Hibbsing into the first week of November!

I lost last week to GTA: San Andreas. It was on crazy sale on Steam (under $5), and I let myself get tempted and sucked in, and read very very little last week. But I'm back now!

GTA: SA is a fascinating game -- I certainly feel coarser for playing it (still playing it, actually -- I'm not even out of LA proper yet!), but I also think there's something insanely artful about the freedom of the entire experience. The voice acting is stellar, the motion capture is amazingly subtle, then it has those big meaty meshes that just slaughter the illusion. It's insanely hard in places, and some of that might be standard controllers -- like the rail shooting portions would be a lot more fun if you were standing in an arcade, for example -- and I get endlessly frustrated by it's arcade/console roots... I am used to having a LOT finer control of when I get to save, for example, in PC games. Anyway, VERY GOOD game if you're OK with playing dark.  So.... comics!

ACTION COMICS #3: I'm really really really enjoying Morrison's Year One take here. I'm still not convinced this guy has actually appeared in any other comic book, however. This really is a Superman I've wanted to read nearly forever, and I'm sorta kind of crazy sad that we've been told the book is going to switch to "contemporary", because I wish this WAS. Ah well. If there's a problem (and there is) it's the ridiculous $4 for 20 story pages and a bunch of absolutely mis-thought fluff at the back. It's horrific to expect people to PAY to BE ADVERTISED TO. Ugh! If the "backmatter" doesn't get a WHOLE lot better really really fast, I really can see a lot of people deciding to just skip out and wait for the trade.

While I'm on this topic, can I address the crossline fluff pages? I get that in issue #1 you can't have a letter's page (though individualized author intros and "here's what we're thinking" text pieces would have been the right foot to get off on), and, sure in #2 as well, but you're on #3 now, and I can not believe that we are still seeing these softball interview questions at this point. "DC All Access" needs to be rethought as well -- especially when you're overtly trying to sell 52 titles to people, having *dull* repeating content each week is awful. It needs more Stan Lee, more cowbell, and less "laundry list of projects" perfunctorily typed out.


Anyway, ACTION #3's comics pages are VERY GOOD, and everything else about the package is AWFUL.


ANIMAL MAN #3: Whoa. Artistic tour-de-force, with only-in-comics concepts. This is so different in tone than any of the other 52, and I'm really enjoying it almost as much for that as anything else. An easy VERY GOOD, though I didn't like the hand-waving away of the origin aliens.


INFINITE VACATION #3: I really like the ideas on display in this comic (though the "Evil Mark" scene went on two pages too long!), but the art looked rushed out to my eye... which is something given it's been SEVEN MONTHS since the last issue! Christ! This book was solicited as a MONTHLY comic. Hell, the back page ad still has the original shipping date for #4, if you look -- 4/27. That's just of 2011, not 2012. Further, issue #2 was the book that shipped back in April, not the #4 it was *supposed* to be. This kind of behavior is exactly and precisely why so many retailers give up on trying to stock innovative small press titles in general, and IMAGE COMICS in particular -- this kind of crazy irresponsible publishing behavior. That's asshat level shit right there. The comic was GOOD, but who is going to care if you can't release it in a reasonable manner?


AVENGERS ACADEMY #21: Or, as the cover puts it: 1st Issue (of a new era). Hmph, cheap. I do like this book, however -- it's got an interesting premise (training future Avengers... who would have otherwise grown to be villains ), and it's style and pacing is kind of "old school Marvel" (in every positive sense of that phrase).  There's a realllllly awkward transition on page 12 (and again on 13) which doesn't work at all on the printed page, making it look like one of the characters is stripping in front of a room full of people, but it has a decent little cliffhanger there on the last page, so that's nice. Overall, I think this is a GOOD issue of a solid comic book.


FEAR ITSELF 7.1: CAPTAIN AMERICA: Ugh. that's even worse than the first time through!I might have been fine with the idea here if it had been an actual decision all of the characters made, but I can not see the Caps going along with the lie, whatsoever. Plus, the stated reasons for Nick and Natasha don't make a lot of sense -- if he's just going to go back to his old identity, won't the Russians know about that almost immediately? This does nothing but engender negative feelings in the superhero community, for no gain.  No wonder so few of us could tell Bucky was dead in the first place.... very disappointed. And only sheer craft prevents me from going below EH.


x-23 #16: once, a very very long time ago, I kind of collected "Captain Universe ('The Hero Who Could Be YOU!')" appearances, because the conceit of the idea was fun, if a bit shallow. So, when I saw the cover, I decided to read through this issue. Mistake. I couldn't follow it at all (Probably mostly because it is chapter 4 of a 4 part arc, I would imagine!), and I haven't got the foggiest idea why the FF are involved with x-23, or why it's no longer "Captain Universe", but rather "the enigma force" (wait, tied in with Micronauts, then? Really? Since when? and...Why?), or why... well, really anything. I kind of hated it, but rather than saying "AWFUL", I should be more fair, and liken it to walking into the last 15 minutes of a movie -- good, OR bad, you're probably not going to get it -- INCOMPLETE.


NEW MUTANTS #33: Have I said how much it drives me nuts when people get simple enough San Francisco-based stuff completely wrong? I mean would ANY Marvel editor anywhere have a character standing in Harlem look west and see the Statue of Liberty? But the equivalent of that happens ALL THE TIME in SF-based stories. (general Protip? there are exceedingly few places in town where you'll have a cable car in the background) So, when the New Mutants (heh) move into a house that's, I think, meant to invoke memories of THE REAL WORLD, and the text specifically says "1128 Mission", but the house is A VICTORIAN, yikes, no. 1100 block is down near the Civic Center, and that's full-on industrial buildings. Seriously, go Google street view it! You can have them in a Vic on Mission st, but it's pretty much got to be on the other side of Division. "2128 Mission" wouldn't have had me blink even for a second.

(Yeah, yeah, I know, sorry!)

Either way, I really don't understand the premise of this book -- it isn't clear why THESE characters are together, or why, or, even, what they're going to do. Pretty much all of them are cyphers at this point, with any real plot thread that could come from their own backgrounds played out. I can't muster more than an OK.


SWAMP THINGG #3: I keep trying to like it, but I think it is missing something in some I-can't-explain-what way. Maybe that it feels like it is trying to live off the Moore run, yet try to contradict it at every turn? Maybe it is that "Swamp Thing" isn't IN the comic, at all? Maybe it is "The Rot" is very very lazy? I dunno. I like the art, I even think the writing is fine, but the entire thing fails for me in some essential way.  EH.


UNCANNY X-MEN #1: There is absolutely positive 100% no reason this shouldn't just be #544. they gained NOTHING from a story-telling perspective from the renumber, and even, in marketing, I don't think it's going to work, because that particular well is pretty dry right now at Marvel.

(plus? You can NOT see downtown SF from Ocean Beach. (Just like you wouldn't be able to see Utopia from downtown) It isn't possible, unless you're in a helicopter, but not from a worm's-eye view like the camera there. Also, they BETTER rebuild the damn windmill, Keiron, ON PANEL, I love that thing! And? On that last page? That's not GG Park it's standing in -- that's the Presidio, a mile or so away...)

This is not really how I would have resolved the whole Celestial thing (I find Mr. Sinister to be, perhaps, the worst of Claremont's creations), but, sure, whatever, if you want to make UNCANNY more of a "superhero book", then I guess this is the way to do it. Except that I thought that that was the purpose of (adjectiveless)? This was OK, but, again, I simply don't understand the renumber.



Well, that's enough from me -- time to help customers!

What did YOU think?



Slightly Risque and Potentially Inaccurate: Jeff Reviews the First 15 Minutes of GTA:VCS

Ack, look at that Graeme McMillan--he finished his part of the newsletter and he's giving you comic reviews! Me, I barely posted anything yesterday and now, until I figure out what, if anything, I have to say about Yukiko's Spinach, I'm going to review the first fifteen minutes of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories for the Playstation 2. I received my copy of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories the other day. Despite being 100% pleased with the game I was spending playing Dragon Quest VIII (which, if you like old school video game RPGs and the design work of Akira Toriyama, you pretty much owe it to yourself to buy--half the monsters you encounter look like outtakes from Dr. Slump), I threw GTA:VCS into my console like it was bucket of water on some flaming curtains. That is the power the Grand Theft Auto franchise holds over somebody like me. I can't really say what I was thinking as I did so, because there wasn't a lot of rational thought going on at that point, but it was something like, "I'll just see what part of the city you start out in...."

Interestingly, the first thing I noticed playing GTA: VCS was the pain; my eyes hurt constantly the whole time I was playing it. After the clean cel-shaded goodness of DQ8, my brain couldn't quite understand why someone had smeared vaseline all over my TV tube so thoroughly. Also, the camera perspective made me feel like I had a blind spot on my left which I kept trying to compensate for. And, finally, the opening, after a lengthy credit sequence, is a helicopter landing at an army base, followed by your character walking into a military office and talking to his corrupt superior officer and getting a job to drive someplace. I've seen more dramatic openings in porn.

In fact, the opening dialogue kinda reminded me of bad '80s porn. GTA:VCS's opening goes roughly like this:

Corrupt Superior Office: Welcome to Vice City, Vance! You're gonna have a good time here!

Your Character: I don't care about a good time, sir. All I care about is my family. I had to enter the military to take care of them. I can't afford to mess that up. They're counting on me.

CSO: What? You won't mess anything up! I'm not talking about anything dangerous, I'm just talking about having a good time and making money!


So, look. All I need you to do is go deliver a package for me to my friend on the docks. That's all! That shouldn't be a big deal, right?

YC: Well... okay.

Contrast this to bad '80s porn dialogue, which I recall running something like:

Corrupt Boyfriend/Film Producer/Talent Agent/Previously Absent Father Figure: Hey, baby! Welcome to [my sex club/ the sex industry/ the music industry/ my family estate], [Name of porn star]! You're gonna have a good time here!

Porn Star: I don't care about a good time, [boyfriend's name (usually Jake)/ Mr. (last name of producer/agent)/ Dad]. All I care about is [true love/ making it big/ becoming a star/ my horribly upset mother who sent me here]. So don't fuck it up for me!

CB/FP/TA/PAFF: What? Who said anything about fucking things up? I'm not talking about anything [kinky/ kinky/ kinky & demeaning/ kinky & demeaning & incestuous], I'm just talking about having a good time and [making money/ making money/ making money/ getting the family back together again]!


So, look. All I need you to do is [blow me/ blow me/ blow me/ blow me and your brother Jake here]. That's all! That shouldn't be a big deal, right?

PS: Well...okay!

To me, the comparison is sadly apt--just as the "plot" in porn exists just to get the sex going, the "plot" in GTA:VCS is just an excuse to get you driving around as soon as possible and hooked in with the wrong crowd who'll give you missions. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing (I admit all I wanted was to start driving around the city to see what was different and hear what was on the radio--and while I can't tell you much on the first front, on the second I heard Japan, Marvin Gaye and, most satisfyingly, "Rock You Like A Hurricane" by The Scorpions), it's a far cry from the old days when Rockstar would start by ripping off the plot from their favorite crime movie then try to make you care about the character.

On the other hand, it's only the first fifteen minutes (or really, only the first five with a lot of driving around thrown in) of the game, and I didn't like Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories until about four or five hours in. And it's a budget title (cheaper than buying seven Brian Bendis comics) that was originally released, for Christ's sake, on a handheld and inexpensively ported over to a video game console reportedly on its last legs. So probably I should just shut up and enjoy the hot girl-on-girl-on-piano-in-recording-studio action while I can. But if you find yourself playing this game and feeling what Simon Pegg in Spaced describes as "a moment of clarity," take cold comfort in knowing that you're not alone.