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THE PACIFICATION AND PUSSIFICATION OF MARVEL’S CIVIL WAR – ALL THING

THE PACIFICATION AND PUSSIFICATION OF MARVEL’S CIVIL WAR

(Spoilers included: so if you get all emotional about spoilers then take a powder, this ain’t for you.)

My wife, the girls and I went to see Civil War this evening. Before you come to the conclusion that I didn’t like the film based on the title of this post, actually I did, let me just say the entire subject matter of Marvel’s Civil War was completely pussified and pacified by this particular film. Not that the film wasn’t good, it was at a certain level. It just had nothing to do with Civil War.

What Marvel did so bravely in the comic series Civil War (to the outrage of couch potato fisticuff Captain America’s throughout this great land) they completed pussed out on in this film and in that sense entirely ruined it. There was no tyranny of the government, nor was there a real rebellion against the government. A real shame since what this nation actually needs is a real and certifiable Civil War. The closest the film even got to the real ideas and ideals in the Civil War series was in just speaking the terms “vigilante” and “criminals.” There was nothing really about the series evident in the film. Hell it wasn’t even an initiative of the US government, it was a damned United Nations effort. Any time anything is a UN effort you can bet it will be entirely pussified, and completely ineffective at attempting to achieve it’s true goal. As this certainly was.

Nothing about the original Civil War was evident, not the fact that the government tried to suppress the rights of the individual (and not just for the Avengers, narrowing the Civil War down to just the Avengers completely missed the point, not that I disagreed entirely with what the government was attempting to do) and tried to tell individuals what they could do with their own talents and abilities and “powers.” Nor did it ever truly address the issue of what is the proper response of the individual to such an attempt at tyranny by the government? How Far does the individual have a right to go in rebelling against government oppression? (All the way – he has a God-given right to go all the way to destroy such a government. Well, all the way short of murdering the innocent. He should leave that kinda shit to the government. They’re really good at it.) All of that, all of the really important stiff, was completely missing. This was Civil War Lite, the balless Millennial Edition. The pastel and collegiate safe-zone/safe-place edition. You know, still-mint-in-box with that plastic smell. A shame Marvel pussed on that very germane and pertinent point, especially at this time in our history.

I think back to Batman-Superman (and Superman-Batman had it’s share of problems, but being about true ideals was not one of them) and how Superman, realizing that Luthor’s mark was about to explode and kill everyone in the US congress chamber did not even bother to move, did not even bother to attempt to move to save anyone at all. Not anyone at all. Didn’t even use his body to mitigate the explosion so at least some could survive. He just passively watched it. Just stood there shaking his head as if to say, “if only the government had allowed me, if only I had permission.” Now that’s actually about something, a critique of Modern Man, of the Modern American actually. Hell, that is the modern American. The passive, uninvolved, don’t drag me into this, that’s someone else’s job, “do I actually have your permission to intervene” modern American. Or modern Christian, take your pick. (Superman was at one time the quintessential American of Action, now he is the quintessential modern American as well. Welcome to your true selves modern Americans. Even your superheroes are now in on your pathetic act.) Civil War never rose to that point, to being about something nearly that big. It was, as a super-hero film, more or less just a kick-ass superhero film about nothing more than, you guessed it, mere superheroes. Ina tiff about their own drama-club, their own Dr. Phil episode. Civil War was not about something really important, such as the people and population that the superheroes are supposed to represent, either as wish-fulfillment, or as a real critique on their actual natures. In a way though that is unfair criticism, because unintentionally this was a critique on the character of modern Americans. How by absence, habit, and training we don’t really have any anymore. So in that sad sense it was Batman-Superman all over again, just without all the outright honesty. This film though never truly gets a chance to succeed at failing like that because it fails to be about what it was supposed to be about.

What then was Civil War the film actually about? The closest it ever got to being real was a running (literally, a lot of running) discourse about friendship, loyalty, and how far a man will go to remain loyal to a true friend. (Black Panther by the way had an excellent little sub-plot which was aloes instructive, about vengeance for the right reasons versus vengeance for the wrong reasons. I truly enjoyed watching Black Panther.)

Now didn’t get me wrong, friendship and true loyalty (that is to say the kind of, “I will fight and die for you loyalty”) is an extremely rare commodity in the modern world. And in modern America. Hell most modern Americans won’t risk themselves for anything, much less other people. See the Superman reference above, and so that’s precisely the point. So I am in no way denigrating or negating a film about true loyalty and real friendship. It’s important subject matter for modern myths, like comic superheroes. The shame is that it could have been that and still been about an actual and real Civil War. Oh, I understand that the film had to be limited (in comparison to the comics) in actor numbers and scenes and the overall plot had to be pared down, but it could have still been about a real Civil War. And friendship. Like the comic series was. It wasn’t. It wasn’t about a war at all really, and that’s the real fault of the thing. Mostly it was only about superheroes and character development and all of the other comic book bullshit that so floats the hole filled chalk anchors and thrills the nascent testicles of comic book fangurls everywhere. But it really wasn’t about anything. Other than that. Superheroes, entertainment, diversions, fist and laser beams fights, explosions.

If only there had been a Real War. An actual Civil War. But Marvel pussed out. They could have taken what they did with the last Captain America film, Winter Soldier (an excellent film about a real rebellion against government) and went all the way. Instead a cold wind blew up their skirts and they pulled their panties up and went home. And there ya go. Civil War as a faux entertainment and superhero fight fight, rather than one about a well, ya know, a war…

This was more like a hat-tip to fangurls and continuity agitators so they could babble more Nerdspeak while Rome burns. The real Rome I mean. Not that I blame the actors and actresses. They did superb jobs especially Falc, Panther, Cap, Iron Man, Vision, Widow, the kid playing Spiderman, and Bucky. No, this film was entirely a failure of writing and balls. Not acting, and maybe not even of directing. Just an horrendous and total lack of balls. No balls and you can’t write around that kinda thing. It becomes obvious quick.

Technically though, and as an entertainment, I give it a 4 out of 5. Because technically it was a superb film. And as a comic book superhero film it was also pretty good. Just not Winter Soldier good.

As far as being an important film, I give it a 2 out of 5. It was an urban film. Unlike the Winter Soldier it revolved around urban thinking. Petty turf fights. Avoidance of reality. And that showed the whole thing through.

In other words it was just another superhero fun-flick, rather than a film about what it actually means to be a Hero fighting for a truly important cause. You won’t get that in this flick. Nothing really important happens. You will get some boom-boom and some pretty flashy fights. Just not many fights about anything really worth fighting about. Or about anything applicable to the Real World. And if a story isn’t really applicable to the Real World then let’s just call it what it is, a pussified wish-fulfillment, or put another way, just another diversionary fantasy. I hope Marvel stays far away from ever again doing this kind of thing to their best work in the future.

You want something much, much more entertaining and infinitely more important then read the original Civil War comic series.

Better yet start your own Civil War. It’s way past time anyhow.

That’s my take on the thing. What’s yours?

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REVIEW OF THE CODEX MARTIALIS – GAMEPLAY

This is an older review I did for the Codex Martialis, a role-playing game supplement that heavily concentrates upon the way Real World weapons behave in actual combat. At least as closely as it is possible for imaginary games to truly emulate such weapon characteristics. That being said here is my review.

 

First of all, let me begin my review by saying that the Codex Martialis is simply one of the best-written gaming supplements I have ever read. It displays a high degree of professionalism in the effort.

As an example of this let me quote from the work itself:

Thanks to the unique weapon characteristics the choice of weapons becomes a major tactical consideration rather than a cosmetic adornment for a character. Weapons are not just rated for damage, but also for reach, defensive value, speed in follow-up attacks, effectiveness against armor and suitability for different types of attacks. The selection of weapons becomes another major aspect of the basic combat strategy.

I have now had the opportunity to read through the entire work and to play test it several times. What follows is my review.

One of the great advantages of the supplement, once you become familiar with the basic concepts involved, is fluidity. It creates a sort of underlying fluidity by imposing a substratum of combat techniques which, once mastered, allows fluidity by changing the outcomes of in-game combat scenarios from being merely an attrition play of hit points into a play of weapon mastery and combat employment techniques. This does take getting used to in comparison to standard D&D combat practices, but the outcome is well worth the effort. Once one becomes accustomed to the work then it is possible to use it to create and display a large variety of effective attack and counter-attack measures in rapid succession which gives the feel of an intense, hotly contested combat, rather than a mere stale exercise in die-rolling and numbers crunching “fight or flight of the calculators.” And I guess this is what I like best about the entire supplement, it is geared less to constricting combat into an imaginary “clash of the Geeky Die Titans,” where game combat is a boringly insipid mathematical exercise, and is instead designed to imply that combat is really about tactical skill, flexibility, fluidity (in the sense of moving fluidly from one applicable and effective technique or maneuver to another), training, and innovative use of resources, capabilities, and tactics. The supplement implies by both design and technique, that combat is far less about bonuses and more about training, thought, innovation, and adaptability. That combat is a matter of the mind as well of the body, of tactic as well as blind chance, and of skill in battle and not just habitual bonus accumulation. Or in other words even in a game in which certain elements are determined by mechanisms of tempered chance, by no better method than a “roll of the die” it is still skill, training, innovation, cleverness, and persistence that overcomes the seemingly impossible obstacles of a dangerous combat and wins the day before sunset. Die rolls may hinder, or assist, but they are no real match for skill and capability and brilliance in determining actual outcomes. A well trained man with a host of options and inherent capabilities will make his own luck, and he who relies merely upon the fickle grace of fortune would do well to learn that wisdom is a far greater god in combat than chance. Fortune favors the well-prepared man, and it is easy to be brave when you are sure of your own adaptability in any situation. The idea behind the Codex implies that the game combatant does not have to rely upon chance, luck, the die, or even magic to turn the tides of battle. The combatant may turn the tide of battle by skill, training, tactic, and cunning. And that is the way things are, and should be. Chance turns the tide of the moment, good tactics, on both the part of the group, and the part of the individual, turn the tide of the battle.

The degree of relative realism in the work is highly evolved given the natural limitations of role play gaming combat (which can be “only so-real”) and given the fact that most role play games resolve combat and tactical issues by emulating friction and chance through die roll. But one thing I really, really enjoy about this work is that given those natural limitations the Codex takes away much of the chance element and returns tactical skill to combat encounter as a measure of training, accomplishment, perseverance, and maneuver. In a manner of speaking the Codex is attempting to bring “Role-Play” to combat rather than saying it is just an exercise of chance, or a practice of powers.

The Codex Combat System can also be rather easily modified to fit most other gaming systems which rely upon die-rolling as a reflection of how to resolve combat practices, and the whole work interjects some very creative and interesting ideas for how to resolve the actual process of in-game combat elements. I refer to both the Martial Pool as a determination of how to enhance speed and flexibility to group combat, and to the various maneuver and practical engagement techniques such as the Martial Feats (I was particularly impressed by Feats such as Feint) that add a rich depth of combat possibilities. But to me the greatest strength of the entire work is that it takes combat away, whether this was the intention or not, from being merely an exercise in bootless chance and transforms combat into an interesting and varied practice in tactical choice, training, and personal player and character “fighting expression.”

The historical background presented within the work is also rather fascinating. A depth of historical material as well as pragmatic technique analogies are examined in detail, not as an historical work, but as reflective of how historical and real world elements of personal and tactical combat can be inter-woven into a fantasy game to create a far more rewarding experience than a mere combat re-enactment of, “magical boom-boom,” or “what power gives me the highest to-hit bonus.” In fact the supplement seems to purposely steer away from over reliance upon magic in game-combat fantasy tropes so as to intentionally explore the real potential of combat-fighters. It is not so much a work filled with trick maneuvers and rather unrealistic combat techniques that would be useless in an actual combat situation, but rather a thoughtful and measured examination of the “idea of real hand to hand combat as applied to a tactical wargaming paradigm.” A sort of well-imagined and cleverly constructed game interpretation of what really happens when men come to close quarters and grapple with each other, including aspects of why they move as they do, how they strike and defend as they do, why weapons behave as they do when yielded in such and such a manner, and so forth and so on. In short it is a well-conceived examination of both how to exploit trained character strengths and abilities, and of how to take advantage of built in limitations regarding the actualities of human (and by extension humanoid/non-human) weaponry and fighting capabilities in game combat situations.

To close my review let me briefly mention a few other points. Such as the Aescetics of the work. I especially liked the simple line drawings presented throughout the book. They matched the overall tone of the nature of the work, as well as allowing one to visualize basic points being discussed at issue. The illustrations matched the tone and atmosphere of the work as presenting realistic depictions of combat in game terms. They were “fitting” in my opinion. As were the historical references, which gave the work the feel of a more ancient text of advice about how to tactically overcome certain enemies. The references taken together with the various illustrations gave the entire Codex the feel of being “illuminated.”

Simplistically, but effectively.

The Appendixes were also valuable and useful, and much could be made of them in relation to the larger ideas presented in the Codex. The work even came with a Character Sheet specifically designed towards making good use of the various game combat advantages offered and described in the Codex.
As a suggestion for future works of this kind I would very much like to see the author and his team of co-designers develop a similar system for use in large-scale warfare, both on the tactical and strategic level. On the tactical level as an expression of maneuver and technique, similar in construction to the present work, but aimed more at small group combat and skirmishing encounters as applied to the battlefield. On the strategic level as a work that addresses matters of training, capability, and execution of large-scale group combat engagements. For instance in such a supplement geared to warfare-gaming, rather than to role play combat-gaming one might take the basic components and ideas of the Codex Martialis and expound upon them as they relate to issues such as logistics, technological advantage (due to armies possessing certain types of weapons, armor, and transport, and therefore possessing corresponding combat formations and techniques to accompany such advantages or disadvantages), tactical control of the battlefield (or lack thereof), terrain, unit and formation maneuver, espionage, morale, and so forth and so on. In other words I view the Codex Martialis as a sort of Gaming version of the Tacticon. I’d also suggest and would like to see a gaming version of the Strategicon.

If you would like more information on the Codex then I suggest purchasing the newest version of the work. There is also a good link on EN World where the author and others discuss various elements and implications of the work. That link can be found here: Martial Pool. I should also mention as a matter for those interested that the author has another brilliant thread dealing with historical matters and which can give one some idea of the research involved in developing the Codex. That other link can be found here: History, Mythology, Art.

I hope my review was useful to you.
Jack.

 

http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-rules-discussion/241602-martial-pool-new-combat-mechanic.html

http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/242110-history-mythology-art-rpgs.html

SHADOW OF MORDOR REVIEW

Yes, I would definitely play this…

THE MONSTER MANUAL

A quick first review of the new 5th Edition Monster Manual

If you find this article useful, please share it with your friends!

Despite the ending of the summer and the lull after GENCON and PAX PRIME, the excitement at the release of the new 5th Edition Player’s Handbook last month is still going strong! And by all accounts, the new adventure arc Hoard of the Dragon Queen is doing quite well, with many D&D fans enjoying the new organized play activities presented each week in stores around the country.

But now, D&D enthusiasts have a new release coming up at the end of this month – the D&D Monster Manual goes on sale this Friday the 19th of September in select stores, and for general retail sales on the 30th! As the second core rulebook for the new 5th Edition of D&D, the Monster Manual is an absolute essential purchase for any Dungeon Master looking to create their own worlds and adventures.

Don’t Miss: Review of Hoard of the Dragon Queen | Review of the Player’s Handbook | Review of the D&D Starter Set

So how does this new D&D Monster Manual compare to its predecessors? Read on and find out!

D&D Monster Manual (5th Edition)

  • Lead Designers: Mike Mearls & Jeremy Crawford
  • Monster Manual Lead: Chris Perkins
  • Stat Block Development: Chris Sims, Rodney Thompson, Peter Lee
  • Story Development: Robert J. Schwalb, Matt Sernett, Steve Townsend, James Wyatt
  • Cover Art: Raymond Swanland
  • Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
  • Year: 2014
  • Media: Hardbound (352 pages)
  • Price: $49.99 (Available for pre-order on Amazon.com for $29.97)

THE CRITICAL HITS REVIEW

I thought that this was a fairly good and very well organized review of the new 5th Edition of the Dungeons and Dragons game. It focused primarily upon specific aspects of the Player’s Handbook (in relation to the overall game), and in doing so I thought it gave a very good, and a mostly fair, analysis of the specific points it actually addressed. It is a Geek analysis of the game, and that should be kept in mind when reading it.

I plan to write my own review of the game soon but it will not be similar to this review because I have other aspects of the game (and the Player’s Handbook) that I wish to address in a non-Geek and perhaps a more Nerdish way.

In any case I think you will enjoy this Geekish review of the game, and that coupled with my own more Nerdish look at the game, might give you a more rounded view of what to expect.

First Impressions Review: “Player’s Handbook” for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

August 11, 2014 by Dave

I’m going to assume that if you’re here on Critical Hits, you know D&D. As such, I’m not going to go into the history of D&D editions, the open playtesting process, anything about nostalgia, etc. I’m just going to dive into my impressions of reading the book, and try to delve into some of the guts as far as I understand them (and I’ll probably get some stuff wrong.) Here we go.

Overall

The Player’s Handbook – and the D&D 5th edition ruleset as a whole- feels very polished. In fact, I’d go as far to say they focused on taking everything they had from previous editions and worlds, ran with it, refined it again, and so on. The downside to this is that there are areas where they aren’t quite as ground-breaking as they could be and leads to a few missed opportunities. At the same time, though, there’s so much that suffuses the book that seems familiar, with a lot of “oh, I see what you did there.” Previous descriptions of this edition pre-launch as attempting to be something of a “Greatest Hits” of D&D seem pretty on the mark, though each table is expected to supply some of what you feel ARE those greatest hits.

The Look

I say it flat out: I love the art in this book. Since it’s a Player’s Handbook, most of the art focuses on characters. This ranges from character representatives for different races and classes, to a small sampling of famous characters (a certain iconic drow ranger appears, for instance), to some characters that I swear are new renderings of existing D&D minis.

Part of what I love is that the book does a much better job of representation than in previous editions. More women characters in a variety of roles, more heroes of color, etc. It’s not perfect by any means, but I appreciate that there’s a much wider range of inspirational art for showing truly what the range of characters should be.

It also relies on a number of art styles, while still mostly fitting together. You’ve got more traditional character portraits, full page battle scenes, and sketches depicting conditions. There’s a few images that have that “computer generated” look to them (my chief complaint about a lot of the early 4e art) but I think the art works here. I was actually expecting to see a wider diversity of different edition-influences throughout the art (and more reused pieces), however, I think the choices they made here in the look was a much stronger choice…

review continued via title page link

 

5TH EDITION DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS PLAYER’S HANDBOOK FLIPTHROUGH

I ordered my copy of the new Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Player’s Handbook through Amazon. They still haven’t sent it to me.  Nevertheless I am very much looking forward to receiving the book.

I haven’t yet seen the book for myself but I did find this unedited flipthrough of the new book. Admittedly I have not watched the whole thing as I do not wish to spoil the surprise but from what little I did watch I am almost certain I will like the book, and now I am looking forward to receiving my copy even more so than before.

I post this video in the case that someone else would like an advance preview of the book, either in full or in part.

Once I have received my own copy and had an opportunity to read and analyze it then I’ll post my own review.

 

 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY EASTER EGGS

Over the weekend my children and I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy. They loved it and gave it a 5 or even a 6 out of 5 (lol). I had expected a comedy and didn’t really find it all that funny, but it was indeed a very “fun film.”

So I found this article about Marvel Easter Eggs interesting.

 

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Easter Eggs, Trivia & References

Published 18 hours ago by

Guardians of the Galaxy Easter Egg Trivia Guardians of the Galaxy Easter Eggs, Trivia & References

Marvel has made a habit of using their superhero films to not only provide subtle nods or fan service to the diehard comic book know-it-alls, but also help offer hints and teases of films to come in the future. With Guardians of the Galaxy, they had the chance to do the same with the largely unexplored cosmic side of their comic book universe. And they certainly didn’t pass it up.

Besides the wealth of inside jokes, Easter eggs, and direct references to the source material, fans hoping to see even the more outlandish or world-shattering characters and storylines (that make “Planet Hulk” seem like child’s play) adapted to film have reason to hope. We can’t say they’ll be coming soon, but Marvel has planted plenty of seeds.

Needless to say, there will be SPOILERS in our list of Guardians of the Galaxy trivia, so read at your own risk.

 

HERCULES (SORT OF)

I went to see Hercules this afternoon. I needed a little work break and since I was already ahead of schedule I decided to relax and go see the film.

I thought about writing up a standard movie review and posting that, but after seeing the film I decided against that approach and idea.

First of all let me say this in regards to the film; it was nothing like I expected.

I had expected a rather simple-minded and plodding-plotted ass-kicking action film. And it certainly had its moments of fine action sequences. From the previews, and knowing nothing of the graphic novel(s) on which it is based (I purposely avoided reading them to be ignorant of the storyline), I had expected an upgraded and far more upscale Conan type of movie with Hercules serving as the mythologized version of Conan as the super-strong monster-slaying, justice-inflicting hero.
It certainly started out that way, as a slightly upscale version of that last (horrible) Conan film.

But it quickly evolved into something else that I did not expect at all and so I was confused by the first 20 minutes or so of the film. After that things began to solidify and I began to perceive the direction in which it was moving.

After the film was over (and I had originally expected little more than an exciting and hopefully enjoyable diversionary entertainment) I was actually left thinking. Not by the obvious and overt and easy to read statements of the film, or the rewriting of Herculean mythology in an attempt to make him into a modern man, but of the fact that Hercules and his entourage were all perfectly modern men by their very nature. Modern men who had to overcome their own modernity to become worthwhile people.

Hercules was indeed a “modern man” for a reason I shall not mention (to avoid spoilers – but it had nothing to do with him being a mercenary) but that was perfectly explained by the ending lines and post-film animations. Yet otherwise (or on the other hand) Hercules was a lion-skin wearing, war-club wielding (an ancient weapon and motif) throwback to an age of chivalry. Or the Greek version of pre-chivalry. And in many respects this is the very Hercules of actual mythology. People tend to forget that Hercules is this lion-skin wearing beast-killer who is also driven so mad by a petty and vindictive and vain goddess that he becomes a killer-beast. So the lion skin serves much the same function as sack-cloth and ashes to the ancient Prophet. Yet when not driven mad by Hera or hounded by monsters Herakles is the very model of Greek Chivalry and self-sacrifice and heroism. Or in any case as close as the Greeks ever got to the ideal on a personal level. For Hercules is almost the polar opposite of Achilles, the semi-divine who would be considered a god by setting loose his own Furies in war for personal glory, whereas Hercules is the demi-god who wishes to overthrow the misguided and often pathetic tyranny of the gods themselves, and by so doing end the typical Greek ideal of glory. This is shown in the ceiling mural scene near the beginning of the film. Hercules does not aspire to be a god, he aspires to overthrow the gods.

So the more I thought on this the more interesting the film became. Not because of the overt clues about Hercules modernity (such as Hercules wearing the head of the lion as a prop that could not possibly be the real head of the Nemean lion), but because of the underlying and prophetic mythological ones.

But the Thracians were also perfectly modern men, but in a manner much easier to recognize. Easily shaped and molded they immediately fell under the sway and vassalism of whomever claimed political power. Despite the fact of who obviously was most concerned with their welfare and despite the fact of who trained and developed them, they bent the knee immediately to any and every tyrant who gave them orders. They were easily “enthralled,” in the way modern men are usually easily enthralled, be they Germans under Nazis, or more recent modern men completely passive and subservient to their elected governments.

Rather than rising in revolt against the obvious tyrant all they could or would do was fall in line with whoever sought to command or control them.

In this respect Hercules was very much an essay on modern men, on how easily and passively they bend the knee to that tyrant who dares to command them.

So in both those respects the more I think upon the film the better I like it.

But it was not what I expected to see or hear, at all, when I first walked into the theater.

It was not an action and adventure entertainment dressed in ancient Greek garb, but rather a more subtle and political exposition on both the cynicism and perceptions of modern men and on their inherent weaknesses of character and nature dressed in the garb of Greek mythology.

And in that respect I thoroughly enjoyed it.

That might seem a strange review for such a film, but in many ways it was a very strange film.

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