Thursday, December 29, 2005

Call Of Cthulhu

given my earlier reference to Call Of Cthulhu RPG, I thought I'd give a brief rundown of how THAT game works:
You receive a letter from a friend in south america.
You open the letter.
lose 5 sanity points.
The letter asks you to come down to see something.
You buy a plane ticket.
a moment of clarity comes over you.
lose 12 sanity points because you still get on the plane (somehow with a shotgun in your bag).
Getting off the plane, you are confronted by things man was not meant to know.
lose 15 sanity points.
You'd reach for your gun to shoot but you find yourself running away because you have gone insane (which, actually, is a surprisingly sane thing to do.)
Eventually you get your shit together enough to fire your weapon at the aforementioned 'things man was not meant to know'.
It does nothing.
Go insane.
Having escaped, you find a secret book to help you destroy the monsters.
Unfortunately, you just clawed your eyes out (having gone insane from just opening the book).
On the plus side, your friend didn't read the letter so he hasn't lost quite so many sanity points (whew...where the hell do those things come from anyhow?) so he can read the book and dispell the monsters.
Unfortunately, he then goes insane.
You recover eventually and visit your friend in the sanitarium.
He whispers something in your ear.
(you know what happens now).
3 years later, you are freed from the sanitarium with only a mild urge to fling your own poo.

You receive a letter from a friend in south america.
You burn the letter and scatter the ashes to the four winds.
You move and don't leave a forwarding address.
Fling some poo.

Indigo Prophecy

ok, so I just finished Indigo Prophecy for the PS2.
I loved it, especially the first half.
It feels very much like a story that was fitted into the frame of a videogame as opposed to things like KOTOR and Jade Empire which feel like ideas guided by the structure of a video game (i.e. miniquests, conversation trees, etc).
In Indigo, you play:
Lucas: a man who, while possessed, murdered a man
Two Cops: on the trail of Lucas
The story is compelling and the dialog and voice acting are excellant.
The controls are also interesting. You choose dialog themes using the right control stick. You are given options such as 'suspect' or 'killer' and your character will ask about that topic. However, you are also given a timelimit to make your choice AND there's no going back. It feels very natural.
1) some sequences require either a simple pattern game or rapidly hitting the trigger buttons. These range from fight sequences to keeping a 'vision' going clearly. I found that they added a level of tension without being so distracting that you missed out on anything (most of the time)
2) Maintaining sanity: anyone who has ever played the Call of Cthulhu RPG knows that maintaining sanity is a bitch. Its the same here. Once you get too low, your character quits in some manner. Here's a particularly annoying example: My sanity is kind of low. I break into my ex-girlfriend's apartment. I eat a sammich and some milk. My sanity goes up. I then listen to her answering machine and find out the cops are coming to ask her questions. My sanity goes down. ugh.

The 2nd half of the game feels rather rushed, which is unfortunate.
I've been told that the game can go a number of ways, but I believe it still to be pretty linear.
I played for about 15 hours or so and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I look forward to the next game by QuanticDream and for the refinements that will bring.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Coming up!

OK, I just finished Channel Zero so that'll be coming this week.
Then, as I finish unpacking, there will be more.
sorry, lots going on here. I'm actually working on designing a new method for distributing online comics with a software co-op and Warren Ellis if you can frickin' believe it.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Mighty Love

Mighty Love by Howard Chaykin.

This just did NOT work for me.
The basic premise is interesting. A cop and a defense attorney turn out to both be vigilantes and bump into each other during a case. Of course, sparks fly.
This is all well and good.
Unfortunately, I found the story itself to be rather uninteresting and combined with the art, it was just plain old hard to follow.
I don't know, I'm a bit distracted at the moment (just moved to Maryland about 10 days ago) so maybe that's it.
Everyone seems to love Chaykin, and I'll grant you that his artwork often looks great but this just annoyed me.
and at times it bordered on 'cutesy'.
Anyhow, just a quick thumbs-down review.
sorry y'all

Sunday, March 06, 2005


Ascend by Keith Arem and Christopher Shy and Scott Cuthbertson. Published by Image Comics.

Well, this was, unfortunately, what I expected.
Heaven is fighting a war.
Human souls are 'Harvested' to feed their armies.
Three Angels are expelled from heaven for having stood against God on some level.
Sebastian falls in love with a human, Seraphine tries to live among humans, and Gideon gets a messiah (or Mashiach, as Arem prefers) complex and wants to fight his way back in and restore balance.

First, I do want to say that this book is GORGEOUS. Shy definitely can paint.
Unfortunately, beautiful art doesn't necessarily make for good sequential art storytelling.

Throughout the work, it's often difficult to tell who is speaking and to whom. That, alone, can be a fatal flaw.
To make matters worse, the dialog is often needlessly vague and repetitive.
The language in these sorts of works often is. The characters are, in fact, talking about Big Things that mortals cannot Comprehend.

The core problem is the Angels themselves. The fact of the matter is that they are neither admirable, nor complex.
That makes perfect sense.
Angels SHOULDN'T have these qualities.
They are tools.
But they don't generally make for interesting characters.
Maybe that's why I didn't care about the war they talk about, nor these 'Unborn' nor the 'Born' for that matter. The Angels didn't even inspire wonder in me.
If the fall from Grace had turned these Angels into something more mortal, that might have helped.
Sebastian and Seraphine's paths (which should have been much more interesting than Gideon's) are breezed over. Honestly, I barely noticed them. Perhaps in a longer series these could have been fleshed out more and really brought a depth to the work that it lacked.
And Gideon's, well, that's a story thousands of years old, and this adds nothing to that tradition.

Anyhow, I think the same story was told better in the Christopher Walken Prophecy movies (though I have not seen the 3rd).

That's it for today. I think I'll review The Goon next (volume 0 and volume 1).

Later, True Believers

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Session 9

(BTW, I figured I'd toss in a DVD review from time to does not live by sequential art alone)

OK, so a couple weeks ago, my girlfriend and I go to the video store (TLA in of the COOLEST video stores around. They group movies in interesting ways and have lots of weird stuff).
She asks the manager: "What's a good horror movie? We loved The Ring."
He says: "Session 9"
I say: "Session 9 is supposed to suck."
Too little. Too late.
We get session 9. We don't watch it.
We go back yesterday and rent it again.
I continue to plead my case: "Session 9 is supposed to suck."
Her: "Your brother is not an accurate barometer of horror movies."
Yesterday, I could have spent 95 minutes agonizing over my taxes.
Yesterday, I could have spent 95 minutes chewing gum.
Yesterday, I could have spent 95 minutes eating lead paint.
Yesterday, I spent 95 minutes watching Session 9.

I can't actually tell you anything about this movie.
Nothing happened.
I mean...when you talk about a movie its always "Hey, remember when X happened and then..."
There's nothing in this movie that fits into that framework.
Its just a few very pissy guys not working very hard but talking about how hard they have to work and being nasty to each other.
Oh, OK, it was CREEPY in an atmospheric sort of way.
However, I think that's not due to the writing or directing but rather to the fact that ABANDONED INSANE ASYLUMS ARE CREEPY!!

At the core, though, the problem was a complete lack of understanding of what makes a horror movie work. One of two things has to happen (preferably both, IMHO):

1) The characters have to be terrified. That's the best way to get your mind into the situation and environment and that's how YOU end up scared. Lets face it, the Blair Witch Project wasn't all that frightening, EXCEPT the characters were out-of-their-minds with fear!

2) The characters have to go insane. And you have to feel it. Short-tempered is not enough (and that's all these guys were).
17 scenes of:
Character 1: You piss me off!
Character 2: No, you piss ME off!
Character 1: Piss me off again and I'll be pissed!
Character 3: You both piss me off!


Whats sad is that this thing should have written itself. Once you have this bizarro place, all you have to do is put minimal effort into the characters and WHAMO you have a horror movie.
Don't ask me how they screwed it up.
Not unless you want a full-on rant.

Friday, March 04, 2005

This weekend

This weekend I'll be reviewing Ascend by Keith Arem and Christopher Shy.
I've kinda sort been dreading this.
The artwork is beautiful but that combined with the topic (angels) tend to make for rather self-indulgent work.
we'll see, though

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Daredevil volume 3

Daredevil volume 3: Wake Up (reprinting Daredevil 16-19)

I love Bendis. He seems most famous for his Ultimate Spider-Man work, an excellent read to be sure, but I started out reading his Powers books as well as Torso. The man loves crime-drama, no doubt about it. This volume collects the first issues of Bendis' run and he fits nicely into the world of Daredevil, a lawyer/vigilante and nemesis of The Kingpin.

OK, it sounds cheesy, but these are the sorts of names history has stuck us with.

Not for the first time, our narrator is reporter Ben Urich. Marvel's universe is more down-to-earth than some and the superheroes can catch normal folks up in their wake. Not generally a good place to be. As Ben puts it, "Every time I go down this road -- my life becomes a raging sea."

Ben's investigation into a little boy trapped in a comic book story repeating endlessly and the boy's loser father (the villainous LeapFrog) is also a journey into his own past and his own place in society as a reporter. Daredevil himself is more of an implied presence, actually appearing in only a few panels.

David Mack's art. This guy always amazes me. It's like he devours a scene or person or emotion and then vomits it back up. Luckily, his vomit looks amazing (much better than my own) and we get to see deep inside a character or moment and all the little bit it's made up of. This sort of psychological story is perfect for him. I have no clue if the guy could really hold together a classic brawl, but his work on Kabuki is the stuff of, well, I dunno, but its beautiful. Thank god Marvel let him fully paint it.

Thumbs up for this, especially for newcomers. It's more than what you might think.

(as an aside, I really can't recommend the Ultimate Spider-Man enough. ESPECIALLY for new folks. The Ultimate line (Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Fantastic Four, The Ultimates) takes these big name titles/characters and restarts them outside of the normal Marvel continuity. Basically, you can pick up these collected volumes and there's no need to read the non-Ultimate titles. These works are totally separate from the mainstream lines.)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Hello World!

Ok, geekjoke there.
Anyhow, I'm unemployed and taking a break from 'the real world' so this seemed like a good idea.
Generally (at least at first) I'll be reviewing a graphic novel or compilation trade paperback twice a week (if not more).
Hopefully, there'll be that many a week worth reading ;)

Why am I only doing graphic novels and tpbs?
Because, if you already read comics ravenously, then you probably don't need my views because you'll either be able to form your own (through knowledge of the writer/artist team) but also because for those people out there who only read a couple titles, or none at all, these larger or compiled works are great ways to get into the genre(? Format?). Unlike single issues, these bound editions tend to contain an entire plotline and that makes for easy accessibility.

And, finally, because these larger works will give us a good jumping off point for discussions about comics in general.
I think that there's still a great deal to be done.

('course, there's the possibility of a guest post from time to time. Fear the GLA!)
(btw, I suck at choosing layouts and colors, so anyone who has a suggestion...)