The Dork Den Blog

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Man-Eaters #1

Man-Eaters #1

I cautiously approach this comic book for a number of reasons. Comic writers can get weird. Visions and ideas that are off the wall and wholly original simply because they’re completely oddball are a breeding ground at Image Comics. If it’s clever or funny, or outrageously violent or niche Image will let you publish it, and if it succeeds, it’s a win for everyone involved. Man Eaters is out of my wheelhouse. There’s no superheroes or spaceships so I’m automatically out of the loop, but I’m always willing to give a new comic book, especially one getting some community buzz, a read. I’ve spent some time with Image classics in this area like Rat Queens and Paper Girls, and enjoyed them, but both are set within often typical fantasy worlds I can latch onto. Man-Eaters is an utterly ridiculous modern world setting, and that’s just not my forte. So here we go. Strap in for this one.

As it turns out – there’s a new mutation going around out there and somehow it seems to manifest in cat poop. Anyone that’s cleaned a litter box, pet a cat, touched someone that’s pet a cat, and any little thing related has come into contact with this highly mobile mutation. Any girl that has it turns into a giant ferocious cat on her period. Yup. They turn into man-eating kitty cat killers when they’re menstruating and they’re nigh unstoppable. Luckily, the government has created preventative medical treatment that essentially stops woman from menstruating altogether, and hopefully stop the mutations from ever happening. Big cat killings are way down, and while it seems the efforts to stop these big cats from coming out have been mostly successful, there are cases of slip ups, and sometimes it’s simply unavoidable. Our main character Maude is a fairly typical 12 year old girl. Her dad is a CSI working under the authority of SCAT (yup), the organization made specifically for counter-big-cat-events. They’re the big wigs around here and they have the superiority complex to prove it. That’s not really Maude’s problem though, at least until it happens and she becomes one of those 1 in 100,000. Transformation incoming?

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that this was the most comfortable read of my life. It’s weird and way too quirky for me, but I can’t tell you it was bad either. Man-Eaters is incredibly clever and self-aware, and without those elements at their maximum this comic book simply doesn’t work. Some of the current event jokes are perhaps a little outdated. A 12 year old asking for Minecraft money in 2018 is only like a 5 year old reference. If you aren’t making Fortnite jokes when you’re trying to be hip you’re probably off track a little bit. That being said there’s still some great laughs to be had here, and the creative team really lets loose with their nutty ideas. It’s violent, over the top, and wonderfully constructed. There are literally medical diagrams of changes that occur in the human body upon becoming exposed to the mutation, and articles talking about the outbreak, and PSAs talking about prevention and what to do in a kitty cat crisis. It’s absurd and totally respectable. Readers into these quirky Image comics will find something really cool here I think, and I hope it impresses.


(3.5 / 5)

Heroes in Crisis #1

Heroes in Crisis #1

Tom King seems to have really found his stride with the DC Comics world. He’s been given a lot of work recently, and it seems people respond well to his work. When DC canceled the 12 issue comic series Omega Men there was a massive outcry from the community, and King was able to finish the series. DC seems to have realized he has a dedicated following that won’t waver through thick and thin. The name sells now, similarly to Lemire or Snyder, and that’s enough for DC to give King this big ‘Crisis’ event – which is a very powerful term in the DC comics world. Heroes in Crisis screams Identity Crisis, a grounded 2004 comic book series centered around a more emotional, human level story. I consider Identity Crisis to be one of the best comic books of all time, and DC’s best comic book of all time. It’s hard to hold a flame to it, but if anyone can bring the sheer intensity and the weight of Identity Crisis, it’s Tom King. However, if anyone can totally fail to meet my expectations and create something far too clever for its own good, it’s also Tom King. Heroes in Crisis is promising in theory, but as long as King is as crazy as he is, I’m always skeptical, but I’m also always ready to be impressed by his work.

The first issue of Heroes is a bit of a mystery. Harley Quinn and Booster Gold are duking it out, why? Not so sure. These characters have some kind of unknown connection and appear to be blaming each other for a similar event that occurred sometime before. Said event was bloody, but that’s truly the extent of our current knowledge. Meanwhile the trio of Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman are traveling place to place and finding, unbelievably, the bodies of various superheroes of renown, including Wally West and Arsenal. Considering there’s no way these characters are just dead, something particularly weird is going on. As it turns out – all dead heroes in question were receiving treatment from a group called Sanctuary, a hidden hospital created by the leaders of the Justice League to treat super heroes that had been traumatized during their heroism. Somehow, someone infiltrated Sanctuary, killed its purveyors and all of the heroes involved. Somehow, Booster Gold and Harley are connected, but still alive. So the question is raised, who did it?

To no surprise, Tom King’s style and tendencies show all over this comic book. It’s cryptic, people talk in riddles, and its incredibly stylized in its writing. When it comes to these stories, especially mysteries and psychological thrillers, King’s methods do shine. However, Identity Crisis was not only a beautifully dramatic and emotional story, its first issue alone sets up something that feels massive in scale but completely contained at the heart. Additionally, Identity Crisis made things feel real in ways that comic books usually don’t. Characters talked like people talked, they interacted like people interact, with or without superpowers. Heroes in Crisis already struggles to feel these ways by being wholly uninterpretable due to King’s proneness for the ambiguous and being extremely pattern-logged and stylistic in its dialogue. This is King’s signature writing method, I don’t think that’s terrible. However, issues going forward are more deterministic of the quality of this comic than I’d hoped, and that’s never a major win in my book. Heroes in Crisis has a hopeful, but questionable start. I’m eager to see where it goes, though ever skeptical.

(4 / 5)

Batman: Damned #1

Batman: Damned #1

   Amidst all the absurd controversy surrounding Batman: Damned, DC’s first ‘DC Black Label’ comic book and similar controversies with other comic books, we forget everything else about them. Brian Azzarello is a phenomenal writer with a big track record. I have no doubt that when offered a limitless medium to write a Batman comic book, he couldn’t refuse. This comic book has really fallen into a dark hole all over the internet, and for how much I’ve heard about the comic’s scene in question, I know very little about the comic book itself and what it entails. I wasn’t going to review this comic. Most elseworld Batman comics don’t interest me, even if they’re good. There’s a massive over-saturation of them on the market and while they all might offer something new to the plate, I’m just not that into Batman as a character. That being said, this comic book deserves to be reviewed fairly, and while I’m sure Azzarello isn’t particularly bothered by the uproar that’s surfaced around this first issue, I think it’s unfair how it’s been received and how its been flying off the selves for the wrong reasons. Kudos to the creative team for doing something brave, but I’m going to review this comic as I would any other.

   Batman’s injured, and an injured Batman is a desperate Batman. That makes for a pretty dangerous vigilante. Alfred is off the grid and all his tech is down, so Bruce is stranded, barely functioning on the streets with no backup, and in his desperation he’ll take down anyone and anything that gets in his way as he limps back to the Cave. John Constantine, our dark DC comic mascot, comes to save Bruce nearly dead in an alleyway. We soon learn the Brit is our narrator, but we’re still a little foggy on why exactly he’s here. Formalities aside, Bruce learns soon after that The Joker is dead, thanks to Constantine’s knowledge about Gotham and his apparent near omnipotence of current events. The Bat’s not so sure, and despite his injuries he’s out to find out exactly what’s going on in the city as it seems to be tearing itself apart. Constantine and friend’s hanging around Gotham is cause enough for concern, but patternistic killings around the city cause Bruce to begin to unravel something perhaps too big even for him.

   There’s a couple of noteworthy things about Damned #1. The writing and the art coexist beautifully. DC has a hard time sometimes making something R rated. It’s a path they keep traveling down unnecessarily, especially with their animated movies, and they seem to chalk an R rating down to heads exploding and lots of swearing. I think that’s lazy and terrible. Azzarello does a really respectable job of making something heavier themed without trying too hard. This is a ruthless Gotham and an experienced Batman. On top of that, the Justice League Dark with all their underbelly methods are sticking around. There is room for these kinds of mature themes in the Superhero comicverse, and this is how they should be. The story itself is interesting, though a little too cryptic and stylized for my taste. It reminds me a bit of a Tom King style with its psychological drama and mysterious writing style. The comic often flashes back to Bruce’s past, and it never breaks pace. All of these things come together to make a pretty enjoyable story and set up an interesting elseworld DC universe. This comic didn’t deserve the ridiculous controversy around it, but I’m glad it’s selling at least.

(3.5 / 5)

When in Rome

When in Rome

If there’s a potential issue with any trivia game, it’s the possibility of seeing a question twice. The Internet is full of trivia. So running a trivia game through Amazon’s Alexa service has to be perfect, right?

Quoth the Internet: LOL

When In Rome is, if nothing else, a clever little idea. Once computer/phone apps started becoming integrated with board games, it was only a matter of time until online services were used to expand the possibility even further. When In Rome lays a map of the world in front of you; you pick a city in which to start, then answer a trivia question about that city to make a friend. If you make a friend, the other player can’t (two players or teams max), because apparently there are only twenty people in Alexa’s world. You can normally only travel to a city connected to the one you’re in, but having friends lets you chain moves together, because the world is a mosh pit and we’re all just crowd surfing on it.

In every city, you have a choice between an easier, three-point question of a random category, or a harder, five-point question in a different category. All questions are about the city you’re in. Between the points for answering questions correctly and for picking up special souvenirs that pop up from time to time for bonuses, you play through either nine rounds or when three souvenirs total are collected (the latter is much more likely). Highest score wins.

I’m not going to say you can’t have fun playing When In Rome. It’s possible. But that sentence alone should tell you where this review is going.

The tricky thing about a review is that I’m not sure if it’s trying to do too much or not enough. That shouldn’t generally be a point of confusion about anything. But this is a game where they hired twenty different voice actors to play the friends in each city and ask the questions related to that city. Considering this is the first real Alexa-based board game, nobody would have expected them to go so far in their efforts, so it was really an above-and-beyond decision. However, using voice actors dramatically limits the number of different questions that can be asked. This thing is connected to the Internet, but in the first two games I played, I got the same question both times I ended up in San Francisco. That’s beyond unacceptable for a trivia game, and the way the voice acting is used isn’t even that good (between the actors and Alexa, there’s often too much of a gap between questions).

Worse yet—and that first problem is pretty bad—they put all this time into the aesthetics but couldn’t even figure out a good way to make the souvenir system work. First, when a souvenir pops up, it’s in a randomly generated location. Fine. These locations seem to always be relatively equidistant between the two players. That’s reasonable; it would be pretty jacked up if one player could move one space to the souvenir city while the other had to move five, giving the first one several chances before their opponent had one. But the souvenir can pop IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROUND.

Here’s how a round works: a challenge for both players is put forth. Sometimes they need to come the closest to a percentage-based statistic (ie. guess what percentage out of 100, closest wins); sometimes the players alternate answering different questions until one of them gets one right. The winner of the challenge makes the first move that round. If there’s no souvenir and no reason to go any particular direction, then going first doesn’t matter.

The only real advantage to going first is if it gets you to a city with a souvenir sooner. Therefore, giving a potential disadvantage to someone for winning the right to go first (you don’t get a choice) is completely bonkers. The fact they didn’t realize this tells me we’re talking about a bunch of programmers who never made a game and thought they could do something cool with Alexa. They apparently nailed it with a game called Beasts of Balance a couple years ago; the ball got dropped in every conceivable way here.

It shows. Play this game if someone else has it or you find it in a thrift shop for a buck, just so you can see the problems and dream about what could have been if they hired anybody who knew what the hell they were doing with this, or even just some competent game testers. They’re in London, they should have asked Shut Up and Sit Down to do it.

(1.5 / 5)

Adventures of the Super Sons #1

Adventures of the Super Sons #1

Super Sons is incredible, and if you think otherwise you’re wrong. Tomasi has created and continues to improve on his best work in his entire career, and that’s really saying something. I love everything this man writes, but Super Sons is a total treasure, and that’s why when the original Super Sons comic book was canceled by DC Comics I nearly had a mental breakdown. Unbeknownst to the fans, despite Super Son’s numbers, the 16 issue comic book run would come to and end and return a few months later as Adventures of the Super Sons. I have no idea why they made this change, and everything here seems like a direct continuation of the Super Sons story. Perhaps Tomasi had to put the comic book on hiatus for a short while and DC would rather rebrand and renumber than break their monthly schedule? Perhaps Tomasi still has something different in mind for the comic book he couldn’t originally do under the last comic’s title. It’s a bit of a mystery, and Tomasi was pretty quiet about the whole ordeal, say for thanking all his fans for all the support and clearing up some of the outrage behind Super Sons’ sudden and unexpected cancellation. Despite the rebranding, I’m 110% on board, and excited to read more.

Banter between Damian and Jonathan has never been better, and as they stop an animated golden statue of Superman from rampaging across Metropolis, they have to make sure to get to school in time before they’re late. Luckily they have a little bit of leniency with it being the last day of the school year. Despite being a little cruel since summer is wrapping up and everyone in the real world is started to head back to school, the Super Sons are planning out their summer vacation for 3 months full of Superhero badassery. With their underwater base fully functional once more, having been severely damaged toward the end of the Super Sons run, and the rest of the Justice League busy with bigger problems, the Sons are out to clean up the streets. Under the nose of the League however  there appears to be some alien invaders, though it’s unclear whether they’re from a different planet, or a different time. To both super’s surprise, the dastardly gang of new villains look an awful lot like Batman and Superman villains in kid form. Joker Jr. and Kid Deadshot, just to name a couple. They know way more about the 2 kids than they should, and it appears they know and have harnessed their weaknesses as well.

Super Sons in all its light heartedness is a wonderfully written and executed comic book through and through. It’s funny, action packed, entertaining, and the Damian Jonathan combo has a seemingly unlimited amount of chemistry. Like I’ve mentioned before, the reason why Superman and Batman work so well is their polar opposite personalities. They fill each others negative spaces really well. The super sons work very similarly, but in a much more comical and campy way, and with Tomasi at the helm it makes for a near perfect duo. As long as these two characters can work off of eachother, story and setting simply doesn’t matter. Tomasi can run any weird and wacky entertaining story arch because it’s not what you’re reading the comic book for, it’s just gravy on top. Super Sons is just as good as it’s ever been, and that’s all you can ask for. Anything better would simply be unrealistic.


(5 / 5)


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