Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas




The Seventh Soldier of Apathy officially wishes you Merry Christmas, alongside two dark vigilantes. Because to us here at the Apathy house, nothing says Christmas like murder and emo.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Big Three

No, not the car companies. DC's Big Three. Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman. Each of the three are going through some Big Events right now, because comics companies love Big Events, and for all their whining to the contrary, so do fans. Here's a rundown of what the stars of the DCU are going through right now.

Wonder Woman: Rise of the Olympian

Featuring in part the introduction of Genocide, a dark monster created by an alliance of Wonder Woman's enemies, Simone's Wonder Woman story deals with the gods of Olympus, fearing that their champion has failed and abandoned them, sending a new champion - the Olympian. Simone's greatest strengths are often in character moments, moreso than in action, and the same could be said of Lopresti, but if I have high hopes for this book despite the occasionally schizophrenic tone of the series, it's because it hasn't been hyped to oblivion and turned into a 17 part 4 book event. The first issue was solid-but-not-spectacular, and we'll see how it turns out in the end.

Batman: R.I.P., Last Rites and Battle for the Cowl

Batman: R.I.P. was a competent, enjoyable non-event that DC blew way out of proportion. As a capstone to Morrison's run on Batman, it was really quite good. A metatextual mystery playing on the expectations of fanboys and the conventions of the industry? Lots of fun. As a line-wide event, it sucked. The tie-ins were unimpressive and didn't actually 'tie in' to anything, and the upcoming Battle for the Cowl - an editorially mandate with a novice writer at the helm - doesn't look promising at all. That said, Batman & Son -> The Black Glove -> R.I.P. was an enjoyable run on Batman, and the current Last Rites storyline that follows it up features superstars like Grant Morrison, Denny O'Neil, and Neil Gaiman, so it should be pretty quality.

Superman: 100,000 Kryptonians

No, that art is not official and has nothing to do with the story. According to the board I found it on - You'll All Be Sorry @ CBR - it's some graffiti from Dusseldorf. I just think it's cool.

Anyway, 100K Kryptonians features the return of... can you guess?... 100,000 Kryptonians to Earth, and the subsequent shenanigans. Fan favorite writer Geoff Johns is helming the event from Action Comics, while a personal favorite of mine, James Robinson, is running things on Superman, and relative newcomer Sterling Gates is taking control of Supergirl. Those three books form the core of the title, but a few one-shots have already been released featuring such stars as Jimmy Olson and the Manhattan Guardian. Response hasn't been ridiculously positive to the series, but I've heard few complaints from those reading the arc.

*

And that's that. But, I'd hate to leave our Marvel fans with no good news, so I shall point out that X-Men Noir #1 came out last week to impressive reviews and surprisingly good sales (we're sold out and back-ordered, curse the souls of everyone alive), and Spider-Man Noir #1 hits next week, with Incognito coming up soon as well, making this month an awesome month for Marvel, in my book.

Finally, my first semester of grad school is finished, and I have resolved the issues with my 'net provider, so I return you to your regularly scheduled programming!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

VS: Bring Your Own Two Teams - Spider-Friends/X-Factor Edition

So, let me first say, MEV is a really cool, VASTLY powerful set. Over on VSrealms, at least one infinite combo has already been discovered, and I highly doubt that it will be the first. Now, I'm not nearly clever to truck with that sort of shenanigans. I'm not a good enough deck-builder, after all, and I'm not quite mean enough. I like being annoying as much as the next gamer, but there are limits.

Still, I like being annoying more than enough for this deck right here. As you've all seen, I'm a big fan of the Bring Your Own Two Team format, as I love team-up decks and I love not having to worry about hitting team-ups. Of course, there are downsides, and these two teams certainly highlight those downsides. The Spider-Friends have been a powerful team for a couple years now, but that's far more thanks to the suite of Spider-Man support cards, most notably Gift Wrapped, and their normal, team-stamped effects are generally fairly dull. Meanwhile, X-Factor, a team I had high hopes for in MEV is virtually unplayable on a budget, having only 3 non-rare support cards (1 of which is a team-up) and, in their rare support cards, 6 of them are legend stamped.

This brings up a fair question: why on Earth build Spider-Friends with X-Factor if their support suite is so lacking? Well, I'm just gonna print out a few card effects really quickly, and I'll let you take it from there...

Rictor, Depowered
2
Team: X-Factor, Purifiers
ATK: 2
DEF: 3
[Activate] -> Gain 1 endurance for each character in play with an activated ([activate]) power.

Siryn, Sonic Scream
4
Team: X-Factor, X-Men
Flight
Ranged
ATK: 7
DEF: 8
Whenever a character's activated ([activate]) power is used, target opponent loses 1 endurance.

Madame Web, Cassandra Webb
3
Team: Spider-Friends
ATK: 3
DEF: 1
Whenever an activated power of a Spider-Friends character you control is used, gain 2 endurance.
Activate -> Look at the top two cards of target player's deck. You may put those cards into that player's KO'd pile or on the top of his deck in any order.

Fun and Games
To play, discard a Spider-Friends character card.
Ongoing: Characters have "Activate -> Negate target activated effect an opponent controls."

(taken from docx's excellent search engine)

*

Do you see how things might play out in an interesting manner?

*

8x Multiple Man, Army * HYDRA
2x Layla Miller, Butterfly
3x Rictor, Depowered
7x Jamie Madrox <> Multiple Man, Army * Agent of SHIELD
3x Beast, Wild and Wooly
4x Madame Web, Cassandra Web
3x Siryn, Sonic Scream
1x Strong Guy, Guido Carosella

4x Empire State University
4x Falls Edge
3x ESU Science Lab

4x Spider-Sense Tingling
3x Tragic Loss
3x Nice Try!
4x Fun and Games
4x First Class

Yes, every single character in your deck either has a worthwhile activated power or interacts with activated effects, and more than that, for those that don't already have one, Fun and Games grants an Activate power to all characters in play, yours and those of your opponents. Thankfully, with the swarm abilities of Multiple Man, you'll likely win any Activation war you get into, and Siryn will make an opponent think twice about even trying to get into such a battle.

Just in case you can't burn your opponent to death, though, you have that single copy of Strong Guy available, and when your whole board can Activate, Strong Guy can get big, fast.

The remainder of the effects you have are geared towards keeping yourself alive. Spider-Sense Tingling can keep some extra characters around - Multiple Men can be made invulnerable already, so making them evadable means your board can keep fair size, especially with Falls Edge helping you out every turn and an occasional First Class. The loss of Birthing Chamber hurts, but Empire State University and ESU Science Lab step up admirably - and ESU Science Lab really, REALLY likes Energize.

So, there you have it. Untested and unpolished, as all my decks are, but I hope you've enjoyed. The interactions between the two teams mean that you'll be gaining a not-insignificant amount of life while your opponent loses it slowly, and with a little fine-tuning, this could be a pretty potent deck. Not for tier 1 play, I suspect... but for annoying your friends? Hell yes.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Weekday Update II

Just like last month, a brief update on my writing. Why do I do this? To humiliate myself into continuing to write, dammit.

I Am Very Important and Pittsburgh Blue remain unpublished, as I haven't sent them out in the last month. The Lonesome Death of Kara Innana is nearing completion, and Dancin' Fool is done, but largely unedited.

On NaNoWriMo - ah, but failure struck. For the first time this semester, my grad work caught up with me, forcing me to dedicate a little too much time to thesauri building and poster presentations and not enough time to database development and writing. Still, with winter break coming up, I think I'm going to try and finish my NaNo by the end of December.

And, finally, on a non-writing standpoint, MEV finally in hand (so what if it means I won't eat this month?) I shall begin to take a look at some of the cards, teams, and themes from VS latest set.

Have a great week, and welcome to December!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. Get ready to feel like a real American after you spend a day drinking and eating until you literally feel ill. And then, eating just a little bit more.

My first batch of MEV cards should be arriving in a few days, so expect to begin to see thoughts on the set start pouring out soon. Because, you know, I'm sure you aren't COMPLETELY SICK OF IT by now.

There will be an Awesome Thanksgiving Image put up... uh... soon. When I find one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

MEV Preview: Kid Omega

Have any of you ever felt the bracing sting of rejection? I’m sure you have – most people do, at some point in their lives. It can be a pretty powerful feeling.

Kid Omega, the name chosen by mutant Quentin Quire, is a telepath who thinks thousands of brilliant thoughts ever second of every day. Naturally, he went insane. But while he was insane, he was still motivated by emotions that we can all understand – and I think that, for Quire, the defining feeling is one of rejection.



Rejected by the world at large for being born different, Quire lashed out. Rejected by the ‘cool’ kids at school, Quire proved that he was better. But, in the way of young men, he just couldn’t defeat rejection at the hands of the girl(s) of his dreams, and it was their disapproval that ultimately destroyed him, literally and metaphorically.

Quire is one of the few Omega level mutants, and it’s probably best for the world that he can no longer influence us, having moved somehow beyond our plane of existence – though, of course, in comics, who knows how long such a person will stay dead? – but we aren’t half so lucky in VS as Quire makes his debut as an unaffiliated common 7-drop.

Now, hold on, hold on, I know what you’re saying. “Oh… so you mean, ‘Quire makes his debut as a card that will never see play’?”

No, that’s not at all what I mean.

Here. I’ll prove it to you.



How do you like them apples.

Much like in the comics, Quire is on his own team – it’s not a matter of Magneto or Xavier being right so much as it is a matter of Quire knowing best. He neither wants nor needs your support. And if he’s powerful while in play, a 16/16 7-drop with range, he’s best when influencing the game from behind the scenes.

Once you get 5 Shift counters on young Kid Omega, your opponent starts to feel the hurt, drawing one fewer card each turn - and while that may not seem like a lot, in decks like the Future Foes, already making opponents discard, Quire could navigate opponents into a situation where they have to choose between laying a resource and playing a character. So, against decks that lack card draw, that would definitely qualify as a kiss of death. Good thing his power comes with the hefty cost of 5 resource points, huh?

Quire is an excellent tool in a variety of decks, offering a powerful boardwide effect that can’t be hit by today’s most popular effects – like Pathetic Attempt, to immediately call out the first thing out of some people's mouths on every single preview. And while unaffiliated characters have traditionally been able to have significantly more power thanks to the lack of search effects for them, the introduction of cards like Super Hero Registration Act allows you to search Quire out starting as early as turn 3 to get him online. Still, for an effect as powerful as the one offered here, I think that there are definitely some decks that would consider using Kid Omega as their mulligan condition, even considering his variety of limitations.

If you're at all interested in this twisted teen genius, Grant Morrison's New X-Men is the definitive X-Men run of all time, for my money, and well worth a read.

If you're just interested in reading a quick history of Quentin Quire, though, I kindly provide.

Part 1
Part 2

Hope you've enjoyed the previews - I know I have!

Friday, November 14, 2008

R.I.P.

If you've read my blog ever, you probably know that I'm a pretty huge comic book nerd. If you're read my blog for more than two days, you probably know that a lot of the books that I like are a smidge off the beaten path. Not too far off...just a little to the side. Through my 'The Best Books You Aren't Reading', I offered a series of articles, and will continue to offer them, pointing out little-read books that deserves your attention. Unfortunately, I am now left to demonstrate what happens when they don't actually get your attention.

I must warn you all - this is an image-heavy post, and it is a bile-heavy post. While the fires of my wrath have cooled, there is still a lingering aftertaste of anger in my mouth, and this will seep through at time. For the most part, though, this is meant to be a relatively loving post. If you don't want me to insult you and everything you love repeatedly, I'd recommend you stop reading right now and move on your way.

Blue Beetle: Cancelled
- Blue Beetle was one of the best teen comics out there. A pitch-perfect blend of comedy, drama and action, Jaime Reyes was one of the best new characters of the decade, and I'll hold his supporting cast up against any in comics in a heartbeat. After John Rogers left, we saw Will Pfiefer and Matt Sturges each take a turn with the character, and through some arcane magic, each was still awesome. Blue Beetle deserved much more than it ever got, but that's okay - its readers will remember it fondly for a good, long while....







Checkmate: Cancelled
- Checkmate is another book to come out of the overbearing, overlarge, overambitious Infinite Crisis. Written by Greg Rucka, it detailed a United Nations-run Peacekeeping Organization and the crazy stuff they go through in a world like the DC Universe. Imagine Marvel's S.H.E.I.L.D. if someone bright and uncynical were writing it. Always clever, Checkmate gave us an enormous cast of B-D list characters and made them all awesome in their own way. For a time in comics that many fans claim to be a bitter, depressing era, Checkmate was a beacon of hope, offering relatively complex metahuman espionage, new characters, and an infinitely more satisfying answer to the question of lethal force in superhero comics. Of all the new characters Rucka created in his run of Checkmate #1-25, perhaps my favorite is Josephine Tautin, known as Mademoiselle Marie.
Checkmate wasn't perfect - it was often wordy and many were turned off by the occasional moral grey areas in which the characters found themselves - but in a comicdom populated frequently by bitter naivete and fanboy pacification, Checkmate managed a strong run.



Criminal: Cancelled.
- Criminal. Ah, why am I not even remotely surprised to see you on this list? Every arc, you introduced us to new characters. Every single arc. The lack of a recurring cast certainly couldn't have helped you out. The fact that almost every character in the setting was a dirtball of some sort also couldn't have helped. Where Checkmate let it's characters occasionally visit moral grey areas, Criminal lived in them. Solid writing from Ed Brubaker combined well with art from Sean Phillips that perfectly complemented the noir stylings, Criminal was a rock solid love letter to comics and to noir. Dark and slow-paced, it was never destined to be a big seller, but I'm still sad that it is going away.

EDIT: As a note, I have had my tragic misinformation fixed, and return to you a cleaner, happier man - Criminal remains. While it will be taking a break for the beginning of Incognito, it is not dead, merely napping. Rarely have I been happier to be wrong.

To Sean Phillips (!) for correcting me: merci beaucoup, どうもありがとう, and stay classy.

To everyone else: go give Criminal a shot!




Birds of Prey: Cancelled
- It's sad to see Birds of Prey on this list, but when excellent writer Gail Simone left the book to move on to Wonder Woman and Secret Six, you can bet that we all saw this coming. Birds of Prey, under Gail Simone, turned out to be a fun, clever action book that served to flesh out the characters of a number of the premier heroines of the DC Universe - most notably, of course, Barbara Gordon, Black Canary, and Huntress.
After Barbara Gordon was shot in the spine by the Joker in an attempt to torture and drive insane her father, Commissioner James Gordon, she was devastated. As Batgirl, she had always fought hard at Batman's side. It wasn't until John Ostrander used her in his Suicide Squad mini as the enigmatic Oracle, though, that her crime-fighting career really took off. As Batgirl, she beat up muggers. As Oracle, she masterminded the information technology of the DC Universe. Quickly becoming a vital organizational hub, Oracle and her team of superheroes-turned-spies had some awesome adventures.
With the cancellation, we've been assured that we're getting a wonderful Oracle mini. I somehow suspect that this will see her return to Gotham City as the sidekick of Batman, and will be written by whoever does it cheapest. I'm sure it will make money, but Birds of Prey was a great lens through which we could see all the heroines of the DC Universe treated, as they so rarely are, with a little respect. Here's to hoping that DC doesn't forget this lesson, shove these characters out of the way, and relegate them to sidekicks of their male peers.



Manhunter: Cancelled
- This one comes as a surprise to precisely no one. Cancelled once, Manhunter was saved by one of the most passionate fanbases I've ever seen. Cancelled a second time, they redoubled their efforts, trade sales did well, the book got brought back. Unfortunately, it got brought back without telling anyone about it, and to an arc that, while decent, wasn't quite up to the quality of the rest of the run. And so now, it's on its last legs, on the verge of cancellation once more.
Manhunter shouldn't have been good. Overly violent without offering any real danger while having a super-complex, almost incestuous relationship with DC's deepest continuity, it should have been purely mediocre. Instead, it offered a great supporting cast, from one of the only well-done gay relationships in comics to the novel support of a former tech-geek for supervillains who entered the Witness Protection Program. It also offered a no-nonsense, smoking single mother as a heroine willing to kill - and who thought that'd come from DC?





The All-New Atom: Cancelled
- The All-New Atom was, much like Blue Beetle, hampered in large part by a whiny, clingy fanbase that pouted the book to death because it wasn't veteran Atom Ray Palmer helming, but newcomer Ryan Choi. If I'm being honest, and I rarely am, then I will say that it was also hampered by a creative attitude that comics don't like - which is to say, that of almost manic creativity. Ivy Town was a bizarre, surreal place, a place that I couldn't picture existing anywhere but in the DCU, but which feels almost completely necessary to the DCU. Severely warped by the bizarre super-science occurring in the town, Ivy Town feels like the setting of a David Lynch movie, if David Lynch was on crack and had a 500,000,000,000$ budget.
A perfect blend of action and comedy, of the mystic and super-science, The All-New Atom was doomed from the start. But throughout Gail Simone's run, it was an enjoyable book, and I'd highly recommend that you give it a shot.









Shadowpact: Cancelled
- Once again, say it with me: Shadowpact spun out of Infinite Crisis. Shadowpact was a book dedicated to a team of magical misfits. Wow, who didn't see this cancellation coming. I'm sure some of you have heard my thoughts on the fanboy opinion of magic, and they all worked against this book.
"Why," posits the fanboy, "would I want to read a fun, well-written book with good art? There are people casting spells fer chrissakes."
"But...you just said so yourself - 'tis a fun, well-written book with pretty good art," quoth I.
"Ah," laughs the fanboy. "You misunderstand. Magic is totally for fags, my friend. Because I am Super Manly, I am going to read Wolverine."
"But," beginneth I, "is not Wolverine essentially magic? What with the whole 'a billion tons of super-metal welded to the spine of a midget who can heal from anything in seconds?"
"No," answers the fanboy. "No. That, my friend, is Science."
There may have been some exaggeration, or a vast amount of imagination, in that conversation, seasoned with bitterness and left in the oven far too long, but Shadowpact nonetheless had just such a problem, as have many other books in recent days. I can't say that highly-publicized stories like Spider-Man's frankly embarrassing 'One More Day' are much of a help in converting people to the 'magic is fine in the hands of a decent writer' side of things, though.
It's unfair, though - for all that Shadowpact was a pretty good book, it was far from the breathtaking example of awesome that was Blue Beetle or The All-New Atom. It was just...good. You picked up an issue of Shadowpact, you knew you were getting a pretty quality comic. Simple as that. It's unfortunate that it didn't last longer, and got spun into the current relatively average mini-series 'Reign in Hell', but it was fun while it lasted.

*

I could, of course, go on. A bunch of books have been cancelled in recent months that seem to be heralding some sort of bizarre comic book armageddon, while perennial mediocrities like Green Lantern swim in a vast pool of adoration.

Still, why focus on the bad? Sometimes you must, I admit, to clear yourself, to prepare yourself for more wholesome fare in the future. And thus shall I do. I recent months, I have let slack my list of The Best Books You Aren't Reading. An enormous part of this is because I am reasonably sure that they are not widely-read. Of the audience of this blog with which I am familiar, few have the resources or interest to pick up a comic book merely on my say so, however awesome my say so might be.

However, as someone who is absolutely convinced that I have better taste than everyone else alive - well, okay, not everyone else, but, I have better taste than at least five living people right now, and that'll have to do for you all - I feel a peculiar responsibility to nonetheless inform you of all the juicy offerings that are out there, waiting for you to come and save them, or at least distract them from their imminent doom.

And so with that, I leave you. I hope all of you have a fabulous night, and I hope that I will be forgiven for interjecting the occasional less-than-polite comment. Not every insult is directed at you, faceless fanboy - they are merely comments on broad, sad trends I occasionally see pop up. I shall, I swear to you all, be more hopeful from here on out.

At least until the next Cancellation Season.

Signing off,
-Still bitter about the cancellation of Veronica Mars

New Watchmen Trailer

For those interested in such things, a new trailer was released for the upcoming Watchmen film.



Okay, looks good. I get that we're supposed to be excited. Hell, I am excited, and I'm not the biggest Watchmen fan on Earth. But...does anyone else think it's a little odd that we keep getting new trailers and images for a movie that won't be out for 4 more months?

Now, yeah, it worked for Dark Knight. I was worried there, too, that all the good bits would be in the trailers (not my biggest Watchmen worry, but that's for later), since we got, y'know, seven thousand different trailers. And yet, TDK still managed to honestly wow me in a way that a movie hasn't in quite some time now. I hope Watchmen will manage something similar.

Watchmen, though...I just don't know how it will translate to film. Yes, I would qualify Watchmen as literature...but is a literal, almost shot-for-panel adaptation the best way to preserve that? Or, is that merely spending a frankly embarrassing amount of money jerking off Alan Moore? I mean, not saying the man doesn't deserve it after what happened to From Hell, V for Vendetta, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen...but it just seems like a shot-for-panel adaptation is a little...hollow?

Maybe it's just nerves before the movie comes out. Watchmen was, after all, a huge step forward for comics nerds. It has also pretty widely been considered unfilmable. If it works? Who knows what other 'unfilmable' comics might get a shot?

And if nothing else, there's the additional bonus that the first trailer, well-placed before the best-selling movie of the '00's, dramatically upped the sales of the Watchmen collections.

Anyway, hope you all have a great day. With a lack of VSRealms, I shall make a more VSsy post soon, as well as some 'posts ordering you to go read awesome comics, and probably a few other things.

Stay classy, lady and two gents.

Monday, November 10, 2008

MEV Preview: Karolina Dean



By now, of course, you’ve all seen the fantastic Runaways previews over at the VS System facebook page. From those two powerful cards, Old Lace and Victor Mancha, you can clearly see what the Runaways are all about.

Decking.

When was the last time VS had a good decking team? The Secret Society of DJL had a fair bit of it, but were generally more powerful when they tore their own deck apart. Michael Barnes made a dedicated discard deck way back when, teaming up Secret Society, Injustice Gang, and Underworld, as well as a number of others, but despite how hard some players might have tried to pull off an Emperor Joker win, it’s always remained relatively elusive.

Blessedly, no more. The Runaways seem to have a powerful core- Victor can tear through an opponent’s deck with alarming rapidity all the way until we arrive at Old Lace, a classy alternate win condition.

Today, I’m going to introduce you to another Runaways standby, Karolina Dean, also known as…Lucy in the Sky.



Karolina Dean offers a solid alternative to Victor (especially for those who build on a budget...like me) while also definitely complementing him. She’s a respectable under-drop, thanks to her ability. Your opponent knows that, if they swing down-curve into her, there’s a fair chance that they’re getting stunned back, thanks to her persistent DEF-lowering ability, and she makes DEF pumps on your opponent’s behalf a risky proposition, as her ability makes her a permanent attack pump just waiting for an opponent to try you.

The logical problem is, of course, the fact that Karolina Dean is a 4/5 3-drop – all your opponent needs to do is swing their 3 into her, and leave their 4 free to wreck your board, a problem compounded by a need to underdrop if you want her and Victor out at the same time. Thanks to flight and range, however, that’s less of a worry – she can be shoved into the back row so that you can guarantee to make the best of each turn, whether that involves attacking with her or letting her ability fire.



Of course, if you don’t want to underdrop, Victor is obviously your best bet on 3 in a dedicated deck destruction theme, and Karolina adds the always risky prospect of introducing a little too much luck into your game. After all, you could hit a low-drop they no longer need, giving you a minimal pump and filtering their deck of chaff. Karolina, however, has one specific area in which she shines.

Sealed play.

Karolina Dean is a 4/5 3-drop with flight and range – already a decent body, she adds a persistent attack pump to your sealed deck. And while you might not see Victor and Old Lace in your packs, chances are fair that Karolina will pop up. Milling a single card of a sixty card deck is notably less impressive than milling a single card of a thirty card deck, and when you add on to that the fact that she can lower the DEF of an opposing character every turn, she becomes a solid play, on or off team.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Remember to Vote!

(language NSFW)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

VS: Bring Your Own Two Teams - Avengers/Squadron Supreme Edition

Most of you know by now my fascination with the Avengers team-attack theme, and my desperate wish that they had gotten an effect reminiscent of Legendary Battles and of Playroom in MUN, especially now that my favorite theme is trapped in the hellish limbo known as Golden Age play. You also know that, after BYOTT was announced, they were the first deck I built and presented to you all.

Now, I was planning on doing a segment today trying to utilize Warworld for the BYOTT format, but the deck I had built just wasn't doing it for me. That isn't to say that it wasn't good - most of the decks I present to you are average, more theory than gameplay. It just wasn't satisfying enough, I suppose.

However, while combing through the cards that I thought I would enjoy using Warworld with, I began to look at Squadron Supreme. Squad was the first 'competitive' deck I ever built, and by that, I mean it was the first deck that my friends essentially gave me, with the sage advice to "Stop playing that frankly embarrassing Kang Lords X concoction and try and win a freaking game." They quickly came to regret this act of charity.

But we all know that the Squad No-Hand theme could be explosive. And I'm sure that most of you were aware that Squad had another theme. "Yes," I hear you say. "They had the No-Hand theme, and they had a theme that involved getting rid of the cards in their hand, right?"

"No," I say to you, "but verily didst they have a theme in which they did absolutely no breakthrough for any reason. And I do not know why."

One of the most potent cards this theme brought us was called Project Utopia, and it reads as follows....

Project Utopia
3
Choose a Squadron Supreme character you control.
Ongoing: Whenever the chosen character stuns a defender, that defender's controller loses 4 endurance.

Whenever the chosen character causes breakthrough, KO it.

Well, when I saw this card during the building of my Warworld deck, I certainly went, "...Quicksilver!" and thus was this deck born.

PROJECT UTOPIA
4x Jarvis, Honorary Avenger
2x Rick Jones, Hero’s Best Friend
2x Speed, Thomas Shepard * Young Avenger
2x Doctor Decibel, Anton Decibel

4x Natasha Romanoff <> Black Widow, Super Spy
2x Wasp, Janet Van Dyne-Pym
2x Captain America, The Patior * Secret Avenger

4x Quicksilver, Mutant Avenger
2x Patriot, Elijah Bradley * Young Avenger
2x Lady Lark, Skylark
1x Black Panther, T’challa

2x Amphibian, Kingsley Rice

1x Wolverine, Secret Avenger

4x Playroom
4x Utopia Isle

4x Project Utopia
4x Legendary Battles
4x Reckless Youth
4x Switching Sides
4x Liberating Number 42

Do you remember when I extolled with great verbosity the virtues of Playroom, one of the key cards of the Avengers team attack strategy? It was a few weeks back, and I told you it totally rocked. It wasn't a subtle card, but that 4 damage could add up right quick with Quicksilver.

Well, with further thought, Project Utopia means that it can REALLY add up something fierce. A single Project Utopia, naming Quicksilver, means that every team attack stun he gets nets you over 8 points of endurance stun loss. Assuming they have a 2, a 3, and a 4 on turn four, and you have a Playroom and a Project Utopia, that's 34 damage. Imagine if you were playing against an off-curve deck? And, of course, you can have multiple Project Utopia's out at the same time....

There is, though, a drawback to Project Utopia. One of the best things about Quicksilver is that, after the board is clear, he can attack directly. Yes, you're gaining a significant amount of damage, but is it worth losing that pumpable direct attack? I think it definitely is...but just in case, I threw in Switching Sides. After Quicksilver demolishes your opponent's board, he can make nice with their highest drop and invite them over for tea. If you played a Legendary Battles that turn, that leaves you with 0 stunned characters, a massive endurance swing, and your opponent's highest drop.

Just to play it safe, however, I added a card called Utopia Isle, which reads as such...

Utopia Isle
2
To flip, exhaust two Squadron Supreme characters you control.
Whenever an attacker causes breakthrough while attacking a character, that attacker's controller loses 3 endurance.

You won't be causing my breakthrough on your attacks, but your opponents very well could be, and a fast-enough deck could outrush you. With this, though, even when they're hitting you as hard as they can, you're hitting back.

As always, I'm not entirely satisfied with the character selection - Quicksilver and Natasha are perfect, and it's my personal belief that Wolverine is the perfect finisher for the deck. He and Quicksilver can team into their last remaining character with a Legendary Battles, causing 13 damage and then letting Wolverine ready for a direct swing. Jarvis is nice, thanks to the lack of search (and no, I can't afford Avengers Reassembled), and Amphibian offers you a nice option just in case you don't want to underdrop on 4, as he can bring you back a plot twist you really need.

I would also seriously think about making room for AIDA, to prevent an opponent from exhaust Quicksilver before he can attack. You need Quicksilver to be free to attack, and AIDA helps guarantee that.

Still, the deck looks to be pretty fun, a slightly riskier but notably faster version of my X-Men/Avengers team attack deck. Hope you all enjoyed, and I'll see you all again soon!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Weekday Update

At the end of each month, I'm going to give a short update on my life and my writing, divorced from me telling you what to read and me making strange VS concoctions. Why am I going to do this? Because...because...I'm not actually sure why. Rest assured, the comics goodness will be returning shortly!

The two stories I made mention of last month - Pittsburgh Blue and I Am Very Important - were both rejected. While this doesn't necessarily surprise me, it is nonetheless disappointing. I will be trying to find a place to resubmit each of them, and you'll find out if I do.

Spacewesterns.com is accepting submissions, and as weird as it sounds, the second I heard the name of the site I came up with a story. It's not done, but I'm currently working on The Lonesome Death of Kara Inanna for submission, and, again, if I complete it, you'll hear about it.

Finally, it's National Novel Writing Month! If you've never heard of it and fancy yourself a writer, I recommend you check out their website - it's a strange concept, but it appeals to me, so I've signed up to give it a shot this month. The goal is, of course, to write a novel in a single month. Yes, 50,000 word minimum. One month. They do not help you get it placed, they don't help you sell it, they don't critique it. Why are you doing it? Because you hate yourself.

Nonetheless, as anyone who knows me knows, I'm so full of self-loathing I could pop, so this is right up my alley! Between this and 'Lonesome Death', I'll be writing a frankly embarrassing amount of fiction, but never fear - the blog will not be ignored! The reason for the recent lack of posts involves a dispute between me and my Internet provider, who shall not be named but who I wish to smite with the power of a million exploding suns. When that is resolved, expect posts detailing some interesting comics, decks featuring cards that no competent VS player would ever use (including a deck based around Warworld...because how great was Warworld?), and other such generic ramblings as you've come to expect from The Seventh Soldier of Apathy!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

VS: Bring Your Own Two Teams - Revenge Squad/League of Assassins Edition

When I first got into VS, I rarely, if ever, built competent decks. It’s nice to see that some things never change, huh? Yeah, you know!

*ahem*

Anyways, I wasn’t a good enough player or a good enough deck-builder to delve too deeply into strategy, but I thoroughly enjoyed one particular set of articles on Metagame.com – Breaking Ground. And one of my favorite articles over there introduced me to Plague Counters, a little-used League of Assassins theme that encompasses all of three cards in the entirety of the game.

Of course, that deck’s creation was back before the Revenge Squad was refeatured, giving them a single, massive bonus to the deck: Professor Emil Hamilton <> Ruin, Power Suit.

For those unfamiliar with Clench Virus, it’s a 3-cost plot twist that reads thus:

Play only if you control a League of Assassins character.
Ongoing: At the start of your attack step, put a plague counter on target character.
Whenever a character receives a plague counter, if that character has a number of plague counters greater than its cost, KO that character.

Not too shabby, huh? Of course, there’s a simple problem – just one of these isn’t going to do much. Two will obviously do more, but what you really want is 3-4 of them in your row. Three-four of them in a row can start knocking off characters every 1-2 turns, especially when combined with Poisoned!, a minor pump that’ll also give a plague counter.

So, here goes a modern take…

Plague Rats

4x Winslow Schott <> Toyman, Child’s Play

4x Terra-Man, Toby Manning
4x Atomic Skull, Joe Martin

4x Professor Emil Hamilton <> Ruin, Power Suit
3x The Mad Dog, Rabid Killer

4x Maxima, Empress of Almerac
2x Metallo, Kryptonite Heart

2x Talia, Daughter of Madness

2x Satanus, Evil Incarnate

4x Mountain Stronghold, Non-Unique

4x Tower of Babel
4x Poisoned!
4x Clench Virus
4x Executive Privilege
4x Never-Ending Battle
2x Hostage Situation
1x State of the Union
3x Death of Superman

So, there’s the game. The obvious stuff first – you want as many Clench Viruses in your row as you can get. Hostage Situation isn’t bad, and Executive Privilege is great, but you want some Clench Virus action going as soon as possible. Your mulligan is a Mountain Stronghold or Emil Hamilton, though obviously Clench Virus or Executive Privilege can be tough to pass up.

The deck plays exactly as you’d think it would. You keep their board clear using plague counters, refresh Poisoned when you need to with Winslow Schott. Terra Man, Atomic Skull, and Winslow Schott can all be played for free thanks to Talia, while Executive Privilege and Mountain Stronghold will both beef up your search and offer discards to her ability. Hostage Situation gives those low-drops something to do just in case, while Never-Ending Battle lets you push through the damage you need to on their diminishing board (with help from Death of Superman) to try and end things. Only bring out Satanus if you have initiative on 6 and you know you can't kill - a team attack into their 6 will net you a vastly superior position on 7, and your board will only keep improving.

Meanwhile, if you’re playing against Darkseid’s Elite or some other team that will fool around with your resource row, a single stun on Emil can send him scurrying for a copy of State of the Union, which will prevent opponents from targeting your row. And, finally, Tower of Babel proves to be one of the ultimate utility cards in the Bring Your Own Two-Team format, preventing a vast variety of support abilities – no legend support and no generic cards make Tower of Babel particularly nasty.

That’s all for tonight, but I’ll be back in a day or two with more fun stuff. Hope you had a good weekend!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

For those of you unfamiliar with the work of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, I've provided a link to their homepage. I know that with the current state of the economy, asking for a donation is a bit much...but right now, I just want to draw attention to them.

The CBLDF is dedicated to defending the first amendment rights of comics creators, sellers, and consumers. A good example of their work can be found in their most recent case: http://www.cbldf.org/pr/archives/000372.shtml.

If you don't like donating and enjoy collecting autographs, they also have a store available with signed trades and hardcovers from big name creators like Jeff Smith, Ed Brubaker, and Robert Kirkman. Meanwhile, the Board of Directors of the Fund includes writer Neil Gaiman, Peter David, and Paul Levitz.

A first amendment group for comics nerds.

Enjoy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Authors You Might Like: Guy Gavriel Kay

So, I’ve talked a lot about comics, giving recommendations for modern books that I think deserve some love. I’ve had a few rants, on things from current comics trends to politics. I’ve talked about TV shows I loved, albeit briefly, and I’ve thrown down some VS decks that, I definitely admit, were built largely because I was a huge fan of the teams or characters I used.

Still, I haven’t talked much about movies, video games, whatever. Books. I loved to read, growing up. Didn’t actually like comics until I was a senior in high school when, after reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, one friend lent me Sandman and another followed it up with Watchmen. I was hooked.

But, before then, in high school, I read a book every damn day. Every day of every year, I pushed my way through a book. Sometimes it was a re-reading, but that’s where a bulk of my cash went, and the librarians in town knew me by sight. Those years were a big part of the reason as to why I’m in graduate school now, studying to be a librarian.

I’ve always enjoyed fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction, all that. I’ve enjoyed many other genres, of course, everything ranging from the classics through romance all the way on into noir. So, given that I’ve read a few thousand books by now, I figure, hey, maybe I’ve read one or two books that you haven’t. And even if I haven’t, even if the course of your readings has so perfectly mapped my own, I love the sound of my own voice, the process of recording my thoughts.

Now, this isn’t the only time I’ll be suggesting authors or books to you, to check out, but it is the first time I’ll be doing so, which means it’s a little bit special. Obviously, this means that I should choose a writer that’s special to me, right? A writer you’ve probably never heard of who writes books that I believe contribute something to life, or something.

Or, you know, I ould choose the author I’ve been reading a lot of lately. And I will. ‘Cuz it’s easy, and this particular author is seven shades of awesome.

Guy Gavriel Kay is a Canadian fantasy writer, and he’s been writing for over two decades now, I believe. He opened with what I recall being a fairly generic, substandard fantasy trilogy – the Fionavar Tapestry. I won’t recommend it to you, as I never managed to make it beyond the first book in the series, but I haven’t tried in seven or eight years.

However, after that, a little time passed, Kay had a lengthy novel titled Tigana, a far less-traditional fantasy novel set in a magical world that bore some vague resemblances to a medieval Italy. Tigana was a quality fantasy book with a novel concept – a recently-conquered country was punished for their defiance by having their nation’s name and history stripped from all minds save their own. They were renamed ‘Lower Corte’ after a nation, Corte, they’d warred with for decades, and nearly taxed into oblivion. Only those born in Tigana could remember anything about it...and once they died out, their history, art, and legends were lost forever. Some of them, though, were still in revolution, hoping to overthrow the conquerors and regain their name. The book asks a lot of interesting questions about the nature of rebellion, revenge, and power, three very common themes throughout Kay’s work.

As an early novel, it was definitely interesting, and it was extraordinarily well-handled, in my opinion. He followed that with A Song for Arbonne, a novel with similar themes about a country launching a holy war against another for worshipping in another manner…as well as maybe one or two slightly more political reasons. Apparently, history buffs might recognize elements of the Albigensian Crusade in the story, and this sets the trend for a great deal of what Kay’s novels do.

The Lions of Al-Rassan is heavily based on a certain period in Spanish history, while the Sarantine Mosaic was based on Constantinople and The Last Light of the Sun has its basis in the reign of Alfred the Great, and the most recent novel, Ysabel, takes place in the modern day, but is deeply involved in a legend about a battle between the Celts and a Roman leader, Marius.

So, if you’re a fan of well-crafted political fantasy, I’d recommend giving a Kay’s novels a shot. They aren’t flawless, for all that I’ve spent the last four-hundred words gushing about him, but in a genre that sees countless Lord of the Rings clones, he’s a breath of fresh air.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

VS: Bring Your Own Two Teams - Crime Lords/JLI Edition

The Family. A criminal organization. If it gets big enough, if you get deep enough, it could be like a family. Really, anything can be like a family. A small super-team, no matter how ineffectual and goofy, could be like a family. It was, for the JLI. And the Crime Lords, like any good fictional criminal gang, places a lot of emphasis on family, on loyalty.

If you read the VS segments of my blog, you know that one of the teams that, for some inexplicable reason, I've always been quite fond of is Marvel's Crime Lords. For a long time considered one of the worst teams in the game, I loved them nonetheless, and it's always a pleasure to be able to build a Crime Lords deck utilizing old, and with MUN, new cards together.

Another team I've been fond of, though I neither discuss nor make use of them often, is the JLI. A team of goof-off super-heroes having bizarre adventures more suited to sit-com than spandex, the JLI offered an intriguing mix of comedy and drama in the comics, and so they are one of many teams that I'm desperately glad to see in VS.

In the newest Bring Your Own Two Teams format, you get to pick two teams, Golden Age, and you don't have to run a team-up. On the other hand, though, you flat-out can't run any generic cards. Almost every single type of deck in existence loses a lot from this. Savage Beatdown, Mobilize, Birthing Chambers - these are important, powerful cards, and we can't use them. So, you build around it.

The JLI offer two things to the Crime Lords in the way of characters - Martian Manhunter, a board-reinforcement guy on a team that enjoys reinforcement, and Animal Man, a character who gets bigger whenever he enters combat. They also offer effects that will allow Animal Man multiple safe attacks in a turn in Safety in Numbers, and full-on attack negation in Running Interference.

Meanwhile, the Crime Lords offer you Underground Laboratory, a brutally efficient card-draw engine (I wonder if Checkmate could do anything with that...?), a way to make Animal Man your defender whenever you want in Armed Escort, and one of the best defense pumps available in Drive-By Shooting. They also offer a low-cost army character that recovers characters and has range. These things, they are very nice.

So, once again, I present to you - a deck using pet teams and themes that are vastly enhanced by the lack of a team-up needed! Woohoo! I can literally smell your thrill from over here.

6x The Hand, Army * HYDRA
8x AIM Agents, Army * AIM
4x Sue Dibny, Charismatic Coordinator


4x Sin, Synthia Schmidt * RAID
2x Arnim Zola, The Bio-Fanatic * RAID

4x Animal Man, Buddy Baker

3x Martian Manhunter, Founding Member

1x The Sleeper, Doomsday Device * RAID

4x Armed Escort

4x Underground Laboratory

4x Drive-By Shooting
4x UN General Assembly
4x Good Night, Sweet Prince
4x Running Interference
4x Safety in Numbers

And that's that. Obviously, you want Animal Man out on 4 or 5. On or off initiative doesn't matter - he's an extremely efficient 4-drop, nothing more, and one that allows you to under-drop in later turns without penalizing yourself in available ATK/DEF. Martian Manhunter means each and every single one of those army guys are going to be reinforced and a simple exhaust will equal crazy card-draw, while the recovery ability of The Hand, and the ability of Sin, will allow you to negate attacks on Animal Man with Running Interference. Arnim Zola can turn otherwise dead army-characters into a 4-point swing each turn, and when The Sleeper comes down, that should be all she wrote.

I hope you've enjoyed yourself. It could definitely use some tweaking from a more experienced deck-builder, but the deck is certainly fun. I've got a few more decks I'm playing with in my head right now, for future use, and coming up pretty soon we'll see the blog expand into discussion of a few fiction authors some of you might just get a kick out of, as well as the usual rigamarole of my own personal blatherings.

Hope the weekend was great, and enjoy the semi-holiday tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Year of the Bastard

Well, as I suspect you’ve noticed, it’s comin’ up on election time. I know a lot of people who, despite complaining an awful lot about The Way Things Are really, honestly don’t care, and thus won’t vote. Obviously, I can’t tell you what to do, and equally obviously, many of you aren’t like this, but I suppose I want to urge you all to do the research on the candidates and head out there, when the time comes, to vote.

And, because I’m me, I have to do it in the most amusing way, to me, possible. Generally, that involved telling you to read something. This is no exception, as, in an election year, I feel compelled to offer up this particular suggestion: Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan.

Transmet features Spider Jerusalem, drugged out gonzo journalist in the style of Hunter S. Thompson (with notably more violence), and a fair number of volumes deal with his coverage of the election and subsequent clashes with the President as he tries as hard as he can to make an increasingly apathetic culture care about who will be running the country and how they'll be doing it.

For all the absolutely insane sci-fi elements to the story, the story definitely rings true to where we are in the world today. We live in a world where people remain gleefully uneducated about many of the most serious issues facing our nation while turning elections into a matter of “who’s the most like me?” We’re blinded by sound bites of flashy issues, ignoring follow through, ignoring compromise.



Transmet is hardly a new book, but there are a lot of people who’ve never heard of it, and a lot more who’ve never read it. It’s a frenetic, powerful book that’s wildly entertaining, and while it’s preachy at times, it’s relevant, and the scolding is well-deserved.

So, head up to your local library and ask about Transmet. Many public libraries have the full series, and others will think about ordering it if you ask. It’s a worthwhile read, especially in an election year, and if you aren’t interested in spending the money yourself, there’s no reason you can’t ask a library to do it for you.

Monday, October 6, 2008

VS: Bring Your Own Two Teams - Avengers/X-Men Edition

Whenever a new format comes out, I end up hoping and praying that it’ll let me play with my single favorite sub-theme of all time – Avengers team-attack. I know that the Avengers part isn’t part of the theme, but I still find that the Avengers in MAV are the most fun, competitive team-attackers ever made. Much as I love the Young Avengers content in MUN, the lack of effects like Legendary Battles, Playroom, Quicksilver, and Natasha make it so that they can’t quite hold a candle.
They are, however, an excellent addition, because aside from those four cards, the old Avengers lacked strong team-attack based characters like Patriot, Speed, and Vision, and effects like Liberating Number 42 provide a frankly brutal amount of potential card draw.

Of course, the most recent announced format is Bring Your Own Two Team, a golden age format that automatically teams up two teams of your choice, but bans generic cards of any sort, like most of the most popular, powerful cards: Mobilize, Savage Beatdown, Blinding Rage, etc…. It also, I believe, bans Legendary cards, unless they also reference one of your two team affiliations.

Since the format’s Golden Age, a format that I often find less than appealing, it allows me access to my old Avengers team-attack core. And since it automatically teams up, I don’t have to worry nearly as much about getting a team-up online, opening up roughly 8 slots in the deck.

The X-Men don’t offer a bunch of powerful effects, but they don’t have to – the Avengers pack a powerful punch – but between their three features, they definitely have the tools to fill the holes in the Avengers roster, with powerful team attack centric characters like Cyclops, Slim, and the slightly toned-down functional reprint of Quicksilver in Nightcrawler, Man of the Cloth, not to mention potent plot twists like Time Breach, Bamf!, and Turnabout.

While many of the hardest hitting decks are slowed down slightly in this format thanks to a lack of generics, this deck is vastly enhanced by the format, not needing to worry about getting a team-up online ASAP, and most of the best team-attack support cards have been hard-stamped to a team. Still, I should stop talking up the deck, as I’m sure a more gifted deck-builder could do something far more impressive with the basics, and just give you my amateurish first draft of the deck.

So, without further ado, I present to you…

GABYOTTAXMTA!

4x Jubilee, Jubilation Lee
4x Natasha Romanoff <> Black Widow, Super Spy
3x Quicksilver, Mutant Avenger
3x Captain America, The Patriot * Secret Avenger
1x Falcon, Secret Avenger
1x Hawkeye <> Ronin, Secret Avenger
1x Patriot, Elijah Bradley * Young Avenger
1x Kate Bishop <> Hawkeye, Young Avenger
3x Speed, Thomas Shepard * Young Avenger
3x Cyclops, Slim
3x Nightcrawler, Man of the Cloth
2x Professor X, Idealistic Dreamer
1x Monica Rambeau <> Captain Marvel, Lady of Light

4x Playroom
3x Muir Island

4x Legendary Battles
4x Liberating Number 42
3x Switching Sides
4x Time Breach
4x Bamf!
4x Turnabout

The deck is immensely flexible – Natasha or Slim on 2, Nightcrawler or Quicksilver on 3, or underdrop them later. You want access to Legendary Battles and Bamf! as soon as possible, and Playroom is the most brutal, and necessary, card of them all. Without a ‘once per turn’ trigger, Playroom will kill a weenie deck as early as turn 4 – if they have 5 1-drops and you have Nightcrawler and Quicksilver with a single Legendary Battles, you just dealt 36 damage and lost none...and if you have a Liberating Number 42, you just rallied for 10 character cards as well. Even against a curve deck, the damage adds up quickly, and the sheer number of ways you can hit the opponent can make it difficult to lock down.

So, there’s my first BYOTT.ga deck. I hope you enjoyed, and I’ll be back in a day or two with a new update.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

Recent troubles with Verizon have forced me to cut back a tad on my Internet use, but I'm working through that right now as best I can, and thought I'd keep you all apprised of the situation. Meanwhile, not a huge update today, as I'll largely be job hunting, homework doing, working on a new story, scripting a comic, and reading - a fairly busy day. Still, I thought I'd give a list of what's to come on the Seventh Soldier of Apathy this month, beginning, in all likelihood, tomorrow, and in no particular order whatsoever.

On top of the occasional Clone Wars deck list, I'll be branching out and embracing the current Bring Your Own Two Teams format with a few strange deck lists.

Another 'The Best Books You Aren't Reading' or two, and a few extra comics related posts. On top of that, I figure I'll branch out even more and continue to flaunt my excellent taste by suggesting some fairly excellent novels in a variety of genres.

Reactions to the beginnings of the MEV previews, since we've now seen a grand total of 5 shockingly solid cards in a set that looks like it'll be a blast.

And finally, at the end of the month, updates on where my stories are submitted, and whether they've been rejected or accepted.

So, that's that. Another month on my blog as we come up on my one year anniversary. To my loyal reader in New York City, the one I think I have in Chicago, and another one I'm kind of confident about in mid-Ohio - I hope you have an excellent month, I hope you stick around, and if you have any sort of feedback on the kind of things you'd like to see more - or less! - of, feel free to let me know.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Brief Moment of Fanboyishness: MEV

'The' Ben Seck recently made a huge announcement on VSrealms earlier today. While there's a lot of goodies in there, there are three things that I wanted to focus on in this, my moment of fanboyishness.

1) I get a preview.
This is particularly exciting to me, as you might imagine. Seeing one or two cards ahead of time, writing up something, keeping mum on the Realms, it's all very exciting. Especially when I have such goodies to pick from...

2) Multiple Man Legends!
First off, let me just say that if you haven't read any of Peter David's current 'X-Factor' or his 'Madrox' mini, you're doing yourself a disservice. X-Factor has great art, interesting characters, bizarre plots - it has a whole lot going for it, thanks to Peter David.

It is, in fact, because of the current run on X-Factor that I'm such a fan of Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man. While he had once been a D-lister (at best), David revamped the character slightly, with a few more noir stylings and a interesting spin on his powers. Previously, he had just used his 'dupes' - multiples of himself, hence the name - as cannon fodder to toss at baddies, and, of course, as a get out of death free card from the writers.

PAD changed that, remembering that when he reabsorbed his dupes, he reabsorbed their memories, too. Madrox began to send dupes all over the world to learn things, and then reabsorbed them later, acquiring a considerable amount of knowledge. Of course, this wasn't without a price - when someone can make every choice, take every path, what's there to be excited of? Dupes began to pop up who were aspects of his repressed emotions - some were suicidal, some were sweet, some were mean, some wanted to sleep with any and every teammate. Dealing with these problems breathed new life into the character, and it's exciting to see him (and hopefully his current team, Layla Miller included) get some more content in the game.

3) Runaways!
Every Marvel set, I've hopes and wished that the Runaways would finally get some content. After all, they're one of the few successful 'new' properties in mainstream comics. They're onto their second volume, have gone through a number of line-ups, have been a part of every major event in the last three or so years at Marvel. And yet, no Runaways...until now.

As I did for the Young Avengers, I'll try and provide some brief character profiles, maybe a few images, in preparation for their arrival onto the sweet shores of VS. Be excited. Not for my rundowns, I mean, but for their inclusion. That's the awesome bit.

4) I GET TO DO A PREVIEW.
Thanks.

Alright. It's time to get some work done, but this was definitely some exciting news to end the night on.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Weekend Update

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but I really do enjoy writing. I'm not quite my finest when it comes to blogging, but then, I'm not exactly blowing the roof off the fiction scene, either. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoy writing, and I figure, if you're a regular reader, you probably don't mind reading my writing, so I thought I would post an occasional update of where my fiction is or could be in the near future, in case any of you are bored or curious.

First off, I have a story under consideration for "Chicago Overcoat", a print anthology based off the theme 'hard-boiled detective meets (blank)', in which you mix up the noir genre with whatever the hell you want. My story, titled "White Pittsburgh", mixes it up a little with some minor urban fantasy in the form of ghost hunting.

I only have one other story currently under consideration, and that's for Sam's Dot Publishing, which has an upcoming print anthology titled "The Book of Tentacles", a collection of stories that involve tentacles in some way or another. Some will be horror, some will probably be a little porny. My "I Am Very Important" is an absurdist comedy.

This brief bit of self-pimpery comes in the form of, if I'm right, my 100th post of 2008. I don't know how either story will turn out, in the long run. I enjoy both stories, but neither is, I believe, a guaranteed entry. Still, wish me luck - and I'll definitely keep you all in the loop with the status of these stories and any other submissions I make in the near future.

Have a great weekend, all of you, and thanks for sticking with me!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Preview Season Begins!


-the facebook group

After months of silence, we apparently have our first MEV Preview, courtesy of the VS System facebook group, and given with the additional note that previews will begin in two short weeks. The preview's definitely a solid, insanely versatile card for the Skrulls - it was almost certain they'd get some legacy, and I suppose we'll soon find out if they get a full refeature in the set, given Secret Invasion. Whatever - I'm definitely looking forward to the beginnings of preview season!

Head on over to VSRealms to join the discussion!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pre-MEV Hint Review

With previews coming up, we already know a number of teams that are likely to appear, but what do you really want to see from the set? Are you dying for Madrox, Layla, and the good folks at X-Factor Investigations - or do your tastes run a little more old-school? Runaways or Power Pack for the 'teen guest stars' that have been mentioned? And teams aren't they telling us about...?

In fact, you know, let's go do a quick rundown of some rumors dropped by UDE in the past months on MEV. They've been pretty tight-lipped, first discussing the MUN release, and then going completely under the radar for about 4 months. Still, they do love to drop hints, and so we do have something to work with.

First off...

"Just to let you guys know, X-Men will not be a major refeature of this set, nor will Brotherhood. Each of these teams will appear as part of Dual Affiliation and such, but the main teams will be new."
-TBS

Well, unless this has changed, this is kind of interesting. Only a year or two ago, they seemed to be going in the complete other direction, getting rid of the 'infinite color wheel'. And, let's face it, teams like X-Force, X-Factor, the Marauders, etc... aren't exactly big draws. The storylines the set is based on are, though, and it'll be nice to see if they can repeat the magic from Infinite Crisis - a respectable set that doesn't focus on the same four teams and get some of the lesser-knowns into the game.

"YAUS!!! vindicated!!!
i knew there was at least one dude out there who'd like some Liefeld art in Versus!"
-TBZ

...it looks like we could only go so long before we, too, were tainted by Rob Liefeld.

In response to my guess that the Sentinels may get a small refeature...

"didn't Bastion just pop up in X-Force? hmmm..."
-TBZ

While a confirmation of absolutely nothing, this seems to lend to the guess that we'll definitely be seeing some Sentinels in the set - if not a full refeature, then at least enough of one to use the frequent Sentinels characters that have popped up in the last few years. Or, this could just be his way of saying that we'll get one or two Sentinels in this set, too, and Bastion'll be one of 'em.

"contrary to what has been put out in the marketing packet, which was based on extremely early plans, House of M will not play a major role in Marvel Evolution"
-TBZ

Sadly, this makes it less likely that I'll see Layla as a major presence on X-Factor, and this makes me sad. Though, other than Peter David stealing Layla, HoM was really pretty bad, so this decision makes me pretty happy.

In reference to a question about Weapon Plus...

"all i can say is "be patient" and "all good things come to those who wait." right now, we've only announced 3 of the 5 main teams in the set. there's also the mini teams and the--"
-TBZ

Oh, TBZ, you tease. So, X-Factor, the Marauders, and X-Force are only three of the 5 main teams - who might the others be? Sentinels? Shi'ar? The Runaways have been strongly hinted at as the 'teen guest stars' and one of the mini-teams of the set, and what else could he have meant after the 'the--'? Or maybe the teen guest stars will be the New X-Men (not Morrison's awesome ones, the other ones)? The Acolytes, Purifiers, and Reavers are possibilities, I suppose, given their import to the story - the Purifiers especially. Perhaps the Purifiers and the Sentinels will be mashed into a single team? And Weapon X via Predator X? They seem likely, given that they already received a mini-team treatment recently, and TBZ appears to be a fan of the whole Weapon Plus idea. And the Exiles have been hinted at...

So, we know there are 5 main teams. We know that Gambit, Cyclops, Deadpool, and Cable are all getting some Legend treatment. We know X-Factor, X-Force, and Sinister's Marauders are three of the five main teams, and while Gambit and Cyclops fit neatly on there, Cable and Deadpool don't. Cable could be on his own, but Deadpool hints at an extended Weapon X roster. Sentinels are almost guaranteed to see some content, and the Runaways and Exiles both seem quite likely as mini-teams. House of M will play a minor role, and X-Men and Brotherhood won't be core teams here.

If I had to guess...and I do, because I'm bored...

X-Factor
X-Force
Marauders
Weapon X
Sentinels

will be the main teams, followed by

Exiles
Runaways
Shi'ar

as the mini-teams. Not the most intriguing line-up to me, but UDE has a track-record of making exciting sets regardless of how little I care about the teams involved. I'm really hoping they don't follow the trend of picking the versions of each team I care least about and give me some serious Madrox/Layla-era X-Factor content, and we see characters who are long overdue, like Fantomex and the Stepford Cuckoos. I hope the Liefeld art is kept to a minimum, while we get at least a few Quitely pieces. I hope that the Runaways will be playable by themselves. Mostly, I hope previews start soon!

What are you guys hoping to see fill those empty slots?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

With Apologies, a Brief Political Interlude

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I'm an enormous Aaron Sorkin fan. The West Wing, Sports Night, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip are three of the best TV shows I've ever seen, and his movies are pretty great, too. He is, in fact, one of my favorite writers, despite his numerous stylistic flaws. And he's extremely political.

Now, I'm a fairly political person, though not excessively so. I agree with Democrats on most things; Republicans on some. I haven't done enough research on Obama to say for sure that I'm voting for him, but I have done enough research on McCain and especially Palin to know that I could not, in good conscience, vote for them. Still, I won't vote for Obama just to defeat the Republicans - I'll vote for whoever I believe can best serve our country, regardless of whether they have a chance to win.

That said, this exchange definitely made me smile.

From NYT Op-Ed columnist Maureen Dowd...

_
_


Now that he’s finally fired up on the soup-line economy, Barack Obama knows he can’t fade out again. He was eager to talk privately to a Democratic ex-president who could offer more fatherly wisdom — not to mention a surreptitious smoke — and less fraternal rivalry. I called the “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin (yes, truly) to get a read-out of the meeting. This is what he wrote:


BARACK OBAMA knocks on the front door of a 300-year-old New Hampshire farmhouse while his Secret Service detail waits in the driveway. The door opens and OBAMA is standing face to face with former President JED BARTLET.

BARTLET Senator.

OBAMA Mr. President.

BARTLET You seem startled.

OBAMA I didn’t expect you to answer the door yourself.

BARTLET I didn’t expect you to be getting beat by John McCain and a Lancôme rep who thinks “The Flintstones” was based on a true story, so let’s call it even.

OBAMA Yes, sir.

BARTLET Come on in.

BARTLET leads OBAMA into his study.

BARTLET That was a hell of a convention.

OBAMA Thank you, I was proud of it.

BARTLET I meant the Republicans. The Us versus Them-a-thon. As a Democrat I was surprised to learn that I don’t like small towns, God, people with jobs or America. I’ve been a little out of touch but is there a mandate that the vice president be skilled at field dressing a moose —

OBAMA Look —

BARTLET — and selling Air Force Two on eBay?

OBAMA Joke all you want, Mr. President, but it worked.

BARTLET Imagine my surprise. What can I do for you, kid?

OBAMA I’m interested in your advice.

BARTLET I can’t give it to you.

OBAMA Why not?

BARTLET I’m supporting McCain.

OBAMA Why?

BARTLET He’s promised to eradicate evil and that was always on my “to do” list.

OBAMA O.K. —

BARTLET And he’s surrounded himself, I think, with the best possible team to get us out of an economic crisis. Why, Sarah Palin just said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had “gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers.” Can you spot the error in that statement?

OBAMA Yes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aren’t funded by taxpayers.

BARTLET Well, at least they are now. Kind of reminds you of the time Bush said that Social Security wasn’t a government program. He was only off by a little — Social Security is the largest government program.

OBAMA I appreciate your sense of humor, sir, but I really could use your advice.

BARTLET Well, it seems to me your problem is a lot like the problem I had twice.

OBAMA Which was?

BARTLET A huge number of Americans thought I thought I was superior to them.

OBAMA And?

BARTLET I was.

OBAMA I mean, how did you overcome that?

BARTLET I won’t lie to you, being fictional was a big advantage.

OBAMA What do you mean?

BARTLET I’m a fictional president. You’re dreaming right now, Senator.

OBAMA I’m asleep?

BARTLET Yes, and you’re losing a ton of white women.

OBAMA Yes, sir.

BARTLET I mean tons.

OBAMA I understand.

BARTLET I didn’t even think there were that many white women.

OBAMA I see the numbers, sir. What do they want from me?

BARTLET I’ve been married to a white woman for 40 years and I still don’t know what she wants from me.

OBAMA How did you do it?

BARTLET Well, I say I’m sorry a lot.

OBAMA I don’t mean your marriage, sir. I mean how did you get America on your side?

BARTLET There again, I didn’t have to be president of America, I just had to be president of the people who watched “The West Wing.”

OBAMA That would make it easier.

BARTLET You’d do very well on NBC. Thursday nights in the old “ER” time slot with “30 Rock” as your lead-in, you’d get seven, seven-five in the demo with a 20, 22 share — you’d be selling $450,000 minutes.

OBAMA What the hell does that mean?

BARTLET TV talk. I thought you’d be interested.

OBAMA I’m not. They pivoted off the argument that I was inexperienced to the criticism that I’m — wait for it — the Messiah, who, by the way, was a community organizer. When I speak I try to lead with inspiration and aptitude. How is that a liability?

BARTLET Because the idea of American exceptionalism doesn’t extend to Americans being exceptional. If you excelled academically and are able to casually use 690 SAT words then you might as well have the press shoot video of you giving the finger to the Statue of Liberty while the Dixie Chicks sing the University of the Taliban fight song. The people who want English to be the official language of the United States are uncomfortable with their leaders being fluent in it.

OBAMA You’re saying race doesn’t have anything to do with it?

BARTLET I wouldn’t go that far. Brains made me look arrogant but they make you look uppity. Plus, if you had a black daughter —

OBAMA I have two.

BARTLET — who was 17 and pregnant and unmarried and the father was a teenager hoping to launch a rap career with “Thug Life” inked across his chest, you’d come in fifth behind Bob Barr, Ralph Nader and a ficus.

OBAMA You’re not cheering me up.

BARTLET Is that what you came here for?

OBAMA No, but it wouldn’t kill you.

BARTLET Have you tried doing a two-hour special or a really good Christmas show?

OBAMA Sir —

BARTLET Hang on. Home run. Right here. Is there any chance you could get Michelle pregnant before the fall sweeps?

OBAMA The problem is we can’t appear angry. Bush called us the angry left. Did you see anyone in Denver who was angry?

BARTLET Well ... let me think. ...We went to war against the wrong country, Osama bin Laden just celebrated his seventh anniversary of not being caught either dead or alive, my family’s less safe than it was eight years ago, we’ve lost trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, thousands of lives and we lost an entire city due to bad weather. So, you know ... I’m a little angry.

OBAMA What would you do?

BARTLET GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!

OBAMA Good to get that off your chest?

BARTLET Am I keeping you from something?

OBAMA Well, it’s not as if I didn’t know all of that and it took you like 20 minutes to say.

BARTLET I know, I have a problem, but admitting it is the first step.

OBAMA What’s the second step?

BARTLET I don’t care.

OBAMA So what about hope? Chuck it for outrage and put-downs?

BARTLET No. You’re elite, you can do both. Four weeks ago you had the best week of your campaign, followed — granted, inexplicably — by the worst week of your campaign. And you’re still in a statistical dead heat. You’re a 47-year-old black man with a foreign-sounding name who went to Harvard and thinks devotion to your country and lapel pins aren’t the same thing and you’re in a statistical tie with a war hero and a Cinemax heroine. To these aged eyes, Senator, that’s what progress looks like. You guys got four debates. Get out of my house and go back to work.

OBAMA Wait, what is it you always used to say? When you hit a bump on the show and your people were down and frustrated? You’d give them a pep talk and then you’d always end it with something. What was it ...?

BARTLET “Break’s over.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rant: Sci-Fi Lifestyle

"You are never going into space.
You will never own a jet pack.
Your car will never fly.
HIV will not be cured in your lifetime.
Cancer will not be cured in your lifetime.
The common cold will not be cured in your lifetime.
Don't these things bother you?

Suicide is the third biggest killer of teenagers in the United States.
In 1999 more people in America died from suicide than from homicide.
Do you think about this?

As anyone who ever read MyDeathSpace.com for any period of time know, the leading cause of death in America is automobile accident. This is generally interpolated into a number placed under the heading "accidental death." When the operation of cars is the leading cause of loss of life I'm not entirely sure how it comes under the term "accidental death." It wasn't a fucking accident, it was done by someone with a car. It's 2007 and we don't know how to operate cars without killing people. It's not a fucking accident if it was caused by someone getting into a one-ton metal bullet that cannot be operated with complete control at all times.

In Europe in 2004, 13000 kids – persons under the age of fourteen -- died due to poor water. It’s 2007 and the society does not yet understand how to operate water.

Are you thinking about this now?

People keep asking me what DOKTOR SLEEPLESS is about. This is what it's about.

Someone stole your future. Don't you ever wonder who?"

-Warren Ellis

Those ideas are what prompted Ellis to begin Doktor Sleepless, an ongoing comic that will shortly get the "Best Books You Aren't Reading" post.

But, despite the cause for that particular introduction to the post, that's not what it's about. And despite the heading, this isn't that much of a rant - more of a question, really.

What do you think the future will hold?

I mean, it's easy to throw out the vision of the future we all have from our childhood - the jet packs, the space ships, the machine-enhanced superstrength - but more and more, even if those are real, don't they seem...obsolete, almost? Worn out.

I mean, yeah, I wouldn't turn down any of that, and it is really freakin' cool to see all these things slowly coming into being. But how long until those are really feasible? What are the odds that, in my lifetime, I'd be able to buy any of those? And, I mean, as cool as any of it is, how long would it take for them to become commonplace? I mean, when I was born, what the hell was the Internet? A decade ago, who would believe that I can connect to the Internet while in a car? Think about things like twitter-feeds, RSS, and all that.

Think about how sci-fi the concept of RFID-tagging a VIP really is. Think about Second Life for a second. Hell, think about something as simple as sending a video you just took on your cell phone to your friend three states over.

The future is coming. Hell, the future is here. But, I still can't escape this niggling little feeling that we're all a little too cavalier about it. Maybe it's just me and the crowd I hang out with, but apathy seems to hold sway. Apathy's awesome for the things that don't matter, but for things like this...?

Don't worry - this isn't a drastic change in the blog's structure or purpose. This is more just something that I felt I had to share. I'll make other posts on this topic, directing you to sites like...

grinding.be

...where people with more time and skill are tracking outbreaks of the future in our modern society. But, the more I read, the more I realize that we can't wade through life as a culture proud of our illiteracy and apathy. So whenever I find something in my research that I find particularly interesting, I'll probably put it up - and I urge you to do the same, in comments here, on your own blogs, wherever. I know that it may be incongruous to place philosophy side by side with VS decks, but who really cares?

Now, it seems like there should be a message to end this, and I'm sure a cleverer writer would've found one. But...oh, well. This post was more an expression of recent thoughts than any sort of coherent, structured message to you. Still, if I can urge you to any sort of action, it's this: really think, sometime, about the future. About what you want the future to be like, and how you can help get it there.

Good night.