Star Trek Online

This game has been out for two years, this weekend.

I kind of ignored it pretty much that entire time. I have been known to enjoy MMOs from time to time. The thing is though that I don’t really care for strangers, strange I know, for someone who is currently projecting words out into the aether for general consumption. The playing of MMOs also tends towards the unreasonably expensive, I’ve already been playing WoW and it didn’t seem reasonable to pay for another one.

Then we add on to that the IP itself. I’ve never been a huge Star Trek fan. I’ve always fallen more on the Star Wars side of the great divide. Lately though I’ve been hankering for some hard core Sci-Fi rather than the space opera fare I typically go for.

I read some where, I don’t recall where exactly, that it had gone Free to Play, so I thought I’d try it. Turns out that it going F2P is something that happened only very recently. Man is this a really good game.

The game was taken over from Cryptic by Perfect World. Perfect World has been in the F2Pmarket for quite some time and they are masters of the art. I think much of this comes from the polished game they acquired in the first place, but still.

Initially you choose from between three careers Tactical, Engineering, or Science. Tactical is pretty much your straight fighter simple straightforward and easy to play. Engineering is a little more complex, the play of the class differs a bit based on whether you are on a ground or space based mission. On the ground the engineer controls the battle field with mines or turrets and other hazards or shields. In space Engineer play is more about survival with the ability to rapidly repair shields and hull damage and even launch boarding parties. The Science career on the other hand is more of a healer on the ground and a debuffer in space, sort of the reverse of the engineer. I don’t play with other people so Science just wasn’t fun for me.

As far as species goes there are limitless options. You can play as a human, andorian, betazoid, vulcan or numerous other standard options by default, there is also the “alien” species option, which is completely customizable, in appearance and in racial abilities. This is where the free to play aspect begins to come into it, in addition to the (incredibly ample) choices that are available by default you can purchase other options as well, such as the Federation Klingon, the Caitan, and the Joined Trill (regular Trill is one of the available by default options). I want to buy some new species but just have been having ample fun without, so it’s something I can look forward to in the future.

The play is pretty much everything a player of a Star Trek game could want, it has a pretty even mix of Space and Ground action, both are polished and fun. On the ground you can switch between “Rpg controls” (which behave like other mmos like WoW) and “Shooter Controls” (which behave more like a third person shooter) in certain situations one will be better than the other and changing between them is as simple as hitting a hot key (“B” unless remapped to be something else) Most of the keys retain their functions regardless of which control scheme you are using, so there’s no button confusion. Space combat is equally intuitive again with many of the buttons retaining more or less their functions from the RPG control scheme.

There is PVP and PVE group play, I’ve done a little PVE (in space) and it was nice. Coordination is good and it certainly helps, but if another player (typically me) is kind of an idiot, the mission will not be overly negatively impacted, unlike the multiplayer required portions of other MMOs where if one person (hi again) is not holding up their end the party can expect to wipe again and again until the party dissolves in cascading rage-quits. I can’t say much about PVP it exists a lot of people seem to like it, and if you have your chat window open in a populated area (unnecessary) you will hear a lot about how one ship is “better” than another.

In addition to the missions available from cryptic/perfect world, there are also a whole slew of community authored material as well. Much of it is lovingly crafted with the attention to detail one would expect from die hard Trek fans. It is in many ways better than what was put out by the developers.

That’s all good stuff.

Now the less good.

It’s F2P which means there are a lot of ways to spend real money on this game. Fortunately very little is required to fully experience and enjoy the game. Well that’s misleading, actually you could fully enjoy the game without ever spending a single dime on it. Some things like additional character slots, certain species, a lot of costume options (this really seems to be the way for game designers to get customers to spend real money), certain ship options, and a fair number of just fun little things like the Tribble of Borg, cost Cryptic points, which you can pay for with a credit card, or you can translate from Perfect World zen points, these can be purchased on a game card at any number of stores. You can also use the in game exchange to to trade Refined Dilithium for Cryptic points, Dilithium is acquired from doing missions and having your crewmen perform a number of minor duties. Assigning these duties also makes it feel like you are running a starship, which is pretty cool.

The initial install when I did it took literally all day, the game is now available from steam so it seems likely that there is a faster download and set up available now.

In short I really don’t remember ever having this much fun playing a video game, I wish I had discovered it sooner.

Disapointing Customer Service

Good customer service isn’t hard. You just need to make the customer feel like they are listened to, that their concerns are valid and something will be done to make things right.

When I learned about the new 52, I was downright giddy. A chance to start at the beginning, to top that off Brian Azzarello would be writing the new Wonder Woman. I absolutely love his work and am willing to buy anything he writes. As such as soon as subscriptions became available I subscribed to Wonder Woman. I, as they say, “didn’t want to miss an issue”. The biggest issue preventing me from fully enjoying Wonder Woman has been my subscription.

Wonder Woman #3 had a shelf date of 11/16/11, it is, as I write this, 12/16/11. I’m told I should have received my  comic a little more than a month ago. I still haven’t read it,  just a few minutes ago I ordered it from Midtown Comics. I will get #3 and #4 in the same order.

Here is the Email exchange I had with DC’s customer service, when I felt like I had waited too long.

From: [Redacted]
Sent: Monday, December 12, 2011 6:42 PM
To: Customer_Service@dc-comics.us
Subject: I have not yet received my Wonder Woman #3

My name is [redacted], I live at [redacted]. I have not yet received my
copy of Wonder Woman #3, I have gotten both my Aquaman #3, and today, my
Animal Man #4. Both of which have later shelf dates than Wonder Woman,
this is becoming a pattern my #2 also arrived about three weeks after
it's shelf date (and in terrible condition). I'm wondering what courses
of action I have available to me at this point and if it will ever be
reasonable to expect that I might receive my subscriptions in a timely
manner.
I do greatly enjoy your product, and I hope to be a customer for a long
time to come, but thus far your subscription services are not impressing
me.
Thank you for your time,
[redacted]

I was trying to be diplomatic, I worked in customer service and I know that customers who make Customer Service Representatives lives harder don’t get decent service.

I waited for an awful long time to get this response.

On 12/15/2011 4:22 PM, DC Comics Customer Service wrote:
Dear [redacted],

Thank you for your email.

We apologize for the problems you have been having. Issues are sent out
promptly each month to where you should receive them about a week before
they hit the newsstand. However, often times there may be some delays due
to the postal service but for the most part our customers receive their
issues on time. Have you contacted your post office regarding
this issue? You may want to discuss getting a 'postal watch' placed on
the subscriptions.

Hope this helps! Let us know if we can be of any additional assistance.

Thank you,

[redacted]

Customer Service

DC Comics

1-800-462-3624

I was baffled, and offended. I waited four and a half days, I actually sent mine about 2300 the night before it says I sent it, I don’t know why it’s time stamped the way it is.

And this was the answer I got?

To take it apart a bit.

Issues are sent out promptly each month to where you should receive them
about a week before they hit the newsstand. However, often times there
may be some delays due to the postal service but for the most part our
customers receive their issues on time.

Ok, Interesting I guess. What you are telling me is I thought my comic was about three weeks late when in fact, it’s four. Most customers don’t have this problem, well, glad as I am to hear that, I do have this problem.

Have you contacted your post office regarding this issue? You may
want to discuss getting a 'postal watch' placed on the subscriptions.

I don’t even know what that means. Seriously, I googled it, I do that when I don’t understand something. There was nothing about it, that was helpful, I’m fairly certain that [redacted] just made that term up.

Hope this helps! Let us know if we can be of any additional assistance.

Hope what helps? Did something happen, did I miss it? You told me my book was later than I thought it was, most people don’t have this problem, and I should put something that near as I can tell doesn’t exist on it.

My next response could probably have been more polite, but I felt like I was just told “Tough, sucks to be you” from a company that I pay for a service, that I wasn’t receiving.

-----Original Message-----
From: [redacted]
Sent: Thursday, December 15, 2011 6:13 PM
To: DC Comics Customer Service
Subject: Re: I have not yet received my Wonder Woman #3

No, this doesn't help at all. My comic book is nearly four weeks late at
this point. I have no idea what a "postal watch" is or how this may help
me. What I do know, is that for approximately the same price I pay per
issue for my books directly from DC, which I get maybe two weeks late
for Aquaman, approximately on the release date for Animal Man and who
knows when for Wonder Woman, I get my other books from Midtown Comics in
New York shipped all the way across the country to Montana and they
arrive almost exactly a week after their release date.  I have, in fact,
received four such shipments since getting my other books released on
11/16/11.

I still haven't gotten Wonder Woman #3, and an Email response 5 days
after I complained about the issue, telling me that I should have
already gotten it does not qualify as helpful in any way. Does the
company have any intention of making this right? Will I get my book?
Should I go ahead and just find the book, that I should have received
because I already paid for it, from another source? Will my subscription
be extended to cover the missing book? Is this the way that DC does
business? Is there someway I can cancel my subscriptions so I can just
get my books from a more reliable source?

I am growing increasingly dissatisfied as a customer.
[redacted]

At least their response time is getting faster.

Dear [redacted],

As per your request we have cancelled the three subscriptions and
refunded you in full. Please allow 24-48 hours for the refund to post
onto your credit card. 

For further assistance, please let us know. 

[redacted]

Customer Service 

DC Comics

1-800-462-3624

I have to admit I wasn’t expecting that. Usually when a customer says they’ll stop using a service, the service provider steps things up.  I provided a barrage of options, and that’s the one they went with? Ok, I guess.

So I logged onto my Midtown Comics account, where I get the rest of my comics, like I said in my email, and ordered this upcoming weeks comics, I also tried to add Animal Man, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman to my Previews order and the system wasn’t working properly.

So I tweeted,

And then…

I was astounded, so this happened…

And then this…

In minutes, not hours or days, and I now have all my comics ordered.

DC’s The New 52 Part 3

I just re read all of the titles I picked up for the week of September the 14th, Ok not all of them but most of them.

Batman and Robin, This issue I thought was significant for a number of reasons. The issue opens with the Bat of Moscow (sorry I never read Batman Inc. I don’t know his name) taking down a criminal, and in turn being taken down by a mysterious villain. I liked this Bat that I’ve only spent a couple of pages with, so I’m sad to see him go.

We go from that, to Bruce turning over a new leaf and Damien being basically an ass about it. The New 52 Batman is a different character than we’ve known in the past. He’s less brooding, and more optimistic. He’s made the decision to stop memorializing his parent’s death and instead celebrate their marriage, he folds up the flyer from Zorro, the movie he went to with his folks the night they were murdered, into a small boat and sails away the darkness of his old life down the sewers. It was a touching symbolic gesture, which of course our favorite psychotic ten year old is again an ass about.

Then they go out and fight crime. Robin is defiant, overconfident, and shows a reckless disregard for the criminals they face. I’m excited to see how the relationship between father and son develops.

The issue closes out with the Moscow Bat and this new villain again. Now this villain made it clear that he’s trying to end Batman Incorporated, and I didn’t notice until I reread it today that he declares that he needs to visit Bruce Wayne next. He says Bruce Wayne, and now I’m intrigued as to who this could be.

I rate this one 7/10 and I can’t wait to pick up issue #2.

Demon Knights, Well I wasn’t intending to pick this one up, but I decided the previous week that I was going to pick up the two books discussed at the back of the books, last week it was Animal Man and Batwing, this week it was Resurrection Man and Demon Knights. I was intrigued by Resurrection Man and was thinking about picking it up any way. Demon Knights on the other hand, I was specifically intending not to pick up. I always found Etrigan to be one of the most irritating characters in the DC universe. With Etrigan boldly emblazoned on the cover it just didn’t appeal to me, so I cautiously picked it up and thumbed throug. The book was marketed as pretty Etrigan centric, but from thumbing through it I could see that it was not the Etrigan show and best of all he does absolutely no rhyming.

So I bought it and I read it, and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a pretty standard fantasy yarn. It suffers a bit from the same problem that Justice League International suffered from where it had a lot of characters and felt the need to spend a fair bit of time with each of them. It flowed much better than JLI did though. More than that it features characters that I am mildly interested to see the new take on like Shining knight and Vandal Savage.

The problem I have is that I just don’t have much interest in a fantasy book right now. There was a time in my life when I would have loved it though.

I give this book a 7/10 but I’m not likely to pick up #2.

Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E., When I was thinking about what books I would get from the New 52, I was curious about this one but was not really planning on picking it up. Then Animal Man changed my life and I noticed this book was by the same writer, all question of would I or wouldn’t I was gone.

Looking at the cover we see a small girl with a pistol and a multi-armed green chick flanking Frankenstein’s monster armed with a sword and minigun. That does a pretty good job setting up the book, which is fortunate if I was expecting a horror story of the caliber of Animal Man I’d have been sorely disappointed. This is instead an action book featuring characters based off of the classic universal studios monsters.

To sum this book up it was a fun monster slaying romp. I give it a 7/10 and I’ll keep picking it up, though honestly I’ll pick up pretty much anything written by Lemire.

Green Lantern, I’m not a big fan of GL to be honest, and of the GLs Hal Jordan is not my favorite. This book features a Sinestro recently and unwillingly in possession of Jordan’s ring. Hal has apparently been let go as a Green lantern and much of this issue revolves around him trying to get on with his life.

So this issue features really two stories of men trying, more or less to get their old lives back on track. We see Sinestro facing off against his own Sinestro Corps to save his home planet insisting the whole while that everything he has done he has done for the good of the universe.

This contrasts to the story of a more selfish Hal Jordan who has saved the universe time and again but all he has done has been more or less for his own gratification. He is now forced to reap what he has sown, ringless, jobless, short on money and friends he has to try to reclaim his normal life. Which he seems largely destined to fail to do.

In the end our stories converge once again as Sinestro seems to offer a Faustian deal to return the both of them to their desired states, Hal with the Green Ring and Sinsetro once again free to use the Yellow.

I give this one 5/10, I would like to buy #2 but it doesn’t really fit within my budget, so I most likely will not be getting it.

Mister Terrific, I have a soft spot in my heart for many of the Justice Society characters, so there was not a point where I didn’t plan on picking this one up.

I’ve seen Mister Terrific described as a “Batman without the attitude” and I think that’s an unfair characterization. So in the Interest of the Fair Play tattooed on his arms, I’d like to suggest that he is instead more of a “Mister Fantastic” without the stretching. He solves his problems not with detective work but rather with science.

This is our third Billionaire Hero of the month and I think the premise grows a bit stale, but still, I like him. There is a bit of exposition to explain who he is, and a short glimpse into his personal life. I know this is the part that tipped the scales and got Deep One to pick up the book, being the Power Girl fan that he is, we see Karen Starr casually socializing with Michael Holt.

The we get a glimpse of what we are going to see from here out. Our introduction to crisis du jour, is a normal guy in some ways a bit less than normal suddenly very smart, and outraged at everything. Mister Terrific is summoned by the LAPD to consult on the case, he expresses that he’s glad they called and gives a bit of exposition in the form of advice before heading off to a fund raising event. At this event he begins exhibiting the same symptoms as the fellow the police are interested in and he seems determined to murder a senator.

I give Mister Terrific a 7/10 and will definitely be picking up future issues.

Red Lanterns, I don’t know what I was thinking. Like I’ve said repeatedly I’m not a huge GL fan I’ve always found GL a bit hard to get into, I guess I thought I’d try something similar but different. It was a mistake. This was hands down the worst book I picked up, I don’t know, maybe, ever, sounds about right.

In a concerted effort to say something nice about it, I find Dexx Starr the angry, angry kitty (very) mildly amusing.

I put the book down about half way through and said out loud “I just don’t care.” There was nothing to care about in the book. The characters are two dimensional only in the sense that they are drawn on paper.

Our protagonist, for lack of a better word, is angry, that’s where his power comes from. The problem faced in this issue is that he’s just not as angry.

I did eventually summon up the will to keep reading and tortured myself by forcing myself to slog through the rest of the book, where once again I set it down and declared once again, “I just don’t care.” Then I looked at the front cover and lamented the $2.99 cents that I could have spent in some other infinitely more amusing way.

I blame myself for this though, I should have known better.

I give this one, not surprisingly 1/10, I will never ever, unless the lives of my children depend upon it read Red Lanterns again.

Resurrection man, I didn’t know what to think of this one, after rereading it again today I still don’t. I was not actually familiar with the character, but it seemed like it could be interesting. When I saw it featured in the back of the book I was tipped over the edge into purchasing it.

We have a guy who gets killed and a half hour later or so comes back to life with new powers. The concept could be cool, or it could turn into a slapstick trainwreck.

I need more exposure to it to make up my mind. I give this one a 5/10 and intend to pick up #2, but if it doesn’t really impress me I’ll not likely pick it up again.

Suicide Squad, After reading suicide squad, on the day it came out, I picked up Red Lantern and Superboy a few days later, I was a little disappointed that it was the front runner for my pick of the week. It, like almost everything I’d picked up this week, was Okay.

It was a pretty predictable romp through well traversed territory. Nothing groundbreaking happened, I continue to not care about characters I didn’t care about before. Previously I had no experience with King Shark and El Diablo, I liked them both. I still hate Harley Quinn but it’s impossible for me to come away from one of her stories without feeling a great swell of pity for her.

Despite all that the formulaic story was well told and I want to read another issue. I give this one yet another 7/10

Superboy, After a kind of disappointing week, I was looking for anything that might do it, for me. Iam not like I’ve said a huge fan of the “Hero”-boy/girl/woman characters, but some incarnations of Superboy have been compelling. So I picked it up, and man I’m glad I did. This is how my abusive relationship with Scott Lobdell began.

This book repeatedly got an actual emotional response from me. I laughed, I felt for and with the characters. This story of a confused Superman clone really hit the mark and I can’t wait for more, after a tepid week it was truly the boost I needed.

I give this one 9/10, it’s surprisingly good. I will definitely pick this one up, hell I may even subscribe.

So by and large this was a very mediocre week, only one book was terrible and only one was really good, this makes it really tough to measure them against each-other.

#9. Red Lanterns 1/10
#8. Resurrection Man 5/10
#7. Green Lantern 5/10
#6. Demon Knights 7/10
#5. Batman and Robin 7/10
#4. Mister Terrific 7/10
#3. Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. 7/10
#2. Suicide Squad 7/10

My pick of the week is easily and shockingly Superboy.

DC’s the New 52 Part 2

I’ve given a lot of thought to how I was going to do the books I did read. My plan was to simply do them in alphabetical order, but some of my purchasing decisions don’t make any sense in that order so I will instead write about them as much as I can remember in the order I picked them up. I’ll probably end up doing the posts grouped by week, it makes a nice divider that way.

On September the Seventh I headed out to my favorite chain bookstore that sells relevant comics. (As opposed to the local comic book store that’s record is a little spottier to put it politely.) I was a little disappointed to learn that they hadn’t put out the new books yet, the comic book guy, doesn’t work on Wednesdays I’m told. I wasn’t planning on picking up Justice League #1, but it’s the only New 52 title they have on the shelf so I did.

These are last months comics, so I don’t really feel bad about spoilers but there are some. If that bothers you you may want to skip some of these, notably Animal Man.

Justice League, I wasn’t planning on picking it up but I did, and I enjoyed it. I liked the interplay between Batman and an overly cocky (Hal Jordan)Green Lantern. This is our first real peek into the New Universe DC is giving us, Batman is brooding, Green Lantern is a hot shot, and Superman briefly appears as an unstoppable juggernaut. This issue seems to be about giving us brief introductions and beginning to establish what appears to be a pecking order. I enjoyed it but if every character is going to be introduced in the same way, it will take forever and grow very stale before it’s done.

I give this one a middling 5/10 and will pick up #2, but it needs to show me something or I’m going to have to be out.

After leaving the chain store and running a couple more errands It was 11:00 am and that’s when the Local Comic Book Shop is supposed to open. I arrived about five after and, nope still closed. sigh
It was about ten after when they actually opened and I was actually the second person in the door. I know that Thursday is their New Comic Book Day, so I wasn’t actually sure they would have any of the New 52 Either. Head Minion wrote a little bit about her call to them to find out if they were doing a midnight launch for Justice League #1 it went something like this.

HM: “Yeah, I was calling to see if you were doing a midnight launch for Justice League #1 & Flashpoint #5.
Employee: “Uh, I’m not really sure.”
Long pause
HM: “It would be tonight if you were.”
Employee: “Oh, then I don’t think so.”
HM: “Ok, thanks then.”
HM: facepalm
Deep One (only hearing HM’s half of this): facepalm

So with expectations suitably low I was the second customer in the opened ten minutes late door. Fortunately they had a little display with everything I needed right there. I had to wait for the other customer to purchase his five copies of everything (it seemed like, he probably only had 5 or six titles, but at five copies each and the guy behind the counter trying to talk him into buying fewer of each it still took forever.) But I eventually made it out the door with my copies of Action, Animal Man, Detective, Green Arrow, and Swamp Thing.

Action, I have in general not been a huge fan of Superman. Like Lex Luthor I just can’t identify with him. The “Man” portion of his name seems inappropriate. But this new Grant Morrison interpretation of Superman hearkens back to his golden-age roots. In fact the story itself has a number of references to those original 1939 stories. He’s vulnerable, at least he can be hurt any way. He’s a young man here, reckless and concerned more about doing the right thing than the possible consequences of doing the right thing. He seems much more human, much less like Space Jesus. He’s for the first time in my life actually a relatable character.

I give this one an 8/10 and I already do have #2.

Animal Man, Oh. My. Effing. God. This book was good, the best single issue of a comic book I have ever read. Before September the Seventh, I was aware of Animal Man as a concept, but I knew nothing about him, now I can never forget him. I don’t think it would be over-selling this book to say that it changed me.

We get some exposition about who Buddy Baker is in an easily digestible form that doesn’t feel forced contrived or out of place, it doesn’t feel like it’s just exposition. Then we are treated to a glimpse of his family life, where we learn that he doesn’t get out to hero much anymore. His family is very important, it will become the whole story later.

Surprise, surprise, the opportunity arises to go do some heroics while in the middle of this discussion about not doing much as a Super Hero lately. He goes out and there’s a man who’s daughter has died of cancer holding the children’s wing of a hospital hostage until he gets his daughter back. Buddy is a family man and so am I so this is really potent stuff. It’s pretty much a filler challenge and Animal Man easily overcomes it and heads home.

At home he goes to bed and has an absolutely crazy dream. It’s creepy, it’s touching, it creates a sense of urgency. Then Buddy is awoken because of something his daughter Maxine is doing. It is the creepiest thing I think I’ve ever read. It’s exactly the sort of horror that gets me. I reread the book, after tweeting about it. It’s like I’ve been hit in the face by a shovel, but in a good way. Easily ten out of ten, maybe eleven out of ten. As soon as Payday rolled around I subscribed to this one.

Batwing, So there’s really a lot to like about Batwing. First of all and most immediately striking the art is simply gorgeous.  More significantly, Batwing is also pretty unique among super heroes for another reason. In most Comic books our heroes are in crisis management mode all the time. It’s pretty rare to see them doing something to actually make their “beat” a better place though.

Here we have Batwing, the Batman Incorporated “Batman” of Africa, doing exactly that. He’s a cop in his real life, a cop in a brutal city, where systematic corruption seems to be the order of the day. There are a few other good cops but the force is underfunded, undertrained and a certain level of corruption seems to be the only way to get things done. All very cool. Very cool. I just didn’t care for it myself. Deep One loved it so I picked it up on his recommendation. I don’t know, part of the problem, I think, was the hand holding by Batman himself. I didn’t find the Villain to be particularly interesting. The whole comic book to me just seemed to be less than the sum of it’s very cool parts.

I would rate it as 4/10, I did once again on Deep One’s recommendation pick up #2.

Detective, I had to read this one twice to really take it in. That’s primarily because the first time was right after having read Animal Man, and I had not fully recovered yet. It was Okay, My biggest problem with it was that it didn’t feel like an issue #1 to me. This story could have just as easily been #234. It was our first real introduction to Batman, and he wasn’t really introduced in it. Sure I mean it’s Batman, everybody knows who and what Batman is, I just wanted this book to feel more special than it did though.

Sure it had the Joker in it gleefully psychotic as always, as well as a new villain the Dollmaker. I loved the hook at the end, and would find myself think about it and wondering about it for the rest of the month.

So this one is good, not great, but I’m hooked. I give it 7/10, and I eagerly picked up #2.

Green Arrow, I love me some Green Arrow. I did not love this book. It suffered from the same issue number confusion that Detective did, though with far less justification. We are in this issue treated to an Oliver Queen who seems to be the unholy offspring of Steve Jobs and Gina Davis. He’s backed by a super hip team including a reluctant weapon designer and an Oracle proxy with piercings to let us know how edgy she is.

The Green Arrow is set on a course to battle a culture obsessed with the superficial trappings of celebrity. The currency that interests the villains is as simple as Youtube hits. They are superpowered hooligans who go out and raise havoc in exchange for internet fame. I guess it is probably intended as an indictment against our increasingly voyeuristic culture.

I rate this one 4 or a weak 5 out of 10, I bought number two, because I just really wanted to like it more than I did.

Justice League International, What a hot steaming mess this thing turned out to be. I like Booster Gold, I like Vixen, I don’t hate Guy Gardner, and damn does Batman really need to be in this one too? The good, Rocket Red is vaguely amusing if you assume that he’s Ronny from Frisky Dingo. The bad, too many characters, splitting to little page time too thinly amongst themselves. The Ugly, man just about everything else. Batman has apparently gotten some sort of lobotomy that transformed him into the “You can do it” guy from every Adam Sandler movie, who for some unfathomable reason has every confidence in Booster Gold’s abilities. Fire and Ice served no purpose what-so-ever. The British one whose, name I could not under any circumstances be bothered to even attempt to recall her name, apparently exists to flirt with whoever appears to be in charge. August General In Iron is both useless, and serves no purpose but to Squabble with Rocket Red, because, I don’t know communists can’t be bothered to get along, maybe?

This is a tough one to rate, it was bad, but not the worst thing I picked up this month. I’ll give it a generous 3/10, I don’t think I’m in any danger of picking up any further issues.

Men of War, A war comic, sort of. I didn’t care for it. This book has two parts to it, the first part is the ongoing story and the second is apparently devoted to a more conventional war story. The second part is better but it just isn’t good enough for me to want to pay the $3.99 coverprice.

My biggest issue with Men of War is simultaneously the over-use of acronyms, and the over-explanation of the acronyms used. I was a soldier, myself, and I think that’s where a lot of my gripes come from.

People tend not to refer to their equipment by it’s precise designation, At one point a character talks about his M-4, which is then explained to mean his Model M-4 Carbine. Rather than M-4 every soldier I know would have just said “rifle.” Yes, technically an incorrect descriptor, and they all know that, but rifle is as complicated as it needs to be. When every thing is explained in the foot notes it breaks the flow,  you encounter an asterisk and automatically look down to see what it means. The frustrating thing about this is it is quite likely that the soldiers using the acronyms most likely don’t know their exact meanings either. Sure we know what a SALUTE report, LACE report, or a SLANT report is, we know what an AAR is, but odds are that we haven’t sat around to actually memorize what all the letters stand for. There’s really no need to do so, these acronyms really just become words that mean what the acronym means.

It felt like the story could go someplace, and I was vaguely interested in seeing where but it just got bogged down on trying to feel authentic, rather than just telling a good story.

I give this one 4/10, I did pick up number two because I was intrigued enough by the teaser that was put out, but I won’t pick up #3 I learned my lesson.

Stormwatch, First of all I always hated the Authority, I kind of liked Midnighter and Apollo, but not really any of the other characters or their story-lines. So I was really reluctant to  pick this one up.

I have always liked Martian Manhunter, and Stormwatch has been promoted as largely being a Midnighter/Apollo/Martian Manhunter book. Boy was I in for a rude surprise. With the exception of Martian Manhunter these characters are perhaps the least represented in the book with Midnighter only being in I think it was the final two pages.

The story itself seems kind of like somebody threw a whole mess of Authority storyboards in a blender and hit puree. It was disjointed,  really to big to fit in the DC universe, and focused primarily on all the characters I hate from the Authority. The only thing the Authority had going for it that I really liked was Midnighter and Apollo raising baby Jenny. She appears to be about 12 or 13 in this series which would make sense with her being the Millennium Child, but the two of them met for what seems to be the first time on the second or third to last page, so they don’t have a relationship yet, though i would be surprised if one didn’t develop.

I personally give this one a 3/10, I hated it because it had everything I hated about the Authority, if you happen to like the Authority I think you would probably also like Stormwatch. I’m not picking it up again.

Swamp Thing, Lastly for the week we have Swamp Thing. I guess the best thing I have to say about Swamp Thing is that I was intrigued by it, and it seemed to tie in to the storyline in Animal Man. When I picked this up had never before read a Swamp Thing story and felt very much in the dark. If this was your first experience with Swamp Thing as it was mine, other than the Wes Craven movie, the book did very little to bring you up to speed. Also, a little disappointingly, very little happens in this book, what does actually happen doesn’t involve Alec in anyway, in fact it happens several states away. Most of this book is exposition and it left me with more questions than answers.

In fact in the middle of the book Superman shows up to question Alec (a botanist, who has left botony behind to work construction) about some issues regarding assorted spontaneously dying animals, fish, and birds. This portion of the book is interesting in that we get our longest view of a modern Superman yet. I notice that he spends most of the conversation hovering, so he can fly. It’s hard to put a finger on his personality yet but Alec calls him a couple times on dancing around the real reason he’s talking to him in the first place. It is the best view we’ve gotten of the new costume also, and I really like it.

Eventually Holland goes back to his hotel room and attempts to destroy his bio-restorative formula to end the Swamp Thing menace forever, when he is confronted by… the Swamp Thing?

I couldn’t really tell you why I liked this book, it was creepy, it seems to have a tie in to Animal Man. The list of things I didn’t like about it are longer, this is kind of like a reverse of Batwing for me. I did go out and happen to find all three issues of a limited run of Brightest Day Aftermath: The Hunt For Swamp Thing, which answered most of the questions raised in this issue. Including the big one, how does Supes even know who Alec Holland is.

In the end I did enjoy it though and I would give it a 6/10and have at this point picked up #2

So from worst to best

#10. Stormwatch 3/10
#9. Justice League International 3/10
#8. Men of War 4/10
#7. Batwing 4/10
#6. Green Arrow 4.5/10
#5. Justice League 5/10
#4. Swamp Thing 6/10
#3. Detective 7/10
#2. Action 8/10

My pick of the week (over a month ago) was  easily Animal Man

DCs the New 52 Part 1

I’m excited about DC’s new 52, and I invested heavily in them. I think I am done picking up comics for the month now and feel like I can talk about what I have.

<Note I started this draft at the end of last month.>

I wasn’t sure how to handle this post it’s taken so long because it’s been written many times.

I’ve decided that I’ll start with the stuff I didn’t buy. Now I didn’t buy any of these titles so I don’t have any great insight into them. I can give vague reasons why I decided not to pick them up. Some of them I thought I might pick up “later”, but when later came I still didn’t really feel compelled to spend money on them.

Batgirl, First off I’m not a huge fan (in general) of the “Hero”-Boy/Girl/Woman type character. As a concept it falls sort of flat for me. I’m familiar with and in general enjoy the work of Gail Simone, so I trust that she has done a good job with this book.I even like Barbara Gordon, who is once again under the cowl as Batgirl. I have a problem though. I think of all the Batgirls there have been Babs is quite likely the least interesting of them, in that role.

One of the things that has helped to cement DC at the top of the comic book pecking order in my heart is that, the stories they tell are meaningful, stuff happens the world changes, it even ends. Rarely does something bad happen to a character and then later on everything returns to the status quo. The death of Superman is a very notable exception to this as is the death of Jason Todd (Robin II, later the Red Hood). Until this month we could add the crippling of Barbara Gordon and her transformation into the extremely compelling, strong, and above all interesting Oracle. The DC universe as we have come to know it simply wouldn’t function the way it has come to without her.

I’m told that it wasn’t just hand-waved away, that she was in fact shot by the Joker and did in fact spend a number of years in a wheelchair. It just marks the end of a very relevant and compelling story arc for a great character who showed handicapped kids that even someone with no legs can be a great hero. I’m not the kind of person to trumpet diversity, or to champion inclusiveness, but it seems that once you have it, it’s kind of a dick move to take it away.

So didn’t buy it, sorry no rating to give it. Probably won’t pick up #2 either.

Batman: The Dark Knight, I don’t really have a long winded reason why I didn’t pick this one up, I did even thumb through it before putting it back on the shelf and getting something else (Men of War, I think). It looked like another Batman book. Nothing is inherently wrong with that, It’s just that I picked up three other Batman titles this month, and this one didn’t seem to offer me anything new, anything I wasn’t getting from the others. If it looked like this was going to be a series of one shot stories I would probably have bought it. That was really the one thing I noticed was missing this month, and by the last week I was really craving it. Seeing that this book didn’t offer it I passed it up.

It’s entirely possible That I could pick up this title in the future, It just felt like an unnecessary addition to an already saturated market place. I personally picked up, I think, eight titles with Batman in them already, I simply did not need nine.

Batwoman, I’m not familiar with the character, or the writer. I’m sure I’ve read something by J.H. Williams but I couldn’t say what, the name is familiar, but if I can’t remember what it was then it obviously didn’t leave much of an impression on me. Apparently this book was easier to follow if you read Elegy, appearing in Detective comics, or so I hear. I didn’t read that. I also Hear that this was a book that was  already slated to be put out before and it’s release was pushed back to coincide with the New 52 launch, and that it shows.

Sounds like the main character is a lesbian, mildly interesting, I almost picked up the book when I heard that. That was, however, the only thing I’ve heard about this character that makes her stand out from the crowd, and it just isn’t enough.

My buddy Deep One tells me that In the police department there’s a photograph of Renee Montoya, on the wall of heroes, which typically indicates that she would be dead. I hope she’s not I really like her, but if she is I could be persuaded to pick up future issues to learn more about that.

Birds of Prey, I really liked the original Birds with Oracle and Black Canary. my not picking this book up most likely has more to do with my hangups about Oracle (again) than anything else. Everything I’ve heard about the book makes it sound pretty awesome. I’m not fundamentally against picking it up in the future, it just doesn’t seem like something that is going to spontaneously happen.

Catwoman, I’m simply not interested in Catwoman, even as a Batman villain she always just fell sort of flat for me. To be fair I never had any intention of picking this one up. I’m certainly not regretting that decision following an article by Deep One, well two of them really. You should read those then come back and finish this. Done now? Good. I don’t think anybody set out to tell a rape story (not at DC anyway, not here at least), I doubt if you asked them about it they would even realize that they had done that. If they even did, like I said I haven’t read it. None of the controversy surrounding Catwoman #1 that I saw made any mention of it, so it skated by relatively unremarked. That of course doesn’t make it OK. I probably will not be picking this one up, I’m clearly just not their target market.

Deathstroke, When I was a kid, I was a loyal Marvel reader. I had X-books and Spider-man out the Wazoo, and when Deadpool was introduced I loved him. I was at the time his target market. That was a really long time ago, and I just don’t really care about the worlds greatest mercenarI realize that Deathstroke predates Deadpool by a significant margin, and he is a very different character in a lot of ways. But Deadpool’s lineage does trace back here, and it shows in every story I read about Deathstroke. It may not be fair that I don’t read one character’s book because of another character, from another company, but as they say, it is what it is. I’m not likely to pick it up in the future either.

Grifter, So Grifter was once upon a time property of the Wildstorm Imprint. Wildstorm had two characters I kind of liked, and neither of them was Grifter. This is another case where my judgments of this book and this character come from elsewhere. My impression from reading the few Grifter titles that I have read is that he’s basically the punisher, without the cumbersome morality, and his costume is even worse. Now that’s what i get from reading the character’s titles, not from reading about the character. When reading about the character he is a very different sort indeed. I’m not sure where the disconnect there is and it’s possible that it’s just me. But since it’s my money if it’s just me, well, that’s still valid.

Hawk and Dove, I remember when Leifeld worked for Marvel, back in the early nineties. I remember how nothing he worked on made any sense because the art never matched the story. I remember when he left to form Image because people don’t care about story they just want to look at cool pictures. Well I don’t buy comics for the Art, but I will Not buy them for the Art. Liefeld’s name on a project is instantly enough for me to simply walk away from it. Perhaps I’m unfair to Liefeld, I can honestly say that Comic books would not be what they are today without him. He brought a certain style to the medium, and he wasn’t very good at it, but there was something to his style. His books sold, and companies encouraged their artists to draw more like him (shudder), but here’s the thing, they were good at it, so their Liefeld inspired style became a thing of beauty. So while we bash his entirely bash-worthy art we should also try to remember to thank him for having a positive effect on the work of other artists.

Will I buy this one in the future? I can’t imagine why I would, even without the enormous Liefeld drag factor, I’m just not interested in Hawk and Dove.

I, Vampire, I have really nothing to say about this one. I’ve heard really good things about it. I’m just not it’s target audience, not anymore anyway. There was a time when I think I would have really loved it.

Justice League Dark, Again I hear really good things, it just doesn’t sound like it’s for me. Some of the good things I’ve heard about it could have made me pick it up I think, if not for John Constantine. I really hat the portrayal of British characters in American comics. It’s as though the writers are afraid we won’t notice that they’re British and maybe we’ll end up casting Keanu Reeves to play them in the movie. So they always end up spewing line after line of antiquated colloquialisms, that make me cringe as I can’t imagine any human being actually speaking that way, not an entire nation of them at least. It’s as though we learned every thing we know of the United Kingdom from the Sex Pistols.

Legion Lost, I’ve always hated the Legion of Super-Heros. The big reason for that is that they exist in the distant future and nothing they do is relevant to anything but them and their distant future that I’m given no reason to care about. It’s basically the same with the various Krypton stories that have been done over the years. So this seemed like it might be cool, we have these heroes in our time battling against things that has at least a chance of being relevant to the rest of the DC universe. I’ll admit that I stood in front of the comic book shelf and looked at this book for a few minutes. I most likely could have read it in the time it took me to decide not to buy it. The thing is I can’t imagine how it will either not tie back in to the “Mainstream” Legion or eventually begin to feel a bit like Gilligan’s Island.

Legion of Super-Heros, Like I just said I’ve always hated these guys. There’s a Hyperbolillian of them, so many that each time one appears we’re always given a brief description of who they are and what they do. So all these characters to keep track of and no reason to care about them. Some people do though, some people love them, always have. More power to them.

Interestingly this book seems to be a part of an effort to make a more inclusive reading experience. I approve of that. It seems that the Legion of Super-Heroes fills a void for a mainly science fiction book. I firmly recognize that my interpretation may be way off base here, but when viewed alongside All-Star Western, Blackhawks, Demon Knights, and Men of War a pattern can be seen, a pattern of offering more than just super hero stories to include readers of other sorts of comic books. I really like that. The only thing that really seems to be missing is a pure horror title, although the relaunch is certainly chock full of horror.

O.M.A.C, I just didn’t want this one. Jack Kirby’s name is thrown around a lot in connection with O.M.A.C. I understand that Kirby, is a comic legend,and I appreciate and enjoy much of his work, but Kirby-esque seems to have just become a buzz-word for silly. There’s nothing wrong with silly, I get secretly a little giddy every time I see Slapstick after all. It’s just not what I want to spend money on these days.

Static Shock, My understanding is that Static Shock comes from a defunct comic company that DC has acquired over the years, much like Captain (not appearing in this relaunch) Marvel. I don’t know anything about him outside what was printed on the DC website.

Here’s what my comic buying schedule looked like this month. On Wednesday I pick up the titles I know I want. I’ve planned these ones out. Then Thursday I pick up what has picked up a lot of positive buzz, then Monday I do a little mop up and pick up a title or two that seems interesting to me but I haven’t heard much about. Static Shock just didn’t make any of those cuts.

Voodoo, DC has clearly to some extent operated under a “sex sells” philosophy this month. Voodoo could be awesome. I don’t know and probably never will. After the Catwoman/Red Hood and the Outlaws debacle, and then seeing some promo art from Voodoo with the main character as a stripper, this book was going to be a hard sell to get me to pick it up. They just never tried to sell it to me at all. From the Browse Comics section of DC’s  website is

Who is Voodoo? Is she hero, villain – or both? Learn the truth about Priscilla Kitaen as she leaves a trail of violence across America. Discover the new DCU through her eyes, because the things she sees are not always what they seem…

That just isn’t enough for me, again it seems that I’m not the target market for this book.

I’m sure some of the books I didn’t buy are awesome, just as some of the books I did buy were absolute stinkers. The ratio of good books to crap books was fairly high though.

EDIT: Ok so I’ve gotten three titles into what I have read and am sitting at about a 3500 word count, I’m going to have to break this into multiple posts, or this is going to end up being a novel, sorry about that.

Sorry for my extended absence

I’ll try to get back into something like a regular posting schedule again. Like I mentioned in my most recent post I’ve been running for the Camarilla Master Storyteller position.This has slowed down a bit now but for a while kept me busier than expected.

I was also chosen to judge the ZombAlert flash fiction contest. In the end it was only a 23 page document I had to read, which took very little time. A few of the stories were a bit, how to but this politely, not good? but there were two or three gems in the bunch.

My BASH! campaign is going to be officially over for a while. At least half of us have been enjoying our night off from gaming, and my gaming schedule is more reasonable for the time which is a bonus.

I thinki could probably handle a return to pbp gaming, but I don’t want to do it. It turns out that I really kind of hate pbp. I’m not sure why but it is an incredibly large stresser for me. It always feel like a chore to read up and post an action every day.

I will post likely tomorrow about my BASH! campaign and whatwas going to happen. Since  I will pretty definitely not be returning to it.

Printme1.com review

About a week and a half ago, I purchased the BASH pdf. My group has been playing with the two Autographed Copies Deep One and myself received when we played in the game run by Gaming Legend Jay Peters at Miscon 24. Aside from supporting an awesome game one of the reasons I purchased the PDF was so that I could print off a few copies at printme1.com because it’s hard to run a game even a simple one if everybody present cannot reference the rules. Well my copies arrived today just in time for my BASH game tonight. Overall, I’m very happy with them, given what they are. I want to stress that point very happy with them.

Here’s the deal with them, now that I have stressed the point that I am happy with them. They do have a few strikes against them, first it’s only black and white and it’s comb bound, I knew that going in I feel like Printme1.com does a very good job of making that clear on the web page. As advertised it has a transparent plastic front cover and a black cardstock back. The Back cover and the binding seem pretty sturdy, it’s a good heavy cardstock, and a regular comb binding. So when I say the comb binding is sturdy of course what I mean is that it is as sturdy as one can reasonably expect it to be. The front cover and the internal pages on the other hand are a bit lighter than I expected. So these aren’t something you are going to want to put through a lot of abuse, or they won’t hold up. Meaning don’t just toss them in your backpack and forget about them. For my purposes of transporting them to my game location and passing them out so everybody can reference the rules I think they will work very well.

The one thing that I think is going to become bothersome to me is that he page numbers are in the inside corner. This has to do with how the pdf is layed out, not anything to do with the printing process. The front cover is of course the front page of the pdf, inside the plastic front cover, but the second page of the pdf is the back cover. I didn’t think much of this until I received my finished product. In the future I will make sure that the pdf I send in is layed out the way I want it back. You can use a pdf writer like cutepdf or something and print it to file the way you want it, so I would for example of had it print pages 1,3-134,2 and then I could take that and send it to printme1.com and it would come back looking like it should.

Oh I should mention that the minimum order for Printme1.com is just under $12, I don’t remember exactly but I think it’s $11.4something, and you can only have one file in an order, so for a project like this I needed to order three copies to meet the minimum order, which in this case is fine because that’s exactly the number I wanted anyway.

I’m planning on running BASH at Miscon25 and will probably drop the $30 or so bucks it will cost me to have another 6 copies made. I will definitely utilize this service again in the future.