Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Little Caesar's Pretzel Crust Pizza

Once again I have succumbed to the siren song of cheap novelty pizza. I am but a man, and like the Greek heroes before me, I have a tragic flaw. That flaw is the irresistable compulsion to seek out and purchase any terrible pizza I have seen an advertisement for after the hour of 9 PM. That brings us to today's subject. Little Caesar's Pretzel Crust Pizza.

Unlike Pizza Hut, which has little to say about its relative quality, and Domino's, which is constantly attempting to prove that it is, in fact, a legitimate pizzeria, Little Caesar's has a different tactic. Little Caesar's main selling point is that one can obtain said pizza for a measly five dollars without ever leaving the comfort of one's car.

Some would have you believe pizza is meant to be comsumed in a sit-down environment, where your family can discuss the day after waiting 20 minutes for your custom-ordered delicacy to arrive. Little Caesar's, however, does away with any of that pretense. When you drive up to their boxy establishment, you are greeted immediately with a prepacked, premade, and utterly standard pizza. When you pay five dollars for a pizza there, you get exactly five dollars worth of pizza; no more, no less. Little Caesar's is the kind of pizza you are meant to eat alone.

So now we come to the main attraction, the Pretzel Crust Pizza. The main selling point, apart from the titular crust, is the replacement of the tomato sauce with a nacho cheese, similar to what one may find appropriate to dip a large pretzel in. My colleague was relieved to find the toppings kept from swimming in an overabundance of this sauce, while I was quietly disappointed.

All in all, a quiet disappointment is the prevailing sentiment this pizza creates. For all its bluster and pride, it does not seem to differentiate itself from the standard fare. The welcome lukewarm embrace of the unremarkably familiar tomato sauce is usurped by an even more underwhelming cheese. The crust you came to impersonally tolerate is tinted brown and covered in large chunks of salt.

Caesar's strength has become its weakness in this offering. This pizza is a paradox, an attempt to make an interesting pizza from a factory fitted only for the unexceptional. Cheap pizza gimmicks are a younger pizzeria's game. It seems Little Caesar's has forgotten the true purpose of its pizza: To be eaten slowly, grudgingly, lit only by the solitary glow of a computer monitor. This was the platonic ideal. This was PIZZA.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Amalgam Comics: Spider-Boy

In 1996, after a couple crossovers, DC and Marvel decided to do something fun together instead of fighting all the time. What they did was something nobody actually likes. It's called Amalgam comics. Sure, people liked it when they combined Batman and Wolverine, but does anyone care about Magneto and his Magnetic Men?! ...Okay, well, in Amalgam, they just combined two of their characters to make one that was either incredibly popular or whom everyone tried to flush from their mind as fast as possible. Try and guess which one this was.

Comic Review: Spider-Boy

In case you couldn't tell, like me, the two characters combined here are Spider-Man and the 90's Superboy, who is the greatest example of 90's Cool I've ever seen.

Well it's got 90's Superboy half in it! Sheesh, why is everyone always talking about Dark Claw, this shit sounds goddamn amazing, it's--

Son of a bitch.

Okay, so I think now we know what we're dealing with. So... ahem, Bizarnage wants to absorb Spider-Boy. Or be Spider-Boy. Or something. After some cunning tricks, Spider-Boy locks Bizarnage in a magical science cage. It's revealed this is in the Cadmus facility, which I would tell you more about, but I have no idea if this is just like the regular DC Cadmus but with the Fantastic 4 working there. Oh, the Fantastic 4 work there. Let's see how Mr. Fantastic is in this thing!



Don't worry, we don't have time to get into that, thank god, because there's more trouble afoot! "King Lizard" (Whom I found out is Marvel's The Lizard and DC's King Shark amalgamated) got out of containment, which is no good. As long as we never have to see Bizarnage again he can fight whoever the hell he wants. Wait, what's the deal on King Lizard?



Wait, stop. I can do this. I got a handle on it. Spider-Boy makes more references to things that never happened so we can all pretend this isn't the dumbest thing anyone's ever made. Then he goes to some section of the lab where there's... Doc Ock... and, oh no.




Now we got some exposition, which you think might make a tiny bit of sense, but no. It doesn't. So our hero was part of an attempt to create a super soldier serum, so they decided to clone a person with gravity altering powers. Then the lead scientist died in a horrible explosion. Who was that lead scientist? Albert Einstein.

I'm kidding it was PETER PARKER.

So he died without ever showing his face, cool, great. Since the accident somehow released Spider-Boy from his cloning chamber, General "Thunderbolt" Ross becomes his father figure. You know, the guy who tried to kill the Hulk for 50 years. So that's all well and good, but then.

Welp. I guess you can't be anybody's goddamn uncle.

Back to the story, since King Lizard is loose, rather than try to maybe follow his path of destruction and woe, Spider-Boy decides to go to his part time job. He ends up at, where else, the Daily Bugle. Where, for all of 2 pages we get his nebbish alter ego, Pete Ross. Don't worry, that doesn't even matter, because as soon as he walks in the door, a reporter comes in with King Lizard's whereabouts. That was definitely the way that had to happen.


So there's Lizard punching. The "Special Crimes Unit" which just looks like SHIELD shows up and shoots Lizzy, but predictably it doesn't work. Also, wait. Why is he getting bigger?

So apparently he's growing because he got exposed to Pym particles, which apparently also exist in this world. So Spider-Boy goes back to the lab, grabs a glowy thing, and throws it into King Lizard's mouth. And then he aaaaAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH

Well good, now I have the irrational fear of shrinking to an infinitesimally small size. At least that wraps everything up. Villain is left to a horrible fate, and everybody is happy. No loose ends, no weird open conclusions, just a nice, simple ending. Yep, sure am glad there's no final image after a cut off senten--


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Who Are These Guys again? Honestly, this one came out of left field. Everyone expected Iron Man, Captain America and Thor. These guys? Who are these guys. Why are these guys.

I enjoyed the film, which I'll get into, but first the parts I didn't like. The plot was pretty standard. It's your usual Team-Forming McGuffin quest, but this time In Space. The villain, Ronan, was boring as hell. He might as well have been named Evil McDullbad. I wish he had more of a backstory or motivation, but what are you gonna do. The evil robot chick, Quasar-- no, Aurora-- I mean, Nebula, was about the same. Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer seemed like a weird character. His somewhat late introduction and how he didn't seem to act very well was jarring, and I have a hunch his character was shoehorned into the writing process.

In some cases, the above would be enough for me to bash a movie. Oddly enough, these didn't seem to affect my perception of the movie. Mostly that's because it had a distinct and upbeat tone. Chris Pratt as Peter Quill (Or Star-Lord) had a great performance, even when he was talking to a CGI raccoon. And that's the thing, plotwise this movie isn't very distinct from Avengers, but it's the concept and how they pull it off that's different.

In Avengers, situations weren't funny, what was funny were the one-liners characters would spout off now and again. ("Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?") In Guardians, the situations themselves were funny. They all stand, one by one, after Peter gives a dramatic speech. Rocket stands up and says, "Look, now I'm standing. We're all standing in a circle like a bunch of jackasses." (Probably misquoted.) Something big and serious is building, but then a song from Peter's mixtape starts up, changing the scene completely.

Apart from Mr. Bad Guy and Drax, the characters were pretty well rounded, especially Rocket. He had the potential to be a walking punchline, but the filmmakers managed to give him a sense of dignity. Sometimes it seemed like Groot was created to be a fan-favorite, but I don't mind that much.

The main flaws are that sometimes Guardians of the Galaxy was too formulaic or bland, but it was the little jokes, the comedic situations, and the degree to which they took the characters seriously that make it stand out. It's certainly not the best movie ever, but it's leagues above Iron Man 3. Hooked on a feeling, this is the W Defender!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Green Lantern: The Animated Series

You guys know about Green Lantern, right? The guy with the ring who makes giant green fists to punch people? I always had sort of a passing fascination with Green Lantern, my only familiarity being with John Stewart from Bruce Timm's Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. Sure, I read Blackest Night, but that didn't really require the reader to know much about Green Lantern that wasn't spelled out in the series.

When Geoff John's took up writing GL, he streamlined it a bit, making sweeping retcons to hopefully make the story make sense to newcomers, and added the emotional spectrum, different color Lanterns that ran off other "emotions" like Hope and Rage. Though I can't be sure if this increased the overall popularity of Green Lantern, at the very least it provided substantial merchandising opportunities.

At any rate, in 2011, they made the movie. They had big hopes for this movie (though now we know better) and decided to make an animated series to further capitalize on the movie's assured future success. Bruce Timm, the legend responsible for Batman the Animated series and the two Justice Leagues, and Giancarlo Volpe produced the series.

I'm going to be honest, I didn't think it was going to be any good. I saw production shots and parts of the first episode and decided it was too kiddy. CGI instead of a nice traditional animation? Laaaaame. It ran for one season and got cancelled, but only once it got put on Netflix did I finally watch it. This happens a lot. Let's just say I was pleasantly surprised.

The Good:

This show is pretty damn good. Good for a lot of reasons. Not the least of which is the characters. We got the usual Green Lanterns, like Hal Jordan and Kilowog, the Guardians, and Red Lanterns as the villians. What shines in this show are the original characters, Razer and Aya.

Being that they're the only ones not based on the comic, the writers could explore their characters more and create actual development. Razer starts as what seems like a recurring villain, but joins up with the crew and becomes a regular character. His arc deals with loss and despair, in a way you're not used to seeing on a cartoon. (Unless we're talking Avatar, but come on.)  Aya is the usual AI Gains Feelings type of thing, which I found a little annoying in the beginning. However, they take it to some different places and she makes a nice addition to the cast. She's where the series takes a real departure from comic-canon, which leads me to my other segment.

The series shines in its story. It's Green Lantern but simplified without a lot of the confusing elements that end up being a part of the essential story over its 50+ year history. See, I still hold that the New 52 reboot thing of DC Comics was a bad idea, but maybe it could've been useful for some characters. Not Batman, because everybody knows what's going on with him. Green Lantern had a lot to gain from some continuity pruning. Geoff Johns started that, what with Green Lantern: First Flight, but he took stuff that already happened and tried to force it into his new ideas and make it make sense. I mean, just look up The Predator for god's sake. It makes no goddamn sense!

Green Lantern starts over, more or less, and begins with the introduction of the Red Lanterns, branching out from there. We get a nice simple starting point and the weird stuff is explained to us by them explaining it to the robot. Green Lantern fans can spot the story elements as they appear, but new fans get introduced to them slowly, save for a few exceptions. Normally I'm the last guy who cares how "accessible" a comic character is, but damn could GL use it. The first half of the season goes through the Red Lantern story, bringing it (sort of) to a conclusion. The second half is where things get really interesting, when they introduce the Anti-Monitor.

The Bad

There's not a whole lot I dislike about this show, but it's there. The first thing is the steampunk episode.

Okay, maybe it's just me. I hate steampunk. If you convincingly build a world around it, maybe it's okay, but this is a sci-fi show. Don't dump me in an episode where everyone is vaguely British and wear top hats with cogs on them.

Then there's the Zamarons. (not to be confused with Tamaraneans or Pomeranians)

They're counterparts to the Guardians, but they think emotions are fine, so of course they must be entirely female and hate men. No wait, they need men because they suck the life out of them for eternity. (That's no Star Sapphire, THAT'S MY WIFE! OOOOOOOO) But seriously, they're introduced out of nowhere and are just... weird. Exclusively female, evil undertones, very scantily clad. Considering the changes made to the other Emotional Rangers, I'm confounded at how much they kept intact from the comics on these guys. I dunno man, I just don't get it.

Another problem, oddly enough, is the comic characters. Not Razer and Aya, they're fine, I mean Hal and Kilowog. They don't really get much development as the series goes on. Sure, Kilowog gets along with Razer more, but apart from that, there's not much difference between the main GL's in the beginning to the end. Hal's a generally good guy who bends the rules a bit to do the right thing, while Kilowog is by the book, but tends to use a brute force approach.

All in all, the gripes are pretty minor compared to all the good the show has to offer. If it was so great, you may ask, why was it cancelled? In short, toy sales. The Green Lantern movie was both this animated series' boon and doom. See, that film was a horrible flop, but they sort of already did the toy deals so you had tons of green see-through plastic lining every aisle of Toys R Uses across the nation. Because of that, nobody wanted to make the toys for GL:TAS, and that's the only reason anybody agrees to fund any of these stupid cartoons. So yeah, without the toy deals, the whole thing went down the toilet.

It's a shame, really. This cartoon had a nice visual style, a good sense of action, and the writing was excellent. The stories were built up organically and you can see the seeds of future developments if you look closely enough. The show had genuine emotion, you could tell the creators deeply cared about making something worthwhile. So yeah, if you haven't watched it yet, please do. I promise you won't be disappointed. It's on the Netflix, so marathon to your heart's content. Hoping my toy line pulls through, this is the W Defender!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Amazing Spider-Man: Family Business

Starting last year, Marvel began to release graphic novels under its Marvel OGN (Original Graphic Novel) line, with standalone stories for some of their bigger franchises. It started with a book called Avengers: Endless Wartime which got pretty good reviews. I didn't read that one. What I did read, you can probably guess, was the Spider-Man one.

Comic Review: Amazing Spider-Man: Family Business

The story is a little different than what you'd expect for a Spider-Man comic, but I like that. Peter is targeted by some spy-looking types, and is rescued by a CIA agent that claims to be his long lost sister, Teresa. It's got sort of a spy-thriller aspect to it, dealing with Peter's parents and one of their missions before that plane crash.

It's written by Mark Waid, of current Daredevil fame, but who used to write stuff for DC like the beloved Kingdom Come and much of Wally West The Flash, along with James Robinson, known currently for starting DC's Earth 2. The writing is better than I expected, honestly.

Most of the book is out of what I would call Spider-Man's "comfort zone," meaning it's not so much about New York, or some Avengers-level disaster. That's good and bad, good because it's not a rehash of some story we've read again and again, but bad because Peter doesn't have much agency in it, so we're all just along for the ride like he is.


The novel's got a heavy presence of Peter's internal monologue, which is the best way one should write a Spider-Man story. Luckily, the dialogue keeps up its end, since most of it is between Peter and Teresa. Speaking of Teresa, I like her character, but a lot of it is tied up in that she's a random spy and also Peter's long lost sister. Or is she? Or isn't she?

The art is top-notch. Fully painted, by artist Gabrielle Dell'Otto, it's got a lot of detail and ambience in each scene. There are more than a few pages I'd love to have prints of.

Overall, it's a damn fine book. Someone without a lot of Spider-Man knowledge could pick it up and read it, but it's pretty rewarding to longstanding fans as well. The hardcover is a classy touch. At $24.99 it's has a bit less content than I thought I was getting, but since it gets a free digital download like most Marvel comics these days, the price is easier to take.

So yeah, if you like Spider-Man, I can easily recommend this, Hell, even if you don't like Spider-Man all that much, this is a nice departure from his usual scenes that you might like it as well. That was Family Business, and this is the W Defender!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Let's Watch The Pirate Fairy

Guys, I'm gonna be honest, I never thought I'd be doing this. I've been working in a store recently, and in that store, there's a display TV that constantly plays whatever new kids movie came out on DVD. During Christmastime, I had to suffer through tiny clips of The Croods whenever I walked by that aisle, and I constantly got distracted by Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, so much so that I eventually watched it. There's something odd about catching random snippets of movies through an 8-hour workday, even moreso if that extends for weeks. Last month, we got some fairy movie, which annoyed me because I thought it would be annoying background noise to stocking shelves or whatnot. As the movie went on, there were a lot of times I had to stop while glancing past the TV, and say something like, "Wait, is that Tinkerbell?" or "Wait, is that Captain Hook?!" So now, I have to watch this movie. You might think I'm crazy, but I need to know what the hell this has to do with Peter Pan Lore. We all know how well my last liveblog went, so let's do that again! This is a great idea! Wait, no it isn--

Let's Watch: The Pirate Fairy

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Spider-Man: The Lost Years Parts 2 and 3

Remember a simpler time? When pasts were only mentioned in monologue and shadowy flashbacks? When mullets roamed free on motorcycles, and all windows were meant to be broken? We venture back into that untamed wasteland, after the Part One coverage, the 90's world of:

Comic Review: Spider-Man The Lost Years Parts 2 & 3

At the start of the next issue, Ben somehow knows that the house that exploded was Raven's, and that Tannen's men have him in the back of a car. Reilly smashes up the car and rescues Detective Raven, who is informed by the police cavalry that his wife and son are in the hospital.

Ben Reilly broods for a bit.

So does Kaine.

Back in jail, Tannen talks to the guard again, who reveals Raven's wife is dead, but the son is still alive. Tannen says he'll handle it in person. Detective Raven goes to a church and gets angry at God. After a bit of lecturing at the college, Ben runs into Janine outside, apologizing for missing their date. She forgives him, and we have a happy love montage. That night he busts up parts of Tannen's drug operations, while Kaine's gruff and mean exterior is challenged by his inexplicable love.

Things take a turn for the worst when Janine decides her relationship with Ben has to stop, and Kaine starts experiencing advanced cellular degeneration. He jumps out of a window from Louise's apartment, making about the 5th window somebody has broken so far. Kaine somehow finds Reilly about to beat up Jimmy "The Mouth" and uh, well just see for yourself.

So there's a lot of punching, after which Kaine vacates, I guess. Reilly's limp body is picked up by Mr. Mouth, but then PLOT TWIST

Turns out Kennedy's been working for Tannen. And Tannen is there, with Detective Raven's son. The issue closes on that.

The final part of this epic saga begins with Kennedy refusing to shoot Reilly in front of the kid, which gives enough time for Kaine to break through another window.

Ben regains consciousness and tries to keep Kaine from killing Louise, so she escapes in the ruckus. Ben also escapes, to find Jimmy with Raven's son. He punches "The Mouth" in the mouth, saving Kid Raven. He brings the kid to his father, who is currently brooding in the hospital. Ben decides not to tell him about Louise's treachery. He goes to Janine's house and collapses at her doorway. Upon waking up, Ben agrees to tell her everything, if Janine reveals the secrets she's been hiding. Turns out she's been named Elizabeth Tyne the whole time, and has been hiding because she's a murderer.

Before we get more explanation on that, we go back with Kennedy and Tannen, trying to regroup after their miserable failure. In actuality, Vincent Tannen is still in jail, but his twin brother Paul has been running things on the outside. That works out real well for him when Kaine sneaks up from behind and breaks his neck. Kaine's next target is Louise, who manages to talk him down.

Back with Ben, Janine, I mean, Elizabeth tells of how she shot her father after years of abuse and that she's been running from the law ever since. At the same time, Kennedy gives a rousing speech about how she's given into "the darkness" and allied with Tannen. Kaine's not too happy about it.

For some reason, Raven decides this is a good time to follow up in the Tyne case, figuring out it was Janine the whole time. Don't you want to, you know, figure out what happened with the whole Tannen thing? They killed your wife and kidnapped your son? Ringing any bells? No no, that's fine, go arrest the waitress who's done nothing to you at all. Ben takes Tyne on a superpowered joyride to convince her that he's actually a clone of Spider-Man. Instead of thinking he's a madman, she believes him, and they agree to run off together.

On their way out of town, they stop at a diner, and through some complete coincidence, that's where Raven and Kennedy were going at the same time. Huh. Ben tries to persuade them to let her go, when Kennedy recognizes him from the warehouse. She pulls a gun on Ben, who knocks it out of her hand, and rides away on his motorcycle. Kaine, however, ambushes them, trying to kill Ben again. Raven and Kennedy are in pursuit, and Raven realizes Louise has betrayed him. Amisdt the scuffle, Louise puts her gun up to Ben's head. Kaine has another idea.

After snapping her neck, Kaine burns his handprint onto her face, the first use of what's called The Mark of Kaine. It's not really explained how he does it, but he's a giant scary clone of Peter Parker, so I'll accept anything at this point. Raven finally catches up and tries to arrest somebody for his dead partner. Ben disarms him and knocks him out, and he and Elizabeth ride off into the sunset.

I really probably shouldn't like this, or at the very least I should feel guilty about liking it, but how can I?! Everyone has a troubled and sordid past, everyone falls in love instantly after meeting them, and the only way somebody can enter or exit a room is by jumping through the window! Not to mention the Clone Angst. I love me some good ol' fashioned Clone Angst. I wasn't too fond of Romita Jr's art in New Ways to Die but he is entirely in his element in this one. It's kinda dark and scratchy but it works because everyone is so serious about it! I mean, yeah, it was pretty silly if you're trying to be objective, but if you can suspend a bit of the "this is stupid" response, it's pretty enjoyable. Wishing I wasn't a clone, this is the W Defender!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Spider-Man: The Lost Years Part 1

I know I'm pretty negative a lot of the time here, "this comic is bad," "this movie made me sad," and whatnot. This time, I'm just going to talk about something I probably shouldn't like, but I love it anyway. It's the most 90's thing you will ever read in your life, it's:

Comic Review: Spider-Man The Lost Years

Back in the good ol' days, we didn't have none of this Superior crap. When the writers wanted to replace Spider-Man, they just came up with a convoluted and confusing storyline to replace him with a clone, then say the clone wasn't the clone, but then reveal that part was actually a lie, and by the end everyone just heaves a sigh of relief when he dies. Point is, Ben Reilly was a clone of Peter Parker, who ran away from home years ago. He spent a lot of time wandering and being all brooding, and this comic reveals what he was up to.

We start on a crowded highway outside of Salt Lake City. A truck driver passes out from exhaustion, and is about to smash into some people before a mysterious man breaks open the window, pulls him out, and redirects the tractor trailor off the highway. He gives mouth-to-mouth to the unconscious driver, and runs away before anyone can catch him. Who is this enigamtic figure? This guy.

The magnificent spectacle you are now viewing is the most 90's thing in existence. Look at it! He has a mullet, 5 o' clock shadow, and a long duster trailing behind him while he rides his chopper. The fact that it's drawn by John Romita Jr. only amps up the 90's. I would even say this is... radical?

Anyway, we cut to a bar in Salt Lake City, where apparently this is going to take place. There sits another mysterious man. Listen, we're just going to keep getting those. Let's listen to his internal monologue for a bit.

That's Kaine, another clone of Peter Parker, only much more dark and brooding, because he was a failed clone, which means he's stronger and more powerful than Peter. Wait, what? Oh, his face is sort of scarred, okay.

He's been chasing Reilly for a long time, for reasons he doesn't quite understand. He reveals, as will become a regular thing, that Ben Reilly was actually the original, and that Peter is the clone. Of course, this was later proven false by the end of the Clone Saga, so this story only makes sense in that tiny context.

Anyway, he's propositioned by a hooker, and is accosted by her pimp when he declines. Kaine beats the hell out of the pimp, and gives money to the prostitute. Aww, he really is a softy! Of course he does this while contemplating the misery and pain of his life. On the way out he bumps into a woman who asks his name. He replies, "You can call me Kaine." She's evidently there to meet up with some mob types.

We then cut to Kennedy's office at the police station, and her partner, Detective Jacob Raven. He's a damn good cop in a town gone bad. And I love it.

In a jail cell, we see Vincent Tannen, the local crime boss, organizing a hit with the help of a dirty prison guard. We don't get much of that before it's back to Ben, at a job interview for a teaching assistant at some college. Fake credentials and references get him the job, so he celebrates at a local diner. The next panel is best read if you're listening to the Romeo and Juliet Love Theme.

And Ben Reilly instantly falls in love with this redheaded woman for some reason. It's so weird, it's almost like she reminds him of someone else... Anyway, he asks Janine out on a date, and she says yes. That night, Kennedy catches a Tannen underling in a sting, but some goons ambush her, and it's up to one bearded man to save the day. Kaine beats up the goons, and they arrange a late night rendevous. Two other thugs pull Raven into a car, and he's spirited away. At the same time, Reilly happens to be cycling past a house when his Spider-sense goes off, and then the house explodes. He pulls two people out of the wreckage, while lamenting the responsibility that comes with his power.

Kaine has also fallen head over heels for a lady almost instantly after meeting her, and they just had some PG-13 rated relations! Louise gets a call informing her that Raven's house just exploded, and now she is sad.

At the close of the issue, Ben stands on top of a building, pondering whether he really wants to get involved with Salt Lake City's problems. On our next exciting episode: Who will decorate for Kaine and Louise's wedding? When will we find out Janine is also a clone? And can the mullets get any bigger? Find out next time on the W Defender!