Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Superhero Media: Invincible

Invincible advertises itself as "probably the best superhero comic in the universe", and damn if I'm not inclined to agree. Following Mark Greyson from the day he discovers his powers through to his ascendancy to an alien throne, Invincible finds uniqueness through combining tried-and-true genre conventions and tropes with a dash of postmodernist storytelling and metafiction. Mark is a combination of Peter Parker, Goku and Clark Kent, with just enough youthful enthusiasm to get into trouble, but enough humility to learn from his mistakes. The son of Superman-analog named Omni-Man, Mark discovers that his father's backstory is a lie and that they are both Vilturmites, the most feared race in the universe and near-immortal, pitiless, killing machines bent on conquest. Mark must struggle against his heritage and his own people to keep the Earth safe and prove himself the planet's greatest defender. The artwork is beautiful, evoking a classic, Silver Age, Four Colour aesthetic, but with modern technology and clothing, and punctuated by the occasional scene of extreme violence. 

The brutal fights Mark gets into against foes like Battle Beast, Thragg and Conquest don't shy away from the damage that super-powered foes can do to each other, with some characters dying horribly throughout the series. And then there's the characters, this article could just be a list of the awesome heroes and villains in the series like Allen the Alien, Atom Eve, Rex Splode, Monster Girl, The Immortal, Brit, Oliver, Dinosaurus and countless others. Invincible takes place in the broader Image Comics Universe, so guest spots from Savage Dragon, Witchblade and even Spawn can be seen, though the focus is on a more traditional Marvel/DC superhero setting, with a few jabs at their rivals along the way. Have I gushed enough about Invincible yet? You should be on Book Depository in another tab getting the first couple of volumes by now. Did I mention it's written by Robert Kirkman, of The Walking Dead fame? Except Invincible is probably the better comic, from my reading, but I do have a bias for superheroes. 

The series is practically bookended by the quote "After five hundred years, what will you have?" which speaks not only directly to the experience of Mark's own long life, but that of an ongoing comic and sequential storytelling. One of the best things about Invincible is that it ends and that it tells a whole story; yes, there are stumbles and bits I really don't like, but taken as a whole, this epic, superhero, space opera, human drama is one of the best things available to read in the genre. At the time of writing, there is an Invincible animated series in development, with the great JK Simmons cast as Omni-Man, which I hope gets up, but one day I'd like to see Invincible adapted for the big screen, even if it's just a trilogy about the Viltumite war or similar. Characters like Mark, Allen and Eve really need to get bigger exposure and more fans, and it seems only live action cinema or television can break many of these ideas through. It's a big commitment, but Invincible is well worth the investment of time and effort to get through, it's a hell of a read and I give it a go at least once a year.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Melee of Champions - 5

Been lucky and picked up some more cheap figurines. The trick is to check out sales and dig through the bins of 2nd hand stuff, looking for gems. I did actually pay full price for Solid Snake, who I pre-ordered when I was working Full Time. I have enough of these now that I've been able to move on some of the Star Wars and Pirates stuff that I picked up in job lots, but didn't really want that much.

Lucas (Mother Series), Princess Peach and Solid Snake (Amiibo). 
Jin (Tekken) and Stitch (Tokentasu and Disney Infinity).

I keep promising to put up stats for these things, but Super Mission Force has released a new edition and I just can't afford it, so you may have to wait a little longer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Superhero Media: Supernatural - Season 2

It's odd watching a programme I used to love develop into its final form more than a decade later. The second season of Supernatural starts with the brother and father Winchester in hospital and Dean on the brink of death, only by selling his life for his son's does John Winchester keep both the protagonists in the running. This will become an annoying running theme later on, but the episode of Dean being a ghost in a hospital is fun while it lasts, ending with a cliffhanger about Sam's powers which pay off halfway through the season. Sam's powers and their demonic origins are a major plot thread for season two, which has the interesting effect of, conversely, throwing Dean into the protagonist spot, usurping his brother from the previous season. As I reflect on Supernatural, it seems to me that Dean is the main protagonist, as he is often the one reacting to change as much as the audience and, aside from in Season 5, has nothing "special" over any other hunter or monster. 

Demons are the most common monster this time around, as Yellow Eyes is gathering the super-powered children, like Sam, to open a gate to Hell and only the handful of hunters with recurring actors can stop him. That reminds me, there are other hunters this time around, with a whole truck stop full of extras and even a rival hunter I can't remember the name of who is a little too gung-ho about all of the murder he's doing. Grey areas start to enter the narrative, with bad hunters, good vampires and factions within Hell's ranks, which helps add tension, but won't play out until later seasons. There is a really clever episode where a ghost is unaware she is a ghost and the brothers need to help her crossover, which is worth a look all on its own and is considered one of the best by fans online. Also worth checking out, for my money, is "Hollywood Babylon", where the brothers work on the set of a b-grade horror film directed by Supernatural's producer, it's fun and not too meta. 

The plot of Yellow Eyes "seeding" children to have powers later in life isn't too far from an evil version of Nick Fury's "Caterpillar Program" from Secret Warriors, and would work nicely in any Ghost Rider, Constantine or BPRD scenario you were putting together, but, once again, the "monster of the week" content is more suited to something like a roleplaying game. Even with the distance of time and presence of newer content from streaming, the broadcast series style of Supernatural remains really watchable, especially from here on out as the cast and crew are established and the balance between the serious moments and gags is balanced like a fencing sabre most of the time. If Supernatural has a weakness, beyond budget and stunt-cast guest stars, it's that the core cast never expands much beyond the brothers Winchester, and I do enjoy a good ensemble.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Team Ideas: Duckvengers, Quak-semble!

This idea has been knocking around my head for a while now, but the new Duck Tales beat me to it with what are being referred to as the "Justice Ducks". However, as regular readers will know, I'm not one to do things by halves, and there is just so much opportunity and possibility now that Disney owns Marvel, assuming someone as mad as me were at the helm. So without further ado, let's get dangerous! 

Why settle for one franchise when we can mash several together? When trouble strikes Duckburg, and even the adventurous billionaire Scrooge McDuck and his coterie of hangers-on aren't enough, the signal is sent out for the Duckvengers to quack-semble! This team of Earth's Mightiest Mallards are the last line of defense against the forces of evil.

Darkwing Duck 

The Duck Knight. The Quacking Crusader. The Masked Mallard-Hunter. All these and more are names few people call Darkwing Duck, defender of St Canard and part-time single father. Fulfilling the "Batman" role in the team, Darkwing Duck is a tactical genius and master planner by his own admission, having defeated many villains in his storied career. Though did you ever notice he doesn't fight anyone all that often? Weird.

Howard the Duck 

He's battled villains, aliens, even gods and has lived to tell the tale; he is none other than the dimension-hopping duck-at-leisure known as Howard. As well as a wealth of experience throughout the multiverse, Howard is a master of Quack-Fu and has a hotline to many other superheroes (though most have blocked his number).


Is Gizmoduck more the Iron Man, Superman or Robocop of the team? These are the important questions that keep me up at night. Definitely one of the heavy-hitters of the Duckvengers, Gizmoduck puts many of the other heroes to shame with his power, especially Darkwing Duck. Good thing they put their differences aside and didn't have to fight each other in some asinine "Dawn of Justice Ducks".

Ducktor Strange

Yo dawg, I heard you like deep cuts, so I cut this one so deep the cops are on my tail! Ducktor Strange, Mallard of the Mystic Arts is the Sorcerer Supreme of his dimension, and a drunk. Thankfully, he's easy to find, just rummage through the pile of rubbish outside the nearest bar and you're sure to find him. Despite his alcoholism, Ducktor Strange is a powerful wizard and valued member of the team, when they can point him in the right direction.

Cold Shadow 
Oh, you thought I just did Marvel deep cuts? Well buckle-up sailor, because here comes Muai Mallard, aka Cold Shadow, who may be Donald Duck? Or maybe Donald just plays him, like as an actor? Is Donald an actor? I thought he was a sailor? Anyway, Maui Mallard trained at a secret ninja academy to become Cold Shadow, heroic ninja warrior and righter of wrongs. Every good team needs a ninja and Cold Shadow fits the Duck's bill. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Superhero Media: Power Rangers (2017)

Although I'm not a fan, I feel that I do actually "get" Power Rangers as a franchise, and why it has such appeal. Whilst I never really enjoy watching more than a little of the programme, a giant robot fighting a giant monster on a nicely made model set will always get my interest. When the reviews of the 2017 Power Rangers film were overwhelmingly negative, it piqued my interest, as the trailers had looked decent enough, if a tad generic. Well, it took a while for Power Rangers to come to Netflix, then I kept putting it off, but one night, I had the house to myself and some commission painting to do, so I gave it a go. In my opinion, the major issue with Power Rangers centres around the studio being unwilling to take any real risks. The characters, story, soundtrack and narrative are rather dull and generic, with little sprinklings of good ideas here and there, yes, but that never seem to gain any real traction. 

In the small fishing village of Angel Grove, no really, the "Breakfast Club" of detention accidentally all end up at the same mysterious cave one evening and discover magic disks with the ability to destroy anything they touch other than the five teenagers with attitude. Before you can say "world-building", the teens have encountered Alpha and Zordon and have the background on Rita and Goldar. There is an odd tension to Power Rangers, between the desire to build up the characters and the conflicting rush to the third act with the big CGI monster fight. I want to like Billy and Jason because they're portrayed sympathetically, but we spend so little time with each that I don't get the sense of them as people beyond broad stokes. Yes, it's cool that Trini is queer, but it doesn't inform the film beyond a moment between her and Zach over their mutual trauma, and I'm not sure being a carer for a sick parent is equitable to being queer in a conservative household. 

The big blowout against Rita in the finale is sadly pretty forgettable as well, with the secret to forming Megazord being the power of friendship, even if the Zords themselves do look pretty neat. There is a moment where the Zords are running into battle and the classic Ron Wasserman "Go Go Power Rangers" starts and I had some hope for a moment, but it's undercut with an ableist joke about how the Autistic boy is uncoordinated. Elizabeth Banks is fun, but clearly no one told her the tone everyone else was going for, I do like the idea that she was a corrupted former Ranger as an origin, not that it really got covered in a significant way. Power Rangers is a dull mess, which is a shame, because as a franchise, it really has potential to be more than the glorified toy commercial most series settle for being.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Minatures Finished: Big Lads

Some weeks I seem to get a whole lot of work done on supers, others it feels like I struggle to get even one done. Oddly, the handful I've finished lately are all larger than human-sized, which is a nice switch-up to the normal and makes for some fun pictures.

Sobek: After re-reading 52, I decided I needed a Sobek, Isis and Osiris to go with my Black Adam. Oddly, I came across Sobek first, so he got done. Tempted to do another version where he's eating Osiris, but we'll see. Reaper Bones. 

Baymax: I mostly wanted the "soft and cuddly" Baymax first up, as you may have seen way back, but the option of this one as well was pretty tempting. Nano Metalfigs. 

Thrak: As I've been playing Empire of the Dead again, I thought it may actually be fun to try and put together a version of the "Victorian Justice League" I did years back. J'onn J'onzz here will use the "Mister Chop" character stats with no modification needed. Tin Man. 

Maestro: Couldn't resist this alternate-future Hulk with shaggy hair and megalomania after reading the new Contest of Champions. Will have to work him into some Sci-Fi gaming soon. Heroclix. 

The Destroyer Armour: I needed the head off this guy for my Kill Team Aesir Dreadnought, but he was too big, so my old one got beheaded and this guy got a coat of paint. Looks better bigger anyway. Heroclix. 

Bushmaster: One day, I'll have enough painted Serpent Society characters to get a game in, but until then, I can have fun painting them up. Heroclix. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Superhero Media: My Hero Academia - Season 2

I was told by one of my Anime-obsessed friends that My Hero Academia really picks up in the second season, and I was delighted to discover that he was correct, even if it took until about halfway through to do so. As My Hero Academia is being adapted from a Manga, the breaks in story lines don't necessarily line up well with a broadcast season, so whilst the first half of the season deals with the Sports Festival, the rest covers several separate events. I found the sports festival to be pretty tedious until it got to the fighting tournament, though seeing how different streams of UA High School work was interesting, especially the Support Class (who make superhero gadgets) and the Business Class (who manage pro heroes), sadly, more time is spent on Class B, who are rivals to Class A because reasons. Season 2 gives us more background on characters other than Deku, which is good, but makes me wonder why Todoroki isn't the main character, as he has a much deeper and more compelling backstory than Deku. 

It's been a while since I had one of these "wrong protagonist" Superhero Media articles, but it still bugs me, though due to the serial nature of Manga, I'm more inclined to forgive this lapse. Still, Todoroki is the product of an arranged marriage between the Number 2 hero, Endeavor, and a woman with a complimentary power set; he is the youngest of at least seven children, having the perfect balance of both powers, he is trained by his father whilst the other children get normal lives. After years of abuse, Todoroki's mother snaps and pours boiling water on the boy, leaving his "Father" side scarred. Now that's a backstory. Sadly, Deku's fragile emotions are still the main focus, though after some training from veteran hero Gran Torino, he learns to control both his power and his crying somewhat. A new villain, Stain, the Hero Killer, comes and goes pretty quickly, which is a shame, because his motivation is interesting and would have been something to explore. 

Probably the best part of the season involves the students doing "Work Placement" with professional heroes. Deku is, of course, the focus, but Ochaco joining up with a Bruiser style hero to learn to fight and Tsu getting a decent chunk of an episode to be more than a joke character make me want to see more of them as well. Late in the season, there's an "Origins" episode for Bakugo, which still doesn't explain his anger issues or why he's not either in therapy or prison. Seriously, he attacks teachers and civilians during the Sports Festival, that's gotta be an expulsion offense. I'm still not completely sold on My Hero Academia, but I am more keen for season three than I was for season two, when I eventually get there, not that I'm hurrying or you should expect to see it here anytime soon.