Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Review: Boom Blox

Over the last few days, since I first purchased the game last Friday at Knox City SC, I have been playing a simple yet highly addictive and extremely fun game: Boom Blox.

Boom Blox hasn’t been around for too long, having been released a mere seven months ago be Electronic Arts, the same company that produces all those fabulous sports games like Fifa, NHL and NBA games.

I first played Boom Blox when we went to Dean and Emily’s housewarming party earlier in the year and they were playing the portion of this game that required players to remove oblong blocks from a structure carefully so that you don’t topple the entire structure over...basically, a glorified but improved version of the much loved Jenga game.

That was fun enough as it was, but then Dean and Emily tried out the other game modes which included tossing baseballs to knock down point blocks, throwing bowling balls at your opponent’s gem blocks atop a castle (last one standing wins!) and knocking point blocks into various multiplier walls to see who could get the highest score.

As more and more people arrived, we were all still hooked on Boom Blox and must have spent at least three to four hours playing it. It was such a simple game in terms of design, but the fun factor was just enormous...and it was highly addictive since none of us wanted to stop playing it!

I found out much later that the acclaimed Steven Spielberg (director of Schindler’s List, Jaws, E.T. and many many other blockbuster movies) was a director/producer of the Boom Blox game! So it had a big name producer attached to the game, but strangely enough, despite the game’s acclaim, most of friends I knew had never heard of the game prior to trying it at Dean’s place. I know I certainly didn’t know that such a game existed!

Anyway, I remembered how fun the game was so when I saw it on sale, I purchased it. Found out that Target (where I purchased Boom Blox from last Friday) is having a mega sale the three days before Christmas and the same game is only selling for $14.95, a good $25 cheaper than what we paid for it. Grrrr. Even still, it’s such a great game that it’s worth the money.

As I said before, it’s uber addictive and very very difficult to put down once you’ve started. There are over 300+ levels and even though I spent over four hours on the single-player mode alone, I was only 29% through the game!

The single-player mode had an “Explore” feature which allowed players to work their ways through puzzles. There were point blocks on structures that needed to be toppled over in as few throws as possible, the “Jenga” like structures where you had to remove as many point blocks as you could in a set time, and other such puzzles.

There is also an adventure mode in single-player where you have cutesy animal blocks called the Bahhhs (based on sheep) being invaded by the Grrrs (based on bears). The Bahhhs had a castle and you were required to throw bomb balls at the invading Grrrs and prevent them from infiltrating your castle and stealing away the Bahhhs’ precious gems!

In Episode 2 of the adventure mode, the Oooks (based on monkeys) had stolen the Bahhhs’ gems while the Bahhhs were distracted in the fight against the Grrrs, and you were required to invade the Oooks’ castle to retrieve the gems. Cue more throwing of bomb balls at the Oooks’ castle.

It is fantastic storytelling and heaps of fun. What’s really neat is that it’s also a game for kids...apart from needing to use one’s noggin to figure out some of the puzzles, there really isn’t much you need to know...after all, it’s just a matter of tossing baseballs/bowling balls/bomb balls at blocks!

While the single-player mode shines, it’s the multi-player mode that will really get most people going. It’s so much more fun competing against friends and laughing when someone accidentally topples a block structure down. It’s can get competitive, but at the end of the day, Boom Blox is really a superb party game.

The one thing that I must warn those who are interested in the game is that if you do not regularly exercise your throwing arm, it could lead to a great deal of pain and distress after a few hours of playing Boom Blox.

The very next day after playing Boom Blox for a few hours, my right arm was extremely sore and I couldn’t really lift anything heavy at all. I felt as if I were a baseball pitcher who had gone through nine agonising innings of trying to pitch the ball as fast as I could!

I just couldn’t get any strength in my throws, so when playing the multi-player mode against Aeris, I decided to try using my left arm instead. And despite playing for a good one or two hours less, the very next day, my left arm was out of action...and it still hurts like hell!

Boom Blox is a game you cannot afford NOT to get if you own a Nintendo Wii. It is one of the simplest yet most addictive games I have ever played and it utilises the Wiimote so innovatively and efficiently. Even if you are not a hardcore gamer, Boom Blox would most likely appeal to you!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Review: The Simpsons Hit and Run

A couple of blog entries below, I expressed my love for the Grand Theft Auto series of games by Rockstar Games. It was free-form entertainment and one could choose a non-linear path of the game and do side tasks, explore the city...and basically do whatever the hell you wanted to!

But what if there was a game in the vein of GTA but based on another favourite city of mine, with characters that are already part of pop culture and Americana? What if there was a game that could make you fall in love even MORE with said characters and give you a chance to live and breathe in that city?

Of course I'm going to have to buy it and play it. Cue: The Simpsons Hit and Run!

Now, this game has actually been out for several years now. It was originally released on the Nintendo GameCube in 2003, and then on PC later that year. The PS2 released it in 2004 and even the Xbox (original, not the new Xbox360) had it in 2006, so popular was the game!

I had a choice between the GameCube and PC versions a couple of weeks ago when trawling through the collection of games at the Cash Converters in Forest Hill and I decided to get the GameCube version, since I knew that GameCube games could be played on the Nintendo Wii. On hindsight, I probably should have gotten the PS2 version, but ah well.

The problem with the GameCube version, which I learned firsthand only a few days ago when I tried playing the game on my Wii, is not only did you need an original GameCube controller (the Wiimote and even the Wii classic controller doesn't work with the game), but you needed a GameCube memory card to save the game. What a bummer...additional costs I never factored in!

So I had to get a GameCube controller off eBay because it seemed impossible to find in a Cash Converters! EB Games and Game and other gaming stores did have non-official controllers, but I was a bit wary of those, not knowing whether they could actually be used or recognised by the Wii as a GameCube controller.

It was even harder finding a GameCube memory card! But as luck would have it, the Cash Converters at Knox City had the single memory card and I quickly purchased it...none of the game shops I went to had any at all!

So I could now play The Simpsons Hit and Run and boy, it was well worth the wait! It's not as free-roaming as GTA...you could decide to just drive around Springfield knocking things down and crashing into people and getting the cops to chase you if you had too high a "wanted" rating. And there are side missions where you could do favours and tasks for other Springfield-ians to get rewards and even participate in a race to unlock bonus cars. But those numbers pale in comparison to the non-linear side missions that is available in the GTA universe.

Nevertheless, you get to explore Springfield! Be it the Kwik-E-Mart or the Nuclear Power Plant, Springfield is brought to life in vivid detail. While you can't interact with every single person or every single location in the game, just seeing Springfield in 3D is a Simpsons fanatic's dream.

What's really awesome about the game is that when you CAN interact with other Springfield-ians, you get witty quips and memorable one-liners from the show. Once again, a Simpsons fanatics' wet dream. I spent much time just driving around familiarising myself with Springfield...and running down as many pedestrians as I could. Absolutely loved it when you knock someone down and Homer starts singing: "I am evil Homer! I am evil Homer!"

The Simpsons Hit and Run is simply awesome. If you're a fan of The Simpsons, there really shouldn't be any reason why this game isn't part of your collection.

The holiday season and new books to buy and expect!

There are going to be quite a lot of new comics coming up over the next few weeks...which coincides with the Christmas shopping season, meaning that I've got to learn how to save and budget and prioritise like never before!

Brian Michael Bendis' Secret Invasion just finished...and what a series it was! The anticipation of what would happen in the next issue was just like Mark Millar's Civil War a couple of years ago and boy, was that a fantastic series and Secret Invasion certainly ended with more questions than resolutions.

Yes, the Skrull invasion was halted...was there really any doubt? But the fallout is just about to happen, and it leads nicely into Marvel's event of 2009: Dark Reign. I won't list any spoilers for those who haven't yet read Secret Invasion (and if you haven't, hurry up and go read it already!), but the gist of it is, the Marvel Universe has just become a much darker place with even MORE conspiracies than ever before at the conclusion of the failed Skrull invasion.

While Tony Stark was heralded as the Marvel Universe's saviour only a mere two years ago, with the Superhero Registration Act implemented as a result of the Civil War, he now finds himself discarded by his own government. All his plans post-Civil War failed to yield any fruition and he's failed to deliver on his promise of protecting America with the 50-State Initiative program.

So the government has sacked Tony from being the big kahuna of S.H.I.E.L.D. Wait until you see who they've chosen to be the new big boss...it's the shock ending of Secret Invasion that will resonate and create a ripple effect in all of Marvel Comics' books for years to come!

Anyway, I'll give Secret Invasion a proper review sometime down the line. Back on topic, another new title I'll be adding to my standing list is Dark Avengers, which spins off from the ending of Secret Invasion. There have been quite a number of huge releases in the TPB and HC format such as The Boys: Definitive Edition HC which collects the first 13 issues of Dynamite Entertainment's superb series.

The Boys is a guilty pleasure and the world it's set in is as realistic as it comes in posing the question: What would it be like if there really were superheroes in the real world? Garth Ennis (of Preacher and Punisher: Max infamy, and one of my favourite writers) crafts such a splendid tale of absolute power corrupting absolutely. He certainly doesn't hold back and while there are some moments in the series which are just flat out gross, it IS classic Ennis, which means fans will be treated with over-the-top humour in the vein of Preacher.

Hmm...methinks I should review The Boys sometime down the line too! It's just too good not to have a review!

The Rising Stars Compendium HC also gets released after the new year, which collects the entire series of Rising Stars, from the original 24 issue mini-series by J. Michael Stracyznski, to the three related mini-series. Rising Stars was absolutely brilliant, especially in the first third of the series where it established the world in which 113 special humans with powers lived and how they interacted with society at large.

It's a great time to be a comic book fan...not good for our wallets though!

Francis is also helping me to get the entire series of the Slam Dunk manga in English, published by Chuang Yi Comics in Singapore. 31 volumes means that it'll be a while before I can actually pay him for the order...yipes. Good reading times ahead!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

GTAIV didn't work. :(

Tried installing Grand Theft Auto IV on my computer late last week...there were so many things to install and so many accounts I needed to create just to play the game!

I needed an account with the Rockstar Social Club, so had to register online. I then needed a Windows Live ID but thankfully, that was linked with my hotmail account, so there was no issue there. Was reading the manual and found out that because the Xbox360 was a Microsoft console, quite a lot of PC games (GTAIV at the very least) could actually be played with an Xbox360 controller!

Hmm...I've always been against the Xbox360, but that makes it a VERY attractive console to get now, not that I really play that many PC games nowadays. But there ARE some games that are only available on Xbox360 like Fable II, plus the Xbox360 games are cheaper than PS3 games! PS3 does have blu-ray but it is so expensive still and the new PS3 consoles do not support old Playstation and PS2 games, something I absolutely hate.

The one thing that is really in the Xbox360's favour is how cheap it is nowadays. Provided one isn't going for the expensive pack with the higher storage space, the Xbox360 is even CHEAPER than a Nintendo Wii nowadays! Dang it...I want one now, but I won't/can't get one!

Anyway, after the installation of GTAIV was complete, I tried the game out. First off, there are so many controls and I had to remap everything because whenever I play PC games, I use the mouse in my left hand...this is especially for first person shooters (Unreal, Quake II etc) and real time strategy games (Starcraft, etc). It took me a really long time to remap the controls. Once I was done with that, I started the game.

Or at least, I tried to. The graphics just were not coming up well at all and the game was extremely laggy...just what one wants, very laggy graphics that were glorified pixels! I went back to the main menu to change the graphic settings, but nothing was working...the graphics were just getting worse, or the game was getting laggier.

I checked the specs on the back of the GTAIV box and to my horror, the minimum required graphics card was so much more advanced than the one we had! Now, I'm sure I checked the video requirements before pre-ordering the game and our graphics card were adequate! So now I was stuck with a game that I couldn't play, and EB Games' refund policy (and probably those of most other places) did not allow refunds for PC games, presumably because there were so many types of software out there that allowed people to copy PC games!

Nevertheless, I didn't want to be stuck with a game I couldn't play, so I brought back the game to EB Games at Forest Hill on Monday evening. I explained the situation to Elizabeth, since she was the salesperson who called me when the game arrived in store and she was also the same person who put through the transaction when I went to pick it up.

I was happy for a trade-in or even an exchange for a lesser game, but to my delight and surprise, Liz said that while it wasn't customary policy, she knew me from having served me on previous occasions and gave me the full refund, logging in the GTAIV game as defective merchandise! Wow, what great customer service, I was certain I was going to be stuck with a game it couldn't use! She didn't have to do that at all since the onus was on me to make sure that my PC system requirements matched that of the game!

I'm sure I'll be going back to the Forest Hill EB games in the future to purchase my games!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The release of GTA IV on PC!

Got myself a special treat today: my pre-order for Grand Theft Auto IV finally came in so I went to pick it up at the EB Games at Forest Hill!

Now anyone who knows me knows I'm a HUGE Grand Theft Auto (or GTA for short) fan. I played the top-down original Grand Theft Auto years ago on the PC. And then I got the expansion where the setting was in the UK. I missed out on GTA 2 and that was the last of my GTA experience for a while since I came to Australia.

While I was over here, I discovered GTA III, albeit a year or more after its initial release. GTA III is the game that changed free-roaming games forever and spawned so many clones since its inception. Some of its clones were good, some were god-awful but not many reached the same heights as the GTA series. I spent so many long long hours playing GTA III...and I didn't even try to achieve 100% completion in the game!

And then my favourite GTA game of all time was released in 2003: GTA Vice City. It was set in the 80s in Vice City, which was a lampoon of Miami. It had a killer soundtrack of some of my favourite 80s tunes and even the more obscure ones that I had heard little of but grew to love. It had the bright lights, snazzy "disco" colours and stereotypes of American characters that one saw in movies and tv dramas. And it had the classic GTA gameplay...what was there not to love?

After that came GTA San Andreas, which I own a copy of but have never EVER played, believe it or not. Just never had my PS2 with me when I purchased San Andreas and even now, don't really have the time to play it. Then I deliberately purchased a PSP so that I could play GTA Liberty City Stories, which was pretty awesome as well. And then my second favourite GTA game, GTA Vice City Stories was released on PSP and it had an even MORE killer soundtrack than Vice City!

GTA Chinatown Wars will be released on the Nintendo DS sometime in 2009, but that's a whole other story.

In May this year, Rockstar Games released the sequel to GTA III (well, not quite, but at least in sequential order of numbering, I guess it IS a sequel) on both the Sony PS3 and Microsoft Xbox360: GTA IV. I was shattered...only because I didn't own either console and short of actually going out there to buy one of those next gen consoles, there'd be absolutely no chance I'd get to play this game!

So when I found out a couple of months ago that GTA IV was coming to PC, I knew I had to pre-order it. There was no way I'd be getting a PS3 or Xbox360 anytime soon (if ever!) so here was my chance to get in on the GTA IV experience, the game that so many people were talking about, just as if it were the days after the release of GTA III all over again!

So now that I have it, I can't wait to try it...I'm sure I'll have ample time over the Christmas period to immerse myself in the world of Liberty City once again. Reviews once I've played the game or have completed it!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Review: eGames Expo and Digital Lifestyle Show 2008

Reached the Expo just after 10.30am and already there were quite a lot of people there. Saw quite a lot of people cosplaying…in fact, I recognised a number of cosplayers from when we first saw them at Armageddon Expo two weeks ago…wearing EXACTLY the same costumes and having the EXACT same group of friends who were dressed EXACTLY the same as well! Sheesh…what happened to creativity?

Forgot to bring my camera with me or else I would have had pictures to share of the Expo! It was a pretty huge expo but we didn’t get an opportunity to try out too many games because of the number of people at each games booth, all waiting for an opportunity to try the games out themselves.

I really liked the Little Big Planet booth where they gave us quite a number of freebies like a lanyard, pens and stickers. It’s not the freebies though, it was the fact they had a pretty cool “gimmick” at the booth itself. Just have a look at the stickers below!

There was this huge blue ball in the middle of the booth that represented the globe (or the little BIG planet, haha!) and everyone was invited to take the stickers they were given and create their own personalised Little Big Planet characters and stick them all over the globe. It was a pretty awesome concept and it allowed everyone to be as creative as they wanted to be (as much as they could with the stickers they had anyway)! Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to see the actual Little Big Planet game in action.

They had a futsal set where the Fifa 09 booth was and there were two guys showing off their football juggling tricks. They even had two foosball tables there and I wanted to have a game against Marcelo but they were quickly occupied by other players who were waiting for a chance to test out the Fifa 09 game. Marcelo and I played the PS3 version of the game for a couple of minutes then decided to move on.

Went to the Wii area and tried out Celebrity Sports Showdown…I’d read reviews that it was pretty ordinary, but Kim and I had quite a bit of fun with the Gladiator-style “whacky-mace-sticks” and badminton. Marcelo and I then lost to the computer AIs at dodgeball. It was a pretty fun game, though I suppose if I had it I would lose interest in the games pretty quickly.

Tried out Wii Music as well and unfortunately, only had the one go with Kim playing “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”. It didn’t help that I had no idea what song was being played (thought we’d choose the song AFTER the instruments) so I chose the vibraphone while Kim had the classic drums. Of course, the vibraphone was so completely out of tune for the song and it sounded as if we just weren’t musically inclined at all!

Seems like Wii Music has quite a big song list though and I still haven’t yet made up my mind as to whether to get the game or not. It’s one of those games that seems really fun an innovative at first, but whether I’ll lose interest in it after a while (like Wii Fit, Link’s Crossbow Training, Big Brain Academy among others) is another matter altogether.

While we were walking past some anime booth manned by the Animemavericks, some guy came up to me and handed me a copy of the Animemavericks magazine. He literally pushed the copy into my hand and then started giving a used-car-salesman-type sales pitch about how awesome the magazine was because it covered anime and games.

I started flipping through the magazine while he was talking just to see whether the magazine interested me. It was pretty interesting, so I quickly flipped back to the front cover to see if there was a price printed on the magazine. There wasn’t! The guy just kept blabbing on and on and on though so I quickly interrupted him and asked if I could take the magazine to have a browse at my own leisure.

And his response? Something along the lines of, “Ah, yes, you can have the magazine. It only costs $10.”

WHAT! It ONLY costs $10? Yes, the magazine was printed on good quality glossy stock and the content appealed to me. But hang on, didn’t he put the magazine in my hands in the first place? I didn’t pick up the magazine from the booth. I didn’t ask to see the magazine. He just came over while I was walking past the booth and shoved the magazine into my hands!

I told him I’d think about it and he added, “If you get the magazine today, I’ll give you a free poster”. As if a poster of some random gaming or anime characters would be a huge enough incentive for me to purchase the magazine! I told him that I didn’t have the need for any posters in an attempt to see what else he might throw in, but all I got for a response was: “Oh sorry, but I can only give you a poster.”

I quickly put the magazine on the table of his booth and told him that I’d consider purchasing it later and briskly walked away to watch Marcelo try out the PS3 version of the latest Tomb Raider game. Thanks but no thanks…I’d like to go through a convention without having to deal with a pushy car-salesman-type person!

Saw the Singstar booth being unoccupied and I asked Marcelo and Kim whether they wanted to give it a try, but they were quite hesitant to do it. They asked me to go give it a go, but I didn’t quite want to on my own!

We didn’t want to walk past the same booths of the convention again and wait around to try out some games, so decided to leave. But before we did, I headed back to one of the merchandise booths and purchased myself a Yoshi plush. They only had one remaining green one (but lots of red, black and blue ones)…so quickly snapped that up before anyone else could!

It was quite a good convention even though we were there for barely two hours. Would definitely love to go to another gaming expo sometime soon…pity they didn’t really have the new games for sale, only just the display booths for people to try them out.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Going to a video games expo tomorrow!

Marcelo and I will be going to the eGames Expo tomorrow, which is part of the International Digital Entertainment Festival 2008. A ticket will also allow us into the Digital Lifestyle Show, also held at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. It would be exactly two weeks tomorrow since we both were last there, so I need to get out of my head the fact that Jim Lee isn't going to be there tomorrow!

Anyway, I'm excited at the prospect of previewing and perhaps playing some of the new games that will be on display. Here's the full list of games that will be featured in the booths:

eGames 2008 Featured Games

What I would really love to try out of the games featured is:

Fifa 09
Fifa 09 All-Play
Little Big Planet (even though I don't own a PS3)
Pro Evolution Soccer 2009
Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party
Singstar Abba
Wii Music

Wii Music seems to be the next "specialised" (and highly overpromoted) Wii game after WiiFit. I've seen some of the ads on the TV and they are pretty good, choosing to recreate Wham!'s "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" with the musical instruments one can use in the game.

The concept sounds like an awesome one, but I don't think I'd want to spend nearly $80 buying the game trying to create music on my own (though I suppose it might be a good creative outlet for me to put some music to lyrics I had written for songs in the past). So the jury is out on this one...I'd like to give it a try before making a decision on whether to get it.

I'm sure Marcelo and I will be interested in different games since he owns a PS3, Xbox360 and PSP while I own a Wii, DS, PSP and PS2. It'd still be awesome checking out the games though!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Review: Armageddon Multimedia Expo Melbourne 2008

Back from Armageddon 2008 and it was a little disappointing compared to last year's event. Sure, I was heaps more excited than last year, even though 'Geddon 07 was my very first comics/pop culture Expo that I've ever gone to, and that's simply because I was going to get an opportunity to meet one of my favourite artists and perhaps even get a sketch and photo of him: Jim Lee!

But it didn't work out that way. Here's what happened during the day.

Reached the Expo at around 10am and there were already a LOT of people inside. Marcelo and I first went and checked out the area where they'd have the comic book celebrity signings and there was quite a long queue there already. Checked the guide timetable and the signings were only supposed to start at 10.30am. Decided to explore the rest of the Expo first before deciding or not later whether to queue up for Jim Lee's signatures and sketches.

We found out from the guide brochure that David Anders (from Heroes) and Michael Shanks (from Stargate SG1) were not able to make it to 'Geddon 08 due to work commitments and Marcelo noted that it was a blessing that Kim didn't go after all, because she would have been extremely disappointed since those were the two celebrities she wanted to see and take photos with!

There didn't seem to be as many things at 'Geddon 08 as compared to last year. A lot of the shops seemed a bit smaller too, though that could have been because there were a lot more people there and therefore, less space and standing room.

The usual comic shops were represented there, including Classic Comics, Alternate Worlds and even Evil Empire Comics, the shop that I purchased X-Men #1-30 from last week! But I didn't spend a lot of time at the comics booths since I didn't have much to buy. Spent some time browsing through the anime and manga wares at Madman Entertainment and Alternate Worlds, but once again, nothing to purchase either. Looked at the anime/manga products at the Tamarket booth and there was a Kon (from Bleach) and Pen-Pen (from Neon Genesis Evangelion) plush that I thought about purchasing but eventually decided against it.

Since I wasn't waiting in line for Jim Lee's signature and there didn't seem to be any TV celebrities for us to catch a glimpse of or take a photo of, we decided to go up to the Madman Entertainment panel room to watch the Madman anime screenings. They were showing episode one of the Code Geass anime, by the all-women illustration team of CLAMP, and then they showed episode two, even though it was 11am and it was supposed to be the Vexille anime movie.

Once Code Geass finished, they tried to show Vexille, but for some reason, they were getting a "region code error" message, which was really strange as I overheard that they had the Region 4 version of Vexille! Marcelo and I were wondering why they didn't actually test the animes in the morning at the very least, so that they wouldn't have these problems!

We decided to stay for a while in the hope that the problem would be resolved, but then another guy came in to "fix" the problem, only for the region code error to still be displayed. He told the other guys there that it'd take him another 15 minutes to find a laptop so that the movie could be shown, but then realised that he also needed the correct jacks and other input AV equipment, at which point Marcelo and I decided to leave since it could possibly take up to 30 minutes, maybe even longer for them to set up everything before showing Vexille! Such a waste...Marcelo was looking forward to watching it because it was a sci-fi anime by the visual effects director of the Appleseed anime, which he had the DVD of.

The one thing that 'Geddon 08 had that last year's Expo didn't was there were a LOT of cosplayers around. And this isn't even including all those dressed up in Stormtroopers and other various Star Wars uniforms! There were a lot of people dressed up from the Naruto and Bleach animes, and then there were various Batman rogues gallery cosplayers.

Didn't take any pictures, but we saw people dressed up as:

Sasuke (from Naruto)
Indiana Jones
The Joker (two of them and both the Heath Ledger version from The Dark Knight)
Harley Quinn
Poison Ivy
Izuru Kira (the 3rd Division lieutenant from Bleach)
Madame Mirage (comic book character/series by Paul Dini)
Various Akatsuki ninjas (from Naruto: Shippuden)

There were a number of games booths too, showcasing games such as Tenchu 4, WWE: Smackdown vs Raw 2009, TNA Impact, the new Naruto game on Xbox360 and Gears of War 2. Marcelo had a go on the Naruto game as well as Gears of War 2 while I had a go on SvR2009 and had my butt handed to me...haven't played a SvR game on the PS2 (or in this case, PS3) since the original SvR, which was years ago! We also went to the Red Ant booth and tried out the TNA Impact game and it was funny playing that because we both had no idea what we were doing!

It was at the Red Ant booth that we saw TNA (Total Non-stop Action) women wrestlers Christy Hemme and Traci Brooks as well as ex-WWE/ECW star The Sandman.

Christy Hemme and Traci Brooks from Total Non-stop Action Wrestling
Marcelo made a funny comment about how it was possible for them to wrestle because of what was in front of them (work that one out by yourselves)! Told him that Christy Hemme had posed for Playboy which further cemented his curiousity about how they could actually wrestle.
I was actually considering purchasing the Nintendo Wii TNA Impact game since it was pretty cheap at $50 (compared to the regular sale price of $79.95) and getting both Christy Hemme and Traci Brooks to sign the cover for me....until I realised that autographs were $25 each!!!!!
Needless to say, I changed my mind immediately. I suppose that $25 would have entitled me to take a photograph with them as well...but hey, that wasn't a real necessity anyway!

The Sandman

Watched the Sandman wrestle some other Australian wrestler...of course you knew he was always going to win! He got out his Singapore cane and even butted heads with the referee...all probably scripted of course.

We then walked to Crown Casino and had lunch at KFC before coming back to the Expo.

Went back to the booths where Jim Lee and the other Wildstorm artists were signing comics and doing sketches only to find that the queue was still pretty long...and one of the ladies that had been waiting in queue since we got there was almost to the front of the line...but hadn't reached there yet! It had been nearly three hours since she had been waiting in line...and she still wasn't at the front of the line yet!
Was pretty disappointed and decided that it was probably a better idea not to wait in line anymore. Jim was doing a Q&A panel later which meant an even longer wait...if I had been in queue, who knows how long it would take before I would actually get to the front of the queue! So I decided it probably would be better to leave the Expo, but first, took a few photos of Jim sketching:

As Marcelo and I were leaving, I suggested that we go up to the Madman Entertainment panel room one more time to see what they were showing, just so we could make the most of our time (and money) at 'Geddon 08. They had an interview/Q&A panel with someone and weren't showing any anime, so we turned around and proceeded to leave.

Just as we were reaching the staircase though, all of a sudden, I saw Jim Lee come up the stairs and walk into the room where the Main Stage was, presumably for his own Q&A panel. Dragged Marcelo in with me...and what a relief that we did attend that panel!

That was the absolutely best part of 'Geddon 08 for both Marcelo and me. And to think that we nearly missed attending this panel too! Jim was running late since the panel started at nearly 1.30pm and he started off by apologising to everyone who had been waiting there, explaining that he was signing and doing sketches downstairs which led to the delay. What a nice man!

Jim fielded questions from the floor, some of which were very ordinary while some were really good questions. The very first question Jim was asked was: what his favourite character to draw was. Jim's answer had everyone laughing: he said that it was hard to think of a character off the top of his head after just spending the last few hours doing about 40 sketches, including about 10 Batman sketches in a row.

One could tell that Jim Lee was cool, calm and collected, but also was very genuine and warm. You could tell that he cared about the fans and he was just a down-to-earth person who loved the comic book business, despite initially wanting to be a doctor. Jim talked about his very first comic book work, Alpha Flight #51 and his time at Marvel Comics, including launching X-Men #1 in 1991 which was a dream because Uncanny X-Men was his favourite comic book.

He also discussed things like working with Frank Miller and what an experience that was for him. It was pretty funny, because Jim said that in interviews that was conducted before he started on his All-Star Batman and Robin duties, he actually said how great it would be to pencil a Batman title that was accessible to people of all ages, which brought out laughter from all those there who were comic fans who had actually READ the title...not many laughs mind you!

Jim was sheepish that All Star Batman was...controversial to say the least. He had no problems joking about Batman swearing and setting villains on fire, shooting villains and then having sex with Black Canary on the wharf. Throughout the interview, Jim was polite, friendly, and definitely not above poking fun at himself.

He also talked about his hyper-realistic pencilling style and said how he felt personally that he needed to cram in as much detail into a panel as possible, whereas a simpler more in-your-face style would have more of an impact. He was certainly willing to criticise his own technique and skills and went so far as to say that he's thinking of drawing in a less detailed, simpler and sleeker style...but that would just not be him.

Jim recalled his Image days and recalled how back in the days, the six Image founders thought nothing could stop them and sheepishly admitted how young and immature they were back then. He also recounted how "unprofessional" they were at one of the Comic Cons, when they were meeting with one of their publishers, Rob Liefeld was jumping up and down on a bed and Todd McFarlane was walking around shirtless while Jim had his two-month old baby there.

He also recalled how he feared for his life at a comic book store signings when fans mobbed him in person and he thought he was going to get squished to death...and in Jim's own words: "squished to death with love". At another comic book store signing in New York, when fans realised he was in a car, they literally went up to the car and started rocking it back and forth! Jim also joked about how he met Demi Moore back in the days before she was dating Ashton Kutcher and said that maybe he had a chance with her back then. He then jokes that it probably wouldn't have worked out anyway because Demi was still married to Bruce Willis then!

Jim said that he'd love to work with Neil Gaiman, Geoff Johns and also Jeph Loeb again, even though Jeph was now with Marvel. He said among his influences were Frank Miller, George Perez and Art Adams. Someone even asked if Jim would love to go back to Marvel to draw the Avengers, to which Jim said that he would love to if he had the opportunity, even though going back to Marvel was not something he had plans to do.

He then said that it was strange that Earth's Mightiest Heroes were now outselling the X-men comics and joked that perhaps he should go back to X-Men to change that scenario!

I even got to ask him a question and I was stoked that I had the opportunity to do so. I asked:

"Is there a character or series you have never drawn before that you'd like to draw on a regular basis?"

Jim then laughed and said that he had a number of books he'd love to work on, but that in order to do so, all the books would be ship late, which drew more laughter from the audience. Jim did seriously note that he would love to work on (in order of his response) Legion of Superheroes, Wonder Woman, Justice League of America and Suicide Squad. Hmmm...all DC titles.

The Q&A panel with Jim Lee lasted about 40 minutes and Jim noted that it was unlikely that he would be doing any more sketches for the rest of the day and if anyone was waiting for sketches, to come back on Sunday morning. Thank goodness we attend that panel then, because if Marcelo and I had been waiting in line, I would only have had my comics signed and wouldn't have been able to get a Jim Lee sketch!

I was considering perhaps returning on Sunday morning to get Jim Lee to sign my comics and do a few sketches for me, but eventually decided against it. It was likely, because Jim wasn't going to do any more sketches for the rest of the day, those people who had missed out would be queuing up very early on Sunday morning...which meant I had to do the same and the signings only started at 10.30am! So it would have been an extremely long wait and who knows...could have ended up like that lady who had been waiting in line for a long long time.

Although I did not get a Jim Lee sketch or any comics or anime/manga related merchandise, I did get myself a pretty cute Captain America plush toy from the Popcultcha booth:

It did start out a bit disappointing, especially the crazy queues where Jim Lee and the other comic creators were, but it ended up being a pretty good experience with the Jim Lee panel being the highlight of 'Geddon 08 for me. Just wish I had an opportunity to get some signatures and sketches! Maybe next time...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Armageddon 2008: One day more!

Of course, Jim Lee isn't going to be the ONLY one who'll be there on the comic creators panel/desk/whateverit'scalled. Here's the list of the other comic book artists who are going to be there, mostly from Lee's Wildstorm Studios:

Carlos D'Anda (Brass, Wildcats, The Outsiders)
Joel Gomez (Wetworks, The Lost Boys)
JJ Kirby (DV8, Gen 13, The New Dynamix)
Beth Sotelo (colourist for Soulfire)
Sandra Hope (Gen 13, Crimson, JLA)
Eddie Nunez (Wildstorm concept/artist)
Livio Ramondelli (Wildstorm concept/artist)

Since I'm there already, even though I don't have any comics that were illustrated by any of the above (though I've got some Gen 13 comics back home drawn by JJ Kirby...his art rocks!), I'm going to see if I can get some sketches from the above people. Thanks once again Stephen for the suggestion!

Other celebrities who will be there:

Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters 1 & 2, Miss Congeniality 1 & 2)

Doug Jones (Hellboy 1 & 2, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer)

Sandman (WCW, WWE)

David Anders from Heroes (no idea who he is since I haven't watched anything beyond Episode 7 of the first season!) is also going to be there. I'll probably go catch a glimpse of the stars, but I won't really line up for signatures or pictures or anything. Reserving my time for Jim Lee, browsing through products and perhaps purchasing things!

Other things that I'd like to do, but probably won't get a chance to is to watch "Heart of an Empire", which seems to be a Star Wars spoof or related to the Star Wars franchise. Screenings are at 3.30pm Saturday and I don't think I'll still be there then. And the Evangelion movie or series shows on Sunday and I definitely won't be there then.

There's a Domino's pizza eating contest too...I wonder if I can participate just to get a free lunch and just drop out? Haha!

Soooooo exicted!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Two more days until I get to meet the legendary Mr Lee!

Only two more days until Armageddon 2008...very very excited as one can imagine. I've already planned what I want to do when I reach there: get in line where the comic creators (ok ok...just Jim Lee) are and hope that anyone who's standing in front of me doesn't ask for heaps and heaps of comics to be signed or for many sketches to be commissioned.

I know what I definitely want...I'm bringing quite a number of comics for Jim Lee to sign, both single issues (the X-men ones I purchased at the Camberwell Fair this past Sunday) as well as HCs and TPBs. The comics I am bringing are:

X-Men #1-11
Absolute Batman: Hush HC
All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder Vol.1 HC
Fantastic Four: Heroes Reborn TPB

And I also want to commission at least two sketches from Jim (more if possible): one of Psylocke and one of Catwoman for Stephen. If it's only one sketch per person in queue then I'm going to have to rely on Marcelo queueing up with me...which may be a problem because Kim is also going and she wants to line up where the sci-fi actors are going to be...think there's going to be some actors from Heroes as well as Battlestar Galactica there.

It also didn't occur to me, but I'd also like to take a picture with Jim! Thanks to Stephen for reminding me of that. Duh...it's so obvious, why didn't I even think about it! After all, I'm bringing my camera again this year to take photos! I think I'll try to take some photos of the cosplayers too, because there were some awesome cosplay costumes last year.

Not sure if we'll get a chance to watch any of the wrestling events or the movie/cartoon previews. I know they're showing the new series (at least the first episode) of Neon Genesis Evangelion on Sunday evening, but we're not going on Sunday. Last year we watched the Superman: Doomsday animated movie, but I don't think there's anything showing on the Saturday...nothing that I want to see anyway. Gotta make sure I check the program properly before going. In terms of wrestling, Sabu and Rob Van Dam were there last year and it's a drop in "quality" this year with Sandman and Playboy covergirl/wrestler Christy Hemme being there.

It should be a pretty excellent event regardless of what happens. I know I'm going to strenously watch my budget this time around. Not like I spent a whole lot last year but I'd rather be careful and not purchase stuff I don't really need or want.

The anticipation is killing me! Can't wait for Saturday!

Monday, October 27, 2008

More of Jim Lee's comics...for Jim Lee to sign!

Went to the Camberwell Fair at the Camberwell Civic Centre yesterday morning...and there were quite a number of sellers there with comic book stock! Old issues, really really old issues from the Silver Age and new issues as well...I'm sure if I spent more time there and hunted around, I probably could have picked up single issue comic book gold like Amazing Spider-man #129 (1st appearance of the Punisher) and The Incredible Hulk #181 (1st appearance of Wolverine)...not that I could afford it.

I was there with two friends, Marcelo and Kim, so that was a good thing because I'm sure I could have spent AGES there browsing through all the wares. I went to each seller's booth though, just to quickly check out the wares and have a feel for where I thought I could get the best bargain or where I would find something I would purchase. Eventually stopped at the corner booth where they seemed to have the most variety (and the most number of) comics.

The seller was very informative and from chatting to him, he was a true comics fan...who actually read his comics! There are a lot of collectors who simply purchase comics because of the perceived (real or otherwise) increase in value after a period of time and they are more in the business to make money than true comic book fans. This guy certainly was not like that.

I wish I caught his name, but he worked in Evil Empire Comics in Coburg. He definitely knew his stuff though, because when I picked up some X-Men comics, he engaged me in a conversation about going to Armageddon 2008 because Jim Lee was there and we started chatting about the storylines in X-Men. In the particular bundle of comics I was browsing through, he was telling me that it had some valuable issues like issues #1 (still the best selling single comic of all-time with five variant covers...though there was only the gatefold cover),#25 (part of the Fatal Attractions storyline where Wolverine had the adamantium yanked out of his body) and #30 (wedding of Scott Summers and Jean Grey).

I mean, I knew all that information already, but it was nice chatting to someone who actually knew his stuff! So we talked about Jim Lee being at Armageddon and how, in that bundle, there were only 11 issues or so actually illustrated by him. It was nice that he actually warned me about that in case I thought all the comics in the bundle was illustrated by Jim...as I said, I already knew that, but it was information that was much appreciated.

So how could one not purchase something from his store? I bought the bundle of the first 30 issues of X-Men, which I used to own many many years ago but didn't anymore. There was another bundle for the first 80 issues, but not only was it more expensive (obviously), but I actually owned a lot of those issues already back in Singapore. I couldn't remember which issue I started from exactly so I thought it was probably better just to get the smaller and more inexpensive bundle of single issues...if I were missing out on certain issues from my collection I'm sure I could always obtain them from elsewhere!

So now I've got 30 issues of X-Men to read finish before this Saturday...or at least those issues drawn by Jim Lee, since I want to bring them all for him to sign at Armageddon 2008! I've already got Absolute Batman: Hush, All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder Vol.1 HC and Fantastic Four: Heroes Reborn TPB for Jim to sign.

Only five more days to go. To coin an Australian phrase: How excitement!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Whose Line is it Anyway: Sound Effects: Star Wars

More insanity from my favourite two performers from Whose Line Is It Anyway? in Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles:

Whose Line is it Anyway: Sound Effects: Batman

This is probably one of the funniest things I have seen from Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Man, I love this show. How I miss watching is so.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jim Lee is coming to Armageddon 2008!

Armageddon Multimedia Expo Australia 2008 is almost upon us!

But first, the link to the official website:

Armageddon 2008

I remember really enjoying last year's Expo even though Marcelo and I were there for perhaps 3/4 of the day. Even though we just walked around and visited the same booth a couple of times, it was still an enjoyable experience!

The comic book writers/artists that were there last year were Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Connor, Gail Simone and Nicola Scott. While I'm a fan of Palmiotti and Simone, I didn't really have anything for them to sign, nor was I inspired enough to actually go up to the booths to have a chat with them.

This year, that all changes.

When I saw the brochure for Armageddon 2008, the first thing I noticed was Jim Lee's Batman art from his Hush run. The first thing I thought to myself was "I can't believe they actually took Jim Lee's art to promote Armageddon. How shameless." And then I actually flipped through the brochure and found that they weren't shameless using Lee's art for no good reason: they were actually using his art BECAUSE JIM LEE WAS GOING TO BE A GUEST AT ARMAGEDDON 2008.

One of my favourite artists of all-time, coming to the city I live in? Hot damn. I couldn't believe it. Jim's X-Men #1 was the reason I got into collecting comics. I had read comics before fleetingly, but it was never really a hobby...reading comics was just something a kid my age would just gravitate towards.

It was only after I purchased my copy (and it was one of those shoddy copies available from our local newsstand, with the price sticker attached to the cover) of X-Men #1 did I seriously give collecting comics any thought. I actually started purchasing comics regularly for a few months, albeit those shoddy copies from the newsstand, but after a while, I just stopped because the quality of those comics in terms of cover damage, spinal damage etc etc (and not the actual interior art or writing) was so poor, having changed hands from one reader to another before being sold.

I started collecting comics seriously a few months later (or a year later, can't remember which) when I went to a proper comics shop, Comics Mart, which is still located in Serene Centre at Farrer Road. And then I discovered Comic Art Gallery at Bras Basah Complex, which was the place I went to regularly until their shipment schedule became erratic. Thankfully, at that point of time, a new shop, G&B Comics opened up a level above Comic Art Gallery at Bras Basah, and that's been where I've purchased my comics for the last nine years or so, even while I've been here in Australia since they still keep my list of standing orders!

But this post isn't about my comic collecting history. I'll get to that some other time. X-Men #1 was the first real comic that I actually "collected", even though I wasn't really collecting back then. It was a combination of Chris Claremont's fantastic writing and Jim Lee's spectacular art that got me hooked...moreso the art than the writing! I've always been one who prefers a great story and shoddy art than fantastic art and a bland story.

But X-Men #1 perhaps was one of the exceptions to the rule, in those early days at least when I favoured the story over the art. Not that the story was bad...it was just that the artwork was in a league of its own! Beautiful beautiful beautiful.

So my love affair with Jim Lee began and he became one of my favourite artists. He still is...I know I've blogged about my favourite writers before, but I've never actually blogged about my favourite artists. Will have to do that one of these days.

Anyway, with Jim Lee going to be at Armageddon 2008, I might go for TWO days instead of just the one. I want Jim to sign my Absolute Batman: Hush HC and All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder Vol.1 HC books, along with any other Jim Lee books I actually have or can purchase. Plus, if Jim's actually going to do sketches, I might ask if I could commission him to do a few sketches for me.

I've already asked Stephen and he's asked if he could get a Catwoman sketch. I know I'd like a Psylocke sketch and perhaps a Rogue sketch too. Basically, when it comes to Jim Lee, you need to ask him to draw women! Though I wouldn't mind a Gambit/Wolverine sketch either.

But since each person probably can only request or purchase one sketch, I going to get Marcelo to stand in line with me so that he can get sketches too...well for me anyway!

Another three more weekends to Jim Lee being here in Melbourne! How awesome is that?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More classic games!

Downloaded more games from Abandonia today. So many classic games I remembered playing...and I just downloaded those I knew and remembered! It's a HUGE list!

Archon Ultra
Battle Chess
Boulder Dash
Bubble Bobble
California Games
California Games II
Caveman Ugh-lympics
Clue - Master Detective
Defender of the Crown
Dig Dug
Donald Duck's Playground
Double Dragon 2 - The Revenge
Double Dragon 3 - The Rosetta Stone
Double Dribble
Dream Team, The - 3 on 3 Challenge
Dyna Blaster (or also known as Bomberman)
Empire Soccer
European Championship 1992
F-19 Stealth Fighter
Ghostbusters 2
Gold Rush
Golden Axe
Grand Monster Slam
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
King's Quest I - Quest for the Crown
Life and Death
Lode Runner
M.U.D.S. - Mean Ugly Dirty Sport
Manhunter - New York
Manhunter 2 - San Francisco
Monopoly Deluxe
Montezuma's Revenge
Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Romance of the Three Kingdoms III - Dragon of Destiny
Scrabble - Deluxe Edition
Speedball 2 - Brutal Deluxe
Summer Games II
Trivial Pursuit Deluxe
Ultimate Cards
Unchartered Waters (yes...finally!)
Unchartered Waters 2 - New Horizons
Where in America's Past is Carmen Sandiego
Where in Europe is Carmen Sandiego
Where in Space is Carmen Sandiego
Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego
Wing Commander
Winter Games
World Games
WWF Wrestlemania

Phew! There were a lot more than I wanted to download such as the Sierra games (King's Quest, Police Quest), Maniac Mansion and some others I can't remember, but they had either been sold already or were protected. I'm guessing by "sold" they meant that these titles had been re-licensed or something. *shrug* Ah well.

Will never really have the time to play them all but hey...they're classic! They're games I used to love! I can't wait to play some of these classics again!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Games games games games games! GAMES!

Been a while since I last blogged...but this blog entry isn't going to be about comics at all. It is about something that I still love though: games!

In particular, OLD computer games. Yesterday, I was searching for old computer games on the internet. Not just any old computer games, but those that I enjoyed playing back when I was a teenager in Singapore.

Aeris and I had just finished watching "Three Kingdoms" last Sunday, which was based on the story of Zhao Yue from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms era and I was reminded of one of my favourite games that I played constantly in 1992: Romance of the Three Kingdoms 2 or just "RTK2" from KOEI.

I'm not sure whether it was the first strategy/RPG computer game I had ever played but it certainly was the first game based on historical events that I loved. I told myself after watching "Three Kingdoms" that I'd go online to look for the game but I never got the chance to because I promptly forgot about it.

Not sure what triggered my memory but I just decided to google for a free download of RTK2. It took a while but I managed to find a download of the game. And then all of a sudden, I saw the name of another game that I loved playing all those years ago: Deathtrack. So I downloaded that too. And then I found ANOTHER game: Crime Wave.

So I tried my best to remember all those games I loved playing and I downloaded those I could find. There are two Abandonware sites where I downloaded those games from:
Abandonia and Best Old Games. And these were the games I downloaded free:

Commander Keen 2
Crime Wave
Grand Theft Auto
Kings of the Beach
Leisure Suit Larry
Lost Vikings
Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat 2
Lakers Vs Celtics
Pipe Mania
Police Quest
Police Quest 2
Romance of the Three Kingdoms 2
Sensible Soccer

There are heaps more that I couldn't find like Gold Rush and pretty much every other Sierra game like Leisure Suit Larry, Space Quest, King's Quest and the like. And then there were those games produced by KOEI like Uncharted Waters. And there are some who's names I can't remember anymore...I played a LOT of games back in those days!

Nostalgia...the reminiscing of those brilliant games I played oh so very long ago. Not sure if I'll get a chance to play all these games I've downloaded, especially since I have so many other games on my Wii to play. But no matter how many new games I've played or am dying to play, nothing beats reliving those memories of years ago playing classics like RTK2 and Battle Chess (ah, that's another one I've just remembered!) and Sensible Soccer. Long live gaming!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Review: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152

It has been a while since I last posted a review so I thought I'd do one for a book that I've read before but re-read just recently...yesterday night as a matter of fact: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152.

As I've been too lazy to use my scanner, this will be a fairly short review with not many images. If you don't like words...well, bear with me.

The Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 series came to prominence in 2006 when Wizard magazine chose it as the best indie book of the year. Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 heralds the story of three mice of the Mouse Guard elite, Lieam, Kenzie and Saxon, and their adventures as they fight predators much bigger than them as well as a mutiny.

The Mouse Guard are the defenders, guards, escorts, scouts and bodyguards of the various mice villages in David Petersen's mice world. They keep the borders of their villages safe and they are considered the very best...assign any of the Mouse Guard a task and it gets completed even if it means their death.

Lieam, Kenzie and Saxon discover a betrayal plot to assassinate their queen, Gwendolyn and decide to investigate. They uncover a militia uprising led by former Guard member Midnight who has stolen the legendary Black Axe, a weapon that was used years ago to slay various predators to protect the mice village.

Lieam finds Celenawe, who was the legendary wielder of the Black Axe all those years ago and they return to their village to rescue Kenzie and Saxon, who had been captured by Midnight, just in time to stop the militia that had broken through the barricades and attacked Gwendolyn's protectors directly.

As can be expected, the assassination is stopped but instead of killing Midnight, Gwendolyn decides to set him free beyond the mice village's safe borders where Midnight can fend for himself against the many dangerous predators beyond the borders. Which leads in nicely to Winter 1152, a whole different series.

The six-issue mini-series reads pretty quickly. Apart from issue 5, there isn't a lot of text with Petersen allowing the images to tell the story. And what beautifully crafted images!

Each single issue has a wraparound cover as can be seen in the pictures below. The hardcover has a nice wraparound cover too. What is really unique about this series is that it isn't regular comic book size. It is closer to the squarish picture book size that you get in children's books...which is pretty appropriate since at times it really reads like a picture book though with more mature content!

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 HC cover

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 #1 cover

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 #2 cover

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 #3 cover

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 #4 cover

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 #5 cover

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 #6 cover

Petersen's story is one for all-ages and it's like you're reading a story that's right out of any fantasy setting; Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, the Chronicles of Narnia...it has pretty similar identifiable themes to all of them! But this is the story of MICE and because they are mice and not men, there are some obvious differences.

From the first issue, Lieam, Kenzie and Saxon have to fight one of the mices' scariest and fiercest predators, a full-sized snake. To us humans, a snake can be pretty scary, but at least it's so much smaller than us. Imagine how huge and terrifying a snake would be from a mouse's perspective! It's kind of morbid seeing Kenzie and Saxon destroying the snake's eggs (and little snakes emanating from them!) when they find them. Lieam kills the snake by himself eventually. We also get to see Sadie, another member of the Mouse Guard, fight against crabs in the second issue.

Terrific art and a terrific read. Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 is highly recommended. Even though it's a bit on the expensive side to purchase, especially since one can finish reading the series so quickly, the beautiful art and expansive story is more than worth it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Review: Wanted movie

Went to watch the Wanted movie today. I knew going in it was going to be significantly different from the Wanted six-issue mini-series by Mark Millar and J.G Jones (which I had reviewed two blog entries down...talk about continuity, wahey!) so I expected to see less big screen supervillain action and more "realistic" movie action.

Before you read on, here's the obligatory spoiler warning.

If you don't want to find out what happened in the movie, stop reading HERE as there may be some plot points revealed!

The movie starts off almost exactly the same way the comic does. Wesley Gibson (played brilliantly by James McAvoy) is delivering a soliloquy about how shit his life is. His best friend Bobby (who also happens to be his colleague and shares the same cubicle at his workplace) is constantly having sex with Wesley's girlfriend behind Wesley's back. Wesley keeps taking shit from his bully boss...a little more politically correct in the movie being portrayed as a rather obese white female who is, get this, ANOREXIC! Haha!

Wesley then meets Fox (played by Angelina Jolie), who apparently saves him from an assassin, Cross, who had gone rogue from The Fraternity, a league of assassins that had been in existence for over 1000 years. Wesley is asked to shoot off the wings off flies, mirroring the comic book, and then he freaks out, going back to his old life.

But he finds, having had a taste of the adrenaline rush and power that came with wielding a gun in his hand, he could not just walk back into his own life. But instead of yelling a huge "FUCK YOU!" in the comics, he actually pays out his boss in front of all his other colleagues before storming out of the office. Wesley also takes his keyboard with him and to be honest, I was perplexed. Why take the keyboard with him? Was it his? If it wasn't, why not take something else?

As Wesley approaches the exit, Bobby blocks his path and tells Wesley that he did what no one else had the balls to do...tell off the boss that they all hated. Bobby starts telling Wesley that he's "the man", only to get smashed in the face with the aforementioned keyboard...cue one of the funniest and most awesome scenes in the movie.

We see Bobby's face turn towards the camera in slow motion, with blood flying from the mouth. But that's not the only things that are flying. Some characters fly off the keyboard and they careen beautifully in the air in this order, from left to right: F, U, C, K, Y, O. But there aren't TWO "u"s on a keyboard! So we also see a tooth fly out of Bobby's mouth, complete with the roots and with that tooth looks like...is it...yes it is! A "u". Hilarious!

Some of the dialogue in the movie I recognised immediately since it was verbatim from the comic book. I laughed when Wesley tells us that Bobby is "shtupping" his unfaithful girlfriend on "an Ikea table I picked up for a really good price". As Wesley complains about his pathetic life and the fact that his father abandoned him when he was seven, he suggests that his father perhaps realised "that he'd just fathered one of the most insignificant assholes of the 21st century". In fact, when that line was being delivered, I actually mouthed it out in the cinema, word for word, since it's one of those lines that I just remember from the comic!

There are some major differences in the plot points between the comic and the movie. In the comics, The Fraternity is the league of supervillains that have taken over the world. In the movie, it's a league of assassins that had been in existence for 1000 years. As there are no supervillains in the movie, we don't see Mr Rictus, Solomon Seltzer or any of the other villains that we've read about and loved. In fact, the only two main characters that have made the transition from the comics to the movie are Wesley and Fox.

The Fraternity in the movie is headed by Sloan (played by Morgan Freeman...who swears twice during the movie! Absolutely awesome! Can you just imagine the regal driver from "Driving Miss Daisy" saying "motherfucker"? No? Then you've got to see this to believe it!) and gets his team of assassins to train Wesley to become the cold-blooded killer they know he will eventually become. Because of the lack of supervillains in the movie, they've got able-bodied replacements assassins to conduct Wesley's training.

We find out that Wesley's Dad in the comics is The Killer, who faked his own death so that Wesley can step into his shoes and stop being the pussy that he is in life. In the movie, we find out that the assassin who gets killed at the start of the movie isn't The Killer, who I'm sure most people think is, but is instead just another assassin, Mr X. In fact, Cross, the guy who's out to kill all the rest of the assassins in The Fratenity, is actually Wesley's father!

Cross found out that Sloan had actually been manipulating The Fraternity into doing his dirty work to for power and political reasons and wants to kill Sloan and anyone loyal to him. Slowly but surely, Cross is whittling down The Fraternity's numbers so Sloan concocts this story to dupe Wesley into pursuing Cross, knowing that Wesley, Cross' son, is the only person Cross will not kill.

Of course, Wesley finds out that he has been betrayed and wants vengeance against Sloan and the rest of The Fraternity. I'll leave it at that...you'll need to catch the rest of the movie to find out what happened!

One of the most controversial things from the Wanted series was the ending which some readers thought was Mark Millar taking a pot-shot at them and saying they had no lives or mind of their own. What that ending did was challenge the reader to get out there and do something with their life.

While the movie doesn't have an ending that was as strongly worded as "this is my face while I'm fucking you in the ass", like the comics, there's a message at the end that's directed straight to the movie goer. Wesley starts delivering a soliloquy again, saying how his life has changed and he's made the most of it, and asks the viewer:

"What have you done in your life lately?"