Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Kieron Gillen's new comic book, Uber, is set in Berlin during 1945 at the last moments of WW2. With the Red Army on the streets of the city the Nazis cling to the hope of a super weapon to turn the tide before it's to late. As it turns out they unleash a group of super heroes on the poor unsuspecting Russians. Can we still call them super heroes if they are Nazis?
Of course Nazis are a pretty common plot device and even something of a cliche in comics or video games. You need a good selling point to stop the reader being jaded by it. Gillen's selling point is the brutal honesty of the writing. This is the war presented with out any filters, it is brutal and graphic and far removed from the propaganda of say war time Captain America.
In a piece at the back of the comic Gillen said he had been doing a lot of research into his story and sites historian Antony Beevor as a big source. His books, Berlin and Stalingrad, are must reads if you want to learn about this subject. Beevor has the skill of leaving out the stuffy history and picking up on the human stories to weave together a compelling narrative that gives us a good feel for what happened and the tragic cost of events. It is with a similar ideal that Gillen has approached this work.
He also states that he is not interested in a level of detail for having the right tank tracks but wants to include things that happened and try to give a true impression of how it was. As it happens I'm reasonably well read on this conflict, no expert, but knowledgeable non the less. I would say Gillen has done a very good job of showing the battle and the environment it was fought in. The book constantly impressed me with what it included such as the Russians putting mattresses on their tanks or the Hitler Youth on bikes carrying anti tank weapons. The Tiergarten Flak Towers looms large from the page and shows why it was such a key part of the battle for the city. All that reading and research has been put to good use and my historical inaccuracy radar was not set off.
Uber doesn't shy away from the darker elements of the Battle for Berlin such as the mass rapes carried out by the Russians or the executions carried out by the Germans. You see people hiding away in cellars hoping they will live through it. A sense of fear and disgust is always with you as you read the pages. Indeed Gillen says "I hope you find it fascinating and compelling. I hope you don't enjoy it."
Of course superhumans were not part of the war but they do not appear out of place with the real facts. They seem to have been created thanks to horrible experiments carried out by sadistic Nazi doctors. When unleashed towards the end of the book the result is bloody murder on a large scale. One gets the impression that they are there as devices to help with showing the brutality that the true elements of the book have already built up. We shall have to wait and see how the series develops but the superheroes so far do not feel like a gimmick or "cool" as they might in other books. Indeed they are in keeping with the deranged ramblings of Hitler and his talk of "super soldiers" and "wonder weapons".
Art is from Caanan White and matches the writing perfectly, always a vital goal for a good book. Has a slight feel of the old style war comics to it which really helps get you into the world. Berlin looks like a horrible place to be, which of course it would have been. The design of the ubers and their support units was very good. A slight twist on the actual uniforms to make them more menacing and suitable for a modern reader but still in keeping with the setting. Action scenes worked well and you get a real feel of the power that these super beings have. There is blood and guts and gore almost dripping from the page.
Uber was very impressive and one of the most interesting comics I've read in a while. A good story and good art and should be praised for not pulling any punches with the subject matter. As well as being a good read it might even help teach a little bit of history to the reader. I'm looking forward to seeing how the team build up the themes and story and more importantly how the Allies can fight back against these super Nazis.
Uber is from Avatar, issue 0 is selling out now and issue 1 hits shops next month.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
When announcing the 1999 mode prior to release Bioschock creator Ken Levine said it was not for average gamers and that they would hate it. Playing the game on this hardcore setting would make the game an incredibly hard test of gaming skill where death was inevitable. But rather than being like the masochistic torture of Dark Souls it's actually more like hanging out with some kittens and playing with balls of wool. Well, sort of. With a little bit of planning, strategy and the old classic of running away from a fight you can complete 1999 with very little trouble. I did and I'm pretty rubbish at games to be honest, here is how I did it.
The main bonus you have is that you've already completed the game and should know what you are doing and where to go. This was my third run through and the familiar feeling of levels was a great help.By knowing when and where an enemy will appear or where they might move to you can use the vigors to set traps and take them out with little effort. You will also know where the loot, gear and infusions are and you will need all of those you can get. Think about what lays ahead and how you can deal with, never rush in and hope to blast your way out.
Money is a key part of all this as it costs you coins to respawn after death (I think its 100). If you run out of coins you get booted back to the main menu. This happened once to me early on and I just went back in and loaded up my game again. You will die, perhaps a lot, but having a good stock of money in your wallet means it's not really an issue. I kept at least 1000 coins just in case but if things go very badly just exit and reload the game.You will need to spend money to upgrage your weapons and vigors too but only use a couple of these don't try to build up all of them.Make sure to collect lock picks and unlock the safes you come across.
Personally I went with a sniper rifle and shotgun combo when ever I could. The sniper rifle is your best friend here because you can sit out of reach of the enemies picking them off at a distance. Head shoots tend to kill most human baddies with one hit. So many times in the game you can just sit back in realities safety and snipe away and being able to snipe makes the hard parts of the game a lot easier. I went for the shotgun becasue the blast staggers the opponent when hit and I preferred it to the others but anything that is good at close range can be used. It's the sniper rifle that is key. You might well run out of ammo from time to time but you are never that far away from another weapon.
|sniper rifle is your best friend|
I found the choice of vigors to be a lot more important on 1999 mode and really they are the key to success.
Possession is obviously very useful for dealing with turrets and patriots and get's them fighting with the other bad guys who can help in taking them out. Shock Jockey and Devils Kiss are both useful and can be used to set traps. Personally I went with Shock Jockey as the firemen are immune to Devils Kiss,the Shock Traps are also cover a wider area.
The two really important vigors are Undertow and Return to Sender and you should upgrade these when you can. Undertow lets you knock people over the side and into oblivion. Whenever you are near a ledge just use this and you can take people out in seconds. It became an invaluable tactic for me and I would even try to lead enemies to areas where I could blast them over the rails. You can clear a barge full of bad guys out in quick time. Return to Sender is needed only for the last level where you can place traps to protect the core of the zeppelin.
One of the main difference in my 1999 run was that I made much more use of the gear and used them as part of my strategy. Once piece of gear makes it harder for mechanical enemies to spot you so obviously I used this when faced with them. When snipping I made sure I had the gear that adds a bonus for aiming down sights. The gears that give you more ammo or fill up health were very useful too. I believe the gear is a bit random but try to get as much of it as you can and be sure to pick and choose the right ones at the right time. Treat it like an RPG where the right equipment for the right job is important.
Collect these when ever you can. My first pick was to max out my shield and then my health and not really worry about the salts. The benefit of the shields is that you can take some hits before you lose health and that shields regenerate but health does not. Much better to go and hide and what for you shield to come back than to lose health.
Run, run away. This is an option that can simply let you bypass a lot of fights. Once you make it to an area the enemies will disappear as the game loads up the next bit. With a good shield you can take some hits while you skip past everyone. You can cut out a lot of tricky encounters by just running. You really don't have to kill everyone you see.
Stay back. The other trick is to just stay back and use the sniper rifle to pick them off. Most bad guys will not leave their sector so if you stay far enough back they will leave you alone but you can still hit them. Make good use of doors, you can open a door hit the enemy and duck back behind the door.The patroits do seem to be more willing to hunt you down but generally you can manipulate the game mechanics to your favor.
Avoid fights. There are a few areas were you can simply avoid a fight. For example at Finkton Docks, just play it cool, don't start trouble and you can avoid a huge fight. Some of the side quests and other map areas can be left out so you don't waste time and resources on things that don't help you all that much. No need to go to the Salty Oyster or the tailors, just push on.
Set traps. you know where people will be so put traps there. Also set traps and then lead people to fall into them. Use the shock jockey to stun opponents or bronco to give you time to fight large groups.
Search for loot and pick the bodies clean, but leave health and salts if you're full as you might need them latter. Seems obvious but it's easy to click grab all rather than pick them individually.
There is a glitch to beat the first handyman that get's him stuck on the roof. As shown Here.
The second handyman can be beaten by hanging around the tesla coil which will hurt him and lets you shot him while he is stunned. you might need to do a bit of Benny Hill running or escape on the rail and while it might take some time it's not that tough. A good way to take out the other enemies is to go to the high ledge, wait for them to join you and just use undertow to knock them off.
The third handyman, well for me I just avoided him for the most part and the other enemies took him out. This part sees the Vox and the Comstock troops fight each other, let them get on with it and take each other out. You can use the decoy to keep the handyman away from you. Again undertow people of the ledges.
Fourth Handman can simply be avoided by running past to the lift. Or if you want to kill him stay by the doors to attract him over, shoot, then duck back into the doors. This will make him go way so you you poke your head back out to bring him over, shoot him, hide again and so on.
Boys of Silence
The first one can not be avoided but if you turn around and run back to where the statue of Elizabeth is you can stand on the upraised pool of water. The Boys can not get up there and you can not be hit by them. Head shots from the sniper rifle kill them with one hit. The other BOS are easy to get past by avoiding being caught in their light.
Perhaps the only really hard part of this is the first encounter with the ghost of Lady Comstock. It took me a while but I got past by hiding in the crypt where the health tear is. (far left corner as you enter the graveyard) You can hide behind the tomb and for the most part the undead will not come into the crypt. You can then snipe way at Lady Comstock, make sure to equip gear that helps such as boosting critical hits. If you're lucky she might get a bit stuck as happened to me. Don't worry to much about the undead as they just get respawned. (Some people have used the ram vigor and a combo of gear to beat her in under a minute, check youtube)
|Hide in the tomb to the left of this one|
The secone encounter with the good Lady is straight forward if you stay in the bank vault. At first I noticed the undead would come into the vault but once I put some shock traps down they stayed away from me. Then just snipe away.
The third encounter is again nice and simple. Just go to the back of the map and snipe from the raised entrance to a locked door that has stairs on either side. (it overlooks the steps up to the statue). Lay down some shock traps to keep the undead away and snipe Lady Comstock. Might take some time but very easy.
|turn around and go to the covered staircase to snipe from.|
Final level on Zeppelin
Save yourself a whole heap of bother and just put a load of Return to Sender traps on the core. This stops a lot of damage and is the key to victory and makes this level pretty easy. The rocket men can be hit with undertow to knock them off the ship, the normal guys are no problem and die with one headshot, the barges are taken out by Songbird so you just have the patriots lefts. Again possession can help and there are some RPGs laying around too. Don't be shy with the vigor as there are plenty of blue bottles. Have Songbird take out the Zeppelins as soon as you can becasue until those are gone the enemies won't stop. But really with the fully maxed out Return to Sender buying you time and protecting the core this won't be a problem at all.
|protect the core with return to sender|
Friday, April 5, 2013
My little sister asked "Who's the best comic superhero of all time?" It's a very common debate in the world of comics and I thought it was worth discussion here.It can actually be quite problematic to reach a conclusion on this subject. Firstly people have their own opinion and it can all be rather subjective. You can't know every thing about all the characters in all the comics so it's easy to miss something out. Best is also a rather vague term for this, best at what?
Also given that it is all invented by writers things can change depending on the need of the story. There is always a way to have a super powerful evil character defeated. Most stories have a hero winning against the odds and defeating the unbeatable. Different things go on in different issues and abilties and powers can change.
Does make for an interesting debate but also one that nearly always gets out of hand. I must stress that this is not an attempt to make a definitive list nor rank anyone in order. No doubt I will miss out someones favorite but I only mention characters to aid the discussion. The focus is only the world of DC and Marvel since I'm not sure the other publishers have big enough worlds to make it interesting to use them. And while the title says superhero I will include the villains too as they are rather fun.
It would be hard to find a character that more embodied the ideas of superheroes than Captain America. (even if he's not technically super). He is the type of hero we all know and love, bold, brave, courageous and with a strong moral code. He is what we should all aspire to be, literally the best that humans can reach. One could say the same about Batman, all be it in a rather more gloomy less colorful way. They and those like them are the best heroes as they give you an ideal to aspire to.
The likes of Iron Man can use their super intelligence to make them big players in the comic book world. The Green Lanterns are normal people given a ring which is the most powerful artifact in the DC universe. With the ring they are impressive, with out the ring just like you and me. (Well perhaps not in the case of the talking squirrel one.)
My initial response to this question was Dr Doom. Yes a super villain but if you look at his recent history all he is trying to do is save the world and is prepared to die to do so. It could well be that he is the only one who can save us. That's pretty heroic, more so when doing it in the face of opposition from all others. Even if killing lots of people in the process is a tad wrong. But that would be my personal take on it of course. Certainly he's an interesting take on being a hero.
People like this stick to the literary tradition of brave heroes over coming the odds, fighting the good fight and winning the day. However they are at the bottom rung of the ladder when it comes to powers and abilities.
Actual superheroes, those with superpowers, are the next level above the ordinary heroes. Born with or via some contrived means they have developed powers that normal humans do not posses. Superman or Spiderman would be the prime examples. It's generally these types of people that we think about when discussing this topic. Instead of thinking of who is the best hero we move on to who is the most powerful.
The Hulk has potentially unlimited strength given that it's fueled by his anger, the madder he gets the stronger he gets. Usually a lot of puny people get smashed but then he will turn into Bruce Banner who is pretty easy to take in a fight. One of the few people who can deal with Hulk is The Sentry. His powers exceed most of his contemporaries however he has so many mental health issues that he's unlikely to want to leave his house. Captain Britian likewise has no limites on his powers. But again his metal state can mean all you have to do is remind him of his alcohol problem and he will get sad and lose all his power. These three are potentially unbeatable but let down by other issues and they highlight part of the problem with this topic in that there are flaws that mean anyone could beat them.
In DC Superman and Wonder Woman stand as the two main Superheroes. We all know about Superman, his powers are so great they had to be reduced so that people could write good stories for him. Still this didn't stop Doomsday from "killing" him. Wonder Woman is a demi God and Amazon and can take on the Greek Gods. But again a foe, Genocide, nearly did for her.
You can also get the odd curve ball crop up. For example Deadpool, a master assassin and mutant with super healing power. His biggest power could be the ability to break the fourth wall. In the recent Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe (brilliant, well worth checking out) he, well, killed every one Marvel had. It was outside of the continuity but he is now killing off all other literary characters. That's pretty powerful.
Others wield power in a less conventional way. Namor could put together a pretty strong underwater army. If you control an army of super villains or are an evil genius like Lex Luthor then you could gain a lot of power. Aquaman can control fish (snigger). Swamp Thing could make the plants grow and cover the world, as he did to Gotham City. He could kill humanity in an instance and you can't kill him as he just regrows. Jean Gray is one of the most powerful mutant X Men and when the Phoenix Force gets into her incredibly powerful. Scarlet Witch got rid of most of the mutants with a thought. Some like Dr Strange or Constantine have studied powerful magic.You even have precocious kids like Jenny Quatum or Franklin Richards who could develop into very powerful characters.
Comics have quite a few God running through it's worlds. More powerful than superhumans, I mean how do you fight a God? Most of the main Gods of human civilizations can be found. Thor and his Norse family or the Greek Gods in Wonder Woman stories. There is also non earth Gods, or at least those who act like Gods, such as the guardians who run the Green Lanterns. Or the New Gods (written by Jack Kirby, amazing art, go read). There are even representations of Satan and demons.
Above the supererhoes there are those who opperate on a more cosmic level. There are rather a lot of these and it's very hard to keep track of them all. They bascially get their powers from the cosmos or some other worldly way. The Silver Surfer and his power cosmic would be a good example. Generally they are more powerful than the superheroes. This category gives us the heaveist of heavy hitters. Darkseid, Impreiex, Anti Monitor, Doctor Manhatten, Thanos, Galactus, Beyonder, Watcher. All of them and others have powers that the superheors can only dream off. They manuiplete the world around them at a whim. So powerful that they rarely show up in plots, there is only so many times Galactus can devour your world.
The two most powerful of these would be Living Tribunal (Marvel) and Spectre (DC) No one else is considered to be as powerful as these two. Living Tribunal has pretty much unlimted powers and controls every thing in the Marvel world. Spectre can control time and space, he thinks something and it happens. He has no real weakness and unlimited power, no one in DC can match him. If you can think Superman out of existence, that makes you pretty tough.
But wait, there is one more level to go. What all this will show you is that both Marvel and DC have a hierarchic structure and what do we find at the top of the hierarchy? God. Both of them have a God head who sits above all others as the supreme being.They created everything, they control everything., they are God. Not some old pagan God or an alien God but a version of our bible God made for the comic world. In Marvel land he is know as One Above All (supposedly a tribute to Stan Lee) and in DC it's The Presence.
|One Above All|
Of course if we look at things in the real world, our world, and not judge things based on comic book folk lore than there really is only one answer. Superman. Nothing else from comic books has influenced the non comic world as much as him or had as much of an impact on culture.
Monday, April 1, 2013
The Kentucky Tits went into game number three against the Buffalo Bills who had won both of their opening games. Sadly the star of their win against San Diego, Shudrez Watts, was still suffering from the injury he picked up in that game.
Buffalo took the first quarter 14-7 and there long passing game really paid off. Combined with s strong defense that never let the Tits get going they were proving to be quite a handful. Bills lead at 24-10 at half time.
In the 3rd quarter Brandon Harris made an interception for the Tits and returned it 82yds to score a touchdown. Ryan Ingram ran in another touchdown for the Tits but was broke his collarbone in the process. Later scans would show Ingram would be out for around nine weeks. He had only just come in for the injured Watts and now third string running back Williams would take to the filed. No doubt the coaching staff glad that they had failed to trade him earlier. A recovered fumble lead to a Kentucky field goal and the Tits went into the 4th
Williams made the most of his chance and scored a touchdown. With 1.30 left on the clock the scores were 34-31 in favor of the Tits. The Bills had the ball close to their own goal line and heavy pressure lead to them giving up a safety. Time ran out and the Tits took the game 36-32. A very tough challenge for the team but they overcame in great style.
Brandon Harris took the man of the match with 1 sack, 1 interception, 1 TD and a forced fumble.
Monday, March 25, 2013
While trying to access Twitter and fulfill my social networking needs I found, by way of a spelling mistake, this magazine called Titter. The misplaced W proved a doorway to a world of glamour.
Titter was published in the 1940's by Robert Harrison and was know as "America's Merriest Magazine". The style had a firm focus on glamor and burlesque. Seems a shame we don't have such covers on display at the modern news stands.
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Inspired by the recent Superbowl I decided to purchase a copy of Madden 12. Not 13 since that was not in the sale. I use to watch a lot of American football and play a lot of Madden however that was back when the Cowboys had a chance of winning things. So while not being new to the ether of them there was quite a lot of time to make up.
Quickly it became apparent that there was a chance, via create a team and the franchise mode, to do something great here. A new team was quickly taken shape, their new stadiums built, the uniforms designed. Uniforms that are in fact a bright green and purple affair that can at times induce a headache. The details of the new team were sent to the league administration and behold, a new team was born.
That team was the Kentucky Tits. (yes, yes I am that immature)
The Kentucky Tits
The Kentucky Tits are based in Beaver Dam, a rather charming place in Ohio County Kentucky. Were the around 3,000 inhabitants come out to the Field of Tits stadium (still immature) to see their new team play.
Now the NFL saw a need to have a team in this part of the USA and wanted to include the KT's in the new season. So out go the New England Patriots, who ever hates and in come the Tits, who ever one loves.
Since the draft is one of the most fun things about US sports I opted to fully embrace it and go for a full on fantasy draft. Not really knowing to many of the players it really didn't both me if a handful of guys were not at the right team. Wipe the slate clean I say and lets us build a new, with out those damn Pats to any us. And as I went to pick my first player for this new team of mine I thought to my self, "I shall only have rookies in my team". I assume the R stands for really good?
So that was the plan, pick a team full of nothing but rookies and sign only rookies in the future. What followed was a long, long process of putting that team together.
The top five draft picks were as followers.
1st Round Churphy Decatur QB 99 rating from Kansas State
2nd Round Shane Ryan FB 99 rating from Illinois
3rd Round Storm Weaks WR 99 from Oregon
4th Round Jorian Belton TE 91 from Florida
5th Round Shundrez Watts HB 91from SD State
Even managed to get some good ol local Kentucky boys named Tim Law and Randall Cobb to join the team. Once I worked out what all the positions actually were and sunk low in the ratings to stick with rookies I had ended up with a squad rated 78 overall. So perhaps the Lions should follow my lead?
All the game played are on pro level and full 15 minute quarters with all the normal rules in place. With that I ventured into the season looking to take the Tits to the Superbowl.
Week 1 saw us take on Miami to who sadly we lost 28-30. Storm Weaks made 3TDs and 247 yards receiving and Watts rushed for 117 yards. But the game showed how much ring rust had gathered from my last Madden outting.
Week 2 saw the team grow in ratings to 83 as they took on the San Diego Chargers. The Tits won the day 52-21, going 22-0 in the 3Q. Watts again starred making 3TDs and 378 yards rushing until he picked up an injury. His replacement, Ingram made 105 yards and 2 TDs. The Kt's defense also did well with 6 interceptions and 8 sacks. So after two games we were 1-1 for the season.
I was proud of my Tits, a new team of new players had done well. But how will the season pan out? can they really go all the way or will the lack of experience cost them in the end? Stay tuned for more Tits update.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Liverpool Football Club, could if they wished, field a starting elven consisting entirely of players whose surnames all start with the letter S. The recent acquisition of Daniel Sturridge has only added to this. Some players from the youth team have to be included so this line up is a bit inexperienced at the back. But does look like it could be a threat going forward.
Playing the 4-3-3 formation currently favored by Brendan Rodgers only gives us a slight problem in that there is no S right back so a center back has to move over. But in goal is Jaime Stepens, Left Back is Brad Smith, Martin Skrtel is Center Back and Stephen Sama and Jacob Sokolic fill up the other two defensive spots. The midfield trio is made of Suso, Jonjo Shelvey and Nuri Sahin with the front three being Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge. There is even room for a couple of subs with Jerome Sinclair and Jay Spearing (if you recall him from loan)