Monday, February 28, 2011

Top Five Couples in Entertainment

You know, I wrestled with whether to do this. I've run this blog for about two years now and for the most part, I've kept shipping or preferred couplings out of here. I was going to do this on or right before Valentines Day, but instead I went for a Random Train of Thought. It is, however, still February, so it's still appropriate to some degree, so I made the last minute decision to do this list.

The following are what I think are some of the best pairings in entertainment. Obviously, with only five, I'm only going to hit so many. But hey, that's what next year is for. These are in no particular order, merely numbered for convenience.

1) Cloud and Aeris/Aerith (Final Fantasy VII)

Obviously, there's a fair bit of revisionist history going on with Final Fantasy VII. There are, to this day, people who absolutely insist that the main character was destined to hook up with the self centered but very well endowed martial artist. To anyone paying attention, this is patently moronic, due to a lot of evidence as well as the fact that Tifa wasn't even included in the game until very late in development.

There's obviously a lot of people missing the point of Final Fantasy VII, which is frankly a modern day, fantasy based Romeo and Juliet. These two were there for each other and it was spelled out that they more or less belonged together. But death is what seperated them. Only, it didn't. She lived on in his heart and despite the fact that her body may have perished, he never stopped loving her. Even at the very end of the game, when everything appears at it's zenith and he can do no more for the planet, he's concerned only with finding the Promised Land and seeing her again (while Tifa's right next to him looking crestfallen, which, come on, means that even she knew what time it was).

Even in the CG animated film, when he has other responsibilities - like the folks he's shacked up with that includes Tifa, Barret, who's away at the time, and Marlene - she's first and foremost on his mind. When Sephiroth threatens to take away everything dear to him, she's what he thinks of the most. Without her, his life seems almost unhappy. She appears to him in his darkest moments and, while it's up to interpretation as always since they don't want to upset any of the shipper fans on either side, it seemed pretty obvious to me that the Calling credits video made it clear he'd finally seen her again in the flower field. The physical aspect may be gone, but the love is not.

The point of Final Fantasy VII is that death may separate, but love lasts forever regardless of it. Frankly, that's a message far more beautiful and poignant than we get from a lot of stories. Certainly more-so than any liaison with a breasty, pushy bartender he rarely pays much attention to.

2) Beast Boy and Raven (Teen Titans)

Despite being a stalwart fan of the Titans - through good and oh-my-god-make-it-stop alike - I'm not much for shipping there. Comic Robin and Starfire, okay, but I've long since given up the ghost on that one. But aside from that, there's only one other I give a rats ass about, whether it's in the cartoon or the comic. You're looking at it.

In the show, they were antagonistic, but beneath that they had a great friendship and a solid foundation for possibly something more. In the comic, they were more. Despite the fact that the comic version has frequently been on hiatus or happening off panel, I still love it to pieces and hope to see more of it soon.

Obviously, there are some differences to the characters, but there are a lot more similarities. The two frequently have a lot in common, from their past on down. Overall, though, their relationship - when not written by people who have no clue how to write either of them - is sweet and believable; and frankly I see a lot of potential with them together, not just as a pairing, but in their own adventures. Despite, you know, the fact that such will never happen. Le sigh.

But above all else... come on. A dejected, half demon empath often feared and shunned finds love in a green man who can shapeshift into animals or other beasties, yet is never taken seriously by most anyone but her and his best friend. Tell me that's not like a modern day fairy tale. That's right. You can't.

3) Naruto and Sakura (Naruto)

I'm pretty hesitant to include this one. Not because of any dislike of the pairing or reservations. The reason is more because the manga went down the toilet a long time ago, to the point where I can't even read it anymore, not without having a conniption. Still, I can say that this pairing is a lot of the reason I held out for as long as I did - over two years of questionable material with only occasional good chapters - so that's probably a testament to how well done it is. Frankly, it's probably the only redeeming factor of the manga anymore.

What makes this one special is that we literally see it built from the ground up. For the entire series, Naruto's been in love with her, but at the outset she didn't like him one bit. She judged him based on shallow terms - actually, how shallow she was initially is why she still has haters, despite the fact that she grew up a long time ago - and harbored a crush on the Naruto equivalent of the school jock everybody loves.

But that was not to last. Naruto always went above and beyond the call of duty for her and over time, she realized that it was he who was always there for her, not the boy she had a crush on, who frequently berated her. After the timeskip, they quickly became something of a formidable duo who could count on one another in time of stress. It was a long journey, but it's now clear both have feelings for one another and the two seem ever on the verge of consummation.

It's the kind of long term plotting that makes stories special; and frankly, it's kind of hard not to root for the two. Only problem? The manga they star in stopped being worth your time ages ago. Ah well.

4) Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan (Starcraft)

As you've probably guessed from number one, I'm not adverse to a little tragedy or sadness in my love stories. This one's probably about as downbeat as the first one I named. But both have the potential for a happy ending of sorts; and hey, I like me a good happy ending too.

So, boy meets telepathic girl. Boy wonders how she'd look with no clothes on. Girl becomes agitated. Boy becomes closer to girl. Boy and girl come close to a real relationship. Girl is abandoned by the dick they both work for and finds her very being warped into an evil mass murderer. Boy never gives up. One day, boy perserveres.

If there's one thing this series does a lot of, it's shit on Jim Raynor. No, seriously. Of all the characters in the franchise, Jim's right up there with the best of them in having it bad. Basically a good man caught up in things beyond him, he loses everything, from his position as marshal of his home planet to the girl he has the hots for on down the line. Worse still, he blames himself for not doing enough; a sticking point is the fact that he regrets not acompanying Kerrigan on the New Gettysburg mission that saw her left behind by Mengsk.

But there's always that chance that Jim can get her back; and when the oppourtunity arises, he's there to take it, while saving a lot of lives along the way.

Sometimes it's fleshed out as much in the media outside the games as it is in, but either way it's a compelling love story and compelling drama. Sometimes, we lose the ones we love. But it's not too often they transform into a mass murdering monster. Even rarer is the one who will never give up on them. If that's not real love, then what the bloody hell is?

5) Bruce Wayne and Zatanna (Batman)

Boy, this one came out of nowhere to worm its way into my heart. I used to be a much bigger Batman and Catwoman fan. I still am, but it's been replaced by this pairing as the number one.

Paul Dini can take a bow for making this one a pairing I'd like to see more of.

It started with repairing the friendship the two had before that whole mindwipe thing. From there, it became clear there might be something more. Then the question of a relationship was broached and while they decided not to go anywhere with it, it's still lingering, despite her claim to being resigned to being second fiddle to Catwoman. Honestly, it feels more interesting than Batman and Catwoman have been in years; and while any thing with a guy who has the compulsion to dress like a bat and beat up crime will be tough, but considering Zatanna's lousy love life, she's certainly been with worse. Not to mention Zatanna herself would be much better for Batman than the woman who can't keep her sticky fingers off jewels for too long.

I wish DC would go somewhere with it, but for now - with Zatanna in her own series and Batman doing his Incorporated thing - it's probably going to be a bit of a wait. But I've warmed to this one enough to be real patient.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves (comics)

Writer: Kevin VanHook
Artist: Tom Mandrake
Collects: Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves #1-6

I can't help but sit here and ponder whether it's even remotely possible to have a more straightforward name than this. I'm not so sure it is. I don't think you can be much blunter about the contents.

There are probably about a million jokes to be made about the name alone, but really, there isn't much point. I was sold from the cover alone, because if a man's not allowed to be even a little excited about the Dark Knight and Superman taking on frickin' vampires and werewolves there's something seriously wrong with the world today. Granted, it's a bit tougher these days, but this book doesn't use the sissy varieties of either like you might find in certain uber popular franchises I could name but won't.

Sure, the names a little bland - they could have come up with a snappier title, for sure - but it's just a wrapper on what's an otherwise fairly enjoyable romp pitting two of our favorite DC heroes against two of horrors most beloved types of monster.

The story starts with a body someone had for a meal tossed off a roof. Now, a half eaten corpse falling from the sky isn't an everyday occurrence, even for Gotham, so naturally Batman knows something's up. Before too long, he crosses paths with a vampire and a werewolf, both of which become uneasy allies with the Dark Knight against a lot of feral vampires and werewolves released by your typical mad doctor type. Superman shows up too and since werewolves are based on magic in this story, he quickly finds himself vulnerable. Then at some point we find that these supernatural creatures are the result of these crazy demon things that look like aliens from a low budget horror flick. Time for some punchin'.

The story feels old school. It's heavily narrated in a way I haven't really seen in a while and maybe a bit over-written. But in that way, it feels like an engaging adventure that might not have been out of place in, say, the 70's, barring loosened standards on blood and such.

Despite my feeling it's a tad over-written, I didn't feel it was to the stories detriment. I felt it gave it mood. It felt like an old fashioned horror comic. Pulpy even. Sometimes you're just over-writing something. Chris Claremonts work tends to have that problem. But there are cases where that might be pertinent; I'd say this is a case that benefits from it.

The artwork is fairly decent, if not always to my taste. The best way to put it is that it's stylized. Exaggerated, even. But it really works for the story. Mandrake's also pretty good at drawing the numerous beasties that come with the territory, which is really essential if you're going to do something like this. Better still, he's able to put those same beasts in a comic with the often brightly colored superheroes and make it work. Tom Mandrake's proved to be another one of those guys who I never heard of before - which is actually happening a bit too much to me lately - and managed to succeed in surprising me.

The Score: 7.5 out of 10

It's not going to change how you look at things or challenge your mind, but if you're looking for some superheroics with a supernatural twist, you could do worse than this. There's another story by this creative team called "Batman vs The Undead" and I assume that it's a sequel to this story. I had enough fun to guarantee I'll be back for that.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Random Trains of Thought 2/14/2011

- Welp, it's Valentines Day. I've seen a few of the usual "blah blah blah this holiday sucks it's a holiday based on consumerism" comments, either from friends or otherwise. It's interesting, actually, in that this is really a common slam against several of the chief holidays. But the argument frankly blows.

All holidays have an element of consumerism no matter what you do. It doesn't matter if you're buying chocolate for that special someone, getting a Christmas gift for a family member or buying groceries for a huge feast. You are consuming and it has to come from somewhere.

What seems lost these days is the fact that, despite the profit of corporations from them, holidays bring out some of the best traits of human beings. A vast majority of them are celebrations of concepts as great as giving to someone else for no other reason than to make them happy. Some inspire compassion. Hell, around Christmas time, being amongst other people is a far easier, more pleasant experience than any other time; everyone seems to be in the spirit, seem to be nicer to others and are more giving, even if the holiday itself is weeks away or already over.

These things are bad somehow? Why? Because a company makes money from an aspect of it? Who gives a god damn. They make money regardless all year 'round; and most of the year it isn't for good reasons. The only holiday I think you can make a case for is Thanksgiving - if you prescribe to the whole gluttony thing - but even that has higher reasoning behind it. If it means something to someone and makes people happy, it's a good holiday, to me.

- On that note, concerning Valentines Day, I don't currently have a girlfriend, but regardless of that, I like the holiday anyway. As far as I'm concerned any occasion to celebrate an emotion as awesome as love can't be all bad.

- I don't usually bring shipping stuff up on here, but since it's Valentines Day I'm going to make an exception for something. Did you ever notice that a fair amount of people ship a certain pairing chiefly because they had a crush on one of the characters as an adolescent or just really like them, even if the other character clearly doesn't return their feelings? I'm not going to name the two ships in general - or the game - but I've taken note over time that many people who stick with this one pairing - that I honestly think is flat out wrong, but when does that ever stop shippers - admit that they had a crush on the big breasted female in particular. So adding everything up, it becomes clear that such is a fair amount of why they ship her with the main character you play as, who very clearly loved someone else, even well after the most unfortunate of circumstances.

Doesn't that seem like an odd reason to ship something? No? It's just me? Oh.

- Actually, the above situation applies to the shipping wars of a certain manga about ninja's that are oddly unfamiliar with the concept of stealth. Shy, big breasted girl likes main character. Some male fans think she's hot. So of course, the main character has to end up with her, despite the fact that he doesn't even notice her and clearly has eyes for only one other girl. Same goes for females who relate to the shyness and want her to win out due to that reason.

That particular one is far less pressing, though, since I hate that manga to pieces now; used to like it a lot, but those days are long over since the quality went down the toilet.

- I think one of my greatest recent disappointments stems from Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Not because of the game itself, really. More that one of the featured dimensions, Marvel 2099, is woefully under represented outside of the game. Obviously the 616 Amazing universe is all over and it's really not hard to find material pertaining to either the Noir or Ultimate universes. Trying to find something from Spider-Man 2099, however, is akin to pulling teeth.

The comic, after all, ended over a decade ago. This is, I believe, the first major media outside of it to feature the character and his world in any fashion. But there's nothing to seek out. Spider-Man 2099 had some of my favorite levels from the game and I was immediately inspired to seek out the comic and whatever was related. To my utter dismay, there was nothing. No trades, no reprints, not a thing. There was a trade of the first ten issues, but that was issues back in early 2009. Said trade has been long out of print and I've never cared to back issue hunt if I don't have to.

Worse still, there doesn't seem to be a damn thing on the horizon for it, be it trades or new comics. Marvel is usually better about this kind of thing. I'm rather let down about it. This is probably the only taste of Spidey 2099 I'm likely to get for a long while, unless we get a sequel and the universe returns. Thanks Marvel. Way to cater.

- Speaking of the game, it feels short to me. Obviously there's a healthy amount of levels - twelve not counting the tutorial and the final boss - but that leaves a mere three stages a pop for each universe. For something like Noir and 2099, that doesn't feel like it's even remotely enough. I'm left wanting more; normally that's a good thing, but in this case it's more along the lines of simply not getting enough of each.

- Ever since I recently got a PS3, I've actually been playing online a fair bit. It is legitimately fun, but damn am I glad it's free on this system. Micrsoft can stick their Live Gold program up their ass; I did the trial and the actual multiplayer itself isn't any better than this, yet they charge for it.

- Actually, I've been switching over to the PS3 more lately in general. I'm finding I'm using it far more and making more game purchases for it over the 360. It's not surprising, honestly; I was really tired of Microsofts BS with the system itself and otherwise. I went through their customer service once. What a nightmare.

- On that note, I do have to give Sony some props. I recently had trouble with my PSP and simply did not want to do the customer service routine. I did it online and shockingly, it was quick and painless; I did a back and forth with a correspondent for a bit on what was wrong and then I had a box and instructions shipped to me on their dime. It was a very good experience, which is very nice.

I'm not just using Microsoft as a comparison here as it isn't even just them; in my experience, customer service for anything is frequently lousy. Navigating the computers is always a nightmare and even if you can get a correspondent on the phone it's no simpler. I really, really hate customer service.

- Why does Marvel seem intent on reminding us that the 90's in their comics are a thing that happened? Do we really need to see Onslaught again? No, we really don't, but damn, are they going to give it to us anyways. And that's with the insistence on bringing up the Clone Saga lately? A few scattered die-hard Ben Reilly fans aside, I think most of us were perfectly happy forgetting that mess was a thing that exists. It's quite possibly the lowest quality Spider-Man has ever reached, even within the confines of the Marriage Era. Cut that shit out, please.

- No, seriously; why the **** are we getting a Scarlet Spider action figure, complete with 90's ankle pouches? Seriously, what is the market for this stuff? That's even more shocking than the fact that Darkhawk's getting a figure in the same series.

- Possible reaction if anyone read this site: "then don't buy it troll STFU lolololol"

- Yes, I realize Spider-Man 2099 was a 90's thing. There were the occasional diamonds amidst the proverbial turds.

- I realize slamming the Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark musical is a popular thing these days but it's for good reason and I can't help commenting on it. As much as I like a good trainwreck, I'm genuinely concerned this musical is going to get someone killed. It's about as troubled a production as I've heard about in a long time, but stuff like how long it's been in previews, the savage reviews and large quantities of WTF-ery means little compared to the real danger of critical injury. You can bet your ass that if someone is crippled or died during this show, that 65 million will look like a pittance compared to the lawsuit.

- Being a bit of a pro wrestling fan - mostly the old stuff; I drift in and out of paying attention to it lately - the falling from a high flying cable stunt business with that musical never fails to remind me of Owen Hart, who, as you may recall, died from a malfunction during one of those stunts, falling a long way down to the ring. That was one stunt, too; not the constant use of such stunts a musical like this is going to require. I doubt the people involved even know of the incident - can't imagine there's much crossover with musical theater folk or their fans and pro wrestling - but it serves a lesson. All it takes is one screw-up.

- You know, the more I think on it, the more it makes sense that I'm enjoying the Spider-Man 2099 sections of Shattered Dimensions so much. I'm pretty much a total whore for cyberpunk and this is basically cyberpunk Spider-Man. It literally fits the majority of the classic criterion.

- I've been listening to grunge lately, which of course means that I'm listening to some awesome music. But, you know, I've come to a conclusion. I like Nirvana. Really, I do. But I honestly think Alice in Chains was the better band of the grunge movement. They lasted about the same amount of time - actually, Alice never really broke up for the longest time, but at some point the releases just stopped - and I think, judging by the body of work - which for both was about three albums and a couple EP's - AiC was simply the better band.

Alice in Chains is actually back together, I hear, with a new album. Haven't heard it yet. But I'm willing to go in with an open mind. This past decade was very kind to older bands, to the point where it was a decade of comebacks for the 80's and 90's best. So, you know, assuming trends hold it should be pretty awesome. Though, you know what they say about assumptions, so who knows.

- Actually, Bush is apparently back together as well. Ugly Kid Joe too. All we need are the Circle Jerks to get back together from their latest spat and most of the greats from the past will be back.

- Big events are back in comics. Sigh. To be fair, I'm looking forward to DC's Flashpoint, but unless it's absolutely fantastic, I'm not sure whether I'm going to even touch Marvel's Fear Itself. I like the creative team a lot, but I've been burnt enough by their events. I'm not liking how it's beginning to sound like all the tie-ins are going to be in the ongoings either, which is the method of tie-ins I hate. I said it once before, but occasionally that method leads to situations like with Incredible Hercules, where every other arc is an event tie-in, which kind of pisses me off and tells me I should look at other books.

- Really, I can't say I blame them for going back to events anymore. Marvel tried a year without the huge events. Sales seemed to plummet across the line and people actually started to say comics felt less exciting without them. So basically, my fellow fans blew it. Thanks guys.

- Called it on one of Dini's two Bat related ongoings getting canned. It was my second choice, though; I'd honestly thought Gotham City Sirens was going to be the one to go and I'm kind of shocked it's still alive. Dini hasn't been writing it for a long while though. The situation changed since I made that prediction, though; at the time I was still assuming he'd return to GCS and then there were some odd goings on with Streets of Gotham. A couple issues only alloted ten pages to the much hyped "House of Hush" storyline, with the Two-Face back-up taking most of the page space. In one issue, the Two-Face story took up the whole thing. Even DC didn't seem to know just what the hell was going to occupy a given issue until it was too late; their solicits were all kinds of messed up for a while there.

- Actually, I wonder if Dini really had his heart into the Dick Grayson Batman status quo following RIP. A lot of people seem to indicate the quality slipped when he went to Streets and that's around when his absences from the title went from occasional to frequent. Either way, I'm getting the feeling we won't be seeing him on a Batman comic for a while; Zatanna seems to be his main ongoing moving forward and he's got new TV commitments now. It's a bit sad; hopefully he comes back for another stint when he has enough time to devote to it.

- This has been bugging me for a while now, but I've never really said much about it. Exactly why the hell do we not have a comprehensive collection of the O'Neil/Adams years on Batman in trade? Seriously, it's one of the pivotal runs of the character - one of the definitive runs, actually - and the only thing we have is a collection of the Ra's Al Ghul issues. Anything else is scattered across a bunch of different "best of" collections. It's one of those things that I can't believe doesn't exist. What the hell gives?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps

Writers: Geoff Johns, Peter Tomasi, Sterling Gates
Artists: Rags Morales, Gene Ha, Eddy Barrows, Jerry Ordway
Collects: Tales of the Corps #1-3, Adventure Comics #4-5, six pages from Green Lantern #49, Book of the Black

We're still in tie-in land here, but unlike last time, this ones actually got some measure of worth to it.

I kind of get the impression that a lot of what's collected here are odds and ends that didn't fit in any other collection put together in it's own trade. Obviously, the Tales from the Corps mini needed to go somewhere and I imagine the two Adventure Comics issues weren't exactly easy to place in a trade. Slapped together with six pages from Green Lantern #49 - which is clearly there only to give a chapter to the Black Lanterns - and the "Book of the Black" segments and you have quite the odd collection. The end result is a trade that feels like an anthology, which really isn't a bad thing.

It's fairly enjoyable and really serves as something of a primer to the Green Lantern franchise as it exists now. The bulk of what's collected are origin stories for various characters across the seven Lantern Corps, giving insight into some key supporting players in the franchise. If you ever wanted to see Killowog as a Lantern recruit or, say, Monguls history, this is the volume to go to. All of them are fairly enjoyable little stories - well, except for the Indigo Lanterns piece, which shows us that they're supposed to represent compassion and then tells us nothing else about the mysterious group - though the nature of the exercise keeps all of them at a short length. To be honest, despite the clear Blackest Night branding, the Tales of the Corps issues really have more to do with the "War of Light" amongst the different corps.

The latter half of the book is the one that justifies the tie-in banner. Six pages of Green Lantern #49 provide a Black Lanterns chapter for the book, rounding out the book with at least one story for each corps. It's presented as an origin story, but it isn't. It's the only story of the volume that doesn't work on it's own, because frankly it reads like what it is; six pages of a Green Lantern issue in the middle of the event. There's also a small prose section detailing the thoughts of Black Hand which was fairly interesting and perhaps even a bit creepy.

The last part collected is a two issue tie-in centered on Superboy Prime. Look, I like Superboy Prime. I'm not going to apologize for it. Ever since Infinite Crisis - and hell, even during it - he's become a gigantic indictment of comic fanboys, which I suspect is primarily why a lot of them hate him. I mean, he prowls on the DCMB for chrissakes. He's also good for a lot of metatextual stuff, since he supposedly lives on "our" Earth, or real life.

This tie-in seems to signal the character being set aside for a while. It's probably a good thing, as while I hope he comes back after a couple years, he probably needed a break, since doing the same joke without a pause tends to wear it out. Still, it's an enjoyable, goofy story in that Superboy Prime way, seeing him trash the DC offices and demanding they leave him alone to fighting Black Lanterns of all the heroes that he killed in Infinite Crisis. Well, all of them save Pantha; I guess Geoff Johns didn't want to piss off the four people who actually give a goddamn about the character again.

The art's held down by a bunch of pencillers that are particularly good at their craft, which is the long way of saying the art's pretty rad. They don't always get much to work with - these are short vignettes that typically clock in at six pages and never exceed twelve - but they make the most of it. Even Eddy Barrows turns in some good art - as you'll note my previous experience with his work was not positive - and how the hell can you go wrong with art from guys like Gene Ha, Tom Mandrake, Jerry Ordway and Chris Samnee? That's right, you can't.

The Score: 7 out of 10

It's ties to the event may be tenuous and it's probably the least necessary of all the Blackest Night tie-in volumes, but what the hell. I enjoyed what I read and to me that means a lot. If you want to read some origins, are in the mood for some quick stories or are looking for decent Blackest Night tie-in volumes, you could do worse.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Seige: X-Men (comics)

Writers: Daniel Way, Marjorie Liu, Kieron Gillen
Artists: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Niko Henrichon
Collects: Dark Wolverine #82-84, New Mutants #11, Siege: Storming Asgard - Heroes and Villains

So, from the long, not so proud tradition of useless tie-ins comes Siege: X-Men, a volume as pointless as the name is misleading. That whole X-Men thing? Might want to ignore it. This volume has only tangential ties to the X franchise, with only one issue of the four collected having anything to do with them. It should have been labeled a Dark Wolverine volume, but then I doubt anyone would have bought it.

So, three issues of Dark Wolverine in here; this is in some ways my introduction to Wolverines son Daken. Not exactly the best one. The whole of the "story" is that Daken dicks around Asgard for three issues while the siege occurs, occasionally finding some chicks of fate trying to lead him to bringing about Ragnarok. That's pretty much it.

Such could be an interesting story, but here's the thing; absolutely nothing happens in the course of these three issues. Nothing. We just see Daken douching it up, getting blown up occasionally, making team-mates uncomfortable and having occasional visions of the future from the fate chicks that lead nowhere and carry no consequence. This three issue tie-in isn't even an actual story; absolutely nothing of consequence happens, Daken is in the same place he started in at the end - because, you know, any instance where something goes badly for him turns out to be a vision of the possible future - and I couldn't discern any ongoing storyline for the character - other than the fact that he's just a prick and at some point he needs to get his comeuppance - so I don't even think it serves to advance anything at all.

As for Daken himself, I'm not sure what to think of him as a leading man. He is a douchebag of the highest caliber and if he has any redeeming qualities, I sure as hell didn't see them. When friggin Bullseye seems the sanest person around - to the point where he's the only one of the two of them even remotely concerned about the wellfare of the men under their command - something is seriously wrong. There isn't even any personal plot I can see to get attached to; apparently he's positioning everyone for a backstabbing, but other than occasionally mumbling about wanting to be a god we don't get a sense of what he wants to accomplish and how he plans to do it. I'm not adverse to villain centric comics at all, but I at least expect them to have a general idea of where the hell they're going, which this volume gave no indication of.

I'm left completely unsure of whether I even want to give the Dark Wolverine series the most remote of shots in trade. That might seem harsh to some, but consider this. The whole point of a tie-in is not to tell a great story within the framework of an event. That's what we want out of them - and certainly the comic companies would prefer we get them, since it's better for them in the long run - but a tie-in to an ongoing is usually to boost sales. They're hoping that someone, maybe looking for more action related to the ongoing event, will pick up a tie-in to a series they wouldn't spare a glance at otherwise, like what they see, get invested in the characters ongoing plots and stay on board.

As a tie-in, the Dark Wolverine issues fail on even the most basic levels; and it doesn't deliver on any others either. The art is the sole saving grace. As seems usual for me lately, I'm not familiar with Camuncoli, but the work speaks for itself. It's a bit... looser, for lack of a better word, than I'm used to, but the facial expressions are quite nice and some interesting use of panels can be found. This is the only good thing I can say about these issues, other than some decent dialogue and the fact that it's not an unreadable mess.

The only other actual comic collected is the New Mutants issue and it's the only thing in the book with the most remote tie to the X-Men. It doesn't deal with the whole team, though; only Dani Moonstar. It picks up on a plot point from a previous X-Men tale, where Dani made a deal with Hela - of Norse mythologies Hel - to get the power of a Valkyrie for a day, as per Cyclops plan. But bargains with creatures like Hela never come without a price and now the favor is being called in. Amidst the Siege, the fallen cannot move on to their afterlife, so Dani is trusted to be their guide. This doesn't go as planned, because of course Dani would rather save lives first before tending to those already dead.

It's a relatively solid one issue tie - a hell of a lot better than Dark Wolverine - with some really nice art. Niko Henrichon's style seems at home in the sort of granduer of Norse mythology, enough so that I might be interested in seeing it on a Thor book itself. The work seems to lack some heavy inking, which combined with the style gives it an interesting look I'm not sure I've seen too often outside of some work associated with the Fables franchise over at DC's Veritigo imprint.

Still, it's one good issue out of four; and good as it is, it's not worth picking up this volume alone; I'd sooner go out and get the back issue of it and I really don't deal in single issues much.

The only other thing collected is one of those books that gives out bios for important characters in a coming story. Marvel puts these out every once in a while, usually whenever an event is scheduled to hit. I guess they're Marvel's version of Secret Files. An okay read - one that does a fair job of getting you caught up on recent events with the main players - but it's of more use to people who want to read Siege itself. What's it's doing here, I haven't a clue. Best guess is that it was thrown in to pad out the volume, because for an X-Men tie-in volume the X-Men had jack all to do with Siege, so there wasn't much else to collect.

The Score: 5.5 out of 10

Put a wide berth between this volume and you. The only reason I even gave it a score this high is because I liked the New Mutants issue and the art was pretty good. But most of the volume fails as a tie-in, it fails as a story and it fails to do anything. It's not worth getting at all. Save your money and leave this trade on the shelf.