Sunday, June 30, 2013

New Logo and Blog Layout

As should be obvious, there's a new layout to Daddy Rolled a 1 today, courtesy of my friend Cheryl, who also did the fantastic web-design for my ad agency's website over at Always On Communications, and my friend Jeff Ferguson's agency website over at Fang Digital Marketing. She also did a boss job revamping the website for one of my clients, The Spit Bucket.

Anyway, Cheryl also created the new logo for me (the martini glass with a d20 "olive" and a sword "olive pick"), did some re-coloring, picked some new fonts, and in general just made everything look better. Check out Cheryl's site, Cherylistic, if you're looking for some cool artistic inspiration.

Have a look and let me know what you think. I'm always open to suggestions on the layout (the logo is pretty much a done deal at this point, however).

To celebrate the new logo and layout, I just quickly updated all of the "Playing," "Reading," and "Watching" pages, which hadn't been updated in about two years. I streamlined how I'm listing the information a bit to make it quicker for me to update it as time goes on.

I'll be back next week with some more posts following along the "daily themes" that I started earlier this year.

Cheers!

Hanging: Home Office (laptop)
Drinking: Green Flash Brewing Company Imperial IPA
Listening: "Roll Over Beethoven" by the Beatles

Monday, June 17, 2013

Movie Review: Man of Steel

TM & © 2013
WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.
I was writing a quick review of this film over on the "Nerdy With Children" forums and decided to cross-post it here.

Spoiler-free review ahead, assuming you've seen the trailers.

My short-short version: Go see it. It's awesome.

There - I said it. I put it out there. I'm not one of those people who looks to go out of his way to nitpick a movie that 10 years ago or so people would've totally loved. I think people these days are just too used to "Internet-speak" which pretty much equates to "tell everybody what I hate about things but don't actually say what you like."

So, with that said, "Man of Steel" is a great origin story for Superman. The scenes on Krypton are amazingly well-done and the set designs, costuming, and overall aesthetics of the planet really make it seem like an inhabitable, alien world. Just for comparison's sake, I'll point to the scenes on Asgard in the "Thor" movie, which looked quite a bit fake (and, no, it didn't bother me). The Krypton scenes really do look "real."

The story is mainly told, for the first half to 2/3 of the movies, via flashback scenes where we get to see the Krypton scenes, the exposition on the ultimate bad guys of the film, and of course we get to see how Clark Kent / Superman got to where he is today. These parts of the movie are really stunning, well-acted, and story-wise, very engaging.

The last third of the movie is not quite as strong. I can't say much more without spoiling things. It's just very reminiscent of some recent things that have been done to death in other movies and of which I'm getting a little tired.

Acting-wise, Henry Cavill makes a good Superman - he takes 75 years of Superman lore and makes it his own. It's different than Reeves and Routh and there's nothing wrong with that. We're not here to see those movies remade. We're here to see a new take on Superman, and Cavill delivers that without making change for change's sake.

Show-stealers include Antje Traue in a small, but important, role of Faora, and Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent. However, top-billing for outstanding acting belongs to Michael Shannon as Zod and to Russell Crowe as Jor-El. Both actors take roles that in the past have seemed a bit one-dimensional and turned them into characters that we really care about, and who have a lot more depth than may have been at first surmised.

Some people, including my wife, were thrown by the pacing of the film. The first part of the film especially is told in media res and in non-linear fashion. We continually jump back-and-forth in time to see how things from Clark's past have affected the decisions he's making in the present. I followed it quite easily but my wife was "mildly annoyed," to put it nicely.

The music is fine - sadly, if you asked me to hum the theme from this one, I couldn't do so right now, but I did only see the movie once and wasn't necessarily trying to memorize the score. In terms of grandeur, it's no match for the old familiar Williams score, but as much as I love that score, I'm glad they didn't use it because it does imply a certain era and creates biases about what you're about to see.

There were some things that bothered me, in part toward the end in the way that Superman acts, but I can't say more without revealing spoilers. But, that's not enough for me to admit that I really liked this movie, and as a huge comic book fan, I'm not afraid to say that it's my favorite incarnation of Superman on the Silver Screen since the old Fleischer Cartoons from the 1940s.

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: tap water
Listening: "An Occasional Man" by DJ Yoda

Monday, June 10, 2013

Adventure Recaps: World of Samoth, May and June 2013 Sessions

I'm going to postpone today's regularly scheduled "Pulp Noir Monday" post to recap the last two sessions of my ongoing World of Samoth campaign. For more information on my campaign, you can visit my campaign website, which unfortunately hasn't been updated in quite a while, and you can also read the World of Samoth posts here on my blog, including the most recent recap which dates back all the way to July 2012.

Yes - we went nearly 10 months between sessions. I'm not entirely sure why - I've found that once you skip a month or so, it just snowballs and becomes extremely difficult to try to get the group focused on picking a date. It usually involves people traveling out-of-town, which is fine. It just makes it difficult to plan, because people start filling their weekends up when they know we're not playing.

It'd been so long that I actually had to ask my group for their memory of what happened last time, only to later remember that I'd exactly written the recap here on my blog!

With that introduction, let's get into it...

The 22nd of Saarh, 504 D.E. (Dorrenic Era), Arile, Esoría


Pirro the bounty-hunter, led the Company (consisting of Jeremi the heretic Ætonist priest who also practices arcane magic, Sameer the desert warrior/sorcerer, Shao the mysterious monk from the Eastern lands, and Sombra a former holy warrior and member of the Astral Knights) to the building where he was supposed to have delivered Sombra. He noted that this was the first time in his career that he'd ever not fulfilled a contract once he'd accepted it, and it was clear he was torn about this turn of events. Pirro did mention that he'd already been having second-thoughts about his employer and ultimately decided to do what he thought was right rather than just follow the letter of the contract. With a few words regarding his employer, noting that he was "some type of alchemist," Pirro left the Company to enter the building. 

At this point, Shao chose to take his leave from the Company, briefly, to attend to some personal business (aka, the player wasn't able to make it to this session), and the three remaining members opened the door and descended a flight of stairs into the darkness. 

The Company Enter Pirro's Contact's Lair
After encountering a trap wherein some extremely foul-smelling slime/ooze substance was poured on top of their heads, but which all members of the Company shook off with no ill effects, the heroes eventually discovered a room that appeared to have been "re-decorated" to acomomodate a giant warrior, who was in the room. A brief combat ensued and the giant was slain, after which the members of the Company found a contract stipulating the details of the giant's employment for a member of the Radillar family. As suspected, Pirro's employer was a member of the powerful, sadistic aristocratic family that had plagued Jeremi since the beginning of his adventuring days and with whom Sombra had a very deep, personal connection. 

At this point, the Company began to have second thoughts about continuing forward. They wanted to face the Radillar patriarch, but the set-up of his so-called "offices" was clearly designed as a trap to ward off outsiders. The Company considered leaving and re-thinking their strategy of how exactly to take on this powerful foe. 

[At this point, we actually stopped playing that session. It was the first time the group had gotten together since the previous July, even though we do see each other socially for dinners, board-game days, and wine/beer tasting, among other activities, but there was a lot of just general chit-chat about comics, Game of Thrones, various Summer movies, and more, and we only gamed for less than an hour, I would guess.]

Resolved to continue their exploration, the Company was happy to see their comrade, Shao, who returned from his personal business in time to rejoin his companions before they explored further into the complex.

Continuing on, they discovered an odd iron cage suspended in a huge cavern, the walls of which were covered with slimy green worms. The cage appeared to act as a crude "elevator" of sorts, with an opening up at the very top that led to a balcony overlooking the immense cavern. After climbing up, the group continued on through a narrow passageway and discovered a huge warehouse room filled with casks stacked into alcoves, from floor to the high ceiling 30 feet above. Many of the casks seemed to be filled with the foul-smelling ooze that was clearly some kind of poison, while other casks were labeled a "Radillar Strong Ale." An assortment of chemical equipment was strewn all about large worktables in the center of the room - beakers, alembics, flasks, and various measuring equipment. 


The Company Battle some Radillar Family Members
Moving through the door at the far end of the warehouse, the Company stumbled upon a very nicely equipped office and three humans - a middle-aged man in a blue military coat with high, polished boots and a staff and wreathed in bluish-green flames, an old crone with one milky-white eye mounted on top of some sort of huge "demonic" quadruped, but also with two arms holding a massive falchion, and a swarthy, shadowy-looking fellow in the corner wielding two short-swords. 

The middle-aged man announced that they had been waiting for Sombra and had in fact been prepared for them since they heard the Company investigating the beer-and-poison "cellar" in the other room. A combat ensued, during which the middle-aged man, revealed to be the last surviving head patriarch of the Radillar family, Roberto Alonso Radillar, attacked the Company using a combination of magic and staff attacks. The old crone continually cried out for "Mercy! Mercy!" while at the same time charging on her weird demonic mount which focused all of its powerful falchion attacks on Sombra. The shadowy fellow in the corner seemed to hang back, only engaging in combat once he felt he had an advantage, moving swiftly through the shadows to stab Sombra in the back with the short swords. 

Shao used his spring attack to punch various foes, trying to utilize his stunning fist powers (which the adversaries shook off with no ill effects) and Jeremi worked to boost his comrades' combat effectiveness while also needing to tend to Sombra, who took the brunt of the Radillars' attacks. Sameer spent some time preparing for combat by buffing himself with spells, then entered the fray and with three single swings of his mighty falchion, felled both Roberto Radillar and the demonic mount. Immediately on the demon's death, the old crone also fell dead. Looking around and seeing he was clearly out-classed and out-numbered, the shadowy fellow walked into a shadow and disappeared from sight. 

Sombra Gets a Small Measure of Revenge
After Sombra was properly revived, the Company then healed Roberto Radillar just to the point of consciousness and the other characters stood by while Sombra used some "aggressive questioning techniques" to get some information from Roberto - namely, he wanted to find out the whereabouts of one "Vilius Radillar" - Sombra's former commander in the Soldiers of the Black Feather, who had led a massacre on an Esorían village, but then attempted to portray the massacre as having been made by soldiers from Courrissuex. When Sombra protested, Vilius attacked him and left him for dead, then tracked down Sombra's wife and son and reportedly had them killed as well. 

Roberto Radillar noted that Vilius was a fool and a blacksheep of the family, but in the interest of self-preservation, he gave Vilius up and indicated that he had sent Vilius to the north along with a weapons and other supplies for Esorían troops in their war against Courrisseux. He wasn't certain of Vilius' exact whereabouts.


Sombra also asked about his wife and son, and Roberto indicated that Vilius had simply said that he had "taken care of" the situation, which Roberto took to mean they had been killed, based on Vilius usual way of handling similar situations. 

During the questioning, it was also revealed that the old crone was a half-breed Esorían/Cadrobarian, and therefore an outcast, and had been used as slave labor by the Radillar family in the past, and that Roberto had been given her as a tool to learn the arts of sex when he was a boy. The shadowy figure was, in fact, Roberto's bastard son Pitro, via the old crone. Pitro was an embarrassment to the family but Roberto kept him around because he did have some uses, having taught himself the shadowy art of "Sulinor."


With this information, Sombra quickly and quietly dispatched Roberto, and most likely saw the image of his wife and young son in his eyes as he did so. 

The Aftermath: Interesting Discoveries
An investigation of the office revealed a very nicely appointed office with a full-length portrait of Roberto in military garb, various maps, compasses, and manifests, and meticulous record-keeping by Roberto, whose main trade was a slavery operation (it was revealed that the slave ship the Company had taken from the Free City of Ryn over to Esoría, the Represalia, was, in fact, owned by Roberto Radillar). With the deaths of Anton and Zantos Radillar (by the Company's hand in very earlier adventures), Roberto was the defacto leader of the family just based on his age and experience. Roberto was also an amateur home-brewing hobbyist and had developed a strong side-business of brewing various different ales utilizing a variety of hops and also exotic foreign spices that he acquired as part of his slave trade business. With his knowledge of brewing and chemistry, it was natural for him to expand into poison-crafting, which he began after discovering a large cavern of poisonous worms below his offices.


Roberto's notes included a very detailed list of every item owned by every slave he'd acquired, including some that had books which Roberto was working hard to translate. These seemed of particular interest to the Company...

After this exploration of the office, the Company began to think about their next steps. Sombra showed definite interest in tracking down Vilius, which appeared to be supported by Sameer. Jeremi seemed interested in figuring out of there was a way for the Company to influence the selection of a new Pontifex Rex in the Universal Ætonist church, which was also a plan that seemed supported by most, if not all, members of the Company. 

NEXT TIME: Will Sombra track down Vilius and take his revenge on one of the last powerful members of the Radillar family? Will Jeremi lead a revolution to try to clean up the corruption in the
Ætonist church? Will the war between Esoría and Courrisseux, which has expanded to include many of the major Western powers, continue?

DM NOTES FROM THE SESSION: I was excited about this particular session because I'd actually prepped a lot of this stuff for the last session we had back in May but we didn't get around to it, so I felt a bit more prepared than usual. I pre-drew the map of the battle on my Chessex battle mat and then covered up the unexplored sections with pieces of scrap paper and tape, and revealed the rooms one-by-one. I had my tactics down for the big battle...

... and then I blew it. I felt I'd done a decent job of giving some life and uniqueness to three somewhat secondary or tertiary villains (especially the old crone and the bastard son), making up the whole "home brewing" thing and integrating that with the poison-making thing (which was a bit I stole from an old Dungeon magazine adventure path section), and also creating a weird and slightly creepy relationship between the three characters.

But, I blew the actual combat. Again. I suck at running combats. My tactics were terrible, I didn't fully utilize my bad guys to their potential, and I completely didn't foresee that I'd created a situation where the PCs would be stuck in one room between a single five-foot wide door, which was blocked by the unconscious body of Sombra for much of the combat, and then I had this huge demonic mount thing (an Eidolon from Pathfinder's Advanced Player's Guide) that was actually TOO BIG to fit through the door. So, he couldn't get at the PCs, and they naturally weren't in a hurry to rush out to face him. Conversely, it didn't make sense for Roberto or his son to rush into the room where the PCs were and then find themselves surrounded without the assistance of the Summoner crone and her Eidolon mount. So, Roberto fought from range even though as a Magus, he's really only effective in melee, and the bastard son Pitro was totally ineffective at range.

Sigh. That's on me to figure out better tactics, but I felt that it made for a very unclimactic combat for my players, especially Sameer is a real beast in combat and could use a better challenge once in a while. Hopefully I can learn from this.

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Just tap water today
Listening: "Relax Mode" by Tom Lustig

Friday, June 7, 2013

Game Inspirations Friday: Shogun

Image courtesy of IMBD
Those who have been following my series on inspirations for my World of Samoth campaign will note that the majority of my early influences were mainly Western European in flavor - Tolkien, of course, but also the World of Greyhawk, a smattering of Dragonlance, the World of Conan, B/X D&D's Known World, etc. Sure, Conan's world actually encompasses lots of areas, including fantasy equivalents of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. But Howard doesn't go into a lot of depth about these different cultures, for the most part.

The first true non-Euro-centric influence for my campaign world that I've talked about was a book called Liavek, which wrote about a few weeks ago. It's a vaguely Middle Eastern themed city and it really helped inspire me to look to develop areas of my campaign world that took their cues from non-European cultures.

However, even before that, another non-European source had a great impact on the type of world I wanted to make, and really opened my eyes to the idea that other cultures aren't just about different skin colors, hair and clothing styles, and weapon choices. It's about the fundamental way that the people interact with the world and the things around them. That source was the TV mini-series Shōgun, based on the book by James Clavell.

This miniseries first aired on ABC in mid-late September 1980, so I would've been just days away from turning 10 years old. This was a couple years before I began playing D&D, and about five or so years before I even began to think about designing my own campaign world, but the series really gripped me and taught me about a part of the world that I really didn't know anything about until that point.

In school, we really only learned about ancient Greece and Rome, and if we were lucky, a bit about ancient Egypt before just moving onto medieval Europe and then fast-forwarding to Colonial America, where we'd spend the rest of the school year. I think that maybe ancient Sumeria and Babylon got about a half-page in our history book. Asia and Africa (outside of Egypt) were nowhere to be found.

So, Shōgun was really my first exposure to the of the Samurai and the Japanese culture. The story uses an interesting device to help the viewer become immersed in the culture, which is view the world of 17th Century Japan through the eyes of a stranded English sailor, John Blackthorne, whose ship has run aground on the main island. They utilized a very clever mechanic by having the actors, almost all of whom were native Japanese non-English speakers, speak in their native tongue, and didn't provide subtitles. The assumption was, if Blackthorne doesn't know what they're saying, then we shouldn't, either.

What's It About?
The story follows the exploits of English pilot John Blackthorne, played by mini-series regular Richard Chamberlain, whose ship, the Erasmus, is wrecked along the coast of Japan. Blackthorne, an English protestant, must deal not only with the extremely foreign culture of the Japanese, but also with his more traditional enemies, the Catholics and the Portuguese (one of whom is played by a young John Rhys Davies), who have a small foothold in Japan during this time.

Blackthorne eventually comes to the attention of a powerful samurai named Lord Toranaga, who is competing with other samurai for the position of Shogun. Blackthorne agrees to help Toranaga, and in return, Toranaga assigns Blackthorne an interpreter, the beautiful Lady Mariko. Toranaga does eventually become samurai, and the series ends with Blackthorne overseeing the building of a new ship (after the Erasmus was burned) to attempt to return home.

How Did It Influence My Role-Playing Games?
Really, up until this point of seeing the miniseries, I had no idea about the culture of feudal Japan, or any part of Asia, for that matter. Shōgun was where I first encountered the ideas of samurai, ninja, beautiful Japanese architecture and castles, Japanese armor and weapons, and even Japanese-style music. All of these had a major impact on the way I started trying to flesh out the Asian equivalents of my campaign world when I began developing the World of Samoth.

Watching Shōgun also got me interested in learning more about Asian cultures in general. It was shortly was the series aired that I remember my local PBS channel starting airing a special on Chinese acrobats, which I'd never heard of before. I was totally entranced by watching them and listening to the music, and of course it was PBS so they aired it somewhere between 5 and 300 times, give or take. I watched it pretty much every time it was on until a certain point that my mom had to tell me to turn it off because I think the music was really bothering her.

A few years later, when I got into D&D, I started reading back issues of Dragon magazine, and came across some very early "NPC-only" classes for the Samurai (I think that was Issue #3) and the Ninja (I can't remember what issue that was, but I want to say #16). Had it not been for Shōgun, I'm relatively sure I wouldn't have known much, if anything, about those two classes.

Cool Bits You Can Steal for Your Games
At first glance, Shōgun might seem dated by today's standards, but actually upon watching it, it holds up pretty well. I certainly believe that it influenced another film with almost the exact same plot, the Tom Cruise vehicle "The Last Samurai", which involves an American soldier who is captured in battle, has to live among the Japanese, learns to respect and admire them, and helps his former captor in battle. With a few minor exceptions, that's pretty much the same basic plot of Shōgun.

From watching Shōgun, you can really get a sense of how to portray the culture of feudal Japan in your games. If you're playing a samurai-type game like Bushido, Sengoku, Legend of the Five Rings, d20's Legends of the Samurai, or even old-school stuff like adventures in Kara-Tur from TSR's Oriental Adventures and Forgotten Realms settings, then you should definitely check out Shōgun. It will really just give you a sense of the culture, philosophy, art, and everything else that helps to make a well-rounded character. I always say that people have trouble trying to play a Dwarf or an Elf in a role-playing game, because we really don't know how a Dwarf or an Elf would act or think about certain things. Similarly, I think most Westerners have trouble trying to portray the philosophy and culture of Eastern type characters, because that way of thinking is really foreign to us. By watching something like Shōgun, which admittedly is a bit of an exaggeration, it does give you a pretty quick way to grab a few character traits to mimic and will go a long way toward making your samurai character different than "just a fighter with a katana."

Also, the character of John Blackthorne is a classic case of a "man out of his element" type of character. He's of the same mold as characters like John Carter and even Thomas Covenant from the Thomas  Covenant series - character who are taken out of their element and need to find a way to adapt, survive, and eventually thrive in a foreign world. It's a classic character archetype, and you could do a lost worse than mimic some of the character traits of Blackthorne to create such a character.

Final Thoughts
I'm really a big fan of doing "true" research, like hitting history books and books of legends and mythology to help flesh out different areas of campaign worlds, and you should really do so. However, sometimes I think we all too often forget that it's okay to incorporate fictional, literary, and even some cheesy TV sources as inspirations in our games. They can provide just as much fodder for your worlds, and can be just as much fun.

I'd love to hear from people who were inspired by Shōgun in creating Asian-themed areas of your campaign worlds, or even just if you liked it, and why.


SHŌGUN (TV Mini-Series)
  • Format: 5-episode TV miniseries (12 hours)
  • Where to Buy: Here's a link to buy the DVD set on Amazon.com
  • Price: $49.99 (but it's on Amazon for $36.93
  • More Information: There are tons of fan sites, but here's the entry on Wikipedia.

Hanging: Home office (laptop)

Drinking: Had a margarita at lunch
Listening: "Your Touch" by the Black Keys

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

New Comics Wednesday: Earth 2 (DC New 52)

As long-time readers of my blog know, I fell away from comics in the early 90s, shortly after the first issue of X-Force (the "original") came out. Comics just didn't seem fun any more. They seemed to be about variant covers and an endless parade of new #1 issues designed to appeal to speculators instead of fans, and all that, as we know, eventually led to a long, dark period for comics producers, sellers, and readers.

Today's spotlight for New Comics Wednesday is about a new title that's part of DC's New 52 Universe - a "second-wave" title (meaning that it wasn't one of the original New 52 titles, but a replacement for a canceled book) called Earth 2.

What I love about this book is its sense of fun, which honestly is lacking in quite a few of the New 52 titles. DC seems to be trying to mimic the success of Christopher Nolan's Batman movie trilogy and apply those sensibilities to every comic. Gone are the somewhat goofy Silver Age references that I grew up with.

Alas, "my" DC Universe that I grew up with as a kid is officially gone, until such time as DC decides to resurrect it via yet another reboot (unlikely) or through the ever-popular mechanic of a parallel Earth in an alternate universe (somewhat likely), which of course will then be destroyed in an event that involves the word "Crisis" in the title.

Let's get back to Earth 2 and what makes it such a great comic.

As a reminder, I avoid any spoilers of current storylines playing out in the comics. Also, this is intended to be a summary of the title in general. A new issue of Earth 2, #13, came out today, but I won't be picking it up until I visit my favorite local comic book store with my daughter after picking her up from daycare this evening, so I can't speak to the specifics of what's going on with this week's issue.

Quick Background on the "Parallel Earth" Concept
If you don't read comics, specifically DC Comics, you may not be familiar with the concept of "parallel Earths." To summarize it as quickly as possible - Superheroes were "invented" in the late 1930s and came to true popularity during World War II. Familiar characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the "Golden-Age Flash" (the guy with the winged helmet and blue pants) and the "Golden-Age Green Lantern" (the guy with blonde hair and a purple cape) had tons of adventures, many of which involved defeating the Axis Powers from World War II.

After the war, superhero comics took a dip in popularity, and only a few certain heroes were able to maintain their circulation (including Batman and Superman), while others, like the Flash and Green Lantern, ceased publication. In the mid 1950s, there was a superhero resurgence of a sort with the creation of the "Silver Age Flash" in Showcase Comics #4, which featured a brand new Flash, Barry Allen and the guy with the classic red and yellow costume that most of you know. This new Flash kicked off a whole series of new comics, and superheroes from the past were resurrected and brought back to life with new names, new powers, and fancy new costumers. Most of the DC Comics heroes we think of today, like Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, are actually these second-generation Silver Age heroes.

However, there were some problems with this - you had these "new" heroes who eventually came to interact with older, semi-unchanged heroes like Batman and Superman, who had been established as having been around 10+ years earlier fighting the Axis during World War 2. The writers eventually retconned this issue by creating the idea of a parallel Earth that housed all of the original Golden Age heroes, and saying that the Earth with the Silver Age versions of the heroes was the "primary" Earth of DC Comics. This opened the door to create fun cross-over events where characters from the Golden Age Earth 2 ultimately encountered their Silver Age counterparts on Earth 1 and worked together to defeat scum and villainy and all that jazz.

Ultimately, this gave rise to hundreds of parallel Earths, most of which were eventually wiped out in a series of events like "Crisis on Infinite Earths." At the creation of DC's New 52 in September 2011, it was assumed that most of the parallel Earths had, once again, been retconned out of existence. A few months later, a new title was announced...

What's It About?
Earth 2 is about the heroes of, you guessed it, Earth 2. With the complete reconstruction of the DC universe that took place in the wake of the "Flashpoint" event and the development of the "New 52," this Earth 2 is actually not the repository of the old Golden Age heroes any longer. Instead, it's an opportunity to tell stories of alternate versions of the "Trinity" (Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman), as well as the Flash and Green Lantern, while also introducing other long-time DC characters such as Hawkgirl, Dr. Fate, and Solomon Grundy, who (so far) don't exist in the "primary" New 52 Universe.

So far, the series seems to be focusing on five main characters: the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Dr. Fate, and the Atom, explaining how each character got their powers and how they came to work together in a loose representation of the old Justice Society of America.

Similar to the primary DC New 52 Universe, Earth 2 was invaded by Darkseid and his parademons and other minions from Apokalips, but on Earth 2, the damage was far, far worse, and drastic steps were taken to defeat Darkseid, resulting in some far-ranging effects that have dramatically changed the world of Earth 2 permanently. This isn't just a copy of Earth 1 with different heroes. It's completely different, with elements like a world army that is trying to control the heroes (who are called "wonders" on this Earth), and pockets of the world that are still controlled by minions of Darkseird who were left on Earth 2 after the gateway to Apokalips was closed.

Who's On the Creative Team?
Earth 2's writer has been the excellent James Robinson, a writer from the other side of the pond who has written a ton of great stuff over the past two decades, including work on Grendel, Batman, Superman, Detective Comics, Action Comics, Justice League of America, and more. He's probably most famous for his work on re-inventing Starman and subsequently the Golden Age Justice Society of America, which of course makes him the perfect writer for Earth 2.

Robinson handles characterization very deftly in Earth 2, helping make the reader care about characters that originally, on the surface, seem uninteresting or kind of annoying. As a reader, you become invested in the characters and this is completely due to Robinson's ability to make each character seem real - we care about them as people, not because they can run fast or create things with their power rings.

Sadly, Robinson has announced that he'll be moving off of the title very soon, making the past few issues a bit bitter sweet for me. I like this new universe that Robinson has created in Earth 2, and I'm a little unsure how another writer will tackle what seems to be a very personal book for Robinson. Time will tell.

Pencilling duties on Earth 2 have mainly been handled by Nicola Scott, an Australian penciller and inker who got her start in comics in 2001 after switching from a brief acting career. Her past work at DC includes Birds of Prey and Secret Six, along with a few stints on Wonder Woman and Superman before landing the job on Earth 2. Her work on Earth 2 is extremely imaginative, and she has the ability to make things look intricately detailed and magical at the same time. Scott's character-work is top-notch, with each character having an artistic style that matches their richly created persona as developed by Robinson - there's no confusing one character for another, with either the writing or the art. Scott's background work also shows immense detail, which is something that a lot of artists unfortunately get lazy about given the time constraints of pushing out a monthly comic.

Artist Yildiray Cinar filled in for Scott on two issues (#7 and #8). Cinar, from Istanbul (not Constantinople), has worked on a variety of comics for DC, including Action Comics, Teen Titans, Legion of Superheroes, and the Fury of Firestorm. His style is quite different from Scott's, making his two issues not quite fit into the overall style of Earth 2 as developed by Nicola Scott. Thankfully, regular inker Trevor Scott (no relation - as far as I can tell), inked Cinar's pages as well, providing some consistency.

Who Will Like It?
This is a great title that can be read completely independently from the rest of the DC New 52 titles. It's the only title, so far, that takes place completely on Earth 2 and doesn't really have any ties to the primary Earth of the New 52, with the small exception of another title, Worlds' Finest, which features two characters from Earth 2 who were accidentally transported to Earth 1 and are trying to find a way home. However, everyone on Earth 2 thinks those two characters are dead, so they're not even looking for them. It's makes Earth 2 an excellent standalone book and a fun way to re-discover a bunch of classic DC heroes again in a whole new way.

This is a straight-up superhero title, so if you're not into heroes with capes, look elsewhere. However, you can also view Earth 2 as almost a war, or post-war, comic. The Apokalips invasions devastated Earth 2 in a way that didn't happen on Earth 1, and the repercussions have colored everything that's happened in the title.

There's also quite a bit of intrigue and mystery behind the world army and the guy who is calling the shots. I won't reveal who it is for those of you who are trying to avoid spoiler alerts, but it's been interesting seeing his behind-the-scenes machinations.

Lastly, one of the things I like about Earth 2 is that, since it's the only title taking place in this universe, you get a whole combination of a bunch of different types of powers. There are heroes powered by magic, by gods, by science, by nature... they're all thrown into the mix together, unlike in the main DC Universe where you have to grab Justice League Dark to read about magical heroes, both Animal Man and Swamp Thing to figure out what's happening with the Red and the Green, and various other titles to get heroes powered by gods, etc. In Earth 2, Robinson mixes these all up together to give you a full picture.

Any Good Fodder in Here for My Role-Playing Games?
Of course there is, but if you've read my other comic book reviews, you knew I was going to say that. Just thinking beyond borrowing ideas for a standard superhero RPG, you can also get some great ideas on how to incorporate magical heroes into a more mainstream superhero game, and borrow ideas on living in a post-war world (not quite post-apocalyptic, but more just the effects of living in a world that is recovering from what amounts to an alien invasion and how that would affect governmental and military operations going forward), and of course there's the very premise of the book itself as an idea for an RPG - having a parallel Earth and how that could be a fun and unique place for your characters to explore.

The main villain of the story also provides a good role-model for a GM looking to find ways to give his villains more depth behind the old cliches of just wanting power or hating the world for no reason.

Is It Good for Kids?
The book is rated "T" for Teen, and that's probably a pretty good guideline to follow. It's definitely not as scary or intense as something like Suicide Squad or even like some of the darker issues of Batman or Detective Comics get, but there is quite a bit of violence and many of the concepts will be difficult for younger kids to understand, such as why the world army (seemingly a "good guy" organization) is out to hunt down and capture the heroes, and why some heroes, such as the Atom, seem to be working with them. 

EARTH 2


Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Homemade lemonade w/ mint
Listening: "Moose the Mooche (Quantic Remix)" by
Charlie Parker featuring Miles Davis
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