Comic Books


It’s been getting “meh” reviews and i wasn’t particularly interested in this series, so I went in with low expectations…but found myself enjoying Iron Fist, even though it is unquestionably the weakest outing of the Netflix/Marvel series.

The good stuff — the supporting characters are interesting and richly-fleshed out. In particular, I found Tom Pelphrey’s Ward Meechum and Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing to be the strongest of the bunch. Madam Gao, a recurring antagonist for Daredevil, is also nicely fleshed out. Finn Jones does a workman-like job with what he has as Danny Rand, the hero, but he’s quickly overshadowed by the more interesting Colleen Wing. The bad guys are also good — from the revenant Harold Meechum, to Gao and her nemesis inside The Hand, Bakuto (played with a nice oiliness by Ramon Rodriguez, who i vaguely remembered from The Wire.)

The “meh”: Where Daredevil used color motifs, lighting, and inspired fight choreography to play up the moral conundrums and physical pain of a vigilante’s life, and Jessica Jones played the noir detective look and feel to accentuate the themes of control and abuse, and Luke Cage used strong color palettes, urban music and fashion to craft a believable Harlem in the middle of the Marvel universe…Iron Fist is pedestrian. The fight scenes are not over the top Hong Kong Action Theater. They’re bland and uninspired. The blocking, the shot lists, the lighting, the use of color are something you would expect out of Law & Order: Superheroes. The other Marvel shows evoke the Miller/Mazzucchelli Daredevil run; Jessica Jones has that tired PI in a dirty world flavor; Luke Cage is decidedly Black America; they’re unique. Iron Fist doesn’t play up the Eastern mysticism, choosing a bland corporate backdrop.

That makes sense in some ways. Rand is a billionaire and heir to a massive company and the board doesn’t want him there. It’s a plot element that definitely should have been explored, especially as it is the motivation for the bad guys. BUT… He’s a “living weapon” from the mystical city of K’un L’un out to destroy the Hand. He’s just not dipped in the Eastern mysticism enough, whereas — for instance — Doctor Strange at least did a better job playing to that. The character does meditation and martial arts, sure, but the look of the show isn’t exotic enough to evoke that.

The “bad”: Really, it’s the focus of the show on the Meachum’s corporate machinations and the lack of fight scenes that flow and are elegant. The credit sequence should have informed the look of the fights, with loads of sweeping movement. Jones moves well, and the choreography is accurate to some of the forms used, but it’s not chop-sockey enough, and I suspect that’s what the fans wanted.

So is it worth watching? Yes. It’s a decent addition to the Netflix/Marvel catalogue, but don’t expect anything ground breaking. Substance-wise, it’s got a lot of good character development, especially in the supporting cast, and it breaks the 3rd Act Slump that all Marvel shows seem to have; unlike the others, it doesn’t have that episode 9-11 drag. But stylistically it’s weak tea.

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John Carpenter. Grown-up Peanuts characters. Slasher flicks.

It’s not like your work isn’t still gonna be there in a few minutes, so get to watching!

Presented by Book My Garage…

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Home Advisor put together a nice infographic looking at ten recent superhero movies to see who is more dangerous to the general population, heroes or villains…

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No contest: Atomic Robo by Evil Hat. If you want to know why, hit up the comic’s site at Atomic Robo.com and read the whole thing for free. Then go purchase the graphic novels, you cheap bastids!

While I was part of the initial playtesting, I hadn’t read the finished product until I had a little time on planes while running around the country on ‘vacation’ (seeing family.) Evil Hat has the print version in the final works, but the pdf is available through their preorder or Drive Thru. Behold! The dramatic reveal!

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The system is Fate, tweaked a bit for the universe of Atomic Robo, but the basic mechanics are unchanged. Character creation is fast and “no-math” — the player choses the usual concept descriptor, a couple of their modes (ex. Action, Science, Intrigue) and their skills lump under those. Those odes with the same skills stack, so a character with, say, a vehicles skill in three modes would place it under the highest mode with the +4, then add two more for the synergy with the other modes. It’s easier than it is to describe.

You can have a character slapped together in minutes and be playing, and the rules allow for tweaking your character on the fly, and whenever you hit a particular milestone connected to the adventure or character.

The main additions to the rules are in the area of “brainstorming” science ideas, in which the players get to use their skills to try and figure out a science conundrum, then the one with the best quasi-applicable idea gets to define how the bad guy or mcGuffin for the adventure works (“The giant ants were obviously created by radiation!”) As for the rest of the mechanics, it’s Fate. It you aren’t familiar with the mechanics, you can find them for free on the interwebz. Have a look, if your puny mammaliam brains can conceive it!

On to the book itself — it’s very well laid out, easy to read, and captures the flavor of Atomic Robo and the related Real Science Adventures comics very well. Explanation blurbs with pics of characters from the series help you understand the mechanics, or just amuse you. They have Dr. Dinosaur — that alone was work the price of admission for me. Do not question it!

The book does an excellent job of laying out the timeline of Robo’s adventures, describing the various organizations in competition, and has rules for the kind of support the organizations can provide and how the characters’ adventures affect them.

So is it worth the $35? How can you even ask that? It’s got robots, and science!, and punching…and dinosaurs and stuff. The layout and utility of the e-book is better than most , but I’ve got one of the final pre-release copies and the hyperlinks to jump around the book weren’t enabled yet. I assume they will be in the current or future releases. The substance? The new rules help capture the flavor of the comics, and the book gives a pretty decent introduction into the world of Atomic Robo for those who are uninitiated, but this book has a pretty specific demographic — fans of the comics — so they could always crack open the original material, if need be. The rule book is very good about pointing you and the right series and issue of the comic that ties to the material in the background sections.

It’s a buy, especially if you’re a Tesladyne booster.

UPDATE: I received the physical book today from Evil Hat. The $35 gets you the book and a free e-book download. The look of the pdf is preserved in the softback book, which has a nice satin finish to it, and is slightly smaller than usual for a game book at what looks to be a 6.5″x10.25″ aspect. (I didn’t measure it, but should be close.) Still worth it.

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