Twenty Years of Halo: Halo Believe & Iris

Artwork by Usbaia

The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios

We’ll be talking about Halo 3 very soon, but while that game was gearing up for its release Bungie released another ARG to hype it up.  Unlike I Love Bees however, this was a VERY scaled down affair as everything seems to have been developed in house with their Franchise Development Director Frank O’Connor writing it himself, and it all took place within Bungie’s forums as opposed to a series of interconnected websites, telephone calls, and a five hour audio drama portioned out in bits and pieces.  On the one hand I am a little bit relieved that I don’t have as much content to work through to try and understand what’s going on, but it does feel a bit odd that the BIGGER AND BETTER Xbox 360 entry in the series didn’t get the same kind of extensive marketing campaign.  Instead, we got one of the most extensive direct marketing campaigns for a video game ever produced at that point which we’ll be talking about it here as well!  Let’s get started!

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Halo: Believe (Marketing Campaign) – 2007

Produced by New Deal Studios

Perhaps it’s a bit gauche to try and put a bunch of ads in the greater context of a series like this, but that trailer with the action figures is definitely one of the strongest memories I have about this franchise and it always stuck with me as something that really captured what made Halo so compelling!  That and the Iris recap was coming up a bit short, so why not take a little detour for the heck of it?  Frankly we could talk about the ENTIRE Halo 3 marketing campaign which ultimately cost Microsoft FORTY MILLION DOLLARS but was ultimately worth it as Halo 3 sold over three million copies in its first week.  We’re going to limit it to this campaign though as I found it to be the most interesting to talk about and frankly I don’t want to try and track down every can of Halo 3 branded soda or figure out what the heck ActionClix are. 

Harvested right from the furrowed brows and pit stained graphic tees of true gamers then mixed with ten pounds of sugar and trademark RED MYSTERY FLAVOR! Nothing tastes sweeter than victory, but we sure as heck tried with this!
Continue reading “Twenty Years of Halo: Halo Believe & Iris”

Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (04-07-2021)

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

AEW has been knocking it out of the park in recent weeks with last week’s show being one of the best episodes they’ve done in some time!  Still, it’s going to be a rough week for AEW to win the night as NXT’s final show, which is ALSO one of their Takeover events, is stacked from top to bottom with PPV caliber matches.  Can AEW put on something to compete with NXT in their final head to head week before NXT moves to Tuesday nights, or are they gonna call this one a loss from the get go?  Let’s find out!!

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Hangman Adam Page Vs. Max Caster

Caster is accompanied to the ring by Anthony Bowens

A few days ago, Dave Meltzer made a very good examination of AEW’s booking and the flaws that have crept up the last year; mostly due to the inflating roster leading to stories that are much more thinly spread.  It was a good point and Dave made it well, but for me the bigger problem is Dark and Elevation and how they affect the ranking system.  As Max Castor entered the ring, a guy we haven’t seen in weeks and rarely if ever wins matches on Dynamite, is announced as the NUMBER THREE CONTENDER.  I checked the website after the show, and he is right below Jon Moxley and two spots above Cody Rhodes; something that simply DID NOT translate in this match as even the commentators kept referring to him as a rookie.  Dark and Elevation are GREAT for getting some of these new guys ring time and for putting on some fun matches that may not have worked on Wednesdays, but using matches on there for the TV rankings ends up being jarring for us who only keep up with Dynamite.  Perhaps wins and losses should only count if they’re on Dynamite, or maybe should book people on Dynamite BEFORE they’re in the top five.  In any case, Caster ends up proving the flaws in this system as he gets systematically destroyed by The Hangman with his only moments of dominance due to Anthony Bowens’ interference.  The match is fine I suppose as a one sided beat down, but I’m just not sold on Caster as a particularly interesting heel; either when he’s getting beat up or when he’s cheating his way to the top.  That said, it could be that the match itself is kind of booked blandly and even Hangman seems kind of boring in this.  There’s this overly convoluted spot where he puts Caster crotch first on the guard rail before SLOWLY getting up on the guard rail himself to do a jumping clothesline, and yet it’s PROBABLY the most interesting spot in the whole match?  I mean what else is there?  Caster working over Hangman’s arm?  Using a chain to get a cheap shot that only gets a two count?  It just never had much of a spark for me and by the time Hangman got the Buckshot Lariat I was ready for it to be over.  AEW almost always delivers on the opening match and while this wasn’t TERRIBLE, it just wasn’t up to their usual standards.

Continue reading “Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (04-07-2021)”

Twenty Years of Halo: Halo Uprising & Contact Harvest

Artwork by Usbaia

The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios

With the success of the Halo Graphic Novel, the franchise was destined for further success in the comic book market with Marvel calling dibs on it!  Their first outing is the four part mini-series Halo Uprising which we’ll be looking at today as well as the next entry in the seemingly never-ending Halo book series Contact Harvest!  Will both of these be an improvement over the LAST Halo Book club we did?  Let’s find out!!

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Halo Uprising (Comic Book) – 2007

Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Published by Marvel Comics

You know, I thought getting the series away from Bungie and laying down a narrative structure instead of letting them try to dictate every aspect of it like they did with the Graphic Novel might have given the series a new perspective and frankly give us a compelling narrative but sadly neither is the case as this short series is just a mess.  We cut back and forth between Chief doing something of absolutely no consequence (I’m sure this room full of aliens he killed here will make ALL the difference in the war effort), and an on the ground invasion story as we follow two people who are stuck in Cleveland when The Covenant attack the city looking for some sort of Earth artifact which a captured UNSC officer gave The Covenant bad intel about; assuming that having them tear up one city would keep them too busy from blowing up the entire Earth.  His brother Ruwan and a world famous pop star Myras just so happen to be at the same place when the aliens attack and they go all over town looking for the UNSC; not just to save themselves but because Ruwan KNOWS this is a wild goose chase as the artifact they’re looking for is a made up item he and his brother used to use in a role playing game.  The book does not shy away from some VERY dark imagery which it handles with all the care and reverence of a grumpy bull in a very cramped china shop.  I made allusions to the Thermian argument in my review of Ghost of Onyx to explain why it’s fair game to criticize content within the book despite in-universe justifications, and this comic has a similar issue where it uses an in-universe calamity to justify some rather tasteless swipes at pop culture and pop stars specifically.

Wow, you know I thought pop music was perfectly fine but seeing a pop star running from aliens has opened my eyes that it’s pointless drivel!  After all, if it can’t stop a bullet from going in your head, is it REALLY that important?
Continue reading “Twenty Years of Halo: Halo Uprising & Contact Harvest”

Cinema Dispatch: Godzilla vs. Kong

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Godzilla vs. Kong and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Adam Wingard

It’s no secret that I was not a fan of King of the Monsters which was particularly surprising to me as I always get a kick out of seeing giant monster movies!  There was just too much pretention and import without enough depth or butt kicking fight scenes to justify how lethargic much of it was, but if there was anything about the movie that caught my interest (aside from them using the Blue Oyster Cult song for the credits), it was the promise of seeing Godzilla and the King Kong from Kong: Skull Island lace up the gloves and duke it out in a battle to end all battles!  Well the one thing that giant monsters were not able to overcome was the Pandemic as this got pushed back for several months, but the day has finally arrived and they even put it on HBO Max to boot!  Is this the titanic clash between two legendary movie monsters we’ve all been waiting for, or is this a bigger letdown than Batman v Superman?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Monarch has decided that instead of leaving Kong alone on his mysterious island that is probably not even on Godzilla’s radar, they’ll capture him, chain him up, and put him in a fake jungle so that… I guess he and Godzilla don’t have a punch up.  It seems that Kong himself wasn’t consulted on this as he’s constantly wrecking up his cage and has to be restrained whenever he’s out of it, but in any case, along with that there’s a new Super Science company in town named Apex run by some dude named Walter (Demián Bichir) who believes that there’s some sort of Unobtanium-like SUPER OIL that requires drilling even deeper into the Earth to get.  How deep?  Well so deep that apparently you empty out into a whole new world which is where the monsters they’ve been dealing with are actually from.  A rag tag team of scientists are assembled to try and prove this Hollow Earth theory and since they’ve already got a giant monster under lock and key, they can use his… something something science babble to help them find the entrance to the Hollow Earth and make perhaps the greatest discovery in all of human history!  Said team is made up of some geologist dude (Alexander Skarsgård), Kong’s caretaker (Rebecca Hall), her adopted daughter (Kaylee Hottle), and Walter’s very annoyed daughter (Eiza González) along with like five or six nameless army dudes. Now all this however assumes that Godzilla, the supposed protector of Earth, doesn’t come in and wreck Apex/Monarch’s plans, but hey I guess if they’ve got Kong on hand anyway, why not let him punch the giant lizard a few times along the way?  Oh, and Millie Bobby Brown is back on a Goonies adventure to discover the secrets of Apex along with a nerd (Julian Dennison) and a conspiracy theorist (Brian Tyree Henry) who has no problem dragged teenagers along on a life threatening adventure.  Then again, Rebecca Hall has someone even younger tagging along with her, so either way there seems to be way too many irresponsible grown-ups running around here.  Will Apex and Monarch be able to find the hidden entrance to the Hollow Earth and perhaps find some answers about Kong as well?  What does Apex want with this new energy source, and could Godzilla’s recent aggression towards them be somehow connected?  Am I the only one picturing a better movie where the giant ape and the giant lizard just say SCREW this and work together to destroy everyone involved with this ridiculous venture!?

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“Join me, brother! These humans care NOTHING for our kind!” “I would, but… your face… is so… PUNCHABLE!!”
Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Godzilla vs. Kong”

Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (03-31-2021)

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

We’re back with another week of Dynamite action and frankly I’m excited to see what they do!  They’ve been on something of a hot streak lately with great matches from top to bottom with this week looking to be no different!  Can they keep up the momentum they’ve worked hard to build, or are they running out of steam sooner rather than later?  Let’s find out!!

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Christian Cage Vs. Frankie Kazarian

We start things off with the self-proclaimed Work Horse of AEW finally lacing up his boots and getting in the ring with the ACTUAL workhorse of the company.  Frankly, that’s the big issue I had with this match; Christian Cage is good, but I just don’t buy the gimmick.  Now they DO seem to be playing with that a little bit as Kazarian is the heel who just keeps overwhelming the Baby Face, but it’s not exactly the first match I would have if my gimmick is that I’m the best worker around.  Still, Cage isn’t here to coast as he takes a NASTY bump early on from the top turnbuckle to the ground (managing to smash his side on the apron on his way down) and even though he looks COMPLETELY exhausted by the halfway point he manages to make his way to the end of the match without missing a step.  Well… maybe a LITTLE bit.  There’s an awkward looking escape from here where he rolls over Kazarian’s back at one point, and there are a couple of submission holds that look suspiciously like rest holds, but it’s still a solid match with a decent arc to it. Kazarian knows he’s running away with this as he gets in Cage’s face during his advantage, and even when Cage fires back Kazarian is always ready to reverse his fortunes.  To make matters worse, Kazarian starts choking out Cage and the guy nearly passes out which is not doing much for his stamina.  Cage EVENTUALLY manages to fight back to a standing position, but Kazarian knocks him back down to further cement his domination this early on in the match.  Eventually Cage mounts a comeback with a Swinging DDT from the middle rope that Kazarian bumps big for but still kicks out at two, but even with that he’s finally gets his second wind and starts fighting off Kazarian with a bunch of chops followed by a Diving European Uppercut which also gets a two count.  The rest of the match is not unlike Kenny Omega’s usual shtick where Cage keeps going for his finisher The Killswitch but Kazarian finds more and more ways to slip out of it and continue his offensive with moves like a Springboard Leg Drop, the Flux Capacitor, and a the dreaded Crossface Chicken Wing.  To Cage’s credit he manages to survive by fighting smart and using rules like rope breaks to his advantage, but Kazarian seems to barely be fazed after all this time while Cage is hanging on for dear life.  The tide finally turns when Cage manages to snap his neck on the top rope and lands a Frog Splash from the top turnbuckle.  With Kazarian nice and softened up and with the match’s time limit looming, Cage finally lands the Killswitch and gets the pin; winning his first match at AEW.  It was a solid match to be sure, but after watching it I think they need to rethink Christian Cage’s character.  I like what I saw of Cage, but not in terms of OUT WORKING EVERYONE.  Out SMARTING Everyone?  Maybe even Out WRESTLING Everyone?  Perhaps those would work better because WORK has a specific connotation in wrestling and I just didn’t see Cage as the best exemplar of it; especially when there’s no better example of someone who works harder than Kazarian who proved it here even in giving Cage the win. 

Continue reading “Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (03-31-2021)”

Twenty Years of Halo: Red Vs Blue Season 5, Out of Mind, and Recovery One

Artwork by Usbaia

The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios

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

Red vs Blue began in 2003 and it swiftly became a phenomenon with mainstream success, DVD releases, and I’m pretty sure they played episodes of it on the G4 network when that was still a thing.  With the popularity of this series rising as fast as Halo’s popularity, it may seem like a strange idea for them to close the book on The Blood Gulch Chronicles after five seasons, but it was soon clear that Rooster Teeth wasn’t saying goodbye to the series; just this version of it.  So today we’ll be looking at the final season of the show as well as its early attempts to expand the franchise and build on its lore to see the groundwork for future seasons.  Does the show end with a bang, or was it clear they need to take things in a new direction sooner rather than later?  Let’s get started!!

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Season 5 – 2006-2007

The Blood Gulch Chronicles is a perfect parabola of quality as the series reaches its peak at season three and goes downhill at about the same rate.  Where season 1 was rather primitive and a bit too mean spirited for me, it at least had the excuse of being a brand new thing from a group of inexperienced creatives so there was naturally going to be a learning curve.  Season five on the other hand, despite having four seasons of experience behind it, just feels like a total regression of all the series’ biggest bugbears.  The humor in particular is utterly obnoxious as we’re right back to sniping at each other with every offhand comment or very simple statement of clarification followed by someone calling them stupid, fat, girly, etc.  Donut as a character thankfully doesn’t regress to his per-season 4 self, but boy does everyone else lay into him a lot more here and it’s never funny.  Perhaps the worst addition is Griff’s sister who is a one dimensional “dumb blonde” stereotype only on hand to act ditzy and be a sexual object for everyone to lust after at the expense of Griff.  She doesn’t even get a name!  She’s just called Sister throughout the season!  The whole season is painfully misogynistic with Church in particular throwing out barbs at both Sister and Tex, and the writing for the two women on hand (excluding Sheila the tank) is just lacking in any sort of wit which is a shame because it’s clear that Tex is a HUGE piece of the ongoing story once we finally get out of Blood Gulch.

“GIRLY THINGS!”     “Hey, we’ve already got Donut for that!”     “Yeah, but that joke ran its course two seasons ago.”     “Clearly you haven’t learned the finer points of beating a dead horse!”
Continue reading “Twenty Years of Halo: Red Vs Blue Season 5, Out of Mind, and Recovery One”

Cinema Dispatch: Nobody

Nobody and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Ilya Naishuller

I recently got around to catching up on Better Call Saul (at least the seasons on Netflix), so Bob Odenkirk has been on my mind lately and is definitely one of those underrated actors that should be getting more mainstream roles.  Of course there are plenty of mid-tier TV actors like that, most of which were also on Breaking Bad, but Odenkirk is one of those fun cases of a guy who started out in comedy and found a way to effectively bridge that into more dramatic roles; and the fact that he discovered Tim & Eric and even works on most of their shows landed him a soft spot with me!  Hearing that he was in a movie about getting the crap kicked out of him definitely perked my interest as it means he’ll be taking another step outside of his established comfort zone into the realm of Dad Action Heroes, but can he find success hoping genres once again, or is Bob more comfortable playing characters who talk the talk instead of walk the walk?  Let’s find out!!

Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) is your typical suburban dad.  He goes to work each day, forgets to take out the garbage before the truck arrives, and has kids who could take or leave his presence.  In and out, it’s always the same and while he’s not exactly HAPPY he seems at least content enough to let this routine keep going until it runs its course.  That is until his house is broken into one night and he just lets the thieves go instead of even TRYING to take them down.  His son (Gage Munroe) is pretty upset that he didn’t do anything during the robbery (especially since he himself took a punch to the face), but he heeds them no mind as he returns to his very normal life.  That is until it turns out they stole something that belonged to his daughter, and something finally clicks within him as he seems to have a lot more anger in his heart and skills in his head than he was leading on about, and he needs to find a way to get back at them for what they did.  In the course of doing this, he crosses someone who has some VERY high connections and so becomes a target of a city wide manhunt, and so can’t just put the genie back in the bottle after his little rage relapse.  He now has to contend with the Russian mafia who are not just after him but after his family as well, and so now has to dig up all the guns, pull all the skeletons out of his closet, and perhaps give up this comfortable life the he had set up for himself.  What exactly did Hutch do in his past that made him such a formidable butt kicker, and how did he wind up in the suburbs?  Will he still have a family to go back to once this is all over, or will this be the last hurrah for a man who just couldn’t make the simple life work for him?  Is it just me, or would he have made a MUCH better Joker than the one we got in Joker?  Or even Justice League for that matter…

“You wanna know how I got these scars?  Ask Mr. Whiskers over there, the testy bastard.”
Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Nobody”

Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (03-24-2021)

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

Last week’s episode wasn’t exactly a barn burner for the first half or so, but it definitely managed to come together by the end with one of the most spectacular women’s matches in quite some time as Thunder Rosa just barely won out against Britt Baker in a Lights Out match at the end of the show.  Fortunately they aren’t trying to recreate that magic this week (you throw in THAT many hardcore matches, you’re liable not to have a roster before long), but with so much hype following that match can AEW put on a fantastic show to keep everyone’s interest despite a more modest card?  Let’s find out!!

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Kenny Omega Vs. Matt Sydal – AEW World Title Match Qualifier

They do a good job of recapping the events that led up to this which were on AEW Dark Elevation, as Matt Sydal beat Micahel Nakazawa to get this match which is NOT for the title but if he wins this match he WILL get a title fight.  I guess when your win-loss record is as spotty as Sydal’s that having to win TWICE is a fair compromise for jumping over everyone else, and it means that Kenny gets to open the show which is certainly a good way to start things off!  Despite Sydal’s inability to win ANY match on Dynamite, the guy is an unbelievable talent and proves to be a good foil for Omega as Sydal proves to have him beat in agility and coordination while Omega has the power to stop him in his tracks.  It goes back and forth between Sydal doing fun flippy stuff that leaves Omega befuddled and Omega bashing Sydal so hard that it nearly knocks him out of his wrestling boots.  Sydal eventually starts to get some momentum and gives Kenny a run for his money; even getting a two count off a Hurricanrana that launched Kenny from the middle rope to the middle of the ring followed by a Brain Buster that left Kenny flat on his back.  This failed pin attempt leads to Kenny’s slow, methodical, and downright sadistic comeback where he starts playing the greatest hits for the crowd, but he fails to land the V-Trigger and Sdyal gets a VERY close two count out of it.  Kenny then throws Sydal in a way similar to a Buckle Bomb to soften Sydal up and lands a few V-Triggers for good measure.  However, he pushes his luck and tries to land a One Winged Angel which Sydal reverses out of; giving him a momentary retrieve and one last chance to win this.  Kenny goes for the One Winged Angel again and Sydal manages to once again escape to somehow get an even CLOSER two count!  Third time proves to be the charm however as Kenny gives him a V-Trigger as soon as he pops out of the pin and finally lands the One Winged Angel to get the win.  Sydal’s a guy who looks good even in defeat and there’s really no reason for him to have won this match considering he has nothing to do with the bigger title picture, but seeing him here only reinforces how great it’ll be once he FINALLY gets that big win on television; especially if the match is even half as good as this one!

Continue reading “Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (03-24-2021)”

Cinema Dispatch: Justice League v Justice League – Dawn of Judgement

Justice League 2017 & Justice League 2021 as well as all the images you see are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Both films directed by Zack Snyder

I can’t say I was ever looking forward to this day as I was one of the people who actually LIKED the original cut of Justice League and then spent the last four years seeing people opine (and worse) for a movie that they already got; not to mention the awful news that broke about how the reshoots went for Ray Fisher.  Still, Warner Bros is looking for ANY sort of cash cow to make their HBO Max service a success, so they threw a bunch of money at Zack Snyder and company to make an extended version of the movie they already made and feed into the LOST SNYDER CUT narrative that has been stuck with us for so long.  Now that the movie is finally out, was it worth all the hype and can it possibly justify the ridiculous over the top actions its most ardent supporters took?  Well obviously not, but instead of just doing a straight up review as the films are very similar in a lot of ways, I think it’d be much more interesting to take a look at what this new version gets right as well as where it falls short of the original cut.  Let’s get started, and beware of Spoilers ahead!!

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Something Good: The colors make more sense

The drastic change in pallets between the early trailers and the later ones was a definite sign that things were changing significantly and a lot of scenes in the movie ended up suffering for it.  Batman in particular always looked like an overstuffed sausage in bat-pants stuffed with pudding (which isn’t COMPLETELY gone but is much less prominent now), and there was a garishness to certain scenes where they pushed the colors up just a little bit too high.  The corrections here definitely fit more with what was being filmed and the pallet fits well with the new tone of the movie.

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Something Bad: The colors are more boring

And yet I just couldn’t get behind it.  Sure the colors didn’t always WORK, but for the most part they were bright and colorful which added a much needed cheeriness to a franchise that until then was stuck in its own morose grander.  Thankfully later movies like Shazam, Aquaman, and arguably even Wonder Woman 1984 built a brighter look from the ground up and the aesthetic fits better with those movies, but going back to this kind of look after those films is just deflating; even if it’s more competently done.  And I’m also going to throw this in here, I just don’t get why they insisted on using an IMAX aspect ratio for a moving going to a streaming service.  It’s distracting the whole way through and I never felt like it added anything.

Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Justice League v Justice League – Dawn of Judgement”

Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #38

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

Things certainly got a bit out of hand around here as I’m still reeling from moving places a week ago, and in these uncertain times it’s always good to look at the constants in our life to keep us grounded!  For me it’s wrestling shows and Sonic the Hedgehog comics, so it’s a perfect time for IDW’s latest issue to come out now that things are starting to settle, but will they follow up the last issue with an interesting story that dovetails with Belle the Puppet’s mysterious past, or would I rather be hauling even more boxes up staircases than seeing where this story goes?  Let’s find out!!

We begin the issue with Sonic, Tails, and Amy falling through an infinite void of bizarre geometry with no clear direction or any real way to control it.  No, they didn’t find their way into Sonic R, but the whole place definitely gives off an incomplete video game level vibe as it appears to be some sort of pocket dimension that Eggman uses to test whatever his latest Sonic Killing devices are, and probably a lot of other things that I don’t particularly care to think about…

“There’s a door over there labeled Punishment Room. I wonder what’s in there?” “You know Tails, I’d rather not find out…”
Continue reading “Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #38”