Sunday, June 25, 2017

Cryptic Conflicts - The Beginning

(With apologies to Jim Shooter) 

In the distant reaches of the universe, far, far from planet Earth, an uninhabited, spiral galaxy turns its everlasting pirouette in magnificent splendor, unseen by living eyes... until suddenly... 

A world forms from the void... a world populated with superhumans! Brought together from across the multiverse, heroes and villains have been placed on this, mysterious, "Struggleplanet", by forces beyond mortal ken. Just as the transplanted adventurers start to query the strange environs in which they find themselves, a haunting, ethereal voice pierces their minds;

"I am from yonder! Slay your enemies and all you desire shall be yours! Nothing you dream of is impossible for me to accomplish!"  

Trapped in a world they didn't make, how will heroes from different worlds survive the unknowable machinations of a being of such power as to make and brake worlds? Find out next ish, true believers! 

At NWA, we're starting a small SuperSystem (SS4) campaign running July-August this year. AARs, narrative bridging and character profiles can be found here and on other blogs, to be linked. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Superhero Media: Batman - Assault on Arkham

Seriously, how was Suicide Squad so bad whilst Assault on Arkham is so damn good? Yes, I have seen Suicide Squad, we'll get to it another time. Meantime, there is a M-rated (in Australia) animated film with the Suicide Squad featuring the voice cast of Batman the Animated Series and an actual good reason for Harlequin to be on the team! After the Riddler escapes Arkham and is recaptured by Cadmus, Amanda Waller puts together Task Force X, aka The Suicide Squad to go into Arkham and recapture/kill Edward Nigma. This is where Harlequin comes in, she's familiar with the layout of Arkham and knows how to escape if things go south. Rather than being dropped by Blackhawk, the team are HALO-ed in and head to the Iceberg Lounge to arm-up supplied by the Penguin, who is on the take from Waller, under the table. 

It's a pretty good start to, what would be a by-the-numbers heist film, if not for the super-villains and asylum full of insane criminals. KGBeast gets killed off before the mission starts to set the stakes and Harlequin and Deadshot have sex, I think to set up a conflict later in the film that never really pays off. Actually the attraction between Killer Frost and King Shark is far more interesting and sadly goes nowhere. Is she genuinely interested, or just playing up to King Shark for protection in case things go south? Things start to get complicated when the team discover that the Riddler has uncovered a way to deactivate the bombs in their heads and used that to go AWOL from the last Task Force X. Nigma turns out to have actually planned this whole thing, including getting captured by Batman and thrown back into Arkham, just to get back at Waller. Not to harp on this, but that's a way better plot than Suicide Squad.

Having the voice actors from BTAS is pretty cool, but the look from the Arkham video games jars with this and is a little distracting, especially with Hulk-Bane in the big finale. I'll get to it more in the upcoming Suicide Squad Superhero Media, but this concept really shouldn't be too hard to get right and make a tonne of money out of; it's The Dirty Dozen with supervillains, pretty simple pitch. Although I like the twist with the Riddler's scheme, it's not actually all that necessary, a quick heist plot with a few protagonist deaths would work just as well. Hopefully we'll see this concept done right in live action at some point. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Champions of the Omniverse - Part 14

Our heroes continued to plan and prepare strategies to fight the Super-Skrull, not knowing that they would be thrown directly into the battle. The team arrive on a rooftop opposite the Fantastic Four, who appear to be investigating a small space ship. Thinking that being polite worked for him last time, Spiderstrike approaches Marvel's First Family and says hello. Firenado spins a story about the X-Mansion being attacked and the X-Men needing help, Reed Richards is happy to help, as soon as he finishes investigating the space ship as he doesn't trust anyone else to do as good a job as himself. Reed calls over Koga for help, Koga being the team's resident scientist/engineer. As Koga looks at the ship, it seems oddly familiar for a second before a massive rocky fist punches a hole in his armour. 

Before the eyes of the team, the Fantastic Four shift shape and become the Super-Skrull and three Skrull soldiers! The soldiers open fire, blasting Firenado, The Arsonist and Gigawatt! In the following exchange of fire, Koga and Firenado are taken out of the fight. Firestarter runs over and tries to stabilise Koga, though more of his organs being outside than in may prove to be a problem.Spiderstrike charges Super-Skrull, wailing with all six arms and his "Spider's Bite" touch power, which the pride of the Skrull army shrugs off.
"Fool, you think your feeble powers can match the might of the Super-Skrull?" chides Super-Skrull,
"I'm willing to try... tubby!" returns Spiderstrike.
Super Skrull laughs in response and turns invisible. One Skrull continues to blast at Arsonist, the other two gang up on Spiderstrike, knocking him down onto the fire escape. 

Gigawatt activates a Stark Industries Image Inducer, now appearing as Mr Fantastic he ducks out from behind a rooftop air-conditioner and declares;
"Oh, I know what I need, it's at the Avenger's Mansion!" 
He then dashes off down the street. Spidersrtike throws knockout gas grenades, toppling one Skrull. Super Skrull appears behind Arsonist, grabbing him in a stretchy, flaming, rocky fist, crushing and burning the hero into unconsciousness. Spiderstrike vaults onto the roof of the parking garage, flipping on the Image Inducer to look like the Thing and shouting;
"Wait up, stretch!" 
Super Skrull takes off, flying after the "Fantastic Four", blasting Spiderstrike into unconsciousness, though the hero immediately recovers with his regeneration and calls Gigwatt on the communicators, checking on Super-Skrull's location. Spiderstrike turns the Image inducer to "Stan Lee" and moves towards his target at the same time Gigawatt turns the image inducer to "Sue Storm" and lobs a gas grenade at Super-Skrull, knocking out the last two Skrull Soldiers.

Dontcha hate it when they say "To be Hulk-inued" True Believers?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Superhero Media: Justice League Dark

I had no idea until I started watching this that it was part of the "New 52" JLA series of animated films, so if that's going to put you off (it probably would have me), then consider yourself forewarned. When ordinary people begin to see demons all around them and go on killing sprees, the Justice League are stumped and decide to call in an expert in magic. Batman doesn't believe in magic and refuses to help. There is a problem with this film, and his name is Batman. Even in the New 52 continuity, Batman fights regularly alongside Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman and trained with Zatara and in Nanda Parbat; Batman simply must have encountered magic at some point in this universe, but because he needs to seem to "bad-ass" all the time, he suddenly is unaware of all the magic users in the DCU. Only he's not, he knows about Zatana, Deadman and Constantine, but just thinks they're, what? I don't know what's meant to be going on with this weird character choice. 

Speaking of odd choices, I first encountered John Constantine through the classic Vertigo Hellblazer comics, in which he regularly has to correct Seppos (the only thing that rimes with Yank is Septic Tank) as to how to pronounce his name. Constantine, as in "fine". For some reason, no one that rights or directs the adaptations seems to know this, I'm thinking because they haven't read any Hellblazer. Also Swamp Thing shows up and Etrigan is a major character, so you'd think I'd enjoy this, but the writing and the lack of necessity for the presence of Batman really drags it down. The fight scenes are a cut above the usual DCAU fare, but that may be down to having the magical powers of Constantine, Zatana, Felix Faust and Etrigan to use in the showpiece battles. 

Whilst Justice League Dark is certainly one of the better entries in the DCAU New 52 catalogue and let's not get onto the last decade of DC live-action films (yes, I've seen Wonder Woman, we'll cover that awesomeness down the track). Given that I didn't pay for it, I'm pretty happy, but probably won't add it to my physical collection anytime soon. I do need an Etrigan though.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Champions of the Ominverse: Part 13

Our heroes are returned to Avengers mansion in Limbo where, once again, Immortus has a task for them. A meeting between Drax the Destroyer and a group of "Space Orks" will inadvertently result in the destruction of a pair of satellites that are observing the sun and could help prevent the coming nuclear cataclysm. Not wanting to get into an extended battle with Drax, the team decides to arm up, with knockout gas grenades, a Quinjet and protective clothing. Immortus warps the Quinjet loaded with our heroes through time and they find themselves hovering over a grassy field. The sudden appearance of an Avengers' Quinjet causes ire and Drax takes off towards the team whilst they flounder in the eddies time. Once recovered, Sonic Tsunami weaves the Quinjet around the airborne Drax and the team lob gas grenades onto the Space Orks below, knocking out about half. 

Demonstrating his boundless power, Drax flies onto the Quinjet and punches through the door, ripping it aside and stepping in. Trying to help, the remaining Orks open fire on the Quinjet, managing to punch a few holes in the fuselage. Figuring that it worked out fine last time, Manzilla steps forward and freezes Drax in place with his Arctic Breath. Although Drax can, probably easily break free, it gives The Arsonist enough time to super-speed over with the memory-erasing headset and place it on the Destroyer's head. The team are zapped back to Limbo, most shocked that their plan actually worked for a change and none of them are hurt. Immourtus reminds them that some of the team will be great heroes some day.


Immortus shows them the next time node; a battle between the Fantastic Four and the Super-Skrull results in the destruction of an experimental reactor coolant that will contribute to atomic Armageddon. The team needs to delay Super-Skrull long enough that the coolant can be removed from the lab. Reluctant to fight the Super-Skrull head-on, the team takes their time to create a plan of attack. The plan is to use Stark Industries Image Inducers to trick the Super-Skrull into thinking that the Champions are the Fantastic Four and distracting him long enough to save the coolant and try not to be killed by the ultimate Skrull Warrior. Will the plan succeed, or will we be saying goodbye to one of the Champions of the Omniverse? Tune in next time to find out! 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Superhero Media: Pacific Rim

So many people told me to check this film out that I was, frankly, worried. In my experience, the more highly something comes recommended to me, the worse it turns out to be; Inception was about as deep as a puddle, Firefly was garbage and Pacific Rim was ok. Unlike the other two darlings of popular culture mentioned above, I can see why Pacific Rim was a big hit, though that mostly comes down to the lack of familiarity the West has with the massive canon of Japanese Kaiju films. Getting into the, rather complicated, history of post-war Japanese culture in relation to the American occupation and the ongoing legacy of the only wartime exchange of nuclear weapons in human history, is probably not the best move in this particular article. Suffice to say, I'd reckon that del Toro was a bit of a Kaiju fan and this film shows that, but is restricted by the processes of the Hollywood system. 

In the not-too-distant future, the countries of the Pacific Rim are menaced by giant monsters from the depths of the ocean and our only protection are the Jagers, giant robots with two pilots that are built to smash Kaiju face. There are some pilots who don't matter with some "Hollywood" PTSD and I hate them because they take screen time away from Idris Elba! Idris plays the hard-bitten commander with an insane plan to save the world who can't pilot a Jager anymore because of plot reasons. Of course, in the final battle, he straps in and smashes face alongside the forgettable protagonist and the day is saved. Although I know that having actors in rubber suits fighting over model cities would never have sold in the West, as a lifelong Kaiju fan, the CGI just doesn't do it for me and the fact that the Kaiju themselves have little personality or uniqueness drags down what could have been the premiere Western Kaiju film. 

Unlike many, I'm not keen for a sequel, the only interesting character is dead and the only real option is a giant alien war that moves too far away from Kaiju for my tastes. On the bright side, Pacific Rim did whet my appetite for some real Kaiju, so expect to see some more exotic Superhero Media entries in the not-too-distant future. Also, I should watch Luther again. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Champions of the Omniverse: Part 12

Returning to the void of Eon once more, our heroes find their wounds healed and their original memories returned in their entirety. The team are unable to tell just how much time has passed when they are called upon again to enter the time stream and set things right. Our heroes awaken around the meeting table in the Avengers Mansion, Sonic Tsunami is about to call the meeting to order. Before the Avengers can begin to discuss upcoming charity works, a cloud of smoke begins to fill the room. The team stands back and readies themselves when Sonic Tsunami shouts "Avengers Assemble!". The smoke clears, revealing the imposing figure of Immortus, ruler of Limbo!
"Greetings Avengers... I am here to warn you that a catastrophe is about to befall this timeline and I need your help to stop it! ...wait ...are you the Champions of the Omniverse?" 
"Who are they?" Firenado asks. 
"It is what your team will be known as in your personal future," Immortus states grandly, "those of you who survive." 

Immortus goes on to explain that a series of events will lead to the Earth being destroyed in nuclear fire when solar flares detonate ever reactor on the planet. To avoid this fate, Immortus has pulled the Avengers/Champions and the Avengers Mansion into Limbo for protection and so that he can send them out to save the time-stream. Agreeing to help, the team are told that a young man is about to encounter an alien device in 1960 that will increase his intelligence, but cause a tumor that will eventually kill him. The man will grow up to invent a brilliant, but flawed coolant system for nuclear power generation which will propagate the technology over the globe. 

Utilising Immortus' technology, our heroes arrive in Central Park, New York, watching a group of youths playing football, including their target. Given that the Fantastic Four won't debut for another couple of years, give or take, the men are surprised to see a group of costumed heroes, but do not flee in terror; Firenado looking like the Human Torch probably helps. The man the team are looking for wanders over and begins to talk to the team. Things are going well until The Arsonist attempts to place Immortus' Memory-erasing helmet on the man and he dodges with astonishing speed, bursting into flame at the same time. Koga attempts to use hypnosis from his light powers on the young man, and it seems to work with him becoming drowsy. Manzilla prepares to grab their target whilst The Arsonist uses his powers to reduce the fire. In a flash of inspiration, Sonic Tsunami realises that they are fighting Mimic! The mutant is stealing their own powers to use against them. As if on queue, Mimic grows wings and four additional arms and takes to the air, raining fire down on our heroes. Manzilla blasts Mimic with his atomic breath, freezing the mutant in a block of ice and sending him crashing to the earth. The Arsonist slams the helmet on Mimic and the team are drawn back to Limbo to await their next task.