Category Archives: Reviews

TV Review: Doctor Who S8E4 Listen

doctor who capaldiDoctor Who can do goofy, can do sci-fi, but I think the show is often at its best when it does horror. Some of my favorite episodes are the scarier ones, which mix scares along with the usual craziness that’s associated with the Doctor.

Mixing in some time travel, Clara and the Doctor head back in time and meet a young Danny Pink and deal with the idea of nightmares, and the idea we’ve all experienced the same one at one point in our lives.

The episode is a fascinating one, in that it not only tells us a lot about Danny, and his past, but also about the Doctor now. Clara shows lots of caring and affection, but the Doctor also has shown he has tossed his affection and caring. This Doctor is no longer sugar-coating things, instead he just wants to get the job done, which is to protect humanity.

But the episode not only dives into Pink’s past, but also the Doctor’s asking in a way if the Doctor is defined by his companion(s)? These first four episodes continue to deconstruct the Doctor, his motivations, and now his past and origin. And it even sheds some light into the War Doctor we know so little about with this episode.

The season has been interesting so far, with a goal to entertain, and also challenge what we think and know of the Doctor.

Overall Score: 8

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Review: Super-Secret Crisis War: Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends One-Shot

In between each issue of IDW Publishing’s Super-Secret Crisis War, a miniseries telling the action-packed tale of a myriad of Cartoon Network characters altogether in the same story together, is a one-shot crossover issue that spotlights properties that didn’t quite make the cut. The respective Johnny Bravo and Bill and Mandy issues were good fun, but the latest one-shot from writer iVan Cohen and artist Paulina Ganucheau, devoted to Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, is by far the best. It’s not just cute fun, but also heartwarming and filled with joy. It’s a fantastic comic book that entertains through not just nostalgia-mining the psyches of Foster’s fans, but also through wonderful story-telling.

cn_sscw-fosters_cvrSomething this issue does demonstrably better than the previous one-shots is incorporate more characters into the plot, simultaneously making things more interesting and supplying more fan service. A great deal of effort was put into this issue to assure that no major character was cut, and to make sure each of those characters fit their likeness in the television show. This feels like a complete look into the world of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, rather than a quick tread. The characterization is spot-on and the look is spot-on and the tone is spot-on.

It’s a genuinely funny and emotionally-resonate little story, done with just the right colorful, cheerful art and just the right gags and just the right light-hearted tugs at the heartstrings. Bloo’s constant self-centered, ethically-oblivious actions and the poor Frankie’s horrible struggles with her work at the foster home are palpable, making the laughs certainly come easy.  Still, those who need to be criticized are criticized, and those who deserved to be rewarded are rewarded, so the comedy isn’t mean.

The comic itself is light-years away from mean; by the end, it tells a story that gracefully manages to be just happy and heartwarming enough to still be enjoyable rather than forced and sappy. There isn’t really a direct moral lesson, and it isn’t even expecting the reader to take it all that seriously. It’s a silly, convivial little story that raises spirits and makes the case for being a friend to those in need and having a good ol’ goofy time, and for that, it’s remarkable.

Story: iVan Cohen Art: Paulina
Story: 9.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

To check out Matt’s about.me, click here

IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Godzilla Cataclysm #2

The first issue of Godzilla: Cataclysm was an amazing comic book, filled with solid suspense, exciting action, and cool, large-scale storytelling that truly delivered. It had a more grim and gritty atmosphere than what is typically conjured up when people think of Godzilla. Cataclysm is a five-issue mini-series finely written by Cullen Bunn and gorgeously drawn, inked and colored by Dave Wachter. The second story drops a lot of the suspense of the first issue and delivers mainly in the other two departments, featuring lots of jaw-dropping monster battling and clever back story that makes the plot at hand even more interesting.

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The action of the first issue was given as a reward for getting through all of the eerie build up, but in this issue it’s given away liberally. Immaculately-done artwork fills this book up to the brim, depicting a great deal of sweet, raw fun. Maybe every once in a while the action gets a tad dull, but it’s rarer than reasonable traffic in Pittsburgh. It’s almost always lots of fist-pumping, fantastic entertainment. Every depiction of these big brutes fighting is something I wouldn’t mind on my iPhone’s lock screen, or on the wall of my dorm.

I had a slight fear after the debut issue that there wouldn’t be enough done in this series to set it apart and elevate it to something special as a whole, but this issue proves it wrong. This issue continues the angle of the monsters being seen as religious deities and expands upon it, bringing up issues like human sacrifice and prayer. The protagonist is not only an interesting and likeable wise old man archetype, but a catalyst for big reveals currently kept in the dark. This man and some others of his age have a unique history with Godzilla, and the implications of this are massive.

While it didn’t have quite the impact on me that the first issue did, this one convinced me more so that this is going to be something special when it’s all done with. Godzilla Cataclysm is a kick-ass comic book, filled with enough monster-worship to quench the thirst of even the most hardcore Godzilla fan. If you’re too lame to jump on now, I implore you to at least pick up the trade when it inevitably hits store shelves.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Dave Wachter
Story:  8.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy

To check out Matt’s about.me, click here

IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: George Pérez’s Sirens #1

BOOM_Sirens_001_coverAWriter and artist George Pérez is known for some pretty famous comic book runs in the broad history of comics. He came to fame in the 1970s for his work in the Avengers. In the 1980s he became known for helping to make the Teen Titans the successful DC Comics answer to the popularity of Marvel’s X-Men, and his run at the beginning of the second volume of Wonder Woman helped to revitalize the character that had become too tied to a hoaky past. Despite this success in the early part of his career, Pérez has not been known for a lot of big flashy events since then, rather going on with his career in a mostly consistent if not generally flashy direction. As a fan of his earlier stuff, it was thus interesting for me to hear that he was going to be working on a new series from BOOM! Studios called Sirens, but in a bit of a departure from his regular playground of superheroes, Pérez chose the cosmic setting for his new series.

Pérez is well-regarded by many fans for the depth and complexity with which he writes female characters, treating them less than props and more like equals to their male counterparts. He is also well-known, especially in regards to Wonder Woman for taking a common element of comics and reinvigorating it with fresh ideas without destroying its core. This would seem to be the approach taken with the series Sirens. The eponymous group of heroes is an all-female team of space heroes. While initially diving into this book, it seems as though Pérez might have lost his touch to some degree. Instead of a strong cohesive narrative, there is a lot of jumping around between characters and even between genres. Readers will see some science-fiction, some fantasy and even a little Western in the opening pages and might wonder where this is all headed. It would seem though that one of the main problems with reinvigorating the genre of outer space heroines is more difficult now than it was twenty years ago, especially with the introduction of many stronger characters into the field of sci-fi.

While the reader might be left wondering what is going on for the first part of the story in issue #1, the confusion does end up being worth the effort. Although it takes a fairly roundabout way to get there, the story does get on track towards the end, coalescing as it does into the team, though in a less conventional way than some origin stories. In the end this ends up being a pretty satisfying read, as Pérez goes from nothing to a compelling story with compelling characters in little time. Although there is still a little bit of confusion by the end of the first issue, the degree to which Pérez has pulled it together is evidence enough that the story should be clear and concise enough by the following issue.

Story and Art:  George Perez
Story: 7.8 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.8 Recommendation: Buy

BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.  

Review: Purgatori #1

purI have been an on-again off-again reader of comics for pretty much my whole life. One of those off-again periods happened to coincide with the explosion in the 1990s of the “bad girl” comics, of which there were many representatives, but of which Lady Death was among the most successful. The basic characteristics of most of these characters were pretty similar. They would have ridiculously sculpted feminine physiques, ridiculous even by the standards of the usual presentation of comic book women, and their clothing were usually equally ridiculous. The other commonality was their power, a lot stronger than they looked, and usually derived from some supernatural source. I didn’t know them though, by the time that I had regained an interest on comics I was too late to catch up.

After the popularity of the characters died off, they kind of scattered. Some ended up at the same publishers though with less focus, while others bounced around a fair bit. One of those that bounced was Lady Death, but strangely her entourage did not, at least not in all parts. One of the more popular supporting characters, Purgatori, was sold off separately and also could not find a home for a while. Eventually the character ended up at Dynamite. Generally speaking Dynamite has been an industry leader in terms of revamping public domain characters and making them modern and approachable, but they generally have stayed away from such characters with recent pasts elsewhere.

As a reader of Purgatori #1, I am a little bit in the middle of the experience. Any #1 is a good place to start off with a new character, as creators usually have the insight to make the characters a little more approachable. At the same time, the theme matter of Purgatori is a little bit outside of what I am used to. A trend which I avoided mostly was the vampire trend in pop culture, including in comics. That Purgatori is a demon/vampire blend doesn’t really connect with me as a reader that tends more towards science-fiction. As an aspiring writer of fiction myself, I recognize that stories require one of two things – engaging concepts or engaging characters, though preferably both. In the case of this series, the concept is a little mundane, as the setting of Hell is not really a new one when even the likes of Superman and Iron Man have been there. Contrasted against that is the character of Purgatori. While the writer, Aaron Gillespie, has been given a pre-established character and has limited ability within which to make her unique from the concept, he at least succeeds in the characterization.

Though she is potentially new to a lot of readers, the main character is still approachable. She is bad, but also a little good, serious but also sassy. It makes for the kind of character that can hold a series even if the setting is not very interesting. As this series stands for me, I will check out issue #2 to see where it goes, even if it is not my style, just because the writer has made the character compelling enough.

Story: Aaron Gillespie Art: Javier Garcia Miranda
Story: 7.8 Art: 8.2 Overall: 7.8 Recommendation: Read

Dynamite Entertainment provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Soccer Physics

I can’t say enough that mobile gaming is so fascinating. Apple’s App Store is filled to the brim with a constantly updated cavalcade of bite-sized, unique video games. Another piece of fun added to the collection is Soccer Physics, a goofy and simple arcade sports game from developer Otto-Ville Ojala. It’s a ton of addictive, hilarious fun that only gets more enjoyable as more players are crowded around whatever mobile device is being used.

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Soccer Physics functions on a 2D plane, giving players a single button to control the movements of two soccer players. Thirty seconds of playing around with the one button is enough to inform players of how the bizarre controls function. No matter how much one plays, the controls never really make sense, but the magic of Soccer Physics is that this is funny rather than frustrating. The controls are constantly difficult to deal with, but they’re difficult for everyone and consistent, so it’s not problematic. Watching the nonsensically-animated soccer players flail around hopelessly is an infinite pleasure.

Just enough is done to make Soccer Physics constantly fresh and fun. After each goal is laboriously squeezed out, randomized, silly changes are applied to the game. One match, players may find themselves without heads, while another match the heads will be attached but they’ll want to be yanked off in frustration over attempts to get a beach ball into a shrunken goal. The voice-overs after goals had me and my friends cracking up over the ridiculousness, and the game’s cute visual style matches well. It’s a nice touch that the ethnicity of the players is switched up after each goal; the genders don’t switch, which is unfortunate, but one can’t have everything. The game is always able to elicit a laugh and a smile.

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The game can be played single player against an appropriately intelligent computer, which is a fun time apt for quick, solitaire downtime. However, if two or four players can join together (preferably on a tablet for obvious reasons), the game gets much more entertaining because there are human beings to have a laugh with. There is an optional mode that gives two buttons to each team, each button controlling a respective player, opening the game up to more precise two-player gameplay or chaotic four-player fun. The game is most enjoyable when players have to struggle with just one button for two players, and crowding four people along one side of a horizontal tablet (or, God forbid, a phone) is a chore, so the one-button two-player mode is really where it’s at.

It’s a great game that I always have a great time showing people. It’s the kind of experience that would stay shackled to the niche realm of flash games if not for Apple’s popularization of mobile gaming. Huzzah for that.

This piece was originally posted on “The Gaming Groove.”

To check out Matt’s about.me, click here

TV Review: The Strain S1E10 Loved Ones

the-strain-logo110 episodes in and The Strain continues to surprise with twist and turns. The beginning of the episode flashes back and forth a bit, finally giving us an idea of what has happened to Eph’s ex-wife Kelly. For those who have read the comic, we know what to expect, but here we get some solid detail and creepy scenes. I found myself squirming. The episode bounces back and forth following Kelly’s story, mixed with Eph’s search for her.

A lot of the episode focuses on Kelly, but some is focused on Dutch and Vasiliy who are attempting to fix the mistakes that Dutch made by helping Eldritch Palmer. That whole segment is interesting, in that we learn what Palmer was planning on getting out of the deal with the Master, and some loyalty isn’t quite what we thought it was.

But really, the episode is about Eph and his search, and in that, he’s forced to do some pretty brutal stuff. He also shows his human side, something nice to see since Eph has been such a dick throughout the series so far.

Through the scares, and the chills, the series does a good job at showing the human side of things, and that’s the focus of the episode. It pulls us back in to remind us about the people involved in the story. In a show about vampires, this episode was about the human side of it all.

Overall Score: 8

Little Details Makes Smash Demo Shine

On September 12th, “select” Club Nintendo Platinum Members got their hands on four codes each for the Super Smash Bros. demo on Nintendo 3DS. Why just select members for an intangible good with infinite quantity? Who knows!? My conspiracy theory of choice is that Nintendo didn’t want an abundance of traffic breaking the eShop, because the mustachioed video game company doesn’t think it can handle the business of its most loyal customers and their buddies at the same time.

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Let’s not be too negative, though! It’s a Super Smash Bros. demo, and everyone will be able to download it on September 19th. Heck, everyone will be able to buy the full game on October 3rd! I wasn’t able to get codes emailed me, since I was too forgetful and lazy to redeem enough of my codes for Platinum Status last time around, but I was still able to able to snag two codes for me and my friend. We both loved the demo. It’s a nice little tease at what is sure to be a delightful time.

The demo is very bare-bones; players can only battle locally or against CPUs on the standard “Battlefield” stage in a two-minute points-based match, using Mario, Link, Pikachu, Villager and Mega Man. This does, however, allow for hours of solid fun that shows off a lot of new quirks that seasoned Smash Bros. players will salivate over.

There are welcome changes to both Link and Pikachu specifically. Whenever Link goes into a running standard attack, he lunges at his foe, just like in the actual Zelda games. This animation is so much cooler than the bland slash of his sword from past games. Something I’m a huge fan of with Pikachu is the big-time nerfing that has been done to his down special attack. In past Smash games, spamming of Pikachu’s lightning bolt from the sky was a constant annoyance, but now, it is less powerful and lasts for a shorter amount of time. No more will you have to worry about that one annoying friend of yours who only plays as Pikachu in the most irksome way possible. Mario seemed just about the same as he was in Brawl to me, but he still gets to take advantage of a change every character gets: whenever a devastating hit is landed on a foe, there is a flashy visual effect around the character, increasing the satisfaction in a simple way.

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Capcom’s Mega Man and Animal Crossing’s Villager are both interesting characters that don’t quite feel like any other Smash combatant, especially the former. Mega Man’s standard attack, standard running attack, and side smash attack are all projectiles, which is an odd thing to get used to. Having a projectile-based smash attack offers a big one-up over your opponents, making fully-charged hits much easier to land. Not having a melee attack to use while on the ground, however, is pretty inconvenient. Mega Man is checked and balanced in a neat, fair way, making him a fun and unique character.

I was interested to get past the meme-laden hype and give Villager a shot, and he did not disappoint. I prefer playing as Villager, a more mechanically standard character that is aesthetically strange. Riding atop a rocketing gyroid into rivals is a blast. His down special, which is a four-button process that eventually sends a tree into opponents for huge damage, is a creative mechanic that works best in four-player battles. While not as cool as Mega Man’s, which calls forth every version of the blue bomber for a big cooperative laser blast, Villager’s final smash is a cute callback to the Animal Crossing games, featuring that dastardly Tom Nook building a seemingly explosive-filled house for Villager’s foes.

The new items included in this demo are all fantastic. Some of my favorites are the Ore Club, Bullet Bill, Galaga Boss, and Special Flag. The Ore Club, pulled from Kid Icarus: Uprising, allows for walloping hits that are follows by big tornadoes that push foes off of platforms. Allowing players to rocket off in the direction of their choosing and packing a solid punch is Super Mario Bros.’s Bullet Bill. The Galaga Boss lurks around in the area, scooping players up off the stage if they land in its abduction ray. Pulled from Rally-X, the Special Flag gives a player an extra point (or stock, once those kinds of matches are eventually available to the masses) if they hold in the standard attack button long enough; this is unlike any other item in Smash Bros. thus far.

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The game looks and feels great. The graphics are about on-par with Brawl as is expected. The flat art for all of the characters in the menus are great-looking, taking advantage of a detailed and dynamic style. The 3D looks great, with multiple layers to it and occasional pop-out effects. It doesn’t control as well as it does on a GameCube controller, but it works about as well as it can on this system.

It’s the little things that made me most excited for this game to finally come out. It really says something about the popularity of game whenever slight variations in animation is enough to get fists pumping, and Smash Bros. is one of those games. October 3rd, dudes.

This piece was originally posted on “The Gaming Groove.”

To check out Matt’s about.me, click here

Review: Regular Show Hydration

Cartoon Network is really showing Nickelodeon up when it comes to animation, nowadays. The latter has Spongebob, sure, but Cartoon Network has stuff like Adventure Time and Regular Show. While I personally have problems with both shows, it’s undoubtable that both are successful, creative, and unique. Both have respective comic book series, and for the summer, Boom! Studios has decided to go against the grain and do a standalone graphic novel, called Regular Show Hydration, written by Rachel Connor and drawn by Tessa Stone. I love that this format was chosen, and it’s a very good read that looks wonderful, bogged down a tad by some troubles typical to Regular Show.

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Regular Show is at its best when it’s focusing on slow, down-to-Earth comedy. Mordecai and Rigby are delightfully inadequate losers, and in this comic’s first act, seeing their goofy attempts to cool down is a pure joy. Their small mannerisms, often making a big, passionate deal out of little nonsense, are hilarious. One highlight is when Rigby shuts himself in the fridge and has scary, brain-freeze-fueled visions. It’s all clever and consistently interesting.

Whenever the story takes a turn into a direction with much more action, things are still inventive fun, but the quality drops a bit. Occasionally, the action gets a touch dull, feeling a bit like filler. Still, things are kept ridiculous enough to prompt laughs and particular moments of satisfaction. Seeing a giant water-park-fused-snake-monster terrorizing the town get taken down by a mech-duck and smelly odor is enjoyable in a very obvious way.

The book does a great job of forming this big, dumb, elaborate story and actually making sense of it through some silly backstory. It’s kind of like Hangover I suppose, starting out with a crazy situation and then slowly peeling back the layers and explaining things. At the end, Hydration faithfully retains an aspect of the show that quite bothers me, which is that Mordecai and Rigby are treated too nicely. This comic is filled with ace examples of them being horribly irresponsible and stupid, but it’s still a happy ending for them, allowing them to blissfully continue being so awful. It would be funnier and easier to swallow if they got bummed out every ending, yet still continued making the same mistakes.

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The art in Hydration is fantastic, Stone doing a remarkable job. All of the visual quirks of the television show are retained, but it manages to look even better. The layouts are consistently unique, always making the book more exciting to read. The coloring from Fred Stresing, who was aided by Whitney Cogar, is absolutely worth noting, because man, is it excellent. There is a perfectly effective mix of flashy coloring and more mute colors that fits whatever atmosphere the book tries for throughout the read. It’s brought down some by a lack of background art every now and then, but that’s the only noteworthy flaw.

There isn’t any profound musings on life in Regular Show: Hydration, and it’s not really doing anything that anyone else is doing, but it’s impressively done. It’s certainly not without its issues, but it’s worth purchasing. It fills two voids and it fills them well; the comic industry has an all-ages graphic novel that it can be proud of.

Story: Rachel Connor Art: Tessa Stone
Story: 7.5 Art: 8.75 Overall: 7.75 Recommendation: Buy

To check out Matt’s about.me, click here

BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

 

 

TV Review: Doctor Who S8E3 Robot of Sherwood

doctor who capaldiPart of Doctor Who’s brilliance is that it can take us anywhere and at any time. For this episode, we get a trip to Sherwood forest to join Robin Hood and his band of men in their battle against the evil Sheriff.

What’s interesting is what happens near the beginning of their getting to know Robin Hood. He explains how he began his battle, prompted by a woman to stand up for what’s right. Much like how the Doctor is now by Clara. Also, the Doctor seems to be confused by this figure who shouldn’t exist, not realizing that his bewilderment is similar to Clara’s relationship, and all companion’s relationships, with the Doctor.

Overall, the episode is ok, keeping us questioning what is real, and what is not. The story, isn’t the main focus, it’s the underlying themes as discussed above that really matters.

The episode is all about legends and heroes, and what the Doctor’s labels are when it comes to both of those. It’s clear the season is really focusing on all of that, the Doctor’s role in the world and that question if he’s a good man.

Not the best episode, but it moves along the themes of the season well.

Overall Score: 7.5

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