Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: X-Men (2000)

X-Men is the first theatrical X-Men movie, released in 2000 by 20th Century FOX.
The first X-Men film
This film sets the tone right away with a few short introductory sequences: One in a 1944 concentration camp with Magneto as a child and one with Rogue sending a boy into a coma for 3 weeks just by kissing him. This isn't a lighthearted superhero film where the good guys and bad guys slug it out without consequences. Bryan Singer uses the X-Men to examine society's flaws. Themes such as tolerance and bigotry are openly debated by the character in the film, giving the picture philosophical roots. So when the X-Men fight the Brotherhood of Mutants it's not just good guy vs bad guy but, much like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, a struggle between two competing philosophies.

The film does a great job of easing the viewer into the concept of mutants and a mutant team. Slowly we're introduced, one at at time, to Magneto, Rogue, Jean Grey, Professor X, and Wolverine. The X-Men team is extremely limited. Really, it only has three members - Storm, Cyclops, and Jean Grey. Wolverine goes on one mission with the team and Rogue is really a student. But the film gives you a very real sense of the X-Mansion as a school. We see dozens of students with lots of cameos for fanboys such as Jubilee, Kitty Pryde, and Iceman.

Likewise, the "villainous" team consists of only four members. Two of them are fantastically portrayed - Magneto and Mystique. Magneto is a complex villain. Sure, he breaks the law and endangers others but he's hard to think of as a "bad guy." His goals are noble - he wants to protect his kind from the threatening human population. Even the means by which he wants to reach those goals aren't "bad," per se. He easily could have killed police officers he instead just scares them. Mystique's powers are used to the max in the film.  Rebecca Romijn Stamos in head to toe blue paint nimbly kicking and twisting her way through combat is quite stunning. But the real cherry on top is that she messes with the minds of her foes, licking her lips when fighting Wolverine and sending Rogue into an adolescent tizzy. Toad and Sabretooth, on the other hand, were treated as disposable muscle. It's too bad, to, because certainly those characters have much greater potential.

The film, although clearly in its own continuity, relies heavily on the comics. The dynamic between Wolverine, Cyclops, and Jean Grey is straight from the comics and leads to some memorable moments in the film. The tension between Jean Grey and Wolverine is so real you can cut it with a knife. It was nice to see the Rogue character's journey including giving her the white streak in her hair.

Is X-Men perfect? No. But it aspires to be more than a good guy vs bad guy superhero movie. It's philosophical roots turn the film into a mirror in which humanity can examine itself. Oh yeah, and there are some awesome fight sequences.

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

Monday, July 30, 2012

Geek Gear: Batman: Arkham City Batarang

I'm a sucker for prop replicas. And this Batarang from the Arkham City video Batman video game is right up my alley.

Of course, it's a full-scale replica weighing 20 pounds. The Batarang is detachable which means, should crooks actually break into your house, you could grab this bad boy and throw it at them. I wouldn't advise it, but you could. And how could would it be if it actually worked?

Anyway, the lights at the base actually light up, which would make this thing the focus point in any room.

Want one? Well, only 750 were made so good luck!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Gaming Notes: Kittens in a Blender

Add caption
Awhile ago, I gave a first look at the new card game, Kittens in a Blender. What an odd concept for a game. You're trying to save your kittens while destroying your opponents' cats. To me, it seemed like a "concept game" that would fall flat when you actually tried to play it.

Well, recently, I got the chance to play it with my friend Sam. I was surprised - it is actually a very fun game.

First, it's easy to set up and, surprisingly, even the top and the bottom of the box is used during game play! The cards are well designed. But the absolute best are the kittens themselves. They're brilliantly illustrated and each one is given a all-too-cute name that makes you want to destroy and/or protect them such as Ham Sandwich and Scratches.

Throughout the game, you place kittens in one of three locations, move kittens around, or blend kittens up. There are other actions cards as well. I was surprised how much strategy there was in deciding when you put your kittens or your opponents kittens into play and when to move them.

I ended up winning. In the end, Sam unwisely switched hands with me when his entire hand was Blend cards.  I giddily blended his entire mewing clowder of cats.

Milkshake, anyone?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What the Heck, Margaret Weis Productions? Where's My Marvel?

Have you seen this book?
Okay, I understand delays in production schedules, etc. but Margaret Weis has REALLY dropped the ball on the Marvel Heroic RPG. Their initial launch was greeted with much fanfare and accolades. Sure, isn't not a perfect product but they quickly responded to the thoughts of the fans by having some free downloads such as an example of play and a random character generator.

Since then they've solicited about eight books or so and have released... nothing. What the heck? I want my Marvel RPG! I'm afraid that any good will and momentum they initially built is now gone. It's been MONTHS since these books were solicited. Where are they? What's the holdup? The Margaret Weis Productions website is silent, giving no explanation.

I hope they're not planning on releasing a whole bunch of books all at once or even one right after another. I don't know about you but I budget for these things and I can't afford to buy six Marvel RPG books in a single month!

So let's get on the ball, Margaret Weis Productions! Start getting books out and then keep to a schedule! Or, if you have some really good reasons for the delays, at least let the fans know what they are. We understand that publishing is a tricky business and we're willing to extend some grace. But we won't be taken for granted and we don't forgive endless delays.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Geek Gear: Masters of the Universe Desk Accessories

He-Man's Letter Opener
Two cool items today for your geek pleasure! They are both regarding the Masters of the Universe.

"By the power of Carl's Plumbing!"
The first is He-Man's Power Sword in miniature... to be used as a letter opener! Now that's pretty cool! Slash open those letters (wait... who gets letters anymore?) and shout, "I have the power!"

The other item is a business card holder. How boring, right? Well, perhaps, until you realize that it is a replica of Castle Greyskull! This one is a little more... noticeable sitting on your desk. I'm not sure how many of your coworkers would be in on the joke. Without explanation, some of them might just think you're a weird death worshiper. I mean, t he whole creepy green skull thing doesn't exactly say, "Call me!" does it?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark NYC Trip!

I'm REALLY excited because I have tickets to Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark! I've been dying to see this Broadway play since I first heard about it! Then, of course, there were the endless delays in producing the play... but the time has finally come! In a short while, I'll be sitting and watching Spider-Man LIVE!

Although I like to travel I can't say that I have much opportunity to do so. I've only been to NYC once before to see a Yankees game. I'm thrilled to be going back! It's a shame I missed "Spider-Man week" right before the Amazing Spider-Man film release. 

Of course, I'll give a full report and review after the play!

Webs away!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Geek Gear: Watchmen T-Shirts

Bloody Smiley
Elemental Element
What do you see?
I'm always on the prowl for cool T-shirts. Check out these three Watchmen T-Shirts. What makes them cool? Because they're the equivalent of a comic book inside joke. Folks not "in the know" will have no idea what these T-shirts are all about. A red blob on a yellow T-shirt? Random black spots? Two black circles on a blue shirt? But comic book fans everywhere would see you and nod their head in recognition. Nowhere on these shirts does it say "Watchmen!" which makes them under-the-radar geek gear goodness.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad MMO: All-Platinum Future Foundation Spider-Man!

1LR reported recently that we completed all missions and unlocked the rare Future Foundation Spider-Man character under the screen name Invisible Martian Archer. Well, I'm pleased to report that we've now maxed the character's level and maximized all achievements for the character!

But wait! There's more! There are ten medals you can earn for each character. One is for collecting hero tokens. Two are for card game victories. One is for destroying Troublebots. And six are for accomplishments in missions. Medals come in bronze, silver, gold, and adamantium. For the Future Foundation Spider-Man character, as you can see, I've reached the adamantium level for all medals!

This wasn't easy to do. The most difficult medal to get was the adamantium medal for finishing 25 missions with a adamantium ranked medal. Basically, if anyone dies at any point during the mission or if any other hero drops out of the mission for any reason you don't get an adamantium medal for that mission.

Basically, it was just a matter of grinding it out. I'm proud of my accomplishment... I hope to replicate it.

Next goal? Getting a total squad level of 1,000!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Generation X

Generation X is a 1996 made-for-TV movie that originally aired on FOX. A slightly different version aired in the UK.
Generation X
For this TV movie the network used some characters from the Generation X comic books. Emma Frost and Banshee are the heads of the Xavier School for Gifted Children (although they never mention who this Xavier fella is...). Jubilee and Skin are the main characters, new to the school. Mondo and M are the other characters used from the comics. Refrax and Buff are two new characters. Buff is a girl who's embarrassed by her big muscles. Refrax is a mutant who's vision powers have yet to develop.

Probably because the property rights were unavailable, the X-Men are never mentioned (although an X-Men video game is shown in the background once!). The mansion used is the exact same mansion used in the X-Men films which might lead some to speculate a continuity connection... perhaps Generation X happens sometime in the future after X-Men 3? Throughout the episode mutant registration and mutant terrorism laws are cited... probable results from the fallout of X-Men 3. Remember, they both were made by FOX.

But because the issue of "Where are the X-Men is never addressed?" it hangs in the air and adds to the overall odd feeling this movie has. And it is odd. Very odd. It starts with a *yawn* dictionary definition of mutation. When you start with a dictionary definition, you know you're in for a *yawn* dull ride. Oddly, there's a scene where Jubilee, a teenage girl, has to take off all of her clothes in front of Emma, Banshee, and Skin. The scene uncomfortably lingers far too long.

At times the script tries to be funny but it just falls flat. For example, Emma Frost causes guards to see her and Banshee as "Officer Hootie and Offier Blowfish," a reference to the band "Hootie and the Blowfish." Most of its humor just comes across as crass and crude such as a "beaver" comment and a fart gag that is just plain stupid. In the British version, Jubilee shockingly uses the F-word twice with the S-word in one scene. This comes across as strange because most of the rest of the film uses almost no swear words.

The plot is almost incomprehensible and has very little to do with mutants. The bad guy is the same actor who played Max Headroom and his over-the-top performance makes him seem like a ridiculous lunatic, not a viable threat. Somehow, he wants to use a machine or mutant genes to force people to buy products by invading their dreams. At one point, when all of Generation X is fighting him, you wonder why they need superpowers at all to take on a scrawny scientist with no powers. Why didn't they use one of the many great X-Men or Generation X villains?

Now, what do you want to see more than anything in a big, team mutant movie? Superpowers being used, right? Well, perhaps for budget reasons, this film has almost none. Some of the mutants like M and Buff require very little SFX to demonstrate their abilities but they rarely do. What's more, their mutant powers are almost completely useless. Eye powers that don't work, painful skin stretching, random light bursts... all worthless.

There are a few comic book continuity references that fans will appreciate such as a Hellions reference.

Perhaps the best thing about this dud is the interaction of the teens. Somehow, they manage to create a few realistic moments when the teens are struggling to relate to one another and other teenagers from the nearby town.

As a first attempt at a big mutant team movie, Genration X failed. But perhaps it laid just enough groundwork that Marvel and FOX were able to learn from their mistakes when they took a stab at the X-Men movie.

1LR REVIEW - 6 out of 20! It's a Failure!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1 Reaction

Night Owl #1 is the fourth book to be released in the Before Watchmen series.

Of all of the issues released so far, I think this one may be the most cohesive. Allow me to explain.

First, it tells a great origin story for the second Night Owl. Characterization is crystal clear. You really get a sense of Danny's motivations and background.

More than any issue prior to this, the characters of the Watchmen universe start to come together. This issue sees Captain Metropolis's dream of forming a super-group come to fruition, tying the characters together in continuity for the first time in Before Watchmen. It starts when Nite Owl teams up with Rorschach and then they both answer Captain Metropolis's invitation to join the Crimebusters. The character dynamics between the various heroes are evident even in background images, such as Dr. Manhattan's instant attraction to the Silk Spectre and the Nite Owl's jealousy. Sometimes the words and pictures tell a very different story, which is just brilliant scripting by J. Michael Straczynski. 

The issue's title is "No Such Thing as a Free Lunch" and this is a motif throughout the story, from the very first page to the last.

The two-page backup feature, Crimson Corsair, slows the pace slightly as the main character narrowly avoids drowning after his ship is destroyed and takes a makeshift raft from a dead shipmate. The end is a bit of a false tease, however, as the next issue will show. I wish that these backups were somehow more thematically linked to the issue's main story. I also wish that the storyline seemed to have a more defined direction. At this point the main character has simply been thrown from one deadly scenario to another...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Tower 4.5: The Wind Through The Keyhole Review

The Wind Through The Keyhole:
The Dark Tower book #4.5
The Wind Through the Keyhole is a surprise entry into the Dark Tower series. Why? Because that series was thought to be complete and finished with seven hefty volumes. I greeted this book with mixed feelings. I love the Dark Tower world and characters so I was happy to be able to spend some more time with them and perhaps go on a new adventure or two. But I was also wary... with the series already done, what could this new book have to say that would be of value? There's also the risk of continuity flubs or adding new story elements that lessen events in the other books in some way.

On the dedication page Stephen King dedicates this book to "The Folks at Marvel Comics." It appears that Marvel's adaptations of his Dark Tower works into a chronological storyline told with graphic novels have spurred Mr. King's imagination with these characters ago.

This book, story-wise, takes place between books 4 and 5 of the Dark Tower. The structure of the novel is actually quite interesting. It's a bit like Russian Nestings Dolls... there are actually three stories in this book but one sits inside another and all of the stories have similar elements added to them. I'm pleased to report that on all fronts Stephen King avoided the outcomes that I feared and instead delivered one of his best written works in years.

The first story is, of course, about Roland has his Ka-Tet. They are on the road, traveling toward the Dark Tower and following the path of the Beam when a superstorm called a Starkblast, comes upon them and forces them to find hasty shelter. None of this is terribly interesting (as we know, having read book 5, that Jake, for example, doesn't die frozen to death in the storm, it lessens the suspense) and really it only serves the purpose of getting the characters together and still so Roland can tell a very long story - the second story.

So while the first story pauses, Roland tells his Ka-Tet (including us, the reader) the story of his youth when he investigated a cannibalistic Skin Man (a shapeshifter) in Debaria (which is where his mother once went on a healing retreat of sorts). Along the way, Roland makes the acquaintance of a young man who just lost his father. To comfort the boy, Roland tells the boy a long story about a boy named Tim.

So starts the third story-inside-the-story while both the first and second stories have been put on hold. The story of Tim is actually called The Wind Through the Keyhole, giving the entire book its name. Tim has a chance encounter with Martin Broadcloak / Roland Flagg that send him on an foolish errand to heal  his injured mother. I don't want to spoil it for anyone but Tim turns out to be quite a bit more than a foolish young boy. Along the way Tim finds himself in a truly magical place. In many regards, his story mirrors Roland's own including an encounter with the Starkblast storm. Tim's story is written as a fairy tale (as it is, in fact, a story that mothers tell their children) even though in the Dark Tower world the story is actually an historical account. Stephen King tells the best fairy tales (don't believe me? Read The Eye of the Dragon!). The story of Tim comes to a very satisfying ending. I would have been happy had the entire book ended there. But, no.

Once Tim's story is completed the reader is brought back to the story of the Skin Man. Roland solves that particular mystery and we get to see him grow as a character along the way. This Roland is young and makes careless mistakes. Once again, this story mirrors Tim's story. At one point the Skin Man changes into a large snake very similar to the one in Tim's story. Once again, the tale is brought to a very satisfying conclusion. But the satisfaction has almost nothing to do with the mystery of the Skin Man or the action at the end of it. Really all of that is just an excuse to get Roland to Debaria so he can receive his mother's last gift (Roland killed his own mother and this gift comes to him posthumously). I won't ruin it but let's just say that it's a very tender moment.

But then that tale wraps up and we're brought back to the "present" (between books 4 and book 5 of the Dark Tower series). The Ka-Tet react to Roland's story and there is perhaps the most emotionally-charged moment of the entire Dark Tower series. It brought tears to my eyes. Very powerful stuff and the entire ride is worth it for that one moment.

So along the way the reader is treated to three nestled stories, one inside the other, with parallels and echoes throughout all three. It's a very complex book with not one but three wonderful payoffs. I'd consider it in the top three or perhaps two Dark Tower books. Well done, Mr. King. Well done.

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

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dark Knight Rises - Midnight Movie Review - Spoiler Free!

Dark Knight Rises is, of course, the third and final installment of the Chris Nolan / Christian Bale Batman trilogy. It has been hotly anticipated. So, did it live up the hype? Was it as good as the first two? How does it stand on its own as a film? 1LR has the answers!
Dark Knight Rises
So let's answer those questions right away. The Dark Knight Rises is a good film but it doesn't live up the hype, suffering from a few serious flaws. It was not as good as the first two films in the series - I'd put it as the worst of the three movies but still a very good film. Even if you never saw the first two films I still think you'll find this movie to be enjoyable.

Let's start with the positive.

I loved how bold Christopher Nolan was with the choice to jump forward eight years in the future. Batman is retired and Bruce Wayne's broken body is hidden away from the world because he lives like a recluse. 

I thought that the main players (Batman, Bane, Catwoman, Commissioner Gordon, and John Blake) all did excellent jobs. The Bruce Wayne's character arc closely mirrors the first film. His body is broken and he believes Gotham doesn't need him anymore. After a massive failure, he is at zero - he has nothing - and he has to relearn how to be Batman again. But the character with the best emotional moments in the film is Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce's butler. Michael Caine really breathes a soul into this character unlike any previous performance as this character. Anne Hathaway's Catwoman is a more practical take on the character than Michelle Pheiffer or Halley Berry's.

I also loved how far this film pushes the envelope of comic book villains. Bane actually manages to top the Joker in one category - overall mayhem caused. As a villain, he was extraordinarily successful in fulfilling his goals. Let's just say that irregardless of who wins - Batman or Bane - Gotham could never be the same ever again. Some of the things Bane does are absolutely brutal... which makes him hard to predict on the screen. You never know what he's going to do next. They also avoid the "big, dumb, muscle-bound idiot" stereotype. Bane is shrewd and he has a clever tie to Bruce Wayne's past that brings the franchise full circle.

There is one big surprise twist in the film that I don't think anybody saw coming and I hope nobody ruins it for you. At the climax of the movie there's a very suspenseful moment that just lingers on and on. Just when you think, "Nah, they couldn't have done that!" they sell you on it, leaving your mouth gaping open. The very ending of the film is very pleasing but not in a completely satisfying way. Honestly. I wanted to say, "But wait! What happens next?" which is a sure sign that the film is a good one.

The continuity between this film and the previous two is absolutely airtight. The film opens to a service honoring Harvey Dent who died in the second film. Characters are often remembering and recalling events that occurred in the previous films. We are treated to a return appearance of a prior villain (I won't spoil who). And ultimately, as all good trilogies do, this film takes Bruce Wayne back to his origins from the first movie.

And, of course, it's always a good thing when a film can be faithful to the source material it comes from - the comics. The Dark Knight Rises is perhaps the most loyal in the regard of the three films in the series. It goes so far as to use specific panels from comics almost as a storyboard in a few places (I'm thinking of one classic picture with Bane in particular).

But this film also has a few flaws, some of them somewhat serious.

The first is the pace of the film. Let's just say that it is overindulgent. The film takes way too long to get off the ground and there are several long stretches when Batman is nowhere to be seen. At one point, a little boy sings the entire Star Spangled Banner. I get why they did it - it's suppose to be a tense moment - but the payoff was spoiled by the trailers anyway. This film could have really benefited by trimming it down to two hours.

Secondly, the film is too dark. I get that it's Batman, it's Gotham and it's suppose to be dark, seedy, dirty, gritty. But I want to be able to tell what's going on. When you have both Batman and Catwoman, both dressed all in black, fighting bad guys (also dressed all in black) in near total darkness it is hard to follow what's going on.

A big problem for me was understand-ability of the dialogue. I really had a hard time hearing what was being said in quite a few places. Bane was the worst with his face-mask thing but Batman was sometimes hard to understand as well as a few minor characters. The ultimate effect of this was that I probably missed some important information that would have helped me tie the loose pieces of the somewhat murky plot together.

The combination of these three factors - the meandering plot, the dullness of the color pallet, and unintelligible dialogue - makes this film seem dull at times.

I have a good half-dozen nit-picks I could go on about as well. Such as - in the beginning of the film we see Bruce Wayne at the doctor and the doctor tells him he has no cartilage left in his knee among a wide variety of other trauma-induced ailments. Bruce gets a brace for his knee that solves the problem but there are times that he's without the brace and apparently his knee doesn't bother him anymore. Also, Batman's faith in Catwoman is without cause. Time and again he gives her the benefit of the doubt and even places himself at risk because of her... but why? Why does he treat her any differently than any other criminal? The thin answers in the film don't adequately address the issue. I could go on, but I won't.

So as I said... Ultimately, this film falls short of the first two films. But we here at 1LR review films based on their own merits, not in comparison to any other work. The Dark Knight Rises is a very enjoyable comic book movie and serves as a fitting end to this Batman trilogy.

1LR REVIEW - 15 out of 20! It's a Hit!

1LR Midnight Movie- Dark Knight Rises - Fanboy Reactions

Ultra Batman Fans!
We all know who comes to midnight shows: The Ultra Fans. And let's just say the Ultra Fans were pumped.

When I first arrived at the theater twenty five minutes early I noticed that the parking lot was PACKED. I had to park at the nearby grocery store! I had already purchased tickets and when I got into the theater I realized I was going to have to sit in the front row! There were a TON of people dressed up for the event. A bunch of them wore Batman T-shirts and the like but a few brave fans dressed up in character. I noticed some of those cheap plastic Batman masks they sell at Target and the like. Planet X comics showed up to hand out free comics and discount coupons which was cool (but they only gave them to the fans in the DBOX seats... Booo! Where were they for Amazing Spider-Man?).

During the movie, the fans were mostly silent. There really aren't very many reaction shots in the film. Twice the audience laughed at truly funny moments in the film. The surprise twist got a reaction from the crowd and the ending of the film really got the fans pumped. They applauded when the film was over but booed when there was no post-credit scene.

After the show, I eavesdropped on several conversations. The general consensus I heard was that everyone enjoyed it, just not as much as the first film. People thought Bane was a good villain, just not as good as the Joker. People loved the ending and the surprise twist. I heard a bit of nitpickery on plot details but nothing too serious.

Overall, Fanboys were pleased and if you enjoyed the first two films I think you'll enjoy this one as well.

1LR Midnight Movie: Dark Knight Rises: Instant Reaction


The Dark Knight Rises character posters.

RISE.I just got home from seeing the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises.

Honestly? This was a hard movie to watch at midnight. I've seen plenty of midnight movies but this one was a challenge to stay awake during. First, everything is black on black with shadows thrown it to make it more dark. I understand that they're going for mood but visually there were times I was having a hard time deciding what I was watching or where my eyes should focus. Secondly, I had heard early reports of hard to understand dialogue and I agree with them to a certain extent. I found myself wondering more than a few times, "What did he just say?" Bain is the worst by Batman isn't much better. Finally, the plot is a slow march that has a number of points where it simply seems to grind to a halt. Even the soundtrack is just simply THERE in the background, rhythmically beating away. The sum total of all of this was that it was a challenge to actually stay awake and focused during this film.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying it's a bad film. It isn't (I'll save my few review for another post here in a little bit). There are some good twists in the film, I loved how faithful it was not only to the continuity of the first two films but also to the comics (even using specific images from comics), and the character arc Bruce Wayne goes on it a great one.

But my instant reaction is this: It falls short of the first two films. Still good, but if falls short.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Before Watchmen: Comedian #1 Reaction

Comedian #1
Before Watchmen: Comedian #1 is the third book to be released in the Before Watchmen line.

The Comedian is a character completely unlike the other Watchmen characters and this cover illustrates that perfectly.

The Watchmen Smiley,
famously bloodied
First, the blog splotch perfectly mirrors the famous bloody smiley face. 

But the S&M mask with those wicked gleaming eyes and that devilish, broad smile is just chilling. My local comic store has this cover hanging up in its front window as a poster and I think it might actually be giving the public a very wrong idea about what kind of store it is. The story's title, "Smile" is quite fitting to this creepy cover image.

The story takes place in the 1960's and, for the first half, features the Comedian out of costume and hanging around with the Kennedy's. This seems like an odd choice at first but it is brilliant. Here's this completely unhinged, psychotic "hero" and he's in the inner circle of the President of the United States. He acts normal. And then he makes sure that Marilyn Monroe is dead at the request of Jackie Kennedy. 

The inclusion of the historical figures is absolutely essential to the story (I won't give away the ending but it's good - trust me) but it gives the Comedian a sense of being grounded in the real world. Sure, he's got to be real - isn't he interacting with real people? 

The second half of the story leads you in one direction, you think you're going down one path but I completely missed where it was really going to end up. I really don't want to spoil the ending for anyone so I'll stay mum. Let's just say that I was very impressed (of course) with the writing of Brian Azzarello. He managed to hide the obvious in plain sight and surprise us with it.

The backup feature, Crimson Corsair, continues to be a wild two page ride. In this issue the story takes yet ANOTHER 90 degree turn. Honestly, it is a bit much. What could be easily drawn out to ten or so pages is crammed into two and gives us another cliffhanger ending.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Up, Up and Away... In My Beautiful... Vader Head?

Is there nothing that isn't improved by placing Darth Vader's imagine on it? Witness the glorious spectacle that is... Darth Balloon! I'm waiting for Lucas to pop it with a dart claiming it infringes his "intellectual property rights." Sheesh. I'm also in talks with my comic shop about this... why didn't I see this item listed in Previews? What a rip!
The Darth Vader balloon... more beautiful than the setting sun.

Let's just go ahead and put Vader's head on Mount Rushmore.
Sci-Fi Mount Rushmore...
I'd replace Robocop with Kirk, Boba Fett with Vader, and the Predator with an the Alien Queen.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

1LR Midnight Movie: Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises at Midnight
Fanboys rule!
One Lost Road is at it again! This Friday morning at 12:10 AM we'll be attending the Dark Knight Rises at Frank Theatres in York, PA's Queensgate 13. We'll, of course, be there looking for superfans who are dressed for the occasion! I'm sure it'll be a rowdy crowd and we're looking forward to seeing you there!

Of course, you can look forward to 1LR's instant reaction right after the show is over!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: X-Men (1992)

X-Men is a 1992 cartoon that originally aired on FOX. It lasted for a total of 76 episodes across five seasons.
1992's X-Men Cartoon
This is "The" X-Men animated series. It's success has been unparalleled by any prior efforts. The show's title sequence gives us good insight into why this show was such as success. It's simple and straightforward. The music is actually fairly generic except the fact that it plays every episode during the big fight sequence. What it does excellently is introduce each character by name and demonstrate's the characters' powers. The end of the title sequence shows the X-Men charging headlong into a fray with their foes, setting up the show's mutant vs mutant conflicts. The shot where the camera zooms in through the window of the Blackbird and then further zooms in actually going into Cyclops's visor really demonstrate's the quality of the animation.

The X-Men roster for this series is very large. It includes Professor X, Gambit, Wolverine, Beast, Morph, Jubilee, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, and Rogue. With a main cast so large each episode feel really full as each character gets some of the spotlight to varying degrees. What's great is that the interpretation of the characters were very loyal to the essences of the characters from the comics. Dozens of other noteworthy characters (both mutant and non-mutant) make appearances throughout the series.

This show is known for its faithfulness tot he storylines from the comics. While it certainly blazes its own continuity, the story carries over from episode to episode and it wasn't uncommon for an episode to have a cliffhanger ending. Among the story arcs that are presented are The Phalanx Covenant, The Phoenix Saga, The Dark Phoenix Saga, and Days of Future Past along with original storylines such as "Beyond Good and Evil." And while in-show continuity wasn't flawlessly maintained, it really adds something to each episode that you know the stories are all interconnected and the characters are changing and developing from episode to episode. When Morph gets "killed" (he comes back) in the second episode you know that this isn't just one of those cartoons that returns to the status quo at the end of each show.

The X-Men have always been used as a vehicle to tackle controversial topics and this show didn't shy away from that and it, for the most part, managing to avoid sounding preachy as well. This show may have been the second show ever to show a female as President of the United States (after 1983's Hail to the Chief). Evolution, AIDS, religion, racism, and the Holocaust all are highlighted at various points in the series. When Morph dies, the X-Men struggle and react in very human ways to the death of their friend. The series even interjects a fair amount of poetry and philosophy through the character of the Beast such as when he ponders the question, "Are any of us really secure?" in the series opener.

The show's animation has a very clean and simple style. Very little stock footage is recycled throughout the show as it juggles its dozens of characters. As I mentioned before, the show's truly noteworthy visual accomplishment is the way characters were able to move both toward and away from the camera and changed in size to reflect this perspective change. A common camera trick was to show a close up of the Beast only to pull back, rotating the camera as it moves, to reveal that the Beast was hanging upside down. On occasion throughout the series the faces of characters appear distorted. It is worth noting that in the fifth season the animation company changed, resulting in a different animation style.

This X-Men cartoon sets the gold standard that all X-Men cartoons following it have tried to live up to.

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

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad MMO: The Wheel

The Wheel
If you've played the Marvel Super Hero Squad Online MMO then you're familiar with the wheel. The wheel works one of two ways - if you're not a subscriber, one "wedge" or "space" turns gold per day. But if you are a subscriber the entire wheel renews as gold every day. Every spin of the wheel costs one ticket. You can get tickets from in-game activities such as going on a mission or playing a card game.

I myself am a subscriber so I wondered how many tickets, on average, it would take to get all of the gold for one day. Since the wheel has 24 spaces the lowest possible number to land on all 24 spaces once (and, hence, getting all of the gold for that day) would by 24. The highest possible statistical number to land on all 24 spaces once actually does not exist... it would be infinite since it is theoretically possible to spin the wheel an infinite number of times and not land on any given space. So the answer is somewhere between 24 and infinity.

Below is the math I worked out to find the average number.

Gold Spaces
# of Spins
To Get
A Gold Space
# of Spins
To Get
A Gold Space

As you can see, the fewer gold spaces that are felt give you diminishing returns - it takes more tickets to get the remaining gold spaces. This trend starts accelerating greatly when there are five or four spaces left. I can tell you that 91 tickets per day is an awful lot. It would take me personally over an hour to get that many each day.

So here's what I do: I don't get all of the gold. I leave one space left. This, on average, would take 24 less spins so it would take about 67 spins on average. That's still a lot but it's much more manageable than 91. And usually this only means leaving 5 gold on the table. Not too bad since there is 150 gold on the wheel total. I've used this strategy many times. The fewest number of spins it has taken was somewhere around 35. The largest number was about 125.

I hope this was helpful to you in managing your daily activities on the Super Hero Squad MMO. Look for an upcoming post when I'll discuss the most efficient ways to get around 67 tickets daily.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

One Lost Road - Happy First Anniversary!

Even Vader recognizes the occasion.

That's right - as of today, July 14, 2012, One Lost Road is one year old. As a member of the Keystone Gaming Society, I was first inspired to write this blog because of the success we had with our podcasts. Since then, 1LR has grown to surpass our inspirational source.

Let's take some time to see what we've accomplished in the past year.

But first, what HAVEN'T we accomplished? We still haven't found that lost brown road to my Settlers of Catan game. Grrr. Someday. Someday.

But we have been down many "roads" in the last year. In total, 685 posts have been published (including this one). That's about two a day. I'd say that's fairly impressive considering I run this blog by myself. Over the course of the year our readership has done nothing but go up and up. We're at around 36,000 pageviews and every month we're receiving more hits than the previous month. Currently we have 12 people following the blog. One goal for next year is to increase 1LR's connectivity with other geek blogs and to increase the number of followers.
I'm obviously still jealous of this complete set...

Several reoccurring "columns" have become regulars on 1LR. The first is "Geek Gear." From Deadpool Kool-Aid T-Shirts to Star Trek Enterprise Pizza Cutters, if I see it and think it's cool geek swag, I report on it.

Next is "The Great Debate." I've written several of these columns this past year, often sparked by discussions I have with fellow geeks.

Another reoccurring "column" is Gaming Notes. I play a LOT of games and I share some of the more interesting sessions. I hope you enjoy reading. Perhaps you've gotten a few good ideas for an RPG game or heard about a board or card game that sounded like fun that you'd want to try.

A Maxi-Series of reviews I'm doing is called Marvel Media Mania. Basically, I'm reviewing every single Marvel live-action television show, cartoon, movie, made-for-TV movie, direct-to-DVD, or internet release EVER. It's quite an undertaking. So far, I've reviewed every property under the Midnight Sons banner (Blade, Dr. Strange, Ghost Rider, Man Thing), the Men in Black movies and show, Avengers-related properties (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Nick Fury, etc.), Spider-Man related properties (Spidey himself and Spider-Woman), and now I'm on to the X-Men with an eye on the Fantastic Four and solo heroes in the near future. I've tried to be thoroughly exhaustive but if I've missed something please call it to my attention and I'll add it! Some of my reviews have stirred some controversy. Overall, I feel that the experience has been an interesting journey, causing me to watch some comic book properties that I would not have otherwise watched and giving some movies a second chance.

Another series I am in the middle of is How to Use 1,989 Valiant Comics. It's quite a challenge to use that many comics in truly useful ways. But 1LR is up to the challenge! I've taken a slight break from this series but trust me, I'll come back to finish it.

I also did a short series entitled, "What Do Your Dice Say About You?" I had fun psycho-analyzing the gaming personalities of gamers just from a picture of their dice. 

The Lost Road?
I also reviewed every single Lone Wolf RPG book available this past year. I'm a huge fan of the system and I hope LW fans don't think I'm a hater. Part of my job as an reviewer is to point out the good and the bad... and let's face it, Mongoose has put out some bad product for the Lone Wolf RPGs. I still hope that Mongoose continues to publish the books in the future, though. It's been over a year since we've seen a Lone Wolf RPG book out...

I'm just starting a series of reactions to each issue of Before Watchmen. I'm a big fan of the original trade. So far it seems that the creators are giving much reverence to the original which is good. I've been particularly impressed with the Silk Spectre series.

A few other "Tags" that have come up time and time again include Star Wars, Marvel, Super Hero Squad, RPGs, and movies.

What will the future bring for 1LR? You can expect more of the same... I'll try to deliver geeky opinions in the manner you've come to expect. More reviews. More gaming notes. More geek gear.

If you've got an idea of something you'd like to see on 1LR, let me know! YOU can help shape the direction of the 1LR empire!

Thank you for being a reader... because of you it makes it all worthwhile.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Marvel Superhero Squad TCG: Set Lists Online

Arctic Iron Man
If you're a fan of the Marvel Super Hero Squad card game - either the digital one online or the real-world cards - then you've got to check out this link: http://superherosquadonline.wikispaces.com/Test. Isawan send this to me and it is simply great.

The Marvel Super Hero Squad Online Wiki has tons of great information and I use it all of the time for a reference. But this little gem is pretty well hidden.

What it gives you is a sortable list of every card from the real and digital sets. The listings give you every piece of information you could possibly want for each card including complete card texts.

White Phoenix
But here's the REALLY awesome thing. I don't know how the folks at Super Hero Squad Online Wiki got their advanced information but they have the card list for the upcoming Hero's Destiny release! To filter the cards to see only the 130 core cards from the expansion (without the 4 loot cards, that is) change "UD Set" to "2" (UD Set stands for Upper Deck Set).

What's amazing is that the MSHS WIki folks have cards listed for Upper Deck sets 3 and 4 as well! These lists don't look complete and I'm sure they'll do a lot of updating in the coming months. They have UD 5 listed but that only has loot cards in it... perhaps some of the loot cards that are scheduled to come out in set 2, 3, or 4 but they don't know where to put them. If so, we're in store for two more ultra-rare playable characters for the online game: White Phoenix and Arctic Iron Man!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #1 Reaction

Silk Spectre #1
Silk Spectre #1 is the second Before Watchmen book to be released.

Wow. Check out that cover. Amanda Connor and Paul Mounts put together a great image. I love the use of positive and negative spaces as well as using the black portions of the costume for a collage. There's really a lot there. But I'm drawn to the Silk Spectre's face and fist.. that speaks volumes. And, almost unnoticed, is the snowglobe in the lower center.

The snow globe is used in the same manner as the semicircles in Minutemen #1. On the first page, the narration goes on as the "camera" zooms into the snow globe. It then becomes a metaphor for the characters when the father figure is removed. On page three, the shattered snow globe lies in the foreground with a ring of light where the glove would have been highlighting the missing father and mother and daughter clutch one another on the couch. I mean... how do you draw an ABSENCE of something? The moment is brilliant and the scene hits a strong emotional cord.

Throughout the entire book I'm repeatedly blown away by Amanda Connor's art. Her facial expressions convey so much meaning. On the third panel of the tenth page of the story, the mother's concerned/desperate expression says more than ten narration boxes could. Connor's panels are full of background and foreground objects - no "motion lines" or solid color backgrounds like a lot of artists use to speed up the process. I personally am a big fan of this. She really nails a lot of the details from the 1960's such as the clothing the characters are wearing and even technology such as telephones and cars. The end result is the characters feel grounded in reality.

The writing is also nothing short of brilliant. The book is really without any "action" at all (except one brief "training exercise" the mother makes Laurie go through) but there's not a dull moment in it. The two main story threads of the issue - the tension between Laurie and her mother and Laurie's budding relationship with Greg - are both swifty and clearly defined in the first few pages of the story.

But the really memorable moment in this comic comes on Laurie and Greg's date to the soda shop. I don't want to ruin the moment for anyone who hasn't read the issue but I will say that it is quite possibly the cruelest thing I've ever seen one character do to another character in a comic. When I read it, I had to stop and share the moment with the guys I was with at that moment. When I recounted the moment, everyone's mouths fell open and their eyes bulged wide. The issue is worth triple the price just for that one moment. Just... wow.

So, as you can tell, I'm completely blown away by Silk Spectre #1. I am particularly impressed with Amanda Connor as she both did the art and co-scripted the issue. Before Watchmen is off to a very promising start.

The Crimson Corsair backup (part 2) is once again two pages. I love the coloring. The pages are almost entirely black and white except for a few muted reds such as the coat of a sailor. The art is generally capable but feels far too crowded with panels inside panels and sometimes no gutters between panels. Still, the storyline takes a dramatic turn this issue with a failed impromptu mutiny attempt... I'm interested to see where the story goes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG: Second Set - Hero's Destiny

One of the cards from Hero's Destiny.
Upper Deck has solicited the second card release for the Marvel Super Hero Squad Trading Card Game - Hero's Destiny. It is set to release on August 16, 2012. You can preorder it here.

The set is suppose to be 130 cards but, as with the last set, it is actually 134 cards... the 130 does not include the four "loot" cards. The card breakdown is 42 common cards, 42 uncommon cards, 36 rare cards, and

10 super rare cards. 46 rare or super rare cards seems to be a bit much for a 130 card set to me. That's over 1/3!

Anyway, some of the cards from the set will be the same as their digital counterparts such as the Black Panther card, Mysteries of Vibranium and Warmachine's Boomcannon.

I can't wait to get my hands on this second wave of MSHS TCG cards!