Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Alpha Sapphire take 2

I do have a horrible habit of abandoning games. I set Pokemon Alpha Sapphire aside months ago and by the time I got back to it I couldn't remember what I was doing, where I was going or where I'd been. So a few hours wandering the Routes and stumbling into towns I'd already been to after I just deleted the save files and started again. It started off as a Nuzlocke run but since I haven't finished this game I decided that was a dumb idea (but if I finish this before Sun and Moon come out, I might do a Nuzlocke for Pokemon X).

I like the idea of a Nuzlocke run but I also like the idea of finishing this game and it strikes me as being one or the other, really.

Anyway, here I am, new Pokemon trainer Erin (yes, female character again, its sort of a thing with me) starting my journey through the Heonn region. I've beaten my first gym leader, Roxanne of Rustboro and her Rock-type gym. I've also received the gloriously broken Generation VI version of the EXP Share, which makes life so much easier. If they nerf that thing in Sun and Moon I am basically doomed.

Anyway, the new team at this time stands as follows:
Ace the Marshtomp (Water-Ground)
(yes, I power level early)
Dusty the Dustox (Bug-Flying)
Toby the Shroomish (Grass)
Snowy the Poochyena (Dark)
Kemosabe the Zigzagoon (Normal)
Redfeather the Taillow (Normal-Flying)

I've got pretty good type-coverage so far. Not a perfect team by any means but there are plenty more routes and plenty more gyms to go before the Heonn League. Kemosabe look set for a future of HM-slavery and unless Redfather gains some decent attacks soon he's PC-bound what with his typing being completely redundant.

And I don't like the Shroomish's design. Most Grass-types I love but as soon as something better comes along he's gone. Not even a better Grass-type, I've beaten the Rock gym and that's the main reason to have a Grass-type. Who knows what I'll find on the Routes of Hoenn? Not even me, since I seem to have completely forgotten everything about this game. Having gotten my arse kicked by a couple of Grass-types, however, I am painfully aware that I need a Fire-type on the strength.

Just makes things more interesting, frankly.

(images from Bulbapedia, the resource that allows me not to get killed fifty millions times when I enter gym battles). 

Monday, 22 August 2016

Mercenary Tactics #1: The Slayer's Oath

I don't want a Dwarf army. I like Dwarfs but I've tried to collect Dwarf armies before and they don't work for me. As evocative and fascinating as their background is, as much as I love their character they are just not an army that plays to my strengths. Their lack of speed means they have a defensive style of play that just doesn't suit me.

Luckily, Matt and I have been talking about mercenaries recently. More specifically, we've been talking about bringing back the old 25% allowance for allies so we can use mercs in our regular games just to shake things up a bit.

First unit on the docket...
image from the Avatars of War webstore
Avatars of War Dwarf Berserkers or, as everyone else calls them, plastic Slayers. Painting them as not ginger does not change that. And just look at that banner: its huge, its over the top, its fantastic.

Slayers are one of my favourite Dwarf units: shamed Dwarfs sworn to die in battle but, being Dwarfs, they can't just get in the way of the enemy and die. No, a Dwarf does something he has to do it right! If they have to die in battle they'll fight to win and they will only die if the enemy can genuinely beat him. They'll go up against the biggest, the most dangerous things they can find.

They also make great mercenaries for the army I want to pair them with: my Bretonnians.

Wait, what?

Okay, to explain: back when Dogs of War were a thing Bretonnians were the only army that couldn't take them. Their honour code forbade the use of mercenaries who fought for money. Slayers don't travel fighting for money, they fight to reclaim their honour and a Bretonnian general can understand that. There is a concept of penitence amongst Bretonnians even if the rather nihilistic honour code of the Slayers might not translate all that well.

Actually, the relationship between Bretonnia and the Dwarf holds in the Grey Mountains fascinates me. Its never been addressed in official background, I don't think and I want an avenue to explore it. I've ordered a box of Berserkers and they'll be taking the field alongside my Bretonnians and Empire. Maybe there'll be more units, though I don't think it'll run to much: a couple of units, a character or two, definitely a Gyropcopter (I love the new Gyrocopter).

But yeah, now I have to work out how to paint orange hair. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Supergirl first impressions

Last night I finally sat down and watched the first four episodes of Supergirl (or the first three and the fifth, since the DVD and Wikipedia disagree on episode order) and I am absolutely besotted by this series. Reasons for this, in no particular order:

It passes the Bechdel Test multiple times every episode. Now, I'm the first to say the BT gets used as a moral absolute far too often but its a useful critical measure in cases like this.

I love that Cat Grant (Kara's boss in this version) is shown to have a businesswoman persona and a family persona instead of being all business all the time. She's a nuanced character who could so easily just have been a cardboard cut out heartless capitalist. Oh, she has heartless moments, sure but there are moments of genuine affection she has for people and the look in her eyes the first time she meets Kara as Supergirl is an amazing insight into her character, kudos to Calista Flockheart for selling that moment.

Speaking of semi-evil capitalists it does my old heart good to see Max Lord in one of these things.

Kara's skirt is a decent length. I don't mean this in a prudish way, I mean it in a “I remember the pre-Sterling Gates Supergirl comics” way when artists couldn't help themselves from using the mini-skirt to draw panty shots. We don't want that, we don't want that even more than the 1980s costume with the headband that the pilot episode activitely mocks.

The series has a much better excuse for all these random villains running around in the immediate vicinity than The Flash managed. Plus, this is a world where Superman has been around for a decade so the writers don't have to waste time on origin stories if they don't need to.

Kara has multiple mentors: Cat at her job, James Olsen (yes, that one) in her superhero life and her sister in another aspect of her superhero life. Hell, just the fact that Kara has multiple emotional and professional support systems is amazing.

On the subject of James “Jimmy” Olsen, there's so much to say: I love that he's trying to make something of himself away from Metropolis and Superman; I love that he has some interesting anxiety issues based on being “Superman's pal”; I love that for a change he isn't portrayed as a completely witless stooge; and, um, well...
oh, will you just look at this cutie?

I like that they're using the DEO instead of ARGUS. I mean, I like Amanda Waller well enough but four live actions Amanda Wallers might be too many Wallers.

I don't even hate this version of Lucy Lane and I always hate Lucy Lane. I don't love her but she's tolerable. I will not be entirely disappointed if she never ends up blindfolded and in a fight with a kangaroo (long story...).

I absolutely love the way the series addresses the issues facing professional women through Kara/Cat scenes, both with Kara as Supergirl and Kara as Kara. Its does it in non-preachy ways that don't seem accusatory towards the male audience (which, sadly, is a problem for making the male audience empathise if they feel under attack at the same time they're being educated). Since they're generally conversations between two women it doesn't come off as a confrontation but as an older woman looking out for a younger one. That is a type of relationship, specifically of female friendship, we really need to see more of.

This is a damn fine show. 

Monday, 18 July 2016

The WWE Women's Division should not split

The WWE brand split is happening this week and, overall, I think it stands to be a positive move for the company. Oh, the two pay-per-views a month plan is all kinds of over-saturated stupid but I concede that Raw and Smackdown need to offer unique experiences to get people to watch all five hours of weekly content instead of just defaulting to Raw as the older, longer and more prestigious show (or just giving in and watching NXT, which is better, shorter and stuffed with new talent).

One thing concerns me, though: the Women's Division.

The Women's Division is not big enough to split. I wish it were. I wish we were in a position where we could have multiple women's titles split across two brands and a strong enough division with enough talent to make that much programming.
Sad thing is they aren't there yet. They're bloody closer than they've been in years. The women's matches are the best they've been since the since the heyday of Trish and Lita only with substantially more than two women about the place who can pull out those sort of performances.

But at the end of the day the new, improved and amazing Women's Divison is still built around a core of Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Charlotte. Yes, they could bring Bayley, Asuka and Nia Jax up to main roster (Bayley especially is overdue) but I still doubt you could get two shows out of the roster.

Frankly, and it sticks in my craw to say this, the Women's Division needs to stay on one show. If they're serious about keeping them absolutely separate the best thing would be to only have women's wrestling on Raw. I feel like a complete bastard saying it because for years I've wanted more women's wrestling, but...

I just... I have waited too long for this company to take its female talent seriously to see them squander it by spreading that talent too thin. 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Pokemon Go

My favourite and I want one.
Pokemon Go fascinates from a sociological standpoint. The game has been out here in the UK for a couple of days and it hit the US about a week ago and the reaction to it has been absolutely fascinating.

There have been genuinely uplifting stories to come out of this whole thing. People have been meeting their neighbours and really talking to them for the first time because of this game and discovering places they'd never known existed just around the corner. I've heard of people with depression and other neuro-divergent conditions using the game as a comfort mechanism to help them break out of their routines and comfort zones.

And the programming is fascinating, too, with the GPS data used to match the types of Pokemon you can catch to local geography and even weather. Water-types are more common when it rains or near bodies of water, Ghost-types are found in cemeteries and so on.

Also, apparently, Nintendo of America are trolling the (racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic) Westboro Baptist Church by... well, doing this to them:
Which is hilarious. They're scum and this is driving them mad. 

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Kate Bishop IS Hawkeye

The next run of Hawkeye is going to be a Kate Bishop solo series!
There are few characters in comics I adore more than Kate Bishop. I always liked her, right back to her first appearance in Young Avengers. She had an interesting personality, she bounced well off the other members of the team (especially Eli), and I loved her design. Over the last couple of years, though, the character has really come into her own.
Mostly this can be credited to Matt Fraction and David Aja's Hawkeye run, which cast her first as Clint's long-suffering straight woman and then spun her off into her own storyline working solo in LA. Not to forget the maturing of the character in Kieron Gillen's Young Avengers which introduced her relationships with Noh Varr and America Chavez.

Oh, I do hope we get to see more of America Chavez in this ongoing. As much as I like her as the Ultimates' heavy hitter there's something delightful about how she bounces off Kate's... slightly reserved poshness.
Yes, I'm hoping for pay-off on the whole “Princess, you're not that straight” thing. Can you blame me? They're adorable together.

I am very much looking forward to this. 

Friday, 15 July 2016

Path to Glory: "Rotbeast" Chariot work in progress

Surprisingly, the yoke of the Gorebeast Chariot lines up with the Beast of Nurgle pretty well. I just have to use a little green stuff to link up the yoke and the beast a little more convincingly.

Yet, as well as this came out, my plans have changed. Originally this was to be the mount for my Chaos Lord but the Charioteers proved a little too hard to customise. Turns out Putrid Blightking parts do not marry up well with this kit and that's where practically all of my “Nurgley” parts come from. So, rather than have an uninteresting Lord model I'll just count this as a normal Gorebeast Chariot with the Mark of Nurgle.

That said, Matt and I have been discussing using it as an actual “Beast of Nurgle Chariot” whilst paying about the same points as the Gorebeast Chariot. The way we reckon it, at least right now, is by dropping the Daemon and Regeneration saves but keeping the Slime Trail and ability to call challenges will make up for the lack of Killing Blow. 

Thursday, 14 July 2016

The only problem I will ever have with homosexuality


Goddamn pronouns! It drives you mad. You're taught at school to establish who's speaking and present with names and then move on to “he”, “her” and so on so as not to test your reader's patience.

Then you write a scene with a gay couple and suddenly there's all this bloody ambiguity about which partner is doing what. You can't even do the physical characteristics thing like “the redhead did this”, “the brunette did that” because that's so impersonal and doesn't suit an intimate scene and is even more, even longer bloody words.

So instead you end up naming people every other line.

I know there's a lot of debate about language and sexuality and gender these days and maybe we don't need to add another layer to the whole thing but maybe we should, as a society, get on this.

You know, not just for my own selfish needs, just mainly. 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Path to Glory: Marauder Horseman work in progress

A quick little kitbash to start my Nurgle army off on the right note. Dead simple, as you can see, just chopped the chains off the flail and replaced them with the scythe blade from the Vampire Counts Zombie kit. Just something simple to work on whilst I wait for the parts I ordered to build my Beast Of Nurgle Chariot.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

No, Capaldi will not "un-regenerate" into Matt Smith

I don't even mean this in a canon sort of way. The canon and continuity of regeneration is nonsense and always has been. The idea that any sort of consistent rules exist that preclude Matt Smith coming back as the Thirteenth Doctor is just mad. I'm taking this from a more practical yet seemingly less discussed avenue.

We've been here before, of course. When Smith was leaving the rumour did the rounds that Tennant would be coming back to “save the series”. It was piffle then and it is piffle now which, as I say, this has nothing to do with anything as involved as canon or continuity...

No, it is because Tennant and Smith are actual human beings with actual careers.

They've moved on. They aren't coming back. I don't care if Smith says he regrets leaving when he did. He's not going to take a massive pay cut compared to his current work and lock down nine months of his schedule to go back to an old role. Actors who do that, let's be brutally honest, tend to be ones who haven't got much else going on.

And even beyond those practicalities, I'm not certain who it would actually benefits. Certainly not Smith, who gets to experience a pay cut and a significant step back in his career. Definitely not Chibnall, who gets to write someone else's version of the Doctor instead of his own because bringing Smith back is a nostalgia move so he'd have to be ultra-faithful to the character as written by Moffat. Not the BBC, either, who get to market the big relaunch of their flagship sci-fi series by admitting they have no better idea than call a mulligan on the last three seasons which'll look great to both the general audience and overseas buyers alike.

And not the fans who want it, either, because they get a showrunner shackled to his predecessor's creative vision which is a recipe for success every time I've seen it happen, let me tell you.

Monday, 11 July 2016

First step on the Path To Glory

Of all the Chaos Gods, Nurgle is the one that has always held a perverse fascination for me. The visuals of corruption; the cheerful, almost whimsical fatalism of the characters; and, the fantastic character models the range has always had... it all adds up to an army I've wanted to do for years.

The problem, at least in the old days, was that I could never find enough to do with the army to make it interesting. I've never found Chaos Warriors themselves all that interesting to paint and the Marauders kit has aged very badly. Given my love of rank-and-file this was a pretty insurmountable problem. Once upon a time there were the Carnival of Chaos miniatures but then Mordheim went out of production and took them with it.

Times have changed, though. There are the Putrid Blightkings, which are both fantastic models and a fantastic parts farm for conversions. There are the Avatars of War “Corrupters of the Apocalypse” range, which gives me not only great Nurglesque rank-and-file Warriors but also yet more fantastic character models. Plus, I'm pretty sure I can build the Gorebeast Chariot to be pulled by a Beast Of Nurgle, which should make a good General conversion. Not to mention a whole plastic Nurgle Daemons range that my friends are plenty happy for me to include in the army in nostalgic Hordes Of Chaos style.
Image courtesy GW webstore
My starting point, of course, is the plastic Nurgle Lord (Rotbringer Lord of Plague in the new money) the one model no miniature collection seems to be complete without. Hell, I'll practically be bucking the trend by using him in a Nurgle army! I've seen him used as the basis of gun servitors, Inquisitorial henchmen and even an Empire General. It's a beautiful miniature (in a horrid sort of way) and I look forward to painting it especially as there's lots of flesh and that's something my recent dabbling with Wood Elves have taught me I need to practice.

Friday, 24 June 2016

What I woke up to this morning

The Leave Campaign won. Our economy tanked by 10% overnight with the pound falling to its lowest value since 1986 which is horrific considering that Nixon Shock in 1971, which was the effect of the US literally taking the Western world's economic model out back and shooting it, resulted in only a 3% drop.

Nigel Farage, the Pound Shop Own Brand Enoch Powell, has already tried to distance himself from his own campaign's promise that £350 million a week in savings from EU fees would be pumped into the National Health Service, claiming that he felt the promise was unwise even as it was plastered all over the Leave Campaign's buses.

Up in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon politely points out that all Scottish authorities voted Remain, which I think is as good a reason as any to call for another independence referendum or, fuck it, just seceded right away.

Same basic result in Northern Ireland and Sinn Fein is already saying this makes a case for reunification with the Republic. I have absolutely zero time for Sinn Fein but again, fuck it, if we're pretending that direct democracy instead of representative democracy is a good thing then the Irish have voted to remain so it might finally be time to pull the plug on their relationship with a central government that has never cared about them and never will.

Senior members of the Leave campaign are already saying the government should hold off on invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (the article that begins the exit process). I wonder why?

(By the way, according to Article 50, if we invoke it and ever want to return to the EU our re-entry has to be approved unanimously by all member states.)

David Cameron just resigned as I was writing this which presumably means we'll now have a Osborne as PM, a man who has outright stated that he thinks the NHS was a mistake. We have an emboldened extreme right and precedent from when Brown succeeded Blair that they'll probably call for a repeal of the fixed term parliament act and a snap election.

This country is going to have to bend over backwards to retain any of its EU trading partners. You can bloody bet that Spain isn't going to give an inch unless we hand them Gibraltar (and won't that be a wonderful moment for he flag waving nationalists who think leaving the EU will strengthen this pathetic little country).

Hell, we can't even go crying to the US who do far more trade with mainland Europe than us so who are they going to pick?

Huge amounts of our infrastructure, public transport especially, are owned by European companies who are now staring down the barrel of additional taxation once we leave and void our free trade treaties so who knows what that means for services.

2 million UK citizens permanently living in mainland Europe might end up having to come home, uprooting actual lives they've built up over years and far outnumbering the “bloody immigrants” the Leave xenophobes masturbate nightly to fantasies of expelling (or just, you know, murdering... no, wait, that's MPs!)

Its the first morning after the result and everyone is shellshocked either from the baffling economic suicide of the decision, the catastrophic immediate result, the uncertain future, or, as in the case of that the third generation bootleg recording of Oswald Mosley that is Nigel Farage, just from orgasming more times than the human body was designed to sustain.

And you know what? I chose to believe in my country. After two disastrous general elections that returned governments that any logical person should know would not represent their interests; after months of right wing press fearmongering and outright lying about how the EU works; after the Leave campaign literally ripped off a Nazi poster to scare people about immigration...

I chose to believe. I chose to believe that my country wasn't so suicidally scared of the Other, so small-minded and blind to their own self-interest, so easily taken for a ride but, most of all, that we were capable of believing in something beyond ourselves.

I'm done. I don't have any other choice than to live here. I haven't the money or the marketable skills to emigrate (though I do have a couple of friends in Scotland...) so I'm stuck here but I'm done believing in “us”. The British people are incapable of understanding that we aren't the British Empire anymore; we aren't a special little snowflake of a nation who can get anything they want through economic dominance and military bravado. It isn't the 1950s anymore, we aren't he saviours of the world who stood up for democracy, if we ever deserved that title. We aren't a major power and the illusion that we still were was because we glommed on to larger players like the US and the EU whilst speaking a very common language that made us an easy partner to negotiate with.

I'm angry. I'm angry at my country for being taken in and voting against their own self-interest the third time in a row. I'm angry because I have to concede philosophical ground to Charles deGaulle of all fucking people, who knew we'd fuck this thing up when he spent a decade stonewalling our entry to the EEC. I'm angry that the already uncertain future just got more uncertain. I'm angry that the side that had no costed economic plan and just played on the nation's pathetic delusional saviour complex managed to beat the campaign that ran on facts and pragmatism.

I'm just angry.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Yesterday I impersonated a police officer...

This is technically a crime but damn it was funny!
I did not look this good
going it. I wish I did.

Okay, background: for months I have been getting calls from a phone scam. An incompetent phone scam using shitty mobiles that constantly drop calls, that can't decide whether they're calling from a phone company I'm not contracted to or telling me I can claim PPI on loans I've never taken out or could claim compensation for an accident I've never had.

Frankly, I finally got tired of them. I got tired of trying to press them on how long I've been with their phone company or asking them how much the loan was for or what accident I had. Vicious sadist that I am I finally got tired of torturing these idiots.

So I solemnly informed them that I worked for Berkshire Constabulary and was referring their details to the fraud squad. The umming and spluttering on the other end of the line was delicious because they don't remember how many times they've called me, I'm just a number on a list they probably bought from some company I've done momentary business with (probably something to do with letting agency credit checks, frankly).

Its amazing how switching things up a bit can really put the joy back in causing others pain.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Floi Stonehand pt.1

Every now and again I get a yin to paint an individual model. Not something for any of my armies but just something I like the look of. In this case: Floi Stonehand, Loremaster of Moria. By and large I'm not much for the Lord of the Rings range but this one miniature really speaks to me.

Anyway, Colour Tests All The Way Down time again: I want to try and perfect that bronze armour method I used on my Glade Lord before I do any rank-and-file armoured Wood Elves. I think Dwarves look great in bronze armour so I figured it was time to finally get this model.

I've put him on a Fantasy-style square base. Though I have zero plans to use him in-game I would like the option open. My group has been discussing having a mercenary allowance as part of regular games. That cloak makes me think “Ranger”, which would also be a nice excuse to buy some of those Avatars Of War Ranger minis but I'm getting ahead of myself. First stage should be deciding how to paint this fellow, or rather the parts of him that aren't bronze armour or skin.

I also want to try and dash this one off rather quickly, try to recapture that momentum that had me finish all those models a couple of weeks back so let's try this as a One Week Challenge.

Friday, 3 June 2016

This Week's Comics featuring the Rebirth Roundup

What's this? DC are showing restraint? Unheard of! Its the first week after DC Universe: Rebirth and we're only getting four one-shots to flesh out the status quo of some central pillars of the newest DCU: Batman, Superman, Green Lanterns and Green Arrow (Wonder Woman once again gets left in the cold until later because this is a DC reboot we're talking about and she didn't want to come your party anyway, icky boys). You know what, though? It's good. Well, its mostly good. Its 75% good, we'll get there.

Whilst on the Marvel side of things... sweet Jesus was that a game of two halves.

Be warned, there are minor spoilers for all issues discussed but the only things I really go into specifics on are the identities of the secret Hydra agents in each and every series. On with the motley:

Batman: Rebirth

This was quite a nice mood piece. Whilst there are a few concessions to setting up a new status quo with Bruce having some meetings with Lucius Fox and Duke Thomas in the main its a done-in-one about Batman fighting Calendar Man. I've always rather liked Calendar Man and he gets a nice little update here. In all honesty, of DC's four offerings this one gives the least idea of what the series spinning off of it will be like (mainly because three titles will be spinning off of it) but its a nice little story regardless. Fond memories of the animated series always abound when a quality Batman done-in-one comes along and in a week full of nostalgia buzz this didn't feel at all out of place.

Spoiler: Duke Thomas isn't a Robin anymore, he's Hydra.

Green Lanterns: Rebirth

Now, this really takes me back: Geoff Johns, Ethan Van Sciver, an ancient secret underpinning the Green Lantern mythology, poor release schedule co-ordination so that one GL series spoilers the events of another (unless Edge of Oblivion #6 came out and I didn't notice, which is possible)... it feels like 2006 all over again.

Which isn't to say that nostalgia is all this comic has going for it. Of all the Rebirth one-shots this week this one has the most new(-ish) ideas. Yes, Simon Baz has been knocking around since the dawn on the New 52 but this is somehow the first time he's had his own ongoing series. In fact, there's a feeling here that Johns is getting to pull the trigger on a few ideas both he and other GL authors have had over the New 52 but not been able to properly expand. So we have Baz and fellow rookie Jessica Cruz (who was something to do with Forever Evil, I think) as the Green Lanterns of Earth with Hal acting as the grizzled old warhorse of a precinct captain telling them to both shape up. It seems that Hal has regained some sense of authority and gravitas with Rebirth, something he sorely lacked when he was running the Corps a while back.

I quite like Simon's FBI contact/parole officer, the man who arrested him on terrorism charges (and for a few things he actually did, too) and who now wants to make amends. Jessica Cruz I am less sold on but I'm willing to give it time, even if only for the fact that she seems to be a rather introverted soul and you don't tend to see those as superheroes.

Spoiler: Simon Baz is Hydra.

Green Arrow: Rebirth

Well, here's a no-brainer that should have occurred to someone about five years ago! The big idea for Green Arrow's Rebirth is bringing Black Canary into the series. I am genuinely surprised that no one had this idea before. Given the blank slate continuity the first New 52 writers were handed I'm shocked no one thought of trying to build this romance from the ground up. Okay, it's not Lois and Clark levels of legendary but it is one of the bigger DC romances and the chance to tell it as a coherent series of events under a single creative team sounds like a winner to me.

Which is all to the good because otherwise Benjamin Percy's angle on the character is the bog standard GA plot of “How can someone this rich consider himself a man of the people?”, ground that Green Arrow has been treading off and on since the Hard Travelling Heroes era of the 1960s.

Spoilers: Black Canary is implied to be Hydra but its actually the homeless girl.

Superman: Rebirth

And here's where the wheels come off the wagon because this issue is mostly infodump and it doesn't make an awful lot of sense. Okay, I get the idea that the New 52 Superman is dead and the pre-Flashpoint Superman has somehow been hanging around for a couple of years raising a son with pre-Flashpoint Lois Lane (are there two Loises now?) and he's going to take over. I get this because it is laboriously explained to Lana Lang over about half the comic as beardy older Clark recaps the events of The Death of Superman to explain a certain amount of graverobbing.

I say this as a man who has been reading Uncanny X-Men monthly for over two hundred issues: this is one convoluted damn reboot and I'm not sure it needs to be. Everything else DC put out this week has had a very explicit back to basics structure where a new-ish character or two get used to explain the basic premise of the series. That sort of happens here with Lana but the situation that's being introduced to us through her eyes is one that is probably going to need to be explained again and again over the next few years for the benefit of new readers in a way that, say, “Here are two rookie Green Lanterns getting on each other's nerves in classic buddy cop movie style” won't.

Frankly, the only interesting thing I read here was the revelation that (spoilers) Lana Lang is Hydra.

Spider-Women Omega

In a few paragraphs time I am going to have a massive “you done fucked up” rant at Marvel over one of their crossovers. I wanted to do this review first to reinforce the fact they can do these things right when they put their minds to it. Spider-Women has been an awesome little crossover: eight issues of tightly plotted, well thought through story that managed to be an “event” for all three participants and pushed all of their individual plotlines forward even as it remained fairly self-contained. Good story, good mutual marketing exercise for three lower-tier series, satisfying action beats, the works.

Over those eight issues we've seen Gwen's world expanded in interesting ways, Silk's family issues explored, and Jessica enduring her first extended separation from her child. There are a couple of new characters on the board who I hope to see in future and two of the three leads got status quo shifts out of the deal.

All in all, not a bad two months work and I heartily recommend it once it comes out in trade.

Spoiler: both Cindy Moons are Hydra.

Civil War II (Manchester United nil) #1

There have been a couple of WWE pay-per-views recently that have shuffled the United States Title off onto the pre-show card, squandering the hard work John Cena put in lending the belt legitimacy and making people who paid the rather large non-Network price of the PPV question their purchase if a whole title fight is going to happen practically off-camera.

Why am I bitching about wrestling booking in a comic review? Well, because this comic has a huge fight with a major villain in which a beloved character dies happen off-panel. You get to the end of the series' set-up, turn the page and BAM! Someone's dead, someone else is in a coma and the actual fight is filled in with exposition and a couple of flashback splash panels. Result: a very talky issue that could have been broken up by having a huge fight scene in the middle of it and just decided not to.

On the plus side I like that Tony takes the side of this ethical debate I didn't expect him to. I was all ready for him to be the bad guy again, or at least the authoritarian guy which largely shakes down to the same thing when geeks are your main audience. Yet he's the one who recoils at the idea of acting on precognitive visions and for pretty specific reasons. He isn't against it for broad philosophical reasons but for ones that are entirely specific to the situation, ones about it being hard to externally verify what the Inhuman precog sees or how accurate his visions might be.

Still, a huge fight in which a major character gets chopped would have been nice to actually see.

Spoiler: all the Inhumans are Hydra. The ones from Uncanny Inhumans, the one from Uncanny Avengers, Ms. Marvel and Moon Girl, all of them. Except Lockjaw, he's too cute, he failed the entrance exam. (Don't worry, I'm sure this was a one week joke. Mostly sure.)

Monday, 23 May 2016

It continues...

(No spoilers, just a funny photo since I haven't seen the actual episode yet)
I'm sailing this ship as south as south goes and I ain't the only one. The Independent has started posting “Brienne/Tormund romance updates” on their website (SPOILERS, obviously).

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Good luck, Cody

Yesterday, Cody Rhodes revealed on Twitter that he'd requested his released from WWE. Its a shame to see him go but at least its on his own terms and he's young enough that he can start over at another company if that's what he wants. Right now no one knows if he's retiring or just wants to move on or what.

So, Cody: if this is the end, thank you. If its not: I definitely look forward to seeing what you do next.

The man has always been a good worker but the last couple of years as Stardust he's really seemed to hit his stride. I was never much for the face mask gimmick and Legacy was minioning at its finest but Stardust I liked. Hell, it was a frequent joke in this house that I hoped WWE wasn't going to end up with a better version of the Joker than the DC Cinematic Universe.

So, whatever he's up to next I wish the man the best of luck. 

Saturday, 21 May 2016

On Jennifer Lawrence's ongoing Mystique

[Just to be clear: I have not watched X-Men: Apocalypse yet and this post will contain zero spoilers as a result.]

On the one hand I don't think I can really complain about Jennifer Lawrence wanting to do more X-Men movies. She's a fantastic actress and hopefully her future appearances will lean more towards the First Class than the Days of Future Past. So, definitely something to cautiously look forward to.

On the other hand, though, Fox's X-Men movies have a tendency towards mediocrity, a horrible “oh, just get it made” attitude that squandered the promise of the First Class reboot in the very next film. Until now everyone has been assuming that Fox's plan was to keep turning out X-Men films until Hugh Jackman ages out of the part, quits or dies and we were all sort of okay with that. There have been a few genuinely great movies in the franchise. It doesn't break anywhere near even on the good/bad divide but there have been good ones.

I'm not going to lie, I want to see Marvel and Fox come to a Spider-Man style shared custody deal and the one thing standing in the way of that until now was Hugh Jackman, a middle-aged man. Now Fox has Jennifer Lawrence's star power to rely on into the future and she's twenty years younger than him.

Then again, this is Hollywood we're talking about so she probably "counts" as being the same age as Jackman so the overall plan might remain unchanged.

Friday, 20 May 2016

My one hope for Nintendo's movies

It may have taken twenty-three years but Nintendo have finally recovered form the shellshock of the Mario Bros. movie, announcing that they're ready to start licensing their game properties to film producers. Conspiracy-minded folks have pointed out that this announcement came suspiciously close to Disney's announcement that they've ceased in-house game development but let's leave that for a moment and discuss the one thing I want out of this:
Live action, epic, Lord of the Rings-style Legend of Zelda in which the words “excuse me” never appear (unless Vickie Guerrero has a cameo to do it but that's an insane idea).

Thursday, 19 May 2016

The Paradox of Kendra the Vampire Slayer

On the one hand, I really think she was a wasted character. She appears in a pair of two-parters, the first of which she's a decoy villain for half of it and the other where she spends half of it dead. She offered Buffy an interesting foil because the one thing Buffy could rely on before this point was being unique, there was this one thing she was by definition the best in the world at. Then along comes Kendra, who has a Slayer Handbook that was withheld from Buffy, who fights Buffy to a standstill despite having a couple years less experience, who bonds with Giles on a level Buffy won't for years and never previously considered.

They come to the beginnings of an understanding by the end of What's My Line, to the point that when she turns up again in Becoming its something to smile about.

Then she dies.

So yes, we don't get much of her and I wish there was more. That scene where she practically blushes in the face of Xander's barely competent flirting makes me yearn for scenes of her and Willow bemoaning their romantic inexperience. I also think that Buffy and Kendra as “sisters” would have been a fantastic angle, as the few scenes of them getting on in Becoming hint at.

On the other hand, though, it is a perfect bait and switch. Kendra appears in What's My Line to highlight how serious curing Druscilla would be. After everything Spike has done, after everything he's survived, its Dru who amounts to such a threat that two Slayers are required to fight her.

And then Kendra returns in Becoming. Another two-parter and the season finale and it looks like we have a handle on how this character works: she turns up for the big events, a semi-regular presence whose presence is code for “Take this one seriously!”.

Then she dies. Dru waltzes majestically into the library (itself only violated in momentous event stories), hypnotises her without effort and slashes her throat. Its another moment alongside the “death” of Angel, Xander's betrayal and Buffy abandoning Sunnydale at the end of the story that makes it look like the series might actually be killing off the Sunnydale setting and moving on. It doesn't, of course, but it raises the stakes effectively and actually delivers on the amazing threat that Dru apparently represents.

So, I would definitely have liked to see more of Kendra but, honestly, I wouldn't want to undo her death because it works so very, very well.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Castle Black, flat share sitcom GoT-style

[SPOILERS for the latest episode of Game Of Thrones]
Whilst most of season six is starting to move at a decent clip after a slow start (Dany is the God of Hellfire and she begs you to invade Westeros!), Castle Black is still sort of sedate.

I mean, there are obvious reasons. The Castle Black cast clearly has to wait for the Knights of the Vale to turn up before marching on Winterfell and delivering Ramsay his long overdue brutal murder. The result, though, is slightly odd. There's this scene where Brienne just wanders up to Ser Davos and Melisandre to passive-aggressively inform them that she was the one who killed Stannis. On the one hand this is oddly low key for Brienne, she's normally more direct than this, but on the other it actually manages to save Melisandre from the massive social embarrassment of confessing to child murder.

Meanwhile, Jon Snow is happy to see his sister alive and they have some great scenes together as a pair but once everyone's sitting down to lunch things get quiet and awkward. Dolorous Ed in particular seems completely unprepared for the presence of a highborn woman. He gets only a few lines but you get the impression he's constantly mentally reminding himself not to swear.
At the other end of the table, Tormund Giantsbane is giving Brienne the gladeye. I mean, he was obviously enchanted by her heavily armoured charms the moment she rode into Castle Black. “At last,” he thinks, “a real woman! One that could bench press me!”

I am so very much on board for Brienne/Tormund, you have no idea. Come on, let's have just a scene or two of Tormund awkwardly flirting with Brienne before the inevitable Battle Of Winterfell. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Painting Journal #2: Hitting Stride

(Many thanks to my friend Matt, who was kind enough to photograph my models on an actual camera for this post.)

After a couple of productive painting sessions with Matt my painting table is a lot clearer than it was and I have (I feel) some very nice models to show for it:
First off, my nemeses, the Tomb Kings Skeleton Horse Archers. You'd think that after the endless frustration of building them the trade-off would be that they'd be surprisingly easy to paint. Well, let me be the one to tell you that you thought wrong. Oh, the skeleton and the skeletal steed are very easy to paint, especially with the use of Zandri Dust primer but...
oh, the quivers. So many layers, so many different materials, so many opportunities for all those dark colours to spill over onto the carefully drybrushed bone. Still, they are finally done and that's what matters. Looking at the finished product I am tempted to make another five of them but I think I'll leave that for a long way off.
Next up are some good old Skull Pass Night Goblins, probably the best starter models GW have ever produced. As I mentioned before, I only painted this particular colour scheme because I needed to test out some methods and these little chappies were ideal. I really like the effect, though and so these are the first five models of the Red Caps Tribe, named in equal part for the mushrooms and the Scottish vampire legend. Lighting obscures the fact but there's not much highlighting going on with these models. This is by choice since I'm going to be painting a lot of them (having bought two Skull Pass sets back in the day I have at least 120 of these fellows) but I feel the effect will stand up in a large unit.
Finally getting a little more done on my Wood Elves with the old female Glade Lord. This will represent the Lady Tevaril, ruler of Anmyr and my general. (Her wife, Lady Delynna, will be represented by one of the female Spellsingers.)

I'm not entirely happy with how this model came out but there comes a point when you just have to power through and get a model off your painting table. You can't really see it in the photo because there's so little bare skin on the model but I am not happy with the finish of the Kislev Flesh, so a little more experimentation there. The green cloth and the bronze armour have come out okay and those methods are going to be used to unify the look of the army. A slightly patchy job on the skin is something I can live with. Plus, she's metal so I can always strip her and start from scratch if it ever really starts to bother me.
Finally, a rank of very simply painted Squigs I dashed off once I realised I had a really good red method going. These were very quick to paint since they only have a few different colours to them: skin, teeth, eyes and claws. Even the spinney one on the end wasn't too different: I did the spines the same as the claws and just added a little Mephiston Red to highlight the scales along its back. I have a bunch of these just sitting in a box unpainted and I think I might just use them whenever I want to paint something quickly just for the feeling of progress.

Speaking of, I find quantifying things help me remember I'm making headway so let's inaugurate a little Hobby Log at the bottom of these posts:

2016 Total Models Painted: 17
Orcs & Goblins: 10
Tomb Kings: 6
Wood Elves: 1

Total Points Value

The “points value” of the models, by the way, don't include intangibles so I won't be counting things like armour upgrades, magic items or additional wizard levels unless the model for some reason actually portrays an upgrade like the Glade Lord's spear or a Skink Priest's Cloak of Feathers.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Who should be the next big screen Bat-villain?

So, obviously, Ben Affleck is going to be in some solo Batman films somewhere along the line when he isn't busy turning up in all the other DC movies because of editorial insecurity.

But who is going to be the villain? This is a very, very important thing, perhaps more important here than in any other superhero franchise. You see, the problem is, and there's no way to put this gently... Batman is very, very boring. The character is basically immune to character development; he can't go more than two hours without a recap of his incredibly famous origin; and, if you let a general audience think about his actions for too long they might question why the hero of this story is a very rich person beating up very poor people instead of seeking treatment for his obvious PTSD or using his massive wealth to do any actual good in the world.

Who, though? The Joker, Catwoman, Bane and Two-Face have all had two films each; Penguin, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Ra's al Ghul and Talia have scored a film; and, Scarecrow jobbed his way through the entire Nolan trilogy.

Who does this leave? To me, there is only one choice, and not only because this will bring further torment to my non-comic fan best friend's life.
The Condiment King! Complete with ketchup and mustard guns!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Alpha Sapphire: The Team So Far

I'm a couple hours into Pokemon Alpha Sapphire, just entered Rustboro City on my way to the first gym, and my team is starting to take shape. It isn't an interesting or useful shape but it is a shape and it looks like this:
Sunny the Treecko (Grass)
Lady the Poochyena (Dark)
Kemosabe the Zigzagoon (Normal)
Dancer the Surskit (Bug)
Puddin' the Ralts (Psychic/Fairy)
Seaspray the Wingull (Flying/Water)

Now I'm playing this one blind: no strategy, no smartphone, no wikia. This means I have no idea what's waiting for me in the Rustboro City Gym (no spoilers, please) but if it is anything like the trainers I encountered on the way then I am royally screwed. Hell if its anything like the Lv.16 Wurmple that just randomly ambushed me in the forest I am royally screwed. I seem to have lucked into the most incompetent Pokemon in the least useful combination. They miss like crazy, come down with status ailments if anything so much as looks at them and STAB bonuses elude me.

So far the only ones who have proven themselves even semi-useful are Sunny and Lady, mainly by deigning to have learnt halfway effective offensives moves.

On the plus side, I'm probably saved the agony of choice when it comes to replacing team members when I capture something better. Seaspray won't be with us long because I'm lukewarm on his design and I know what he evolves into and it looks terrible; and Kemosabe is either going to get the chop fairly early on or live a life of HM slavery, I haven't decided. Dancer is borderline, I like the design but I've never favoured Bug-Types so we'll see what attacks it levels into.

What do I want to replace them with? Well, I've no idea what's ahead but broadly speaking Fire-Types are always useful and as soon as I have a fishing rod I'm going after a Magikarp which I'm pretty sure this game has since I just fought a trainer who had three of them.