Being a kid comes with all sorts of perks that many lose as they enter adulthood. One of those is the ability to conjure all sorts of magical and exciting scenarios and stories in your head and just simply believe in it. Imagination is a fertile ground in which we build hopes, dreams, and morals. At some point or another everyone has imagined that they were a proud or noble knight on a quest to slay a dragon or some other hero of greatness. It goes without saying that Jeremy Whitely beautifully captures this nostalgic feeling of childhood dreams in a story that could remind you of something you played as a child.
Rainbow Brite was a children’s show in the 80’s and most likely half of you reading this may not have even heard of it, myself included. The first issue of this brand new revamp of the series is good for both newcomers and fans of old as it introduces a brand new story. Like most comics catered to all ages, the story is quite simple but Whitely manages to throw in the feeling of nostalgia, summoning the urge to be that age again where all we knew was what adventure our young minds take us next.
In this comic, we follow the lives of Willow, who imagines herself as a wizard, and Wisp, who fashions herself as a knight. The lightheartedness of their games and the way Willow’s parents try to keep their immersion is truly heartwarming and wholesome. The two, of course, have their play time, or rather their rescue of a village that doesn’t deserve it, cut short by nightfall and rain. However, after Willow’s father drops Wisp off things begin to get weird.
Before getting ready for bed, Wisp hears noises coming from outside her house. Being the brave knight she is, she goes to investigate only to see a trio of shadow creatures stealing the color from her mother’s car. She strikes one and runs away, before meeting a flying sprite named Twinkle. He explains to her that they are servants of the King of Shadows who wants nothing more than to drain all the color from the world. Because Wisp was able to hurt one, they are hunting for her. Twinkle tries to teleport them to safety but the lack of light drains his magic. Wisp hatches a scheme to use Willow’s home security lights to give him his magic back, bringing her friend into the game. By the end of the book, Twinkle teleports the two girls to a Rainbow land that is devoid of color.
The comic was quite enjoyable to read. Even though it is for all ages, it is aimed at much younger audiences. Yet, adults will find an innocent joy in recalling their own dreams and games as children and that is where the heart of this book lies. The power to dream and imagine is one of the most important concepts of the human mind and sometimes all it takes is a child or our recollections of when we were children to truly grasp its potential. If you want a spark to awaken your inner child or reignite your love for the foundation of fantasy, then this is a comic for you. It certainly brought those wonderful memories back for me.
Rainbow Brite #1 – Dynamite Comics
Images Courtesy of Dynamite Comics
The Wicked and the Divine + The Unforgiven and the Redeemed
There’s something special about WicDiv one-shots. They have a pattern and a very distinct kind of narrative: after each arc, we take a leap back in time to get a lost piece of the big picture. At the beginning of each new arc, the truth becomes clearer to us. The latest arc, Mothering Invention, has introduced something of a spanner in those works with the occasional flashbacks to ancient times, to the bloody days of Ananke and the first Persephone. By now, there is comparatively little we don’t know.
For centuries, Ananke has continued to preserve her existence by sacrificing Gods in each Recurrence and inhabiting Minerva’s physicality to ensure the next cycle happens without a hitch. Ancient Persephone’s gambit is for somebody to eventually break that cycle by taking advantage of the rules to the game between the two Goddesses. So, what’s new this time around? Strictly speaking: not much. But do we really need a reason, a morsel of truth, to have a one-shot? Can we not just enjoy a story of doom and despair, beautifully illustrated by guest artist Ryan Kelly (of Lucifer, Local and New York Four fame)?
Yes, yes we can, dear reader.
Also because this may just feature my favourite Lucifer so far.
“This is my body… which is given for you.”
Naturally, spoilers ahead.
This story takes place in Avignon, France in the year 1373, which is telling enough about the setting: Roman Catholicism and heaps of death from the Bubonic Plague. As per WicDiv tradition, the icons on the prologue circle reveal the Gods remaining: Lucifer and Minerva. This means we arrived late to the party, and the Maiden-Crone duo probably have all they need for their ritual. Still, this is an interesting subversion since Lucifer tends to be one of the first Gods to bite the dust in this comic series.
The first thing that comes to topic proper here is the design. Kelly’s pens are as sharp for detail as always. The rainy, grey-blue choice of inks helps enhance the dready atmosphere, and it also does wonders when it comes to contrasts – for example, when looking at (gorgeous) Sister Lucifer’s hell-red eyes. However, the contrast extends also beyond colour and into how detailed the plague’s sores on the general population are. Furthermore, Lucifer’s Hellboy-esque sheared horns add an unsettling, painful tint to the Sister’s beauty. This very much falls in line with the contemporary ways of modesty and self-repression.
On to the story now. At the behest of the Mother Superior, Sister Lucifer greets a messenger – a young girl with an ailment of her own – who has come seeking she who walks through the plague untainted. In a matter of two panels, we get the nature of this Recurrence’s Lucifer. Despite becoming the incarnation of evil (according to the Catholic paradigm), she is very much a devout person, and believes that nobody is irredemeable. The messenger comes on behalf of another, an old, very sick woman who wishes to give confession. Being the only one untouchable by the plague, Lucifer is the one to call.
After a two days’ travel, they arrive at their destination. But a wild pack of flagellants, foreign to the village, has shown up. These folk believe that self-harm will spare them from the disease. It has not worked brilliantly, as they’re very obviously ill. The Good Sister tells the young girl to wait while she handles the situation. Now, things are looking pretty bleak in this little affair. The flagellants don’t look kindly upon the church, let alone the “Devil Girl”. What follows is an unpleasant show of implied and explicit carnal punishment. After mentioning that she had already been burned at the stake, to no effect, she disrobes herself nude.
The scars on her back reveal herself to have been a flagellant herself.
But neither the nudity, nor the usage of the proverb “do to me as you would have done unto you” leads to any sultriness – something which has become something of a trope in several indie comics and mediums. No, Sister Lucifer sets herself to be lashed as the flagellants do to themselves. This she does to humble them, and evidence their hypocrisy. Their actions come out of vanity rather than actual wish for redemption. After telling them they will not live to see the next day, she encourages them to repent as they will. So, the Sister and the young messenger carry on without further disturbance.
Finally, at the village, Lucifer meets the old woman, whose sight vexes her. Despite being severely marked by the plague, she is still very much alive. This is Ananke, and she has summoned Lucifer to know why, after two years, the Devil Girl is still sane, quite unlike her 455 ADD counterpart. This exchange is pretty revealing about French Lucifer. In spite of witnessing the diversity of the Pantheon, she deems her peers ‘false Gods’. Regardless of what she’s experienced, she still abides to the narrative of her belief and hopes for a peaceful afterlife. But Ananke knows better about such matters.
Ananke still claims that Lucifer will eventually go mad and cause great disaster. But Sister Lucifer is stubborn like that, or maybe her worldview and faith (however rigid) makes her impervious to Ananke’s words. The old woman notes she’s always been troublesome one way or another. Lucifer realises in that moment that the Messenger that brought her here was the same girl who introduced her to Ananke over two years ago. If you haven’t guessed already, yes – this is Minerva of this age, and she needed very little to convince the Sister to meet Ananke.
The old Goddess notes this has never happened before. Even before Ananke dropped the big reveal on her, the young woman already knew she was Lucifer. Judging by the brief flashback of her ascension, she lashed her own back even before becoming the Devil Girl. Thus, it becomes obvious just how heavy the burden of faith has been on the young woman. Or has it? Later in the conversation, Lucifer tells of her human birth. Her mother died from the plague, but the child lived. It was basically a miracle. But her father did not see it that way. He thought it should have been the child who died, and he never let her forget that. As foul a parent as the plague itself.
Thus… Lucifer, the Unforgiven. I’m gonna go off on something of a tangent here, but I’m a bit infatuated with this Lucifer as a character. So, let me have this. While the Christian view will always hold Lucifer as sire of all evils, one must never forget they were also an angel, a light bringer originally. This duality lives reversed in Sister Lucifer. She is deemed a devil in origin, but her choice to take on the religious office turns her into a light bringer. A rather dim light, but a light all the same. All of the things she says about redemption, those are not hollow words. But she still, tragically, does not recognise that switch in her. Perhaps because that would be vanity and pride, vices associated with the Devil.
Okay, tangent over. Ananke confesses, meaning she spells out all of her plan to Lucifer. This means, what she’s been up to from the beginning, her goal, and her part in the deaths of all the Gods. But, she does keep one thing to herself: Minerva’s role. Then, a bonus. Ananke got bored from how the world was coming along, so she essentially took action to prune civilisation a bit. When asked on how the plague started, Sister Lucifer alludes to what most believe, either the miasma, or the poisoning of the wells. She herself believes her own birth caused the plague.
Ananke dashes all of it by revealing the truth. Someone from the last Pantheon created the disease as an experiment. Then, to test it, the Old Goddess boarded the tainted ship in Crimea and sailed it herself to Italy. That’s right, Ananke imported the Black Plague with her own immune flesh. She is responsible for a far, far greater number of deaths than just Lucifer’s peers. The true devilry has been lifted off Lucifer’s shoulders, but there is no relief to be had. The Devil Girl, with Ananke’s knife in her hands, looks on the old woman with murderous eyes.
At this point, we’d expect savage comeuppance, no different than the carnage Ananke unleashed on her sister all those centuries ago. But Lucifer is not Ananke. The Good Sister pierces the palm of her own hand with the knife and extracts a bit of her own flesh. You can see where this is going… The Transubstantiation of Lucifer, blasphemous as all Hell… and oddly not at the same time. Placing her flesh in Ananke’s mouth, Lucifer completes the communion by burning Ananke and herself to death in Hellfire. The words she spoke while being lashed earlier, “Father, forgive me”, return with a darker reprisal. The comic’s cover doesn’t do the real thing justice, does it?
Unforgiven no more, this is Lucifer Redeemed, burning for the sins of Ananke.
All the while Minerva looks on from the distance, with a full bag in hand…
So, that’s it for this special one-shot, and at the risk of letting my loud-as-thunder voice permeate this review… HOW THE HELL DOES KIERON GILLEN UP HIS GAME EVERY DAMNED TIME, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO THESE ONE-SHOTS!? Of course, this is just a personal opinion. While I can’t think of any actually inferior one-shot, the quality curve with these special issues has been, for me, consistently rising. I wouldn’t be surprised if another future one.shot (if it were to happen) could take the top spot in my favourites. But for now, this is definitely my favourite WicDiv one-shot. And this is my favourite Lucifer, period.
And who knows, when it comes to comics, Kieron Gillen may just have become my favourite.
The Wicked + The Divine 1373 AD Credits
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art / Cover: Ryan Kelly, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson
Images courtesy of Image Comics
Vampirella: The Gay You Know
Spoilers for Vampirella Volume 2: The God You Know (issues #7-#11 of Vampirella 2017)
So…my first comic review. Huh. Let’s see how this goes!
Okay, so this is the part where I confess to not having read a whole ton of Vampirella comics in my life. I mean, I’ve read some obviously, and I know who she is. You do too, even if you’ve never read a single issue. She’s this lady-
See? You know her. One of the classic queens of horror, first appearing in 1969 (and isn’t that a fitting year?) and as recognizable as Elvira. Sometimes she’s funny, sometimes she’s scary, and she’s always some degree of sexy. Oh, and if that swimsuit with a collar thing (I don’t know if there’s a specific name for that outfit) she’s wearing is a turnoff for you, it’s not what she looks like in the current run. She’s currently sporting this look-
So there’s that. Anyway, yeah, so I have mixed feelings about her in general, but the nice thing with a character as old as Vampirella is that you can generally find at least a couple stories to like of hers. She does a lot of crossovers too, meeting characters like Cassie Hack, Lady Death, and the Xenomorphs, so there should be a gateway drug for you lying around somewhere.
I haven’t read the previous six issues of this run. It was written by Paul Cornell, which is reassuring since not only is he a good writer (he’s written for Doctor Who and Elementary among others) but he is a big classic horror fan, he even has a podcast that’s just him and a friend watching the Hammer Horror library chronologically, so there’s that. The writer for these issues I’m going to be talking about though is Jeremy Whitley. He’s a good writer, probably best known for the series Princeless and The Unstoppable Wasp, as well as quite a bit of work on My Little Pony (and Secret Empire, but we’ll try not to hold that against him).
Now, since this is Vol 2, starting with issue 7, we are picking up in the middle of things. That…is a bit of a mixed bag. Overall, I’d say you can get a grasp on things without much difficulty. I managed to understand most of what was going on, but there will be moments of confusion. Especially in the first half of issue 7, which is wrapping up a bit of a convoluted mess about Vampirella meeting alternate versions of herself, probably in an attempt to square all the retcons of the past five decades. It’s interesting, but a bit of an odd place to start with. And keep in mind that this is Vol 2 of an ongoing series, not a mini-series or spinoff. So while there is a beginning, middle, and end to these issues, and I found the ending of issue 11 satisfying, it’s not a tidy ‘the end’ so much as a reasonably good ‘to be continued’.
Anyway, enough preamble, let’s get to the comic itself. Starting with
Since comics are a visual medium, it makes sense to start here. The art style of a comic is very important since it needs to convey as much, or even more, than the dialogue. And the art style for these five issues is…very specific. I say that because it’s very clearly trying to invoke Tales from the Crypt by EC Comics. Which makes sense, given the nature of a Vampirella comic. And it’s not bad. Not really. I’ve read Rob Liefeld, Ben Templesmith, Greg Land, and late Frank Miller works. Compared to those bundles of bad, this is fine. I know, it’s not the greatest praise, but that’s just never been my favorite art style. Characters sometimes look off model and weird, especially in terms of their faces, and there is an unreasonable amount of big 80’s hair for something set in the future, but it’s never more than a minor distraction and certainly never a turn-off. Okay, let’s move on to more important things to address.
So, what’s the plot? Well, we start off issue 7 in Vampirella’s mindscape, when she’s essentially having a lucid dream. That’s not made immediately clear, presumably because issue 6 initiates said dream and I’m probably not supposed to start with Vol 2, so it’s a little confusing at first and you have to grasp onto the context pretty hard. Basically, we start with Vampirella and…an attractive redhead in a maid costume. We don’t actually get a name for her until page 20, though again, I assume she was properly introduced in previous issues so I can’t really fault the comic for that. You shouldn’t have to write every issue as an entry point after all. Her name is Vicki, moving on. Vampirella and Vicki end up in a room with multiple alternate versions of Vampirella. Some are definitely actual incarnations of her, others I’m not so sure. This is, as I said mainly to square the circle of all of the various iterations of Vampirella, explaining that they were alternate versions of her that the one we’re following has absorbed into her own mindscape. Personally, I don’t care about this sort of thing (I’m not a fan of the ‘three Jokers’ thing DC is going with to explain the differences between the character over the years) but at the end of the day, it’s not a bad idea. And it stops being important pretty soon after issue 8, so no harm is done. It is neat to see this done, I just wish it was in the ‘real world’ of the comic.
Anyway, Vampirella learns the reason why she has a multiple choice origin story in her own head, why sometimes she’s an alien and other times she’s a demon, sometimes born in the Garden of Eden and other times in Hell, and she allows her alternate selves to move on, after a short brawl with some of the other alternates who aren’t happy with the situation. She briefly speaks to a bipedal cat and what I guess is a male version of herself, then wakes up to Vicki making breakfast and her cat Grit licking her. She is then confronted with the realization that she always has two friends, a sidekick, and a love interest, and since she’s not about to romance the cat…Vicki walks in with bacon, and Vampirella pretty much immediately starts crushing on her, wondering if this attraction is sudden or if it took finally getting to see Vicki happy and relaxed to realize how pretty she is. Either way-cool! Vampirella gets a female love interest this time around! And there’s no panic or really even much thought on Vampirella’s part just ‘guess I’m attracted to this girl, *shrug*’. Because of course, Vampirella would be bi. She specifically states later on that she’s attracted to males, females, and non-binary individuals, so yay!
Fairly quickly this niceness is interrupted by a crazy lady with a bomb in her exposed ribcage exploding the hell out of Vampirella’s home. This being the end of issue 7, with Vampirella’s internal monologue stating that there’s very little chance that Vicki will be able to survive this even with Vampirella shielding her with her own body, scared me a bit, I won’t lie. I was very apprehensive entering issue 8 and prepared to give a less positive review. Fortunately, Vickie does survive, despite having a very large piece of wood impaled in her stomach. An angry Vampirella stomps out to confront the bomber’s friends, four biker people with weapons who are all furious with her. What follows is a rather gory action scene as our heroine mauls three of them, but before she can follow through with the fourth is confronted with the realization that she didn’t actually kill any of them, despite ripping out one dude’s heart and yanking a chain out the back of another’s skull. Why aren’t they dead? Well…huh.
Okay, so we are again confronted with the fact that I have not read issues 1-6 of this run, so this next bit is confusing. That’s not the comic’s fault obviously, and it does a fairly good summary of summarizing, but a lot of context and background is left out as a result. What we know is that in the past, Vampirella destroyed Heaven…kind of. It was a fake, digital Heaven that was actually Hell apparently, one in which the Devil trapped God. So, with Hell destroyed (sort of, we find out later that Vampirella really just made it crash and a villain was able to turn it back on) and God trapped, there was nowhere for souls to go, and so nobody has been able to die. This has led to resource shortages and major wars, and as we see later Earth has essentially become Mad Max. Though on the bright side, this means that Vicki isn’t dead! Vampirella interrogates the motorcyclists, learning that they’re the followers of some big bad boss who had promised to send anyone who brings them Vampirella to Heaven, and sets off on one of their motorcycles with Vicki, intent on finding this person and getting them to heal Vicki.
Along the way they get attacked by some more punks in tricked-out vehicles, which leads to an interesting fight scene and the revelation that Vampirella can sprout big bat wings from her back. This mainly leads to the pair taking refuge in either an abandoned house or motel (not sure which, not that it matters), and Vampirella admitting that she’s fallen in love with Vicki. The two had previously kissed on the road before finding refuge, but now Vampirella briefly feeds on the redhead to heal herself, then the two have sex off-panel, since some stuff ‘is just for them’.
Eventually, they make it to the lair of the villain, and Vampirella knowingly walks into a trap, as she doesn’t fully realize the full effects of said trap. The two are captured, with Vampirella’s powers suppressed, and we find out who’s behind all of this-Pantha, a Vampirella side character, former ally, and formerly the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet. See, apparently, Vampirella slept for one thousand years, during which the Devil instituted the whole ‘trap God and make a digital Heaven’ plan. This plan included violent cyber angels, forcing people to buy there way into Heaven (resulting in a crappy childhood for Vicki as her mother was abusive and mainly utilized her to make more money) and…clown police…for some reason that’s not really explained or addressed in this volume. Again, not the comic’s fault. Anyway, the beginning of this resulted in the death of Pantha’s beloved partner, and this led to Pantha going on a bloodlust filled rampage, constantly being harassed and attacked by Satan’s minions until she gave up and went to work for him as a torturer. Now she’s furious, twisted and broken, with a grudge against Vampirella and a need to prove that Vampirella is the same as her and would break under similar circumstances. This is, admittedly, one of the most cliche villain motivations possible, it’s essentially just an abridged version of The Killing Joke, and I’d be lying if I said the comic put a new twist on it, but it’s serviceable.
Pantha tortures Vicki for a bit, choking her to the point that she’s rendered mute, but eventually relents in exchange for getting to toss the two into a colosseum. She even makes an offer that the first person to decapitate Vampirella or stab her in the heart will be sent to Heaven…an offer that is eventually accepted by Vicki, who stabs her lover in the back. Again, a somewhat worrying turn of events, but I’ll go ahead and say that it works out. Pantha fulfills her promise and sends Vicki to Heaven, and after some dark stuff involving the fact that there’s no food in Heaven but Pantha’s followers are being sent in their bodies instead of as souls and a scene of Pantha draining Vampirella’s blood supply and locking her in a room of children to break her, we find out that Vicki had a plan.
God is still trapped. And since this is the exact same digital ‘Heaven’ that Vampirella shut down, Vicki is able to find God and release her. Oh yeah, God’s a black woman in this universe, it’s great! Pantha is summarily defeated when other deities are released at the same time as God, namely by Ma’at, the Egyptian judge of the dead, and her beast Ammit. God, who loves love in any form, quickly takes Vicki to Vampirella, freeing the children and allowing Vampirella to save herself by feeding on Vicki. Then, with the digital Heaven collapsing, God takes the two back to the real world.
So, how is “The God You Know”? Pretty damn good! Fairly solid art, very solid writing (nothing groundbreaking mind you, but good), and of course wlw romance! Good things all around. I will say though, that I do not recommend this as an entrance to Vampirella, either the current 2017 run or to the character in general. It’s not bad! And it’s still fairly understandable despite not having read vol 1. But, unless you just hate Paul Cornell’s writing, starting with issue 1 just makes more sense.
So good storyline, mediocre starting point.
Vampirella Volume 2: The God You Know
Writer: Jeremy Whitley, Paul Cornell
Art: Andy Belanger, Creees Lee, Paulo Barrios, Rapha Lobosco
Cover: Andy Belanger
Images courtesy of Dynamite Comics
Full Disclosure: Review copy of this volume was provided to The Fandomentals
Greenbrier Games Wants You To Get In Touch With Your Inner Villain
When I called Greenbrier Games “eclectic” in my review of their previous game, I meant it. After moving from cuddly bears in Barbearians: Battlegrounds to dark adventures in Folklore: The Affliction (more on that in a future review), their next game will be an adaptation of Dirk Manning’s Nightmare World and Tales of Mr. Rhee horror comics from Image and Devil’s Due. Mr. Rhee: Surviving The Nightmare World will go live on Kickstarter on October 2nd, and I was lucky enough to get a little preview of it direct from Greenbrier.
An asymmetrical card game for 3-6 players, Mr. Rhee: Surviving the Nightmare World pits one against the many as a single player acts as a team of heroes, while the rest take up the role of vile villains working to stop them. The heroes, one for each other villain, must use the power of Hope to gather Fight, Charisma, and Magic and last six rounds against the gathered baddies. The hero player must last through all three Days of Darkness and keep evil at bay as they do. While they are assisted by the innocents in each location, they must manage their increasingly expensive powers that use more and more hope on each use.
Villains, by contrast, use the power of Greed to gather minions and spread them throughout the Nightmare World. They must be careful, however, as every Greed they use becomes Hope for the heroes. They also are not so united as they seem at first blush, with each villain pursuing their own win conditions. Villains win when they control two locations or meet their special win condition. While the game is meant to be quick, only about 30 minutes long, there’s a lot of replayability baked into the game thanks to the six villains and heroes available to players as well as the unique locations that can change from game to game.
Looking through the game and its rules, I was curious how it came to be. So I interviewed Julie Ahern, Greenbrier VP and COO as well as a lead designer on Mr. Rhee: Surviving the Nightmare World, to get the full scoop.
Dan Arndt: Where did the idea for a Mr. Rhee adaptation come from and how did it come to Greenbrier?
Julie Ahern: Board games are my first love, the Alpha and Omega of what I think about. Being one of the founding members of Greenbrier Games, that probably goes without saying, but while it is my primary interest, it isn’t the only one. I grew up reading Spider-Man and Batman, then getting into high school, my interests moved on to darker themes like in Spawn and Witchblade. However, once I started my master’s degree, the comic book world fell by the wayside, with a few exceptions like Sandman and Fables.
Over a decade later I’m working, and I get a text from my boyfriend, an artist, saying, “So my work cancelled this weekend…how crazy would it be to see if there are any last minute conventions we could drive to tonight and sell my stuff?” I replied, “Go for it.” Which is how I found myself at Fantasticon in Toledo, Ohio in the middle of February singing karaoke with one Dirk Manning. Nobody knew who I was, but he and Dan Dougherty make it a point to ensure everyone in the Midwest indie comic scene feels welcome. They, and many of the artists and writers, feel like my second family at this point.
Dirk will tell you that it was I who was begging him to use his comics to create a game… but like most good ideas, it started with an old fashioned rambling conversation, where he asked me, “If you made my comic into a game, what would it look like?” And having read (and reread) Nightmare World volumes 1-3, and Tales of Mr. Rhee volumes 1 and 2 extensively by then, I started spitballing ideas of what I would do if I were the one to make that game. He must have liked what he heard, because here we are now.
Dan: What sets “Mr. Rhee: Surviving the Nightmare World” apart from other games in the genre?
JA: When you read the comics Tales of Mr. Rhee and Nightmare World, they break your heart over and over… and yet I keep reading them, because of the baseline mission statement that is reinforced with every heartbreak. These are not superheroes, even if some of the protagonists do have some supernatural abilities. These are regular folk. They have been beat down and seen the worst that the world has had to offer. They could have buried their heads in the sand, but they have taken on the unwinnable burden of fighting for those who just want to ignore the awful things happening around them. The villains, for their part, and for their alliance, fall victim to their basic nature of wanting to have the biggest piece of the pie when the dust settles. They too, never quite reach the level of victory they desire because they cannot ever stay allied long enough to make that happen. I needed to make sure we got that right, while keeping the game as engaging as the comics themselves.
There are quite a few hero comic games now, and any number of cards games. When I started talking to Joshua Sprung about designing the game, I was adamant about a few things: First of all it is based on two horror comic series, and therefore I wanted a one versus many game where the villains were all working against the hero. Secondly, I wanted to include the Three Days of Darkness that happen in Nightmare World and Tales of Mr. Rhee.
These conditions made balancing the game quite the challenge at first, until Josh worked on the balance of power points. On a villain’s turn there are four cards laid out with Greed points the Villain may use to complete their actions of recruiting Minions, deploying them to locations, or moving them from one location to another. However, when they spend those points, it flips the card to the Hope side, where the hero now has points to spend on their Brawl cards to combat the villains. It is one part of the game play that causes constant interaction among the players, and builds the feeling of tension as the doom track of day and night countdown the Three Days of Darkness.
Dan: How did the game develop to fit Dirk Manning’s world? How did you work to help player’s feel immersed?
JA: Beyond the tension build which I described, Josh and I worked to make each character, whether they were hero or villain, play like they act in the comics.
A villain example would be William, a Lilim (child of Lilith) who works as head of security for the biggest corporation in the (Nightmare) World. His goal is to remove all officers in the game, presumably to put his own security force in their place. Meanwhile, Vanessa, an acolyte of Cthulhu, is trying to recruit Innocents for the Great Old One.
On the hero side, each character must use the brawl cards in the order of the character. So for example, if the location being resolved has Mr. Rhee there, he must use Magic first to try and isolate a Minion and annihilate it. If he does not have enough Magic to overcome that Minions resistance, he must choose to burn those cards to move on to Fight cards, or stand by and watch the innocents served up to the demons. Since the hero cards are a team effort, perhaps Charity, who uses Charm cards first on her turn, will have a better chance at saving Innocents. Like the horror comic itself, the heroes never defeat the villains, they only try to do the best they can to survive until the Three Days of Darkness end. If the heroes stop all the villains from achieving their win conditions, they win. It’s not an impossible task, but it is a tough one.
DA:Why have us play as villains?
JA: The game had to have villains for all the reasons I have stated above, but moreover… taking on the role of a villain is fun. As a villain you get to make interesting choices, which may serve team evil as a whole, or in part, or just yourself, while still presenting as doing a service for everyone. There is nuance to being a villain, as well as complexity and the freedom to make a huge range of choices that affect gameplay for everyone.
Dan: I’ve noticed you’ve added “Dirk Alerts” to the flavor of the game. What was the reason behind these?
JA: Mostly they are strategies for game play. Often, game play suggestions are presented in a designer’s section… but because Dirk playtested with us so much, he started narrating why he was making certain choices. Having his tone in the rule book was one more layer that seemed too… delicious to change. Joshua vetted them to ensure they are sound strategies, I promise.
Dan: What was it like working with Dirk directly?
JA: The great master of ceremonies himself? How do you catch lightning in a bottle? Dirk Manning is a complex as his world; he plays the heel but will take the time to get down on a small child’s level to talk to them and make them feel important. He will message you non-stop about every detail, but then send you words of encouragement and praise for your work. He is larger than life, has more layers than Peer Gynt, and I am happy to call him my friend.
The Kickstarter for Mr. Rhee: Surviving the Nightmare World will go to Kickstarter on Tuesday, October 2nd. You can read up on the Nightmare World at most comic shops as well as on Amazon or Comixology, and can learn about Dirk himself at his website. To find out more about all of Greenbrier’s games, you can check out their website.
Keep an eye on the Fandomentals for all the latest news on Mr. Rhee: Surviving the Nightmare World and other titles from Greenbrier Games