Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Star Wars: Death Troopers review

Death Troopers is written by horror novelist and Star Wars fan Joe Schreiber. That sentence, the title and the cover of the book should tell you almost exactly what the book is about. Death Troopers is a zombie horror novel set in the Star Wars Expanded Universe and it’s surprisingly enjoyable.

In a world where books such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies can exist, it’s no surprise that someone decided to mash up two well-loved genres as Star Wars and the Hordes of the Undead together into one gloriously gory book for fans of both genres who, at times, can be just as insatiable as zombies themselves.

The plot of Death Troopers is simple. An imperial prison barge, Purge, is on its way to a prison planet with roughly 500 hardened criminals aboard. The crew and passengers are subjected to a mechanical breakdown. They drift towards an abandoned Star Destroyer and decide to raid it for parts to repair the Purge’s engines. What they encounter on the abandoned Star Destroyer will forever change the lives of the passengers and the crew.  Schreiber takes the time to establish human conflict on the prison barge before introducing the horror elements but he does this with the use of quick characterization which makes some of the later scenes somewhat predictable. It’s a straightforward plot that ends up having a few more twists and turns than expected but nonetheless remains simple for the duration of the novel. All of that is perfectly acceptable, though. Death Troopers isn’t meant to win literary awards. Its purpose is to entertain in delight in gruesome fashion.

Schreiber insure that the book is simple and accessible to new and old readers of the Expanded Universe by keeping the Star Wars elements to a minimal. The whole thing takes place in space and not on a new planet written specifically for the novel. Most of the characters have no appeared in other Star Wars books or movies except for two notable exceptions which I won’t spoil for you (but beware, a quick search on Death Troopers will undoubtedly reveal to you these surprise guest stars). The whole of the action takes place on two ships and there are less than half a dozen alien species. This is very important because any Star Wars fan can pick this up and enjoy it, whether you’ve seen all the movies, read all the books and played all the video games or if you’ve only seen the original trilogy. Some readers may view this as a weakness because the story could take place outside of the Star Wars Universe with just a few small modifications but I argue it wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable. This book is good because of the genre mash up and not despite the zombie presence in our beloved Star Wars Expanded Universe.

Now that you’ve got a sense of the book, here’s what I liked about it. I really liked the idea of ghost ships, particularly when it’s a very large (nearly 2 kilometre long) ship like a Star Destroyer. These things are so big it’s like a mobile city filled with imperial troops. It also just makes sense that if the rebels can and have (reluctantly) abandoned military bases, why wouldn’t the Empire occasionally do the same with their equivalent of a military base? I like this idea so much I would be interested in reading a story about a ghost space ship that doesn’t have zombies. Quick, something thing of a good story and write it for me, please. 

Related to the idea of abandoned ships is the one about the emotional and psychological effects of working primarily on a space ship. Sartoris, captain of the prison guard on Purge, reflects on the claustrophobic feeling he experiences aboard most space ships. It must be mentally exhausting to work about a self-sustaining space ship for extended periods of time. At that to a cabin fever type feeling and suddenly working in space takes a dark turn. 

I mentioned earlier that the book wouldn’t be as effective if it didn’t combine elements of both genres together, let me explain. It’s an effective mash up because of the strength of existing Star Wars imagery. You all know what a stormtrooper is. Now picture a stormtrooper in uniform with parts of the helmet ripped off to allow for biting and eating and you’ve got a pleasantly horrific image. Not only that, but if you think about the same idea in a more simplified way: it’s a space faring zombie with armor that can protect from laser blasts. How do you fight that? I’ve mentioned the importance of visual elements in the Star Wars universe before and it’s nice to see that Schreiber took that into consideration. 

I would like to point out two more things I liked about Death Troopers. Schreiber, probably due to his horror novelist background, is good at writing gross and squishy scenes. He takes full advantage of the possibilities here by making one of the main characters a medical surgeon. I could easily visualize the sickening creatures, medical procedures and all around nasty horror stuff happening to the characters. The other thing is that Schreiber takes the time to explain the reason why Purge and the drifting Star Destroyer bump into one another in the middle of space. What first seemed like a coincidence later becomes a small, crafty mystery to be explained by events later in the novel. It was a nice touch by Schreiber because it explains the beginning of the book’s as something planned and thought out as opposed to using a coincidental plot hole as the basis of the story while also making it something interesting and clever.

As a whole, Death Troopers does what it sets out to do. Schreiber adds a few unexpected interesting elements. He also allows for the existence of too many coincidental moments but I didn’t let that bother me too much because I was mostly expecting it and it doesn’t matter. The zombies take over a small, small corner of the Expanded Universe and that’s what was advertised. For all intents and purposes it’s mission accomplished for Schreiber and Death Troopers. Now have can we make it better? Maybe Schreiber should write a prequel including a user of the Dark Force, lightsabers and zombies…

Thor: The Mighty Avenger, The Complete Collection review

I’ve been a big fan of Chris Samnee’s work since I read a story arc he drew in Greg Rucka’s Queen & Country as well as the Vertigo Crime graphic novel Area 10 written by Christos Gage. This is the first time I see his art coloured and it’s also the first time I see him draw a superhero comic. The reason I picked this up is mostly because of appreciation for Samnee’s art. It also helps that it was rather well received during its initial monthly publication.

Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee have made a relatively dense comic. At least, if you compare it to other superhero comics published at the time. It’s a very good thing because it allows them to tell an engaging story with a lot of depth but it a way that isn’t overly dense (like an Alan Moore comic, for example). Most pages have roughly 7 or 8 which is just slightly more than what you would normally find in a Marvel comic but it’s enough to make it feel more substantial. There is a lot that happens in these nine issues and it’s a result of an impressive collaborative effort. Langridge's ability to tell single issue stories with an overarching story is what allowed for interesting things for Samnee to draw. From sea monsters to other interesting characters from both Thor's Marvel comics mythology as well as from other corners of the Marvel Universe.

The first few issues the comic seems to be more about Jane and this new visitor in her life but as the story goes on the focus shifts slightly which is perfectly fine. It's called Thor: The Mighty Avenger not Jane: The Museum Curator. This comic is about Thor’s exile from Asgard by his father, Odin. He threw his son off the Rainbow Bridge and onto Earth with the hopes of teaching him humility. Odin denies Thor the knowledge of what he did that resulted in such a punishment. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled before the story could progress to a point where the reason for Thor’s exiled could be revealed. Thus, we are left to think that Thor was a big jerk and Odin may have slightly overreacted by casting his son out of Asgard. As a whole though, it doesn’t really matter. What matters are the lessons Thor learns while on Earth.

Thor’s been on Earth before, many, many years ago. Everything has changed now since a lot of time has passed since his last visit to Earth. He can’t recognize anything and he’s lost. He can’t even interact with modern people because even social interactions have had time to change and evolve. It takes Jane Foster’s eternal patience and compassion to give Thor a chance to interact in anything resembling a normal fashion. Once Langridge is done setting up Thor’s situation, he quickly creates new situations for him and Jane that force Thor to learn new lessons about himself, about humanity and about what it means to be an all-powerful Asgardian. He does this mostly in done-in-one issues, telling a single tale or adventure which sometimes has its beginnings in a previous issue and often has story threads leading into the next issue. This volume collects a total of nine issues and they all tell a single story but they’re also all connected (with the exception of the Free Comic Book Day issue which is a genuine single issue story). It’s impressive that Langridge makes it look so easy because it seems to be one of those many lost comic book talents since we’re increasingly bombarded by overly decompressed story that take several issues to come to any kind of resolution or story progression. 
Roger Langridge's version of Samnee's cover
for issue #6. Yup, he's an artist too.

By choosing to tell a done in one story each single issue, Langridge allows for Thor to develop and grow as a character every issue. Langridge tries to have Thor learn a new lesson each issue and something he fails or something he doesn’t learn his lesson until the next story. Either way, it’s nearly guaranteed character development each issue. Thor learns to make a new friend, learns about what it means to be human, learns to be selfless and leans how and why he should help out. He also learns about love and caring. All of these lessons have their roots in Thor’s relationship with Jane Foster.

Jane Foster was a delightful character. You get a sense that she was well rounded and define individual before Thor popped up in her life. She’s not just a female interest for Thor. In fact, Langridge sets it up the other way around. Jane is the main character in the first and maybe second and third issues as well. It’s not until the Boys Night Out story in issue #4 that Thor really comes to the forefront. More than that, when Langridge has Thor do something Jane is generally also doing something be it something by herself or with Thor. In that same Boys Night Out story, Thor goes on an adventure with his friends, The Warriors Three. Upon his return, we find out Jane also went out with some of her friends. She didn’t sit around at home waiting for Thor to come back home. Her life doesn’t revolve around him. You could argue that Thor’s new life on Earth revolves around Jane. We get a scene where Jane is at work and Thor is bumming at her place sitting on the couch and watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Jane is a well-developed character and not just another damsel in distress or a sultry superheroic supermodel in frilly garments mean to be an object of lust and desire for both the male protagonist and the male readership. Well done, Langridge and Samnee.

Thor, hanging out and making friends.
While reading, I was constantly surprised by the choice of having Samnee draw the book. Not because he isn't good, he is, he's excellent, but his art style doesn't make me think he'd be good at drawing fantastical elements. He proves me wrong throughout the entire book. Maybe I feel this way because my introduction to Samnee’s work was in a comic that is more grounded in reality. It was clearly an excellent choice because a big part of my enjoyment of Thor: The Mighty Avenger was due to the art.

You can tell Samnee isn’t used to drawing a comic that is meant to be printed in colour. He shades and texturizes things more than you would expect him to. He seems to like adding a lot of shading on the characters but he also shows restrained, reserving it for scenes that take place in areas with poor lighting. Otherwise he doesn't add any shading on the faces, leaving them open and expressive. Because of his art style, a specific kind of colouring is needed. Matt Wilson uses a lot of flat colours because Samnee's inks tend to be thick. It's a different story for the faces though. Wilson uses gradients to indicate lighting and to add some shading but not always. The use of gradients appear here and there throughout the work, more often than not on some of the more fantastic and superheroic elements.   Still, the use of gradients remains minimal throughout all nine issues.

Samnee is pretty good at drawing faces and facial expression. Some facial expressions are rendered rather cartoony but that's fine by me. I'm just impressed by how expressive some of his characters can be. Expressive faces are a good thing to know how to draw, Langridge writes a fair amount of humorous scenes that really on the art to carry the punch line.

There is a lot that happens in these nine issues and it’s a result of an impressive collaborative effort. Langridge's ability to tell single issue stories with an overarching story is what allowed for interesting things for Samnee to draw. From sea monsters to other interesting characters from both Thor's Marvel comics mythology as well as from other corners of the Marvel Universe. In issue #5, Samnee draws a Jack Kirby sea monster. The Kirby influence is clearly there but he keeps it in check with the overall style of the Thor comic. His lines are thinner than Kirby’s but he still manages to uses dark, inky shadowing for texture and that blocky look associated with Kirby’s art.. It works very well and the sea monster looks awesome. Samnee gets another chance to draw a Kirbyesque monster when Heimdall transforms into a creature that kind of looks like Fin Fang Foom. 
Thor: The Mighty Avenger could and probably should have been one of the few great superhero comic book runs but alas it was cut short due to poor sales and Langridge being unhappy working for Marvel. The sketchbook section at the end of the collection offers a small glimpse of one of the stories that could have been in the works. Samnee draws a sketch of the Hulk. I’m certain Langridge and Samnee would have given us a unique and thrilling encounter between Thor and Hulk but we’ll have to content ourselves with the sketchbook section. If you like accessible, well written and superbly drawn superhero comics with as much brains and heart as there is brawn and creative costumes, do yourself a favour, pick up a copy of Thor: The Mighty Avenger and savour the brief glimpse into a grand story that could have been.

Monday, 25 February 2013

PokéJournal: Update 007

This guy doesn't like water . . .
 because he's made of rock!
-Alright, I have the Squirt Bottle now and I’m off to the next town.

-There are tons of trainers on this route, sweet. I’ll use it as a opportunity to train Croconaw.

-Croconaw vs. Tangela. No problem because Croconaw knows Ice Fang. It does good damage and it can potentially cause flinching or freeze the opponent. It’s a super useful move for a water type like Croconaw. At least, it’s a good move to have until Tangela puts you to sleep. Darn. Oh great, he’s draining Croconaw’s energy now. Finally, he wakes up and the battle is easily won.

-Man, all the trainers here want to exchange numbers. It’ll be good for training later in the game, I hope.

-I just caught a Nidoranand naturally I want to catch a Nidoranto go with it. Only problem is there are far more female Nidoran than there are male ones. It’s taking a long time.

-Sweet. More people to battle in the National Park. You know what, I don’t care. A random lady just gave me a Quick Claw. Here you go, Croconaw, now you can stop being so darn slow in battle. Huh. I just noticed I have a Shell Bell (heals a bit of HP every turn in battle). When did I get that? Who cares, here you go Pidgeotto.

-I just met a guy in the National Park who took a picture of me and all my Pokémon.

-What in the world is the Pokéathlon Dome and why should I care? What’s that you say, there is no reason to care? Ok, moving on. Let’s go catch a Sudowoodo.

-Turns out he’s a pretty tough cookie. I used Croconaw to weaken his HP so much just one more attack by even my weakest Pokémon (Sandshrew in the case at level 11) would have been enough to make him faint. I then sent out Flaaffy planning to cause paralysis with Thunder Wave but Sudowoodo paralyzed himself by using a physical attack on Flaaffy. I then sent out a Great Ball and bam, done. Now I can go to the next city.

-Awesome, this lady from the flower shop in Goldenrod just gave me a Berry Pot and some berries. I guess in Heart Gold you can grow your own berries with you and not have to worry about travelling all over the map just to get status healing berries for free. This is great. 
These guys were born to be in double battles.
-I just clued into the fact that the guy who’s waiting for a Spearow is on Route 31. Problem is Route 31 is back where I already came from and I’m heading towards the next town… U-turn!

-Yay, the guy gave me a TM 44. That‘s another TM to carry around in my bag and never use.

-Hey, didn’t I give Kurt Apricorns to make Poké Balls with? Where does he live again?

-I’m not a really big fan of double battles. It takes too long for a turn to happen. I prefer the more traditional one-on-one battle.

-I bumped into Bill at the Ecruteak City Pokémon Center. He left and I followed him to Goldenrod City. I went to his house and he gave me an Eevee. It’s going to get it on with my Ditto one of these days but not now.

Stantler, what did you do to
deserve to be so ugly?
-Finally, a wild Growlithe. Little Growlithe, I’m going to hurt you until your HP is red. I’m going to send out Flaaffy to bully you around and paralyse you. Then, once you’re caught in the Poké Ball, I will go find you in the PC and love you forever and ever.

-Successfully caught, quick, to the Poké Center!

-Man, Growlithe is fucking adorable following you around. Enough swooning, Growlithe vs. wild Growlithe, go! Well that was disappointing. The wild Growlithe has an ability that makes fire type moves useless against it and my Growlithe only knows one offensive move and it’s Ember. I used Roar and the wild Growlithe ran away. What a little wimp.

-Well, I have a Growlithe and I’m in a new city. I’ve caught several Pokémon and I’ve trained Croconaw quite a bit. I think it’s time to call it a day. Next time, I’ll be exploring Ecruteak City.

Pokémon caught: Nidoran♀, Nidoran♂, Sudowoodo, Stantler, and Growlithe.
Pokémon traded: None.
Gym Leader defeated: None.
Fights with Craphat (Rival): None.
Evolutions: None.
Pokémon in party: Croconaw, Flaaffy, Pidgeotto, Heracross, Growlithe, Sandshrew.
Highest level in party: Croconaw at level 26.
Lowest level in party: Sandshrew at level 13.
Pokédex: 38.
Time played: 13:54.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

PokéJournal: Update 006

Gym Leader Whitney. Don't let
those short shorts fool you, she's tough!
-It’s time to train and raise the levels of all my party Pokémon and to catch Pokémon too.

-Sweet, Pidgey evolved into Pidgeotto! That's a great name for a Pokémon. I like that it’s similar to Pidgey but also better. It's nice when the names kind of work together with the evolution family of a Pokémon.

-A wild Rattata used Focus Energy. Isn't that kind of ridiculous? It's a tiny little mouse. How much energy does it even have to focus? Faint ya little bastard, faint!

-Aw sweet. Pidgeotto looks great following you around. He doesn't walk though, nope, this flying Pokémon is too good for walking, he flies!

-What? This random trainer has a Bulbasaur? I'm jealous. How did she get that anyway? We're not in Kanto!

-Sweet, Bulbasaur lady asked to exchange numbers and she said she'll give me random items she picks up. Thanks, Bulbasaur lady.

-I saw my first Abra in the wild. I was expecting it to teleport so I tossed a Poké Ball at it thinking it wouldn't do much but hoping for the best. Anyway, I caught it. Yeah!

-Well hello Drowzee. Man, what's with the psychic Pokémon here? It's all psychics and Rattatas. I hope they don't start to mate together. The last thing the world needs are Rattata focusing their energy and teleporting all over the place using hypnosis on everybody. *shivers*

-A Poké fan wants to test his Pokémon by battling with me. They just came out of day care he says. Silly Poke fan, you don't send Pokémon to daycare to get tough. No, you send them there to get frisky. That's why they charge by the hour! (Note: they don't. They charge by the level).

-I only have one Poké Ball left. I need to buy more. I barely have any money though. I have no idea why. It's not like I use a lot of items or anything. By the way, I found out why Heracross broke out of so many Poké Balls before I caught it. It turns out Heracross has a really low catch rate, something just above 5%. Crazy, eh? Check out more by reading this bulbapedia article.

-Oh my god, a Ditto, yes! Catch, catch, catch! Damn, another Pokémon that's difficult to catch. I don't have enough Poké Balls for this! Ok, he's in the red and he's paralyzed, come oooooon. Woohoo, I have a Ditto and it only took four Poké Balls!

-So much for training, all I'm doing is catching Pokémon. Professors Oak and Elm will be so happy.

-It's a little bit risky but I'm training Heracross by fighting Drowzees in the wild. Bug type is weak to psychic type but if Heracross can defeat one she gets much more experience as compensation. It works rather well and it becomes less risky as Heracross becomes stronger.

-I found some trainers in the hair cutting place. I'm so grateful for having a chance to train and to make some money. I only have one Poké Ball left (again).

-Man, Heracross has a good learn set. She's at level 12 and just learnt Aerial Ace. Pidgeotto doesn't even know it yet and he's at level 17! Awesome.

-Uh oh, Team Rocket is in town. I guess I'll just have to whip some ass.

-Oh goody, a quiz campaign to win a radio card? Hit me! Aw yeah, I got a radio card! All the questions are easy except for the last one which I guessed.

-I have a bicycle, wheeeeee.

-You know Heracross is fast and strong when at level 13 it can one hit KO a level 10 Abra. Heracross is the new Flaaffy.

Imagine having this thing use Pound
 on your over and over. Cut me some
 slack, ok? Miltank is strong.
-Time to go fight the Gym Leader of Goldenrod City. Whitney is a normal type user. I don’t have any fighting Pokémon but I’ll be just fine.

-First fight between Heracross and Clefairy. I’m doing well and then Whitney used a Super Potion. Gym Leaders always use items when they’re losing. Suck it up, dudes. Clefairy used Metronome and it “randomly” selected a psychic attack. It’s super effective against Heracross, coincidence? I think not. A few Horn Attacks later, Heracross defeats Clefairy.

-Whitney sends out Miltank. I keep Heracross but after one attack I realize Miltank’s defence is too strong so I switch to Croconaw. Problem is, Croconaw is paralyzed from an earlier fight with one of the trainers in Whitney’s gym. Damn. I’m such a noob, always checks Pokémon status before entering a fight with a Gym Leader. Croconaw has good HP so I’m hoping the paralysis will wear off. It doesn’t and when his HP gets low enough I decide to heal him of his status and heal his HP. Man, Miltank used Attract and Croconaw isn’t attacking as well as he normally would. Miltank also has surprising speed, well, compared to Croconaw anyway who is pretty slow. That means he gets to attack first and she uses Stomp which makes Croconaw flinch. This is going to be a long battle. I would switch Pokémon but they’re all males except for Heracross. It’s not even worth it. Miltank’s HP finally goes red and right one cue, Whitney uses a super potion, he we go again. I’m sick and tired of getting stomped on so I send in Heracross. Heracross fainted. I sent out Flaaffy and Thunder Shock took us to victory. Finally, another Gym Leader defeated.

-Considering I’ve had trouble with the last two Gym Leader battles, I’m thinking it will be easier with the gyms coming up later on. I’m thinking this because earlier on in the game you’re less flexible on the different types of Pokémon and moves your Pokémon know. Before level twenty all they can do is Growl, Tackle, Bite and Quick Attack (I’m exaggerating but you get the point). With more variety in moves and Pokémon you can more easily adapt to the type of Pokémon the Gym Leaders use. With bug and normal out of the way, the rest should be smooth sailing. I can’t way to be at a gym where I can use Heracross, Croconaw and Flaaffy to their full capabilities.

-Time to leave Goldenrod City. Some guy gave me a Spearow with mail to give to one of his friends. He’s at level 20. Do I get to keep him afterword? If so, I’ll give the guy the mail, evolve Spearow and dump him in the PC.

-Wait a minute, isn’t the weird tree up ahead? I think I need to go get a squirt bottle or something. Oh well, next time. Coming up in PokéJournal Update 007: I go find a squirt bottle, fight that tree and go to the next city.


I have a little frustration to share regarding Totodile’s evolution family. Croconaw has odd and rather awful looking markings on his body that does not match up with the look of Totodile and Feraligatr. Take a look at the picture. Totodile is a blue crocodile or alligator (his name has its roots in crocodile but Feraligatr obviously has his roots in alligator) that walks on its hind legs. It has red dorsal and tail fins. He has the beginning of four fingers and a thumb on each hand and he has a V-shaped pale yellow marking on his chest. He looks pretty awesome.

Now consider Croconaw. Same blue colour and overall body shape but he’s bigger. That works. The red fins are proportionally the same size but he has additional fins, or crest in this case, on his head. That also works. Look at his tail fin though. It’s a different and odd shape. It looks unnatural and I get the feeling it was changed simply so that there was something different about his fin. His mouth is shorter but he jaws look bigger and more powerful. That really works considering his stronger attack strength and his learn set which includes moves such as Bite, Ice Fang and Crunch. His lower jaw is also the same pale yellow colour as Totodile’s chest markings. That also works because it adds more of something Totodile has a little bit of, that’s a pretty common element in Pokémon evolutions. Now here’s the problem, the additional pale yellow markings on Croconaw look absolutely out of place. It looks like he’s wearing a caveman print leotard. It’s like Fred Flintstone had a baby with a crocodile. It’s completely out of place and unnecessary. It doesn’t help that it’s not a continuation of something previously established in Totodile’s look and it’s not an element that continues into Feraligatr’s look either. 

Now take a look at Feraligatr. His crest, dorsal fins and tail fins are all bigger which increased in size from Croconaw. His hands and feet have sharp, pointy nails, another increased on a previously established feature. His mouth is huge and just different enough to give him a different look from his previous two forms which was accomplished by shortening the nose and increasing the size of the mouth. He also continues to share the pale yellow as the colour for his bottom jaw. Now look at his belly, it’s the same marking Totodile had on his chest. Where was that on Croconaw? Why does Feraligatr have a marking more closely resembling that of his first form and completely ignores the markings his second form had? I shouldn’t complain too much because Feraligatr’s design is much better than that of Croconaw. I would like to add that I like that he has longer arms with elbows. He doesn’t just fight by biting, he also fights by hitting and scratching, etc. The protective padding additions to his arms, knees, tail and ribs adds to the element of a very physical fighting Pokémon. He fights so often and with such verve his body developed natural ways of protecting himself.

Would you agree with my assessment of the Totodile family design? Does Croconaw both fit into and stand out of the family? He’s definitively that awkward teenage phase. He tries new things but sticks to some old ones and when he matures and evolves into Feraligatr he settles into something more familiar and elegant. Just to be clear, I think the design for Croconaw works on it’s own, he only looks odd when compared to other evolutionary forms.

Pokémon caught: Abra, Drowzee, Krabby, Ditto, and Pineco.
Pokémon traded: None.
Gym Leader defeated: Whitney.
Fights with Craphat (Rival): None.
Evolutions: Pidgey into Pidgeotto.
Pokémon in party: Croconaw, Heracross, Pidgeotto, Flaaffy, Geodude, Spearow.
Highest level in party: Croconaw level 23.
Lowest level in party: Geodude level 3.  
Pokédex: 32.
Time played: 11:45.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Saga of the Swamp Thing Book Three review

The third volume of Alan Moore’s time as the writer of Swamp Thing collects the first half the American Gothic storyline. Those issues present the first lull in the momentum that Moore and the artists had been building since issue #20. American Gothic is famous for introducing the character of John Constantine who became the poster boy of sorts for Vertigo Comics. Constantine cons Swamp Thing to go on a journey to different parts of America on what appears to be wild goose chases. To the perceptive reader, it is clear that Constantine is forcing Swamp Thing to change and develop as a plant Elemental.

This volume comes off as a slight disappointment compared to the first two volumes. The individual stories presented here aren’t as interesting as the previous issues. More importantly, they are difficult to read because Alan Moore gets preachy with him commentary of various elements of old and present America. I guess he tried to say something about America but I don’t think he was very successful.

The issues are very well executed but they’re simply uninteresting for the most part. It seems strange that the team that gave us a new Swamp Thing, a revamped and terrifying Floronic Man, a monster brawl between Swamp Thing, the Demon and the Monkey King, a frightening Arcane, a trip to hell and back and more than one out of body experiences give us, in this third volume, stories of a radioactive man, underwater vampires, a werewolf and a movie about slavery haunted by the very past it is trying to replicate. It’s pretty boring add to that Moore’s preachy narrative it’s almost enough to make you lose faith in the creative team.

Listed like that it doesn’t seem like this stories have much in common but they do and it’s that very thing that keeps this volume interesting and stops it from being a failure. Two things, actually. Swamp Thing is developing both as a character and as an elemental. His growth is what anchors this journey across America. The second thing keeping my interest in this volume is the introduction of John Constantine. He’s a manipulative jerk who has little remorse for the things he does to others. Swamp Thing is just a tool to him and he’s doing what he can to shape and prepare him for what is yet to come. It’s interesting to see just how much of a jerk John Constantine is in his first year. and the other is John Constantine being a horrible person and manipulating Swamp Thing. John Constantine is a jerk in these pages.

To follow up what I’ve written about Swamp Thing’s more texturized look in Moore’s run, in his introduction, Steve Bissette clarifies that it was John Totleben who wanted to draw Swamp Thing as something actually composed of vegetation and not simply a green man suit with roots. Thanks John Totleben, you and Bissette’s Swamp Thing looks great. There’s just so much texture.

I’d rather not write any more about this third volume, my least favourite of Moore’s run on Swamp Thing, so I’ll stop here. The story gets much, much better next volume. Well, not right away, but the end of American Gothic is a high point not only in Moore’s run but in Swamp Thing’s entire comics history. Review of volume four coming soon.  

Johnny Hiro: Half Asian, All Hero review

Johnny Hiro vol. 1 Half Asian, All Hiro tells the story of Johnny, a busboy, and his girlfriend living somewhere in New York. Simple, right? But it’s much more than that. This story has surprising depth and philosophical meanderings about life. Johnny’s life with his girlfriend, Mayumi, is constantly being interrupted by odd and supernatural events which Johnny has to overcome after which he often comes to a realization about his life.

Written and drawn by Fred Choa, Johnny Hiro tells a done in one story every issue but it has story elements that continue from one chapter to the next. In the first story a giant lizard monster, à la Godzilla, breaks into the Asian couple’s bedroom and kidnaps Mayumi, the daughter of Ami Murakami a member of the Super A-OK Robot team who defeated the monster when it attacked Japan in 1978. As it can be expected, it’s up to Johnny to rescue his girlfriend but in the end she’s really the one that saves the day with her savvy New Yorker knowhow. It’s a pretty dense first story but Chao keeps it breezy. During all this giant lizard chasing action, Chao also establishes the relationship between Johnny and Mayumi, adds an appearance from Mayor Bloomberg, makes a metatextual comment on the ridiculousness of living in a New York in which superhero catastrophes happen on a daily basis such as in the Marvel Universe and sets up one of the main plot elements that pops up in nearly all the following chapters.

Fred Chao does an excellent job with his characterizations. Johnny feels a bit lost and confused. He’s searching for something, he’s trying his best to work towards making a better life for Mayumi and himself. Mayumi is absolutely charming. She’s very capable and even though she has her own thoughts regarding her future with Johnny, she’s there to support Johnny throughout all his challenges.

The book is sweetly funny. There are no lough out loud moment but there was a lot quiet laughter and little smirks on my part while reading the book. The whole comic had a comforting feel to it. Perhaps it’s because I relate to what Johnny and Mayumi are going through.

Johnny Hiro reminds me of Scott Pilgrim and to a lesser extent Sharknife. Johnny Hiro is more down to earth than the other two but not because of the contents of the plot (see above) but because of the tone. More than anything, Johnny is trying to be responsible and seems to almost force himself to mature whereas Scott Pilgrim is a young adult being forced to mature. The similarities with Sharknife has more to do with rival restaurants then it does with the plot and themes of Johnny Hiro but there is still something I can’t put my finger on that links the two in my mind. It's important that I point out I'm a very big fan of all three series and that I'm not comparing them in order to rank them, simply to point out some of the similarities and differences.

Chao’s art separates his book from the other two. IT doesn’t have the same manga influences in both the story telling, the bouncing line work and the heavy inks. He uses thin lines which gives his drawings has a light and airy quality to the art. He doesn’t use many lines. It’s very clear and Chao seems to have a desire to use as few lines as possible but in a way to keeps the art simple but without using a minimalist style. The best way I can describe it is that he’s precise with the lines that puts on the page. For a seemingly simple style, there is a surprising fluidity to the character’s movements. This fluidity and kineticism is aided by Chao’s inventive use of panels during certain scenes bet it introducing Mayumi to their new apartment or running around in back alleys of the Lower East Side while being chased by cooks from a rival restaurant.

Johnny Hiro  is about doing what is right, it's about working hard so that you can give the people you love what they want the most. As a hero, Johnny is selfless. All the samurais, giant fish, prize lobsters, rival restaurants, back alley and rooftop chases just happens to be a colourful way to portray everyday tasks that shape a young man into a young, responsible but still fun, adult. In short, Johnny Hiro  is about life and growing up and you should give it a read.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

PokéJournal: Update 005

Bugsy has a stupid name
but she's a strong gym leader.
-Team Rocket Grunts are sleazy lowlives but they give you a good amount of prize money after you defeat them in battle. Fund my Pokémon adventure you goons!

-Poor Team Rocket leader, his name is Proton. That’s rough. I wonder when and where I’ll meet another leader call Neutron, etc. You know it’s going to happen.

-I like to trade numbers with other trainers so that I can battle with them again later on in the game. It’s kind of annoying though when they call you just to let you know that their Rattata is better than all the other Rattata. "In fact, it must be in the top percentile for Rattatas!" What a loser. I look forward to beating you again in battle, Joey. Remind me to bring a Rattata.

-Thanks Kurt, from now on you shall make all my Pokéballs for free!

-Ugh, I hate when you’re trying to catch a wild Pokémon (Slowpoke) but he’s weak and your Pokémon is strong. You paralyze him, but nope, not good enough. So you cause some damage. Nope, somehow Slowpoke is not letting himself get caught. Ok, more dama—Critical hit?! Nooooooooo! To think, the only reason I went back to Slowpoke Well was to catch a Slowpoke. I see many battles with Zubat in my future . . .

-Finally, another Slowpoke. I’ll use Sandshrew this time to avoid damaging the Slowpoke too much. HP in the yellow, switch to Flaaffy! Use Thunder Wave to paralyze and toss the Pokéball and done. Welcome to the team Slowpoke. I will toss you in the PC.

-Time to battle the Gym Leader. She uses bug type Pokémon which means my Pidgey will get a chance to kick some butt and maybe evolve.

-I forgot that your Pokémon tend to get poisoned a lot when fighting with bug type. Should have bought more antidotes.

-I can’t believe the Gym Leader’s name is Bugsy. Ridiculous.

-Aw, crap. Scyther took out my Pidgey in one move. Damn. What?! My Croconaw fainted too! What the heck, man? How is Scyther so strong? Where is that fire starter Pokémon when you need him? Help me Flaaffy, you’re my only hope.

-Help me Flaaffy, you're my only hope.

-Help me Flaaffy, you're my only hope.  Help me Flaa -- shit, sorry. I got stuck in a loop there.

-Ok, so Thunder Wave to paralyze. Oh? Electric is super effective against Scyther. Is her a flying-bug type? Awesome, Flaaffy is clearly one of the best Pokémon.

-Only one Pokémon to go and it’s Kakuna. I sent Sandshrew out but the guy is only at level 7 and he scratched like a little wimp and got poisoned. Naturally, he got benched. Great, now Flaaffy is also poisoned. Jeez.

-Oh sweet victory and 1800 dollars! Everybody, quick, to the Pokémon Center! Oh great, mom calls me and tells me she spent some of my money again. You know what, lady? If it’s not a Costco sized pack of antidotes I don’t want it!

-The package from mom contains five chople berries. They are fun to say but that’s about it. Chople, chople, chople.

-Craphat challenges me to a battle! You know the Rival is a bad trainer because he doesn’t even carry around a bag to keep all his items in.

-Man, ghost type Pokémon are so weird. They’re sneaky and ruthless but also kind of weak. They’re so strange.

-Sandshrew learned Poison Sting. Now he has a useful attack, woot!

-Bayleef vs. Croconaw. Yes, I’m at a type disadvantage but who cares? Croconaw is strong . . . unless he’s fighting Scyther. Those bastards are quick. What the heck? Bayleef has an attacked called Synthesis that makes it heal! No fair. Bite, Synthesis, Bite, Synthesis, Bite, flinch, Bite, Synthesis, Bite, flinch, Bite, Reflect, Bite, Poison Powder, Bite, victory! And that’s the story of how I beat Bayleef.

-Off to Ilex Forest to catch some guy’s two Farfetch’d. Man, what in the world is the plural of Farfetch’d?

-I just found a revive item. Man, I could have used one of those during the battle with Bugsy.

-It took much longer than I thought it would to catch the second Farfetch’d. There was a puzzle involved, where you chase the Farfetch’d around and step on sticks to make it look in the direction of the noise. Anyway, I guess I’m dumb because it took a while.

-My prize for catching the two Farfetch’d.(Farfetch'ds? Farfetch'd-izes?) is HM Cut! Yes! Let’s go explore the rest of the forest.

-Ok, forest Pokémon, nobody mess with Croconaw. He just learnt Ice Fang and it’s awesome.

-You know, it’s really difficult to capture a Pokémon when it uses Self Destruct. I’m talking about you, Pineco. Anyway, Geodude knows Headbutt now. I’ve going back to Azalea Town to find a Heracross.

-Wow. It took seven Pokéballs to catch Heracross and it’s only at level 3! Such a low level and it already knows four moves, amazing. I love her already. She’s definitively Party Pokémon material.

-Heracross looks awesome walking behind me.

Pokémon caught: Slowpoke, Oddish, Paras, Heracross,
Pokémon traded: none.
Gym Leader defeated: Bugsy. I beat her.
Fights with Craphat (Rival): Kicked his butt even though Bayleef has a good healing move.
Evolutions: none.
Pokémon in party: Croconaw, Flaaffy, Pidgey, Geodude, Sandshrew, Heracross.
Highest level in party: Croconaw (20).
Lowest level in party: Geodude (3).
Pokédex: 26.
Time played: 9:08.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Star Wars Trilogy Review – part four

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Written by James Kahn

I don’t know why none of the novelizations of the original Star Wars Trilogy are written by the same author. Was someone displeased with the work of the authors? Whatever the reason, I would have like it if Glut has also written the third novel. James Kahn’s style is not unlike the style of Alan Dean Foster which is unfortunate. Kahn writes clunky descriptions in his adaptation of Episode VI. His descriptions feel forced and unnecessary.

Throughout the book Kahn annoyingly spells out sounds such as Chewbacca’s growling, Artoo’s beeps and whistles and other alien languages. Normally, I don’t think such a technique would work well but in this particular case it’s absolutely disastrous. Chewie’s growling and Artoo’s electronic speech patterns have, by this third chapter in the Star Wars sage, become iconic sounds. Everybody is able to recognize those sounds and many other sounds from the Star Wars universe (the hiss and hum of the lightsaber is another example). In the novel Kahn gives us such gems as “Roo roowfl” and “Ararh gragh” to quote while dressed up as Chewbacca next Halloween. It’s ludicrous.

Luckily for Khan, Return of the Jedi, more than the other parts of the trilogy, strengthens the relationship between evil and technology and good and biology. This is also present in the other parts but more so in Episode VI. For examples in Episodes IV and V you need only consider the stormtroopers. They are nearly identical in their white battle armour with their rigid, inexpressive faces and their electronic voices. Compare them to the Rebels who wear more supple armour, often have their faces displayed and also count various aliens in their group. They’re individuals, all unique, forming a group as opposed to identical pieces fighting at the command of a few individuals.

These elements are also present in Luke and Vader’s respective struggle with the Dark Side of the Force. Vader gave in to the Dark Side, a more powerful side of the Force but more volatile, and it took not only most of this body but also his family and his greatest friend. The Dark Side comes at a price. The Dark Side doesn’t want an ally, it wants a disciple and it likes them as obedient as a machine. Vader reflects this in his appearance. He looks more like a humanoid robot than he does a real man. After Luke flirted with the Dark Side in Episode V, he lost his arm and it was replaced with a cold mechanical hand. Although he ultimately rejects the Dark Side, he will forever bare the reminder of his dark temptation.

Return of the Jedi also demonstrates this theme in its climatic Battle of Endor where the Eworks and their rudimentary weaponry help the Rebels fight off and defeat the Empire’s highly advanced TIE fighters, Star Destroyers and destroy the second Death Star.

It’s unfortunate that the writing was bland, uninteresting and at times simply odd. At times it was difficult to read, not because of the story which is very good but because of the quality of writing. I a similar problem with A New Hope but it bugged me more this time around.

Now that I’m done reading the Star Wars Trilogy, my introduction to the Expanded Universe novels, I’ll continue to explore a few other novels and write about them. I just finished a book that takes place during the time between Episodes IV and V and I will be posting my thoughts shortly.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Star Wars Trilogy Review – part three

"Search your feelings," Vader said, sounding like an evil version of Yoda, " you know it to be true."

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Written by Donald F. Glut

I had a thought while watching A New Hope right after finishing the novelization: the dialogue matters much more in the book than it does in the movie. There were parts in the dialogue I noticed much more clearly while rewatching the movie. It never mattered before but since I read it I heard it more clearly. Without the visuals the words take on more importance. I haven’t rewatched Episode V yet but I had the opposite happen. There was dialogue from that movie that I remembered and recognized while reading the novelization. It is so strange.

The novelization of The Empire Strikes Back is written by Donald F. Glut. He’s a better writer than Alan Dean Foster. One of the reason I say this is that Glut doesn’t have the awkward descriptions in his book that Foster had. He also doesn’t have strange, out of place references to Earth. On the subject of descriptions, both authors stay clear of visual descriptions for the most part. Glut barely describes the machinery the Rebels and the Empire use. At best, the descriptions are very vague with the exception of the AT-ATs, which he describes surprisingly well. The way he sets up the AT-AT’s attack on the Rebel base on Hoth is rather good. He’s the excerpt:

“No one on Hoth heard the sound. At first, it was simply too distant to carry above the whining winds. Besides, the Rebel troopers, fighting the cold as they prepared for battle, were too busy to really listen.
In the snow trenches, Rebel officers screamed out their orders to make themselves heard above the gale-force winds. Troopers hurried to carry out their commands, running through the snow with heavy bazookalike weapons on their shoulders, lodging those death rays along the icy rims of the trenches.
The Rebel power generators near the gun towers began popping, buzzing, and crackling with deafening bursts of electrical power – enough to supply the vast underground complex. But above all this activity and noise a strange sound could be heard, an ominous thumping that was coming nearer and was beginning to shake the frozen ground. When it was close enough to attract the attention of an officer, he strained to see through the storm, looking for the source of the heavy, rhythmic pounding. Other men looked up from their work and saw what looked like a number of moving specks. Through the blizzard, the small dots seemed to be advancing at a slow yet steady pace, churning up clouds of snow as they moved toward the Rebel base.
The officer raised his electrobinoculars and focused on the approaching objects. There must have been a dozen of them resolutely advancing through the snow, looking like creatures out of some uncharted past. But they were machines, each of them stalking like enormous ungulates on four jointed legs.
With a shock of recognition, the officer identified the Empire’s All Terrain Armored Transports. Each machine was formidably armed with cannons placed on its foreside like the horns of some prehistoric beast. Moving like mechanized pachyderms, the walkers emitted deadly fire from their turnstile guns and cannons.”

There are a few other descriptions that are worthy of being noted. For some reason, Glut doesn’t refer to the Jedi’s weapon as a lightsaber for most of the book. Instead, he calls it a laser sword. The first time he uses the word lightsaber is during Luke’s confrontation with Darth Vader: “Lightsabers clashed in Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader’s battle on the platform above the carbon-freezing chamber.” Of course, after that first use, he doesn’t stop for the rest of the book. The other description has to do with the colour of Darth Vader’s lightsaber in Luke’s vision in the cave on Dagobah. It’s blue. Why is it blue? No clue! But for a short while there is some blue on blue lightsaber action between Luke and his vision of Vader and it’s pretty cool.

I have to talk about Yoda. He talks differently than he does in the movie. He still talks in an odd way and some of the dialogue is word per word but overall it’s different to what I’m used to hearing. Glut is surprisingly descriptive of Yoda’s appearance. It’s odd that many, many other people, creatures and objects are so vaguely described if at all but two elements; two key elements of The Empire Strikes Back which are very well described. Glut describes Yoda from top to bottom. Even his tattered clothes get a mention. The main difference in his appearance in his skin is blue in the book. Blue! Yoda is blue!! I can’t get over it. He would look so ridiculous. I’ll be forever relieved that he ended up being green.

Glut does a good job showing Yoda’s unique combination of senility and profound wisdom. Credit is also due to the scriptwriter for the movie because a lot of these elements are first conveyed in Yoda’s dialogue. Glut strengthens this with Luke’s inner monologue where he directly comments on the contrast in his old teacher.
The most interesting story element of this book is Luke’s quest to learn the mysteries of the Force. It’s fascinating. It’s one of the strongest elements of the trilogy. It’s easy to see in this story why the Dark Side is so attractive to him. He has to become a powerful Jedi in order to fight Darth Vader and protect his friends. He has a lot of responsibilities due to his increasingly large involvement in the Alliance and the only way he can face them is by becoming a powerful user of the Force. The Dark Side is seductive because it enables you to learn to use a lot more power much more quickly. The Dark Side is about taking action of nigh-uncontrollable power. Yoda’s plea to be patient and to make sure he learns the proper way to control his feelings and use the Force is a difficult thing for Luke to accept. Luke needs to be strong as soon as possible. He’s struggling the entire time he’s on Dagobah because he can’t help but think he could be more helpful to his friends if he wasn’t taking so long with his training with Yoda. It’s tragic that he should be so focus on quickening his training while being distracted from his training with that very thought. He’s his own worst enemy at this point in his training.

Darth Vader is also very interesting in The Empire Strikes Back. What’s going on in his head when he goads Luke to kill him? Is he taunting the novice Jedi or is he pleading to be put out of his servitude to the Emperor? Perhaps it’s a combination of both? He could also be taunting him in the hopes that Luke will complete his Jedi training under him and rule the Galaxy by his side. You have to ask yourself, is Vader proud of his son? He’s accomplished so much in so little time. Has Vader’s final conflict with Obi Wan Kenobi make him feel guilty for being absent from his child’s life? Add an element of boredom since he’s reached a point in his life where he has no true enemies worthy of his power and skill. What is driving him to goad Luke and then to choose to spare him at the last moment? He’s still stronger than his son at this point; Luke survived his time at Cloud City only because Vader let him go.

The Book ends with Luke realizing that his decision to cut his training short has cost him a hand, a friend and the discovery of a dark secret which will only serve to make his task ahead more difficult. He wisely chooses to complete his training with Yoda before facing Darth Vader another time. His hand will serve as a constant reminder of this decision.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Saga of the Swamp Thing Book Two review

I like this volume even more than the first. It is one of the few truly revolutionary comics (Julian Darius demonstrated as such in a very interesting three part article in which he attempts, and succeeds, in understanding the bad blood between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. It is an excellent article and you should check in out on Sequart).  It is with the issues collected in Book Two that Moore goes from telling an excellent story to dishing out a masterpiece in monthly installments.

In Book One he tied up all the loose ends from the previous creative team’s time on Swamp Thing. Some people will tell you that all the loose ends where tied up in the first Moore issues titled “Loose Ends” but I think it took longer. The first eight issues felt like a superhero comic which isn’t the case with the second volume. In the first volume there are two pretty clearly defined storylines and in each one there is a pretty clear villain and a pretty clear hero. The first story concentrated on the Floronic Man and the second was about the Monkey King and Etrigan the Demon. They were two very good well done monster brawl comics but even so, the conflict is essentially two or more monster duking it out. There aren’t any monster brawls in volume two. There is still a villain though. Swamp Thing has a big confrontation with Anton Arcane, the Swamp Thing villain but it’s not a fist fight or even a dark magic death and decay vs. plant elemental fight which would be a reasonable thing for a comic to be about. Instead, Moore chooses to evolve Swamp Thing into a different kind of comic and these are the issues it happens in.

Swamp Thing is different than many other comics written by Moore because even though this is primarily a horror comic Swamp Thing has heart, it has real emotion. Some of Moore’s comics can feel like soulless machines designed to entertain. They feel constructed.

Moore and his collaborators are also developing Swamp Thing’s new identity as well as his supporting cast, specifically Abigail Cable. The first eight issues were all about taking care of the left overs plot threads and laying the groundwork for the stories to come. By volume two it’s already paying off. That’s one of the great things about open ended serialized storytelling. Good writers are able to simultaneously tell and epilogue of sorts from a previous story, tell a story and set up another story yet to come. When done well it builds an incredible momentum that’s even more apparent when read in quick succession or in collected form. It allows you to be able to tell stories that require a lot of preparation without it feeling like set up because you can have other shorter stories being told in the same issue. It’s great. Bill Willingham has been pretty good at doing this with Fables. It got to the point with that series that it didn’t feel like there were storylines anymore it was all one giant comic where multiple storylines took place all at the same time. It’s something you find all too rarely in comics I find but it’s one of the medium’s strength. I would like to see more ongoing comic series where it’s a rolling ball effect of plot and subplots and character development.

When I did the post for the first volume I mentioned how Bissette and Totleben made Swamp Thing look like a walking humanoid plant that didn’t necessarily have a clean cut layer of skin with roots sitting on the top such as was the case for Dan Day’s, and many others’, Swamp Thing. I was wondering if this was a plot point or simply Bissette and Totleben’s way of drawing Swamp Thing. It seems, if this volume can stand as proof, that it was more of an artistic choice. Shawn McManus draws Swamp Thing like a rubbery looking plant man with thick skin and roots sitting on the top while Bissette and inkers Totleben and Alfredo Alcala draw him like they did in volume one. In their hands Swamp Thing looks fuzzy with moss, he doesn’t seem to have skin as much as composed of plants and sticks and roots and other various vegetable bits. He looks like a Swamp Thing and not man wearing a green skin tight suit with roots sewn on his chest and shoulders. It’s strange when artist draws defined abdominal muscles on Swamp Thing. It doesn’t look right.

Bissette and Totleben are also very good at making the swamps look and feel like swamps. There are other animals and insects, several different types of vegetation; it’s very pleasing to the eyes. It gives everything a nice sense of realism but mostly it makes the swamp feel as though it’s habited. There are other things in the swamp other than Swamp Thing much like there is more to Swamp Thing than green skin.

I’m really looking forward to the next volume but I know I’ll be a bit disaponited. It’s the beginning of the year long American Gothic story arc which have some of Moore’s worst Swamp Thing issues.

PokéJournal: Update 004

-Bird Keeper: "That's a gym badge! You came from Violet City? You beat Falkner?" No dude, I stole it. Yeah, I beat Falkner! Send out your weak ass bird Pokémon!!

-For those who are wondering, no, I did not buy the slowpoke tail.

-Yes! I have an Old Rod! Careful Magikarp, I am going to catch so many of you!

-Right next to the guy who gave you an Old Rod, here is another guy who gives you two Lure Balls... Not kidding. Guys, I now have an Old Rod and two Lure Balls. I’m not making this up!

-I enter Union Cave! Man, this is going to be a great place to level up my water type Totodile!

-Caught a Sandshrew! I love these guys. Yup, I'm gonna keep this dusty little bastard in my party.

-Im a little sad the wild Geodude are stronger than mine. Oh well, that's what happens when you don't train.

-Totodile evolved. Croconaw looks like a it's wearing a caveman toga thing.

-I just battled a PokéManiac. Man, he's dressed in green lizard costume and it reminds me of the chapter in Warren Ellis's Crooked Little Vein where the main character encounters a movie theatre full of giant lizard fetishist watching Godzilla and various other giant monster movies edited down to a quasi-sexual film. Keep away PokéManiac! Don't look at my Croconaw that way!

-Where you able to exchange phone numbers in the original Gold and Silver? I really like that feature. Fighting other trainers is more rewarding than fighting wild Pokémon and it’s nice that this allows you to fight some trainers more than once.

-I like that Magikarp is a useless Pokémon but it later evolves into a pretty useful one. Isn't Gyarados one of the easier dragon type Pokémon to acquire in Generations I and II?

-Oh ho! Team Rocket! I'm gonna whoop you! I generally don't care too much for the Team Rocket storyline at all but I appreciate that it gives you time to fight, make some money and level up your party.

-Oh no, all the Slowpoke are gone from Azalea Town. It seems someone (Team Rocket) has stolen them and is selling their tails. Good thing I didn't buy one!

-Girl in Old Man Kurt's house: "Grampa is gone, I’m lonely..." Um, are you hitting on me? Pidgey, attack!!

-Off to fight Team Rocket in Slowpoke's Well.

-Next time: I fight and beat Team Rocket (what? Their PokéFu is weak!) and I might get my second gym badge.

Pokémon caught: Sandshrew, Magikarp
Pokémon traded: None.
Gym Leader defeated: None.
Fights with Craphat (Rival): None.
Evolutions: Totodile evolved into Croconaw
Pokémon in party: Croconaw, Flaaffy, Pidgey, Sandshrew, and Geodude.
Highest level in party: Coconaw at 20.
Lowest level in party: Geodude at 3.
Pokédex: 22.
Time played: Forgot to look. 

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

PokéJournal: Update 003

This is what Bart Simpson looked like when he was born.
-I caught my first Unown. I think it's the letter O? Who cares. It's only good for the Pokédex. 

-One more puzzle solved. Ooo, a room full of items! Four in total! Two berries and two medicine items. It's weird that berries still exist but there are no berry trees in Johto. Is there a berry smuggling black market in the Pokémon games?

-I’m in a room with Unown markings on the ground. I'm pretty sure it says "Our clan engraved words in this place." Also, the Unown I caught is a letter C not a letter O.

-The egg is hatching!!! Oh my god, what will it beeeeee? Oh, right, Togepi. So cute. Too bad it's pretty useless in its first form.

-Aw man, Professor Elm called me. I have to go all the way back to my home town. I better get an item for this trip. I'm going to wear down my running shoes!

-I just discovered you can talk to the Pokémon that follows you around. Pidgey is "fighting off sleep."

-Yup, Elm gave me an Everstone. 

-Oh crap, I just remembered my mom mailed me an item, I've got to go pick it up at the mart. Maybe she'll give it to me if I go see her at home. I'm already in town after all.

-Nope, no item but she's talking to me about money. She's like a bank. Withdraw, deposit, low interest loans, etc. that's kind of weird but also kind of cool. I deposited money. I hope she doesn't buy any more stupid items for me.

-I pick up my package at the Pokemart. It's a super potion. Wow, thanks mom, couldn't have bought that myself. It's not like I went to the mart to pick up my package or anything. You know, that place where they sell super potions.

-Man, Johto has a mice problem. Rattatas are everywhere! You would think the Pidgeys would control the population by eating them but nope, not the case.

-Aha, fishermen up ahead. Time to put Mareep as party leader so I can kick some fish tail with ThunderShock! Mwahahahahahahaha!

-Mareep is evolving!! Hello Flaaffy My... you are super pink...

-Man, the Flaaffy that follows you is huge! It's almost as big as the hero's character. It's kind of cute walking on its back legs. Not as cute as Mareep though. You will be missed my friend, we barely spent any time together. I am PokéSad.

-Flaaffy vs. Magikarp: who will be victorious?!?

-It was Flaaffy. No suspense here. 

Front view.
-From the back, Flaaffy has the same hairdo as Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon. No wonder it's such a strong Pokémon!
Back view.
-Ooo, some guy is trying to sell me a Slowpoke Tail for just 1,000,000! To buy or not to buy? I'll have to save my money and think about it.

-Next time: will I buy that Slowpoke Tail? I bet it's tasty!

Pokémon caught: Unown (letter C)
Pokémon traded: None.
Gym Leader defeated: None.
Fights with Craphat (Rival): None.
Evolutions: Egg to Togepi and Mareep to Flaaffy.
Pokémon in party: Totodile, Flaaffy, Pidgey and Geodude.
Highest level in party: Totodile: 16.
Lowest level in party: Geodude: 3.
Pokédex: 19
Time played:  6:06.