Concert Review: Tom Bailey / B-52’s / Culture Club 9-7-18

life tour 2018


I have Been meaning to post this for over 3 weeks now, better late than never i suppose! I rarely take off work to go to concerts, not because I’m a huge work-a-holic or anything – it’s simply because I have a position in which taking a lot of tome off can result in me getting severely behind in work. This results in me missing out on most of the shows I want to really see in any given year. This is especially true with metal shows as they ALWAYS seem to be at random times on Wednesday nights for some ungodly reason around here. I work a weird late shift, and when most people are out doing cool stuff, I’m usually sitting behind a desk doing endless reports and slinging papers.

There are a few exceptions to this, like that time I saw The German electronic legends themselves,  Kraftwerk, on their first foray into Kansas City in nearly forty years, or another time when I played hooky to see Dave Wakeling’s force of nature that is The English Beat.  For today’s topic, I will be discussing another concert like this – one of my “bucket list shows”. These are bands and artists I want to see before I die or they break up or stop performing altogether. Both The B-52’s and The Thompson Twins are in my top ten of favorite 80’s new wave bands of all time, and I like culture club quite a bit so going in I knew I was in for a treat..  


The Venue:

From Wikipedia:

Starlight Theatre’s history began in the 1920s when the Kansas City Federation of Music Clubs advocated the construction of a theatre “under the stars.” Fundraising began with the 1926 visit of Queen Marie of Romania, who had helped secure her country’s support for the Allied forces during World War I. Romania had recently opened its oil fields to America’s Standard Oil Company, so the queen’s tour of the U.S. carried considerable diplomatic significance.

In her six-hour visit to Kansas City, Queen Marie joined President Calvin Coolidge as an honored guest at the opening ceremonies for Liberty Memorial, which was dedicated to the remembrance of World War I. Later that evening, she enjoyed a music concert held at the American Royal Building where thousands of visitors paid admission fees for the chance to see her as well as the organized festivities. The proceeds of $7,000 were earmarked for the construction of an outdoor theatre in Kansas City.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starlight_Theatre_(Kansas_City,_Missouri)

Starlight+Theater kansas city

I haven’t been to Starlight Theater in like 20 years or something – I know I attended a production of “The Music Man” there with my parents when I was a teenager (96-97 I believe), but haven’t been back since for reasons of me not paying close attention to most venues, and the fact that I did not drive until I was well into my twenties. That was until recently since I started using a site called Jambase to see all the shows going on around me. That sounds like an advertisement, but it’s really just me hyping a solid website.

Not visiting Starlight more is a shame since I want to say that this venue was one of the more pleasurable concert experiences I’ve ever had. That is saying a lot since the day of this show was a rainy one, and we all had to bust out ponchos in order to avoid being completely drenched for the duration of the show. It was bad enough that Boy George even remarked during his set that they weren’t sure the show was actually going to happen until right before the gig started. Most venues would be insanely opportunistic and charge and arm and a leg for ponchos, but thankfully the vendors were selling some for a buck each. Yeah, they were basically glorified trash bags, but they kept me mostly dry. Had I wanted, I actually could have stood under covered roof area in the back, but I was lucky enough to get fourth row seats, so that simply was not an option.

Here’s a bad picture of my vantage point made hazy due to the rain and my phone not working well together.

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When entering, the staff of the venue were exceptionally nice, greeting every attendee and wiping their seats dry as we filed in. Had I decided to get up, I know there was food and beverages available, but I didn’t want to do the climbing over people and coming back thing that I absolutely hate others doing. If anything the staff and general vibe of this venue are a 180 degree departure from the vomit and booze soaked venues I’m generally used to, where a “good show” is one where you leave with your hearing intact and have successfully avoided being groped by drunk women, or punched by their Pantera-shirt clad boyfriend. Metal venues can be nice sometimes, but not like this, this is a different experience altogether.


Tom Bailey

Opening the show was Tom Bailey, the former lead singer of the popular 80’s band Thompson Twins. While this was not a Thompson Twins show per se, most of the songs performed were in fact by that band with the title track from his newest album, Science Fiction, tossed in to help show that he has some new material out there and to help promote it. I have, in fact, purchased and listened to his new album, and plan to review it on here very soon – maybe even this week!

While a few new songs wouldn’t have made me sad, I was beyond happy to hear all of the hits that made the Thompson Twins one of my go-to 80’s bands for all these years. Getting to hear songs like Lies, Lay Your Hands on Me, Doctor Doctor!, and Hold me Now live as something I would have never expected to do considering the break-up of the band and it looking like they will never get back together.Mr. Bailey hasn’t lost anything in his energy or singing ability – had I not known he was in his 60’s one could assume he was much younger. It was a short set, but I am very glad to have seen the show.

Here is the set-list of the show:

  • We Are Detective (Thompson Twins song)
  • Love on Your Side (Thompson Twins song)
  • Science Fiction
  • You Take Me Up (Thompson Twins song)
  • Lies (Thompson Twins song)
  • Lay Your Hands on Me (Thompson Twins song)
  • If You Were Here (Thompson Twins song)
  • Doctor! Doctor! (Thompson Twins song)
  • Hold Me Now (Thompson Twins song)


The B-52s

I was unable to ignore seeing the B-52s as I’ve been a fan of their odd punk/new wave sound for a LOOOONG time. I fell in love with their music in that resurgence they had in the late 80’s / eary 90’s when songs like Love Shack got big with help from MTV back when it was watchable. I had to miss a previous concert up here a few years before for personal reasons, and with the age of the band getting higher and higher I always see these opportunities as possible “last chance” affairs. I believe half of the band members are over 70 years old at this point, but you would never know that based on this concert – all of the zany stage presence and amazing songs sounded exactly like what everyone wanted to hear and nobody has missed a step.

I’m always a sucker for the song Rock Lobster, so hearing that live was truly awesome – I was also happy to hear some deeper cuts get thrown in there – Roam and Love Shack were both welcome to my ears as well. Fred Schneider had some pretty funny banter during the show, but a lot of it was based on the overall political climate going on at the moment – urging everyone to vote and to try to end the GOPs stranglehold on the government. The crowd was receptive to this aside from minimal boos when Fred mentioned Claire McCaskill which is a divisive figure in local politics right now. Other-wise one would imagine a concert for these bands would lean somewhat blue, so my general fear of a Red State backlash was unfounded.

And just like that it was all over, and amazing. Here is the set-list:

  • Planet Claire
  • Dance This Mess Around
  • Mesopotamia
  • Private Idaho
  • Funplex
  • 52 Girls
  • Roam
  • Party Out of Bounds (Party Mix.)
  • Give Me Back My Man
  • Love Shack (with Low Rider snippet.)
  • Rock Lobster

Culture Club

Seeing Culture Club was the big surprise for me at this show – I would say that I enjoy their music, but they aren’t really my favorites. To me, the fact that they have reunited was my biggest surprise, even though they do that from time to time, since they seem to be staying together this time, and even have an album lined up to be released soon (maybe I’ll review that as well – we’ll see).

One cannot downplay the might that is Boy George as a front man, he simply holds the audience in the palm of his hand and despite his age and previous issues with drugs and other issues has not lost anything that made him a worldwide megastar all those years ago. I’m no fashion guy, but the entire band was decked out in awesome suits, and it really gave the vibe that I was seeing something truly special. The band mostly played their hits with a handful of pretty solid cover songs mixed in including a quite solid version of David Bowie’s classic Let’s Dance.

The band’s musical spectrum ranges from vaguely ska-based songs, R&B music, and straight up pop rock songs so there was something there for everyone. If anything, I left this show knowing that I was able to see a musical legend back in his prime after a few stumbles and a solid cap to a great night.

As with the other two, here’s the set-list.

  • Let’s Dance (David Bowie cover)
  • It’s a Miracle
  • I’ll Tumble 4 Ya
  • Let Somebody Love You
  • Time (Clock of the Heart)
  • Runaway Train
  • Everything I Own (Bread cover)
  • Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? Different Man (with gospel coda)
  • Miss Me Blind
  • Church of the Poison MindEncore:
  • Life
  • Addicted to Love (Robert Palmer cover)
  • Karma Chameleon (followed by mash up of Aretha’ s Chain of Fools sung over Led Zep’s Heartbreaker (Band Intros))

  • If any of these bands come to your area, I would definitely recommend checking them out, and for those that live in the Kansas City area – do yourself a favor and see a show at Starlight – very solid venue and amazing staff.

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    Deadpool Club Merc Fall 2018 Unboxing / Review


    Good Lord, I’m buried in subscription boxes this month! Just had notification that my Lucha Loot crate for this quarter was also on it’s way, so stay tuned for that if you enjoy these – I know some of these reviews end up somewhat popular so there you go!

    Today, we’re looking at Deadpool Club Merc, a box that (so far) has mostly been on time, and features easily my favorite comic book character of all time,  Deadpool! I was honestly worried about this crate a bit due to the tendency for new / meme Deadpool fans only really knowing about the character from social media and assuming he’s just a dude that runs around yelling “CHIMICHANGA!” constantly, like he’s a sitcom character. I’m not gatekeeper by any means, but this take on the character sort of annoys me and is a shell of how layered the character actually is.

    I went ahead and paid for a year-long subscription, which likely makes me a sucker in a ponzi scheme if Loot Crate goes under due to the many issues I’ve mentioned in my coverage of Star Trek Mission Crate, but I’m a sucker for ‘Pool merch, and wanted that bonus gift.

    was my investment worth it? Let’s find out.


    If you’d like to see more reviews of the various subscription boxes I get, please head right on over HERE and check out the spoilers.

    If you’d like to check this out, head on over to Loot Crate and search for the Deadpool Club Merc page HERE.

    For the next week, you can save 25% on your order by using the code “NYCCLOOT2018”.

    Or use coupon code SAVE10 to save 10% on your subscription if you’re reading this from the future.


    This quarter’s theme was:

    You gotta STAY SHARP, kid! Hone your wits and your katanas with this collection of Deadpool gear that’ll help promote “strong mental focus.” Yeah, yeah, we see the irony.


    The Box

    While I never care about the box for these (nor the fact that they are often blamed for shipping delays) but figure I ought to share a pic of the packaging for those that want to get the full effect.


    Spoiler Card / Small Art Print

    Deadpool Club Merc oct 2018 (1)

    Deadpool Club Merc oct 2018 (9)

    This print is a weird size, but I’m sure I can find something to put it in, I absolutely love art prints as evidenced by the fact that my very own “man cave” looks like some sort of comic shop, and this would look great somewhere.

     


    Deadpool Turnaround T-Shirt

    Deadpool Club Merc oct 2018 (5)

    Solid shirt design from the recent Duggan / Posehn comic run, I will likely have to wear this on casual Friday at work this week.

     


    Deadpool Sketchbook

    This is where we start to see the theme materialize here, I doubt I’ll actually use this to draw in since it’s so cool looking, it  fun idea for a crate item. I’m not sure if you can see it well, but the faux-leather cover is absolutely gorgeous.


    Deadpool Pencil Sharpener

    When you want to draw in your new sketchbook, better have some sharp pencils! If only I had some of those laying aro…

     


    Deadpool Dialogue Pencil Set

    Deadpool Club Merc oct 2018 (14)

    -Oh hey!


    Deadpool Corps #1 Art Print

    Deadpool Club Merc oct 2018 (10)

    This is an awesome print, it’s done in grey-scale, but appears to be some sort of sparkly ink, almost making it look even more like a legit pencil sketch. it’s yet again a weird size I have no frames for (8 1/2 x 12) but I’ll see what I can do.


    Deadpool Knifed Pin

    Deadpool Club Merc oct 2018 (12)

    Enamel pins are pretty standard now for crates, and this is a pretty fun one to have.


    BONUS: Deadpool Club Merc Challenge Coin

    This is a NICE coin! it’s really heavy and has great art on both sides – featuring Headpool on one side, and Dogpool on the other.


    The Verdict:

     

    It might be the addition of the coin for this box, but I really enjoyed this crate despite the fact that many of the items are a glorified stationary set. It’s better curated than most WWE Slam Crates tend to be, and has some really cool items that I actually enjoy a lot. Even the fact of having some nice art on the back of the spoiler card making it the first spoiler card that doesn’t instantaneously end up in my recycling bin.

    If I had to choose one item that made my day, the pencil sketch was awesome, and I hope stuff like that keeps up in the future.

    Is this one worth the cash? I’d say yeah, but I’m a huge mark for Deadpool and the print and shirt are easily the price of the crate.


    Next time:

    Deadpool Club Merc oct 2018 (6)

    WWE Slam Crate September 2018 Unboxing / Review

    wwelootcrate_3x2

    Alrighty folks! It’s once again time to take a trip down to the mailbox and get all that wrestling goodness that I get each quarter! Today, we’ll be looking at yet another edition of WWE Slam Crate, and this one was largely on time after The last few Loot Crate boxes have not been so lucky. After ranting a bit last time, I’ll keep this short and sweet and jumped to the point.

    If you’d like to see more reviews of the various subscription boxes I get, please head right on over HERE and check out the spoilers.

    The theme this time was:

    20180922_200635_resized

    They’re big, they’re bad, and they don’t mind letting you know it. Bow down to the supreme Superstars who think they are BETTER THAN YOU! Celebrate the big egos of the WWE Universe with items featuring Alexa Bliss, Elias, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and The Miz!


    Spoiler Card / Alexa Bliss Interview

    This time the large pull-out includes your standard spoiler card and a large magazine style article with multi-time WWE Women’s Champ Alex Bliss.


    Elias T shirt

    20180922_200510_resized

    Elias has one of those characters that really doesn’t have to do much to infuriate the crowd, this undoubtedly always cracks me up a lot so this shirt will be a proud addition to my shirt rotation despite it being a “wrestler’s face on a shirt” styled shirt that I don’t like as much as simpler ones.


    WWE Slam Stars Alexa Bliss Figure

    I always talk about how much I enjoy exclusive merch like these Slam Star figures, and I’m really glad that you really can’t get these anywhere else.


    Miz Embroidered Patch

    20180922_200608_resized

    I have a vest that I wear to metal concerts, but have amassed a decent amount of wrestling patches to a degree that I might have to make a “wrestling vest” one of these days. Maybe I’ll start a new trend at wrestling shows, who knows.


    Bret Hart Vs Shawn Michaels Pillow

    To commemorate one of the most notorious feuds in all of wrestling history, Slam Crate tossed a small decorative pillow in this box. I’ll hand it to Loot Crate, they always keep me guessing as to what goodies come in here, and it’s usually a pretty diverse assortment from month to month.


    WWE Women’s Championship Pin

    20180922_200657_resized

    My biggest gripe with this is that there are apparently two randomly inserted pins this month. I know that this will eventually mean they will both be available on Loot Vault, Loot Crate’s online store, at some point. I just wish they weren’t at the point of going for a cash-grab on these for people like myself that try to collect stuff like this. Hopefully, this isn’t a new normal for this. Otherwse solid pin, and a great addition to the collection.

     


     

    The Verdict:

    This crate is hard to review as it’s pretty diverse from other crates, as mentioned earlier, but doesn’t really have a great stand-out item. To be honest, The previous crate was a bit better. That doesn’t mean this was bad, and believe me, I’ve had some bad crates from this company in the past – most notably from the anime line that I briefly dabbled in. It was just sort of there. I guess if I’d have to choose, I’d say I like the Elias shirt the most.


    For Next time: A spoiler –

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    Cyborg 009 VS Devilman (2015) OVA Ep 3

    cyborg009 vs devilman

    If you missed my recap/review of ep 1 – check here

    If you missed my recap/review of ep 2 – check here

    So here we go, the finale episode and crushing climax of Cyborg 009 vs Devilman, and what a finale it is! For the most part this episode is very battle-filled including a battle bewteen 009 and Lilith, The good cyborg team vs the bad cyborg team, Devilman Vs Atun, and more – it’s like Dragonball Z levels of battling here.

    I mentioned Atun, which is basically the “final boss” of this show. Created by the nefarious Dr. Adams – a Black Ghost scientist, Atun is the ultimate in demon creation – taking the power of a cybernetic body and infusing it with a demon possession – basically combining the powers of both Devilman and 009 all in one convenient package.

    cyborg 009 vs devilman atun

    In the demon’s past, Atun knew of, and was a contemorary of the demon Amon (Devilman’s demon side). However, never able to prove himself stronger, Atun bore a grudge against Amon. Many years after the demons reappeared on Earth, Atun came into contact with Dr. Adams who was trying to create more and more powerful cyborgs after the failure of the Mythos line of cyborgs. With the Cyborg Daemon project, Atun could grow more powerful than before, hopefully being able to best his rival and perhaps gain even more power.

    so of course Atun gets his comeuppance and all is right in the world leaving the characters to once again part ways. Looking back on the interactions between characters, I really wish they worked together a bit more since they sort of acted independently until the absolute end of the series, but there’s always hope for another season at some point, especially seeing that we are graced with not one, but two stingers for a continued story.

    cyborg 009 vs devilman lilith

    I haven’t really mentioned at all here the quality of the English dub, which is pretty good. considering this was a Netflix exclusive they got the likes of Johnny Yong Bosch as 009, Wendee Lee as Lilith and Spike Spencer as 002. The rest of the cast is pretty familiar, but it’s been a while since I’ve kept up with anime dub studio stuff, so some of the names are ones I’m not super familiar with. As many of you know I actually don’t mind subs or dubs in many situations, but prefer dubs if I have a choice since I sometimes like to multitask while I watch movies and TV. This isn’t like the best of the best or anything, but it’s good and sounds good.

    • Akira Fudo/Devilman: Bryce Papenbrook
    • Joe Shimamura/009: Johnny Yong Bosch
    • Ivan Whisky/001: Christine Marie Cabanos
    • Jet Link/002: Spike Spencer
    • Francoise Arnoul/003: Stephanie Sheh
    • Albert Heinrich/004: Michael Sinterniklaas
    • Geronimo Junior/005: Keith Silverstein
    • Chang Changku/006: Joe Ochman
    • Great Britain/007: Tony Azzolino
    • Pyunma/008: Steve Staley
    • Dr. Isaac Gilmore: Dave Mallow
    • Miki Makimura: Cristina Valenzuela
    • Ryo Asuka: Chris Smith
    • Edward/0014: Kyle McCarley
    • Eva/0015: Lindsay Torrance
    • Abel/0017: Dorothy Elias-Fahn
    • Seth/0018: Griffin Burns
    • Dr. Adams: Michael McConnohie
    • Lilith: Wendee Lee
    • Apollo: Doug Erholtz
    • Helena: Christine Marie Cabanos
    • Jinmen: Jamieson Price
    • Sacchan: Erin Fitzgerald

     

    cyborg 009 vs devilman seth atun

    So was it perfect? always coherent? a masterpiece? the answer to all three of these are a resounding no, but it is VERY fun, entertaining, and exciting enough to spend a few hours with on Netflix especially if you just finished Devilman Crybaby and want to quench your thirst for that character yet again. I’m happy that both franchises are represented so well, seen as equal and complimenting each other – and I’m glad this lead to even more anime in BOTH franchises.

    Netflix has again and again proven itself to be one of my more favorite anime licencors as of late due to their risk-taking and choice of shows that would have been deemed a stupid idea to bring over in the past. Funding all sorts of cult-classic stuff like Devilman and Cyborg 009 and somehow making them very popular franchises after years of being dormant shows it’s power in the TV industry. Now I really wish they’d get behind some other classic stuff like Harlock or Gundam, that would be awesome!

    Definitely, check this out!

    Devilman-september

    Click HERE to see what you missed!

    Cyborg 009 VS Devilman (2015) OVA Ep 2

    If you missed my recap/review of ep 1 – check here

    While the last episode of this three part OVA basically introduced us to the characters of both the Devilman and Cyborg 009 franchises, eventually pushing the two groups into battle, this episode is a sort of “breather” that steps back and introduces the villains of the adventure as well as setting a plausible way for everyone to eventually team up. When we last left our various groups of heroes, both Team Devilman and Team Cyborg mistook each other for their opposing groups (Demons or the Black Ghost organization). A fierce battle was had, and both characters got beat up pretty bad – Devilman getting what would normally be a mortal wound on his arm, and 009 having to jettison his arm because it nearly blew him up after a fierce attack.

    So, technically the duel between 009 and Devilman ends in stalemate since both of them lost consciousness. Ryo swoops in to grab Akira’s body and bring him home, while 009 and 003 are rescued by the cyborg airship. Back in his home, Ryo searches information about Black Ghost organization after 003 previously asked whether Ryo and Akira are affiliated to Black Ghost. Meanwhile, 002, 004, and 008 stumble into the den of a new group of Black Ghost operatives – new cyborgs two generations newer than the original 00 series cyborgs – an evil plan involving cyborg demon/hybrids is unveiled and the scene is set for the thrilling climax.

    Another major villain appears in this episode from the world of Devilman, but she is actually an entirely new creation made for this OVA – Lilith. When we first saw her, she was devouring a bunch of high school delinquents, now she appears in her full snakey-flower form. Her main ability seems to be something similar to that of a siren from Greek Mythology – she can use hallucinogenic pollen to alter reality around people making them see things that make them happy. Since most of the cyborgs suffered losses of major loved ones prior to being experimented on by Black Ghost, most of them were put face to face with former lovers, parents, and even children.

    Lilith is such a cool character because she seems to basically be very much in-line with something Go Nagai would have created for Devilman. Apparently the people involved with this production went to great lengths to use characters inspired by other Nagai and Ishinomori works as Easter eggs for fans. I enjoy this a lot as it reminds me of how many works related to Leiji Matsumoto are handled today – while he usually gets top billing, other directors are usually adapting much older works and flesh them out using his art style to mimic the way he did things.

    As I stated before, the animation in this is really good, albeit not too flashy. It preserves both of the art styles of the two franchises without creating a bizarre rift like some of these crossovers often do – imagine Family Guy and Simpsons meeting for example. Perhaps my only issue for this is the pacing as it rushes its way through the plot like many cross-overs do.

    Characters are often seen doing incredibly convenient things like finding out the entire history of a clandestine scientific weapons manufacturer on the internet on order to plot along. Granted, going to much into the whys and hows of how this all fits together would be a waste of time and annoying, so leaving this sort of “fluffy” retains the special nature of this series.

    What I really wish we had available in the US is the manga and light novels that were also produced for this, because they apparently flesh things out a bit and add to the story in the very same way that I would enjoy. Maybe I need to start searching fan translation sites if those are still a thing…

    All-in-all another solid and fun episode, all leading up to what is shaping up to be an awesome final battle.

    Click HERE to see what you missed!

    Devilman: The Birth (1987)

    Today we have a change of pace for Devilman Month, as I am reviewing a pretty bad film – one that I originally watched back in the VHS days and haven’t seen since. I’ve seen far worse anime, stuff so crudely constructed that one is often confused within mere moments of gazing at it on screen. In my “Hall of Shame” I have a collection of Hong Kong “bootleg” anime that I need to review on here one of these days that was literally cobbled together from stolen anime cels from a dumpster, but this is somehow almost as bad. It’s not an ineptly made product, it just is the perfect lightning storm of bad decisions all rolled into one complete misfire.

    I remember being sort of lukewarm about it back then, but now I can honestly say it’s a true classic, but not for a good reason.

    Akira is just another normal kid in modern-day Tokyo, until an old friend of his, Ryo, shows up and turns his world upside down. Akira learns that there is an upcoming war of demons on humanity and he has just been enlisted for a major tour of duty. But the only way to fight a demon is with their power, so Akira and Ryo risk a dangerous ceremony in an attempt to create humanity’s only hope: the powerful Devilman.

    devilman OVA 1

    The most notable thing about this somewhat forgetable first OVA (especially to Youtube) is the notoriously bad English dub, which is how most westerners became familiar with the franchise. One can immediately tell that the production must have been done by inexperienced and/or cheap voice actors – lines are delivered in an almost elementary school play quality with weird inflections and lingering pauses for no explicable reason. I’ve read a bit of the original manga at this point, and there are whole sections here drawn from the books in which something really intense and dark happens, but that same material falls hilariously flat in this due to the voice acting – the infamous “WHYYYYYY GOOOOD” scene comes to mind immediately. I guess part of this can be chalked up to this being a UK production with most actors trying to suppress accents, but boy is it awkward.

    But don’t worry folks! What the films lacks in actual acting ability and good writing, it sure makes up for it in the foul language department! Just like most late 80’s and early 90’s anime releases, this film has the same amount of curse words as your typical Tarantino film for no other reason than to make it seem cool. After the success of Akira, most anime was marketed to the west as an in your face, edgy new type of entertainment that only badass guys in leather jackets watched. How can you tell it’s for badasses? You gotta say the F bomb at least once a minute.

    Here’s a 90’s commercial telling you like it is about anime:

    Those commercials used to be on all the time on The Science Fiction Channel back when they would randomly play things like Vampire Hunter D on weekends.

    Don’t believe me about the dub, check this nonsense out:

    (warning NSFW)

    Can I really recommend this as a good introduction to the world of Devilman? Absolutely not – watch Crybaby. Is it hilarious in an almost MST3K way? very much so! In fact, if I wasn’t watching this in English I bet I wouldn’t be half as entertained as I am now, as the actual film isn’t very well made. Yeah, it has it’s fair share of some solid “better than TV” animation and interesting synth music for the soundtrack, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s paced oddly, with sections of the film overstaying their welcome and other making little to no sense without having a passing knowledge of the characters.

    Since I’m a glutton for punishment, and a connoisseur of bad films, I’ll be watching the second OVA next which is represented a bit in the above video, and it seems just as amazing.

    Click HERE to see what you missed!

    Devilman G: Grimoire Vol 1 (2012)

    While Netflix audiences were shocked in 2018 to find a brand-new, shiny Devilman Reboot on their TV, it’s far from the first time that the nearly 50 year old franchise has been repackaged. Today, we will be looking at the first volume of a manga series called Devilman G: Grimoire to see where it stands.

    “IT TAKES A DEVIL TO KILL A DEVIL!

    When Miki attempts to summon a demon on the roof of her high school, things don’t go quite as planned. Not only does she instigate a vicious massacre, but her friend Akira gets possessed by the legendary demon Amon the Uneater, who annihilates his own kind. As Tokyo’s streets grow bloodier by the day–thanks to invaders from Hell–a demonic demon slayer might be the city’s only hope for salvation.

    A modern, ultra-violent spin on the devilish classic by Go Nagai!”

    One thing that immediately jumps out at you is that this manga is not a faithful translation of previous versions of the story. For all intents and purposes, this is a sort of an alternative universe using some of the same characters – sort of like the Marvel Ultimate Universe from around a decade ago. In many ways this is refreshing, as it doesn’t seem as dated as something as old as Devilman is can seem, although it also falls victim to a lot of the tropes of manga from 2012 that I was not a fan of – namely the juxtaposition of seemingly juvenile dialog and characters in a manga full f intense gore that was definitely NOT meant for kids.

    But before I get into that, I wanted to talk about some stuff I did like. I absolutely loved the idea that the whole concept of the show has origins with the Demon wrangling of Good old King Solomon who is said to have built an enormous temple by enslaving hundreds of demons using a relic called the Ring of Solomon (emblazoned with the seal of Solomon of course). I have yet to read the original manga (yet, as it just got released in English), so I assume this is a new addition. It’s cool to see something like this reference The Ars Goetia as it seems like the concept would go hand-in-hand with something like this, much like how it does when referenced by Shin Megaami Tensei games.

    Another thing is that the other characters have been far more fleshed out. Miki, for instance, has been given a lot more to her character than simply being a love interest that eventually gets killed in order to move the story along. She might still end up getting killed for all I know, but I hope that after a complete overhaul, this manga avoids the “fridging” trope that characters like this and Gwen Staacy can never seem to escape. Although, by having Miki 100% tied to the creation of Devilman instead of being somewhat unaware of his connection to Akira – the relationship between the characters has been altered.

    By doing this, the series sort of removes the “Doctor Jekyll / Mr. Hyde” secret identity thing from the story-line and instead goes towards a vibe that reminded me of shows like Cardcaptor Sakura or even Parasyte – where a super being is directed by somebody else to fight stuff – this time a novice magic user of sorts.

    I mentioned earlier that I wasn’t a fan of some of the dialog in this comic, and a lot of that is because the tone of the writing seems to completely be at odds with the content of the comic. Some of the characters, especially MIki, have this anime trope “DO YOUR BEST!” mentality that I suppose exists in Japan, but comes across really fake and like something you would see in Sailor Moon. Right after this, somebody would get disemboweled in grave detail in such a way that you are both shocked and repulsed. Rui Takato seems particularly obsessed with showing intestines falling out of corpses and female nudity, so be ready for that.

    Had this been either a straight superhero comic or a straight horror comic, I think the two sides would have fit better, but there are more volumes ahead so hopefully it falls into place eventually. In saying this, I do like shows like Kill la KIll from Studio Trigger that are vaguely similar in nature to this, so perhaps seeing this in motion would have sharpened the whole thing up for me. Otherwise, who knows, the translation could be wonky to meet demands of comics from that time period.

    All-in-all this is a competent comic, but it’s not great….yet. I can see myself warming up to this as it goes, and assume that if I wasn’t already familiar with the franchise, I would enjoy it more. I enjoyed the world building and nods to the classic comics and shows, but wasn’t a huge fan of the dialogue and “tropey” way in which the comic moves.

    One thing I forgot to mention is that I absolutely LOVE the retro art-style. While it’s not exactly a 1970’s style, and is different than Go Nagai, it still feels nostalgic and “old school” which is the style I prefer.

    Stay tuned for more Devilman goodies this month as it DEVILMAN MONTH on Arcadia Pod!

    Devilman-september

    Click HERE to see what you missed!

    Joey Ryan: Big in Japan (2017)

    Another Day, another foray into my stack of wrestling comics I’ve obtained in the past few years but woefully neglected to read for some reason. In the past, and especially in the days when I was a really heavy comic reader, I never really got into wrestling comics simply because they would usually take things far too seriously or end up like the infamous Ultimate Warrior comic book where he ….emmm….does something to Santa Claus. Nowadays, it seems like wrestling comics are thankfully way more fun, much like today’s topic.

    Today, we’ll be looking at a comic that came from one of my boxes from Pro Wrestling crate, although I think it was originally produced by Chido comics as a follow up to their successful line of Lucha Underground comics via Kickstarter. You might remember Chido comics was also the company behind the Rey Mysterio comic I’ve done on here in the past.

    For those completely unfamiliar with the rise of Joey Ryan’s unique brand of comedy wrestling, I’ll try my best to fill you in a bit. Ryan has had something of a sleazy 70’s pornstar gimmick for a while – he comes to the ring rubbing oil allover his hairy chest while sucking on a lollipop in a suggestive way showing that in his mind at least – he’s a sexy guy that all of the women in the crowd all going to swoon over. But since he’s actually presented like the anti-Rick Rude, it’s mostly people cringing at how creepy he can be.

    A few years back, a short clip surfaced online of Ryan using his penis (not really, wrestling’s silly) to flip someone over after they attempted to harm his downstairs neighbor. This, of course, went incredibly viral due to the silliness and absurdity of the “move” and basically changed Ryan’s entire career. Now, he’s managed to even land a sponsorship from a popular online porn company.

    Here’s the move in action:

    In this post-Kayfabe world of pro wrestling, where despite heckling by diehard MMA guys (You know it’s fake right brah!) – everyone knows exactly what wrestling is, and a gimmick such as this can flourish. In fact, lately it seems like wrestling things that go viral are almost always something intentionally ridiculous, and make somebody what I assume is a pretty good living. they might even get popular enough to appear on National TV wrestling brands such as Impact Wrestling and Lucha Underground, or even get their own comic book!

    “Joey Ryan was pro wrestling’s king of sleaze – until five years ago, when a match gone wrong left his tag team partner crippled and one of his opponents dead. Now he spends his days looking for answers at the bottom of bottles in Tokyo bars. But when he hears that his old nemesis is back in town, he decides it’s time to get back in the ring.”

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    This comic is basically a Dark Knight Returns sort of alternate future affair for Mr. Ryan as it’s not a tale of him at his prime vanquishing evil-doers, but a story of a washed up and grizzled Ryan who has abandoned the business due to a horrible tragedy and how he gets back into the ring. It seems that five years prior to this comic, Joey Ryan and his tag partner Candice LeRae (who is not named) were involved in some sort of match where a wrestler was killed and LeRae was horribly injured, Ryan obviously blames himself and has turned into a miserable drunk.

    Joey runs into an old friend that has news of his arch nemesis, a huge guy called Butch Satan, and that he has issued an open challenge – Ryan initially refuses to even contemplate wrestling again since the last time, his penis killed a man, but is swayed by promising to do a serious match with no silly gimmicks. Ryan tries to fight a clean fight, but soon realizes that he must use Dong Style one more time to win…

    joey ryan big in japan comic 4

    This comic is pretty silly, it both takes itself almost too seriously at times, and veers into absurdity at others. it’s because of this that the comic actually reminds me a LOT of a Deadpool book, especially some of the more serious ones before folks thought his catchphrase was “Chimichanga!” which it isn’t you guys. I mean when you have a guy getting advice from a sentient Gummy Bear, which is something that happens in this book, you know it’s a crazy comic. Jamie Jones provides a solid art style and coloring for the book, and you can follow the action very easily.

    My only quibble is that it’s a bit too short, if this only exists as a one shot it’s a shame as I’d love to see more comics like this. Thankfully Chido Comics will be masking a series of Lucha Libre comics soon, but they are all looking like one-shots as well – fingers crossed that changes.

    La Mano del Destino #2 (2011)

    la mano del destino 2 cover

    La Mano del Destino is a six-issue story which tells the tale of a once-champion Luchadore – who, after being betrayed, agrees to a Faustian bargain in order to exact revenge upon his betrayers. Mesoamerican myth and high-flying, Lucha Libre action converge to tell this story of vengeance and destiny.

    In issue 2 of the La Mano del Destino six-issue story, we learn the harrowing history of the man who became La Mano del Destino – a familiar tale of sibling rivalry, but with a tragic twist. We see what drove our hero to become champion and why the loss of his title and mask were an unbearable indignity.

    After reviewing the Rey Mysterio comic book a few weeks ago, I remembered that I’ve actually received a few more wrestling comics in various boxes I’ve ended up with. Forgive me for not remembering which one, but one of the very first Lucha Loot packages I got contained a random issue of a comic called La Mano del Destino by J. Gonzo. For some reason, I tossed this book into my swag box and forgot about it until I went in looking for a Joey Ryan comic I also plan to review. Published by a small independent publisher called Castle and Key Publication, La Mano del Destino is planned  to be a six issue series of which I believe five have been released. My main question is – can you jump into this at issue 2, or would it be a bad idea? we’ll see!

    la mano del destino 2 page 1

    Luckily, this issue is entirely a flashback issue and has little of what came before. It’s basically a stand-alone tale of a pair of brothers trying to survive after the death of their father in the early 1940’s in Mexico. The boys are sent to live with a military general that basically only agreed to bring them in because he respected their mother. One brother, nicknamed “Monchi” is seen a s a strong boy, so he is to work in the fields with the other laborers, he basically lives outside and sleeps in a barn – a rough life for a young man.

    This is all while “Petey” becomes a house-servant of some sort – living a life of relative luxury when compared to his brother. Monchi apparently has a gift for leadership and agitation and leads a servant revolt right up to The General’s doorsstep – Petey tries to stop tragedy from happening, but ends up accidentally accidentally shooting his brother in the hand before the General basically fires all of the servants and they both get tossed in prison. More tragedy leads to Petey deciding to become a luchador once he gets out, to atone for his past.

    la mano del destino 2 page 2

    The art in this comic is definitely something unique, it’s somewhat exaggerated and angular while being vaguely reminiscent of classic “Silver Age” books from artists such as Jack Kirby especially in the coloring. This gives the book an odd vibe where it looks modern, like some sort of street art, but also VERY retro – looking like a screen-toned book from the past. This brash coloring scheme can lead to some things I did not like, such as a lot of expeditionary test bubbles being a bright pink color that are harder to read than most comics.

    Despite a few typos here and there, this is a solid comic, but it flies by wayyyy to fast in order to meet the 25 page max limit. I wish we could have seen more of Monchi’s path into becoming a rebel leader of sorts, or more with them interacting with The General in any way, but what’s there serves its purpose and flows well. I might have to try to get more of this, or perhaps I will see if a trade eventually comes out.

    To read more about this comic series, check this out.

    la mano del destino 2 page 3

    Valkyria Chronicles 4 Demo – Multiplatform (2018)

    valkyria chronicles 4 demo title

    It is the year 1935 EC.

    The continent of Europa is engulfed in the flames of the Second Europan War between the Atlantic Federation and the Autocratic Eastern Imperial Alliance. Although the Federation struggles valiantly against the Empire’s forces, the relentless imperial military machine threatens to consume them. With victory slipping away, the Federation executes Operation Northern Cross: a last-ditch attempt to capture the imperial capital and end the war.

    Commander Claude Wallace and his loyal childhood friends in Squad E are sent to fight for the desperate operation’s success, but they will have to endure harsh bone-chilling elements, waves of imperial soldiers, and the terrifying Valkyria… and unravel a grave truth that will shake them to the core.

    One of the very first PS3 game I ever bought was Valkyria Chronicles, and I immediately fell in love with it. I absolutely adore tactical RPGs and it had been a while since I played one that tipped the “instant classic” box that games from Quest Corporation or Square Enix used to make. But here came Sega with something truly special – only to sit on the franchise basically for over a decade. Yeah, there were sequels, but they jumped to the PSP and were ignored totally in the west (VC was never released here!) since the games basically were being used to promote a TV anime in Japan. There was an ill-received spin-off recently, but Valkyria Chronicles 4 is the first true return to form for a Loooong time.

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    To celebrate this, Sega has decided to drum up interest in the game by releasing a demo showcasing the beginning of the full game. I don’t normally review things like demos, but I was pretty excited about this and only just found out about it when I was checking on my pre-order for the full game. When it’s all said and done, think of this as the first part of my review for when I eventually do the full game, and it’ll all come together.

    This demo isn’t a meager one level affair like so many others, it contains three full chapters of the game (a prologue plus 2 main chapters) plus the ability to transfer any progress from the demo to the actual game upon release. It also has two skirmish maps, a bonus map that is ONLY available in the demo, and some unlockable things that can be done, giving this demo a surprisingly large amount of replay time if you like grinding. Each chapter is divided into small segments arranged in a scrapbook-like grid with pages that are turned to access the next segment. usually, each page contains 5-6 story segments and a battle – for fans of the original Valkyria Chronicles, this is exactly the same set-up as the first PS3 game from ten years ago (which was released later on PS4).

    valkyria chronicles 4 demo raz2

    One of the things that I enjoy most about this series is that it has a humanity to it that most war media is completely devoid of. Instead of a “kill them all, America F Yeah! – Hoo-rah” vibe one gets from 99% of military shooters like your Call of Duties, or Battlefields, we have a story of regular people being thrown into a war to save their homeland from an encroaching enemy. An example of this is a powerful scene where Claude remarks that the field they are standing in is now completely empty of the beautiful flowers that were just there before Imperial shelling began in the area.

    Keep in mind that one of the more lauded aspects of the first game in the series, was it actually had the cajones to actually address the Holocaust in an interesting way in that it introduced an ethnic minority of characters (Darksens) that were blamed for the misfortunes brought on by a previous war and were rounded up and put in camps and persecuted. One of the main protagonists HATES Darksens at the beginning of the game, so much that she comes across as fairly unlikable once her racism shows through. Yeah – that was in this game, heavy stuff for a fantasy game with water color art.

    valkyria chronicles 4 demo claude

    In a lot of ways, this game is a step back from some of the stuff aadded into the series on the handheld games, it does not include the branching classes or “school simulator” aspects from Valkyria Chronicles 2, or the fantastical characters found in Valkyria Chronicles 3, but that isn’t to say there isn’t any innovation at all. In fact, this is perhaps the most well-balanced game of the three I’ve played – some character classes have been tweaked such as allowing more movement for snipers, or less CP usage for tanks. There is also an entirely new character class this time around known as the Grenadier, who can fire mortar rounds at enemies. They can sort of stay behind the scenes and lob mortars at far away enemies if any team member can see somebody on the map – it’s a cool character class so far despite the small amount of time I’ve been messing with this demo.

    Another addition to the game is something called “The Brave system”. When an allied soldier is downed and is nearly dead, players can consume 1 CP and increase the stats of allied units with the “Entrust” skill or can restore 1 AP with the ability to move and attack while being invulnerable for one action with the “Stand Up” skill. Considering how many times I had to restart battles in the previous games due to my unwillingness to accept perma-death of characters, this sounds like a godsend. I have not messed around with this too much, because I have been playing on “Easy” in order to leisurely take in the demo, but when I do my main play-through I will definitely be excited for the opportunity to save my soldiers necks if need arises.

    valkyria chronicles 4 demo raz

    For some reason, I have played this demo for like 10 hours, mostly because I decided to try to get all of my characters up the the rank of Corporal for no other reason than to be a total over-powered bad-ass once I start playing the full game, but it came be played in like an hour most-likely. All-in-all this is really fun and looks like I will have plenty of fun this fall returning to the country of Gallia. Here’s hoping this game finds success now that it’s out on multi-platform and we get things like a Valkyria Chronicles 5 and even a Valkyria Chronicles 2-3 HD remaster!

    Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a tactical role-playing game developed and published by Sega. It was released in Japan for the PlayStation 4 in March 2018, and is scheduled to be released worldwide in September 2018, in addition for the Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Microsoft Windows.

    Jump onto everything but the PC, and grab that demo, and let me know what you think in the comments!

    Lady Death: Extinction Express (2016)

     

    A while back I started reviewing some of the recent Lady Death comics, and here is part two! So if you want to read a bit about her origin or how these comics came to be check that link out as going into this review I’m going to assume we’re on the same page. I hope to keep doing these until I’m all caught up, which could be a while at the almost glacial pace I’ve been moving at. While you’re at it, make sure to head over to Kickstarter to see the newest volume that will be coming out soon, I might do an un-boxing time article for all the swag I get from the campaign if that’s something somebody would want to see.

    Check HERE for my review of part one.

    The Hellbourne Elders dispatch Atrocitas, an insane angel/demon hybrid assassin to destroy Lady Death for once and for all. But their epic confrontation proves tragic for a beloved character and sets in motion events that will change Lady Death’s undead life forever! Is this the road to extinction? Featuring the diabolical return of Hellwitch and the first appearance of Chaotica, a major new character in the Lady Death Universe.

    Lady Death Extinction Express jacob

    This book basically starts off right where the last one left off, and introduces a few new characters mentioned in that blurb. Atrocitas serves as the major villain for this book and seems to have been created by desperate Hellbourne leadership as a creature that should be able to stand toe-to-toe with Lady Death. He’s not nearly as formidable as one would imagine when it comes to actually fighting Lady Death, but has this nasty ability to do heinous things and come back from the dead quite often after being dispatched which is pretty damn annoying. Perhaps his biggest jerk move is maiming The Lady’s noble steed Vassago, forcing her to take a step back and desperately head towards a known warlock to see if he can heal the horse.

    We also see the return of Hellwitch, a character that originally seemed like a stand-in for Purgatori somewhat, but is starting to get her own characterization so as to truly separate the characters. Apparently, Hellwitch is salty because she is a Hellbourne nationalist of sorts – when Satanus took Hell over and placed his Demonkind in charge of ruling it’s fiery pits – it didn’t sit well with many Hellbourne people. Then a deal was made with heaven to punish Earthbourne sinners within the confines of Hell (you know BIblical-style) which further set off Hellwitch and her like-minded followers. Moving this character away from the simple “you killed my Dad!” revenge archetype is great and her motivations really help both with world-building and fleshing her out.

    Lady Death Extinction Express eye candy

    I would mention Chaotica here, but she is barely in the comic and I assume she’ll be a bigger part in the next issue.

    In my last review, I mentioned that the writing in part one was superior to that of part 2, and that the art in part 2 was better than part 1 – neither of which were deal-breakers, but just how it was. This time, I felt the story, and especially the dialogue, were improved a lot as well as jiving very well with the art. This is by far the strongest of the three books in just about every way, and has enough tension, action, and cool spots to keep any fans attention.

    Lady Death Extinction Express hellwitch

    This is also one of the more unapologetic issues of the series when it comes to the gratuitous imagery including a silly scene where Lady Death jumps into the mouth of a huge, monstrous dragon-like beast fully clothed and comes out with a new bikini fashioned from her tattered clothing in such a way that she now has a bikini on. I’m not complaining, but it was pretty laugh-worthy.

    All-in-all this book was really good and makes me pretty excited to read Oblivion Kiss – I now can’t wait to see Hellwitch and Lady Death go at it again and see how Chaotica fits into everything.

    Lady Death Extinction Express chaotica

     

    Pro Wrestling Crate August 2018 Unboxing / Review

    DANG! seems like all of these subscription crates have lined up in such a way to where it looks like I get tons of them all the time. Truthfully, most of these are basically quarterly, but every one in a while it’s like Christmas over here at my house. So anyway, we’re once again looking at Pro Wrestling Crate, perhaps my favorite wrestling related crate that I’ve tried. I pay for these myself, and counting the embarrassing amount of Micro Brawlers that I now have, it shows that I have been a member for 18 months and they’ve never steered me wrong.

    Pro Wrestling Crate always gives some of their proceeds to charity and this month is no exception. This time some of the money has gone to the Virgil Flynn III Family Fund GoFundMe plan. Flynn was a Northern California Wrestler and promoter that sadly suffered a stroke at age 33 and passed away.

    If you’d like to see more reviews of the various subscription boxes I get, please head right on over HERE and check out the spoilers. If you’d like to get your very own Pro Wrestling Crate USE THIS LINK and use the coupon code “HOME” to get 20% off your first crate.

    This month’s theme was:

    big in japan


    Mastodon Vader T Shirt

    I absolutely LOVE this shirt! Intentional or not, it has this He-Man and the Masters of the Universe vibe. Really wish I would have had this on-hand when I met Vader a few years back before he passed away.


    “The King” Ricochet T Shirt

    As I type this, Ricochet perhaps just had the match of his WWE career at NXT Brooklyn 4 against The Velveteen Dream – what an amazing talent! I still think I enjoy his Lucha Underground work better, but having this shirt is cool.


    Tama Tonga Micro Brawler Figure

    I think I’m literally like 3 members away from having an entire line of Bullet Club figures at this point – maybe just Chase Owens, Bad Luck Fale, Ishimori, Hikuleo and Tanga Loa and I’ll have all current members.Hell, at this point I hope they go back and grab former members as well. Anyway, not much else to say other than I love these things!


    Ribera Steakhouse Custom Menu

    This is what I assume to be a facsimile menu from Ribera Steakhouse – a legend to professional wrestling fans. Ribera is a Japanese professional wrestling, boxing and mixed martial arts-themed steak house restaurant with two locations. The original location is in Gotanda, and there is a second, larger location in Meguro. Professional wrestlers frequent the restaurant when touring in Tokyo, a rite of passage in the wrestling community. In addition, some wrestlers receive a satin Ribera Steakhouse Jacket from the owners which has become almost infamous to fans.


    Road Warrior Animal Autographed 8×10

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    This is actually like the third autograph I have from Animal as he frequents a local wrestling federation that I live near, but this is still cool. If you get a chance check out his podcast, he tells some good stories.


    Joey Ryan “Big In Japan” Socks.

    There isn’t much I can really say about receiving novelty socks in these things, yeah I could do my due diligence and wear them all day and do an elaborate review on some sort of sock comfort scale – but get real, that’s silly. Pretty nifty socks though!


    Kenny Omega “Change the World” Exclusive Collectors Pin

    Another fine lapel pin for my collection.


    AJ Styles Making an Impact DVD

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    I believe this DVD was originally called “Leaving an Impact” and was sold as a DV-R by High Spots.

    The Phenomenal One, AJ Styles has been the face of TNA for the past 11 years, but that all changed on December 15th 2013 when his contract expired. Highspots caught up with AJ in his man-cave in Gainesville, GA on Jan 2, 2014 and he opens up about what led to those negotiations breaking down, his relationship with Dixie, what it feels like to be a free agent after all these years, returning to the indies and would he ever go to work for Vince. AJ also reflects on his classic matches and angles during his time in TNA and shoots on the “money” guys that didn’t care about the product. You don’t want to miss this over two hour interview with the Phenomenal AJ Styles.


    Another Solid month from Pro Wrestling Crate, that Vader shirt is the MVP of this box by far and will likely be in my rotation quite a bit.

    Join me again next month for another box review! the theme will be:

    themeslider

    Star Trek Mission Crate 002: Way of the Warrior

    I spoke at some length during my review of the last WWE Slam Crate about the possible financial woes that Loot Crate might be facing and the annoyance that fans of Star Trek have been put through for this year. Because of that, I won’t harp on it again, and will concentrate on the positive fact that MY CRATE IS FINALLY HERRRRE! Ahem, now the question is – was it worth the wait?

    They say “the only people who can really handle the Klingons are the Klingons,” so when a Klingon fleet arrives at Deep Space Nine, LT. Commander Worf is brought in to learn their true motives. What he discovers leads to the start of the Federation / Klingon War.

    If you’d like to see more reviews of the various subscription boxes I get, please head right on over HERE and check out the spoilers.


    The Box

    Last time, everything came in a nifty box that resembled a Next Generation Shuttle Craft, while cool this served little purpose aside from making a very cool piece of trash that I threw out since I don’t hoard random packing materials no matter how awesome they might be. This time around Looters? (Craters? not sure what the nickname is) have a more simple branded box that looks pretty slick. This blue and red branding is on most of the items in the box and may be the “packaging issues” that caused the delays that we heard about.


    Spoiler Card

    Typical spoiler card that looks like those iPads that everyone had in Star Trek TNG.


    Lt. Commander Worf Mini Master

    This figure is awesome! this is beyond the best part of the box immediately from just glancing outside. while it’s plastic, this is more the quality of some sort of expensive imported figure rather than a simple Walmart action figure. If these Mini Masters keep being in the box, I’m all for this crate!


    Mirror Universe Tribble

    Simple “plushie” showing a mirror universe (evil) version of everyones favorite annoying alien.


    Klingon Socks

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    Can’t say too much about socks, but they look comfy – I’ll have to pick a day when I wear my Worf shirt and toss these on.


    Klingon Emblem Badge

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    Last time we got a bridge crew Federation badge, this is a nice compliment.


    Klingon Sticker

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    Once I eventually get a different car, I might have to toss this onto it.


    Star Trek Discovery Lapel Pin20180816_004143

    Standard lapel pin similar to the badge last time.


    Star Trek Online: Klingon Defense Force Starter Pack (PC Code)

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    I don’t have this game for PC, but I have plenty of friends that play, so I always pass these on.


    All-in-all good box, not sure it lived up to the insane wait we all had to suffer, but I’m glad to finally have it. With no shirt this time, the best item is easily the Worf statue, which is now predominant placed in my Star Trek themed guest bathroom.

    Here’s hoping we don’t wait another five months for box 3. I’ll keep everyone posted lol!

     

    Concert Review: Uniform, Drab Majesty, Deafheaven 8-4-18

    I’ve done a bad job of keeping up with concert reviews as of late, but I wanted to definitely post a bit about the one I attended this past weekend in order to get everything back on track. I wanted to first mention that I saw this in Lawrence, Kansas at a theater called The Granada, and for small shows around this area there is literally no better venue. I’ve been to my fair share of shows at tiny bars where it’s 300 degrees and you leave the show completely deaf because you are basically laying on the monitors and there are 5 sets of back-filled gear resulting on each band having a postage stamp sized spot to stand on.

    The Granada has none of this, the sound is solid, there’s plenty of room for the bands, and I’ve never left with serious issues do to my ears wanting to die nor do I usually have to wear earplugs and I’ve seen some LOUUUUD stuff there. I jumped at the chance to see this show since I am a big fan of Deafheaven, but the rest of the show was a mystery to me. This was largely due to the fact that I was unfamiliar with the supporting acts, I knew they are from three very different genres, and I wasn’t sure what sort of crowd would be in attendance. What I will say in short is that weird shows like this are awesome, and I hope to see more like this.


    Uniform

    Uniform, a New York Based band that mixes trappings from industrial and hardcore into a relentless sonic attack, were first up. The band recently gained a bit of notoriety for having two tracks included into an episode of the re-launched Twin Peaks show on Showtime, hot off of this, they have a new album coming out and I will likely be getting it after this show. While I’m not usually a big fan of 80’s hardcore, somehow mixing the vocal trappings of that with industrial somehow helps make that style of music, which can sometimes be very harsh, even harsher, bleaker, and more relentless. Michael Berdan’s vocals hit like some sort of angry slam poetry, ranting about the ills of society, touching on inequality, the media and even religion. If any of that seems up your alley, I’d recommend checking them out (posting a video below) and if you get to see them, Berdan is a really nice dude and took time out to talk to fans at the merch table.


    Drab Majesty

    Next up was a Goth / Darkwave band called Drab Majesty – I absolutely love this type of music but have never really had a chance to see any of it live since it’s relatively underground, and cool concerts always happen on days of the week where I have to work. Donned in all white with make-up and large sunglasses on, this California-based two piece is a deliberate throwback to the 80’s both in sound and look. The band seemed to have a huge following at the show which is easily to understand considering that they ooze a mysterious vibe that I can only assume gets them legions of female fans that enjoy dark mysterious alien dudes.

    The highlight of their set is a song where the lead singer, Deb Demure, strapped a bright light to his chest and performed basically blinding whomever he was directly facing. While this sounds annoying, it was actually a cool effect with the fog machines going, and made them seem even more mysterious than they already are. Perhaps the one way that I knew this band had something special was that one of my good friends, that normally only likes metal, actually enjoyed the set quite a bit due to it’s quirky nature and being something different.

    Once again, here is an example of the band’s music.


    Deafheaven

    When I got “back into music” a handful of years ago, I mostly got really into going over to Bandcamp’s “atmospheric Black Metal” subgenre section and simply scouring over endless pages of crazy bands that I haven’t heard of. Many bands from this period have become some of my favorite current bands – groups like Ghost Bath, Panopticon, Drudkh, Wolves in the Throne Room, and Deafheaven are always on my rotation. I’m drawn to many of these bands because they are usually a lot more melodic than standard black metal (which I also like) and are more willing to experiment much to the derision of gatekeepers of the metal scene.

    Deafheaven, in particular, seem to always get jabbed at by metal elitests since “they aren’t metal enough”. After this concert I will say that those guys are all buffoons. I have seen a lot of shows, and I have literally never seen a crowd mosh as hard as what happened during Deafheaven. It was a weird thing since the band is known for long-form songs with trippy interludes that absolutely glow with optimism and possibly weariness. Suddenly this would break and all hell would break lose – people were doing windmills, ninja kicks, the whole gamut.

    I was also VERY impressed with the stage presence of George Clarke, the band’s lead singer. In the music videos, even the one I will post below, you don’t see much of the band performing – some of the newer ones show the guys recording an album and driving classic cars around. But, good lord does this guy have it. Jumping around like some sort of black metal Mick Jagger, Clarke was absolutely crazy to watch. Much like when I was able to see Wolves in the Throne Room earlier this year, I was blown away by these guys.

    Here’s a video

    The Masked Republic Luchaverse: Rey Mysterio #1

    “The current in a family line of Mysterios that dates back centuries, each one trained to be a champion of the people and to take on a great evil that has been prophecised to return and plunge the world into darkness. Rey Mysterio is on a quest, aided by the military clandestine group known as “The Ambassadors”. The mission is clear: retrieve the one thing Rey will need to take on this returning evil…..THE MASK OF THE FIRST MYSTERIO!”

    To be honest, when it comes to comics related to wrestling, I never really picked up too many, not even back in my heaviest comic reading days. So aside from the Joey Ryan comic I got a while back (which I should review on here) I haven’t really read too many. Luckily Masked Republic had my back recently by tucking one of these bad boys into my recent Lucha Loot Treasure Chest (Review here) via Chido Comics.

    This comic reminds me a lot of the old-school luchador films from the 60’s starring El Santo and Blue Demon in that it exists as a way to create a rich mythology behind a wrestler that can’t easily be conveyed in the medium of wrestling as it would come off as VERY silly and far too over the top (well maybe not in Lucha Underground). In this comic, for instance, we find out that Rey was in fact trained in an old Mexican monastery by an old man that would not be out of place in a stereotypical Kung Fu film (I’m sure that this is 100% factual :P). he is prophecised to be a sort of messianic figure – a man that will eventually save the world from impending doom.

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    This comic features a handful of references to other well-known Luchadors such as Konnan (who seems to be Rey’s boss or something) and Tinieblas (who apparently took an off-page trip to the Himalayas specifically to get a map to the location of the foretold ancient mask for Rey). The mask itself is a reference to none other than Rey Mysterio Sr. While actual cameos would have been cool, I really like that this is building what I hope to be a full-on comic universe featuring luchadors. I assume that;s something that has existed in Mexico, but over here not so much.

    Perhaps my only gripe was that the members of The Ambassadors serve very little purpose in the story (so far) aside from standing there and looking scared or wise-cracking while Rey beats the crap out of Zombie mountain lions using his super-powers. I would have almost preferred for the team to me made-up of actual wrestlers, but we’ll see if these guys pop up again.

    The final page is an advertisement for a second one-shot featuring The Lucha Brothers (Fenix and Pentagon Jr.) Since these two are basically my favorite wrestlers at the moment I’m pretty excited to see where this goes and get my next Lucha Loot assuming that will be in there. This was a fun read for what it was and a must buy for any Lucha Fan that’s been wanting something like this for a while. Chido Comics is something that could be on the cusp of something cool, I’ll definitely keep an eye on them!

    Lucha Loot July ’18 Treasure Chest Unboxing / Review

    A few months ago, we were informed that Lucha Loot was going through some changes including losing the ability to pre-pay for future boxes and a switch to a bi-monthly schedule instead of monthly. I suggested that this was likely for the better as getting too many loot boxes all of the time would probably get stale, and with three subscriptions (WWE Slam Crate, and Pro Wrestling Crate) it’s possible. So here we are, two months later, was it worth the wait?

    Oh, before we move on….If you’d like to see more reviews of the various subscription boxes I get, please head right on over HERE and check out the spoilers.


    Spoiler Card

    Not much to say here, but I’m glad to see a spoiler card because I sometimes am not sure what person an item relates to with this box.


    Sangre Chicana Mask

    This one was pretty interesting for me as I’m not really familiar with the Sangre Chicana  Family. Reyes made his professional wrestling debut in 1973, wearing a red mask with a gold stripe, under the name Lemus. A year later he changed his name to Sangre Chicana but kept the mask with the golden stripe. He rose to prominence in a feud with El Cobarde and Fishman that led to a Lucha de Apuesta, mask vs. mask match where Reyes lost his mask. His two sons “Lemus, Jr.” and “Sangre Chicana, Jr.” have carried the lineage on, wearing variations of this same mask.


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    Luchaverse Ancient Medallion pin

    It was announced a while back that Masked Republic (who produces this box) decided to get into the comics industry by creating a brand initiative called Luchaverse. This pin by Lapel Yeah is basically the “logo” of the brand. Even without knowing what it ism this pin is pretty cool!


    Marty “The Moth” Martinez Sticker

    While the fans might chant “creepy Bastard” to old Marty here, nobody can deny how great he has been on Lucha Underground these past 4 years. While I’m not sure I’ll be tossing this sticker on anything prominent of mine, the art is cool and it’s cool to add to my folder of swag that I have.


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    Luchaverse – Rey Mysterio Comic Book

    This is the first release of the aforementioned Luchaverse line of comics from Chido Comics.

    “The current in a family line of Mysterios that dates back centuries, each one trained to be a champion of the people and to take on a great evil that has been prophecised to return and plunge the world into darkness. Rey Mysterio is on a quest, aided by the military clandestine group known as “The Ambassadors”. The mission is clear: retrieve the one thing Rey will need to take on this returning evil…..THE MASK OF THE FIRST MYSTERIO!”

    I have decided to do a full review of this Comic HERE.


    El Mesias Ricky Banderas T-Shirt

    Ever since seeing him in the short-lived and somewhat baffling Wrestling Society X, I’ve thought Banderas was pretty cool. This is especially true now as his Mil Muertes character on Lucha Underground has become one of my all-time favorites.


    Masked Republic Keychain

    This is a fun little take on the Masked Republic logo in Perler bead form – not sure I’ll be using this as Perler bead scultures always seem somewhat fragile, but it’s cool none-the-less.


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    Black Danger Autographed 8×10

    Solid autograph from the former Junior Champion from The Crash Lucha Libre.


    All in all, solid box with the stand-out items being the El Messias shirt and Rey Mysterio comic book. If they keep tossing the comics in each box, I’ll be very happy and hop this acts as a subscription of sorts. Really, this is a great way to keep up with Lucha Libre here in the US, now it’ll be hard to wait two months for the next one.

    If you’d like one of these, check this out here

    Pro Wrestling Crate July 2018 Unboxing / Review

    Just got back from my mail box, and was excited to see one of my subscription boxes had come in – today we’ll be looking at another Pro Wrestling Crate from the fine folks over at Pro Wrestling Tees. I’ve been getting this crate for well over a year now, and it’s always worth it.

    This month, it looks like the chosen charity was for Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake’s surgery Indiegogo. Apparently he hurt himself pretty bad a while back and needs a full knee replacement:

    “A few months ago I took a tumble and twisted my knee and I’ve been in some pain. Finally went to my doctor and had an MRI TODAY then back to the Dr with the disc! A lot of running around or hobbling around. Thank God for my wife Missy who took initiative to get me to the Doctor because I do need surgery! This is where I need help! I have no insurance to cover the day surgery which is roughly 12k.”

    Without further ado, This Month’s theme was:

    themeslider

    So, what sort of dastardly items are we in store for?

    If you’d like to see more reviews of the various subscription boxes I get, please head right on over HERE and check out the spoilers. If you’d like to get your very own Pro Wrestling Crate USE THIS LINK and use the coupon code “HOME” to get 20% off your first crate.


    Spoiler Card

     


    “Villain” Marty Scurll T Shirt

    Pro Wrestling Crate july 2018 3

    I tell you what, these shirt designs have been really killing it lately, I’m not usually for “Wrestlers face on a shirt” type tees, but Marty has such a cool look with the plague doctor mask and wings in his entrance attire that it works here.


    “Madness” Randy Savage Shirt

    Pro Wrestling Crate july 2018 4

    This is a definite throwback to some late 90’s WCW shirts from back in the day. I have another WWF era Macho Man shirt from these guys, this will compliment it well.


    Tetsuya Naito Micro Brawler Figure

    Solid Micro Brawler for yet another future legend. Naito’s run as IWGP Intercontinental Championship last year was awesome.


    Sami Callihan Baseball Card

    I really hope this is a new exclusive line rather than a one-off item because a collection of retro pro wrestling cards is right up my alley.


    Sami Callihan Autographed 8×10

    Pro Wrestling Crate july 2018 5

    Yet another autograph I don’t have Yay! I never really followed Callihan much before he was in NXT, but he has slowly become one of my favorite fixtures of both Lucha Underground and Impact Wrestling. So far, his feud with Pentagon Jr has been amazing!


    Silas Young’s “Last Real Man” Pocket Knife

    While sort of random (not as random as the fidget spinner from about a year ago), you can never go wrong with a small pocket knife.


    “Rowdy” Roddy Piper – Piper’s Pit Enamel Pin

    I’m always a fan of exclusive items since it’s not a “hey, here’s a bunch of overstock stuff” and these enamel pins from PWC are almost always pretty great. Being a big fan of Piper, I really like getting stuff from him, and PWC always delivers with their swag.


    Behind Closed Doors – Jake “the Snake” Roberts DVD

    This is a popular “shoot interview” by RF video that usually retails for about 10 bucks, so you’re really getting a good deal on this box with two shirts and this DVD. Here’s what my bad picture of the back says:

    “Behind Closed Doors” with Jake Roberts was educational, informative and most of all entertaining. This new shoot style series today is with the dean of psychology Jake Roberts. If you ask any veteran in wrestling today who the king of psychology is, they would all tell you Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

    This series will not be your typical shoot interview. Instead we will sit down with a wrestling superstar and ask them questions about the inner workings of the business. This has never been done before. Whether your a wrestling fan or even a indy worker this series is a must for you to own. Its the most tutorial wrestling DVD ever!!

    Did you know that Jake Roberts played a huge part in the WWF to teach other workers how to get to the next level? Did you know at one time Jake Roberts was the stepping stone for every heel to get to Hulk Hogan. He would work with all the heels like Honky Tonk Man, Rick Rude, and Ted DiBase before they would reach Hulk Hogan and mold them into where they needed to be as a heel before going onto main event matches.

    Jake knew what to do and when to do it in the ring. He could have you either cheering him or throwing bottles at his head. He knew what made a great heel or a baby face. He knew how to carry a match and when to do that false finish. He talks about all of this in this new series. He will talk about the three types of heels the chicken shit, liar, and the cheater heel character. We talk about when is the right time to get color in a match. We talk about a lot of today’s current WWE roster and we talk about who is doing the right things in the ring and who is not. You will be amazed on what Jake has to say. We talk about Raven as well. We even touch on his problems with the movie Beyond the Mat. We even got to ask him about his recent problem in England with the snake that they claimed he mishandled. We asked him about his drug and alcohol problems and how is he dealing with that today. What is the future for Jake? This is one DVD you don’t want to miss out on.”


    That’s it for this month! Check back in a few weeks for a review of WWE Slam Crate (if it ever stops getting delayed) and other solid content. If you like spoilers for this crate check my links above and come back in about a month – you won’t be disappointed!

     

    big in japan

    Lady Death: Chaos Rules / Lady Death: Damnnation Game (2015)

    One of my guilty pleasures in the world of comics are “cheesecake comics” an outdated term for a comic with sexy women in it (beefcake is more used today for the opposite). One thing I will never do is get on a soapbox and try to pretend that the only reason I read comics like this are for some metatextual ironic reason, or that I believe books like this are in some way feminist in nature. Honestly, some books like this are pretty trashy, although I try to avoid the stuff that veers into total smut as the storytelling is usually the caliber of a late night Cinemax movie.

    What I will say is that I enjoy the art and I like the carefree attitude most of them have, and that’s why I read them. Most of these comics are not really erotic in any way nor do they depict lurid acts for the most part, but everyone in it usually dresses like they live in a Frank Miller movie, so there’s that. If you recall I have posted reviews in the past for Vampirella comics, which despite the silly costuming and gratuitous poses, is actually a good read and a fairly compelling comic for somebody that loves gothic horror. I also enjoy things like Conan and Red Sonja which are both barbarian adventure comics, and cheesecake depending on the story. So why am I rambling about this? Today we’re talking about what I consider to be the “best of both worlds” in terms of gratuitous imagery and a barbarian tone – Brian Pulido’s Lady Death.

    Much like Dawn and Vampirella, I remember being introduced to comics like this when I was a teenager in the 90’s and an avid reader of Wizard Magazine. They would usually have posters or articles about these comics, and they looked really cool, but the comics were usually kept in the forbidden “behind the counter” zone that young impressionable teens had no access to at the local comic shop. Had I seen a stray side-boob at that age, you never know what sort of miscreant I would be today!

    Coffin Comics, the new company helmed by Lady Death creator Brian Pulido, has an interesting way of making comics in this modern climate of digital distribution and Amazon running everything out of business. Instead of a model where comics are sent out to stores, he funds each issue with a Kickstarter campaign resulting in a landslide victory each time in funding and a ton of swag to the contributors. I have been able to participate in the last few campaigns and have been rewarded with all manner of posters, bumper stickers, cards, guitar picks, and even challenge coins. While some creators use the funding to pad their wallets or to fund other things than what the fans are contributing to, Coffin Comics leaves me happy each time even though I will never be able to use all of the silly swag I get. But where did this business model come from?

    Coffin Comics was started in 2007 by Pulido, who is the previously mentioned creator of pretty much all of the properties formerly under the roof of a company called Chaos! Comics. These titles included Lady Death, Evil Ernie, Purgatori, Chastity, Jade, Bad Kitty, and Lady Demon. At one point, Lady Death was big enough to have her own trading card sets and other merch that usually was only reserved for big Marvel and DC properties. When Chaos ceased publishing, the license to Lady Death moved to another company called CrossGen publishing that went out of business about a decade ago.

    After a few false starts, everyone’s favorite anti-hero is back home with Pulido in this new company since 2015. When asked about this new strategy utilizing Kickstarter, Pulido has remarked that he’s not really interested in the mass market that much (although he does sell through Diamond like most comics) but has a comic collector in mind with every decision. That’s why all of the comics are marked #1 and there are TONS of alternate covers for each issue – some with print-runs as low as 12 copies! While that seems silly, the fans of his don’t seem to mind, it’s just a quirk of getting comics from them.

    To date: the following titles have been released:

    • Lady Death: Chaos Rules
    • Lady Death: Damnation Game
    • Lady Death: Extinction Express
    • Lady Death: Oblivion Kiss
    • Lady Death: Merciless Onslaught
    • Lady Death: Unholy Ruin
    • Lady Death: Apocalyptic Abyss

    So getting into the first of our double feature – Chaos Rules #1, the comic assumes you know who Lady Death is right from the get-go and wastes no time in making sure you know anything. Granted, there’s nothing keeping a new reader from understanding the plot, but a vague knowledge of the basic plot could be a plus. I would recommend perhaps watching the 2004 film created by the Now defunct anime studio AD Vision and written by Carl Macek. It’s not completely true to the source material, but it helps sum up the backstory. Here it is conveniently found on YouTube:

    If you don’t want to watch that, the gist of her origin is that she was once  a young girl in medieval Sweden named Hope. Her father was a local nobleman named Matthias (Marius in one of the reboots) who was forcibly conscripting peasants into military service as feudal levies. Unknown to his innocent daughter, Matthias had a dark secret.

    Although congratulated by the Church for his work against the pagans, he was despised by the common folk as a cruel tyrant. Matthias was outwardly pious, but secretly dabbled in black magic and demonology. He was actually a descendant of the fallen angels who had led the rebellion against God. A couple of the series change what happens next a bit, but Hope’s father summons a demon and Hope is captured in his place to be tried as a witch – she uses the same incantation her father was using and summons another demon that gives her a choice: Die or live as a soldier in Hell. She takes the latter and becomes a bad-ass warlord to face her father or to take over Hell depending on the version.

    “In Chaos Rules #1, Lady Death is awakened from a 20-year, spell-induced slumber, she finds herself in the fiery pits of Hell. Two decades of her life, gone –– nothing more than nightmares. Who among her depraved enemies is responsible? How long until she exacts bloody vengeance? Not long!!! This is the first new Lady Death comic I’ve personally published in 12 years. This story –– chock full of sex, violence, and very bad behavior –– is Lady Death, fully realized.”

    The above is a quote from Brian Pulido from the Kickstarter page and it sets the tone of the comic. This is definitely a re-introduction the the character that I assume many have not kept up with for a number of years, if not decades. While no Citizen Kane in terms of writing, the story is well conveyed and well-written for this type of comic. Perhaps the only thing holding this back from being “great” was the fact that some of the art is a bit cold or static, making it hard to tell what exactly is going on.

    This is a minor gripe though, as fans of the original book and fans of this genre will enjoy it immensely. It was good to see the story scaled back after the almost Dragonball Z styled power boost given to the characters in later incarnations – a trend that seems to ruin most comics like this. It happened in Spawn, Punisher, and even Dragonball Z! It’s nice to see the Lady return to her roots.

    Damnation Game #1

    “Lady Death rescues an innocent boy dragged to Hell, inciting an ultra-violent quest into the depths of Damnation, a depraved city hosting ‘The Hades Engine,” a contraption that can return the boy to earth. But Lady Death’s actions bring her into direct conflict with the nefarious Hellwitch. Who will live? Who will die? With her return to Hell, Lady Death is public enemy number one, and you know what? She wouldn’t have it any other way. Let the mayhem begin!”

    Coffin’s second outing is another solid read, but is held back by the exact opposite issue I had with the first issue. While the art in this is better than in the first, my opinion at least, the writing isn’t as well-done. some bits of dialog are very stilted, perhaps cliché and seem forced. On the flip-side, there are moments of great foreshadowing that Dheeraj Verma and Sabine Rich employed that conveyed a plot twist coming up better with their use of panels than the dialog could do. I loved the artwork.

    This book is also the introduction of a new nemesis for Lady Death in a character named Hell Witch. You see Lady Death may have offed her Daddy in the last issue, so Hell Witch is out for vengeance. Since I’m assuming old Chaos! characters like Purgatori are off the table, Hell Witch seems like a fine replacement without being a direct clone or simple stand-in of the other. Although, to be honest, part of me would love to see these older characters eventually make their ways back home as well.

    All-in all you really can’t go wrong with either book – stay tuned for more as I have all of the issues so far and will try to do more reviews! I will also do a kickstarter un-boxing whenever my La Muerta: Retribution stuff arrives.

    The New English Beat feat: Ranking Roger: Bounce

    65260-bounce

    Not too long after I finally got to see the US version of the English Beat Live, I found out that the other iteration of the band had a new album out. It’s been a bit since I bought this, but I was finally able to give it a solid listen today. For those unaware of why I mentioned two versions of the band up there, there are currently two different English Beats with both former singers heading their own version. From what I can gather, there wasn’t any sort of bad break-up or anything (Between Dave and Roger, the band did basically implode in the 80’s with the other members) as Dave Wakeling moved to California in the early 90’s and the rest didn’t want to follow. Both artists tried to do tours with their own names, only to have everyone always call them “The Beat” so they embraced it. Here’s a more detailed answer from an interview with A.V. Club, where the question was asked to Wakeling as to why there was two bands:

    Oh, that was quite simple. Whilst we were trying to get five out of the seven members for a reunion show in England, Roger was coming up against the same thing as me; he was being called The Beat over there regardless of what he tried to call himself. The same thing had happened with me. I’d just given up in the end; fine, English Beat, I liked the name anyway, I thought of it, so fine, I’ll be the English Beat.

    And so I said, “If you want to use the name in England, that’s fine by me; just don’t screw the legacy, make sure that the shows are always great quality and the fans go home happy and it makes them like the records more rather than less.” And so that was quite an easy thing to sort out. It’s kind of cute, I think, that you can hear “Mirror in the Bathroom” sung live by one of the lead singers on two continents!

     

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    Ranking Roger at his personal recording studio

    With that in mind, it’s kind of funny to find out that Ranking Roger’s The New English Beat released an album at the very tail end of 2016, with Wakeling planning his own new album sometime this year! But your question may be: How’s Roger’s Beat stack up? is it like the old stuff? well yes and no, but not in a bad way. In all honesty Bounce (the album in question) is basically what I would have expected the band to do in the 90’s if they had stayed together. It’s more polished than the previous albums, seems like it was made on a higher budget, and seems altogether “shinier”. You can feel the vibes from Both English Beat and General Public as well as a slightly more somber tone.

    For those that know me, “shininess” is not always a good thing for my musical tastes as I sometimes feel that a lot of modern music, especially pop music, is empty and overproduced. While Bounce doesn’t completely stray down this path, there are a few hints of Coldplay-like guitars and such found in a few songs that really didn’t do a whole lot for me. what I did like was that some of the more mellow songs seemed to be a lot more politically charged than most Beat songs ever where. Take a track like “Walking on the Wrong Side” for instance.

    What this means, is that some of the energy found in some of my favorite beat songs like “Mirror in the Bathroom” and “Ranking Full Stop” is curiously absent from this record. What we do get are a few lighthearted sentimental tracks to even out the politics, which is a trademark of the sound most bands fall into when they get older. Thankfully this wan’t a total deviation into sappy ballads or anything so that’s a plus.

    All in all, this was a solid listen, and a great re-introduction to a band that has basically been doing touring for the past few decades. I’ve personally been hankering for a fourth wave ska movement to pop up, so hearing only a few hints of the rudeboy sound in this record made me a bit disappointed overall. The good news is, that the music stands on it’s own and I plan to include it in my current iPod rotation. I also need to hunt down some of the music Roger did between the original English Beat and this album to see how his sound has progressed. If you enjoy ska, reggae, or The English Beat – do yourself a favor and check this out – despite a few quibbles I have it’s a solid album.

     

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    Ghost in the Shell (2017)

    Let’s get this first part out of the way:

    If there is one thing I’m tired of in the realm of film and television, it’s pre-emptive complainers trying to de-rail everything before it even comes out. with any review of this live action American/Chinese Ghost in The Shell film, everyone has drawn battle lines in regards to the elephant in the room of “Hollywood whitewashing”; in fact, I would say you were almost expected to take a side, and if you took a side that many didn’t like you’d get lectured by the other. It’s annoying that folks are getting in fights and “unfriending” each-other because of opinions over a goofy sci-fi film, but that’s our modern society I guess. Some popular reviews from major sites didn’t even talk about the film, they just reviewed everything that was in some way perceived as racist to stoke the outrage fires, this honestly comes across like they never actually watched it.

    I’m not going to dwell on this topic too much because I can see both sides and don’t think arguing over whether or not Scarlett Johanson should or should not be cast as The Major actually addresses the actual problem that Hollywood has with representation. The internet witch hunts and rage were nearly identical to what people attempted to do with both recent Star Wars films, and even last years re-boot of Ghostbusters, and I honestly don’t care anymore. I’d rather discuss a film based on an anime/manga property that I’ve loved for upwards of 20+ years, and how it turned out.

    /end rant

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    Ghost in The Shell has been a favorite of mine for a VERY long time. I recall being first introduced to it through my older stepbrother that loved cyberpunk stuff – he had the original Masamune Shirow manga laying around at some point when I was visiting and I was enthralled by what I saw. Not too long after that, I was able to rent the anime adaptation from one of our local video stores and was hooked on the franchise from that point forward. every continuation has been something I get really excited about – all the movies, games, TV shows etc. That said, I was torn when they announced that a western adaptation was going to be produced a few years ago.

    Readers may recall that I’m pretty vocal about my dislike for most anime adaptations because they don’t treat the source material with respect and are generally bad (Dragonball Evolution is the king of this). That goes for live action adaptations produced in Japan itself. I am always annoyed when they discuss a possible Akira remake because the two directors that were vocally lobbying for it seemed determined to completely alter the entire premise of the story into something else. I recall at one point, the script going around had Kaneda and Tetsuo, protagonists of the film, gender swapped and made into former lovers – nope! Any such fears that I had with Ghost in the Shell were calmed when the released the first trailer – the logo was there, scenes appeared to be adapted directly from the 1995 film, characters looked almost correct – “wait?! was this going to be okay somehow?” the controversy I touched on above was something that troubled me a bit, but I figured I’d give it a shot and see what happens.

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    Quick verdict – Ghost in the Shell 2017 is good, not great, and it’s not deserving of the critical heat it’s getting online.

    An argument can be made that many of the visual flourishes in this film seem like a road often traveled, somewhat dated, nothing new. That’s by design, as many scenes are literally directly lifted from the 1995 film – keep in mind that the source material is nearing thirty years of age if you go even further back to the comic. it’s filled with typical cyberpunk aesthetics, and much like steampunk, or post-apocalyptic fiction – straying too far from the agreed upon tropes is never a great idea. Most “cyberpunk” properties follow a set groundwork laid by much older films like Blade Runner, books like Neuromancer, and the like. Ideas like megacities run by huge militarized corporations, dingy slums filled with bright holographic neon lights, weird Asian and Western culture amalgamations and the idea of trans-humanism seem passe today, but we seem to be ever closer to that very reality. it might not look the same, but in many ways cyberpunk is closer to our modern society than it was back in the 80’s.

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    I mentioned that some scenes were directly influenced by the Mamoru Oshii film of the same name, and I would even go as far as to say that this was almost a shot-for-shot remake of that very film with a little bit of some of the sequel material sprinkled in. This is a double edged sword in many ways, as seeing scenes like the building infiltration, the spider mech fight, and the cloaked fight with the hacked garbage man was cool, but a lot of those scenes were a lot cooler and more fleshed out in the original film. This was because there was a decent amount of new material – some adapted from the comics or TV series taking up the runtime. Reading reviews online, a constant complaint I kept seeing was that “The Major got a new backstory” which is funny because Hideo Kuze and his revelations at the end of the TV series factor into this film quite a bit, meaning that people have not seen Stand Alone Complex and should not be commenting on it as if they are authorities on the matter.

    For much of the film, we know The Major as Major Mira KIllian – a cyborg created by a large robotics company named Hanka Robotics. She was a survivor of a refugee boat accident – something that left her family dead and herself severely injured. Her brain was the only thing salvageable from her body, so it was put in a new body as a second chance at life as long as she’s cool being basically sold to the government as a weapon. Of course, this is all BS and the driving force behind The Major trying to piece her previous life back together.

    Much like the backstory stuff, I saw people complaining that the inclusion of Hanka was a new addition to the franchise, but they were actually an organization from the original comic, although not as major as here. In both versions they are a VERY bad company, as the comic version of Hanka was caught in a scandal where they were dubbing the ghosts of children into a mass-produced consumer robot to achieve a greater sense of human personality. Here, without going into too much detail – they are trying to create a race of perfect soldiers with human brains in a cybernetic body, where they get these brains could be an issue.

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    In some ways, making Hanka Robotics a major plot point in the film is actually going against one of the major philosophical ideas from the original manga. In a world where the internet is literally in and around you at all times, and cyber-warfare is something even low-level street thugs dabble in from time to time, old ideas like national sovereignty and borders are basically obsolete. Section 9 always skirted a fine line between acting within the scope of normal law enforcement, and treating the Networks as a free for all that the old ways stood against. Leaving out some of this diplomatic and political intrigue sort of boils down the role that Section 9 and Hanka have as nothing more than a Corporation acting as The Government and Section 9 acting as their willing lap-dog. I guess in some ways that’s a telling indictment of the current status-quo with our own corporations, but something that I wanted to point out as a major difference. Hanka is also a convenient way to have a blatant “villain” rather than the numerous ephemeral “gray area” antagonists the material usually features.

    There are a few differences like this that are not huge deal breakers, but sort of “dumb down” the ideas from Ghost in the Shell to a more palatable product for those looking to see an action popcorn movie rather than a philosophical look into trans-humanism. I’m not annoyed by this in any way because no two versions of Ghost in the Shell are exactly alike. The manga, the Oshii films, The TV series, and the recent Arise films are all different parallel versions of this story, and none of them are very much alike to be honest. I actually prefer the TV series Stand Alone Complex, to the films and dislike the manga sequel. with a franchise like this, there are many ways to look at the story – something for everyone.

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    When it comes to casting, I absolutely loved the job they did. And yes, Scarlett Johanson did a fine job no matter what internet folks want you to believe. Pretty much every character from section 9 is present aside from Paz, seemingly replaced by a new character named Ladriya, I’m pretty sure she’s not from any previous version, but could be wrong. Takeshi Kitano (As Aramaki) is my favorite Japanese actor, and having him be such a badass in this film was awesome. He has, by far, the best line in the entire film where he chumps out an entire squad of armored assassins with a briefcase and quips “Never send a rabbit to kill a fox”. I wanted to clap at that very moment, but that probably would have made everyone mad in the theater.

    Chin Han is also great as Togusa, perhaps my favorite character from the TV series. He’s not a major part of the film by any means, but I was glad to see him in there. Finally, I wouldn’t be able to discuss this without talking about Batou, as played by Danish actor Pilou Asbæk. I’ve somehow missed him up to this point, but he was really good – he really captured the character and was perhaps the truest to the source material of anyone in the film.

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    I’ve already written a lot here, and I don’t want to spoil more than what I have since the film does have a few mysteries and twists. To reiterate from above Ghost in the Shell 2017 is a good, but not great film that stayed close to the source material with a few alterations. Yes, these alterations sort of “water-down” some of the themes of the source material itself, but this was a summer popcorn flick, I was never under the assumption that this was going to be a complex film for jaded otaku. I enjoyed the casting despite the online backlash, and would be up for a sequel if one ever materializes. That is unlikely as the film hasn’t really caught the box office on fire, but who knows. I am sad that there was no reference to any sort of mobile tank unit like the Fuchikoma / tachikoma / Uchikoma /or Logikoma units from the numerous iterations of the franchise. This was no surprise as they are not present in the 1995 film either unless you count the spider tank.

    I’d say ignore the haters and see this for yourself – I’m not saying you’ll like it, but it’s not the bucket of dog turds everyone wants it to be.

     


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