Fun-Size Friday: it’s like Black Friday, except instead of burying you in great deals, we bury you in words. Wow, that is a bad tagline. Note to self: exclude the words “bury you” from future introductions. Morbid wordplay aside, I welcome you to my little cubic centimeter of the Internet. Whether you’re taking a break from shopping or hanging up Christmas decorations, or — most probably — you’re reading this on literally any other day of the year, I’m glad you stopped by. If you’re still curious it’s business as usual around these parts: I talk about comics, movies, tv shows, songs I can’t get out of my head, and other sorts of weirdness from the last week. Now that we’ve got the pleasantries out of the way, let’s get this crazy train rolling!
PART ONE — “SINS OF THE FATHER”
Jason Shawn Alexander
LOGO & GRAPHIC DESIGN
IMAGE SOURCE: Killadelphia #1 Cover Art by Jason Shawn Alexander & Luis NCT [Image Comics]
Up until about a week ago, Jim Sangster Jr. was an ordinary Baltimore beat cop just trying to escape the shadow cast by his father: Detective James Sangster Senior. When Jim receives word his dad has been murdered while working a homicide case, he reluctantly travels to back to his childhood home in Philadelphia to bury his father and their sordid past along with him. Sangster Junior had hoped to avoid an extended stay, but when he comes across Sangster Senior’s private journal — a detailed account of the day’s events leading up to his murder — Jim can’t resist the opportunity to solve the case that his old man couldn’t. Still, it might prove to be easier said than done, especially when every lead points towards an enemy that shouldn’t exist. After all, there’s no such thing as vampires.
I thought I had a pretty good idea what sort of comic this was going to be based on the title “Killadelphia”. For me at least, the name immediately conjures up images of 1980’s horror movies like Evil Dead or Braindead; the sort of “camp horror” movie that featured cheesy dialogue, over-the-top gore, and generally didn’t take themselves too seriously. Based on the first issue however, that doesn’t appear to be the case, although there are certain elements introduced here that wouldn’t be out of place in those other stories. There’s one moment in particular that puts a new spin on one of America’s founding fathers — the kind of “spin” you’d expect to see in something like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter — that’s played pretty seriously all things considered. For the most part though, the tone I get from Killadelphia #1 is somewhere between 30 Days of Night and Sherlock Holmes: a hard-boiled detective story that just happens to feature creatures of the occult.
IMAGE SOURCE: Killadelphia #1 [Image Comics]
I’ve got to give writer Rodney Barnes credit where it’s due, it’s difficult for a jaded reader like me to have any interest in yet another story featuring vampires, not to mention stories featuring another hard-as-nails world-weary detective. Here though, the enjoyment comes from seeing the supernatural and frankly bizarre world of vampires through the eyes of two jaded men who think they’re in a different kind of story entirely, then watching them struggle to adapt. Of course the issue wouldn’t work half as well as it does if the art side of things wasn’t up to the task, which it most assuredly is. In the hands of artist Jason Shawn Alexander and colorist Luis NCT, we get a comic that permeates each page with a dark and foreboding atmosphere, and that’s before the vampires show up. I will tell you though, on a personal level it’s nice to see a story that treats the bloodsuckers as proper monsters, rather than artistocratic gentlemen or sparkling pretty boys*.
Honestly, I’m a bit surprised I haven’t seen this mash-up of genres before. That may just be my own ignorance though; who knows how many more stories I’ve missed that blended these disparate elements together. Whatever the case may be, I’m glad I decided to give Killadelphia #1 a shot, especially after my admittedly tepid reception to another vampire comic last week. I try to judge each book based on their own merits, and of course Heartbeat #1 is interested in telling a different kind of story anyway, but all the same I was grateful for the change of pace. I don’t know if it’ll make me want to go out and read other vampire tales, but I can tell you I’m very interested to see where this one in particular is headed.
*I know, I know. A Twilight joke in 2019? Could that well be any more dried up? Sorry readers, I guess when it comes to me and that series there’s just too much…bad blood. Hi-yo!
NOW AVAILABLE TO ORDER
AT YOUR LOCAL COMIC BOOK RETAILER:
ALSO AVAILABLE IN DIGITAL FORMATS
FROM THE FOLLOWING RETAILERS:
UNLEASH THE LIGHT
FEATURING THE VOICES OF Zach Callison, Estelle, Michaela Dietz, Deedee Magno Hall, Jennifer Paz, Miriam Hyman, Kari Wahlgren, Mellisa Fahn, & Christine Baranski
Rebecca Sugar & Grumpyface Studios
Steven Universe created by Rebecca Sugar
IMAGE SOURCE: YouTube
Taking place shortly after Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems brought about an end to the tyrannical Great Diamond Authority, Unleash The Light finds our heroes beginning to dismantle the trappings of the old system and bring a new era of peace and freedom to gems across the galaxy. Everything’s going relatively smoothly until two new antagonists — a pair of gems named Demantoid & Pyrope — start stirring up trouble again using dangerous Prism technology, creating armies of light minions to do their bidding. A new era of peace and freedom is going to have to wait a moment, it’s time for Steven and his friends to go off on another RPG style adventure!
By and large I’m really not that big on video games, with the rare exception of Pokemon, Legend of Zelda, and the odd Mario game here and there. There’s a whole number of reasons I could rattle off why that is but it mostly comes down to a lack of passion; I have an annoying tendency to abandon projects mid-stream and video games in particular demand a lot of time and attention, especially the games being produced today. Even when I do commit, as I did with Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild a couple years back, once I’m done playing through such an expansive campaign I often find I have very little desire to ever revisit it again. It’s certainly not the game developers fault — I certainly can’t blame them for putting so much work into building these beautifully detailed worlds to explore — I just try to pick games that don’t require such a big time investment.
On that note, let’s talk about a game I just spent the last several hours playing on my phone: Steven Universe: Unleash The Light!
I’ve been a pretty studious watcher of the Steven Universe show for years now
when Cartoon Network has deigned to air it and I’ve already played through the previous two games in the as-of-yet-untitled “Light” series (Attack The Light and Save The Light), so playing through the next chapter was a foregone conclusion for me. Aside from a few references here and there to previous games, Unleash The Light is very user-friendly even for people who haven’t played the previous two games, taking great care to make sure new players aren’t immediately overwhelmed by the game mechanics. As a role playing game, it also gives players the ability to play as up to six possible characters (Steven, Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl, Lapis Lazuli, & Bismuth), each of whom have their own unique skill set that you can level up to make combat easier. I personally have a ton of love for role playing games going back to my childhood — back when I could afford to spend days playing a video game without having to worry about keeping a job — so Unleash The Light is nice for me on a couple of levels.
Speaking of levels, I hope you’re the kind of person who enjoys “grinding” — that’s Gamer Talk for “spending a boatload of time leveling up your characters skills over multiple battles” for you casuals out there — because the enemies you fight later on can eat you alive if you don’t put in the work. With a possible six different characters to choose from and only four “active” slots on your team, my biggest fear was that I’d have to spend even more time swapping out and leveling up characters to keep the team on the same general footing. Fortunately Unleash The Light is kind enough to throw players a bone, leveling up characters even when they’re not on the active roster, decreasing the amount of time spent on it considerably. That being said you should know going in that grinding, like Thanos, is inevitable.
IMAGE SOURCE: Unleash The Light [Grumpydog Studios/Cartoon Network]
On the negative side of things, there’s only two real problems I have with this game at the moment. The nitpickiest one is that Unleash The Light is currently only available through the “Apple Arcade” app (an app that you have to pay a monthly subscription to access), and I haven’t seen anything yet about making it available on other devices. I lucked out this time because I happen to own a smaller Apple device and I can play the game for nothing on a month long free trial period, but there’s still a ton of people who don’t have that option. The other problem I have is with the roster of playable characters; Unleash The Light removes three playable characters from the previous game (Save The Light) and replaces them with two new ones, which seems a bit odd to me. Granted, Save The Light was a larger game meant to be played on a console rather than on a mobile app, and the developers probably had a lot more time to add things. It may not be a huge sticking point for a lot of people, but personally I can’t help but imagine The Game That Could Have Been.
My complaints aside, I would recommend Unleash The Light if you have any interest in exploring the world of Steven Universe or the world of RPG gaming. It may not be perfect, but it’s still functional as both an entry point for new fans and a return to a solid series of games for the older fans. Now the biggest question: does writing this mini-review in any way justify the amount of time I spent playing a mobile app game on my phone? I’m gonna go with “yes”.
…please tell me the answer is “yes”.
AVAILABLE TO PLAY NOW,
EXCLUSIVELY ON THE APPLE ARCADE APP
Season One, Episode Three
CHAPTER THREE — THE SIN
STARRING Pedro Pascal, Werner Herzog, Omid Abtahi, Carl Weathers, Emily Swallow, Tait Fletcher, et al.
Andrew L. Jones
Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, Kathleen Kennedy, Colin Wilson
CREATED BY Jon Favreau
BASED ON Star Wars by George Lucas
IMAGE SOURCE: Heavy
Three episodes in and everything is coming up aces for The Mandalorian. He’s tracked down his latest bounty, defeated dozens of enemies, repaired his ship, and is on his way to collect his reward. Pretty soon he’ll have enough beskar steel to get himself a fresh set of armor and still have plenty left over to donate to the rest of his people. It should be a cause for celebration, and yet the thought of handing this particular bounty over to agents of the Empire — a group that’s caused his people no end of grief in the past — is weighing heavily on his mind. As much as he doesn’t want to admit it, this isn’t just another job for him anymore.
While I suspect most people knew exactly how this bounty hunt was gonna play out in the end — heck, I’ll bet most of you called it by the end of the first episode — the show surprised me by how quickly it decided to resolve that particular thread. As a guy who’s been raised in an age of decompressed storytelling and binge watching, I wasn’t expecting our hero to reach “The Client” until much closer to the end of the first season, once he’d gone through three or four more side-quest style adventures (see: last week’s egg hunt). As entertaining as those hypothetical episodes could have been — and who knows what we’ll get before the end of the season — I think in the back of our minds we’d all just be waiting for our lead character to figure out what we already knew from the beginning: “Mando” was never just gonna hand over the bounty and walk away.
IMAGE SOURCE: The Mandalorian Episode Three End Credits [Lucasfilm/Disney Plus]
Nonetheless, I can tell you that knowing what was gonna happen ahead of time didn’t hamper my enjoyment of how it actually went down one bit. We’ve seen our hero in action in smaller doses over the last two episodes, but this time around we get to see our armored hero really cut loose, and the result is twenty minutes of non-stop face-bashing, flame-throwing action. Of course it wouldn’t be an episode of The Mandalorian if our hero didn’t need to have his beskar-wearing butt saved at the last possible moment, and his salvation this time around leads to quite possibly the strongest moment in the series yet. At this point I’m kind of hoping every future episode has the Mandalorian being rescued by somebody else, just to really hammer home how over-ambitious this guy is at picking fights with people.
It’s really kind of amazing when I stop and think about it; aside from the Clone Wars animated series, this episode is the first time I’ve actually taken these mask-wearing goofballs seriously. We’re only getting snippets of their history so far, but I think it’s pretty telling that I’m more invested in these random guys after five minutes of screen time then I ever was with the Fetts. I mean, I’m still not entirely certain why these Mandalorians insist on wearing their helmets at all times when I’ve seen plenty of other Mandalorians remove their masks at the drop of a hat, but perhaps there’s some other reason that we’re just not privy to yet. Really though, if the masks are my biggest sticking point this week then you know the show is doing something right. Plus, getting to see more of Werner Herzog hamming it up as a villain is always a win.
Do I have any final thoughts? Well, I will say I’m impressed that I’ve managed to successfully avoid discussing a massive spoiler in my reviews for about three weeks now. Last week I was pretty resolved to just blurt it out and be done with it, but thinking about it now I really don’t have all that much to add at this point. I will say this though, and this will be a MINOR SPOILER if you want to go in completely blind, but is anyone else getting a strong “Lone Wolf & Cub” vibe from the last few episodes? Like, do you think that’s going to be the main element of the show going forward, or do you think it’s just a one season thing? I dunno, for the first time since the first episode I don’t have a clue where this show is headed. Exciting, isn’t it?
STREAM THE MANDALORIAN,
NOW AVAILABLE ON DISNEY PLUS
I’M TOO TIRED TO THINK
OF SOMETHING CLEVER
IMAGE SOURCE: PNGio
Yeah, Fun-Size is going to be a bit shorter this week due to a combination of work and unavoidable holiday business. Plus, now that I’ve written a couple hundred words about Star Wars I’m feeling completely and utterly drained. I honestly don’t think there’s anything left that could possiblywait is that a trailer for the next season of Infinity Train?! YES!
That’s what I’m talking about! New cars, creepy mirror antagonists, a deer-thing named Alan Dracula, and we get the return of Ashley Johnson as Tul–er, Mirror Tulip. I really got a kick out of the first season for it’s big heart and willingness to delve into topics that a lot of kid shows tend to dodge around, so I’m confident that this next season will give us more of the same. All that to say, I’m totally on board for more Infinity Train, pun fully intended.
Okay, that was the very last thing I wanted to cover! We’ll be back next week with the same brand of lunacy you’ve come to expect from us, including but not limited to all the stuff I didn’t have time for this week. Until then everybody, stay safe and stay, er, thankful.