Wonder Woman, Volume 1: Blood (2012)

Wonder Woman, Volume 1: Blood (2012)

Wonder Woman: Blood collects issues #1-6 of the DC Comics New 52 Wonder Woman series with writing by Brian Azzarello and art by Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins.

Wonder Woman, the Amazon born of clay and a prayer, has known who she is all her life. However, when Hermes (yes, the god Hermes) attempts to help a young woman who has been impregnated by Zeus (yes, the god Zeus) – Zeus’ wife, Hera (yes, the goddess Hera) is none too happy about it and sends her followers to go pay Zeus’ new concubine a visit. Under the protection of Wonder Woman, the Amazons and even some gods and demi-gods – the mortal woman still may not survive the fury of Hera, and in the meantime – Wonder Woman learns that maybe she’s not who she’s thought she was all this time.

To me, Wonder Woman has always been one of DC Comics’ most interesting characters. As far as mythology goes, she is DC’s version of Marvel’s Thor (Yeah, I know Wonder Woman came first, obviously). With all the controversy of Gal Gadot being cast as Wonder Woman I figured it’d be a good time to re-examine the character for myself and ended up giving the first six issues of the New 52 version of Wonder Woman a try in order to do so.

First off, the writing was pretty decent. Azarello, you can tell, wants to keep a lot of the mythology in tact and he does so pretty well. At least for a comic book, anyway. One thing I didn’t really like, though, was there seemed to be an awful lot of puns. I’m not sure exactly how many there were, but I felt like that’s all I was doing at points was reading puns to myself that the characters were saying. That hindered the enjoyment in places, but overall it was pretty entertaining aside from what I felt were jarring transitions between issues and even within individual issues.

The art was okay, but I feel like it was maybe a tad too cartoony. It reminded me of Bruce Timm a bit, which is good, but in the context of an Amazonian woman who spends her time hacking the arms off centaurs, I feel like it should be more gritty and realistic. It would really bring home the reality of our world and put it in tune with the fantastical aspects of the mythological one that Diana inhabits.

Overall, I enjoyed it and I look forward to seeing where it goes in the next volume. Seeing all the different gods represented in the artist/author’s interpretations was kind of cool, too. (Although Hermes is pretty creepy looking, I’ll admit).

JOE Rating: ★★★

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Joe The Barbarian (2011)

Joe The Barbarian (2011)

Publisher: Vertigo
Creative Team: Grant Morrison, Sean Murphy

Joe The Barbarian collects issues #1-8 of the limited DC/Vertigo series written by Grant Morrison (Batman Inc., Supergods) with artwork by Sean Murphy (Hellblazer, American Vampire: Survival Of The Fittest).

Joe Manson is an eleven-year-old kid with type 1 diabetes. On top of that, his father died overseas in the ongoing war in the Middle East. It’s no wonder that he spends all day in a dream world of action figures and drawings of noble knights and scary creatures. However, after some school bullies steal his candy he gets home and begins to go into hypoglycemia, but unexpectedly also into another world…one so real he cannot discern it from reality. Traversing this new fantasy world, in the real world he is only trying to get to the kitchen. Realities blur and soon it’s apparent that there is a purpose behind the visions and that he must stay alive.

First off, I love Morrison and I love Murphy. Two great talents working together. Can I refer to them as M&M? Haha, no, but really.

The story is evocative of Alice In Wonderland and Tellos, sort of mixed together in one awesome stew. Tellos will always be my favorite but this book managed to capture that feeling and the wonder of that book, if a little bit darker….yet it had almost as much heart.

It was nice to see a story dealing with a character who must battle diabetes. Coming from a family where diabetes is a constant concern, Joe The Barbarian was especially poignant to me. My great grandmother recently died after choosing not to continue with her dialysis treatments but she’d been battling diabetes for years.

In any case, I loved Murphy’s work on American Vampire, and I think he did an amazing job with Morrison’s fantastical vision in this book. The art has a nice steampunky type of style to it, which somehow fit the theme nicely.

You should really check it out, especially if you enjoyed Todd Dezago and Mike Weiringo’s work on Tellos.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Here’s A Sample Page From Joe The Barbarian
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Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins (2005)

Original Theatrical Release: June 15, 2005
Director: Christopher Nolan

Billionaire playboy, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), was made an orphan when his parents were brutally murdered in the streets by a common thug. Vowing revenge, as an adult he began training himself to fight before ending up as a student of Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) and Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) – both in a shadowy group dedicated to eradicating evil called the League of Shadows. When Bruce disagrees with their methods, he takes what he’s learned and finances himself as a vigilante superhero called Batman. With enemies from his past and present arrayed against him, Batman has a lot of work to do to clean up Gotham.

This isn’t your 1989 Batman, that’s for sure.

This movie starts and ends with a bang. There isn’t much time to think about anything except for the awesomeness up on the screen, but there are just a couple of scenes that are a little too slow or bog down the action.

The acting is all top-notch (aside from how anyone looks at Christian Bale’s Batman voice) and the characters from Batman’s canon were all brought to life, more vibrant than any incarnation that came before it. We had the amazing Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Michael Caine as Alfred. Not as great was the wooden Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, but hey, she’s still easy on the eyes.

Nolan’s vision ties everything together and by the end of the film, we see a story that has been artfully pieced together that leaves us nodding our heads in appreciation as the credits roll. I still think the second film, The Dark Knight is the best in the trilogy, but this is a close second.

All in all, this is a wonderful start to the Batman Trilogy by Christopher Nolan, and I’m glad that we’ve gone away from the campy nature of the Batman films of the 1990’s.

Batman is pretty damned serious.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For Batman Begins

The Sandman Volume 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (1991)

The Sandman Volume 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (1988)

Publisher: DC/Vertigo
Creative Team: Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III

Set in the DC Universe, The Sandman Volume 1 collects issues 1-8 of the comic book series written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Sam Keith, Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III.

A wizard who wants to live forever attempts to summon and trap Death, but inadvertantly traps her younger brother, Dream (aka Morpheus). Fearing retaliation, the wizard and his cohorts keep Morpheus imprisoned in a magical cell for a couple of lifetimes. When his captors make a mistake and Morpheus breaks free, he is weak from his time in imprisonment and also finds that his captors have stolen and have sold three of his possessions which help give him power. His helm, his bag of dust and his ruby pendant. With these items he will be close to full strength again, so he sets out to find them…but they are spread wide and though he is a god, Morpheus finds that some of them are guarded more closely than he would think. Teaming with well-known DC Comics characters like John Constantine and Martian Manhunter, Morpheus must go to Hell and back to find his things. Literally.

While this is not the strongest entry in the Sandman series, issues 1-8 are a great introduction to the world Morpheus inhabits and is a good set up to the wonderment that follows in later volumes. The artwork is great, but the colors in the collection versus the originals are a little bit off, a little bit darker. This might be problematic for some purists, but I think for the tone of the piece, the colors suit it well. Then again, the original colors were more dreamlike. It’s a coin toss on which you’ll like better.

This beginning collection is a story about starting over. Morpheus was content with where he was and with his station, overconfident that he had everything nailed down. When this was proven false by his imprisonment by a bunch of mortals, it shook him up a little. Weakened and forced to find alternate ways to deal with things, Morpheus becomes a compelling character. Though a god, he is still fallible.

The characters are all really interesting. We get to meet the perky character of Death, we get to see a new and frightening/sad interpretation of Cain and Abel. There are dangerous and fantastical dream creatures and lots of magic thrown in.

If other DC characters weren’t tossed into the mix, you wouldn’t even think of it as a comic book story that exists in the world of superheroes, but Neil Gaiman has seamlessly integrated Morpheus and his mythos into the existing DC canon.

Give this a read, and especially the later collections.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Check Out This Sample Page From Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes!
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DC Universe Online (2011- PS3)

DC Universe Online (2011)

Original Release Date: January 11, 2011
Developer: Sony Online Entertainment
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment and WB Games

As far as the storyline goes, you begin the game by watching a really cool cinematic battle between the Justice League and a bunch of DC villains. The heroes are all killed in the battle, even Superman, with the Joker and Lex Luthor still standing. Then, Brainiac shows up with an army of metahumans he’s created by “downloading” the powers of the DC heroes and villains for years. Lex Luthor can do nothing but watch. So, Lex travels through time and warns the heroes about Brainiac and also releases stolen exobytes (nano-sized mechanisms that attach to humans and give them superpowers) into the atmosphere, creating thousands of metahumans which will be able to help in the fight against Brainiac once they are trained by either the Justice League (With mentors being Superman, Wonder Woman or Batman) or the DC villains (With mentors being Lex Luthor, Circe and Joker).

The character you create is one of those new superheroes, just learning how to use their powers.

Jim Lee is at the helm of the game (awesome) so the art and production is pretty amazing. Geoff Johns does the principal writing, so the story is decent as well.

I played through the entire game with my own character, Captain Kinesis, and reached the level cap. (30, currently) It didn’t take me too long and I didn’t have to pay to play, although I ended up subscribing so I could make more characters. (You only get two slots, initially, unless you pay…which is $15 a month) Captain Kinesis is a mental-based superhero who can fly, use telekinesis to lift buses and cars into the air to throw at villains, and he has super-strength….pummeling the bad guys with his fists. There are tons of power combinations for characters. (I also have another character, an anthropomorphic fox named Permafox who has super-speed and ice-based powers and uses a shield like Captain America)

I found no real down sides about the game aside from character creation problems (more on that below). It was consistently fun, the graphics and art were great and the PVP modes were always fun (and you could play as major DC characters like Superman or Batman).

One drawback, though, was actually in the character creation mode. When you try to name your character, more often than not you’ll get a message that says “Already taken, please try again” or something to that effect. HOWEVER, they don’t give you any other options and there is no way to tell what’s already been taken unless you try. Sometimes, I would sit for a half hour or more, trying various names (I refused to name the character the same way I would name a screen name in a chat room…”SuperDude23″) I don’t consider myself not creative and I imagine if they had a way to list available variations or have a list with names already taken once you try to type it in, that it would be a lot faster.

Most of the fun in this game and in others like it is creating your own superhero and seeing them interact with a comic book universe that you’ve grown to love. I’m way more of a Marvel guy than a DC guy, but I can still appreciate Metropolis and Gotham. There is plenty of that as you travel through those cities, mostly, and you fight crime alongside other new heroes or even alongside seasoned, canon characters.

The other downside was the download time for the actual game. I think it took more than four hours, and that was consistent with other folks I knew of who downloaded it. Make sure to leave yourself some time for that.

Since it’s free to play, you should give it a try! Especially if you have played and liked games such as Champions Online or City of Heroes/City of Villains or Marvel Heroes – You won’t be disappointed.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Game Trailer For DC Universe Online