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Sunday, June 30, 2013

"The Ocean at the End of the Lane" signing in Portland, OR

On, what was, the hottest day of the year so far in Portland, the moment I had waited for all of my adult life had finally arrived. Even though the Crystal Ballroom was not ventilated very well, I and about 900 other fans of author Neil Gaiman persevered the heat for the opportunity to see, hear and meet the man himself. Even though the heat was uncomfortable, it was well worth it.

I was introduced to Gaiman's work in my senior year of high school when I picked-up a little comic book called Sandman. From it's pages, I was transfixed and enamored by his words. I feel it was at this point in time that the mantle of my favorite author had changed from Stephen King (who I had idolized since I was a child in 5th grade) to Gaiman.

Gaiman first read to us from his new book, "The Ocean at the End of the Lane". Chapter 3, to be accurate.

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Pages: 192

Price ( Hardcover ): $25.99

Publication Date: June 18, 2013

ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-0-06-225565-5

Category: Fiction

While waiting to enter the Crystal Ballroom for the event, one of the employee's from Powell's stated that the copy of the book we would be receiving was "free", even though it was obviously covered by the price of admission.

I found Gaiman's voice to be very soothing, and helped me to set aside the uncomfortable heat.

After the reading, Gaiman fielded question that the audience had submitted before the start of the event.And once that was over, he read a chapter from upcoming children's book "Fortunately, the Milk". While I have no children of my own, I look forward to reading this book dedicated to father's.

Once the reading had completed, Gaiman took a break while the Powell's employee's worked to setup the signing area. Everyone was given a colored slip of paper in their copy of "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" with a symbol on it. This would denote the order in which people would be called to the signing area. Mine was a blue star, and even though I was there early, I still had to patiently wait for about 5 other groups of people to have their books signed first. It was good that they played music and I had friends to spend the time with.

Once my blue star was called to be signed, the moment I had waited for all my adult life was about to happen. I was finally about to meet one of my favorite authors. (I wish my other pictures that I had taken had turned-out, and that the best of which had turned-out better, but this is what I was able to salvage.)

Here are the latest additions to my collection of books and comics that have been signed:

As I labored to get to sleep, much later in the evening, I found myself thinking about my parting words to Gaiman. I've found that I have actually been saying the same thing to every author and artist (though altered a bit for artists) when they sign my books. I have to credit Kevin Smith's movie "Mallrats" for inspiring what I now consider my tagline: "You keep writing them, I'll keep reading them."

Cinderella: Fables are Forever

Title: Cinderella:
Fables are Forever

ISBN: 9781401233853

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2012

Artist: Shawn McManus

Writer: Chris Roberson, Bill Willingham

Collects: Cinderella: Fables Are Forever
#1-6, Fables #51

Rating: 4/5

Fabletown’s own James Bond is back with her second trade,
Fables Are Forever. It’s a fast paced, action/adventure tale as our heroine
goes head to head with one of the most notorious Fable assassins, Dorothy Gale.
That’s right. You’ll never see Oz quite the same way again.

Now this is fun, almost distractingly so. The truth is I
couldn’t read a chapter without a growing sense of gravitational cognizance. If
you’ve ever watched a Warner’s cartoon, you’ll know what that is. Everything is
fine until you look down. If you look down you’ll realize you’re standing in
mid-air with nothing for support. Once that happens you can only fall.
Obviously I had problems with the book.

Starting from least to worse, let’s look at that cover. Yes,
it’s the Russian swimsuit edition, but more than that it’s the least
interesting of the covers from the series’ monthly edition. Couldn’t Vertigo
chip in for an original cover? After all, this is the edition people are going
to be buying from now on.

Secondly, this isn’t a long story. Not really a book length
one. They could have gone with that and given us a shorter book at a lower
price, or they could have included some interesting extras, or they could have
recycled a Cinderella story that has already been collected into a different
trade edition and has most likely already been bought by Fables fans in both
monthly and trade format. Guess which option they went with.

Finally, and most importantly, this book represents a major
retconning of the Fables backstory. One done for no other reason, it seems,
than to rationalize this story. As fans know the setup for Fables is that an
evil Adversary has taken over all the fairy tale kingdoms and now there is a
hidden community of fairy tale characters, who refer to themselves as “fables,”
living in Manhattan. This community also supports a second community of
non-human fables who live in a large “farm” in upstate New York. They are
forced to live there because they can’t pass as human. Eventually, they do
defeat the Adversary and another chapter of the story begins, but with
Cinderella: Fables Are Forever that’s all given a major re-write. Now there are
“shadow communities” of fables all over the world. In Russian, China, Burkina
Faso. And the different communities are actively engaged in a Cold War, pitting
one against the other. It’s easy to see how this benefits Cinderella. What’s a
Cold Warrior without a Cold War? But this isn’t the first Cinderella Secret
Agent tale and the others have been engaging and fun and placed entirely within
the context of accepted continuity.

Instead of developing the Fable universe further, it just
raises a lot of questions—Why are these fables at war with one another instead
of joining against their common foe, the Adversary? Why haven’t we heard of any
of this before? Aren’t all fable communities “shadow” communities?—questions
that all seem to have the same answer: now, they’re just making stuff up. I
don’t know, with all the talk of creator’s credits and the Avenger’s movie
maybe we can blame this on Stan Lee too. After all, he’s the one who taught
comic readers that continuity was important.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe

Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe



Marvel, 2012

Artist: Dalibor Talajic

Cullen Bunn

Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe #1–4


So in
this trade, our good ol' buddy Wade Wilson decides to go on a killing spree
against everyone. And when I say everyone, I mean the entire Marvel-U. Deadpool
takes on a mission, sent from god himself, to kill all of Marvel's superheroes
and villains. That's right, the Merc with a Mouth goes toe to toe with
Spider-Man, The Hulk, Thor, Wolverine, and even decides to go against the
Fantastic Four and The Avengers. Yeah, it's safe to say he's a nutcase trying
to take on everyone on his lonesome, but Deadpool does a pretty good job in
wiping out all of our favorite characters.

starts of great. Deadpool is shown slitting throats, beheading and stabbing a
lot of A-tier heroes to death. It's an awesome sight to behold. The cover explicitly
says "Parental Advisory! Not For Kids!" and as you can tell, that's
because this trade is pretty gory. We all know that Deadpool is a violent
psychopath, but when you remove the censors and have him as the title
character, you get some really gruesome deaths (and some, being terribly
funny). Not to mention any names, but Deadpool, at point blank range, shoots
the face of one of Marvel's most iconic heroes (literally turning one side of
his head into ground beef), and leaves him on the street to rot. It's pretty
damn ruthless. Of course, there's no way Deadpool is able to do some of the
things he does here (specifically against Thor and Hulk), but with a little
deus ex machina, anything is possible.

Deadpool humor is still here, as he breaks the fourth wall makes a couple of
pop-culture references, but none of the jokes really hit the mark. And speaking
of the fourth wall, it is that unique ability that causes Deadpool to go on
this crazed rampage to annihilate all of Marvel. A third voice in his head
convinces him that everyone he knows are nothing but puppets, and someone out
there is pulling the strings. And since Deadpool is the only one who knows that
he's in a comic book, he must go and find his answers. Yeah, this sounds like
something that can only happen in a Deadpool storyline.

while the book starts off at a full-throttle, it begins to lose its steam as it
draws closer to the finale. The first time we see Wade beheading our heroes and
shooting bullets into their faces, the shock of it all gets to us. But by the
time we reach the end, none of the kills make much of the same impact anymore.
Even the final battle against Taskmaster wasn't satisfying enough. Then, by the
time the last issue reaches its final pages, I was at a complete letdown. I
don't want to spoil anything, but I will say I predicted how this was going to
end (as I'm sure many of you would too, as long as you understand Wade's
acceptance as a comic book character), and while it was a fitting conclusion, I
was hoping it wasn't going to finish the way I thought it would. Cullen Bunn
did a decent job in writing, but he couldn't quite hit it home.

for Dalibor Talajic's artwork, I thought he did a fine job. He doesn't get too
much detail into the panels though, as most of the pages are filled with a more
simplistic look, but it does keep the pages turning and it works well with the
story being told. He also changed up Deadpool's outfit a bit, which I kind of
liked. The covers for the individual issues, on the other hand (done by Kaare
Andrews), were fantastic.

Kills the Marvel Universe gives a unique spin on everyone's favorite
self-regenerating mercenary, but while this series had a lot of potential, it
fell short from being something great. I'm sure Deadpool fans will get a kick
out of this four-issue series (which include some impressive fatalities), but
as an avid fan of Wade himself, I thought this to be a bit disappointing.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Systems We Play: Star Wars vs. Star Trek

There have been several RPG incarnations of both of these sci-fi classic franchises - from traditional pen-and-paper RPG's to various dice variations, card and miniature games. I'd like to break down each version and give some opinions on what I'm familiar with.

Star Trek-

FASA (1982-1989):

The game system was percentile based, meaning that for every action or test desired, players had to roll two ten-sided dice to generate a random number from 1 to 100. Success or failure was
determined either by rolling against a set difficulty target, or a
player's own skill, or a hybrid of both, adjusted by circumstances.

For example, assuming no modifiers, if a player had a skill of 45 and
rolled 33, the character was assumed to have been successful in that
action. If there were tools for the task available, the player might
have a bonus of +25; if the task is made more difficult because of
conditions (such as a space battle) the player might have a penalty of

FASA had previously written supplements for GDW's Traveller, an association which influenced the early structure of the Star Trek game, particularly in character generation.

The rulebooks also provided systems for governing personal combat,
space and planetary exploration, and the first edition provided rules
for combat between starships; second edition moved the starship combat
rules into a separate boardgame. Supplements provided additional rules
for characters in the Klingon Empire and Romulan Star Empire, interplanetary trade and commerce, starship design, and campaigns focusing on other non-Starfleet players.

Each planet in the game's atlas had a code that - coupled with the
character's merchant skill and some luck - allowed players to buy and
trade across the galaxy. A ship's carrying capacity was not based on
tonnage, but on volume (i.e. how much space a ship can hold). There were
also rules on buying and selling stock on the Federation stock market.

Zanziber Sez: I barely remember playing this in my youth, though I have most of the books for this now. It takes me back to an earlier age when games came in simple boxed sets and the Cold War was on. It's an interesting system. My only negative thought is that you're stuck in the universe of the original series. (Yes, I prefer Next Generation and beyond over the original series. I'm a sucker for good writing, acting and effects.)

Last Unicorn Games (1998-2001):

Due to licensing issues, LUG did not release the game as a single core
rulebook and setting supplements for the various series, but instead
intended to release a core book for every series. The Star Trek license was lost to Decipher before a Star Trek: Voyager rulebook could be released.

Last Unicorn Games was one of the first role playing companies to utilize
the concept of releasing additional pages for published books via the
web. LUG dubbed these "Icon Links," in reference to their overall "Icon
System" game mechanics (the term Web Enhancement hadn't been invented
yet). Unlike current web enhancements, which are simply additions that
can be added to the end of a book, LUG took a unique approach, by
planning the enhancements ahead of time, and printing a small Icon
symbol at various points in a given book, informing the reader that
additional material on the subject-at-hand was available on the
company's website to read or download and print. These enhancements are
now being stored online, and can be downloaded from Memory Icon, under the Icon Links section.

Many additional books and supplements were planned, and quite a few had
various chapters already written, in varying degrees of completion.
LUG's former writing pool has been extremely generous and supportive of
the fan-movement to keep the game alive and expand on it. In support of
this, much of the unpublished material has been released for the fans.

Zanziber Sez: Since Last Unicorn came in during the Next Generation, I appreciated this version. I think that this is my favorite of the 3, I just wish they had kept it up in order to include later material. I guess I can't have everything.

Decipher (2002-2007):

When Decipher acquired the rights to create the RPG, they also acquired most of the gaming studio from Last Unicorn Games. However, the Decipher game system is dissimilar to the one that Last Unicorn published. Instead, the system is similar to Wizards of the Coast's d20 System but uses 2D6 to resolve actions.

The CODA System is a role-playing game system designed by Decipher for Star Trek Role-playing Game. It uses six-sided dice, and a standard set of character statistics, as well as skills and edges (which are similar in function to the d20 System 'Feats'). Characters belong to a class, and can adopt more than one class as they progress.

The CODA System terms character leveling advancing and refers to characters as having N advancements rather than being of a particular level. Advancing gives the player a number of picks with which to buy upgrades to their character's statistics and abilities.

Characters have a total hit point
pool segmented into health levels; each health level of damage incurred
imposes a wound penalty to certain actions. Characters also have a
number of 'weariness' levels; extended or intense activity can result in
penalties to certain actions based on the number of weariness levels

Zanziber Sez: I never actually played in this system because I was thoroughly entrenched in D20 and White Wolf's classic World of Darkness. I appreciate that they were able to bring in the additional settings, but the 2d6 system bothers me a bit. I'm just glad that Decipher made the Star Trek CCG.

Star Wars-

West-End Games (1987-1999):

Characters in the D6 System are defined by attributes and skills. Attributes represent the raw ability of a character in a certain area. Most D6 System
games utilize anywhere from six to eight attributes, though these can
vary greatly in number and name by the game in question. Acumen,
Intellect, Knowledge, Perception, Presence and Technical are examples of
mental attributes; Agility, Coordination, Mechanical, Physique,
Reflexes and Strength are examples of physical ones. Skills are the
trained abilities of the character and are associated with a specific
attribute (e.g., driving, acrobatics, and climbing might be skills based
on the Reflexes attribute). Each attribute and the skills under it are
rated in values of Dice and Pips; Dice equal the number of dice rolled
and Pips equal a one or two point bonus added to the roll to determine
the result. The more dice and pips in the rating the better the
character is at that skill or attribute. A character with a Strength
rating of 4D+2 is stronger than a character with a Strength rating of
3D+1, for example.

Zanziber Sez: Even though this system might be considered "difficult" to people who are relatively new to role playing now, this was fun. I may have a biased point of view due to Star Wars being some of my favorite movies of all time (pre-prequel). The fact that this was the first time I could interact with the setting I enjoyed when I was younger really speaks to me. This system helped to introduce the fiction beyond the movies to me. This is when I began reading Timothy Zahn. (I should really get those books in my collection again.)

Wizards of the Coast (2000-2010):

The Star Wars Roleplaying Game is a d20 System role playing game set in the Star Wars universe. In 2007, Wizards released the Saga Edition of the game, which made major changes in an effort to streamline the rules system.

The game covers three major eras coinciding with major events in the Star Wars universe, namely the Rise of the Empire, the Galactic Civil War, and the time of the New Jedi Order.

The Star Wars Roleplaying Game originally came out around the time of the release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. It included statistics for many of the major characters of that movie. The later Revised game included material from Attack of the Clones and changed various feats and classes.

The Star Wars Roleplaying Game uses a Vitality/Wound point system instead of standard hit points,
dividing damage into superficial harm (Vitality) and serious injury
(Wounds). A character gains Vitality points just like hit points in
other d20 games, and rolls for them each level and adds their
Constitution bonus. A character's Wound points are equal to their
Constitution score.

Most game mechanics are familiar to players of Dungeons & Dragons and other d20-based games. Characters have six ability scores, a class and level, feats,
and skills. Most actions are resolved by rolling a twenty-sided die and
adding a modifier; if the result equals or exceeds the difficulty, the
check succeeds.

Zanziber Sez: Much like with Last Unicorn Games version of Star Trek, I have a great fondness for the d20 based system for Star Wars. By the Saga Edition, we had sourcebooks covering all the movies and much of the extended universe. I was sad when I noticed Wizards not publishing any additional material.

Fantasy Flight Games (2012-current):

In August 2011 Fantasy Flight Games acquired the Star Wars license from Lucasfilm Ltd. and announced two Star Wars gaming products: the miniatures game X-Wing and the card game Star Wars: The Card Game.A role-playing game was rumored to be in the works but only a whole
year later, in August 2012, the editor announced the publication of Star Wars: Edge of the Empire,
the first standalone game of a whole of three, constituting the Fantasy
Flight Games Star Wars role-playing game. The second installment, Star Wars: Age of Rebellion, conceived for playing rebels against the Empire, and the third one, Star Wars: Force and Destiny, conceived for playing Jedi characters, are not yet published.

Zanziber Sez:I haven't had the opportunity to play in this system yet. When I first saw the miniature game, I was enthralled. The only thing keeping me from getting into the miniatures game is the fact that it is too expensive. I'm looking forward to giving the RPG and possibly the card game a try; But until I either win the lottery or Fantasy Flight lowers the price of the mini's, I won't touch them.


In 1994, Decipher brought us Star Trek Customizable Card Game. This game instantly drew me in and kept me entertained for several years. When they ultimately stopped publishing new material, a group called The Continuing Committee took over... unofficially. They continue to support tournaments and still generate virtual sets of cards that can be printed for use.

From 1995 to 2001, Decipher also published Star Wars: Customizable Card Game. When Decipher lost the license, Wizard of the Coast developed their own version. For the Decipher edition, again a group was formed to continue to support the fanbase with tournaments and virtual sets. They are called the Star Wars Customizable Card Game Players Committee.

In 2002, Wizards of the Coast started publishing Star Wars: The Trading Card Game with a different style and feel from the original Decipher games. This was shelved in 2005. They also began to produce Star Wars Miniatures to coincide with the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures game.

In 2011, Fantasy Flight Games picked-up the license to publish Star Wars: The Card Game and X-Wing.

Zanziber Sez: I loved the CCG's by Decipher. I bought and sold my original collections, but a few years ago I started collecting again. I now have large collections of each game... but I have no one to play and no time to play.

I never played the Wizards games and have yet to play the Fantasy Flight version.

I know I didn't touch either Young Jedi or Jedi Knights, which were also produced by Decipher. They never had the same popularity as the other CCG's Decipher published.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Marvel Mangaverse Vol. 4 – X-Men: Ronin

Marvel Mangaverse Vol. 4 – X-Men: Ronin



Marvel, 2003

Artist: Makoto Nakatsuka, Hiromi Nakatsuka

J. Torres

X-Men: Ronin #1–5


Hellfire Club, aka the yakuza or something, want to recruit Jean Grey [the
slutty redhead as seen above] to their organization of evil. The X-Men
intervene and save Jean from certain death. Emma Frost, the evil slutty blonde
trying to recruit Jean convinces the city that the X-Men are monsters. This sends
the city into hysteria so the local police chief starts using human piloted
robots to hunt down those damn mutants. Gundams? No, Sentinels. Mansions are
blown up, villains are killed, etc. etc. To be honest, the storyline is as if
the writer threw a bunch of elements of X-Men in a blender and wrote what
resulted from that blender.

crappy artwork itself is just only a minor thing in a long list of complaints
that can be leveled against this book. But we'll start off with the obvious,
which is of course the artwork. Let's get one thing straight here people.
Manga, basically evolved to look like the shittiest form of art possible
because the artists are expected to turnout several hundred pages of this stuff
per week. Not because it's supposed to represent a culture, not because it's
somehow "cool" or "artsy". It's just mass produced tripe
that Japanese artists churn out to grace the weekly magazines for people to
read on the daily two hour train ride to school and work in Tokyo. At least
most of it is, as there are always a few gems to be found. Sadly X-Men Ronin is
not one of them. Oh sure, it's got the gratuitous cleavage and borderline
pedophilic material to make it look like a manga. It has no sense of human
proportion. It's got the ol' "saucer-eyes" look. But compared to the
standards of what makes manga bad, even this is below those standards.

book was obviously not written by somebody who writes for comics! The writing
actually comes off more as if it were written by one of those aforementioned
otaku that like to write yaoi (slash fiction) based on their favorite anime
shows and was picked off of by Marvel for sounding "really
Japanesey". It physically hurts me whenever I have to read through the
poor dialogue and the the insistence of making everything sound like if it came
off of some ninja movie. In fact, by the end of the series, it all just turns
into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but with people with special powers and a
guy with a really long tongue in the role of Splinter in place of
anthropomorphic turtles and rats. The X-Men as a "masterless clan"
who fight for the "honor" of all mutants? WTF indeed.

only thing that could save this comic now would be for one of them to sprout
tentacles and you know...

characters seen in X-Men Ronin are not similar to the X-Men heroes and villains
in any way, shape or form. Often, characters will switch personality, power,
gender, or moral compass for little to no reason. If you're doing an X-Men
story, you do not make Toad an old Japanese sensei who guides the young X-Men.
Toad is a sycophantic lackey, not a wise old man with a long tongue. That's
certainly not the only massive character change, though; for example, take Emma
Frost's henchmen, Iceman, Pyro and Colossus. Iceman and Colossus are obviously
out of place because they've never been shown as evil, except that shit
storyline in the 90's where Colossus joined Magneto for some poorly explained
reason. Not only that, Iceman looks like the bastard child of Jack Frost and
Colossus doesn't even have metal skin - from the art it appears his skin
becomes rock upon transformation. I want Colossus, not the Thing! And Pyro is
still somehow the strangest departure of all - first of all, Pyro's British
instead of Australian, and most importantly, Pyro's now a girl. Because
scantily clad Jean Grey, Storm, Emma Frost and Tessa weren't enough! They
needed a female Human Torch in a leather bra! Oh, and, the best for last:
Xavier is evil.

could certainly take my complaints of character differences as nothing more
than fanboy bitching, but my opinion of it is that if you're going to make an
X-Men story, why bother making one if you're not going to use anything
resembling the characters? For several of them, the only similarity they have
with the original are the powerset, and even then that's dicey. None of the
characters in their manga forms display any bit of personality, old or new.
Storm and Jean are in this solely to draw in the sex offenders crowd; Cyclops
is a case of 'nice house, but nobody's home'. Toad is Master Splinter. In fact,
the only person who shows even a bit of personality not from the 'manga stock
personalities' is Wolverine, and even then, how hard is it to write Wolverine?
All you need to do is have him pop his claws a few times, say "bub"
and be a dick to Cyclops.

of the costumes are stupid. Okay, that's not accurate - all of the costumes are
stupid. The worst offender would have to be Cyclops. The real Cyclops hasn't
had much luck in terms of costumes - from his original blue and yellow togs to
his Jim Lee costume that contained too many Goddamn pouches that never seemed
to hold anything. He's never had a very good costume. But compared to his
costume in X-Men Ronin, his blue and yellow condom outfit from the Kirby days
looks good.  He's wearing red blocky
armor with a laser pointer helmet. How much lamer can you get?

this worthy X-Men material?

stories, well, the good ones at least, are about persecution and hatred against
outsiders. This story does indeed portray the pseudo X-Men as outsiders, but
does not adequately display the message of the X-Men. The X-Men at best serve
as characters relatable to minorities, whether black or Latino or gay, or just
people who don't 'fit in' and are treated poorly as a result of it. Ronin sort
of does that, but it's completely uninspired. It's nothing more than cookie
cutter X-fare with manga storytelling. The bizarre amalgam of X-Men characters
and stock manga characters make much of it feel unfamiliar other than the 'yes,
people dislike mutants'. Plus, there's no Magneto. You can't have the X-Men
without Magneto! But then again, considering how they fucked up everything with
these characters, maybe that's a good thing.

this worthy Manga material?

thing that this series takes seriously is trying to make itself as mangafied as
possible. Even the Sentinels are no longer just plain giant robots. They've
become stock manga piloted mechs. But this is where we enter into the eternal
debate about just what makes something manga. It's been agreed that everything
that comes directly out of Japan can be classified as "manga", while
everything else that adheres to the style, but is not produced in Japan is
"manga-esque". I guess Marvel knew this, so that's why they went so
far as to hiring a Japanese manga artist to do the artwork. But this does not
make it manga. In fact, I don't even know what Marvel was thinking about when
they decided to go with their Mangaverse line of mangafied comics. This
obviously will not sell in Japan and the manga reading public in the U.S. is
normally not into super-hero type comics or even any type of western style
types of comics or storytelling for that matter. This is really just an attempt
to cash in on the lucrative "otaku" fanbase market in America. I
think Marvel should be smart enough not to follow in the steps of Todd
McFarlane. He was the first one to whore out to the "mangawave" style
of comics, and look where most of his stuff ends up in now. That's right. In
the quarter bin in the back of your local comic book dealer.

bizarre mishmash of X-Men and manga, the miniseries is unlikely to satisfy the
X-Men fan or the manga fan. Read only if you're a diehard X-Men fan who needs
to read every story.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What if the Transformers had landed of Rifts Earth?

I've been on a bit of a writing hiatus, but this week I started thinking about a new series of articles I thought I could write for RPG4EVR. Being a person with a very open mind, and a long-time fan of the Marvel comic book "What if..." series, I decided that this would be an interesting direction to go. Please enjoy the inaugural post of my "What if..." series.

What if the Transformers had landed of Rifts Earth?

We all know the story well. A group of sentient, alien robots leave their dieing planet in search of a new home and they happen to find Earth. Those who grew-up in the 80's... like myself... remember the cartoon and comic books. I'm sure that few of the "younger" generations even knew that there was already a Transformers movie well before Michael Bay came along.

While I must admit that I was never a huge fan, I did enjoy the cartoon series and I read some of the comics... mainly the crossovers with G.I. Joe. I even had some of the toys when I was younger. Like most kids of that era, they were played with until they were falling apart or destroyed as casualties of war involving firecrackers.

These day's, there are more people who know the Transformers only from Michael Bay's movies. For those people, I lament that they don't have a rich and full understanding of the actual Transformers. Sure, the cartoon and comics were specifically designed to help sell the toys, but I'm sure that the toys and subsequent rise in popularity from the movies didn't hurt Hasbro.

In 1990, the role playing community was introduced to the first real multi-genre RPG, Rifts. This game made it possible to bring aspects of all the other Palladium games under a single umbrella. In the base setting, you have your fantasy and sci-fi elements all in one. From dragons to aliens and everything in between, Rifts made so much possible. I think it also opened a Pandora's box.

Now, try to imagine the aforementioned sentient, alien robots landing not in 1980's America, but rather the Earth of Rifts with those previously mentioned dragons and aliens. The Autobots landing in North America. Would they side with the Coalition? How would their presence change the landscape of Rifts? Would the Decepticons ally themselves with creatures like the Splugorth?

Maybe the original Megatron was the concept basis for Glitterboy armor. Could you imagine Spike (from the cartoon) or Sam (from the Bay movies) wearing something like this:

I wonder if the Decepticons would find a way to convert the magical energies from leylines into energon.

I invite my readers to post their comments on how they would see this "What if..." played out. Since there isn't a currently licensed Transformers RPG, how would you attempt to run this type of setting?

I would also like to invite readers to post their own "What if..." questions that they'd like to see posted about.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Fables: Inherit the Wind

Fables: Inherit the Wind

ISBN: 9781401235161

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2012

Artist: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Shawn McManus, Andrew Pepoy, Dan Green,
Rick Leonardi, Ron Randall, P. Craig Russell, Zander Cannon, Jim Fern, Ramon
Bachs, Adam Hughes

Writer: Bill Willingham

Collects: Fables #108 - 113

Rating: 4/5

premise of Fables lets its creators use any mythos, any tradition, any
narrative, and mix and match as necessary, and Willingham and his illustrators
continue to show that these possibilities are indeed endless. While the long
arc of the story continues in this book -- movingly along very snappily and
satisfyingly -- the real delight is that what that Oz, Dickens, and highbrow
narrative theory all climb around on top of each other in a squirming
puppy-pile of greatness.

you've been following the story for all these volumes, then you can rest
assured that the Fables are really cracking along -- but you can also be
assured that you'll find all the characteristic funny asides, meandering mini-tales
that are there for the sheer exuberance of the thing, and sly asides are not
set aside for mere plot.

told that this story definitely has an end, but it's hard to imagine. As Fables
subsumes literally every other story ever told, and as Willingham shows no sign
of boring with his creations, I can easily imagine reading this until
Willingham breathes his last (and may that day come a very, very long time in
the future). If he keeps writing them, I'll keep buying 'em.

Friday, June 7, 2013


The following was posted by Brian Pulido via the Lady Death Universe Facebook page:


Thanks for your inquiries regarding the hiatus of the Lady Death
monthly series published by Boundless Comics (an imprint of Avatar
Press). Unfortunately, we don't know when the Boundless series will
return to the comics at this time.

We can assure you however, that Lady Death will return.

We apologize for this interruption. We truly understand that it totally
sucks and we promise to keep you updated as further information becomes


Brian Pulido

As my regular readers know, I am a long-time fan of Lady Death and Brian Pulido. I look forward to whenever Lady Death returns.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga

X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga



Marvel, 1991

Artist: John Byrne

Chris Claremont, John Byrne

The X-Men #129–138


Claremont's run on Uncanny X-men is one of the most praised and loved comic
runs of all time. In fact, Chris Claremont's X-men books are the only X-men
books I have ever consistently read and enjoyed. Perhaps his best known X-men
story is "The Dark Phoenix Saga". This 9 issue epic chronicles Jean
Grey's eventual descent into villainy, as the dark force within her transforms
her into the Dark Phoenix. Joining Chris Claremont is artist John Bryne, who
brings a dynamic and vibrant look to the book without sacrificing human

story begins when the X-men are kidnapped by the Hellfire club (making their
first appearance here) and, to their surprise, betrayed by Jean Grey. Jean is
under the influence of a mind controlling mutant known as Mastermind, who
convinces her she is living in the 18th century.

may sound strange and silly, but it actually works to such a degree that her
"flashbacks" into the 18th century are often somewhat frightening and
sinister. What makes them so effectively creepy is the fact that each time Jean
slips into the past, she is suddenly put into a kind of fugue, wherein she
believes that she is in love with a "Sir Jason Wyngarde" and
apparently a queen of the shadowy and menacing Hellfire Club. The visions of
the past are made more believable by the fact that Jean herself is actually
scared of what's happening (she doesn't know why she is suddenly being whisked
away 200 years to the past) and at first tries to fight the urges she has in
them, but eventually gives in the temptations of the visions.

Wyngarde himself (actually Mastermind in disguise) is extremely foreboding and
mysterious in the first couple parts of the saga. At first, readers don't know
who Wyngarde is or why he is doing this to Jean, making him all the more

the X-men come into conflict with some lackeys of the Hellfire club, including
Emma Frost in her first appearance, they decide to take the fight to the
Hellfire Club.

infiltrate the Club's party, only to realize too late that it is trap and they
are captured by the Hellfire Club's inner circle, a small group of elite and
powerful mutants that swiftly take down the X-men. The inner circle is an
interesting group of villains that work very well as a group.

has a specific power set that work differently in taking down a member of the
X-men; one member, for example, can become stronger after being punched or hit
with kinetic energy, he is put against Colossus. The circle is also interesting
in that we get to see the circle bicker with each other, one member even plots
to bring down the current leader and take over the club for himself. These
various aspects serve to make the club very interesting and entertaining to

saga contains the classic "Wolverine: Alone" issue in which the
Hellfire Club defeats every member of the X-men and Wolverine must try to take
down the entire club and rescue his friends on his own. Note that this issue
came out before the current over saturation of Wolverine that currently exists.
This issue was made before Wolverine was established as a major badass, and it
is a joy to see Wolverine tear through Hellfire guards before he was the
invincible and overused character that he is today. The panel of Wolverine
saying "Now it’s my turn!" is easily one of my favorite panels in all
of comics and still gives me goosebumps every time I read it.

course the X-men do manage to take down the Hellfire Club and free Jean Grey
from Mastermind's spell, but this is just build up to what the story is really
about. They free Jean Grey, but Mastermind unintentionally loosed the Dark
Phoenix. Jean finally succumbs to the power of the Phoenix and, in an emotional
craze, sets out to destroy not only the X-men, but much, much more.

Phoenix is quite possibly the most powerful and sinister villain that the X-men
have ever faced, but what makes her such a great villain is how tragic a
character she is. Jean Grey tries doesn't want to hurt her friends, but she
knows that there is nothing she can do to stop the Phoenix from destroying
them. Even while Phoenix fights against the X-men, threatening to kill them
all, it is evident that she is conflicted and fighting her own emotions.

scene that always stood out to me is when Jean Grey visits her parents and
sister. It is clear that Jean loves her parents and doesn't want to hurt them,
but she can't help but see that deep down they fear her, and so she angrily
confirms their fears by threatening to obliterate them with her power. The
Phoenix is shown as being a source of ultimate and divine power, and power
corrupts, thus Jean Grey is corrupted.

X-men's own conflicted feelings towards Jean(destroy or save her?)make them
just as well characterized and just as interesting as all of the other
characters in the book. Their battles with Phoenix are fantastic even though
she vastly overpowers them, and the physic duel between Professor Xavier and
Jean Grey is nothing short of epic.

of this leads into the tragic and awesome final showdown between the X-men and
the Imperial Guard on the dark side of the moon. The build-up to this battle is
done wonderfully, with each member of the X-men(some not even wanting to
battle)preparing in their own unique way for what will probably be the most important
battle of their lives.

battle itself is fantastic as well. Each X-man puts up a tremendous fight, but
the X-men are ultimately doomed to a battle they can't win; exemplifying
perfectly the underdog nature that has always been inherent of the characters.

ending of this book should come as a surprise to no one, but I still won't
spoil it just in case you haven't read it and have no prior knowledge of X-men

story, or saga, actually has three main parts; the first in which the X-men
rescue Kitty Pryde and some of their own from Emma Frost after they are
kidnapped, the second in which the X-men battle the inner circle of the
Hellfire Club, and the third in which the X-men battle Jean Grey herself, now
Dark Phoenix.

part is fantastic, consisting of thrilling action, character progression,
intriguing plot points, and deep themes. Even the Watcher, who I usually
dislike, is used well here, and his final monologue is a perfect way to end the

The Dark Phoenix Saga is one Classic Comic that is definitely worth your time
and cash. A must read for any X-men fan, Marvel fan, or all around comic fan.

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