Godzilla: King of Monsters

Yesterday we were given another trailer for the upcoming monster mashup of Godzilla: King of The Monsters. It provided more exposition into the plot of the film and some more concrete shots of the kaiju that will be making an appearance in 2019. The first trailer was very cryptic and provided very little in ways of actual monster shots. The most standout piece of the first trailer was Charles Dance’s (of Game of Thrones fame) epic line “Long Live the King”.  This time instead of a very whispered “Let them Fight” from Ken Watanabe we get an equally as hushed “No.. we would be his” in what appears to be a testimony delivered before several senators. I will say this, epic one liners tend to be the bread and butter of this new “monster-verse” that Legendary Pictures has created.

For those who haven’t seen the trailer, check it out right here:

Instead of giving a rundown of the trailer, I’m going to give some slight background to the various Kaiju in the film. Let’s start with the boss himself/herself Godzilla.

GODZILLA

Godzilla 2014 movie poster

Along with the rest of the Kaiju for this film, Godzilla is dubbed a ‘Titan’. These Titans have existed on Earth since primordial times and have been responsible for keeping the planet spinning. As referenced in the first trailer there were several extinction level events that were halted or started (potentially) by these titans. in the first film we are told that the first sightings of Godzilla dated back to WWII specifically the Pacific campaign. We are told that the nuclear tests in the French Polynesian Pacific weren’t tests, and that in fact the government and military were attempting to kill Godzilla before it could cause any damage. In the first film Godzilla is noted to be exactly 100.8 meters tall (330.71 feet for Americans), which apart from the Netflix anime Godzilla, is the tallest one to date. Godzilla possesses the ability to swim and remain submerged for quite a long time. Extremely strong and quick thinking, Godzilla was coined the ‘King of the Monsters’ in several of Toho’s films as well as at the conclusion of the 2014 film Godzilla by Legendary Pictures. Godzilla’s ultimate attack is its Atomic Breath. This attack focuses atomic energy which is stored in Godzilla’s body releasing it in a blueish/white flame that has devastating power. The attack is preceded by the spines and fins on Godzilla’s back lighting up with the same blueish/white glow before the discharge. There’s not much that can be said for Godzilla that most people don’t already know. Having been around since the first film in 1954, Godzilla has become a pop culture icon and known by several generations of people the world over.

RODAN

Rodan concept art for upcoming Godzilla: King of The Monsters

Rodan first appeared in the 1956 film titled Rodan. His first appearance with Godzilla was in the 1964 film Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, in every depiction Rodan resembles an irradiated Pteranodon. His original Japanese name ‘Radon’ is a contraction of Pteranodon and also represents the word radiation. As previously stated, Rodan resembles a large irradiated Pteranodon with a brownish/burgundy body, spiky chest and two or three horns atop the back his head. He has a large wingspan measuring between 150-200m (492.13 – 656.17 feet).  He has been shown to walk upright on his two hind legs. His legs end in powerful talons that are capable of grasping large heavy objects (like Godzilla) and holding onto them in flight. In Godzilla: King of Monsters, Rodan apparently lives in a volcano that goes by the name of Devil’s Nest somewhere in South America. His wings are so powerful that they create a whirlwind and back draft capable of wiping the earth clean in his wake. It is unclear if he will be an ally or enemy to Godzilla but lots of the footage from the first and second trailers shows the military actively trying to shoot Rodan down, with little success. I never watched any of the old films with Rodan but a giant flying dinosaur is okay in my books.

MOTHRA

Mothra mid dive

The third contender in the giant monster battle is none other than Mothra herself. Known also as ‘The Queen of Monsters’, Mothra is a Divine Moth and frequent ally of Godzilla. Typically cast as a heroic figure, Mothra is one of the few Kaiju that openly embraces humanity and tries to protect them. She resembles a colossal Imago Moth and has been known to reproduce offspring. Her wingspan in Lengendary’s Godzilla:King of Monsters is estimated to be roughly 244.75 meters (802.99 feet). Typically in the Toho universe, Mothra has resided on her own island but in Legendary’s universe they have marked her domain as the Yunnan Rainforest in the People’s Republic of China. A small blurb released as part of the marketing campaign for the movie has stated that ‘Mothra possesses the ability to emit beta wave bioluminescence that can be used to illuminate the patterns on her wings or focused in very powerful and blinding destructive ‘God Rays”. We are shown Mothra’s bioluminescence in the trailer as well as her in some sort of dive during a (presumed) climactic point in the film. Like Rodan I never watched any of the classic Mothra movies or even the older Godzilla films. I learned about her through pop culture and her inclusion in this upcoming film.

KING GHIDORAH

Ghidorah as he faces of against Godzilla in 2019’s Godzilla: King of The Monsters

Now, I’m going to be straight with you, a three headed flying dragon that shoots lightning…I would call him king as well. Traditionally Ghidorah was the main antagonist of Godzilla and various other Kaiju throughout history. He has had a couple different origins throughout his film run, most commonly he is an alien that travels the universe killing planets at his leisure; although, he has also been shown to be a fusion of three monsters called Dorats as a result of a future nuclear explosion. In his first appearance (and what appears to be similar to Legendary’s upcoming movie) Ghidorah arrived to earth in a meteor before his rampage across much of Japan.  Mothra attempted to stop him but was savagely beaten by the dragon, Godzilla and Rodan then allied together with Mothra and expelled Ghidorah from the planet. He is a massive creature. In Legendary’s Monster-verse, Ghidorah stands 158.8m (521 feet) tall and has roughly a 100-150m (328.08 – 492.13 feet) wingspan. In the trailers we are shown him frozen in a massive glacier which is where he must have been for the millions of years since the ‘Titans’ last walked the earth. In the film they will call him’Monster Zero’ but apparently they will address that ancient civilizations called him ‘Ghidorah’. It’s clear he is the main villain of the film as the second trailer shows him and Godzilla facing off against one another in a climactic battle sequence. 

PLOT PREDICTION

Based on what I’ve read and found out about the various Kaiju to make an appearance in the film, I think that while the earth will be facing an extinction level event that Ghidorah is going to be unleashed. The rest of the Titans will be attempting to use their powers to fix the extinction event and Ghidorah is going to show up and just muck everything up. Initially Rodan will be an antagonist but once Ghidorah shows up he’ll ally with Godzilla and Mothra to take on the bigger threat. We are shown a brief clip in the trailer that shows several squadrons of fighter jets over Washington airspace. In the clouds you can make out the image of Rodan as well as the massive image of Ghidorah when the lightning strikes illuminating the clouds. Ultimately I don’t really care for a plot or storyline, I just wanna see some giant monster beat downs!

Due out on May 31, 2019, this epic film is going to set the stage for the next film Kong v. Godzilla in 2020!

Godzilla’s Atomic Breath in action
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The Flood – Halo’s Unstoppable Infection

Picture this…

You enlisted in the United Nations Space Command. You wanted to do your part and help to protect humanity against enemies both foreign and domestic. You went through boot camp with hundreds of other aspiring young marines like yourself and formed some good friendships along the way. 

Near the end of your stint in training, it came over the comms, humanity was not alone in the universe. Harvest, one of the outermost colonies Earth had established in the Milky Way, was under attack. Not from insurgents or splinter factions, from an unknown alien enemy calling themselves “The Covenant”. What followed was something you hadn’t in your wildest dreams ever thought would come to pass.

A war spanning nearly 27 years in length against an enemy that was vastly technologically superior and resolute in their beliefs. There was a glimmer of hope, The SPARTAN-IIs. They helped to stem the tide, but there were too few of them to make a real impact. Finally the Covenant found Reach, the Human military stronghold housing nearly the entirety of the UNSC armed forces. They attacked without mercy and with overwhelming force. The ship you were assigned to, The Pillar of Autumn, fled the battle carrying, what was believed to be, the last SPARTAN-II and made a blind jump through hyperspace. When the ship emerged out of hyperspace the Covenant were not far behind, but there was an object positioned in geosynchronous orbit around a gas giant, the Halo ring. Having escaped certain death at Reach and not wanting to die in the cold vacuum of space, your Captain decides to abandon the ship and land on the ring. 

It’s a rich lush world full of plants, running, water and unknown ancient alien tech. 

One day, a comms tech overhears the Covenant talking about a weapon they discovered buried in the ring; something that could wipe them out. Not wanting this weapon to fall into the Covenant’s hands, your captain hand picks a squad to storm the bunker, retrieve the weapon and bring it back. As they storm the bunker they find a mass of dead Covenant and a single locked door. The squad brute forces their way through the door and unknowingly unleashes The Flood on the galaxy.

The Flood sweep across the Halo ring killing everything in their path, Human and Covenant alike. You watch as your friends are lost underneath a swarm of infection forms and slowly begin mutating into flood themselves.  This isn’t what you signed up for… even with the Master Chief, there is no escaping this. 

Your magazine runs dry and you draw your sidearm. There’s only a few of you left, your backs against the wall waiting for Echo 419 to brave the airspace to evac your squad. There is no end to the Flood. For every single one you kill, a hundred more take their place. You watch as your squad are overrun, you fire your pistol until it runs dry as well, you load your last mag and begin counting the shots squeezing off rounds until there’s only one left in the chamber. Your squad’s bodies begin to move and thrash around as they mutate and begin reanimating as part of the Flood’s endless wave. You turn the sidearm and place the end of the barrel against your temple, this isn’t what you signed up for… you never signed up for this nightmare…

Anyone who has played any of the main trilogy of Halo games knows full well who the Flood are and what they can do. But not everyone knows their origin and how they nearly conquered the galaxy long ago during the time of the Forerunners.

HISTORY

Despite what the Halo games have led us to believe, the Forerunners were not the most technologically advanced species in the Milky Way galaxy, The Precursors actually held that title for millions of years. The Precursors actually created the Forerunners and assisted them in their advancement to space faring species. When the Forerunners attempted to take the ‘Mantle’ from the Precursors, the Forerunners were deemed unworthy. This caused a great war between the Precursors and Ancient Forerunners that resulted in the Precursors being expelled from the Milky Way galaxy all together.

‘The Mantle’, or as it is referred to in the games, “The Mantle of Responsibility”, refers to the belief that the most technologically advanced species was charged with the protection of all other life in the galaxy. With the Precursors having been expelled by the Forerunners  from the galaxy, the Forerunners assumed the mantle and set to work, work which lasted thousands of years. 

Outside of the Milky Way, some of the remaining Precursors entered stasis while others decided that dying was a better end. Those that died eventually dissolved into a dust that was stored in cylinders. Ancient space faring Humanity found these cylinders and opened them. The dust entered the humans’ bodies and began to mutate them from the inside out, eventually giving birth to the first Flood forms and proto-Gravemind. Initially the Flood attacked Humanity but the collective memories of the Precursors deemed Humanity worthy of the mantle and thus, the Flood ceased their attacks, instead moving to attack the Forerunners in the Milky Way. Humanity still fleeing the Flood’s advance, entered the Milky Way ahead of them and began attacking the Forerunners in hopes of breaking through and putting more distance between themselves and the Flood. 

Unbeknownst to the Human fleet, a large portion of them had been infected with the Precursor dust. 

Around roughly 98,379 BCE, The Flood arrived in the Milky Way.  Utilizing captured non military vessels, the Flood managed to bypass the Forerunner defense fleets and land on Forerunner worlds. As the infection took hold on the Forerunner planets, the collective intelligence of all biomass the infection assimilated was provided to the Proto-Gravemind.

After over 300 years of war, the Forerunners began to realize that their extinction was a real possibility. While the Forerunners would win every engagement against the Flood, they were unable to halt the spread of the infection. Eventually resorting to detonating the stars of entire systems to stop large infestations.

The Forerunners began saving and cataloging species to make sure the Flood would not destroy them. One such example was ancient humans. The Forerunners took specimens from ancient space faring humans and after some light modifications, seeded the planet we know as Earth with a new wave of humanity. Some specimens were kept and stored alongside various alien species, such as Elites and even some flood samples in their vaults on the Shield Worlds. After the initial contact, the Forerunner-Flood War entered into a stalemate for several hundred years.

During the stalemate, the Forerunners constructed many different AI to assist in the construction of solutions and deployment of their navy to combat the infection. One of the AIs that was created by the Forerunners was known as 05-032 Mendicant Bias. Mendicant was tasked with interrogation of the captured Proto-Gravemind to determine if the Flood could be reasoned with. The Proto-Gravemind identified itself as the last Precursor when it was interrogated by Mendicant, stating that the Flood was the last salvo in the Precursor-Forerunner war and that they would end the Forerunner race. As the interrogations continued, the Proto-Gravemind began to question Mendicant’s masters until it ultimately swayed Mendicant into believing that the time of the Forerunners was over. This came to be known as ‘The Logic Plague’ which affected not just AI but some of the Forerunner race as well. Mendicant allied with the Flood against the Forerunners sparking the beginning of the end of the war.

As the Forerunners scrambled to fight not just the Flood but now their rampant AI as well, a meeting was called to discuss how to proceed. The Diadect advocated for militaristic action against the Flood. To do this, he would need to compose some of the newly settled humans and turn them into his Knights (of Halo 4 & 5 fame); meanwhile, the master builder proposed the construction of more Shield Worlds and the Halo array. The assembly approved of the master builder’s plan and the Diadect was turned down; though, he would attempt to go behind the assembly’s back and make more knights, he was ultimately stopped and imprisoned in the Cryptum you find him in at the beginning of Halo 4.

As the Flood continued through the galaxy, the Forerunners ran out of options and the Librarian was unable to determine a cure for the infection. Ultimately, the Forerunners activated the Halo Array. The array functioned as it was meant to, killing all living beings with a sufficient biomass for infection. This in turn stopped the Flood and killed off all but the samples the Forerunners had kept in vaults on each Halo ring and on the Ark.

The activation of the array destroyed all Precursor and Forerunner tech that was not protected by either a shield world or a Halo ring. The Flood was starved out with the Proto-Gravemind dying as well. Eventually automated Key ships began ferrying the samples the Forerunners had stored in their vaults to new planets so life could once again foster in the Milky Way without the problem of the Flood.

This is where we start the Halo series. Thousands of years have passed and the Flood have laid dormant in their vaults on Halo.

Precursor

BIOLOGY

The Flood is a parasitic species of extragalagtic origin which is very virulent in its natural state, its Latin name is Inferi Redivivus which translates to “The Dead Reincarnated”. It can only be classified as an anomaly as it does not follow any known structure of function or organization. It represents the unstoppable force of nature and cannot be contained by conventional means.  As the infection takes hold, the parasite forces the host biomass through several stages of “evolution” until it achieves a massive biological breakdown in the host. Once this breakdown occurs then the infection can really take hold and work its magic. While the Flood infection is able to reproduce A-sexually without the use of a host, this is normally seen as a last ditch effort and is only really possible for “Pure Flood Forms”. The Flood has survived for as long as it has by the use of Lysogenic Replication. This is a process wherein the viral cells infiltrate and corrupt the healthy cells infecting them with their own genetic code. This allows the viral cells to mutate the healthy cells into new viral cells to infect other healthy cells. This process occurs until all healthy cells have been turned. 

The infection absorbs all biomass indiscriminately with only a very few species proving to be immune from the infection, Hunters and Drones have been shown to be immune to the infection for various reasons. One of the Forerunner’s plans, before the activation of the Halo array, was to utilize the Lekgolo worms that make up hunter colonies to consume the Flood biomass. While it proved effective in isolated cases, it was unable to be deployed on a large scale and the Forerunners were forced abandoned this plan. 

Flood infected Brute

The Flood are able to infect any organism with a biomass that is sufficient to house their infection, though, they do tend to prefer organisms with large brain capacity. This helps to accelerate the formation of the Gravemind to control the infection. Since the Flood’s Gravemind intelligence is only as smart as the organisms consumed by the infection, the more intelligent a species is, the more dangerous the infection can be. Having developed in severe conditions, the Flood infection is very resistant. It can survive on all known habitable worlds, temperatures ranging from 75 – +53 degrees Celsius, and can even survive underwater for a short time. 

As the Flood assume control of an area, they begin to alter their environment to promote further growth and incubation. They will begin attaching themselves to walls to create pods for breeding the infected virus as well an expelling spores into the air. If left alone for a long enough time and with enough raw biomass to work with, the Flood is able to completely turn a location into a Hive which can house a Gravemind or an entire army of forms (as seen with High Charity following Halo 2). The Flood infection tends to thrive in humid & lush environments which is why during the campaign of Halo 2, the “Quarantine Zone” used to contain the Flood infection is desolate, cold and snow covered.

NEUROLOGY/PHYSIOLOGY

Infection Form

The small bulbous squid looking “infection forms” are the Flood’s basic infectious hosts. They move across the ground looking for dead or wounded biomass with a sufficient sentience that they can add to the collective. Possessing several long tendrils they attack and overwhelm the host before using the tendrils to enter the host and find it’s spinal cord. The infection form then syncs it’s own nerve signal to that of the host and kills the host. From there it assumes control of the host and infects its brain wiping all personal memories. Some information such as combat techniques and technical intelligence is kept by the Flood and added to the Gravemind intelligence.  This process is so complete that despite a few small lingering memories, the host is now completely subservient to the Gravemind. It’s only purpose to infect new hosts and protect the Gravemind.  

There is another tactic used by the Flood to obtain specific information from a new host. This is the tactic that was used on Captain Jacob Keyes during the campaign of Halo: Combat Evolved. Rather than brute forcing their way into a hosts mind, they ‘burrow’ and slowly take over their memories and thoughts until they obtain the specific information that’s sought. In Captain Keye’s case, the Flood were looking for a starship to take them away from the Halo ring (Installation 04) or to show them the location of the ‘new and rich feeding ground’ (Earth). While Keyes fought them for as long as he could, eventually he was taken by the infection and the Flood gained the information they were after. 

A Gravemind is able to override the primal/basic instincts of the Flood and coordinate them into an effective force once enough biomass and intelligence has been obtained through infection.  A Gravemind is also able to control the actions of each individual infected host and even use their vocal chords to communicate with other species.

Gravemind concept art

While the neurological infection and assimilation is the same regardless of species, the physiological mutations are species specific. “Higher evolution hosts” such as humans, elites, and forerunners are used as a means of combat and thus their mutations generally result in “combat forms”. These forms retain the basic profile of the host species while still being significantly mutated. Most common mutations are: corrupted organ systems, decayed body cavities, internal organs displaced and decaying outer skin. The nature of these mutations render high powered ammunition, such as sniper rifles, largely ineffective and allows a combat form to remain functional even after being decapitated or maimed. Combat forms also generate large tentacles from their extremities and central core. These tentacles are used as melee weapons and can sometimes contain bony protrusions for added damage. 

COUNTERMEASURES 

As it stands in the Halo universe, there are no known countermeasures to the Flood infection. Once an infection takes hold of a host there is no way to stop the infection from spreading and there is no known method to reverse the effects of an infection. Flamethrowers are effective in destroying the infection before it attaches to a host, but the most effective form of controlling the Flood is isolating the infection and starving it out. 

Certain neurological disorders that affect the neural frequencies of the hosts have proven to render individuals immune to Flood infection. One such disorder is Boren’s Syndrome. This condition which is caused by radiological exposure creates electrical anomalies in the nervous system which the Flood cannot mimic. Sergeant Avery Johnson is the only known individual with Boren’s Syndrome to have come into contact with a flood infection. While he was attacked and was attempted to be assimilated into the Flood, he survived. He does have some Flood DNA in his system but it is unable to mutate him; however, it did gift him with some advanced healing capabilities.

All known Flood forms

There you have it, the unstoppable infection that is the Flood. It’s rather reassuring that this is a fictional virus and not something we’re dealing with right now.  I have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours playing various Halo games and can say that I am terrified of the Flood. It’s something that I hope we would never have to deal with… ever.

Until next time!

Rocksteady’s Arkham Series – The Best Superhero Games Ever Made

It’s been just under three years since Arkham Knight, the final chapter in Rocksteady’s award winning series was released, and it has left me wanting. The series started with the amazing Arkham Asylum for the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360, which centered around Batman trying to re-take Arkham Asylum after Joker had taken control.  The second game Arkham City took place several years after the first one when the city of Gotham had walled off a large section of the waterfront and dubbed it Arkham City; this game also released for the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 but near the end of their run. The final installment came with the releases of the Xbox One and the Playstation 4, Arkham Knight. This final installment centered around Batman as he attempts to foil the plans of Scarecrow who has rallied his enemies together to destroy Gotham and kill Batman once and for all.

Before we dive into why these games are so amazing let’s get a rundown of the plot for each one…

Arkham Series

*This post will contain massive spoilers for the Arkham series of games. Though they have been out for at least three years now, so I don’t feel guilty about the spoilers*

ARKHAM ASYLUM

The game begins with Batman capturing Joker after a very botched attempt at assaulting City Hall. When Batman drops Joker off on Arkham Island, he questions as to why the Joker allowed himself to be captured so easily. With the help of Harley Quinn and some corrupt guards, Joker breaks out of his restraints and begins his rampage through the prison with Batman hot on his tail. Joker calls in bomb threats at various locations across Gotham stating he will blow the bombs if anyone steps foot on the island, forcing Batman to bring the entire island to order by himself. Joker releases various members of Batman’s rogues gallery  including: Bane, Killer Croc, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and Mr. Zsasz before disappearing saying he was preparing his “party”. Batman defeats and captures each of these Rogues as his idea of Joker’s plan remains a mystery. After discovering a secret production facility for a drug called “Titan”, which was developed by a doctor on staff named Penelope Young; Batman discovers that Joker has secretly been funding her research to gain the formula in order to make an army of superpowered henchmen. When Young refused to turn the formula over to Mr. White (the alias Joker was using to fund her research), Joker was forced to return to Arkham to extract the formula from her himself.

Joker eventually obtains batches of the completed Titan formula and kills Dr. Young in the process, forcing Batman to seek help from Poison Ivy to create an antidote. Ivy explains that the spore necessary to counteract the Titan agent is found solely in Killer Croc’s lair deep in the Asylum. After obtaining the spores and defeating Croc, Batman ventures to one of his satellite Bat caves, which is located on Arkham Island, to manufacture an antidote. Ivy attacks with her mutated plants and Batman is forced to fight her, eventually winning and destroying the plants responsible for manufacturing Titan.  Joker announces his party is ready to accept guests and when Batman arrives, he discovers the Joker has captured Jim Gordon and intends to inject him with Titan. Batman jumps in front of Gordon taking the dart filled with Titan and saving Jim. As Batman resists the change, Joker grows angry and overdoses on Titan turning into a giant monster. Batman defeats Joker and brings the asylum to order. In the post credit scene, Scarecrow is seen floating away on a container of Titan into the Gotham harbor.

ARKHAM CITY

This game picks up several years after the conclusion of Arkham Asylum, Bruce Wayne arrives at a press conference in front of the gates of Arkham City to protest its creation. He is ambushed by TYGER guards and the press conference is cut short as he, along with Jack Ryder, are imprisoned in Arkham City. Hugo Strange, the Warden of Arkham City, explains to Bruce that he knows he is Batman but will keep the information to himself for the time being. Bruce defeats the Penguin and some thugs before climbing to the top of the ACE Chemicals building and retrieving his Batsuit which was air dropped via the Batwing. As he dons the Batsuit, Strange comes over the PA system in Arkham City and says “Protocol 10 will commence in 10 hours”.

Bruce deduces that if anyone knows what’s going on in Arkham City it would be Catwoman, but he overheard some TYGER guards saying she has been captured by Two-Face. He saves Catwoman from the clutches of Two Face and then stops Joker from killing her with mechanical sniper rifle apparatus. He tracks Joker to the Sionis Steel Mill and infiltrates the mill to find him. In his pursuit of the Joker he saves several doctors that tell him the Joker is unwell and was forcing them to try and save his life. Batman discovers the Joker’s lair and is knocked unconscious by Harley Quinn. He wakes up to find Joker transfusing some of his blood into Batman afflicting him with the same degenerative disease Joker has. Joker is suffering from massive cellular degradation as a result of the Titan serum he took on the island to kill Batman. He also tells Batman that he has been shipping his blood to hospitals in the area for weeks infecting as many people as possible in hopes that this would force Batman to find a cure. Batman questions him asking if this is “Protocol 10” to which Joker replies that he has no idea what Batman is talking about.

Arkham-Games

As he exits the Mill, Batman seeks out Mr. Freeze who has been imprisoned in Arkham City as well. He tracks Freeze to the old GCPD building where Freeze has set up his own lab. As he infiltrates the building it has become apparent that Penguin has kidnapped Freeze for his own entertainment. Batman arrives at the old museum which Penguin is using as his hideout and discovers Freeze and his suit, but Freeze’s gun is missing. As Batman sets out to find Freeze’s gun, Freeze himself returns to his lab to begin work on a cure. Batman confronts Penguin who is using Freeze’s gun and defeats him but in his anger Penguin detonates the floor of his lounge causing Batman to fall into a chamber that houses Solomon Grundy. Batman defeats Grundy and returns Freeze’s tech to him at the old GCPD. Freeze tells Batman that he has managed to create a cure but due to its instability it is rendered useless. Batman hypothesizes that Ra’s Al Ghul’s restorative properties in his blood would render the cure stable and sets off to find him by tracking one of his operatives. He does battle with both Ra’s and his daughter Talia before obtaining the blood sample he needs to complete the cure. As Freeze finalizes the cure he battles Batman to find the location of his wife, believing Batman to know where she is. After Batman defeats him, they open the safe to find that Harley Quinn has stolen the cure. Batman returns to the Mill and finds a Joker that has been fully restored who tries to kill him.

As they fight, Strange activates Protocol 10 which is revealed to be the eradication of Arkham City to destroy the criminal element of Gotham. Talia arrives and offers Joker the use of the Lazarus pit in order to save Batman’s life, Joker accepts and leaves Batman in the wreckage of the steel mill. Batman wants to pursue Talia to save her from her eventual betrayal by the Joker, but Alfred and Oracle refuse, stating that Batman is needed to save the people of Arkham City. Batman scales Wonder Tower (the tower at the center of Arkham City that doubles as Strange’s headquarters) and confronts Strange. When Ra’s Al Ghul reveals himself to be the mastermind behind Arkham City, he kills Strange for his failure. Ra’s and Batman battle once again, with Ra’s being beaten again. To avoid the dishonour of being captured alive, Ra’s commits suicide and Batman is contacted by Joker to come alone to Monarch theater or he will kill Talia. When Batman arrives Talia confesses she stole the cure from Harley and stabs Joker through the chest. She is then shot by another Joker still dying from the disease. The impaled Joker is revealed to be Clayface who tries to kill Batman before being defeated using Freeze-tech. Batman drinks some of the cure leaving enough for someone else and destroys the Lazarus pit located beneath the theater before Joker is able to use it. Joker stabs Batman in the side causing Batman to drop the vial of cure, which smashes on the ground. As Joker slowly succumbs to the disease Batman admits that despite everything Joker has done and everyone he has killed and injured, he still would’ve saved him. Joker dies laughing at a joke that only he understands, leaving Batman alone in the destroyed theater. Batman carries Joker’s body out of Arkham City and places it on the hood of a police cruiser before disappearing into the night without a word.

ARKHAM ORIGINS

While not produced by Rocksteady, Arkham Origins is still part of the Arkham story line taking place 5 years before the events of Arkham Asylum. It centers around Black Mask putting out a hit on Batman on Christmas Eve for 50 million dollars. This attracts several well known Rogues to Gotham in order to collect the bounty, the Rogues include: Deathstroke, Deadshot, Bane, Copperhead, Killer Croc, Firefly, Electrocutioner, and Lady Shiva. Throughout the night Batman confronts and defeats several of the Rogues until eventually it’s revealed that Joker was the mastermind behind the entire thing. Bane learns Batman’s secret identity and nearly kills Alfred by assaulting and wrecking the Batcave. This also marks the point in Batman’s career where he realized he was unable to do the work by himself. Though initially against him, Captain Gordon eventually comes around and helps Batman when Joker takes control of Blackgate prison. Batman and the police work together to bring the prison back to order with Batman being forced to stop Bane’s heart and then restart it again to save the Joker. Bane suffers amnesia after his near death experience securing Batman’s secret identity and infuriating Joker. Batman apprehends Joker rather than killing him and leaves him to be found by the Gotham Police Force and Captain Gordon. This marks the beginning of the professional relationship between Gordon and Batman as well as the rivalry between Joker and Batman. Gordon is promoted to Commissioner for his part in securing the prison, but he keeps Batman’s involvement a secret. During the credits there’s a radio interview with Gotham mayor, Quincy Sharp, where he states he intends to re-open Arkham Asylum to help with some of the more dangerous criminals.

Arkham Origins

ARKHAM KNIGHT

The third (technically fourth) and final entry in Rocksteady’s award winning series is Arkham Knight. The Halloween following the events in Arkham City, the Scarecrow enacts his plan to destroy Gotham City and kill the Bat for good. He has developed a new fear toxin that he tests on a diner full of innocent people and broadcasts it all over Gotham. He allows the people of Gotham 12 hours to evacuate the city before he will disperse the toxin. With the city deserted except for Batman and his allies along with a few remaining Police Officers, the criminals of the city run rampant. Batman tracks Scarecrow to Chinatown and finds an imprisoned Poison Ivy who refused to go along with Scarecrow and the other Rogues’ plot for Gotham. Batman frees Ivy who says that she will be taken in willingly to protect her from Scarecrow.After taking Ivy to the GCPD, Batman meets Oracle at the clock tower where, with her help, he pinpoints the location of Scarecrow’s toxin production facility as Ace Chemicals. When Batman assaults the plant he is confronted by the Arkham Knight and his well armed militia. Scarecrow converted Ace Chemicals into a toxin bomb, with a potential blast radius of the entire Eastern seaboard of the United States, and told Batman that he had captured Oracle from the Clock Tower before fleeing from the facility with the help of the Knight. Batman renders the bomb useless but not before being exposed to a large dose of the fear toxin. Due to the remaining Joker infused blood in his system and the massive dose of toxin, Batman begins hallucinating the Joker throughout the City and interacting with him. As explained before, during the events of Arkham City, Batman is infected by Joker’s poisoned blood. Along with Batman, who has hidden his infection form the others, 4 other patients were poisoned with the blood before all of the infected blood had been accounted for. The infected patients are slowly mutating and turning into the Joker with the eventual endgame being multiple Jokers running around Gotham.  It’s later shown that Robin has all the other victims in a containment ward underneath Panasa Studios where he’s working on a cure.

Arkham KNight

As Batman escapes the destroyed plant he speaks to Commissioner letting Gordon know that Oracle had been kidnapped by Scarecrow. Gordon is angered that Barbara stayed in Gotham to help Batman, and goes off on his own to hunt down Scarecrow. Batman discovers that Scarecrow had manipulated Simon Stagg, a wealthy businessman, to force him to create and deploy the Cloudburst. The Cloudburst, allowed for the Fear Toxin to be massively dispersed into the air which would coat the entire planet in a matter of weeks. Stagg owns and operates his company out of two docked Airships tethered in the Financial District of Gotham City. As Batman assaults these airships he is forced to battle the Knight’s private militia which have taken control of the tethered stations. Eventually Batman once again confronts Scarecrow only to be once again dosed with a massive amount of Fear Toxin. This new dose allows the Joker to temporarily assume control of Batman’s mind and body. As Batman fights to regain control of his body, the Arkham Knight and Scarecrow steal the Cloudburst right out from under his nose. Once he recovers, Batman tracks Scarecrow to his hideout in Chinatown and arrives to find Oracle trapped in a hermetically sealed chamber. Before he can rescue her the chamber is filled with fear toxin and Oracle seemingly commits suicide out of fear.

Harley Quinn seizes control of the Panasa Studios cave, and releases the Jokerized patients into the studio in an attempt to free them. Batman and Robin must work together along with one of the remaining patients Henry Adams, who assists them from the containment ward. As Batman and Robin capture all the patients and Quinn herself, they return to the ward to find that Henry has killed all the other patients. Henry then kills himself stating that Batman will become the perfect Joker. As Robin turns to see Batman’s eyes glowing green, he attempts to subdue and imprison Batman in one of the research chambers in the ward. Batman easily counters Robin and imprisons him in the ward stating that he will not stop until the Scarecrow has been apprehended.  Elsewhere in Gotham, the Knight activates the Cloudburst and blankets the entire City of Gotham in Fear Toxin. Batman manages to destroy the Cloudburst and convinces the captured Ivy to utilize a giant tree hidden beneath Gotham to filter out the Toxin from the air to save the City. Ivy manages to save the City, but the strain of the effort causes her death. Batman manages to track the Knight to a construction site in the Financial District where the Knight has taken the captured Commissioner Gordon. Batman arrives to rescue Gordon and confronts the Knight who reveals himself to be Jason Todd. Jason Todd was the second Robin who was seemingly murdered by the Joker many years ago in an attempt to break the Bat. It’s later revealed that the Joker didn’t murder Todd right away, but actually tortured him for months effectively shattering Todd’s psyche and deeply traumatizing him. Todd, blaming Batman for his torture and subsequent near death experience, allied with Scarecrow in an effort to make Bruce feel the pain and helplessness he felt at the hands of the Joker all those years ago. As Batman attempts to reason with Todd and even offer to help him recover from what happened to him Todd refuses and escapes. Batman frees the Commissioner and the both of them head up to the roof to confront Scarecrow. Scarecrow is revealed to have Oracle alive and well, her previous suicide being a hallucination produced by the Fear toxin and Joker control, which allows Batman and the Commissioner the ability to save her. As Batman saves Oracle, Scarecrow captures Commissioner Gordon and escapes. Batman and Oracle return to the GCPD which is then assaulted by the militia forces of the Arkham Knight. Batman fends off the attack on the GCPD but in the fray, Scarecrow uses the distraction to overwhelm and kidnap Robin as well.

Arkham City Combat

Scarecrow offers to release Gordon and Robin unharmed if Batman surrenders to him without a fight. Believing that his surrender is the only way to ensure everyone’s safety, Batman surrenders. He is knocked out and taken to the ruins of Arkham Asylum, where it all began, and is strapped to a table before having his identity revealed on live television. Scarecrow then injects Batman with another massive dose of Fear Toxin which allows the Joker to fight for control over Batman’s mind and body. As the two battle inside Batman’s mind, Joker recounts all the horrible things he did in an effort to knock Batman off balance allowing the Joker to take control. Bruce not only resists, but manages to find the one thing Joker is afraid of most in the world, being forgotten. He battles the Joker in his mind, eventually winning and locking him away in his deep psyche to be forgotten for the rest of time. As Scarecrow watches Bruce fight through the Toxin he grows enraged that Batman keeps finding a way to win and attempts to inject him again. Jason Todd, now going by his alias of Red Hood, arrives at the broken down asylum and frees Batman who then injects Scarecrow with his own Fear Toxin.

Batman then finishes cleaning up the City and ensuring it’s safe for the citizens to return. Once he has cleaned up the City and captured all his Rogues, he activates the “Knightfall Protocol”. As he arrives back at Wayne Manor, the paparazzi are all around the property and shouting questions at him from beyond the fence line. Batman walks inside the manor and as the door shuts, the house explodes and is engulfed in flames, presumably killing Bruce and Alfred. In the epilogue, James Gordon, now Mayor of Gotham, is rushing over to the church so he can attend the wedding of his daughter, Barbara/Oracle to Robin/Tim Drake. Elsewhere in the City a young couple and their son cut through a back alley to avoid the rain and are accosted by some muggers. Before the muggers can get away with any goods, they’re assaulted by a silhouette that resembles a nightmarish Batman.

WHAT MAKES THEM AMAZING

I will be the first to say, most superhero games are shit. Seriously, just garbage. Every now and then you will get some good nuggets like Marvel Ultimate Alliance or Spider-Man: Web of Shadows; but for the most part, they tend to be lackluster. The main problem with superhero games is that they always tend to be tied to some other  film or television property which severely inhibits the stories that can be told. The tie in games for various movies work well enough to bolster sales and ride the coat tail of the movie’s success, but they lack all substance themselves. Rocksteady changed that formula.

The big change that Rocksteady had was they brought in renowned comic book writer Paul Dini to craft a 100% original tale that would take place in their universe. Drawing heavy inspiration from several of his other works, Dini delivered a dark and gritty story that focused on the Batman himself and how close he is to teetering on the edge. It wasn’t until the final game Arkham Knight, that we really got to see what a Batman looks like as he slowly loses control of everything around him. There are several quotes from DC Comics that detail Bruce Wayne/Batman’s obsessive need to control everything he can. Dini took this obsessive trait and showed us exactly what it would look like to watch a man who the rest of the world thinks has all the answers, struggle to maintain his grip on a reality that is slowly slipping through his grasp. It was a stark contrast to the invincible superhero most people know. He doubts himself, he makes mistakes, he questions his crusade, and he even loses in the end; all these things happen over the span of three games and really show just how human Batman really is.

Arkham Counter

The story isn’t the only part of the series that really drove it home for most fans, it was the gameplay. You can make a game with an amazing story, that really captures everything you need it to, but if the gameplay can’t hold up to the demands the story needs, you’ll end up with a product that doesn’t sell. Rocksteady wanted to focus on the aspects of Batman’s character that make him so terrifying like his combat skills, detective work, and stealth. They derived to show the game from Batman’s point of view while still making the NPC’s react to your actions and not feel like you were some all powerful invincible being.  Entering a room with 10 enemies is a challenge because, as I said before, they react to your actions. Take one out and let another see you? They’ll group together and operate as a team making it harder to catch them off guard. They will also work to remove your advantages like destroying vents with grenades or destroying gargoyles making you stay on the ground. This coupled with the amazing combat mechanic gave us a series which delivered two games noted as Game of the Year. The combat mechanic utilizes counter attacks along with gadgets to string together combos that allow for easier taking down of enemies. As the difficulties increase for the story the combat becomes harder and you lose the visible notifier to hit the counter button. One of the best aspects to the games though, is the Detective vision. This is a vision mode which you can toggle at any point which highlights enemies and interactive objects in the environment. It adds a whole new level to planning out your moves to remove a group of enemies from a room or trying to figure your way out of some tough spots. It also is used during the moments of the game where to progress the story you must use your detective skills to follow the evidence and draw conclusions.

 

Rocksteady’s Arkham series delivered a full and immersive story that has really only been seen from AAA game studios. They brought us a full cohesive narrative with accompanying gameplay that helped to restore faith in the superhero game genre. Batman has been one of the easiest heroes to make games for based on his style and skills. There have been many attempts to make a great Batman game but none of them have been able to compare to Rocksteady’s series. I personally loved the entire series and own all the games on both the Xbox 360 and the redux versions for the Xbox One. I have logged more hours into this series than I have probably logged into Skyrim which puts into perspective the replayability of the series. There have been rumours that Rocksteady has been working on another superhero game but so far it has been kept under a tight lock as to who it will feature, but the most popular theory is either Superman or Green Arrow. There was also another rumour that a further game would be added to the Arkham series taking place before Arkham City but after Arkham Asylum. It was to feature the dynamic duo with Robin being a 100% playable character. Nothing much has been said on this front and the rumour mill has recently dies down on anything remotely related to this “new Arkham Game”. I know that while I don’t think this series needs another installment, if they did release another game, I would FOR SURE be one of the first people to pick it up. I would highly recommend that anyone who enjoys adventure games with a great story checkout this series; you don’t even have to be a Batman fan to like the game, Rocksteady does a great job of explaining everything so that even someone who has no knowledge of Batman or his history can follow the story. That being said, they do jam pack the game full of Easter eggs and little nods so that even a seasoned fan of the Bat, like myself, still finds awesome little nods to several other characters throughout the series. I would give this game series a rating of 9.0/10 for all the reasons listed above and for the amount of fun you will have while playing, as I said before, I highly recommend this series!

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Deadpool 2 – The Merc With the Mouth on a Bigger Budget *SPOILER FREE*

Just yesterday I went and saw the highly anticipated Deadpool 2 in theaters, it was awesome! While not as good as the first one (sequels rarely are) it definitely captured the magic of the original and put its own twist on things to make it it’s own. The marketing team for this movie should be given awards themselves. For months the marketing has been amped up to 11 and taken no prisoners. A genius TV spot with David Beckham, a brilliant original single by the Canadian great Celine Dion, and a hilarious ad featuring Manchester United in a soccer match are just some of the brilliant ideas to come out of their marketing department. Originally I was going to do a post about Infinity War, but I felt that it would get lost among the many many theories circulating the internet as to what will happen in Avengers IV (Disassembled), so I opted for one of my favourite comic characters’ second film instead.

THE STORY SO FAR

Wade and Vanessa have reconciled their differences and Wade has been taking some freelance assassination work around the world. Colossus is still trying to get Wade to consider joining the X-Men full time to learn to be the hero he thinks he is.  Dopinder is still driving his cab but he feels he wants to do more with his life than just drive DP around to his assassinations.

Wade and Vanessa

PLOT

So it’s no secret that this movie revolves around the formation of the X-Force, though it may not be the team you think it is. Wade takes it upon himself to protect a young mutant named Russell from the time travelling supersoldier/mutant Cable who thinks that Russell turns evil. Wade forms the X-Force from LinkedIn auditions to save the kid and stop Cable in the process.  Blind Al, Dopinder, and Weasel make some great returns with notable new faces of Domino and Cable. Josh Brolin (of current Thanos fame) nails the gruff, angry, and vengeful Cable but also brings in a certain humanity as to why he is doing what he does.

The standout star for me in this film is a tough call. Between Ryan Reynolds BEING Deadpool/ Wade Wilson and Josh Brolin nailing his interpretation of Cable… Zazie Beets still takes the cake with her interpretation of Domino. While she doesn’t look 100% comic accurate, due to Zazie’s ethnicity, she definitely delivers a stellar performance as the luck based mercenary. Zazie delivers some of the best lines in the film and really steals the show every scene she’s in.

I don’t want to say anymore about the plot for fear of revealing something so let’s move onto the costumes.

COSTUMES

The costumes in this movie are perfect for each character. While Wade sports his typical red suit and Colossus and Negasonic sport their regular X-Men outfits, Cable and Domino’s costumes look like they were taken right out of the comic book.

Being part human/mutant and part cybernetic virus infected supersoldier, Cable’s costume looks pretty awesome. I was pleased that they streamlined Cable’s complicated origin story to just making him  a sort of dangerous mutant hunter from the future and getting rid of the whole techno virus angle. In comic continuity he is the son of Cyclops (Scott Summers) and Madelyn Prior ( Jean Grey clone) who gets infected with a technovirus made by Apocalypse and is taken to the future where the technology could save him. As I said, it gets unnecessary complicated and I was happy that they got rid of this angle. That being said Cable’s costume definitely reflects this origin without directly stating it. His metal arm and cybernetic eye both dictate that he is from the future and has had some sort of body modifications done, whether voluntary or not. My favourite part of Cable’s entire ensemble though has to be his gun. He takes some state of the art tech and incorporates some awesome future tech into it to make a rifle that can fire bullets, lasers, concussive blasts, and grenades. When you see the gun you’ll know what I mean and probably want one yourself.

Cable

I will admit that I’m not that well versed in Domino’s comic history. Most of what I know I gleaned from her appearing in other works or from Variant Comics’ Youtube channel. That being said, while I might not know who she is I do know what she looks like and I can honestly say the costume department for this movie nailed it. While Domino’s trade mark outfit is skin tight leather with tactical gear attached, they definitely leaned more into the tactical aspect than the skin tight leather. Zazie Beets sports a very modern tactical looking ensemble while still maintaining one of Domino’s trademark properties, her silenced SMGs. Domino is known for using dual silenced SMGs with bayonets attached to them, which the prop and costume department perfectly replicated. Another trademark of Domino is of course the white patch around her left eye. Like I said I’m not 100% sure what this is from (historically speaking) but it is definitely an important aspect for her character.

Domino

CHARACTERS

The character list for this movie can be quite extensive, so I will highlight the most important characters and who plays them.

  • Wade Wilson/ Deadpool – Ryan Reynolds
  • Vanessa – Morena Baccarin
  • Cable – Josh Brolin
  • Domino – Zazie Beetz
  • Russell Collins/ Firefist – Julian Dennison
  • Weasel – T.J. Miller

Terry Crews, Bill Skarsgard, Lewis Tan, and Rob Delaney are all part of Deadpool’s X-Force team with a surprise cameo by Brad Pitt.

X-Force

As I previously said Josh Brolin and Zazie Beetz were the standout stars in this movie for me. They perfectly captured the essence of their characters while still putting their own spin on them.

ACTION

This movie’s budget was doubled from the last movie and it’s very apparent in the opening scenes of the film. The choreography for the fight sequences were top notch and properly incorporated Deadpool’s improvisational fighting style into the choreography. While most movies will just focus on one type of choreography, this film very much made use of the environment and the tools therein to make some truly memorable fight sequences.

Again, there is a huge fight at the end that is truly spectacular, but I won’t say anything for fear of navigating too close to spoiler territory. Just know it involves Colossus in all his glory.

VILLAIN

So the marketing of the film has made Cable out to be the villain for the film and while that’s partially correct, it’s not entirely correct. While he is definitely the antagonist, I would hesitate to call him an actual villain. His motivations are pretty pure and most people would do the same thing he does if they were placed in his shoes. He slides back in time to stop a mutant from becoming evil and killing a lot of people. While he slides back far enough that the particular mutant is just a kid, his mission is not changed. This creates a very interesting dynamic between him and Wade. While Wade has no problems killing men and women he firmly draws a line at killing kids. Which is a huge point in an X-Force run that I’ve mentioned in previous posts. Just because someone is evil in the future doesn’t mean you can’t help them now as a kid to keep them from going evil. It really helps to establish Wade’s humanity as a person underneath all the sarcasm and dark humour. He does have a code, which is rare for someone in his line of work, but it is a code he sticks to.

Deadpool 2 title

All in all I think the movie was a really fun adventure into Deadpool’s story. I will be the first to admit that I think the first one is a better film, just for its sake of originality, but this was a solid follow up. It made it’s own path while still paying homage to the original one before it. I will say that I felt they added too many modern box office references for my liking. A few are hilarious, but about mid way through the movie they just feel forced. I would’ve like some more organic chemistry between the cast members because of how well they worked with each other.

Overall, I would rate this movie to be a solid 7.8/10. Like I said, it’s a solid film and a lot of fun to watch even with all their modern references and 4th wall breaking. If you were a fan of the first one I would highly recommend that you go see this one!

Wade

This spoiler free review was made with Barb Cottle in mind. May I never spoil anything for her ever again after the X-Men III: The Last Stand fiasco…

The New 52 – A Bad Footnote in DC Comics History

Many of those that are familiar with DC Comics know that their New 52 printing didn’t bode so well with fans for a myriad of reasons. While I had always been a fan of comics, I personally got into collecting them with the New 52 launch and amassed quite the collection before the Rebirth initiative. The New 52 began on August 31, 2011 and lasted until May 25, 2016 when DC Comics revamped their comic universe with the release of the Rebirth printing. Before we dive into specifics as to why the New 52 didn’t work for a lot of people, let’s look at how it came to be and what it did right.

HOW THE NEW 52 CAME TO PASS

So the New 52 was created in the wake of the Flashpoint Paradox and Infinite Crisis which served as the resets for the DC Comics Universe.

In Infinite Crisis (without getting bogged down in unnecessary details), Earth -3 Lex Luthor and Superboy Prime tried to recreate their respective universes, that had been destroyed, by smashing other universes together (just go with it). Every time that it didn’t work, the newly created universe was destroyed. It took the combined might of all the heroes of the Earth and the Green Lantern Corps to finally win; but by that time, the entire DC multiverse had been reduced to just 52 universes.

In The Flashpoint Paradox, Barry stopped an attack by the Rogues on the Flash Museum, only to be taunted by Reverse Flash that no matter how fast he was, he could never save the one person who mattered. Despite the counsel and warnings of the other heroes about what could happen, Barry ran back in time and saved his mother from getting murdered, which off set the timeline. Things get crazy: the Atlanteans and Amazons go to war, Bruce gets killed in Crime Alley causing his father to become Batman and his mother to become the Joker, Superman lands in Metropolis and is taken to a secret underground bunker, and Barry never gets his speedforce powers. Eventually the heroes figure out what went wrong and during the battle for the planet between Atlantis and the Amazons, they try to set things right. Barry eventually makes it back and rights the timeline which sets us to the beginning of the New 52.

WHAT IT DID RIGHT

When the New 52 was originally announced it was supposed to be the big push DC Comics needed to revitalize their stagnant sales. While the first few issues of each book were very well done, some of them were quite exemplary, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run on Batman is the best example. While the rest of the New 52 printing saw some measured success, Batman sales sky rocketed. The Justice League titles began with a great re-introduction to the classic team with Cyborg being a founding member. Geoff Johns, the Creative Director of DC Comics, personally had a hand in crafting the excellent Justice League run as well as notable input on several other works being produced under the New 52 banner.

The thing that really struck me as something that was done well was the age of the heroes. The New 52 started with their numbering back at issue 1, which gave DC the opportunity to rejuvenate the heroes and make them younger. When the stories all begin, we are shown much younger and uncertain versions of our heroes as they navigate their universe. Probably one of the best things, is that when Justice League begins, none of them know who each other are. There is quite a few memorable panels from the first few issues of Justice League where the heroes are learning who each other are and coming together to work as the team the world needs.

Batman meets GL

It also helped to establish these heroes as inexperienced and without the prejudices they have been given after their decades long runs in previous printings. It brought a naivety to the heroes that hasn’t been seen in some time. It also helped to show some important interactions from a different light. It allowed for a romance to blossom between Superman and Wonder Woman which provided an interesting dynamic to later issues of Justice League when the shit hit the fan. One of the best things that it did right (in my opinion) was Forever Evil.

Forever Evil is the title given to an event that took place after Justice League issue #23 following the conclusion of the Trinity War. Pandora’s box, which was being fought over in the Trinity War, was revealed to actually be a boom tube device that opened a portal to the Earth-3 (evil Justice League Universe) which allowed the Crime Syndicate through. When the Crime Syndicate defeats the Justice League, the fate of the world falls on Lex Luthor and some other villains to stop the Crime Syndicate and save the Justice League.  This event was for me one of the best parts of the entire New 52 as it showed that some of the villains are not quite as evil as once thought. The standout characters are obviously Lex Luthor, Captain Cold, and Black Adam; with Sinestro providing some great input as well.

Forever Evil

Endgame, Death of the Family Court of Owls. Nothing else needs to be said except that those are some of THE BEST Batman stories to come out in the past 20 years. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo took, arguably DC Comics most popular character, and gave him  a run worthy of his reputation. It has everything superheroic you’re looking for as well as some great moments that firmly anchor the Dark Knight as a flawed human.

WHAT IT DID WRONG

It’s no secret that the New 52 was a miss for a lot of fans. Due to some terrible re-designs and some massive changes to characters traits some of the properties didn’t fare so well under the new publishing. Lobo was a big sore spot for a lot of people. Gone was the massive muscular bounty hunter we had known for years and in was a scrawny emo looking character that looked like he could be blown over by a medium sized wind. Here’s what I mean…

Lobo

The second thing that it did wrong was the creation of 2 different Justice Leagues, the original Justice League and the Justice League of America. The main League consisted of the core members (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman & Cyborg); however the Justice League of America was created by Amanda Waller and Steve Trevor to counteract the Justice League should they ever “go rogue”. Each member of the JLA was chosen specifically to counteract a member of the main league’s power set.  This unnecessary addition of a second league was meant only to create conflict with the main League and set up the Trinity War event. While I did enjoy the Trinity War, the entire thing could’ve been streamlined by adding the JLA members to the League itself, and having the split come that way. The explanation that is given in the run as to why the League has closed off membership is because apparently as Batman put it ” We tried that once.. it ended very badly”.

martian-manhunter-vs-the-justice-league

As I said, this unnecessary division of the League and the formation of the JLA was an interesting take but ultimately it fell in on itself and was nowhere near as successful with readers as originally thought.

3 Jokers. Yes, 3. This revelation came from the Darkseid War Part II when Batman sat on the Mobius Chair and became the God of Knowledge (yes, the literal embodiment of knowledge in the DC universe). He wanted to test the chair to see how effective it was and asked it who killed his parents, when he got the right answer he then asked it what is the Joker’s real name. We later find out that the chair told him there are three different Jokers. This revelation comes shortly after Endgame where we are led to believe that the Joker is one of the immortal beings on the planet. While some fans (like myself) thought it was a cool spin and added some answers to the Joker’s varying abilities over the years; there were plenty, who thought this took away from the essence of the character. The Joker isn’t supposed to have a backstory or a name, he’s just supposed to be the eventual ying to Batman’s Yang. As the heroes rise to prominence there will always be someone to challenge them at every fiber of their being, this is what the Joker represents. Making him into three different people takes away from his overall characterization and his accomplishments in the comics.

God of KNowledge

3 Jokers

While some collector’s didn’t mind, one of the big issues with the New 52 was the restarting of the numbering for each individual issue. While I didn’t find this an issue (as someone who just got into comics at that time) long time collectors did find it to be irksome.

THE FUTURE OF DC COMICS

It’s not secret that DC Comics is crushing Marvel in sales; however, NOBODY can compete with the gargantuan franchise that is the MCU. DC Entertainment has gone through a major revamp since the critical failure of Justice League and is doubling down on creative efforts to maintain the DCEU continuity as a whole. That being said, the future of DC Comics is easy to see as it’s been in publication for quite some time now, RebirthRebirth was the complete re-vamp of all DC Comic runs to coincide with the original numbering. reverting back to their pre-Flashpoint characterizations and numberings allowed Action Comics to finally reach it’s 1000th issue just a few months ago. It also served to put the original classic characters back in the driver’s seat for some heroes while keeping some of the fan favourites of recent years, Jaime Reyes as Blue Beetle, and Wally West as Flash are prime examples.

While Rebirth was a soft reboot of the comic continuity there were several aspects of the New 52 that remained, such as Jaime Reyes as Blue Beetle and the Court of Owls in Gotham City.

Most of the Rebirth stories thus far have proven to be quite good, some (like with the New 52) have really knocked it out of the park, Tom King’s run with Batman, James Tynion IV’s run with Detective Comics, and Ben Percy’s run with Green Arrow are some of my favourites. Rebirth has firmly locked DC Comics in as the top seller from the major companies, even prompting Marvel to release their Legacy imprint, which functioned much the same was as Rebirth did for DC.

Legacy

As for right now, DC doesn’t seem to have much to worry about with their comic sales and have begun to actually incorporate the New 52 into their Rebirth arc. The event titled Doomsday Clock brings the Watchmen into the main DC continuity and postulates that the entirety of the New 52 was created and overseen by Dr. Manhattan himself. I’m waiting for the run to finish so that I can read it myself, but with Geoff Johns headlining the event, I have faith that it will be as amazing as his Justice League run in what has been coined by some as “DC’s Bad Footnote”.

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Ready Player One – A Commentary On The Path of Modern Gaming

This past weekend along with the purchase of my Infinity War tickets, I bought tickets for a Friday night showing of Ready Player One. I had seen trailers of the movie for several months and just the premise of the film (the adventure of finding the coveted Easter Eggs) put it on my ‘to see list’. Prior to heading to the theater I checked the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes (just like everyone) and was pleased to see the 74% critic rating and the 80% audience rating. I briefly perused some of the negative critic reviews listed and noted they all said the same thing, “It’s a CGI slugfest with no plot”. What? You don’t go to a movie like Ready Player One expecting the intricacy of Inception or the character development of the Godfather series, you go to see CG characters duking it out in a video game style death match! I didn’t let these few negative reviews, that likened it to the recent Pacific Rim: Uprising for it gratuitous CGI usage and minimal plot, discolour my anticipation for the movie. I can honestly say, that while there are obvious plot holes and plot armour for some parts, it is a fun and exciting movie to kick back and watch with some popcorn.

One thing I did notice as I was watching it was that, as a gamer myself, the world of the Oasis is becoming an ever increasing possibility. Let me explain…

SOCIAL SPACES

It’s no secret that the majority of Ready Player One takes place in a virtual game called The Oasis. This game is the main setting for all of the events that really move the plot forward. It’s explained as a massive social space with various worlds that each tailor to different experiences. As they explain in the movie, the PvP area (Player vs. Player arena) is called Planet Doom, while there is a casino world, a racing world, a virtual vacation world and even a world where you can climb Mount Everest with Batman. This concept of social paces is nothing new to gaming. If you look at any online multiplayer game they all have a social space where you can interact with other players before venturing into the game world. Destiny has the Tower, Call of Duty WWII has the camp, and The Division has the HQ. Each of these spaces allow you to interact with other players by inviting them to join a party or challenging them to 1v1 matches.  In addition to social spaces, each game with an online multiplayer component also has a lobby that allows you to speak to other players either on your team for that match, or against you for that match.

Destiny Tower

In Ready Player One, the entire Oasis is in itself a social space. While there are certain areas where you can kill other players freely, like Planet Doom, the nightclubs and cities tend to be safer. Social gaming is the next step in the online gaming path, gone are the days of having 4 friends crowding around one screen while playing Halo or Goldeneye. While you can still play socially with your friends in almost every game, each individual person now needs their own console and copy of the game (unless you game share). This step was taken to ensure maximum revenue by gaming companies for their product. While most people are not happy with this, it’s becoming more commonplace in today’s gaming market.

As games move more and more into social multiplayer territory, the size of these spaces is going to become much larger to accommodate the number of players in the game at any one time. For example, In Destiny when you venture to the Tower ( the social space), you are put into one of millions of tower models that each support 36 players. Depending on the number of people playing the game at any one time, there can be anywhere from several thousand to millions of identical towers each with a maximum of 36 players per tower. The game can only support so many different players at once and thus the developers needed to create multiple copies of each space to accommodate the load of the players and the rendering of the world.

As I said before, as social spaces become more and more common in games, they will grow larger and larger until it turns into a massive Oasis style world with everyone logged in and able to see each other at once.

ZEROING OUT/PERMA-DEATH

In Ready Player One, there is one major consequence to dying in the Oasis, that consequence is referred to as “zeroing out”. When a player zeroes out in the game, they lose all their credits and progression, forcing them to start from the beginning. This aspect of the Oasis is what makes the PvP battles on Planet Doom so nerve-wracking. I know I for one die extensively while playing an online multiplayer game. Normally, my kills outweigh my deaths giving me a positive K/D (kill death ratio) at the end of the game, but the deaths number is also quite large. If I had to zero out and lose all my progress every time I died… I doubt I would play games like that anymore. That being said, there are games that incorporate this consequence into modern gaming, they refer to it as perma-death.

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Perma-death is exactly how it sounds, permanent death; some of the more recent games to incorporate this aspect are: Day Z, FTL, X-COM, and Fire Emblem. In each of these games dying/losing all your lives means an instant game restart, which in turn loses all progress and gear accumulated throughout your session.  This brings an extra level of intensity to these games as you know that you can’t just revert to the last save a la Call of Duty, Halo or Assassin’s Creed.  The only difference with these games that feature perma-death, is that most of them, are not multiplayer. While you can have friends join and assist you in the game, the consequences are the same for them, death = instant restart. While there are some great gamers who can make it through the standard fps game levels on hardest difficulty without dying, they are few and far between. There is a game that basically melds the two aspects of respawn and perma-death together and that game is The Division.

In The Division, you play as an agent of the Division tasked with establishing an HQ in New York City following an bio-terror attack. As you progress through the game you accumulate gear which can be found throughout the world or purchased from in-game vendors. Once you have completed the main story and attained a high enough level you can take on “The Dark Zone”. The Dark Zone is a walled off area in the middle of the city with high level enemies and a free for all mentality. Players can roam around pillaging the high level gear in the Dark Zone and assist each other in taking down high level bosses, or engage in PvP firefights to steal each other’s gear. If you die in the Dark Zone, you lose all the gear you accumulated while there and you respawn back at the staging area. Each person can only carry so much gear while rampaging through the Dark Zone and eventually must call in a helicopter to extract it. Calling in the helicopter lets EVERYONE in the Dark Zone know where you are and what you’re doing, whether it’s other players or NPC enemies. There’s a time frame that you must hold the extraction zone before the helicopter arrives to extract the gear, which give malicious players and NPCs the time they need to kill you and steal your gear. I personally have lost many high level gear pieces to other players while trying to defend the extraction zone. It did not bode well with me.

While this isn’t an exact copy of the “zeroing out” mechanic from Ready Player One, permadeath and the Dark Zone are as close as we have right now.

EASTER EGG HUNTING

The entire premise of the film is to find three “Easter Eggs” left in the Oasis by the creator. When one person finds all 3, they will inherit controlling stock in the company and a fortune numbering in the hundreds of trillions of dollars. The concept of Easter Eggs has been around in the gaming world for decades. An “Easter Egg” for those unfamiliar with the term, is a special construct or nod the creators put in as a reference to either themselves or other projects.

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A notable example is in the 2016 release of Doom, when the creators put a portion of the original Doom game from 1993 in during the main story allowing exploratory players to enjoy a small portion of the original classic. Another example is in the game Halo: Reach, wherein if you complete the final mission on Heroic or Legendary; at the right moment in one of the cut-scenes, if you push both sticks to the right the camera will pan and show a shot of the Master Chief in his cryo tube. As I said before, these little nods to other games are what the meaning of an Easter Egg is.

Even though Easter Egg hunting has been around for a long time in gaming, and has now jumped into the film medium with the explosion of the MCU. While yes, there were Easter Eggs in film before the MCU, Marvel studios used them to the point of such success that a lot of other studios have started adding them to link their works together.

DECEIVING AVATARS

This in’t anything new, but they do make a point during the film to explain that while someone’s avatar may look like a young attractive female, doesn’t mean they aren’t really a 300lb dude that lives in his mom’s basement. This is something that is prevalent in not only gaming but society as a whole. With the anonymity of the internet you can appear as anybody you want, regardless of being in a game or not. It’s something that people need to watch out for while perusing the web or the gaming lobbies. Aech, pronounced “H” (one of the characters in the film), makes a joke out of it, but it’s an issue that can have serious real world consequences. The “Nigerian Prince” that emails you promising to share their fortune with you if you send them $500 right now is 100% a scam, but some people fall for it and end up getting burned for thousands of dollars because the “prince” stole their identity.

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In the film, the players in the Oasis are able to model their avatars after anything they wish. Some choose other gaming characters such as Halo Spartans and Overwatch characters, some choose movie characters like Freddy Kreuger or Robocop, and some go for a mix of everything. The concept of making your avatar as far from what you really look like is nothing new, but some of the players in the movie do take it to the extreme. Not only does your avatar mask what you really look like, but it also masks your actual age. With most multiplayer games, you can ball park someone’s age when they speak in the game chat, but that’s not always the case. Ready Player One uses this as an interesting concept for a few characters and it helps to hammer home to anonymity of the gaming world.

CHARACTER PROGRESSION/POWERFUL WEAPONS/IN GAME PURCHASES (PAY TO WIN)

Character progression is the cornerstone of many RPG and Shared World shooter games, and this is something the Oasis takes into account during the film. While if you die you zero out and lose all your gear, if you’re good enough as with some of the characters in the movie, you can get over 10+ years of experience and gear which helps you out immensely.  The opening of the movie focuses on one particular battle on Planet Doom. The prize for winning this battle is a gauntlet that allows the wearer to assume the identity of any mechanical being they wish. This prize plays a big part later on in the film and when the character uses it, I will admit… I did get a little giddy in my seat and throw my hands in the air in excitement. This character progression and power weapon concept is very aptly exemplified by the Elder Scrolls series.

The Elder Scrolls is probably one of the most successful RPG franchises the world over. The game is made by Bethesda studios, and in it, the player controls a character of their own design in the fantastical world of Tamriel. As you progress through the main story your character levels up until you can unlock certain quests. Some of these quests, gift you with weapons based on the powers of the literal Gods from the lore in the game. I won’t get to into the explanation because if you’re not a fan it won’t make any sense and can get quite boring; however, the weapons you can get on these quests can vastly improve your combat effectiveness in the game to the point of walking through boss battles.

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Ready Player One utilizes this concept with the gauntlet as I previously explained; but, they also allow for players to utilize the currency they obtain in the game to purchase weapons and various other nick knacks that can be used in game and in the real world. One such device a player can purchase, is the Holy Hand Grenade on Antioch from Monty Python fame, which is a very powerful weapon in game, or they can purchase a VR suit for use in the real world to augment their Oasis experience. Pay to Win is something that is plaguing current gaming. It allows for people who don’t want to spend the hours developing skills and unlocking weapons and perks the traditional way, to purchase the upgrades they want for real world money. This makes for very unbalanced first few months of a game’s release and is the cause of some very vocal outcry by fans, Star Wars Battlefront II from 2017 is a prime example.

Ready Player One is based off the book by Ernest Cline from 2011, which was released fairly recently for a movie to be adapted from it. At the time the book was written, some of the trends he explores in the novel and that get explored in the movie, were already becoming very prevalent in the gaming world. Loot boxes, pay to win, level progression and perma death were all making their introduction into the gaming market when the book was written. The film does a great job of showing how these concepts are being taken and ran with and how in the future, this could become the norm for gaming. While each individual company, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, would never agree to produce a game together, eventually one of them may win out the dreaded “console war” and then the concept of Ready Player One could really take shape.

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Star Wars: Thrawn – A Great Beginning To A Classic Character

This week I decided to focus on the another inclusion from the Star Wars Universe, the novel Thrawn by Timothy Zahn. The character of Thrawn was introduced by Zahn in the original Expanded Universe of Star Wars, now labelled Legends under Disney purchase. Thrawn is the by far the greatest admiral that the Empire had during the prosperity and fall of the Empire, and many years after. He was a tactical genius, brilliant commander and victorious in every task he took on. While Thrawn was considered to be one of the most liked characters introduced in the original Expanded Universe, his omission by Disney was a stab in the heart of many fans. Disney has been expanding their universe to include much of the Legends content into main canon continuity. Thrawn by Timothy Zahn is just the first novel in a probable trilogy, with the next installment Thrawn: Alliances coming out later this year.

Thrawn Alliances

Thrawn was released on April 11, 2017 and quickly garnered a positive review by both fans and critics.

*This review will be spoiler free*

SETTING

Thrawn begins during the prosperity of the Galactic Empire.  The rebels have begun trying to infiltrate the Empire to learn their secrets, but have not been effectively amalgamated into the official “Rebellion” as seen in Star War Episode IV: A New Hope. As it stands each individual rebel cell is vexing various commanders and their fleets throughout Empire controlled space and some of the Outer Systems. While the Empire is prospering so is their Xenophobia. Most systems are inhabited by more than just humans, but the upper command and echelon of the Imperial Navy is strictly humans.

Pryce Mining Company on Lothal is one of the premiere companies on the small industrial planet. When a new Doonium vein is discovered, the Empire makes political moves to remove the Pryce family from their controlling interests in the company, making an enemy of the heir to the company.

With the new special project taking up all the resources of the Empire to construct; Senators, Moffs and Governors alike are all scrambling to see who knows what and who can be removed from their quests for power.

PLOT

The story begins with a small Imperial Scouting party to an uncharted world in the “Wild Space” section of the galaxy. Cadet Eli Vanto and the other members of the scouting party find a camp which shows signs of habitation. With several crates marked with an unknown language that is only familiar to those on the border of Wild Space, Vanto is brought up to translate. A mysterious assailant attacks the party and claims the lives of 5 stormtroopers. When the assailant stows away on the landing craft as is taken back to the Destroyer, he surrenders and is interrogated by officers with Vanto for translation. The assailant is revealed as a Chiss by the name of Mitth’raw’nuruodo, though he says the humans may refer to him as Thrawn. When Thrawn, a alien Chiss, is fast tracked into command in the Imperial Navy, he becomes a likely target of hate and resentment from many of his colleagues.

Thrawn military

Arihnda Pryce is caught between a rock and a hard place, either agree to the takeover by the Empire of her family’s mining company or be thrown in jail for treason. She doesn’t take this lying down and journeys to Coruscant to begin a career in political espionage and blackmail.

Doonium is being bought up left right and center by subsidiaries of the Empire for a “Special Project” that is unknown to most of the population. Being the most precious metal in the galaxy, curiosities become piqued inciting full investigations from several individuals both high ranking and not.

 

CHARACTERS

Mitth’raw’nuruodo “Thrawn” – A Chiss exiled from the Chiss Ascendancy and marooned on a planet in Wild Space. He is a brilliant tactician and strategist but completely inept in the political machinations of the Imperial Navy. He believes that in order to defeat an enemy you must first understand an enemy, which leads him to research a culture before coming into contact with them. When we first meet Thrawn he only knows basic words and phrases in the Galactic Standard “Basic”; he is fluent in Sy Bisti which is a wild space vernacular known to Ensign Eli Vanto due to him being from a system bordering wild space. He requests Vanto be assigned to him as translator and aide to assist him in his career with the Empire.

Eli Vanto – Ensign assigned the be Thrawn’s personal aide and translator. Was content with his career path to be come a supplies officer at a base near his home planet. With the arrival of Thrawn, his career path has taken a detour into left field. He resents the Chiss for being able to control his career, but admires him for his tactical brilliance and strategic awareness in battle. Acting as both aide and social instructor, Eli is unsure of his future, but knows it is tied to the Chiss officer.

Arihnda Pryce – The only daughter of the CEO of Pryce Mining on Lothal. Ruthless and fiercely loyal to her family and its history. When ousted from her home she sets her sight on the seat at the top making decisions for her whole system. Moving to center of power she begins her political career with nothing to her name and even less knowledge of the inner workings of the political landscape of Coruscant. Determined not to lose sight of her goal she begins a game of cat and mouse where all the cats are bigger and fiercer than she is.

Nightswan – The Moby Dick to Thrawn’s Captain Ahab. A cunning and strategic freelance criminal that will work for whoever pays them enough. With a penchant for organizing schemes of unique style, Thrawn is drawn to solving who this mystery person is and bringing them and their whole network down.

Colonel Yularen – Colonel of the ISB which investigates the senate and any illegal dealings associated with it. Efficient and thorough he becomes an ally of both Thrawn and Pryce as their paths eventually cross.

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Notable Cameos – Emperor Sheev Palpatine “Darth Sidious”, Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, Darth Vader

WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD?

Speaking as someone who never really dove too much into the Expanded Universe of Star Wars, this book is a great starting point. It’s filled with lots of new locations and characters while still keeping it rooted in canon with familiar faces. The chapters all begin with excerpts from Thrawn’s personal journal in which he discusses various topics ranging from leadership to camaraderie and strategy.  I don’t want to speak too much about the chapters for fear of revealing something spoilerific, just know that at the end of the book all the chapter introductions come together in the epilogue.

Thrawn Legends

The entire story has an air of mystery as well with Thrawn trying to figure out who the Nightswan is and where the resources of the Empire are being diverted to. With the book taking place roughly  20-2 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin), any person familiar with Episode IV: A New Hope is able to ascertain where the resources are being routed; however, it also adds an air of suspense as the characters figure it out for themselves.

As a whole I would rate the book to be a solid 7.5/10 it’s far from perfect, with some chapters really dragging on and some characters really serving no purpose, but overall a very enjoyable read. As I said before, it’s a great book for any Star Wars fan and if you were a fan of Thrawn before this is quite a poignant starting point for the character.

 

*This spoiler free review has been created with Barb Cottle in mind. May I never spoil anything nerdy for her ever again.*