Tuesday, March 21, 2017

#SXSW Gaming Quick Takes



I had the pleasure of checking out SXSW Gaming this past weekend in Austin, TX. Tons of developers were on hand to present their game, and I got the chance to try out a couple.

LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD
The biggest booth as far as floor space was definitely the one dedicated to trying out the Nintendo Switch. There were two sections, one where you could sample three of six games and the other where you could try out the new Zelda game. I was there on my own, so I didn't have much interest in trying out the mostly multiplayer games, so I stood in the line to play Zelda, and it was worth the wait. This was my first chance trying out the Switch, and it was a nice experience. I made sure to play it both docked and handheld, and both worked great. The game itself was pretty wonderful. You got to play from the beginning, so I didn't really get too far into it, but the open, yet guided feeling that the game gives you really works, and there were some really cool awe inspiring moments. I still don't think it's worth jumping into the Switch right now, but it's good to know that Zelda is worth it should I ever take the plunge.

SUNDRED
The first game that I jumped in to try was a little indie game by the name of Sundred. This was a combat focused Metroidvania game that felt like an eldritch version of Guacamelee. The combat was pretty tight, but I felt like I didn't have a clear sense of where I was going and got quickly overwhelmed by a big battle encounter. The style is good enough that I will probably give the game a chance when it gets into beta (I signed up to be on the list), but personally I tend to get lost in these types of games quickly.

WHERE THE WATER TASTES LIKE WINE
Conventions and demos aren't always the best way to show off your game, and I think the setting didn't do this game any favors. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a very literary storytelling game where you wander the world talking to people in order to collect their stories. After that, you stop at campfires to rest and share your stories with those you meet there. It was difficult for me to try to satisfy the strangers requests because I didn't have any context for the stories I had available (she was asking for a funny story, and I had no context of what the stories were like based on a quick glance at their titles). I think the game will play much better when you get to start it from the beginning to fully get the mood of the game. I'll definitely keep my eye on this one.

STRAFE
There's been a revival recently of old school Doom/Quake style shooters, and this is another addition into that movement. Strafe is a pixel graphic FPS that plays fast and loose in corridors and arenas. I got to play this for a little bit, and I thought it was fine. I'm not used to mouse and keyboard, but the game felt tight. The main problem I had with it was that the aesthetic (aside from the pixel graphics) didn't seem very cohesive. Maybe it was just because I was playing a small slice of it, but I couldn't get a sense of what kind of game I was getting into.

RUINER
On the other side of that criticism was Ruiner, a game that very quickly put it's aesthetic front and center. Again, I'm not very good with a mouse and keyboard, but this top down cyberpunk shooter immediately felt good to play, and the look and feel of the world hooked me immediately. It will be interesting to see if the substance lives up to the style, but I will definitely give this one a look when it's released.

SEANCE: THE UNQUIET
Even though I love staying on top of video game tech, I had never tried VR, so I made it a priority to find a demo on the show floor to try out. When I walked by this one that pitched itself as a "Ghost Story in Virtual Reality," I knew that would be right in my wheelhouse. The demo itself was more of a five minute trailer that you sat in the middle of, but it was a cool experience. You basically sat at a table in a big mansion with spooky stuff going on around you, and it was well paced and creepy. There was a jump scare at the end that really had people screaming, much to the amusement of the line, but it was a bit predictable for my tastes.

APE OUT
To me, this was the coolest non-Zelda title I tried out. Ape Out has the gameplay feel of Hotline Miami (fast, brutal gameplay) but pushes the style to an even crazier extreme. You play as an ape escaping from his cage and trying to navigate a maze while dodging/killing the guards. The game has a top down perspective and is mostly monochromatic, but the really cool part of the style is the music. It has a percussive jazz score that is generated based on your actions. The whole thing comes together in a game that would be perfect for bite-sized play sessions and score attack challenges. The jury is out on how the game will continue to stay interesting for a long runtime, but I loved what I got my hands on.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Logan - Review



While The Dark Knight Rises was not overall a great movie, one thing that it did right was provide us with something we almost never see in the world of superheros: an ending. These types of blockbusters are always categorized by never ending conflict and increasing stakes. Logan is so refreshing because it gives us the opposite of that: a very personal struggle about the end of a journey. Just so you know, I won't be able to talk about this film without getting into some spoilers, so you've been warned. 

I've been a fan of X-Men since the animated series, and like most young kids who picked up on it then, my favorite X-Man has always been Wolverine. He's a complicated character that just oozes cool (he has knives coming out of his hands!) and has been used to tell some interesting stories about the scary world of the military industrial complex. When the X-Men movie franchise started 17 years ago, it introduced us to what would become the definitive version of Wolverine. He's really put a lot of passion into the role, both on and off the screen, and it has come to define him. It's hard to see him retire the character, but it's clear that he's poured all of his soul into this film. 

Logan gives me something I never really thought I'd see: characters that I grew up loving placed in a different, more mature situation and world. This film isn't rated R on a technicality, this film earns its R. The action gets bloody, and it shouldn't end any other way. Wolverine's life has always been defined by violence; whether it's being turned into a weapon or defending his family and friends. It's fitting that his final story is his most violent. The action in the film is both well choreographed and feels impactful. 

While the action is awesome, what's cool about it is the smaller scale of it. We have a fairly small group of characters that we follow on a road trip, which allows the movie to keep focus. Many X-Men movie have he problem of introducing mutants for no reason other than getting them on film, but Logan keeps the cast of good guys to Wolverine, Xavier, Caliban and X-23. It really gives you a chance to take Wolverine on an actual interesting character journey while still giving the other characters moments to shine. There's a scene in the middle of the film where they all just sit down and have a quiet dinner, and it's one of the most wonderful sections of the movie. The X-Men movies are so plot driven usually that we don't get to just sit have have moments with these characters, so it's nice to be able to do it. 

All the actors bring their A-game to this movie as well. Jackman does such a good job bringing this new version of Logan to life, one that's down on his luck and only looking out for him and his small family. Patrick Stewart, who has always brought such gravitas to the series, does an amazing job in some really small scenes, trying to bring back the old, compassionate Logan. One of the biggest surprises was Dafne Keen, who does so much without hardly saying a word. Her character is badass, but also has a tragic humanity to her. 

While it's not really about the villains, the antagonists are chosen well to really help put a bow on Wolverine's story. The Reavers, led by Pierce, represent more people who are enhanced to become weapons in order to hunt down X-23. Also, the character of X-24, who is cloned version of Wolverine in his prime, is the exact right villain for him to have to face in his final adventure. It's so symbolic to have him literally face a version of himself that is just a weapon because that's the thing he's been resisting becoming his entire life. The final fight between them is both viscerally brutal and emotional. 

I can't recommend this movie enough, especially if you are a longtime fan of the series. This film not only brings the action, but it's full of genuine heart that doesn't often come with big budget superhero films. A lot has been made about how this proves the success of R-rated superhero films, especially when put next to Deadpool, but I think it proves that if you make a good film, people will seek it out regardless of the rating. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Get Out - Review


I never really watched Key and Peele, it came out at time when I didn't have cable, but I understood its cultural relevance in the comedy world. When Jordan Peele announced that he was going to make his directorial debut with a horror movie about race, I was both surprised and intrigued. The trailers for this film only increased that feeling, getting its hooks in me and moving it towards the top of my most anticipated list. At the time of its release, it had a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, a very rare feat, and this only dragged me further into the hype. While it wasn't an end-all-be-all horror movie, it definitely was a great one, marking a strong debut for what will hopefully be a great new voice in the genre.

The whole movie is painted with a general unease that starts out small and gets slowly tuned up throughout the 103 minute run time, almost all of which is derived from subtle racial tension. We all know how awkward it can be to be put in a situation where we feel like we don't belong, and this movie smartly plays that up in ways that make intelligent comments on racism. Things go from small things that are just uncomfortable to becoming downright sinister.

The closest comparison that you could make as far as tone is something like Rosemary's Baby or Stepford Wives. There isn't a ton of surprise throughout the film (especially if you've seen the trailer). You know something's wrong from the beginning, but the journey is watching the character put it together and finding out how far it really goes. It's not a type of movie that you see too often, but it takes a lot of skill to be able to pull that off with the amount of tension that you see in Get Out.

Another great thing that the movie does is balance everything with a good dose of humor. At certain points, the film seems to be poking fun at its own premise while also taking it seriously. Some of the situations also elicit uncomfortable laughter from the audience. One of the side characters also brings some genuinely laugh out loud, and he does so without feeling out of place in the world the film has created.

It's so great to see a film that's so classic in tone and execution, but so modern in the themes that it decides to tackle. The film comments on so many little moments of subtle racism that exist in real life,  then manages to twist them into a truly horrifying concept. The last stretch of the film is filled with such a great combination of tension and satisfaction. Peel said that he wants to follow this film up by making more socially aware thrillers, and I for one will be in the front of the line to see what he's got coming next.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Eighth Annual Russells - An Award For Cinematic Excellence

"WOAH, NORRIS WAS THE THING?" - BIGGEST SURPRISE
-Manchester by the Sea
-10 Cloverfield Lane
-Blair Witch
-Ouija: Origin of Evil
-Sausage Party

WINNER: MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Two of these movies were literal surprises (the secretly filmed sequels Blair Witch and 10 Cloverfield Lane), but the movie that surprised me most this year was Manchester by the Sea. I'm not usually a person who likes straight drama films, but this was so skillfully made that I happily sat through all two and a half hours of the emotional journey. Amazing acting and subtle screenwriting really make this a drama to check out, but I don't know if I'd watch it again.

"THE JACK BURTON AWARD" - BEST ACTION SCENE
-Battle of Scarif - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
-Airport Showdown - Captain America: Civil War
-Sabotage - Star Trek Beyond
-Strip Club Shootout (or most of the movie) - Hardcore Henry
-Entering the cabin - Blair Witch

WINNER: BATTLE OF SCARIF

I know it's a really big portion of the movie, but the Battle of Scarif is really the action highlight of the year. The movie so swiftly moves from one part of the battle to another, showing both an awesomely choreographed space battle, a visceral ground war and an exciting break in. Even though we kinda know the end (because it's a sequel), you are still on the edge of your seat until the very end.  

"KURT RUSSELL OF THE YEAR" - BEST ACTOR
-John Goodman - 10 Cloverfield Lane
-Patrick Stewart - Green Room
-Casey Affleck - Manchester By the Sea
-Colin Ferrell - The Lobster
-Ralph Ineson - The Witch

WINNER: CASEY AFFLECK

Affleck's performance in Manchester by the Sea takes the subtly of the script and perfectly realizes it. He manages to convey so much emotion with so little. The drama of the film could have been one that works with a big 'showy' performance, but the restraint shown by Affleck pays off in a big way and make the film all the more heartbreaking.

"GOLDIE HAWN OF THE YEAR" - BEST ACTRESS
-Min-hee Kim - The Handmaiden
-Amy Adams - Arrival
-Anya Joy-Taylor - The Witch
-Mary Elizabeth Winstead - 10 Cloverfield Lane
-Michelle Williams - Manchester by the Sea

WINNER: MIN-HEE KIM

The Handmaiden is such a twisty screenplay where you often don't where the characters stand in relation to each other, and Min-hee Kim does a great job of shifting her character throughout the film. She oscillates between innocent and manipulative, always keeping you guessing where her loyalties lie and what is motivating her.

"CALL ME SNAKE" - BEST HERO OF THE YEAR
-Jyn Erso - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
-Kubo - Kubo and the Two Strings
-Henry - Hardcore Henry
-Deadpool - Deadpool
-Michelle - 10 Cloverfield Lane

WINNER: JYN ERSO

Rogue One was full of interesting characters that explored different aspects of the Star Wars universe that were not highlighted by the main series that focused on the Skywalker family, and the most interesting one was Jyn Erso. Her motivations throughout were unique, drawing her into the fight not for the pure goal of defeating the Empire, and her journey was a fun one to experience.

"IS IT MY SCAR?" - BEST VILLAIN OF THE YEAR
-Darcy - Green Room
-Howard - 10 Cloverfield Lane
-William - The Witch
-The Douche - Sausage Party
-The Sisters - Kubo and the Two Strings

WINNER: HOWARD

The best villains are the ones that believe they are heroes, and that's exactly the case with Howard from 10 Cloverfield Lane. Much of the film's mystery is about whether or not he is lying about why he's holding the other characters hostage, and his slowly unraveling performance keeps you guessing as the tension rises all the way until the end.

BEST SCREENPLAY
-The Handmaiden
-Arrival
-The Invitation
-Manchester By the Sea
-The Lobster

WINNER: THE HANDMAIDEN

As I said before, The Handmaiden is the film that lives and dies on its constantly shifting sense of who to trust. The film smartly releases information, flipping the story on its head several times before reaching a satisfying conclusion. The film also balances the thrills and tension with some very real sensuality, and that all starts with this excellent script.

BEST HORROR
-The Invitation
-Hush
-Blair Witch
-The Wailing
-Ouija: Origin of Evil

WINNER: THE INVITATION

I'm using this award to highlight horror films that didn't make my Top 15, but The Invitation came really close to cracking that list. The film takes an awkward situation that many of us have experienced and layered it with tons of tension. This quiet film always manages to make you feel slightly off and suspicious of everything that seems out of place.

BEST COMEDY
-Deadpool
-Sausage Party
-Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
-Keanu
-Ghostbusters

WINNER: KEANU

You have to love a good fish-out-of-water story, and it was a blast to see Key and Peele attempt to fake their way through a world of crime. These two clearly have great chemistry, and that energy really brings the laughs while still telling an entertaining story.

"THE JOHN CARPENTER" - BEST DIRECTOR
-Nicholas Winding Refn - The Neon Demon
-Park Chan-Wook - The Handmaiden
-Robert Eggers - The Witch
-Denis Villeneuve - Arrival
-Kenneth Lonergan - Manchester By the Sea

WINNER: NICHOLAS WINDING REFN

I still don't know how I feel about this film, but the direction from Refn is absolutely astounding. Much of the film veers into the abstract, where surreal visuals and a pulsing soundtrack paint the mood rather than the actions of the characters. You cannot watch this film without getting the feeling that it is a singular vision of a director that is in complete control of every frame of the movie.

BEST MOVIE I HAVEN'T SEEN, BUT I KNOW I'LL LIKE
-Hell or High Water
-Don't Breathe
-Hunt for the Wilderpeople
-Tickled
-A Monster Calls

WINNER: HELL OR HIGH WATER

I love a good bank robber film, and this one certain sounds like one that will be right up my alley. I've heard comparisons to No Country for Old Men in its approach to tone and character, and its focus on this social issue of 'banks screwed us, now we're going to screw the banks' is a very intriguing one to me.

MOST ANTICIPATED MOVE OF 2017
-Logan
-Star Wars: The Last Jedi
-Get Out
-Mute
-Baby Driver

WINNER: BABY DRIVER

I guess I don't really have much to write about this one, because I barely know anything about it, but Edgar Wright is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, filmmaker working right now. I was so sad that he didn't end up doing Ant Man, so hopefully this one will make up for the hole that left.

"THE GOLDEN PLISKEN" - BEST PICTURE
-The Witch
-The Handmaiden
-Arrival
-The Lobster
-Green Room

WINNER: ARRIVAL

For so much of the year The Witch was my favorite film of the year, and I was sure it wouldn't be topped. Then came Arrival. I don't know if its message of the importance of communication and collaboration in the face of scary and uncertain times just resonated with me perfectly, but this movie hit me hard. It's intelligent science fiction that tugs at the heartstrings and creates a compelling story without really having an explicit adversary. If you're burned out on big budget blockbusters where everything is solved with city destroying fights, this is the perfect antidote.

TOP 15:
15. I Am Not Your Negro
14. Zootopia
13. Doctor Strange
12. The Conjuring 2
11. 10 Cloverfield Lane
10. Train to Busan
9. Kubo and the Two Strings
8. Manchester by the Sea
7. Captain America: Civil War
6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
5. Green Room
4. The Lobster
3. The Handmaiden
2. The Witch
1. Arrival

For a list of all the films I watched this year, check out my list one Letterboxd.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard - Review

Back in the Playstation era, I made my choice of Silent Hill over Resident Evil as my primary horror series, but I've always appreciated Resident Evil. RE2 was one of the first games that I played on Playstation, and I remember how Code Veronica made me feel like my Dreamcast was finally getting something huge. After hearing how bad RE5 and 6 were, I had written off the series like most people had, but the reveal of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard at E3 completely caught me off guard and blew me away. Now that I've gotten my hands on it, I can say it not only met my expectations, but exceeded them. 

What's most immediately shocking about RE7 is that it's basically unrecognizable as a Resident Evil game. There are some references peppered throughout, but mostly this thing looks and plays completely different than anything that came before it. Using a first-person perspective, you explore a rundown backwoods home populated by a creepy family of unkillable (maybe?) hillbilly cannibals. It's a refreshing change of pace that immediately makes the game feel unpredictable. 

While the setting takes a lot of cues from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the level design and overall feel harkens back to the Spencer Mansion from the original Resident Evil. The actual size of the world you are exploring isn't that huge, but they do an amazing job of gating things behind various odd keys, making backtracking feel interesting. Even though it's small, there are distinct sections of the game that find ways to make you feel uncomfortable by putting you in new settings with new, unexpected dangers. 

The change to first person was also a big shift for the series, but it paid off immensely. I was very worried initially because the game looked like it would be taking lots of inspiration from series like Outlast, which rely on complete powerlessness to provide scares. To me, it's much more terrifying when you have the means to fight back, but it's either not very effective or you have limited resources to do so. I think games like Alien: Isolation (which might be the closest relative to RE7) and The Last of Us balance that perfectly. Luckily, so does RE7. There are so many times that I found myself having to make tough decisions about whether to craft ammo or health, trying to figure out which one would ultimately help me survive whatever horrors were waiting for me. The shooting is tight, but requires enough precision that panicking can really throw you off, much like Dead Space's dismemberment system. 



Most of the standard combat encounters aren't incredibly memorable, but the boss encounters really worked for me. Due to the fact that the Bakers, who act as the bosses, are seemingly invulnerable it can be tough to see if your efforts are doing anything to them and have no idea how much you have left in the battle. That being said, the set pieces are amazingly crafted moments, often with puzzle elements. My favorite were the first two battles, one of which plays out like frantic searching game while the other plays out like a completely insane duel. Apparently some boss encounters can go different ways, because when I got to the first boss the second time, I did the same thing I did to beat him initially and it ended up going a completely different way. 

Some other thrilling moments in the game were the tapes that are located throughout. These offered little short stories where you played as other characters, but found ways of intelligently giving you information that you would need for the future. It's a pretty brilliant design that gives these segments a dual purpose. My favorite segment of the game was the tape titled "Happy Birthday," that plays out like a mix between Saw and an escape room. 

I'm so glad that Capcom took a risk and shook things up for Resident Evil 7. This truly ended up being one of my favorite survival horror experiences, simultaneously feeling reverent of the previous games and unafraid to throw out everything and create a completely new aesthetic. I'm looking forward to giving the DLC a shot sometime in the near future, but for now maybe a run through Madhouse mode will have to do. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Sixth Annual CoKR Comic Book Awards

CONCLUSION
-Howard the Duck
-Cry Havoc
-Tokyo Ghost
-Chew
-Peter Panzerfaust

Winner: CHEW
We said goodbye to lots of good series this year, but none of them got me as much as Chew. I've read every issue of it's 60 issue run (plus the Poyo one-shots), and this series meant a lot of me. Issue 60 gave us a nice look at where all are characters ended up, and gave us one last character moment to give Tony some catharsis.

RELAUNCH
-The Vision
-Great Lake Avengers
-The Flash
-Black Widow
-Hulk

Winner: THE VISION
I don't think I've ever seen a Vision solo series, and this one did an awesome job to justify its existence. Somehow Tom King turned The Vision into a crazy combination of Breaking Bad and American Beauty, with a superhero twist. This book is like nothing you've ever read before, and you should definitely give it a shot.

BEST NEW SERIES
-Seven to Eternity
-Moonshine
-Motor Crush
-Pasty Walker AKA Hellcat
-Glitterbomb

Winner: SEVEN TO ETERNITY
There weren't as many big new Image series that grabbed me this year, but Seven to Eternity grabbed me in a big way. I think that this one has the strongest start of Remender's Image work, and the amazing art of Opena really helps build this interesting and compelling world that feels both familiar enough to jump into, but unique enough to get its hooks in you.

STORYLINE
-I Am Gotham - Batman
-Superfamous - Ms. Marvel
-Lightning Strikes Twice - The Flash
-Fluff My Life - I Hate Fairyland
-Baby Talk - Spider-Woman

Winner: SUPERFAMOUS - MS. MARVEL
I didn't get into the first volume of Ms. Marvel, but this one grabbed me right off the bat. G. Willow Wilson does such a great job of building out all the relationships in Ms. Marvel's life while creating a compelling challenge for her to go up against.

ARTIST
-Jerome Opena - Seven to Eternity
-Chris Samnee - Black Widow
-Jon Davis-Hunt - Clean Room
-Carmine Di Giandomenico - The Flash
-Mikel Janin - Batman

Winner: CHRIS SAMNEE
Samnee is the reason the new Black Widow series has been so outstanding. His dynamic layouts and crisp art style help sell both the shadowy nature of Black Widow's world and the pulse pounding action. She fights with so much precision and grace, and he is able to capture it perfectly.

WRITER
-Rick Remender - Seven to Eternity / Tokyo Ghost / Deadly Class / Black Science / Low
-Kate Leth - Vampirella / Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat / Spell on Wheels
-Jason Aaron - Mighty Thor / Doctor Strange / Southern Bastards
-Joshua Williamson - The Flash / Nailbiter / Birthright
-Tom King - The Vision / Batman

Winner: RICK REMENDER
Not only did I love Seven to Eternity, but I also took a dive back into all of his other recent Image work this year. Remender has created such diverse worlds, but is still able to very easily do so in his own unique voice. He finds awesome ways to take very human emotions, such as depression, and amplify them with crazy premises.

VILLAIN
-Godspeed - The Flash
-Weeping Lion - Black Widow
-God of Whispers - Seven to Eternity
-Empirikul - Doctor Strange
-Captain Marvel - Civil War II and crossovers

Winner: GOD OF WHISPERS
Part of what makes Seven to Eternity such a great book is the main antagonist, the God of Whispers. Remender does such a good job of giving him an interesting and unique set of powers while still making him menacing when he doesn't have them.

BEST SUPERHERO TITLE
-The Vision
-Black Widow
-Mighty Thor
-Ms. Marvel
-Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat

Winner: THE VISION
The tone of Vision almost made me put it on the non-superhero category, but this is firmly in the Marvel Universe and still has many elements of the genre. It's completely unique and really reinvents the character while creating new ones that really resonated with me.

BEST NON-SUPERHERO TITLE
-Clean Room
-Chew
-Seven to Eternity
-Nailbiter
-Paper Girls

Winner: CHEW
Throughout its long run, this series was always one of my favorites. The last portion of the series really amped up the stakes, forcing the characters to make some very heavy and emotional decisions, all while not losing its signature brand of humor. This series will be missed, but I can't wait to see what Layman does in the future.

BEST OVERALL TITLE
-The Vision
-Seven to Eternity
-Ms. Marvel
-Paper Girls
-Mighty Thor

Winner: THE VISION
Who would have thought that Vision would have ended up being one of the best books of the year?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Arc Reactor: Batman - I Am Suicide / Rooftops

Tom King's Batman has taken a little bit of time to get used to. As I wrote about in my look at the previous arc I Am Gotham, there was a bit of odd pacing and tone to the book so far. King's next arc I Am Suicide has some of the same problems, but also has some great high points, both in art and story.

The premise of this arc is perfect: Batman needs to retrieve Psycho Pirate from Bane, so he puts together his own version of the Suicide Squad to break into Santa Prisca and extract him. Hearing this premise, I was giddy to see Batman heading into Arkham to assemble his team from the rouge's gallery, but it ended up being a bit of a let down. Catwoman ended up being the only one of any notoriety (after her the second most prominent was Ventriloquist). Not only that, but they all kinda of faded into the background and only Batman, Bane and Catwoman doing anything of real emotional resonance.

King's version of Bane is an exciting one. At some point, Bane kicked Venom, but now needs Psycho Pirate to help him control his emotions. The back and forth game of one upsmanship that has always been at the core of Bane's character comes to the forefront here and plays out in an interesting fashion. His grasp of Catwoman is also great, using her to give emotional stakes for Batman while still adding a layer of unpredictability.

What is more inconsistent is his portrayal of Batman. During the issue where Batman was breaking into Santa Prisca, I was confused as to whether this was supposed to be Batman or someone posing as Batman. There is a very strong revelation that occurs partway through the arc that gives an interesting wrinkle to the Batman myth: young Bruce Wayne attempted suicide before his infamous "I shall become a Bat" moment. It gives the often indestructible Batman a believable moment of humanity, but comes at a strange place in an arc that didn't exactly relate to the moment.

Since he handled the Batman/Catwoman relationship so well, it's no surprise that the two-part aftermath story Rooftops was very strong. After the mission, Batman and Catwoman celebrate the last night before she has to report back to Arkham to be punished for the 200-some murders that she's accused of. The night sees them fighting crime, stealing things and making love on the rooftops in a sea of diamonds. Batman also delves into what actually happened with the murders and King reintroduces Selina's friend Holly, who has long been a part of her world. Not only is the tone of this two-parter perfectly capture their complicated relationship, showing how they can each be vulnerable in front of each other, but it has some really wonderful moments too. Each of them shares the story of how they remember meeting the other, and Batman remembers her Golden Age introduction, while Catwoman remembers how she met him in Year One.

King has been very fortunate to work with some wonderful artists on this book. David Finch set a great tone, but these two arcs really stepped it up. I Am Suicide featured art by Mikel Janin, an artist I was not familiar with. Janin's art certainly match King's more surreal and lyrical tone. He's got some really clean art with very innovative panel layouts. The high point issue featured nothing but awesome two page spreads with clever layouts and beautiful narration. I sincerely hope to see him return to the series sometime soon.



Mitch Gerads, King's collaborator on the Vertigo series Sheriff of Babylon, joined him for Rooftops, and it was clear that these two enjoy working together. They do a great job of finding a unique rhythm that perfectly blends the script with the panels. Several instances of repeated panels with slight variations do a good job of driving home the point of the script. Gerads also does an amazing job capturing the emotion on the faces of Batman and Catwoman throughout the issues. I'm really glad that they got to work together on this book, as it made this two part arc feel very special.

Overall, I Am Suicide took a bit getting used to, but once you get used to the tone King creates it clicks really well. I'm looking forward to re-reading it to see if it flows better all at once. This arc along with Rooftops sets things up really well for the next arc, titled I Am Bane and featuring the return of David Finch. Bane's back on the Venom and is launching a full scale war on Batman and his allies, and this could be the epic that really helps define his run.