Covert Coot – Jack’s Back: Samurai Jack

The Return of Samurai Jack

It’s finally here, the trailer for Samurai Jack’s fifth and final season.

new-samurai-jack-promo

What is Samurai Jack?

Samurai Jack was created by Genndy Tartakovsky and debuted on Cartoon Network in August 2001 and ran until 2004. Each episode follows the samurai as he wakes up in a dystopian future. The samurai has to solve and overcome problems using not only his training, but his creativity in order to defeat the evil Aku and return to the past.

833b72080377289fefa8c652c6c78041

Samurai Jack received critical acclaim for it’s minimalist art and fluid animal, reinforced with each episode following a simple structure and having a short running time, allowing more focus on action. The story features very little dialogue and chooses to show not tell. This is uncommon for shows on Cartoon Network, especially at the time the show originally aired.

 

 

Samurai Jack season 5 returns 11th March

Written by: Robb Davis

VuePoint: NIOH

Let me just get one thing out of the way. I love the Souls games, and I also love the Souls-like games. I have got the 100% Platinum trophy for all three Dark Souls games, as well as Bloodborne and Demon’s Souls. I am working on the platinum trophy for Lords of The Fallen, which I don’t enjoy as much, but still love. Salt and Sanctuary is up there with my favourite indie games of all time. I have a certain degree of experience with the unforgiving nature and cruel difficulty of Souls and Souls-like games. That being said…

…NIOH KICKED MY ASS.

16522224_10209228659047612_1934674094_o

NIOH takes the tried and true formula of the Soulsborne (hereby referred to simply as SB) mechanics—managing stamina to block, dodge and attack, controlling enemy numbers, levelling up individual stat points, and losing everything if you die— and applies them to a Japanese Samurai setting. This is all super cool, and although it has its own sense of style, its own unique little design elements, and just generally its own distinctive flavour, at its core it’s still a Souls-like RPG.

It isn’t out yet, but I recently spent a whole week totally bashing the final beta test for the game, so I have a lot to talk about. Hopefully I can help you decide whether it’s worth spending your hard-earned cash on, come release day next week (the 8th of February to be exact). The strange thing about this game is that if you hated the SB games, you’ll probably not enjoy this one either as it shares similar turnoffs to that series—mainly the difficulty. However, if you did enjoy the SB games, this one might also NOT be for you.

This makes it sound like an objectively all around bad game, which it isn’t, not by a long shot. On the contrary, NIOH is actually really fun to play. It’s a tough one to explain. Whilst it shares its punishing difficulty with the SB games and this may turn some people away, this isn’t an objectively bad feature. Personally, I enjoy the level of challenge the games present, and don’t see it as being “hard” per se.

To me a game is hard if I am unable to progress due to the enemies being too powerful or the puzzles being too obtuse with no clear way of figuring out the answer. SB, and now NIOH, present you with obstacles that are perfectly manageable, so long as you tackle it in the correct way. True difficulty—the unpleasant kind—comes in the form of an objective that is designed to destroy you regardless of your angle of attack, where success comes in the form of a lucky hit, or a fluke.

16586497_10209228658967610_748013487_o

SB and NIOH’s difficulty gives you a situation and expects you to learn how to deal with it. Death is part of the process, and as time goes on, you learn enemy positions movements and tactics. Most importantly, you learn their strengths and weaknesses. After some frustration, your fingers are dancing across the control pad as you storm through the area like an unstoppable maelstrom of death.

Combat encounters become puzzles, as surviving becomes just as much about figuring out what an enemy is going to do as it is about skilful dodging and timing your strikes. There is a degree of skill involved—quite a large degree in fact—but as your character levels up and progresses, your skill level increases, making no obstacle insurmountable. Anyway, that’s a generalisation for SB and NIOH. Let’s focus more on what’s in store for the upcoming title.

In terms of the RPG elements, NIOH functions in much the same way as SB. You can equip different weapons, armour, and other such goodies (including spirit animals), and levelling up involves increasing the value of certain stat points. You can also unlock and upgrade new skills—a new feature not seen in SB—and get another level of customisation over your character. Furthermore, each weapon you use increases in level the more you use it. You gain a skill point with each weapon level, which you can use anywhere you want, not just with that weapon. This directly rewards your play style, but also encourages experimenting with other weapons. The lower a weapon’s level, the faster it levels up. Using a low-level weapon that you never use could not only open a new play style for you, but it could also be a quick way to earn some extra skill points if you’re in need.

The combat is fast and furious—at least, it is in two of the three stances available to you. You have two weapon slots, each weapon has three stances: high, medium, and low (basically fast, slow, and balanced), and each stance has a quick and a heavy attack. At first this all seems intimidating, but it honestly isn’t much more complex than the SB combat. A few hours of practice (which, let’s be honest, is a fraction of the time you spend playing these games) and you’ll be switching through stances and weapons in the middle of combat, and sometimes even mid-combo!

Even in medium stance, combat is faster than the SB games. I got the impression that the main focus in combat should be moving around and dodging, rather than tanking and blocking. Other people may have gotten a different first impression. This is still just the beta so there wasn’t a huge amount to go off, but to me speed seems far more important here.

This is where my comments about the combat from earlier come in. It feels very different from the SB games, but also the same. It took a little adjustment (and a lot of death). One welcome addition is the ability to see an enemy’s stamina bar. Each enemy has a stamina bar below their health, which allows you to see when they’re getting tired and plan accordingly. Dancing around an enemy as he wore himself out, only to perform a quick action to regain my stamina and unleash a tidal wave of pain on his defenceless, panting form was remarkably satisfying. 16558967_10209228658807606_1750874732_n

I haven’t even mentioned that manoeuvre, have I? There’s a whole bunch of neat little features that I haven’t touched on. Stamina regeneration, spirit animals, multiplayer, they’re all things that I got a mere taste of in the demo. I could go on for pages, but instead I’ll begin to wrap up. You’re reading this, wanting to know if you should spend your money on NIOH. Here’s my verdict: If you didn’t like the SB games, try and find a demo of this, it’s at least worth a try. If you DID enjoy the SB games, I would recommend a rental if one is available. Or borrow it from a friend. There won’t be enough in a demo to give you a full understanding of the features it brings to the table. Before you pay full price and dive in headlong, consider the risks. This game has some heavy influences from SB, but is also very different, so be sure you know what you’re getting into.

Personally, I will be buying this…if I can justify spending another £50 as I’ve just bought Resident Evil 7. My bank account hates me right now, but I have the willpower of someone stumbling into a KFC at 2am, regardless of their Weight Watchers meeting the following morning. And on that note, I say good luck in the world of demonic fantasy Samurai battles. Enjoy your time with the game, but make sure you know what you’re spending your money on. Until next time, peace out and keep gaming!

Written by: Jack Sutton

pac7avbpayp6lxg5co71

Anime 101: Hunter X Hunter (2011)

33 collected volumes, 148 episodes, two movies and 366 hours of my life on one hell of an adventure!

Mild spoilers

For a few years I’ve had people recommend to me Hunter X Hunter purely based on my love for Dragon Ball. Because of this I put the show down as a copycat of Dragon Ball and never made the effort. Over the course of a week my opinion radically shifted from ‘Dragon Ball knockoff’ to ‘This is the greatest show I’ve ever seen’, and the best part was that I was only just scratching the surface of what the show was really about.

39cbc1f58bf82ed6670ee9730016b10d

Left to right: Kurapika, Gon, Killua and Leorio

What is Hunter X Hunter?

Hunter X Hunter is a major ongoing manga series created by Yoshihiro Togashi. The series has been serialised in Weekly Shonen Jump since 1998 and has been adapted into two anime TV shows: the first produced from 1999 – 2001 by Nippon Animation and ran for 62 episodes, the second produced by Madhouse Studios and aired from 2011 to 2014.

collage-2017-02-02-1

Left to right: 1999 and 2011

The story in its most basic form focuses on a young boy named Gon Freecss as he decides to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a legendary Hunter. It’s worth noting from the start than Gon lived his life to this point believing his father was dead, when in actual fact his father abandoned him to live his life as a Pro-Hunter. Hunters are licensed professionals capable of carrying tasks such as… well, hunting: hunting criminals and treasure, just to name a few.

 

To date 33 volumes of Hunter X Hunter have been translated into English and published by Viz Media. The 2011 anime series is available to stream on Netflix and Crunchyroll.

What separates it from the crowd?

tumblr_nbwtn6g0qv1svc92fo1_500

Killua & Gon

Where Hunter X Hunter truly excels is with its cast of well-developed and memorable characters. I found that I enjoyed and cared for 90% of the characters in the show–this is made more possible by having the characters not follow already existing tropes in shonen anime–the absolute highlight being the friendship between protagonists Gon and Killua.
The relationship between these two characters is well-developed and made believable by how they treat each other, as well as through their interactions. An example of this is the characterisation of Killua Zoldyck, heir to the Zoldyck family of assassins.

 

When it comes to antagonists, Hunter X Hunter delivers them with as much development and characterisation as its protagonists. We spend enough time with each villain to realise they’re not justifying their actions because they’re just straight up evil; each one is made relatable and interesting. My favourite example of this is shown with Yorknew Arc where we’re introduced to a renowned gang of thieves known as The Phantom Troupe.

silhouette_of_the_phantom_troupe_2011

The Phantom Troupe

Final thoughts

As I mentioned at the start, I went into Hunter X Hunter with little to no expectations and was completely blown away. At no point did the show feel like a chore to watch; both the story and characters were engaging and well-paced. The soundtrack is nothing to scream about, but it does the job of expressing tone and emotion when necessary. The animation is very well done, but it’s not without its faults as the childish style gives the wrong impression to newcomers and may put people off. Hunter X Hunter is a beautiful show with a strong story and memorable cast to match it, and is worthy of the praise surrounding it. This is a show that deserves to be watched.

58130bfb2c9d429a11cd4a24073eb02b

Hunter X Hunter is available to stream on Netflix & Crunchyroll.

Written by: The Covert Coot

Edited by: IvyM

The BearSleuth Week Geek Out – LaMarr And Snyder And Bears…Oh My!

This week I am determined to get this feature up at a reasonable time! Last week was just a trial run but this is absolute prime time professionalism in article form. Unfortunately, to my knowledge their is very little to talk about in the world of television so I’m going to jump across and examine what’s going on over at YouTube. Apart from that all I have to say is that it’s been a damn good week and I hope all you back-to-schoolers are settling in well.

The Week In Comics


 

This week is looking pretty strong in the world of comics, the shelves are pretty densely packed and their is certainly a lot of talent to be found. An underground hit of the week has to be Scarlet Witch #10 which is pretty much a perfect self contained story for the character looking at her role in the magical community. Over with the Team Aqua that is DC we have some awesome titles including All-Star Batman #2 and Suicide Squad #2 showcasing talent from two of the greatest creators in the comic book industry, Snyder and Lee.

Marvel’s Team Magma are looking sound all round with some brilliant tie-in titles but my pick of the week has to go to Amazing Spider-Man Civil War II #4, which has to be one of the most complex titles I have ever written. The finale of the Amazing Spider-Man tie-in is probably going to place the series as the strongest of the Civil War II tie-ins to date as it fully succeeds in an examination of the main themes of the event. If you are only going to pick up one tie-in make it this one…then maybe squeeze your budget for the X-Men tie-in as well!

The Week In Film


 Image result for don't breathe

Well this week I actually went to see a film which I can talk about, Don’t Breathe. This film was pretty much schlock of the highest order with a particular scene added in just for shock value and so the film can be ‘the film that went there’. I actually think this is a horror targeted at a more female audience as the shock scene is harder to relate to from a male perspective, which probably goes a long way to spoiling it. The male characters are embarrassingly weak but the female lead, played by Jane Levy, seems to have a good amount of depth to her. The villain is essentially, old and evil Daredevil and I find that the film makes a lot more sense in that light.

Like I said up top, there’s not really much in the way of TV news from me at the moment, just finished Stranger Things which gave me a new appreciation for child actors and small-town sci-fi. Heading over to YouTube, Fatman On Batman just interviewed Phil LaMarr and you have to see it if you are in anyway a geek. My YouTube tastes are fairly vanilla but I recommend Yahtzee19,  KaptainKristian and Vuepoint’s Jack’s World if you are looking for something new.

The Week In Gaming


 Image result for pokemon

Pre are in the ten week countdown for Pokemon!!! Like any good fan I’m attempting a run through of HeartGold, Pearl, Black, White 2, X and finally Omega Ruby before grabbing a copy of Sun. I’m going to be grabbing a bunch of grass starters in the way, the unloved Ringos of Pokemon starters, and basically getting myself back in that ten-year-old mind-set. Apart from that I’m continuing a play through of Dark Souls with Ollie from LoneWolfGaming and playing Until Dawn with Will, the BearSleuth camera man.

In Other News…


 Image result for Theresa may

The world is teetering on the brink of disaster from a take over of regional pronunciation starting with a plague of government sponsored academies and there will be more news coming on the new BearSleuth writer later this week. That’s about it for this week folks but be sure to come back next week for more sleuthing!

…That was this week’s BearSleuth Week Geek Out!!! Check back on Friday for a brand new article!!!

BearSleuth Week Geek Out

Like I said in my last post, it’s becoming a lot hard to find time for my normal Sleuthing, which is why this new feature is coming to you a little late. I wanted to make sure I gave it my full attention and due to a quick trip to A&E that became borderline impossible, I managed to tear some muscles in a fight with a bird table (don’t ask). Anyway, I have a lot to talk about so I think it’s time to stop faffing about and get stuck in!

The Week In Comics


It’s been a really good week in the world of comics. While the shelves were a little sparse, DC knocked out a few brilliant books with the new Tom King Batman Issue Six probably taking the top spot from the blue corner. Over in the red of Marvel is my top pick for the week, Jeff Lemire’s Moon Knight. This book is complex, intelligent and really shows what the modern industry techniques developed in the independent market can add to the mainstream. I also read Asterios Polyp this week and I can whole heartedly say that it is the only graphic novel to have changed my life. If you are able to get your hands on a copy you 100% should.

The Week In Film (And TV)


The run up to Doctor Strange is gripping a lot of comic book fans now with the inevitable ‘I want to get into Doctor Strange…’ posts slowly creeping onto reddit. For anyone looking for a Doctor Strange recommendation, it’s pretty hard as most of his stuff comes from the silver and bronze age of comics which can feel very dated. Check out ‘The Oath’ and maybe Jason Aaron’s new Doctor Strange series as they present the more modern take on the character.

In other news, Rogue One is struggling, to no one’s surprise (this is what happens when you put a Godzilla director on a Star Wars flick). Also a Dark Tower trailer will be airing next month so keep your peepers peeled. Turning to TV quickly, apparently the Luke Cage series looks good and the new Ghost Rider looks okay enough to get people to notice Agents Of Shield still exists.  Personally, I’ve been getting into Stranger Things and I’m going to surprise no one by saying it’s a great show, likely to become the next massive hit.

The Week In Gaming


Image result for playstation 4k

This week saw the world of console gaming reveal its massive throbbing erections for the PC master race as consoles take that one bold step into becoming computers. I don’t really care for 4k optimisation so I can’t say this affects me but if you are one of those graphics snobs then this…probably doesn’t matter to you because you already have a gangster rig (or whatever the cool kids are calling it). Deus Ex is gracing the shelves again, which is cool as we don’t have enough ultra-gritty cyberpunk dystopia running around. This week I’m replaying Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne because I’m a masochist when it comes to gaming.

And Finally…


Image result for trump custard pie

In other news, the world is teetering on the edge of destruction from the imminent threat of a mass custard pie orgy at the top of Trump tower and I am proud to announce that we are adding another writer to the BearSleuth roster. While I’m not ready to say much yet SHE is a perfect fit for the team and I’m sure HER articles are going to be a great hit!

Subtlety was always one of my strong points.

…That’s this week’s BearSleuth Week Geek Out!!! Check back on Friday for something new!!!

BearSleuth Spoiler Free Comic Book Bundle Week Fifty

For the first time in recent memory the shelves in my local comic book store looked a little bare. With the exception of a handful of tie-ins, there is now Civil War II has ground to a halt, leaves us to wait another week for a main book. On top of that this week there are no DC Rebirth titles, well to be honest there’s a Suicide Squad mini-series but nothing of any substance. So this week we are looking at the fringes and a few highlights I’ve been wanting to cover for awhile which, for one reason or another, haven’t really shown up on my list. Trust your humble Sleuth, I’ll see you right!

All images are screenshots taken from the Marvel and DC Comics apps [Accessed:02/09/2016]

Civil War II: Choosing Sides Issue Five By A Whole Phalanx Of Artists


 

I love Justin Trudeau! I might not know that much about Canadian politics, and the little I do know has come from a close friend and John Oliver, but it is great to see the Canadian Prime Minister turning up in the pages of a Marvel comic. I can’t say there is much more in this book to write home about but Trudeau’s presence is pretty cool. His section is written by Chip Zdarsky who delivers his usual mixture of tongue-in cheek humour and heart. The book is fairly mediocre from there on out making it hard to recommend but as a piece of political-comic book history it’s a highlight of the year.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Issue Eleven By Brian Michael Bendis And Valerio Schiti


 

The Guardians have just come off a monster arc, a planetary-wide cataclysmic arc that is 100% worth your time and attention. This issue is more of the calm before the storm. A brief reprieve setting up the major players in the next epic arc. There’s a lot of interesting character interactions as well as plenty of nods and winks towards the fans. It’s an issue that build heart and character. There really isn’t much to say past that, Schiti’s art is fairly tight and the set up for the big Civil War II tie-in is nice but if you want a big action set piece this is not the one for you. If you like the Guardians grab this book.

Han Solo Issue Three By Marjorie Liu And Mark Brooks


 

When you think of Han Solo you think of the rogue with the heart of gold and this story is entirely based around this concept. Marjorie Liu has created the perfect boys own adventure storyline in space and it is no small wonder that I am completely wrapped up in it. Han gets the cool lines and the brilliant stunts while the pulse racing action hammers on in a plot that will satisfy any Star Wars fan. The art by Mark Brooks is nice and has a lot of subtle detail for an eagle eyes reader. This is a big winner all round for me and is fully worthy of your time.

Ms. Marvel Issue Ten By G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa And Alphona


 

Most of the time the high school drama of super heroics wears thin with me. I don’t like the whinny emo stuff as I’ve been there and I know how much it makes you want to gouge out your own eyes years later. However, in Ms. Marvel G. Willow Wilson has worked hard to make the high school drama mean something, for it to deeply effect the heroine and her heroics. This book is a big Civil War II tie-in and I feel that it will be known as one of the hidden gems of the event for years to come. I like this book and if you are willing to try something different this is a great choice.

Rocket Raccoon And Groot Issue Eight By Nick Kocher And Michael Walsh


 

Well Skottie Young has left the building…whether he will come back or simply leave us hanging while he pens ‘I hate Fairyland’ is unknown as of writing this but I dare say he will emerge with another great idea soon. What isn’t unknown is that Nick Kocher was the only man who could have stepped into Young’s clownish shoes. His take on the title partnership is fantastic, funny and fierce. The story is a loose Civil War II tie-in with more of the group hijinks bubbling up to the surface. If you like the Guardians and you fancy a laugh this is the place to be.

Spider-Man Issue Seven By Brian Michael Bendis And Nico Leon


 

Can something finally happen in these issues? I love Bendis’ slow approach to character development with a lot of brilliantly handled teenage drama but I’m really getting sick of Spider-Man struggling to be Spider-Man. I feel like this story is just ticking over until Bendis can move off his other nineteen projects and give it full focus. I know that next issue or the one after my thoughts will be completely different again but for now I’m a little bored of Spider-Man. If you are a fan of Bendis or Miles or Spider-Man then stay tuned but this might be one you can miss.

BearSleuth Pick Of The Week: Tokyo Ghost Issue Ten By Rick Remender And Sean Murphy


 

Tokyo Ghost is over. Perhaps one of the greatest comics of the last year and it is finished, with chances if a sequel looking middling at best. So how did it all pan out? Perfectly. I know I’m speaking with a bit of fan boy biased here but, I cannot find a flaw in this finale. It’s a brilliant end to a brilliant book and I want every one of you reading this to go pick up the first trade paperback. This is the quiet riot we need in this digitally swamped age and it’s truly beautiful. If that doesn’t sell you on it I’m not sure what will.

Uncanny Avengers Issue Thirteen By Gerry Duggan And Ryan Stegman


 

Another issue of set up as we ease into a Civil War II tie-in. I don’t have much to say about this issue as it simply runs through a few team members and show us their roles in the coming war. It’s fun and if you wanted a little more depth after the main Civil War II books then I can highly recommend it but past that this is in one ear and out the other. This is the worst sort of book to review as its so on the fence, there is nothing offensively bad or angelically good to talk about so I will leave the recommendation to you. Sleuth. Out.

…That was this week’s BearSleuth Spoiler Free a Comic Book Bundle!!! Check back later today for a new OpinionatedDavid article!!!

Comic History 101: Flashpoint

There will only ever be one Flash. Barry Allen is the scarlet speedster we all love and he will forever be the fastest man alive. Geoff Johns knew that when he asked for Allen to be revived during the DC event ‘Final Crisis’. This brought back the Flash in a big way and brought a lot of attention back onto the series after a waning interest from the readership. Then, for his next trick, Johns wrote Flash Rebirth (in a similar vein to his previous Green Lantern Rebirth series which had been a resounding success) and blew fans away with a great story and origin redesign that is now considered to be the only Flash origin. With a Flash fever gripping readership the corporate higher ups wanted a big Flash event. Johns sat at his desk and then after several minutes began to pen the liquid gold that would be the Flashpoint script.

Alternate Realities


 

Flash had recently discovered an ability called the ‘speed force’ which gave him lots of new abilities and so Johns wanted to dig deep into how the character would react to such power. This lead to Barry using the speed force to time travel back to the past in an attempt to save his mother from her death. Barry managed this feat and then returned to the present to find himself in an alternative dimension. However, unlike many weaker alternative dimension storylines, this DCU was packed full of great characters and ‘what if?’ moments. We were introduced to a Thomas Wayne who had taken up the Bat-mantel I when his son had been killed in front of him and a warring version of Aquaman and Wonder Woman. It was a fun and vibrant universe that then lead to the Flash having to correct himself and allow his mother to die in an emotional climax you could find in few other books. The fallout carved the path for the new 52 and a completely different DC Universe.

A Flash In The Pan


 Image result for flashpoint dc comics

I searched across a lot of websites in preparation for this article and so I can say with absolutely certainty that Flashpoint has never received a one-star or below rating on Amazon and only 1% of readers from Goodreads gave it one-star or below. That’s better a better record than industry classics such as Watchmen or the Killing Joke. There are a lot of reasons for this of course, less people have read Flashpoint than either of those greats for example, but I think a main reason is that Johns manages to nail the emotional heart of the situation. In the main book we get all the set up and pay off needed for both the Barry Allen and Thomas Wayne arcs which is a sign of great writing. The sales of the time show Flashpoint selling out and topping the charts at release. This was a success in all directions and it didn’t stop there.

The Rise Of The New 52


 Image result for flashpoint dc comics

This book showed that comics can be crazy and play with high concept sci-fi, without resorting to the grim-dark ultra violence of the nineties scene. It heralded a new age over at DC where characters could undergo vast redesigns or backstory shifts, such as Snyder’s Swamp Thing or Azzarello’s Wonder Woman, as long as the plot was tied to great writing. It created a shift in the industry and left ripples that we are still feeling today with events like Secret Wars and Rebirth. This is a modern classic with a brilliant legacy to leave. Join me next time when I will be looking at The Walking Dead and how Image comics used a zombie apocalypse soap opera to rise from the dead.

…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Saturday for a new BearSleuth Spoiler Free Comic Book Bundle!!!

BearSleuth Spoiler Free Comic Book Bundle Week Forty Nine.

Finally I can afford to buy my comics and eat! This week the line ups from both Marvel and DC are looking a little thin but I am not complaining. Marvel are taking, what can only be described as, a brief reprise from the war before everything results in a complete meltdown of the Marvel Universe. As for DC, they seem to have found something strange out there in the swamps of rebirth…their artistic integrity. The great publishing house is putting out the best work in a decade of its history and I’m loving it. Finally, Image have Brian Lee O’Malley’s Snotgirl which is nothing short of genius. Which all these great titles what’s a geek to do? Call the Sleuth.

All images are screenshots taken from the Marvel and DC Comics app [Accessed: 25/08/16]

 

Action Comics Nine Hundred And Sixty Two By Dan Jurgens And Stephen Segovia.


 

Despite what 70% of comic book readers will tell you, there are actually a lot of ways to do a great Superman storyline. These break into a few categories but one of my favourite groups of stories are the ones where Clark is able to just cut loose. To use all his abilities on a being so powerful that he will only defeat it with a super human barrage. In this issue we see one such confrontation and it is a wonder to behold. Jurgens has built up to this moment across the previous issues in the arc and now it’s time for the pay off. I love this issue as it just ties everything together so perfectly. The art from Stephen Segovia is strong throughout. I would recommend this to any Superman fan.

 

Blue Beatle Rebirth One-Shot By Keith Giffen And Scott Kolins.


 

May I just came into DC at the wrong time but I never quite got the whole Blue Beatle craze, I feel this way about quite a few DC heroes such as Static Shock and Dial H. I have always liked the Blue Beatle design and I think that has carried me through his appearances in other books, so it was nice to actually sit down and learn a little about the character. My opinion now I know a little more, this is a weird book, the actual super heroics are awesome and the visuals of a suit constantly changing kind of rock but I’m not a fan of the character’s alter ego life. The writing in the book is good but I feel the plot is lacking something, although that could change over the course of the series. Regardless, the art by Scott Kolins is great and I do enjoy this book. If you are a Blue Beatle fan then this is a must, but I feel that if you are new to character this isn’t going to change your mind.

 

Intentional Ironman Issue Six By Brian Michael Bendis And Alex Maleev.


 

This was always going to be a difficult pitch.  Talking about the origins of Tony Stark’s real parents, a recent mystery that undid a big chunk of Marvel Comics lore and displeased a sizable portion of the fanbase. I do believe the Bendis might have been the only man capable of pulling off the feat of making this work and it’s a good think that he managed to exceed all expectations. The chosen couple are a brand new edition to the Marvel universe and they make a lot of sense, they have qualities you can see in Tony and they are different. This is only the first nugget of information though, and it’s hard to judge the book off such a move, but I have to say, so far so good. The art is knocked out the park by Maleev and there are some fantastic moments of writing here. I don’t know where this arc will do next but for now it’s fantastic. If you are an Ironman fan you need this in your collection.

 

Snotgirl Issue Two By Bryan Lee O’Malley And Leslie Hung.


 

I feel like this book is still finding it’s footing but as an offering from Bryan Lee O’Malley it already has the trademarks of his classic smash hits. There is a good degree of introspection and building background cast of characters I have instantly fallen in love with. The plot is starting to build with a lot of intrigue which is a new tool from O’Malley. I am thoroughly enjoying this series and I feel that once it picks up the pace a little it will be a lot of fun. The art from Leslie Hung is fantastic and serves to separate the book from O’Malley’s previous repertoire. If you like Scott Pilgrim, Lost At Sea and Seconds then you should pick this one up before it becomes a forgotten gem.

 

Star Wars Issue Twenty Two By Jason Aaron And Jorge Molina.


 

There are somethings in the Star Wars Universe you don’t know that you need to see until you see it. For example, in a ‘what if’ storyline from a few years ago we saw what would have happened if Vader had gone and faced Yoda on Dagobah and it was nothing short of fangasmic perfection. This book is another one of those moments in the Star Wars Universe that you just need to see.  Jason Aaron knows how to please Star Wars fans and I am sure this arc is going to become an absolute classic in amongst the fan base. I have nothing else to say apart from, when looking for a first edition copy, may the force be with you.

 

Steve Rogers Captain America Issue Four By Nick Spencer And Javier Pina.


 

I don’t like seeing Captain America work for Hydra. My brain doesn’t like it. With every scene I see where he does something evil I immediately try to contrive the plot and warp it so that Steve is actually acting for the side of the angels. But alas, there is no redemption for Mr. Rodgers. Nick Spencer has crafter the perfect malformation of Cap’s personality but I have to say that I despise it as a long-time fan. Which only means its working. If you are a hard core Captain America fan you may want to steer clear of this book, but for everyone else I have to say this is a hell of a read.

 

BearSleuth Pick Of The Week: Hellblazer Issue One By Simon Oliver And Moritat.


 

Way back in the mists of the early nineties there was an amazing series known only as John Constantin Hellblazer and it was awesome. Many people have conflicting views on how the series changed with time but every comic book fan I have met enjoyed at least one era of the heroes life.  Then DC cancelled the series, tried a few other Constantine series which quickly flopped, and promptly relegated the character to the b-list. Now Constantine is back with the Hellblazer moniker and it is a wonder to behold. Simon Oliver has put together something really special right here that calls back almost perfectly to the old days of Hallblazer. It’s fun, dark and chocked full of black humour. If you want a modern classic get your grubby little mitts all over this.

 

Extraordinary X-Men Issue Thirteen By Jeff Lemire And Victor Ibanez.


 

Jeff Lemire just rocks the mic when he stands up to deliver a brand new X-Men sermon. There is no other way to put it, he balances the heart which has always been the series strength with the madness that has always kept readers coming back for more. This issue is no different, incorporating both aspects of Apocalypse and Limbo storylines making for an insane mix. There are some fantastic sections of dialogue in this book that are worth your time even if you are not a huge X-Men fan. I highly recommend this book to anyone that likes strong character interaction as well as great action.

…That’s this week’s BearSleuth Spoiler Free Comic Book Bundle!!! Check back tomorrow for a new VuePoint and OpinionatedDavid!!!

Comic History 101: Siege

In 2009 the Marvel Universe was a terrifying place. Secret War had dissolved trust between the heroes and Shield in 2005. The Avengers had been broken and then reforged into a more dysfunctional team across Avengers Disassembled and New Avengers. House of M hit in late 2005 and the universe lost almost all of the mutants. Then Civil War came and turned the heroes against each other, only to be followed by World War Hulk and Secret Invasion which left the entire Marvel Universe in tatters with most heroes underground and Norman Osborn at the helm. Under Editor-in-chief Joe Quesada everything had changed and now it was time to put it back, or at least a push in the right direction so that Joe could hang the keys of the universe over. Quesada went to Brian Michael Bendis one last time and asked the writer to pull out all the stops, to make this the comic book equivalent of 4 of July fireworks. With this brief Bendis went insane and created one of the greatest events in the history of Marvel Comics.

The Grand Finale


In Civil War we had witnesses a war between heroes, in Secret Invasion it was a war between heroes and aliens, same again with Planet Hulk except the aliens had Hulk so there was only one natural step left. In Siege Norman Osborn declared war on Asgard, which due to a variety of interesting circumstances was flying over Oklahoma, he would break Thor and any other god that stood in his way and his Dark Avengers would make short work of any hero who choose to help defend the gods. In the early phases of the battle Osborn struck quickly with the Sentry, who turned out to be an incredibly powerful being called the Void, and took down Thor on national television. However, instead of breaking down any resistance to Osborn this galvanised his opponents, bringing together the Avengers, Secret Warriors, Young Avengers and several other smaller factions into a tight fighting unit under the guidance of not one but two Captain Americas. The third act played out about how you would expect, with a huge battle raging across the halls of Asgard and the heroes eventually emerging victorious.

The Dawning Of A New Age


When it comes to reception, Siege got very mixed reviews when it hit shelves. While a lot of people really liked the actual event it represented the undoing of a lot of great events and history in the Marvel Universe, the final scenes showed the super human registration act being thrown out which undid most of Civil War. I feel that the aftermath was a necessity but I do also agreed that it could have been handled better, however, the way the event plays out is fantastic. The book still sold extremely well and most review sites pitch it at the 4/5 mark and while this event is rarely talked about as the best it still holds up for me and I think you could make a case for it being as good as World War Hulk or Secret Invasion. This was the end of an era but it was also the birth of the ‘Heroic Age’ which would take Marvel to new heights! Join me next time on Comic History 101 when I will be looking at the other side of the aisle with Flashpoint and the Rebirth of the DC Universe.

…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Saturday for a new BearSleuth Spoiler Free Comic Book Bundle!!!

Covert Coot: The Dark Tower – Reading Order & Guide to the Stephen King Multiverse

If my last post acted as an introduction to Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, then this serves as a guide and suggested reading order to provide a greater experience. While you can just read The Dark Tower novels themselves, the inclusion of some of King’s other novels introduce certain characters that are key to The Dark Tower.

darktower

The connections throughout the ‘Stephen King Multiverse’ are all tied to the evil throughout his stories, the character whose influences ripples throughout the multiverse is that of The Man in Black. The Man in Black has many names, but veteran Stephen King fans will know him better as Randall Flagg, the main antagonist in King’s 1978 novel, The Stand.

Randall Flagg

flaggblac

Flagg is an immortal wizard/sorcerer who ultimately serves The Crimson King and makes several appearances or is alluded to by name – it is strongly suggested that Flagg is the demonic entity behind the events of Children of the Corn (1977), appears in the medieval country of Delain, manipulating and causing havoc to the realm in The Eyes of the Dragon (1986). Flagg also gets referenced in Salem’s Lot (1975), which also features a member of Roland’s Ka-Tet (will return to that in a moment).

Randall Flagg

And of course there’s Flagg’s appearances in The Dark Tower as The Man in Black, Walter O’Dimm, Marten Broadcloak, Richard Fannin.

It’s also worth mentioning that while never confirmed by Stephen King, fans believe the character of Raymond Fiegler from the short story Blind Willie, included in Hearts In Atlantis (1999), is also Randall Flagg. Whether the case or not, Hearts in Atlantis does have its ties to The Dark Tower.

 

The Crimson King

The Crimson King is the primary antagonist of The Dark Tower and is first mentioned in the series during fourth book, Wizard & Glass. The scene where he’s mentioned introduces his sigil and the phrase:

all_hail_the_crimson_king_by_fenrisilver

He first appears in the novel, Insomnia (1994) where he seeks to murder a child named Patrick Danville, who is prophesied to bring an end to The Crimson King. As The Dark Tower series progresses it becomes clear that The Crimson King has worked behind the scenes using Randall Flagg, John Farson, vampires, low-men and other supernatural entities to bring the destruction of The Dark Tower.

The Crimson King is mentioned in the story, Low Men in Yellow Coats in the collection Hearts in Atlantis (1999) which also features Low Men or Can Toi, which also appear in Desperation (1996).

Can Toi - Low Men

Can Toi – Low Men

 

Father Callahan

Father Callahan

Father Callahan

Finally we have Father Callahan, first introduced in Salem’s Lot (1975) and reintroduced in the fifth book in The Dark Tower series, Wolves of the Calla. I personally feel that having read Salem’s Lot before this book makes Callahan’s arc all the more enjoyable – we’re shown what happened to him after the events of Salem’s Lot, but being familiar with the story adds so much more to Callahan’s story of redemption.

The Dark Tower

As most people know, I’m a big fan of Stephen King. I find the stories and characters engaging, visualising myself in the shoes of the main character. My first Stephen King book was Salem’s Lot, followed by the first two Dark Tower books (The Gunslinger & The Drawing of the Three), after reading these I dipped into other King books in no order and took my time with The Dark Tower. Overall taking me almost five years to finish the series, but I feel my experience has been enhanced by all the Stephen King I read in between. I should also mention that the series connects to a lot more of King’s work such as IT, The Shining and more; but felt the material mentioned here to be the most important to the story.

There are lots of guides or suggested reading orders to the series, go with whatever you feel is best. Read the series in chronological order or break it up with other books, but do not forget the face of your father.

Below is a recommended reading order, it’s not the order I read them in but I feel it’s a good starting point for newcomers and demonstrates the craftsmanship behind Stephen King’s world building.

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger
The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three
*The Stand
The Dark Tower: The Waste Lands
The Dark Tower: Wizard and Glass
*The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole
*Salem’s Lot
*Hearts in Atlantis
The Dark Tower: Wolves of the Calla
*Insomnia
The Dark Tower: Song of Susannah
The Dark Tower: The Dark Tower