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Monday, December 19, 2016

Power Rangers Dino Charge Retrospective: Part 2

Power Rangers
 Welcome back to my Power Rangers Dino Charge retrospective, where we continue on with the fifth episode of the series, "Breaking Black."
Contrary to the title, there will be nothing in this episode related to "breaking" Chase, nor will there be anything drug-related happening. Shame, because it must have taken plenty of drugs to think that Chase's origin is anything resembling original. Or to consider this episode anything resembling good.
Chase is being careless, but an old friend of his, Moana, a Maori mystic woman who gave him his Energem when he saved her cat, asks him to watch her shop for a while. He agrees, but one of Sledge's minions, Spellbinder, robs the shop of an amulet. He then uses that amulet on Chase, and rather than taking his Energem from him and then proceeding to use him to get the other four Energems, he skips Step One and proceeds straight to attempting to steal the others from the rest of the Rangers. Spellbinder's cape manages to fend off some of the Ranger's attacks, but Moana tells the Rangers that Chase focuses best when he's riding his skateboard, and Shelby uses this information to snap Chase out of the spell. Yes, this is literally what happens. No, I don't know why. This episode sort of feels like it should have been later on in the series, after Chase got together with his girlfriend, and with a fairly massive rewrite. Once we get there, we'll start to see more orphaned concepts attached to incredibly dumb premises for no discernible reason.
We get to the end of the episode where Koda tells Chase it's his turn to mop the floor when it's actually Koda's. Starting the tradition that otherwise mediocre or good episodes get capped off by dumb shenanigans. This is going to stick around, unfortunately.
The next episode is titled "The Tooth Hurts." It's all about a cavity monster who makes everyone's teeth hurt. Yes, that's as stupid as it sounds.
Chase and Riley begin butting heads over training their training regimens. Chase follows his instincts, while Riley follows a strict method. Yeah, that's original. That dynamic hasn't been done to death and back in basically everything ever.
Poisandra sets about getting herself a wedding cake made (After sixty-five million years) by using one of Sledge's prisoners, a chef named Cavity, to make them.
Question. How does a chef that bakes weird, ultra-sweet cakes that makes peoples teeth hurt wind up on the radar of someone like Sledge? Or even his boss, Lord Arcanon? It's not like he's adept at creating cakes that kill people, but hey, I've gotten my idea of bounty hunters from Star Wars and the old west, where people usually have to have done something to get on the radars of a crime-lord like Arcanon. Maybe he borrowed money from one of Arcanon's loan-sharks (Assuming he has loan-sharks) and he sent Sledge out to handle it. Except that didn't happen, because the writers didn't think of that.
Anyways, once the Rangers catch wind of the situation, they go out to try and handle the situation. For some reason, rather than splitting Riley and Chase up so that they can stop clashing, Keeper says nothing and the two of them let Cavity get away. They later begin learning to work together and manage to overcome their differences to destroy the monster, to the surprise of nobody.
In addition to the points I brought up in the last review, we get to a few of the flaws in Sledge's plan. He has at his disposal an entire brig full of various dangerous monsters, and an entire army of Vivix footsoldiers. He could wage a campaign of espionage and infiltration that could break the very hearts and souls of the Rangers without them ever finding out what he's doing. This will be fleshed out further on in the series when we're introduced to a few more of the covert monsters in Sledge's prison.
The next episode marks the debut of the Ankylosaurus Zord, and the debut (Or rather, the continuation) of one of the series few overarching plot-threads. Who holds the Aqua Energem?
Now, call me crazy, but I personally would have made the Aqua Zord the Plesiosaurus, but that's more of a criticism of Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger than it is of this show. Power Rangers couldn't have changed that unless they re-painted a Warrior-class and Auxiliary-class Zord and completely remade two suits. Then they'd have been stuck with plenty of unusable stock-footage. Considering how poorly this series spent its $35 million budget as it is, I doubt there was much left for fixing a rather obvious coloration error. Anyways, I'd much rather have them spend their budget on important things, like making sure the episodes are edited properly. Oh, wait. Yeah, we'll get to that sometime towards the end.
Anyways, back on track, the Rangers are on the hunt for the other Energems. Shelby comes up with a plan to eliminate fossils of dinosaurs that are already associated with an Energem, and Kendall begins working on Chargers which can hone in on the location of the Zords and the Energems. I say "Zords" as well, because that's what they pick up, the location of the Zord. Not, in fact, the location of the Energem itself. We'll get to the problems with this sometime later.
Anyways, Poisandra enlists Stingrage, one of Sledge's prisoners (Who can sting people or animals and put them into a berzerker rage. Name's a bit on the nose, no?) to track down an Energem. He, Poisandra and her sidekick Curio get to where the Zord is and Stingrage stings it. The Rangers arrive on-scene, but Stingrage stings Koda, and overwhelms their defense.
Now, do you want to know how Poisandra figured out where the Zord was?
Kendall didn't encrypt the transmission! In her own words, "Anyone could have intercepted the signal."
Yeah, no shit Sherlock! Apparently it doesn't require any common-sense to be a museum curator, because this is so far beyond basic that it literally makes no sense why she didn't encrypt their communication signals!
Anyways, long-story short, Shelby manages to calm Ankylo down, the Rangers beat Stingrage with its help, and Kendall gives Shelby fossilized Triceratops dung as a gift. Naturally, she overreacts the hell out of it.
Question, how do you know the fossilized dung is in fact from a Triceratops? Wait, you wouldn't.
This brings us the the last episode before the ridiculous Nick-mandated hiatus that mars the airing schedule of every Neo-Saban Power Rangers series. Well, that and their seasonal episode-limit. This is "Double Ranger, Double Danger."
After the Rangers blocked off their signals, Sledge tasks Poisandra with stealing their Energy-Tracer. Poisandra recruits Duplicon to help her out.
Tyler spends some time moping over his missing dad before aliens approach the site, and Kendall sends him off with the tracer instead of accompanying him herself. Yes, they sent him alone with the tracer while Kendall, who has no powers at this point in the series, stayed behind to fight them off. I'd think you might want to pack it into Tyler's Jeep, let Kendall drive and have a Morphed Ranger come along for the ride as backup.
Anyways, Tyler manages to get away, and Duplicon's cloned Rangers catch up to him (In Morphed form) and they ride off. Shelby, unmorphed, calls him up to figure out why he left without them. The cloned Rangers take this opportunity to assault Tyler and abscond with the tracer.
The Rangers regroup and face off with their clones. They kill them rather unceremoniously.
Tyler faces off with Fury. Fury gets the upper-hand, and almost kills Tyler, but a golden light emerges from his body and messes with him. Rather than take a few seconds out to blast him to kingdom come, Tyler pisses off to help out the other Rangers. Who could have handled their situation on their own if it wasn't for the obsession this series has with making Tyler use the Dino Spike to finish off villain. There's no reason they couldn't have handled that on their own. I'm almost positive that Jungle Fury handled monsters stronger than Duplicon with just the core three! Various flavors of Kamen Rider have taken down monsters more of a threat than Duplicon on their own!
Poisandra almost makes off with the scanner, but Fury attacks her and takes it himself so he can gain favor with Sledge. Rather than hopping up onto the walkway to wrest the machine from him, Tyler orders Chase to destroy the machine. The tracker is destroyed, but the Charger isn't, and Fury recovers it and escapes.
This brings us to by far, one of the biggest problems with Power Rangers on Nickelodeon. The summer hiatus. "Double Ranger, Double Danger" was aired on April 4th, 2015. The next episode, "When Logic Fails" aired four months less a day afterwards on August 3rd. Except it only aired that early in Brazil for some reason. In the states it was released on Nick.com on August 15th, and aired on television proper the next week on the 22nd. Two more weeks and it would have been a solid five months between new episodes. That's plenty of time to utterly forget a series exists and lose interest entirely.
There are a few simple rules that television shows should probably follow: You don't have more than one week between episodes from the same season. You never move a show from its airday or timeslot, be it in the middle of a season or between them. Also. This is very important too. Do NOT air episodes on different dates internationally! If you do, you're going to wind up in the exact same position Saban has been in for at least the last two years now! I was watching the fandom closely on social media, there was hardly anyone waiting on the domestic airings to watch the new episodes. No, everyone was flocking to the Brazilian encodes because they featured the original English audio track in addition to the native dub. Two episodes were aired on Cartoon Network in Brazil before the hiatus officially ended. Not that there should have been a hiatus to begin with, but wouldn't you want to synchronize your airdates so that everyone gets it at the same time and maximize simultaneous viewers? As many companies in Japan have found out, the best way to prevent people from pirating your product is to air it internationally as quickly as possible. Sadly, Saban hasn't curried on to that idea yet, because this issue persisted well into the second season, and has in fact, gotten worse! The only episodes that I know of that didn't air outside the states before they aired in France were probably the first half of the season, and the Christmas special! Yes, even the finale aired first in France before it aired in the states! At least that didn't happen for the season one finale, thank god!
Aside from all the meta-series quibbles, this is easily one of the worst episodes of the season, if not the whole series, for a number of reasons that we'll get into once I start breaking this stuff down.
Before Chase destroyed the eTracer, Fury was able to get a reading off the machine on the location of the Pterazord. The Charger is completely discharged, so there's no chance of being able to summon it without the Gold Energem. Sledge is irritated with Fury for getting the eTracer destroyed, and tosses him off the ship, but not before the cat-man takes the Charger with him.
In this scene, Wrench, Sledge's engineer, says that the only way to charge the charger up is to use the Gold Energem.
This raises a question that will hang over the entirety of the series, because it's never answered. There are a total of eleven Energems. Ten associated with a dinosaur and zord. There are a total of thirty Chargers used in the show, five of which have no dinosaur relation, and thirteen of which are associated with dinosaurs that have no corresponding Zord. (At least in the TV show) The question Wrench raises with his statement is one you may have thought of by now, but if not, I'll say it anyways.
What do the other Chargers run on? I get how the main ten work, they have Energems paired that can fuel them. The others though? They've got nothing backing them up. If this hadn't been brought up, I would have just rolled with it for the most part. All you'd have to do is say that Sledge and the gang don't really have the gear hooked up to charge it up properly and you're golden. The Energems can be a damn good source of energy for the Chargers, but regular old Electricity can work just fine as long as you've got enough of it, basically operating on the same rules that Stargate does. I presumed at the time that the Zords are intended to work with the Energems as the Morphers were demonstrated as doing in the first episode, but considering what we learn towards the end of season two, and the fact that there's a Zord that runs exclusively on Dino Chargers due to it not being paired with an Energem, I have the rather distinct feeling that they weren't paying the closest attention to the rules set down in this series. If they were even trying to follow rules when making this show, which is questionable, considering the amount of long-standing franchise rules they appear to be determined to undermine. Not to mention how often they've contradicted what were supposed to be hard and fast rules about how this series arsenal is supposed to function.
Episode Nine is where we see more than a hint that Riley is the geek of the group. Namely, he starts going full-on Sherlock Holmes to some extent, and being the only one with common sense for the entirety of the rest of the episode. Everyone is meandering about until Riley points out that the villains need to find a way to charge up the Ptera Charger.
Meanwhile, Fury and Wrench, accompanied by a prisoner named Puzzler are infiltrating the only other lab with the tech that could do that. I presume they're related to Alphabet Soup in some way, but we don't really find out why they have this technology.
Fury and Wrench leave Puzzler to guard the outside of the building, (He's a gigantic yellow thing with green maze lines all over him.) but he sees a pair of children playing chess dumbly and tries to give them advice. Naturally, this scares the crap out of them. The fleeing children tip off Chase that something's wrong, and he encounters Puzzler. Puzzler overwhelms him, but the rest of the team arrives before Chase can be killed. Puzzler flees, and the Rangers give chase. Puzzler decides to turn the building into a maze so he can have a chance of surviving his encounter. He also cranks the temperature down below freezing in an attempt to kill the Rangers. Which should't work for a number of reasons. First off, their Energems are supposed to protect them from freezing, as was demonstrated in the first episode. Second, they could literally just Morph and they'd be fine. Nobody has ever died in a Ranger suit. They're the most sophisticated life-support system in the universe, demonstrated by the numerous times that they've allowed Rangers to operate in a vacuum and not suffocate and die. "Forever Red" had a team of Red Rangers on the moon, In Space had them doing that all the time. Lost Galaxy too, probably, since it was a space-themed season too. My point is, this is a non-issue for the Rangers.
The maze is about what you'd expect out of a supernatural labyrinth. The illogical geometry, infinitely looping staircases, doorways that lead straight off a cliff, and jammed vending machines. No, not kidding. While all the other Rangers are preoccupied with other dumb things, Koda decides to get food. Once the machine jams, rather than smash the glass with his cave-man strength, or his gun, or his sword, he tries reaching inside, shaking it, doing generally dumb things. Because his character, which has some of the most potential to be interesting, is regularly reduced to "comedy" antics.
The only one to come close to actually doing something sensible is the focus-character of this episode, Riley. He climbs through the vents and sees Fury and Wrench harnessing the yellow glob thing inhabiting Fury to power the Pteracharger. Fury pilots the Ptera Zord out, and Riley escapes the maze. Now, rather than simply killing Puzzler and rescuing the rest of the Rangers, Riley challenges him to a game of 3D Chess. Riley beats him, frees the other Rangers, they kill Puzzler, and things wrap up. RIley isn't even the one to pull the trigger on Puzzler, Koda is the one to do it.
For a mid-season return, "When Logic Fails" is a pitiful excuse for anything. It's hard to describe exactly how underwhelming this was to behold upon initial viewing when it was aired. First off, this episode establishes Riley as the teams smart guy, despite the fact that this is never referred back to in anything more than a filler episode. Additionally, they dropped nothing more than one hint towards him being this much of a brain, and that was the name of his dog, Rubik! Riley just pulls this Sherlock Holmes-vision out of nowhere, and it never, I repeat, never makes an appearance after this.

That about does it for this part of the breakdown, I do apologize for the length of the wait, but I've been some combination of sick and busy for the last two weeks.
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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Power Rangers Dino Charge Retrospective: Part 1

Well, this is it. Two years ago, Power Rangers Dino Charge premiered, to a raucous applause from the fans. Then, on November 19, 2016, the series ended. Not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with a "what?!" from the fandom.
Generally speaking, I had high-hopes for this show. The characters had some good chemistry and charisma, for the most-part. The suits were kind of cool, and the mecha were as well. Even the collectible gimmick appealed to me on some level. Unfortunately, the series decayed over time into your typical Nickelodeon fare with dumb jokes, shenanigans, and generally stupid plots. The first episode of season two was slow and illogical, but it got better as time went on. Then things got stupid again for the middle of the season, and stayed like that until the last five or six episodes. I say "or six" because the last episode was about when things got strange again.
The false-climax around the middle of the series wasn't really a bad idea per-se, I love a good false-finish myself, but only when it's done well. The fact that the Dino Charge Rangers basically disbanded after Sledge's ship crashed without verifying their kill meant that they had to pull out plenty of nonsense to reunite the team, rather than continuing from last season straight up. Leave the team together, and just have the season end with them going out to investigate the derelict of Sledge's ship. That alone solves plenty of the problems I had with the show, and all you've got to do is change a few seconds in the end of the first season finale and the whole season two premiere and everything retains its momentum to some extent.
However, this isn't the biggest problem the series had by a long shot. We begin sixty-five million years before the present-day, and the main villain, Sledge, is chasing down some guy named Keeper to try and get ahold of the Energems he protects so he can give one to his girlfriend and they can get married.
Keeper then crashes on Earth, and he divests himself of the Energems, giving them to a rather odd motley crew of dinosaurs. Ten Energems handed off to seven herbivores and three carnivores. A T-Rex and a raptor who would have eaten Keeper as soon as looked at him. The rest could have stepped on or otherwise accidentally killed him rather easily. You know, I say ten, but there wasn't a Plesiosaurus anywhere to be found in that opening sequence, so I'm just a tiny bit confused by it all. Trust me, this will happen again later on.
Sledge's people then beam up the box that had the Energems in it, and it explodes. Sledge's ship then casts asteroids down on the earth, killing the dinosaurs.
At this point, I'm going into Mr. McNitpick mode, because frankly, this show doesn't deserve a willing suspension of disbelief.
First off, the prevailing hypothesis about the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (The extinction of the dinosaurs) is that a single asteroid or comet (Known as the Chicxulub impactor, after the crater near Chicxulub in Mexico) caused the extinction. Even in competing hypotheses, when someone brings up multiple impactors, we're talking about four sites in three different parts of the planet! Most of those rocks Sledge was hauling around would have been vaporized before they hit the ground! I don't even think there was a single rock in that net that could have caused a planet-wide extinction event! The smallest of the potentially-related craters, the Silverpit Crater, is twelve miles wide wide, and the impactor would have been at least four-hundred feet across, and would have weighed about two-million tonnes. As in, it still would have been bigger, and weighed more, than Sledge's entire ship.
Here's my reasoning behind this. According to the Power Rangers wiki, the Dino Charge Megazord is approximately 52.5 meters tall, which translates out to about 172 feet tall. However, that number seemed a bit off to me, like it was significantly too big, so I measured my Dino Charge Megazord with a ruler and got about 10.5 inches, which when put into the scale used by Dungeons and Dragons (5 feet for every square inch) gets you about 52.5 feet. Put that into Shadowrun's scale and you get 10.5 meters, about 35 feet. I can't find any official statistics on the Dino Charge or Dino Supercharge websites, and based on my previous analysis of Power Rangers mecha, I'm somewhat more inclined to go with my D&D-based numbers than the ones on the wiki.
To further back this up, let's rewind to the season one episode, "Sync or Swim," wherein the Rangers dumped a bomb on Sledge's ship. The bomb could be held in the Megazord's hand, and it was about the same size as the bridge of Sledge's ship, so that means the bridge of the ship is slightly smaller than the chest of the Megazord. Also, the bomb in that episode was about twice as tall as Tyler's Jeep Wrangler (Just considering what was on-screen, the top was cut off), this means the bomb is about 14 feet tall, probably more. (Assuming Koda is about six feet tall, and basing my calculations of the Jeep's height on that of the 2006 TJ model, give or take a few inches.) Based on interior shots of Sledge's ship, I estimate the bridge to be about eighteen to twenty feet by about eighteen to twenty feet, which just about matches up to my calculations about the bomb, and just about matches up with my estimates of the size of the Megazord. Not to mention that in the first episode of Season 1, "Powers From The Past" we clearly see the T-Rex Zord alongside Tyler and Shelby, and I could count its height in single digits if I stacked Tyler toe-to-head alongside it. From here, we can figure out the size of the rest of the ship. Assuming the tip of the ship is the bridge, we're looking at about a 100 foot-long ship with a 75-120 foot wingspan. As you can tell, this isn't merely a baseless assumption, I've done my research.
Even if Sledge did have the asteroid in tow that destroyed the earth, he shouldn't have been able to steer his ship properly, as anyone who's ever driven a car with a trailer that was above the vehicles weight capacity can tell you. It would swerve back and forth. Even in micro-gravity, the laws of physics still apply.
Now, not only does this part not match up with the science, it's contradicted by previously-established Power Rangers canon, namely that of Dino Thunder. The Dino Gems in that show were salvaged from the one rock that crashed into the Earth and killed the dinosaurs, not from a big shower of them. I haven't seen Dino Thunder yet, but I know a bit about the plot. Depending on the specifics of that show, the details may further contradict what happens in this series, we'll see.
Anyways, back in the present day, Tyler Navarro has been searching for his dad, an archaeologist ever since he disappeared. His search has led him to Amber Beach, California. There he learns of the Sampson Caves, the place where his father was last seen.
Tyler investigates the caves, finding the fossilized remains of a Tyrannosaurus Rex within, alongside a mysterious, glowing red stone. A mysterious figure shrouded in black, something his father wrote about in his journal pursues Tyler through the caves, but he manages to escape.
At the Dinosaur Museum where Tyler learned of the caves, the curator, Dr. Kendell Morgan and her crew, Chase Randall and Koda leave to check out a fossil dig-site. Shelby Watkins, an archaeology student working at the Dino Bite Cafe within the museum. She wants to some along, but Morgan tells her no. She stows away with the team anyways though.
The figure who attacked Tyler earlier attempts to steal a crate from the dig-site, but Shelby and Tyler (Who has been following the creature since their encounter) intervene. Shelby drops the crate, and finds another strange stone within. The figure in the cloak reveals itself and attempts to freeze Tyler and Shelby alive so he can take those stones, the Energems from them. Unfortunately for him, the Energems keep the ice from holding onto them. Keep this in mind, this is very important, this is going to come up at least three times across two episodes, where this rather important event is going to be contradicted. Hard.
Anyways, the two of them gain fossilized Morphers, insert the Energems and Morph into the Dino Charge Rangers, Red for Tyler and Pink for Shelby. The fight with Ice Age before a rather strange-looking T-Rex shows up and kicks his ass to kingdom come before vanishing.
On their way back into the city, Tyler shows Shelby his dad's journal, with the picture of Sledge's footsoldier, Fury sketched within, as we see Fury stalking them in the distance.
Second episode shows us a farmboy named Riley practicing his fencing. His brother tells him to fetch some eggs. While doing this, Riley notices his dog, Rubik has wandered into the forest and appears to be barking at a rock. In fact, the dog is barking at Fury, who has come for an Energem in the vicinity. Fury makes to kill the creature, but Riley blocks the slash with a fence-post. He tries to drive Fury off with it, but the thing doesn't even scratch him. He manages to dodge Fury's slashes, which hit a rock. The Rock cracks open, and within the Green Energem is found. Riley grasps it, and his stick becomes a mighty Dino Saber, which with he fends off Fury.
Riley decides to take the Energem to the city, specifically to the museum to figure out what it is, but his bike breaks down on the way. He hitches a ride with Shelby and Tyler, but they find an overturned car with someone pinned beneath on their way. With their newfound strength, they are able to push the car off the person and save them.
They get to the museum, and through Tyler's own stupidity, they discover the location of the other Rangers. And on top of Fury still being alive, so is Keeper. With what we find out later, Fury and Keeper being alive sort of makes sense, but considering Sledge and all of his crew and prisoners are alive, I have a feeling the production crew wasn't all that fussed about internal consistency.
In the base, they find two other Energems docked in a crystal bed. The other three Energems fly to their docking station, which is when we find out that Koda and Chase are Rangers as well.
While in the base, Keeper explains (poorly) the history of the Energems and their basic abilities. Some things are defined clearly, others poorly.
They begin picking up strange readings from a volcano, Ice Age attacks the city, and this is when we find out for certain that Sledge is still alive.
This brings me to one of the most persistent issues with the series. Sledge has been kicking around the universe for millions of years, and never turned in any of the prisoners he has in his brig. Despite the fact that after the first few months of searching for the Energems, anyone with any sense would have turned in his prisoners for their bounties and pissed off to find something easier to use as a wedding-ring. There are eleven Energems, which means that (relatively speaking) platinum, gold and diamonds are literally several orders of magnitude easier to find. Not that one should have trouble finding something if they've got 65 million years to search.
Something to mention is that during my commentary videos on the series, I operated under the impression that Sledge had been hanging around the solar-system, laying low and searching the Earth for the Energems, while the rundown at the beginning of every episode states that Sledge was blasted "Deep into space."
My reasoning behind this is mainly the fact that the explosion that set him off-course wasn't particularly powerful, and his ship wasn't really moving all that fast. Plus, as we see that his ship appears to be incredibly powerful towards the end of the series, there's no way in hell he even made it to the outer planets before correcting his course.
This conclusion brings me to another point I made with frequency in my videos about this series. It requires a few assumptions to be made about the universe this show is set in. Namely, that they have the same level of science we do, and the same level of competency. Considering that in the Power Rangers universe humanity returned to the moon in 1993, there have been several government-led teams, civilians have developed Power Ranger tech on their own, there have been people who have built literal androids, and humanity is in contact with a number of alien races, I believe the former is a given. Hell, they've got better tech than we do. The latter however? Considering the level of obvious stupidity we've seen out of random people in the Neo-Saban era alone, I think it's safe to assume that around 2009-2010 in this universe, rather than the Venjix Virus infecting the worlds computers, the stupid virus infected the worlds humans, and we never really recovered.
But in all honesty, Doctor Who handled this incredibly well. Humans are the type of creatures who will create legends about anything, and when Amy Pond was locked in that cube for a thousand years, her husband Rory and the cube itself became legends. The Lone Centurian they called him, legends written about how he was always the protector of the cube and its contents no matter what. However, it seems like hardly anyone has noticed Sledge and his ship, or Fury even aside from the series leads. We've had telescopes for literally centuries, we've been looking up at the sky for longer than that, and we've been tracking interstellar objects for almost seventy years now. I have a feeling we'd have noticed him at some point.
Plus, how did Fury manage to survive the events of the In Space finale? Lord freaking Zedd didn't survive that! Rita Repulsa didn't! There wasn't a single villain left on Earth who wasn't sealed away left at the end of that series! This wouldn't be such a big deal if Judd Lynn hadn't also written "Countdown To Destruction!" Yeah, the Judd Lynn who was the freaking showrunner for this series, and the writer for, as far as I can tell, most of this series episodes!
Granted, it's been about a decade and a half since when In Space aired and the production of Dino Charge, but shouldn't they have a continuity manager working to make sure they never make these kind of screwups? Although, since the Neo-Saban production team appears to be lacking anyone willing to raise their hand and object when someone puts something incredibly stupid into the series, I'm not at all surprised that they don't.
Anyways, after they defeat the monsters, Dr. Morgan tells the Rangers not to reveal their identities to anyone, even family members.
To which I say, HAH! In this day and age, you can't keep something like that secret, especially when you go from civilian to superhero form the way the Rangers do. I've literally read fanfiction that handled this issue better than Saban does. IE, at all. Man of Steel addressed this, in that Superman basically had to tell the United States Government to knock off their surveillance of him by destroying one of their drones.
Anyways, I'm gonna list off the problems this concept has. First off, the Rangers always morph in plain-view of everyone present, and as you should know, everyone has a phone with a camera on it. Humans love to record weird things that happen. That's why we have footage of riots, terrorists attacks, natural disasters, etc. There should be plenty of angles on the Rangers morphing, considering the fact that 1) They're the only people who aren't running from the monsters, 2) they wear the same colors as their suits in civilian form and 3) They spend plenty of time between civilian form and morph with their faces exposed, there should be zero chance of them keeping their identities secret, from the public or the government! There have been plenty of criticisms of the Power Rangers for this in the past, but back in the 1990's, they had a damn good chance of not getting caught. It wasn't like everyone had a video-camera back then that they could fit in their pocket and whip out at a moments notice to start recording, something that we could then post on a worldwide information network which people are constantly scouring for something interesting. Back then you could reasonably maintain a secret identity with that kind of approach as long as you were careful. And for the most part, the original team was. In order for this team to accomplish that feat, however, they would have to morph and demorph exclusively in their base and only in the field when absolutely necessary. Even then, that would only preclude casual observers from figuring out their identities. The Rangers have a total of zero decent security measures on their base, so you can bet that the FBI has got bugs and cameras coating their "secret" hideout. Hell, a decently driven civilian could figure out where their base is, and from there could figure out who they were. All you've got to do is stake out the museum after you've tracked the Rangers down, see if there's anyone on the staff who regularly vanishes at the same time as monster attacks and you've got yourself a bona-fide breakdown of who the Rangers actually are. This is why MMPR had a base in the middle of nowhere, and why Jungle Fury basically didn't bother trying to keep their location secret.
I'll also get to the reasons why the Rangers keeping their identities secret is a horrible idea later on, because boy, oh boy are there a few massive freaking problems with this concept.
The third episode is where things really began to fall apart, firstly the fact that it establishes the status quo for the series, the Rangers working at the cafe for no reason whatsoever, and secondly because this is where they started glossing over major details with some heavy lacquer. This is the episode in which we find out for sure that Koda is in fact, a caveman. We don't find out many of the details of his character until the next episode, and the details of how he met the Ranger team are further pushed off to season two. Back in the Disney era, all these details would have been covered in one episode and fleshed out over the course of the rest of the series. In the Neo-Saban era, these details are forgotten until they're needed once more to drive the plot forward. But that's not the biggest failing of this episode. No, the largest failing is the fact that this is basically a filler episode, and yet it introduces the freaking Megazord. The fifty foot-tall thundering beast, the Rangers ultimate weapon, designed to perfection to be fast, dangerous, to soak up damage like a sponge and keep walking, and above all to be upgradeable at a moments notice should the situation demand it, is introduced in an episode that aside from the appearance of the Megazord and a few disparate character facts has nothing going for it. That's the recurring problem of this series as a whole, there are too many episodes where things just happen because they needed to fill air-time. Look back at episode two, there was no particular reason that they needed to have the Megazord form in this episode, the threat could have easily been handled by the individual Zords and nothing would have changed.
I'm no particular fan of the way Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers introduced the original Megazord. The Zords themselves had far too little time to stand on their own, and it might as well have been there just to showcase everything the show had to offer in a single episode. However, that was a clear and present threat for which there needed to be an immediate solution. The Megazord provided that solution in-universe in a swift and suitably monumental fashion.
Speaking of MMPR, back in the day, it was rather unique for a Ranger to take on a supersized villain in a single Zord. When Jason Lee Scott manned the helm of his immortal Tyrannosaurus alone against the monster of the week, it was seen as a testament to his ability as both a leader and a Ranger. The fact that he managed to do so in the less-maneuverable and far less deadly T-Rex Zord without any backup was awe-inspiring. It wasn't just a throwaway fight, that was something that everyone who saw it remembered. Then along came Tommy Oliver, one man on his own, who fought and defeated the rest of the team with his Dragonzord, a machine that was, on its own at least as powerful as the Megazord itself. My point is, you don't just throw away a moment like the Red Ranger icing the villain of the week off-hand, you either treat it as a desperate struggle, or you hold off on forming up the Megazord for a good long while until you actually face a threat that requires it. The time to form the Megazord was either in Episode 2, or later in the series. "A Fool's Hour" should have been cut from the episode lineup entirely, and everything important within rolled into "Return of the Caveman."
Speaking of which, that's talk about episode four! Or as I like to call it; Shenanigans: Or; We Don't Know What a Consistent Tone is!
Listen folks, I'm not the kind of fan who expects Power Rangers to be grimdark and serious all the time, god knows I love a good joke every now and again. Unfortunately for the Neo-Saban era, there aren't many good jokes in this series, just pratfalls, exploding food gags, and stupid writing. Equally unfortunately for them, I grew up with the original Saban-era and the Disney-era, back when the show had good jokes at the worst of times and phenomenal jokes at the best. In other words, this series had standards to live up to, and it failed, hard.
Oh, I'm certain these shenanigans elicited some form of laughter from what this show considers its "target demographic." Just a shame it won't from any of the old hands that have been keeping this show afloat for the last seven years.
Being a critic, I watch a lot of movies and television series, and a lot of those are ones aimed towards younger demographics. One of the shows I've been watching a lot lately is Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I'll admit, Star Wars is one of my favorite things ever, but that doesn't mean I'll lap up anything with the license attached, or accept a crappy installment just because it's Star Wars.
I have a number of points to make here. One of which being that I'm not one of those people who considers children's programming utterly atrocious as a rule. Another being that I'm not particularly blinded by nostalgia like some may accuse me of being. Yes, I like the series I grew up with and I don't like what's being put out now. However, there are clear, objective reasons why the Disney era and the original Saban era were superior to the Neo-Saban era in general and this series in particular. One of which being that the Disney and Fox eras never used the same joke more than maybe once or twice, more if it was something of a running gag. Even then, they didn't over-use them, and they were at least funny most of the time. This series panders to the little kid demographic with things that I guess are supposed to be jokes, but are just not funny.
Most of those jokes revolve around poor Koda, played by Yoshi Sudarso. Yoshi does his best to sell the humor, but it just doesn't work.
Episode four is titled "Return of the Caveman," and as suggested, this is a Koda-centric episode where the Black Ranger, Chase Randall (Played by James Davies) spends most of the episode trying to introduce Koda to the modern world. This makes a lot more sense after you've seen the first episode of season two, since Koda was frozen alive back during the Ice-Age. Would have been nice to have learned that during this episode, because those details would make this episode more tolerable. Well, maybe. Probably not, with all the bizarre shenanigans
The setup for everything that goes down here is Koda flashing back to his time living in a cave with his family. He finds the Blue Energem, but a horrible CGI Sabertooth Tiger attacks his brother. Koda tackles the tiger, the two of them fall off a cliff. Back in the present day, Koda awakens to the sound of a motorcycle.
Now, call me crazy, but isn't it a bad idea to run a motor-vehicle in an enclosed space like their command-center? I know they've got a lot of space, but unless those bikes run on... Whatever the hell Dino Chargers are charged with (And I doubt that, because it was making the kind of sounds an internal combustion engine makes) they're still running the risk of poisoning themselves and getting sick, if not outright dying. Gotta hope they didn't fire up more than one of those bikes in there.
Something else I would like to bring up; Where exactly does the one big door in the base lead to? The outside? We never really see anyone using it to wheel anything in or out, we just see people walking through it on occasion, and there's no way they got those bikes up the secret hatch in the mouth of the T-Rex head.
Anyways, after realizing there's no threat, Koda calms down slightly. Then Shelby's phone rings, and he attacks it.
Knowing that Koda is more Rip Van Winkle than Highlander, this is slightly more justified that I initially thought it to be. However, we still never found out how long he's been unfrozen. For all we know, he, Chase and Kendall could have been bumming around the museum ever since Samurai trying to find the other Energems. Which logically should have been plenty of time to adjust to the technology and whatnot. If they'd bothered developing Koda as a character before jumping into his focus episode, I could buy him being shook up by this, but the way everything is framed it doesn't work. Or more to the point, it's played for laughs when it really probably shouldn't be. It's called post-traumatic stress disorder, it's not supposed to be funny!
Anyways, Chase offers to teach Koda how to ride a bike. Fortunately, he gives him a decently-sized bike instead of a comedy kiddie-bike. Unfortunately, Koda has a helmet too small to fit on his head.
Maybe you should have had him wearing a motorcycle helmet, like the kind he'd be wearing when riding the Dino-Cycle so he can get used to the feeling. Or maybe they could have had him Morph and put him on the cycle. He should be alright like that. The Morphing Grid should handle all of that.
One of Sledge's prisoners, Slammer, goes out and tries to capture the Rangers and get their Energems. Chase gets captured because he's an idiot, but Koda manages to fend Slammer off for a while until he notices a stupid kid in danger. He and the kid get caged up, but the kids bike creates a hole in the bottom of the cage.
This brings me to a huge problem. The Rangers can basically summon their gear from nowhere. I don't know why, but they do. They also keep a bunch of Dino Chargers in their pockets at all times. There's no reason why Chase and Koda couldn't have morphed and busted their way out of those cages. They don't say anything about them being made of anything special, so as far as we know they're just steel cages. Considering the destructive capabilities of their gear, there's no reason that they shouldn't be able to get out. Slammer is, after all, just some criminal who makes cages. He's not Dai Shi or Lord Zedd, I don't buy him being able to hold a Ranger for more than a few seconds.
Anyways, Koda splints up the boys broken leg and makes a torch so he can see to get out of the cave. The other Rangers track a signal to their location, and they proceed to beat Slammer up with the Megazord.
This was one of the times when I realized that the show was going downhill. Not only could the conflict have been resolved stupidly easily, we don't even really explore the depths of the focus-character beyond the flashback at the beginning of the episode and a handful of scenes towards the middle and end! I found out more about Flit from Jungle Fury in a few minutes than I really learned about Koda in this whole episode!
Anyways, I've been working on this retrospective for two weeks now and there's no end in sight, so I'm going to split this up and get back to you next week with the rest of the rant-filled retrospective on the last two rancid years of wretched Ranger refuse. I'll see you guys then.
So, quick update. In addition to my Patreon, there's also an Amazon affiliate link you can use if you wish to support me. I've also made myself a new Amazon wishlist to go with the Amazon account I signed up for. Until now I was ordering things through my mothers account because it was more convenient. These days it's neither here nor there, plus since my ads are now served through Amazon that means I can get paid through there, as well as getting things I want. If anyone wants to send me stuff rather than giving me money, check out that Amazon wishlist. Also check out the old Amazon wishlist on the Donations page. I share the contents of that list with my mother, but there's an easy way to tell what I put on there from what she put on there. If it ain't video-games, DVD's, Blu-rays, electronics or toys, then it's likely not something I wanted, but if you want to buy something for my mother I'm sure she'd appreciate it.

Monday, November 7, 2016

American Ultra

American Ultra
Sometimes movies can surprise you. For instance, American Ultra looked like it was going to suck based on the trailers. Surprisingly, it was pretty damn good.
To explain this, I'll ask you a question. What do you get when you cross The Bourne Identity and Blood Punch with a tad of classic Bond thrown in for good measure? You get American Ultra.
Look at that poster. First, there's Jesse Eisenberg, who can be really good in some movies and really bad in others. Next, there's Kristen Stewart, who has acquired a rather undeserved reputation for not being able to act. Funnily enough, Eisenberg has that reputation in some circles too.
Let's break this down based on this movie, BvS, Now You See Me, and The End of the Tour, the later two of which had trailers included on this film's DVD. In BvS, Eisenberg played an egomaniac with a commanding personality. He had the air of a supervillain to him, the kind of thing you'd expect out of Lex Luthor. He carried himself like he owned the place, and spoke like he expected to be heard. Then there's Now You See Me, where he plays a cocky son of a bitch. A smirking, cocksure, swaggering douchebag who feels like he can do anything he wants, while also acting detached from his environment. Then there's The End of the Tour, where he basically seems like any guy you'd expect to meet on the street. He acts like a background element, someone who just sort of blends in, while interacting rather effectively with his co-star, Jason Segal. Then there's this movie, where he's got perfect command of his characters' insecurities and quirks. Not only that, he constantly shifts back and forth between the passive, nervous stoner and his Bond-esque combat persona. To say that Jesse Eisenberg can't act is blatantly untrue. He doesn't change up his voice much, but he completely overhauls his mannerisms and the way he speaks for almost every role.
Then there's Kristen Stewart. Thanks to the Twilight movies, and Snow White & The Huntsman, she's been painted as a pretty face without much talent. Namely, a blank expression with very little obvious interest in what she's doing. Having seen Tara Reid in action, not only is Kristen Stewart not a bad actress, by any means, but she actually manages to carry her end of the film. In fact, if not for her expressionism and her expressive acting, this movie would have easily fallen flat. Stewart plays the straight-man to Eisenberg's wise-guy, in what is essentially a duo-comedy film.
Eisenberg plays Mike Howell, a stoner with anxiety issues living in Liman, West Virginia. He wants to propose to his girlfriend, Phoebe Larson in Hawaii, but at the airport Mike has a panic-attack and they miss their flight.
Mike and Phoebe go back to their lives of doing small things in a small town. Mike as a clerk at a local convenience-store and Phoebe at the bail-bonds office. Mike begins freaking out that he's holding Phoebe back, but decides to try and overcome his failings to make a spectacular statement. So he talks to his drug-dealer, Rose (John Leguizamo) to get ahold of some fireworks.
At the CIA headquarters in Langley, an agent named Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton) is called on a secret phone and told that one of the experimental agents she oversaw, codenamed "Wise Man" is about to be terminated by "Tough Guy." Lasseter headed up Wise Man, while her colleague, Adrian Yates (Topher Grace, better as a villain here than he was in Spider-Man 3) headed up Tough Guy. Lasseter tries to get Yates to back down on killing the last Wise Man, (Who happens to be Mike) but he refuses. She decides to activate Mike so he can have a chance at not being killed, but he doesn't seem to be phased by his trigger-words as much as the guys from The Manchurian Candidate were. She decides to bug out before Lasseter's men show up to kill Mike, and leaves him to his fate. Naturally confused, Mike makes himself some soup for dinner, but notices a pair of guys messing with his car. He goes out to try and stop them, but they pull guns on him. Mike's training then re-activates itself, and he kills the two with a spoon and a gun he stole from them. After this, he freaks the hell out and calls up Phoebe to tell her what happened. Naturally, she's freaked out by all of this. Then a plastic-bag lands on Mike's car and the bombs the two guys he killed planted, explode. Fortunately, he took the fireworks out first. The two are then arrested because of these killings, and tossed in jail. Because two guys planting a bomb on your car and attacking you with guns doesn't justify killing them in West Virginia somehow. Before the cell-door is closed though, two more Tough Guy operatives, Crane and Laugher, lay siege to the Sheriff's Office. Mike's training then kicks in once more, and he manages to keep them from killing him. Laugher is left with broken teeth, and Crane is dead as a doornail.
Naturally, this brings up a few red-flags with Yates, who has already found out that two of his men have been killed. He works up a ridiculous cover-story and begins his siege. He blocks off the town so Lasseter can't escape, but she calls in an airdrop from one of her associates and gets herself a shotgun and pistol.
Mike and Phoebe get to Rose's house. Rose has tons of guns and an armored house, so they figure it's a good place to lay low. Rose and his henchmen have some pretty funny dialogue exchange with Mike, before Rose locks him and Phoebe in his rave-room after seeing Mike and Lasseter on TV as part of the coverup. Yates's men begin pumping poison gas into the house and kill Rose and his goons. They try to kill Mike and Phoebe, but thanks to Mike's skills and Phoebe's theft of one of their gas-masks, they manage to escape. Phoebe grabs a syringe from the body of one of the soldiers and injects the bleary Mike with it. She knows a bit too much about the gas and what it does, while Mike flashes back to various aspects of their relationship before coming back to reality. He realizes that she's probably a CIA agent, and she admits it. She was his handler back when he was with the CIA, but they fell in love. After he was brainwashed into amnesia, and dropped off in the town. She stayed behind rather than be reassigned, and we find out that all of his anxieties, all of his phobias and shortcomings were a product of the CIA suppressing his training. The whole reason Yates wanted to kill him was because he was slowly finding the ability to leave the town.
The two of them are then assaulted by Laugher, and Phoebe's car is set on fire, seemingly killing Mike. However, Lasseter manages to get him out before the flames get to him. Phoebe is taken back to Yates's base of operations, where he finds out that Lasseter and Mike are headed back to his house. Yates tries to call in an air-strike on Mike, but the guy he threatened into authorizing it, Lasseter's old assistant, Petey backs out, so Yates orders one of his men to take one of the Tough Guys out and take out the two of them. Meanwhile, Petey reports Yates' activities to their superior officer, Raymond Krueger, who sets into motion actions to shut Yates' operation down.
Mike takes out the guys who try to kill him and Lasseter, and takes their vehicle and his fireworks to Yates' base at the local superstore. Phoebe manages to get out of her handcuffs while Yates sends the last of his men after Mike. Mike kills most of them, but his fight with Laugher comes to a standstill when both of them are too heavily injured to continue, and when Laugher manages to gain enough lucidity to explain to Mike what the hell Yates did to him. Yates and his crew took mentally-ill people and screwed with their brains so they would obey orders they were given. The extent of Mike's brainwashing just blocked off his memories and gave him massive issues with anxiety. Mike gets to choose what he does, while Laugher is basically The Winter Soldier, but without the mental stability to be able to cope with what he has to do.
Mike lets Laugher get away, and Phoebe helps him get out of the building. They're then set upon by Krueger's men. Mike proposes and Phoebe accepts. The two are then tasered, Yates is executed, Lasseter convinces Krueger to make Mike into an agent, Mike accepts the gig, and he and Phoebe take up work traveling the world, killing people in unusual ways.
To put it bluntly, you could easily have told me this was a Hollywood remake of Blood Punch and I would have believed you. Despite lacking the supernatural elements, the plot of American Ultra is almost beat for beat the same as that of Blood Punch. Main-character doesn't know things about his situation, does drugs, has a hot girl who also does those drugs, the girl knows more about the leads situation than he does, there's a villain who wants to kill the lead and mess with the girl. Dark humor, kick-ass action, and a drug-dealer who turns on the leads after initially being friendly. Hell, both films start out with flashbacks, both are open-ended and both could either have a sequel or not and be perfectly fine. I could have pictured Milo Cawthorne as Mike, Olivia Tenent as Phoebe and Ari Boyland as Yates in a pinch.
There are plenty of differences, however. For one thing, American Ultra lacks the downer-ending of Blood Punch and some of the (no pun intended) punch of the action. Not to say that it isn't visceral, but Blood Punch had a lot more focus placed on the kick of the action, while American Ultra is filmed like a more-loose, less shakey Bourne movie. Not that that doesn't work, the cinematography and editing is basically perfect in framing the characters actions. On top of that, American Ultra lacks the incredibly poorly-choreographed wide-shot of the final battle-scene that could have been cut entirely that was my one major complaint about my favorite film of 2015. American Ultra also has far-better audio-effects editing and mixing than Blood Punch does. On the other hand, Eisenberg and Stewart are clearly breathing out CGI smoke in the beginning of the film, while Blood Punch relied far more heavily on practical effects for small things like that. Something they both share is the ability to sell the action no matter how ludicrous it might seem, and the use of either practical effects or very good CGI for most of the important scenes. You're not going to see any effects-failures on the level of The Expendables in this film. Hell, you don't see anything as cringeworthy as the parade from The Hunger Games despite the fact that this movie had about a third of that films budget. Just goes to show that it comes down to how you make a film and not how much money you've got.
All in all, while this film was a bit shaky in some aspects (Namely it's not paced quite as well as Blood Punch was) it's a damn good action-comedy with punchy writing, editing and acting alike. Just a shame it didn't make its budget back at the box-office. I would urge anyone who liked Blood Punch, or likes black-comedy action-films to buy this movie on Blu-ray or DVD and watch it. It isn't quite on the level of the suicidal brilliance of Blood Punch's morbid humor, but it's well worth watching to the end. Hell, it might even be worth a sequel. For that matter, the comic Mike wrote in-universe sounds pretty good as well. I'd like to maybe see a comic-book or some animated shorts about Apollo Ape.
In the end, I give American Ultra a 9.0*. It's a fun film to watch, and if you want to laugh at some punchy jokes, this is a good film to do that with. Plus, the ending-sequence is well worth watching.

If you want to pick something for me to review, or if you just want to kick me a dollar or two, check out the Patreon I made for the site. I'll see ya'll next week!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Resident Evil #2: Caliban Cove (S.D. Perry)

Resident Evil
Like the WildStorm comics, the S.D. Perry novels eventually delved into original content to pass the time between the releases of the video-games. Since Resident Evil 2 was still yet to come out, and these books were likely written several months before the game went gold, Caliban Cove takes place between Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2. Not in the way that it would actually patch up the big gaps in the plot between those two games. Just a book that fills the time between the release of The Umbrella Conspiracy and City of the Dead. At the very least it sort of cleared up where the hell Rebecca went.
Taking a quick look at the cover, we see Rebecca chambers running towards the camera with a gun in her hand. Tilted off to the side as if she'd had no training with it at all. I know she was recruited out of college to be their medic, but she was given enough firearms training to know how to hold her gun properly!
In the background we see a lighthouse shining out over what I presume to be the titular cove. Edited into the background we see the S.T.A.R.S. logo, a cerberus, and the head of a Tyrant.
The prologue starts us off with articles from the Raccoon Times "detailing" the destruction of the Spencer mansion and the dissolution of the Raccoon City S.T.A.R.S. team. This latter hackjob is enough to tell us that the city council and the police commissioner are all on the take of The Umbrella Corporation. In it, city councilman Edward Weist (Sounds like the name of a Bond villain) asserts that the S.T.A.R.S. team was hopped up on drugs and alcohol while they went on their mission to handle the cannibal killers. Despite the fact that that would be incredibly easy to disprove with a single drug-test for every member of the team. I mean, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Brad was on something, but the rest of the team? Considering Jill was something of a local hero, Chris an Air-Force ace, Barry the friendly neighborhood gentle giant and family man, and Joseph the cheerful mechanic. This is the last group of people I would expect to be doing drugs and alcohol on a rescue-mission!
Even the Bravo team consisted of a kid genius, a dude known as the single most levelheaded guy in the world, a mild-mannered landscaper with a Ph.D. in Chemistry, two well-disciplined snipers and a leader described as having impervious mental strength doesn't sound like the type of group to not handle things professionally. Either they pulled off a great spin-job on this, or the residents of Raccoon City are really, really dumb.
Anyways, Barry Burton has taken up the role of commander of the remaining S.T.A.R.S. members (Sans Brad who has skipped town) and they meet up with David Trapp, the captain of the Exeter S.T.A.R.S. branch. He informs them that he's learned about some corruption of the S.T.A.R.S. higher-ups. Namely the fact that the New York Headquarters has tabled the investigation at the behest of Umbrella, that they've forced the founder and face of the organization, Dr. Marco Palmieri out of his position and taken direct control of the assistant director, Kurtz. Trapp has assembled a team of his own from the few people he can trust in the Exeter division, and has come to Barry to ask Raccoon City's team for help in infiltrating and dismantling the Umbrella installation in Caliban Cove, Maine. Unfortunately, the only one to come along is Rebecca Chambers. The other members of the team elect to stay behind and try to handle whatever they can.
Before they split up, Trapp and Jill cross-reference their Umbrella information and find that they were both given similar information from a guy named Trent. Rebecca notices a name she recognizes on the list of Umbrella researchers, a biochemist named Nicholas Griffith who vanished after being busted for unethical experimentation. Barry calls up a few of his S.T.A.R.S. buddies to try and get Trapp some backup. Chris tries to get in contact with some friends in the FBI so they can possibly take down Irons, but Barry's house is attacked by Umbrella's operatives. As they fight their way out, Captain Trapp kills one of them, and finds out that he's Captain Jay Shannon, head of the Oklahoma City S.T.A.R.S. branch. The team takes refuge in the abandoned house of Brad Vickers, and from there Rebecca and David get on a private plane to Exeter, and from there to Caliban Cover with the rest of Trapp's team.
On their way to the facility, their boat is destroyed, and they are set upon by a squad of zombies armed with machine-guns. The team gets captured, two of their members infected with the T-Virus, but Rebecca, Trapp and another member of the Exeter team escape. They're rescued by Captain Blake and the Philadelphia S.T.A.R.S. team, and leave.
All in all, this wasn't a bad book by any means. It was tense, well-written and overall a decent addition to the Resident Evil storyline. It's also leaps and bounds above the Wildstorm comics of the same era. However, it's still not quite as good as Resident Evil: The Book. If we could have seen more from this series as written by Hiroyuki Ariga, it would have probably flowed a lot better. Perry seems to take more pages to tell less story than Ariga does, which is a shame because there's a good story to be told here. Not that she doesn't do it well in this book, mind. Since she was working with original material and not adapting a ten plus hour game into a single book, it feels like there was far less left out than in The Umbrella Conspiracy. Despite the fact that that book adapted the game fairly well, it was still a bit unfocused and leaned more on telling rather than showing for certain details. This book leans more heavily on demonstrating exactly what's going on for the sake of tension. While there are a few additions that are somewhat absurd on the surface, like the gun-wielding zombies, that concept would be brought to a head at the hands of one of the most memorable monsters of all time. None other than rocket-launcher wielding Nemesis T-Type. So yeah, I can buy zombies armed with M-16's.
Finally though, we come to this books continuity. Like the comics, this book was written well in advance of the development of Resident Evil 3, and as such doesn't fit in to the alterations that game made to the timeline. Resident Evil 2 mostly focused on the effects of what happened after the virus got out, and had less effect on the characters from the original game than Resident Evil 3 does. But that's something to get into next year when I cover that game. It's been two years since I reviewed a Resident Evil game, and it's about time I get back to the things that made me start it in the first place.
All in all, I enjoyed this novel quite a bit more than I enjoyed the WildStorm comics. While there are going to be plot issues later on in the series, there's still plenty in this book to enjoy if you wish to read it.
In the end, I give Resident Evil #2: Caliban Cove a 7.9*. I'll see you guys on Sunday with... Something. I don't know at this point. Probably Bomb on Basic City, or I could finally finish up my Fire Emblem Awakening review.

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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls (Nathan Green)

Sega
If you know anything about me as a person then you’ll probably know I love retro gaming. I have a growing collection of consoles and games which I regularly add to and play and I spend a lot of time reading up on retro gaming related topics. For me though the thing that got me into retro gaming was the console legacy left by a little company called Sega. Ever since I started collecting I have been a Segahead through and through so when I heard that the retro gaming inspired Hyperdimension Neptunia series was going to be having a spin-off crossover game with characters from an animated series based entirely on old Sega stuff my interest was immediately piqued.
I’ve been keeping an eye on Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls ever since I learned of its existence, and now having sunk around eight hours into the game I feel I can finally answer the all important question of “Is it any good?” So, without further fanfare let's start off by covering the story.

Story and Characters:
The Neptunia series is known for having oddball plots already, but Superdimension's plot is certainly one of the odder once.
For starters our hero of the story this time round isn’t Neptune, but rather her level headed explorer friend IF. At the start of the story, IF stumbles across a place called the grand library which turns out to be a place where all the worlds history is recorded. All seems fine and dandy until a girl falls out of the sky and history starts to just… disappear. Yes history just straight up starts to disappear and IF and the girl who fell out of the sky (who incidentally is named Segami) are the only ones who can do anything about it.
One time travelling bike later and it becomes your mission to visit various eras of history in order to correct what was lost. It’s a relatively simple plot on paper, but in practice Superdimension does more than enough to spice things up despite the premise being a bit cliché.
Character-wise, most of the Neptunia cast is present (apart from Noire, Blanc and Vert mainly due to how they represent non Sega consoles) but along with the regulars we also are joined by the Sega hard girls.
Now for those of you out there who have no idea what I’m talking about let me explain. The Sega Hard Girls were characters that first appeared as a Dengeki Bunko imprint before getting their own light novel, and eventually their own animated television series in 2014 entitled Hi-sCoool! SeHa Girls (If you’re a fan of retro gaming especially Sega retro gaming then I highly recommend you give a few episodes a watch. It’s jam packed full of references to old Sega video games and consoles).
Basically each of the Hard Girls is an anthropomorphized Sega game console. It’s a similar idea to what Neptunia did but the way the Hard Girls were designed makes the references a bit more obvious.
Superdimension features quite a lot of the Sega hard girls but only 4 play a major role in the story, those being Dreamcast, Saturn, Mega Drive and Game Gear. Each of the Hard Girls has a Neptunia universe counterpart. Saturn’s is Neptune/Purple Heart, Dreamcast's is Uzume/Orange Heart, Mega Drive's is Plutia/Iris Heart and Game Gear's is Nepgear/Purple Sister.
In typical Neptune fashion the writing is what really takes the stage here. The game is full of retro gaming references, one liners and dialogue scenes between characters which consistently left me with a giant grin on my face.
Overall, Superdimension does a pretty good job with its characters and writing. The story is a little bit cliché, but it throws enough curve-balls to keep me interested. If you’re looking for a game to play for the story though then this really isn’t it.

Gameplay:
Now for the meat and potatoes of the game, and oh boy there is quite a bit to talk about here so lets not waste any time.
For starters, Superdimension sports a new battle system. You still move around a free roaming circle and attack enemies and all that but instead of picking from one of 3 types of physical attack and using strategy to do stuff such as getting 2 or more enemies in the path of your attack you instead are treated to something new and honestly refreshing for the series.
The combat system works like this, similar to Megadimension you have a circle that you can move your character about in. You can attack, use skills, use items and surprisingly, jump. Yes, jump. I’ll come back to that in a second.
The combat is turn based which doesn’t sound all that interesting on paper but the game implements one major mechanic which makes the system very interesting in practice. Basically when your turn begins you are shown a gauge on the right hand side of the screen. This is the action gauge and it is what determines how long your turn will be and how many actions you can perform. At the beginning of your turn it is completely bottomed out however actions like moving and attacking will increase the action gauge. Once the action gauge fills enough to reach the red area you turn is over.
It’s a simple system but how it is implemented makes it incredibly strategic as well. Firstly unlike in previous games when you start a physical attack you are not locked into having to use a physical attack until your turn ends. When you perform a physical attack a bit of your action gauge gets filled back up but as long as it is below the red area you will still be able to attack, use skills and use items along with moving. This small change means that the variety of actions which can be performed in a turn increases dramatically. You’re given the potential to heal an ally and then attack an enemy or use an item followed by a skill. It’s a simple change but one which adds a surprising amount of strategy to the battle system not seen in previous games. There’s even an element of strategy around how much of the action gauge you think you should use before ending your turn because the further into the red zone your action gauge is when your turn ends the longer it will be until that character gets to have their turn again
As for other battle mechanics there’s your ability to jump for starters. It sounds pointless on paper but bear with me. During battles gems will regularly pop up floating in the air which can be picked up to help recover HP and SP. On top of that after you have dealt enough damage to enemies and have filled the fever gauge (which fills when you perform actions on your turn) up on the right of the screen a fever gem will appear in the battle field which can be picked up to activate fever time. Now when fever time is active all characters will receive a slight stat buff, enemies will miss a turn for the duration of fever time and EXE drives will be able to be used. Fever time ends once the fever gauge runs out though which happens as you perform actions during battle.
The important thing to note is that a full fever gauge carries between battles so if you finish a battle with a full fever gauge it will remain full at the start of the next battle. What I’m getting at is SAVE FEVER TIME FOR BOSSES. The stat buff combined with causing the enemy to miss a turn means that fever time is not only great for dishing pain out but also for recovering since the enemy won’t be able to attack as long as fever time is active.
Apart from fever time you also have access to a charge attack which can be used by holding the X button until the action gauge fills up fully. This deals quite a bit of damage but also results in the fever gauge being filled entirely meaning a longer wait until that characters turn rolls around again.
Skills behave somewhat like they do in other Nep titles however each character has a select number of skill slots which can accommodate either an active or passive skill. As the game continues on you’ll be able to expand the number of slots you have access to allowing for more skill equips.
Also noteworthy is the class system which allows you to gain new classes for characters and swap them to change the type of focus that they have in battle. Importantly this also effects their skill pool and the skills that they will learn as they level up.
Overall the new battle system is something I find quite enjoyable. It refreshes the gameplay style that has been present in the Neptunia series for quite a while and it does a good job of making something both new and enjoyable.
Outside of the battle system there are many changes that have been made in places like the overworld. For example IF is far more acrobatic in the game field than Neptune was in previous games. Not only can she jump but she can also climb ladders, run, enter crawl spaces and swing across ropes.
Now on paper this sounds like just a gimmick and I’ll admit I didn’t think much of it at first, however these new skills are actually used quite a lot throughout the course of the game thanks to the larger variety in dungeon design as well as brand new dungeons made specifically for this game.
The addition of new dungeons is quite nice and they’re designed pretty well however even the dungeons that have been recycled from previous games get a revamp treatment with them having different terrain layouts and routes that you can take depending on the era. In one era a part of land may not be accessible but in another era that same dungeon may have a swing rope or ladder placed in order to allow you to make it to this new area.
It’s a simple system but despite that it is an incredible breath of fresh air as it makes the dungeons that are recycled feel quite a bit more fresh instead of just copy pastes from the previous titles. It also allows for IF’s increased dungeon acrobatics to be used more and make them more than just gimmicks present in only the new dungeons.
Also new are collectibles that are present in dungeons. Inside dungeons you can find medals which are scattered all over the place. Now while collecting them all does give you a little message I’m honestly unsure as to what their real purpose is except for getting 100% completion. The same applies to the baseball collectible which are usually tucked away somewhere in the dungeon. These can be given to the robo pitcher back at the grand library but again, I don’t really know what these do per say.
Game progression is mission based. You select a mission and complete the objective listed. Missions however have a time limit on them in the form of a number to the right of the mission on the mission select screen. If this number reaches zero then the mission disappears. Without spoiling anything this system does lead onto an important plot point which the game explains pretty well so I’ll leave that for you to discover.
Overall, Superdimension is a breath of fresh air when it comes to the gameplay department with the new battle system and dungeon actions really making the game quite fun and quite unlike other Neptunia games we have seen before hand.



Graphics and Sound:
Graphically the game does indeed look nice but it is plagued by one problem, performance. Granted the performance issues present in Superdimension are nowhere near as bad as the performance issues present in say, Re;Birth 1 on the Vita (which has one of the most unstable frame rates I have ever seen). In comparison Superdimension is far more stable in terms of being able to hold a frame rate however it does tend to stutter a little bit in some areas. Compared to the earlier Neptunia Vita titles though the performance is far improved so that’s a plus at the very least.
Art wise the character models look quite nice on the field with nice detailed 3d models and smooth animations. Cut-scenes also use the now Neptunia standard Live2D system whereby 2D characters have idle animations that play while in text scenes. I really can’t fault the game much in this area.
In the sound department the music is a mixture of tunes present in previous Neptunia titles and a few brand new tunes which are OK but nothing to really write home about (although the new battle themes and especially the boss theme are pretty darn catchy). On the front of voice acting I played using the English dub and once again I can say that it is another incredible English dub from Idea Factory. Kate Higgins does an amazing job with voice acting IF and the English voice actors they got in for the Sega Hard Girls all do a top notch job as well. A special mention should also be made to the fact that the lip syncing in cutscenes now syncs properly to the English voice track which is something that wasn’t present in previous Neptunia Vita titles.

Verdict:
Superdimension Neptunia VS Sega Hard Girls is an example of a spin off title which does all the right things in order to make it stand on its own as a great game. Out of all of the Neptunia spin off titles, I’d have to say that this is probably the best one in terms of quality. It has a lot of fresh new ideas which it pulls off quite well which is certainly commendable considering the number of games released these days which have great ideas but never really do anything with them (See my last review on MeiQ Labyrinth of Death to learn more about that).
As fun as the game is though I did notice a few issues here and there mainly with the translation. Some tutorials had certain sentences repeated twice while some items had formatting issues that caused the text to go off the edge of the screen. It’s a minor issue but one that is still noticeable non the less. Here’s hoping that Idea Factory release a patch to fix it up sooner rather than later.
Translation bugs aside Superdimension is a fun time and gets a Highly Recommended.

My apologies for the lateness of this review, I’ve had a busy past few weeks and haven’t had much time to really sit down and finish this off. Hopefully this should go up in time for the European release of the time though. As for upcoming Vita titles there’s still a lot coming so stay tuned for more Vita goodness in the coming months!
If you liked this review, please consider contributing to our Patreonhttps://www.patreon.com/VariousReviews! This is BDVR Author Nathan Green signing off.



Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls releases on the 18th of October in North America and the 21st of October in Europe and Australia.
PEGI: 12
ESRB: T
CERO: C
OFLC: M

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Resident Evil #4 (WildStorm)

Resident Evil
Welcome back to this week's 31 Days of Evil, as we continue with the fourth issue of WildStorm's Resident Evil comic series!
Yet again, we're looking at the cover. This time the shot on the cover is actually close to one from the book itself, unlike the shots from every other cover so fart. Issue #2 came close, but I'm almost certain that room on the cover wasn't actually in the comic.
Chris is doing his best to actually look like himself, and for once he's actually being a pilot outside of his back-story. Jill still looks like she stepped out of the eighteen-hundreds (Seriously, the version of her from Issue #1 looked more like Jill than this) aaaaaand Barry is starting to look like Billy Blazes as he's blocking the zombies out.
This cover appears to have been drawn by two artists, Carlos D'Anda and Mark Irwin. It's alright, but they could have done better.
Rather unfortunately, the cover-story of this issue is the last out of the three included within.
Our first story, "Night Stalkers" is written by Kris Oprisko and illustrated by Rafael Kayanan.
In the town of Saguaro Wells, a bunch of people have gone missing. Because of humanoid vampire-bats.
In a nearby underground laboratory that defies OSHA regulations, two Umbrella-funded scientists are remote-controlling the man-bats and attempting to mutate more of them. I know you can't actually see this comic, so let me assure you that their lair is the most stereotypical supervillain lair ever constructed.
Back in town, Sheriff Carey issues a curfew to keep people from going out at the times when the bat-men are attacking. He refuses to let them go out hunting the people creating the bats, but tells them they can defend themselves.
Later that day, his son "Little" Wayne is attacked by bats and bitten. By morning, he becomes a zombie. The scientists begin rushing to get more subjects to complete their flock. Meanwhile, Leon arrives to handle the situation. He looks more like himself in this comic than he has at any other point in the series.
Leon tries to fight the bats off, but they eventually overwhelm him and abscond to their lair. He regains consciousness, and hacks his way free with a machete and catches himself on a ledge. Leon then witnesses the mad scientists putting their plan into action. Leon then transforms into MacGyver (No seriously, come Page 16 he starts looking like a combination of Richard Dean Anderson, Jean Claude Van Damme and Neuclear Man) and starts rigging up a method of damaging the control-machine before calling for backup. Come Page 19, Leon starts looking like Tetsuo from Akira and begins acting like Kaneda. Leon's backup arrives as his sabotage kicks into action and firebomb the mountain base. The helicopter takes him out to his next destination, and the story ends.
Towards the start of the comic, the art looks good. Towards the end though, it delves into super-derp territory, especially around Leon's face. The fact that this was a quarterly comic should mean that they would have had the time to fix this shit.
The next story is called Special Delivery, written by Marc Mostman and drawn by Ryan Odagawa.
I'll be honest, this story is a waste of time. It's all about the guys in the helicopter who dropped Mr. X and a bunch of other Umbrella experiments off in Raccoon City before one of the monsters they're transporting busts out and kills them, moaning about "No loose ends."
The Resident Evil Files between this story and the next are of the zombies (No seriously) and Jill Valentine. If you needed to know what a zombie is at this point, then I envy you for having stayed away from the glut of zombie media for the last several decades.
Jill is listed as being 5'5" despite being drawn as only being an inch or three shorter than Chris is in the comic. She's also listed as weighing 111lbs, despite being drawn as having massive bulging muscles throughout this series. This is apparently taken from actual official Capcom stats. Now call me crazy, but I look at Jill and some of the crazy things she's done and can do, and I don't bet on her weighing less than 160lbs. She's a Delta Force operative after all, and she carries around a of heavy ordnance. If she was only 111lbs, she should have been knocked over by some of the weapons she's used. Once more, we're not told any more than we were already told in character bios from the first comic, or that we've learned from the games themselves. They mention a few of Jill's character details, but they forget to mention that she picks locks.
The final story is the one we came here for, the completion of the last story of the last comic.
Zombies Abroad is drawn by Norman Felchle (I won't even begin to try and pronounce that name) and written by Ted Adams.
Chris rushes to the cockpit to tack control of the plane. He comments "Of course, my S.T.A.R.S. training never required me to fly something as big as this!" Yeah, neither did your Air Force training, but it's still a god-damn plane! Take the controls and get this thing flying right! Or at least make sure the auto-pilot is working right.
Chris lands the plane and talks to his contact, Falcon about the leak. Falcon tells them he's on it, and instructs the three of them to investigate Europe's monuments to try and find Umbrella's headquarters.
Excuse me, no. No! There are too many monuments in Europe for this to be a reasonable course of action! They don't have enough information to go off of! This is like The Consuming Shadow with the lead cast of Resident Evil! Besides, I wasn't aware that the Umbrella Corporation's headquarters had to be secret, they're supposed to be a legitimate business. They should have just gone to the actual headquarters and broken in to see what's going on. They're likely to have themselves a large underground complex connected to it.
Anyways, after going to The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Madame Tusseaud's, The Eiffel Tower, The Lourve, The De Gooyer Windmill, (Which I've never heard of) Oktoberfest, (Which I wasn't aware was a monument) and finally rounding it out in Queck Castle. Chris mentions that this is the last monument in Europe. To which I say, no! You missed Stonehenge, The London Eye, Big Ben, 10 Downing Street, New Scotland Yard, New London Bridge, The Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Vatican City, The Catacombs, The Palace of Versailles, and I could go on! There's plenty more. Granted, they didn't have the space to show them checking everything I listed out, but this was such an insane premise from the start that it shouldn't have been in the comic. Just make the whole comic about espionage and leave the zombie-killing for later, my god!
The three of them split up (Like they would ever split up again after the mansion incident) to try and cover more ground. They solve some puzzles, and for some reason Jill isn't the one to solve the music puzzle despite the fact that she's the one who solved the piano puzzle in the first game. They are all then set upon by monsters.
This story is alright, but the art has gotten further and further away from actually looking like the characters. Chris has basically become Arnold Schwarzenegger from Commando, Jill's beret is left behind entirely in favor of arm-wrappings that make her look like female CM Punk and nail-polish and fake nails, and Barry has completed his transformation into Billy Blazes.
Chris is supposed look more like mid-eighties, early nineties Val Kilmer. Jill looks more like Ada than Ada did in Issue #2. Plus the illogic of an ex-Delta Force operative having manicured nails like that. She's a member of the bomb-squad for gods sake, those will only get in the way! While Barry could be a bit more on-model, he always looked plenty like Billy Blazes as he was, so it's not entirely that much of a big leap. Although god only knows what would happen if this crew was given the rights to make a Rescue Heroes comic. Billy would wind up looking like Wesker, Wendy would look like Jill and Jack would inexplicably look like Chris.
As for the rest of the art, there are shading lines all over the place. Hell, the art is all over the place. While Chris looks like Arnold most of the time, occasionally he morphs into Dolph Lundgren or Jean Claude Van Damme. Barry sometimes turns into a redheaded oversized leprechaun, and Jill goes between looking like a Revolutionary War soldier, The Wicked Witch, and Scarlet O'Hara. But above all, where in the hell is Jill's beret? She and all the other S.T.A.R.S. members in this story have their standard gear (Fortunately without the S.T.A.R.S. logo on the shoulder, unlike in the first issue) so why doesn't she have her beret? You know what, a better question would be why isn't her hair tied up properly? I'm a martial-artist, and I play paintball. My hair is about as long as hers is and I've got to tie up every loose end or it gets into my face and obscures my vision. It gets into my eyes, it screws up my aim, and it keeps me from performing at full capacity. I could go on, but I've made my point.
All in all, this is yet another comic that wasted the vast majority of its pages on stories that didn't really matter while leaving the actually plot-important story a minority of the pages of the comic. The artwork generally sucks from page to page. Occasionally there are some decent panels or decent pages, but nothing is all that great. It's a shame that weekly Japanese comics have more consistent, more precise artwork than a comic that took three months between issues. Three months between issues. Let this sink in. Kazuki Takahashi, Akira Toriyama, Eiichiro Oda, Takeshi Obata, all of them managed to put out weekly comics for years on end without a lapse in the quality of the artwork. These guys can't put out one comic every three months without screwing up from page to page.
All in all, it's alright. If these stories were arranged chronologically it wouldn't be nearly as infuriating to read. All I ask is that they put the comic together decently. That's it. Unfortunately, it's not. Not even close.
In the end, I give it a 3.4*. Next week, we wrap the feature up with the novel Resident Evil #2: Caliban Cove!

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Resident Evil #3 (Wildstorm)

Resident Evil
We return to the Wildstorm Resident Evil comics once more this week with Resident Evil #3. Which doesn't actually have an adaptation of Resident Evil 3 contained within.
Instead, we get a prequel to the original Resident Evil, a filler chapter about an outbreak on an island, and a story about the S.T.A.R.S. team's journey to Europe. There's also an interview with Shinji Mikami, the fan-art and letters page, and character bios.
Before we dig into the rest of the comic, let's take our customary look at the cover. According to the Resident Evil wiki, the cover for this comic was drawn by Jim Lee. After the improvement of the last cover (Still can't find out who drew it), we're back to strangeness.
The cover depicts Claire wielding her handgun and a gigantic Uzi-looking thing with a huge suppressor on the barrel standing in front of a scratched-up wall with blood on it.. Okay, that's basically to be expected at this point. Pan down to the bottom and we see that Claire's legs look alright. Moving up her torso however, brings us to yet another elongated rib-cage and upper torso as we move beyond her abdomen. Soon as we get to her face, we see that she looks more like Lara Croft than Claire Redfield. We also see that her back and chest have ballooned out to bodybuilder proportions, which isn't accurate in the slightest. Her right arm is wonky, almost Popeye-esque in nature. It's also severely elongated, especially in comparison to her left arm. Her left arm is somewhat shorter than it probably should be, but in comparison to the right it's just tiny.
Claire's ponytail is depicted as going all the way down past her shoulder-blades, when in the game it came down to the base of her neck.
Going back to the upper torso, if we extrapolate from the massive back and huge chest (I'm not even talking about her breasts, those are pretty close to being alright) we can estimate that Claire's shoulders go out beyond her hips, which isn't how she was modeled in the game. They were basically on the same plane. Plus, while she definitely had some pectoral muscles in the game, they weren't jutting out like they do here.
Finally, her tights don't come down low enough on her legs, her shirt doesn't come down low enough on her arms, and her shorts and vest are red instead of pink. This is just what I could notice off the top of my head when thinking back to Resident Evil 2. It looks fine, and I wouldn't normally bring up these last points, but Jim Lee got so many basic things wrong with this cover that I feel the need to nitpick.
The editors note mentions that this first story, "Wolf Hunt" takes place before Resident Evil. Not Resident Evil #1Resident Evil 1. As in the game. This could be a typo, but who knows?
This story is written by Ted Adams and drawn by Ryan Odagawa. It starts off with three college-students, Michelle, Mike and Raquel, giving us exposition about how one of their classmates was murdered and the papers didn't report on it. Michelle gets attacked on her way from the library by some monster and killed. The next day, Barry and Jill are assigned to the case. Apparently the rest of Alpha and Bravo are on assignment, so Jill goes in undercover. Barry is Jill's backup, and is tasked with watching her back at all times. Come later that day, Jill runs into Mike and Raquel talking about Michelle's death. She asks what's up and gives her cover-story about transferring from another college. They tell her to go back and follow the curfew.
Naturally, since Jill is trying to bait the killer into revealing themselves, she disobeys these instructions and stays out late. She loses radio-contact with Barry and is set upon by the monster. She pulls out a Smith and Wesson (She's supposed to have a Beretta, but whatever) and puts three shots in its chest. Funnily enough, her gun appears to be drawn the way a gun should look. It's in the right scale and it's detailed properly. However, the gun appears to have been modeled on Claire's Browning HP from Resident Evil 2 as opposed to the modified Beretta 92F Samurai Edge she's supposed to wield.
Barry finally catches up to the two of them, and they find that the werewolf Jill just killed has transformed into a human. Since she didn't get a good look at him she doesn't know that he was a werewolf. The case presumably solved, they wrap things, and the story, up.
Throughout the story, the art has been alright up until these last two pages. Jill's gun basically just looks weird on the second-to-last page (I don't know what kind of gun the artist drew her as using so I can't confirm whether it's drawn improperly or not) and on the last page itself, save for the top and top-right panels, all of the art is derp. On the bottom-left panel Jill looks like a wraith with how distended her limbs are, and Barry's head looks squashed. Plus, his entire body looks like derp as soon as you move away from the torso and legs. His arms are just tacked-on, and his hands are the worst part. I'm not even sure how to describe how weird they look. It's like someone took one of those highly-poseable action-figure and twisted the arms all around until they looked like this. Barry's left forearm is twisted about, but his hand is basically in the right place. His right arm is drawn horribly, but it's the least of that sides problems. His right hand has been drawn upside-down. His index-finger is tiny and his pinky is enormous. Then there's the second to last panel, in which Jill looks more like Rebecca than herself.
In-between this story and the next, we see an ad for the S.D. Perry Resident Evil novels and an interview with Shinji Mikami. In the interview, Mikami discusses some of the Easter-eggs in Resident Evil 2 and the differences between the American and Japanese versions. One somewhat laughable question from Wildstorm is "How were the incredibly lifelike CG scenes filmed?" Look, I get that they're cool and all, but they're not realistic.
The next story is "Danger Island," written by Kris Oprisko and drawn by Lee Bermejo.
A couple vacationing in the East Caribbean goes snorkeling, while an Umbrella plane crashes into a nearby mountain. They emerge from the water to find that the guy they rented the gear from has been zombified, along with a bunch of leopards. An eel feasts on a body and somehow turns into a Tyrant within seconds. They flee into the jungle to get away from the monsters. There's a little reference to the games thrown in by way of a blue herb used to clean out the guys wounds. The problem is the blue herb is supposed to be an antidote to poison, not as an antiseptic. They are then set upon by a gigantic Venus Fly-Trap. The guy tells the girl to run away, while he fights the thing with his diving knife. They try to climb the cliff, but are set upon by the eel-monster, which kills the plant. Fortunately, the guy dislodges a fairly large rock with his foot, which beans the monster on the head.
They try to make their way to a satellite relay-station, but are set upon by a group of monsters. The man, Stan, manages to kill the eel monster after it scared off all the others that came after them. His girlfriend calls for help, but unfortunately for them, they don't get the United States Army, the US Navy, the US Coast Guard or S.T.A.R.S., they get William Birkin and the Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service, who put two in their heads and then torch the whole island. That wasn't entirely pointless at all. No siree. Although it really wouldn't have been pointless if these stories were published in chronological order.
We see more Q&A with Mikami and the readers art-gallery before we move on to the third story, "Dead Air: Part 1" written by Ten Adams and drawn by Carlos D'Anda.
The team discusses their next course of action before deciding to head off to London to find out if Umbrella is up to anything else. Apparently they're being funded by some kind of top-secret international agency for some reason. I don't know what. This is an original concept introduced by Ted Adams. The Europe angle was never really explored in the games.
The first thing to note is that the art is super weird on this page. Barry looks alright, except for his eyes. Jill looks like Scarlet O'Hara, and Chris looks like a humanized version of Scourge The Hedgehog. (Ironic considering his longest-serving VA went on to play Sonic The Hedgehog) As they're boarding the plane, a guy from Umbrella is seen reporting to his overlords about how his team infected the drinking-water and champagne with modified T-Virus to make the plane crash. You know, because a bomb or sabotage would be effective. Because trying to infect a plane with a highly-contagious virus to kill three people (It should really be four since Rebecca should be with them) who might I remind you have already survived an outbreak and your ultimate weapons! Then there's the idiocy of trying to crash a plane with an ace pilot on-board! Need I remind you that Chris Redfield was thrown out of the United States Air Force over a nigh-impossible rescue-mission that he pulled off on his own! The man could have flown the S.T.A.R.S. chopper himself if he had to, and you're putting him inside an airplane instead of staging a home-invasion and filling him with copper?
Now, granted a fighter-jet, a helicopter and a jumbo-jet are very different, but he's a smart guy and he's made his name in S.T.A.R.S. on his ability to adapt to the situation as necessary. Plus, this is still a horrible idea! You don't call upon a horde of uncontrollable monsters to solve your problem when three bullets could do the trick!
As soon as the zombies start attacking, the S.T.A.R.S. team begins handling the situation. Jill begins herding the civilians to the back of the plane to keep them safe, and kills one of the zombies with a food-tray. Barry then creates a flamethrower from hairspray and a lighter to torch some zombies. Because this was pre-9/11 and you could still bring a lighter and hairspray onto a plane. Chris puts out the fire that spread to the seats with a fire-extinguisher and then bashes another zombies head in with it. Jill then smashes the last zombie with some CQC. Unfortunately, that zombie was the pilot.
The artwork in this story was horrible. Not only does Chris look nothing like he's supposed to, he's repeatedly drawn like a brontosaurus crossed with Paulie from The Sopranos. Jill doesn't look anything like either her actress, her in-game model or her previous appearances in the comic. But! She at least looks like a human-being.
Finally, there's Barry Burton. He looks like he's supposed to, apart from the overly-tiny eyes in some shots.
The unfortunate thing about the writing in this story is mildly off. Just off enough that it's less than perfect. Especially when it comes to the dialogue. Jill is spouting off one-liners like she's James Bond, and Barry is unnaturally quiet. He's supposed to be Mr. One-liner dangit!
After the story, we get character bios on Chris and Claire Redfield, with little portraits alongside them. Chris was drawn by Olivier Coipel, and Claire by Chris Brunner. Both of them look horrible. They look like someone took one of those chibi figures Japan loves so much and mashed them up with regularly proportioned drawings.
First off, this portrait shows horrible trigger-discipline. Second, Chris's face looks nothing like his in-game model, or his actor, and very little like his appearance in the comic previously.
As far as the bio goes, we're told very little, if anything that we didn't already find out in Issue #1
Likewise, Claire's bio tells us nothing we didn't already find out from Issue #2. In fact, only the bottom paragraph tells us anything about her. If we didn't know who she was already, this would offer absolutely no information.
All in all, this wasn't a bad issue, but it really shouldn't have been the third issue. Stick the first story in Issue #1 and the last story in Issue #2 ahead of the RE2 adaptation. Or just publish all of these stories as their own issues (Sans the stories in Issue #1, that should have been cleaned up and made into a single cohesive one-shot to gauge interest) in chronological order.
In the end, I give it a 4.2*. I'll see you next week with  Issue #4. Then after that, I'll wrap the month up with the second of the S.D. Perry novels, Caliban Cove.
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