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Advent Review #15: EVE: The Empyrean Age (Book Review)

I’ve long wanted to play EVE Online, a game that many friends over the years have recommended to me on various levels, but I’ve never been able to get around to it. The expansive scope of the game, the concept, the visuals, the mechanics, everything is very intriguing and compelling, and any time I come across something to do with EVE Online, I get a hankering to play the game. But sadly, no time for a game requiring as much investment in time and effort as EVE. That’s actually one of the reasons I stopped playing World of WarCraft a few years back, to my continuing regret since I still have a great amount of nostalgia for that game, which I try to get around by reading the books that are published, which is where EVE: The Empyrean Age comes in.

From a bit of googling I did a while back, EVE: The Empyrean Age by Tony Gonzales is a tie-in to the EVE Online expansion The Empyrean Age. In it, the writer covers the rise of the Caldari Providence Directorate, the return of the Minmitari Elders, the return of Jamyl Sarum to the Amarr Empire, the fall of CONCORD (in a way), and several other things besides. Since I know very little of the world of EVE Online, I was initially wrong-footed by the novel, but as the pages went by, I discovered a riveting tale of interstellar politics and wars and economics that really drew me in and instilled in me a fascination for all sorts of EVE lore, making it one of the best novels I’ve read this year, even though it wasn’t published in 2014.

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Advent Review #11: Arrow Season 3 Ep 9 (TV Show Review)

As with The Flash last week, we got to see some incredible things happen on Arrow as well when Team Flash came calling and ended up helping Team Arrow with apprehending a villain, Digger Harkness (future Captain Boomerang). It was quite a solemn and sombre episode broken up with the occasional humour from Team Flash, and I loved it to bits, especially the ending when the two heroes decide to do a friendly rematch of their fight in Central City from the eighth episode of The Flash, to see who really could win a fight between the two of them. No conclusions either way, but still a damn good episode.

And now, this week’s Arrow was the winter finale that finally saw Sara’s killer revealed and brought Oliver into direct confrontation with the League of Assassins, specifically the Demon’s Head Ra’s al Ghul himself. After some of the lightness of the last week, this time there is no such thing and it is Mood Serious all the way as the tension between all the characters got ramped up over and over. And Oliver didn’t have a good time over in the flashbacks either since we learn a rather game-changing revelation about his time in Hong Kong, one that I’m hoping isn’t directly carried over, personally speaking.

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Advent Review #4: Arrow Season 3 Ep 8 (TV Show Review)

The previous episode of Arrow brought out Arrow-fangirl Cupid who wanted to be the hero’s sidekick and even developed a ruinous romantic attraction for him. It was a pretty decent episode that also brought forward the expected kickassery of Tatsu Yamashiro, the future superhero Katana. However, it was a relatively stand-alone episode and what actually leads into this week’s Arrow is the episode of The Flash from this week (review), where Team Arrow went to Central City on a case and ended up teaming up with Team Flash for some really good times that also featured a rather spectacular battle between Oliver and Barry.

And in this week’s “The Brave and The Bold“, we get to see a direct continuation of that episode as Team Flash visits Team Arrow in Starling to help them in their search for Sara’s killer, only to end up being the targets for new villain-on-the-block, Digger Harkness, former member of Lyla Michaels’ Task Force X aka Suicide Squad. This was a pretty intense action-oriented episode that only Arrow can do, and also recently that The Flash can do, and I loved this second team-up of these heroes, and all the little things that led to the spectacular ending, which was a cut above all that we’ve seen so far on both shows.

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Arrow Season 3 Ep 7 (TV Show Review)

Last week we got to see something spectacular in Arrow. Ted Grant embraced his history as a vigilante, known as the Wildcat, and we learned that he was taking care of the Glades before Oliver Queen ever came back and started taking on the villains of Starling City. It was a pretty emotionally-charged episode with lots of action as well that also segued into the growing relationship between Ollie and Roy as mentor and apprentice, mirroring that of other character pairs on the shows such as Ted-Laurel and Malcolm-Thea. It was a great episode, and it only left me wanting more.

In the new episode, “Draw Back Your Bow“, we see the debut of Cupid, a woman super-obsessed with the Arrow who wants to become his lover, someone who can take care of him since he takes care of all of Starling. She made her debut by killing of Isaac Stanzler, who used to be the Arsenal to Ted Grant’s Wildcat a few years ago and who was the villain last week. As is usual on the show, we got to see some real-time commentary on how things are with Team Arrow, and we also see that Ray Palmer has some really big designs for what he is going to do with Queen Consolidated and its tech resources. Not a mind-blowing episode per se, but this one can easily fly under the radar, and I’d caution you against dismissing this one off-hand.

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Comics Picks For 12.11.2014

Getting on a roll again, this week I managed to repeat the “Magic 40″ with 2 graphic novels and 38 singles, with many of the latter being absolutely new series, so that was a lot of fun for the most part.

My top picks for the surprise hits of the week would be Archer & Armstrong: One Percent #1  from Valiant Comics, Deep State #1 from Boom Studios, Django/Zorro #1 from Dynamite Entertainment and Vertigo Comics, and The Kitchen #1 from Vertigo Comics also. The most disappointing comics of this week were  Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #1 and Death of Wolverine: Logan Legacy #4 both from Marvel Comics, New 52 – Batman #36 from DC Comics and Grimm Fairy Tales: Cfinderella #1 from Zenescope Entertainment. Other than that, the regularly great titles like Hexed, Fables, New Suicide Squad, Red Sonja and Unity all proved to be immensely fun.

The graphic novels for this week were King Conan: The Hour of The Dragon by Timothy Truman, Tomás Giorello and Jose Villarrubia, and Fables Volume 5 by Bill Willingham, Tony Akins, Jimmy Palmiotti, Daniel Vozzo, Todd Klein, James Jean, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha.

Anyway, here’s another edition of “Comics Picks For…”. Full reading list, as always, is available here and all my comics reviews are available here.

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New Suicide Squad #4 (Comics Review)

DC’s reboot of its Suicide Squad title has become one of my favourites from the publisher. New Suicide Squad brings on board a better writer with some better artists than before, and it tells a focused story that has thankfully avoided getting into crossovers from the start. The line-up itself is pretty amazing, with the cream of the crop as it were, and Sean Ryan has done wonders with the team so far, delivering highly-charged action stories with ample assist from the artists as well. The art is definitely one of the reasons to buy this title and the story just keeps getting better too.

The new issue this week carries on the thread of Deathstroke having betrayed his team to work for the Russians. In the face of Vic Sage’s disastrous attempts of a mission, Deathstroke abandoned the team at the first opportunity and right now he is busy torturing Deadshot for info. All pretty great stuff and Sean injects the story with some welcome grim humour, even as Vic Sage and Amanda Waller battle it out for control of the team, which was absolutely superb in every single way possible. The art rocked, the story rocked. Don’t know what else to say.

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Arrow Season 3 Ep 6 (TV Show Review)

In “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak” last week we got to see some really great things with all the characters as Felicity’s mom strolled into Starling City for some quality time with her daughter and we got to see how Felicity became the person that she was when she first met Oliver back in season 1. Pretty interesting stuff all around, and the larger mysteries of the season were also addressed, including a possible reveal of who might have killed Sara, though the why was/is still a mystery.

This week’s “Guilty” goes in a slightly different direction as it explores Ted Grant aka Wildcat’s past and what kind of an effect that his past has had on him, and what it might bode for the future of the show, specifically in relation to how Laurel sees him as a mentor and a friend. The episode does a fair bit to set up the debut of another villain, Cupid, while also dealing with the villain of the week, and the most important thing here is how Oliver has to make some really tough choices and how he is the only one, ultimately, who has to make them.

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Arrow Season 3 Ep 5 (TV Show Review)

Goes without saying that last week’s Episode 4, “The Magician“, was a pretty big deal for the show since it finally debuted one of the true big bads of the DC universe, Ra’s al Ghul, the Demon himself. It was a bit of an anticlimactic reveal in terms of Matt Nable stepping on to the screen as the character, but the buildup has been pretty good I’d say and last week’s episode is definitely among my faovurites as well for quite a few reasons. With the big bad shown so soon, I have high hopes for how he is going to be portrayed on the show and I can only hope that we get lots and lots of moments with him this season.

But of course, this week’s “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak” is still easily one of the most talked-about episodes of the show this season since it is finally going to delve into Felicity’s history before she ever came to work for Queen Consolidated, and I have to say that almost every moment of this episode is glorious. Ray Palmer is back again as well, at a time when Felicity’s mother also makes her debut, and we get lots of stuff about family this week, which was pretty nice in that there was a great synergy about it all. Plus, that cliffhanger. Man, that cliffhanger!

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Arrow Season 3 Ep 4 (TV Show Review)

Last week I mentioned that Arrow is really good at keeping secrets close to its chest, until the right amount of critical mass is reached to unveil said secrets. The big mystery of who was bankrolling Sebastian Blood last year was a terrific reveal, as was the whole subplot about breaking to Thea the news that Malcolm Merlyn is her blood-father, not Robert Queen. And this season, it looks like the big mystery is “Who killed Sara?”. We’ve seen some development so far, not entirely satisfactory, but it has been a good source of background tension to the show and things look set to intensify even more.

Nyssa al Ghul made her season 3 debut on the show in this week’s “The Magician“, which also happens to be the show’s 50th episode. I’d expected some really great things from the show in this episode, but it kind of failed to deliver on that expectation. Sure, it was a fairly good episode, but it just didn’t feel like such a momentous episode, though I suppose that the detail is kind of irrelevant. Either way, I had a lot of fun with this one since Katrina Law’s Nyssa is one of my favourite elements of the second season, and she turns in a grand performance here, really charging the show with some much-needed drive and direction in the hunt for Sara’s killer.

Note: Some spoilers from the episode are mentioned here.

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Comics Picks For 22.10.2014

Slight lows on the reading this past week since I didn’t manage to finish either of the graphic novels I started this week, and generally didn’t read as many singles either, but I did manage to get through 35 of them, so that’s something, yeah?

For this week, I’d say that the surprise hits are Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate #1 from IDW Publishing, Catwoman #35 and Secret Origins #6 from DC Comics and Predator: Fire and Stone #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The comics that win the “disappointment of the week award” are Grimm Fairy Tales: Dark Shaman #1 from Zenescope, Arkham Manor #1 and Sensation Comics #11 both from DC Comics. Ongoings like Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #8, Aquaman #35, Tomb Raider #9 and Nancy A. Collins’ prelude Vampirella: Prelude To The Shadows #1 were all first-rate comics this week, and quite satisfactory as well.

The graphic novels I’m in the middle of at the moment are Supergirl Vol.4 by Michael Alan Nelson and Diogenes Neves, and The Flash Vol.2 by Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul.

Anyway, here’s another edition of “Comics Picks For…”. Full reading list, as always, is available here and all my comics reviews are available here.

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Arrow Season 3 Ep 3 (TV Show Review)

In the wake of last week’s episode of CW’s Arrow, I find myself a bit disheartened. With Sara’s death and the introduction of noted master-archer Simon Lacroix making his television debut, having been introduced last year in comics by creators Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino, I was all ready for a big archer-off between Ollie and Simon, but I guess that’s not really going to happen. So the mystery remains of who killed Sara and why. Trust Arrow to play cards close to the chest. But then, that’s one of the reasons why I love the show so much anyway, and this week’s episode wasn’t too different.

The new episode this week is titled “Corto Maltese” and as per last week’s teaser at the end of “Sara“, we know that this episode deals with Ollie going to Corto Maltese to find Thea, who has been training there with her blood-father Malcolm Merlyn, to get over her emotional troubles from the second season. It is a fantastic episode in almost every way that matters, and I loved seeing the new Thea on the show, a Thea who is much more confident of herself now, and who really can take care of herself. And with everything happening with Laurel, things are really looking to be on the up and up for the show’s female cast.

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Deathstroke #1 (Comics Review)

Thanks to CW’s Arrow, the character of Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke has enjoyed a great surge in popularity in recent years. Manu Bennett’s portrayal of DC’s greatest mercenary/assassin has enchanted people everywhere and when he stepped up as the big bad of the show’s second season last year, things really kicked off for him in a major way. However, the character hasn’t enjoyed as much popularity in the comics, with his most recent run ending rather unceremoniously, though not as abruptly as some of the other of DC’s New 52 books. I never read that first series, mostly because I wasn’t interested in the character so much back then.

But now things are different. Now I want to read more about Slade Wilson and the reins of the new series are given in the hands of writer Tony S. Daniel who is also the artist on the series. I’ve never really enjoyed any of Tony’s previous work for DC, mostly because there’s always something lacking in his stories or his dialogues, though his art is usually good. Deathstroke #1 however, is a departure from the former. It is quite an interesting story of a man as skilled and talented as Slade Wilson is supposed to be and Tony does a fairly decent job with him, though some of his deficiencies do show up here.

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