The Dork Den Blog

For all your comic and board game review needs.

Batman #50

Batman #50

The big Tom King event has finally come to its long awaited climax, the wedding is upon us, Batman 50 is here. There has been so much buildup and anticipation for this comic book it’s actually mind blowing. I’ll give it to Tom King, It’s been a while since I’ve seen so much mainstream hype and knowledge about this storyline specifically and it’s really been making some waves in the comic book world. Like King’s run or not, it’s been a very vital and risky project that will go down in Batman’s history as a very memorable run. 50 marks King’s halfway point, but this issue really is the peak of the story so far and the foundation for a bigger and better journey to come. Controversy abound, #50 is a big hefty issue that will leave you struggling to decide whether you love it or hate it.

Wedding Day is here. Not particularly planned, moreso a last minute decision. Unable to wait anymore, the two crime fighting lovers make their plans to have a very low brow wedding away from all the spectators and family, and before long the day quickly approaches. The reality our heroes must face however, is that their lives are far more complicated than the average everyday human. Perhaps marriage is the best thing for them. Perhaps if they marry they settle down and become the perfect, happily-ever-after couple and put their crime fighting days behind them. Perhaps they could continue their lives bringing down the evils of Gotham together, perfectly married and perfectly kick-ass. Perhaps these ideas are unrealistic. As the day draws nearer, they both must decide what’s best for them, and despite how deeply they’re in love with each other, one of them might break.

Batman #50, regardless of how the reader feels about the conclusion and the story in general, is an amazing issue for a couple of reasons. Every other page includes 2 pieces of art different from the main artist. Art drawn by previous artists of Batman’s many, many runs over the years. From Greg Capullo to Frank Miller tons of art styles come together in collaboration to not only make an amazing comic book but an amazing tribute to Batman over the past 80 years of his existence. It’s truly a family reunion of sorts, and it’s something that by no means had to happen. Tom King simply decided it was a great idea, and here we are with one of the coolest collabs I’ve ever seen in all of comic books. Batman #50 is a true celebration of Batman as a character and the love between Bruce and Selina. It’s also an awesome emotional storypiece. Half of the comic is told in letter form, each page alternating between reading through a letter written by Bruce to Selina and a letter written by Selina to Bruce. Both declaring their love, one declaring their doubts. It’s beautifully well paced and executed. King understands how to write Batman from an emotional standpoint, but where he really shines is writing Selina Kyle, a very powerful, independant, intelligent, but damaged person who struggles to make a decision between their love or the rest of the world. Perhaps Tom King’s run of Batman has had some major low points for me, and for the past 50 issues it’s been a consistent love hate relationship. Proper action seems few and far between at times. Sometimes writing just goes a bit too psychological and methodical for how I think Batman should be written, but when King succeeds, he succeeds big, and I think Batman #50 is an awesome work of art.

 

(5 / 5)

Villainous

Villainous

Oh god. Disney IP at work. This can’t possibly be good.

Right?

Villainous is a game where up to six players take on the roles of some of Disney’s most nefarious villains: Maleficent, Jafar, Captain Hook, The Queen of Hearts, Ursula, or Prince John (animal version). Each player has a board with four sections full of actions they can take on their turns, a deck of cards, and a second deck of Fate cards to throw them off track, but that’s largely where the similarities between the characters end.

In keeping with the small but growing trend towards asymmetrical gaming, Villainous offers a different win condition for each character, a different deck of cards with different items and abilities, different Fate cards (which reflect that character’s nemeses—Captain Hook has all the children from Peter Pan, for example)—and different sets of actions on each of their four board sections. In fact, not all characters have access to all four sections on their boards at the start of the game, or at any point—Ursula constantly has one end of the board or the other locked off.

Each turn, the player takes their very well-made pawn and moves it to a board section other than the one they were just on (think Scythe). They then perform all the actions on that section. This can be partially thwarted by their enemies; one action is to play a Fate card off someone else’s deck, which can be used to cover the top two actions on one section of that player’s board. These heroes can’t be defeated unless the player puts minions on, or moves them to, the same space with power equal to or greater than the hero’s. Items can be attached to minions to make them stronger, but the same goes for the heroes. It’s a take-that mechanic without the rage inducement; rarely does a player not have any board options without all of the actions on it available unless they’re winning handily and everyone is coming after them, in which case, hey, be a better villain.

For a deck-based game, the balance between when people reach their win conditions is pretty remarkable. This isn’t to say that everyone gets there at about the same time, but rather that everyone has a win condition other players can see coming. Whoever’s closest to winning can get slowed down, but not to a degree that effectively stops them from being able to win unless they get dogpiled hard (which is itself just a strategy that hands the game to someone else). It could have been successful with any theme; the game is strong.

But beyond that, Villainous has more flavor than atomic wings. All the minions, heroes, items, abilities, and everything else associated with each villain is spot on. The game even allows for some seriously messed up situations; for example, Jafar can hypnotize Aladdin and make him kill Jasmine. If you don’t think that’s great—not the domestic violence aspect, but the sheer evil in the act of making it happen and the fact you can get so dark—this game might not appeal to you as much as others.

It’s a really good game, though. Play it. You want to be bad. You do. You doooooo.

(4.2 / 5)
Justice League Dark #1

Justice League Dark #1

Apparently it’s the year of returning characters. Both Marvel and DC seem to be on their classic reintroduction and renumbering methods in order to pull in alienated fans (Marvel a little more egregious than DC) but these last few efforts at reintroducing teams and forgotten heroes / villains on DC’s part, to be fair, has actually been a lot of fun. Characters like Plastic Man, Booster Gold and Hawkman are characters that had a fundamental spot in the pre-New 52 era of DC comics and to see them coming back slowly into the spotlight is a welcomed change to the otherwise safe but stale main line of heroes. Batman / Superman / Wonder Woman and the rest of the league are great characters, I like them all, but they only go so far in entertainment value. DC Universe is massive in scale, and they’re finally showing that again for the first time since 2011. Justice League Dark is another addition to that growing gallery. In the beginning of the New 52, JL Dark had a healthy run unlike some of the other mentioned titles, but it quickly became somewhat bland. While we had some great, well-known characters like Constantine, the New 52 roster was quickly replaced by new and less interesting weirdos of the DC universe. This new JL Dark looks promising, bringing some much needed attention to the dark and mysterious underbelly of the DC Comics world with a roster of fan favorites.

Magic is all out of whack and the entire magic community of the DC Universe is feeling its effects. Zatanna’s magic shows are going all wrong, Constantine is lying low, Swamp Thing is in despair and much of the rest of the magic world has gone into hiding. After the events of No Justice, Wonder Woman is tasked with creating and leading a magic focused department of the Justice League. While WW isn’t exactly the most textbook Magic user on the League, her time on her home island Themyscira and history with the Greek Pantheon provide more experience than any other league member. Still, Wonder Woman doesn’t exactly fit into the Magic side of the world. It’s dark, mysterious and things aren’t quite so black and white as truth and justice. Wonder Woman is a paragon of light, and that alienates her. That, along with the unanswered going-ons with Magic in general makes things a little difficult for Diana. The Magic world isn’t exactly friendly with each other, though with a great evil force descending upon them in the near future, Wonder Woman will have to find a way to band these old allies together again and reform the Justice League Dark

Tynion IV is writing this comic, which is a good and a bad thing. His story writing and his big scale tendencies make for really exciting and intense comic books. But Tynion is most well known for writing big event style comics. Metal, Batman Eternal, Zero Year, etc. So JL Dark quickly feels perhaps too big for its britches. It’s extremely dialogue heavy, and we’re quickly thrown into a storyline that’s world ending in size. It’s a little jarring from what you would expect of Justice League Dark, which usually deals with the shadows and the terrors underneath your bed. I’m not saying the writing is bad, it’s actually quite good, but I’m concerned of the direction this comic is immediately going in, and how much staying power it has if it goes huge from the very beginning. Tynion’s work on Constantine does show that he knows the Magic world of the DC Universe, and his style and finesse with these kind of darker characters shows pretty well in this first issue. Wonder Woman is a great paragon to balance everything out, and I think she’s a really intelligent aspect that will bring an awesome spin on the otherwise bleak comic. Not to say the comic shouldn’t be bleak, it should, that’s what JL: Dark is, but we’re quickly finding a strong balance with WW and I really enjoy it.

Dark has great writing and beautiful art, to be expected, though its story starts out huge with questionable room to grow. Hopefully Tynion can pull through and deliver a team comic with some staying power.

(4.5 / 5)

Tea Dragon Society

Tea Dragon Society

For some time, Renegade Games has been held up as an example of a company that consistently puts out quality products. I’m starting to wonder if it’s more a matter of them very consistently putting out products, and some of them are quality.

 

The art on the box is exactly like the art in the game: flipping adorable. If you want a game you can hug because it’s so KAWAII, this is definitely your thing.

 

For everyone else, it’s Fisher-Price: My First Deckbuilder. Everyone gets a character and a starter deck (differences are aesthetic only). You don’t have a hand of cards; all cards are face up in your ‘hold’. However, you draw cards and add them to your hold, which is functionally the same as adding them to your hand in a more normal card game. It’s like the entire point is to keep the information open so you can teach kids how to play, as if you couldn’t figure out playing with hands on the table if the kid’s problem was struggling with what to do without advice.

 

Cards can have up to four parts to them. Growth is effectively mana, the resource you use to buy cards. You can find growth in the upper left (that’s what she said…?). The cost of a card is in the upper right. If there’s an effect, that’s in the lower middle. Points are at the bottom/middle. And some icons are also in the bottom middle, while others are on the pictures, which is confusing but not a huge deal.

 

Your entire turn is drawing a card and, if you want to, buying a card. This at least has the effect of keeping the game moving. Your hand is sitting in front of you (that’s probably what she said), and you don’t throw it out every turn, so you already know how much growth you’re working with (she definitely said that) minus the card you draw next. The market and memory cards are all sitting there for you to peruse, so you’re considering your next play on other people’s turns, which don’t take long, and the game stays fairly active.

 

Market cards get added to your deck by using sufficient growth (do you think she said that? I do) and putting it in your discard pile. Memory cards also get added to your deck, but tend to be worth more points, have different effects, and are related to specific seasons—the game is played in four rounds, representing the seasons, and once one memory card is left you move on to the next season. When one memory card remains in winter, the game’s over. Count up your points.

 

It’s… fine. There’s not much here for adults to enjoy in terms of rich strategy. Anyone who comprehends deck builders will talk more about how cute the artwork is than the game. Bump it up in priority if you have kids in the mid-single digits to whom you’d like to teach very basic game ideas. Other than that, this isn’t going to entertain most people for too many playthroughs.

 

(3.1 / 5)

Beckett #1

Beckett #1

Listen, I’m a sucker for Star Wars content. I don’t care what it is or who it’s about, I’m probably in. Does Marvel oversaturate the Star Wars comic book market? Yes. Am I their pathetic demographic? Absolutely. Beckett is a one-shot Star Wars comic based off the Han Solo mentor character from the Solo movie. Why is there a comic about this character? Who knows. There shouldn’t be, and yet here I am, buying and reading it. In all fairness, Marvel usually does a pretty good job with these short stories, and it’s hard to pass up these 1 and done issues. As long as they’re not trying to make anything continuous out of this, I can’t really complain. With the controversy that surrounded the necessity and the quality of the Solo movie still here though, I question the decision to print this comic book. DJ from The Last Jedi got his own comic book and I’m sure that sold all of 3 copies total. I gave it a read anyway.

Beckett is about everything you would expect. He’s a scoundrel and he doesn’t care who he screws over if it means he and his team are better off for it. We follow Beckett and his familiar band of criminals across the galaxy in 3 small adventures, paying homage to some characters from Solo and giving us a few glimpses into Becketts otherwise everyday life. He’s clever, shoots from the hip and he gets away with it too. Each different chapter shows a some different sides of the crew, though all seriousness aside, it’s mostly about them getting out of any precarious situation they manage to get themselves into, and there’s not much else to it.

Reviewing a Star Wars comic book is pretty easy for me. Does it feel and look like Star Wars? Yes. Beckett manages with it’s art and story to give off a pretty convincing Star Wars vibe, and that’s more than I can say about a few of the Marvel Star Wars comics of the past few years. The look of this comic works, and while the story is extremely simple and provides nothing new or exceptional it’s also entertaining enough to keep you reading. That info can be turned on its head though, especially when considering what this comic book is. No one really cares about this character, and while I liked Solo, like Woody Harrelson and didn’t mind Beckett as a character, he’s pretty disposable. This comic is obviously designed for die hards and loyal readers, because no one else is going to pick this up, nor should they, and if Marvel is okay with that then it looks like we have a pretty decent comic book here. What more can you ask for? Beckett is a passable comic that should appease Beckett fans. If they’re out there. Kudos to the artist for putting chapters in this comic, and using an entire half page to indicate chapters 1-3. That’s cool and different.

(3.5 / 5)

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