Andy’s Current Favorites: March 2020

GhostAndy

DGPH5295Hey, gang! Andy Larson back with a segment I used to do all the time, but swore up and down last year that it was going to be retired, the Current Favorite article. This was an opportunity I took every month to give fans an insight into what I might be reading, listening to music wise, watching on TV, or playing in terms of video games that wouldn’t necessary make for a great article by themselves, but combined would be worth the effort of your eyes in reading.

The reason I originally got rid of the article was somewhat short sighted as I said I could probably write a bunch of mini articles about these topics instead and bring more hits to the website. Although that still might be true, it’s become apparent that I’m too set in my ways, and writing tons of mini articles is not in my wheelhouse. We talk a lot about quotas here at GotS, and whether or not you’ve met them too. I’m expected to write two articles a week and edit the podcast. That’s my quota since this whole nasty business started, and damn it if I’m going to increase my workload by spliting even one longer article in several smaller ones, even if honestly it’s probably the same amount of work. The illusion is there that it’s more and I won’t have it!

Besides I found myself up against a wall with the read pile review I wanted to do for this week and how difficult it would be write something of substance so I figured by pairing it up with other stuff, my loyal readers would still be getting their money’s worth.

But before I begin, I did want to say I wanted to include as one of the sections of this month’s article, some talk about the current final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Disney+, because I really am enjoying it greatly. I mean it started off with a dynamite first story arc about Rex’s quest to save his captured clone brother, Echo, and the team up with by far the most “marketable” set of Star Wars characters I’ve seen since Baby Yoda, in “The Bad Batch”.

 

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These clone rejects are pretty much the Star Wars equivalent of the A-Team, and have merchandising potential written all over them. Especially since everything they did in these two episodes played out like a Gears of War style video game only in a Galaxy Far, Far Away. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t get more spin off related material about this awesome elite strike force quartet.

Although I am a bit fussy we didn’t get the scene were we got Padme as a WWII style pin up girl on the side of their spaceship. I get that it would be somewhat of a waste of the Padme character to sexualize her like that, but god that art was super great!

 

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But yeah, my review of this entire final season will be coming in an upcoming article once the show wraps up, so you’ll just have to wait until then. However until then, let’s get started with this month’s rundown, shall we?

 

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Current Book I’m Reading:

Black Hammer: Age of Doom by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston

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I don’t run into a comic book that I have difficulty talking about often, but the Black Hammer Series Saga really has thrown me for a loop. I’m not talking about all the various awesome spinoffs that have sprouted up in the wake of this monumental series. I’m talking about the main story line that has me really frazzled.

Even more so that I just finished the second part of that main story line with Black Hammer: Age of Doom. You see it’s not that I can’t find the words to describe this tale of Golden/Silver Age former heroes that one day awaken in a small farming town after a climatic battle with a evil Galactus style super baddie named the Anti God, only to determine they are trapped their permanently with death their only way out.

The problem is that the entire point of the series is that the mystery surrounding where they are and how they came to be trapped there is so critical to the enjoyment of the series in my opinion that even having minor spoilers about the outcome or the clues along the way will completely ruin the book for anyone out there that still wants to read it.

That’s the conumdrum, folks! How to talk about a comic book without really talking about the comic book? Because ultimately the easiest way to sum up the entire Black Hammer series is that it’s a classic murder “whodunit” disguised as a superhero book.

It’s all about unraveling the question of “Who Killed the Black Hammer?” as the ultrapowerful heavy hitter of our band of Justice League stand-ins is killed very early  on in the book when he attempts to the leave the farm town they are trapped in. Killed very violently as a matter of fact, which discourages all the other super heroes from attempting to leave.

Although, one of them, the Captain America/Wildcat stand in of Abraham Slam actually likes the quiet life viewing their predicament as somewhat of a retirement after years of crimefighting, the Shazam stand in of Golden Gail does not given she’s trapped in the body of an 8 year old girl despite being really in her late 70s. And so it goes as we get to know the personal lives of our prisoners such as the fierce Martian Manhunter like Barbalien or the dangerously unbalanced Scarlet Witch like Madame Dragonfly.

Everything changes though when Black Hammer’s daughter, Lucy, appears in town searching for answers about her father’s demise. And it’s that point I gotta shut up.

All I can say is if you  are a fan of really strong characterization, internal drama, and most of all mysteries, then you owe it to yourself to read Black Hammer and Black Hammer: Age of Doom, the latter of which actually brings the series to a pretty damn good conclusion if I do say so myself.

I know originally I was hesitant to put this book on my top 10 Indie series of all time, as I didn’t know how it was going to wrap up. But I think if I had to do it over again, I would have thought twice on that fact. It’s an extremely satisfying read from beginning to end!


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Current Favorite Album While Reading Comics:

Tyler Childers “Country Squire

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It’s hard to deny my backwoods roots at times. But then again, most days I’m pretty damn proud to be a farm boy from a quiet little former coal mining town in the mountains of Appalachia. And that pride comes out primarily in the music I listen to.

Country.

And when I say Country, I mean real country. Not that overproduced poppy stuff that you’ve heard on mainstream “country” stations for the past 35 years. I’m talking Americana music, Alt Country, call it what you want, but it’s the real deal. Real stories about that old time tradition sung by authentic voices. Folks like Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Colter Wall, Jason Isbell, The Avett Brothers, Lukas Nelson, The Highwomen, and the list goes on.

Speaking of that list, another name that I’m happy to add to is Tyler Childers, a fella who I first heard of through the efforts of Sturgill Simpson, who has been touring with him off and on for the past several years. Tyler made his bones in the West Virginia mountains and his music is very much influenced by that folky hillbilly sound. Banjo, fiddle, pedal steel guitar, and lots of foot stomping “hoe down” type back beats. Plus, he’s got an insanely unquie voice for singing which really is unlike anything currently out there with its peculiar twang and cadence. It’s something from a bygone era, before all the personality was edited out by Nashville.

And although this might not be the cup of tea for everyone, Tyler’s music really does scratch an itch for me. More fitting for a honky tonk with a beer served from a mason jar than a large concert venue, I still loved every moment of seeing him live in concert recently. In fact, even though I specifically went to see Sturgill Simpson that evening, I actually enjoyed Tyler’s opening set more and came away really feeling I had got my money’s worth of entertainment.

So yeah, his most recent album, Country Squire, has been in permanent rotation since. Even though it’s only March and it still hasn’t warmed up enough yet, it makes me wanna go grab a brew or two with my latest reading assignment and listen on that back porch swing. That’s what life is about, folks!

 

 

 


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Current Favorite Video Game:

Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

 

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If it seems like all Nintendo does anymore is recreate the same old games they released years and years ago, you would be right. That is a fair assessment of their business model. Shoving the same Mario, Zelda, and other related properties down our throats time and time again.

But in the same breath, do I want them to change their approach? HELL NO!

Simply put, the approach works, especially when it comes to updated re-releases of classics that most of us haven’t played in ages. Such is the case with the updated graphic version of the hit Gameboy cartridge from, Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I remember fondly this game being one of the few killer apps for that system that sucked so much of my battery life as a teenager.

A sequel of sorts to the SNES classic “Link to the Past”, this game follows the adventures of Link after he is shipwrecked on a mysterious island following a terrible storm. He’s tasked at that point by a wise old owl to awaken an immense creature called the Wind Fish who is sleeping in a colossal egg on the top of a mountain. To do this, he has to collect 8 musical instruments from various dungeons in typical Zelda dungeon crawler style so that a specific tune can be played thus acting as an alarm clock to the snoring whale.

The ending does have somewhat of trick however which I won’t spoil here despite it being a nearly 30 year old game because there might be those out there that never played the original and for them this Switch version is their first exposure to this wonderful adventure game.

And I think that’s the key point as to why I’m not angry that Nintendo is just redoing a bunch of their older games with updated graphics and play-ability. A lot of people haven’t enjoyed Link’s Awakening prior to this Switch release and for them, it’s a remarkably well made game, merging the classic Zelda themes and gamplay with some platform type elements. For example, Link’s ability to jump via the Roc Feather was such an important development for the franchise as a whole that I’m now hard pressed to think it shouldn’t be a standard part of all Zelda games whether they be top down or not going forward.

Plus, it’s not like Nintendo just released the same game like they do with their Nintendo Online services. Link’s Awakening was lovingly remastered with absolutely wonderful sprites and colors making it arguably the best top down Zelda game thus far released. It almost makes up for the fact that they were originally going to do a 16 bit remake of the original Legend of Zelda, like they did with Super Mario All Stars, but only then released it as an online service for a brief time in Japan. That was a crime, but it does drive home the fact that I think these remastered versions are well worth any gamers time in playing and am very happy anytime Nintendo decides to do one.

 

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In playing Link’s Awakening on the Switch, it fills me with a need to more of these Nintendo branded classics in remastered form on the console in future. Especially the Zelda games which are so very fun. What I wouldn’t give to get a remastered Zelda II or heck even Switch releases of The Wii U versions of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess.

However, if there’s one Zelda game I would die to have on the Switch it would be the Skyward Sword game that was released in the final days of the Wii. Maybe without the terrible motion controls and to play more like a regular Zelda game. As someone that never got to play that all important “first” chapter in the Zelda mythology, I would give my right arm for that.

Oh well, in the meantime, at least we have Link’s Awakening to keep us Zelda fans stoked as we wait for the release of Breath of the Wild II. It’s definitely not a game that will leave you feeling soaked. Quite the opposite, its a welcomed life raft in a sea of the endless waiting for another wonderful game in this epic franchise.

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