Sunday, January 24, 2010

A belated gift

I finally have a scanner of my very own, which means I can finally send Chris Sims the Daft Punksmas present I made for him! Happy holidays, everyone!

Workshop / makes us / Christmas / presents...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Things which might make me unpopular

If reading various Twitter feeds is any indication, I'm in disagreement with a great many comic fans about quite a few things. I've been making a little mental list of these differences in geek opinion, presented for you here:
  • I like "Family Guy." I like the "manatee jokes," I like the obscure-reference-based humor, I like the general attempts to offend just about everyone and the jabs at offensive stereotypes. Sometimes I think they go over the line, but I also think that's often the point. The biggest problem I have with them right now is that they're relying too much on callback jokes and reused jokes--the most egregious example being that they ended the second James Woods episode in exactly the same way as the first. On one hand, it was ballsy and funny, on the other hand, it was really lazy. In general, though, I think the show has mostly improved over time.

  • I also still like Kevin Smith movies. I haven't watched "Zack and Miri" yet, but since I'm the one person who enjoyed "Jersey Girl," I don't suspect I'll dislike it. I'm a big fan of Shakespeare, I enjoy Oscar Wilde, but every once in awhile I like to hear an hour and a half of dick jokes.

    His comics? Okay, I'm totally with the crowd on that one...except "Green Arrow," which was quite enjoyable last time I read it.

  • Similarly, I don't have any real problem with Brian Michael Bendis's dialogue. I credited that recently with why I don't have huge issues with the dialogue in Diablo Cody's movies (or at least, the two I've seen), and I think it applies to Kevin Smith movies as well. The scripting is heavily stylized, certainly artificial, overly clever, and sometimes results in multiple characters sharing a single voice--and those are all flaws. But in most of those cases, they're occasional flaws. My biggest issues with "Jennifer's Body" were all with the story; my biggest issues with Bendis is when the "Ultimate Spider-Man" dialogue that fits high schoolers carries over into "New Avengers;" my biggest problem with Kevin Smith is how much of his Twitter feed is about analingus. Dialogue that's somewhat more stylized than normal dialogue (because all written dialogue is stylized)? Not a big problem.

  • I like Alex Ross's art. I've seen complaints about his photo-referencing, and I think that's kind of ridiculous. There's a big difference between staging and taking your own photos to use as specific references, and pulling out the latest Hustler like Greg Land. I understand the complaint that he makes characters look old, and I guess that's just a taste thing. I don't mind it, although I do think it's a bit odd that there's no real difference facially between "Kingdom Come" Superman and "Peace on Earth" Superman. Still, I enjoy his work, and I think it deserves a lot of the credit for helping comics attain some of the legitimacy as mature art that they've developed over the last couple of decades.

  • I'm enjoying "Blackest Night." I suspect that at least some of this owes to my deliberate avoidance of certain tie-ins, like "Justice League of America." But the core story and the Green Lantern tie-ins have been generally quite good. Oddly enough, I think there's been less senseless death and gore than most Geoff Johns crossover events, and I think the story's been pretty compelling all along. Plus, I sincerely doubt that much of this death will stick, and a zombie story's not a zombie story without a few infected heroes. Some tie-ins have been admittedly fairly weak--I've already forgotten pretty much everything about the Batman and Superman miniseries--but that's the case in most crossovers, isn't it?

    The Wonder Woman thing? Yeah, that's just stupid. Johns backed himself into a corner by making all the Star Sapphires female; otherwise Diana and the Atom should have been swapped. As a matter of fact, the only DC heroes I can think of right now for whom the Violet ring would be appropriate are all male: Wally West, Superman, Kyle Rayner, etc.

  • I have almost no desire to see "Avatar." Cameron's hit-and-miss for me; "Terminator 2" was great, sure, but "Titanic" was an overlong cliché story populated by one-dimensional characters. It was "Dirty Dancing" on a sinking boat. Everything I've heard about "Avatar" suggests that it's a lot closer to the latter than the former: an amazing visual spectacle with a crappy paint-by-numbers story. Well, watching that CGI dude smack balls-first into a propeller wasn't enough to make "Titanic" enjoyable, and so I doubt that it'll be enough to save Smurfahontas for me. The only two things that make me want to see the movie at all are that I imagine it'll look better in IMAX than on my crappy TV, and I hear it does a good job of portraying scientists as people rather than cardboard cut-outs. Does that add up to the cost of an IMAX 3D ticket and three hours of my life? Not yet it doesn't.

  • I've still never read anything by Warren Ellis to make me want to read things by Warren Ellis. I want to want to read things by Warren Ellis, but so far the desire's just not there.

  • Similarly, the only Mark Millar book I've ever read that wasn't underwhelming and wasn't co-written by Morrison was "Red Son"--and even that apparently had Morrison input. "Chosen" was disappointing, "Civil War" was crap, and two issues of "Kick-Ass" were two more than I needed to realize that I didn't want to continue reading it. The latest idea--what if Batman actually were the Joker?--sounds like Millar read "Irredeemable" and decided to do it with a Batman analogue instead of a Superman one.

There, that'll do for now. I might as well wait for them to come take my comic blogging license away. I wasn't using it anyway.

Friday, January 08, 2010

You know, if I had the Infinity Gauntlet, I could just make this happen

I haven't finished playing "Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2" yet (though sadly, what I heard while making my way through the War Rocket Ajax archives doesn't bode well for the rest of it), but I'd like to make a suggestion for the next game in the series:

The Infinity Gems.

Seriously, has there ever been a more video game friendly plot device than the Infinity Gauntlet? It's a boss battle MacGuffin and a fetch quest all rolled up into the same object! Granted, the Infinity Gems are a bit '90s, and some of the plot points would likely be fairly similar to the last Infinity Gem-based Marvel game, but I think centering the plot around the Infinity Gauntlet would solve a lot of the issues that this game has had. For instance:
  • Scope: The first M:UA took you from New York to Asgard to the Moon to the Skrull Homeworld. It felt like a grand tour of the Marvel Universe, showcasing some of the best-known locales. From what I've seen of the sequel, the farthest you get is Wakanda. Even the plot has quite a bit of downsizing, going from "Dr. Doom becomes a god" to "heroes fight each other, then they don't." Traveling around the universe to prevent a reality-altering superweapon from falling into the hands of a death-obsessed Titan (among other potential villains) would bring back that sense of grandeur. Plus, it would open up great new places to visit: the Shi'ar Empire, Kree-Lar, Ego the Living Planet, etc. Which brings us to...
  • New character options: Frankly, I've been a bit disappointed in the character lists between the two games. From the first game to the second, we lose Blade, Colossus, Cyclops, Elektra, Ghost Rider, Hawkeye, Nightcrawler, Dr. Doom, Sabretooth, Silver Surfer, and Spider-Woman, and we gain Gambit, Green Goblin, Songbird, Jean Grey, Penance, Carnage, Cable, Iron Fist, Juggernaut, and Psylocke. Wait, the first game had more characters? That's ridiculous! And frankly, I'm not thrilled with the substitutions. Sure, it's easy to hate on Gambit and Penance, and I like finally getting Iron Fist in there, but what does Psylocke add to the game? Or Carnage? While I thought Elektra and Blade were generally pretty worthless in the first outing, I'd trade Ghost Rider and Silver Surfer for almost any of the new characters.

    Anyway, the Infinity Gems would open up a bunch of new playable characters who don't suck. Maybe it's just because the Marvel cosmic stories are what I've been enjoying most from the company in recent years, but I'd really like to be able to play as Nova, Captain Marvel, Adam Warlock, and--dare I even hope?--Quasar. Sure, I wouldn't expect to necessarily have Gladiator and Rocket Raccoon on your Change Team page, but it'd be cool to bring some of those Cosmic Marvel characters into the mix.

    Plus, given her not-so-long-ago connection to the Power Gem, it'd be a good excuse to make She-Hulk a playable character, which they should have done ages ago.
  • The Enemies: I haven't been terribly disappointed in the boss battles in M:UA2, but they have tended to seem both a little brief/easy, and occasionally a bit nonsensical (like the Anti-Reg battle against Bishop. Really?). I think it's largely a consequence of the plotline; in M:UA, you were going up against the Super-Skrull and Loki; in M:UA2, you spend most of your time fighting other heroes, and somehow that doesn't quite seem as compelling. That may be my bias as someone who hate-hate-hated Civil War, though, so take it with a grain of salt.

    What would rock my socks, though, is fighting your way through a series of bosses who are amped up due to the possession of an Infinity Gem. Vulcan with the Power Gem? Phoenix with the Mind Gem? Annihilus with the Reality Gem? The possibilities are awesome.
  • The Downside: The biggest problem with a plot like this is that it runs the risk of being too similar to the plot of M:UA, where Doom steals Odin's power and remakes Earth in his image. I think the biggest way around it is to change the stakes and the venue; sure, you're still going to battle a reality-altering tyrant in the end, but his concerns are going to be a lot less "make Stark Tower look like Doomstadt" and more "unmake the universe." Without the 'egotistical villain's wish-fulfillment' plot for the final levels, I think the game would avoid feeling like a retread.

The other big thing that I'd like to see return is the character-specific training missions. Granted, some of them were frustrating, and some were nonsensical, but I'd much rather blindly fight my way through AIM headquarters as Daredevil than escort some random prisoner through random corridors in a stealth mission in a game which lends itself neither to stealth nor escort.

Now that I finally have a weekend, I may try to finish the game. In the meantime, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!

Friday, January 01, 2010

"December" with the Doctor: Last-Minute Speculation

With "The End of Time: Part 2" approaching fast, there's not much time left for me to do some wild mass guessing about the end of the Tennant/Davies era. Spoilers ahoy!

  • One of the most inspired ideas to come out of the first part was the explanation for the "sound of drums" that the Master constantly hears--that the four-beat pattern is the sound of two hearts beating--a Time Lord heartbeat. The fact that it's "real" suggests that it's somehow connected to the return of the Time Lords themselves. One possibility as I see it is that the Time Lords have somehow either placed themselves into the Master (using dimensionally-transcendent technology, surviving in a similar way to the Daleks with the Genesis Ark) or that the Master somehow absorbed the Matrix, which contains the memories and bio-data of all Time Lords, living and dead. The best thing about this is that it would give some further explanation to the Master's survival of the Time War. In "Utopia," the Doctor says that even the Time Lords didn't go to the end of the universe, and in "The Sound of Drums," the Master claims that the Time Lords resurrected him knowing he'd be the perfect warrior for the Time War. Instead, he ran away to the end of the universe and hid as a human.

    Seriously, if the Time Lords expected a soldier from the only Time Lord they've been able to control less than the Doctor, then they're dumber than any of the scoffs would suggest. But what if the Time Lords anticipated the Master's cowardly turn, or perhaps even engineered it? The Time Lords send the Master away with their essences somehow stored within him, anticipating their own destruction and knowing that the Master is a master of staying alive even when he oughtn't. Think of it this way: if the Master ran off on his own, as he suggests in "The Sound of Drums," then how'd he get to the year 100 Trillion? He didn't appear to have a TARDIS on Malcassairo, and it seems like that would have been a good place to go after regaining his memory (for that matter, wouldn't he need it for the Chameleon Arch?). He made various trips between the 21st Century and 100,000,000,000,000; if he had a TARDIS that wasn't locked between those two eras, wouldn't he have used it?

    But if the Time Lords had sent him there, then that little plot hole is tied up fairly neatly. And that's just the kind of fannish plot-bit that Davies tends to notice, reference, and tie up (whether or not it needs to be).
  • Gosh, that was a long bullet point, wasn't it?
  • One question remains with that scenario: the drumming. It's "real," which suggests that it has something to do with the Time Lords--perhaps the sound of the Matrix or the Time Lords stored in the Master's head. If that's the case, then how has the Master been hearing the sound since he looked into the Untempered Schism? Is it a false memory? Has he only been hearing the sound since his resurrection? Or did the Time Lords know about the sound already and just exploit it? I sure am overthinking this.
  • One possible method of Time Lord resurrection--and one which makes use of the current cliffhanger, while also putting them at odds with the Doctor immediately (and coming right in line with the Time Lords' aloof pragmatism)--would be for them/the Master to use the Immortality Gate to transform the people of Earth into the fallen Gallifreyans. In other words, the resurrection of the Time Lords would come at the (potential) cost of the human race--no doubt an acceptable sacrifice from the Time Lord point of view.
  • I wonder what's going to happen with Wilf. All signs point to Time Lord, but that almost seems like a waste. Although it would give a convenient excuse to give Bernard Cribbins a continuing role in the post-RTD series, and that could only be a good thing. Regardless, the fact that he's seeing this mysterious woman in white suggests that there's something not-quite-normal about him, and that's without getting into the way he keeps meeting up with the Doctor.
  • Speaking of characters who keep meeting up with the Doctor, I really hope Donna Noble gets a nice happy ending; the most recent clip from Part 2 shows that the Doctor's prediction of her mind burning up is beginning to come true, but I doubt that she's just going to go all Scanners in the middle of a street in Chiswick, while the Doctor is unable to do anything about it. Somehow, the Doctor-Donna is going to make a return, for better or worse. I hope the Doctor is able to cure her condition; maybe he'll absorb the regeneration energy from her as part of his regeneration process, thus solving the meta-crisis.

    Plus, the way her story ended by negating all the character growth she'd gone through was pretty awful, just from a narrative point of view. In a perfect world, she'd regain her memories (safely) and be reunited with Lee McAvoy, her stuttering suitor from The Library.
  • More on Donna: so far, she's the only human who hasn't been Master-converted who doesn't have a convenient excuse (i.e., Wilf was in that radiation-shielded chamber). I imagine that this is because of the whole Time Lord meta-crisis thing, so it certainly seems like it'll be resolved--or at least addressed.
  • I sure hope the Vinvocci and Naismith do something this episode. Furthermore, I'm curious to see how the leaked scenes with Luke Smith and Rose, as well as the intriguing-looking scene about the Journal of Impossible Things, manage to fit into the plot. Between the resolution of the Master race (which, frankly, I expect to be within the first fifteen minutes or so) and whatever's going on with the Master and the Time Lords, I don't envision a whole lot of room for what appears to be a long, protracted goodbye.
  • There's a rumor going around (thanks, io9!)1 that Matt Smith isn't playing the Eleventh Doctor, but a young First Doctor. The reason behind this appears to be entirely that Smith's TARDIS is styled like Hartnell's. I think this is pretty obviously false, and someone on the Gallifrey Base forums had the best reason: if he sticks around long enough, then what? Do they have him regenerate into Patrick Troughton? No, Smith is going to be a step forward, not backward. In the next decade or so, though, someone at the BBC is going to have to figure out how to give the Doctor another set of regenerations (not that there isn't a precedent), or we're going to run out of series.
  • I suspect, given Moffat's "they're back" comment, that the status quo for Series 5 will include the resurrected Time Lords, back in their role as cosmic bureaucrats. I suspect that we might see the Doctor as a fugitive once again, possibly for his role in ending the Time War--and killing the Time Lords in the process.
  • Things I'd like to see in the (near) future: the Doctor and the Brigadier, the Eighth Doctor, more playing with time travel (e.g., the first meeting with Martha in "Smith and Jones," all of "Blink").
  • Things I'd like to see less of in the future: deus ex machina, 21st Century London (I don't mind doing a lot with Earth, or even Great Britain, but can't we see more of a variety of time periods?), Rose Tyler.
  • You know, as much as I love that the Doctor is a cerebral hero who solves problems with his wits rather than his fists, I wouldn't mind seeing a bit of Venusian Aikido during Matt Smith's tenure.
  • And, well, that's the bulk of it. Britain gets "Part 2" in about ten hours, and I'll be cutting myself off from the spoilernet around that same time. I'll have thoughts about Tennant's swan song, and the Series 5 preview material that's supposed to follow--up as soon as I can. In the meantime, good night, and Happy New2 Year!

1. To be fair, io9 takes a pretty skeptical approach to the rumor, but it's also the place everyone seems to be using as a source for the claim.

2. Admire my restraint, that I didn't say "Happy Who Year!"

Oh, crap.