Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage / The Avenger #1

Doc Savage #1
DC Comics - $3.99
The Lord of Lightning - Darkness Falls
Paul Malmont - Writer
Howard Porter - Penciller
Art Thiebert - Inker
J.G. Jones - Cover
John Cassaday - Alternate Cover

I really wish the news was better. I am in the middle of reading "The Chinatown Deathcloud Peril" by Paul Malmont. This is a great pulp adventure novel which ingeniously puts a mess of actual pulp authors in the middle of a pulp story in the 1930s. Lester Dent (Doc Savage), Walter Gibson (The Shadow), HP Lovecraft (Weird Tales), and others are characters in this fun novel.

I hoped that Doc Savage #1 would be an improvement over "First Wave" #1 (also featuring Doc Savage) but it isn't. One of the ideas behind the First Wave Universe was that it would be hard to pin down the time. There would be elements of the 1930s mixed in with the modern. Think speakeasies and cel phones. The only element that this isn't a contemporary, our world, New York City is the fact that Doc Savage drives an airship. In this issue, that's it. Everything else is completely our world.

I suppose that isn't Malmont's fault. The artist, Howard Porter, didn't put any of the world that the "First Wave" book put in. Additionally, the art just isn't very good. In fact, the script is probably OK, but the art ruins it.

The issue starts with a one page conclusion of an African desert rescue. A shirt-ripped Doc beats up a pair of lions and rescues the girl. We don't know or care who she is. Some cops take away the villain and Doc's airship is in the background.

Turn the page and Doc is piloting the airship into Manhattan. He is still in the same ripped up clothes from Africa. I guess he has no other clothes on his ship, or maybe his shirts just come pre-ripped to save him the trouble of shredding them.

Doc rescues some kids as his airship and the Empire State Building are under attack by lightning. We see the airship burning up as it goes down. Why? Is it hydrogen? Is the outer skin flammable?

That is just the first five pages.

I think if the art would have introduced us to the pulp-ish unique alternate universe that First Wave is supposed to be then this would have all played much better. Doc and his men seem like themselves (well, Long Tom is married) but in a modern setting. Some fans have complained that Doc is too talky and not stoic enough, but in my rereading of the original pulp series so far, I don't find him stoic at all.

Physically, Monk is the most off from the pulp descriptions. Long Tom and Johnny are rather plain.

The issue sets up the story of a madman trying to kill Doc and his men. We'll see how that plays out.

As it is, I liked "First Wave" #1 better, and I didn't think that one was great. Now that Columbia has the rights to the Doc Savage movie, is Warner Bros trying to torpedo the character?

I'll give Doc Savage #1 a 6 out of 10 for the writing and a 2 out of 10 for the art.

Justice, Inc.
Jason Starr - Writer
Scott Hampton, Artist
Daniel Vozzo, Colorist

The Doc Savage story occupies 20 pages and is followed by the "Justice, Inc." back up feature. This is a 10 page story featuring The Avenger. I liked this story much better. The art is good and the characters are interesting. I have not read an Avenger stories in over 30 years, so I am not too familiar with the characters. The Avenger fan base seems to feel they have wrecked the characters, but I thought it started a pretty good story. Scott Hampton's beautifully noir art is wonderfully enhanced by Daniel Vozzo's dark and moody colors.

I liked this back-up quite a bit, but there still isn't a thing that isn't just contemporary New York City.

I'll give Justice, Inc. a 7 out of 10.

Four bucks. That is the price of a DC comic these days. Maybe they need to rethink this. Perhaps they could have put an ad between the two stories. There are ads on the insides of the covers and on the back cover, but other wise there are no paid ads in this book. There are 2 pages for non-profits (literacy and the Red Cross) and 3 pages of DC ads. There is a 5 page b&w Zatanna preview that outshines the Doc Savage main story. I really wish they could get in some paid ads and drop the price a little.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tannhäuser Tuesday - News at Last!

It has been more than four months since FFG had a news announcement regarding their alternate history boardgame, Tannhäuser, but on Monday they posted a major news item.

The revised rules for Tannhäuser are on the way. They are "at the factory" according to FFG's "Upcoming" page with a Spring 2010 expected release. That should get the book out by late June. Hopefully they'll put the .pdf up for sale sooner.

The Daedalus Map Pack is still listed as "in design" with a Spring 2010 release. I anticipate a Summer release (any time before Sept), but who knows...

The new rules, a 96 page full color book, will be available as a printed volume for $10 (the price originally advertised was $5) or as a .pdf for $5 (originally advertised as free.). The rulebook is a complete rewrite and has many revisions and new rules. The updated rules also include material from the individual figure packs and Operation Novgorod.

From the FFG announcement, "One final note: Although we previously revealed an intended price for this new rulebook, we found that over the course of the production process, our costs were slightly greater than expected. That being said, when this exciting resource becomes available later this spring, you’ll have two purchasing options: as a pdf download for only $5, or as a printed copy of the rulebook available through your local retailer and on our webstore for $9.95."
I have no problem with them charging $10 for a 96 page full color book, but the .pdf should be free. You can't play the game without the rules and in my opinion game companies should make the rules available for free. In this case in particular as the rules are not the same ones we got when we bought the game from FFG. This is no small revision. They are changing the basic rules as well as the rules for many of the objects in the game. They should honor their free .pdf offer.

A 20-page preview .pdf is available now on the Tannhäuser support page. I am pretty happy with the new game rules which are fairly complete in this section. I think the game will play smoother and be more fun in this new iteration. While they are keeping all the components of the original game, there are quite a few changes to the rules and without seeing the equipment descriptions, I am sure that many of those will change as well.

Here is an overview of many of the rule changes.

Command Points
These replace Victory points. You get 2 per turn, and they are refreshed each turn. You can't accumulate them, but some equipment will give you additional points. The Command Points allow you to take special actions.

You now have a choice of Combat, Stamina, and Command. Tokens are put on the slots facedown until all players have chosen. Then all the tokens are revealed at the same time. After that, Bonus tokens are chosen, up to 3 per faction.

Rush and Go (Optional) - When there are 4 entry points, each side gets 2 and uses both of them equally.

The term 'Sequence' is gone. Characters are 'Activated' and take their turn.

Grenades can be thrown into rooms and around corners. From the rule book, "When a Grenade or Smoke Grenade is thrown, the throwing player chooses a target circle. The target circle must be within the relevant range (see the sections that follow), and all circles through which this range is measured except the last circle must share a path with the throwing character. (The last circle may share a path, it is simply not required that it do so.) This method of targeting represents a grenade bouncing from one area into an adjacent room or hallway."

Overwatch is added. At the beginning of the turn you place a figure on Overwatch by spending 1 command point and marking the character with a token. You may put as many characters on overwatch as you would like (and have Command Points for) but those characters do not get a normal turn.

During an opponent's figure's Activation, if the opponent took an action on your character's path or an adjacent circle, your character on Overwatch may pause that characters action to perform an attack of their own. Since you paid a Command point for the Overwatch, it does not cost another Command point to take this interrupting attack. Nifty. FFG listened to the fans on this one and I couldn't be happier with the rule. Now a character can't just race into a room and try to kill everyone with a grenade, and leave.

Grenade tosses are not attacks and therefore not available as an Overwatch action.

Smoke lasts 3 turns - the turn thrown and the next 2 full turns. This helps the Reich.

There are no minimum ranges. This helps the Union.

Unused objective tokens are suggested for marking activations and overwatch.
Looking at the Eva Kramer character pages it is clear that there are differences in the packs. In the original she had the Luger in the Mental Pack. Now she has the Mauser. I also like that they put the full rules for the items each time they are shown.

The new layout will make it really easy to print out the .pdf on cardstock and cut up the items for reference, already pre-color coded by pack.

I think that the reboot of Tannhäuser will bring more people into the game and now that it is FFG's property they should give it some love. I hope so.

Tannhäuser and all related characters are trademarks and © Fantasy Flight Games.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage #13

March, 1934 - Meteor Menace


I don't normally pack these reviews with spoilers, but there is some great stuff in this review that really needs to be talked about. You have been warned.

Lucky number thirteen. That is certainly the case here. Lester Dent is back on target and continues the adventures of Doc Savage and the fabulous five in grand style.

The Meteor Menace picks up months after the events of The Man Who Shook the Earth and continues the story in Antofagasta, Chile. A hospital funded by Doc has been constructed and a bizarre blue meteor streaks through the sky terrorizing the local populace. It seems that anyone in the presence of the meteor suffers from a terrible condition - they become mindless vegetables that are harmful to themselves and others.

Strangely, a beautiful woman is seeking Doc's help. Her name is Rae Stanley, she is a knockout, as usual and capable as well. She talks to Monk and Ham and begs for them to help her save her father who has been captured by the insideous villain, "Mo-Gwei, master of masters, who wears the Mask of Bron, the half-king of hell." The kick-ass heroine is one of my favorite parts of the Doc novels and Rae is particularly well done. She is feisty, courageous, and beautiful.

The meteor streaks through the sky and affects the whole team. They are captured.

Doc and his crew all awaken in a sparsely furnished room in a primitive structure in Tibet. They come to realize that over a month has passed with them having no memory of how they got there.

Rae Stanley emerges from another room and is very affectionate to Doc. It seems that in the missing month, they got engaged. This is a great moment where Dent writes Doc's reaction perfectly. The Man of Bronze is flummoxed. There is nice banter where his men give him a hard time about being engaged. He takes the ribbing with good humor. Doc and Rae kiss. He is very kind to her. Doc is far from stoic, a perception that so far, I do not agree with. He keeps his emotions in check, but Dent does let the readers see them.

Doc has moments of failure and doubt. He has a chance to rescue Rae's father, but fails. Doc and his men finally battle a horde of Mo-Gwei's men and solve the mystery of the Meteor Menace.

Some items of note:

On page 12 it specifically says that, "Doc Savage and his men had a policy of never directly taking human life." This is the completion of the evolution of this policy. The stories started with no policy, Doc killed the bad guys. Then he only killed when he was in direct danger. Then if necessary, and now to never take a life. I am not sure if these changes were in reaction to reader feedback or if the age of the readers was younger than they had planned or if it was in reaction to world events and an effort to make Doc the greater hero.

Johnny has given up his glasses completely in favor of putting his magnifier in a monocle.

Doc lies at least twice in this novel. There is some derogatory language regarding the Tibetans. One of the villains, an Englishman, refers to them as "slant eyed scuts." But these kinds of references are restricted to the villain's dialog putting the prejudice on them and not the story. Dent treats the Tibetans fairly enough.

The Meteor Menace is one of the best Doc Savage tales so far. I give it a 9.5 out of 10.

For this review I read my Bantam Paperback #3 - 6th printing.

The Pulp cover is by Walter Baumhofer and the paperback cover is by James Aviati. The Pulp illustrations are by Paul Orban. Again, it is through the work of Chris Kalb and the 86th Floor site that you are seeing these illustrations.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pulp Announcement - Jim Anthony Vol. 2

Airship 27 Productions and Cornerstone Book Publishers today announced the release of "JIM ANTHONY – SUPER DETECTIVE Vol. Two – THE HUNTERS." This is a novel in two parts written by Josh Reynolds and Micah S. Harris.

From the Press Release:

"Classic pulp hero, Jim Anthony, Super Detective returns in a brand new novel that pits him against all kinds of strange and legendary beasts. And in both cases he is accompanied by fanatical hunter, Russian Count Zaroff from the classic short story, The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell.

In part one, Death In Yellow, by Joshua Reynolds, Anthony and Zaroff square off against a group of savage Tibetan Yetis loose in the steel canyons of Manhattan. Why these creatures are here and who is behind their murderous rampage is a classic mystery that challenges the one and only Super Detective. Then in part two, On The Periphery of Legend, by Micah S. Harris, Anthony reluctantly accompanies the mad Russian on an expedition to a lost island in the South Pacific where dinosaurs still roam. But that’s not the most dangerous game in those time lost jungles.

Here are two amazing tales woven together into a classic pulp adventure that will test the mettle of our hero and his loyal companions! Airship 27 Productions is thrilled to present JIM ANTHONY – SUPER DETECTIVE Vol. Two – THE HUNTERS! Features interior illustrations by Pedro Cruz and a stunning cover by Chris Sears. Airship 27 Productions – Pulp Fiction For a New Generation!

ISBN: 1-934935-70-0
ISBN 13: 978-1-934935-70-5
Produced by Airship 27
Published by Cornerstone Book Publishers

Release date: 04/14/2010
Retail Price: $21.95"

The book is available through Amazon or discounted directly from Airship 27.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Summoner Wars New Faction Decks Pre-Order

Plaid Hat games has put the two new faction decks up for pre-order at the Plaid Hat Store. If you missed out on the promo card, this is a great way to get one.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

More Dust Tactics News

AEG showed off the Dust Tactical Miniatures Boardgame at the GAMA tradeshow last week in Las Vegas.

The LivingDice blog has been running a series of convention reports and had a couple of nice pictures of the Dust Game from AEG. I've done some cropping and such, so here are the pictures.

It looks like the game will be played on tiles or a paper mat. The Mechs and figures look great. Four Mechs and thirty figures plus the containers and the communication relays. This looks like a great starter set.

Thanks, Living Dice Blog!

AEG has also added a few teasers to their site. Dust Tactics will be available at GenCon and then see its full release in September. There are a number of expansions lined up as well. November 2010 will have the Artillery Strike expansion followed by Blutkreuz Attack in January 2011 and Battle for Britain in May.

I can't wait!

Enjoy these teasers from AEG and Dust Tactics.