Dark Truth — Superman Wonder Woman #18 Review

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www.hypergeeky.comThree issues into the Truth event, it’s still impossible to talk about the overall quality of the arc — especially because every title contains a different approach to the storyline.

The first Superman Wonder Woman issue in the event begins with some thought boxes from Wonder Woman, and I thought this would be a welcome change of pace given that Truth has been rather Superman-centric so far.

Unfortunately, we only get Wonder Woman’s thoughts for the first two pages. Soon enough, Diana Prince becomes another piece of background decoration, a plot device to give Superman a way to fly along with some expository dialogue. Basically, if you erased Wonder Woman from the story, you wouldn’t notice much different — though you wouldn’t get a chance to see her new costume, which I liked quite a bit.

Diving right into the Peter J. Tomasi’s story, Clark Kent wakes up at 3:00am when he gets a phone call from “Big Red,” aka Lana Lang. Let me stop right there and mention how awkward it is that Kent saves Lana’s phone number under the name Big Red. That doesn’t sound like him at all.

Kent goes to Smallville to investigate because Lang can’t explain much in the phone call.

We assume Superman and Wonder Woman had no other choice than to break into Lang’s house. The issue isn’t particularly fast paced, but this detail is glossed over. I think Tomasi could have written a little superhero morality subplot for a page or two — it might have been interesting.

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After that, the superhero duo meet up with two of Clark’s friends who would supposedly know what’s been going on. They do, and apparently several people have gone missing.

Doug Mahnke’s work on the facial expressions is quite disappointing. The two Smallvillers don’t seem very concerned at all about the disappearances. It really feels like the penciling was done in a hurry on these pages. But not all of the panels are bad — there are many panels where the facial expressions look really good. Lang’s only appearance is a very strong example of it, which makes me think Mahnke’s inconsistency was caused by focusing on some pages more than others.

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Superman leaves to his parent’s farm and finds out it has been completely moved. The government seems to have taken everything away, leaving only a few huge holes on the ground. Clark heads to a secret bunker built by his grandfather, a place he went to as a child when he wanted peace and quiet. I think the bunker is an important plot point, but I didn’t enjoy the art — again, the facial expressions seem off. I wanted to feel Clark’s pain which seems missing even after he discovers the graves of his parents have been removed.

Besides the pencils, the inks don’t look too heavy, even though four different inkers — Jaime Mendoza, Ray McCarthy, Jonathan Glapion, and Marc Deering — took on the task. As I always say, Superman stories shouldn’t be too dark. More than any other superhero, Superman represents hope and a brighter future. The colors by Wil Quintana look really good through the entire issue, and it’s because Quintana has been coloring a lot of Superman stories these past few years. He delivers, more often than not.

The issue’s ends with a cliffhanger and the appearance of the Suicide Squad. Still, this is by no means a good issue. The characterizations are completely off, and the story is just a huge build-up for the cliffhanger. The artwork is okay, without which, the whole thing would have been unreadable.


Superman Wonder Woman #18 (2013)
2 Stars
Words: Peter J. Tomasi
Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Jaime Mendoza, Ray McCarthy, Jonathan Glapion and Marc Deering
Colors: Wil Quintana
Letters: Rob Leigh

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Anthromorphic — Ant-Man Review

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www.hypergeeky.comCaptain America predated Ant-Man by a little more than 20 years, but you’d be wrong if you said Cap was an original Avengers member. It was Henry Pym that conceived the idea of forming the Avengers team, and Steve Rogers didn’t appear until the third issue. I bring this up because we’re two phases into Marvel’s cinematic universe, and Ant-Man’s already missed out on two Avengers films. In fact, it took Edgar Wright seven long years to develop the film — only to step away due to creative differences. Peyton Reed stepped in at the last minute, taking the reins with a rewritten script and an ensemble cast ready to prove themselves. Marvel proved they could take a non-mainstream comic idea like Guardians of the Galaxy and win the box office — can they do it again with one of comic’s least liked major heroes?

My favorite comic book guy Nicholas Black once told me, “I can’t wait for people to come into the shop and suddenly claim Ant-Man was their favorite hero,” to which I replied, “Ant-Man is no one’s favorite hero.” I stand by those words — it took all of 14 issues for Marvel to abandon Ant-Man for his second alter-ego: Giant Man. Yes, Marvel decided that the best way to make Henry Pym cool was to make him literally bigger. But for what it’s worth, Ant-Man the movie actually does what the comic could not do — we have a certifiable superhero whose talents allow him to single-handedly infiltrate the Avengers headquarters.

Ant-Man, the movie, in a nod to comic book geeks encompasses decades of history by bringing to screen not just one Ant-Man, but two of them — the original Dr. Pym (Michael Douglas) and the more modern Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). It’s Lang who receives the torch from Pym, a contemporary of Howard Stark and Agent Carter, and this origin story follows Lang as he goes from thief with a Robin Hood complex to newest potential member of the Avengers (stay for the two post-credit scenes). Rudd is solid as the reformed thief who goes back to burgling in order to provide for himself and get visitation rights for his daughter. After he’s caught returning stolen goods, Rudd gets a second chance from Pym who tasks him with infiltrating Pym Tech, the company he was kicked out of and where Pym’s protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) has created a weapon of war. Ant-Man is very much a heist film, taking a lot of inspiration from other films in the genre to great effect. The movie moves at lightning speed to a believable finish, but looking back, you’ll see cracks in the paint — emotional scenes are edited like action sequences, causing them to lose much of their effect. Is Ant-Man a great film? No. But it’s much better than about half of Marvel’s other films, and it should be applauded for being as much a genre film as it is a superhero movie. It’s fun and filled with good intentions — which is great if that’s what you’re looking for.


Ant-Man (2015)
3 Stars
IMDB
Directed by: Peyton Reed
Written by: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, and Paul Rudd
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, and Corey Stoll

Before Truth — Superman #41 Review

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www.hypergeeky.comAfter having shown some of what happens to Superman after being depowered and having his secret identity revealed, it’s time we found out how things got to this point.

Superman #41 begins with Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen casually talking in the office when Kent is receives an anonymous SMS with a tip for a major story: Leland Norvell, the state senator, has been found runing an underground weapons trafficking operation.

Olsen and Kent go out to investigate and are seen by one of the guards which prompts Clark to change into Superman to solve that situation.

I must point out that this was an extremely careless move, especially with so many people around. We see Clark destroy the gun in plain sight.

I understand why he makes that decision, but it seems careless.

That’s the only one page that isn’t perfectly on point. The following page, with Superman battling one of the robot-weapons is just a sight to behold. John Romita Jr. is, as always, an amazing penciller for these action pages, especially in regards to the fluidity of the panels. Dean White’s very flashy and bright colors also stand out during the action sequence which ends with Superman using his new solar flare power.

Lois Lane meets both her colleagues shortly afterwards and decides to help them write the article, though she wasn’t present for the investigation.

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Afterwards, the article leads to the Senator’s arrest, and Perry White is extremely satisfied with the team’s job. After a short celebration, Clark starts receiving more messages from the anonymous source. Unfortunately, the new messages bring about some tension. The source reveals they know about Clark’s secret identity, and they threaten to make it public if he doesn’t follow their demands.

The anonymous source tells Clark to turn a woman coming into the Daily Planet over to the “proper authorities.” Clark finds her, a woman with blue dreadlocks named Condesa, talking with Lois, who’s surprised to see Clark unwilling to even listen to her.

www.hypergeeky.comSince the anonymous text-sender says more favors are yet to come, Superman follows the fake FBI van holding Condesa using a different costume to disguise himself. This leads to another incredibly drawn battle.

Superman brings Condesa to Olsen’s car, but Lane is also there. Superman changes to his Clark identity which means Condesa keen on Kent’s superpowers. She doesn’t necessarily know that Clark is Superman, but she knows he’s no ordinary human.

Throughout this issue, it seems like Superman is starting to become more careless than he should be.

www.hypergeeky.comWhen two gunmen start shooting the car, Clark gets shot, and that probably means Lois will figure out by next issue that he’s Superman.

Superman #41 is definitely filled with more action than any the other issues in the Truth crossover event. Gene Luen Yang’s dense script is a very welcome change of pace after three issues dealing primarily with setting the plot. And while I’ve expressed dissatisfaction with the story arc so far, I’m mostly very pleased with what’s happening now. The story has become more exciting, and the dialogue is well-written.

Romita Jr.’s pencils are spot-on almost everywhere. One of the few exceptions is Lane, who looks a little weird. Her facial expressions are a little odd in the closeup panels.

Clark, on the other hand, is pretty much perfect. Klaus Janson’s inks help with contouring and providing depth.

All in all this is a very solid first issue for the new arc running through the Superman title, and I am very excited to see what will come next.


Superman #41 (2011)
4 Stars
DC
Words: Gene Luen Yang
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Klaus Janson
Colors: Dean White
Letters: Rob Leigh

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Shots Fired — Civil War #1 Review

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What if Steve Rogers and Tony Stark didn’t settle their differences in the original Civil War crossover?

What if their solution to the conflict was to split a nation into two separate territories governed by their idealogues?

Charles Soule explores that possibility with a Secret Wars mini-series set six years after Cloak’s teleport saves a squad of superheroes while dooming fifteen-million other heroes and civilians. With the country separated down the middle, Rogers and Stark govern their sides according to the principles that separated them before.

Those in the Iron who exhibit superpowers are required to register with the government, while those in Rogers’ Blue are free to do as they wish as long as they harm no one and help out whenever possible.

On a particular day in the Divide, the two sides have agreed to meet to hash out reunification. When a bullet meant for Rogers hits mediator Miriam Sharpe instead, war is declared, and Rogers expects a clear victor this time around.

Soule is a perfect fit for the Civil War series — the scripting gets right to the point without taking for granted the scope of both sides. When Stark requests land be given to the Iron in order to help with population issues, you wouldn’t be remiss if you immediately thought of what’s happening between Israel and Palestine — a heated conflict with no clear answer.

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The issue invokes other real-world conflicts as well. When Stark argues, “Freedom is not having to worry about the country full of gun-nut maniacs right on your border,” Civil War absorbs the gun debate.

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And by including other characters who have a stake in reunification, Soule puts a spotlight on countries broken in two, held together by the most fragile of cease fires. Like a government-sanctioned family reunion a la North Korea, Peter Parker gets a moment with Mary Jane and Maybelle. Now, imagine if something happened at the Korean DMZ, something along the lines of a mediator being assassinated, like Sharpe this issue.

War could break out, like it does here after Rogers calls Peter to task to find out who the sniper is. The breaking of the Parker family underscores what’s at stake if Stark and Rogers go to war, and when evidence frames Stark, the gloves come off.

It’s clear by Marvel’s choice in having Leinil Yu provide pencils that the company considers Civil War a pretty big deal. Yu is excellent as usual, providing panels filled with engaging drama. In contrasting sequences — a young girl discovers her power of flight in the Iron while a young boy in the Blue levels a mountain with a blast — Yu shows exactly how different things can be. In the east where Iron Man’s code is law, Carol Danvers appears with backup. It’s a bit police state, but Danvers gently brings the young girl up to speed — unchecked power can create problems, like when a newbie flyer comes too close to a jetliner’s airspace.

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As for the boy in the Blue, Cassie Lang appears with a simple message. “You want to blow things up? Blow ’em up.” The freedom is there to choose, and anyone who decides to harm anyone else will bear the full brunt of punishment when the Punishers come.

Both approaches are vastly different, and Yu captures the tension and freedom with thoughtful compositions.

Longtime collaborators Gerry Alanguilan and Sunny Gho work in perfect tandem to finish the pages with finesse. The inks fill in Yu’s stylistic details with a sort of precision that can be described as controlled chaos — sketchy lines imbued with reinforced-steel. Gho’s colors add dimension in a way that lifts the characters expression from two-dimensional to three. The palette isn’t flashy, but Gho creates contrasts that command the eye.

The balanced approach to the production of the comic is just another layer to a story filled with layers, like a genetically modified onion. It’s good seeing former comrades Stark and Rogers on opposing sides, and Soule seems eager to play up the rivalry with tons of dramatic tension and extremism which makes for a more compelling story befitting the title — civil war is a conflict in which both sides do harm to the whole, and thus, themselves.

That said, I’ll end this review with some lyrics from Guns N’Roses.

The song: Civil War — “Look at your young men fighting. Look at your women crying. Look at your young men dying.

The way they’ve always done before.”


Civil War #1 (2015)
5 Stars
Marvel
Words: Charles Soule
Pencils: Leinil Yu
Inks: Gerry Alanguilan
Colors: Sunny Gho
Letters: Joe Sabino

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Arkham Ends — Batman: Arkham Knight Review

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Last Knight

Arkham Knight is the fourth in the acclaimed Arkham series which kicked off in 2009 with Arkham Asylum and was followed by Arkham City in 2011 and Arkham Origins in 2013.

All of the games were handled by Rocksteady except for Origins which was developed by Warner Bros. Games Montreal. With Knight back under its helm, Rocksteady takes the reins for the series’ grand finale.

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In Arkham Knight, the Scarecrow has come up with a plan to gas the entire city with his fear-inducing toxin. After a mass evacuation, Gotham City’s left with a massive criminal element causing havoc in the streets.

To make things even more difficult for Batman, Scarecrow has enlisted the aid of the Arkham Knight, a mysterious military commander with a personal vendetta. Backed by a militia armed to the teeth with guns, tanks, and drones, the Arkham Knight won’t stop until the Batman is dead.

Cityscape

Gotham City is huge, and walking around in plain sight isn’t advised unless you’re into being constantly harassed and run over by thugs and the militia.

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Thankfully, Batman can take to the city’s rooftops with his bat-grapple where he can launch himself into a glide using his cape. Gliding gives you the benefit of scouting out the city for quest markers and targets while keeping you relatively out of harm’s reach.

Taking the sky route will also give you a chance to exploit Batman’s detective vision – a cowl mod that helps him find needles in haystacks. Detective vision highlights important targets in orange and keys you into finding doors, weak points, and quest markers.

The cowl is also outfitted with tech that lets you eavesdrop on criminals and police scanners. Using sights and sounds will grant you a leg up on beating back Scarecrow’s forces.

It Comes in Black

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If you’d rather get there faster, why not take the Batmobile – a rocket powered tank that can switch between two functional forms. In its transport form, the Batmobile can accelerate with a boost from its engine, launch itself over ramps, chase down other vehicles, and carry friends and foes in its passenger section.

In its tank form, the Batmobile trades speed for combat. Armed with vulcan guns and a cannon, Batman can hold his own against the Arkham Knight’s mobilized forces as long as you can aim and dodge. Don’t fret about blowing up those tanks and drones – fortunately and in keeping with Batman’s no-kill mandate, none of them are manned. And if you happen to accidentally shoot a stray criminal – the Batmobile switches to rubber bullets on the fly for guilt-free gunning.

The tank form can also use detective vision to locate secrets, winch connectors, and power ports. Being able to hoist your Batmobile into areas other vehicles can’t reach gives Batman an advantage that evens the odds.

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Bat Fight! It’s Anyone’s Game

You’ll have to pick and choose your battles, using various gadgets from your utility belt.

Batman relies on a combination of fear and theatrics to get into the heads of his enemies, and the better you are at playing the mental game, the longer you’ll stay alive. Use perches, grates, and weak walls to play a cruel game of cat and mouse until you’ve achieved fear status. Once you’ve incapacitated the wanderers and sentries guarding the fringes, unleash fear mode to take out a group by targeting your next victim in the chain and hitting the attack button. This gives you an awesome edge against weapon-wielding opponents who can otherwise overwhelm you in a conventional brawl.

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If you’d rather be a bulldozer, you can implement most of your gadgets to clear the field. Explosive gel, batarangs, disruptors, and the grapple hook will help you jack up that combo meter which in turn will net you a higher score for experience points. The more moves, tech, and counters you incorporate into your freeflow, the faster you’ll be able to add perks that will make you a better Batman. Be warned – the game will throw a variety of enemies that will require quick reactions and tactical changes on the fly. You’ll have to disarm gunmen, dizzy brutes, dodge energy wielders, and crush shieldbearers, all the while countering up to three attackers at the same time.

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If that sounds too daunting, don’t let that turn you away. Batman has finishing moves that will instantly knock down foes. All you have to do is hit a combination of buttons to dispatch a singular enemy or stun a crowd before taking them all out. It will require you build up that combo meter, but once you get the hang of it, fighting crime turns into a beautiful but violent dance.

Missions and Challenges

Since this is the last game of the series, you’ll see a lot of friendly faces. You’ll also get to see familiar locations and some Easter eggs if you know where to look.

In addition to the main storyline, you’ll come across sidequests which provide different game types. These game types might require you to chase down targets in your Batmobile, find those Riddler trophies, fight off a squadron of tanks, or play detective as you hunt down a serial killer.

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After you finish off the main storyline, you must finish a number of these sidequests in order to initiate a protocol which will give you one of two different endings. Finish the game completely – you’ll have to find 243 Riddler trophies – and you’ll get the perfect ending.

The game also presents you with challenges – sidegames that test particular aspects. These can be reached in game, or from the main menu. Besides being a welcome distraction, these challenges will also enter you into an online competition of sorts to see who the best Dark Knight is. You can compare your scores against your friends or the online community – the only problem is, it’s not working at the moment for a good number of people. If and when it gets up and running for us all, we can settle the score and crown a caped crusader.

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Concluding Remarks

Arkham Knight is a beautiful game that does a lot of things very well.

In terms of visuals, the city of Gotham is wonderfully realized with a sort of architecture that makes the city a character in and of itself. Even with all of the scenic details, traveling through the city is pretty seamless with very few load times, and you’ll appreciate it that much more after you realize how far you’ve chased a target from its starting point.

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The voice acting is top notch – Kevin Conroy came out of bat-retirement to give this game its proper sendoff. Scarecrow, Riddler, and the Arkham Knight – voiced by John Noble, Wally Wingert, and Troy Baker – taunt you constantly, adding a layer of noise that keeps you company during the game.

As far as the story goes, I think people should play Arkham Knight expecting development rather than a twist. It’s pretty obvious who the masked villain is because the story leads you to the final reveal. The fact I’m telling you this might help you to enjoy the game more because you’re not walking into the game expecting a Shyamalan sort of surprise or twist – instead you’ll be experiencing the story as it logically unfolds.

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That said, the story is great, and it pays a lot of tribute to the various Batman stories from the comics, cartoons, and movies. The cityscape is much like Joel Schumacher’s Gotham City in Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. The voice acting brings in the excellent talent from the cartoons, and the direction of the plot follows Christopher Nolan’s method of taking plotlines from the comics and molding them together into a mish-mash epic tale.

I’d have to say this is my favorite Arkham game so far – the Be the Batman slogan rings true because you begin the game with plenty of abilities, and the hand-holding is minimal. Combat is as complex as you want it to be, and the Batmobile is an welcome and unruly mythological creature that, once mastered, becomes the closest thing to sitting in a raging roadster that happens to double as an assault vehicle. There’s a lot of depth to the game, and the various pieces build up to a grand ending — provided you get the full ending.

That doesn’t mean the game is perfect, and I’m surprised that Rocksteady made everything bigger and better except for one major thing – the boss battles.

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In Arkham City, the Mr. Freeze and Ra’s al Ghul encounters were some of my favorites in any video game and for separate reasons. The Mr. Freeze battle required you to use secondary skills and stealth in place of straight combat in order to beat him, and the Ra’s al Ghul fight was a sudden contrast to everything else in the game that surrounded it.

In Arkham Knight, the boss battles aren’t really battles at all. I would give away too many spoilers by talking about who and how, but if I could change one thing about this game – I’d rather Rocksteady gave us more satisfying and challenging skirmishes that were more than just reflex exercises.

That said, when you’re looking at the full package, Batman: Arkham Knight is an amazing game, and I’m sad to see Rocksteady move on. Flaws aside, the core game is fantastic with plenty of things to see and do, and the atmosphere prevalent in the other games is there. Arkham Knight is immersive thanks to the details – the only thing missing is the smell of Gotham in your living room – and as a conclusion to the series, we now have an ending to one of the best game series ever made, and I highly recommend it.


Batman: Arkham Knight
4 Stars
Rocksteady
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