Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Punisher #61 [Comics!]

"Thirty years and they still follow me."

Man, I've been busy; so I've been unable to update this for a few days. Well, the buck stops here and I need to get something up, yeah? My head has been full of Dracula's minions and high-ranking Nazis so I needed a break. Why not the "new" Punisher? The one after Garth Ennis left the series, I mean.

Probably perfect, I figured.

I will never accept an argument against the fact that Ennis' Punisher run is probably the most perfect in comic book history, especially considering it went on for sixty freaking issues. Now we are left with a left team on the book, and not long (what, a week?) after the slow-burn climatic and coldly approriate #60.

Gregg Hurwitz picks up where Ennis left off, and from what I understand Hurwitz is a "best-selling crime author". No small feat, I suppose, but does he have the chops? If you want a hardboiled, noir-detective and verbose version of Frank Castle, then yes.

Aside from the almost over-the-fedora-top narrative, I'd say Hurwitz is off to a good start. After yet another re-telling of how Frank lost his family (new writers are required to do this, eh?) we find castle being asked to come down south of the border to Mexico to help some people out who are having their daughters kidnapped... and then turning up dead. Will Frank take this battle on?

Well, not to be Mr. Spoiler, but I think it's safe to say he didn't pass it up. I suppose that one thing that mildly irked me. Oh, right, so Frank is going to refuse and then this story is over? Pretty cliche. Very crime-novel cliche, actually. But whatever, it flowed well and I liked it. Hurwitz delivers a gritty opener to his tale.

At least it doesn't suck and it leaves me curious to see what's next.

As for the art, Laurence Campbell provides a nice, almost "Criminal" perspective (he's like a darker Sean Phillips to me, but with his own style, of course) and it adds to the hardboiled feel nicely. I have not one complaint on the art. It works great!

Other than all that, I'm still at "wait and see". So far, so good... but so what? The next few issues are what will make or break this for me. Here's to Hurwitz and Campbell keeping up the good work.

For more information on this issue, go here.

Lethality: Four of the six party members are killed by a hail of gunfire. Sam Spade and his henchman get away clean, however. They're gonna have to watch their backs now, see?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

2000 AD #1600 [Comics!]

"I'm no man's slave, dickhead!"

I just realised something. I haven't written a review about the actual 2000 AD comic, which is one of my absolute favourite things ever, which I look forward to weekly-- or whenever my stack of issues arrives here in Not-UKland.

Oh, and you may notice that I've started placing "[category!]" in the headers. I do this so the title is predominant, and so it's easy to see if you are interested right away. Or something like that.

Anysplrugnig, I figured that Prog 1600 was a great place to start doing the occasional 2000 AD review (more like semi-review / thoughts) right here on 'Grognerd. I'll just do a quick overview of what I think of each thrill. And if you have no idea what 2000 AD is, get your ass to Mars, punk.

Right. I'm pretty tired, so let's get cracking!

First up, as per usual Tooth fare, we have Judge Dredd. This time kicking off a new series called Mutie Block. It's John Wagner and Kev Walker on point, and these guys are probably one of the best Dredd teams today (like that's a big surprise-- Wagner IS Dredd). One thing I love about Judge Dredd in recent years is that it has become deeper and deeper and tends to tackle more complex social issues in it's razor-sharp satirical manner. This time it's immigration (something I'm all too aware of personally these days!). Part one here is all set-up for what looks like an explosive story! Lotta sides and personalities involved. I can't wait to read part two!

Then there's part one to Stalag 666, which is something I've know about for quite some time. This is something writer-droid Tony Lee has had brewing for a little while, and I was terribly excited to see how it panned out. The set-up is quick, and we are filled in on what is essentially Nazi space lizards and their human suck-ups, the "Mussolinis". Hey, it's pretty transparent and heavy-handed, but I'll take this future-war scenario. And there's a reason for this, really. Stalag 666 is a WW2 POW movie as told in 2000 AD fashion. It's Stalag 17 in space and the grim dark future where there is only war. And snake Nazis. We're introduced to some interesting characters and treated with some nasty violence. All in all, I really enjoyed it! It's paced well, and made me yearn for more. Bang-up work, Lee. The artwork by Jon Davis-Hunt has a nice, older-school quality to it which has that rough feel nicely suited to this tale. Good marks all around.

Before I could stop basking in the glow of two great new stories, The Red Seas pops up! Oh, have I missed this thrill. Have I ever. Ian Edginton and Steve Yeowell are in top form, as per usual yadda yadda etc. Are those... Vikings!? Holy shit! This comic keeps getting better and better. Vikings, pirates... and George Washington? This is one of the best black and white comics you will ever read, friends. Old Gods promises to be one helluva thrill-run.

And that's it. Only three comics for this landmark issue, but damn-- what an issue. Chock full of some of the most exciting stuff I've seen in years. In fact, I have to stop yacking about this before you become terribly sick of my raving. I know I've said past issue were great before, but this prog is ACES. The fantastic Greg Staples cover is just the plutonium-enhanced icing. Well done, Tharg. Drokking well done.

Read more about this fine piece of zarjaz here. More info on the thrill mentioned can be found!

Lethality: A Total Block Kill. That's right, an entire Mega-City block was wiped out. I think it Huey Lewis block, actually. Poor buggers. TBKs are brutal.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bard's Tale Beer [Booze!]

I suppose I should talk about something totally off the tracks occasionally. How about beer? Okay, huzzam!

My life is dictated by my being an obsessive geek. Like, for instance, one day I picked up this beer-stuff called Skullsplitter because 1) it was from Orkney and 2) it had a viking on it-- with an AXE. Of course I had to buy it!

And it tasted like foul dog-shit. Seriously, folks, it's not for the weak of heart. I pretended to enjoy it, but when I heard it won some sort of award, I nearly burst into flames from laughing so hard. I know good beer, and Skullsplitter is anything but "good". Maybe "interesting", or "huh!", but not "good". YMMV, as always.

Anyhow, this isn't about Skullsplitter, but talking about it sure wastes some space-- so I figured "what the hell". This post is about Bard's Tale Beer and what I thought of it.

Naturally, the name itself was the key selling point. "Bard's Tale Beer"? Instantly I thought of one of the best videogame series ever created, one that I loved so much that I included Skara Brae in more than one p&p AD&D campaign. Bard's Tale is a classic computer rpg and was hugely influential on my life.

No shit.

Seeing an alcoholic libation with "Bards's Tale" in it's name, well it conjured up that acute nostalgia we all know and love, especially me. After picking it up and taking it home, I decided to look it up online to see what I got me and my wife into. Sure enough, Bard's Tale Beer's website proclaims it's totally fucking awesome (basically) and that it rules all the Beers in Beerland. It's even won some awards!

No. I didn't think of Skullsplitter. Thanks for asking.

Bard's Tale Beer's Dragon's Gold (which is the official name and classification of the six-pack I purchased) is an American Lager brewed in such a way as to not contain gluten. "100% malted gluten-free sorghum", in fact. This was an excellent point for me, as I am gluten sensitive and lately most beers have been making me feel bleh-- and as a fervent beer-drinker, this is a goddamned nightmare. I was stoked. I was looking forward to this liquid gold so that my thirst for a great lager would be quenched at last.

I drank one, and so did Sharon, my wife. It wasn't bad. It tasted to us kinda like near-beer, except it was supposed to get you drunk. All in all, it rated about 6/10 on the Taste Scale, meaning it was only marginally above average and it had a weird, but not unpleasant, flavour. It certainly wasn't anything to crow about, though, as it really doesn't taste like beer or any lager out there to me ('cept maybe some near-beers, as I've said).

But then the after-taste kicked in. The horrible, horrible after-taste. Oh, ye gawds, it's one of the worst metallic bitter after-tastes I've ever encountered in beer. At least with Skullsplitter you KNOW the after-taste is going to suck sweaty goat nads, because the primary flavour is nearly putrid. With Bard's Tale it goes from pleasantly odd to "WTF? Ick!".

Not a good sign.

Luckily, the horrific after-taste of doom didn't last long. And to be honest, it could have been worse. The sad part is that is beer is incredibly mediocre, if anything, and if it has any claim to fame it's that it tastes somewhat strange and people with gluten allergies can drink it (major bonus).

I just wish it was better. Here's to hoping it improves, and I'm willing to give 'em another try in the future. Maybe we got a bad batch? Maybe they'll come out with a stout, porter or ale which is tasty? We'll see.

For more information on Bard's Tale Beer, and if you would like to see if your local booze-slinging grocer carries it, please check 'em out here.

Lethality: The party hears the siren song of the goblin infested cave and charges in with reckless abandon. The rogue says later on, after they've returned to the Inn for after-adventure drinks, that she's impressed it was only the bard who got torn to shreds. The rest of them had some close calls, but 3 out of 4 of them had made it. Maybe next time, thinks the mad goblin king.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Brothers in Arms #3

"Die waren meine freunde!"

You know, to be completely and unabashedly honest I thought this series was going to suck ass. I guess mainly because it's based on a video game. Most video game adaptations either a) suck ass or b) are neither bad nor good but merely passable.

I'm happy this comic is slightly above average in storytelling and art.

Brothers in Arms is the comic book version of the squad-based tactical game series of the same name from Gearbox Software. It's pretty straight-forward: WW2, squad of GIs killing Germans. Is there more to know?

Of course there is, or else the comic wouldn't be worth reading. And this is where this book shines. It gets into the background of the characters and explains things, like how one guy got his nasty facial scars in this issue. The story in #3 is told in two sets of flashbacks, one going back to where the scarred GI got his marks and the other time-jumping a bit with the combat story. Now, there was plenty of opportunity to seriously screw the whole story up with all the jumping around, but writers Mike Neumann and David Wohl are aces in pulling it off. They took something I normally hate and feel is totally over-done and make it work.

Nice job, fellas.

Davide Fabbri's art is nice and refreshing, I have to admit. It has an almost cartoonish quality which captures the spirit of the time-period in such a way that I don't think I've quite seen. Like the time jumping thing, it works. The best part is the combat scenes still come across as realistic and gritty, even though the art doesn't give that impression initially. I love being pleasantly surprised like this.

As for the overall package, this comic is a quick read-- and I don't mean this in a bad way. It's just very enjoyable and the time passes quickly while you're enjoying it. The pacing and dialogue are stellar and I really can't think of anything wrong with this title so far... other than it doesn't break any new ground. It's all stuff we've seen before. It's almost so World War II cliche it hurts So don't be expecting them to re-invent the jeep or anything.

The last page is killer, too. A real knock-out, it's one of my favourite issue-closers for the year, as it made me smile with the way it wraps the story up.

If you are looking to get your WW2 on, you can't do much better right now than this title. Give it a shot if you haven't already.

Oh, and the video game? It's a bitch, but it's worth every second I've played it.

Read more on the Brothers in Arms comic here.

Lethality: The 8 Kraut squad is caught completely unawares by the Amerikaner ambush! Six of them are mowed down in a machine gun rain. One crawls away with his guts hanging out, while another escapes on the wounded horse that was hauling the ammo boxes.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Movie Review: Darkon

I’ve always felt like I was kind of born out of time.

It's about time I do a short movie review on here, so here goes.

I've heard good things about Darkon, a documentary on Live Acrion Roleplayers (LARPers) released way back in the Year of Our Lord 2006. To be honest, I expected to not like it-- even though I spent a couple years in the SCA way back when. I just envisioned this over-the-top dork-fest that would make me to be embarrassed to be a gamer.

You know, like most LARPers.

Thankfully, the horror was not to be and I was pleasantly surprised and fascinated by this film. The premise is simple enough: The medieval-esque land of Darkon is in upheaval due to kingdoms vying to overthrow who they perceive as an evil empire. Except, Darkon is located in Baltimore, and the countries featured are just groups of people who meet up a couple times a month and dress up to battle it out and/or socialize. Sound retarded? Well, it isn't. In fact, I found it to be pretty damned cool. Sure, the people featured are classic gaming nerds, ones who wish to escape into a land of make-believe and craft some kick-ass costumes and armour in the time being.

Pretty much like any gamer, really... except they actually do it "off the table".

What's great about this movie is how it's presented. There is an overall story where the young country of Laconia seeks to challenge the hegemony of mighty Mordom. It's the fantasy LARP version of David and Goliath, actually. And it is compelling! It had me wishing there was a sequel after the exciting climatic boffer battle at the end. Interspersed with the main story are the players, who talk about their life, triumphs and a lot of woe. It's hard being a nerd, you see, and one of the primary protagonists, the fellow who leads Laconia, talks about how his family was tore up from shady sibling dealing over his late father's games empire. Talk about rough!

I could go on and on, but that would ruin this fine story for any of you who haven't seen it. The greatest strength of Darkon is how it's presented. There is no narration, only occasional explanatory words on the screen. This story is told from the view of the main characters, and it takes no sides. But if you're like me, you'll end up rooting for Laconia.

The cinematography is wonderful, with great accompanying sound to boot. Some of the people featured would make nice actors themselves and the mood in general is quite positive. It all made me wish there was a Darkon Wargaming Club here, where I live.

Get your copy and more info here.

Lethality: Throngs of screaming nerds armed with boffer swords, axes and hammers lightning bolt the living crap out of the party. No one survives... until next time. TPK in the extreme.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I Blame 40k

I was going to post a review today-- and maybe I still will before I go to bed later. But right now I'm getting ready to run an online game of Warhammer 40,000: Dark Heresy using a mix of Skype and OpenRPG. We'll see how it works oot!

I also spent some time today talking about the proper way Jesus should hate on the undead.

It's important, you know.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Zorro #6


Let me start off the quick review by saying this is my favourite version of Zorro so far. I've always liked the title character, so that's not saying past versions were terrible or anything; but Matt Wagner and Francesco Francavilla sure do execute a bang-up job. Mat Wagner Grendel fame heads this Zorro ship as writer and art director, while Francavilla, a talent I admire, lays down the illustrations. The result is pulpy Zorro goodness that should please long-time Zorro fans and newcomers alike.

The story strikes me as both simple and complex in that it never gets too messy and stays on a straight path, while occasionally flashing back to when Zorro was a boy with his "milk-brother" Bernardo.

Have I mentioned this issue has pirates? The fact that Wagner fit them in seamlessly fills me with glee.

Anyhow, yeah, so the story progresses as Zorro takes on the Spanish Man and his friend narrates the story (Bernardo doesn't speak, though). We get to find out this time around just how Zorro affords to be a kick-ass rogue for justice and get further proof Francavilla is a damned fine artist. The art kind of creeps into your heart and stays there, managing to fully capture the pulpy flavour of this kind of story while managing to sweep us off our feet with dashing adventure.

That's what this title is, pretty much: dashing and daring adventure. But maybe with a little bit of modern story-telling technique thrown in. Like the Lone Ranger book, this new Zorro is a little grittier than past incarnations.

Overall, Zorro #6 delivers a great tale of adventure, coming-of-age and discovery-- and TORNADO! YAY!! The flashbacks are handled nicely, and the dialogue crisp, and the exposition none-too-heavy. A lot of story is packed into these pages. If I have to dwell on anything bad, I guess it would be that some words are used often (I assume this is intentional) and Spanish words are scattered throughout, and French in one place to indicate the character is French, I suppose. These aren't bad things, really, as people tend to say many of the same things in real life (take me, for instance) and using some non-English words to create an air of authenticity is better than those "[*translated from blah blah]" boxes, yeah?

I just can't believe we're six issue in already. Six months have gone by... seriously? Time flies when a comic is kicking some ass.

Read more about Zorro #6 here.

Lethality: With a flick of the wrists, masked fox-people slaughter the 5-man party with ease. The ranger manages to flee, but he's never playing the fiddle again.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Lone Ranger #12

"A reminder that pulling the trigger always costs dearly."

It sure is nice to read a new Lone Ranger comic. This is one of the best western comics on the racks today, partners. I was a bit wary the the excellent steam built up over the last eleven issues was going to fade a bit. And it didn't! Arch-fiend Cavendish is back and has something up his sleeve while the Lone Ranger and Tonto sort some things out in this rather subtle set-up of an issue. In fact, I don't think there's any action at all in this-- but damn, it was still quite nice.

You see, character development means a lot to me, and all too often it tends to fall to the wayside, or get sidetracked by some pretty hookers or an inviting saloon or seven. It's normal for the first arc of a comic to have little in the way of getting into the characters heads, as the story at hand is key. But many stories out there fail to get too much into developing the main characters and especially not any secondary or tertiary (or victim) players in the overall scheme of things. The Lone Ranger as a comic manages to combat this rather effectively, mainly by not throwing too many characters at us in the first place.

For this, I want to thank writer Brett Matthews for being so damn fine at being an effective storyteller.

It should be noted this issue is a great jumping on point for new readers. And the whole silver bullet thing is explained, too. Nothing is ever over-wrought or too fancy. Most things are direct and get down to business quickly. This title manages to deliver a robust yet nuanced tale, or part of a tale, every issue and #12 is no exception.

Also, I love the fact Tonto is really, really, really freaking cool.

As for the art, it works wonderfully. It reminds me of the Jonah Hex comics I read in the 80s: dark, uncomplicated, evocative and effective. That's actually a running theme with The Lone Ranger-- effectiveness; just like the title character. Anyhow, I'm really liking what Sergio Cariello is dishing out to us illustratively, especially with the backgrounds which (wait for it...) effectively compliment the scenes by relaying the stark, unforgiving nature of the American Old West. I hope this artists goes places, kicks ass and takes names.

My only complaint, if I'm to have one, is that this comic is a very fast read. 'Probably because it's told mostly in "widescreen" with light exposition. Of course, that means we can enjoy Cariello's art some more. On the positive side, this showcases the writer's main talent: subtlety. And he is quite adept at it.

After this issue wrapped up, I was already ready for the next one. #13 should prove to be exciting and violent. Just what I like. Cavendish being back guarantees some reaping and sowing and killing and pure, entertaining hell.

Bring it on.

Get more information on The Lone Ranger #12 here.

Lethality: Bandits! Some sharpshooting whoreson rustlers have bushwhacked the party something fierce, leaving four of them pushing daises. The fifth one got away, but he's gonna have a nasty limp for the rest of his days.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Just covering my personal blog-assosphere, and posting that the new TOTAL PARTY KILL column is up over at Comics Waiting Room!

What should you expect to get your grubby eye-mitts on? Here's a taste:

"In this installment, you can find coverage on the following: Chaosium’s Basic RPG, Pathfinder RPG Beta, a couple terrain treats from Fat Dragon Games, me not really covering Warhammer 40,000: Dark Heresy , Grey Ranks, Foundry miniatures, some excellent ideas sources via MonkeyGod Enterprises, Geneforge 4 and other tasty items.

I’ll also give you my quick opinion on the following comics: Red Sonja #36, Fall of Cthulhu: Godwar #1, Crossed #0, Army of Darkness #11, Knights of the Dinner Table Special #1, H.P. Lovecraft’s Haunt of Horror, Dragonlance Legends #1, The Gloom, two Warhammer 40k comics and more…"

So... what are you waiting for?


Lethality: What? You need a Lethality Rating? Pah! Not to toot my own galleon-load of trumpets, but I think TPK is a triple TPK at least this bi-week. So there.

Welcome to Hoxford #1


Now here's a title I've been waiting a while for. If you had asked me a few years back, I would have said I didn't really care what Ben Templesmith was up to, and that I thought his work was okay but nothing to crow over. Ask me now? Well, that evil bastard Templesmith has burrowed his way into my black heart! Mainly with great books like Fell, Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse, and 30 Days of Night: Red Snow. Dead Space sure helps, too. Yeah, Mr. Templesmith has become one of my favourite artists these last couple of years. Not only that, but he's also now one of my fave story-writers.

Welcome to Hoxford, it should be said, is NOT for the faint of heart. This first issue only hints at the madness and bloodshed to come, and it's rather shocking on its own. We're introduced to a psychotic lunatic, Ray, who has OCD associated with biting, and in short order you will accept the fact he is one fucked up individual. After brutally killing his cell-mate, Ray is transfered to a new mental/prison facility called Hoxford, which is owned and operated by a Russian conglomerate with the government's blessing. On the way there, we meet some of the life-long, can't-escape-from pals Ray is going to make in his new home. Killers, rapists, a necrophiliac, a "kiddie fiddler"?


This issue pretty much just sets things up for the convicts who are obviously on their way to a hell of some sort. By the final page you are left wondering "What's next? I have to wait until September? Oh, that's next month. Okay, then... I guess it's okay. Sort of."

I suppose the two things which come to mind right away from some reason are Alien³ and one of the best videogames created by mortal man, The Suffering. It's the whole nasty convicted criminals stuck with something bad. And I love it.

The art is the usual fare considering the artist-- and the usual fare is wildly unusual. Characters can look strange or distorted at times, even messy. but it all works. Sometimes colours are pretty solid in a single panel, washing almost everything out and other times they are lacking in a disturbing way. This is why I enjoy Ben Templesmith's work: His art is not only part of the story, it's a mood enhancer. It makes you think and feel unlike most other art. Yeah, it may take a little while to get used to; but once you do, be prepared for quite the visceral ride.

Evisceratingly visceral? Yes, I do believe this describes the art very well. You'll thank him for it, don't worry.

The story flows simply enough, kind of oozing forth as thick pitch would. Trust me when I tell you that this pitch is violently mesmerizing. There's really nothing more to it. Not yet, anyway. There will be, though. Like, how come in-mates/patients transferring out of there isn't on record?

All told, this is a fantastic first issue of what I hope is one messed up series. The mystery and apprehension is killing me! I can't wait until next month. Not just because my birthday is then, either.

Welcome to Hoxford #2 will make a nice present to myself.

Get more on this great comic here.

Lethality: The entire party is bitten to death by crazed necrophiliac gnomes. Only the halfling manages to escape quick death; and after he manages to crawl away, he got his intestines caught up on the local daycare's razor wire. A TPK of the most gruesome order!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Found on the Internet: Zombie Hunt

I'm really, really tired now, and just want to relax today. This meant trying to potty train two children.

No, you don't want to know more. In the spirit of laziness, I don't feel like reviewing anything today. Hey, I said I'm being lazy, alright!?

Anyhow, here's something super awesome my buddy Park Cooper linked to earlier.

That's right, zombie killin' Lego style!

How cool is that? I'll tell you: Very freaking cool!!!

And since I'm here, I might as well give you folks who read Grognerd here some cool time-machine action. See, my next TOTAL PARTY KILL column doesn't show up until tomorrow, but if you click here you'll get to take a look at TPK #3 from the comfort of your time-machineless hovel / coffee hangout / bus stop.


Lethality: Party is TPK'd by the undead. Duh.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Frank Frazetta's Dracula Meets the Wolfman

"Both make man want."

I'm tired and I had a lot of work to do on the new Total Party Kill column today (due out Tuesday on Comics Waiting Room), and so my cerebreal cortex is somewhat fried. However, I would still like to throw something up here for the day, and I can think of nothing cooler Than this Dracula Meets the Wolfman comic I picked up.

Now, straight out the gate this has two elements going for it: 1) Steve Niles, who's a competent writer and knows this material cold; 2) Francesco Fracavilla, who's one of the best artists working in the field of comics today-- and he's a personal favourite of mine (The Black Coat, Zorro). So far, so good. Throw Frazetta (!!!!) into the mix and we have a cake worth eating.

To say this comic is a masterpiece would be an outright, bald-faced lie. But that's not to say it's bad. Oh no! It's quite entertaining, in fact. This is a comic inspired by a Frazetta painting or something, and the first pages set up the face-off between Dracula and The Wolfman. And there's a woman involved. Really, there's no "meeting", unless you count deadly combat as "meeting".

Ha! Who am I fucking kidding? There's a lot of poeple who I'd like to "meet", so it's all good in the horror b-movie hood.

Francavilla is the real star here, providing some outstanding pulp-noir fight scenes that kick some serious ass. That's not to say Niles doesn't make a good showing. He sets up the brutal fighting quite nicely, and I'm very sure he came up with the story-- and it's a real hoot. Honestly, watching Wolfman and Dracula fight take me back to being a little kid, sitting there with popcorn while my dad tells me that a mummy or the Creature from the Black Lagoon should show up and pound them into paste. So, thanks goes out to the creators here for this whip-cracking hella good time.

Where does Frazetta fit into all of this? Have you seen the cover? Killer.

All in all, a fun comic. I felt that the ending was kind of jarring, what with the large time-jump happening, but it's only for three pages and then it ends. If you are an old horror movie goober like me, and like seeing stories inspired by Frazetta's remarkable and stunning art, this is for you. Money went spent for a good time.

Find out more here... if you dare!

Lethality: Three out of the five party members are decapitated, while one lost his legs. Though one got away unscathed, she'll always tremble at the sight of blood and dig a hole to hide in when the full moon is hanging in the sky.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hellboy: The Crooked Man #2

"Yeah. Jeez."

One of the things I like most about Mike Mignola is his ability to not only change up stories, but change up his story-telling style, as well. I'll admit I was a bit wary while reading the first issue in this three-part series. It seemed like Mignola might just be doin' a hillbilly phone-in.

But no! He's right on target, and still very much a master talesman. The Crooked Man will probably end up as one of my favourite off-the-beaten-path Hellboy story. I mean, most Hellboy is weird and strange and cool and weird. Well, weird to most-- it's perfectly normal to me. But Crooked Man? I little odd for me, which is great. This story has all sorts of downhome goodness. Family, witches, disgusting white insectoid creatures. In other words: Good times.

The story is simple enough... In 1958 Hellboy and his new buddy, Tom, are trying to get Tom's soul back from the devil, who he sold it to. They traverse the wilds of Appalachia and encounter all sorts of crap. From what I've read elsewhere, this story is steeped in Appalachian folklore. I'm not all that familiar in that area of study, but I'm sure Mignola has it down cold. I'm certainly enjoying the ride so far!

Richard Corben is perfect as our illustrative guide on this bizarre journey into a part of America few know, or would ever want to know. His imagery is bleak and dark and just downright scary at times. I'm tellin' ya, when I saw the white creature spring from Cora's mouth I about shit my pants.

I love this evil man-artist with all my black heart.

#3 can't come soon enough! I love these little fill-ins on Hellboy's past. I hope they explore more of this kind of thing in the future.

Fellow Hellboy fans, go forth and procure this series. You ain't gonna regret it, y'hear?

Read more about The Crooked Man here.

Lethality: The 6-man group gets lost in the woods. In an act of desperation, they decide to marry their sisters in order to achieve salvation. Five of them succeed, only to randomly killed by scissor-wilding maggot creatures. Very, very messy.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Punisher #60

"I don't do redemption."

This is it. The last issue of Garth Ennis' Punisher MAX run. Holy hell, has it been GLORIOUS. Sixty issues of near-perfection. It's probably one of the greatest runs in comics, sadly overshadowed by the fact it isn't Superman or Spider-Man or some hip indie comic.

No, this is the motherfucking Punisher. The way he should be: hardcore. I've loved Frank Castle since the original mini-series. Sure, I was aware of The Punisher as a character before that, but I was pretty young. By the time the mini-series came out, I was ready for Frank.

And I loved him.

But Frank started getting old, and I don't mean age-wise. His tricks became pretty stale, and writers just started phoning it in with him. Then he had some story where he was an abenging angel or something. Poor Frank.

Then, like an angel himself, Garth Ennis rode in with "Welcome Back, Frank" and Punisher was good again. No, not just good-- AMAZING. Not long after, Marvel had Garth start doing the MAX titles, and one of the best comic book runs in the history of comic books was born. And now... now it ends.

We knew this day was coming. We knew Ennis would drop off at #60. We knew it would be terrific and we'd feel good, that there would be no pomp or circumstance, that Frank would just keep on goin'... and killin'. And that's how it happened.

Valley Forge, Valley Forge has been one helluva final Punisher MAX arc for Ennis and artist Goran Parlov; who, I must say, brings a very welcome Guy Davis like quality to the title. His stark, almost simple take on things really compliments Garth Ennis' solid and unflinching script. The book excerpts interspersed within the comic are pure genius and massively add to the feel, reminding me a lot of Michael Herr's Dispatches. You know, Garth Ennis should write a military history book or something. I would buy that without any hesitation.

This last Ennis issue covers many things. Justice, revenge, punishment, loyalty, debts owed, a nice twist. It's all here. And I don't want to spoil the end, but I will say it's very fitting, if somewhat anti-climactic.

Just the way it should be.

Oh, and Nick Fury? Always a bonus.

After Ennis' run wraps up, we are then treated to a preview of #61 and the fresh new team attached to the title now. Writer Gregg Hurwitz and artists Laurence Campbell and Lee Loughridge do a fine job from what I can tell, but sadly it tells us nothing more than "we can do the Punisher you know". Will they bring something cool and new to the table? Is that even possible? I'll reserve judgment until #61 hits shelves. Until then, I'll have no fear because it looks like Frank will be alright.

Pertinent data here.

Lethality: Total Punishment Kill. Thanks for the goddamn outstanding run, Garth. You will be missed on this title. I hope you do some more with Frank in the future. I'll be on the hunt for more of Parlov's work as well!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Golly #1

"Fuck if I care-- how's my Spongebob look?"

I'm an unabashed fan of Phil Hester, so when I heard he was doing new book about the apocalypse and carnies, I was like "Hells yeah!". I will tell you this right off the bat, folks: Golly! is fun comic.

Imagine, if ye will, mashing together the best aspects of shows like Brimstone and Carnivale, and comics such as Hellboy, Proof, Preacher and The Goon. Now, shake them up together sewn into a human-skin bag marked NASCAR with some blood, Budweiser and hookers mixed in too. Got that? Okay, now imagine contortionist clowns playing with this bag. Sound unbelievably messed up? It kinda is. And I love it. Now, to be fair, the first issue isn't THAT messed up. It's not like jumping into Gutsville (another fantastically whacked comic I love), but it sure hints at it.

Golly, the main character, is a white-trash dude with a mullet who likes chew and works for a carnival as a mechanic and driver. He's not too sharp, talks like a goddamned sailor, but seems to be a good guy. When Ex-fatlady-now-strongwoman Pig knocks him out, he's visited by an angelic angel who digs earthworms who offers for him to become the Chosen One and fight daemonic baddies for Gawd.

Well, you get the idea.

And the art is excellent and done by Brook Turner. Honestly, when I first heard of this project, I thought Hester would be doing art (loved his stuff on Irredeemable Ant-Man). Then when I discovered there would be another artist, I was a tad apprehensive. But as you can plainly see here (courtesy of CBR), the illustrative duties are being handled in a manner most, well, excellent.

Yes. I meant to do that.

The writing is interesting, paced perfectly, and made me laugh out loud more than once... or twice... I lost track half-way through, actually. This is prime-cut Phil Hester bringing it and calling down the hellfire.

If you are looking for something fresh and new, yet with some of those familiar adult-humoured elements we all know and love, you cannot go wrong with picking Golly! up. I mean, seriously, how can you look at those preview pages up on CBR and not want to go forth and consume? How, I say?!

Great characters, great story, great art. This is why I read comics, man. Yeah, I'm lovin' it.

Get more information about Golly! here, y'all.

Lethality: TPK. Without a doubt. Some of them were melted, others were buggered to death with nasty pikes. It was horrible. The adventurer's families dead fainted upon hearing the news. They then called up some guys with mops and tweezers to clean up the mess.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Boys #21

"Jesus wept--!"

I Tell You No Lie, G.I. part three

Time for another brief review. Let's take a look at the latest issue of The Boys, which is one of the best comics being produced today. In my opinion, anyway. But that's why I'm here-- to assail you with my opinions.

Anyway, Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson continue to show us why they are made from Pure Win with the continuation of The Legend spilling the stinky, messy beans to Wee Hughie about past events and helping fill us intrepid and daring readers in. Let me be perfectly honest here: These last few issues have been some amazing comics; easily the best of an already top-notch series. The story is in full gear now, and is moving along at a nice clip while giving us some more back-story to chew on.

#21 here focuses on The Seven when they tried to recuse a hijacked airliner and make it look easy since they have, you know, superpowers and all. Thing is, shit gets all jacked up (like we expected it to go smoothly?) and the results are nothing short of spectacular. Homelander is in top form, here, kids.

Don't forget to write to let him know he's the most super-awesome dick EVER.

This issue also covers another important aspect of the Boys Universe, that of their American Dark Day, their 9/11. By the end I was like "ahhhh, I see!", and man did it feel good. Robertson's art is also in top, top, TOP form here, his cover just adding to the sick fun.

Oh yeah, if you haven't read The Boys yet, you may want to make sure you have a twisted sense of humour before you did. Here's a test: Would you laugh at a little boy being ejected from an airplane to his death? If the answer is "Yes", then you are one sick, sick puppy who should be put down. But before you do, be sure to read all of The Boys first. In case you're wondering, I giggled like a little girl.

Hey, it was funny, okay? You just have to read it, I guess.

For all of you sick puppies out there who love a good story, this issue-- and whole damn series-- is for you. And by "you" I mean "us". We're all on board this crazy plane together, and it's sure one helluva ride.

More information can be found here.

Lethality: All six Super-Pals are beaten into bloody chunks by Homelander and his friends. Then Homelander beats his friends into bloody chunks. Then the by-standers. Plus three goldfish, a lemur, and two parakeets. Double TPK, plus ass-loads of collateral damage.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Punisher War Journal #22

Okay, I have some other things to get done and do, so I'll try to keep this one brief.

Although I was that reviewer Marvel liked to quote for Punisher War Journal #1, the damned series lost me by #7 or something. It's not that hate Matt Fraction or anything-- he's one of the best writers out there today. I just thought PWJ started to, you know, suck. So I dropped it. Then I heard Rick Remender was coming on as co-writer. He's one of my favourites (FEAR AGENT!!!!!!111), so I started picking up PWJ again. So far, so good!

Well, with the writing anyway. The art? Freakin' terrible. I can't stand it and it makes me feel really torn about PWJ these days because the writing has gotten really, really good. Thing is, I like Howard Chaykin, too! But I guess I don't dig him as an artist on PWJ. And it's really strange how #21 looks way different than #22. What the hell...?

In a nutshell, Punisher War Journal has me reading it again, but it looks like poo. Dear Marvel, please change this, and have Chaykin write a kick ass series or something. Thanks. I am loving Jigsaw, but who wouldn't? Thanks again.

What's PWJ #22 about? Get the data here.

P.S. The Alex Maleev covers are awesome.

Lethality: Word spreads that the party was wiped out, but once an artist's interpretation is done, everyone realises that only three of the five died. Or was that two? Four? Are those flowers or penguins??

Monday, August 11, 2008

2000 AD Extreme Edition X30

"Something... ALIEN!"

Imagine my surprise when I discovered after picking up this issue of Extreme Edition that it would be the last one. "Heartbroken" would be an extreme understatement of how I felt-- and still feel.

It would seem X30 is the last one. I've really been enjoying this collection of 2000 AD thrills that never made trades for a few months, ever since I found a shop who'd stock it. Now, I'm very sad. It is a nice consolation that Judge Dredd Magazine will now be having 64-page book bagged with it, starting with Judge Dredd: The Jock Collection.

Yeah, Jock always makes me feel better.

But still! Extreme Edition... gone? I cannot be the only one who weeps, surely!

Hey, look, Down the Tubes talked about this a month ago. Sigh, I've been too busy to notice, and this usually arrives a few weeks behind for me here across the pond. I have been reading my Extreme Editions, though. And no, I don't care if The Mean Arena was featured... I loved it, anyway.

What is, or was Extreme Edition? It's old 2000 AD comics which didn't make the trade paperback cut, scanned and re-printed in all over their black & white glory. Harlem Heroes, Meltdown Man, old Tharg thrills, Judge Anderson, Invasion!... all the ol' greats in one big fat magazine-sized offering which I totally looked forward to (even if I have quite a few of the old progs). X30 has a few colour pages which is nice, and wrapping up EE is Sam Slade, the Robo Hunter. Every thrill provided in this issue showcases art by the scrotnig and unparalleled Ian Gibson, demonstrating various styles of his. And if Robo Hunter isn't enough fr a send off, we are treated to a couple Anderson: Psi Division shorts; one of which has some colour (Colin Wilson Block) and is a past fave of mine, even if the ending is kind of lacking in a way. Walter the Wobot and two Tharg strips, including the seminal The Day They Banned 2000 as the fitting closer, all add to the usual, and now silent, madness. I'm really going to miss my $7, 114 page bi-monthly Tooth fix!!

If you ever see any one of the thirty issues of Extreme Edition, do yourself a favour and pick one up-- especially if you are curious about older 2000 AD stuff. If anything, it will give you a great bang for your buck.

At least the Megazine is now offering more monthly, and there's always the weekly injection of 2000 AD. There is some good in the universe, after all.

So long, EE. I'll never stop loving you.

Lethality: A mighty robo-lich king emerges from some black hell to kill party, after party, after party... But no matter how much he kills, it can never fill the hole in his heart.

Eleventh Hour Vol. 1

"She couldn't cook."

I've been meaning to give this book a proper write-up for quite some time; and now that it's available to US denizens for free from WOWIO and each of the four issues can purchased for $0.99 by the rest of the world, I figure it's about time I say something.

You need this comic anthology.

If ever there was a current example of showcasing UK indie comics talent, this is it. This project is riddled with independent can-do spirit, and marks another proud moment in British comics history. Now, me and UK comics go waaaay back. I might be a dirty Amerikaner who lives in Canadia now, but most of my friends were either German or British growing up, and that meant Captain Future and 2000 AD for a budding grognerd like myself. What fascinated me most about British comics was their ability to whip out short stories, or epic stories in parts, each with a twist; or in the case of the epic arcs, lots of twists. My favourite American comics were like this too, but they had been long supplanted by standard superhero fare (with notable exceptions like Conan and Elfquest). When I was really little, my father treated me to all sorts of sci-fi, horror and fantasy comics like Tales From the Crypt, Vault of Horror, numerous Twilight Zone-like titles and DC's G.I. Combat. Most tales were brief, and had some sort of twist or moral. This led to me discovering 2000 AD at the British Exchange right outside of the NATO base near where I spent ten years of my life. I can safely say that the UK's most popular comic and best anthology offering on the market changed my life forever.

Flash-forward to me, here, almost thirty-three years of age. I just re-read my copy of the Eleventh Hour trade paperback for the third time. Know what? I'm gonna go in for a fourth. It's worth it. It was also worth purchasing for ten bucks, even though I already had an electronic review copy. And I'll tell you this: if you don't take WOWIO up on its offer of FREE Eleventh Hour (or, 99 cents for each of the four parts should you be outside of the USA), YOU ARE MAD. And not mad in the good "Hi, I'm an Alan Moore or Grant Morrison story" way. I mean just plain brain-buggered by pale imitation of those glorious little ear-chiggers from Wrath of Khan, kids.

In a nutshell, Eleventh Hour is some good shit.

Now I will tell you why, by giving you very short takes on each story. Ready? You damn well better be...

Seniors: This about a hero and villain being stuck in the same nursing home together. It ends with a "To be continued"-- which sucks because I want more. The art reminds me of Alex Ross in a way. Loved it.

Daughters of Lilith: A dark, fun short concerning hawt vampires. Good times.

The Sweetest Thing: A terrific unconventional two-pager, and probably the most evilly charming bit of the book. Fantastic! Sometimes less is lots more.

Rise and Shine: Already another story which is the first part of more pops up. Writer Ian Sharman shows that bending it better than Bendis ain't no thang. This story is both cute and interesting, focusing on a yappy teenaged girl who has powers of some sort. I'd love to see more!

Eye of the Storm: This is the only story in this volume that I didn't completely enjoy. And it's not because of the overall concept-- I really dug that. No, it's the lack of understanding how military things work, and the need to replace "fuck" with other words which... well, reading it as "Flamin' New Guy" was somewhat lame. I thought this book was for mature readers? But my gripes are a little deeper than these. Are these American troops? I assume they are... But they don't really talk like American soldier in late '60s Vietnam. Additionally, I just wish the story flowed better and the sarge never said he was a "superior officer". However, the ending? Brilliant. Very nice. I know of a guy who makes movies about seeing dead people and plants who kill that could use a lesson or two from this writer. UPDATE: It has been explained to me that the "F-bomb" bits were edited out to make this book available to a broader audience. Makes sense to me. Disregard those particular earlier quibbles from me, please.

Danick and the Dragon: My fellow nerdcore gaming-dorks, this is a story especially for you. Hackmaster and old-school AD&D vets take notice! Seriously, you'll be wanting to deploy Ye Olde Harlot Table for this one. Easily one of the best stories of the bunch, Ian is at it again showing us dullards that he has a knack for witty writing. Big points for using "OMFG" in a fantasy story and making it work. The ending? Made of +5 Win, and I wouldn't have it any different! Go ahead and click on that image on the left there to see a very large version of the Awesome. Now off to make a Hackmaster NPC named Danick Drakesbane...

The Mist: This is a nice short which reminds me of the pulps of a bygone era. I wouldn't mind seeing more in the future starring the panther-like female lead. Nicely done.

Innocence: Schoolgirl vs. Daemons as told in narrative. Good enough not to be mere filler. The same writer penned The Mist, which is the story before this one (which I'm sure you figure out-- I hope!). She does not disappoint.

Ghost Boy: This the the manga-esque offering, artistically, and it does not fail at being interesting. "Teenage life can be so cruel" pretty much sums up this story, which is really a poem about the kind of "friendly" heartbreak many of us have suffered in our lives. Well done, well done.

The Last Days of Cydonia: Another one of my faves in this collection! I'm a total sucker for these kinds of stories. Sadly, I can't say much or else I'll ruin the ending. Trust me, it's worth the read!

Mamluk: A space adventure complete with pirates and sweet dialogue. Apparantly, this is a taste of a larger tale and a comic unto its own, which is summed up as: "Mamluk is full on military sci-fi action combined with a dramatic tale of mystery, honor and dark betrayal. So, if you like fleet battles against pirates, ground forces going tank to tank, or commando units slogging through swamps, then Mamluk is for you." Yes, I feel Mamluk is for me. Would you like to know more?

Just Married: What we done got right here is a yarn that woulda been right at home on HBO's Tales From the Crypt! A good thing, to be sure. Nuns with guns are also certainly most welcome. The ending, as usual with these kind of stories, makes it all worthwhile. It will make you want to be sure you're careful about just where you get hitched, heathens.

And that's it for the 72 pages of black & white goodness. I would also like to add that while the art is quite good on each piece, the layout and look of this volume is of the utmost professional quality. I hear Ian Sharman is to blame for this, mostly, as Eleventh Hour is his baby. Another question is, why isn't he writing more books? Dude can write fine things, my friends.

But I won't heap all the laurels on Ian. That just wouldn't be fair to the other talented individuals who contributed to this tome of classic literature. Everyone involved (yes, even the ones who did the story I complained about) deserves more shots at creating cool stuff.

So... when's the next Eleventh Hour coming out?

Find out more about what I've been babbling about here, on the Orang Utan Comics website. Should you want this in hardcopy, I think Markosia still has some available so that you might order it from your local shop.

Then there's WOWIO: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.

Lethality: Total party kill. Poor bastards never had a chance.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Reign in Hell #1

"It will be a glorious war."

As I've already said a couple times before, I'm sure, I'm not a fan of the DC Universe. I think the characters are pretty lame overall and I haven't REALLY enjoyed DCU stuff since, like, Alan Grant wrote Batman. Though high marks go out to Andy Diggle for Batman Confidential and Green Arrow: Year One. Yeah, I'm more of a Marvel guy when I have to pick between the Big Two, and I'm not that kind to their superheroes, either.

But when I saw this, my curiosity was piqued. See, I'm a sucker for anything Hell-ish. Daemons and devils and wars, oh my? Sign me up. With a title like Reign in Hell, I'm totally interested. So in the interests of my Hell-fetish and science, I picked it up.

The talent line-up stuck out to me first. Keith Giffen and Bill Sienkiewicz are on board? Nice! Gifffen can be pretty hit and miss at times, but when he's on he's ON. He's a solid writer, without a doubt. And I was pleased that Sienkiewicz was involved... until I saw the ink work. Seriously-- what the hell? I could be wrong here, but I do believe the inking looks rather rough. Unless that's Derenick's pencils doing that horrible shit? Yikes. In a way, the inking job does lend the book a 90s era indie feel, so I'll give it that. Honestly, it doesn't mess this issue up THAT bad... just a little. At least to me.

I guess "at least to me" is the operative term here. From nearly all accounts I've read and heard, Reign in Hell #1 is hated. No one seems to like it except little old me. Now, it does have it's problems. And if this were something from Moonstone or another delightful little publisher like them, it would be considered outstanding. However, this is a comic from one of the two biggest comics publishers in the known multiverse.

Regardless of some of the hiccups (what's up with that screwy lettering with those dude in The Gull? I gots a headache from that crap), I don't think this issue is all that bad. I had to do some research, which did kind of taint things for me a bit. This is indeed a DCU comic, and apparently these main characters are Z-rate Superman villains and 5th tier DCU characters. This was no problem with me. I don't know who that bloody hell these people are in the first place-- just that those demon fellas look really cool. The story is simple enough: WAR IN HELL. BRING POPCORN. And it actually reads better than a forum-based shit-fight, so I was pretty amused. The exposition gets a little tedious at times, but that just makes me think of old Thor comics, and that's not a bad thing. Eventually, characters and some folks' demonic halves are recalled to Hell in a single page of frames covering it all. Maybe this sort of jarring thing could have rated 3 pages or something, but whatever.

Later we are treated to a simple Dr. Occult story which relates to the Main Event (war in Hell, etc etc, in case you haven't been following). People complained about this, too, but I think it should appeal to Hellblazer, Dresden Files and Hellboy/BPRD fans.

Perhaps that's the problem... I cannot see how this mini-series will appeal to the standard run-of-the-mill DCU fan. I'm sure someone into DCU stuff will be interested or entertained, but most DCU fans I know absolutely despise Reign in Hell. I don't know why DC would throw together something like this and release it, but I do give them props for trying. I mean, to people like me, this is the most interesting thing to happen in the DCU since... Heck, I can't say. Azrael becoming Batman? Checkmate? Diggle doing Green Arrow*? I dunno. Something, probably.

(*Heh, that sounds funny.)

I'm not here to bash the DCU, so I'll stop. We all know where I stand-- and even with that in mind, I'm still willing to give any comic a chance. Reign in Hell #1 is a rather fun, if somewhat average comic. I may be confused about a few things (like, who are those people with the chimp in Gotham? They look familiar... I better look into it... for SCIENCE!), but I was entertained.

And that's what counts.

I'll be checking out #2 when it comes out, and I will have no shame in doing so.
(Because I will be in disguised as Naruto.)

It just occurred to me that I really didn't tell you much about this comic. I told you how I felt and all, but what's it all about, aside from the war in Hell thing? Fortunately for you, more information can be found here! Lord Satanus and Neron are pretty hella wicked, by the way.

Yeah. I go the extra mile for you.

Lethality: The party is still smoking from all those fire attacks. The halfling looks and smells more like bacon than a rogue. Ah, now the fighter is hungry... One fatality after all!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Dice dice, baby!

What kind of rpg geek would I be if I didn't talk about dice from time to time?

The bad kind... and we cannot have that.

Anyway, last Xmas my beautiful wife gave me a set of Crystal Caste's Brushed Steel Dwarven Metal dice, complete with black leather drawstring bag! Needless to say, I jumped for joy then took them for a spin as soon as possible (I rolled up a Castles & Crusades character, if I correctly recall). They felt just right, even though they are a bit smaller than their usual plastic polyhedral counterparts. The d6 threw me the most. Seems small, but boy does it pack a punch! These dice can KILL, my friends. They're heavy and incredibly sturdy. These aren't just dice, they're lethal weapons.

Just look at those things. Gorgeous, no? And they can be yours for the reasonable price of $25. Find out more here!

I have many, many, many dice. But I've been getting some serious mileage out of my fabulous Dwarven Metal.

I'll be sure to post about any cool new dice I procure or see floating around.

Lethality: Mega-TPK. No survivors-- No way, no how.

RPG Jaunts: Judge Dredd d20

You might be wondering what the "RPG Jaunts" bit means in the subject line. Well, it's my attempt to have a regular thing on here where I go over my old role-playing game books and talk about them a little. Maybe you haven't seen these products before, and maybe you don't care. I primarily do this for me-- and the hope that perhaps one of you will take interest in what I'm yabbling about.

Today's Jaunt is about one of my favourite rpgs of all time: Judge Dredd (who happens to be my favourite comic bok character of all time), released in 2002. Now, you'll hear a lot of noise about how Games Workshop's earlier rpg offering is the quintessential Drredd RPG. To me, and a probably a handful of others out there, the d20 variation of Dredd is a bit better. Personally, I like it more because it uses a universal system, and a rules-set that is easily tweakable to suit my needs. If I read something for, say, d20 Gamma World or d20 Modern, I can apply it to d20 Dredd, no drokking sweat. Also, though the GW Dredd is excellent and a classic in its own right, I feel Mongoose's d20 Dredd handles the property better.

I'll tell you one thing, citizens: I'm not cracking open the GW Dredd books for information about the Dreddverse. And this brings me to the next point... If you are a fan of the Judge Dredd comic (as you very well should be), d20 Dredd is a great sourcebook. It kinda reminds me of how west End Games' old Star Wars books were (and still are) valuable SW Universe reference guides. Authors use them, fans used them, comic writers used them. Mongoose did a great job doing the same thing with compiling and fleshing out the Dreddverse. This isn't just a roleplaying game-- it's a portal into the world of Judge Dredd. It's your key to The Big Meg. It's absolutely irresistible, by Grud.

The rules given are simple enough if you are familiar with the d20 system. In fact, I feel this game is a better, if not simpler, take on d20 Modern. All you really need, aside from this main rulebook, is the Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook 3rd Edition (or 3.5) book. And even that's debatable, as you can get the SRD online for free... I never had to look up anything in the D&D book, myself. At least I don't think I did. If you just have the Judge Dredd book, then you should be fine just winging it if you are in need of anything else. I suppose that's the biggest problem with this game; winging it happens often.

Classes are incredibly non-complex. You can play a judge or a citizen (who's into criminal enterprise, no doubt). There are many different types of each you can play. Psi Judge? Got it. Citi-Def Soldier? No problem. Tek Judge? You can do it. SJS? If I tell you any more on this one, I'll have to kill you, punk. You can even play a Dunk or a Failed Cadet (who could be Wally Squad!). But it's usually either Judges or Citizens. No mixing them up. Now, when I ran a few games of this, I created a media class (based on a modified version of Private Investigator) and attached him to a squad of Judges. Another time, it was Citi-Def and Judges. The only problem with that one was the Citi-Def players were only good for a couple sessions, as why would they be permanently attached to the Justice Department? Of course, if I had played more with that bunch we would have just formed a special unit to keep them on. Oh, and the media guy? He was eventually killed. By friendly-fire if I remember correctly...

Judge Dredd to me played out like a game of Cyberpunk 2020 meets SLA Industries with a little Paranoia tossed in for good measure. The Dreddverse is a place rife with satire and in-jokes. It's rather weird to have a D&D book sitting around in case it's needed, and to be honest, I think that's what put a lot of Dredd fans off on this game. Otherwise, everything is quite smooth and simple, as I've said. You have the usual skills, feats, and character generation stuff modified for Dredd. The layout is nice too, with only a few small glitches. Some of the art (which is striaght from 2000 AD!) looks pixelated in spots, and there are a few typos (surprise, surprise, I know). The binding on my copy has cracked and is somewhat weak. I'm sure after a few dozen more readings it will fall off. There are some FANTASTIC full-colur bits, including a decent map, art, and Tek-Division specs on a few items. I'm pretty sure I've seen all of these visuals before in other places, which is fine by me. It's nice to have them in one place. I do wish there was original artwork; but then again, original artwork is risky. It could turn out horrible and foul everything up.

Could Dredd d20 be better? Sure. There's lots of room for more stuff and there's always my wish that it was twice as big. Still, to be fair, Mongoose crammed a lot into these 256 pages. Thankfully, the sourcebooks and adventures which follow this book are even better! I'll be sure to cover them really soon, because they are some of the rpg books I like best out there.

Is this rulebook worth it? If you are a Dredd fan, a roleplayer and can find it: Stomm, yes. I did a dance of joy when I picked this up, and I am still enjoying it. I hear Mongoose has pulled their Dredd products due to the fact they're out of print. Considering Mongoose has their own book-printing set-up, I reckon they are gearing up for the new Traveller-rules version. You can bet I'll be getting that, too.

You can find copies of the Judge Dredd d20 RPG all over the place, and if you need a place to start, try

And if you do play this game, and you need some extra Judges, here are some paper-minis a nice fan was kind enough to put up.

Lethality: Five out of the six perps are pasted by some hi-ex rounds. The survivor is going to be spending the rest of his life in the 'cubes.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe

"You're sorry?"

(This covers the original 1995 release and 2000 re-issue. Another re-issue is due out soon.)

By the ancient year of 1995 CE I had grown incredibly disenfranchised with comic books in general. Mostly ones involving superheroes. I cannot tell you much about supes comics in '95 because I was too busy with work, school, and chasing women. My hair meant more to me. It was blue or something. Still, I love good 'ol Frank Castle. Sure, he'd been jerked around a bit by this point-- but at least he hadn't been turned into something like, say, an avenging angel or some bullshit like that.

No, that sort of thing was yet to come.

Garth Ennis was already a big hero to me, what with his work on Judge Dredd and Hellblazer fresh in my mind. I'd already built a super-neat altar to him in my mind. In fact, I think he was the first comics writer I truly fell for (aside from the awesome Wendy Pini, who looked much better as Red Sonja than Garth. Sorry, Mr. Ennis, it's a true fact.). Yeah, what he did with Hellblazer was pure magic, folks. And Preacher... well, I'm not sure if Preacher was on stands before Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe. They were released in the same year, if I recall correctly.

What I do remember was that this one-shot didn't really gain much attention when it was released. I came across it purely by chance while at the local shop looking for the new Hellblazer. The whole concept snagged me right away: Frank Castle is going to kill all these motherfuckers. YES.

'Some of the best money I've ever spent! No, it didn't bring me back to superhero comics (I blame Mark Millar and Ultimates for making me interested again), but it sure reminded me of my deep, profound love for The Punisher and Garth Ennis (and later again with Steve Dillon, who did the cover art for the 2000 reprint-- one of my fave covers ever). At the time, I had two thoughts: 1) I sure wish Garth Ennis would write the Punisher, dammit and 2) I sure wish Garth Ennis would do a series that totally messes with superheroes. Both wishes would become true, what with Welcome Back, Frank hitting the stands 5 years later and then The Boys launching in 2006.

Anyhowitzer, let's get on point. Or some reasonably close approximation to it. The Punisher does indeed kill the Marvel Universe, and he does it a long, drawn out and brutal manner. From the point where he shows up on scene just in time to find out his family was accidentally wiped out by careless super-powered crime-fighters to the chilling, but not-very-shocking conclusion, Frank goes full tilt taking out them pesky caped convention rejects. Another thing which is interesting is how Ennis weaves daredevil into Castle's life, making him and Matt Murdock know of each other from childhood. And just how does the Punisher get all outfitted if he doesn't have criminals to, er, solicit "donations" from? Easy-- he's supported by a group of people who've been harmed and/or lost loved ones from super-powered related mishaps. That bit sound familiar? Yeah, it reminds me of The Boys a little, too. Totally a good thing, mind.

It may seem like this story shouldn't work, but it does. I feel this is mainly due to Ennis just using common sense in the matters of superhero hunting-killing. I mean, how Frank takes out Hulk? Makes sense. In fact, it makes so much sense that it reminded me why I don't read Hulk stuff all that often (save for Planet Hulk, of course). And the X-Men? Well, let's just say destructive technology finally served a noble purpose. Wolverines death was great... that is until they made him heal back from being burned to the bone in a Civil War crossover issue of Wolverine (but he'll always be killable to me, dammit). The slaying of Cap? COLD. Seriously.

I suppose I could have easily read 400 pages of Marvel heroes being murdered in various way. Hey! Don't judge me. It's an alternaverse comic thingy. It's not real. In reality most of the 616 is utterly unkillable unless they stop making marvel money; and then, ironically, it's Punisher who kills them off. But yeah, no actual marvel characters were harmed. It's all just a fantasy, a What if...

I haven't mentioned the art... so allow me a few sentences to do so. Doug Braithwaite's pencils are visceral and perfectly bring across the grim nature of this issue. I don't know why there are so many inkers. I mean, there's like sic of them. There are two colourists, as well. I find this to be interesting, and I don't know if it improves or takes away from the finished product. Regardless, the art works. It looks pretty 90's in style, but not TOO nineties, if you know what I mean. It all probably wouldn't satisfy fans as much today, but for 1995 this comic looks sweet.

This is a terrific book, no doubt about it. If you love Punisher and Garth Ennis like me, then you should dig it. If you're into seeing different takes on superhero tropes, then you should pick this up. And I have great news! Marvel is re-issuing this bad boy for you unwashed masses to consume yet again! Mark your calenders, true believers, Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe re-hits the shops come Tuesday Wednesday.

I plan to buy it, oh yes I do. I must consume the good things, you know. And after I flip through this shiny new re-release, I'll post my thoughts on it.

Would it be in bad form to say "See you next Tuesday"?
("Yes, Steve, you damned fool. This comic comes out Wednesday, NOT Tuesday. Stop the crazy drugs, man!")

Lethality: Marvel Universe TPK. Naturally.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wolverine: Killing Made Simple #1

Right. So, normally I promise myself "No superhero comics, dammit-- and failing that, certainly not anything DCU or X-Men related. Think of the children!"

But goddammit, I do have my soft spots. Punisher (though we can agree he's no superhero, unless maybe you count War Journal, but I don't want to go there right now), Deadpool (please, please, please don't let Daniel Way fuck it up), some others I can't think of at the moment-- Oh, and Wolverine.

I think my Wolverine love was rekindled by Ultimate X-Men, which held me for like 60 issues before I came to my senses and dropped it. Hey, I read Ultimate Fantastic Four for 30... and everyone knows I usually hate the FF with a blind, unerring passion. Anyhow, I guess my point is: I'm not a big superhero guy. I still remember the Big Burn from the early 90's. I'll never quite forgive the universe for allowing Chris Claremont to leave Uncanny X-Men, and I'll doubly never forgive it because I got all excited when he came back to comics.

Which is yet another place I refuse to go in this post.

Yeah, I'll admit it. I saw this Wolverine one-shot (I'm assuming this is a one-shot... right?) sitting there and I said to myself "Steve, this could be it. It's got a great title, and didn't you hear some Good Things? This could be, like, the coolest Wolverine thing EVAR! And wasn't that Wolverine movie trailer SWEET? Oh, hell yes, you're buying this, homeslice!!"

Goddammit. God fucking dammit. Sometimes I really hate myself.

Enough of this crap, I'll sum up my thoughts on the main story. Wolverine cannot be killed. He muses on this as the time-frame jumps all over the place. What's up with everyne hating linear stories these days? Damn you, Joss Whedon! See what you have done???!!! It's like "Now", "20 minutes ago", "5 minutes ago", "Last night when I was on your mom" and so on. Jesus. What pain. But... but it wasn't so bad the first few pages.

Sure, sure, it's the same old "Me Wolverine, and I can't be killed, bub", but it was sort of interesting. Then the story went... somewhere. My eyes glazed over and I mumbled something about something.

I can't be fair here folks. It just wasn't my mug adamantium tea.

At least the art was great.

Then there's another story about Wolvie finding and taking on some killer virus or something like that. I actually really enjoyed this one, but that could be because of the previous story not really impressing me. The art was keen, too, reminding me more of an indie comic, but without Logan looking retarded. It had a gritty, stark feel. Plus he had his old-school blue and yellow costume on. Win right there. Disturbing Consequences did just that: Win. It made me not kill myself for wasting my money on this comic. Also, I have two new (to me) talents to watch: writer Todd Dezago and artist Steve Kurth. And big ups to the rest of the team involved, too.

Don't get me wrong... Though I seem like I hated the main story with all of my caustic, pithy remarks, I really don't think it sucked. It's just not for me and the whole "I can't for be killed, let me tell you it" stuff really got old. In 1992.

See!? I just can't help myself. No personal insult is meant to that particular creative team, alright? It just wasn't my bag. Current X-Men readers will probably dig it. I guess.

All in all, I felt like I wasted my money. The second story was really good, though, albeit kind of standard-- but I suppose they had a theme going on with this issue. What's that? Ah, the five page Wolverine: First Class preview? Sorry, I totally skipped it.

This is what I get for impulse buying. This is what you get when I do it.

Go here for all of the technical data.

Lethality: Oddly enough, most of the team survived. Mainly due to the radioactive radished which bit them when they were teenagers. A couple of them were cut to bits, though. Very nasty.

Battlestar Galactica: Season Zero #11

"Oh, there's going to be an 'incident'..."

This great 12-issue series keeps trucking along at a good clip. There's really not too much to say if you haven't jumped on board BSG: Season Zero yet. Be warned: if you haven't read any of the previous issues, do so and do so as soon as possible. No self-respecting BSG fan should go without reading Brandon Jerwa's prequel to the hit TV show we all know and love.

Now, I suppose I've mentioned somewhere that a lot of cool stuff happened before BSG's 1st season, and that watching the first episodes doesn't really make it seem like the crew saw much action before the Cylon attack. Then again, some (like Starbuck for starters) are competent warriors who must have learned it somewhere. So Jerwa's story does indeed make sense and it's a perfect prequel-y fit.

As for the issue itself, Jerwa and Jackson Herbert deliver a tight,
competent package.

Yes, I said package.

And Jerwa's firm grasp of plot and talky bits never wavers, nor does it fail to be entertaining. Jackson Herbert provides nice art, and his real stand-out piece for the issue is the cover he did. You can see it in this review. It's one of my favourites for the year so far. #11 as a whole sets up for the final issue of the series, which promises to be a fracking doozy.

Can't wait.

Read more about this issue here.

Lethality: Six of the eight Cylon Raiders are blasted into space-dust. The other two have Hotdog and Apollo on their tails. Prospects are very grim for our two bio-mechanised survivors, indeed.