Lando #1 Review

Lando #1 Review No bad feelings about this.

Creative Staff:
Story: Charles Soule
Art: Alex Maleev

What They Say:
You know him, you love him…now, join him for his biggest caper as master of charm Lando Calrissian gets his very own comic book! Before he joined the rebellion, before he ran Cloud City, Lando made his way in the galaxy getting by on some swindles, some swagger, and a smile. Lobot at his side, Lando has a plan to steal a very valuable ship, but has he bitten off more than he can chew?

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
With the Princess Leia miniseries concluding, Marvel has moved quickly into the next miniseries with Lando Calrissian in the lead. Lando was a welcome introduction into the film at the time considering how white everything was – outside of the colorful aliens – and it’s something that’s proliferated into the other films as time went on. I always liked the character back in the day when I had the action figures and told my own stories of a young Lando and Han and the trouble they’d get into. So with Marvel giving us a miniseries with the character that takes place before the movie events, with Charles Soule writing and Alex Maleev on the art, it was pretty much a given that I was all in.

And while this is just a first issue, the potential is most certainly there with what we get. The series is one that’s essentially pure Lando in a way as he’s always looking for a good deal that will get him free and clear so he can move on to potentially more lucrative deals. Deals that will likely go south on him anyway. Here, he’s working at first to acquires a particular item in order to clear the slate with the person he owes money to, though the transaction falls flat and only cuts his debt by ten percent. But what makes the “heist” itself fun is that he’s spending some quality time with Ssaria, a Moff of this particular sector and one with a truly cruel reputation. That he decides his best bet is to apply his charms is, again, totally Lando. And that he pulls it off as well as it really reinforces the whole scoundrel and rogue aspect that we get from Han in The Empire Strikes Back. It cements the character completely here, especially if you read it all in Billy Dee Williams voice.

The other interesting aspect to the setup here is that Lando isn’t alone but is rather partnered up with Lobot. Lobot is one of the more maligned characters from the film, particularly since he doesn’t talk in it, but he’s damn talkative here. Which means there’s potentially a damn interesting story there – that may be in this series. Lobot’s the pragmatic of the pair and gets very frustrated by Lando and his easily distracted dreams, but even he has to admit that their next big heist that will net them a lot of money is pretty inspired. Theft of a high ranking and rich Imperial’s private ship that’s filled with priceless art? That’s definitely a smooth move, one that as we see here inadvertently goes all the way to the top of things when it’s discovered because of who he managed to cross without realizing it. This turns out to be a nice callback to the prequel trilogy, something that I’m enjoying when done across all the series. As easy to malign as they are, they’re also fertile ground for expansion into the original trilogy era.

In Summary:
If ever a smooth talker finally deserved his own book, it’s this one. Soule and Maleev basically nail it here by giving us what looks to be the “solo adventure film” that many of us wanted back in the day. The story setup is straightforward here and it’s easy to see how it’s going to spiral out of his control as the deal gets worse and worse in true Lando fashion. Soule infuses the character well, which isn’t easy because the dialogue is certainly “of the time” when you get down to it. But it provides an accent to it that works. What helps even more though is that Maleev’s artwork is perfectly suited here, from great character design and adaptation to the panel flow and layout and the fun with the ship design. We get a good range of aliens involved here and some fun with a new Moff as well that has me hopeful there’s more in store for her. The expansion of the Star Wars universe looks like it continues to be in very good hands that get a lot of what can be done with it while being true to the spirit and the characters.

Grade: B+

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Marvel Comics
Release Date: July 8th, 2015
MSRP: $3.99

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Green Lantern: The Animated Series Episode #01/02 – Beware My Power Review

Green Lantern: The Animated Series Episode #01/02 – Beware My Power Review Space will run red with the rage of the Red Lanterns and the bloodied bodies of the Green Lanterns.

What They Say:
Hal must face down an invasion by the Red Lantern Corps.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having been one of a handful of people who actually enjoyed the Green Lantern movie this past summer, I’ve been looking forward to the Green Lantern animated series for some time. Green Lantern’s renaissance in the last few years in the comics and in other mediums has been fun to watch since he’s long been a character I’ve liked. Add in the original animated movies we’ve gotten as well and it’s generally been a very good time to be a Green Lantern fan. With this series breaking “tradition” for Warner and DC by going with CG animation, it’s definitely going to be controversial. But to me, this is the ideal series to do this with as it has the kind of otherworldly feel that it needs.

With the opening episode of the series, it goes in a pretty solid direction by not going the traditional route, thankfully, of giving us an origin story. Here, Hal’s been a Green Lantern for some time but he’s still got the cocky feel to him and the seat of his pants style. While he’s been brought back to Oa to deal with the way he handled a recent mission, it turns into something quite different when a dead ring arrives. To his and even Kilowog and Salaak’s surprise, the ring came from outside the 3600 sectors, from a place called the frontier realm outside of the known sector of space that the Guardian’s currently protect. It’s a shock to them all, but even more so when they’re told not go go out there and deal with it since it’s beyond their area of expertise.

Naturally, that doesn’t stop them from finding a way there but it just leads to another surprise when they discover that Green Lanterns out there are being hunted by Red Lanterns. The very idea of other color Lanterns isn’t something they’ve been exposed to prior to this, so they’re definitely wanting some answers. Not that the Guardian’s want to share any of it since they’ve long been hiding the story of this group, and more, by not recording it in the Book of Oa. Hal’s cocky nature gets him to deal with events out in the frontier to the best of his abilities as well as setting things up for him and Kilowog to pursue them after getting their bearings.

The two part storyline is pretty straightforward with what it wants to do so there aren’t any real surprises to be had here, especially if you’re familiar with the characters from the comics and where they’ve gone from there. What it does do well is to cover the basics of what’s involved in being a Green Lantern and a part of the Corps while also introducing a much larger storyline. Yet it does it by keeping to a fairly small cast of characters, primarily focusing on Hal and Kilowog while having a decent supporting cast to flesh it all out. When it brings the big bad fully into play in the second half, Atrocitus has the right flavor to him and definitely the right voice for what they’re portraying him as. The Red’s are kept small themselves with only three shown here in total as well as some of the conflicts that they have to deal with. They’re not cookie cutter villains when you get down to it but some of them definitely have a darker motivation compared to others.

In Summary:
While I went into the show with positive expectations, I came away from it very pleased. This is the look and feel of the Green Lantern show I wanted in animated form, and in CG form in particular. It gives the alien worlds the kind of feel it needs while making the characters a lot of fun to watch. The characters have long been established in the comics and the core of who they are carries over here easily. It’s entirely accessible to new viewers while not giving away all the details in an info dump and long time comic fans should be able to just get into it and have fun. I love the look of it, I loved the humor and I loved that it wasn’t dumbed down or avoids some of the basics about the characters, such as the attraction between Hal and Carol and the killing of the Lanterns. The fears that I see some have about this being kiddified are pretty much put out to pasture here, though at the same time you’re not going to get the dark comics many of us have either. You’re getting something that takes a mix of everything and puts out something that I think was really engaging and just plain fun to watch. I can’t wait to see what’s in store with this series.

Grade: B+

Readers Rating: [ratings]

First Preview Pages For ‘Uncanny X-Men’ Annual Debut

Brian Michael Bendis is teaming up this December with art Andrea Sorrentino with the first new Uncanny X-Men annual that was talked about at SDCC this past weekend. THe annual, whose firm date will be revealed later, is set to answer one of the burning questions on fan’s minds – what happened to Eva Bell?

“It is the utmost grandest X-Men tradition to have your mutant power be the coolest thing about you and the scariest thing,” says writer Brian Michael Bendis in an interview with Marvel.com. “It was only a matter of time before [Eva] was thrust into a situation that revealed the scary side of time related powers.”

“Andrea is someone we’ve been dying to work with for some time,” says Executive Editor Mike Marts. “It seemed like the perfect tale to capitalize on Andrea’s strengths as an artist, especially his talent of establishing expansive and panoramic settings – which this issue has PLENTY of!”

Plot concept: Unable to fully control her powers, Eva Bell, Codename: Tempus had disappeared in the blink of an eye during an X-Men training mission. Though she re-appeared moments later, she had aged many years. Trapped in her own time bubble, Tempus embarked on a journey into the far future of the Marvel Universe. A journey that would change the young X-Man forever! This oversized annual also marks the first ever Marvel project for critically acclaimed artist Andrea Sorrentino (Green Arrow).

UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #1
Written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS
Art & Cover by ANDREA SORRENTINO
Coming in December!

First Preview Pages For ‘Uncanny X-Men’ Annual Debut

First Preview Pages For ‘Uncanny X-Men’ Annual Debut

The File of Young Kindaichi Returns Episode #10 Anime Review

The File of Young Kindaichi Returns Episode #10 Anime Review

Kindaichi Case Files Returns Episode 10

Prep school murders? Puppeteer from Hell? Oh yes.

What They Say:
When Hajime is in danger of having to repeat a year, Miyuki takes him to the hellishly strict Gokumon Prep School. But even before they can get a tour, a former student is murdered there via poison. Kindaichi is on the case, but it looks to become much bigger with a study retreat taking place in a secluded area and the machinations of the Puppeteer from Hell!

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a couple of arcs behind it that have taken Kindaichi to different places with some elaborate setups, the start of a new arc here is a little closer to home. With Kindaichi being so good at what he is, we have seen already that it can make a bad impact on his personal life and with school since there’s always been some element of trouble there. That’s now come home to roost again in a big way as he’s missed enough tim eand doesn’t do what’s needed in a timeley enough fashion that he’s going to repeat a year. And Miyuki cannot let that happen since she needs to be as close to him as possible. And if he ever wants to get into the real world and move foward, doing this is going to be a problem as well since it just delays things all the more. And he’d likely repeat it again anyway since he’s so easily distracted.

With this in mind, Miyuki gets him to go to the Gokumon Prep School for a tour so he can get the help that he needs. Of course, this is where they learn of just how intense this prep school is, including a retreat that exists where students are pretty much chained to desks for days to learn. The place is one that gets the best of the best and they reach high levels, so it’s not a surprise that it’s intense. When they meet some of those there, you can see the toll it takes on most of them, but there’s also a certain ragged pride coming from them as well. It’s also neat because we get students from so many different schools so there’s a variety of uniforms to it which gives it a little more flair. Unfortunately, before he can really decide what to do – if Miyuki even gives him a choice – there’s a murder. We’re shocked.

With the death of Moroi, who is found pressing the emergency alarm button in the counseling room with a note of some sort in his hand, the speculation hits hard and quick as seemingly everyone has some sort of interaction with the kid that can be construed badly. With Moroi being lead into that room by the killer with the note he had, some of the foundations are laid out with how the school works and the method of getting him there, which has its open ended aspects that have to be determined as well. And with it seeming like a random killing based on the setup, it’s certainly interesting. There’s a lot of little bits that come out during this, but the big thing is that since there’s a sense that it was random, there’s a lot of potential targets here and that sends a panic through most of them that know, while one or two others are finding it to be an engaging kind of idea to deal with. Of course, the show has to take on a bigger approach here in the final minutes when Kindaichi and Miyuki meet up with their detective friend only to have the Puppeteer from Hell make a new appearance, which sets a pretty intense stage visually. Of course, that’s all from other works so it’s a bit of a new piece here if you haven’t seen it before. But it adds a new level of theatricality that works nicely.

In Summary:
Kindaichi throws a lot of stuff out there this time around and it’s not keeping it simple when you get down to it. The prep school murder is an interesting angle, especially since it comes off as random but has a potentially larger feeling about it. The range of students from different schools is an interesting aspect of it to work with and I’m looking forward to seeing this kind of angle worked with. Bringing in the Puppeteer from Hell at the end is a great little twist though for Kindaichi as it has the potential to be so much more by dealing with such a larger nemesis… The series continues to move to its own beat though, either expecting you to know certain things from previous runs or the books, but with Kindaichi being as popular as it is in Japan with all the adaptations, it’s certainly understandable, but it makes it a little more difficult here.

Grade: B-

Streamed By: Crunchyroll

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Apple TV via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Log Horizon Episode #16 Anime Review

Log Horizon Episode #16 Anime Review

Log Horizon Episode 16

The tide rises against the heroes of the world

What They Say:
One day, while playing the online game Elder Tales, 30,000 players suddenly find themselves trapped in another world. There, eight-year veteran gamer Shiroe also gets left behind. The trapped players are still alive, but they remain in combat with the monsters. The players don’t understand what has happened to them, and they flee to Akiba, the largest city in Tokyo, where they are thrown into chaos. Once proud of his loner lifestyle, Shiroe forms a guild called Log Horizon with his old friend Naotsugu, female assassin Akatsuki and others.

The Review: Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With an episode title like ‘Return of the Goblin King’ one can’t expect too many good things to be in store for the world of Elder Tale. This episode is another great example of what Log Horizon as a series does really well, which is take an MMO trope or something related to the video game that was before Shiore and the others became trapped in it, and present it in a context that makes it meaningful in terms of storytelling. We’ve been given little things, like “this is a Warrior ability that does X” or “My spell doesn’t heal for a lot but it gets rid of poison” kind of stuff. But the explanation behind the massive surge of fishmen and the appearance of a thousands strong goblin army has it’s root in a bi-yearly, in-game event. MMOs will usually have events that occur on some sort of yearly schedule – such as the winter/Christmas equivalent event near the end of the year, or one that coincides with Halloween. There’s also events that are more based on the story of the game, such as ‘The Return of the Goblin King’, from which the episode draws its name.

Twice a year, players had a single week to march into goblin territory and fight their way to the strongest goblin, and if they defeated him, all was well in the land. But if they didn’t, he would become crowned the Goblin King, and unite the goblins under him. As one might expect, a single goblin can be easily dispatched, and they’re not well organized, but if you multiply their numbers several fold and give them organization – they become a terrifying threat to stability and life. Being so concerned with getting their way of life established, the Adventurers completely forgot about the event, and given that there is no nifty “Check out what’s coming up!” kind of headlines like you’d usually see when you log in, this problem creeps up quite suddenly and puts both the Adventurers and The People of the Land in a fairly desperate position. While Shiroe and the others at the capital city try to come up with a plan, the teachers and students of the training camp decide to take the fight to the goblins to stem the tide of destruction they’re sure to bring to the region around Akihabara.

In Summary:
I really like world building in shows. It’s what Log Horizon did well in several of the early episodes – little bits of trivia or backstory on dungeons, items, and the places the heroes were visiting. Then that stopped for a while. If you’ve been reading my reviews, you’ll know this is about the time I began to get annoyed with the show – I saw a lot of potential of what they could do, and it seemed like they were just choosing to ignore so many interesting directions they could go. But tying an in-game event that players usually did on a regular basis with no trouble to a now possibly catastrophic event that seems overwhelming. That kind of tie-in to the world and taking something innocuous at first sight and making it a big deal is what makes shows like this interesting. It’s what makes it exciting. I always wonder to myself, “What will make this fantasy world different or unique? What makes it special or interesting?” And the stuff about quests or in-game events is something that I think Log Horizon does well, and has a lot of room to play with in terms of story. I like this kind of stuff, and really hope they keep doing it as the show progresses.

There’s also a question of “choice” or agency that’s been brought up the last few episodes. Adventurers can do what they want, when they want, how they want. It’s a freedom that they have over the People of the Land. But, as they often point out, having that kind of freedom in the world as they know it now can be a burden, and requires a strong will to execute. Most people seem content to just be – to coast by day to day. But the characters that we’re shown who are part of the Round Table, who take the initiative to go to the training camp to get stronger, are the kind that really feel like they can achieve something wonderful and world changing. It’s a point they’re beginning to drive home, and the next episode preview hints that we might see People of the Land begin to take this kind of agency too. While they’re not mindless robots on set patterns and routes, there is an underlying notion that they’re bound in some ways that the Adventurers are not, and the idea of one or more of them breaking that mold and seizing initiative is another part of the tie-in to the world that has several interesting possibilities that I hope we get to see in upcoming episodes.

Grade: A-

Streamed By: Crunchyroll

Review Equipment:
Intel Alienware laptop, Windows 7, 25” HP2509m screen at 1920×1080 resolution

Is This A Zombie? Of The Dead Episode #10 Anime Review

Is This A Zombie? Of The Dead Episode #10 Anime Review Just what the series needs, Dark Ayumu.

What They Say:
Head Teacher Ariel proposes a test to Ayumu, to see if he is ready to take on Chris. At stake are Ayumu’s memories, which will be erased if he fails the test. Haruna decides to help Ayumu pass the test, but will her help end up doing more harm than good?

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the tenth episode of the second season, the series draws to a close. Kind of. An eleventh episode is in production but will be released in October with the manga as a special edition, so it’s unlikely to get streamed anytime soon as I don’t believe any OAD episodes have found their way there, or licensed in general. This season has been a bit of a rough run where it’s felt like it’s been more of a time killing arc than anything else, moving to some silly episodes and some serious ones that lacked any connective tissue beyond the end idea of Ayumu having to defeat Chris. It’s a simple plot device to be sure and one that has lacked any real sense of threat or menace. It has expanded the shows universe a bit though.

With things getting closer to having Ayumu deal with Chris, it’s coming down to a point where they’re wondering if Ayumu is actually ready. He’s done a few things to get the information he needs over the last few episodes and his friends are definitely supportive of things, though it takes some light turns early on by having Haruna take over as the teacher for his class and cause all sorts of trouble. All. Sorts. Of trouble. It’s kind of fun and silly but it’s also the kind of timewaster that kicks into play here where you’re wishing that they do get along with things. Which they do eventually as a form of Ayumu is put to the task of being tested as his memories are removed from him and put into some very pretty boy forms of the seven deadly sins. It’s a comical way of dealing with things that definitely has some appeal, especially since Haruna gets all set off by this.

The match up has some very fun moments to it, but there’s also a darkness to it as well since Ariel has set it up to really challenge him. Where the real fun comes in though is when all is said and done, we get “Dark Ayumu” now coming to the surface and taking over his body. He has some very fun moves with Ariel right from the start that she’s almost a little blasé over, but he’s instantly attracting attention in the class with his open shirt style and general attitude. The episode feels like it takes some interesting turns here in the second half, especially with eu being far more proactive and involved in events than she usually does, and it also finally gives us some material with her and the show in general that feels like we haven’t had since pretty much the early episodes of the first season. It’s a neat little bit overall, but the episode as a whole feels like this season as a whole in that it’s pretty disjointed.

In Summary:
While I had enjoyed a lot, but not all, of the first season of this series, the second season has soured me on several aspects of it. This really feels like it was rushed into production in a way and very ill formed about what it is that it wants to be and do. With the next episode being an OAD in October in Japan, it doesn’t give me any warm and fuzzies about when I’ll see it, which makes the whole season feel like a bit of a waste in a way. There’s good material to be had at times and this episode is really representative of the series as a whole in that it has pointless stuff, fanservice that’s out of place and then shifts into serious material on a whim while never really making it feel real, important or connected to the larger storyline. I have an affection for the cast and the situation, but the execution here is just awkward at best.

Grade: B-

Streamed By: FUNimation

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Ubel Blatt Vol. #00 Manga Review

Ubel Blatt Vol. #00 Manga Review Blood and debauchery!

Creative Staff
Story/Art: Etorouji Shiono
Translation: Caleb D. Cook

What They Say
When the black blade roars, all who stand in its path shall be torn asunder…!
What is it that Koinzell, the mysterious young boy who wields the sword with such exceptional skill, desires?
The fight against the “Lances of Betrayal,” who were thought to have been defeated by the Seven Heroes, begins – and at battle’s end, only the shocking truth will remain amid the pools of blood…

Technical:
The front cover here is a straightforward portrait of Koinzell, staring straight at the reader with an imposing facial expression. The back on the other hand is more or less a plain background with a summary, along with some very rough, purposefully simplistic images of the Seven Heroes. A few color pages, some notes about the world, and translation notes are all included as extras. Text reads smoothly, though the heavy German takes a bit of getting used to, paper quality feels solid, honorifics aren’t used, and sound effects are left in their original format and subtitled.

The art style here is rather nice, if not particularly exceptional. The characters are of course properly defined from one another, and the backgrounds appear when needed and can get quite fantastically detailed at times. And of course the monsters have a nice, intimidating feel about them. The highlight, however, is the action. It really packs a punch, is full of some nice, well done gore, and even has a good sense for when to throw in a spread shot. It’s also worth noting that the sexual nature of the book ventures into some rather rough territory, with the main character having the body of child, plus at least one seeming reference towards bestial rape. Be warned that it’s definitely not for those with sensitive stomachs, though fortunately it’s actually not that terrible visually, more conceptually when it comes to the rougher stuff.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
When it turns out that a hundred of his men were wiped out by a single man with a scar over one eye and a black blade, the massive Kfer is none too happy, to say the least. It is then that we meet our hero, a young boy named Koinzell who does indeed have a scar over his eye. Kfer’s men almost write him off but decide to kill him anyway, at which point our hero falls over a cliff and we learn the important bit of backstory, in which fourteen warriors departed to save the land on orders from the emperor. Three died, four betrayed their allies and were branded the “Traitorous Lances,” and the rest returned as the mighty “Seven Heroes,” inspiring the people to this day. It is these Traitorous Lances, seemingly revived, who are now leading a revolt that is devastating the lives of the people. Under the order of the Margrave, a soldier named Rigles has been sent to look for a hero who defied Kfer, and he concludes that the recuperating Koinzell is that man. When Kfer comes to destroy our hero himself, those suspicions are confirmed when the young boy uses his powerful black blade, a strange weapon that emerges from his body, to lay waste to his enemies.

From there, Koinzell continues to wipe out the rest of the four “Traitorous Lances,” with the last of them utilizing the corrupt Margrave. As he fells the final one, he reveals that he is the true Ascheriit, the Blatt Meister who controls the mighty Black Wing, and one of the true Traitorous Lances. Once he takes his anger out on the fakes fully, he reveals that the Seven Heroes were the true traitors, as they were cowards who killed the Traitorous Lances once they completed their mission in order to grab the glory for themselves. However, our hero was mysteriously revived in this new young body, and with it he intends to get revenge against the Seven Heroes for their grave treachery.

With the second half of the volume, we get a large story of Koinzell trying to break through a border city in order to get at the Heroes. However, the border is heavily monitored by a corrupt monastery who executes stowaways. Will Koinzell be able to bust through with the help of some new allies? Or will his twisted enemies and the influence they hold prove too great? And just what secrets related to his past are hidden beneath the city?

In Summary
This strangely numbered volume kicks the series off to an unusual yet intriguing start. With its complex history and world (not to mention the deluge of German words), it can take a little time to get settled into the story. And of course the more sexual content can just plain uncomfortable with where it goes, which is more than a little distracting. However, when you get past all that you’re left with core story with some bite to it, with a very conflicted and surprisingly human main character. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the action is also fantastic, with some absolutely great fights contained within the volume. It’ll definitely be interesting to see where the story goes as Koinzell gains worthier opponents, as well as just how his character will grow. But for now, this remains a fun read that definitely helps to drag you into the world of the story, dense as it can be.

Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: B+

Age Rating: 17+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: October 28th, 2014
MSRP: $19.99