Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Supehero Media: Arrow - Season 4

A friend told me that she had taken to "hate-watching" Arrow so that she could be up-to-date with any The Flash crossovers. I was, honestly, feeling a bit that way myself, viewing Arrow as painting time only; right up until the last few episodes put everything into focus. As well as featuring a surprisingly big battle, the finale also sets themes of self-actualisation and Oliver coming to accept who he is and the role he plays in defending the city. The sleek look of the programme, especially during the (increasingly tedious and unnecessary) island flashback sequences, continues to grate, I'm not sure why the style has persisted for so long, a more "Daredevil" look would suit the idea of a decaying city that is a continuing theme. That brings us nicely to the antagonist of the Season, Damien Dark, played brilliantly by Neal McDonough. 

As good as Dark is, he does tend to dominate a bit, McDonough being a better actor than pretty much anyone else on the show except for John Barrowman, with the scenes between the two being some of the best in Arrow's history. Dark is also introduced a bit early, hurting the idea that he's the head of a massive organisation, what with his having to get his hands dirty all the time. There's also a buildup to a death of a member of "Team Arrow" that is foreshadowed far too long, almost as if the producers and showrunners were afraid that people wouldn't keep watching the programme without some kind of continuous "teaser" to bring them back each week. With a bit more faith in the material and a producer willing to take a small risk here and there, Season 4 of Arrow could have been the height of the programme before it really started to drag in Season 5.

I haven't really touched on Oliver's run for Mayor or the Legends of Tomorrow crossover, but they play as filler more than anything, with no real resolution for either; yes, Oliver becomes Mayor, but only because of the death of his opponent. Oliver's relationship with Felicity becomes more of an irritation than anything, with her dumping Oliver every few episodes because he lies to her. Even ranting about honesty and betrayal when Oliver has only obfuscated the truth temporarily to save lives. Anarky is a recurring character, with a pretty cool look, actually, and more than the typical "bad guy" motivation, pity he's killed off and won't be returning. Season 4 is worth a look, sticking out until the final half-dozen episodes does pay off, even if it's not perfect. This marks the end of "Team Arrow" and would have been a good place to end the saga of Oliver Queen, but looks like CW want to milk this turnip a little more yet.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Miniatures Finished: 20mm Wakandans

At NWA this year, a 1970s African Bush Wars imagi-nation campaign has started up, and whilst most of it consists of posturing and name-calling in our Facebook group, some games are happening. Naturally, I couldn't resist getting in on the action with a perennial favourite, Wakanda. Having gone out and spent a massive $25, I present my 20mm "Weird Bush Wars" Wakandans. 

 The military might of Wakanda on the march. 

 The Black Panther leads warriors of the Panther Tribe into battle. 

 Sharpshooters use gauss rifles to eliminate enemy armour. 

 Heavy Weapon Teams utilise technology most consider science-fiction. 

 Wakandan vehicle support. 

 Scout bikes provide reconnaissance. 

 Sentry guns protect the border of Wakanda from incursion. 

Yeah, "Weird Bush Wars" was not a project I was expecting to do, but painting and collecting the army was fun and pretty cheap. Hopefully I can get some games in at some point and see how they go. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Thinking Out Loud: The Strongest Humans

So I'm currently watching through Season 9 of Dragonball Z again for my "Superhero Media", and I came across a really interesting part that I had forgotten. During the fight between Vegito and Evil Buu, there is a cut-away to the planet of the Grand Kai that shows King Kai watching the fight; he is relieved that the fusion is working and tells Krillin to stop training. Krillin makes an offhand comment about not being much use in the fight anyway, and King Kai shoots him a look and grin that speak volumes. Yamcha is there training too, and is beating Olibu without powering up. So the question becomes, could Yamcha and Krillin have defeated Evil Buu? 

Now I know that most DBZ fans will be snorting and saying "of course not", because Krillin and Yamcha are two of the biggest punchlines in the programme, but bear with me on this one. Way back in the Sayian Saga, Yamcha and co are killed off pretty quickly, but a matter of weeks[?] later in the Frieza Saga, they have been trained by King Kai and are able to defeat the Ginyu force without much trouble; the same Ginyu force that nearly killed Vegeta, who had enjoyed a couple of Zenkai boosts since fighting Goku. King Kai must be one hell of a training coach to see that much improvement in such a short period of time, and keep in mind that Yamcha and Tien have no innate abilities like the Sayians and Nameks. So when the whole damn universe is on the line against Majin Buu and King Kai has all the warriors of history to call upon, who does he decide to train? Krillin and Yamcha. Two fighters most fans of the programme consider to be nothing more than comic relief. 

Admittedly, I'm drawing something of a long bow with this one; I only have a couple of scenes to back up my contention and I'm up against the weight of Krillin and Yamcha's history of defeat. Also, later on in the saga, the pair can't hold a candle to Kid Buu, but that doesn't necessarily invalidate this idea. I like when stories take unexpected turns, and this would have been a hell of a twist. The Sayians and their fusions have been defeated, so King Kai sends in the two most human members of the Z-Fighters to get the job done against an ancient evil that can kill gods? That would have been pretty spectacular. Maybe there's a fan manga or something that explores this possibility, or maybe I'll have to write it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Superhero Media: Dragonball Z - Season 9

Well, here we are, at the very end of the journey. It's taken 291 episodes to get here and I'll admit I'm a little tired; I have the DBZ Movie Collection sitting by the TV and I have no desire to remove the plastic wrap. I have made no secret of the fact that I am not a fan of the Buu, Fusion and Kid Buu Sagas, mostly because the end of the Cell Saga was so damn good and would have been a great conclusion for the programme. The story padding that is the hallmark of DBZ reaches saturation point in these final seasons, with Buu constantly changing form and odd cuts away to characters not doing much. However, this is juxtaposed with some great twists in the plot, like Tien dropping out of nowhere to save Goku from Buu, the Vegito Fusion and Ultimate Gohan. Overall, I feel that DBZ still goes out on a high, despite the last two episodes, but we'll get to that in a minute, the Earth Spirit Bomb and Mr Satan helping the Z Fighters out and being welcomed to the team give a sense of triumph. 

Ok, so, the elephant in the room. At the end of the series, Goku, having spent the last few years (there is a jump forward after the defeat of Buu) training and raising his granddaughter Pan, Goku decides to abandon his family to train Uub, the reincarnated Kid Buu. Now, despite the English translation, Goku has never been the best guy in the world, caring more about pushing his own boundaries than the safety and wellbeing of friends and family; but leaving his family to train a random stranger for years is a dick move by any standards. It's interesting that Dragonball Super is being written as taking place between the defeat of Buu and the start of the tournament in the last few episodes of DBZ, Uub has been mentioned and Pan and Bra have been born in DBS, so just how "canon" the final episodes of DBZ remain is a topic of discussion among fans. I, for one, hope that DBS continues on past the end of DBZ and we have a more satisfying conclusion for the saga. 

It will likely be a very long time before I brave another full rewatch of DBZ. Going over the Sagas I like best? Sure, will probably happen sooner or later, but with Dragonball Super, Dragonball GT and the DBZ movies to work through, I can get my fix many times over before then. Still, DBZ is a solid programme and well worth checking out if you've never given it a go; yes, 291 episodes is a big ask and not all of them are winners, but Dragonball has become such a huge cultural tent-pole that it's still worth your time. Much like Doctor Who or Star Trek, Dragonball has been running for so long some basic understanding of it is almost necessary to function in "nerd culture". If you've never seen Goku's first Super Saiyan transformation, Trunks fight Frieza, Gohan punch Cell so hard that Android 18 pops out or Majin Vegeta bitch-slap Goku, you're missing out on a lot of fun and should give it a try. Animelab has it all for free, so check it out!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Terrain Finished: Debris (Improvised Weapons)

Not so much "Terrain Finished" as "Old Terrain made better". I made this debris way back when I got started in supers gaming, but now I've finally weathered it. 

 Eureka 28s for scale. 

 Much of this was pieces left over from my days playing Necromunda. 

 Expect to see more of my old terrain get spruced up shortly; I'm going through my collection and improving the table by stages. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Superhero Media: Kick-Ass (2009)

I understand why this film gets the praise it does. I understand why some people are big fans, even calling it their favourite superhero film. There are some great fight scenes, memorable characters and one of the best performances Nic Cage has ever delivered, but, and I'm sorry to say this, the film just isn't that good. As was already covered in my Kick-Ass 2 "Superhero Media", the problem primarily stems from the insistence that Dave Lizewski, aka "Kick-Ass" is the protagonist of the film, which really shouldn't be the case. Big Daddy has the more interesting arc, with a decent motivation, more agency and better dialogue, the film really should be his story, expanding on the flashback/comic narrative that appears in act two. Yes, I am aware that the narrative is roughly following that of the graphic novel of the same name, but with the raft of changes made already, one more, to make the film stronger, would hardly have gone astray. 

Actually, the film is already stronger, in narrative terms, than the graphic novel, because it gives Big Daddy more agency and better motivation; working towards revenge rather than simply wanting to play superheroes. I really like that Kick-Ass' own motivation is, primarily, altruism (after a fashion), he doesn't want to hurt anyone if he doesn't have to, even being reluctant to fight Red Mist in the climax, because he knows that Mist is not directly responsible for the death of Big Daddy. I wonder though, would that reluctance to do harm have been more impact, more memorable if it was shown in juxtaposition to Big Daddy's monomaniacal path of violence? The violence in the film is extreme for the genre, but for some reason, it is mostly played straight, not over-emphasized for effect like in the graphic novel (and quite a bit of Millar's work). I mostly put this down to an attempt to win more teenage audience members, which also explains the "underage" partial-nudity scenes (thankfully, the actor in question was actually 22 at the time of filming).

If you love this film, that's ok. As I've said time and again, there is nothing wrong with liking something that's imperfect, not literate or even just plain bad. But. Kick-Ass is not a great film. It is not, as is often espoused, the "Gen-Y Watchmen". It's fun. Even I get a kick out of Hit-Girl swearing her head off, despite the Australian tendency to use c*nt as a term of endearment rather than an insult. In retrospect, having seen this again, I'd have to say that Kick-Ass 2 is probably the better film, though I'm still not keen on the idea of Kick-Ass 3. After watching this once more (probably for the last time), I want to put Big Daddy and Hit-Girl in more of my Ultimate Alliance games moving forward; possibly even giving Big Daddy a starring role in the Civil War campaign I'm sketching out for next year. Time will tell. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Champions of the Omniverse - Part 18

Returning, once more to Avengers Mansion, suspended in Limbo, The Champions of the Omniverse come face-to-face with Immortus (really Kang in disguise) who insists that they depart for their next (and final) mission as soon as they are able. The team spread out to look for Kang's time machine, excepting Spiderstrike, who heads to the kitchen to make sandwiches, and Koga, who uses the Avengers computer to scan for alien tech in the building. After a quick search, our heroes discover a large machine in the foyer of the mansion and reach the conclusion that it's Kang's time machine. As they near it, Kang himself steps forward,
"So, Avengers you figured out my scheme," laughs Kang, "it will do you no good, I have already won!" 
The Champions point out that they are neither the Avengers nor the ones that figured Kang out; they take the opportunity to ask if he actually is a younger version of Immortus or not. Kang tries to relate the plot of Avengers Forever, but it doesn't help much, so both sides decide just to start fighting. 

With a snap of his fingers, Kang summons weapons to his hands and a crowd of Anachronauts, his chosen warriors from history. Spiderstike mocks Kang for bringing men with muskets and swords to fight them, so Kang snaps his fingers again and Deathstroke the Terminator and Dragon Man appear at his side. Firenado charges Dragon Man, but the robotic beast swipes his arm and knocks the hero flying. The Anachronauts open fire, lead balls proving surprisingly effective against the spandex worn by most superheroes; Spiderstike returns fire with a tray of sandwiches. Firenado blasts away at Dragon Man, but it is difficult to tell if it has any effect. Deathstroke runs at Sonic Tsunami and the pair clash blade to water blade, Sonic Tsunami lucks out and manages to freeze Deathstroke in a block of ice. Meanwhile, in the Control Room of the mansion, Koga activates the security system, adamantium doors slam shut around the foyer and the lights go out. Grabbing the Chronotron from the fallen Arsonist, Spiderstrike fires at Kang's time machine, hoping to send it back to the 26th Century, but the beam deflects off an invisible force field.

Protecting their master, the Anachronauts open fire and bring down Spiderstike, Kang's fire takes out Sonic Tsunami an instant later. Firenado absorbs the incoming fire of the Anachronauts to try and heal himself as he and Dragon Man flit around the foyer, trying to get the best of each other. By now, Koga has exited the Mansion and wandered around to the front entrance, using his light control powers to turn invisible. Dragon Man catches up with Firenado and crushes the life out of him, leaving Kang to backhand Gigawatt out of the fight. Thinking he has won, Kang begins to gloat about his conquest of the 20th Century, allowing the invisible Koga to enter the foyer, scoop up the Chronotron, activate his Force-field De-activator and blast Kang back where he came from. Immortus returns, healing the Champions back to normal and thanking them for their help in defeating Kang and saving the Omniverse. Our heroes are not happy at almost dying repeatedly for Immortus' labyrinthine schemes, and tell him where to stick his thanks, also deciding not to return the goodies they stole from the Eternal Fortress. Immortus returns the heroes to Eon and our campaign concludes. 

This is not the end for the Champions, they shall return in adventures sometime in the future, stay tuned! 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Superhero Media: Batman Year One (2011)

Good to know that Warner Premiere's inability to adapt the best Batman comics of all time into anything watchable didn't start with The Killing Joke. Batman Year One manages to lose all of the charm of the original graphic novel, focusing on Batman rather than Gordon and dropping the beautiful neo-noir art aesthetic for a bland palate and stilted animation. And I know that Kevin Conroy can't always play Batman and someone else needs to be found at some point, but Ben McKenzie does not do a good job here, sounding about fifteen at the best of times. Yes, Batman is meant to be younger and I regularly complain about grunting Batman sounding like he's passing a kidney stone, but McKenzie's voice still grates. Brian Cranston is a decent cast as Jim Gordon, but his reading is flat and uninteresting for the person meant to be the protagonist. 

Yes, Jim Gordon is the actual protagonist of this Batman story, even Frank Miller admits so in notes for the special edition of the graphic novel, but the production crew of the film seem to have forgotten it along the way. Gordon has the arc, the main struggles and even the best fight scene (see below). Cutting down on the Gordon story really doesn't make much sense, even to make room for more Batman and Catwoman, who, again, don't really have major character arcs in this story. Speaking of Catwoman, I would have hoped that one change that would have been made would be her underage prostitute friend; but no, apparently that was an important element of the original vision to keep. Yes, Gotham is painted as a city of the worst sins, but maybe just shift her age up a little to mitigate the creep factor? I think the drugs, corruption, pimps and prostitutes over the age of consent convey the message just fine. 

The lack of quality in Batman Year One is a real shame, the Warner Premiere Under the Red Hood and All Star Superman are amazing adaptations, keeping the charm of the source material and making the narrative work in a different visual medium. Given the patchy nature of film adaptations of DC works, I increasingly find myself puzzling over the ones that "work" and the ones that don't. Quality of and adherence to original source material are seemingly not factors, there is no continuity of character, writing and theme. What works for DC adaptations is a nebulous thing that no one, least of all Warner Brothers, seems to be able to get a handle on.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Terrain Finished: Roof Access

Knights of Dice rooftop access finished for the tops of my city buildings: 

 Eureka 28s for scale. 

 As you can see, the scale of the doors is ridiculous, clearly intended for Knight Models miniatures. Aside from that, I can''t argue with the quality for the price, they'll get their first game shortly. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Superhero Media: Fearless Defenders - Doom Maidens

Man, but Marvel Comics seems to be going after a diverse market these days. Fearless Defenders is aimed not only a a predominantly female readership, but also a queer one. It doesn't quite get to the lofty heights at which it aims, but takes a decent swing at it. Rather than being about the classic (all-male) Defenders, Doom Maidens focuses on Valkyrie and her quest to stop the destruction of the world at the hands of her titular foes, the previous versions of her that went rogue and evil. On this quest, Valkyrie takes Misty Knight, Power Princess and Annabelle Riggs, a queer archeologist. Why is Annabelle's sexuality important to note? Because she fits the "damsel" role in the story, yet is constantly being rescued by female superheroes, yet the sexual tension is retained. This is not done for male titillation, but is consciously subversive and intended to provide a broad spectrum of women, including the queer ones. 

In aiming for third-wave feminist empowerment, Fearless Defenders doesn't quite get there, with plenty of the T&A shots common in comics and some lazy, stereotype-reinforcing jokes. That said, this comic was a massive hit with young adult women, with it's all-female hero team, well-rounded characters and competent, older female villain with disposable, gorgeous male sidekick. Naturally, this meant that Fearless Defenders was relentlessly attacked by whinging man-babies on the internet who believe that comics should only be for their tiny demographic. In response to a barrage of negative and sexist reviews and complaints, Marvel canceled the series. A couple of months later, Marvel released a new series, featuring an even bigger all-female team of Avengers. Well done, Marvel, well done.

This, like Miss Marvel, is another one of those comics that is really good, but I didn't get a lot out of it. But, hey, it's not for me, so why should I give a shit? When I've shown Fearless Defenders to female friends who are interested in comics, but wary of how their gender is represented, the response has been strong and, more often than not, led to the acceptance of more recommendations and an appetite for more comics. Now that's what I want; more people reading comics and loving superheroes. That's why we need more comics headlined by women, queer people, people of colour, transgender people and everybody else in the world who doesn't get enough representation. Yes, the classic heroes are great and need to stick around, but there's room enough for a bunch of white guys and a posse of kick-arse girls like the Fearless Defenders, rock on.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Champions of the Omniverse - Part 17

Battling their way through the Eternal Fortress in the Omega Dimension, our heroes have just defeated a trio of alien ghosts and Manzilla had just picked up a book only to be ambushed by robots. Coming to their friend's aid, the Champions rush into the room, Gigawatt punching a robot in the face and Firenado activates his powers. Not wanting to be left out, Manzilla hands over the book to Koga and starts to blast away with his atomic breath. The robots manage to return a few blows, pummeling Firenado and Spiderstrike, but the team soon demolish them. Sonic Tsunami crashes waves over the robots whilst Gigawatt and Spiderstrike punch them so hard that words spontaneously appear out of thin air. In the next room, Manzilla is mildly annoyed by robotic tentacles until he rips them out of the walls, whilst Sonic Tsunami refreshes his snowy armour. 

In the next room, there is a mysterious floor, a roof covered in "monkey bars" and five robot bugs awaiting our heroes. Spiderstike tests the floor, placing a single foot upon the surface and slipping over for his trouble. Seeing that the bugs can move freely on the floor, our heroes use their ranged attacks to steadily blast away.The Bugs return fire, hitting Firenado and Arsonist, the latter falling unconscious. Sonic Tsunami, Manzilla, Firenado and Gigawatt provide covering fire for Spiderstrike as he swings out on the bars to get to grips with the bugs. A couple of bugs drop before Spiderstrike leaps from the roof onto one, beating at it with his free hands. Unable to finish off the last bug as it bucks Spiderstrike around like a mechanical bull, the rest of the team wait patiently for him to finish it off, Koga tending to the wounded Arsonist.

The next room is featureless except for a single pedestal, on which a metal box has been placed. Entering the room, our heroes feel strange for a moment and, suddenly, Gigawatt goes berserk, throwing a wide punch at Firenado! Thankfully, the fit passes and our heroes continue of their way, Manzilla taking the empty metal box. The door to the final chamber is blocked by a force field, thankfully, Koga has the anti-force field from a previous room and walks straight in. On a pedestal sits the Chronotron, conveniently labeled with a handwritten sign. Guarding the device is a massive, reptilian alien in ornate armour. It speaks;
"I am the champion of the Eternal Fortress, none may claim the Chronotron without first defeating me." The champion moves up and punches Koga, doing nothing, and Koga's return strike goes wide. As Gigawatt runs in to help, he finds himself fighting a second champion, who has materialised out of thin air. Surprisingly, (especially to the GM), the Champion is not particularly tough, so Koga and Gigawatt take their opponent[s] out in short order. Once the Chronotron has been retrieved, our heroes are returned to Immortus who reminds them that Kang is devious and must be taken by surprise. The Champions of the Omniverse return to Limbo once more...

Friday, July 21, 2017

Superhero Media: Suicide Squad

In my years studying film and the years since graduation, I don't believe I've seen a better example of how the Hollywood System alters cinema better than Suicide Squad. Seriously, if you can see this film for free (it's on Netflix now), it's worth a watch, just to see what the hell is going on; yes, it's bad, but not as bad as you've probably heard. Firstly, this is a really basic pitch, right? It's The Dirty Dozen with supervillains, should be pretty simple to get up and going, but a combination of compressed writing time and a need to build on the extended universe before Justice League kind of killed that. Much of the film seems to be missing, whole scenes and character arcs are glossed over; when does Rick Flagg start trusting the prisoners? One scene he's ready to kill them all and the next he's relying on Deadshot to cover his back. When do Harley and Deadshot become friends? One scene they tolerate each other, the next he refuses to shoot her even though doing so will literally get him everything he wants. Why is Katana not in half the film? And when does she become one of the criminals? She's clearly an independent contractor, but for some reason she goes to drink with the criminals when they wander off. 

I could keep going. Also, there is no damn way Amanda Waller could have planned for everything she claims to have; how did she know that Flagg would fall for the Enchantress? How did she know that The Joker would run amuck in a very specific way in which Batman wouldn't stop him for once? I'm not just nitpicking for the hell of it here, I really feel like there was a lot left on the cutting room floor here and maybe there was a good version of this film that will never see the light of day. Also, as good a character as she is, why the hell is Harley Quinn on the team? Sure, she can fight, but not as well as some other members of the team, and Waller admits that she's a "wildcard", read: liability. From a meta-film standpoint, yes, they needed a major female character in the squad, but were Killer Frost, Plastique, Cheetah and Cheshire all busy on the day? What the hell is Harley supposed to do against Superman, who is the intended target of the Suicide Squad to begin with?

Being the music nerd I am, I would be remiss to not comment on the soundtrack, which hit big. It is also a mess, it sounds like a rebellious 15 year-old's Spotify playlist and lacks any context. Sure there are quite a few great songs on there, but they don't got together. In both Guardians of the Galaxy films, the "Awesome Mix" is precisely a mix tape,  given to Starlord by his mother, so of course it sounds like that. In Suicide Squad, we just have a collection of, mostly pretty good, songs that don't even match the theme of the film. I also look forward to hearing Kanye's "Black Skinhead" every time a black character is kicking arse in a major film for at least the next decade. What else is there to say? Suicide Squad is a mess and I doubt anyone except hardcore DCU fans will be talking about it in a couple of years. Give it a watch if you haven't yet, but not really one for the books.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Champions of the Omniverse - Part 16

Having just defeated the Grey Gargoyle, our heroes are about to place the headset given to them by Immortus on his head, when Immortus himself appears before them. Immortus explains that the heroes have actually been working for Kang all along, who disguised himself as Immortus to trick them into doing his bidding. The heroes must listen to Immortus if they wish to prevent Kang from conquering the Earth. The heroes plan to go back in time, meet themselves and get a beer instead of doing missions for Kang, but Immortus explains that this will not work. Instead, they need to go to the Eternal Fortress in the Omega dimension and retrieve the Chronatron so that they can defeat Kang. The heroes ask Immortus a series of questions, like what will The Arsonist's next name be and is he really just an older version of Kang? Immortus replies that The Arsonist will eventually be The Flamer, multiverse theory is a bitch and that Avengers Forever tried to clear it up but it's still kinda confusing. After arguing some more, our heroes decide to go to the Omega Dimension. The Eternal Fortress appears to be of a kind of "Science-Fiction Aztec" design, our heroes enter the first chamber and find themselves confronted with none other than Galactus, devourer of worlds!

"Leave and you shall not be harmed, stay and Galactus shall destroy you!" booms the massive figure. In response, The Arsonist hurls a Molotov at Galactus's foot, the giant does not notice. Gigawatt punches into the throne on which Galactus sits by accident, finding that it is hollow and filled with circuitry.  
"Destory the throne!" shouts Gigawatt. Totally ignoring their comrade, Sonic Tsunami grovels before Galactus and Spiderstrike tries to ask the ancient for help in their quest to stop Kang. Manzilla rushes forward and begins to smash apart the throne just as Gigawatt is flung into a nearby wall with a gesture from Galactus. 

"I told you to leave!" roars Galactus. The Arsonist lights a fire at Galactus' foot cackles in a way that would make most mental health workers nervous. Under continued pummeling from Manzilla, the throne cracks open and what turned out to be a giant projection of Galactus disappears. In the next room, our heroes encounter a trio energy spiders, who, despite growing when they are hit by Spiderstrike's energy touch, turn out to be pretty easy to defeat.

In another chamber, the Champions of the Omniverse encounter four alien ghosts guarding a device sitting on a statue.The heroes ask if the ghosts will fight Kang with them, they receive alien ghost noises in return. As the nominal "science officer", Koga is shoved forwards by the team to scan the ghosts, but is unable to work his own scanner. Arsonist gets sick of waiting and walks to the device, the ghosts suddenly turn and attack, slamming him back. Unbidden, Manzilla picks up Spiderstrike and hurls him at the statue, the latter hitting the statue square-on, face first. Thankfully, Spiderstrike's face is tougher than it is ugly and he survives to pick up the mysterious device, labelled "Forcefield Nullifier". Spiderstrike lobs the device down the room to Manzilla, who hands it off to Koga before wading into the fight. Gigawatt, Manzilla, Spiderstrike and Sonic Tsunami wade in to fight the alien ghosts, and make short work of them with lightning, ice balls and fists. Keen to keep going, Manzilla heads straight to the next room, where he promptly ignores a laser booby trap and grabs a book standing on a pedestal. By the time the rest of the Champions catch up, the next door is opening and they are confronted by three killer robots! 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Superhero Media: Ratchet & Clank (2015)

Longtime readers of Lead Capes will be aware that I'm a pretty big fan of the Ratchet & Clank series of video games. I started playing the games on PS2 and still play them regularly today, though Nexus and Ratchet & Clank (PS4) were disappointments and the series looks set to be mothballed and only appear in side-games from now on. Even given the, typically horrendous, history of video game to film adaptations, I was quietly optimistic that Ratchet & Clank would break the mold and be at least a bit of fun without being teeth-grinding-ly silly or twee. And it mostly gets there. Ratchet & Clank is basically another CGI kids' film that's trying to play in the Disney/Pixar park but doesn't have the chops, despite having Paul Giamatti, Rosario Dawson and Sylvester Stallone on the acting roster. Although I respect the production decision to keep the game voice actors for the core cast, it may have worked against them in terms of attracting an audience. 

Many reviews of this film make the criticism that it reads like a series of cut scenes from a video game stitched together, but I don't see it. There are plenty of character moments, quiet stretches and world building that the Ratchet & Clank games tend to do in voice-over during gameplay. Being a film aimed squarely at children, there are a couple of recurring jokes that grate, like Blarg playing with phones and Ratchet's boss being unable to operate a cherry picker, but the characters are fun to be around and many of the elements that made the game so good translate across media perfectly well. It's a lot of fun to see the Sheepinator, Buzz Blades and Swingshot on the screen, and whilst the RYNO not being used at all feels like a misstep, its showing up is a fun sequence anyway. 

This is far from perfect, but it's enjoyable enough and worth a watch if you're a fan of the games. It doesn't quite capture the charm and genius of the games, especially the PS2 trilogy (before they got overly pretentious) and the sequel tease will never be realised, but there's enough to enjoy. I picked this up on DVD from a bargain bin, but if you can stream it, that may be the better way to go. What you're probably better off doing is picking up the Ratchet & Clank Trilogy on PS3 or from PSN if you can, they're fun games and the third in the series may well be great. Classic characters, I'm hoping this isn't the last time we'll see them.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cryptic Conflicts - Part 1

The Scarlet Blade, The Anachronism, Lucky, Mindstorm and Colonel Quantum have found themselves transported to a mysterious patchwork planet by a being calling itself "The Yonder". In a section of familiar-looking city, they come across other teams of superheroes. Are these the foes they have been set to battle? 

 Rival team "The European Union" gather on the roof of a local restaurant. 

 Mindstorm scouts ahead, protected by a mental shield. 

Backbreaker takes umbrage to Mindstorm's constant psychic barrage and returns the favour with a Police Van. 
A massive clash between the Equalsiers and the Omega Squad results in shockingly few casulties. 
The European Union battle strange foes with incredible powers. 

Mindstorm and Lucky provide support for the front-line fighters in the team. 
Somehow, Mindstorm survived this. 
A team-up between Scarlet Blade and Colonel Quantum forces the game to a draw. 

Lampposts make good clubs in a pinch. 

The Anachronism swings his blade with deadly effect. 

"Equalisers engage!" 

Thanks to my fellow NWA members for the pictures of this game. Hopefully, I have the time to make the report a little more narrative-based for the next game.

For an alternate take on the game, check out Ian's Blog: https://this28mmlife.blogspot.com.au/2017/07/super-shenanigans-super-system-4.html