Saturday, October 22, 2016

Ragnarok: Last God Standing by Walter Simonson

Walter Simonson is probably best known for his work on Marvel Comic's character, Thor. His tales epic in scope and size.

So imagine what happens when he does his own series based on Norse myths? You get Ragnarok and in this collection, Last God Standing, collecting issues 1-6, you get a Thor after Ragnarok, an undead Thunder God. One whose hammer still has power but is designed more like the mythological version with the short handle.

Yes, Thor as an undead god of Thunder. With Walter's traditional touches. He brings the character to life as few could.

In this tale, someone wants Thor gone and sends a dark elf assassin to do the job. It's a nice touch as the dark elves have a long a tradition in Norse mythology. Her comments to others remind me of what an adventurer would be like.

That in and of itself could almost be the start of half of Dungeons and Dragons games the way people online talk.

And Thor himself? Still a god of action.

Walter's art does a fantastic job of selling this new world and this new mythological vision. We see Thor awaken and learn how to deal with this new world. Not as strong as he once was, not as wise as Odin, we see Thor trying to piece together the bits of the new world from what remains of the old world.

One of the most powerful bits to me? When Thor finds the old Well and its seer, Mimir. Like Odin, Thor must sacrifice an eye for knowledge. But after the well is drained? There are two eyes left in it. One Thor's freshly sacrificed eye, the other? The original eye of Odin. Thor places it into his skull to gain his father's knowledge. It's a powerful sight and touching at the same time.

Thor's tragedy here is lain at the reader's feet with every step Thor takes in this new world. When he visits Asgard and sees his dead wife and children? When he uses a Fire Giant's essence to set aflame old Asgard as a proper monument to their time? It shows the weight and cost of Thor's sleep.

But Thor is not the only inhabitant in the world. The Dark Elf assassin had a husband who seeks to finish her work and the hunt is on. Gifted with a cursed sword that must draw blood, Regn and his daughter, Drifa, seek out the Thunder God to bring him down.

This collection ends with Thor in the ruins of Asgard and Regn and Drifa seeking him out with a cursed sword.

In addition to the comics, this collection includes the full covers as well as sketches. Walt's sketches in various degrees of completion. It's a wonder to see the art unfold from one stage to the other.

Right now Last God Standing is part of the IDW sale and is going for $3.99.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Iron Fist: The Return Of K'un Lun

Iron Fist: The Return Of K'un Lun is one of those collections that brings together a lot of mini-series that Iron Fist starred in during the 90's.

Best to remember it was the 90s and later eh?

Lots of lines. Lots of detail. Lots of word dialog boxes. This is taken from the initial story arc where things had to be dark! Dark I say!

It features the first return of Davos, the Steel Serpent. It's a fairly standard no-brainer but it could also be looked at as a herald for future plot lines.

See, last time we saw the Steel Serpent, he was consumed by the Iron Fist, dissipated into the ether. But not so! Instead, he was pulled into "the anomaly," a gem found in K'un Lun. In that Gem, he learned various martial art moves from numerous Iron Fists that were already in the gem. So Danny is apparently not the only Iron Fist there ever was...

After those two issues, we get a three issue limited series that features the return of Danny's 'sister' and some action with the plant men. This is probably the best of the books in here in that the story, written by Dan Jurgen, is fair and the art is solid.  We even get to see Scimitar make an appearance and while it's not spectacular or anything, the fact that the writer even knew enough about Iron Fist to drag him out of retirement is impressive.

After that, we get the title story, it's Iron Fist and Wolverine, which spreads out to the Avengers, various X-Men, and more in The Return of K'un Lun.

The story is decent.

The art? Man, terrible. I'm not an artist. I could draw better than some of the work featured in these issues.

This isn't even the worst of the offenders. Just one I picked at random. Marvel and DC need to start their liberal arts college so that they have a great pool of talent to draw from. Either that of pay more. Something. Ugh.

The story revolves around Iron Fist being captured and his power, the Iron Fist, stripped away from him (again). This time by a youth known as Junzo Muto. In this storyline, he's the leader of the Hand. He's a phenomenal martial artist who easily bests Iron Fist, and apparently took on Night Thrasher and the New Warriors back in the day.

The weird thing is, on the side, I'm thinking, Junzo? Who is this? The Hand has made numerous appearances since this series came out but the kid was nowhere to be seen. It's like Marvel forgot how bad the storyline was and let it go.

Anyway, Junzo was going to merge K'un Lun right atop of Japan's capital city, and use it to take over the world! He gets stopped and manages to escape and even does so with the Iron Fist. From what I've read in other sources, Iron Fist managed to get his abilities back in an issue of the Black Panther, not included in this collection.


The book wraps up with Breathless, another limited series with an okay storyline and even worse art.


I got nothing. Iron Fist runs through many bad guys until he winds up murdering the head of a cult because he can't let him get away to kill again. During the battles, his biggest fight up to that point is probably against "Karen" who fights Iron Fist in a custom that is almost exactly identical to Psylocke's.

All in all, a rather poor collection. Great for completist and those who want to catch up on all things Iron Fist. Story wise better than art wise.

Am I missing something in my assessment? Have others read this and been blown away by its quality and I'm missing some key elements? Have there been some other apperances by the leader of the Hand that qualifies his abscence since these issues? Hit me up with some comments.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Iron Fist: Stealing the Names of His Kung Fu!

One of the fun things about martial arts, whether its real ones or those from fantasy, ranging from books to anime, is the naming conventions. Even Dungeons and Dragons 1st edition and its monk
class, had the quivering palm attack after all.

So taken from the Epic Collection of Iron Fist, the Fury of Iron Fist, are some of the names, suitable
for using in games like Champions or just yelling them out for your own monk characters.


Blow of the Hammer
Double Sword Hand
Hammer Blows
Knife Slash Blow
Leopard Paw Blow
Monkey Blow
Pounding Wave Blow
Ram's Head
Rock Smash Blow
Scorpion Blow
Sword Hand
Tiger Claw Blow


Basic Horse Stance
Cat Stance


Cresent Kick

Dragon Stamp
Dragon Stomp
Elephant Kick
Elephant Stomp
Lightning Kick 

Ram's High Kick
Spinning Whip Kick


Locking Block
Monkey Blow
Reverse Smash

Boulder Block
Heel Palmed Parry
High Line Block
Leaping Deer Block


Cross Arm Throw
Reverse Shoulder Throw

To see all of those crazy moves in action, they're all collected in the collection of Iron Fist.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Iron Fist Epic Collection: The Fury of Iron Fist

Iron Fist, Epic Collection, The Fury of Iron Fist, collections from 1974 to 1977. It includes Marvel Premiere 15-25, Iron Fist 1-15, and Marvel Tema Up 62-63. Totals some odd 400 full-color pages.

Much of the continuous work is done by John Bryne, well known for his work on X-Men, Avengers, and later, his title, Next Men. There are a few other who's who of artists included in this volume including Gil Kane and Patrick Broderick,

These tales focus on Iron Fist origin and introduce many of the enemies and allies that would become main streams of the Marvel Universe, some of them taking on a much larger life than their initial introduction here would indicate.

Part of that is due to the author and writer combo of Chris Claremont and John Bryne. For example, when Sabertooth makes his introduction here for the first time in comics and appears in later volumes of Power Man & Iron Fist, few would suspect that Sabertooth would probably become more popular than Iron Fist himself (arguably) and have more appearances in X-Men comics.

For those unaware, Iron Fist is a martial art comic that took advantage of the martial art craze in the 70s. It was not the only comic to do so. There was also Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu, and the black and white magazine, Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, where Shang-Chi and Iron Fist met and battle.

Some of the other characters introduced in the series include the Daughters of the Dragon, Colleen Wing, and Misty Knight; the latter can be seen in Sam Wilson's new Captin America titles.

For villains that are introduced and updated at a later time, we have such favorites as the Steel Serpent and the already mentioned Sabertooth.

Many of the other villains, though, some off as one trick ponies such as Scimitar whose only made a handful of appearances in the 40 years since the comic came out.

There is a nice play off of the character's original motif through the original story. Iron Fist is not only a deadly warrior, but he gained his skills to avenge the death of his father and mother. They were both killed by a friend during a trip to the mystic city K'un L'un, and only Danny survives it.

Danny undergoes a series of trials and tribulations cumulating in fighting a dragon and gaining the dragons' 'heart' and becoming the Iron Fist! This is an ability that still hasn't been fully explored, but it's primary use? Danny can summon his 'Chi' into his fist and strike very hard with it.

He's also been known to heal, meld minds, fight off radiation poisoning, fight off magic attacks, and other little cat out of the bag tricks.

But Danny became the Iron Fist to kill a man. When he finally finds that person, a wealthy tycoon who's surrounded himself with death traps and unique individuals to destroy Iron Fist, he discovers that this old man has suffered the ravages of time, lost his mind, and even his legs.

Iron Fist cannot bring himself to take that vengeance so instead, a newcomer, the Ninja, not just a ninja mind you, but the Ninja, comes out and does it. This leads to the daughter of the man Iron Fist came to kill, thinking Iron Fist is the murderer and set up a long sequence of events where Iron Fist has to discover what the Ninja wants, how to convince others that he's not a murderer, etc...

In the 30+ issues, the reader gets in this volume, there's some solid groundwork laid for future authors and writers.

If you're excited by the Nextlix series, this is an excellent trade to add to your collection.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Anime Three Quick Shot Reviews

I happened upon a list of horror appropriate anime. This was based on graphic violence and the whole October Halloween Theme.

Not so good. Watched three series. Let me quickly go through them.

High School of the Dead

12 episodes, censored, on Hulu.

The idea of the Walking Dead in Japan is an interesting one.

This is not that.

Starts off in a similar manner. Sick individual (actually a zombie) pounding on a private school gate. Student witnesses the staff attack said individual to remove him from the property; only that doesn't go so well.

In this zombie setting, the disease spreads quickly.  The kid figures out there's something wrong. He goes to grab his ex-girlfriend, a spearfighter, and well, it quickly goes from there.

It's a harem style anime where there are multiple women main characters, one 'desirable' guy character. There is another male character, who at least in this sequence of events, despite his aptitude with all things projectile, including nail guns and high powered assault weapons, is the comedic relief.

Is it violent? Yes.

Is it pandering to men, probably young teens? Yup.

Worth watching? Nope.

Blood C

I've seen a few series in the 'Blood' vein. The original movie, Blood, The Last Vampire, is my favorite because I saw it many moons ago. Then there was the first TV series, Blood +. I enjoyed, although it did tend to drag.

Then there's this 12 episode bit.

Watched it on Hulu, where again, it was censored. The ultra-violence was white lighted out. You can catch the clips on Youtube if you're so inclined.

Story wise, at least it tends to be aware that the main character, Saya, has some awareness problems of her own. Saya's issues come home in the last episode, but the build up to it has zero resolution in the series. If you want to watch the fighting sequences, which are okay but on Hulu, edited, its worth watching.


Also on Hulu and of these three, the most enjoyable.

The main character, Ryuta,  starts off not knowing where he is as he wakes up on a tropical island. He's suffering from short term amnesia and he's sarmed with timed grendaes. Ryuta's main skill in life? He's a great player of a game called Btoom. It's an online game where you play against others, but its big draw is you use different types of grenades as opposed to guns or swords.

The corporation that makes the game, kidnaps people volunteered by someone else. The main character, Ryuta for example, is volunteered by his own mother for money. These kidnapped people are then flown onto a tropical island, armed, and have to play a real life version of Btoom!

It's like Sword Art Online but in reverse. Instead of getting sucked into a video game, the video game comes to the real world.

You have to get eight crystals to get off. Said crystals are embedded in a person's hand and can only be removed upon that person's death.

While it does have a bit of fanservice of its own going on, it's not obnoxious about it, unlike High School of the Dead.

More interesting to me is that Ryuta grows quite a bit during these 12 episodes. His flashbacks to his home life showcase him as a loser with no job and rude to his parents, selfish to the point of excluding them from his world, which is boiled down to being good at Btoom. Seeing him acknowledge that is powerful.

The series also has more use of common sense and strategy than the other two. There are deaths, surprises, and other events that made it far more interesting than the others.

It, like High School of the Dead, ends on an appropriate note which if sales and viewership warrant it, could easily lead into a new season.

I've never seen any of these before nor have I read any of the anime.

As the Halloween season isn't over and I'm still loolking for work, I suspect I'll be able to knock a few more of these anime series off of my Hulu watch list.

Anyon love any of these or think I'm way off base?

Have any Halloween anime series to recommend?

Hit me up in the comments!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Back In The Saddle Again

With apologies to Aerosmith.

So one of my friends was running a Rolemaster Fantasy Game. That's the Rolemaster version after the Rolemaster Standard System. But he wanted some more time to get some ideas fleshed out and get some more world building done.

I volunteered to run either Pathfinder in the official setting or 3.5 in the Forgotten Realms.

A bit of debate and some sidebars and blah blah blah, and it went with 3.5 in the Forgotten Realms.

I generally know what I like when I put together my campaign ideas. So some of the first things discussed were starting level, 3rd, starting gold, official for 3rd level, hit points, max, no rolling, character creation, 32 point buy per the Dungeon Master's Guide.

With that out of the way, I started to organize my collection. I haven't run anything in any real capacity in years. My books are vastly out of place. Some of them in storage even. So while I'm organizing, I'm also brainstorming ideas.

I like the Sword Coast. I like the North. Not a big fan of the Dales, Cormyr, Thay, or the whole Amn region. I decide on the Sword Coast. Hey, turns out I bought Murder In Baldur's Gate many moons ago and never had a chance to run it or even open it.

Awesome screen. Two booklets, one adventure, one campaign setting information. Read over the adventure. For first level players. I throw some of the things that happened in the adventure into the background ideas I'm weaving together. The setting booklet I keep as a reference point for the good stuff like bars, churches, important characters, important bits like Little Calisham, etc...

During my clean up, I also run across the Solomen Guild. I really need to do a 'real' review of that one day because it's a fun little thieves guild product. While Baldur's Gate does have an "official" guild, who cares? I throw some of the ideas of what these thieves do into the city and plot to have the characters harassed as an early encounter.

I suspect that the players will not give the thieves a few gold to be left alone and rather, attack the guild members. This allows me to get the game rolling with some combat encounters as well as refresh my memory of how the game MOVES as opposed to how it reads. It's been years since I've run a game after all.

By the way, this worked perfectly. The party realized they were being observed, called out the thieves; thieves asked for a small donation from the newcomers to the city and glorious combat ensured. A few of the thieves escaped and now the players are 'wanted' men by the Solomen Guild.

Another thing I did while cleaning, organized my books by companies. One of those companies is Green Ronin. I used to buy pretty much everything Green Ronin put out in the day. Well, to be fair, a lot of that was review products when I was doing a ton of reviews. One of those items? The Secret College of Necromancy!

Baldur's Gate has a long association with Bhaal, one of the 'evil' gods of the setting. So why not a college of necromancy? Even better, one of the already existing NPC's is always on the lookout for adventurers to guard him/escort him while he does his research.

And one of the notes in Murder in Baldur's Gate? Some tombs have recently been unearthed on the cliff face! Instant scenario. A little exploration, a little fighting against some ghouls, a little exploration of the city, and bam, first game session done.

Several NPCs introduced to the party, several ideas put out, several future adventure options put out. Oh, and I also threw an evil sword from an old Role Aids supplement, Blood & Steel, into the mix to give the players a bit of punch and worry about what others are looking at when they look at the characters.

In between the organization and reading, I've also been painting up miniatures. By skipping the first few levels, I'm trying to move away from goblins, kobolds, giant rats, orcs, and other too familiar foes. I've got gnolls, bugbears, ogres, and minotaurs on the painting block along with some gargoyles, so I already have an idea of where I'm "pushing" the new few encounters.

Hope everyone else games are going well!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Luke Cage, Hero For Hire Marvel Masterworks Vol. 1

Luke Cage, Hero For Hire Volume 1 Marvel Masterworks
336 color pages
Currently $3.99 for Kindle, $75 for physical copy

Unless you've been hiding from the internet, you know that Netflix has a new Marvel series, Luke Cage, the Hero for Hire!

That started off as a comic in the early 70's to take advantage of blaxploitation trends thanks to movies like Shaft. I know some are outraged over the whole exploitation trends but it wasn't just limited to black, as evidenced by the huge amount of martial art material from the 70s, and it didn't stop in the 70s as the 80s would give us Dazzler and modern trends try to latch onto whatever is popular.

Right? No.

Ongoing? Yup.

But out of such origins, we get characters like Luke Cage and often, good stories and often, an evolution of the character.

I originally owned many of the later parts of the Hero for Hire bits, especially when it dovetailed into Power Man and Iron Fist. For me as a young person at the time, that was an awesome combination. It also started art by John Bryne. Back in the day? That meant something.

But what about this particular volume? Well, Amazon has it on sale for $3.99 to take advantage of the hype and as the hardcover is $75, I leapt at the chance to get the kindle version.

Reading the series I'm struck by the evolution of Cage. In modern comics, he's essentially invulnerable. In these comics? While he's bullet-proof, he is still bruised by the shots he takes. Mind you this varies even here as there are times when Cage is facing high caliber weapons and will duck and other times take it and exclaim how much it hurts.

There's a sequence in one of the later issues where he's fighting some of the big cats and they tear him up! These days in modern Marvel comics? They'd be more of an annoyance than anything by themselves.

Several of Cage's original foes reach back into his origin story. For example, Diamondback, the original one at Marvel at least, was Willis Striker, a former friend, later rival, who was responsible for having Cage framed in the first place.

He'd make a great 'Batman' style foe in that he has a inventory outfit him with numerous different special knives that go a long way in overcoming Luke's invulnerable skin.

As far as I can tell, he's one of thos bad guys who gets 'done in one' where he 'dies' but we never see a body and with Marvel's almost inability to leave a character dead, with the Netflix series on now, I wouldn't be surprised to see him make a comeback.

And hey, if he has, leave a comment with the issue and title! I'm a collector but even I get behind!

Many of the other foes introduced in the series put a 'hurt' on Cage through their size. For example, Black Mariah or Big Ben Donovan. No super powers, just like the Kingpin, in a weight class of their own and use that size and weight to smash Cage down.

Mind you since Cage is not only a hefty three hundred pounds himself and super human. The ability to throw your weight around only goes so far.

Like many of the tales told before, let's say the late eighties, these comics are often done in one. You get a full story and while the characters may move forward like those old serials of Doc Savage, the tale itself is done. Handy for when you're in a hurry. The writers and letterers, also know how to space the text.

I don't know if it was a 90s thing, but man, I read the revised Cage series, Second Chances, and wall to wall text in some panels. Like they didn't know how to break it down to readability. That problem doesn't happen here.

One of the sad things about reading the series? Look at the covers.

Solid art. Often better than the interior. but man, that price? Twenty cents? Sweet Christmas indeed.

Some of the foes, like Mr.  Death he faces, and who were 'one offed' as often happened, have appearance later on through relatives. In this case, Mr. Death was often referred to as "Death" or "Luck" depending on what aspect of him you were dealing with. In future Power Man and Iron Fist issues, the relatives of the original make their debut, one as Luck, the other as Death.

When you look at some of those Cage faces, though, you have to wonder about their motives. Like Chemistro. A guy who has an alchemy gun that can turn anything into anything else. Yeah don't know if I'd go the superhero route with that one, but hey, this was before the internet, and he makes a real foe, one with a weapon Cage can't be hit by or else! Chemistro is reinvented later on for future encounters.

Outside of the original foes that Luke faces, he does get to integrate himself into the greater Marvel Universe a bit in a two-part storyline that's famous for one panel so well known I'm not putting the image here, but will share the cover:

Yes! Dr. Doom and Luke Cage go head to head and whereas the Thing and the Hulk often failed to beat Doom, Cage focuses on one part over and over again and reveals a weakness in the armor.

It's not as bad as Squirrel Girl beating Doom, it's pretty bad.

But overall it's an interesting story that modern audiences get carried away with that one panel. It's also the lead in for Luke to work temporarily for the Fantastic Four at a later date in the Fantastic Four's own comic when Ben is turned human.

A lot of the early material is rough but the groundwork is there for numerous things that would happen to Cage at a later date and several of those characters are still in use and getting reuse thanks to  new media.

This volume? For $3.99, there's a lot of tales to take in.