Sunday, May 28, 2006

The all new, mostly dead X-Men

So we saw the new X-MEN movie, X-MEN III: EVERYBODY ACTS LIKE A RETARD, today. And, geez, folks, if that doesn't tell you there are going to be spoilers in this entry, I can't see how me putting a big SPOILER ALERT!!! in bold letters is going to help you much, either.

This movie was, for the most part, a great many interesting visuals, edited together to create a narrative of such hyperkinetic velocity that (I assume the entire 'creative' team fervently hoped) no one in the audience would have a chance to think about anything presented to them from opening to closing.

I judge whether a movie is good or not based on a few criteria. The primary one is the characterization -- is it interesting, is it internally consistent, is it credible, is it three dimensional, is it fun to watch.

Then there's other stuff, like, you know, does the plot make sense, is there memorable dialogue, does the director know how to develop and release tension and/or create evocative visual atmosphere, does the movie manage to surprise me... if it's historical drama, is it, to the best of my knowledge, historically accurate... that sort of stuff.

You don't have to hit everything. STAR TREK II has plot holes large enough to fly a Romulan bird of prey through, but the characterization more than makes up for that to me. TIME AFTER TIME works similarly. On the other hand, movies like MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON and THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY have reasonably flat characterizations, but the period detail in both is beautifully precise and the atmosphere is so dense you can nearly squeeze it in your hand like sponge rubber. I like that.

With this movie, honestly, there's very little going on that's worth talking about besides the visuals. Unusual looking people leap around impressively. Objects, many of them of truly ludicrous size, levitate. Bulky things, some of them with arms and legs attached, get flung through walls with mad abandon. Razor sharp claws hack dozens of humanoids into bite sized chunks, in an utter absence of gore or other visible viscera. Rebecca Romijn gets naked. The basic laws of physics as we understand them get ignored in favor of cool CGI effects roughly seventeen times a second. It's all very much like THE MATRIX movies, except, you know, with fewer trenchcoats, and no Keaneau.

If one were inclined to do it (and generally, I am) one could find something to carp about in any random five minute sequence of the film. (Here come the spoilers.) Why does Jean evaporate Cyclops? She doesn't hate him. Even her wild, crazy alter ego, which calls itself the Phoenix, so long suppressed by that dastard Charles Xavier, has no reason to dislike ol' Scott. I mean, she evaporates quite a few other people in the movie, but all of them are trying to do mean things to her at the time, so it's understandable. Why disintegrate the guy whose raging optic beams just precipitated her resurrection from the depths of Alkali Flats Lake? It makes no sense. But in that regard, it hardly feels like the Lone Ranger.

Why do the authorities imprison Mystique, and a bunch of other powerful mutants, in a mobile prison specifically to thwart rescue attempts by Magneto, and then foolishly construct the entire mobile prison, as well as all of its heavily armed escort vehicles, out of metal? It's not like they don't know the dealio when you're messing with the Master of Magnetism, after all -- in the first two movies, they built an entire prison out of plastic just to hold him, and in this one, they re-arm the entire United States Armed Services with plastic weaponry just so they can fight him. All of this, of course, is after they stick Mystique in a great big metal box, just so Magneto can show up and break her out.

For that matter, given that the authorities now have a serum that cures mutation, and they've captured a bunch of inarguably evil mutants, why lock these bad hats up in a special mobile prison when you can just inject them with some neutralizing shit and then put them in Riker's instead?

It's all very well for Madrox the Multiple Man to pretend to be a big mob of mutants to lure the Feds out into the woods, while Magneto and his actual mutant mob go elsewhere and do otherwise. But I'm thinking Madrox didn't exactly think things through when Magneto outlined the plan. Sure, the heavily armed troops with their mutant suppressing dart guns surround him instead of the Magneto mob, and that's all good... but then what? The last thing we see of Madrox, he's raising his hands over his head and saying, with a big grin on his face, "Okay, you got me". We don't see what happens half a second later, as he suddenly sprouts more injector-darts than a porcupine has quills, and probably dies of toxic shock syndrome half a second later.

And then there's the scene where the Prof and Magneto track the newly resurrected, wildly out of control Jean Grey down at her parents' house. Chuck tries to slap some mind control on her to get her back on the reservation, and she vaporizes him, and Magneto is upset by that, and, you know, he's wearing a helmet that keeps her from reading his mind, and she's all tired and freaked out over what she did, and what does he do? Well, he doesn't frickin' kill her, which is the only reasonable response to all the insane whacked out completely out of control scary ass psycho shit she's been doing, and will no doubt continue to do whenever she takes it into her head to start up with it again. No, instead, he decides to take her along in his mutant mob, and mess with her head to try and get her under his control, pretty much like the Professor did, without having any actual mind control powers himself. Yeah. There's a brilliant idea. No way that one can go bad on you, Erik, you master schemer, you. I mean, you saw how well that worked out for your old buddy Charles, right?

And why are Magneto's mutants all camping out in the fucking forest primeval, anyway? Doesn't he still have his cool underground headquarters? Well, we know he does, because he's in it with Juggernaut and Jean Grey and Pyro like five seconds before we see everyone hooting and yowling out in the woods. And where did they get all those tents? And how did they get out there, anyway, from, you know, Gotham City, or wherever it was he found them in that weird theater? And why would they even go, anyway? Most city folks don't want to go hang out in the woods; there's like, bears out there.

There's a lot more nonsense I could harp on, but instead, I'll just fast forward to the end, where Jean Grey is going nuts and disintegrating everyone within ten miles of her. Wolverine says "I'm the only one who can stop her!" and orders the rest of the X-Men to get the fuck out of Dodge, which is insane, because I don't care how fast you heal, when the most powerful mutant in the universe is vaporizing you on a molecular level, you just die, and Storm could hit her with lightning from five miles away, besides.

But somehow, Logan manages to get close to her, despite her doing her best to disintegrate his basic atomic structure with every step he takes, and they have this little bit of wonderfully touching dialogue, and Jean resurfaces long enough to beg Logan to kill her before she hurts anyone else, so he buries his claws in her chest. And then drops to his knees and takes her in his arms and raises his head and howls his grief to the heavens, just like in that one issue of the ZOT! Earth Stories.

But here's the thing about that -- there are thousands of mutant suppressing injector darts lying around. Wolverine's crew just managed to take out Magneto using a bunch of them, so it's not like no one's considered this strategy recently, and for the love of God, they actually LIKE Jean Grey... so why kill her? If we assume Logan can somehow get close enough to stab her with his claws, why not just stab her with a frickin' dart instead?

Leaving aside all this, though... well, it just wasn't a very good movie. But, on the other hand, it did raise an interesting issue, namely -- do people have some kind of 'right' to have superpowers? Or, to put it another way, if there really were mutants, and they really did have these kind of powers, would the government have the right to take them away, if it could?

Obviously, we're meant to come down on the side of the mutants. After all, they're all really cool, and this is a superhero reality, where the bad mutants will always be held in check by the good mutants (although if this movie is any indication, on occasion the bad mutants will do a cataclysmic amount of damage and kill a great many normal humans before the good mutants manage to show up and kick their ass). But fearing and hating mutants in the Marvel Universe is not the equivalent of real world racism -- normal people have valid reasons to fear and hate mutants. I won't even use any evil mutants as examples of this, instead, I'll use two of our heroes.

Scott Summers is only an eighth of an inch of ruby quartz at any given time away from mass slaughter. Sure, he doesn't want to do it, hates his powers, and yearns more than anything to be a normal human being, but that doesn't keep him from walking around in crowded environments (like on field trips to museums with the students) wearing nothing to restrain his optic blasts but a pair of sunglasses. If he trips, if he walks into something, if someone bumps him, and any of that results in those glasses coming off, a great many people could very well die. Should Scott Summers be dosed with mutant suppressing serum, even if he doesn't want to be? Oh my jesus yes.

Then there's Storm, the mutant who can screw with the weather over the entire Eastern seaboard just by getting into a pissy mood. I mean, there's a scene at the start of this movie where she's feeling sorry for herself out on the veranda and it looks like a hurricane is starting to form in the sky above her. In X-MEN II, she fought off two fighter jets by, basically, creating a couple of colossal wind vortexes in the air that certainly had to shift weather fronts for thousands of miles around her, abruptly and unpredictably. This is pretty serious shit, with very serious consequences for millions of people... people with farms, people in airplanes, people on ships, people living in coastal areas or flood zones, people without storm cellars because they live in an area that doesn't normally experience violent winds of this nature. Should Storm be walking around with that kind of power and apparently without the personal resources to keep it adequately in check? I say thee nay, True Believer. I've got a mutant suppressing dart with Ororo's name on it right here in my bandolier.

And these are the good guys. Mystique is kicking Federal agent ass from here to Hoboken and back again in a jail cell while she's handcuffed. Magneto is stealing the Golden Gate Bridge and throwing around cars with people in them, while Pyro sets them on fire.

Now, sure, there are mutants whose superhuman abilities aren't so insanely powerful, or so wildly out of control. There's no need to take Warren Worthington's wings away from him if he wants to keep them; yeah, he can use his ability to fly for criminal purposes, but he's not bulletproof. But should the government have the ability to pre-emptively remove superhuman powers if those powers present a clear and present danger to the safety of normal humans around them? That's a big "HELL yeah" from me, at least.

Only as good as your tools

So, I've been working on my House Rules lately. And posting to the forums over at the WizKids site, mostly on how dissatisfied I've been with the general dial design philosophy of WK's new chief game designer.

Of course, when you start bitchin', things take on a life of their own, and what started out with me just venting in general about how aggravated I was to now have three full expansions from WizKids in which every fucking character has a 9 attack, eventually segued into how generally annoyed I was with WK's rather idiotic rules structure for their HeroClix game. And from there, I started talking about my House Rules, which are, of course, far far superior to the contrived, poorly designed, enormously frustrating, and appallingly incompatible rules structure that WizKids insists on inflicting on my favorite superhuman characters.

Now, the good thing about these chat threads was that quite a number of people were interested in my opinions, and have even decided to start playing with my House Rules, because, you know, they're way better than the normal WizKids regulations.

As I say, that's a good thing. I always like finding like minded souls out there.

The bad thing about these chat threads is, well, the number of immature, hateful, meanspirited, narrowminded, intolerant, and, generally, subliterate dolts that cohere out of the very ether whenever anyone anywhere posts an intelligent (which means, nearly by definition, controversial) opinion anywhere on the Internet.

Now, one of the things I do in chat threads, when my normally civil (if, as I say, intelligent and controversial) posts start drawing responses that are rude and disrespectful, is, when at all possible, I mock my opponents' inability to spell accurately or construct sentences correctly.

This is, apparently, in a moderated forum, a big no no. It will enrage many, especially moderators, and turn people who might otherwise agree with one virulently against one.

This is, in my opinion, retarded.

The Internet is still, for the most part, a textual medium. A forum such as the one WizKids runs is very nearly in its entirety textual. Now, if you enter a cooking contest and you don't know the difference between eggs and milk, or how to set the temperature on the oven, or that you probably shouldn't try to fry a steak on a paper plate, the other contestants who have mastered these basic rudiments of the craft certainly have a right to point out your shortcomings in this area.

Similarly, I am of the opinion that if you want to go out on the Internet and talk a lot of trash to someone you don't know, well, you at the very least should know how to fucking spell. And if you don't, and you're talking trash to me (or a friend of mine) I am going to point out that you're a subliterate dumbass. I most likely won't do it if you're being civil to me, because many reports to the contrary, I'm not a complete buttmunch. But if you want to start something with me in a textual forum, well, you'd better float like a butterfly and sting like a bee... or, at the very least, you'd better know how to spell 'float', 'butterfly', 'sting', and 'bee'.

Or I'll crucify you.

Except, of course, on moderated forums. Because on these forums, asswipes can sneer and posture and strut all they want. They can roll their eyes and nudge each other and imply that they've heard it all before and accuse you of 'hypocracy' and call your posts 'mastibitory' and even mention how they wish someone would come over to your house and beat you up. What happens? Nothing. The omnipresent moderators remain utterly silent. However, point out that the people doing this sneering and strutting and eye rolling and name calling can't fucking spell, and suddenly some two faced turd named Darius_Dax is up your ass, warning you that if you keep it up, he'll throw you off the board and lock all your chat threads.

Because, you know, name calling and threats of violence and general rudeness, well, that's fine. But when you mock someone else's inability to master the basic rudiments of the medium they are abusing with their abuse, well... then you're a menace, and you have to be stopped.

All of this makes me feel a little bit like Harrison Bergeron.

Excuse me, while I kiss the ceiling.

Mike malarkey

Mike is, perhaps, the most common male name in our entire culture. We all know many, many men named Mike. Because of this, well, some of the Mikes we know will be pleasant fellows, and some will be dickheads. I have known several fine, fine Mikes in my life time -- Mike Mahiques (a high school buddy), Mike White (a one time roleplaying pal) and, of course, Mike Norton, a true mensch among mensches.

However, I have also known some Mikes who were utter dickheads. This will be the story of one of those Mikes.

So, Saturday, the plan was to go to the Mammoth Cave Federal Park and do one of the briefer cave tours. For those of you who don't know it -- prior to yesterday, I was one of you -- central Kentucky is riddled with caves, to the extent that, back in the early part of the 20th Century, the backwoods hillbillies living in that area actually fought what are now called 'the Cave Wars'. See, they discovered that a cave was a mighty fine tourist attaction, and if you had one -- or could create one -- on your property, you could make more money charging city slickers admission than you could farming the land, or running 'shine. So a great many farmers took pick axe, shovel, and a goodly amount of dynamite in hand, carried them down into the nearly ubiquitous sink holes that dotted the area like inverse geographical blackheads, and if they couldn't find an opening into central Kentucky's extensive underground warrens already in existence, they damned well made one. And then, to cut down on the competition from their neighbors, they would also do things like traipse through the connecting underground passages to underneath said neighbor's property, and set off dynamite charges in the neighboring caverns... or spread rumors that their neighbors' caves weren't safe, or everybody on the adjoining land had diptheria, or some such. Colorful times, which bred a colorful people, most of whom to this day still cannot spell the word 'elephant' or count past twenty without unzipping their flies.

But I digress. So the plan was, we drive to Mammoth Cave Park and do a short cave expedition, and that was fine. And the trip down was fine; we were all having a good time in the car, munching on snacks and singing along with the radio. For me, this is the best part of any outing, and while I've never in my life been one of those 'the journey is more important than the destination' guys, I find myself converting more and more to that philosophical tenent now that I have a family to go on outings with. I generally don't much care where we are going, I just vastly enjoy getting there.

(Singing along with the radio is probably more fun for me these days than it is for all of you, as the family I have somehow lucked into are all gifted with beautiful singing voices... well, except for Super Adorable Kid, who has yet to grow into hers. But trust me, when we get some Evanescence on the radio, the chicks in the car with me know how to rock it on out.)

So, anyway, we follow Yahoo's admirable directions and get most of the way there and then we see a sign at a Y fork in the road -- THIS WAY TO MAMMOTH CAVES. So, naturally, off we go. A mile down the road, we see a huge billboard -- BIG MIKE WELCOMES YOU TO MAMMOTH CAVES. This sign inveigles us to play miniature golf on the Hillbilly Hound putt-putt course, to explore the Mysterious Mansion, to visit Big Mike's souvenir shop, to eat at Big Mike's restaurant -- but nowhere around is Mammoth Caves.

So we drive on a little way, in a car that is rapidly filling with the boiling emotional water of resentment. I mean, we're thinking we've been had, and after another mile, it becomes apparent we have -- there is no Mammoth Cave anywhere down this road. So we turn around, go back to the fork in the road, and head the other way, and, indeed, this is the actual road that leads, eventually, to the park which is our intended destination.

SuperGirlfriend is, at this point, quite wroth with this chicanery, although I should note, it's not like she is exactly inexperienced with the duplicity, malfeasance, guile, and faithlessness of men named Mike. In fact, she is at this point in her life quite expert in the treachery that can be imbued in that humble, seemingly harmless sobriquet. Nonetheless, one does not cross the love of my life idly, and now her ire is up.

"Big Mike," she opines to me, from the corner of her mouth, as Chumbawumba bellows on our radio about getting knocked down, and getting up again, and how they're never gonna keep them down, "should be kicked in the balls until his eyeballs bleed."

"Yeah," I agreed, while tapping my fingers against my kneecap in time to the whiskey drink, the vodka drink, the lager drink, and the cider drink, "I know a few Mikes like that."

I get knocked down but I get up again
No you're never gonna keep me down...

Friday, May 26, 2006

Snikker snak

That's how my vorpal sword goes.

Or, it's a candy bar. One of them.

I'm not sure I even have a vorpal sword, actually.

So, I may not have my current job too much longer. See, it turns out, I gave a participant some bad information Thursday. This infuriated her and she began to verbally abuse me. And then, somehow or other, the call got dropped. Now, SHE claims I hung up on her. I, of course, have denied that. At length. To my supervisors. Whom this bitch called back and complained to.

So, they're going to pull the call, and 'research' how the call got terminated. I have no idea what that 'research' will turn up. I don't know how they have the phone system set up, or what kind of data they can pull. But I suspect that, yeah, if they put their minds to it, they can determine which end of the call was disconnected first. But, on the other hand, we get a lot of calls that just drop in the middle, usually when people are on cell phones, I guess... I don't know what causes that. Or if they can tell the difference between a call being dropped, and the connection being terminated at one end or the other.

Still, it's undeniable I gave her bad information. I didn't mean to. I'd swear I looked it up in the system. But, see, I told her that her close out date was March 31, and she was past the 45 day grace period, so if she wanted us to process a claim for 2005, she'd have to write an appeal letter. Turns out, her close out date is, I don't know, May 31 or June 30 or something. So the whole thing started when I apparently didn't verify the info. And that's a big bad. So however the dropped call thing turns out, I still have that to deal with. And it's not like this will be my first run in with the authorities at my current job... I've been set down and lectured for getting too many customer complaints many times. So it seems to me that it's very likely that this will be the last straw, however it goes.

I don't know. Not to try and make excuses, but just to clarify context -- yesterday was a horrible day at the job. Not just for me, but, apparently, for everyone on the phones. I'd gotten two calls prior to the one I'm discussing from people who actually were past their close out date, and who had let the grace period to fix their claims go by, and who weren't going to get their 2005 money back without writing an appeal letter, and both of them had roundly cursed me out (one of them advised me that "you guys are fucking thieves, man"). So, you know, when this woman started in on me, well, I was already stressed. Which led to me assuming, I guess, that when she started right in complaining about being past her close out date, she knew what she was talking about.

Anyway. SuperGirlfriend and I have agreed that I shouldn't worry about it this weekend, and I think that's a good plan, and having vented it out onto this page, I'm hoping that will help me not to. But I can pretty clearly recall how tough it was to find a job, any kind of job, in River City, so...

On the other hand, honestly, if it turns out that this job and I part ways, well, there's an upside to that, too. Never having to hear another participant tell me "Well, it's my money" will certainly be a positive thing in my life.

Right now, SuperAdorable Kid is up, and badgering me to show her how to play Clue Jr. And once her sisters get up, the day is going to get pretty full pretty quick. I have a few errands of my own to run, and then we have to register kids at their new schools, and make a bank run, and do some grocery shopping. So I kind of wanted to get a new blog post up...

...okay, SuperAdorable Kid wants a snack, and there are ominous rustling noises coming from the kitchen, which she repaired to seconds ago. I'd better check it out. Sorry for the enormously boring blog post.


Okay, she turned Little Einsteins back on, after I got her a slice of turkey, so I guess I have a little more time.

Got my last box of comics from Steve Tice the other day. It was mostly crap, which is why I generally don't like to subscribe to comics through a shop or a dealer... you can tell them until you're blue in the face "I only want the Geoff Johns Flash and JSA issues", and they nod and smile, but they don't care, and you end up paying for horseshit written by Joey Cavalieri and Paul Levitz, and it's very, very depressing.

Also, I now have extra issues of Infinite Crisis, but I suppose that's my fault for buying them here and not waiting six months for my last box from Steve Tice to get here.

I did, at least, get a few new issues of Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps and Teen Titans. Unfortunately, the Titans stuff is all Infinite Crisis crossovers, which seems to mean, it has very little actual plot in it. But, you know, at least I got to see that rotter Conner get laid before he died. Which suggests an entire blog entry regarding how much more annoyed Modern Age adolescent fans would be with Geoff Johns if he'd let Conner Kent die a virgin... but I guess I'll pass.

I gather Marv Wolfman's stock is rising again at DC, due to Infinite Crisis, which is certainly a grim consequence of that title's commercial success if ever there was one. On the other hand, it may well mean I no longer have to buy Teen Titans, which would be cool.

I've been posting a lot to the WizKids boards lately, and have managed to find a few new players willing to give my House Rules a chance, which is nice. Of course, all the usual haters have come scurrying out from the soft places underneath the various logs and rocks where they habitually dwell, too... you know the type... the vapid mainstream toadies and sycophants, to whom anything different is automatically bad, and who will say so, at great and tedious length, usually while snickering and rolling their eyes.

But, you know, they're idiots, so I try very hard to ignore them. And occasionally, I even succeed.

Okay. Today I need to walk over to the post office for SuperGirlfriend, call the Town Clerk in the city where I was born to try and get another copy of my birth certificate (I keep losing them, damn me), and then call work to get my schedule for next week, as it wasn't posted yesterday. Maybe, as an added bonus, I'll find out I have no schedule for next week, because, you know, I'm not working there any more. Which would be bad, but, as with so much else in life, would also be good. Or, I suppose you could say, it would be good, but, it would also be bad.

I'll tell you something for nothing, though -- if I go in next week and they sit me down and say "Okay, we have to let you go because of this thing that happened" -- I won't even argue with them. I'll just grab my shit and git. And while I will, of course, be very worried about the economic impact of a two income household suddenly becoming a one income household, I cannot lie -- the sense of elation I will feel, the impulse of joy, the overwhelming sensation of my spirit rising up and shedding the oppressive weight that has been that crappy job for the last eight months -- ah. That will sing in my blood like a heavenly choir, my friends, I tell you this in truth.

For maybe ten seconds.

And then the real world will come crashing in again, as I trudge over to the bus stop and begin the long depressing journey back to where I'll have to break the news to SuperGirlfriend and the SuperKids. And the disappointment in their eyes will not be anything to relish. So it's not something I'm hoping for, believe me.

Hey, this is depressing. I've got a four day weekend! Let's just focus on that, for the moment.

Monday, May 22, 2006

There ain't no rules in a knife fight

This one is about HeroClix. Mike Norton, welcome. The rest of you... move along. Nothing to see here.

Last week I set up a battle between an odd line up of JLAers and an odder line up of Crime Syndicate members augmented by the two Fatal Five members we had in clix form at the time. The battle's main point was to feature some newer figs I wanted to try out and some older figs I hadn't used in a long time. So, I had Martian Manhunter, the Vet Elongated Man, the Vet Icons Wonder Woman, the Experienced Legacy Batman, the Vet Red Tornado, and the Experienced Kyle Rayner Green Lantern, going up against Ultraman, Owlman, the Vet Superwoman, the Vet Emerald Empress, and the Vet Persuader. (I didn't have my GIANTS set yet, or I'd probably have thrown in Validus, and pumped up the JLA team with at least one more heavyweight or a couple more minor figures -- maybe the Vet Fire and Ice, a vet Booster Gold, and my Ted Kord LE, I don't know.)

Anyway, at first the JLA seemed to be holding their own and doing pretty well. But as the game wore on, I began to realize that essentially, most of the bad guys were only there to wear down the JLA as much as possible, prior to Ultraman ripping all their arms and legs off and flailing their torsos into gruel against the nearest building.

For his points, and given the kind of character he is (an evil Superman, essentially) one is tempted to piss and moan that Ultraman gets no HyperSonic Speed. At least, that used to be my action. No more of that nonsense from me, nosirree. Who needs HyperSonic Speed when you have a 12 Movement with Running Shot, an 11 Attack, an 8 range, 5 damage, and RCE on your first click? And a 12 Movement, Charge, a 10 Attack, Super Strength, and 5 Damage with CCE on your second click? Add that to Impervious and you've got one helluva demolition man. Stack Fortitude and Repulsor Shield on top of all that and, well... you've got Evil Superman, pure and simple. Run away! Run away!

I grant you, I completely forgot to try out my brand new House Rules JLA Team Ability during the battle, which might have made a difference... I missed several crucial Outwit and Incapacitate rolls that I might well have made, if I'd remembered the new Attack Value modifier the TA can give once per round. Still, once Ultraman started mixing it up, there was nobody on the board who could hurt him.

The first JLAer he took out was Batman, as Batman's Outwit was about the only thing in the game he needed to be wary of... by my House Rules, Fortitude protects completely from Ranged Outwit, but only requires adjacent Outwitters to make an attack roll... which Batman probably could have succeeded in doing, since Ultraman's defense isn't all that high. It didn't matter, though. With Charge adding one to his damage for a successful Close Combat attack, Ultraman was doing 8 clicks of damage on a punch, when he had room to fly up to an opponent. That not only hammered poor Bruce Wayne to oblivion and beyond, it also pretty much smashed Red Tornado into flinders, turned the Elongated Man into goo, reduced Aquaman to fish sticks, and crushed Kyle Rayner into minty green toothpaste.

In fact, with my House Rules increasing the amount of damage that Invulnerability and Impervious reduce to 3 and 4, respectively, there wasn't anyone on the board who could even get a click of damage through to Ultraman once Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter were knocked down a few slots -- while, on the other hand, he himself was perfectly capable of getting 3 clicks of damage past even the toughest possible opponent's resistant defenses. I had a brief flash of hope when Elongated Man pushed himself onto an Outwit click, but, well, he was pushed, and as it turned out, by bad timing, so was Kyle Rayner -- and Kyle using his Barrier ability to put a click of Blocking Terrain right on top of Ultraman was the only thing keeping the remnants of the JLA conscious right then. (Under my House Rules, you can put a Barrier or a Smoke Cloud marker on an occupied square, which I think is much more consistent with superhero combat than restricting them to unoccupied squares. This way, someone like Green Lantern, or Iceman, or Captain Cold, can use their powers to momentarily paralyze up to four opponents with Barrier, which is exactly what they do in the comics. As to Smoke Cloud, well, someone with Stealth and Smoke Cloud can, under my House Rules, drop a smoke bomb at their own feet and disappear inside it... exactly the sort of thing Mysterio does. Or you can lob a Smoke Bomb at an enemy and momentarily blind and/or slow them down, which is the sort of thing Batman should be able to do.)

Had I had a few spare points to give Ultraman the Unstoppable feat card as well as Fortitude and Repulsor Shield, even Barrier wouldn't have stopped him. As it was, though, nobody could hurt him; putting him in a big green energy bubble just slowed him down... for a while.

Ultraman not being stupid, he knew immediately that ol' Ralph was going to try to Outwit him, given a chance, so ol' Ralph never got the chance. After that, it was pretty much a done deal.

But that's not the match I want to talk about here. Right now, I'm in the middle of a battle between an Injustice League roster consisting of Prometheus, Giganta, Thomas Oscar Morrow, the Veteran Dr. Light, the General, and the Vet Hypertime Cheetah, going up against a Legion squadron composed of the Vet Wildfire, Colossal Boy, the Vet Shadow Lass, the Vet Saturn Girl, and the Vet Brainiac 5, all teamed up with Oracle... not just In Contact with her, but with her actually sitting off the board on the feat card. (I went back and forth between Brainy and the Vet Kid Quantum. Brainy isn't particularly useful under my House Rules, where Outwit at range is treated as a range attack for 0 damage. It severely limits his ability to use it. But I figured he'd be more useful as a Brilliant Tactician, than even a Triple Incapacitator... and anyway, I have no use for Kid Quantum, who is a rotten Modern Age addition to the team.)

The reason I put the Legion team together the way I did was that I wanted to try out the combination of Shadow Lass' Smoke Cloud, the Flashbang Feat Card (which under my House Rules allows Smoke Bomb to be used as a free action, if the user doesn't move), and the Legion's ability to wild card the Batman TA from Oracle.

See, under my House Rules, line of sight is required for any kind of attack -- close combat or ranged. This is a significant departure from WizKids rules, where line of sight is only important to a ranged attack. All this is significant, because what the Stealth power (or the Batman Team Ability) does is, if a person using it is on Hindering Terrain (which includes Smoke Cloud squares), there is no line of sight to them... they are, effectively, invisible. They can't be attacked.

I made this change because under WizKids rules, where you can't attack a Stealthed figure with Range powers, but you can launch close combat attacks at them, the first thing that everyone does when confronted with a sneaky figure, or an invisible one, is run right up to it and punch it in the mouth. This always bothered me... I mean, if a character is hiding behind a dumpster, or a bush, or just flat out invisible (as many characters with Stealth actually are), how can you just run up and peg it one in the teeth? If you can't see it, then you can't see it.

The most common way, under my House Rules, to deal with a Stealthed character is to blow up whatever piece of Hindering Terrain they are hiding on. This exposes them to view and lets you attack them. (How this works with characters who are actually invisible I couldn't tell you... I guess if you blast the shrub Sue Storm is lurking against to pieces, she loses her concentration and becomes visible again. Or something.)

However, you can't blow up Smoke Cloud squares (and certainly, I can't see any easy way one could destroy a patch of total darkness, which is effectively what Shadow Lass is generating.)

By sheer random coincidence (I certainly didn't actively plan it) about half that Injustice League team has Super Senses, and with Super Senses, you CAN see Stealthed characters, and attack them. Which is the only reason the IL had any chance at all in this game. But now that Cheetah has been blown off the map and Prometheus has had the Super Senses smacked out of him, only T.O. Morrow has a chance of being able to deal with the entire Legion squad... and as soon as he gets close enough, I suspect the LSH will deal with him handily. It's not like he's a powerhouse, or anything.

Giganta, the General, and Dr. Light are capable of doing a great deal of damage between them... but they can't see their enemies, as long as the LSH wild cards the Batman TA and stays in Shadow Lass' areas of darkness.

All told, I'm wondering if some one of my rules needs some tweaking. The easiest thing to do would be to re-redefine the Flashbang feat, getting rid of the 'free action if you don't move' aspect of it. If Shadow Lass had to take an action token to use her power, it would considerably even things out. The Legion would either be visible every other turn, or she'd quickly push herself into unconsciousness.

I'm also strongly considering a change I've wanted to make since the first clix game I ever played in -- which is, to allow Energy Explosion to target terrain squares or terrain features, as well as opposing figures. I've always thought this made sense -- after all, one of the easiest ways to effect someone who is hiding is to throw a grenade somewhere near him... but I've resisted it because hitting a particular piece of terrain should be fairly easy, and if you let people with the power start doing that, they'll never aim at an actual opponent again, they'll just start blasting the square next to their target, instead. That's realistic... what makes explosives so deadly is that they don't have to be precisely aimed... but it has the potential to be enormously imbalancing. Of course, on the other hand, I already have two powers that essentially hit anything within range unless you roll a 2 on your dice -- Pulse Wave and Quake. Energy Explosion would just be one more -- and it only does 1 point of damage. So I'm thinking about that... because it would be a logical way to respond to enemies who were attacking, and then ducking back into, impenetrable darkness.

I'm still thinking about it. But I suspect my House Rules are going to get updated again, sometime soon.

I'm also wondering if Giganta gets Quake, somewhere on her dial. Because that would fix those rotten kids good, too... but, no... I just checked and she doesn't get it. The General doesn't get anything really cool, either (although I did slap an Automatic Regenerate on him; he gets FIVE SLOTS OF REGENERATION!!!)

Looks like it's all up to T.O. Morrow. If he can get close enough, and lob something explosive at Shadow Lass, it could all turn around...

Travis McGeek and the Anonymous Troll Caper

So, that fine fellow Anonymous has showed his ugly (if faceless) mug over in SuperGirlfriend's comment threads. He is, as we all know, ubiquitous, and in my experience, he's often rather a chump. This particular incarnation of Anonymous does nothing in his rather short, sneering comment to disabuse me of any of those notions.

Trolls are pointless, worthless, and useless specimens of sub-humanity, especially those who can't even trouble themselves to make up a decent nom de cyber, as it were. There's little to gain in expending any time and effort over them, as it's the attention of their betters (nearly all of us) that they crave, but while I'm type-type-typing along, let me note a few common denominators I've discovered amongst nearly all the trolls I've had experience with --

(a) For the most part, they are powerless, incompetent, inept little dweebs.

(b) They are generally extremely cowardly.

(c) They tend to be most dismissive of arguments and discussions that they do not have the intellectual faculties to truly comprehend.

(d) They tend to have very small attention spans.

(e) They tend to be hypocrites.

(f) In real life, I must assume, they tend to have teeny tiny pee-pees.

That's all I know about trolls. But, to date, I've rarely seen an Anonymous comment that has given me any reason to doubt any of these assertions.

Certainly not lately.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


All this stuff I'm learning about the real world I reluctantly inhabit... peak oil... ongoing CIA mind control programs where kids are tortured, raped and drugged in an effort to deliberately turn them into schizophrenics whose various personality fragments the government can program to be sex slaves and assassins... the involvement of former U.S. Presidents in pedophile rings... the nearly inarguable mountain of evidence that our government was actively involved in implementing and facilitating the 9/11 attacks, which our media has completely chosen to ignore... it's all really really amazingly grim and horrid and depressing. So I'm not going to think about that.

Instead, I'm going to talk about... the Silver Surfer. Specifically, how badly WizKids has hosed the character over, and what I'd prefer to see them do instead.

It's a pathetic retreat into comforting fantasy, but more and more often these days, I think that's all any of us has, other than each other.

Above are the two versions of the Silver Surfer that WizKids has given us to date. There's little to choose between them. Both are enormously rare figures, something that is reflected by the around $40 price tag each fig carries in the secondary market. One has the Defenders Team Ability, allowing it to share its unmodified Defense Value with any adjacent Defender. Another has the much pricier Power Cosmic Team Ability, which allows it to take actions two turns in a row without being damaged, and which protects it from having its powers countered by Outwit.

The Defenders version, to the left, is only 177 points. It starts with slightly better stats than the more expensive 200 point Power Cosmic version, and has an opening click of Running Shot, which the PC version never gets. Unlike the PC version, this one follows the normal power dial progression of getting worse as he takes damage. (The Power Cosmic version actually gets a bit better through his first several clicks, but that's a sadistic trap on the part of WizKids... because the Power Cosmic TA keeps him from taking pushing damage, you can't deliberately 'push' him up his dial onto those better clicks. You just have to hope he takes the right amount of damage to land him there.)

Beyond that, as I said, there's little to choose between the two... somewhat different stats, some powers moved around to different places on the dial. What's most notable about this Surfer is what he lacks... pretty much any kind of super powers other than damage abatement, a little healing, and some Regeneration.

This is a travesty. As I've noted in previous entries, the Silver Surfer has the Power Cosmic. He's a former Herald of Galactus. The dude can do pretty much any damn thing he puts his mind to... levitate the Great Pyramids, create gigantic tidal waves and/or earthquakes, generate huge sheets of flame that fill the entire sky, create energy barriers, fly between the stars at speeds vastly faster than the velocity of light, bench press Buicks, sail into the heart of a sun, launch blasts of nearly infinite energy across vast distances, pound the Thing into gravel with his bare hands, and, you know, generally be an all purpose romper-stomper the likes of which few if any single figures in the DC or Marvel Universe would have a hope of withstanding.

Now, again, I've already admitted that no one single figure should be so dominant as to be invincible... if such a figure existed, no one would ever play anything else. But I do think that one can much more adequately reflect the vast array of the Silver Surfer's powers on a dial than WizKids has troubled themselves to do so far.

Thus and so:

Three clicks of Running Shot to start with, simulating the Surfer's main battle tactic, namely, blasting the living crap out of his opponents as he zips on by at high velocity. One click of Energy Explosion so he can do damage to a mob, which is especially handy with his 2 range targets. Two opening clicks of Impervious, because, well, see that whole 'sail into the heart of a sun' thing in the paragraph above. Three opening clicks of 4 damage with RCE, just in case the Surfer wants to really blast the crap out of a single target at range.

Following this, the Surfer gets a rainbow of options. A couple of clicks of Barrier on a reasonably high Defense, so he can make those cool energy-wall things in the air. A few clicks of Pulse Wave, so he can jack up everything around him if he needs to in mid air, and a few clicks of Telekinesis, so he can do that 'levitate the Great Pyramid' stunt if he feels the urge. Four clicks in, he gets some Charge, so he can slam his board into some recalcitrant cretin, at which point, he gets a click of Quake, which will let him toss around a group of opponents in close combat, followed by two clicks of Super Strength, so he can plainly beat the bejesus out of anyone who climbs up on his board without permission.

IN addition to all this, I gave him a little Perplex, one click of Exploit Weakness (goes with the Super Strength and Charge) and several clicks of Probability Control, all of which seem to me to work well with the whole Power Cosmic/he can do any damn thing he wants dealio.

I don't have one of the bootleg points calculator programs that other renegade dial designers have, so I have no idea how much this power dial would cost, especially since I'd almost certainly need to stick the Power Cosmic TA on it to justify all this blastage. I imagine he'd be well over 200 points. But what the hell, a 200+ point Silver Surfer would be appropriate, and with all this firepower, I imagine a lot of players would still be happy to put him on the table.

One thing I did want to mention -- I didn't give my Surfer HyperSonic Speed, although he does fly faster than light rather casually. The reason I didn't is that under my House Rules, HyperSonic Speed turns a character into someone who makes multiple close combat attacks on one or more opponents at extremely high velocity. This isn't the Surfer's MO. I would only give him HyperSonic Speed if I accompanied it with a special Silver Surfer feat card that would allow him to make Range Strikes with HSS, but would preclude him from making Close Combat attacks. That would be a very true representation of the Silver Surfer, who has often launched multiple energy blast attacks at targets while flying by them, but who has never gone zooming up, Flash style, and pummeled someone into debris with multiple punches.

So that's my Surfer. There are variations that could be done -- I'd expect if the current WizKids designer ever tried to give us a Surfer this versatile and power-packed, there would be at least a few clicks of Psychic Blast on the dial somewhere... but still, this is the general idea I'd like to see in a Norrin Radd. As I've noted before, the next Marvel set from WK is supposed to have a spacefaring theme, and the Silver Surfers we have are currently retired from play... so we can hope we'll get a new, and better, Silver Surfer sometime this autumn.

In the meantime, I just wistfully stare at the dial I gave mine, and wish for a better world...

Great day in the morning

So this morning, I let SuperGirlfriend sleep in for an extra 45 minutes or so, getting up at 5 to wake the older two SuperKids up. I get a lot of satisfaction from doing this, on the limited occasions she lets me. It seems that over the course of some 17 years of getting up early with the kids, this was always SuperGirlfriend's job; her ex husband never did it, and even on occasions when she would beseech him to do it to help her out a little, he resolutely refused. So I like to spoil her a little, when I can.

This morning, it all went spectacularly south the instant Super Adorable Kid was woken up. SuperGirlfriend, naturally, blames the fact that she slept in, and 'didn't have enough time' to take care of the various things that need to be taken care of every morning around here... packing my lunch and packing Super Adorable Kid's lunch, primarly. It meant that we had to rush Super Adorable Kid through her morning routine, which is always tricky... Super Adorable Kid is not a morning person, and can be easily set off by nearly anything, leading to tears and whining and shrieks and "I can't, I can't" until, honestly, you just want to set the building on fire.

So, now, I'm going to have a very hard time getting SuperGirlfriend to sleep in in the morning, which aggravates me, because this is my fault, not hers. I should have packed a lunch for me and for Super Adorable Kid, but I forgot to; we've been having problems with the Internet connection lately, which is a major cataclysm in this household (we're all going to go through BAD tech withdrawal in a few more years when the infrastructure crashes), so I spent most of my free time this morning trying to get that fixed (something I finally seem to have succeeded in).

It's all just extremely exasperating. And it's not SuperGirlfriend's fault at all. She's just spent most of her adult life being the only really responsible person in her household, so she by default regards any failings as being due to some lack in herself. She has a hard time regarding me as a full partner, because she's never had one before. And I don't help when I slack off on stuff I should be taking care of for her.

Have to do better with that, in the future. If she ever lets me get up early with the kids so she can sleep in again.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hey! Your shoes are untied!

This ages old ruse will no longer work on six year old Super Adorable Kid. Why? Because she successfully tied her own sneakers for the first time this morning.

Yeah, yeah, I'm a dope. At least, I'm grinning like one right now.

Have a great Wednesday, everyone.

Addendum: As I've been prompted by my first commenter/love of my life, here's the conversation I had with Super Adorable Kid in the car on the way home from work last night:

See, Super Adorable Kid doesn't do 'sit still' well. She squirms around, and somehow manages to contort herself into positions you wouldn't think possible for a humanoid body with a seat belt on. This drives everyone else in the car crazy, because the end result of her squirming is often that her foot or her knee or her elbow or her clavicle will end up in the most unlikely and annoying places, like, the back of the driver's neck, or under someone else's ass. So we repeatedly abjure her to sit up and hold still, not least of which because, if there was an accident, her chances of surviving it intact would be greatly increased if, in fact, at the moment the car struck another object at high velocity, Super Adorable Kid's foot wasn't shoved through the two metal columns holding up the driver's headrest on top of the driver's seat.

Last night we were having even harder slogging than we usually do with getting her to hold still, because Super Adorable Kid had had a trip to the neighborhood candy shop earlier that day and she was totally sugared up. So I asked her if I could have the baby doll she was rather enthusiastically playing with in the back, which was greatly enabling her perpetual motion. She thought about it, then nodded happily and gave it to me. So I perched it on my lap and we continued on our merry way.

This did calm Super Adorable Kid down for a few minutes, but, well, then she started squirming around again. So, to distract her, I picked up the baby doll, and using a high squeaky voice, said "I am the Invincible Baby Doll! I command you to hold still!"

This seemed to rather bemuse Super Adorable Kid, as for a moment, there was utter stillness in the car. Then she shot back, pert as you please, "You're not either! I can see you!"

Now, of course, Super Girlfriend and Super Dependable Teen, who are also in the car, are cracking up. But Invincible Baby Doll was not thrown off in the slightest. "Not inVISible," she squeaked haughtily, "inVINCible. Totally different things."

Super Adorable Kid thought this over for a second. Then: "Okay. Then what can you turn into?"

I admit, I have no idea what she meant by THAT. But, you know... that's typical, when you're dealing with Super Adorable Kid.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Monday on Tuesday

The older two SuperKids each had concerts last night, so I took the day off. I could have just left early, I suppose, but, well, given that I actually get paid time off with this job, I figured, what the hell... a Monday off is a pearl beyond price when you work for a call center.

As it turns out, the entire weekend was one of those very rare, shimmering moments in space time that you really wish would never end. Oh, it had its passing irritations, but for the most part, I had a very good time with SuperGirlfriend and the SuperKids. So much so, that I hated to come back to work today even more than usual.

At SuperGirlfriend's wise recommendation, I keep reminding myself that today is actually Tuesday, when it feels like Monday. That always helps... a little. Even better is the fact that my random day off falls this week on Friday. So I'm only here for three days... I just have to get through them with my mind intact.

So far, so good.

Highlights of the weekend would be taking SuperGirlfriend out to dinner Friday night at Applebee's; driving to the UK campus in Lexington with her to see Super Dependable Teen take part in some language competition (the UK campus is gorgeous, and Lexington itself looks like a lovely city to live in); taking SG and the SuperKids out to dinner at a really nice Italian restaurant on the other side of the river on Sunday for Mother's Day... minor moments to an outside observer, but pure distilled joy to me.

Probably the primary change SuperGirlfriend has made to my life -- and it's a profound one -- is that I'm never lonely any more. Prior to moving here, loneliness was a constant in my life... I never really felt as if I belonged anywhere, or as if anyone out there really cared all that much about me, or that I mattered in any particular degree. In fact, such was my life that, had I died suddenly in my apartment, it's unlikely anyone would have missed me all that quickly, or bothered to check up on me for days. It's a very sad feeling, when you know that you could kick off in your sleep and nobody would even bother to look for you for days. (Oh, my employer might have called my house, but after leaving a few messages, they just would have fired me as a no show. Nobody else would bothered to follow up. My family would have eventually come around looking for me, but I might very well have been little more than a skeleton by then... I used to go weeks without anyone calling me or dropping by to visit.)

SG frets sometimes that I'm suffering terribly due to all her 'baggage'... the kids (whom I adore), the ex-husband (who is largely a tool, but who is also largely immaterial to me, as I long ago learned not to let fools trouble me overly, and he really only gets up my ass when he's making SG or the SuperKids miserable, which is, unfortunately, often), the need for me to keep working at a job I hate in order to pay the rent on our lovely apartment. But none of it matters, none of it figures, none of it means anything compared to the very genuine joy that SG and the SuperKids bring into my life every day.

I'm never lonely any more. Never. If you don't know what that means, well, you're as lucky a person as I am, and must have been luckier all your life.

On a much more trivial note, I was feeling so good this weekend that I decided to spoil myself a little, so I finally just said 'fuggit' and paid the EXTORTIONATE amount that Comic Book World had on their Unique Silver Surfer -- a walloping $40 (with tax, natch). I'd long ago made myself a promise that I'd never pay more than $20 for a single piece of plastic, however much I wanted it, but, as I said, I was having a good weekend, and it was a pay week, and I'd gotten my state income tax check, so, what the hell. I snatched that puppy up. And now it's home on my shelves, with the rest of the Defenders, while the even rarer and more pricey chromium Silver Surfer that SuperGirlfriend gave me in my Christmas stocking a while back is over with the other FF allies (along with my Vet Dr. Strange, my Experienced Black Panther, the Spider-Man with the FF TA, and the three Inhumans we have clix of to date).

I like that.

Spending the $40 was stupid... well... an unwise indulgence, anyway... for many reasons, and since nobody out there really cares, I'm going to detail many if not all of them.

First, of course, there's the simple fact that any time you spend this kind of money on a stupid little piece of plastic, especially when you're helping to feed, clothe, and shelter three kids (none of whom you get to take a tax deduction for, to boot), well, you are by definition being kinda foolish. But this foolishness is further compounded in the unreal, subjective world of HeroClix itself, for several other reasons:

(1) I never get to play HeroClix any more, other than against myself. This isn't to say I won't use my new Silver Surfer in a game at some point in the future (I may pit him against his chromium alter ego, if I'm feeling especially whimsical), but, still, a game against one self isn't at all like playing a real game of HeroClix. So spending $40 on a game I really never get to play is kind of foolish.

(2) Above and beyond all this, the Silver Surfer, in clix form, may well be the biggest disappointment HeroClix has ever doled out to its target market. The Silver Surfer has what Jack Kirby called 'the Power Cosmic'. Basically, this means he can do any damn thing he wants. We've seen stories where he causes gigantic tidal waves, he levitates the Great Pyramid, he creates enormous earthquakes, he sets up floating energy barriers in the sky... this is all in addition to his normal schtick of flying at vastly faster than light speeds across interstellar distances, being strong enough to fairly easily defeat the Thing in a fist fight, being pretty much completely indestructible, and having the ability to toss around energy blasts of nearly infinite range and power, any time he feels like it.

Now, we all realize that no single figure can be invincible in a combat game; otherwise, nobody would ever play anything else. Nonetheless, the figures in HeroClix cover a wide range of power, with some characters being defined very simply, with few if any actual super powers (which are reflected by squares of color over certain numbered statistics on the combat dial) while others have what we gamers call a 'rainbow dial' indicating many different powers.

The Surfer should have had a rainbow dial -- if not in his Unique version (which, arguably, could be the Silver Surfer after much of his Power Cosmic was drained away from him in an early FF issue), then certainly in his more expensive, chromium, Power Cosmic version.

Instead, neither version is particularly useful, especially for the exorbitant point prices they command (177 for the Unique, 200 for the Power Cosmic). Neither version of the Surfer gets much in the way of actual colors (powers) on his dial, and in fact, the lower cost Unique (the one I just shelled out two $20s for) is arguably the better figure, as he starts out with higher stats and one click of Running Shot, an ability that the Power Cosmic chromium Surfer never gets. (Which absolutely bites hard, but, you know, never mind.)

So, essentially, SG shelled out God knows how much to get me a pretty much useless piece of plastic I greatly desired, and I just shelled out God and I both know exactly how much to get another one that's nearly as useless, but that I desired even more, largely because I'm mental.

As a final little twist, there's yet another reason why this was foolish --

(3) The next Marvel expansion WizKids is bringing out, after Sinister (which is due out next month) will be called Supernova, and while absolutely nothing is confirmed for the set as yet, most of us think it's a virtual certainty that we'll get a new Silver Surfer fig in it, since the Critical Mass Surfers that I've been describing are now retired from active play (which means nothing to me, but much to street legal players). And that Surfer, for all I know, will have the kind of dial that the Surfer deserves... which means, wasting money on these two was, well, a waste.

But, you know, I wanted them both and now I have them both and if at some point in the future I end up wishing they were both made out of something edible, well, that's life.

It's also probably foolish to count on WizKids new game designer to give us a decent Silver Surfer dial, since he's so royally screwed up nearly everything else he's designed in the last three sets. But, still, I live in hope...

...and in joy. Entirely because of SuperGirlfriend and the SuperKids.

Mother, did it have to be so high?

It's probably just all the doom and gloom of Kunstler's The Long Emergency darkening my brain right now. But I read all this stuff about the imminence of various global catastrophes -- raging pandemics, starvation, the crash of civilization, all due to converging crises like oil and natural gas depletion, climate change, and constantly mutating diseases -- and I see how immigration -- immigration, of all damn things -- has suddenly become the hot button issue among conservatives, with some conservatives even demanding Bush's impeachment if he doesn't shut down our borders completely... and... well...

Yeah, I'm probably just paranoid. But in a world where there's not enough of anything to go around, and especially one where new epidemics of antibiotic-resistant diseases are seen by many health professionals as imminent and unstoppable, turning North America into a walled off fortress makes a very ruthless, very pragmatic sort of sense.

However, corporate profits, as well as the political status quo, require that the cattle (that's us) not be stampeded prematurely, so if if the U.S. government started to fortify our national borders for no apparent reason (let's remember, the Big Energy companies are still spending a lot of money on ads to reassure all us sheeple that 'peak oil' is just a myth propagated by fringe loonies as a scare tactic; the last thing our lords and masters want is for us to get frightened of anything they don't require us to be frightened of at the moment), well, it would cause talk.

But, hey... if they can just whip the base into a frenzy of anti-immigrant hysteria and get them to demand that the government build massively fortified walls along all our borders... well... hey... the Feds would just be obeying the people's mandate, right? And if, five or ten years from now, as the latest killer influenza depopulates the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia, the U.S. just sits back behind its gigantic walls, wringing its collective hands because, you know, we just don't have the resources to help all those poor foreign people, no matter how much we want to... well... I gues history might call that 'foresighted'.

Especially since we'd most likely write it.

Apparently, Bush's speech last night, which most pundits assume was meant to mollify his base, spectacularly misfired, and wound up pretty much enraging the right wing even further. Left wing analysts seem baffled by this, wondering why he bothered with the speech in the first place... but this all fits my (probably paranoid) hypothesis, if we assume that the speech was simply meant to whip the base up even more, until they become so infuriated that Bush can, finally, capitulate, and start fortifying the borders... and while the left wing may rant and rave about how much money he's spending and his corporate masters may scream about how much money he'll cost them by cutting off their slave labor supply, still, he can shrug his shoulders and say "well, they WANT me to do it, I am but a servant of the people, what can I do?"

Sunday, May 14, 2006

New Dawn (with or without Tony Orlando)

So, first there's this. And then, there's this.

All of which leads me to hand a little slip of paper to the kj, step up to the microphone, and as most of the patrons in the karioke bar continue to stare sullenly into their nearly empty plastic pitchers while sparing me at best the vestigial, beer-battered remnants of their concentration, I begin to sing (to the tune of Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Old Oak Tree, natch, that's where I got the post title from) --

I wake up feeling cautious joy
for it seems Fitzgerald finally will deploy
his major blue-backed weapons where we want them most
could it be that creeps Cheney and Rove are finally toast?
they're giving up the ghost,

Oh won't you hang a few indictments on Karl Rove's fat ass
add a few for Cheney, if that's not too crass
if they both wake tomorrow with a legal rash
Karl's weeping and stunned, Dick goes for his gun
while Dubya's ratings crash
if you'll only hang a few indictments on the VP's ass

Now this week can't come soon enough
I have to know if Patrick's getting tough
oh sure, he gave us Libby, but to me that's a lot of fluff
I need to see ol' Dick Cheney and Karl Rove wearing cuffs
Oh baby, that's the stuff!

Oh won't you hang a few indictment's on ol' Dick's big butt
sign a few for Karl while you're gearing up
with both of them asserting that they don't know what
this whole thing's about, they think that they'll pout
while 'pop!' go the wing nuts
when you hang a few indictments on these goons' enormous butts

Now the whole damn left is yearning
cuz we really want to see
The VP and Turdblossom resigning on live TV

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Getting Defensive

Find a Silver Age superhero comics fan, and ask him who his favorite funny book writers of that era are, and one name that is going to recur on nearly every subsequent listing (unless the person you're talking to is a total tool, I mean) is Steve Gerber. Ask him what his favorite run by Gerber was, and the numb fuck will probably say Howard the Duck or Man-Thing, which is just aggravating, but I concede the likelihood, because, you know, hardly any of my fellow Silver Age superhero comic book fans are as cool as I am. But if you asked me (and for the love of Jebus, what are you doing wasting your time on some hypothetical Silver Age superhero comics fan when you've got me, anyway?), I'd tell you the simple, inarguable, absolutely objective truth -- the greatest superhero comic book Steve Gerber ever wrote was, without a doubt, The Defenders.

(No, it's inarguable. Man-Thing and Howard the Duck simply cannot compare to Gerber's Defenders, not least because, Man-Thing and Howard the Duck aren't superheroes, and that's how I oh-so-cleverly framed the question at the top of the column. Ha! I win again!)

Yeah, a few disgruntled souls might mutter something barely audible about Omega the Unknown, before slinking away to some clock tower with a high powered rifle over one shoulder, but Omega the Unknown wasn't a superhero either, and anyway, Gerber co-wrote the series with one of his groupies, so it doesn't count as true, pure malt, honest to God, YEAH!-strength Gerber. So there.

Anyway, as I've noted before this, WizKids' upcoming set, Sinister, has a great many characters in it that I've yearned for years now to see in plastic figure form. Unfortunately, as I've also noted, a great many of these are mal-defined by appallingly poorly conceived combat dials that might, possibly, suit some bizarre Mighty Comics character under the tenure of a desperate and perhaps entirely hopped up on pain medicine Jerry Siegel, but which really seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with the characters they are actually supposed to represent from the Marvel Universe.

Sinister continues this admirable tradition with two more figures we've now seen sculpts and dials for: Nighthawk and the Valkyrie, both of whom were mainstays of the Silver Age Defenders when Gerber was writing the book.

Nighthawk... ah, there are so many reasons to be disappointed by what WizKid's done to him, but for a change, more of them revolve around the sculpt than the actual dial.

Here's the WizKids figure. Looks okay, at first glance, but still, there are a couple of reasons I'm not satisfied. (Aside from, you know, me being an asshole, which is pretty much a given at all times.) First, this is pretty much how the sculpt looks at all levels -- Rookie, Experienced, and Vet -- with the only difference being, the Rookie doesn't have a flight stand, which means, the Rookie can't fly. This is fine, at the beginning of his costumed career, Nighthawk couldn't fly -- in fact, he was essentially a costumed, roof leaping, cable swinging acrobat in the tradition of Daredevil, Spider-Man, and, not at all coincidentally, Batman. (Nighthawk was, in fact, originally created as a thinly disguised Batman-surrogate for an issue of Avengers in which Roy Thomas wanted to pit Earth's Mightiest Heroes against the Justice League of America, so he did, after changing their team name to the Squadron Sinister, and also revamping Superman, Green Lantern, and the Flash into, respectively, Hyperion, Dr. Spectrum, and the Whizzer, so they could hang out with Batman/Nighthawk and get their asses resolutely kicked right alongside him by the Almighty Assemblers.)

So, yeah, the rookie Nighthawk certainly shouldn't fly, and while I think WizKids should have whipped up a Squadron Sinister Team Ability for this level of the character, well, I think WizKids should do a lot of things they don't, and this one I won't hold against them too much, because, honestly, I'm a really swell guy. But what annoys me here is that, well, in Nighthawk's first several appearances, when he was still a villain and didn't fly, he looked like this:

Now, I know -- I know! "WizKids can't do different sculpts for each version of a character in a REV, it's not cost effective, the most we can expect is different color paint jobs or maybe a difference in the type of plastic used, get over it!" To which I respond with an enthusiastic "Fuck you, fanboy -- they did it for goddam Jewel/Jessica Jones, and she's very nearly the worst character in the entire universe, so they can absolutely do it for my boy Nighthawk."

Except, of course, they didn't. Which pisses me off, and causes me to once again offer my entire ass to WizKids' collective lips.

As to Nighthawk's dials, well, let's take a look:

Those of you who have been following along on Mike Norton's and my blogs as regards the Sinister set, and who have the ability to read a HeroClix dial-card, will now be reeling back from your screen in incredulity. "Where the Christ," you may well moan in incredulity, "is all the Psychic Blast? We've grown accustomed to seeing Psychic Blast on EVERY Sinister power dial, for the love of God, even Kitty Pryde has Psychic Blast, how can they deny it to Nighthawk?"

Okay, I'm kidding. This is the 28 point Rookie Nighthawk, and of course, he shouldn't have any Psychic Blast, or, for that matter, any kind of range strike, either. So WizKids got that much right, at least. He should have Super Strength, as at this level, Nighthawk had taken a mystic potion which "doubled his strength" when the moon was out, although, on the other hand, whether this was the kind of power that would let someone pick up a dumpster and beat someone else upside the head with it (as Super Strength allows, under WK's rules), I kind of doubt. Still, okay, I'll give you that one. And WK has adequately represented Nighthawk's early career villainy by giving him a Sinister Syndicate TA, which is very close, in sound, anyway, to Squadron Sinister.

But where's his Leap Climb? The early Nighthawk was a Batman-surrogate; he was vaulting around rooftops and swinging on cables like a crazy man. Well, never mind, give him a Swing Line Feat Card and he'll be okay, at least, under my House Rules, where I've rewritten the text to allow characters to ignore different terrain heights when they have one. (Yes, it's true... the official WizKids' version of Swing Line lets those who have one ignore Hindering Terrain when they move, and it adds +1 to their movement, but it doesn't let them move from one terrain elevation to another, despite the fact that getting from street level to rooftop and back again quickly is about the only damn thing superhumans in comic books ever use a swing line for. Oh, WizKids... someday I'll be rich, and buy your company, and fire a great vast lot of people, and I'll laugh, and laugh, and laugh...)

He's got the typical 9 attack, which is, I suppose, pretty good for a Rookie, most of which get stuck these days with an 8. If he hits someone he's not going to leave much of a mark, with a crappy 2 damage (he gets Close Combat Expert at the end of his dial, so he can get up to 3 on a punch then, but his Attack Value has dropped so far he's not going to hit anything much more mobile than an EZ Boy recliner with built in vibro-massage by then, either)... but, still, I suppose he could get adjacent to some other Sinister Syndicate member and use the TA to borrow a higher attack. Or someone could Perplex him. Or use In Contact With Oracle on him. Or, we could just melt all the Rookie Nighthawks we get in a microwave, although we're going to have a ton of them, since they're low numbered Rookies.

I don't know. If he had the right costume on, I'd save at least one Rookie Nighthawk just for that reason, but as it is, well, I'm thinking the microwave option may well be best.

Now, the 42 point Experienced version --

Okay. He's got a click of Charge, which the street legal players wil love, since it lets him Move and Attack in the same turn -- he can only move half his paltry 8 movement, which is entirely inconsistent with a jetpacked hero whose main battle tactic was to come screaming out of the sky and whack the crap out of someone as he flew straight through them -- but still, it's an improvement over Pokey the Dumb Ass rookie version, anyway. He has no team ability, which is enough to make any serious Defenders fan's hands itch for Seth's no doubt pencil neck, since Nighthawk went from his original costume, and a villainous career with the Squadron Sinister, to this new costume, with the jetpack under his wing-cape, as a heroic member of the Defenders, in about twenty minutes real time -- how in the world can his Experienced version have no TA? But never mind, never mind -- Seth's an idiot, his reign as Senior Designer has so far been shrouded in miscues and wrapped in stupidity, let's move on. What other powers does the Experienced Nighthawk have? Well, he's got some Super Strength, with that same goddam 9 Attack Value; he's got some Willpower, on top of a 16 Defense that Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer could hit, if he wasn't too stoned; later on down his dial, he gets some Close Combat Expert, one click of which he has with an 8 attack, where it might actually do him some good, if Luck is a Lady tonight. And, he's also got...

...a range strike of 4? What the FUCK?

This could be a mistake on the dial-card. If it's not, though, well, it's a monumental mistake on Seth's part. This version of Nighthawk, the Silver Age version who was a member of the Defenders all through the late Silver Age, had no weapons besides his fists and the jetpack he kept hidden under his cape. I'm not even sure he still had any Super Strength at this point, but even if he did, he had no ability to strike a foe at range. Pretty much all he ever did, in fact, was swoop down on dimwits from above and double-punch them in stiff looking Sal Buscema poses as he went zooming on by. You'd think a simple, very basic character like that would be impossible to screw up -- a few clicks of Charge, maybe some Energy Shield/Deflection, (because he's moving really fast when he attacks), a few clicks of Close Combat Expert. But, I said, throwing my head back and sneering in my best John Belushi fashion, OHHHHHHH noooooooooo... they couldn't even get THAT right.

Giving Nighthawk at ANY level Willpower is also a mistake. The character just didn't have it. "Easily Influenced" should, in fact, have been Kyle Richmond's middle name, based on how often duped, led astray, and generally mush-headed he was. Don't get me wrong, Kyle Richmond was a likeable guy -- well, no, okay, he really wasn't, but he was an admirable -- um, uh uh, that's not getting it, either -- okay, he was a competent fighter and a good friend and... nope, nope... fine. He was a buffoon, and the only thing that made him interesting with Steve Gerber's writing. Whatever the case, he shouldn't have Willpower.

So, okay -- maybe they'll get it right with the Veteran. You know, like they did with the Swordsman:

Okay, well, he's... um. Yeah. First, a little more background. At this stage in his career, I was no longer reading The Defenders, because Steve Gerber wasn't writing it any more, and the guy who took over after Steve, Gerry Conway, may well be the worst writer in the history of superhero comics, worse even than all those Image artists who couldn't write but tried to anyway, and I gave up on the title in disgust after two truly wretched Conway scripts. Conway didn't stay on the book screwing it up for long; after he left, David Kraft wrote it for quite a while, and several people have tried to tell me the Kraft run was 'interesting', and they're right, but alas, it isn't interesting in any good way, and then after Kraft came J.M. deMatteis, who wrote Defenders for what seemed like several hundred years, and who may be the only writer since the dawn of time whose scripts were so bad that they actually made Don Perlin's artwork look even more boring than it would have anyway.

I never bought any of those issues, and have only read a very few of them, and so I only know vaguely about this particular version of Nighthawk, who was paralyzed whenever the sun was out and who wore an armored version of his red and blue costume that had blast-beams built into its wing tips and scythe-like claws projecting from his knuckles and I don't know WHAT the fuck all else. (I do know that shortly after he started wearing this costume someone shot him in the head, and God, how he must have been relieved to be finally out of his misery, too. But that's a digression.)

So this is the 60 point Veteran version of the character.

He's got the Defenders Team Ability, which he should have. It doesn't do a damn thing except rack up his point cost, since the Defenders Team Ability under WK's rules doesn't do much ("A member of this team may use the unmodified defense value of any other adjacent friendly member of this team instead of its own", which sounds cool, except the whole Defenders array in WizKids has one, count them, one, character with an 18 Defense, and it's the Silver Surfer, and he costs $40 or so, so I don't have one). Under my House Rules the power works considerably better ("For every 2 Defenders there are in a force (rounding down), one member of this TA may, once per turn, add 1 to his/her defense as a free action; this modifier remains until the beginning of the Defender's next turn", which totally rocks, since it means that any time Nighthawk is out there with at least one other Defender, he or his teammate can add 1 to their Defense Value if they need to, and if he has three other teammates, they can add 2, etc). This might make the character worth the 60 points despite the lame stats; as long as he's on the board, he'll give any other Defender out there, like the very useful but woefully low-Defensed Sub-Mariner or Dr. Strange, a chance to have a higher Defense Value if they need it.

Still, the Experienced version should have had the TA, too. There's no excuse for leaving it off; now those of us who want to play the wing caped Nighthawk without all the gimmicks can't put him on a Defenders team... well, I can, because under my House Rules you can put any TA you want to on a figure as long as the TA is compatible with the figure's actual history, but street legal players won't have that option, and even under my House Rules the Experienced Version is still screwed up by that inexplicable Range Strike.

But, okay, let's look at the powers -- well, he's got one more click of Charge. His Movement is still lame, but the extra click of Charge is happy-making, both for the mainstream HeroClix players and under my House Rules (where Charge allows characters to ignore the effects of hindering terrain and other characters while they are moving forward to get adjacent to an opponent and launch a close combat attack; if the close combat attack hits, it also adds 1 to the damage dealt).

He's still got Super Strength, but, well, armored exoskeleton; yeah, that makes sense. He's still got Willpower, which doesn't, as noted above; and it really doesn't, since, you know, he's wearing an armored exoskeleton now and should at least have Toughness. He at least has a slightly higher Defense Value to start with, so figs with the ubiquitous 9 Attack Value will have to roll higher than average to hit him. He's got a 6 range strike, which is plausible. A couple of clicks of Leadership, which isn’t as useless as it used to be since the Inspiring Command Feat Card came out, and one click where he has a 9 attack, 2 Damage, and Close Combat Expert... but no Willpower there, because WizKids' would have a collective corporate aneurysm if they created a slot on a Sinister power dial that looked as if it might be too useful.

I don't know much about this version, but I'm thinking he's basically like an X-wing fighter with arms and legs; it probably would have been appropriate to give him a click or two of Running Shot and maybe some Ranged Combat Expert, too. But... whateva. I guess he'll play well enough under my House Rules to justify putting him out, if I feel like it.

So, let's see our score -- the Rookie sculpt isn't wearing the right costume. In previous sets this wouldn't cause me to mark off points, but, again, if they can do it for Jewel/Jessica Jones, they need to do it for the characters I like, too, or face my wrath. All the sculpts have Willpower, which is just plain wrong for Nighthawk, and none have Energy Shield/Deflection, which would be far more appropriate. The Experienced is missing a vital TA and has an inexplicable range strike. The Vet... will be useful if only to give the Defenders some Leadership, which they could use, I guess. And under my House Rules he'll be reasonably playable. But, still, all told -- this is a very basic character; it shouldn't have been at all difficult to do him up right, and WK, as seems to be the norm these days, failed miserably.

Now, let's move on to every fanboy's favorite Maid With A Blade -- the Valkyrie!

The Valkyrie is weird, even for as weird a title and concept as The Defenders undoubtedly was. In her first appearance, she was just a disguise for the Enchantress, who utilized the alter ego in order to mind control all the female Avengers into a group that would very nearly embody all the worst feminazi fears of Rush Limbaugh -- the Lady Liberators. Under the Enchantress/Valkyrie's influence, the various chick Avengers whacked the crap out of their male chauvinist pig teammates. Eventually, the Enchantress' ploy was revealed, the hottie Avengers were chagrined at being so easily duped, and everything went back to the way it was meant ot be, with the Scarlet Witch knitting spare costumes out of unstable molecules yarn for Giant-Man in the sewing room while the Wasp helped Jarvis bake out in the Avengers kitchen.

Apparently, this "Enchantress disguised as the Valkyrie" version is what WK means to represent on their Valkyrie's Rookie dial. Either that, or Seth was high as a kite on goofballs when he designed it. Either way, let's take a look.

Well, we got some Flurry, which is a nice power – two Close Combat attacks per turn. It’s a little odd for the Enchantress to have it, given that she disdains physical combat. Ditto the Super Strength – yeah, the Enchantress has it, since she’s an Asgardian, but as a practical matter, she never uses it… most likely, she’s afraid she’ll break a nail.

Two clicks in, this version of Valkyrie gets some Blade/Claws/Fangs, which is only appropriate, given that she was toting a damned big spear in her one and only comic book appearance. Note, however, that Seth is very careful not to let the dial show Flurry and B/C/F at the same time; as we’ve noted before, if a power combination would actually be effective, WizKids wants none of it… they either find some way to create a rule that outlaws it (as with Flurry and Incapacitate) or they just straight up won’t put the powers together on a dial, even if a blade wielding character having two strikes in one turn might make perfect sense.

The first part of the dial shows an undistinguished defense (16) with Toughness, a power I have no problems with for this character, who is, after all, a mythical warrior woman type. So that’s okay.

It’s the last half of the dial that gets really wonky though – three clicks of Phasing/Teleport, which I can only interpret as the Enchantress using spells to get the hell out of Dodge once things have gone pretty badly south for her, since the only thing she’s going to be able to hit with the bullshit attack number she has at that point is Dorothy’s little dog Toto, or maybe the Tin Man… he’s pretty slow.

Three clicks of Willpower… I don’t know what to make out of that, except that maybe it’s so the Enchantress can run like hell two turns in a row without taking a push. Probably the most infuriating aspect of this dial is the fact that the best damage is in the last two slots on it, and to make it even worse, she’s got Exploit Weakness, so if she could manage to land a smack on someone in close combat, all the damage would go through no matter how tough they were… but by now she’s down to a pitiful 6 attack, and she can’t even hit Toto any more, much less any actual superhuman character represented by any HeroClix figure in the history of the game.

A final telling feature is that 4 range strike. The Valkyrie has no ability to attack at range; like the Experienced Nighthawk, she’s strictly a close combat fighter. So this, pretty much also has to be a disguised Enchantress.

Given all that, I wouldn’t have minded if they’d reflected this Valkyrie’s true identity with a Masters of Evil Team Ability. But, you know… whatever. Let’s move on to the 60 point Experienced dial:

Well, this is better. Two clicks of Charge, although Seth pretty much slapped leg irons on the character with that second slot Movement of 6, which would only allow the character to move 3 squares if she wanted to attack as well. But an opening Movement of 8 with Charge, an Attack of 10 with Super Strength, a defense of 16 with Combat Reflexes, and a 3 Damage… hey, that’s a sweet initial slot. Get her adjacent to a fig somewhere within the same point range as her and she can do you some good.

This level gets the Defenders TA, which she certainly should, since she was a member of the team for pretty much her entire actual existence. In this form, she’s no longer a disguised Enchantress, but rather… um… well… okay, this gets really weird…

Early on in their run, the Defenders – who at that time were Dr. Strange, the Sub-Mariner, the Hulk, and the Silver Surfer (a team you really wouldn’t think would need much extra help) went up against the Enchantress, alongside sometime Avenger the Black Knight. They all got captured and tossed into a magical dungeon by some other dimensional sorcerer supreme whose name I can’t remember, and it all had to do with some other blonde vixen sorceress who had beguiled the Executioner away from the Enchantress, and I could go reread the comic because I have it out on the shelf, but I’m not going to right this second. Anyway, as it happened, the Defenders were dragging this crazy blonde chick named Barbara Norris along with them at the time, because Barbara had been forcibly joined with an evil otherdimensional entity, and when Dr. Strange managed to mystically rescue her, she went bananas.

So the Enchantress couldn’t use any of her spells on the dungeon itself. However, she could use her spells on the people she was locked up with, so she cast the same spell she’d used before to assume the Valkyrie guise, only this time on whacko Barbara. Barbara turned into the Valkyrie, complete with her own personality that was entirely separate from that of her crazy host body, and the Valkyrie knocked down the dungeon door so everyone could escape.

At the end of the story, the Enchantress, as is her wont, teleported out with the Executioner in tow, abandoning the Valkyrie (as well as the Black Knight, whom she had at first mind controlled into loving her, something else she likes to do a lot to any good looking supermen she encounters, and then turned into stone, when he threw a hissy at the idea of her leaving with the Executioner). So the Valkyrie, like a big puppy, followed Dr. Strange home, and wound up ‘joining’ the Defenders, which was a pretty good trick, since the Defenders was a non-team that didn’t really have any kind of official roster.

This is the character this Experienced version is meant to reflect, I guess, and, well, there don’t seem to be many truly bone headed blunders here. This Valkyrie is, straight up, a hand to hand combatant; she has a sword (for a long time, it’s the Black Knight’s mystic Black Blade, although later on, after the Defenders manage to turn him human again, she gets her own magical sword named Dragonfang), and superhuman levels of strength, and that’s pretty much it. I suppose we all would have liked it better if they’d done a sculpt of her like the WK did of the X-Men’s Moonstar, since Valkyrie had adopted the Black Knight’s winged horse Aragorn and frequently rode him into combat… but, fine, we’ll take what we can get.

There’s really nothing on this dial to object to. Charge, Super Strength, Flurry, Blade/Claws/Fangs, Combat Reflexes, Toughness, Battle Fury… all are appropriate to the Valkyrie at this point in her development. It’s aggravating, again, that WK is so relentlessly devoted to making sure no truly effective combinations of powers ever come up on a dial simultaneously… either Charge or Flurry combined with B/C/F would have been a lovely sight to see… but still and all, there’s not much to object to here.

Except for that absolutely inexplicable range of 6. One more time -- the Valkyrie is a hand to hand combatant. She has no ability to strike at an enemy from a distance. We have, I think, on one occasion, seen her throw her sword at an opponent… who promptly fell out of her reach with the sword still stuck in them. I’m thinking this isn’t a tactic she wants to use often.

Other than that, though, this version works pretty well.

Finally, we have the 71 point Veteran version.
One click of Charge with an 8 movement, B/C/F with a 10 Attack Value, a respectable 18 Defense with Toughness. The 3 Damage is almost annoying, as it means you’re really gambling if you decide to roll the d6 for Blade/Claws/Fangs damage instead of just taking the 3 clicks – 4, under my House Rules, if she Charges up and nails someone. Still, this is a solid initial slot; nothing really to argue about there.

Seth doesn’t like to give figures attacks of 10 or higher, and having given it, he doesn’t like to let it linger long, so it’s no surprise that Val’s down to a 9 on her second slot. The loss of Charge is a bit more of a gut punch; apparently Val gets one good shot and then she’s pretty much done. She still has B/C/F, and with the drop in Damage to 2, it’s much easier to decide to use the edge of her sword instead of the flat. A Defense of 17 with Toughness is… well… adequate, but still, we’ll be missing that 18 by and by (say, on the turn after Valkyrie makes her first close combat attack, when the guy she’s swinging at gets his turn at bat). Still, while I’d rather she kept her initial values for at least one more slot, this is doable.

From there she gets Flurry in combination with Super Strength, which is a nice combination under my House Rules (where a damage dealt from a Close Combat attack done with Super Strength cannot be reduced below 1) but a real zero under the standard WK guidelines, since all WK allows Super Strong characters to do is pick up objects, and objects disintegrate the first time you whack someone with them.

She gets a lot of Battle Fury towards the middle of her dial, some late dial Phasing/Teleport (probably meant to simulate her going back to Valhalla, which she sometimes does when things start going badly for her), and some Willpower (which I don’t understand at all, unless, again, it’s to let her run for two turns in a row when she’s about to be KOed).

She still gets the Defenders TA, which will be good under WK’s rules because, hey – here’s a Defender other than the Silver Surfer who has an 18 Defense which she can share with her teammates. She also still gets that completely bewildering range strike, though, and that I can’t make any sense out of. Does she fire those shell casings she’s wearing on her tits like bullets? I mean, what’s up with that?

All told, I have to give Valkyrie higher marks, overall, than Nighthawk. Neither are perfect, and what’s annoying about that is that it shouldn’t have been particularly hard to adapt either of these to clix form, as they are pretty straightforward characters. Still, it will be nice to have the figures, and either or both of them may well make their ways into some of my teams… if only for nostalgia’s sake.