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  • Writer's pictureFrancois DesRochers

Scholar’s Review #71: Machinations of Doom


Written and Illustrated by: Ramon Perez

Additional Text: Kevin Siembieda and Julius Rosenstein

Release Date: May 2007


GENERAL


In a bit of a departure from the norm, Palladium Books presents (up until now) a unique sourcebook that includes a lengthy graphic novel. To be sure, the action of the graphic novel drives the sourcebook entries, which I was perfectly willing to see how it went. After the initial sting of the novel trilogy's initial print-run and editing issues, things were greatly improved by the Chi-Town ‘Burbs Anthology (Scholar's Review #38) and the stand-alone novel Duty’s Edge (Scholar's Review #35). Part of a recent bundle of books acquired from second-hand, and with the two reviews I've already done in mind, I dove back into this entry to see if my recollection of the product held up.


SECTIONS


Graphic Novel. Let’s be honest, this is the meat of the book (and with merit). The story follows a group of mercenaries out on a mission in the Lone Star region of the New West. This eclectic mix of characters could reflect almost any gaming group out there, which is a bonus and should be quite an endearing aspect to most readers. Perez’s artwork is top-notch; dynamic and filled with action. Something to consider, each panel Perez presents is an opportunity for him to hide some fantastic realism and details in the background. Something as simple as a hissing lizard on a foreground rock, the bartender’s arm tattoo on page 8, the ‘Back in 5 Mins’ and banana peel at the control desk on page 30, as well as the copious random images on background screens. This makes re-reading the adventure a different reading experience as one spends more time hunting for these little easter eggs.


Welcome to Rifts. As an introductory product to new prospective Players, I see why this make sense. At the time it was written, Palladium Books was very much a name within the industry, riding high on the financial and critical successes of the Rifts RPG. Whether or not the option for the live action sci-fi movie with Jerry Bruckheimer under Walt Disney Pictures remains a question, but certainly reflects the potency for the IP. This one pager provides the reader with a bit of a primer on the Rifts RPG in general, and the major players from the graphic novel (e.g. Coalition States, D-Bees, Lone Star Complex).


Enemies of the Coalition. The Lone Star Raiders, as they are portrayed by the CS, are the main characters of the graphic novel story. Presented much like any other Rifts RPG product, the NPC statistics are given, with a rundown of the character, with some great illustrations to back them up.

  • Anika Taheri (Human, 7th Level Headhunter). Unofficial leader; resourceful, clever, and calculating.

  • Bodokhan (Grackle Tooth, 6th Level Merc Soldier). Brave, heroic and straightforward when combat commences, is rather quiet and reflective when violence is not imminent.

  • Bowie (Freeborn Dog Boy, 5th Level Operator). Serious and somber, he is straight-up honest and considers the group his adopted family.

  • Johnny Ferro (Human, 7th Level Burster). Cocky and flamboyant, thinks himself as a swashbuckling hero but comes across like a glorified teenager.

  • Moses (Unknown, 6th Level Ley Line Walker). An intelligent and cultured D-Bee mage with a dry wit. Defers to Anika and OJ for combat, but takes the lead for intellectual issues.

  • Oswald ‘OJ’ James (Human, 8th Level Juicer). Formerly hired out to the Coalition, he failed to go through with “detox” and is on the tail end of life expectancy.

  • Shakes (Human, 9th Level Crazy). Good natured and perpetually happy. Makes bad puns in bad situations, and is the only one thinking it makes things better.

  • Magali (Mutant Rat, 5th Level). Undisputed leader of the Lone Star free rat population.

  • Typical Mutant Rat. Provides the baseline to create a number of Mutant Rat NPCs or cannon fodder.


Notable Vehicles


  • Petunia. The Lone Star Raiders’ modified Mountaineer ATV, with added armor and speed, armed with some potent weaponry.

  • Johnny’s Ride. A modified MI-1010 Desert Fox hovercycle (also found in WB 13: Lone Star)


Agents of the Coalition


  • Dr Desmond Bradford (Human, 20th Level Cyber-Doc/Genetic Engineer and 10th Level Administrator). A genius doctor with intense drive and dedication to his craft, with a god complex.

  • Special Agent Reyner Kreighoff (CS Psi-Stalker, 9th Level). Ruthless in his dedication to the CS and Lone Star.

  • Arquebus (CS Dog Boy, 5th Level). Fierce fighter and expert tracker.

  • Khola (CS Dog Boy turned Combat Cyborg, 6th Level). A Dog Boy with a full conversion (less her head).

  • Oso (CS Ursa Warrior, 3rd Level). The “tough man” of the squad.

  • Byss (CS Mutant Cat, 4th Level). Respected member of the team, she values her independence and the opportunity for skullduggery, treachery and torture.

  • Dr Frederick Alexander (Human, 12th Level Cyber-Doc/Genetic Engineer). An unhappy slave to the madman Bradford’s plans.

  • Dr Rodriguez Heston (CS Mutant Chimpanzee, 7th Level Monkey Boy Tech). Highly educated but naive to the ways of the world. And no, Ramon Perez, the name reference did not escape me either, LOL.


Lone Star Colmplex – Sector 7C


  • Coalition Army. Provides a series of entries for “typical” CS Soldier, SAMAS Pilot, and Dog Boy to use as a random NPC.

  • Aishwarra. The full data file for the subject monster. Also appears in Bestiary 1

  • Omega Beast. Bradford’s genetic manipulation of Aishwarra to create a smaller, more vicious version; they hunt creatures of P.P.E. like a Psi-Stalker.


Further Adventures. Kevin Siembieda provides some additional information to continue the adventure, with insight on what Desmond Bradford is up to, suggestions about selling the information they stole in Chi-Town, and the fall-out/possibilities.


Extras. Perez provides some extra sketches, concept art, and commentary showing the evolution of the characters from initial idea to the final version.

 

IMPRESSIONS

 

Initial Review (5/10). My first read through, years ago, was a little tempered by mixed expectations. I fully expected a Sourcebook (e.g. akin to what we had in Sourcebook 4: Coalition Navy). This obviously was not the case. I really did fall in love with Ramon Perez’s style of art for Rifts, and this book is no different; in fact, it supports Perez as one of the premium illustrators Palladium Books has had for the game. I wasn’t necessarily a fan of the storyline and some of the cliche one-liners inserted throughout; it wasn’t until I read through the character descriptions that some of them made more sense. That said, naming the mutant monkey Heston was something I found a little on the nose, and my initial impression was dampened based on higher expectations.

 

Current Assessment (9/10). This is a bit of an unusual score because it encompasses two separate aspects of the book: the graphic novel aspect, and its use as a sourcebook. While both support each other, there is a definitive break between what I think of each. The graphic novel portion I can’t highlight enough. After taking a break for some time and re-reading it, the action is fast paced, the dialogue well presented and believable, the plot line a good example of a limited adventure session essentially being illustrated. And whoo-boy, is it illustrated well – Perez doesn’t disappoint! The panels throughout each of the chapters are jam-packed with detail and dynamism, as well as more than a few easter eggs throughout (foreground and background of panels). I'm not a fan in how Perez (or most people) present the Crazy as nothing more than a comic relief secondary character, but this is a minor quibble.


The one thing I realized as I re-read this book was the opportunity for a GM to take these pre-generated PCs and use them with new Players. As an introductory session, it could cover much the same story elements presented in the graphic novel and become a quick and easy one-shot adventure. Essentially the GM could recreate the sneak-and-peak or combat that led to the infiltration of the Lone Star Complex, or perhaps even more so the events that would transpire after the escape from Bradford’s personnel. From that aspect, this suddenly turned from a “failed Sourcebook” into something the GM can leverage into their campaign. Heck, the PCs could be sent after the main characters to chase a bounty placed on them, or try to steal the information purloined from Lone Star and sell it themselves - you name it!


As an individual acquisition for a Rifts fan, the book stands alone as a worthy purchase for the art and the action alone. The other elements one can glean from it make it more than just a graphic novel, and something I wish Palladium Books would present more of. I’d love to see (and am currently writing a few) Sourcebooks or World Books that include more detailed adventure ideas that supports the world building like this one.


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3 comentários


thecounterpoint
14 de mar.

There were some really great artists along the way for Rifts (and Palladium). Kevin Long, Ramon Perez, John Zeleznik, Newton Ewell. Wayne Breaux is still on board, and I also like the artwork by Kevin himself, at least compared to some of the more current artwork (I don't always like them - e.g. in my eyes, the Revised Vampire Kingdoms and also the Ultimate Edition are big stepbacks artwise.)

More comics, or even comics series would be great by Perez or others.

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Keith Hunt
Keith Hunt
13 de mar.

Sean and Kevin seem pessimistic about the likelihood of Ramon Perez returning to do any work for them. Don't know why. Judging from his work, he seems to have had a passion for the world of Rifts. I think if the pay was acceptable and he wasn't too busy already, that he would be excited to work within the world of Rifts Earth again. I'd like to see them make the same offer to Freddie Williams II, who has also gone on to some notable success in the comic book industry. (I always liked the way he portrayed cyberknights.) One artist that they seem to still have a working relationship with, Nick Bradshaw, who did the comic inside …

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Francois DesRochers
Francois DesRochers
14 de mar.
Respondendo a

My guess is the pessimism is based on his rates and Perez commitments to current projects. Otherwise, I would LOVE to see more from him. As an aside, I was - blown - a - way by his art in Free Quebec...... So good!

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