Review

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Book Review: Chicks Dig Gaming

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Book Review: Chicks Dig Gaming ed. by Brozek, Pearson, Smith?, & Rabe

Review by Prof. Jenn

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Books of this nature can easily fall into the trap of redundancy. Witness my review for Queers Dig Timelords, another anthology of this ilk, and indeed in this series. Chicks Dig Gaming does not, however, fall prey to the trap. The collection of essays span from wicked satire to sweet nostalgic memoir, to a celebration of gaming in general or certain games, a recounting of a particular gaming event, to analysis of a game or game trope, a recounting of the history of video games, to the ever-important discussion of the unfair and even dangerous treatment of women in the gaming world. This collection doesn’t only discuss video games, but board games, LARPing and pen-and-paper RPGs are discussed as well.

My problem with Queers…, as you recall, was that the essays all had the same tone and even the same subject matter (Doctor Who changed my life because…). This, especially read in big sections in one sitting, started to grate on the nerves, or at least became repetitive fawning. Chicks...doesn’t do this, as each essay has an author voice distinct from every other, and the topics at hand vary widely. I commend the editors for this, as it’s an entertaining as well as an informative read throughout.

Highlights of this collection include: a satirical look at the lack of boys in video gaming and what we can do about it, a paralleling of Mario to a bodhisattva and the Mario games to Buddhism, how one author who didn’t like video games at all tried Portal, and a delightfully written description of how another author learned to get cutthroat in Eve Online.

Bottom Line: this collection is highly recommended for anyone who loves any games.

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Comic Review: Thomas Alsop #6

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boom_thomas_alsop_006I am ready for the action, and we’re hopefully nearing it since we’re down to the last three issues of this series. What will happen on 9/11? Will Thomas defeat Neziah or will the island be damned forever? I am hoping we’ll see something explosive coming down the line because so far it’s been more of a waiting game.

Even though Thomas is beaten and bloody, he is determined not to give up. He’s got a destiny and he’s finally living up to it in all the ways he was meant to. We soon learn that the ghost who made off with the box is someone Thomas is familiar with – Randall (Smoke) Clever, an old engineer who was cursed to his form by Neziah Bliss and has haunted the subway ever since. Well, that’s the first story we got. We soon learn that Randall was Neziah’s lover, and that he was cursed into his form because Neziah got Tunde to raise him from the dead. Don’t tick off a powerful Shaman because he will mess with the spell he was supposed to do, twisting it into a form it was not meant to be.

Thomas manages to regroup, heading to the Alsop Family Armory for supplies before taking on Randall. While I enjoy the vast array of items in the armory, I get tired to the multiple panels that show us items that aren’t of immediate importance. And, also, considering Thomas didn’t even use the items for Randall, but instead handed them over to Emma for safe-keeping, it’s less likely readers will recall their significance month to month. Maybe just show the items one at a time as he’s using them, which would help my memory better.

Thomas does eventually deal with Randall, I guess for good? The smoke ghost eats a finger that’s been stored in the armory and he seems to disappear, so I’m going with the theory that the storyline for him is over. Now Thomas needs to deal with Neziah, The London Rose, and the whole 9/11 fiasco. That is, if he can get out of jail in time. That’s right, we end the issue with Thomas getting arrested. The poor man just can’t get a break, can he? Until next issue, it’s onward and upward as we head toward the climax of this series.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

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Comic Review: Thomas Alsop #5

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boom_thomas_alsop_005It’s a constant struggle between Thomas and the public, as the world is slowly turning against him in his pursuit to save the souls of 9/11. His approach might not be the best, but his motivations seem solid. If only he could make it out of this with his reputation intact.

We start off the issue with Thomas interrupting a late night talk show. He comes in and uses his appearance as a platform to make an announcement about his current case. Jovial acceptance soon turns negative as Thomas talks about what he’s planning to do. Thomas says he’s going to perform an exorcism at the site of the towers on the 10th anniversary of 9-11. This seemingly crazy talk gets him permanently banned from the talk show. It seems the public is willing to go along with his paranormal talk as long as it’s good entertainment, but using the memories of people lost in tragedy is a step too far. I wonder if they will all forgive him if his plan succeeds.

Thomas keeps going on shows, talking about the case, and is continually labeled as insane. However, his promotion team is trying to spin the situation to their advantage. If they can make it seem like he was only kidding, if he tries for forgiveness, maybe his brief stint of craziness will be forgotten? But he’s not going to let anyone dissuade him, not even those closest to him. Finally, his producer gets fed up with him and casts him aside. Both public and private opinion is solidly against him.

And if that wasn’t enough, Thomas gets summoned to a meeting of the Five Families. They question his methods, mad over the fact he talked so publicly about the upcoming spell. Nothing really gets settled, and he leaves to hit some bars around town, tweeting his progress the whole way. It seems that Thomas has a motive for his actions. He is building up energy through public hate, meant to fuel his spell.

And with the last component, the hidden box, he would be in a good place to move forward with his plan. But that is going to prove to be the hardest to obtain. He almost has it, but then a ghost creature emerges and grabs it away. Will Thomas get the box back? Will he be able to go through with his spell and save all those lost souls? We have to wait until the next issue to find out.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

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Comic Review: Steed and Mrs. Peel #3

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Comic Review: Steed and Mrs. Peel–We’re Needed #3 by Edginton, Cosentino, et. al.

Review by Prof. Jenn

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In this, the concluding issue of the three-part “episode,” Mrs. Peel comes to the rescue of Mr. Steed by encountering help of a surprising nature. Of course, just like the TV show, the bad guys get their comeuppance and the good guys prevail. Differently than the show, however, is the open-ended flavor of the ending, suggesting sequels to come.

The art is still consistently good, dark outlines and vivid color adding to the mod feel of the ’60s show, and the flow of the panels show the action very well. The bizarre yet tight plot is well constructed in both the dialogue and the images, and overall this is a rollicking good tale suitable for inclusion In the best of the Steed/Peel TV eps.

Bottom Line: the third in this series is a high quality read. Highly recommended.

 

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New ongoing Groo series coming in 2015!

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NEW YORK, NY—In time for New York Comic Con, Dark Horse announces a new ongoing Groo series brought to you by the award-winning team of Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier.

Each month of this yearlong series, Groo and his faithful pooch, Rufferto, encounter a different acquaintance—or enemy—with the usual dire consequences!

In issue #1, Groo crosses paths with Captain Ahax, the seaman with the world record for most ships sunk by the all-time stupidest character in comics.

Eisner-winning letterer Stan Sakai and colorist Tom Luth round out this all-star team.

Groo: Friends and Foes #1 is on sale January 21, 2015. Preorder your copy today.
Praise for Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier’s Groo:

“[Aragonés’s] style is so established, cartoony, and consistent that there’s never a doubt that you’ll get anything but pure magic out of him.”—Multiversity Comics

“Longtime Groo fans will find a lot to love here.”—Newsarama

 

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Comic Review: Steed and Mrs. Peel #2

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Comic Review: Steed and Mrs. Peel–We’re Needed #2 by Edginton, Cosentino, et. al

Review by: Prof. Jenn

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We’ve come to the part in the story (from the old Avengers TV series) when our heroes Mr. Steed and Mrs. Peel are in such a pinch we can’t imagine how they will get out of it. Mrs. Peel is interviewing sinister twin criminals and following up on her clues, and Steed is in a particularly precarious situation, vulnerable to the villain of the story. It’s tense and investigatory, as a good Avengers episode should be.

The art continues to be consistently high quality (with an especially lovely cover painting of Mrs. Peel) and works well as storytelling. The characters look enough like Macnee and Rigg that we know who they are, but not so much like actor portraits that we are taken out of the fictional world.

Bottom Line: This is a great series and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

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Comic Review: Thomas Alsop #4

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boom_thomas_alsop_004The island’s connection to Thomas is weakening and the evil is increasing. It’s up to Thomas to fix all that’s gone wrong, and hopefully live up to the title he’s been bestowed. First order of business is reconnecting with his old friend and former band-mate, Emma Caldwell. He’s uncovered a disturbing situation and needs back-up. All the souls lost in the towers are floating there, at unease.

Thomas knows he’s off his game, and that’s why the ghosts got past him. He’s not the powerful man he used to be, with his connection to the island weakening. Thomas thinks this is due, in part, to the fact that he’s been doing the show. The island has pulled back because he’s corrupting the connection with his tricks, and that has weakened the bond. And he needs to set things right, because the evil that has been building and is about to boil over has been going on since the days of Neziah Bliss. It has been reawakened because of their former drummer Martin Delgado, a firefighter who was there when the towers went down. He recited the incantation that tied itself to Neziah’s, which is why it’s coming back so strong now.

The three of them were good friends, Thomas and Martin and Emma. And they used magic in their act, without a thought to the implications of their actions. Thomas’ father was none too happy about that, wanting his son to straighten up and take control of his destiny. Unfortunately, a young and short-sighted Thomas defied his wishes and actually stole a magic box from the collection because Emma had a plan to use a spell to get them a music contract. This action would have far-reaching consequences that are still being felt today.

The spell went wrong, of course. While they played beautifully, and actually caught the eye of a record executive, bad things were brewing, too. Martin saw the evil in all the audience and it was too much for him, so he quit the band. That same night, Thomas’ father was murdered, and soon after Emma left town. All of Thomas’ hopes and dreams were unraveled because of one action. And now he must set things right again.

Thomas thinks that if he retrieves the magic box that they stole and stashed, he can use it to overcome the evil that is permeating the island. Will his plan turn out to be a good one? Or will he create more havoc, throwing the island into a downward spiral from which it can never recover? We’ll have to wait and see on that.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

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Project Greenlight: Sexy Superhero

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IMG_1248Superheroes are larger than life and mythic in scope. Their clothes play an essential role in conveying their power. The dark silhouette of an armored Batman strikes fear in the hearts evildoers. The red cape and yellow shield of Superman brings hope to the hopeless. Wonder Woman’s bustier gives a great view of her breasts. Well, maybe that last one doesn’t have the same “effect” as the first two.

There’s long been a double standard in superhero comics, dating back to the very first female heroes. This isn’t news to anyone who’s been a fan of comic books. The hero is dressed to inspire, and the female heroine is dressed (or undressed) to titillate. Powergirl may be stronger and faster than Batman, able to shrug off bullets and lift tanks, but her clothes (which literally have a cleavage window) have all the subtext of eye candy, not hero.

It’s a problem that comic books still struggle with despite a century of progress in gender equality. You only have to look at the recent kerfuffle with Spider-Woman #1’s cover with a “painted on” costume to know we haven’t moved that far from Wonder Woman being tied up and fired at by phallic objects in the 1940’s. The move to mass commercial success with Marvel’s films has only exacerbated the problems. Black Widow’s representation in the Avengers proved fertile ground for the Internet meme machine, with her impractical cleavage and ludicrous posing.

Sexy Superhero is my addition to the ongoing conversation on this subject. It’s a short film that pokes fun of the impracticality of accepted female costuming in superhero fiction. I’m a big fan of superhero comics and movies. I wanted to create something that showed my love for the subject matter and share it with a larger audience. There’s a reason why comic fans are so passionate–Superheroes are great fun, and can be monumentally inspiring. I think everyone should be able to identify with his or her favorite hero without a cleavage window shutting them out.

 

IMG_1218Luke Patton is a filmmaker living in Los Angeles. Sexy Superhero, a short film he wrote and directed, is one of the top 20 finalists in the Project Greenlight competition. To watch Sexy Superhero and place your vote in the competition please follow the link below.

http://www.projectgreenlight.com

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Comic Review: Rocky and Bullwinkle vol. 2

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Comic Review: Rocky and Bullwinkle vol. 2 by Al Kilgore, et al

Review by Prof. Jenn

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Maybe the first volume was fresh and new to me and now the novelty has worn off? Maybe the stories collected in the first volume were actually better overall than the second? Maybe it’s a matter of quantity getting in the way of quality as far as an enjoyment palette? In any case, volume 2 of the Rocky and Bullwinkle comics didn’t delight as much as the first collection. Again, I can’t blame it on the makers, I’m thinking it’s a matter of overdose.

Don’t get me wrong: I love these guys, and I love the authentic style of both the writing and the art. It’s like watching a bunch of episodes. Maybe that’s it–maybe seeing this many episodes in a row is too much.

Bottom line: This collection is honestly just great. If you have kids who are getting into the franchise, if you’re a fan (or especially collector) yourself, this is a great collection to have. Either collection is a good collection for a coffee table or a bookshelf anyway, if I’m perfectly honest.

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American Horror Story — Halloween parts 1&2

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This two-part episode packed in a lot of information, while somehow raising more questions than it answered. Look out for AHS Murder House spoilers ahead.

First, it’s time to celebrate, because I was actually right about something! One of my (many) speculations about Tate is true–he is Constance’s son! That small tidbit was overshadowed by the questions about him brought up in this Halloween two-parter. For example, in one of the scenes he was wearing the rubber suit. Does that mean he is always the guy in the rubber suit? I’m hoping not, because gross. There’s a weird discrepancy with him. He seems to understand the minutiae of the Murder House, and appears to be able to manipulate some of it to his will (as in the episode in which he scared Violet’s bully). But then we are introduced to the dead high-schoolers who claim to have been murdered by him, and he unravels into genuine bafflement. It’s difficult to reconcile these two parts of Tate. More importantly, is he one of the many walking dead on the show? (I’m guessing probably yes).

I was absolutely shocked by Addie’s death in this episode. Addie was mowed down by a car whilst trick-or-treating, in such a casual way it almost seemed an afterthought. I wonder if it will ever be revealed how the dead function in the show. Will Addie be able to come back because Constance pulled her to the Harmons’ lawn? If she can come back, it seems like it could be difficult to keep this secret from Tate.

Hayden returned in this episode. I find her storyline tired, but I did like her better as a vengeful spirit, and the scenes between her and Vivien were powerful and needed. Vivien is really starting to get on my nerves. I’m glad that she finally had the guts to kick Ben out, but SHE was the one who wanted to leave that house, and with good reason, so why was HE the one who left? Wasn’t that a good opportunity to get her and Violet out of there? Why do the characters in AHS have that typical horror-themed lack of good judgement?

Wild speculation time. Because I can’t take any normal people for granted, I’m going to say that there’s something off about the security guy who Vivien is becoming attached to. I fully expect everyone to die by the end of this season, but I still have my fingers crossed that Violet will make it out.

Addie and the dismembered baby delivered to the original house owners bring the House Death Toll to 16.

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