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Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises: Anticipation and Musings

Hello there Chaos Corner fans! welcome to another edition of this most "prestigious" blog. I am deciding to take a break from the usual 40K to do some musings on another perennial favorite of mine- Batman!

I have been a fan of Batman for as long as I can remember. As a young kid, I watched him in the various incarnations of the Super Friends. I had the action figures from the Superpowers team line and everything. Then, in 1989, I saw the Tim Burton Batman film. It is still an amazing film (flaws and all); but at the time, I was completely pulled in. Shortly thereafter, I began buying comics (A Death in the Family was the first... I bought it in trade paperback form). Batman started my whole interest in comics, which spanned years of collection and reading. Eventually, my interest in comics waned (then came back, then faded for good).

However, I still enjoy the occasional graphic novel (I can't read monthlies anymore), and I still enjoy a good comic book based movie. Of course, the Nolan Batman films have been among the very best comic adaptations put to film. Nolan haters be damned- Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are indeed the best adaptations ever. Don't get me wrong, I love X2, Iron Man, and the like. But, Nolan's Batman has been something SO different, so unique... and despite the liberties Nolan takes, he is respectful to the "core" of the Batman characters. Let's take a look at the previous 2 Batman movies, and then let's look at the possibilities for The Dark Knight Rises...

Batman Begins took me by surprise in 2005. The truth was, I didn't know that much about it going in. I had never seen a Nolan movie (though my brother swore by Memento at the time). I knew Bale from American Psycho, and I figured he'd be good. I knew that the guy from 28 Days Later was Scarecrow (weird casting at first glance), and that Liam Neeson was playing "Ducard", a mentor figure, and leader of the League of Shadows (though his mustache look like Ras Al Guhl- hehe! Ras was never a favorite of mine, though this movie went a long way to change that). So, I went to see it... and I was blown away. I loved it. The casting was pitch perfect (even Katie Holmes was good). The movie showed Bruce's journey from innocent rich boy to scarred teen to bitter adult. The theme of fear is prevalent- how fear (in various ways) has hurt Bruce, "Ducard", Gordon, Alfred, and Gotham itself. The film is about controlling your fear, and not letting it control you. This is absolutely clear as Bruce trains under "Ducard"- Bruce refuses to murder a criminal- Bruce wants to "get back" at criminals, but not by murder. Thus, Bruce breaks from the League of Shadows, determined to become symbol, Batman. The movie also does a great job of showing a Batman semi-grounded in reality. People think Nolan is "too realistic"... I think his world is like ours, but not quite... In any case, Batman Begins was great, and I was hoping for another from the same team...

Boy, did I get my wish. In 2008, The Dark Knight was released. Right from the title, you could tell that this was going to be special. If Batman Begins was a well told but ultimately "innocent" superhero story, The Dark Knight stripped that "innocence" away. It is a bleak story- Batman is on the cusp of accomplishing his vision- a Gotham free of crime. Helping him is Gordon, and DA Harvey Dent (played to perfection by Aaron Eckhart). Dent, in particular, can become a true leader, vital if Bruce is to save his city.

Of course, in this time of hope, the Joker emerges to ruin it all. I need not go into Heath Ledger's Joker- suffice to say that even though he's skin isn't scarred and he doesn't use "Joker-weapons" like in the books, his "core"- wanting to ruin or corrupt everything that is good and decent while creating enormous mayhem and suffering- is absolutely perfect. He is very much the vision of the Joker from The Killing Joke. In TDK, his "mission" is to stop Batman from saving Gotham, by corrupting it's heroes- pulling them down. What ensues is a deadly game of cat and mouse, with the clock ticking. You can literally feel the tension build with every scene. Batman makes incredible sacrifices here, both moral and physical, and Bale shines as Batman. The movie ends with the Joker SO nearly succeeding, with Batman and Gordon pulling a last ditch "trick" to save Gotham from disappointment and despair. The last lines of that movie gives me chills still. To save Gotham, Batman must give up the chance of being a heroic symbol. Batman is on an uncertain path, and so is the audience. A fantastic way to end a fantastic movie.

Of course, we knew we'd have another movie. They announced the third, and final movie. There was all kind of speculation as to who the villian(s) would be (I never thought Johnny Depp should be The Riddler. Not a chance). Then, they announced it would be Bane and Catwoman. I'm not thrilled on Catwoman, as she was never a favorite of mine.I loved Bane in the Knightfall storyline. It was one of my all time favorites years ago. I even have Vengeance of Bane and Batman #497 autographed. However, I was unsure how Nolan would bring Bane to life. 

Best. Poster. Ever

IMAX scene, and my knowledge of Bat-lore:

1. The League of Shadows is back, and Bane is their nominal leader. The way I figure it, Nolan has made Bane the "what if" guy... What if Bruce HAD killed that criminal in BB? Well, Bane is that answer. Bane is brilliant, strong, determined... all the things that Bruce is. If Bruce had given in and murdered that guy at "Ducard's" behest- he would have become something like Bane. Thus, I believe Bane is a dark image of Bruce... not an opposite (that's the Joker). Bane is Bruce gone to fanaticism. Extremism.

2. What does Bane want? The League was not destroyed in BB. Their leader Ras died (more on that in a moment), but they survived. Bane has taken over the League, and he has been watching and waiting. Planning for the day to purge Gotham, waiting until Batman was at his most vulnerable. The goal of the League of Shadows is to purge ALL crime/sin: restore "balance", as Ras said in BB.  The League wants to kill everyone in Gotham. Batman included. Partly for revenge, partly out of necessity. The fact that the League is back is a reminder of Bruce's only "sin"- letting Ras die. Yep- Batman's "original sin" will haunt all of Gotham now.

3. It's been 8 years since TDK. Batman and Gordon just barely saved Gotham from catastrophe. They built up Dent as a martyr for Gotham. Dent became the symbol, with Batman being in the shadows. For the past 8 years, Batman and Gordon (working secretly together), have managed to just about succeed in cleaning up Gotham. It's clear from the trailer, both with the mayor and Selina Kyle's words, that Gotham is about to enter into "peacetime". Just as this is about to happen, Bane strikes to ruin Batman's greatest achievement.

4. I notice Bruce with a cane in several scenes in the trailer. I don't think this is due to Bane breaking Batman's back at all. I think this is the physical price of being Batman. Bruce has given his all, breaking his body beyond repair. Listen to Alfred in the trailer for more on this point. I also think it has taken a mental toll- he is NOT a hero now... and despite his success, it's not enough. He has edged closer to desperation and fanaticism... fighting the good fight nearly alone, unloved, and unappreciated. Thematically, Bane will show Bruce the dangers of going too far to complete "the mission"... though how that will play out in the movie, I can't be sure.

5. HOW is Bane doing that? Looking at the trailers, you can see that Bane has tumblers (Batmobiles) of his won. Also, in the IMAX scene, Bane uses the same plane grappling trick that Batman used in TDK (albeit on  a larger scale). How is Bane using Batman's own tricks and technology? I believe that answer lies with one Miranda Tate, a member of Wayne Enterprises board of directors. She has access to Wayne files, and has given these ideas to Bane. Now, why would she do that? Well, it seems (unless Nolan is pulling an even faster one than this) that she is in fact Talia Al Guhl. She wants revenge for her father's death. Ultimately, SHE is the leader of the League of Shadows now. Bane serves the role that Bruce would have served if he had stayed with them. Now it all comes together...

6. I can't be sure where Catwoman fits in though. Of course, knowing Catwoman, its obvious that she is "independent" and can't be trusted. However, I think that in the end she will side with Batman against Bane. We haven't seen enough of her in the trailers to really see her role yet...

7. Bane will devastate Gotham, physically and morally (a theme of this series to be sure). Bane looks to blow up lots of things, like the football stadium. Bane also looks like he will try to destroy the symbol of Gotham- Harvey Dent. Did Bane figure out Gordon and Bats' lie? It looks that way from this pic, no doubt. If that's true, what will be the end game? Ah. Let's look at Dr. Pavel and what looks to be a big inspiration to Nolan in this film, Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. I suspect that the League intends to purge Gotham alright- with a nuclear device ("When Gotham is ashes... you have my permission to die" Bane says in the trailer). Nolan loves to have real world parallels. Pavel is a black market nuke scientist (AQ Khan- type). Bane kidnaps him in the IMAX prologue. Yes- Nolan is using (again) real world fears, but combining it with the comic.

How will it end? Ha. I can't imagine that Batman will die... but this series has broken the rules of comic book movies. I really don't know how it will END. However, I think it'll be a wild ride, no matter what happens... Let's come back to this blog in July and see how my predictions went!

Until next time Chaos fans...!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Chaos Interviews; The Man Behind the "Joe Maneuver" Part II

Hey there Chaos fans! We're back with the second part of our interview with Joe- a man both respected and feared in our gaming circle... A tough opponent who has a rather annoying strategy. Let's get it on! 

Q: How would you describe your approach to building an army list? That is, BEFORE a battle. In other words, what do you take into consideration when preparing a list?
 The first thing that I look at is the points limit, everything in a list stems from this. It must. Since we usually set a point limit advance, this is my first consideration. The second thing that goes through my head is what army will I be facing. I generally tailor my list to counter-act what I know are my adversaries strong points. Some would say this is reactive rather than pro active.  After I've dealt with that I begin to pick units that are general purpose as opposed to specialist ones...
      Q: Why do you do it that way?
 You see, while specialist units are great at one thing, they are next to useless outside of that special role. To me, that is a massive drawback. I prefer "tactical" units that can accomplish several roles if called upon, rather than the single role specialization offers. Of course, specialization can also be bad because specialized units tend to be points heavy; I'd rather spend the points elsewhere. I also avoid units that will be automatically targeted for no other reason than they were once devastating in a previous game like attack bike...

Q: Why don't you explain that nugget to our readers...?
In a game a long time ago, I used Black Templar attack bikes on you to rather devastating effect. The next game, you deliberately went after the bikes. And you've done that ever since. In fact, you always go after the bikes without regard to objectives or other considerations. As a result, I don't bother with them.

Q: Haha! Perhaps it's revenge for the dreaded "Joe Maneuver"... Speaking of, what kind of tactics and strategies do you employ? How would you classify yourself as a player?  
 I have always studied history, particularly military history.I would say that I favor a blitzkrieg  warfare bringing a large amount of firepower or manpower down on a single unit in quick time. This has been called the "Joe Maneuver" and those who use that term seek to be-little it without realizing its underlying intent...

Q: Joe- you've sent more than 3 units to kill of a unit that would be dead in a turn anyway... that's what I and others have termed the "Joe Maneuver"...

1.      As I was saying, the so-called "Joe Maneuver" seeks to always bring about a victory in combat while holding back casualties on my side, so when combat is over they are still viable units that will tough for you to deal with. Aside from that move, I tend not to go into a game with any sort of master plan. I believe that no plan survives contact with the enemy, and I seek to leave all my options open to exploit any openings that I might see. This is why I dislike specialist units that have only purpose. One style that is  frequently associated with myself is that I feel it is better to attack than to hold back seeking to gain those openings. You must grab the openings, but you can't wait forever. I would say that I agree with Napoleon when he said you must not simply defeat your enemy but destroy him. If I see an opening I will exploit it for all its worth. I think one of my weaknesses is the urge to create maximum destruction and confusion at the expense of an objective... that has cost me more than one game.

That's it for this one folks. We'll have Part III of this interview posted in a bit. Joe will discuss his favorite (and embarrassing) gaming moments, as well as what he'd like to see in 6th edition. Until next time...


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chaos Corner Interviews: The Man Behind The "Joe Maneuver" Part I

Hey there Chaos Corner fans. I'm back with another series of interviews, this time is with a guy who needs no introduction. Well, he does actually, since you guys don't know him, though I sure as heck do! Joe has been my friend since the earliest days of college- though it took him a whole semester to remember my name (admittedly, he's terrible with names). At any rate, we went through college together, taking various history classes as well as required courses (don't get us started on that Woman's Studies course we had to take to graduate). We had great professors (and awful ones), we fought through crazy classes, assignments, and butt-kissing students. We laugh now, but those are our war stories, so to speak.

Of course, Joe is also a 40K player and is one of my regular opponents. Joe has had a storied career in Warhammer 40K, having had several armies. Whereas Pete "The Hivemind" is strongly interested in the modeling aspects of the game, Mr. "Joe Maneuver" is squarely focused on the game play. Joe continuously refines his tactics and strategy. At times, the concept of the "friendly game" gets lost in the competitiveness, as Joe goes for the jugular in order to prove once again that he is the master tactician in our group.

 So, without further ado, let's start the interview...

Q: How did you first get into the hobby?

I first got into the hobby soon after I graduated college. My buddy Dave called me up and asked me some questions about the size of tanks in the military, specifically the relative size of them as compared to a foot soldier. When I asked him why he was so curious, he briefly explained the 40K game. He then invited me to hang out at our buddy Pete's house, he was gaming with his brother Steve. I found the game interesting, and then they asked if I would like to take a try at it. I agreed and was given some Space Marines and played a very small game. I enjoyed the game and began an army soon after.

Q: So your friends introduced you to it; but what made you interested in it? 

1.      What drew me in ? I guess since I have always been a military history buff and a fan of science fiction the background appealed to me and I have always liked to put together models. I like that it isn't a clean or pretty universe, it was as unlike Star Trek's clean future as you could get. The unusual appearance of the machines of war, such as the Dreadnoughts, were a plus as well. 

Q: Which armies have you played over the years? What got you into each army? 

I have played Eldar, Black Templar, Night Lords, and Blood Angels. With any army that I collect the most important thing is that I like the story behind them; it doesn't matter to me if they are not the most viable or "toughest" army. The Eldar are the first army that I collected. At the time they had a companion book that had several different lists in it called "Craftworld Eldar"...

Q: I remember that book. I liked those days; Craftworld, Eye of Terror, Armageddon...

I agree 100%. The Craftworld supplement had the better armies that could be tailored to any style that you liked, therefore not locking you into any one way to create a list. A small bit of appeal of the Eldar for me was that no one else had an Eldar army in our group yet everyone had a Marine army of some kind. The Eldar didn't function like any other army and had the most different, specialized units. The Eldar models look radically different yet still have the same feel: they clearly belong together; they're cohesive, which also drew me to them. 

Q: I had the beginnings of a Chaos army, as did my brother. But, I did also have Dark Eldar, so nah nah- I had a 'space elf" army first. And besides, you got a Marine army fast enough, didn't you?

Uh huh. The Black Templar were the second army I collected. The Templar had a warrior/crusader look and feel and had a different build than other marine armies. They also looked great painted with a simple and easy to do paint scheme. I have to be honest and admit that, while playing solely with the Eldar, I was getting a little tired of getting rocked by the 'Nids and the Plague Marines. Against those two armies I wasn't able to field a competitive Eldar force at an affordable price. Eldar had and still do have a large amount of expensive models in metal (and now Finecast)- this isn't so bad if the most effective units weren't all in metal. Templar as with most marines is predominantly plastic making far less strain on the wallet, truthfully. 

Q: Ah the Black Templar. I still remember the first time I shot up a squad and with their rules they actually charged me, despite their heavy shooting losses...

Ha ha! I still remember the look on your face... Your poor Plague Marines...

Q: Laugh all you want, but you were unable to avoid the slide into Chaos yourself, weren't you? 

True. I did start a Night Lords army. The Night Lords had great models and and interesting story line. And their rules were very cool. That is, in 4th edition. Sadly they became the army that I was the least enthusiastically collecting not because, as I started them the 5th edition codex was published and the legion lost all character. They were simply "vanilla Chaos Marines".  I lost interest in them after that.




 Q: Indeed, Chaos has fallen a long way, unfortunately. However, you mentioned it in relation to the newer books. Speaking of which, what are you working on now? 

The Blood Angels are the latest army that I have started to collect. I have always loved the idea of the Death Company, the Rage, etc. The back story is great and the new models and rules are fantastic. 

Q: So, of all your many armies, which is you absolute favorite? 

I can honestly say that I don't have a favorite army- it will depend on what time you ask me that question truthfully. I will always favor the Eldar because they are my original army and I'm still the only one to game with them in our gaming group- I don't count your Dark Eldar because they aren't true Eldar. I'd say the Blood Angels are the most viable right now but how long that will last is anyone's guess.

So, that concludes part one of our interview with Mr. "Joe Maneuver". I'm sure you're all asking the question "why is he called 'Joe Maneuver' anyways?", but don't worry- we shall answer that in the next interview. Let's just say it has to do with a rather interesting (ie. annoying) strategy that Joe uses in 40K. Until next time my friends...