Friday, July 21, 2017

What I Bought 7/19/2017

I must be going into the store I buy comics from enough they recognize me, as the guy behind the register mentioned the store does pull lists. I don't think I can go back to that, although I do miss hanging out in comic shops shooting the breeze with other customers. Haven't done that regularly in a long time.

Ms. Marvel #20, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Marco Failla (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - That's no way to hold a superhero. She's going to hop right out of your grasp if you slack-ass it like that.

Aamir is being interrogated for his one-time occurrence of powers, and will possibly be deported, or maybe disappeared. Kamala is trying to pull herself together and fight back, but isn't haven't much luck against the considerable resources HYDRA is bringing to the fight. It might be going better if she abandoned her attempts to reason with the angry shouting crowds, but she's a better person than me, so she keeps trying.

Gotta love the panel of Discord standing there in his ridiculous outfit, insisting they are getting rid of superheroes to get things back to "normal". Shades of Max Lord nattering on about needing to get rid of superhumans so "regular" humans could determine humanity's course, and saying this while using his mind control powers to keep from getting beaten up. It's also reminiscent of any number of unpleasant real world examples of hypocritical jackasses, but I'm trying not to think about those every moment of the day.

I don't understand how the brief skirmish between Kamala and Discord/Lockdown was a stalemate, but I do appreciate the absurd amount of firepower on the hovering whatever that tried blasting Kamala. That's the kind of overkill you want to see your municipality waste tax dollars on. I'm wondering if the giant clock at Chuck's rally will be a recurring theme. "Time running out," or something similar. Regardless, good on Failla to show that time is progressing during the fight. A little touch, but a nice one. I wonder if the clock is to keep track of whether the trains are running on time or not?

There's a stunned look Failla gives Kamala in one panel, as Chuck's spewing his crap and then the crowd responds with a resounding "Yeah!" It's that realization there actually are a lot of people buying into the nonsense, a lot of people who think she's making their lives worse, who aren't super-villains. It's an effective scene, for how what Hallucination Bruno said about her being alone on this one.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wonder Woman

So I went to see Wonder Woman two weekends ago. There were probably 15 other people in the theater, maybe more, which isn't too bad for a noon showing over a month after initial release.

Spoiler warning.

The movie tracks Diana from her childhood on Themyscira, training secretly against her mother's wishes, until Steve Trevor crash lands on the island. Trevor has information on a new gas weapon Dr. Poison is developing for the Germans, and so the Germans arrive on the island. The battle and Steve's description of World War I convinces Diana Ares is behind it, and she sets out into Man's World to stop the war by killing Ares.

I liked it. I did want it to hurry up a little at the beginning and get Diana out into the rest of the world, but the time on Themyscira was important for showing the world she came from, the stories she grew up on - which play into why she's so determined to go out and find Ares - the things they didn't tell her, etc. But pretty much from the point where she and Steve get on the boat until she finally meets Ares was good stuff.

Gal Gadot and Chris Pine have good chemistry. I'm not going to claim to be an expert on Wonder Woman, but I thought Gadot got the character. She's compassionate, bold, has a bit of a sense of humor, and she's a skilled fighter without seeming like she enjoys hurting people. I think when she liberates that village she's enjoying the fighting, the moments where she's leaping around between them and kicking butt, but it's not as though she's enjoying breaking bones or whatever. Chris Pine was an excellent Steve Trevor. Trevor is supposed to be a good man, not perfect, but at heat, a decent guy, and Pine gets that. And Steve is supposed to recognize Diana can pretty much take care of herself, with maybe an assist every now and then, and the film's version of him gets that too.

I especially liked the scene where  he's admitted he lied to his boss and when Diana accuses him of possibly lying to her now, he immediately grabs the lasso to prove he's telling the truth. Like, it isn't just the most expedient way to convince her, it really matters to him to do so. He's worried about her and doesn't want her going off alone (and also probably knows his mission's chances of success improve greatly with her along. But I think it hurts him that she thinks he might be lying to her.

Lucy Davis as Etta Candy didn't get a lot of screen time, but she made the most of it. Wouldn't have minded if there'd been a way for her to have a bigger role in the movie. Trevor recruits three people, Sameer, Charlie, and Eugene Brave Rock, for the mission to destroy the gas, and Diana's initial assessment of them is, 'a liar, a murderer, and thief,' and then the film takes the time to show their other facets, to explain why they're like that. Diana is new to the world, and she's learning, and the film shows that, her growing as she goes along. And even when she's determined to get to Ludendorff, who she believes is Ares, she's still stopping to try and help people in trouble she encounters along the way. All the little acts, that may add up to something more down the line.

My favorite scene involving Ludendoff (Danny Huston) and Dr. Maru/Poison (Elena Anaya) was when they opt to gas the German General Staff, and Ludendorff throws a gas mask - that will be entirely ineffective - into the room before sealing the door. And admits it was because it'll be fun to watch them fight over it. It's such a petty thing, and Maru thinks it's just great, it's a fun scene. They're an interesting pair, Ludendorff seems driven by ambition, to win, to dominate, be the big man. Maru, I think is mostly curious, about death, about just how lethal you can make something. And each of them will sacrifice anyone else to get what they want, but each provides the other with the means to their goals, so they stick together.

This isn't connected to anything else, but I was surprised how unperturbed the German soldiers were throughout the film. Here's this lady, she leaps in a second floor window with a sword and a shield, starts blocking bullets and beating their asses, and they keep attacking. Nobody tries to run, nobody tries surrendering. I at least thought when she started hefting armored cars we'd get somebody freaking out like that guy on the cover of Action Comics #1. Or the ones who landed on Themyscira, you'd think those guys would be a little more confused about what's going on. Maybe they're just grateful not to be mired in knee-deep mud and rat excrement.

It's been mentioned by other people, but the last bit of the movie, when she actually finds Ares and they fight, doesn't feel like it fits in with the rest. Up to that point, things had been in a sense grounded. She's fighting ordinary soldiers with regular guns and bullets, or having to deal with all these old white guys' ideas about women, or our capacity to be indifferent to the suffering of others. Diana is a fantastical figure, but what's she confronted with is more everyday horror. And then, at the end, she finds Ares and now it's people telekinetically hurling bullets and tanks and it abruptly all feels entirely cut off from everything else. Sameer and Chief are not too far away trying to help Steve, but it feels like another world entirely, almost like they're two different films that happen to be taking place on the same screen.

Which could very well be what Patty Jenkins was aiming for, the gap between the two worlds Wonder Woman can inhabit. Our world, and this larger, mythic world, where humans can be seen as playthings or pests to be removed. And a big part of the film is Diana realizing there isn't a simple solution, that's her mission is going to be a long process of her repeatedly setting an example by helping others. But that's in the future. In this film, she's convinced the entire time if she can just find Ares and kill him, War will stop, like flipping a switch. Steve doesn't believe - although Chris Pine does a good job showing how much Steve wants to believe - but ultimately it's something Diana has to learn herself. Which means she has to confront Ares, the one she holds responsible, and defeat him, and then see you can't lay our faults on his doorstep.

I'm not sure how you handle the "defeating" part without some kind of a fight. Diana could reject his offer to team-up and he could leave, as a way to prove his point, but then what? He'd be doing that to demonstrate that he's right about us, which means he'd come back at some point to try and coax her to his side again. She'd still have to reject him, and it would seem like they'd be at an impasse and have to fight. So I don't know.

Those misgivings aside, I had a good time. I don't know if it's in my Top 5 comic book property movies, but it has to be close, at least.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What I Bought 7/15/2017 - Part 2

It's extremely hot here this week. I hate July. I have a new computer now! The last one provided six strong years for me (after three years for my dad), so this one has a lot to live up to. I'm definitely enjoying the much larger screen.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #22, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - I'm glad to see Doreen remembered practical footwear for her trip to the Savage Land. Stubbed toes and blisters are no fun.

Doreen and Nancy enter a computer programming challenge and win a trip to the Savage Land. After an extremely long flight to Antarctica, they are greeted by the dual horrors of gift shops and snooty Latverian computer science students, who hate Squirrel Girl. But one of them locks eyes with Nancy, and rose petals appear, so that could be something. Assuming Stefan didn't blow it with that 'some things are worth being Doomed for,' line. Which I thought was pretty great, especially since he somehow suggested the "D" was capitalized by his pronunciation, but Nancy did not agree. Although Latverian schools probably train their students to imply capitalization with how they pronounce the "D". Like an "a" in German having an umlaut versus not.

But the trip isn't all burgeoning romance and sweet, featherless dinos. The students were brought here because of their sick programming skills to help save the Savage Land. Dun-Dun-Dun!

Nancy did not believe the Savage Land existed, because its Wikipedia page invoked Atlantis, which she took to mean the whole thing was bunk. Even though Nancy lives in New York City, which is invaded by a half-naked guy calling himself the Scion of Atlantis as he declares war on the surface world every other week. Like, how does Nancy not realize Atlantis is a real place in her world? She's not your typical dumbshit American who doesn't know anything about other places.

That was the single most unbelievable part of this story that involves an alien technology maintained jungle in Antarctica filled with dinosaurs. But it was funny, so it's OK.

I'm assuming Dr. G is evil because she has yellow, maybe even golden eyes. That seems unusual, and ominous. Like an android, or maybe a lizard person? I know the solicits said there's a certain villain showing up, but maybe Stegron the Dinosaur Man could also show up?

This book doesn't use double-page splashes much, so the three pages of dinosaur fun were pretty effective. Although my favorite panel might still be the one of Doreen noticing the look between Nancy and Stefan. Her completely goofy look is hilarious. Then again, the oddly cheerful looking Doom on the Latverian passport one page earlier is a strong contender. Though he should look stern, shouldn't he? The passport warns that the person holding the passport better be allowed admittance or else.

Wait, I just noticed that in the panel where Doreen is giving Nancy the thumbs up, there's an Iguanodon in the background. They had these thumbs that were kind of sharp and tended to jut upwards noticeably, so the dinosaur is also giving Nancy a thumbs up. Kudos to everyone involved on that gag.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Assassination (2015)

Assassination, set mostly in 1933, Japan-controlled Korea, is about an attempt to kill both the longtime commander of the Japanese forces stationed there, as well as a notable Korean industrialist who has chosen to ally himself with the Japanese. To that end, the Korean Provisional Government, based in China, pulls together a trio of soldiers, each with special skills, each one currently behind bars, and sets them the task of killing both targets.

Things are complicated by a turncoat within the Provisional Government who informs the Japanese, who opt to hire a hitman pair, Hawaii Pistol and Buddy. Things are further complicated because the sniper on the assassin team, An Ok-yun, has a connection to the industrialist she isn't aware of.

The movie has a lot of chance encounters between characters, which then complicate their interactions and entangle their stories more and more. Ahn and Hawaii Pistol meet each other on a train before either knows they should be on the lookout for the other. Ahn has a twin sister (neither aware of the other's existence), who catches a glimpse of her when they both happen to be in a department store. The kind of thing Guy Ritchie used for comedic effect, where all these different characters eventually end up colliding (often literally) at the climax of the film, wiping each other out without even necessarily knowing why.

Director Dong-hoon Choi isn't playing it for laughs, but does use it to great effect in creating an air of unpredictability. There are certain cliches I'd expect to play out in movies (or maybe just American movies) with some of these set-ups. But in Assassination, I never felt entirely confident I knew how it would play out. Who would survive, would the targets be eliminated, would that turncoat get what's coming to him. It was hard to tell which side someone would land on, even when it seemed like there was a clear answer, I couldn't quite be sure. There was one death in particular, maybe I should have seen it coming, but I was caught completely off-guard by it, and it ramped up my anticipation for the finale.

It's a nice film to look at, I thought the costuming was pretty good - I don't know how period accurate it is, but the characters look distinct and some of them look very cool - the frequent gunfights are entertaining. There's one hand-to-hand fight which was kind of unusual, since one of the characters supposedly learned his fighting style from tennis.

As you might expect, the Japanese do not come off well, but the ones who ally with them get it even worse. The spy within the ranks is fun to watch, where I wonder how much he believes the justifications he spouts. At sometimes, it's an act, like when he feigns being willing to shoot himself because a superior distrusts him, because he overheard an earlier conversation and knows the gun's not loaded. But later, I think he might actually believe what he says, that he sacrificed for his country.

There's a spot where the film dragged a bit, starting maybe in the last forty-five minutes, until the last 20 minutes, where I was wanting it to hurry up and get to the end. For the most part, though, the film moves at a brisk pace, changing things up with betrayals and complications, forcing the characters to change their plans and scramble to stay alive long enough to finish their mission.

Monday, July 17, 2017

What I Bought 7/15/2017 - Part 1

Did manage to pick up last week's comics. I opted not to get Real Science Adventures, but I found the other two books I wanted, plus I took a chance on a different book. Which ended up being a mistake in this case, but oh well.

Wynonna Earp Season Zero #1, by Beau Smith (story, writer), Tim Rozon (story), Angel Hernandez (artist), Jay Fotos (colorist), Christa Miesner (letterer) - I'm a little concerned about the guy in the back. Looks like one of those SS stormtroopers you'd kill in some vaguely horror-themed first-person shooter.

So when Wynonna originally left home, indulging her bad girl side, she met up with a group called the Alpha Team X, and they did a lot of stuff. And now someone named Keegan is trying to kill all of them to get something Wynonna has the key to. She's determined to find her old friends and help them. Her new friends are determined to help her, but are so far just arguing with each other about the best approach. I appreciate the novel approach of not having Wynonna have a huge heated argument about how she has to do this alone. She accepts pretty quickly they're not going to allow that, and is ready to move forward.

There's a lot more hostility between Agent Dolls and Holliday than I remember from the mini-series I read last year. I don't know if these mini-series are reacting to events from the TV show (which I've never watched) or something else. Something may have happened to ratchet up the tension. Also, at the point when the two begin arguing, I can't shake the impression the word balloons are ordered wrong, or attributed to the wrong character. Holliday asks Dolls opinion and gets this response:

'In my experience, if you fail to prepare. . . prepare to fail. It's always better to have a plan and not need it, then to be without one and need it. Sounds more cowardly than common sense. Do those words mean anything to you?' Which prompts Holliday to respond, 'Common sense? Hhmpf. . . I coughed that up with my lungs years ago.'

It's not just me, right? That exchange tracks strangely. Holliday hadn't mentioned common sense before Dolls did.

It's a very chatty issue, lots of talking, since there's so much backstory to lay out.  Maybe Smith and Rozon decided to get it all out of the way at the start, but I doubt it.

Hernandez doesn't get a lot to do on the art side. Mostly people standing around talking, or panels of just people's head or faces as they talk. Seems very good at drawing people scowling or otherwise looking unhappy. There are a few panels the expressions don't match what I would expect under the circumstances. One where Wynonna has this light smile on her face as her friend is bleeding out on the pool table. It didn't seem like his comment was amusing enough to prompt that reaction at that moment.

It's an open question if I'll buy the second issue or not.

Tinkers of the Wasteland #1, by Raul Trevino (writer/artist) - I have been a few places where a battle-scarred Mini Cooper loaded with chickens wouldn't qualify as unusual.

33 years after an apocalypse brought about by a meteor swarm, three kids - Milla, Splitter, and a third one I don't know the name of - are trying to get some dinner. By stealing some chickens from the tower fortress of, sigh, King Queer. The theft is helped by a meteor knocking over the tower and freeing the chickens, but they're observed by King, and will probably have to drive for their lives next issue. Also, one of the chickens swallowed a piece off the meteor, not sure what that's going to do.

I like the art, it reminds me a bit of Jamie Hewlett's, probably because Splitter looks a bit like one of the Gorillaz. The faces are expressive without an excessive amount of linework, and the shading is mostly a light touch. Trevino saves the heavy blacks for the meteor and that one particular chicken, as well as Splitter when he's chasing it. He would be a terrifying sight to a chicken. The design of the settings and outfits aren't anything unusual to this type of story, but they look good.

There is the issue of the King. I can't decide how bothered I should be by him. I know "queer" is a term some people use for themselves, while others would find it offensive to be referred to with it. I assume the King took the name for himself. He's dressed in the typical S&M gear bad guys wear in this post-apocalypse stuff. He wears some make-up, and has a lackey that serves as a make-up artist. The lackey's arrival somehow unnerves Splitter more than the King. He referred to Splitter as "dear" once, but at least doesn't seem to be falling into the cliche of the cross-dresser that's a child predator. It may be too early to tell, but I had a reflexive reaction when I saw the character. If the King is meant to be a frightening figure, it hasn't played out that way so far. But he doesn't seem like he's meant to be a comedy figure yet, either.

Which brings us around to one other issue: I think the book is supposed to be funny, but I'm not laughing. Milla and Splitter spend most of the issue yelling at each other about plans or lack thereof. The third kid vanishes for half the book, then shows up at the end having collected a bunch of helmets for some reason. He just likes helmets, I guess. Maybe more humor will come in subsequent issues, once the story finds more traction? Assuming I get the second issue, which is up in the air.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Earthworm Jim 2.4 - The Exile of Lucy

Plot: Psycrow and Professor Monkey-for-a-Head are about to destroy Jim, but are ordered not to by Queen Slug-for-a-Butt, who still wants that supersuit. Which gives Jim and Peter time to start a musical number, distracting the villains until Jim can steal their weapons.

In the aftermath, the two villains are understandably cheesed that they got fried because of their lazy boss, and resolve to overthrow her. Which they accomplish thanks to Psycrow threatening the narrator into stating they did. The Queen is exiled, sans scepter, and crash lands on Earth, in the backyard of Mrs. Bleveridge. The two strike up a fast friendship over their combined love of shit talking. Lucy takes to life on Earth, finding a job, hobbies, and eventually love. No, not with Mrs. Bleveridge, but with a Cuban bandleader.

Jim and the other heroes, oblivious, play poker until Princess What's-Her-Name arrives to ask for help. Seems the Professor and Psycrow are busy having the populace of Insectica build war machines, and she needs help stopping them. Off our heroes go, but their plan runs into a snag in the form of Red Wormtinite, which transforms Jim into a bowl of candy corn. Also, the Princess can't get the scepter to work for her, so she has to take it and run. After all the heroes fail to step up, she turns to her sister and Mrs. Bleveridge. They rescue Jim and trash most of the war machines, but the last one is a doozy, and only by letting Lucy wear the supersuit will they have a chance of destroying it. That, of course, carries its own risks.

Quote of the Episode: Mrs. Bleveridge - 'I mean, you give that suit back or I'll hollow out your butt for a storage shed!'

Times Peter turned into a monster: 1 (17 overall).

Cow? A day late, and probably a dollar short, but yes.

Other: During the musical number, Peter stated he wets the bed. You'd think he'd have been housebroken at some point. Thankfully, Jim's attempt to start another musical number during the attack on Insectica was interrupted by Peter turning into a monster.

I did not remember Wormtinite at all, so that was a pleasant surprise. Although being turned into candy corn at least ensures no one will try to eat you. Though Peter was hungry enough to consider it. In which case, it's probably good Jim didn't turn into a bowl of fun-size Snickers or Milky Ways. Chocolate and dogs, man.

The Professor's monkey believes that bananas were invented in France, and is therefore interested in conquering it. Yeah, I don't know where he got that idea, and neither does Psycrow. Times like that, he has to question the choices he makes in partners.

Lucy's one saving grace as a ruler was she was too lazy to ever do anything, like start invasions. Which is true. We only ever see her trying to destroy Jim and get that supersuit. Contrast with Evil the Cat, or Bob the Goldfish, who do expend some effort trying to destroy Jim, but also frequently encounter him while on some other nefarious scheme.

Once again, I have to wonder what the Professor was thinking when he designed that suit, if it was truly meant for Queen Slug-for-a-Butt. It doesn't match her body type at all. Did he think she could enter some chrysalis stage and emerge with just two arms and legs? Had he never seen her before? Just gets a letter, 'Build me an all powerful supersuit or I shall destroy you and use your entrails for hair extensions!'

Once again, a trip to outer space didn't go so well for Mrs. Bleveridge. She keeps catching stray rounds, although she's one tough lady. But, now she gets to live with her best pal Lucy in a big palace (that looks like it's made from the fresh secretions of something I'd rather not see), and hopefully have a ball doing whatever they want.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Griffins and Cupcakes and Bullshit and Puzzles

In the story of my second D&D campaign, I left off at the point where we had killed some members of the thieves and were preparing to storm their stronghold. We knew the members of the group each had a tattoo, and were able to draw a facsimile on our arms, but didn't know if there was a password. So once we reached the fortress, we stood in the shadows debating what to do. We eventually decided to try bluffing our way in, but it turned out to be unnecessary. We had the tattoo, nothing else was required. The sentries couldn't figure out why we stood there awkwardly chatting them up. Well, overthought that one.

Inside, there was a maze we made our way through without incident until reaching a room with three chests and a sign that says "Evens and Odds". We opened one chest, and a panel in the wall slid open, revealing 5 kobolds (lizard people). We had heard from someone along the way there were some lizard people among the bandits (whoever we talked to also told us about a swamp to the west with possible treasure but lots of monsters, which we decided was a distraction from our quest and ignored). When a Ranger hits Level 5, he can choose a Favored Enemy, which he gets bonuses against. So I picked "humanoid - reptilian" with that intel in mind.

And so I opted to try Bluffing the kobolds, specifically by lamenting that the "bourgeois" thief bosses made the poor, proletarian kobolds sit in a cramped room behind a wall with no food or drink. The DM responded, 'They have no idea what you're talking about.' They also couldn't or wouldn't tell us how to solve the puzzle, so we got impatient and opened all three chests at once. Five more panels opened, 10 more kobolds and 15 goblins entered the room. So it's a fight. I made an impassioned plea for the first 5 kobolds to rise up and help us, but they opted to go back in their room and close the wall.

So the Marxist rhetoric failed to gain traction. At least I got five enemies off the board.

The fight wasn't much trouble, even with the numbers. The monk took some slings to the head, but was crushing enemies left and right with attacks of opportunity. Our wizard had taken the Fireball Wand we found in the spider cave, but wasn't having much luck with it. Magic Missile fared better, and Nylis busted out a Flaming Spear attack that killed at least 4 enemies. In all, it was a slaughter, but left us no closer to finding what we were after.

OK, I don't have any notes from our recovery of the relic. I remember there was a different room, and the relic was within some sort of cage. The thief couldn't find her way through, so I think we used the Ring of 3 Wishes to get her inside the cage, grab the relic, and then get her back out. The Sack of Holding was involved somehow as well. I'm sure we made it infinitely more complicated than it needed to be, but I frankly hate that aspect of D&D where you have to declare you want to inspect something, then roll to see if you noticed anything when you inspected, and hope your character is intelligent enough to understand what they see, if they see anything. If you roll crappy, then what are you supposed to do? Shrug and throw up your hands? Oh well, quest over, we're too dumb to figure out this trap.

Anyway, we got the relic, and fled the bandit's fortress, which was remarkably easy. I think the leader was away at the time, but you'd think thieves would be more alert to theft. I can't talk, though, since that night, as we camped on our way back, it was stolen from us. By Ordai the cleric, who turned out to be a doppelganger. Apparently, the DM was worried we would figure out something was up with him earlier because he used Death Touch, and a cleric shouldn't do that. But most of the players wouldn't have any experience to know that, and I'd watched a cleric in my only previous campaign kill one of our own party in a fit of pique sooooooo. . .

I assume clerics are basically crazy, violent religious fundamentalists. Like the Crusaders, basically. Spread your religion of peace and tolerance by killing people different than you. Maybe that's actually paladins, I haven't played in a campaign with one of them yet.

Now we had to return to the village and explain we'd let the relic be stolen a second time, and maybe question why we were assigned a cleric that wasn't actually a cleric. Along the way, we revisited the elf commune, only to find it devastated by the doppelganger. Many were wounded, and the chief was dead, although his son had survived his injuries (and was happy to see Taug, which embarrassed the barbarian, though he was still kind enough to be friendly). We continued on and were caught up to by the leader of the thieves and some of his men, on horseback. Fortunately, we heard them coming with enough time to dive off the road into the bushes. Unfortunately, Nylis was too busy eating a cupcake and was caught flat-footed in the middle of the road when they rode up. But she served as an excellent distraction for when the rest of us jumped out to attack.

The fight itself wasn't terribly competitive. Oswald dealt the finishing blow to two of the lackeys, I killed a couple, Taug used Cleave so hard one guy basically exploded (27 damage, he might have had half that many hit points). Crulin was able to use Stunning Fist on the leader so we could have a chat with him.

Will once again volunteered to do the talking. The team, having not learned their lesson from last time, let him. Will tried being pleasant while crouched over the thief, who was tied up on his back. When that failed to produce results, he became angry and cut his hand with the head of an arrow, dripping blood on the very intimidated boss' face, while pretending not to notice he was doing this. The leader confessed the doppelganger had hired his crew to take the relic (though he may not have know he was dealing with a doppelganger), and must have mentioned something about an island far to the east. Will opted to cheerfully ask if the thief had considered accepting Pelor as his savior. Leah incredulously pointed out the guy probably worshipped the same god she did. Well, by that point Will was just messing with the guy for kicks. You may have heard, kicks, they just keep getting harder to find.

We let the guy live, because he promised that, even if he kept stealing, he wouldn't hurt any people. As Leah had pointed out, we already had a thief on our team, who had proved in the tavern she wasn't above (attempting) robbing anyone she pleased, so I suppose Will didn't see that we could throw stones. Or he was uncomfortable killing another helpless foe.

Back in town, we reported what happened, and learned there really was an Ordai, though no one could figure when he'd been replaced. It turned out he's the brother of Vera, the flirty bard we met in the tavern at the start, and she was interested in finding him, and offered her help. Which included hooking all of us up with Legacy Weapons of various types (Will got himself a quiver full of special arrows, and the quiver boosted a couple of his abilities), and a flying carpet. Also, Nylis must have leveled up to the point she unlocked some nifty bonus, because rather suddenly, a griffin showed up to be her companion. She named it Sage. Vera also knew, from her extensive travels, that there was a portal in a village to the east which might lead to that island.

Looking back over this, I'm starting to suspect the DM put the bard back in because she realized we'd never figure things out on our own in time to finish the quest before the field season ended and we scattered to the four winds.

We went east and found the village full of nothing but children. They told us monsters had come, killed all the adults, burned the women, and carried the monsters off through a portal. There was some debate over the next step, because some people wanted to help the kids before proceeding, and others (Will included), did not. Will likes kids about as much as he likes squids, OK? Even among the "leave 'em" camp, there was debate between just leaving them, or seeing if the griffin was hungry. But the kids were ultimately transported to a nearby village where the people agreed to look after them. Then it was back to the ruined village, and through the portal.

We exited the portal on an island, and were immediately confronted with a massive fortress of grey, forbidding rock. Oh, and two flesh golems guarding the entrances. And a minotaur. And a wizard. But we spent too much time playing Child Services, so I'll tell you how things wrapped up next time.