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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom

Title: Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom

ISBN: 9781401240219

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2013

Artist: Inaki Miranda, Barry Kitson

Writer: Lauren Beukes, Bill Willingham

Collects: Fairest #8-14

Rating: 4/5

The legend of Rapunzel gets a new twist, as fans of Vertigo’s Fables are treated to an adventure starring the lass of long locks moving her way through Japanese culture and history to find her long-lost children. Summoned back to Japan to relive her medieval wanderings and the love she shared with one woman — a kitsune (fox) — Rapunzel must make things right between her and the people she left behind before arriving in Fabletown. Meanwhile, her mother Frau Totenkinder has other plans for the magic Rapunzel once vowed to restore, leading to an all-out gang war between legends in the streets of downtown Tokyo.

Lauren Beukes is one of a select few to write in Bill Willingham’s sandbox of Fables characters, and she unquestionably lives up to the feat presented in this volume, largely focused on the relationship between Rapunzel and Tomoko, the fox woman of Japanese legend. It’s a largely sensitive portrayal of romantic love, however sad, in a series with few LGBT characters to date, and one that keeps the tradition of tragedy alive in Japanese mythologies despite the flip in genders. Rapunzel is certainly no angel here, driven by understandably selfish motivations, nor is any other player in the grand scheme. From Mayumi — the Japanese urban legend of a woman with a grisly surgical smile — to Totenkinder with her (clearly) ulterior motives, characters float in and out of the tapestry of the story to leave behind the sense that no one is getting exactly what they want, despite their best efforts. The rich well of Japanese legends brought into the story is a nice change of pace from the usual standard of European fables which populate the main series, and it seems to go along with this title’s other, unspoken mission to bring Western and Eastern mythologies together, as Willingham did so eloquently in volume one of the series. Certainly, seeing an anthropomorphic Panda brandishing an automatic weapon has got to please even the most jaded reader.

Inaki Miranda introduces a vision for the Hidden Kingdom that lets readers continue to uncover more and more ideas upon every page through. As someone who is not well versed in Japanese lore, I found the combination of Miranda’s detailed pencils and Beukes’ subtle references enough to gain context, and in some cases, experience great glee in recognizing some aspect of the culture I’d absorbed and thought lost to memory long ago. Of particular note is Miranda’s transformation of Rapunzel into the look and inspiration for the spectral woman of Ringu, blending more contemporary ideas of Japanese myth with ancient lore quite effectively. While the art does seem to deteriorate slightly over the course of the six issue arc, ending in a rather under-detailed final chapter, so many of the artistic interludes along the way compel prolonged attention and make that faltering a minor blip in an otherwise well-crafted book.

The volume does wrap up with a short story by Willingham himself, drawn by master artist Barry Kitson, starring the Princess Alder, tree nymph and beloved daughter to the Adversary himself. It’s a cute tale of a predictably mismatched date gone wrong that makes for a fun contrast to the otherwise dramatic contents of the volume. Like most of the Fables universe to date, this volume proves that the opportunities for great storytelling are limitless when it comes to these characters, and Fairest continues to stand up to its parent book in quality and sheer entertainment value. I can’t wait to see what the ladies of Fabletown have to offer us next.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hellboy: The Midnight Circus

Title: Hellboy: The Midnight Circus

ISBN: 9781616552381
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Dark Horse, 2013
Artist: Duncan Fegredo
Writer: Mike Mignola

Rating: 4/5

People rejoice, for the great team behind some impossibly great Hellboy stories are reunited for an original graphic novel. Indeed, Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo and Dave Stewart, those behind such stories as Hellboy: The Wild Hunt and The Storm and The Fury are back as they try to tell an original story featuring a much younger Hellboy, one with perhaps a tiny bit of innocence still left in him. While it may be particularly great for fans of the beast of the apocalypse, is it perhaps something that readers unaware of the mythos of the series might enjoy? More importantly, is it good?

It is my belief that the answer to both these questions would be in the positive, as Mignola is able to mix childlike sensitivities, a feeling of horror and the Hellboy mythos flawlessly without alienating any of these aspects in favor of the others.

Speaking about each of those aspects, the childlike sense of wonders comes directly from the point-of-view of the titular character, Hellboy himself. In this story, though, readers are treated to a much younger protagonist. Gone is the tough supernatural detective, replaced by a character much more akin to the younger self readers grew to love from stories such as Pancakes. The innocence of Hellboy is not only a particularly refreshing take on the character, but it is also what propels much of the story forward. His fears and his sense of wonders plays a huge part in the atmosphere of the story, magnifying everything as it passes right through the emotions of the character.

It is a blessing then that he is written very well, with a certain sense of mischief, of adventure and a desire to be part of something. Like a lot of children, Hellboy simply doesn’t know any better and gets in trouble, which is the highlight of the story as things he doesn’t understand begin to gravitate toward him. Despite his wishes and what he’d like to be, the story plays a huge part on developing certain traits of his. Being part excitable and gullible, it is a wonder to see him get excited about his favorite comic book, Lobster Johnson or when he is being attacked by monkeys and all sort of beasts in the circus. As the point-of-view for the horror and the marvels of this weird world created by Mike Mignola, the younger Hellboy works like a charm.

What also works very well is the much more horrific aspect of the tale. Playing with some of the more classical tropes of what people might attach in terms of fright to a circus, Mignola adds some other things of his own to the regular horrors connected with the concept. We do have the animals, the helpers and the like to rely upon for the fearful elements, but Mignola weaves in demons, illusions, crazy dreamscapes and some fables in his story that adds quite a lot in terms of concepts. Weaving in the mythology built around his character to the mix, Mignola does so without destroying the effects some of the elements may have on the readers. Fans might get a bit more from this story knowing who Astaroth is, but the key concepts around the character are clear enough for the non-initiated to be aware of just what kind of person he is.

Perhaps the only element that is weaker than the rest is the story itself, though, as it doesn’t accomplish much except perhaps add a bit of mythology for Mignola to use in the current Hellboy series. The general elements and the progression is fairly standard as far as plotting goes, with the story handled in the same manner as a child tale, which is part of its charm, yet it doesn’t do much in terms of complexity. It’s the classic tale of a child running away, only to learn the lesson that he shouldn’t have done so in the first place. The direct reference to Pinocchio is quite apt in the story itself, considering that angle, yet the strength of this graphic novel doesn’t lay in the basic plot behind it, but in its execution. There are a few twists here and there that fans of the Mignolaverse may get more of a kick out than other readers, but they aren’t exactly clear-cut in the narrative. They don’t retract anything, yet not everyone can exactly gets all the references. It’s strong work, yet not necessarily for the occasional readers.

The strongest aspect of this whole thing, though, is the art by Duncan Fegredo. In this graphic novel, he uses a good number of different styles, conveying a certain sense of wonder on one side with a more traditional Mignola approach on the other. The circus scenes have a different design, with the lines being a mix between Fegredo’s approach to storytelling and Mignola’s, with some unfinished lines combined with complete ones. There is also a certain opaque sense of details when dealing with the circus elements, enhancing the otherworldly sensation in the pages and panels dealing with this setting. The other style is much closer to the rougher, but also very fitting approach of Mike Mignola, with a certain focalization on rougher lines and shadows. The character designs, expressions and poses are all top-notch, with their reactions being very fitting for each new twists or concepts thrown in the story. The backgrounds, needless to say, are simply gorgeous as it becomes clear that this graphic novel took a lot of work from Fegredo. They are striking, memorable and full of life as close to none of them are lifeless, making the pages brimming with details without becoming chaotic or simply unfocused. Fegredo understand the strength of empty spaces in terms of storytelling, as he is able to balance things out in order to use them without making the pages look empty as well. The story flow is good, the panel sequencing is great and much of what is found there is good. This is an excellent display of Fegredo’s talent.

It is also a display of why Dave Stewart won a good number of Eisner awards, as the colorization fits the tone and the style in an excellent manner. Stewart use a vast number of colors to great effects, with most pages showing a different style to add to the marvellous aspects of the script. The invocation in the circus, the belly of the whale, the discovery of the circus, the hellish landscapes, the library scenes and a variety of others showcase a very different palette each time, creating a rich visual diversity that simply add so much to the tale. Contrasts are visible everywhere, enhancing the focus on certain elements, yet are done without brushing away other elements. It’s excellent work from Stewart, plain and simple.

Combining horror, a sense of child-like wonder with a subtle touch of Mignola’s own mythology, this graphic novel simply astounds on many levels, the strongest being the art of Duncan Fegredo and Dave Stewart, which can only be summarized as breathtaking. In simpler terms, it’s a beautiful and impossible strong piece of work from everyone involved.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Update on my epic Pathfinder campaign

A lot of what I've been doing to prepare for my Pathfinder campaign is to pick-up a few specific D&D books to add a little flavor to the game. Here's what I've got so far:

  • Dragonlance Campaign Setting

  • Dragons of Autumn

  • Dragons of Winder

  • Dragons of Spring

  • Expedition to the Demonweb Pits

  • Expedition to Castle Ravenloft

  • Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk

  • Expedition to Undermountain

I actually have all the books I need in PDF format, but I prefer having the physical copies so I can easily add notes in the book (sticky notes, that is) to clarify specific Pathfinder items. (i.e. Where I can find which monsters stated. Specific treasures dropped at specific locations.)

Right now, I'm looking for a few different key modules to fill-in whatever gaps I may have in my campaign. The whole reason I picked-up the "Dragons of" books is because I loved the original modules they are based from. It's been quite a long time since I used modules, so I can't remember which others I enjoyed playing when I was a kid. I'm open for suggestions.

As I believe I mentioned before, I plan on having this campaign cross campaign settings; that's why I have books for Dragonlance and the expedition books that are keyed to Ravenloft, Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms.

Character Creation Idea's:

Here are a few things I'm going to use for character creation-

  • Group character creation. 

  • Starting campaign setting- Forgotten Realms.

  • 4d6, re-roll 1's once per roll. (I want to try and have a better than average stat pool for characters.)

  • Max HP @ 1st level. (Yes, I've decided to start the characters at 1st.)

  • Max gold @ 1st level.

  • 4-5% chance for every player to play a non-standard/special race.

  • Random magic items-

    • Each player will roll-up a totally random magical item.

    • After all items have been generated, the group will decide who should get what.

    • Any items not claimed will be "sold back" at their value and the total divided amongst players who did not receive a magic item.

    • Players with GP from selling the items will be able to purchase magic item(s).

    • All items gained like this at character creation will be considered heirloom items from the character's family, or something similar.

Faith Between Realms:

As my loyal readers know, I intend to have the party travel between several of the campaign settings and I was a bit concerned about the logistics of clerics & paladin's being able to receive their divine power when they are essentially cut-off from their chosen deity.

I didn't feel comfortable with allowing deities from setting specific pantheons travel into other settings, and I didn't feel like having a single cosmology for all the various pantheons. It took me a bit of thinking, but I came-up with a compromise that I am comfortable with and I think any players who decide to play a cleric or paladin will like.

Before the character attains their 1st level as a cleric or paladin, they go through a series of trials for confirmation in their chosen faith. The last of these trials will be a high priest telling the character a tale of how their chosen deity chose their very first cleric or paladin. At the end of the tale, the character will have a vision of the deity who imbues their holy symbol or weapon with a small piece of them.

My thoughts behind this is that the piece of the deity will be enough to maintain the divine abilities for the cleric or paladin and the symbol or weapon is keyed specifically for that character. I want to also provide a minor benefit, but I haven't yet settled on what that will be.

More to come later.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cobra: Son of the Snake

Title: Cobra: Son of the Snake

ISBN: 9781613775479
Price: $17.99
Publisher/Year: IDW, 2013
Artist: Antonio Fuso
Writer: Mike Costa
Collects: Cobra #13-16

Rating: 3/5

G.I. Joe (or Action Force to British readers with long memories) is at its best when it forgets its toy store origins and focuses on delivering solid stories of warfare with a touch of the fantastic. Cobra: Son of the Snake is a good example of what the franchise can be used for. A tale of double-dealing and espionage, it works on multiple levels – as a decent spy thriller, but also as a reasonable detective procedural with a nice sprinkling of action adventure.

A catastrophe has severely reduced G.I. Joe's resources. This ups the game slightly; the heroes can no longer rely on ridiculous super-technology to track bad guys and shorten the chase, and now they have to use their heads a little bit instead of just beating the tar out of villains. The cast of characters has been selected fairly carefully. Some of these heroes will never get their own action figure, and that’s a good thing; it allows the tale to focus on believable characters in a larger-than-life world.

The artwork is messy and gritty, but still manages to be very easy on the eye. The action scenes are strong, without resorting to cheap gimmicks, and violence is used sparingly and to good effect, with a hyper-violent scene early on serving as an anchor for later events.

Fans of the more recent Bond movies, as well as those who dig shows such as NCIS might want to consider taking a look at G.I .Joe: Cobra – Son of the Snake. This particular serpent really has shed its skin and become something much more interesting than an extended toy advert. There’s enough here for fans of the franchise to enjoy but it’s also a good stepping-on point for new readers.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Firefly Role-Playing Game: Gaming in the 'Verse (Gen Con 2013 Preview)

Title: Firefly Role-Playing Game: Gaming in the 'Verse (Gen Con 2013 Preview)

ISBN: 9781936685318

Price: $34.99

Publisher/Year: Margaret Weis Productions, 2013

System: Cortex

Out-of-print: Yes

Available on DriveThruRPG: No

Overall rating (1-10): 7

Announced back in February of 2013, this new version of MWP’s Cortex System (used in games such as Supernatural, Leverage, and the Marvel Heroic RPG) takes browncoats back to the ‘verse, this time with a tighter rule set and more of a focus on the TV series.  While the full core rulebook is slated for Quarter 1 release in 2014, the preview version for sale at GenCon is plenty enough to let players find a crew, find a ship, and fly the black. (As of this writing, the release for the core book has been pushed into Quarter 3 at the earliest.)

The book itself is a 272 page softcover, with images taken from the Firefly TV series.  One thing that is made clear in the book is that this is not a “beta” in the way that FFG’s Edge of the Empire or Age of Rebellion Beta rulebooks were; the rules have been written for this game, with any further playtesting being done in-house and on an “as needed basis.”  I know some people aren’t happy about a licensed-based RPG product simply using footage from the source material; this was a constant complaint I heard in regards to Wizards of the Coast and their various Star Wars RPG product lines.  But in this case, it works.

The book opens with a quick introduction to the setting, putting the default time frame in the same window as the TV series, with events from the Big Damn Movie not having occurred yet, as well as a quick overview of the Cortex system’s mechanics and the chapters in the book.

In a rather neat approach, the book breaks down the first two episodes of the series, “Pilot” and “Train Job,” as though they were actual RPG adventures, allowing players the chance to have their own crew take a crack at things and see if they can do better or worse than Serenity’s crew.  They also include several NPCs from the series with full stat blocks to allow a GM to simply drop folks like Badger or Adelai Niska into their game without much fuss, as well as various elements to futher flesh out the ‘verse such as Reaver ships and bits of tech that the PCs might come across or know about.  The NPC layouts are very simple, listing their Attributes, trained Skills, Distinctions, and any personal assets they might have.  There’s also various setting elements such as the liberal use of Chinese words and phrases, adding a nice touch.

From there, it’s on to the meat of the rules used in the Cortex Plus system.  If you’ve played the Marvel Heroic RPG, then you’ll see quite a few familiar things, such as how the dice pool is assembled.  The rules are explained in a way that’s both direct and informative, with examples given of how the system works.  Like prior MWP offerings, the game uses d4’s through d12’s, with the larger dice obviously being more beneficial to the person rolling, since you only get to keep two of the dice you rolled to determine your check result.  Rather than a set difficulty, all dice rolls are opposed checks, especially if there’s an NPC involved.  The person or thing targeted/defending makes their roll to determine the actual difficulty, or “set the stakes” as the system calls it, with the person or thing acting rolls their dice in the hopes of beating that difficulty to “raise the stakes” and succeed.  If the player does really well, they earn a Big Damn Hero die that can be used to boost later actions.  If they fail, they earn Complications which will make things tougher for your crewmember seeing as how they increase the difficulty of tasks by virtue of being included in any roll to set the stakes.

Most actions will have a dice pool of at least two dice, the first being the Attribute (Physical, Mental or Social) and the second being your skill rank.  Interestingly, everyone starts at a d4 for their skills rather than not having any dice as occurs in most other RPGs.  I like this as it encourages players to at least make an effort at something they’re not trained at doing, as they’re at least going to get a d4 added to their pool; it’s not much, but it’s something, and sometimes that’s enough.  One element I recognized from the Marvel Heroic RPG was the inclusion of Distinctions, including such things as Crude (think Jayne), Reader (River), Stoic (Zoe), Everything’s Shiny (Kaylee), and Things Don’t Go Smooth (Captain Reynolds).  However, where a Distinction simply allowed the player to roll an extra d8 or reduce it to a d4 to gain a Plot Point in MHRPG, in Firefly a character’s Distinction has additional effects that can be triggered once unlocked, giving the player additional options for their character.

Character creation in this system is fairly simple, and the entire crew of Serenity are presented as examples of what a starting character could look like.  However, some folks are itching to make their own Big Damn Heroes, and while the book doesn’t quite give a fully free hand in doing so, the players have a fair amount of leeway.  The three Attributes are set at a default of d8, though you can choose to drop one to a d6 in order to increase a different one to a d10; Mal Reynolds has a d8 in all three of his Attributes, but Inara has a lower Physical but higher Social and Simon Tam has a higher Mental but a lower Physical.  From there, it’s time to choose your crewmember’s Distinctions, of which you get three.  Another part of Distinctions that are important is they note which skills your character has a knack for, which will be important when you get to skills in a very short bit.  While there are no rules for creating your own Distinctions, the book does offer plenty of choices, split amongst roles, personality traits, and backgrounds, allowing for plenty of variety amongst the crew.  You also have the option of “unlocking” two additional Distinction effects when creating your character, either providing you a boost when rolling a dice pool or an additional way to earn Plot Points (handy things that let you keep an extra die from your dice pool or trigger certain special effects).

As noted before, skills all start at a d4, but you do get a few points to increase them, as well as getting some increases based upon which skills are noted as “highlighted” for your selected Distinctions.  If your Distinction notes the skill as “highlighted,” you increase by one die type, and if the same skill shows up under two or more of your Distinctions, you increase that many times.  For instance, if two of your Distinctions list the Fly skill, then you’d increase it from a d4 to a d8.  While this could be abused to get a d10 in a couple of skills for free, this approach will come back to haunt you as it’s a lot cheaper to raise a highlighted skill, so you might be better off selecting Distinctions that offer a broad array of highlighted skills instead of focusing too much on a select few skills.  Spending your skill points also ups your dice rating in that skill, though you’ve only got so many points, and those non-highlighted skills cost twice as much.  For example, none of Jayne’s Distinctions (Crude, Family Ties, Mercenary) list Fix as a highlighted skill, so if Jayne wanted to get better at fixing things, it’d be mighty pricey for him, though he’s pretty good at hitting people with his fists (Fight) or shooting them (Shoot), particularly with Vera.

The last step is spending your specialization points, which can be done to either add a specialization to a skill that you’ve got at least a d6 in, making you better at that skill by adding an extra d6 to your dice pool anytime that specialization would apply to a roll, such as Wash having the “transports” specialization attached to his Fly skill, making him very good at flying Serenity.  The other thing those points can be spent on is to create character assets that are always present, such as Vera, the Mare’s Leg, or even Serenity herself, allowing members of a ship’s crew to be particularly adept at actions involving their ship, such as Kaylee and her way with Serenity’s engines, or how Mal seems pretty in tune with the ship in general, even if he’s not as good a pilot or mechanic as Wash or Kaylee.

The book also provides a number of ready-made archetypes that only need their two additional Distinction triggers selected but are otherwise ready to play, a handy thing for a group that simply wants to start flying the black but don’t feel up to portraying the Big Damn Heroes (ain’t they just?) that we know so well.  However, one thing that is missing is rules for character advancement.

The last portion that’s for the players is a brief chapter on the party’s ship, with only three models offered, among which is, of course, the Firefly-class transport.  Ship stats are handled much the same way as they are for characters, with three Attributes (Engine, Hull, and Systems), a Distinction based on the class of ship, and two additional Distinctions based on the ship’s History and a Customization.  When used in play, the ship’s own Attribute and Distinctions get added to the dice pool, meaning that Wash is rolling a lot of dice when piloting Serenity, accounting for him being able to do all sorts of fun stuff like a “Crazy Ivan.”

The next section of the book are two separate adventures that can be run using the Firefly cast or original characters, and do a good job of capturing the general feel of the setting.  The first of these is “Wedding Planners”, which finds the crew entangled in an arranged marriage situation that starts with them ferrying the bride-to-be and just goes from bad to worse, while the second is “Shooting Fish” and centers around the crew’s attempts to help an old friend, save an orphanage, win a boat race, and deal with the local corrupt mayor that wants to shut down said orphanage.  The adventures themselves are loaded with plenty of NPCs that GMs could have crop up as recurring characters in their campaigns… provided none of the PCs put a bullet in some of their brainpans.  Though in that case, just give the NPC a new name and face, and just use the same stats for that type of opponent.  The book then wraps up with an Appendix that covers designing the game and the book as well as a Chinese Translation Guide and atlas of the White Sun system, the primary star system of the series, and ending with a side-view schematic of Serenity and a character sheet and ship sheet.

Overall, it’s a pretty slick system, one that’s open to a lot of fun interaction as the players are flying the black.  The dice pool system is very simple yet flexible, with the Distinctions adding a lot of in-character flavor both in terms of role-playing but also to the dice rolls, providing benefits and drawbacks as suits the situation.  My one complaint with this book is the complete lack of character advancement rules; you’d best be happy with your character when you create them, as officially speaking you’re going to be stuck with your choices until the full rules get released early next year.  Admittedly it’s possible to come up with some method of character advancement, either by drawing from prior Cortex-based RPGs or simply extrapolating from the character creation section, but I honestly feel that such a step shouldn’t be necessary.  I get that this isn’t meant to be the full RPG, but a lack of character advancement rules just feels like an oversight.  But honestly, that’s the only real negative to me for this book, and it’s a comparatively minor one that can be remedied with a little creativity.

If you’re a fan of the series, it’s certainly worth picking up the PDF at least, and it wouldn’t take much to modify this game to run in other settings, from a true Old West game to other sci-fi settings such as Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, or even Star Wars.

Azrael: Angel in the Dark

Title: Azrael: Angel in the Dark

ISBN: 9781401228743
Price: $17.99
Publisher/Year: DC, 2010

Artist: Ramon Bachs
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Collects: Azrael #1-6

Rating: 3/5

Some people seem adamantly against superhero comics or characters touching on certain real-life issues in stories. For instance, Greg Rucka and Judd Winick are two writers who’ve caught flack in the past for telling stories involving gay characters and the persecution they sometimes face. Personally, I think it all depends on how you portray the issue, and whether you come off as preachy.

In Azrael: Angel in the Dark, Michael Lane is a soldier of the cross, tasked with carrying out God’s justice. But what does being God’s Dark Knight actually mean? Our new Azrael is presented with several conflicts that test his merit, both as a person and as a hero. To an extent, how he fares is up to the reader to decide. But keep in mind, this book implies that the Suit of Sorrows (which Azrael wears as his armor) will one day drive Michael Lane insane.

I really want to give this book to a Catholic minister, just to see what his/her reaction is. At the end of the first issue, we see an image of Lane being CRUCIFIED. I’m not a heavily religious person, and that surprised me. I can only imagine how a devout Roman Catholic would feel.

The book also touches on the Israel/Palestine conflict. Lane is a war veteran, having served in Iran. In the third issue, he protects a Palestinian who has been savagely beaten in a heavily Jewish area of Gotham. Then, he and his former batallion-mates confront another fellow soldier who’s been killing Muslims in Gotham City. Lane has to decide whether this man deserves to live or not. The decision he makes is a bit surprising.

We also get appearances by Batman & Robin, Huntress and Ragman. Solicitations advertise Azrael as “a crusader forever linked to Batman’s destiny.” (But do they mean the Dick Grayson Batman, or the Bruce Wayne one?) Batman is also featured on this book’s cover, presumably to boost sales from casual readers. I’m really hoping this book doesn’t go the way of Gotham Central and get cancelled in the midst of its prime. I’m really enjoying this series, if for no other reason than it’s not afraid to be in that religious realm. But at the same time, it’s not preachy. Best I can tell, Azrael’s adventures are never intended to be anything but fantasy. Still, some of them make you ask moralistic questions of yourself, and that’s pretty cool.

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