Archive for Reviews

Under Pressure: Dept. H #1 Delivers Tension and Mystery

DeptHCoverI love underwater stories.  I’ve been fascinated by SCUBA diving ever since I was a kid, finally realizing my dream twenty years ago (aside: I just realized it was twenty years ago holy crap I’m old).  Even before I was a diver, I loved reading and watching stories about the world below.  I’m of the opinion that even a horrible movie can be partially redeemable if there’s diving or underwater sequences.  Case in point: I will unironically watch Jaws 3.  And that’s a bad movie.

So when Dark Horse announced Dept. H, on sale tomorrow, by Matt and Sharlene Kindt, I knew I’d be reading it.  An underwater thriller?  Written by a great writer?  I’d read it even if it was by some horrid writer, but with Matt at the helm, consider it a Done Deal.  Matt provides the words and the art, and his wife Sharlene provides colors.  Together, the two of the spin a taut mystery miles below the surface of the ocean, and it’s a story that grips you from the start.

Mia is an investigator, hired to uncover the truth about an incident that happened in her father’s underwater research station, Dept. H.  The official story is an accident killed one of the scientists, but Mia suspects the truth — it was murder.  No one has left the station since the killing occurred, meaning when she travels six miles down, she’ll be there with the one who did the deed.

Pressure abounds both via the expanse of water over her head and by the people she’s meant to question in her investigation.  She needs to find out who has sabotaged the research, and she needs to find out without the killer getting her as well.

The art is quite moody for such a tale, and you are immediately submerged with Mia.  Matt and Sharlene present an array of suspects, and I’m sure there will be red herrings as this story progresses, but for now, any one is a suspect, including one of Mia’s old friends and even her brother.

Dept. H is looking like it will be a winner for fans of intrigue, suspense, mystery, and thrillers.  As an underwater junkie, I was here for the environment and will stay for the story.  Matt and Sharlene have a tale that should not be missed.

Dept. H, from Dark Horse comics, is on sale starting Wednesday at your local comic shop or online in print or digital.

SDCC 2015: A Quick Quick Look at Devaststor

In case you missed it, yesterday I tweeted my review of Hasbro’s SDCC Devastator:

There you go.

In all seriousness, Devvy is a big toy in more ways than one, a toy that deserves a lot of attention. But I know that tonight is Preview Night and there may be someone still on the fence on whether or not to buy him.

This post did nothing to help with that. But maybe it made you laugh.

SDCC 2015: A Look at the Kreon Class of 1985

If you’re looking for good photos of this toy,um, sorry. I don’t have a good photo setup at the moment, but I hope to change that in the future. Enjoy these official press photos, won’t you? Review sample provided by Hasbro and Hunter PR.

When Hasbro announced that there would be a follow-up to last year’s Comic Con Kreon exclusive set, I got giddy. While I’m not a huge collector of Kreons, I understand their appeal. I also can get behind themed sets that are just fun, if not completely goofy. The Yearbook Kreon sets are just that – whimsical presentations of the characters kids of the 1980’s grew up with.

Last year’s inaugural set was the class of 1984, celebrating the 30 year anniversary of the Transformers. Naturally, this year would have to be the Class of 1985, presenting characters that (mostly) had toys released in 1985.

The cool thing about this set is you can enjoy it both in and out of the box, it can be enjoyed. The packaging is a big part of the fun, as it’s designed to look like a yearbook.  The front cover features Grimlock, the back features Devastator,and “Cybertron Class of 1985″ adorns both.  The top and bottom are printed to look like book pages with the ttext “Property of Cybertron High” stamped as if owned by a school library.  Open it up, and there you see all the Kreons smiling back at you, all lined up and ready to be displayed in their protective case.  It does remind me of the senior pictures that we had in our yearbooks,complete with name and Senior Award.

If you wanted to stop there, nobody would fault you for keeping the Kreons in the book packaging.  But if you take the Kreons out, then you can have more fun with the included accessories.  Each Kreon has a weapon, but there is also a handful of extra bits, called Artifacts, all tied to some of the best movies of 1985.  We have Unicron Cereal, jackets, a map, and gold coins, but my favorites are the Back to the Future homages — a newspaper, a sports almanac, and the wild, white hair of a certain time travelling scientist.  These little touches of whimsy add to the notion that Kreons are all about fun, with nary a thought of doom or gloom.

You don’t need the previous year set to enjoy this one, but I’ll admit, it will look nice having both sets together. Now I just have to prepare my display setup for eventual classes of 1986 and beyond.

If you are heading to the show, I recommend you take the time to go to Hasbro’s booth and pick a set up. If you aren’t going to Comic Con, either have a friend grab one or pray the Internet gods are on your side when Hasbro Toy Shop gets their limited supply in stock. I love fun exclusives, and this set fits the bill. Well done, Hasbro.

 

Late to the Party: Review of Gunslinger and Brake-Neck

I realize I’m extremely late to the party here.  Combiner Wars gestalt limbs and torsos have been on shelves for months, and Gunnslinger and Brake-Neck were released online about a month ago.  A lot has been said about these toys, about how wonderful they are, how awesome it is to be building a combiner, and more of the like.  Sure, CW has its flaws, and it isn’t everyonen’s cup of tea, but for the most part, everyone likes the toys.

So what can I say about Gunslinger and Brake-Neck that hasn’t been said already?

How about — I finally understand what everyone has been talking about.  These toys are the most fun Transformers I’ve played with in a long time. To be able to intuitively deducce transformations without resorting to the instructions, to marvel at the nifty bits of engineering, to just all around wish for more of these things — this is great.  I never had a full combiner as a kid, and I definitely never had the original versions of these toys.  But I suspect this is a bit like what it was like to get a full combiner toy as a kid.

Right now, I’m going to concentrate on the two online only limbs – Gunslinger and Brake Neck.  You’ve read everyone else about them, so I wont bore you to death with details.

Gunslinger the Aerialbot has a great looking robot mode. He has a nice head sculpt, a very faithful deco, great poseability.  His jet mode is pertty good, although mine has a tendancy to lean to the left a bit.  Still, it’s a pretty good design. Like most Transformer airplanes, you have to ignore the robot pieces underneath, but it’s still decent.  His gun felt a little loose in his hand, but that could just be my particular figure.

The transformation has some nifty bits — while not integral to the robot to jet change, I do love how his head and middle pivot around for use as a limb.  Pieces fold in and out nicely, and the only thing I had to check was the position of the arms to snap into the jet.

Brake-Neck is also a marvel of toy engineering.  Things just WORK.  I intuitively got him into car mode on the first try, and I love how his legs come apart and rotate to become the rear of the car.  The panel that flips up from his chest to cover the head doesn’t lie as flat as I like, but it’s not too bad.  The car mode has seams from panels coming together, but I hardly notice them. As for the robot mode, again he as great poseability, his weapon fits in his hand nicely, and he has a nice grey and purply-maroon color.

If you can still find these guys online, get them. You can never have too many Combiner Wars deluxe figures, what with Optimus and Cyclonus needing team members.  I will hopefully get to review Superion and Menasor in the near future.  If they are like these two toys, I will be ecstatic.

 

 

 

 

A Quick Look at Quickslinger and Brake-Neck…. Sort Of

Thanks to the fine people at Hasbro and Hunter PR, I was given Quickslinger and Brake-Neck early so that I could get time with them to give you, valued ASM reader, my thoughts.

However, life as a parent means things don’t go to plan.  I will sadly have to postpone my reviews of these toys until later (I hope to do a full breakdown over the next few weeks), but that being said, I do want to share some quick thoughts:

  • You know you’re going to want to buy these.  For the G1 “purist”, you need these toys to make Superior and Menasor the way you remembered them as a kid…. or adult, I won’t judge.
  • Even if you like the new characters (and believe me, I’m all for introducing new characters), you’ll want these toys.  Extra limbs can be used with Optimus, and I’m sure Cyclonus wouldn’t mind having them either.
  • While it would be interesting to see what Hasbro could have done with all new molds for these toys, what they did do with minor remolds is great.  The headsculpts are quite nice, the decos chosen hearken back to the original toys.

Look for more in the coming weeks!

Comic Review: “Jem and the Holograms” #1

[AHEAD BE SPOILERS!]

Jem and the Holograms #1 is a modern take on the classic 1980’s cartoon.  The inherent problem to solve, though, is that Jem pretty much is the 80’s personified.  Can you take the basic concept of a female band with the glitz and glam, the flash, the keytars, the hologram and translate into something viable for readers three decades later?  That is what Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell try to do in this debut issue.  Do they succeed?

Well, at the end of the issue I found myself wishing it was double-sized because I didn’t want the story to end.  I’d say that qualifies as a victory.

SPOILERS AHOY! Read more

“Transformers: Robots in Disguise” Premiere – More and Less Than Meets The Eye

“Transformers: Robots in Disguise” premiered this past weekend on Cartoon Network.  The pilot episode, split into two parts, sets up the general theme for this new cartoon, and in so doing, it proves that RID is both more and less than meets the eye.

That may seem contradictory, but it’s true.  On its surface, what does “Robots in Disguise” seem to hold in store?  Robots.  Check.  In disguise.  Check.  Heck, Bumblebee even says it when they scan Earth modes.  So,in so naming the show, RID is less than meets the eye — it wears its oil pump on its sleeve, to use a horrible metaphor.

Ah, but that’s not all the show is about.  To be a bit spoiler-ish without getting into minute detail of the pilot, the general gist is that the Mini-Con Fixit’s ship of Decepticon prisoners crash landed on Earth, letting loose all the cons on board.  It’s up to Bumbmlebee, Strongarm, Sideswipe, Grimlock and Fix-It to find and capture the escapees.  And it’s here where things are more than they seem.  This is a rather unique premise for a Transformers show.  Yes, we’ve had variations of the “Find the X of the week!” format — the O-Parts in the original “Robots in Disguise” show, the Cyber Planet Keys in “Transformers: Cybertron”.  Even the original appearance of the Mini-Cons in “Transformers: Armada” fell into that trap at times.

This feels different, though.  Each episode looks like it will be a find-and-capture a new Decepticon theme, but it doesn’t feel derivitive in some way.  Perhaps it’s because the first escapee, Underbite, is such an awesome character that you forget the conceit.  He’s loud, he’s big, he’s destructive — and you love him for it.

Grimlock, too, seems to take cues from other Transformers dinosaurs, and not just in name.  Dinobot, from “Beast Wars”, was a Predacon turned Maximal.  While we don’t see Grimlock take on the Autobot symbol this episode, he does help Bumblebee and crew find Underbite.  And even then, Bumblebee puts him on probation, rather than giving him his freedom outright.

Plus, it’s Bumlbebee in charge!  We haven’t had a Transformers series without an Optimus or Megatron as leader since…. since… well, since never.  “Beast Wars” may not have been about Truck Optimus vs. Vehicle/Tank/Gun Megatron, but it was still Optimus and Megatron.  Hasbro feels secure enough to let Bumblebee take point after the events of “Transformers Prime”, and that is fantastic.  It allows new life to be present in the Transformers mythos, and it’s a welcome change of pace.

The animation style is different than what we’ve had in the most recent shows.  It’s computerized but not 3D modeled like “Transformers Prime.”  It looks hand-animated, but it’s not, and it doesn’t have a cartoony look like “Transformers: Animated”.  It’s stylized, it’s colorful, and it sets itself apart from “Prime” and pretty much most of the past 20 years of cartoons.

I wholeheartedly welcome “Transformers: Robots in Disguise”.  If only it weren’t going to be shown at an ungodly early Saturday morning timeslot.  Oh, well.  That’s why we have DVRs.

Four With Phil – Episode 10: Monster Motors Mash

In this episode, Phil reviews MONSTER MOTORS and MONSTER MOTORS: THE CURSE OF MINI-VAN HELSING #1 by Bryan Lynch and Nick Roche. In short: Buy Them. Now.

Don’t forget — you have less than a day to contribute to Hasbro’ss Children Fund and get a ton of TRANSFORMERS comics with the Humble Bundle! Go to http://www.humblebundle.com/books


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHipFpZQ6tk
Download the MP3 (4.2 MB)

Four with Phil – Episode 9: The Man Who Tolerated Powerglide

In this episode, Phil talks about the new Humble Bundle with up to 86 Transformers comics (updated total as of press time: about $16 to unlock them all). And he rants about Combiner Wars Powerglide.

http://www.humblebundle.com/books


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6S5kGR9dlSs
Download the MP3 (5 MB)

Four With Phil – Episode 7: Clone Club Comics

In this episode, Phil reviews the premiere issue of IDW Publishing’s new comic – Orphan Black


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GT1B_UNkzRk
Download the MP3 (5 MB)