I have been off my game a littel bit, being either slow to post, or missing an entire week like I did last week. I basically decied to let last week go, as we are already on new comic day again and I am writing something up for this week. Still, I want to point out that amoung the titles I picked up last week, I have to recommend Aquaman.
There is a perception– quite a common one– that Aquaman is boring and has useless powers, but I am enjoying his series quite a bit, and last week’s issue (#25) had some aboslutely gorgeous art, so if you aren’t reading Aquaman, then maybe do yourself a favour and pick up a few issues to give it a try!
So it has happened once again. I am late getting this out there. In my defense, though, my elder son was sick this week and needed looking after. Today, I realise he has “shared” his bug with me. I am typing with one hand and holding my stomach with the other! Yay for kids!
Aside from that, I also had a somewhat larger-than-usual week, as I wanted to catch up on back issues of Deathstroke, which continues to surprise me with how well-written it is. I would be hard-pressed to say that I like the character, but I admit that he is interesting and has some depth to him.
As always, spoilers follow.
Aquaman is at the top of my list, alongside Deathstroke. I have been hoping to see some politics in Atlantis and we are finally getting them. I have sad before that Aquaman can be Game of Thrones underwater and I still think that. I hope to see them continue in this vein for a while.
This issue made me think of nothing so much as the current state of things in the US. I won’t get political in my observations, but i think that if you read it you should see the comparisson.
Picking the weakest of the bunch was not too hard this week, as we have Batman in there.
I’m sorry, but i just cannot get into Tom King’s interpretation of Batman. He has some ideas that are decent enough, but depite what Batman himself says in this weel’s issue, I do think that King’s Batman is, indeed, slightly insane.He strikes me as being in the same vein as the “goddamn Batman”. This Batman has admitted to being suicidal, as well as attracted to Selina Kyle because he can sense that she is suicidal as well. In this issue, after a heart-to-heart with Gotham Girl, he realises that despite having previously stated that his suicidal thoughts are what drive him to be Batman, he is actually doing it “to be happy.” Unfortunately, he is not succeeding at finding that happiness because he is afraid… afraif of being insane.
Having admitted to this part of himself and having been told by Gotham Girl that “it’s ok to be afraid,” he goes off in search of Catwoman. He’s decided that he will take a chance at being happy. He will take the risk. so, after hvaving tracked her down, he drops to one knee… and proposes.
I personally don’t mind so much that he admits his feelings for her. I don’t even mind that he would consider proposing, but I really don’t know how they could pull it off. I would be surprised ifall of a sudden, Selina’s criminal activites simply don’t matter to him. I don’t see Bruce overlooking her crimes simply becaue he is in love with her. If he does, then he is definitely not the Batman I grew up with. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing– the character can certainly evolve and change his views– but given DC’s desire to restore their heroes to their older selves, it seems out of place.
On the plus side, I kind of liked the art.
Deathstroke #14 through 20
This series has totally sold me on the character. I am going to follow this for as long as Priest is working on it, and then wherever he goes, I expect to follow. I am totally enjoying the story and the way it is being written. It feels more like a good movie or even a book than the typical comic. I would recommend it, even if you aren’t normally a fan of Deathstroke.
Justice League #22
The second-weakest entrant this week has to be Justice League. Once again I have my usual criticism of expecting JL to face the big, epic threats that the individual heroes cannot, but we get a character-development story about Jessica and her insecurity in her role as a Green Lantern. Oh, and bugs. Lots of bugs.
The story is ok and I do appreciate seeing the development of a character I don’t know much about, but I feel that we have dealt with this side of her previously and that it might be time for her to find some confidence. Some of the character interactions were nicely done– including Cyborg playing video games with Jon Kent– but others seemed a bit off. After reading Rucka’s Wonder WOman, I find it weird to reconcile her with the Diana depicted here, who seems to be icy and slightly aloof. I’m not going to say it was a bad issue… I just keep waiting for something interesting to happen.
Nightwing continues to be a fun enough title. I’ve always liked him as a character, so his series thus far has been enjoyable for me. I still want him to get together with Batgirl, but I am grudgingly accepting his relationship with Defacer for now (though there was a flashback to his conversation with Barbara that briefly made me wonder about his true feelings…)
I think that the main thing that is needed in Nightwing is a higher-calibur rogue’s gallery. Most of the threats he has faced off against thus far have been failry uninspiring, though I appreciate that they are still laying the foundation for his ongoing role in Blüdhaven. I’ll be along for the ride for the next little while, but I do hope that they kick it up a notch. His encounter this week with Blockbuster seems like it could be setting something up, so I will wait and see what the next several issues have in store. Beyond that, I don’t have too much else to say (except that he needs to get together with Babs).
Superman continues to be quite good and now there are finally answers being revealed about Hamilton County. I went from thinking it was pretty creepy to having sympathy for Kathy and her grandfather, though the rest of the community hasn’t been fleshed out in any significant way, or made sympathetic.
I am not sure what to make of Manchester Black. Having first encountered him in the animated version of The Elite, I pretty much hated him right away. I hadn’t read the book, so if he is portrayed differently, I wouldn’t know. So, when he appeared recently as the guiding force behind the town’s activities, I was pretty non-plussed. The best villains tend to have something redeeming about them, but as far as I can see, Black has none.
I am surprised at how much I am involved in this story though; I am honestly concerned about what kind of effect his actions will have on Jon. Seeing kids made to suffer in any way, whether physical or emotional, bothers me, even in fiction. Perhaps because I am a father. I can’t help but be concerned about what Black is doing to Jon, even if the comic will ultimately brush it aside by saying Jon is “too good” a kid to be affected. That’s not really how abuse works.
Like in The Elite, this story gives us a chance to see Superman at his heroic best. His ideals, his compassion, his ability to do the right thing no matter how difficult. That’s what I am hoping to see by the story’s end.
So, what are you reading? Let me know in the comments below.
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So, this won’t be a big, in-depth review of the Wonder Woman movie, but I will share some thoughts, with potential mild spoilers.
I saw the movie yesterday with my wife and our two sons (14 and 4). I had some hesitation about bringing the little one and asked a friend if they thought it was too intense for a kid his age. She replied that there was “a bit of Steve (Trevor)’s thigh, but no real nudity.” Well… that wasn’t really what I was worried about. My kids are very blasé when it comes to nudity. It’s normal and natural. I was more concerned about the violence, given that it’s set during WWI and Wonder Woman herself is running around with a sword much of the time. Fortunately, most of the violence is at the level of the typical comics; people are punched and thrown around, or hit with Diana’s sword without any accompanying spurt of blood. There are only one or two moments of showing the war-wounded soldiers, meant to convey the horrors of the battlefield, which might be somewhat distressing to the very young. For the most part, the action isn’t worse than what is seen on TV. Still, it will depend on your child. People clearly do die, even if it isn’t very graphic.
On the topic of action, it was well-presented, I feel, though I am not a big proponent of the slo-mo that is overused these days. There was some here, but not as much as some other films, and not enought to actively annoy me. Better still, there was no super-tight close-ups where you couldn’t see what was happening, and no wildly-swinging camera to give you vertigo.
Gal Gadot herself plays Wonder Woman about as well as could be expected. I grew up with Lynda Carter, but I never had the view that some others do, of her being the only person who could play the character. Gadot plays her with charm and innocence, but also a strength of will and fierceness that suits the story. The only thing that surprised me was that she has a somewhat raspy voice at times, but it wasn’t an issue for me.
Some say that the difficult thing to convey about Wonder Woman is that she is willing to kill (like many heroes these days), but she is also one of the least likely to do so without trying to make peace first. That goes very well with one of my favourite lines from the comic: “We have a saying, my people. ‘Don’t kill if you can wound, don’t wound if you can subdue, don’t subdue if you can pacify, and don’t raise your hand at all until you’ve extended it.’ ”
There were some mild complaints about the third act and how it “degenerated” into a CGI-fest, but I didn’t see that way. It went as I would have expected it to (although with a couple of surprises…) and after the more down-to-earth battles, gave those accustomed to the comic a good view of Diana’s real power level, which seemed to grow from typical Amazon to true Wonder Woman levels throughout the film.
I was a bit sad to see Etta Candy and Steve Trevor as part of this story, because I was hoping to have them be part of the ongoing series in the modern day, but they were both great in the film.
I have absolutely no qualms about recommending this film. About an hour after arriving home, I was ready to go out and watch it again. Although I would have preferred if Diana had been bit a bit slower to kill, she certainly wasn’t bloodthirsty or indifferent to the act. She was a better example of the heroic hero that I grew up with and have been desperate to see on the big screen.
If you haven’t seen Wonder Woman, go see it. If you haveseen it, see it again. And if you have seen it twice already, pre-order the Blu-Ray. This movie deserves all the support it can get. With any luck, we will have Wonder Woman set the tone for future superhero films.
It’s taken me some time to get around to this follow-up to my previous post about gaming with your kids. I have wanted to do this for a while, but kept getting distracted. I was reminded of it recently, however, when Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: the Next Generation fame posted a video of Fate Core gameplay. I’ve also been re-reading the book myself, so it seemed like good timing.
Fate Core is a setting-neutral system. Unlike, say, Vampire the Masquerade, which is expressly about Vampires in a modern setting, or Dungeons and Dragons which assumes a typical high-fantasy setting, Fate Core can be virtually anything that your gaming group desires.
Do you want to be Space Marines exploring an alien craft? Are you a cyborg from the future coming to prevent the world you know from coming to be? Are you a cowboy in an alternate old west, where magic is as common as guns? Maybe a giant, transforming robot protecting humanity from your enemies while staying in disguise?
You can play all of those and more. In the video below, watch as Wil, Felicia Day, John Rogers and Ryan Macklin play a session of Fate set in the modern day, but tinged with supernatural elements. The video is a bit long, as it includes character creation in addition to gameplay, so you may also jump over it and meet me again on the other side.
The basic gameplay of Fate Core is very simple. There are only four actions that cover everything that the players might want to do. They are:
Overcome The player rolls to overcome some sort of obstacle. This can be rolling to sneak past some guards, seduce someone, break/ repair something, climb a tree, or almost anything else.
Create an Advantage Unlike some other games that include lists of maneuvers that a character can learn and attempt, Fate Core allows the players to simply Create an Advantage. If you disarm an opponent, that is an Advantage. If you trip them or blind them with a flash of light, it is also an advantage. Pouring oil on the floor to make it slippery is another example. It can be pretty much anything you can imagine can be made into an Advantage, which you (or another player) can then use for a bonus of +2 on another action.
Attack Pretty self-explanatory. If your Attack roll is higher than your opponent’s defend, you may injure him.
Defend Pretty self-explanatory. If your Defend roll is higher than your opponent’s Attack, you defend successfully.
In order to take an action, the player will roll four Fate Dice, which are 6-sided dice, but with two plus (+) signs, two minus (-) signs and two sides that are blank. Each + adds one to whatever skill the character is using, while each – subtracts one. For example, a character trying to use Investigate to find clues at a crime scene would roll the four dice (gaining + + – and a blank die) would add +1 to his skill and compare it to an assigned difficulty.
Unique to Fate is the use of Aspects. Each player has multiple Aspects, which serve as a way to both describe the character and further define what he is capable of. The character above may be a detective with an Aspect of Nothing Escapes My Notice. This may give the character a further +2 on his roll if he chooses to Invoke it, which is done by spending a Fate Point– a finite pool of points that allows the player to assume some degree of narrative control.
Aspects may also be Compelled in a way that is detrimental to the character, but which will earn a Fate Point for later use. In this way, the player’s pool of points is constantly fluctuating as they spend points for bonuses, but accept complications to their lives to earn more.
Superheroes and FAE
Fate Core is an awesome game that can handle almost anything you can throw at it, but when it comes to Superheroes, as great as Fate is, I find that FAE is perhaps a bit better.
FAE stands for Fate Accelerated Edition, and as the name suggests, it is Fate, but simplified. Whereas Fate uses Skills to determine what a character is capable of, FAE uses Approaches. While Skills determine what a character can do, Approaches represent how a character does things. The six standard approaches are:
I find this to be perfect for younger kids, to introduce them to the concept of role-playing. In most RPGs, the player wanting to climb up the side of a castle wall to sneak inside and steal some jewels, might be asked to roll Climb, Athletics, or whatever appropriate skill is available. If they lack the skill, they might even be refused the opportunity to try, being simply told that they have no chance of success.
In FAE, however, the player can declare how they accomplish this. Do they find an area of the wall that is obfuscated from the view of the castle guards? They are being Sneaky. Do they climb up using their incredible natural agility? Maybe they are climbing Quickly or being Flashy (which would probably not be the best way to sneak in…) Do they go slowly, taking their time to search out each toe-hold on the way up. They are being Careful.
Some might find this unappealing, as they prefer the relatively more realistic use of skills, rather than assuming characters can take virtually any action, but Fate in general and FAE in particular, is about characters who are very capable and proactive. This is great for kids, because noting ruins their fun more than continually being th=old their character “can’t do that.” With Approaches, they simply have to be able to narrate the manner in which they do something and roll the matching Approach.
When it comes to superheroes, that is where FAE really shines, in my opinion. In most games, if you wanted to play the Avengers or the Justice League, it would be incredibly difficult to balance the characters. After all, having Superman and Batman on the same team represents a massive range in power levels. In many games, Superman would overshadow Batman by quite a bit. If characters were made with a point-buy systems, where they could assign points to their abilities, a character like Batman would likely have half as many (or fewer) points as Superman, but in FAE, both characters would be able to shine.
Each Approach is rated between zero (0) and three (+3). Both Batman and Superman would have one Approach at +3, two at +2, two at +1 and one at 0. Superman, for all his powers, wouldn’t have any higher ratings than Batman. One might assume that Superman would be +3 to Forceful and Batman +3 to Sneaky, or Clever (depending on your interpretation). They can thus be of equal effectiveness mechanically. Where they differ is in Aspects.
Aspects, as mentioned earlier, are ways to define the character with a simple phrase. Superman’s Aspects might be Last Son of Krypton, Man of Steel, Mild-Mannered Reporter Clark Kent, or something similar. Batman might have Dark Knight Detective, Trained to the Peak of Physical Perfection, Criminals are a Superstitious and Cowardly Lot and others.
Within FAE, Aspects are always considered true. so they can be a great shorthand way to describe a character. For example, Last Son of Krypton would mean just that. He is Kryptonian, with all that implies: super strength, speed, invulnerability and more. What this does is give permission to do certain things. Having this aspect, for example, would allow Superman to lift a car, or fly, or even allow him to ignore gunfire from street-level thugs. Batman wouldn’t have those same permissions, so while it allows Superman to do some things that Batman can’t he is still limited to a maximum of +3 on his rolls, the same as Batman.
This can be used a variety of ways.
Let’s say that the duo are facing off against Doomsday, one of Superman’s most powerful enemies. Superman, by virtue of his Last Son of Krypton Aspect, has the ability to harm Doomsday physically. Batman, being a normal man, cannot simply walk up to the monster and punch him. There wouldn’t even be a need to roll; he simply cannot affect him. What Batman can do is make use of other systems in the game, such as Create an Advantage.
In this case, knowing he cannot physically match Doomsday, Batman Cleverly uses one of his gadgets (maybe a smoke bomb) to temporarily blind Doomday. On his next action, Batman Sneakily gets in close and plants a device on Doomsday that emits high frequency sonics that throw him off balance. At this point, Superman can take advantage of the two Advantages to give himself a bonus to his attack, which as a result does enough damage to put Doomsday down for the count.
Both characters have contributed to the battle in ways that are consistent with their abilities and portrayal in the comics. It’s entirely possible that without Batman’s help, Superman wouldn’t have been able to harm Doomsday enough to stop him. Mechanically, each character was able to roll his highest score (Batman’s Sneaky maneuver and Superman’s Forceful punch), which was +3 for each of them. It wasn’t a matter of Superman rolling 20 dice versus Batman rolling 3 as might happen in other systems.
I love both Fate and FAE and consider them both to be excellent games. If you are interested in introducing your child to RPGs, either one is a good place to begin, with FAE having a slight advantage for the younger crowd and certain genres. Pick up one (or both!) and have some fun with your kids, or even your adult friends.
Let me know what kind of games you are running!
Fate and FAE are available as pay-what-you-want PDFs at Drive-Thru RPG