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.