Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rappa Ternt Sanga

No, not that guy. My boy Phonte from hip-hop lyrical mastermind group Little Brother. For a good while Phonte's major musical output consisted of crooning rather than busting rhymes, but from what I understand his new album Charity Starts At Home will change that, and I couldn't be happier. Nothing against the guy's singing, I've just always been a much bigger fan of rap than R&B/soul, and Phonte is one of the best to ever do it.

For those who are unfamiliar, DJ Flash put together probably the biggest (and best) Phonte mixtape ever, DJ Flash Presents the Best of Phonte.

Here's your tracklist and download. Don't sleep on the dopeness.

Download link: DJ Flash Presents the Best of Phonte

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nightwing 1 Thoughts

Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Eddy Barrows

Ah, finally! Dick Grayson had to give up Nightwing several years ago when DC turned Bruce Wayne into Sam Beckett, and this reboot is the first time he's had his own comic since February of 08. I gotta say, as someone who's always been a larger fan of Dick Grayson and Tim Drake, he was definitely missed.

We come back to Nightwing with a new writer, Kyle Higgins (whose work I've never read before), and a new story. Reading the interviews, the idea with Nightwing was supposed to be that his time as Batman had made him an even better, stronger hero than before. I'd love for that to be true, but considering his best feat in the issue is beating some throwaway nut and...not doing all that well against the primary villain of the issue, I'm going for that to be Dick's perception rather than reality at the moment.

Still, from what I've read so far, we're heading down a new road. It's been a while since Dick had anything to do with Haley's Circus--particularly in Gotham*, and revisiting Dick's origins makes for a solid opening story. I have no doubt a lot of fans are curious about what each character's origins are in this relaunched DCU. For Nightwing, apparently we get to find out. Of course, in Gotham, even something as simple as one's past can become twisted.

Like most of the DCU relaunch titles, I'm left with a lot of questions at the close of this issue, but the only one I know I can answer is this: Yes, I missed Nightwing and I definitely want the second issue.

Bit of Comic Nerd Continuity Stuff Here. Skip unless you're hardcore:

This is one of the stories that really is told FAR better with the relaunch's timeline. Pre...pretty much everything, Bruce basically adopts Dick as a young child, no older than 12 (but probably 8). This means his time with the Circus as a performer is probably almost nil.

With this new timeline, which supposedly is only five years for everyone except Batman who was operating "in the shadows" for some time before superheroes were well-known, it's more plausible to believe that a Dick Grayson in his early 20's was probably adopted by Bruce seven years in the past, maybe a year into Bruce's time as Batman. You figure he was probably sixteen when Bruce took him in, and thus most likely spent several years as a working member of the Circus.

Batman 1 Thoughts

Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo

Interesting. That's the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of this first issue. I know the basic premise of the first arc to Batman: Scott Snyder wants to tell us what Gotham is REALLY like. Batman thinks he knows the city, but does he really? What happens when he finds out truths about Gotham that the city had kept hidden from him until now?

That's the basic idea. Knowing that going in made things a bit different for me. The art seemed to make the city as important a character as all the humans in it. Greg Capullo makes Gotham come alive in this opening issue. You really get a feel for how big and mysterious Gotham truly is, and that's vital for the story Scott is trying to tell.

Overall, for the first "Batman #1" since the 1930's, this is a great way to start. We're introduced to the entire cast, given one HECK of a cliffhanger, and an intriguing new villain with so-far unknown goals.

I'd love to know more, but I'm happy with what I got so far, and I'm very interested in what comes next. To me that makes for a good comic.

Naruto Super Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations Trailer

From AndriaSang.

Looks sick. A game like this really shows you just how expansive the Naruto universe is. I don't really watch the anime anymore, but I enjoy the manga (in 40+ chapter bursts), so I'm pretty excited to play this game.

My friends are addicts though, so I'll have to do a LOT of training to not get destroyed. >_<

Blue Beetle 1 Thoughts

Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Ig Guara

Okay, this one is slightly unexpected. Initially I believed that of all the characters being rebooted, Blue Beetle would evade it. He's got the most stereotypical superhero set-up in terms of powers, origin, supporting cast, his history is only like, seven or so years old, and given his Brave and the Bold appearances, the guy is probably more popular than half of the superheroes you know.

But they hit the reset button pretty hard, giving us an entirely different origin for Jaime Reyes (and, subsequently, getting rid of one of the last remaining reasons Infinite Crisis existed), one that isn't tied to a gigantic crossover comic book. Here, Jaime plays the role of your average high school teen with a smart mouth and, from what we see at the end, the makings of a hero.

It's a very busy comic book, what with re-introducing us to everyone and giving Jaime an entirely new origin story, but it all comes together pretty well. Ig Guara's pencils help clearly tell what could otherwise be a pretty confusing story, and the comic overall should leave readers both new and old excited to find out where the story is going next.

Captain Atom 1 Thoughts

Writer: J.T. Krul
Artist: Freddie Williams II

To be quite honest, even after reading this book, I'm not certain what to make of it. The art by Freddie Williams II is solid, but that was to be expected. The writing, though...

There's no origin story. There's no, "my name is..." bit of narration. And while I don't actually need that to enjoy the issue, it's sort of symbolic of the problem with this issue: I read the entire thing without figuring out exactly WHO Captain Atom was. The opening narration would have you believe he's a bit of a cynic, with one of the most pessimistic views on life I've seen from a superhero in a while making up the first few words you read about the character.

....So why's he using his powers to save someone when it's clearly risking his life? I don't get it. And the issue itself doesn't do all that much to show me why I should. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a BAD comic by any's just one that, considering how many others I read, in addition to the anime I watch and the Tokusatsu and video games I want to play and the time I spend writing and building decks and so on and so forth....I have to ask myself if I really have time to keep up with this comic.

Birds of Prey 1 Thoughts

Writer: Duane Swiercynski
Artist: Jesus Saiz

Admittedly, I wasn't all that sure about this book. No Oracle = No reason for BoP, I thought. But, I have to say, it works pretty well with Black Canary as our lead. There are still some questions I have, like what happened to the remainder of the team (Huntress, Manhunter, etc.), but I suppose those will be answered over time.

While I wasn't sure about Swiercynski as the writer for this new BoP, a great deal of this worry was taken away when he chose to write about all-new characters (and has a good handle on one of the coolest superheroes in comics, Dinah/Black Canary), and overall we get an interesting opening for a first issue with a sick cliffhanger.

The art is beautiful, but I expected that from Jesus Saiz anyway. This one's definitely got my interest for it's opening arc.

Green Lantern 1 Thoughts (Mild Spoilers)

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Doug Mahnke

Well well well. One of the few comics I wasn't that excited about when the relaunch was announced, GL was a very pleasant surprise.

First things first, let's get this out of the way: This comic book was not rebooted, in any way shape or form. None of the Green Lantern OR Batman books were, for that matter. The Batman titles mostly just kept the history they'd accumulated, but the Green Lantern titles are actually picking up largely from the same places they'd left off.

Despite this, I would still call this title new reader friendly, so long as you don't spend too much time getting bogged down in the hows and just enjoy the show. It boils down to absolutely NEEDING to know this, before you read the comic: The aftermath of a previous mission led the Guardians to believe Hal Jordan was too dangerous to own a Green Lantern ring. When the ring left his finger, it sought a replacement user (as they tend to): It chose Sinestro. Anything else you need to know is either explained in this issue or will be explained over time.

Overall, this is a great book. Despite basically being an aftermath of an aftermath of a gigantic crossover, it doesn't feel like it. I was pretty much able to delve into this new story without thinking about the slightly lackluster War of the Green Lanterns, and enjoy this new twist in Hal Jordan's overall story. So far there's not much in the way of possible long-running plot seeds being sewn, but it doesn't need it--right now it just needs to set up exactly what the new status quo for both Hal Jordan and "Green Lantern", and it does that perfectly.

It's also funny. Which is kind of amusing considering that absolutely NO ONE in the book is happy, but I laughed out loud at least twice in twenty two pages. Not bad for an action/sci-fi superhero title.

The only complaint I would make is that I'm not entirely sure Doug Mahnke works for what we're seeing here, but that may be me needing to get used to his style again.

Overall, this is one of the best titles to come out of this relaunch thus far.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Superboy 1 Thoughts

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: R.B. Silva

I miss wisecracking Superboy. The one with the leather jacket, sunglasses, and who lived in Hawaii not only to stay out of the spotlight of the Big S, but also because the place had all the gorgeous women. The two closest people he had his age were two cute girls and he had hilarious adventures and reacted, generally, in ways someone his age would actually react, making him a relate-able character for a youth like me. (Mind you, I first read this when I was 19.)

I miss that guy, and I miss his comic. Because that guy, isn't in this comic. One of the characters who was reboot the hardest, almost everything about Superboy has been completely chucked to make him more reader-friendly. Once created during the "Reign of the Supermen" plot line following Superman's death by Project Cadmus, the old Superboy was created a few years after Tim Drake (Robin) and like a couple years before Bart Allen (Impulse). He went on to be a founding member of Young Justice and later help form the final incarnation of the Teen Titans before the relaunch.

New Superboy, has none of that history. Created in the present of the DC relaunch's five year timeline, new Superboy is the first ever combination of human and Kryptonian DNA, and a creation of Project N.O.W.H.E.R.E. . He's never met any of the DC superhero population, so obviously he's never formed Young Justice (technically means it never existed) and was never a member of Teen Titans.

This new Superboy, from what we see of him, feels different from any version we've seen before. Smarter. More alien. It's an interesting read, with Lobdell making us sympathize with a boy who's spent his entire life inside of a lab, and has a fantastic cliffhanger that ties this book into Teen Titans.

I'm withholding my full opinion until I've read Teen Titans (comes out this week), but so far I'm into this book. The art's gorgeous and I love that a different WildStorm character was snuck in the pages of this. I can only hope she'll play a major role in the book as time goes on.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Yes, I'd heard there were some bad comics to come out last week. I had no intention of reading either of them. Go read my Batwoman 1 post, then READ Batwoman 1.

I also understand Wonder Woman and Supergirl had comics out last week as well, and I'm told they're rather good. Read those too.

No, I will not be addressing the bad comics in question. I don't even intend to NAME them. I told ya'll a long time ago, there's no such thing as bad PR. The only thing that happens when you discuss garbage is make it more likely to be spread around.

Instead, even though the entire comics internet has already ignored it, I'm just going to say: Stop talking about what you can't stand and start talking about what you love.

Batwoman 1 Thoughts

Writer: J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman
Artist: J.H. Williams III

Most gorgeous book of the 52, hands down. J.H. Williams' art is immersive, plunging you into two worlds over the course of this one issue. The world of Batwoman--a fast-paced realm where panels flow from one page to the next like still shots from an old movie projector, and then the world of Kate Kane (Batwoman's alter ego), which looks like the most traditional comic you've ever read. Illustrating the difference in how assured Kate is in her own life and how chaotic things become once she puts on the costume, it's rare to see this much thought put into page and panel design. It makes the wait from Batwoman's last appearance as the star of her own comic book worth it.

The opening issue's story is solid as well, setting up a new, terrifying villain in the city of Gotham--La Llorona, the Weeping Woman. A truly haunting villain based on an urban legend of a peasant girl who accidentally let her kids drown, then drowns herself, coming back as a vengeful spirit who now subjects other parents' children to the same fate. It walks the tightrope line for a Gotham villain of being mystical enough to be creepy, but not so mystical that you wonder why she exists in a town where all the heroes are human and things are supposed to be realistic.

Because Batwoman's first adventures took place in a previous comic, we essentially pick up on her life only a few weeks where we left off (though that was roughly two years ago in real time), so we also check in with all of Kate's supporting cast. Her father, once a stalwart companion with her work as Batwoman, is now a source of conflict in her life when a previous case revealed a hidden truth about their past. Her cousin Bette Kane, a former superhero and Teen Titan, now a sidekick to Batwoman's adventures. (Like Robin, but cuter and in a more practical costume.) And a love interest, Detective Sawyer, a member of the G.C.P.D., who judging from this issue would probably be quite unhappy if she found out her new girlfriend was a vigilante.

We even meet some surprising guest-stars from a rather obscure DC Comic of the 90's. It's in no way confusing to new readers as they don't delve into their old history, but it's a wonderful easter egg for DC history geeks like me. I'm very curious as what to exactly their appearance will mean in future issues.

Overall, this was a fun first issue that told a great opening chapter to Batwoman's new ongoing. Looking forward to the next few issues, even when they switch artists. (Amy Reeder is probably one of my favorite artists in comics right now.)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

New Anime - Code: Breaker


By the mangaka who created Samurai Deeper Kyo, Code: Breaker is about a group of people that have special powers, and use those abilities to follow Hammurabi's Code. (An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life.) The main character is Oogami Rei, a teenage boy with the ability to incinerate people with a single touch, who one day meets a girl named Sakurakouji Sakura, a girl with a "strong sense of Justice" who believes killing is always wrong, and tries to change Oogami Rei.

Considering this series has about 135+ chapters to it, we should get a 26+ episode adaptation with little to no filler. Looking forward to it, and I predict it'll be the next big hit in America if Adult Swim still has any interest in anime.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Song of the Week Extra: Childish Gambino

If haters are wondering why CG is popular--this is why. He brings a frank honesty to hip-hop that we just don't normally get. Hearing the guy be so real and so honest on the mic resonates with you regardless of what background you come from.

And if it doesn't, choke yourself.

Resurrection Man 1 Thoughts (Spoilers)

Writer: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Artist: Fernando Dagnino

Kind of an unexpected book; Resurrection Man was a title that came out of the late-90's written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. It was basically about a guy that would come back with different superpowers each time he died, usually related to his last death.

Despite the resemblance to Grifter, this is definitely the superior comic. But I still feel like...I've been there and done that. Initially, Resurrection Man had one goal. Beat Vandal Savage, a DCU villain who was immortal. That's it. But now the story is apparently about his soul being wanted by two groups that suspiciously resemble angels and demons, only (of course) there is no good or bad group, as what "should" be the good team are the antagonists for the first issue.

While I can't specifically nail down WHERE I've seen that before, that's likely because I didn't like it and I dropped it back then. I love Dan and Andy's work, but unless this series gives me something different/new really quick, I'll have to drop it. (Still reading their space stuff, though. And Heroes for Hire.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Legion Lost 1 Thoughts

Legion Lost

Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Pete Woods

What the sprock is going on?! I don't mean that literally--I realize many people have been struggling with understanding exactly what happened in this issue. That's not really my problem.

My problem is that it's not what it could, or should be. Fabian Nicieza is capable of some amazing work, and he normally does even better writing a young cast. And while we're at it, Pete Woods is one of my favorite artists of all time.

This should've been a gorgeous book featuring a cast of some of the most beloved superheroes in comics kicking butt and taking names. A solid superhero title that was, if not mind-blowing, at the very least an example of how awesome a well-written superhero story could be.

Instead, this is kind of a mess. I mean, I know who these guys are, but that's mostly because I'm a Legion of Super-Heroes fan to begin with. Matt Fraction used to introduce the X-Men with tiny yellow boxes that would state the characters name, their powers, and a tiny description of who they were (or their current mood, for jokes). Great idea considering the team's cast changed completely from issue to issue, and one that would've done great in this book. That way we don't have to put dialogue about what their powers are so we can know how they're flying.

Plus...more set-up please? I've heard of in media res, but this is like we missed an issue. We clearly missed the introduction of the team, what the threat is, and what the heroes need to do besides "catch that guy".

Because this is the Legion, I'll read the next issue, but if things don't straighten out, I'll have to drop it. To be honest having the Legion stranded outside their normal time felt more like a mini-series idea to begin with.

Grifter 1 Thoughts

Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Artist: Cafu

Well, this is an interesting thing. It's rare to read a book and know pretty much the same about a character after you're done than you did before you finished. That's what we have here.

This book introduces us to Cole Cash, a talented con man who gets abducted by aliens but escapes before they can complete their task, and now has the rest of the hidden aliens after him.

And that's all I know, aside from the Grifter once being a character from Wildstorm Universe's WildC.A.T.s superhero team. But since he's being introduced to the DCU that factoid is irrelevant and sends me right back up to the previous one-sentence description of this issue.

It's not even that the book is compressed...plenty of stuff happens, it's just nothing I care about. I'm given no reason to root for the guy, no reason to think he's cool, and no reason to care about his problem, which says a lot considering someone's trying to kill him.

Kinda sad, but this may be the first book I drop for the The New 52. Unless I hear about some of his WildStorm ties coming back, I'm out.

Childish Gambino - Bonfire

Bonfire by Childish Gambino

First track off the album "Camp". I know people loved Freaks and Geeks but man this is so much better. At least to me. Dude comes so raw with it this time, and his flow has almost completely changed.

This will be the second album I cared enough to pay for this year. Looking forward to it in November.

Song of the Week: Tokyo Jihen - Handsome Sugite

I've never been a huge Tokyo Jihen guy, but hearing this song I had to give it a little play on JiH. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Song of the Day: Kanye West ft. Consequence - '03 Electric Relaxation

Song of the Week: Do As Infinity - Ariadne no Ito

AriadnenoIto by Bored4Lyfe

Do As Infinity was a major part of my high school years (when I didn't leave the house without my CD player), and I was seriously depressed when the group broke up. They got back together some time ago but it slipped under my radar. This led to it never joining my conscious timeline, so whenever a new song is released I always initially go, "When did they get back together?!"

Anyway, for their "come back" song, this is pretty impressive. Can't help wondering if DAI is still apart of the group or not.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tokyo Game Show: Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki

As I've mentioned before, I'm a huge Suikoden fan. I love that universe, and ever since the PS3 came out I was hoping for a new game in the main series.

Sadly, this is not to be (not yet), but Konami HAS given us some hope in the form of Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki.

...I should be able to translate that, but I can't. For now, enjoy the video. Hopefully we'll get more information about the game soon. (Like when it's going to get brought over here. ...Seriously.)

Tokyo Game Show: DmC

The controversial prequel to Devil May Cry finally has a trailer. Looks pretty sweet to be honest. I never bought into all the rage--I'm just hoping for another GOOD DMC game where Dante is the focus character.

What's everyone else's thoughts on the new video, though?

Mister Terrific 1 Thoughts

Writer: Eric Wallace
Artist: Gianluca Gugliotta

I didn't actually have much in the way of high hopes for this project. Rather than follow characters, I follow creators--I didn't know much about the artist, and the writer...what I know of Eric Wallace is that he wrote Titans, which was kinda terrible.

But I like Mr. Terrific. The idea of the "third smartest man in the world" deciding to use his genius to fight crime interests me, so I gave this book a try.

And it's not bad. The art could use a bit of work (beautiful backgrounds, but the artist needs work drawing people), but the story itself is solid. It's straightforward, but it does a great job of setting up Michael Holt as a brilliant super-scientist that just so happens to smash in bad guys' faces in his spare time. I read several interviews that said we'd see this series go cosmic real fast, and it delivers--Mister Miracle has a slick base of operations in the ninth dimension and his villain so far is a malevolent ethereal being capable of boosting average intelligence to genius-plus in a matter of hours. Said villain (who's nameless at the moment) gives the series an amazing cliffhanger and any number of things could happen after issue 1.

It's also nice seeing another major character who gave up her ongoing because of the relaunch, Power Girl, make an appearance. Appearing only as Karen Starr (her alter-ego), it remains to be seen what her role in the book will be as the story progresses, but I'll be looking forward to what comes out of it.

Overall, while not the BEST book I've seen, it's definitely a good one to come out of the relaunch, so I guess I'll be following for the next arc or so.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gundam Extreme VS.

When I got my PSP, one of the first games I got for it was Gundam Battle Universe. It's still one of my favorite games, even though I can't actually understand the plot bits (though there aren't that many of those to begin with).

My only complaint was that I prefer action games like that on the big screen. It's possible Gundam Extreme VS. will be the game I'm looking for. Check the video below.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Justice League International 1 Thoughts

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Aaron Lopresti

First things first: This is a gorgeous comic. One of the best-looking ones DC put out for the first week of the relaunch. Aaron Lopresti has always been one of my favorite artists so seeing him work on this brings a smile to my face just looking at the cover.

And I loved Dan Jurgens work on Booster Gold. I wasn't happy when it was canceled, so learning Booster was not only on the JLI, but would be leading them left me a very satisfied fan.

Hopefully, even with the relaunch Booster's still had a number of the adventures he'd had in the old timeline, so he's just as competent as before--hence Batman's support of him. Speaking of, seeing both Booster Gold and Batman work as a team? AWESOME. There's something about the fact that only the World's Greatest Detective actually respects The Greatest Hero You've Never Heard Of that I'm hoping will bring this book an extra level of emotional complexity people are complaining it lacks.

As far as the plot--unfortunately there's not much to it, so there isn't much to spoil. (It's more character introduction/interaction.) But if you find a person who was unsatisfied by Justice League that's ALSO unsatisfied by this, pop them. This was exactly what people wanted--the team is assembled and a threat is thrown at them all in one comic. It's a different way of going about things than Geoff's approach, but I like both.

What's also interesting is what questions this brings up to a fan of continuity, like myself. This series takes place in the present, like 49 of the other ongoings in The New 52, and there's mentions of the "other Justice League"--like the fact that they aren't in the Hall of Justice anymore--which begs the question of where are they based now? What happens when the rest of the team discover that Booster only pretends to be an idiot on television and used to be a time-hopping hero that succeeded in saving space-time at least three or four times in only a couple years? I'm not certain--but I'm looking forward to finding out.

Action Comics 1 Thoughts

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Rags Morales


I hate to start off with such glowing praise, but that's what this first issue of Action Comics is. Perfect. For years, Superman has struggled to remain relevant in a world which is increasingly cynical and gray. It's caused him to slip to the middle of the sales charts while DC pulls stunt after stunt out to try and remind comic fans about the character--largely to no avail.

So what do you do? How do you make a character like Superman interesting, without changing the core of who he is? Well, as it turns out, the answer to that is simple: You take the character back to his roots.

The original Superman didn't just fight mad scientists and threats from places no one's heard of. He fought organized crime and corrupt businessmen. Of course, when he was created, that's not what people wanted to read about--so characters like Captain Marvel, who had more traditional superhero tales, outsold him at the newsstands.

But that was decades ago, in the late 30's and the 40's. And I imagine it just never occurred to DC, until now, that in a time where people are demanding more realism from their stories, and in a time where businessmen get to embezzle billions of dollars from their own companies only to see their companies get bail-outs from governments while banks foreclose on the homes of honest, hard-working people--that maybe...just maybe, people might prefer to see a guy actually fight for the little man.

And boy does it work. Action Comics 1 starts roughly six years in the past, at the start of the DC Universe's new history. This version of Superman has never faced Brainiac, or Doomsday, or even Lex Luthor. He's never met Batman or any other superhero. Heck, he doesn't even have a costume. He's just a guy in tattered jeans and a blue T-Shirt with his signature emblem on it, tracking down CEOs who use illegal labor and bribes to make buildings on the cheap.

He's a wild card--someone with a lot of power, who's just cocky and angry enough to use it. And the story deals with that, too. You don't just get to jump off the side of a building holding billionaire business owners trying to force them to admit their crimes without incident. Nope, this is a Superman who has both the police and the army after him for his rampant vigilante-ism.

But he's no anti-hero. On the contrary, he's polite enough to tell someone attacking him to go to the doctor and get an ulcer checked. He refuses to attack anyone that can't be a real threat to him. He puts himself at great danger to save the lives of anyone at risk around him. No, he's a hero with a capital H. He's just angry. Angry at all the people who already have all the power but they're still bullying those that don't. From the macro scale (see the CEO incident), all the way down to the personal scale (the issue has a mention of him tossing an abusive boyfriend out the window of his own apartment and into a river), this is a Superman that has no problem skirting around the rules to get the job done.

As someone who gets ill at the sight of yet another "extreme!!" ultra-violent anti-hero--who can't stand The Authority, or the Ultimate Universe or any of their ilk--I have to say, I like this new Superman.

Yes, he's angry. He SHOULD be. We should be. Every time a wave of people lose their jobs but higher ups keep their seven figure salaries. When experienced workers get fired because it's cheaper to hire someone new and pay them base salary. When some scum puts his hands on a woman. Or takes advantage of the elderly or mentally disabled and makes off with their money on some scam. Or gangs brutally murdering people because they had the audacity to snitch on their illegal activities.

These things that we see every day--even the nicest, altruistic person should be enraged by them. And if they had the power, I have no doubt they'd do the same things we see here. Shit, I would.

And that's the hook. For the first time in ages, Superman is a relatable character. He's doing what we WISH we could do. Superheroes were always a power fantasy, Grant just reinterpreted the fantasy into something older people can identify with.

I'm sure sooner or later he'll be back to dealing with world-threatening bad guys, and I'll welcome that too--but for now, it's nice to have him come down to Earth for a bit.

Can't wait for issue 2.

Green Arrow 1 Thoughts

Writer: J.T. Krul
Artist: Dan Jurgens

Forewarning: This just might be the only positive review of Green Arrow you'll see. If you want to have someone savage J.T. Krul and call Dan Jurgens' art average yet again, turn away now.

Going in, I'll just ask: Was anyone reading Green Arrow pre-relaunch? I was. It wasn't a bad comic, but it was incredibly depressing and almost the perfect reason for why this relaunch needed to happen. Ollie spent most of his time wallowing in depression and talking about how jacked up his life was. Most of the comic took place in a forest because Ollie had killed a supervillain who blew up half his city, so he was wanted for murder. His wife divorced him while he was in a jail cell. He had no clue where his son was. And his ward/sidekick, Red Arrow/Arsenal? Well, he was hanging out with supervillains, strung out on drugs again and beating people with extension cords after his daughter was killed by the supervillain Ollie murdered. All this after only being brought back to life less than a decade ago by his superhero-turned-supervillain-turned-Spirit of Vengeance-turned-superhero AGAIN friend, Hal Jordan.

It was all too much crap, and it all needed to go away. And it did. Green Arrow/Oliver Queen is one of the superheroes that had the reset button hit on him the hardest. Whereas the new Ollie looked to be hovering near 40, this one is probably just barely hitting 30. The old Ollie was an ultra-liberal, who owned a multi-billion dollar company named Queen Industries but gave it away because he wanted to be a man of the people or some such shit that made sense in the sixties but sounds completely idiotic now. (If you're rich--why not be a philanthropist instead?) He dressed up like Robin Hood at night and at one point he was the Mayor or something but I think he got fired after they learned he was actually Green Arrow.

The new Ollie is a globetrotting genius, who seemingly owns Queen Industries but has little interest in the main company so much as it's tech-division, Q-Corp, that he heads up. Basically DC's version of Apple, Q-Corp is cutting-edge technology for public consumption. It also doubles as Ollie's way of keeping up with heroes with powers by having access to bleeding-edge technology as Green Arrow.

The first issue introduces us to this new status quo, introducing us to Q-Corp's main scientists, what the relaunched Green Arrow operates like (think James Bond as a crack archer with specialized arrows), and creates a brand-new set of villains (thankfully--Ollie only has like...two) to throw at our hero.

With a fun opening issue and beautiful art by Dan Jurgens, this is one of the most satisfying comics I've read in a long time, but from what I've seen, you'll like it better if you're not a comic fan than if you are. A good test as to whether you'll find this character or not is to watch Batman: Brave and the Bold's version of Aquaman. If you like that guy, who's basically Batman but having fun with all his gadgets and superheroing--you'll like this.

Batgirl #1 Thoughts (Minor Spoilers)

Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Ardian Syaf

The most controversial book in the relaunch, and unfortunately proof that from the very beginning Dan Didio kind of wanted to return all the comic characters to who they were in the 60's. Well, now that it's here, how does it stack up?

Well, to be honest...pretty decently, if not perfectly. Simone shows us a Batgirl who (rightfully) suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but who also refuses to give up being a hero when there are people she can help. It's a good opening issue--showing us who Barbara Gordon is, what she was and hopes to become again. It introduces a supporting cast, a main villain, and gives our hero a base of operations. (Actually, very few comics managed to accomplished all this in this New 52, now that I think about it...)

The problem--if there must be one--is that this was a project Gail took out of...I want to say, responsibility. Any hardcore comic fan that isn't a mindless fanboy knows that Gail initially didn't want this project. And probably would prefer if Barbara were still Oracle*, and Bryan Q. Miller was writing Stephanie Brown as Batgirl while she did Firestorm and something Captain Marvel or Plastic Man-related.

But this was something that DC was going to make happen. So she wanted the chance to do it right. And I'm guessing (admittedly I could be wrong) that that's why some bits and pieces seem...wrong? Gail's a fantastic writer, and it shows but there are awkward bits of dialogue here and there (particularly when she's Batgirl**) and the climax of the issue feels...forced? I guess that's the best way to put it.

But I have faith in her to bring this series up to the same level Bryan Q. Miller did, and thankfully she already has a great artist to keep the book looking amazing while she does. Looking forward to the next issue.

* A quick note about Oracle: After Gail's recent "Death of Oracle" plotline there was absolutely no reason to keep her in the wheelchair. She's "more useful" as Oracle? Really? Gail killed the concept of Oracle off in the DCU, so basically she was only helping a handful of people. The only reason left to keep her in the wheelchair was to keep her as a role model. A valid reason, but when every male superhero that's ever been put in a wheelchair is now walking while the most well-known female superhero isn't? Do we really want to send that kind of statement?

** It occurs to me the Barbara Gordon dialogue sounded much more natural and like the character Gail Simone's been writing for ages now. Maybe the Batgirl dialogue is Babs putting on a show or adopting a stronger persona to deal with what happened to her? If so, then that's a brilliant way of showing how there's no way such a traumatic event would be so easily shrugged off.

The last thing I want to talk about is the fact that Gail didn't cover just exactly HOW Barbara started walking again. This left many readers dissatisfied, but the truth is...there's no possible answer that would've satisfied everyone. The answer that we're given, in that case, works as well as any other. (The truth is: DC wanted her to, and obviously that answer can't be used here.)

Song of the Week: BACK-ON - Connectus and selfish

A new single by BACK-ON.

Kinda depressed that their rapper looks like that... Nice song though.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Song of the Week: Extra - J. Cole feat. Childish Gambino - Who Dat?

Like I was really going to let a CG verse slip by. Yeah, right. Especially not when he's over half this song.

Sick. If this is what CG's bringing on Camp, I'll be listening to his album another year straight.

Kingdoms of Amalur messes with my brain

I've never been a fan of Todd MacFarlane's work, and the friend I have whose opinion almost always syncs with mine tells me R.A. Salvatore isn't really a good writer, or at least, doesn't match either of our sensibilities at all.

And yet, this game looks gorgeous, and pretty fun. Not sure how to reconcile this. Check the trailer below that explains everything from character creation, races to classes and combat.

All I can do for now is wait on the actual release of the game to give it a go-round.

Dragon Ball: Ultimate Tenkaichi

Thought about passing on this game, but the fighting looks pretty slick. Also the entire Ginyu Force is in, which means they were actually interested in fitting characters into this thing.


The newest addition to the Tenkaichi games--a Hero Mode. Create-a-character is something people have wanted for some time. Initially, I didn't care. But having found out they let you become a Super Saiyajin? Well, now I can't help wanting to buy it.

OverStrike Interview

This popped up when I was checking out more information for one of the more interesting games that was announced during E3: OverStrike.

Sounds pretty awesome, so far. Looking forward to in-game footage though.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Static Shock 1 Thoughts

Writer: Scott McDaniel and John Rozum
Artist: Scott McDaniel

Despite the Scott McDaniel art, I was looking forward to this one, and it turned out much better than I'd hoped. I was actually quite the fan of Nightwing, but I hadn't seen McDaniel's style employed in the best way possible on a title. Until here.

Unlike the Static cartoon, this time Static Shock finds himself hanging out in New York City, having moved there from Dakota because of his parents. Considering DC's reader-friendly objective, the move was probably to simplify a character who used to exist inside of a completely different universe.

Virgil Hawkins feels like a modern Peter Parker--a genius teenage boy with superpowers. That's not a bad basis to work off, and fortunately the issue skips out on the main character having trouble adjusting in a new school, dealing with bullies and trying to ask out the cute girl he likes.

...While I'm sure some of that will come later, it's great that Rozum and McDaniel chose instead to open with a day in the life of Static Shock. We get a grasp of his powers, meet some brand-new villains, and get to see another famous MileStone character in an interesting role for this ongoing. (From what I understand, DC is doing it's best to put thought into how it incorporates all the stables of characters they've bought over the years in this new DCU, and so far so good. So long as they don't clutter things up again.)

I definitely enjoyed this first issue, and while I'm not necessarily completely in love with the comic it's definitely worth sticking around for issue #2, just to see how that cliffhanger plays out.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hawk and Dove 1 Thoughts

Writer: Sterling Gates
Artist: Rob Liefeld

Most iffy comic I actually chose to read. Sterling Gates was the first writer to make Supergirl readable on an ongoing basis since Peter David left the character in 2003--I know he has the chops to make this title work.

Rob Liefeld on the other hand...I'm not sure what to say. I have no ill will against the guy. He's a creator that had a very strong career in the early 90's, and no matter how many people insult the guy, he's still probably sold a geometrically larger number of comics than most people's Top 5 favorite artists put together. But overall I'm not a big fan of his work.

And it kind of...affects the whole of this opening issue. It feels like the first comic Gates has ever done, when I know that's so far from the truth. Hawk and Dove's origin sounds so unoriginal I feel like a kid came up with it, but I don't think that's Gates' fault.

What is Gates' fault is that in twenty two pages I wasn't given a reason to actually care about Hawk or Dove, even though I liked Dove when she was written by Gail in the last BoP. Still, he manages to introduce seemingly two brand-new villains while also setting up an internal conflict that will play out over the next few issues. And, best of all, pretty much everything you need to know about the comic is right here, plain as day. There's no need to ever pick up Brightest Day or older Hawk and Dove comics because it's all right in front of us.

That said, I can't actually say the next issue is worth anything more than a flip through on the stands, though the last page is pretty interesting. (Would make the next issue worth a buy if the concept hadn't already been done at DC a few times over.) But, on the bright side, if this is the worst comic DC has to offer, they're doing fantastic.

Justice League 1 Thoughts (Spoilers!)

I feel like I should drag the opening to this entry out. Y'know, talk about how this is a new beginning, the dawn of superheroes, et cetera, but if you follow this site you know all that.

The biggest complaint I have about this series, is that it doesn't quite feel like a brand-new world to me. But that could be for any number of reasons (chief of which is that it's *not* entirely brand-new), and I can't blame Geoff and Jim for that.

What is new about this version of the Justice League, is that it's at the center. The original League was created in 1960, appearing in DC's Brave and the Bold #28. By that time DC had already introduced two Flashes, an entire Corps worth of Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman were already decades old.

The second big launch of the League was around 1986. And while it meant to have all the big names, it ended up with only Batman as it's marquee superhero, and was sort of shoved off to the corner in terms of the DCU's narrative. (Mind you, that didn't stop it from being a well-written comic book and a classic from that era.)

And while Morrison's Justice League of America is probably the best-written version of the team to date, it took place in a DCU that had at least ten years of in-story time on it, and the less said about JLA v4, the better.

No, this time DC's taking a new approach to the JLA, making the book the centerpiece of the DCU, where we see each of the big name heroes meet for the first time ever, and we see how the world as a whole treated superheroes before people had any real knowledge of them.

Both of these things take up the majority of this first arc, set five years into DC's past, the start of the new DCU history. It makes for a very entertaining read, as we watch Batman dodge the Gotham City Police Department and learn that Green Lantern frequently has trouble with the Air Force in his town, Coast City.

Watching both Hal and Bruce interact is hilarious; Hal has so much faith in both the Green Lantern ring and himself that actually talks in the third person, and flips out when he learns Batman is "just a guy in a freaking Bat costume."

Though the issue doesn't allow us a look at the entire League, that's not really something I would level as a valid criticism. This is the first time ANY of these heroes have met in this new DC universe. Superman. Green Lantern. Wonder Woman. Batman. Aquaman. Flash. (And Cyborg, apparently.) It's a BIG deal, and just skipping past their individual interactions just so we can "get to the good part" would be a waste. Particularly when DC doesn't seem to be all that interested in telling us what happened in the past (a good thing), so after this and Action Comics are done with their origin arcs, we may never get another look at just how some of this stuff started again. (Not the worst thing. One more Superman origin and I'll have to hurt someone.)

One of the things I enjoyed most was the biggest retcon of the issue. The team's formation is now due to the first appearance of the villain Darkseid, and while he doesn't appear in this issue, we do get to see a forerunner--a Parademon. Which seemingly have been given a massive power-up, given all of what Geoff and Jim show just one to be capable of. This is definitely a threat that would require an entire League to fight.

Best of all, the mystique of the New Gods has been restored. One of my favorite panels in the comic is when Hal's ring attempts to analyze the Mother Box the parademon left behind, only to come back, "Unable to Identify", leaving Hal in utter disbelief, since the ring has all the knowledge of the Guardians of the Universe, and "the Guardians know everything". For a long time fans have begged to have the New Gods retired because they were beginning to feel like just another alien race--and DC has responded, seeking to change all of that and bring them back to a level of power and mystery that they deserve.

All-in-all, I loved this issue, and I'm looking forward to the next one eagerly.

Stormwatch 1 Thoughts

Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Miguel Sepulveda

From the very beginning, Stormwatch got a pass from the fandom. People saw "Stormwatch" and the words "Paul Cornell", and suddenly people were okay with one title from the 52, if none of the rest.

Personally, I'm not quite so convinced. Stormwatch was one of those "mature" superhero titles that came out of WildStorm during the late nineties or so. They introduced wide-screen storytelling, and heroes that weren't afraid to get their hands dirty to "get the job done". To be honest, it was a bit rubbish (I'm one of a handful that will say that--most will disagree vehemently--but this is *my* site), and I'm not a giant fan of Stormwatch or Authority, but I gave it a shot because I wanted to see how it would work having "always" been apart of the DCU.

It works out about like I thought it would. Paul Cornell spends the issue laying out who these characters are and what they can do, much like Geoff Johns' Justice League. The difference being--I don't actually care about most of these characters. The only one that I actually care about is Martian Manhunter, who appears to be a bit different in this new DCU, though not necessarily in a bad way. (He's apparently pulling double duty, working with the Justice League and Stormwatch as necessary.)

The art needs a bit of work, but then again I don't actually know Sepulveda from anything so I can't tell if this was a rush job, the fault of the inker, or if he's improving over time like Jim is on Justice League. It's serviceable though, so no big deal there--the story's the focus.

They're trying to build up to getting the entire team together while simultaneously setting up a threat big enough for characters that are all basically broken. (Stormwatch characters tend to have powers that are more conceptual in basis than ones that can be measured on your typical scale. For instance, one of the members of this new team can talk to cities and coerce them to do things. Seriously.) It's not a terrible start, especially if you're either emotionally invested in these characters or like the big ideas Stormwatch throws at you.

Me? Still not convinced. I like heroes. They're cool, and reading about them is fun. These guys, and the attitude that created them, are kind of pretentious. Only time will tell if I care about this book or not.

OMAC 1 Thoughts (Spoilers)

Writer: Dan Didio and Keith Giffen
Artist: Keith Giffen

One of the more interesting choices, I'm not really sure why O.M.A.C. (One Man Army Corps) got an ongoing, besides the fact that anyone over the age of 30 working for DC or Marvel appears to have a hard-on for every single creation Jack Kirby ever made.

Say whatever you will about this book, but you cannot say it isn't approachable. There are only three concepts in this entire book tying things to the DC Universe, and all of them are introduced pretty plainly. O.MA.C. is a creation of Brother Eye's, himself a rejected invention of Project Cadmus. O.M.A.C.'s initial purpose is to find his way inside of Cadmus and connect Brother Eye to the Cadmus mainframe again. Those two sentences tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about the book, going in.

That said, I'm not yet sure how I feel about it. I love the art, with Giffen doing his best Kirby impression but still showing a heavy influence of his own work, but the far, there's not much to it. I read a single review (I know, rare, right?) of this book that described this book as "uncomplicated", and that's very much the case. Everything in this is straightforward, though that can be considered a good or a bad thing, depending. Didio and Giffen aren't using any cliffhangers to force you to come back for #2--either you like it or you don't, and either you're interested or you aren't.

Personally, I'm interested, and I will be back for issue 2. Brother Eye basically gets what he wants this issue, so where's his plan go next? Is he actually a villain, or is he something in between the typical hero/bad guy dynamic? The fact that he asks Kevin Kho (O.M.A.C.'s human self) to "call his girlfriend" because she's worried about him makes me wonder. This book becomes much more interesting if Brother Eye isn't a typical bad guy like he was for DC pre-relaunch. Also, what's Kevin Kho like? We didn't get to see very much of him this issue.

Anyway, for now this is definitely worth a read at the stands for any comic fan, and hopefully a purchase. (Especially if you're a Kirby fan--so many of his lesser-used concepts can be found in this title.)

Ragnarok Odyssey's attempts to make me buy the PSV

One of the first RPGs to be announced for the Playstation Vita, Ragnarok Odyssey is being developed by one of the best J-RPG companies, GameArts. (Creator of such gems as Grandia and Lunar.)

Here's the trailer:

I'm going to hold back until Yu-Gi-Oh! Tag Force comes out on the Vita (for serious--I spend a lot of time playtesting on TF5), but this is a good start as far as decent games on a new system.

Detective Comics #1 Thoughts

Writer/Artist: Tony Daniel

Tony Daniel's an incredible artist--loved the work he did with Grant Morrison, so I never questioned that this book would look excellent. And it does, even though the style seems somewhat different from what I remember, this is still a very pretty book. Well, pretty as the grungy Gotham City can be, at least. It's very much appreciated that tonally, everything about Gotham "feels" right.

Now as far as the writing goes--initially I had my concerns. He did alright on the one or two Batman arcs I read post-Battle for the Cowl, but after that I stopped reading--life kind of forced me away from comics. But apparently the relaunch has done a world of good, creatively--this is a pretty fun Batman comic. Apparently DC's "we're no longer writing for the trade" wasn't just them blowing smoke--Daniel's Detective Comics is a very compressed comic, giving us a complete story with very little widescreen storytelling and lots of narrative dialogue. After about ten minutes or so I was surprised to realize I'd only gotten through about twelve or so pages, when usually I would be through with the whole comic. It works very well, and Daniel's art is so detailed that having anywhere from five to eight panels on each page (with very few double page spreads) means the artwork doesn't suffer at all.

The only complaint I truly have is the dialogue needs a bit of work, here and there. Hopefully Daniel's improving over time, because lines like, "Forget about it, Joker. You can't run. I OWN the night.", don't need to happen too often.

Speaking of the Joker...he's the central villain this issue What a ballsy ending. I encourage everyone to go out and buy this, because that last page is sick. I look forward to seeing what Tony Daniel is going to do with both this comic, and the Joker, next.

Song of the Week: Traphik - Chillin Here in the Atmosphere

Traphik could be big if he ever got mad serious about rap like CG did. Anyway, I like rap songs that go off the accepted path of subjects for rap. This one has a real chill beat and I kinda know where he's coming from.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Becoming a Better Duelist: Prequel

Just pointed someone to this that may or may not know how the basic rules of this game.

This isn't that hard, and if you've watched the anime you'll be able to discern most of the rules (that's how I learned, and I've never read a rulebook before), but to be certain:

  • To play Yu-Gi-Oh, you need a deck of at least 40 cards, and no more than sixty.
  • Each deck contains monster, spell, and trap cards. It's up to you on the numbers though, and it WILL vary from deck to deck. Some decks are naturally monster heavy, while others can be spell-heavy. Depending on the banlist, a good competitive deck will often be either light or heavy on traps, running anywhere from 8-16. (Sometimes more.)
  • You start each duel with 8000 Life Points. Typically there are three duels in a match.
  • There are three win conditions, or ways in which you can win (or lose) the game. The first is that one player's life points can hit 0 (this is the most common way to win the game, and the most consistent). The second is if, at the start of your turn, you cannot draw a card because your deck is empty. (Possible--highly unlikely.) The third is if someone has all five pieces of "Exodia, The Forbidden One" in their hand. (Least likely, and may soon be impossible if it becomes too consistent.)
  • After your first duel with your opponent, you may access your side deck. A side deck consists of 15 cards that can be swapped with cards inside your Main Deck to better help you deal with your opponent. Use these slots wisely, as you only have fifteen. The Side Deck can consist of monsters, spells, or traps. These slots are best used to help counter decks yours is weak against.

Now, let's go over the phases of play.

Draw Phase: Simple as it sounds. At the start of your turn, draw a card.

Standby Phase: This phase exists to allow certain monster, spell, or trap card effects to resolve. You'll know these when a card is played that says, "during your next standby phase", or "during the second/third standby phase after activation", and then the effect. This phase is never really skipped, but it is usually not mentioned unless there is something that would happen during Standby Phase. (The most notable cards that activate during standby phase are: Gold Sarcophagus and Future Fusion.)

Main Phase 1: Here's the first truly important phase to actual gameplay. During Main Phase 1, you can do everything except attack. You may:

  • Play a spell card from your hand.
  • Set a spell or trap to the backrow of your field. Once set, a card remains in the backrow and cannot come back to the hand unless forced to. Otherwise, it must be activated or destroyed to leave the field. You have five spell and trap card zones, and if they are all full then you may no longer play a spell from your hand until one of them is empty. Spells can be activated the turn they are set, traps cannot be activated until the turn after they are set. (Your opponent's turn, basically.)
  • Summon a monster. You are allowed one normal summon on your turn. Monsters that can be normal summoned are ones that are levels 1 through 4. You can also special summon monsters. Special summons can happen as often as you can meet the requirements for the card. (IE, many special summoned monsters can only be summoned if your opponent's field has a monster while you have no monsters on the field.)
  • Monsters can be either summoned in attack more, or put face-down and turned horizontally. Like this, the card is in face-down defense position. (Cards can also be in Defense Position while face-up, but a monster's position can only be changed once per turn. In other words, you can't summon a monster in Attack Position then change it to defense position.)

Battle Phase:
This phase should be somewhat obvious. During this phase, you attack your opponent with the monsters you have on the field. Monsters in Attack Position can attack, while monsters in defense position can only defend. A few things can happen when a monster attacks:
  • A monster in ATK position with higher ATK points attacks one with lower ATK points in ATK position. That weaker monster is destroyed and the player takes damage equal to the remainder of the difference in life points. (In other words, an 1800 ATK monster attacks a 1700 ATK monster. The monster is destroyed and the player takes 100 damage to his life points.)
  • A monster in ATK position attacks a monster in DEF position. If the ATK points are greater than the DEF, the defending monster is destroyed. If the defending monster is somehow stronger, then neither card is destroyed but the attacking player takes damage equal to the remainder of the difference in life points. (Example: Your opponent sets a monster in defense position. You attack with an 1600 ATK monster. He flips the monster, placing it in face-up defense position, revealing his monster's DEF to be 2000. Neither monster is destroyed, and the attacking player takes 400 damage.)
  • A monster in ATK position attacks a monster in ATK position when they have the same life points. Both monsters are destroyed, neither player takes damage.
Main Phase 2: This phase takes place after Battle Phase. Players often take advantage of this time, after any important spells or traps should have been activated, to set their own spells and traps for their opponent's turn. This is the best time to set spells and traps, reducing the likelihood that they'll be destroyed. I also want to point out that, if you can, you may Normal or Special Summon during Main Phase 2. (If you didn't already Normal Summon in Main Phase 1, or special summon everything in your hand already.)

End Phase: Exactly what it sounds like. You cannot play any cards during this phase, but there are effects that resolve during this time. For instance, Stardust Dragon can be tributed at any point during the game to negate a card that destroys any other card on your field. Then, it returns to your side of the field during the End Phase. There are other monsters with effects that resolve during the end phase as well. (Some of the notable ones are nearly every good Tech Genus monster, and XX-Saber Darksoul and XX-Saber Emmersblade.)Link
The only other thing you may do during the end phase is check your hand for the number of cards. If you have more than six, you must discard cards down to six now. (This is rare, usually you set whatever spells or traps you have until you have five to six cards in your hand.)

After doing all this, you pass turn to your opponent, who will go through all the steps above. The only thing you may do during your opponent's turn is activate a Quick Play spell (indicated by having a lightning bolt in the top right hand corner) or any traps that you set during the previous turn. As to when you can activate what, the card will usually indicate when you can or cannot. If a card says, "When an opponent summons a monster", or "When your opponent attacks", then that's the only time you may activate them. If they have no specific condition, you may activate them whenever. Knowing the precise moment to do so is something you learn as you gain experience as a player.

The last thing I want to cover is monster summoning. I talked about this a little before, but I want to go in depth and show you the five basic kinds of summoning, and explain what an Extra Deck is.

Normal Summon - At one point, this was the most common type of summoning. If there's a monster in your hand that is level one through level four (check the stars just under the name of the card), then you may summon that monster from your hand. Only one Normal Summon is allowed during your turn, though there are some cards that allow you to break that rule. (Double Summon is one, but that card is bad. And Ultimate Offering is another, but that card is only good in certain decks.)

Tribute Summoning - This method of summoning isn't used as frequently as it once was, since Special Summoning basically took it's place during 2006 or 2007 or so. If you have a monster in your hand higher than level 4, it cannot be summoned without first tributing a monster you have on the field. The higher the level of the monster, the more tributes you must have to summon it.

Level 5 and 6 monsters require one tribute. Levels 7 and 8 require two tributes. Level 9 through 12 require three tributes. The reason this type of summoning isn't used often is because you give up too much field advantage to summon a single monster, one that might be destroyed easily the following turn by a spell, or during your own turn by a trap. It is still an option available to you however, though your deck may or may not ever use it. (Most level five plus monsters in people's decks these days tend to be either Synchro Monsters or monsters that can be special summoned.)

Special Summon - Because of the natural power creep of this game, this is now the most common type of summoning in any truly strong deck. Special Summoning speeds up the game, and also your win condition. A monster may only be special summoned if you can meet the requirements for summoning it. For example, Cyber Dragon, a powerful level 5 monster, can be special summoned if your opponent's field has one or more monsters on it while your field is empty. So obviously if you have a monster on the field, you cannot special summon it. Other monsters, like Blackwing - Bora the Spear or Legendary Six Samurai - Kizan, can be special summoned only if there is another monster of the same archetype ("Blackwings" or "Six Samurai") on the field already. These are the two most common types of special summoning conditions, though there are others.

You may special summon as frequently as you like, so long as you have the cards in your hand or in the graveyard to do so, and can meet the condition of the card.

Synchro Summon - This is where players who once knew the game but left, then came back get confused, but it's really quite simple. At it's base, Synchro Summoning requires any one monster, and then another monster that is also a Tuner. Whether or not a monster is a tuner will be in the effect description box underneath the monster's picture. Some of the more common tuners are Junk Synchron and Blackwing - Gale the Whirlwind. There are many, many (many) others, but usually they are specific to the deck you're using. I'll talk about them more when I get into specific deck types.

Anyway, if you have a Tuner and a non-Tuner (which is any monster not a Tuner, so there's tons), you can summon a Synchro Monster. The monster you summon, however, must have a level equal to EXACTLY the monsters you used to Synchro Summon for it.

Example: I Normal Summon Junk Synchron (Level 3), and I use his effect to revive any monster level 2 or lower from the Graveyard to the field to Special Summon Doppelwarrior (Level 2) from the Graveyard. I then Synchro Summon, sending both monsters to the graveyard to summon Ally of Justice - Catastor (Level 5) to the field.

Synchro Summons are counted as special summons, so you may do this during your turn as often as you like, so long as you can meet the conditions. Synchro Monsters sometimes also have their own condition, found in the effect box underneath the monster's picture. For instance, Naturia Beast and Naturia Barkion, two powerful Synchro Monsters, can only be summoned with Tuner and non-Tuner monsters that are EARTH attribute. These type of monsters find themselves in more specific decks, while generic synchro monsters (that only have the level condition) often find themselves in all decks.

Fusion Summoning - This is even more rare than Tribute Summoning, but I'm going to talk about it because the few decks that CAN use it, do so to great effect. Monsters with dark purple backgrounds are called fusions.

The interesting thing about fusions is that most often they can only be fused by a card called Polymerization. Fusion Summoning is like Synchro Summoning, only the level doesn't matter. Instead, the monster you are trying to summon will have it's own requirements, most often being specific two monsters.

Mostly, you don't have to worry about making your deck able to fusion summon. Most early fusion monsters sucked. The ones made today are made for archetype specific decks, like Elemental HEROes and Gladiator Beasts. One important note I'd like to make is that while most fusion summons require Polymerization, Super Polymerization, or Fusion Gate, some fusions (for instance all Gladiator Beast ones) only require the specific monsters to be on the field to summon themselves. This is called a Contact Fusion. Also, much like Synchro Summoning, any fusion summon sends the fusion material to the graveyard.

Exceed Summoning / XYZ Summoning - This is the newest form of summoning, created specifically for Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, the latest Yu-Gi-Oh anime. XYZ (pronounced "ik-seez") Summons are different from all the previous forms, though they work a bit different/slightly more simple.

If you have two monsters on your side of the field, of the same level, you may overlay one on top of the other to XYZ summon a new monster. The new monster is then laid on top of the other two. This is important. They do NOT go to the graveyard (yet).

For instance: I Normal Summon Marauding Captain (level 4), and use his effect to Special Summon Command Knight (level 4) from my hand. With two monsters that are both level 4 on the field, I place one on top of the other, and then XYZ summon Number 39: Utopia.

Now, a few important things to note about XYZ summons. They don't have levels, like normal monsters. They have Ranks. You overlay two monsters of the same level to summon a monster with a Rank of that number. (IE, two level 4s make one Rank 4.) This is important because cards that say "monsters level blank or lower/higher" cannot affect these cards. Secondly, XYZ Summons, like any decent monster, have effects, but can only use their effects by detaching an overlay monster and sending it to the graveyard. Utopia's effect, for instance, is to negate any attack at the cost of sending one of the monsters under it to the grave.

Some of the earliest XYZ monsters have negative effects if you get rid of all their overlay materials (Utopia's is that once his overlays are gone, if someone attacks him he's instantly destroyed), but this is being phased out as better and more useful ones are being introduced.

*exhales* Whew! That was a lot of crap to take in. I forgot how much stuff you have to learn when you first start playing this game.

Okay, one last thing: Fusions, Synchros, XYZs--none of them go in your main deck. Instead, they have their own space called an Extra Deck. The Extra Deck consists entirely of Fusions/Synchros/XYZ monsters, and you can have anywhere from 1 to 15 cards in it.

The best way to look at it, is that your hand essentially always has those fifteen cards in it, since you may special summon those monsters to the field whenever you meet the conditions to summon them, and aren't forced to find those monsters in your main deck. This is why the Extra Deck is so small, as it presents a number of options to any situation you might be in during a given duel.

Alright, that's it for me. A little later I'll finish up doing Staple Spells. Next week I'll start on Staple Traps, and after that I'll probably do Staple Synchro/XYZ monsters. 'Til next time.

Becoming a Better Duelist 4: Staple Spells Part 2

And, I'm back. We're going over the staple spells of this card game. I'll note now as we get into this that due to their versatility and power, many of these staple spell cards are limited to one per deck, something you'll see more and more of as I list them. Let's start!

Destroy the face-up monster your opponent controls with the highest DEF. (If it's a tie, you get to choose.)

This is a card that's begun to see more play this format (each new banlist creates a new format, as the way people play their decks changes either because they've lost cards or have to react to cards other decks gain access to) because Heavy Storm's existence is forcing people to play fewer traps. With fewer ways to destroy an opponent's monsters, and more boss monsters wandering around this format, people need ways to wipe out cards they can't attack over, and this is an excellent spell for that purpose.

The only drawback is that occasionally powerful monsters with high attack and strong effects are balanced by having low defense. (However, the monsters people run this card for don't have that problem, making it very effective.)

Destroy 1 face-down monster and remove it from play. If it is a Flip Effect Monster, remove from play all monsters with the same name from both player's Deck.

This is more of a side deck card than a main deck. When you first get into the game, this card feels weak, but after facing a few of the more powerful Tier 1 decks, you'll quickly understand it's purpose. Any monster that's actually worth being set as a face-down and has a Flip Effect is something you don't actually want to flip over. (More often than not, it's this card, a play disrupting monster that can only piss you off if it's flipped.)

You side it in for the second match as a method of permanently getting rid of any flip effect monster you might face, hopefully giving you an edge. It's unlimited, but as it is a side deck choice, I wouldn't side more than two, since you only have 15 slots to use.

Book of Moon - Select 1 face-up monster on the field and flip it into face-down Defense Position.

Ah-hah. I love this card. For all intents and purposes, it's a trap card you can play from your hand. The test of how good you are at this game is whether or not you can tell how powerful it is when you first see it.

Incredibly versatile, when played on your turn Book of Moon can turn your opponent's monster into it's undoubtedly weaker defense position to push for an attack. On your opponent's turn, it's a quick-play spell that, when set, can be activated to either:

A.) Weaken or completely shut down your opponent's battle phase by flipping (one of) his attacking monster face-down.

B.) Stop a synchro summoning play by flipping your opponent's tuner monster face down.

There was a time (September 2010 format), that this card was unlimited, but apparently Konami didn't care for that much power from one card so it was recently limited. Run the one you can use, play it at the right time.

The next two cards up aren't staples for all decks, but for the decks that can run them they're vital, so I wanted to bring them up.

Add 1 Level 4 or lower Warrior-Type monster from your Deck to your hand.

Gotta love a search card. You can't search for most ace monsters with this, but you can pull out a number of others. For all intents and purposes, drawing this card means that any limited warrior monster you run is semi-limited in terms of consistency (the chance that you'll draw into it).

Obviously it works best for warrior decks, but in truth if you run four or more Warrior monsters you should find space for this in your deck.

At one point this was unlimited, but when a deck dominates so badly that it wins 14 out of the Top 16, you have to hit it's power cards. Guess what this was.

Special Summon 1 Level 3 or lower Psychic-Type monster from your hand or Deck. During the End Phase this turn, remove from play that monster.

This is one of the only other recruiter spells I can think of aside from Reinforcement of the Army. If you use Psychics, run it for exactly the same reason. Most psychics are level 3 or less, so Emergency Teleport is an incredibly powerful spell that offers access to nearly every monster in the deck.

It, like Reinforcement, was limited. For largely the same reason. Run the one you have if your deck has a large number of psychic monsters.

That's it for this edition--the last one on Thursday will cover the four remaining spells that nearly every deck should have. (Technically three, since one's banned.) See you folks later.