Thursday, January 30, 2014

Things No One Cares About: Samus and Joey

It seems everyone has this bizarre desire to see Samus teamed up with someone. The games like giving her a mission support like the much contested Adam or the less contested U-Mos. However, the various books decide to go a different route and give here a partner or partners of some sort. The Super Metroid comic had the very weird Houston Armstrong,while Echos gave us the GFS Boring team. The Zero Mission manga,which we'll get to soon,teams her up with some random guys as well. To me telling a story about Samus would be a great opportunity to do some silent story telling as it's something the games have done well. I guess I'll just have to wait for that to happen,till then here is another team up book called Samus and Joey.

Samus and Joey is a 2003 manga by Kouji Izuki,who's only other noted work are a few Megaman manga. If the quality of this manga is any indication then I'd say that those are worth a read. If this book was caring about canon then it's supposed to be slotted between Metroid and Metroid Prime. However it's really not so that last sentence was just me being a nerd. So moving on let's talk about why this manga actually works.

Those characters I mentioned before all tend to have one major problem. They're boring, or in Houston's case silly. They seem to tend to suck up panel time with their blandness. However the time is taken to make Joey a likable character. The fact that he is a young kid will probably turn some people off the series but there is a lot of care to make him not just another brat. He does have his bratty moments but what little kid doesn't. He actually does try to better himself through Samus' minimal guidance and they give him ways to not be a burden. He's trying to grow up and this becomes the central point of the stories. He's a believable character that endears himself and makes the time with him enjoyable.

This brings me to the second point of why this work: Samus is set up a supporting cast member. The Echos manga almost seemed ashamed that it had to be about Samus and pushed her to the back. Here she is treated more like a mentor to Joey, helping him on his journey and doing the more heavy fighting that Joey simply can't do. She is a bit tough on Joey but does genuinely care for him and she is never gone from the plot too long. She does try to drop Joey off somewhere away from her but it's more due to the nature of her missions than any actual dislike of Joey.

The plots themselves are typical adventure plots involving pirates (it is a Metroid manga), killer creatures and robots. They are not that bad if a little run of the mill. It is nice however to see the pirates keep there canonical(at least to me) lack of foresight. The second story does lack a proper resolution between Joey and his mother which sort of irks me. However the stories do let Joey grow as a character so most of this can be forgiven. As a side note the book does acknowledge how powerful and devastating Samus' weapons can be,it's a nice touch

The art is pretty okay on this one with a much more animated look. Everything wouldn't look out of place in a Saturday morning cartoon. Samus has a cool character design and the pirates all look goofy. The other enemies look terrifying especially the penguins in the Rescue operations arc. I'm still having nightmares about the damn things.

So I kind of went into this with mixed feelings and wound up pleasantly surprised. It treats Samus with more respect than Echos and gives us a few more interesting characters to boot It is probably one of the better of the Metroid manga and definitely worth checking out.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Things No One Cares About: Metroid Prime: Episode of Aether

Metroid Prime 2:Echos is a sequel(no really) to Metroid Prime and is a bit of a change from the first game with much darker atmosphere and that lovely duel world game play that Nintendo adores. However I'm not here to talk about that game so no one cares about my thoughts on that game instead I am going to look at the manga. If you don't care about that either,then keep your mouth shut,because that is what I'm talking about. This is a bit of a weird manga that sadly lacks focus. I was only able to read the first six chapters and truly have no desire to read the last chapter.

It follows the plot of Echos fairly loosely covering the major plot points from the beginning and the end of the game. Torvus Bog and it's dank swamp that has intense firefights with nasty creatures,who needs it? The imposing and marvelous Santuary Fortress,considered the high point of the Prime series,and that awesome fight with Quadraxis,that's just a waste of time. No what you want is Samus fighting some no name jerk and then teaming up with stock military characters. Well that's what manga-ka Matsumoto Hisashi decided was important,so I guess that is what we are going with.

The plot seriously skips from the beginning of Agon wastes to her getting the light suit and preparing to fight the Emperor Ing(i.e one of the final bosses of Echos). I was trying to figure out if I'd skipped a chapter somehow as it seems the marines and Samus had had this great character moments but nope I didn't. We need that chapter to have the four characters who aren't Samus fight a giant pillbug.

With all the skipping and shoving Samus to one side,nothing interesting really happens at all. Dark Samus shows up but it is never explained what she is(barring the last chapter).The real highlight is honestly an early fight with some no name enemies. Even then it's more for the narm factor of Samus calling her attacks. It lacks the tense foreboding that beginning of the game did so well. Going through the marines makeshift encampments while slowly piecing together what happened is frightening and interesting. Here it's just have a video of what happened and hey there are some survivors better go find them.

Samus is a determined warrior dedicated to helping others,one of the more popular interpretations of her character . It does add some personality and I really do sympathize with her. Doing your job in a very matter of fact and silent manner would unnerve people. She is often mistaken for being emotionless despite her truly kind heart. Unfortunately her lone wolf traits are used as excuse to have her just leave the little group of survivors behind. Heaven forbid we have Samus be in a manga about her own game. The sixth chapter is the aforementioned pill bug fight with one page of Samus fighting the Emperor Ing.

This would be slightly forgivable if the characters we do focus were actually characters or at least likable. If you've read or watched anything in recent memory where a small military group survives a hostile situation than you know how the characters will play out. The coward who learns to be brave,the loner ace,the scientist and the tech guy. None of them have any personality worth talking about and their character arcs can be guessed with in five seconds flat. We have two whole chapters dedicated to these idiots while Samus is off doing things people want to read about.

The art is fine with no real standout designs or things to see. It's drawn like a typical shonen manga which is not bad with in it self as it does look nice. However there is just nothing to look at . It does not even have any weird panels or the like to just plain laugh at.

I started out annoyed by this manga due to the largely unnecessary opening fight scene,got drawn in by Samus' characterization and then pulled straight out by all the material left on the cutting room floor. Unless that last chapter some how makes everything I just said invalid some how,avoid this stinker.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Things No One Cares About: Super Metroid(Nintendo Power)

In the spring of 1994 Super Metroid was released for the Super Nintendo and is today hailed as a classic. For good reason,it is an amazing game that took its' predecessors and made them even better. It also contributed heavily to the concept of speed running. The game world was massive and you could spend hours exploring it looking for new items and fighting interesting creatures. Through out the whole adventure as was common for games in the 8/16 bit eras, Samus kept silent leaving the player to infer what she was thinking and how she reacted. However when it came time to put Samus in a comic book,the whole silence routine wasn't going to fly. So in the summer of 1994 she was given a semblance of a personality in the Nintendo Power(God rest it's soul) comics written by Benimaro Itoh.

Itoh who had previously worked on the Starfox and Earthbound comics was given this project that ran through issues 57-61 of Nintendo power(God rest it's soul). He uses his short run to condense the story of Super Metroid into 5 chapters even throwing in some back story for Samus. It's interesting that this would be the comic that would influence the later manga adaption of the series for reasons we'll get to but back to Samus for a minute.

Itoh decided to go with what every child in the 90's thought she would be like and made her a bad ass action hero. It's down right hilarious to watch her spout one liners she thinks are cool but come off as cheesy. That word right there describes the whole book:Cheesy. She gets a big southern sidekick named Houston for some odd as reason who spouts equally goofy one liners. They don't really play up any romance between the two which is probably for the best. If he did then we would not have time for wacky hijinks between the alien chairman(Keaton) and the fat guy who runs the galactic police force(Hardy). The constant cut backs to the chairman and the police chief are funny enough but pad out an already short story. So much so that the last chapter feels very rushed as a result.

One minor thing that does irk me about the plot is that Hardy ends up killing the baby Metroid by accident instead of it making it's heroic sacrifice to save Samus. Though even then it's kinda funny to be robbed of that moment by the most useless character in the comic.

Most of these characters would later show up in the official manga with the exception of Houston,again probably for the better. The back story that Old Bird provides is also expanded upon in that same manga. Same goes for what little characterization Mother Brain gets here. I wouldn't call the plot faithful to the original more using it as a jumping off point.

The art is very cartoony and enjoyable with some pure what the hell moments here and there. Especially heads that just seem to pop up in panels in some attempt of a close up. It ends up looking like the person was decapitated. The characters do look nice and this is one of the better early Samus designs. Mother Brain and Ridely are legitimately terrifying looking for their minimal panel time.

Overall yes this whole thing is rather silly and goofy. However it is clearly having fun telling you this story about a great space battle. It also helps that it does help establish some of the better elements of Samus' back story and a few other elements that would stick with the franchise. I wouldn't say it's worth your time to seek out the issues of Nintendo Power(God rest it's soul) it's featured in but it's available online and worth the read.

Till next time:Stay Positive

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Status Update 1/19/14

So it has been about a month since I've posted anything and well I don't think anyone cares that bad but for those who do here's an explanation and a status update. First I took a break off for the holidays because I could and the after the first of the year ran into a minor writers block when trying to compose my thoughts on Paradise Kiss. Then some events happened in my personal life that I'm still dealing with that trigger my lovely friend,depression.

So while dealing with aforementioned problems,I've been re-visiting the Metroid series.Since I'm a giant nerd I decided to also check out the various Metroid manga and comic projects. It's interesting to see the various takes on Samus that different authors have had.So because apparently people still read this blog, I'm going to talk about the different Metroid comic/manga adaptions.This isn't going to be like my ill-fated Jojo month...hopefully as I've read most of the books I'll be talking about. I will be breaking my own flimsy rule and look at works that I am unable to complete,it will not happen again.

In some semblance of order the books on the chopping block are:

Super Metroid  (Nintendo Power)

Metroid Prime 2:Episode of Aether 

Samus and Joey

Metroid(keeping it simple,I guess)

Metroid Strategy manga and a few short pieces

Since I haven't really written that much this last month the various posts for the manga/comics will show up sporadically through the following few weeks so come back daily for updates and/or disappointment .