Friday, December 7, 2012

Loonatics Unleashed - Stop the World I Want to Get Off

We begin at the Bank of Acmetropolis. The only one for the entire planet, I’m sure. Bet I don’t need to tell you where this is going.

A kid makes his first bank deposit ever (and look, his mom’s the lady who Roadrunner stole the pet from in "Attack of the Fuzz Balls". Talk about limited character designs). He drops a coin into a little dish which then teleports it to the other side of the banker’s window (who appears to be Ben Stein’s descendent). Wow, how ridiculously extravagant. What if you’re there to knock over the bank and drop something explodey in the dish?

Oh sure, there’s a small army of security guards with very obvious weapons around. And going to the bank appears to be like going through airport security now. But I bet you twenty bucks that won’t make one bit of difference to the gigantic guy in the green trenchcoat and sunglasses we see.

Fingers on triggers, with all these valued customers around?
This is Massive, a supervillain who can control gravity, which he uses to make the guards’ guns stick to the floor. Mainly I’m wondering why he bothered to disguise himself at all, since blue doesn’t appear to be an ethnicity even in The Future!!

Oh, and he's voiced by Michael Clark Duncan.

With all the guards stuck to the floor and all the customers stuck to the ceiling, Massive waltzes into the vault and steals a cart full of gold bars. And the kid’s nickel. Hmmm, I’m kind of starting to enjoy this villain, actually. He’s as one-dimensional as anybody, but I can understand his motivation. He’s just a big bully and nobody can stop him from taking whatever wants. He doesn’t want to destroy the world because he couldn’t star in the fricking weather forecast, or terrorize people with trendy pets for flimsily-established wrongs. Maybe the ludicrous villains would work better if the show was actually trying to be ludicrous.

We cruise over to the Loonatics’ HQ, where Daffy’s looking forward to the semi-finals of some futuristic sport called “basherball.” Which consists of guys flying around in little motorcycle things, sucking up a ball and shooting it through a spinning goalpost.

Why do sports in The Future!! always look so dumb? Am I the only one who thinks Red Dwarf came out ahead for never letting us actually see any Zero-G Football?

The game’s being sponsored by a gentleman, who…hmm.

You see, I tend to review in two different styles. (Allegedly) Fair and balanced reviews, and reviews like the ones I do of this show and the Twilight books where I set out with the intention to be nasty to my subject. Either way, I’m in the habit of ignoring any information not available in the work itself (unless I'm doing the second kind and it gives me new chances to mock it, then I have no qualms whatsoever. It almost always sounds like nothing but lame ass-covering anyway). Hence my decision to largely ignore behind-the-scenes explanations of how the Loonatics aren’t actually supposed to be the Looney Tunes characters in yet another wacky setting, but their descendants. The couple times they do bring that up in-show, it’s either a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it thing that lasts two seconds, or they’re talking about some version of franchise history that sure as hell wasn’t what I grew up watching.

But a big part of the reason is right here. See, the guy hosting the game is a Mister Leghorn, and he’s…not a rooster. He’s a human. Which means, somewhere down the line, Foghorn Leghorn’s …forget it. If you think I’m obligated to think about that and factor it into my observations, I politely invite you to sit on your middle finger and spin.

But the game’s interrupted by Zadavia popping in to announce Massive’s crime spree. Daffy asks if the mission can wait til halftime, and Zadavia irritably replies in the negative. I’m not saying she should let them sit around and watch sports while bad guys are on the attack, but why is she insisting on Daffy’s participation? Usually the comedic member on a superhero team can still pull their weight in a fight, you see (in the ones that don’t suck, anyway). His only offensive ability creates projectiles with completely random contents, apparently, including orange juice. It’s completely up to chance whether he’ll defeat a villain or simply annoy them. He uses his only other evident power to run away when he gets in trouble. Why is he on the team in the first place?

Note also that Zadavia sucks at her own function, since she only mentions that a thief is at large, leading Lexi to ask if that isn’t the kind of thing the cops can handle on their own. Which requires Bugs to point out that’s not the case if it’s a supervillain. Damn, lady! Would it have been so hard to add “and he’s doing this by sticking anyone who tries to stop him to the ceiling”?

The Loonatics run into Massive at a museum, where he tries to squish them between the floor and ceiling. Strangely he doesn’t force them onto the floor with his powers like he did with the guards, meaning they’re free to shoot off their energy blasts at the various exhibits he throws at them.

Which is very weird, because after a little bit of this the building starts to cave in and rather than pursue Massive, who’s fleeing with a giant Faberge egg or something, the Loonatics evacuate the guards. As they’re fleeing, Bugs barks out, “Duck, don’t just stand there with your hands in your feathers! Grab something!” As in, try to save some of the exhibits. This leads to Daffy “comically” being zapped by the security system, but everyone else is conspicuously running out empty-handed. Except Taz, but him I’ll forgive because he’s carrying the chunk of floor the guards are stuck to. Nope, Daffy’s the only one trying to save priceless works of art. Not even Roadrunner. And hell, not two minutes ago Bugs was blowing up those same exhibits up with his laser vision. Good one, Loonatics.

Sure Bugs, just run. That's what you're good at, isn't it?
But let nobody say I don’t try to be fair to these things. Bugs and Zadavia suggest that to catch Massive, they need to make sure the fight is on their terms and not his. Not exactly Patton, but at least they’re finally trying to give the so-called leaders some strategic chops. A little.

They say money is the bait they need. After all, the artifact he swiped from the museum was worth “a hundred and fifty million quasar-linium.” What…? Does Bugs have super art appraisal powers? He continues to try to pretend he has witty banter powers. “I’m a little short. Got any pennies in your piggy bank, Zadavia?” He suggests they “make a very public investment.”

Not to mention the most obvious trap ever, as “Mr. Mallard Megabucks” soon makes a donation of gold bars to some kind of “luxury rocket industry” right out in the open. I mean, not only are the Loonatics the only evident anthropomorphic animals in Acmetropolis, they’re there in costume. Lexi’s “disguise” is wearing a dress and a bow over her superhero outfit, for crying out loud! How seriously am I meant to take this? Ulysses 31 serious?  Captain N serious? Yes, you can have effective drama, comedy and pulse-pounding action all in the same show. But this was concocted to make the Looney Tunes appealing to the anime-viewing crowd, was it not? Which are so much more grown-up than American cartoons, right? Then why does every episode feel like a rejected script from the 80's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Wile E.’s even pushing around a snack cart at this ceremony. A snack cart at a donation ceremony?? Is that normal in 2773? I get it, he’s actually hiding a gun in it to nullify Massive’s gravity fields. But a snack cart at a donation ceremony???

Massive shows up, but rather than trying to surround him or anything, Bugs and Lexi immediately charge right up and launch some one-liners at him. Predictably, his rejoinder is better than Bugs’s lead-in.

Bugs: “Didn’t your mother ever teach you money can’t buy happiness?”
Massive: “She did. That’s why I’m stealing it!”

I said it was better. I didn’t say it made any sense.

Bugs tries his laser vision on Massive, but he proves to be nigh invulnerable because of his dense body. This makes Bugs go for his sword, complete with a lot of pointless twirling, and all I’ve got to say is forget it. This is a kids’ show and he’s not a robot. As I and everyone with any exposure to western censorship practices predicted, Massive easily swats Bugs aside without even using his gravity control.

Taz proves able to knock Massive around with his tornado mode, and Bugs orders everyone to attack while Massive’s getting back up. They tried to set up a trap so they’d have the upper hand, and they didn’t surround him, they all attack from one direction (then again, that does seem to be their idea of surrounding an opponent)? Making it easier for Massive to stop their frontal assault cold by levitating them all off the ground.

All of them except Daffy, but Massive explains “all their weight has to go somewhere” when he slams Daffy to the ground with his powers. He then starts levitating the rest of the team toward the moon. Bugs stupidly asks if Wile E. can make them heavier, with Lexi stupidly adding that she’d prefer if he does it without making them look fat. Ha! One-dimensional female stereotype, there you go again.

Now they can survive in a vacuum, apparently.

Gee, they wouldn’t be in this fix if Wile E. had kept his special gun handy, would they? Why was it still in the food cart when they charged Massive? Is it really heavy or something? Did he think that was less conspicuous of him?

Bugs calls Daffy and asks him if he can get to the gun, but Daffy can’t. He can still use his teleporting power to get into the cockpit of the handy rocketship at the ceremony and fly after them, though (thank you, show, for proving me wrong about his usefulness to the team. At least in non-combat circumstances). Bugs laser visions his way inside and they crash, then get the gun and fix themselves.


They try to figure out where Massive might strike next, and when Daffy whines about missing the basherball game Bugs figures Massive might try to steal the trophy the winning team gets. The Loonatics get permission from the game’s sponsors to use it to set another incredibly obvious for trap Massive, evidently, with how the next ad we hear plays up “the biggest, most expensive trophy in the world” is the prize. If they’re taking Massive’s ego into account and how he’s so sure of himself he’ll take the bait even though he knows it must be a trap, it’d be nice if they hinted that to the audience at all.

Please also allow me to point out our purported heroes are setting a trap for an incredibly powerful, nearly indestructible supervillain at a place with what appears to be thousands of spectators. Not to mention wealthy professional athletes and sponsors to take hostage.

Count all those casualties waiting to happen.

You guys aren’t very good superheroes.

But let me balance that with something of an apology. In “The Comet Cometh” I ragged on Acmetropolis’s apparent lack of contact with other planets based on Wile E. needing to invent a spaceship for them to stop the meteor. Here, we see that the home team (the Rangers) are apparently playing against aliens (the Manglers). I still don’t see why it’s so surprising that something from the depths of space would be made out of an element you’ve never seen before, though. Even if it wasn’t created deliberately.

What's a mansler?

The show shoots itself in the foot when it lays out the trophy’s value, “two hundred fifty-thousand quasar-linium.” See, Bugs noted that Massive’s robberies kept getting bigger; he stole one hundred million from the bank, the thing he stole from the museum was worth one hundred fifty million, and the gold he stole at the first trap was worth two hundred million. Whoops!

And wait a minute, it's not just that one bit of dialogue. The gold Massive stole from the bank had a handy pricetag on it too.

The one from the donation ceremony had one too.

Were the numbers smaller originally, then somebody decided they didn't sound impressive enough and none of this stuff was caught?

The Loonatics are at the game for when Massive shows up, of course, but this time they’re not making any effort to disguise themselves at all. Yeah, it was embarrassing last time, but at least they tried. Sure there’s tons of people in the stands, but if they’re supposed to be this well-known and respected team, wouldn’t they be surrounded by fanboys and autograph hounds?

If you're not going to make an effort, why should I?

And as long as I’m attacking everybody else’s competence, there appears to be nothing keeping the players from accidently firing an errant ball into the crowds. Yeah they don’t do a lot to prevent that in baseball or football games, but the ball isn’t shot out of cannons there. To say nothing of players crashing into the stands on speeder bikes.

Because not only is crashing into the other players allowed, punching them is too. The commentator even says “we can clearly see why it’s called basherball!” at this.

Massive shows up in the middle of the arena and immediately pins half the guards to the ceiling and the other half to the floor. Although they don’t actually seem that serious about the give-and-take aspect of his power when he tries to levitate away with the trophy, and doesn’t have to displace the weight anywhere.

Taz attacks Massive from behind (something he seems inordinately good at, considering what we saw of his wrestling career), and Roadrunner starts zipping around the arena and has no problems kicking Massive from wall to wall. Which seems wrong for such a whisper-thin guy to be doing to someone whose invulnerability comes from molecular density. Unless they’re also saying Roadrunner has super-strong legs or something to account for his speed, but funny how no other super-fast hero has ever done that. He’s isn’t even so fast that Massive has any trouble getting him in a stick-to-the-floor field with his first shot.

Massive pins Wile E. too, and apparently he can still talk but not use his anti-gravity gun on himself, because a second later Bugs asks if he’s okay and Wile E. responds “Define okay.” Uh, dude? Your power is to recover from any injury. Up to and including being reduced to a pile of ash. You’re only stuck to the floor. Relax.

Obviously the face of someone in crushing pain.

The battle continues until all the Loonatics except Bugs are trapped in Massive’s fields. Because they’re not very good superheroes and have apparently never heard of dodging attacks, even those of them who don’t have miraculous healing powers. Bugs shoots some laser vision at Massive, who actually flinches away even though we’ve seen several times how the best the Loonatics can hope to do is knock him around. He even laughed at Bugs for trying that impotent attack a minute ago.

Massive calls Bugs a “flea-bitten rabbit,” and our stalwart hero retorts, “That’s ‘bunny’, doc!” Hey, if you insist on the one that sounds wussier, who am I to tell you no?

In what I guess is supposed to be the give-and-take aspect of Massive’s powers at work, when he accidentally shoots the levitating trophy in an effort to hit bugs, he restores it to normal gravity and it smashes him into the ground. This gives Bugs the chance to slap on some power-neutralizing handcuffs, give him “a little bling bling, for your trip to Sing Sing.” Oh my god that was lame, and I’m sure this show’s target audience was just brimming with people familiar with New York correctional facilities. Let alone the people in the world of the show.

With the villain captured, looks to be time for the last limp joke shows like this always foist on their audience. Mr. Leghorn’s so pleased with the Loonatics for saving the trophy he offers them a reward, but in typical 50’s superhero fashion Bugs replies they don’t accept reward money.

But the joke, as you may have guessed, is Mr. Leghorn didn’t mean money. He meant a lifetime supply of his down-home chili recipe, which he has in a gigantic can right there and pours straight into Taz’s mouth. And some splatters on Daffy. Because evidently that’s hilarious.

(Couldn’t you just choke on all the infidelity and frustration at life in that episode?)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Villains and Vigilantes - Final Fight With the Furies

***This review of an RPG adventure is for potential GMs’ eyes only***

Wow, how long’s it been since Villains and Vigilantes published a module with a sequel in mind? Death Duel with the Destroyers? FORCE?

Although if those adventures are any indication, I’m not sure how much to look forward to Black Souls’ Abyss, what with how none of those sequel adventures quite lived up to their predecessors.

But let’s start at the beginning. To help this adventure feel more epic, there are several scenarios for solo PC’s to have initial encounters with the various villains they’ll be meeting later as opposition in the main adventure. In fact there’s sixteen pages worth of this kind of stuff. That’s a pretty lengthy setup.

Then again this is a pretty lengthy adventure, and the villains have a bench deeper than the Crushers’. Not to mention these guys would eat a lot of the other villain teams in this game’s published material for lunch. Not just because of sheer power either, although they’re certainly not wanting for that, but because of the variety of unconventional abilities the Furies have too.

Villains aside, this thing goes all over the place. There’s plenty of encounters in the PC’s hometown, but then it goes to a ghost town in the boonies of Arizona, to the Middle East, into the depths of the Earth where creatures of a society long forgotten once trod.

And, as noted, this is only the first half of the adventure, and this one even takes space to explain that “cosmic” superhero adventures don’t only include the kind where the players are Thor and Silver Surfer, cruising around the universe picking fights with primordial beings (nonetheless it does include a list of powers that would be extra-handy to have out in space. Where was that in From the Deeps of Space?). Meaning that the rest happens out in space, and there are some general tips about how to create a properly expansive universe, mainly in terms of preexisting alien bad guys and the stories behind them (strangely, the list includes Extractor from Most Wanted 3, but seems to be forgetting he’s the leader of an entire team of alien villains) and the aforementioned list of useful space powers.

But I’m supposed to be talking about this adventure, aren’t I? Final Fight with the Furies takes the PC’s all over, and it provides a nice break from the “initial encounter with villains, track villains to their hideout for a knock-down drag-out fight” formula that describes a lot of older published adventures for V&V. It’s potentially a little overwhelming with everything this part alone contains, though, since it also has a rather elaborate internal mythology. Most of it completely original, too, with a few fairly minor ties to the Arthurian mythos. Depending on the group it might make the most sense to run it as a campaign on its own, rather than to insert it into a preexisting campaign.

I don’t know, but I just don’t find the module’s mythology particularly compelling. Stuff about the people of ancient Atlantis being part of a governing body concerning human civilizations on different planets, and plots of assassination by the disciples of an evil wizard, and the Knights of the Round Table tying their origins back to these people…I can’t see myself running this, or particularly enjoying the story behind what’s going on if I was playing in it.

 I do like a lot of the characters, and could definitely see myself using some or all of the Furies as well as the main villain and his personal flunkies in adventures of my own devising. But speaking of characters, if you’ve looked through the villains in FGU’s freebie section the name “Baen Kudarak the Dreadlord” may be familiar to you. Well, that’s him on the cover. As you can probably guess, Anarch, the villain from the freebie section, figures heavily into this adventure himself. I dunno, that seems like kind of a copout in something I paid for.

Not bad, but I’ve seen better.