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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

4 Reasons Why Mark Waid's Run on the Flash is Awesome

I'm a big fan of the Flash now but even before I became a true believer of the fastest man alive's exploits, a name would frequently pop up whenever the character was discussed in comic book forums: Mark Waid. There have been scores of other Flash writers that have done great works on the scarlet speedster such as Cary Bates, Geoff Johns, John Broome and Gardner Fox, but but I've heard more times than I can count that no writer did Flash better than Waid. Here are four reasons why Waid's Flash run is loved so much.

1. It Contrasted the Edgy Stories that Over Saturated Comics

The 1990s for comic books as a whole could be summed up as dark, gritty and bleak. Now that isn't to say that those types of comic book stories are bad, mind you. After all, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen are extremely grim tales and among my favorite. Having said that, one of the biggest problems with comics in '90s was that dark comic book stories were taking over the industry. During this time period Superman died, Batman got his back broken and Spider-Man had more than one of him swinging around in one of the most convoluted stories that had long overstayed it's welcome. Comic buffs recognize this era as the Dark Age for the medium and the things I just mentioned were only a few happenings at the time. Some of these pessimistic stories were told well, but more often than not, heavy violence and sex were there just for the sake of shock value. In what is widely considered to be one of the worst time periods for the industry, Waid's Flash was a much needed beckon of hope.

2. Wally West as the Flash

While the name of the Flash is widely recognized to belong to Barry Allen. in truth, numerous people have and still do carry that title. When Barry died in the 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths story, Wally West, at the time Kid Flash, took over the mantle of the Flash. Main character's getting replaced happened quite frequently in the Dark Age and it still happens today but it rarely lasts for long, a year if that. Wally was the Flash for more than 20 years. The odds of this kind of big change getting done today and lasting for two decades? Absolute zero.

Let me make it clear that I do not hate Barry Allen in the slightest in spite of his blandness. I get that he kick started the Silver Age and for a lot of folks, he is the Flash. My first introduction to Wally was through the DCAU's Justice League animated series in the early 2000s. I like the character but it wasn't until I started reading Flash comics that I really became a huge Wally fan.

3. The Return of Barry Allen

Long before Barry Allen came back for real, there was a six part story that brought back the Silver Age speedster. So many people wanted to see Barry come back so, Waid brought him back. Just... not the way they were expecting. When Barry shows up alive and well, Wally is understandably very skeptical at first but his trust is eventually won over. The good times don't last very long because Barry starts acting strangely, showing jealous towards Wally for replacing him. We find out that Barry is in fact not Barry but Eaboard Thawn, the Reverse Flash, who should be dead but this is a Reverse Flash that hasn't met Barry yet. This story gives an origin story for Thawne, a three on one fight against Reverse Flash and we get some excellent character development for Wally as we see him lose his doubts and confront Thawne.

Man, I can only imagine what it would have been like reading this story in the early '90s. Thinking Barry Allen came back, seeing him go insane, trying to kill Wally only to find out it was really the Reverse Flash all along.  He's revealed at the end of the fifth issue. The wait for the story's conclusion must have been a killer.

4. The Flash Family

What could be better than one speedster? A whole frickin' family of speedsters. The Flash Family is one of the most iconic in all of comics, ranking right up there with the Bat Family. As great as it is to see Wally doing things solo, I get extra giddy when Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, Max Mercury, Johnny Quick, Jessie Quick and Impulse get together for some high speed super heroics. Impulse proved to be so popular that he was given his own series, which Waid also wrote the first run of. Hopefully the adventures of Bart Allen's books will eventually be collected in TPB form but the whole Impulse series is up on Comixology.

Currently the first two books of Mark Waid's Flash run are available and if you're a fan of the Flash or just love good comic books, I cannot recommend them enough. You can tell Waid love's the Flash and that he was having the time of his life when he wrote these stories. Book three comes out in October. The wait is unbearable.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Flash Season 4: Woohoo, No Speedster Villains!

The Flash just wrapped up it's third season and while it had some problems, I still enjoyed the ride. Season two wasn't flawless and despite how amazing the first season was, it still didn't do everything right. One thing seasons one to three all had in common however was that each big bad was a speedster.

In season one we had the Reverse Flash as the primary antagonist, which I had no qualms about. Even before I really got into Flash comics, I knew that Reverse Flash was Barry Allen's greatest enemy and I love the way he was portrayed in live action. Season two brought us Zoom, a character that caused Wally West a great deal of pain in the comics. and while he differed a bit in the show, he was still a serious threat. Finally, in the third season we saw Savitar, who I didn't find bad but at this point speedster villain fatigue had begin to set in.

As much as I enjoyed the speedster big bads, I think it is high time they were given a much needed break. I'm burned out on seeing them and I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way. If the Green Arrow can go three seasons without fighting a central protagonist that shoot arrows, there's no reason the Flash can have a few seasons without being tormented by yet another speedy adversary that is usually much faster than him. You can imagine my relief when the show runners divulged that the big bad for season four of the Flash would in fact not be another speedster. 

I can understand why the Flash has used speedsters as a major obstacle for Barry to overcome. Just as Reverse Flash, Zoom, and Savitar were a big deal in the show, they were also big in the comics with Reverse Flash being the most famous evil speedster in the long history of the Flash. That being said, it isn't as if a being that does not posses the power of super speed cannot present a challenge to the Flash. While the Rogues are often mistakenly labeled as joke characters that hasn't stopped them from being a thorn in the side of the Flash Family. In particular, I love Captain Cold in the Abra Kadabra, the techno mage, was a huge highlight for me in season three and I really hope he comes back in season four.

It's as if the show runners thought the only foes that could prove a match for a swift hero is a swift villain. Again, as much as I enjoyed Zoom and Savitar, I don't think it would have hurt the show if we saw the later down the line. The big bad doesn't always have to be a speedster to keep things interesting.

You might have noticed that twice this season the name "DeVoe" was dropped, once by Kadabra and then by Savitar. While Savitar mentioned him in a sort of offhand way, Kadabra threw him in with Zoom and the Reverse Flash, two of the most sinister people Barry has ever gone up against, both of whom caused him a great deal of tragedy. Suffice to say, DeVoe will be a major play for season four of the Flash. And who is DeVoe? Why, he's Cliff DeVoe, also known as The Thinker. The Thinker has actually been four different people but DeVoe is the Golden Age version of the character. I'm looking forward to seeing what the show does with him and I'm happy to know that the fourth season of the Flash will treat us to an antagonist that doesn't have the same powers of the Scarlet Speedster.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Favorite Tunes #185: Space Mode

For this week's Favorite Tunes, we've got music from Phoenix Wright, Final Fantasy Legend II, Castlevania III, and a bumping beat from one very unexpected title.

Introduction - Phalanx (SNES)

By no means a remarkable shooter, and the North American box art is nothing short of atrocious, you could do a lot worse than Phalanx on the SNES. The soundtrack is a real gem. The twang in this intro track really makes it pop.

Age, Regret, Reward - Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS)

In court one must present evidence to support one's claims so obviously so detective work is involved and if there was any one theme in the game that made me feel like I was super sleuth, it was this one.

Save the World - Final Fantasy Legend II (GB)

The Final Fantasy Legend trilogy are actually SaGa games. More than likely they were rebranded as Final Fantasy titles to give them more exposure. The SaGa games are something of an aquired taste, but pretty much everyone would agree that the music is the bee's knee. This is one outstanding final battle theme.

Aquarius (JP Version)  - Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (NES)

The third and final NES Castlevania title is far more of a ball buster than the original. You can play as multiple characters including Alucard but your might go insane before you can even get that far. Castlevania III has two different soundtracks with the Japanese version using some more enhanced audio. I tend to go against the majority and favor the non enhanced audio more but I can still enjoy the Japanese version.

Cameron Crest - Fast RMX (NS)

At the rate Nintendo Switches are selling, it is pretty much a safe bet that the console/handheld hybrid is going to outsell the Wii U. If you're one of the many that passed on Nintendo's first HD console but bought a Switch, you probably missed out on Fast Racing NEO, a super sweet futuristic racer with a pumping soundtrack. Fast RMX for the Switch has all of the race tracks from NEO along with some old tunes from that game and some killer new ones like this little number.

Space Mode - Teen Titans GO!: Stellar Showdown (PC)

I'm not gonna mince words here. Teen Titans GO! is one of, if not the biggest plague on Cartoon Network. It gets far more air time than it deserves and the bulk of the show is very unfunny. So imagine my surprise when I'm watching the latest in Lytherio's Mario Kart 8 Katastrophe series and I hear this sick 1980s Genesis style beat playing in the background for the game Stellar Showdown. I never thought I'd put music from a TTG game in Favorite Tunes, but here we are. This jam is sooooo good!

Favorite Tunes Database

Friday, May 19, 2017

Sill Exploring the Wild

A few weeks ago, I finished the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. When I say "finished" I mean I finally completed my main quest objective, Destroy Ganon. I initially didn't plan on  beating the game when I was exploring Hyrule Castle. There were still places within the castle walls I hadn't explored and I wanted to cover more ground. As I made my way top side, I peeked into what I knew was the room that contained Ganon. After thinking it over for a bit, I decided I would fight him. I had so many weapons, armor and food for healing that I was never in trouble. Usually after I beat a final boss, I call it quits on the game and move on. Not so with BOTW.

It amazes me that after all the hours I've sunk into this game (well over 120), I still want to keep playing. The first pack of DLC, which I am very excited about hasn't even dropped yet I am still eager to play this game on a daily basis. I want to complete all 120 shrines. I want to max out my weapon, shield and bow slots. I just may go for every single Korok seed even though the reward for doing so is a steaming pile of gold crap (I must admit, that heavily amuses me). BOTW is a game that drips with so much content that even after beating the final boss, there is still much to see and do.

What's really surprising me is that as I keep playing this game, I'm still finding things that I missed in areas I've already explored as well as fining new areas I've never been to. I know BOTW's map is massive but this just reinforces how large it truly is. I may not complete the game 100%, but I do want to get as much as I can out of it. (I finally tamed a bear instead of killing it.)

Cooking has always been one of my favorite aspects of BOTW. Seeing all the different meals you can come up with, finding the right ingredients to get a high defense or attack boost. But there's also a lot of fun with discovering rare dishes. One of the side quests of Rito Village has you gathering ingridents to cook a meal so one of the children goes off to sing. Said dish is Hearty Salmon Meuniere (made from Tabantha Wheat, Goat Butter and Hearty Salmon if you were wondering) and it recovers full health and four bonus hearts. I've long since discovered meals that recovery full health and 20 plus hearts, but again, this was new to me. Besides, I don't always want to have a ton of extra hearts so it'll be a good dish for basic full recovery.

Even after the countless battles I've had in this game, I still get a big kick out of fighting enemies either with weapons or unconventional means. Freezing a horse-riding Bokoblin with Stasis +, watching the horse run off and seeing the Bokoblin fall on his bum when the effects wear off never gets old. I also have a lot of fun fighting Lynels, enemies that once use to heavily intimidate me. Now, I seek them out for their sweet bows and killer swords. It is especially nice to able to reflect Guardian lasers back at them, but even when I'm struggling with the timing, I shoot 'em in the eye and then cut off all their legs. Payback for all the crap they put me through earlier in the game. Thunder storms are now a weapon to me now that I've got the Rubber armor. Anytime the weather gets nasty, I just throw it on, get near an enemy when lightning is about to strike and let the weather do some of the damage for me.

Exploring has undoubted been my favorite part about BOTW, but even when I'm going through familiar areas, I'm having the time of my life with this game. While there are still things to see and do and that is part of the reason I'm still playing, the other reason is BOTW is just so much fun. This is the kind of game someone could just screw around in, not even finish the main quest and still have a blast.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Remix of the Week: Vampire Killer (Castlevania)

The iconic Castlevania theme. You've heard a dozen remixes of it I'm sure but how about a banjo take on the familiar tune? This is the first I've heard of Banjo Guy Ollie's covers and I gotta say, I'm pretty impressed. This is actually a revamped version of a cover he did years ago.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Game Over Part 6

Two words that signify that you're a failure at video games and should pick up a hobby where you won't suck so much. Welcome to Game Over, an on-going feature where we take a look at the numerous screens that show you've reached the end of the line. You might find some of these to be humorous while others can be quite unsettling.

Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (ARC)

Nothing motivates a player to drop more quarters in the arcade machine then presenting them the very imminent death of their character. Capcom lived and breathed off of it with the games in the '90s as you'll see with the next game on this list. If you don't cough up some dough before the countdown reaches zero, you get a POV of the protagonists getting straight up murdered in cold blood, complete with blood splattered across the screen. Dang!

The Punisher (ARC)

Another Capcom beat 'em up from the 1990s, which means another traumatizing game over screen! When the Punisher goes down, Microchip gives him CPR, desperately trying to get his partner back in action. OK, so it isn't the proper way to do CPR, but regardless, the scene is still pretty tense. When the countdown reaches zero, you get to see and hear Frank's heart flat line. Microchip failed him! No wait, you did because you couldn't cough up more quarters, you cheap git.

Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie' s Double Trouble (SNES)

Being tossed in a crib seems like more of an annoyance to Dixie Kong than anything else, at least that's what her facial express tells us. Kiddy Kong, on the other hand has a look that sells despair. The fact that the two kongs are in a crib might not seem bad, but then you hear a door slam and the screen goes black, which suggest that the Kremlings put the heroes in a much bigger prison that cannot easily be crawled out of.

Daytona USA (ARC)

Alright, we've had enough gloom for this feature. Time to end on a high note. The developers were not only so jazzed about your failure that the sing about it, they do you the curtousey of spelling the words out for you, you know, just in case you forgot how to spell "Game over."

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Favorite Tunes #184: Rave Your Racers

Don't let the title fool you. This is not a racer based Favorite Tunes. Only one racing game is featured here. The rest is from ninjas, platformers, rage inducing party games and a sweet remake.

Pangu Lagoon - Freedom Planet (Multi)

A game inspired by the Sonic the Hedgehog games, specifically the 2D titles, Freedom Planet was first released on PC but later made its way to consoles. The game plays great and has some outstanding visuals and music to match.

Ancient Zone - Street Fighter EX 3 (PS2)

The final game of the EX series, EX3 went out as it came: an oddball child that was underappreciated with a fantastic soundtrack. The likelyhood of the EX games getting some kind of re-release is low since Akira owns the original characters made for those games like Skullomania and D. Dark. As much as I love high energy music in fighting games, a calm theme doesn't hurt. Ancient Zone has a sweet guitar solo and that violin is out of this world.

Jungle Adventure - Mario Party (N64)

If you weren't ruining your friendships  in Mario Kart 64, GoldenEye 007 or Perfect Dark, you were doing it in Mario Party. It baffles me that Nintendo has yet to re-release the original Mario Party when Mario Party 2 has seen two re-releases now. Might have something to do with all the wild analog stick spinning mini games that wrecked a lot of people's hands.

Area 1 - Blaster Master Zero (NS, 3DS)

The year isn't even halfway done and we've already gotten some pretty stellar games. I know I've talked a lot about Breath of the Wild on this blog, but one of my favorite titles of 2017 is the remake of the original Blaster Master, Blaster Master Zero. Any game that lets you melt ice and give the middle finger to ice physics is good in my book. Plus the soundtrack is all kinds of killer.

Act 1 - Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom (NES)

For some strange reason, Ninja Gaiden III was made harder when it was released for American audiences. Even with the new features like hanging on ceilings and being able to buff up your sword this game is too cruel and is widely regarded as the weakest of the NES trilogy. Thankfully, Ninja Gaiden III's music did not suffer a decline in quality.

Euphoria - Rave Racer (ARC)

Unlike Ridge Racer and Ridge Racer Revolution, Rave Racer never received a home release. The original race tracks for Rave Racer did make it into the PSP Ridge Racers titles as well as some remxies of said game's music. It was actually a bit difficult to pick a music track to use from this game because Rave Racer's music is incredibly lively and jazzy. In the end, I settled on Euphoria. It has shades of audio from the first two Ridge Racer titles as well as sounding a bit like something you'd heard from the last few Ridge Racer titles to come out.

Favorite Tunes Database

Monday, May 1, 2017

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is Making Me Love Bowser Jr.

Since his introduction in Super Mario Sunshine, Bowser Jr., Bowser's one and only child, has been a character I have very much loathed. I found his voice annoying in that game and while Sunshine may not have had the best voice acting, his appearances in future Mario titles did nothing to make me like his as a character. He always came across as Bowser's bratty kid that took the place of the Koopalings as Bowser's child. Of all the new characters coming to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Bowser Jr. was the least one that I was looking forward to. I wasn't even going to play as him at all. And then I saw him in action.

Bowser Jr. has some of the best animations out of any of the drivers in Mario Kart 8. When doing tricks, he turns around and smacks his butt playfully, turns back and makes goofy faces to those behind him. Yes, this is childish behavior and it works since he's a kid, but I have to say that what makes Bowser Jr.'s antics so great is that of his character. I guess his brat-like persona really lends itself to Mario Kart racing where screwing over everyone around you is how you secure a winning position. Even his voice doesn't bother me in this game. Its as if I'm seeing the character for the first time and I'm really liking what I'm seeing. I could see myself maining Bowser Jr. in this game for the pure joy of using his animations as taunts to other players.

Maybe I had Bowser Jr. read wrong all these years. I guess first impressions aren't everything. Who knows, I could end up wanting to strangle the little runt again when Super Mario Odyssey comes out for now, the little punk has worked his magic on me and he's cool in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.