A product like this pulls me in two directions. On the one hand, I love seeing what my fellow ICONS fans have created in their own worlds. On the other hand, a book full of superheroes—emphasis on “heroes”—doesn’t actually add much to my ICONS games. A typical ICONS GM already has plenty of heroes in his or her world, namely, the player characters. Most GMs would be better served by a villain pack instead of a hero pack. Hero Pack 2 does, in fact, include eleven villains, but that’s barely a third of the 30 characters featured.
Unlike the original Hero Pack, where villains were grouped together after heroes and called out with different background artwork, Hero Pack 2 sorts heroes and villains together, just placing all the characters in alphabetical order. No graphic cue differentiates villains from heroes, nor are villains marked as such in the table of contents. The only way to tell the difference is by the villains’ lack of Determination values (they have asterisks instead).
In terms of the quality of content, Hero Pack 2 is a bit like a roller coaster. Dan Houser’s artwork is, as always, every good and evocative. In my opinion, he did particularly good jobs on Alien Mastermind, Necrovore, Scarlet Sabre, and Shadowform. On the other hand, Kumbhakarna and Technomage need to give Wonder Man’s and Dr. Doom’s costumes back, and the artwork for Hekate comes off oddly, making it a little hard to tell at first which way she’s facing. Since the various heroes and villains were all designed by different people, some are naturally better than others. A few stand out from the pack. Mechanically, Blueshift comes off as basically a super-smart Flash, but his origin and backstory are rich for the space allotted. Cancer is a compelling villain in a very, very creepy way. Gravedigger is pretty funny. The Mook is eminently useful and will very likely find his (their) way into adventures that I run. Maybe it’s just his resemblance to Carnage, but I found Necrovore an intriguing villain, rife with possibilities.
Unfortunately, the Grammar Gremlin started working his impish mischief right from the beginning, inserting a comma splice into the very first page and scattering punctuation errors and inconsistencies (such as American marks used in British positions) throughout the book. He also apparently rampaged through the book, snatching the quotation marks away from some catchphrases (but not others) and peppering quotations with inconsistent capitalization. He planted tense-change bombs in several characters’ origins, resulting in inexplicable shifts from past to present. He even replaced the Arabic numeral 2, used in the product’s title on the front cover, with a Roman numeral II in the interior page headers.
If you want to see some other ICONS players’ superheroes and perhaps use them as NPCs in your own world, by all means buy Hero Pack 2. If you’re mainly looking for supervillains, you’ll only get eleven of them from this product, and not all eleven are equally interesting. On balance, I’d consider Hero Pack 2 a worthwhile purchase, as long as you know the hero-villain ratio going in.
[3 of 5 Stars!]