Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Champions of the Omniverse - Part 6

After the trials of the last adventure, our team of heroes has had time to rest and recuperate. When they are ready, Eon once again sends them into the time-stream, when they come to in their new places, they are standing in the Ready-room for the [in]famous Danger Room of the X-Mansion! As the doors open, Sonic Tsunami, Spidertrike, Gigawatt and Firenado see a robotic lion prowling around a cage containing Koga. Using his newfound ice-powers, Sonic Tsunami freezes the robot to the floor and the others advance carefully. Metal rings materialise out of the air, wrapping around Firenado for a moment before meting in the heat of a fiery blast as metal tentacles appear out of the floor, grabbing Gigawatt, but missing the others. Sonic Tsunami makes it to the cage, but sees that it is a form of "Tiger Cage" and only brute strength will free their friend. Whilst Firenado finishes off the last of the rings and Gigawatt frees himself from the tentacle, Spiderstrike reaches the cage, ripping out a bar with a combination of raw strength and his "Spider Bite" power. 

Sonic Tsunami keeps the robotic lion pinned to the ground in a wall of ice as Gigawatt and Spiderstrike team up to bend the bars of the cage and free Koga; as they reach in, their hands pass through their comrade, he was only part of the simulation. Meanwhile, Koga has finished making a "Morphin'" device in the X-Mansion workshop and is making sandwiches in the kitchen for the other X-Men when the window bursts in, showing him with glass. The Fixer steps through the broken window, hefting a handful of grenade-like gadgets and issuing demands:
"Where is Firenado? I'm here for Firenado!" 

The gadgets turn out to be a form of gas weapon, which soon have Koga bolting for the next room to catch his breath. As the Fixer fiddles with his devices, the power in the mansion cycles off then on again, sealing the Danger Room and reactivating it, on the most dangerous setting! 

The robotic lion reactivates, pouncing on Gigawatt! Fortunately, Spiderstrike and Sonic Tsunami are nearby, and the terrific trio soon batter the beast into submission. Meanwhile, several floors above, Koga uses his weather control powers to clear the gas and runs at the Fixer, utilising his corrosive touch to destroy the circuitry in the Fixer's suit. Thankfully, Professor X has regained control of the Mansion's Security Systems and shuts down both the Danger Room and the Fixer's mind. 
Gathered in the library, our heroes learn that the Fixer has come seeking revenge for the death of his former partner, Mentallo, at the hands of Firenado. But this shocking accusation is not the only twist Fixer comes bearing, he also has a Betamax tape showing Firenado murdering Mentallo with his ferocious flames! The team know that Firenado is no murderer (at worst, a manslaughter-er), so they resolve to investigate the Fixer's accusations. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Superhero Media: Dragonball Z - Season Seven

I actually like the Great Saiyaman Saga, quite a lot actually, which tends to put me at odds with other DBZ fans, who only tune in for the homoerotic punching. I doubt it's any surprise to anyone reading this that I'm a big fan of Silver Age comics tropes, which is part of the reason I find the Saiyaman stuff so much fun. Think about it; Gohan is a teenager, but also a Superhero in a colourful costume, he protects one city, is pursued by a female companion obsessed with discovering the Superhero's identity and most of the enemies are regular criminals who underestimate the hero's abilities. If you've ever read some Silver Age The Flash, Martian Manhunter or Blue Beetle, this is pretty much bang on. For all the videos and reviews on the internet that point out references in DB/DBZ/DBGT/DBS to Western films and television, I don't see this one too much, which I guess is down to people just not liking the saga? 

I think part of the disappointment many fans have with this season comes from just how much the characters have changed since the defeat of Cell. Although the Celestial Tournament Saga is full of fun characters and hearkens back to Dragonball in many ways, aside from a couple of offhand references from Goku later, the Saga may as well have never happened; I mean, if the Supreme Kai is bringing in the mightiest dead warriors to combat Buu, where are Pikkon and Olibu? Not a major misstep though, and the World Tournament Saga more than makes up for it. The Trunks/Goten fight is one of the best in the series, Spopovich is a memorable villain for such little screen time and Mr Satan is always good for a few laughs. Also, unlike some of the later Sagas and films, Android 18 gets to go fight (at least in the tournament) because she is stronger than half the Z Fighters, plus even Videl gets some great fight scenes.

If I were to guess at the one big problem with this season, and to a lesser extent in the next two, is that it all feels like a bit of a let-down after Cell. There are plenty of good ideas, great jokes and fun characters, but they never really hit the emotional heights of the Father-Son Kamehameha and Trunks returning home to free his world. Honestly, were I not doing a full rewatch of the series, I probably would have stopped shortly after this, but the Tournaments are still a lot of fun, even if their endings aren't the best in Dragonball history. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Champions of the Omniverse - Part 5

A giant Doctor Octopus-shaped robot is marching down Garfield Avenue and only The Champions of the Ominverse can stop it. Gigawatt, Spiderstrike, Koga and Manzilla chase after the robot, trying to spot an obvious weakness, but finding none. Firenado flies after the robot, slinging flame with no effect at the lumbering metal monstrosity while Koga tries to attack the ankle with similar luck. Hitting on a brilliant plan (for a change), the heroes combine their power; Sonic Tsunami spreads a puddle of water under the robot's feet, Manzilla freezes the water with his Arctic breath, Gigawatt hurls a compact car and Firenado sets it alight before it hits the robot, finally damaging the metal monster and causing it to topple. The heroes take advantage of the opportunity and swarm their target, even managing to add a few dents. 

 (Actual picture of the game! With WIP Champion minis) 

After bashing in the knee of the robot with a handy car, Gigawatt notices some kind of access hatch on the soles of the feet. Although unable to pick itself up on the slippery ice, the robot blasts a laser at Gigawatt, grievously wounding him, and snatching up and crushing Koga into unconsciousness. Gigawatt and Manzilla rip the hatch off the left foot, Gigawatt climbing into the belly (or leg) of the beast. A nearby group of Japanese tourists rush to the aid of Koga, keeping the grim reaper at bay. Firenado and Gigawatt rush into the toppled robot and start tearing up the interior with flame and two-fisted action just as Spidertrike falls prey to the grasping tentacles of the octopus! Sonic Tsunami uses his water-control powers to keep the robot pinned to the ground whilst Manzilla tries to break the grasp holding his teammate; alas, Spiderstrike is brutally crushed and drops to the ground unconscious. 

Meanwhile, inside the giant robot, Firenado and Gigawatt discover that smashing the crap out of everything is a highly effective way of stopping the robot, before long, the metal monster has deactivated and the people of New York are cheering on our heroes. Soon SHIELD arrives to clean up and our heroes once again find themselves drawn to the void with Eon. 
"You have done well, but the struggle is far from over, once you have healed, you shall be sent on an adventure even more dangerous." 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Superhero Media: Batman V Superman - Dawn of Justice

Seriously. How was this film as bad as it was? The two biggest and most iconic superheroes of all time finally get to have their decades of crossover success played out on the big screen. With a massive budget. In the superhero film house that The Avengers built. With a brilliant visual director. And an accomplished Hollywood writer. And this is what we got. 

By now, major dissections of this film and "where it went wrong" articles and videos are saturating the internet, so that's not what I'm going to be doing here. Rather, I want to take a look at how the relative quality of the film has affected the industry and nerd culture that surrounds the current wave of Superhero cinema. First off, I don't care if you like this film or enjoyed it or whatever, it is a bad film. Hey, it's ok to enjoy a bad film, I really like Tron, Daredevil and the Doctor Who movie; not everything that I or anyone enjoys needs to be of some minimum quality to be considered enjoyable. I've watched this film three times now and I can say, it does not get better, there are no more clever bits in it than are immediately obvious and it only lessens with each viewing. 

That is to say, the few truly enjoyable and well-constructed moments of film in Batman V Superman - Dawn of Justice are not enhanced by their juxtaposition to the poorly-written and realised segments of the same film, they are dragged down into the same interminable morass. For example, the opening dream sequence, easily the best part of the film, is functionally forgotten by the time Batman has murdered 27 human beings in the process of realsing his homoerotic obsession with Superman. Yeah, Batman kills 27 people in this film, I've counted. Forget the overblown use of filters and nonsensical script, the very fact that Batman kills 27 people and Superman just came off a film where collateral damage was of less concern to him than getting into Lois' pants.

To me, therein lays the tragedy of this film and the so-called "DCEU" moving forward; a bad version of Batman and a bad version of Superman (and, yes, a passable Wonder Woman) are the flag-bearers of a decade's worth of upcoming cinema. Just imagine if Iron Man had been a flop, there would be no The Avengers, because Marvel Studios wasn't pre-planning the MCU as we now know it; Iron Man was (technically) an independent film, merely an experiment that turned out to pay dividends. As DC and Warner Brothers try to catch up to the runaway success of pretty much everything Marvel Studios touches, have rushed their own facsimile of a film shared universe with far less though and refinement than seems necessary. Just look at the DCAU from the 1990s, those programmes had nearly a decade to go from the "Batman only Show" to having dozens of heroes patrolling the Earth in Justice League Unlimited. We're nearly a decade out from 2008's Iron Man and of all things we're looking down the barrel of a Guardians of the Galaxy sequel. Finally, we get to my main problem with all of this. 

Thanks to Marvel Studios, I have DVDs of live action films and television featuring Rocket Racoon, Hawkeye, Jessica Jones and more than one reference to the Two-Gun Kid. If DC/WB keep going the way they have been, I'm NEVER going to see Booster Gold, Renee Montoya, Red Tornado, Animal Man or countless others move from four-colour panels to the big screen. That sucks. Buddy Baker and Vic Sage deserve mainstream exposure as much as Peter Quill and Danny Rand, which will never happen if Justice League is as flat and dull as Batman V Superman - Dawn of Justice. Bad film. Bad for you, bad for superheroes, bad for the industry. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Champions of the Omniverse - Part 4

When we last left our heroes, they were storming the abandoned Globe Newspaper building and had just beaten the terrifying Radioactive Man into submission. Not wanting to rush in unprepared, Spiderstrike, Firenado and Gigawatt scout around the building, checking skylights and roof access to make sure that the flaming hole they left in the side of the building is still a viable entrance. When the trio finally steps inside they discover a massive Doctor Octopus robot being guarded by Beetle, Scorpion and Doctor Octopus himself. Just as Spiderstrike readies his sound control powers for sneaking up on the enemy, Doc Ock shouts out;

"Stop them you fools, or all my plans will be ruined!

Beetle buzzes into action, firing a paralyzing ray and taking Gigawatt out of the fight almost immediately! Firenado blasts at Scorpion, managing to do some damage through his high-tech armour and  shorting out the blaster in his tail. Scorpion, enraged, chases after Firenado as the hero darts around the building, firing off the odd blast of flame at the arch-villain. Spiderstrike leaps into battle against the Beetle, but comes off second best and is forced to take to the shadows and attempt to help in another way. 
Sick of Firenado buzzing him, Scorpion grabs the paralyzed form of Gigawatt and threatens the heroes; 
"Get down here or I'll kill your friend with these claws that not every artist remembers to include on my costume!"

Being a true hero, Firenado agrees to land and follows Scorpion's instructions to back up towards the giant robot, at the same time, Spiderstrike has reached the feet of the robot and is looking for a way to disable it (in his civilian identity, he is an electrical engineer). Too late, the heroes realise that the printing presses around the giant robot are laid with traps! A sneaky laser blast takes out Spiderstrike and a missile almost finishes off Firenado! Luckily, Gigawatt recovers just in the nick of time and charges down Beetle, pummeling the criminal into submission. The tide turning, Gigawatt and Firenado team up to batter Scorpion into unconsciousness and turn to face Doc Ock... only to find that the fiend has slipped away in the chaos! If that weren't bad enough, the robot is active; it breaks through the wall of the building and starts to rampage through Manhattan
What will become of our heroes? Can they save the city? Only time, and our next issue, will tell!  

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Superhero Media: The Lost Boys

I fucking love this film. Yes, it's almost pure 1980s camp and glam from start to finish, but it also never aspires to be anything grander than campy vampire fun. In fact, it's pretty damn arguable that The Lost Boys is the best example of campy vampire fun to have ever hit the big screen (Fright Night being the main rival to this title in my mind). Little meta-film elements like the career trajectory of Kiefer Sutherland or the life of self-parody that Corey Feldman has fallen into have tarnished The Lost Boys somewhat in a broader popular culture sense, but, to my mind, nothing can truly diminish the visceral thrills of a vampire being pushed into a bathtub of holy water by a dog or the impact of the final line of the film. Its big, loud, gaudy, more than a little camp and a hell of a lot of fun, what more could you want? One reason I love The Lost Boys is that it usurps the Romantic/Byronic Vampire trope, in a way which few films have done, and certainly few films as good as this one. 

You know what else is awesome about The Lost Boys? The soundtrack. Flexing my music nerd credentials, hearing music from Echo & The Bunnymen, Roger Daltry, Lou Gramm and INXS is pretty freaking awesome, as well as a wonderfully counter-cultural scene in which David and his vampire cronies ambush and tear apart a group of bikers blasting Areosmith. Take that Hair Metal. :D My god this is clever when it wants to be. The scene where Sam criticizes the Frog Brother's organisation of Superman comics to gain acceptance is a loving wink to geek culture and the absurdity of the film's own premise. It's glossy, it looks good, Joel Schumacher is a brilliant visual director and it shows when he gets to do the film the way he wants; yes, Batman & Robin is a train wreck, but at no point does it look bad, every detail is superbly realised. Now take that passion for visual direction and apply it to a fun horror romp filled with iconic actors and a subversive soundtrack. What's not to love? 

I know that more than a few of my readers have kids; get them onto The Lost Boys. It is an underappreciated classic that people never seem to remember fondly. Is there fertile ground for supers gaming to be had? Hell yes! In the climax, Michael embraces his burgeoning Vampire powers for the first time to battle David, knowing that he and Star may not survive when their curse is removed. Those are some decent stakes to break out your new superpowers on, much better than I've seen done in more than a few comics and a couple of Supers con-games I've had the misfortune of playing. If I ever get around to finishing that Modern Horror skirmish game I'm working on, you can bet "Not-" versions of Michael, Daniel and the Frog Brothers will feature somewhere. 

"Now you know what we are, now you know what you are. You'll never grow old, Michael, and you'll never die. But you must feed!" 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Champions of the Omiverse - Part 3

Left stunned and somewhat injured after their foes' escape, our heroes are at a loss for what to do next and head over to the Avenger's Mansion to recover for a little while. After downing a few beers, the team had it pointed out by Jarvis that they probably should find out why this odd combination of villains were specifically after designs and parts of Mandroid armour and they hurried back to the Krupp building to investigate. By this time, The Fixer has been taken away with severe spinal trauma, but the heroes are informed that some samples of mud were taken from his boots and sent to the police lab. Wandering around the local area, our heroes find a witness that can identify the truck that the villains escape in, beginning a long and tedious telephone chain to find the rental yard. A trail of bribes and interviews bought them finally to Squid's Bar, by the docks in a run-down part of town. 

Jim McCreed, a local low-life had been paid off by a mysterious man in a coat and hat to drop off the rental truck near the old, abandoned Globe Newspaper building. With a location at last, the heroes donned their costumes and took a Quinjet to confront their foes. Spiderstrike and Firenado investigate the roof while Koga, Sonic Tsunami, Gigawatt and The Arsonist (formerly Ember2Inferno, he got retconned) argue about how to open a door. Firenado is struck by something and temporarily paralyzed, but Spiderstrike fails to notice, meanwhile The Arsonist lights up the door, using his power to boost a match into a blazing inferno. Just as Firenado is able to move again and shouts a warning, The Radioactive man comes crashing through the flaming door, narrowly missing The Arsonist! 

The Champions leap into action, with every member of the team (aside from Firenado) laying into Radioactive Man and bringing the titan of nuclear power down before he can retaliate! With the door to the old Globe Newspaper building looming open, what challenges await our stalwart heroes? Find out in the next exciting issue presented in the Mighty Marvel Manner!