The Marvel Art Of Mike Deodato Jr. (2011)

The Marvel Art Of Mike Deodato Jr. (2011)

Deodato Taumaturgo Borges Filho – AKA Mike Deodato – is one of the biggest talents in comic books today. His pencils have appeared in works such as Thor, Incredible Hulk, Thunderbolts, Amazing Spider-Man and Dark Avengers – and they present a realistic-looking take on the Marvel Universe that gives weight to this imaginary world of caped crusaders and dastardly villains.

Each chapter of the book is dedicated to his work on different titles – like Thor, Elektra, Incredible Hulk, Amazing Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Spider-Man Unlimited, Thunderbolts, Avengers, New Avengers, Dark Avengers, Secret Avengers, Wolverine: Origins, X-Men: Legacy, X-Men: Unlimited, Witches, Tigra, Moon Knight, Punisher and more.

Additional chapters focus on Mike’s development as a comic book artist and samples of his cover art from 2002-2010. It’s nice to hear in Mike’s own words about how he became the artist he is today, and the cover samples are nice to look at.

Basically, unless you hate Deodato’s art style then this book is for you. Art galore and Marvel goodness all mixed up in one easily-accessible coffee-table book.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Rat Queens #1 (September 2013)

Rat Queens #1 (September 2013)

Rat Queens is a monthly comic book published by Image Comics, with writing by Kurtis J. Wiebe (PANZERFAUST) and art by Roc Upchurch.

Hannah (the “rockabilly” Elven Mage), Dee (the “atheist” Human Cleric), Violet (the “hipster” Dwarven Fighter) and Betty (the “hippie” Halfling Thief) – AKA The Rat Queens – have earned the ire of the Town Council of Palisade. As a result, they are assigned to clear out a “nest” of goblins as punishment. When they are attacked by an ultra-skilled assassin during their goblin cleansing, however, they find themselves embroiled in an adventure both more exciting and more life-endangering than before.

I love fantasy books so when I saw this at my local comic book store, I had to at least pick up a couple of issues. I was not disappointed.

If you’re expecting something Tolkien in scope and feel – don’t tread here. Rat Queens is a more League of Legends/World of Warcraft take on medieval fantasy…where fantasy tropes meet real-world sensibilities. However, that’s not to say that the book is all flash and no content. Kurtis J. Wiebe’s writing had me laughing out loud in spots, especially when the assignments were being given to various other themed adventuring groups like the Rat Queens (A sort of emo-styled group of Elves had to go clean toilets).

The art was great, but the real draw of the book for some people will no doubt be the character designs, which are diverse and varied and represent many body types and skin colors – a change from some comic books where you notice the cookie-cutter, ultra-athletic bodies you can only tell apart by the costumes. Roc Upchurch definitely has my respect and attention here because of this.

People looking for a good laugh will get a kick out of the style of humor, while action and fantasy lovers will still get their fair share of fantasy battles and magic. The book was thoroughly enjoyable and I will definitely be following it to see where it goes. It’s off to a promising start, for sure.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Pokemon Black (Nintendo DS – 2011)

Pokemon Black (Nintendo DS - 2011)

Pokemon Black (was) is a refreshing entry into the Pokemon’s fifth generation of games. As the player-character “Hilbert/Hilda” (depending on your sex), you embark on a quest to collect all the Pokemon you come across, while at the same time defending yourself against Team Plasma and their Pokemon “liberation” efforts.

We’ve all played Pokemon before, right? Well, I used to love playing it back when the original came out. There was just one small problem, however – I didn’t own a Gameboy. I would play it at my friend’s house when I visited and we weren’t doing anything else, but since there could be only one save file…I kept getting to the same point, over and over again every time I played the game, before I’d have to shut it off. Well….all these years later I finally decided to get a Nintendo DS I found on the cheap in a little hole-in-the-wall store here in Portland, Maine. I got Pokemon White for my girlfriend and picked up the Black version for myself.

Back when this game first came out a couple of years ago, it was the first entry into the Pokemon franchise to sport individual, game-color-specific, in-game areas; In the White version there is a wild area called White Forest, while in the Black version there is a bustling city called Black City. Add to this the first time in a Pokemon game having changing weather and seasons as well as 150+ new Pokemon – and you got yourselves a jump-start to the tried-and-true formula of the franchise….which isn’t a bad thing.

The graphics are great for a DS game and I think the series has come a long way. With new connectivity options and new playable areas for each version, as well as upgrades to the battle system like three-way battles – I think that there are countless hours of replayability options. If I could only have one game for the Nintendo DS, I wouldn’t mind just having Pokemon Black.

Now, if I could just get my girlfriend to catch up so I can trade with her! (I need to get a Zekrom!)

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters (1984)

When three parapsychology professors – Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Dr. Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) – lose their government grant, they go into business on their own as paranormal exterminators, eventually hiring on Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson) as the fourth Ghostbuster once their business takes off and they can’t handle the volume. However, an ancient Babylonian demon appears in Dana Barrett’s (Sigourney Weaver) refrigerator and summons an army of ghosts which invade New York City, leaving it up to the Ghostbusters to save the day.

I don’t know why I haven’t reviewed this movie yet – it’s pretty much the perfect film.

In any case, those who weren’t born in the 80’s may not appreciate this film franchise. I’ve found that to be the case no matter how good a film is. However, I still think Ghostbusters holds its own against most of today’s comedies, and I think I can say that without being a snob.

The comedic genius of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd and Rick Moranis is just unbeatable. Sigourney Weaver was the Megan Fox of her time (but with much better acting talent) and Harold Ramis plays the perfect counterpoint to Murray. Some of the effects are dated, but not too badly. I’ve seen worse production quality on films nowadays, to be honest.

This movie has it all: Action, comedy, horror, sex appeal and proton packs. What more could you ask for? Go see it, if you haven’t. It’s on Netflix!

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

PS – I met Ernie Hudson recently while I was at Super Megafest in Massachusetts. In case you didn’t catch me posing with him, here are a couple pictures of Zeddmore and I together. I was dressed up as Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars: Episode One, and I got him to use my lightsaber. Initially, he didn’t seem to want to, but once I turned it on he started waving it around for the camera and making karate noises. It was the best day of my life. How can you beat a Ghostbuster swinging around a lightsaber? Here are some pics:

Me, teaching Ernie Hudson (Winston from Ghostbusters) some new tricks!

Me, teaching Ernie Hudson (Winston from Ghostbusters) some new tricks!

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Winston Zeddmore

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Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) lives a charmed life, despite being born with a lower I.Q. than most – as well as a physical deformity of the spine which forces him to wear corrective leg braces. Gump’s mother (Sally Field) pushes and encourages him enough that he eventually sets out on his own and ends up witnessing lots of events in recent history that have shaped the world. On his journey of self, he chases love – in the form of Jenny Curran (Robin Wright), his childhood friend and crush – and also experiences war, happiness, loss and the gamut of the human experience, proving that despite his setbacks, Gump is wiser than most of us can say we are.

I remember seeing this back around the time it first came out, and I remember being blown away. So, I figured I’d revisit it, since it’s on Netflix, and to tell you the truth – Forrest Gump holds up pretty well over time.

Forrest Gump, the character, is one of Tom Hanks’ better roles. I’m no Hanks hater by any means, but he has a particular style that doesn’t lend to camouflaging his own personality. When I see him in films, I have a hard time separating film Hanks from real-life Hanks that I’ve seen. In Forrest Gump, this isn’t a problem.

Much like Billy Bob Thornton’s role in Slingblade, this is one of those times where you wonder if they’d have been able to make a film like this nowadays. There are some questionable messages in the film that critics would pounce on in present times, but for the time it was made it was a nice reflection on the Baby Boomer generation.

The movie is based, of course, on the novel of the same name by Winston Groom from 1986, although in the book, Forrest Gump is a pretty different character. Also, there are a few different events in the book that never made it to the movie version – like when Forrest went to space (would’ve been strange to see Hanks in space in Forrest Gump as well as in Apollo 13, amirite?!)

The only thing that didn’t really hold up too well was when it showed footage of Forrest in the old newsreels and footage from things and events that Forrest was privy to witnessing as history in the film progressed. You could really notice it. Other than that, though, the cinematography was great and the pacing of the film was really well done.

If you haven’t seen this one yet – do. It’s a classic.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Shanna, The She-Devil (2006)

Shanna, The She-Devil (2006)

Shanna, The She-Devil collects issues #1-7 of the series of the same name by Marvel Comics, with art and writing by Frank Cho and colors by Jason Keith and Dave Stewart.

Shanna is a Nazi science experiment in the form of an Amazonian jungle girl with a killer body and killer instinct, living on an island teeming with prehistoric horrors. When a paramilitary group becomes stranded on the island after crash-landing, they discover Shanna and quickly learn that she is a genetically-engineered super-weapon. Luckily she is, because she’s the only one who can help defend them against T-Rexes and massive hordes of Velociraptors, among other things.

Frank Cho is one of the best artists around and I checked out the book primarily to see his work. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the writing side of things, but the seven issues included in this trade has a pretty decent story arc and plays out like an action film.

Some may be turned off by the titillation, but Cho is a master at rendering women who aren’t just waify, sexy supermodel-types who just happen to have super-strength spouting from some unseen source – Shanna actually looks the part. Her thighs are dense and her arms and back muscular, and when she impales a dinosaur with a massive tree trunk, you believe that she did it. When you see her knocked into a car by a T-Rex and still manages to get up, you believe it. Shanna is also not stupid and while different men try to take advantage of her in the book, she sets them straight pretty fast.

The colors only add to the visuals, and the dinosaurs are all very nicely-rendered as well as backgrounds, vehicles….everything. Nothing is forgotten and everything stands out in an exceptional way.

This is worth a read if you like adventure stories, dinosaur tales and books like Red Sonja or Vampirella. You may come for the titillation and gorgeous art but you’ll stay for the substance. Give it a try.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Call Of Duty: Ghosts (PS3 – 2013)

Call Of Duty: Ghosts (PS3 - 2013)

In Call of Duty: Ghosts, players take control of Logan Walker (most of the time, anyway) in a world where the United States has been reduced to a third-world power after an attack by a satellite super weapon called Odin destroyed much of the infrastructure of the former government and economy. In a last ditch effort to survive, a legendary unit of special forces members with the code name Ghosts have banded together to try to take back control from their oppressors. As Logan, you are joined by your dog Riley, older brother David and father Elias ten years after the attacks and operate in secret, hoping to win the war once and for all.

I’ve long been a fan of this game series, but while most of the time I’ve been sort of excited once a new installment has come out, I kind of felt like stopping after Black Ops II due to lack of innovation and the multiplayer feeling unbalanced. To my surprise, there were some pleasant twists to this tenth entry in the series, at least enough to keep me playing for now.

First of all, the story mode was pretty engaging. It’s smooth, if short, and feels like you’re watching an action flick most of the way through. There are some nice cinematic “I am awesome” moments that make you truly feel that you’re accomplishing something great. The innovative side of using Riley, the dog, to silently dispatch enemies (in a pleasing, visceral way) in lieu of sneaking around by yourself constantly is a nice touch – but it wasn’t as innovative as I think it could’ve been. I think it would’ve been awesome if you could do co-op in story mode with one player as Logan and the other as either David or Riley depending on needs. Missed opportunity! One other bad thing is that the developers copy/pasted the ending from Modern Warfare 2 onto the beginning mission of Ghosts (which can be seen HERE), which is reason to give this title pause; What are we really buying when we get this game? A recycled money-grabbing installment of the same old thing?

Aside from the story mode (and the lifting from MW2) there ARE a couple of reasons to play this game – Extinction Mode, which is sort of like survival mode but you fight against aliens with a customizable load out and also is co-op (sort of like Zombies mode from the Treyarch games).

On top of that, there is the normal multiplayer mode that most people will no doubt get the game for, although some of the maps are too large for normal death matches and others feel too similar to others we’ve done before.

Infected Mode is a nice touch, with one random player spawning with an infection and “turning” other players until everyone is infected.

Squad Mode, too, is fun in that you get to build up a squad which will autonomously battle without you and you can see how they measure up on the leaderboards.

In my opinion, this installment could have been a lot better but what we have is an okay shooter with enough touches to entertain for another year or so before the next installment comes out. It’s far from perfect, but it’s still fun.

JOE Rating: ★★★