Tuesday, 22 August 2017

On the psychoanalysis of Harcourt Fenton Mudd

A thief, a swindler, a con man, a liar and a rogue
At least, he left that impression.
SPOILER ALERT for the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel The Light Fantastic (and probably also Immortal Coil and the Cold Equations trilogy and I'm sure there's more but those are the titles I remember in this series-ette).

... of course, I left.”

He broke jail.”

I borrowed transportation.”

He stole a spaceship.”

The patrol reacted in a hostile manner.”

They fired at him!”

They've got no respect for private property! They damaged the bloody spaceship!”

- ST:TOS: I, Mudd by Stephen Kandel

So I've nearly finished the latest (I think) in a loose series of TNG novels about Data and various other Star Trek artificial intelligences, Jeffrey Lang's The Light Fantastic. This one deals with the sentient hologram Professor Moriarty, long ago shoved into a free-roaming simulation of the galaxy towards the end of the TV series and left there evr since. Obviously, there wouldn't be much of a novel if that happy ending stayed happy so now he's pissed and has kidnapped someone close to Data (spoilers...) so Data will find him a real world body to inhabit.

The novel also features flashbacks to my favourite Original Series villain ever, Harcourt Fenton Mudd, that glorious rogue, and his fate after his last appearance in I, Mudd. Unfortunately, they don't stay flashbacks.

Not that I have any problem with the idea of Mudd interacting with later crews, in fact there's probably a lot of mileage to be had there. Its not even (particularly) a problem for me that this is yet another TOS-era character who has somehow contrived to live to the era following the Dominion War alongside, by my count, Jim Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhuru, Chekov and Scotty. You know, I think at this point Sulu is the only person on that crew who had the decency to die in anything resembling a timely fashion.

Rather dents Picard's insistence that Spock's “cowboy diplomacy” belongs to a bygone age if everyone from that bygone age is still knocking around, is what I'm saying.

No, the problem is that Lang decides to try and delve into the psychology of Mudd. Lang's conclusion is that Mudd is a classic narcissist and his survival this long is down to spending a large fortune he acquires before the last of the flashbacks (sometime circa The Voyage Home) on life-extending technology because he can't bear to leave the universe without the privilege of having him in it.

I mean... Lang's not wrong, exactly, not in his basic conclusion. Its hard to say that Mudd isn't a narcissistic personality. Its just that the final flashback with Mudd in a bar, richer than he ever imagined, and running into Uhuru who greats him like an old friend felt like such a good ending, such a right ending. He has everything he ever wanted but he still feels the pull of wanting to cheat people (he desperately refers to meeting his banker as “a job” like he was robbing the guy, just to feel like himself for a moment) and maybe he'll fritter it all away and do one last job and maybe he learns to live with his happy ending and it was just such a nice note to leave him on.

Then he turns up in the 2380s at a hundred and god knows years old in a mech suit that's part wheelchair and part hospice bed trying to find a way to become immortal using salvaged AI bits.

Its sad. I don't even care if he gets a happy ending out of it, its just sad and as much as half the fun of a character like Harry Mudd is seeing them be constantly frustrated they aren't meant to make you feel sad.

Characters like Mudd are meant to be fun! There's no reason to bring psychology into it or realistic consequences. They're just there to be fun. Maybe its because I was practically raised on Robert Holmes' Doctor Who stories but I've always loved a good comedy rogue.

Harcourt Fenton Mudd. Thief -”

Come now.”

Swindler and con man...”


Liar and rogue.”

Did I leave you with that impression?”
    - also I, Mudd

I realise that if Mudd were a real person I wouldn't want him to get away with the things he does. Hell, even as a fictional person I rather enjoy the inevitable commeuppence that's an essential part of any story he appears in, but I also admit that he's there for me to enjoy. He's a note of absurb and adorable criminality in the ever so orderly and lawful world of Star Trek. There's so much to relish about the character, not least of which the highly distinctive voice given to him by actor Roger C. Carmel.

As much as Lang captures the voice and the essential psychology of Mudd, I wonder whether he felt the joy a character like that is meant to give a writer: the deliciously naughty glee at writing someone dishonest that you know the reader is going to root for anyway, just a little.

I can't root for this version of Mudd. I just can't. He's a bitter old man whose fits of anger are genuine rage instead of wounded pride, who takes no joy in his schemes because now they really are life or death instead of get rich quick shenanigans.

Still, at least Lang has finally written one of the dream scenes of Star Trek: Data meeting Vic Fontaine. 

Monday, 21 August 2017

The Gardener of Nurgle cometh...

It should be mentioned I don't usually care for Chaos Daemons as an army unto themselves. They're a bit hard to root for, frankly. Now, I'm no stranger to being the bad guy but I usually find a motivation that I can at least invest in: my Traitor Guard want to live free of Imperial shackles; my Orks and Dark Elves are both pirates out for profit; and, at least in their own embalmed minds, my Tomb Kings are genuinely moral and upstanding members of the greatest civilisation the Old Worlde has ever known.

Daemons are just plain evil. That's all they've got, it just comes down to flavour: violent evil, despairing evil, scheming evil or depressed evil. For the most part I find Daemons more useful and interesting as tools for a mortal army rather than characters in their own right.

Aside from Nurgle. I actually quite dig the idea, which I'm not sure how or when it started, that Nurgle's daemons are the bored filing clerks of the daemon world. There's also some whimsy to them, I remember reading this little five minute fiction years ago about how Nurglings like fighting alongside Noise Marines because they enjoy dancing to the “music” of Slaaneshi weapons.
And that sense of whimsy has birthed this fantastic little character.

This is Horticulous Slimux (I think I have that spelt right) “Nurgle's first creation”. He is, essentially, Nurgle head gardener. He is riding a snail that is dragging a plow behind itself. There seems to be a tree growing out of the snail and there's a Nurgling tied in front of its face in place of a carrot. I think his weapon is meant to be a litterpicker. He's just so silly and yet so horrid looking. I'll definitely be trawling eBay for this guy since I he's being included in a bundle so he won't be available on his own for a while, I should think and I don't want the Stormcast Vanguards, though I do see some potential in the Stormcast character who I think would make a good Chaos Lord with some modifications but, again, eBay exists and I just don't like those Vanguard guys. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

In Theory: Dothraki-inspired Warriors of Chaos army

Every season of Game of Thrones brings with it the same thought: “all-mounted Chaos army”. The mental image of waves of Marauder Horsemen and Chaos Knights charging across the board is an arresting one. In the meta sense it presents challenges different to the usual tactics of Chaos Warriors, putting more emphasis on speed and maneouvre than anchoring the battle line around large units of elite infantry.

So what would actually be in this army and how would it work, in theory?

Character Classes

Every character class aside from Daemon Princes have mount options so really the only question is what to mount them on. Your barded Chaos Steed is cheap, allows you to put the character in a unit and can't be shot out from under you. The generic Daemonic Mount has a lot going for it for the price: WS4, Strength and Toughness 5 and 3 Wounds is nothing to sniff at for 35 points.

As to the power-specific mounts, personally I'd say the Palanquin of Nurgle is too slow at only Movement 4; the Disc of Tzeentch 's has Fly so, to my mind, is best used to give a spellcaster maximum mobility; Slaanesh doesn't get a specific mount anymore; and, Juggernauts we'll deal with later.

Chariots (be they drawn by Chaos Steeds or Gorebeasts) have great potential as centrepieces and the extra hitting power will definitely come in handy.

As to monsters, well, that comes down to personal taste. I do want some monsters in the army because monsters are an essential part of any Chaos army. That said, I want the characters to maintain the cavalry theme. Plus, I've never been much for monstrous character mounts, just personal taste.

Cavalry Units

The way I see it, you have two basic types of unit here. First, you have your fast cavalry units in Marauder Horsemen, Chaos Warhounds and Hellstriders Of Slaanesh. What we're talking about here is an army that is super eleite even by Chaos standards so one phase of the game you want to be very dominant in is Movement. You want to be dictating the agenda of the game and luring your opponent into positions where you can really take advantage. Fast cavalry units are great for this. All those free wheels and Vanguard moves mean you can offer a credible threat to your opponent's backfield reallt early in the game so they have to choose between dealing with those units or holding their nerve in the hopes they can take down your heavy hitters before the fast units are in a position to do real damage to them.

Speaking of heavy hitters: Chaos Chariots, Chaos Knights, Gorebeast Chariots and Skullcrushers Of Khorne. Powerful hammer units who can do a lot of damage on the charge, especially true of the chariots with their impact hits. You need to maximise the amount of damage every charge does with an army like this: impact hits, flank charges, multiple charges. Plus, all of these units look amazing. The downside of this, of course, is that all these units are instantly recognisable high priority targets which is why you need the cheaper, faster units to distract your opponent and present them with difficult choices.

Other units

In the main, the other units that fit the theme and have the speed are monsters. Either big fellas like the Slaughterbrute, Chaos Giant and the Mutalith Vorext Beast or monstrous infantry like Chaos Ogres and Dragon Ogres. I certainly want Dragon Ogres, who have the added benefit of standing on four legs so they're basically cavalry, right? Whether the other monstrous units fit your view of what a cavalry army should be is, of course, entirely up to you.

The Warshrine, though, I think definitely works with the theme. True, it isn't pulled by horses unless you make a conversion but it is definitely a mount. I personally wouldn't use it as a character mount because I'm very aware of the importance of not putting too many eggs in one basket with super elite armies

The Challenges
The obvious, foreseeable problem with this army is the problem with all elite cavalry armies: you don't have many guys. Your units are vulnerable when charged because they have zero standing combat resolution unless you sink points into taking a second rank: expensive for the hammer units, practically pointless for the fast cavalry. Add to that the fact that most cavalry weapon buffs only come into play on the charge. You would have to hit hard and early and be take the gamble that you're break the units you were charging to prevent counter-charges in the next turn.

On the plus side...
Low model count means you can dedicate more time to painting and to create interesting conversions. God-specific chariots, for one thing, interest me as a concept. The Gorebeast harness components, I know, can easily be adapted to accommodate a Beast of Nurgle and Juggernauts are about the same size. Then there's the every popular head swap to create God-specific Knights: Skullcrusher helms to create Khornate Knights, Hellstrider heads for Slaanesh and so forth. There are also a number of fantastic Storm Of Chaos era mounted Chaos Lords to choose from.

The only real problem is that it would be a very hard army to learn. Not much of a problem for mebut I can understand how it might put people off. 

Saturday, 19 August 2017

SummerSlam 2017 predictions

Its the biggest party of the summer! Hopefully a better party than last year, when SummerSlam seemed to take place across geological time (it was a serious slog, that show). Anyway, predictions based on the most recent version of the card I could find:


Cruiserweight Championship
Akira Tozawa (c) vs. Neville

I don't really follow 205 Live so I'm just going on the simple logic that Neville had a long run with the title and they're not going to give it back to him so soon. Tozawa to retain.

SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The New Day (c) vs. The Usos

I am one of those people who think the New Day need to break up and pursue singles careers but I don't think they're going to drop the title and start that journey on the bloody pre-show. The New Day to retain.

Six Man Tag Match
The Hardy Boyz vs. The Miz and The Miztourage

The reason we're not getting an Intercontinental Championship match on the main card. Also, exiling the Hardies to the undercard on a Big Four? I'm not sure I like this at all. Since its non-title I think the Hardies to win.


SmackDown Women's Championship
Naomi (c) vs. Natalya

I think they're still building Naomi into the top-flight talent she deserves to be and a win against a “legacy” would be a good move... well, if Natalya had much momentum behind her which... eh. Naomi to retain.

Raw Women's Championship
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Sasha Banks

My head says Alexa will retain but my heart really, really wants to Sasha to not only win but have a nice, long and consistent run with the belt. The woman bumps in ways that make me wince and I really think she deserves a better run than the hot potato runs she got between pay-per-views in her feud with Charlotte.

Banks to win, fingers crossed.

United States Championship
AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens (special guest referee Shane McMahon)

Its the rematch. Styles to retain.

Randy Orton vs. Rusev

I would rather like Rusev to win, especially after that whole flag match business. However, the long and legendary rivalry between the United States and Bulgaria (don't ask) means that I have Orton for this one.

Big Show vs. Big Cass (with Enzo Amore suspended above the ring in a shark cage)

This is a hard one. On the one hand, they are building up Big Cass but they also still want to pursue the Cass/Enzo angle which probably means that Big Show will win with assistance from Enzo via thingy dropped from the shark cage (which is a bit of a flaw in the whole shark cage idea).

Big Show via shenanigans.

Finn Bálor vs. Bray Wyatt

If they don't, as rumoured, bring back the Demon King gimmick for this one then WWE Creative are out of their minds. Regardless of that, this is Bray Wyatt on pay-per-view as well as being a return match for Finn so I reckon Bálor to win.

John Cena vs. Baron Corbin

Cena had that win when he came back for the flag match which was all patriotic and stuff so it counts double and they are really, really pushing Corbin so I think Cena will lie down and do what's best for business (which he does a lot, no matter what people choose to remember).

Corbin to win, probably dirty, this is John Cena we're talking about.

Raw Tag Team Championship
Cesaro and Shaemus (c) vs. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins

I think this new tag team alliance has some legs, especially as it will hopefully save us from more Rollins/Triple H rubbish. Plus, it might mean either a Shield reunion down the line or these two taking on Reigns some time in the future.

Ambrose and Rollins to win.

WWE Championship
Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

I'm just not feeling it with Nakamua on main roster. I don't think he's been treated quite seriously enough to take the gold this early. I think there's a better chance of Jinder dropping than Brock (I am absolutely believe the rumours Brock will retain all the way to Wrestlemania).

Jinder to retain, though I hold out a glimmer of hope.

Universal Championship Fatal 4-Way
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe vs. Braun Strowman

See above. Brock to retain. 

Friday, 18 August 2017

Olbermann vs. Farage. FIGHT!

Things have been hectic this week and I haven't had a chance to read anything from this week's pull beyond Gotham City Garage so no reviews today (maybe tomorrow) but it is SummerSlam weekend so let's talk about a fight I've been wanting to see for months and it seems like we're going to get it:
Yes, Keith Olbermann called out Nigel Farage on Twitter. I am, as I have alluded to before, low key in love with Keith Olbermann, an unashamed liberal more than willing to scream at the world until it bloody listens. Nigel Farage, meanwhile, was perhaps most accurately described by Youtube video game commentator Jim Sterling as “the human equivalent of that feeling you get when you remember you swallow spider sin your sleep”. He is a racist conman who helped lead this country off a cliff and the government is still trying to decide whether they want to land on their head and die instantly or on their legs and hope to be as lightly crippled as possible.

I want Olbermann to destroy him. I don't care that its mean, I want to hear the rant. 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Big #1: Gotham City Garage

Whatever else I might have to say about them, DC have absolutely hit on a winning formula for their Digital First offerings. By now, Bombshells is one of my favourite series of all time and the various Trinity-starring anthologies were gold mines of interesting, innovative takes on the characters that often put their mainstream counterparts to shame. Seriously, take the time to track down the collected editions of Sensation Comics, Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman at some point, you'll never see as many and as interesting interpretations of DC's flagship characters as you will in those issues. Plus, there was a fantastic Batman Beyond series under the digital imprint.

Anyway, here we are again: Gotham City Sirens, another alternative universe again focussing on DC most iconic female characters (and, hopefully, like Bombshells it'll spin out to encompass many more characters).

This time its thirty plus years since the end of the world and the last city on Earth is The Garden, a utopia governed by Lex Luthor. Yes, its dystopia o'clock and our plucky young female protagonist is Kara Gordon who has some sort of job managing the implants that keep people docile and happy. That is, of course, until her secret past catches up with her and she's forced to go on the run.

This is absolutely and blatantly an attempt to do the DC Universe as YA dystopian fiction and you know what? I am all for that. True, we've got a year long Kamandi series running right now but seeing Supergirl running around a world that's half Logan's Run and half Mad Max has an extra edge of gleeful smashing the toys together to see how it works to it. The whole first issue follows Kara, Harley on the cover be damned but I'm more than used to the fact that covers mean nothing from the last two years of Bombshells, and the titular garage has yet to appear. Neither has Gotham, come to think of it, whatever form the place takes in this world. Certainly a different one since we get to see what Batman is like in this world and... its not a nice guy who adopts orphans, that's for damn sure.

Whilst the series doesn't gran me as strongly and powerfully as Bombshells did, it doesn't introduce a lot of interesting elements and some nice character redesigns. The world is interesting if, at the moment, a bit too easy to boil down to two film references. Part of this feeling, though, is probably down to the source material. I'm not really that into the Hunger Games and its stablemates whereas Bombshells' pin-up art style has a more timeless and attention grabbing quality to it, at least for me.

That having been said, the cliffhanger promises that the series might be going in a more Mad Max-y direction with the next issue, which is right up my street. 

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Racists make the worst blacksmiths

On Monday, in Durham, North Carolina, protesters pulled down a Confederate memorial statue outside the county courthouse. I've seen the footage: it was pulled off a plinth and fell (if I'm judging the height of people next to the plinth right) about twelve feet.

Somehow, just from the fall, it ended up looking like this:
Now, I'm not a blacksmith but my best friend has taken some courses in the art and he tells me that is some really shoddy work. It turns out these things were churned out cheap in their hundreds as a way to make the South feel good about themselves after losing the Civil War.

Which they did. They lost. Its been a century and a half. Get the fuck over it.

On a more serious note, it is nice to see that the ultimate participation trophy here is as fragile as the special white snowflakes who feel the need to march through a half-empty college campus carrying flaming torches to assert their precious “white pride” and “traditional masculinity”. I mean, it is so important to these people to keep the monuments of their failure, their utter, pathetic defeat. Then again, given the number of swatstikas on display at Charlottesville these people have a positive fetish for failure, clinging to the scant consolation that cosplaying as history's boogeymen allows them to inspire fear like the emotionally stunted schoolyard bullies most of them are and that's all they have to lend some petty semblence of meaning to bleak , pointless lives spent hiding from the fact that quirk of genetics has granted them every social opportunity and they still managed to fail.

Also, I quite like that it proves you can just smash these things no matter what the government tries to tell you.
In which Confederate statues are rather like Richard Spencer's face, now I think about it. 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Finished Models #1 and #2: Makers of Things

August's big drive to finish models... begins. Cold over, I finally had an afternoon to knuckle down and get some painting done. The first two fruits of this labour and, unsurprisingly, the two models I had on the go that needed the least work but there are a few more models sitting in the “out” tray waiting for their bases to be sanded and painted but for the moment here's what we're starting with.

First off, the Dwarf Runesmith sporting a natty blue cape that will also be the unifying character for all my Karak Ziflin regiments. Mostly this guy was a test piece for all sorts of metallic methods I wanted to try out. I usually prefer natural tones because, frankly, you can be messy as you like with those and it actually enhances the effect. Metals, though, those you have to be more careful with.

Mostly it seems to have worked out, though I did just throw my hands up and yell “fuck it” over the filigree on the helmet after the seventh time trying to follow the line with the tiniest brush I have. So I'm just saying that's embossed into the metal, not a seperate material that I need to bother with, thank you.

On the self-critique side: the sand on the base was drybrushed with Karah Stone and it didn't come out as well as the large stone. Probably some more experimentation needed there.

And, second, we have a Necrotect who, again, was painted mainly to test colours I wanted to apply to the rest of the army. Specifically, the green on the hat and the blue on the armour. My Tomb Kings are from Zandri and, according to one of the Nagash novels, the city's colours were sea greens.

The experiments came out okay though I admit I rushed to finish this one. Of all finecast models, this sculpt is one of the most abused with pebbling and rough edges everywhere. Still, this was the best casting I could find and I think he came out okay.

Now I need to get some sanding done to showcase some models with paintjobs more recent than six months ago. 

Monday, 14 August 2017

So, Necromunda, then

On the one hand, I am disappointed. There were some lovely rumours going around that Steel Legion were getting plastic kits. I've been wanting new plastic Guard for ages and Steel Legion are one of the more interesting designs from the old metal range.

However, I'll take this as compensation. I was never terribly fond of Necromunda as a system back in the day but I hope the simpler, more freeflowing design outlook of 40k 8th and AoS will be informing this new edition. You know why? Because Eschers:
Look at them in all their over-designed 2000AD glory! Hell, even if I don't like the new rules I might buy some on principle and use them as Chaos Cultists or Conscripts. Goliaths have also been announced, the big meaty fellows who, to be frank...
would make awesome Khornate Cultists. They interest me less from a painting point of view (between Poxwalkers and Fyreslayers I have plenty of shirtless dudes on the go). I also hope they plan to do more of the minor factions like the Scavvies, the mutant sewer-dwellers who used to be my gang back in the day. What can I say? I like an underdog.

As I said, though, the great thing about most of the gangs being random Imperial citizens mean you can find a lot of uses for them mainstream 40k armies: Chaos Cultists, Conscripts, Inquisitorial Henchmen, even human citizens of worlds recently absorbed into the Tau Empire.

I look forward to seeing how this all works out, both rules-wise and what gangs are going to get new miniatures.

But, seriously, GW, you need new Guard plastics. 

Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Chaos Lieutenant returns!

Later this week, once I've had time to give it a proper read through, I'll probably do a deep dive on the new Chaos Space Marines codex. For now, though, I want to focus in one thing, one little thing, that pleases me enormously about this latest iteration of the Heretic Astartes:

The Exalted Champion or, as we knew them in the third edition, the Chaos Lieutenant has returned.

I'm an old-fashioned sort who was brought up on Eighties cartoons and a truth I hold to be self-evident is that every great villain needs his scheming, treacherous minion-in-chief. Every Megatron needs his Starscream and so, in the old days, the Chaos Lord had his Chaos Lieutenant. I remember fondly a White Dwarf article where Matt Hudson (I think) started collecting an Iron Warriors army and went to great lengths writing a backstory for his Chaos Lord and Lieutenant including the reasons why the one was constantly plotting against the other.

Sadly, the idea didn't last. The character class disappeared in the fourth edition and was never heard of again until we got the Aspiring Champion model (but not rules) in sixth. Now, the character class is back in full force with rules and stats and a model and everything.

Its also, frankly, a good way to give people a cheap second HQ choice now two are compulsory for the bog standard force organisation chart. He's a solidly average character, in fact he's pretty much an Aspiring Champion from the bog standard Chais Space Marine squad with +1 WS and four wounds. His main benefit is a 6” AOE that allows your units to re-roll failed wound roles in the Fight phase (plus the Champion can re-roll failed hit rolls against other characters).

Its not spectacular and but its nothing to sniff at. To be honest, the main fun of having the character is getting to write a Starscream-esque character in your background which is a benefit in and of itself.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Test Models: Victoria Miniatures kilted legs

I have come to hate the Cadian Shock Trooper. Its not that they're bad models, they're perfectly competent sculpts, pretty user friendly to build and paint. However, they are also immensely boring and I have painted dozens over the years and they are basically designed to be boring. They are literally the “standard issue grunt” recruited in their billions by the Imperial Guard.

So, when I decided to finally revive my old Guard army, the Silvik 23rd / Metellus 5th Tactical Support Detachment, I knew I had to do something to make them a little more interesting to look at and paint.
Enter Victoria Miniatures and their Kilted Legs set. They, in fact, do entire figures “Highland Guard” figures who just happen to dead ringers for the Drookian Fen Guard but I did want to keep some of the outline of your classic Cadian Guardsman. Also, the complete figures come out a little expensive and I want a largely infantry-based force. My background for the army always had them (at least, the Silvik side of the regiment) come from a very mountainous world so tanks and such are at something of a minimum. Lots of Sentinels, though, I like Sentinels.

First, though, I'll be painting this Veteran Squad. They are Sergeant Pertwee and his Particulars, the regimental quartermaster's personal scrounging squad whose... extracurricular activities get a blind eye turned to them by Commissar Foster and Stratego Callum so long as the Sergeant is willing to lend the squad's considerable skills to certain behind enemy lines missions. This would be the reason they're armed the way they are: a nice all-round squad geared up to break bunkers and vehicle armour but capable of going anti-infantry if I have a need.

I'm almost certainly giving them a Chimera. It might not have originally been theirs but you can repaint those things pretty quickly if you feel the need and I don't know what you mean, Commissar, there's always been this many Chimeras in the pool, purely a discrepancy in the paperwork we'll get it corrected, just sign here, sir.

Now I just need to decide how to paint them. I don't want to go historical redshirt on them but I have also painted enough green and grey over the last couple of weeks to last me a while.

Maybe something in blue?

Friday, 11 August 2017

Comic Reviews

A light week and I have a cold that's doing a number on my ability to concentrate and/or stand, so here are the opinions I was conscious enough to write down.

Detective Comics #962
As Intelligence draws to a close, I find myself baffled to find that I like Azrael. That's never happened before. I hated him when he was Batman, I ignored him when he was “The Agent of the Bat”, I tried and failed to like the new version introduced during Battle for the Cowl and sighed when he was brought back in Batman and Robin Eternal. In all honesty, I was fully prepared to accept that this was just one of those characters who appeal I was never going to grasp like Deadpool.

For one thing, I like how James Tynoin IV doesn't treat Jean Paul's faith as a joke or a source of ignorance. I especially like that he constantly paired the character with Luke Fox, a scientist, and had their conversations be constantly respectful and understanding on both sides. Then, finally, in this issue we get the character having a long monologue at his dark mirror, Ascalon, on the dangers of blind faith and closing yourself off to outside ideas out of fear they'll make you question your certainties. (By the way, did Ascalon in the dream sequences remind anyone else of Harvest from the first New 52 Teen Titans series?)

This was, perhaps, not the strongest plot of this run but it was absolutely one of the character high points: Luke and Jean Paul, Bruce and Zatanna, Cass learning Shakespeare, Kate crushing on Zee (that girl has a type). With the next storyline promising to resolve the lingering thread of Tim's incarceration, I'm glad this room was made for such a strong series of character studies. Also, I hope this inspires editorial to look into finding a more permanent home for Zatanna, a character I can never get enough of.

Generations: Jean Grey/Pheonix one-shot
Okay, let's see if this one gives me any more idea what's going on with this whole “event we're running in the middle of an event but this time there's fewer Nazis” thing Marvel's got going.

Well, not so much, but again this was a damn fun story and intimately tied in to the events of the ongoing it sprang from. Honestly, part of me wonders why this and the Hulk one couldn't have just been a regular or over-sized issue of their ongoing with the Generations branding but I'm not in the hole for too many of these so I'm okay with the expenditure. Just don't push it, Marvel.

As to plot, Jean finds herself on a beach sometime inearly days of the classic Chris Claremont run to find the older Jean Grey of the oast (just go with it) enjoying the sun and mourning her fellow X-Men who she thinks died in the Antarctic (they didn't, in fact they're in Japan). Its interesting, as Cullen Bunn points out in younger Jean's narration, that at this point the other Jean is as concerned with distracting herself from the horror of her life as younger Jean is. From there things get a bit more cosmic than I expected, with Pheonix!Jean dragging her younger self out into space to show her the wonders the Pheonix is capable of, all the while younger Jean ruminating on the horrors that are on the horizon.

Its not so much a step forward on the road Dennis Hopeless is taking in the Jean Grey ongoing as a chance to give Jean more context for what she's preparing to face but in a way that makes this story more necessary. The over-sized perfection of the classic Jean Grey takes a few necessary dents here: she's running from her problems, blind to the threat she's going to become, abusing her powers in a way not entirely different from Season Six Willow (a scene that's actually a nice callback to a scene from the Claremont era). Its important to remember that the monster Jean is scared of becoming is still Jean Grey.

Mister Miracle #1 (of 12)
On the one hand, as much as I like a good mystery, I am getting a bit tired of the “obtuse for obtuseness' sake” way that DC has been structuring series like this. True, I'm not finding this as annoying as the various Young Animals series I dropped but I do hope it gets to the damned point sometime in the next couple of issues.

Anyway, its the latest instalment of the Jack Kirby 100th anniversary revivals DC are doing instead of taking one of the King's greatest creations and perverting him into the moral inverse of everything he was ever meant to stand for: a year long Mister Miracle relaunch! The opening issue is told in fits and starts, little vignettes surrounding Miracle's attempted suicide. Its engaging, though again I worry the style might outstay its welcome over the course of a year, and accompanied by some lovely art that does its best to be alienating by changing style and palette between scenes. Scott Free and Big Barda are, as ever, the cutest couple in comics even in a story with such a serious and downer beginning as this one.

Whatever else, this promises to be a distinct and interesting series and Tom King proved on his Batman that he doesn't like to take the obtuse alienation too far.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #11
I adore this series, have I mentioned that? Not much happens in this issue but its an issue written by Keiron Gillen in which not much happens so its probably more entertaining than anything else on the stands this week. Aphra's score of a lifetime has, of couse, turned sour on her thanks to the machinations of her much abused and surly murder droids Triple-Zero and Beetee and she and her guests are all on the run through the corridors of the space station from the insane technopathic AI she was trying to sell for the titular enormous profit.

That's it, basically, you could even accuse the issue of just being filler between the cliffhanger of last issue and tease for the main event that is this issue's final page. Usually I'd rate that as a cardinal sin but Gillen has such a facility for character, alongside Kev Walker's brilliant art, that I find myself not minding at all. 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Bretonnia reinforcements from Reaper Miniatures

I was trawling ebay the other night and found two models from Reaper Miniatures that really inspired me. I've been thinking for a while of dusting off my Bretonnians and adding some units based on Matthias Elliasson's superb Warhammer Armies Project: Bretonnia book (available free from his site, incidentally).

One of these units is Herrimaults. They're bowmen with Skirmishers, Scouts and BS4 led by a Character called a Faceless, who has the stats of a knight. So, pretty obvious where all that's going: Robin Hood and His Merry Men.

Now, back in the day when Bretonnians were fresh and new additions to sixth edition, I did used to take a unit of skirmishing bowmen as a bodyguard for my Damsel and I rather think I'll return to the tactic. However, if they're going to be outlaws they aren't going to be hanging around with the noble daughters of the castle. Rather, I think I need to have some models to represent Damsels who have chosen, like the Faceless, to forsake their birthright in order to stand for the common man.

Enter the Reaper Miniatures models Tinley and Tristan the Loeremistress (pictures from the ebay listings). Tristan, she with the dragonette in her hand, could certainly look more like a barmaid than a noblewoman with the right paint job. Tinley, meanwhile, has that Little John-style pole in place of the more decorative staff a battle wizard is usually seen toting.

As to the Herrimaults themselves, I recall having some Wildwood Rangers' heads knocking around from when I made my Eternal Guard so I'll see if those can fit on a Peasant Archer's body which would make the Herrimaults look distinct enough from the rank and file Bowmen. Well, that and the monochromatic green colour scheme they'll inevitably have, of course. 

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Nurgle Daemons test model

It would figure that the first model I finish (aside from basing) in my month of trying to polish off old projects would be a new model I was only tinkering with on the side whilst working on my Tomb Guard. Anyway, here it is, the colour scheme for my Death Guard's Daemon allies:

Nice and simple, easy to production line. The flesh is Mechanicus Standard Grey washed Nuln Oil all over and then heavily drybrushed Dawnstone. The inner fleshy bits are just Bigman's Glow washed Athonian Camoshade to darken it a little.

Given how long all the little bits of banding and fleshy mutations are taking me on the Death Guard themselves its nice that one element of this army is going to be simple to paint. Hopefully, anyway, I've already basecoated a set of Nurgling bases to see how it works on a unit en masse.

Then maybe I'll get those Tomb Guard done (I should not have started this project with a twenty model unit). 

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Doctor Who asks and opinions

I'm sick as a dog and incapable of actual thought this morning so, instead, a Doctor Who prompt thing someone sent me, originally from the tumblr of one “dorotheemcshane”. Thirty-one questions and the length and breadth of the time and space to answer them with in as rapid fire and unedited as I can:

1: Top 3 Doctors?
Matt Smith; Colin Baker (mainly because audios); and, Sylvester McCoy.

2: Top 3 companions?
Leela; Rory Williams; Jo Grant.

3: Favourite quote?
Can't beat the Seventh Doctor's monologue/mission statement at the end of Survival: “There are worlds out there where the sky is burning; where the sea's asleep and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song; somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice and somewhere else the tea's getting cold. Come on, Ace, we've got work to do.” Always brings a tear to my eye.

4: Favourite Dalek story?

5: If you could pick one companion to travel with any Doctor, who would it be?
Ace and Twelve.

6: How much EU have you seen?
I've been around a hell of a long time. I read bits and pieces of the New and Missing Adventures as a teenager, probably most of the EDAs and PDAs, been collecting Doctor Who Magazine (and reading the comic strip every issue) since mid-1997, and followed Big Finish pretty religiously since they started, as well as odds and ends from the naughty unlicensed side of the EU like the BBV audios and P.R.O.B.E. Videos.

7: Favourite companion/Doctor relationship?
Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe.

8: OTP?
Amy and Rory.

9: NOTP?
Seven and Ace, creepy af.

10: Any ships?
The obvious canon ones: Ian and Barbara, Ben and Polly, River and Doctor of your choice. Also a soft spot for Tegan/Nyssa and Liv/Helen fan fic.

11: First Doctor you saw?
Jon Pertwee in a repeat of Planet of the Daleks (I am not quite that old).

12: Favourite Doctor?
Wobbly final season aside, still Matt Smith.

13: First story you saw on TV?
Planet of the Daleks, see #11.

14: How long have you been a fan for?
Hard to say but I remember being really excited for the 1996 TV movie so at least since '96.

15: If you could travel with one Doctor, who would it be?
Three. Political debate and endless sandwiches? Sign me up.

16: Favourite TARDIS interior?
Matt Smith's first console room with the console made out of brick-a-brack.

17: How much classic Who have you seen?
Everything that still exists aside from the most recently recovered episode of The Underwater Menace. Don't know why, just keep forgetting to watch the DVD. Also, I've seen some form of reconstruction for all the missing episodes.

18: Favourite Cyberman story?
Don't care for them much, to be honest, so World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls.

19: Favourite one-off monster?
The Sycorax. Love me some technomage aliens.

20: Least favourite story?
Terminus, a swirling vortex of missed potential and boredom.

21: Did you cry whilst watching any stories?
A couple of moments get to me: the final speech in Survival, as I mentioned, the last few shots of The Green Death, and Bill's goodbye to the Doctor in The Doctor Falls.

22: Least favourite Doctor (why?)
On reflection, probably Tennant. I loved him at the time but in retrospect there's so much whining and brooding in his series that just isn't to my taste.

23: Least favourite companion (why?)
Dodo. I almost don't want to say that because there are issues with the fact the actress had such crippling stage fright but, ultimately, the fault is in the writing. She could work, she does work in The Gunfighters, but elsewhere she is at best without character and at worst a mean spirited judgement on “young people today” (“today” for 1966).

24: Any eras that you would like to know better?
Troughton, especially his first season. Between him being such a physical actor and TV direction starting to move being the “radio with pictures”/broadcast theatre model that I don't think there's much debate that we lost a lot more from his missing episodes than Hartnell's.

25: Favourite EU companion?
Izzy Sinclair from the Eighth Doctor DWM comic strip. Closeted gay nerd with deep seeded identity issues not all related to her sexuality? Even now that would be innovative but when she was appearing in 1996 to 2003 it was downright revelatory.

26: Favourite episode (or top 3 if that's too hard)?
The Ribos Operation: Robert Holmes at his finest; Tom Baker at his scene stealing best (for good or ill); Mary Tamm majestic at all times; and the best Holmes double act that doesn't come surrounded by appalling racism.

27: Weirdest piece of merchandise you own?
I regret to inform you that I have descended to the lowest level of fandom hell: I have stolen a .pdf copy of The Book of the War.

28: Anything you want to see in the next season?
Jodie Whittaker to have a female primary companion (don't care if there's a male secondary companion but I feel, at this stage, that the main companion should still be a woman).

29: Thoughts on the current Doctor?
Didn't enjoy Capaldi's first season much but since The Magician's Apprentice I've felt he had one of the stronger runs and stronger character arcs of the modern series.

30: In your opinion, will the Doctor ever be ginger?
Next one's a woman, all bets are off. Well, most bets. Gingers are about as white as it gets, so probably.

31: Thoughts on the sonic sunglasses?
Love them, perfectly in character for Capaldi and I love Moffat's logic for including them as a way for any kid to be able to cosplay the Doctor. 

Monday, 7 August 2017

A Fantasy Renaissance

The last couple of months have seen me, for the first time in years, utterly obsessed with 40k. It has been at least three editions since I was any sort of regular player and I have probably played more games since 8th came out than I have in the last ten years. I adore the new ruleset.

Yesterday, though, our friend Iain came down from Scotland for a visit and he brought his Goblin army. I cracked out the Tomb Kings, Matt and Tom brought their Empire (Nordland and Nuln respectively). We played three games over the course of an afternoon and I remembered how much I adored the Fantasy game.

Which is good, since I want to spend my hobby time this month clearing the backlog of half-completed models and most of them are Fantasy models (with a few AoS for my Sylvaneth and Fyreslayers).

There are some techniques I want to test out that I have more excuse to test with Fantasy models. I want to try a white method that goes up through a grey base and Rakarth Flesh. Actually, a lot of the techniques I want to test out are based on using coloured base sprays to make effects easier.

I also painted a test Plaguebearer for my Death Guard and, I must say, I have missed painting “natural” colours where you can be an awful lot sketchier than lacquered armour. Drybrushing is my friend. After all these years I feel confident I will never have a steady enough hand for line highlighting.

At the end of the day this is all about improving my skills: new techniques, working smarter and faster, finding shortcuts that lead to the same or better results. 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

The Stoppable Wasp

Here we go again, then. I was catching up on the last couple of issues from Wednesday's haul and for to The Unstoppable Wasp #8. It was a lovely end to (I thought) the first arc: it tied together Nadia's twin legacies as Hank Pym's daughter and newest incarnation of the Wasp; it concluded a fantastic character study for Janet; and, to top it all off, it contained perhaps the most nuanced treatment of the break-up of Hank and Janet's relationship ever written and believe me there'll be a whole post on that one some time next week.

Then I got to the end and there it was: Jeremy Whitley writing the traditional and all-too-common goodbye letter with a faint touch of the Dear John to it. He even points out that the cancellation has nothing to do with the dedication of the fans (“it's not you” and so on...).

Hyperbolic as it seems I genuinely think that Nadia was the best new character Marvel has come up with since Kamala Khan. Her optimism and passion for science was a fantastic angle, never more so than when she absolutely fangirls out at Mockingbird not because she's a superhero but because she's a famous chemist.
The concept of a lab full of eccentric young female scientists had real legs even before you get into the diverse and interesting personalities that populated G.I.R.L.

But, no. The insular, risk averse industry once again discovered that it cannot afford to innovate and after a mere eight issues this promising, wonderfully written, beautifully drawn series comes to an end. Its just grand irony that this issue dropped the very same week as the first issue of Generations, the grand nostalgia project meant to appease the vocal fanboy contingent by bringing back all the white male heroes.

So this one goes on the list alongside Black Panther & The Crew as premature casualties of this industry that can somehow spawn the most popular movies on the planet and somehow not make any money off the source material because advertising is for sissies. 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Doctor Who is for kids and that's okay

A totally mature and serious sci-fi alien, yesterday.

Here we are, at the end, with what I sincerely hope to be the last and dumbest Moffat Controversy. We were so close to out of the woods: just a couple more months and one more episode and then we could all enjoy that precious honeymoon period a new showrunner gets where they haven't yet done something Problematic and become the worst thing to happen to the show, to television in general, to the narrative storytelling and possibly to Western civilisation itself.

So, Steven Moffat said that Doctor Who is a children's show and people are pissed.

I really, really don't want this to get topped in terms of dumbness. I know hoping this'll be the last dumb Moffat controversy is just pie in the sky liberalism at its worst but just give me this, universe, okay?

Why are people so mad about this? Well, because they're adults and they've been “accused” of liking something made for children. Responses range from the merely pedantic insistence on calling it “family entertainment” to righteous anger at the mere suggestion that adults could be interested in a mere children's show and that Moffat is completely wrong about the basic nature of the series.

For myself, I'm fine with it. Children have always been the audience the BBC has pitched the series at and it has acted as a safe space for them to experience some pretty dark themes. The iconic villains of the series are Nazi analogues committed to (literally) universal ethnic cleansing. The main characters are put in constant physical danger but with a very definite social contract between writer and audience that they'll be fine in the end, mostly. This is a series that routinely gives characters posthumous happy endings (Clara, River, Jack, to name but a few the statute of spoiler limitations has expired upon). Its moral lessons are simple but largely timeless.

And its okay. I say this as someone who is just too damn old to care about whether what I'm into is right for my age: I read comicbooks every damn week; some of my favourite shows ever are cartoons like the DCAU shows or ReBoot (which totally holds up today. Okay, season three totally holds up today...); my favourite comfort food reading are all ages comics like Archie's Sonic The Hedgehog series and IDW's Transformers; I am rapidly falling down the rabbit hole of the Young Justice cartoon; I paint model soldiers as a creative hobby.

Oh, and I have been absolutely obsessed with this hokey old BBC kids' show called Doctor Who since I was ten years old. That's nearly a quarter century of emotional investment, bad teenage fan fiction and all.

That doesn't make it mine, though. Ultimately I'm just trespassing on a space meant for the kids who are ten years old now and need a hero who is valued because they are smart, funny and a bit socially awkward. That's a pretty vital social function the show has right there and that's something to be celebrated, not dismissed because the idea is inconvenient to your self-image.