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Archive for December, 2008

linus_charlie-brown-christmasJust wanted to take a moment to wish all of those that visit good ‘ol Duckburg a “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays!”  I’ll be enjoying the holidays with family and friends over the next 2 weeks and I hope you good folks will have the chance to enjoy some time off work, school, etc. to spend with loved ones as well.  It’s been a tough year for most of us in one way or another and it appears things aren’t necessarily going to shape up anytime soon, but here’s hoping we can all  find something to smile about (consistently) and that we’ll allow that happiness to spur us on into better days ahead.

In the meantime, the hope for many of us this Christmas as Linus is so good as to remind us each year in the classic Charlie Brown Christmas special:

“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  – Luke 2: 9-14

God bless!

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Shadow Dragon features production art by Masumune Shirow no less!

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon (DS) finally has a North American release date.  I was getting a little impatient having been waiting for this for so long and knowing that it had already released in Europe, and I even looked at importing it, but given the conversion rate (and my difficulty in finding a reputable outlet to import it from) I thought the better of it in the end.  Kind of glad I did as February isn’t all that far off and I’ve got plenty to keep me busy until then.  But make no mistake, when…February hits everything (entertainment related) gets dropped for this!

Look for the latest installment of the classic SRPG series on: February 16, 2009.

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The Shin Megami games have always been appealing to me –  I love a good horror story and these have always stood out to me as the video game equivalent of a good, scary, story (which isn’t to say there aren’t a couple of themes I could do without) wrapped up with impressive RPG game play mechanics.  And while I’ve only had a limited amount of time with any one of the games, I’ve came away from each of those experiences genuinely impressed with most of what I had played.  Well, a few weeks ago I  finally managed to track down a nice copy of the once rare Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne (PS2) and I had heard an awful lot about how good Atlus’ Persona 3 (PS2) was by RPG enthusiasts so I had that in the back of my head  to track down as well.  Fortune must have been smiling upon me because after purchasing a game for my girlfriend’s birthday online recently, I received $30 dollars in incentives to purchase other games at the same retailer.   Just the opportunity I needed to jump in and see what all the Persona fuss was about.  Using that special offer I was actually able to pick up the expanded version (Persona 3: FES) for ~ $18 dollars, and what’s more I was able to apply the rest to an already reduced offer on a Persona 4 (PS2) pre-order and was able to get that game for ~ $15 dollars when all was said and done.

Long story short, I ended up getting both of these critically acclaimed games almost free, and now that both have arrived I can safely say that it was one of the best entertainment decisions I’ve made all year.  These game drip with personality.  I’m only ~ 3 1/2 hours into P3: FES but after puttering around and getting the feeling of things its already proven to be an ultra-addictive game that I’m having to force myself to put down in order to get to other things around the house.  The story surrounds a small group of high school students with the ability to tap inner “personas” that they use to help fight deadly “shadows” during the “dark hour.”  This dangerous hour begins each evening at the stroke of midnight while, unbeknownst to them, p3_d1most people are sleeping (in a manner of speaking) as the shadows prey on those unable to protect themselves.  Thus, a secret group of unique individuals band together as S.E.E.S., the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad in order to defeat them.   No doubt there’s more to it than this by the story’s end but I’m just getting started, so while I’m a little far removed from the high school setting given I’m in my early 30’s, I’m still managing to have a lot of fun with the “social links” aspect of the game and the exploration into the Tartarus Tower labrynth  in even more fun than I was anticipating.  I’ve been taking baby steps into the tower thus far, and I can’t keep my teammates from tiring out at the moment, but I’m rarin’ to get some time to plunge into the game further over the Christmas break!  I’m itching to throw in P4 as well, but I really do need to try and tackle this one first and I’ve obviously got a ton left to see so there’s no reason to let my impatience get the best of me.  Right?

For a look at the style of Persona 4, the art direction, and the great music involved, feel free to check the  video below for opening trailer.

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Just a reminder that Usagi Yojimbo #116 “The Outlaw” hit store shelves yesterday.  And just as an FYI, sales from the Usagi TPB collections sell very well for Dark Horse, but if you can manage it, don’t forget about the single issues which helps to ensure that we get this fantastic title every month. Plus, there’s usually a nifty “extra” or two in the single issues well worth owning that you don’t necessarily get in the collection (back covers by Stan and other artists, letter pages, b&w art, etc.)!   I know that can be tough but I thought it worth mentioning if you can swing it because in Usagi’s case,  it’s actually worth it.
More on “The Outlaw” below:
The outlaw Taniguchi is the bounty of the day, and hunters Gen and Stray Dog once again find themselves joining forces to better their chances of catching their common prey. Agreeing that the first to capture Taniguchi should receive the lion’s share of the reward, the two part ways in an attempt to cover as much territory as possible.

Yet when Gen is the first to find the outlaw, he discovers that-much to his dismay-Taniguchi is essentially a decent guy, undeserving of death! What will this money-loving, sentimental cutthroat do?

Publication Date: December 17, 2008
Format: b&w, 24 pages
Price: $2.99
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cheung_fcbd-2008For next years Free Comic Book Day event (May 2, 2009) Marvel will be offering The Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis and Jim Cheung  in a new story with heavy ties to the happenings in the Marvel Universe.  Great news, in some respects, as it features Jim Cheung’s fantastic artwork, but try as I might I tend to loathe Bendis’ Avenger-related work and I’ve been out of the loop at Marvel in large part for well over a year now so I’ve pretty much zero interest in actually reading the thing.  Ah well, not to appear ungrateful, at least we’ve got that great Cheung art to enjoy and of course…it’s free!

Truthfully though, what I’m most looking forward to on FCBD are the Gemstone and Dark Horse offerings.  Where the latter is concerned, not darkhorse-fcbd09-swcwonly will there be a Star Wars: Clone Wars story featuring the heroes of the Clone Wars, but according to Stan Sakai a rare 6-page color Usagi Yojimbo story as well!  No word yet on what the story will be about,  other than that it will feature the long-earred ronin, in celebration of his 25th Anniversary.

More on the contents of the Gemstone FCBD offering as it becomes available.

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'I know what I have to do.'

I regret that I haven’t had the chance to comment yet on Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated television series (airing on Cartoon Network each Friday evening), but now that I’ve got a little more free time before school starts up again I wanted to remedy that and yack a little about what has quickly become my favorite series to tune into each week.  I know this because right before I hit the hay late Friday night, I say goodnight to my fiancee, put the dogs to bed, settle into my favorite chair, grab a snack and watch the latest episode.  It’s  my chance to kick back and enjoy something that has been such a big part of my life since I was a kid.  What’s more, my Dad and I usually watch the episodes together at some point later in the week just so we can comment on it so that’s something I appreciate about the whole experience as well.   All in all, I have to say that I think Lucas & Co. are doing a heck of a job with it!

I actually tuned in to “Ambush” and the “Malevolence” 3-parter before I was able to see the movie that kicked started the series but I was quickly on board with the storytelling, action sequences, the characters and the overall look of the animated television series  in general — and with “Rookies” I knew that The Clone Wars was something that was really up my alley.  For those of you that may recall, thanks to their connection to the Fetts, the Mandalorian heritage,  many an hour with Star Wars: Battlefront and Karen Traviss’ Republic Commando novels the Clones have become one of the most entertaining aspects of the Star Wars universe for me and Ep. 5 was exactly the kind of thing I was hoping to see in this series.  Rookies featured a group of  new troopers (“shinies”) newly charged with operating and maintaining a distant tracking outpost.  Yet, to them, their assignment seemed drab, and boring — that is, until they come under attack by Seperatist forces made up of Droid Commando’s — and are thrown feet first into an intense fight for possession of the outpost.

What the episode went a long way in showing (something a long time coming in a canonical onscreen work), was that the clones are extremely hard working individuals with deep pride in their service/abilities, strong work ethic in battle, and their reliance on each other (their “brothers”) in the fight.  Too often we have a tendency to see a clone fall without thinking much about it, but I think the creators involved have really begun to go the extra mile in showing that these are people, and subtle glances by the soldiers when one falls,  men being helped off the battlefield, heads down in a show of respect, and Jedi concern for their trooper teammates etc. goes a long way toward sending that lesson home.  I know Karen Traviss, for example,  has gone through great pains to really flesh these characters out, and provide us a huge rookies_bd1window into the world that exists between the clones beyond the helmets.  Anyhow, Captain Rex and Commander Cody are great in this episode, but the real star of the show is “Hevy,” the munitions expert and one of the more agitated of the clones on watch at the outpost.  The Seperatists are planning an attack on the clone’s  home world of Kamino and the outpost stands between them and a successful attack, so when Hevy sees that the time for action is come he’s not only ready, but claims the heaviest ordinance as his own in defending the outpost from the invasion.   Unfortunately, their small defense force is ultimately unable to repel the heavy Seperatist attack and their last hope of notifying the Republic, and stopping the armed droid force is to blow the outpost and its captors to kingdom come.  But when the remote detonator fails to work Hevy realizes that in order to save his brothers and complete the mission he’s got to hold off the attackers and blow the place manually.  In a valiant stand, he buys time for his teammates to get out and takes down numerous droids with the  Z-6 rotary blaster cannon before getting hit himself in the firefight.  With all he has left he drags himself to the detonator and surrounded by droids activates it.

Battle Droid: “Do we take prisoners?
Hevy: “I don’t.

With that, the outpost goes up in flames, the droids are toasted, the Republic is notified, Kamino is saved and the remaining troopers are rescued.  All because of a single clone trooper’s devotion to his friends and his duty to serve the Republic. Obviously Ep. 5 has been my favorite so far, but I’ve enjoyed them all and most recently “Duel of the Droids,” and “Cloak of Darkness” have really hit it out of the park as well.  It’ll be January 2nd before we see a new episode but when we do, you’ll know where I’ll be. Until then, remember good ‘ol Hevy!

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'Hevy always did hate that place.'

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wdcs_698-c1I didn’t have the good fortune of growing up with Carl Bark’s classic Duck stories (like many others I discovered those much later in life) and the process of compiling a respectable collection over the last 6-7 years has been a real joy.  And now I’m enthusiastically working on Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse stories as well given that Gemstone has been releasing an awful lot of his own classic material over the last couple of years.  The stories are nearly timeless, often hilarious, and chock full of character (something that Mickey has sadly been accused of lacking on occassion).  So, keep a lookout for the Walt Disney Treasures collection Mickey Mouse: In Death Valley in the weeks to come, and check out WDC&S #698 for the first part of  Gottfredsons “Mickey Mouse, Boxing Champion!” which just shipped last week to get started on your own collection.  More on the issue from The Scoop:

Bong! The champion’s in town! And we might be referring to Minnie’s super-athlete cousin, Ruffhouse Rat, but we’re also talking about fan favorite “Mouse Man” Floyd Gottfredson! Our beloved Mickey creator is back this week in Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #698, Gemstone’s latest $7.99, 64-page Disney trade paperback. But Floyd’s Mickey isn’t all you get…

We’re starting things up this month with “Donald’s Bay Lot,” a Carl Barks classic. When Donald Duck escapes from the winter cold at a beachfront cottage, a peaceful vacation is the last thing he gets. Plagued by unpredictable tides, vicious snapping turtles, and even floating mines, this is the getaway we’d like to get away from!

Thinking better of his beachfront trek, we find Donald in two other winter getaways this month, too. In “Fouled-Up Fairy Tale,” by David Gerstein and Daniel Branca, Donald babysits Daisy’s nieces, April, May, and June, at Daisy’s backwoods cabin. But they aren’t expecting a visit from escaped Beagle Boys—especially not disguised as innocent forest animals! Then, in “Fizzy Pop Fiend,” Donald’s plan to win a soda company sweepstakes runs aground when he drinks too much of the product. Becoming a little obsessed, our boy soon lands at a sugar addicts’ rehab clinic!

Favorite Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories supporting players are also back this issue. In Lars Jensen’s “Useful Things (And How to Use Them),” Lady and the Tramp’s Scamp and Jock try to identify a machine that dogkind has never seen. And in Frans Hasselaar’s “Comeback Kids,” Brer Rabbit and Brer Terrapin teach Brer Bear some facts about echoes that you’ll never learn in science class!

Oh, all right, now for our piece de resistance: the 19-page first half of Floyd Gottfredson’s “Mickey Mouse, Boxing Champion!” When Mickey sees a tall, sneaky looking rodent holding Minnie’s photo, he figures his old foe Mr. Slicker is back and quickly knocks him out! But Mickey has actually decked Minnie’s cousin, visiting athlete Ruffhouse Rat, and the easy knockout proves Ruffhouse isn’t the boxer he thinks he is! Suddenly Mickey is drafted to train this champion back to greatness. But he’ll have to be quick! For fiendish, barrel-chested challenger Creamo Catnera is also coming to Mouseton, and there will be a battle!

First published in 1931, “Mickey Mouse, Boxing Champion” sees its first ever North American reprint now, and it’s looking better than ever, remastered from original negatives by Ron Stark and S/R Labs and colored by Fernando Ventura. You owe it to yourself to catch this one of a kind knockout!

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