Entries Tagged 'Reviews' ↓

How to Use YouTube


How to use YouTube :: The top 100-ever cartoons and stuff :: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Death Note :: Ahsoka Tano’s new… um, lightaber :: … and How to Use YouTube

Ahsoka Tano, new costume, peek-a-boo and TWO FREAKING LIGHTSABERS

Having already figured out the strategy to be discussed in this blog post, I ended up happening on IGN’s list of the Top 100 animated programs of all time.

I don’t really visit IGN all that often any more, but I still have warm feelings RE: them from the days — more than ten years ago — that The Dojo made like $5,000 a month as an IGN affiliate.

Anyway: Their list.

IGN gets a lot right.

They have (spoilers!) The Simpsons as the best animated show of all time; they have Batman: The Animated Series as number two. That seems like they got the big stuff right!

Some stuff they got wrong, but it is mostly personal preference (i.e. I have good taste); for instance The Smurfs (terrible) is not better than M.A.S.K.

Though IGN tipped the hat to a lot of the great Disney afternoon cartoons, they missed Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears, which was much better than some of the ones they mentioned (like the boring Tail Spin).

In any case, I mention the list because I am going to use it for inspiration; inspiration of what to watch of course! Here are some shows I am going to check out that I’ve never really thought to follow before:

  • Fullmetal Alchemist
  • Death Note
  • Naruto
  • Cowboy Bebop

Firestarter: Any more suggestions?

Plus, given how high they rated Neon Genesis Evangelion, I’ll probably go back to that. I have memories, still, of VHS tapes and how much better the Japanese subtitled eps of Neon Genesis Evangelion were than the English dubs back from the summer of 1999 (my first summer in New York). The old guard — altran, TunaHwa, and even Adrian Sullivan — working at The Dojo used to watch us some mecha.

But the title of this blog post is “How to Use YouTube” not “Some Top 100 List from IGN” … What’s up?

Recently I have been complaining about the new outfit on Ahsoka Tano (Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice on Star Wars: The Clone Wars). IRL friends who also happen to be Twitter friends like Teddy Card Game and Luis Not-Vargas have been commenting on the season and the costume change on Twitter with me. Why does Ahsoka suddenly have peek-a-boo boobs? Why does she have two lightsabers now?

Apparently I missed an ep or two… But it’s not like they explained the costume change. Whatever!

Luckily, I could find the eps I missed pretty easily. Hooray!

It turns out that if you know what you’re looking for, you can find anything you want on YouTube. For example, I was looking for episode 10 of season three of Star Wars: The Clone Wars (according to Teddy Card Game the first appearance of Ahsoka’s peek-a-boo boobs), and found it instantaneously!

How insane is freaking YouTube?

I looked up Death Note episodes on Wikipedia to find the first one… Turns out it is on YouTube! (not a surprise)

I haven’t watched these yet; but I presume they are awesome. I’ve already been warned not to read any spoiler sites because the show is supposedly full of more twists and turns than the letter S.

I was amazed that I could find any episode from obscure, short-lived series like Visionaries (I used a half-remembered reference from age 11 or so in the big project I am writing and recording for SCG), as well as what I wanted from M.A.S.K. On this, the manufactured Hallmark holiday of romance, I can say for true: YouTube, I love you.


P.S. Don’t forget the Firestarter!
P.P.S. A pal would buy Deckade
P.P.P.S. Y’all know how mono-seriously I take lightsaber fightin’. Just sayin’. SHARE AND ENJOY (please)

The Long-Awaited Smoke and Guns Review

Concerning: Smoke and Guns by Kirsten Baldock and Fabio Moon

Smoke and Guns is like no other graphic novel.

It is almost like a Wes Anderson film. Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson say that when they make their movies, they try to describe a world that follows the rules they like, rather than the rules of the real world.

Smoke and Guns — without ever really coming out and saying so — kind of imagines a prohibition-esque world where beautiful girls sell cigarettes on the street… and lethally guard their street corners and local bar real estate with… you know… guns.

Kirsten Baldock was herself a real-life cigarette girl before writing this graphic novel… Though I assume the more conventional type rather than one of the heat-packing adventurettes depicted in this story; you get this sense of sisterhood and hidden knowledge and almost pride from reading the book that you might not expect given the plot.

Smoke and Guns follows the story of ambitious cigarette girl Scarlett who gets into trouble picking a fight with another merry (and murderous) band of cigarette girls, ends up hostess-ing the wrong party after she is disciplined by her madame-esque cigarette-hawking boss-lady, and ultimately excites a gang war. She is not so much the hero as the protagonist for no other reason than the story mostly follows her. I mean she has a really big chip on her shoulder and I think you want to cheer for her in the same way that you want to cheer for Tony Soprano versus any of the other dirtbags and murderers who happen to share screen-time with him. Beautiful? Yes. Nice? Not so much. You get the feeling that Scarlett has everything coming to her, but she has enough Indiana Jones to her that you don’t care.

Pretty girl, pretty girls, cigarettes, turf war… that’s it?

If it sounds like a thoroughly superficial story… It is.

Yet it’s freaking great!

Smoke and Guns moves with a rare velocity in modern comics. Fabio Moon’s visual storytelling can flow from frame-by-frame, panel-by-panel description of a single cigarette being lit, to ice cold ultra-violence, gun-play, and grenades lobbed between nubile cancer-peddlers. The story tries very hard to be crass — cigarette girls dressing up as everything from sexy nurses to Chun-Li from Street Fighter — but it manages to be demeaning… never. Really never. The book is so overloaded with girl power, the fact that the violent participants are also sexy kind of never comes up.

In that sense, it is a storytelling triumph.

Of course I found this indie book because of Fabio Moon, previously mentioned in my Ursula review. Smoke and Guns was Moon’s first work without his brother Gabriel Ba; and it is well worth the look.

While no one is going to mistake this quick read for Watchmen, Smoke and Guns really does have something unique going for it. It is one of my favorite graphic novels, I read it several times a year, and love almost every page (the Chun-Li stuff is sadly more cheddar than cheesecake).

You can get it for a whopping $1.49 on Amazon 🙂


DC Showcase: Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam

I have been writing so much recently.

I don’t know if you understand what “so much” is, exactly. Almost all of it is hardcore Magic stuff (which is why I have been updating this blog a bit less, and a bit less about Magic, of recent). But “so much” is as much as 12,000 words in a day. Do you know how much 12,000 words is? It’s between six and eight Premium Magic articles. In a day.

Big brags, I know.

The weird thing is that so much of it is blending together. Today when I was polishing off Flores Friday, and then transitioning back into my larger project, I was getting confused where “Ten Rules of Reaction” ended and “One Rule: What Makes a Deck?” began, versus my longer project, versus my next project, which I am planning with BDM.

The amazing thing? I can’t believe how some of it is pretty good! 🙂

Okay, enough big brags.

Today I was watching DC Showcase: Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam on Netflix streaming. I don’t know if I’ve said a lot about Netflix streaming, but it is about the best five bucks you can spend per month. Anyway, I found this stream-able video, which actually includes four shorter animated films, all directed by the excellent Joaquim Dos Santos.

The Superman/Shazam! section is the longest of the four at 22 minutes.

I was a bit puzzled by this one. Its visual style is very reminiscent of Joshua Middleton. Middleton was the artist on a Superman/Shazam! limited series a few years back. If memory serves, production on “NYX” was so slow, Middleton’s Marvel exclusive ran out and he signed an exclusive with DC.

In case you don’t know who Joshua Middleton is, he is maybe the best artist in comics. I mean there are a lot of great artists in comics, but there is only one that my wife (who is not a comics fan, but who has to put up with my thousands of comics and graphic novels, and also has a fine eye for aesthetics) says is the best, and that is Middleton. Also, traditionally writers get top billing in comics credits, but when Middleton collaborated on “NYX” with Joe Quesada (the writer of the project, one of the biggest names in the game as the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel, and himself an accomplished illustrator), it was Middleton who got top billing. This is a pretty famous spread from “NYX”, colored and not:

Anyway, I found the visual style reminiscent of Middleton, which seemed appropriate based on the existence of the aforementioned limited series… which was a completely different story. This “makes sense” in that earlier DC direct-to-DVD releases aped the styles of the original comics artists (Ed McGuinness on Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Darwyn Cooke on New Frontier, and so on).

I have very little so say about this longest of the four other than that. It was only pretty good.

The next up was DC Showcase: The Spectre, which was stone awesome.

I was pretty surprised because the Spectre is not exactly one of my favorite characters, but the visual style was unbelievably cool. Despite being an animated short film, this chapter used a dramatic 1970s-esque noir visual style… It could have been Grindhouse or shot on a super 8.

The Spectre is a bit different than in the comic books, often animating stuff — from special effects dummies to flying cars — to take out villains. In the (spoilers!) final scene, Spectre kills Alyssa Milano’s (!) character in a tornado of paper cuts, animating hundreds of hundred dollar bills in a gruesome finale.

Awesome segment, up to and including the blacksploitation-esque music running during the closing credits.

DC Showcase: Green Arrow was also pretty fun. Another 12 minute, action-oriented short film, this time starring — you guessed it — Green Arrow.

This ep is just Green Arrow at an airport, stumbling onto an assassination attempt of a ten-year-old princess. It is dominated by tongue-in-cheek puns, so like LSV would like it.

(Stuck in traffic) “Come on! The arrow’s green!”

(Later) “Green light!”

In the final scene, an embattled Green Arrow is about to be defeated by a final enemy after taking down the ostensible End Boss, but is saved by longtime love, Black Canary. He proposes to her on the spot, and his new friend, the princess encourages Black Canary to say yes, because “Every queen needs a consort.”

“Yes,” concludes Green Arrow. “Every Queen does.”

I told you it was pun-ny! Green Arrow’s civilian name is Oliver Queen.

Finally is DC Showcase: Jonah Hex. I was pretty surprised they ended with this one. Obviously Superman is the most popular and starting with him makes sense. I would think that Green Arrow and Black Canary would be the second most popular; whereas I don’t give a hang about Spectre (which ended up stone awesome!) or Jonah Hex, who is a disfigured gunfighter. Why end with Jonah Hex?

Well, they pulled out all the stops on this 12-minute segment. The Jonah Hex ep included Thomas Jane (“Hung”) as Jonah Hex; Linda Hamilton (Terminator series) as a sexy, villainous, madam; and Michelle Trachtenberg (“Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” and “Gossip Girl”) as a barmaid / snitch. Basically, an unreal cast for such a seemingly small — 12-minute — project.

I loved the Jonah Hex segment as well, which is a combination of Old West prostitution and vicious fighting. In one particularly gruesome exchange, Hex hurls a thug face-first into scalding metal, scarring his face (a mirror of Jonah’s own disfigured visage). I physically winced at how horrible that would be for the character… But then realized there was no way he was getting out of this fight.

As a whole, the four were outstanding, and I am going to re-watch them again this week, probably.


Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam (DC Showcase) on Amazon
Currently Reading: The Fires of Heaven (The Wheel of Time, Book 5)
please Please PLEASE: Michael J. Flores Deckade: 10 Years of Magic: The Gathering Strategy and Commentary (eBook on Amazon)

TV, Top Chef, Stuff Like That

So there is more on television than there… was a few weeks ago.

I have been watching more Netflix streaming — specifically burning through Spartacus and Spartacus the past couple of weeks — but all that deserves its own blog post (or more than one, probably). For now I’ll concentrate on regular tee vee stuff.


“Gossip Girl” is back!

I love “Gossip Girl”!

I love Blake Lively!

I loved Blake Lively before you ever heard of her!

Everyone knows all this!

Seriously, Lilly is a disaster. Thea Steele says you almost have to forget everything Lilly has ever done to watch any episode of “Gossip Gir”l. I think she might be a worse mother than January Jones on “Mad Men”.

Did I mention I love “Gossip Girl”?

I think there might be an inevitable end game where Dan ends up bumping up against Blair… I mean they are almost the only main cast members who haven’t hooked up with each other.


“V” has been okay. I hope it keeps going is all I can say… The first hand full of eps this season have been weaker than the first couple of eps last season, &c.

I have been enjoying “White Collar” immensely. The USA shows are lovable in general, and “White Collar” is basically about a well dressed guy who runs mono-shenanigans for a living.



“Top Chef” was a disaster for the good guys this week.

Spoilers! in case you didn’t see it coming…

I had two horses amongst the Top Chefs (out of four), and lost the win to Antonia (Megan’s only remaining chef).

Then, in the bottom three, PNaps had two horses there; both of whom prepared worse dishes than Tre. As far as I could tell, Mike Isabella — who is an Italian American chef — completely botched his pasta, and Filipino Dale made a dish “he makes for his girlfriend” that would keep him from ever getting laid… Tre on the other hand cut his vegetables too thick or something.


  1. Phil Napoli: 1
  2. YT: 5
  3. Luis Neiman: 15
  4. Megan Holland: 29


Thursday is like a renaissance of television. “30 Rock” has had two eps this season that rival the best episodes ever, and this week’s “Community” — centered around Dungeons & Dragons — was absolutely charming (especially for gamers like YT). But the one show that I look forward to the most is the returning “Parks and Recreation”.

I have been watching a lot of “Parks and Recreation” on Netflix streaming while I have been working on my big upcoming project for Star City Games. Sister City from last season is simply one of the funniest half hours of television you could ever watch… But I couldn’t find a link to embed. So instead, here is last night’s “Community” … Which any fan of The Lord of the Rings movies (or most gamers) will appreciate:

A Dark Elf.


I have to catch up on “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”. I have basically every ep from this season on DVR but have only watched maybe two or three. I fault the kids, who have vastly diversified their limited tee vee time across more varied (but not interesting to me) interests. A lot of the commercials and teasers have looked absolutely awesome.

“Young Justice” returned to form this week! Last week was only okay, and I didn’t love the week before, but this week’s Schooled was very nice. It featured the first training session with Black Canary (one of my favorite characters in the DC Universe) teaching the kids how to fight. Canary opened up with this nugget of wisdom (before being hit on by Kid Flash):

“Combat is about controlling conflict — putting the battle on your terms. You should always be acting, never reacting.” -Black Canary

I am 100% stealing that for some future Magic article on mindset (surprising, I know).

Last, “Ben Ten: Ultimate Alien” returned tonight with a pretty decent ep. Not the best Ben Ten effort, not by a wide margin, but still a good fight with an always welcome short cameo by Azmuth. I like how, even though Ben has to use all different new aliens for toy sales purposes, he is more adept with some of the older models (or variations), and can close out basically any opponent. Per usual Kevin evolves in terms of model just a little bit as he has with every season… Still 100% recognizable, but with big Popeye forearms in his “stone” mode this week. As humans we love a mixture of the familiar and variation, and little tweaks like Kevin’s visuals offer just that.

It’s possible I will be able to watch the new Spartacus: Gods of the Arena later tonight, but probably not. It’s probably the best show on television right now.


Who knows?


I’m a bit behind on some of the premium cable shows, but have been religious with “Episodes” — the new Matt LeBlanc vehicle on Showtime. Very good… funny… and eye-opening, kind of like the first season of “30 Rock” alongside “Studio 60 and the Sunset Strip” (but a slightly different subject matter, obviously).

That’s it for this update.


Currently Reading: The Fires of Heaven (The Wheel of Time, Book 5)
Be a pal and buy: Deckade

Week-style TeeVee Update


I like television!

Before we continue, I updated the recent post RE: Consecrated Sphinx. Nico Boshoff from ye olde Unstoppable Twitter Army threw me a great idea combining the [+2} ability on Jace Beleren with the mise-tacular misings of Consecrated Sphinx, which I think upgrades the 4/6 quite a bit.

But enough about Magic: The Gathering.

“Big Love” is back. However I did not realize that until this AM, taking Bella to her first grownup karate class. Ergo I have to catch up on that one before tomorrow night’s ep.

“Episodes” has been entertaining so far. There are multiple layers of “fish out of water” (sophisticated British writing couple in cutthroat LA, dopey Joey from “Friends” in sophisticated British boarding school comedy) going on that play together well. Not my favorite show or anything, but fun to watch and I don’t plan on missing any.

Last season was the best so far for “Californication” … This season hasn’t really maintained the quality so far. It is still event tv for me, but — I almost can’t believe I am saying this — it’s semi-tiresome that Hank just mono-nails whatever hot woman happens to walk by, regardless of age or circumstance.

I don’t remember what happened on “How I Met Your Mother” and the only thing I can remember from the return of “House” is that the guy who played Shaggy was the guest star.

“V” is sitting on DVR. I don’t remember what I was doing on Tuesday but probably there was a tv conflict with Nintendo Wii usage. Basically we figured out how to set up our Wii to run Netflix streaming, which is not actually an upgrade relative to the iMac (or for that matter the Air I am typing this blog post on), but there is just something symmetrical about watching television on your actual television. In terms of Netflix streaming, Katherine has been burning through seasons of “Bones” and I have been spending my late nights writing to the battle cries of blood-soaked “Spartacus: Blood and Sand”.

“Spartacus: Blood and Sand” is quite simply like nothing else on television. It is like “Rome” to the nth power. All the stuff that was over the top about “Rome” … the idea that someone might be crucified — motherloving crucified — for slighting his commanding officer is amplified to someone actually getting crucified (after other nasty stuff has already happened to him). It is bloody like nothing I have ever seen on the small screen (basically nonstop dismemberments), and the show boasts more nudity — male and female both — than “Californication” does. I can’t stop watching it.

For those of you who don’t know, the “Spartacus” franchise is in trouble. The star was diagnosed with cancer in between the first season (the one I am watching now) and the second; so the second was replaced by “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena”, a six-episode prequel series focusing on other characters (including my favorite, onetime Xena and Cylon, Lucy Lawless)… that doesn’t actually feature the character Spartacus himself. It is unclear if there will ever be a third season (second season?) at all.

Oh, I have a fair number of girlfriends (no, not that kind of girlfriend) who think — or at least used to think — that the dudes in The 300 were really built like that. The gladiators on “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” are all musclebound and running around half-naked, slashing each other for 42 minutes at a time; I mean, if you’re into that kind of stuff.

Wednesday is “Top Chef: All Stars” day, and you know what that means… Update to Top Chef Draft!

Skip ahead if you fear a spoiler.

This space intentionally left blank.


Okay! Warnings over!

This week  was nearly optimal for the home team. A Quickfire win by Filipino Dale was yet another one point boon for Phil Napoli. Good lord Phil’s draft is looking good right now. He has Angelo (probably the 2d most favored chef in the competition), Mike Isabella (meaning just another competitor to help out points-wise), and motherloving Filipino Dale. Filipino Dale went fifteenth pick out of sixteen, and has already solo-crushed multiple Elimination Challenges.

I came off best on the week, with three points over Phil’s two points, because all three of my remaining horses — Tre, Carla, and Fabio — were in the winners’ circle, though overall winner was Richard (probably the most highly favored chef, and a member of Luis’s stable). Megan took a dagger with the loss of Marcel, her first pick (+9 points), but I felt awfully justified in not taking him at that point… despite the fact that my own first pick left the show two weeks ago.

Current standings:

  • YT – 1
  • Phil 1
  • Luis 17
  • Megan 31

Lots of stuff on Thursday to talk about, in particular “30 Rock” moving to head-to-head time slot battle against “The Mentalist” (Katherine says she watched “The Mentalist” this week “while eating fiber” if you grok), but the tops has to be the return of “Parks and Recreation” mid-season.

I already liked “Parks and Recreation” but I loved the reference to UCLA coach John Wooden during the basketball rivalry section, specifically the great basketball coach’s Pyramid of Success. Many of you have no idea what I am talking about. I don’t care.


Osyp Lebedowicz posted The New York Times posting the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness. Not what the great coach Wooden used to command his mastery of basketball, of course, but well worth the LOL.

Click the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness image for full size.

“Young Justice” fell like a stone this week.

Somehow, after the awesome two-part opener, the third episode managed to lapse severely in terms of animation and color quality… The story was only okay… But at least the question I had RE: Speedy / Red Arrow was answered… dude has no interest in joining up.

So… Get it while you still can:

Every time I embed, say, the best ever episode of “Doctor Who” or the entirety of The Hobbit, The Man comes down with the ban-hammer. But until that happens, you can check these out.

That’s it for now!


Some Thoughts on Consecrated Sphinx

Consecrated Sphinx

My general dislike of certain Sphinxes (Sphinx of Jwar Isle) and approval of other Sphinxes (Sphinx of Lost Truths) is fairly well known to readers of this blog.

With Consecrated Sphinx we have yet another Sphinx that I like better than Sphinx of Jwar Isle.

What is so cool about Consecrated Sphinx?

Its size isn’t remarkable for a modern Magical creature / fantastic beast / &c. A 4/6 is about as good as a 5/5… A turn off in terms of racing, but 5/5s and 4/6s bounce off of each other like superballs… We certainly can’t say that a 5/5 is strictly better than a 4/6 or vice versa. Mahamoti Djinn — once a premiere Big Blue flyer — was 5/6 for six, a bit better than Consecrated Sphinx’s 4/6… but then against Mahamoti Djinn lacked Consecrated Sphinx’s text box.

So how about that text box?

You tap out for Consecrated Sphinx; ka-boom… you draw two cards. (Pretty much.) You play a high toughness creature that probably isn’t going anywhere; your opponent untaps and draws the next turn: there are your two.

I mean if your opponent gets another draw, that’s going to be fantastic!

The first super cool thing I thought of when considering this card was Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I was like “how cool will it be to draw six cards?” Then I realized no one in his right mind would ever Brainstorm with Consecrated Sphinx in play. One card for six? That only happens in the movies.

Where can I see Consecrated Sphinx fitting in?

Obviously some kind of Blue control in Standard… Pretty much the only option. The issue here is that the six is extraordinarily competitive right now; there are Titans aplenty depending on whether the deck in question wants Frost Titan or one of the other Titans. Plus, there is Wurmcoil Engine, which seems like it will pick up in Standard popularity on the coattails of Treasure Mage. Drawing cards is super cool and all… I just don’t know if it will be good enough given the level of competition at the six.

The question is ultimately going to be about cards in hand v. battlefield, based on the metagame. When we were innovating tap-out in 2005, our desire was 100% driven by battlefield considerations. Keiga was a nightmare to get through, Meloku impregnable. Meloku in particular could close out games like lightning. I don’t get that read from Consecrated Sphinx… Even its 4/6 stats (already addressed) speak to a bit of a disconnect RE: this value.

However, it is possible that, given the grinding Planeswalkers and two-for-one-tastic cards, from Lead the Stampede to Treasure Mage, we are going to find ourselves in a Standard dominated by card advantage. If that is the case, by all means Consecrated Sphinx might be a hell of a grinder.

But it’s like Tsuyoshi used to say – “Depends on the metagame.”

Snap judgment rating – Role Player


This came in via beloved Unstoppable Twitter Army:

Great idea from Nico! Jace Beleren actually makes Consecrated Sphinx a good deal better than I originally thought. Provided you have battlefield control for the creatures that are too big for it to battle straight up, I think this may end up a premiere six.

Still sub-Staple IMO, but we’ll see.


Review – Ursula

“Ursula” was my first exposure to the work of Brazilian twins and artists Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba.

I still don’t get how they are twin brothers and have different last names, but I don’t particularly care as much as I like their art. Moon and Ba often collaborate on single projects (at least up until “Smoke and Guns” which I intend to review soon); and on Ursula they actually alternate pages, each doing a couple at a time.

While the styles page-to-page aren’t identical (and you can often find an Easter Egg signature by the brother who did a particular page), the art blends together; if not seamlessly, so well that the differences don’t bother you. I know that 1) not only have I read “Ursula” at least a dozen times and I still don’t know who did which page most of the time, but 2) I became so addicted to Moon and Ba after reading “Ursula” that I will basically buy any project that either brother does, almost unconditionally.

It started with “Smoke and Guns” but I have “Casanova” (which I didn’t like as much, honestly), but “The Umbrella Academy” and its sequel by My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way.

I don’t want to say it’s a “Latin American” sensibility, even though the most obvious comparison to the twins would be Eisner Award winner Eduardo Risso of “100 Bullets” … Risso is Argentine and whereas Moon and Ba are Brazilian. However it is probably accurate to say that they are all cartoonists rather than what we would think of as mainstream “comic book” artists. All of them are superb storytellers that utilize exaggerated expression, heavily stylized figures, and heavy — but slick — ink work.

It’s hard to describe just what makes the art by Moon and Ba so addictive, so I thought that I would show it to you; please forgive the image quality… I took the pics with my dumb Palm Pre, and they really don’t do the brothers’ art justice.

One of the things I love about this book is how varied the art is. Here is a “typical” — yet anything but typical, in terms of skill level — page, I think by Ba. Notice how he uses “mere” black ink so many different ways on one page: Loose lines suggesting the weathered face of Miro’s father; slick shadows across Miro’s face or even the stone railing behind the conversing King and Prince; solid, shaped, black space for hair; and more than any of these, incredible brush work telling us so much — using so little — for the pair’s fur coats:

And from Moon:

This page, existing in the dreamscape of Ursula’s magical imagination, is reminiscent of Bill Watterson on a Sunday.

In the context of “Ursula”, it all makes sense, all works together, without a drop of red, green, or blue.

So what is “Ursula” about?

Well, the A+ grade from Variety so proudly boasted on the cover says it is…

A strange and beautiful emotional journey into the heart of love, A+

My translation: Fuck if I know.

“Ursula” is a mix of fairy tale, magical realism, and window into the minds — quite literally — of the creative twins. I don’t know if I “get it” get it, but I have still read the tiny graphic novel three times this week alone. To me it is mostly about the awesome art; which, I have tried to make clear to you, is awesome.

Like I said, after reading this the first time, I became completely addicted to Moon and Ba, buy everything they draw, &c.

The cover price on “Ursula” is $9.95, but Amazon has new copies at less than $6 the last I checked. Per any ads from here to there, I may earn like $.24 if you make a purchase. Honestly I’d rather you support your local comic book store; regardless Moon & Ba receive my highest possible recommendation.


Five With Five With Flores Friday – TeeVee [and] Everything

Ironic note: Yes, I know this is actually being published on a Saturday 🙁


Star City Games Questions :: Top Chef Draft :: The Cape
Young Justice, episode 2 :: P!nk’s new video :: … you know, “everything”

ONE – Star City Games Questions

Most of you probably know that I started writing for Star City Premium [again] last week. Now I am going to answer all the questions you asked around this possibly (?) surprising (?) return.

yes, i have a question: why did you take so long to come back? 🙂

Unfortunately, I am not sure how to answer this question. I mean, what is “so long” in this context? If you want to submit a follow up question, I will try harder?

Err… I do everything my wife says.

Though I understand your motivations, but this marks the end of Michael J Free-ness! 🙁

It absolutely does not mark the end of Michael J Free-ness. I still write Top Decks every week on DailyMTG; and I think I’ve updated this blog more this week than I have in certain months!

They better have backed up a truck.

Can you give us an idea of how long the contract lasts so that we can know which subscription to sign up for.

I left premium with you and now will sign up as they got you back.

There is no specific termination date to my writing at Star City, so I can’t tell you to only buy such-and-such package if your interest in Premium tracks only to my being there. I can tell you that I have planned about 20 pieces over the next two months, as well as another as-yet unannounced large-scale project (um… oops?) 🙂

Damn, does this mean I have to start getting SCG Premium again? Also, what does this mean about TCGPlayer? Are you writing 2-3 articles per week plus making videos?

I am doing about 10 total pieces on Star City this month and next (articles and videos), plus Top Decks. I am not currently writing at TCGPlayer. We haven’t plotted out what I will be doing in March yet, but I would expect to still be at SCG then 🙂

It’s all a trick. Really it’s BELLA under contract to SCG now, not Mike

This isn’t a question. Think “Jeopardy”.

I have a question, when are you sending me Blightning? :p

Um, you have my phone number.

[From Twitter] I have a question. Why did you make me spend money again?! Damn yooou! Should @SteveSadin share some blame?

[Separately, here on the blog]I think I have a real question. In your explanation article, you talk about How to mashup. My question is – Why mashup (in the abstract)?

Also (there’s always more <_<) specific to the decks involved with the UW Mashup – What does mashing up the two decks in question gain rather than porting them to current extended? Did you prior/have you since tried extended versions of those decks, and if not do you have any gut feelings as to how they would go?

[Twitter question] – Yes, you have to. It is required. On the check you send, write “Michael J. Flores” on the “memo” line.

[Regular questions] – A couple of reasons… 1) Opponents are more likely to make mistakes when playing against mashups because they don’t anticipate the other awesome thing you are going to do when they put resources towards the first awesome thing, 2) different decks have different matchup advantages in the context of a metagame and mashup decks can often take advantage of multiple predator positions, and 3) the cost is relatively low in many cases, certainly in this one.

TWO – Top Chef Draft

Sick week for the home team on the Top Chef front. For those of you following at home, this is how the draft went:

This week my horse Carla took down the elimination challenge for (-2) points and I got an extra (-1) from Tre’s appearance in the winners’ circle.

It was a double elimination week, so double dagger for Luis (Tiffani) and Megan (Jamie… who was more than due to go).

Current standings:

  1. YT: 2
  2. Phil: 3
  3. Luis: 20
  4. Megan: 23

I am once again in the lead, but the long odds have to be on Phil right now… He has Angelo (one of the two favorites) and Filipino Dale (a surprise monster this season). Many pundits probably have Megan more likely to win than YT (she has Marcel, who can win) when I lost my first pick last week… But for now, I’ll enjoy my lead 🙂

THREE – The Cape

From BDM’s Twitter feed / Facebook:

The Cape was not good.

I don’t think it’s as bad as BDM apparently does, but I think his 140-character analysis is pretty hilarious.

The Cape is full of ludicrous comic book cliches. I would tell you some of them but you would never believe me. Okay, you twisted my arm / pulled my leg. The hero is an ex-cop on the run after being framed for being — you guessed it — a supervillain mastermind… by the actual supervillain mastermind (because, you know… cops are fierce fighters adjacent to hand-to-hand vigilantes on the metagame clock of “what to do on a Saturday night”).

He is recruited by a carnival of crime (btw there is such a thing in the Marvel universe as the Circus of Crime), who taps him (as a former police officer) to pull of some, you know crimes [I didn’t really understand this part, but I was playing MTGO at the time]. Then, inexplicably they turn good, start risking their lives for his quest to redeem himself and unseat the supervillain mastermind, and, you know, train him to be a superhero.

Two paragraphs ago I said The Cape is full of comic book cliches; what I mean was just cliches. The supervillain mastermind is the boss of a security firm that is privatizing the police force. So it is also a diatribe against privatization.  Because, you know, companies are bad. Or something.

Did I mention the show isn’t good?

Yeah, I’ll probably watch the show until it gets canceled around ep four or whatever; but don’t expect me to like it.

FOUR – Young Justice, episode 2

I liked it!

The first episode ended with our heroes being decked by a then-enslaved Superboy. Predictably (if only from the promo art), Superboy turns face, frees Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad, and the four go on to found the as-yet-unnamed [on-screen] squad of Young Justice.

At the end of the episode they are joined by the uber-cute Miss Martian, shape-shifting “niece” of the Justice League’s Oreo-addicted JJ. So at this point they are  just missing the female archer shown in much of the promo art. I don’t consider any of this spoiler-iffic as the first two eps are just a “gathering of eagles” and that you could imagine into place by watching a commercial.

Dissatisfying plot points:

  • Speaking of archers… I would have liked to see some on-screen attention to getting Speedy / Red Arrow [back]. What? Does Robin not have his cell phone number?
  • Annoying – Cadmus has Robin, Aqualad, and Kid Flash tied up. I am not sure Kid Flash even has a secret identity, but Dick Grayson’s real name would be at a premium… But Robin still has his domino mask on while shackled. Not only that, but they leave him his utility belt, lock picks, holographic iPads or whatever… Everything he would need to bust out (which he does).

What I loved: My favorite character is Aqualad. I talked about him in the last post, and I like him even more now. They haven’t explained his water manipulation or electric eel powers on-screen yet, but I like how he uses them in the battles!

Old buddy Marc Aquino pointed out that there is an all-new Aqualad in the DC Universe that was recently introduced in Brightest Day (I obviously wasn’t aware). The Young Justice Aqualad seems to be based on that cat, instead of the original:

The new DC Universe Aqualad character.

Overall, loved Young Justice and plan on watching every ep ever… With Clark and Bella of course.

FIVE – P!nk’s New Video

A lot of you cats know who Bella Flores is. For example you have seen this video:

Now because Bella loves Batman more than some of her own family members, wants to major in “fighting badguys” in school, and has deep interests that include karate, chess, and Sorin Markov, lots of peeps on the outside think that I have exerted some kind of undue influence on her young opinions.

The truth is, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Bella has a strong affinity with… understanding things. About three years ago, we let her use the computer to look at like Mickey Mouse Club videos on a Disney website. Despite being three and (at least as far as we knew) incapable of reading, Bella successfully navigated to the [more interesting] Batman- and Power Rangers-themed action video games that were also present on Disney properties.

Power Rangers was her gateway drug, but now Bella likes heroes the max.

So in terms of my being an undue influence on her… not true. In fact, she is more of an influence on me than you might expect. P!nk is Bella’s favorite artist (primarily due to hit “So What”), and because she tends to like stuff I like, I decided to try stuff she likes…

… which is how we are concluding with P!nk’s new vid. It is my early pick for video of the year (last year’s nod would have gone to “Telephone” by Lada Gaga + Beyonce). Enjoy!

“Raise Your Glass” by P!nk

This is a video of memorable, somewhat shocking, and generally effed-up visual images; my personal fave (I don’t know if the word “fave” actually applies here) is at about 1:11.

That’s it!


Young Justice – First Impressions


This review post pertains to the new Young Justice show on Cartoon Network rather than the comic book of the same name, and “Independence Day Part 1” in specific.

Commenting on last week’s post There is Nothing on TV, jmdjr — correctly drawing on previous posts where I had written about mostly watching Cartoon Network on Friday nights — pointed out the premiere of Young Justice. So you have jmdjr (at least in part) to thank for this review.

In the opening scene of “Independence Day Part 1” we see Mister Freeze attacking families a-picnic. Freeze is the first of four different cold-themed villains quashed by four different superhero duos… Flash and Kid Flash over Captain Cold, Batman and Robin over Mister Freeze, Green Arrow and Speedy  Red Arrow over Icicle, and Aquaman and a re-imagined Aqualad (see below) over Killer Frost. All four young heroes express the desire to end their fights quickly because “today’s the day”.

Everyone arrives at the Hall of Justice (very “Superfriends” if you grok), with Robin, Speedy, Aqualad, and Kid Flash being given access to the gym, kitchen, and library… but none of the real Justice League resources; in fact, there are tourists looking down into the library as the four kid heroes are supposedly given increased Justice League access. The conflict begins as Speedy expresses dissatisfaction and walks out. Then the stuff starts.

Nostalgia Alert: Flash and Kid Flash — the super speed duo — are the last to arrive at the Hall of Justice.

Poor Kid Flash: No one seems to know his name. Is it “Flash Boy”? At one point there is a hilarious moment where a civilian bystander asks if he is Speedy, remarking that “it makes no sense” that Speedy is Green Arrow’s sidekick.

Young Justice — at least based on the first episode — is simply awesome. I already like it more than Ben 10, and I like Ben 10 more than Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. It is written by Greg Weisman, the genius behind Disney’s Gargoyles, and you can see Weisman’s able hand in the combination of attention to detail, humor, world building, and just plain good writing. While lots of the Cartoon Network shows are worth watching, Young Justice is both well written (again going from just the first episode), and absolutely gorgeous.

Often you will see superior character models on the animated versions of characters over the comics versions. Consider the model of Triplicate Girl from the too-short-lived Legion of Super-Heroes:

These two images show Triplicate Girl in “three bodies” form. Notice how — in addition to the cute miniskirt uniform — good the animated version’s model is in terms of carrying her three colors across the three bodies. The elements play effectively together when she is in unified “one body” form as well:

All three bodies’ colors are represented when she is all together; we even see elements of the different girls’ hair… But it all works and fits together, resulting in a superior superhero uniform!

Contrast that to the Zero Hour-era Triplicate Girl / Triad uniform (I think of the Zero Hour reboot as “my” Legion BTW):

Despite having Adam Hughes — the best of the “babe” artists — on this illustration, we see a distinct lack of playfulness and life to Triplicate Girl’s uniform, hair style, or overall model. It’s just not as fun and doesn’t work together as well. To be fair, Hughes shows a wicked emotional range here… But that has no bearing on Triplicate Girl’s model / uniform.

* Before we continue, I obviously stole those stills from a Triplicate Girl-themed YouTube video. If you want to watch the whole thing, here ya go:

As I said, it’s not uncommon. Barbara Gordon’s uniform on The Batman was better than either of her uniforms from the Batman: The Animated Series or Gotham Knights eras; certainly better than her actual DC Comics uniform pre-The Killing Joke. The reason I bring this up is that the re-imagined animated Aqualad from Young Justice is another great example. He is just great.

Check out Aqualad’s uniform design. His shirt is very reminiscent of a wakeboarder’s. He is an aquatic hero, so that makes sense. The thing that really got me, though, is the fact that he isn’t wearing any shoes. Taken as a still this fact might not be that striking, but believe me, in the context of the television show — especially when Aqualad was brawling — the absence of shoes served as a cool contrast to, say, Robin’s chunky boots… and just looked cool.

As a point of contrast, this is what Aqualad is “supposed” to look like:

As you can see, the artists working on Young Justice were able to pay tribute to Aqualad’s original color scheme while updating the costume itself to seem more aquatic-appropriate… Simultaneously making the hero look not at all like a ridiculous water clown.

Overall, the art / animation was great; which I think was a big reason why I like it best amongst the Cartoon Network options right now. I don’t know that much about anime, but it had a very “good anime” feel and color palette, without making the heroes look Japanese (which would have been out of place for these characters).

I mentioned before that I admired Weisman’s attention to detail. There were all kinds of Easter Eggs and mini-puzzles in the episode that can enrich your viewing of it if you pay attention. Just one example: The name of the episode is Independence Day. The opening shot was of Mister Freeze attacking a picnic area where families were cooking hot dogs at (presumably) a public grill. Can we figure out what day it is?

Trivia Question: Can you figure out on what day Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” occurs?

Each Justice League member has a number; for example Batman is designated 02 and Red Tornado is designated 16. Is this indicative of their order in joining the League? Who is 01?

Neither of these points actually has to do with the plot of the episode, and neither deciding that the opener takes place on July 4, nor guessing that Superman is League member 01 is required to enjoy the 22 minutes of animated action… But thinking about these things was fun for me, and the opportunity to think about these things seems to indicate that Weisman was thinking about them while he wrote it.

Overall, I absolutely loved it and can’t wait for the next episode. I’ve actually already seen “Independence Day Part 1” three or four times, and I anticipate watching it again tomorrow.

This blog post has lots of images and videos already… so what’s one more? This is a vid I found on the WB where some of Young Justice’s creators talk about the show, characters, and development. Worth the watch IMO.


Stuff to Watch (in the theater) – 2011

2011 looks like it is going to be a big year for movies; the kind of movies that get geek blood pumping, especially comic book fans. Here’s my initial overview of stuff to watch.


“The Green Hornet”

I mean I am all for running any and all superhero / comic book-type adaptations, but this one just seems even awesomer than usual. I don’t remember the last movie I saw featuring Cameron Diaz, but I think I’ve at least medium-liked everything I’ve ever seen starring Seth Rogen.

But what really put this one on the list for me was this story from The New York Times RE: director Michel Gondry:

But the director was unable to work with Nicolas Cage, the film’s original villain. For reasons known only to him, he insisted on using a Jamaican accent.

“I was quite relieved when he announced he no longer wanted the part,” Mr. Gondry said.

Mr. Cage was replaced by Christoph Waltz, the Oscar-winning SS colonel in “Inglourious Basterds.” The character lost the accent but gained a midlife crisis.

One of the greatest bad guy performers of this generation directed by one of the most innovative directors? With like domino masks and solving problems with fists?




Incidentally I was a bit surprised RE: Nic Cage… I mean the guy loves superheroes and was an important part of “Kick-Ass” … without a Jamaican accent 🙂

Passing on: “The Mechanic” (I love Jason Statham but watch DI on video).


“Just Go With It”

MovieFone.com did a great job summarizing a movie that I had never heard of in such a way that I 100% want to see it. So rather than pretending that I have an independent thought on this one I am just going to paste a screen shot of what they said.


“Sucker Punch”

This trailer is unreal:

“300” is a movie I watch whenever I need to get pumped up. Snyder didn’t really do “Watchmen” justice, but it’s hard to follow Alan Moore at his best, so I’ll give him a pass on that one. Plus, that trailer was just unreal, right? It seems like a combination of “Kick-Ass”, “Kill Bill”, “Special” by Garbage, “Reign of Fire” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” … But with shorter skirts.

Just can’t wait.


“Scream 4”

I mean, mise.

The “Scream” franchise was actually fairly pivotal in my becoming a movie buff… or at least movie zombie. I think I saw every movie that played in the local cineplex in the year 1998-1999. “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” might have ruined me for movies for all time; luckily I recovered via “Shakespeare in Love”.



/ crosses fingers

On the fence: “The Hangover, Part II” (probably catch it on vid), “Kung Fu Panda: The Kaboom of Doom” (ditto… although the first “Kung Fu Panda” is about the best martial arts movie of all time).

Passing on: “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” (I didn’t even see the third one, the second one was so bad).


“X-Men: First Class”

“Kick-Ass” and “Stardust” director Matthew Vaughn is directing a James Bond-esque 1960’s X-Men prequel starring January Jones as Emma Frost of the Hellfire Club.

Trivia question – Do you know what the Hellfire Club-era Emma Frost dresses like?

Second trivia question – Have you ever heard of Betty Draper?

Sounds gorgeous / awful / awesome.

“The Green Lantern”

Weird how X-Men prequel star Ryan Reynolds is starring opposite the most recent X-Men prequel the same month.

More comics – Hopefully all these movies will be awesome.



“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II”

All the other movies on this nerd-list put together pale in comparison to the culmination of this mighty franchise.

I have never really loved any of the Harry Potter movies; like I adored each and every book, but I didn’t particularly like any of the movies; maybe number three (I didn’t think they could really do a better job). But for example Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince both seemed rushed to YT.

I guess we definitely won’t have that issue having split Number Seven into two parts.

Anyway – I’m really looking forward to this one… Probably not a surprise.

“Captain America: The First Avenger”

I never really liked Captain America (at least not before the Ed Brubaker run). His costume is ridiculous I think you will agree.

That said, you have to watch this one, right? The Avengers crossover coming up basically requires complete devotion to Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and now Cap.

Is it just me or are there DI comics movies this year?

“Green Hornet”, “Thor”, “X-Men: First Class”, “Green Lantern” and “Captain America: The First Avenger”? It’s like Wednesday, every day.

“Cowboys and Aliens”

Some of you who have been following me for a few years know that I did well in a comics-drawing contest and landed a graphic novel contract with Platinum Studios back in 2003. My Magic writing took off soon after, and I was never able to realize that particular dream of making comics professionally.

What does that have to do with “Cowboys and Aliens” you ask? That was / is a Platinum Studios property!

They seem to have gone full bore on this one, with “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau directing, with basically the nut high nerd-gathering cast of James Bond, Indiana Jones, and the hottest woman on earth as his cast.

One more comics movie it is!


“The Smurfs”

Definitely not seeing this.

I actually hated the damn Smurfs as a kid, and the movie looks insufferable.





So it looks like I will go four months without seeing a movie in the theater. The most interesting thing between July and December is “Moneyball”, which despite my interest in sports economics and quite liking basically every Brad Pitt movie I have ever seen, doesn’t seem like a movie I would go and see in the theater.

Might see: “Sherlock Holmes 2”, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” … Honestly, both of these will probably be straight to video releases for YT.

So… How about you?