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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Stumptown 2013 - Thoughts

This was my first year going to Stumptown, and I look forward to attending next year as well. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to stay as long as I would have like due to sickness issues. Here are my thoughts around what I was able to take in:

CBLDF- Since my official introduction to them at this years Wizard World Portland, I found myself drawn to the wonderful offerings they had available. I limited myself to only picking-up volume 1 & 2 of the Grendel Omnibus. (Not sure if there will be additional published.)

Bill Willingham- As those who regularly read this blog can attest to, Willingham is one of my favorite authors. Truth be told, he was the biggest reason for me to come to Stumptown. I must confess, I have not yet been drawn into the life of small press publishing. When I find artists and writers I like, I will be faithful to the end... I just need to open myself up to more. I would welcome opinions.

Back to Bill... When I arrived, he was doing an interview for one of the many podcasts that were also in attendance. He was also sitting in the aisle instead of behind his table, so this threw me off my game to approach him originally. Once I noticed he was sitting there just working on a piece of art, I came up and asked for his time.

Same as the first time I met him at ECCC last year, he was easily approachable and funny to talk to. Unfortunately, my mind blanked on a few of the questions I had prepared to ask him. (I chalk this up to my feeling sick shortly after my encounter.) Next time, I'm writing my questions down.

Becky Cloonan- While I am a recent admirer of Cloonan's work (The Guild: Zaboo and Batman #12 from the New 52), I took my meager offerings for her to sign. When I first arrived at her table, she was working on a sketch and there was someone at her table going over what she had available for sale. The one item she had that really caught my interest was Dracula (Bram Stoker) where she had added artwork to. After flipping through the book, I thought that perhaps this would make reading Dracula a bit more palatable. Between this book and my comics to sign, I left her table content.

Jason Martin- While walking through the con, my eye was drawn to an image that made my inner child giddy...

"Cobra Fett" drew me in to looking at Martin's work, but his print offerings kept me there. He had prints featuring the Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. I wish I had purchased more of his prints, but I did get 6.

I also picked-up a print of "Cobra Fett" and the others are going to be gifts, so I'm not going to post them. I'm going to be keeping my eyes on his work. Here's a link to his blog.

Ron Randall- Though I've never before been introduced to Randall's work, when I stopped by his table I found him very inviting. I took a look at his Trekker offerings, and decided to take an interest. I had never heard of this title before, but when I did a little research after getting home, I found the history very inviting. I'm going to read the issue from Image I bought from him and post a review. Before I even read it, I recommend people to give him your support. From the little time I actually spent with him, I could sense that he is very passionate for this title. Here's a link to his website.

Bridge City Comics- I must have passed their table several times before I stopped to look at their trade and graphic novel offerings... which were all highly discounted. One in particular caught my eye: "X-Men: Fall of the Mutants Omnibus". The 2 reasons this caught my attention are A) I just added the single trades to my wishlist on Amazon earlier in the week -AND- B) they were selling it for $40! That's 60% off the cover price. It's a huge book, and carting it around the con would have proved difficult with the limited space I had in the only bag I brought. After some time, I came back and bought the omnibus. It felt good, and I regret nothing.

After this purchase, I decided to go back to my van and drop-off what I had so that I could come back for more. That's when the sickness took me and I decided to leave rather than share what I was feeling.

Now.... on to FCBD!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor

The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor



Thomas Dunne Books, 2011

Robert Kirkman, Jay Bonansinga


If you’ve been reading the ‘Walking Dead’ comic books (and if you haven’t
then you really should) then you won’t need me to tell you just who the
Governor is and the influence that he has had on the lives of Rick Grimes and
his friends. I’m prepared to bet that a number of you are thinking, ‘the
Governor, what a bastard...’ right now.

If you’re not reading the comic books and are just watching the TV series
instead, you know that you will see the Governor be a major focus in season 3.
He’s too evil a character not to feature in one form or another and I’m pretty
confident in saying that you all have some great television headed your way
when he turns up. It’ll be near the knuckle stuff though, you have been
warned... (FYI At the time of writing this review, season 3 just started.)

Zombie media is great at showing the reader (or viewer, whatever) how a
character can develop in certain ways when faced with the all-encompassing fear
of a zombie apocalypse. People are thrown back on their own resources and will
often have to do unspeakable things if they want to survive another day; they
will often end up a completely different person to how they began. The Governor
differs here in that when we first meet him he is already capable of some pretty
sickening stuff. So... what happened? Was the Governor always like this or did
something happen, during those early days of the zombie uprising, that forced
him down a particular path?

Robert Kirkman has teamed up with thriller writer Jay Bonansinga to fill in
that gap and the result is just what you would expect from the creator of ‘The
Walking Dead’. You’re going to need a strong stomach to read this book but it’s
more than worth it in the end.

The dead are walking and Philip Blake’s life will never be the same again. The
only constant let over (from a former life that already seems like a dream) is
his seven year old daughter Penny and Philip will do whatever takes to make
sure that she survives.

Rumor has it that refugee centers are being set up in Atlanta so Philip and
Penny aim to make their way there along with Philip’s brother and two old high
school friends. Atlanta isn’t far away, as the crow flies, but in a new world
where the dead are looking to eat the living... Atlanta is now a lot further away
than anyone thought. Our band of survivors will do whatever they can to get to
the city but not only are there thousands of zombies in the way but Atlanta
might not be as safe as everyone thought. Philip Blake’s problems are only just

Every so often I’ll come across a book where I’ll find myself stopping and
thinking, ‘what the... did I just read that?’ You know what I mean; the writer
really goes for the throat and you find yourself physically shocked by what’s
happening on the page. ‘The Rise of the Governor’ is not one of those books,
preferring instead to take things to another level and set out to shock you
pretty much every couple of pages. And it succeeds. ‘The Rise of the Governor’
makes for visceral, bloody and downright brutal reading that I just couldn’t
put down. Kirkman and Bonansinga’s team up proves that Kirkman’s creation can
live just as well on the printed page as it does in the comic book.

That’s not to say that it’s all perfect though. The journey that Philip Blake
makes is arduous to say the least and one development led me to wonder whether
Kirkman and Bonansinga took pity on the group and decided to let them rest up
for a bit. The safe shelter that they find is a little too safe and drastic
action is needed to move them on and keep the story flowing. Therein lies the
problem, it’s clear that the plot needs to keep moving and one particularly
powerful scene (seriously, the weather gets involved and everything!) is
rendered nothing more than a really transparent plot device there to kick-start
the plot. Talk about being taken right out of a book (which was hitherto really
easy to get into) and having it shown for what it is...

This is a real shame as the rest of the book, both before and after this point,
absolutely rocks and I’m eager to see how Kirkman and Bonansinga tie the next
two books into the ongoing ‘Walking Dead’ continuity (although it’s not a
hundred percent clear whether the book will tie into the comic book plot or
that of the TV show, my money is on the comic book personally).

When the dead start trying to eat bits of the living, civilization crumbles
fast and that puts a lot of pressure on the people trying to live in the ruins.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the characters of Philip and Brian Blake, two men
just trying to do the right thing by the people that they love. Kirkman and
Bonansinga throw everything they can at Philip in particular and you can’t help
but root for him as he struggles to overcome another setback (and discovers
levels of savagery that he was previously unaware of), even though long term
fans will know how his story ultimately plays out. Or will they? There is one
hell of a twist, right at the end, which casts new light on everything and
makes prospect of the next two books just that little more enticing.

Before you get to that bit, there is a whole wasteland of the zombie apocalypse
to work your way through; jammed full of zombies and the worst elements of what
is left of humanity. Kirkman and Bonansinga use this backdrop to great effect,
pulling no punches in showing us just how tough life has suddenly become for
Philip and his friends. ‘The Rise of the Governor’ is full of frantic moments
where streets suddenly fill up with zombies, cars break down and safe shelter
is proved to be anything but. Kirkman and Bonansinga set out to show us just
what people will do to survive and Philip Blake learns some hard lessons along
the way. For the reader... Prepare to feel your heart race like mad and
remember to breathe every now and then, this is a book where it’s all too easy
to take a breath and forget to let it out.

‘The Rise of the Governor’ comes to a clanking halt mid-way through but stays
in fifth gear long enough for it not to be a major issue; there are more than
enough shocks and zombies to keep you going. I cannot wait for the next book.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

System's We Play: World of Darkness (Classic)

World of Darkness (Classic):

Back in the early 90's, I was introduced to a couple of supernatural RPG's that I thought were interesting. I even got the main book from Werewolf: The Apocalypse for 50% off from my local book store because the front cover was torn. (Fans who remember the 1st edition, softcover will get a chuckle from this.) Between that and the 2nd edition of Vampire: The Masquerade, White Wolf had my attention. It wasn't until my friends started a Mage: The Ascension group that I actually played in the World of Darkness... and I have never regretted this first step.

The World of Darkness started with 5 core games...

Vampire: The Masquerade-

This was the first game from the World of Darkness line. You are vampires descended from Caine. (Yes, this game draws from a biblical origin story.) In modern times, you either live to maintain your hold on what is left of your humanity, or you embrace that you are beyond the concept of humanity.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse-

In Werewolf, you typically portrait a warrior of Gaia (defender of the Earth) against the corruption of the Wyrm. There are other were-creatures you can choose from as well, such as cats, spiders and crows. You fight for honor, glory and wisdom to raise yourself in Gaia's army of shape-shifters.

Mage: The Ascension-

An inner power has awoken inside of you, but there are those who would either exploit your power or kill you for it. Mage is probably the best game in the World of Darkness if you want a player vs. "The Man" game as you try to keep yourself safe from a government group known as The Technocracy.

Wraith: The Oblivion-

Death is not the end, but just a new beginning. Something is keeping you from the afterlife that is promised after you die, and this ties you the world you once knew. Your new home, known as the Shadowlands, is a dark image of the world you once knew. You seek your redemption while others would seek to keep you where you are or use you as something else.

Changeling: The Dreaming-

Faeries from childhood stories are real, and they have been living amongst you without your knowledge. Better yet, you've also started to understand that you're one of them. Fueled by creativity and imagination, Changelings are hidden from the real world but still need to work within it. Be careful not to stray down the wrong path and get stuck in the world fueled by banality lest you lose your Fae self.

And then came the additions to provide a little flavor to the World of Darkness...

Kindred of the East-

Not quite the same of the traditional vampires we're aware of. Asia has its own spin of vampires, spirits and shape-shifters, and it all started here.

Hunter: The Reckoning-

With all these supernatural creatures running wild in the World of Darkness, there has to be a group of people who can offset them. Where each of the individual games have their counterpart (perceived "good vs. evil"), the Hunters are out to cleanse the world. Armed with powers and abilities of their own, Hunters don't see themselves as part of the problem but rather as the ultimate solution.

Mummy: The Resurrection-

In the 1st edition of Vampire: The Masquerade, we're introduced to Mummies. Now, here they are expanded with a ton of extra powers and abilities that will overpower just about any group. If a Mummies body dies, no worries. The spirit moves on to the Shadowlands until the body is repaired.

Demon: The Fallen-

If having Mummies weren't overpowering enough for your game, you can add a healthy dose of "evil" to your games. Even though I have some of the books for this game in my collection, I have yet to actually participate in a Demon game.

To add a little extra flavor to the original line of games, White Wolf also published a Dark Ages series that included Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, Fae and Inquisitor. These are great for the World of Darkness feel in a less modern time frame. I think these were created in light of the favorable response to Vampire: The Dark Ages.

There were a few off-shoots that were published but never that popular. Vampire: The Victorian Age (set in the late 19th century), Werewolf: The Wild West (set in the 19th century), Mage: The Sorcerer's Crusade (set in the late 15th century) and Wraith: The Great War (set during and immediately after World War I).

Other than Demon, I have either played or ran games and.or characters
from every single game in the World of Darkness. This is perhaps my
favorite of all systems. It's easy to learn and each individual game
within the system has a well thought out back story.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

G.I. Joe: Reinstated

Title: G.I. Joe: Reinstated

ISBN: 1582402523

Price: $14.95

Publisher/Year: Image, 2002

Artist: John Larter

Writer: Josh Blaylock

Collects: G.I. Joe Vol. 2 #1-4

Rating: 3/5

Marvel Comics began producing a G.I. Joe comic book back in 1982, the same
year Hasbro rolled out the new 3 ¾” line of Joe action figures. The series was
a big hit and would be one of Marvel’s top sellers for many years and spawn
several companion titles such as G.I. Joe Special Missions and G.I. Joe
European Missions. But as the popularity of the toy line waned, so did the
popularity of the comic and the title was finally canceled in 1994 after 155
issues. G.I. Joe lay dormant for seven years until resurrected by Devil’s Due
in 2001. “G.I. Joe Reinstated” re-prints those first four issues where we see
the Joe team brought out of the mothballs to once again face off against
arch-nemesis, Cobra. But this was not the G.I. Joe of twenty years ago which
was squarely aimed at the young boys who played with the action figures. This
was a grittier, edgier Joe, fully immersed in our modern world of terrorism and

Reinstated begins deep in the Florida Everglades at the base of Dreadnok leader
Zartan. Zartan hosts a meeting of Cobra dignitaries including the Cobra
Commander, the Baroness, Major Bludd, Destro, Dr. Mindbender, Tomax, and Xamot.
These diverse and ego-maniacal personalities instantly begin squabbling over
power as the Cobra Commander presents Cobra’s newest weapon…nanite technology
which he claims will infect and destroy virtually anything it’s introduced
into, whether it’s mechanical or organic. Destro manages to usurp power and
imprison the Cobra Commander. But military has been keeping an eye on Zartan in
the form of Snake Eyes’ apprentice Kamakura, who relays his information to Joe
command. After seven years the Joe team is reassembled with Duke, Flint,
Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Roadblock, Shipwreck, Gung Ho, Mainframe, Spirit, and
more…We catch up with the Joe team and learn that Snake Eyes and Scarlett were
to be married but Snake left three weeks before the wedding. We also learn
rather humorously that Bazooka is no longer quite fit for active duty.

The Joe team begins their assault on Zartan’s base but it is all a ruse to draw
the Joe team in. Scarlett and Snake Eyes are captured and several members of
the Joe team, including many new recruits are infected with the nanites.
Furthermore, Cobra has begun infecting infrastructure in the U.S., hitting government
installations, communications networks, and other targets, resulting in
widespread damage and chaos. Cobra’s plan is then to play the good guy and save
the day so the government will be in their debt. The Joe team must now find a
way to battle this new technology and save the men and the nation from Cobra’s
latest threat.

Reinstated was an extraordinary story and a great way to bring back the Joe
team. Far from the more implausible Marvel stories, Reinstated handled the
seven year absence logically with the various Cobra members quibbling over
power. Meanwhile on the Joe side we are given some meat to the past seven years
that the Joe team had been disbanded. While it would have been great to see a
bit more of what’s happened to the team in that time, it was at least nice to
see the subject handled intelligently. And in a plot right out of today’s
headlines we hear that people are protesting in Washington over the Joe Teams
attack on the Cobra base. Kudos to Josh Blaylock for playing up the whole
sympathizing with the terrorists angle as many people today have done with
Al-Quida. Steve Kurth and John Larter provide the striking artwork putting the
finishing touches on this great trade collection. Devil’s Due had done a great
job of balancing staying true to the characters Marvel and Hasbro introduced
and updating them for 21st century readers. I like having the stories aimed at
a more mature audience than the “G” rated Marvel material. Clearly, G.I. Joe is
in good hands at Devil’s Due.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wolverine Volume 2: Coyote Crossing

Title: Wolverine Volume 2:
Coyote Crossing

ISBN: 0785111379

Price: $11.99

Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2004

Artist: Leandro Fernandez

Writer: Greg Ruka

Collects: Wolverine (Vol 3)

Rating: 3/5

This isn’t a storyline that does much to advance the Wolverine mythos. It’s
not about his past or his returning memories or his eternal fight with
Sabretooth or anything like that. It’s a stand-alone storyline in which Wolvie
is forced to face the fact that he’s stuck somewhere between being a man and an
animal. The story itself is about Logan dealing with the leader of a Mexican
gang and being tailed by the DEA agent who made her first appearance in the
previous Wolverine story arc, “The Brotherhood”. I won’t go into the story,
because a lot of it is meant to surprise you, but I will say that this story
does a LOT to establish Logan’s humanity. Even after killing dozens of men in a
rage, he is forced to deal with the fact that he’s not all animal… nor is he
all man. This is a nicely complex character development story that I enjoyed

The art is also better, IMO, than Robertson and Palmer’s work on “The
Brotherhood.” I know Wolvie’s short and stocky, but I don’t like art that makes
him look like he just stumbled out of his cave. The art in “Coyote Crossing”
captures his stature, but also conveys the elegance and ease of movement that
he’s known for. I’m a bit ambivalent on the fact that his face looks a lot like
Hugh Jackman’s; I prefer a bit more separation between the movie and comic
‘verses, but I really like that he’s drawn with long hair. That needs to be
done more often.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


For many people who collect comic books, signatures add to the personal value of an individual issue. There are also those who feel that unless you go through a professional grading service like CGC or PGX to authenticate and encapsulate your comic, so many people believe that a signature doesn't add anything, but rather detracts from the potential value.

I am personally of two minds about getting my books signed by authors, artists or someone simply related to the book in my collection. I have included several pics and scans of comics I have in my collection that are signed.

Cable: Blood and Metal #1-

Signed by John Romita, Jr. at a Portland Comic Book Show in 1994. At the time, autographs from artist's of Romita's caliber were $0.25 each, with all proceeds going to charity. This was the first time I got a chance to actually chat with an artist whose work I was not only familiar with, but was also a fan of.

Uncanny X-Men #197-

Signed by John Romita, Jr. at the very same comic show. With the increase of comic cons in the pacific northwest, I wonder what the chances are of having Romita come back? My inner child yearns for this day.

New Mutants #100-

Signed by Fabian Nicieza at a Portland Comic Book Show. As with John Romita, Jr., it was great to meet and chat with Nicieza. Just as I liked Romita's art, so to did I appreciate Nicieza's writing.

Lady Death: Swimsuit Special #1 (Red Velvet Cover)-

Signed by Brian Pulido at an Emerald City Comic Con. Unfortunately, I don't have any special memories around this signature. When I couldn't attend, I sent a box of comic to a friend to get them signed. As much as I value Pulido's signature on this specific issue, I wish there was a story behind it similar to what happened at ECCC 2012.

I'm thankful that I was able to connect with Pulido in 2012. To me, it makes up for not being able to meet him when this specific issue was signed.

The Walking Dead #100 (SDCC Previews Exclusive Black & White Cover)-

Signed by Robert Kirkman at San Diego Comic Con. This is actually a comic that I purchased at Wizard World Portland 2013 and don't have a good story about meeting Kirkman. In 2012, he was at ECCC... but every time I passed the Image tables, he was nowhere to be seen. Although this was a great find for me, that is the sum total of my memories for this specific issue.

X-Force #25-

Signed by Fabian Nicieza at a Portland Comic Book Show and then later signed in 1996 by Greg Capullo at a comic book show in Seattle. This show was very memorable because Capullo and Todd McFarlane were doing promo's for the Spawn cartoon on HBO. There's a funny story about how I first met Greg, that I promised that I would never tell again.

Ultimate X-Men #38-

Signed by Brian Michael Bendis at the same Emerald City Comic Con that Brian Pulido was at. This was part of the box of issues I had my friend take to get signed. To date, I have not had the chance to meet Bendis personally. I'd like to.

Ghost Stories-

Signed by Adam Hughes at the first Emerald City Comic Con I attended... I believe it was in 2006. I remember this well because there was a small line at his table in the morning before he actually "opened" to do signings. His assistant mentioned that it was the first time that had happened. Hughes is one of my favorite artists and when Ghost was first released, it was part of my monthly pull list at my LCS.

Ghost #4-

Signed by Matt Halley and Tom Simmons at the Portland Comic Book Show in 1996. A crossover with Barb Wire and Adam Hughes didn't do the art. As much as I like this issue, I really believe that Hughes would've made a deeper impact by adding his art.

I remember buying my first print from Halley. It was of Gambit from the X-Men. I still have it in an old photo album.

Daredevil #64-

Signed by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev at the Emerald City Comic Con that I was unable to attend. While I'm not a huge fan of Maleev's work, I do like how he drew Black Widow for this cover.

Dawn: Convention Sketch Book 2005-

Signed by Joseph Michael Linsner at the Emerald City Comic Con in 2007. I know that I wasn't at this particular ECCC but I don't recall if this was the same year that Brian Pulido and Brian Michael Bendis were there. Love to meet Linsner in person some day.

Bluntman & Chronic-

Signed by Mike Allred at a Portland Comic Book Show. Even though I can't remember the year, I do remember that I had a table there and was actually selling and I sent my wife (at the time) to get signatures while I tended to the table. This was the year that the show was actually on the floor of the Memorial Coliseum instead of the exhibition hall where it normally was.

Grendel Tales: Four Devils, One Hell #6-

Signed by Matt Wagner at a Portland Comic Book Show. I think this may have been in 1996 because I want to believe that it was the same year that I went to Seattle and met Greg Cappulo. I'm not entirely certain, but as a long time fan of Grendel, it was incredible to finally meet Wagner.

I guess the key takeaway from this is that no matter if you feel that signatures add a monetary value or not, each one contains a story of how the signature was obtained and/or came to reside in your collection. I know people who, like me, appreciate the story behind the signature. There are also many who prefer to "insure" their investment in a signature by having the comic graded and the autograph officially certified. As a collector and as someone who occasionally sells comics, I can respect that. For me, I only have 1 issue that I've had signed and graded:

Catwoman #51-

Signed by Adam Hughes at Emerald City Comic Con. This is by far my favorite cover. I even bought a large print of this also signed. If I had enough money, I would probably have more of my signed issues graded to keep them safe. This specific issue means a great deal to me and it holds a special place in my collection.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stumptown Comics Fest 2013

10th Annual Stumptown Comics Fest

April 27 and 28, 2013 • Oregon Convention Center

Sat. 10-6, Sun. 12-6 

Stumptown Comics Fest - Saturday pass

Stumptown Comics Fest - Sunday pass

Stumptown Comics Fest - Weekend pass

I plan to be there, will you? 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

System's We Play: Pathfinder


Granted, this has only been out for a few years, and I only started actively playing less than a year ago, but I really enjoy Pathfinder. I liked D&D 3.5, so it makes sense that I would like it. I'm not entirely certain what took me so long to actually get into it. Perhaps I was feeling a little gun-shy after Wizards of the Coast took me on a long and drawn-out ride into virtual poverty with Dungeons & Dragons.

As of this writing, I've only purchased the core book. I have also purchased (free and paid) several apps that compensate for the lack of actual books, plus I have everything I could need digitally.

After the first few sessions, I finally got back into the swing of things in a fantasy setting. The past several years had been primarily devoted to White Wolf's classic World of Darkness line, and I found I was out of practice. Time to get back to my roots... sort of.

The last several D&D games I have played, I took the role of the Cleric. Back then, I was primarily cast as the healer and not generally someone any of the party members actually spoke to for advice. This time has been different.

The pantheon is a homebrew, so I get to work from the seat of my pants when I really get into character. I don't actively seek-out to convert my fellow party members, but I do try to lay down a bit of "the gospel" every now and then for effect. It helps that I have a background in studying various religions. I take a little from every religion, when the time seems right. I could imagine that what the other players and I may see as funny may seem like taking a stereotype and running with it to someone unfamiliar with the group.

If you're familiar and comfortable with the 3.5 edition of D&D, you should have little problem playing Pathfinder. I'm enjoying the game that I am currently a part of, and I look forward to joining others in future campaigns.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

X-Men: Age of Apocalypse Prelude

Title: X-Men: Age of Apocalypse

ISBN: 9780785155089

Price: $29.99

Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2011

Artist: Andy Kubert, Jan Duursema, Steve Epting, Terry Dodson, Roger
Cruz, Ron Garney, Ian Churchill

Writer: Fabian Nicieza, John Francis Moore, Todd Dezago, Scott Lobdell,
Mark Waid, Jeph Loeb

Collects: X-Factor #108-109,
Uncanny X-Men #319-321, X-Men #38-41, Cable #20, X-Men: Age of
Apocalypse Ashcan Edition

Rating: 3.5/5

Out of all the comic books I've ever read (not as many as some but still a
fair old few) why is it the 'Age of Apocalypse' series is the one that has
always managed to occupy pride of place in my head? I mean, there are
definitely better series out there

'I don't know' is still the honest answer. It's probably a cross between my
picking the books up at a time when college life suddenly got a lot better (it
had been pretty bad at one point) and the series being a whole world away from
the X Men cartoon I'd made a habit of watching. All of a sudden anything could
happen and I wanted some of that action!

I didn't stick with the X Men books for that long, just long enough to see what
happened with the Onslaught storyline, but I've always had a little soft spot
for the 'turn everything on its head' madness of the 'Age of Apocalypse' books.
The collected editions are very much on my 'to buy list', once I can pick up
copies without crippling my wallet... I can wait :o) I had never really given
much thought to what led up to the main event, too busy being blown away by the
good stuff, but something had to kick it all off... I finally got my chance to
find out when I came across a copy of 'Prelude' in a local library. There was
no way that I wouldn't be reading it!

The premise is simple. Professor Xavier's mad son, Legion, has woken from a
coma and promptly jumped back twenty years into the past. His plan is to make
the world a happier place by killing its greatest villain before he turns to a
path of darkness. Can the X Men of the present save the Magneto of the past? A
lot more than one man's life rides on the outcome... And what if the wrong man
were to die? That death could turn the present into a far different world

In many respects 'Prelude' is the book that I have been waiting years to read.
I already knew what the Age of Apocalypse was all about but I never really knew
what caused this event to take place (well, not in any great detail). Now I do
and it's a story that may be a little too straightforward for some (like me)
but also a story that resonates with a lot of power and emotion. This can lend
a 'soap opera' air to proceedings (part of the reason why I stopped reading
these books) but not as much as I thought there would be.

I did wonder how much of what happened was necessary to the plot though
(Iceman's issues and Gambit's run in with Sabertooth for example) and this was
where things got a little too much for me. 'Prelude' is as self-contained as it
can be but there's no escaping the fact that it's part of a much larger
narrative with lots of smaller sub-plots that clearly need to be rounded off
before a new scenario can begin. This is ok for those readers who are familiar
with the story already but if you're not (like me) then things can feel a
little disjointed with what feels like several plots all working against each
other. There are also loads of little references to events happening in other
comics entirely (a 'Rogue' mini-series and 'Wolverine' for starters). This is a
pet hate of mine anyway, it just feels like a money making gimmick, but it also
has the unfortunate effect of making you feel like there's even more story that
you're missing.

Once you get past this though, 'Prelude' still has a lot to offer and I'm glad
I got to give it a go. I'm always up for a bit of super powered confrontation
and there is plenty of that on offer here, particularly in the end stages where
the X Men take on Legion in a suitably pyrokinetic fashion. The artwork is of a
good standard anyway but was glorious in these sequences.

I also got a lot out of the focus on the relationship between Xavier and Erik;
not only in how it gave the plot added impetus (and added an air of tragedy to
the climax) but also in that I'd never seen this relationship before. It made
for a real nice change to see things actually play out rather than be referred
to yet another back issue.

'Prelude' suffers from problems that I think are endemic in Marvel comics as a
whole but there is still a lot there to recommend the read. Definitely worth
sticking with and it's got me all fired up to finally track down the big 'Age
of Apocalypse' collections. I'm glad I read it.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

System's We Play: Palladium


This was the first system I remember playing that had more than a single genre attached to it. For those that don't know what I mean, Palladium includes Robotech, Rifts, TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Heroes Unlimited, Palladium Fantasy and so much more. I believe Palladium may have coined the term "Megaverse", meaning that all the games in the system are interconnected. With Rifts, this allowed GM's and players alike to start playing in cross-venue games. People could play their mutants from TMNT into the world of Robotech or Rifts. This opened-up a large realm of possibilities that my fellow players and I took full advantage of.

My first encounters with the Palladium system was through TMNT. I remember making so many different mutants, from tigers to frogs and even a porcupine. There was even a memorial day weekend where to friends and I stayed in a mobile home outside of one of their houses to play a session of TMNT for the entire weekend. Those were the days.

Skills in the Palladium Megaverse were based off of a percentage system rather than ranks or dots. This made it very easy to understand where your characters strengths were. The method of advancement may be a bit flawed in some peoples opinions, but I think it works well.

Most of the games I've played in the Megaverse are:

Beyond the Supernatural: A modern horror RPG along the lines of Call of Cthulhu. Even though my group of friends didn't care for this game, I was able to create several of my favorite characters using is.

Heroes Unlimited: A superhero RPG. This also included Villains Unlimited and Aliens Unlimited. This was the source for all the superpowers you'd want to use in the Palladium system.

Macross II: based on the anime of the same name. The next line of the Robotech RPG several years after it had all but died-out.

Nightbane (formerly called Nightspawn): A horror RPG set in the year 2004 (a near-future setting when the game was released). It differs from Beyond the Supernatural in that the supernatural elements are not as hidden and more open. The series is placed after "Dark Day", an event where the earth was plunged into an unnatural, starless night for 24 hours, and supernatural entities infiltrated or subverted various governments and organizations across the globe.

Ninjas & Superspies: Based on both martial-arts and espionage movies with some science fiction elements mixed in. As Heroes Unlimited is the source for the superpowers, this is the source for the martial arts for Palladium.

Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game: A fantasy RPG set in a unique world, which was the home of Kevin Siembieda's fantasy games. The obvious pull for people who enjoy playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Rifts: Set primarily on Earth, four hundred years after a war-triggered magical apocalypse, opening dimensional gateways and heralding the return of magic, Atlantis, and numerous invasions by alien forces. Rifts is Palladium's flagship line.

Robotech: Based on the anime series of the same name. I grew-up on this cartoon and loved this game to death.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness: Based on the original comic books.

Something I recently found out was that Palladium is aggressive in preventing wide distribution of fan-made conversions of their games to other systems (such as the D20 System),
and also strongly discourages converting the intellectual property of
others into their system; while they cannot prevent it, doing so is not
allowed in venues owned by Palladium Books. Palladium also routinely
threatens legal action against fans who distribute conversions in other
venues by issuance of cease and desist
orders. When asked why Palladium was so much stricter in regard to
conversions than other game companies, Siembieda stated that the policy
had been adopted due to advice from Palladium's lawyers, to shield
Palladium from liability for conversions of other parties' intellectual

In the past when I've had to sell pieces of my collection to offset unemployment, I found that the books from Palladium never really held any type of second market value. I wonder if this is primarily due to an overabundance of books being printed by Palladium, or the seeming lack of interest the player community has in the system.

For around 3 years,  2 friends and I played in the Megaverse with multiple characters. Much of this was set in the Heroes Unlimited world. The above picture is what we came up with for a human version of the Invid's Royal Command Battloid from Robotech. If I remember correctly, this was modified to also run on modern or a nuclear fuel rather than what the Invid used.

Cerebus Vol 3: Church & State Volume I

 Title: Cerebus Vol 3: Church & State Volume I ISBN: 0919359094 Price: $ Publisher/Year: Aardvark-Vanheim, 1987 Artist: Gerhard Writer: ...