Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Miniatures Finished: Axis of Evil

Plenty of baddies coming off the painting table lately, I must be up to something... 

 Major Force, Lex Luthor and Bi-beast. 

 Jackal, Hannibal Lecter/Arkham inmate/prisoner and Desaad.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Superhero Media: The Legend of Zorro

I don't recall ever having heard anything about this film, even though it came out more than a decade ago and was the sequel to a popular hit, no one seemed to have anything to say about it. Naturally, this lack of discourse leads to the assumption that The Legend of Zorro is not a good film, which is fair, but incorrect; whilst it lacks the strength of narrative and performance of The Mask of Zorro, it is very much enjoyable in its own right. Years after the events of The Mask of Zorro, Alejandro and Elena are married with a school-age son and Zorro is the hero of the people, aiding in California joining the United States of America. Friction exists between Alejandro and Elena, as the latter wants the former to give up the mantle of Zorro to be with his family, but the people seem unable to give up their need for Zorro. Before a detente is reached, Elena is picked up by Pinkerton men and forced to divorce Alejandro. 

What follow is a straightforward "get the girl back" narrative meets a "stop the evil plan" narrative with the twist of Elena being engaged to the bad guy as part of a Pinkerton spying mission. The Legend of Zorro may be far from original, but the actors deliver and the pace is rapid enough that boredom never sets in. The film actually makes an interesting contrast to Wild Wild West, of all things, as both feature a cadre of wealthy men as the villains and a person of colour as the hero, supporting a pro-USA line. I still stand by what I said in that article, with Loveless being the crusading hero against American Imperialism, but in The Legend of Zorro, joining the United States is actually the better offer as it means freedom from the oligarchy of the corrupt Dons and a stronger front against the Confederacy. Yes, Zorro and his people are in for a nasty shock when they find out how Spanish language speakers will be treated in the USA in a few years' time, but for now, things look good as part of the USA. 

In the third act, there is a climatic train sequence which seemed oddly familiar to me, until I remembered watching The Lone Ranger; I wouldn't say that The Lone Ranger lifted the entire sequence from The Legend of Zorro, but the horse chase on top of the train and the hero needing to rescue his wife and son from the rich guy in his luxury carriage are strikingly similar. I'm not sure what a third film in this series would have looked like, but I think I would have liked to see it, even with Legend being less entertaining that Mask was. A reason for Zorro to quit would have been interesting to see, perhaps passing the torch or even revealing himself to the world in one last act of heroism. Again, I wonder why there aren't more Zorro films coming out? It seems like an easy sell and Colombia/Tristar/Sony Pictures have been struggling to get a superhero franchise up and running since the Rami Spider-Man series. How is a swashbuckling, cowboy, Hispanic vigilante not a good idea in the current film climate? Hell, Colombia last had the rights to The Green Hornet, there's a "Cinematic Universe" waiting to happen.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

MI-13: Part V

Following the events in Birmingham, the next few months are quiet for the team, mostly focused on preventing violent crime and mopping up the odd Dark Elf. Being a Government agency, and therefore taxpayer-funded, MI-13 is not keen to have its members idle, so a great deal of time has been spent in training. The team has access to the usual MI-5 training facilities, but also has a large bunker-like structure for experimenting with superpowers in safety. During one such training session, Pete Wisdom enters with a new recruit for the team, Major Thomas "Toothy" Lancaster, a former member of the SAS who had volunteered for a Super Solider experiment and found himself with massively increased strength at the cost of fine motor control. Lancaster will be taking up the mantle of Union Jack, as none of the Falsworth dynasty are able to do so at this time. 

The team is reticent about having another Union Jack around, and challenge the appointment, but Pete Wisdom waves them off and leaves. Being a military man, Lancaster is not accustomed to the effrontery of Sandman and demands an opportunity to prove his worth. Psylocke offers to hurl a large concrete block at Union Jack with her mind, and is mildly taken aback when he consents. The block, weaponised by Psylocke's telekinesis, hits Union Jack at a significant velocity, but he is unharmed. To demonstrate his strength, the newcomer punches the block and cracks it through. Psylocke is suitably impressed, but Purple Shadow and Sandman scoff into their tea mugs. 

The calm is shattered when an explosion of light fills the room, a glowing tunnel through space sucks the team in and they are sent tumbling though a kaleidoscope of possible realities. When they finally tumble out the far end of the tunnel, our heroes find themselves in an abandoned aircraft hanger, surrounded by seven mysterious figures, figures known as The Champions of the Omniverse! From the fresh 90s styling of Spider-Strike, to the subtitles and spandex of Koga, the Champions are an impressive sight to those that do not know their history of incompetence and failure. The Gregarious Gigawatt introduces himself and his companions, stating that they have pulled Purple Shadow, Union Jack, Psylocke and Sandman from their own reality in order to execute them before they can commit a crime that will endanger the entire Omniverse. 

Our heroes are skeptical that the Champions carry any actual authority, especially as The Arsonist is wearing a trench coat without a shirt, and challenge them as to when they were tried and convicted. Sonic Tsunami's explanation of the Omniversal Claims Circuit Court leaves much to be desired, but the heroes of MI-13 are similarly unable to sway the Champions on their sentence of death. Purple Shadow, hoping that they had not truly been transported to another universe, had been buzzing Pete Wisdom on her radio, to no avail. Having talked like rational adults for far too long, the Champions at last resort to violence, their tried-and-true solution to all life's problems. 

Firenado attempts to activate his fiery powers, but to no avail, giving Sandman the opportunity to take a run at The Arsonist, but the rival hero is as dodgy as he looks. Bragging about how Peter Parker wasn't 'hardcore' enough to be the Spider-Man the world needed, Spider-Strike throws himself at Union Jack, but his six punches merely bounce off the flag-clad hero's tough hide. Knowing that the team must escape before they are overwhelmed, Union Jack grabs Psylocke and throws her towards the nearest door before punching Spider-Strike in the face, Psylocke drifts gracefully down with her Telekinesis and depresses the 'door open' button. Sighing, Gigawatt signals for Koga and Manzilla to help Spider-Strike as he throws a bolt of lightning at Purple Shadow, knocking her off her feet. 

As Psylocke starts to harry Sonic Tsunami, the semi-aquatic Samurai sprays water over Purple Shadow and Union Jack before freezing it, slipping Union Jack up and sending him sliding. Purple Shadow, however, is able to keep her footing and makes for the slowly-opening roller door. Not being known for his sparkling intellect, Manzilla decides the best way to help Spider-Strike is to pick him up and get him to safety, Spider-Strike is not keen on the idea and isn't cooperative, stalling the pair of them. Using his light-bending powers, Koga vanishes from sight, like some kind of ninja, as The Arsonist uses his fire-control powers to boot Firenado to new heights. Sandman, seeing a living tornado of fire lighting up before him, sprays the offending mutant with his gas gun, knocking his foe out for the remainder of the battle. 

Picking himself up, Union Jack finds that no one is nearby, so elects to make a dash for the door himself. Supported in the air by a jet of water, Sonic Tsunami creates another patch of ice under Purple Shadow, this time she loses her footing and slides right to Koga's feet. Gripping an abandoned dumpster with the power of her mind, Psylocke sends it flying at The Arsonist, who dodges, but the projectile carries on to hit Manzilla, barely wounding the beast, but making him mad. Taking to the air, despite his bulk, Manzilla flies straight at Psylocke. Purple Shadow and Koga become locked in a struggle, with neither having much success, thanks to Koga's powers. The Gregarious Gigawatt catches up with the fleeing Sandman, but he can't get a grip on the sandy superhero. An angry Spider-Strike shouts "I'm not done with you yet" as he leaps at Union Jack, his spider-stingers digging deep into the hero's flesh, but seemingly doing little damage. In return, Union Jack batters the foe away and moves closer to freedom. 

Like a hairy zeppelin, Manzilla drops from the skies towards Psylocke, intending to crush her under his bulk, but she narrowly dodges and Manzilla crashes hard into the ground, slipping across the ice left by Sonic Tsunami. It's not a total failure, however, as Psylocke no longer has access to the door control behind the prone Manzilla. Not liking her odds against two super-powered foes, Purple Shadow dodges away, but both Koga and The Arsonist get their licks in, leaving the super-spy staggered, but she still makes it a decent distance towards the door. Seeing that Firenado is still under from his sleep gas, Sandman tries his luck once more against the cluster of Koga, The Arsonist, Spider-Strike and Sonic Tsunami, whilst shouting at his comrades to hurry up and exit the building. Figuring that the direct approach is perhaps the best, Psylocke lifts a dumpster with her telekinesis and rams it into the roller door, but it bounces off with little ill effect to either. 

The Arsonist wakes up from the gas and manages to shake Koga out his coma, but doesn't have any luck with Spider-Strike. Bringing things to a head, Union Jack uses his superhuman strength to rip the roller door apart, yelling for the team to get out while he covers them. An enraged Manzilla is too quick for Psylocke, however, and rakes her viciously with his claws, Psylocke whips debris at him in retaliation, but they only bounce off, so she hovers out the door as fast as she can manage. Seeing their quarry starting to escape, Gigawatt runs at Union Jack, landing a few blows so hard that words describing the impact spontaneously appear in the air. Stunned by the series of uncanny events playing out before her, Purple Shadow reaches the conclusion that she's better off away from the bizarre Champions and quickly follows Psylocke out of the hanger. 

Awaking to find himself in a puddle of water he was once suspended on, Sonic Tsunami reshapes the liquid into another support and creates a patch of ice under Union Jack, the flag-clad hero loses his footing and skids away from Gigawatt. Sandman sprays his sleeping gas once more, before dodging away himself, once again knocking out Sonic Tsunami, The Arsonist, Spider-Strike and Koga, though only for the precious seconds he needs to escape. The last of the MI-13 heroes in the hanger, Union Jack has a cunning plan to escape, but he still can't find his footing on the ice and slides further, this time ending up closer to the door in a happy accident. Both Spider-Strike and Manzilla pounce on Union Jack, but his strange powers absorb the damage and increase his own strength. With this mighty new power, Union Jack puts his most powerful blow into Manzilla's chest, but the beast is unharmed. With a weary sigh, Union Jack slips free and runs after his teammates. 

The streets outside that our heroes confront are like nothing they expected. The cobbles and Victorian drains speak of London, but the architecture is Brutalist, imposing and plastered with posters displaying slogans like "Jaspers is our man!" and "The Only Good Hero is a Dead Hero!". The face of Lord James Jaspers, MP looms over the street on a dozen banners, proclaiming his dominance of Britain. Stunned for a moment, the heroes of MI-13 pause long enough for the Champions of the Omniverse to catch up. Our heroes turn to fight, but the Champions don't get too close, instead explaining that MI-13 have been brought to a world where the government has killed all of the superhumans and that they won't last long in this place. Wishing MI-13 the most sarcastic of luck, the Champions of the Omniverse use their portal to escape the current reality. 

Left stranded in a hostile world, Sandman, Union Jack, Purple Shadow and Psylocke have nowhere to go and no help to call upon. Just as they wonder where they can find refuge, a phalanx of highly militarised police rounds the corner and spots them. Though costumed heroes are now a rare sight in this crooked world, the police are well-drilled and soon demand that our heroes surrender. 

What strange fate awaits our heroes in this new reality? Will they find their way home? Are the Champions of the Omniverse actually good at anything? All these questions and more will be answered next ish! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Superhero Media: Misfits

I remember when Misfits came on television the first time, I wasn't able to watch it because it was on a digital channel and I still had an analog television. A couple of friends gave it rave reviews, but I just never got around to seeing it. Flash forward to 2018 and I decide to watch the entire series, which is now on Netflix, another friend mentions that she'd stopped watching after the third season. A quick look online told me that most people feel the programme became unwatchable after the third season, as most of the original cast had left. This is actually a little unfair, as the final two seasons of Misfits really don't resemble the original all that much, being more episodic and focused on "monster of the week" style antics rather than the overarching story that it began with. 

The "inciting incident" of Misfits is a mysterious storm that grants the protagonists (and, we find out later, at least 100 other people) super powers, somewhat based on their desires. Curtis gets the ability to travel back in time, because one mistake ruined his sprinting career, Kelly can read minds because she's concerned about what other people think about her, Simon can turn invisible because he's constantly ignored by those around him, and so on. This theme dissipates rather quickly as the writers include more esoteric powers and introduce a character who can "deal" powers by taking and giving them, which he does for money. By the time the final "team" of characters are around, the powers are pretty much just whatever the writers need or want, including flight, telekinesis and removing powers by having sex with someone. Abbey is probably the most fascinating character in the series, not having a power herself, but being an imaginary friend of a woman brought to life; her search for meaning makes for some strong character moments. 

Misfits "feels" a little like a superhero roleplaying game that someone is running, with a good basic premise that kind of falls away after a while because the players caught up with the story the GM had written and wanted to keep going. Where Misfits ends doesn't really resemble where it started, but it's still an entertaining programme with a few really good ideas for supers characters to be discovered. A person whose acid trips come to life, a woman with hypnotic breasts and swapping body parts with another person are all fun ideas to explore in your own writing or games and are mostly handled pretty well here. I can't imagine anyone really wanting to play the characters from Misfits in a miniatures game, but if that was your thing, there are plenty of jumpsuit clad miniatures out there to have a go at converting and painting. Misfits is probably not something I'll rewatch, but the entire series is worth a look if you can find it.