'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

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Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts

Monday, March 16, 2020

Buying New Paintbrushes (from Canada)

Like many of you, I watch Youtube videos. I am sure at least a few of you watch some of the various miniature painting channels out there. From time to time I feel the need to check out some of the brushes these channels recommend and so I go in search of brands like Windsor & Newton, Rosemary & Co, Raphael, Broken Toad, Army Painter, GW etc.

If you are from Canada and don't have an art store close to you, or conveniently located, you are probably going to hit Amazon and try and buy some. Whenever I have tried this I end up finding ok priced brushes with huge shipping costs or hugely expensive brushes with free shipping. Generally, these brushes aren't even a Prime item, so you are waiting for several weeks. What advantage do we get buying from Amazon?

I will admit if you are buying something like Army Painter, you can grab these on Amazon as a Prime item. Still, we are looking at about $35 for a set of 3, and we are limited in what we are buying. I have certainly gone down this route, but I haven't used them. I don't paint a lot and when one of these died I didn't want to have to spend another $35 for the pack.

Looking for brushes this time I felt frustrated and felt like I had no real options. This isn't the first time I have looked, but something clicked in my brain this time and I realized I had become 100% reliant on Amazon. As convenient as it can be they don't always have the best price or the product I want. Still, I was warry about shipping prices, but decided to have a look around to see what else was out there.

I had a couple of places recommended, and to be fair they were probably better than Amazon, but the shipping was still pretty high. While I was looking I did come across a website, https://www.jacksonsart.com/, upon opening it I was greeted with a pop-up asking if I wanted to shop in CAD dollars and that if I ordered over $85 I got free shipping. Why yes, I DO want to shop in CAD! Off I went expecting to find ultra-expensive brushes. What I found were reasonably priced brushes. Not cheap, but not the horrible prices I was expecting. We are talking sub $20CAD here for a Size 1. For an "apples to apples" comparison they have a W&N Series 7 size 1 for ~$16CAD, certainly cheaper than the $25 at Amazon.

If you have done any shopping online, you know shipping can make or break your decision. Finding a $15 item with $20 shipping isn't going to rush to make you click that checkout button. Happy with the prices but a little nervous about the shipping, especially given that the company was situated in the UK, I added a couple of Raphael 8404s to the cart and a new pen. I clicked checkout to see how bad the shipping was. I have polled a number of friends to guess how much the shipping would be. Guesses ranged from about $10 to about $30. Frankly, I felt these were decent guesses. But what did I actually pay to get my two brushes and a pen to Canada?



Yes. That is correct. $1.82CAD. Not only did I click yes, but I wrote an article about this experience so more of you can have the same one. This isn't overnight "PRIME" shipping, but it was listed as 2 weeks, which is pretty close to the time the W&N Series 7 from Amazon was listed to get to me. How did they do time-wise? I order the brushes on Feb 14th, 2020 and I received them on March 4th 2020. 19 total days from Order to arrival. Pretty decent and close to the time estimation, and for $1.82CAD from the UK? I will certainly order again.



The only thing I haven't had to check out is their customer service, ie how well they handle a complaint if a brush arrives broken etc. Until I have an experience with them that is bad I will give them the benefit of the doubt in this regard and give them..........


FIVE SKULLS OF MY ENEMIES!


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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Altered Carbon: The RPG

Introduction

I received my copy of Altered Carbon(AC) novel for Christmas several years ago. This was just before the announcement of the first season of the Netflix show. I had not heard of it before then, but it seemed like it would be a good book and up my alley, more or less. I enjoyed it well enough, although I didn't run out and read more of the series, in fact, I was not even aware of the additional books.

As details came out about the Netflix show we learned our protagonist would be played by Joel Kinnaman, who you may know from the Robocop remake. I came across Mr. Kinnaman in a crime show called "The Killing", which I HIGHLY recommend if you like these types of shows. The two main characters played by Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos were excellent. I am willing to give pretty much anything they are in a chance.

With the release of the TV show, AC was thrust into the forefront of sci-fi/fantasy television. It was generally well regarded, despite major differences from the book, and was certainly well regarded enough to launch a second season, albeit without Mr. Kinnaman. Another aspect of this newfound popularity, which should come across as a surprise to pretty much no one, was the announcement of the RPG back at GenCon 2019. Well we finally have the launch of the Kickstarter for the RPG associated with the IP, which currently sits at 687% funded.

What can I tell you about this world if you are unfamiliar?
  • Cyperpunk.
  • Conciousness stored digitally.
  • Death is not common, people can be transferred to new bodies.
  • Humanity exists across multiple worlds.
If you want further details I would suggest grabbing the book, checking out the Kickstarter and watching the show, but for the purposes of this, I will assume you are at least as familiar as I am with the IP; a basic understanding, but not an expert fan.

I grabbed the QuickStart and wanted to give my first impressions of the RPG and the QuickStart document.

Initially, I was curious about the company, there are a lot of RPG companies producing a lot of games, it is hard to keep track of everyone. I hadn't heard of Hunters Books (Now Hunters Entertainment), but with a quick web search I quickly found who they were and some of the other games that had published.
  • Kid's on Bikes
  • Outbreak: Undead
  • Chronicles of Exandria
  • ABC's of RPGs
I had heard of the ABCs for RPGs and Kids on Bikes, even if I didn't own them. I went and grabbed the FREE RPG day offering for Kids on Bikes and had a quick look to compared the core rules. I admit I expected to see a basic similarity between the engines running the two games, not unlike we see with the 2d20 system, Year Zero Engine or the GUMSHOE system. Initially, I thought this might be what I was seeing, but as I read a little bit it became clear that Kids on Bikes is a different system. After a little more digging and watching a few interviews I learned that this system was indeed new and developed for AC. They do have a name for it, so maybe we will see it used in other games in the future.

Once I went back and looked over the campaign a little more closely I realized they had done a pretty good basic write up talking about the new engine in the system and where it derived its ideas from. I was not surprised to see Savage Worlds listed here.

Overview

Initial Impressions of the QuickStart

Upon downloading and opening the PDF I was greeted with a typical cyberpunk cover, dark and a little sexy. Implants and neon are prevalent. As we move past that into the book we find a clean layout that is pretty easy to read, the art is nicely rendered. The part I find a little odd is the mix of rendered art and images from the TV show. I think I would have preferred strictly rendered art.

My biggest complaint about the text is the use of a plethora of icons. With time most of these will be easy to recognize, but on an initial read through it makes understanding things a little muddy.

The Basic Mechanic

Most RPGs are based on a basic mechanic used to resolve skill checks, which are then used to determine how successful a character is at an action in the game world. This is used to resolved everything from sneaking to hand to hand combat. Altered Carbon is no different. Your character rolls a die type (d12 - d4) that represents their ability in a given field, say Firearms, and try to get lower than a Target Result (TR). This means a lower die type is better than a higher die type.

Skills vs Attributes

We should note that these dice represent a character's ability in a particular skill, not the character's physical or mental ability. Generally, the attributes of a character are going to start around 20 and move up from there, 20 being low average. Further, the 10s column of the attribute is the attribute bonus, so Strength of 25 is an attribute bonus of +2.

There are basically two types of tasks that a player may be called on to attempt in AC; a situational based test and an attribute-based test. Both of these require the character to roll under a given TR, the difference is where that TR comes from. In a situational test, the base TR is determined by how hard a test is. Trivial? Start with a TR of 15. In an attribute-based test, the TR comes from the attribute bonus of the test. The final TR may be modified by sleeve enhancements, physical equipment or training. These all act to increase the total TR which will make the attempt easier, by increasing the number you are trying to roll under.

Combat

Combat will take a little bit to explain, but I believe it will be a fun combat system once players are familiar with it. The combat turn is broken into 3 basic phases: Intent, Check and Resolution. Each combat turn will have a single Intent Phase, but could have multiple rounds of Check & Resolution.

During the Intent Phase players decide what they want to do in the turn and what equipment they want to use, ie I want to shoot at the escaping criminal with my pistol, or I want to fire the rocket launcher at the escaping air car. Once that is determined characters determine their Speed Dice and roll them. These are used to determine initiative order. During the Check Phase players will roll their skill checks to determine success or failure, and finally during Resolution players determine the results of their Check Phase to determine damage etc.

Speed Dice

What the heck is a Speed Die?? It is a fancy name for a pool of D6s used to control the action economy.

If you recall, attributes have an associated bonus. The bonus for perception controls how many Speed Dice a player may roll during their Intent Phase. The Speed Dice control how many actions a player gets in a round. In their simplest form each player reveals one of their Speed Dice, and initiative is resolved in the order of the die, lowest to highest. In a more complex form a player may decide to combine multiple actions into a single round, such as aiming and shooting. In these cases the players would choose two Speed Dice for their action. These are added together to get the position in the initiative order. It is also possible for players to have Speed Dice taken up outside of their regular turn order due to being stunned, or attempting saving throws to avoid damage. When this happens players simply choose one of their remaining Speed Dice and discard it. It can no longer be used this turn.

Speed Dice are an interesting idea, and could probably use a little more clarification in the QuickStart rules, but I think what I have described is at least their intent based on the rules and examples.

Degrees of Success (or Failure)

Combat also introduces Degrees of success and failure. These are used to determine how effective or ineffective an action is during the Check Phase. These will determine what you can actually do in the Resolution Phase.

This is basically the difference between the TR you are going for and the roll you make. Need a TR of 5 and roll a 2, you get 3 degrees of success, but if you roll a 7 you get 2 degrees of failure. If you roll the TR exactly, you also gain a single degree of success. Pretty simple. Characters max out at 5 degrees of success or failure.

Degree of success: Each degree of success allows a player to use one of the effects of their weapon or equipment, this will allow players to cause damage, use special features of suits, trigger special damage etc. A degree of success remains in play until the combat turn ends, so if you gain 3 degrees of success shooting with your pistol you can choose to save them for a later moment in the round.

Degree of failure: Each degree of failure can be used by your opponent as a degree of success, and these also persist across the combat turn. If your opponent is attempting to dive behind a concrete barrier for cover and fail, rolling 2 degrees of failure, when you shoot at them you could potentially use those degrees of failure as a degree of success for your attack, making it particularly devastating.

Quick Summary of Combat

So that is all very fancy and a lot of wording for a fairly basic idea.
  • Determine what you want to do. (Intent Phase)
    1. Roll the number of D6s indicated by your Perception Bonus, these are your Speed Dice
    2. Decide on the specifics of your actions based on your original intent and reveal the number of Speed Dice to support that.
  • Resolve actions from lowest to highest Speed Dice totals.
  • Make skill check and determine degree of success or failure. (Check Phase)
  • Spend degrees of success if you have them. (Resolution Phase)
  • End of your combat round.
  • If all players complete a round and there are remaining Speed Dice resolve another round of combat in this turn

Ammo and Ammo Depletion

Like many games, we don't track single shots. I am largely in favor of this concept, especially when a combat roll is framed as the outcome of a flourish or set of moves vs a single swing of a sword. In Altered Carbon, weapon tests are rolled with an additional off-color die, which essentially works like a skill die. When this die fails the weapon is exhausted at the end of the round. The QuickStart states that these are the same as the skill check used and that the TR is the capacity listed for the weapon. For the pistol they gave us stats on, it would be 6.

Certain actions cause the weapon to gain depletion points. Each depletion point reduces that TR by 1 point. So if we had 2 depletion points on our pistol, the TR would only be 4.

So what does this mean in a narrative sense? The better you are with your weapon the more efficient you are going to be with your bullets. If you had a D6 for your pistol skill, just shooting that pistol means you are not going to deplete the rounds, or at least not in any meaningful way, you will be able to keep that pistol operational for the duration of a combat. You are efficient with your bullets. If instead you are totally unskilled and have a D12, you are as likely to empty the clip in a single volley trying to achieve your goal.

Looking back at the pistol, as I mentioned simply causing a hit doesn't accumulate a depletion point, but using some of the more specialize pistol actions, such as suppressive fire & focus fire both do. No matter how good you are, firing in these less controlled forms are going to eventually exhaust your ammunition.

Equipment

It looks like equipment will be represented by a basic version of the item, which will then be able to be modified via tech points. The QuickStart has five broad categories of equipment: Weapons, Apparel, Gadgets, Vehicles, and Sleeves.

Weapons

We have already briefly looked at guns in the overview of combat. The single weapon listed in the QuickStart is a pistol, but it is useful to see what the specs will look like and how tech points and it's various other attributes will work.

Armor

One of the more interesting things we see here is that armor can have a Protection stat, which is essentially a damage soak, but they can also have a Defense score, which works to make attacks against a player more difficult. I am not sure if I like this or not, generally, most systems use one or the other, allowing the hit/miss/amount of damage be an abstraction of the result of the round.

This may end up being too crunchy for my taste. On the other hand, if this simply represents two different styles of armor in the game I can see it working. For example, a flak jacket might not make me harder to hit but will reduce damage received, whereas an optical camouflage system might make me harder to hit, but not reduce the damage I take. Much like the weapons, we only get one example of a piece of armor, so it is hard to determine how Protection and Defense will work together.

Vehicles

The section on vehicles is a quick outline of what we can expect to see in the core rules. The entire section isn't much more than a page long. It gives us an overview of the types of specs they will have and how they might factor into an encounter. We know they will use speed dice in a similar manner to regular combat. Beyond that, we don't really learn much, no samples of what an actual vehicle will look like.

Sleeves

The section on sleeves is the largest part of the equipment section. We learn that upgrades to natal sleeves are expensive and rare, and this is likewise the case for a cloned sleeve. More common are synthetic sleeves, we learn that upgrading a synth sleeve is no more complex than upgrading a computer.

We are given a sample upgrade, much like we saw with the pistol and the flak armor, but this time we also get a short table of other upgrades that you might be able to apply to a sleeve. This is followed by several pages of descriptions of what each of these upgrades does.

Character Creation

It was obvious after a quick look through the book, that there were no pre-gen characters included, which I thought was odd. Even odder was the inclusion of a section on character creation. Generally, most QuickStarts I have come across didn't have a section on character creation, instead, they included some pre-gens to allow GMs and Players to jump in a start playing quickly. Still, I thought the inclusion of a character-building section instead of pre-gens was interesting and was willing to give it a go.

Unfortunately like much of the QuickStart this section really only serves as an overview of what we can expect to see in Character Creation. We can't actually build a character from the information we are given.

What is missing?

I have seen some chatter on the internet about this document and if it is actually a QuickStart guide? I have seen people wondering if this set of rules is actually playable. If you read all the way to here you will know I am pretty much in agreement. This QuickStart gives us a good feel for what the rules will look like, but they aren't really a QuickStart in the normal, "I can play this quickly."

I am sure you could play something with these rules, but in my opinion, they are lacking a fair bit. Playing these as written will be next to impossible, the GM will need to make several executive decisions. For example, we are not given any pre-gens. We are not given any opponents. We are not given an equipment list. We are not given any idea about movement. The character generation rules aren't complete.

It would have been nice to have had a short weapon, armor and equipment list like we see for the sleeve upgrades, This would have gone a long way to making the QuickStart rules an actual set of QuickStart rules, and not just an overview and teaser of the game.

However, reading over the rules and looking at the examples, we can make a few guesses on most of these things, and probably hit fairly close to the mark, still, I would have liked to have seen something more solid with a short adventure in the back.

Conclusion

Overall I liked the look of the book, despite a few reservations that will be fine once I am more used to the system. As an actual QuickStart set of rules I think this misses the mark by a lot, giving us a set of rules that are close to unplayable without some serious assumptions. But as an overview of what we can expect in the rules? I think this is a pretty good document. We are given a pretty thorough idea of the kinds of things the rules will contain, and a fairly strong look at skill checks and combat.

As a reader of RPGs that I will probably never play, I did in the end back this for my shelf. The QuickStart rules whet my appetite enough that I wanted to know more, and in the end that is probably the actual purpose of it. Still I would have to think a playable document would have the same effect across a wider series of players, although it does not seem to matter. When I started writing this article the Kickstarter was a couple of days in, and as I mentioned 687% funded. It is now 10 or so days in and 1001% funded.

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Monday, February 3, 2020

High Fantasy? Sword & Sorcery? What is what?

This was going to be a review of Forbidden Lands. I had picked up the quickstart rules and was impressed. The quickstart was full of excellent old school RPG art and they didn't skimp on the rules. The system itself was familiar to me due to the ALIEN RPG, and it is a system I liked. In the end, this is not a review. After a conversation about Forbidden Lands, I decided I wanted to write a little bit about what Sword & Sorcery is to me.

I think the easiest way to see how I see Sword & Sorcery is to hold it up against High Fantasy, what things do I think makes one vs the other? There are, of course, other articles on the Internet about this topic, Wikipedia itself has sections describing what these genres represent. However, I wanted to illustrate my own ideas on these as well as build a small rubric to place against a setting to see where it falls.

Sword & Sorcery

Let's start with the elements I think are necessary for Sword & Sorcery.
  • Swords
  • Sorcery*
  • Smaller scale
  • Heroic deeds
  • Stories of a smaller scope.
  • Generally human-centric.
I placed a star next to Sorcery as I feel it needs a caveat. Sorcery is necessary, but generally, it is not overly flashy and it is not commonplace. Having a wizard that can cast fireball in every town in a story isn't something I think we should generally see in Sword & Sorcery.

High Fantasy

In contrast, we have high Fantasy which for me means:
  • Swords
  • Magic
  • Heros
  • Stories of a larger scope.
  • Races (Elves. Dwarves etc).
For me, in a high fantasy setting, we have much more magic and it is often flashier, we have heroes trying to save something bigger than themselves.

Now with this being laid out we certainly have stories that have elements of both of these, but I think some of the elements are more important than the others. I would probably place them in the following order.
  1. Story Scope
  2. Heroes vs Non-Heroes
  3. Heroic Deeds
  4. Access to Magic
  5. Races
And despite ranking them in importance I suspect we can still find stories that blur the line between the two. Small scale stories taking place in human-centric worlds with heroes and flashy magic.

Now that we have outlined some of the ideas I expect to see in each archetypal story of a genre lets place them against Conan and Lord of The Rings and see how they fair.

Conan

Taking this and placing it against Robert E Howard's Conan
  • Story Scope: Small. Conan trying to get to the end of the adventure alive, hopefully with some money and some company.
  • Heros vs Non-Heroes: Conan is the protagonist and generally has a strong moral compass and is doing the right thing because of it, but he doesn't have a higher calling that he is aware of.
  • Heroic Deeds: Conan is rife with them. Everything from climbing cliffs with bare hands, being pulled from a cross, fending off attacks by superior numbers and single-handedly killing two frost giants.
  • Magic: Exists. Rare. Dangerous.
  • Races: Humans.
Unsurprisingly a Conan story checks ALL of my personal S&S boxes. Howard is credited as the Father of Sword and Sorcery for a reason.

Lord of the Rings

Now let's take a look at Lord of the Rings.
  • Story Scope: HUGE.
  • Heros vs Non-Heros: Certainly some of the characters aren't willing heroes, but they have all responded to a higher calling and their end goal isn't about making them rich, and it is not about what is in it for them.
  • Heroic Deeds:I won't tell you there are no heroic deeds in LOTR, but at the same time I don't think we are seeing them in spades from the main characters.
  • Magic: Exists. Fairly-Rare. Dangerous.
  • Races: Standard fantasy races.
Although the magic isn't as flashy as I think of high fantasy, it is clear that The Lord of the Rings falls into this category in my mind. It is often looked to as the prototypical High Fantasy story.

Conclusion

Although both of these genres are different and you may like one more than the other, this doesn't mean one is better than the other, or that fans of one are superior. They are different sides of the same coin.

Going forward I hope to use this as a method to look at various RPGs and their settings to see where they land on the spectrum between SWORD AND SORCERY and HIGH FANTASY!

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Monday, December 16, 2019

Tehnolog Miniatures - Are they worth your money?

First things first. I bought these with my own money. I was not asked to provide a review. I get no money from you picking up anything in this post.

Back at the end of October, I decided, "why not?" and I logged into eBay and placed an order for a couple of sets of the Tehnolog miniatures. I thought it would be interesting to see what the turn around time for these figures was, and how they scaled to other figures in my collection.

The first part of my question was pretty easy to answer. My order was confirmed on October 24, 2019, and I received my parcel notification on Dec 3, 2019. So we are looking at just over a month to place an order and have it received from Moscow. It's no Amazon, but realistically it's not that bad either.

First Impression

So what did I order?
  • Barbarians set 20 Tehnolog 28mm plastic soldiers Castlecraft 9th Age Warhammer - $8.00 usd.
  • Brigands set of 20 Tehnolog 28 mm plastic soldiers Castlecraft 9th Age Warhammer - $8.00 usd.
  • Shipping was $12 usd
  • Total Bill was $28 usd or about .70 per figure.

My first impression taking the bags out of the box, but before looking at them, was that this plastic sounds like boardgame pieces, that hard plastic clink.

Once opening the Barbarians bag I thought they looked a little on the small side, but overall decent for the price. Then I opened up the Brigands, again the sculpts were generally ok, but size-wise? These guys would make pretty excellent D&D halflings. They come just past half-way on a pre-painted D&D mini.

Going back through the listings for the brigands I will note that there is a picture of them next to some other figures, one of which is a dwarf. It pretty clearly shows the scale.



Likewise the barbarians also include an image to determine the actual scale of the figure.



It is pretty clear to me that the Brigands are not 28mm, at least not 28mm humans. It is also clear to me that if I had been more careful I would have noted that these figures were not an appropriate size and would have ordered something else.



Finally a shot of the two figures, barbarians and bandits, next to a pre-painted D&D mini and a Reaper Bones figure.

Painting

I picked a single barbarian to paint to see how they would take paint. Quick caveat, I am not the world's greatest painter, but I am passable in most lights. The goal here is to prime these, apply a base coat, give those some inks or a wash to get some quick shades and then go back in and drop some highlights on the raised sections.

Priming

After a quick clean with soap and a toothbrush, I set about giving them a brush priming with some Vallejo dark grey. The figure took the paint fine, and in a single coat I had 99% of the green completely covered.

Base Colors

Base colors used.
  • Vallejo Model Color: Medium Fleshtone - Flesh.
  • Reaper Dark Shadow - Boots, pants & Glove.
  • P3 Bootstrap Leather - Belt & sheath.
  • Vallejo Model Color: Burnt Umber - Bow.
  • Vallejo Model Color: Brass - Belt fittings.
  • Vallejo Model Color: Flat Red - Skirt.
  • Vallejo Model Color: Sky Grey - Boot Fur.
  • P3 Thamar Black - Hair


Shades

Shades used.
  • Vallejo Game Ink: Skin Wash - Skin
  • Army Painter - Dark Tone - initial wash on lower half of body
  • Army Painter - Soft Tone - Final wash on skin

Highlights

Highlights used.
  • Vallejo Game Color: Bronze Fleshtone - Flesh.
  • Vallejo Model Color: Flat Red - Skirt & mouth
  • Vallejo Model Color: Sky Grey - Boot Fur.
  • Vallejo Model Color: Brown Sand - Leather and bow highlights
  • P3 Thamar Black - Eyes

Final Notes

This figure took paint well and was pretty easy to paint with good, simple detail. I don't know if that will be true for the entire line, but for the price it is worth checking them out. Line painting these would give you a lot of painted humans for use in your games in a short amount of time.

Final Thoughts

There are certainly pros and cons to these figures, but overall they are a pretty good value.

One of the biggest downsides is the narrow range of figures. We do get a fair number of humans that are useful, but because we need to be careful of the scale, some figures that would be useful, are not. However if you need a large number of human barbarians, men at arms, knights, vikings, Russians or maybe even some dwarfs these figures would most likely fit the bill.

Scale wise the ones that work fit in well with many popular lines you may already be using.

The long and short of it? Would I recommend?

Yes. I am going to give these a thumbs up. These figures are a great value, and there is not that much more to say on it, just make sure you pay attention to the images and pic miniatures of an appropriate scale.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Conan: Serpent War #1 (2019)

The first issue of "Serpent War" is on the shelf today! I couldn't wait to get to the store so grabbed a digital copy to read with my morning coffee.


Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Scot Eaton: Penciler, Scott Hanna: Inker
Colorist: Frank D'armata
Letterer: VC's Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Carlos Pacheo, Aneke & Frank D'armata

James Allison Sequence Artist: Vanesa R. Del Rey Colorist: Jean-Francois Beaulieu

Cover Price: $4.99
Pages: 26 of story.
Prose: Solomon Kane 1 of 4.

There are extreme Howard purists who range from not liking any of Howard's characters being done but anyone by him to more Conan centric purists who feel Conan MUST be in the Hyborian Age, anything that strays from this is bad.

Me? I consider myself a Howard purist, but to the point where I have Howard's work in one silo, and everything else in various other silos. I accept and LIKE others doing work with his characters. This work keeps them alive and keeps them in the public eye. No one expects Superman to stay in the world of his creation, but Howard's work? Hands off for many many people.

As you can expect these extreme purists have no love for these Marvel stories. Also as you can expect, I am not one of these. I was looking forward to this adventure because it not only includes Conan but also includes two other, less well known, Howard characters: Solomon Kane and Dark Agnes. Bringing two of Howard's characters to the light is a good thing, especially when one is not that well known. In short, I am happy to see Dark Agnes reborn for an audience that has probably not heard of her.

Art
I generally liked the art in this book, the big spreads introducing Agnes and Kane are great. Seeing them on the big page in a modern print comic gave me a little thrill. I also found using a different team to do the James Allison opening to be excellent. It made it stand apart from the other charcters in the story. It is an excellent use of art to tell a tale in my opinion.

Story
Apart from the addition of Moon Knight, because Howard wouldn't have known about him, this story, at least so far, isn't beyond what Howard could have written. Like most stories of this nature the first issue works to lay the ground work of what is to come and to introduce us to the characters. The most obvious of these two that need introductions are of course Kane and Agnes, but both Conan and Moon Knight are explained as well. As a Moon Knight fan who knows nothing about Conan you will have a basic foundation. As well as a Conan fan who knows nothing about Moon Knight, I have a basic idea as well.

Cover
My biggest complaint about the cover is the sword. Although it isn't a direct copy of the Atlantean sword from the 82 film it is clearly influenced by it. As much as I love the movie this sword belongs in the 82 Conan the Barbarian silo for me. With that being said the cover shows us the main characters and is in my opinion well executed.

Some of the variant covers are incredible. My favorite of these is Conan depicted with Moon Knight done by David Finch. My single complaint about it, especially since it is so bad ass, is that it only includes Conan and Moon Knight. Maybe Issues 2 will have an equally bad ass variant cover from him with Kane and Agnes?


Sword & Sorcery & Guns
Two of the characters are weilder of guns so I thought I would throw that in there as well. Although they are simply laying groundwork and introducing the characters, some of that groundwork is to introduce the threat. That threat is clearly sorcerous and weird in nature. In addition we also get scenese of the characters kicking ass and taking names, so this checks all of these boxes for me.

Overall Thoughts
When they announce stories like this I am always hopeful, but always unsure. Jim Zub has been on social media talking about this for a while, but the proof is in the pudding as they say. I think the whole team has done a great job on this book right down to the Howard underpinnings across the whole thing. Using James Allison, a perhaps even MORE obscure character as the glue to hold this all together is pretty brilliant, and it puts more of the James Allison tales on my reading list, right after I finish "Chessmen of Mars" by Burroughs.

Overall recommendation: Go pick this up.

My rating this month is 4.5 out of 5 Skulls of My Enemies!



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