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Casual Saturdays: My Official Report on the New Edition of RISK August 30, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Casual Days, Other Random Stuff.
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For those who haven’t walked down the board game aisle of your local retail store lately, I’ve got some news for you: there’s a new edition of standard RISK. However, this time they didn’t just update the packaging, to those familiar with comic book terms, you might as well call this the “RISK Reboot.” Yes, ladies and gentlemen, RISK 2.0 is here. So what’s different, and what’s the same? Is it still the same game, with only minor changes, or has it become something new altogether? Having played this new RISK thrice now, I hope to detail just this, and comment on which changes are good, and which are not so good.

Major changes:
How to Win
Objectives/Rewards
Capitals
Cities

Minor changes:
RISK Cards/Reinforcement Trade-Ins
Location names
Fortification
Troop pieces
Amount of Players

How to Win: RISK is no longer the game of global domination, but still remains a game of conquest and strategy. Instead of taking over the world to win, you must have control of your capital and accomplish three objectives. However, the rule booklet does contain rules for “an updated version of the classic game of global domination.” You simply maintain Objectives/Rewards, Capitals, and Cities, and just keep playing past the point when someone accomplishes three objectives, until someone conquers the entire map. Of course, RISK purists may simply wish to ignore these three new elements and can easily play “Old-School RISK” with this updated edition. Objective RISK does have two advantages: one, it takes significantly less time to play. So when you and a couple friends want to play RISK, but don’t have 5-7 hours to dedicate to a single game, this is the perfect solution. Two, it actually takes more strategy. Not only do you have to keep yourself defended and your frontline strong, but now you must also figure out ways to accomplish objectives before your opponents, while keeping them from doing so.

Objectives/Rewards: Recent editions of RISK have contained alternate rules for “Mission RISK,” and it is a similar concept here. At the beginning of the game, the objectives are shuffled, and then eight are placed face up on the board. This number is not restocked as the game goes on, so the number of possible achievable objectives diminishes as the game continues. Rewards are also shuffled and placed with objectives at the beginning of the game.

Capitals: Those who have played RISK II (the computer game) may be familiar with the “Capital RISK” variant. Once again, the rules here are similar. At the beginning of the game, each player chooses one territory to serve as their capital. They cannot ever move their capital, so it is wise to pick an easily defendable position. (In other words, don’t stick it in the middle of Asia, unless you plan on losing.) As mentioned earlier, you have to be in control of your capital to you win the game. If someone takes over your capital, you will eventually have to take it back. Even if you are playing the global domination variant, capitals are still important, as some of the objectives involve them. You also get one extra reinforcement each turn for every capital you control (including your own).

Cities: At the beginning of the game, fifteen territories are chosen at random, and a city is placed in each of these territories. When you get reinforcements, you count the amount of territories AND cities that you own, and divide this number by three to get your number of reinforcements. For example, if both John and Ben own twelve territories, and none of John’s territories have a city, while all of Ben’s territories have a city, then John will only get four reinforcements, while Ben will get eight.

RISK Cards/Reinforcement Trade-Ins: Instead of having an infantry, a cavalry, or an artillery on each, cards now have either one star or two. (There are more one-star cards than two-star.) Trading in a certain amount of stars will get you a certain amount of troops. You can now have more than five cards in your hand, but you can only turn in cards at the beginning of your turn (even if you kill one of your opponents) and cannot turn in more than ten stars at once. This, I in my opinion, is the perfect solution to the ascending trade-in/set trade-in problem. Those who thought that ascending trade-in amounts that granted up to sixty troops were too powerful will be pleased to learn that even ten stars only grants one thirty troops, and seeing as how most cards are one star, it will take a lot of “saving” to turn this in. Likewise, those who think getting a maximum of ten troops is too few should be appeased with the new trade-in system. Also, there are no more wild cards.

Location names: To those who have been worrying: don’t worry, the board still has forty two territories located in the same areas, with the same “adjacencies,” sea-line connections, etc. The ONLY thing that has changed on the board is the names of a few locations. Quebec is now Eastern Canada. Ukraine is now Russia. Congo is now Central Africa. And Siam is now Southeast Asia. These have all been done (likely) in the effort to “modernize” the game (which I will discuss later.)

Fortification: This isn’t really an update if you are familiar with the previous edition of RISK. At the end of your turn, you can fortify from any one territory that is “connected” to another. “Connected” is defined as owning every territory in between two territories. For example, if you own Eastern Australia, South Africa, and everywhere in between, you can move men from E. Australia to S. Africa. If an opponent takes the Middle East, and you don’t own any other “connectors” to East Africa, then the furthest west you can move is India.

Troop Pieces: This is yet another thing that will probably serve as an annoyance to “RISK purists,” the pieces are no longer infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Now, there are big arrows and small arrows. Small arrows count as one troop, big as three. At first, I thought this was ridiculous. What happens when you stockpile men in one location? First off, with objectives now taking precedence, it is quite unlikely that you will be stockpiling anywhere (except perhaps your capital). Second, because the pieces are much more compact than previous ones, you can fit much more into one territory. To those who are annoyed by this: remember, the pieces have changed frequently. Originally, they were just colored blocks. Then they became roman numerals identifying their quantity. Then they finally became the pieces we are familiar with. (I’ve actually played with all three versions too.) This is just the next step up the evolutionary ladder. The only time I could see this as being a problem is when you are playing Global Domination. In which case, you may need to start using an unused color if you gain too many men (I’ve had to do that in the “Old RISK” anyway), or you could say from the game start that big arrows are five troops (or whichever amount you choose). Once again, this is probably in attempt to modernize the game. Yes, I enjoyed the Napoleonic flavor of previous editions, but modern can be fun too. I’m neither upset nor excited by this shift in time-setting. I suppose it is all up to personal preference.

Amount of Players: RISK is now for 3-5 players, not 2-6. The board only comes with five troop sets, and no rules are included for “2-Player Neutral Army RISK.” I see this as an improvement. Six player games I’ve participated in rarely turn out to be fun, the board is much too crowded, and one or even two players lose very quickly because they are simply in other people’s way, so everyone stomps over them before they can even begin to set up an adequate frontline or home-front. Having only five troop sets ensures that this doesn’t happen. Likewise, two-player RISK with neutral armies takes way too long. (If you want to play with two players, play Lord of the Rings RISK which, in my opinion, is actually best to play with two. Four can be fun also, just NEVER play LOTR RISK with three players, trust me, it just doesn’t work.)

So there you have it, a fairly detailed description of similarities and differences between this new RISK, and the older editions. For the most part, I like the changes. However, if I could change one thing about this new RISK (or unchange I suppose, depending on how you look at it) I would include rules for the original Global Domination, no Objectives/Capitals/Cities, “Old School” RISK. Yes, I understand, and even approve of the updates they’ve made. But they can’t just overlook the original version that has existed for decades. Hopefully, when the release the next version, they’ll keep these new rules, and include the original rules, just for old times sake. So, knowing everything I know now, would I still have bought this new edition? Most definitely. But I’m also definitely keeping my older board, for those times when I and some friends DO have seven hours to kill, and are in the mood to take over the world.

-LOTRKing

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Review of Avengers: The Initiative 16 (4.5 stars) August 29, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I don’t know how Slott and Gage do it, but they’ve once again not only packed in a massive amount of story into a single issue, they’ve also continued to maintain their excellent story-telling standards. Somehow, they manage to touch base with everyone remaining at Camp Hammond (including providing a very interesting set up for the upcoming issue of Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., I may have to look into that one) and also with Crusader at the battle in NYC, and still provide what feels like a full length story with 3D-Man joining the Skrull Kill Krew. We even meet back up with Komodo by the end.

At Camp Hammond Trauma and Physique find War Machine and the Baron, who in turn all go look for Pym. Luckily, remnants of Stanetech have kept War Machine’s suit from complete failure, and eventually let him reboot. As this happens, he receives an embedded programmed message from Tony instructing him to stop whatever he is doing, and go to a certain location for instructions, and most importantly, to keep it secret. As Trauma, Physique, and the Baron go to the infirmary to help the injured, Pym has a meeting with other Skrulls on base, Ant-Man, who has remained hidden, sees this, and wishes he was elsewhere.

As 3D-Man meets the Kill Krew, they decide to take out the infiltrated Skrull from each Initiative team, with the first stop being Arizona. There, after defeating an undercover Skrull, Komodo plans to join with the next stop being Vegas to save Hardball! (And they better stop by Montana pretty soon, or there’s gonna be an angry fan if Cloud 9 turns up dead!)

So Slott and Gage prove once again that A:TI is one of the best books on the market. Add in the fact that Caselli has returned for art, and you have just another typical(ly great) issue from this series. If you aren’t reading this yet, take a moment now to ask yourself why.

-LOTRKing

Review of New Avengers 44 (4.5 stars) August 28, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Now that’s much better than this week’s other Bendis-Avengers title. (Given, I still prefer Mighty to New Avengers as a whole, but seeing as how all of the Secret Invasion tie-ins of both series have had little to nothing to do with the respective teams, I’ve actually enjoyed the NA tie-ins a bit more.) Not only does this issue bring to light what actually allowed the invasion to happen, it also gives the closing scene of Secret Invasion 1 a bit more meaning.

The issue opens with what appears to be a standard Illuminati meeting (if there is such a thing) as the Illuminati discuss what the Skrulls could possibly do to remain undetected among superpowered humans. As this discussion leads to more distrust, Dr. Strange attempts to use the Eye of Agamotto to calm everyone, only to realize he can’t do it. The plot takes its first big twist as the heroes discover that they can’t use their powers, and that none of them fully remember how they ever escaped the Skrulls in the first place, until it dons on them: they didn’t escape the Skrulls.

With my mind still trying to fathom what the crap was going on, Xavier becomes a Super-Skrull and summarily kills the rest of the Illuminati. We then get our second plot twist as it is revealed that they were all clones, and this was a Skrull experiment being conducted in a lab. And this was only the first half of the issue.

Despite this trial being a failure, the Skrulls did take away one important piece of information: Reed Richards had figured out a way in which the Skrulls could remain undetected, he simply did not have time to explain before the situation fell apart. So the scientists formulate a plan B: clone only Reed Richards, and use any means necessary to discover this method. At first they try something torturous and harrowing, but Reed still does not give in (even when he’s a clone, he’s awesome!) After killing this clone also, they finally attempt a more subtle and sinister approach, and to humanity’s eventual dismay (dismay may be an understatement), it works. You wanna know what Reed means when he says “they used my brain to start this” in Secret Invasion 5? Pick this up.

Oh, and the scene at the end of Secret Invasion 1 where Reed figures out how they did it? Now we know how he was able to do it so quickly, because it was a clone of him that created the process in the first place. This also explains the lack of surprise from Skrull-Pym when Reed does figure it out.

Anyway, an essential Secret Invasion chapter, you’d be foolish to miss it.

-LOTRKing

Review of Mighty Avengers 17 (2 stars) August 27, 2008

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Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars

As my long time readers may know, I’ve been complaining about the lack of story in many of the Avengers Secret Invasion tie-ins. However, those lacking in story at least have the saving grace of being somewhat relevant. This issue, not so much. Unless I missed something extremely significant, this issue has not importance whatsoever. The summary is as follows: Skrull-Pym tries to convince Skrull-Dugan that the invasion will not work; Dugan doesn’t listen and has a bunch of undercover Skrulls attack Pym. That’s it. If this had beautiful art, I might say that it was not a complete waste, but as it is, the art is fairly mediocre. Save yourself three bucks, and don’t pick this up.

Believe it or not, I feel bad when I write an extremely short review. I usually try to keep these things between 300 to 500 words, so that you’re not reading an essay, but at the same time, not reading two or three sentences. But when I’m given an absolutely empty issue, I can only give an absolutely empty review. Sorry again for the shortness, check back tomorrow for some regularly scheduled reviewing.

-LOTRKing

Review of Amazing Spider-Man 569 (4.5 stars) August 26, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

May as well start with the big stuff: Anti-Venom is Eddie Brock! While I let you chew on that bit of information, let’s go back to the beginning and discuss what is probably the best comic to hit the stands this week. For those who thought Norman Osborn did indeed remember Spider-Man’s true identity: think again. But this may not have been the retcon we all thought it was. Peter knows that no one remembers who Spider-Man is, and he even mentions that is was something “we did.” I highly doubt he remembers any of his deal with Mephisto, so is it possible that the big mind wipe was the result of something else? Quesada has blatantly said that the Civil War unmasking did happen, but no one remembers who it was behind the mask. At first I was annoyed and thought this was a part of the Mephisto “we don’t have to explain it” Magic, but now I am intrigued, and want to know the true source. Perhaps a favor from Dr. Strange?

To touch on some more mysteries, it looks that Martin Li/Mr. Negative story may be more of a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde relationship than a controlled transformation. Indeed, Li appears to have no knowledge of his other self. Up until now, I thought that Crowne was a simple politician, who, like everyone, may have a skeleton or two in his closet. But if Peter Parker’s musings are correct, then Crowne and Osborn may have a direct relation to the “Spider-Tracer Killer.” And speaking of Osborns, was it just me, or was that a hint that Harry may be Menace? (Or were they just showing that he may be reverting back to the Green Goblin?) Either way, something’s up, and with the upcoming “Goblin Fight,” I think this particular mystery may be solved sooner, rather than later.

And to think, I haven’t even touched on the goings-on in this book, nor even how Eddie Brock became Anti-Venom. Well, seeing as how this is one of the best Spidey-Stories of the decade, I’m probably doing you a favor by encouraging you to buy it. Why are you still reading this? Go to your local comic shop now! (And as a reminder, don’t forget to pick up the absolutely FREE Marvel: Your Universe One-Shot while you’re at it!)

-LOTRKing

Flashback: Review of Fantastic Four 234 (September 1981) August 25, 2008

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In Flashback, LOTRKing reviews a random back issue (in many instances, one he hasn’t read before) and attempts to make sense of both the story and its place in Marvel history.

This is by far the best issue I have yet reviewed for Flashback. I’d like to say it is likely because it is a Fantastic Four issue, but very little of the story actually has to do with the FF. Instead, we are introduced to “The Man with the Power,” as the cover references him. Skip Collins is middle-aged man, living a very average life, in a typical mid-size town. What he doesn’t realize is that he has the power to change things just by willing them so. As we are introduced to the many “un-unique” facets of his life, we learn much about the character in a few short pages.

When his boss breaks Skip’s ordinary routine by sending him to NYC for a business meeting, he does some touring and eventually sees Reed and Sue in a crowd. As he trails them hoping for an autograph, he sees them rescue a girl from a condemned building, before all of NYC is hit with a major earthquake. In the face of this massive destruction, we see the reactions of all the characters (namely, the Four and Skip, who never actually meet).

As Reed comes to realize that the quake was global, and caused by something in outer space, he takes the Four off-Earth to investigate. Meanwhile, Skip, distraught over what has occurred, states “it never should have happened!” At this remark, the world-wide destruction rights itself, and all memory of the incident is lost. (Except for the FF, who are not on Earth and not affected.) As Skip slips back into his ordinary life, the FF discover the true source of the attack: Ego, the Living Planet! This brief outline may make the plot seem slightly cheesy, but a read through will show anything but. There is a reason that John Byrne’s run on FF was legendary, and this issue definitely serves as evidence.

I recently purchased the anthology Who Can Save Us Now? (as suggested on a blog I read), and being over half way through the book, I confess myself rather disappointed. Most of the stories are either just plain weird, or focus too much on matters I would rather have left out. This one issue and the story of Skip Collins are better than every story in that book I have read put together. If you ever come across this issue, I’d highly encourage reading it (along with 235, the cliffhanger is too good to leave part two untouched, not to mention 235 was an extremely enjoyable issue, even without the continuing story of Skip).

Next week: Amazing Spider-Man 284

-LOTRKing

Casual Saturdays: Why I Think Iron Man Is Better Than The Dark Knight August 23, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Casual Days, Other Random Stuff.
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A few days back, I posted this as a note on Facebook. It lead to a rather good discussion. The transcript is being posted here:

LOTRKing: Tired of justifying this on several occasions to several people, I’ve decided to put this here for all to see. Yes, I liked Iron Man better than The Dark Knight. I typed the following justification for the Iron Man vs. Dark Knight discussion board here on facebook:

Personally, I find it fairly easy to gauge which was a more enjoyable film to me. As several posters have stated, Dark Knight was surrounded by tons of hype and was about Batman, one of the most well known superheroes on the planet. Iron Man, however, was a lesser known superhero, and while people were expecting an enjoyable show, they weren’t expecting to be as blown away as everyone was. Add this to the fact that many kids (including my nephew) who had never even heard of Iron Man are now ranking him as one of, if not their top most, favorite superhero, and you can see which one was more of the “runaway hit.” On a personal level, I already read comics, and while both Iron Man and Batman are both interesting characters, I never before had the desire to read either of their comics. As soon as I saw Iron Man, I wanted more. Now, the new Invincible Iron Man is one of my favorite monthly comics. As entertaining as Dark Knight was, I still have no desire to actually start reading Batman comics. If a movie can get you that interested in a character, what does it say about the movie? Sure, Dark Knight was awesome, but it was largely because of the story line, I didn’t care too much about the characters. With Iron Man however, I think Tony Stark may have become of my favorite fictional characters of all time, and for a guy who loves reading books and watching movies as much as I do, that’s saying something.

Hopefully, this clears stuff up. Leave comments and/or arguments (of which I’m sure there will be many) below.

Tim: The concept behind Iron Man is one that you expect to be blown away, and from all the other hype about the movie that I heard from those who saw it, it didn’t blow me away like Dark Knight did. Two words: THE JOKER. You can’t compare any other villain to him. I don’t care much for Batman, he has no powers, only gadgets and limited martial arts, but the Joker made what I thought was gonna be another disappointment to the Batman movies an absolutely awesome flick. Granted, I haven’t seen the full of Iron Man, but at the same time, the Joker holds a special place in my heart, and that for me is enough. And are you really cheating on Marvel like that? I don’t read comics, I don’t have the time or energy, but a good movie is a good movie, and movies rarely reflect the book associated with it. That’s my opinion, the Joker rules and could totally pwn Iron Man.

p.s. Who else would like to see a movie just about the Joker?

LOTRKing: The Joker was certainly a an interesting character, but he was a disturbed, deranged. homicidal maniac. There are times when a villain is cool, and there are times when a villain is disturbing and scary. The Joker is certainly the latter. A good villain doesn’t think he is a villain, in his mind, he is doing what is right. The Joker just says “screw good, I wanna do evil for the fun of it!” While this lead to a darkly entertaining movie, I’ll take a noble villain over a blatantly evil one any day. Now, if you are tying to compare villains in movies, yes, The Joker was certainly a more interesting villain than Iron Monger, but Iron Man wasn’t about Iron Monger, it was about Iron Man, which is what made it so entertaining. Dark Knight, on the other hand, was more about the Joker than Batman. You say you want to see a movie about the Joker? You just got one. Jack Naper was the star of Dark Knight, not Bruce Wayne. So, while I don’t doubt Dark Knight’s high level of entertainment, (and it was certainly more artistic than Iron Man), I still found the greater level of entertainment to come from Iron Man.

Tim: That’s what makes him a great, possibly the greatest villain. Pure evil.

Shaun: You have some good points, Mr. Staples, [note: that’s me – LOTRKing] but I think that in order for the Joker’s character to justify his actions, he would have to be “blatantly Evil” instead of a Noble Villan.

Remember the talk Bruce had with Alfred when he wanted to quit? Alfred was talking (and a neat insight to HIS past as well) about when he was hunting thieves in the jungles of Burma. Remember the line “and some people just want to watch the world burn” kinda tied in the whole “Blatantly Evil” concept into understanding the Joker to some degree.
The Joker WAS more of a ‘traditional villan’ in more of a sense of his ego was more out of control than his actions. Think Al Capone. The Joker had to be the ‘best’, he had to one-up every other gang in his own twisted way, and throughout the entire movie he created power vacuumes and then filled them. I think his character is more believeable than most realize…

Evan: I definitely agree with you on Iron Man being a less known hero than Bat Man. You had to be burn around the right time to have any exposure to Iron Man at all. Iron Man definitely paved the way for the Dark Knight becaue Iron Man revived our faith in comic book movies.

Tim: i reread that, and noticed something. The Joker is doing what he thinks to be right, by creating anarchy. He loves chaos, and that, to him, is right. His law is that there is no law, and he dedicates himself to that cause. Just because he thinks outside the normal realms doesn’t mean he doesn’t do what he does for a cause. the trick is being able to empathize with him. The only flaw i found in the movie is that we know nothing of his background in it. i would love to see more of his back story.

Tommy: Ok good points all around but the simple matter of the fact is a man likes what he likes. Both movies in their own right raised the bar of the comic book movie forever. Batman gets the point for the movie aspect for the simple fact that not onlydid it set the new record for openning weekend sales but it also set a NEW standered for the ganera. It was not the carbin basied copy that Iron man was( by this I am refering to the same old story line that Good comic book movies have. You know hero has power(Such as spidermans bite giving him his powers, or in this case toney starks knowledge for wepons) and finds out something bad has come foruth from using this power(obvious). And than takes it upon himself to set things right and in doing so than incounters a villan which genraly is someone he already knows personaly in some way and has to defeat him.) Think about it that just Discribed Spiderman 1, The Incredible hulk(2008), Iorn man, and the fantastic four. Now i will give Iorn man the prize for best film visualy and in referancing to the later sequal. However Batman was not the typical movie. It was dark and scary and in all matters of the form not sutible for Children. But it also should us the intesity that the first batman (Batman begins) should us with a Realistic Forum of Batman.As for the villian, A villian in litterature is generally of a mission to prove, change, or in other terms disturb the balance of reality so that it benifits him. Which insadently describes Batman from Batman Begins. Which is why the Joker was in any sence of the word Perfect. The balance had already become disturbed in Gotham and he only wanted to push it Further( the unstopable force meets the unmoveable object). He is the ultimate villan because you don’t know what he going to do next. he has no visible weakness, he (as staited before) just wants to watch the world burn.

Tommy: Now for the BLOWING AWAY.
Iorn mans poularity was not as established as others did blow audencese away in the fact of , How come I didn’t know about this?
Ofwhich it is unfair to judge aganst the “blowing away” aspects of Batman because they were to different thigs. One established a Charecter while the other simply took things to a lvl we weren’t anticipating.
My Ending point being that as far as standereds go The Dark Knight not only pushed the envelope but it gave us a new view and stadistic view of a charecter that we all know.
While Iorn man did push the envelope as far a visualy, and givning us a look at the wise guy anti hero, alcholic, womanizer that is Toney Stark.
So in conclusion they Gave us the same things in different ways. It is up to the individual to decide who gets the prize.

Tim: ironically enough, batman disturbed the balance, the joker in such a sense is trying to push it back the other way. never thought about it that way. does that make him a little good, as far as social stability is concerned?

LOTRKing: As Tommy said, good points all around. In response to Tim: the Joker knew what he was doing was wrong, but he thought it was fun. He enjoyed playing with his “food,” this doesn’t mean he thought what he was doing was for the greater good. To Shaun: the Joker was certainly believable, many of his actions and statements reminded me of purely evil men such as Hitler and BTK. To Tommy: while the basic plot of Iron Man may have been somewhat generic it was still presented in a fresh way, and the characters (especially Tony) are what stole the show. The Dark Knight wasn’t one hundred percent original either. Villains making the heroes choose between two equally undesirable outcomes, and heroes making large sacrifices for the greater good are two elements that are used throughout the genre (not that they weren’t used extremely well here). Furthermore, you mentioned that Batman was already a well known character. This is true. But as I mentioned, Dark Knight didn’t make me want to go out and buy Batman comics ASAP like Iron Man did. Dark Knight had a great plot and was full of suspense and action. But Iron Man had much more entertaining characters. So as you mention, it really is a preference: which do you enjoy more from fiction, a great story, or great characters? For me, story is extremely important, but if you want me to love the piece, make me love the characters. As pulse-pounding and cinematic as Dark Knight was, I didn’t develop a “love” for any of the characters. It probably doesn’t help that Batman wasn’t even the main character, the Joker was, then probably followed by Harvey Dent. Batman comes in third. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved the Dark Knight. But at the end of the day, Tony Stark, the star of Iron Man, is more awesome and likable than the Joker, the star of Dark Knight, and this is why Iron Man is 5 stars in my book, and Dark Knight is only 4.5.

All right dear readers, now it is your turn to join in on this discussion. Leave your agreements/disagreements below, and I’ll try to think of good responses. I’m also going to provide a link to this post on my Facebook, so if my friends want to continue this discussion, they can do it right here. Oh, and just for good measure: here is my Iron Man review, here is my Dark Knight review, and taking off the serious gloves (Why so serious?), here is a link to my post which jabbed some humor at both of them. Have fun!

-LOTRKing

Review of Secret Invasion: Thor 1 (4 stars) August 22, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tired of posting “sorry guys and gals, nothing to new review, so no post today” when I run out of my main material, I’ve decided to provide a link to something I reviewed of Weekly Comic Book Review, but did not review here or link earlier. This will only be done when I run out of stuff to review, and because I link to a specific issue does not mean I will link to the next issue. Likewise, regular linkage when I am too busy to write a review will continue (though I’ll continue to do this as little as I possibly can, my goal being once a week or less.) That said, here is the link to this review.

-LOTRKing

Review of Uncanny X-Men 501 (3 stars) August 21, 2008

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Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Ed Brubaker’s Captain America is genius. Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man is the must read new series of the year. When the two collaborated together on Immortal Iron Fist, they took a character with only a small cult following and made one of the most fan-loved books on the market. So when the two of them united on Uncanny X-Men, the flagship title of the most famous super-team in the world, their success should have guaranteed, right? So far, the last two issues have surprisingly showed the contrary.

My first problem is simple: between Greg Land’s art and the condescending narration boxes, I feel this book is marketed to the young teen crowd. Don’t get me wrong, the world could always use another comic book reader, and if something is thrown in to appeal to a certain group, I’m usually fine with it. But this entire issue sounded like a young teen novel. Likewise, I can’t fully put my finger on it, but all the art seemed kind of, I dunno, pose-ish? Way too many convenient poses in too many panels. (A cool “pose-panel” or two included in an issue can provide for some memorable art, but when everyone always seems to strike a pose, things get a little silly.) Of course, all of this may have something to do with Land’s “unique” way of doing his pencils, as displayed here.

Second, I dunno, the story doesn’t really feel all too compelling. First, Pixie gets beaten up by an anti-mutant group. Then most of the rest of the issue is more of the X-Men saying how great things are now, then we see a brief meeting of the group that beat up Pixie (the Hellfire Club), before the X-Men finally (within the last three pages) go out and do something (in this case, attempt to catch the Hellfire Club). Oh and, I have no idea who the Red Queen is, but why was her one line of dialogue one of the worst I’ve ever read, and why the heck was she dressed like that? (Not to mention while striking another annoying pose.)

Don’t get me wrong, despite these complaints, there were a few redeeming parts to this issue (some fun humor in the X-Men commons room, the majority of the dialogue was well written, Land managed a few cool art panels), and most of it wasn’t pure suckage. Its main problem is that it is no where near as good as it should be coming from Brubaker and Fraction. Hopefully they’ll be able to turn the story around soon, and with any luck Land will leave the book ASAP.

-LOTRKing

Review of Captain America 41 (4.5 stars) August 20, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Comic Book Reviews.
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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Wow. Brubaker excels at keeping you guessing until the last minute. With only one issue left until the end of the epic Death of Captain America storyarc, there is still a lot left unrevealed. Next issue looks to be phenomenal. Of course, that is still up in the air, but this month we got plenty of teases for what lies ahead. As Red Skull and Co. recaptures “Bad Cap,” the Red Skull pushes his plans into the final stage. Zola is finishing his work on “Doom’s device” and we learn that he also has a device to separate Skull and Lukin. Of course, for these two to be separated, they will each need a body. With blatant hints that “Doom’s device” is likely a time platform, I’m assuming they’re going to pluck Red Skull’s body from some point in the past (or, if the plan is even more sinister, they may grab someone else from the past, though I’m not too sure that Skull is keen on sharing minds again).

Once again, the word to describe the next scene is: wow. First Brubaker brought back Bucky, but then revealed he was a brain-washed Soviet Assassin. Then he killed Captain America. However, he kept the hope alive by having Bucky take the helm and revealing that Sharon was pregnant with the child of Steve Rogers. Now, Brubaker has killed the next, and only, member of the Rogers family: the unborn baby is dead. I had hopes last issue that perhaps the blade had missed the womb, and that somehow the fetus could be miraculously saved, but this was not to be. (Then again, Brubaker always complained that Bucky was killed “off screen” and since all we have is Faustus telling Sharon of its death, it’s possible that the fetus did survive – perhaps placed in a surrogate’s womb – and the Red Skull will keep it hidden, though this is doubtful.)

And speaking of Faustus, turns out he’s got some morals. Having finally come to the realization that he does not support the Skull, he convinces Sharon to forget her pregnancy ever happened, and returns her reactivated S.H.I.E.L.D. GPS unit. As James (oh yeah, he should probably feature in this comic, shouldn’t he?) and Sam get close to Sharon’s location, Natasha intervenes and convinces James that his work is needed elsewhere while she and Sam rescue Sharon. As these two invade Red Skull’s base (with plenty of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents for back-up), James goes to the presidential candidate debate. Red Skull plans to assassinate one candidate and have Senator Wright rescue another to further improve his chances at winning the election. But just as Sin pulls the trigger, the bullet is intercepted by Cap’s shield, as Cap jumps in to “save the day.”

As you can see, there’s plenty of awesomeness to go around. With only one issue left until the story that has been building since issue one is over (who’d ever guess that someone could pull off a 42 issue storyarc?), this probably isn’t the best time to jump on. But if you haven’t been reading this, you NEED to get all three trades for “The Death of Captain America” when it’s all over, cause this is the stuff that comic book legends of are made of.

-LOTRKing