Review: The Underwater Welder – Jeff Lemire

Review: The Underwater WelderIt isn’t often that I find myself crying after being told a sad story. In fact, only three times this year have I actually full blown shed tears because of a story. First was in a very devastating episode of Supernatural, and the second time was after watching the documentary Dear Zachary. The third time was just last Sunday afternoon reading Jeff Lemire’s The Underwater Welder.

The Underwater Welder is a different take on a study of a family and of a man coming to terms with life, as it is a ghost story of sorts. It’s a story of a father and son, of a husband and wife, of a couple and their new child. It follows Jack Joseph, a man who works on an oil rig as a deep-sea welder in Nova Scotia. After finding a piece of his past while diving one day, his world begins to change. Through visions and dreams, Jack’s life takes a strange turn, as he finds himself part of a series of weird supernatural events that forces him to come to terms with his past. This culminates in various realisations that will ensure that many a tear will be shed in Jack’s quest to come to terms with his past, and ultimately his future.

Lemire manages to create a strong cast of characters in Jack’s life. Jack is a loving husband, but is all too often vague and distant with his wife, Susan. She is caring, but borders on overbearing and nagging at times, as Jack attempts to figure out what is going on in his life. Alongside Susan, Jack’s father Peter plays an important role. Often unreliable, Peter still wishes to maintain a good relationship with his son throughout the book. Despite each of these characters’ flaws, Lemire succeeds in making you truly care about the people in Jack’s life. Emotions and interactions between the cast is the heart of The Underwater Welder, and is where it shines the most.

Lemire also takes art duties in his graphic novel, as he utilises rough pencil along with grey tones to help accentuate the setting and tone of the story. His art-style can be divisive, as it is often surreal and very odd, but it has this strange sense of beauty behind it. It works wonderfully within the confines of the story, as there are at least a few pages that split a larger image into many panels that give a fantastic effect.

If you are looking for an original story this year, then pick up this odd book. Let the story of Jack and his quest draw you in, because The Underwater Welder is one of the best graphic novels this year, and should not be missed.

Review: ‘Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits’ – Garth Ennis and William Simpson

(Note: The Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits TPB collects Hellblazer issues 41-46)

Dangerous Habits is the one of the best character studies of John Constantine. It deals with all elements of his flawed character: his hard alcohol and cigarette abuse, his exploitative use of friends, and his con-man status to the many ethereal beings of our universe, from both heaven and hell. It also shows the progression of the often morally grey anti-hero, as he deals with coming to terms with his eventual death at the hand of one of his many vices: his much loved pack of silk cut cigarettes.

For the uninitiated, John Constantine (pronounced Con-stan-tyne, as in fine) is a British occult magician/con-man/ arsehole who is modelled after the famous musician Sting. Known for his drinking and smoking habits, as well as his dry wit, he has been a mainstay of Vertigo Comics for well over twenty years. Dangerous Habits marks the entry of Garth Ennis to the series in 1991, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest Hellblazer storylines since the series’ inception. It deals with Constantine’s newfound knowledge of his terminal lung cancer, and as he says goodbye to the ones he loves, he formulates a plan that will at the very least, see him die swinging.

This story arc is Hellblazer at its most poignant. Constantine’s quest for redemption with what little friends he has left sees him backed into a corner as he fights for what little time he and his dying allies have. From the liver cancer-stricken Matt, to his old friend Brendan Finn, each allow Ennis to delve into the tortured mind of our anti-hero as he comes to terms with his mistakes, and all the friends whose deaths he blames himself for. John Constantine is a person hiding behind the con-man persona – too afraid to get close to anyone he cares about for fear of their safety. This story breaks down Constantine to his bare minimum: a man who despite his sins, wants to leave with having done more good in the world than wrong.

It is also to Garth Ennis’ credit that he chose lung cancer as Constantine’s downfall over a more supernatural curse as it both humanises and undermines his place in the world. Here is a man who deals with some of the most powerful beings in the universe, only to be taken under by one of the most basic of diseases. It allows Constantine to reflect on one of the of the most interesting issues faced in life:  this is not how, and when, I planned to go.

Ennis also allows Constantine to show off his expertise as a con-artist, as the final stages of the story arc culminate in potentially one of the most badass displays of arrogance ever witnessed in comic form. He manages to pull off the most impressive cons I have seen in potentially any medium, and it leaves the series in an interesting place by the arc’s end.

The art in this arc is merely serviceable to the story presented here. On one hand, William Simpson’s drawings can be equally weird and fitting, as Constantine’s world is one part disgusting to two parts dark. On the other hand, certain panels that focus solely on characters look plain bad – their distorted faces resemble closely those of demonic caricatures, as odd angles and stretched faces lead the reader to often be looking up the nostrils of Constantine.

As mentioned, Dangerous Habits marks Garth Ennis’ entrance into the series and it is heralded by a bang, as he systematically sets up the title character to die, exploring Constantine’s own demons, while allowing him to battle some monsters as well. While Simpson’s art may not be up to par with the writing; the Dangerous Habits storyline manages to create not only a powerful part of John Constantine’s own story, but a classic in comic books overall.

Review: FF#1 – Matt Fraction & Michael Allred

FF#1 ReviewWhat could possibly go wrong in four minutes?

Potentially a whole lot, as the first issue of the Marvel Now! relaunch of the Fantastic Four series deals with. Reed Richards is taking a year to travel the space-time continuum with his family, which equates to four minutes Earth-time, under the pretence of an educational field trip. As we learn though in both this issue, and in Fantastic Four #1, his motives are a lot more obscure. In the Fantastic Four’s place at the head of the Future Foundation, Richards recruits Ant-Man, She-Hulk, Medusa and newcomer Darla Deering, who will eventually become known as Miss Thing.

Matt Fraction pairs each of these new members of the Future Foundation with the current Fantastic Four, as each character recruits their replacement for when they take their intergalactic field trip. He manages to create some memorable character moments in these pair-ups, most notably from Reed Richards/ Ant-Man, and Johnny Storm/ Dana Deering, as each of these tackle the Fantastic Four’s choices of replacements believably. While the way the recruitment of Miss Thing makes sense in regards to Johnny’s character, we don’t know yet how Dana’s transformation to her Miss Thing persona actually takes place. It initially sets up for a very interesting turn of events as we learn how this will eventually come about.

FF#1, as with much of the Marvel Now! titles, is an excellent starting point for new readers, as Fraction disperses talking-heads moments with each of the children of the Future Foundation, explaining how and what this organisation is out to do. This makes for a simple jumping on point, as well as allowing fans of Jonathan Hickman’s previous run on FF a quick refresher.

Michael Allred produces some truly beautiful work in this issue, channelling 1950s pop art brilliantly, even going so far as to incorporate a “dot press” effect in one panel that invokes a classic comic book style. It complements the tone of the story well, as its camp and light-hearted nature is felt throughout the entire issue.

Fraction and Allred have succeeded in introducing us to the world of the Future Foundation, and the acting members of the Fantastic Four. FF is set up to be a series that invokes a feeling of pure pulp fun. That’s something that can be forgotten all too often, and it’s this issue that reminds us that these titles still exist.







Introducing: Comics Coverage At The Oceanic Gamer

The pride of my comic collection: a Stan Lee signed Daredevil #3 from 1964

This is a pretty exciting announcement for us at The Oceanic Gamer. A large majority of our team are comics lovers, some like me for more than 30 years. So it has always been a temptation to cover comics, even more so after the past year where comics have had such a huge impact on popular culture.

What sealed the deal was when we had someone approach us offering to write on comics – that someone being New Zealand’s own Mr Sean Robinson. You can find out more about Sean here, but I asked Sean to pen something as an introduction to coincide with the launch of our comics coverage:

Hey everyone!

I’m Sean, your new Comics Writer. I’m really excited to be a part of the team here at Oceanic Gamer, and I hope you guys will enjoy the new section as much as I know I will. I plan to bring you; dear reader, the best of what I can cover. From new releases to more classic titles, each week I plan to broaden your horizons, whether you are long time reader or new to the realm of comics, as much as my own, drawing on new favourites, picking up on titles you may have missed, and giving spotlight to some of the more independent publications. If you have any specific titles you want to recommend, or have a comic that you are on the fence about and want me to suffer through before you do, let me know on twitter @Pipes815 or via the site’s contact form!

Aside from Sean’s great work, we’ll have plenty of guest writers and I know I’ll be indulging my comics passion as well. Most importantly, if YOU have a comic / graphic novel / webcomic you’d like to write about, let us know directly or post in comments below. We’re particularly interested in covering local efforts in the comic industry, so please get in touch if you’re a creator and would like your work reviewed.

Watch out in the next 36 hours for Sean’s first two comic reviews – in the meantime, we’d love to hear any thoughts below on our decision to add comics to the site’s mix.

Star Wars Episode 7 Trailer (Sort Of)

Could this be an inkling of what’s to come in Star Wars Episode 7?

Actually, I’m pretty optimistic that the new films will be good, but the video was good for a Friday night laugh don’t you think?

Official Response on Future of Star Wars Movies

Unless you’ve been living in a box the past 24 hours, you’ll have heard that Disney will be the proud owners of Lucasfilm. It’s huge news, particularly given that Disney have said there’ll be more Star Wars movies. That’s set conversations running all over the place on what the future movies will be.

Well now, you can hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy have sat down with to give an official response on the future of Star Wars movies. It’s only 3 minutes long but it makes the whole thing seem a lot more real. Check it out:

Aside from being excited that there are more movies, I’m more pumped about the fact that it won’t be just limited to another three – George Lucas says there’s a bunch of other stuff there ready to be worked up as well.

Now over to you: do you think Kennedy and Disney can pull off movies that kick some serious butt? Or will we end up with Jar Jar Binks: Gungan Explorer?

Sydney-siders: Use Your Gaming Knowledge For Good

UPDATE: Applications are now closed – see comments for details!

If you’re based in Sydney and want to do some great game-related work whilst being paid, you might like to consider this:

The Lab ( is a technology club for young people with Asperger’s Syndrome and High Functioning Autism.  Plans are currently underway for several Labs in the Sydney area, starting with Hornsby but also looking further south around Bondi.

We require mentors/technical assistants with appropriate technical skills to help run after school sessions(a few hours per week) with groups of young people (10-16).

Appropriate skills include programming, design, and knowledge of popular games and software such as minecraft and gamemaker.  This position would suit a computer science student or IT professionals in the IT industry who are looking to give a little back to society whilst getting paid to have fun.

If this sounds like you please send your resume to

I can personally vouch for this program as I’ve had some indirect involvement over the years – here’s an in-depth interview on the great work they do.

Wii U Australian Release Date Confirmed

For those like me who love a bit of Nintendo action, you’ll be pleased to know we have some more info on the Wii U and its release date and pricing in Australia. It’s an iconic console and it seems that’s not about to change with the latest update to the franchise.

A launch was held at midnight last night, with the following snippets provided:

1. 30th November 2012 is the release date

2. There’ll be two ‘packs’ you can buy. Either:

A Basic pack which includes a
– Wii U Console (White)
– Internal flash memory 8GB
– Wii U GamePad (White) x1
– Wii U GamePad stylus (White)
– Wii U AC Adapter x1
– Wii U GamePad AC Adapter x1
– HDMI Cable (1.5m) x1
– no sensor bar included – but you can use one from your old Wii or buy one separately
PRICE: AU $349.95


A Premium Pack which includes:

– Wii U Console (Black)
– Internal flash memory 32GB
– Wii U GamePad (Black) x1
– Wii U GamePad stylus (Black)
– Wii U GamePad Cradle
– Wii U GamePad Stand
– Wii U Console Stand
– Wii U AC Adapter
– Wii U GamePad AC Adapter
– HDMI Cable (1.5m)
– Sensor bar x1
PRICE: $429.95

3. As far as games go, the only confirmed available for launch day itself is Nintendo Land, but a bunch more games are due out pretty soon afterwards: New Super Mario Bros U, Rayman Legends, Zombiu, FIFA 13, Mass Effect 3: Special Edition, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Wii Fit U and SiNG

4. You can play “almost all” Wii games on the Wii U

5. Other features of the console include:


Miiverse is a brand new network communication system that lets gamers from around the world share experiences, discuss games and discover new content.

Using their personalised Mii character, players enter Miiverse and see games, applications or entertainment content that either they have interacted with recently, expressed interest in learning more about or that their friends are using or discussing.

From here they can challenge their friends to play together, ask a question about a difficult level or discover new elements of their favourite games they never knew existed. After a notable achievement or other share-worthy moment, players can pause their game or application and seamlessly post messages to the Miiverse community.

TV Remote

The Wii U GamePad may also function as an infrared TV Remote, whether users are watching TV or playing a game.
Near Field Communication (NFC)

The Wii U GamePad has the ability to communicate wirelessly with objects that are held above it. This allows for a variety of interesting new possibilities for games and activities.
Nintendo eShop

The digital storefront for Wii U will be available at launch and offer a variety of content for people to download and enjoy. Consumers will also be able to purchase and download select games that are also available at retail stores.

There are plenty of ways to discover new games on Nintendo eShop:
you can watch trailers, view charts based on popularity, or search for games using a variety of search filters.

Video Entertainment

Nintendo is working with other partners to bring video experiences to Wii U that will take advantage of the integrated second-screen experience. Additional details will be released at a later time.
Video Chat

Using the built-in camera of the Wii U GamePad, people can communicate with other Wii U owners in real time.
Internet Browser

Wii U comes with a browser that lets people with a wireless Internet connection surf the Internet from the comfort of their couches. Using the simple controls on the Wii U GamePad, it’s possible to display your favourite web pages on the TV to share with family and friends, or just browse the web on the GamePad without using the TV. You can even use the browser when you are in the middle of a game!
Compatibility with Wii games

In addition to being able to play almost all Wii games you already have, you can also continue to use your controllers and other accessories such as Wii Remote Plus (and Wii Remote) controllers, and Nunchuk controllers.

Please note: excludes some software and accessories.

I for one am counting the days until I can play the next iteration of Mario Kart. Please Nintendo, tell me you’re working on that as we speak… I’ll also now have no excuse not to play Mass Effect 3 and Call of Duty – aside from money to buy the damn games of course.

Over to you: how appealing is the Wii U to you?

[via Nintendo AU]

Euclideon Announces Geoverse

It’s not often we get deep into the tech behind things like games, but sometimes it’s worth making an exception.

You may not have heard of Euclideon, who made a splash back on 2010 with their claims they’d changed the graphics industry. Even you haven’t heard of them, you’re likely to in coming years, as their claims seem to be bearing out in a big way.

Now I’m a bit biased on this, in that around a year ago I had a chance to sit down with Euclideon’s founder, Bruce Dell, to check a demo out. You can read about that here. It’s fair to say I was impressed, albeit with the disclaimer I have no coding knowledge whatsoever.

Since that meeting a year ago, Euclideon has been under a self-imposed media blackout to get things done. One of those things is Geoverse, a tool that allows compaction of large LiDAR data sets so that they can be viewed via the cloud rather than installed on each computer. It doesn’t exactly sound sexy but I can see how this might be a good way to build a profile in the sciences and military, rather than being pigeon-holed in the gaming industry. A year ago when I met with Bruce, his intentions were pretty clear that it wasn’t about games – and nor should it be if this technology bears out.

Anyway, enough tech talk for a minute, have a look at this video:

As someone who’s followed Euclideon closely over the past year, I can tell you these guys have copped flak and scepticism from every quarter. What I’ve seen in return is the growth of a technology that appears to have applications in a huge variety of ways.

The video above doesn’t show anything new compared to a year ago – I’m expecting the next iteration to be a few months off yet. However, the announcement of Geoverse as a product that leverages off the Unlimited Detail engine, shows a maturing company. That’s something needed to ensure this technology becomes what it claims – and that includes the gaming industry which would be seriously turned on its head if and when Unlimited Details reaches a release stage.

Over to you: what do you think of this technology? Can you see it appearing in a game near you in the not-too-distant future?

Is Superman getting the movie he finally deserves?

Based on the trailer for Man of Steel (due in cinemas sometime in 2013), this movie looks like it may finally break the drought of a substantial, well fleshed out Superman. Given it’s Christopher Nolan directing, it’s got a promising foundation at the very least:

Over to you: does this seem like a promising movie to you?

Game of Thrones Series 3: New Cast

I promise this will be the last time I post GoT info for a few days (although a GoT game is on the cards so we can argue we’re still relevant!). Out of the San Diego Comic Con comes this brief snippet where new cast members introduce themselves. Enjoy!

Do you like what you see? Given how quick characters are killed off, I can see they needed a bunch of new faces!