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Recap Review: Arkham Asylum

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Here we have yet another game that’s been on my radar for a while, but I never got around to playing until now. And boy, did it live up to the hype!

Full disclaimer: my knowledge of the Batman mythos mostly comes from the Christopher Nolan films. I’ve started watching The Animated Series, and I’ve seen bits and pieces of Tim Burton’s Batman and the 1960’s Adam West show. Oh, and The LEGO Batman Movie and Batman and Robin (unfortunately). That’s about it.

So I knew I wasn’t fully appreciating Arkham Asylum the way that a diehard fan would. But I still really enjoyed playing it and it’s inspired me to finally start watching the beloved animated series.

If you haven’t played it yet, here’s the plot: Batman has captured the Joker and they’re off to Arkham Asylum. Shortly after they arrive, the Joker escapes, kidnaps Commissioner Gordon and Warden Sharp, and then traps Batman and members of the Gotham police force in the asylum. Naturally, you play as the Caped Crusader as he navigates the island to rescue Gordon and figure out the Joker’s real plan behind all of this.

To save the day, you’ll have to use a variety of skills and weapons. Sometimes, it comes down to a regular fistfight with the Joker’s hired thugs. Other times, you’re stuck in a room with armed men patrolling the area, and you need to take them out through stealth. Other times, you’ll enter Detective Mode to follow the trail of the Commissioner or whomever else you’re trying to find as the plot progresses.

Personally, I found Stealth/Predator mode to be the most challenging, but also the most fun. That’s when I really felt like Batman. You’ll often have to take out enemies one by one, because if the others see you, they’ll start shooting, and your health drops fast. Then the Joker will often add to the challenge, i.e. rigging explosives on the gargoyle statues to prevent you from hanging from the ceiling, or telling Harley to kill the Commissioner if she or any of the other thugs see you. It’s not unlike the kind of challenges that Batman would face in the movies, shows, or comics. Only this time, it’s down to you to figure out a way around them. That makes it feel all the more satisfying when you succeed.

Another fun element of the game comes from the Joker’s commentary as you navigate the place; he constantly mocks his henchmen as you take them out. Fans of the animated series will be happy to know that Mark Hamill returned to voice him, while Kevin Conroy and Arleen Sorkin also reprised their roles as Batman and Harley Quinn, respectively. They all do a wonderful job bringing their characters to life, as do all of the other voice actors in this game.

I won’t spoil the rest of the game, but I will say that you meet and fight several other major villains in Arkham Asylum besides the Joker and Harley, and they each contribute to the plot in some way. The Riddler also provides two sidequests for you: one to find the many hidden Riddler trophies throughout the game, and the other involves solving actual riddles by examining the right area. I feel bad that I couldn’t get as excited by some of the character cameos, since I’m such a newbie to the Batman franchise. But diehard fans will love them, and the game’s so well-written that newcomers will likely enjoy them too.

Arkham Asylum was originally released for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Microsoft Windows. It is now available as part of a collection with its sequel, Arkham City, on the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. The collection is titled Return to Arkham. I wholeheartedly recommend it if you haven’t played it already.

Comic Book Spotlight: Batgirl #1

Title: Batgirl #1
Writer: Hope Larson
Artists: Rafael Albuquerque
Published by DC Comics
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Reviewed by Johnny Destructo
A bit of history: the first post-Killing Joke-version of Batgirl that appeared about 5 years ago via “The New 52” was a no-nonsense woman dealing with recently getting back on her feet, and the after affects of PTSD. Then the powers that be did a bit of re-branding, making Barbara slightly younger, with a whole new outfit (which is far more visually striking) and suddenly she was worrying about her online presence, Instagram and her popularity as a superhero in a piece of the city called Burnside. That brings us to this new #1! Babs has left Burnside and is doing some globe-trotting, starting in Japan, specifically to meet an elderly ex-crimefighter, Chiyo Yamashiro, aka FRUIT BAT.

 

OK, so on her first day in Japan, Babs runs into her old friend Kai, who just happens to be her new roommate, coincidentally, on the other side of the world. Even though I love super-heroes being taken out of their comfort zone and into a new locale, in this issue, Kai sees a red-headed friend from Gotham, and then runs into a red-headed Vigilante from Gotham the next day? This is the bit where we as readers have to do some belief-suspension and just go along with it. This is a long-running super-hero trope that we just have to pretend not to notice. Or is it? Should we expect better from modern comics?

 

At any rate, the action soon ramps up when Kai is attacked by a bad-ass “school girl” and Babs has to jump in as Batgirl, only to have the aforementioned Fruit Bat take care of the kid herself. She deflects a knife-toss meant for her throat, sending it bouncing off a nearby drum and through the School Girl’s tie! Not bad for a lady 104 years in. Babs sees this and decides, as good as she is, she needs more training. Fruit Bat, clearly unable to take her on as a student, tells Batgirl to “find Teacher.” Before succumbing to a weak heart, imparts, “You can’t see the future when the past is standing in your way.” This, plus a billboard, lead our favorite ginger to the MMA Grand Prix in Singapore, and to issue #2.

 

Upon a second reading, I actually liked the mystical coincidences that popped up here, despite it reeking of cliched “Asian magicks.” I’ve always enjoyed when a crime-fighter needs to travel the world to learn different techniques. It gives the character a sense of having to actually work for their abilities, unlike in shows such as Arrow where it only takes the length of an episode to become a master of martial arts and cool weaponry.

The art by Rafael Albuquerque is sketchy yet fluid, kinetic but still solid. It’s a bucket of fun to look at, and the colors by Dave McCaig have a Pop-Art sensibility and don’t take themselves too seriously, if that makes sense. It’s a beautiful book, with a fun story, give it a shot!
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Be sure to visit Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex in Manayunk for great comics just like this one! Like them on Facebook here!
Note from the editor: This month’s Comic Spotlight was delayed due to conflicting schedules.

I’m Harley Quinn and You Can Be Too

I’m Harley Quinn and You Can Be Too

I’ve loved Harley Quinn since she first popped up in my Batman cartoons as the insane goof who simply wanted to be loved. She had so much appeal for me and I couldn’t figure out why at first. I loved how open she was about her crazy, about her desires, wishes, wants. She was so open about who she was.

 

tumblr_nrg1h4YcRD1r5rk9to1_540Goddess forbid you piss her off. She was scary all by herself, but you didn’t know because she was almost always with the Joker. She was never her full self because of him. In Suicide Squad (BTW, I love you, Margot Robbie!), she dreamed of what she really wanted out of life: her family.  I clung to her more and more as I grew older because I realized that I wanted to be her; we were similar. Well, except for the murdering and the crime spree. It was touch and go with me for awhile, though.

While she was a therapist, I wanted to be a lawyer. Odd thing when you’re a teenager. I was told I wasn’t smart enough and those words stuck with me forever. Now, I have to convince myself that I’m not an idiot. I’m plenty smart enough and I would have made an amazing lawyer. That produced a negative spiral that I spent a long part of my life just accepting.

I’d find myself with significant others that I would adapt to; never being myself, being a version of me I thought they would want. In essence, I was putting them all in the Joker’s role. Some of them are great people who I’m still friends with; some of them were abusive. Some knew about my past and some where just contributing to it. That is all in the past now, but it still matters. I became more like the Harley I saw in the shows. (I am in NO WAY saying that the cartoon made me this way, so shut the fuck up. Yeah, you about to make a comment, go away. It’s a comparison, relax.)

Of course, Harleen was driven insane after making a poor choice in significant others (I’m mean, we’ve all been there). Putting someone down creates its own insanity. It magnifies depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts. It’s not the outward crazy that you see from Harley, but my mind feels like her so often. My thoughts, feelings and decisions all feel like they are swirling in this tornado of insane that would make me burst into fits of laughter because I had no tools to properly handle this.

acaf814305641c00772a4e97f56c63ebSo that was the person I grew into, until I met my husband Vel, my Poison Ivy. I met the person who told me it was okay to be me and he didn’t want me to be anyone else. So I waved good bye to my past, my very own Joker, and I took time and figured out who I was. Turns out, I’m still Harley Quinn. I’m still an obnoxiously loud, crazy, weird nerd. I’m getting more comfortable with showing people who I am.

(SIDE NOTE: I am not some Disney movie telling you that you need a significant other to make it all better, so fucking far from it. It’s just a weird anomaly that it worked out this way for me. Don’t go looking for someone to ‘fix you’ because he didn’t ‘fix me’ he allowed me to fix myself without the pressure of being ‘his ideal version of me.’ He created a safe space that I couldn’t find on my own. A support system is good, but that can also be found in the form of friends, family and trained professionals.)

I’m embracing the, ‘fuck you if you don’t like me, I’m awesome’ mentality. Holy shit is that hard to do. It’s hard to just rip off the masks you wear and say, ‘THIS IS WHO I AM!’ I’m trying and it’s terrifying, but also freeing. I’ll get there. I know it.

I have two points to this:

1) Harley Quinn evolved as a person. Fictional characters can do that. If a fictional character can do it, so can you.

2) Embrace who you are. It’s so exhausting being someone else and I promise there is no one out there like you. You are unique, special and wonderful. Let everyone see who you really are. Let them fall in love with that you.

I know you’re probably screaming, ‘IT ISN’T THAT EASY!’ No, no it isn’t. It’s taken me 10 years and I still have so much work to do, but you can get started. I promise, we will be right here waiting for you when you come out of your cocoon and spread those amazing wings and proudly say, ‘HERE I AM, BITCHES!’ We will clap for you and hug you and embrace you for who you are.

Until next time, stay vigilant.

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Kthxbai

Interview with Joe Kerr Cosplay

Hello, lovelies! Rinshi here with another cosplay interview – just for you! This time I had the pleasure of interviewing the very talented Joe Kerr Cosplay. As you might imagine from his name, Joe Kerr specializes in cosplaying The Joker from the Batman universe, and believe me when I tell you that he’s one of the best I’ve seen. Do you doubt me? Then read on!

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Injustice – Gods Among Us

Harley1200So, I finished the storyline for Injustice. I don’t think I will actually ever finish the whole game. I’ll give it a shot, but I’m not that awesome at fighting games.

Actually, I don’t like fighting games usually. I find the women scantily clad, the best moves to be impossible for me to get off and after a couple of fights I’m just plain bored with it. It’s the same thing over and over and over again.

Now, with all that being said, I haven’t been able to put Injustice down. Harley Quinn is my favorite character in the DC universe by far, hands down. If you met me, you’d get it. I really don’t agree with her outfit, however. Yes, she is sexy as hell, but really? It would simply make much more sense if it were closed in the front; then I’d actually be on board. It feels like a cheap attempt to see her panties. Every other character’s outfit seems pretty on point to how they normally look. Harley seemed to be the only one getting a major makeover. Now, her second outfit I find much more fitting for her personality.

Ok, so end that rant. Now, let’s talk about game play. Everything is beautiful. I love the scenery, the characters, the interactive background. It all made the game just as awesome as the characters themselves. I did keep pointing at the screen asking what the hell was going on in the background. I’ve never seen a more magical fighting game. It was hard to pay attention to actually fighting sometimes because I was too enthralled with trying to catch all of the details in the background. Not to mention constantly trying to interact with things, like hitting my opponent with a rocket. THEN! I would get knocked out of the scene, into someplace new. I loved it when this happened, however I didn’t love the fact that no matter how hard I tried, I was never the one doing this, so it was always my character falling down some cliff and being badly injured for it. Totally worth it.

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