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Archive for September, 2008

Geek Out Loud Episode 18 is Live!

30

Sep

Posted by Steve

Head over to www.geekoutpodcast.com to check out the latest episode of Geek Out Loud.

I am joined by JenN from The Starkville Community of Podcasts forums. And from Three Chicks and a Mic. We talk about everything from Star Wars to comics to vampires, to Smallville, to Summer movies, to donuts, and back to Star Wars again. All that and a Real Life Superhero who stands against temptation like no other hero could.

Make sure to check out JenN and her cohorts of femme fatales at threechicksandamic.wordpress.com

My Top Ten Favorite Super Villains – Number 10: The Leader

24

Sep

Posted by Steve

200px_Leader_003.jpgI don’t know why I have the Leader this low on my list. I have always enjoyed the character of The Leader. He runs a close race with The Abomination for The Hulk’s arch-nemesis, and it’s quite the pair up. Dr. Doom has his genius pitted against the genius of Reed Richards. Mandarin pits his almost magical alien technology against Iron Man’s tech. The Joker’s insanity is a great contrast to Batman’s near-obsessive quest for justice. The Green Goblin’s strength, agility, and insane abandon is an interesting foil to Spider-Man’s strength, agility, and great sense of responsibility. In the Leader, though, we have a villain who should either be able to completely dispose of his foe, or completely be disposed of by his foe. Yet, it’s a battle of super intellect vs. great strength, and the two are locked in this neverending battle that we comic fans love. It’s a dynamic that I enjoy about the Leader’s presence in the Hulk book and it was one of Stan Lee’s many strokes of genius along with Co-creator Steve Ditko. The Leader also carries with him the classic “take over the world” goal. That is, he did until thwarted by the Hulk, now his quest is one of ultimate vengeance. A dynamic that is unlike any other of the would-be dictators of the Marvel U. Add all of this to the cast of characters that The Leader has created with no regard to human rights at all, and you have a twisted villain that is always fun to pit against the hero (or in the Hulk’s case anti-hero) of the story.

If you want to read all about The Leader’s history, check out the wiki. Here is a brief history though. The Leader made his first appearance in TALES TO ASTONISH #62. Born Sam Sterns, The Leader had a very average intelligence. He worked as a janitor at a nuclear plant and found himself the victim of an accident involving gamma irradiated waste. While recovering, Sterns discovered that his head was growing and he couldn’t absorb enough information. Practically overnight he became one of 300px_Incredible_Hulk_115.jpgthe most intelligent people on the planet. Specifically, he is great with patterns, strategies, and problem solving. In fact, he is so good at strategizing, it is almost a psychic thing when it comes to his plans unfolding. Later, Sterns would begin to lose his intelligence. He then conned the Hulk (gray at the time) to help him absorb gamma radiation that had turned Rick Jones into a Hulk, thus curing Jones and restoring The Leader’s intelligence. he’s gone through some different looks over the years, but his goal has remained the same, destroy Bruce Banner and The Hulk.

He has died and returned on a couple of occasions, and he has even brought others back from death’s embrace.  He was last seen doing battle with Hulk’s Hiroim that came to Earth with the Jade Giant at the end of Planet Hulk and the beginning of World War Hulk.  He apparently died again.  But I think it’s safe to assume that he’ll be back.  It’s what he does.  He’s The Leader….and The Leader…well, read the text on the comic book cover there.

The Leader has one trait that a villain must have if he’s going to be “villainy” enough.  No, not the pencil stripe mustache.  I’m talking about selfishness.  The Leader has never had any qualms about who he uses, walks over, manipulates, or physically changes.   In his day, The Leader has created quite a little cast of super-powered characters to do his bidding.  Whether he pulled them from the jaws of death, manipulated them after a particularly bad run in with the Green Goliath, or just promised them things he would never deliver, he has mastered the art of conning someone into genetic manipulation.  His creations include the likes of Rock, Redeemer, Ogress, and others.   All promised something THEY wanted, but ultimately just pawns to bring about HIS desires.  Selfishness at work friends.  Selfishness at work. It also shows The Leader’s intelligence coupled with his depravity, that he would make someone a freak just to bring about his own means, and he does so with very little compassion or concern for the individual.  It’s kind of chilling.

Not least among The Leaders creation are his Humanoids.  Pink Robots that are nearly maradvhulk015_cov.jpgindestructable and look a lot like Muscle Men. Remember Muscle Men? They were a toy that came out in the eighties. They came in little plastic cans and there was an assortment of them. I don’t know if they were supposed to be aliens or wrestlers or what. You know what? Just check them out for yourself. Originally they were released as pink little guys. Later though they got some more colors to them.

Anywho, the humanoids (not to be confused with The INhumanoids) were a neat threat to the Hulk in that there were always a ton of them, or one really super big one, and their near invulnerability allowed The Leader a great way to come close to conquering the Behemoth.

The Leader is also unique in that he originally set his sights on total world domination.  I, for one, don’t feel that there are enough Super Villains out to take over the world.  The Leader’s initial plans involved grand schemes of taking over the planet and ruling, but were thwarted by the Hulk time and time again.  So, he became a baddy more interested in vengeance than conquest.   He turned his great intelligence to scheming ways to destroy the Hulk.  It was often the Hulk’s savage unpredictability that caused the plans to unravel.   I just think it’s interesting that this guy dropped all he was doing, all of his plans, just to stop the Hulk.  This should make him a national hero, but his methods often hurt others too much for his actions to be sanctioned by the military.   Also, if he did dispose of The Hulk, he’d just go back to trying to take over the planet.

As I stated earlier, I have always thought it was a stroke of genius to give the Hulk an arch villain who’s power is his intelligence. The Hulk was, for a long time, basically a big child.  So it would seem that The Leader would outsmart him time and time again.  However, he never quite did the job all the way.

Now, there is an interesting link between The Leader and not only The Hulk, but Banner as well.  The Leader, in his own twisted way, sees the two as family.  Because of the connection of gamma radiation in their origins, they are like opposite sides of a very strange coin.   Almost family.

This dynamic intrigues me above all others when it comes to The Leader.  He has cured Bruce, hunted Bruce, tried to kill Bruce, and even made alliances with The Hulk and Bruce.

If The Leader is involved in a Hulk story, count me in.  I love a good Leader vs. Hulk story, and though there was a time where he was a bit overused, like Lex in Superman, or Doom in FF, he’s always a welcome villain in the pages of The Incredible Hulk.

As always, reactions and thoughts can be posted below.

The New Dark Knight? Knight Rider Reviewed!

24

Sep

Posted by Steve

Knight_Rider.jpg Given my love for all things 80′s I was pretty excited earlier this year when NBC decided to relaunch one of my favorite TV shows from the 80′s I was pretty stoked. Quite frankly, I was a little disappointed in the made-for-television movie as it seemed to bog itself down in weak dialogue and fall short in some of the action beats. Also…there wasn’t enough KITT.

Through the Summer, and especially leading up to the Fall season, I have watched in silence and moderate interest as NBC prepared to debut Knight Rider as a series.  The ComiCon debut of KITT was pretty cool.  A little anti-climactic, but cool nonetheless.  Back in May, showrunner Gary Scott Thompson made it clear that he wanted the regular series to distance itself a bit from the backdoor pilot/television movie.  In fact, he had a specific direction in mind for the show that bring the viewer more action, a more interesting story, and more KITT.

Did the showrunner and his team deliver on tonight’s series premiere?

Yes and no.  That’s an enthusiastic “yes,” and a I-can-see-where-people-will-have-problems “no.”

Let’s start with what’s weak because there is less not to like here than to get excited about.

The human aspect of the episode comes from Mike Traceur’s apparent memory loss concerning his time serving with Special Forces in Iraq.  He is attacked by a group of men who know him, but with whom he is completely unfamiliar.  Later in the episode, he has a run in with a woman that he had a relationship with, but, just like his previous attackers, he doesn’t know her.

All the while, Sarah, the SUPER-HOT love interest grows more jealous and more suspicious of Mike.  Also, there is apparently some underhanded stuff going on within F.L.A.G. (Foundation for Law and Government), but that is barely touched on, and you don’t know if everything is ok or not in the end.  However, that aspect could be ok.  I like the idea of being a bit fuzzy on whether or not there is actually something afoot in the Foundation because it could serve to make things more interesting.  To draw an illustration from Smallville, it’s like not knowing how good or evil Lionel was in the latter seasons of Smallville.  You know something’s going on, but you don’t know just how much is going on.

Finally, I don’t know that I buy the Sarah/Mike relationship.  It’s handled in a very quick and easy way a la the show from the eighties.  I think that the writers and showrunners could invest a bit more into the relationship to help the viewer be a bit more interested in those two crazy kids.

So, that’s the weakest part of the show for me.

On the strong side, the action is definitely here.  The first ten to fifteen minutes of the consists of a fist fight, a car chase, a missile being fired at KITT, KITT catching fire, and KITT nearly ramming through three feet of concrete to sace Mike and Sarah’s lives.  By the time you’ve had a chance to catch your breath, the show is off and running into the meat of the episode which consists of Mike trying to recover “the package,” some type of code for some type of world-threatening something else.   In recovering “the package” we are treated to a pretty long car chase featuring some great banter between KITT and Michael, and KITT and members of the Foundation.

While we got some cool transformations of KITT from a car to a truck, and of course from normal mode to attack mode, I kind of miss pursuit mode.  However, pursuit mode’s not really needed because KITT is super-fast without it.

The effects are great for television.  Transistions between a digitally morphing KITT into a real vehicle are pretty seamless.  While I’m aware I’m looking at digital work, it is hard to tell where digital ends and real begins.  I don’t know if they are taking away digital layers slowly to blend into the real physical stuff or if it’s just camera work and editing and that makes things go so well, but it works.

The best effect in this episode was a blazing KITT flying down the road at over 300 miles an hour.  It was a great effect that was quite passable as real.

While there was no David Hasselhoff present in this episode, showrunners have expressed a strong desire to get him in on the show again with the original KITT matching wits with the new, more-advanced version of the vehicle.  However, it’s gonna take this show making it to sweeps to see something like this though.

Can it do it?  I think so.  The show is fun.  This episode is better in a hour than the movie was in two.   From the opening sequence, you can tell it’s a different animal the television movie was.  The drama and intrigue is there, but even more so is the action one would expect from Knight Rider.

Don’t expect too many throwbacks to the original show just yet.  They’re there.  Mike takes the last name Knight by the end of the show, but that’s it as far as throwbacks go.  There are rumors of CARR floating around on the net.  There is the talk of the original KITT and the Hoff making an appearance or two, but I think the writers did a good job in this episode of making this show it’s own animal.  That’s a good thing.

Overall, I give this episode 3 artificially intelligent Mustangs out of 5, and will definitely be DVRing this show in upcoming weeks.

Geek Out Loud Episode 17 is Live

23

Sep

Posted by Steve

Head over to to check out the latest episode of Geek Out Loud

Here is the show description:

Star Wars Geeking Out continues in this episode of Geek Out Loud. We take a look at moments that make the original trilogy great, your Star Wars memories, a little Expanded Universe and collecting talk, and we wrap it all up with a new segment that can be considered funny, inspirational, or downright offensive. (Depending on your mood.) So cuddle up with an Ewok, feel the Force, get that big walking carpet out of your way, and enjoy Geek Out Loud.

Embrace the Para…err…Change. Secret Invasion #5 Reviewed

17

Sep

Posted by Steve

SECINV005_COV.jpgFinally. I mean that on so many levels.

First, “finally” I’m getting this review up. Second, “finally” it looks like the tables are turning on so many things. Thirdly, “finally” I’m able to root for heroes again.

I have heard a lot of negative things about Secret Invasion. Let’s be honest though, the story is coherent, well thought out, and has for the most part been well-executed. Compare that to Marvel’s “Distinguished Competetion’s” big crossover event. Raise your hand if you have the slightest clue what’s going on in Final Crisis. I don’t, and I don’t think it’s because I’m stupid. I think it’s because Grant Morrison has taken every idea he’s ever had and squashed it into an 8 page mini-series.

The success of this series so far for me is that you don’t have to purchase every tie in to enjoy the story at hand. The tie ins make the experience richer and give us a much broader scope of the Skrull Invasion, but they are not necessary if you don’t regularly collect the titles that the crossovers are happening in.

Secret Invasion 5 begins to show us what makes our super heroes heroes. It also shows us why some of the most beloved villains are still beloved to this day.

The issue starts out right where the latest issue of Thunderbolts left off. Captain Marvel (a skrull version of him) has shown up at Thunderbolt Mountain to destroy the T-bolts. Norman Osborne, one of the greatest manipulators in the Marvel U, is able to deduce that this Captain Marvel only recently realized his Skrulliness and talks him from self doubt, to self loathing, to anger at his empire for sticking him in the form of a Kree dog. He leaves without harming the Thunderbolts and Norman kicks into gear using Oscorp technology to mobilize his team. Throughout these panels he bemoans the fact that world is so into Starktech because that’s what’s gotten them into this mess.

We get to see a secret base of the great Nick Fury who has been working behind the scenes for months getting his newest team of Howling Commando’s up and running.  Suddenly, Fury announces “It’s starting.”

Across the globe, Skrulls use the airwaves and the forms of familiar leaders, politicians, and celebrities to try and reassure the world that they are here to help.  (Very remniscent of “V” the miniseries and television series from the eighties.)

In space, Agent Brand of S.W.O.R.D. has made her way into one of the Skrull ships, when we left her in the last issue, she had found Reed Richards.  Now, she is encoutered by Skrulls and it takes a bit, but as her translator kicks in, she’s able to convince the Skrulls for a moment that she is a Skrull, and she pulls rank on them.  Taking one of their weapons she takes the whole little brigade out and frees Richards who doesn’t trust her because he heard her speaking Skrull-ese.  Even weakened, Reed manages to get the upperhand and knock Brand out.  This a Reed we’ve not seen in a while.  Determined, tough, and a bit scary.  She comes to and he apologizes, but tells her he confirmed she is indeed human, and now they have to get back to stop the invasion.   He is a man who has been a POW.  In one of the Avengers crossovers, we find that they used Reed Richards’ ideas through manipulating clones of him to plan this whole attack.  Looking at how they did things he realizes this.  So, wracked with guilt over his unwitting role, and grief over the apparent loss of his family, Mr. Fantastic launches into action.

On the Helicarrier, we return to Skrull Jarvis demanding the surrender of Commander Maria Hill who has been surrounded by Skrulls.  She begins to say that when this is over, she’s gonna have a T-shirt made.  Skrull Jarvis tells her he is only interested in her surrender, not to use sarcasm to make it harder on herself.  Well, Maria Hill is a Life Model Decoy. The real Hill is perched in a sniper’s position and takes a shot before leaping off the Helicarrier and engaging the self-destruct with an interesting string of passwords.  By the way, the T-shirt? “Nick Fury was right.”  This is awesome stuff people.

Meanwhile, “Captain Marvel” makes his way to and through the Skrull Armada.  He begins tearing up the ships and makes his presence known in a huge way.

Reed Richards begins his plan to reveal the Skrulls.

In the Savage Land, the survivors are fighting about who is a skrull and who is not.  As the battle of words comes to a crescendo and is just about to come to blows, Reed initiates his weapon.  The Skrulls are revealed.  The heroes make quick work of them and decide it’s time to head back to New York, with one very angry Clint Barton.

This is what I’m talking about.  Human ingenuity rising to the top.  Our heroes backed up against impossible odds beginning to claw their way back from the ashes.  Reed Richards showing all the haters that he is a force to be reckoned with.  The plots of the bad guys unfurling because they refused to simply kill the greatest threats to their plans.  Instead, they wanted a trial, and ultimate revenge.  Now, they pay for their mistakes.

While Secret Invasion 3 didn’t quite do it for me, Secret Invasion 4 started to turn that around a bit.  With issue number 5, I feel like the whole Marvel Universe is turning a corner, not jsut this storyline.  All of the wounds and mistrust from Civil War have to be put aside.  All of the anger and turmoil from World War Hulk pales in comparison to what has been done by the Skrulls.  Now, the heroes have to unite, now the enemy is clear.  Now, we get down to some serious fighting.  Hopefully.  There are still three issues of this series to go, and I don’t know that Bendis and crew are gonna write a big three issue fight with Super Skrulls and super heroes going totally nuts on each other…but I wouldn’t mind that so much.

Hopefully, we won’t get one big issue of everyone sitting in a circle planning their next move. I really do hope for some real knock down, drag out action. 

As for this issue though, it was a wonderful turning point.  Classic stuff.  Just when all is lost, the tide turns.  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! I really am stoked about this. 

The final verdict from me?

Story 4 out of 5 - I love what’s happening here.  I love the little moments. I’m ready for all of the main guns (as it pertains to our heroes) to come to the rescue, but the set up has been fun.  My only problems with the story was the complete lack of going back to the person who was at the end of the last issue with the binoculars and we didn’t get to see what Thor was doing from the final pages of the last issue.   Also,  I Could have done without the rehashing of the fact that no one can trust anyone.  The Savage Land stuff was getting a bit tedious, so it was nice that a bolt of lightning broke up the monotony.  By the way, Spider-Man was awesome in these scenes.  In fact, he’s a better reason to read what’s going on than the actual situation.  His quips smack of classic Spidey.  

Art 3 out of 5 - Still not sold on the art in this series.  I’m not an artist, so I hate to be critical of anyone’s art.  There’s just something about it that doesn’t sit well with me.  I think it has more to do with Tony Stark than anything.  I know that the Starktech virus is physically affecting him, but dang…he needs to at least still look like Tony Stark.  

Main Cover Art 2 out of 5 – The covers of this series have not been the most gripping things.  I’m not a stickler for what you see on the cover reflects what happens in the book, but I do feel like the cover needs to grab a person…especially in a big event like this.   This cover just doesn’t.  It’s menacing.  It’s a great picture of a Skrull.  I like the fact that it’s a bit misleading in that you think it’s gonna be more of the Skrulls getting the upper hand story than a “the tide is turning” story.   However, I really think Marvel should have put less creative energy into variant covers and more creative energy into making one cover for each issue that grabs long time readers and new fans alike.

Overall, I’m enjoying the series and looking forward to when I actually have the next issue in my hand.  Though it comes out today, I probably won’t have it til next week.  So…expect a  review then.

Until then don’t embrace change…EMBRACE THE PARADOX!!!