Tuesday 31 January 2017

In Defense of Tartaros armour

I'm in two minds about the two Horus Heresy Terminator armour designs. On the one hand I like the designs but on the other the background purist in me insists there was only ever one mark of Terminator armour developed during the great crusade and used right up to the “present”.
But there is one thing about the Tartaros pattern, which I initially disliked, that really appeals to me. You see, the technical name of Terminator plate is Tactical Dreadnought Armour and, alone of the Terminator armour marks, Tartaros armour actually looks like a Dreadnought. The Contemptor Dreadnought, to be specific, which I am also rather a fan of.

For one thing it has legs that look like they actually work and it does resemble the Space Marine the occupant once was.
I have one of the plastic ones from the Calth box set which I intend to use for my Flesh Tearers army. It may seem a little ornate for them, a little antique, but I like the idea of them having their own version of Bjorn the Fell-Handed: one of Chapter-Master Amit's chief confidantes dating back to when he was Captain of the Blood Angels Legion 8th Company. With the Flesh Tearers dying, falling to the Black Rage in ever greater numbers, it makes a delightful sense to have one of the first generation around to witness the end.

Yes, its bleak but this is Warhammer 40,00 we're talking about.

Regardles of my little aside there, one of the other things I like about Tartaros pattern is that the anatomy actually works. I cannot for the life of me see how an actual person, even one with the enhanced physique of a Space Marine, can actually fit in traditional Terminator armour.

I just wish they'd get along and release them as a separate kit as they did with the Calth kits. I want Tartaros Terminators, maybe some Custodes and Sisters of Silence but I really don't care for the MkIII Iron armour Space Marines, at least not in any army I'm currently collecting. 

Monday 30 January 2017

John Hurt's Caligula

If you want to know how great an actor the late John Hurt was, track down a copy of I, Claudius and watch his performance as the Emperor Caligula.

With the greatest respect to the man, John Hurt was not a particularly beautiful man and you'd think that would discount a man from playing Caligula, a notoriously attractive man. Hurt brings such power to the role through his performance that you can see it. His fey, breathy delivery conveys the charisma of the man whilst his haughty air lends a smouldering sexual presence to the role. He litters his lines with little breathy pauses as if unsure of what he's about to say next, second guessing himself constantly as he decides what best to say to his own advantage. He's twitchy, just a little as if he's constantly holding it in except when he explodes in anger or panic.
The scene where Caligula makes his first proclamations as Emperor is a tour de force. After several episodes of being a manipulative snake masterfully pulling the strings of the ailing Tiberius, Caligula cuts loose. He rants and rambles, loses track of the conversation, drifts off into asides about how he resents Claudius having so much more hair than he does. Its a fascinating descent into madness, one of the best scenes in the whole series.

Now, this is just one role in a career of great roles but I do think it conveys the sheer range the man possessed.

Now, we'll just wait for Brian Blessed to die and we'll talk about his turn as Augustus.

Sunday 29 January 2017

Hobby Goal #4

Hobby Goal #3
Build my Kairic Acolytes

Unfortunately, with one thing and another, I didn't make any progress on the painting side of things but I did manage to get the Acolytes build to deadline.

They're a lovely looking kit but a bit of a nightmare to put together. There are a lot of very small components on the spure and not just optional extras, either, we're talking about tiny, tiny sections of arm for which there are no spares. This is definitely a kit to build in the cleanest environment with the least grey carpet you have available to you.

I don't foresee myself buying another of these kits but this is Warriors Of Chaos we're talking about, you don't really need more than one of anything.

For those wondering about the old school Fantasy-ness of it all, the Acolyte with the Scroll Of Dark Arts will be counting as a standard bearer and the Acolyte with the Vulcharc as a musician.

Hobby Goal #4
Paint my Kairic Acolytes

Nice and simple: I want these babies painted and sanded by the time my Lord Of Change arrives at the shop on Saturday. They're pretty complicated but I have a couple of days off this week and nothing really to do on them so here we go. 

Saturday 28 January 2017

Royal Rumble predictions

Matches listed as they appear on the Wikipedia page, not by their place on the card (because I don't have it). Not bothering with the pre-show (though Sasha vs. Nia Jax will certainly be worth looking up later).

Royal Rumble Match

My sweepstake number is 11 but I'm pretty sure that Undertaker is going to win this thing. I predict Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle for surprise entries.

Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns

Roman. My heart says Kevin Owens to retain but my heart says they're going to bloody give it to Roman and have him face 'Taker at Wrestlemania because they just can't get this idea out of their heads.

AJ Styles vs. John Cena

Styles to retain. I really think he should have another clean victory over Cena, I don't think Cena is going to equal Flair on Royal Rumble when he can do it at Wrestlemania.

Charlotte vs. Bayley

Charlotte to retain and continue her pay-per-view winning streak. I want this streak to end but I'm not sure they're going to give it to Bayley.

Rich Swann vs. Neville

Swann to retain to further this excellent “I'm so overlooked” heel angle Neville has going.

Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella and Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James and Natalya

Bliss, James and Natalya to win through shenanigans. 

Friday 27 January 2017

This Horrible, Horrible Week's Comics

Oh, its been a hell of a week, hasn't it? Never have I been so grateful for my comics to arrive than this week, the chance for either some escapism or to get really, really angry and I didn't care which I just wanted to not think about Trump for a hour or so.

So, let's look away from the blackened maw of death for a while and throw some opinions out into the aether, shall we?

The Kamandi Challenge #1

I have been waiting for year for DC to do something with this property. I loved the Kamandi feature in Wednesday Comics waaaay back in 2009 but there hasn't been much done with the Last Boy On Earth since. He turned up for a bit in Multiversity and some crossover spots here and there but nothing really extended. Now we have a twelve part maxi-series (do we still call them that?) with an all-star creative team.

Multiple all-star creative teams. I like the idea of this round robin series format, even if the second half of this issue makes me wish that Dale Eaglesham could be drawing the whole thing. I love Eaglesham's art style and in spite of Keith Giffen and Scott Koblish doing a more “faithful” rendition of Jack Kirby's style, Eaglesham's somehow seems more in the spirit of it.

Story wise, this is pretty much a complete reboot but its DC so who's honestly surprised? This company has never met a wheel it didn't want to reinvent. That said, its not like this is story people are anywhere near as familiar with as Batman's origins so it is probably sensible.

Giffen and Koblish's first half handles the origin pretty well, setting us up the mystery of who Kamandi is and how he ended up in that bunker whilst Abnett and Eaglesham do the heavy lifting on world building the Tiger Empire. Both episodes move at a good pace and the art teams cram them with visual information to the point at which you sort of come to resent the more drawn out pace of other comics.

Detective Comics #949
Batwoman Begins finale

As a prologue to the new Batwoman series this was great, though I am rather confused about why we're getting a Rebirth one-shot before the series proper as this two-parter delivered a pretty compelling manifesto all on its own. Saying what that manifesto is would be spoiling too much but the whole issue is about the difference between Bruce's methods and mission and Kate's.

On a related note, Kate has a wonderful moment of just not caring about Bruce's disapproval when she uses a gun and it is glorious. One way to make me love a Bat-family character is to have them just not care about Bruce's moaning (see also Jason Todd and Tim Drake).

Very much looking forward to the Batwoman ongoing but more looking forward to the next Detective storyline which promises me the League Of Shadows, which hopefully means their little prisoner is going to be making his comeback.

Daredevil #16
The Seventh Day part two

This was a nice character piece, which I wasn't expecting. When a Daredevil writer brings in Bullseye you sort of expect them to go for the epic confrontation between Daredevil and his worst, greatest foe. This.,. went a completely different direction. Bullseye's presence is pretty much ignored, His effect on Matt is explored, what Bullseye means in the grand scheme of things, but there's no big fight, the two characters barely interact.

That could be disappointing but instead we get to dive deep into Matt's state of mind. Next issue promises, after more than a year, to tell us how and why Matt erased knowledge of his secret identity from the world and this issue tells us where Matt is as a person as a consequence.

Plus, this story gave us a new priest character for Matt to bounce off: Father Jordan, a funny sort of Catholic priest. Not in the sense of his personality but in the sense that Marvel might be playing with the history of the Catholic faith in ways I don't think they have before.

Before this story my interest in the series was flagging but I'm more than willing to reserve judgement now I've seen this creative team show me more of the character they want to convey in Murdoch and with the promise of long-withheld answers.

Infamous Iron Man #4

Aside from that awful Bendis habit of only getting to what the cover promises on the last page, this was a very nice issue.

Now, even though I read comics to years beforehand what made me a fan was Bendis, Maleev and Hollingsworth's Daredevil run and the nostalgic glow this issue gave me to those days was immense. The first half of the issue is a lovingly rendered sit down chat between SHIELD director Maria Hill and Victor Von Doom, our Infamous Iron Man. The dialogue sings, chipping along with a great back and forth rhythm between the two whilst the art sells every inflection of the dialogue through facial expressions and posture.

Elsewhere in the issue we get to see that his face turn hasn't robbed Doom of his steel as he confronts the general he left in charge of Latveria for his failures. One thing I have always liked about Doom in most incarnations is that no matter how horrible he is to the Fantastic Four or whatever other heroes he fights he genuinely does care about his people. Now, this isn't true in every version but my favourites have always been the ones where Latveria is pretty well off as dictatorships go, perhaps not a country you'd want to live in but you can see how Doom thinks he's doing the right thing.

I just look forward to next month and getting to see the scene the front cover and last issue's cliffhanger promised me, is all. 

Thursday 26 January 2017

One thing Age Of Sigmar is doing right

Whilst I'm not a big fan of AoS, even I have to admit the range has undergone one improvement. You see, a problem I always had with the Warriors Of Chaos range was that it was a bit samey for a faction defined by the infinite mutability of corrupting magic.

They worship the god of blood and murder? Tall dudes in full plate armour with horn hats. God of plague and despair? Tall dudes in full plate armour with horn hats. God of pleasure and excess? Tall guys, horn hats. God of magic and mutation? Fucking guess. It was all just painted different colours.

This was all set against artwork and background fiction where each god's followers had their own iconography and motifs. One thing Aos definitely has going for it is that, finally, mortal Chaos has some visual diversity to it. There's a real visual distinction between the Khorne Bloodbound...
and the Disciples of Tzeentch.
I'm really looking forward to when they get around to Nurgle. There are some fantastic Avatars Of War miniatures in their Corrupters Of The Apocalypse range, I have some myself, but I really want to see what GW does with them. No offence to Avatars but GW do just have better miniatures technology and, y'know, legal rights to all the iconography. Plus, a plastic Great Unclean One will be a nice addition to my Death Guard.

Also, if Pestigor are going to make a Tzaangor-esque comeback you won't hear any complaints from me. I am a big Chaos fan and the fact that GW are going back to the deep background is heartening to me. Probably a unique case since Chaos is the only faction that really relates to its old Fantasy Battles background but I'll take what benefit I can get from this new game, to be perfectly frank. 

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Now That's What I Call Patriarchy 2017 (part one of infinity)

cartoon by Norwegian artist Bloom
Let's talk about abortion because I'm a white man and apparently that means I'm the only person qualified to do so!

(content warnings: abortion, unwanted pregnancy, misogyny and death)
"No one has more respect for women than me, I made
murdering them my first policy priority!"
If you ever wondered what “The Patriarchy” was you'll never get a better illustration than this: seven wealthy white men behind a desk signing an order that will limit access to abortion for women around the world. I mean, if you saw that in a TV show you'd accuse the writers of being too on the nose.

And the fact is that less than halfway through its first week the Trump administration has shown where its priorities are. They don't have a full cabinet yet, they have almost a whole roster of international ambassadors to appoint, there's a growing rift between the White House and the intelligence agencies, serious ethical and legal issues from the election still unaddressed, the list goes on.

But no, first order of priority goes to screwing over women around the world. The contempt of it is appalling. To force doctors in non-governmental organisations to choose between giving a patient full informed consent over their care and continuing to receive funding is ethically wrong.

Women will die because of this executive order. Some will die because of unsafe abortions carried out because they didn't know the safe options. Some will die in childbirth because of complications that make a safe birth impossible. Some will die by their own hands, don't imagine they won't, force someone into a situation of inescapable desperation and its inevitable some will react that way.

And you can believe me on this because I'm a white man and that makes me an authority on everything to do with a woman's body. 

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Title speculation is really interesting (Star Wars Episode VIII)

(Spoiler Warning: Look, its not like there's any actual information here. The one and only fact contained in this post, and every other one on this subject on the whole dang internet, is that Episode VIII now has a title but if you really, really want to hold off on learning even that just skip this one.)

We've got a title and that means it is speculation times now! That in and of itself is sort of interesting. We are something more than ten months away from this thing opening and a three word title is all we have and yet the speculation begins.

So its called The Last Jedi, which seems to be a callback to how Luke is described in the Episode VII text crawl. Ultimately, that doesn't tell us much more than we already know: Luke will be in this thing.
Then there's the fact the logo itself is red. Because Luke will die? Please no. Because Luke will turn to the dark side? Because he'll have a final confrontation with everyone's favourite whining edgelord manbaby Kylo Ren and his self harm sabre?

Then there's the plural issue because “Jedi” can be a plural so maybe Luke and Rey together are the last Jedi. I hope that's it because going for a Game Of Thrones wipeout of the original trio (however unintentional given the sad passing of Carrie Fisher last year) seems a bit too far. Just like its shocking death for shocking death's sake which, again thanks for Game Of Thrones, just doesn't work anymore, it just comes off as cynical.

But what really fascinates me is that this is part of the cycle now. This is absolutely the intended consequence of announcing a title for a big movie now. Fans have always speculated but now the way entertainment news travels so fast and how the internet has made things so much more accessible, well, the entry bar to being a “fan” has lowered considerably. On the one hand its cynical as hell but on the others its kind of heartening that more people are able to engage with their media this way. Just rather nice that there are so many more nerds now, I guess.

Monday 23 January 2017

All aboard the Trump trainwreck!

If nothing else, we can credit the US electoral college (rather than, you know, an actual majority of the electorate) with providing us an interesting limit case study: just what will it take to sink Trump?

I mean, here we are, less than half a week in and we have a sparsely attended inauguration followed by a full 1% of the total US population turning out in protest across the country; sister protests in solidarity on every continent including Antarctica; Trump's press secretary (the oddly animatronic Sean Spicer) throwing a hissy fit at the press corps for daring to accurately report the low turn out; the US just doesn't have a diplomatic corps right now since Trump fired all the ambassadors without replacing them; and, Trump banning the National Parks Service from Twitter after they dared to post an unedited photo comparing the attendance of Trump and Obama's inaugurations.

Still, credit The Donald with something, he's made me feel sorry for Theresa May.

Thanks, Trump!

No, but seriously, folks: May has been banging on for ages about how once we piss of the EU and fail to get a trade deal for after Brexit (which will happen since this stupid old bat thinks threatening the people you're negotiating with is a good idea) that we'll be able to get a good trade deal with the US. In fact, she's going to Washington next week to talk to Trump about that very subject.

So what she's got to do is get a trade deal out of a man infamous for reneging on his deals, who just delivered an enormous policy speech where he basically said that he's going to look after US interests to the exclusion of all else.

And we don't have a US ambassador right now so how we're going to carry out the formal negotiations is anyone's guess.

By Twitter, perhaps?

Sunday 22 January 2017

Hobby Goal #3

Hobby Goal #2:
Finish my Dwarf Rangers


Due to some unfortunate life-related business followed by crushing art block on how to paint the crossbows and axe hafts, I didn't get the Rangers finished, as you can see.
However, in random spare moments I have been able to make some progress on clearing the painting table.

Other Progress
A model I really want to be a production number, the Deathwatch Watch-Master nears completion with only some final metallic details and the Inquisitorial seals on his cape left to do. I rather like how to the drybrushing on the Guardian spear blade came out, which is good since I ruined a perfectly good drybrush that I can now only use for Sotek Green.
Sanded and moving to the basing shelf are five Flesh Tearers Tactical Marines including Sergeant, meltagun and heavy flamer, plus a kitbashed Librarian. The white on the chapter heraldry is still not as flat as I'd like but I feel I'm making progress.

I also can't help but feel that no matter what I do with inks, that blue on the Librarian is too flat. Still, I like how the conversion came out with the warding hand.
Finally, a test model for my Tzeentch Chaos Warriors. A lot of work to do on this one but I like how the Thousand Sons Blue looks on the cloth. I think the silver armour is going to have some sort of glaze over it to give it a “magical” sheen, probably blue but I'll decide once I have the gold layered up to Auric. Also, I need to look up a good stone method for that base from the How To Paint Dwarfs book.

Hobby Goal #3
Build my Kairic Acolytes

This might seem a little weak sauce and, honestly, it is. For one thing I do want to finish those Rangers and don't want to add anything large to the painting table but I do want to fiddle around with the models I just bought. That said, building them will be a little less than straightforward as they're for an old school Fantasy army so I have to get models designed for round 32mm bases to rank up on square 25mm bases.

Hopefully not too much of an ask as the scales don't seem too different but it might take me some time and fiddling about.

Saturday 21 January 2017

First late comics reviews of the year

Thank you, Post Office, let's get this done.

All-New X-Men #17
Inhumans vs. X-Men tie-in

I want to care, I really do, but I don't. Oh, the stuff with Iceman going on cute dates with his pretty boy Inhuman boyfriend are all sorts of sweet and I would eat up an issue of just that but it all sort of tumbles down into one of those issues that's just context for a big fight scene in the main series.

I am, frankly, losing my patience with this sort of thing. I like a nice, big crossover as much as the next man but Civil War II just finished, IvX is ongoing and Monsters Unleashed literally started this week. I guess I just want normal issues more often because, really, this relationship needed more time. Bobby and Romeo met a couple issues ago and we get literally their entire relationship up to this point related in flashback between big fight scene splash pages I'm willing to guess I will see again when I eventually get around to reading IvX #2.

Monsters Unleashed #1

For all my moaning, superheroes versus kaiju was just a pitch too good for me to pass up. Plus, two of the big central character of this series seem to be Moon Girl and Elsa Bloodstone, two ladies I have a lot of time for.

For all the things I liked about this issue there is a lot about it that a bit... how to put this? “Standard crossover first issue”? We get a bunch of individual fights between big space monsters and various superhero teams: the Avengers here, the X-Men there, the Champions somewhere else. Actually plot important stuff happens off to the sides with a lot of foreshadowing and not a lot of actual explaining. There's the very consciously foregrounded new character and then the big sting on the final page.

I'm not saying this is bad, per se, its all quite entertaining but these events are running so frequently now that the formula is getting a bit obvious.

U.S.Avengers #2
$kullocracy part two

This issue gives us the big debut of the only character who didn't get a big set piece moment last issue: Danielle Cage, Captain America from the future and yet another character custom-designed to annoy the neo-Nazi alt-right wingdings. They hated a black Captain America? Here's a black woman Captain America! Even if Al Ewing's Avengers series weren't consistently one of the best thing Marvel have been putting out in recent years it'd all be worth it for the sheer right wing triggering character choices Ewing has populated his team with. Ewing gets an even better “deal with it” moment with Danielle than he did with Toni Ho last issue.

Anyway, we get some nice exposition here and I really mean that. I know big info-dumps are commonly considered the Devil but between Ewing's charming dialogue and Paco Medina's fantastically cameo-laden images of Danielle's future it was very, very entertaining.

And I'm not just saying that because Faiza Hussain turns up. I love that character and she absolutely needs to be used in a series again but I'm not that easily bought, Ewing!

But give me Faiza Hussain and a big panel of an entire Avengers team in tuxedos and you got me.

Batman #15
Rooftops part 2

More like this, please. If I Am Suicide didn't convince me that Tom King writes one of the best versions of Batman ever then this little two-parter certainly sold the deal. From the flashbacks where Bruce and Selina reminisce about how they first met, splicing the 1940s version with the Frank Miller version, to the absolutely wonderful conclusion of the story's mystery this was a very well-constructed little character piece.

And if DC ever gets around to commissioning another Catwoman series, King should be at the head of the line for writing duties. He writes the hell out of her relationship with Bruce, her relationship with one of her longstanding supporting cast and of Selina's own view of herself. He really does get her and this should be one of those times, like Gail Simone after she did that Wonder Woman appearance in Birds of Prey, where fans clamour for the writer to give the character more extensive treatment.

I just wish I loved the main I Am... storylines of this series as much as this.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #3

This series is fast becoming a comfort food sort of thing to me. Three issues in and I can feel guaranteed that I'll love Aphra's no-nonsense attitude, the murder droids will be enormous fun, there'll be some sort of heist action and the individual issue will satisfying in and of itself because Keiron Gillen is really good at writing for the monthly reader. Frankly, there's a damn good reason Aphra was the first Marvel-original Star Wars character to get a series.

And this issue has it all! The relationship between Aphra and her emotionally clueless father sings, Triple-Zero gets some fantastic one-liners and the whole plot revolves around the crew trying to sneak into the old Rebel base on Yavin 4 under the noses of the Imperial occupying forces. There's even a rather nice nod to Rogue One that reads less as “we have to advertise the new movie” and more as “of course Aphra would know about that, its her job”.

Friday 20 January 2017

The man Trump wishes he was

Comics are late due to privatised Post Office so let's talk about the man who, so horrifically soon, will officially become President of the United States Of America. Specifically, let's talk about the man who is everything Trump thinks he is...
This is Vincent Kennedy McMahon. If you're unaware of this interesting individual he is the majority owner and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly the World Wrestling Federation before the pandas sued). He is, alongside WCW's Eric Bischoff, basically responsible for making the entire wrestling industry what it is today for good or ill. He and Trump actually had a wrestling match together once. It wasn't good.

The thing is that everything Trump tries to sell himself as, Vince actually is. Where Trump claims to have started from the bottom with a “small” multi-million dollar loan from his father, Vince actually grew up in a trailer park. Whilst they both run the companies their fathers made, Trump inherited his and has spent years losing money whilst Vince spent years gaining the money and influence to buy his father's company and grew it from a regional promotion to the largest and most successful company in his industry. What's more, Vince has taken pains to make sure his children knew how the company worked before they had active roles in it, having Shane and Stephanie working phones, merchandise stalls and small on screen bit parts before handing them any real power. Trump, meanwhile, wants to name his children to senior advisor roles in spite of their not having experience in politics and there being literal anti-nepotism laws meant to prevent this.

Where Trump has a string of bankruptcies to his name the worst that can be said about Vince is that he had a stupid idea for an NFL alternative that died after a single season. By contrast, however, he was a driving force in creating the pay-per-view system, the WWE Network is one of the most successful streaming services in the world and he has had successful interests in movies, music promotion and hockey to varying degrees.

Whilst Trump imagines he's loved for being plain spoken and direct (instead of being a gibbering idiot who couldn't construct a sentence with a set of step-by-step instructions), Vince McMahon is actually beloved for the bluff, old school businessman persona he projects on screen.

What's more, where Trump has a narcissist's desire for applause at all times, Vince glories in being booed. He has, basically non-stop since 1997, played a bad guy and put himself through some truly humiliating storylines just to rile the audience and get them invested. This is a man who contrived to give himself a pinfall victory over God so he could be seen as provoking a born again Christian into beating him up; he has pissed himself on live television on one of the highest rated shows in the world; been shown putting his wife into a medically induced coma; he's been covered in manure; knocked unconscious multiple times; had penis pumps delivered to him; and, legitimately, tore both his quads whilst trying to yell at two of his employees on air and still managed to do the segment.

Vince is far from perfect, he's known to have some troubles with empathy, tends towards over-reaction and like most businessmen at his level he has a ruthless streak you probably wouldn't want to get in the way of. In theory, all of this also describes Trump but Vince has the decency to provide a lot more entertainment, actually makes money for his shareholders, is actually a self-made man and has the thickest skin imaginable.

He probably wouldn't make a very good president, either, but he also probably has the sense to realise this and not try. 

Thursday 19 January 2017

Xander, Willow and the awful, wretched affair plot

I've been re-watching the third season of Buffy, my personal favourite, and I've hit the second disc and the most wretched romantic plot of the show. Considering we just dispensed with Scott Hope, that's saying something.

Oh, I hate Willow and Xander's affair. It is, admittedly, a mercifully brief storyline but excruciating while it lasts. It never really has consequences, either. Willow and Oz have about one conversation about it total after which its never mentioned again, not that that relationship has long to play out. Xander and Cordelia do break up and have a pretty satisfying reconciliation in The Prom but Xander never really considers why he did it.

Neither does Willow. For a writer and showrunner obsessed with the emotional consequences of his characters' actions, this does seem like a pretty big unaddressed gap. It doesn't tie in with any of Xander's very real emotional difficulties, it doesn't shed any light on the development of Willow's sexual identity (which, with The Wish and bisexual vampire Willow just around the corner, was immediate) and aside from a snide comment by Anya way down the line its never mentioned again.

And, honestly... I just wish it could have stayed platonic all the way through. I'm a sucker for men and women as best friends and, this aside, Xander and Willow are the ideal of that relationship. Honestly, the fact that Xander gets over his crush on Buffy and Willow gets over her crush on Xander and they are friends who are friends and no one's planning and plotting to make it more... I wish there were more stories like that. 

Wednesday 18 January 2017

James caught Araquanid!

As predicted my Stufful did not last long as a party member. I like the design well enough, the whole stuffed bear thing is cute, but he resolutely refuses to learn anything useful as it is a Fighting-type that seems allergic to learning Fighting moves. Honestly, the only thing that kept him in my party as long as he was was the fact that nothing I caught looked that interesting to me.

Until Malie Gardens. Until the Araquanid.

Just look at this thing! Its a Water/Bug dual type which is a fantastic combination I don't think they've ever done before. I love Bug-types, they always look so cool, and the only other Water-types I'd managed to catch so far were a Wingull (hate what they evolve into) and a Magikarp (and I have had a Gyarados in so many of these games its now boring). So, yay, Water type!

Admittedly, a Water-type that will die whenever a Flying looks at it but a cool looking Water-type and that's what counts! 

Tuesday 17 January 2017

WWE UK Championship Tournament

(SPOILERS for the event, which if you enjoy wrestling you should totally watch)
It was so good. As I've said before I don't have much experience watching British wrestling, even with WCPW so conveniently broadcast over Youtube I've somehow never got into it. That is absolutely going to change now. The evening's wrestling had a very different flavour to it than the usual WWE fair.

For one thing, just about every wrestler in this tournament was stiff as hell. I saw endless t-shirts in that crowd emblazoned with the phrase “British Strong Style” and, well... I can see why. There was a great mix of styles and personalities, the two day event told a concise and focussed story with minimal time spent on segments and lots of attention paid to in-ring theatrics.

As to the wrestlers involved: there wasn't a weak man among them but some definitely stood out to me: Trent Seven was a wonderfully theatrical performer with his moustache twirling playing to the crowd; Tyler Bate had a real honest charm to him; Wolfgang flying through the air in ways a man that are absolutely astonishing for a 255 lb man; and, Mark “Mandrews” Andrews was another fantastic high flier.

But the one who really stood out for me, more than any of the others, was Pete Dunne, our designated detestable heel for the weekend.

Given only the one weekend to get over with the crowd (at least the newcomers like me) he did an amazing job of making us despise him. With theatrical smirking, unprovoked attacks on his opponents before matches and more than one scuffle with an irate William Regal, including being thrown bodily back through the stage curtain into Gorilla, he made it fun to boo him.

And boo him we did, from the his opening match against Sam Gradwell, through his semi-final bout with Mark Andrews and into the final against Tyler Bate we booed him. And when, after a couple of very close near finishes either way, we finally got to count one-two-three with Bate pinning Dunne it was a hugely satisfying win.

I had a wonderful time, not only for seeing all these fantastic wrestlers I'd never heard of before but also the general experience of being there. The Empress Ballroom is a beautiful old building and there was a fantastic atmosphere in the crowd. Okay, the chants got a bit smarky at times but for a change it seemed even the smarks were there to enjoy the show and support the home grown talent.

Plus, we got a Neville match! Neville was the only established WWE talent wrestling the whole weekend and it wasn't a tournament match, which I think was for the best. Whilst Neville is absolutely one of the great talents to come out of the UK scene in recent years this event wasn't about celebrating the UK talent that's made it to the WWE but the talent that has been working away all these years right here under our noses, a job the tournament pulled off admirably.

Now, no one knows where this is going. We might get a 205 Live-style series for the UK scene or it might be a series of irregular specials. Hell, there might not even be a concrete plan for how this whole idea is going to work going forward but I heartily look forward to finding out. 

Monday 16 January 2017

A petty complaint about Pokemon Sun

Too tired to write about the UK Championship Tournament. We'll do that tomorrow, today we'll deal with some petty griping I've been holding onto since Christmas by way of filler.

I am, by and large, greatly enjoying Pokemon Sun. Yes, I was originally going to get Moon but on release day Moon sold out and I didn't want to wait. Idiot me, though, it turned out Alolan Sandshrews were Moon exclusive. Sandshrews are one of the my favourite Pokemon. What's more, the Alolan form is an Ice/Steel dual type rather instead of a Ground type.

I don't like Ground types.

My team at present, just starting the third island, stands as follows: my starter, Harvey the Dartrix; Scarlet the Fletchinder, an old favourite from Pokemon X; Moira the Jolteon; Slinky the Salandit; Pinky the Stufful (box-bound as soon as something better comes along); and, my MVP Rasputin the Raticate. By and large I am very much enjoying this game.

I do, however, have a complaint about the game not based on my impatience and version exclusivity.

Firstly: did the tutorial stage have to be the whole first island? I get that I've played a lot of these games (every version except Black/White, I believe) and that there are new players in every generation but... well, there are going to be players like me so why not design around that? Why not make the tutorials optional. I know how to use the Pokecentre, I know how to buy things and use Pokeballs.

Hell, in Pokemon X, I had four Pokemon in my team before that random kid taught me how to catch things. At this stage its just a time sink and I really think it could stand to be skippable.

Sunday 15 January 2017

Hobby Goal 2017 #2

Hobby Goal #1:
Complete a project currently on the painting table

Yes, they still need basing but the paintjob itself is complete. Apologies for shitty camerawork. I finished these models yesterday evening and I'm away today so I was forced to use a desk lamp for lighting.

Regardless, these models have come out quite well. I've been trying to get a good “bone” effect on armour for some time, something sketchy and macabre that feels Chaos-y. These are the first models in a new incarnation of my oldest army, my beloved Traitor Guard, the Shadowen.

So, having finished one goal, time to set another.

Hobby Goal #2:
Finish my Dwarf Rangers

Another unit that has been on the painting table since before Christmas: twelve Dwarf Rangers kitbashed from a combination of Dwarf Warriors and Quarrellers. In the main I just have to do some metallics, the axe hafts and the crossbows. It'll also feel somewhat satisfying to finish a complete unit.

At the WWE UK Championship Tournament

By the time this posts I'll be well on y way to Blackpool to attend the second day of the WWE UK Championhip Tournament. I have never been to a live wrestling show, let alone a WWE one, let alone one where they'll be crowning their first UK Champion. The belt, by the way? Absolutely fantastic.
Now, I've not got much clue about British wrestling. American wrestling? Sure. Japanese wrestling? A bit. My own damn country? Not a clue and I really, really hope this'll inspire me to learn more about the national scene. Between fixing their Women's Division (and finally calling it that again) and re-opening the Cruiserweight Division the WWE have been doing great work recently not only in diversifying their product but interesting me in branches of the industry that previously passed me by.  

And just... I'll be there! The two people I'm going with have both been to live shows before and the way they describe it I really, really want to experience that feeling.

I will suffer on Monday for it. We're driving up, going to the show and driving back down that very same night. I will be shattered and so I don't promise anything like coherent content Monday here, let alone being able to speak in real life.

I'm also interested to see how a wrestling show works from the POV of the live audience without the commentary and with the backstage stuff on a big screen I might not even be able to see.

Saturday 14 January 2017

Twenty years late, Marvel, but thank you

(Spoilers for Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy and suchlike tie-in stuffs)

Nostalgia is a funny thing. I realise, intellectually, that the Clone Saga was crap. It was an incestuous, over-extended, poorly edited mess. By the end it was so confused that Marvel even published a parody one-shot about how desperate they were to end the thing.

And yet I started reading comics around the time of the Clone Saga. There is a part of me that will always feel, deep down in my gut, that Spider-Man is a blond guy called Ben who works in a coffeeshop not this Parker guy with his science and his journalism. I know I'm wrong, I know that I just happened to start reading during a replacement hero storyline but part of me will always believe (as I was, originally, meant to) that Ben Reilly is the one, true Spider-Man.
He also had the best Spider-Man costume. You can keep your classic look and your black costume, this is the best design.

True, he was only Spider-Man for a year but back then that meant four monthly series, team-up books, crossovers and the quarterly Spider-Man Unlimited oversized specials. There was, quite simply, a lot of material where Ben was Spider-Man and once he died he was just sort of forgotten. He just wasn't mentioned for about ten years, the forgotten Spider-Man.

Then, at some point, enough time had passed and suddenly Ben Reilly was a nostalgia object. He got a mention here and there; there was a Brand New Day storyline about his wilderness years; his nemesis Kaine made a comeback and even started using Ben's Scarlet Spider identity; and, an alternate universe version made an appearance in Spider-Verse. He was a legitimate part of the franchise's history and, as a fan of the character, that was kind of satisfying.

Plus, those appearances were really good. The Brand New Day storyline treated Ben's years as a homeless drifter with seriousness, looking into what a Spider-Man with a hell of a lot less privilege would look like as the Clone Saga-era stuff only managed on its best day. The Spider-Verse version took a different tac, examining the renewed optimism of Ben's time in the Spidey suit, a Ben reclaiming a life that wasn't Peter's but was a full and fulfilling life after his years on the road. Even the Kaine version of Scarlet Spider was pretty entertaining.
So, as much as I'm sure Ben will be a very different character after The Clone Conspiracy, I feel confident Marvel has a plan to honour the past and origins of the character. Plus, writing duties on this thing are with Peter David, a man basically known these days for coming up with innovative angles on existing properties that take them in different directions that still feel like natural progressions of past eras (X-Factor, Spider-Man 2099, Young Justice, to name a few).

Though I'm not entirely sold on the built-in hoodie. I know where they're coming from, referencing the original Scarlet Spider costume but... meh. 

Friday 13 January 2017

Comic Reviews

Just a few quick thoughts this week as I'm packing for a trip this weekend.

Detective Comics #948

Maguerite Bennett joins James Tynion IV to set up her Batwoman ongoing. I was a bit worried that this would be another divergence from the series' ongoing concerns like the Night Of The Monster Men crossover. Frankly, I want to get to the bit where Tim Drake makes his dramatic return. And, well, this is a sequel to Night Of The Monster Men but I'm always up for a bit of Marguerite Bennett, even if the interviews she gave about her Batwoman series make me feel old because she says a character I think of as “new” was a great inspiration to her in high school.

Still, this storyline feels a lot more relevant than Monster Men did. Given this is half an origin story for Kate her father gets a lot of time in the spotlight, both in flashback and in his cell. The origin stuff concentrates on Kate's first days as Batwoman rather than her being cashiered from the army, which is good because we have that story already.

I do hope ARGUS post-human bioweaponry expert Dr. Victoria October is going to end up a regular somewhere. She drops a mention she's known Batman for a while so hopefully there's some history planned out for her.

Plus, the art is spectacular. Is Ben Oliver doing the art on Batwoman? I hope so, the art here has a fantastic painted look to it that really suits the character. He likes big panels and expressive close-ups on his characters.

Daredevil #15

Fifteen issues in and I'm still not sure about this incarnation of the series. I don't hate the return of the secret identity or the prosecutor angle, I don't dislike Blindspot as a sidekick, it just isn't clicking.

Still, this issue sort of took a break from the major themes of the series. Blindspot and his new status quo gets a little time but by and large the plot of this one is a scheme by Matt Murdoch to take a contract out on himself to lure out some assassins for... well, that's not quite clear yet. The tone is more whimsical than this series has been, rather more like the pre-Secret Wars version and that I very much liked.

Honestly, though, this series is living on borrowed time with me but I guess I'll see out this storyline.

Jessica Jones #4

This series, though, I am convinced by as things are finally coming together. Not only is this series making something of what I assumed to be the most pointless part of Civil War II but Bendis is getting around to explaining what the hell is going on with Jessica and Luke Cage after only four issues. For Bendis this is commendably fast.

Also, Bendis writes the hell out of Misty Knight and Luke Cage. I do so love Misty Knight and Bendis writes her as Luke's voice of reason here, down to Earth and sensible. She has a very poor opinion of Jessica, which is not surprising in the circumstances and not entirely unjustified even now we have an explanation.

There's also one of those Bendis police precinct scenes full of all the usual madness but also featuring a new detective character who promises to actually be interesting. Given how Jessica has become more of a mainstream superhero over the last decade, I think this character has the potential to be the outsider looking in on the world that the series needs. Frankly, Jessica who has been an Avenger doesn't have that anymore but this detective seems to have experience with the superhero world, just enough to fulfil that old role. 

Thursday 12 January 2017

Sex, Lies, Trump, Russians, Prostitutes, Bedwetting, Blackmail, Putin & Videotape

On the one hand, its just so pedestrian. I mean, I get that I'm jaded. I'm English, our last prime minister apparently once shagged a dead pig's head and if all a peer of the realm gets up to in their spare time is crossdressing and cocaine parties we consider them quiet and dignified individuals. I'm generally not one to even care about political sex scandals unless they involve actual crime but this one...
Now we get to the other hand: there is the very real possibility that, as a businessman, Trump was led into a situation designed to create blackmail material and he fell for it.

Now, all sorts of... not-really-denials have surfaced. Reddit users claim to have originated the story, Wikileaks has thrown a tantrum about how they won't endorse the story, and The Donald himself has made a series of bizarre Tweets ending with the assurance that Russia (not anyone in Russia, just “Russia”) has told him the story is a complete fabrication. On a side note, isn't it so reassuring how Trump will just believe things when foreign powers tell him?

Now, call me a pedant but considering that the story concerns him, why does The Donald need to be told the story is a fabrication? Unless he's referring not to the story but the existence of the blackmail tape because that would make sense of the sentence. Just grammatically speaking without accusation.

So, honestly, whether this is all true could go one way or the other. Now, I don't trust redditors, I don't trust Wikileaks and I sure as damp ammonia-scented fuck don't trust Donald Jodocus Drumpf but I admit this could still be fake. The thing is, though, that its believable in some very compelling ways.

There's a lovely detail to the story that the bed Trump had all those Russian spy-hookers soil was one that Barack and Michelle Obama had slept in when they'd come to Russia on a state visit. Its just so petty and spiteful, just so... Trump, isn't it? And that's what sells it to me, that's what gives it the ring of truth. the petty spite.

Its like the sexual version of his Tweets.

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Facing the test (model) of Tzeentch

Or, James Doles Out Fashion Advice To An Apocalyptic Sorcerer

I did want to get the actually Tzeentchian sorcerer model but he's out of production! Presumably temporarily pending a repackaging for the Disciples Of Tzeentch release but, still, for the moment the generic plastic Chaos Sorcerer will have to do...
image from GW webstore
So, how to paint this fine and handsome fellow. Now, the GW example above is absolutely rocking that Archaon's Horde bare metal and black cloth look. Now, that's very Chaos Undivided and I'm going for a Tzeentch theme but I am feeling the bare metal. Maybe I could try a blue ink or glaze to make it look a bit more magicky? I did something similar on the gromril plate of my Dwarf Ironbreakers and its a good effect. Part of me wants to go for a lacquered armour effect but none of the obviously Tzeentchian options really grab me as a colour I'd want on every bit of plate armour in my horde. Definitely keeping the gold trim, though.

As for the cloth? A medium blue, I think. Maybe the new Thousand Sons Blue or the Lizardmen skin palette.

Actually, talking of skin, how to do that head bothers me. I'm not sure about the stark white used here but I absolutely don't want to go with the vibrant blue skintones 'Eavy Metal have been using on the new Tzaangors. Certainly not in ordinary skin tones, it wouldn't suit the look of someone so mutated. Something to think on, certainly. 

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Just... As... Planned...

There's a plastic Lord Of Change on the Warhammer Community site.
Its actually really nice. I like how the stave is made out of coruscating energy. I like how the plastic construction means they could make the body and neck more sinuous and hunched forward than the old metal model. I like that it has loads of eyes. I like the detailing on the wings.

I love that, unlike the Bloodthirster, its standing solidly on its base and won't snap when you try and pack it away.

I'm getting a Tzeentchian Chaos army, aren't I?

Monday 9 January 2017

River Solo

(spoilers for series one and two of The Diary Of River Song)
I'm three quarters of the way through the second Diary box set and, as much as I enjoy the novelty of it, I think the whole “River meets past Doctors” thing might have run its course. Time War-era McGann turning up in the first series was cool and I've enjoyed listening to Kingston bouncing off McCoy and Baker C but the thing is that I really, really want to get a proper solo adventure for River, one that has nothing whatsoever to do with her husband.

This isn't me banging the feminist drum but... okay, it sort of is. I get the attraction of banging the new series and classic toys together to see what happens but I rather wanted solo River adventures from a River series. Instead, fully half of her episodes so far have involved the Doctor (more if you count all that Doom Coalition stuff with McGann).

Sadly, I think having now done the Eight, Seventh and Sixth Doctors meeting River they'll want to at least complete the set of living Doctors with Davison and Tom Baker. I won't lie, part of me's looking forward to that, especially River in all her vampy glory squaring off with Davison's pleasantly open faced earnestness.

The thing is, given the life Big Finish have breathed into Bernice Summerfield, Iris Wildthyme and Jago & Litefoot away from the Doctor I'd love to see what they'd do with River by having her operating completely solo.

If nothing else they could have fun inventing lots of those numerous husbands and wives she apparently has over the years.