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Scott Pilgrim’s Precious LIttle Life…IN COLOR! [BT]
Aug 19th, 2012 by Dan

Scott Pilgrim Cover Comparisons

There’s also quite the size difference in the reprint.

The best comic book news (so far) this year is, without a doubt, the announcement of color reprints of Scott Pilgrim. I’m a huge fan of the original graphic novels and of Bryan Lee O’Malley so I was completely stoked to see what this new version would bring to the table.

"Launchpad McQuack" Comparison

I never noticed how frightening Stephen Stills’ teeth were in the bottom left until I started looking at these photos in detail.

“But Dan,” you might ask, “aren’t you generally opposed to remaking and endless tinkering with media a la George Lucas?”

"Launchpad McQuack"

I think it’s clearer that the souls of Sex Bomb-Omb aren’t leaving their bodies in color. It’s just music, you guys. Rock and roll music.

You know, random internet question asker, you’re not completely wrong. I don’t really care for all the editorial changes in Star Wars, but, here’s the thing, you don’t have to make ironclad rules for everything in life. Some things can still be awesome even if you didn’t like another similar thing…

…And boy howdy is the color reprint of Scott Pilgrim amazing. In fact, I’d say it’s the preferred way to read at least Vol 1.

ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!

Second best line in the entire series.

WE ARE SEX BOB-OMB!

Wallace looks weird in the bottom left there.

Story and dialogue-wise, there are no changes (that I noticed), but you do sometimes get a little more nuance or expression thanks to the addition of color. For example, I think the panel where Stacey is yelling at Wallace for stealing her boyfriend looks more angry in B&W, but more exasperated and/or embarrassed in color thanks to how pink Stacey’s face gets.

Angry Stacey

She just looks way angrier this way!

Expressions

Love the little colored hearts.

Then there are the other subtle details that my eyes never noticed in B&W. T-shirt designs, Ramona’s star-shaped ring, and even story things like the way that Knives’ clothes look like a palette swap of Kim’s as she gets more “scene”. Not to mention changing Julie so that she wears glasses in Vol. 1 as she does in later volumes.

The Old Julie

In the monochrome dimension Julie’s eyesight was still good.

Ch-Ch-Changes

Maybe the shift to color just overwhelmed her rods and cones.

I’m sure that some of the detail noticing simply comes from this being my fifth (or so) reading of Scott Pilgrim, but I do genuinely believe that these little things pop a lot more thanks to the contrast.

Then there are the things that are just executed better in color. My favorite example of this is the dream sequence where Scott’s playing a show while Ramona wanders by. In the monochrome edition the visual language of all of Scott’s dreams are conveyed by layering the white panels over an all-black page. Additionally, in this particular dream, O’Malley adds in these hazily defined lights and some looser pencil work that I think contrasts with his tighter lines (could be imagining this). In color he can still use the same motifs, but now he can also add a washed out, hazy look to his color selection. This page stands out more from the rest of the book as a dream in my eyes.

Dream Sequence

Who is that woman singing? Why does it look like Knives is on sax?

Colorful Dream

Those mysteries are NOT answered by the color edition.

The last change to the book is the addition of even more behind the scenes information. I didn’t snap any shots of those since they are bonus exclusives to the book, but we’re talking concept art, reference photos, and commentary by O’Malley about the creation of the book. My favorite inclusion was the original pitch that O’Malley used for the book. It was neat to see what elements were dropped over the years and which ones he retained as more volumes came out. Very cool stuff.

My only gripe with this book has to do with credit. I get that it would be very unconventional to list a colorist’s name on the cover of a book, I suppose. Usually top billing goes to writers and pencilers/inkers, but when the major difference between the volumes is the inclusion of color…well I just feel bad that poor Nathan Fairbairn (who did fantastic work on this volume) gets credit only on the info page and the author splash in the back. I mean, at the very least couldn’t you just namedrop him in the summary printed on the back cover? “Now with colors by Nathan Fairbairn!” It’s a nitpick, but I just feel like he did great work and he’s not getting enough publicity for it.

That aside, guys, this book is awesome. I don’t care if you already have the B&W version of this volume, you should go and buy this. Now. Hurry.

K.O.

Uncharted 2 Review [Sony]
Jan 5th, 2010 by Dan

In my office there hangs a picture of Marilyn Monroe, a woman synonymous with beauty and sex appeal, but when you get closer to that picture the outline of Albert Einstein replaces the blonde bombshell. Uncharted 2 is a exactly like that.

It’s hilarious to me that in a world where I want people to stop comparing video games to movies, I find myself so enthralled by what is actually the best action movie of last year. I’m pretty sure that I said that about the first game too, but that’s how consistently the folks at Naughty Dog deliver top-notch, high-quality games. Nathan Drake is the Indiana Jones of the modern age, especially after George Lucas betrayed us all with that abomination of a movie in 2008. I’d even go so far as to say that the success of the series almost exclusively lies with the dude himself.

In the world of male power fantasies, I’d say there are a few ways to go. Muscle-bound ‘roid freaks who have big guns and kill everyone while being super macho men, suave ladies men who can get any girl they want, and the kind of skinny, smart-mouthed, clever scoundrel type (there are also combinations of these three for those who like to double dip their archetypes). Nathan Drake is the scoundrel type who gets to adventure in exotic locales in a partially tucked in t-shirt and jeans with a gun. As a guy who doesn’t own a gun or really go adventuring in exotic locales, but who does wear jeans frequently and plenty of t-shirts, how could I not want to be just like Nathan Drake?

Now that you’ve got this lovable scoundrel adventurer crafted, the next step is to have him hunt for a famous treasure, but put a spin on it somehow. The first game has Nathan hunting for El Dorado, but I won’t spoil what the spin is. This game has him searching for the Cintamani stone, a lesser known mythical object of wealth, but a valid one nonetheless.

Just like that, we’ve got two parts of every Indiana Jones movie already figured out. The next step is pretty obvious, you need a love interest for the hero. She can be either loyal, innocent, and a bit snobby or she can be sexy, dangerous, and possibly traitorous. We had Elena in the first as the first archetype and now we’ve got Chloe for the second. Perfect, we’re almost there.

The final touch for any Indy movie is a bad guy, preferably of foreign origin so that the Yanks can feel like they’ve triumphed against the world. Drake’s Fortune featured Gabriel Roman, an older British man, and his sidekick Atoq Navarro of unknown Hispanic origin. For U2, we get Eastern European warlord Zoran Lažarević. Just like that our pulp movie plot is complete.

It seems so simple when you put it that way that it really gives me pause. This is more than the plot to the (awesome) Indiana Jones movies, it’s also a fairly common plot that I find myself bored with 98% of the time, so why do I love it so much? What is so crunchy about the way this game is structured that I find myself unable to put the controller down when I’d normally just turn off the tv?

I give a tremendous amount of credit to Amy Hennig, who I know has creative authority over all of Naughty Dog’s products. It’s got to be her touch that gives Uncharted its extra little bit of awesome, because it’s an otherwise standard game. Plenty of folks complain about the shooting mechanic being imprecise not to mention the ease with which most puzzles can be completed. In fact, if you’re ever just a wee bit stuck on a puzzle, all you’ve got to do is look in Nathan’s notebook and the solution is right there. The only natural conclusion is that the strength of the game must come from the way that Hennig and the folks at Naughty Dog put together all these mechanics combined with the look of the game and the behavior of its characters.

A great example of how all of the game elements combine to create something great (and how Naughty Dog is a superior developer) has to do with the set pieces throughout Uncharted 2. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a set piece takes all of the elements that you’ve been used to dealing with throughout the game and throws them at you in some ridiculously awesome form. For example, both Uncharted games have Drake hiding behind cover on land shooting at enemies. My favorite set piece in Uncharted 2 has Nathan jumping from truck bed to truck bed, shooting enemies and using the truck walls for cover. It’s a fantastic application of the mechanics I’ve already been playing all game long and, best of all, they only use it once during the entire game.

Many developers would be tempted to try and reuse the same set pieces over and over with slight modifications. Since they spent so much time on them, they may as well get use out of them, right? Think of the old arcade and SNES classic, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. They had these bonus stages where the turtles were on hoverboard-type things that they created to break up the typical sidescrolling stages. Not content to just let this happen once, they reuse the stage twice in the game, dulling the impact of how cool it was. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have something like Miyamoto’s hyper conservative use of Kuribo’s Shoe. It appears in only one level and plenty of players can just skip it with a whistle.

I applaud Uncharted 2 for taking these huge moments, the train fight, the truck part, the part where you’re escorting the cameraman, and do them only once. Then again, maybe I’m giving them too much credit, since the same background motion tech in the first two scenes I mentioned were probably first developed in the first game (that jeep escape scene comes to mind) and helicopter fights do make repeated appearances in many places, but still, it does seem like the big moments are unique.

Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, the game is not perfect. The game may not repeat set pieces over and over again, but the firefights can start to wear on a player by the 50th time he has to do the same thing. They do a better job of pacing the cutscene, shoot, explore, shoot, cutscene, lather, rinse, repeat structure that persists in this game, but it’s still not quite perfect. There are plenty of times where I’ve just thought, “Boy, I’d much rather just keep exploring around instead of shooting fifteen guys again.”

Speaking of the shooting mechanics, Naughty Dog clearly heard everyone complain about men in t-shirts taking so many bullets to take down, so they completely adjusted the bullet counts to take down enemies. Most lightly armored enemies mercifully take only two or three bullets while the seriously armored Gatling dudes (and those stupid blue guys at the end) take clips upon clips. Aiming is also a little easier and the weapon variety is way better.

Uncharted 2 is unbelievably beautiful and, more importantly, completely brilliant at exactly the same time. There was not a better put together gaming experience all last year. It’s a must play.

Filmmakers Bleed: Indy 4
May 29th, 2008 by Dan

Let’s start with three words: what the heck? Hopefully you can guess where this review is heading, so if you’re concerned about spoilers, just skip to the part after the spoiler tags where I tell you to save your money unless you absolutely love Indiana Jones or you thought that Temple of Doom was the pinnacle of the series. Everyone else is better off just waiting for the rental.

SPOILERS

So Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (henceforth known as IJATKOFCS) starts innocently enough. It’s the 1950s, the world’s a different place, it’s the ATOMIC AGE! We’ve advanced so far in the world that we even need to use CG prairie dogs! A military convoy shows up at a secret base in Nevada or New Mexico (who cares?) and then the first sign that this movie is headed in a bad direction becomes apparent. The military guys who are secretly bad guys break into the secret base and turn out to be NAZ–COMMIES? Are you serious? They’re Russian Communists…COMMUNISTS! Do you know who Indiana Jones fights, no matter what year it is? NAZIS! I’m immediately disappointed that the bad guys are not Nazis, but at this point I’m still willing to see where this can possibly go. Lucky for me, it goes precisely where I don’t want it to go, no matter how much I’m desperately pleading with the screen to not do it: aliens.

So in the first 15 minutes I already think this movie is shit. I mean, Russians and aliens? The Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, heck, even the goddamn Temple of Doom, while metaphysical, are definitely not sci-fi. Perhaps I’m being too picky, but Indiana Jones is not a sci-fi series at all and taking it in this direction is just a bad move. If this isn’t absolute evidence that someone needs to take any and all writing implements away from George Lucas, give him a severe knuckle-rapping, and forbid him from ever writing another word, I don’t know what is.

The plot plods along, introducing Shia LaBeouf, who everyone already knows is Indy’s son, but has to wait for the movie to introduce this fact, who does a barely passing job in a poorly written film (perhaps not his fault, plenty of more talented actors have faltered under George Lucas’ terrible writing. I’m not talking about Hayden. He’s just awful). The group ends up in South America, finds out clues, goes on the run, swings on vines (SO STUPID), and finally gets to this forbidden city. The alien skull is returned, the Russians all die, Indy escapes and gets married, happy ending.

/SPOILERS

The plot to this movie is just asinine and stupid, the acting is only passable most of the time, CG is way overused, and the whole thing just comes off as silly instead of cool or fun to watch. Seriously, like I said before, save your money and rent this one or you’ll want it back. To be fair, I know plenty of people who are huge Indy fans or who are immune to terrible movies who were able to enjoy this movie, but in general I’d recommend avoiding paying more than $5 or $6 to see this.

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