Greetings from the Odinson,
Last week, Avengers #12.1 hit the stands. By Odin, this was an excellent issue. When I pick up an issue of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, this is exactly the kind of fantastic adventure I expect to see. It begins when Spider-Woman, acting as an Agent of S.W.O.R.D., goes missing while investigating a mystery. Protective of their own, the Avengers immediately spring into action and set out to find and rescue their missing teammate. What they end up finding is way more than they bargained for. This issue signals the return of arguably the Avengers’ deadliest enemy and sets up a future story arc sure to be earth-shaking and glorious.
This new take on the Avengers reminds me of when Kurt Busiek and George Pérez were at the helm for one of the greatest runs on the book. Brian Michael Bendis also does something else in this issue that I have been screaming for years to see this team do. Remember GI Joe and M.A.S.K.? They weren’t set teams with stagnant rosters. A mission or threat would arise and General Hawk and Matt Trakker would assemble the best team from their vast talent pools with the abilities and skills best suited for that mission. That is how the Avengers should do it, and that is exactly what Steve Rogers does in this issue. That is how I would do it. Contrary to popular belief, and as much as I hate to admit it, the world cannot always be saved by just having Thor hit something with his mighty hammer.
Avengers #12.1 is part of Marvel’s Point One campaign. The Point One books signal to the readers that a new direction or new creative team is about to take over the book. They also serve as great jumping on points for new readers, picking up the story of these fantastic heroes without worrying about what they’ve missed before. I, for one, actually like this approach. One of the Odinson’s biggest pet peeves is the re-launch, which I’ve spoken of before. Nothing is a bigger power down for me than yet another #1. And the biggest victim of this type of marketing just so happens to be my favorite hero – Captain America. This summer, to coincide with the movie release, Marvel is starting the Star-Spangled Hero’s series over at #1 for the sixth time, seventh if you include the Golden Age Captain America Comics. That said, the new Cap series which will be helmed by the great Ed Brubaker and Steve McNiven (Civil War) looks amazing. The Point One system allows the company to do all the things these re-launches do (i.e. to announce a new creative team or new direction for the book) and it does it without interrupting the flow of the series. Please, allow these series to mature and grow. Action Comics #900 was just released. There’s something kind of cool about that kind of longevity. And DC didn’t have to mark its books with confusing numbering. For example, Cap’s current series suddenly went from Captain America #50 to Captain America #600. It’s a little jarring, and a bit confusing for some readers.
But I digress.
With Avengers #12.1, writer Brian Michael Bendis is really hitting on all cylinders. During his run with New Avengers and Dark Avengers I have been very critical about the direction my favorite super team was taking. But in the aftermath of Siege and throughout the Age of Heroes, Bendis has righted the ship and the Avengers actually feel like Earth’s Mightiest Heroes once again. In his first arc, he sent the Avengers on a quest to the future to prevent the present from being destroyed. Within these glorious pages Marvel’s Premiere Super Team faced the mutant despot Apocalypse, the world devouring Galactus, Kang the Conqueror, the mechanical monster Ultron, and the sinister Immortus. It was an epic reminiscent and worthy of the grand adventures Grant Morrison used to put DC’s greatest heroes through in the pages of JLA. Then, in the second arc, Bendis challenged Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and took them to their limits again. The Red Hulk stumbles upon a plot by a Marvel villain to reunite the Infinity Gems bringing back the greatest threat the Marvel Universe has ever faced – the Infinity Gauntlet. These are challenges truly worthy of a team comprised of the world’s greatest super heroes. So how could Bendis possibly top them?
Avengers #12.1 holds the answer.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
Entries for month: April 2011
April 29, 2011 · No Comments
Greetings from the Odinson,
April 25, 2011 · No Comments
Greetings from the Odinson,
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is a strategy computer game set in a sci-fi world. It is a sequel to a computer game that came out in 1998. And it is, simply put, amazing. Starcraft was developed by Blizzard Entertainment, the same company responsible for Diablo and the global phenomenon World of Warcraft. For a moment I will set aside my opinions as a game player. Just speaking as a fan of the sci-fi genre and a lifelong comic book reader and movie consumer, Starcraft II is a perfect source of entertainment. Those that have played the game know exactly what I’m talking about. For those that have never taken up the fight against the alien Protoss or the monstrous Zerg, allow me to paint a picture. Take the best elements of Aliens, Starship Troopers, and Firefly, mash them together in a melting pot, sprinkle in some awesomeness and you get Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty.
Starcraft is set in a future where humans have populated far off worlds and fight to survive in a harsh, unforgiving universe. Like the original Star Wars or Alien, the universe of Starcraft looks and feels like it has been lived in. You won’t see the pristine sterile corridors of the Starship Enterprise here. No, here people have dirt under their nails. For years the human race fought a desperate war against the Zerg hordes. The Zerg are alien creatures that infest other biological races in order to grow their numbers. The Zerg are a cross between the Xenomorphs from Aliens and the bugs from Starship Troopers. Their infestation enslaves humans and transforms them into monsters. After a decisive victory the humans won the war and were rid of the Zerg threat forever. Or so they thought.
Years later, the humans, or Terrans as they are called in the game, have separated into two distinct factions. The Dominion, ruled with an iron fist by Emperor Mengsk, and a ragtag army of revolutionists known as Raynor’s Raiders, led by Captain Jim Raynor. Raynor and Mengsk used to be on the same side during the war against the Zerg. But Mengsk gave an order that caused the deaths of millions of lives including Raynor’s friend, the Ghost operative Sarah Kerrigan. Raynor has now made it his mission to reveal to the galaxy just what a villain Mengsk really is, but he needs proof. Enter Tychus Findlay. Tychus is an old war buddy of Raynor’s who took the fall for them both and has been spending time in a maximum security prison. Suddenly he is given his freedom and a mission by a mysterious benefactor and the first thing he does is look up his old pal, Jim Raynor. The tension is great because you are never really sure if Tychus wants revenge on Raynor or his help. Suddenly Zerg infestations start springing up all over the galaxy and the humans are caught completely off guard. This new wave of terror is led by the infamous Queen of Blades (more on her in a bit). Raynor and Tychus are forced to hold off the Zerg attack and survive long enough for Raynor’s starship, the Hyperion, to arrive for retrieval. After a narrow escape, Raynor’s Raiders, with the information provided to Tychus by the mysterious Moebius Foundation, head out on a quest to locate ancient alien relics, pieces of the Xel’Naga artifact, that may somehow put an end to the Zerg threat once and for all.
And all this is just in the first thirty minutes of the game.
Play out the campaign and follow the storyline of Raynor’s Raiders as they make allies, make enemies and set out to stop the Queen of Blades and the Zerg from destroying mankind. The storyline is a mystery that unfolds and sheds the Zerg in a different light and reveals another, maybe even more sinister, threat hiding in the shadows. One of the major appeals about this game for me is the wonderful characters. Other than the names I’ve already mentioned there’s the ill-fated Dr. Ariel Hanson, a biologist and leader of a refugee colony displaced by the invading Zerg. There’s Egon Stetmann, the lab rat of the Hyperion that experiments with the alien samples Raynor’s men bring back from missions. There’s Matt Horner, First Officer of the Hyperion and Raynor’s right hand man. There’s the Queen of Blades herself, whose true identity plays a big part in the mythos of the story. There’s Gabriel Tosh, a Spectre, super human mercenaries/assassins that use cloaking and psychic powers to get the job done. Then there is Nova, a Ghost operative, opposite side of the coin to the Spectre, and Tosh’s sworn enemy. There comes a point in the game when you will have to make a choice to help either Tosh or Nova and your decision will spell doom for one of them. My personal favorite character is General Warfield. This gruff old warhorse has come out of retirement to put an end to the Zerg threat once and for all. He leads the invasion of Char, the Zerg’s homeworld, and even though he fights for the Dominion, in another lifetime, he and Raynor could have been friends.
This brings us to Zeratul. Zeratul is a Protoss dark templar, powerful alien warriors with the ability to teleport over short distances and cloak their presence. Zeratul is a major character in this story, for it is through his adventures that the mystery behind the Zerg invasion is brought to light. Zeratul and Raynor are old allies. As you play out Zeratul’s quest, Raynor witnesses the adventure with visions fed to him by a crystal. It is through these visions that the true horror that will engulf the galaxy should Raynor’s own quest fail is revealed. In this story you learn more about the Protoss. The Protoss is a race of noble alien warriors. They utilize engines of war right out of the pages of War of the Worlds. They are heavily religious and though they bear no ill will toward the terrans, they do not have any qualms about destroying them if they get in their way of eradicating the Zerg threat.
Part of the game’s appeal is that there are many different ways to get enjoyment out of it. There’s the campaign. Then there is the “versus mode.” Here you pick a race (Terran, Zerg, or Protoss) and pit you skills in battle against either the computer or another person playing online. At any given moment there are literally thousands of players from around the world playing Starcraft. There are also side games, many, many side games. You can play a scenario right out of an Aliens movie, or choose a spacecraft and be part of an actual space battle reminiscent of Star Wars. By playing all these different modes of the game you can earn “Achievements,” little badges of honor that can also unlock portraits of your favorite characters.
Each race has its own unique warriors. The Zerg have the super fast but weak zerglings, roaches which spew and bleed acid, the deadly hydralisk, monsters that look like the creatures from Aliens, and the underground barrowing Nydus Worms which can transport these nasty creatures right onto your base. The Protoss have the zealots, bionic warriors with super speed and deadly blades, the stalkers, versatile warriors that can teleport and attack ground and air units, carriers, huge flying ships that house dozens of tiny warships, and all of the Protoss units have personal shields that can absorb and protect them from damage. But when it comes to cool, nothing beats a good old fashioned space marine. The Terran’s space marines, though not the strongest unit in the game, are, because of their cheap cost to make and their versatility, easily one of the most efficient units in the game. And when you couple them with medivacs, dropships that heal biological units, marauders, heavily armored infantry, siege tanks, and Thors, giant armored killing machines with devastating firepower, then the space marines are hard to beat. These are just a few of the units. Each race has many units that can be used in many different and interesting ways to achieve victory.
This game is so wonderful and I’ve been playing it nonstop now since it came out last fall. Within the campaign there is an arcade game called The Lost Viking. In it you pilot a Viking class fighter and blast your way through wave after wave of enemy ships and boss fights. Ten or fifteen years ago The Lost Viking would have been its own game packaged and sold separately to be played by itself. But in something as awesome as Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, it’s simply an arcade game that sits in the corner of the cantina of the Hyperion that the gamer may or may not want to play.
All this and I’ve barely even scratched the surface of the true star of this game – Jim Raynor. As my friend often says, “If they ever make a movie about Starcraft, it will be because of Jim Raynor.” Simply put, he’s awesome. Just think about everything you love about Malcolm Reynolds, captain of the Serenity, and you will find a lot of those same qualities in Jim Raynor. Raynor has been a soldier, a lawman, a freedom fighter, and now he is the universe’s last hope against the evil which threatens to engulf it. He expects the best out of those around him and he gets it. He’s trusting, almost to a fault. He sees the good in others that even they themselves might not see. He’s a flawed man given to drinking and smoking but these vices just make him that much easier to relate to and human. He’ll make the hard decision when he has to. Raynor inspires those under his command and evokes a cult-like loyalty from his crew and men. There are few men in the galaxy as tough as Jim Raynor. He’s the perfect hero for the universe of Starcraft. He’s the hero the universe of Starcraft needs.
If you have played Starcraft, I would love to hear about your thoughts on the game. If you are a gamer and you have not played this game yet, you are missing out on something special. Pick up Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty and see for yourself. And when you are finished saving the galaxy in the campaign, look up the Odinson online and challenge him to match. It could be fun.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
April 18, 2011 · 1 Comment
Greetings from the Odinson,
Have you ever been asked the question: If you could have dinner and a conversation with any person from any point in time in history, who would it be? Many people might utter names like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Socrates. Others may want to spend time with legendary men like George Washington, Davy Crockett, or Julius Caesar. Even more people may say they would like to meet and have a conversation with Jesus of Nazareth. Well though I can’t possibly top that last one, nor would I want to try, I too have an answer for this question.
For me though, it would have to be not one, but several people, all at the same table, a “Round Table.” Who would the Odinson want to sit at a round table and have dinner and conversation with? Well, first of all, my list of names comes from contemporary times. That way I can rationalize to myself, no matter how far fetched, that maybe someday this dream will come true. The rules are simple. Everyone would enjoy each others’ company, no topic is off limits, and no question will go unanswered. And as a huge fanboy I will just whip my guests into submission with all the questions I would have for them. But, of course, I would be as charming as possible.
I have narrowed the guest list down to six names. These are names related to the fields of entertainment I enjoy so much – movies and comics. I would set up cameras to view the participants from every possible angle and then, with cameras rolling, let the conversations begin.
The Odinson’s Round Table Guest List
George Perez and Marv Wolfman – Credits: New Teen Titans and Crisis on Infinite Earths. Why I want them at this table: There is no way I would want one of these guys at my Round Table and not the other. These two masters of their craft are largely responsible for why the Odinson reads comics to this day. New Teen Titans #1-50 are some of the greatest super hero comics ever produced. I will put this spectacular run in a Pepsi Challenge against any other and more times than not it would come out on top. Perez and Wolfman took a team of sidekicks (Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl) and unknown heroes (Cyborg, Starfire, Raven) and made them so relevant that the Titans, for a while, actually out sold Marvel Comics juggernaut the Uncanny X-Men. Then on top of all this, these two masterminds produced arguably the most significant “Big Event” storyline in the history of comics – Crisis on Infinite Earths. Sure, Marvel got there first with Contest of Champions and Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, but no major comics event before Crisis or since Crisis has been bigger, better, or more relevant. The impact this storyline had on the DCU, not to mention the impact it had on me, was huge. In the seventies, Wolfman, with Gene Colan, defined comic book horror for a generation of readers with Tomb of Dracula. Perez went on to do some really nice stuff on Wonder Woman and then with Kurt Busiek re-establishing the Avengers as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. But Crisis is an absolute must read for any comics fan, old or new. Crisis on Infinite Earths and New Teen Titans are a big reason why I read comics today and George Perez and Marv Wolfman were the creative team behind them.
Kevin Smith – Credits: Writer/Director of the movies Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jersey Girl, Clerks II and more. Writer of the comics Daredevil, Green Arrow, and The Green Hornet. Why I want him at this table: He’s one of us. Kevin Smith is the fanboy that made it big. He has an amazing ear for witty dialogue and biting humor. Who else could talk about the independent contractors just trying to make a living and provide for their families by working on the uncompleted Death Star in Return of the Jedi and get blown up by a bunch of Left Wing Liberals in a war they had no stake in. From the Milkmaids to debating Lord of the Rings vs. Star Wars, few others have captured the lexicon of Generation X the way Kevin Smith has. On top of that, he brought Matt Murdock back from the brink of cancellation and Oliver Queen back from the dead. Anyone who has seen his college touring shows An Evening with Kevin Smith knows just how candid Smith can be. No subject matter is taboo. I will go on record and say that Smith’s commentaries on the DVDs for his movies are without a doubt the most entertaining commentary out there. You never know what will be said about what, or who. Smith and his longtime partner Scott Mosier even did commentary for the DVD anniversary edition of Road House starring Patrick Swayze. Even though they had nothing to do with this 1989 movie, the fact that they did a commentary for it is funny in and of itself. With his personality and a love for comics history and pop culture to rival my own, Kevin Smith would be a perfect mediator for this Round Table.
George Lucas – Credits: Creator of Star Wars (‘Nuff Said). Why I want him at this table: The Godfather. George Lucas is quite possibly the biggest name in the history of science fiction. Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) is, without a doubt, one of the biggest pop culture phenomenon ever. The story, the characters, the groundbreaking sounds and special effects make this movie one of only a handful of absolutely must see movies for anyone from any walk of life. Then to follow it up with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi cemented Lucas’ name into the pillars of icon history. From toys to comics to cartoons to TV specials, Star Wars has become a juggernaut. Edit out the pod race in Episode I and Darth Vader’s Frankenstein moment in Episode III and even the prequels are enjoyable. I want to meet the man who created such an enjoyable part of my life. When we were younger, my friends and I would discuss Star Wars for hours on end. When I was a kid, by the time I was old enough to drive, I thought I’d be driving a landspeeder like Luke Skywalker. I’m still waiting for my landspeeder. But even so, after all these years, my love for Star Wars has never diminished.
Joss Whedon – Credits: Creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Dollhouse and director of Serenity and the Avengers Movie. Writer of Astonishing X-Men and Runaways. Why I want him at this table: In the last two decades, other than maybe the first Matrix movie, no one and nothing else has had a bigger impact on my imagination than Joss Whedon and his creations. The character of Buffy Summers is a pop culture icon and a strong female hero in a world ruled by men in tights. Long before True Blood and Twilight, there was Angel, the vampire with a soul. A dark brooding hero, walking the earth trying to atone for a century’s worth of sin. Don’t even get me started on the all-too-short lived cowboys-in-outer-space masterpiece that is Firefly. Captain Malcolm Reynolds is, hands down, one of the greatest sci-fi heroes of all time. He’s Han Solo, but tougher. He’s James T. Kirk, but more likable. Mal, along with the crew of the Serenity, is much missed. Whether it is for casting his shows, or hiring the people who cast his shows, and hiring the people to help write and direct his shows, Joss Whedon has an amazing eye for talent. He is the best. So it should come as no surprise that he surrounds himself with the best. His fertile imagination seems to know no bounds and the world is a better place so long a Joss Whedon is in it.
Stan Lee – Credits: Co-creator of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Hulk, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, the Avengers and the X-Men. Why I want him at this table: They don’t call him “The Man” for nothing. If we lived in the Matrix, Stan Lee would be the Architect. In 1961, together with Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and a few others, Stan Lee launched the Marvel Age! In stark contrast to the bright colored, rising above it all, on top of the world heroes of DC Comics, Stan Lee and Marvel presented a different kind of super hero. Spider-Man has an ailing aunt and has to worry about paying the rent. The Hulk is hated and hunted simply for being a monster. Daredevil is a blind attorney. The X-Men are feared and hated for being different by the very people they have sworn to protect. Marvel super heroes are the “everyman” super hero. They are the most relatable “super” heroes of all. In life there are outcasts, kids who are bullied, people who are attacked simply for the color of their skin. These are the kinds of unfortunate things that happen in real life and now Stan Lee has brought it to the world of comic books. Stan Lee has one of the most infectious personalities I’ve ever seen. He just seems to get a genuine joy out of life. Nobody is more excited to see all these amazing characters on the Big Screen than Stan himself. I’ve seen and read hundreds of interviews with Stan Lee and have enjoyed his anecdotes very much. He was the voice of reason in Kevin Smith’s Mallrats and he’s made a cameo in most of the Marvel movies of the last decade. Other than reading his comics, my first exposure to The Man was hearing his distinct voice narrate one of my favorite Saturday Morning Cartoons – Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. Stan Lee is a true wordsmith and deserves all the credit and accolades he gets. The man they call “The Man” would be the Guest of Honor at the Odinson’s Round Table.
Here’s a List of Alternates I’d also like to meet: James O’Barr, David Grohl, Eddie Vedder, Art Adams and Walt Simonson.
Unfortunately, I have met only one person on this list. And that was only in passing. Early one morning before a Wizard World opened, as I walked the un-crowded floors of the Arlington Convention Center, I turned a corner and suddenly came face-to-face with George Perez. He kindly smiled and said, “Good morning.” Long, painful silent seconds ticked by before I mustered the following words with dry mouth and sweaty palms, “Good morning, Sir.” And that was all I said. Now I’ve met plenty of other celebrities and movie stars in my time and always kept my composure, but even the Odinson can become tongue-tied when in the presence of one of his boyhood heroes. I blew my opportunity. Feel free to share with me your funny or most embarrassing moments with a comic icon or celebrity. I would love to hear about them.
Maybe someday my wish will come true. I’ll have another opportunity to meet him, only this time it will be with five other icons. Just seeing these guys interact would worth the price of admission. And we will all sit at The Odinson’s Round Table.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell!