It's been about a month since I highlighted a DC cover, and DC was kind enough to provide me this on the 17th. Number 13 in Justice League's New 52 series, this issue focuses the League's conflict with Cheetah, Wonder Woman's old nemesis. I say old nemesis because although DC's story intro suggests they are continuing that relationship, they have shown that they aren't afraid to make big changes in the New 52. Regardless of your feelings toward the new 52, I think it's pretty hard to say this isn't an awesome cover. While the regular release cover isn't bad, I just don't think it's as interesting. The variant cover is by Tony S. Daniel who has done a lot of work on the Batman and Detective Comics series. While his deviantART page doesn't have a whole lot of material, Daniel has done enough that you should be able to find something he's worked on with relative ease. If not, you can always check the DC Comics website for a list of the projects he's worked on. It's worth a look, especially if you're a Batman fan.
This weeks post is a variant cover I found for Amazing Spider-Man #692 that celebrates the 50th anniversary of Spider-Man. Artist Marcos Martin created five variant covers to mark the occasion, one for each decade, that depict key moments in Spider-Man's history. You can also recognize Martin from his work on Batgirl: Year One. Each cover is created in the same kind of style, a single color with black lines and occasional white highlights. I personally like the simplicity the cover offers, which (as I've mentioned in an earlier post) is something I don't see in a lot of Spider-Man covers. I also like that it addresses an important, and at the same time not what I would consider high-profile, story from Spidey's past. The Clone Saga has been a favorite of mine in comics as well as in the '94 animated series; and not only did I like it's inclusion in this tribute cover series, but I also liked how it was showcased. Even from a purely artistic standpoint, it's my favorite out of the five. But you don't have to take my word for it! You can see the other four covers here, here, here, and here.
Again, I must apologize to my one reader for missing last Wednesday's comic cover post (sorry, baby). However, in my attempt to make amends, I was able to find a pretty awesome Daredevil wraparound cover. It features Daredevil (go figure), Elektra, Iron Fist, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, and Black Widow surrounded by what I can only assume are Hand ninjas and a few choice villains. That team-up was part of what drew me into this cover. The Daredevil universe is something I know very, very little about; and while Marvel doesn't mind mixing their vast supply of heroes together, this mix seemed to pull from a lot of different areas. The big thing that made this cover stand out is the incredible artwork. Like I said, Daredevil is something I've never really gotten into, but Marko Djurdjevic has a way of making everything look like something I want to read. The detail and realism he brings to his characters is simply amazing. I could just pick covers from his website and I'd have good material a year. There are at least a couple that I'm setting aside for later posts. So if you have a few spare minutes, I'd definitely recommend taking a look at his portfolio.

After getting through the final cut-scenes of Fallout: New Vegas, I realized I wanted to play something different. The 60+ long hours of RGP gameplay made me crave a different format, and in my hunger I turned to Saints Row: The Third; a title in a series I had never touched. This was a rare move for me. Story lines are what I derive a lot of enjoyment from in video games, and jumping into a franchise at the third title is like picking up a book, skipping to the last few chapters, and just reading them. This works with very few kinds of books, like coloring books. Still, it seems like Saints Row is one of those kinds of books; and much like a coloring book, Saints Row can be a lot of fun as long as you don't take it too seriously. The game format is a lot like Grand Theft Auto games of that time, which you can surmise from any screenshot or gameplay video; no cover mechanic and vehicle controls that you can't decide are bad or are ones that you're just not used to. Still, there's something a little more whimsical about Saints Row. Given what your character does in-game, whimsical probably isn't the right word, but there seems to be an inherent naivety toward realism that ends up being very disarming when you try to critique it from that standpoint. The introductory cinematic is done like the Star Wars title crawls. The first tutorial sequence has you running around with a machine gun with unlimited ammo and a Johnny Gat mask that makes you think you're playing with Big Head Mode on. It's almost laughable, but it's nearly impossible not to have fun with it. The environment created by the game makes it so things that might bother you if they were in other games just don't matter there. I don't know whether it's done on accident of by design, but I'm all for it right now.

Oh Yeah! That makes TWO NLF Blitz references, everybody! TWO!

The only problem here is that there's a chance that feeling isn't sustainable. Eventually, the charm may wear off, and the player is left looking for a reason to continue. There are a couple ways they may be able to do this, one of which is through the story. I'm not sure how likely this is. These games typically aren't known for their storytelling prowess, but GTA IV really broke out in that way so there's always a chance to be surprised. I haven't played much past the opening sequences and a couple side missions, so I can't comment a whole lot on plot strength, but I don't think that will be what saves the day (assuming the day actually needs saving). A second way the game may be able to hedge against disillusionment is by exploiting the player's hoarding instincts. Saints Row appears to feature the ability to buy property and use those various properties to stash weapons, vehicles, and clothes. If Elder Scrolls and Pokemon have taught us anything, it's that we don't have a problem with collecting and storing things. Furthermore, the ability to upgrade weapons and even a character's abilities add additional areas where players can satisfy their need for measurable progress. Still, that simple, honest fun I felt in the first couple hours of play may never go away. The fall-back characteristics I just described may not even be necessary; they may just be nice additions to a good game. I'm anxious to be able to play more and find out.