Monday, March 31, 2014

Upcoming goodies and Free Comic Book Day fun with Project Black Sky!


   

     So comic book fans, what does Dark Horse have planned for Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) and Project Black Sky? As of right now only the publisher and the creators know, but I can tell you this ladies and gentlemen: It's going to be huge. Almost every creator within the Project Black Sky world has promised that we will find out more about the storyline that they've been weaving into their books over the past several months, something that is exciting it's readers as the news trickles out, but what could it be? Not only do we want to know what it will be but we want to know how it will be presented. Personally, I'm thinking we may get some kind of one-shot where we finally get to see what's going on behind the scenes of Project Black Sky from a non-hero perspective and how it's all going to tie into the rest of the line. Or maybe they'll toss us a one-shot where we are given some kind of hints pertaining to this summers big crossover event that has been teased in interviews posted at Comic Book Resources, which I think is less likely but not outside the realm of possibility. One thing we know is that it's going to feature Captain Midnight and Brain Boy. I think the fact that Midnight and Brain Boy are the two the story will focus on is very interesting because they're the two books that connect the most to the Project Black Sky plot. What's even more interesting is that it appears, judging by the cover of the FCBD issue, that Captain Midnight is about to throw down with Ape-X, a character that hasn't seen print in almost 20 years. Holy smokes! All I know is that big things are coming for this fun and entertaining line of books being published by Dark Horse and I think something big is looming and when it hits it's going to kick us right in the ass. As long as no steel toe boots are used than I'm pretty sure I can take the shot (silly humor, sorry).
    Personally, while I'm excited for the big FCBD news I think I'm more excited about the upcoming event that will bring these heroes together this summer as well as the upcoming Captain Midnight story, "A Better Tomorrow". As a fan, I guess I'm just excited for whatever Dark Horse chooses to give us as it pertains to these books, this has been the best launch of comic characters since good ol' Crossgen Comics back in 2000 and the publisher seems extremely dedicated to make sure that these books are worked on by top tier talent. Which, in my opinion, is the best possible thing you can do when getting a new line of comics off the ground. With solid writing and exceptional art I don't see how this summer could be anything short of amazing with Dark Horse at the helm and I'm excited to finally see how everything goes down after months and months of teasers.
  In any event, this wasn't meant to be a long and involving post or anything, I mainly just wanted to post a heads up to those following the Dark Horse Project Black Sky line of comics about everything going on. Until next time guys, keep watching the skies!

© B-Sly The Gamer Guy


Monday, March 24, 2014

Watching the skies with heroes from Dark Horse Comics!

 

Something special is brewing over at Dark Horse Comics as of late and it’s something that they have been working on for quite a while now. A year or so ago Dark Horse announced that they would be unleashing superheroes upon the world and that they were serious about building this business for themselves, and so far they’ve done a superb job, but what Dark Horse is doing is truly building a brand that could drive their business for years to come. It was slow at the start but the publisher has reached deep into not only their archives, but also into the archives of classic pulp heroes and forgotten properties to create a world that outshines everything else on the comic rack today. It was a rough launch at first, and even a bit confusing, but now the smoke has cleared Dark Horse has something special on their hands and it’s starting to turn a lot of heads their way despite a VERY crowded comic book market. And yes, it’s truly crowded. Superheroes are booming again in a very similar fashion to the early 90’s when we not only had Marvel and DC, but we also had Image, Dark Horse, Malibu, Topps, Valiant, and other publishers fighting over space on the comic book racks. Fast forward through a crash n’ burn era and here we are again with Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, Valiant, Dynamite, BOOM, and others slugging it out over who’s got the best of the best and it feels like a nostalgic blast of fresh air. But it’s Dark Horse who’s grabbing my attention.
    Now, when I said that things were a bit confusing at launch, I mean it. Dark Horse began publishing superhero comics at rapid fire and readers didn’t quite know which books connected and which books didn’t, This had fans scratching their heads and wondering if these books were going to be worth it or not. So, in an effort to simplify things the publisher created a distinct logo and gave the connected book an imprint title called “Project Black Sky” to signify which titles connected and which ones did not. See, Dark Horse publishes other comics in the superhero genre that do not connect to the core line due to much of the other books being creator owned properties. But this entry is focusing on the connected stuff, not the creator owned titles. So, interestingly enough not only is Project Black Sky the line of the connected books, but it’s also a storyline running throughout those specific comics and thus far it’s been an absolute joy to read. So much so that I figured I’d write up a blog entry where I discuss these books and do my part to put the word out to comic book fans around the world that Dark Horse has started something amazing here and it’s only a matter of time until this grows even bigger and begins to gain some mass appeal.
    The first book I’d like to discuss is one of the core three titles on the Project Black Sky line. It’s a comic that was one of the first to bear the Black Sky logo and it stars a character that was heavily featured in radio serials back in the 30’s and 40’s as well as TV shows and comic strips. The name of the book and character is Captain Midnight and it features an amazing “man out of time” story that rivals that of Captain America. Heck, Captain
Midnight pre-dated Captain America by almost 6 years, so I don’t want to hear any bullshit about him being some cheap knockoff. The gist of Captain Midnight is that the plot follows the hero as he finds himself trapped in the current day while struggling to piece together what has happened since he’s been gone. He notices that technology he’s constructed back in the 40’s is being used by both heroes and criminals and he embarks on a mission to shut down an enemy who’s family has been hard at work within the world of crime since his heyday of being one of the most honored superheroes in the world.
    The book is fun to read and would appeal to anyone into classic characters or pulp heroes, as well as anyone who enjoys a solid story. It’s very well written and illustrated nicely, but most of all it is a huge piece that ties in largely to the Project Black Sky puzzle. The series writer, Joshua Williamson, is tremendous and is doing a fine job bringing this classic character into the modern day.
    The second book we will be taking a look at would be my personal favorite and it’s called simply, “X”. X is another of the ongoing monthly comics published within the Project Black Sky imprint and it follows a masked vigilante who loves to kill those who bring crime to his city of Arcadia. It’s violent, bloody, intense, and downright crazy compared to other “vigilante” comics out there and I would compare it to Batman if the Dark Knight was willing to murder and maim his adversaries. The book is dark. Very dark. X reads a lot like a mix of superhero, pulp, noir, police drama, and horror, but with a tinge of predatory instinct. It’s phenomenal and there is truly nothing else like it on comic shelves today, hence why it’s not only my favorite comic book in the Project Black Sky line but quite possibly my favorite comic book period. The opening arc for instance has X sending pictures to his prey with a red “X” painted on their faces which is a sign that he’s coming for them. The prey, who happens to be a group of gangsters, end up in a bloody and horrendous showdown with the vigilante which ends in a shocking (and disgusting) mess.
   
  Duane Swierczynski is doing an amazing job writing this book and really puts you on the edge of your seat leaving you screaming in agony for the next issue to arrive. Kudo’s Duane, you’re work is simply amazing. If the name of the character sounds familiar it should, X was published in the early 90’s for a brief time by Dark Horse during the huge superhero boom that saw everyone and their mother promoting heroes. But this version of the character is different and far superior to his early 90’s counterpart.
    Okay, I can see I’m rambling here but I’m just so excited to be a part of this world of character by being able read them every month. The last time I had so much fun reading comics was probably back when Marvel’s Ultimate line was still in it’s infancy and Crossgen Comics burst onto the scene with an amazing cast of characters that made old Earth 2 and the 616 looks like mere childsplay. But I’d love to chime in on a few other books in the line, one of which being the upcoming Blackout. Blackout is positioned to be a miniseries but appears to be one of the most engaging titles of the line judging by the previews I’ve read. It’s slated to come out in the spring and finish it’s run by mid-summer, but if orders are strong it could potentially come back as an ongoing title and that would be a huge success story for Project Black Sky. We’ve also got Ghost, which is the 3rd ongoing title being published within this line of books, though it hasn’t seemed to grab me as much as the others I’m hopeful that it will pick up pace and connect to the other titles nicely. Ghost seems to have a strong fan following and the character is another that was published by Dark Horse back in the early 90’s alongside X.

    There are a couple of mini’s that have been a part of Project Black Sky too, mainly Brain Boy and The Occultist. Brain Boy is another classic hero who’s been brought back into the modern day after not being published for decades. The book fits in nicely to the line and has a second miniseries coming out around the summertime that will continue to shine light upon not only his storyline, but the Project Black Sky plot as a whole.The Occultist is kind of what would happen if you combined Peter Parker and Dr. Strange into one character and unleashed him on the world. It’s a witty and enjoyable tale that is on it’s second miniseries with (hopefully) more to come down the line, though I do have a hard time seeing how he truly connects to the rest of the Project Black Sky titles. Maybe that’s a question that will be answered shortly? A great place to start would be the news that Dark Horse has been teasing that lots of big things are supposed to happen during an event that’s supposed to bring everyone together and cause some commotion late in the summer. A crossover on an epic scale where the heroes of Project Black Sky bond together to take on a common threat is what I’m guessing, but it will be interesting to see how the amazing creative staff behind these books handles such an event. Consider me excited!
All in all I think what Dark Horse is hoping with these characters is that Hollywood comes calling with options to turn these properties into movies. Which is, of course, something that had helped Marvel and DC stay relevant throughout the years. For instance, Marvel was in piss-poor shape circa 1996 after some bad internal decisions and all the precious cash they made off of the X-Men and Spider-Man in the early 90's was all but flushed right down the toilet, but they were right back in the drivers seat come the year 2000 after X-Men found success in the box office. Dark Horse isn't in any financial peril whatsoever and if they strike it rich with some big budget flicks (Hellboy and Sin City not withstanding) than they'd possibly have a slight hope to be in position to remove Image from the top 3 in the comics world. But as it stands right now that's a bit of a far cry from reality and I'd be happy if they just continued to publish these comics.

Enjoy!

© B-Sly The Gamer Guy



Monday, March 17, 2014

RETRO REVIEW SERIES: RYGAR for the NES!



 You want to talk about some bullshit? Okay, let's talk about some bullshit. Rygar for the NES is bullshit and it isn't just because the game features jerky graphics and poor gameplay, but mainly because the game gives you a short life bar, hectic difficulty, and no continues. Yeah, you read that correctly. Rygar for the Nintendo Entertainment System gives the player a 3 hit life bar to start (it gets bigger as you go, but no enough to satisfy the needs of the player) but yet throws enemies and challenges at you faster than a cowboy on crack. It isn't even close to fair in that they seem to take joy in watching the player struggle through the levels as they try to progress through the game. The sick part of it all is that there is a lot of backtracking to do and when you go back to areas you've already visited all of the enemies and hurdles that you've tackled come back to haunt you. Yep, it's one of those games, pretty much all NES gamers know exactly what I'm talking about here.
   You know something? I like a good challenge. As long as the challenge is fair and the player has a way to complete it without taking unavoidable damage or without over the top tasks that require dumb luck to complete than sign me up. But if you're going to load the screen with a million enemies that re-spawn faster than steroid injected rabbits reproducing than you can just stop it and take it back to formula because I simply will not tolerate it. It's sad too because Rygar could be a fantastic game if modified just right, I mean, the game has some fun aspects to it and offers some fun levels but it's over the top challenge and frustrating gameplay keep it from being a top challenger in the side scrolling action/adventure genre.

    The game does has some things going for it that don't totally suck, I suppose. Mainly the musical score, which is okay at best, and if you can get past the heroically annoying tune that strangely grows on you while you play than you'll dig the music within the game. The control is pretty tight too which is nice because, well, it's always nice to have a quality control scheme while trucking through level after level of horse crap. But almost instantly you'll soon notice that no matter how good the control on Rygar is that you can't avoid some of the bullshit traps and damage you'll take while progressing through the levels. But yeah, all I can really say good about this game is that the music doesn't totally suck and the control is surprisingly good. Now back to the bullshit.



Rygar is one of those games that I used to see at the video rental stores back in the day when I actively rented games for my NES but yet I never took it upon myself to rent it. I did play it at a friends house momentarily back in maybe 1991 or something but that wasn't enough time to fully decipher whether or not I liked the game, but maybe there was an omen there that barred me from ever asking for it for a birthday or renting it from the store. Heck, even when Funcoland sold NES games back in the day I'd see it for $3 or $4 and still always passed it up in favor of something else. I guess my “Spidey Sense” was tingling inside and warning me to steer clear of this game. Either way, my experience as of late with this game has been less than inviting and aside from having it as a part of my collection I doubt I'll ever truly bother with it again. In fact, I'd rather know what it feels like to get eaten by a bear and then puked back up and crapped on by a sick cheetah. Well.....maybe not, but you get my point.
So, Rygar has decent control and some pretty interesting music, but that could be said for the majority of games in the NES library and I find this game to be much less than average when compared to other similar NES games. With all of the things this game got wrong I would place the early difficulty coupled alongside the no continues bullshit as the one thing that really keep this game from being mediocre at best and place it in the “do not play” pile. It's sad too, because with a few modifications this game could have really been something special within the NES library, but instead it takes it's rightful place in the annals for video game barf-fests. C'est La Vie.

Graphics/Visuals – 5.0
Sound/Music – 6.0
Control/Handling – 6.5
Fun/Enjoyment – 3.0
Overall - 3.5


© B-Sly The Gamer Guy

Monday, March 3, 2014

ANIME REVIEW SERIES: Guin Saga!

 


I've been wanting to sit down and write a review for an anime series for a while now. Anime is a form of entertainment that I’ve loved for so many years and I figured I owed it to myself to really put forth the effort to chronicle the good, the bad, and the ugly of the genre. So what better day than today to write a review? The following review is for a series that really grabbed me from the first episode and carried me on the edge of my seat to the very end. It’s a series that I went into with absolutely no expectations and came out of it knowing that I’ve truly experienced something special. The anime series I speak of is called Guin Saga, and to be quite frank the show was an absolute delight!


    First off let me just put it out there that I love stories such as this. You know, stuff with swords, war, action, armies, medieval settings, long journeys and.....well, you get the idea. This particular setting has a feel to it that would appeal to the Lord of the Ring's fans out there, or fans of mythical creatures and epic battle sequences. If you've ever been into fantasy of any kind then I believe you should be right at home with Guin Saga. The story puts you right in the middle of a mystical world filled with dastardly villains and heroic saviors who find themselves engaged in a perilous battle as the bad guys try to kidnap/kill a pair of white haired twins (Rinda & Remus) and conquer the land. A land in which the twins have become heir to the throne. It may come off as a typical medieval story until you get to know the main character, Guin, who wakes up out of a deep sleep with a leopard mask fused to his head. Guin has absolutely no idea who he is or what he's doing but he knows right from wrong and see’s the children in a vulnerable spot and jumps to their aid. After a quick and bloody battle he takes the two children under his wing and promises to protect them from their potential captors, which puts them on a journey to travel to one of many locations they visit throughout the series to find shelter.
    Instead of finding sanctuary they end up engaging in a series of epic battles along the way and make friends with a tribe of monkey-like creatures while on their journey, who agree to help them in their fight against their rivals. After finding a few more important allies, everyone assembles and takes a stand as they take on what has
evolved into a massive army that was led by a woman who was hellbent on finding and killing the twins. One of the key people Guin befriends along the way, named Istivan, ended up being one of my favorite characters in this entire show. His story and involvement was very interesting and the way he handled his battles and adversaries during the series was really fun to watch. When it was all said and done I could not help thinking that he could have had a 12 episode series all his own.
    The action packed into this series is really quite awesome. It features a ton of amazing fight scenes and epic battles that are really complex and entertaining. What I really appreciated was that this show isn't just another hack and slash anime where people are just fighting for no reason whatsoever, pretty much all of the battles contained within these episodes have a purpose. An example would be that one particular fight in this show has Guin defeating a barbarian to be the ruler of a small band of warriors, he would then enlist their services to help fight in the war to keep the royal twins safe. Another important battle has a guy trying to prove himself in front of the the woman he desires so that he could achieve a higher rank within her army, hoping to win her heart and approval in the end. I’ve always felt that whenever there are  high stakes involved in a battle that it always makes the fight a bit more interesting, and that’s something Guin Saga excelled at during it’s run.



One thing that really made Guin Saga stand out was the remarkable music within the series. Without it's strong music many of the epic scenes would have not had the effect that they did, this is something that could be said about any form of entertainment and I can't stress enough how a solid musical score can set the mood. Everything from the awesome pounding opening theme to the soft sweet ending theme was just perfect. I loved how most of the episodes within the series would end with a cliffhanger that would have one particular theme playing that just pumped you up for the next episode. It played during the final reel of many of the shows episodes and was just spectacular. When the music in an anime is spot on than you know you're in for a treat. Now it's time to turn our attention to the animation side of things, which was fine, but I wouldn't say this was one of the most beautiful anime's I'd ever seen. It certainly wasn't animated badly or anything, but I feel that It did feature the standard run of the mill animation that we see when a series isn't originally backed by a large company. That's something we see quite a bit in this medium but it doesn't always end up being that way and shows like Tears to Tiara are perfect examples. But again, the animation wasn't bad or anything, it just didn't excel, but for what they were trying to do it was perfectly fine. You won't be raving about it when it's all said and done. I'd say it's on par with other major anime productions out there. 
All in all the overall production on Guin Saga was extremely solid and showed no major faults. It's certainly a series that's story driven and very character based and I highly recommend it to people who really love fantasy style storytelling. Along with Tears to Tiara, I'd say that Guin Saga is one of the better fantasy anime tales of the past several years, but I guess the term "fantasy" can be very broad considering almost everything could be considered a tale of fantasy. But I'm guessing you get the picture, here. In a nutshell Guin Saga was phenomenal with everything from the music to the story-line coming off as pure genius. The characters will reach out and grab you without letting you go and you'll eventually start to care about not only the heroes, but the villains too, and that's something that can be rare for some people because most stories tend to fall heavily on the heroic side. My only complaint is that the show is only a 24 episode series and not a long running anime like Naruto or Bleach, but I guess that could be seen as a good thing too due to the amount of filler that tends to plague longer anime's. At the end of the day if your only major complaint is that the anime you're reviewing is shorter than you would have liked than I guess you don't really have much to complain about to begin with, so I guess it's time for some ratings....


Art & Animation – 8.0
Music & Sound Effects – 9.5
Story & Writing – 9.5
Fun & Enjoyment – 9.0
Overall Score – 9.0
© B-Sly The Gamer Guy