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Thunderbolts #156 Review

Originally Published: April 20, 2011, on Comicvine.com

With Satana joining the A-team of Thunderbolts, Warden John Walker and Songbird move forward with the selecting of the B-team, The Underbolts!

The Good

A cavalcade of villains we haven’t seen or heard from in quite some time look to be thrust into the limelight depending on what the exact role will be for this B-team of Bolts. With folks like Shocker, Mr. Hyde, and Troll looking to top the list, this B-team could definitely make for some interesting scenarios and leave Songbird with more than she can handle as team leader. Not to mention this could be an interesting set-up for a future standoff between the current team and this B-Team in the Raft.

As for the A-team, the new supernatural situation mission they find themselves on is definitely something we haven’t seen before and it should be very entertaining finding out how they’ll work their way out of this mess and just how much use their newest team member can be.

The Bad

After adding Satana to the team, you would have liked to see a little more of her interactions with the team aside from her barely failed attempt at seducing them all. Instead, the A-team of Bolts is immediately thrust into a new mission without her having a chance to really work her magic on the group or to the reader.

Along with this, the bouncing back and forth between this new supernatural zombie threat in Germany and the recruitment process back at the Raft was jarring and difficult to follow. I think it would have flowed much better had the A-team stuck around and helped take part in the screening process so we could see a lot more villains who have been gathering dust. Instead, it seems like an obvious build-up to have the B-team come save the A-team if this becomes too much to handle, even with Satana in tow.

The Verdict

I loved seeing some of the villains that took part in the screening process for the B-Team of Thunderbolts. Even if they don’t make it on to the team, it was great to see Shocker, Mr. Hyde, Super-Skrull, and many others even if Marvel will throw them back into a cage again after this issue.

This light-hearted cameo-fest was poorly balanced though by the A-team of Bolts being thrown back into a new, occult themed mission that seemed like an excuse just to see what Satana could do. I would have preferred a slower introduction of her character to the team and having these two stories going on at the same time made it harder to follow this cavalcade of stars we were seeing in these 20 pages.

Despite this, Thunderbolts #156 was an enjoyable read, especially if you’ve been following the series up to this point, and makes you want to pick up the next issue just to see what will happen between the A-team and B-team, even though you know it can’t realistically last having two teams of Bolts.

Originally Published: February 1, 2011, on youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 for the Xbox 360.

When Heroes Collide

Originally Published: October 5, 2009, to 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com), Lundberg.me, and Comicvine.com

Marvel, a while ago, had put out a series of action RPGs involving four-person teams of some of your favorite heroes. Two X-men games, a couple of Fantastic Four titles, and the crème de le crème that culminated in the title that was Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, a joining of many of the heroes from the Marvel Universe, that did extraordinarily well with an original plot line and the game allowed you to mix and match your favorite heroes in any way you saw fit.

The best part of MUA was that it left itself wide open for a sequel involving Galactus, maybe the Silver Surfer, and an even larger array of heroes that encompassed the whole of the Marvel Universe.

But when MUA 2 came out, instead, it looked like the folks at Activision and Vicarious Visions who took over this series of games got lazy and didn’t feel like coming up with an entirely new script again. They took two of the biggest Marvel story arcs in recent history with Nick Fury’s Secret War and the Superhero Civil War and changed the ending so that if they ever decide to be original again, then they can.

Incase you are unfamiliar with these plots I will give you a quick summary: basically Fury’s War was a private attack on Dr. Doom’s Latveria (in this case after the events of MUA 1) as the new governess was also a weapons trafficker and designer. The Civil War pitted hero against hero as the government tried to make superheroes reveal their secret identities by registering with the government to make them liable for collateral damage after the New Warriors underestimated a group of villains in Stamford, CT, and 612 people were killed in the ensuing battle.

I’ll give credit where it is due in that Activision and Vicarious Visions stayed as true to the original comic arcs as they could before trying to get cute in bringing everyone together, but considering they had a plot for a sequel already lined up, it boggles my mind that they would put it on the backburner for something that die-hards spent far too long reading about to begin with.

Aside from my frustrations over the lack of a truly original plot though, this game is just as good as the first MUA in every other aspect. The cut scenes look beautiful and the voice acting is top-notch although I could’ve had a few more lines recorded for each character during the actual gameplay (how many times can you hear “HULK SMASH ALL THERE IS!” before it becomes tiresome?).

The gameplay is everything you would expect from an action RPG with some characters being much better than others and the new Fusion feature makes for some awesome team up moves like the classic “Fastball Special”. Since Colossus isn’t a playable character though, the Hulk, Thing, or Juggernaut (GameStop pre-orders only) stand-in for Wolverine’s X-men tin can teammate. There are a few minor glitches with your characters or enemies sometimes becoming trapped in corners and force you to switch characters to get them out, but aside from that, the game is relatively smooth.

The replay value is also very strong for the game because the only way to unlock everything would be to play through at least twice, once pro-registration and once anti-registration. Of course, the course you choose also affects the characters you can play with. Anyone familiar with the story arcs shouldn’t be surprised that only by choosing anti-registration can they get Luke Cage, Captain America, and Iron Fist and that only by choosing pro-registration can they get Iron Man, Songbird, and Mr. Fantastic.

Of course, once you beat the game one time through, you can play the second time through with any of the 25 playable characters as well as unlock the hardest difficulty. The best team to do that in the least amount of time would be Wolverine, Deadpool, Hulk, and Iron Fist. I don’t know why Iron Fist is as strong as he is, but he’s one of the best characters in the game because he can heal your entire team and Wolverine and Deadpool have healing factors, which makes the trio nearly impossible to kill. And then there is the Hulk (only available at the beginning if you get the game from Best Buy) and like I said before: HULK SMASH ALL THERE IS. Enough said.

In the end, anyone who is a comics fan and followed these story arcs should get this game because it is awesome to see the comics come to life and to see the various personalities of the Marvel Universe mix and mingle on your TV. I’m looking forward to MUA 3 even more now because I still want to see Galactus!

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.

Graphics: 8.0: This gets a slightly better than average score because the cut scenes are awesome, but the regular gameplay graphics are okay at best because of having so many enemies on screen at one time to prevent lag. Typical of these games, but I still have to call them on it.

Audio: 9.0: Great voice acting mixed in with great sound effects make this a strong score, but the music was generic for the most part. The MUA 2 theme for the game was really good though so the audio gets a great score overall.

Plot/Plot Development: 6.5: MUA 2 gets a barely passing score on plot because two-thirds of the game isn’t original whatsoever. They then made up an ending that was so far from the comics it is ridiculous, just to bring everyone together so that they can make a third game with a plot they hinted at in the first game should the opportunity present itself. It passes though because at least they stayed relatively true to the parts they did steal straight from the comics.

Gameplay: 7.0: This game is a button masher, plain and simple. You press the same couple of buttons to attack and occasionally team up with your pals to do it, but overall there isn’t a lot of depth to the gameplay. Add in a couple of glitches and it is okay at best.

Replay Value: 10.0: Needing to play through the game twice to unlock everyone and everything, along with 4 play online co-op and more collectibles than I can remember and there is a lot to bring you back to this game. It will take you probably 25-30 hours to find everything in the game if you play through it twice.

Overall (not an average): 7.5: Even though it isn’t the prettiest game, or the most original, the game is still good. Not great and definitely not ground-breaking, but if you are a fan of the Marvel universe, you will definitely enjoy this game. Add in some great surprises at the end and you will walk away with a smile on your face.

-Ray Carsillo