Twenty Years of Halo: The Cole Protocol

Artwork by Usbaia and cawico7

The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios

It’s time once again for the Halo book club, and it seems that Contact Harvest wasn’t a fluke as this is another Halo book set in the universe but far away from ANY of the games!  Still, Contact Harvest was one of the better books we’ve read so far (and that’s including the comic books they’ve tried to do), so perhaps this one will also prove to be a solid sci-fi adventure despite not having the Master Chief or Cortana’s marketable faces on the cover.  Let’s find out!!


The Cole Protocol – Novel (2008)

The Cole Protocol is written by Tobias Buckell

So it seems that Contact Harvest being a prequel wasn’t a one off for the book series and that we’ll be spending more time AROUND the Halo games than telling stories between.  Continuity wise it’s SOMEWHERE in that nebulous space between Contact Harvest and The Fall of Reach, though leans much close to the latter since the Spartans are around and doing their thing for the war effort.  This time though things are a lot less IN YOUR FACE BOMBAST as the story feels much closer to a spy thriller with various factions trying to out maneuver everyone else over a colony that shouldn’t even be there.  Frankly it’d be more accurate to call this The Rubble instead of The Cole Protocol, but I guess protocol sounds cooler so they went with that.  In any case, the story takes place in the secret separatist colony known as The Rubble; one big town hidden amongst a whole bunch of asteroids that are held in place by an AI named Juliana who is VERY invested in keeping this hunk of junk livable.   Some of them are Insurrectionists, some are there for the great trading opportunities, and all of them want nothing to do with the UNSC; so much so that they’ve more or less made a peace agreement with the Kig-Yar; the Jackals of The Covenant who are MUCH more interested in finding and trading loot than spreading the world of The Forerunners and blowing up heretics.  Sadly, this state of affairs cannot last forever as there appear to groups within The Rubble trying desperately to get their hands on a data chip that has detailed navigational data to Earth which could spell doom for humanity if The Covenant got their hands on it.  To make matters worse, both a UNSC ship (eventually commanded by a younger Captain Keyes) as well as an Elite ship manage to come across this unauthorized “peace” which only escalates tensions and forces the hands of those who have sinister plans for all involved.  Who is trying to get this data, and what do they plan to do with it?  Are the Kig-Yar sincere in their desire to keep this colony out of the greater war, and what consequences could befall them for taking such a stance?  And on top of all this there’s a small group of Spartans watching all of this and pushing events towards some sort of end goal that may ultimately be in Earth’s best interest, but is The Rubble and the people who built it just collateral damage?  I’m not about to say that the book is evenhanded with its politics as military wisdom and strong leaders tend to fare better than those who follow more democratic ideas, but the fact that we’re bouncing around various stories with characters driven by believable motivation makes this one more genuinely engaging novels in the series so far.

Thanks, Space Obama!!
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Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #39

Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

The next issue is finally here, and not to sound ungrateful or anything but does anyone know why this took so long to come out?  It was originally scheduled for the end of March but we’re just getting it now a month and a half later without any explanation from IDW; at least not as far as I can find!  Oh who am I kidding, whether it’s one month, two months, or TWELVE months, I’ll be here all the same to tell you all about it, so let’s not waste any more time and jump right it!

Since it’s been an eternity since the last issue, a bit of a recap!  Sonic, Tails, and Amy went to some sort of Eggman outpost in the middle of the ocean that seems to have been causing weather issues, but instead of finding some sort of doomsday device they tumble head first into a pocket dimension of sorts that looks to be a testing area for Eggman to work out the kinks on his new robot designs.  Unbeknownst to everyone though, Belle managed to convince Tangle to follow them and they arrived shortly after to find the place crawling with badniks and no Team Sonic to be found.  This issue picks things up with Tangle and Belle having stumbled upon the disturbing world of Pokémon Bootlegs as Eggman’s robo-bros are sending whatever horrific creatures they can after Sonic and his friends in their little pocket dimension.  Truly the most sinister thing about the Egg Empire!

Half Ekans, half Scyther, ALL terrifying!!
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Twenty Years of Halo: Red Vs Blue: Reconstruction

Artwork by Usbaia and cawico7

Red vs Blue and all the images you see in this retrospective are owned by Rooster Teeth

The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios

It’s probably no coincidence that all things Halo peaked for me while I was in high school with not just Halo 3 being an amazing video game but this season of Red Vs Blue feeling like the evolution that the series needed to go in.  I remember finishing my assignments early in some sort of extracurricular drafting class or something and episodes of this season in my free time which in hindsight proved to be a far better use of my time than that class ever was.  I mean it’s not like I used any of those skills in any of the jobs I’ve gotten since then, and here I am today telling you all about a web series from the pre-Obama years!  Perhaps it’s more of an indictment on our education system than anything else, but we’re not exactly in a position to fix America’s problems today.  Instead, let’s see if my favorite season of the show still holds up to this day!  Let’s get started!


Red vs Blue: Reconstruction (2008)

Reconstruction was definitely a turning point in the Red Vs Blue franchise even if the next season or two that I saw did go more towards the Blood Gulch Chronicle style of wacky sitcom setups, there was still a stronger emphasis on story and characters that was started here.  We pick up about a year after Recovery One and Season 5 where Agent Washington is sitting in on a soldier’s debrief as they describe a harrowing situation at their base.  It seems that Tex’s ship didn’t just blow up at the end of Season 5, but was heavily damaged and ended up crashing on another Red Vs Blue training area where the Omega AI (AKA O’Malley) ran roughshod over the troops there; taking over their minds and forcing them to destroy their own equipment so they couldn’t even call for help.  Eventually, the monster that attacked Washington in Recovery One, the thing that was stealing Freelancer AIs, arrived and left only one survivor after taking Omega.  It’s clear that this monster, which they refer to as The Meta, must be stopped and will no doubt be going after South Dakota for the Delta AI which puts Washington in a unique position to get his revenge on her for betraying him back in Recovery One while doing the Freelancer organization a solid that’ll perhaps put him back in their good graces.  Still, before he can effectively track this thing, he needs to learn about the Omega AI that the Meta now has, and there are only a few people in the galaxy who know much about it.  Sad to say for Washington, he bites off more than he can chew as the two people he manages to recruit for this operation are Caboose and Church; long separated after Blood Gulch was disbanded and at least one of them is far from happy to be here, but at long as the trail might lead to Tex, then perhaps it’s a journey worth taking.

“And I would walk five-hundred miles-”     “Caboose…”     And I would walk five-hundred more-”     “Caboose, shut up.”     “Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles-”     “CABOOSE!!”
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Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (05-05-2021) – Blood & Guts

AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT

Well the day is finally here; someway feeling very late and way too soon at the same time.  The original plan for Blood & Guts seemed to be The Inner Circle Vs. The Elite, and boy how things have changed since then with The Elite fractured into becoming a Heel faction and The Inner Circle finding their way to being the Baby Faces in this feud against The Pinnacle.  There’s no doubt that they kind of sprinted to this match instead of taking their time with it as The Pinnacle only arrived on the scene a few weeks ago, and with us being so close to out of the woods of this Pandemic it hardly seems like it would have been TOO much to ask for them to wait for the crowds to return, but this is the plan they went with and they tried their darnedest to make it work.  Is this show as well as the match itself worth all the buildup, or was all this just to give us a mediocre War Games rip off?  Let’s find out!!

Before we get started, it’s worth noting that the arena is already set up for the Blood and Guts match as there are two rings next to each other throughout the show.  It’s a bit of a shame that none of the undercard matches make use of this fact, but I guess you want to save the more fancy stuff for the main event.


Jon Moxley & Eddie Kingston Vs. Kenny Omega & Michael Nakazawa

Omega is accompanied to the ring by Don Callis

Things don’t start off well for Moxley and Kingston as Callis comes out and says Omega won’t be showing up for the match and of course he appears out of nowhere to blindside them during their entrance.  Eddie is left alone to fend off both Omega and Nakazawa, but eventually Moxley gets back up and starts running wild.  Eventually it settles into a very straightforward back and forth tag team match.  Some fun stuff like Omega’s over the top Heel expression and Nakazawa landing a low blow that knocks the wind out of Kingston, but I’m just not feeling the urgency for a match that should have a lot of weight to it.  If it was me, I wouldn’t have Omega give Kingston an inch.  Just devastating move after devastating move instead of an extended heat segment where he does SOME moves but Kingston is definitely given a lot of room to breathe and fight back.  They get it right with Moxley and Nakazawa as he’s barely a minute into the hot tag before he goes for the Paradigm shift which only doesn’t land because Omega runs in to break it up.  Nakazawa tries to use this moment of confusion to his advantage, but his forearms are no match for Moxley’s beefy chest and ends up eating a Pile Driver for his efforts.  Seeing the writing on the wall, Omega just bails to leave Nakazawa to his fate, and so Moxley lands a clothesline while Kingston holds him in place which is enough to get the win.  Not a bad opener, but I think with Kenny now the proud owner of FOUR belts (apparently he won TWO at the Impact PPV) I feel like there should have been a bit more menace from him.

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Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (04-28-2021)

AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT

Blood and Guts is only one week away, and while it REALLY feels like it should be at least a month down the road, AEW has done their darnedest to try and make it as big a spectacle as they can.  Will this final week of hype be enough to make it a huge success, or will the rushed build in this show mean that few will care to tune in next week?  Let’s find out!!


Hangman Adam Page Vs. Brian Cage

Before the match can properly start, Cage and Team Taz bum rush him and stomp him into the ground before The Dark Order rushes out to make the save.  They at least manage to chase off Hook, Hobbs, and Starks, but Page is still alone with THE MACHINE who gives him a Powerbomb on the ramp before tossing him into the ring and continuing his assault.  Page tries to fight back and gets a very brief hope towards the end, but it’s ultimately a losing proposition a Cage lands the Drillclaw and wins the match in about five minutes.  It may not have been the most EXCITING match as it was essentially an extended squash, but there are several things about this that made it FANTASTIC!  Team Taz has been on a losing streak for a while and Page has been on a winning streak, so this kind of shake up is perfect for setting up a feud with some real stakes to it as Cage so effortlessly destroyed Hangman and it’s unclear if he can beat him even without getting Powerbombed at the start.  On top of that, you have Taz on commentary selling not just this one match but the story of Team Taz up to this point and how Adam Page ultimately fits into it which only adds to the tension as to what’s going to happen next.  In less than ten minutes, AEW managed to set up a new feud and give it some real weight which is impressive for any show to pull off, and even as a squash match it was fun to watch.  Not a bad start to the show if you ask me!

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Twenty Years of Halo: Halo 3 Essentials & Halo Landfall

Artwork by Usbaia

The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios

Like with the bonus and behind the scenes content with Halo 2 this was planned to be an interim episodes instead of taking up its own cozy spot on the weekly schedule, but the more I dove into the two disc Essentials and everything involved, yeah there was no way I could get this done as a mere aside.  There are A LOT of features on these discs and plenty to talk about, so let’s not waste any more time and dive right in!


Halo 3 Essentials (Bonus Features) – 2007

We’ll start things off with how they were released.  The first disc which was released in both the Collector’s and Legendary editions of Halo 3 is something I SOMEHOW managed to get a copy of many years ago (I’m still baffled that this thing wound its way in my collection) and only works on an Xbox 360 console.  I can’t even find information confirming that it works on Xbox One or Series S/X, so unless you’re like me and can’t throw away anything this disc and its content are going to be hard to get ahold of going forward.  The second disc on the other hand which was only available on the Legendary Edition is a simple DVD and will work in anything that plays those.  Considering the massive marketing campaign around this game it’s no surprise that something like this was added to the game to entice people to spend a little more, and I’m not sure how many games even bother with this kind of stuff anymore.  I remember the PS2 having a few games that had some pretty cool bonus features like God of War having a ton of Making Of videos and even something like Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am having an episode of the show on it, but I guess with YouTube being so accessible that companies will just post stuff on there if they even feel like bothering with it; and even then a lot of it is pre-release so there’s always the sense of it still trying to sell you on something whereas these kind of features are more of a celebration after the fact.  In any case, there’s a lot to talk about here so we’ll group them together into loose categories to try and cover a little bit of everything.


Making Of Features

Now this includes the VERY extensive Making Of feature on disc 1, Seven Steps to World Domination on disc 2, and the unfortunately yet still appropriately named Git Tur Wurk back on disc 1. The Making Of document is the pick of the litter here as it’s a full hour but is filled with some VERY cool stuff about how the game was developed.  It’s well produced, we get insights into many of the interesting tools used, and the enthusiasm of those being interviewed is infectious.  Just hearing Xi Wang, one of the Graphics Engineers, talking in depth about the water engine is engaging and I learned about things you could do with the water in Halo 3 that I would have never even thought about!  There’s stuff like that, the in depth showcase of the damage system, the way the tested the online servers with teams in Japan, but my favorite bit was their play testing process!  There’s this really nifty tool they had where they would have play testers play the game and be able to report issues while in game.  Then, the developers not only get a list of these issues, they know exactly where in the level it occurred and can even watch a replay of the player playing the game at that time!  That is just really cool to me and I’m now wondering if this kind of software is standard in the industry!

If only they had this for the first game!  The Library level would just be one big sea of red!
Continue reading “Twenty Years of Halo: Halo 3 Essentials & Halo Landfall”