The Death of Superman and the Reign of Supermen – Lightning did not strike twice !

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Having grown up in the 90s I was lucky to have watched some of the best-animated features and series in the history of television and got to read some of the runs in comics. To me, it is my favorite era of comics because of the sheer volume of content being produced when it came to comics and action figures and kids of my generation really had a lot to see and pine over. One of the big things of the 90’s was also something that rattled comic book fans all over the planet as we first heard that DC comics were going to kill Superman! The comic itself is said to have contributed to the subsequent downward spiral in comic book sales as at the time there was a boom in which niether publisher lost time capitalizing on. To speak on this we must also discuss when this orginally came to be to compare previous installments.

Graphic Novel Cover

Cover of the Graphic Novel

The comic, titled ‘Doomsday’ (Dan Jurgens & Roger Stern) was discussed on national television and in the press when it dropped in 93 and apart from flying off the shelves Warner Bros and DC comics would fail capitalize, waiting until 2007 with it arriving on DVD in 2008 called Superman: Doomsday. Fun fact Kevin Smith has a cameo playing himself poking fun at the time he worked on a Superman script. Even the talent of legends Bruce Timm (Batman Animated Series and Justice League) and Duane Capizzi ( Transformers: Prime, Darkwing Duck, and The Batman).The animated feature was well-drawn but differed from the source material which is a pattern that would follow in the decades to come. The problem was that Warner Bros should have released this movie in the early 90’s when the comics were out to have fully capitalized as Superman: Doomsday was not released to rave reviews and was not making anyone’s top 10 list anytime soon. Superman dying is a big deal and coming late to the party may have affected the interest of the masses in this animated film but it was a decent release and if you can find it somewhere for cheap it is a decent addition to any collection for the sake of nostalgia.

It would be more than a decade later before DC and Warner Bros would revisit the storyline, this time opting to remain closer to the source material by including Superboy, the Eradicator, and Steel. I am reviewing the combo pack release in which you have the option of watching both titles back to back in on sitting.  My buddy and I from the board game club watched it and though it felt like it dragged on. We were two different demographics watching this movie, for him, it was his first time watching or hearing about Superman dying. It then hit me that the younger generation have grown up with blockbuster movies and loads of shows and movies and comics themselves were not mainstream for ages. This means my friend Lenny never really got into comics growing up and now in his late teens is diving deeper into the history of these characters he grew up with.

The casting of talent was spot on with Hollywood names such as Nathan Fillion (Firefly & Castle) voicing Hal’s Green Lantern, Rebecca Romjin   (X-men Trilogy, Punisher & The Librarians) as Lois Lane and Rosario Dawson (Daredevil and Iron Fist) as Wonder Woman. I have no complaints on their voiceacting and the dialogue proved to be convincing enough but it did not have the style and look of the 2007 adaptation. I was pleasantly surprized when I sutmbled upon the BluRay Double Feature release where you could get and stream both movies back to back.

As someone who is a huge Bruce Timm and Paul Dini fan I would have preferred if they tried to keep some of the original look from the 90s and early 00s but I will not hold it against them. Warner Brothers have been consistently releasing at least 1 animated feature a year if not more while continuing to support live action shows such as Super Girl, Green Arrow and Titans. Despite their major motion pictures earning big bucks at theaters but the negative critiques and feedback from fans following the Justice League movie and the how Aquaman failed to capture the the interest of many older viewers. With a new man in charge and at the helm of future Warner Brothers releases with a growing interest in appealling to the Chinese market the studio needs to be wise  to avoid the blunders of the past and the mistakes other corproations are making in appeasing the Eastern market.

Warner Brothers are wise to keep the fans happy with content over the years and this release will scratch an itch and does give you a story worth watching. The first part of the story (The Death of Superman) will have you watching Supes give it all his all as the Justice League struggle against the arrival of Doomsday. They carnage and desperation is paced well throughout and the inevitable ending does leave you wondering what would happen next. The Regin of the Supermen would see our first itiration of the comic series where in the absence of Kalel other ‘Supermen’ would rise up and attempt to fill that void. As to not spoil too much of it but we get to see Luthor still angling to be the most powerful man on the planet by introducing Superboy as other ‘versions’ of the former hero rose up including the Eradictor and Steel weaving an interesting narrative. The more adult tone of the story does well in immersing the viewer in what is going on. You have Darksied appearing and watching the heroes and citizens try to make sense of this new era where heroes compete over the top spot while new evils find their way to our blue marble with villianous intentions.

Reing of the Supermen Comic cover

Cover for the Graphic Novel

The second part of the arc plays out better than the previous installment and watching the dynamics between the different characters and the attention paid to the minute details of each of the ‘supermen’ added more to the feature. The writers and producers attempted to include as much as they could from the source material and do not make it a campy feature and touch on issues such as self belief, betrayal and revenge in a way we have not experienced in their perevious animated features.  I can warmly recommend watching these two features back to back when you have 3 hours to kill however I sadly will not recommend it as a purchase.

 

Despite being different to what most fans have grown accustomed and used to from WB Animations it does not go deep enough for me to want to re-watch it any time soon. For that reason I would have to give it a 6.5 out of 10 as it is a double feature package and it would be unfair to judge them as standalone releases (which you still can get seperately). It is good fun for Superman fans and fans of the genre in general but not worth the money as I do not see it adding much value or replay value to most collections.

Until next time I would like to wish all of our nerds and nerdettes the best possible week and just ask for you to invite some friends to our Facebook page and hit the like button so we know you enjoy our content. If you would like to suggest a topic for us to cover or a creator you think would care to be interviewed do not hesistate to send us an email after liking our FB page.

 

*Nerd Dimension claim no ownership or copyrights over the images or IPs described and reviewed in our posts. We utilize any materials under fair use for news and review purposes .  

 

 

..not as good as the comic

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BATMAN: HUSH Film Review

by Talon

Batman: Hush is an animated film by Warner Bros. Animation based off an 8 issue Comic Book story arc of the same name written by Jim Lee & Jeph Loeb which ran from 2002-2003, the feature directed by Justin Copeland was premiered at San Diego Comic-Con of 2019. The leads of the film are voiced by Jason O’Mara, Batman, & Jennifer Morrison voicing Selina Kyle aka Catwoman.

Jeph, Justin, Jim, Jennifer and Jason

Right to Left: Jeph Loeb, Justin Copeland, Jim Lee, Jennifer Morrison & Jason O’Mara

This adaptation leaves much to be desired by true fans of the source material but will likely appeal to those new to the story as the writer and film team have taken liberties and creative licenses as with most movie adaptations today, especially comic related ones. Judging the film on its own merits Batman:Hush is good but not as good as the comic.

For those who are not familiar Batman: Hush is one the most popular and critically praised graphic novels of all time but most certainly of the last two decades (IGN Ranking it 11th in their top 25 list) evidenced by the first issue having 113,061 pre-orders in October 2002 placing it at the peak of the Top 300 comics charts. Going into the project Loeb, a fan favourite having done justice to the character in previous iterations, this time teamed up with maestro artist Jim Lee by both shaking up the status quo and making a few unexpected decisions creatively they succeeded in creating buzz and controversy .

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Original Comic Book Cover of Batman: Hush

Returning to the animation, DC has been consistent with its art style since the Flashpoint offerings creating a sort of baseline to illustrate the connectedness of the different films. This isn’t bad, but the style isn’t up to snuff compared to Batman: The Animated Series or Jim Lee’s masterful pieces in the original comic. This movie like countless other adaptations and reboots of the last decade plus suffers from the animation writing staff putting their own touches on the story. This approach hasn’t made great projects where possibly Teen Titans: The Judas Contract and The Death of Superman are exceptions which reinforce the rule. Unfortunately most writers make big alterations to great stories in an attempt to keep the story ‘fresh’ to fans who know the original story, whilst this can work in seldom cases it did not by and large in the New 52 era or for writer Ernie Altbacker in the case of Batman: Hush.

BTAS, TEEN TITANS DEATH OF SUPES

Left to Right Box Art of Teen Titans The Judas Contract, Batman The Animated Series & The Death of Superman

The film begins with Bruce Wayne making an appearance at an evening banquet where he bumps into an old school friend Thomas Elliot (Maury Sterling) and sees Selina Kyle which gets him thinking about giving their relationship a shot again.

Shortly thereafter he stumbles upon a conspiracy involving a kidnapped young boy who is being held by Bane (Adam Gifford), as he foils the plot Catwoman makes away with the ransom money promptly delivering it to Poison Ivy (Peyton List).

As Batman attempts to catch Catwoman his grappling line is torn by a sniper shot from the titular villain sending Batman crashing to the street. Luckily there are some good people to stave off encroaching threats.

Bruce decides to begin dating Selina, and when they attend the Opera the are met by Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch) who claims that she must kill Bruce Wayne in order to free her boyfriend The Joker (Jason Spisak).

To spare you readers as many spoilers as possible I ll just add that yes Catwoman and Batman get involved, yes.

Ernie, and Co

Left to Right: Ernie Altbacker, Jason Spisak, Maury Sterling, Adam Gifford, Peyton List & Hynden Walch

In essence the viewer is treated to large portion of the classic Batman rogues gallery thanking to the stratagem of Hush, a new player on the scene who is mind controlling the lot of them. The cast is solid but both leads would have been better served if they were voiced by Kevin Conroy & Adrienne Barbeau respectively. Other welcome voices to the troop to reprise their roles would have been Arleen Sorkin as Harley, Mark Hamill as The Joker, Loren Lester as Dick Grayson/Nightwing and Richard Moll as Harvey Dent.

Conroy & Co

From Top Left to Right: Adrienne Barbeau, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Arleen Sorkin & Loren Lester.

Fans of the source material will not be thrilled by certain changes made to the story, most being trivial and unnecessary (like switching Killer Croc with Bane or Huntress with Batgirl which basically ends Oracles role in the story) which eat away at the robust story itself but one which probably does detract from the story is the love affair between Bruce and Selina taking centre stage more so than in the comic books. Whilst this is the only aspect which is perhaps an improvement on the source material, the movie is not called Catwoman & Batman but Batman: Hush. That being said Damian Wayne’s (Stuart Allen) response to the pairing is probably the most memorable moment of the feature. Most changes feel to have been done to make the film fit in the current DC Animated universe, much like what Marvel has been doing the last decade or so, but with source material as strong as this is clearly not the best idea.

DAMIAN WAYNE CHAT

Screenshot of Damian Wayne played by Stuart Allen

The animation does feel a little generic and the above average fight scenes do not mask the misstep. Another thing I feel old school fans will be disappointed by is the seemingly forced use of profane language in an attempt to make the feature edgier, as is the sexual innuendo which feels static as it suggests O’Mara and Morrison lack adequate chemistry to pull off the romance in a believable manner.

The ending itself feels rushed and leaves one feeling anticlimactic and that the huge choices Batman made throughout the film are insignificant, which they are not. This story arc could have been better served if they spread the story into a two feature series or even three, instead we are left with numerous red herrings and you simply don’t feel Hush is a worthy opponent of the caped crusader.

This movie, unlike the beginning of Warner Bros. Animation, suffers from what most movies suffer from – too much meddling with what works. Batman: The Animated Series was a watershed moment and a classic which stands out today just because Jean MacCurdy (the company in this instance) allowed the creative team of Bruce Timm, Paul Dini & Mitch Brian to do what THEY felt was BEST.

WB DREAM TEAM

The Warner Bros Animation Dream Team Left to Right: Jean McCurdy, Bruce Timm, Paul Dini & Mitch Brian

This feature much like most films inspired by comics feels like making money was far and wide the top priority which there is nothing wrong with but by banking on an existing fan-base to support it without giving any fan service in return doesn’t seem fair. It is likely a sign of the times where everything must appeal to as many consumers as possible disrupting the organic quality of the storytelling in the process.

The animation is crisp and presented in 2160p in the Blu-ray and the DTS-HD 5.1 audio is just as quality so that is alright.

In closing its nice to see that DC continues to bring back some classic stories into the animated realm, unfortunately like others they are guilty of trying to ‘fix’ a working recipe. The original comic arc was built on a clever detective story, provided interesting plots twists and intelligent characterization from the writer and stellar artwork by the illustrator making it a classic which is still impressive today.

Worth praising is DC’s attempt to create a semblance of a continuity but I feel most fans would rather not have this done at the expense of the source material. The worse thing I felt upon finishing the film, and days later, was how generic it felt. As a big fan of Batman this leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Batman: Hush will most likely appeal most to casual fans and a public which have no foreknowledge of the comic, as it is a good animated feature but for true fans of the original work who have been waiting for it to grace the small screen format it will very likely be a serious disappointment.

We give this film a score :

2.5 / 5

All images used are property of DC Comics, StarReel Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation, Atlas Oceanic Sound & Picture, NE4U, Salami Studios and their associate/affiliates as well as numerous media outlets and I claim no rights over them.

Dungeons & Dragons : Shadows Over Mystarra – Coop Arcade fun for 4 (Xbox, PC)

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I can recall first the first time I watched the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon in the early 90’s and loved the idea of heroes adventuring in a fantasy world. Not comprehending the complexities of tabletop RPGs I just loved the stories and that was enough. Then I remember going to the arcades with my brother and we loved playing coop games like Metal Slug and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which even allowed for up to 4 players. I would read about Dungeons & Dragons Tower of Doom that was released in 1993/94 for the legendary CPS-2 machine by Capcom, a developer and publisher all kids we all too familiar with. Tower of Doom would not be the first D&D game released by Capcom with TSR after signing their deal in 1990 which resulted shortly after in the porting of Eye of the Beholder to the SNES.

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The artwork in the magazine was evocative and the cover featured the standard party with the Dwarf, Cleric, Warrior and Elf. At the time races were classes as they were using the AD&D Rules Cyclopedia rules when designing the game which also made it unlike any other side scrolling beat em up game. Not only had they gotten the rights from TSR for the system but they also were using a popular setting from the AD&D books. At the time fans of D&D had gold box computer games and other iterations of their favorite tabletop game ported to the PC but nothing that looked as good as what Capcom released and no game allowed for up to 4 players couch coop! The game would eventually see it packed with the sequel Shadows of Mystarra (Dungeons & Dragons Collection 1999) for the failed Sega Saturn console but only Japan with the removal of 4 player capabilities.

tower of doom opening screen

The things that made this a different gaming experience for arcade goers was that it allowed players to do more than just simple attacks, infact Capcom wanted to remain true to the abilities existing fans of the tabeltop game loved so much.  Capcom would enlist the talents of video game and anime concept illustrator Kinu Nishimura (Street Fighter games and Capcom Vs SNK) while leaving the writing duties to Alex Jiminez who did great in translating the feel and narrative of Dungeons & Dragons to a more mainstream audience. Players would be able to select abilities and feats while picking up items and loot which was stowed in their inventory. Prior to this inventory functionality and the differentiation of what each character to do made this a gamechanger in the early 90’s, the last era of arcades still being relavent in gaming culture globally.

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The game had miles of depth on the competition at the time, it was hard to complete and it played different depending on the choices the players made in game. A store and and the addition of a block function helped players survive a few more kobolds. D&D fans coming to arcade would be pscyhed when they saw the inclusion of their favorite spells including, magic missile, fireball, cloudkill and invisibility along with the same limitations from the book meant their exzisting knowledge would allow for them to get the game from the first quarter. Levelling up and loss of gold and points when dying made it a game where you had to think more than your would for other beat em ups like Fatal Fury or the Simpsons. The replayability of Tower of Doom and its difficulty had us dumping money into the cabinets and for those who got to see the ending at the 7th level we were amped after seeing the cliffhanger ending which hinted at a sequel.

Shadow_over_Mystara_sales_flyer

Shadows over Mystarra would be the second Dungeons & Dragons game released for arcades in 1996, adding more to the game and expanding the choices for playable classes. The thief and magic user class were added to the joy of many D&D players. Each class had alternate costumes so two players could play as the same class if they wanted to and believe me have two casters is nothing to sneeze at in this game. Capcom also jammed in more combos for the fighting classes and threw in more spells along with diverging paths for specific classes and alternate endings added more replayability to that game that already did it right the first time around.  By far the 4 possible endings for each class is something I think no game has done since.

 

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Now that we have laid on the praise real thick with our nostalgia goggles on it is time to get into what we don’t like about the games. Seeing as the games were originally designed for the arcades it was common practise for developers for have money grab levels and cheap bosses who were so hard that you would HAVE to have a fair amount of coinage to survive. Pay to pay at it’s finest but this is truly visible when fighting the Red Dragon in the first game where you do not even see his health bar after a barrage of hits connect and his insta-death fire breath killed many one second into the encounter. Also, there were glitches in the sequeal where you could cheat through entering certain words when given the choice of naming your character along with a few other glitches which could give you powerful items helped some cheaters get their names on the highscore charts. Other than that my gripe is more with Capcom than it is with TSR which was going through hell in the 90s.

Imagine if Capcom did not sacrifice the 4 player option for the Saturn, better yet try picture them releasing these game on the Sony Playstation as a bundle in 1996? I could not find any explaination as to why Capcom would not pursue it further, one of the reasons could be that D&D did not catch on as fast or grow as much as it did in the west. Alex Jiminez who wrote the scenario for Capcom said the Japanese staff were not understanding the concept or much of the mechanics behind D&D. The heads in Tokyo even were debating whether the game should have a Western or Eastern theme prior to Alex’s arrival.

Let us recall that RPG fans in the early 90s had slim pickings for games especially when discussing consoles with Diablo 1 coming to the Playstation in 1998 with only a two player option, beating Capcom by a year for their collection which was exclusive to Japan. Baldurs Gate would not hit PCs until 1998 meaning Capcom had more than enough time to capitalize on a severely under served genre with most of the titles remaining exclusive to PC platforms. Waiting as long as 2013 to repackage and release the collection globally on most platforms seemed like a long wait and I’m pretty sure if they had ported it to the Playstation, PS2, Dreamcast, or Xbox they could have gotten some more sales and perhaps rekindled the interest of Wizards of the Coast in a time where consoles were not even a thought for developers. Proof of this is that we had to wait until 2001 before console gamers would recieve the critically acclaimed ‘Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance’.

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REMINDER: The titles listed were gamechangers and all came towards the end of the 90s, not to say there were not games on the PC and Playstation that did not have Dungeons & Dragons licensing but these products fell short of the mark when it came to graphics, replayability and never made the arcade. With the exception of Eye of the Beholder which was well reviewed no D&D computer game would make a splash prior to Baldurs Gate in 1998.

Hoping you enjoyed reading this post and we cannot recommend this enough if you have 15$ lying around give the game a shot as it is packed with nostalgia while also providing hour of fun in a familiar setting.  I give this collection 9 out of 10. 

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Funny Zombies.. Welcome to ZOMBIELAND!!

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ZOMBIELAND Film Review

by Talon

 

Zombieland is a R-Rated adventure horror comedy (now Zomedy or Zom Com) written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and directed by Ruben Fleischer released in 2009. The movie earned Best Horror Movie, Best Cameo (Bill Murray) and Best Ensemble at the Scream Awards. The film was shot and brought to market for $23.6 million then smashed the box office earning $102.4 million making it the most successful zombie movie ever released at the time. The winning ensemble comprises Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson as leads supported by Emma Stone with Abigail Breslin and we are treated to appearances by Bill Murray, and Amber Heard in a brief scene which really kick starts the movie.

Team

Paul Wernick, Rhett Reeese, Ruben Fleischer & Amber Heard

A road movie at heart set in a post apocalyptic earth thanks to an outbreak of a virus, related to Mad Cow Disease, which turns people into zombies. The ingredients of this film could have resulted in boring product but surprisingly the film works as an entertainment piece. Zombieland cemented its legacy along with Shaun of The Dead as one of few films which brought the Zomedy genre commercial success and prominence in the mainstream western market, as the far east especially Japan had been releasing zombie related games, literature and even zombie comedies throughout the 90s and early 00s.

The movie begins with narrator Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a student at the University of Texas, one of the few non-infected people as he breaks down his various rules for survival. Shortly we find him walking down a highway strewn with abandon cars when he encounters Tallahasse (Woody Harrelson), who is on a quest to reach Florida killing as many zombies en route as he can and if possible secure himself a Twinkie supply.

The two agree to team up for a portion of the journey before deciding to examine a grocery store in hopes of finding some Twinkie’s. After fighting off several zombies and finding no Twinkies they meet sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) in the back of the shop, trying to help the ladies feigning distress our leads are conned and left without weapons or transport.

Shortly thereafter Tallahassee and Columbus in an attempt to set things straight track down their stolen SUV, where thanks to cliche Back Seat Inviso-Syndrome (where impossibly characters cant see people in the back-seat) the girls once more play the two leads. Fortunately Tallahassee swiftly turns the tables on the realistically outmatched femme duo and they decide to stick together until LA.

BILLY MURRAY

Bill Murray’s Residence, Ghostbusters Original Movie Poster & Bill Murray

The foursome arriving in Hollywood decide to find Billy Murray’s house using maps to the stars. Reaching the expansive Beverly Hills residence the crew split up, Columbus opting to show Little Rock Ghostbusters to show her who is the actor whose home they are squatting in, whilst also probing the kid for relationship info regarding her big sister. It is during this time we receive one of the most memorable cameos in film history but I do not wish to spoil it or the movie for you guys.

Unlike many movies of the horror genre Zombieland doesn’t suffer from overly pointless gory scenes, don’t get me wrong there is violence a plenty but the team doses it just right making the scenes amusing as they are action packed. Barring the back-seat reversal the cliches work well and are welcome, as is the kindling of potential romance between characters which doesn’t feel forced or contrived. There are seldom moments you feel for the characters and understand somewhat their intent adding needed respite from action and gags heightening the contrast between scenes.

Zombieland must have surprised both Columbia Pictures and Relativity Media with its box office success, both due to the genre being still fairly untapped in the US as well it being the feature film debut of Ruben Fleischer. I think because of the somewhat humble budget and a strong script (rewritten multiple times) the fairly established cast decided to sign on and I feel both production and cast pulled it off and am surprised the sequel came out just this year (2019).

The cinematography was spot on thanks to Michael Bonvillain, smart camera movement, angles and use of distance shots. The sound and score also helped bolster the theme and feel of film so a thumbs up to David Sardy and the Sound Deparment. The editing too was well done courtesy of Alan Baumgarten making Zombieland flow smoothly with no clutter, tight and compact.

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Alan Baumgarten, David Sardy & Michael Bonvillain

Eisenberg and Woody are both good actors and they pull off their roles masterfully. You believe that Jesse is the awkward nerd who compiled the rules list which pop up on screen throughout the film and Harrelson feels authentic as the macho tough guy on a rampage of vengeance.

Also enjoyable is the various ways in which the zombies are executed by the cast using a wide spectrum of equipment from guns to baseball bats and even gardening tools. There are even some truly bizarre comic instances which are rewarding to viewer.

The first time director possesses a great sense of timing and injects clever wit throughout the bloodbath of a film. As praised the cinematography is spot on really adding much to the feel of the film providing great visuals of different areas after the apocalypse. There are some poignant moments but don’t feel forced as mentioned and do not take away from the movies main goal which is to garner laughs.

The writers turned out a genre savy script and the meta feel of some scenes will be relished by cinephiles. I applaud most Bill Murray’s amazing cameo appearance which really steals the movie and is maybe one of the best cameos ever.

I feel the movie needed a little bit more something, maybe a little more character study or development but aside from that this movie succeeded in what it set out to do which is to entertain. This movie will be interesting to comedy fans especially of Zom Coms but also classic horror film aficionados.

I give the movie a score of :

3.75 / 5

All images used are property of Columbia Pictures, Relativity Media, Pariah and their associate/affiliates as well as numerous media outlets and I claim no rights over them.

Diablo IV is coming ! So lets talk about it!

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Diablo IV as of now has 3 playable classes in the demo

 

written & edited by Mykal Grimm

Many YouTube feeds have been flooded with initial impressions and reactions to Blizzard’s announcement at Blizzcon that a forth installment in the classic series of Diablo was on the way…kinda. The publisher has released an well produced trailer including gameplay but also allowed attendees to play a demo while streamers were given 5 minutes to stream it for their fans. With the recent dark cloud hanging over Blizzard involving censoring and banning players who were vocal on the current political situation in Hong Kong to recent failures that the fans are not letting go of teasing gamers with Diablo IV could buy them some much needed time to try save face.

The last Diablo game announced by Blizzard was Diablo Immortal which disappointed fans wolrd wide with the news that it would be a mobile device only game. What added to the sting was how the company leading up to the announcement were very vague and appeared to ignore feedback from the community after the announcement. Fans of Diablo have been asking Blizzard for a HD remaster of the older the titles as now Baldurs Gate has been ported to all current gen consoles offering fans more product at affordable prices. Immortal would be pushed back and no hype was really generated and with the talks of it having a 2019 release I don’t see it bringing in the big bucks for Blizzard any time soon. The success of the Warcraft movie in China saw the franchise double up for a sequel further promoting their world to more potential players in the largest growing market while the the return of World of Warcraft Classic saw them capitalize on the nostalgia of the previous generations of PC gamers. Though many feel that WOW charging 14$ a month for a subscription and then charging you 60$ for expansions is a bit steep but who are we dictate their pricing policy.

The announcement of Diablo IV comes as a breath of fresh air to fans of the franchise, especially those who grew up playing the PC games and were waiting to see what a forth title would like after our disappointment with Reaper of Souls. What worries many gamers who are fond of the older games and all too familiar with Blizzard track record of missing deadlines the company did not even hint at a possible release date. This is not a good sign because Baldurs Gate 3 was the talk of cyberspace the past two months and are confident that they will have the game out in 2020 and that it will be on most platforms.

Other things we did not like reading was that Blizzard intend on making it playable online only! This writer believes that games that have campaign and solo content must be playable offline however developers have now made the online component critical to a lot of the game mechanics and not just skins and customizations. I may like to also remind folks that Blizzard’s online store was marred with scandal when real money was changing hands and pay to win became prevalent, not to mention the dealys for the first 48 hours and enduring download times should have taught them something.

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Diablo IV will offer multiplayer but have not been fortcoming with information

Something of the promising things on first glance is that this game looks closer to the original design and art style of the earlier games. The cinematis and gameplay still looks like Diablo but it is darker and not as smooth as in Reaper of Souls. The 3 playable glasses we saw in the gameplay footage online showed a Druid closer to that of Celtic legends while the Sorceress and _Barbarian did not look too different from the older games. The graphics and visuals for certain spells including the overall mapping of the controls seemed streamlined and intutitive. The introduction of mounts does raise eyebrows, though developing the game to be more open world than previous editions the needs to accelrated travel makes sense but steads and mounts are also common place in mmorpgs, something that Diablo is not…or so they the want us to think.

For our readers who might be new to the Diablo series in general I can recommed everything from the litrature to the games as they can provide hours of entertainment and ooze nostalgia of a simpler time in gaming. The games are action rpgs for the most part where you take on the role of a character with a specfici set of skills belonging to a certain class with accompanying talents. Many games would be inspired by Diablo in decades to come and is pretty simple to understand with stories that do lead you wanting to see the conclusions…for the first two games at least. Diablo III is still availible on all consoles with couch & online coop modes which allows for you to quest with friends while for those more techy savy you can throw a lan party and quest with your buddies through Diablo II: Lord of Destruction which is considered the definitive Diablo game. If you are more of the tabletop enthusiast Wizards of the Coast would release a setting for their D20 system which allows your party to play out adventures from the games that are easy to incorporate in Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition and Pathfinder.

Diablo IV Combat Nerd DImension Review

The effects and visuals for spells and abilities are a huge step up from previous games

Now to to get in the cause for concern for some of the older players. Diablo 3 was a drastic change from the previous games which did not prove make it a better game. The game is one of the bestselling games of all time but also a debacle. Blizzard has long parted ways with the creators of Diablo David Brevik and Eric and Max Schaefer and with the return of Allen Adham to Blizzard they need Diablo IV to be big. With the hits Ubisoft and EA have taken in previous years all executives are sweating bullets with so much money invested into these projects failure can be devasting. The peculiar timing has helped Blizzcon by giving attendees and those of us at home something big and unexpected like a Diablo IV announcement.

Our gripes with Diablo III ranged from reducing the customization options for play, the lack of modding ability for PC versions to the killing off of characters and a short campaign and dull end game. If Blizzard can address these issuess perhaps we can be given a game with a long life and support from the publisher but despite not mentionning Diablo IV as an MMO we cannot help but feel that is could be the direction we are going similar to Neverwinter and Paths of Exile instead of going the Original Sin Divinity route which had proven to be better titles.

I can recall hours in lan parties playing Diablo 2 and have fond memories of carefully distributing my points in the skills tree to debating with my comrades which class to select to make for a better party.  The feeling of triumph after slaying demons with my friends through what felt like endless caves and finally saving the folks of Kingdom of Khanduras. Yes, good times indeed and hope that my scribblings may encourage you to give Diablo a chance and perhaps enjoy the game and setting that changed gaming forever. We hope to write more content on the series and the story behind Diablo so feel free to request and article to expedite our efforts.

 

You can purchase Diablo on GOG including the Hellfire expansion HERE

You can buy Diablo II base game from Blizzard HERE

 

Be sure to like and subscribe to our Facebook Page to be in the loop with all things nerd. Newsletter and Podcast coming soon and thank you again for your support.

 

*Nerd Dimension claims no ownership or copyrights of Diablo or any Blizzard properties

Medieval, Tales from Europe (new realistic setting for D&D 5E hitting Kickstarter) – Interview with Andrea Oneglia

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It has been a while since we last delved into the depths of tabletop RPGs and are fortunate enough this time to bring you some firsthand testimony and insight from a designer himself, Andrea Oneglia of Tales for Gamers Publishing (wicked nice name btw) whose efforts are focused on the release of his debut RPG setting Medieval – Tales from Europe which will be hitting Kickstarter soon.

Medieval – Tales from Europe is a historical setting that wants to bring the role players into a bizarre, unpredictable and absurdly real world, soaked in esotericism and full of that fairytale atmosphere that only the Middle Ages can offer, now finally proposed in a classic manner for the world’s most famous role playing game. A low magic system with only one race, the human, and 11 new playable classes will teleport you into the tales of an ancient and tumultuous Europe. Live unbelievable chivalrous adventures mixed with fantastic and supernatural events, marked by typical epic tones and by the satirical and grotesque ones of the folk stories. Keep up to date with the latest released news, explore our contents and support the Kickstarter campaign to receive everything you need to immerse yourself in this amazing story.

What drew me in from the first glance was the artwork I saw in a post he had on a Facebook group we both are members of. I clicked and discovered that Andrea and his team were working on a 5TH Edition Setting set in the Medieval Era which is intended to give players a more immersive and realistic feel. This to me sounded awesome and the further I dug the more I was intrigued and wanted to hear more about it. With information on the project scarce I decided to reach out to the man himself and see what unfolds. Andrea replied promptly and turned out to be a pretty solid guy and upon our request to do a write up agreed with open arms and sent us what he had at the time.

Q1.) So Andrea, tell us a little about yourself? (-short points where are you from, where you grew up etc.)

I was born and raised in Italy, in a small city 20 miles away from Naples, not far from Pompei, surrounded by the sea and by cultural and architectural remains of romans and Etruscan populations. I grew up in a territory rich in history and soaked in mysticism, legends and ancient tales. I grew up with the stories my grandparents used to tell me about the saints and other spiritual beliefs, for example the Jianara (a famous witch who would sneak in your room while you sleep to choke you to death! I’ve never known why!). Most of the time, those stories turned into world war II stories, unfortunately.

Q2) When did you first embark on you journey into the roleplaying games?

The role-playing games came much later in my life, even if the gaming world in general has always been a constant since my childhood (mostly videogames). Another separate hobby of mine was reading and writing, principally science fiction and fantasy. I enjoyed writing stories about interstellar travels, multidimensional existences and a lot about medieval fantasy settings too, things like King Arthur stories or even more unrealistic as Lord of the Rings. At the age of 15 I found out there was a way to combine the two things (games and narrative) and the result was incredible! That’s how I got into the role-playing games world, starting with Dungeons and Dragons (the most popular) and having the chance to explore the others just later. D&D allowed me to bring other people, mostly my friends, into the stories I used to write, to make them see what I see and to make them live the worlds I have created, which was something I have always researched. We from Tales for Gamers Publishing believe in the artistic power these things innately possess and we want to give our contribution in helping others “live” more engaging tales, as the historical ones can be.

Q3) You are a European working in Canada, so have you come across any cultural and business differences since you have moved?

My moving to Canada was a shock I could say. We are talking about a country that turned immigration into one of its main strengths, since it’s a relatively young country that needs young professionals to grow. We can’t really say the same for Italy, where for cultural, geographical and organizational aspects immigration hasn’t been considered as a resource yet. This makes Canada a giant boiling pot where everything ferments, grows and can contribution to a diverse ecosystem. There is space and opportunities for every decent person who feels like making a difference in this world in all the fields, from science to art (there is a huge community of role-players here!). At the same time, being a young country, founded entirely on colonialist politics (that dissolved almost completely what was here before), it doesn’t share the long reaching pasts of a lot of the nation’s back in Europe. Speaking about Quebec at least (where I live), the locals still struggle to find an identity and a link with their past which translates in still keeping today a veiled, and for some traits silly, discord between the French and English cultures on the territory (the two countries who fought for the occupation in the 18th century).

Q4) So what about your setting, Medieval Tales – from Europe (Medieval, Tales from Europe) made you feel confident enough to make the bold step of crowdfunding at this early stage?

The most immediate answer I can offer is: “because I love it!” Because I am the first excited fan of this setting and I like to play it with my friends! Even at the time when the mechanics were unclear, we were already trying (spontaneously, in our game sessions) to build up a more realistic system, more theatrical and less role-standard, more human and less divine, more survival and less chill. I can honestly admit that there is nothing like this around (yet)! Yes, there are medieval settings, some of them quite good, but for one reason or another they didn’t see much success and the gamers community seems still to crave more of it in their gaming. Medieval, Tales from Europe, is also introducing new (or not explored enough!) concepts in the RPGs world (the supernatural and the fear of the unknown, the weapons as ultimate deadly instruments, the concept of ultra-specialized classes), which raised huge interest in the players I shared it with. All these things made me decide to take action, step forward and propose something different to our community of players.

Professions + logo Kickstarter

Q5) 11 professions this early seems interesting and from the material you have shown they all vary and will probably feel different. I noticed that you did not shy away from including some interesting yet darker parts of European History including the Surgeon which reminds us of images of the plague. Please tell us about some of the classes and how they differ to a newcomer.

A realistic and historical setting as ours intends to be, needs to start from scratch with the classes. Most of the examples of what we have seen so far appeared inadequate for our purposes. Having the classes boil down to be no more than a fighters, better fighter,  other mediocre fighters, but fighters at the end of the day (which, just to be clear, works just fine in some of the amazing and valid RPGs systems we see around, based mainly on combat). With all the respect for those great titles, those classes sounded just wrong for the setting we have started developing. I like to look upon our 11 new classes as actors on a stage, ultra-specialized, very different from one another and, most importantly, irreplaceable! If your party are short an Explorer, the other players need to work harder to compensate some of the benefits the Explorer can provide during travels and still have some needs unmet. Same for the Artist, the Rogue and all the other classes (which are called Professions in this setting). The Surgeon is for sure one of the most interesting actors on our medieval stage! He can provide useful support in sewing the wounds and in restoring your hit points and there will be no one else able to do it in such an efficient way. The Surgeon can be a sneaky danger too if under menace, since he or she knows the body’s weak points, how to damage them or use them during torture. In summary, there is nothing in common in the different Professions except they are all humans with important skills but vulnerable and never perfect; people that try to do one unique important thing: survive!

Medieval - Tales from Europe

Nerd Dimension do not claim any ownership or copyrights over Medieval – Tales from Europe.

Q6) Low fantasy as a choice brings a lot with it. You have chosen to limit the playable races to only Human which I think is a pro but I am certain you must have got a few odd looks from some of the folks around the table or at the comic store. Please shed light on the decision and how you feel it will positively impact the game?

A low-fantasy system with only humans came as a crucial choice, even if drastic for some aspects, for the sake of a more realistic setting. This for us is going to add other interesting elements, not remove them as we are trying to be as true to the setting. I will try elaborate with an example. Have you ever thought about how devastating some abilities such as Darkvision (an ability in classic rpgs that allow a character to see in the dark) can be on the narration, on the suspense and the engagement you can have at the table when a character gets into a fully dark catacomb? Why there is even a torch in the starting pack of an adventurer if 70% of the classes can see in the dark and you are never going to light it up in a dungeon (and we could say the same about so many other cool but useless objects)? However, the RPG world is wide and vast, and there are players who love settings where “human issues” can be simply overcome with a snap of fingers. Medieval, Tales from Europe wants to provide an alternative support for those players who seek a more competitive game setting, where you’d better think twice in choosing your equipment if you don’t want to end up alone, frozen to the bones, in a dark cave full of venomous snakes or a bear (deadly situations even for a 20th level character in some cases). Also, these features allow for us to finally branch out for some new kind of stories we can play out around the table, such as the story of Saladin who led the Islamic forces during the Crusades, or the story of Joan of Arc and the Hundred Year war, along with many other historical events that comprise the rich history of Europe. Or those tales between myth and legends such as Robin Hood, King Arthur and Lancelot’s story, and heritage of our European culture, stories that simply need the characters to be human and far fro perfect. Is there another way you can play these scenarios with Dungeons and Dragons without the new features (and the drastic choices) Medieval, Tales from Europe is going to introduce?

Q6.2) In the brief you emailed us you highlighted that Low Magic is different to No Magic and we wanted to give you an opportunity to expand on that for our readers.

When we think about the Middle Ages it suddenly brings up dark images to ones mind such as the esotericism of forbidden doctrines and the use of occult sciences which in the Dark Ages claimed to induce supernatural effects on people and situations (a classic example is the voodoo dolls or the habit of keeping crystals or herbs in the houses to keep the malevolent spirits away). In such a scenario it’s hard to imagine a setting that doesn’t take magic into consideration in some form. At the same time, magic as we know it, described well by the fantasy settings of the past, doesn’t exist in our world and it can’t exist in a realistic setting. That’s why we had to work firstly on the concept of magic we wanted to introduce and then on the game mechanics and how to put it in player’s hands. In Medieval, Tales from Europe magic doesn’t exist, but people might interpret some weird signs and circumstance as such because they believe in it and, most importantly, they fear it! The Arcanist, one of the most magic-like Profession we have introduced, is nothing else than a trickster who is himself convinced of the reality of the effects he creates to be true. Such an insane personality can have a great impact on other people’s minds because he uses fear as a weapon, and he will find out it can be as sharp as a blade. In our setting everything is possible, all the supernatural effects can be realized but only if the character is good enough in influencing people’s mind. How does this translate in game mechanics? There will be no spell list in this new setting. We have introduced (for the first time in a tabletop RPG setting, to our knowledge!) a system where whatever supernatural effect can be created by the player itself, not combining parts or pre-generated words but simply inventing it. The Storyteller will give a score to those effects and the player will need to roll a Charisma check (Influence) to create the right grade of suggestion and make the effect appear real to those who are watching (even if it is not). Some of these tricks can have an effect as real as an arrow in the chest!

Q7) You are obviously intending to run Medieval Tales – From Europe over the Dungeons & Dragons 5 Edition rules set which is the most popular on the market. This is a two part question so sorry Andrea,

  1. What did you like about 5E and how do you feel you added to it with your setting
  2. As an independent publisher and creator can you tell us how it is working with an existing rules set and whether it comes with complications?

The 5th Edition is far from being a perfect setting but nothing ever is to be honest. For example, it gives the impression of going easy on players as a RPG system. I feel players are not challenged enough and a lot revolves around the combat with fewer opportunities for diversifying and customizing the characters that it’s previous editions. Even the level progression, according to the Dungeon Master’s Guide should be triggered by an insane amount of combat encounters, primarily. This being said, the system seems to have a pretty strong up-side, which deserved to be use for our setting: it is incredibly widespread (everyone plays it!) and it’s the easiest to learn, an aspect that attracts a lot of new players. As I said previously, we had to adjust some aspects of the 5th edition engine to make it suitable for a realistic setting but we kept intact most of the main backbone. We tried to make the smallest changes possible, preferring to adjust some mechanics instead of outright removing them and forcing players to learn new ones from scratch. The results are far better than what we anticipated with a more challenging and a more interpretative fashion of play compared to the basic 5th edition. Thanks to the Open-Gaming License (OGL) released by Wizard of the Coast in early 2019, the 5th edition rules are free from copyright and everyone can use them, under specific conditions and with the limitation of not including any of the world-settings the company has created for an eventual business idea. Thanks, Wizards!

Q8) Being bilingual yourself I have to ask whether or not you intend to publish in several languages other than English, perhaps Italian, Espanyol or German?

Out first choice was the Italian language, an automatic choice given the nature of content and the south-European flavor of the setting. Plus, Italy is proving lately to be infected with the bug and in Europe is leading in new role players and in new related contents including boardgame publishers. With the recent growth in popularity of boardgames, roleplaying games and the success of movies like the Avengers and shows like Stranger Things the ranks of tabletop rpg fans continue to grow daily in my home country. We decided to also publish in English in order to reach everyone else in the world and give them the chance to get immersed in the fascinating tales of our continent. If Medieval, Tales from Europe is going to be translated in other languages, it depends on many aspects, mostly the Kickstarter campaign outcome.

Q9) The artwork we have managed to see so far are distinct and reminiscent of Fantasy Novel covers in a more modern style. What is your experience and advice when it comes to reaching out to talent whether it be artists or designers, has the internet allowed for more affordable and efficient collaboration?

The power of social media and this recent RPG explosion we are having in Italy allowed me to get in touch with some great artists in the field. I had the fortune to meet the artists and got them involved in this project quite easily. I guess they saw a chance to get some more exposure (they are all still carving out their own path) and at the same time they gave me the honor of using their amazing illustrations for this project, which appear to fit our vision and one for the project! It’s mind boggling how many artists are out there online working on these types creative jobs, whether it is artwork or game-design. I see a great future for such collaborations and partnerships as more and more talent is taking their abilities online.

Q10) The last question is about the Kickstarter and what do backers get? What are you goals, what is the figure and more importantly, what do supporters get who pledge to your campaign?

We expect to see a great Kickstarter campaign in December 2019 which hopefully will turn Medieval, Tales from Europe from ideas into reality. The funds we are asking for will be entirely used in completing the project, to cover the production and shipment costs of the material we offer and the expenses in time and instruments the artists involved in this project need in order to give us their best. In defining the rewards we are going to offer in exchange of the pledges, we based the decision on a simple concept: we want the player to get what they need to start their experience with Medieval, Tales from Europe as soon as they get it in their hands, and nothing more. We believe that less is more, and we want to concentrate the material in useful products, avoiding unused gadgets. Among the rewards there will be the Player’s Guide in PDF and Hardcover format and some others contents including a one-shot adventure, a little guide for the encounters with some crucial enemies stats, famous medieval characters’ sheet, artworks and more. There will be some good deals for the early birds and for those present in our newsletter list. Most important, we will take care of the shipping cost of all the products and once the campaign is over, hopefully with a positive outcome, our backers will not be charged anything more. They will be invited in a private Facebook group where they can follow the different stages of the project, stay in touch with us the producers and just wait for the product to arrive.

Arcanist

Andrea’s story is one shared by many independent creators but too many allow their ideas to remain nothing more than pencil scratches on the back of a character sheet. Andrea has been thinking and working on a setting with a foundation in realism that itself is historically rich and inspiring. Himself investing into getting the artists to help bring these same ideas to life. The dancing blades that harken to the ottoman and Turkish Empires look fierce while the Warrior and Explorer remind you of the Knights of Britain and the voyages of the Spanish Fleet. This Era in European history is rife with conflict, myths, religion and intrigue so splashing in a dab of fantasy adds just enough to make it feel new and worth exploring. This game is different in the best way possible, it is supposed to be different.

We must commend Tales for Gamers Publishing for getting behind their ideas and having a vision they are pursuing. They are doing what designers could never have dreamed of twenty years ago, today they can call their friends and fans to action. Gamers have elevated crowdfunding to where it is legitimately funding bestselling products tabletop to the Xbox store and Tales for Gamers are not taking much risk. By taking their time to build more awareness for their game they can launch a Kickstarter to an interested public and audience. More important it is great to see an Italian creator and publisher aspiring to make his mark internationally with his work. This is a European project that we are certain will find it’s place at tables across the continent. Our job at Nerd Dimension is help however we can because growing up I always dreamed of being part of the industry, work within in and belong to the culture and now I do. Today we can step up and get behind creators like never before and Medieval Tales – From Europe is something that I feel has been missing from the tabletop and with our help Tales for Gamers can remedy it. We would like to salute the valiant efforts of Giovanni Laudante IT specialist of the group, Davide Santonicola the super fan who always is ready to help and last but not least collaborator Maurizio Infante.

We are going to pledge to the campaign and we invite our readers to check out their page and see what it’s about for themselves. Andrea and his team are communicative and are always looking for more people to hear about Medieval Tales so please give them a like and show them some support. I myself have been guilty of scrolling past Kickstarter posts because most of them fail for a reason but I am glad that I checked this one out. Next time you guys are going through your troll page, click on one of those posts if it seems cool because you could be helping that dream come true for somebody.

I was thrilled to cover this and expect us to have Andrea back on, this time he will appear on our podcast which will go back up when our co-host Bakreni returns so make sure you are subscribed and are following our pages to hear how everything went. Until next time reader, role deep and stop trying to pick pocket in the tavern already!

 

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Witch of Salem : Fun for 4 with a great theme [Board Game Review]

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I first came across Witch of Salem (Mayfair Games ) designed by Michael Reineck (Pillars of Earth, Cuba: El Presidente) whilst watching a Dice Tower Top 10 with Tom Vassel and his buddies. I was searching for a coop board game with a good theme that did not take too long to set up and play yet still was interesting enough to my group that we play it again. Off the rip I liked the Cthulhu mythos with the it being the early 20th Century New England involving ancient ones, demons and intrigue.

My initial fears after playing Arkham Horror and Eldritch Horror (Fantasy Flight) was that I would pay a lot of money for a game that the group would not play enough to warrant its price. An issue for many people entering the hobby of board games especially those who intend to collect is the price on some of the best games are pretty steep, add in postage you are looking at a hefty some of cash for something you won’t get to use that offten. I have paid for games that I only ever got to play once and wished I could have got another honest opinion on the game before buying it. Board Game Geek did not have it scored too high (6.6) yet what I could read the game seemed straight forward, challenging and did have a tone of play that matched the theme.

The game’s designer Michael Reineck is a German designer who was nominated in 2008 for Designer of the Year, the year Witch of Salem was released along with some of his other projects. I could not find a website or social media page to dig up some more info but he has worked on more than 6 published board games and the list is nothing to sneeze at. The artwork (Franz Vohwinkel) even when looking at reviews seemed interesting as it did in Dragons Lair when I went to purchase it.The artwork looks great from the box to the cards to the map you play on with the right dark tones to bring the setting to life.

witch of salem spread 2

The box contains all your standard board game pieces, tokens, cards and a board with a manual to read which could have been streamlined a little more but was easy enough to comprehend. The game is limited to 4 players max and is a cooperative game involving strategy and combat. Not really a mystery game despite the description on the front of the box but the horror theme and the the progression mechanics are easy to use and build tension as time passes in the game.

This is a fun game and is pretty simple to learn after one playthrough. That being said, Witch of Salem is not an easy game and scales well for a maximum of 4 players. There are a variety of ancient ones you can find yourself grappling with as the time mechanics don’t seem to stress the players more rather keep the tension and pace consistent. Towards the end you and your players will have to come together to seal the gates and prevent the demons from entering our world. This is something you can play for a while as games seldom feel the same and it is great for a halloween board game before the movies or after dinner. I recommend this over Eldrith and Arkham as it plays faster, is taught easier and the price is fair considering what you get out of it. If you want something that will have you on the edge of your seat for most of the game and don’t want a million things to set up Witch of Salem is the horror coop game for you.

 

Rating: 8 out 10

I gave it a lower score because I feel that the game could be fun with more players and there were no expansions released. The rules are not as straight forward and all of the characters are the same with no significant diffirences in skills and abilities.

MANHUNT:UNABOMBER… Very Good But Could’ve Been Great

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– MANHUNT: UNABOMBER [Series Review] –

by Talon

UNABOMB POSTER

Poster for Manhunt: Unabomber

Manhunt: Unabomber released on August 2017 is a drama miniseries directed by Greg Yaitanes for the Discovery Network. Created by Andrew Sodroski, Jim Clemente & Tony Gittelson the series was nominated for the best original long form TV award by the Writer’s Guild of America and Tyler Huth for young Best Performance in a TV Series (Recurring Teen Actor) by the Young Artist Award. Sam Worthington plays FBI agent Jim ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald and Paul Bettany the titular character Ted Kaczynski and are supported by co-stars Jeremy Bobb, Chris Noth and Keisha Castle-Hughes.

Discovery and Yaitanes take certain creative license in an attempt to create a historical drama narrative about the FBI manhunt focusing on the cat-and-mouse dynamic between Kaczynski and his pursuer Agent ‘Fitz’. I feel while the show is entertaining and has you coming back to see what’s happens next, it did not really give the characters enough depth and failed to adequately link Kazcynski’s fears of misuse of industrial and technological advances to the reality of current issues and events which seems to be going in that direction.

The show focuses on how the tactics and technology used to track down Kazcynski came to be, demonstrating that previous methods failed and illustrating classic bureaucracy present even at the FBI’s highest levels of administration hindering efficiency and development of best practices. They touch on the creation and content of the manifesto itself but from a safe distance, not really expounding on the obvious correlations between Kazcynski’s theories rising from fear of the future and what has happened in the meanwhile to society due to reckless and hasty implementations of various technologies and industrial practices. Possibly things like certain major companies online always listening, increasingly watching and constantly learning about you and your habits? Was this idea really so crazy, as opposed to going deeper through the content of the manifesto and rationale of this criminal we merely get a glimpse into what maybe led him to become the way he was. There are notable manhunts the team could have chose to develop as opposed to one where beyond the tragic crimes perpetrated there is present a fleshed out philosophy and viewpoint of the ‘villain’.

hughes, bobb, yaitness

Keisha Castle-Hughes, Jeremy Bobb & Greg Yaitanes

The series starts off in 1995 as Fitz is recruited to the Unabomb Task Force receiving no support from his colleagues regarding new ideas he brings to the table. Also we flash-forward to 1997 where he is being asked to confront his counterpart Kazcynski.

The second episode focuses on Fitz’s work on determining the validity of the Unabomber’s threat to bomb an airliner and also we have the two enemies meet for the first time.

Fitz teams up with linguist Natalie Rogers, played by Lynn Collins, together figuring out new clues which point in a different direction to the current profile but the FBI views the findings sceptically. In 1997 Ted begins explaining to his opponent Fitz that he will invalidate all the evidence produced against him.

Ted now demands that his manifesto be published if the authorities wish to see and end to the bloodshed. Fitz pushes his boss Don Ackerman, played by Chris North, to publish who decides to bring the proposal to FBI Divisional head Janet Reno played by Jane Lynch.

Agent Fitz fianlly finding the linguistic evidence he’d been looking for which points in the direction of Ted Kazcynski, tracks down Ted’s brother David, played by Mark Duplass, who is surprised at how precise the profile seems to match Ted.

The sixth episode focuses on a letter sent to David by his brother where he explains various events of his life which caused him to take up his current world view and engage in terrorist activities.

The bureau having a prime suspect goes deep under cover staking out Kazcynski’s cabin, racing the press cycle in hopes of capturing Ted before media chaos ensues creating opportunity for missteps on their end.

In the season finale, after Ted fails to have the evidence invalidated by the court, Fitz makes one last appeal for him to plead guilty.

Huth, Noth and Lynch

Tyler Huth, Chris Noth & Jane Lynch

I felt that Fitz as a character is relatable to a degree albeit riddled with cliches. Older than most his class and less educated, he earned his spot through old fashion elbow grease which I feel does endear the character the audience. His ideas though are met with low levels of enthusiasm and finds himself battling dated established conventions. Here the cliché begins, becoming so obsessed with the case it causes his marital breakup. Fit’z obsession believable grows to such an extent that he sells out his only true ally Tabby, played by Keisha Castle-Hughes, in an attempt to get back on the case.

Despite the afore mentioned you find yourself hoping that Fitz wins. The show did attempt to illustrate that Kazcynskis ultimate goal wasn’t to sow terror but bring the public’s attention to inherent risks of the technological and industrial progress. Beyond explaining Ted’s motives the show also provides possible causes for this extreme behaviour illuminating parts of his troubled childhood and youth in a ‘monsters aren’t born they are made’ approach.

Unabomber Text Published In The Washington Post

Industrial Society and its Future, Published by The Washington Post

I feel the purpose of this show was for Discovery Network to determine whether they can create a commercially viable scripted drama a now prestigious segment of the television entertainment market.

The show itself is rather cinematic and this is in no small part thanks to Zack Galler. The camera movement was precise, angles well thought out as well as were the distances of the shots.

The sound of the series was good, playing well with the narration of the story being told, and the score was solid both primarily courtesy of Gregory Tripi. Especially praiseworthy is how the sound greatly contributed to the few set pieces of the series.

I feel Donn Aron, Iain Erskine and Scott Turner handled their respective editing responsibility smoothly connecting all the pieces together.

One possible deeper meaning the team could have been trying for is a character study of both Kazcynski and Fitz, but they fail in this task as the characters seemingly lack depth. To be far Fitz is a composite of several different agents, and the real Jim Fitzgerald insisted on the show being more accurate but was ultimately overruled.

What could be seen as the shows argument regarding modernism and possible risks inherent in technological progress is grossly weakened which I will explain further in this review.

The show does do well with the ethical dillemas presented by the deciding on giving in to the demands of the Unabomber.

There is some repetitiveness throughout the show specifically – Fitz gets stuck, listens to someone talk about something unconnected, zones out and then makes a lateral leap based off a small slice of conversation after which he goes to his boss with the idea and is told to focus on what they tell him to do, for the boss to proven wrong.. That said Noth and Bobb serve the story solidly as the stubborn obstacles of the protagonist.

Bettany’s portrayal is praiseworthy and in truth the show doesnt get things cooking properly until his arrival on the scene, and he is great in episode six where the story be given to him we learn of his experiences at Harvard.

On the other hand despite his masterful subtle delivery, you find Worthington as Bettany wanting more from there characters and script. Fitz’s character is intended to be Kazcynskis match, but we can find a correlation between Fitz’s awkwardness and lack of niceties evidence his compulsive personality, Barring this what really bothers is how the team fail to rationalize the notion they convey early in the series that Fitz managed to catch Kazcynski because of a shared obsessive world-view as they do not deepen the character portrayal.

The supporting cast complete the show and are probably one of the highlights, especially the a fore mentioned Castle-Hughes is a standout, Duplass, Brian d’Arcy James and Jane Lynch feel somewhat underplayed and underdeveloped but none the less handle their assignments as the seasoned professionals they are.

Jame, Galler & Duplass

Brian d’Arcy James, Zack Galler & Mark Duplass

In closing I feel that both lead actors despite their visibly high levels of commitment were left wanting more to work with in regards to their characters. There is some awkwardness inherent in the beginning of the show, though tension steadily builds, but they manage to build momentum as it progresses.

Manhunt definitely makes it hard to not continue watching as it does engage the viewers and the fact it is based on real people and events (albeit creative license was used) makes it all the more enthralling.

A major failing of the series is we never really get to know Ted Kazcynski or what makes him tick. But by far the biggest mistake they made was failing to deliver on the key argument I mentioned earlier in this review. Something starring you in the face is that we now know (at least most of us) that Kazcynski’s deep paranoia in regards to the dehumanizing side of technology in the modern era being not only sociologically ahead of his time but is also almost certainly correct.

All being said this is one of the best shows produced in recent years, it is engaging, tense and hard to not binge watch. The writers approached this series a little differently than most, the direction is efficient and Bettany does provide an intense portrayal of the titular character. This all might sound paradoxical considering the gripes listed and explained but that is because this a a very good show which could have been a great show.

This show will be most appealing to criminal history buffs and those who enjoy criminal procedurals or process themed series.

I give this series a score of

4/5

All images used are property of Discovery Communications, Trigger Street Productions, The Washington Post their associate/affiliates and various media outlets and I claim no rights over them.

My Early days with comics – Retrospective

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By Bronze Oldie

Nerd Dimension claims no ownership and copyrights of Marvel IPs or artwork.

I came into to comics at the point of transition from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age. At the Time, Marvel was publishing a lot of re-prints of classic Silver age material, most notably Marvel tales (re-printing Spider-man) Marvels Greatest Comics (re-printing Fantastic Four) Marvel Triple Action (re-printing Avengers) and X-men (reprinting X-men). So I am something of an authority on Silver Age Marvel, as well as Bronze Age.

During the actual Silver Age, I was too young to read. But I was already into superheroes through the medium of television. There was a Batman series on TV at the time starring Adam West that I loved and had toys of and the show still shares a cult status among fans and marks a specific time in American Television. The DC cartoons were in my opinion were much superior to the Marvel ones. Most of the Marvel cartoons consisted of someone waving panels of Jack Kirby art while someone narrated and fell short of translating the excited from the page. The DC cartoons where much better animated, the exception being the Spiderman cartoon. So when I started learning how to read, I came into comics with a bias in favor of DC.

Unfortunately, DC squandered this advantage with comics that were so much lower in quality than the Marvel ones, even to a 6-year-old’s eyes and that is saying something. In the Early DC comics I first read, Batman was fighting ordinary criminals with no costumes or powers, Superman was fighting Terra Man (the space cowboy), Clark Kent had a new co-worker, Guy Lombardo, a sportscaster who would bully Clark (while Clark pretended to be bullied), Wonder Woman had no powers and was a Kung Fu Fighting Private Detective, The Metal Men all got melted, and the Justice League teamed up with the Justice Society to search for the Seven Soldiers of Victory.

The first Marvel comic I read, in contrast, features the climax of the Skrull/Kree War, a reprint of the Fantastic Four defeating Galactus, Ragnarok, the Mimic (with the combined powers of the X-men) fighting the Super Adaptoid (with the combined powers of the Avengers), MODOK and Dr Doom fighting over the Cosmic Cube, and in the same issue: Captain America vs Nick Fury and the Falcon vs. the Captain America and Bucky from the 1950’s. With that beginning, although I occasionally bought DC comics, I was mostly a Marvelite from then on.

Comics in those days were $0.20 each. I’m pretty certain that they were deliberately priced at double the cost of a chocolate bar, which costed $0.10 in those days. At 20 cents per comic, that should have meant, if I got hold of a dollar, that I should have been able to get 5 comics for a dollar. It should have been that way. . . . But Americans like to make tax paying as painful a process as possible. Every Spring Americans get super stressed trying to fill out the income tax form and I am sure many have seen this play out in sitcoms through the years. But unlike other countries, in the States, sales tax is tacked on on top of the labeled price, not included in it. So a dollar bought me 4 comics and some change. Then a period of inflation began under president Nixon. Chocolate bars became slightly larger and rose to $0.15 and comics added a couple of pages and rose to $0.25 each. Again, this should have been 4 for a dollar. Instead, it was 3 for a dollar and some change leftover.

Every pharmacy, or 7-11 small store had a rotating rack that would hold more than 50 different comics within its thin frame. And I was very dependent on the good will of parents to buy me that comic I wanted so bad. Often I had to choose one over the other as was the case for most kids growing up. So I chose not to find out what happened with the Avengers and the Space Phantom, because I wanted to see Quicksilver and the Human Torch fight over Crystal. Most comics stories were two of three issues long and I would often miss the beginning or conclusion of a story, after all it is hard to develop consistent buying patterns as an infant with no disposable income! There were a few instances where I was able to get every issue of a particular comic for several months in a row. Because if a story lasted longer than one issue, it would be a whole month before I got to see what happened next.

I was just the right age to be coming in at the very beginning of a lot of Bronze Age things. My very second Avengers story was based on a idea suggested by an intern named Chris Claremont, in which the Avengers fought the Sentinels. I came in at the beginning of the Defenders, and just before Steve Englehart began writing the Avengers and Captain America. I was there for the beginning of Jim Starlin’s run on Captain Marvel and Roy Thomas’ run on Fantastic Four.

I thought I liked particular characters. I didn’t realize that I actually like particular writers, including: Stan Lee (Fantastic Four, Avengers), Roy Thomas (Avengers, X-men, Fantastic Four), Steve Englehart (Defenders, Avengers, Captain America, Doctor Strange, Amazing Adventures featuring: the Beast), Steve Gerber (Defenders), and Jim Starlin (Captain Marvel). Because of this I missed things I would have liked and later discovered like Warlock (Jim Starlin), early issues of Master of Kung Fu (Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart), Guardians of the Galaxy (Steve Gerber) and Man Thing (Steve Gerber).    

The Marvel Universe was much more coherent back then. It was only ten years old at that point and several writers had very long runs in the Silver age. Most notably Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who did more than a hundred issues of Fantastic Four, as well as a long run on Thor and Roy Thomas who had very long runs on both Avengers and X-men. Comics would often reference events in past issues, and would often include a panel showing the events they were talking about with a footnote, indicating which issue they were referring to. Writers would spin very long subplots and then tell the next writer what they had been doing. So, for example, Roy Thomas had been laying clues for years that something was strange about the Vision. And it was years more before Steve Englehart finally revealed that the vision had been built from the android body of the original Human Torch.

Also, the Comics Code was loosening its’ grip a bit, allowing horror comics to be produced. DC mostly did anthology horror comics. (Swamp Thing was an exception) But Marvel was doing ongoing series featuring Dracula, Frankenstein, the Living Mummy, Werewolf by Night, Man Thing and the Ghost Rider. And Western and War comics were still around too. 

But then, this era of my comics fandom came to an end, when I moved to a place where comics were not available. As a result, I missed things. But when I moved back, I returned to comics. Again, just in time.

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Lords of the Cosmos – Epic 80s Heavy Metal Space Fantasy the way we want it !

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It is not a mystery to anybody who ever browsed the posts of our blog that we are avid comic and graphic novel readers, me personally usually opting for more darker storytelling in the comics I read. When I stumbled across Lords of the Cosmos in a post on Facebook my interest was piqued and was curious to see what it was all about. The more I dug the more I discovered this awesome setting and the story behind the book itself. Learning that it was an entirely independent venture and to see that they managed to recruit some truly talented names in the industry told me I had to reach out to somebody from the project. I sent a message to Jason Lenox through Messenger and was pleasantly surprised when I read the reply that he would send me the EPK and all the materials I would need to do a write up for their new Kickstarter. What really made me happy was how I managed to get the two previous issues for review which I will individually do reviews for, but this post is to tell ya’ll about this awesome book and hopefully get more people involved in the story moving forward. It feels great to support something that achieves more than expected and Lords of the Cosmos deserves to have many more issues moving forward.

Umex-cover-low-res

Lords of the Cosmos is the brainchild of co-creators Jason Lenox (Lovecraft P.I.), Jason Palmatier and Dennis Fallon (Plague) who wanted to publish something together that stood out. All three have experience within the industry and have no problem sharing their projects with other artists and talent so don’t be surprised when you see more names in the credits than usual. The drawing styles of all the artists come together to form these evocative images from page to page. The voice of the narrators through out prove that the writers and creators have a well developed and flushed out setting and know the direction in which they want the story to go. The grim tone and matching illustrations immerse you into Aiden. Each issue comes with several stories, each depicting backstories and different events on Aiden and how it impacts the present. I can say that it has been a while since I read such good writing and seen such illustration from an independent and have decided to pledge to the Kickstarter because here at Nerd Dimension we support what we like.

While doing my research on Jason I managed to find his interview on ‘Wasted Local Talent’ which gave me some more insight into his story and how hard he has been working in the industry. Knowing that he genuinely wants to deliver a good product while balancing his duties as a husband and father allowed me to get more a feel for this independent creator. His relentless work ethic and kind heart casts him as the quintessential good guy all us nerds should not only encourage but learn from. Jason has never had a cushy job working fulltime for one of the big publishers, so he decided to work towards making and releasing his own product. Sure, it is not easy setting off on your own but Nerd Dimension was started to be able to motivate and connect more creators and fans and hopefully be able to assist with efforts such as this Kickstarter. What is the point if every blogger only covers what is new and ignores the indie scene which 9 out of 10 times will scratch that itch called ‘craving for originality’ much more than the newer comics you can buy.

To avoid spoiling the story for everybody I will just give you a quick rundown of the setting in my humble yet less prolific prose. Aiden is a planet where magic and science have formed a twisted yet symbiotic harmony where two contradictions are fused together, and in Lords of the Cosmos it is done very well. The planet is home to different races including goblins, mutants, humans and aquatic beings so there is no shortage of diversity. The look and feel is that of the 80s and as Jason Lenox describes himself ‘is Metal’ which has some Mad Max moments while remaining planted in the realms of space fantasy. The characters all share harsh and grim origin stories and the planet is an active participant in the narrative in a way I have perhaps only seen in film and the team of Lords of the Cosmos really did a good job of showing it on the page. The artists do not shy away from blood and gore and the new take on races that populate the planet make it unlike any other comic I have read so far. The black and white insides give me that familiar feel of older Warhammer comics, Dylan Dog and Dr. No so it really did take me back to my childhood. All in all, I cannot recommend this Kickstarter and series enough and below I will include what Jason and his guys say about this Epic 80s series that’s coming out in 2020.

The Kickstarter as of this time is at 75% of reach their goal of 4000$ and I urge people to support! Jason Lenox was wise in his approach to crowdfunding and has integrated fan feedback and continues to post regular updates for backers to be in the loop. The different tiers each offer cool stuff including your name mentioned just for contributing a few bucks makes you as the reader feel part of the success story.

Welcome to the exciting and dangerous Aiden, the world of the Lords of the Cosmos! In the third issue the team adds depth to our heroes’ backstories as the Lords of the Cosmos try to bring order to a world that run afoul with both magic and technology. We want you, dear reader, to join us as we connect the dots from Aiden’s ancient past to the present-day conflict between the evil Umex and his arch nemesis, Aegeus, the mysterious leader of the Lords of the Cosmos. 

This issue will contain 36 black and white interior pages including part three of the main story (11 pages) that picks up right where the issue two cliffhanger ended. It includes two short stories (22 pages in total) covering different aspects of the planet Aiden and detailed scale drawings for both Disciples of Umex and the Lords of the Cosmos by superstar artist Jens Bengtsson. We have created two main covers and four variant covers for this issue, but just in case that’s not enough for you we always offer a sketch cover so your favorite character can grace the cover page.   

Zemba-cover-low-res

 

Lords of the Cosmos is © 2019 Ugli Studios. All rights reserved.