Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Rise of Nightwing

Well, I think we finally have the Nightwing we've all been waiting for.

At least, in Heroclix.

There's already been a Nightwing Heroclix figure; it was in the first DC set. But in the first set Heroclix designers didn't quite have the hang of how to use the dials and the mechanics of the game to represent comic book characters.

The original figure did do some cool things, particularly his double incapacitate, which allowed him to paralyze two opponents with one attack. But, like many early figures, he had a glass jaw and very little utility in his lower dial.

Naturally, this did not please the Wingnut crowd, and they've been clamoring in vain for a new Nightwing in each subsequent DC set. They've had no luck and had to stand by and watch Wizkids put out the Vampire Batman, Batman With Kryptonite Gloves, the Golden Age Batman, Kingdom Come Batman, Parachuting Batman, Batman One Million, and Batman&Robin. Even worse, they've had to stand by like ill-coutured bridesmaids as Wizkids, rather than making a new Nightwing, wasted slots on figures like Lady Shiva, two Starfires, the Human Defense Corps, Kobra, Maxima, Rocket Red, Jade, Jinx, Hyena, Azrael, the Shining Knight, Black Mask, Katana, Vixen, Alloy, Copperhed, Aztek, Firehawk, Merlin, Zauriel...

and Geo-Force. Shudder. I mean, Geo-Force; really.

But for the Wingnuts, the sun has now risen! I can't imagine how many of these little boys'll be under Devin Greyson's pillows. So to speak.

Dual Membership Nightwing can use the Outsiders and Titans team abilities and possesses the Outsiders and Titans team symbols.
Nightwing can divide his time among all those teams for the first three slots of his dial, when he also has another special power to give him some mobility and protection:
Acrobat Nightwing can use Combat Reflexes, Energy Shield/Deflection, and Leap/Climb.
That’s a +2 to his defense against both ranged and close combat attacks, and even if the power is countered by an opponent’s Outwit, his defense values remain solid. Pair that with a 6 range for his BATARANGS (Incapacitate) and Leadership on his opening slot, and he’s ready to lead his allies into battle and set up his opponents for his friends’ attacks.

Past his opening slot, Nightwing provides cover for himself and his allies using SMOKE PELLETS (Smoke Cloud) and can tweak combat values as needed, since he was TRAINED BY THE BAT (Perplex).

Deeper in his dial, Nightwing’s combat values remain steady—with his defense value even climbing back up (still buffered by Combat Reflexes!) as he gets his second wind and his final special power:
Fisticuffs Nightwing can use Flurry.

Holy hot stuff! What a great dial! Now, the whole Outsider and Titan abilities thing doesn't thrill me, because I find those abilities dumb and confusing, and the teams they represent don't interest me much either. But his very strong defensive abilities are a great plus and a dial full of Perplex and Outwit makes him a great addition to the Batman Family.

The new Nightwing dial is a perfect example of using the "Special Powers" mechanic to overcome a design flaw in the original set up of the Heroclix dial, that is, the inability to give a figure more than one power in the same place on its dial.

  • Wizkids has used to special powers to give Nightwing not one, not two, but three team abilities at the same time.
  • One of those is the Batman Ability, which, being equivalent to Stealth, allows Nightwing to have that wicked combo of Stealth (the ability to hide in certain terrain, forcing your opponents to attack you in close combat instead of from a distance) and Leap/Climb (the ability to leap away before an opponent can make a close combat attack!).
  • Similarly, "Fisticuffs" lets Nightwing have Flurry, too (the ability to make two close combat attacks against an opponent in the same turn). So, while on a old dial, a figure would have been able to have only one of the three powers Flurry, Leap/Climb, and Stealth, Nightwing has all three at the same time!
  • And, of course, "Acrobat" gives Nightwing two defensive powers at the same time (which certainly solves his old "glass jaw" problem!).

With this newly useful Nightwing, look for a return to some classic Batfamily teams, like

  1. The wickedly sneaky "Out of the Shadows" Batman (74 points)
  2. The new multipurpose Nightwing (79 points)
  3. The Batman Team Tim Drake/Robin (42 points).
  4. Put the "Flashbang" feat (5 points) that lets a figure use its Smoke Cloud as a free action on any one of these guys (probably Batman, though)!

Now, that's 200 points of pure batarang-bopping fun!

Wizkids finally "gets" Nightwing (which is more than I can currently say for DC). Maybe we should have the the Wizkids designers write Nightwing's series, too...?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • A clever use for Superman Prime! And it just might turn the tide of battle... .
  • Bolshevik mutants.
  • Happy Terrill, back in action!
  • I don't think Blue Beetle is Teen Titans material, either; he's better than that.
  • It's always fun to see Scarface get riddled with bullets.
  • Fruit Boy. God bless you, Jim Shooter. I expect to see Fruit Boy meet Blockade Boy any day now.
  • Wonder Woman, and gorillas, fighting Nazis. Is there nothing Gail Simone cannot do?
  • Eclipso -- the real one -- returns and demonstrates diffraction.
  • See? Megan, like all Martians, is insane.
  • The Joker's teddy bear.
  • Donna Troy and the Myrmidons. Which, in case you don't already get it, it is not half bad Classical literature joke.
  • Good lord; Neon the Unknown!
  • Zork, zizz, cruk, and zeezee. Particularly zeezee, which makes so much sense it hurts.
  • "Chum". Nice touch!
  • Hey, Garth, "please put your hand down." Absolutely priceless.
  • I'm glad Cassie broke up with Tim. I don't think they're a good pair.
  • "Vitamin K".
  • Saturn Girl can animate unconscious bodies? Cool. Creepy.
  • Aquaman reads Superman & Batman the riot act.
  • I dislike Ravager more and more each time I see her. When is her comeuppance due?
  • Blue Beetle's crazy/ingenious plan, that leaves him naked and powerless in the hands of his enemies.
  • "I am pierced but remain unbowed." Hippolyta rocks. Please don't kill her. Again.
  • The fortitude of Black Condor. He is so hot.
  • The Spectre got pummelled; BWA-HA-HA!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mercury Rising

In other zany news, there are four (!) new previews available of the forthcoming DC Heroclix set, Crisis.

Psimon, Forerunner, and Klarion don't float my boat; nice dials, but the characters don't interest me.

But Mercury of the Metal Man? Hot liquid dang at room temperature!Best part? He's only 25 points! And a fairly useful 25 points, at that...

Leap/Climb, Smoke Cloud, Flurry, Shape Change. He sort of ... Robinesque.

Now I wonder whether the rest of the Metal Men will each be 25 points or a similarly low number, resulting in easy composed 100/200 point Metal Men teams.

They need a Doc Magnus figure with some Outwit, some Leadership, and lots of a special power, say, "REPAIR", that grants him Support for figures with the Metal Men keyword (or even the Robot keyword, since he seems to be the go-to guy for robot repair).

What are you expecting now from the other Metal Men? Will Gold and Platinum have Elasticity? Will Lead have Defend or Barrier? Will Iron have Toughness? Will Tin have... okay, what the heck would Tin have?

Last Laugh

Heath Ledger, dead at 28.

Well, that's a surprise.

I'm assuming that since the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was still filming, and that The Dark Knight is in post-production, that the Dark Knight will wind up being his final movie and the Joker his last finished role.

Whether his death turns out to have been suicide or an accident, it's certainly going to lend even more gravitas (and pathos) to his portrayal of the nihilistic Joker, the role that was expected to put him on a whole new level as an actor.

Naturally, Ledger's had quite a few interesting roles, even for one who was so young. But for those of us who are comic book fans, this is surely be the one that will matter most. There are only a handful of people who've portrayed the Joker: the effervescent Cesar Romero, the unpredictable Mark Hamill, the predictable Jack Nicholson, the reliable Ted Knight, the remarkable Kevin Michael Richardson, and, now,

the late Heath Ledger.

I welcome his forthcoming addition to his own legacy and that of the role of the Joker.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Argonauts of...JUSTICE!

I'm going to see a traveling production of the Argonautika that's now here in DC. That's a play that's been made out of a poem that Apollonius Rhodius wrote about the Argonauts. I know a lot of people have heard of the Argonauts, but don't know much about them.

The Argonauts were kind of the ancient mythic version of the Justice League/Society, a collection of all the big heroes and doers of deeds of the day. A lot of the Argonauts were also in other big crossover events of the time, like the Calydonian Boar Hunt and the Trojan War. To help you understand them, I thought I'd explain in terms of the heroes we read about today.
By the way, if all those movies about the Argonauts had used some of the cool powers the original gang had, they would have been a lot more interesting, kind of like Heroes with nothing but oily dark-haired men in scanty costumes... !

Nestor was a tedious old windbag who was about 110, and was full of unwanted advice and lectures about how much better people were in the old days. Whenever Nestor opened his mouth, that's pretty much the readers clue to kick back and put your feet up, and pretend your visiting you're grandfather. For Nestor, read ALAN SCOTT.

Zetes and Calais were brothers. They actually had wings and could fly, because of their crazy origin of being the kids of the King of the Winds, Boreas. They were also really horny devils, because they were always pestering Hylas, the group's pretty boy. So, despite the gender difference think of them as HAWKMAN and HAWKGIRL.

Herakles I'm sure you already know; big strong man. Ordinarily, I'd want to associate Herakles with Superman, the JLA's strong man. But Herakles was generally portrayed as bone stupid. Therefore, for Herakles imagine HAL JORDAN.

Herakles had a little sidekick (lover, really), his cousin, Hylas. Hylas was a total pretty boy and always getting in trouble because of it. For Hylas, imagine KYLE RAYNER.

Okay, seriously, Herakles was so powerful that he actually created story-telling problems (since he could pretty much single-handedly beat the snot out of anyone the Argonauts encountered). In that sense, he is very very much SUPERMAN.

Odysseus was the Smart One. Oh, sure, he could fight, but he preferred to use his wiles and wits. He also had a really popular stand alone book of his own, where he fought lots of bizarre enemies. For Odysseus, picture BATMAN.

Philoctetes was a master bowman whose feet stank. Nobody could stand him, so the other heroes marooned him on an island. For Philoctetes, read GREEN ARROW.

Tiphys was the original master helmsman of the Argonauts ship, but he died mysteriously and was replaced by Ancaeus, another helmsman who had little use for religion or prophecy. For Tiphys and Ancaeus, I choose the original and the new MISTER TERRIFIC.

Atalanta. Well, she was strong and fast. And the only woman. That pretty much makes her WONDER WOMAN, by default.

Argus was the builder, the designer; he made their ship, modestly naming it the Argo. That would have to be JOHN STEWART, I guess, since he's the only architect/designer in the entire DCUniverse.

Butes was a great lover, a king, and a bee keeper. So even though he was more of a queen, we give this one to THE RED BEE.

Euphemus could walk on water ... literally. That's because he was the son of Poseidon, god of the sea. So Euphemus kind of has to be AQUAMAN.

Autolycus (yeah, like the guy on Xena, *sigh*) was a master thief and infiltrator. So to me that's got to be the quiet and sneaky MARTIAN MANHUNTER.

Orpheus is remembered mostly as a musician, but he practiced medicine, augury, and the magical arts. He was a magical utility tool, so we name him DR. FATE.

Medea was a trampy, vicious, witch. No contest: ZATANNA.

Iphiclus was a very fast runner and had trouble with impotence. Yes, really. Let Iphiclus be THE FLASH.

Aethalides; cool guy. He was the son of Hermes from whom he received the gift of total recall. Ironic that some one who could forget nothing is no longer remembered. He was the herald of the Argonauts. Let's term him ORACLE.

Bellerophon. Well, he did lots of cool stuff, but really he's remembered because of his flying horse, Pegasus, so THE SHINING KNIGHT is not a bad way to think of him.

Oh, you thought Perseus had Pergasus? No, that's a Renaissance add-on to his myth, perpetuated by Harry Hamlin. Don't believe everything you see in the movies, folks. Perseus had no natural superpowers, but was really smart and had a knack for picking up superpowerful objects and using them to kill crazy monsters and villains. Let's think of him as THE GOLDEN AGE STARMAN.

Poriclymenus had the superpower of shape-shifting into different animals. No, I'm not making this stuff up. Poriclymenus is BEAST BOY.

Lynceus had supersight, even X-ray vision. Not much more too him than that, and the closest thing I can come up with is DR. MID-NIGHT.

Jason was a very accomplished, naturally noble youth who tended to sleep with people he shouldn't. Let's just call him NIGHTWING, for short.

Polydeuces had a lot of relationships with Big People in Big Myths. But we don't care about that. Polydeuces was a great boxer, having defeated the great boxer and demigod Amycus. So Polydeuces can be WILDCAT.

There are lots of more Argonauts-- around 50 total -- but many of those are colorless also-rans.

We call them GEO-FORCE.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The New Original Teen Titans!

More and more of the forthcoming Crisis set of Heroclix is being released, and, while some of it interests me less than zero (e.g., Harbinger, Mammoth, Jericho), other figures are simply peachy.

I've previously mentioned my joy at Uncle Sam, but now we're getting some love for the original Teen Titans, too! They are nice low-cost figures with unique tactical advantages that make them very playable figures, without needing to be high-powered brutes.

The new, original Kid Flash figure doesn't just have hypersonic speed. He has the special ability to run at hyperspeed up walls or through them! And he has another special power that let's him blow adjacent foes away with a little tornado, using Force Blast as a free action. Finally, a Flash who can do what Flashes do. And at 45 points, he's a steal.

The new, original Wonder Girl has many of the standard powers you'd expect: Flurry and Charge to represent her speed, Superstrength and Toughness, Leap/Climb for agility, and Deflection for bullets and bracelets. At 94 points, she's the costliest of the New Original Teen Titans. But she's not just another flying chick brick!

She's got some Running Shot and a special "Tie Up" power that let's her incapacitate two foes who are adjacent to each other. What an amusing, accurate, and useful way of representing her use of her lasso! Look for her to be the new antidote to flying foes who are 'taxiing' tank-like buddies. Plus, she's got Enhancement, the ability to increase the damage done by adjacent allies. So expect her to be regularly accompanied by her new best friend...

Speedy, the Boy Bowman. Oh, this one's just a masterpiece. He's got some predictable standards: "Grappling Hook Arrow" (Leap/Climb), "Dodge" (Deflection), "Determined" (Willpower), "Speedy" (Running Shot). But it's his special powers that shine.

"Brave Bow's Apprentice" gives him a plus +1 attack value on a ranged attack. This is something all the bowslingers should have! But his special "Trick Arrows" ability lets him dissolve barrier markers ("acid arrows"!) or dissipate smoke barrier markers ("fan arrows"!); three at a time! Previously, there was no figure that could effectively deal with these kinds of barriers, and Speedy's going to be a very popular guy, particularly when teamed with other long-range fighters (such as the other members of the Arrow family). Like Kid Flash, he's a mere 45 fricking points and a steal.

Of course, I've saved my favorite for last: the Big-Headed Purple-Eyed Freak figure. Or, as some people call him, Aqualad. He's got the requisite Superstrength, Willpower, Toughness, and Aquatic ability. But the Maritime Goofus also has a special power, Up From the Depths, that grants him Charge, plus blocking any line of fire to him as long as he is in a water square. And I mean any line of fire; those neat little tricks like the Superman Ability that ordinarily might let you fire at hidden figures do NOT work on Aqualad. Yes, the Chicken of the Sea's special power is ... hiding.

And I simply love it.