Friday, September 16, 2011

Super Set!

For those of you who don't already know, Wizkids is just a week or so away from coming out with its latest set of figures of Heroclix (the superhero table-top combat game), a set focused on Superman (see set checklist poster below)

Please take down that "Doors of Georgetown" poster on your dorm room wall
and replace it with this; thank you.

Because Superman's rogues gallery is interstellar-but-less-than-stellar, the set is naturally going to have a lot of figures I'll have zero interest in/never play/give away to someone. You know, figures of characters like Lobo, Manchester Black, Darkseid, Magog, Doomsday, and Imperiex. I mean, Imperiex... really.
DC, if you me to continue to take your villains seriously, please stop designing them like something that Rita Repulsa would send against the Power Rangers.

But many other figures will be welcome additions to my "Superman" box of Heroclix figures, including villains (like Silver Banshee, Live Wire, Lex Luthor with Hope and Mercy, the Phantom Zone villains, the Composite Superman and a Libra to pair up with my custom Human Flame against the Martian Marshmallow), a passel of Legionnaires (Brainiac 5, Sensor Girl, Starboy, Invisible Kid, Sun Boy, Earth Man, and sprockin' Matter-Eater Lad, of all people), and some lovable wacky supporting characters (depression-ridden suicide Element Woman, guilt-ridden genius Steel, professional victim the Human Target, crippled schizophrenic Gangbuster, and manipulative mind-controlling murderous despot Max Lord). Yet STILL no Jimmy Olsen; really, DC/Wizkids, what are you thinking...?!

In addition to all the Superman figures, there's also a new Aquaman, Flash, Wonder Woman, and a "The Bat-Man" in the Superman set; a very welcome surprise. I have been frustrated at times trying to compose JLA teams (I mean the REAL JLA, of course, not a haphazard hodgepodge of also-rans like Gongorilla, Green Flame, Aztek, and *urkgh* Geo-Force) because it seems as though there is always one of the Big Eight (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Vibe) who's not been remade recently enough to have a dial that's on par with the others. Even though these new figures are "Flashpoint" alternative universe ones, they probably are not so bizarrely out of whack with the Earth-1 versions that I cannot treat them as such. And, although I haven't seen his dial, the Aquaman sculpt has "Ass-Kicker" written all over it.

Some of figures may not see much play in my Superman games (like Bruno Mannheim and Intergang Underboss minions) but may find use elsewhere. I'm not a fan of Intergang itself, but I like anything that can be re-purposed to beef up my Gotham mobs.

VERY interested in what I hear about the OP Kit (the prize support give to tournament venues for "Organized Play"), particularly the Special Objects (3D objects that are placed on the board and have an effect on gameplay). A rainbow of power batteries, (the 3D Special Objects in the last set) I can do without; but a rainbow of frickin' KRYPTONITE? Oh, we've been waiting ten years for THAT...

Green Kryptonite, sure, that's easy to imagine how those will work: some combination of canceling the powers or changing the combat stats of any figure with the "Kryptonian" keyword within a certain range. But it doesn't stop there; there will be Red Kryptonite, White Kryptonite, Jewel Kryptonite, Gold Kryptonite, and X-Kryptonite. That's simply insane! My mind is a-whirl trying to imagine how the effects of those types of Kryptonite will be represented in gameplay.

Gold K will be like Green K, but more serious with less range. I would think it would do no direct damage, but cancel out all powers, making Superman et al. more vulnerable to attack. Red Kryptonite, well, that's where the real fun would be. It should come with eleven different (primarily absurd) possible effects, determined by roll of the die, that last only one turn!

But those others? That's where my mind stumbles badly. White K; what the hey? The only sensible effect I can imagine is letting it damage Swamp Thing and the Floronic Man. Jewel K; I dunno.... maybe granting mind control to the Phantom Zone villains?And X-Kryptonite? Well, short of providing us with a secret Streaky clix we don't know about, I cannot imagine what the heck Wizkids is going to have X-Kryptonite do. And why on Earth-1 did they make three extremely obscure versions of Kryptonite but not make BLUE K, which could be used against the Bizarro figures? It's all surpassingly strange.

Apparently, a Superman Fast Forces is headed our way in December. A "Fast Forces" is a mini-set, usually containing some of the most universally recognizable characters from the previous set and its theme, but with variant dials; such self-contained mini-sets are designed to be more accessible to beginners to the game. That will be a nice addition I think, since the dials are more likely to be all-around versions of the character rather than ones whose dials are driven by particular storylines (like the All-Star Superman version of Lex Luthor, whose dial makes no sense if you don't know that story).

While I'm happy about some of the figures, I'm still overwhelmingly mystified by some of the omissions. No Prankster but a Queen of Fables? No Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, or Lois Lane, but a Seven Deadly Brothers? The one-off Composite Superman who was a poor man's Amazo rather than the classic god-like Composite Superman with all the powers of the Legion who was the first villain to hands-down with no debate utterly defeat the World's Finest with next to no effort? Another remake of Bizarro (there have been five versions already) when there's never been, say, the Atomic Skull or Atlas or Rampage?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Green Arrow #1 Review

Oh, DC, with your New 52… how I hate you. Because you have ruined one of your most deeply established characters and in the process, you’ve done the unthinkable:

Made me like Green Arrow.

Oh, the mortification! It’s inescapable. Everyone where I go – on the subway, in line at the grocery, standing on the zip-line platform – people casually strike up conversation, as one would, by innocently asking, “So, what did you think of Green Arrow #1?” What can I say? I cannot lie (even though that’s clearly What Superman Would Do). I admit it: I liked Green Arrow #1. Further I liked Green Arrow himself in Green Arrow #1. Sigh. I suppose this is the end of an era.

As I’m sure you’ve already read elsewhere, this version of Green Arrow is basically the love-child of Steve Jobs and James Bond, which is a great combination. What you may not have heard (if you’ve not read the comic) is that he’s got two principal assistants in his secret lair who help him do his “Green Arrow stuff”. They are key, and I’ll tell you why. First, they are slightly annoying in their “intropositioning” and slightly cartoony in their roles as Ideological Symbols. I can’ remember their names – something suitably moderne and Gen X-y, like “Fazner” and “J’mongahela”. The days when characters were named “Bruce and Dick” or “Wendy and Marvin” are long over, I suppose. But, really, who would want assistants named “Wendy and Marvin”, anyway? Anyway, Fazner is the pacifistic weapons designer (“I don’t want to hurt anyone!”) and J’mongahela is a hard-ass computer whiz (“Can’t you just blow these crooks up and be done with it?”).

These characters are annoying naïve and extreme. And making them Ollie’s assistants is nothing short of brilliant… because they are the avatars of Ollie’s Annoying Past Personae. Fazner is Liberal/Naïve/Self-Righteous Ollie (1970s-80s) and J’mongahela is Murderous/Vicious/Impatient Ollie (1990s-2000s). By creating scapegoats for these past aspects of Ollie’s personality, DC is still giving us those viewpoints in Green Arrow, but positions Ollie as the person in the sensible middle ground (a ground he hasn’t occupied since the Silver Age).

[Okay, I looked up their names. J'mongahela is actually "Naomi", which is a comparatively normal name. Fazner, however, is actually "Jax", which is, somehow, even more ridiculous than Fazner.]

Allowing Ollie to appear reasonable and caring without being self-righteous is a milestone. DC has spent the last 40 years trying to make Green Arrow (originally just a Batman knock-off) different and distinct. That's wise. Unfortunately, in the process they made him thoroughly unlikable. That's not wise.

So Jax and Naomi, while annoying (how many times have I used that word in this post already?!), are a Necessary Annoyance, and I welcome them as means to a new, likable Ollie.

Speaking of necessary annoyances, let's talk about "Doppelganger", "Supercharge", and *snort* "Dynamix", the--well, I guess I have to call them 'villains'-- that Green Arrow fights in his first issue. Continuity may be gone, but tradition isn't, and this motley crew hews to one of DC's oldest and strongest traditions: That Green Arrow Villains are LAME.

In all fairness, they aren't really 'villains' (more like Crime Groupies, one of my Rungs of Villainy), and, to his credit, Green Arrow himself points this out. To their faces. If Green Arrow is going to fight lame villains, at least he's wise enough to know that and Golden Age-y enough to indulge in appropriate smack-talk toward them. And, frankly, the whole thing seems oddly realistic (I mean that in a comic book sense). Face it, not every bad guy who has, gets, or purchases superpowers is going have the intelligence or ambition to be a Real Villain. Some them will just be annoying punks. Annoying, again. And somebody has to deal with them; it's actually a pretty good niche for Green Arrow to occupy. History notwithstanding, Green Arrow's not really Justice League material, nor does he need to be. Let him shoot arrows at the small fish in the barrel! That can be no less of a contribution to daily society and no less entertaining then hitting Kanjar Ro in the face with a boxing glove arrow.

Still; these three yoboes are terrible. Doppelganger a pretty girl who can become really ugly and grow and extra head and extra pair of arms (and probably some extra strength); she wouldn't even make it into the Legion of Substitute Heroes if she worked hard at it for the next 1000 years. Supercharge has respectable powers, but he's basically a low-watt Electro without a costume. It's *snort* Dynamix, that really gets me though. First of all: Big Strong Scary Black Guy. Way to strike a blow for diversity, DC; and in Green Arrow, no less, the book about vigilantes beating the crap out of people that sensitive liberals are most likely to read. Second, he's named Dynamix, which (beyond being just a silly codename) is the name of my ex-boyfriend's aerobic music company. THEN they go out of their way to make him say he doesn't dance. What kind of person who doesn't dance names himself "Dynamix", for disco's sake? Ollie should have just hired Dazzler to kick this guy's ass.

So we have three losers, with bad codenames and no costumes or goals, whom Green Arrow captures in five minutes. Way to go, Ollie! Of course, it doesn't get truly priceless until the last-page reveal where they are broken out of prison by a larger farrago of ungainly crime groups including:

  • The Tube-Top Twinz, because twins are hot,
  • Frosty Looking Emma Frost Knockoff Lady,
  • a poorly dialogued Vibe-manque named "Rush", undoubtedly with some superspeed power;
  • Wolf-Boy (Jimmy? Is that you?!);
  • Karate Kid (except actually Asian),
  • Lady Who Looks Like Wonder Woman and Dresses Like Wonder Woman and Looks Like She's Going to Rip You In Half (whom I'll call "Sunder Woman");
  • and the love-child of Beast, Wolverine, and Billy Barty.

Zowie; somebody send Mike W. Barr a royalty check! Honestly, one look at those badly dressed bohunks and I'm longing for the return of The Gang. Looks like Green Arrow's metier will be fighting the unwashed and undignified hordes of super-losers who litter the new DCU; and who better?

Honestly, though, this new Green Arrow deserves a better class of criminal. Should Ollie be fighting Despero single-handedly? No. But if DC wants us to take him seriously and give him respect, they can't keep throwing H Dial rejects at him ("You're no match for my fluoride arrow, King Kandy!"). Fix this, DC, and quickly. Because my need to laugh at Green Arrow can be satisfied through decades of back issues without buying new ones. Remember that any good jumping off point is also a good jumping off point.

One more thing: WHERE IS STAR CITY?! Why on Earth-1 has DC saddled Green Arrow with Seattle again? Especially since (as everyone from the 31st Century knows) Seattle will fall into the sea within the next ten years? Let Queen Industries be centered in Seattle, fine; but put Ollie, his "Q Core" (which remains almost completely unexplained, by the way), and Green Arrow back in Star City.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I've heard with interest and agreement many of your criticisms of the new Justice League #1: that the principals behave too poorly, that the story is badly decompressed, that the use of Darkseid betrays DC's professed fresh start, that it's too much like Marvel, etc.

I hear ya.

But, honestly, even with all that and worse, I will still continue to buy this comic every month just as long as I get to see...


Cuz that's just something I can't get from Marvel, you know...?

1001 Ways to Defeat Green Arrow: #12:

1001 Ways to Defeat Green Arrow, #12:

Convince him to call Batman a fascist.

Then look out for flying limbs and body parts.