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My personal blog for covering video games, films, comics, and other media.

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Count_Zero

This time we’re covering issue #51 of Nintendo Power for August of 1993

“Goof Troop” Footage Courtesy of World of Longplays
PushingUpRoses’ Review of King’s Quest V for PC
Watch out for Fireballs Episode on Zombies Ate My Neighbors

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Member of The Console Xplosion Network: http://www.theconsolexplosion.com/
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Games Reviewed:

  • Street Fighter II Turbo – Capcom
  • Zombies Ate My Neighbors – Konami
  • Alien 3 (SNES) – LJN
  • Goof Troop – Capcom
  • Speedy Gonzalez – Sunsoft
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation (GB) – Spectrum Holobyte
  • Jurassic Park (NES) – Ocean
  • King’s Quest V – Konami

Filed under: Video games Tagged: Game Boy, NES, Nintendo Power Retrospective, Retro Gaming, SNES, Video games 8155 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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I don’t know if you know this, but I like tabletop RPGs. I really like tabletop RPGs. So, when I learned of the massive amount of scholarship going around RPGs and the history thereof, I got really excited. Though not the first book on the topic that I picked up (that being Of Dice And Men, which I reviewed in the fourth issue of my fanzine) this is one of the first, and one that warrants some discussion.

Empire of the Imagination is a biography of E. Gary Gygax – co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons along with Dave Arneson. There are two competing documentaries on Gary in the works, but as none of those have been completed yet, this is our first real look at Gary as a person and his life story.

I’m not going to recap the book itself, but instead get into the presentation. The book is set up in a series of chunks, going through Gary’s life from his childhood in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where TSR was founded and GenCon was originally based, to his death. In-between sections, there are interludes semi-fictionalizing aspects of Gary’s life in the style of a fantasy epic – which are in turn covered in more serious and grounded detail in the following section.

Having never had the opportunity to meet Gary, the book gave a very good portrait of Gygax as a person and as a creator, keeping the focus entirely on Gary. When it comes to Gary’s creative output, the book focuses on his time at TSR, both in terms of game books, novels (the Gord the Rogue series), and attempts to get a Dungeons & Dragons film started, to be directed by John Boorman and starring Orson Welles.

In particular, the book gives a whole bunch of attention to the books Gary read that lead him to create D&D. Also, the book gets into the early sessions Gary ran as he was creating the game, with the sessions in the Castle Greyhawk campaign, both for some of what would become the first employees of TSR, as well as some of Gary’s kids.

However, after Gary’s forced departure from the company he founded, the biography moves more into more broad strokes. It gives me the impression that author Michael Witwer felt that the part readers care the most about is the material leading up to D&D, and Gary’s ouster from TSR, and nobody cares after that.  That’s kind of frustrating for me, because that is the part I want to hear about the most, because aside from the games Gary ran for his friends and family before D&D became popular, that’s the part that’s told the least.

I did enjoy this book, and I’d definitely say that this was a story that bore telling, but there were little chunks of it that I wish got more attention.

Empire of Imagination is available in Kindle, hardcover, paperback, and audiobook editions from Amazon.com.


Filed under: Books, Role Playing Games Tagged: biography, book review, non-fiction, Role Playing Games 8220 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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Coming a few months after the first installment of Tales of the Jedi, we get an episodic, more comedic Star Wars comic, focusing on the comic relief of the original trilogy – R2-D2 and C3-P0.

Writer: Dan Thorsland
Art: Bill Hughes and Andy Mushynsky
Lettering: Bill Pearson
Colors: Pamela Rambo
Covers: Cam Kennedy (#1), Kilian Plunkett (#2-6)

Publication Dates: April 1st, 1994 to September 1st, 1994

This is available from Amazon.com either on it’s own, or as part of the Droids Omnibus (Kindle/Comixology, Print)

Plot Notes

Approximately 5 years prior to the Battle of Yavin, R2-D2 and C-3P0 are part of the household of Baron Pitareeze, a starship designer on planet Kalarba. The comic goes through a series of episodic adventures following the two droids as they go through various adventures as part of the household – or in a few cases on their own.

These stories often involve Olag Greck as an antagonist. His schemes are normally one-offs, introduced and wrapped up within a single issue, with Greck or the other antagonist, ending the issue on some variation of:

Worldbuilding

  • We have our first appearance of assassin droids outside of IG-88, and we learn that non-assassin droids can be re-programmed into being assassin droids, and that the droids will have knowledge of their old programming and may resent this re-programming (as is the case of C-3PX)

Characterization

C-3P0 and R2-D2: Captain Antilles (their master as of the start of A New Hope), is not their first master. For an unspecified period of time, they were in the household of Baron Pitareeze.

Other Notes

Of the Dark Horse Star Wars comics I’ve covered thus far, this is the first comic that really feels like a comic that is aimed for kids – Dark Empire is more serious and gritty, aimed for older teens, and Tales of the Jedi is aimed at a PG-13 level. This, on the other hand, works as a story that can be read by kids, but without talking down to them.

Final Thoughts

This is a fun, short, episodic series. It’s not trying to tell a big epic story, it’s not trying to make a big spectacle, it’s just a bunch of fun little one-offs, and that works – and (unlike the YA novel series which I’m skipping because nobody considers it canon), it isn’t contradicting any events of the films (like Luke keeping Dagobah a secret, or the Emperor inexplicably having a three-eyed son).

When I return to the EU, I’ll be seeing how Han proposed to Leia in The Courtship of Princess Leia.


Filed under: comics, Star Wars Tagged: comics, Star Wars, Star Wars Expanded Universe 8173 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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This time I’m taking a look at another out-print anime, in the wake of Lodoss getting license rescued by Funimation, in Armored Trooper VOTOMS.

Oh, and if you want to pre-order Lodoss in the wake of its license rescue, it’s available from Amazon & RightStuf

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Filed under: Anime Tagged: Anime, anime review, license rescue please, mecha, out-of-print 7479 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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In the original Mission: Impossible television series, one of the recurring antagonists outside of the Not-Soviets was the Syndicate, a mysterious criminal organization that was something of a mix of the Mafia and SPECTRE. In the conclusion of Ghost Protocol (which I previously reviewed), Ethan was sent on new mission, to take on the Syndicate.  In this film, we finally get that confrontation.

So, as is par for the course for the Mission Impossible series, with perhaps the sole exception of Mission: Impossible II, once again Ethan Hunt is on the run while trying to hunt down a sinister organization. The IMF has been dissolved due to the events of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and while Hunt is in the middle of hunting down the Syndicate. Hunt is, as per usual, on the run from the CIA, while also trying to bring down the Syndicate. On the course of the mission, once again he brings on Benji (Simon Pegg), with Brandt (Jeremy Renner) bringing Luther (Ving Rhames) onboard as well. In addition, Ethan has to figure out the loyalties of a spy within the Syndicate – Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson).

After the last film was a straight up save-the-world plot, Rogue Nation’s premise is a much more grounded spy story, one which has a lot of callbacks to earlier films, both in terms of bringing Luther back in a more prominent role, as well as call-backs to earlier films both in terms of set-pieces and plot points, complete with the McGuffin basically being a list, though of a different kind of list.

With the exception of the opening action sequence, which was featured prominently in the trailers and featured Tom Cruise hanging from the door of a plane, the film’s action sequences are generally very grounded. The series is by no means going full Bourne, but it does narratively fit better with the concepts of the franchise. It’s still not quite as low-body count as series itself tended to be (the fundamental premise of the series was that IMF teams were able to get in, get out, and accomplish their mission without firing a shot).

The scenes are incredibly well staged, and the writing has some great moments of humor. In particular, Cruise and Pegg have tremendous on-screen chemistry, with Pegg really bringing out Cruise’s strengths as an actor, and helping to humanize the character of Ethan Hunt.

While the film’s female cast is rather small, Ferguson, as Ilsa, has some great character material, and the relationship between Ilsa and Ethan stays on the professional/friendly level. Further, she, not Ethan, gets the big fight with the film’s heavy, and she’s generally written as someone who can absolutely work at the same level as Ethan and his team.

In all, I really enjoyed this film – the Mission Impossible series definitely appears to still be going strong, and I’m looking forward to the next installment in the series.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and Streaming from Amazon.com


Filed under: film Tagged: film, Film Review, Mission Impossible 7611 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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Going into this film, it’s important to note that this is a Ninja film released in the early-to-mid 1980s (depending on how you look at it), from Cannon films, and starring Sho Kosugi. That, out of the gate, implies a certain level of camp to the film. That said, Cannon films operates at a couple different levels – fun dumb, and then just dumb. So, the question then becomes which kind of dumb is this film?

The premise of Ninja III is that the mysterious “Black Ninja” (played by David Chung) murders a business tycoon, who is probably up to some shady dealings, and then is gunned down with an almost Robocop-esque level of overkill by a bunch of police officers while attempting to make his escape. This shooting is somewhat witnessed by Telephone line person and Christie (played by Lucinda Dickey – star of other Cannon films like Breakin’ and Breakin’ II), who also comes across the sword of the dead ninja, and brings it home.

However, that sword is now possessed by the spirit of the Black Ninja, and whenever she sees one of the cops who killed him, the ninja takes control of Christie, and using the ninja arts, she goes and kills the relevant cops. Meanwhile, Christie’s police officer boyfriend, Billy, played by Jordan Bennett, has noticed that his girlfriend has started developing mysterious bruises that she can’t explain, and is worried about her. Finally, there is Yamada, played by Sho Kosugi, a ninja who has come from Japan to put the Black Ninja’s spirit to rest.

So, the film is a martial arts slasher horror film, which is already unique by being a martial arts slasher film, and it ads another interesting step to the mix by having the killer be female (which is also incredibly rare, with the few examples that I’m aware of being the Sleepaway Camp films and the first Friday the 13th film).

The film takes things up a notch by being very overt that Christie is being possessed, through very vivid dream-sequences whenever the ninja takes control of her. The sword floats throughout the room, the environment of the room changes. It’s a very impressively done bunch of images, considering the notoriously low budgets that Cannon Films directors ended up running into. In general, these scenes reminds me of some of the ninja OVAs that came out in the late ’80s, to such a degree that I get the impression that these would work better animated than in live-action – again, especially considering Golan-Globus’ notoriously low budgets. In live action they’re interesting, but still, in spite of the best efforts of everyone involved, unintentionally comical.

This leads to the film’s cast. I’d say that Dickey is playing against type, but with her relatively short career, I’d say she never really developed a type. Still, considering her background as a dancer, and her previous role in Breakin’ was as a dancer, it’s important to note that a significant part of this role does not involve any dance at all. While Christie’s character is predominantly a take on the lead from Flashdance, she spends the majority of the film doing ninja stuff. Further, no female stunt performers are credited in the film, and while she’s in ninja garb, the build appears to match her, so it appears that she did her own stunts, which is very impressive.

On the other hand, Sho Kosugi is much more of a supporting player in the film. While his role is significant (and as “Only a ninja can kill a ninja”, he gets the finishing blow on the villain), he only shows up in the film’s second half, feeling like Kosugi’s growing popularity meant that they could only afford him for half the film, or that he wasn’t available due to his shooting schedule for the TV series The Master, which was edited into the Master Ninja series of films.

To the credit of writer James R. Silke and director Sam Firstenberg, I feel like they try to give Kosugi some good material, but he doesn’t have enough room to work. Kosugi is generally not a great actor, but good material can do a great job to address an actor’s shortcomings, and when those points come up in this film, it works well.

The film is not without some very pronounced flaws. The effects in the film can get pretty dopey. The ADR’d “Japanese” dialog sounds like white people being told to do an impression of a Japanese person, with the words spoken being jibberish. The film also runs into a classic Hollywood casting issue of assuming all Asian people are the same and casting Chinese actor James Hong to play a Japanese Shinto priest. Don’t get me wrong – Hong is an excellent actor and does a great job in the role, but I still had to shake my head when that came up.

And finally, there’s Jordan Bennett as Billy, the film’s Final Boy. Bennett has previously had a recurring role on The Waltons in the series final year, and had also previously played Jean Valjean in the original LA run of Le Miz, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at – Le Miz had already won some awards by that time, and the role of Valjean has some significant dramatic and acting weight to it. However, I don’t know if this is a lack of direction, poor writing for the character, a short shooting schedule not allowing for rehearsals and retakes, or Bennett not caring about the part, but his performance is bland.

To put it in perspective – Bennett’s character, Billy, is a cop who took part in the shooting that kicks off the film, but not to the degree to the other cops were, firing only a single shot, while everyone else just keeps blasting. He’s an honest cop with integrity, who cares about his girlfriend, and who is very worried about her mysterious injuries that she’s developing. Yet he doesn’t act on his worries. With the final girl in most slasher films, the writers take steps to make us care about them for reasons other than “because slasher audiences are predominantly male (and the studio assumes are hetrosexual because we’re not surveying for that) and the actress is pretty).” Billy and Christie’s relationship doesn’t have enough time, Billy doesn’t get much time on his own as a character to develop (it’s there, but there isn’t much of it), and outside of a few topics he doesn’t get much of an opportunity to emote.

I still enjoyed the film, but it was more in the context of the novelty of the work than it’s strengths in the genres that the film itself is a part of.

Ninja III: The Domination is available from Amazon.com.


Filed under: film Tagged: 1980s, Cannon films, film, Film Review 7930 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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We continue with the launch of the classic EU with Dark Horse Comics first comic outing – Dark Empire I.

Opening Credits: Star Wars Theme from Super Star Wars on the SNES.
Closing Credits: Chiptune Cantina Band from Chiptune Inc. – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvJtiGFudFlvYMfjiU1NKJg

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Filed under: comics, Star Wars, videos Tagged: comics, Dark Horse Comics, Legends of the Force, Star Wars, Star Wars Expanded Universe 8143 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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We’re returning to the Star Wars expanded universe with the beginning of the Jedi Academy Trilogy, with Jedi Search.

Author: Kevin J. Anderson.
Publication Date: February, 2014

Jedi Search is available from Amazon.com in paperback or in Kindle formats.

Plot Notes

In the wake of the Emperor Reborn’s failed attempt to conquer Coruscant and the galaxy, the New Republic is in the midst of repairing the damage and attempting to rebuild the city. During this, Luke Skywalker comes forward to the Republic Council with a request for approval to start a new Jedi Academy. The council votes for approval, and Leia is tasked with finding a world for them to set up shop.

Around this time, a construction droid uncovers a hidden Imperial facility that contains portable sensors that can be used to measure a person’s Force Sensitivity. Luke also discovers a way using just the Force to find out of a person is Force-sensitive – by probing a specific portion of a person’s mind, one can tell if the person being probed has the ability to use the force. After some research by R2-D2 puts together a list of possible candidates for Jedi training, Luke and Lando go out to find possible future Jedi.

Meanwhile, Han Solo and Chewbacca are traveling to Kessel on a diplomatic mission in the hopes of opening diplomatic relations with the prison planet, on Leia’s request. On arrival, he finds himself shot down and captured by Moruth Doole, a former inmate who has now taken over the planet. Doole, it turns out, was responsible for betraying Solo to the Empire and leading him to dump the shipment of Spice that put him on Jabba’s bad side. Doole sends Solo

Luke successfully finds two candidates. The first is Gantoris, from the failed colony world of Eol Sha. His force sensitivity had allowed him to help keep the people of his world alive in the face of the hazards of living on their unstable world. The second was Streen – a gas miner and hermit on Bespin, whose telepathic sensitivity had lead him to a life of isolation. Lando was less successful, only spotting a cheater in the blob races on planet Umgul.

On returning to Coruscant, Luke and Lando learn about Han being overdue, and set out to Kessel themselves to investigate. Meanwhile, Han and Chewie engineer their escape, with a young inmate who shows a degree of precognition, named Kyp Durron. During their escape, they learn that Vima Da Boda (from Dark Empire) had spent time there, and had provided Durron some tutelage in the ways of the Force.

When Han and company’s escape leads them into the clutches of the Maw, a cluster of Black Holes near Kessel, they discover an Imperial outpost lurking at the core of it – the research outpost where the Death Star and its Superlaser was researched and designed. The outpost, commanded by Admiral Daala, the only woman to reach flag rank in the Imperial Navy, has been incommunicado since before the Battle of Endor, and whose existence was apparently only known to Tarkin himself. Further, they learn that the outpost was not only responsible for the design of the Death Star and it’s super laser, but also the World Devastators from Dark Empire, and they have a new weapon that has approached completion – the Sun Crusher, a ship that is impervious to any weapon, and which can cause stars to go supernova.

Back on Coruscant, Leia ends up organizing and hosting a visit of the Imperial governor of Carida, the world that plays host to the Imperial Academy. Carida rebuffs the New Republic as rebels, and even goes so far as to throw a drink into Mon Mothma’s face.

On Kessel, Lando and Luke arrive, and posing as investors, take a tour of the facility. Finding the Falcon among the outpost’s fleet, and discovering that Han and Chewie are absent, the two steal it back. Meanwhile, at the Maw, Han has persuaded one of the alien scientists at the facility, Qwi Xux, that the technology she has been designing has been for weapons of mass destruction. She agrees to spring Han, Chewie, and Kyp, and for the four of them to steal the Sun Crusher and escape.

Han and company manage to emerge from the Maw and almost run into Luke and Lando in the Falcon, and the two groups return to Coruscant, while Doole and Daala slug it out. Returning to Coruscant, they learn that Leia has selected a world for Luke’s Jedi Academy – Yavin IV – the outpost from where the attack that destroyed the Death Star was launched. It’s quiet and out of the way… what could possibly go wrong?

Worldbuilding

  • The Nightsisters of Dathomir are mentioned here for the first time – they will have a proper appearance in The Courtship of Princess Leia, which was published a few months later.
  • We learn that there are different kinds of spice – Glitterstim, which must be mined in total darkness, and which has effects similar to the Spice from Dune, and Ryll spice, which can be found on more worlds, and which we learn later is used in the production of Bacta.
  • Our first actual visit to Kessel.
  • Ssi-Ruuk territory is still unmapped, and the Republic has had no further major dealings with them, peaceful or otherwise.
  • The Imperial Academy now has a world – Carida.
  • We learn where the Death Star was designed – the Maw installation, with the project sponsored by Grand Moff Tarkin. This would be heavily retconned in the New Expanded Universe, as we see in Rogue One.
  • Bevel Leminsk is first mentioned as the lead designer of the Death Star.

Characterization

Luke Skywalker: Is moving forward with his plan to build a Jedi Academy. Is somewhat apprehensive (due to what happened with Obi-Wan and Anakin), but knows this needs to be done.

Leia Organa-Solo: Has not had regular contact with her kids for 2 years, as they’ve been raised off Coruscant, and she now gets to live with them for the first time. This is in turn rather negatively affecting her diplomatic patience.

Han Solo: Used to have a business relationship with Moruth Doole – which ended when Doole betrayed Solo over the spice shipment that lead to the events of A New Hope.

Kyp Durron: Was raised in the tunnels of Kessel, and having briefly gotten some training in the Force from Vima Da Boda. Is very powerful in the force.

Gantoris: Protector of the people of Eol Sha, and was very reluctant to leave. Has had a precient dream that a dark man would offer to teach him great power, and then would destroy him.

Streen: Gas miner from Bespin. His telepathic sensitivity can allow him to, unwillingly, pick up ambient thoughts from people miles away.

Grand Moff Tarkin: Mastermind of the Death Star Project, as a means of using Fear to impose the will of the Empire and to quell any rebellion. Was romantically involved with Daala.

Admiral Daala: First woman to reach the rank of Admiral in the Imperial Navy, a significant feat as the Empire (in addition to being Xenophobic had some significant institutional sexism). Tricked Tarkin into recognizing her talents by posting tactical papers under a pseudonym. Tarkin picked her to lead the Maw Installation. Has been unaware of the state of Galactic politics for the past 11 years.

Winter: Moved to full-time nanny and caretaker for Leia and Han’s twins, to the point that they think of her as their surrogate mother.

Jaina & Jacen Solo: Have moved to Coruscant again, and have not seen their parents on a regular basis for several years.

Other Notes

This is basically the point where the Star Wars Expanded Universe kicks straight into high gear. Over the course of this year we’re going to get a bunch of Star Wars novels, with stand-alone books becoming intermingled with the Jedi Academy, along with several more comics series.

The size of the expanded universe hasn’t gotten so big that we need a dedicated office – the Keeper of the Holocron, to keep track of everything, but you can see already how we get there from here.

Final Thoughts

The Jedi Academy Trilogy gets a bad rap, for several reasons, but as far as the first book is concerned, it’s got some good moments. Luke and some of his other friends traveling the Galaxy, looking for candidates for the Academy, is a really strong concept for a book. Similarly, Han and Chewie getting stuck on Kessel, having to engineer a jail break, and escaping with the help of a Force-sensitive prisoner who will become a recurring character in the trilogy is also a really strong concept.

I also like how Anderson writes the banality of evil. Moruth Doole is a gangster out to make some quick bucks, and he doesn’t worry too much about who gets burned in the process. Consequently, Doole’s downfall is entirely the fault of his own greed – he shoots down the Falcon because he wants to take down Solo once and for all, without considering the current state of the Galaxy (and politics). When he discovers that Solo is there in a diplomatic mission, Doole doesn’t think about how Solo is married to one of the most politically powerful people in the New Republic – he tries to think of ways to cover up the attack by shoving Solo into the mines and hoping he gets killed by a monster. When Solo escapes, he desperately tries to shoot him down because he assumes that killing Solo will prevent a Republic fleet from coming down on him like the wrath of an angry God.

It’s just the right kind of banal corporate evil lack of foresight. In the 90s, I remember reading people saying that this seemed unrealistic and stupid, because no one would be that dumb when it came to making a buck. The current state of the economy and corporate America, and possibly President Donald Trump, actually makes that element of the plot feel weirdly precient.

Because of how the publication calendar comes up, the next work I’ll be covering will be the Star Wars: Droids comic from Dark Horse.


Filed under: Books, Star Wars Tagged: book review, Books, Star Wars, Star Wars Expanded Universe 7800 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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A little bit ago I reviewed DC Comics revival of The Shadow, written and drawn by Howard Chaykin. This time I’m taking a look at the follow-up to the first sequel arc to that series.

The story picks up not long after Chaykin’s miniseries, with The Shadow and his new network of agents following up on one of the murders from Chaykin’s miniseries, along with a series of mysterious spree killings in New York. The killings are traced to a corporation that turns out to be run by Shiwan Kahn. The Shadow immediately suspects that Kahn is up to something, considering that Kahn is his greatest enemy (keeping in mind that this comic still pre-dates the release of the film starring Alec Baldwin).

It turns out that The Shadow is, in fact correct, and Kahn is up to something – particularly launching a mind-control satellite, but not to take over the world. With the rise of Maoist China, Kahn had adopted Taiwan as his new country, and he had come to resent the west throwing Taiwan under the bus in favor of closer ties to mainland China. His plan was to force world leaders to reject mainland China and throw their support behind Taiwan.

However – another enemy of The Shadow and a rival of Kahn, Albert Renn, who I’m honestly not sure where he’s from – but the comic assumes you know who he is – resents a foreigner gaining so much political power, and is planning to turn Kahn’s plan against him and to take control of his orbital mind control ray. Through all of this, a religious zealot known as Reverend Light is also planning to take control of the world through his evangelical cult, and when he learns about Kahn’s plan, he also seeks to take Kahn’s Mind Control technology for himself.

And this all happens over six issues. There’s an annual which provides Light’s backstory, but honestly it doesn’t come up at all over the course of this story – getting more or less lost in the shuffle. Frankly, narratively, these books are incredibly dense – trying to cram these three plots, and all the characters that go with them, over 6 issues. Ultimately, a lot of character development is lost over the course in the mix.

There are some strong points here. Many of the issues that the earlier series by Chaykin had with female characters have been fixed in this book’s story. The female characters have more agency, and play more of an active role in the book’s story. In Chaykin’s story, Mavis (Harry Vincent’s daughter), basically goes from getting annoyed with The Shadow’s attitude towards women, to being turned on by it, to being seen getting dressed after having sex with Kent Allard within the span of a handful of panels. Here, her relationship with Allard is strictly professional.

This is helped by the art by Bill Sienkiewicz. Sienkiewicz’s style, frankly, doesn’t really ever make anything sexy. Sienkiewicz, as an artist, recognizes that not everyone is sexy, and not everything needs to sexy and indeed, some things should not be sexy (as Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men discussed in their episode on the Demon Bear Saga).

Still, the story is just too packed full of stuff – like writer Andrew Helfer had so many things he wanted to do in his time on the comic, but had too little time to do it in. By comparison, Watchmen was still ongoing when this book came out, and while it had a significant amount of narrative breadth, it was also paced well enough that you had enough time to take it all in. The same is true with what had gone on over at Marvel with Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men, and Walter Simonson’s run on Thor.

Here, the comic has the same problem with pacing that Chaykin had – 20 pounds of story in a 15 pound bag.

If you’re interested in picking this comic up, it’s been reprinted by Dynamite under the title of “The Shadow Masters Series”, and this arc is collected in volume 1. It’s available in digital and physical editions from Amazon.com. As with the earlier story, the digital edition is also readable in the Comixology app.


Filed under: comics Tagged: comics, DC Comics, The Shadow 7753 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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The Final Fantasy Distant Worlds Concert series has a satellite series – A New World, with chamber music versions of Final Fantasy music. They came to PDX, and I have some thoughts on the concert.

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Filed under: Video games, videos Tagged: classical music, concert, video, Video games 8152 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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Well, the time has come to talk about the most recent Hayate the Combat Butler TV series, and potentially the last series to come out, for reasons which I’ll get into, but also a series that is something of a return to form for the franchise’s anime incarnations.

As the title suggests, Hayate the Combat Butler: Cuties puts the focus somewhat on the women in Hayate’s life. For most of the series, with the exception of the last couple episodes, each individual episode focuses on a particular female character or characters and their relationship with Hayate, with some episodes doubling up on the female characters. Each episode is generally episodic, with some occasional callbacks to earlier episodes.

The cast doesn’t have much in terms of new characters. The sole exception is Alice, the reincarnation of Athena, a woman who Hayate had met and fallen for as a child in a flashback chapter. She doesn’t particularly get much character development here, unfortunately. As with the previous season, the assumption is that you’re actively reading the manga, and have read enough of it to know who this character is and what their story is. The rest of the cast is fleshed out better, with perhaps the stand-out episodes being about Hinagiku and Chiharu Harukaze.

That said, I can’t talk about this series without bringing up the elephant in the room. Of the previous series, this series has a reduced role for Isumi, particularly considering that the series focus on each of the female characters in turn. Considering the health issues that her voice actress, Miyu Matsuki, was experiencing, this may have been a deliberate choice, to ease down the character’s presence instead of recasting the character. With Matsuki’s death and the conclusion of the anime, it really makes me wonder if you’re getting any further Hayate anime series. Certainly a new anime series could help sell tankobon, but it would also entail recasting a beloved character, which is rough.

I did really enjoy the show, and I really liked the return to the episodic, comedic focus, but it also brought into harsh relief that this is likely going to get the last animated Hayate we’re going to get for a long time, if we get any more at all.

Hayate the Combat Butler: Cuties is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Amazon (Blu-Ray, DVD), and RightStuf (Blu-Ray, DVD)


Filed under: Anime Tagged: Anime, anime review, Hayate the Combat Butler 7707 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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