All posts by Noob of All Trades

Shawn Lucas is the self identified "Noob of All Trades". He is married and the father of three boys, two of whom help with their own podcast every couple of months. Raised on Atari, Nintendo, and Sega, he enjoys all games and will play all of them to the best of his ability, which is often average at best. Currently, he is most interested in Magic, Heroclix, and other games that he can play with Chris and his sons.

DC Comics January 2021: Great, Good, Decent

Introduction

We finally finish out comics week and a half for this month with DC Comics January 2021. I planned on posting this article last week on Friday. I had a busy weekend of playing Minecraft, Lego, and board games with my family. Plus the NFL unveiled their Super Duper Mega Wild Card Weekend. Finally, college football played their national championship game. There’s only so much I can be expected to do in a weekend.

Sure, I should have already had the article written before the weekend, but what is time if not for procrastinating?

And so, it is how I have arrived at nearly a half a week past my self imposed deadline to review DC Comics January 2021. I know you won’t believe me, but I swear it’s not because DC has been a let down these last couple of months. I always go into a new month of comics with an open mind and hope for the best. More often than not, that faith is rewarded. Let’s see if that’s true this time.

The Great

Batman 104 and 105 (James Tynion IV et al): I always feel bad when there are numerous artists on a book because I use the et al tag for them all. They all work hard on these books and they should get credit. By the same token, I mostly read comic books for the writing. However, I don’t want my byline to be two or three text lines, either. None of that is relevant to this review. I just want to be as open and honest as possible.

Now, for the review. As I’ve mentioned several times in the past, James Tynion IV on Batman excited me when I first heard the news. Either high expectations or the reality of the situation or both brought me crashing back to earth. Slowly, but surely, the book got better until Joker War. Since then, the book lived up to that promise. Now, comes Future State. I, again, hope that the book survives the hiatus.

Wonder Woman 768 and 769 (Mariko Tamaki, Rafa Sandoval, and Steve Pugh): Similar to Tynion on Batman, Tamaki on Wonder Woman excited me. Honestly, I enjoyed Wonder Woman for most of the last 2 or 3 years since Rebirth. They hooked me with Rucka and then it stayed just above water enough that I don’t think it ever dipped into “Decent” territory for more than a month or two. Now that Tamaki is on the book, she makes even secondary storylines fun to read.

The Good

Aquaman 66 (Andy Lanning, Ron Marz, and Miguel Mendonca): Like Wonder Woman (is the theme of this article going to be call backs to the previous books?), I started collecting Aquaman because of the movie. Also, I wanted to get in on the ground floor of Rebirth with as many titles as possible. This book hasn’t been as consistently good as Wonder Woman and I considered dropping it a few times. My favorite writer is Deconnick, but Lanning is a good stop gap on these titles, too.

Action Comics 1028 (BMB and JRJR): I make no secret of my distaste for the unholy union of Brian Michael Bendis and the Superman titles. At least this book shows promise every so often. I saw the news recently that he’s moving to Justice League after Future State. So, I will spare you the same old story going forward. Maybe, for old time’s sake, we can resurrect it when he writes Justice League.

Catwoman 28 (Ram V and Fernando Blanco): I texted Chris about this title last week. I saw that Ram V will be writing for Swamp Thing after Future State. We both agreed that his work on JLD has been solid. I then surmised that perhaps Catwoman isn’t a strong enough character for a solo title because his work on the book is solid, but I just don’t like the stories. How many different “heist” issues can you do? I liked this one, though. More of these types of stories, please.

Justice League 58 (Andy Lanning, Ron Marz, and Xermanico): I suppose that Lanning was not a stop gap on Aquaman. He and Marz are cowriting the Endless Winter story. I admit to being skeptical when I saw yet another event in DC Comics with Future State so close. However, I enjoyed this story even if it is just a rip off of Frozen. Which, of course, is a ripoff itself. Aiden even liked it. He asked where the missing issues were. So, maybe I’ll have to find them at the LCS.

Justice League Dark 29 (Andy Lanning, Ron Marz, Amancay Nahuelpan): I will be honest. It wasn’t until I saw that Ram V wasn’t the writer on this title that I realized that Lanning and Marz were cowriting all of the titles in Endless Winter. Not sure why they included this title in the event other than as a send off. Which, by the way, I do not approve. The JLD will still be with us, but only as a bonus story on the main title. What are you doing to me, DC?

The Decent

Detective Comics 1032 and 1033 (Peter J. Tomasi and Brad Walker): When Tynion wrote this title, I loved it. As soon as Tomasi took over, it dropped to the “Good” category. More and more, my enjoyment of the title eroded over time. Some people might like Tomasi. I just don’t Other than the Joker War issues, this book has been forgettable during his tenure. Williamson is taking over after Future State, though, so that’s something to look forward to.

Superman 28 (BMB and Ivan Reis): Action may have had some redeeming stories during it’s run. I did not enjoy this title after the rebrand from Man of Steel. I simply kept collecting for collecting’s sake. Now I can say I have the entire BMB run of Superman. For whatever that’s worth.

The Verdict

As we head into Future State, I’m tentatively optimistic about DC Comics. They are mixing up creative teams, dropping some books, and folding others into bonus stories on more popular titles. The only decision I’m currently angry about is their decision to make JLD a bonus title. I feel like it has been the only consistently good book for them over the last year and a half. As always, thanks for reading my DC Comics January 2021 review and we’ll see you next week for Future State.

NFL Coin Flip Weekend 2021 Post Mortem: A Love (?) Story

Introduction

You may be surprised to see this NFL Coin Flip Weekend 2021 Post Mortem article. Where is the DC review from last week? I keep meaning to finish comics week for January 2021 by reviewing the DC books from this month. However, I keep getting distracted and not finishing the books. I hope to have them done by tomorrow and then I can do an post mortem article for the CFP National Championship Game on Thursday. Perhaps, I will do an article and video for Minecraft dungeons to finally get into some gaming content.

It’s been a while since Quinn and I have sat down to play.

I think I will structure this article as a Top 5 list. But, you might say, weren’t there six games this weekend? Yes, and I will give you 3 guesses (but you’ll only need one) as to which game didn’t crack the top 5. Here’s a hint. When Chris texted, “This is getting ugly”, I responded with ” I think I need to just swear off this team until they get good or, at least, fun.”

Call me a front runner all you want. I just can’t with this team anymore. The coach can’t properly motivate them. AB clowned him in the locker room a couple of years ago. Juju listened and stopped dancing. He then promptly gave the Browns bulletin board material. Ben Roethlisberger is a repeatedly alleged rapist. What, then, am I supposed to find appealing here? I suppose those were all much bigger hints than the first. Oh well, let’s dive into some NFL Coin Flip Weekend 2021 Post Mortem. Except, of course, for the Steelers/Browns game.

5 – Alas, poor Mitchell, I knew him well

I can be the first to admit that page favorite Mitch Trubisky does himself no favors. I don’t think he’s a bad quarterback. In fact, I often say that Josh Allen is Mitch Trubisky if he gets a good coach. Now, the question becomes, will that ever happen?

We got closer to it possibly happening. I saw a headline on NFL.com that said he might be gone from Chicago without a deep playoff run. Well, the Saints ended any of that talk by decimating the Bears this weekend. The funny thing is that Chris and I both texted during the first half about what a decent game it was.

Then, he texted, “They just came out after halftime and laid an egg.” I don’t remember his exact words, but they had that sentiment. I just wish for the best for our dear friend Mitch. I also hope that Tompa ends the Saints in the most heart breaking fashion next week. Cheering for Tom Brady two weeks in a row. What hath this year wrought?

4 – “Seattle is the most complete team in the league”

I texted these words to Chris earlier in the season. I tried to give it more merit by giving the actual week when it happened, but I honestly don’t remember. And, I’m not going to comb through our archives to find out. So, you will just have to take my word for it. After all, why would I lie about something so stupid?

Well, you also need to take my word that ever since I texted those words, Seattle fell back to earth. They barely resembled an NFL team some weeks, let alone the most complete team in the league. The Seahawks again went out of their way to prove me wrong this weekend. They lost to a Rams team with a former AAF (is that even what it was called?) guy and Jared Goff with a broken thumb as their quarterbacks.

I think, of all the games this weekend, this one both shocked and made me the most angry. Sure, I have more invested in the Steelers as a former life long fan. However, I fully expected them to blow that game. Other than their inconsistency this year, Seattle showed no indication of a potential let down.

3 – I think TB12’s got his steroids, er protein shakes

The Golden Boy didn’t light Football Team up for 5 TDs like I hoped. He threw for two in the first half. Washington came back in the second half to make it close. In general, that’s one thing you can count on in today’s National Football League. One team will almost certainly come back in the second half to make the game close.

I must admit. Looking at the box score, I have no idea how Washington even competed with Tampa in this game. I thought that the Seattle game was more shocking. Now that I see some of the names on the Washington roster, I reverse that decision. I lieu of further explanation, I present the following screen shot.

Seriously, has there ever been a roster that looked more like a “Football Team” from some generic 1980s or 1990s football video game?

2 – LJ defeats yet another of those dumb narratives

Nothing irritates me more about sports talk than the narrative, “(some guy) can’t win the big game. We are told over and over how sports are team dependent. Then, someone like Lebron James, Clayton Kershaw, and in the NFL more recently, LJ get the label of not being able to “win the big game”.

Granted, there are a lot of lazy narratives in sports journalism and “journalism”. We live in an era where talking heads scream at each other from across the table. Well, technically, since COVID, they scream at each other from across the room.

Any stupid opinion can be picked up by a bot on Twitter and turned into the latest “hot take”. Nevertheless, I contend that nothing needs to die more than this stupid idea of “(some guy) can’t win the big one.” Well, at least I don’t have to listen to it said about LJ anymore.

1 – Both the Bills and the Browns won this weekend

Earlier, I said I refused to talk about the Browns/Steelers game. I stand by that. I only mention them in the header so that I can make my stupid joke. Okay, now that I’ve properly telegraphed that, on with the show.

What is this, the 90s? Am I right, folks? Am I right? The 1990s? The time of aborted Woodstock festivals and the last time either of these two teams was relevant in any fashion. Okay, perhaps that joke wasn’t worth the set up. Or, maybe the set up was the joke the whole time.

I know. What can I say? I’m a master of alternative comedy.

All I’m saying is I like the Bills. I wish them only success against the Ravens next game. Then, if the Browns can somehow pull off the upset vs. the Chiefs, we can have a real old fashioned 1990s Super Bowl where they lose by 35 points. Too bad none of their old foes are still alive in the NFC to really drive the point home.

The Verdict

My verdict of the NFL Coin Flip Weekend 2021 post mortem is that it wasn’t nearly as entertaining as I hoped. Chris and I texted several times during this year about how glad we were that football was happening in spite of COVID. My interest started to wane about midseason and completely fell off when the Steelers lost their first game. I only wanted them to go 16-0 and lose in their first playoff game. That would have been much more satisfying for my schadenfreude than what actually happened. Oh well, the games for the next round look fun on paper, at least. Besides, what else am I going to do with my weekend?

Note: All teams and the single logo used on this web page are the property of the NFL. They are used without consent (written or otherwise), but only in good fun. If you’re feeling litigious, please refrain from throwing your vast legal resources at this small page that caters to my kids, Chris (Hi Chris!) and about 25 Russian bots (Hi Sergei!).

CFP National Championship 2021: Great, Good, Decent

Introduction

Okay, let’s do this. Bama/Clemson for the CFP National Championship 2021 for the third (fourth? fifth? I’ve lost count) time in a row. Wait, what’s that you say? It’s not? Color me truly surprised. I honestly thought part of living in this hell was the torture of the same CFP final game for the rest of eternity.

I don’t know how the Buckeyes broke the curse, but I’m thankful they did.

As a casual fan of college football, I willingly accepted the Alabama/Nick Saban “evil empire” story. I hated the team. That was all BT (Before Tua). I legitimately jumped out of my seat on the couch and cheered Tua’s debut in the National Championship game that year. I bought his story hook, line, and sinker. Before he left for the NFL, he was my college football man crush. Unfortunately, he has a lot of competition in the pros, so while I still like him, he needs to get in line. And, get a lot better to even come close to Mahomes.

I cheered for Alabama last year mostly to spite my friend Craig. We’re both kind of a-holes and we do that kind of stuff on a regular basis. In fact, I planned on going over to his house at some point during bowl season (and then again tonight) to watch some college football. He is a much more devoted fan than me and it can be fun to watch games with him in spite of the fact that we do things out of spite towards one another. I decided against going over. I could have just watched the first half, but it’s a late night for a school night. What, then, will I be watching in the CFP National Championship 2021 by myself?

The Great

That’s the same red as the royal troopers in Star Wars, isn’t it?

Evil Empire is back – With Tua gone to the NFL and his brother taking his talents to the Terrapins, I have no reason left to root for this team. I could take the counter culture route and cheer for Nick Saban and his douche bag act. Unlike Belichick, I actually find Saban to be somewhat charming. But, that means that I’d have to cast my lot with a team that had 3 out of the 5 finalists for the Heismann trophy. That goes against my very being as a sports fan.

Justin Fields – I heard the kid’s name through the season, but never saw him play until the semi finals against Clemson. He took a brutal hit and I thought for a minute that he might be dead. Nope, he only came back out to throw 6 TDs against one of the best teams in the history of college football. I’ll be interested to see what he can do against Alabama.

The Good

Covid Bowl – Regular readers of the page may know that I’m a fan of chaos, especially when that chaos is confined to the ultimately pointless arena of sports. Thanks to COVID, chaos has ruled this college football season. Several teams with losing records played and won bowl games. The two potential “spoilers” this year both put an end to any talk of them as actual contenders by taking a dump in their bowl games. Some of that chaos is present in this game. If Ohio State wins, they will have won a National Championship playing only 8 games, the fewest since the 40s. I think that’s what I heard. Bring that on.

No fans – I mean, there will be fans. But, it will be the COVID version of fans in the stands. In a stadium that holds over 65,000, there will be maybe a quarter of that actually in attendance. Some have lamented the fact that there are no fans in the stands. Honestly, other than the weird Zoom fans that the NBA had in the bubble, I haven’t noticed the crowd in any of these events. When they show the stands, it looks weird. Other than that, though, the fans are superfluous to the process.

The Decent

No Halftime Show? – This is how you know I’m an old guy. I mean, forget that most of my references are from Seinfeld, The Simpsons, and 80s and 90s SNL. Or, that my top ten games are all from the Super Nintendo or before. Maybe, also forget that I groan when I sit down, need to take an extra 10-15 minutes to get out of bed in the morning, and that my doctor mistakenly gave me a prostate exam before remarking, “Oh, you’re not 50 yet.” So, yeah, I guess I was pretty unhealthy a few years ago. No, the way that I know I’m an old guy is that I actually felt sad when I just searched an found out there would be no halftime show.

More of the same – I hope for a good game out of Ohio State. Who knows? Maybe Justin Fields can take them on his shoulders again for the win. It will be tough with his injury. So, I fear that eventually Alabama’s talent will take over and they’ll roll.

The Verdict

The CFP National Championship 2021 comes with quite a bit less fanfare than previous years. COVID has just made everything not as fun this year. I will still watch the game. And, I will try to enjoy it. But, I just have a feeling that I will tune out in disgust or boredom at halftime. Hopefully, by next year, things will be approaching pre-COVID normal.

NFL Coin Flip Weekend 2021: A Love? Story

Introduction

Welcome to NFL Coin Flip Weekend 2021. I can’t remember if we did any previews last year for the NFL playoffs other than the Super Bowl. I suppose there is at least one way to figure that out. Okay, okay, if you’re going to pressure me into it. I will search the archives.

BRB…

Okay, in actuality, we were right on top of the entire playoffs last year. So, yay for us! Now, for the new readers, allow me to explain the title. If you’re old hat around here, skip the next couple of paragraphs and get to the good stuff.

A few years ago, I got the idea to rename Wild Card Weekend to Coin Flip Weekend. It has, by far, the most variance of any of the postseason games other than maybe the Super Bowl in the last 20 years or so. I found a quarter, named him George, and used him to predict the games. George actually did pretty well. If I bet on George’s pick, I’d have made money.

George led to another cockamamie idea of becoming the “Completely Ignorant” prognosticator to show how silly it was that there are so many talking heads shows. Clearly, that failed, as the number of those shows has increased exponentially. Oh well, I am tired of calling myself completely ignorant in a society that actually finds that to be a virtue. Let’s talk some NFL Coin Flip Weekend 2021.

NFL Coin Flip Weekend 2021: AFC

Colts/Bills (Saturday, 1:05 EST): Earlier in the year, I called Josh Allen, “Mitch Trubisky with a good coach”. I stand by that analysis. Allen improved every year, this year by leaps and bounds to lead the Bills to their first division title since the 1990s. I’m all in on the Bills. Hopefully they don’t eff it up against the Colts. Then again, Chris and I were texting and I said I’d have gladly traded either the Rats or Browns for the Colts. Ended up trading the dysfunctional Fins for them. While Phillip Rivers can use the extra money for his 17 kids, I hope the Bills roll.

Rats/Tuxedos (Sunday, 1:05 EST): As a supposed Steelers fan, I should hate the Ravens. I don’t. I love Lamar Jackson in spite of his fall back to earth this year. On the other hand, I hate the Titans and I don’t even have a valid reason why. If love is to prevail, I guess it needs to be LJ and the Ravens.

Browns/Steelers (Sunday, 8:15 EST): Again, as a supposed Steelers fan, I should hate the Browns. For most of my life, I have. Then, Baker came along and I kind of enjoyed their brand of inconsistency. This year, I think I’m just tired of incompetence. Speaking of incompetence, I asked earlier if 10-6 team ever fired their coach. Sure, the Steelers ended up 12-4, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Time to flip that coin. Eff both these teams.

NFL Coin Flip Weekend 2021: NFC

Rams/Seahawks (Saturday, 4:45 EST): Once upon a time, I declared the Seahawks the most complete team in the league. The whammy (I swear that’s not what I intended) worked and they immediately began sucking out loud. The Rams can go to hell. Along with the Patriots, they delivered the most boring Super Bowl in my lifetime. Go Hawks.

Tompa/Football Team (Saturday, 8:15 EST): Dan Snyder is a dick. Screw his stupid football team and the stupid football team name. I should hate Tampa because The Golden Boy is down there. I don’t. As I’ve said before, it must have just been the unholy union of the Patriots and Brady that made me hate both entities. Also, Chase Young is a moron. I hope TB calls up his old steroids guy, er finds the fountain of youth down there in Florida, and drops an old fashioned 5 TDs on the barely concealed racist nickname.

Bears/Saints (Sunday, 4:45 EST): How the hell are the Bears in the playoffs? Who let them in? Jesus, this league is a joke. A 7-9 team is again hosting a playoff game and the Bears made it, too. Look, I’m sick as sick of Drew Brees as the next guy, but give them one more game and hope the Seahawks blow them out next week to keep that old voodoo curse alive.

The Verdict

The NFL is selling this as the Super Duper Mega Wild Card Weekend. They added one team, which admittedly gave us an extra game in each conference. That’ s a 50% increase. Is a 50% increase really all that super? I guess it depends on what you’re increasing. Am I right, Cialis? Ahem, back to football.

During one of our conversations, Chris and I both said that this year’s playoffs could have been interesting. While that’s true, they’re not as interesting as I’d like them to be. Especially this week with no Mahomes. Also, no real team to root strongly for other than the Bills, who I’m all in on this year. Even so, I’m sure I will tune in for at least half of the games and I’ll check the Steelers score for my yearly dose of schadenfreude. See you guys next week for the Divisional Round.

Note: All teams and the single logo used on this web page are the property of the NFL. They are used without consent (written or otherwise), but only in good fun. If you’re feeling litigious, please refrain from throwing your vast legal resources at this small page that caters to my kids, Chris (Hi Chris!) and about 25 Russian bots (Hi Sergei!).

Marvel Comics January 2021: Great, Good, Decent

Introduction

When we last left Marvel Comics, I said only good things about them. None of the books ended up in the “Decent” section. I think at the time I attributed it to being in the Christmas spirit. I’m starting to think that there might be more to this story. What does that mean? Simply that I noticed an extension of that pattern into Marvel Comics January 2021.

That trail of bread crumbs doesn’t exactly take Sherlock to follow.

Just in case I didn’t make it obvious enough, I enjoyed Marvel Comics January 2021 greatly. I might have been in the Christmas spirit, because they weren’t as much fun as last month. Still, I don’t have a single book in the “Decent” section. Then again, the explanation might be more logical, to borrow a phrase from our old friend, Mr. Holmes.

I can’t say that this is true for Marvel Comics overall. However, this month I only received 7 books. That’s, I think, about half of the books I normally receive. So, it appears as if Marvel Comics might have reduced the number of books they are producing. As is often the result, that improves the quality of the books. Let’s see what makes Marvel Comics January 2021 so good.

The Great

Amazing Spider-Man 54 (Nick Spencer and Mark Bagley): As with most of the books from last year, ASM oscillated up and down. This story, however, has been mostly great. I think there might have been one issue that I felt lagged. Other than that, I’ve enjoyed this entire story. Now that we know the big bad is Harry, I can’t wait to see how it ends.

Avengers 39 (Jason Aaron and Dale Keown): Similar to Spider-Man, Avengers turned the corner during the Moon Knight story. Unlike Spider-Man, I wouldn’t call it as consistently great. Even so, I enjoyed the Moon Knight story and I can’t wait to see what they do with Phoenix.

Immortal Hulk 41 (Al Ewing and Joe Bennett): Of course, you all know I rate Immortal Hulk as probably the best Marvel book to come along in at least 5 years. Without doing research, that’s the best estimate I can make. Honestly, I’m having trouble naming another book I’ve enjoyed more. I will miss this book when it’s gone at the end of the year. At least I have the whole run and can reread it again and again.

Thor 10 (Donny Cates and Nic Klein): I kept collecting Thor mostly out of habit. Like Wonder Woman and Aquaman, I enjoyed the movie representation of the character and hoped for some of the same from the book. While not the exact same, I still liked the stories for the most part. I’m glad I didn’t give this book up. This Donald Blake story is insane and great and I don’t want it to ever end.

The Good

Captain America 26 (Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leonard Kirk): When I saw the cover, I exclaimed, “Red Hulk!” Then, I read the book. Red Hulk only appears in the last four pages of the book. Also, I was reminded that Red Hulk is General Thunderbolt Ross. Overall a weaker issue than some of the more recent ones, but still a fun story and ending.

Fantastic Four 27 (Dan Slott and RB Silva): I don’t think any title has disappointed me more than Fantastic Four. Maybe, disappointed is not the word. Frustrated. No title has frustrated me more than Fantastic Four. I want to like it because Dan Slott is writing. I do like it because Dan Slott is writing. I just don’t like it as much as I should. It’s weird.

Venom 31 (Donny Cates and Iban Coello): I can say for certain that no title disappointed me more than Venom over the last few months. Venom Beyond had such promise and it just fell flat. King in Black quickly felt like a pet project that went sideways too quickly. I liked this issue, but in a text conversation with Chris, he thinks that the main King in Black title is moving too slowly. Oh well, I’m sure he will bring it back around.

The Decent

None. Still in that Christmas spirit, I guess.

The Verdict

Marvel Comics January 2021 are still very good. Maybe not as good as I remember last months books being. But, still, when compared to the mess that is DC right now with the Bendis Superman experiment falling extremely short and the constant shuffling and reshuffling of creative teams, Marvel has all their ducks nicely in a row. Excelsior, True Believers and make mine Marvel.

Love Letter to Spawn 313

Introduction

The longest running independent comic just keeps on going. Spawn 313 and counting. I’m going to sound like a bit of a broken record here. It’s been up and down for our man Spawn. However, I will spare you the gritty details. If you want to know where the ups and downs are, you can go back about 30 or so issues to get my take on Al Simmons’ recent history.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. It’s a bumpy ride.

More recently, I ended the previous Spawn issue review article by saying that I’m enjoying the book again and I couldn’t wait for this issue. As I do every month, I read Spawn 313 first. While usually just a practical decision because it’s the only independent book that I still read, so it makes for an easy start to comics week each month, this month I actually read this month with some degree of anticipation.

Sorry for that run on sentence. It happens around here sometimes. I honestly just wasn’t sure where I was going with the thought after I started it. Let’s see if I can’t salvage something from the nonsense. To be fair, I do have some practice.

The Great

The Story: I admit that when this story began I was considering taking a break from Spawn. The up and down that I discussed in the introduction was more up than down. Put simply, I wasn’t enjoying the book very much. Uncle Todd has redeemed himself slightly with the last couple of issues.

I think the main reason for the improvement in the story is that the supporting characters have been much stronger recently. I mean, they’ve been mentioning Cy-Gor and Overtkill for the last 2 or 3 years with little to no payoff. The payoff for these guys hasn’t been huge, but it has been something. He even got me to enjoy Gunslinger Spawn and I never though that would happen. Keep the momentum going.

The Good

The Art: I don’t talk much about art in these articles. Mostly if it’s an artist I enjoy or if the art is great (or more often, terrible), I will say a work or two about it. However, the art is one of the things that brought me to Spawn all those years ago. In a time of Rob Liefeld, Spawn brought us the beauty of Todd McFarlane’s pencils.

The art in this issue isn’t McFarlane or Capullo level. Heck, I wouldn’t even put it in the same category as Ken Lashley from a few issues ago. But, it is serviceable. It doesn’t detract from the story like Jason Shawn Alexander’s art did for a few issues. Sorry, JSA. I know you’ve become a punching bag for the page. I never meant for that to happen.

The Decent

Slow Moving: I think part of my frustration with Spawn is the slow pace of the stories. I mentioned earlier that Cy-Gor and Overtkill have been in the pages of the book for 2 (maybe even 3 years) as ancillary characters that were meant to induce nostalgia in preparation for the soft reboot of 300? I guess.

Like I said, there was some payoff for those guys finally in this issue. One of them got their face bashes in by a massive Hellspawn on a beach. Don’t get me wrong. I do like the story. I just wish Uncle Todd would pick up the pace a bit.

The Verdict

Spawn 313 does continue the forward momentum mentioned in the previous article. The story is still slow moving, which can be frustrating. However, Uncle Todd is giving other characters a chance to shine, which is nice. Also, the art has more often than not been excellent for the past year. I will sign off with the eternal hopes that all continues next month.

D&D Horror Bundles: Great, Good, Decent

Introduction

Okay, this one is a lie, too. Sort of. Remember last time when I said that I would take this week to discuss games that we received for Christmas. Well, that’s not strictly true. I actually just pressed purchase on the D&D horror bundles from The Arcane Library about an hour ago. Since then, I’ve been looking at the adventures to see if they will, in fact, be good to try to get the family to play D&D again.

I mean, they do look pretty spoopy, not gonna lie. Picture cropped from The Arcane Library.

If this all seems to have come out of left field, you’re not entirely wrong. I mean, if you followed us on Twitter, you’d have seen that I was searching for an appropriate adventure to try to get the family hooked on Dungeons and Dragons. I want to get a weekly session going, if possible. This led me to purchase The Lost Mine of Phandelver on D&D Beyond before realizing that was the adventure we tried to play last year from the beginner’s set. Oh well, WotC can use the cash, I’m sure.

Well, Facebook ads finally got me this time. I saw an ad for The Arcane Library and visited it. Rarely does this ever result in me purchasing anything. However, this time it did. First, I downloaded the free adventure to see if the writing was any good. It’s very well designed. More on that in the review, obviously. Then, I bought the bundle meant to follow characters from 1 until level 20, I think. There may be some gaps needed to fill. Not entirely sure on that one. However, I then saw the D&D horror bundles. As the lone hold out from the first time, I think Aiden will get a kick out of some horror RPG. Let’s see if I’m right.

The Great

Writing: This doesn’t come as a surprise now that I’ve read the author’s biography on the web page. She’s a former journalist and English teacher. Nevertheless, and this will come as rich from someone who hasn’t edited a single post on this web page in several years, it is good to find web based content that isn’t riddled with spelling and grammar errors. Especially in a D&D adventure, that takes you right out of the fiction.

I did edit my 2 books. But, I wouldn’t call myself a good editor. Wait, you didn’t know I wrote two books?

Well Organized: Along with the good writing, the adventures follow the well established outline for adventures set by the official versions. Each adventure starts with a synopsis and some background. This is followed by some nuts and bolts to further explain. Each encounter flows smoothly, building a rich tapestry of the story. As I read, I saw how the encounters worked and, more importantly, how they worked together.

The Good

Minimalist: Piggy backing off that last point, the books contain only the information needed to continue the story. I feel like part of the reason our play session last year got bogged down was all of the reading necessary to run the adventure. As a DM, I try not to be a rules extremist when playing D&D, but I think I might have just been nervous. I really wanted my family to enjoy playing D&D with me. It just felt like a natural play group.

Maybe I just need to stop trying to make “fetch” happen. I won’t, though.

Horror: Granted, it is mostly up to me to set the proper mood. However, if you’re going to advertise an adventure as horror, there should obviously be the seeds of that horror in the adventure. These accomplish that quite nicely. I already said that I saw the story grow as I read the notes. The same can be said for the horror setting. These stories have great creep factor.

The Decent

Story: This may seem strange given all the nice things I’ve already said. However, even as a criticism, please understand that this is minor. To be fair, it’s said that there are only 7 types of stories that can be told anyway. This may even be more limited in science fiction and fantasy settings. Even the official adventures are limited in their scope. Just know that these stories aren’t terribly original. But, they are still very good.

How well did I straddle that fence? Eh? Eh? Meh…

Not beginner friendly: Look, I also understand that if you are considering a non paying career as a D&D DM, you probably aren’t a beginner. With that being said, everyone gets their start somewhere. But, if you are getting your start as a DM, I wouldn’t recommend these adventures as your first campaign. They’re just so sparse in their notes for DMs.

The Verdict

The D&D horror bundles from The Arcane Library are, overall, very good. The stories are compelling enough. They have a definite horror vibe, even just from reading through them. That can, obviously, be tuned to your individual play group. I don’t regret purchasing them or the other bundle one bit. Now, I just have to get my family to want to play them. Stay tuned for that.

Mario Kart 8: Games We Love

Introduction

I think I mentioned last week that we might take this week off. Then, I got an idea to talk about the games that we received for Christmas. Little did I know that this was the year that we only got Mario Kart 8 for Christmas. Oh, I did find Mario and Rabbids while I was organizing my closet, but I don’t think that one is going to be worthy of a post.

It’s only been three days and I already have a rivalry with this mofo. So, yeah, Mario Kart 8 is going to be heavily played.

Not so with Mario Kart 8. We’ve played several rounds every day since Christmas. Heck, Christine who barely plays games (I mean, she’ll bug me about a round of Mortal Kombat 11 now and then but that’s it.), jumped in for a couple of circuits with the boys last night. Then, she talked about playing again today after dinner.

Okay, now that I’ve started this article, I’m not sure how I’m going to structure it. Generally, I do a “Great, Good, Decent” review. However, I have branched off more into other formats like top 5 lists. I don’t know if I actually have 5 reasons that I love the Mario Kart series so much. But, let’s find out.

5 – Trash Talk

Before this version, the last time I played Mario Kart was at a faculty party in the basement of one of the staff at the time. This was probably 10-12 years ago, so the statute of limitations has run out. If that sounds sketchy, you’re not alone. As a 45 year old father of three, I’d definitely give younger me a smack bottom for that decision. So, what’s the point of this particular story?

If you are patient, I’m getting there.

As often happens with this game, I sucked the first few circuits that we played. It always takes me a bit of time to adjust to the strategies. Then, I start winning. That’s what happened here. And, I let everyone know it. Trash talk is just a part of that winning strategy in Mario Kart. Last night, for instance, I shouted, “Whoever just hit me, your mom’s a hoe.” Mind you, this is while I was playing against two of my sons. Luckily, the shell came from a computer player. Otherwise, that could have been more awkward than just my 9 year old laughing and repeating the line.

4 – Easy to Play (Hooks Non Gamers)

Actually, the easy to play line is a lie. The game is difficult and complex for new players. However, twice during this vacation, we got non gamers to play the game with us. The familiar characters and cartooony graphics fool people into thinking that it’s an easy game. Then, once they play, they have fun and eventually adapt their own strategy.

Hit them sick tricks, Noob, and pwn the competition.

My wife, for instance, who never plays video games (other than the aforementioned occasional round of Mortal Komat), actually asked to play this game again. Sure, some of that is because we have two teenagers and a preteen and family time together is precious. But, still, any game enjoyed by the whole family is a winner. We came close with Minecraft. And, I think she might have asked the other day for someone to teach her how to play that. So, who knows.

3 – Familiarity

I keep insisting that I feel no effects of nostalgia. And, yet, I keep listing nostalgia as a reason that I enjoy these games. Hey, you don’t come here for consistency in analysis? If so, I’m afraid you will be sorely disappointed. Just look at my various articles on Hearthstone for evidence of that.

I mean, the Reno game where he transformed sure lethal into random murlocs is just the latest of my salty rants that ended with, “This game is BS. I’m uninstalling.” That, of course never happened. And, actually, I think the tantrum that ended with my busted phone came more recently.

I don’t have burning nostalgia for having played Mario Kart as a kid with my brothers like I do with some games. I don’t even have fond memories playing in high school with friends like I do with other games. But, I do have my “frat party” memory. Plus, the characters are all familiar faces from my childhood. That’s where the nostalgia really kicks in for me.

2 – Supreme Memes

My kids figured out early that I don’t care much for the strategy of this game. I mean, I don’t care much for any game theory. That’s especially true in this game. I understand that different characters, vehicles, wheels, and parachutes have different abilities. I just don’t care.

Thanks to YoshiMan for the image

Instead, I try to look for the most ridiculous looking builds. That’s how I’ve landed on Dry Bowser on the standard bike with the roller wheels and Peach parasol. Last night I tried another meme with the teddy bear car and wooden wheels, but that turned out poorly for me. Back to the old stand by. It is truly the Supreme Meme build for me.

1 – Playing with Kids

I already eluded to this in my introduction. Since the entire family has been playing, this is one of those games that I’ve been able to play with the kids. Regular readers of the page know that’s my number one reason for enjoying games. Any time the kids show an interest, I will go crazy investing in that game.

When Aiden and Quinn were into YuGiOh, I spent a stupid amount of money on cards for them that they really wanted. As often happens, that phase didn’t last long enough to warrant the money spent. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. Also, who knows. Their interests recycle, so there might be another YuGiOh phase in our future.

The Verdict

When texting Chris, I said, “I’m sure we’ll play Mario Kart 8 non stop during this break.” Sometimes I say those things and they don’t come to pass. So far, this one has. We’ve played at least 3 circuits once a day. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Sure, we might slow down next week when school starts, but I have a feeling there will still be weekly Mario Kart nights to go with our board game nights.

Console Game of the Year 2020: Mortal Kombat 11

Introduction

How weird is it that our console game of the year 2020 actually came out in March 2019? I mean, if you’re at all familiar with our page, it isn’t that weird at all. We are nothing if not unabashedly retro in our sensibilities. Something about this year dragged me kicking and screaming into a more modern gamer. Chris, however, remains steadfast in his commitment to retro gaming and I love him for it.

I know that “No H” is not cool anymore and I completely agree. Is bromance still acceptable?

True to gaming in 2020, MK11 reached its “final form” over a year and a half after being released. In April, Aftermath came out to continue the story, gave us friendships and new stage fatalities, and added three new characters. More recently, Kombat Pack 2 gave us 3 more new characters. So, you could absolutely argue Mortal Kombat was better to us this year than last.

It feels like I just wrote the article in that last paragraph. Well, I have a couple of days to rework this article and get it published.

Console Game of the Year 2020: Humble Beginnings

If you told me last year that I’d pick Mortal Kombat 11 for this article, I’d not have believed you. I received the game as a gift from a friend. In a true dink move, I didn’t touch it for the first few months I owned it. Actually, it wasn’t a dink move. Not consciously at least. The XBox was upstairs in the game room that became Aiden’s room. I was busy with school, too.

You’re probably tired of hearing that. But, it’s true.

Finally, after those few months of gentle reminders by said friend, I logged into the game. Not entirely understanding how the game might be different from the previous few iterations, I played a few games. Yep, this is Mortal Kombat all right. For good and for bad. Little did I know how much this game would come to dominate my life over the next two years.

Console Game of the Year 2020: Familiarity Breeds Contempt?

Not at all in this case. My friend gave me the version that came with Kombat Pack 1 already included. All the fighters were there for me. Sure, in some cases, I had to download them. Also, Shao Khan and Frost both cost and extra 5 dollars. Now that I think about it, the Frost thing had to be a classic Ed Boon MK troll because you unlocked her simply by playing through the story mode. Everyone was there, though. All the classics like Johnny, Sub Zero, Scorp, and my favorite Liu Kang. Throw in some Newbies like Kitana and Jax. Finish with a sprinkling of the next generation, Cassie and Jacqui. It’s all wheat and no chaff.

5 bucks for Frost? GTFOH.

Getting back to that story mode. Eventually, it hooked me on the game. I don’t remember how or why, but I moved the XBox into our bedroom and started playing the story mode. I wrote a review for the story. That’s how impressive I thought it was. Once the game got me hooked, my friend mentioned that you could “AI” the towers. Once I discovered that, I played the game daily to get those sweet, sweet cosmetics.

Console Game of the Year 2020: Aftermath

As happens with any game, I grew tired of beating the same towers over and over again simply to rise in the ranks and get a single new skin for being in the top 5%. I rediscovered Diablo 3. Quinn and I started an epic world in Minecraft. MTGA grabbed more and more of my attention. Because of Covid, I spent more time obsessing over online learning.

I simply had no time for Mortal Kombat 11. Then, Aftermath released. I did two videos (two of three or four this year, so more than recent years!) reacting to the trailer and friendships. The new characters got me playing towers again to get new skins. A weekly Kronika quest kept me logging in on a regular basis.

Console Game of the Year 2020: Summer Lull and Kombat Pack 2

Eventually, I tired even of the regular loot from Kronika and the towers started to repeat again at a nauseating rate. I played more Pokemon Go and went for 2 hours walks to kill the time. Don’t forget Diablo 3 and MTGA. There’s only so much Mortal Kombat one person can take. My limit is apparently a couple of months before I start to stray again.

Clearly, Ed Boon realized that and released Kombat Pack 2. I reviewed this last month. Ever since the release, I’ve played daily again to get the last month of skins on the Towers of Time. Except for yesterday, I’ve been grabbing the Kronika vaults again. It just completely slipped my mind. Damn, I’m sad now. Oh well, maybe there will be another way to get the items. Or, maybe I just won’t sweat it too much. Okay, what was I saying?

Oh yeah, it seems like every time I get bored with the game, something new comes along. It’s similar to the CCG treadmill. They can’t keep this going forever on MK11. And, it seems like this last Kombat Pack might be the last unless there is a surprise announcement early next year. However, it just feels like they’ve milked this cash cow dry.

The Verdict

Mortal Kombat 11 has some new strategies to it. I’m not capable of executing many of them. Hell, I’m still stuck on the Raiden combo in the tutorial. But, watching more and more streams lately, I can see that they’ve included a deep and rich fighting engine. It’s no Tekken or Virtua Fighter. But, it’s better than bully your opponent into the corner and juggle cheese.

The inclusion of new guest stars have kept the game fresh. Plus, I still have to play through the Aftermath story. There’s enough to keep me going in Mortal Kombat 11 until at least the spring when the weather starts to get nice or I buy a PlayStation 5. Even though I played much more Hearthstone, Mortal Kombat 11 is, by far, the most fun I’ve had with a game in the last year.

Console Look Ahead 2020: A Year of Gaming

Introduction

In our last article, we reviewed our 2020 in console and PC gaming. You probably noticed one big omission from our list. That’s by design. Every week, we’ve done a look back, a look ahead, and then crowned the game of the year for mobile, tabletop, and now console and PC gaming. This article will take a console look ahead 2020. Luckily, both Sony and Microsoft released new consoles recently.

Why doesn’t Microsoft just go with the traditional numbering?

That’s right. The long (?) awaited XBox Series X and PS5 hit the market last month. Before I go on, allow me some time to vent. Following up on my question in the image, “Why does Microsoft insist on such difficult naming convention for their consoles?” If they wanted to be different and pretentious, there are always Roman numerals. I wonder how many kids are going to get the wrong console because it’s the XBox Series X, but there is also an XBox One Series X. I found this out as I was researching this article. Okay, rant over.

Honestly, at this point, there’s no point in reviewing specs for the two. As my 13 year old has already discovered, both consoles are essentially the same in that regard. “Dad, why do people fight about Sony and XBox?” I’m not sure, Buddy, other than people just need to fight about things. I say, “Life’s too short. Enjoy all the things.” What, then, will I discuss? Honestly, I’m not sure. I’ve never been this close to actually buying a “next gen” console this close to launch date. Discover with me what this console look ahead 2020 is going to be.

Sony PlayStation 5

For the 5th generation of Sony’s famous PlayStation (I know that because it’s called the PlayStation 5), they’ve gone with a sleeker design than previous generations. I honestly have no idea why. Every other PlayStation has been a brick and we’ve liked it!

Dating myself with this reference. But, what else is new?

If I’m being honest here, I find the design off putting. I’m not usually much of a traditional American. However, when it comes to my consoles, I like them like I like my women. Thick and beefy like bull. Uh, I may have revealed too much with that comment. Forget it was ever said.

Moving on, Chris mentioned in one of our conversations that he prefers PlayStation to XBox. Because Sony is primarily a Japanese company, they give access to obscure Japanese fighting and RPG titles that he likes. I’m not as familiar with those types of games. However, there are some exclusive titles like Last of Us, Ratchet and Clank, and especially Spider-Man that I find intriguing.

Microsoft XBox Series X or S or SX or SSX Tricky (another timely reference)

I mean, seriously. Again, I’m not usually one to criticize a name (unless it is stupid, outdated, and racist). But, what the hell is that name? It makes it sound like there have been 10 of these things. Given all the redesigns and such, maybe there have been. Also, what is the S? Small? Who the hell knows?

That reminds me. I haven’t even discussed that aspect of the consoles. In addition to the “main” release, both companies have designed a digital only version of their consoles. Chris and I planned to get together to talk about this in the latest attempt at getting the podcast up and running. But, and check off this bingo square again, life got in the way. This time it is much more serious than anything in the past, but I do hope we get a chance to talk at each other more about this soon.

Regarding the Series X, look at that monster. It’s like Microsoft finally just shrugged and said, “F**k it. If we’re going to build a PC, here’s your PC, ingrates.” That thing is a monster. It will be the only thing left in your house with the cockroaches after the nuclear fallout or the supervolcano under Yellowstone finally blows. The Series S is much more dainty like the PS5.

Aw, who’s a cute widdle baby console?

Now, about those exclusives. It does feel weird having a console war about exclusive software. But, honestly, what other differences are there at this point? I bought an XBox one simply because at the time it had Minecraft because Microsoft had just acquired Mojang. They can no longer say that. I think you can play Minecraft on your toaster at this point.

And, this gives me the chance to share the Doom printer video once again.

That’s not to say that they don’t have exclusives. There’s Halo (shameful Noob admission here, I’ve never played it), Gears of War (which Chris and I love for couch coop), and Forza. I looked up Forza a few weeks ago when someone reminded me of Gran Turismo (my all time favorite racing game besides the one Chris showed me where you could pimp your car and street race). Honestly, though, that PS lineup looks stronger.

The Verdict (Console Look Ahead 2020 ended up just being a discussion of games)

Time to wrap up this console look ahead 2020. Technically, I guess it is for 2021 since the consoles came out for the Christmas holiday and, if I get one at all this close to launch it won’t be until February or March at the earliest, but we’re not much for technicalities around here. We are for run on sentences though and that one was a doozy. Sorry, focus, we’re almost done here.

Like I said, it feels weird to Bloods/Crips over software, but here we are. I do like Gears of War for couch coop like I said. I’m not a Halo guy and I tried Forza but it didn’t grab me. Sony has Ratchet and Clank, which Liam said he’d play. Last of Us is my FOMO game of the last two years. Plus, Spider-Man. Need I say more? I will. I just learned that Gran Turismo 7 is scheduled for next year. Sony it is. But, all of this conversation is moot because we all know Nintendo has the best exclusives by far.