Sunday, November 12, 2017

The JimFear138 Podcast Ep. 73 - RE6, Gun Sense, & Dumb News



Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of the podcast! In this one I vent my spleen about Resident Evil 6, talk about the RedPillBlack controversy for a bit, have a laugh at the expense of USA Today, and go over some news relating to Facebook telling people to send nudes, Fusion GPS, and fake hate crimes. It's a lot to fit in, but I missed last week, so I wanted to jam pack this episode with as much content as I could to make up for being sick. Hope y'all enjoy!

MP3 Download of this episode:  https://ia600408.us.archive.org/25/items/jimfear_audio_productions/ep73.mp3

Blaire White & RedPillBlack on The Rubin Report: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REHex5e57HI

MAGA 2020 & Beyond: https://www.amazon.com/MAGA-2020-Beyond-Milo-Yiannopoulos/dp/1925645487/

Townhall spanking USAToday: http://archive.is/bukyK

The Daily Wire spanking USAToday: http://archive.is/73Csj

CloudCuckooCountry's Book Burning: The Ancient Solitary Reign Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzdvUcDfdGo

John C. Wright's Phoenix on the Sword Review: http://www.scifiwright.com/2017/11/conan-phoenix-on-the-sword/

Fox News Fusion GPS Official Met W/Russian Operative: http://archive.is/0JJvi

Burt Kreisher's The Machine (Russian Mafia story): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paG1-lPtIXA

Hard Bastard: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYmqiv_DNFYFkn8fvvJujmA

Facebook's Nudes Scam: http://archive.is/iuezf

Air Force Academy Fake Hate Crime: http://archive.is/k0LsC

Sargon of Akkad's This Week In Stupid about anti-white racism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XmA6ZVLHww

Aydin Paladin's Why Is It Not Okay To Be White?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1X6G64iM82k

Dr. Layman's Paul Joseph Watson Doesn't Understand Anything: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30YF8rSpqpE

Scream Helplessly At The Sky: http://archive.is/RDZSt

NotJohnDaker/The Mixed GM's Book Recommendations: https://twitter.com/NotJohnDaker/status/928461536393383941



Social Media Dump:

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Opening Music:
Honey Bee by Kevin Macleod: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1100755
Honey Bee Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
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Monday, October 30, 2017

The JimFear138 Podcast Ep. 72 - Legacy of Kain, YA SocJus, & Cultural Roots



Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of the podcast! Sorry this one is late, but my dad was in town this weekend, and I don't get to see him that often, so I spent the afternoon I should've spent editing the podcast hanging out with my dad. Anyway, in this episode I ramble about The Legacy of Kain games, talk about an article Bradford wrote about serialized stories, go over an article by Jon Del Arroz about social justice in young adult publishing, and talk about another article in which a woman has raised her child to hate herself because she's white. Fun stuff, yeah? Hope y'all enjoy!


Crystal Dynamics LoK Post: https://twitter.com/CrystalDynamics/status/921167223263129600

Let's Ramble With Rae: Soul Reaver 2 by Dawn Somewhere: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g63IzB0ZVos&list=PLNC_sRuPtMomRdD3RUxFBc_NhrKQ5gG6A

[ON SALE] Nethereal by Brian Niemeier: https://www.amazon.com/Nethereal-Soul-Cycle-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00ZBDOHKU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1509253419&sr=8-1&keywords=nethereal

Getting Started: Reconsider the Serial by Bradford Walker: http://www.pulprev.com/2017/10/getting-started-reconsider-serial.html

How Never-Satisfied Social Justice Mobs Are Ruining YA Book Publishing by Jon Del Arroz: http://thefederalist.com/2017/10/25/never-satisfied-social-justice-mobs-ruining-ya-book-publishing/

Jon Del Arroz's Website: http://delarroz.com/

T-Rex na Kanojo (My Girlfriend Is A T-Rex): http://www.mangahere.co/manga/t_rex_na_kanojo/c001/

CTRL ALT Revolt! by Nick Cole: https://www.amazon.com/CTRL-ALT-Revolt-Nick-Cole-ebook/dp/B01BKWKBCS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1509260171&sr=8-1&keywords=control+alt+revolt

The Young Protectors is the Comic You Always Wanted by Nerkish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sk5stat0weg

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest (AFFILIATE LINK): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0373212313/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=jimfear138-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=0373212313&linkId=1645a944c198e248940775ec9fed1076

Postcolonial Parenting by Tama Ward: https://archive.fo/ytoE0

MP3 Download of this episode: https://ia600408.us.archive.org/25/items/jimfear_audio_productions/ep72.mp3

Social Media Dump:

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Opening Music:
Honey Bee by Kevin Macleod: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1100755
Honey Bee Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Three Different Kinds Of Horror Games



As most of you who frequent this blog, or the podcast, or my social media feeds in general will know, I'm a horror junkie. I love horror games, movies, books, short stories, comics, anything horror I can get my hands on. It's a bit strange, because I'm a night owl, and it's ridiculously easy for a horror concept to get inside my head and freak me out when I'm alone at night. But for some reason I can't get enough of the spooky stuff. Christmas is way overblown as the most wonderful time of the year. Halloween's where it's at, in my extremely arrogant opinion.

I've been playing horror games since Resident Evil 2, and in the time since that game and the present day I've noticed a very disturbing trend in horror games. There are a ridiculous amount of games masquerading as "survival horror" that, quite frankly, aren't. So, in an effort to set the record firmly crooked about a couple of things I view as important, I'm going to explain the three different types of horror games.

I should mention that survival horror is my jam, and my favorite of the three, so if I sound disparaging of the other two subgenres it's not because I hate them.

It's just because I view them as inherently inferior.


Now that I've got my survival horror supremacy worked out of my system, at least a little bit, on with the show here.

Horror, at least with regards to video games, falls on a spectrum. This spectrum covers the vast majority of horror games, and while the subgenres do mix and blend occasionally there is a definitive place along this spectrum that most horror games will fall on. On the one side you have action horror, on the other you have psychological horror, and resting comfortably in the middle like a filthy centrist is survival horror. So what separates these three classes of horror game, and why do so many of the other two get paraded around as survival horror when they're self-evidently not?

We'll start out with action horror first. This subgenre is typified by hordes of enemies that you can't skirt, as well as plenty of weapons and ammunition to take them down with. You might get several different kinds of pistols and shotguns, a couple of long rifles, maybe even a grenade or rocket launcher for the really big bads. They also tend to take place in the day. In these games you never really have to worry about running out of ammunition or healing items (unless you're playing on harder difficulties), and in most cases your character is the "ultimate badass" type. Resident Evil 5 is a perfect example of an action horror game. Chris Redfield is a strong, heroic special forces agent with more weapons than you can shake a stick at, and most of the areas with hordes of enemies require the enemies to be defeated or a timer to count down before you can go anywhere. Quick time events are another staple of this subgenre, although they weren't before 2005. Thanks for that, RE4.

Yes, I'm still salty about qte's. 

On the other side of the spectrum is psychological horror. These games are typically dark, brooding, and have more of a haunted house feel to them. You're usually confined to a single structure, such as an insane asylum, a castle, or a mine turned research facility. Your protagonist is usually some kind of completely worthless dandy or fop with no ability to fight back whatsoever. You are typically given no weapons, and if you are given weapons they are almost worthless themselves so far as self defense goes. You are not supposed to fight, you're supposed to sneak around and avoid the enemy, running and hiding when you're spotted. Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Outlast are perfect examples of this type of game. 

Finally, in the middle, you have survival horror. In a survival horror game your character can be a member of a special forces team, but doesn't have to be, as everymen are staples of this subgenre. You have effective weapons, but limited ammunition and healing items, therefore it's often more judicious to flee from a fight rather than taking down minor enemies. These games can be set in haunted houses, small towns, research facilities, the list goes on. Good examples of this are Dino Crisis, the first 3 Resident Evil games, and the first 3 Silent Hill games. 

So why the confusion? Partly I think because very few people have taken the time to sperg out this hard and be this pedantic about it. A good couple rules of thumb I use are as follows:

1. If you can fight back, it isn't psychological horror.
2. If fighting back is too easy, it's action horror.
3. If you can fight back but have to decide whether it's a good idea or not, it's survival horror.

Of course these aren't hard and fast rules. Some games fall through the cracks in between these subgenres. The Telltale Walking Dead game is most certainly horror, but it's a point and click adventure game. You can fight back, but only when the game lets you. I'm not sure where that would fall on this scale, but I think it's safe to say that TWD is an outlier in the genre. Likewise, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is definitely a horror game, but it also falls somewhere between survival and action horror. Horror is a complicated genre, and this isn't meant to be exhaustive or definitive. I'm merely laying out the three big ones.

So why do action horror games and psychological horror games get marketed as survival horror games all the time? Frankly, and let's not be coy here, survival horror is a money printing machine. Games that bill themselves as survival horror sell ridiculous amounts of copies, and yet nobody has truly been able to capture the feeling of playing the original Silent Hill, or Resident Evil, or Dino Crisis. 

Not without actually re-releasing graphically updated versions of those games themselves, of course. 

But Amnesia: The Dark Descent, let's just look at that. According to this article in Yahoo Finance, this game has sold over 1 million copies based on the idea that it's survival horror when it isn't. And yet, if you check the game's steam page, that's one of the top rated user-generated tags for the game. I remember when this game came out. It was billed as survival horror, but there is a clear and present difference between what this game is and what survival horror meant during the heyday of the genre.

Now of course the game is good. I have a love-hate relationship with it, as I do all psychological horror games, but I can admit when it does what it's supposed to do and does it well. Amnesia is a well-crafted experience, even if it isn't specifically to my own tastes as a horror gamer. So this game no doubt sold on its own merits as well. Plenty of people, myself included, saw YouTube let's players get ahold of this game and go to town, thought it looked fun, and picked it up ourselves. But there is the undeniable draw that the classification of "survival horror" gives to a game. 

If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say the confusion is deliberate. Survival horror is a hard genre to make well. It's far easier to overpower your protagonist with ridiculous amounts of weapons and ammo, or take away their ability to fight entirely and railroad the player through a haunted house. Crafting a balanced horror experience where the player will have to backtrack, solve puzzles, run around monsters, and fight their way through enemies and bosses alike is far more difficult. So most devs nowadays just make it action or psychological horror, slap the survival horror logo on it, and call it a day. It's understandable, but this watering down of the genre doesn't do anybody any favors in the long run. 

While action and psychological horror are fun subgenres, it looks like we'll have to deal with them masquerading as survival horror for the foreseeable future. Until someone gets off their ass and designs another proper survival horror game, we'll have to content ourselves with what's currently being released, or with revving up our old consoles so that we can get an actual survival horror experience. And in the interest of facilitating this, I'm going to be working on a post to have out by Halloween detailing precisely what makes a good survival horror game. I've been meaning to write this for a couple years now, and there's no time like the present to get this out of my system. So expect that in the next few days.

In the meantime, if you haven't played Dino Crisis, the original Resident Evil games, or the original Silent Hill games, and you want to understand how they're different in tone and gameplay from what's marketed as survival horror today, I'd suggest you look up an emulator or try to find the disk copies if you've still got a PS2. They'll be well worth your money, I can promise you.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The JimFear138 Podcast Ep. 71 - Alien Isolation, The State, Political Compass Tests, & The Black Pill


Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of the podcast! This time I go over Alien: Isolation, talk about The State and how it's ISIS propaganda, demonstrate the fallibility of political compass tests, and explain how to avoid a black pill state of mind! Hope y'all enjoy!
They Mostly Come At Night by Killahawke1: https://www.reddit.com/r/freehorrorstories/comments/4i7ktz/they_mostly_come_at_night/

Aydin Paladin's The Appeal of Fear: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vERK4zJjC0&t=2s

Aydin Paladin's Analyzing 'The State' Propaganda w/Hard Bastard Ep.1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIS1Kgo3X_k

Political Party Quiz: http://www.people-press.org/quiz/political-party-quiz/

The Political Compass: https://www.politicalcompass.org/test

Mouthy Buddha's Am I A Crypto-Fascist Making Nazi Propaganda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9_O-0pmxSU&t=217s

Stardusk's Gradations And Hues | Towards A Black Pill State Of Mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vh95zAeurLg&t=0s

Turd Flinging Monkey's Antisemitism & Patriarchy Theory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-5GmpakfKY


MP3 Download of this episode: https://ia600408.us.archive.org/25/items/jimfear_audio_productions/ep71.mp3



Social Media Dump:

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Opening Music:
Honey Bee by Kevin Macleod: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1100755
Honey Bee Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Alien: Isolation Carries The Burden



So I came down with a fairly bad cold last week, and to ameliorate it I took copious amounts of alka-seltzer and Nyquil, and played a game that has been in my library for a couple years now but I've never really touched. Before I get into this, this review will have pretty massive spoilers for the game, but it's been out since this month three years ago, so if you haven't played it yet, go play it before you read this. If you want my final verdict, it's consistent with the lore from the films, and it's a fun game. Definitely worth what you'd pay for it in a Steam sale, although I'm not entirely certain I'd pay $40 for it up front. Good, not that good, for reasons I'll get into. But, if you want to avoid the spoilers and still get a verdict out of me, if you're into horror/stealth games, or just really like the Alien franchise, give this one a buy. I had fun with it. 

Now that we've done the disclaimer and given a basic verdict, let's get into what this game does right, and what it does wrong. Firstly, fuck what those idiots on Reddit say, this game is 100% consistent with the lore from the first two Alien movies. I've seen both multiple times, and practically have them memorized. I know I give Ridley Scott a lot of (deserved) shit whenever he tries to bring something he didn't create to film, because he's bad at it, but when he does an original film it is an incredible sight to behold. Alien is no exception, and James Cameron followed it up with a stellar sequel that's as good as the original, although they're in two different subgenres. The game does not deviate from the lore one whit, and, as a matter of fact, feels more like an Alien experience than any other game I've played in the franchise, with the possible exception of Alien vs Predator (2010). 

The problem with AvP2010 is that it told three different stories, and as such each gameplay experience was truncated into easily repeatable environments and gameplay, which you can imagine gets repetitive fairly quickly. The only campaign that felt like an Alien/Aliens game was the human campaign, and that's the experience Isolation most closely mirrors, while fleshing it out. You're not some roided-out space marine walking in with a pulse rifle or smart gun, and you're not meant to be. Those weapons didn't come around until later in the series anyway (Isolation takes place between 1 and 2). Maybe a plot synopsis would help.

You play as Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley, come out to the far reaches of the galaxy to chase the Nostromo and find out what happened to her mother. She signs on as an engineer on a trip to pick up a flight recorder from the Nostromo, and they fly to the space station Sevastopol. Upon arrival they find that shit has completely hit the fan, people are rioting and killing each other, the synthetics have gone psychotic, and there's a dangerous monster roaming the station. People start dropping left and right due to one reason or another, and Ripley has to escape before any one of a million things kills her. 

So in AvP2010 you were a space marine with all the trimmings. Big guns, big muscles, big team (till you start getting picked off, at least), etc. The human campaign plays like a shortened action horror game. There's not a whole lot of avoidance going on. When you're getting run up on, you're getting run up on, and running isn't going to save you, because they'll just follow you through the door to the next room. Competent, but it should've been its own separate game, in my opinion. Anyway.

Isolation is much more of a survival horror game than the human campaign of AvP2010. And to be honest it's a fairly decent one. The stealth elements really hammer home exactly how alone you are in Sevastopol. Not many people are coming to help you, and much the same as in the movies, those who do tend to end up as dinner or incubators.

So there are two elements you're dealing with, here. Stealth, and survival horror. This game is an admirable mix of both, and they lend to each other to strengthen the whole. You are unable to kill the Alien, but you can scare it off with the flamethrower. You are able to kill the hostile humans and synthetics on the station, but you have a severely limited ammo supply. I should mention that while you are able to craft medkits, the materials you need to do so are scattered throughout the station, and the locations are randomized so far as I'm able to determine. You also use those materials for the crafting system in this game to make other weapons and distractions, which is completely ancillary and should've been cut, in my opinion.  But I'll get to that later.

Because you cannot kill the Alien, you have to hide from it and distract it. It has heightened senses, so it can see you from about 25 meters away in complete darkness, it can hear a gnat fart in a symphony, and its dual-AI system ensures it always knows where you are in general. It doesn't know precisely where you are, but it knows the area, and will stick around until you leave, so hiding only works until it hops back into a vent. You can craft noisemakers to distract it, but basically all this boils down to SNEAK EVERYWHERE. Totally serious, there were very, very few portions of this game I was not crouching and sneaking. It's just the smart way to play, given that every time I thought the Alien wasn't around, I'd stand up, and it would dive out of a vent and put its tongue-mouth through my head. Just sneak. Trust me.

Unless you get to a point wherein the humans or synthetics are your main enemy (it happens in places). Then you're free to walk around if you fancy getting into fights you don't have to. The humans usually have ammunition on them, so if you can take them down quickly you might get a nice payoff. The androids, on the other hand, are not simple to take down, even when you get the bolt gun. So this is where strategy comes into play. In some areas it's more expeditious to just kill the damned androids, in some areas you don't have any weapons to kill them with except what you can craft and your big wrench (they call it a "maintenance jack", but fuck off, it's a big damned wrench), and in some areas you can just shuck-and-jive around them and make a break for it. You have to decide what to do in any given situation, and the game forces you to carefully consider your ammo stores and work out what would be best here, given that you don't know what's around the corner.

The timing with the sneaking is also very important, because nobody in this game follows a set path. In stealth games of yore like Thief, or Styx: Master of Shadows, the enemies would follow a set path that you would have to memorize. This path could be retardedly simple or ridiculously complex, but you could memorize it and work out a way around them. In Isolation, it really comes down to waiting for the AI to get bored with your ass, because the enemies (except the androids) follow randomized paths. After the first section in the medical wing of the station I rarely had a problem with the AI tracking me, because if you break line of sight and round a corner they've lost you, at least with the humans/synths. With the Alien it's all a matter of keeping an eye on where it is, waiting until it's not where you want to be, and then making a break for it while keeping an eye on any convenient places to hide along the way. But if it sees you, load your last save, because you're done for unless you have the flamethrower and the reflexes of a rabbit on crack.

So while it can get repetitive, they try to mix it up enough to be fun, and I think they succeed. The game is fun to play, and I enjoyed the hell out of trying to outwit the Alien's AI. Dodging humans and letting the Alien take them out was also fun. I wish it was more hostile to the synths, though, because when those two work together it's almost impossible to get out alive.

The atmosphere in this game is also amazing. Everything is designed with that 1970's aesthetic from the original Alien movie, and it all looks great. It's a lot of fun to just look around the station, and the view from the windows of the outside is nothing short of entrancing. You can tell that the people who made this game are huge fans of the franchise, and they took serious notes from Scott and Cameron's films to make sure that this game looked and felt like an Alien game. Slight spoiler side note: The mere look of the hive from a first-person perspective was terrifying, and my god did it feel good to escape from that deathtrap. They did a great job with the level design in this game. 

There are puzzles that you have to solve in-game (not the mini-games, I'll get to that), but none of them are particularly difficult. If you were able to figure out the original Resident Evil, you'll have no trouble with the puzzles in Isolation. Sometimes figuring out where the hell to go was more difficult than working out puzzles, which is saying something in the days of linear-as-fuck-game-design currently overtaking the market. I got lost in this game. Several times. Thank god for the map. 

Speaking of the map, this was another interesting feature. It's digital, but one-dimensional, so you get a floor layout, much like in the original Resident Evil, or the first few Silent Hill games. Being digital, it updates itself whenever you enter a new room/hallway, or whenever you manually download a floor plan from a console. From there, points of interest (save points, terminals, locked doors, etc) are marked or unmarked as they become relevant and irrelevant. It also shows you the general area of your current destination, which is helpful, but encourages laziness on the part of the player. Although I can't blame them, because some areas in this game are fairly large, and take quite a while to navigate through while sneaking, so knowing where I'm going saved me probably another five hours all told of wandering around and dying. It's a double-edged sword, but in this case I'd rather have it than not.

You also get the motion tracker they used in the movies, and by god is it cool wielding an exact replica of the motion tracker so you can hide in a closet and piss yourself as you see that green dot on the screen rushing towards you. You can get by without it, but it's a big help, and it's really nice to have along for the ride. It's also not quiet, so use sparingly. 

Another thing I had a good long think about but finally decided was a pro in the game's favor was the save system. This game saves in two ways: 1. There are save points which you can access with Ripley's ID keycard, and 2. It just kind of arbitrarily saves when you enter certain areas. This isn't perfect, and could've been improved by removing 2 entirely. I've been playing a lot of older games like Thief, Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, etc, and in those games they would save when you enter a new chapter/mission, or you had to save yourself, and if you didn't and died then oh well fuck you remember to save next time, asshole.

If this game had gone full retro a la Resident Evil or Silent Hill, wherein you have to manually save and can only manually save, and then are graded on your performance, then the save system would've been perfect. If they'd taken into account the amount of manual saves, time, number of deaths, shot accuracy, and given you a grade at the end, it would've felt a lot more like a classic survival horror game. As it stands it has a retro feel to induce the anxiety of thinking, "When was the last time I saved?" but in reality they failed to commit to the bit, and as such cheapened the whole experience for everybody. Also, the countdown timer from when you insert your keycard into the emergency station and when the "Would you like to save?" text box pops up on-screen is far too long, and there's no reason for it other than to make the player nervous when enemies are around. Get rid of that and commit to the retro bit, and you'll be golden. This is a weird mix of a save system that's retro feeling but modern playing, and while a cool idea it just doesn't work with both options in action.

Overall, this game is really good, but we're about to get into some shit that I just didn't enjoy at all. 

First of all, THIS FUCKING THING:



FUCK THIS THING. This thing got me killed so many god damned times over the course of this game, I lost count. The idea is that there are some areas that are sealed off behind secure doors, or some terminals are sealed except to certain personnel, and you can use this "Security Access Turner" to get into them. This is meant to vary up the gameplay and give you little mini-games to complete so that you don't get bored just sneaking around opening doors and hiding. This is all well and good in theory, but in practice, it becomes an abominable fucking headache every time it's pulled out of its little satan pouch. That image you see on the screen isn't the only mini-game they make you play. There's also one with sliders and you have to time your button presses, among others, and you never know which one you'll get. Most of the time it's the one pictured, but occasionally they'll throw you a curve ball to trip you up. Bastards. 

Next up, this game has an absolutely egregious amount of quick-time events. Absolutely egregious. Emphasis. More emphasis

Look, game devs, I totally get that you want to keep your audience engaged at every step of the way with the gameplay, but we went for fucking years not getting sucked out of gameplay because we didn't have to press a fucking button combo every two minutes. Right up til Resident Evil 4 was released, matter of fact. Yes, quick-time events are all RE4's fault. Yes, it's a great game despite that, and they were novel at the time. Yes, it was a bad decision for them to include them and yes, it's still a bad decision to put them in your game today. I shouldn't have to press four different buttons and pull the joysticks in wild directions just to pull a lever or prime a generator. It's cheap, it doesn't add anything to gameplay, and you need to stop doing it. Just have the character pull the lever, start the generator, or open the god damned door. It's not that difficult to just let the game glaze over really unimportant shit like that. They did for years and nobody complained about it, then quick-time events came along and EVERYBODY started complaining about it. Take some time to sound the fanbase on this one. Fuck off with the qte's.

You think I went on for too long about that? The time you spent reading that is nothing compared to the amount of time you'll spend in qte's in Isolation. I know it feels like I'm banging this particular drum a little too hard, but literally every door you open is a qte. All the generators are qte's. Cutting through plates with the plasma torch is a qte. Every time. And, icing, every switch you throw is a qte. They just can't let Ripley throw a fucking switch on her own, for fuck's sake. Which confuses the shit out of me, because when you use a console to update your map you don't have to go through a fucking calisthenics course of button presses. They could've done the exact same thing with all the previously mentioned qte's, but for some reason they really wanted you to press those particular buttons at those particular times. Fuck off with this qte bullshit, and let us get back to what gameplay was before 2005, thank you.

Another problem I had with this game is how it handles it's theme. Namely, that of isolation, terror, and being stalked by an unkillable, unrelenting, inhuman enemy. This is going to get into pretty heavy spoiler territory, so you know. The first half of this game is perfect. Honestly, they could've stopped the story after you jettison the Alien in the science lab and that would've been a very satisfactory ending. The Alien is falling into a gas giant, never to be seen again, and Ripley is on her way back to Sevastopol to have hard words with the man who betrayed her to save the station. Up to that point, it had been a stealth/survival horror game that felt exactly like the first movie did. Dark, cold, far from help, hunted, alone, wondering how in the fuck you're going to get out of this mess.

And then the second half of the game happens. The synths start to go psychotic, killing everybody on board, and eventually you find out that the Alien built a hive below the reactor. So you go down there, and that's where this turns from Alien, into Aliens, with a generous side helping of stealth-horror featuring your not-so-friendly neighborhood androids. You start getting more ammo in this bit. It's not enough to turn Amanda into Rambo, but the feeling of sheer helplessness from the first half of the game is gone. And while that doesn't exactly ruin this game, it comes damned close, given how the first half and back quarter of this game act. 

So you purge the generator and wreck the hive, and this scene was pretty cool. Very reminiscent of the scenes in Aliens when Ellen Ripley went into the Hive after Newt. They perfectly captured the look and feel of the interior of an Alien hive, and by god was it creepy going through there and watching my supply of flamethrower fuel slowly dwindle. This section was fun to play, however as I said it throws the feel of the game off.

The Aliens break and run out into the rest of the station, and from that point the AI gets a serious uptick in its aggression. Apparently there were always multiple Aliens running around, and that would explain the seeming ability to teleport this creature has in the first half. However in the last quarter of the game, if you don't sneak literally everywhere you go, you are going to die. The aggro on this bot goes through the roof, and it will spend minutes stalking around the room that you're in, and when it gets bored and hops in a vent you had better move fast, because it's coming back soon. 

The problem with this isn't that it ramps up the difficulty of the first half of the game with the same mechanics, it's that it undermines the pretense of essentially playing the first Alien movie that the game was sold on. This was why I'd bought it. 

While I love Aliens, Alien has always struck me as the better movie because it's a pure science fiction horror flick. It's a predecessor to the 80's slasher genre, and the special effects, monster design, background design, and acting in the movie are all top notch. There's not a wasted moment, and it never gets old. If you offer me the chance to play a video game conveying the feel of Alien, or conveying Aliens, I'd pick the former in a heartbeat. There are already a million conveying the latter, and I've played plenty of them. Most action horror games tend to do what Aliens did, just with a different universe. So really this is a personal nitpick, but given that you don't find multiple aliens outside of the Hive segment, this felt less like a chilling revelation that this problem was so much worse than we'd thought and more like I'd been lied to about what I was laying my money down for. 

Also, that crafting system I mentioned earlier. You find a ton of items in this game that you can use to craft weapons, distractions, and medkits to help you along. The only two I found remotely useful or necessary were the EMP mines and the medkits. In my opinion, the game would've actually proceeded smoother and been more fun had this system been cut and we'd just found medkits, noisemakers, EMP mines, molotovs, etc lying around the station. While the crafting system offers an explanation for why Ripley has all of these items (she is an engineer, after all), most of them were mildly helpful bordering on useless, and the game doesn't pause while you're crafting. Meaning you can get run up on while trying to fashion a medkit. This whole system just felt stupid and tacked on, and honestly they could've put the items you make in the game by themselves and explained that people had been making improvised explosives and tools to protect themselves.

There's even a scene in the game where this happens. You run through a synth display room, they come to life and start chasing you, so you dip out the door and find a room full of shotgun shells and molotov cocktails, as well as a bunch of dead bodies. The logical extrapolation here is that these people made these molotovs, and that could easily have been extrapolated to the entire station to explain the noisemakers and EMP grenades lying around. You find blueprints for these things, so somebody on station knew how to make them, and others could've worked it out. The crafting system was a burden rather than a positive addition, and nothing would've been lost by axing it entirely. 

Finally (read a pun into that if you want), we have the ending.

I'm going to be perfectly frank with you, people, the ending fucking blows. It sucks ass. We go through all that, go to hell and back, and all we get is a three minute spacewalk that ends with a series of qte's and a cutscene with a bunch of Aliens getting ripped off the station exterior. Then it looks like Ripley escaped, she runs into an Alien on the escape ship, and spaces it and herself. Final cutscene, Ripley is floating in her spacesuit, lights show on her face, cut to black, roll credits.

What the fuck.


While completely internally consistent with the lore (whether you subscribe to Theatrical Release Universe wherein Amanda died before Ellen returned or Deleted Scenes Universe wherein Ellen met Amanda right before she died and Amanda blamed Ellen for being gone for so long), this ending is no sort of payoff for the absolute hell this game puts the player through. I wouldn't know about easy mode, because I didn't play it, but normal mode was fairly punishing, and I'd hope it only gets worse from there. It felt cheap, it felt rushed, and it did not feel rewarding. I actually didn't think the game ended there, and went and looked up let's plays of the ending, and forum posts about it, to see if my halfhearted hope had been right and you could unlock the actual ending by being good at the game.

No such luck. What you see is what you get. Is it internally consistent? Yes. Is it consistent with the wider lore set up by the relevant films? Oh, most definitely. They took serious notes. Is it a satisfying conclusion to god only knows how many hours of sneaking through Hell In Space being hunted by the scariest movie monster of the 70's, fighting off psychotic synthetics and crazed humans? No, I really don't think so.

However, disappointing as the ending is, and frustrating as some of the gameplay elements are, the game itself is very solid, and a lot of fun to play. I don't do that numbered score bullshit, I list pros and cons as I see them and then tell you whether I think it was worth my money. This one was. I definitely got my money's worth out of it, and with the Survival Mode and harder difficulties, I stand to get far more enjoyment than the entry fee. It's available on Steam, and I suppose it got released for consoles but if you want to know if it's available for your specific console you'll have to do independent research, or just finally join the master race like most sensible people did after the XBox One/PS3 debacle. 

But if you're into stealth games, horror games, good old-fashioned survival horror games, or just like the Alien franchise in general, you could find a worse place to put your money. This company obviously cares about franchise integrity with regards to the in-universe lore, and given how much fun this one was I hope they get the opportunity to do more with this franchise in the future. Just, please, fewer qte's next time.

For me.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The JimFear138 Podcast Ep.70 ft. Russell Newquist





Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the podcast! In this one I sit down with Russell Newquist, author of War Demons and head of Silver Empire Publishing! We're also joined halfway or so through the podcast by Russell's wife, Morgon! We talk extensively about his book War Demons (light spoilers, nothing major), Silver Empire Publishing, and I get Russell's take on some drama that happened a couple months ago to satisfy my personal curiosity. Hope y'all enjoy!

MP3 Download of this episode:  https://ia800408.us.archive.org/25/items/jimfear_audio_productions/ep70.mp3

Russell Newquist on Twitter: https://twitter.com/rnewquist

Russell's website:  http://russellnewquist.com/

War Demons: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075NZDP8S/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=sl1&tag=rusnewsblo-20&linkId=20516b6860d6c4da6a17adb43a7944a9

Silver Empire: https://silverempire.org/

Lyonesse: https://lyonesse.silverempire.org/

Morgon Newquist on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/kevasidhe


Social Media Dump:

Hatreon: https://hatreon.us/JimFear138/

Steemit: https://steemit.com/@jimfear138

Itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/jimfear138/id1107844659?mt=2

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JimFear138

Tumblr: http://jimfear138.tumblr.com/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/JimFear138

Blogspot: http://jimfear138.blogspot.com/

Wordpress: https://jimfear138.wordpress.com/

Bandcamp: https://jimfear138.bandcamp.com/

Gab: https://gab.ai/JimFear138

Minds: https://www.minds.com/JimFear138

Vid.me: https://vid.me/JimFear138

Dailymotion: http://www.dailymotion.com/jimfear138

Opening Music:
Honey Bee by Kevin Macleod: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1100755
Honey Bee Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/


Closing Music:
Crunk Knight by Kevin Macleod: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1400044
Crunk Knight Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/



Friday, October 13, 2017

Alan Moore's WildC.A.T.s: Politics In Comics Done Right



Okay, so this is gonna be a blast from the past, specifically 1995-1997, and is going to require some back story for the uninitiated. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that the WildC.A.T.s is my favorite comics series, but I know that not everyone is at my level of sperg on this particular series. So I'll give you a basic synopsis, enough to understand what I'm talking about. Frankly, this'll be easier than you going and reading the comics series, because it'll take some work to get all the comics you'd need to read, and they're all out of print at this point. So this'll be a good intro to the Wildstorm Universe, and WildC.A.T.s in particular. This also gets really long, so strap in, but it couldn't be helped.

So millenia before the comics take place there was a war between two rival races, the Kherubim and the Daemonites. You can probably guess who the good guys were. Ships from these races crash landed on Earth in the distant, distant past, and the aliens mingled with Earth's native population, because apparently they're biologically compatible. Don't ask me, man, it's comic books. But this led to the descendants of these unions inheriting the special powers of the Kherubim and, as it turns out, the Daemonites. This includes people like Maul (the big purple guy) who can increase his size and mass at will, but at the expense of his thinking capability; Warblade, whose body is made of bio-metal that he can shift into different weapons at will; and Voodoo, who can see and exorcise Daemonites from their human hosts. I probably should've mentioned that Daemonites can possess people. Anyway. 

There are also some original Kherubim still surviving, including Mr. Majestic (basically Superman, he has all the same powers), Zealot (a Coda warrior woman that would make Wonder Woman piss herself in fear), Spartan (a cyborg that turns out to be the mental imprint of one of the Kherubim Lords that originally came to Earth), and Lord Emp/Jacob Marlowe (the wealthy financier of the WildC.A.T.s and Kherubim Lord suffering from a serious case of amnesia). These people are, of course, several thousand years old. I don't know if the Daemonites operating on Earth are the Daemonites from the crash, or just their descendents, except for Helspont. That dude's definitely OG, because his host is in no way a human being.

Anyway, the Daemonites on Earth are keeping the age-old war going, and trying to bring the Daemonites on Daemon (their home planet. Clever, right?) to Earth so they can strip mine it of resources. The WildC.A.T.s are meant to be soldiers in the war to stop them, and along the way they get into various other shenanigans with Wildstorm and Image Comics characters and super teams. 

So the war goes on for about 20 issues or so, and eventually the crew (Jacob/Emp, Spartan, Zealot, Warblade, Maul, Void, and Voodoo; Grifter had left the team before this) find what they think is a Daemonite space ship, but actually turns out to be a Kherubim spaceship, that takes them to the Kherubim home planet, Khera (once again, clever, ain't it?). Back on earth, everyone just kind of assumes they died, because it sure as shit looked like an explosion from where they were sitting. So in the interests of continuing the war against the Daemonites (and bad people in general), Mr. Majestic forms a new team.

These new WildC.A.T.s were comprised of Zealot's "sister" Savant, Majestic himself, Condition Red AKA Max Cash AKA Grifter's brother, Ladytron (a heavily modified cyborg, who is also a psychotic super-criminal), and Tao (the genetically engineered super genius who was grown in a lab). Together, instead of going after the Daemonites, they decide to (for some reason) wage a war on super crime, which escalates into a full-scale gang war, including home invasions, murder, bombings, and raids on funerals. This proceeds to get completely out of hand until most of New York City is engulfed in this war, culminating in a great fight between Overt-kill and Ladytron that has some brilliant dialogue. 

Meanwhile most of the original C.A.T.s are on Khera, which looks to be a veritable paradise. It's a wonderful science fiction Disneyland of exotic food, incredible places, and lovely people. On the surface. The first scratches are when they go through immigration, and Voodoo gets hauled off to a ghetto where they've got a bunch of Daemonites locked away. Turns out Voodoo has Daemonite blood, that's why she's able to see them and drag them out of their possession victims. 

We also discover that Maul is descended from "native Kherubim", the titanothropes that used to live on this planet before Zealot and Emp's people came down from the stars. Now they're being forced to live on reservations below ground. There's also some political intrigue wherein the Coda Sisters and the Pantheon are grooming Zealot and Emp respectively to take over the Senate for them, and Maul has a nice romantic subplot with this titanothrope activist girl. Also there's a bomb somewhere, but I'm not telling you where. I've given away far too much already. I'll link to where you can buy the comic so you can read it yourself, but it was either this or force everybody to shell out $40+ USD just to find out what the shit I'm talking about, so there we are.

Now that I've finished rambling like an insane person, I watch a lot of comic reviews. People like Diversity & Comics, Nerkish, Capn Cummings, Captain Frugal, Mim Headroom, etc. They review a lot of recent comics, specifically new comics from DC and Marvel. Occasionally they'll run into something that they really like. Batman: White Knight was apparently much better than everyone thought it would be, for instance, and the Black Bolt comic is very good, despite the writer being an intolerable leftist jackass on Twitter. But the majority of these comics are just awful, and there's really no getting around that.

The last She-Hulk (now just called "Hulk", because why wouldn't it be?) was about her going on dates set up through online dating apps, then finding out that she was ACTUALLY ATTRACTED TO HELLCAT ALL ALONG WOOOOOOOOO LOLSORANDOM. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl continues to be a raging dumpster fire of mental illness, childlike mentalities, memes from 8 years ago, and art fit to make you physically ill. Riri Williams (the new "Iron Man") works better as a villain than a hero, and is constantly emotionally validated by everyone around her for her horrible decisions and complete lack of moral compass. Peter Parker has been turned into a lazy good for nothing, giving up his responsibility to thousands of employees at Parker Industries to become a shiftless layabout, sleeping on Mockingbird's couch after one date and doing nothing to help her around the apartment. And don't even get me started on the Burger King Kid's Club that is The Champions. Just...let's just leave that there. Go watch Nerkish's videos on that particular flaming pile of tires and dogshit if you want my general opinion.

I've gotten so used to seeing how bad these comics are via these videos that when I pulled out my omnibus copy of Moore's WildC.A.T.s I was so riveted that I devoured the entire thing in one night. And this omnibus is fairly large. It's equivalent to reading all of Watchmen, or V for Vendetta (two other excellent Moore books) in one sitting. Seeing as how it's out of print, it's definitely worth the $40 you'd pay for it, and I've got it both ways, individual issues and omnibus. You might be able to find it cheaper by collecting WildC.A.T.s: Homecoming, and WildC.A.T.s: Gang War, but you're still probably looking at a pretty penny, and then you'd have to switch books every other issue or so. If you're looking for the straight collection, go with Moore's omnibus. ANYWAY.

As you've gathered, there are politics in this book. Specifically on Khera. The "Kheran" people that Zealot and Emp are apart of are actively oppressing the Daemonite refugees (REMEMBER: This was written in the mid-90's. There is NO COMMENTARY on current geo-political events as relates to refugees in this book) by keeping them in a run-down, shitty ghetto. This is taking into account the fact that the war has been over for 300 years. The Kherans took in Daemonite refugees after the collapse of Daemon's government, and just kind of shunted them off into a shitty part of Khera and gives them scraps to live on. 

The native Kherans, or titanothropes, are also being mildly oppressed, although not as bad as the Daemonites. This could easily be seen as a commentary on native Americans living on reservations that the colonizing government oh-so-graciously granted them, and to be honest it probably is. From what I know Moore's kind of a lefty, and also a bit of a prick, so I don't think he'd be above doing that kind of commentary. But, the difference between the current crop of political commentary and this is how deftly Moore handles it. In a new Marvel book they'd have a character unsubtly straight up reference Native Americans. Moore doesn't. He lets the oppression of the native Kherans stand on its own, and if you want to compare it to a real life example like Native Americans, then you're welcome to, but it's never explicitly stated in the book itself. You're free to completely ignore the parallels between Kherans and Native Americans, and simply enjoy the story as a science fiction tale about aliens doing bad things to other aliens.

The gang war thing gets a little more explicit with its political commentary, but Moore does an interesting thing here. He compares it, not to, say, the Black Panthers or some other group, but to Ireland. There's actually a specifically Irish character in the book, name of Hellstrike, who finds out that Mr. Majestic's team actually raided a funeral and proceeds to get so angry that he flies down to the Halo Building and picks a fight with them. This comes after they were also guilty of instigating the funeral by "door-stepping" H.A.R.M. (a member of the criminal gang The Troika) and killing him in his own house when he was doing nothing explicitly wrong at the time. So Moore turns the heroes into the villains at this point, and Majestic has a subplot about how wrong this all seems to him, and it's handled very well. It's less subtle than the stuff on Khera, but let's be real here, that wasn't exactly a soft caress either.

Moore is no stranger to putting politics into his fiction. V for Vendetta is strictly about the takedown of a fascistic government by a lone criminal vigilante. There's more to it than that, but at a surface level analysis that's what most people got out of it, and small wonder. The difference, as I've said, between Moore and the current crop of writers is that Moore knows what he's doing. He knows when to be blunt, when to be deft, when to sidestep an issue, and when to hammer it home. The Irish terrorist analogy and allegory in Gang War is hammered in because it's something, quite frankly, most people won't be familiar with, because it's not exactly taught in American schools. The Native American allegory is skirted because it's not necessary to be explicit about it since everyone and their mother (in the parts of the world where these comics were being read at the time) is familiar with it and doesn't need it rubbed in our faces. This, along with his amazing originality, is what makes Moore a great writer, and so well respected in his field. 

There are messages here. "Door-stepping is morally evil" is a good one. "Beware of Utopia, because it's usually chrome plating on shit" is another. There's also that old chestnut, "Racism is bad." 

But the messages never overtake the story. Even when Zealot starts to spurn her friends as half-breeds and damn-near goes full KKK on them, it makes sense within the context of the story. Voodoo has always been the audience touchstone in this world (the world of the WildC.A.T.s in general, not Khera specifically). The character that needs things explained to her because she's new to all this, so that things can be explained to the audience at the same time. So when we see her being treated this way by someone who not only was her friend, but her mentor and teammate, it hits us on a visceral level, especially if we're familiar with the previous 20 or so issues of the comic. 

We don't really need Voodoo to go off on a rant about how Zealot is just a white bitch who hates minorities (which she doesn't, even though Zealot is very clearly "white" phenotypically [technically she's an alien, so not really, but still], and Voodoo is very clearly at least mixed-race, if not totally non-white [at a guess I'd say Hispanic/Latino, but it's not expressly spelled out anywhere I know of]). She just calls her a racist bitch because, quite frankly, she's acting like one, and Voodoo is hurt by that because she thought they were friends. She then proceeds to punk out the entire Coda Sisterhood with her dirty half-breed blood, which was an amazing scene. There's allegory here, but the primary focus isn't the allegory to real life racism, it's the relationship between Voodoo, Zealot, and the rest of the C.A.T.s on Khera. The message doesn't supplant the story. 

Each of the C.A.T.s, from Zealot, to Emp, to Warblade, to Maul, to Voodoo, to Spartan, become emotionally broken by the things that happen to them on Khera, and bringing Moore onto the comic to take it in a more serious direction was a great decision. The first 20 issues or so had some serious plot points going on, but most of their heaviness had to do with the fact that people die, they swear, drink, smoke, etc, you know that edgy shit that 90's comics liked to do to prove that they weren't just for kids. Not that I'm impugning Jim Lee's intentions here. I love these books, specifically because they weren't afraid to tackle issues like that, or include things like that in the books. Warblade actually kills people. Grifter has to deal with the death of his brother, twice, as well as Spartan regaining lost memories and turning into Mr. Steal Yo Gurl. 

It's non-stop action and drama, and Moore was perfectly willing to take these characters and their universe into some seriously heavy topics that you might not expect from a serialized comic book (as opposed to a graphic novel a la Watchmen) of the day. He also doesn't devolve into retarded social commentary like Kamela Khan actually leading people to the polls to vote for Hillary Clinton. The closest they came that I saw is there was an ad for Rock The Vote in the serialized, individual issue comic. Voodoo didn't get people to sign up to vote for Bill Clinton, or anything. There is a cameo by Dan Quayle in the first few issues, but he's a pawn of the Daemonites (actually possessed by one), and there is zero commentary on his political policies. They could've called him "Vice President Jimbo Johnson" and it would've changed nothing whatsoever about the plot of the book. 

My point with all of this is that the gap between comics of the 90's and comics nowadays is astounding, especially watching reviews and reading along with them, and then going back and reading actual comics from the 90's. I have tons of them. Lots of Wildstorm stuff, but also things like The Birth of Venom omnibus, Spawn, and the Hellboy omnibuses. This kind of political commentary we see from Marvel today is near-totally absent. They didn't turn George H. W. Bush into MODOK, they didn't do stupid gimmicks with characters endorsing candidates, the most you can say is they commented on social issues that have been around for decades. Spawn hanging out with the homeless and protecting them from gangs comes to mind. Ghost Rider dealing with general small-town prejudice against drifters (that's honestly played up far more than it actually exists) is another example. 

Go watch the first 20 minutes of Diversity & Comics' livestream (on the Splatto del Gato channel) of She-Hulk (Hulk) #11, if you don't believe me. Go watch any Nerkish video on Faith, or Squirrel Girl, or really any Nerkish video. Watch Capn Cummings, or Captain Frugal, or Douglas Ernst. They lay this out very clearly, some where you can actually read most of the comic along with them. 

The dialogue is despicable.

The art is atrocious.

The story is simply not there.

While Alan Moore had a political point to make with his stories (he usually does), he allows the politics to serve the story, thereby serving his political message all the further by not putting it first. It's the kind of thing that gets inside your head and makes you think, rather than beating you over the head with it and expecting you to absorb the message by shining it in your eyes with a floodlight. 

My advice to current comics creators is this: Go read some old Moore stuff. Go read old Jim Lee. For god's sake, go read old Stan Lee and Jack Kirby work. Learn to understand subtlety again, because you've completely lost your grip on the concept. 

Here's another quick example. When Zealot talks contemptuously about men, it's because she's a warrior woman who's slaughtered (literally) thousands of men who thought they were better than her. AND, by the by, she has romantic relationships with men. She and Grifter were lovers, despite the fact that Grifter is a con-man and hit man who might have a passing recollection of the concept of honor if it ran up and bit his left ass-cheek off. She's not contemptuous of ALL MEN, like the new Marvel characters very much seem to be. She just thinks she's better than most men, because she actually is for the most part. And sometimes that overconfidence means she gets her ass kicked by a man she underestimated. That is a situation completely unthinkable in SJW Marvel. 

This has gone on for far too long, but if I've gotten some new people into the WildC.A.T.s, as well as demonstrated the proper way to handle political topics in comics, I'll consider this a good deed for the day, despite the length of this post. Ordinarily I'd link to where you could find the omnibus on mycomicshop.com, but I checked beforehand, and they don't have it in stock. So, in lieu of that, here's a link to where you can buy it on Amazon. I highly recommend it, because as the title of this post says, this is politics in comics done right.