Witch Hunter Angela (Complete Series)

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WitchHunterAngela

I started following this comic book series on a whim.  The cover art was pretty, and when I flipped to a couple of random pages inside, I was surprised to find that the panel artwork was also appealing.  Since it’s rare for comic book art to interest me, I decided to give this series a shot, and I’m glad I did.

1602: Witch Hunter Angela” takes place during the Secret Wars storyline on Battleworld.  Angela and her companion Sera hunts witches, aka “witchbreed.”  They investigate a new threat called “Faustians,” and try to find the one responsible for them.  A threat is made against Sera, which looms over their heads for much of the series.

First, the art.  This series actually employs two art styles.  The dominant art style is kinda… softer, dreamy?  Like if A-Force and traditional comics look like something inked, then Angela looks like it was painted.  At times it’s a bit too dark/muddy, but most of the time it’s pretty.  The other art style is lighter and more cartoon-y, which when juxtaposed with the main art style made one particular scene/panel quite memorable.

Second comes the characters.  In short, I liked them.  Coming into the series, all I knew about Angela was that she was part angel and somehow related to Thor or Thor’s world/story.  I’d never heard of Sera, and I hadn’t read any works containing Angela or Sera.  With no prior experience to compare them to, I liked the way they were portrayed.  Angela came across as tough, competent, and maybe a little rigid, but not heartless.  Sera seems to be a 4th-wall breaker and comic relief, as well as being the heart and emotion of the duo.  I also liked the guest character appearances, even if they weren’t fleshed out that well.

That leads me to my next point: alternate universe fun-times.  I was tickled by some of the little puns, name switches, etc. that the series used to demonstrate the timeline and world it was dealing with.  For example, the Guardians of the Galaxy show up, but Groot wouldn’t have really fit this series, so the writers turned him into Goodman Root, a silent priest.  An iron maiden torture device makes an appearance, but the characters call it an “iron man,” and it resembles – you guessed it – Iron Man’s old armor.

Now for the plot.  It wasn’t exactly rocket science, but it was serviceable, and I did feel its threads throughout the series.  That is another way it excelled over A-Force, which on multiple occasions felt like it was just shuffling between scenarios that would let the writers stuff in more cameos.

What about the negative?  Well, there was more than one occasion where I wasn’t sure what order I was supposed to be reading the frames in.  That could’ve been my comic book newbie-ness showing, but I don’t think it was.  Also, I admit a significant portion of my enjoyment came from seeing how they made characters fit the setting; I don’t know how much I would’ve liked it without that.

Overall: 8/10

SpoilerAlert

There’s a scene in the first volume where Angela stabs and drowns a Witchbreed.  The Witchbreed is Logan (Wolverine).  Between Logan’s wriggling, Angela’s matter-of-fact actions, and the cartoony art style used for the scene, it was perfect.

Secret Wars: A-Force (Complete series)

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When I started reading the “A-Force” series, the only other comics I had read were “Serenity: Leaves on the Wind” and a handful of Free Comic Book Day comics.  Based on that, “A-Force” really impressed me.  But then I started reading “Bloodthirsty: One Nation Under Water” and “1602: Witch Hunter Angela,” and my opinion of “A-Force” dropped somewhat.  And when the series finally ended and I had time to reflect on it as a whole, my final opinion wasn’t what I originally expected it would be.

After I read the first volume, I was very hopeful for the series.  It had a lot of female characters that I was excited to see kicking butt together in one comic.  There was some team tension, and a new character; all potentially great stuff.  Then I got through the series and was left thinking, ” What happened?  Where’s the rest of it?”  And not because of some cliffhanger.  See, the comic had all this potential, but didn’t actually achieve most of it.  The villain and villain’s motives were predictable; I guessed them in the first volume.  I didn’t really connect with any of the characters.  Emotional depths and quandaries were not explored like they could’ve been.

By the end I felt that “A-Force” was an excuse to stuff as many female heroes as possible into one short series, and then hope that readers would be too busy gushing over the appearance of their favorite character(s) to care about the plot.  And yes, I did my share of gushing, but if I’m going to dish out $4 per volume, I need some more meat to the story.

Ultimately “A-Force” was mindless fun, and certainly not what I’d call bad, but it’s not something I’d be recommending either.

Overall: 6/10

SpoilerAlert

Really, was anyone surprised that Lady Loki ended up being the villain?  Anyone?  As soon as I saw her in the first volume I thought, ” Here comes trouble.”

Secret Wars: A-Force #1

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I’m generally not a comic book fan.  Most traditional comic book art doesn’t impress me, and I think comic books are an expensive hobby.  However, when I saw an ad for A-Force in one of my Free Comic Book Day comics, I decided to give it a shot.  I like the idea of an all/majority-female team, and of seeing some female heroes I know less about take the spotlight.  In those regards, the comic didn’t disappoint.

The concept behind Marvel’s Secret Wars is the multi-verses have collided and created one patchwork place called Battleworld.  So all the different universes’ variations of certain heroes can all conceivably exist on the same planet now, in different locations and/or new combinations.  A-Force takes place in an area called Arcadia, where the majority of superheroes are women.  I like this.  It’s fun to see all these different female heroes I like on one team, and to read a plot/story where the women are in charge without the men being reduced to slaves or house-husbands.

GirlPower

The female hero squad regularly patrols boundaries of Arcadia, and as we watch them make their rounds, we see a number of heroes: Lady Loki, Captain Marvel, Pixie, Spider Woman, and more.  From the cover and various internet summaries I know who the main characters will be, but in this chapter it felt like the most important characters were She-Hulk, Sister Grimm/Nico Minoru, and [Lady] Loki.

We learn that this new world has some new rules, and that breaking those rules have serious consequences.  This is obviously going to be a point of conflict in the series.  There is also a hint at some other unknown danger at the end of the chapter, as well as a mysterious character.  You know, things to get you to tune in next time and buy the next book.  And I definitely will.

Art: 6/10 (Slightly better than average for common comics I’ve encountered)
Story: 7.5/10
Overall: 8/10 (Admittedly, this is partially just due to my excitement of an all-star female team)

SpoilerAlert

Now to head into my thoughts and speculations about some particulars.  First, Lady Loki.  Lady Loki is apparently a guardian/mentor/parental figure to Ms. America – who was apparently taken away/drafted as a result of breaking one of Battleworld’s new rules – and Sister Grimm.  As far as I know, there are very few times where Loki stays a good character.  I anticipate tension at the very least.

The face of trouble.

The face of trouble.

Singularity seems like she’ll be an interesting character.  One of the comics’ creators basically said she’ll provide an outside perspective on the A-Force/human race – think Spock, Q, Castiel, etc. – and will possess the ability to move between worlds/dimensions.  Since breaching the borders of Arcadia – or whatever little piece of Battleworld a character lives in – is one of the new big No-No’s, Singularity presents an interesting potential loophole and dilemma.  And since Sister Grimm is the one that found her, it looks like the comic’s writers are planning to head in that direction.

Free Comic Book Day 2015

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The art was fairly close to typical Western comic style art, but I found it more tolerable since I really like Doctor Who.  These stories were definitely the best of all the comics, having three self-contained mini-episodes, two of which I could easily see being full-length TV episodes.  The fact that the stories made sense, were entertaining, and each reached a conclusion made this the hands-down best comic that I picked up on Free Comic Book Day.

( 0 = Die in a fire, 5 = Average, 10 = I lurv it)

Art = 5
Story = 7
Overall = 6

SecretWars

The first comic, the Secret Wars, was boring and stuffy.  The whole thing was nothing but a bunch of stuffy kids standing around discussing the pseudo-science, colliding-universe nonsense that Marvel is going to use as an excuse to create the giant crossover.  While the crossover sounds interesting, this part of the comic was a giant snoozefest.  I’m not familiar with Attack on Titan, so while at least the second part had action, I wasn’t that impresses with it either.

Art = 5 (Both)
Story = 3 (2.5 for Secret Wars, 3.5 for Titan)
Overall = 4

AllNewAvengers

I was interested to see the new Ms. Marvel, Spiderman, and female Thor together as I hadn’t seen them before.  It had action, but the story was just… meh.  It wasn’t good or bad, it was just there, and it was short.  The Inhumans part was better.  I wouldn’t say it was great, but it was enough to intrigue me about the series; what I saw of Medusa made me interested in her.

Art = 5 (Both)
Story = 4.75 (4.5 for Avengers, 5 for Inhumans)
Overall = 4.75

TitansScooby

The Teen Titans part left me conflicted.  The art is cute, but very childish.  Maybe I’d get used to it with time, but it seemed too youthful for a book about teenage superheroes; might’ve been better for something like Powerpuff Girls or Invader Zim.  The story was a silly bit of fluff with no real plot, but it was self-contained which was nice.  The Scooby-Doo part was stupid.  A team of superheroes, including the detective-smart Batman, the ridiculously powerful Superman, and Supergirl needed to call on the Scooby Gang to solve a “ghost” problem?  No.  Just, not.  I don’t buy it.

Art = 5.5 (6 for Titans, 5 for Scooby)
Story = 4.5 (6 for Titans, 3 for Scooby)
Overall = 4.5

MotorSamurai

I had high hopes for this one.  The art is interesting, and just judging from the cover, I figured it’d be about a motorcycle-riding female hero gang.  Nope.  It had potential, but the writing/way the story was told made it boring.  Very disappointing.

Art = 6
Story = 2
Overall = 2 (Story outweighed art)

SuperMutantAcademy

UGH!  So bad, it was frustrating.  The “good” art in this comic book looks like Sunday comic strip art at best.  In the first part, each “story” was only one page long.  Each story was about stupid stuff that might happen in any normal high school, but not even the fun stuff, just lame, run-of-the-mill events!  In the second part, the “stories” were a single line long.  That’s right, three frames!  I didn’t even bother finishing it, and considering it’s basically a picture book, that’s sad.

Art = 1
Story = 0
Overall = 0.5

Avengers: Age of Ultron

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[First part is spoiler-free, then spoilers after the warning]

I was so excited about this movie.  I loved The Avengers, and I greatly enjoy most Marvel movies, so I figured this would be a sure hit.  I splurged on the viewing, reserving a seat at the dine-in theater as soon as tickets were available.  I met up with some of my friends, I bought something other than the cheapest option on the menu, sat back, and was ready to be amazed.

So was I amazed?  Well…

AngryMob

Time out!  I didn’t say it was bad!  Drop your pitchforks, back away from your keyboard, and let me explain.

Like I said, I loved the first Avengers movie.  Seeing all those characters together on the big screen was like magic.  I think that is part of what made it so grand though; it was the first time I had seen a movie take so many main characters and bring them together in one movie.  Since the Avengers had already been assembled in the first movie, Age of Ultron didn’t have that going for it.

Pacing was a bit problematic.  There was a lot of action; during the Hulk vs Hulkbuster scene, I actually felt a bit bored/tired.  The movie had some slow parts, but they didn’t properly counterbalance the action and fast pace of the rest of the movie.

However, Age of Ultron is still a good movie.  The core cast is back, with a couple of new additions.  Some characters got some much-needed development, particularly Hawkeye.  In The Avengers, poor Hawkeye spent most of the movie brainwashed.  Between that and his lack of screen time, he was almost an extra in The Avengers.

Don't worry Hawkeye.  Your time is coming.

Don’t worry Hawkeye. Your time is coming.

In Age of Ultron, Hawkeye starts to find his niche.  He doesn’t have superpowers or loads of money, but you learn that he does have something different to bring to the table.  Black Widow also gets some development, but Hawkeye steals the show in that arena.

Ultron was not what I expected.  I figured he’d be one-note, straight dark and psycho.  He was bad, yes, and crazy, but he also had some humorous lines and familiar-but-fun motives, putting him above the likes of Ronin, Malekith, and Justin Hammer.

Wait, that's not Ultron?  Close enough.

Wait, that’s not Ultron? Close enough.

There were some things I didn’t buy in the movie, or that seemed a touch off, but overall it was quite good.

Final Rating: 8/10

Now, I will enter spoiler territory to dissect some of my issues with the movie, and some of my favorite parts.  If you haven’t watched the movie, stop reading and come back later.

SpoilerAlert

The movie reveals that Hawkeye is married, and that he has a house out in the country where his two kids and pregnant wife live.  I’m torn about this reveal.  It positions Hawkeye to be the most human of the Avengers, with the most in common with the average person the Avengers are supposed to be protecting, so it does give him a nice perspective to bring to the table.  On the other hand, I didn’t buy the idea of a house being so secret that neither Tony Stark nor Ultron knew about it, unless they just hadn’t bothered to look.  Plus, Hawkeye’s country house, 2.5 kids, loving and understanding wife, and assorted other domestic bliss just seems too perfect, especially for a member of an internationally known crime-fighting organization.

Marvin

I am still left torn about Black Widow.  I want to like her.  I really, really do.  But Scarlet Johanson’s portrayal of her just seems so… wooden.  I always envisioned Black Widow as being the ultimate femme fatale: sexy, exotic, alluring, and able to kill you without breaking a single perfectly manicured nail.  ScarJo’s Black Widow is just… not that.  They tried to evolve her character in this movie by giving her a romantic interest in Banner.  I get the reasoning she gave for being attracted to him, but I feel Black Widow would’ve more confident/assertive in pursuing him, and I don’t think she would’ve stayed as visibly upset for as long as she did.

I do like that they didn’t have her try to pick up Thor’s hammer though.  Because if she tried and couldn’t move it, some fans would’ve been pissed since in at least one series of comics, she can move it (and gets a cool Asgard suit too).

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There were some other minor things.  Like, at the end of Iron Man 3, it seemed like Tony was done with being an Avenger, but here he is Avenger-ing again.

So what about the things I liked.  Let’s start with Scarlet Witch.  This is a comic book character I was very interested to see adapted to the big screen.  And I must say, I am very glad they didn’t try to give her a headpiece; I hate her comic costume headpiece.

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BreadCat

Scarlet Witch’s accent was meh, and I’m not sure about her mind-fuckery powers – I don’t remember her having those, but I’m not a hardcore comic fan – but I was just glad to see her.

Vision was surprisingly awesome.  I knew almost nothing about him going into the movie, other than the fact that he wasn’t human and was green and purple.  The green and purple part had me worried; how could that not look dumb?  But it worked, and Vision was a very dignified character, making the “Well, I was born yesterday” line at the end perfect.  It was nice to see Paul Bettany in front of the camera.

Speaking of, did you all realize that Klaw was Andy Serkis?  I’m so used to him doing motion capture roles, I didn’t recognize him when I actually got to see him using his own face in a movie.

This dude is Gollum (LotR), Caesar (Planet of the Apes), and King Kong.

This dude is Gollum (LotR), Caesar (Planet of the Apes), and King Kong.

The humor was great.  There was no single, gut-busting moment like the Hulk/Loki scene in The Avengers, but there were many lines and scenes I thought were quite funny:

  • Cap scolding Iron Man for cursing, then everyone ribbing Cap about it.
  • Iron Man saying “great talk!” and then one of the guys he shot saying “No it wasn’t!”
  • Black Widow saying “Beep beep!” while driving a motorcycle through a crowd.
  • Ultron saying something to the effect of “They took the rarest metal on Earth and made a frisbee” (referring to Cap’s shield).

I am a fanfic reader.  I tell you that to tell you this: there were scenes where the writers were teasing fanfic fans.  The writers and the cast know about the fanfic; hell, they talked about the fic term “sciencebros” on Jimmy Kimmel!  So they know about it, and the fanfic community knows that they know about it, and now the movies are deliberately teasing us.  Don’t believe me?  Next time you see a scene where you think the bromance is just a tad much, remember it’s for the fanfic community.  And we love it.

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So the movie didn’t have quite the same magic as the first, but it was still fun, and a bit like coming home.  I look forward to phase of Marvel movies.

Marvel Heroes

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Video games are a popular hobby with the sloth-at-heart crowd.  I would not label myself a gamer because I do not play a wide variety of games, and I am not especially good at any of the games that I do play.  Still, I figured my reviews might be of interest, especially to other leisurely players.

One of the few games that I play is Marvel Heroes.  In this review I will review Marvel Heroes as a game, and in later reviews I will review the individual heroes/characters that I play.

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Bias: I like superheroes and I like Marvel.  The only other games I’ve played with leveling systems are Pokemon and RAGNAROK, so my gaming experience is very limited.

The Awesome:
Superheroes = The Avengers, Fantastic Four, X-Men; they’re all here.  If you want the chance to fight baddies with lasers, guns, swords, and magic, all the while wearing a fantastic costume, here’s your chance.

Easy Combat = For those of you that do not like button-mashing – like me – rejoice!  Attacks are bound to keys A-H, with one attack per key, plus a right-click and left-click attack.  No button combos required.

The Good:
Free-to-Play = The game is a free download, your first hero is free, and in-game currency lets you buy more heroes without spending money.  Decent gear is relatively easy to find without having to pay, even at higher levels.

Character Choices = There are over 40 of heroes to play, and as far as I know, every character has at least once alternate costume you can purchase (for real money).  Some heroes – Iron Man, Spiderman, etc. – have several costumes.  There are also “team-ups,” which function as a sort of side-kick or partner for your character, and are often characters that may not get their own playable version (Groot, Agent Coulson, etc).

Not Grind-y = Grinding – AKA fighting low or mid level enemies to level up your character – gets old fast in most games.  Luckily, Marvel Heroes doesn’t require a lot of grinding.  Playing through the story offers a decent amount of experience points, and special levels/zones offer faster leveling.

The Bad:
Free is Slow = Although all heroes can technically be purchased with in-game currency, accumulating said currency is slow.  At my leisurely play speed, I’d be lucky to earn enough in-game currency to buy more than 3-4 heroes a year.

Wallet Leech = If you are anything like me, you will find it very hard to resist the temptation to spend money in this game.  Alternate costumes are fun, and the buy-one-get-one-free hero sales are difficult to resist.  Plus you don’t get a lot of free storage space, and what you do get fills up quickly.

The Ugly:
– Chat System = The in-game chat interface is bad.  There is no button to toggle it on/off, meaning you have to click.  Considering that your mouse is used for moving, aiming, and basic attacks, this gets irritating fast.  You can’t use the chat function during a fight unless you want to die.

Verdict: Worth trying out at the very least since it’s free.  There’s plenty enough free to stuff to keep you entertained and give you a fulfilling experience without having to pay.  And if you do decide to spend some money, you have a world of possibilities.