h1

The Higher They Fly, the Harder They Fall

March 20th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Yesterday, my badminton partner Chris Sims wrote a piece on the weekly comic tie-in Injustice: Gods Among Us, based on the upcoming game by Netherrealm Studios. For the most part, he and I disagree on it. I think it’s a fun series while he considers it one of the frontrunners for worst comic of 2013. The one thing we do agree on is the dire first three issues, though he certainly minds it a lot more.

The series tells the story of how Superman comes to take over the world in the name of the greater good, ultimately leading to a DC version of Civil War. Through the first three issues, we see the Joker devise a situation where after he shoots Jimmy Olsen in the head, he kidnaps Lois Lane and tricks Superman into killing her. He does this by dosing Superman with Scarecrow fear gas laced with kryptonite so that Superman thinks Lois is Doomsday and shoves her into orbit. And it turns out Lois is pregnant too. Then Joker blows up Metropolis. When in custody, Joker’s questioned by Batman and they argue over Superman’s integrity until the Man of Steel busts in and angrily puts his fist through Joker’s chest.

The whole “fridging of Lois” thing is what made me aware that the comic even existed, but I didn’t care to read it until seeing some panels from the fourth issue, where Green Arrow keeps Harley Quinn in custody himself so that Superman doesn’t execute her as well. Even Sims admits that that’s a well-written bit and has some positive things to say about the issues that follow. And yes, while I claim the series is worth checking out, I mainly mean AFTER the Joker plot.

That said, the discussion on the matter made me realize a state of comics that nobody really touches on. As unfun as Superman being tricked into killing his wife and unborn child is, I’m not all that offended by it because “fridging” or not, it’s a step that the writer kind of had to make based on years upon years of righteousness. It’s a fucked up thing, but it’s the double-edged sword that comes from the purity of comic book heroes. It definitely could have been pulled off better in this story, but it’s a necessary trope.

It makes me think about something Grant Morrison’s talked about during his Batman run. Over the decades, the way the Joker has been written has evolved into something nasty, both in the character’s context and in the writing context. He went from being a goofball obsessed with “boner crimes” to a man who’s killed more people than polio. He went from flying around in a clown-faced helicopter to cutting his face off and having it reattached like a Halloween mask. The explanation is that by figuring out the Joker and his crimes, Batman puts a cage over him. Joker has to think bigger and more twisted to escape the cage and Batman puts a bigger cage around that. It escalates and the next thing you know, Joker’s chopping his face up.

Every now and then, a writer will play with a superhero’s refusal to kill and see where that goes. Sometimes it leads to a hero deciding at the last second, “No, I can’t do that.” Sometimes they’ll be totally ready to do it until getting interrupted and realize later that it’s probably for the better. Then there are times when they really go through with it. Whether it’s a good story or a bad story, I don’t envy the writer who has to set up that plot development because you’re forced to go over the line.

When I think of superheroes who strictly don’t kill, the four who pop into my head are Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and Daredevil. Each and every one of them has had at least one story that shows just what it would take to make them kill. Most of the time it’s a non-canon story that can get away with it easily (ie. Injustice) while other times it’s a canon story meant to be part of the bigger picture of the serial storytelling.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

h1

UDON’s Super Street Fighter: New Generation Fights Like Gentlemen

February 17th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

That title isn’t even grammatically– you know what? Forget it.

The Street Fighter franchise has always given us interesting comics to work with. When the second game hit the scene and became an early-90′s phenomenon, we got both a terrible series in America that got canceled by the third issue and a manga that made enough sense out of the few existing story beats and created something entertaining. Various manga would appear throughout the years, becoming so beloved by Capcom that they’d introduce characters and concepts as being canon in the games, such as Sagat’s adopted children and Sakura’s rival Karin.

Starting in 2003, UDON – known mainly for that badass redesign of the Taskmaster back in the day that nearly every artist has chosen to foolishly ignore – began a Street Fighter series. While the constantly-changing and cropping titles makes it a headache at times to keep track of, it’s a fun narrative that tries to streamline the many characters and happenings in the game’s universe. Mainly written by Ken Siu-Chong, the comics have told the stories of Street Fighter, the Street Fighter Alpha games and Street Fighter II while doing side stories to build on the cast of Street Fighter III and Street Fighter IV. All that and miniseries based on Chun-Li, Sakura and Ibuki. Sadly, Adon is yet to get his own series.

The end of the Street Fighter II: Turbo series doesn’t quite stick the landing due to the reveal in Street Fighter IV that Gouken – Ryu and Ken’s master – isn’t so dead after all. Incorporating him into the final issue is not unlike having Thomas Wayne show up to punch out the Joker in the climax of a lengthy Batman story. Once that was done, UDON stayed silent for a while until announcing that their Street Fighter comics would no longer be monthlies, but released in graphic novel format. The first of which is Super Street Fighter: New Generation.

More than the format, what really makes this new story different for Siu-Chong is the pre-existing definition. Capcom has defined much of the events of the earlier Street Fighter games and what became of who, so the previous comics were Siu-Chong connecting the dots with his own little touch. New Generation is based on the Street Fighter III games (which storywise is comprised of Street Fighter III: Second Impact and Street Fighter III: Third Strike), which lack all that narrative detail. The games introduced an overwhelmingly new cast with only Ryu and Ken returning, eventually bringing in Akuma and Chun-Li for familiarity. Capcom never went out and came up with too many canon descriptions of what went on in the storyline.

The book tells its own version of the events of Street Fighter III, but with the inclusions of characters from previous games. Heck, Guile is our main character and he wasn’t even in any version of Street Fighter III. It’s neat to see explanations of what became of certain people from the pre-III games. For instance, after Bison’s death and Sagat’s refusal to have anything to do with the criminal enterprise, Shadaloo’s resources were divvied up by Balrog and Vega, who each went legit. Sakura graduated high school and became Ryu’s student, all while wearing an even more gratuitously fanservicey outfit (she’s now Ryu without pants). Zangief, Mike Haggar and Rainbow Mika became members of the Olympic council, making the recent real world situation with wrestling being dropped kind of hilarious in the timing.

The main story deals with the Secret Society, a cult run by the ever-powerful, thong-wearing, two-toned nutjob Gill. Guile – who has spent the last four years at a desk job since the fall of Shadaloo – is investigating the situation, but is alarmed when his inside man has gone missing. Even worse, he finds out of an unfinished list of targets that the cult is after and everyone’s favorite karate Jedi Ryu is on top of the list. Worser than that, Guile’s already too late and he discovers that Ryu’s already been taken. Worse-worsier, he finds this out through Sakura, who’s been driven insane from the experience and demands that Guile stay out of her way. To uncover the mystery, Guile is joined by angry military grappler Alex and another world warrior who I won’t spoil.

That’s not the whole package. Scattered throughout are chapters that tell side-stories. Wrestler Mania with art by Gonzalo Ordonez Arias shows how an argument between E. Honda and Hakan over which wrestling style should be added into the Olympics becomes a full-on fight. Target. Dhalsim. with art from Andres S. Blanco has Twelve attack Dhalsim in the Himalayas while morphing into various characters from the first game. Final Forest Fighter II by Jim Zub and Sean Galloway shows a sparring match between ninjas Guy and Ibuki. There’s also origin stories for Alex (Long Vo on art) and Juri (Zub on words, Omar Dogan on art) with the latter one being especially good. At the very least, it explains why Juri could be so vengeful against Bison/Shadaloo while being a full-on villain with no redeeming values.

Oh, I almost forgot. America’s sweetheart Chris Sims teams up with Edwin Huang to write School in the Summertime, a six-page story where brash, powerhouse boxer Balrog crosses paths with refined fisticuffs gentleman Dudley. It definitely hits its potential and as luck would have it, UDON released the full thing on Facebook. That keeps my conscious clean enough to post them here.



“…gutter trash.”

The hardcover also features a bunch of pages of character art. It retails at $34.95, but you’re better off hitting Amazon or BN.com for a better deal. If you’ve enjoyed the previous comics or have always wanted to read a story about an overly-happy Turkish man who loves oiling himself up more than anyone ever should, it’s worth checking out. Just not at list price.

Now if only UDON would allow me to write an Adon backup. He’s basically just Chris Jericho, but with more kicking. What’s not to love?

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

h1

King of Trios Hangover

September 26th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

If you check this site regularly, you know that a week and a half ago, I went to Easton, Pennsylvania to check out CHIKARA’s 2012 King of Trios. The reason you would know is pretty much the same reason it’s taken me so long to even write about it: I just did an excessive amount of posts about the previous five years of shows. So I kind of needed to take a writing break.

Don’t worry, I’ll be back to talking about comics in a little bit.

I won’t get too in-depth on the trip, but it was easily one of the most fun weekends I’ve ever had. I was joined by my co-worker buddy Colin, his brother Sean and fellow internet writer guy and enthusiast of bat-related people Chris Sims. I had only met Sims once prior at Comic Con back in 2010 and he admittedly doesn’t even remember it. Anyway, after months of pestering him, I convinced him to fly over and check out the show. Everyone got along swimmingly and not a problem was to be had outside of my questionable driving. Sims is a really nice guy who I have a strong respect for, so it was great that he was able to make the trip.

I’m not going to go over the events of the show itself because you should really just check it out yourself. Only 24 hours after the third night, Smart Mark Video released all three shows. They’re available in streaming form for $10 each (Nights 1, 2 and 3), downloadable MP4 form for $12 (1, 2 and 3) and DVD for $15 (1, 2 and 3). While I do the first two options most of the time these days, I went with the DVDs because I felt the need to physically own them. I lucked out because for some reason my DVD cases are cherry-scented.

If you can only get one show, do Night 3. The second half of it is completely amazing stuff with the best comedy match, an incredible joshi match, a very violent singles contest and the finals, which itself is pretty epic. Also, the Tag Gauntlet earlier on introduces the first major CHIKARA appearance by my new favorite tag team, the Devastation Corporation, made up of Blaster McMassive and Max Smashmaster.

Somebody took the big comedy match from Night 3 and turned the highlights into a Vaudevillian silent film. Give it a look.

The Fan Conclave was an absolute blast. Jakob Hammermeier was schooling everybody in Smash Brothers Brawl, wrestlers took pictures with fans in front of a yearbook-style backdrop, Soldier Ant was playing Battleship with some folks and I got selected to take part in CHIKARA’s Not-Jeopardy gameshow. It’s just like Jeopardy with the differences of being hosted by Leonard F. Chikarason, it had the Swamp Monster remove the points squares off the wall and Icarus was there to make fun of you for getting the answer wrong… and often getting the answer right.

I did really well. In fact, I was cheated. You see, right before Final Not-Jeopardy, I was in the lead. I bet all but 100 points on the final question for strategy purposes. The final question was in the form of a sheet of paper asking various number-based questions (ie. how many people unmasked as Vokoder, how many matches has Mixed-Martial Archie won, how many moves is Johnny Saint a master of, how many title defense has Eddie Kingston had, etc.) then adding it all together. Nobody got it right. In fact, I was the closest by being only two points off! But then ol’ Chikarason had to suddenly curveball me with, “the closest without going over”. COME ON! This is Not-Jeopardy, not Not-Price is Right! So I got second place, netting me a $50 voucher for anything at the CHIKARA merch table.

The wrestlers were extremely cool in person. I found out that Chuck Taylor was reading up on the King of Trios Retrospective, which was major. At my B&N, one of my customers is Green Ant’s mother, so I awkwardly told him, “This is going to sound extremely weird and random, but I work at a Barnes and Noble and—” and he interrupted with, “Oh yeah, my mom.” Heh. Scott Parker and Shane Matthews both loved my vintage “Big Shot” Hardcore Holly t-shirt, especially when they saw the “NUT UP OR SHUT UP” text on the back. Matthews laughed and pointed out that he only said that catchphrase for like two weeks. I even briefly got to talk to the Warlord and told him that his match with the British Bulldog at Wrestlemania 7 is my all-time favorite match.

The best interaction was with Mr. Touchdown. I bought his t-shirt at the merch stand during one night’s intermission and he pulled out an 8×10 and a pen.

“Wait, before you go. What’s your name?”

“Gavin.”

“Gavin? Like Gavin Loudspeaker?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay. And how do you spell that?”

“G-A-V-I-N.”

“What was that?”

“G-A-V-I-N.”

He started writing. “G-A-V…?”

“-I-N.”

“All right. Here you go.”

And so, he gave me the signed 8×10. At the top of it? “To: NERD!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon