Thursday, December 11, 2014

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Marvel Contest of Champions for Android

Marvel's latest 3D fighting game Contest of Champions finally lands on Android, and I got the chance to play for a bit. Okay, maybe not just a bit. Okay, I admit I've played this game practically the whole day, and I'd like to share my thoughts on what must be a godsend for Marvelites itching to have a mobile game with the same caliber as DC's mobile port of Injustice: Gods Among Us.


Marvel Contest of Champions uses the familiar swipe-based gameplay used in some mobile fighters, more popularly in DC's Injustice: Gods Among Us. You tap the right side of the screen for a light attack, swipe right for a medium attack, or tap and hold right for a special strong attack. You can also block or dodge by tapping and swiping the left side of the screen. Easy to learn, difficult to master, but once you get the hang of it you'll be kicking and punching dudes senseless in no time.

Each character (or Champion as the game calls them) has their own unique special moves that you can access when your energy meter fills up to maximum by attacking or getting hit. Deadpool can slice you up or get a comedic cutscene before he blows your brains out, or Rightclops Cyclops can unleash the whole fury of the punch dimension into your solar plexus.

Fights can get a bit repetitive though, since some characters have virtually identical movesets, in which case the Champion that's been upgraded more will prevail. But though the beat-em-ups blend into each other, there's one thing I like about the game that stands out.


Marvel Contest of Champions looks and sounds fantastic. I love the beefy look of the characters that make them look larger-than-life. The stages you fight in are even ripped straight from the comic book page (like Asgard's treasure room and Avengers Tower), and the game is chock full of little details that breathes life to the world you’re fighting in. The Eye of Agamotto stares at you while you fight your battle in the astral plane, and you can take in the majestic views of the Savage Land while Master Mold looms in the distance. It's enough to make any Marvel fan weep.

Of course, this ain't a comic book game if there isn't a story to go with it. Here, you gain the role of the Summoner, chosen by the Collector to represent Earth and battle Kang the Conqueror in a cosmic game of chess, using Earth's mightiest heroes and villains as your Champions. Having played some of the levels, the story so far is simple yet interesting, and gives you a good reason to punch other heroes or villains in the face with minimum setup. Bravo!

But while the game looks and feels good, there's one thing that's keeping it from greatness...


Marvel Contest of Champions is free-to-play…to a point. The game suffers from a lot of the same complaints gamers have with "freemium" games, like the fact that early into the game you'll find yourself tediously grinding for consumables because half your team's dead or their level's too low, in which case you'll be forced to wait four your energy to recharge...or pay out the nose with real-world currency to get them sooner.

So instead of getting to play the game as often as you want, you'll spend time waiting for your energy to recharge so you could go on missions, or wait for your Champions to regain their stamina to fight in Versus mode, or wait for daily Crystals where you may or may not get consumables or new Champions. That's a lot of waiting.

Not to mention the fact that you can't just buy your favorite Marvel characters as Champions...Hero Crystals give you a chance at a random hero! Frustrating when you get the same character as last time, but uber satisfying when you get someone new.

Oh, and have I mentioned you need to be connected to the internet to play? Oh yeah, you really want me to play this game a lot, I can tell.


I admit, I'm just sticking with the game because it looks amazing and I'm simple enough to please that beating Captain America senseless with an a-hole Cyclops multiple times is my idea of fun, freemium pay wall be damned. From what I've seen so far, it's safe to say that Marvel Contest of Champions is a simple yet fun mobile fighting game that captures the essence of superhero comic book battles better than most.

Marvel Contest of Champions is now available for free on Android and iOS devices. Who's your favorite hero to use? How's the game treating you so far? Drop me a comment below and let's talk about it. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

4 Reasons Why Benedict Cumberbatch is Perfect for Doctor Strange

Benedict Cumberbatch is reportedly in final talks to play Doctor Strange, a Marvel character steeped in magic and a little bit of we-don't-know-what-the-hell-to-do-with-him-right-now thrown in. People are surprisingly divided with this news. Fangirls are predictably going wild, while people living under a rock are going "Benedict Cumber-who?" or thinking this is the worst casting news since Keanu Reeves got cast as Constantine.

But for me, I don't see where all the hate is coming from. This is nothing but GOOD news for Marvel, the fans, and everyone involved in Doctor Strange. And I have four good reasons why.

Photo by Frederick Brown/Getty Images
1. It's Benedict Cumberbatch.

Guys like Chris Evans and Chis Hemsworth only became household names thanks to Marvel's movies. But an already-established name like Benedict Cumberbatch attached to Doctor Strange is big news for Marvel as they look towards expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From his breakout role in the Stephen Hawking biopic Hawking, to BBC's Sherlock and his roles in Star Trek: Into Darkness and The Hobbit to name a recent few, Benedict Cumberbatch has paid his dues in the industry, and him starring in a superhero movie will be what people will be talking about for years to come.

Photo from PopSugar
2. It's Benedict Cumberbatch.

Benedict Cumberbatch is a BAFTA and Golden Globe nominee and an Emmy and Critic's Circle award winner, and it's not just because of his cheekbones. The dude obviously has dramatic chops that will lend the gravitas needed to portray a broken and human Stephen Strange and his rise to become Sorcerer Supreme. To say that people won't be excited to see how he brings Strange to life is nothing short of a bald-faced lie.

3. It's Benedict Cumberbatch.

Now, before you think he's all stuck-up for an award-winning actor, bear in mind that this is the same Benedict Cumberbatch that photobombed people at the red carpet of the freakin' Oscars. There's a good chance he won't go all snooty after the cameras stop rolling. His shenanigans and sheer humanity are sure to endear him to the people who've never even heard of him, which would translate to more eyeballs on the Doctor Strange movie.

Photo courtesy of Hollywood Reporter
4. It's Benedict Cumberbatch!

Benedict Cumberbatch's cheekbones have their own Facebook fan page. There are Tumblr blogs dedicated to his tight shirts. When the man did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit, it broke the internet. The fangirls (and fanboys. We don't judge) attached to Benedict Cumberbatch are some of, if not the most passionate fans you'll ever see, which can mean only good things for Marvel. Can you imagine the entire CumberCollective excited to watch Doctor Strange on day 1?

So yeah, Benedict Cumberbatch for Doctor Strange. Humanity needs this more than you know. And keep him British.

So what did you think of the news? Let's talk about it in the comments section below! Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hot Toys DOFP Wolverine Is Best There Is

Get ready to say goodbye to your wallets, bub. The best Wolverine figure is about to lay waste to all our budgets with adamantium claws.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

[80s WEEK] The Lost Art of Toy Packaging Art

A list of 80's toys reads like a who's who of toy legends: Transformers, Masters of the Universe, the 3.75 inch G.I. Joes, etc. With that kind of pedigree on the shelves, their toys had to stand out from the crowd. And they did that with awesome packaging art! The 80's were awash with toylines that featured packaging printed with colorful and hand-painted works of art that oozed with character and breathed life into these otherwise static pieces of plastic.

In this age of digital art and Photoshop (and certain laws that prohibit you from overselling a product's premise), we'll never have this kind of toy packaging again. So let's look back at some of the awesome card and box art of 80's toys!


As if to illustrate my point right there and then, the Dino-Riders toyline came in boxes emblazoned with hand-painted art that depicted the awesome combination of dinosaurs and lasers! Granted, a toyline about dinosaurs strapped with laser guns and missiles probably didn't need box art at all, but I appreciate Tyco's effort to go the extra mile to blow children's minds.

And Tyco's mind-blowing effort extended to the back of the box, with a painting of a huge dino vs. dino brawl that will be forever etched into my mind as the greatest picture ever.

Good lord look at this thing you guys.

My Google-fu has yielded zero leads as to who painted these dino-tastic box covers (if you know who it is, hit us up at the comment box below!), but they can rest easy knowing that the Dino-Riders toys will always be one of my favorite toylines in no small part to their amazing box art.


The first-generation Transformers toys in 1984 caught many a kid's and parent's eye with  futuristic box art that really captured the era these Robots in Disguise were born in. From the slick character portraits done by guys like Jeffrey Mangiat, Richard Marcej and Mark Watts, to the awesome mural-like paintings done by David Schleinkofer seen at the back of the box, the Transformers were brought to life before you even opened them up!

Character portraits by Jeffrey Mangiat.

There's a certain charm to the retro-futuristic box art of Generation 1 Transformers, and the artists who worked on them obviously saw the insane potential of these little robots, as evidenced by the back of the box mural done by Jeffrey Mangiat that could only be best described as a Transformers fans' fevered dream.

I don't know what the hell is going on, but what I do know is that it's awesome.

One would argue that today's Transformers packaging have better-looking and edgier art that better represent modern Transformers toys, and you could be right. But they can never be as epic as the 80s made them out to be.


The G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toyline was brilliant in that the packaging was as much a part of the toy itself. The file cards made you feel like you were really recruiting badass soldiers in your make-believe army, and their portraits helped sell the toy's persona as much as the comics and the cartoon did.

And what portraits they were! Hector Garrido is responsible for the character portraits printed on the card fronts of the early 1980s GI Joe toys, from the heroes to the villains to even the tanks and other vehicles. I loved how it looked like they were all striking a pose just as a huge explosion obliterated everything behind them.

Front card art of the early G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toys.

Look at this cheeky bastard striking a pose.

The stark black background combined with Garrido's explosive art made for really striking and in-your-face packaging, a perfect fit for a toyline about two factions locked in bitter combat for the fate of the world.


Let's face it, there was nothing manlier than the original Masters of the Universe toyline...the boxes they came in could make you grow chest hair just by looking at it!

And it's all thanks to the gorgeous packaging art. He-Man and co's toys came in boxes illustrated by prolific 80's artists like William George and Rudy Obrero, who took the campy back story of a muscular action figure with 5 points of articulation and turned it into a fully-realized medieval fantasy world that would make Frank Frazetta blush.

Battle Cat box art by Rudy Obrero

Snake Mountain box art by William George

Castle Grayskull box art by Rudy Obrero.

What's great is that these artists made ridiculous concepts like the Battle Bones and Dragon Walker (the most inconvenient mode of transportation ever) look mighty awesome. The toys may have gotten you hooked, but it was the paintings on the box that pulled you into the weird sci-fi barbarian story of He-Man and his fellow Masters of the Universe.

These are just some of the iconic 80s toy packaging art that defined the toy-playing childhoods of a generation. Box art like these aren't just for show...they kickstart the imagination process. As legendary GI Joe writer Larry Hama puts it, they "[trigger] the internal fantasy machine to fill in the holes, gloss over the mold lines, forgive the compromises for the realities of manufacturing and creates that wholly personal 'state of play' wherein universes are born." And that's what makes them extra awesome.

I hope you enjoyed our look back at the different box art of 80s toys as much as I did researching about them! Which box art do you remember from your childhood? Leave me a comment below and let's fangasm about it! Thanks to MEDUSAWOLF's blog, Monster Brains, the Transformers Wiki and Dino-Riders World for the images and other important info.

Check back tomorrow for more of Behold the Geek!'s 80's Week! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

[80s Week] 5 Awesome 80s Cartoons (You Probably Don't Remember)

When it comes to cartoons, 80's kids had it good. They subsisted on what was probably the best decade for all things animated, with tons of cartoons for both boys and girls to enjoy. But while we rave about classics like He-Man, Transformers, and even BraveStarr and Care Bears, there are some cartoons that may have flown past your radar but were just as awesome.

So join me as we look at 5 awesome 80's cartoons you probably don't remember but should!


While packaged together with such luminaries like Street Frogs and Karate Kat, TigerSharks was obviously the only one worth your younger self's time. TigerSharks featured the same great animation from Rankin/Bass (who also made their better-known brothers and sisters Thundercats and Silverhawks), cool character designs (Team leader Mako's shark/human hybrid design was glorious), and memorable villains. And who didn't want their very own Fish Tank to transform in?


Check out that intro! You know your city's crime rate is bad when you've got goons with machine guns in their chests shooting out with beat cops packing laser bazookas. C.O.P.S. was like a crazy mash-up of G.I. Joe and Police Academy, filled to the brim with badass characters on both sides of the law.  The stories were simple fun, but it was the cops and crooks that populate it that made it awesome. My favorite by far was the C.O.P.S. leader Baldwin P. Vess, a tough-as-nails (literally) cop fighting crime in a future time. Makes you wonder what kind of crooks you got in your city when the sight of a buff black dude in sunglasses who happens to be a bulletproof cyborg doesn't scare the crime rate way down.

Sky Commanders

The dubious practicality of moving around mountains using precariously perched wires aside, Sky Commanders was pretty exciting for a cartoon, as almost every episode could end with people horribly plunging to their deaths on the rocky canyon below. Sky Commanders had a great, diverse cast (if not a bit on the stereotype side) and big bad General Plague sounded delightfully evil (thanks to Bernard Erhard's voice work), not to mention all that cool high-wire action and suspense made you want to buy the toys (which meant the cartoon's doing its job!).


Proof positive that nobody cared for the mental health of 80's kids was Inhumanoids, that insane cartoon that took your nightmares and turned them into a cynically fun 13-episode series. It chronicled the adventures of the Earth Corps, a group of scientist heroes, as they battled the Inhumanoids, monstrosities from beneath the earth's crust that could only come from the mind of HP Lovecraft.

Inhumanoids was 2freaky4me even as a kid, as episodes featured, among other unspeakable things, innocent people being trapped in a monster's hollow ribcage and a giant demon trying to seduce the Statue of Liberty. Even the opening song, with the growling demonic voice chanting a guttural "Inhumanoids! Inhumanoids!" on cue still creep me out to this day.

Ulysees 31

Some of you may scratch your heads and go "Who?" But you'd do well to remember this French-Japanese animated series. Basically the Odyssey in space, Ulysees 31 featured Greek gods acting like assholes in a sci-fi setting. Poor Ulysees was banished to the farthest reaches of space ala Star Trek: Voyager for pissing off space Poseidon, who cursed his crew to deep slumber until he can find the realm of Hades and return home.

The cartoon was memorable for its trippy English intro and its dark themes of isolation and regret. But what I mostly remember is him rockin' the Bee Gees beard and being a bad enough dude to have an honest-to-goodness god hate his guts.

Do you have any favorite 80's cartoon that deserved mention in this list? Leave me a comment below and let's talk about it! Watch out for more 80's goodness as we celebrate 80's Week here at Behold the Geek! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends Movie Review

If you're going to watch just one live-action adaptation of an anime in your life, you'd do well to watch Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends.

After the events of Kyoto Inferno, Kenshin Himura (Takeru Satoh) is serendipitously found by Hiko Seijuro (Masaharu Fukuyama), the man who taught him his sword-fighting style. Kenshin will need to train harder than he's ever had before, because he will have to face disgraced ninja Aoshi Shinomori (Yusuke Iseya), the government, and his own fears before he faces off against Shishio (Tatsuya Fujiwara) in the battle that will determine not just the future of Japan, but whose legend will live on once and for all!

Mad props must be given to director Keishi Otomo, who is given the thankless job of balancing between staying faithful to the anime and giving us an action-packed samurai epic. But the original anime wasn't just a clash of was a clash of ideologies, with both Kenshin and his enemies trying to prove their worldview with every stroke of the sword. So a lot of the nuances get lost in the attempt to condense 30+ episodes of characterization into a 2-and-a-half hour film.

You notice it in Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends when characters suddenly appear in a scene without logic, or fan-favorite characters (like the Juppongatana, who were introduced with much fanfare during the previous movie) get shoved aside or hurriedly moved along to make way for Kenshin's inevitable fight with Shishio. I may be bold in saying even Aoshi didn't need to be there, for all the good he'll do for the film's story aside from being required to be there in the final fight!

But all of this is just the rambling of an OG Rurouni Kenshin anime fan. Folks who've never seen a single episode of the anime in their life will be a lot more forgiving with the things Otomo omits, mainly because they'll enjoy what he did leave in...action, and lots of it. And this is where The Legend Ends raises the bar and goes all out.

Every sword contact, every close call will leave you literally breathless thanks to Otomo's flair for digging the camera deep into the action. Sanosuke, Saito, and Kenshin's climactic battle against Shishio in particular is a visually stunning sequence, beautiful in its chaos of clashing fighting styles, and I'm not kidding when I say I was on the edge of my seat the entire time!

But really, when all's said and done, The Legend Ends is all about Takeru Satoh and Tatsuya Fujiwara, who both gave career-defining performances. Satoh nailed being both a vulnerable soul and a stone-cold killer as Kenshin, while Fujiwara was scary good as Shishio, who finally gets to let loose in this film to give us the live-action Shishio we deserved. Racked with pain and hacking blood, Fujiwara's Shishio still manages to look like he can wipe the floor with everybody else!

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends may not fully satisfy the discerning otaku, but it's amazing to watch them attempt it. It may have its faults, but no one can deny that The Legend Ends is a highly enjoyable samurai action flick and a fitting and glorious finale to what could be the most successful adaptation of an anime to live-action we've seen. Highly recommended!

Opening across the Philippines on Sept. 24, 2014, “Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Enterbay Jean-Claude Van Damme Figure Does Splits, Kicks Your Ass

Col. Guile fans, rejoice! Hong Kong-based company Enterbay has unleashed promo pics of its latest creation: a 1/6th scale Real Masterpiece figure of legendary ass-kicker Jean-Claude Van Damme!

Van Damme himself worked closely with Enterbay to make sure this is as close to the real deal as it can get, and it shows...the figure captures the rugged action hero likeness of the Expendables 2 star! Not only that, but Enterbay actually developed a new base action body just to match JCVD's legendary flexibility, allowing him to do spinning heel kicks and splits to your heart's delight.

And yes, JCVD's figure can do a full split, just like nature intended! If I had the money, I'd get this just for kicks. Get it?

Anywho, fans of The Muscles from Brussels can get Real Masterpiece Jean-Claude Van Damme once it goes on sale at Enterbay's Hong Kong store starting September 12. Check out more pics over at Enterbay's site.

Friday, August 22, 2014

My Week in Comics: Multiversity #1

This isn't a review. This is a revelation. A revelation that Grant Morrison and Ivan Reis' Multiversity #1 is not just a comic's a commentary on comic books dressed up as a superhero story. A story we might have had a hand in telling.

Joining us in the journey is Nix Uotan, the last surviving Monitor from Final Crisis, here dubbed as Superjudge, savior of the multiverse. A distress call has been sounded from a parallel Earth, but he bites off more than he can chew when he faces the Gentry, a mysterious force that's slowly eroding the Multiverse with their cynicism and love for destruction. With the multiverse in danger, it's up to a group of ragtag heroes torn from multiple Earths to save it!

Multiversity #1 is a vintage Morrison book, meaning you don't 'read' it so much as 'experience' it, as pretentious as it sounds. It's quite literally a comic book about comic books, with the heroes knowing they're characters in a monthly comic, battling a threat that vaguely represents the cynicism of the modern comic book industry. There's even a clever element of audience participation in the way that Morrison talks directly to the reader through dialogue boxes, at one point asking us whose voice we use when reading those.  It's crazy!

Despite that heavy commentary, Multiversity #1 is a pretty fun comic. Morrison writes superheroes as larger than life, unchained from the growing trend of pulling down our high-flying superheroes into the mud. something the book slyly comments on. Black Superman from Earth-23, Aquawoman from Earth-11, even Captain Carrot, they've all got one job to do, which is to save the multiverse, and it's refreshing to watch them try to do just that. Ivan Reis steps up with no-frills comic book art that serve the story being told quite well. And while it's all pretty tame right now, I'm excited to see how Reis translates Morrison's crazier ideas on paper in the succeeding issues.

I do concede however that Multiversity #1 is jarring in some parts, as Morrison piles on concept after concept after obscure character in a way that could leave the unprepared in the dust. If you're don't know your Earth-7s from your Earth-23s, you'll probably feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of unfamiliar characters coming at you from all directions. Thankfully, Morrison operates on a pretty fast clip, presenting these obscure heroes and villains in bite-sized chunks and moving on just as quickly, letting you sink your teeth into the meatier parts with nary a skipped beat.

It's safe to say I haven't ready anything quite like Multiversity #1.Despite the meta-commentary and deep themes, it doesn't pretend to be anything more than a fun yet fascinating superhero comic book. This gets a 4.5 out of 5. Pick this comic up on sight. We might not get this kind of comic book again.

Monday, August 11, 2014

LINKIN PARK Invades Your Desk with (Expensive) 3D-Printed Figures!

Ever wanted to just shrink down Linkin Park and display them on your desk? Thanks to a German company called Staramba, that eerily-specific dream will soon become reality!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno Movie Review

Watching Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno is like doing a marathon of the anime's Kyoto Arc in one sitting. Your brain would be turned to mush with all the things you have to take in all at once, but it's just so much fun to watch.

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno sees Kenshin Himura (Takeru Satoh) finally living a life of peace with his friends Kaoru, Yahiko and Sanosuke. But a demon from his past has reared its ugly head threatening the stability of Japan, and Kenshin must once again walk the path of the Battousai if he's to save Japan and everyone he cares about!

If the first Rurouni Kenshin film was Batman Begins, Kyoto Inferno is Kenshin Himura's The Dark Knight. Flashier, funnier and more ferocious than its predecessor, Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno delivers an entertaining samurai epic with colorful characters in an even colorful world. Keishi Otomo's deft direction leaves you breathless as he transports you from the bustling Kyoto streets to war-torn villages of Meiji-era Japan to bring you the story of Kenshin's mission to bring down the dreaded Shishio at all costs. And lest you forget that it's based on one of the most-loved anime and manga franchises in Japan, Otomo faithfully recreates scenes from the anime and throws in some beloved characters to give you the ultimate Rurouni Kenshin fangasm ever.

With an ensemble cast as good as this, it's hard to find the one performance that stands out. The beautiful Emi Takei as Kaoru is more badass this time around. Munetaka Aoki is hilarious and awesome as Sanosuke. And even with little screen-time, Yosuke Eguchi nails the role of Saito Hajime so hard. But the heart of Kyoto Inferno is Takeru Satoh, who delivers a fine performance as assassin-turned-hero Kenshin Himura. As the emotional heart of the film, Satoh pulls off both the slapstick and the seriousness of anime Kenshin so well that you'd almost think you ARE watching the anime. And despite having the most physically-demanding role in the film, Satoh makes it look so easy jumping around and slashing dozens of goons left and right with god-like speed. I was in a theater full of people like me who grew up watching the anime (known as Samurai X here in the Philippines) and when Satoh crouched deep with his sword hand ready to unsheathe his sword Hiten Mitsurugi-style, the crowd went absolutely nuts. That's how good he was.

One of the movie's few disappointments is Tatsuya Fujiwara's Shishio Makoto, who feels less like the main villain and more like a half-baked idea. Despite giving a menacingly good performance, Shishio frustratingly does little in the film but sit around and threaten people. I guess they have to save the best for the third and final movie.

And that's probably the one thing I can fault Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno: It feels like the first half of a full movie (which it technically is). Even if it follows the anime's arc pretty faithfully, the movie crams most of it into its more than 2 hour frame with no satisfying payoff. Characters like Aoshi Shinomori feel unnecessary to the plot at hand, some scenes either feel out of place or go on for too long that the movie has no choice but to leave you with a very frustrating cliffhanger. But I say frustrating because you can't believe you have to wait for a month and a half to see what happens next!

Bottom line, Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno delivers the goods. If you love a good old samurai film, you'll find lots to enjoy in this movie. But if you're a Rurouni Kenshin anime or manga fan from way back, you'll LOVE this movie. Take your anime-loving friends and prepare to squee. You'll be glad you did!

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno premieres August 20 while Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends opens September 24.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy is absolutely mind-boggling. A movie about a bunch of C-list comic book characters messing around in space is the last thing you'd expect to succeed. And yet here I am, unable to wipe the smile from my face after watching what could possibly be the best superhero, nay, comic book movie of the year.

And I say "comic book" because Guardians of the Galaxy cannot be just lumped into the genre that Marvel Studios helped build. It's a love letter to cosmic Marvel, chock full of comic book easter eggs that would make any cosmic Marvel fanboy (especially fans of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's work) blush. It's also a cool space epic, and director James Gunn knows how to sell it well, with balls-to-the-wall action amidst sweeping shots of alien planets, futuristic cityscapes and even the gigantic severed head of a freakin' Celestial. It's been a while since we've seen a movie with this much imagination crammed into it that it blows you away.

But more than that, Guardians of the Galaxy stands firmly on the strength of its main cast, and it's a fun ride watching them go from saving their own asses to saving the galaxy. Chris Pratt owns his leading man status as lovable scoundrel Peter Quill/Star-Lord, and despite Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel only providing voices (and mo-cap, in the case of Vin) to their characters, Rocket (Raccoon!) and Groot steal the spotlight in every scene they're in. I'm a bit sad that Zoe Saldana didn't have much to do here other than be Star Lord's love interest and sword-wielding badass, but what we little we did get of her is great. The surprise hit for me was my main man Batista (Dave Bautista to you) as Drax, who surprised everyone by going full-on, old-school eloquent Drax the Destroyer mode and playing off everyone so well that I cracked up at everything that came out of his mouth. Jim Starlin must be beaming right now.

An even bigger surprise was Lee Pace, who obviously enjoyed playing Ronan the Accuser so much and made the movie all the better for it. His Ronan is one of the most menacing villains we've seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. He's how Thor: The Dark World's big baddie Malekith should have been, the kind of over-the-top villain that promises to destroy the world and actually come close to it. Sure, Ronan's motivations are murky at best, but Pace's swagger in the face of even Thanos himself is just so fun to watch.

I especially liked how freaking heart-warming Guardians of the Galaxy is. Despite all the a-holes that make up most of its characters, the movie doesn't tread the path of modern-era cynicism that even Captain America: The Winter Soldier went through.  When Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora, Rocket and Groot finally come together in the defense of the galaxy, they don't go through it like they didn't have a choice. They've bonded with each other through the course of the movie. They didn't just become a team...they became friends. When Drax nails Nebula with a rocket launcher for threatening Gamora, the big guy plainly states "No one talks to my friends like that". And for a guy like me who's a sucker for those little things, it's very satisfying.

Put it all together and you get one hell of a comic book movie that is sure to surprise everyone in a good way. What Marvel's The Avengers started, Guardians of the Galaxy took it and ran with it in ways other comic book movies wish they did. Hell, if you haven't picked up a comic book in your life and just want a fun and funny action movie set in space, you're gonna have a great time. Highly recommended!

Friday, July 25, 2014

My Week in Comics: Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #1

Titan Comics recently acquired the Doctor Who license from IDW Publishing, and they lost no time taking advantage it with not just one but two comic book releases starring two fan-favorite Doctors: namely, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors! Since Eleven is my Doctor, I chose to pick up his title, Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #1, where Eleven teams up with a down-on-her-luck library assistant to hunt down a giant alien dog running around London that feeds off of negative emotions!

Writers Al Ewing and Rob Williams spin a pretty straightforward adventure yarn that tread on some familiar Doctah-meets-companion territory, but it makes up for it with some touching drama. Eleven takes a break from catching the alien dog because he noticed that Alice Obiefune (the aforementioned library assistant) is having a really bad day, and what follows is a heartwarming moment that fits the Eleventh Doctor's character really well. Eleven is the type that would want to cheer everyone up (see The Christmas Carol), and it's nostalgic to see him do so here. When the alien dog's hunger for bad vibes brings it to the House of Commons (hah!), it will take the Doctor's wits and Alice's courage to save the day, and exactly how they do will tug at a heartstring or two, I guarantee it!

The art is great. Comic books based on real people have their work cut out for them, and I do admit I wasn't feeling Simon Fraser's art style at first, especially his rendition of Matt Smith as Eleven (and I don't blame him. Matt's look is pretty unique). But Fraser's strength lies in giving both action and drama the amount of energy they need to pop off the page, and he does capture Matt Smith's slapstick and physical humor to a tee. When a comic book makes you miss Matt's turn as the Doctor, you know it's good! There are also two back-up comics after the main story, a funny and cute story made by using Titan's vinyl Mini-Figures (brilliant use of merchandising!) and a cute and funny Pond Life-style one-pager starring the Ponds (with River Song!) written and drawn by Marc Ellerby that gives you a bit more bang for your buck. More of those types of extras, please.

With a fun premise and the promise of an interesting story arc, Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #1 is a fantastic comic that captures the spirit of the show and its star quite well, and is the better book of Titan Comics' Doctor Who releases. Fans craving for more of Eleven's adventures would do well to pick this up. This gets a 4 out of 5.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Arrow WON'T be in Batman v Superman, The Universe Hates Us

Let's face it, CW's Arrow is amazing, and with the hype surrounding DC's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (League), it's a no-brainer that the show's Oliver Queen (played by Stephen Amell) appearing in that film would have been amazing as well (and would have finally made me watch it).

But alas, even Oliver's saying "Don't get your hopes up."

That's from Stephen Amell's Facebook page, where he says, quite definitively, that he won't be in Batman v Superman.
Hey Guys -- I appreciate all the support and enthusiasm, but not everything I post is a cryptic indicator that I'm going to be in Batman V Superman. I'm not going to be in Batman V Superman.

Which is a shame, since Amell's gritty and intense portrayal of Oliver Queen/The Arrow has all the critics raving and would have been a perfect fit for the grimdark of the post-Man of Steel DC Cinematic Universe. It doesn't even have to be a supporting role...he could have been just a cool cameo!

Amell does go on to say in the comments that him not appearing in Batman v Superman "boils down to logistics" and not because DC thinks he's not cut to be Green Arrow in the movie. That doesn't make the news any easier to take, though we can at least console ourselves with the fact that we still have a show whose star is just as badass as the character he's portraying.
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