Nov 102012
 

You all better get used to hearing about Marvel Comics over the next couple of months, because Marvel NOW! is in effect.  Tonight we’ll highlight three of the five new Marvel NOW! series that start up this coming Wednesday, all of which are perfect jumping-on points for each of the book’s characters.

Since they’re the first family of the Marvel Universe, let’s start off with Fantastic Four #1.  Combining classic with current, Mark Bagley (Ultimate Spider-Man), a veteran of both Marvel and DC comics, lends his artistic talents to wordsmith Matt Fraction (Defenders, Fear Itself, Hawkeye, Immortal Iron Fist) for a fresh take on Marvel‘s oldest series.  Wanting to get away from the constant battles with Doctor Doom and Galactus, Reed and Sue Richards decide to take their family on a universe-spanning field trip.  The series will take a stand-alone approach to its issues, as the Fantastic Four land on a new planet or time period in each issue, getting into trouble each time as they try to teach Valeria and Franklin about the ins-and-outs of the galaxy.  And if you’re less of a reader and more of a collector, Fantastic Four #1 has variant covers in spades.  That’s a Scottie Young Baby variant, a Mark Bagley mural variant, a blank variant, and a couple more for good measure.

Brian Michael Bendis carved himself out a fairly comfortable niche in The Avengers corner of the Marvel Universe over the last ten years, so now it’s time for him to do the same with the X-Men.  All-New X-Men #1, his first X-Book, tells a story no other X-Men book has dared to tell before.  With the fallout of Avengers vs. X-Men, Cyclops and many of the original X-Men members are in drastically different positions from where they started, thus Beast decides to travel back in time, collect the original X-Men members, and bring them to the future to knock some sense into their present-day selves.  With art by the incomparable Stuart Immonen (Nextwave, Ultimate X-Men), All-New X-Men will look great and read crisply.

If you pick up only one of the Marvel NOW! series starting this month, pick-up Thor, God of Thunder.  Jason Aaron (Wolverine and the X-Men, Scalped, Ghost Rider), local writer, dares to tell a Thor epic to rival the classic tales of Walt Simonson.  A three-pronged narrative focuses on Thor of the past, Thor of the present, and King Thor of the future as all three versions contend with a threat the Asgardian has never faced before:  A serial killer of gods.  Along with Aaron’s time-spanning story, Esad Ribic’s (Silver Surfer: Requiem) painterly artwork turns the comic page into a mural, turning a simple comic book into a piece of mythology.  And since of book of this quality deserves it, variant covers abound, featuring artwork from Ribic himself, Scottie Young, and Daniel Arcuna.  Make yourself worthy of Mjölnir a pick up a copy.

Just as a reminder that there are other comic book publishers out there other than Marvel, let’s finish the night with a look at a new series from Image Comics.  Riding a wave of successful series like Manhattan Projects, Saga, Happy, and Revival, Image releases Great Pacific, a grand adventure in an unusual location.  Texas-born Chas Worthington is a trust-fund baby and a grade-A rich boy, inheriting the money of his oil baron father, but that doesn’t mean he has no principles.  Setting out to tackle a task unheard of in his social circle, Chas decides to eliminate the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating mass of trash that continues to build in the North Pacific Ocean (it’s a real thing).  Martin Morazzo’s extremely detailed artwork renders every bit of debris and filth that Joe Harris’ scripts describe, making this another Image book to admire.

Dec 162011
 

If you find yourself needing to sprinkle a little Munchkin cheer into the stocking of your special someone, then the new Fairy Dust Dice are your best option. Other than its general glitteriness, this special dice set is sprinkle-worthy for the four exclusive promo cards it contains alongside its two D6′s. And like most other Munchkin expansion stuff, you can combine these cards with the base set, the previous Fairy Deck, or any other Munchkin game you are so inclined to play with. Now that’s some holiday cheer!

If that sounds a bit too effeminate for your grizzled uncle (or aunt; no judgement here), then maybe the new Memoir ’44 Campaign Book Volume 2 will light all the right fires. Picking up where the previous volume left off, volume 2 continues to create scenarios (forty six, in fact) that build off of each other, effecting the game during your next play. Along with the new scenarios the collection also includes 50 punchboard tokens, advanced campaign rules, and new special events that contain information for battles across the Pacific all the way to the frontlines of Germany. So, if you’ve got that wargame loving relative in your clan, put a big smile on their face this season with a new Campaign Book.

Still not dark and grizzled enough for you? Okay, then I’m afraid I’m going to have to pull out the big guns.

That’s right, the new Mansions of Madness: Forbidden Alchemy expansion. Adding on to the Lovecraftian exploration game that’s half-RPG, half-board game, Forbidden Alchemy expands on the dark twisted adventure with loads of new gruesome swag. Included within that heading are not just cards and tokens and things, but all new monster and investigator miniatures. As with the base game, they are beautifully detailed. But don’t let them take away from the over 150 new cards and tokens. That’s new mythos, trauma, and combat cards, folks, along with map tiles, horror tokens, and puzzle pieces. If you’ve survived the slithery, slimy things of the first Mansions of Madness and are ready for round two, Forbidden Alchemy shouldn’t stay forbidden for long.

More of a restock than a new item, but, by golly, it just needs mentioning. From the creator of Dominion (if you don’t know what that is, for shame!), Kingdom Builder brings a similar satisfaction as games like Carcassonne, Samarkand, and Small World, in that it’s a middle skill level game that the whole family can learn and master. Players compete against each other through the strategic building of settlements across a large, hex-filled board. Building adjacent to certain locations (i.e. lakes) gains a player more points. But the rub comes in that building is controlled by sets of cards that players hold in their hands and place on their turn. Each game is different, though, as players select random board pieces and cards at the start of a session. If you’ve played Ticket to Ride or Carcassonne to the breaking point, give Kingdom Builder a try.