Top 5 Most Anticipated Games of 2014

Much like my post a while ago on my most anticipated movies, I wanted to get my most anticipated games list for 2014 done and out there before these games start hitting the shelves.  A fair few of them will not be around for a little while, but even so it’s nice to mix these up a bit.  The games on the list are nice and varied themselves to an extent, so let’s get cracking shall we (mostly because I’m tired after lots and lots of driving today)?

5. Destiny

Right out the gate we have a game that is most likely going to drain a huge amount of time from my life, it has the potential to pull me in more than most shooters do.  Why’s that, you ask?  It’s got the open world, co-op multiplayer style of Borderlands, multiple classes to choose from and a tonne of weapons.  Oh, and it’s made by Bungie!  The fine folks behind the creation of Halo, and while many of the originals have moved on to other things, many went to 343i to continue working on Halo, their vision and style is quite clearly still the same.  What this will mean is a game that is as much substance as it is style, it’ll mean a game that works right out the box and is supported for a good length of time after release both in terms of new content, updates and community events/support.  I have a huge amount of faith in Bungie, I really hope it’s not misplaced.  I doubt it will be.

4. Alien: Isolation

This is one I’m desperately trying to manage my expectations on, I was one of those massively burned by the absolute (excuse me for this, I’m still bitter) clusterfuck that was Aliens: Colonial Marines.  I had a very brief nostalgia trip with all the faithful sound effects and the impressively reconstructed levels, then I actually paid attention to what I was playing and very quickly realised it was awful.  The thing that gave it away was when sneaking through the sewer area, with the Xenomorphs pottering around like puppets with permanent jazz hands.

The plus side with this one is it hasn’t been handed over to multiple developers throughout it’s cycle and most important of all it hasn’t ended up in the hands of the dirty, lying money grabbers that are Gearbox.  My faith had been shaken in Gearbox by this game already, then the way Borderlands 2 was handled post release, both in terms of updates and extra content, they can shove all the rest of their garbage games where the sun doesn’t want to shine.  Anyway, “Isolation” looks to be hitting all the right notes, there are a lot of behind the scenes videos floating around YouTube showing off how the team has kept things within the scope and design of the original film and, more importantly, this looks like it’s going to create the same air of tension and terror as the first film did, at least the first time you watch it anyway.

3. Tom Clancy’s The Division

Now the trailer I’ve posted above may only be a trailer showing off the new engine, and before anyone barks on about “graphics don’t make a game good”, I’m well aware of this point but I’ll be damned if anyone can pick holes in how incredible this looks already.  If this isn’t enough, there is a 15 minute gameplay video on YouTube somewhere which shows off the tactical, highly co-operative gameplay in the stunning game environment.  It looks to be ticking all the boxes with it’s team based, post apocalyptic, beautifully renderred gameplay.  And these guys are putting some serious effort into this game.  Just looking at the sound design alone, the developers are saying that anyone with extensive firearms experience will be able to tell you what gun was fired and from how far when fights are going on nearby.  How true that is, I’ll probably never know, but it sounds really cool.

2. Batman: Arkham Knight

I know, shocking that this isn’t at number 1, right?  You’ll see why shortly, but let’s focus on this one for now.  The final part in the epic Rocksteady Batman trilogy (Origins doesn’t count anywhere in this, we don’t talk about that) Arkham Knight has raised the stakes to epic proportions.  We’ve got a seemingly allied rogues gallery overrunning Gotham City, Batman in a fancy new armoured up suit and a new villain created especially for the game, the titular Arkham Knight.  The identity behind the mask has not been revealed as of yet, and frankly I don’t want to know until it’s revealed during my playthrough, but I swear to god if it’s The Joker I will put my controller down, turn off my console and return the disc as “faulty” for a full refund.  Hopefully Rocksteady will ditch some of the awful combo changes brought into Origins by WB games, not release a broken game like WB games and – wait, we weren’t going to talk about that, were we?

Let’s face facts, this is going to be AWESOME!

1. Dragon Age: Inquisition

That’s right, “Inquisition” is my most highly anticipated game of this calendar year.  Dragon Age: Origins was one of the greatest games ever made, a highly compelling RPG set in a wonderfully fleshed out high fantasy world filled with interesting characters which also told an incredible story.  Dragon Age 2 received a lot of flak, and rightly so in many respects, but I still enjoyed the game, I thought the dialogue was fantastic and some of the plot twists caught me completely off guard.  I also really like Hawke, although I must say I thought the female voice actor was much better than the male, especially when playing the entire game as the most sarcastic person in Kirkwall.

What many people seem to be irritated over, and this will most likely carry over into the third game, is the fact that you couldn’t continue the story of your Grey Warden from DA:O and that the Darkspawn and Archdemons were not touched upon through the main story.  What those people failed to realise is this was never like Mass Effect, where you follow one person through a big adventure and see the way the lives of those he or she meets are affected, it was always meant to be a story about the world they live in.  The great continent of Thedas is the main character here, we see how it’s affected by the constant wars going on and this game will be a culmination of things that happened in the first two games, coming to a head and all hell breaking loose.

The Darkspawn and the Archdemons were never going to be front and centre through the entire series, the reality is there’s normally quite a long period of time between Archdemons appearing and leading the Darkspawn on a worldwide rampage.  Not only that, but having all the same enemies and playing as exactly the same character would have been ridiculously boring.  Instead, we see things kicking off in a small harbour city in part two, with some really major events taking place that will reshape the world entirely.  It’s fascinating to see it all happen, and to top it off “Iquisition” looks absolutely stunning from the gameplay videos and screenshots I’ve seen so far.  Bring on October 10th!

And that’s my list of games I’m most excited for, all scheduled to drop this year at some point.  Not all have been exactly dated yet, a little part of me wouldn’t be surprised to see “The Division” pushed back to next year, but as of right now it still has an estimated date of later this year.  It’s also worth noting that Watch Dogs only just missed out on a spot in the Top 5, will be picking that up day one at the end of next month.  Anyway, that’s all folks, after the long and disappointing trip to Wales for the worst comic con in the world I could really do with getting some sleep.  Thank you for stopping by, hope everyone had a good weekend and I’ll be back tomorrow for a good old bitch and moan about today’s convention trip.

Oh, and if you’re so inclined pop on over here and hit follow.  Even if I miss posts on here, there are always nuggets of wisdom chucked around on there!

Weekly Update 26/04/2014

Been a very lazy week this week, I’m not going to lie.  I have achieved so little of note, funny thing is it hasn’t even been a particularly mad week at work or anything like that, I’ve not had any disasters at home or in my personal life to deal with.  The reality is, I got completely distracted from all the things I’d normally like to do by Battlefield 4, which seems to be a recurring issue just lately, I’m more hooked by that multiplayer than any other game multiplayer or not.  I love the really competetive edge the game has, the fact that it doesn’t seem to attract whiney, irritating kids (I’ve not come across any on the Xbox One anyway) and it quite simply looks amazing.  Add to that, I’m getting pretty good at it now so I’m having even more fun!

Regardless, I wanted to make sure I at least got my update for the week out there as there are still one or two things to touch on, although today’s post is going to be relatively short, partly due to not a lot going on and partly due to the early start I’ve got tomorrow thanks to the long(ish) drive to Wales for the second convention of the year for me.

Going along with my frequent tardiness in general, many will know I fairly recently started watching Smallville.  It was a show that I gave a go many years ago and never really got into, it fell by the wayside and before I knew it the show was wrapped and I never really felt any compulsion to go back and try again.  Well, the recent delve into it has proven to be more than a hit with me, I don’t know why it clicked with me the second time around, but in the space of just over a month I’ve managed to burn through a little over six seasons.  It’s times like this I’m thankful I can get by on five hours of sleep.  And, oh boy, have things started to get really good.  My favourite heroine has shown up, played unbelievably well by Laura Vandervoort, and some of my absolute favourite characters have been popping up here and there for various guest appearances and cameos.

I will say this though: Stephen Amell is waaaay better as Oliver Queen and his costume looks less… ridiculous.  That aside, it’s great.

Oh, and this week’s Arrow was phenomenal (the one that aired in the US on Wednesday).  I know there are a fair number of you in the UK that might not have seen it yet, so I won’t go into too much detail over it, but I will say this is essentially a 4 part finale beginning with this episode and everything has reached a fever pitch.  The last few moments were particularly shocking.

On the comics front, I’m continuing to make my way through the JMS run of Amazing Spider-Man, drawn by John Romita Jr which has been spectacular throughout.  The only criticism I have with any of it is how JRJR draws faces, sometimes they look really off, almost inhuman.  I know that since I’m hardly talented in the art department it’s knid of tough to criticise but I’m doing it anyway, I’ve read enough comics to know what art styles I like and what I don’t.  I also know what a face is meant to look like.  Also, today was my day for picking up the pull list, of which I’ve read a whopping one book from the ten I picked up, but since that was Batman Eternal #3 and Stephanie Brown has FINALLY returned to mainstream DC continuity I’m happy.  That’s enough for me.  I do think in the time it took me to fully process, then freak out in excitement at Steph’s return, I could have probably read another couple of books but I cannot overstate how sorely missed she’s been since dropping Barb back into the cape and cowl.

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She’s back!

As I mentioned above, I’m heading into the land of the dragons tomorrow for Wales Comic Con, not too sure how good it’ll be for picking up some of the comics I need to fill the old gaps in my collection, there’s not exactly a huge list of creators that are scheduled for it but if the queue isn’t too horrendous I’m going to try and get my photo taken with Allison Mack.  As long as I can come away with a few things I need, hopefully nice and cheap, I’ll be happy.  Plus, it’s a con I’ve never been to before and will give me the opportunity to meet and chat with some new people at some point.

Right, I’m fairly certain I’m missing a couple of things I wanted to talk about but I have to be out the house in a little over eight hours, so I’m going to call it there and make sure I’m all ready for tomorrow before I go hit the pillow.  Hope you’re all having a good weekend so far and I will be back here tomorrow evening for another installment of Top 5 fun.  One Sunday this year, hopefully in the next month, I’m going to do something ridiculous for the Batman 75th with a Top 75 of something, haven’t decided yet.  In fact, I think I’ll run it over three Sundays so I don’t end up in front of the computer all weekend burning myself out with it.  Anyway, see you guys tomorrow!

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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Right then, I’m going to break this review down into two very specific parts, the short beginning where I’ll give a brief run down of what I liked and didn’t like so much, and give an overall impression and then we’ll move onto the bulk of this review where I’ll go into more detail.  Needless to say, the second part of this post will be so heavily reliant on spoilers that if you haven’t seen it, just check out the first bit and leave it at that, yeah?  Ok, cool, let’s get this rolling then.

Clocking in at a whopping 142 minutes run time, even for a huge Spidey fan like myself it does feel like a bit of a slog at times.  It’s a fairly slow starting film, then it begins to drag it’s heels around the middle before finding it’s feet again for the climatic third act.  There were most certainly scenes that I felt could have been cut shorter and some dropped altogether to help move things along a little better, but I get what Sony are trying to do with this film.  The acting was sublime from all the main cast, much like the first film, and the main plot was simple enough for anyone to enjoy while having enough punch to it to keep me engaged.  The news swirling around the internet before the film came out that there would be three villains showing up in this film had me a little concerned, but only one is in the whole film, another shows up in the latter part of the second act and the final villain was properly shown off in the final moments, so thankfully it didn’t get bogged down in serious villain origin time.  As mentioned before, being a big fan of both 616 and Ultimate Spider-Man I loved what Webb has done with this series so far, and I think Andrew Garfield is THE perfect Peter Parker and Spider-Man.  Save for a few bits I felt could have been cut or dropped, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and will absolutely be hitting this up on Blu-Ray when it drops in stores.  I may even go and see it at the cinema again.  Recommended for the fans of Spider-Man and those who enjoy a good superhero movie, but be prepared for the length and be aware that this is a film clearly intended to set up the rest of the franchise Sony wants too.

Right then, just so we’re clear here… SPOILERS AHEAD.  I REPEAT, MAJOR FILM SPOILERS THROUGHOUT.  YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

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So the movie kicks off looking back at the events that directly followed on from Peter being dropped off at Ben and May’s, showing what happens to Richard and Mary Parker.  We get to see that Richard was trying to warn the world that Oscorp was into some serious devious stuff, sending research notes and evidence off to a secure location called Roosevelt while trying to escape retribution from his former boss with his wife on a jet.  It’s a little slow paced, and rather shockingly this whole situation from the point of Peter wandering into his father’s ransacked office to the jet going down and Peter’s parents apparently dying (let’s face it, it’s not entirely off the table that at least Richard is still alive, we don’t really see him die) takes approximately 40 minutes to play out.  Frankly, I think that a fair amount of this section alone could have been cut back by half at least, I see what they wanted to do and yeah, I wanted to see more of the Parker parents, but I think it was a little too much and made me feel a little disengaged from the film, which is definitely a bad thing for the opening sequence.

Following on from this we get a hell of a lot of time played out for the on-off relationship of Gwen and Peter, again something I felt was done really well but probably could have been stripped down a little.  I think it worked as well as it did just because of how amazing (going to try and limit my use of that word today) Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are, both on screen together and individually as actors.  They have a wonderful chemistry, which is no surprise, but they dealt with their own characters issues very well.  Peter is still reeling from the death of Captain Stacy, clearly showing serious signs of guilt over his death and the fact that he’s broken his final promise to the Captain that he’d leave Gwen well out of his crazy life.  This culminates in them deciding to split, or rather Gwen finally having enough of him being unable to fully commit to her.  I love that they put this relationship front and centre for a portion of the film, and while I think a couple of bits here and there could have possibly been shortened a little, the reality is if that level of focus hadn’t been used then the events later in the film would have been less hard hitting.  But I’ll get to that shortly.

The scenes with Spider-Man were thrilling to say the least, and even though I viewed ASM 2 in 2D, the web slinging around the city and the action scenes involving Spidey made me wish I’d seen it in 3D.  No matter what’s going on in Pete’s life, there’s always a sense of overwhelming joy when he’s flinging himself around the city on his webs, and this is something the film plays on to great effect.  It fills me with a great sense of joy too.  What we also see from Garfield’s performance is the huge rift in confidence between Parker and Spidey, they’re pretty much two different people.  His quips and jokes while he has the costume on are fantastic, and despite it’s gut wrenching ending ASM 2 provides an incredible sense of humour almost all the way through.  When he’s in the back of the Oscorp truck at the start, trying to hold onto all the radioactive containers it’s a very simple, almost slapstick style humour which suits the film so well.  One of my absolute favourite moments was quite far through when he’s having his final showdown with Electro, who shall be covered next, after already dubbing him Sparkles.  Electro has taken down power across the whole city and says something along the lines of “They shall know me as a god!” and Peter turns it back on him with “What?  A God called Sparkles?”.  I was almost in tears with that, absolutely genius writing and pulled off perfectly by Garfield.

Now, Electro, the first of the three villains established in this film was awesome.  Played by Jamie Foxx, he goes from a very nervous and near enough invisible man to a commanding and fearsome villain.  His origin is typical comic book stuff, falls into a tank of water filled with electric eels while holding a live cable and is presumed dead, then boom!  Villain with control over electricity.  What was interesting is that when he gained his abilities he was still the mild mannered engineer he was before gaining these powers, what tipped him over the edge was Spidey not recognising him (he’d been saved by Spidey earlier and was a huge, obsessive fan), the news feed on all the big screens switching focus from him to Spidey and a police sniper taking a shot at him.  All this combined proved too much for Max Dillon to cope with, and he flipped out.  It made him into a pretty sympathetic villain, showing that it wasn’t Max’s fault he became this way and that he wasn’t just some total psychopath that gained powers, similar to what they did with Kurt Connors in the first ASM.  And the final battle between Electro and Spider-Man was a real spectacle to behold.

The second villain that made his first appearance of this rebooted series was the Green Goblin, and refreshingly it wasn’t Norman Osborne that kicked it off first time round.  Norman dies quite early on and leaves control of the company in the hands of Harry, the long absent childhood friend of Peter.  Turns out that Norman died of a disease passed from generation to generation within his family, warning Harry in his final moments that it would start to affect him soon and he needed to find a cure.  Well, this leads him down the path of deciding the blood of Spider-Man will save him, and when Spider-Man refuses he loses his shit completely and tracks down some of the venom extracted from the experimental spiders that were destroyed when Richard was about to blow the whistle.  Thing is, the venom was encoded to only work with Parker DNA, so, to be blunt, it fucks Harry over and turns him into the Goblin.  He jumps in the suit, which basically saves his life, and goes off in search of Spider-Man who he feels is fully to blame for the state he has been left in.  The ridiculous mask from the last film series has been done away with, going instead with a totally messed up face, and the armour looks absolutely badass.  And bringing us back around to the actors, Dane DeHaan is superb as both Harry and Goblin, showing he can play the role of scheming, power hungry rich kid and full blown nut job in style, he absolutely nails it.

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The main thing I think is worth noting with Green Goblin though, is he has (I think) two major reasons for being around in this film.  The first one was to set things up for one of the spin off movies, the Sinister Six.  Oscorp has already developed wings for whoever will eventually be The Vulture, they’ve made Doc Ock’s robotic arms and they provided the suit for Rhino, the villain who gets a brief appearance at the end.  Thankfully, one thing the writers and Webb did extremely well was tie in the lead in to that spin off with the fallout from ASM 2 seamlessly.  It didn’t feel tacked on, everything was tied to the forward motion of the main plot with Harry teaming up with Electro before becoming Goblin.  The other main pull for bringing in Goblin was a little darker.  Who else could they have help cause the death of Gwen Stacy?  Realistically, no one, and now there will be a burning hatred between these two and with good reason both ways.

And boy, that death hit me like several tonnes of falling conrete.  I loved all the back and forth between Gwen and Peter and there’s a scene which has them both stood at the top of a bridge and I’m sitting there waiting for Goblin to show up and throw her off.  He doesn’t, and much like many others that know how she dies in the comics, I sighed a breath of relief, thinking that Webb had thrown us a huge red herring and that, maybe, she’d be ok.  What actually ends up happening is after the fight with Electro when Goblin does show up, he tkaes her up to the top of a clock tower where the two rivals face off, and drops her.  At first, Pete saves her and drops her on some of the inner workings of the clock, and it’s a little tight but looks like things might be ok.  Then she drops again, and we have this long, slow motion scene of Pete shooting a web at her to catch her.  It just about creeps through falling parts of the clock, slowly reaching Gwen and reaching out like a hand to grab her, only when it does it quickly and violently speeds back up to regular speed.  She stops just before hitting the ground, but way too sharply and there is a spie chilling, gut wrenching crack as she stops.  At this point, you know.  You know he’s misjudged it, he’s almost saved her, but not quite and exactly what Captain Stacy feared has happened.  It hit really, really hard.  I still can’t shake that scene from my head any time anyone mentions the film, I don’t think I will for a while.  I’ll be damned if I can find a screenshot of it anywhere, but trust me when I say it is some seriously grim viewing.  Not much shakes me up, but that did.

I can sort of put that down to the fact that I hate to see my heroes fail, and what bigger failure is there than that?  Just to top it off, since I can remember Spider-Man has always been a favourite hero of mine, it hurts to see and then you get Garfield reaction to her death and it literally breaks him.  It’s such a powerful scene, it makes the Superman reaction to killing Zod look pretty pathetic in comparison.  I know that scene doesn’t hold up well for a lot of people so that may not mean much if you’re one of those, but I thought while the killing was wrong Henry Cavill’s reaction afterwards was pretty powerful.  Garfield shows him how it’s done here, it’s nuts.

We then get a nice little through-the-months montage type thing where Pete has sacked off being Spidey completely and looks as though he’s put the rest of his life on hold to grieve.  Something you can hardly blame him for really, this is something he rightly feels responsible for.  But he’s drawn back into the game when he hears reports of Rhino smashing things up, directly answers his challenge and throws himself back into it.  It’s a nice way to finish up, they don’t dwell for too long on Peter moping around feeling like crap, but what they do show is adequetly impactful.

All the key players in this film did a wonderful job in bringing one of the greatest heroes in comics to life, and I have a lot of faith in this series.  This film was meant as a set up for this new franchise direction Sony have decided on in the wake of the success they achieved with the first ASM and the success garnered from The Avengers, I think that accounts for the slightly excessive length of the film.  There are also some plot threads that won’t get paid off until the next ASM at least, so you have to go into this film now knowing that you’re in it for the long game.  This is the only real downside to franchise building, and I think to an extent Sony have possibly over played that a bit in this installment.  One thing Marvel/Disney have done very well is organically grow this interwinding multi movie cinematic universe where everything and everyone work together without forcing the issue, with ASM 2 this franchise building feels a little artificial like they’re trying a little too hard at it.  Still, it made for a largely enjoyable film and regardless of it’s faults with dragging some things out a bit, I already hold this rebooted series in a much higher regard than I do the original Raimi series.  Which I hated.  So there’s that.

Oh, and there was someone called Felicia in it, Harry’s PA.  Which was awesome and very exciting (I’m a big Black Cat fan too and who else is it going to be, really?).

I know there are a few more things I could go over here, but I think I’m going to cap myself here before I end up writing a full blown essay.  Thank you for stopping by and checking out my opinion on the film.  I know there were some negatives in there but it is most definitely in my recommended watch pile, I still came away from the cinema a very happy, if a little shell shocked, Spidey fan.  That’s all folks!

Top 5 Spider-Man Villains

This weekend is a special weekend, not because of Easter but because of the Amazing Spider-Man 2 release here in the UK on Friday.  Since I’m not religious and don’t have much of a sweet tooth these days Easter doesn’t hold any significance for me, it just means all the shops are shut so I better make sure I’ve got all the cigarettes I’m going to need.  No, ASM 2 was far more significant, so rather than doing an Easter themed Top 5 list I thought I’d look at my personal favourite five Spider-Man villains.  There are so many awesome villains to choose from, almost as varied and colourful a rogues gallery as the big bad Bat himself.  My personal Top 5 represents that variation in Spidey’s rogues gallery, covering the crazy cosmic stuff to the grounded street level villains.  Well, let’s take a look shall we?

5. Kingpin

Wilson Fisk a.k.a. The Kingpin is often more closely associated with Daredevil, but he’s had a fair number of scraps with Spider-Man so I think it’s fair to put him on the list.  It’s not particularly surprising that he’s going to run into both of these heroes since he’s based out of New York, but I think the thing that I love about the Kingpin is when you look at the bloke, or at least when I do anyway, my initial thought is “there’s absolutely no way this guy could take Spidey”.  Physically, the man is the complete opposite to Spidey, he doesn’t have anything like the speed or movement that Pete’s got, but he doesn’t need it.  Spider-Man normally has a tough time getting close to Fisk thanks to the incredibly large criminal empire Fisk has managed to build around him in New York.

And how could he not?  The man knows how to play the game, he knows how to play and manipulate people, both those who end up working for him and those in legitimate positions of power, usually within the government.  Whether it’s at a city level, state level or country wide level Fisk has people in his pocket all the time.  He is one of the ultimate gangsters in comics, very little is out of his reach and when Spidey get’s within his reach, he’s normally strong enough to throw him off and get out of there.  A more than formidable foe for Spider-Man and often underestimated, even after all these years.

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Sharp dresser too

 4.  Kraven the Hunter

Kraven is a vallian much unlike other villains from many characters, not just Spidey himself.  When Kraven, the legendary hunter, learns of the existence of Spider-Man he makes it his personal mission to hunt him down and kill him.  It’s nothing personal mind you, and this is why I like Kraven so much.  He isn’t in it for the money, he’s not a down right evil villain, he doesn’t go out and murder scores of people, he is simply a hunter going after the ultimate game.  He has no personal vendetta against Spider-Man either, since he’s never actually met him when he goes after him.  It makes him a tricky foe for Spidey, since he’s not completely insane or affected by any crazy serums or anything like that.  He is the peak of human conditioning and the ultimate hunter.  Definitely a favourite of mine overall, not just from the Spidey-verse.

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3. Otto Octavius

Also known as the legendarry Dr. Octopus, or Doc Ock, Otto has been a constant thorn in Spider-Man’s side for decades now, always coming up with crazy plots to try to either take down Spidey or the whole world.  Either will do for him.  The leader of the Sinister Six, he has such a high level of intellect it’s unreal, so many of his fights and plans involve some pretty cool tech.  He was at his peak of brilliance during Dan Slott’s ASM while in his own body, almost frying half the planet and managing to keep himself alive longer than he really should have.  Even in his almost vegative state he managed to run a team of super villains, play an incredibly long game against the Spider and almost won, culminating in his most brilliant plan of all, swapping minds with Spider-Man and taking his body for his own.  It was during this time we learned what a totured human Otto was, being raised in an abusive home as a child, being constantly bullied through school and snapping at what he perceived as bullying from Pete himself.  His path to redemption was a really fun one to follow through Superior Spider-Man, with him making countless mistakes along the way until he realised he must sacrifice himself to allow the real Spider-Man back in, and that makes him a hero in his own right.

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2. Hobgoblin

Specifically, the Roderick Kingsley incarnation of Hobgoblin, the original and best.  While I liked the most recent one, Phil Urich, I think Roderick is just so much more tactically minded it makes for a more entertaining villain.  Everyone can sit and enjoy a psychotic villain every now and then, but I think Spidey already has a fair few of those knocking around (not as many as Batman though!) and Kingsley makes things much more interesting by being so damned clever.  He’s a genius in a different manner to Ock and Peter, he knows how to get under peoples skin and has a real skill for self preservation.  Even in the more recent comics as he’s gotten a little older, he’s extremely effective and dangerous in the suit and I think one of Spider-Man’s absolute deadliest foes.  I’m looking forawrd to seeing what the Spidey team has planned for him next, although I think having just seen the end of Goblin Nation it could be a while before he shows back up again.

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1. Mac Gargan

Now my number one is a very slight cheat, it’s almost a two in one selection since he has been two major villains for Spider-Man and both are pretty awesome.  My favourite would definitely be Scorpion, mostly because he was quite a prominent villain in the comics I started reading as a kid, and he’s one of the earliest comics villains I have a memory of.  The Scorpion suit was always so badass, and Gargan himself well and truly slots into the “absolute psychopath”  category.  He has advanced abilities beyond regular humans with superhuman strength, speed and endurance and his suit comes with a nice cybernetic scorpion tail too.

Of course, he was also the third host to the symbiote known as Venom, after Eddie Brock discarded it and left his life as an anti-hero behind.  When Mac donned the symbiote, it was back to straight up evil, no mucking around and treading the line between good and bad, just a solid vendetta against Spider-Man and a bloodthirst that was almost impossible to quench.  While acting as host to Venom, he gained all of Spider-Man’s abilities plus a few additions, as we know from previous symbiote bearers, but he used it’s shaping shifting and morphing ability to produce a symbiote created scorpion tail to go with it, never fully shedding his previous title.

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And so another Top 5 is done, and another post is a day late.  I’m desperately trying to get myself back on track with everything at the moment, but there never seems to be enough time in the day.  Anyway, enough moaning and excuse making, it’s time for dinner so I will most likey see you tomorrow if you pop by for my Amazing Spider-Man 2 review.  Yes, that’s tomorrow now and not today anymore.  More lateness!

Weekly Update 20/04/2014

Welcome, and happy Easter everyone!  Time for another brief run down of anything interesting that may have happened over the last week, you know, like going to see a certain web-slinging hero in the cinema yesterday…  So, first of all I’m going to ackownledge that yes, this is a day late and no, I have not decided to start doing this on a Sunday now I was just too busy having a fun day off yesterday, something everyone is entitled to at some point.  There will also be a Top 5 later today, not sure when but it’ll appear at some point.

So, it was a good week for the pull list this week, with two Batman books, the new Birds of Prey and Superior Spider-Man finale.  Unfortunately, since I only picked them up yesterday before going to see Amazing Spider-Man 2 I’ve only had the chance to read one, which funnily enough was Superior.  It’s been such a fantastic series from start to finish and I was so hyped up on Spidey yesterday, that was the one issue I absolutely had to read.  No doubt I’ll look through the others at some point today, since there was nine on the list this week I could do with making a start on them!  But yeah, back on to Superior, I thought the series ended on a real bang, there was the resolution of Goblin Nation which has left the whole situation in a very interesting state, things could well be a lot tougher for Pete after the way he dealt with Goblin.  Then you got to see resolutions to two of the main relationships Peter maintains, Carlie and MJ, both of which ended in similar fashion and both surprised me quite a bit actually.

One thing they didn’t touch on, however, was Anna-Marie which is going to leave Peter in a potentially really awkward spot, she is seriously in love with who she thought Peter was when Ock was inhabiting his brain, but the reality is Peter has no idea what she’s like and may not feel the same at all.  He has a lot to deal with on both sides of his life, Parker Industries and Sajani are going to need some TLC too and he still has the Avengers to deal with.  I do not envy Peter his situation right now.

There was one other thing they touched on which I thought was nice, and that’s when Anna-Marie is falling off a building Peter shoots his web at her to catch her and as he’s catching and saving her there’s an inner monologue running about how he’s fully practiced at this now, knowing exactly how much force to use and how much give to allow to ensure there’s no terrible accident.  And while that relatively subtle hint is given, when MJ and Carlie are talking later in the issue MJ specifically mentions Gwen by name, saying how nothing has truly been the same since she died.  Overall, I thought it was a great way to bring Peter back in and hint at all the stuff he’s going to have to deal with in his private life and his Spider life.

As I mentioned earlier, I saw Amazing Spider-Man 2 yesterday and was utterly blown away by it.  I was asked yesterday whether I thought it was better than “The Winter Soldier” or not, but really there’s no way I could call it between the two.  That’s as much a compliment to Cap than anything since I’m both a huge fan of Spider-Man and a big supporter of the newly rebooted film series.  I’m going to do a full blown, spoiler riddled review for Spidey tomorrow evening so keep an eye out for it, although obviously if you’ve not seen it you’ll want to keep away.  But for those of you that do want to see it and haven’t yet, go as soon as you can.  For fans of Spider-Man it’s faithful to both the main book it’s named after while bringing in certain elements of “Ultimate”.  It’s got perfect Spidey humour, awesome Peter Parker moments and at least one scene that will stick with you for quite some time.

Ok, so this might all seem a bit disjointed today, but I actually started this post about 10 hours ago, having to pause for various things including lunch and family coming round so since then, I’ve managed to squeeze a couple more comics in.  Batman #30 was thoroughly entertaining and the very long playing Zero Year is starting to pay off now.  I, in all honesty, was starting to get a little fed up with ZY, waiting for it to be over so I could get back to reading current time Batman from Snyder and Capullo, but this new overgrown Gotham run by the Riddler is both fun to read and beautiful to look at.

Riddler as self appointed mayor made major cut backs in the public sector, no-one to mow the lawns anymore.

I also read Batman Eternal #2, which is continuing to be a great read.  Issue 1 set us up with the city in ruins as the end game, then brought us right to the start of it with Gordon being arrested for shooting an unarmed man and causing a huge subway accident resulting in the deaths of many innocent civilians.  Well this one carried right on from there, showing us the Bat family coming back together to help prove Gordon’s innocence, something Jim himself is unsure of at this point.  It also introduced us to a new player for the dark side of Gotham, a damn big player too that has me extremely excited for the next issue.

Oh, and I read Supergirl #30 too.  It made very little sense largely due to the fact that I’m not reading Red Lanterns, but it continues to be a development that sucks.  I just don’t agree with this story arc at all, I get that Tony Bedard is working this in such a way that Kara will come out the other end the Supergirl she should be, but let’s be quite honest she should never have been written to this point in the first place.  Bedard shouldn’t have to fix her situation by making her a Red Lantern.

On the more personal front, I went and signed up all the paperwork for my new car yesterday, so now it’s properly sinking in that I’m about to have a brand new car.  It’s just a little bit exciting, unfortunately I still don’t have a collection date yet so I don’t know how long I have to get by on the crappy car I’m running now.  While the car itself is not such an issue, I can’t be bothered to be constantly filling it up in very small amounts of fuel so I’m not exchanging the car with any real amount of fuel in it.

So, final point of the day, happy Easter everyone, hope you’ve had a good day and an even better weekend.  Take care, and I’ll see you later on this evening for the next Top 5 installment.  It may or may not be spider related…

Comic Presentation

Comic collecting is great, it really is.  It gives you an interesting point of conversation with people that collect and people that don’t, and for those that do there’s always a great variation in how people go about it.  There are many these days that go purely down the digital route, opting to use a platform such as Comixology as a way of saving soace and money, especially with the deals they’re always running on various back issues.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that comics are becoming more accessible for more people, and a digital platform is a genuinely brilliant idea for getting more people into the medium, it’s just not for me.  I’m one of those with boxes and boxes of comics, with shelves constantly being filled with trades and graphic novels.  The funny thing about how I started though is that I always considered myself a reader of comics, but not necessarily a collector.  In my mind, these were two completely different mindsets, the reader being the one who picks up comics specifically to read, some of these people may sell their comics on after reading them and some may not.  I didn’t like the idea of selling mine on when I was finished, but I was still essentially a reader.  Those that, back then anyway, I defined as collectors were those that chased down rare comics, key issues and first appearances.  Comics that you’d tend to need to drop a fair wedge on sometimes.

The funny thing is that as my collection grew in size, quite rapidly to be honest, the almost hoarding mentality I’d developed started to change the way I viewed the hobby, especially as I started to grow strong attachments to specific characters.  The line between reader and collector I had drawn in my head started to blur, and before I knew it I was one of those people hunting down first appearances and key issues.  It’s a game some play for profit only, but one I play partly for the thrill and partly for the pride of ownership.  Where’s the relevance to the title with all this?  Well, now that I have several comics I’m genuinely proud to own, I thought I’d share my display method for those special issues.

Now, the first things I’m going to look at are a couple of options that were obvious, but options I didn’t feel were right for me or really worthwhile.  The first would be CGC.  CGC is an indepedent group of experts that take delivery of your comics and, for a fee of course, grade it, encase it in plastic and send it back to you.  You’ll find CGC at the big conventions too, usually with creators nearby so that signed comics can be verified by them too.  The full information for their grading process can be found over here if you’re interested.

The thing with CGC grading is it’s always struck me as something worth doing if you’re looking to sell on any comics you’ve picked up, I personally don’t think the plastic casing the comics are held in look all that great, they’re also a bit of a pain if you’re looking to display them on a wall.  If you’re looking to buy comics online and are unsure about the seller, a CGC copy is usually a fairly safe bet since the comic will have been graded by these pros and you know exactly what you’re buying.  I prefer to buy these types of comics in a face to face situation, one that allows me to check the issue out myself and make my own judgement call on it unless it’s from a seller that I know is totally reliable.  As someone that buys comics that haven’t been CGC graded, I don’t want to go through the ridiculous hassle of sending these comics off to a US based company, not knowing how they’ve been treated on this long journey, just to have them sent back in a piece of plastic.  It seems completely wasteful to me, top that off with the fact that there isn’t a comic shop near to me that will serve as a middle man in the situation and it becomes far more hassle than it’s realistically worth.  So that option was off the table immediately.

There was a second option which had presented itself to me too, that being specially made comic framing kits.  These are frames specifically built to be the perfect size and shape to hold and display comics.  I’d seen them at my local, Nostalgia & Comics, and I’d seen them at my preferred online destination Disposable Heroes.  There was one huge downside to these though; they’re bloody expensive!  Right now, on my walls, I have ten choice comics framed and hanging with another ten waiting in the wings ready to go.  That’s basically £140 for the ones up and £280 to get the remaining ones up.  Insanity.  I can’t be dropping that kind of cash on frames for these comics, the total price for all twenty books could get me a copy of Detective Comics #359 with some cash left over.  It’s over half way to me finally owning Action Comics #252.

So what, then?  Enter the brilliance that is Ikea.  For this work around, I used their Mahult frame found here in 21 x 30cm.  The frame itself has a really nice silver finish, a glass front and most importantly of all is a mere £4 per frame.  So all of a sudden, the cost of me framing and protecting these ten comics has gone from £140 down to £40.  Much more agreeable.  Something that had concerned me was the possibility of the Sun fading these comics any time the frames fell into direct sunlight, something I thought I’d combat by dropping the comics into UV shielded mylar bags before framing.  This brings the cost per comic right back up though as these bags are not cheap, and the reality is if these comics faded so much under a reletively short amount of exposure to sun through the windows, I should most likely be more concerned about my own health than that of the comics.  If I’m safe in here, then so are they.  So these frames are absolutely perfect, which I will show you now.  Oh, in fact before we do, for anyone in the USA reading this then the equivalent of these frames would be the Mahult here in 7¾ x 9¾”.  The sizing is slightly smaller than their UK counterparts, but will still be great for holding comics and at $6.99 a frame they’re still very good value for money.

So, for this demonstration I’ll be using the following comic, Amazing Spider-Man #194:

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And I’ll be placing it in this Mahult photo frame:

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The way I found easiest to get this placed right was to open up the back of the frame by pulling the metal clips back and taking everything except for the glass out.  One thing you’ll notice is that the frame also comes with a mounting board, but you don’t want to use this like you normally would.  Since the comic is still in a bag and board it doesn’t matter if it comes in direct contact with the glass, so that board comes out too.  Once it’s all out, place the frame face down and the bagged and boarded comic face down onto the glass.  Position it correctly so all the sides are even and you should be left with this:

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This is where your mounting board comes in handy, since just replacing the back of the frame at this point would leave the comic a little loose inside and allow it to potentially slip down.  This is also why the glass is so useful, not just as protection but as another layer to effectively sandwich your comics and stop them from moving around.  So, let’s replace the mounting board and get to this stage:

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The next part will now be replacing the back of the frame itself and clipping that in place.  You might think that the clips are a little tough to fold in place, but the resistance is absolutely normal and you are not doing any damage to either the frame or the comic inside, it’s merely sercuring everything in place for you.  What you’re left with is a wonderfully displayed comic in a really nice looking frame, easy to hang up on the wall but also easy to get access to should you ever need to take it out in the future.  And that’s where the real advantage to this method over CGC comes in.  If I’d had my copy of ASM #194 CGC’d then when it came to July and my final chance to meet Stan Lee, I couldn’t have taken this with me to be signed.  Now all I have to do is remove, get it signed then replace when I get home.

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And that’s the finished product, perfectly safe and sound and incredibly easy to display.  They look great up on the wall and provide a nice talking point for any visitors you have round.  The silver frame adds a bit of an eye catching factor as the light bounces off them too, all in all they’re purchases I’m genuinely thrilled with and I will be heading back there later this month for more of the same.  Just so you can see an example of how they look up on the wall, here are some I did earlier:

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I hope this helps some of you guys out, now I’ve figured my perfect way of doing this I wanted to share the love.  This is one of those objective things where you’ll get a different answer from different people, but for an effective and inexpensive way to display comics that either hold value or importance to you this is a great way to go.  If you need any more info on anything I’ve discussed here feel free to ask me in the comments or on Twitter, I’m available most of the time and will always get back to you.  I got all the time in the world for people that need help with things like this and for those of you that follow my blog!  Happy Monday everyone!

Top 5 Bat-Family Members

As many will undoubtedly know, this year is the year of the Bat.  It’s the big B-man’s 75th birthday, not that he looks a day over 30 these days, but regardless of appearance we have been blessed with many great Batman stories for 75 years and that’s something special right there.  In honour of this, I’ll be running several Bat themed Top 5 lists this year ranging from today’s family members to villains, from writers and artists to story lines and covers.  I know that for us comic fans there’s going to be a big focus in news outlets and in the very comics we’re reading especially with Batman Eternal launching this week just passed, but I can’t help but get caught up in it all.  It’s freaking Batman guys!  So let’s get this ball rolling, the greatest Bat family members!

5. Robin (Tim Drake)

Tim Drake is, for me, the ultimate Robin.  I know, what about Dick?  Well, I’ll get onto Mr Grayson shortly, but when I think of Robin I think of Tim.  It’s most likely due to the fact that I’m 25 years old, so when my interest in comics grew this was the Robin I was getting the most exposure to, the Robin I grew up reading about.  He’s a phenomenally good detective, always keen to learn more and fiercely loyal.  For me, he’s the logical successor to the cape and cowl since he’s more in the mindset of any of Batman’s previous understudies.  Dick is too independent, Jason is too much of an unpredictable and violent force and Damian was just completely broken as a human being.  I get the idea that that kind of helps, but he was too disconnected having being so heavily indoctrinated by Talia.  I know Bruce started breaking those walls down to an extent, but he would never have filled the role as well as Tim.  Thing is with Tim, while he was damn good as a Robin and as an understudy of Batman, he resisted thinking too much like Batman.  When Tim lost his Dad he dealt with it exactly like Batman would, he bottled it all up and threw himself into his duties until he realised that not only was this really unhealthy but that he had a team and a group of friends around him in the Teen Titans.

And the Teen Titans was where he really grew as a character, being able to be himself around them and grow into a real leadership role.  His tactical thinking was highly valued by everyone in the team and his loyalty to his team mates and incredible abilities in the field led to him being one of the most trusted members of the team.  For someone as young as Tim, he accomplished an incredible amount.  Absolutely my favourite Robin and one of Batman’s all time greatest allies.

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Thankfully Tim wasn’t subjected to dodgy short-shorts either…

4. Oracle

When that fateful bullet from the Joker struck Barbara Gordon in the spine her life and those around her were profoundly changed.  No longer able to don her version of the cape and cowl, Barbara was unable to take to the streets and fight crime with her friends and allies.  This, however, did not stop the resourceful young lady as she used her incredible skills with computers to become a living information centre for the Bat family.  Her eidetic memory helped with this somewhat too, to say the least, and even though she was confined to her wheelchair Barb became one of the most useful members of the Bat family.  This also provided an interesting challenge for writers of Barb, no longer able to have her run the usual kinds of gauntlets street level heroes have to go through and presenting her with a unique set of challenges instead.

To say I was disappointed that DC decided to get Barb out of her wheelchair and back on the streets in the New 52 reboot would be quite an understatement, there hasn’t really been any real replacement in this regard for Oracle.  And not just in the sense of a tech-wizard-information-hub type character, but also a relateable physically disabled character being one of the most useful characters in a physically dominated world of superheroics.  That was something very unique and very special, don’t get me wrong I’m really enjoying Gail Simone’s Batgirl series, but I miss Oracle.

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I don’t think we’ll ever see a character like this again

3. Batman

Well, he had to show up on this list somewhere, didn’t he?  Some may be shocked that Bats himself is not up at the number one slot, but the reasons he’s not come two fold; one I didn’t want to come off as biased just because this is in celebration of Batman’s 75th birthday and two he’s not my favourite of the family.  The second point is probably the most important there.

Still, he is an incredible character.  Parents shot in front of him at a young age, trained all over the world to be the ultimate MMA fighter (that’s basically what he is to be fair), at the absolute peak of human fitness and ability and also the world’s greatest detective.  And that right there is the side of Batman I find the most interesting, his detective side.  I think it’s missed out far too often, writers instead going for big moments against his huge rogues gallery.  I get it, he has some of the greatest villains in the history of comic books and they deserve the spotlight as much as he does in some cases, but I think he should be spending more time out in the field investigating.

I also find the Bruce Wayne stories really interesting, they tend to make for a nice change of pace from his charging around in the cape and cowl beating the living hell out of wrong doers.  Seeing him trying to fit in with the high fliers of society, throwing parties or fund raisers as a cover for a case he’s working or to draw out a mark to take them down.  It’s all great to see, and is something I think has been wildly underused in the last couple of years.  Although, credit where it’s due, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have been running one of my all time favourite runs of comics, not just Batman but overall, and that is an achievement in and of itself.

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Capullo draws an incredible Batman, possibly my favourite

2. Nightwing

Dick Grayson has come such a long way since the fateful death of his parents at the hands of a Gotham mob boss, learning the tricks of the trade from his mentor and guardian Bruce Wayne.  Dick started out with a note worthy advantage, being a circus trapeze artist meant he was already agile, well balanced and in possession of damn quick reactions.  His decision making in dangerous situations, fighting technique and detective skills all came with time under the wing of the big Bat, but he evolved into one of the best characters DC has at their disposal.

Eventually escaping from under the shadow of Batman, Dick left his role as Robin and took on his own superhero identity: Nightwing.  This, I think, was Dick’s greatest achievement.  Leaving the Batcave behind, Dick was so determined to carve out a destiny of his own he moved away from Gotham to Bludhaven and tried his best to quell the criminal underworld there.  He’s been a leader and eventual teacher for the Teen Titans, leader of the Outsiders and leader of the Titans.  Sure there can be a bit of bad blood between Dick and Bruce, certainly a fair degree of mistrust, but you can always see there is a huge sense of pride from Bruce for his first sidekick.

Again, whenever I think of Dick Grayson I think of Nightwing since that’s the role he’s been in since before I was even born.  It’s why I never consider him to be my favourite Robin, that’s not who was Robin when I was growing up.  To me Dick will always be Nightwing, regardless of what Dan Didio wants!

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His costume’s a lot better than his old Robin costume too, let’s be honest

1. Batgirl (Stephanie Brown)

I can think of at least one person that’ll see this and think something along the lines of “well, what a surprise” in a very sarcastic tone.  Steph is my favourite Batgirl, there’s no question about it and to be honest, my favourite member of the family.  I know that by New 52 continuity she’s not even around yet, not technically.  We know she’s coming back into it from that issue of Batman that gave us a glimpse into the future of Batman Eternal, which I was thrilled to see, but aside from that we haven’t seen her yet.

Now the way I’d have done this New 52 reboot is kept Barb in the wheelchair and had Steph carry on in the role of Batgirl, but sadly I’m not even working for DC let akone in a position to make those kinds of calls.  Still, I think Steph is a great character full of optimism and life, something that can be missing a little in Gotham based titles sometimes.  She was frequently the light that helped people see a little better in the doom and gloom that was the capital of crime, and sure her inexperience could work against her sometimes she grew into her role of Batgirl as time went on, something that was plain to see and very interesting to witness.  It was a joy to see her over come obstacles and challenges rather than it just being the inevitable, and her independence allowed her stories a bit of breathing room from the other Bat stuff.

I miss Steph as Batgirl more than I do Barb as Oracle, but it’s one of those things I guess.  Roll on bringing Spoiler back in Batman Eternal!

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Until recently one of the most unfortunate casualties of the big red “reboot” button

And that’s a wrap on the first Bat themed Top 5 of the year, agree or disagree with these choices?  Feel someone else should have been included?  Feel free to let me know what you think, but I’m pretty happy with this selection.  Got a feature landing tomorrow on framing those special comics you want to display proudly on your walls, so keep an eye out for that one.  As always, thank you for stopping by and I hope you’ve all had a great weekend!