So many Lanterns!

Green Lanterns Red Lanterns

DC week continues!

Last summer, I bought a slew of new comics in DC’s New 52 line-up, mainly after falling in love with the Justice League series. While Aquaman was a real surprise for me as being a new favourite, I also really enjoyed Green Lantern, which was another surprise. Deciding to investigate more of that book, I bought the first volume in his series, as well as these two books, Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns.

What a curious, mixed bag of comic books…

I’ve already talked about how I found myself disappointed in the Green Lantern series, which I suppose is why I hadn’t gotten round to these books until fairly recently. Let’s start with the Green.

Green Lanterns defend sectors of the universe from all manner of threats, and are governed from the planet Oa, which is the centre of the universe as far as these things go. The Lanterns have power rings, which they can use to create constructs and so forth, and also seem to help them fly. However, these rings need to be powered somehow, and an entire planet was given over to tending to the batteries for these power rings. The natives of this planet, called simply the Keepers, prospered, until the batteries were removed, and the planet began to wither. The Keepers therefore decided to replenish their world by stealing forests, oceans and breathable atmosphere from other worlds across the universe. When the Green Lantern Corps show up to stop them, some of them are captured, and tortured into revealing the secrets to the defenses of Oa.

What a weird, weird story. Once I’d gotten into it, it was actually kinda interesting, but I get the feeling that I probably would have gotten a lot more out of the story had I been more invested in the lore of the Lanterns. It was interesting to read about these aspects of the DC universe, for sure, but I think ultimately I just wasn’t all that hooked.

Red Lanterns is altogether a different beast, though.

The Red Lanterns are a weird collection of anti-heroes, who fly about the universe dispensing justice wherever they sense rage. Or something like that. They’re led by Atrocitus, one of the most hilarious villain-names ever, who controls his followers through weird blood-magic rituals. The first volume in the series, Blood and Rage, is actually a decent reboot style of origin story, as we get as much information to make the book work, yet a clear sense of history going on all the same. However, my main gripe here is that nothing much really happens. Atrocitus decides he needs a lieutenant to help him in his crusade, so uses his blood magic to restore some sense of sanity to Bleeze, and there follows several issues of a power-play between the two, where Atrocitus is convinced she is trying to displace him as leader of the Red Lanterns, then she finally does. Along the way, we get some interesting moments, but otherwise, it’s a bit more of a character story than an action story – which is unusual for the first volume of a series like this, you know? Ordinarily, these kinds of stories are told around the third volume mark, once we’re sufficiently invested in the characters. As it stands, while I think I enjoyed the book, it was certainly heavy-going.

A bit of a mixed-bag, then, all told. I’m sure fans of the whole sci-fi Lantern stuff will enjoy these things, but I think they were both a bit of a miss for me.

Catching Up with the Squad

Suicide Squad

Continuing DC week, it’s time to catch up with the Suicide Squad series that I started reading last summer (was it really so long ago?!) In case you missed the first two volumes, check out my blog here!

So if you were following along last time, Deadshot was killed while the Squad were on a mission to take out the anti-Metahuman organisation called Basilisk. Volume 3, Death is for Suckers, picks up the story with Deadshot’s military funeral, during which the Joker turns up to reclaim Harley Quinn as his own. Having missed the relevant Batman stories, I was a bit confused last time that the Joker was dead, but convinced he couldn’t be down for long. And lo, he wasn’t! We don’t get any of the details of how he came back here, but instead go through several pages exploring the abusive relationship between the two. I think this is the first time I’ve actually read a comic with Joker in it, so that was kinda cool, but overall, it didn’t seem to go anywhere for me.

The main meat of this story seems to be the Squad going after a “package”, that is held in Gotham City’s Chinatown by Red Orchid, the mutated sister of squad member Yo-Yo. Regulus, the leader of the Basilisk organisation from the previous book, turns out to be in cahoots with Red Orchid, and the “package” turns out to be Kurt Lance, a former teammate of Amanda Waller who can “shut off” metahuman powers. Waller turns up and shuts off the team’s neck bombs in a gesture of trust as she intends to pursue Regulus off the record, and the squad come along to help. They pursue him into the sewers, where they come across some weird guy who claims leadership of the Squad – the Unknown Soldier.

Volume 4, Discipline and Punish, kinda picks up the story, but also, weirdly, kinda doesn’t. We have a new writer for the series, which probably explains the disconnect, but it just feels a bit too far off the established trajectory of the last three books. James Gordon Jr comes on board and there’s a weird storyline where each member of the team is tested to control their loyalty or something. It really just felt like a filler issue, though, if I’m honest. This sense of filler then continues for the rest of the volume, where that sense of “just another adventure” that pervaded the earlier issues comes back to the fore. Cheetah is included for no apparent reason, and we get two one-shot issues to round out the collection, featuring Harley Quinn and Deadshot, respectively, which also feel like yet more filler.

There is a final volume to the series, Walled In, which takes place during the Forever Evil crossover event, and leads to the formation of a new Task Force X. I’ve not read it, and to be honest I don’t know when I will get round to it. Volume 4 really turned me off from reading the series, which had been getting better up to that point. Always sad when one goes sour…

Batman vs Superman

Almost a year since its release, I’ve finally gotten round to watching one of the controversial movies of 2016, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. My short review is, I liked it! True, it’s not a masterpiece of cinema, but it’s not the dog’s dinner that I’d been led to believe, I feel!

The Story
Following the events of Man of Steel, the world is beginning to question Superman and his motivations. Should one man have all that power and be allowed to run around unchecked? Highly controversial stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree! The government decides to step in and call him to account. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is looking into a Russian weapons trafficker and discovers a link with LexCorp, so infiltrates their computers to get some intel. At a party there, he meets antiquities dealer Diana Prince, and once he manages to decrypt the data he steals from the corporation’s mainframe, discovers she is actually a metahuman warrior. Lex Luthor has been investigating a couple of these folks, and alongside this research has also been attempting to import some kryptonite found in the Indian Ocean to act as a deterrent against Superman and his ilk.

It turns out that Luthor is genuinely against these super-human types running around the planet, and determined to check them. Unfortunately, he’s also kinda crazy, and attempts to turn the world against Superman by blowing up the Congressional hearing, where only Superman survives the blast. Berating himself for not seeing the duplicity, Superman goes into exile. Meanwhile, Batman steals the kryptonite from LexCorp and turns it into a weapon to defeat Superman, and Lex obtains the corpse of General Zod and access to the Kryptonian scout ship held in isolation in Metropolis. He also kidnaps Martha Kent in order to bring Superman out of exile.

Superman returns to Metropolis, and Lex explains he wants the world to see that the alien is not all good; he must kill Batman in order to save his mother. Lois Lane, learning of the plan, follows Superman to Gotham. Batman and Superman start fighting, and the weaponised kryptonite gives Batman the upper hand. Just as he’s about to plunge a kryptonite spear into Superman, Superman gasps out that he needs to “save Martha” – which was also the name of Bruce Wayne’s mother. Lois arrives to explain, and Bruce promises to save her.

Batman manages to defeat Lex’s Russian terrorist allies and save Superman’s mum, while Superman confronts Lex at the scout ship. Lex has also been busy, however, and has created an abomination from both Zod’s body and his own blood: Doomsday. Superman and this abomination battle it out in Metropolis, but each time Superman defeats it with his heat-ray eyes, the mutant grows stronger. Superman flies it up into space, where the military decide it can safely be nuked with no collateral damage, and launch their missiles. Unfortunately, that just gives it more energy to grow stronger still.

Diana, about to leave Metropolis, sees the battle on the news and decides she needs to stay – when Batman manages to lure Doomsday to Gotham’s abandoned docks, he is almost killed before Diana, now in her Wonder Woman get-up, deflects the energy blast on her bullet-proof bracers. Superman recovers from the nuclear blast and also joins the fray, while Lois attempts to recover the kryptonite spear as the only way of killing the monster. Superman leaves the fight to go help her, though being in close proximity to the spear weakens him all the same. Wonder Woman manages to contain it with her lasso of truth, and Batman manages to use his last kryptonite gas canister to weaken Doomsday enough that Superman can fly in close enough to thrust the spear into the abomination, though as it dies it manages to stab him with a bone, causing a fatal wound.

At the memorial service for Superman, Bruce tells Diana that he plans to form a team of metahumans to help protect the world in Superman’s absence, starting with those he found in the LexCorp computer system…

Batman vs Superman

I really enjoyed this!
There’s a lot of story here, as you can see! There are elements from the comics brought in to support an otherwise original storyline, and I think it actually works out really great. I’m not about to write up some kind of apology for the movie, don’t get me wrong, but I thought overall it was a really good movie. There are some things that I kinda wish had been done differently, or could have been explained better, or whatever, but overall, I really don’t think this film deserves the amount of negativity it has gained.

First of all, Ben Affleck is a fantastic Batman, and I just loved Jeremy Irons as such a bitchy Alfred. There is definitely a movie in there that I want to see! Henry Cavill as Superman is perhaps a bit odd, he certainly seemed a lot more serious than I’d expected for Superman. But it’s a very serious movie, and I think he did as good a job as could be expected. A lot of folks have talked about how Superman is supposed to be such a bright character, but I think Cavill had a sense of bemusement as to why the world seemed to be so against him, when all he’s trying to do is help, and I thought it came across quite well. Wonder Woman was terribly under-used, unfortunately, but I suppose it’s just made me more excited for the upcoming movie this summer! Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was simply annoying – a lot of people have complained about the fact that he has hair, but personally I don’t really mind the fact that he looks different. It was more the fact that he came across almost as a caricature of the cackling evil madman, and it just annoyed the hell out of me.

We get some tantalising glimpses of Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman in the movie, who are all set to be in the upcoming Justice League movie that is also due out later this year.

There is a lot of story here, and the movie does seem to jump around with a lot of exposition before we really know where we are. Part of me wonders whether that might be part of the problem with the film: it demands too much of our attention. You have to actually watch it to follow it, rather than just browsing your phone while it’s on in the background, and looking up whenever there’s a fight or whatever. Maybe I’m just being a snob when I say that, though. As I said before, it’s not like I’m trying to be an apologist for it, I just think it’s a lot better than people seem to want you to believe.

Sometimes, of course, the film does sag under its own weight of story, and I have to say, it was a little confusing at times as to why some characters were doing what they were doing. Why do Batman and Superman even fight? Sure, Lex explains he wants the world to see Superman kill Batman, but why is Batman so up for it? I get the impression we’re supposed to believe he thinks Superman is no better than the criminals he’s been fighting in Gotham all these years. But it’s never adequately explained, for my liking. There is actually a DC comics series of Batman vs Superman, and I never really managed to get into that either. To me, while Batman is usually the one to distrust everyone, I don’t ever see him actually fighting Superman, who should so clearly be a force for good in the world.

The film runs to a little over 2 hours 10 minutes, but I feel it could have done with perhaps an extra half hour of material to really flesh things out. We’re still in that tenuous sort of era where movies can’t always go much over 2 hours without being really tremendous, but I’d happily watch a longer feature if it meant a proper story. And I think this is a perfect example of a movie that needs that – we’ve got two absolute titans of the comic book world! They need to be fleshed out properly!

Anyway.

Comparisons with Marvel I suppose must be made, though I haven’t yet seen Civil War so can’t comment on that whole thing. While I would say that Marvel’s movies do tend to be much brighter and whatnot, and a lot of people have heavily criticised this film for taking such a dark stand, I think it fits with the story perfectly, and would say again that such reviews have been too harsh. It’s not a Marvel movie, correct – it was never meant to be, after all! DC are clearly doing their own thing, and lightness of tone are probably better kept for Flash and Green Lantern. I don’t think a comic book movie has to be comical, after all.

This is a movie that is definitely worth watching. I let other people put me off going to see it for far too long, now, and I think the lesson I’ve learnt here is, don’t listen to the popular opinion of DC movies! It’s worth watching to make up your own mind, and even if you don’t agree with me, I still think that’s a valuable lesson to take from all this.

More DC!

Following on from the Rivals blog I posted earlier, I just wanted to mention some of the other stuff we’ve slowly been seeing that will be coming out for the game in the next few months. It was the New York Toy Fair last week, which is usually the first event of the year to start showcasing new games, and always worth checking out Twitter to see what’s on the horizon from your favourite publishers!

So let’s start with this bad boy! Looks like a big box version of the Rivals game, with four iconic pairings of heroes and villains! We’ve got Superman vs Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman vs Circe, Aquaman vs Orm, and Zatanna vs Felix Faust, it seems! Bit sad that there’s no Flash in here, vs either Zoom or Captain Cold, but this box looks like it releases in Q4, so maybe there’s still time for a standalone box? I’m kidding myself, I know…

Long before that, however, we’re getting a massive storage box for all of the current content, as well as room for future expansions. It’s not just a big box, though, as there’s a Crossover Pack inside that utilises cards from across the entire range of the deck-building game, which sounds like it should be pretty great! At a really good price, it’s going to be a must-buy for anyone who enjoys the game!

We’ve also got two more Crossover Packs due out imminently – Birds of Prey (which you can see at the bottom here) and The Rogues, which allows you to play as some of the iconic Flash villains!

I had been hoping that we’d be seeing another big box expansion for the game by now, but it looks like the above Confrontations could well be it. I’m not exactly disappointed, but I had been hoping for something… else. At any rate, I think it’s just great to be getting new stuff for the game, in general. It’s been quiet for a long time on the DC DBG front now, probably not helped by the Rebirth stuff going on within the comic book world itself – have you noticed all of these preview images have the new DC logo on them? New 52 is now old news, it seems! Perfect timing for that new big box, then!

Rivals!

Hey everybody!
It’s time for another game day blog here at spalanz.com, and what else could I possibly feature during DC week than the DC Comics Deck-Building Game from Cryptozoic?!

DC Rivals Batman vs The Joker

Today, I thought I’d take a look at the standalone expansion released back in 2014, the first in the Rivals subseries, showcasing Batman vs The Joker. It’s a rivalry that’s almost as old as comic book superherodom itself, after all, so probably the best way to kick off what seems to be a new set of small scale expansions to the DC line.

The game plays almost exactly like the main game and its tie-ins, with a new set of starter cards and main deck cards all centred around Batman and his arch-nemesis. These cards can be used within any of the main games, so you can either view this expansion as a nice source for new cards to shake up your games, or keep it separate as a stand-alone experience. What’s more, the main deck also comes with a number of super powers and equipment that are specific to the Joker, meaning you could slip these into Forever Evil and keep the theme alive there!

Where this game is really different is the Confrontation step. Rather than starting the game with your oversized Super Hero card, which grants a static ability each round, each player has three oversized cards, for Batman and The Joker, respectively. If you have amassed enough power to do so, at the very start of your turn, you can announce a Confrontation against your opponent. This is basically you attacking your opponent as if they were the Super Villain, as each oversized card has a health value in the lower-right corner – 9, 12 or 15. Once you defeat your opponent, the topmost card is discarded, granting a different ability thereafter, until the third card is defeated, whereupon that player loses the game.

DC Rivals Batman vs The Joker

It’s a really fun variant to the DC deck-building formula, and I love the fact that Cryptozoic are supporting the game like this rather than trying to somehow put together the pieces out of existing cards. That we also get new cards for the main deck is also very cool. While there were initial plans for a Rivals 2 box to coincide with Batman vs Superman, that seems to have gone by the wayside, and we’re left without much news (as of the time of writing) about the future of Rivals. Will we ever get Superman vs Lex Luthor? Or Flash vs Zoom? Who knows. 2016 seemed a bit sparse for the deck-building game, considering there were two huge movies for the DC extended universe, with more announced for the future. Maybe 2017 will see some more exciting developments to come!

Power Couple

Superman and Wonder Woman make a really cute couple, I just want to put this out there now.

A couple of days ago, I read my first Superman comic, having had the above pair waiting on my shelf for about a year now. What Price Tomorrow? is the first volume in the New 52 series for the Man of Steel, and I have to say, I felt a bit bored by it overall. We see Superman take on three separate threats to Metropolis, which coalesce into a Superman clone or something, and it takes this clone beating up Supergirl to bring him back to himself and defeat this evil alien clone. Something like that, anyway… However, that was probably the more interesting part of the story. A lot of this book is taken up with the inner workings at the Daily Planet, which has now been bought out by a bigger news corporation, and there is a bit of a tug of war over printed news versus the more visual media of television and the internet. It all seemed highly strange to see in a superhero comic book and, while I suppose it’s pretty on-point for the world at large, I’ve kinda been put off investigating any further Superman comics because of it.

It was with some trepidation, then, that I picked up Power Couple the same day. Superman and Wonder Woman have something of a budding romance in the Justice League books that I so enjoyed last year, so it was interesting to see these two characters come together. We start off with the power couple facing off against Doomsday off the Norwegian coast, before the big brute just weirdly disappears. Superman believes that this indicates the barriers around the Krytonian Phantom Zone are devolving, and when another Kryptonian, General Zod, shows up in the Sahara desert, this seems like proof. The Justice League of America (Martian Manhunter, et al) attempt to contain him, but Wonder Woman lassos the general and she and Superman manage to haul him off to the Fortress of Solitude. Zod flatters Superman into revealing he has a Phantom Zone lens, which Zod uses to bring his lover Faora into the world. Wonder Woman has commissioned Hephaestus to make some armour for her and Superman in order that they might fight Doomsday, and during their time in Mt Etna, Apollo shows up and insults Wonder Woman, causing Superman to launch him into orbit. In revenge, Apollo assists the Kryptonians in gaining the strength they need to fight Superman and Wonder Woman, before Zod puts his plan to open the world to the Phantom Zone, and usher in the armies of Warworld. In desperation, Superman and Wonder Woman manage to set of a nuclear explosion that destroys the portal before anything can come through, nearly killing themselves in the process. Of course, two such powerful beings won’t go down easy and, after some rest and recuperation, they’re back together and enjoying each others’ company while Doomsday awakens in the Mariana Trench…

I really liked this story. Maybe it was because it had a lot more of a superhero vibe to it than merely reporters chasing ratings, I don’t know. Wonder Woman is such a refreshingly direct character, though, I really like seeing her in these comics. The storyline was also pretty epic, though there were a couple of parts that I thought could have benefited from a little more explanation, as we seem to jump a little too much. But it’s not entirely detrimental to the storyline, and I’m willing to overlook them. The only serious bug for me was that Wonder Woman used her lasso to bind the gates of Tartaros in one issue, and then the writers made a point of saying she didn’t have it during the showdown with Zod and Faora, then the next issue it’s there, dangling from her hip again. But if that’s my one serious bug, then you can hopefully see that overall I really enjoyed this book! Even if it was designed to fit in with the Twilight audience, or somesuch!

The book is also pretty important as it sets up the Superman: Doomed crossover event, which will be featured in another blog soon…

DC week!

Hey everybody!
It’s been a while since I did a theme week here on my blog, so thought I’d launch the next five days celebrating my re-discovery of DC comics earlier this month! 2016 was a great year for me getting back to my love of super hero comics in general, and over the course of a few months there, I built up quite a collection as I read my way through a lot of the New 52 books, as well as getting round to watching both the Arrow and Flash TV shows. Excellent times were had, let me tell you! But not a lot of it really made it into my blog, I feel.

Well, let’s change this!

Last summer, the New 52 continuity was re-booted back to the Flashpoint stuff, with the new Rebirth stuff coming out and taking up where the old books left off. It felt like a wonderful time to be a comic book fan, though there was also the vague smell of something a little less positive there, like DC was in some kind of crisis (no jokes, please).

At any rate, I’ve been reading more comics, and I’ve finally started to watch the movies of the DC extended universe, so that’s all been incredibly exciting, let me tell you! There will be blogs every day this week where I ramble on about these things, and for this week’s game day blog, we’ll be taking a look at another box in the DC Deck Building Game line!

Hopefully you’ll enjoy this theme week as much as I’ve enjoyed writing up all this stuff!