Welcome to the BURN CENTER!

Hey folks, Jonny Napalm here welcoming you to my charred little corner of the sky. Here I will be sharing views on all the things I love and adore and loathe with the burning passion of a thousand suns. Be aware.. my views tend to the nerdtastic, so... you are warned.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne

I've gotta give Brian Clevinger a lot of credit...His 8-Bit Theater was one of the highlights of internet comics back in the day.  He took old 8 bit characters from the original Final Fantasy series, and crafted a hysterical, fantasy romp through the crazy world he threw together for them.  It was funny bizarre and full of geek inside gags, and I was sorry to see it finish up... On the other hand, it garnered enough interest from the good folks over at Red 5 comics to give him an opportunity to publish something new, brilliant and all kinds of funny.  I am of course talking about the new Atomic Robo series with Scott Wegener.  The concept is that Nikola Tesla developed an artificial humanoid in 1923, ushering in the Atomic age with not a nuclear bomb... but a nuclear MAN.  Robo is all kinds of fun, a character who has been exploring the world for the better part of a century finding all kinds of weird science and trying to manage it's integration.  One of things I enjoyed most about the stories thus far (not just this book) is that Clevinger isn't stuck in Robo's present, jumping back and forth from past to present.  While not Historically accurate... the stories are incredibly inventive and all kinds of fun and the Tesladyne scientists we meet are all a lot of fun.  If you're interested in fun comics with some great character, beautiful art and crazy science... these books are highly recommended.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

On the disappearance and return of one Bruce Wayne...

Now don't get me wrong folks, I dig the heck out of Batman...he's one of the dominant archetypes and I will always thank Bob Kane for his generous donation to generations of comic fans.  Grant Morrison (the current dominant writer for the Bat) during last years Final Crisis decided to send Bruce Wayne on a mystical/scientific tour of the past of DC comics history.  While giving him an opportunity to make puzzling and bizarre contribution to the Wayne family history, the timing of it was a little too tight on the "time-bullet" debacle from Marvel comics with the "demise" of Captain America.  I'm hopeful about some of the changes that we'll see later on in the series and the treatment of the transition from Bruce Wayne as the Dark Knight to Dick Grayson was fantastic, but for myself... I keep coloring the positive story elements with the ridiculous plot device that initiated it, just as it did with the Captain America story line.  While a big fan of the Bat, as far as characters go I've always been more of a fan of Tim Drake, or the third Robin...a kid detective who figured out the Bat family secret of who Bruce was, Dick Grayson, and what drove Batman crazy after the death of Jason Todd...And one of the biggest revelations for me in that story was that Tim got the big reveal that Bruce wasn't dead.  Putting all the pieces together that Bruce scattered throughout his history, and delivering a fantastical piece of detective work for the comics. And that's not to mention putting a spike Ra's Al Ghul League of Assassins network with some great panache.  So while the passing of the Dark Knight's baton had some great moments... there was still a lot left to be desired.

A Triumphant return...

Folks may know about this already, but I'm blown away the quality of work done for the new series Sherlock on the BBC.  Then again, this is another Steven Moffat production, and much like his previous work on Jelkyll, Coupling and Doctor Who (for which he is now the show runner), it's infused with dry wit and rapid pacing... to the point of running before walking at some points.  While likely to be compared with Guy Ritchie's own version of Holmes set back in his original time period, this Sherlock is still possessed of the same manic energy and drive as Downey's,  Benedict Cumberbatch's Holmes in the present day and brilliantly up to date and playing with technology like there's no tomorrow.  This present day Holmes hasn't quite got the same panache with Her Majesty's Boys in Blue, often derided as "a Freak", if not a suspect in cases, only brought in by good Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves) when they are completely out of their depth....which according to Holmes is always.  While Holmes is our hero, the audience would be lost without their wonderful POV character Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) who has been recreated from another present day conflict in the desert...just like his earlier predecessor and trying to come to terms with leaving military service with a new set of skills for the present day, but with a tremendous desire for the action he's left behind. The cases Sherlock and Watson deal with are all new but have enough similarities to classic ones to feel familiar. Holmes' talents are shown briefly to the audience in flashes, text appearing on screen, mapping the circuitous routes of London, all quite imaginative, and an excellent way to keep the audience a bit more up to date on what's going on in Holmes' head.  In short, the series is a brilliant new set up that will hopefully see a lot more development in the future.  Check it out for dynamic dialogue, excellent entertainment and captivating characters, heroes and villains alike.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Kirkman's walking dead...

Frank Darrabont's new series on AMC using The Walking Dead comics series as its basis is going to rapidly solidify AMC's reputation as one of the best networks for original programming running.  With Mad Men, Rubicon and Breaking Bad all with sterling reputations and solid ongoing stories, The Walking Dead promises to bring new levels of drama while combining with terror for this, hopefully long running series.  The initial pilot starts quickly and tells us precisely what's going on with the world Rick's living in, before slipping back to the initial catalyst for Rick's story, maintaining the storylines from the original comics series, in a nice bit of continuity for those who read the books initially.  Just like the comics series, the AMC version promises to treat the premise of the zombie apocalypse with a seriousness that we haven't really seen before in zombie stories.  A trend we've seen in Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z , has hopefully made it to the small screen.  The show starts strong, and finishes strong....with very little downswing in between.  In short... this is going to be a series to keep an eye on.

Just in time for Halloween...

There's a new game from Double Fine studios for the PS3 and 360.  Costume Quest.  And much like Tim Schafers' previous offerings it is brilliant and silly and wonderfully colorful.  Your protagonist is half of a set of twins, going out for candy on their night of make believe...  The child you pick gets a fun costume they may have made themselves...a task you will continue throughout the game, while their brother or sister is relegated to wearing a piece of candy corn costuming.  The game gets you into the swing of things quickly using the standard Halloween protocols, illuminated housing, bizarre behavior, bullies on the candy shakedown, and of course... monsters.  But these aren't just any spooky critters... these are on a very specific mission, to get as big a sugar rush as they can manage, and after stealing a walking talking piece of candy corn, your adventure begins.  While the replay value of Costume quest is negligible... at least thus far, the game itself is a fantastic and imaginative romp that only takes a few hours to get a great deal of enjoyment.  So thank you Mr. Schafer... I look forward to seeing more from your folks at Double Fine in future, and hope that the transition to making slightly smaller gems released more quickly works fantastically for you.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Touch of psychic....

Anton Stout sounds like a writer after my own heart....  I suppose that could be said of most of the folks I read...still He lists himself as an avid writer, gamer, with a love of music, and sometime actor.  That being said, while having a knack for the weird... his writing style in his book Dead to Me is entirely too uneven for me to recommend, as much as it pains me to say it.  While his concept of a Department of Extraordinary Affairs isn't new... his handling of it feels very...odd.  In addition, his protagonist Simon Canderous....while gifted with an unusual "psychic talent", that hasn't been covered in many publications to date, doesn't seem to have any actual "talent" with it.  Pyschometry is a cool sounding ability.. discerning an objects history by touching it sounds all kinds of nifty, and while Mr. Stout does a good job of making the DOWNsides of the ability readily apparent, his protagonists complete lack of control over his skill/ability makes for a weak story and fairly lame character.  Things do pick up towards the end of the book, but it doesn't make up for the weaknesses of the early story.  The series has another 2 paperbacks....and I have to wonder how exactly they got picked up by ACE Fantasy...  Hopefully they develop some more cohesion through the series.  Definitely not a recommended read, but there are some great moments in it.  I just have to say I have a hard time taking a book where the "white hats" are the Fraternal Order of Goodness...and called Foggies.  It seriously took something away from the story.  

Monday, October 11, 2010

Enter Sandman...

Sandman Slim is one of the latest in the growing recent trend of modern urban fantasies.  This one is coming from Richard Kadrey, a gifted writer with a flare for the bleak and a bit dirtier noir style.  Mr. Kadrey has said that his influences are very visible in his work, with classic noir, combined with the Crime style of Donald Westlake's  pseudonym Richard Stark, then adding in mysticism of the current urban style with the Christian mythos.  Kadrey  says that his writing tends to ramble and that it doesn't align itself with novels well, which can be seen in his books.  There's no clear chapter divisions, which makes for energetic but difficult reading...no places to pause or stop at night, and while it's an interesting style of development it's one that won't work for all readers.  For folks who pick up their books and plow through them, it's functional... but not so much for everybody else.  The character of James Stark (the protagonist of Kardrey's novel), is fun, harsh, sarcastic, obsessed with movies, and possessed of unusual occult gifts that even he doesn't understand.  His backstory is imaginative and weird, also full of potential for creative pitfalls and conflicts down the road that will be fun to explore further in the series development.  My primary issue with the story is that Stark's nickname, the one the novel is named for, and the series is titled for comes out of nowhere.  It seems the entire city of LA starts calling him "Sandman Slim" at some point and there is no clear reason why or what it ACTUALLY means. In the relative scheme of things it seems really minor, but the feeling it engenders lingers and colors the majority of the later half of the book.  That being said, it's a fun read..but not nearly so deep as the Kings and Queens of the Urban Fantasy...then again, he hasn't had the time to get to the same level of development they've got.  

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rewriting the map of the world...

The Unwritten is one of my favorite new comics of the past year and a half or so.  By the exceptionally creative team of Mike Carey and Peter Gross, a pairing that has done exceptional work for the Vertigo division of DC comics, the story focuses on the trials and tribulations of one Thomas Taylor (sorry, the alliteration was just so tempting.).  Thomas is known worldwide in large part because his father made him the central figure in a children's fantasy, much like Christopher Robin's character when A.A. Milne wrote his Pooh stories, and it has become his primary means of making a living, making guest appearances at Conventions, signing autographs, etc.  Of course the situation is turned on it's head in the exceptional first issue of the comic and bizarre events begin finding focus around Tom.  These events are interspersed with related parts of the stories told ABOUT Tommy, exceptionally illustrated and written, in a style that's very recognizable from many of the most exceptional children's stories around today.  These are only some of the things that have brought me wholeheartedly into the world Carey and Gross are crafting.  Now it may be noted that I qualified this "comic" with the literature tag as well, and with good reason... as the stories develop and the comics move outward expanding on our understanding of Tommy, his role, and the role his Father is playing in the events occurring around him and what they mean, we find ourselves intersecting with many other great pieces of literature.  Shelly's Frankenstein, The Song of Roland, Dicken's Our Mutual Friend, and many others rear their heads and shout to be noticed as we move through Tom's world...  If nothing else this book is a great education in the world around words that have taken on a life of their own.  This is far and away one of the best books coming out in comic shops currently.  But for those who find an interest in these stories, there are a couple other recommendations I can make, Carey & Gross' work on Lucifer, and The Books of Magic, both from the DC imprint, as well as Michael Stackpole's A Secret Atlas series of novels, which, while not precisely the same style of story have a fantastic number of relate-able concepts.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The dead... they Rise!

Dead Rising is a very special game it the hearts of many.  For me it was the first game I ever actually played on the 360... It pretty much sold me on the system as a whole.  It had lots of humor, fantastically imaginative gameplay, good solid story, and good graphics.  All those things on their own made for a great gameplay experience, plus the fact that the game was basically a Romero movie in which you got to control the lead was fantastic...  The idea of playing as a war correspondent covering the Infection outbreak was great, but limited.  The camera while occasionally fun, was considerably LESS entertaining that pounding zombies with chainsaws, baseball bats, golf balls, shotguns and swords.  Now going into the sequel, I find that many of the initial foibles of the first game were fixed for the second, along with a whole slew of new features added to make the game much more entertaining.  For instance, instead of a photographer, this time around you end up playing as the motocross version of McGyver.  Given enough time and duct tape, I'm fairly certain that Chuck Greene, our protagonist, could build himself a tank...similar to the A-Team (Thank you Stephen Cannell, you will be missed), seeing as he can build something similar with an electric wheelchair and assault rifle it's not that far a guess.  There are 52 bizarre and fun weapons you can build, and that's not including the simple fun of smacking guys around with the things that don't get combined into crazy weird toys.  There have also been huge improvements made to the follower AI for the sequel... something the guys on development must have got complaints about.  In the first game your followers were only effective when you were pointing them to run from place to place and wait, this time around, they are FAR more effective at barging past the crowds of undead and defending themselves.  The addition of the multiplayer gameplay is a big plus as well... though there isn't any local viability for it.  And the Terror Is Reality Minigame is hysterically funny and lots of fun as well, with great selection of little game modes that change up regularly.  It's definitely a strong addition to what's amounting to the season of sequels.  Highly recommended for fans of Zombie movies, action games, solid story, and the original game.