SAGA REVIEW!

In bookstores you can usually find us isolated to certain areas: Matt — graphic novels, me — home/arts & crafts. Not surprising if you know us/read our blog. Well, we’re a predictable pair, so while browsing in Indigo (Canada’s Barnes & Noble but BETTER!) we came together at the register with our finds. I picked out a handmade ceramic pitcher and a book by Real Simple and Matt brought home an art companion to The Hobbit and just-some-graphic-novel-that-I-couldn’t-remember-the-name-of-five-minutes-later.

I gotta admit, I’m a bit of a snob. When Matt comes to me with a movie or video game or comic series and says “you should check this out, I think you’ll like it,” I usually answer with “yeah, cool” and go back to pinterest. I mean, you’d think I’d listen to him by now! He’s introduced me to Firefly, Watchmen, Heavy Rain, Game of Thrones, and well, this list is long enough to prove my point. Bottom line: he likes cool stuff! Sometimes I just get overwhelmed by how much content there is to be consumed, so I tend to be picky about what I get into. I have to have a gut feeling about something before I dedicate my precious time to obsessing over it. Eh, I guess you can say snobbery is my hamartia.

That being said, I hope this review holds a bit more weight and you read me loud and clear when I say: Saga is amazing and you should really check it out! Come on man, don’t be such a snob ;)

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Firstly, I want to point out what got me to pick up the book. There’s a gorgeous, badass breastfeeding mama on the cover! Being a gorgeous, badass breastfeeding mama myself, I was intrigued. It’s not hard to find boobs on the cover of a comic book, but you don’t see many babies attached to said boobs on said covers.

The story opens with the birth of Hazel, our intermittent narrator. Her parents, Alana and Marko, are star-crossed lovers caught in a galactic war that began on their home planets Landfall and its moon, Wreath, respectively. In the first six issues (the first collection), we meet a handful of other characters whose POV you get to read from. It’s a lot like Star Wars in that the various species, worlds and lore are foreign in every sense of the word, yet appear rich and rooted. Once you start reading about this galaxy, the milky way will be dull as a brick.

Brian K. Vaughan’s writing is very Whedon-esque, which is no surprise as he cites Joss as his inspiration to write. Fans will definitely get nostalgic for Firefly while reading Saga.

Hazel’s narration is witty and insightful, even beautiful at times.

“Most of my childhood was spent clinging to the feathers of a dulled arrow blindly fired across a starless night.”

Fiona Staple’s illustrations perfectly compliment the story. The worlds and characters are so alien (pun intended!) yet accessible. Just to give you an idea, there are people with TV heads, a creepy spider lady and a hot pink ghost with her guts hanging out, yet nothing feels out of place. It’s one of those things that ‘just works!’

I’ve only finished the first collection but I’m already hooked. I can’t wait to catch up! I’ve already started planning out our cosplay for comic con coming up in 2 weeks *eeeeek* And yeah, so what? I’m dressing my baby boy up as a baby girl! He’ll get me back one day.

So there’s my recommendation. If you check it out, let me know what you think!

casey

 

(Disclaimer: the series does contain some mature content, i.e. nudity and violence)

MATHS & CRAFTS

hexaflexagonsIn school, I was your typical love-art-hate-math kid. It seems that most people tend to see these subjects as opposites — you’re simply a left-brained or right-brained person. Math is stringent and art is free-flowing. Well, I’ve come to realize that math is not quite so flat; it can be truly beautiful! I owe this epiphany to the amazing ViHart, a self-described mathemusician, who makes videos on YouTube that will BLOW YOUR MIND.

My inspiration for this year’s Trimmings Competition (hosted by the lovely Umbrella Prints) came while watching a video she made about hexaflexagons. If you have the time (only 4 minutes, she talks fast!) I highly suggest watching the video.

Hexaflexagons are flat models (usually made of paper) that when folded/flexed reveal more than the two sides that you’d expect. The flexagons I made are technically tri-hexaflexagons since they have three sides, but you can make hexaflexagons with six sides that are even cooler! They’re easier to make with paper because the fabric can get bulky but I’d love to try it sometime :)

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My sisters love these, especially little Ashlin who says “they’re magic!” We’ve also started a game with them where we tell stories inspired by the patterns that pop up as we flex them. Example: Shannon told a seafaring tale based on the sea green waves, bright yellow sun and seagulls against a stormy sky. It’s fun! Flexing them can also be very addictive and therapeutic.

I made these hexaflexagons out of one trimmings packet from Umbrella Prints and I chose a few complementary fabrics that I found at my local shop.

If you’d like to try making a fabric hexaflexagon, I’ll be putting a tutorial up next week! Until then, here’s a great pdf that shows you how to make one out of paper.

Have fun and happy Trimmings Competition everyone!

casey

BIG NEWS! BEN AFFLECK’S BATSUIT REVEALED!

So, Zack Snyder just tweeted the first look at Ben Afffleck’s suit in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman (vs. Wonder Woman vs. Lex Luthor/Justice League set-up) movie!

 

Yesterday he had teased us with a shot of the back of the Bat-mobile, which looked a little like the Tumbler from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight triology. Thankfully that wasn’t all he showed us! Ever since they first announced that the sequel to Man of Steel would feature Batman along side Superman I have been dying for information!

The slow trickle of details has been annoying me for a long time! When they anounced that Ben Affleck would be playing Bruce Wayne, my reaction was something like this:

Since then, however, my opinion has changed. I think Affleck is capable of playing Bruce Wayne, as the public, playboy, philanthropist and I have hope that he can become the brooding, bat-cave dwelling man that only Alfred and his closest companions know as well. My doubts about Ben Affleck were put to rest entirely when they announced Jesse Eisenburg as Lex Luthor, because I was utterly aghast with the complete ridiculousness of that choice…

I was still nervous about how Batman would look in the movie. I have never liked any of the Bat-suits that have been featured in any of the live-action Batman films. They are either too rubbery and impractical, or too armoured and bulky. How is this vigilante who was trained in every form of martial art, who is supposed to stealthily lurk in the shadows and quickly and quietly combat armed criminals accomplish this if he is wearing a suit of armour and stiffly waddling around unable to turn his head?

As of today with the release of the new Batsuit, all of my Batman-related qualms for this film have been put to rest. Simply put, I think it’s awesome! I’m really glad that Snyder decided to stay true to a comic-book look. I like the slim, flexible look of it. The fact that they chose a Bat-symbol resembling that of The Dark Knight Returns and the cowl looks a lot like Jim Lee’s Batman is really cool. Combining Jim Lee and Frank Miller is never a bad idea!

This choice is probably also an indication of Snyder’s influence on the story of his upcoming film. He’s already stated that The Dark Knight Returns has been a big influence for the ‘Vs’ between Batman and Superman in this movie and his costume choice for the film seems to reflect that. Maybe we’ll even see Batman suit up in something special to help him take down the Man of Steel?

I’m excited to see if they go with blue for the cape and cowl or if they stick with all black and grey. Either way, the fact that the suit is going to be grey, and I’m pretty sure it will, (even though we can’t tell from the black and white photo) instead of black like they have tended to for film is really exciting. I think anything that keeps the character truer to the comics is a good choice! The character has been appearing monthly (sometimes more frequently) in comics since his creation 75 years ago, and it is always strange to me when a director decides to forget that and ignore their influence. Zack Snyder isn’t one to neglect his comic-book source material in his films, so I should have anticipated he would continue in the same way.

So, I have no problems with Batman in the upcoming film. Now they just have to convince me that Jesse Eisenburg can be a compelling and convincing villain for the Man of Steel and that Wonder Woman will have a place in this already quite crowded story. If they pull that off, then I don’t think there is anything holding this movie back from being great!

More Batman on mattpluscasey:

Why I love Batman
My preview and initial reaction to Batman: Arkham Knight
My review of ‘Cold, Cold Heart’ for Batman: Arkham Origins

matt

TUMBLR, FINDING NEW (OLD?) MUSIC & KISHI BASHI

I used to wander virtual space and stumble upon new music (usually through tumblr, but sometimes I’d spending hours on YouTube, navigating through covers by an artist I really liked–finding new music through their influences).

I would stumble across a new artist this way and then get deeply into them. I would find all of their hits and listen to them, then go on to listening to entire albums and live performances. When I found Bob Dylan through John Mayer my iPod was quickly taken over by his music and I listened to little else for the hours I would spend on my commute down into the city for school.

Each artist I found would bring a wave of music with them as I would spend weeks losing myself in folk music, blues or indie rock. Some of them would last only a few days, or a few songs, and others would stick, becoming part of me, and have remained some of my favourite artists even now.

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Hey daddy, I’m going to eat this crayon. OK?

This has happened a lot less since this little guy appeared because I have way less time to wander the internet in search of music, but it still does happen sometimes.

The most recent artist who has made it into my favourites is Kishi Bashi, a violinist who combines classical violin/Japanese/indie/pop music, somewhat in the style of Bon Iver… Casey describes it as ‘whimsical’ and it is perhaps best described by his recording label ‘Joyful Noise’.

When you hear it you’ll understand what I mean.

Here is the offical video for his song “Bright Whites”

He is also incredible to hear play live, seeing how he plays all of his songs, mostly with just his violin and vocal cords (and a number of effect and looper pedals!)

Have you found any great artists this way that you wouldn’t know otherwise? Let me know if you have and we can continue to discover great music together!

 

BATMAN: ARKHAM ORIGINS — COLD, COLD HEART REVIEW

BatmanOrigins 2014-04-23 20-39-20-87Warner Bros. just released the new (and final) downloadable content, Cold, Cold Heart, for their latest (tangent) Arkham game on April 22nd.

A Cold, Cold Heart tells the story of Mr. Freeze’s first appearance in Gotham on New Years Eve.

In Batman: The Animated Series, we learn that Mr. Freeze is a scientist specializing in cryogenics who desperately wants to save his wife Nora, since she was diagnosed with a terminal illness. He uses the resources of the company he is employed with to cryogenically freeze his wife until he can cure her disease.

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At the game’s start we see Nora Fries in her icy slumber, and Mr. Freeze looking over her. Then it cuts to a banquet at Wayne Manor, where Ferris Boyle, the head of GothCorp, is receiving an award from the Wayne Foundation for “Humanitarian of the Year”. Freeze enters flanked by some goons, and puts an end to the warm hearts and celebrations. At the first sign of trouble, Bruce heads straight for the secret entrance to the Batcave for a wardrobe change. You’ll get to play a little as Bruce Wayne and take down some of the Penguin’s thugs along the way. Freeze takes Ferris Boyle hostage and the thugs (ironically) begin to set the mansion ablaze.

The DLC is accessible from the main menu, right under “continue story”, you’ll see an option to play A Cold, Cold Heart. It doesn’t take place as a side-quest or mission in the main story of Arkham Origins, since it takes place about a week after the events of the main story line. You will find yourself in Wayne Manor, the GothCorp building and two districts (Coventry and Diamond) in South Gotham. The rest of the city is cut off by giant ice barriers, presumably set up by Freeze to prevent additional police backup from coming across the bridges to stop him from exacting vengeance.

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Maurice LaMarche (from Toronto, Canada!) returns as the voice of Mr. Freeze for his origin story and he is amazing as usual. Freeze is one of my favourite villains because of his status as an “anti-villain”. He is motivated solely by his desire to save his wife. He isn’t a crime boss like Penguin or the Joker, he doesn’t want to destroy Batman or Gotham, his heart is cold, and he cares for nothing aside from his wife Nora, and getting vengeance for her fate (to say anymore would give too much away to you readers who don’t know Freeze…SPOILERS!).

One of my favourite parts of the experience was unraveling this mystery via The Dark Knight’s detective work in a cryogenics lab where Victor Fries was working.

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Warner Bros. had the opportunity to take this character and craft a really great story like Paul Dini had done in Batman: The Animated Series or Scott Snyder and James Tynion in Batman Annual #1, but the bits of story that we do get are kind of sparse throughout the experience. I wouldn’t say that the story was bad, they could have just given us more of it, instead of giving us the basic story that we know and expect in a few cutscenes. It would have been nice to see something new, or at least more of an emotional, character-driven telling of the Mr. Freeze’s origin.

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The content is as enjoyable as it is in the main game. If you were expecting anything new with this DLC, then you will be disappointed. At least from a gameplay persepective. Just like Arkham Origins, you won’t really see any additions or improvements to its predecessors, Arkham City and Arkham Asylum. Warner Brother’s Studio has merely opted to stick with the mechanics that already work and are immensely enjoyable from Rocksteady’s Batman games.

You’ll have access to all of the gadgets from Arkham Origins, except for the glue grenade (because all of the remaining solution has disintegrated…). The only new gadgets, other than the Extreme Environment (XE) Suit, are the Thermal Batarangs, which you can use to knock down icy stalactites on unsuspecting enemies. These are more like upgrades, as you can use the XE Suit to heat them up before you throw them. There are 3 abilities to unlock by collecting all of the secrets (Anarky tags, Anarky riots and frozen victims) but I haven’t been able to complete that yet because you have to do them as you progress through the story or else you might not be able to return to certain ones.

There are new enemies with freeze guns that you will have to dodge and do make fights in large groups more difficult, but once you learn how to counter them they aren’t too difficult.

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The XE Suit is something that I was excited to try out. I’ve always wished that developers would work in unique Bat-suits to the games, each with different functions and abilities to change up the gameplay, maybe react to certain villains or situations they set up, rather than having skins from various stories that don’t really do anything.

Unfortunately, the XE Suit doesn’t really do anything different either… It lets you heat up your Batarangs before you throw them, and it gives you access to areas that are blocked off due to ice or extreme cold, but it doesn’t change up the gameplay in any way at all. It doesn’t make Batman stronger, slower or have to adjust his strategies in any way. In fact, the shock gloves are just replaced by thermal gloves in combat as well.

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Like with Arkham Origins WB studios decided to stick with what worked and what we expected, and of course it works and is as enjoyable as any of the other Batman games. It doesn’t, however, shock or excite or do anything new with the game or story. If you enjoy the current Batman games, you will enjoy this but you shouldn’t expect anything new.

If nothing else, this, like Arkham Origins, will hopefully hold you over until Rocksteady is finished development on the bound-to-be stunning conclusion to the series, Batman: Arkham Knight.

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More Batman on mattpluscasey:

Why I love Batman
My preview and initial reaction to Batman: Arkham Knight

matt