Author Archives: The Angry Piper

Board games, too, now.

Since this pandemic started, I have picked up quite a few board games based on recommendations, reviews and…well, just because. Sadly, this isn’t something I can blame Roger for; rather I must blame a guy I follow on Instagram, @geekdesignergorssky, for always posting about board games that are on sale on Amazon. Some of the deals are pretty hard to resist (35%-50% off!). For example: Gloomhaven, a game I DID manage to resist buying, was on sale for $79.00 USD not too long ago (with free shipping, of course). The game retails for $150.00 USD retail, and the box weighs over 20 lbs. (really). That’s an insane deal. But I said no and I don’t even think about it every single day. (It’s currently $114.00 USD on Amazon.) The fact that I have no one to play these with never even entered my mind.

These are some of the games I have purchased (or been gifted) over the last year. I say some, but what I mean is these are the ones with miniatures. There are others, like Ravensburger’s JAWS game and, oddly enough, a Pac-Man board game (with real arcade sounds!) I bought because I thought it would be a fun pandemic activity. Apparently I’m the only one who thinks that, since I haven’t played any of them yet.

This month, in addition to my Character of the Month (still to come), I’ve decided to focus on getting some of these miniatures painted and ready for the table. I picked the game I’m most excited about playing: Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps, by Gale Force 9. It comes with 7 Marines and 16 Xenomorphs that will require paint; plus I picked up this miniatures expansion because all 4 minis are awesome. (You get a gooey Bishop, which either sounds like a weird drink or a depraved act, take your pick.)

I assembled most of the miniatures yesterday. The marines go together pretty easily; but as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I have no patience for plastic miniatures anymore. I found the Xenomorphs to be needlessly complex with a two part body, a separate head, two separate arms, a tail and a base, for a total of seven pieces each. Four pieces (a solid body/head, two arms, a tail and the base) would have been better; and far less time-consuming and annoying to assemble. They look cool, but their tails are flimsy and fiddly as fuck. I just know they’re going to be constantly snapping off.

The other game isn’t technically a board game at all; it’s Warlord’s’ Cruel Seas, my first foray into naval wargaming (if I ever get to play it). This starter box was a gift from Santa (who is absolutely not interested in playing this or any other tabletop game, and has said so on multiple occasions). The starter comes with 4 German S- Boats and 6 British Vospers; but I have a few extra German boats thanks to the free sprues I got with wargaming magazines. This game was all over the place a couple of years ago, but I don’t see much written about it now, although they’ve made expansion fleets for the US, Italy, Japan and Russia in addition to the German and British ships you get in this starter set, so someone must still be playing it.

Anyway, I expect the Colonial Marines will take the most time; and I may not get them all done by the end of April. On the other hand, Xenos and PT boats are hardly challenging models to paint and I should be able to zip right through them just in time for Monster May(hem) in May!

More on that…and a brand-new After Action Report…coming soon!

Soaking up the Thirst of the Land…

Ladies and gentlemen, I present: AQUAHOMBRE!!!!

Of all heroes, I didn’t set out to repaint and rebase Aquaman. It came about quite by accident. Recently I had a quick rummage through the bitz box on an unrelated project, and I discovered this Aquaman Heroclix left over from a Forgotten Heroes conversion I did back in 2018. I had popped him off his dial and used the water spout to make the Water Wizard.

(I never throw anything away. That Water Wizard was also made from a Quicksilver body and a Weather Wizard head; the Weather Wizard’s body was used to make the Aquarian. along with a head from a different Aquaman miniature, the hook of which was used on this Pulp Figures conversion. Finally, the Quicklsilver head was used the year before to make Jack Frost, along with a body from a Heroclix Scorpion. As for Scorpion’s head, I have no idea where that ended up.)

The entire time I worked on this conversion, this song was running through my head. It will run through your head too, if you listen to it. It’s insidious, and you will grow to like it. It drove me so nuts I looked up the video on YouTube. It reminded me how much I love this movie, because…Julie Adams. I know, right? What is it with girls named Julie? Adams, Newmar, Christie…it’s a good name, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, I had some “seaweed” and some shells left over from my Under the Sea diorama last month, so that got me thinking of making another underwater base. Since Aquaman is at his coolest in his element (as cool as he can be, anyway), it seemed appropriate to base him underwater. Again, credit to Eons of Battle for the base tutorial.

And here he is. I painted his stupid water hand to look like flesh so he would better resemble the classic, lame-ass Aquaman we all know and mock. (“Go talk to some fish!”)

Here’s my attempt at making Aquaman cool; although if Jason Momoa can’t do it, who am I to think I can? He was a fun little project in the midst of some others, and it’s been a while since repainted some ‘Clix. It’s a bit of an amuse-bouche for June…when Forgotten Heroes comes around again!

Raphinfel, “The Adored”

My “Character of the Month” for March isn’t MY character at all. Raphinfel, “The Adored”, is the creation of Jon, producer and creator of the brilliant Tale of the Manticore podcast, which you should all be listening to. As such, Raphinfel’s story isn’t mine to tell, so apologies in advance for those expecting my customary prose. You can hear it for yourself by checking out Tale of the Manticore: 31 short episodes and counting, all really good.

Unless I’m completely missing the point, I can say with a fair degree of certainty that Raphinfel is a wizard. Not the good kind of wizard. The other kind.

The miniature I used is Lamann, Sorcerer (02807), by Reaper Miniatures, sculpted by James van Shaik; but as I said, Raphinfel is a Wizard (actually called a Magic-User in Basic Dungeons & Dragons), not to be confused with the “official” D&D Sorcerer class, which will get its own “Character of the Month” at some point.

Although I’m pretty happy with how he turned out (and hope Jon is, too), this miniature would be a perfect miniature to display some Object Source Lighting (OSL) techniques as that crystal ball is begging for it. But I suck at that, and I wanted Raphinfel to look good, not sucky. Maybe if I wasn’t on a timetable I would be more inclined to mess around, but to be honest I’m a coward when it comes to risking the work I’ve already put into a model.

I haven’t decided what class will be featured next month yet. In the meantime, Imperial Rebel Ork has put out a call for hobbyists to display their geeky T-Shirts this month. Although I have far too many to display, here are a couple I’m proud of.

I bought this at Gen-Con in 2012, and to be honest I forgot I had it. It recently resurfaced from the depths of my dresser. While I was disappointed by Cloverfield, I have never been disappointed by my old furry pal, Grover. (He’s the Monster at the End of this Book, after all.)

Next, This T-shirt just arrived yesterday, all the way from Ireland, which is why it’s so wrinkled from the long trip over the water. It should come as no surprise to any who regularly visit this site that I would be powerless to resist the Vitruvian Dwarf, made by Quertee, purveyor of limited edition T-shirt designs. I am trying desperately not to give in and buy their “Surf Arrakis” and “Let’s Summon Demons” shirts. I’m managing.

So far.

Anyway, this fulfills my Character of the Month resolution with weeks to spare, unlike last month. New post soon!

Aramise Del’Arco; Arbiter of Disputes

Well, I’m not off to a good start with my 2021 Resolutions. I’m already a month behind on my Character of the Month. For Fem-bruary’s character I chose a to paint a fighter; and here she is, better late than never. Nevertheless, being late doesn’t get me off the hook for another character this month, so watch this space for my official submission for March. In the meantime, this miniature is Rhaine, Rogue; from Reaper Miniatures, sculpted by Werner Klocke. At least, that’s what she’s called now. My blister said “Rhaine, Duelist”; so I decided to stick with that concept for her backstory.

Among the rich and powerful nobility of Evalaux, disputes are often settled at swordspoint. Despite this, most nobles barely know which end of a dueling saber or pistol to hold, never mind how to employ one for its intended purpose. The richest noble houses have fencing masters on staff, ready at a moment’s notice to avenge an insult or satisfy the slighted feelings of their patrons. If, however, yours is not one of the richest houses; or if you have recently suffered the inconvenient (yet permanent) loss of a fencing master due to poor job performance, then you must hire one; else be at the mercy of the social jabs and thrusts of the aristocracy.

Aramise Del’Arco is the most sought-after duelist in Evalaux. She has been offered fencing master positions at the most prestigious and wealthy houses; positions she has declined. Some of the masters of these houses saw her refusal as an insult and made the poor decision to hire a duelist of their own to seek redress. Aramise Del’Arco killed every one without compassion or apology. Thus, the nobility of Evalaux must content themselves with never having the best duelist under permanent retainer; and they must fear that Aramise Del’Arco may one day show up on their own doorstep in the employ of a rival.

Aramise Del’Arco does not work solely for the nobility. In the crowded streets and back alleys of Evalaux, crime lords, cults and other nefarious organizations have all used her talents. Provided you can afford her, Aramise Del’Arco is for hire. But be certain you pay the bill when it comes due.

You may ask why. An illustrative example: before he was known as “No-Nose, One-Eared, One-Eyed Rickard”, Rickard the Butcher was a man to be feared in the dark underworld of Evalaux. When he decided to send three bravos after Aramise Del’Arco rather than pay her fee for her elimination of a rival, Aramise Del’Arco gave him the visually-appropriate nickname he enjoys at present.

As for the bravos, they didn’t get nicknames. They just got dead, and Aramise Del’Arco got her money.

Aramise Del’Arco is a mystery. No fencing master in Evalaux can say she was their pupil or their classmate. No one knows where she came from or how she became so skilled with a blade. All that is known about her is that she is quite possibly the finest swordswoman alive; and that she will work for anyone who meets her price. Once hired, she will work until the terms of the contract have been fulfilled. She cannot be bought off or bribed; but make no mistake: she is no assassin. If an opponent dies in the course of a lawful duel, then so be it; but she will not murder for hire, and sad indeed is the person who would make the mistake of assuming so.

I instantly fell in love with the “unofficial” duelist character class when I saw it collected in Best of The Dragon (magazine) Vol. 4, and promptly made one of my longest-running AD&D characters ever: a half-elf duelist who constantly found himself embroiled in political games with players much bigger than he. I used him as an inspiration for this Character of the Month.

Check back soon for March’s submission!

Fem-bruary: Under the Sea…

Got the song in your head? good. I’d put a picture of Sebastian the crab here, but the Mouse is known to be one litigious rodent…

Anyway, it had to happen eventually. I made a diorama. I’ve never done one before. While I can marvel at and enjoy a good scene as much as the next guy, I’ve always been more practical when it comes to painting miniatures. I do so assuming I will use them in a game someday (see how that has turned out), so keeping miniatures locked in place holds little utility for me. That, coupled with my ambivalence towards scenery-making, has pretty much kept dioramas off my personal hobby list until now.

Behold: The Mermaids’ Grotto. I actually had the idea to do this a few years ago, but shelved it because I couldn’t get excited about making a diorama. I pretty much followed the tutorial from Eons of Battle for constructing underwater bases. The seaweed is made from twist ties; the shells are from a novelty candle that was full of pink sand (don’t ask), and the “rock” is pink XPS board.

All the miniatures are from Reaper’s Dark Heaven line. This one is Children of the Zodiac: Pisces (03300), sculpted by the legendary Sandra Garrity. She was the first one I painted.

This is Pearl, the Mermaid (03078), sculpted by Werner Klocke.

And finally, Coral, the Mermaid (03554) sculpted by Gene Van Horne. This miniature required some cutting and repositioning, as her original pose was this:

As you can see, her tail disappears for a while under the surface of the water. This wasn’t going to cut it in a scene that’s supposed to take place on the ocean floor, so out came the nippy cutters and the green stuff. It’s not a perfect join, but it looks ok.

The octopus and the eel were from Familiar Pack VII, which features a bunch of aquatic critters.

Here’s another shot of Pisces.

Halfway through making this diorama, I realized that my first Fem-bruary submission shows a lot of boobs. Don’t get me wrong, boobs are great; it just wasn’t really my intent to focus so much on them in a month celebrating female miniatures. (I’m not a teenager. It’s just that most mermaids aren’t particularly modest.)

I’m hoping to get a couple more female miniatures done soon, one of which will be my D&D Character of the month; so watch this space.

Fem-bruary is upon us!

Ever since Roger from Rantings Under the Wargames Table lent his dulcet tones to the Imperial Rebel Ork Podcast; I’ve been hooked. In fact, I’ve binged all of IRO’s excellent podcasts over the last couple of weeks (yes, that’s right, yet another thing to blame Roger for). It was through listening to IRO’s musings and hobby spotlights that I recently was made aware of a painting challenge heretofore unknown to me: Fembruary, the brainchild of one Leadballoony, a hobbyist also heretofore unknown to me; but one I will certainly follow now.

The rules, such as they are, appear quite simple. Paint at least one female miniature in the month of February. That’s it.

Well, I can do that. In fact, I’ll go one step further and paint ONLY female miniatures in February. Not because I’m an overachiever; but because I have a lot of female miniatures that need paint. (I’m in the middle of working on a diorama that features only female miniatures anyway, so I can count that, too.)

Of course, as cool as Fembruary is, it doesn’t excuse me from my prior obligations (read: Resolutions): like painting a Dungeons and Dragons character class for February. Only this time, she’s gotta be female.

No problem. I got this.

So, fair warning: although as everyone knows Dead Dick’s Tavern is usually a bastion of testosterone and sheer, unbridled masculinity (because of ME), next month I will showcase some badass lady miniatures that have waited far too long for paint.

I encourage all of you to do the same.

Kurn Velden, High Priest of Yevona

For my first character of 2021, I created a cleric. The miniature I chose is the War Priest kit from Avatars of War. I picked this miniature for three reasons: one, because he’s awesome; two, because I have had him for at least 8 years; and three, because he was sitting in my side pile, and I didn’t get to him (or anything else in the pile) like I wanted to in December.

Like most Avatars of War miniatures, this kit offers choices when it comes to assembling your hero. I chose two hammers, but I also had the additional options of giving him a holy symbol or a shield. If you have to ask why I would choose two warhammers over these other options, then welcome to Dead Dick’s Tavern, because you’re obviously new here.

While I painted him, I thought up a back story. Here it is:

Yevona is the goddess of purity and virtue, healing and knowledge in the service of good.  Yevona’s clergy are many, and are primarily clerics, although many monasteries and knightly orders serve the goddess as well. Priests, mendicants, friars, and healers revere Yevona, as do all good-aligned beings. Several orders of paladins and warrior-priests protect her Faithful and bring her light where it is needed most (and often welcomed least).

Kurn Velden is one of the goddess’s most devout and zealous faithful, raised as a foundling by the Sisterhood of Chadirra; a female monastic order devoted to healing and wisdom. Although the order is peaceful and pacifistic, there have been times in the Sisterhood’s past when they came under threat. As a result, they created the office of Champion of the Order; a position traditionally filled by the most qualified sister, most often a former warrior or soldier retired to the cloistered life. Kurn Velden is the first male to ever hold the office; because, despite the peaceful teachings of the Sisterhood, Kurn Velden has a talent for war.

Velden wields the Strikers of Undjask; twin magical warhammers forged in centuries past, once borne by one of Yevona’s greatest paladins and imbued with the power of the goddess herself. These divine artifacts are potent against the forces of darkness, especially the undead. (D&D 5E: On a critical hit against any undead creature, the Strikers automatically cast Divine Smite at Velden’s current level. This does not use a spell slot.)

While some in the order disapprove of his zeal for combat, others recognize him as a gift from the goddess; a bulwark against those who would do the order harm. Those who would threaten the Sisterhood will find Kurn Velden all too ready to meet them, singing a song of praise to the goddess with hammers in hand.

These pictures were taken with my new iPhone, which seems to work just fine with WordPress now. I use the same camera for my Instagram photos. The resolution is insane, so any flaws (and there are many) stick out like a sore thumb. Less work for me, but more unforgiving. Good and bad, I guess…

Marvel Super Heroes: Taken to Task: Conclusion!

“HULK…SMASH…HULK…SMASH…” The robotic Hulk grabs a nearby crate and hurls it at the heroes.

“I’ll say one thing for Machinesmith,” says Hawkeye, ducking, “he really nailed Hulk’s personality.”

“Relax,” says Spider-Man. “It could be worse. We could be fighting the actual Hulk.”

“You fought the…?” asks Power Man, circling the green behemoth, awaiting an opening.

“Yep,” says Spidey. “It was very un-fun.”

“Time to introduce this robotic wannabe to my steel-hard skin…” begins Power Man.

“…and 300 lbs. of solid muscle,” finishes Cyclops, distracting the robot with a full-force optic blast. “Yeah, we know. Go for it.”

Power Man charges the Hulk robot, giving it his best Sunday punch. He connects solidly, knocking it back a full ten feet, splintering crates and dropping it to its knees. Sparks fly from the exposed robotic “brain” as it slowly stands upright. “Nope,” says Hawkeye firing an incendiary arrow. “Definitely not the Hulk.”

Daredevil’s radar sense reveals something odd. “This room is a lot bigger than it looks,” he says.

“One thing at a time,” says Cyclops, firing at the Hulk robot again. The green machine seems to be shrugging off most of the damage, until Spider Man decides to attack the head directly. Unshielded, the delicate mechanisms that animate the robot begin to fail. All five heroes concentrate their attacks on the head, until a few minutes later when the robot suddenly stops moving and falls over stiffly, managing a final “HULK…SMASH…” before falling permanently silent.

With the help of Cyclops’s optic blasts and Power Man’s fists, the heroes break through a series of false walls that lead into what was, until recently, the Machinesmith’s secret lab. Scattered among robotic schematics and diagrams are several unfinished robotic frames and one robotic head bearing the likeness of Machinesmith himself. Hawkeye picks it up and stares at it.

“Alas, poor Machinesmith…” he begins, before Cyclops snatches it from him irritably. “There’s a camera in here, recording everything, ” the X-Man says.

“That explains why they were watching us,” says Power Man. “Machinesmith is making movies. Why would he do that?”

“Someone paid him to, it seems,” Daredevil says. “Stands to reason it would be the same person who hired the Circus of Crime to attack you and Hawkeye. Machinesmith is long gone now. His consciousness could be anywhere, in any robotic body. How are we going to find out who’s really behind this?”

Spider-man, hanging upside-down on his webbing, slowly descends into the midst of the group. “I think I know where to look,” he says, holding up a map of Coney Island, circa 1945.

“Coney Island?” asks Cyclops. “Why there?”

“Because some fool circled a warehouse here with a big, fat, red magic marker,” says Power Man, pointing at the map. “Looks like a clue to me, Scoob.” He turns around, coming face to upside-down face with Spider-Man. The two stare at each other for a moment.

“You want to kiss me, don’t you?” asks Spider Man. “It’s ok. I get that a lot when I’m in this position.”

Cage grins. “It’s gonna hurt real bad when I hit you, wall-crawler.”

“Coney’s not that far away,” Cyclops says. “Let’s go.”

About half an hour later, the heroes arrive at the address in Coney Island to find yet another warehouse, one that was once converted into a factory. It looks to be condemned, but some bricks have crumbled on the facade, revealing an old faded marquee for Cheezo the Clown’s Coney Island Circus Show. Seems the Circus of Crime used the name deliberately.

“Should we knock?: asks Hawkeye. Power Man tries the security door. It opens easily. Inside, all is in darkness. Daredevil senses mostly open space. Hawkeye is about to fire off a flare arrow when the lights suddenly come on, revealing the main factory floor has been converted into a three-ring circus ground! A series of raised catwalks crisscrosses the floor, forming a mazelike upper level.

Cyclops barely has time to notice that his portable Cerebro unit is active; indicating there is a mutant of significant power nearby, before a gravelly voice comes over a hidden loudspeaker. “Hawkeye. Power Man. Good to see you again. I have been watching your performances with great interest, as well as that of your friends. But I have friends too! Meet my star performers!”

One by one, a spotlight illuminates each of the rings, revealing a figure standing within.

“Blacklash! Master of the bullwhip!

“Huh.” Power Man cracks his knuckles. “I slapped this fool silly once already,” he says.

“I did it first!” says Spider-Man.

Oddball! The deadliest juggler in the world!

“The ‘deadliest juggler in the world’? Seriously?” says Cyclops. “You know I’ve fought Magneto, right?”

And last, but certainly not least: Trick Shot! The greatest of all archers. But wait…isn’t that supposed to be you, Hawkeye? Ha Ha Ha!”

“Friend of yours?” asks Daredevil. Hawkeye scowls at the sight of his former mentor, but says nothing.

Suddenly, another spotlight illuminates the catwalk network above. Standing high overhead, the skull-visaged face of Taskmaster leers down at the heroes in triumph. “By all means, fools, let us fight,” he says, “as gladiators did in circuses of old. This whole arena has been wired with cameras. Upon your defeat I will be able to study every move you make, so that my photographic reflexes can ensure that your skills become mine!”

“You have to beat us first,” says Hawkeye, nocking an arrow. Before he can fire, however, he is struck by a razor-tipped arrow fired from Trick-Shot’s bow! A few inches to the right, and it would have been curtains for the Avenger! Spider-Man bounds up to the catwalk to face Taskmaster while Power Man charges Oddball!

Daredevil leaps into action, hurling his billy club at Blacklash and following up with an acrobatic flying kick that knocks the villain clear out of the ring and into the darkness beyond. Some would hesitate to pursue; but darkness is no hindrance to a blind man, and so Daredevil follows him as he does all things…without fear!

Power Man doesn’t quite reach Oddball before the evil juggler tosses an explosive ball directly at him. Not missing a beat, Cage catches the ball and hugs it close, containing the blast as best he can. It stings, but it’s nothing he can’t handle. A moment later and he has hold of Oddball, crushing him in a bearhug that robs the juggler of his breath! He collapses, colorful balls falling to the ground around him like…well, like a lot of balls falling to the ground at once.

Spider-Man takes a swing at Taskmaster, but the mutant mercenary easily avoids it. “You forget, Spider-Man…I’ve studied you already. I know your every move. Much like Captain America!” He hurls his steel-alloy shield at the wall-crawler, who manages to catch it. “You can’t possibly beat–ARRRRRGH!” Taskmaster screams as Cyclops opens up with an optic blast from the ground floor. He wasn’t expecting it, and that leaves him vulnerable. Spider-Man promptly smacks Taskmaster with his own shield!

Meanwhile, Hawkeye decides it’s time to put down Trick Shot for good. Unfortunately for him, Trick Shot thinks the same about Hawkeye. The two trade explosive arrows, and both hit! If Hawkeye wasn’t already wounded, he may have been able to withstand the blast; but instead both hero and villain are knocked unconscious! Somewhere in the darkness, Blacklash is trying desperately to see Daredevil. But he can’t whip what he can’t see; and he soon falls beneath the merciless fists of the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen!

That leaves Taskmaster alone, and quite outnumbered. The canny mutant knows he has lost, and knows the time has come to flee. He whips out his sword and lunges at Spider-Man, hoping to force the web-swinger to retreat. It doesn’t work. Spider-Man dodges easily, and, still holding the Taskmaster’s own shield, uses it to knock the villain out cold and off the catwalk in one smashing blow!

Later, after the NYPD has been called and the villains have been carted off, the five heroes regroup outside what was once Cheezo the Clown’s Coney Island Circus Show.

“Not bad for a day’s work,” Hawkeye says, sighing.

“Yeah?” asks Power Man. “I get paid when I work, Avenger. Doesn’t look like anyone’s paying me today. Only one who looks happy is web-head over there.”

“Wealth and fame, he’s ignored,” says Daredevil. “Action is his reward.”

Cage nods. “To him, life is a great big hang-up.”

And wherever there’s a hang-up, True Believers, you’ll find the Spider-Man!

END

Marvel Super Heroes: Taken to Task Part 2!

“Ok, fellas,” Spider-Man says, “I’m gonna see if I can get a fix on our bearded, junk-food loving friend. Try to keep up.” Spider-Man leaps a full 30′ straight up, then fires a web at a nearby flagpole, zip-lining across the street.

“Sweet Christmas!” says Power Man. “How are we supposed to keep up with that?”

“Easy,” says Daredevil, grinning. “I’ll follow him, and you can follow me.” Without waiting for an answer, he nimbly scales a nearby fire escape, landing on the roof seconds later.

“I knew I should have brought my skycycle,” Hawkeye sighs.

Meanwhile topside, Spider-Man quickly homes in on the buzzing of his spider-tracer. A few minutes later, he catches sight of his quarry: the same bearded, trenchcoat-wearing man he saw earlier, still holding a stick of what was once ice cream in his hand, now-completely melted. The man is walking away from the CTB Center grounds; not rushing, but definitely moving with purpose. Spider-Man follows for while, keeping out of sight on the rooftops. Daredevil uses his radar sense to keep tabs on Spider-Man while keeping in sight of the other three heroes, who follow along on the ground as fast as they can.

After a few minutes, the man suddenly stops, turns and stares directly at Spider-Man; then takes off at a speed far beyond that of a normal human. Were it not for his spider-tracer, Spider-Man would be left in the dust. The mysterious man makes a beeline southeast, quickly reaching speeds of almost 40mph at a run with no sign of tiring. It’s all Spidey can do to keep up as the man runs parallel to FDR drive, heading through Midtown to the Lower East Side before crossing the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn some 20 minutes later.

“I guess you can travel faster on foot than I thought,” says Spider-Man, coming to a rest on one of the bridge pylons to wait for the others. Once they are all together again, Spider-Man follows the tracer to a warehouse in Red Hook, where the heroes find the man and three others who look just like him awaiting them on the roof of a warehouse that looks to be abandoned. All of the men remove their overcoats and hats, revealing one-piece coveralls underneath.

“Check out those beards. Those are serious facial accessories,” Hawkeye says aloud. Daredevil has no comment. Three of the men spread out in a triangular pattern, each fixating on one of the heroes, while the fourth moves quickly to the rooftop door into the warehouse. “We’ve got a runner!” Cyclops says.

“I’ll head him off at the pass,” Spider-Man replies, bounding off the side of the building.

“I don’t like how they’re just staring at us,” says Power Man. “Gives me the creeps.”

“I’ll lay down some modesty for you, big guy,” says Hawkeye, loosing a smoke arrow.

As the purple vapor begins to billow throughout the area, Daredevil notices something peculiar with his enhanced senses: none of these men have a heartbeat! “They’re not human!” he exclaims. “They’re robots!”

“Then that makes things a lot easier,” says Cyclops, adjusting his visor and letting fly an optic blast.

“Time to introduce these turkeys to my steel-hard skin and 300 lbs. of solid muscle!” says Power Man, moving towards the trio.

Behind his hand, Hawkeye theatrically whispers to Daredevil: “He really needs to work on that battle-cry.”

The battle on the roof is brief, and the heroes pull no punches. Daredevil accounts for one, while Luke Cage and Cyclops both battle the others before Hawkeye puts them both down for good with electro-arrows, short-circuiting their systems. Once again, Daredevil’s senses alert him of danger just in the nick of time; and he exclaims “They’re going to explode!” mere seconds before they do…

Meanwhile, the fourth man rushes into the rooftop entrance to the warehouse and down the stairs, barely having time to reach the second floor catwalk before Spider-Man crashes through a boarded-up window on the side of the building!

“Hiya, Baldy!” Spider-Man says, “Miss me?” Inside, the warehouse looks disused and mostly abandoned; although there are crates and boxes covered with dusty tarpaulins scattered about the ground floor, some of them quite large. Both Spider-Man and the mysterious man face each other on a second-story catwalk that runs the perimeter of the interior. Spider-Man’s spider sense warns him just before the man lunges at him. Spidey evades him easily and gives him a light smack in return, which is when he notices the man’s skin is harder than normal; in fact, it’s completely artificial.

“Heeyyyyy….” he says, “you’re one a them there robots, a’int ya?” Armed with that knowledge, Spider-Man makes quick work of him, putting him out of commission just as a huge explosion blows a whole in the ceiling, tumbling The remaining four heroes inside. Sizing up the situation, Cyclops blasts the prone body of Spider-Man’s opponent, reducing it to debris before it, too, can explode.

The heroes barely have time to catch their breath when a mechanical voice is heard from a hidden loudspeaker:

“Well, well…I must commend your resourcefulness, heroes…I truly didn’t think you’d make it this far. But where others may panic, I see further opportunity for profit!”

“The Machinesmith!” Daredevil exclaims. “I recognize the voice!”

“I remember, now,” says Hawkeye. “He’s in the Avengers’ files. Captain America told me about him. How come you didn’t recognize him from all his robots?”

“I…uh…didn’t get a good look at him,” says Daredevil.

The voice continues. “Unfortunately, I must depart, as my benefactor now has his merchandise. In the meantime, I’ve arranged to broadcast this bonus material to him, so be sure to put on a good show! Mu hu ha ha ha ha ha!”

Suddenly, one of the large crates bursts open to reveal the unmistakable form of the Incredible Hulk! Or it would be unmistakable, if it had an actual head instead of two visual diodes suspended on a robotic frame. Apparently this particular robot is unfinished. A bestial roar erupts from where the green giant’s throat would be as he lunges to attack!

“HULK…SMASH…HULK…SMASH…”