Tuesday, 14 August 2018

The return of "my" Doctor



Nostalgia is a funny thing. I got into Doctor Who when it was nothing but a nostalgia object. It was the mid-1990s, the show was off the air except for a dwindling number of repeats on BBC2 (we didn't have Sky so no UKGold and no endless repeat cycle of old stories for me); videos came out every other month or so and my pocket money went on Spider-Man comics so I didn't get Doctor Who Magazine.

New” Doctor Who at that stage meant one thing: Virgin Publishing's New Adventures novels, books whose back covers promised adventures “too broad and too deep for the small screen”. What this generally meant was stories with too much gratuitous sex and violence for Saturday teatime BBC1 but I was a teenager so it was all the same to me.

And now Big Finish are bringing that era of Doctor Who back. Again.

This is actually attempt number three. In the early years of their Doctor Who Main Range they tried a couple of stories featuring Bernice Summerfield and the grown up space marine version of Ace (long story but basically an attempt to rid Ace of teenage angst by putting her in a black latex bodysuit. Did I mention the gratuitous sex stuff?) that just didn't hit home for me. In fairness, its not like that version of Ace worked even half the time.

Attempt number two came in the form of novel adaptations with the company adapting some of ranges high points including Love and War, The Highest Science, Damaged Goods, All-Consuming Fire, Theatre of War, Nightshade, Original Sin, and Cold Fusion as well as some Fourth Doctor Missing Adventures. By and large this went a lot better and I was genuinely disappointed when the range ended due to low sales. The adaptation of Russell T. Davies' Damaged Goods was particularly good (a bit of an improvement on the novel, actually).

Now Big Finish are bringing back the team of the Seventh Doctor, Chris Cwej and Roz Forrester in four original stories. The important thing for me is that only one of these stories is going to be written by someone who worked on the original novels, the other three will be written by writers of a later generation of the fan-industrial complex.

Why this interests me is that the nostalgia filter is going to be applied for Doctor Who that I was around for but that has a lot more distance than... for instance... The Tenth Doctor Adventures Big Finish have done. The last New Adventures novel was published in 1999 and I'm interested in seeing how a new generation reinvents things. Its an interesting discourse what later fandom decides to focus on when they go back to things, what they choose to erase or emphasise.

Will anyone try to address that bloody awful idea the Virgin authors had where they kept recasting old monsters as creatures from the Lovecraft mythos?

Hopefully not.

Monday, 13 August 2018

This Week's Project: My Inquisitor's Deathwatch Kill-Team


This is the Deathwatch unit that will accompany my Ordo Xenos Inquisitor Laurento Hex on his adventures with other armies. I usually tailor my Veteran squads to a purpose like killing infantry or tank hunting but since this will the be whole of a detachment (plus a random character to stay game legal) they're more geared towards taking on all comers with a deliberate close combat bias.

I've got a Watch-Sergeant with combi-plasma and xenophase sword, a power fist, a power maul, a heavy thunder hammer, a frag launcher and two Vanguard Veterans with bolt pistols and power weapons (a sword and an axe). Also, thanks to various lovely sellers on Shapeways, the unit has a nice spread of different chapters with a Relictor leading an Invader, a Son of Guilliman, a Death Spectre, a Lamenter, a Rampager and a Disciple of Caliban into battle.

I have to admit I get a silly amount of pleasure from deciding what chapters each Kill-Team will contain. It a peculiar pleasure but you take what you can get, you know?

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Treading the Path Of Damnation once again


The other day I cobbled this fellow together. I found a bad of Blood Warrior heads in a box. I'd got them off eBay a while back because I kept seeing this same concept crop up on the internet.

You see, I've been tinkering with the idea of returning to my Lost And The Damned for a while. For those not familiar with this undeservingly niche army they are the mortal followers of Chaos. Traitor Guardsmen, essentially. They were a variant army list in 3rd edition's Codex: Eye of Terror and then, after an absence of some years during which that list became practically unusable, they returned as the Renegades & Heretics army list in Forge World's Siege of Vraks trilogy.

The list got a seventh edition makeover in Imperial Armour: War Machines of the Lost and the Damned before eighth edition came along and rendered that obsolete and the current list is included in Index Imperial Armour: Astra Militarum.

And I don't like it.

It has a lot of issues. In fairness, it is an Index list but since its going to be a while (possibly never) before a proper Codex version comes out the problems pile up. Whilst I like the idea of random Leadership, I don't like being charged the same power level as the Astra Militarum equivalent for random leadership and lower skill values. A bunch of units have just straight up evaporated.

So this time round I'm rocking it old school. My group is pretty chill about house rules so it was no stretch to just agree amongst ourselves that I could use Codex: Astra Militarum replacing all instances of the IMPERIUM keyword with CHAOS so I can use some Chaos Space Marines allies.

I have a few vague ideas of what I want to do with the army in terms of models. In terms of army list, not so much. It has been a long time since I played Guard, possibly not since 4th edition, as their own thing, at least. There's going to be a lot of trial and error and a lot of consulting with Tom, our resident footslogger Guard player. I am, I admit, much more interested in the sea of dudes with lasguns than the fascinating array of tanks. Don't get me wrong: tanks will feature in the army, there's no getting around that and I absolutely want to do something horrible and organic with the open crew compartment of the Basilisk.

So, the concepts so far, are to make Tempestus Scions pretty much straight out of thebox with head swaps and little bits of Chaos iconography to make them look more evil. They really lend themselves to simple kitbashing: they have tons of detail and that spiky trim on their armour will just look Chaotic simply through an appropriate paint job.

Veterans will be much the same in that they'll be Cadians with the aquilas filed off but with heads from a European company called Puppets Of War. Specifically, these ones...
The colours of this army have always been black fatigues and white flak armour so skull masks suit the theme pretty well. This will represent the infantry that are more towards the inner circle of the cult, the ones with abilities and skills the Traitor General places some value on.
Finally, there will be the Infantry and Conscript Squads who will be represented using Cadians the Forge World Renegades upgrade sets of which I've acquired a few over the years. These will be the cannon fodder, the expendable scum the army has recruited on the way. I love the cobbled together look of these bodies but I've always had more of a professional military vibe to my Lost And The Damned, naturally considering most of my concept of the army comes from Dan Abnett's Blood Pact and Sons Of Sek.

And then, to one side of the army, are the Chaos Space Marines.

As I said, I want the Chaos Marines to be the smaller contingent of the army. Just a single character and a few units. If I have daemon engines they'll be painted to match the Traitor Guard. In fact, it might be a Spearhead Detachment so I can take a bunch of daemon engines with the minimum of power armour getting in the way.
I also rather fancy avoiding the Chaos Legions and having my Chaos Marine allies being a little more... low rent. In fact, I'm tempted to go for one of these chapters who featured in Codex: Eye Of Terror (or possible the Chaos Marine codex, I just got this image from Google Image Search). Basically none of these chapters aside from the Warp Ghosts have any sort of background which suits me fine since they'll just be there to offer a little extra hitting power.

The Extinction Angels appeal as a design since the bone trim will tie in with the infantry whilst the purple armour will make them stand out against the rest of the army.

First up, though, is to finish building the first five Khornate Scions and paint them up as a test unit. Whilst they'll naturally have red armour plate they will have black fatigues and bone trim so I can practice the methods I'll be applying to most of the rest of the army.

Friday, 6 July 2018

The Comics Ramble: Batman #50 and spoilers



[The following is basically a massive rant about spoilers so be aware that if you have managed to avoid the massive fucking spoiler going around for Batman #50/Catwoman #1 and haven't read them yet do avoid this post because I can't vent about the thing and how it affected my reading without mentioning what the thing is.]

So I managed to avoid the Batman #50 spoiler until literally one hour before the package turned up on my doorstep. Ye gods, but I hate spoiler culture. It sucks. I despise the idea, now practically supported by the companies it harms, that telling people the big reveal long before the actual event somehow enhances the experience or encourages people to tune in / read / experience the thing.

Ugh... anyway...

What even was spoiling it meant to advertise? We knew the new Catwoman series was launching the same day and that is literally the only thing, other than the ongoing plot of Batman, that spins out of that story.

I mean, look what else came out this week: Man of Steel #6 and I am pretty sure that was allowed to stand on its own. That issue sets up Bendis' Superman and Action Comics as well as the new run of Supergirl and has one hell of a cliffhanger for whichever Superman series is going to handle the serial arson storyline Bendis has been setting up for the last six weeks.

But the very possibility that Bruce and Selina's marriage could go off as planned? Oh no, better spoil that just to confirm that the obvious, tragic ending everyone saw coming was not going to be subverted.

You monsters!

Let's face it: what else was anyone expecting? I admit I hoped for a happy ending, I thought that Tom King might have convinced DC editorial to let him do something brave and psychologically healthy for the Batman character given that he's gone deeper than pretty much anyone else into Bruce's trauma and how he copes with it. King, as it happens, responded to the leak or the spoiler or bad bit of advertising or whatever it was by saying this wasn't the end of the Bruce/Selina story he was telling.

Whether or not that's true Batman #50 is a great issue. As I've said before, King has probably the best grasp of single issue storytelling at DC today. The narration of this issue plays out two letters Bruce and Selina are writing each other to explain their feelings as the ceremony looms. Interestingly, once again King returns to that thing he keeps bringing about how Catwoman remembers their first meeting as the Batman: Year One version whilst Bruce remembers their first published meeting from 1940.

Given what's going on with Flash War and other hints here and there, this might be more than a cute nod.

I really do hope this isn't the end. The Bruce/Selina relationship has been pretty consistently the best part of this series for a while now.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Doctor Blu #1: Season 12 in Song and Story


Doctor Who's twelfth season is a funny one. Now, I get why it was chosen to be the first bluray season box set, the logic is sound: its Tom Baker, its his first season, it has a bunch of classic monsters in it including an absolutely iconic Dalek story. Its a good choice.

Its just an odd season.

To set out my stall a little: I'm of a generation that I got into Doctor Who after it was cancelled the but also before it came back as a magnificently successful revival. When I entered this fandom, and for a long time afterwards, Doctor Who was not a TV show. It was a series of video releases beholden to no logic of season or theme, released pretty much at random or when decent film prints became available for restoration. As such I've not really ever watched the classic series in any sort of order. I've tried once or twice to do one of those “everything in order” marathons but I don't have the patience. My best attempt got me as far as... The Keys of Marinus, I think? Maybe The Sensorites.

A season at a time, though? I think I can do that.

So here we are on bluray with Season Twelve, the first of Tom Baker's seven year run in the title role. Now, I've seen all these stories before, many times in the case of Ark In Space, but I've never watched them as a body of work.

So what are my impressions of the season before I watch it in order?

Well, like I said, its an odd beast.

The reason is simple: Season Twelve effectively has two creative teams. The production itself was largely handled by the new production team of Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes but the scripts were commissioned by outgoing producer/script editor team of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks. The first story was even made by the old production team because the series had been banking a story between seasons for the last couple of years.

Bizarre to think in these days of obsessive brand management that a big relaunch with a new Doctor and a new creative team would wait four weeks for the old creative team to finish out their contracts but there you go. It might be the most extreme example of the problem but the whole structure of the season is like that: Letts and Dicks ideas, Hinchcliffe and Holmes execution. Three of the five stories in this season use old monsters, a well Hinchcliffe and Holmes would studiously avoid for the remaining two years they stayed on the programme. The nearest they come under their own steam is using the Master once and even then they basically create a new villain and slap a familiar name on him.

So Season Twelve basically represents the transition from the UNIT years to the body horror theme of Hinchcliffe and Holmes. In my memory its rough.

It has its highlights. If there's a Doctor Who story I've watched more than The Ark In Space... well, its probably City of Death but Ark is still one of my favourite go to stories when I just want a solid story to watch. I'm not one hundred percent convinced of the masterpiece status Genesis of the Daleks has in fandom but it is a really good story (and I am very interested in seeing what the cut down “TV movie” edit included on the bluray does for its pacing). Robot, whilst being very different from what follows, is a solid effort simply because its written by Terrance Dicks and able performances from the old UNIT crew to smooth the transition as Baker finds his feet.

That's the good. Then there are the problem children of the transition, the ones popular legend says Robert Holmes could not save: The Sontaran Experiment and Revenge of the Cybermen. Both stories are production experiments as Hinchcliffe and Holmes tried to make production cheaper so they could justify dropping six-parters. The Sontaran Experiment was a two-parter filmed entirely on location whilst Revenge was filmed on the same sets as The Ark In Space. The problem with production experiments like that they need great writers to make them work in the very tight parameters they're given. Here we have Bob Baker and Dave Martin, the crazy ideas men of the Pertwee era asked to make a tightly plotted two-parter that can only use physical effects, and, Gerry Davis in his last (and only solo) contribution to the series and, boy, you can see why.

And then there's Harry Sullivan.

I admit to being a little split on Harry Sullivan. I kind of like the character. He's a comedy idiot but Ian Marter always plays the part with conviction. Yes, even the giant clam incident. Standing next to the all-time dream team of Tom Baker and Lis Sladen, however, he can look superfluous to requirements. I wonder how he'll look to me when I see the lion's share of his stories in order.

Monday, 2 July 2018

100 models complete, 100 models to do



I am a somewhat compulsive list maker and this year I've been keeping track of how many miniatures I've managed to paint. A few weeks ago I realised I was on the verge of finishing one hundred models in the first six months of this year. I was twenty-two models away and on Saturday, putting some grass on bases, I reached my target with a few hours to spare.
First up we have a trio of Raveners and I can finally make use of Hive Fleet Jormungandr's bespoke Stratagem to deploy infantry units underground with their burrowing creatures.
Next up are five Termagants, the first finished model from a job lot of very random smaller bioforms I received from eBay a while back. I hope I've managed to cover every single bit of the original owner's hideous neon green colour scheme but I keep noticing bits I've missed.
Twelve Purestrain Genestealers ready to combine with the eight I already have to become a horde of twenty vicious killing machines.

And, finally, taking me up to a nice, round one hundred are a Primus and Patriarch for my Genestealer Cults detachment.

So the plan from here...

Quite simply, I want to beat this total over the rest of the year. I got one hundred models finished in six months and I'd like to make it two hundred (at least) before the end of the year.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Genestealer Cults limitations leak



Standard leak disclaimer: this could be fake. This could be meaningless. As real as the thing looks a fake like this is only a modicum of photoshop skill away. Also, sorry about the poor quality of the image, literally the best version I could find was on a Youtube video.
Here's the deal: instead of using allied detachments for some units and “Cult” versions of others from now on Genestealer Cults will just use selected datasheets from Codex: Astra Militarum and just replace the REGIMENT keyword with the BROOD BROTHERS keywork. For those using screen readers or unable to read the tiny, indistinct text the Astra Militarum units you can take are as follows:

Company Commander
Platoon Commander
Command Squad
Tank Commander
Infantry Squad
Conscripts
Veterans
Special Weapons Squads
Scout Sentinels
Armoured Sentinels
Leman Russ Battle Tanks
Chimera APCs

On the one hand its not everything, which is effectively what you could take before now (or, rather, anything with the ASTRA MILITARUM keyword). Its also more than could be taken in a pure Genestealer Cults list.

Do I like it? Hell yes. There's Company Commanders, Platoon Commanders and Tank Commanders on that list which means Orders are now something Genestealer Cults can use. I am heartily looking forward to giving certain opponents a heavy dose of Front Rank, Fire! Back Rank, Fire! We now have access to Veteran Squads for some extra heavy fire power, as well.

Yes, there are gaps. I'm a little surprised Heavy Weapons Squads aren't on the list and I would have liked to see Hellhounds because I like Hellhounds. However, I get why even some of the more basic stuff had to be left out.

You can't take Regimental benefits because BROOD BROTHERS replaces rhe REGIMENT keyword, for instance, so as good as it is to have orders and Veterans and Special Weapons Squads you can't buff them further than their base statistics. Similarly, I get why the full spread of tanks and the more elite infantry are out of bounds: Astra Militarum needs to have things that make them superior to Genestealre Cults just as Genestealer Cults have things that make them superior to Astra Militarum.

At the end of the day, if Genestealer Cults could take everything Astra Militarum can take then there's no point in having Astra Militarum.

And I like the humble Imperial Guard, I want them to keep having a point.

Am I saying people shouldn't be annoyed about this? Not entirely. The way this concept was introduced in the Index allowed you to use anything with the ASTRA MILITARUM keyword so I imagine a lot of players are looking at some units that are not quite game legal anymore. I know I have two Hellhounds I can't use for my Cults anymore and I'm just lucky that my Brood Brothers units also happen to be my Savlar Chem-Dogs army.

On its own, though, in the abstract I do like this rule and look forward to the tactical opportunities it opens up.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

The Twelfth Doctor Adventures 1.1: The Lost Sailor (fan audio review)



(A quick preface before we begin: a big part of this review and a big USP for this series is that the new companion, Antonia Perkins, is trans. Your humble blogger here is cis and I just want to put that out there so readers know specifically where I'm coming from in reviewing this character and how she is written. Antonia identifies as female and she/her pronouns are used to describe her in the series' website copy. Any language mistakes contained in this post are most likely mine, are not mean as any form of disrespect and will be corrected accordingly when pointed out.)

SPOILERS: specific details of plot and how the story resolves are absent from this review but its impossible to discuss Antonia without some plot stuff, mainly things that happen in the first half of the episode.

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor Adventures
episode one: The Lost Sailor
written by Janine Rivers

starring Paul Cabria as the Doctor
and Michelle Coats as Antonia

Its been a long time since I dipped my toe into the world of unofficial fan produced Doctor Who content (official fan produced content encompassing rather a lot including the TV series itself these days) and I'm old enough to remember the days of “not Doctor Who, honest guv” audio series like The Stranger, The Professor & Ace and The Wanderer. This series, being completely free and thus not for profit in any way, gets to call itself Doctor Who and use all the bells and whistles from the show it wants.

For one thing there's the Twelfth Doctor, played with uncanny precision of impersonation by Paul Cabria. I know its traditional in these circumstances to say you were fooled but I really do mean it is uncanny how similar the voice is. This isn't the audio equivalent of Richard Hurndall in a wig, this isn't even just a really good soundalike performance like Tim Treloar's Big Finish Third Doctor, this is a spot on impression of Capaldi's every verbal mannerism. The performance is helped by the writing, including the Doctor affirming respect for Antonia's gender identity in a speech very reminiscent of his assurance to Bill that she's safe in the TARDIS and always will be in The Pilot.

I guess now is about as good a time as any to address Antonia Perkins. How well or how sensitively her identity is handled is definitely better left to other writers with more stake in the issue than my cis ass but what I will say is that her treatment is interesting.

For one thing she does have to explain what being trans means to the Doctor which takes a moment but the Doctor does get it very quickly, reiterating that the Time Lords don't really have much of a concept of gender. On the other hand, by the time the subject comes up the pair are in 1985 and how this change will effect Antonia's personal safety flat out does not occur to the Doctor. Whilst I'm trying to comment as little as possible on Antonia's more trans-specific issues and experiences I have to say, as someone of an age with Antonia who resides elsewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum there is a certain very immediate terror to the idea of finding myself back in Thatcher's Britain. Its an idea that has enough broad resonance for people across the spectrum and even the densest of straight allies that it can have the maximum impact on the broadest cross section of the audience whilst still being very specifically tied to her particular identity.

Antonia's other unique selling point is that she's an aspiring writer lacking inspiration. Several early segments of the story have her narrating her work in progress and giving up in frustration. Again, this is a trait with broad appeal as I think everyone who has ever tried to write anything can relate. Other than that her main claim to fame amongst modern companions is that she has a decent relationship with both her parents which I'm glad of because, oh boy, could we do with the plague of bad parental figures Doctor Who has been dropping in since RTD not continuing with the first (albeit unofficial) trans companion. That isn't to say such a storyline would be without merit just that I think its something that can be done without especially so hot on the heals of Moira and Bill's relationship.

A queer character having two accepting parents is a subversion of expectations in itself and I'm glad to see it for once.

A large part of the early story, the getting to know you phase, is spent with the Doctor directing Antonia by phone as she searches for the TARDIS. The two talk about a lot of things, the Doctor slowly letting her in on just what a weird situation he's dragging her into and bonding over both shared and different experiences. One of the similar experiences they bond over, in fact, is the idea of choosing one's own name. As with many a modern companion introduction the story starts off with her and is moderated mainly from her point of view and, let's face it, that's a format that works.

I am absolutely on board with seeing where these two travel next.

Details
The series will be twelve episodes long, each running about the length of a typical modern TV episode and will be released weekly on Saturdays from the series' website here. Download is free and the series is not for profit and unaffiliated with the BBC.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Some finished models and a goal for June



During my recent hiatus I had a chance to knuckle down and get some serious hobbying done. It was one of those moments when I really got into the zone and ended up actually getting a decent amount done. So much so that if I did individual pictures even for the units we'd be here for ages and I really want to just quickly showcase the miniatures and move on to my little hobby goal for the month.
So, to start off with there is this veritable Imperial Soup of things for the Deathwatch and their associated allied detachments. Starting from the left side of the picture and moving anti-clockwise we have a Company Commander and Command Squad for the 322nd Savlar Chem Dogs made out of Cadians with the Genestealer Cults upgrade sprue (the foreheads cunningly filed down to remove the more overt signs of mutation). As it happens this army will be performing double duties as an allied detachment for my Genestealer Cults army down the line but that's neither here nor there. Next up we have two HQ choices for the Deathwatch itself: Captain Lucius Almas of the Angels Of Vengeance and Codicier Trayvon Delios of the Blood Ravens. On the far right we have Magos-Dominus Narses Hood (yes, not just a joke name, a pretentious joke name!) of Stygies VIII, overall commander of the Watch-Fortress' Mechanicus contingent. Finally, at the back we have the first of my Deathwatch Venerable Dreadnoughts, a charming fellow by the name of Antigeminus, late of the Omega Marines chapter.

As well as that little lot I also completed two six-man Kill-Teams. First up is Kill-Team Fury under Watch-Sergeant Varil Marak:


From left to right on the line-up we have Marines from the Fire Lords, Flesh Tearers, Consecrators, Brazen Minotaurs, Iron Hands and Subjugators chapters kitted out with long range firepower. By contrast, Kill-Team Mortis under Watch-Sergeant Zauriel (yes, I have a favourite Justice League run, why do you ask?) is geared more towards close range firepower and assault:


From left to right: Libators, Dark Angels, Carmine Blades, Sons of Medusa, Iron Snakes and Sons of Dorn (that last one modified slightly because there is no way I have the skill to freehand a circle, let alone a white circle).

Anyway...

The Goal

Since the New Year I've been keeping a little hobby diary and it informs me that with these models I have painted 78 miniatures this year. My goal for the month is to bring this to a nice round hundred or (fingers crossed) beyond before we enter the second half of the year.

My challenge to myself from there is to see if I can do even better in the second half of the year. This is already the most productive my hobby has been in a long time and I've been carrying that energy over into other aspects of my life. Its genuinely been a positive experience.

So, twenty-two models to go. Sitting here looking at the rambling excesses of the work in progress shelf, which has seen some reinforcements as I look through boxes for things to finish, I see three Kataphron Destroyer;, that bloody Cryptek that I still haven't finished; three Raveners; ten Skitarii Vanguard; another Venerable Dreadnought; six Poxwalkers; ten Genestealer Cults Hybrid Neophytes as well as a Magos and a Primus. More than enough to be getting on with although looking at my hobby diary I notice just how few Fantasy miniatures I've painted this year (a mere six Skinks) and feel the need to redress the balance somewhat.

Anyway, twenty-two models minimum in the next four weeks. Doable, especially with so many half-complete ones to chip away at.

Then the real fun of exceeding the record begins...

Friday, 1 June 2018

Comic Reviews


This week Brian Michael Bendis gets a third chance to make a first impression; Judge Dredd penetrates Patrick Swayze; and, Jean Grey does some family visiting.

Spoilers below...

Man of Steel #1

Okay, cards on the table: I have a huge writer crush on Brian Michael Bendis. When I was getting back into comics after an absence of years it was his Daredevil that drew me in. Between that and Ultimate Spider-Man it was clear that this was a writer with a real love and appreciation for the characters he was handling, one who knew where to modernise and where to leave well alone for the benefit of continuity.

So now he's writing Superman. Now, there's no one more skeptical of nostalgia than me. I know its a drug, I know its a con half the time but damn me if this isn't Superman exactly as I remember the character. Bendis plays it smart, intercutting his bold new take on the “true reason” Krypton was destroyed with a very conscious greatest hits reel to assure people that this is their (and their father's and their grandfather's Superman). We see him swoop In to the rescue a couple of times, once with supervillains and once with an apartment building fire and all with that very earnest honesty about him even when he's being sarcastic.

I am also very, very glad to see that Jon continues to exist. Not that I thought he was going away, exactly, but more than I suspected Bendis might ignore the boy's existence between the very iconic and classic feel of things (down to the red shorts) and the plotline from the DC Nation one-shot about Lois not being at the Planet anymore.

If there's one thing Bendis seems absolutely determined on its that Superman is a reported above all else. Even when he's rescuing people from the burning building he's thinking about how this rash of electrical fires came about. Arson? Bad city planning? Ordinances that aren't up to scratch?

Its been a long time since a version of Superman grabbed me this quickly. I'm not saying its been all doom and gloom before now (Patrick Gleason's run on Superman stands out in my mind as a great recent series) but this just perfectly captures what I love about the character.

Judge Dredd: Under Siege #1

So, for a while people have been telling me that the American Judge Dredd comics from IDW aren't the disaster one would assume them to be. Not to insult anyone of a Yankish persuasion reading this but American fans (and most comic authors are fans these days) tend to not get that Dredd is meant to be funny. In fairness, a worrying number of British fans don't get this either nowadays but that's a rant for another day.

Reading this I'm trying to remind myself that this is by no means the first series IDW has put out and the conspicuous similarities to Dredd (2012) are probably a one off. Like the film (which I adore) we have a situation where two Judges are trapped in a giant apartment building with enemies on the top floors and a control room to be taking control of on the other side of the baddies.

In this case Dredd has been sent in to Patrick Swayze Block to locate Judge Beeny (presumably this story is set some time before she became a member of the Council Of Five) who went missing when the block went off the comms grid when she was meant to be doing a routine school visit.

Beeny is actually a character I have a lot of time for: a young, idealistic Judge who was the daughter of anti-Judge activists and one of the few reformers Dredd has ever been seen to so much as give the time of day. If nothing else I look forward to her and Dredd interacting across this series even if, sadly, the plot looks like one I've been through before just with slightly different villains. Who knows, though? Time will tell.

X-Men Red Annual #1

Even four issues into the main series, I'm still cautious about X-Men Red. Its not that its bad, its certainly entertaining, but the sticking point for me is that its essentially a Jean Grey series. I don't like Jean Grey much. Over the last few years the teenage version that's been running around has softened my view of her and I think its just the Ms. Perfect version that everyone idolises that gets my back up and Taylor seems smart enough not to push that angle too much. Jean in this series is definitely the same woman with the same formidable reputation but more conscious of her flaws.

Anyway, the annual is basically the story of what Jean did just after her resurrection, in spite of the whole of the rest of the team being on the cover, and is a pretty personal story only connected to the Red team by featuring Jean's first meeting with Laura and Gabby.

The long and the short of it: not much happens here but fluff and then of Jean's emotional journey is basically just to put her where we say her in #1. That said having been said: ain't nothing wrong with fluff, especially fluff that has Jean and Rachel interact like family for practically the first time ever. Plus, any issue with Gabby in it is definitely worth at least a look.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

The Triumvirate of Watch-Fortress Rubicon



Triumvirates were an interesting thing I wish had survived into 40k 8th edition. Those were nice box sets and I genuinely wonder what might have been achieved if we'd seen the idea continue. My own fantasy booking for them would be a Triumvirate Of Chaos with Abaddon, Zaraphiston and some sort of enormous new Daemon Prince (or Primarch Lorgar who I imagine would be smaller than Magnus and Mortarion).

Anyway, considering that I've now decided to fold in my Mechanicus with my Deathwatch I've decided to build a Triumvirate of my own to represent the different factions present at Rubicon Command.

First up will, of course, be the Deathwatch Watch-Master, commanding officer of the fortress. This model will absolutely just be straight out of the clampack with no conversions other than, maybe, a chapter shoulder pad because I absolutely adore the model.

Second will the leader of the Mechanicus delegation who will either be a converted Magos Dominus or a converted Belisarius Cawl. Whichever model I use I want to add xenotech components to it to represent the heresy that Stygies VIII keep getting in trouble for.

And finally, a model that I don't even know what I'll use as the base for conversion: the Ordo Xenos Inquisitor assigned to the fortress. Background has changed over the years so now the Deathwatch co-operate with the Ordo Xenos rather than being the ordo's chamber militant. I actually prefer this version of the background, if I'm being honest, but I definitely think the ordo would have some sort of presence even if only as a liaison officer. So my Xenos Inquisitor Laurento Hex, one of my oldest 40k characters, will find himself and his retinue assigned to Rubicon Command and incarnated in a brand new model.

I just have to work out what he's going to look like.

Monday, 14 May 2018

The Sprawl Addressed (finished models)



I looked at my hobby diary before writing this and it turns out I haven't finished a model since the 6th of March. No wonder I needed a week of intensive hobbying to get myself back in the groove. Admittedly, I didn't get anywhere near finishing the small legion of models on the mantelpiece but plenty did get done. I started last week with thirty-one models and I finished sixteen. That is not bad, especially as one of them is a Lord Of War choice (admittedly one of the smaller ones, but still).

What's more they're all for the same project: the many headed beast of detachments that is my Deathwatch army.

First up we have Kill-Team “Omen” (Rubicon Command, Watch Company Primus, First Squad) under Sergeant Mori Pellos of the Star Phantoms:
 

The chapters, from left to right, are the Dark Hands, Star Phantoms, Exorcists, Black Dragons, Angels Sanguine and Marines Malevolent (the Marine Malevolent was already painted and is just joining his completed squad here). Basically, I wanted to make a team composed of some of the less trustworthy chapters in the Imperium simply because the shoulder pads in the official kit tend more towards the upstanding and heroic sorts (plus the Dark Angels). I particularly enjoyed the chance to include a mutated Space Marine in the form of the Black Dragon with his horned head (taken from the Chaos Space Marine Raptors kit, by the way).

For anyone wondering, the shoulder pads come from the online store of Shapeways trader POP Goes The Monkey. They're 3D-printed and require a little cleaning before painting (hence why the paint looks a little thick on these ones, I didn't know that when I started them). As you can see, the detail fidelity is fantastic even if some striations from the printing process remain visible through the paint.

Also for the main body of the Deathwatch detachment itself is Terminator Kill-Team “Gauntlet” (Watch Company Secundus, First Squad) under Sergeant Dane Ixion of the Minotaurs:

The chapters from the line-up, left to right, are: Red Hunters, Brazen Skulls, Dark Hunters, Minotaurs and Angels Of Redemption. Again, shoulder pads from POP.

I also finished the first unit for my Adeptus Mechanicus detachment which will operate as allies (...ish) to the Deathwatch of Rubicon Command.


I've painted these Sicarians in the red armour and black robes of Stygies VIII, a Forge World often censured by Mars for an unhealthy interest in xenotech. Rubicon Command uses them for technical analysis and fabrication and the Stygies mob use the Deathwatch to get their hands on all sorts of proscribed alien technology.

And, finally, the big fella: an Imperial Knight Armiger Waglaive from House Cadmus:



I'll be honest, the main reason I picked this colour scheme was because it was simple. I do like the House's background which mainly revolves around them being effectively mounted hunters more than mechanised heraldic knights but the fact I could use two principal colours (silver and camo green) with just a little yellow and black mixed in for variety. Whether I'll have them siding with the Mechanicus in my background or standing for good (… ish) Imperial values I've yet to decide. Cadmus aren't linked with Stygies VIII in the background, their local forge world is/was Gryphonne IV which is convenient since that world and an awful lot of Cadmus Knights fell to the Tyranids.

All in all, not a bad week's work.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Addressing the hobby sprawl



My works in progress are sprawling again. As I write this half-finished models occupy pretty much the entire length of the mantelpiece, a mismatched combination of Deathwatch, Mechanicus and one very lonely Necron. To be specific:

1x Deathwatch Librarian
1x Deathwatch Terminator Watch-Captain
5x Deathwatch Kill-Marines
6x Deathwatch Terminators

1x Necron Cryptek

1x Magos Dominus
10x Skitarii Vanguard
5x Sicarian Ruststalkers
1x Knight Armiger

That's too much. That's dispiritingly too much and just looking at it has been a roadblock on my hobby for the last couple of weeks. So, to address this: method and reward.

The method, going against a lifetime of habit, will be to concentrate on one thing at a time. Instead of trying to address the sprawl in its entirety or as a couple of units in one go I'm going to take one unit or character down at a time and concentrate on finishing that one thing before moving on to anything else.

As to reward: for every unit I finish between now and next Sunday, I get a “cheat” on my resolution to not buy any models until I've finished painting my Forgebane set.

Thirty-one models and seven days. Let's see how I do...

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Reading Tea Leaves: Forge World discontinuations


The other day the hobby side of the internet exploded with the news that Forge World had shifted all their Horus Heresy Legion upgrade sets to Last Chance To Buy. To the look of it they've taking the entire range out of production including the extremely recent Space Wolves upgrades.

Oddly, this happened with not a word from Forge World.

I'm actually quite happy to say I find that odd now. Once upon a time this lack of communication was the norm for Games Workshop but they've got a lot better in recent years. Still, this is not a good look. We don't know what this means.

The most optimistic outlook would be that the main design studio are taking over the project and we're eventually going to get all these sets (or equivalents) in plastic. Its certainly possible but it seems odd to take it all out of production in one go. This is six pages of products all going Last Chance To Buy in one go, they represent almost every legion and effectively an entire game system of product. That's a big release schedule of upgrade sets for what is essentially a very large specialist game system and I'm not sure I see the logic of taking it all out of production in one go instead of staggering it to meet a plastic release schedule.

Then there's the pessimistic outlook: its the end of Horus Heresy as a supported system. Again, it could happen. If Fantasy can go then Horus Heresy can go. I'm not sure that I buy into that scenario, either. By all accounts its Forge World's biggest seller which is certainly supported by how much stuff they've released for it.

Then again, it might be a matter of cost. GW are not exactly unknown for pricing themselves out of the market. Even with the plastic Horus Heresy Space Marines a single unit of ten miniatures fully customised is extremely expensive. An upgrade set of ten torsos and ten shoulder pads comes in at £33 plus the price of the actual marines. Maybe its just that the sets themselves aren't selling.

Maybe its third parties. Forge World products are expensive and suffer from infamously poor quality control. Forge World resin is fragile, it takes ages to clean, and there is absolutely zero chance it won't arrive with at least a few parts distorted possibly even beyond use. Third party stuff, I'm sorry to say, usually has better quality control and that's just a fact.

So, maybe its a problem with Forge World itself losing out to third parties who provide the same parts with better quality control and no greater barrier of inconvenience since both involve ordering online. Maybe Forge World is just reducing its production base as they move more into the Specialist Games line.

Regardless of reason, however, its a shitty move not to communicate what's going on. This is a game system that, almost by necessity, involves a huge financial investment from the player as well as the sheer time-consuming inconvenience of working with FW resin. Making this huge reduction in range and not communicating to what extent the sky is falling is a dick move I thought Games Workshop had developed beyond, I really did.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Deathwatch Mission Tactics



I love the Deathwatch but one thing I've learnt through bitter, bitter experience is that they absolutely need to do as much damage at range as possible. Once your enemy closes with you and starts causing casualties its basically over for that unit. The battlefield efficiency of a Kill-Team drops drastically with the death of each and every marine.

There's been a lot of speculation the last few weeks on the Deathwatch Facebook group I'm a part of about how the new Codex might combat this. Top of the wish list for most were either better special issue ammunition or some sort of invulnerable save.

As it turns out there is at least one new special issue ammunition type available in the stratgems but the big idea the design team has had is Mission Tactics.
The basic idea here is to choose a type of unit (Troops, Fast Attack and so on) and for the duration of the game most everything in the army (infantry, bikes and Dreadnoughts) re-rolls 1s to wound against the type. There is a Warlord Trait and an item that allow you to change the Mission Tactic mid-game.

Obviously, I'll have to see how it works in game but this is probably the best solution to the problem. Deathwatch excel in shooting and have a slight weakness in combat because of their small numbers (more in the taking casualties area than the number of attacks area, obviously). This boosts the shooting and helps out with the combat problem, making them better at the thing they're meant to be amazing at and papers over one of the few real the army has.

I am very much looking forward to road testing this codex.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Hobby Goals for May



One
Build Forgebane

I definitely need to build these models. I've been painting the first of the Armigers and the Cryptek for the last week and its lit a fire under me to work on these factions. Unfortunately, those aren't just the only models I've been painting they're the only ones from the set I've even built.

Time to get a little construction going.

Two
Decide what I want to do for Necrons

Between my own Forgebane and the Necron half I bought cheap off a friend who just wanted the Mechanicus models, I have the basis for a decent size Necron army. I just need to make a few decisions. My own colour tests having failed I've fallen back on the utterly gorgeous Novokh Dynasty colour scheme so that's decided (and oh so easy to paint).

For a start I need to decide what to do with all those multi-purpose kits. Two units of Immortals with different weapons load outs or one of Immortals and one of Deathmarks? Triarch Praetorians or Lychguard or both?

So, I need to go through the Codex to see what the Novokh background suggests and how their bespoke faction rules work and prepare an army list.

Three
Finish something for the Deathwatch

I have a lot of things just sitting half-finished for my Deathwatch and there's a new Codex on the way. It would be nice to have a thing or two battle ready when that drops.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

This Week's Project: Baldrick 40,000


I said before that I was going to clear the backlog a bit by not buying any new models umtil I'd painted the contents of Forgebane. In my defence I have been a good boy and held to that. The case for the prosecution is that so far my progress on Forgebane has been to basecoat the Cryptek. The bugger of it all is that as soon as I swore off buying new models I found myself really, really inspired towards the Deathwatch and now I desperately want to buy more Kill-Teams.

So I need to make headway on Forgebane. This week's project, therefore, is to build and paint one of the Knight Armigers aka the models I bought this set for in the first place.

As to colour scheme: I spent a while trying to come up with my own colour scheme but, ultimately, nothing I scribbled down appealed to me as much as the deep forest green of House Cadmus:
I know I'm usually one for bold, bright colour schemes but I like the moody shade of green and how it contrasts both with the black and the brighter yellow. I just like green in general, really, and it'll make a nice change from the endless sea of black and red I've been painting recently.

I also like their background. Their homeworld of Raisa is infested with Beastmen and every year the Knights gather together, get into their war machines and engage in a huge cull. The knight who makes the most kills becomes the leader of the household for the next year. They also have a convenient xenos-related grudge having lost the better part of their fighting strength during the Tyranid invasion of Gryphonne IV which is useful for a force that will be allied to my Deathwatch, at least for the moment.

This will also be the first Lord Of War I've ever painted, a whole part of the game that I've been ignoring for editions opening up to me. Fun times.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Random catch-up musings (featuring Wrestlemania and Takeover spoilers)



Okay, its been a while so what we got?

Well, Wrestlemania happened and so did Takeover: New Orleans. One of these shows was better than the other. I was very down on Wrestlemania this year. The disappointment started early with Asuka losing her match and her undefeated streak. I genuinely thought they were going to have her win and do the Brock Lesnar thing and hold the title Wrestlemania to Wrestlemania and have her drop it to... oh, probably Bailey.

Instead they had Asuka lose to Charlotte and (to quote a favourite sentiment of Jim Cornette) I don't see where the money is in this? They have spent so much time investing Asuka's undefeated streak with the proper weight and mystique, they allowed it to run so long it long ago beat Bill Goldberg's all time record.

And then she loses on her first big-time match on main roster.

Where's the money? Where's the money in breaking her record for Charlotte who is already over, already respected and a multiple time title holder? It doesn't make sense to me.

And the hits kept on coming. Brock Lesnar's interminable part-time Universal Championship run lumbers on for reasons we discovered the next evening when Lashley made his triumphant return to Raw. I can only hope the rumours are wrong and Lesnar is going to drop at the Greatest Royal Rumble instead of making us wait for SummerSlam. Nakamura/Styles was somehow a lot less interesting than the famous match they had at Wrestle Kingdom a couple years back just before they jumped ship to WWE. I really thought that was going to be an all-time classic.

And I just cannot get over the whole bizarre scenario of hiring the most famous female combat athlete in the world and having her debut in a match against a semi-trained 41 year old mother of two featuring two semi-retired old men. Really, Triple H and Angle should have been their own nostalgia match and at least let Rousey's first match be all-women.

To be honest, the highlights of the night for me were Xavier Woods playing the Dragonzord theme and the Bludgeon Brothers winning the tag belts less because I love the Bludgeon Brothers (though I do) but because it finally ends the wretched and over-extended Usos/New Day feud.

Takeover, meanwhile, could not have been better. Worth the money I didn't pay for it (we use my housemate's Network account) for Gargano vs. Ciampa which ran just over half an hour and was amazingly intense. The Six-Man Ladder Match for the North American Championship was amazing and I swear I have never expected be so hyped for the introduction of a mid-card title.

*****

On a happier note: Paige is the new General Manager of Smackdown Live! A female authority figure for Steph to bump up against. I know they want Rousey to be the female Stone Cold but I really think someone in a management position needs to exist who can stand up to her.

I also really hope this isn't just a stunt appointment for market Paige's biopic. I mean, obviously they're going to use it like that but I hope it outlasts the movie's release.

*****

DC finally made announcements about the post-Metal Justice League comics beyond the No Justice stuff they already announced. There's a new Justice League Dark with Wonder Woman and Zatanna which is interesting but the real news for me is Justice League Odyssey which not only has Cyborg leading a team featuring Jessica Cruz and Starfire but its going to be drawn by Stjepan Sejic, the amazing artist of Sunstone and a recent really good run on Aquaman.

*****

Roseanne came back and every time they interview John Goodman he looks like one of those hostages assuring their family they're fine and being fed and everyone is bein provided proper medical assistance. I grew up with that show and didn't know any of the stuff about Roseanne herself going a bit made and tyrannical towards the end of the original and now she's a bloody Pizzagate truther!

Oh, well, not like I'm starved for television I want to watch and keep not finding time for between the Arrowverse shows, the Marvel-Netflix stuff, Voltron: Legendary Defender, and that Lost In Space reboot.

*****

So, the solo Flash movie that became a Flashpoint movie is now a solo Flash movie again because DC figured if they were going to make another shit movie they might as well make the version of it that doesn't basically require expensive guest stars.

*****

I have developed a visceral hatred of Sam Ovens, a man who hawks business webinars in YouTube ads. Somehow I manage to get one of his ads on every video I watch and I watch a lot of stuff on YouTube. My only respite from his voice is the strange banjo accompanied adverts for toilet nowl nightlights.

*****

Marvel's upcoming Death of the Inhumans event is coming in July. I don't care. I genuinely do not give a shit. I have tried to care about the Inhumans since Inhumans vs. X-Men. I read Royals, which was okay, and Black Bolt, which was great but as a larger concept I can't say they grab me at all. “The X-Men but even more uncomfortably eugenic” isn't that good a pitch and I can't say I'm surprised we've reached this point.

However...

If this latest bullshit event has any negative consequences for Kamala Khan words will be had.

*****

Donald Trump has decided to pick a fight with the US Post Office because he doesn't understand that Amazon's free delivery isn't free to Amazon. He genuinely seems to believe that Amazon just declares they aren't paying postage and gets away with it. Don't get me wrong, Amazon is pretty evil and I don't doubt this is something they'd try if they thought they had he chance but the simple reality that should be apparent to anyone with a functional reasoning brain (or a White House full of functional reasoning brains they can consult at any hour of the day or night) that Amazon pays the postage fees out of their profit on the sale.

And that's the only Donald Trump news I want to do in this one because its Trump and there's a scandal a day with that guy.

Hopefully he'll be impeached or do something to terminally disappoint his personality cult of heavily armed, emotionally unstable racial supremacists some of whom, I'm told, are very fine people.