Friday Five: 8 Extreme Last Minute Gift Ideas
2014 in comics

Friday Five: 5 Awesome Avengers Alliance Allies

LatestWe're a teeny bit obsessed with Avengers Alliance - the super-popular Facebook-based fightin' game based around Marvel Comics. (It is now on iOS and Android as well, and therefore inescapable.) It is half-tactics, half-click-farming, as the player takes on the role of a SHIELD agent and, with the help of various Marvel characters, beats the crap out of villainy. 

The game is now 3 years old and has a mythos as elaborate as the Cinematic Universe - indeed, it has its own SDCC panels, with thousands of people eagerly awaiting clues over which C-list character or alternate costume will be revealed next. The game actually links in to the MCU, with special updates and missions that are clearly hand-wavey homages to the latest movie releases - including those from Sony and Fox, as well as Disney. Plus there's PVP and time sensitive special missions and bonuses and side-games and and limited edition weaponry and and and... Basically, the game is a crafty, evil technology that is sucking in time and dollars from millions of people around the world. If the whole thing goes meta and turns out to be a plot by Doctor Doom, we wouldn't be that surprised. In fact, we'd probably send him a thank you note.

Anyway, one of the reasons we love the game is that the game is clearly developed by GEEKS LIKE US(tm) who also love the Marvel Universe - including incorporating hundreds of silly backlist heroes and minor villains into the roster of playable allies.

We've each selected five of our favourite evil-punching sidekicks. Maybe not the best ones, but certainly the ones we're enjoying the most.

Anne

Whether by accident or by design, I find the best characters - or, at least, my favourites - are all female. I've gone through periods where I favoured one or two male characters - primarily Magneto, Deadpool, and Cyclops - but I always come back to my five favourites (and a few honourable mentions):

Squirrel Girl. She's totally ridiculous, with her lunatic grin and giant furry tail (yes, really), but she also has the best powers. Or does she? Like the canonical Squirrel Girl, it's unclear whether she can communicate with and control squirrels for real... or is just really lucky. Either way, Squirrel Girl's ninth level power is the game's funniest: the screen goes  black and a hundred glowing red eyes appear in the darkness, to converge upon the space where the unfortunate target should be. When the lights come back on, so to speak, the target is left bleeding and shaken, and all that can be seen are the tails of fifty retreating squirrels, while Squirrel Girl dusts off her hands. I should choose Rogue for this slot, I really should. But Rogue doesn't command squirrels. 

Squirrel Girl Powers

Satana. Until recently, I'd have dropped Sif into this slot; she's a hardcore scrapper, causes bleeding, (I'm all about ongoing effects) and I have a gem that gives her berserker fury (she can join in on an ally's attack or retaliate when an ally is attacked), making her a very, very useful ally. But then I got Satana. With her Tauriel hair, 80s biker babe outfit, and, uh, taste for souls, she's not the most progressive looking character. But she more than makes up for in raw power what she lacks in subtlety. I mean, really. She summons demons, shoots fire from her bare hands, punches people (with her fiery fists), floats, and eats souls. What's not to like?

X-23X-23. The idea of Wolverine's clone pissed me off... until I actually started using her. She's a bruiser who causes bleeding and ravaged, which means she hits hard and does ongoing damage. She also has an area attack and, in her Horseman of the Apocalypse costume, grants warbound to all allies, meaning she bumps up everyone's attack and accuracy stats. Not that anyone will need them, as just opponents bleed to death between rounds. Love.

Psylocke. My second-favourite character in the entire game, and my go-to for - well, pretty much every situation. To be totally honest, I only ever use her first two powers. They're all she needs. In the ordinary course of the game, each ally attacks one at a time. There are a few powers, however, that grant allies the ability to join in on each other's attacks. Psylocke has just such a power, and once she gets fired up and puts mental coordination into play, battles are over before they've even started.

MagikMagik. Colussus' little sister carries a flaming sword, summons demons (who do a ton of damage) hits hard, has a catastrophic attack (which means it can't be avoided), has an area attack that causes ongoing damage, and joins in her allies' attacks without prompting. She also will occasionally retaliate upon being attacked, despite being a scrapper instead of an infiltrator. Oh, also she's the Queen of Hell. Basically, you set her off and then sweep in to pick up the pieces. 

Other honourable mentions: White Queen and Black Cat, both of whom look utterly ridiculous but do so much damage. So very much damage. And Mockingbird and Molly Hayes, who don't look at all ridiculous and do a ton of damage.

Most Useless Ally: Nightcrawler, who, true to the comics, is written as having the best of intentions and thus tries to block attacks like a bruiser. Nightcrawler is, however, not a bruiser and so just dies. Immediately and painfully.

Ally I'd most like to see: Blink. She opens teleportation portals. Which, according to X-Men Days of Future Past, she uses to transport people around but not to, you know, cut baddies in half. Fix her up and make her more useful, and we could have a real winner on our hands. Or how about Lady Deathstrike? Dazzler? Beta Ray Bill?

Jared

Hmm. Whether by accident or design, all my five favourites are... bad guys. I mean, they're playable allies and therefore on the side of the angels (and Angel), but they're definitely not... heroes. Go figure.

TaskmasterTaskmaster. So, as a kid, I loved Taskmaster (this is a recurring theme for all five picks, I'm afraid). A proper D-list villain, in fact, such a crap villain that he didn't even fight the heroes - he just slunk around in the shadows teaching other villains how to fight instead. Taskmaster was the evil trainer - the McGonagall of Evil Gryffindor. No powers except for a really good memory, a decent work ethic, a decent-but-not-great costume and access to the Red Skull's personal gymnasium. I'm still surprised he was added to the game, but after a long-running subplot about how Taskmaster wasn't entirely overjoyed about his future prospects as one of the Red Skull's redshirts, AA revealed him as a playable character. And he's a blast. Taskmaster mimics his opponents, and his skills change with every combat. He's versatile: a pain in the ass to fight against, but a joy to have on your side. For a schmuck with no powers, Taskmaster is currently the mainstay of my PVP team. Plus, I'm a huge fan of unpredictable allies, including...

Venom. No matter how hard MacFarlane and the 75,000 writers and artists that followed him have tried to beat it out of me, I still like Venom. He's a big drooly alien-possessed version of Spider-man with a weird sense of honor, a nightmarishly long tongue and occcasional tentacles. Granted, AA seems to be following in the comics' footsteps with a penchant for symbiote overkill, but - whatever. That's a small price to pay for access to the big guy. "Agent" Venom is a handy soldier with some functional, if unspectacular, skills. But occasionally he gets REALLY IRRITATED and Hulks out into his enormous slobbery counterpart, complete with the aforementioned tentacles, pointy teeth, near-invulnerability and a charming-if-irritating knack for attacking the wrong person. Who could resist? 

And speaking of irresistable...

SatanaSatana. Is she even C-list? D-list? The 'devil's daughter', Satana is the epitome of bad costuming and worse writing. Her dialogue is essentially a grab bag of 'come hither'-ing. But, boy, is she fun. As Anne notes above, she shoots fire, summons demons and blows (fatal) kisses. Also, she has the weird side effect where negative modifiers become positive: if someone slows you, you punch harder. If they weaken you, you become harder to hit. Etc. Etc. (And that's all very handy because Satana has a knack for, um, undercutting her own team.) She's handy because, like the two chaps above, she's versatile. And she's fun because her very presence subverts enemy strategy. Just ignore the costume.

And speaking of silly costumes...

Spiral. The Liefeld-tastic extra-limbed extra-dimensional assassin is a hoot. And not just because one of her powers is called "Dance Magic Dance" (but it helps). I'm fairly sure that AA didn't even try to write in a plausible story for why this unrepentently villainous Mojo-minion is now an 'Avenger', but who cares? She waves her arms about and pokes folks with swords (which is handy), but Spiral also has an onslaught of increasingly silly dances, each with a different effect. She wiggles, she shimmies... and shit blows up. 

And, finally, when it comes to shit blowing up...

MagnetoMagneto. The Master of Magnetism was the first 'lockbox' character released in the game - basically an extra-powerful villain that you have to jump through extra hoops in order to add to your team. And he was - don't doubt it - a huge surprise. Magneto had been in the game before, but only as a villain. The AA storywriters seeded this for a while, with a lot of exposition about a Magneto/Red Skull fallout, but even so, the release of one of the 'boss' villains as an ally was an understandable shock.

Also, he's a badass. As you might expect.

Still, what's been most fun about Magneto is our own banter. I mean, this is a game where your crack team of Avengers includes such powerhouses as, uh, Black Cat. Or Constrictor. ENTER MAGNETO. Do they share a locker room? Do they go to the pub between missions? Is there... banter? And worse, imagine actually being the Agent and selecting people for missions. Why would you ever choose someone not Magneto? This led to a long-running joke on our end, where we tried to imagine Magneto back at Avengers Mansion, taking his turn at the monitors while Spider-Woman was selected to fight the army of Evil Doombots. "NO PROBLEM," Magneto would sulk (mightily), whilst sipping tepid coffee out of his Stark Industries mug, "I AM SURE BLACK CAT WILL DO AN EXCELLENT JOB OF BATTLING A LEGION OF METAL ROBOTS. MADE OF METAL. I'LL JUST GET STARTED ON ANSWERING CAPTAIN AMERICA'S FAN MAIL, WHY DON'T I." 

Anyway. Magneto. BECAUSE.

Most useless ally - Loki. For years this was Spider-Woman, whose utter crapness was only matched by the number of missions in which she was a mandatory partner (ARGH WHY). But she got refactored with powers that made her... if not good... at least more than a floating punching bag. Loki, however, is a gigantic sack of poo. His powers are awful, he's completely useless and as a lockbox character, he was a pain in the ass to unlock. You'd figure a GOD OF EVIL would at least have a trick or two up his sleeve, but, nope. He has a pokin' dagger and a bad haircut.

Ally I'd love to see in the game - I'm tempted to say something like Ego the Living Planet, but I'll be (surprisingly) reasonable: Hobgoblin. Always my favourite villain, I'd really like to see the demon-infused mercenary appear in the game. Other fun ones: Diamondback, Shroud and, of course, Devil Dinosaur. (There was a Moon Boy reference in one special mission, so, who knows?)

What about you? Do you play this ridiculous game? If so, who are your favourites? (And least favourites?)

Comments