Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tommy's Take on Public Enemies

Public Enemies is the first "modern day" ICONS release from Vigilance Press, set in the same world as their World War II releases, just in modern times. It is a villain folio, focusing entirely on big, big bads. Every person here is meant to be a threat to be taken seriously.

The art, by the Louis Porter Jr. design crew, all has a very "90s" feel to it, and if you read comics, you probably know what I'm talking about. Lots of armor, grittiness, scars and ponytails. That's not a criticism, just an observation. Though not every piece was done by the same artist, there is a uniformity (is that a word?) to the art, giving it a distinctive feel.

In the introduction, we learn that Alcatraz has been converted into a Super Prison...although no one is sure exactly WHEN that happened...appparently supers have been locked away there since before the prison as we know it was shut down.

Presumably more of the setting will be revealed over time, as bits and pieces keep getting dropped here and there, such as something about the Scion, who are apparently an alien race that attacked the earth. This is relevant due because it ties into the backstory of Armory, the first villain on the list. She reminds me a bit like what would happen if Screaming Mimi had gotten the Moonstones instead of Karla Sofen (and if you don't read Marvel Comics, that sentence was lost on you).

Atrocity is the first callback to the World War II books, as he was the head of a program trying to duplicate the Eugenics program...now he's a nearly mindless, rampaging giant of a monster. After being turned loose on aliens, he's now even scarier. All I'm saying is, if you and your players thought Troll was a tough fight from the corebook? Eeeeesh...

Next, we meet Brainstorm, the Smartest Man Alive...and yeah, he probably is. Note that while he's not the physical juggernaut you expect from worldshaking villains, his Stamina IS still stacked, due to his willpower.

Remember how Plastic Man was a small time hood? Now picture him as a ruthless assassin. That's Garrote. He may sound like a joke, but he's got some scary stats.

Equinox are four elemental themed villains, genetically engineered to survive on other planets. They cover Earth, Air, Fire and Cold, instead of Water, with an even male-female split. My main gripe here is that we find out how they were created, but they are not mindless creatures and we don't really get anything on THEM...in fact, they have no Qualities or Challenges, except Gale Force, who is the CEO of Equinox Industries. (They do have Team Qualities and Challenges, but that doesn't tell us anything about them as individuals, making it hard to look at them as anything but a collection of powers).

Ground Zero actually isn't a villain...he's just a threat to all life on Earth, aside from Atrocity. He's also an incredibly interesting character because of it.

The Hollow Men are a group of superpowered homocidal killers led by a man who claims to be from the future, and his collected his band of maniacs to drive the population down below 1 billion. Unlike Equinox, these guys are pretty well developed...with Frazier absolutely convinced that he's only doing what is best to protect humanity from itself...and most of his killers seem to agree.

Omega is a CIA spook turned supervillain after acquiring an amazing weapon...and then turned themselves in so that USHER (this world's equivalent to SHIELD) could protect them from the creators of the amazing weapon...'cause they kinda wanted it back.

Overtone started off as a hero...until the other heroes realized that he meant to clean up the streets via murdering villains instead of locking them away.

Shillelagh is one of the fey folk, but he doesn't look like any kind of fey you typically see, bearing more of a resemblance to Hercules, physically speaking.

Skullcap is a soldier gone mad, who had has body heavily modified until he's now superhuman. Reminds me a bit of Crossbones from Captain America, upgraded to an A-list villain.

Stigma is the grandson of Big Ben (from the Crown Guard), and the twin brother of the current Big Ben...they kinda wound up on opposite ends of things, as comic book twins tend to. In a nice twist, he was scarred in battle with his brother and no matter how his face is repaired, his scar reappears every time he uses his growing powers.

Finally, we have Tower, who is a homocidal robot built by The Savant (who is apparently a former ally of USHER, and perhaps the only man as smart as Brainstorm...and not currently imprisoned in Rock City, hence his lack of inclusing in this book).

Once again, Vigilance Press impresses me with another strong entry, and their largest one to date. I'm curious to see if we are getting a full setting book, or more small supplements building a larger picture.

As for the book itself, several of the villains have no HARD ties to a setting...I mean, almost all of them have "Enemy: USHER"...but you could cut that out and replace it with the government watchdog agency of your choice. Others, you might have to tweak a bit more if you wanted to use them in your own setting as opposed to this one...(not tweak mechanically, other than changing the odd Challenge like Enemy: USHER, just tweak backstories)...Stigma is probably the one most heavily tied to the setting. Even Atrocity could have his backstory switched up with little effort if you wanted to remove him from the WWII-verse Vigilance Press has laid out.

If you like ICONS, get this. If you like supers stuff, it may still be worth it for idea mining, given the price point. As for me, I could see myself piecemealing a setting together from various ICONS products...