Thursday, May 10

The Soul Still Burns

... and this time, it's on the Nintendo Wii. Yep, according to Weekly Famitsu, Soul Calibur will be making an appearance on Mario's turf, though not in the usual way. Instead of a straight-up one-on-one fighter, Soul Calibur Legends, Nintendo's version of Namco's premiere weapons fighter, will be a third-person action adventure, putting players into the armored greaves and boots of Soul Calibur's various heroes, wandering the land presumably in search of the evil sword, Soul Edge. While it has been implied that the game will primarily focus the disgraced knight Siegfried, you will apparently be able to play with other fighters, as wel as several new faces.

It is assumed that Legends will make use of the Wii's unique control system, so players will be waving their Wii remotes and nunchucks around a lot as they hack their way past their opponents. So far there hasn't been much in the ways of screens or vids, but a couple of lovely artworks of Siegfried facing off with a dragon and Ivy battling a horde of mummified undead have been released. Intriguingly cool stuff.

Well, this is a pretty good reason for me to grab a Wii, though what I really want is Soul Calibur IV, whether it be on the PS3 or Xbox360. Hopefully, this little diversion on the Wii soon gives way to the real slashing sequel. More on this as it happens. Woowie!

Wednesday, May 9

Avatar Watch

Unfortunately there's still no news about the exact date of the Third Season's debut, but we do have a nice little tidbit. Apparently, a new Avatar game is in the works, this time based on the events of the second season, Book of Earth. In this second videogame, Aang the Avatar and his friends must team up to defend the Greatest City in the Earth Kingdom from a deadly Fire Nation threat. Entitled Avatar: The Burning Earth, this will hopefully improve upon the previous game. All I can say is... Toph had better be present and playable. Heheh.

Anyways, for some nice Avatar tidbits, I highly recommend heading on over to to check out stuff like a three-part interview with Avatar creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino that reveals quite a bit of stuff about the series, characters and behind-the-scenes stuff (but of course, nothing about the Third Season's release date).

And so... back to waiting. Darn it.

Tuesday, May 8

Third Time's a Harm

Review time means SPOILERS AHEAD, so beware.

After the Ateneo Comics Workshop, Carl, El, Jonas and I headed off to Eastwood City to watch the third and supposedly last installment of Marvel Comics' most successful comic-to-film series. Spider-man 3 just may be the last time we'll see Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst as the leads, and certainly it'll be the last for at least one other cast member.

Spider-man 3 sees New York finally warming up to their friendly neighborhood wall-crawler; everyone in the Big Apple loves ol' Spidey now, which is about time after two movies of kicking villain butt. Peter Parker (Maguire) is soaking it up like a plant does sunshine, and it's probably a first for the loveable loser. There are now only two people who aren't too happy about Spidey taking the limelight- one, of course, is J. Jonah Jameson (played as always to perfection by J.K. Simmons). The other, oddly enough, is Mary Jane Watson (Dunst), Peter's girlfriend who is experiencing a rough road in her own showbiz career.

The third movie seems to be the endgame for stuff that has been brewing for the past couple of films. Here, Harry Osborn (James Franco) finally begins his campaign on the perceived murderer of his dad, taking on the Goblin's arsenal and super-strength treatments to turn into- The 'New' Goblin. Here, everyone FINALLY realizes that Mary Jane sucks on stage. Here, Peter finally decides he wants to live in sickness or in health with MJ. Here as well we have the climax of the Ben Parker arc, as a newly-escaped con named Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) is revealed to be the senior Parker's real killer. Complicating things of course is that Marko won't be easy to catch since he's become the all-powerful Imhotep-er, The Sandman- after getting exposed to some radioactive sandblasting.

As if all that wasn't overstuffed enough, we've got an alien symbiote crashing down to earth (and into Peter's life), bonding with him to create a new, power-enhancing black costume at the cost of making him an aggressive arse. Oh, and there's a sleazy sneak bastard named Eddy Brock (Topher Grace) out to snatch Peter's career at the Daily Bugle, and a lovely Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) around to make MJ all jealous and frumpy.

Whew! For the most part, it all comes together in one, big, entertaining... MESS. The movie, while moving along as fast as it can under all that weight, bogs down a lot due to the dragging Peter-MJ romance. I just found watching them to be irritating- MJ is irrationally jealous of Peter's new confidence, which speaks badly of her character- what a stuck up broad! Anyway, they don't talk in the same way MJ did in the 2nd movie, which could have fixed a lot of the trouble they go through here. And then there's that awful 'coercion' thing with Harry Osborn where MJ breaks up with Peter for fear of his life... What the-? Messy, messy, messy. Oh, and having a knockout Gwen Stacy around just made MJ all the more sucky. The love mechanic between the two leads just clamps down on everything, making it all slow down like this was some dramedy or soap. It's a superhero movie, darn it!

Still, all this pales in comparison to the "Butler Ex Machina" that pretty much had me throwing out my hands in exasperation. It takes some butler mouthing off some nonsense about stuff he couldn't possibly know to turn Harry Osborn back?

"Your father died from the blades of his own glider... I had no doubt they were self-inflicted..." (or something like that).

So what... the butler's a CSI or something? I didn't know the Green Goblin had an Alfred Pennyworth on the payroll. The whole plot hinges on this, and it just plain reeks.

Flaws like these (along with iffy stuff like Stan Lee's most obnoxious appearance yet) mar the rest of the movie, but at least there's lots of stuff to keep us entertained. The rest of the cast is in fine form, like the aforementioned JJJ, May Parker and even people like Peter's landlord and his winsome daughter. Then there's Church's Sandman, whose sheer strength of will and love for his daughter makes him a sympathetic anti-hero instead of a straight villain. The revelation at the end about the true circumstances of Ben Parker's death is a welcome end to that pivotal plotline and a nice tie-up to the movie's general theme of revenge and forgiveness. Oh, and there's Venom, whom comic fans have probably been dying for years to see- but will probably be disappointed at the results. He's neat and all, but comes far too late in the movie so he seems like an afterthought, and doesn't stay too long. Oh well.

One thing that the movie does well- in fact, amazingly well- is the action, and Spider-man 3 has far and away the best fight scenes in the series, and perhaps in any superhero movie so far. Great, dizzying stuff that had me at the edge of my seat. The Sandman CG effects are amazing to see- you'll never find another pile of sand that can bring a tear to your eye. It was just a pity all the bad stuff kept me falling off my seat just as often. The movie ends with a sunrise, however with a major character death and everyone onscreen crying... it felt like The Return of the King. A funeral, and a slowdance gave way to the credits, which is an odd, downbeat way of ending this franchise (or at least the trilogy). Once again, a flaw, since I would have liked Spidey to go off into the sunset swinging, rather than slow-dancing to a fadeout.

Once again, a mess with quite a lot of entertaining parts. I hope they make another Spidey. In fact, I'm sure they will, given how much money there is in this character and series. Bury Maguire and Dunst in cash. Just get it done. And learn from your mistakes, okay? No more butlers. That's Batman's schtick. Or something. Feh.

Sunday, May 6

An Empowered Review

Empowered is your below-average, C-list heroine. Her powers stem from her shiny super-suit, a self-repairing tighter-than-skintight number that leaves NOTHING to the imagination. When she dons it, she can shoot 'zaps' from her hands and gains the strength of ten men (or fifteen wimpy men). Unfortunately, Emp's powers decrease drastically when the suit gets damaged. And that happens a lot. Scratch that- it happens pretty regularly. The thing seems to be as substantial as soap suds, so more often than not, any combat encounter Emp gets into almost always ends up with her getting captured and bound up like a victim in some hentai BDSM video. Her super-team, the Superhomeys, only marginally regard her as a member, and one 'comrade', Sistah Spooky, openly hates her guts for some reason. Shamed and humiliated almost every time, one would ask, why the heck does this girl keep trying?

It's simple. Because she's a hero. A C-list heroine, but darn, she's got A+ Spirit, and that's something that the most unlikely people see- namely the gun-toting hired thug named Thugboy (who is coincidentally an exceptionally smart, dashing, good-looking, honorable, insightful and sweet thug) and a deadly ninja assassin named Ninjette. Oh, and then there's a fiery world-ravaging demonlord that Emp manages to trap inside a hi-tech manacle who thereafter spends his time watching DVDs and Cable TV in Emp's living room, while dispensing advice and morale-boosting sayings as only a fearsome devourer of souls can. With enemies like these, who needs friends?

Empowered is the latest work from Adam Warren, formerly known from all those Dark Horse releases of Dirty Pair manga and cult-favorite specials and limited series of Gen 13. This hugely famous 'Ameri-manga' artist/writer is one of my favorite comics creators, and he is at his finest in this one. The book is a collection of short stories featuring the loveable Emp, her closest pals, her teammates and the rest of their new universe of superheroic comedy.

The stories range from really short quips, almost comic strip-short, to some tales that last for almost ten pages or so. On every page there are panels and panels of Warren's incredible uninked art to enjoy, as well as the manic dialogue that has become his trademark. You'd think that this master of black comedy is a sadist at parts, having his poor damsel Emp getting bound up pretty much in every story, crushing shame heaped on her head time after time. But then he turns around and gives her a thuggy Prince Charming and a ninja best friend, so things get balanced out nicely. Maybe. Kinda.
As funny as it is sad, as sexy as it it cute and heartwarming, Emp is a guilty pleasure to read...US-made manga-superhero ecchi with heart. Despite the outward wackiness, Empowered is played quite seriously; there are no fourth wall breakouts or tongue-in-cheek winks to the reader within the actual stories; this isn't parody- it IS a legitimate superhero tale and universe on offer here, just more intimate with a lot of sex (which pretty much keeps it a no-kids title). The characters are immediately likeable and it all just makes you want to see longer, more meaty stories to see more about them. I want to see more Ninjette. Now.

Warren has already mentioned that he's got a lot of Emp's stories in mind, and hopefully with the great response to this first volume, we'll be seeing more of this and soon. It's quality stuff here, so I enjoin all mature comic fans to grab Empowered on sight. This is mucho good stuff.

Do I have to say it twice? I will. Get Empowered. Now!