Friday, August 31, 2012

Geek Gear: Captain America's Shield Bottle Opener

Captain America's shield bottle opener
Geeks must have a lot of bottles to open. First, there was the Star Trek Enterprise bottle opener. Then the Death Star bottle opener. Now, Captain America's shield, that blazing symbol of truth, justice, the American way, and cold refreshment served in a glass bottle with a cap that requires a bottle opener, can be used to satisfy your thirst!

Now when your friend asks you to toss him the bottle opener you can try to bank it off of three or four surfaces on its way to him!

Fighting Nazis (and thirst) since the 1930's!

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark - Review Summary

1LR has dissected the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark by examining several significant components of the show. Let's review -

Music got a 17 out of 20 - a Solid Hit!
Story got a 15 out of 20 - a Hit!
Costumes got a 14 out of 20 - a Hit!
Sets got a 18 out of 20 - A Solid Hit!
Action got a 20 out of 20 - A Critical Hit!
And, although it wasn't rated, the entire experience of attending a Broadway musical at the Foxwood Theatre was delightful, from the magnificent architecture to the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff.

But how did these disparate pieces fit together? Well, as you might imagine, with every component of the show being rated positively, the overall experience of the show was very enjoyable. 

One thing that I didn't mention previously was how funny the show is. Although the general tone of the show is pretty heavy and somber there are a few very funny moments to break the tension. The Green Goblin seems to deliver most of these moments. At one point, he is trying to call in a threat to the Daily Bugle only to be thwarted by an automated receptionist. In another funny scene, he sings the song "I'll Take Manhattan," to  illustrate his intent to literally take it over. 

J. Jonah Jameson is also used for some comedic relief. His character is largely inspired by J.K. Simmons's performance in the Spider-Man movies and he constantly terrorizes his employees with his over the top antics.

Sure, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark isn't without its flaws. At times the story meanders a little, the Sinister Six are underutilized, the script is a little too much like the movies, and some slight tweaks to the origin story make it less emotionally significant.

But don't buy the hype that this show is a joke. It may have had its share of struggles getting off the ground but the final product is a serious and truly unique interpretation of a character that's been reinvented a hundred times before. 
Jennifer Damiano The cast during curtain call for "Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark" Return to Broadway first preview performance at the Foxwoods Theatre on May 12, 2011 in New York City.
The cast and characters of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
Bottom line: Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is a must-see for any Spidey fan. Casual fans, fans of theater, and children are also all likely to enjoy this awe-inspiring show.

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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

*Groan* Chaos! Returns? Seriously?

Evil Ernie #1
Thanks a lot, Valiant Comics. You've inspired Dynamic Entertainment and Dynamite to bring back Chaos! Comics! Yeah, you remember that company that published such *gag* high-quality works like Evil Ernie and Lady Death? Yeah, that's the one.

I'm sure there are some folks somewhere who applaud this return but I can't imagine who is actually looking forward to it. Haven't these characters been given their 15 minutes of fame? Didn't they fail miserably? Why bring them back (except to make a quick buck)? Does anybody genuinely expect these comics to be GOOD?

To me, companies such as Valiant and Chaos! were responsible for fueling the "Comic Book Bubble" of the 90's. They mass-produced garbage comics that bloated that wore out the fans, cluttered shelves, and ultimately crashed the industry, taking quite a few comic book shops with them.

Do we need to have these failed companies back, especially since so many NEW companies and concepts have come along that are so fantastic?

Obviously, I would resolutely say, "No!" especially since it doesn't seem like Chaos! is going to be operating under any different rules. Evil Ernie ships with four covers! Yay! *gag*

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark - Action Review

Sure, the story, music, sets and costumes were all great in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark but isn't it really all about the action? That's what people are really plopping down their hard earned greenbacks for.

Spidey action!
Well, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark delivers in spades! And it doesn't wait for Spidey to show up to deliver it!

Two early songs, "Bullying by Numbers," and, "Bouncing Off the Walls," feature some early action. Of course, "Bullying by Numbers," features Peter Parker being tormented by Flash and his bully squad. But Peter soon gains his spider powers and "Bouncing Off the Walls" has Peter literally jumping around the walls and ceiling of his room, exploring his new might. He then runs into Flash again, but this time it's a really cool live-action slow motion sequence that is meant to demonstrate Peter's increased reflexes and Spider-Sense power.

It's soon thereafter that Spider-Man swings onto the scene! That first moment when Spidey swings off the stage and over the crowd is a truly magical one. In what amounts to a montage, we see Spidey stopping petty crooks and criminals. Doubles are used to create the illusion that Spidey has super speed - one minute he's swinging across the theater, the next he's standing in the crowd, firing webs over their heads.

In the second act, Spidey uses the Sinister Six like appetizers before the entree. In a quick succession of scenes Spidey defeats one after another, leaving only the Green Goblin as the sole threat remaining.

Spidey and the Green Goblin tangle in mid-air.
The final fight sequence with the Green Goblin is shocking in its complexity. Spider-Man and the Green Goblin zoom around the theater in a complicated series of exchanges. I was awed by the mere fact that they could somehow achieve this feat without crossing and tangling their wires. At one point, Spidey actually lands on top of the Green Goblin. Of course, Spidey is victorious but the real winners are the audience that get to delight in this stunning action sequence.

The success or failure of this show depended solely on the strength of the action and at every turn it delivered.

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark - Sets Review

It's strange to say this, but the sets for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark were one of the best things about the entire production.
Aerial fabric acrobats from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
The stage itself is incredibly complex. It is outfitted with conveyor belts and sections that raise and lower, going below the stage. Ramps can be raised and lowered. There are dozens of large set pieces that move and shift throughout the show.

But, of course, the action isn't all on the stage. Really, the action takes place around the entire theater. There are various access doors, landing platforms, and the wires (for webswinging stunts) throughout the entire theater. This makes watching the production an immersive experience. Your attention is constantly being drawn away from the stage and to various locations throughout the theater. The crowd gets showered with webbing. Spider-Man runs through the aisles, pausing to give a few fist bumps to some eager young fans. 
Norman's lab (concept art)
The first sequence with Arachne features some aerial fabric acrobats actually weaving a massive tapestry as horizontal cloth shoots between the carefully timed acrobats. The result is a stunning visual that really sets the tone for the show - this is going to be a no-holds barred experience.

In a "normal scene" such as Peter's classroom or inside Peter's house the walls and set pieces all are done in a hand-drawn, abstract comic book style full of distorted proportions and impossible angles. At first they appear to be two dimensional. That is, until characters actually interact with them, like sitting down on a couch that you could swear was just a flat wooden stand up. Paying homage to the medium of the source material only earns brownie points with me. But more than that, the sets just seem to work. They set the audience's expectations for the show - a sheer fantasy thrill ride. The sets say, "In this world, the fantastic is possible." 

Empire State Building
from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
The set that is perhaps the most stunning is the Chrysler Building set. This perspective-twisting set features an absolutely massive Chrysler Building. But it's not standing upright - instead, it's raised at an angle. The wall behind it becomes the street below, complete with moving cars. This puts the audience at the perspective of being above New York in the air looking down upon the city. The Spider-Man action that ensues then showcases him wallcrawling on the Chrysler Building and webswinging around.

The Spider-Man dance sequence
Another brilliant set is featured during the song, "Anywhere but here." Peter and Mary Jane walk home from school together and as they go, this incredibly complex series of two dimensional houses are quickly and smartly folded, unfolded, and refolded. At one point, the houses are arranged as to give the perspective of looking down a long street (biggest houses closer). At another point, the houses are refolded to make it appear that MJ and Peter are standing very close to a row of houses. After the houses had been refolded about 20 times, I was stunned when they opened the doors on two of the houses and stepped into the unfolding interiors of their houses, complete with actors playing Uncle Ben, Aunt May, and Mary Jane's father in additional to various set pieces! I know I can't describe it with enough to detail to convey how complicated this set piece. The final revelation of the house interiors is something akin to a magic trick. You just scratch your head and say, "How did they do that?" 

Projected image on multiple moving screens
The show uses a series of projectors to enhances the sets as well. When this is combined with moving set pieces this sometimes makes it difficult to tell what is real and what is projected. The perfect example of this is the Spider-Men dance number. The scene starts out with one Spider-Man on stage, going through a dance routine. Behind him, multiple long vertical screens are being projected on as they move and slide around the stage. Then, from behind one is revealed a Spider-Man. At first I thought it was merely being projected until he steps forward and starts dancing as well. This is repeated until the stage is filled with Spider-Men. It's a mesmerizing scene and it uses the projector technology almost as a slight-of-hand trick on the audience. 

Just the sheer diversity and scope of the different sets is impressive. The show's designers didn't go for the quick, simple or easy in most cases. They pushed the envelope at every turn and the result is a visual candy store. 

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

Geek Gear: Watchmen Rorschach Toaster

Rorschach Toaster
Hurm. Are you seeing things in your food? Perhaps Mary or Jesus? Well, you can now see anything your twisted psyche can project onto random black blobs thanks to this Watchmen toaster! As you can see, it prints a blob on your toast, just like a Rorschach Test that inspired the character design for Rorschach!

As cool as this toaster is, it would be even cooler still if it made a DIFFERENT blob every time you made toast instead of the same shape over and over again.

The Watchmen Splotch
The Dynamic Forces solicitation in Previews states that this is the first in a line of collector toasters. SERIOUSLY? Who out there is looking to collect toasters? Sure, I understand picking one up just to give yourself a giggle every morning but to collect an entire line of them? Insanity!

The ad smartly advises that you might want to eat your toast with a cold can of beans just like Rorschach does. I personally would say that you should put a single splotch of red jelly in the corner. See if you can get the shape just right.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG: Intangible

1LR continues to highlight the best all-new cards from Hero's Destiny, the new expansion set for the Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG!
Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG
Hero's Destiny:

Intangible is a power level six blue card featuring Kitty Pryde that can do up to four damage. This X-Men card has a red block and after two damage it becomes a keeper with the ability to reduce the damage your opponent's keepers do by one.

This is one of those cards that has a really powerful ability... sometimes. If your opponent doesn't have any keepers that do damage, this card is reduced to being either an expensive four points of blue damage or a red block in your hand.

But if  your opponent does have keepers that do damage, Intangible severely restricts them. Some, like Storm's "Electrical Storm" and Iron Man's "Repulsor Rays" would be reduced to useless lumps - keepers that don't do anything at all. Other keepers that do more than one damage would be shrunk down to the point where they're not so worrisome. If you had multiple copies of this in play then almost any keeper (except perhaps Asgard's Thunder) could be completely nullified.

While I can't see putting this card in many decks, a damage reduction deck could be a distinct possibility. Combine this with Adamantium Bones (which reduces all damage from attacks to four or less) and Body of Steel (which causes all of your opponent's attacks to be -1) and you might have the beginnings of something.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG: Arm Wrestling

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG
Hero's Destiny:
Arm Wrestling

1LR continues to bring you the newest and most innovative cards from Hero's Destiny, the new expansion to the Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG!

Arm Wrestling is a Red Hulk card that can do up to four damage. It is a level five card with a gray block. Typically, four damage has a power level of two, meaning this card's ability costs three. That fact makes this card INCREDIBLY broken.

To be honest, this was another card that I dismissed at first glance. You pay two cards from your hand to do a maximum of eight damage? That's lousy! A power level five card is capable of doing seven damage on its own!

But then I realized that it's the discarded card's EFFECT that you'd really be playing for.

Here's the scenario: You play Arm Wrestling, do at least two damage, and discard, say, Asgard's Thunder. Asgard's Thunder hits for at least two and suddenly you've got a LEVEL 13 KEEPER THAT DOES UP TO SIX DAMAGE EVERY ROUND! And the power level is only five at this point in the game!

You can combine this with any card with an incredibly powerful ability - Arm Wrestling effectively allows you to backdoor them and play them at power level 5! The possibilities are endless - Infinity Blaster, The Critical Phase, Sweet Dreams, Eternal Rage, Slice in Half, Erase Your Destiny, Beyond Defeat... you can play them all and trigger their effects at power level five thanks to Arm Wrestling!

Now, some of them will do less damage than they normally would but you'd be really going for the massive effects.

Combo this with other cards that allow you to play cards from your discard pile, deck, or hand and you've got a dream for someone who plays combo decks.

Yet another completely off the charts card brought to you by Hero's Destiny!

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark - Costumes Review

Costumes for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
Costumes in Spider-Man really ran the gamut from ordinary to truly unique, faithful to the comics to original, serious to laughable.

Notice the air-brush effects
on Spidey
The costumes for the "ordinary" characters (Mary Jane, Aunt May, Uncle Ben, Peter, Flash, etc.) were... ordinary. They spoke to the characters (Peter dressed pretty nerdy, scientist Norman Osborne wears a white lab coat, while Flash and his goons' dress was jock-y and trendy)  but weren't outstanding in any way... which is good, I guess, that they weren't "noticeable" since if the audience noticed them it would most likely be for the wrong reasons.
Now, for the superhuman characters the costumes were anything but ordinary.

First, let's look at Spider-Man. How do you do something original with a costume that has been reimagined at least a hundred times? Well, the production crew managed to keep the most essential elements while making their own marks at the same time. They kept the classic coloring scheme of red and blue (even giving each color a specific meaning as Arachne inspires Peter to choose those colors). The basic outline of the costume is very similar - webs over red boots, red chest and hands, red mask with everything else blue. The colors are a little less bright than in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies. The webs are white instead of black. Spidey's mask is largely unchanged, perhaps closest to Todd McFarlane's wide-eyed Spider-Man. The chest emblem is large and has a red spot on the abdomen of the Spider. But probably the most unique element they added was the air-brushed effects. Notice how there is not a distinct line between the red and blue. Instead, one bleeds into the other gradually. There are even red streaks going down Spider-Man's legs.

While Spider-Man's costume was merely tweaked, the Green Goblin's costume is a radical departure from any version seen before. This Green Goblin mutates his own DNA so this isn't a costume he can take off and put back on - it's a whole new body for him. A variety of bright greens and some yellowish colors cover every inch of the costume from head to toe. It has the feeling of plated armor with many layers overlapping and jutting out. Spikes stick up from his shoulders and forearms. But the face is the best part of the costume - features like the chin, nose, cheeks and forehead are exaggerated, allowing the actor to show emotion even though his entire face is covered. The final result is a creepy looking insect creature that is one part menace and one part clown (he has a number of very funny moments in the show).

As for Hammerhead and the Sinister Six, the results are mixed at best. Hammerhead and his goons are the villains that Spider-Man fights in his public debut so they are shown to be completely black-and-white to highlight the bright focus of Spider-Man streaking across the sky. The depiction is extremely faithful to the comics. Like a lot of the villains, the actor wears a huge, stylized exaggerated head to make them look more like comic book characters.

The Sinister' Six + Green Goblin
(From left to right - Electro, Carnage, Green Goblin, Miss Swiss, Swarm, Kraven, Lizard)
Kraven the Hunter is done in the same manner (oversized head and exaggerated comic book features). His costume is a very faithful translation from the comics and instantly tells you everything you need to know about the character.

Carnage may have had the coolest costume in the show. It's a shame he had such a minor role in the play! His symbiote was expressed visually with red swirls all over his costume and red, curling tendrils coming off his body that swayed when he moved. Creepy eyes and a mouth nearly jumped out of this red outfit.

Electro's costume wasn't much different than his traditional yellow-and-green duds. He sparkled a bit. In his hands he had some spark projectors of some type but the effect is just too pathetically tiny to convey any real threat for Spidey.

Miss Swiss
The Lizard was perhaps the worst costume in the show. It was laughable, really. Essentially, there's a giant blow-up alligator coming out of the midsection of a man standing up. The lizard's lab coat is thrown over the man's head. The end result is this awkward half-man, half-balloon thing that seemed to have two heads.
Swarm (design illustration)

Swarm was, likewise, an awful character design. The entire suit was head-to-toe yellow and black stripes. Randomly, sticks stuck out at all angles with a little bee on the end of it. When Swarm moved, the bees bounced around. But the costume just didn't convey that Swarm is MADE of bees. Perhaps if bees had been all over the costume this would have gotten across. The end result just looked silly. There weren't enough bees to make Swarm look threatening.

Miss Swiss is the only original character for the show. Her design was over the top with lots of spinning and swirling blades. The effect was visually interesting on the stage but you wondered how this person went to the bathroom or blew their nose. The blade and spike on one kneecap shows just how over the top they went with this costume.

Perhaps the best costume of the entire show, however, is Arachne. Arachne undergoes an evolution throughout the show, starting out as a normal human and being transformed into a full fledged spider before our eyes. The mechanical spider arms extend out from behind her and truly move like spider legs. I know I keep raving about Arachne but every aspect of this character was the best Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark had to offer.

But the worst costume of the show wasn't even a costume. It was Bonesaw, as played by an inflatable wrestler controlled by a stage hand dressed in black! That's right - the wrestler that Spider-Man fights isn't a human wearing a costume at all but rather a gigantic blow-up doll! The moment is truly awful, the low point of the show.

So, as you can see, the costumes range for simply ludicrous to ludicrously amazing. But the main characters (Spider-Man, Green Goblin, Arachne) are all done extremely well.

1LR REVIEW - 14 out of 20! It's a Hit!

Marvel Media Mania: X-Men: The Last Stand

X-Men: The Last Stand is the third and final X-Men film in the original trilogy, released in 2006. Instead of being directed by Bryan Singer like the first two films, it was directed by Brett Ratner.
X-Men: The Last Stand
At the time of this film's release, it was much maligned by fans. I think this is due, in large part, to a sense of betrayal when Singer jumped ship for Superman. Ratner was a hasty choice and the story does seem to suffer slightly with a substitute director being tossed onto the project at the last moment.

Perhaps the biggest criticism of this film that is justified is that it adds to many new mutants to the mix without fully developing any of them. The Beast, Archangel, Juggernaut, Multiple Man, Callisto, Psylocke, Arclight, Kid Omega, and Leech (among many others) are all new characters introduced in this film. Additionally, other characters that previously had minor roles such as Kitty Pryde and Colossus rise to prominence. Meanwhile, the mutant Nightcrawler (from the second movie) is summarily dumped without a mention.

This gives the film an overly-full feeling that gives you small glimpses into many characters but not allowing the audience to invest emotionally into any one of them. Honestly, I didn't even know Psylocke was in this film until I read the credits (she's never mentioned by name to my knowledge and doesn't demonstrate her signature psy-blades). Some of the new mutants such as Kid Omega just seemed silly - he can extend quills from his face which just seems like a worthless power when fighting, say, Wolverine or Storm. Multiple Man misses the climax of the film altogether. Archangel is the character that best exemplifies this aspect of the film. The audience is given an emotional introduction to a teenage Warren as a kid shaving off his own wings but then he pretty much disappears from the film. He saves his father from falling and quickly exits stage left.

But I find that there's a lot to love about this film.

First and foremost is the gutsiness of it. No holds were barred in this movie and the status quo certainly wasn't returned! At the beginning of the first film there are only three X-Men - Jean, Cyclops, and Storm (with the Professor as well) and the only two villains to carry through all three films are Mystique and Magneto. By the end of this film, Jean and Cyclops are dead (for good), the Professor is dead (but apparently comes back), Rogue is powerless, Magneto is all-but powerless, Mystique is powerless. In a successful franchise such as the X-Men, this type of bold change is all but unheard of. To unspoiled audience, these shocks are genuinely shocking, something that is all too rare in the movies these days.

This film also has a strong number of truly memorable scenes. When Storm and Wolverine go to investigate at Alkali Lake, the heavy fog and randomly floating rocks set a tense tone. Magneto's "rescue" of Mystique is brutal and shows how the character has evolved (in the first movie he spares cops while here he kills them without a thought). When Mystique is depowered, revealing the beautiful Rebecca Romijn, he turns his back and says it is a shame because, "She was so beautiful." Ouch! When Wolverine kills Jean it is a truly emotional moment.

Then there's the Danger Room sequence. This scene just screams to fanboys, "We're here to make you happy!" In one short scene we are give the Sentinels, the Danger Room, and the Fastball Special - all of which hadn't made themselves onto film before. There are a number of other geek-moments in the film such as when Iceman fully realizes his powers in full-on Iceman mode.

As far as acting, I'd say that Kelsey Grammer as the Beast, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Famke Janssen as the Phoenix, and Ian McKellen as Magneto all turn in great performances. Grammer was a natural choice for the Beast - his voice is perfect. Jackman shows emotional range in a number of touching moments including his final talk with Rogue. Janssen, however, rises head and heals above her compatriots and puts in her best performance in the series and solidifies her status as a Sci-Fi babe. While certainly CGI enhanced, when she slides back and forth between the Phoenix and Jean personalities, you can see the struggle for control on her face. And Ian McKellen puts in another brilliantly subtle and nuanced performance, illustrated best when he laments the murder of the Professor that he had allowed to happen.

At the end of the day, X-Men: The Last Stand is a film of great ambition. It would have been a stronger film had it pared down the cast of characters a bit but I applaud the fact that is strove to end the trilogy with a bang.

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

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG: Widow's Bite

Marvel's Super Hero Squad TCG's new expansion, Hero's Destiny, was chock full of brand new cards and 1LR continues to bring the best of them to you!
Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG
Hero's Destiny:
Widow's Bite

Widow's Bite is a level five blue card with a green block. It features Black Widow and can do up to five damage. It has a chance of being completely unblockable by guessing the factor on top of your opponent's deck. There is no team affiliation with this card.

This card is very similar to the Human Torch's "Some Like It Hot." That card has the same power level, is unblockable, but only does three damage. Does the extra two damage justify the "Choose a factor," condition?

In my opinion, yes.

If it was a pure guessing game and you had no information about your opponent's deck, it would be a one in six (17%) chance that this card is unblockable. While not a sure-thing, that's not bad. If you guess incorrectly, this card will still be able to do five damage, it will just be stoppable.

But chances are you won't be choosing a factor blindly. Many decks lean on one or two factors more heavily than the others, thus dramatically increasing your odds of choosing the correct factor.

But why guess at all? This would be a great card to hold until you have seen the top card of your opponent's deck. There are plenty of cards such as Ace of Hearts and Inferno Missile that cause your opponent to reveal the card himself.

So Widow's Bite is a great because it's cheap and unblockable. And remember, 5 damage is 1/8 of your opponent's entire deck!

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark - Story Review

How can a comic book hero with a fifty year comic book history have his story adapted for the stage?

Some of the best parts of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark were inspired not from comic books but from classic theater. In classic Greek theater, the Greek Chorus narrated the story, carried the themes forward, and gave the audience background information to move the story forward. Shakespeare used the Three Witches (or Weird Sisters or Sister Fates) in his play Macbeth for much the same function. In Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark Arachne serves in this role.
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark pits Spidey against the Green Goblin

The play opens with Peter Parker giving a report on the myth of Arachne. Arachne challenges the goddess Athena to a weaving contest and wins, only to be turned into the first spider because she blasphemed the gods. Thematically, the idea of a human being transformed into an animal is mirrored by Norman Osborne's experiments in human-animal DNA hybrids.

Arachne then revisits Peter throughout the play, guiding him toward the heroic path, telling him to "rise above" his own concerns and doubts and to do the right thing.

Some of the plot was obviously directly inspired by the first two Spider-Man films. First, the characters are almost identical: Peter, Mary Jane, Flash Thompson Norman Osborne, Aunt May, Uncle Ben, Robbie Robertson and J. Jonah Jameson. Notably absent was Harry Osborne. It would have been nice to use other characters such as Felicia Hardy, Liz Allen, Ned Leeds, Jean DeWolff, Glory Grant, or Gwen Stacy.

The storyline closely mirrors the first two movies, sometimes almost scene by scene. Peter gets bit, comes home sick, and wakes up with amazing powers, just like the first movies. He wrestles with Bonesaw (not Crusher Hogan like the comics), just like the movie. He fights the Green Goblin (who invites Spider-Man to join him), just like the first movie. He quits being Spider-Man at one point and his costume ends up on J. Jonah Jameson's wall, just like in the second movie. Peter and Mary Jane romance one another, but Peter is always absent and misses the opening of her play, just like the movies. I could go on and on!

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark's
Miss Swiss
Now I don't want to make it sound like the ENTIRE play is exactly like the movie. There are certainly a fair number of original elements as well. Spider-Man:Turn Off the Dark features not one villain but EIGHT (and the villainous group, Viper)! When Spider-Man is first testing out his powers he stops bank robbers lead by the villain Hammerhead. Then, of course, Norman Osborne becomes the Green Goblin. Osborne then turns all of his lab assistants into superhumans as well, making the Sinister Six! The Sinister Six is comprised of Carnage, the Lizard, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, Swarm, and the all-new character,  Miss Swiss! Miss Swiss is a walking Swiss Army Knife with spinning blades all over. All of the Sinister Six is very underdeveloped and are dispatched in several quick scenes, however. Strangely Spider-Man never learns about Viper, the group responsible for pushing Osborne into making his DNA hybrid creations. This leaves the major bad guy organization behind the whole thing off scott free - an odd loose end in the story.

While the plot is extremely full with many different elements, it (for the most part) seems to smoothly weave them together and flow from one to the next. There are times that seem to be fast-forwarded over that I wish had been given more attention, such as Uncle Ben's death and funeral (in the play, the origin is changed slightly and Spidey never has a chance to stop the thief, lessening the impact of the scene. Also, Spidey never tracks down his uncle's killer!). The theme of rising above adversity and your own limitations is seen brightly throughout the play, which helps tie the entire show together.

The finished product was much stronger than reports of the initial story before extensive revisions. While not perfect, the plot balances character, story, and action very nicely.

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

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Geek Gear: Batarang and Grapnel Gun Replicas

Batman Begins Grapnel Gun

Batman Begins Batarang
Prop replicas - how I love you. Let me count the ways. 1) Batarang. 2) Grapnel Gun. Sigh. Love at first sight.

Previously, I had shared a Batarang prop from the Arkham City video game. While I think that one was actually cooler because Batman's hand holding it and the LED lights turned it into a central piece for any room, I think the more subdued framed Batarang presented here is a more subtle approach. 

The Batarang measures nine inches long while the grapnel gun is 16 inches long! They don't come cheap but they'll look amazing on your wall!

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG: Ankylosaurus Tail

1LR continues to bring you great, all-new cards from the Hero's Destiny expansion of the Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG! 

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG
Hero's Destiny:
Ankylosaurus Tail
Ankylosaurus Tail, besides being hard to spell, introduces an interesting new mechanic into the game. It is a power level 3 green card that can do up to 4 damage. It features the character Reptil. If it does two damage, it becomes a keeper. The unique thing with this card is that it lacks an actual keeper effect. Meaning, as a keeper it doesn't do damage, augment other cards, or increase the power level. The card states, "When you do at least 2 damage with a red or orange attack, return this keeper to your hand." Essentially, this takes the boomerang mechanic from cards such as Spider-Man's "You Can Count On Me" and adds it to a keeper. The ultimate effect is that you get to retain a card that would have otherwise been discarded. For this privilege you lose a single point of damage potential (a level 3 card would normally do five damage). When you look at it that way, it's not terrible. Cards that benefit from having multiple keepers in play would, of course, benefit from this card. I find it unlikely that many opponents would block this innocuous keeper, nor will it provoke your opponent to destroy it. The down side is that it will leave play when you do two red or orange damage. If you're merely looking for a keeper to take up space to boost other cards, you could do worse than this card. After all, it won't misfire on you and go away. It might be worth considering using this card in a deck with no red or orange attacks, thus removing the condition that causes it to leave play. I could see this card being using in a boomerang deck with cards such as the previously mentioned, "You Can Count On Me." As an orange card, "You Can Count On Me" would trigger Ankylosaurus Tail, thus returning two cards to your hand. This discard-pile starvation strategy would leave you plenty of cards in your hand to block with. This new mechanic is an interesting one. At first, it seems almost worthless but it may be worth a second look.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG: Right X-Man for the Job

1LR continues to bring you the best new cards from the Hero's Destiny expansion to the Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG!
Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG
Hero's Destiny:
Right X-Man for the Job

Right X-Man for the Job is a green X-Men card featuring Cyclops. It has a purple block, is level six and does up to four damage. If you do three damage, it allows you to reveal the top three cards of your deck, put an X-Men card into your hand and then put the rest on the bottom of your deck in random order.

This is an interesting card and the primary draw is the card's special effect. By revealing the top three cards and drawing one, it allows you to effectively sift through your deck looking for the cards you need. It could be a certain block to stop your opponent, a essential keeper, or a certain attack. This mining is a powerful ability.

I would certainly only use this card in an all-X-Men deck to maximize my chances of getting cards I can put in my hand.

The language on the card is interesting. It says to "Put an X card from among them inot your hand." It DOESN'T say the word DRAW. To keen players of TCGs this distinction is a huge one. Would this card trigger the effect of E=Mr. Fantastic Squared (which is a keeper that hits for damage every time you draw a card). I would say in the strictest sense the answer is "NO," because you don't "draw" a card you "put" a card. Drawing is an action from the top of the deck, not from revealed cards.

For comparison, Rogue's Gallery is a very similar card. It has you draw two cards and then discard a card. This is a drawing action (actually, two drawing actions). It's a small difference but crucial for players to understand.

At the end of the day, I'm not sure that Right X-Man for the Job is a great card. It only does four damage, which a straight damage level two card can do so that means the card's ability costs four power. You also have to do three damage to trigger the ability - a feat that's twice as hard as only having to do two damage. And then you have to put the cards on the bottom of the deck in "random order." The card doesn't even let you decide what order to put the cards in! For just one more power you can draw two cards and keep them both with Mr. Fantastic's "Fantastic Idea" and that card triggers after two damage.

So while Right X-Man for the Job might find its place in some decks and could come in very handy at times, ultimately I think it might be just a little too costly for the benefits you get from it.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark - Music Review

Bono is the creative force behind Spider-Man's music
The music to Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was, of course, famously composed by Bono and The Edge, and U2 also gets credit for some of the songs. This is one of the things that first attracted a lot of attention to this production.

So when the curtains rose, I was keenly anticipating the music. Whatever you do, don't expect to go to this show to hear music done in the style of U2. Not to say the music is bad, but Bono gave the tunes their own style for this musical.

The songs carry a lot of emotional weight. Sometimes, such as in the first "Rise Above" and "No More," we feel how alone and trapped Mary Jane and Peter feel. The lyrics not only paint a picture of the daily lives of the main characters but also give you great insight into their thinking such as when, in "No More," Mary Jane sings, "Dad'll yell, tune him out, he's drunk by now, he has to shout... Let me disappear, or just be anywhere but here." "If the World Should End" shows us that this is no casual teenage romance - Peter and Mary Jane are rescuing each other. When Peter sings, "Everyday I feel the walls are closing in..." in "No More" it shows the brilliance of the lyrical arrangement because this not only reveals his mental state but also strikes a literal contrast to the later song, "Bouncing Off the Walls," when the walls to Peter's room literally move apart as he explores his new-found powers and leaps from wall to wall.

Arachne in full costume
At other times, the music soars high and is filled with frantic energy such as "Bouncing Off the Walls," and the soaring orchestra number that is played when Peter suits up and exuberantly swings around the theater for the first time, "NY Debut." Even

"DIY World," is inspirational with its grand vision of a future uptopia fueled by genetic modification.

Songs that highlight the villains have their own tone to them as well. "Sinistereo," slinks and slithers its way through enchanting, droning lyrics that seem more intent on using the sound of a syllable than the actual words the syllables make... until you listen carefully to the lyrics. "Pull the Trigger," has a aggressive military tone as goons cajole Norman Osborne into cooperation.

But without a shadow of a doubt, the best songs in the show belong to the Arachne character, played by Katrina Lenk. Ms. Lenk's voice is one of the most beautiful I have ever heard in my entire life. To add to that, she sings while suspended from wires dressed in a full body spider costume with moving mechanical legs. To add to the difficulty, she doesn't just hang their passively but rather does flips and twists at the same time she's belting out high notes. She sings the song that gives the show it's name, "Turn Off the Dark," and my skin broke out in goosebumps. The accompanying music isn't sonorous or grandiose but, instead, simply and understated - at times, just a rhythmic tapping on a xylophone. She also sings "Behond and Wonder" and "Rise Above." I'm not a judge on American Idol or anything so forgive my poor description. She is above to "warble" and stretch her voice, carrying a single word or syllable like a thread across a long range of notes. Since she appears only in Peter's mind and dreams, the effect is perfect - nearly hypnotic, yet strangely stirring.

The music is used for much more than just convey emotion, give background, and give us insights into the thoughts of the characters. It is also used to advance the plot in significant ways. "Picture This" leads to Osborne deciding to experiment on himself and "Venom" is sung as Peter receives the fateful bite from that special spider.

But that's not all - the theme of the show - rising above adversity - is carried almost entirely in the music. Two different versions of "Rise Above" are sung during the musical and the single most memorable lyric of the show is when Matthew James Thomas sang, in a soaring voice, "And you said, 'Rise above... yourself.'"

There are times, however, when the music feels uneven. There will be a moment where a lyric will deliver a profound, almost philosophical thought such as Mary Jane singing, "There's no time for sorrow, when there's no such thing as time," in the number "If the World Should End." " But at other times, the lyrics come off as being uninspired, such as, in the song "No More," when Peter sings, "And why do I need these stupid glasses?" The line leaves you wondering why Peter is whining about his glasses when Mary Jane is afraid for her life from her alcoholic abusive father.

Overall, the voices of the main cast were good but, with the exception of Ms. Lenk, not fantastic. The music doesn't disappoint and is has great depth. At times I would say some of the songs could have been a bit shorter but each song is unique and does a great job of setting and carrying the mood and tone of each scene.

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

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG: Back Off!

1LR continues to bring you a plethora of the great new cards in the Hero's Destiny expansion to the Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG.

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG
Hero's Destiny
Back Off!
Back Off! is a green Colossus X-Men team card with a blue block. It's level four and does up to four damage. If it does two damage, your opponent's cards are attack -2 damage their next turn.

This may not seem like a big deal, but it is HUGE. -2 damage effectively will reduce many of your opponent's card to the point they are unplayable, nearly worthless. Why? Well, many effects trigger within two points of the maximum damage of the card. Other cards will simply have their damage reduced to the point that they're ineffectual. Why would I play a power level 7 double icon card if I'm only going to deal  a maximum of 2 points of damage?

This is one of those cards that, on its own, would be very tempting to block even though it doesn't do massive damage. In a heavy green deck, this leaves your opponent open for more powerful green attacks later.

If this card's effect triggers, the end result is that it will likely force your opponent to pass their turn. This is where this card combines perfectly with a couple of the other Hero's Destiny cards - specifically, Spider-Woman's Come And Get Me and Arachnid Ambush. Both of these cards do damage to your opponent when they pass their attack, a condition that Back Off! is sure to bring about.

If you combined this card with Colossus's keeper, Body of Steel, that causes all of your opponent's cards to be -1 attack you can effectively shut your opponent's deck down, especially if they're relying on getting keepers into play.

A Colossus damage-control deck just got another great tool in its arsenal... and it's a COMMON!

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark - Broadway Experience

My wife, standing on raised stairs
outside the Foxwood Theatre.
The Foxwood Theatre on the 43rd street side
I recently told a friend that I had attended the Broadway play, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. He chuckled and then said, "Why?", as if to insinuate that the play was a horrible joke.

Sure, the Spider-Man show had some trouble getting off the ground with injuries and production delays. But let me assure you - the show is no joke.

The musical is playing at the Foxwood Theatre in New York City. The Foxwood Theatre is between 42nd and 43rd streets on Broadway, right near Times Square. That alone tells you that this show is no joke. It's been playing to sold out crowds for over a year now. Sure, it took $75 million to get this show off the ground (compared to the normal $10 million or so for a Broadway show) but that's because the show's creators were doing things that nobody else had done before. Whatever you say about Spider-Man,  you can't say it isn't ambitious! Besides, the show is taking in healthy box office totals (In its best week it took in nearly $3 million!).

I was so thrilled I tried to webswing (Webs away!).
We were going to the early show on a Saturday so we arrived early to pick up our tickets at Will Call. No problems at all there. We were in-and-out in no time at all.

During our wait until the show started, we toured around Times Square and even encountered Spider-Man himself at the three-story Toys R' Us! You could get your picture taken with Spider-Man for a "small" fee but we declined.

Upon returning to the theater we were shocked to find a long line winding down the street. It was completely blocking the fronts of multiple stores on that same side of the street. Apparently, we weren't the only ones anxious for the show either! You can actually enter the theater from either side - 42nd or 43rd streets.

My wife and I dressed up for the show as we normally would for the theater but the vast majority of the crowd was dressed casually. I noticed a lot of Spider-Man tee-shirts, of course.

My wife also tried to webswing... kinda
The crowd had a good deal of families in it. There were a lot of young kids in attendance. I found this hard to believe, especially since the cheapest seats in the house would cost you around $100 with the most expensive seats going for about $300! So a family of four could easily drop $600 on tickets alone!

We finally were let into the theater. The first thing you walk past after the box office windows is a little station selling Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark merchandise. Of course the prices were a bit jacked up but I couldn't resist buying the CD for the show. There are a good half dozen or so little merchandise kiosks throughout the theater, all offering the same basic merchandise. I would have loved to buy a T-shirt but they were just too much. They even have a full bar available!

Inside the Foxwood Theatre
After the merchandise desk we were greeted by Spider-Man himself! If you're willing, they take your picture with Spider-Man and they give you a card so you can check it out (and potentially purchase it) after the show. I've got to say, when it comes to things like this, I'm a kid again. It was so cool to get my picture taken with Spider-Man!

Finally, we made our way inside the actual auditorium of the theater. It's an impressive theater. The theater itself is awe-inspiring, both inside the auditorium and out. Don't think of your typical movie theater which has a flat floor. This theater is tiered into several layers and has balcony seating on the sides.

My wife and I sat in the upper balcony and we weren't disappointed. They say there isn't a bad seat in the house and I think that's mostly true, especially for this production when the action not only happens on the stage but also all around the whole theater. I'm sure shorter children might have difficulty seeing from some seats, the design of the theater is such that you can see the stage from any vantage point. It was only when the actors were at the extreme front edge of the stage that my wife and I had any impaired vision at all and even then we could still see the actors from the waist up.
The beautiful lobby to the Foxwood Theatre

I won't tell you about the show itself. I'll save that for my multi-part review coming in the next few days. I'll be reviewing and dissecting every aspect of the show - music, acting, costumes, action, etc.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark's Playbill
 But let's just say that fans, both young and old, were delighted by the show. I, of course, will never forget going. And I don't think I'm the only one. I remember, on our way out, seeing one young fan clutching something in his closed fist. His mother asked him, "What do you have there?" He cautiously opened his hand to reveal a tangled bunch of white string confetti. "Spider-Man's webbing," he said with awe. I am quite positive that the young in attendance will surely become lifelong Spider-Man fans.

More to come from One Lost Road's continued report from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark tomorrow!

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG: Arachnid Ambush

1LR continues to bring you all-new cars from the just-released Hero's Destiny expansion set to the Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG.
Marvel Super Hero Squad
Hero's Destiny
Arachnid Ambush

This card would be great if it was simply a level 5 double-icon attack for three damage. That alone is amazing, considering the "typical" double icon attack for 4 damage is a level 7 card. So right off the bat, Arachnid Ambush is a bargain. But then you add the ability to get a +2 if your opponent didn't attack you the last turn and this card turns into a downright steal. Arachnid Ambush is a Spider-Woman card on the Spider-Man "team" and it has a grey block.

As we mentioned yesterday, this card just has a natural synergy with another new Spider-Woman card, Come And Get Me. They both have the same game mechanic - a ability triggered by your opponent not attacking.

A lot of what I said about Come And Get Me applies to this card as well. It's a natural fit for some of the other Spider-Man team power control cards.

While Come and Get Me just sits there, hanging over your opponent's head, you're able to be a little sneakier with Arachnid Ambush. You can just hold this thing in your hand and wait for your opponent to skip a turn. It's nearly impossible to attack on EVERY turn (and sometimes it's just plain unwise to do so) so you're guaranteed to have an opening to use this card to its fullest potential even if you don't go the power-control route.

I could see this card working beautifully in a mono-green deck. Five damage with the ability to burn a few extra green blocks is hard to ignore.

I wonder how this mechanic would work with cards that allow you to take additional turns such as Deadpool's Strange Teleportation. The card's wording doesn't specifically state your OPPONENT'S last turn, it just says, "...didn't attack you last turn." With cards such as Strange Teleportation, you can take an entire extra turn - draw a card, flip the coin, keepers activate, the whole nine yards. So I would rule, if it was up to me, that Come And Get Me and Arachnid Ambush would both be triggered in this event.

Any way you cut it, Arachnid Ambush deserves serious consideration.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #2 Reaction

Ozymandias #2
The cover to the tenth Before Watchmen comic, Ozymandias #2, really bothers me. It's not the image itself. It's the fact that this is an image that grabs your attention and then disappoints you because it has NO connection to the actual story inside. Who is this woman? What does the cord around Adrian's neck symbolize? We don't even have a  hint to an answer. Great image but it would have been a better cover for Nite Owl #2.

Adrian picks up his quest to avenge his lover's drug-induced death. The two-page spread that shows Adrian taking out the thugs quick as lightning is absolutely great. All of the objects and figures are silhouettes against a background the same yellow as the cover. Jae Lee slips back to his old standby, the silhouette, in this issue far too often and it quickly gets old.

Ozymandias gets to deliver the famous lines from the poem that inspired his name in this comic which is a great moment. What a fantastically fitting scene, especially because we all know where the character ends up.

I was thrilled with the development the issue takes at the end. Hooded Justice is a mystery among mystery men and to have both Ozymandias and the Comedian (either together or as adversaries) trying to learn what became of him is almost too good to wait for.

In the backup story, The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, I'm a little bit sick of every installment beginning or ending with the main character unconscious. In this case, both are true. The "cliffhanger" endings where the main character is in mortal peril wear thin after awhile as well. Are they really going to kill him in the tenth installment of a series of 200+ pages? No, I sincerely doubt it.

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG: Come And Get Me

1LR is introducing some of the all-new cards now available through the Hero's Destiny expansion to the Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG.

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG
Hero's Destiny
Come And Get Me
Come And Get Me is a green Spider-Woman card in the Spider-Man "team." It has a level of 2 and can do up to 2 damage. At 2 damage, it becomes a keeper that strikes for 2 when your opponent doesn't attack on his turn. It has an orange blocking icon.

This card could have an important role to play in some concept decks. There are a number of cards and effects that are designed to prevent your opponent from attacking. Power-control decks use card abilities and keepers to keep the power artificially low in the game. Since you've build your deck knowing the power is going to be low and your opponent did not, he is often unable to play an attack on his turn because all of the cards in his hand are of higher level than the current power.

Often, a player will pass not because they can attack but because they want to build their hand size and save blocks. This card makes that option much less attractive, forcing your opponent to play cards with blocks they want to keep or to play cards when they're booster condition isn't met.

The fact that this card is a level 2 is amazing. To be able to do 2 damage means that it harder to misfire than a keeper that does one damage. Keeper cards that do 2 damage every turn are typically level 7.

As with most keepers, this effect is magnified when multiple keepers are in play simultaneously. So if you had two of these in play, your opponent would be looking at 4 damage just for not attacking!

So is this card a game breaker? No. I wouldn't look for this card to do massive damage to your opponent. But I would play it to control my opponent's behavior.

Combined with Arachnid Ambush (which we'll discuss tomorrow), Come And Get Me starts to take its place in a larger, power control Spider-Man team deck.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Video Game Art in Museum

The Art of Video Games
Until the end of September, the Smithsonian American Art5 Museum is showcasing "The Art of Video Games." The exhibit examines the progress of video games as a medium over the last 40 years. Video games are examined as an amalgamation of music, storytelling, and animation.

Are video games art? Of course they are! I wonder what Picasso or Michelangelo would have come up with if they had only be able to work in 8-bit technology? Would it have been any less brilliant? Everyone knows that today's video games can render realistic scenes but I don't think it's the realism that makes them art - it's the creative expression that goes into generating the images on the screen. What's interesting is, unlike most art, video game art must have a utilitarian aspect to it as well - it has to be usable.

Want to learn more? You can check it out here or watch the "trailer" below!

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG: Right Back at Ya!

1LR is introducing some of the all-new cards now available in the Hero's Destiny expansion to the Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG.

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG
Hero's Destiny:
Right Back at Ya!
We'll continue highlighting some of the excellent purple cards in this set. Right Back at Ya! is a Ms. Marvel Avengers can with a level of two. The damage potential is variable - double the amount of damage you took last turn. This card has a red block.

This card has amazing potential. This card's best may be as cheap retaliation. Power level four cards do a straight six damage so this card easily has the potential of a level eight card that would do twelve damage.

This is the type of card that, once your opponent learns you have it, it will force them to hold a purple block as a deterrent.

Under normal circumstances I wouldn't say that this card is a game-breaker. It is only a single color so it is quite easily blocked both by cards in the hand and in the deck.

I could see this card being another one that has great synergy with The Critical Phase. It has potential to be a have-to-block card which would clear purple blocks out of your opponent's hand, paving the way for The Critical Phase. Or, it could be played as the follow-up to The Critical Phase. Since both cards are purple, you'd know that your opponent would have already used his purple block on The Critical Phase, leaving him wide open for this card (which would then be unblockable).

On the completely unrealistic side, the card actually has the potential to do more damage than you're allowed to have cards in a deck. A deck is 40 cards. If your opponent played Eternal Might and did the maximum damage of 22, your retaliation the next round with Right Back at Ya! would have a damage potential of 44! Now, I can't possibly imagine a scenario in which this would actually occur, but I can routinely see players following up the round after they take 6 to 12 damage with this card, sending a threat of 12 to 24 damage back at their opponent!

And the really sick part is that it would only be a level 4 card!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: X2

X2: X-Men United is the 2003 sequel to the first X-Men film.
Poster shows a big X, within which are the faces of the film's main characters, and in the centre the film's name.
X2's opening sequence seats it in firmly on philosophical roots just like it's predecessor. Xavier muses about humanities inability to share the planet as a strange celestial being emerges from the stars (what was this? The character Eternity?). Then, a quote from Lincoln's inaugural address about unity is given, symbolizing both the divide between Xavier and Magneto and also the gap between mutants and humans. Such philosophical understructure is part of what makes these films so great.

The continuity between the first X-Men film and X2 is extremely tight. In the first movie, Xavier tells Wolverine of a base where he might finds some answers to his mysterious past so in X2, Wolverine is at the base, searching for elusive answers. There are some great moments in X2 that wouldn't make much sense if you hadn't seen the first film. At one point, Magneto makes a crack about Rogue's hair which upsets Rogue (Rogue got her white streak when Magneto almost killed her in the first film). At another point, Mystique morphs into Jean Grey and teases Wolverine. Wolverine realizes it is her when he discovers the scars he gave her in the first film.

This tight continuity lends much credibility to the second film and allows it the leisure of taking its time with its characters. So, even though the cast swells to include secondary characters such as Colossus, Jubilee, Kitty Pryde, William Stryker, Jason, Nightcrawler, and Lady Deathstrike, it doesn't feel over-full. Instead, there are a fair number of character moments in this action sequence. Storm and Nightcrawler discuss faith. Wolverine finally has that kiss with Jean. Iceman's family reacts in disgust when he reveals he's a mutant. Cyclops and Wolverine sob openly when Jean dies. Putting character before action means that when the action does go down you care about the heroes involved.

Speaking of action, there are some fabulous action sequences in this movie. The opening sequence with Nightcrawler infiltrating the White House (as seen from the point of view of the guards) is frantic and punches home why humans would be afraid of mutants. Wolverine's best moment in any film is when he's defending the X-Mansion from Stryker's forces. His berserker fury is epic in its bloody, primal and violent glory.

The one black mark this film has its the death of Jean Grey/ the Phoenix. The sequence is cumbersome and leaves the audience with a lot of questions. Even the characters ask themselves, "Why didn't she get on the plane," but the answer given ("She made a choice,") is a weak one and gives no real explanation. Here we have a mutant powerful enough to energize/repair a plane but she couldn't be on the plane when it took off? It just doesn't make much sense. Still, fans loved that the Phoenix saga was being realized in film (even if the origins of the change were murky at best... there's a reference to the first X-Men film's Liberty Island sequence but an explanation of how or why this changed Jean and no other mutant present is never given).

By all standards, X2 is a fantastic film, outdoing the original.

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

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG: Nailed It

1LR is introducing some of the all-new cards now available in the Hero's Destiny expansion to the Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG.

I'm on a roll with purple cards so I think I'll continue with Nailed It, a purple Avengers card featuring Ms. Marvel. It's a level 3 card that does up to 3 damage. It becomes a keeper after 2 damage with the effect of healing you one at the beginning of your turn when you take at least 4 damage.

Some players might look at this card and dismiss it but I think it's one of the most powerful cards in the game.

First, the cost is ridiculously low. You could get this card out really early on in most games. As a keeper, it does no damage to your opponent so it can't be misfired. This greatly increases the chances of it staying around for the rest of the game.

Next, the synergy between this card and two other purple Avengers healing keepers is out of this world. Specifically, I'm referencing Reality Shift and Supernatural Soda. Throw in the purple healing Avengers card Go Team! and I predict you could end games having no cards in your discard pile. I can't stress enough how insane this card is.

It forces your opponent to play small-ball. Since you're getting a rebate every time they do four damage or more, it essentially erases that first point of damage. If you had more than one copy of this card in play, I predict that the game would be a virtual lock for you if your opponent couldn't get rid of them. And this is when the power is at level 3!

Seriously, did Upper Deck play test this card? I'm going to go with, "No." This card should be at least a level 6 and probably higher than that. The threat of this card makes keeper elimination even more important than it was previously.

Yet another broken card from Hero's Destiny!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #2 Reaction

Nite Owl #2
With Nite Owl #2, Nite Owl takes a turn for the... mature.

The issue is narrated by Nite Owl but gives a good deal of attention to Rorschach. In pursuing a couple of criminals, Nite Owl and Rorschach encounter a dominatrix. Nite Owl is intrigued while Rorschach is repulsed to the point of violence. As a result, their partnership is tested.

The theme of the issue is past hurts. The encounter causes Rorschach to revisit seeing his mother with a man when he was a child. Meanwhile, a murdered hooker causes Nite Owl to remember his father beating his mother. He remembers getting beat up by bullies. His mother counsels him to find something to place, "between yourself and the dragon." Something to shield him from harm - a "happy place" as it were. Hence, Dan's obsession with the Nite Owl is born. It's also revealed that Dan's mother wanted to abort him when she became pregnant.

"It doesn't matter," is repeated throughout the issue. But it does, to the people involved. Nite Owl goes against the advice of his mentor and, at the end of the issue, revisits the dominatrix.

Once again, J. Michael Straczynski does what he does best - takes the characters apart like a watch and finds out what makes them tick. A great issue and it doesn't even have a super fight! (SHOCK!)

In the backup story takes one tiny, lurching step forward with the Crimson Corsair finally giving the curse that is referenced in the title. He takes the main character's (I have no idea what his name is - if it was ever mentioned it has been issues since it has been repeated) soul and throws him overboard to begin his quest to find the three items he needs to secure his freedom.