Friday, 28 April 2017

Comic Reviews


Have I been sent anything with Nazis in it this week? What is wrong with the world that this is even a concern for me?

Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider #1
Okay, old favourite character being relaunched by Nazis Are Cool-era Marvel. Deep breaths... deep breaths... open the comic... and...

Well, okay, so first thing we learn is Ben got his new costume by mugging a cosplayer and, of course, this all spins out of his recent heel turn as the Jackal in The Clone Conspiracy so this is hardly the Scarlet Spider I remember from the not-exactly-good old days. Peter David is doing his best, poor chap, but I honestly wonder if this thing is salvagable. Ben's USP back in the day was that he'd been dealt a truly crappy hand but the old Parker morals still guided him. I knew I wasn't going to get the old Daily Grind Coffee Shop crew back in this series but I had hoped Ben might be a bit more “himself” than he was as the Jackal.

What David chooses to focus on is the internal struggle between the two versions of Ben: the Scarlet Spider and the Jackal, with both turning up as delusions from time to time to get on Ben's nerves. Most of the issue is that, basically, with a little side trip to tease the fact that Kaine knows Ben's still alive and is pissed.

I'm in for the second issue but if that doesn't absolutely grab me, well, I get to save some money. Still, at least he's not a Nazi.

Infamous Iron Man #7
Well, shucks, if this wasn't the perfect example of why I still read Bendis' comics after all these years. Whether you like his very conversational, talky style or not, you have to admit that Bendis just gets how to write the relationships between characters.

The first half of this issue is a big fight, starting with a huge meeting of villains that Doom breaks up in order to lay the smackdown on just about every costumed villain in New York which segues into an after-the-fact post mortem of events. The other half of the issue is a gorgeously atmospheric conversation between Doom and Ben Grimm that Alex Maleev and Matt Hollingsworth draw the absolute hell out of: close-ups, deep shadows, the perfect level of detail to every facial expression. You couldn't direct actors this perfectly in a million years, its the sort of scene the sequential art form was made for. Bendis goes deep into the decades of feelings and emotions (both as people and characters) that inform how these two characters interact and then, with a fantastic cliffhanger, he promises to top it next issue.

And not a Nazi in sight.

Detective Comics #955
Dear James Tynion IV, stop making me ship things, your humble servant, James.

Seriously, that ballet dancer that yelled at Cass in #950 found Cass after she got slashed up by Lady Shiva and nursed her back to health. And she read Cass children's stories as she slept. Its too cute. Then Cass went and cut her way through about a million ninjas. Which was not as cute but was equally awesome. This is mostly a big fight issue with everyone aside from Cass captured and most of them naked, too.

Also, what is it with comic writers hating people called Ullysses right now? First that Inhuman who started Civil War II and now this Colony dickhead with who makes chemical weapons and steals Tim's costume?

Mother Panic #6
I really like how this arc is filling us in on Violet's home life at the same time as deepening the weirdness that surrounds her operation. For instance, in this issue we get some closure on the whole business of those funny rats Violet's mother was talking to and it just serves to make it all stranger. That aside, there's a great scene of a woman Violet us dating reacting to the violence of Violet's life in an interesting an complex way, not so much scared of the fact Vi can be violent (she even admits it was probably justified) but of the way Violet looks as she hit the guy. Its a more complex treatment, brief as it is, than most fiction usually allows for.

Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #17
And so it ends, my favourite series in the stands.

Its a self-consciously light weight little epilogue to the series as Patsy finally gets her royalties from her mother's books and takes her friends on a shopping spree. Everyone gets to do their bit: Tom and Ian are cute, Jubilee gets to do cool vampire things (and wear her classic costume!) and there's one last set of silly villains for Patsy to be unreasonably nice to. I'm going to miss this series and I hope writer Kate Leth and artist Brittney L. Williams have more work lined up because both have made such a huge impression on me over the course of the series.

This really just is the most adorable series.

Mighty Thor #18
Always good to see Quentin Quire knocking around, especially as it manages to act as a little bit of a Wolverine & The X-Men reunion with him, Kid Gladiator, Warbird and even Krakoa turning up. I've actually really enjoyed this arc with Thor and the Shi'Ar gods getting into a bit of barny and having Jason Aaron return to some of his old X-Men characters is a delightful little bonus.

Honestly, Quire is the main attraction of this issue, the narcissistic little puke gets a wonderful line in selfish prattle that completely flips the tone of the whole arc so far. Plus, that's always a fun personality to pit against someone as serious as Thor. 

Thursday, 27 April 2017

8th edition shooting: I have an issue


There is an issue I have always had with 40k stat lines and the ranged weapon rules Warhammer Community put up yesterday are basically the perfect illustration of it:
You see, I have basically no problem with any of that. I like how the lascannon is balanced to do a lot of damage to a single target (read: vehicles and their many, many wounds), I like how the flamer hits automatically on a random number of hits, I like the -3 armour save modifier on the heavy weapon.

The only sticking point for me is the boltgun and its complete lack of armour save modifier.

Now, a boltgun is basically a grenade launcher held by a man so big and strong that said grenade launcher has the same relative weight and utility as a rifle would to a normal human being. It fires huge bullets that embed in their target and explode.

And it doesn't affect the target's armour value purely because boltguns the most common “basic” weapons in the game. If you gave this gun an AP value under this particular system that would be hugely unbalancing to low armour factions like Imperial Guard and Orks.

Basically, because of how common they are, Space Marines kind of break the “realism” that game stats are meant to describe. Their basic guns should be incredibly devastating to armour, including Space Marine power armour, but it can't do that if the game is to have any hope of working. So I'm here ackowledging that these rules look well considered and balanced but I don't really think they describe the thing they're meant to.

Its not a huge issue because I'm used to it and the accompanying issue that the difference between a normal human's base stat of 3 and a Space Marine's base stat of 4 is so much bigger a representative difference than it is in Fantasy. Still, I had hoped that maybe this version of the game would take the clean break of totally invalidating all previous rules in one go and maybe the shift the stats a bit. At this point, the only way to do that after what we've seen would be to make Guardsmen pathetic and I really don't want that to happen.

Anyway, for the most part I'm still cautiously optimistic and I've been having a lot of fun making Flesh Tearers Vanguard which, hopefully, I'll have some pics of in the next couple days. 

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A little light statistical analysis


Yesterday, Warhammer Community published a post outlining how stat lines would work in 8th edition. Now, I generally don't take much interest in the nitty gritty of mechanics and so-called “Math-Hammer”. I'm a bit number blind, to be honest, and pretty much anything I buy for an army is based simply on wanting the shiny thing rather than having any idea what it does (which explains how many random plastic Horus Heresy Marines I have).

Still, there are some changes that interest me. As well as some general case explanations, GW posted up four example stat lines for people to look at.
So we have the humble post-human Space Marine. Most obviously they and everyone else has gained a Movement stat. I am very, very happy about this. No more rules flicking to remind myself how a given Unit Type moves, now I just have the stat. Important to note that the Tactical Marine has Movement 6...
whilst the Terminator has Movement 5, borrowing the Age Of Sigmar mechanic where heavier armour reduces base movement. Good change. Terminators now have two wounds, as well, which adds some extra value to heavy infantry.

Initiative is a thing of the past and To Hit rolls for both range and close combat are at set values, though wounding still uses an opposing values system as before (though whether the same system as before is left unspecified). Long story short: there's only one damn logs table now, halle-freaking-lujah!

Another major change to stats is that none of them are capped at 10 anymore, which means...
that if power fists still work the same way, this Dreadnought is Strength 12. Whether that's how it'll work or not, I'm just rubbing my hands in glee at the idea that Dreads will now have eight wounds. Oh, so very yes! Dreadnoughts, as I may have mentioned, are my favourite thing in the entire 40k universe bar none but they've always sort of been more decorative than functional.

So, all good news? Well, I have some questions and they mostly revolve around...
Roboute Guilliman, a living demi-god in a system with no upper stat cap, having physical statistics of six and only one more wound than a Dreadnought. Everything else on that profile is as godly as they can resonably make it but as a physical presence he doesn't seem anywhere near as durable as he should.

So, issues, but the original post has done its job of assuring me that the new system will at least be based in something I understand so I won't have to relearn everything and that this isn't as big a departure as AoS was.

Current mood on this? Cautious optimism, I'd say. 

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

We need more liberals like Keith Olbermann


I've been watching a lot of Keith Olbermann's series The Resistence and The Closer on GQ's Youtube channel. He's a very angry man who yells facts at his audience and does so in a well-researched, properly sourced and well-written way.

He's not trying to be a nice liberal. He's not trying to be soft and non-confrontational. He's not interested in pulling punches in the name of fairness. He's on the attack because he views the country he lives in and believes in as being at risk. He's passionate about what he's talking about. He's well aware that the right has its Alex Joneses and Bill O'Reillys (well... not so much them anymore, but you get what I mean) and those people, disgusting as they are, speak with certainty and passion and don't feel a need to beg to be heard.

They just shout and we on the left need to learn to shout louder, shout more eloquently and shout truer things than the opposition.

I say this as a British lefty who has spent his entire adult life watching this country's supposedly left wing party sell out its principles to become Tory Lite and what other left wing movements in this country still exist become progressively more interested in eating their own young than actually getting things done.

We need to actually start standing up for ourselves and be fully prepared to tell our opponents when they are being racist and sexist and xenophobic and homophobic and transphobic and privileged.

Because this is why they win. While we simper and try to understand the racists and homophobes and make them feel safe and valid for some fucking reason, they go on being loud and comfortingly certain for their voters.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Paint along with Duncan: an experiment

Whilst watching some of WarhammerTV's Tip Of The Day videos, something occurred to me: I never actually learnt how to paint. When I first got into this hobby I got some basic tips from a friend about watering my paints and basing my colours (usually in brown, this was before base paints were a thing, I am old) but aside from that most of what I learnt was from written guides in White Dwarf.

The thing is, I am terrible at learning through reading, at least when it comes to practical things. The most recent set of painting guides have helped me a bit more since they have stage-by-stage pictures but even then the fact that what they call “layering” takes in about five different techniques is an issue, as is the fact that static pictures can't show you how to work the paint onto the miniature, just the effect you're meant to end up with.

So, over the next week or so, I am going to try to paint a miniature by following one of Duncan Rhodes' step-by-step videos. My chosen victim for this experiment?
My Lord Of Change. I bought this model the day it was released and after building it I just sort of got intimidated and he's been sitting on the side of my computer desk as a paperweight ever since. Not the most auspicious position for a master of fate, I'm sure you'll agree.

So, what am I hoping to learn? Well, I've never used these paper pallets before (I still use one of those bumpy plastic ones) and hopefully I'll get a smoother result out of it. I'm hoping to learn more patience with the “two thin coats” approach, as well as better watering my paints as I've never had a proper demonstration of how much water you're meant to use. My highlighting could definitely use a lot of work, which it looks like I'll be able to practice with the feathers.

This is thevideo I'll be using and, with luck, I'll be posting progress every couple of days. 

Sunday, 23 April 2017

No one expects a Windsor with a gun


Apparently the US Secret Service are having conniptions about Trump wanting to do the whole procession to Windsor Castle in the wooden carriage when he comes here on a state visit in October. Personally, that's not what I'd be worried about...
let's face it, no one would see it coming. 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Which Legion do I want to paint?


I've decided to try something I've never done before: paint some models purely for display. I've honestly never done that before, everything I've ever painted has been with the intention of using them in a game.

Now, though, I have this Mark IV Tactical Squad that I have no use for and I can just use it to paint something cooland different, something to challenge myself. I feel it should be a Heresy-era Legion, not just for the look of the thing but because I don't play Horus Heresy so it would be a nice change of scene.

So, which one?

A couple of Legions don't attract me at all for reasons of being a bit plain (Blood Angels, Iron Warriors) or because I'm painting them in other projects (Alpha Legion, Dark Angels) or because I'd really want to buy expensive extra parts to make them look “right” (Iron Hands, Thousand Sons).

So here's the short list and why...

Salamanders

The flame designs would be a good opportunity to practice my freehand and its not a shade of green I've had reason to paint before. Plus, I've always had a soft spot for the Salamanders and it would be nice to paint some of them at last. This is really the only one on the list that might lead to an army someday simply because they've been on my personal to do list since forever.

World Eaters

Dirty white armour is a challenge, not as challenging as pure white and therefore probably a good chance to ease myself into that colour palette. Plus it would be an opportunity to practice some blood effects. Only downside is I'm not too sold on doing a display unit for the XII Legion holding bolters.

Sons Of Horus

They're a gorgeous colour. Sea green isn't shade that comes up much in these systems and there's a cool Duncan Rhodes tutorial for them on the WarhammerTV YouTube channel.

Emperor's Children

Okay, okay, so I don't have chestplates with aquilas on them and that sort of means compromising the “aesthetic”, which is an odd thing to do with a display unit. I admit, that means I probably won't paint them as the glorious III Legion but the pull of painting a rich, deep purple armour is a strong one.

*****

This week I'll be building the unit (along with the rest of my Betrayal At Calth models), so hopefully by the time they're together I'll have made a decision.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Too sick to review, gonna moan instead

I am currently in a lot of hayfever pain. Puffy, itchy eyes; sore throat; skin rash where I rested my arm inside a sleeve against some grass the other day. Worse yet, until the rash happened I thought this was a cold so I spent two sodding days self-medicating with the wrong medication.

So, I can't really review this week's comics because I can't read the things. Instead I am just going to moan about Secret Empire aka Nazi Captain America and his House of Flying Controversy and the fact that it is going to mildly inconvenience me in the coming months.

I don't want to read Secret Empire. Captain America the secret Nazi doesn't interest me as an angle. It doesn't exactly offend me, it just strikes me as a sort of bland controversy bait that's I've seen enough times before. I get why a lot of people are offended, its a pretty damned offensive idea to flip the moral centre of the Marvel Universe to be a Nazi; Nick Spencer has not helped the issue by taking to Twitter to insist that Hydra totally aren't Nazis, honest guv. Of course, that line of argument hit a brick wall of Agents Of SHIELD gifs from that scene where Skye explains to Ward in detail that HYDRA ARE BLOODY NAZIS!

Then there was a whole thing where apparently Magneto is going to be on Hydra's side in this because it makes huge amounts of sense for Magneto, the Jewish concentration camp survivor who married a Romani woman, to side with a neo-Nazi movement.

So you can understand why I woud want to skip this one.

Except I can't. This week, even as I ignore the zero issue and the first tie-in of the Steve Rogers title this bloody story makes its presence known in U.S.Avengers, my favourite Marvel title at the moment.

Usually I'm really invested in these big Marvel events and its only now one has come along I actively want to avoid that I'm really thinking about how intrusive these things are. Titles I like are going to have to waste time dealing with the events and consequences of this bollocks that could be spent on things like more scene of Squirrel Girl and Rescue in tuxedos or Danielle Cage being a better Captain America than any of the characters wielding the shield full time at the moment.

They're storytelling road blocks and its a coin flip whether the tie-in issues are going to be completely incomprehensible things that I could skip because they're totally about the crossover or whether they'll just play lip service to the thing and just be a normal issue with things I want to read because they're about the series.

Or they could be a frustrating mix of the two.

So, yay for issues full of Nazi bullshit getting in the way of my reading enjoyment. 

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Oh, snap (general election)


A quick note to my fellow liberals and Remainers about the recently announced general election:

I do not give one solitary damn about your conscience or your precious ideological purity. I do not care about how you don't want to vote for “the lesser of two evils” because you'll feel icky afterwards. This isn't about you or your petty little self-image. I do not care about your damned straight white privilege knowledge that no matter if its the greater or lesser evil in power, you'll likely survive.

Protest voting for unfeasible or imaginary “perfect” options is what got us into this mess. It got us the coalition government that birthed the current one, it saddled the US with Trump, and now we have Brexit and potential nuclear war so look how well that all worked out!

So when you got to that polling station, hold you fucking nose and vote with one thing in mind: do you want a Tory government and a hard Brexit? If so, vote Tory and be damned, you fucking idiot. If not, and you live in a Conservative-controlled area, look into the margin of victory for your area in the last election and vote for the most likely alternative: Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, whoever has a credible chance of winning and representing NOT THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY in parliament.

This is a second referendum on Brexit. Its a one-issue election. The Tories don't want to have to campaign for re-election after the two year deadline when all sorts of messy realities will have come home to roost. They want a solid mandate for Brexit whilst their supporters are high on a consequence free victory.

And if a bunch of wet white liberal handwringers who worry that Jeremy Corbyn is not absolutely perfect in every way hand that mandate to them just as they let Brexit pass because they imagined a third, invisible “Leave but I don't really mean it, I just want to send a message” option on their referendum form then, frankly, don't expect any sympathy from me if you're part of that.

Just once, just this one damn time, could the liberal movement in this country be pragmatic and ruthless about something?

This is a chance for damage control. Take it. 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

It was bound to happen eventually

I've passed this sign most every day for well over a year now. I am genuinely baffled its taken this long before I saw someone do this.

Is it strange that I like the vandal's choice of font?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

What to do with my Betrayal At Calth models?


I bought the set in a moment of enthusiasm. I have pretty much zero interest in Horus Heresy as a game system. It had Maximus armour in, though, plastic Maximus armour! My issues with Forge World resin are well-documented (another reason the game doesn't appeal to me, too much FW resin) and Maximus armour is my favourite Space Marine armour mark. Hell, I committed to a Black Templars army back in the day just because the upgrade sprue came with a Maximus chest plate.

Aesthetic reasons are the best reasons to do things, shut up!

So, yeah, I didn't have anything to do with those models once I had them. The only reason I painted the Contemptor Dreadnought for my Flesh Tearers was because it was the first opportunity that presented itself. And, of course, the other dsay a sudden craze made me decide to paint the Legion Praetor as an Angel Of Redemption.

So what else have we got to work with?

Cataphractii Terminators

For a start, the Cataphractii Terminators are getting painted as Angels Of Redemption. I really like the way the Praetor came out and I want to have a whole squad like that. This also has a double benefit of giving me something to do with the Dark Angels from my Dark Vengeance set some time down the line (I bought it for the Chaos stuff).

Dark Apostle

He's getting a head swap. Loathe as I am to damage a perfectly good set of Maximus, he needs either a skull helm or a bare head to become a Flesh Tearers Chaplain. I love the plastic Death Company Chaplain but he has a jet pack and the Death Company I'm painting right now are on foot so this will make a good addition to the squad.

Tactical Squad #1

I have been hoarding pistols and melee weapons ever since I started my Flesh Tearers army and here is where I get to use them: a ten man Vanguard Squad with all sorts of cool poses. I have a bunch of pistols, chainswords and various power weapons from different kits so no two models should look the same. Plus, being armed for close combat they won't have boltguns obscuring their lovely armour.

Tactical Squad #2

Right, so this squad of ten models is going to contribute to twenty figures. Here's how its going to work...

For a start, the ten torsos and heads will be used to augment a Blood Angels Tactical Squad. This will leave me with ten spare Blood Angels torsos and plenty of heads to augment vanilla Space Marine kits later on.

Of the remaining parts, five sets of legs, backpacks and weapon arms will be used to build a unit of Alpha Legion Headhunter Kill Team for my Chaos forces.

The other five sets of legs and such will be hybridised with some MkIII torsos and heads I have left over from making some Forge World Plague Marines (never... again... I don't care how much I spent on those kits, they are tantamount to unbuildable and I will just wait for the plastics) and a Dark Angel Veterans box set to make a squad of ten Fallen.

Tactical Squad #3

And here I run out of ideas. There's not really anything else I want to do for my Flesh Tearers and I absolutely do not want to paint Maximus armour with its basically bare chestplate in the Angels Of Redemption's halved colour scheme. So, with nothing functional to do with them, I have a few possibilities for more decorative, challenge myself sort of projects.

I could build them as Black Templars. I have plenty of the upgrade parts sitting around. I could paint them as Alpha Legion if the Headhunters come out well. I've also always loved the Sons Of Horus colour scheme so I might try my hand at that, there being an excellent WarhammerTV tutorial on YouTube. 

Monday, 17 April 2017

The most important panel in Preacher

Certainly the most relevant in our modern age. The man being yelled at and everyone in the background is an unmasked member of Ku Klux Klan, by the way. I mean, look at Steve Bannon, and please use Google Image Search to do it because I don't want a picture of him on my blog in case I catch something or provoke someone to projectile vomit on theirt keyboard.

He looks like Baron Harkonnen's less health conscious cousin and he honestly thinks he's the product of the genetically superior race. If nothing else, that is a wonderful demonstration of just how unscientific the idea of “scientific racism” is.

In that, at least, Steve Bannon has done the world a service. 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Thoughts on "The Pilot"


SPOILERS, SWEETIE: If you haven't seen the The Pilot, read no further. These are pretty much my unedited thoughts after watching the episode last night.
Yes, Pat, yes it is.
Sweet mother, I cannot weave – slender Aphrodite has overcome me with longing for a girl.” - Sappho, translated by Diane Taylor (Sappho: A New Translation of the Complete Works).

Is it just me or was this episode a bit... light? Maybe that's not the right word but this felt like the sort of plot-light episode RTD used to open his seasons with. Moffat has tended towards more big and eventy episodes to start his seasons. Bit of a pleasant flashback actually.

Conrtoversially, I like Nardole. I know a lot of people don't and I realise he does very little in this episode but I like how it gives Capaldi a more knowing second banana whilst Bill finds her feet.

As to Bill herself, I love her. Pearl Mackie has such an expressive face and I love how they draw out her reactions to the Doctor and the TARDIS. Her habit of asking questions that usually go unasked (like how the TARDIS has a name that only makes sense in English) is definitely Moffat having some fun with the fact this is the last time he gets to write a new companion and I can certainly appreciate that. Didn't like the fat joke, though.

Okay, okay, as much as I've been laughing along with ChipGate II (don't ask) there are obviously some likenesses between Bill and Rose and I don't think anyone making this thing was trying to hide that. I mean, that scene with the alarm clock was very reminiscent, wasn't it? Maybe that's part of the point: actively comparing the first explicitly gay co-lead with the new series' ultimate everywoman.

Oh, and one of the oldest “screw you, fanboy” memes just became canon: lesbian Dalek! Okay, we had a bisexual Dalek a couple of seasons ago but this is a very, very specific online joke that (presumably unknowingly) has now appeared on television.

P.S., if Heather doesn't turn up again to carry Bill of into the sunset, Moffat is insane.

I love the idea that the Doctor has spend seventy years at St. Luke's University. I mean, that's a Big Finish box set waiiting to happen, isn't it? Certainly a better use of their time than The Further Adventures Of Adam Mitchell (which is not only the premise of an upcoming audio but an entire comic series at one point, expanded universes are weird and not terribly discerning in what they expand).

I care very little about the vault, what's in it or who asked the Doctor to look after it. The answers to one, more or none of these might change my mind but for the moment I'm more interested in what, if anything, we get to see of the Doctor's daily life as a lecturer. I mean, did you see that speech in the lecture hall? More of that, please.

Turning up and getting blasted into oblivion without a single line of dialogue is probably as much of a return as the Movellans deserve, frankly. Also, I love the idea that Nardole has been in the middle of this war (the Time War?) before and that he “doesn't like it there”.

Are they bringing Susan back? I mean, as much as Moffat likes to make references to the classic series in general and the Hartnell era in particular this is a strange one. A photo of River I can understand: she's a major character of this era that people can be relied upon to remember. Susan... isn't. I mean, she appeared in An Adventure In Time And Space four years ago and that's about it. She's a character that, frankly, the series has tried its best to forget pretty much since the day she left. I mean, it could happen and she wouldn't be that hard to explain but it seems but it seems like an odd thing to include. I am almost certainly overthinking this. 

Bone armour, a hobby milestone


Away this weekend doing Easter things so instead of Death Company progress and this week's hobby goal here's a picture of something that has eluded me for years and I finally got right by accident:
Bone armour. I've been trying to crack this for years and I finally do it by being overzealous withmy base coating. That bone is just three or four layers of Rakarth Flesh that was meant to be a base for Ushabti Bone but it came out so well I just did a recess wash of Seraphim Sepia and called it a day.

He's an Angel Of Redemption because I had a sudden craze to paint a halved colour scheme just to push my skills a little and I had no plans for this Praetor. Actually, I need to find a use for most of my Betrayal At Calth models, I've still only painted the Dreadnought. I bought it because I love Maximus armour, it is my favourite mark, and yet I haven't found any use for it yet at all.

I have a set of Forge World Alpha Legion Headhunters conversion parts but that's five guys out of thirty. I definitely want to do some of them as Flesh Tearers because that that colour scheme looks so sweet on Maximus plate. 

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Doctor Who: the end of a very big era approaches


New Doctor Who tonight! Its been too long and I can't wait to see what Moffat and Capaldi have in store for their final season. What the trailers have revealed have more than whet my appetite: Ice Warriors, proper Cybermen, Missy (oh, Bill's going to love her).

Then there's the future...

Now, absolutely nothing is known or announced about Chris Chibnall's Doctor Who and this time I don't even have tea leaves to read. With Davies I'd seen Bob & Rose and the odd episode of Queer As Folk and I was a massive fan of Coupling so I had some idea of Moffat's style before he blew all our minds with The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances.

Chibnall? Well, to my mind his Doctor Who and Torchwood episodes are a bit of a mixed bag and Wikipedia lists for me a bunch of things I've never seen like Law & Order: UK and Broadchurch.

There's another aspect to it, though, in that up to now the modern series has been massively influenced by the wilderness years material. Russel T. Davies and Steven Moffat both contributed to the Virgin novels (albeit only a short story in Moffat's case), both have employed other multiple writers from that era including Gareth Roberts, Paul Cornell, Mark Gatiss, Matt Jones and Gary Russel as well as early Big Finish stalwart Rob Shearman.

A lot of motifs the modern series plays with extend pretty naturally from things the various wilderness years spin-offs did: pansexuality as the future majority; Daleks straight from the Nick Briggs school of thought; the destruction of Gallifrey; Rassilon as a living villain; companions who live on the TARDIS part time and even have their own adventures and agendas (River in particular has a lot of Benny Summerfield about her and not just because of their joint profession); and four of the first five seasons have an adaptation in them, though admittedly a loose one in series two.

Its not exactly a massive debt the modern series owes to the wilderness years, everyone who wrote for both did a lot between times and developed a greaty deal, but it is unavoidable.Potentially, this season is where that train of thought ends and the generation of fandom that I grew up with checks out, Moffat and Gatiss really being the last ones standing at this point.

And that excites me. I got into Doctor Who in 1992, in the wilderness years. In a way, I've only experienced the evolution of one era of Doctor Who in terms of influence and core beliefs. Its been a hell of a ride but I am so ready to see what a series that doesn't come out of that long tradition looks like.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Comic Reviews


This week, the X-Men and Superman relaunches continue apace, Bendis departs the Guardians Of The Galaxy, Nadia Pym is still the most adorable genius in the MCU and Black Panther fails to appear in a great first issue.

X-Men Blue #1
Cullen Bunn has enough credit with me that he gets the benefit of the doubt. This first issue is fun but it does seem to lack a point. We get a nice little team building mission with Jean leading the classic X-Men against Black Tom Cassidy of all people as he tries to rob a yacht full of rich people. Its well executed, the character interactions are charming and Bunn establishes the personalities as well as the angles he seems to be taking with the original X-Men but its all in service to a cliffhanger that, frankly, just tells us something that was all over the advanced advertising for this series.

But I liked Bunn's Venom even if his Uncanny X-Men was perhaps the most filler-tastic portion of the Terrigen Years and the basic idea of this series and the X-Men's new “mysterious” leader interests me so I'll be sticking around.

Weapon X #1
This was actually a really good debut issue. The Weapon X Project is hunting various mutants (the ones on the cover), they've already captured Lady Deathstrike in the X-Men Prime one-shot and here they come after Old Man Logan. Its a good action hook to start the issue with but after it we get to the scene that really sold this series to me: Logan finding Sabretooth to ask for his help.

You see, there's something about this scene that grabs me: Wolverine, despite Sabretooth trying to gut him, actually seems pleased to see the guy. They'll probably never be friends but I like the idea that Logan, having lived through his Mad Max Plus future, has actually come to miss his worst enemy.

Of course, no review of this issue would be complete without mention of artist Greg Land. Look, I could say all sorts of things about his work but by this point I think we're all pretty well-informed on what we'll find here. Actually, by Greg Land standards this is actually pretty well drawn: no one is missing limbs, people actually make eye contact, no one is having an orgasm. These are all improvements.

Action Comics #977
And here comes Dan Jurgen with some answers... eventually. I don't mean to sound ungrateful here but the majority of this story is Superman looking into his own past and revisiting the most stable, most well known part of it: the destruction of Krypton. There are, to be frank, other questions to be answered here. The slow reveal is, as I said with the last issue of Superman, probably the best approach to prevent the sort of front-loaded exposition-heavy snorefest DC retcons often open with but an origin retelling for Superman of all people seems like the height of redundancy.

Though I must admit that having the Daily Planet back is almost worth the price.

Unstoppable Wasp #4
Still the most adorable series Marvel is putting out right now, even if the writers aren't quite up on the world of women's professional wrestling. Seriously, Poundcakes and Letha would make a fantastic tag team in the modern WWE, maybe book them in a program against Nia Jax.

Anyway, bizarre fantasy booking aside, the cuteness continues with more girl genius recruitment, more Jarvis being perturbed about everything, and Nadia finally having her sit down meeting with Matt Murdoch. Best of all, though, her “best friend” *wink wink* Ying turns up again in a scene which leaves nothing to subtext if you want my opinion.

Guardians of the Galaxy #19
Bendis' Big Time Bye-Bye Blowout” promises the cover and it was frustratingly good. After issue after issue of single character epilogues, some good, some startlingly irrelevant (the Angela one is literally just a coda to her solo series and naff all to do with her story in this title) Bendis hands in a really good one-shot finale with the Guardians going up against Thanos and an invasion fleet of various other nasties. Its big, its fun, there's a fight sequence with various of Bendis' previous artistic collaborators pitching in a page each, and Angela does her best Doctor Who impression at the Brood at one point.

As I've said before, it isn't Bendis' writing in toto that I have any sort of problem with. I really like his work, it was what brought me back into comics as an adult after a couple of years away but I'd be lying if I said his pacing wasn't incredibly off-putting at times. If this is what he can do for a single issue (and so, so little of this issue was built up in the rest of Grounded) I cannot imagine what would happen if this Bendis turned up more consistently.

Black Panther & The Crew #1
I am not at all displeased that Black Panther doesn't show up in this issue. Instead we get a flashback to the Harlem in the 1950s and an African-American superteam of ages past followed by Misty Knight investigating the death in custody of one of their number in the present. There's also a run-in with the Americops from the Sam Wilson series who have been sent in to uphold an unconstitutional curfew in Harlem.

In all of this Ta-Nehisi Coates proves he has range. Whilst this and the main Black Panther series are clearly the stories of a place and the people who live there before they're the story of individual characters they are so distinct in flavour. Coates is also clearly loving a chance to put a Marvel Universe spin on the history of a real place after creating so much Wakandan history whole cloth.

To be honest, my only fear is that I won't like this series as much once T'Challa actually turns up to take main character duties out of Misty's hands. 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Sean Spicer: Idiot Anti-Semite or Holocaust Denier?

It was not my intention to imply that Hitler had never used chemical weapons, but that he never used them on fellow Germans.”

There are only two possible interpretations of this statement, both of them vile. The first is that Sean Spicer does not consider German Jews to be German, which is appalling and also Hitler's position on the matter. The second is that this is just straight up Holocaust denial from the spokesman of a President indebted to and known to employ white nationalists, which is horrific.

But wait, there's more! This all happened over Passover and Spicer later referred to the Nazi concentration camps as “Holocaust centres”.

I mean, add this to the list with the Holocaust Memorial Day statement that didn't mention the Jewish people at all; the claim that the desecration of Jewish cemetaries across the US wasn't down to white nationalists but Jewish people trying to false flag as white nationalists; and, let us not forget, Donald Jodocus Trump blowing up in a reporter's face claiming that no one is less anti-Semitic than he is instead of condemning anti-Semitic violence which is all the reporter asked him to do.

Because we have to keep a list. We just have to because eventually the sheer tonnage of things these people say is going to get so overwhelming that things are going to slip the memory and that is how governments get away with shit. They pass their slip ups off as one-offs, as mistakes. Spicer has already twice tried to clarify his statements and made them worse which is just us getting lucky that Trump doesn't have as his spokesman someone marginally competent. This is the latest blatantly anti-Semitic slip the Trump administration has made and we have to make sure that any time they or their allies try to pass these things off as unique, meaningless mistakes that we are in a position to hand them the fucking receipts. 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

"He's a friend from work!"


Tiny little spoilers for the Thor: Ragnarok teaser trailer. Tiny ones, this post is mainly me having some fun with a single line of dialogue.
Behinds the scenes footage before composite CG gets added.
If you haven't seen the trailer, please watch it, its great. There's a whole lot of good stuff in there, not least of which Cate Blanchett looking all kinds of amazing as Hela and Idris Elba rocking dreads and a chuffing huge sword as Heimdall. Of course, the part that really grabbed me (and was meant to, yes) is when Thor sees the Hulk in the gladiatorial arena and yells:

We know each other! He's a friend from work!”

I love that not only does Thor see the Hulk as a friend, he thinks of the Avengers as his workplace. Saving the world is his idea of a day job and he thinks of the other Avengers as co-workers. There's something incredibly sweet about that, about the emotional connection it speaks of. I love that in the movies there's a pretty clear link between Thor's being worthy and forming emotional connections with humans.
He's just so pleased to see his friend. Yes, they're in an arena where they're presumably meant to fight to the death but friend! The guy really is just a giant puppy with a hammer. I think, of all the founding Avengers who are stepping away after Inifnity War, Chris Hemsworth's Thor is the one I'll miss the most and its because of moments like these where he has so mich damn fun being who he is. I can hardly claim he's an angst free zone (not with his family) but I think he's definitely the least angsty of the Avengers.

And in a world where DC movies exist, this genre needs as little additional angst as possible. 

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

How do you solve a problem like Otunga?


Now, I don't want it to sound like I hate the perishing sight of David Otunga. I'm not like Plumpy (the man once known as Adam Blampied) who has been known to describe the man as “the death of all joy” but I do think something needs to be done about the four man commentary booth on Smackdown Live and Otunga is the weak link.

Mauro Ranallo is the strongest link, of course, which makes his presumed departure from the show and the company all the more gutting. In an ideal world Ranallo would be the play-by-play to Corey Graves' colour commentary and we'd finally have a dream team to rival the legendary days of JR and King.

But we address the world as we find it, so here we are.

The problem with three- and four-man commentary teams is that people keep talking over each other or, worse, everyone stops talking and painful seconds pass as everyone wonders if its meant to be their turn.

Two-man booths work because when you have two people it is very clear whose turn it is to talk. You don't end up with David Otunga cutting across JBL to say something banal because they both think its their turn. He also, to be brutally honest, doesn't have the strongest voice, which when you have JBL next to you is a real problem.

But I am a good little socialist and I don't want to see a man lose his job for being boring. So what to do with him?

Well, frankly, I'd go back to what he was before: WWE's resident lawyer who happens to be a wrestler (ex-wrestler now). You see, Otunga is legitimately a Harvard graduate and so when he moved out of active competition he played a lawyer character whose job was basically to back up the boss and make people suffer.

So my idea is this: Otunga goes to work “backstage” as the WWE's Senior VP Of Intellectual Property And Licensing.

You remember when they had to book all those matches with a shark cage suspended above the ring because the company that makes the WWE toys made a playset without asking them if it made any sense? Well, now, Otunga is the man on screen charged with shilling that and anything else they decide to make. He books matches that are all about advertising, the corporate side of the company, getting the name out there. He becomes, effectively, an authority figure whose entire gimmick is shilling.

Sort of like John Laurinaitis but bearable.

The WWE could get a lot of real world use out of him in the role, too. His voice might not be terribly distinctive but he's an attractive bloke, well-spoken and articulate just not terribly compelling in a crowded environment. As a public speaker, for instance at press conferences that aren't quite Triple H levels of important, he'd probably be pretty engaging.

As a face he'd be goofy (like with trying to sell the idea of shark cage-esque matches to wrestlers and audiences) whilst as a heel he'd be putting wrestlers into humiliating matches and scenarios “for the good of the brand”. He would be the front man for anything new and a go between when different authority figures have different ideas (rather than having the MacMahon of the moment arguing with their commissioner at the start of every... bastard... episode).

Just an idea.

Monday, 10 April 2017

The Comics Ramble: Young Justice Rebirth


For context: there are rumours out in the wild about the future direction of the DCU now that some of the mysteries of Rebirth are being revealed in the like of Superman Reborn and the upcoming Batman/Flash crossover The Button. Amongst them are the tantalising concepts of Bart Allen returning as part of a speedster themed team book and Tim Drake escaping his current presumed death to lead the Outsiders. Whether this is true or not we'll see. Also, the recent announcement that the Young Justice cartoon would return for its long-awaited third season leads me to ask:

Can the Young Justice kids/third generation Titans get a little of that Rebirth return to form, please?
Of all the characters mangled by the New 52, that particular generation were the worst maimed and for the most part they've just been ignored since Rebirth. Tim Drake, being a Batman mainstay, got back on form pretty quickly. He lost the showgirl wings and returned to being the smartest and most independant Robin in the pages of Deective Comics. Steph Brown and Cass Cain, once written off by a DC editor as the “toxic” Batgirls, have had a massive resurgence since turning up again in the Eternal series. As for the rest of that generation, well...

Bart Allen is now Barr Torr, a mass murderer and part-time amnesiac from an aggressively anti-theist future; Cassie Sandsmark is trapped in a suit of armour that literally tortures her; Superboy is destined to go mad and kill everyone because apparently that's just what happenes to Kryptonian clones now; Solstice was trapped on a horrible future penal colony with Barr Torr but then he returned to the present and I don't think anyone's too sure what happened to her; Mia Dearden, as far as I can tell, no longer exists in any shape or form; nor do Secret, Empress or Arrowette.

As much as people complain about the sexual politics of Red Hood And The Outlaws, to me the absolute platonic example of the New 52 aestethetic is that Teen Titans series. Everything about it was miserable. Every character that survived was transformed into something painful and edgy and somehow more Nineties than the way the characters were written when they were actually created in the Nineties.
I admit, this offends me more than most of the New 52's acts of butchery because that was “my” generation of teen heroes. Peter David's Young Justice and Chuck Dixon's Robin were the first DC comics I ever bought, Geoff Johns' Teen Titans is one of my favourite titles ever and no matter how many Robins DC shoves my way Tim Drake will always be the greatest.

Rebirth is a nostalgia project, something I am usually sceptical of and this is no exception. I am extremely dubious about the idea of introducing the Watchmen characters into the universe they were created to satirise and, as ever, the titles I like the most are the ones that push in new and interesting directions like Simon Baz finally getting his own GL title after six sodding years. Still and all, it would be nice to get a little nostalgia going for what is rapidly becoming DC's “lost generation”.

In a way, I understand it, there isn't much real estate for them to occupyright now. Wally West the younger is Kid Flash, Jon Kent is Superboy and Donna Troy might not be using the Wonder Girl name but she's only just recently returned and they're only just getting into her latest origin story. The first generation of sidekicks is having a hard enough time getting restablished without the their latter day counterparts coming back. Also, as much as all those twice monthly books obscure the fact, we're still very early on in the Rebirth experiment. Its been less than a year and already we've regained married Superman, the Titans are a legacy again, hints have been dropped of the Legion Of Super-Heroes and Justice Society coming back, amongst others.

The thing is, though, that I would like some assurance that the Nineties and early-2000s aren't being left in the dust because those were, at times, good years for DC creatively. Also, not to be too mercenary, but there is a TV series to be marketed here.
And I just miss them. I miss Bart and Cassie and Kon as I knew them, not as the ostentatiously tortured characters the New 52 relaunched them as. Rebirth and its predecessor DCYou brought the fun back to a lot of characters and having this crew back together, especially now the Dick Grayson generation are being treated as experienced veterans again, would definitely fall in line with that.

Plus, pre-Flashpoint Bart is still running around somewhere out there, one of that crossover's lingering plot points that has never been referred to since. Maybe he could jump out of the Speed Force and reawaken some memories. 

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Hobby Goal #16: What Matters Is The (Death) Company


First off, progress on using the Mephiston Red Spray...
Its coming out pretty well, if a little lighter than I intended. I shall try two layers of Nuln Oil on the next model I paint like this.

And my provisional army list based on what I have built and painted goes a little something like this:

HQ
Chaplain with crozius arcanum and plasma pistol. 105 points (WARLORD)
Librarian with force weapon and bolt pistol, Level 2 Mastery. 90 points
Elites
Death Company Dreadnought with blood talons. 135 points
5 man Death Company Squad with bolters. 100 points
Dreadnought with assault cannon. 120 points
Troops
5 man Scout Squad with boltguns, Veteran Sergeant with bolt pistol and close combat weapon. 65 points
10 man Tactical Squad, meltagun, heavy flamer and Veteran Sergeant with power weapon. 195 points
10 man Tactical Squad, plasma gun, heavy bolter and Veteran Sergeant with power fist. 200 points
Fast Attack
Land Speeder with multi-melta. 60 points
5 man Space Marine Bike Squad with plasma gun and Veteran Sergeant with power weapon. 145 points
Heavy Support
Baal Predator with flamestorm cannon and heavy flamers. 135 points
5 man Devastator Squad, 2 lascannons, missile launcher, plasma cannon and Veteran Sergeant. 150 points

1500 points on the dot. Its mainly just things I have built or can build quickly.

I've yet to come up with a Captain conversion I like so I'm taking the two other character classes but, hell, the Flesh Tearers are undermanned so I don't feel too bad taking a Chaplain as my Warlord. The Elites are just an expression of my love for Dreadnoughts and the fact that you just have to have Death Company. Troops are a solid block of boltguns, a nice anvil for the enemy to run up against. I gleefully admit to stealing a Dark Angels tactic with the Bikes and Land Speeder tag team in my Fast Attack slots. Then there's a big block of high strength weaponry in my Devastator Squad to make up for the fact that I just can't say no to the idea of a flanethrower tank.

Right now I have both Dreadnoughts, the Librarian and one Tactical Squad painted and everything but the Predator, one Tactical Squad and Bikers built. Still, 8th edition doesn't seem to be imminent so there's plenty time.

Hobby Goal #16
Paint some Death Company

Its a simple fact that a Blood Angels army is not complete without Death Company, especially as I already have a Death Company Dreadnought built and painted. So my goal for the week is to add some black to the army, maybe even paint up the Chaplain to accompany them since they'll be using basically the same palette. 

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Why 40k needs a General's Handbook

This week on "A Man And His Dog"...
Okay, so one thing before we start: this whole chain of logic is based on the idea going round that a General's Handbook 2nd edition is coming sometime this summer. The whole idea I'm about to lay out pretty much relies on the idea that the Handbook is going to become an annual-ish release.

That said, let's talk about the single greatest gift to game balancing GW has ever created.

Let's look at the customer experience of buying a Codex. You buy your Codex, which in itself is £25 or £30 on top of the cost of the main rulebook, the miniatures, glues and paints and such. You can't really cut down that list much except in terms of the books and the most expendable of the two books is the Codex.

Add to that the fact that every edition is basically honour bound at this point to produce a new Codex for every major army with a few small timers getting a book every other edition.

So every edition you're in for an instant cost of the main rulebook/starter set and sooner or later you're expected to fork over another £30 just to keep using your army in most settings. Yes, there are places you could play older versions of the rules but most gaming clubs, certainly the most accessible ones that GW runs on its own premises, is going to insist on current rules so everyone is playing the same meta.

So let's talk about limiting that cost and doing a favour to game balance at the same time.

In AoS, buying a Battletome is an incentivised purchase. Yes, there's stuff in any given Battletome that isn't available for free: Warscroll Battlions, Allegiance rules and Battle Plans for the rules side, background sections for the fluff side. Essentially, though, those are all add ons as full rules of every unit and characters, aside from points cost in Matched Play, is available for free download.

Because the points costs are available in a seperate (and relatively cheap) book, I don't think we'll see a second edition of most Battletomes any time soon. Oh, Stormcast Eternals will definitely get their fourth book, fat golden poster children that they are, and maybe some other housekeeping exercises like smooshing Khorne Bloodbound and Khorne Daemons together to match Disciples of Tzeentch's formatting. However, I don't think a new Ironjawz or Flesh Eater Courts books is on the horizon.

Because there's very little reason to create it, let alone ask for the player for fork over the cast. If GW has a sudden inspiration to add a unit to, say, Clan Pestilens they can just release the free PDF and lay out its background in White Dwarf. They give it a provisional points cost on the Battlescroll and codify it when the next General's Handbook comes out. This way new model releases don't have to be tied to book releases.

And what's more, as points costs are the main game balancing strategy of these games, if they can be updated once a year that gives GW a lot more chance to both shake up and rationalise their meta.

There was a problem once where Space Marine tanks were massively over-pointed for what they did and the rules designers committed to lowering the points cost in new Codexes. However, for some Space Marine factions this took years because they had to wait their turn and so you had one army spending peanuts on their Razorbacks and Predators whilst others were paying through the nose for them. Instant imbalance and a years long wait to see it fixed.

With a General's Handbook it could have been done in one release.

Honestly, this is all motivated by the fact I've been playing this old game for four editions now, soon to be five, and one version of Codex: Space Marines doesn't read much different from any other. Maybe its time to just release one version of the thing and let it sit, a background resource supplemented by PDF downloads and whatever campaign book system rises from the ashes of The Gathering Storm. I also think it would be of benefit to GW to de-empahsise buying books over miniatures, especially with how short these editions are getting.