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.

Discipline and Working Toward the Future

I finished up all the prep for what remains of my BASH campaign yesterday, and it’s been tremendously liberating. I’ve been just bursting with ideas, and super productive ever since.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a firm believer in a lot of what Dean Wesley Smith has to say about writing. A couple weeks ago he wrote this post on his Blog about investing in your future by writing stories. It really struck a chord with me.

Longer ago now than it really should be, I published the short story Flat over on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but I was a little daunted by the Smashword Style Guide so I procrastinated working on it. It has sold poorly but consistently since being published. I has produced from Amazon and B&N in total about $10. Now that sounds abysmal and in a way it is, but it’s still $10 for one story that wasn’t reaching everybody it could reach over a period of almost exactly six months. If I can keep doing that, overtime it will actually pile up to a meaningful amount of money.

So I went back and had somebody new edit it, made many of the suggested changes and formatted it for Smashwords, so the Smashwords edition is more than superficially different than the others. That was last week and it’s made another sale and the sample has been downloaded several times. This is super good news for the Slow and Steady wins the race approach that I have decided to take.

The story made it into the premium catalog on the 27th with no further changes needed.

I finished the next Story I’ve been working on Dirt Dart today, I haven’t finished the cover art yet because I want to hold off on doing it until I have a new version of GIMP installed and I’m having technical issues with it.

My plan here, and I always hesitate to share my plans until they are near completion, is to give myself two weeks to publish “Something”, when I have something ready to publish (likely a short story or collection thereof) I can spend the rest of my allotted time to work on longer fiction.

Today has been a fantastically productive day by that standard.

Now the hard part becomes maintaining this strategy, and that’s where discipline comes in. Discipline used to be my strong suit. It has what has allowed me to succeed often with less skill than my peers where they have failed. I have been for a while now letting that discipline lapse, and that needs to be fixed.

Time to Dust Off the Beard and Get Typing.

There have been a couple of big announcements this week and I’m sure that everybody who cares about either of them already knows.

First, There’s going to be a new edition of D&D.

My take on it, is that WOTC figures that they are not far from having milked 4th edition for all it’s worth. That’s reasonable from a publisher’s point of view. There really only is so much you can say about something and expect people to pay you for it. I wish them the best in this. While I loathe don’t play 4th ed. I’ve given it a more than reasonable number of fair chances, it’s just not the game for me. I do feel though that what’s good for Dungeons and Dragons is good for RPGs as a whole, so I do want WOTC to make all the money they possibly can on it. My hypocrisy is that none of that money is mine.

There’s been a fair amount of doom and gloom over D&D5 will “Kill” D&D4 or Pathfinder. Well, it won’t, the only thing that can kill a game is people not playing it. D&D5 will cripple it’s direct predecessor D&D4 simply because the resources that would have gone into publishing more 4th edition will go into publishing 5th instead. Some people love 4th, I’m sure of it, they post things on the internet. Those people can still play it. For many of us it was a great disappointment.

I loved Star Wars Saga Edition, in fact I own every single book for it, in hard copy I can go to my shelf and look through them right now. From the sound of it 4th Ed was going to be a lot like it, I was stoked. Then I got ahold of a PDF of the final version a few days before it was to be released. I barely got past the table of contents, when I saw that the “chapter” on character classes was over 100 pages long. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, but I wasn’t really looking forward to it anymore.

I played it at Miscon. I didn’t care for it, but maybe it was the GM. So I tried again with a different GM, and again. No good, I just couldn’t like this game. About the same time a little earlier i think actually Pathfinder came out as the “spiritual successor” to D&D 3.5, and it was pretty good, It improved the things i thought were wrong with 3.5, without creating a ton of new problems.

Wow, I’ve some how become a rambling old man. The point of that was I still have a few (to be fair I have purged most of them, because of shelf space concerns) 3.5 books, I know a few people who still pretty much have them all, and we could play it if wanted to.

The concern that it will “kill” Pathfinder is completely unfounded. Pathfinder is legally and legitimately published by a non-WOTC publisher, and WOTC simply doesn’t have the power to kill it. The only way that would be possible is if Paizo allows it to happen. They would have to abandon it, maybe if D&D 5 is super awesome they might find that viable, go back to their roots as a third party publisher. I don’t realistically see that happening.

I think what is more the point. What really has people upset is the thought that the books they have purchased will become obsolete, and they will have to start over from scratch. This isn’t an appealing idea, I’ve been through it enough times to know the pain. It’s never as bad as it seems like it will be though. Those books will still exist in your library as reference, and you will probably still spend what you can afford on new material.

What I do think is interesting here is the massive playtest that WOTC is planning. Paizo did that and their product is outstanding. It’s interesting to me to see the big dog in the park look at  a smaller competitor, see what they have done that has worked, and emulate it. I notice that they aren’t emulating it perfectly, I think there’s a small amount of corporate fear in play. This isn’t an open play test they are doing, it’s limited. Which unfortunately means that it will probably be mostly consist of fans of 4th edition, so I expect D&D 5 will move farther in the direction 4th has already started, and I have little interest in it myself, which I realize is an inherently self-defeating stance. I will however give it every opportunity it deserves to impress me, and who knows maybe I’ll love it.

The second Announcement I wanted to mention was the second wave of the new 52 announced today. The news is bittersweet for me. While it involves the canceling of OMAC, Men of WAR, and Hawk & Dove, some of the biggest stinkers of the new 52 (yes, I have read them all now) it also involves the canceling of Static Shock, which I like (a lot) when I read it (not often), and Mister Terrific, which I like a lot and have read every issue, and Blackhawks which is one of the titles I most look forward to every month. On the other hand I’m looking forward to at least two of the new six titles. I’ll pick up at least #1s and probably the #2s of each just given how I order my comics through Midtown Comics.

The new Titles will be:

BATMAN INCORPORATED – Writer: Grant Morrison. Artist: Chris Burnham. The acclaimed ongoing writer of ACTION COMICS, Grant Morrison, presents a fresh take on BATMAN INCORPORATED, in which the Batman brand is franchised globally in preparation for a major international threat.

I’m not thrilled about this one, we currently have 6 titles a month featuring Batman, with two of those soon to include backup stories, not counting Batwing which I’m told regularly hosts Batman as well. I like Batman well enough but seriously enough already. I can take or leave Grant Morrison, I am enjoying Action, but meh.

EARTH 2 – Writer: James Robinson. Artist: Nicola Scott. The greatest heroes on a parallel Earth, the Justice Society combats threats that will set them on a collision course with other worlds.

This one does excite me, I’m pretty giddy. I love the golden age heroes of Earth 2, When they announced that they where going to put a backup story in Detective I really wanted it to be the Golden Age Sandman who originally graced Detective Comics. (For the record I am the guy who hates the Neil Gaiman Sandman, in case you were wondering who that asshole was.) I also love the work of James Robinson, Starman was one of my favorite comics of all time, and I am currently loving the Shade.

WORLDS’ FINEST – Writer: Paul Levitz. Artists: George Perez and Kevin Maguire. Stranded on our world from a parallel reality, Huntress and Power Girl struggle to find their way back to Earth 2. Perez and Maguire will be the artists on alternating story arcs.

I’m optimistic about this one. I know Deep One and Head Minion will be absolutely thrilled, their biggest complaint about Mister Terrific has been that it’s not about Power Girl. I am not a power girl fanatic, but still looking forward to this one.

DIAL H – Writer: China Miéville. Artist: Mateus Santoluoco. The first ongoing series from acclaimed novelist China Miéville, this is a bold new take on a cult classic concept about the psychological effects on an everyman who accidentally gains powers to become a hero.

I don’t know, there are a lot of variables in play here, but I like the concept. It sounds like the sort of story I enjoy, we’ll see.

G.I. COMBAT – Writer: J.T. Krul. Artist: Ariel Olivetti. Featuring the return of a classic DC Comics series, THE WAR THAT TIME FORGOT, along with rotating back-up stories and creative teams – including THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER, with writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Dan Panosian; and THE HAUNTED TANK, with writer John Arcudi and artist Scott Kolins.

On the one hand this sounds like a replacement for Men of War and Blackhawks, which I hate and love respectively. On the other hand J.T. Krull is a factor here, I like his work on Captain Atom, I hated his most recent Green Arrow run. I just don’t believe that as a newish writer he really has it in him to crank out two good stories every month, I haven’t seen evidence that suggests that he does, and I haven’t heard any buzz about his run on Captain Atom ending any time soon. This goes again into the we’ll see column.

THE RAVAGERS – Writer: Howard Mackie. Artist: Ian Churchill. Spinning off from TEEN TITANS and SUPERBOY, this series finds four superpowered teens on the run and fighting against the organization that wants to turn them into supervillains.

Teen Titans and Superboy are two of my favorite books of the month, They are both written by Scott Lobdell, who is unfortunately also responsible for Red Hood and the Outlaws, which I hate. So we have a spinoff of two books I love with out the writer that makes me love them. It could be good, it sounds a little unfortunately like an underage Suicide Squad. We’ll see how things go with this one.

So that’s my take on things.

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.

The Joker

I wasted much of the day making this, i could have better spent that time statting out characters that will see use again sooner such as Harvey Bullock, Maggie Sawyer, Black Mask II, and Two Face, but hopefully I’ll get to that tonight.

From the Shadow of the Bat: The Final Joke #1 & #2

Closed the second chapter of From the Shadow of the Bat campaign last night. This was where I intended the first chapter to end; but alas my player’s first set of character’s got themselves murdered by the League of Assassins, which I either didn’t write about or just can’t find.

As implied by the title the Joker had escaped from Arkham, again. Now I kind of hate the Joker. I really don’t find the Agent of Chaos a meaningful, entertaining, or most importantly believable archetype. Believable character’s do what they do for a reason, that makes sense to them. The Joker is an anachronism from a time in comics, when simply being the villain was enough of a motivation.

But back to the game, last week was kind of a bust, it’s tough to to gage a new game of BASH for characters you haven’t seen yet. I had a player who was new to the game, he played once before, but this was his first real BASH game.

To set things up, the Joker escaped from Arkham Asylum, and began settling old scores. With the Bat dead, he is obsolete. Batman is the closest thing the Joker has to a friend and he wanted to give him a”nice” memorial service as only he could.

The first thing the Joker did after escaping was to track down Barbara Gordon, and kill her. In so doing he discovered that she was Oracle, and previously Batgirl. This also gave him access to much of the information she had available as well as access to the Oracle persona.

It’s no fun to pull these kind of capers on a completely undefended and unaware city, so using the Oracle persona he tracked down some new heroes who where quite unlikely to stop him. These were folks that oracle had tagged as “keep an eye on, unskilled, danger to self and others.” These were our heroes. The Joker gave them earpieces and introduced himself as Oracle.

After introducing the Oracle the first time it immediately felt like a mistake, that’s what made this opening really work for me I think.

It was time to give them their first job. I wanted to keep things pretty light so I had “Oracle” just have them chase down Harley Quinn, and do a little battle in a deli. This entire story arc was pretty much the Joker’s suicide note. He guided the Heroes to to his biggest fan, and to set up Jason Todd for a fight against the new heroes, when their fight was over, he in his old Red Hood costume shot her through the head killing her and then he escaped.

Left behind at the deli was evidence of an attempted and apparently botched bank robbery, complete with a “Joker” corpse. The good guys when they had a chance sent a tissue sample to “Oracle” to find out if it was legitimate. This led “Oracle” to do what any good villain would do in his place, he lied to them.

This didn’t take long and the first issue was pretty stunted. After some scheduling talk I decided to wrap this storyline up in one more issue.

One of the characters is a former GCPD cop, one of the not corrupt ones.  So he has a police scanner, which allowed them to hear about some gang violence, which they opted to go check out. So they found the Red Hood between the False Facers, and the Joker’s Gang. They thoroughly believed the Red Hood to be responsible for Harley Quinn’s death so this led to them battling all three parties. Eventually they managed to come out on top, though the Red hood was certainly giving them a challenge.

In the ensuing battle one of the Joker’s men contacted him to let him know that all was going according to plan. When it was all over “Oracle” asked our heroes to bring Todd down to the Police station where he would meet them. Then the Bat signal lit up the sky.

When they arrived at the station it became clear that something was amiss. They saw Two men  (Jim Gordon, and Tim Drake) bound and gagged on the roof (I had plans for Nightwing also being there but they where cut when I shortened the story arc), along with the corpses of two women and a dog, the women were Barbara Gordon and Harley Quinn. They seemed to be under the control of a red-head in a wheel chair and a batgirl costume.

When they got closer the figure in the wheel chair arose with a crowbar in one hand, and a deadman’s switch in the other, revealing himself to be the Joker. There was a brief scuffle and the Joker tossed the switch off the roof of the building, starting a chain of explosions beginning with Black Gate Penitentiary and Arkham Asylum and carving a Bat insignia across the city.

And that’s pretty much where we left, the heroes discovered that Gordon and Drake, were subjected to Joker Venom, The Joker was captured and handed over to the police, and the Red Hood managed to escape.

BASH Fantasy: Legends of Steel “The Pirates of the Belsa”

I had the opportunity to run BASH Legends of Steel at Miscon Summer Game Day, given the short amount of time I had to prepare I opted to run the sample adventure, “The Pirates of the Belsa”. I figured it was the perfect time given that it was basically impossible that anybody present had read the adventure. If you going to someday play in the sample adventure I advise you to stop reading as there may be some spoilers, though the adventure is pretty open and there are an awful lot of things in it that are open to Narrator discretion. Also the game surprisingly (to me at any rate) took a turn toward the adult themed, I guess I should have anticipated that from a game where several of the characters are wearing “Sexy Armor”, so if that bothers you now would probably also be a pretty good time to stop reading.

Gaming Legend J. Peters, who introduced me to BASH in the first place, played the archer Risa
William Mattross played Brother Stern an aging War Priest
Robert W. Thompson of 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming fame played Talena the Pirate
Brittain Tiller played Anteus the Gladiator
De Silva the Sorcerer was played by Joshua Aronoff
The table was rounded out by Ben Rasley one of my BASH regulars playing the Fugitive Prince Talon Ironhawk.
These are th six iconic characters of Legends of Steel

The game opened with a brief and incomplete explanation of the rules touching on a few of the differences between Legends of Steel and UE for the benefit of the two other BASH familiar players at the table.

Once major questions were out of the way I explained that they had been hired by the merchant Dagobertto to bring the Bandit Joubert “to justice”. The merchant suspects Jouberto and his band of river pirates are to blame for his son’s death, and was not satisfied with the local authorities handling of the situation. Dagobertto arranged a meeting for the players with a Shady character by the name of Jonah.

When they met Jonah, who seemed like the sort of fellow who would sell out his friends for the right price, which was convenient really, given that, that was what they needed, but still he made the players appropriately cautious. Jonah explained to the party that he could get them to the gang but not into it, they would have to manage that themselves. He told them the details of the three trials that one of them would have to choose and accomplish for the group of them to accepted into the pirate band. It was settled that Talena would attempt the Trial of Skill given that she is great at sticking her hand in boxes. (and the innuendo begins)

The party decides that they will set out in the morning and will enjoy the night carousing. (Yea Carousing Table!), Jonah says that this is just as well by him as he really ought to “go see a man about a dog anyway”. This guy is pretty sleazy so Risa decides that she is going to tail him, and she successfully follows him around town as he accomplishes a number of almost certainly illicit but not tremendously suspicious activities.

Whereas after a few hours of drinking Brother Stern made a good friend in the shipping industry, Talena made an enemy for life, and Talon Ironhawk got beaten up and had all his treasure stolen (I let him keep his equipment, because I didn’t want to deal with him not having it in a con setting, in a campaign it would have been more fun to lose it). By morning the princes wounds having been successfully looked after by Anteus the party was as a whole happy to see Jonah and get out of town for a few days.

The party has a lengthy uneventful walk through the woods, where Jonah takes a nap and the others determine that they have reached a gently used and cleverly concealed rendezvous location. A short while later Joubert’s lieutenant Madoc arrives with a small entourage. Surprised to see the party Madoc, who seems to recognize Anteus from his days in the ring, wakes Jonah who after a moment vouches for the PCs to Madoc’s satisfaction.

There is another walk to a small encampment where Talena offers to take the Trial of Skill as previously agreed. As advertised she is great at sticking her hand in boxes, and manages to disable the trap in only two pages (It would have severed her hand after four). Madoc is impressed and the party is eagerly inducted into the pirate band. There is more celebration but this time the PCs themselves are a bit more subdued.

The following day it is to work as Madoc announces that a slave transport is scheduled to be coming down the river soon and they are to raid it, the PCs also. He leads them to the river and places the pirates in groups at strategic locations, and he falls back to watch the new recruits. There was some discussion led by De Silva as to what was going to be done with the slaves, where they to be freed or sold. Madoc laughed and joked that he didn’t get into the river piracy business out of the kindness of his heart.

They perform admirably, Risa knocks two of the many well armed and armored guards into the water, as an opening volley. The guards return fire but miss. She and Talon take out a further three before the craft is within boarding distance. When they are close enough Anteus leaps onto the boat and plows through the guards carrying two of the armored guards off the other side of the boat with him and leaves them to a watery grave. Talena performs a valiant boarding action and manages to kill one guard and wound another. (this game is by the way much deadlier than UE). “He’s Dead, Do It Again” Brother Stern then leaped onto the boat and killed the final eight guards, thanks to the lack of a tac map and possibly over use of the domino effect, though it seems he did throw his back out in the process.

Madoc became at this point thoroughly impressed with the new recruits. They all lead the remaining slaves who carried the ample treasure from the boat quite a distance to the pirates secluded lair. The lair is a series of cavernous caves. This turns out to be an issue for the claustrophobic Risa, who thinks the lair is just a bit too underground for her tastes. She and Anteus her suitor opt to stay outside in the (currently unoccupied) wood and earthen corral.

Inside the party finally encounters Joubert who is impressed with the stories of how the PCs performed in nearly singlehandedly executing this raid. There is much celebration amongst the pirates for the bounty of the raid and amongst the party who are now very close to their goal.

As Talena for the first time in her life out drinks Brother Stern, De Silva keeps a very close analytical eye on the pirates, an incongruous group of barbarians, Joubert, Madoc, and an Exotic looking witch followed by a ferocious looking leopard on Joubert’s arm.

After relating De Silva’s observations that Joubert who was not particularly polite to the PCs whom he seemed to be genuinely impressed by, but was being exceedingly polite to the barbarians, in a manner that suggested he wanted something from them. That the witch who outwardly seemed to be doting on Joubert but was casting furtive glances toward Madoc, who seemed to be at least infatuated by the witch. Joubert and the witch eventually retired to a private chamber. Then I left to allow the party to figure out how they were going to capture or kill the Pirate in his own lair.

And Plan they did.

(adult content follows)

The Plan as they executed it began with Talena attempting to convince Madoc that at three way between them and the witch was a good idea, It turns out that he’s a sucker for the Appeal advantage in combination with Sexy Armor. The problem with that as Madoc put it was that “she was in there with him.” Talena suggested that he could go in and get her out when after Joubert had fallen asleep. There was some talk about the door being locked but then she reminded him how good she was at “sticking her hand in boxes.” Being the sucker that he apparently is for this sort of thing (and a few dice rolls) he agrees that this is a fantastic plan that cannot possibly fail. But he wants to go talk to a couple of his guys anyway. His “guys” position themselves nearby Joubert’s chamber along with the rest of the PC’s except for Risa.

A single very high die roll from Talena later and the chamber door is open, Madoc steals in there is a whispered conversation and a long moment later he comes out again followed by the witch and her cat. The three of them proceed deeper into the cavern complex and a signal is given to Risa.

The distraction portion of the plan part two involves Risa making an absurdly difficult (TN 41) shot to start a brawl between the barbarians and the pirates, which a hero die and a hero point later she makes exactly. At the precise moment she makes this shot Brother Stern uses his light mastery to generally dim the area and De Silva hollers out that the Barbarians are pansies.

Talena then tries to extricate herself from this position she is about to get herself into telling Madoc and the witch that she needs to go back for wine, Madoc buys the story entirely but the witch is suspicious.

As, not a two way brawl between the pirates and the barbarians as was expected, but a three way brawl between the barbarians and two factions of the pirates begin Joubert is roused. Anteus is the first to react, aside from Risa who no longer has an option but wait or enter the Lair in the dark, by herself, and she opted to wait. Anteus charges into the chamber while Joubert is attempting to pull on his trousers, and grabs his pants preventing him from putting them fully on.

Talena who has made it back to the others notices a chest on the other side of Anteus and Joubert, and dutifully forgets everything else in favor of treasure. De Silva attempts to blast Joubert with his sorcerous bolt but misses, Talon and Brother stern both rush in and each wound Joubert. Who does manage to get his pants on and ready himself for battle, but then is nearly immediately suplexed into unconsciousness by Anteus.

Anteus begins carrying Joubert out of the cave while Talena and Brother Stern struggle to carry the chest out as well. As they are leaving Madoc and the witch return and watch as they leave without attempting to interfere in any way.

Madoc smiles as he is now rid of his rival for leadership and for the beautiful witch, She smiles because he sorcerous talons are deeper into Madocs heart than they were into Joubert’s and her power has grown as well.