Thursday, September 30, 2010

Infinite Wars: Batwoman vs Alice

Elegy Part 2: Misterioso (DC)
Detective Comics #855 When: September 2009 Why: Greg Rucka How: JH Williams III

The Story So Far...
Inspired by an encounter with the Batman, Kate Kane joins the Gotham City masked vigilante fraternity as Batwoman! Adventuring alongside her lover and ally, The Question, she becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involved Intergang and a mysterious text called the Book of Crime.

The Question soon uncovers a disturbing prophecy that declares the "twice named daughter of Kane" will suffer a brutal end. An end she only narrowly escaped, having to survive mortal wounds inflicted during a sacrificial ceremony under Intergang's leader, Bruno Mannheim. Recovered; Batwoman returns to Gotham's streets and rooftops to pursue the thirteen covens of the Religion of Crime. An act that brings her into conflict with the newest leader of the criminal zealots - Alice!

Full Article:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Comics: The Mask Omnibus Vol.1

In 1994, a CGI effects extravaganza hit the big screen, and for it's time, The Mask was a pretty decent action-comedy. The movie introduced the world to Cameron Diaz, Cuban Pete, and delighted families with the cartoon antics of Jim Carrey's mystically empowered Stanley Ipkiss. Little did those families know, they were inviting into their hearts a homocidal world of murder, mayhem, and crime-fiction.

The PG persuasions of the film fall away pretty quickly in the comic book original published by Dark Horse Comics. Conceptually envisioned by publisher, Mark Richardson, and brought to life by the crack team of John Arcudi and Doug Mahnke; "Big Head" first appeared serialized in the pages of the appropriately titled athology series, Mayhem (1989), before assaulting four issues of his own mini-series in 1991 in, The Mask.

More Joker than Tex Avery; the comic book Mask has all the mania and hilarity of the film, channelled through the meanstreak you'd expect of an id-empowering magic in the modern world. It possesses a hard edge easily associated with the grim 'n' gritty trends of the eighties, but the first volume Omnibus from Dark Horse also packs The Mask Returns and The Mask Strikes Back into it's 300-plus pages, with a continuous saga that ends with a more bombastic flavour akin to the nineties. Stylistically and visually, it's certainly a book that reminds us they don't make 'em like they used to, particularly if you're conscientious of the fact that there were breaks between issues and mini-series. No mollycoddling in those days!

A bastardly Stanley Ipkiss doesn't get too far past the first fifty pages, but by then, you should be clicked into this blood-spattered four-colour world that his antique store mask has opened up, enough to not care about the movie. Don't mind the spoiler, either! The original is as much about the human condition as it is the insane action, and over-the-top crime drama that unfolds as a result. The attitude of the early work, in particular, possesses the kind of colourfully callous self-interest that suggests both youth in the now seasoned writer/artist combo, as well as arrogantly simpler times of the Reagan era.

Top cop, Lt. Kellaway, remains a constant throughout the entire span of the Omnibus, with the delightfully ludicrous Walter adding a touch of Dick Tracy to the backdrop of mafiosos. In comics right now, it's fashionable to laud strong female characters. Kathy -- Ipkiss' jilting girlfriend -- adds dimension to a blonde co-conspirator that the Diaz film character lacked. In fact, Kathy gets her hands dirty throughout Returns, as both vixen, and 'SUPER-HERO!!!'

I've always been a bit of a grouch when it comes to collected trades. I'm a monthly floppy comic reader and that's the artform and format I appreciated. Yet, when financial times are tough, or for works that are difficult to acquire naturally, I'm happy to make exceptions. Of the exceptions I've made recently, The Mask Omnibus Vol. 1 has been one of my favourite!

It's a fantastic shot of nostalgia, but with a dynamism that justifies it unto itself. The staggered serial nature of the material lends a delicious tone of stream-of-consciousness style writing that appeals greatly to my sensibilities, and is a rarity of modern comics. I strongly recommend checking out the preview available on, and if you're so inclined, using the purchase link provided stage-left [your right]!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wrestling: The Kayfabe Countdown - 9/26

#1 The Big Show (29-12-2) (WWE)
As Smackdown makes the move to SyFy, Big Show is among the headlining talents WWE will push to garner audience interest. This has been reflected by a string of victories over former top-champ CM Punk, which culminated last week in a odd-one-out match at the Pay-Per-View, WWE: Night of Champions. His success will no doubt continue as he carries the load of the mid-card, beneath the efforts of Kane and Undertaker, who seem unlikely to end the year at that position. A title shot might be in the future?...

#2 Kofi Kingston (27-19-2) (WWE)
#3 Rey Mysterio (23-11-3) (WWE)
#4 R-Truth (23-16-4) (WWE)
#5 Randy Orton (22-14-4) (WWE) [WWE Champion]
#6 The Miz (22-22-4) (WWE) [Money in the Bank]
#7 Michelle McCool (21-12-0) (WWE) [Womens Champion]
#8 Kane (21-13-3) (WWE) [World Heavyweight Champion]
#9 Drew McIntyre (21-22-3) (WWE) [Tag Team Champion]
#10 AJ Styles (20-9-5) (TNA) [TV Champion]

#1 Tyson Kidd & DH Smith (16-12-0) (WWE)
#2 Robert Roode & James Storm (12-12-2) (TNA)
#3 Layla & Michelle McCool (10-7-0) (WWE)
#4 Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin (9-8-2) (TNA) [Tag Team Champions]
#5 Big Show & The Miz (7-4-1) (WWE)
#6 Velvet Sky & Madison Rayne (6-1-0) (TNA)
#7 Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov (6-2-0) (WWE)
#8 Curt Hawkins & Vance Archer (6-4-0) (WWE)
#9 Drew McIntyre & Cody Rhodes (5-0-0) (WWE) [Tag Team Champions]
#10 Hernandez & Matt Morgan (5-2-1) (TNA)

Superstar Spotlight:
#102 Batista
(4-11-6) (Not Signed)

With a WWE championship reign under his belt before he departed, you couldn't say the win/loss record of Dave Batista is in any way an accurate measure of his success. Before leaving to pursue other endeavours (such as acting, apparently), "The Animal" set about offending the sensibilities of every man, woman and child in the arena, by turning his nose up and walking away from competition. It was part of a persona that made him Smackdown's uber-heel, leading to a shady deal that ended John Cena's title reign at Elimination Chamber after mere minutes, when Mr. McMahon granted Batista a title shot straight after the titular match. It was his count out defeats and silent disdain for the audience that really elevated his final months to the plane of art, though.

It's been a bit of a game, since his May exit, to see how long Batista could remain in the top 100. The fall finally came at the end of last week, when Bryan Danielson captured his fifth WWE win and the US title belt at Night of Champions. Surpassed by Taylor Wilde after her successful tag title defense on Impact this week; it seems Batista is destined to tumble ever downward.

Special Note: Reports have revealed that Amazing Red (#116) has defeated Jay Lethal (#58) at a House Show on the 23rd to claim the TNA X-Division championship. The Kayfabe Countdown only acknowledges televised win/loss records, but will note the surprise belt change. Additional: Reports from a 25th House Show claim Jay regained the X-Division title! The match may be incorporated into the next Impact.

The Kayfabe Countdown is based on the cumulative tally of wrestler win/loss records, based on televised matches from WWE and TNA 2010 broadcasts. At present, they includes TNA: Impact!, WWE: RAW, WWE: NXT, WWE: Superstars, WWE: Smackdown, and monthly Pay-Per-View events.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Secret Sounds: Night by Night

Chromeo - Night by Night (Live on The Late Show/2010)

New music that really grabs me is so rare these days, I tend to become somewhat obsessed by any track that tickles my fancy. Such has been the case since seeing Montreal based electrofunk double-act, Chromeo, who appeared recently on The Late Show with David Letterman performing their single, Night by Night. The eighties-infused track comes from their new album, Business Casual, and is my first really conscious introduction to them.

One of my largest quibbles with the pop music scene right now is it's insincere and shallow plundering of the pop eighties. The machine of the music industry has never felt colder in it's soulless appropriation of the past, despite the fact that we're on the other-end of nineties boy bands, and that it was the eighties that gave us this manufcatured pop in the first place.

In the nineties, I actually dared to miss the synth sound of the decade before, regularly wondering why it hadn't been kept alive adjacent to the movements relevant to that period. I suppose it's that fondness that has kept me open-minded enough to be receptive to the likes of Chromeo, whose sound feels honest, warm, and sincere.

Bounce back to 2004 and Chromeo's debut album, She's In Control, and you can see where that sincerity comes from. Drum machines and retro hip hop breakbeats were there ahead of the curve, blending into a sound just referencially post to the same distance as they were to the funkier side of acts like 2001's Daft Punk (Discovery).
Night by Night, for my money, strikes a more memorable pop chord, swelling with the production of 2010 to be the electro soundtrack to a hundred summer nights.

The only real complaint I have about this song is the fact that I've heard their live take on Letterman! It doesn't happen often, but the live version is just a bit better than the album, which slides through it's chorus with a little too much polish in the mix! Check out the vid and see what you think!

Love the (trademark) keyboard legs, and bonus points to Dave 1 for trading geek for chic in the live show with designer stubble and sunglasses at night! If you don't have this running through your head by the weekend, you can have your money back!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Repost: Night of Champions Predictions

Feels like a curious blend of the best and worst as WWE rolls out all the major titles, merging the women's belts in a long overdue move amidst rumors that the same plan might be in the future of the WWE and World Heavyweight titles.

Six-Pack Elimination WWE Championship match
Sheamus (c) vs Wade Barrett vs Edge vs Randy Orton vs John Cena vs Chris Jericho

The Nexus fizzled out at Summerslam, but it's still cool to see them finally pulling the trigger on Wade Barrett in the best way possible. Five other seasoned wrestlers should be able to carry the weight for any of his failings, making him a great insertion into a previously lagging WWE title hunt. His rise hasn't meant an escape from the Orton/Cena shadow, but just as numbers balance out Barrett, the effect of old hat is lessened. Orton is disturbingly close to some sort of push, but with any luck, it'll stay on Sheamus. Who knows what's going on with Chris Jericho and his on-again-off-again contract status. Hope he stays, but I can't see him picking the belt up, as pleasant a turn around as that would be. Guy just can't seem to get a legit hold on that main event mode! Edge has issues with the mystery General Manager, he might be the dark horse.
Prediction: Sheamus

No Holds Barred World Heavyweight Championship match
The Undertaker vs Kane (c)

The Undertaker has long been one of my favourite wrestlers, so it's hard not to be a little bit excited about a return to one of his most embellished feuds. Kane is a pale shadow of the former-self that started this feud in 1997, but it's hard to imagine them passing up the opportunity to continue it to next month's Hell in a Cell Pay-Per-View, fulfilling the desire that was never realised in their heyday. If a HIAC match is on the horizon, then you'd reason it'll be one more month before Undertaker reaps his vengeance on his dastardly half-brother and World Champion.
Prediction: Kane

United States Championship match
Daniel Bryan vs The Miz (c)

Before his firing several months ago, Daniel Bryan had revealed his name to the "WWE Universe".
I don't know why he hasn't reverted to Bryan Danielson upon his return, but by any name he does remain one of the most interesting acquisitions WWE have made in recent years. Despite my relative disdain for The Miz, this is probably the match I'm most looking forward to. Denying Bryan the gold would be a downright travesty, but I can't help but feel that's exactly what lies ahead.
Prediction: The Miz

The Big Show vs CM Punk
Not really sure why this feud is being dragged out, especially with the Straight-Edge Society seemingly disintegrating, but whatever. I don't have any great problem with this being part of the undercard. Should be a decent match. Punk probably needs a win more, but I don't know...
Prediction: Big Show

Tag Team Championship match
The Hart Dynasty (c) vs Mystery Opponents

Not quite sure why there'd be unnamed opponents for this match. After a defeat on Smackdown, I would think Drew McIntyre & Cody Rhodes might have a shot, but your guess is as good as mine. The Usos are still lurking, and anybody watching the win/loss records will know that Santino & Kozlov have racked up an unlikely 6-0 win streak, which makes them one of the most successful WWE tag teams of the year. I'm not sure any of these teams deserve to take the belts from the Harts, but after charging toward the belts with intense momentum, WWE's tag team vaccuum has sapped their strength.
Prediction: Mystery Opponents

DQ Title Change Intercontinental Championship match
Kofi Kingston vs Dolph Ziggler (c)

I still can't believe Ziggler has the belt. It seemed inevitable he'd get there eventually, but I was ready to count that wait in years rather than months. As has been the case with a long line of rapidfire IC champs, it'd be adding injury to insult to rip the belt off him now. Kofi's had a couple of successive reigns already. Let's try to get some credibility back into this once great championship!
Prediction: Dolph Ziggler

Lumberjill Divas/Womens Championship Unification match
Michelle McCool (c) vs Melina (c)

Don't know, don't care. Merging the belts is long overdue!
Prediction: Michelle McCool

The Kayfabe Countdown: WWE Top Ten
Cumulative tally based on the win/loss records of televised matches.

#1 The Big Show [+1]
#2 Kofi Kingston [+1]
#3 Rey Mysterio [-2]
#4 R-Truth [+1]
#5 The Miz (United States Champion) [-1]
#6 Randy Orton [+4]
#7 Michelle McCool [+1]
#8 Christian [+1]
#9 Kane (World Heavyweight Champion) [new]
#10 Dolph Ziggler (Intercontinental Champion( [RE]

#1 DH Smith & Tyson Kidd (Tag Team Champions) [--]
#2 Layla & Michelle McCool [--]
#3 Big Show & The Miz [--]
#4 Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov [new]
#5 Curt Hawkins & Vance Archer [-1]

Originally posted:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mortal Kombat: The Lost Kingdom of Aqua

I've recently been writing about and collecting information regarding a supposedly elusive unlockable Mortal Kombat character called Aqua.

MK is noted for it's secrets and wacky sense of humor, but this character seems to be the work of whichever studio handled the PlayStation port for Mortal Kombat Trilogy, specifically a late version, the Greatest Hits or Platinum Edition. Two magazine articles include screenshots, one from the Official UK PlayStation Magazine Beat 'em Up Special of 1999, and another from an Official Australian 2000 Collector's Edition: 100 Best PlayStation Games counterpart special by the same magazine. This might also suggest it was a PAL region exclusive.

With help, I was able to rip video of the character's ending sequence from a ROM, but haven't yet been able to unlock the character. I'm told it involves holding select whilst choosing Rain, but there must be some additional method to unlocking the character. Not surprising, given the lengths we've had to go to reach other characters in previous MK's, such as Meat and Noob in MK4, or Jade and Noob in MKII.

The only other video to emerge, so far, is amateur footage of the same ending sequence filmed (poorly) on a television. Not much of an addition, but we might as well start to pool all references in the one place. If you've stumbled upon this page, and you have additional info, please post it in the comments!

Edit July 2, 2011: Apparently a thumbnail screenshot has emerged from the darkened recesses of the web, which may have been partial inspiration for MUGEN creations based on the character. Edit November 6, 2011: Over on MKO, JiminyCroquet has identified the watermark as coming from a pre-Gamespot, which explains the V. If anyone has the original fullsize image, contact me!!!

MK Aqua aka; Aquilluxborg Hydroxybot links:
- Mortal Kombat: They Don't Talk About HIM Anymore... [ article]
- Mortal Kombat Trilogy Aqua is Real!!! [Angefire site]
- Mortal Kombat Trilogy: Super Unlockable Aqua Ending [YouTube video]
- Amateur MKT Treasures Ending TV Footage [Yfrog video]
- Aqua Wins [Soundbyte] [YouTube video]
- Official UK PlayStation Magazine 1999 Article [ImageShack jpeg]
- Aqua Gameplay Screenshot Thumbnail [ImageShack jpeg]
- Mortal Kombat Trilogy [Wikipedia article]
- Secret character [MK Wikia]
- Rumored Mortal Kombat Characters [Compendium]
- Os lutadores "secretos" de Mortal Kombat [Portuguese Blog]
- Unlocking Aqua? [GameSpot Forums]
- You know who should really be in this game? [GameSpot Forums]
- Aquilluxborg Hydroxybot ending [GameSpot Forums]
- Unlocking Aqua? [GameFAQs Forums]
- Aquilluxborg Hydroxybot for Mortal Kombat 2011!! [Forum Post]
- Rumored Mortal Kombat Characters [Forum Post]
- Aqua in Trilogy [MKO Forums]
- When do yous think these characters will ever be offical? [MKO Forums]
- Rumor for MK10 [MK Wikia Blog]

Trying to keep up with Aqua info/references I'm finding. Thought it would be fun to try to keep track of tweets about him, too. Hit me up @TheMicker if you want, so I can add your tweet to the list.

Edit November 6, 2011: Still trying to keep up with any and all Aqua news/developments [tweet me if you've got something]! RoboMelvana has a video up with a quick preview of his MUGEN Aqua [1:47-2:48], which is pretty cool. It's a good start with some tweaks to come. Not quite 100% accurate, but you know how demanding us Aqua fanboys can be. Hope to see more like it!

Apparently a fan-art project is going to include Aqua in their drawn catalogue of characters, but not until some time next year, so I'll try to keep my eye out for that when it happens. If you weren't around earlier in the year, you might also like to find the Aqua reference in MKO's April Fools joke.

MK Aqua Fakes/Tributes
- Top Fighter 2011 II: World Battle [MUGEN]
- Top Fighter 2011 II: World Battle [MUGEN]
- sucky preview of top fighter 2000 mkviii 2: world battle [MUGEN]
- MKA KAF: Aquilluxborg Hydroxybot 1 [YouTube Video]
- MKA KAF: Aquilluxborg Hydroxybot 2 [YouTube Video]
- Mortal Kombat Aqua [DeviantART]
- Mortal Kombat Armageddon : Kreate a fighter [Forum Post]

MK Aqua on Twitter