An Inglorious Bastard

Not very long ago, I blogged about this set of uber cool stamps issued by Royal Mail that got my panties in a bunch.

McKeanGaimanStamps

McKeanGaimanStamps

Any self respecting individual would have taken it as a rant and leave it as that.

So now I’ve discovered the Girlfriend is not just any self respecting individual and actually went out to get me my very own set of stamps!

Granted, she was in the general continent, but still….

Whoopeedy doo me!

Have I said it already? I am one lucky bastard.

Comic of the Week – Week of 22 Jul

I’m supposed to have sworn off the whole Spiderman comics franchise after the fiasco that was Brand New Day.

But I just can’t help getting this issue. Deep inside, I am still a geek clamoring for these landmark issues.

Landmark, in the sense that the numberings are whole numbers, or “significant numbers” such as #1, #25, #50, #100, #250, #500, #13, #17 or… whatever numbers the Powers That Be deemed fit, apparently.

Amazing Spider Man 600, cover, Spider Man

It’s a bit of a surprise that Amazing #600 top the inaugural comic of the week list, (As a test of dedication and monetary depth, let’s see how long I can keep this going…) given how hyped up I am about “Blackest Night” at the moment.

For the record, I am not a big fan of the art of John Romita, Jr, I have an innate distrust to anyone with “Junior” in their name.  I believe they’ll always have deep psychological issues. Ok, let’s get objective (before some Italian mobster with a Oedipus complex come after my head with a cleaver), Romita’s art is blocky and just does not reasonate with what I percieve as, to use the scientific term, pretty pictures. But somehow, the art works fantastically for the main story of Amazing Spider Man #600.

Slott’s writing channels the work of Stan Lee in his prime. And for nothing else, I love the examination of the long term impact on a super villain (hur hur) who gets pummeled by SUPER heroes week in and week out.

Amazing Spider-Man #600, Doctor Octopus, Spider Man

And like all anniversary/landmark issues, the main stories are filled with guest appearances by Daredevil,  the Fantastic Four, the Original, Secret, Mighty Avengers. Some (Daredevil) turned out much better and relavant than others (Avengers). No matter what, the sharp writing never made the interaction between Spidey and the guest stars awkward, and it was actually fun reading the dynamics between the characters. My favorite guest star HAS to be the one that came out on the last page of the main story and the possible repercussions of her (re)apperance for Spidey. *nudge nudge wink wink*

Spider-Man #600, Daredevil, Spider Man, Blindside

And that is just the main story. The side stories by (among others_ Mark Waid, Mark Guggenheim and Stan “the MAN” Lee were, however, were a mixed bag. While I enjoyed Stan’s over the top recounting of Spiderman’s visit to a psychiatrist and the subtle and not so subtle digs at the various (sometimes ridiculous) plotlines of Spider Man over the years, I cringe at the overly dramatic and soap operaic rendition of Aunt May’s visit to Uncle Ben’s grave.

But the one thing that clinches the side stories for me has to be the return of the Spider Mobile, which I suppose was Marvel’s attempt at creating a Batmobile for Spiderman. Only instead of a cool, sleek, gadget filled grease lightning, the Spider Mobile turned out more along the lines of, and this is a direct quote, “Barbie’s Dune Buggy”.

The final reason why this is the Comic of the Week? It’s 100 PAGES long, baby! Count ’em! A four comic length epic for the price of one (slightly pricier) floppy warms my cockles and sings like a canary in my cheapskate heart.

Also… Toilet Humor Rocks!

Spider-Man #600, hydro man, toiletbowl, spider Man

Holy Crazy Colors of Oa

I’ve been pretty hyped up about Blackest Night.

The new comic week came and with it came the latest installments of the saga. We saw more of the Orange Lanterns, the Red Lanterns and the Star Sapphires in Blackest Night: Tales of the Green Lantern Corp.

Black Lanterns, rings, Black Hand, Scar

More importantly, we saw one of the first real interactions between a (all together now… Woooooaaaaaah) Black Lantern with the DC meta human population. While I still do not know the powers and motivations of the Black Lantern, I do love their powers of being able to see others’ affinity with the different colors in the spectrum.

colors, green lantern, hal jordan, flash, barry allen

Of course, the ongoing comic con at San Diego threw up this lovely lil image of a new range of action figures for Hal Jordan as the various colored Lanterns.

Comic Con Lanterns, Hal Jordan, Green Lantern, War of the Lights, Blackest Night, Red Lantern, Orange Lantern, Blue Lantern, Sinestro Corp

Mad Men

A bit late, but I just started on the new serial (for me) “Mad Men”.

Inspired by the on screen drama, I trawled the internet for modern day marketing campaigns.

This has to be one of the most brilliant guerrilla ads that I’ve seen so far.

And of all places, the ads was placed in Mumbai.

Bloody Brilliant.

It’s an ad by HSBC  to increase awareness of their website, www.globalwarmingsolutions.co.in, thus educating people on minimizing climate change.

While practically such a scenario could not happen… especially not in Mumbai which is high above sea levels.

Not to mention, the city scape of Mumbai looks nothing like the ones under the swimming pool, but still… it can’t be denied that it’s an uber cool concept.

Black as Night and Sweet as Sin

The blockbuster event of this summer.

2 years in the making and featuring a cast numbering in the thousands.

It’s darker. It’s more mature. It’s edgier.

It’s not Harry Potter and the half blood prince.

It is way cooler than HP for the pure and simple reason that it contains zombies!

At least that’s what I think they are…

For a storyline that’s been set up for 2 years and 2 books into the saga, I honestly still can’t tell you exactly what a Black Lantern is.

All I know is that they scare the hell outta me and they are cool as hell.

Black Lanterns RISE, green lantern, blackest night, black lanterns

Geoff Johns is a VERY strong writer for character comics. He single-handedly sparked my interest in the Justice Society of America, a team comprising of relatively old, silver age heroes which should have no business in today’s world whatsoever. They represent a generation of values that just does not make sense anymore. Somehow, he managed to make these old foggies relevant and develop these characters into ones that the reader can care about. No mean feat, considering the membership of the Society is dynamic (at best) and said membership consists of anything from 5 to 50 characters.

He is also really good at rejuvenating old concepts and retelling the mythos of  over powered, over exposed characters like Superman and Green Lantern to make them interesting again. He lifted these characters  from the “fight with the monster of the month” monotonous storylines to something else altogether. Cue the Sinestro Corp War, the War of the Light and New Krypton.

One genre which he never really touched so far is that of Horror and Gore, normally more the niche of writers like Garth Ennis and Jason Aaron.

Geoff Johns’ tales till now might be a little dark and slightly angsty, but they normally end with a message of hope. He’ll even try to show the more humane side of “evil” characters such as Black Adam and even Brainiac, which adds another dimension to their characterization and make them more compelling characters. I don’t think he really believes in Evil for Evil’s sake. Green Lantern #43 and Blackest Night #1 seemed to be proving me wrong as he shows he can out evil and out gore the best of them. Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis was supposed to depict a scenario where evil won and all hope is lost. But seriously, the final scenes of Blackest Night #1 were one of the most “f%& me blind” scenes I’ve seen in a comic for a very long time. It shows how absolute the Black Lanterns’ potential for mischief could be, and Johns is milking it for all that it is worth.

He paints a scenario that seems totally hopeless for the heroes to overcome. Case in point: the scene below.

Which I should probably mention: Spoiler Alert!

Elongated Man, Sue, ralph dibny, hawkman, black lanterns, blackest night

Sidenote: Is it me? Or is this Dark/Black theme the “in” thing for the moment? I mean… Marvel is having their Dark Reign event going on too… Certainly makes one wonder about the ideas are coming from…

I normally think Stamp collecting is for dweebs…

Every time I write a post like this, I feel I need to add in a disclaimer. So here goes…

Disclaimer:
I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan, but I am really really not stalking him. Maybe except, once in a while… on his blog…

Now that we have that out of the way, check out these awesome looking stamps that Royal Mail just released!

McKeanGaimanStamps

The art is by Gaiman’s long time art collaborator, Dave McKean, graphic designer to nearly all the issues in the Sandmand Series. But along with McKean’s art, each stamp comes with one of Gaiman’s short stories.

Have I said it yet? Lucky British Bastards!

Now, if I do this, I think I can jump across…

I have a problem…

These days, whenever I see a tall building such as this…

City Hall, singapore, parliament house, supreme court

I feel like I could scale them with just my bare hands and legs.

If you don’t think that’s a problem, you probably need to rethink it to live to a ripe old age like me (28).

That’s probably the highest praise I can give to Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed.

Assassins Creed, Altair

Ok, highest praise beside “I have completed the game”.

You see, I’ve not played a game from start to end since… Star Wars: Unleashed on my Wii. The last game that came close was Fallout 3. But I chickened out of it when I hit the final stage of playable missions because I read that it would end the game. Yeah… I am confused by that statement as well… after I completely uninstalled the game from my computer. You know, there are just some things you don’t want to end….

It is hard for me to spend so much time on a game these days because of The Job, but Assassin’s Creed really blew me away. I know, I know, it is a relatively old game (by gaming standards), but it’s just a game I never got round to playing. There’s also the fact that my system is (again, by geek standards) relatively old and probably couldn’t stand the test of playing the newer games.

xkcd, half life 2, portal, cutting edge

Even so, I have to set my graphic settings to medium, and even then there are places where the frame rate does not jump as well. Having said that, the graphics, at medium setting already, pardon the French, De Kick le Ass!

The 3 historical cities of Jerusalem, Damascus, and Acre are gorgeously rendered. Every brick and every tile (2 objects you’ll see a LOT of) in the sprawling cities look so real, you’ll wonder if they took a time machine and went back in time to take photos… which would be easier than actually recreating them in 3D.

In the big picture, I suppose the modeling of the buildings is the easier part of the job, because every city (and even the roads to the city) are populated by hundreds, if not thousands of relatively unique looking citizens. Of course, after a while, you’ll be able to differentiate the citizens into various classes and how they will be bothering you during the gameplay, but it is an incredible feat nontheless.

So what do you do in such lovely looking cities? Why? Among other things you’ll scale the walls and chimneys to reach vantage points, fling archers off rooftops, silently assassinate guards with the blade hidden in your sleeves, and engage in rooftop chases with the local law enforcers, of course. It’s Medievel Parkour with a friggin nasty blade.

Which brings us back to my problem. The actions are so fluid and Altair (the game’s sortof protagonist) makes the actions look so simple and effortless that you would want to attempt it yourself. Also, the sandbox world, besides looking pretty, also feels surprisingly real in the sense that for a game where a “Leap of Faith” is the normal mode of getting off the pinnacles of church towers, there are no artificial elements such as a big red spot saying “JUMP HERE!!”. You just have to trust that there is a bale of hay at the bottom to break your fall.

That is why beside the relatively adult theme and the huge amount of blood that would be shed throughout the game, this is definitely not a game for impressionable kids. I am surprised that the Girlfriend has not snatched it from me yet. It does help that she is a few continents away.

It’s definitely not a perfect game. The sidequests are almost mind numbingly repetitive. After you’ve saved 1 citizen from being bullied, you’ve saved them all. It kinda remind me of the console’s Spiderman series of games, only that you are parkouring instead of webslinging through an open city. But still, the visuals are so great you won’t mind having to climb near to 100 towers (I’ve counted) to reach the various vantage points. Beside needing to do so to open up hints for the quests, you’ll want to climb them just to see the view from the top.

What the side quests lack in complexity, the storyline made up, with extra salt and pepper and a whole leg of lamb thrown in. The twists in the main story are not entirely cerebral burning, but the ending will leave you confused, and even a little bit angry because it makes no sense at all…. yet.

Apparently Assassin’s Creed is conceived as a trilogy (strange how everyone is doing it after George Lucas did it with the Star Wars Tri.. I mean Nine-nology) so the coming sequels will answered all questions. This first one was supposed to set the stage for the upcoming sequels. We shall see… which probably be what Ubisoft wants anyway because even now I am eagerly waiting for the sequel… especially after seeing the awesome trailer below.  Ijust hope I don’t have to wait for a year plus before I can play it.

All in all, it’s a game worth playing if only just to ogle at the breathtaking landscapes and architectures. The stunning visuals will make you forget that you are repeatedly doing the same button pushing to accomplish the same side quests over and over again. And the ending while infuriating will make you sigh with relief… “at least this is not the last I will see of the game”.

Yup, pretty things do that to people. Just ask the guys I saw at the club the other night buying drinks after drinks to the nubile young things parading by.