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Secreter Invasion

Posted in Correspondence

Change of pace: I’ve been migrating old blog posts, plus reading the excellent newsletter/blogs of Eero and Kieron, and it made me realize that the biggest barrier to me writing more (a thing I want to do) is that I’m often trying to write some big concept that’s been percolating in my brain for a while. I used to do more conversational posts and just drop some smaller ideas in, similar to Kieron and Eero. So I’m trying that again.

Ryan North’s Secret Invasion is one of the odder writer/subject pairings I’ve seen on comics. North’s a fantastic writer, I’m a sucker for event comics, but the combination here just doesn’t land. North’s penchant for stories hinging on some piece of science or engineering fits oddly into a miniseries based on a big event from years ago. When writing characters more on the periphery of the Marvel universe his fact-based writing works great—sure, Squirrel Girl’s brilliant solution is one that you can imagine a real person coming up with and that you can verify with a little time on Wikipedia. Alberta really doesn’t have mice!

But more centrally in the Marvel Universe having delightful real-world science facts solve fictional problems, like identifying Skrulls, is off-kilter with Reed Richards struggling with the problem for years. If the solution that gets rolled out in North’s Secret Invasion #2 works it kind of makes Richards, Stark, Banner, etc. seem like ridiculous over-engineers. Which could be the point, I guess—I’m on board with taking some characters off pedestals. But nobody figured out this (admittedly cool and real-world-science-based) solution the last time Skrulls were a big problem? Or the time before that?

I usually find the big shared superhero universes as additives to good stories, but here it subtracts. North telling a story of scrappy scientists detecting an alien invasion with clever reasoning sounds fantastic, but trying to fit it into a continuity comic took me out of it.

  • Speaking of stealthy alien invasions, my weekly video game group started a new Stellaris game with the new First Contact content pack. Messing with pre-FTL people is a favorite activity for me and at least one other player, so we were pretty pumped for this pack, but I wasn’t expecting it to also lean (slightly) into go-tall strategies. Most 4X games do a horrible job of go-tall (probably because it ignores at least 1-2 of the X’s) so I’m always curious to see how they add to the play space. The content pack doesn’t go all that far, but as my species built using the Fear of the Dark origin balanced exploration with the boosts offered by their “don’t go out there, it’s bad” pre-FTL separatist faction I was able to push a little less aggressively for exploration and zone of control.
  • Speaking of Ryan North, his Fantastic Four run is worth a look. The first couple of issues end up being a little repetitive, but when they’re fun reads anyway I’m not sure I care. His style is getting maybe a little locked in with each story being a sci-fi mystery solved via some clever idea with a basis in actual science, but he has the quality of writing to make it work.
  • Dead Belt is my current RPG reading. I’m not quite at the level of It Came From the Bookshelf, but I’m trying to make some steady progress on reading all the RPGs I buy. It’s a solid game in a lot of ways, but one of the things that most stood out to me was the use of the term “moves.” There are some rules here that look a lot like AW moves, with a “when” trigger and all that, but the usage of “move” in the text is used more generally. It seems like the term “move” is drifting further into the gaming vernacular meaning something like “the procedure for doing this thing” which might actually be a good thing. Terminology is always a mess, but this particular conceptual shift is one that leads to thinking about games as ways of doing more than a group of facts (leather armor increases your AC by 1, or whatever).

Sage LaTorra is a game designer and engineering manager at Google. You may know him from Dungeon World.

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