Dante’s Inferno: The Video Game: The Demo: The Review

I've decided to display images from various illuminated texts, rather than screens from the actual game. Gustave Dore, Canto 31

Last night, my bro informed me that the Dante’s Inferno demo was available on the PSN, and while I’m not a big fan of game demos, I decided to grab it.

I guess Visceral Games loved the PS3 enough that they released the demo to us weeks ahead of the 360. Additionally they announced the other day that the Sony version would be essentially the definitive version, with tons of Special Edition like extras (artbook,soundtrack, even a digital copy of the epic poem) all in the normal ed of the game – no need to preorder or to shell out extra dough for it. The 360 version lacks these frills completely, bummer.

So with that much Sony love, I thought I should at least give the demo a go. After watching two movies (The Prince of Tides and The Four Feathers) I was good to go on EA/Visceral Games action epic.

Broadly speaking, I’ll say that I enjoyed the demo, having played it twice now, but I do have some concerns…

First of all, lets get this out of the way, the game is nearly straight out plagiarizing God of War. I don’t know if they had access to the source code or anything, but everything from the control set up, to the opening of treasure chests (fonts in this game) and the red and green orbs is GOW.

I’ll try and leave it at that , as far as GOW comparisons to go ( and fail miserably, as you’ll soon see) – this is going to be discussed endlessly when the game comes out, and then brought back up again once GOWIII arrives. Instead lets talk about Dante’s Inferno.

Bottecelli - Map of Hell

Back at Sheridan, I was supposed to read the original poem, I didn’t. At least not thoroughly – so I can’t talk about how exact a representation this game is. My gut reaction is that it isn’t.

What I can talk about is the stylistic choices Visceral has made, many of them feel shallow, or at the very least, ill considered. Already, I find myself breaking my promise and thinking about that other game, where on the graphically limited PS2, legibility was a primary concern. Bad guys in DI are hard to discern amongst the murky browness of the stages, but as a rule of thumb, I simply starting attacking at the nearest thing that moved. Still, even the grand Boss of the demo, Death incarnate, seems to be an amorphous black shade, and not intentionally so.

I have a hard time trying describe the look of the titular character – he’s bare chested, yet his arms are heavily protected. He wields in one hand, Death’s scythe, and the other, a holy cross (that shoots out glowing crosses, like a divine care bear stare). On his head he has what seems to be a iron crown of thorns, and facially, he reminds me of my  barber.

Oh, and about that chest, he has some kind of magical tapestry stitched onto it, the art constantly shifting around – it’s bloody and makes squishy noises when he pokes at it, and I don’t really know why he should be this way.

Sometimes, the game goes into a 2D animated cinematic, which to me, evoked those McFarlane/Korn music videos from the years ago. I was later told that they were supposed to resemble stained glass windows, which I think missed it’s mark by a wide margin. Other times, the game uses CG cinemas, and other times, it uses in game graphics, and regardless of the style, you’ll frequently see bare breasts. All of this seems kind of inconsistent and poorly paced…but bear in mind we’re dealing with a demo here, so we’ll let that slide.

It’s as if Rob Leifeld, Todd McFarlane and an army of Metal album cover artists collaborated on this game, which is to say that it’s kind of cool in a hollow sort of way. Then again, that other game isn’t all that different – but DI has a weird image (Image?) within an image effect, as if a game was made through the lens of GOW and then filtered and distorted.

So basically, the game looks kind of stupid, but somehow I’m ok with this. You get a glimpse of further stages at the end of the demo (each one patterned after the “levels” of hell, and modeled after the deadly sins), and while it all looks kind of samey – I could see myself getting used to DI’s skulls and guts and blood aesthetic.

Gustave Dore - The Flaming Spirits of the Evil Counsellors

At the end of the day I want to just beat the shit out of hell’s minions, and on this, DI delivers.

The demo doles out a new set of abilities every few minutes, which interrupts the game-flow, but when you do get down to the berserker action, it is incredibly satisfying. Halfway through I found myself wailing on hordes of bad guys, sometimes grabbing and tossing them, other times jacking them up into the air, mixing in a magical ice dash attack or using my care-bear-crucifix-stare. The breadth of your moveset, even in this brief demo, is varied enough, and the controls solid enough, that you can creatively mix and match attacks and feel confident enough that you’ll connect with them. That’s a key ingredient in these types of games, and with the promise of tons more moves in the full game, I’m sure that at least in terms of combat, DI is a very solid effort.

Lastly I’ll mention that DI calls upon another gaming fixation that seems to have cropped up in many games in recent years, the morality system. You can choose to either “punish” or “absolve”, your foes, punishing them powers up Death’s Scythe, and saving them powers up your Care Bear powers. My main concern here, is that like inFAMOUS, it impacts your powers, but not necessarily the world or the story in any meaningful way.

If DI is an echo of GOW, I would hope that it copies one thing above all else, crucially, which is “that moment”. And I can’t really describe it more than that, but GOW I (and II in some ways) had “that moment” which elevated the game beyond a frivolous action romp, and actually gave you a moment of pause. “That moment”, which we often attribute to more artsy games, like Ico, or SOTC, or even something like Flower, and in some ways is expected for those games, was  a nice surprise in GOW. The dev’s at Visceral, if they’ve truly done their homework, would do well to keep that in mind, but I fear that emulating this aspect of GOW might be harder than the other more salient aspects.

Willian Blake - The Whirlwind of Lovers Canto V "The Carnal"

Willian Blake - The Whirlwind of Lovers Canto V "The Carnal"

Dante’s Inferno: The Game: The Demo feels like a guilty pleasure, perhaps that might be enough for some, and maybe even appropriate given it’s sin-filled content. When the full game comes out, we’ll know if the game aspires to be more – shouldn’t the Divine Comedy deserve that?


New Header Image

Check out our super sexy new header image, curtosy of Eshwin. So long, generic urban streetside, hello vicious ninjitsu canine!

My Batman: You Should Have Seen Him …

The following article is about My Batman, the Batman interpretation that to me, is the definitive, ‘proper’ Batman. For this, I not only look specifically to the comics, as they are the source — any other novelizations, television series, or film, is merely an adaptation of that source — but it so happens that my definitive Batman can be found in one, single Batman comic, published in September 1988, Batman #423, also known as You Should Have Seen Him …

Although I am picking one specific comic, that comic is actually part of an era of Batman that I am partial to, and so some history is necessary before I get into my review.

The year is 1987. Beside the Indian Grocery store that my mom frequented, was a comic book store called Target Comics, run by, what appeared to be to my 7 year old eyes, a biker gang, although they were likely just stoners who liked rock ‘n’ roll and read a lot of comics in between perfecting Motorhead riffs. And it was amidst this rock ‘n’ roll troupe that I began my first foray into the world of comics, and to their credit, they never kicked me out or scolded me when 90% of the time, I never had enough pocket change to buy anything.

My first comic book that I think I ever bought was the first issue of the relaunch Aquaman title at the time. Although I never had enough pocket change or meager allowance money to buy subsequent issues of that particular series, I did, on one particular day, see a ‘value pack’ of Batman comics. The 3-pack was such a cool deal that I had just enough to get it, and so I did. Contained in that 3-pack were Batman #414, Batman #415, and Batman #416. While Batman #415 was part of the larger ‘Millenium’ storyline that told its story among various titles across the DC universe, Batman #414 and Batman #416 were self-contained stories about Bruce Wayne written by Jim Starlin, a fascinating and by all accounts, grossly underrated comic book writer of the 80s. While Batman #414 dealt with Bruce Wayne’s relationship to a woman whom he is unable as Batman to save from a serial killer due to a bad hunch, and the grief that follows, Batman #416 deals with the schism between the first Robin turned Nightwing, Dick Grayson, and Bruce Wayne/Batman. More broadly, the issue deals with the challenge set by father and son in expressing their need for one another, even if the son must go his own way. Both stories are remarkably nuanced and emotional, with action either being secondary or existing purely to further the emotional journey of the characters.

It was the memory of this ‘forgotten Batman’ of my youth that inspired me to dig through a back issue bin at my last comic book convention and seek out more forgotten Starlin issues, where I came across an issue that captures, in my mind, everything Batman is to me: Batman #423: You Should Have Seen Him ….

Told in the words of three different police officers sitting in a diner after their shift, each with their own ‘Batman encounter’ to tell of, the issue bears conceptual and structural similarity to Batman #250: The Batman Nobody Knows! (1973), written by Frank Robbins, in which a group of kids trade wildly imaginative (and inaccurate) campfire stories of their witnessing of Batman (the concept was later adapted to the animated show The New Adventures of Batman to pay tribute to both the Golden Age Batman and the Batman of The Dark Knight Returns, and then again in the animated film Gotham Knight). However, instead of colorful reimaginings, what we get from the resting officers of the law are accounts of three different men in one, of a hero as complex as any one of us, whom we both admire and relate to.

In the first story, a young, poor, black man named Kenny is about to throw himself off of a bridge, gaining the attention of the police and a crowd of onlookers. He explains that as a junkie, he is incapable of recovering his life from the mess it has become. Arriving on the scene is Batman, whose presence only seems to provoke the man further. After some back and forth, Kenny says, “Listen man, I’m poor, I’m black … I got a jones I can’t shake … got no family, no job … no future … ain’t no better life waiting for me.” The junkie then jumps, and Batman leaps after and catches the man in mid-air while suspending both of them from his Bat-rope.

Batman: “That was real stupid, Kenny. You threw your life away! Wasted it! By all rights, you should be dead now! But you’re not! You got another chance. It’s time to start over Kenny, get on a drug rehab program. Clean up your body and your life. Quit looking for excuses to fail! You’ve got as good a shot at life as anyone …”

While we live in the kind of sad society that thinks of dialogue as this as over the top, or conjuring elements of an ‘after school special,’ I can’t think of many moments in comics as awesome as this. Here’s Batman saying to a very troubled, angry, self-hating young man, with very little to live for, to get his life together. It’s not a deep or complex sentiment, nor is it ‘badass’, but it’s to the point and it is, in a sense, what Batman is saying to all of us who’ve been in Kenny’s situation, if even slightly. Who among us is so foolish and arrogant, and, well, darn crazy enough not to listen to Batman when he lays it down like that? The significance of this entire episode is not only its ability to motivate anyone from shaking the excuses they make for themselves, but that during this time in the 80s, drugs were becoming an ever increasing problem in America, as were racial tensions. Whether or not many of the comic’s target audience were even reading it at the time, it is essentially Batman saying to the nation’s youth, ‘Quit making excuses and get your shit together!’

Here, Batman is speaking in a tone which could be considered self-righteous, but the fact that Batman not only stops the man from committing suicide, but stays behind to lecture him, conveys that he’s not simply a hardened vigilante who goes after murderers and robbers, out for vengeance or to maintain some abstract sense of order, but rather, that he genuinely cares about this person. He wants this man, this junkie, to make something of himself, to rectify his mistakes, and very unlike the sullen, stoic Batman of later comics, he speaks his mind to him in broad daylight. Sure, there’s a time for lurking in the shadows, but sometimes, you just need to come out with it.

As a segway into the second story, the cop who’s just been told this tale replies, “the Batman I saw was a totally different person.”

He tells of a Batman not unlike the dark, violent character of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, or Christian Bale’s Batman interrogating Detective Flask in Batman Begins (“SWEAR TO ME!”). A young punk threatens to kill an old lady inside a held up convenience store. Batman swears that if the gang member pulls the trigger, he’d inflict endless pain upon him … endless because Batman would not let him die, no matter how he suffered by his hand. The scene ends with Batman hurling the young man through the window.

This Batman is true to familiar form, but I will not discuss it in great depth here, as it has been the aspect of the character most seized upon and popularized by comics and film. I will say that it’s cool when Batman ‘gets all badass’ like he does here, but it doesn’t reach sublime depths of storytelling or characterization on its own. It is, however, a necessary incident within the larger fabric of the comic, for its plain acknowledgement of violence, juxtaposing one extreme of the character with the contradicting gentility of the third and final story.

As the second cop concludes his story with the line, “That Batman is one tough ol’ mother. Mean and cold as ice,” a third cop, Officer Kirby Jackson, approaches the two and states, “No, he’s not.”

Kirby Jackson tells how he cornered two, very young homeless children in an alley, Batman showed up, and the kids threatened Batman and the police officer with a baseball bat. While the police officer was scared for the kids, knowing Batman only as a dark, violent character of the night, Batman says unexpectedly, “Can we talk about this?” The children, coaxed by his understanding and ease with them, tell their story. Their mother had died in a car crash, and their father had lost his job soon after. In an attempt to make ends meet by cheating in a poker match, he was killed, leaving the orphaned brother and sister in the hands of the foster care system. The two siblings, having been told that they would be placed in different homes,  ran away and chose to live on the street, out of a shipping crate underneath an underpass, eating scraps. They couldn’t bear to go on without the only family they had left: each other.

The following moment the cop describes is gut wrenching:

“That’s when I saw it. He turned his face away from the fire, hoping the shadows would hide it, but I saw it anyhow.”

A single tear falls down Batman’s cowled cheek, and Batman promises that Bruce Wayne will find a home in which the children can live together.

This is the moment that makes the comic for me, because it’s not only unusual for the character in terms of what is most often written, it addresses what kind of a man Batman is. In the first story, he is direct and firm, the voice of sanity and divine purpose to a soul that’s lost its way. In the second, we see the anger and the hatred contained within him at a person who would hurt another for personal gain He is the vengeful angel we’ve always known … but in this final story, Batman is simply a man of unbridled compassion and sympathy. He’s a human being.

I remember after reading those first Starlin Batman comics, #414 and #416, I was introduced to such graphic novels as Arkham Asylum, Batman: Year One, and The Dark Knight Returns, by my uncle. The darkness and violence and psychology of those elaborate and by now famous titles captivated me as I moved into adolescence, but years later, as an adult male, they barely scratch the surface of what Batman really means to me. While they delivered the necessary ‘push’ for Batman to remerge into the mainstream as a dark and brooding figure of the night, they also began a trend that, by the time the late ‘90s came around, had turned Batman into a shallow, callous jerk. Another unfortunate result is that from the standpoint of the non-comic reading mainstream, Batman was most defined by the 1960s show, a respectable and historic pop culture product, but still campy, superficial, and comedic. Just about everyone who doesn’t know the legacy of the character well enough, but ‘just kinda’ knows it, thinks that it was Frank Miller who was most responsible for the rehauled and grown up Batman, responsible for Batman being a serious, mature character from the pulps, as opposed to the Adam West incarnation of the 1960s. The truth is, the ‘darker than dark’ Batman of Frank Miller, later co-opted by Tim Burton and popularized through subsequent writers, is to the campy 1960s Batman what a 14-year old’s perception of the world is to an 8-year old’s perception of the world. It’s grown, but not ‘grown-up’.

Actually, as my review of Batman #423, proves, Batman had been grown-up and smart for some time , thanks to writers like Jim Starlin who were carrying on the tradition of Dennis O’Neil, the real deal when it came to the intelligent design of Batman’s evolution (it is debatable what influence Frank Miller had on Starlin, as some of Frank Miller’s work came slightly before or during it, although it is inarguable that #423’s Batman is a much different hero than Frank Miller’s in terms of TDKR or Year One.). Batman was not campy in those early 70s-80s comics and he wasn’t a super-dark sociopath either. Batman, for all his tragedy, was a smart, committed, responsible man who cared for the well being of others, and who used every means at his disposal to help those people he could still save. His life experience had predisposed him to a hatred of criminals, commitment to his objectives, and a slightly rigid, if ontological sense of right and wrong. As abnormal a man as he may be, Batman’s sanity, rarely, if ever, escapes him. Most importantly, Batman had sympathy for the weak, and it was out of this sympathy that he sought to protect and help them.

Based on that acceptence of the character, Batman #423 is my definitive Batman comic … not Year One, not TDKR, or anything which has come after. The reason being that through contradiction and extremes, we find the man caught within, and it not only makes us understand him, but care about him. In the 22 pages of this monthly issue published over 20 years ago, more is covered and established about the character than in most trades or graphic novels, or for that matter, Batman films.

Anyways, that’s ‘My Batman.’ What’s yours?

Dialogs: Batman and Death in Comics

The unfortunate demise of Bruce Wayne, and the somewhat middling comic stories that have cropped up in his absence has sparked a debate amongst the Dogs – how long is this going to last? was this a good idea in the first place?

We get into tons of stuff here, and I’m sure there is more to discuss, but for now, here is the first salvo…


First off we have Ricky who comes to terms with the insignificance of death in comics:

On to comic books. I know most of you don’t read GL corps and don’t give a shit about Kyle Rayner, but it seems he’s dead. My first reaction to this was “i wonder how they are going to bring him back?” After this event I realized how insignificant death in comic books is to me. Remember our conversation about how long Bats should stay dead? I was saying 5 years is good but now I’m going to have to side with Ross and say 10 years.

I go off on a tangent about Dick Grayson being the story of an entire life:

About death in comics. I’m going to have to go with 5 years, or less, for Bruce Wayne, and for Kyle, well that could comfortably go to 10 and I don’t think the general comic book reading audience would miss him. (How did he go anyways? Was it gruesome?)

Even so, I don’t think we’ll see him gone for that long. Think about how much shit happens in comic books in a given year. Alternate universes are discovered, and destroyed, discovered again, all in the span of like, 12 months.

I know the argument is, 10 years, or it doesn’t mean anything. But in addition to just being good business to keep your biggest and brightest names in circulation, I just don’t have that much faith in the creativity of this industry to provide a decade’s worth of stories that *don’t* have Bruce Wayne in it.

When Hal Jordan kicked the bucket, we got Kyle Rayner, and while eventually he found a place for himself in GL lore, he still really never gained public acceptance, not in the way Wally West took over Barry for the Flash. While DC might play with the notion, Batman, as a concept, isn’t a legacy character like GL or The Flash. Dick Grayson is also not Kyle Rayner, nor is he Wally West, I think in the years he fought as Nightwing he’s earned an identity that feels unique to him.

Being Batman, and probably even a competent and good Batman, is all part of Dick Grayson’s ultimate realization that he is his own man.

Plus, we know from interviews that Grant Morrison has a specific beginning, middle and an end for his whole run in Batman, which began waaay back in Batman and Son. If DC’s intention is to let the man who made the mess clean up after himself (ala Brubaker over in Cap), I have a hard time believing that DC signed him to a 10 year contract. The best basketball players in the NBA don’t even get contracts that lengthy.

Anyway, thinking about this makes me realize how fascinating a character Dick Grayson really is. You can follow, basically the life of a human being. From his adolescent years to his rebellious teenage days and now as an accomplished young man who other younger heroes look up too.

Following that logic, I wonder if we’ll ever see him grow old, like to 50, and then at 87, die, lets say…from natural causes. Wouldn’t have be an interesting death, and an interesting life?

Eshwin chimes in with 2 years, and gives us an overview of the current Batstories:

I think you’re all high. If DC goes 5 years without Bruce Wayne on its main titles, I can almost forsee the main titles not even being the main titles. Look for a few more ‘Batman Confidentials’ and mini-series that take place outside of continuity to be the big releases over the coming years, if your horrible vision carries through.No longer than 2 years, please, and if anything, let it be over way before that. It’s not that I hate Dick Grayson and Damien, but honestly, while he’s a good character and the first Robin, he’s proving, it seems to me, that if anything, he’s not Batman. He’s proficient, determined, committed, but his performer antics and flashy ways also make him more like an experimental Batman, one whose behavior recalls past eras of the Bruce Wayne character.Damien has shown no progress at all. Like, yeah, it’s cool that they put him into situations where his badassness plays off well against some lunatic and he’s usually saving a child his own age. Something about that is poignant somehow. But his constant insubordination around Dick and Dick’s hesitancy to shut the boy’s insolence down as Bruce would have done is a bit tiring at this point. I haven;t read issue 6 of BnR, but I am going to guess nobody addresses the obvious problems in their relationship in any significant way. He seems to have some sense of morality because of his dad, whom he seems to have barely known at all. In fact, Battle for the Cowl is the only time I ever really liked him at all and saw a glimpse of his humanity on some level.

I was really excited about this era in the beginning, but I am losing interest. My favorite series right now is ‘Unseen: A lost tale from the life of Bruce Wayne’ which I think says it all. I’m not blown away by BnR anymore like most people, Red Robin started off amazing and now its mired in some convoluted league of assassin’s plot and as far as Detective Comics … there shouldn’t even be a Batwoman, let alone an ‘edgy lesbian’ Batwoman, I don’t care how great the talent on that title is. Judd Winick’s run on the new Batman main title was forgettable at best, but I have a little more faith in Tony Daniel.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say. sorry to derail the more thoughtful questions on an older Dick Grayson …. to attempt to answer that one, I don’t know if DC has ever handled a life in continuity like this. From boy, to teenager, to young man, to finally a guy who’s likely in his late 20s or 30s. But except in alternate universe, we don;t see those characters as old men because they are part of an ensemble, and Grayson’s not so popular that people aren’t going to be asking: Damn, so where’s Bruce Wayne now, is he still alive?

Every day I buy a comic book, people are talking about the resurrection of Bruce Wayne, how there are clues in Crisis of Infinite Earths and various other DCU events that Grant Morrison retroactively mined for clues for his story. Please …. please. No longer than 2 years.

John also favors two years, and compares the handling of Batman RIP to that of Captain America…uh…RIP:

So i’ve been pretty lax in posting here recently because of my obvious lack of a ps3 to play the games currently on our collective plate, but also because the “john’s going to australia” bandwagon is in full swing. I mean, I havn’t even finished Bioshock for crying out loud (partially due to my computer crashing and losing my saved game).But comics – comics I can do. So first off, the Batman/Doc Savage special is a bit of a mixed bag for me. I realize that this is supposed to be a prologue into the upcoming First Wave series, but the way Bats and Doc Savage are written just feels, I dunno, off. Yes, I know that certain liberties are being taken due to the time period that it’s taking place in, but Batman with loaded guns is just really out there. I did like the captions with his thought process though, trying to stay one step ahead and come up with an escape route. Lots of potential there. As for the Doc himself,it’s really me having only read Ellis’s take on the character in Planetary – the final issue of which I loved.As for how long the ‘true’ Batman should stay dead in the DCU, I have to agree with Eshwin – 5 years is really pushing it. I’d say, 2 years of Dick wearing the cowl would be the optimal time frame and 3 years max. But that 3rd year is if and only if its written correctly, or in other words, if a compelling story requires it. So far however, Dick as Batman has been rather lackluster. Yes, it’s had its moments, but it’s been a mediocre performance at best. I think the biggest reason for this is how the transition, or the passing of the mantle if you like, was handled. If anything, Dick became Batman came too fast.

Take Captain America for example. Brubaker has did an incredible job with the change from Steve Rogers to Bucky Barnes. He took his time and for about 9 issues there was no Captain America character in the Captain America comic. 9 issues from the death in #25, Bucky did not become Cap and don his version of the uniform until #34. That’s almost a whole year, while Dick became Batman in 3. I’m not saying that DC should have done the same thing as Marvel with Batman. All I’m saying is that maybe if they let it sink in a bit longer – say another issue of Jason Todd as the gun totting Batman terrorizing Gotham – Dick finally taking up the mantle could have had more impact.

But 5 years of no Bruce Wayne? Definitely a no.

Now Kyle Rayner’s ‘death’ in GLC is really a question mark. Is my favorite GL really dead? If I hadn’t seen the whole BN cheklist from the beginning, I’d probably be swearing left, right, and center.

Reading through what’s been said though, there is one character that I don’t think anyone has mentioned and has been dead for about 5 years now. I give you a hint: Grant Morrison killed her at the end of his stint at Marvel (at least i think it was the end), and after all this time, it still works without her.

I touch on the likely disappointment we’ll all have when Bruce eventually returns:
Oh and to answer your quiz question – Jean Grey! She’s been dead, or at least entombed in some kind of meditative state (is that right?) for a while now, and most folks are fine with that. Cyclops is running around with White Queen, so it’s fun to play them off each other. Lots of good material there.You guys bring up a lot of good points though, and like to see them bring back Bruce Wayne sooner rather than later, but sometimes, I can’t help but think that DC’s editorial have weird WB executive tinged business decisions.It’s not like I want that to happen! But for some reason, I could see something stupid like that happening anyway.

Furthermore, I think that however they bring back Bruce Wayne, it’ll probably feel disappointing. After years of build up…how could it live up to the hype. This compounded with Grant Morrison’s (and many writers these days) tendency to write for collected editions means that the story, taken in pieces, is just going to feel a little flat.

Even now, and I echo the sentiments you guys have about Batman and Robin, it’s just kinda, whatever, type of comics. I might just wait for the trade, I remember similar feelings about Morrision’s past run on Batman, but having read them as a collection, I think they’re brilliant.

I really can only think of two comics creators whose stories in single issues actually felt satisfying, Jeff Smith’s Bone, where I collected almost the last 20 issues, and Paul Popes THB, which almost never really comes out at all, so every issue is a rare treat, on top of being weirdly cool stories to begin with.

Ross’s input speaks of the emotional toll death should take, and how time can emphasize it:

Jean Paul Valley had a sweet nick name for his time under the cowl. I say we make it our mission to come up with one for Richard.hmm…DickBat? NghtBats? GrayBats? BATWING! Sure its been used for the plane but fuck it, its the “Batplane” now Dick wins this oneI haven’t read a whole lot of Batwing but I will take you’re word that it has been overall lackluster John. I have a question as to whether Batwing has gotten a nice juicy story to sink his teeth into. But I have a feeling the answer is no. There is all this Blackest Night stuff going on right now and I have a feeling once it is over shit is going to get real for the Dynamic Duo. If things are done correctly Batwing will evolve ala Buck Gunderson and get more and more interesting as his adventures under the cowl continue.As far as contracts for writers go. I don’t know how long comic writers sign on for contracts or that if basketball contracts are a fair comparison. Basketball players use their bodies to make money athletically and there is only a certain window of opportunity in one’s life where that can be taken advantage of. But in wresting ;D which is also athletic and more similar to comics than I think basketball is, 10 year contracts are not that uncommon. That isn’t to say that I think they signed Morrison to a 10 year contract. But if that’s what it takes to have him dead for a meaningful amount of time then I am all for it.

It saddens me that you guys expect Bruce back that quickly. We SHOULD be sad that Bruce is gone. It shouldn’t be an annoyance that he is dead. We shouldn’t just be looking at our watches waiting for the writers to bring him back to life. His death should bring about a genuine feeling of despair. BATMAN IS FRIKKIN’ DEAD GUYS! And before he comes back they need to make you guys (yeah especially you Ninja Dog) miss him.

My thoughts on how comic characters are ‘in on the joke’ re. death:
Basketball isn’t that great of a comparison, you’re right. But lets look at the comic industry itself. And I guess thinking about contracts isn’t exactly what I want to express here, more like, the tenure of a team or a single person on a book. It seems to me that every super hyped up creative team never actually lasts that long anyway. People leave for whatever reason, go on to other stories or characters, or whole companies all together. It’s a weird little quirk of the industry.
You’re also right about how sad we should be that Batman is gone!

But I’m more sad that I’m *not* , and I feel like time won’t foster the proper emotion in me. While his demise was poetically symmetrical in a way, it was also just another death. I think everyone here knows that death in comics is simply a binary state. Dead.Alive.Dead.Alive.

Even our superheroes are sort of in on the joke about death too…

In Identity Crisis Green Arrow summons the ghost of Hal Jordan, they have a bit of a chat, and before he leaves, GA asks, “soooo…when are you coming back?”. Jordan, as the Spectre, plays dumb at first, then gives a knowing little *wink* and says, “I’m working on it”. *wink wink*

In Infinite Crisis, the heroes gather on the moon while Superman delivers Martian Manhunter’s eulogy…everyone is in tears and Supes ends the scene with “…and let us pray, for a resurrection”. *wink wink, nudge nudge*

This is jaded curmudgeony comics fandom at it’s worst, but what does it say that the people in the comics itself are aware of how impermanent death is?

Everything about death in comics, and Batman’s, is symptomatic of a larger problem in comics, the lack of creativity and originality, but that’s a whole other issue. Believe me I wish it weren’t so, that I’d elicit some kind of emotional response from death in comics, but you know…Ouroboros.

The end result though, is that people just wait impatiently for comics to return back to the safe, save state. And why not? It’s preferable, and comforting, to have slightly predictable Real Batman stories than slightly predictable and disappointing Batwing stories.

And lastly, we have Eshwin finding some value in our current Batwing stories:
Well, the best parts of Red Robin do elicit that state of mourning. Actually, having lost a parent, I am sad for Batwing and Tim and the gang when the stories tend to go into that state of grief over Batman and not only because he’s a hero, but because like a good patriarch, he’s really been the emotional anchor for them all. For a few moments, I enter their heads and I go ‘fuck that’s rough’, but when I am not reading those comments and the stories are fixated on Clayface teaming up with some commando guy and ‘yay the new batmobile can fly’ and ‘look at Damien he just nearly killed some guy and he’s only 10’ then I just skim through the issue and I don’t bother looking at my watch for Bruce to return … I just read Batman Unseen, or now, Batman Confidential and soon the ‘First Wave’, which I am hoping is going to be something like The Legends of the Dark Knight series, which for a long time, was my favorite Bat comic. I don’t know why they cancelled it when it had some of the besy Bat-stories ever, but I guess that’s a whole other issue. Maybe it wasn’t selling, maybe it became shit, I wasn’t there to see it die, fortunately or unfortunately.Anyways, my point was, that people can always find more Bruce Wayne stories, and so I don’t think that people will mourn Batman or be irritated so much as they will just start turning towards those other titles.John has a good point, Dick became Batwing too fast. First of all, one solid issue should have come out that just got one issue out of the way: Gotham needs Batman as a symbol, Nightwing or some variation will not do. They could have covered this in one issue better than they did in BFTC, and they didn’t at all. Secondly, now that dick is Batwing, he needs to fuck up so he can reevaluate himself and his path, come back as a man, and finally earn Damien’s respect. Damien needs something to happen to him. I would love it if he actually got a chance to show some humanity after Dick just shuts him down, or he shows that beneath the angst, he’s really missing Bruce, the father he really came to know over a brief period and whom he has some regret over not knowing more. It can still be rectified, but restoring Bruce to the main titles should happen, if not for anything than the fact that they will slowly go to shit anyway, and other titles will gain some clout to replace them.

Anyways, my favorite comics these days are bat issues. My next post I will post here will be a review of what I feel is the definitive Batman issue, and my favorite Batman comic of all time. Then I think I will post it on Ninja Dog Corps after it sees a few more posts from you guys

Dialogs: Transformers 2: Electric Boogaloo

Dialogs is an ongoing feature at Ninja Dog Corps – discussions of the various nerdy topics we love (or hate) oh so much. Each of the Ninja Dogs bring a different angle to the argument, and it should be interesting to see how we weigh in on each subject. Today, we’ll be looking at Transformers 2, in honor of the recent home video release.
You’ll notice that we each saw the movie at different times, and we threw down our thoughts soon after watching it.

First up we have John, who saw the flick at a midnight release.

so. many. robots. so very awesome. watching it again in imax.

ignore the scathing reviews and bad press, the reviewers are really just reaching out for things that don’t belong in an action movie let alone a Michael Bay helmed action movie.

yes, if you really want to get down to it, the movie is held by a thin plot. but like i said, it’s a Michael Bay action movie – one with giant robots beating the shit out of each other. it’s not supposed to be some hyper intelligent drama that draws you into each scene. it’s frigin’ robots in disguise duking it out. why spoil the fun of that basic premise?

so yeah: megan fox + other hot babes + fair amount of humor+ robots in disguise + optimus going ape shit and owning everyone + devastator + soundwave x lots and lots of explosions and action = awesome.

and sorry, i just read roger ebert’s review and it pretty much solidifies my stance that all reviewers suck and whatever they write is bullshit. make a “dumb action movie,” they want more intelligence; make an “intelligent movie” and they want more action.

haha. sorry. go see it. seriously. beat someone for their ticket if you have to, but go see it.

Next up we have Eshwin

I just saw it folks, and I consider myself a fairly intelligent and critical person, as well as being a nerd, albeit one who is not as into Transformers as some.And I fucking LOVED this movie!I was going to see it this coming Monday and again with you guys, and I will see it both of those days because I loved it so much. When Maria and I found out about the tragic end of the King of Pop, we decided to say fuck it and just go watch Transformers.

Here’s my reasons, without spoiling anything, of why I liked this film and also some small problems.

The main issue with Transformers 1 was the over-filling of senseless and pointless human narratives who were basically cartoons. This would not have been a problem, if the sheer abundance of pointless gags didn’t outweigh the screentime of the Transformers, who were little more than speaking props.

While I’d still care for a lot more screen time and relationship building and characterization for the autobots, the essential motivation and plot of this film is far more centered on the Transformers. The generally simplistic nature of the humans plays well with the still simpler robots, who to their credit, display a lot more character than they did before.

Of specific note, Bumble Bee expresses a far greater degree of character than he did before, and for once, Starscream and Megatron play out their unique tensions onscreen as well. Optimus has a bit more attitude and things to do as well, and I rather enjoyed his interactions with humans aside from Sam. There is far more Transformer mythology here, including the origins of the Transformers and the real reason the Autobots and Decepticons are at war.

The robot fights here are very well choreographed and shot, and must have been very, very complex to organize into the practical world. And there are a lot of them. Also, in the cartoon, Transformers fight in a variety of non-urban landscapes. We get to see that in full effect here.

Dramatically and narratively, I have no issue with the simplistic nature of the story. Firstly, the essential robot story here is no less complicated than an episode of the cartoon or the animated Transformers movie. The inclusion of a few new characters who weigh in for good exposition only make it better. In fact, I would give it some nerd cred for getting a little geekier than it was in the first movie. Also, the inclusion in the middle of a real sense of evil winning and the world being somewhat devastated worked in this kind of simple story, and is not to be overlooked as enough of a dramatic push to make the fights much better.

My only problems are, as I said before, the same old human gags abound in this, including Michael Bay’s obsession with absolute sluts and facile 7th grade sex jokes. While the first half of the movie establishes the Transformers as being bigger players in the human narratives, the last half of the middle act mired itself in human heroics … however, these are short lived and also, not that bad. I actually liked John Turturro’s role this time around a lot more. My last problem is the slight, short lived blasphemy in the first going on second incident in which the film suggests an aspect to Transformers that in my opinion, pose a conceptual threat. Thats all I will say without spoiling anything.

Besides that, yes, the robots could have been bigger characters again, but this is a significant improvement and the mythology and inclusion of more awesome fights and actions pieces make this less of an issue. I liked this movie a lot.

oh yeah … Volvotron is in this movie, although he is basically just a part of Devastator and has yet to grow into his own as the pensive philosopher he will no doubt become in the third or fourth film.
And here are my two cents

SOOO I finally got to see Transformers 2. I have to admit, I went into the movie with some pretty high expectations, part of which can be attributed to the immense amount of BULLSHIT that I’ve had to put up with to see this thing.

First there was last weeks turn around, and this week, now with the family (surprisingly my mom and dad wanted to see it), we were again faced with the show being SOLD OUT for the time we had wanted. Ultimately we got the tickets, and we finally got to see the movie, with even more retarded bullshit inbetween, but I’ll spare you guys that particular rant.

So with that in mind, I have to say that Transformers 2 was well worth the effort in seeing.

This movie has balls.

It’s flawed, and maybe in some important areas, but it fulfilled my criteria for the movie: A – It had shit loads of robots, B – not only did they fight but they even had some acting going on too C- human stuff never drags on for too long. It’s the type of movie that I imagine Transformers 1 wanted to be.

As you guys have mentioned already, I like how it acknowledges the greater world and mythology of Transformers. It was enough to make to peruse the Wiki to get caught up with The Fallen and the Dynasty of Primes.

I have no problem with the shifting and mutation of Transformers Lore and it’s details. Any conflicting details seem more in keeping with Transformers, given it’s various shows over the years have always seem to strike out on its own. At it’s core Transformers comes down to some essential elements, and by and large, this move gets that right.

I liked those two little “gangsta” robots. If you’ll remember from the first movie, the way Transformers come to understand our culture is through our media, they’re simply a reflection of our own cultural misgiving and failings. I find it more racist that people are reading into these characters as being “black”. Get over it.

Jar Jar Binks is also ok in my book.

I think one of my favorite bits was having Optimus Prime discuss with a Goverment liason the politics of having Transformers as allies to the US.

The characterization of Prime is probably my biggest sticking point though. He’s essentially the robot equivalent of The Punisher. Not only does he kill other robots, he does so in the most brutal fashion, ripping off heads, tearing away faces and punching through chests to grab hearts.

It made me think that maybe the Decepticons are misunderstood,

I can’t recall any Autobot being murdered in an equally vicious manner in this movie. Transformers 2 also makes the effort to show that not all Decepticons are even truly evil – the little RC Truck changes sides, and so does Jetfire. Perhaps more of these Decepticons are fighting for this side for their own personal reasons, and yet we have Optimus Prime more than willing to tear off arms and disembowel you without hesitation.

We also see that the main drive for The Fallen/Megatron and Starscream (chiefly Starscream) is actually to provide an energy source so that the hatchlings can live.

I’m sure you can look into all this more, and delve into what all this means. Is Optimus Prime an American? Or even more so, an American Soldier that shoots first and asks questions later?

But at the end of the day, it’s fun.

It’s best to simply enjoy the clash of metal robots and leave the more thoughtful discourse to Watchmen or Batman.

Michael Bay has found in Transformers, something that I think will become his signature series. He’s made tons of blockbusters but Transformers strikes me as something perfectly suited for him.

It occurred to me while watching this, that Transformers 2 is exactly how I imagined my toys would be fighting while I was playing with them.

I’d flip Optimus Prime in the air and while blasting Megatron ( well, more like Grimlock – I didn’t have Prime or Megatron), I’d set up ludicrous scenarios which I’d revise or even forget about halfway through, go off on weird tangents, and even better, introduce other toys (in the case of Trasnformers 2, army men) into the fray.

Transformers 2 has that kind of joyful, wild imagination.

It also had gigantic clanging balls. Like, huge robot balls.

How can you not give this movie an A+ just for that alone?

And finally, Eshwin once again

I hadn’t thought of the Decepticons/Autobots division as easily reversible, but don’t forget, the Decepticons, like terrorists, are against ‘us’ for whatever reason is justifiable to them and their own. So decapitating them is quite simply the American way.

Welcome to Ninja Dog Corps

Well I had no idea how to edit the post below, so here’s a new one … This is Eshwin, one of four men who love comics, video games, movies, and everything in between. The idea for this blog was Rey Ortega’s, who, upon reading our many diverse opinions and in depth critiques of various geek media on our Facebook thread, decided it was time to publish our many opinions and insights on the web. I should leave the rest of the intro to him, but truth be told, this is about the only thing I know how to do on WordPress, as I find its layout generally quite mystifying and I’m enjoying this sudden sense of proficiency now that I’ve found a box I can finally just type in. I am perpetually confused by things that for most in our modern world, is second nature.

You see, although we like the name Ninja Dog Corps because it manages to conjure colors all shades of awesomeness, if you’re nerdy enough, you’ll also get that its the very demeaning ‘easy mode’ found on Ninja Gaiden Sigma for the PS3, and if you get that, than this is where you belong … to hear the various rants, insights, praise and criticisms of media geared towards just that level of nerd! As the original Ninja Dog, I came to video games as a ‘lapsed gamer’ who had never been that good at games to begin with (my Sega Genesis/CD/32X heydey saw many a Game Genie and Gamepro procured cheat code), and as such always preferred the easy modes. Don’t get me wrong, I love being challenged when reading the Lynchian Batman R.I.P, or breaking down the expressive and superb editing of Conan the Barbarian on my 1007th viewing, but for the love of the video game god, give me infinite continues and autosave!

As one of the first order’s of business, I’m going to propose that we change that above banner picture to something that says something about us as a group. I propose an Xbox controller impaled on a ninja star. Let me know if anyone has a problem with me drawing this.

Anyway, I’ll leave the floor open for the rest of the group: Rey, Ross, Ricky, and John … take her away!

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