Friday, May 27, 2016

Enter the DC Universe Online!!

DC Universe Online (abbreviated DCUO) is a free-to-play action combat massive multiplayer online game set in the DC Universe of DC Comics. Developed by Daybreak Game Company and co-published by WB Games, it was originally released on January 11, 2011.

The player creates a new, original character that interacts with the heroes and villains of DC Comics. Players choose their character's faction (Hero or Villain), gender (male or female), body type (both height and muscularity), personality (comical, flirty, powerful, primal, serious), movement mode (flight, acrobatics, speed or skimming), weapon, and power (fire, ice, gadgets, mental, nature, sorcery, earth, light, electricity, rage, quantum, celestial, munitions, and atomic). Further customization includes numerous hair, skin, and costume types and up to 3 colors which can be applied to your color scheme palette. Pre-built templates can also be utilized which are inspired by some key DC characters to expedite the whole character creation process.
Once the player's character is named (here you’ll need to be creative as most obvious names are already claimed), they are thrown into the world of DC Universe Online, having to fight their way out of a spaceship; the tutorial teaches counter mechanics and using power and skill points. Eventually the player's character is made an official member of the Justice League or the Secret society of Super-villains, where they continue on their missions to increase their level and skill in various content.

DCUO was added to X-Box One on April 29, 2016 and frankly I’ve been playing the heck out of it. This is a very fun game! Once you earn enough renown to get invited to the Watchtower (for heroes) and the Hall of Doom (for villains), things get even more exciting. I will say that paying attention to what NPC’s (non-player characters) say is crucial, particularly in arena matches to earn loot, or you will become lost. This has happened to me a number of times when matched with three other players, all of whom are expected to work together to achieve necessary goals within matches in order to advance to that areas full rewards. Many times in frustration players drop out leaving it almost impossible to complete tasks. Of course had those dummies been paying attention to all of the suggestions and/or on-screen tips, they may have realized that they were actually the problem all along?
I would still recommend DC Universe Online to anyone interested in creating their own superhero to ultimately fight alongside greats like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or their twisted counterparts Lex Luthor, the Joker and Circe (plus literally dozens of popular DC characters).

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Captain America: Civil War!!

I did not post a review of Captain America: Civil War when it was released earlier in the month, but now seems like a good time to sum up my feelings about the latest blockbuster Marvel Studios release. Simply put this great movie pulled off that rarest of film trifectas by becoming the first superhero trilogy to actually post a note perfect three picture run.

Man, this flick was equal parts great standalone film, a great next chapter in the overall cinematic Marvel Universe, and yet still managed to also serve as a great setup for fun things yet to come. The newly introduced heroes Black Panther and the latest Spider-Man were truly epic and fun, plus the large cast all shined in exceptional ways. It is weird being a 54 year old fan seeing stuff from your wayward youth brought to life on the big screen! If you have not yet seen the film and by some chance you are familiar with the 2007 comics storyline that this film is based upon, then expect some deviations from that material. For my money, this movies script improved upon many things from the original source material.
Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. each found impressive new depth in their familiar characters of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, but for fans it comes at a cost of seeing their onscreen relationship fractured by films end. Thematically tying up many threads from the previous Cap flicks and also incorporating incidents from the twin Avengers films surprisingly does not bog things down, a testament to the talent of the Russo Brothers as writers and directors. Jockeying a dozen major heroes plus a number of secondary roles seems to be their forte. In addition to Captain America (Evans) and Iron Man (RDJ) returning cast members include Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow; Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier; Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / Falcon; Don Cheadle as James "Rhodey" Rhodes / War Machine; Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye; Paul Bettany as The Vision; Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch; Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / Ant-Man; Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter; Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow / Crossbones; and William Hurt as Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (from The Incredible Hulk).  If that doesn’t seem like a top heavy cast, we are also introduced to Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa / Black Panther and Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man whose solo movies are set up by this films mid and post credits scenes (might wanna stick around for those at the conclusion). Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo provides the main villain of the film in a departure from his comics version, but very effectively done. Captain America: Civil War ranks as one of the best big budget superhero films of all time; hands down (and I didn’t even spoil some of the better moments for fans)!!

In Memorium: Mell Lazarus

Mell Lazarus, creator of the comic strip Momma, passed away at the age of 89 on May 24, 2016. Lazarus grew up in New York and like many of his golden age peers started his career as a cartoonist while still in his teens. He worked for Li’l Abner creator Al Capp and also for Toby Press (which was managed by Capp’s brother), he later turned his experiences in book publishing into a novel, The Boss Is Crazy, Too. He launched Miss Peach in 1957 (which ran until 2002); he later began Momma in 1970 and it is still running, although with different creators.

Lazarus won the National Cartoonists Society's award for Newspaper Strip, Humor, in 1973 and 1979, both times for Miss Peach. On January 23, 2016, Lazarus became the second recipient of that organizations Medal of Honor, established just last year. He previously won the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, for Miss Peach, in 1981, and later that organization's Silver T-Square Award in 2000. The Catacombs extends its condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Rayboy's Review: Future Quest #1 [DC Comics]

Comic book fans will easily remember the many terrific Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon shows starring a legion of colorful heroes (designed by the late Alex Toth) back in the 1960s, and now courtesy of DC Comics and series creators Jeff Parker, Evan "Doc" Shaner and Steve “The Dude” Rude nostalgia blends all of them together in a wonderful new monthly book called Future Quest.

The debut issue features the cast from Jonny Quest who meet Space Ghost and Birdman for the first time (with the promise of others to come in subsequent issues) alongside a dynamic sequence illustrated by Rude featuring classic Quest villain Dr. Zin. This book is a joy for fans of those old cartoons and for anyone that misses the types of comics that used to dominate the stands, not that Future Quest seems dated by design. Rather this book seamlessly plays up the strength of these great characters and does so with a modern twist that for once does not require darkening their original premise overmuch.
Future Quest may be influenced by the history of the Hanna-Barbera gang, but Parker quickly establishes a strong reason for bringing them all together in a shared universe and no better artists could visualize these classic heroes than Doc Shaner and “The Dude.” The Catacombs highly recommends this book above all others out there right now (and count yourself lucky that I’ve offered no spoilers, too). Your joy of discovery awaits!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Game of Thrones [Season 6]!!

Prior to its recent premiere, the showrunners suggested that their current season might end up being their best yet. Boasting, perhaps, but thus far Game of Thrones has certainly been giving every indication that the sixth season of the HBO fantasy epic is trying to swing for the fences. We've seen Lord Commander of the Nights Watch Jon Snow return from deaths abyss, and then be reunited with his half-sister Sansa finally making her way to Castle Black. Sunday nights episode also treated hardcore fans to a spectacular return to form for Daenerys Stormborn, the Mother of Dragons who showed those lusty khals that screwing around with her was simply not going to be part of their agenda, and now our Khaleesi has reclaimed one massive horde of Dothraki horse riders to either aide in her efforts to reclaim the Iron Throne of Westeros or to finally put those vile schemers to task in Slavers Bay.
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys
Game of Thrones remains one of the best genre shows to ever be produced for television and if you are one of the few that has yet to check this series out, well - - - what are you waiting for?

Monday, May 16, 2016

In Memorium: Darwyn Cooke!!

Within a twenty-four hour span late last week an official announcement from his family that he was undergoing an aggressive form of treatment was then immediately followed by their sad update that Eisner Award-winning Canadian comic book writer, artist, cartoonist and animator Darwyn Cooke, best known for his work on the comic books Catwoman, DC: The New Frontier, The Spirit and Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter had succumbed to his battle with cancer. Cooke joins a short list of entirely too young creators that we've lost far earlier than would normally have been expected: Mike Parobeck, Dave Stevens, Mike Wieringo, Dwayne McDuffie and now Darwyn Cooke at 53 years of age. He was not quite a year younger than myself, and I'm a twelve year cancer survivor. What a huge bummer!

Before he was able to break into comics, he had worked as a storyboard artist for Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series, and in 1999 he animated the main title design for Batman Beyond. He then worked as a director for Sony Animation's Men in Black: The Series for a year. I am very greatful to have had a chance to see and meet him at shows on a couple of occasions. The Catacombs expresses its s
incerest condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Justice League: The Darkseid War!!

With issue #49 of DC Comics Justice League currently sitting on the stands, it appears that artist Jason Fabok's stellar run [#36-present] on this blockbuster series is all but done with the conclusion of this storyline in next months issue #50. That is a sad, sad thing to ponder!
If there was any New 52 title worthy of that seemingly unnecessary line-wide reboot, it has been Justice League. Trinity War, The Amazo Virus, Forever Evil and The Darkseid War have kept the action churning at a high pace and there has been one exceptional artist after another shepherding this topnotch book along, including Jim Lee, Ivan Reis, Dough Mahnke, and Gary Frank, but it has been Canadian illustrator Fabok that really had me the most excited for a DC book since Peter Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin & Scott Hanna ended their tenure on Green Lantern Corps some years back. Fabok will be missed, and really how do you replace an artist this good; well you can't. I am heartened somewhat at the news that Fernando Pasarin will be splitting duties on the upcoming Rebirth launch of Justice League along with artist Tony Daniel (about whom I am less than thrilled).

Still, if you've not seen the current Justice League run, be advised that these issues are climbing in price; certainly a telling indication of how excellent they are and how well they've been received. I'm posting a single image to whet your appetite for more. Go get them now while they are still affordably priced!

Monday, May 9, 2016

FCBD 2016 [afterward]!!

So, Free Comic Book Day 2016 is now behind us, alas! I chose to visit my local shop, Borderlands in Greenville, SC and owner Rob Young allowed visitors to select six totally free comics (plus the Valiant title as a bonus, since there was a 25% off coupon printed on the cover in a partnership arrangement with the publisher). Those seven books proved to be enough for yours truly, although I did purchase a small stack of new titles freshly arrived in recent weeks.
There was a large crowd in attendance and the Blood Connections was set up in the exterior parking lot to solicit donations (and according to those in charge, they were doing brisk business). Here were the issues that I picked up [minus the Valiant, not depicted]: Bongo Free-For-All; Civil War II; 2000 AD; Love and Rockets; Sonic Sampler; The Stuff of Legend.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Free Comic Book Day 2016

It's only gonna be a measly five more days for most us, but this years annual Free Comic Book Day event is on Saturday, May 7, 2016!

Make plans now to visit your local comic book specialty store, and take the kiddies, to pick up a pile of absolutely free comics to enjoy. Thank your shop owners too! And hey, as a bonus most of these venues will have guest artists doing sketches and other fun activites; plus if you didn't manage to hit the nearest cineplex already ["I know, right?"] - well a spiffy new film that is opening just might interest you this weekend also.

(Hint: It's called "Captain America: Civil War" and rumor has it that big stuff is going down in the latest blockbuster Marvel Studios flick?)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Today is a "banner" day!!

Since I've got nothing else running at the moment, I thought that anyone who may not have seen these nifty banners promoting the upcoming film X-Men: Apocalypse would enjoy giving their eyeballs a sample.

Monday, April 4, 2016

SC Comicon 2016

On Saturday I attended the SC Comicon 2016 in Greenville, South Carolina, a new show on the map that is only in its third year, if I'm not mistaken. Given that this convention is held literally in my backyard, it was only my first time going to the show due to committments having tailgunned my participation the other times that it was held.
I was very surprised to see the massive turnout for the event and can only believe that Rob Young of Borderlands in Greenville somehow managed to find that elusive sweet spot on the annual calendar between other large cons in this area (Heroescon in Charlotte, NC and Dragoncon in Atlanta, GA) that appeals to a large contingent of fans between the more established events?
In addition to over a hundred guest artists including Neal Adams, Greg Capullo, George Perez and others, there were celebrity guests from fan favoritie films and TV series such as Aaron Douglas (Battlestar: Galactica), Sean Maher (Firefly), Helen Slater (Supergirl) and more. I picked up a handful of bronze age gems to fill holes in my collection. Chamber of Chills # 6 (Sept.1973); Dead of Night # 8 (Feb.1975); Jungle Action # 21 (May 1976); Luke Cage # 16 (Dec.1973); Marvel Premiere # 47 (Apr.1979); Thor #216 (Oct.1973); and two issues of Warlock #'s 4 & 6 (Feb/Jun.1973). In addition to those classic comics, I picked up almost a complete set of signed autograph cards previously issued by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund featuring Neil Gaiman, Peter David, Larry Marder, and many others within the industry.

I had a great time at this show and plan on making it a part of my yearly "must do's" so kudos to Borderlands and Rob Young for knocking this con out of the park.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Review: Batman v Superman

In regards to Batman v Superman, there are tons of highly negative reviews which also still single out an aspect or two for deserving praise (mostly that Wonder Woman is really awesome and some that say Ben Affleck is a good new Batman). Both of the latter are correct, Gal Gadot is exceptional as WW and every precious minute that she is on screen you just want more of her. Thankfully her standalone film is currently in production for release next year! Ben Affleck, perhaps surprisingly, turns out to be a terrific choice to inherit the role of Batman and when his solo flicks come along (also with the great Jeremy Irons as Alfred), I will be more than glad to buy a ticket.

This film is really not very bad at all, general audiences are going to love it, however the sheer weight of the studio bypassing all those separate hero movies in order to quickly bring the Justice League together "Dawn of Justice" remember (as Marvel patiently did with their Avengers), means that this film lays all of that groundwork with one serious side effect as a result. The first half of the film seems over long and plodding; it simply takes its own time to get down to the real nitty gritty. However once it does and the trinity comes together, Superman-Batman-Wonder Woman, things hit their stride in a potent way. Those three classic characters together have as much heft as the entirety of the cinematic Marvel Universe. I’ve been surprised to read so much diverse and often derogatory stuff about the depiction of Superman in this sequel to Man of Steel? He comes off nearly nowhere as bad as some armchair critics are stating and I have to wonder whether most of those reviews were written prior to those critics having even seen the film? Rather in total, the Kal-El that we would all like seems to finally emerge to some degree over the course of the movie - at least to me. The collective media commentary of harsh criticism seems more like an intentional dog pile with everyone expected to just dive in, so let's just give most of those folks what they clearly want ("hey, you're all geniuses and the rest of the audience aren't as smart as you guys"); now the rest of us can move along, whatever.

I still believe that while Amy Adams plays her role quite well, she is sadly miscast and too old [at 41] to portray Lois Lane against Henry Cavill's Superman [he is 32], and it's less their age difference itself and more how they appear alongside one another; but again whatever. The depiction of Luthor did not sit well with me and I regret that the filmmakers chose this route as it is long past time to stop having Lex appear dopey and/or weird on-screen. The original character has been an alpha-male type for decades in the published source material comics, and that version would have been right at home in this movie? Alas. The huge Doomsday fight at the end of the film was fantastic; so in conclusion I say just forget those reviews and give this blockbuster film a chance to win you over!!