final analysis on this deck is that it should be a highly effective offensive machine with a strong defense as well.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994)

1994's Spider-Man: The Animated Series was the longest running Spider-Man television show with 65 episodes over five seasons. It originally aired on FOX alongside the X-Men animated series of the same time period.
Spider-Man: The Animated Series

This series is not only the most successful Spider-Man television show ever but it is also the most faithful to the comics. While it carved out its own continuity, the show's creators often borrowed heavily from popular comic book storylines such as the "Alien Costume" series or the Hobgoblin series. In some cases, the storylines were only a few years old such as the Carnage storyline.

Instead of doing stand-alone episodes, each episode was part of a much greater narrative. Long running storylines wove characters together into interesting and dynamic ways. Often the resolution to one storyline would launch another. Each character was treated as an individual with their own agenda - the show avoided stereotypical "good guys vs bad guys" action. Instead, you saw various factions struggle against one another. This lead to an almost "soap opera"-like feel to the show. Sometimes a lengthy series of shows revolved around a central theme such as the "Sins of our Fathers" storyline that dealt with relationships between fathers and their children.

This show, more than any other, captures the entirety of Spider-Man's supporting cast. Not only does it have the big names such as J. Jonah Jameson and Aunt May but it really digs deep by pulling out some old characters such as Deborah Whitman, Glory Grant, and Randy Robertson. Indeed, this show places Spider-Man firmly in the center of the Marvel Universe. Even in the first episode Spider-Man wonders out loud why the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Defenders don't ever have to go down into a sewer. The show featured many guest stars such as the Punisher, X-Men, Dr. Strange, and the Fantastic Four. To the pleasure of fans, Spider-Man got married to Mary Jane in this series - the only media outside of the comics in which this happened.

The animation is capable but not without its flaws. Character designs were simplified which works in most cases. Venom looks a little odd and sometimes the way characters' eyes were designed makes them appear as if they're staring off into space. The show integrated CGI landscapes into the action. Most of the time this works very well but there are times when Spider-Man is swinging that it the CGI becomes really obvious. For the time it was groundbreaking but when CGI becomes noticeable, it's a bad thing.

The voice acting is absolutely spot on. With very few exceptions (such as the Lizard's reasonable tone) the voices are exactly what you hear in your head when you read the comics. J. Jonah Jameson's gruff, tense voice is amazing and Peter Parker's voice is perfect for his nervous self-reflection.

A number of scenes from the Spider-Man 3 movie were directly inspired by the Venom episodes of this show. For example, Spider-Man waking up hanging upside down next to a skyscraper looking at his reflection in the widow. Spider-Man even goes to Dr. Connors to examine the symbiote, just like in the movie.

When it comes to animated superhero shows, Spider-Man: The Animated Series is hard to beat.

1LR REVIEW - 18 out of 20! It's a Solid Hit!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG - Wolverine Deck Analysis

The Wolverine Intro Deck
The Marvel Super Hero Squad Trading Card Game has a series of one-player introductory decks that are themed around a single character. The third deck I'll analyze is Wolverine's.

First the package comes with the rules, a cardboard Marvel coin, a standard booster pack, and the 30 card Wolverine deck.

I feel like this deck is a great value - 40 total cards for $10 means each card is only 25 cents. 

The Wolverine deck has the following 30 cards (I place an * next to the cards that are not actually Wolverine cards):
1x The Best at What I Do
2x Quickslash
1x Look What I Found!*
1x Psionic Avalanche*
2x Mutant Healing Ability
2x A Cut Above
2x Personal Theme Song*
2x Pour it On*
2x Savage Leap
3x Fast Healing
3x Shikkity Snikt
2x I'll Take That*
3x 52-Card Pickup*
2x Tornado Blitz*
1x Phase and Rescue* 
1x Sudden Amnesia*

Card Levels (the power cost to play the card):
level 1 - 7 cards
level 2 - 0 cards
level 3 - 8 cards
level 4 - 8 cards
level 5 - 2 cards
level 6 - 1 cards
level 7 - 3 cards
level 8 - 1 card
I can't say I love the card level distribution in this deck. Sure, it has seven level one cards but it doesn't have any level two cards and three of the eight level three cards allow you to play a red card as a bonus... but the only level one cards of three or less value are level one so you probably already played them if you had them. 

Card Factors
Red (Animal) - 10 cards
Green (Strength) - 2 cards
Blue (Elemental) - 3 cards
Purple (Energy) - 9 cards
Gray (Tech) - 1 cards
Orange (Speed) - 5 cards
This deck is kind of a mess. Twelve cards have activated abilities based on the color of other cards in the deck. All of the card abilities are for red or orange except "Pour It On" which is for purple or gray. So why aren't there more orange cards in this deck? 

Red (Animal) - 4 cards
Green (Strength) - 8 cards
Blue (Elemental) - 4 cards
Purple (Energy) - 2 cards
Gray (Tech) - 7 cards
Orange (Speed) - 5 cards
Vulnerable to purple, this deck is doubly weak because the ability to play multiple attacks per turn weakens the number of cards you have in your hand for defense.

This deck isn't well constructed in my opinion. It's a Wolverine deck with only 13 Wolverine cards in it. The card selection to appears to have been almost at random - I can't say the cards synergize in a meaningful way. The deck lacks a potent offense and the card's abilities are reduce your hand size which erodes your defenses. Although it has some good cards in it, this is probably the worst of the starter decks.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends is as animated television show that originally aired starting in 1981 on NBC. It ran for 26 episodes over three seasons. In the second and third season it was paired with The Incredible Hulk animated show.
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends

Although this series is very closely related to the other 1981 Spider-Man animated series, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends is the superior show. The animated and designs are better. Although Spider-Man is the quintessential loner, the addition of Firestar and Iceman to form the "Spider-Friends" team somehow creates a perfect balance for Spider-Man.

A few of the plots from "Amazing Friends" are almost identical to stories from the other 1981 Spider-Man animates series. One example is the "Amazing Friends" series opener - Triumph of the Green Goblin. In that episode, just like an episode from the other 1981 series, Peter Parker dresses up as Spider-Man for a Halloween costume party, there are fake Green Goblins flying around the party on wires, the real Green Goblin freezes Spidey with a ray, the Green Goblin dons a helmet that shows the future, and Spidey is dropped over Central Park where he's helpless to save himself (among other similarities). The two shows are obviously very closely related to one another.

Spider-Man, Aunt May, and Firestar all room at Aunt May's house together at Aunt May's house where the furniture can flip over to reveal a super crime fighting lab and computers. The series actually explains that this equipment is donated by a grateful Iron Man (since college kids wouldn't be able to afford this expensive equipment). And, of course, this series infamously features Ms. Lion, the perky dog belonging to Firestar.

One great thing about this series is how centrally located in the Marvel Universe it is. On the Spider-Friend's wall is a poster of the Hulk. Firestar dresses up as Spider-Woman to attend a costume party. The floodgates were thrown open for guest stars compared to previous television efforts. Namor, Doctor Strange, The X-Man, Iron Man, and Captain America (among others) all make guest appearances. The list of villains is equally impressive, mixing new super villains with classics, some of which aren't considered traditional Spider-Man villains such as Magneto, Dracula, and Mordred.

Oddly, this series is missing the Daily Bugle. Instead, the series focuses on the college which Firestar, Iceman, and Spider-Man all attend. So gone is most of Spider-Man's traditional supporting cast - a loss, for sure.

Stan Lee did introductions for the second and third season. This is always a positive for any Marvel show! Nothing is better than hearing Lee ring out, "Hey, True Believers!"

Sure, the show has some cheese in it such as the Spider-Friends shouting, "Go for it!" as their battle cry.

There are a bunch of visual continuity problems and coloring issues as well. For example, Iceman creates an ice-slide around the Beetle, there's a brief cutaway scene, and when we come back to the Beetle the ice-slide is gone.

For whatever reason, this highly unlikely combination of characters simply works. This show remains an absolutely essential Spider-Man show.

1LR Review - 17 out of 20! It's a Solid Hit!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG - Iron Man Intro Deck Analysis

The Iron Man Intro Deck
The Marvel Super Hero Squad Trading Card Game has a series of one-player introductory decks that are themed around a single character. The second deck I'll analyze is Iron Man's.

First the package comes with the rules, a cardboard Marvel coin, a standard booster pack, and the 30 card Iron Man deck.

I feel like this deck is a great value - 40 total cards for $10 means each card is only 25 cents. 

The Iron Man deck has the following 30 cards (I place an * next to the cards that are not actually Iron Man related cards):
1x Incoming!
2x Shoulder Cannons
1x Stealth Mode
1x Pick Up a Friend*
2x Heavy Weapons
2x Juiced Up
2x Teddy Blaster*
2x Hulk Practice
2x Combined Arms Fire
3x Cold Fusion
3x Playing with Fire
2x Repulsor Rays
2x Jab of Justice*
2x Fierce Competitor*
2x Animal Instinct*
1x Hurl the Shield*

Card Levels (the power cost to play the card):
level 1 - 5 cards
level 2 - 7 cards
level 3 - 5 cards
level 4 - 5 cards
level 5 - 2 cards
level 6 - 2 cards
level 7 - 3 cards
level 8 - 1 card
This deck uses a classic distribution of card levels. 

Card Factors
Red (Animal) - 4 cards
Green (Strength) - 3 cards
Blue (Elemental) - 6 cards
Purple (Energy) - 2 cards
Gray (Tech) - 14 cards
Orange (Speed) - 1 cards
The gray cards are obviously the workhorses of this deck. I'm disappointed by the inclusion of most of the other factor cards. Having only one orange, it is very likely going to be blocked. The red, green, and three of the blue cards just seem to be stuck in there as blocks - they don't even seem to go along with the theme of the deck.  

Red (Animal) - 5 cards
Green (Strength) - 8 cards
Blue (Elemental) - 4 cards
Purple (Energy) - 7 cards
Gray (Tech) - 3 cards
Orange (Speed) - 3 cards
The blocking factor distribution is a bit uneven which does give this deck a few areas of slight weakness. 

The way to play this deck is to get the Juiced Up and Cold Fusion keepers into play early and then just grind the gray cards. I'm disappointed by the number of non-Iron Man cards include in this theme deck, especially since most of them don't support the gray grind keeper engine that drives this deck. Like with the Spider-Man introductory deck I want to buy multiple Iron Man decks so I can combine the and make one really good deck.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG - Spider-Man Intro Pack Analysis

The Spider-Man themed one-player intro deck
The Marvel Super Hero Squad Trading Card Game has a series of one-player introductory decks that are themed around a single character. The first I'll analyze is the Spider-Man deck.

First the package comes with the rules, a cardboard Marvel coin, a standard booster pack, and the 30 card Spider-Man deck.

I feel like this deck is a great value - 40 total cards for $10 means each card is only 25 cents. 

The Spider-Man deck has the following 30 cards (I place an * next to the cards that are not actually Spider-Man logo cards):
1x Spectacular Spider-Man
2x Spider Sense
1x Moonlite Guardian*
1x Enjoy Your Trip
2x Smell Ya Later!
2x Strength of the Spiders
2x Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weeny*
2x Hanging Around
2x One-Two Punch
3x Saber Rattling
3x Yoink!
2x World Wide Web
2x Gotcha!
2x Spider-Strikes
2x Web-Slinger
1x Spider-Swing

Card Levels (the power cost to play the card):
level 1 - 18 cards
level 2 - 2 cards
level 3 - 5 cards
level 4 - 2 cards
level 5 - 1 cards
level 6 - 1 cards
level 7 - 0 cards
level 8 - 1 card
Obviously, this deck is quick. You're guaranteed a card to play on your first turn. Quite a few card mechanics rely upon another card being of a low level. I'm not sure why the levels 4, 5, 6, and 8 cards are in the deck. They actually weak the deck more than they strengthen it.

Card Factors
Red (Animal) - 5 cards
Green (Strength) - 3 cards
Blue (Elemental) - 3 cards
Purple (Energy) - 0 cards
Gray (Tech) - 8 cards
Orange (Speed) - 11 cards
This deck obviously relies heavily on orange but it's actually the gray and red cards that have the core game mechanic on them - the ability to play multiple cards in a turn. 

Red (Animal) - 7 cards
Green (Strength) -7 cards
Blue (Elemental) - 2 cards
Purple (Energy) - 5 cards
Gray (Tech) - 6 cards
Orange (Speed) - 3 cards
I'm a bit concerned by the lack of blue and orange blocks. This is definitely a deck with a weak spot. However, if your opponent plays into your strength (red and green), you'll be golden.

This introductory deck using a different strategy than the others - play small cards that work together to do large damage. This strategy is hard to stop because it hardly seems worth it to block a level one card. I'm sorely tempted to buy this deck again and to combine the two decks into a really awesome level one deck.

Marvel Media Mania: Spider-Man (1981)

Spider-Man is an animated television show that aired starting in 1981. There were 26 episodes created. Although there are some inconsistencies between them, this show is closely related to the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends show.
The title card for Spider-Man (1981)... see Spidey?
This show is absolutely classic Spider-Man. The show starts with Spider-Man already well established in a continuity. He already has his powers and we're to understand that he's been Spider-Man for awhile. For example, when he meets Doctor Octopus in the first episode we can infer that they've fought before and are familiar with one another. Peter Parker is a struggling college student in constant threat of failure. His supporting cast is mostly present and in their classic forms. Aunt May is a sweet, innocent old lady. J. Jonah Jameson is a demanding hothead. Others such as Betty Brant and Robbie Robertson also appear regularly.

One of the really great things about this show are the villains. Unlike previous shows, each of the episodes in this show featured a great Marvel villain. Some of them were not traditional Spider-Man villains such as Magneto and Dr. Doom but many villains were like Sandman, Dr. Octopus, and Kraven the Hunter. There were a number of superhero guest stars as well like Ka-Zar and Captain America.

The animation was very capable. Spider-Man moves in a very believable way. Most improved after the 1960's series was Spider-Man's web-swinging. Gone are the days of swinging off of clouds. Instead, this show has Spider-Man moving in a three-dimensional way, using perspective to make Spider-Man's dynamic webswinging seem much more realistic.

Of course, the action is pretty campy. The violence is mostly mild except for the occasional, unintentionally horrific scene like a train full of passengers crashing and then exploding. On the whole, the show is very kid friendly.

The sequences of webs used to transition between scenes is absolutely classic.

The voice actor for Peter Parker/Spider-Man doesn't have much range. His excited voice and nervous voice and happy voice all sound very similar. The actress that voiced Betty sounds like an annoying, nagging mother. The best voice acting was done for Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, and the villains.

This effort certainly represents the best Spider-Man show to this point in history.

1LR Review - 16 out of 20! It's a Hit!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Toei Spider-Man Movie (1979)

The Spider-Man movie was created for and shown at the Toei Manga Matsuri film festival in 1979. It is in continuity with the Japanese Spider-Man television series and takes place in continuity between episodes 10 and 11.
Japanese Spider-Man

Since this film is in continuity with the Japanese television series, I won't rehash all of the changes made from the US version. I discussed that in my review of the television series here.

Essentially, this "film" was just like any other episode of the Japanese Spider-Man TV show except that it was filmed in widescreen. The length of the movie is 23 minutes - the same as the average Japanese Spider-Man TV show. Even the introductory title sequence is the same (except portions are cut off because of being fitted to widescreen). The show is without the transitions that would normally go before and after the cuts to commercial. At the end of the film, a "The End" card is displayed.

The plot revolves around an Interpol agent, Mamiya Juzo. Juzo has discovered Spider-Man's secret identity and has a mission for him - stop the Machine Bem, Sea Devil, who has been blowing up oil tankers. Perhaps the thing that makes this movie most different from a normal episode is the introduction of Juzo, who is then becomes a reoccurring character in the next few episodes of the series.

The production value was really stepped up for this movie. The highlight is a helicopter sequence that has Spider-Man dangling from the helicopter, just barely able to hang on. Sets and camera work are much improved as well.

Still, those changes do very little to improve the overall quality of the storyline. It's still a Power Rangers episode that happens to star someone dressed up like Spider-Man.

1LR Review - 6 out of 20! It's a Faliure!

Marvel Super Hero Squad MMO - Zones Restored!

The Marvel Super Hero Squad MMO was conquered by Loki right around the time the Avengers movie was released. Today all zones were restored to there original condition.
This is where a Loki mission used to be.
What's odd is that no explanation is given. When the zones "fell" Nick Fury explained why the changes were made in presenting a short story. Now that things are restored no storyline reason is provided.

I can't say it is an improvement. I wish they had allowed both versions of the different zones to be playable. Why take the "fallen" zones away? They were fun to be in - they had a great mood about them! The existence of both versions of the zones could be explained by some alternate reality created with Loki's Cosmic Cube.

The real loss is the two special missions (one that let you earn Cosmic Cube decorations). One of the two missions is now available for purchase but it's a shame they didn't replace the missions with something else. Where the special portals for the missions once stood in the zones it is now totally blank.

I guess it was inevitable that the zones were restored. I only wish that, instead of fully restoring the original versions, they had allowed small traces behind to remind you that it happened. Instead, where a spaceship once hung out of a building, you now see no evidence that it ever was there.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Toei Spider-Man (1978)

Spider-Man is a live-action television series that aired in Japan starting in 1978. It was on the air for 41 episodes. It was made by the Toei Company.
Japanese Spider-Man... Notice the "Spider-Bracelet"
Wow. Where to start with this one.

First, this IS an officially licensed Marvel product. The similarities between the Japanese and American versions are mostly superficial, however. Japanese Spider-Man has the same superhero name, costume, and webbing that American Spider-Man does. Besides that, they're are COMPLETELY different - and I mean COMPLETELY. But that's not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, right?

Sure. Except, in this case it is. It totally is.

Spider-Man isn't Peter Parker - he's Takuya Yamashiro. Makes sense since all of the main characters are Japanese after all. Takuya's motivation is revenge for the death of his father who was killed by the Iron Cross Army. Who are they? They're an invading alien race that is lead by Professor Monster. Another alien, Garia, gives Takuya a Spider-Bracelet from which he has access to the Spider-Protector (the Spider-Man suit), Marveller (a gigantic, transforming robot), and GP-7 (a Speed Racer car look-alike). Professor Monster uses Amazoness to unleash an unending horde of monsters that can grow to Godzilla sizes called Machine Bem and he also commands unending swarms of faceless foot soldiers that look like they have a bird beak on their faces.  

So, if I had to explain it in one sentence, every episode is almost exactly like an episode of the Power Rangers.

The actual Spider-Man action is remarkably similar to the 1977 American television show. I'm guessing they used many of the same techniques the American film crews did. While Japanese Spidey does his fair share of climbing up buildings, he spends a lot of time in the forest as well.

The actual character of Spider-Man is almost unrecognizable. Sure, he has the suit but that's about it. His motivation is revenge, pure and simple. At one point, he grabs a machine gun and shoots up a lab, shouting, "Get down if you want to live!" When he arrives at the scene to stop the bad guys, he announces himself as an, "Emissary from hell!"

The production value on the show is very low. You can tell they put their whole budget into the Machine Bem monsters. Spider-Man's webbing is obviously just plain rope (even more so than in the US series). The camera work is very shoddy and shakes. Scenery and props almost serve as mere visual suggestions such as a gray tarp that is suppose to be a rock cave wall.

If this show has any redeeming value it is as accidental humor. It's almost like a horrible cultural train wreck - it's too horrible to look away. Somehow, the end result of the combination of gutting a beloved character, cheap production, and thin plots is strangely and unintentionally amusing. This is the cinematic equivalent of the bearded woman. You don't want to look but you have to just to verify that it does, in fact, exist.

1LR Review - 4 out of 20! It's a Total Failure!

Marvel Super Hero Squad CCG - Two-Player Intro Pack Analysis

The contents of the two-player introductory pack
Upper Deck  wisely released a two-player introductory pack for the Marvel Super Hero Squad CCG. 

I consider this absolutely essential product for the game and a great deal.

This pack costs $20 and you get two 30-card themed decks, two booster packs, a coin, a rule book, and two battle mats. That's a great value considering the booster packs go for $4 a piece on there own so two would be $8. That's $12 for everything else - not to bad! You're getting 80 cards for $20 - that's 25 cents a card. 

While the coin is nice, it's not essential. Any die or coin would serve the same purpose. Still, it's nice that it has the same design as in the online game. 

The "play zone" maps, I think, are essential, especially if you're teaching young people how to play. It organizes the space for you and has a brief rules summary on it as well. 

The rule book, it goes without saying, it necessary. Although the print is small, it is the source to end rules debates and answer questions. Is it comprehensive? No, but it's good enough for most players, I'm sure.

The two booster packs are, of course, great. In addition to having six commons, three uncommons, and one rare in each pack there's also a code inside the wrapped that can be redeemed for stuff in the online game. So don't throw those wrappers away!

Now, on to the main show - the decks. First, the theme is very timely - Avengers VS X-Men.

The Avengers deck has the following 30 cards (all cards have the Avengers "A" logo on them - not all of the introductory themed decks actually have all of the cards in them according to the theme):
1x War Heroes 
2x Huge Breakthrough
1x Time Bomb
1x Heroic Effort
2x Marvelous Strength
2x Stars and Stripes
2x Reality Shift 
2x Hurl the Shield
2x Shadow Warrior
3x Jab of Justice
3x Attack of the 2-Inch Woman
2x Holographic Wings
3x Thunderous Impact
2x Colossal Assistance
2x Avengers Assemble!

Card Levels (the power cost to play the card):
level 1 - 6 cards
level 2 - 5 cards
level 3 - 3 cards
level 4 - 4 cards
level 5 - 9 cards
level 6 - 0 cards
level 7 - 3 cards
No card has a level higher than 7 which means this deck accelerates quickly. You won't have to hold cards turn after turn waiting for the power level to reach 10, 11 or higher. Having 6 cards, 1/5 of the deck, at level one almost guarantees you'll draw one very early in the game.

Card Factors
Red (Animal) - 3 cards
Green (Strength) -10 cards
Blue (Elemental) - 3 cards
Purple (Energy) - 2 cards
Gray (Tech) - 5 cards
Orange (Speed) - 6 cards
Multicolor - 1 Gray/Orange card
I can't say I'm thrilled with the factor breakdown on this deck. The fact that there's only two purple cards and three blue and red cards means that your opponent is much more likely to have a block for those cards. The green cards are the meat and potatoes of this deck and I'd pound away with them.

Red (Animal) - 6 cards
Green (Strength) -5 cards
Blue (Elemental) - 5 cards
Purple (Energy) - 5 cards
Gray (Tech) - 3 cards
Orange (Speed) - 6 cards
This deck has a slight vulnerability to tech cards but otherwise has a very balanced defense.

This deck is extremely well put together. There are only one or two cards that have questionable offensive value. The theme is well executed in a simple and direct fashion that should be easy for novice players to pick up and play.

The X-Men deck has the following 30 cards (I place an * next to the cards that are not actually X-Men team cards):
1x Paragons of Brilliance 
2x Mystic Fire*
1x Call the Tempest
1x Decision of the Heart
2x Whisk on the Winds
2x Fast Hands
2x Strong Leader 
2x Let's Play Twister
2x Surprise Interception
3x Adrenaline Rush
3x Phase and Rescue
2x First Strike
2x Having a Blast
2x Savage Leap
2x Fast Healing
1x Samurai Slash

Card Levels (the power cost to play the card):
level 1 - 5 cards
level 2 - 4 cards
level 3 - 5 cards
level 4 - 5 cards
level 5 - 3 cards
level 6 - 2 cards
level 7 - 5 cards
level 8 - 1 card
You should see good opening hands most of the time with this deck because it the card levels are well distributed and it avoids cards with an extremely high casting cost. This deck may be slightly slower than the Avengers deck

Card Factors
Red (Animal) - 5 cards
Green (Strength) -2 cards
Blue (Elemental) - 6 cards
Purple (Energy) - 7 cards
Gray (Tech) - 0 cards
Orange (Speed) - 9 cards
Multicolor - 1 Blue/Purple card
I like the factor balance of this deck more than the Avengers deck. By excluding gray the deck causes some of the opponent's blocks to be worthless while quickly burning through the blocks of the most prevalent factors such as orange and purple. Note that most of the high level cards are blue. 

Red (Animal) - 6 cards
Green (Strength) -6 cards
Blue (Elemental) - 4 cards
Purple (Energy) - 4 cards
Gray (Tech) - 5 cards
Orange (Speed) - 5 cards
Extremely well balanced defense!

This is a high power deck. Cards like Strong Leader and Adrenaline Rush allow you to blitz keepers while cards like Whisk the Wins, Phase and Recruit, and Samurai Slash let you keep the pressure on with vicious attacks from your hand. Decision of the Heart is without proper support to be in this deck and First Strike is an all-or-nothing that I could do without. In conclusion, this deck is exceedingly well constructed.

I haven't had a chance to play these decks yet but I'm sure that they're very well balanced against one another. I would guess that the victory percentage for each deck would be very close to 50%. Both decks are well designed and easy to use. What's great is that once you become a more advanced player you won't have any problems using some of these versatile cards in other decks you build.
The two-player introductory box is a must-have for the MSHS CCG.