Archive for October, 2009

You know what doesn’t suck? Borderlands!

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Everyone that has read just a few entries here knows I play a lot of games (points over to his ‘gamercard’).  Most of the time you can find me logged into EVE Online or Champions Online. Those MMO’s have a tendency of sucking away most of my free time but I do spend quite a bit of time on my Xbox 360.  Recently I have played Batman: Arkham Asylum and Halo 3: ODST.  Both were interesting and well designed but have not held my interest very well.  Halo was great in Co-Op mode and Batman, even though it is very faithful to the Batman mythos and is one of the best DC superhero games ever (that isn’t saying much, though), just did not hold my interest.  Kicking the heads of bad guys in over and over just to get to the next boss battle has become blase.  The Bat-gadgets are neat but they just seem to be more of ‘this’ and extra hit points, nothing to really strive for.

Recently on my Raptr feed (www.raptr.com) I had seen a number of people playing a game called Borderlands.  The only real exposure I had in regards to this game was an e-mail sent from my buddy Damon.  Damon and I worked together years ago and one of the few joys we had at that job was designing items for the Elvis Presley license.  Much of what came from my office was the need for more of the iconic “Taking Care of Business” items ‘The King’ had and wore.  Damon designed a number of items that incorporated the logo, many of which I sill have in my possession.  One of the 4 main playable characters in Borderlands wears a “TCB” belt buckle, so Damon sent me the promotional graphics that showed it.  That piqued my interest because anything that referenced “TCB” was already cool in my book.
The TCB Logo for those that are not in the ‘know’:
Originally I placed the game in my Gamefly queue with the hopes of a speedy arrival (a hope that is hit ‘n miss at best).  During my wait I continued to see people playing it time and time again on my XBL feed and Raptr.  People that I knew I shared the same taste in video games with.  So when I dropped by the store to pick-up a copy of Windows 7 and pre-order Lego Rock Band, I grabbed a copy of Borderlands.
Borderlands has been called a First Person Shooter Role Playing Game and while it has a number of RPG elements (leveling, skill allotment, semi-persistent world, missions/quests, etc.) I prefer the description of “Shoot ‘n Loot”.  Because you are basically running around, shooting stuff and hoping they drop the good stuff.  Though with this description one would think that game play would become tired and bland quickly, but for some reason it becomes addictive and just plain fun.
Why is Borberlands ‘fun’?  I think I can boil it down to three things:
Setting – The planet Pandora is just the right mix of Mad MaxFallout and Firefly.  We have spots of civilization but it’s mostly shanty towns with moderately advanced tech in weapons and commerce.  When walking (and later driving) across vast areas of waste and sheet metal, you can tell that you and your weapon define the law in the area.  9 times out of 10, if it’s moving… you want to shoot it.
Character Class/Skill Tree – Much like another favorite game of mine Diablo (and Diablo II), as you advance in level you have a skill tree to allot points within.  So you may be playing a Hunter, Brick, Soldier or Assassin, but you can tailor that character to your specific play style.  As I continue to play I am noticing that my original class choice, Brick, does not match my play style, which is pointing to Soldier.  I guess a restart/re-roll is in the near future.
OHHH SHINY! – The game is chocked full of really neat stuff that either shoots things or blows them up!  Each time I see a weapon drop from a mob or creature (yeah, birds drop huge rifles and pistols a la The Bard’s Tale) I want to run up and see how and in what way this new toy kills stuff!  One time last Friday, I spent nearly 20 minutes just comparing the different sniper rifles I had and which one to use.  Between reload rate, DPS, magazine size and damage type (some weapons shoot lightening, fire and/or acid) there are over 10,000 weapon combinations!  When you add that to your possible advantages from the skill tree, you will have millions of ways to meet people and kill them.
I have not had this kind of enjoyment in an ‘RPG’ since Fallout 3 and not this much fun since playing Battlefield 2142.  This game is a complete hoot, and I haven’t even tried any of the Co-Op or PvP elements as of yet!  For an excellent mix of the RPG and FPS genres, I cannot recommend Borderlands nearly enough.
This game truly does not suck!
Now I’m just afraid I will not be done in time for Dragon Age: Origins. :)

Snack Time Online 000: Remember… The Podcast

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The planets have aligned and the winning lottery numbers match – in short: Snack Time Online is attempting to return.  The pop culture podcast from “the before time” kicks off with Episode Zero. That episode number allows Joey Snackpants & Tom Croom to write off this episode as a beta test.  In true Microsoft Windows form, we’re releasing this test episode before it is actually ready for public consumption – so enjoy!  Please post your feedback so we can apply it future episodes.
Direct mp3 Link: http://www.greenmustard.com/snacktimeonline/STO000.mp3
Feedburner Link (subscribe): http://feeds.feedburner.com/joeysnackpants

Episode 000: Remember… The Podcast

1:26 What we’re doing and where we’ve been (podcasting-wise)
4:31 Tonight’s topic
6:24 Transformers Panels
7:28 Plane Tickets & Booze
8:25 New Transformers Cartoon?
9:09 We are Steve Jobs free
10:06 Burp #1
10:20 Have an Opinion
13:49 The Nudist Colony Newspaper
15:26 Glee
17:00 Call #1
17:28 Call #2
20:45 The Rules So Far
23:04 Stuff Tom is watching
25:05 Adult Swim
26:00 Twittering
29:32 Call #3
32:57 No one watches wresting anymore
37:00 Windows 7
40:31 Call #4
46:00 Tom’s social networking web
52:41 Call #5

-Green Mustard Entertainment

I know my Podcast is as consistent as Season 3 of Moonlighting…

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There are few things that sadden me as much as my inability to keep a podcast up and running for very long.  Anime Pundit Daryl Surat once told me, “90% of all podcasts don’t make it to episode 8.”  I thought he was joking, but only 3 (5 recorded) episodes out, I have come to recognize Daryl as the sage he is… again.  That being said, there are a number of podcasts I listen to on a regular basis and decided that you need to know who they are, and why I listen!

In no particular order:
Anime World Order – The first podcast I every subscribed to, and the one I have listened to consistently from the beginning.  Gerald, Clarisa and Daryl take a very unorthodox look at anime and anime fandom.  They only talk about stuff they want to talk about.  Just because a show is ‘new’ or popular will not drive their need to talk about or even review it.  I like to refer to their style as “punditry on a whim”.  The AWO crew is in no one’s pocket (well, maybe in the pocket of Otaku USA since all three write for the magazine), so their blunt honesty can be both humorous and biting.  Being on both the favorable and unfavorable end of their opinions, I still listen each month-or-so.  I have to say, they have some of the most unique opinions on the grand overarching subject of anime out there.
The Greatest Movie Ever! Podcast – If someone were to ask me 3 years ago, “Hey Joey… what kind of podcast would you do?”, my answer would have been the exact outline of The Greatest Movie Ever! Podcast.  Paul Chapman has taken two things I love, movies and opinions, and made the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of podcasting.  The mix that Paul has created is a two-fold extravaganza.  First the selection of movies which have included The Last StarfighterConan: The BarbarianXanadu, and Django. There is no film that Paul will not try to tackle.  The second part is the ‘co-stars’ Paul brings to the table: Sean “Hollywood” Hunting, Kathrine “The Great”, Daryl Surat, and even his mother!  Each of these brings in a unique view that truly makes The Great Movie Ever! Podcast a treat.  I would say that Paul’s podcast is the one I truly enjoy the most currently.
Raging Bullets – This may come as a shock to many of you, but I read comics… a lot of comics.  Every Wednesday revolves around what I am going to need to get done, what I need to eat, how traffic will be so I can be at my local comic shop (Heroes and Villains) promptly at 2:00pm.  The problem is I read 99% DC and 1% Marvel (Captain America: Reborn is it), so most comic book podcasts are full of about 50% of stuff I just don’t care about.  Sean Whelan and Jim Segulin have created the Raging Bullets Podcast, which is 100% DC… No Marvel, no Image, no Indies, just DC all the time.  While these guys can be way too detail oriented and will take 3 episodes (6+ hours) focusing on a storyline that could be handled in 20 minutes, you can tell they just love these comics as real fanboys.  Not only do they talk about current storylines, but will take a trip in the Wayback Machine and look at older ‘classic’ stories.  Even with their faults, Sean and Jim produce a quality podcast that does not bore, which a good number of comic book podcasts do time and time again.
Massively Speaking – I do play a number of Massively Mulitplayer Online games (MMOs) but I really do not have the time or the money to sit down and play them all, or even keep track of what new ones are coming down the pipe.  Massively Speaking covers all of the MMOs with only a small spattering of World of Warcraft (WoW).  Since I do not play WoW at all, that fact initially attracted me to the feed, but after listening to it for nearly a month, their insight has been very helpful in making decisions on what MMOs to look at and which to ignore.  Unlike all the previous podcasts I have listed, the staff of Massively Speaking are compensated for the production of their podcast, but it does not seem to have skewed their opinions of particular products… as of yet.

Manager Tools**WARNING** **WARNING** **Boring ‘work’ kind of stuff ahead** In my ‘real’ life, I am a manager.  Those that manage teams will agree with me that it’s easy to lead, it’s much much much harder to lead well.  I try to gather information from all kinds of sources but with the amount of other reading for pleasure and my short attention span, I was having a good bit of trouble trying to collect information, especially real world experiences.  It’s real easy for some professor that hasn’t managed people in the work force for the last 10 years to spit his drivel at me but I wanted to pick the brain of real managers that dealt with real issues (i.e. PDPs, annual reviews, one-on-ones, etc.) in the modern workplace.  Mark and Mike are two long time friends that have experience as managers in the traditional workforce, the military and as consultants.  This wide breadth of knowledge means these guys have seen it all!  I was hooked on their original set on interviewing and the pitfalls of ‘embellishing’ yourself.  The podcast has one major quality that these informational shows have a problem with: they are entertaining.  I have heard others say that Mark and Mike have a tendency to get off track but it’s this friendly banter that gives them that ‘real world’ credibility I enjoy.  Their constant schilling of their upgraded ‘paid’ product can get annoying but that is more than offset by the information you get.

Podded: An EVE Online Podcast – What began as the most boring podcast ever made one simple movie, adding a co-host with personality, and has become a real joy to listen to since.  There have been a number of podcasts I have listened to that I had to just stop… because they were causing me to fall asleep at the wheel.  Podded originally started as a spewing of facts regarding the MMO Eve Online hosted by “Dillon Arklight”.  All Dillon did was talk about the actual numbers of Eve and the ‘news’ from the PvP areas of the game.  The problem was, it was just him talking.  After a few episodes Podded disappeared into the podcasting ether.  In May 2009, Podded relaunched with Dillon Arklight and his new co-host, War Childe.  War Childe added personality and banter to the show.  While these guys still talk about the ‘numbers’ and ‘news’ of Eve, they also debate and bounce ideas off each other, making it a much more enjoyable Podcast.  Much like “Mike and Mark” and “Sean and Jim” these guys seem to be close friends that really enjoy talking to each other, which bleeds over into their recordings.

Fast Karate for the Gentleman – Lastly is the ‘guerrilla’ podcast operation of Dave and Joel.  Whenever someone like Daryl Surat says you need to spend hours editing your podcast, I point to Fast Karate for the Gentleman (FKFTG).  I don’t even think Dave and Joel know what ‘editing’ is.  Each week (or so) they put out about 30+ minutes of stream-of-consciousness onto the interwebz.  Uncouth and raw, these guys hold no punches in this ‘geek’ podcast that could range from anime and video gaming to daily commuting and parking tickets.  FKFTG is an acquired taste and their run ‘n gun format may not be your cup of tea, but I really enjoy these guys for what they are… real.

Why EVE Online needs to get their butt in gear.

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Today’s blog post will probably only interest about 5% of the people that read my diatribes, if that many.  This subject has been eating at me since Dragon*Con.  I have been going to Dragon*Con for the last 4 years.  Between eating at Trader Vic’s, Chicken ‘n Waffles, paying big bucks for autographs and standing in lines, I do actually attend a few panels.  The one I have made sure to attend each year is the EVE Online panel.  For those of you ‘not in the know’, EVE Online (EVE) is a Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG or MMO) set within a space faring science fiction (SyFy many may say) backdrop.  EVE’s biggest difference is that all 30,000+ players participate on one server.  Everybody plays in the exact same sandbox.  EVE is run by CCP, which has its US offices in Stone Mountain, GA, a suburb of Atlanta, the same city in which Dragon*Con is held.  Even though they are just 30 minutes from the venue, CCP has had the inability to send anything more than a ‘talking head’ to the panel.  Last year, it was a single story guy that had little to no information.  This year, it was 2 marketing guys and a single story guy.  You would think with some marketing goobers there we would have some pretty pictures or new ‘smoke and mirrors’ promotional videos…. ANYTHING!  Even those losers over at Sony Online (creators of such stinkers as Matrix Online and Star Wars Galaxies) could muster up some videos and graphics, but the CCP locals could only offer talking heads… again.

For those that have not played EVE Online, its number one complaint is the extremely steep learning curve.  This graphic was making its way around the EVE forums about a year ago, but it is almost a perfect example of what people have to deal with when trying to play EVE.
This ‘advantage’ of EVE makes its players a very loyal lot, but it makes adding new players extremely hard.  You cannot just pick-up the game and go out and begin shooting ‘rats’ in an asteroid belt.  EVE itself has very poor documentation and trying to find out information about the game can be very difficult.  This question came up many times in this panel and each time the representatives of CCP sitting behind the table, wearing the CCP corporate shirts, pointed to PLAYER GENERATED CONTENT!  Yes, the company itself cannot support its own game and has now relied on its own customer base to provide support and documentation.  I will repeat, CCP depends solely on unpaid CUSTOMERS to provide the documentation and information to play its own game.  I was completely dumbfounded that corporate representatives would admit (though not directly) that they were so lacking in the most basic of customer support.  As the panel went on, the CCP Reps continued on about how they are the #3 MMO in the world.  I can only assume World of Warcraft is #1 but #2 eludes me.  CCP seems to be fine to rest on its laurels and continue on its road of mediocrity because as poor as they may be, EVE is the only viable space based MMO out there… currently.  CCP really needs to get its act together and quickly.  Their position as the only player in the SciFi genre MMO field is coming to an end with two HUGE powerhouse franchises looming on the horizon.
The first is Cryptic’s Star Trek Online which is expected to launch its closed beta testing (a ‘perk’ in the purchase of Lifetime or 6-month subscriptions to Champions Online) in the next 6 months.  With the recent blockbuster movie in theaters this summer, the re-release of the original series and movies on Blu-ray, the Star Trek franchise is at its greatest height in the last 20 years.  With Cryptic’s success with City of Heroes and Champions Online, coupled with the marketing power of Atari, Star Trek Online will be a force of contention right out of the gate.
The second is Star Wars: The Old Republic (SW:TOR) which according to rumor has already begun its closed beta sign-ups.  This game should not be confused with the epic failure Star Wars Galaxies that started well but entered a tail spin that caused it to crash into the ground nearly 6 years ago.  Where SW:TOR has a leg up is its proven development studio.  BioWare, the creators of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic I and II, Balder’s Gate, Jade Empire and Mass Effect, will be taking their RPG creation to the MMO arena.  With only a few story videos and other ‘smoke and mirror’ marketing items, SW:TOR has created such buzz in the MMO community, you would have thought it was the cure to cancer.
Unless EVE makes some MAJOR changes in the way it handles its business and customer support its grand ‘sandbox’ will only have a few trolling cats in the next year.  Its time to get a swift kick in the ass and projects like DUST 514 may help, but have just as much chance of pulling needed resources away from the important projects.  I fear that complacency has infected the CCP team and they will be the dying elephant for 2010.

Star Trek and the theories of Web Marketing…

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One of dearest friends Stepp-sensei posted this video recently and as a guy who crunches large amount of data for his ‘day job’, I found the explanation of the theories of segmenting data sound and the presentation very interesting.

If I was going to hire an internet marketing consultant, this would be the guy.  Your usage may vary. :)

A grand experiment…

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When Katie McAwesome and I moved from the Orlando area, we originally lived in a hotel as we were looking for new digs (actually KMcA looked, and worked).  In that whole time she used a Dell Mini 9 to do all her work.  Surprisingly, it ran everything she did; web, word processing, e-mail, the whole works.  I myself own an ASUS EEEpc 900A, that I use for casual web surfing and blogging.  That machine is 100% on the cloud, as another experiment.  I recently purchased KMcA a Dell Mini 10v so that she had a larger keyboard and screen to use.  So now I have both the Dell Mini 9 and ASUS EEEpc 900A.  Both of these machines are intel processors, Atom in the Mini, Celeron in the 900A.

Now the experiment.  For the next week I will use both of these machines, the Mini 9 running OS X Leopard and the 900A running Windows 7.  Looking at both, I’ll see what works, what doesn’t and which I prefer in the end.  Because all you OS X Kool-Aid drinkers scare me. :)

Comic Book stories that Don’t Suck!

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I read comic books… I have been reading comic books regularly for over 24 years now.  When I say ‘regularly’, I mean I have not had a real long hiatus.  Even after the hiatus, I would get back on the horse and pick up all those lovely back issues that I missed.  I was truly an after market dream for the local comic shop (LCS).  I grew up with comics in the 80′s with the start of the MEGA-OMG-HUGE Crossover events.  Crisis on Infinite Earths was where I began my ‘regular’ comic buying, but later I made my parents stop at every major comic store in Virginia and Washington, DC during a family trip.  I had my copy of Uncanny X-men with its “Mutant Massacre” map so I knew exactly what issues of Uncanny X-men, X-Factor, New Mutants and even Mighty Thor that I needed to pick-up to follow the storyline.  I kept all of my comics in nice bags ‘n boards, shoved in long boxes, cataloged and alphabetized.  These boxes served as game console storage, night stands, TV trays, they took up the 2nd most cubic footage in my living area (the most being reserved for the JACO Tape Library, but that is for a different blog entry).  This was all fine, until I had to move… and that signaled the end of my ‘comic collection’.  I took all but one short box to Coliseum of Comics and unloaded it.  Since that moment, I have treated my comics like magazines: bought, read, then thrown/given away.

This treatment of comics may come as sacrilege to many people but as someone that was part of the industry during the rise and fall of the 90′s comic boom, I just cannot get excited about the ‘value’ of a comic that was printed after 1980.  There were just too many to create a scarcity.  I was there to vote for the death of Jason Todd but with the creation of Trade Paper Backs (TPB) and later Hardcover (HC) editions in the last decade, I can re-read those stories in all their glory… and sometimes in better condition than when they were originally released.  Now my long boxes have been replaced with book shelves filled with “Trades”, Hardcovers and ABSOLUTE editions.  My comic book storage devices no longer come from the LCS but from Ethan Allen and IKEA.
Where is all this going?!  Since the major publishers (Marvel and DC… or Disney and Warner Bros if you would prefer to look at it that way), are now printing some of the really old gems in these collected editions. I wanted to share with you the top… 5 or so best stories you MUST read.
Now in no particular order…

The Death of SuperboyLegion of Superheroes (Baxter Series) #37, Superman #8, Action Comics #591, Legion of Super Heroes (Baxter Series) #38Collected in Superman: Man of Steel Volume 4 - After the Crisis on Infinite Earths Mega-Event, DC editorial staff decided that they would perpetrate one of the greatest crimes on the Superman fandom.  That was to allow John Byrne to completely reset the Superman mythos.  In this ‘new and improved’ origin, Superman did not arrive in Metropolis until the year 198X, Lex Luthor was now a evil multi-millionaire business mogul, and there was never a Superboy.  For the short sighted, like Byrne, this was not an issue, but the removal of Superboy from the histories had a domino effect on DC Comics continuity.  The biggest of which was the removal of the pivotal figure in the formation of the Legion of Super Heroes.  Now DC had to create a story to take care of this ‘problem’, so they ‘killed’ Superboy.  Luckily Paul Levitz, in cooperation with Byrne, gave us an epic story.  Here Levitz uses the Time Trapper, the complete Legion, Krypto, every possible type of Kryptonite and the Kents to give Superboy the send off he deserved.  This storyline is still one of a handful that brings a tear to my eye each time I read it.  Even if you are not a long time fan of the Legion or Superboy, the story of friendship and sacrifice is one everyone can understand.

Green Lantern: RebirthGreen Lantern: Rebirth 1-6 – Collected in TPB and upcoming Absolute Edition - In the sorrow that was comics in the 90′s, the DC editorial staff made another one of their incredibility awful decisions that plagued the decade.  They believed that the Silver Age iconic character Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) had become too old and boring.  He was not ‘hip’ or ‘contemporary’ enough for the comic book readers that were reading drivel such as Youngblood and Uncanny X-men.  The powers that be at DC Comics ordered Hal Jordan’s fall and the creation of a new, younger Green Lantern.  This whole story is chronicled in Emerald Twilight.  I would suggest that particular story but the foundation on which it was based is so faulty, it cannot stand on its own.  In 2004 comic writer Geoff Johns was tasked to return Hal Jordan to the land of the living (Jordan had sacrificed himself to save the Earth in the not-so-epic event Final Night) and try to explain the haphazard story telling that Jordan had been the victim of during the late 80′s and early 90′s.  What we get was 6 issues of greatness.  Johns explains the fall of Jordan, the stupid gray sideburns Jordan was sporting in Justice League, why the Green Lantern rings had a lame weakness to the color yellow AND sets up the epic event Blackest Night.  Green Lantern: Rebirth holds its own as an independent story as well as a cornerstone in the Green Lantern mythos.


Batman: A Death in the Family and A Lonely Place of DyingBatman #426-429, #440-442, The New Titans #60-61 -Collected in DC Classics Library: A Death in the Family and Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying TPB - Even though these are two separate stories nearly 3 years apart, they are so interconnected it would be hard to talk about one without bringing up the other in context.  After the continuity reboot following Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC editorial staff made another one of their typically awful decisions and made Jason Todd (the current Robin, since Dick Grayson had graduated on to become Nightwing) into a ‘street wise’ kid with a criminal past.  The new origin of Jason Todd had Batman catching him trying to steal the tires off the Batmobile.  Over the next two years the Batman writing team would transform Jason Todd into the most whiny, over-dramatic sidekick since Bucky.  The Death in the Family storyline encompasses Jason’s attempt to find his real mother, how Batman deals with international politics, the limitations of staying within the boundaries of international law and the death of his son at the hands of a villain that many thought Batman should have killed himself years ago.  Unlike Dick Grayson, Bruce Wayne had actually legally adopted Jason Todd which added a new depth to the character of Bruce Wayne.  The shameless promotional stunt of this story was following the explosive cliffhanger – DC had two 900 numbers to call (@ .50 a pop).  One was for Jason to live, the other for Jason to die.  Well, the cover of the TPB can tell you the result.  The story telling reasons that Jason Todd was created to replace Dick Grayson quickly became evident again.  Soon a new Robin would come to the forefront.  This time the Robin replacement would be brought into the fold through positive circumstances and the assistance of Nightwing (the original Robin).  A Lonely Place of Dying brings full circle the need for a Robin to center Batman while also resolving a number of the long standing issues between Bruce and Dick.  Tim Drake became a much more solid Robin with a stronger foundation.  His character became so popular that Tim was spun off in his own mini-series and then solo series many years before Dick Grayson would be featured in a Nightwing solo book.

MarvelsMarvels #1-4 – Collected TPB and Hardcover (out of print) - I am not a big fan of Alex Ross.  He has come to think of himself as more important than the works that made him so popular.  That being said, Marvels is still just an outright beautiful book.  Unlike other ‘superhero’ comics, Marvels takes the most important stories told in the Marvel universe from the common man’s perspective.  Not only is this a great story, it also gives you all the basic in’s and out’s of the Marvel universe in a single volume.  A definite primer for anyone that is starting out with the cast of characters.


Kingdom ComeKingdom Come #1-4 – Collected in TPB and Absolute Edition - Kingdom Come is the ultimate “What if…?” story.  Taking place in the future year 200X, Superman has turned his back on the world that has become more violent and sadistic.  Where the ‘heroes’ are packing guns and making war with each other because there are no villains to fight any longer.  Kingdom Come takes the 90′s comic book hero fiasco to the final level.  Kingdom Come takes some basic ideas of crime, rehabilitation and freewill and places them in the hands of the super powered.  The ongoing disagreements between Bruce and Clark continue here.  Bruce believes that mankind should be left to its own devices, while Clark, ever the Boy Scout, decides he is going to make the world a better place, whether they like it or not.  Written by comic book great Mark Waid and ‘illustrated’ by Alex Ross (see the above Marvels write-up about my opinions on Ross), the book is filled with Easter Eggs and homages that will stump even the biggest of fanboys.  The collected editions include panels left out of the original storyline and the Absolute Edition includes background information and character sketches for some of the background characters such as King Marvel and the Pepper Brigade.  If you are given the choice, I would drop the cash on the Absolute Edition. The artwork is stunning and it truly captures the epic feel of the entire story.

God Loves, Man KillsMarvel Graphic Novel #5 – Reprinted in Hardcover - This was the first X-men story I had ever read.  It was actually in the library of a friend of mine at the time.  When I read this story, I was a very young and its social undertones were lost on me.  I had no point of reference to understand the issues that Claremont was portraying.  Later, I would obtain a first printing from Coliseum of Comics as my first ‘back issue’ purchase.  When I read it the second time, I had a great epiphany.  Claremont tells a morality tale of intolerance and bigotry.  How faith-based organizations can be twisted and made into instruments of hate.  Though many of the X-men films had story elements that were based off of elements from this story, none of them grasp the subtle items that make this story great as both a “Superhero” story and life lesson.  The image of a young boy hanging lifeless from a swing set with a sign labeled ‘MUTIE’ still sits with me to this day.

DC: The New FrontierDC: The New Frontier #1-6 – Collected in TPB Vols #1,2 and Absolute Edition (Out of Print) - Darwyn Cooke’s story focuses on the three characters that defined the Silver Age of comics: The Flash, Green Lantern and The Martian Manhunter.  While Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman all appear, they are very much in the background as supporting characters.   One of the story’s qualities is the fine line it follows between being continuity heavy and shirking the bonds of the same history.  Cooke brings story elements such as “The Losers“, King Faraday and Dinosaur Island into the tale.  All of these are nods to the Silver Age of DC Comics, but explaining each enough that new readers will not be completely lost.  This story was popular enough to be adapted into one of the Warner Bros. Premier Direct-to-Video releases in Justice League: The New Frontier.  Even though it is a very condensed telling of the story, the film is as faithful as possible for the medium.  I have to say that DC: The New Frontier is one of the few Absolute Editions I purchased sight unseen, just based off of the buzz I had heard in regards to the original story.  Cooke’s artwork captures the feel of the 50′s while truly popping off the page.  The enlarged Absolute Edition is THE way to read this story, if you can get your hands on a copy!

This list in not a comprehensive list of stories that I have given the “Doesn’t Suck” seal of approval.  If I covered them all here, then I would have nothing to write about later, though here is a thumbnail list of a few others you should check out:


- X-Men: The Dark Phoenix SagaX-Men #129-138
- The Death of Captain MarvelMarvel Graphic Novel #1
- The Sandman: Season of MistsThe Sandman #21-28
- Crisis on Infinite EarthsCrisis on Infinite Earths #1-12
- The New Teen Titans: The Judas ContractTales of the Teen Titans #42-44 and The New Teen Titans Annual #3

So go read something that is good… instead of that Civil War or Final Crisis drivel!
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