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Review: Wonder Woman #37

ww038The previous issue of Wonder Woman was a significant change in direction for the series with the introduction of a new creative team, and many felt that it was filled with more than a few bumps along the road.  While there were some obvious reservations with the previous issue, at the same time it indicated the delicate balance which the creative team was trying to achieve between their own stories and those that preceded it, as tough an act to follow as that was.  In this the second issue of this new creative team, there is a little bit less of the immediate reaction away from what came before, but also better clues that the creative team does indeed know what it is doing here.

While still under pressure from various parts of her life, Diana takes time to work through some of her problems, both with Clark and then with her sisters.  While the plot is at times a little forced, the different layers of storytelling are evidently being well-played against one another.  This is a creative team that is juggling a lot of balls, but as is evident with the surprise final page, it would seem that they do have a plan on how to manage the task in front of them, and to do so in a way that will please the fans and do justice to the characters.

The end result is one which is not as obvious as the first issue for the new team.  The previous issue was more of the clean-break as opposed to this one which instead rests a little bit on the shock value of what has come before.   While it may be evident as well here that some of the developments of the previous issue may in fact be more of misfires, it is also evident that while this series might not yet be running on full cylinders, that the promise is there to do so.  Admittedly, Azzarello’s run on this series was a great one, but people seem to ready to write off this team before they have even had a chance to prove themselves, and this issue represents another step forward for them as they try to carve out their own part of this iconic character’s history.

Story: Meredith Finch Art: David Finch
Story: 8.2 Art: 8.2 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy

Theaters, Sony, and Paramount Cave to Terrorists and Cyberbullies & Why that’s Bad

interview_xlgIn what can only be described as stupidity and cowardice, national theater chains including AMC, Regal, Cinemark, and Cineplex, and eventually Sony Pictures Entertainment have pulled the December 25th release of The Interview. For those who might not know, The Interview is a film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco that has them traveling to North Korea to interview Kim Jong Un, and are tasked to kill the leader. The country didn’t take the comedy too lightly, and instead North Korea (likely, it’s hard to verify) waged a cyber-war against Sony in retaliation.

That cyber attack proved an embarrassment for the American subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate. Sensitive documents were released, and have been fodder for sites over the past week. That coverage of leaked documents, and the subsequent reaction (which we’ll get to), played right into the hackers hands. Really, the hack showed the continued ineptness of Sony to protect itself in a digital age. They’ve had numerous hacks, dozens of times, that have exposed user accounts, and more.

In the end, the hackers threatened a physical attacked reminiscent of 9/11 if The Interview wasn’t pulled from release. This led to major theaters to cancel the release of the movie. Those theaters account for 18,000 screens of the roughly 40,000 screens in North America. Other theaters stood strong and would have still released the film. Sony eventually completely caved, and as of this post they were unsure if they’ll ever release the film, even on demand (I’d expect a torrent any day now).

The hacks, and even threat, are an example of cyberbullying taken to extreme, and by caving to demands, that bullying has shown to work. It’s akin to attacks on female creators (which include physical and death threats) in the video game industry, and have gotten some women to quit the industry. Its happened to comic creators and critics by those who disagree with what they have to say. It continues because it’s perceived to work.

What the pulling of the film does is encourage more of the behavior in the future, especially from the North Korean regime. The country has been building a cyber force that supposedly comprises 1,800 individuals. The cancellation of the film by theaters wasn’t likely out of safety concerns for movie goers (North Korea doesn’t likely have the ability to act on their physical threats), it’s more likely theaters are looking out for their own necks, and fear a cyberattack on their own systems, and what would come to light if it happened and documents were released. Documents that have been released showed Sony (and other film companies) conspiring against Google, and really consumers, in the battle over piracy. A battle ironically where Sony, the MPAA, RIAA, and other content producers use similar bullying tactics as were just used against Sony. They’ve also bad mouthed their own films, actors, and the direction of the subsidiary. Imagine what would be revealed about movie theater chains if a similar event would occur?

2014-12-18_1602The caving to the threats, and the embarrassment, have already had a chilling effect.

A planned adaptation of Guy DeLisle‘s Pyongyang by New Regency has been pulled. That film was to star Steve Carrell and be directed by Gore Verbinski with a script by Steve Conrad. The film has been described as a “paranoid thriller,” which has me a bit worried about what it might have been, when in reality DeLisle’s story is more like Lost in Translation. Luckily you can still purchase the brilliant graphic novel. What’s to say a threat and attack isn’t in Amazon’s future to stop the sale of the book though?

Paramount has barred theaters from showing Team America in protest of the cancellation of The Interview.

12 people were killed and more shot, plus numerous other incidences, during the opening week of The Dark Knight Rises, that film was kept in theaters. The Warriors opened in 1979, and lead to vandalism and killings, and only had security added to theaters, and continued to show.

Cyber threats which couldn’t be corroborated, and experts have dismissed the capabilities, are more than enough to stop this film, and more. Where actual physical proof of probable violence existed, a film wasn’t pulled. Think this is about our “safety” or that of protecting the theaters’ digital secrets?

In the coming weeks, and months, this most likely will increase the call for needed cyber legislation, most of which will be draconian, hurt civil liberties, and punish the consumer. Legislation like CISPA, SOPA, or PIPA, will be rammed through like undead zombies infecting and destroying the world before we notice and it’s too late. The attacks also have done more to promote a film which likely have done just ok in a theater (and built up a buzz that it’d be crazy to not release it digitally and capitalize on the hoopla).

This isn’t the first time a hack has led to company secrets being stolen. This isn’t the first time intellectual property has been stolen. The difference here is, that demands were met, and corporations caved to threats. They’ve shown this sort of bullying works, is easy, and effective. It encourages it to be done in the future, creating a chilling censoring effect.

This isn’t the first time issues over a movie and North Korea have come up. In 2002, Bond film Die Another Day depicted a North Korean villain which resulted in the country going on a PR offensive (instead of a cyber one). With these latest threats, the country moves closer to being a real life Bond villain.

Similar issues arose in 2004 of Team America: World Police, and in 2012 and 2013 things changed up a bit with the release of Red Dawn and Olympus Has Fallen. Both of those films featured North Korean terrorists. Those two films, the country used footage for their own propaganda to show off their military prowess.

It’s all ironic since former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was an avid fan of the James Bond franchise (and movies in general). Jong Il was so obsessed with films he kidnapped Japanese and South Korean actors and directors to star in movies he some times wrote himself.

 

 

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Interview: Vince Hernandez Discusses Aspen, Kiani, and the Changing Comic Readership

00b_FAK4-02-CMYKcrop_1In early November Aspen Comics made the announcement they were changing up the look of their heroine Kiani when Fathom: Kiani Volume 4 #1 arrives February 11th. Alex Konat, Giuseppe Cafaro, and Wes Hatman were tasked with updating Kiani’s look and the title’s overall design.

What was even more amazing was the honesty and transparency as to why this design change and update was happening:

And as our company and fan base continue to evolve, a new generation of readers will be introduced to this wonderful character, including a much larger female audience. We wanted to honor that spirit of progress by updating the look and feel of the series with an exciting new design.

In a year of major changes in the diversity of comic characters, this was the latest example that 2014 could be called “the year of the woman” in the comic industry.

We got a chance to throw some questions at the writer of Fathom: Kiani, Vince Hernandez, not just about the new direction, but also the changing demographics of comic readers and fans.

We have even more images of Kiani, and tomorrow come back for Part II, where we talk with artist Giuseppe Cafaro about the actual design process.

00b_FAK3-01-CMYKcrop[1]Graphic Policy: So the big news is you’re redesigning Kiani for her comic’s next volume out in February. How did you all come to the decision for the redesign?

Vince Hernandez: That’s correct, we’ll be ushering in a new look for the series both through the narrative and the visual aspect of the title. Like most ideas we have, this was derived from one of our production meetings, while discussing the new direction of Fathom: Kiani, and what we were looking to achieve with the final product. We’ve tried really hard to establish a library of titles that will appeal to the growing number of comic book readers, and that includes a large female audience. With this fourth volume of Fathom: Kiani, we tried to be mindful of this new audience while also staying true to the character and her rich history. This included a natural evolution to the character’s appearance that fits more with where she is in her journey. It’s all very organic to the story when you read it. I hope readers will agree.

GP: How many people were involved in the redesign process?

VH: Everything we do here at Aspen is a collaborative process, so everyone’s opinion matters. Usually, that starts in our production meetings and carries over into the individual discussions I have with the creative team, and all along the way I try to gather everyone’s opinions. For Fathom: Kiani, it’s like clockwork because Giuseppe Cafaro, Wes Hartman and Josh Reed know exactly what to do, since we’ve worked together on this title for quite some time.

GP: Were there any mandates as far as the redesign?

VH: No mandates, just to stay true to the character and the story, and our original discussions about the visual look of the series which includes covers, solicitation ads, and the approach to marketing the book for a wider audience.

KIANI-V4-01c-Garbowska-2x3_1GP: In the release announcing this you mention how the Aspen Comics fan base has evolved, and the much larger female audience. How closely does Aspen follow that? Do you have a good idea of what your readership “looks like”?

VH: I think so, although we’re always pleasantly surprised to meet new readers. The comic industry is growing larger and with that comes new readers and fans looking to enjoy our books. With the advent of more conventions and social networking, it’s a very fun time to be a comic book creator, as we can interact with our fan base directly. We try to stay current with that approach and evolve as our fan base does. One thing many people wrongly perceive about Aspen is that we have a mostly male fan base, because they see our female heroines on the covers and assume we’re something we’re not. We actually have a very strong and loyal female audience that we adore, and we’re very open to hearing our fans’ opinions. We’re here to entertain first and foremost, and with that comes a responsibility to be open to criticism.

GP: How do you feel the comic readership has changed over the years as far as habits and demographics?

VH: I think the comic readership has become much more attuned to challenging the status quo in terms of voting with their wallets, but I definitely wouldn’t mind even more change in that department. Right now there’s such a great influx of female readers and more of a focus on increasing diversity in the industry, but there’s still a large majority of readers that dismiss anything not by the Big Two. Those buying habits are hard to change, but thankfully I think it’s trending in the other direction now.

GP: This year’s big story for comics is diversity with numerous publishers headlining a lot more minorities in comics, and outright changing gender or race of characters. What do you see as the driving force behind that?

VH: I’d love to say that I think it’s all organic to the story and not part of a larger initiative to appeal to a demographic that has been under-served, but I wouldn’t be completely honest. But, then at the end of the day, anything that helps to add more diversity to the industry I can’t see as a bad thing–as long as it’s handled with respect and care for the story and/or characters.

GP: Do you think those changes are editorially driven? Number crunching/marketing driven? A combination?

VH: A combination, and I think it’s foolish to think that marketing doesn’t play a part in these decisions. Oftentimes, we as fans can get so caught up in the comics we love that we forget that publishers have to run as a business, first and foremost. Understanding market trends and areas of growth potential are essential to any good business model in the long term. Finding new readership is the best way to feed that growth, and publishers have to search out those new readers in these ways.

GP: Do you think the rise of self-publishing, Kickstarter, web comics, the explosion of indie books has helped pushed for greater diversity in the rest of the industry?

VH: Absolutely, and the benefit to that added diversity is that it puts the larger publishers in a position to not rest on their heels, which is a win for the overall quality of the work produced in comics. Being a published comic book creator doesn’t have the same value that it did a decade ago, now that anybody can publish their own work with enough determination. It makes for a more competitive playing field, and more options for fans to choose from.

GP: We publish monthly demographic studies of folks who “like” comics on Facebook. Do comic publishers consider that sort of thing when deciding what to publish and who an audience for a comic might be?

VH: You know, at this moment the correlation between a “like” on Facebook and a sale at the retail level to me hasn’t presented itself yet, but I think there are plenty of conclusions you can draw from the statistical data on Facebook. I think this is much more pronounced at the creator level, as I’ve seen some creators really build a solid revenue stream for their work due to their strong social media presence. As a publisher, we usually have to make our decisions much earlier, as we plan our production schedule far in advance. Once it hits social media we already anticipate a certain level of awareness for the property or title.

GP: Can we expect any other shake-ups like this for 2015 for Aspen?

VH: Well, the great thing about Aspen is that we’re free to really shake things up all the time, so I think Aspen fans can expect many more surprises in 2015, as we have some really fun new projects on the horizon!

Review: Wytches #3

If any comic on the stands today knows how to control a specific atmosphere, it’s Scott Snyder and Jock’s Image Comics-published Wytches. The pages practically bleed colorfully painted splotches of suffocating dread. The latest issue, #3, continues to build onto the ongoing conflict of the Rooks family, offering lots of scares that delve deep into a very real kind of fear. While I was left a bit wanting in regards to plot progression, this third issue is a great comic that manages to keep getting readers to care more and more intimately about these characters while simultaneously courting some healthy skepticism.

wytches 3

In classic Snyder fashion, this issue starts off with and occasionally flips back to a seemingly unrelated story from these characters’ past and thematically ties it into the present in a way that really affects. It’s so cool how this writer can take such a small anecdote about childhood play and present it in such a way that manages to conjure up all sorts of anxiety. A simple approach can go a long way when it comes to monster stories, but Snyder goes down a more complex road and succeeds. All looming danger in this series is caked in concern for this poor, anxious girl and her endlessly caring father.

This issue takes place some time after the first issue, exacerbated by a flashback that explains issue #2’s ending. Detailing a creepy encounter the father has with an odd, monstrous woman, this scene is not only viscerally uncomfortable, but gives some much needed hints at the mysteries of this first arc. Presented in this comic is an intriguing mystery that forces readers to think about the psychological limits of the characters. In the process, readers will probably stumble into having these thoughts about themselves, revealing the true terror of Wytches.

What’s unfortunate is that, despite all of this issue’s achievements, I was left wishing the plot had moved forward a little more. The regular monthly release cycle of comic books necessitates a substantial wait time between issues, so it can be a bummer when things don’t considerably progress. There are some fun surprises and a cliffhanger that seems to tease a truly exciting next issue, so it isn’t all bad.

The art here does continues to dazzle, in all of its eerie, discomforting and foreboding glory. On that same note of streamlining, however, I did occasionally find the paint-splattering in this issue to be a tad overdone. The purposely obtuse imagery that makes things hard to make out plays with one’s imagination in such a way as to force some dark analysis, even though sometimes I was left a bit annoyed that I couldn’t quite understand what I was looking at.

At the end of the issue, Snyder wrote up an essay delving into what emotionally drove him to develop Wytches. It’s a story that any die-hard Snyder fan will already know from interviews he’s done, but it’s a chilling and well-written read all the same. In it, he paints a clear connection between Wytches and real-life fears formed from the implications of relationships with loved ones combined with mind-numbing anxiety. He’s not full of shit.

Story: Scott Snyder Art: Jock
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Check out Matt’s digital portfolio here

Review: Batman #37

Batman #37 moves with purely terrifying kinetic energy. With art at a higher production value than just about anything else on the market guided by writing done with a higher level of intelligence and nuance than just about anything else on the market, the latest issue of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman saga impresses more than any issue of the “Endgame” arc thus far. It creates a thrilling and claustrophobic atmosphere that makes it near impossible to look away from the page, and even more difficult not to throw money at DC Comics for the next chapter in the story. It’s amazing.

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Snyder’s writing is so grounded in horror that even his superhero stories embody terror in the same general fashion that his straight-horror creator-owned work does. Everything that happens in this issue is suspenseful music to one’s ears, all culminating into a pot that delves into deep fears of Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and other citizens of Gotham. In both “Endgame” and his past arc “Death of the Family,” Snyder and Capullo present more or less the only wholly scary version of the Joker in comic book form, save for parts of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke.

There’s a scene towards the end of the comic that spikes the adrenaline in both Batman and Gordon, delivering sequences that cut to their cores all thanks to the cunningly evil acts of the Joker. Through brilliant page layouts, these two scenes are spliced together to turn the excitement level up from 10 all the way to 20. Batman’s trouble isn’t totally original but shocking and powerful all the same. On the other half of the coin, Gordon’s run-in with the Joker reveals something rather unsettling about his character, aided most by simple, unfocused upon facial expression in his reaction.

The art team of Capullo on pencils, Danny Miki on inking, and FCO Plascencia on coloring has produced one of the most stunning issues of Batman yet with this 37th issue. The first page is a pretty realistic and completely creepy image of Bruce, frozen by paralysis from Joker-gas, trying to think himself out of emotionally breaking. It’s followed up by pages filled with detail that gets across every bit of finesse necessary for all of the twitching fear on strong men’s faces and for all of the little hands creeping in the background. It’s a comic that creates environments that feel cramped but that are still zipped through with a fast pace. Most of the comic is dark, filled with blobs of jet-black shadow, but it’s not without its tints of blue and orange, and occasional bits of jarring color.

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Not managing to be quite perfect, some small issues are worth noting. For one thing, unfortunate timing means that this story runs parallel to the “Amazo Virus” arc in Justice League. Both storylines feature an infection damaging large groups of innocent city folk, and a desperate hunt for a “patient zero” to figure out an antidote. This takes away from the oomph of the plot some because of the lame familiarity. It’s still entertaining in its own right, though, and this won’t be an issue for those reading in a trade much further down the line when this comic is inevitably recommended by comic readers of the future for anyone looking for essential Joker stories.

Another mild disappointment that hurts the arc as a whole is the drop in quality from the main story to the backups. These backups, penned by James Tynion IV, are well-written and provide captivating backstory that feels relevant to the main story. However, the art in these backups, while always unique and interesting, are never all that great. The backup of #37 is perhaps the best looking so far, with surreal and scrappy art by John Mccrea. It’s not bad art; honestly, it’s good. Coming off of art from Capullo really does leave a certain impact that makes the “good” art hard to appreciate for what it is, though. Past backups on Batman treated readers to comic book industry greats like Jock and Raphael Albuquerque, and sadly, that’s not what’s currently on the pages of the latest arc.

Most important here is the main story, and it will surely go down in history as something special. Snyder and Capullo have such a strong grasp of the Batman character that it is hard to imagine what the next creative team is going to have to do not to look puny in comparison. Batman #37 is an amazing reminder that despite any sad cancellations and weird continuity changes from DC Comics, there is a downright excellent comic that comes out every month that goes by the simple, unfettered title of Batman.

Story: Scott Snyder Art: Greg Capullo
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.75 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Check out Matt’s digital portfolio here

Review: The Death Defying Dr. Mirage #4

dm04With this the fourth of five issues in this miniseries, the resolution to the challenges against Dr. Mirage is nearly here, but in the meantime there is an assortment of problems faced by her before she leave the astral plane.  After the previous issue, little time is wasted for her reunification with her deceased husband Hwen, but at the same time the forces of Ivros are on the move and March’s scheming keeps the pace moving as numerous influences seek to destabilize the barrier between the astral plane and Earth, allowing for an invasion.

At its heart this is a fairly engaging story, with a well-conceived concept, but where it fails is with the artwork.  It is not even that the artwork is bad, because the artist is evidently skilled enough, only that when superimposed upon the astral plane, that it does not help the chaos of understanding who is where, but rather adds to the confusion.  With the astral plane as essentially a setting wide open in terms of creative inspiration or imagination, it makes sense for such a setting to be unfathomably bizarre and complex, but from the reader’s standpoint, it is still necessary to have an anchor to understand it, and the artist fails to do so with this issue.

On the whole though, this still succeeds in the way that it is meant to.  Once the confusion of the artwork is bypassed, the reader is left with a story that is full of both interesting plot twists as well as well-developed characters.  The villains are evil and the heroes are good and neither in solely a superficial sense.  The heroes face difficult choices from a moral standpoint and it is in those choices where the final issue of this series is headed.

Story: Jen Van Meter Art: Roberto de la Torre
Story: 7.7 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.7 Recommendation: Read

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

BUNKER #8Wednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in! Below are ten suggestions of comics, graphic novels, or trade paperbacks you should spend some extra time checking out and think about picking up.

Pick of the Week: The Bunker #8 (Oni Press)When Billy learns of a second impending attack, he begins to research the group thought to be behind them.  What he doesn’t know is that it’s his best friends. Writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Joe Infurnari‘s time bending series is beyond fantastic each issue, and one of the best comics on the market.

Alex + Ada #11 (Image Comics)Are you reading this? You should! An interesting story of love and what it means to be human.

Avengers & X-Men: AXIS #8 (Marvel) – The overall event is a bit uneven, but there’s some interesting stuff being done here. There’s a good chance that there’ll be some lasting ramifications…. but we’ll see.

Django Zorro #2 (Dynamite) – It shouldn’t work, but the first issue sure did! Two interesting characters meet, in this series by Tarantino himself. If you like either of these characters, do yourself a favor and check this out. If you’re not, still do yourself a favor and check this out.

The Kitchen #2 (Vertigo) – With their husbands in jail, three women must keep control of their territory. This mob tale had an amazing debut, and is easily up there as one of our favorite stories about made men (women in this case).

Rocket Salvage #1 (BOOM! Studios/Archaia) – Yehudi Mercado puts out some fantastic work, and this new series looks hilarious.

Rumble #1 (Image Comics) – Okay, so a scarecrow walks into a bar…and proceeds to wreak havoc across two worlds! After a long absence, Rathraq, Scarecrow Warrior God, is back—and very unhappy. Bad news for his old enemies, yes, but worse news for everybody else! Sounds interesting to us!

Solitary #1 (Devil’s Due Entertainment) – They say orange is the new black, but does that work the same way for a superhero? Tim was once a hero, now wrongly sentenced to death row, awaiting execution. But what happens when this convict discovers he just may be immortal?

Stumptown Vol. 3 #4 (Oni Press) – When Dex’s date causes tension between her and Grey, she has to balance Ansel’s needs with those of her case. Meanwhile, the puzzle pieces start to come together for CK as she gets closer to who assaulted Mercury! Writer Greg Rucka has given us such an amazing character in Dex!

The Wicked + The Divine #6 (Image Comics) – One of the best comics on the market.

Review: Manifest Destiny #12

md12Definitely one of the most bizarre series in recent times has to be Manifest Destiny.  The usual frontier myths of Lewis and Clark are replaced with horror based stories focused on the things that they never reported back about.  So far in this series, the story has focused on the individual challenges of the team, be that the zombifying fungus or the collection of unusual monsters.  While the series has been big on suspense as the crew tries to figure out solutions to the dangerous dilemmas, it has also been relatively short on answers.  In this issue the team finally stop for a break, this time at an Indian village, and have a relatively uninterrupted chance to mend their wounds.  Of course, even at that things are not what they seem, but at least the crew is ready for more adventures at the end of this issue.

What this break does is that it allows the series to finally give a bit of a background to its stories.  Lewis specifically is shown as he is recruited by President Jefferson.  Once again traditional history is thrown on its side as the president reveals something from the Louisiana purchase which no one else had ever known about, the skull of a cyclops. While this provides some of the background for Lewis and Clark, there is also some added background for Sacagawea, though added only through some revelation of her personal reasons for aiding the group.  While it is not historical, it fits into the story line in the series, as it provides some reasoning to her actions thus far.

With a bit more background, this series is headed off once again into the wildernesses, against its unexpected foes, and while this issue does not contain the action and thrills that have been a hallmark of this series so far, it does give it a better center as finally the motivations behind the major characters are better understood.  Equally the challenges ahead in the coming issues are still evident, even as the elder in the small village explains something about some of the mysteries.  This compact issue does what has been needed for this series, and gives the reader more to ponder about as the crew head further into the continent.

Story: Chris Dingess Art: Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni
Story: 8.3 Art: 8.2 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Read

Image provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.  

We Talk DC Comics Deck Building with Matt Hyra

Matt Hyra is a veteran game designer, having worked on a variety of games before moving to Cryptozoic where he was given the challenge of developing a DC Comics deck building game.  The recently released second major expansion is an indication of the success of the series thus far and in Matt’s ability to put together a functional and fun game.  We got the chance to talk with him about his latest release – Forever Evil – where the bad guys finally get their chance to shine.

baneGraphic Policy: Are you a fan of comics?  And if yes, how does that affect how the theme was chosen for this game?

Matt Hyra: Yes! I’m a DC guy and have been since high school. I also enjoy some small press titles as well.

The themes are chosen to explore new cross sections of the DC Universe, game mechanics, and game flow. When we started thinking about playing as the bad guys, the Forever Evil storyline was just starting up. So that was a great moment of synergy.

GP:  What goes into designing a game like this and how long does it take?

MH:  A stand-alone game takes about a year from start to finish. There is a lot of trial and error. We usually decide on the types of characters we want to feature first. Then we come up with game mechanics that fit those characters. Then a lot of playtesting.

GP:  What are some of the challenges in interpreting a comic universe into a deck building game?

 MH:  One challenge is thematics. In order to keep the games infinitely replayable, we can’t just hand a Batman player a 40-card deck full of Batman-themed cards. You have to add a random and wide variety of cards to your deck to keep the game fresh.

GP:  Is it hard to balance what fans expect out of certain characters versus the need of the game dynamics?

 MH:  Some comic characters have powers that are difficult to translate into the game. Other times we are forced to just focus on one aspect of a character.

 GP:  It seems to be popular recently to want to play as the “bad guy”.  What do you think about this phenomenon?

 pandMH:  We like it! Mechanically, it’s no different than playing as a Super Hero. But with Forever Evil, which just released last week, we could have a lot of fun with it. And the players are liking the new play patterns.

GP:  What can we expect to see in future expansions?  Tie-ins to the movies maybe?  And any characters that you would like to see in the future?

MH: You can expect to see Crossover Packs. These small “booster” packs allow you to sub in a new set of Super Heroes and Super-Villains, plus a few new main deck cards… and that changes up the game about 50% with minimal effort. The first Crossover comes out in early 2015 and features the Justice Society of America.

Crisis Pack 2 will also be out very soon!

As for movies, that is a separate license that we don’t have.

As for characters I would like to see… probably Mr. Mxyzptlk. Just because he would allow us to do something really crazy.

Review: Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Witches #4

witches 004 aFor a series that is focused on fairy tales dealing with witches, it makes sense that at some point it would have to include Baba Yaga, here drawn from an unused teleplay for the original television series.  While there are other witches who are more famous in fairy tales, many of them are not named specifically, and so Baba Yaga as a name is distinctive enough to merit some attention.  The story follows a fairly common theme among fairy tales, the death of a mother and her replacement with a mean step-mother and her mean daughters. The young girl acting as the protagonist is forced into a life of servitude, which is made all the worst when she is sent to the dark forest to live.

In the folklore tradition of Baba Yaga there is not one common narrative as there is with for instance Cinderella or Snow White, instead the witch is more like a legend or superstition in her portrayal, and often even a cautionary tale of what happens to children that do not behave.  Here though she is put into a story which captures a lot of the commonalities of fairy tales, even when they are not from a specific story dealing with Baba Yaga.  This makes the story seem a bit artificial at times, and this is even more evident, as the titular Storyteller is shown in this issue far more than in previous issues, and his presence seems almost like it is necessary to advance the plot. Equally though by pulling from stock material for fairy tales, it does allow the main character to display some redeeming qualities, notably when she is challenged to riddles which she quickly deciphers.

The end result for this issue and this series is a little bit of a disappointment.  While the series is quaint and interesting when approached from a certain angle, it also never really managed to reach the level that it could have or should have.  The collected edition might be a nice addition to a child’s library, but from an adult point of view, most of the fairy tales in this four part series missed the mark.  This fourth and final issue was probably the second best of the four, but as it is still only about average, it is indicative of the problems that this series faced.

Story: Anthony Mighella Art: Jeff Stokely
Story: 7.4 Art: 7.4 Overall: 7.4 Recommendation: Pass

BOOM! Studios and Archaia provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.  

 

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