Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Buy Pile for June 26, 2013

Damn, that’s a lot of books.

Despite the fact that I’ve been spending a lot less cash on comics these days, it was hard to resist parting with some greenbacks when I stepped into Stamford, Conn.’s A Timeless Journey this evening on the most nerdiest of occasions: New Comics Day. With the debut issues of DC’s Batman/Superman and Larfleeze hitting the racks along with the latest installments in Marvel’s hottest series, there’s a lot to be read, dissected and complained about on the Internet over the next few days.

Here’s what I snagged, bagged and boarded this week:
  • Larfleeze #1 
  • Batman/Superman #1 
  • Justice League #21 
  • Justice League of America #5 
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #21 
  • Deadpool #12 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #4 
  • Nova #5
  • All-New X-Men #13 
  • X-Men #2
Speaking of things that make comic book geeks more excited than Wade Wilson in the back of a taco truck, Marvel has officially confirmed that Robert Downey Jr. will reprise the role of Tony Stark in the next two Avengers films! Concerns that Downey Jr. would abandon the armor after Iron Man 3 can officially be put to rest, making room for entirely new anxieties and rampant speculation about people from the funnybooks. Because that’s what we do.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

'Man of Steel' Packs Punch


Though I take many of my hairstyling tips from Lex Luthor these days, once upon a time I was a huge Superman fan. One of my most cherished toys growing up was a Kenner “Super Powers” version of The Man of Steel, I had Superman II memorized word-for-word and I even had Superman pajamas with a cape attached at the shoulders. No, I don’t still wear them.

Like many geeks — though certainly not all — my interest in Ol’ Supes waned with age. Batman’s fight against crime without the luxury of superhuman abilities interested me as I approached my teenage years, and the edgier, more youthful heroes that populated the Marvel Universe were infinitely more relatable than a nigh-invincible being from a dead planet.

It was not until the lead-up to Superman Returns back in 2006 that I had rediscovered my childhood fascination with Kal-El, a hero that represents a godlike ideal and an oft-overlooked burden: Superman can save just about anyone, but not everyone, all the time.

Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns touched on The Man of Tomorrow’s weaknesses that don’t come in the form of glowing green rocks (that would be Kryptonite), and in many ways it succeeded at humanizing one of the most superhuman characters in literature. Yet, it was Singer’s unfettered reverence toward the original Richard Donner films — the very movies that entranced me as a youth — that ultimately prevented it from finding an audience.

Flash forward seven years to the release of Man of Steel, Zack Snyder’s reboot of the dormant Superman franchise that aims to do for DC Comics’ blue-and-red boy scout what Batman Begins did for The Caped Crusader. The “gee whiz” tone of Donner’s lighthearted universe has been replaced with the “oh, s***!” spectacle of the modern Hollywood blockbuster, just as John Williams’ sweeping, romantic themes have been replaced by Hans Zimmer’s driving, percussive score.

It’s loud, it’s dark and it’s loaded with enough explosions to make Michael Bay blush. It’s also the best Superman film since 1978.

Snyder (Watchmen, 300) has gone on record in saying that he didn’t craft Man of Steel with the Donner films in mind. Rather, with Dark Knight veteran Christopher Nolan overseeing the project, the film takes us through a brazen re-telling of Superman’s origin that assumes we’re already fairly familiar with the character’s early years. Sure, we get glimpses of Clark Kent’s Smallville upbringing, but what we really want to see is Superman punching things, right? For once?

Fortunately, Snyder gives Kal-El (Henry Cavill) plenty to pummel in the form of General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his Kryptonian soldiers. You see, Superman’s dad Jor-El (Russell Crowe) sent his infant son to Earth with a codex that could preserve the Kryptonian race. Naturally, said codex is of particular interest to Zod’s forces, who were freed from imprisonment in the Phantom Zone when Krypton exploded. The bad guys make their way to Earth and intend to use the codex to rebuild Krypton, terraforming the planet and killing its current inhabitants (us) in the process.

There’s much to be said about the tremendous cast in Man of Steel, from Amy Adams’ impetuous Lois Lane to Shannon’s sneering Zod, but it’s Cavill’s Superman who truly shines. Never once doing a Christopher Reeve impression, Cavill embodies what we like about the character — namely his undying sense of duty — without trying to imitate any prior on-screen versions of the character.

Man of Steel isn’t short, clocking in at 143 minutes, but it seldom drags nor does it linger on sentimentality. The intense final act of the film is nearly nonstop action, as Superman battles Zod in a skyscraper-toppling final battle unlike anything we’ve ever seen in a superhero film. Just as Donner made us believe a man can fly, Snyder makes us believe a man can fly, punch people through buildings and level entire city blocks with his heat vision … if he wanted to, of course.

It is the conclusion of that final battle that has spurred much controversy among some circles who disagree with the way in which Kal-El ultimately deals with Zod. Without venturing into spoiler territory for those of you who haven’t seen the film, I’ll simply state that Superman does what is necessary for the greater good, and makes a difficult decision he didn’t want to make. For a character reviled for being godlike, don’t we want to see him at his most human?

Man of Steel might offend purists for its overwhelming emphasis on action and certain creative liberties taken with the character, but we’ve wanted a fresh cinematic take on Superman for decades and Snyder has finally delivered. Up, up and away.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Microsoft: Our Bad!


Microsoft hasn’t been making many friends over the past few weeks. With the unveiling of the Xbox One, the company boldly admitted that the new system will not only place restrictions on the trading and buying of used games, but will require users to sign in to Xbox Live at least once a day to play their titles. These prohibitive features of the new console spurred many longtime Xbox loyalists to pronounce their early allegiance to the PlayStation 4, which debuted last week at E3. Meanwhile, Sony’s next-gen console promises to place no such restrictions on gamers, and was announced at a $399 price point — $100 less than Microsoft’s forthcoming system.

Given the uproariously negative response to the Xbox One, the folks in The House That Bill Gates Built have now reversed their prior decisions regarding digital rights management (DRM), and have done away with the previously announced online requirements.

“We appreciate your passion, support and willingness to challenge the assumptions of digital licensing and connectivity,” said Dan Mattrick, Microsoft’s President of Interactive Entertainment Business. “While we believe that the majority of people will play games online and access the cloud for both games and entertainment, we will give consumers the choice of both physical and digital content. We have listened and we have heard loud and clear from your feedback that you want the best of both worlds.”

But is this knee-jerk reaction to the harsh criticism of Microsoft’s policies truly enough to sway gamers who have already decided to join the Sony camp this fall? Regardless, Microsoft’s backtracking at least evens the odds enough to let us focus on what really matters when the warring systems hit shelves this coming holiday season: the games themselves.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Buy Pile for June 12, 2013

If you ventured into a comic book shop today, you already know that the big “must-buy” title released this week was the inaugural issue of Superman Unchained, DC’s attempt to make The Last Son of Krypton relevant in comics for the first time since the launch of The New 52. The new book, written by Scott Snyder with pencils by Jim Lee, is a pretty good read and a promising sign of things to come for our favorite red-and-blue boy scout. Plus, with the release of Man of Steel this Friday, the timing’s just about right. It’s funny how that worked out, ya know?

Here are some other titles I’ll be bagging and boarding this evening:
  • Batman #21 (Scott Snyder/Greg Capulllo)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #3 (Brian Michael Bendis/Steve McNiven & Sara Pichelli)
  • All New X-Men #12 (Brian Michael Bendis/Stuart Immonen)
  • Iron Man #11 (Kieron Gillen/Dale Eaglesham)
In related news, not only is a Man of Steel sequel confirmed, but scribe David S. Goyer is rumored to have begun work on a Justice League screenplay! Is Warner Bros. finally on track to bring us a fully realized DC cinematic universe?

For more Man of Steel news, head over to io9.com.

Oh, Xbox One ...

One of the biggest conversations among gamers during E3 this week is the battle between Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4. More accurately, those  discussions have centered on the fact that Sony scored the easiest victory in the latest console war on Monday. Its winning strategy? Not screwing up its PS4 reveal. I hope Microsoft was taking notes.

By offering users the opportunity to swap games freely and purchase used titles without restrictions—revealed to be impossibilities for owners of Microsoft’s new device—Sony won over no small amount of Xbox loyalists. The fact that Sony’s new system will cost $100 less than Microsoft’s certainly helped matters.

I’ve been a proud Microsoft gamer since the summer of 2003, when the release of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic inspired me to purchase the original Xbox. Over the years, and with the release of the exceptional Xbox 360, I’ve grown to love many of Microsoft’s exclusive franchises like Halo and Gears of War, never once feeling the urge to hop the fence and see what the PS3 had to offer.

Consider that fence hopped. With the PS4, I’m a PlayStation guy.

Between the aforementioned restrictions to the inherent creepiness of having the Kinect camera on at all times to the system’s reported need to connect to the Internet every 24 hours, I just don’t see the value in supporting the Xbox One at this time. Hopefully, Microsoft resolves the glaring issues with its new console, if only to level the playing field before both systems hit retail this fall. Right now, it’s looking like a landslide.

Friday, June 7, 2013

It’s a Trap! Fanboys Can’t Repel an Exclusive of This Magnitude!




And here I thought I was doing a pretty good job resisting the lure of San Diego Comic-Con exclusives this year. Gentle Giant has unveiled their new SDCC-exclusive mini-bust of Star Wars cult icon Admiral Ackbar, and it’s a little bit of incredible even if it isn’t necessarily “movie accurate.”

This mustachioed and tassled “what if?” version of our favorite Mon Calamari strategist, called “Magnitude,” is based on artwork by Steven Daily, and is currently available for pre-order at GentleGiantLtd.com.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Oh Geez, There’s a Lego Ewok Village Now



I’m not a Lego collector or anything, but it’s hard not to appreciate the work that went into designing the company’s new $250 Ewok Village set, which hits shelves in September. Since Hasbro has yet to remake the original Kenner Return of the Jedi playset — and likely never will — this might be as close of a reproduction as Star Wars fans are gonna get. It’s awesome nevertheless.

But don’t take my word for it. Take a tour of Wicket’s spacious pad by checking out the announcement video on Lego’s official YouTube channel.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A 'Pivotal Meeting' to Take Place in 'X-Men: Days of Future Past,' Plus Jennifer Lawrence Bares All


With all of the buzz surrounding Warner Bros.’ The Man of Steel and Marvel Studios’ upcoming releases, it’s easy to forget that Twentieth Century Fox is chugging along with its X-Men franchise. Later this summer we get The Wolverine — an apologetic sequel to the dismal X-Men Origins: Wolverine — and next year we get Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. Singer’s return to the franchise, loosely based on the timeline-jumping comic book story arc of the same name, serves as a bridge between X-Men: First Class and the original trilogy.

In other words, the film intends rectify a muddied chronology. That’s X-Men for ya.

Earlier today, Bryan Singer tweeted out a photo from the set of the sequel, hinting at a “pivotal meeting” in the Oval Office involving Richard Nixon. I’m not a betting man, but I’m guessing the meeting could have something to do with the growing mutant menace. Fingers crossed for Sentinels, Nixon-style!

In related Days of Future Past news, Jennifer Lawrence was recently spotted exiting her trailer in her Mystique body suit and blue makeup, and although I can’t post the photos here, I would be doing you all a disservice if I didn’t point you in the right direction. Get an eyeful over at TMZ.

New Photos Emerge from 'The Dark World'


Dark Elf Malekith the Accursed (Chris Eccleston) looks how I feel in the new batch of Thor: The Dark World photos up now at Marvel.com. Given the outlandish characters and large-scale battles the sequel promises, it looks like we’re going to be getting that “epic” follow-up to Marvel’s The Avengers that we didn’t quite get with the more subdued Iron Man 3.

For more photos from the flick — including a look at more elves that make neither cookies nor toys — head over to Marvel.com.

Thor: the Dark World hits theaters Nov. 8.

I Never Thought I'd Say This ...

... but "Weird Al" Yankovic totally rocks in concert. I had the privilege of seeing His Weirdness at Port Chester's Capitol Theatre, and I'm more convinced than ever that many of his tunes are more iconic than the songs they parody. Also, "White & Nerdy" is still in many ways my theme song after all these years.

For more snapshots from the show, visit me on Tumblr.