Apparently, there’s a movement at the Stratosphere HQ for shorter article lengths, which is good timing for me. You see, recently Nintendo released Tetris 99 for the Switch. That’s what I do now. All the time. It doesn’t leave much time for in depth reviews or comic analysis. Still, eventually today I will review Kelly Sue DeConnick and David Lopez’s Captain Marvel (2015) Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More trade–after a quicky Tetris 99 discussion, of course.
I will confess to not being much of a gamer these days.
Usually, modern games get to be more effort than I’m willing to put in. I have two kids, a job, numerous side hustles, a podcast, a blog article each week, and a dog. There’s enough on my plate that when I started to play Assassin’s Creed for the first time and there was a 15 minute tutorial before you even start the gameplay, that was too much. That doesn’t include the games that require 40 gig downloads to play. I don’t have time for that! Plus, my simple brain simply can’t process the open world or massive multiplayer battle royale-style games like Fortnight or PubG or whatever you kids are playing these days with the myriad of skins or schemes to take your vbucks.
That’s one reason why I stick with Nintendo systems. They still make games that I can understand and play in the same room with my kiddo. They make those other games, too, but I know I can always plug in a Mario Kart and drive a kart. Or smash some buttons with a Super Smash Brothers game. I’ve even managed to embrace some online games like Rocket League, but only because that’s soccer with cars. Makes sense. Better yet, I’ll still load up some classic games (which come with Nintendo’s online service) and go old-school. That brings us to Tetris 99, where Nintendo mixed all the stuff I like and don’t like into one addictive package.
The basic conceit is that you play Tetris on your screen, and 98 other folks from around the world play Tetris on their screens. You can use the toggle stick on your controller to aim your attacks at others, and when you get multiple lines, you send lines to their board, just like some rando can send attacks your way. Last person standing wins. So you get the best of those battle royale elements combined with classic gameplay in a game that’s super addictive. Rounds only take a matter of minutes. Even finding 98 other players happens in the span of a minute. As far as I can tell, there’s no chat option or way to know who you’re playing with, which is fine by me. I don’t want to hear the opinions of some 10 year old who’s learning how to creatively use curse words. Instead, I load up a game, hang in there as long as I can…and then I load up another game. And another. And another. And then it’s well into the wee hours of the morning and I’m questioning my life decisions. I’m not even that good. I’ll be totally honest, I don’t even target my attacks, which is a thing you can do to knock others off of their game. Moving my attention from the Tetris-ing to targeting back to Tetris-ing just throws me off. Still, within my first handful of tries, I got 3rd place out of 99. That’s cool, I though, so I played again. And again.
10 plus hours of gameplay later, I finally got first place. And immediately played again. And then my son whined and wanted his Switch back so he could play Splatoon 2. I said no. I don’t want him becoming addicted to video games. And I went back to being addicted to video games. My hypocrisy knows no bounds.
The big downside to Tetris 99 is that there’s ironically no multiplayer mode locally. I can play with 98 other randos no problem, but if I want to play Tetris with my kiddo, I have to buy a different game, Puyo Puyo Tetris instead. That Tetris you have to pay for, whereas Tetris crack 99 comes for free with the online subscription. I could pony up for a second Switch and online subscription and all the rest, but that’s just letting the terrorists win. That’s really my only complaint about the ‘99, as I would love to actually know who I’m going up against in private battles, but whattaya want for nothing? Otherwise, I’m too addicted to say no at this point. Nintendo’s evil plan to keep me hooked on their online service is working. For me to spend tens of hours of my life (that really should be devoted to any number of actually useful responsibilities), I have no choice but to give Tetris 99 an A+. It’s an A+ awash in the tears of my kiddo who really wants his game system back.
So with all that Tetris-ing, I haven’t had much time for comic reviewing. Any books I would pick up, I would put back down a minute later to play Tetris. I did want to do a Captain Marvel write-up, as that movie did drop this week. Full disclosure, I’m writing this article prior to seeing the movie, but I anticipate it’ll be a good one. I figure fans might be looking for more ways to get their Captain Marvel fix. I’ve never been a faithful reader of Captain Marvel, but I’m certainly not against her. I’ve heard good things about Kelly Sue DeConnick’s take on the character, so I thought I would check it out and see what this Carol Corps hubbub is all about. For you, dear readers, I paused playing Tetris to read a comic book. It only took me two weeks. I can only not play Tetris for so long.
Captain Marvel (2015) Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More is an ok place to continue your Marvelizing. It’s not an origin story, which is nice simply because every volume one doesn’t have to be a retelling of the origin. That’s what movies are for. It also doesn’t really go too in depth on the capabilities of Captain Marvel either. I couldn’t tell you her power set after this story. That’s ok, too. There are plenty of other stories to explore those questions. Probably. I do wish the helmet was explained, but I’m sure that’s out there somewhere else. Carol’s personality is fleshed out where I feel like I could pick up what I needed to know about the character: she’s a capable pilot; she has a sense of adventure; her confidence outpaces her competency, but she somehow finds a way to succeed. I can dig that. It has a similar vibe to the guest stars of this trade, the Guardians of the Galaxy. They’re lovable screwups whose confidence and bravado leads to wacky hijinks, and Carol seems like a loveable screwup (in her personal life at least) whose personality quirks are going to send her on a space-shuttle ride to hijinx city.
The basic plot of this story is Captain Marvel meets an alien on the run who is trying to help keep her people from being relocated. This leads to Carol teaming up with a motley band of characters to unlock the mystery of why the aliens are being shuttered off of their recently adopted planet, and defending those aliens from the outside sources that want to do them harm. Spoiler: It’s Starlord’s dad!
On the visual side, the David Lopez art is a thing of beauty. His facial expressions go a long way in showing the emotions in the story. They’re so good; they remind me of the Kevin Maguire run on Justice League International back in the day. They pair perfectly with the writing to really give Captain Marvel her personality.
The story is a solid, continuing-adventures-of-Captain-Marvel collection that strikes me one of two ways, depending on the day.
1) It’s the type of story where if I’m already an established fan of the character, I would love it. It’s fun, it has heart. The art is beautiful. It’s a small piece of a greater puzzle, I’m sure, but I would be very satisfied with this part of the ride.
2) It’s not all that important. This story most likely isn’t (or shouldn’t) show up in the “best-of” category for Captain Marvel. Not being a huge fan means I don’t know exactly which specific stories should be in that category, but this isn’t it. Back in the day, this book would likely not be collected in a trade format. That’s not to say it’s bad in the least. While this volume isn’t going to inspire a different viewpoint, it’s still really fun. It’s just popcorn. It’s quality month-to-month comic bookery as opposed to an epic character-defining masterwork. Not every story needs to be a masterwork. Sometimes a book with a charming personality is enough to keep me coming back issue after issue. That’s where this take on Captain Marvel stands in my eyes.
Final Grade: B (with B+ potential). If I didn’t have Tetris 99 taking up so much of my free time, I would definitely pick up the next trade. Since, I do, though… that probably won’t happen right away. And if it does, there’s not much I’ll need to remember from this story other than it was fun.
It was a good book for a fast review.
If you want to give it your own looksie, you can find Captain Marvel (2015) Vol. 1 on Amazon or via your local comic shop. If you want to challenge me on Tetris 99, sign on to the Nintendo Switch post kid-bedtime, and there’s a good chance I’ll be there battling while the wife gets her British Bake Off fix from the Netflix. Even if I’m not online, you won’t be able to tell until the game is over anyway. At that point, you’ll probably just load up the next game without missing me too much. We can all cope with our addictions later on.
Until next time, I’ll be playing Tetris. I already told you. There might not be a next time. We’ll see. Play it by ear for next Sunday. Good luck out there, kids.