Outsiders Vol 2 Rambling

Now that I got a solid, consecutive run, I’ve started on Outsiders Vol. 2! I’m glad I waited until I had both #1s and #3 to start it, because the opening of this story is a hot chaotic mess. Like, even starting at #1, I feel like I missed something, and the Suicide Squad “Dragon’s Hoard” arc did NOT fill anything in like I’d hoped it would.

There’s clearly a case of typical DC timeline reset/telescoping, even though Zero Hour hadn’t happened yet, because the events of Millennium are suggested to have happened just a few months in the past for Katana, who is still watching over the comatose Gaby.

From a throwaway line of dialogue explaining that he was busy and couldn’t attend Brion’s nephew’s christening, it’s revealed (to me, at least) that Metamorpho is alive.

The last few issues of Outsiders vol.1 did something really weird where Atomic Knight showed up for the event for a couple issues before the end of the run, and rather than just having him as a guest, he got listed as a member of the Outsiders and is included in the ‘remember when we were a team?’ splash. He was a dull late edition, and they’re teasing him showing up, but he’s not made it to Markovia just yet.

Technocrat shows up practically out of nowhere, giving off the feeling that he’d come in from another title with the amount of backstory that’s implied but never mentioned—the first minor villain is a guy who has a past with him who his wife sent to have him assassinated. But sure enough, this is the first time he makes his appearance.

No one behaves around Faust like he’s a guy everyone just met who’s turned someone into a werebear—it’s weird.

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Eradicator even shows early on as one of the first supers to try to “punish” the Outsiders for the crimes they were alleged to have committed.

Anyway, Outsiders 2 picks up in Markovia, which is now overrun with vampires. A vampire king has gained control of the throne, framed Brion for the murder of his sister the queen, and framed the Outsiders for atrocities against the Markovian people.

The first issue had a weird gimmick; I’m not sure I’m okay with it—there were two #1s, and each had a more or less different story, except for about half a dozen pages where the stories intersect which were the same. Confusingly, it would make more sense to read #1 “Omega” before #1 “Alpha”, because the Omega issue has more details catching you up on what’s happened since Vol. 1 ended. Not to mention, it shows how Halo gets revived. Anyway, Looker dies, which is great, except I know that she comes back as a vampire in 8 or 9 issues. Oh well.

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The art is better than okay. Even though the aesthetic isn’t really comparable to Jim Aparo’s, I like it better than Alan Davis’s and it’s miles above Erik Jensen, who filled in on the last few issues and drew GeoForce with a chin a mile long.

I don’t like that they went with Davis’ ‘squished head’ interpretation of Katana, but at least they made her cute (I think they wanted to give her a younger look, which again kind of goes to ‘soft continuity’ that I think Vol. 2 is using). I’m not a fan of the body-suit version of her costume; it looks and feels more generic super-heroey.

I still hate Looker, but at least her design is no longer an on obvious Dazzler knock-off and at least she looks more feminine and less drag-queenish.

Halo looks terrible, and I wish that they’d let her hair grow out while she was in her coma.

GeoForce looks solid, and the rest of the new characters are pretty good.

While I don’t think the Outsiders will ever look better than they did in the two-issue Convergence tie-in, this is probably the best of the rest of the non-Aparo stuff.

 

Accepting Submissions Soon!

We’ll be accepting Submissions for next year starting monday!

While we don’t throw out submissions if they don’t strictly adhere to proper manuscript format, here are a couple big-ticket reminder items:

Put your name and a good mailing address on your manuscript; this is one less thing for us to have to chase down later.

Put the page number and your name on every page.

Do not manually insert tabs or line breaks at every line.

Be sure to include “Submission” in the title of your email to us.

The Franco-Angevin Wars Continue! (More Richard I the Lion Heart)

The first three games of our series of Richard I the Lion Heart went “Surrender for Richard” (Dad wins), “Philip captured, French Army routed, Richard dies in battle” (draw), and “Philip stalls Richard, deploying troops everywhere, refusing to fight in pitched battles, conquers Touraine and Maine, endlessly subverts vassals, and wears Richard down to a state of recklessness, at which point he falls in battle” (I win).

We played another game to break the 1-1-1 set, and my dad wanted a second go as Richard. I enacted a similar strategy as in the previous game, using Philip and the Count of Au to move troops to French border castles where Richard would hopefully be bogged down. My dad spent next to nothing on diplomacy in the first turn, which mean on one hand, he had a lot of troops, but on the other hand, almost of his provinces were in rebellion.

Rather than get stuck in sieges or get wiped out early on, I sacrificed my siege trains and would send Philip and the Count out of Normandy to meet up with the rebelling barons. By the second year, I had a massive surplus of funds to replenish lost troops. So, even though I hadn’t won any battles (nor even stood to fight), I was never in too bad a shape, and Philip could always escape. Despite having a field army considerably damaged and bruised, I maintained several strongholds in Normandy with very large (in some cases unassailable) garrisons. The game ended rather early with Richard dying in a siege.

While this broke the tied set in my favor, it meant that Richard was 0-4. I wanted to give it one last go as Richard myself before we put this one to bed.

We’re only into the second year of this one, but I think I may have this one in the bag as Richard. I’ll admit that while I was lucky in that, while the diplomacy phase was a wash for vassals mostly, Baldwin of Flanders joined my cause for 1194. My dad had sent Philip down with most of the troops and the French siege train to subjugate Touraine, which meant the only real opposition in Normandy was the Count of Au with a small force along the border trying to harangue loyal English border castles.

I put everything I had on Caen to take it early, and a lucky first turn roll meant no siege. Rather than having Richard lead a mighty charge, I used him to move and reposition some troops to hold the fort on the road to Maine and reinforce the loyal border castles. Meanwhile, I sent Mercadier with the siege train and some of the troops north towards Dieppe, where he would meet Baldwin and take the city. The Marshal took most of the rest of Richard’s forces and went about overawing French border castles and burning them to the ground. Richard, meanwhile, stayed behind with John in an administrative capacity, only jumping in once to raise the bonus on a siege attack that I desperately wanted to win before the winter turn of 1194/1195.

All that’s left right now for Richard to win are two border castles, Gisors, and Les Andelys. Plus, Gisors has only one SP of garrison left. Best of all, I’ve used Richard so sparingly that there’s a 0% chance of his death! [Death # starts at 15, goes down by one each turn Richard is in battle, and goes up by one each winter—having only made two attacks with Richard in 1194, going into 1195, his # is 14; needless to say, it is impossible to roll over 14 on 2d6.]

I didn’t spend any money on knights, because I’m hoping I can wrap this up without any pitched battles. Though Philip seized Maine at the end of 1194, I have 15 SP + 5 garrison SP (worth 40 total should Philip try to storm) in the castle blocking the road. My goal in the next two turns is to have Marshal and Mercadier take most of the troops between them to overawe the two remaining border forts. All I need is kill a single SP of garrison in Gisors, so I’ll leave just enough SP with Richard to see that it’s a sure thing. This should all be accomplished in the March turn.

If either of the two border forts don’t fall in the initial assault, I’ll send in John to move some extra troops to knock it out in the April turn. If neither falls, it could be a problem, but Mercadier and Marshal both have attack bonuses that should guarantee I take AT LEAST one with the odds I have. Regardless of the fort situation, as soon as Gisors falls, the siege train will move on Les Andelys with Richard. It would be a coup if I took it in the first round of battle in April. If things go into May, it may be a bit dicey.

Where Philip is right now, he can’t do anything that would reverse my fortunes in March. He could harry my fort on the road to Maine, but almost certainly could not take it in a single turn. He could take the road from Maine back into France and try to confront Richard’s rampaging troops. Unfortunately for him, it would take until the bottom half of the April turn to get there. So, I have two turns to knock out 4 strongholds. I am very confident I can take 3 of them.

If it comes to a pitched battle, Philip DOES have knights with him, but Richard’s generals are good enough that in a meeting battle, if one does happen between all of the English and all of the French troops outside of Les Andelys, they should be able to hold their own. The problem will be that this is the likely outcome: the English knaves slaughter the French knaves; the French knights slaughter the English knaves; one side retreats; even if the English come out with an army intact, they will not be able to challenge the French knights on the battlefield; the French knights alone will not be enough to trap an English army taking respite in a fortress; the war drags on for another year.

If it comes down to that, I do have a few things going in my favor: each stronghold in Normandy gives me 12k ducats, and I have 5 out of 6; Normandy pledged its loyalty to me for the 1195 year; Les Andelys is neutral, so even if I can’t take it, there’s a very good chance Philip can’t either, and he will be unable to garrison it with his own troops against me over the winter 1195/1196 turn. The troops I would be able to muster for 1196 ought to be enough to take out whatever’s left that needs to be taken in a single blow.

I’ll be honest: we’ve probably be playing the game wrong the whole time. In fact, I know in one spot we’re doing wrong out of convenience [a single roll for combat with results multiplied by the total troop number, rather than rolling an individual attack for every ten SP and a “partial” attack for numbers under 10]. The rules could stand to be a little clearer in places… But overall, this has been one of our favorite beer & pretzels wargames.

I’ll let you know how things turned out next week.

Comic Retailer Report

Some of you know that Michael Tierney, whose Wild Stars book we put out over the summer, is a comic store owner. What you may not know is he’s a regular contributor to the Overstreet comic book price guide, submitting retailer reports.

Here, R.J. Carter of Critical Blast reads one of Michael’s reports on what’s wrong in comics and what’s killing Marvel sales in the direct market.

Outsiders Are Making a Comeback

Over the weekend, I managed to link up a pretty good run of Outsiders that I hadn’t yet started on. Outsiders Vol2. #3 has been out of stock from most places where I could have bought it at a reasonable price, and I’ve been reticent to pay ebay prices (especially S&H) for a single issue, when I knew that if Midtown had it in stock, it would’ve only cost maybe a dollar [and I’d just fill in some other gaps to make the S&H worth it]. But, the guy at one of the local flea markets finally got his booth organized [and kind of sorted!—almost unheard of for flea market comic booths], and while ain’t nobody is paying his prices for some random-ass Rai & the Future Force issues, I was ready to pay $3.25 for the issue of Outsiders I’d been looking for since this spring.

But this is a post about Bryan Edward Hill’s upcoming Batman & the Outsiders Volume 3.

Back in the summer of last year, Scott Snyder teased a return of the original Outsiders lineup in The Forge [the prelude to the Metal event]. It was just a tease—a holo-dossier image of the team with the quip “Batman has a black ops team?” And then we got nothing, until the No Justice epilogue of Metal when Batman tells Black Lightning he could use someone working from the Outside.

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It’s pretty clear that whatever’s going to happen with the team, it’s not going to jibe with how the team was originally teased [all 5 original members, a team that had been together for some time in the background, just without their exploits featured in any current Rebirth titles or the Geoff Johns version that is appearing in Doomsday Clock], but right now, I’m okay with that.

Bryan Edward Hill was given the reins of Detective Comics for an unfortunately brief 5-issue run which will lead into his book: Batman & The Outsiders Vol. 3. All of my fears and trepidation about the quality of an upcoming Outsiders book have melted away in the wake of this series.

One of the complaints I’ve seen about recent Detective is not just that it’s a Bat Family book, but that the Bat Family has gotten rather crowded. It’s strange that the lone-wolf Dark Knight seems up to his elbows in teenagers who “dilute” the Batman brand. At least in the Detective books, Wayne Manor is overrun by unruly teenagers. Hill runs with this idea, with a villain intent on targeting Batman’s weakness: the young Bat Family members who he’s relied on.

Batman realizes that the kids need to be reined in. To this end, Bats brings in Jefferson Pierce, Black Lightning. Why? Because Pierce was a high school teacher [now principal, IIR] with years of experience working with troubled teens who have issues with authority. Oh, and Katana’s back!

So what have we got here?

-A new Batman & the Outsiders team with fan-favorites Black Lightning and Katana at the core with some of the new Bat Family kids having a chance to shine without it having to be in Bat’s books.

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-New Bat-villains with ties to Markovia; Karma, the main villain of this 5 issue arc was a terrorist that Batman severely injured in Markovia—which definitely feels like a callback to 80s Mike Barr callous asshole Batman—who would be worthy of recurring in other Bat stories, if writers could figure out how to make him more than a one trick pony. Other new main villain will be explored more in the opening story of the new BatO, which will likely see the team back in Markovia to investigate.

-80s fans who were constantly writing in saying that Black Lighting or Katana should be leading the team are finally getting their wish. Geoforce was a good dude but a poor team leader. It always made sense that Katana, who was already “mom” for the team or Black Lightning, who had both practical street smarts and leadership experience as a teacher, should be leading the team. When Batman was around, cases could be made that either of them were his “second”. But with Batman gone and only Markovian financial backing to keep the team going, the job fell to Brion Markov—and it went about as well as you’d expect: the team went from one screw-up to the next until Batman showed up and took over again.

-No Looker. I am more than okay with this.

What we’re probably not getting:

-We’re in the Rebirth continuity and Dr. Jace was never reintroduced Post-Crisis. There has never been a Dr. Jace in the current continuity. This is a good thing for Dr. Jace fans. I thought she was a cool character, and I hate that she got thrown under the bus for the Millennium event [all DC writers were instructed that they had to throw one character from their book under the bus to be a Manhunter sleeper agent; in the case of the Outsiders, it was decided that the woman who had given the team leader his powers and acted as the chief science advisor and almost defacto leader would suddenly betray the Outsiders for no reason, get Metamorpho killed, and be buried without honors as a traitor. It was terrible]. There is a chance we could have Dr. Jace back and all of that “she was a Manhunter sleeper all along” could be wiped out. I don’t think this is a real possibility, but I can cross my fingers.

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-I’ve never liked the modern look for Katana. It’s ugly and dumb, and the association of the Rising Sun iconography with her because of her ethnicity is double so with a character whose ethnicity was not her defining characteristic. Sure, the orange and gold costume was garish [though I prefer it to even the crimson/maroon and gold she had in later stories], but it had a charm that’s thoroughly lacking in her black & white get-up she’s had for the last several years. IIRC, one of the rules of Suicide Squad was “no costumes”, so maybe that’s part of the justification for the look, but I’ve always though it was drab and made worse by the one spot of color being that lampshade hung on her race. The new look is a more streamlined, though slightly more colorful version of her look from New 52. She’s drawn “sexy”, which, while not a problem in and of itself, feels out of place for Katana, as she was an inversion of the “dragon lady” trope. The unflattering nature of the original costume vs. what was typical of female comic characters underscored this.

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Anyway…

Hill can tell an exciting story and has shown that he can add some reflective depth to the characters; one of the things that always kept me sticking with the Outsiders was the potential that these characters had to show some real depth—we got flashes of it with Barr writing, but I think that under Hill’s writing, we’ll finally see some of them really living up to that potential.

I’m completely stoked for this, and at this point, I don’t care that the origins of the team may contradict how Snyder set them up. The wheels fell off Snyder and at this point, I’m done with him. Hill, on the other hand, I’m open to and see loads of potential, and I am looking forward to his run—I can hardly wait until the new book launches.