Anime Lounge: Avatar: The Last Airbender Book 1

Series: Avatar: The Last Airbender

Episodes: 1 to 20

Premise: The Avatar, a being who can channel the four elements – air, water, earth and fire – is missing, and the Fire Nation is dominating the world in their absence. Teenagers Katara and Sokka stumble upon the mythological teenage boy Aang, who had been thought lost 100 years earlier, and free him. He joins with the brother-and-sister duo to master the four elements and save their world from the Fire Nation’s tyrannical leader, Fire Lord Ozai. Along the way, they must dodge the Fire Nation’s crown prince Zuko, who struggles to regain his honor under pressure from his father.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. Avatar is stunning in its world building and investment in character depth. You’ll get hooked quickly on the mythology of the Avatar and how Aang will save the world.

Breakout character: Zuko. Though he struggles in a fruitless quest dealing with honor that he didn’t lose, you come to realize that the fire-bending master is not the true villain here.

Where it’s going?: Aang will learn to master all four elements and will struggle to save the world while dealing with the grief of losing his people. It’s a fascinating journey to see just how much all the characters will grow in bending and otherwise.

Strip Talk #33: Marvel vs. Capcom 2 still irritating after 22 years

Y’all, I swear that I love Marvel. If I could spend the rest of my life researching Marvel, I would do it. If they offered a doctoral program, I would be the first to sign up and spend hard-earned money on the mere suggestion of obtaining a degree in Marvel science and lore.

With that said, my love for Capcom is not so great. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of different Capcom fighting game series. But there is a certain element to how Capcom does things that doesn’t sit right with me on several different levels. And Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is a shining example of the disdain I feel for the home of Mega Man and Ryu.

The premise of the series is cool: Take a large roster of who’s who from Marvel and Capcom and mash them together in teams of 3-on-3 fighting. With at least 90 percent of the roster appearing in a previous Versus title, you’ve got name recognition from the previous games. You’d think this would make an excellent experience considering if you’re playing this, more than likely you’re already familiar with some of the characters. No, you’d be wrong, because somehow out of 56, maybe 10 are viable, decent characters. Considering long-established tiers, the S tier includes five surefire, tournament-winning characters and then characters used for the assists. Five though?

And imagine what the learning process was like when the game was first released. Chaos, pure and simple. I was around for that, and it was beyond frustrating. The general atmosphere of the fighting game community was trash, but then add the fact that some folks hated on others simply for their choice of characters and you have a toxic mix of arrogance and stupidity behind a fighting game based on superheroes, mutants and dudes who throw their burning fist energy at each other internationally.

Beyond the garbage tier list establishment and the toxic community surrounding Marvel as it were, let’s get into the game itself. The mechanics were kind of trash and could have stood to receive a patch or 10. Guard breaks, while useful, happened way too much in the meta of the play scene. Yes, it’s about matchups and knowing how to counter at the right time and execute. But one character dominating teams shouldn’t have been normal. For awhile there, before the top echelon of fighting game competitors like Justin Wong and Sanford Kelly proved you didn’t need Cable to be viable, you could get a random assortment of characters played in competition and maybe a Cable thrown in every so often. But, once everyone learned about five bars of meter with Cable on point meant punishing assists with Tiger Knee Air Hyper Viper Beam, well, you were in for teams featuring Cable 1,000 percent of the time. Casual play went out of the window quickly, which quite frankly, got old fast.

As much as I enjoyed the series in the early days and Marvel in general, I never could quite move past Marvel vs. Capcom 2. After some years of reflection, I realized it just wasn’t the game for me. I was among what I believe is the minority that wasn’t sad to see Capcom lose the Marvel license for 10 years, and I wasn’t particularly invested or interested in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, either. Come to think of it, it really was Marvel vs. Capcom 2 that doused the flame of my love for fighting games for a good 15 years. It’s 2022 and I’m just getting back into enjoying Street Fighter and other fighting game series after a long hiatus. I blame MvC2 for that. Despite loving Marvel, this is a direct product that I have learned to do without.

Lyndsey Beatty is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyb[at]gaminginsurrection.com

Strip Talk #32: The cancellation of Joss Whedon

Finally, we get to the cancellation of Joss Whedon

There are some die-hard Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans out there — I know a few — and they cling hard to the show for whatever reason. I am not among them. While I loved the movie it’s based on, I always felt the show tried too hard to be hip, so I never bought into the mythos. And, because of that lack of faith, I never quite bought into the reverence for Joss Whedon.

As the Buffy ethos grew, so did Whedon’s reputation for crafting brilliant shows and characters that people connected with. While I’m aware that Whedon also wrote the movie, I was always meh about the later Buffy craze, Firefly and Serenity never caught my attention and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog seemed dumb.

With these strikeouts, I thought, “Well, maybe I’m just not giving him a chance to shine. It must be me.” And there was a period of greatness. The Avengers is one of my favorite movies ever, and it’s not just because I love Marvel. Whedon did a fantastic job with the writing and directing. Things looked promising and maybe, I thought, I made a mistake. No, I didn’t, as I soon learned.

First, there was Age of Ultron. And then the original Justice League cut. And then the allegations of mistreatment. Now, what we couldn’t put our finger on before about why we didn’t care for Whedon reared its ugly head. He always came across as smug and smarmy. Like, he knew he was untouchable, and no one could say anything to him because he created Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s a “don’t you know who I am” type of attitude that’s been there since the beginning, and it’s off-putting. Except for the Avengers, I have never been able to get down with anything he’s ever produced, and I have no regrets about it. For Whedon to be smug, he’d have to show me something that wasn’t corny as hell, overwrought with cliches and not the most boring story in existence.

Given Whedon’s penchant for bullying and harassing, dumb behavior, it’ll be a long moment before we hear from him again. It will not be a moment too soon. Maybe in his downtime, he can find a sliver of a soul and learn how to not be a trash human being. And maybe find some real talent to match that bravado while he’s cooking in his well-deserved time out.

Lyndsey Beatty is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyb[at]gaminginsurrection.com

Top 5 on The Strip: DC stuff we’re anticipating edition

Flash’s new movie with return of Michael Keaton

You all know how much we here at GI love Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne and Batman. And we’re practically jumping up and down for joy that it’s been confirmed we will see him again in this upcoming Flash solo film. Yes, we do love Ezra Miller as the Flash, but it’s been 30 years since we’ve seen Keaton don the cowl. That’s worth any price of admission.

Future seasons of Titans

This past season of Titans was fantastic. Vincent Kartheiser, of Mad Men brilliance, as the Scarecrow was on point with the long game the entire season, and we finally got Jason Todd as the Red Hood. We all knew it was coming, but how and why was expertly done. We’re expecting great things in the upcoming seasons now that the focus is shifting back to Dick Grayson being the leader of the Titans in San Francisco.

Black Adam coming with the Rock

Black Adam’s long development has been simmering for a while, and now it’s boiling if you smell what the Rock has been cooking. We’re more than ready for Dwayne Johnson take on the character — who, in the intervening years, has been drawn in his likeness. The movie looks to be great, and we support Johnson in anything and everything he does. We’re looking forward to Shazam going one on one with the Great One finally.

Blue Beetle film with Xolo Maridueña

We have so grown to love Xolo Maridueña, best known for his role as Miguel in the brilliant Cobra Kai. His earnest and awesome portrayal of the cute karate powerhouse means we will follow his projects, and Blue Beetle is one that’s taking shape for DC. The character is cool, and we expect that Maridueña will bring the heat when he finally gets started.

Henry Cavill returning as Superman

Given that he’s been the best choice for the Man of Steel for nearly a decade, we welcome the return of Cavill if he’ll have us. His Superman is believable and decent, and we loved his version in Justice League. We also happen to be big fans of Cavill in general — he was fantastic in The Tudors — so if he’s willing to don the cape and House of El symbol once again, we’ll take it.

Marvel character highlight #29: Blackheart

Name: Blackheart

Alias: Black King, Legion, Lord Blackheart, Mayor Winston Agnew, Prince of Hell, Son of Mephisto

Affiliation: Hell Lords, Hellfire Club, Spirits of Vengeance, Corrupt, Legions of the Night

Special abilities: Superhuman strength, durability and speed. He also has some telepathy, can levitate, is capable of interdimensional teleportation, size alteration, physical alteration, regeneration, energy generation, soul capture and mind control. He is also omniscient, immortal and immune to Ghost Rider’s Penance Stare.

Background: Son of the demon-lord Mephisto, Blackheart was created from the mystical energies found in Christ’s Crown, N.Y. The location was known for many murders over several centuries and provided the necessary evil to create a being such as Blackheart. The demon began learning under his father and clashed several times with Daredevil, Spider-Man and members of the Inhumans. After failing to corrupt any of these beings, Blackheart was taken captive by his father in Hell, and he wanted freedom. To escape, Blackheart entangled himself with Misha of the Warheads. He was successful in his attempt and got out disguised as Doctor Strange. Once free, he lured Wolverine, The Punisher and Ghost Rider to Christ’s Crown to corrupt them but failed. They then took on Blackheart in Hell, and he successfully used them to defeat Mephisto and take over his father’s portion of Hell.

Relationships: Mephisto (father); Mephista (sister); Greylight (brother); Daimon Hellstrom, Satana Hellstrom, Mikal Drakonmegas (siblings)

First Versus appearance: Marvel Super Heroes

Appearances in other media:

Film: Ghost Rider (2007)

Video games: Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Ghost Rider, Marvel: Avengers Alliance

Anime Lounge #21: Cowboy Bebop Episodes 1 – 12

Series: Cowboy Bebop

Episodes: 1 to 12

Premise: Space bounty hunter Spike Spiegel is always in search of his next target, and he finds unlikely helpers in retired cop Jet Black, the mysterious Faye Valentine and later legendary hacker Ed and the scientific genius pupper Ein. Spike must confront his past — running around in the mafia — in order to move forward with his future. How he does it to start leads to more questions than answers, ending with his first confrontation with former friend Vicious.

Is it worth watching?: YES. This is one of the god-tier anime that every new anime enthusiast should be required to watch. Production values, voice acting, cool characters and an awesome soundtrack … this anime has it all.

Breakout character: Faye Valentine. Yes, it could be all of the characters, but Faye definitely stands out. You want to know her deal, why she can’t remember anything and how she will ever get herself together. And then you find out later in the series, and it’s like, wow. The payoff for Faye is amazing, and you still want more.

Where it’s going?: Spike has to take on Vicious once again, reclaim his honor and handle unresolved business. He’s taking the crew along for the ride, and where they end up is the mystery.

Strip Talk #31: DC finally getting back on track

Listen to me good when I tell you all something: DC has to do something. They’re getting hurt out there in the ring, and they can’t take too many more hits before it’s lights out. They need that ring bell to save them and fortunately for them, it’s coming in a few projects.
How they got here is not a mystery. Incoherent, nonsensical decisions with stars for their movies, the movies themselves being atrocious, and a lack of obvious planning and forethought. It was a lot, and it seemed like every time the company took a step, they stumbled. And their rival, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was churning out hit after hit at the box office, adding insult to injury.
But there were beacons of hope: Television and animated properties.

DC has always had strong television and animation. Their Justice League characters are so well known that almost all have had multiple shows that have done well. Their animated movies and shows are so good that decades later, they’re still producing spinoffs that are just as good if not better than the originals.
So, this is their go-to in the bleak times.
When faced with hard times, Warner Bros. does what it knows how to do best: Milk something to death and ride that cash cow until the wheels fall off. And that’s why we’re getting great television in the form of Titans. That’s why more animated Batman is here to put the DC name on his back and carry everything across the finish line. That’s why we’re getting more Batman spinoff films and a Flash spinoff bringing back the Batman version that worked – Michael Keaton for those of you still playing along at home.
DC trades on what it knows works best for them: Nostalgia. And they are smart to do it. That bell has rung finally for DC, and they can get a breather from that beating the MCU and Kevin Feige has been delivering for the past 10 years. The body shots can maybe slow down, they can regain their footing and they’re finally doing something. Something worthwhile and exciting. It’s about time they come in with gloves ready for the fight game.

Lyndsey Beatty is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyb[at]gaminginsurrection.com

Strip Talk #30: Marvel winning war; let me tell you why

It should be obvious by now that we love comics here at Gaming Insurrection. Very obvious. I have been a comic book fan — no matter the company — for a long time. I was doing reading, writing and arithmetic and perusing comic books well before there was a Marvel Cinematic Universe or a DC Universe. But let me be the first to tell you: I love Marvel a lot more than DC, and a lot of that can be gleaned from current happenings.

Boring film writing: There are household names there: Joker, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash. Why is it that none of the DC ensemble movies or versus movies can get off the ground? They have the more well-known superheroes. Their stable is full of interesting stories. But none of this can translate to film it seems. The most interesting film in the past 15 years involved Superman “dying” and then resurrecting to fight the Justice League. Insert sigh here.

Inconsistency: Batman and Superman have been done to death. There have been too many actors putting on the cape and cowl for both characters, and it’s a distraction. I loved Michael Keaton as the bat; my love has been well documented here, and yet, we have another name popping up for the role in the film world. I counted five for Batman alone — Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney, Bale and Affleck. You know who played Iron Man? Robert Downey Jr. for all solo character films and all ensemble films. You know what that tells me? No consistency is to be had, and it shows in the uneven product.

Retreads: Marvel is guilty of this, too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m plenty tired of Spider-Man and his millions of different origin story retreads every time they change the actor; also, I’m not a Spider-Man fan. But this is getting ridiculous with DC and its “Snyder Cut Policy.” Stop remaking movies every time you feel one that you commissioned and spent a lot of time on somehow magically fails at the box office. If they reboot any Batman or Superman, Suicide Squad, Justice League or Teen Titans property one more time, we riot. And, let me state for the record: Allowing the Snyder Cut sets a dangerous precedence that we need not allow. What will be the next movie released that gets the “director’s cut” treatment that should have been the original version to start with?

DC is floundering but the situation can be turned around. The love for DC characters is abundant, and they do have saving graces in their animated and television properties. DC’s television game has always been excellent and strong in terms of cohesive storytelling and rich experiences. In fact, Marvel has traditionally struggled in that area and is just now entering that arena. But DC needs to step it up in the film marketplace; there is enough for everyone to get a bag and come out like robber barons in the superhero movie game. I really need DC to get it together over on their side and give me something to take my attention away from the MCU. Because as a fan, when everyone does well, I win.

Lyndsey Beatty is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh [at] gaminginsurrection.com