Too many heroines?

I started visiting the comic shop again and started fresh with new titles.

The books, Black Widow, Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk, have two similarities that comes to mind immediately.

1. All Marvel

Black Widow #1

Those three titles all come from the House of M.

A year ago I was buying more DC titles, but Marvel has a better marketing strategy when it comes to jumping on. Their Marvel NOW is a great initiative that provides issues in longer running series to introduce readers to a storyline. The company also regularly releases #1 issues.

I do want to get back into Animal Man, but it’s hard to tell when a new story arc begins when all I see is a series in the double digits.

2. All Female Protagonists

She-Hulk #1 was the latest series I bought and that’s when it hit me: these recent purchases have starred female heroes.

All these stories are telling interesting tales that aren’t dependent on the hero’s sexuality. Remember the stuff we got from New 52 Catwoman?

I’m enjoying the stories for different reasons, not one centered on gender.

Black Widow is an action-oriented spy story, Ms. Marvel features an origin story with today’s teen hero (move over Peter Parker) and She-Hulk is about new beginnings and the legal system.

What comics are you reading? Share on the comments below.

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Why aren’t you playing Hearthstone?

Take the addictive gameplay of a great trading card game and the charming character of Warcraft and you get Blizzard‘s latest video game  — Hearthstone.

Hearthstone is a competitive, online card game featuring characters, spells and setting of Warcraft. The game recently entered open beta, which means anyone with a computer can join in for FREE right now.

Hearthstone looks as good as it plays. (Credit: Hearthstone website)

Players control one of nine character classes — including mage, warrior and rogue — and create decks of cards to whittle their opponents life points to zero. It’s standard fare for anyone who’s played a trading card game before, but for TCG virgins there’s a tutorial to ease players into the game’s intricacies.

The game starts with the mage deck and from there a player must defeat a class to unlock its deck. As you play through the decks you unlock a handful of class-specific cards.

After that cards are unlocked through randomized boosters that players can purchase with either in-game gold or real cash.

There’s never a need to actually buy cards as the game doles out daily quests that reward a player with gold upon completion. Although, players that spend money during the beta will unlock a exclusive card. (Gotta keep the lights on somehow).

The amount of varying strategy is staggering. Each class has its own specific cards in addition to an open pool of minions. Classes also have unique, character-fitting powers such as the mage’s fireball or the Warlock’s life tap, which allows him to draw a card at the cost of life points.

The starter decks are viable early on, but being able to unlock cards and create your own combos and builds is the heart of the game. It’s thrilling to lay into your opponent with a combo you created, or build a deck that freezes an enemy’s strong minions turn after turn.

If the card play doesn’t make you say “Wow,” the game’s polish will.

Meet the all powerful Angry Chicken (Credit: Hearthstone website)

While players who have dabbled in the world of Warcraft will get an extra kick seeing memorable characters or hearing, “Job’s done” after completing a turn, the game’s overall tone is inviting and not excluding to newcomers.

The game’s card art is varied and stunning. The board features environments that you can click and interact with, which is especially useful if an opponent is taking forever on their turn. Spell effects dazzle and more powerful cards carry weight.

Drop a strong minion and the board beneath it fractures and the cards around it launch into the air for a brief second.

The game is still in development so there are bugs here and there, but the gameplay is so good it’s easy to forgive when cards appear stuck on the board.

Currently there are three play modes: Practice, Play and Arena, with a fourth solo adventure mode coming.

Practice allows players to play with AI bots and Play puts player against player in either casual or ranked games. Most of my time has been spent in Arena, where you build a deck by choosing from randomly generated cards.

Arena games cost gold to enter but winning and winning plenty means better prizes. The counter to glorious loot is three loses ends the journey.

The developer is working on iPad support, but if you’ve been looking for something to play join me and grab Hearthstone.

Have you been playing Hearthstone? Share your thoughts, favorite classes and deck builds below.

Thoughts on The Bone Season

I finished The Bone Season last night and wanted to share a few thoughts.

Samantha Shannon’s debut novel introduces readers to a world where ghosts are around us and some people called clairvoyants have abilities to communicate, manipulate and use spirits as weapons.

The Bone SeasonShannon’s alternate history novel opens in 2059 London where a new form of government, Scion, has taken over England with a promise to protect non-clairvoyants, or amaurotics, from clairvoyants they call un-naturals. The first-person protagonist 19-year-old Paige Mahoney finds work  and safe haven with the underground voyant syndicate.

The world is expansive. I found myself flipping to the in-book guide to recall what was what. On the front is a hierarchy chart of the different types of voyants, which each have different powers like Soothsayers, Mediums, Sensors, Augers, Guardians, Furies, and Jumpers; stemming from those are even more specific types of clairvoyants like seers, trance mediums, restive mediums, sniffers, gustants, polyglots, vile augurs, binders, summoners, exorcist, necromancer, sibyls, berserkers, dreamwalkers and oracles.

On the back is a glossary of terms that I would use like a dictionary if I could not remember what a molliser, tasser or gallipot. It was fun exploring the world, but just as I finally understood the Paige’s world the story was over.

Out of about 450 pages, Shannon was still explaining until the very last chapters. Readers are dropped into this world and the first third of the story is exciting, confusing and refreshing, but around the mid-point concepts are still being explained and a hidden world explored. The exposition is woven into the plot, but it noticeably slows things down as Paige has to remind herself and the reader about her’s and Scion London’s history. Shannon finds a way to explain the history lesson, which was nice, but it’s obviously to introduce readers to the series.

This is definitely only an introduction as the publisher plans to continue the seven-part series.

Aside from the unique slang, Shannon’s writing flows through the pages and carries the weight of the exposition.

The book features a parade of characters, but I never felt for one. Even Paige didn’t win me over by the final page.

What was pleasantly surprising was the detail to all the individual clairvoyant powers and how spirits are categorized and used in this universe. While some clairvoyants can speak to spirits, some can see the future and Paige can remove her spirit from her body.

Then there’s the spirit combat that’s fast-paced and intense. Clairvoyants use spirits and sling them at foes like a blast from a wand or a projectile blast. I can’t wait to see how it’s done on the big screen, did I mention that there’s already talks of a movie?

There isn’t a release date for the sequel, but I can wait a year or two.

Did you read The Bone Season? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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ESPN’s LeBron James Confidential

ESPN's LeBron James Confidential

ESPN recently asked 26 NBA players their opinions on superstar LeBron James.

The best part is that the reporters promised anonymity giving an interesting look at what LeBron’s follow athlete’s think of him.

The info is neat, but I love that they decided to present the information via infograph. It’s a clean look at the varying opinions and makes the numbers very easy to digest.

The artist uses font, color, size and art to lead the eye’s across the graphic.

So what do you think, would you let LeBron take the last shot?

Share your thoughts on the infographic below.

Golden Luck

For all of 2013 I have craved Golden Corral.

Since moving to Texas and discovering the North Carolina-based Americana buffets, deep down inside I’ve wanted to spend an evening gorging on baby back ribs, fried chicken, brisket and topping off the meal with said meats under a chocolate fountain.

I even had my date of gluttony set for this weekend, but those plans never came to fruition.

I should be glad they didn’t.

On Monday, a video a Golden Corral employee posted went viral.

In the 2-minute video — posted on July 1 — a Corral employee from one of the chain’s Florida locations explains that during a visit from the health inspector, the restaurant hid prepped food by the dumpsters. Beside the restaurant’s dumpsters are uncooked burger patties, a pile of baby back ribs and more. The scene is completed with flies hovering over the food. The narrator says the food will be served later.

I should be glad for this whistleblower, and how easy technology has made sharing. All my desires to dine at the all-you-can-eat franchise have been dashed.

The Huffington Post reported that the  Port Orange, Fla. location has fired a manager and the food left outside wasn’t served to customers.

While it sounds like an isolated incident and I’m sure nearby locations follow health and sanitary practices it’s a tarnish on the brand.

I’m still tempted by All-You-Can-Eat Wing Fest, but I don’t think I’ll be able to stomach it for awhile.