Thursday, July 27, 2017

Skeletor and He-Man Lego-style minifigures are here!

I came across these LEGO-style minifigs a couple of weeks ago, and naturally, I had to order a set! There are a few issues with them-- He-Man's sword bears little resemblance to the Sword of Grayskull, and Skeletor's hood is far too light a shade of purple, for instance-- but they're still very cool! The quality of the figures is very good; in fact, they're nearly indistinguishable from legit LEGO minifigs! The quality of LEGO-compatible stuff from other manufacturers can vary wildly, so I'm glad that these two are on the higher end.

Regular Rant readers may remember the Throne of Bone I made for my cobbled-together Skeletor minifig a couple of years ago. With a couple of parts swapped out, this new Skeletor minifig looks quite awesome atop the throne! All in all, I'm very pleased with this pair of figures, especially for the dirt cheap price. The only problem is that I now want minifigs of more MOTU characters even more than I did before! Alas, we all have our burdens to bear. That's it for today, but keep scrolling down for a few variations of the throne photo, and be sure to creep on back next Tuesday for the next MOTU Classics review!



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Point Dread & Talon Fighter playset with Teela figure

When the adult collector-aimed Masters of the Universe Classics line debuted at the end of 2008, while everyone hoped for the best, I think most of us expected that, realistically, we might get a few dozen figures. I know that I was just crossing my fingers that we'd get the core heroic and evil warriors groups completed, since Mattel's bungling saw that the 2002 MOTU line couldn't even manage that. I don't think anyone was honestly expecting that we'd get so much as a Battle Cat, much less any full-on playsets. And yet, today we're looking at one of the largest vehicles produced for a toyline in this scale, along with the second playset in the MOTUC line! Sometimes I really am astonished at how much the MOTUC team was able to get produced.

As a playset & vehicle combo, the Point Dread & Talon Fighter set is a big-ticket item. Unfortunately for Mattel, but thankfully for me, they wound up with a lot of unsold stock, and I was able to grab one on the cheap. It's a good thing, as even though the Talon Fighter was possibly my favorite vehicle in the vintage MOTU line-- it was always neck-and-neck with the Battle Ram for that title-- I don't know that I ever would have been able to justify spending the cash to grab it for the retail price. that's important to keep in mind, since the execution would have to be extremely poor for me to be disappointed with it at the price I paid for it.

That said, Mattel's spotty quality control reared its ugly head the moment I opened the box. The instructions, sticker sheet, and radar dish were all missing. A replacement is on the way, but since it didn't arrive in time for this review, that dish will be missing in all the photos. I'll also note that the set is so large that my normal photo setup couldn't work for anything other than the pair of photos showing the Teela figure, so I had to photograph it in my bedroom using the flash. The quality of those photos is affected accordingly. My vintage Talon Fighter is in storage, so I couldn't take a comparison photo. With all that out of the way, on to the meat of the review!

The first thing you'll notice upon seeing this set in person is its size. It's huge. The box itself is quite large, and features some great art from vintage MOTU packaging artist Rudy Obrero, but it belies the size of the assembled product. The Talon Fighter is about eighteen inches long, and about as wide. Perched atop Point Dread, it's about eighteen inches tall. It's one thing to read those measurements and see the scale in photos, but until you actually have it in your hands, it's really impossible to know just how gigantic this thing really is. The Talon fighter's cockpit is large enough for up to three figures to sit inside it, though you'll need two females in the back to achieve that. Point Dread itself is tall enough to allow a figure to stand inside in front of the control console, but adding anymore figures requires some creative positioning. This is due to some extra plastic added to the open side of it, which is necessary to support the massive Talon Fighter. there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over this, but given the choice between posing multiple figures in the back of the playset and having it sag under the weight of the Talon Fighter, I think Mattel's designers made the right call. (If anything, they made a mistake in showing it to us with the open back before the design was finalized.)

Point Dread has an interesting history. Very early in MOTU's existence, before Snake Mountain was created, it was considered the headquarters of Skeletor, but this was abandoned early on. The Point Dread of the early minicomics was a powerful battle station capable of turning the tide of any battle, and was deemed too powerful to remain accessible to the likes of Skeletor and his crew, so the Goddess used her magic to place it atop Castle Grayskull, where it would be inaccessible. This was a very cool play feature with the toy, as the top of Point Dread could be detached and placed on the right-hand turret of the Grayskull playset. So it is with this version, though I can't include any photos of that since I don't have a MOTUC Grayskull... yet.

Thankfully, Point Dread makes a fine display piece all on its own. It still has the odd staircases that are in two different scales, which I always found a puzzling feature on the vintage PD. The base is very wide, giving the set a large footprint, and a very stable base for supporting the weight of the TF. The control console is a plastic piece, which is definitely a huge upgrade to the cardboard of the original. The perch is sculpted with mechanical details, rather than the plain brown of the original, which gives it an appropriate feel that meshes with the futuristic TF. The feet of the aircraft lock into place on the perch, and there is a release lever on the underside. This is a nice touch, and gives the vehicle more stability.

The sculpting on the Talon Fighter is excellent, a perfect update of the vintage toy. I normally find MOTUC releases that are straight updates with nothing new in the mix boring, but this doesn't really apply to the vehicles, for whatever reason. There is so much detail here, and areas such as the thrusters and some of the consoles inside the cockpit are sculpted, rather than stickers. (The flyswatter is there, too!) There are still a couple of stickers in the cockpit, however. I'm not sure why this is, as it's somewhat jarring to see sculpted control panels right alongside stickers. There is a blank area on the main panel, and the sticker sheet has three stickers that can fit in this area, so you can choose the radar screen you prefer. (This is all theoretical in my case, of course, since that sticker sheet was missing.) Paint apps are inconsistent. Some of the small bits on the consoles are neatly applied-- I'm assuming this is tampo-- while other areas have a good bit of slop or overspray. Of particular note is the swath of very gloppy blue paint on the back of my TF's canopy, and the orange bleeding over the front edge of the bird's head. Given the price of this set, and how few paint apps there are, this is an area where the otherwise excellent set is really let down. (Of course, given what I paid for mine, I can easily overlook it.)

Assembly of the set is easy, with only a few detached parts that snap easily into place. When attaching the top of Point Dread to the base, it is necessary to press down fairly hard to get it to lock into place. Otherwise, it will come apart when you pick it up. It's also worth noting that the control console does not snap into place inside Point Dread, it simply stands wherever you place it, so be sure to remove it before you transport the set, or it'll fall out.

Now, on to the most controversial part of the set: the pack-in Teela figure. First seen from behind in a video about something else entirely, this figure was standing inside Point Dread, and could be seen off to the side. Speculation ran wild, particularly since the details that could be made out indicated that this would be a Filmation-style Teela figure. Then the first photos showed up, and people lost their goddamn minds. The figure was derided as the worst in the entire line, and the complaints overshadowed the set itself. Though something clearly happened during production-- the head on this figure is clearly not the same head the Four Horsemen sculpted-- the figure is nowhere near as terrible as the apocalyptic reaction would have you believe. That said, it does have some serious issues.

The normal head sculpt suffers most from the lack of a chin. Her face appears to be sliding off her head. The alternate head is much better, but still nowhere near as good as the original figure's. (Personally, I think this figure will be sporting the extra "snake armor" head from the first MOTUC Teela.) The clothing overlay makes the body look overly bulky, a problem that was plagued the line for years as Mattel's designers seemingly forgot how this issue was avoided in the line's first year. The waist cut really stands out and looks awful, which was unavoidable, given the white expanse of the outfit. The only other option was omitting the waist cut altogether, as with the original MOTUC Teela. Collectors loudly complained about that for years afterward, so Mattel's designers were really in a no-win situation here.

Aside from the head, sculpting is mostly good, though inconsistent. The clothing and new bracers are sparsely detailed in an attempt to capture an animated look, while the upper arm bracers and boots sport the more detailed sculpts of the original version of the figure. This creates an incongruity that gives the figure an odd appearance. The paint apps are pretty good, at least. The paint on the basic head on my figure is much better than many of the heads I've seen online, which improves the overall figure quite a bit. Teela has some very cool accessories, including a Filmation-inspired sword and shield, and a removable visor for the helmeted head.

Despite a few shortcomings, this is a very impressive set overall. The sheer size of it makes it an excellent display centerpiece, if you don't have a Castle Grayskull, anyway. I could see someone having a bit of buyer's remorse if they shelled out to get it at the original $125 price, but as I only paid a third of that, I'm extremely happy with it. The biggest knock against this set is the pack-in figure, and that's hardly a deal breaker. For what you can currently get the set for, Point Dread & the Talon Fighter is a must-have for MOTU collectors.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Saurod figure

I was eight years old when the Masters of the Universe movie was released. I was convinced that this was going to be the greatest movie ever made! In those pre-internet days, information on upcoming movies was tough to come by, especially for a little kid, so aside from a small feature in one of the few issues of the official MOTU magazine, I had seen virtually nothing of the movie when my Dad took me to the theater to see it soon after it opened. (That's a story in itself. Dad refused to bother with calling the theater to get showtimes, and just left at a random time. We had to drive to all three theaters in town before we got to the right one, and then had to kill about an hour before the next showing!) My thoughts and feelings about the movie are too much to get into here, and my stance on it has softened quite a bit over the years, but let's just say that I was disappointed. After the awesome opening, I began to realize that we just weren't going to get to see all the characters I loved, and were instead being given new characters to fill those roles. My feelings about these new characters at the time: Karg? A fur-wearing loser with a bootleg Trap Jaw arm. Blade? A poor man's Tri-Klops. But the third new villain was actually pretty cool. (So he was the one who got killed pretty early on, naturally.) That was Saurod.

(I'll take a moment here to apologize about the photo quality. I was unable to use my normal lighting setup, and I'm nowhere near a skilled enough photographer to compensate properly, so the result is that all the photos look like Saurod is about to sit down for a Barbara Walters interview. Just bear with me, and hopefully things will be back to normal next week!)

While Mattel has repeatedly insisted that movie figures are not possible in the MOTUC line-- which is a damn shame, as I would fucking love a couple of Langella Skeletor figures, in both standard and golden-armored Master of the Universe versions-- they can make new figures of the characters they produced figures for in the vintage toyline. That means we can get Blade, Gwildor, and Saurod. I wanted the Saurod toy as a child, but never saw any of the movie figures in any store. So, the arrival of this figure has been a long time coming, to me. Does he live up to the anticipation? Well, mostly.

The first thing I noticed about Saurod as I removed him from the package was his size. He's taller than most figures in the MOTUC line, and that additional height also makes his proportions seem a bit leaner, which suits the character. While there are a few re-used parts, most of Saurod is new tooling. His sculpt is more detailed than usual for this line, which is appropriate, given the source is live-action material. His armor has lots of detail, including some small dings and indentations to show that it has seen some wear. The skin and chain mail are meticulously detailed, especially Saurod's eyes. They have a sinister, reptilian coldness that make the character very imposing. Saurod's left hand is sculpted with his fingers flayed out, emulating a movie scene in which he shoots darts from his fingertips. Unfortunately, this brings us to one of the two quality control issues my figure had. His index finger was badly warped in the package, so it's flush against the forefinger. I'll be applying some heat to the hand so I can reposition it. Saurod's lone accessory, his gun, suffers from a similar issue. The scope on top of it was also warped, and leans off to the side instead of facing straight ahead, as it should. Again, heating the part and repositioning it will fix this issue, but it's still annoying that these are recurring problems with these figures. That said, the gun is cool, with a very detailed sculpt. It does have a bit of trouble fitting into its holster, though.

Saurod features the standard articulation for the line, though the stiff armor severely impedes the range of motion in the abdominal hinge. The ankles on mine are super tight, but that's better than them being really loose. His head has particularly good range, far better than many figures in this line. His tail, sadly, is not poseable. Paint apps are very simple, and do just enough to get the job done with no frills. The eyes are quite good, with shades of green and yellow, with a pinkish-red surrounding that looks very alien and cool. Saurod's scales and the mail he's wearing are the exact same color, which just seems odd. The textures are clearly distinct from one another, so I don't think it's all intended to be his skin. A different paint wash on each texture would have helped distinguish between the two, and a wash over the armor to bring out all the sculpted detail would have been most welcome, too. These are things that are easy for me to do myself, but it would have been nice to have the figure that way out of the package. I got this figure for $16, so I'm not too fussed about it, but for the people who paid $30+ when he was first released, I can see it being more of an issue.

All in all, Saurod is a figure with some minor issues that do little to harm him in my eyes. He's a very cool figure with a fantastic sculpt and an imposing presence on the shelf, and he'll make a great addition to Skeletor's army. Now to get Blade and Gwildor!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Anti-Eternia He-Man figure

For a few years, Mattel "treated" MOTUC customers to a chase figure each year. These figures would show up on their adult collector website randomly several times throughout the year, usually disappearing again within minutes. 2016's chase figure drew from a German audio story from the '80s that saw Skeletor opening a portal to a nightmarish dark dimension seeking aid in defeating his mortal enemy, and finding the He-Man of Anti-Eternia. Drawing his power from Hell-Grayskull, shortened to Hellskull in the Classics line, this He-Man was an immense evil that had conquered his own planet. Where Skeletor sought an alliance with him, AE He-Man had other plans. When Mattel stopped producng the MOTUC line at the end of 2016, their remaining stock began appearing on other sites, and AE He-Man turned up on Gamestop's website, of all places. He's still available as I type this, so hurry on over there if you want one!

I rarely touch on the packaging, since it's the same basic design for the entire MOTUC line, but AE He-Man got some sweet custom packaging. It's just the regular MOTUC art tinted red and black to suit his color scheme, but it looks awesome. I always open all my figures, but I was actually tempted to display this one in the package because he just looked so damn cool inside it. Of course, I got over that feeling and opened it before long, but this is one of those very rare cases where I'd pick up an extra to display one in the package if I could spare the cash for it.

As a He-Man repaint, AE He-Man has the same sculpt and articulation we've already seen many, many times in the MOTUC line, with one difference. For whatever reason, the abdominal joint on my figure will not bend forward at all. It bends backward just fine, but once you move it forward into a default standing position, it refuses to go any further. It's not a huge deal, but it is annoying, and worth noting. All other points of articulation work very well, and I had no loose joints on my figure.

The standard He-Man sculpt is more than eight years old at this point, and it still looks great. The 4H really nailed the design their first time out. I do wish Mattel had included the Alcala-style He-Man head along with the standard one so we would be able to use the He-Man head sculpt of our choice. As 100% He-Man repaints go, I have to say this is my favorite. As much as I like the MOTUC Faker, AE He-Man looks far more sinister and intimidating. The red and black color scheme is very eye-catching, and the figure really stands out on the shelf. I went with a red and black color scheme for the weapons and armor with my custom Faker in the 2002 MOTU line, so it's cool to see that officially adopted here. The paint apps are all very clean, thankfully, as any slop would have been very obvious, given the color choice.

AE He-Man is loaded with accessories, even without an extra swappable head. He has his armor, of course, if you count that, along with repaints of the standard He-Man sword, axe, and shield. However, he has a bonus sword using the Alcala-style sculpt, as well as the shield from Castle Grayskull Man, all in his signature color scheme. These extra weapons let you personalized your AE He-Man a bit, which is very handy since he's 100% repaint of an often-seen figure.

Overall, this is a fantastic figure, though that price does sting a bit. With not a single new part, the profit margin on this figure has got to be even higher than normal for this reuse-heavy line. The lack of new pieces may hurt the figure's standing in the minds of some, but for me, AE He-Man shows how a well thought out repaint can breathe new life into an old figure, and make it well worth a (slightly overpriced) purchase.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics The Faceless One figure

As longtime friends and Rant readers are no doubt aware, since I was three years old, Masters of the Universe has been pretty much my favorite thing ever. (Yes, even more than Batman, LEGO, Universal monsters, and The Simpsons. Welllll... maybe it's tied with those last two.) My lifelong love of MOTU has had plenty of ups and downs over the years, though that's a story for another time. Next year's MOTU Day, perhaps?

Anyway, many readers have surely noticed an odd lack of MOTU articles here, despite my love for it. There are a couple of reasons for that. When I started this blog seven years ago, it was specifically devoted to the classic horror movies I cherish so much. As it gradually expanded to cover most anything that interested me, I began to feature the occasional toy review. By that time, however, I'd had to stop buying the MOTU Classics line due to losing my job, as I simply couldn't afford it any longer. Once I was back on more stable footing, I resisted getting back into the line because I still didn't have a lot of disposable income, and so much had been produced in the meantime, and so much of it was so expensive on the secondary market, that it was rather overwhelming. Last week, however, I finally decided to just go for it, and try to get the MOTUC stuff I want the most when I'm able to find it at a price I can live with. The first figure I wanted that I saw for a good price was Evil-Lyn's pop, the Faceless One.

Created for the 2002 animated series by Mike Young Productions, the Faceless One has connections to several established characters, most notably Evil-Lyn, as noted, and as the source of Skeletor's Havoc Staff. I immediately wanted a figure of the character when I saw him on the show, but unfortunately, it would take nearly a decade for one to be produced, and even longer for me to get one of them! Thankfully, he was well worth the wait. Scultors the Four Horsemen have captured the character's detailed design in the MOTUC style perfectly, and he looks quite imposing on the shelf among other figures. (It should be noted, however, that he has at least 30% more face than anyone calling themselves "The Faceless One" should really have.) His color scheme is evocative of the 2002 design for Evil-Lyn, so he will pair well with the MOTUC repaint of her figure in those colors. His accessories include his Havoc Staff-- note that my figure did not come with this, but I didn't have a problem with that since I got him so cheaply-- and the Ram Stone, which his left hand is sculpted to hold perfectly. There is also his large cloak, if you wish to count it as an accessory.

The figure has the usual MOTUC articulation, with ball-jointed head, hips, and shoulders, cuts at the waist, wrists, biceps, upper thighs, and boot tops, hinges at the elbows, knees, ankles, and torso. The cloak may look as if it hinders the head's range of motion, but it really doesn't interfere at all. The figure also stands very easily, despite the cloak's weight.

All in all, this is a great figure, and while he may not be an essential part of every MOTU collection, he is an essential figure for mine. Anyone who enjoyed the 2002 series will likely want him as well, and thankfully, he's one of the cheaper figures on the secondary market. Now that I'm back to collecting the MOTUC line, expect to see much more of them here! In fact, there's a figure arriving today that I'm very excited about; you can expect to see it featured here very soon.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Free Comic Book Day 2017 Guide

Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day, so here I am with this year's edition of the FCBD guide! For those of you who have never participated, it may be helpful to have a few of the details clarified. Generally, FCBD goes something like this: You enter your local comic shop-- if you're unsure where the nearest one is, you can find out right here-- and the FCBD comics are displayed on a table or shelf, usually separate from the rest of the merchandise. Some shops place a limit on how many free books you can choose, while some let you grab as many as you like; it's all up to the owners of each store. Whatever the case, make sure to buy something while you're there, because while the comics are free to customers, the stores have to pay for them. They pay much less than they do for a normal comic, but it's still money out of their pockets.

FCBD grows each year, and so does the selection of free comics. It can be a little overwhelming, particularly with all the extra traffic most shops experience during the event. It helps to have a few key comics in mind that you're interested in. Lucky thing you happened across this, eh? (Of course, keep in mind that not every comic shop will have ordered every single comic. Generally, the majority will be offered, however.)

The owners of Hattiesburg's own Southern Fried Comics graciously allowed me to come by a few days early and read through this year's comics. Thanks to their generosity, I'm able to bring you a much more thorough look at this year's FCBD offerings! Let's start by taking a look at my top picks. 

Bongo Comics Free-For-All: Bongo's Simpsons comics are always great fun appropriate for all-ages, and this year's FCBD offering is no exception.

Secret Empire: This tie-in to Marvel's big summer event includes a twist I can't believe still hasn't been spoiled. It also includes a preview of the upcoming Spectacular Spider-Man series.

Wonder Woman: This is a reprint of last year's Wonder Woman #2, part one of the Year One story. It's not only a damn good comic, but a great introduction to the character for anyone interested in reading about her. If you're excited about the upcoming movie, definitely pick this up!

X-O Manowar: Valiant has been publishing some of the most consistently good comics available since their return several years ago, and this continues that tradition. Previews of several other Valiant series are also included.

World's Greatest Cartoonists: Fantagraphics has compiled a thick issue packed with short stories from a variety of creators, spanning several genres. If you're feeling like somethinf off the beaten path, pick this up!

Tex- Patagonia: Westerns used to be one of the most prominent genres in comics, but they have become increasingly rare over the years, so it's always nice to see more.

Keyser Soze- Scorched Earth: This prequel to the classic The Usual Suspects promises to be very interesting indeed! 

Betty & Veronica: Archie has completely revitalized their comics in the past few years, and this issue is a great sampler for anyone curious about what they're doing.

2000 A.D: The long-running British anthology is always interesting, and this year's FCBD offering is as great as ever.

The Incal: A thirty-page excerpt from the classic graphic novel by Moebius, one of the all-time greats. 

The Tick: It's the Tick! What more needs to be said?

Rick and Morty: The comic delivers the same subversive, biting sci-fi humor and adventure as the animated series. A must for fans of the show!

Star Trek: The Next Generation- Mirror Broken: I've never been a huge Star Trek fan, but even I found this interesting. A story set in the mirror universe, with evil versions of the ST:TNG protagonists, is a Trekkie's wet dream. Plus, it has Patrick Stewart in a tank top with a rockin' beard. What's not to love?

Catalyst Prime- The Event: a threat from space gives rise to a wave of superhumans in this story by Christopher Priest. It's an intriguing setup for a new universe of superhero adventures.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: I haven't had much interest in the TMNT since I was 10 or 11, but this is an engaging issue that made me interested in checking out the ongoing series. 

KID-FRIENDLY COMICS

Spongebob Freestyle Funnies
DC Superhero Girls
Fresh Off the Boat
Loud House
Bad Machinery (more appropriate for older kids)
Colorful Monsters
Barbie
Monster High
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund: Explains what the CBLDF is, and why freedom of expression in print is important in a kid-friendly format.
Boom Studios' Summer Blast

Those are the comics that jumped out at me for one reason or another, but there are still more! You can peruse the full list of FCBD comics here. No slight is intended to the comics I didn't mention here; these are just the ones that stood out a bit more. Whatever you're interested in, the important thing is to support your local comic book shop tomorrow, and have fun! 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Rant Review: The Lego Batman Movie- Clayface Splat Attack

It's been about six months since my last post; that's easily the longest I've gone without updating the blog. It's due to various things, including some health issues which, unfortunately, are ongoing. I'll be making an effort to post more regularly, though, so the few dozen regular readers who are still here can rest easy. ;)

Today, we're taking a look at one of the sets from The Lego Batman Movie theme, Clayface Splat Attack. Unlike most sets, which tend to be focused around a building or vehicle, Clayface is the set. It's a great design, clearly influenced by the BTAS design, and the build is fun and well thought out. Clayface has an extra arm, so you're free to switch one out if you prefer two of the stud launchers
instead of the hammer arm. You'll also have plenty of small brown pieces left over that you can use to customize your Clayface a bit, which is a nice touch. (You'll have even more if you disassemble the arm you're not using! My Clayface, seen here, has quite a few bits added on. As always, click on the photo to embiggen.) With ball joints at all key connection points, Clayface is well-articulated, and he can hold a variety of poses. He is top-heavy, however, so you'll have to use a bit of finesse to find that sweet spot that will allow him to remain upright with some poses. The only issue I have with the final build is that some of the gray parts are clearly visible, which doesn't fit with the character's usual aesthetic. It would have been nice if these pieces had been cast in a shade of brown so that they didn't stand out so much, but that is a relatively minor gripe.

Batman and Mayor McCaskill minifigures are included, along with a small clay trap to ensnare a minifig of your choice. (This, of course, can also be disassembled if you want more little brown bits to add on to your Clayface.) McCaskill goes well with the GCPD minifigs in a display, and be aware that the small mark on her face isn't a defect, but a "beauty mark" that is supposed to be there. Aside from some slightly different facial expressions, Batman is no different than the numerous other Batman minifigs you already have if you've been buying the TLBM sets. It's a damn good minifg, and I like having some extras to pop into various displays, so I definitely don't mind getting another. Plus, you can hardly fault TLg for including Batman minifigs in their Batman sets!

Clayface Splat Attack is easily one of my favorite sets from the TLBM series to date, a standout in a fantastic lineup. Recommended.

Monday, September 12, 2016

A look at Structures, an architecture series by Blocktech



I came across these at the DG a few days ago. Blocktech is one of the numerous LEGO-ish off-brands. They largely produce sets that revolve around fireman and law enforcement themes, as well as subject matter LEGO won't touch, such as military. These arhitecture-themed sets are a new foray for them, to my knowledge. They also had a Big Ben set, but I figured I'd try these out for now and grab that one later if these stack up pretty well. Obviously, these are not going to be as good as the official LEGO Architecture sets; they're smaller, far less expensive, and they simply don't have the range of pieces or level of quality control that LEGO does. (Which is one of the main reasons they're so much cheaper, of course.) All that said, it doesn't mean these are automatically crap, and for $5 each, it's well worth giving them a shot to see if they're worthwhile builds when taken on their own merits.

Here's the completed Empire State Building. (Banana Man [as well as Marshmallow Man] shown for scale.) It looks pretty good, honestly. It's actually quite similar to the LEGO Architecture ESB. Very similar, in fact. There are a couple of pieces that are present in the LEGO version that are lacking in the Blocktech one, but it appears as if those may be the only differences. Mind you, I'm not implying anything here; it's just an observation. There are only so many ways to render a box-shaped building with square plastic bricks, after all. Moving on...

This is the completed Eiffel Tower. Frankly, it's a bit of a mess. Several aspects of the build seem to be poorly thought out, and the entire thing lacks stability. The central tower tends to topple if you breathe near it, look at it too hard, or think about it. (Yep, there it goes again!) See those "arms" that drape down the sides? They don't even attach to the central tower! Designs like this would never fly in a genuine LEGO set. The LEGO version is a good bit more expensive, but it lacks these issues. So, if you want a brick-built model of the Eiffel tower, it's definitely worth it to splurge for the LEGO version.

It's also worth noting that these sets lack the name plates, as well as the booklets that detail the history of the buildings. In general, the pieces don't snap together perfectly like genuine LEGO pieces, but I didn't have any big issues. There were a few times I had to exert more force than usual to get two pieces to snap together, but nothing I didn't expect for this price. I recommend the Empire State Building, but you should definitely skip the Eiffel Tower. I reiterate: it's a mess. I'm inclined to pick up Big Ben based on my experience with these sets, particularly since it looks far more similar to the Empire State Building than the Eiffel Tower as far as design and stability are concerned. I'll be sure to let you all know how that goes if I do! In the meantime, check your Dollar General stores for these, or check out the official site if you're interested in the LEGO Architecture sets. Until next time...

Monday, July 25, 2016

Rant Review: Batman- The Killing Joke animated movie

Virtually everyone has been clamoring for an animated adaptation of the classic Alan Moore/Brian Bolland tale Batman: The Killing Joke for years now, ideally with the iconic voices of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and the Joker. At long last, it has come to pass. The Killing Joke has been well-acquainted with controversy since its publication due to its content, and Bruce Timm, Brian Azzarello, Sam Liu & company have not shied away from it here. Indeed, the prologue they've added to the story includes a scene that doubles down on the controversy; more on that in the spoiler section later in this review. (Don't worry if you're avoiding spoilers, you'll have plenty of warning.) All of this results in DC's first animated movie to be stamped with an R rating.


Brushing all the controversy aside and judging the movie on its own merits, I enjoyed it quite a bit. The art style used differs from the source story, as Bolland's exquisitely detailed art is obviously too complex and labor-intensive to realistically be used in an animated film, but there are little details here and there that are evocative of his work. Despite its different look, the movie's visuals have the same sort of feel. The animation is often not as smooth as one would hope, however. This is an issue common among the newer DC animated movies, but one can't help being disappointed to see it here. Surely such a hotly anticipated project, a surefire hit, warranted a budget increase to deliver higher quality animation than we normally see with these releases? Alas, it is what it is, and while the animation is not as good as hoped, it still is far from bad, and it gets the job done.

Kevin Conroy simply IS Batman at this point, and it's always wonderful to have him back in the role. Even mediocre efforts such as Public Enemies are buoyed by his presence, so having him work with such well-written material is a pure pleasure. Tara Strong is quite good as Batgirl, as usual, having similarly made that role her own over the years. Veteran actor Ray Wise is a disappointment as Commisioner Gordon, however. His flat delivery of most of his lines mars the few key scenes Gordon has, and one of the story's most powerful moments is deflated due to the lackluster performance. Wise is a good actor, so this could simply be due to miscasting.

Mark Hamill has long been celebrated for his various performances as the Joker, and rightly so. His incredible performance in last year's Arkham Knight video game was his magnum opus, and while I can't say his performance in The Killing Joke surpasses that, it is definitely on the same level. His performance of the "Go Loony" song alone is worth the price of admission. Honestly, that is one of the most surreal parts of the original story, and everyone has been wondering how they would pull it off. While Hamill  croons it out beautifully, everyone involved deserves much appreciation for putting that scene together.

Now we're about to dive into the story, and this will involve some spoilers. Highlight the following paragraphs with your mouse to read, or skip down below if you'd rather avoid spoilers.

The prologue focuses on Batgirl and her working relationship with Batman. It's clear that she has some romantic feelings toward Bruce, and this culminates with the two having sex on a rooftop one night while working a case. The entire internet has exploded since this was made known, and I myself was a bit apprehensive about it. While there is a precedent in the animated Batman projects for a Bruce/Babs relationship-- see Mystery of the Batwoman-- it's never felt right. Putting the age difference aside, since it's honestly not as large a gap as many people seem to believe, Bruce is a mentor to Barbara. This position of authority he has over her lends a rather skeevy air to the whole idea of them pursuing any kind of romantic relationship. Not to mention that he's also her father's BFF, adding another layer of weirdness to the whole thing. However, as always, I resolved to wait and actually watch the movie before passing judgment on it. I'm happy to be able to say that the entire thing is handled well in the movie. Both characters immediately recognize it as a mistake, and it even leads to a scene where Bruce apologizes and behaves like an actual human for a damn minute. Barbara decides that she really doesn't need this whole thing in her life anymore, and decides to move on, returning her gear to Batman, and retiring as Batgirl. 

There's also an epilogue that shows Barbara back at home, and makes it very clear that she has begun her career as Oracle. This lends an air of hope to the movie, particularly to comic readers with some familiarity with the character. It's a nice coda that brings the story back to focusing on her, and helps a bit to mitigate her use as little more than a prop during the main story of TKJ. 

As for the main part of the story, it's exactly as readers remember, with a bit of additional dialogue and action here and there to flesh things out a bit.There are moments that are absolutely chilling, with many of the graphic novel's scenes beautifully realized. The minimal use of music is eerily effective for the most part, and the whole production is lifted by the (mostly) amazing performances. It's actually been quite a while since I've really enjoyed any of the DC animated movies-- right offhand, I think The Flashpoint Paradox was the last one-- but The Killing Joke is a return to the quality we used to get from these projects. It's one of the best animated movies carrying the DC logo, and I highly recommend watching it.

As a little aside, I can't help hoping that the movie is such a success that they'll see fit to release an alternate version with the coloring done in the style of the original version of the graphic novel, as demonstrated here. I like the realistic tones of the recolored version, which the movie emulates, but the surreal, garish colors of the original version have a macabre appeal of their own.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

DC Rebirth: Month One


As you're no doubt aware, DC's Rebirth initiative is currently well underway. Like apparently everyone else, I loved the DCU Rebirth special, and I've been sampling quite a few of the new series. And by "quite a few," I mean "all." I won't be doing full reviews for everything like I did with the New 52 relaunch, but I thought it would be fun to present an overview at the end of each month with a few thoughts about each issue. As always, discussion is welcome, whether here or via email or the social media of your choice. We'll be tackling them week by week, jotting down my thoughts after reading each week's issues. I want to preserve that sense of spontaneity, so you might find that these aren't quite as polished as my usual reviews. (Not that I ever obsess over that, given the casual tone I strive to maintain here, but you get what I'm saying.) So, let's be off!

June 1
Batman Rebirth: Incoming writer Tom King is handed the baton by outgoing writer Scott Snyder, while the incomparable Mikel Janin provides sumptuous visuals. While the story is rather choppy and uneven, it gives us Duke's formal induction as one of Batman's allies, along with a very interesting revamp of the Calendar Man. I enjoyed all the other Rebirth issues this week more, but this is still no slouch.

Green Arrow Rebirth: I must admit that I haven't read any of Benjamin Percy's run on the New 52 Green Arrow-- I read the Lemire/Sorrentino run, but was quickly driven away by the next couple of issues-- but I have heard some good things. I may need to track those down, if this is any indication. Percy and artist Otto Schmidt do a marvelous job of evoking the Ollie we know and love, even while reuniting him with Black Canary for the first time in far too long. This isn't just a nostalgia trip, either, as the conflict that is set up within these pages promises to be quite interesting. I've missed Green Arrow for most of the past decade-- the character's poor handling predates the New 52 by several years-- and it feels damn good to have him and Dinah back.

Green Lanterns Rebirth: Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz finally get the spotlight to themselves as they're partnered up to protect Earth. Incoming writer Sam Humphries, assisted by the sorely missed Geoff Johns, give us a nice solid issue that makes me hopeful that I'll once again have at least one Green Lantern series to look forward to again.

Superman Rebirth: Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, partners on the beloved Batman and Robin, are going to do similarly great things for Superman, judging by this issue. One of the highlights is a recap of pre-New 52 Superman's epic battle with Doomsday, rendered by the always excellent Doug Mahnke. This is one of the issues that is most likely to be confusing for brand new readers, but the team does a good job of explaining what's happened without getting too bogged down in details.


June 8
Aquaman Rebirth: An excellent overview of who Aquaman is and his current status quo, this issue also clearly sets up the main conflict for future issues. Dan Abnett has been doing a great job on Aquaman these past few months, and that hasn't changed.

Action Comics #957: Dan Jurgens is riding high writing Superman once again, and he throws so much at us in this issue that it's tough to catch your breath! Luthor having the audacity to attempt to fill the deceased New 52 Superman's cape is completely in character, and given the last couple of years' developments, one can't help believing that he might actually be sincere. Zircher's art is quite nice, and the action flows well from panel to panel. This one is a winner.

The Flash: It was great to see the bombshell DCU Rebirth followed up on, of course, but it was just a damn solid comic all around. Definitely the best Flash comic I've read since before the New 52 began.

Wonder Woman Rebirth: A slower-paced, thoughtful issue that sets up what promises to be another epic Rucka run. Sharpe's art was gorgeous, and I liked how his art kicked in with the costume switch, symbolic of the transition from New 52 to Rebirth.

Detective Comics #934: I really enjoyed this issue. I'm all for a Bat family series, and Batwoman operating as Batman's partner is awesome. I've really missed Kate the last few years. When this series' premise was announced, it seemed very odd that Tim would be among the trainees, but this issue makes it clear that he is operating at Batman and Batwoman's lieutenant in helping to train Orphan, Spoiler, and Clayface. This is a great setup with so much potential!

June 15
Batman #1: A decent issue that is packed with action, but it's only a moderate improvement over the Batman Rebirth special. Finch's art is a little better than usual, but that's not really saying much. Of all the Rebirth issues thus far, this series remains the weakest. That said, I'm still enjoying it, and given Tom King's track record, I'm hopeful that it will improve. 

Green Arrow #1: Rock solid issue, picking up right where the Rebirth special left off. Percy has indicated that he's basically riffing on The Court of Owls for this story, and that becomes abundantly clear in this issue. It's also worth mentioning that the recent Black Canary series is referred to again. Many readers, myself included, would prefer that series to be swiftly forgotten, but it doesn't look like that's happening just yet. That's not a mark against this series, just something I felt was worth mentioning.

Green Lanterns #1: Pretty good issue, setting up some very interesting conflicts for the future. I've seen many readers express concern over Humphries as the writer, as he doesn't exactly have the best track record, but so far, so good. 

Superman #1: A good issue from one of my favorite creative teams, though it did seem to end far too quickly. Gleason is a criminally underrated artist, and his skill really shines in the body language he gives young Jonathan. His poses and movements look very authentic, and that's one of the toughest things for any artist to convey, particularly when it comes to children. Though it felt a bit short, this was an issue I really enjoyed, and I have high hopes for Superman with this team at the helm.

Titans Rebirth: Abnett did a very good job reviving the classic Teen Titans within the New 52 continuity with Titans Hunt, and that continues right here, as Wally returns and the team gradually regains their memories of him. As for the art, well... let's just say that I'm not a fan of Brett Booth, and leave it at that. That said, he did a great job with the design of Wally's new costume. It's also damn nice to see Dick back in his classic black and blue Nightwing costume. I actually liked the New 52 red and black version that got so much hate, but the blue just suits him better. Of all the Rebirth series, this might be the one that I'm most interested to see where it goes. 

June 22
Wonder Woman #1: I still can hardly believe Rucka is back! As writer of one of the two or three greatest Wonder woman runs I've read, I have high hopes for this series. Liam Sharpe's art is gorgeous. Not a whole lot actually happens in this issue, but it still comes off feeling momentous. I can only imagine how good it'll be once things really start rolling!

The Flash #1: Offers a pretty good overview of Barry's life and motivations for new readers, and sets up a damn good hook to hang the rest of this story arc on. The art has an appropriately kinetic quality to it that brings the story to life in just the right way. It's damn nice to have a good Flash comic to read again!

Detective Comics #935: Damn solid issue that ramps up the stakes a good bit, with some nice character development, to boot. Barrows is doing a great job with the art. This also has what is probably the best spin on the old "hi-tech training room" standby that I've seen. This is definitely the better of the two main Batman series right now.

Action Comics #958: Jurgens & Zircher deliver an all-out brawl between Superman and what appears to be the original Doomsday. The presence of post-Forever Evil heroic-ish Lex Luthor makes this much more than a standard rematch, though. This series is shaping up to be a lot of fun!

Aquaman #1: Abnett & Walker do a good job on this issue, advancing the Atlantean Embassy plot that's been running for the last few months, even as Black Manta strikes! Aside from the brief "DC You" period of this series' previous volume, Aquaman has been a very strong book for the past five years, and it seems that will continue to be the case with Abnett at the helm.

Since there are no Rebirth issues coming out today, that brings us up to date. So far, Rebirth has been an amazing success, in stark contrast to the New 52. That saw some great sales spikes for a few months, but amid all that, there were quite a few readers being alienated by the content and quality of the comics. Rebirth seems to be accomplishing its goal of luring all those people back, along with new readers, and its sales numbers are exceeding those of the New 52! Only time will tell if this success will continue in the months to come, but things look very promising. There is an overwhelmingly positive buzz around DC that I haven't experienced in quite a long time.



Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Rant Review: DC Universe Rebirth #1

DC Universe Rebirth has finally arrived, following months of heavy anticipation. When the New 52 relaunch kicked off in September of 2011, it was huge success, rocketing dozens of DC books to the top of the sales charts, and largely contributing to a surge in comic sales that has yet to subside. However, much of that sales success proved to be temporary for DC, and in doing a reboot, much was lost. The legacy characters, and the very real sense of a long and fascinating history that they brought to the table, were largely erased. One of the things that made DC's superhero universe so wonderful and unique had been taken away, and readers made their dissatisfaction known.

Now, nearly five years later, the powers that be at DC have admitted that something of value was lost with the New 52 reboot, and are intent on restoring it. We've already seen some steps taken in that direction with series such as Titans Hunt. With DC Universe Rebirth #1, all bets are off, as one of the DCU's most beloved characters returns, and the impending return of many more are teased. The value of legacy is tackled head-on in the narration, as well as characters with long-established relationships that were jettisoned with the New 52. It's clear that Rebirth is equal parts damage control and fan service, even as it sets up a future conflict that promises to be almost torturously exciting. I'm still reeling from the ending. The only way it could have been more shocking is if I had appeared on that page myself! If you've managed to avoid spoilers, do whatever is necessary to remain spoiler-free until you can read it. It's one of the most genuinely shocking revelations in comics history, and I can barely stand the wait to see what comes next! I basically had to avoid all comics-related websites and discussions for the past week, but it was completely worth it.

While Geoff Johns turns in some of the most engaging work of his career, his partners on this comic have brought their A-game, as well. Artists Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Phil Jimenez, Ivan Reis, Joe & Frank Prado, and Matt Santorelli, with colorists Brad Anderson, Jason Wright, Gabe Eltaeb, and Hi-Fi, make this one of the most gorgeous comics you're likely to find on the stands. It's an eighty page comic, so a lot of hands went into creating it, but the visuals are of such a high standard that they have a consistent feel, and the transition between artists never feels jarring.

So, does DC Universe Rebirth deliver on its massive hype? By Grodd, does it ever! This is one of the most satisfying reading experiences I've had in quite a while, and I really can't remember the last time I was so excited about a comics event. If you have the slightest interest in Rebirth, or superhero comics in general, by all means, pick up a copy. Plus, it's eighty pages for $2.99, so it's quite a lot of content for your money. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on Rebirth below in the comments! As for me, that ending is about to send me diving into my back issue boxes...you'll know why when you get there!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Free Comic Book Day 2016 guide

Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day, so here I am with this year's edition of the FCBD guide! For those of you who have never participated, it may be helpful to have a few of the details clarified. Generally, FCBD goes something like this: You enter your local comic shop-- if you're unsure where the nearest one is, you can find out right here-- and the FCBD comics are displayed on a table or shelf, usually separate from the rest of the merchandise. Some shops place a limit on how many free books you can choose, while some let you grab as many as you like; it's all up to the owners of each store. Whatever the case, make sure to buy something while you're there, because while the comics are free to customers, the stores have to pay for them. They pay much less than they do for a normal comic, but it's still money out of their pockets.

FCBD grows each year, and so does the selection of free comics. It can be a little overwhelming, particularly with all the extra traffic most shops experience during the event. It helps to have a few key comics in mind that you're interested in. Lucky thing you happened across this, eh? (Of course, keep in mind that not every comic shop will have ordered every single comic. Generally, the majority will be offered, however.)

This year, the owners of Hattiesburg's own Southern Fried Comics graciously allowed me to come by a few days early and read through this year's comics. Thanks to their generosity, I'm able to bring you a much more thorough look at this year's FCBD offerings than ever before! Let's start by taking a look at my top picks. 

(Apologies for the lo-res photos. They're straight from the FCBD site. I'm not sure why they never have hi-res images of the comic covers.)


March: Top Shelf brings us an sample of Congressman John Lewis's autobiographical tale of his participation in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. I've read the first two volumes, and it is some powerful stuff. You should definitely check this one out! 

Love and Rockets: Fantagraphics presents this sampler of the Hernandez brothers' long-running series. Beautifully illustrated, and packed with well-developed characters, this is critically-acclaimed for good reason. This is a definite grab if you're longing for something different from guys in tights punching each other. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)

Civil War II: Marvel's latest event kicks off here, though that's not actually why I'm recommending this one. This issue also features an Avengers story by the great Mark Waid that introduces the new version of a classic character. 


Bongo Free-For-All: Bongo's Simpsons Comics are a constant delight, and their annual FCBD issue is always reliable fun. 

Stuff of Legend: Th3rd World Studios (really) is offering this look at a series that is basically a horror-tinged version of Toy Story. It's an interesting premise, and the art is gorgeous. This is also a nice comic if you're looking for something appropriate for older kids who aren't really ready for "mature readers" material, but wouldn't be interested in comics geared toward smaller children.

The Tick: It's the Tick! What's not to love?

Valiant: Summer of 4001: Since its return a few years ago, Valiant has been doing some tremendous comics. This issue will make a decent jumping-on point for anyone interested in giving Valiant a shot. 


Bob's Burgers: Dynamite's comic does a good job capturing the feel of the wonderful animated series, which is no easy feat. Definitely pick this up if you're a fan of the show.

Avatarex: Graphic India brings us a preview of Grant Morrison's latest. Morrison is one of the greatest writers alive, and his work always bears watching. This issue also features a look at his script, giving us a peek at his creative process. 

Serenity/Hellboy/Aliens: Dark Horse serves up a trio of beloved fan properties, but the biggest draw has gotta be a Hellboy tale illustrated by the legendary Richard Corben!

Spongebob's Freestyle Funnies: United Plankton is back with another collection of square, porous lunacy. It delights, as always. This issue also includes a Mermaid Man & Barnacle Boy adventure illustrated by none other than industry legend Ramona Fradon!


We Can Never Go Home/Young Terrorists: Black Mask offers up a pair of stories serving as a preview of ongoing series. Both are pretty interesting, especially Young Terrorists. This is a good pick if you want some superhero action that is slightly off the beaten path.

2000 AD: The beloved sci-fi anthology offers up a varied sampler that is sure to have something to appeal to almost everyone. There are some really interesting tales here, including the obligatory Judge Dredd, of course. Each story has some QR code interaction too, if you dig that sort of thing.

Mooncop: A Tom Gauld Sampler: Drawn & Quarterly-- possibly the best pun-based publisher name ever-- has put together a nice little sampler of work by the titular Gauld. This is a charming comic that offers something different than the usual fare.

The Phantom: Hermes Press has put together an awesome collection of vintage Phantom strips, featuring work by such industry legends as Jim Aparo!


Boom 2016 Summer Blast: A nice and varied sampler of kid-friendly content, featuring a good mix of different genres. 

DC Superhero Girls: A tie-in to the new superhero toys aimed at a young female audience, this comic features young superheroes at a school staffed by the older DCU characters. It's a charming comic, but there is one thing that elevates it to greatness: Gorilla Grodd is the school's vice principal. Just try to resist that!

Overstreet Comic Marketplace: These Overstreet FCBD issues always have some interesting historical information about the comics industry. This issue has an article devoted to Will Eisner's beloved classic The Spirit!

Captain America: The original Cap is back, and this issue leads into his new ongoing series, just in time for his new movie. Lucky thing, that. The creative team is Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz, which is the main reason this issue gets a solid recommendation. Those guys do great work. 

CBLDF Defend Comics: The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has been doing vital work to preserve comics as an industry and an art form for decades, and this issue gives you a peek into what they do.

Oddly Normal: This is a nice kid-friendly book from Image with an interesting premise and some colorful, energetic art. 

Here's a brief look at the rest of the free comics that will be available tomorrow. Don't consider them slighted because they didn't get singled out above; there is still some good stuff to be found here. The comics you just read about above just had a little something extra that made them stand out to me. 


Assassin's Creed (Titan Comics)- Expands on the lore of the game series.
One Punch Man (Viz)- Manga presented in the traditional right-to-left format.
Attack On Titan Anthology (Kodansha)- Sci-fi anthology. 
Spectrum (Automatic)- Sci-fi by Alan Tudyk.
Worlds of Aspen (Aspen)
Doctor Who (Titan)
Devil's Due Mix Tape (Devil's Due)
Suicide Squad (DC)- A reprint of the first New 52 issue. 
Lady Mechanika (Benitex Productions)- Steampunk adventure.
Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises (Darby Pop)- Not bad, but it's tough to capture what made Bruce great on the printed page.
Rom #0 (IDW)- The Space Knight returns! This issue serves as a teaser for the new series. Contains an ad for the Bill Mantlo Support Fund, which is nice to see.



KID-FRIENDLY COMICS
Junior Braves of the Apocalypse (Oni)- Kids return from camp to find the world overrun with zombies.
Hilda (Nobrow)- Charming fun for young readers.
Grumpy Cat (Papercutz)- Starring the internet meme sensation. Actually better than you might expect.
Science Comics (First Second)- Educational and fun, with vibrant art.
Sonic Sampler (Archie)
Awake (Action Lab)- Kids will dig this. Adults will get a kick out of an ad for "Dog of Wonder" illustrated by the great Neal Adams. That made my day.
The Pink Panther (American Myhtology)- Kids these days likely won't know who the Pink Panther is, but they still can have fun with this comic.
Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (Arcana)- Movie tie-in. Kid-friendly Chtulhu.
Sanjay and Craig (Papercutz)
Dark Lily and Friends (Space Goat)
Pokemon (Perfect Square)
Dream Jumper (Graphix)- Pretty self-explanatory title.
Strawberry Shortcake (IDW)
Legend of Korra (Dark Horse)- Fans will dig this.
Camp Midnight (Image)
Comics Lab (Z2)- Good for older kids. Gorgeous art in "Legend."
Archie (Archie)- Good for older kids. A sample of the recent reboot by Mark Waid.

The lone FCBD issue I didn't have the chance to check out was Street Fighter, since Diamond didn't send that one. Thankfully, SF fans know to look for that one. (And if any reading this didn't, now you do!) Hopefully, you've found this helpful. As always, get out and support your local comic shop tomorrow, and have fun!