Monday, February 28, 2011

Dead Space 2 - more is sometimes less...

I loved Dead Space, the Xbox game. It’s just the perfect game. It’s all set on a big spaceship and you have to fight loads of Necromorphs (alien monsters made from dead bodies). Necromorphs are a supposedly different kind of enemy and you’re apparently meant to dismember them to kill them, shoot its limbs off one by one – but you can actually just shoot at it in a terrified frenzy (like I do) and it’s all good. DS1 is just such a neat little game (the only problem being that you can play it again, but you can’t change your difficulty level – d’oh – which is a bit of an oversight. So if you get tons of weapons and ammos and want to save them and try them out on a harder level, you can’t.) In Dead Space 1, you faff around doing all sorts of tasks and then you need to get to the ship’s tram, where you finish the level, and then you whiz about from place to place (different chapters) on the tram – cool.
I was very excited to get Dead Space 2 – I’m not a massive gamer and I rarely buy games when they first come out – just wait til the price goes down. I had to get this one though.
It’s a great game – very long and epic (in a way that Resident Evil 4 was long and epic and had many layers), and there are some interesting new monsters – the ‘Puker’ who pukes acid at you, Velociraptor-style aliens who corner you and run at you, and weird wall-hanging pus blob-monsters who spit acid-pus at you if you don’t see them. Worst of all, there are little demon kids who come at you in hordes and slash at you with nasty claws. Oh wait, actually there is something worse – the wailing necromorph babies, who pulsate and crawl at you and then explode…
Everyone seems to be saying that it is the perfect game and giving it rave reviews, but I have to say, I was a bit disappointed by it. I’ll tell you what happened – I saw a picture of it online – a pic of the main guy, Isaac, on a bright, neon-y train, and I thought ‘cool! So it’s gonna have a different setting – maybe a planet city or something’. But no! That photo was just a brief moment of the game, really unrepresentational – d’oh! DS2 pretty much has the same setting as the last game, hmmm.
So the settings are pretty samey – although there are some nice variations towards the end. There are so many cool different locations and set pieces in the first game – the medical bay, gardening area, etc – but most of the DS2 locations seem very similar thoughout. One level is set back on the ship from the first game. And this is one of the main problems of this game – you spend ages running around the Ishimura ship, just running down corridors – and nothing happens for ages! It’s very suspenseful when you first play it - anything could jump out at you - but on the 2nd time, you do twiddle your thumbs a bit – and that’s quite typical of DS2. You wonder if they could have been a bit more inventive with it.
Another thing I noticed is that the puzzles and set pieces are very disappointing. There really isn’t much to them – most of them just involve putting a fire extinguisher thing onto a surface and shooting it to gain access to somewhere. The games and set pieces of the first game seemed so much more fun and complex! Also, there’s a slightly annoying regular puzzle – you have to spin a wheel on a device and press down when it turns blue three times – it’s just not that difficult! Also the final challenge slightly fizzles out – it’s not that hard when you know what to do.
Another disappointment is the lack of tram from point to point – it’s not in this game! It was always really cute, plus the good thing was that it gave you a clear ‘break’ in the game. There aren’t really any breaks in DS2, it’s just one big rollercoaster.
Even the new outfits you can buy in the Shop aren’t that exciting…
It’s also interesting how they try to develop the main guy, Isaac, and the situation with Nicole, his dead girlfriend. It’s okay, I guess, but didn’t really blow me away. I like the new character Ellie, though, and hopefully she’ll be in the next game.
There are some cool new elements though. There’s a new detonator weapon, which is great fun – and very effective against the Velicoraptor style aliens. You can either plant a mine on the floor, or put a mine-line between walls, so a monster will explode when it runs at you. Or you can just fire it at an enemy and make it explode! Also great is the fact you can fly in zero gravity with thrusters – that is so cool! Some people say the Javelin Gun is good too – although I didn’t really use it.
There are a couple of nasty shocks too. The Regenerator monster from DS1 returns near the end – and that is just horrible! Seriously, I had to stop playing the game for a week, because I just couldn’t face it! And there’s a nasty surprise after you take an optional trip into one store-room – when you come out, one of the most HORRIBLE monsters from the first game comes at you… (he just comes at you non-stop, and when you kill him, these horrible skull creatures detach from him and attack you…) In fact, in general, there are tons and tons of monsters, and often they’ll attack you all in one go, relentlessly, one after another – making the game really hard. It’s intense and can be difficult – but I’m not sure it makes the game better than the creepy first version. DS2 is bigger and louder and nastier than the first game, but I don’t think that necessarily makes it better. DS1 was Alien, and DS2 is Aliens (and Alien is my favourite movie of all time!).
It sounds like I hated this game – I didn’t hate it, but I was definitely a bit disappointed by it (but not as disappointed as I was by Resident Evil 5). I hope they do a DS3 and I really hope they set it on a planet or colony or something. One thing the game did make me want to do, was play the first game again – shame I couldn’t find it, d’oh…
Oh one final thing – the start of this game is horrific! So unsettling, as you run thru the ship in a straightjacket – being chased by aliens – no weapons or anything – arrgh!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Every so often you get a film that really clicks with you... You go and see it at the flicks and then you just have to go and see it again. I think it happened to a lot of people with Inception.
Last Saturday, on the back of some great reviews and my general love for all things Japanese (plus I enjoy my little weekend jaunts to the ICA), I popped along to watch the new Japanese movie Confessions. It is soooo good. Everything about it is amazing, from the structure to the casting down to the soundtrack, which I downloaded immediately. I just had to go and see it again last night, and I enjoyed it just as much – and I’d love to go and see it again, but I’m not rich lol.
I won’t spoil it, but basically it’s about a female teacher who discovers that 2 of her students are wrong ‘uns and they’ve done something pretty bad to her, and she decides to take revenge on them. The story then takes tons of twists and turns, weaves in and out of characters, and basically it’s all a bit of a mind-fuck. It’s a masterpiece of storytelling, with several things going on at the same time from different viewpoints, and new revelations being made every few minutes.
The style is stunning. The colours, the motion, and there are some really breathtaking shots and set pieces. It was like watching a two-hour Radiohead video (but not one of the ones with Thom Yorke dancing). Some scenes on the school roof and some of the climatic scenes with one of the Bad Students (it’s like something out of a Japanese sci-fi movie) will stay in my mind for a long time to come.
The darkness of the story is staggering, and all the actors are superb. It’s actually quite a brave movie, and yet it has moments of laugh-out loud humour too. You rarely see a movie where you think ‘these actors were born to play these roles’. Particularly good is the kid who plays the nastier of the Bad Students – yes he’s a wrong ‘un, but you also occasionally feel very sorry for him, and he plays the anguish perfectly. I think he is set for big things.
The only slight downside is that the film does stray into outrageousness sometimes – some of the plot twists go a bit too over the top, and some of it relies a bit too much on chance and coincidence. But it’s okay, you forgive it that, and it’s all part of the fun.
The soundtrack is stunning too, including some tracks by far-out J-rockers Boris, a new Radiohead track, some beautiful Japanese folk music, and my absolute favourite, Peculiarites by Curly Giraffe.
On the downside, I watched some of Memories of Matsuko by the same director – and thought it really sucked. It’s obviously massivly inspired by Amelie, but in all the wrong ways. I haven’t watched it all yet, but it just seems very silly - too much.
And such a shame that the trailer for Confessions is the typical piano-led montage, and not the cool cutting edge style we get in the movie. If you wanna see a good representation of it, try this - it's in Japanese but it really conveys the style of the movie -

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I'm so excited!
Dark Horse are re-releasing 'Finder' by the amazing Carla Speed McNeil!
Finder was a fantastic indie book from the 90s/00s in the Golden Age of indie (you know, when Tomine, Abel, Clowes etc were releasing tons of stuff). I love Carla's art - it's my kinda stuff - very back to basics illustration - like Jill Thompson too. The story was very involved and I did get a bit lost as I didn't have all the issues - but I'm gonna give it another shot!
So today, Dark Horse release a new Finder book called Voice, and in March they release the first part of an ultimate Finder collection - 600 pages! Can't wait.
So off to FP tonight - actually excited for a change - and will hopefully get Bakuman 3 as well.
Incidentally, Carla has written the most amazing post about creating indie comics. It's on her blog and it's truly inspirational. It really rings true to me, about the amount of hard work it is, and having to get the balance right (which I never have been able to do, in all my 20 years of making comics!).
You can read it here, take a look:

Monday, February 14, 2011

21st Century Boys!

I finished watching the 20th Century Boys trilogy of movies at the weekend.
I’d seen the first movie a couple of years ago, and was unimpressed (I don’t think my mind could cope with everything that was going on). I’d also bought the first manga volume and hadn’t been able to get into it, and wasn’t keen on the art.
Then, after reading Pluto, by the same author, which really impressed me, I decided to give it another chance, and I soon became addicted, as I mentioned in a previous post, and I read it all online (cos they've only released 12 volumes over here, and there are about 22!).
So this weekend I finished watching the trilogy of movies. I think I’ve mentioned before, that I wasn’t amazingly impressed by the first movie – it had a cheap feel to it, and I really didn’t like some of the acting, especially the guy who played Kenji. (Although I must say I thought all the kids were superb).
The second movie was a lot better, but still a little low budget. The third movie pretty much sucked, and the concert ending was pretty bad... And then the credits finished rolling and there’s a 10-minute-or-so epilogue which blew my little socks off. It’s beautifully done, very moody, very stylish – and explains so much. It pretty much makes the entire 6-hour trilogy worth watching.
And I was chatting to a clued-up workmate about it, and jeeez I had no idea there was an epilogue to the manga!!! I’d read all of 20th Century Boys, but I had no idea there was a 21st Century Boys epilogue – d’oh! Time to jump online I think...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Eagle Awards fun

The Eagle Awards nominations are OPEN!
You can go here to vote.
Last year I was stunned that my Spandex comic was nominated in the Best British Colour Comic category, but it eventually lost out to 2000AD.
There’s some funny stuff going on in these nominations. If you suggest your own nomination, it appears in the drop down menu... So I have been nominated as Best Editor lol – for my day job! Presumably it’s one of my freelancer chums who I worked with, but it’d be hilarious if it was just some random Torchwood Comic fan or something.
It’s so much fun to see all the random names in the nominations – including loads of my Titan colleagues! I voted for a couple in the Editor-type categories.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A li'l leaving pic I did for a friend

One of my bessie mates, Marcus, left work this week - we've worked together for over 10 years, so I'm very sad to see him leave. I did him this li'l pic of everyone - past and present - at Titan - although I did miss some people off by accident!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I generally get two kinds of 'comments' on my Spandex website - one type is from people who really like Spandex and the other is from people who hate it (and their comments always include the word 'offensive'). Have a look at this latest one:

…..are you SERIOUS!!
Dont get me wrong, im not homophobic, i am the least homophobic person you will ever meet. but SERIOUSLY!#
Seagull man? james bend, PUSSY????
these characters are so stereotypically gay this is almost offensive!!
having a superhero who is gay is one thing, but this is just one step too far. please dial it down a little

I mean, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but you have to bear in mind that this person probably hasn't read or seen the actual comic.
Then - Pussy - okay, it's a silly name, but it's fun and it plays with the word - and you know, Pussy Galore beat me to it 50 years ago!
But I do agree - Seagull Man is really homophobic isn't it. I don't know what I was thinking there...
And you can also guarantee, that if I tried to discuss this with the guy/gal, i wouldn't get a response! So best to just leave it.
I do have the option of whether to approve or trash these comments, but i generally approve them, just to show how worked up people can get - although I get a bit alarmed when my friends start to defend me and get into a bit of an e-fight!