Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ninninger Episode 5

 Did you know that the human brain will over time start to identify TV characters as friends? For real; every time you start crying like a baby over a death scene it's cause that gremlin in yer skull thinks it just lost a loved one. Over the course of your life there will be anywhere from hundreds to thousands of fictional friends, and just like the real ones, they come in all varieties. For instance; have you ever known someone that you'd rather not spend time with yet their close with some of your other friends? The kind that you put up with for the sake of everyone else. I want you to meet a TV equivalent today. Her name is Kasumi. After spending the past few episodes doing nothing much of interest she's finally revealed her personality and the results are, shall we say, problematic? Tell ya what. Let's run through the episode proper since the big issue comes at the end anyway.

Wasting no time we start up with the birth of this weeks monster. He's a satellite dish who hands out silver balloons to people. Doesn't sound too evil does he? He claims his only goal is to be popular. After debating the proper course of action, Kasumi convinces the team to take turns keeping watch on him in case he turns out to be evil. During a shift change, Yakumo notes that she's been both late and seemingly exhausted lately. Turns out that she's pulling double duty as both a ninja and college student. During this conversation we finally get some back story on her. Turns out when she was young, grandpas stories about communicating with aliens 30 times inspired her to study science. Pulling double shifts just doesn't have leave time for rest. He suggests that she may have to give up on her scientific goals because of her responsibility as a ninja.

Yakumo gets some great character development here as we discover how much he cares for the people around him. During a conversation with Fuka in which they talk about people who hold onto childhood dreams or how those dream may change, he's obviously torn up about the prospect of telling Kasumi to give up on her goals. Who woulda thought the guy with zero facial expressions could be such a softy.

Eventually the monster makes its move by using all those balloons as a transmission network so he can display huge illusions of the big baddie, Kibaoni attacking the town and thous gathering fear. It's the smartest plan the villains have come up with so far. Good on them. Topping it off, satellite guy can even take over the giant robots, making them useless in the fight. The battles's not going so well until Kasumi shows up. Yakumo tells her she shouldn’t give up on her goals which confuses her as she didn't consider doing any such thing (that's big of her). Then she pulls out a new invention that sends waves through the monsters network and destroys his transmission. The team gets a new UFO companion bot which allows them to chase the monster all the way to the moon and destroy him. According to grandpa, this UFO was the very first companion. He used it's alien technology to craft the other bots for his grand kids. With ninjas, demons, wizards, and now aliens, this is getting to be one complicated world.

If the episode had ended about there it'd mostly be a fine, if unremarkable, half hour but then comes the twist. Upon returning to the base, everyone asks how Kasumi knew the monsters plan. Turns out she knew right from the start that he was evil along with his plans for the balloons. When asked why she failed to share this info, she simply states that nobody asked her..........excuse me? Let's lay this out. She knows the monster's evil, figures out it's plan immediately, doesn't inform her teammates of the danger (suggesting a stake out instead), which leads to an attack during which panic ensues, meaning people were hurt and the villains gathered the fear they treasure so much. Not to mention what could have happened if the monster retained control of the bots for any longer. All this, because nobody thought to ask her? To top it off she never thinks of making any personal sacrifice to help protect the world. Don't get me wrong, I like to see a hero accomplish their dreams while protecting the innocent but she never even considers making a sacrifice for the common good. What an asshole!

It's a shame to have the first sentai character I actively dislike cause the rest of the team is mostly good. Sure they're a bit underdeveloped & Takahara can be annoying but they still seem like genuinely nice people who have someone dull & awful along for the ride. Speaking of rides, next time we're getting a team-up with Kamen Rider Drive. Look forward to it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ninninger Episode 4

A key component to any writing and especially blogging is having enthusiasm for the subject. Without that energy to power the word flow you end up with sentences like “this is a thing about a thing.” Having said that, Ninninger continues to be a show about people with ninja powers. Alright; it's not that horrible but there's something missing from the show so far. It clearly has the intention of being a high energy tokusatsu series but there's no heart just yet. I'll continue giving it the benefit of baby steps before clamping down to one sentence recaps. Until then let's take a look at what happened this week.

We start off with the kids getting their butts smacked in teamwork simulation training. Takaharu finishes the exorcises all by himself as he continues to miss the point of that whole “we're a team” thing. It's not long before he's sent to the penalty box (in this case a food cart). That's when our monster of the week shows up. This time we've got a fridge spider. Battle commences only to result in Taka being sucked inside of the monster.

While the others try to work out a solution, Taka finds grandad in the monster as well and lessons are shared through food. Our hero learns that much like food, teams require a good mix of flavors. So while he's the big meal finishing egg, he still needs the others to taste his best. It's a roundabout analogy but I'll take it as it avoids the more corny teamwork mantras.

After escaping the belly of spider beast, the team does their thing in another well done action sequence. Once they move on to the giant robot portion things get complicated. A sentai episode with a spider simply can't exist without a small amount of bondage. Thous the big guy wraps up all the bots. This is where we get our new story element. Turns out the kids can transform the sealing shurikens to summon more robots much like how the villains could use em to summon more monsters. We get an elephant robot, a new form for the big bot, nice action, lessons learned, everyone goes home happy.
What'd I tell ya? Spiders=Bondage.

And there goes another passable episode of Ninninger. Rankings wise I'd put it under ep 2, but still a lil better than 1 & 3. Next week the focus is shifting to Kasumi. Will she finally prove to have a personality? Tune in next week to find out in our next installment of people with ninja powers.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Avengers The Crossing Omnibus Review Part 4

What a trip we've had so far. I mean the sights we've seen. Evil blue dwarfs, laser dodging boobies, heavy metal hair from the future, not to mention all the needlessly complicated subplots. Would you believe we're almost to the point where this story tries to make....well, a point? If you failed to make sense of anything that's happened in previous installments then join the club. We meet on Fridays and you have to bring a snack.
On a semi-serious note; for as much belly aching as I've done about this story line, I've had tremendous amounts of fun with it. Poorly thought out comics are a dime a dozen but this, this is something special. Let's see how much more special it can get.

Force Works #19
Picking up from where we left off, Tony Stark is in this weird timeless area where Kang and Mantis brought him for protection. Cryptic conversation about the oncoming threat abound and nothing of value is shared. Tony has his owners send him back to Force Works HQ where he finds their publicist snooping around his future basement. Somebody feel free to use Future Basement as a band name, just please gimmie some credit. Anywho, Amanda finds Suzi Endo locked up in a cryo freezer despite her being part of the team. Believe it or not this particular plot point actually gets resolved later on. Don't get your hopes up too high, the explanation's still rubbish.
Iron Man is no fan of corporate spies so he decides to add one more corpse to his hit list but not before spitting out a delightful pun.

Next on his agenda is killing Spider-Woman's daughter. Guy's on a roll lately. Cut to Black Widow, U.S. Agent, and War Machine as they race towards Force Works HQ in some nifty battle bus (where'd they get that?). War Machine decides to fly on ahead. Over in Vietnam, Moonraker explains the plot.

Somehow is one of the more intelligent conversations this story has to offer.
Turns out, Slade Truman (Moonraker) is actually Gustav Brandt (Libra) a dead villain and father of Mantis. When Gustav died the priests of Pama who live in Vietnam saved his soul and placed it inside of Slade who's really a member of Force Works in a separate time line running parallel with our own. This was all so they could send out a warning of Kang's activities because he was using his time abilities to destroy everything linked with his new consort Mantis, which includes the entire nation of Vietnam. The hidden soul idea worked out so well that even Slade/Gustav didn't realize who he really was and thous he had to return to the hidden version of Vietnam so he could recover his memories and warn everyone that Kang aims to reshape the entire world so he can fight something. Yep. This all makes perfect sense now.

A few more pages of drama and the team's off to rejoin society proper. Oh but first they find Kim. Ya know, the Vietnamese kid who turned into a fully grown bug man. They leave him behind and say they'll come back for him later. Spoiler alert: they don't.
Back at base, Iron Man continues to scheme when Century returns from his space Odyssey. War Machine convinces him to take Rachel to safety while he gets ready to face off with Iron Man.
War Machine #22

This issues kicks off with one of the most straight up ugly panels I've ever seen in a comic as we're treated to a head shot of War Machine. Keep in mind that his current outfit makes him look more like an alien, the results being something that looks like a very angry raisin with a Simon game for a helmet. Behold!

heheheheh, wow.
Almost nothing of value happens here as this issue is just two fight scenes and little else. War Machine and Iron Man have a technology based smack down that Stark wins because he's not showing mercy. Plus he gets to drop more of those classic vague hints about a greater threat. At the same time, Century battles Cybermancer which gives us a double dose of ass panels.

After the dust settles everyone regroups and Century teleports a few of them back to Avengers temp mansion while the main team stays to destroy Stark's evil machine in the future basement cause it has something to do with reshaping the planet for Kang's plans. Problem is the security system decides it's time to kill Force Works.

Iron Man #324

We open with a lovely shot of Tony Stark killing another person. Nah, they're just joshing us this time. See he has to rip the head off of his buddy, Machinesmith so he can set to work on repairing him. Isn't that how it works for everybody?

By now you've surely noticed how the Iron Man issues are packed to the gills with insensate whining. This one's no different as Stark attempts to rebuild his robo friend while his ex probes his mind and feels his emotions. Of course she gets all weepy about his inner turmoil and how how tortured he is deep down. they almost have a moment of romance until a small Avengers strike team attacks the Arctic hideout.

Far be it from me to judge the battle plans of earth's mightiest heroes but when going up against a former allies technofortress you may want to send a stronger group than Crystal, Vision, Century, and the new guy from another timeline. As you can guess the battle goes poorly and once again the Avengers run home trailing piss behind them.

On the return trip, Moonraker disappears. Turns out Kang & Mantis somehow managed to nab him mid transport. They chain him up and rip his shirt for the ladies. I'm not gonna lie, that's pretty much the end of Moonraker. Sure he pops up in a couple more issues but he contributes nothing of value and once the Crossing was over his ass was tossed into comic book limbo where he lives to this day. Guess he shares an apartment with Deathhunt 9000.

Force Works #20

Back at Force Works, the team's dealing with that whole killer headquarters issue. As luck would have it the previous fights damaged the holo technology in part of the building making a convenient safe zone. Most of the crew hides out there while Spider-Woamn and War Machine sneak around back in hopes of taking down Cybermancer....yeah she's still an issue. Major props to web lady for responding to laser blasts with a simple ow. Who says that mid battle?
blogger refuses to display this image correctly, get used to it.

After stopping the traitor, the team figures out that Stark's weapon is actually in two pieces, their basement and a communications satellite he launched way back in the first issue of this event. I never mentioned it back then as I figured it was just aimless fluff like so much of the Iron Man material. To think this story actually had one plot point fully planed out in advance and it's the least important one!
I could write an extra article on the hysterics of Spider-Woman.

War Machine takes on evil satellite duty while the others head off to join the avengers.

Avengers #394

Over in Kang's funzo time realm, Slade/Gustav/Moonraker/Libra/Whatever the hell his name is now is on the receiving end of some torture machine. The nameless blonde girl shows up to free him but not before she's discovered by the other assorted baddies. She gets herself and the man of too many names out of there. Meanwhile at Avengers temp Mansion, Hank Pym studies his cocooned wife, Hercules struggles to remember the aforementioned blondie (still?), and the others just bitch aimlessly. That's when the girl and Slade, err Gustav, wait....Slastav! arrive via time bubble. Then we're treated to a few pages of half the cast thinking about how remarkable the girl is. Believe me, she's about to get a whole lot less interesting.
It happened again.

Neut (the lil evil guy) pops by to spice things up. Once again we're treated earth's mightiest heroes getting smacked around by a three foot dude in gold undies. This is downright sad by this point as none of them even get in a hit. In the heat of battle, mystery girl has to jump in front of a laser blast meant for Crystal. Finally we get the reveal that she's an older version of Luna. As senseless as it may sound, this is actually really obvious when you're reading the story first hand. It's almost like you develop a bad storytelling sense. How or why Crystal was teamed with Kang is never explained cause, ya know, that requires thought. Neut has no time for sappy death scenes though as he moves in to make another kill, only to be stopped by a mystery blast from, wait for it.

Wasp's back, everybody! And now she's an actual bug lady! Some genius had the idea that making her some gross insect person would boost her popularity. Cause that's what kids are into, right? Body horror? If you think for one moment that there's any emotional fallout from her mutation, you clearly haven't been paying attention. This is The Crossing, people. Shit just happens.

With Neut captured and well on his way to comic book limbo the team tries to figure out a plan for what to do with Iron Man. Turns out Madam Masque has an idea and it's a doozy, but you'll have to wait for another installment to learn what it is.

War Machine #23

Checking in on James, we find him breaking Earth's atmosphere as he heads for Stark's satellite of death. I'd give it the more accurate moniker of satellite of time alteration but death sounds so much better. 

Once inside, Rhodes checks the place out, even dispatching a few drones into the smaller corners when he finds a stowaway. Skye; the girl he met in Canada when he got the warware has been waiting for him. She works for some unnamed employer who wanted War Machine to be properly equipped for fighting Iron Man's betrayal. That's about all the details we're given as the conversation is rudely interrupted by another asshole in warware.
and again.

Turns out Kang's got his own alien armored goon guarding the joint which means yet another bout of fisticuffs. During the tussle the two armors communicate with each other, revealing their history as weapons of a long dead warrior race that protected the galaxy. I'd say it's not unlike the green lanterns but Marvel already has the Nova corps. No matter; all of this will soon be forgotten. Naturally our hero wins the fight but not without some sacrifice.

Skye was fatally injured during the battle. While dying in War Machine's arms she spouts off a few more details about how he's bonded with the warware until death (not true) and his days are numbered as her master is coming, which I'm pretty sure never happens. Rhodes leaves her in the exploding death machine as he flies back to earth. Elsewhere, his one lady friend is still mysteriously old. Yeah...that's still going on.

We're almost done folks! Prep yourselves for time travel and a new/old teenage hero next time on The Crossing.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday the 13th March Box of Dread

I was about to post the next installment of The Crossing omnibus review for you all when a special package arrived in the mail. Dunno how I missed this particular pop culture movement but when did subscription boxes become a thing? Two of my regular sites have had them for a while (those being dread central and the delightful Dinosaur Dracula) but after finally ordering one I did some research and found that there are hundreds of these things out for almost any interest. Ya want foreign candy? Done. Comics? Sure. Fishing gear? No problem. Ladies pads? Somehow, yes! Seriously! when did this become a thing?

Anyway, I've been meaning to order one of the dino drac boxes for a while now but finances are somewhat tighter this month. Dread Central played dirty pool though and had this month's box themed with Friday the 13th and Wolfcop gear. I couldn't resist. I pulled the trigger and signed up at the last minute. As luck or immaculate planing would have it, the box arrived on Friday the 13th. I dug in with anxiety as to what I'd get. Read on if you want details but for those strapped for time I'll give you a short write up. This box was worth the money and I got some awesome stuff but I don't plan on getting any more boxes of dread.

First let's look at the stuff that didn't match up with this months themes.
There's a nifty looking issue #1 of Blackcross by Warren Ellis with an exclusive cover only for this box. Haven't read it yet, for all I know it could be quite good. Maybe I'll even be able to pull an article from it. What's odd is on their website they claim this issue is worth $16.........ummmm, no. I don't buy that for a second. I regularly find trade paperbacks for less than that. And that's of top shelf stuff like Spider-Man. Overestimated value aside, this could still be a fun item.
Next we have a little fold out cardboard zombie box. Guess they've put these in previous boxes. None too interesting. It'll most likely become my receipt holder.
There's a temporary tattoo for the Dead Rising web series. Yeah; I just shrugged at that one too.

Next up was the secondary theme for the month. Wolfcop is a pretty cool looking horror comedy whose plot you can probably figure out from the title. I've been looking forward to this one so it's inclusion was pretty nice. Take a gander.
There's a decent quality mini-poster. A nifty sticker which will most likely end up in my sisters smash book. Then there's a cheap cardboard promotional pin. I'll probably hang that on my lamp shade with little fanfare. Pin's are nice but they're better when they're more substantial than a notebook.

Now let's get to the good, scratch that, great stuff.
Now that's more like it! Two nice metal pins which are firmly attached to my dress shirt at this very moment. They'll join Wolfcop on the lamp later tonight.
A shot glass with Jason front and center. I've looked at this before but never bothered to get one as they're usually priced higher than a single shot glass has any right to be. This kinda stuff I love. It's the reason why I took the risk on this box to begin with, but there was still something better waiting at the bottom.
An archive quality photo signed by the big man himself, Derek Mears! This one item made the entire box worth my time & cash. It would have been awesome to get an autograph from so many different folks involved in this series, let alone one of the Jasons. Dread Central didn't get just any old Jason though. They got one of the very best. Mr. Mears was at a convention not terribly far from me last year though as usual I couldn't make it, and affording the day trip woulda been a pain. Now I've got it right in hand. Tonight I'm digging through the old picture frames in hopes of finding one to protect & display this baby.

So here's the thing. I love all the 13th gear. The signed print, pin, and shot glass are fucking outstanding! Problem is they don't even make up half the box. Out of ten items, only four are related to the core theme this month. Wolfcop looks nice but the related items are all things more likely to end up collecting dust in a corner than anything else. And the rest? The thought's nice and maybe the comic will be good. It's just a strange feeling cause on one end I'm so energized by the quality of Friday the 13th items but the rest is just clutter that shoulda been replaced by one or two more Jason items. Like I said earlier; I'm very glad I bought this box, but the ratio of stuff I want compared with plain old junk isn't balanced. Next month I'll give Dino Drac a try cause I trust Matt to do a good job & I owe him for years of great blogs. Come back in a day or so for The Crossing. For now, get out there and enjoy your 13th.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Ninninger Episode 3

The lack of an article in between Ninninger recaps has a good excuse my friends. I'm returning to the land of the living after my first few days of PS4 ownership. It's no exaggeration that I've spent more hours with games in that time than I usually do in an entire month. Now it's time to return to my blogging responsibilities. There's some nearly done pieces on The Crossing along with a bit about Universal Monsters but let's get our Ninja coverage outta the way first.

Today's story is all over the place but I'll do my best to break it down bit by bit. The first focus of the story is on some character development for Nagi. Turns out that despite being a prankster (something we've seen very little of from him) the guy's a major study bug. He has this box full of text books that he uses to get certified in all sorts of nonsense and now he's using one for ninjitsu training. As you can figure he finds out that shit doesn't work out like it does in the books and his moral for the day is to learn from the people around him. Not a bad message overall but maybe they shoulda saved it for a time when everyone's better developed. Like what is he learning from Fuka? I'm sure there's a joke to be made there but I can't think of one that doesn't come across as mercilessly cruel or downright pervy.

The second main chunk of story is the return of Gabi Raizou. Turns out he's one of the main baddies primary henchmen. He's brought back by liquified fear that the weird fox chick collects from attacks on the populace. This is actually a nifty idea as fear can be gathered from the ninningers along with everyone else. This gives the villains a little more incentive to terrorize the heroes. Anywho, Gabi doesn't feel like collecting fear to bring back his buddies, let someone else handle that. That outlook doesn't stop him from interfering in the fight with our monster of the week (a roller blade guy...for real). He actually kills the monster himself, which works out just fine since foxey lady can use the shurikens to summon more monsters. This is odd weird though cause the baddies want to collect the shurikens, but aren't they the ones using them to make monsters in the first place? Somebody draw me up a chart.
The episode may not do much for actual character or story development but by god was there action. The team fought the MOTW, Nagi fought him solo, the team again, then they fought Gabi, then Gabi fought red solo, then they faced off against a wicked ass skeleton creature. All of it was damn well done, continuing the upward quality of the stunt work. It's just so odd that for an episode where they royally screw the pooch by losing multiple fights and letting the baddies get the shuriken, they all seem perfectly happy in the end. I like to see the heroes fail this early as it showcases an actual threat but it'd be nice if they'd acknowledge it. In other news, I still don't get Kasumi.

All in all it was a serviceable tale that would have been better as a two part ordeal. Now it's time for me to get back to see how many “in limbo” articles I can wrap up before the next episode. All? Half? One third? Maybe so much as a paragraph?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ninninger Episode 2

Here's your nightmare fuel.
As a fan of tokusatsu it doesn't take long before you start to peg the cliches and and common story threads within the genre. For instance; in nearly every sentai there's a rivalry between two of the male team members, usually red & blue which is in full effect within the first 3 episodes. Guess what episode 2 is about...just guess. Cynicism aside this is actually nice step up from the premiere that gives us a much better idea of what to expect from this show. Let's take a look.

We begin the festivities by checking out the brand spanking new ninja dojo where grandpa expects the kids to learn better “nintality” (his word, not mine) without him actually teaching them. Instead he leaves some stuff behind and hopes the education just kinda happens....sorta reminds me of homeschooling. First lesson on the curriculum is elemental ninpo. The kids keep trying to channel the elements without success except for Yakumo who finds this whole ninja gig uninteresting. Odd side note here; in the premiere I assumed that his talk of studying magic in Europe was him learning to be some David Copperfield type but that's not the case at all. The kid actually knows how to do legit magic so there's some kinda Hogwarts knock-off out there. If there's ninja , yokai, and wizards running around in this show, what the hell else is out there?
As I was saying; Yakumo thinks he's above the ninja game (though he later reveals that he'll stick with it out of family duty) and this leads to bad juju with Takaharu who thinks trying to be the greatest ninja is the best thing since pitch black mountain dew. Before they can get too far into it a monster shows up. This week we have a fire extinguisher Kappa whose evil plan revolves entirely around throwing people into bodies of water, including shallow decorative fountains. I guess that's pretty evil.

After the customary first face off with the monster we got some more arguments from the boys and an attempts at character development for Kasumi. Truth be told I still have no idea what this girls deal is other than she likes to stand on or behind different things.

  One thing that worries me with Kasumi is that the actress may not be very good. Sometimes I take for granted how talented the casts of these shows can be. So far I'm not completely sold on this group though and it makes me wonder if some of them just can't sell the personalities of their characters. That's something that could take a while to become clear so we'll just blame sub-par development for now.

Other than that the episode returned to action which was much better this week with some nice moves that illustrated the differences between each character. For instance Fuka fights in a somewhat sloppy but playful fashion while Nagi does things like trip and confuse his opponents as any good trickster should. Kasumi doesn't move very much...yeah..I still don't get her.
Furthermore on the action front we got even more high quality robo action as we find that each individual robot can take the center command space and completely change the combat abilities. In the case of the blue dragon the main advantage is flight. This is probably the first time in sentai history were I've actually found myself interested in the robots.

  Finally the boys settle their disagreement with by deciding to be cool about their rivalry. I guess that works. Oh, and we get to see a little more of the main villains. Seems like they'll be showing up one at a time which is nice. It might easily save us from the repetitive bad guy arguments of last year.

Overall this episode showed progress while getting the general flow set up. Nothing ground breaking but it's enjoyable. Come back next week to see if this upward progressing continues. I also have a bit about old trading cards coming up. And maybe my mental health can withstand the next part of The Crossing.