Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Live Hat Trick

I was lucky enough to be at Nationwide Arena for Scott Hartnell's hat trick this past Tuesday. I had previously seen Geoff Sanderson's hat trick back in the winter of 2000 against the Nashville Predators. A hockey hat trick is really one of the coolest sports events to see in person. Getting pelted with hats during the celebration and the crowd's hyper awareness of every moment the player has the puck. It was also a great game as Columbus took down one of the best teams in the league. Probably the best or second best game I've seen them play live this year.

My wife and I ended up going to a lot of games this year. The Anaheim game was our 15th game this season and we have tickets to 3 of the last 5 games of the season. It spurred our decision to get season tickets for next season. We're both really excited as we won't miss any games and we get to control the same two seats for the entire season. There's also a lot of perks and events that season ticket holders get to attend.

I also knocked a lot of teams off my list this season. I believe the only teams I haven't seen play live now are Pittsburgh, Colorado and maybe Montreal. So I really knocked a lot of teams off of my never seen play live list this year.

Kelly and I both got super into the Blue Jackets this year. As I mentioned, we'll have attended 18 games by the end of the year and we probably haven't missed a game since the Nashville game at the end of November. We've really gotten to know the team greatly through out the season. I'm planning to write a couple of posts about the team after the season comes to an end and I plan to write about how I think Todd Richards has done as far as coaching goes. Until then...

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Comic Update #8

Sunday morning I read The Flash #3. Wally heads to the Salt Lake City branch of STAR Labs to be studied. He encounters a robotic lifeform called the Kilg%re, Kilg%re infects the computers at the lab and hen branches out from there. The issue ends with the government recruiting Wally for help and Wally noticing that the professor isn't quite right as the issue ends. Really good issue here. They've done a good job of showing you that Wally still has problems despite the lottery money. I like that he's trying to get his speed and metabolism issues corrected. I think this issue is where you see that Wally West can really hold his own title. It shows some depth to his character and really sets the tone for the book until Mark Waid takes over I believe. I was also surprised to see that Kilg%re makes several appearances past this storyline. He pops back up in the Flash a few times and he seems to be a fairly consistent foe for the Justice League for several year as well.

Next up was Legion of Super-Heroes #38. This issue finishes off the tale that went through the last issues of Superman and Action Comics. The Time Trapper reveals the whole pocket universe concept here to write Superboy out of the Legion. Superboy dies in this issue saying his version of Earth and the Legion. This was a good send off to the concept of the original Superboy but the actual issue was kind of mediocre I thought. I really hate the way they removed Superboy from the Legion and I think this solution was worse than just letting him stay. I couldn't imagine trying to explain this storyline to someone that wasn't in to comic books. I'm pretty sure they would look at me like I was a crazy person. I'm not going to be adding the Legion books to my Post-Crisis reading but sometimes I will seek out the issues to finish a crossover storyline like this one. As a side bar to this issue. I really think this is where DC damaged the Legion franchise badly. There was a point in time where the only book at DC that outsold the Legion was the Teen Titans. And then they kind of flushed the books popularity by removing Superboy and constantly rebooting the title. It's really frustrating to look at the mismanagement in hindsight.

Superman #9 was another really good issue from John Bryne. The main story featured the Joker coming to Metropolis for some mischief and the backup was a Lex Luthor story. The first story is my favorite kind of story. I love when a villain associated with another hero shows up to take on an opponent they don't usually face. Superman vs. Joker happens from time to time but I'm always happy to see it. It was a nice quick and fun story. The backup was excellent. Luthor is eating at a diner in a small town and offers the waitress a million dollars to join him. He gives her ten minutes to decide and then leaves early so she has to live with not knowing which decision she ever made and will forever question herself. Just an awesome dick move on his part and it really provides a great insight into the character of Lex Luthor. Bryne is really firing on all cylinders at this point with the Superman and Action Comics books.

Adventures of Superman #432 kicks off the Gang War storyline. This is considered to be the best part of Wolfman's run on the book. There was a lot of setup in this book as Jose Delgado tries to look out for his students but runs into issues. Lex Luthor is also secretly uniting the gangs for some unknown purpose on his part. This was a really good issue. I've had my problems with Wolfman's run so far but this is up there as one of his best issues so far. I'm really excited to see where this storyline goes in the future. I want to see how things play out with Perry White's son. I want to see what Luthor's motives are. And I want to see the debut of a great Superman supporting cast member in Gangbuster. It's hard to believe that I'm so deep into these Superman books and I'm still enjoying myself as much as I am. I think I'm starting to grow a real appreciation for the character.

2014 Comic Counter: 31

Monday, March 24, 2014

Favorite Video Games

My wife has been doing this on her blog and challenged me to do some similar lists that she's done. She recommended music but I'm going to wait on that one. Music is tough and I really need to consider what would be my top songs. These lists are going to be in no particular order and I'm going to stick with 10 per list. I'm hoping to do about one a week on these until I run out of ideas.

Mega Man 2

My friend's brother was playing this one weekend back in the 80s. Being a kid in the late 80s meant that anything video game related was awesome so I rented it at a local video place. I was instantly hooked. This game turned me into a life long Mega Man fan. There's just something magical about this game. The Metal Blade as a weapon for all situations, the level design and just how hard the game was. I've never had the same feeling about a Mega Man game since this one. I actually didn't own this game until much later. I probably rented this game a couple of times a year until finally coming across a copy of it. My final thought on this game is it had the best bosses of any Mega Man game. The dragon in Dr. Wiley's castle is just the tip of the iceberg. The eight robot masters are also the best group of any game and the most original if you ask me. I wouldn't say this is my all time favorite game but it's pretty close to it.

Chrono Trigger

This game came about around the height of my Nintendo Power reading. This game got hyped for a long time before it came out. In a rare moment, I bought this game new when it came out. I might have preordered it but I'm not 100% certain of that. This game lived up to the hype and then some. I think this game was the pinnacle of the 16 bit era RPG and stands up as one of the best RPGs ever. This game had amazing characters with a great level of depth. You could easily get emotionally invested in the story of any one character. The story is also dark, really dark. The plight of the world truly seems hopeless at points but the hero wins against all odds. This was one of the first games to feature New Game+ and encouraged you to play the same game over and over again to see the multiple endings. I believe I managed to unlock all of the endings over the course of several years. The music was also awesome in this game. I remember getting a tape recorder and taping all of the songs from the game so that I could have them on a cassette tape at the time. Stay away from the Playstation remake of this game though. It's a really bad port.


There's going to be a common theme to this list. There was a time frame from October 1994 to August 1996 were some of the best RPGs ever made came out. I also bought this one new because you couldn't rent it anywhere at the time. This game sold really poorly and was a total flop but also has one of the most hardcore fan bases ever. This is quite frankly the most bizarre game that I ever played. It's like Peanuts on LSD. The battle system is very similar to Dragon Quest. It also came with a strategy guide. I would say that I've never played a game even remotely like Earthbound since. I can't guess how many times I've played through this game. I fired it up on emulators for years and it was also one of my first purchases on the Wii U e-shop. This one aged really well so check it out if you get a chance.

Final Fantasy VI

This ushered in a great wave of RPGs on the SNES. The Final Fantasy series has always been near and dear to my heart. I first played the NES Final Fantasy at my friend Dan's house one weekend. I had never played an RPG before and I was just blown away by the genre and instantly fell in love with it. I bought this game and beat it. Then I bought Final Fantasy II for the SNES and by the time I got through it, this game was just coming out. I got this for Christmas the year it came out and this was a really strong game. There's a scene about mid-way through the game where one of the characters tries to commit suicide and I had never seen anything like that in a video game before. This game wasn't afraid to tread where games often didn't go in this era. Yes, I know the box says Final Fantasy III, it's a long story but trust me it's the same game.

Super Mario RPG

Yes, this game out in the same time period as the above 3 RPGs. This was about a year and a half period where there was an awesome new RPG to play every couple of months. This was Nintendo and Squaresoft teaming up to deliver Mario in a very unique situation... an RPG! This was just a really fun game. It had awesome graphics and music and an enemy so bad that you had to team up with Bowser to save the world! I remember this came out towards the end of a school year and playing this through a pretty nasty heatwave one weekend. This series turned into the Paper Mario games which are all just as awesome. You can get this on virtual console and it's worth a look.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

I bought a Playstation for Final Fantasy VII back in 1997. This came out I think about a month later. I was a huge Castlevania fan so this was a no brainer. I was blown away by what I got with this game. They turned Castlevania series into an action RPG starring Dracula's son Alucard. This game featured some intense action and a a truly moody game design. It also featured some of the best music that's ever been featured in a video game. Do yourself a favor and Youtube the game music. I would put it up against any video game ever made. This game also had an original twist. If you managed to get to the second half of the game you had to play in an upside down version of Dracula's castle. I can't recall any other game that's done something like that since. It's also a bit of an oddity as it's a sprite based game on the Playstation. You can get this pretty cheap on the XBox Arcade. It's worth a look if you've never played it before.

Diablo 2

I remember this got delayed maybe a year and I was pissed at the time. I still remember driving to Bestbuy, buying a copy and then playing this for hours on a random Saturday in the summer of 2000. The Diablo games are hack n slash RPGs. Basically, you kill giant hordes of monsters, get better gear and level up so you can kill bigger monsters and get better gear and so on and so on. The game also featured a very moody setting and some really great music. You would spend hours planning out the specs for your character and it was always awesome when you'd get that rare gear drop that your character could use. I probably dust this off about every 2-3 years and give it a good run through. The expansion is a must if you want to play this game.

Planescape Torment

If I had to call a game my favorite of all time, it would probably be this game. You wake up as an immortal with amnesia called the Nameless One. You explore a barren world and meet strange characters that join your party. You get a floating skull and a mage that looks like the Human Torch. There's no standard character when it comes to this game. The game is like Baldur's Gate and is based on the AD&D pen and paper game. This is a very tough game. You feel like you have to battle for every inch in this game. It's also really satisfying when you start to unlock memories for the Nameless One. I loved all of the AD&D titles that came out in the late 90s and early 00s but this was by far the best of all those games.

Pokemon Red and Blue

Last time I checked, I believe I had logged about 120 hours on my copy of Pokemon Red. I had all 151, even the one you had to use a glitch to get. My friends Dan and Matt used to battle with me all the time on this game. This game was easily a good year and a half of my life. I'm not going to go into any huge details on how the game works because I think everyone knows at this point. I started with Bulbasaur as my starter in this game. I've checked out every Pokemon game since the originals and a lot of the games are better but there's a charm to this game that will never be replaced. I can think of few games that have ever grabbed me and just held me for as long as this game did.

Phantasy Star Online

This was an MMO that hit a bunch of systems in the early 2000s. You can't play it online anymore but thankfully it has an offline mode. This is a lot like Diablo 2 in that it's about upgrading your gear and you're mowing down tons of enemies to do it. I bought a Dreamcast keyboard to better play this game at the time. Rare items would appear in red boxes and it was always a mad dash when one of those would show up during a game. This is probably still my favorite MMO. I liked the way it did small parties to tackle the levels and it did a good job of minimizing people being idiots. This one is hard to track down now I think. If you can find it, the Gamecube version is the best copy to get.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Comic Update #7

Thursday I continued on my DC kick as I read Superman #8. This starts the storyline that eventually ruins the Legion of Superheroes franchise. You see, in the Post-Crisis DC they decided that Superboy can't be involved with the Legion anymore because Superman was never Superboy in this continuity. So this storyline is their way of closing that chapter on the Legion's history. Superman is hiding out with his parents after the events of the previous issue when he checks out a disturbance. He comes across several Legion members and accidentally attacks them, his heat vision is acting up, and a brief battle follows. Brainiac settles things down and they explain how they met Superboy and why they are here. The issue ends with Superboy confronting everyone. This was a decent issue. I don't like what this storyline does to the Legion as a franchise but the actual story isn't bad. It was kind of funny that it took them 4 pages to recap what was originally an 8 or 10 page story. This one is going to continue into Action Comics and I think an issue of Legion of Super-Heroes. I will make sure to read any issues that this ties in with.

Sunday I started off with Adventures of Superman #431. This one featured a villain called Dr. Stratos. He believed he was a god and had created a machine that could control the weather. Most of the issue is Superman saving cities from extreme weather until he finds Stratos. The issue ends with Stratos being hit by a beam and falling into the sea. At the end of the issue he's become a god and vows to come back. Unfortunately for Stratos, he never makes another appearance in a DC comic. Erik Larsen filled in for Jerry Ordway on art duties this time and the result was not so good. I've never been a big fan of Larsen's art but this seemed bad for even him. I didn't care for this issue much to begin with. Watching Superman battle the weather isn't my idea of a fun comic book. This was obvious filler so they would be able to get the Gangwar arc completed on time. You're always going to get some bad issues here and there so it's no big deal.

Next I read Action Comics #591. This continued the Legion story from Superman #8. This issue really explains the whole pocket universe concept and how Superboy was a part of the Legion. It's a really convoluted idea that they came up with here. I honestly think the fix was worse than the problem they had. Superman and Superboy fight until Krypto alerts the Kents to Superboy's stash of Kryptonite. It has no effect on Superman but Superboy gives up. Superman points out that Superboy wanted to lose the entire time and Superboy admits to it. They release the Legion and prepare to combat the Time Trapper. The Legion sends Superman back to his time to end the issue and this story will continue into the Legion comic. Like I said, kind of a convoluted story but this was a decent farewell to the Pre-Crisis Superboy. These are the kind of issues that you hate trying to explain to non-comic readers. The plots are just so ridiculous and convoluted that you know you just sound like an idiot for trying to make sense of it. Kind of a disappointing slate of Superman books for this month compared to the awesome output from last month. The Legion stuff was okay but not great and the Stratos stuff was pretty bad. The next set of issues are better, I do know that much. We'll get Big Barda in Action Comics, the Gangwar story starts and the Joker shows up in Superman.

In the afternoon I read Justice League #4. This issue features Booster Gold vs. the Royal Flush gang. Booster gets the win and impresses the League. An android Ace attacks and is designed to defeat every member of the League. Booster Gold saves the day and earns a spot on the team for his performance. Maxwell Lord continues to be a thorn in the side of the League as he announces that he's their media liasion as the issue comes to a close. I thought this was a really good issue. They do an excellent job of introducing Booster Gold to an audience that maybe hadn't read his series yet. You know what the character is all about and his motivations from this single issue. They also immediately start to establish his friendship with Blue Beetle which is cool to see. I honestly love this book so far. It's an interesting team and the dynamic of the characters makes you want to read more issues. I've always had a love/hate relationship with the Justice League. I love the concept and love the 2000s cartoon but the execution in the comics has always lacked something to me more often than not. This version of the League is really hitting a sweet spot for me. People rave about the Giffen/DeMatteis League and I 100% see what they were talking about.

Suicide Squad #4 was the next thing I read. This featured a racist vigilante called William Hell. The Squad came in to discredit Hell in their typical fashion. Not a bad issue here. It seemed a little less than the suicide missions that they established the group with but not every mission will be a big one. Captain Boomerang acting like an ass has been a constant highlight of this book so far. I'm really enjoying this series as well but I do think the last two issues were a little down from the quality of the first 2 issues. That's not to say either issue was bad though. They were above average comic books, just not great comic books. I like seeing original concepts like this playing out. I wish Marvel and DC would take more risks like this from time to time.

Before I end this post, I wanted to talk about some of the things I'm hoping to get to as the year progresses. I want to continue reading DC in the manner that I currently am. There will be some additions of titles as I progress through time. I also want to dig into the Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams run on Batman in the Bronze Age at some point in the near future. I have read some of those issues but I've never gone in depth with that series. I also want to read Marvel's Invaders series from the 1970s by Roy Thomas. I hear great things about that and it's on my list. I would also like to get into some Legion of Super-Heroes, more Defenders and Avengers West Coast as the year progresses. Hopefully I can knock a few things off of my list but only time will tell.

2014 Comic Count: 27

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Comic Reading Update #6

Tuesday night I started off with Suicide Squad #3. This issue featured the Furies of Darkseid breaking Glorious Godfrey out of prison. This was a good issue as it showed the internal struggled within Task Force X and it also showed the difficulties relying on super villains can create. When the chips were down Captain Boomerang and Deadshot were nowhere to be found. I really liked the development they did for Amanda Waller in this issue. It really establishes her as the tough, no nonsense leader that we all love to hate. I was also kind of surprised to see the Squad straight up lose in this issue. It was kind of refreshing to see in a comic book. I believe this was a one shot issue but we'll see if there's any follow up on this later. I'm still loving this book.

I read The Flash #2 on Wednesday night. A lot of this issue cleans up the plot points from the first issue. Wally collects his lottery winnings and starts to spend it. He has two encounters with Vandal Savage along the way. It appears they beefed Savage up in the post-Crisis as he displays some abilities that he had forgotten during his battles with Barry Allen. They did a really good job of establishing Vandal Savage as one of the top threats in the Flash book in this issue. He came across as a very weird and very eerie villain. As I've mentioned previously, I've read these Flash issues before. I started this series in the mid 2000s on a whim and absolutely fell in love with the Flash as a character. I'm really enjoying the revisit with this series. Anyways, I think this was a good issue. They are setting out to establish a world for Wally to live in and I think they've done a good job so far. I can't wait to get deeper into this series.

I also read Blue Beetle #8. This was a little different as it was told from the perspective of an ex-con named Ed Buckley. He tries to get a job at Kord Industries and after not getting it falls in with a villain named the Calculator. They set up a job at CES and Buckley ends up saying the Blue Beetle at the end of the issue. This was a predictable kind of story but it was a fun read. I think this issue benefited from not having to keep track of all the dangling plot points that Len Wein had created and maintained through the first 7 issues. He did a good job of making you root for Buckley and wanting to see him come out on top. The Calculator becomes a big player down the road in the DCU. He loses the stupid costume and becomes more of a professional organizer for the super villains in the DCU. He actually becomes a really cool character when they go that route. He was pretty lame here. I enjoyed this issue like most of the others in this series. I really need to step it up and finish this series off as it's only 24 issues.

I finished the night off with Superman Annual #1. This was the story of Titano. A chimp that grows to a large size after a science experiment goes wrong and battles Superman throughout the issue. This was kind of interesting as it read more like a comic you'd find at the shop today. There was less text with the focus on the art telling the story. That was really weird to see in a comic from 1987. I had a mixed reaction this issue. I really enjoyed the story but the narration was an article that Lois Lane wrote for the Daily Planet. That's where this book just fell apart. Lois is supposed to be a journalist with few equals in the field. I doubt such a celebrated journalist would resort to such cliched and corny lines as they used in this issue. It really hurt my buy in with this story because you knew that someone like Lois Lane wouldn't write that article. With that said, I still enjoyed this issue. Titano appeared in one of my favorite Superman Animated Series episodes and so he became a character that I like. Unfortunately for me, he's a very minor character and I don't think I'll be in for anymore appearances any time soon. Ultimately this was an Annual and those can be mixed bags but I think it was enjoyable enough overall.

I'm currently at 10% of my reading goal for 2014. That's not where I want to be but I still feel I can reach my goal of 200 issues by years end. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm really digging the post-Crisis DC right now and I plan to continue forging ahead with it.

2014 Comic Counter: 22

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Comics Update #5

I've been focusing on current stuff the last month or so which is why there hasn't been an update in awhile. That's how it goes with comics though. Got to try and shave down the read pile from time to time or it will be taller than you in no time. I'm still sticking to post-Crisis DC currently.

Superman #7, is kind of like those 1950s monster movies where some person or creature gets irradiated and becomes a problem. Lois is investigating an alternate energy source when there's an explosion. The creature known as Rampage emerges and pretty much just beats the shit out of Superman for the entire issue. They think Rampage is Lois for most of the issue but it turns out to be the doctor that invented this source of energy. Superman absorbs all of the radiation from Rampage and flies off and discharges it in a rain cloud. Clark shows up at the end of the issue and there are hints that he has had some adventure in the meantime. Really solid issue here as it had a good long fight too it. I really enjoy Bryne's take on Clark Kent and Superman. He's not a dull boy scout by any means in these books.

I read Adventures of Superman #430 next. This was interesting as it featured the Fearsome Five who are Titans villains. The story here was about how Supes is struggling between his life as Clark Kent and his life as Superman. The give and take was leaning too heavily to the Superman side and it was messing things up for Clark. This was mentioned briefly in the previous Superman #7 issue. The Fearsome Five worked really well for this issue. A nice team of C listers that a distracted Superman couldn't beat but then could take out in easy fashion once he was focused again. I really enjoyed the character work here. Pa Kent gives out some great advice to Clark towards the end. This felt kind of like something you'd read in an issue of Spider-Man in the 70s or 80s. Strong focus on character development and the struggle of being a superhero. I think this issue humanized Superman in a way that I've seen few writers manage to do. I've read 26 issues of the post-Crisis Superman and I think this has been the best issue of the bunch so far. Marv Wolfman really hit this one out of the park.

Action Comics #590 was my third issue for the day. This issue featured one of my favorite villains in Chemo. He's kind of a C list villain that pops up every great once and awhile but he's really cool looking. This was a team up with the Metal Men. Clark falls into a vat of chemicals as the issue begins and this leads to Chemo appearing but with Superman's powers. This was just a ridiculously fun issue. I've never read any Metal Men comics but they are a really fun concept whenever they pop up in something that I do read. This was set up for some series involving the Metal Men post-Crisis so I might have to check it out. The July slate of Superman comics were very strong. Each series brought a really good issue to the table for a variety of reasons. I hope that trend continues.

I finished my evening off with Justice League #3. It put the wraps on the storyline with the aliens trying to disarm the world's nuke's for the time being. At the end of the issue Maxwell Lord reveals himself finally and introduces the team to Booster Gold. This was a really fun issue as the team is starting to get a feel to it. Guy Gardner is a little too much of a jerk for my tastes but he does make a good foil for Batman, Captain Marvel and Blue Beetle. I've always had a love for team's with offbeat lineups and this book really does have a nice offbeat lineup. This issue also featured an appearance from Rocket Red who also happens to be one of my favorite DC characters. Can't wait for him to join the team!
I have to hand it to DC with this book. They were really taking a chance with this book. They were using it to showcase a lot of newer characters and the tone of this book isn't typical of what DC was like at the time. I'm eager to read more.

I'm running behind where I want to be for my classic comics reading in 2014 but that's okay. Life happens and sometimes you fall behind on stuff. I'm sure a rainy weekend at some point this spring and I'll be back on track with this. My goal is to still focus on  DC for the time being. I might get back to Defenders at some point this summer. But that's always up in the air when it comes to me. Until next time...

2014 Comic Counter: 18

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What I'm Playing: February 5th

I finished off Ducktales Remastered Saturday morning. The only part I really hated in this game was the last bit of platforming after you find the No. 1 Dime. It just needed super precise platforming done in a very quick manner. The game never really properly prepares you for that kind of leveling and the imperfections in the game cause a lot of frustration. I needed one more jump and got caught under the platform and died at one point. I wasn't under the platform, just a bit of the characters graphic was under it and that was enough to kill me. Other than that, I really enjoyed the game. It's a really decisive game because of the changes but I have to say that it's a good game. There's a lot of talking but they got the entire voice cast from the show back. How can you not love watching those guys do their thing? If you loved the NES game, I think this is a no brainer.

I'm still pushing my way through Steam World Dig. I believe I'm in the last area of the game. This game is best played in 15-20 minute chunks I think. I love this game. You never know what you're going to come across while digging in the caves. Finding a doorway is always cool and finding an upgrade is always exciting. My only complaint with this is still the combat. It just doesn't work very well in this game.

I also started Project X Zone on my 3DS. This is a turn based strategy game that features characters from Capcom, Sega and Namco Bandai. It's kind of a crazy game. You lead these parties of video game characters around and battle villains from various video games. Once in battle you do button combos to do certain attacks. I'm guessing this is going to be a fairly long game but I'm interested in it. The battles are just the right length so far. 20-40 minutes makes it a good game to pick up right before bed or to hit up a battle if you have nothing better to do.

I still have Pokemon X lurking on my 3DS as well. It's a really good game and I do have the itch to play it. I've been avoiding it for some reason or another. I will probably dig into that more once I'm a little further into X Zone.