Buried Treasure – Review – The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank

The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank

Fast Facts
Series: The Punisher
Title: Welcome Back, Frank
Format: Trade paperback, encompassing The Punisher: Volume 3, Issues 1-12.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Garth Ennis
Pencils: Steve Dillon
Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti

“New York City says… Welcome back, Frank”. And so do I. The Punisher returns to the Marvel line-up, this time with Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon running the show with able inking assistance from Jimmy Palmiotti. Frank Castle, the Punisher, is back with all the frills stripped away. Now it’s just Frank, guns, and scum that don’t deserve to be alive. Just as it should be.

The story of the Punisher’s return to New York City and his subsequent crusade against the notorious Gnucci crime family is told from Frank’s perspective, which allows the reader to really get into our hero’s mind as he resumes his quest to rid New York of the criminal filth that call the Big Apple home. Garth Ennis is an extremely talented writer, and the narrative inside Frank’s head as well as the dialogue flow seamlessly. Unlike many comics, this book isn’t packed with “comic book dialogue”; the stuff that works in a comic book but if you ever heard anybody say it you’d be looking at them like they were crazy. Instead Ennis’ dialogue sounds realistic, adding a level of respectability to the story that takes the tale told and elevates it to a greater plateau.

In addition to the storyline with the Punisher pitted against the Gnucci family there are also two related sub-plots. In one of them, the hapless Detective Martin Soap teams up with the NYPD’s biggest embarassment, Lieutenent Molly Von Ritchthoffen in an attempt to bring down both Ma Gnucci and the Punisher. The other sub-plot involves three vigilantes attempting to bring justice to New York in their own way. The Holy kills sinners in the confessional, Mr. Payback goes after the corporate pigs, and Elite murders those “lowering the tone” in his neighbourhood. The interplay between the three storylines is exquisite, with each affecting the other two.

Of course, great dialogue and narrative doesn’t matter squat if the art isn’t appealing. Of course, whether or not the art is appealing is really a matter of personal preference, but I will say this: Steve Dillon’s storytelling demands respect, whether you like his pencil-work or not. Frank Castle looks the part of the grizzled warrior whose sole duty is to purge the evil from the world with hot lead and cold steel, and his nemesis in this story arc, the vile Ma Gnucci, has an evil look to match her evil mind. I can’t forget Jimmy Palmiotti, though, for his inks add greatly to Dillon’s already stellar pencils, making the book come together with a darkly attractive visual style that serves to enhance the story being told.

I would be remiss not to mention that the Punisher’s creativity in dealing death is really enough on it’s own to give this book a read. I won’t spoil any of it, but I will say that the trip to the zoo is a great example, and that chapter eleven contains what is arguably the most unique bit of improvisational combat ever seen in a comic book. Or any other medium, for that matter.

I really only have one complaint with “Welcome Back, Frank”: it ends. I got so into this book while I was reading it that I was actually disappointed to know that it was over when I finished it. This was remedied with reading it over again, then picking up “Business As Usual”, which features the next six issues of the Punisher.

Whether you’re a die-hard Punisher fan from way back when or a virgin to Frank Castle’s particular brand of vigilante justice, you owe it to yourself to give “Welcome Back, Frank” a read. You won’t regret it.

Also available in the new Punisher series:
The Punisher Volume 2: Army of One
The Punisher Volume 3: Business As Usual
The Punisher Volume 4: Full Auto

Buried Treasure: Earthworm Jim

Buried Treasure: Earthworm Jim

Fast Facts
Title: Earthworm Jim
Genre: Video Game
Platform: Gameboy Advance
Publisher: Majesco Games
Developer: Game Titan
Release Date: 6/10/2001

Ah, Earthworm Jim, the timeless tale of an ordinary earthworm who is granted with extraordinary powers when a supersuit falls out of the sky and lands on him. Naturally, Jim heads off to rescue Princess What’s-Her-Name, who has been imprisoned by her evil sister Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Puss-filled Malformed Slug for a Butt, while also evading the Queen’s henchman, Psy-Crow.

This classic yarn is brought to the Gameboy Advance by Majesco in a recreation of the Super Nintendo game from the days of yore(yore being back in the 90’s before all of these new-fangled next-gen consoles came about).

Earthworm Jim combines classic platform action with some innovative levels and a crazy sense of humour. The game is pretty much a direct port of original SNES version, so you can expect to see all of the same wacky levels and characters, such as Professor Monkey for a Head and Peter Puppy. The graphics are slick and the characters all look great, especially Jim, which is good, since he’s the guy you’ll be looking at most of the time.

The play control is pretty solid, allowing you very good control over Jim’s running, jumping, blaster-firing, head whipping, bungee jumping, hamster riding, and what-have-you. The head whip can be tough to use sometimes, because you have to smack targets with the tip of it, and you can’t move and fire your plasma blaster, but these are relatively minor quibbles in a game that controls very well overall.

The sound isn’t as good as it was on the Super NES, but the voice samplings are still there, allowing Jim to celebrate finishing a level by hopping on his Pocket Rocket and saying “Groovy!”. The voices sound a bit tinny, but it’s better than no voices at all. The music is nothing spectacular, but it’s decent overall and catchy in places.

Where Earthworm Jim really shines is in the level and character design. Evil the Cat, for example, manages to pry Jim out of his supersuit in What The Heck?(the second level, for you normal people). Jim is forced to jump around avoiding blasts for Evil’s fireball cannon until he can get his suit back, at which point Evil drops from the ceiling in attempts to use you as a scratching post. The two stages that deserve the most praise for overall coolness, however, are Snot A Problem and For Pete’s Sake, featuring Major Mucus and Peter Puppy, respectively. In Snot A Problem, Major Mucus and Earthworm Jim engage in a bungee jumping brawl over a lake of snot inhabited by a large and rather hungry monster. The two combatants have to knock each other into the jagged walls of the cliff to snap their opponent’s bungee cord and make sure he becomes monster food, whilst simultaneously avoiding said monster, who will pop out of the snot to try and eat you if you get too close. For Pete’s Sake involves Jim taking Peter Puppy for the toughest walk in the universe. Jim has to use his head whip to bounce Peter over pits filled with nasty things, as well as running ahead to fend off enemies who would do Peter harm. Unfortunately for Jim, however, is that should he screw up and allow Peter to get hurt, Mr. Puppy will turn into a hulking purple monster and take a bite out of Jim while dragging him backward in the level.

Earthworm Jim is a classic game that, while not technologically ground-breaking, provides something much more valuable: a heck of a lot of fun. Definitely check out Earthworm Jim for the Gameboy Advance, because it’s definitely Buried Treasure.

Review: System of a Down – "Steal This Album!"

On November 26th, 2002, California-based metal outfit System of a Down released their third album, “Steal This Album!”. Their newest release combines the sounds of their previous albums, “System Of A Down” and “Toxicity”, as well as adding a bit of new flavour. Many of the songs on “Steal This Album!” were originally recorded for “Toxicity”, but were left out because they didn’t flow well with the continuity of the album, according to SOAD’s lead singer, Serj Tankian. Tankian also states that they are in no way B sides, and are as good if not better than the songs that made it onto “Toxicity”. That in mind, let’s delve into some of the songs themselves, shall we?

The album starts off with “Chic ‘n’ Stu”, which is interesting to say the least. The focus of the song is directed toward the scrutiny of unscrupulous advertisers who force useless products down the throats of the masses. This is overtop of a hard and fast metal sound that System fans know and love. Now, even though I know the song is about advertising, I’m still confused by the bulk of the lines, which are about a pizza. My confusion aside, a good way to start the album off and get people thinking.

The album’s first(and at the time of writing, only) single is up next, and is titled “Innervision”. “I need your guidance/I need to seek my innervision” is the chorus, and pretty much explains where the song is going. I like this song, it’s hard and Serj uses his voice well, but I think the main reason that it became a single instead of some of the other tracks is due to the fact that it’s focus isn’t slamming the government. Too bad, really. If the guys in office heard some of this stuff maybe they’d realize what they’ve become. Probably not, but we could hope.

Moving on, we’ve got a trio of politically charged tracks in “Bubbles”, “Boom!”, and “NuGuns”. “Bubbles” is about the people of America(and a load of other places) being “left with no arms in the power struggle”. This track shares it’s sound with the previous pair, but things get a little different when “Boom!” starts up. The subject of the tune is very anti-large corporation. One line in particular struck me as very powerful: “Four thousand hungry children leave us every hour from starvation while billions are spent on bombs, creating death showers”. The style of this song differs from the previous tracks in that the verses are Serj speaking over a bassline, and the music changes partway through the song, then reverts back just before the end. The title of “NuGuns” more or less explains it’s meaning, and it completes this trio of political tunes.

A pair of darker sounding and powerful songs are up next in “American Dream Denial”(shortened to “A.D.D.” on the track listing), and “Mr. Jack”. “Mr. Jack” is my favourite song on the album. It is a semi-ballad about a serial killer(I’m pretty sure), with a dark sound that fits it’s dark content very well. If it was fleshed out a bit more this song could be made into a book or a movie. Seriously.

There aren’t any huge standouts between “Mr. Jack” and the next song I’m going to mention, but that’s not to say that the songs in between are bad. They’re up to par with anything else on the album, they just don’t stand out quite as much. From the opening guitar squeals, “Fuck The System” keeps your attention. A lot of the song is nonsensical without the aid of a lyrics sheet, but the title is really all you need to be able to see what where System is going with it. This song has some really unique sounds to it, the bulk of which are the ways that Serj manages to contort his voice, which is versatile, to say the least.

The last song I’m going to comment on wasn’t released as a single, although it has previously appeared on the Scorpion King movie soundtrack. “Streamline” is one of the songs that incorporates a new sound, and it does so with style. The main chord is a solid up-and-down sounding piece of work that I absolutely love. It leads into a quieter period during which Serj spouts out the verses, then picks up again. A very unique sound, more so than “Fuck The System”, and fantastic way to end the album.

“Steal This Album!” uses elements from SOAD’s previous two albums, but also shows a progression in the band’s sound that, to me, is a very good sign for the future. With that said, I’m sure you want to hear the verdict.

“Steal This Album!” by System of a Down has snagged itself a 4/5 on the Walrus scale, which, oddly enough, is very similar to other scales rated out of five.

And folks, I know it’s called “Steal This Album!”, but let’s support the guys in System of a Down and pay for album, eh?

Review: Dope – "Felons and Revolutionaries"

Dope, a five piece metal group, released this, their first album, in 1999. Metal fans are going to be pleased, I’m sure. Edsel Dope screams his lungs out and sounds great doing it, the guitars are wicked, and the bass on some of the songs is fantastic. Crank “Debonaire” or “Sick” with the bass up and you’ll see what I mean. Although a lot of the songs deal with the same subjects(violence, relationships, drugs, and combinations of the aforementioned three), they are all distinctly different.
Every album has its great tracks and “Felons and Revolutionaries” is no different. The singles, “Debonaire” and “Everything Sucks” are both powerhouses in their own right, but there are several other gems. “Kimberly’s Ghost”, “One Fix”, “Pig Societyl”, and “You Spin Me Right Round” – a wicked Dead or Alive cover that proves that pop music can be salvaged – are among said gems.
“Everything Sucks”, which was released as a single, is about coming to terms with not really caring about the people you’re around. “I never cared that much/And I never kept in touch/But most of all what really sucks/Is everything and all of us” is the chorus of the song, and very fitting. The verses comprise a pair of situations in which plastic friendships are common. People telling you about their friends that you don’t know or care about, and saying that you’ll be back to visit just as soon as you can with no intention of doing so. The guitars on “Everything Sucks” are insane. If you listen closely, you can discern several smaller riffs played in the background the main parts of the song.
“Sick” is an excellent pissed off track. A bad day in heavy metal form, the anger builds over a pulsing bassline that explodes into a violent crescendo with the chorus, “Bang, bang, bang, in your head fucker/Bang, bang, bang, and your dead fucker”.

“Debonaire”, also released as a single, has a hate the rich attitude about it. The verses satirize your average millionaires, listing various things that they might find essential to life, but that most are just fine without. Diamond rings, limousines, top hats, designer names, and “bonny dames without a brain” are among the things that Edsel mentions. This is the most recognizable track on the album.
“You Spin Me Right Round” is a cover of the 80’s track by Dead or Alive. The poppy strains of the original are replaced with the hard driving riffs found elsewhere on the CD, and Edsel Dope’s voice is a helluva lot more appealing than the original singer’s(I don’t have a clue what his name is). I must tip my hat to Mr. Dope for taking an alright-at-best song and reworking it into a fantastic track. As a side note, it gets even better if you turn up the bass.
Special mention must go to the hidden track, “Fuck the Police”, due to the fact that on the back of the disc, as well as on the track listing on the disc itself, it is left out. On the listing it skips from track 7 to 9, since I don’t think any police officers would take kindly to seeing a disc with that track on it sold in stores. It’s really too bad though, because musically this song is on par with the rest of the album, but doesn’t even get mentioned. A shame, really.
“Felons and Revolutionaries” is an adrenaline driving metal disc that lives up to, and exceeds, my expectations. A round of applause to the boys in Dope for an excellent first outing.
Walrus gives “Felons and Revolutionaries” a 3.5/5.