Tag Archive: carnage

Spider-Man No More

If you’re like me, Beenox is a developer still relatively fresh on your radar. Sure, they ported some Spider-Man games to the PC in the mid-2000s, but it wasn’t until 2010’s Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions­, when the studio took point on the web-slinger’s gaming presence, that they really grabbed my attention. Since then, they’ve delivered three solid Spider-Man games in a row, a feat that hasn’t been done, in my opinion, since the LJN/Acclaim days. Unfortunately, it seems that all good things must come to an end, because Beenox’s latest, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, is one of the worst Spider-Man games I’ve ever played.

Right from the get-go, the game may confuse more casual fans, since it’s not a true “movie tie-in.” Instead, you need to go back to Beenox’s first Amazing Spider-Man game. There, they didn’t follow Marc Webb’s first take on the character beat for beat, but rather continued the story of that movie: You played through the fallout of Dr. Curt Connors’ cross-species research and fought several new creatures that resulted from it. Since Sony Pictures seemingly wasn’t enamored with the idea of having their blockbuster movie franchise follow the story a game created, Beenox continued their story from The Amazing Spider-Man, thus crafting an alternate continuity from the films. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 game, therefore, only has the loosest of tie-ins to the new movie in that Green Goblin and Electro are there (Rhino isn’t, because in Beenox’s Amazing Spider-Man universe, he’s a cross-species monster).

Still with me? Once you wrap your head around the multiverse idea, it’s not the worst thing that could’ve happened. This allows Beenox to still have a little creative freedom with the story and not be regimented to following a movie script. After the complicated setup, however, things quickly become mundane in regards to the narrative: Each chapter devolves into loosely tied-together boss battles. In fact, there’s barely any narrative cohesion, period. Most of the story relies on your ability to find audiotape collectibles instead of actually telling you as you progress through the game.

And the dialogue is some of the worst I’ve ever heard in a game, from both Spider-Man as well as his foes. My favorite was a thug screaming out “I like to hurt people!”—truly the bad-guy equivalent to “I like turtles” if I ever heard one. At the very least, the actors who deliver these miserable lines try the best they can with a script that clearly lacks any sort of entertainment value.

The weak narrative isn’t the only thing that makes this the worst Beenox Spider-Man yet; nearly every aspect of the gameplay is inferior to previous titles by the developer. The “menace” system, touted when the game was announced, is a joke. This is your typical “good guy/bad guy” meter that you see variations on in games like inFAMOUS and Mass Effect. As expected, it hinges on doing good deeds in the open world, or ignoring them and seeing the people’s view of you diminish. Only a handful of the same crimes repeat, however, so they become as boring as the boss battles. Meanwhile, there are usually so many going on at once that it’s a neverending uphill battle to keep Spidey from being viewed as a threat. The worst part is that all this has no influence on the narrative, and the reward for being lauded as a hero is minimal stat boosts and fewer enemies in the world. Why even bother at that point?

Also, going back to the boss battles for a brief moment, while it’s nice to see some of Spidey’s most iconic villains again in a videogame, the battles themselves are of the worst “rinse and repeat” variety, wherein the bosses don’t have more than two or three easily avoidable moves, causing you to repeat the same pattern over and over until you whittle away their health.

The developers also emphasized how much time you’d be spending in the open world this time around compared to the last Amazing Spider-Man game. That’s as blatant a lie as I’ve ever heard. There are just as many “dungeon” segments in Amazing Spider-Man 2 as there were in the previous game, and you probably spend even less time web-swinging down Manhattan’s concrete canyons than that one due to the shorter story. Beenox can do indoor sequences perfectly fine, as proven in previous games developed by them like Edge of Time and Shattered Dimensions, but when you stress that you’re going to keep players more in the open world, do it.

Speaking of web-swinging, though, this is the worst gameplay change. Talk about trying to fix something that wasn’t broken to begin with. I understand there’s a movement for “realism” in comics and games, but this is a story about a man who has spider-based powers fighting a man made out of electricity. The need to be grounded in reality isn’t necessary, but Beenox tried anyway and now web-swinging requires a solid surface to stick to. While this design has been done in games before, this iteration of Spider-Man’s Manhattan—already a bland and lifeless shell of the hustling, bustling metropolis—doesn’t lend itself well to this tweak. I’d often shoot my web at some ridiculous angle, if I could find one at all, in order to adhere to this rule. Thus, I never really got into a great rhythm with my web-swinging, which was especially frustrating during the game’s racing side missions, which require a lot more precision than the game allows.

But wait! There’s more! While it’s clear that the combat/counter system is a rip-off from the Batman: Arkham games, it seems Beenox couldn’t resist to steal a little more from the Dark Knight. Amazing Spider-Man 2 sees stealth rooms make an appearance, and they just reek of the “predator room” designs from Rocksteady’s games. And, like everything else in this game, they’re inferior in every way. Spider-Man’s Spider-Sense replaces Batman’s Detective Mode, and much like Arkham Asylum, players will run into the problem where they’ll feel like they never have to turn the power off. This means that even if the levels were beautifully designed (which they aren’t), they’d only see them in the red-and-blue hues this mode paints everything in. On top of all this, the combat upgrades from the first game have been simplified into only eight powers, with three upgrades each. So much for doing everything a spider can.

My final issues with the game come from the technical side of things: Glitches galore, folks. Not only are the character models bland—and only half a dozen of them are scattered throughout the game—but many of them love just vibrating themselves through walls, sidewalks, and rubble. Throw in three late-game crashes in the middle of boss battles, and I almost had enough to never look at this game again.

Despite the abject time I had playing the game, I was able to finish it, however, because flashes of the competency Beenox illustrated in their previous games do appear sporadically. These came in the form of tributes to some iconic moments from Spider-Man comics—like Cletus Kasady being wheeled into Ravencroft at the start of the Maximum Carnage storyline—that, as a lifelong fan, I understood and instantly recognized. But that only made me more frustrated, because it meant that Beenox had to know them, too, and yet they still let this miserable pile of data get stamped onto a disc and sent to stores. If you’re a Spidey fan, hope that Activision lets Beenox out from under this movie-licensing deal and gets them back to making original Spider-Man games.

Developer: Beenox • Publisher: Activision • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 04.29.14
Easily Beenox’s worst outing with the Spider-Man brand. Nearly every game system is a step backward from the previous three Spidey games—this one isn’t worth your time or effort.
The Good The story has its moments.
The Bad Web-swinging takes a huge step backwards, the “menace” system is a joke, and the dialogue made me want to stick a pencil in my ear.
The Ugly 40 years of comic book history was diluted down into a less than 10 hour game.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U, 3DS, iOS, and Android. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Activision for the benefit of this review.

Sorry to do this to you again folks, but next week EGM will be at New York ComicCon so the Pullbox will be in hiatus for another week. Luckily we are here this week and it was a good week for comics with the AvX event wrapping up. Instead of focusing on that though, we’re going to look at a few comics that we don’t want you to forget about, including a couple of new #1’s. With that, here’s this week’s Pullbox!

Marvel – Minimum Carnage #1 (One-Shot) – Someone has broken Cletus Kasady, a.ka. Carnage, out of prison and he’s looking to go on a killing spree in a whole new universe! The micro-assassins who broke him out of jail want to get back to their home dimension, but Venom and Scarlet Spider may have something to say about that as Kasady leaves a trail of blood miles long to get to where he needs to.

Starting and ending in a one-shot, the bulk of this six-issue mini-series will carry over in a crossover between both Venom and Scarlet Spider over the next couple of months. Looking like the next issue will be your standard “Who are you? I hate you. Let’s fight. Wait, we’re both good guys. Team-up!” while Venom and Scarlet Spider try to figure out what universe they end up in. All I know for sure is that whenever Carnage is involved, the action is likely to be epic and Kasady will do something so deranged that you may crap yourself. He’s one of the best villains of all-time for a reason folks and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Marvel – The Defenders #11 – Finally, the massive Concordance Engine story arc that seems to have been going on since this series started will come to an end…next issue. This issue at least has explained what the heck the Concordance Engine is and it is an interesting take on the creation of the Marvel Universe. What the Engines do is pull the miracles from all the alternative universes out there into one universe, the Marvel Universe, in order to prepare for an epic confrontation between all those with powers and the dreaded Death Celestial, who actually acts exactly like DC’s Anti-Monitor.

The idea of what these Engines are is one of the most creative ideas the Marvel folks have come up with in a while. Basically saying that one universe was supposed to have mutants and the X-Men, while another would have the Fantastic Four, and another would have Spider-Man, but these engines pulled these unique situations into one world to prepare it for this final battle. A great idea and good action as things finally start to come to a head and we learn that John Aman was indeed always a good guy all along, but I personally can’t wait for this story to be over next issue.

DC – Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #1 – Three short Batman stories come together to help give us insight into just how Batman works, and in the case of these particular stories, how he overcomes his mental and physical weaknesses to be the badass superhero that he is.

One of my favorite DC Comics for a long time was Legends of the Dark Knight, so to see it return in this form brought a smile to my face. Each individual story had a special charm about it while also giving us a great look at how Batman operates. It even took the time to make fun of itself at one point by referencing the infamous Adam West ‘Bat-Shark Repellant’. Add-in a great confrontation with Amazo in one story and really I can’t wait to see where this new monthly goes from here and for me is a must-add to the Pullbox.

DC – Before Watchmen: Rorschach #2 (of 4) – Rorschach survived his surprise encounter with a bunch of gangsters only to collapse inside his favorite diner from internal bleeding. After spending three days in a hospital bed, Rorschach healed, and readied himself again to go after Rawhead, the head of the little criminal empire that Rorschach wants to take down and that meant shaking down every two-time thug he sees.

Great, gruesome action throughout this book as Rorschach’s methods of interrogation are amazing to see on the comic page. The lengths he will go to for justice show why this is most everyone’s favorite character from the original Watchmen. And doing his internal dialogue through his journal entries is brilliant as we get to see what really makes the character tick and how unwavering he is in his one-man war on crime. One of the best of the Before Watchmen books, if you get only one of these series, I think Rorschach should be it.

Image – Non-Humans #1 – In the future, inanimate objects take on life and develop souls. Action figures, teddy bears, store mannequins, and, of course, robots, all become sentient and its all people can do to try to keep this from spreading further. In fact, all creative thought becomes outlawed in order to keep this unknown plague from spreading into anything else and overthrowing what humans have come to know. So the internet, TV, movies, video games, and more, are all destroyed. And during it all, one cop is just trying to keep the peace between these new creatures and the old human race.

This was one of the craziest books I’ve read in a while. From serial killer dummies to drug dealing teddy bears, this book is like a little kid’s nightmare come to life. I was disgusted, shocked, bewildered, and I want more damnit. At least for another couple of issues anyway just to see how things develop in this weird and crazy world. There are so many questions this book brought up that I need to see a couple more issues and so for the time being, I’d recommend picking this up as you might be surprised at much you enjoy it.

We are back folks! Finally caught up with the back issues I missed over the holiday as well this week’s releases. And let me tell you, that was no easy feat, never mind actually picking this week’s Pullbox. But that was difficult, too. A lot of great comics, especially from Marvel and on the Indie side of things, made for some tough choices this week, but I think that the elite have risen to the top. So here is this week’s Pullbox!

1) Marvel – The Amazing Spider-Man #677: When the Black Cat is framed for a technology theft she didn’t commit, as Spider-Man can attest to since he was with her at the alleged time of the crime, Spidey calls in his old friend Matt Murdock to help him get to the bottom of the case and to help the Cat clear her name.

Although I’ve steered clear of Spider-Man for the most part because I think the character only regresses with every major event he takes part in, this issue sees the start of a brief crossover with a character who has been rejuvenated in past months, Daredevil. And so I decided to pick up this comic and was pleasant surprised. Brilliant artwork and the banter between Spidey and Daredevil is hysterical as they work together over the course of the issue that will be concluded in the next issue of Daredevil. There is also a point in the comic where Spider-Man questions himself and wishes he had Daredevil’s strength of character as he has had more problems than anyone else in the Marvel universe and didn’t really need a cheap character re-launch by pick himself back up. As someone who has been furious at most of Spidey’s writers for a while, that made me feel good.

2) Marvel – Carnage USA #2 (of 5): As Carnage continues his dominance of a small town in the middle of the country, Spidey finds himself getting help from some unlikely sources as he tries to formulate a plan that could finally put down Cletus Kasady for good.

Surprising I know to put a pair of Spider-Man comics at the top, but this mini-series and the last one by Zeb Wells clearly show who should be at the helm of the wall-crawler in the future. His storylines in both these mini-series and the new Avenging Spider-Man show that he knows what Spider-Man fans want. Smart, witty banter between Spidey and his enemies, some cameos from other Marvel heroes once in a while, and to pit Spidey against his more iconic villains instead of working on new threats or some thing more on a global scale that should stick to Avengers stories. Marvel touts that Spider-Man is the world’s greatest super hero. It’s stories like these that actually give them a case in defending that claim.

3) DC – Batman and Robin #5: Damian Wayne has made his choices and has decided that he is sick of being treated like the child that Batman thinks he is. So, when offered a chance to follow “Nobody”, better known as Morgan Ducard, the son of one of Batman’s former teachers, Henri Ducard he took it to satiate his killer instincts. But will Robin actually pull the trigger when the time comes? 

There are a lot of similarities between the development of Damian so far as a character to the original Jason Todd, but the fact this twisted being is in the body of a 10-year-old boy makes it a bit more creepy. With the knowledge of his past mistakes always looming in the back of his mind, it’ll be interesting to see what Batman does to not only win Damian back and if he finally starts to grow into the “father figure” role that Damian so clearly needs, but if he reveals all of his secrets to Damian who so desperately desires his trust just as much as his love. Left open on another cliffhanger ending, the next issue will definitely see some sparks fly and if you want to see just what the future of the Batman and Robin dynamic will be, you’re going to want to start with this issue.

4) DC – Deathstroke #5: Realizing his long thought dead son may actually be alive, Slade Wilson, better known as Deathstroke the Terminator, must also deal with the fact that the closest thing he’s ever had to a friend in Christoph, has just received his head as a very clear message. Along with Peabody, Deathstroke must continue to track down his clearly enraged son while also still dealing with yet another person wearing the Legacy suit. But this newest hunter has some metahuman powers that will put Slade’s own to the test.

Always guaranteed to provide tons of over the top action, this issue continues that trend while bringing up more questions of where Deathstroke goes from here as things just seem to get more and more complicated and he really doesn’t know who to trust as that short list just got shorter. The interesting thing of course will be how he handles this new Legacy and if the running joke of this new character being cannon fodder comes to an end as we also learn the extent of this new Legacy’s powers. We’ve seen some super-strength and some high level telekinesis. It’ll be interesting if there is anything else up his sleeve as he takes on the world’s greatest assassin.

5) Image – PIGS #5: The Russian sleeper cell continues to fracture from within as a new assignment has come their way and requires them to break into a prison to perform an assassination. As the ante has been raised, more of the group starts to hesitate and decides to go with the more subtle approach unlike their first mission, but things don’t exactly go according to plan. Or do they?

With so many comics revolving around super-heroes and crazy powers and worldwide threats from extraterrestrial beings and whatnot, it’s great writing like this that makes me a fan of comics. An espionage thriller like this is a rarity in today’s market, but hopefully it continues for a good long while, or at least as naturally as the story will allow it to. The rift that is forming in the group and knowing everything that is riding on it, you don’t know who to root for as its easy to lose sight of the fact that the story really revolves around bad guys. So now the big question becomes when will the US government start to step in and really up the ante for what is already an interesting and high intensity book.

This last Pullbox of the year before our winter break sees a lot of limited series take the spotlight as we’re simply seeing better potential for more complete stories from these limited series than a lot of monthlies lately. We also feature our first independently published Indie as it doesn’t get more independent than that. So enjoy this Pullbox and we will be back the week of Jan. 11!

1) DC – Batman and Robin #4: Ghosts of Batman’s past continue to haunt him as the son of Henri Ducard, one of Bruce’s most influential teachers, has surfaced calling himself “Nobody”. And he looks to teach Batman a lesson he will never forget. And it may cost him Damian in the process.

The most compelling aspect of this story so far is really the dynamic between Bruce and Damian. As Bruce tries to protect him more and more, he seems to push Damian farther and farther away and possible right into the arms of Nobody. More old-school fans might not appreciate this dynamic though because it has a very Bruce/Jason Todd feel to the banter. Of course, Damian is also Bruce biological son and there is a lot more history in a much shorter time because of his origins than what needed to be laid out with Jason.  Overall, definitely a story to keep an eye on though and very strong so far. It will be interesting to see how this continues to play out and is finally resolved.

2) DC – Deathstroke #4: Deathstroke is up to business as usual as he continues to use his infinite resources to start tying up loose ends and finally verify the contents of that briefcase that has haunted him since the first issue.

After an action packed opening sequence to set the tone of the issue as Deathstroke performs another hit, you would think it was father/son week at the DC offices as we finally learn that the contents of the briefcase are a freshly bloodied Ravager mask and knife insinuating that somehow, Deathstroke’s son is still alive. When you couple this with the bloody conclusion of the issue with a mysterious assailant attacking one of Deathstroke’s allies and you start setting up a few potential rivals for this major DC Universe player. It’ll be interesting to see though if DC strings this out over a few issues much like they did with the reveal of the briefcase or if they jump right into it, but it is unlikely. They’ll look to build some suspense first as Deathstroke hasn’t shown the depth of character in many other ways through these first four issues and this can give them a chance to build some while building up to an epic confrontation.

3) Marvel – Carnage USA #1 (of 5): After months of planning, Cletus Kasady has finally decided how he is going to exact his revenge not only on Spider-Man, but on the entire world.

After the critically acclaimed five-issue series Carnage by Zeb Wells that brought one of Marvel’s best villains back into the spotlight, this mini-series looks to follow up where that left off. While Carnage was hiding, he finds that his powers have grown in new and interesting ways and decides to set up his most elaborate trap for the wall-crawler before making himself a new powerhouse in the world and not just looking to kill a town or a city, but to finally go global. Honestly, if you’re like me and got into comics right around the time of Maximum Carnage, then that story and everything that has come after it still holds a special place in your heart. And to see Zeb Wells start working on these epic symbiote style storylines that make sense really hits that sweet nostalgia spot that Dan Slott has not been able to for me in the main Spidey continuity. Add in Clayton Crain’s spectacular artwork and this is a must for old-school Spidey fans.

4) Marvel – Avengers: Sanction #1 (of 4): The ultimate soldier of fortune is back and Cable is none too pleased with what he has learned. Thought to be dead, he merely timeshifted to a future so distant that only his old time traveling mentor Blaquesmith is there waiting for him. There Cable learns he will be consumed by his techno-organic virus within 24 hours, but when Blaquesmith explains the world he currently stands in is a wasteland because Hope had died before her time, Cable knows what his final mission must be: to go back in time and stop Hope’s would be killers, the Avengers.

Considering this is only supposed to be four issues, expect the action to be hot and heavy. Aside from taking on Captain America and the Falcon in the first issue and using them as bait for the other Avengers, the big question that this series brings up is what will become of Cable now? Will this be his true swan song? Is this how he will be brought back into the fold? And if so, you’d have to assume he would side with Cyclops, right? Lots of questions come from this one issue and by that definition alone, if you’re a Cable fan you need to pick up this issue.

5) Independently Published – Sacrifice #1 (of 6): An epileptic boy with strange tattoos and on an array of medication is somehow connected to the ancient Aztecs and their massive empire from hundreds of years ago.

Time travel, human sacrifice, psychedelic trips, and a lot of questions makes this one of the more interesting comics I’ve read in a while because I have no idea where it is going to go because I barely have an idea where it’s just been. Flashing back and forward through time with each turn of the page keeps you on your toes and the action and plot is definitely intriguing enough to pick up a second issue, but I admit if things don’t start to come together fast, there may be too many moving parts to stick with this the whole way through. But the first issue? Definitely worthy of our indie pick as it clearly has a lot of awesome elements that if brought together in the next issue or two can make for a very entertaining mini-series.

Carnage #4 (of 5) Review

Originally Published: April 13, 2011, on Comicvine.com

Cletus Kasady is still alive and the Carnage symbiote has left a trail of destruction in its wake in order to reunite with its former host. Can even the combined might of Spider-Man and Iron Man be enough to quell this reborn menace?

The Good

The action and writing for this issue is simply top notch. From the opening flashback of when the Hall Industries doctors originally found what was left of the symbiote and Kasady to the banter that Kasady has going back and forth with both the symbiote and Spider-Man and you are quickly reminded that Kasady isn’t your run of the mill homicidal maniac, he has a sinister streak in him that puts him on par with some of the all-time great villains.

Combine this with making him more powerful than ever by merging himself with some of the armor that was powered by pieces of the symbiote to create a techno-organic super-Carnage and Zeb Wells does a brilliant job of actually making you believe that the heroes might not pull this one out in the end.

The Bad

There is a huge downside to having a limited series released every two months in that it can be hard to remember everything that is happening. So when Shriek and Doppelganger showed up midway through the comic, I was taken aback because I had forgotten how big a role they played in setting up this current situation and should have been re-introduced much sooner in the book.

Also, it seems that while being used as bio-fuel for Hall Industries’ powered armor suits that Carnage had another baby. It’s always risky to introduce new symbiotes into the fold because aside from Venom and Carnage, when was the last time a new symbiote has had any lasting effect on the Marvel Universe. When was the last time someone heard from Toxin? It should be interesting to see what happens with this new symbiote considering whom it has now bonded to, but the odds of it sticking around and having any real significance is unlikely and seemed unnecessary.

The Verdict

Carnage fans will be jumping for joy after reading this book as he is being brought back around in a big way and this could help set up a lot of potential storylines in the future. How will Carnage deal with Flash Thompson’s Venom and Anti-Venom? Or a better question, will Flash Thomson be able to control the Venom symbiote if he happens across Carnage?

No matter what happens in the future, if you are a fan of Carnage then this comic is a must have. With so many Maximum Carnage undertones, the nostalgia factor alone should pull people in for this amazing limited series. The only real downfall with this book is that you have to wait two months again for what is shaping up to be an epic and thrilling conclusion.

Originally Published: March 4, 2011, on Comicvine.com

Batman: Arkham City is probably one of the most anticipated video games of 2011, but it will also mark the end of an era as Mark Hamill, the quintessential Clown Prince of Crime for the past two decades, has said that he will officially walk away from doing the voice of the Joker after this project. With this comes the difficult choice for casting directors of deciding who will take over as the vocal chords behind that infamous rictus grin.

This got me thinking that maybe I could lend Andrea Romano and other casting directors a hand. Romano, the DC Animation casting director who of course introduced us to Hamill as the Joker, will probably have the biggest hand in selecting a replacement for most projects involving the Joker. So with that, here is a comprehensive list I made of possible candidates for a new Ace of Knaves.

Kevin Michael Richardson

An extremely accomplished voice actor, Kevin Michael Richardson has been doing the voices of various comic book and video game characters now for almost 20 years. Bishop, Tombstone, Lucius Fox, Mammoth, Trigon and many others from both the Marvel and DC Universe, Richardson is a possible front-runner for the role after serving as the Joker for the entire five season run of The Batman in the mid-2000s.

Richardson’s Joker was part of a push for a more realistic Batman as a supplement building up to Batman Begins in 2005 and thus was forced to play a bit more of an urban thieving jester than the genius psychopath with a sadistic sense of humor. Preferring a straight jacket with torn sleeves, bare feet, and dreadlocks to the more traditional custom tailored suit and slicked up hair, Richardson’s Joker still got across that most basic of dynamics, that the Joker must be the yang to Batman’s yin. Throw in a sinister cackle cross bred with a hyena for his laugh and Kevin Michael Richardson did something that you want to see from whatever actor takes the role, he worked with it and tried to make it his own. Add in his experience already working with Andrea Romano on several projects to put him a little higher than a lot of the competition.

John DiMaggio

Another top of the line voice talent, John DiMaggio is best known as Bender from Futurama and Marcus Fenix from Gears of War. He also got at least one shot as the Joker when he voiced the Harlequin of Hate for the recent Batman: Under the Red Hood straight to DVD movie from DC Animation.

Strongly criticized for his portrayal of the Joker, I actually enjoyed his performance except for the fact that he didn’t make it his own. It seemed more like he was trying to blend Heath Ledger from The Dark Knight with Mark Hamill’s vision of the Joker instead of bringing something unique to the table. If he should land the role, I hope that whoever the casting director is works with him on trying to make the character more his own instead of trying to give fans what they expect from the character because he definitely has the chops to reach greatness. John also has the advantage of having worked with Andrea Romano as he also portrayed Aquaman and Gorilla Grodd in episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

Jeff Bennett

Another 20-year veteran of the voiceover business, Jeff Bennett is playing the most active version of the Joker at the moment in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon. The cartoon is a campier version of Batman and his rogues gallery that harkens back to the original run of the comic series of the same name from the 1950s, and so Bennett’s Joker is not nearly as sadistic or sinister as we’ve become more accustomed to. There are some episodes that have shown that he maintains his obsession with Batman, but the overall tone of the show prevents Bennett from ever showing that real dark side that fans have come to expect from the Joker. Not to say he couldn’t do it, but if Bennett were to become to the number one candidate, he’d have to show that he has the range to take the character where the fans want to see it go if it would be a permanent fix.

Being the Brave and the Bold Joker has afforded Bennett the chance to work with Andrea Romano, but it’s more likely that the campy scripts of Brave and the Bold have written off his chance of becoming the Joker full-time. Not to mention, he seems to be just imitating other campy voice versions of the Joker from decades earlier and hasn’t made the character his own at all.

Scott Cleverdon

Not many people may know of Scott Cleverdon, but when sitting down to make my list, he was one of the first names for me to come to mind of people who have never played the Joker. Comic book fans may know Scott best for his portrayal of Carnage in the mid-1990s Spider-Man cartoon as well as his brief stint in Batman Beyond as Jack of the Royal Flush Gang.

It is his experience as Carnage that really piqued my interest because there are few maniac villains who could come close to the seeming randomness of the Joker’s ways, but Carnage is definitely one. Carnage kills because he loves to kill and that easily could transition into the Joker. The Joker and Carnage are seen as so similar that they even teamed up in a 1995 one-shot crossover versus Spider-Man and Batman. Obviously, Cleverdon would need a bit more control with the Joker to get that calculating nature across if he were to become a candidate, but his high-pitched hyena giggle that he used with Carnage could work very well with the Joker. He has never worked with Andrea Romano and bringing the two of them together could also lead to an interesting exploration of the character.

Michael Nicolosi

Another candidate who has never played the Joker, but is familiar with sadistic clowns is Michael Nicolosi. He may not have the voiceover experience as some of the others on this list, but he did do a fantastic job as the Clown form of the Violator in the late-1990s HBO Spawn animated series. Obviously, in terms of language used, the Joker will be much more toned down than the script used on a premium channel, but Nicolosi provided that perfect calm before the storm. As Violator, he had a cool demeanor that put enough unease in you to know without seeing it that there was a monster just bubbling below the surface, which is literally the case in Violator.

Michael Nicolosi hasn’t worked with Andrea Romano either, but if he can flick that special switch on and off with the Joker like he did a decade ago with Violator, then he might be someone who should be given a look for those really dark storylines involving the Clown Prince of Crime.

Frank Welker

This candidate is probably the biggest wild card (pun intended, pun always intended), but is also easily the most experienced voice actor on this list with more than 40 years under his belt. Frank Welker played the campiest version of the Joker on this list when he played him as a part of The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians in 1985. He has also played nearly every character imaginable and if you saw the list, you’d understand why I think he has the range where, if no others rose to the challenge, Frank could steal the title for himself and provide us whatever version of the Joker we want. Whether a dark, sadistic murderer, an aloof thief and eternal foil to the Dark Knight, or a campy jester prancing around with exploding whoopee cushions, Welker could get the job done.

Andrea Romano and Frank Welker worked together on the 1980s Jonny Quest and several other cartoons so these wily two veterans are probably very well acquainted with one another, which makes you think that if Welker hasn’t been used before for some other projects involving the Joker, then maybe he doesn’t have it in him to play the more serious Ace of Knaves.

Jack Nicholson

Here’s the long shot, and I know how much of a long shot this is, but hear me out on why this could work and why DC Animation should pursue Jack. The reason why this came to mind is I just moved and was looking through my video games and I came across my copy of From Russia With Love from the last generation of consoles and thought how great it was for Sean Connery to reprise his role as James Bond more than four decades after he shot the corresponding film. It’s not like he had a lot on his plate though due to the natural ageism that comes in Hollywood. There are simply less roles out there for older actors.

So here is an opening for the Joker, a role that Jack Nicholson defined for many people back in 1989. Movie roles are starting to dry up a bit for him. I’m sure he could find time in the basketball off-season to head over to a recording studio and reprise a role that many still see him as being the best live action version of. Even if he only does it for one movie or one video game, the appeal for all of us Batman fans out there to hear Jack do the Joker again would make it one of the best selling DVDs or games of that year. Gimmicky yes, but gimmicks sell and you can’t tell me you wouldn’t be curious.

Me, Ray Carsillo

Ok, honestly, this has been a dream of mine for years and at this point it’s probably the best way to get my name out there. If somehow Andrea Romano sees this, then maybe I’ll have a chance because I love the Joker so much I even have my own set of razor blade playing cards.

My name is Ray Carsillo and yes, I have done voiceover work before. Not a lot, but I have a radio/TV background and voiced a couple PSAs and commercials. You would have to trust me on this until you heard it, but I have the most maniacal laugh of anyone you’ll meet and can change my demeanor on a dime if necessary. I think I’ve shown my passion and more than any of these others guys on the list, I come cheap (I used that same line on the folks at Comicvine). All I’m asking for is a tryout…and if you would like a sniff of my flower?

-Ray “StrongProtector” Carsillo

Originally Published: January 10, 2011, on my StrongProtector profile on ComicVine.com

As someone who works in media, there is always one adage to live by when it comes to putting out a product. “Sex, humor, and violence sell.” Now, although this may be true, there is also another primal focus that can draw us into a product, even if devoid of those other aspects, especially from what I’ve seen of my generation. Nostalgia.

So even though I haven’t been staying up to speed on the more modern adventures of Spider-Man outside of his time in the New Avengers, (I’ve mostly boycotted Spider-Man since the One More Day story arc. Check out my blog post here from Oct. 2009 to understand why: http://raycarsillo.com/2010/04/24/just-call-me-j-jonah-jameson ) when I saw this new mini-series with Carnage gracing the cover, I knew I had to pick it up.

And let me tell you, as someone who originally got into Spider-Man due to the infamous Maximum Carnage storyline, I’m glad I got this as Carnage just grabbed my nostalgia factor by the balls and pulled me right in.

Into the second issue now, Carnage, written by Zeb Wells and drawn by Clayton Crain, sees a classic super hero team-up in progress as Iron Man is helping Spider-Man try to piece together what caused a sudden riot during a routine prisoner transfer, and what drew out a Spidey foe we haven’t seen in years, the Doppelganger, in issue 1. Of course, this was anything but a routine prisoner transfer from the Ravencroft Sanitarium though since the reader knows that it was actually Shriek in the armored car and her emotion destabilizing powers that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

During the riot, Iron Man, who arrived on the scene around the same time as Spidey, obtained a sample of a red organic residue that wasn’t blood and returns to his lab to analyze it with the wall-crawler. Meanwhile, a corporate foe of Iron Man is getting ready to give our favorite red and gold Avenger a run for his money by activating a handful of his own armored super soldiers that are running on a very special biofuel. And I don’t think there’s any vegetable oil in there. This sets in motion the events that will lead to a great fight scene and cliffhanger confrontation at the end of the issue that will leave you starting a riot of your own as you realize this mini-series is being released on a bi-monthly basis (meaning we have to wait until February for the next issue!).

Carnage #2 features some spectacular artwork by Clayton Crain as the many dark tones of the book are emphasized by the settings the characters usually find themselves in. From dimly lit hospital rooms to Iron Man’s workshop left mostly unlit, you can feel the atmosphere oozing out of this book. And the scene where the strand of organic residue continues to act…negatively…towards the sound of Spider-Man’s voice is just classic.

The writing is also very good by Zeb Wells as he expertly weaves a complex web (pun intended, pun always intended) of intrigue and suspense as he bounces back and forth from Spider-Man and Iron Man to Shriek, Carnage, and the holding cells until they explosively collide towards the end of the issue and set us up for what seem will be three thrilling final issues.

But the most powerful thing about this mini-series so far is clearly the nostalgia. From the moment Doppelganger showed up in the first issue, you knew this was going to be something special and to bring back rarely featured villain Shriek, and any reason to bring back Carnage, is a great move in my book. The only thing that could make this book better is if we start seeing other heroes and villains brought into it much like in the original Maximum Carnage story arc as I’m sure this fight will spread beyond Carnage’s current holding cell. Maybe this could be a good way to feature Toxin and/or Anti-Venom some more?

Anyway, going back to my old adage, this book has almost everything you would need. Lots of violence, Spidey’s classic humor, and so much nostalgia that you almost feel like looking for a Green Jelly CD to listen to in the background as you read this. All it needs is a little more sex and this would be an instant classic. Maybe get a few gratuitous shots of Mary Jane or Black Cat in the next issue and we’d be all set!

Even without that though, Carnage #2 (of 5) gets a 5 out of 5 from me due to the tremendous way in which the plot has been forwarded and the triumphant return of one of the greatest comic book villains of all-time.

-Ray Carsillo

Originally Published: October 5, 2010, on ClassicGameRoom.com and NationalLampoon.com

As a part of CGR Undertow, I review Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions for Xbox 360.

Originally Published: September 19, 2010, on ClassicGameRoom.com and NationalLampoon.com

I review Spider-Man Web of Shadows from Activision for the Xbox 360 from October 2008. Try to save NYC once again from impending doom as everyone’s favorite wise-cracking webslinger!

Originally Published: June 7, 2010, on NationalLampoon.com, Lundberg.me, and SportsRev.TV

This week I review Joker’s Asylum II: The Riddler and Red Dead Redemption. My hot chick pick of the week this week is Brittany Fuchs.