Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Buffy Comic Project: "Ugly Little Monsters, Part II"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 41

Dark Horse (Volume 1, 1998-2003)

Creators:  Tom Fassbender & Jim Pascoe (script); Cliff Richards (pencils); Joe Pimentel (inks)

Setting:  Season Five

T.V. Character Appearances:  Spike, Buffy, Tara, Willow, Xander, Anya, Giles, Dawn,

Major Original Characters:  Coma (demon?)

Summary:  Buffy and Spike run into each other in a junk yard.  Spike tries to tell Buffy about the Ezekiel's Bane amulet he possesses, which he says has the power to amplify emotions.  Buffy isn't interested in hearing about it, however, and pummels him out of frustration from the demonic attack on Dawn's room the night prior.  Spike says he'll sell the amulet to the highest bidder then.  The next day, at the Magic Box, Buffy surprises everyone by announcing she's successfully researched what the three demons were: Avendschrook, manifestations of jealousy.  The gang discuss who could be jealous enough to cast a spell to summon the demons, and Xander suggests Tara.  Meanwhile, Spike sells the Ezekiel's Bane to a mysterious figure wrapped in bandages that he refers to as Coma.  Back at the Magic Box, soon after Willow, Tara, and Dawn arrive, the Avendschrook attack again.  The battle rages until Tara shouts for the demons to leave them alone, and then they all flee.  Xander remains suspicious of Tara, but another possibility is Anya, who was in the basement and angry at Willow utilizing store stock for her spells.  Buffy decides she knows where to go to get answers: Spike.

Review:  The second issue of the Ugly Little Monsters storyline continues the strong beginning.  I like how the issue plays with expectations, such as everyone getting ready to hit the books to research the demons before Buffy announces that she's already done it.  It's nice to see the character come that far over the course of the show.  The plot continues to be sufficiently mysterious to keep turning the pages: who is responsible for summoning the Avendschrook?  Who is the mysterious Coma?  Etc.  Overall characterization and dialogue is also great, and there's not any moments where I thought "So-and-so would never say that."  I'm looking forward to the next one.


*  While gathering books for research, Xander gives a D&D shout-out by referencing the Monster Manual and the Fiend Folio.

*  Although the colouring is fine overall, on the middle panel of page four Tara looks like some kind of ghastly zombie.

*  Some fun references by Xander to Willow and Tara "doing spells", a callback to the last episode of Season Four.

*  Instead of a letters page, the issue has a two-page spread about the graphic novel Creatures of Habit.  The sketches definitely look interesting.

Next Issue

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hawkeye (Ltd. 1993) [COMICS]

After a stint in the late 1980s and early 1990s headling Avengers Spotlight and West Coast Avengers, Hawkeye was an established, fairly popular character who had never had an on-going, standalone series. Hawkeye was always quick with a quip, but had also developed into a dependable leader and Avengers mainstay.  When West Coast Avengers ended with the "death" of his wife Mockingbird, Hawkeye was given a second limited series in 1993.

The first issue of the series picks up with the Battling Bowman in the remote Canadian Rockies, mourning his wife's death and living off the land.  Hawkeye is hunting caribou when some hunters on snowmobiles, wielding shotguns, go after the same prey.  Apparently this is unfair to the caribou and enrages Hawkeye, so he responds by shooting arrows at them!  One arrow lands in the barrel of a shotgun and it explodes, while another grazes a hunter's ear.  This might be my vegetarian bias, but I'm not 100% convinced the moral difference between bow-hunting caribou and shotgun-hunting caribou is sufficient enough to risk human life; but then I don't run around in purple spandex, so what do I know?  Anyway, after dealing with the hunters, Hawkeye stumbles upon a secret installation of the super-secret organization known only as the Secret Empire!  The Secret Empire is using the base to create lycanthrope-like "constructs" for some nefarious purpose, and one of them escapes and is rescued by Hawkeye (he names it "Rover").  The base is being run by a great villain, The Viper, and her hench-people are the man who taught Hawkeye everything he knows (Trick Shot) and some random super-villainess I've never heard of and would happily never see again (Javelynn; can you guess what type of weapons she uses?).

Before moving forward, this issue came out during the month where the Bullpen Bulletins page contains my favorite line ever:  "The FF movie was delayed till January because of special effects reasons, but the FX are more complex than you think.  The FF movie has a two million budget, and you can bet every dollar of it will be up there on the screen!"  Those of you lucky enough to see the never-released 1994 Fantastic Four movie know just how awesome that statement is.

In issue # 2, Hawkeye takes Rover into a nearby village, during a blizzard, to get some medical help.  He meets up with a Dr. Avery, but the Secret Empire is searching for them.  Hawkeye and Rover decide to return to the Secret Empire's Secret Base to rescue Rover's kin, but they're all killed as the nefarious organization evacuates.  Hawkeye and Rover escape and return to the village, but find it has been levelled as well.  The theme developing here is that Hawkeye is a grizzled moody loner now (Rover aside) and wants to deal with problems himself instead of calling in the Avengers to solve all of his problems.

That's why issue # 3 starts out with Hawkeye calling in War Machine for help?  Well, Rhodey introduces Hawkeye to his tech guy, Mack Mendelson, so that the Aggrieved Archer can get a new costume and upgraded Sky-Cycle.  Hawkeye and Rover then track the Secret Empire to a new base in Baja, which explodes, but not before a new lead will take the two to South America.

"As you've never seen him!  'RAGE!'" proclaims the cover to issue # 4.  Hawkeye and Rover have reached Brasilia and attack another Secret Empire base.  Man, those bad guys just aren't living up to the name.  At the base, the Viper has made dozens of the constructs to sell, and she unleashes them on the hero and his furry partner.  Hawkeye and Rover make a run for it, so Viper sends Trick Shot and Javelynn out to catch them.  Trick Shot ends up saving Hawkeye's life, and mentions in passing that the terminal cancer that was a major theme in his past appearances apparently cleared up.  Nice.  Meanwhile, Javelynn is defeated in just three panels, so the Viper puts on a bog-standard combat suit and gets blown up.  But don't worry, she'll appear again.

Just for fun, look closely at what is described as a "stun arrow" that Hawkeye shoots on page 2; it looks like it results in a massive fireball to me.  Explosions are a way to stun people . . .

Bottom line is that this was a bog-standard, paint-by-numbers superhero story that every Marvel writer could do in their sleep.  The idea of making Hawkeye grim and gritty just didn't work, and lumped him into the trend that every super-hero was falling into during the 1990s.  I do like the idea of further developing Hawkeye's difficulty dealing with Mockingbird's death, but a limited series like this didn't do a good character any justice. Talk about getting shafted!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Men Who Sold the World [TORCHWOOD]

I've been AWOL from Torchwood for a while, in part because I've been busy and swept up in other things, and in part because no one will buy me Children of Earth for Christmas despite it being on my Amazon Wish List for years now!  The very definition of a first-world problem.

Anyway, I finally got around to reading one of the three prequel books to Miracle Day, and I quite enjoyed it.  The Men Who Sold the World stars CIA agent Rex Matheson trying to hunt down some rogue operatives who have stolen alien weaponry from the British (who themselves recovered it from the remnants of the Hub!).  I wasn't particularly looking forward to it since it doesn't involve any of the traditional Torchwood stars (except for some brief flashbacks), but it was actually quite entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny in several spots.  Many of the best lines are hilariously vulgar, and it's a shame I can't repeat them here.  The book also introduces a new villain, a CIA "cleaner" named Mr Wynter.  Wynter is deliciously evil and quite memorable.  All in all, a nice surprise that has rekindled my interest in the show . . .

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tyrian 2000 [GAMES]

I just finished another free game downloaded from, Tyrian 2000.  This was very much an old-school shooter, as you pilot a single ship through hordes and hordes of enemy spaceships in top-down Galaga style.  That being said, it's quite addictive and the fact that each mission could be played in just a few minutes was perfect for a busy schedule.  I quite liked the ship upgrade feature: the more points you get, the more you can spend on buying better ships, weapons, shields, etc.  But you can always sell something for the same price you bought it, so there's no penalty for trying out different builds if you get stuck on a mission.  I played the game on Normal, and got past most missions on the first try, though though were a few that took 4 or 5 goes.  Despite reading all the "data cubes", I could not comprehend the plot, and the writing was ostensibly serious at points and really goofy at others (floating fruit, for example).  Anyway, a fun shooter at everyone's favorite price.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Beneath a Steel Sky [GAMES]


I was stoked several weeks ago to come across Good Old Games, a site that makes classic computer games available for download in a high-quality and reasonably priced manner (for both PC & Mac).  They even offer some games for free, so I jumped on a copy of Beneath a Steel Sky, a game I remember hearing great things about and seing lots of back-cover comic book ads for back in the day (one of which contains a screen-shot that can really help if you get stuck*).

The premise of BaSS is that you're an outlander in a somewhat dystopian future ruled by corporations and city-states.  A government helicopter lands near where you live in "The Gap," kills all of your family and friends, and kidnaps you.  But on the way back to the city, the helicopter crashes and you have to figure out how to escape and get back home.  Along the way, you uncover dramatic secrets behind why you were taken and who runs the city.

Operationally, the game is a "point and click" adventure with a really good story and a cutting sense of humor.  I will say it was hard, either because I'm out of practice with these types of games or because some of the necessary actions weren't quite intuitive: there were four or five times I finally had to resort to a walkthrough in order to make further progress.**  I also had a bit of a hiccup with the ending,*** but overall it was a really satisfying experience and a memorable game.


*  The ad depicts you swinging from a rope between a ledge and the sign that denotes the security headquarters.  Basically, you need to make a grappling hook by combining a cable with an anchor broken off of a statue.

**  Here's the places where I got stuck (that I can remember):  (1)  You need to put the putty (plastic explosive) on an empty light socket to cause an explosion; (2) You need to use a security card to get past a normal, non-electronic door lock (like how private detectives always use credit cards in old t.v. shows); (3) I overlooked the freakin' tongs hanging on the wall so that I could pick up the flesh in the boiling water); (4) You need to return to LINC space multiple times with the different ID cards, because each card has different features.

*** When you get to the final room and find your father plugged into LINC, the machine lets him go and your father says LINC has lured you here to be his replacement.  Then Joey (Ken) appears.  This is one of the very few places in the game where something bad happens if you linger for a few seconds, but there was a loud conversation going on around me and I couldn't hear what was happening, so I saved it there and came back later.  Every time I loaded up that save game (the only one I had reasonably close to the end), the "bad" ending of the game immediately started up (LINC forces you to take your father's place).  I was only able to watch the "good" ending (where Joey/Ken takes control of LINC) on YouTube.  A bit of an anti-climactic way to end the game :)