Thursday, March 27, 2008

Black Blood Brothers vol. 2 Impression

Black Blood Brothers Volume 2 DVD
Black Blood Brothers volume 2 from FUNimation picks up right where volume one leaves off … but that’s the point of a continuing series, right? Anyway, Jiro and Kotaro enter the Special Zone just in time for the poo to hit the fan. While searching for a permanent residence Jiro and Kotaro crash at Mimiko’s pad, which is quaint but not quite big enough for all three residents. Mimiko informs the brothers that in order to stay in the Special Zone they will need to petition, meet with one of the three houses that run the zone, but at every turn they are declined and even attacked by dark house. Seems the Silver Sword is not too popular and everybody wants a piece of him. The Company begins to inquire about his uses while the houses go about recruiting him in one manner or another. On top of it all a second generation Kowloon shows up, the younger brother of Cassa who we learn about in flashbacks has a history with Jiro, a not too good history. Things get blow up (Mimiko’s apartment) old faces appear in new places and the past is about to catch up with Jiro on volume 2 of Black Blood Brothers.

Ok, so volume 1 of Black Blood Brothers brought the goods. Solid animation mixed with an evolving storyline. Volume 2, yeah it ups the ante, and trust me when I say I left out a lot of info in my quick recap. Viewers are treated to more and more flashbacks to Jiro’s past as those he interacted with show up in the present, and the Silver Blade shows a vulnerability not often seen this early in a series for the hero. He displays a true desperation while searching for his brother, really adds depth to his character. I really love the multiple parties, the three main vampire houses, the Company and Cassa’s family. There is also the appearance of another Kowloon, and not Cassa’s brother. Yup, this series is getting good. The story is flowing more from the past than the present and that’s ok because the flashbacks give just enough of a taste for you to stay interested while present day plays out. No complaining here as Black Blood Brothers takes itself serious when it should and throws in bucket splashing fun when appropriate. Volume 2 of a series can be a turning point and this is one series headed in the right direction.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift Images

Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift is the follow-up the the excellent Game Boy Advance tactics title. It hits store shelves this June and is sure to be one of the best titles to every hit the young Nintendo DS. The touch screen system is perfect for tactical RPG's and we are quickly seeing each new Square Enix title released on the system getting better and better. I'm totally geeked for this game, so should you be.

Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift Battle Image
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift Dual Image
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift Event Image
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift Magic Image

Blood + Manga vol. 1 Impression

Blood + Manga volume 1
Saya Otonashi is just your average high school track athlete, superb in the high jump, not so great with her memory. Saya does not have any memory beyond the past year, a case of amnesia that causes teasing at school as well as internal strife. What Saya doesn’t know can indeed hurt her. See Saya is not ordinary, in fact she seems to be ageless to a degree with vivid flashbacks to times long past. After she’s attacked by a Chiropteran, a vampire like monster, and assisted by a mysterious cello player named Hagi, do we begin to see more of what Saya is, of what her memory won’t allow her to remember. Saya’s family, father George as well as her ‘brother’ Kai, are under the orders of the Red Shield for whom Saya works. No matter how ordinary her high school and family life have been things are about to get really mess, really fast. Who is Saya? Why is her blood the only weapon against the Chiropterans? How does Kai, who most def has feelings for his ‘sister’ tie into things and what’s up with Hagi’s hand, the sword he gives Saya and this little arm missing dude Charles? So many questions, so few pages.

The Blood + manga from Dark Horse is excellent, yes excellent. The original Blood one shot anime from a few years back introduced US Otaku to a mysterious and dark warrior named Saya and the Chiropteran’s she fights. It also left the same audience wanting more, which we’ve received in the form of the Blood + anime which is not a direct follow-up to the first anime, but an excellent story in and of itself. The Blood + manga takes the Production IG anime (seen on Cartoon Network) and delivers the story on the printed page, as adapted and drawn by Asuka Katsura. I find myself adoring the art style, more so that what is seen in the anime. This feels like the original Blood anime, has a touch of Goth mixed with high school innocence that all crashes in on itself when the Chiropteran attack. Sounds like a mixed bag, well it’s not. Let me take a step back and establish this. The art is excellent, characters well drawn in a style that just suites this series. Each character relays a true range of emotion from clumsy family encounters, touching emotional encounters and of course dead serious action sequences that animate themselves in the readers mind. The story teases with the last past of Saya and the journey yet to come. The many questions outlined above build on each other without frustrating the reader. You want to find out more about Charles, Hagi, Red Shield, Kai and even Kai’s lost baseball career. Yes this is indeed the complete package. Did I mention it gets the signature Dark Horse treatment with a high quality printing and colored pages as seen in Ghost in the Shell? It’s yummy.

I’ve read a lot of manga, seen a lot of anime and how the two touch each other. Reading Blood + is indeed a joy as it delivers on the best of what manga is. Excellent story with plenty to tell, engaging characters, action, beautiful character designs for characters you actually care about brought together by Dark Horse in a book that looks great, reads even better and will make your manga collection glow. Yes, it’s that good. I for one hate that I’ve got to wait for volume 2, but you need to give this book a go around. If you like vampire manga, if you like action, mystery and a great story then this book is for you. Well done to Dark Horse, you are indeed giving fans what they want.

Gimmick! vol. 1 Impression

Gimmick! volume 1 manga
Kohei Nagase may get off track while on the job, but he’s one of the best special effects artist around, and you can find him at Studio Gimmick. Kohei takes on the work Ms. Shiho, his manger, throws his way, but he always seems to get sidetracked, or just shows up late to his job. Thank the lord he’s got stuntman Shingo there to save his butt and keep him on track. See, Kohei is a master of his trade, and he uses these skills with his Silver Spatula of God, to assists those in need, or I should say those hot, young actresses with nowhere else to turn in need. From helping a young actress escpate an abusive manager to see her boyfriend to foiling the plans of a spurned monster maker and helping cover up career altering scars, Kohei is the man for FX.

Gimmick! Volume 1 from Viz is a fun manga that carries on the FX action tradition seen in movies like … FX, and drops plenty of pop culture references along the way. The art of Kuroko Yabuguchi won’t blow readers away, but seeing as how these stories are set in present time, it does not need to. Characters are fun to look at and remind a lot of those seen in GetBackers. No, for Gimmick! it’s the creative storytelling of Youzaburou Kanari mixed with Yabuguchi that shines. Each story is fun, and great stand alone stories, up until the final chapter which leaves you hanging for volume 2. Using make-up to discuise an actress, to cover up a scar and even confuse and capture a disgruntled employee are all creative and references to The Godfather, The Evil Dead, Sam Rami and The Grudge just solidify this anime a one solid story. Why, because it takes it’s craft serious, talks about makeup and effects as they should be touched on, as real crafts in this day and age of digital FX. The story gets readers interested in FX in the same manner Yakutake did for bread making. Taking a interesting subject and turning it into an engaging manga is no small feat and Gimmick! delivers the goods. If your looking for something new, a break from the norm found in manga then give Gimmick! a try. It’s got action, but done in a refreshing new way, and who knew wearing makeup could be so cool.

Puchi Puchi Virus Nintendo DS Impression

Puzzle games, causal games, are a dime a dozen on the Nintendo DS. Some are good, original titles while others are posts of games that have been out on the web for years. Puchi Puchi Virus from NIS America is the former and offers up an enjoyable gaming experience built for one-the-go action. I will say this first. I played over three hours of the single-player game and cannot speak to the multiplayer options, so take what I say about the game, imagine it head-to-head with a buddy and there you go.

The world has been stricken with a sickness, one that turns humans into animals with human clothes and traits. With your trusty nurse, and chicken it’s up to you, doctor, to cure each victim of their virus by connecting groups of three similar viruses to eliminate them. Going backwards a bit, there is a collection aspect to Puchi Puchi Virus as you get a card for each person you cure, with details of their sickness and extra achievements you can accomplish for each character. Go back and try to beat your best time for each characters and time is a big factor as each level, each character, has a timeframe, usually 3 minutes, in which you must cure the patient. The bottom screen on the DS fills with circular virus of various colors, they appear slowly speeding up as time counts down. If you don’t touch them fast enough, connect three in a triangle to eliminate the, they will solidify and fill your screen. Connecting like colored virus is the name of the game, and mindlessly touched the screen as quickly as possible will serve gamers for part of the game, but strategy becomes a major factor about 1-1/2 hrs into the game. You need to think out how to chain virus together to reach cure goals, and it’s in these exercise that Puchi Puchi Virus excels. There is a true feeling of accomplishment when you knock out five seven chain combos in three minutes.

The single player campaign is good puzzling fun, and collecting cards and stats for your games leaves gamers with a feeling of accomplishment, one that goes beyond your typical high score. Props to NIS for a unique puzzler on the DS. If you like puzzle games, Puchi Puchi Virus is worth the purchase and if you want me to rank it, I’d say 8-10.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Gears of War 2 GDC Trailers

If you are of age, then please check out these two trailers showing off Gears of War 2 as seen at GDC 2008. Not many new games get this much hype for a followup, but if you've every played Gears of War you'll understand by. Games like Gears, Halo and even Devil May Cry as beginning to put gaming on a level with big budget movies, and hell the stories are a lot better. Don't agree, watch and begin the conversion ...

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 - Kakashi & Tsunade Trailers

Check out the always cool Kakashi as he battles it out in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 on PlayStation 2 and take a look at Tsunade in action also. These trailers are hot!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Closer Look at Virgin Comics

Take a closer look at Jenna Jameson’s Shadow Hunter, The Megas and The Stranded

Virgin Comics has been taking an interesting angle on comic creation. They expose creative talent from other fields with the chance to create stories that reader may not expect. When you see the name Jenna Jameson on a comic you don’t expect what you get in Shadow Hunter, nor do you expect a Sci-Fi channel venture to turn out as well as The Stranded or the director of U-571 and Terminator 3 creating a book as thought provoking as The Megas. Yes, the books from Virgin Comics are indeed unique and not your average hero in spandex fare. Let’s take a look at the three examples I mention above.

Jenna Jameson’s Shadow Hunter Issue 1 CoverJenna Jameson’s Shadow Hunter Issue 1 – Jezzerie Jaden is one of the most sensual, attractive heroines to come along in a while. From a young age Jezzerie has been able to see monsters and spirits. As she grows the visions become more vivid, so real she can touch them, not to mention scarier. To get a handle on what she’s seeing Jezzerie seeks the help of Dr. Ingersol who performs various test on Jezzerie, but seems to have his own agenda as he references her state being similar to a group called the Omegas who are housed at Area 51 as well as referencing the Great Tomb of Lilith. Religious references are the least of Jezzerie’s problems when her powers take a turn for the super, her hair color changes and she wields a sword to defeat insane monsters all around. Next up a hero guy joins the fight and some mega bad guy also wielding a sword and talking about royalty not to mention a big secret that ends issue 1.

Jenna is known for many things, her creative mind is not one of them, but that will change. Jenna’s collaboration with Christina Z, of Witchblade fame, merged with the art of Mukesh Singh is a winning formula. This story is not bound by any existing comic worlds or conventions. The story is not ground breaking, but carried by excellent art and strong creative names this is one book to keep an eye one. Readers will enjoy this title long after the main creators name wears off.

The Megas Issue 1 CoverThe Megas Issue 1 – The concept is simple. What if the founders of the United States never created a democracy, but instead instituted a monarchy that existed even today. Follow the life and investigations of Agent Jack Madison, a commoner who investigates Mega related crimes and has a past with the king through his father who served the now sickly King Marcus Arcadia. It’s not enough he has to help cover-up certain crimes but he must also deal with an apparent drug issue and a rebellious group called the Dada. The stage is set for further political intrigue as an heir to the king will be revealed, changes in government policy are sure to follow, the rebels get more aggressive and you just know there is something behind the opening crime Madison investigates. The stage is set for rebellion.

Stories don’t get much better than this. This is like reading the latest NY Times best seller but in comic form. John Harrison, DUNE on Sci-Fi, created the script and it flows like a feature worthy to be related to DUNE. The art is nothing spectacular , but it serves the story very well as this is the real world seen in a different light, and conceptual artist Peter Rubin does a fine job. The unique white hair seen on a Mega has a way of popping off the page and you can just see how this would piss off commoners. There is so much room for an excellent politically charged thrill ride her, and I think Jonathan Mostow has a winner on his hands, one worthy of a read if you’re cool with a book grounded in what could be reality.

The Stranded Issue 1 CoverThe Stranded Issue 1 – Mix Sci-Fi with Virgin Comics, throw in a creative mind of Mike Carey’s caliber (X-Men) and you’re getting a comic that could go head-to-head with the Heroes, Angel … any super powered, sci-fi show out there. We’ve got a rat with part of a super-genius, Zante, in it, a secret base for Tamree, sexy super chic, who has Sleepers getting killed around the planet and a genuine concern that the other Anchors will be wiped out, which is confirmed when her base is attacked. Ok, so this is only part of the story, there’s also some buff hero-ish looking guy who is responsible for the attack on Tamree and has been killing off Anchors and ends the issue by crashing a wedding. Who are the Sleepers, why are their memories and powers locked? Tune in to find out more.

There is much more I could tell you, but that is for you to find out, no spoilers here. See this is a superhero book through and through and flows very well with hints at a much broader scope, very similar to Heroes. We establish the existence of Anchors and Sleepers and a force looking to wipe them out. The reason for this, tbd, but the action is already fast paced. The art is not as outstanding as Shadow Hunter, but it’s a solid hero looking effort. The creative tandem of Mike Carey and Siddharth Kotian is looking to be a solid partnership that readers will enjoy. From what I’ve read so far I really must say it’s only a matter of time before we are craving the TV version with special powers and all revealed. It will happen, but before then pick up this book … after Jenna of course.

So where’s that leave us? I’ve given you a quick look at these three books with some of the finer points I took from each. Shadow Hunter has the best art, but most predictable story (of the three) while the Megas is lacking in art, but has one rock solid story and The Stranded is in the middle in both instances. I’ve been reading comics for a very long time and it’s refreshing to see not only a new take on storytelling but the inclusion of brilliant minds from other entertainment fields, a trend I hope continues.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rosario + Vampire vol. 1 Impression

Rosario + Vampire manga volume 1
Meet Tsukune Aono, a below average 15 year old student whose only hope for school is a random facility his parents enrolled him in, when they found a brochure laying around. It’s not enough to have to go to a school in the middle of nowhere with no friends, but to be sent to a monster school, well that just takes the cake. Yes, the school Tsukune’s parents enrolled him in; the only school that would have him is a school for monsters. Before he can even reach school he’s run into by a beautiful young girl, who proceeds to nip at his neck and taste his sweet, sweet blood. Yes she’s a vampire and her name is Moka Akasiya and she just happens to be the most beautiful girl in school and she has a thing for her first love … er drink which only complicates Tsukune’s time in school. So he’s the only human in a school full of monsters, have of which want to hurt him bad for taking Moka’s affection while the other half want to upstage Moka. The only rule of the school, monsters must stay in human for, which saves Tsukune’s butt. The challenges begin and when the cross pendant, the Rosario, around Moka’s neck is removed her true powers come out as her hair turns silver, attitude matures and the royalty of monsters is revealed in a full fledged vampire.

With excellent art and story by Akihisa Ikeda, Rosario + Vampire is a treat for fans of awkward love, monster and harem manga. Yeah, strange combination, but this is not your average manga. The character designs are funny as well as violent and sexy, all at the right time. The design never gets too complicated and does an outstanding job of relaying the cranked up action and the subtle romantic moments. The story contains humor, seen right off the bat with a chance blood sucking encounter and action that always seems to end in one big punch/kick by Moka as she tells the recipient to know their place. We’ve got an encounter with a school bully, no biggie right? Yeah, he’s a demon. Next up, encounters with a swim club that turns out to be run by man draining mermaids, news paper club purvey werewolf and a Succubus, Kurumu Kurono, who vies for Tsukune’s affection and Moka’s status. So begins the challenges of high school for Tsukune, the most difficult challenge being his feelings for Moka … and being just a human in a monster school. Rosario + Vampire is one of the most enjoyable new manga I’ve come across in a while as it mixes romance with action in a way any man, boy, girl or woman will enjoy. Excellent art topped off by a fun story, Rosario + Vampire is moving to the head of the class and a spot in my collection.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dead Space Interview: Antony Johnston, Ben Templesmith

AnimeSentinel checks in with the creative minds behind the Dead Space comic that serves as a prequel to EA’s upcoming game of the same name. While most comics based on games are just quick cashins, Dead Space sets itself apart with an outstanding creative team.

Dead Space was fortunate enough to have the story telling talents of
Antony Johnston (Wasteland) and the design of Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night, Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse). The tone is dark, the mood just right for a survival horror tale, but how did Dead Space get here, and how does the comic tie-into the game … for that we go to Antony and Ben for the word from the horses mouth … and a few other tidbits of knowledge.

Where did you draw creative inspiration from, which comics and games impacted your creation process?

(AJ) My inspiration comes from just about everywhere, but for this book in particular we of course owe a debt to many of the same things that influenced the videogame. Aliens, The Thing, Silent Hill and HP Lovecraft are probably the most obvious influences and inspirations. (You could probably include Event Horizon, too, so long as you ignore the execrable last twenty minutes …)

(BT) I drew more inspiration for this project from the movie “The Thing” which is among my favorites, and I really got a vibe from it on Dead Space ... in a good way. It deals with similar themes etc.

Would you consider Dead Space similar to 30 Days of Night with its dark secluded, cold location?

(AJ) Well, it's difficult for it not to remind people of 30 Days visually, because of Ben's art, but that's the only real similarity. 30 Days was about the futility of trying to take on something as powerful as a vampire toe-to-toe, which is just silly, and how the humans don't really stand a chance until they can fight fire with fire.

Dead Space is much more about how humans will screw one another over for their own ends when presented with the opportunity, and how religious intolerance can drive even the best of men to make poor, life-threatening decisions. The true evil in Dead Space comes from within, not without.

(BT) Well it’s certainly similar in that respect. In essence it’s about survival, and those survivalist themed stories are really what I’m a sucker for. You don’t know who lives or dies. Thankfully there are no vamps in this thing. In many ways … vampires would be a pleasant relief compared to what’s really going on…

What will draw fans of the game into the comic and how will comic reader be urged to start gaming?

(AJ) I'd hope that people looking forward to the game would pick up the comic because they want a little more insight into the story, and the world in which the game takes place. This isn't just an adaptation of the game; this is a full-blooded prequel, with its own story and characters. And if we've done our job right, it should be good enough that anyone reading the comic will enjoy the world and story enough that they want to play the game and see what happens next.

(BT) Hopefully it gives them a good starting point for everything and generally fleshes out the great world EA have created for it all. Give em a taste of what’s to come so to speak.

What is the main draw for the comic buyer to pick up Dead Space?

(AJ) For comic fans, the appeal is hopefully that Ben and I are doing the book, and anyone who knows our work knows that we're comic’s guys first and foremost. Our job, and our duty to comics, is to make Dead Space the absolute best book we can. Although obviously we'd love it if comics readers went on to play the game, they don't have to in order to enjoy the comic. That's something we've been very explicit about; this isn't some watered-down compromise to cash in. It stands on its own merits as a comic.

(BT) If they buy ten copies each they can send away for a free bag of crystal meth. Err … or perhaps it could just be a good comic with a cool story, for people who like dark sci-fi without the usual cop outs.

Which difficulties have you faced working with such a visual, interactive property in the form of the game?

(AJ) None at all, from my perspective. Dead Space is very story-focused, so it's been a fairly smooth transition to work some of that story and sensibility into a comic. The only "difficulty" is making sure that everything synchronizes with the overall game story, but you have that concern with any licensed property, be it a game, movie, book or whatever.

(BT) Well, I’m not creating from scratch on this thing … it’s part of something else, so there’s already visuals established, and although I’m not directly drawing much that’s actually in the game, it’s still more stressful than me just coming up with things purely on my own, as I do on my own projects. Of course, it’s a lot of fun though, especially meeting the team making DS and seeing the guts of the game in process.

How much input did the games creative team have on the comic? How about the comic team on the game?

(AJ) Well, all of the back-story is down to the game creators, but once that was established I was given a pretty free reign on the comic story. We talked about it a lot, and of course EA had final approval over everything, but I've had a fair amount of freedom in the details. We've fed a couple of ideas back to the game team, but whether or not they make it into the game I couldn't say. We've had so many discussions about the whole thing that it's already hard to remember who said what …!

(BT) How about the comic team on the game? A fair bit. So far not too many changes have been requested. Good times! It hopefully means we’re rather in sync, or they’re happy for me to flesh it out in my own way on the comic. I have bucket loads of ref from the game itself of course.

Are you a John Carpenter fan? I just get this déjà vu for The Thing when I look at the monster designs I've seen.

(AJ) I have nothing to do with the monster designs, but nevertheless I am indeed a huge Carpenter fan. Escape from New York is one of my all-time favorite movies, and Halloween and The Thing remain two of the best horror movies ever made. Even Big Trouble in Little China has a special place in my heart.

(BT) Well, I spilled the beans a few questions ago but certainly, that film has been responsible for me doing a few things now, including the original 30 Days of Night. Yeah, John Carpenter’s The Thing is responsible for a lot in my life!

Do you see Dead Space being offered up as downloadable content, to buy then read on your home console?

(AJ) I have absolutely no idea, that's all down to EA. It's not a bad idea, though.

(BT) If they want to, then sure. It makes sense if they have extra content that they can add later. Not everyone reads the comics, so it’d be brilliant to expose people who only know of the game to extra material, in whatever shape or form.

Which gaming property would you love to get your hands on to create or expand on in comic format?

(AJ) A few years back I would have said Silent Hill, but that's been done to death now. I'd love to do a kids' adventure with the cast of SSX - fighting crime while pulling awesome board tricks!

(BT) STARCRAFT. And nope, the caps lock wasn’t a mistake there.

How much of a gamer are you, in your spare time or is it a foreign concept to you?

(AJ) Not as much as I'd like, because of the elusive and ever-decreasing concept of "spare time". But I do love a good game. Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, Alone in the Dark … you can see a pattern forming, can't you? What throws it off is my addiction to SSX. Go figure.

(BT) I used to be addicted to games … so I try to keep it small for now. Mostly I’m into strategy games, but there’s nothing like a good machinegun blast to the face of a Nazi. I have a soft spot for WW2 shooters. Don’t get much spare time right now though, practically doing two projects at once. Been doing that for a couple years now.

Which games stand out in your life, be it ones you loved to play or games that impacted you career wise?

(AJ) Loom, the old LucasArts adventure, remains one of my favorite games ever. Such a brilliant story and innovative spell casting mechanics. I'm a big fan of the MYST games, too, and I remember loving Seventh Guest when it came out, though I'm sure that's dated even more than Loom by now … Many a Sunday afternoon vanished playing Speedball 2 and Worms, when I was younger, and like everyone else I used to be quite into the big shooters like Quake and Unreal Tournament. Hmmm, I'm showing my age, aren't I?
I don't think any of them have "impacted" my career, but all writers are sponges for influence, so I'm sure bits and pieces of all those games have subconsciously made it in to my work somewhere or other.

(BT) If you really want to know … I’d say Leisure Suit Larry, Beneath a Steel Sky, Civilizations, Rome: Total War and Half-Life 2 have really stuck with me in strange ways to shape the way I look and do things…

No restrictions, which comic character would you love to see in a video game and why this particular character?

(AJ) I'd love to see a game of the 2000AD title Strontium Dog (mutant bounty hunters in a dystopian future). It seems so obvious; I'm baffled why Rebellion haven't produced it yet.

(BT) Honestly, would love to see “Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse” in an adventure type game. Of course I’m bias there, but I positively loved Grim Fandango … so something in that vein. Most of the main comicbooky characters are always in the games, mostly where they just hit things. So that’d be nothing new.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dark Side of the Horse IV

It’s been a long time coming but Dark Side of the Horse is back. I originally had this feature slated for Comics Alliance but the powers that be have deemed that side bunk. Anyway, that won’t stop you from getting impressions and a fans point of view on the most recent Star Wars comics from Dark Horse. So without further chit chat here’s a look at Dark Side of the Horse IV …

Star Wars: Rebellion #11Star Wars: Rebellion #11 - Small Victories part 1 (of 4)
Deena Shan finds herself aboard Rebel One, a damaged Rebel flagship fleeing from the Empire with Luke, Leia and spymaster Tungo Li aboard. Betrayed by Imperial Spy Jorin Sol the ship finds itself in hyperspace with unknown coordinates entered after he betrayed the Rebels by turning over their secret hyperspace routes. When they do drop out of hyperspace it’s in the vicinity of the Bannistar Station, a major imperial hub for refueling and a foothold into the outer rim plants, a destination that’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s decided the destruction of the base is more important than the lives on Rebel One, so plans are set in motion, lives sacrificed so that a select few can sabotage the base. Amid all the planning Deena finds herself questioning her place in the alliance as well as her general fate, confiding in Luke and reflecting … all before being faced with a life-or-death mission.

It’s an interesting story arc set in the middle of the best trilogy. The art is passable, excellent in some panels, so-so in others, but it’s the story that drives this book. Seeing the Rebel heroes through the eyes of ordinary Rebels is always a joy and shows just how special Luke and crew are, but it also puts a very real human reality behind all the ‘extras’ from the movies. Not every battle was a victory, not every hero survives, not every character is noble, and it’s these story points mixed with Deena’s choices that make Rebellion a joy to read.

Star Wars: Dark Times #8Star Wars: Dark Times #8 - Parallels part 3
Bomo Greenbark’s gang is caught between a rock and a hard place as they betray one contraband buyer to get themselves in a tortuous situation while their ‘package’ causes trouble for Jedi Master K’Kruhk and his stranded Padawans. Captain Heren and his crew, having crash landed on the same moon where the Jedi resides, have noticed their camp as a potential resource for material to repair their ship. Bomo meanwhile is being tortured so that Lord haka can find his missing package.

My explanation for Dark Times is short as I’ve always found this particular series a mixed bag and issue 8 is no exception. The story involves marginal characters form the new trilogy and while Bomo has had his moments overall this story just feels a bit bland. The dual art styles, one from Dave Ross the other Lui Antonio are so vastly different you do feel like you’re reading two books stitched together. I’m not the biggest Dark Times fan, especially when you can pick up this next story …

Star Wars: Legacy #18Star Wars: Legacy #18 - Claws of the Dragon part 5
Cade Skywalker continues to reside in the service of Darth Krayt while the Sith attempt to turn the descendent of Vader to the same path as his ancestor. Darth Krayt reveals his entire origin and the cause for his appearance at the hands of the Vong. Just when Cade decides he’s done with his charade a few Sith step in to stop him while Krayt urges him to strike them down, giving into the darkness in his heart. Even the death of Jedi Hosk Tre’Lyis cannot turn Cade as he has a vision of his father and takes up his lightsaber to face Krayt. Cade turns to face the possibility of death at Sith Lords hands.

Now this is a Star Wars story worth of the Skywalker heritage. Cade faces some inner demons while being taught a lesson by not one, but two fallen Jedi. The art is excellent with great mood and relays a true feeling of conflict in Cade as well as his mother looking to rescue him. The ties to the past help the story along as each era is touched on and reader truly feel they are continuing the Star Wars story. An excellent storyline and a very likeable character in Cade, this is a must have for Star Wars fans.

Star Wars: Legacy #19Star Wars: Legacy #19 - Claws of the Dragon part 6 (of 6)
The faceoff continues as Cade and Krayt clash with the experienced Sith easily having the upper hand. Corde makes her move to rescue her son. The action eats up, and it’s all about the action as Cade escapes from Krayt and the Mynock makes a daring rescue and escape from Imperial fighters.

Short and sweet is the flavor of this book as its mano-y-mano between Cade and Krayt and a quick and daring rescue which ends this story arc. The art is excellent as noted above and the story satisfying. What will the next volume bring, not sure yet, but with Darth Krayt in pursuit you know Cade is going to live an interesting life.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #24Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #24 - Knights of Suffering part 3
Zayne just does not attract good luck. Cornered in the Jedi Temple in Taris surrounded by Mandalorians it’s time to go toe-to-toe with Jedi Raana. Shel is now starting to believe Zayne did not slay her brother, and just in time as he needs all the help he can get against Raana. The battle rages, Mandalorians battle, Zayne escapes, but not before Raana dies, but not in the manner, or at the hands of the one you expect. Where to next for Zayne, we shall see.

Zayne is another interesting character as the Old Republic era is ripe for character creation and he’s one with potential. The art in this particular volume of KOTOR is hit and miss. It nails some panels but feels plain in other, out of proportion at times. The story, the story of Zayne is enjoyable as a whole so I’d recommend picking up some of the collected KOTOR books before diving in, especially with what’s next.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #25Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #25 - Vector part 1
Zayne and Gryph are running for their lives, still on Taris and they witness the Mandalorians discovery of a legendary Sith pendant, one that’s seen in a vision by the Jedi Covenant responsible for framing Zayne. Familiar faces (Vader, cough!) are seen in the vision as are the ancient Sith such as Naga Sadow. Acting upon this vision, which by the way included Zayne, Lucien activates various spies in his extensive network to step up the search for not only our missing Padawan but also the Sith pendant. What is the power behind this Sith artifact, how does it tie Zayne to the Skywalker clan of the future and Sith Empire of the past and what does it mean now that it’s in the hands of the Mandalorians?

Dark Horse has dubbed this the perfect introduction to the entire Star Wars line, a yearlong event that will touch every here in the Star Wars galaxy. That alone should be enough to get you geeked for this and future books, and it’s also why I left the best for last. The art style reminds me in ways of the Clone Wars, just not as childish. The story, oh hell yeah. Whenever you tie the past to the Skywalkers you’ve got a winner, especially when you know you’re moving outside the side-story angle and into a tale to touch on the heart of what is Star Wars. Stop reading, well finish reading this blog and get to the store to start reading up on Vector, it’s going to be hot!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Street Fighter IV Chun-Li Trailer

Check out pure beauty in action as Chun-Li shows off her moves in Street Fighter IV.

Iron Man Gameplay Trailer

The first gameplay for Iron Man is here, take a look.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hunter x Hunter vol. 18 and 19 Impression

Hunter x Hunter, how you’ve grown on me. Gon’s journey is as enjoyable as Goku in Dragon Ball with all the action of a Dragon Ball Z. From the same creator as Yu Yu Hakusho, Hunter x Hunter grabs at me in a way Yuske never quite did. The character designs are catchy with a simplicity that hides the action and depth of the characters while weaving a story where bad does not always mean evil and the good guys are sometimes the scariest of all. Volume 18 and 19 see the end of the Greed Island adventure and the beginning of an all too real struggle for survival. New baddies appear and this time they are not quite human. Without further delay, onto the manga.

Hunter x Hunter volume 18Hunter x Hunter volume 18 – The battle with Genthru continues and concludes. Killua and Biscuit win easily and Biscuits true form is something to behold, worthy of Barry Bonds indeed. Gon’s tactics against Genthru seem desperate but upon winning the true genius is revealed and amazing wounds healed. In typical Gon fashion even the bad guys get healed. With the final battle over it’s time to get the 99th card, but first Gon, Killua ad Biscuit must place first in a trivia contest, one open to any adventurer. Gon of course wins and as a prize gets to take three cards into the real world. He picks one as do Killua and Biscuit. As he gets his prize Gon meets the creators and keepers of Greed Island, all friends of Ging, and each tells Gon stories. So back to the real world, after not finding his father in the game Gon and Killua use the cards they took from the game to transport to Ging, who was of course in the game at one point, only to find it’s Kite they meet up with, and he’s half-way around the world on assignment, a biological survey. He’s also not surprised to see Gon. So Gon and Killua join this new team of hunters, discover new species on the survey and then are asked to look at an extremely large bug leg, from a Chimera Ant Queen, setting the stage for volume 19.

Volume 18 is what I’ve called a transition volume, where one story ends and the characters take a break before the next adventure. This is also a great starting point for newbies to the series as the next story arc is really ramping up the action, and we’ll see in volume 19 a recap of powers and abilities.

Hunter x Hunter volume 19Hunter x Hunter volume 19 – The research into the massive bug leg takes Gon, Killua, Kite and the biological team to the land of NGL, or Neo-Green Life. This land, where no modern … anything is allowed, is the one place a Chimera Queen could eat massive villages of people with no notice. Yes, the Chimera takes on attributes of whichever creature it eats and grows in size. Due to the lack of modern communication in NGL the Queen has grown her army to amazing sizes absorbing multiple animals and human traits into the army including the joy of the hunt and kill. Every hunter who enters the land is killed, and it’s revealed that NGL is a massive drug producing country where each of the eaten thugs causes the queens army to turn themselves into thugs. It’s in a battle with these creatures that Gon, Kite and Killua fight for keeps and to the death. There is no room for fair play, yet Gon keeps being nice. After facing off against different classes of warriors from Squad Leaders to plain peons, it’s the Royal Guard that cuts down Kite and causes Killua to flee after knocking out Gon. Lot to take in I know, and I’ve not even touched on the birth of the king, the whole reason the queen is building an army. Whew!

There’s a reason this is a great point to get into the series. Like in DBZ where the Cell Saga, the tournament stage, was full of out of this world fights with plenty of back story filled in, it’s this new Chimera saga that’s shaping up in the same manner with non-human opponents. The Royal Guard is one of the scariest opponents I’ve seen in a while, and not just for the power, but the crazy attitude. How will Gon ever get to that level? If this is the Royal Guard what’s the king going to be like, or for that matter how the newly arrived, experienced hunter will, fare with the Royal Guard? It’s a great time to be a manga fan; it’s a great time to be a Hunter x Hunter fan because volume 19 just cranked up the level a few notches.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Black Blood Brothers vol. 1 Impression

Meet Jiro and Kotaro Mochizuki, two vampires just looking to make their way into the Special Zone where vampires are free to live their lives. While travelling as ‘passengers’ on a ship, Jiro and his brother come under attack by a task for from the Order Coffin Company, but they are not the target. Turns out there are other stowaways on the ship, one of which is rumored to be a Kowloon, a breed of vampire that infect anyone with a bit and control them. See the Kowloon were responsible for a massive conflict years ago, and they are the reason the Special Zone is setup, as it’s the one true place for vampire to live freely, while being monitored. This is just the beginning of Black Blood Brothers volume 1 from FUNimation. There is more to the special zone than meets the eye as certain blood lines are kept out and negotiators, or I should say Compromisers like Mimiko Katsuragi are caught between two works working to keep the peace. Did I mention that Jiro is also known as the Silver Sword and shows off some very impressive skills as the series begins and a blonde named Alice is introduced? No, well you need to get the series for more info.

Usually I do more of a recap when talking about a new DVD, but with Black Blood Brothers I don’t have this need. This vampire anime falls in line with Trinity Blood. It has the makings of an epic story with political and personal intrigue, humans and vampire living together with both sides having opposing instances, serious heroes and humor mixed in. The main difference is where Trinity Blood had gothic beauty, Black Blood Brothers offers up a more Hellsing feeling of modern day design. So the story of vampire living with human is nothing new, but it’s being done right in Black Blood Brothers with subtle hints at past story points that urge the viewer to keep watching as this is one layered cake that is going to taste delicious. The animation is good, but I won’t lie, it does not break new ground. It may not disappoint, but it also wont’ leave you drooling. The voice acting is also standard fare, solid as always from FUNimation, but not wow good. So here I drop a comparison to Trinity Blood, then say the animation and voice work is standard, well that’s just how good this story is shaping up to be. Trust me on this one. Vampire anime can be excellent if done right with the proper action and story. This is Black Blood Brothers volume 1 in a nutshell, a vampire anime with excellent story, great action and an overall package that will please any vampire fan out there.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Grand Theft Auto IV March Updates

Tons of updates for Grand Theft Auto IV were posted in the past week and I'm here to share them with you. Tons of GTA IV video and Flash content to enjoy including features for Packie McReary,LCPD Recruitment,, History of Liberty, Vladivostok FM, IF99, BitterSweet and an Audio Widget also.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Street Fighter IV Trailer 1

Take a look at the fast and furious new action that will forever change the way Street Fighter is viewed. Street Fighter IV is coming faster than a Hakuden.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Anime on the Wii

Wii Got Anime!

By now you’ve heard of the Nintendo Wii and how addictive it is, hell you’ve most likely played it already. Much of its appeal is the casual gaming base, the easy to pick up and play games, puzzlers that hook the casual but leave the hardcore wanting. For every outstanding title such as Zelda, Mario and Metroid, that the more core gamers get fired up for there are ten or so casual games that are just looking to sucker casual fans … Jenga I’m looking your way. This fact, and it is fact, has been touched on in many a gaming publication, both print and online. The Nintendo Wii is fun, but it’s not hardcore, it’s not the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, it’s a link back to yesteryear when gaming systems were for, and accessible to everyone.

With this in mind I’m taking a look at another group, the anime fan, the Otaku. For a system that really caters to the casual it’s nice to see four direct anime licensed titles when in years past it took years to get many an anime game on a system. This is due in large part to the popularity of and TV viewings of these properties that allow publishers to put out titles with deep story and background with little fear of head scratching from gamers while purchasing these titles. Bleach, Dragon Ball Z, Naruto and One Piece have each had successful, and ongoing, television runs with deep manga and DVD roots. Each title has also made an appearance on the Wii, but are they any good. This always seems to be the question with these games. So without further rambling let’s take a look at the not casual, not hardcore world of anime gaming on the Wii.

Let’s set some criteria first. I’m taking this from the approach of a fan with a deep knowledge and established love of these titles. I want to take a look and see if the games are overall worth the purchase for the series fan, not the casual gamer. From a casual standpoint there is not a huge point in getting a licensed title.

Bleach on WiiBleach: Shattered Blade
With an exclusive story and characters not yet seen in the anime, at the time of release, Shattered Blade immersed fans in the Bleach universe. Graphics look good, but not great. Characters look like their anime selves, but there are jagged edges and a lacking polish that leaves you feeling very GameCube-ish. This can be ignored, especially with voice acting straight from the anime and over 32 characters to take control of. Speaking of control the Wii motion action is fun and engaging, but never too complicated or deep for that matter. The control is very forgiving, but this game just comes away feeling like the next generation of button masher … or should I say swinging masher. Bottom Line is fans will dig this game. Its fun, look decent, sounds great and control better than most Wii fighters.

Dragon Ball Z on WiiDragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3
You’re either into DBZ or not at this point. It’s been around for quite a while with a history of good and great fighting games that attracted fans outside of the series. Tenkaichi 3 takes the legacy, throws in 150 characters with alternate storylines and maxes out the fun. This game looks great as it’s forefathers did and playing online is a blast. This is a great way for Tenkaichi to go out … but the controls; yeah they work on the Wii, but just seem out of place. Bottom Line this is the best anime game on the Wii. It looks great and offer s tons of gameplay modes.

One Piece on WiiOne Piece: Unlimited Adventure
FUNimation recently gained this anime license and Unlimited Adventure benefits as the new voice actors are in this title and they help to prop up a very poor offering. I really, really wanted to like this game, but it just hurts. The story is fun, feels like it’s ripped from the manga, but the graphics are poor and really there is no excuse. The character costumes, with no explanation of why they change their clothes, also annoys. While there are 40 characters to unlock and play with you’ll lose interest before getting them all. Bottom Line is even fans will have a tough time with this title. The Grand Battle, super deformed look of older titles is a better pick-up than this quick cashing on a poor title.

Naruto on WiiNaruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution
I love Naruto and the first two Clash of Ninja titles on GameCube were fun, especially as multiplayer. While the PS2 titles are more polished the Clash of Ninja titles held their own. Clash of Ninja Revolution continues the GameCube legacy with expanded rosters, features and story, but it’s a GameCube game in a Wii skin. The instruction book even has old GameCube controller options if needed. Give me a break. When I buy a Wii game I don’t want extra motion mini-games thrown in, I want a true Wii game. I will say I understand that there are more GameCube games in Japan, and the stories for these types of games are behind in the US, but just release this on the GameCube. Fans will still buy it, and play it on Wii, but you insult your fans by calling this a Wii game. Bottom Line is I’m still a little peeved about this being called a Wii game. If you like Naruto, and only own a Wii, get Clash of Ninja Revolution. If you have any other system, even DS, then get one of the other Naruto titles.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Art and Details

Some details on what will be game of the year, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Box art below is not final ...


EL SEGUNDO, CA - February 28, 2008 - Following opening remarks made during the General Session at the 2008 Destination PlayStation retailer event in Scottsdale AZ, Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. confirmed several new initiatives related to Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, including a North American street date, online multiplayer, and pre-sell program.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is the final chapter in the saga of Solid Snake which sends him around the world in pursuit of his arch nemesis, Liquid Ocelot. Armed with new gadgets and abilities, Solid Snake must shift the tides of war into his favor, using the chaos of the battlefield to infiltrate deep into enemy territory. In his globetrotting final mission, Snake must sneak deep into enemy locations in the Middle East, South America, and other corners of the Earth to foil Liquid Ocelot's plans for total world domination.

Street Date
Opening remarks revealed that the final chapter in the saga of super spy Solid Snake is expected to arrive in stores in North America on Thursday June 12th, 2008. "Blockbuster events and premieres are a tradition of the summer," said Kazumi Kitaue, Konami Digital Entertainment Inc. Chairman and CEO. "We anticipate that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots fits that bill perfectly, and consumers will be waiting in line to get their copy of the game just like it's a hit Hollywood movie."

Metal Gear Online Starter Pack
It was also confirmed today that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots will launch with the Metal Gear Online "Starter Pack" supporting online gameplay. In addition to the single player experience, gamers will also be able to take the action online with up to 16 players and battle it out using the latest weapons and stealth techniques.

Pre-Sell Program
Beginning April 2008, consumers that pre-order Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots will receive the Metal Gear Saga 2.0 DVD, containing a Prologue that recaps the Metal Gear franchise, a 20th Anniversary retrospective, character bios for Big Boss, Liquid Snake, Solidus Snake, and Solid Snake, plus a collection of international trailers of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. This pre-order package also contains an insert with a download code and special instructions for accessing the Metal Gear Online beta test when it goes live in late April. This special pre-order package will only be available while supplies last.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Wild ARMs XF Trailer

Wild ARMs is one of those long running RPG series that just seems to skirt underneath the radar. The PSP is getting it's first entry in this franchise with Wild ARMs XF and I'm sharing with you the trailer here. I'm looking forward to spending some time on the go with Wild ARMs ... are you ...

O-Parts Hunter vol. 8 Impression

O-Parts Hunter volume 8
The action in O-Parts Hunter vol. 8 from Viz picks up fast and furious without any letdown for fans of the series. The battle between Jio and Cross continues and comes to an epic climax with ultimate (almost actually) powers being unleashed before a peaceful end to the battle is settled on. It’s not until Cross leaves, revealing his status that he begins to contemplate that Jio is indeed Satan. Thanks to Ruby’s intervention these two O.P.T’s don’t take the fight far enough for the ol’ 666 to get out. The Angel Haniel makes an appearance with the Kabbalah and is barley contained showing grand designs by the government. Cross makes a side trip to see the mysterious hacker Invisible, also known as the sexy, catty Ponzu (fan service, say hello). Ponzu supplies Cross with quite a bit of info on Satan and hints at info about the Kabbalah, but no dice for Cross on that front. Meanwhile Jio and the gang enter a contest, the Olympia contest in the City of Rock Bird. This is a city up in the clouds that use this contest to recruit new members and with an invaluable legendary O-Part as the prize it’s too good to pass up. Both Jio and Ball enter the prelims held on one of five airships where the last two remaining Ops will compete in the final tournament. The battle goes as expected, but when the dome raises Jio is down, and just who is this mysterious woman standing with Ball?

The story Seishi Kishimoto weaves reminds me of many an action manga from Dragon Ball Z to Naruto, but it’s the unique characters and settings that makes O-Parts Hunter so special. Using Satan as a good guy, mixing in Angels any mysterious O-Parts does not hurt either. The story found in volume 8 is along the lines of a transition story where one fight, with Cross, ends while the group gets ready to start a new story with the tournament. We get excellent art and character design that reminds readers of Kishimoto’s brothers anime (you know the one), art that is perfect for the genre. The story is interesting as it’s not all about Jio. The Kabbalah and Angels just adds to the anticipation for the next volume. O-Parts Hunter is an excellent, yes excellent, action anime where the characters will stick with you, the action will excite you and the art will please your eyes. If this recap makes you raise an eyebrow then pick up a volume and you’ll see I’m not joking.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2 Trailer

More Naruto action is coming our way on the PSP. More characters, more settings, more action ... just check out the trailer.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Disgaea 3 for PlayStation 3 is Coming!!!

Disgaea 3 is coming. Oh the joy, the sweet, sweet joy. I love Disgaea as do many a gamer out there. I've played it on PSP and even fired up Disgaea 2 on PS3, but having a true sequel made for PS3 ... that is oh so sweet. Check out these pics and I've also posted the official press release below. Good times.

Disgaea 3 unveiled coming to the PlayStation®3 Computer Entertainment System

Feb 27, 2008 Santa Ana, CA – NIS America announced today that Disgaea®3 is heading for the PlayStation®3 Computer Entertainment System this summer. Much loved by hardcore gamers around the world, Disgaea®3 makes a bold new step towards the next generation console with a whole new cast, story, and game system.
About Disgaea®3
- Disgaea®3 is a sequel to Disgaea®, a hardcore, turn‐based, strategy RPG popular on the PlayStation®2 and PlayStation® Portable. In Disgaea®, character units have a limit to their movement and attack ranges, based on level and weapons equipped. There are other special game factors that let you take advantage of the 3D battle map, many of which are unique to Disgaea®. One of the many new feature to Disgaea®3 is the addition of a Geo Block, which creates a 3 dimensional battle instead of the traditional 2D. Much of Disgaea®3 is yet to be unveiled, but rest assured, plenty is due to arrive in the coming months.

Key Features - Geo Block ‐ A cube‐shaped terrain‐altering object. Players can use it to access and attack enemies where normally they cannot reach. Geo Panel ‐ A group of stat‐altering elemental properties that are placed upon certain parts of the battlefield. When there are one or more colored panels on the battle grid, it means an element can affect that area. The effect can boost or reduce your unit’s stats. Item World ‐ A special randomly‐generated battle stage within each and every item you find. By defeating these special battle stages, you are able to strengthen your items.

Archlord vol. 4 Impression

Archlord manga volume 4
Now we’re rolling with Archlord volume 4 from Tokyopop. The story picks up with Zian still battling the Lizards Captain, and not doing so well. He does manage to come out on top, thanks to Ugdrasil, but it’s as he flees, minus an eye-ball courtesy of ZIan, the captain grabs a little girl as hostage forcing the gypsy Estra, Arin and Ugdrasil to pursue him to their lair. Meanwhile Zian is lef to the care of (name???) who reveals and revels in the differences in male/female anatomy, funny stuff. So, healthy again Zian sets out to help his buddies who have made their way to the Lizard lair only to find every one of the beast slain by their so-called benefactor the Baron. The Lizards have been enslaving the gypsy folks to build an altar at the order of the Baron and as it’s now complete his two henchmen slaugher everyone, human and lizard alike. Estra is crushed to find her friends dead, but does not have time to grieve as they are attacked. A battle ensues, Ugdrasil does some damage, Arin learns of true inner power and the two baddies bite it just in time for the Baron to turn into one hell of a baddie himself. Enter Zian who of course goads on the pre-transformed Baron and then takes on the monster he becomes. He slaughers him showing a true beserker power that worries Ugdrasil. We’ve also got a big ol’ dragon waking up the beginning of the kings expedition, a new Orc chic named Gaiana as well as troubles for Ernan in the form of the Prince.

Volume 4 is heavy on action but does not sacrifice the humor. There are hilarious moments, bloody noses and misplaced awe mixed in with sword and magic battles any fantasy fan will love. The story is really getting good and the characters are showing more depth than expectetd. We know Zian is a good, a clod, but now we are seeing a darker side. Also, what about his heritage, that’s kinda fallen to the wayside now. There is a grand political story brewing also with Orcs becoming more involved. To the point, the story is ramping up big time on a personal, party level as well as a country wide, political level. All the story-telling is assisted along by the excellent art of Jin-Hwan Park. Park mixes humor with seriousness that is seamless. One moment Zian is picking his nose the next he’s a shaded beast hacking and slashing. The monster designs are also pleasant, in the mold of what fantasy fans expect. Volume 1 of Archlord got me excited and I’m not even an Archlord gamer. Volume 2 took a while to hit shelves and seemed over way to fast. With volume 3 we begin to see what this manga is capable of and with 4 it’s really coming to light what Archlord is all about. It’s a small party of adventures, each with their own traits mixing into a play for power that will consume nations. Good times indeed are ahead of Archlord fans.