Tuesday 28 February 2017

Revenge of the Return of the Phone Scam

I am the last person to be mean to someone when they're doing their job. I know that sometimes at work you have to say no to people, you have to give them bad news, you have to be less than co-operative because of company policy and so on. I understand these things because I've had to work under those conditions and I know that the last thing you need when your hands are tied is some dick who yelling at you because they think that's how to get you to risk your job to get them what they want.

So I make an effort to understand when people's hands are tied, that sometimes doing a job means doing things you might not want to.

Then there are cold calling scams. Thanks to the wonderful resource that is who-called-me.co.uk I can generally know with some certainty whether an unknown number is a scam or not and so I take out my many frustrations on them.

I started off small time just asking questions they couldn't answer like when the accident I never had was, what the registration number of the car I don't own is, what bank or phone company they're representing and waiting for them to give up.

Then I got a bit bored with reason and started having fun. Once I had confirmation a number was a scam I'd answer pretending to be the police, pretending to be a hairdresser, answer entirely in German swear words (which include “Kevin”, for some reason).

Yesterday, I just gave up. I cued up a Youtube video of screaming and just put my phone next to the speaker. According to my phone, the cold caller listened to thirty-eight seconds of screaming before hanging up.

You might call this petty and it is but I don't get to be cruel to the deserving that often. 

Monday 27 February 2017

Hey, President Trump, you need a safe space?

Donald Jodocus Trump, sensitive little snowflake that he is, will be skipping this year's White House Correspondents' Association dinner. Apparently the last time a sitting president did this was Ronald Reagan, who had the convenient excuse of having just been shot which Trump, of course, has not.

Take a moment to manage your disappointment and we'll continue.

This follows Politico reporting that Trump campaign aides had to make sure he received a constant stream of media praising him to stop him taking to Twitter and lashing out. This follows the New York Times, CNN, BuzzFeed, Politico and the BBC being locked out of a White House press gaggle. This follows Trump going through with his plan to continue holding rallies like some two-bit dictator that, hilariously, drew about a third of the crowd he managed at the same location six months earlier.

There is one thing I will say in his defence, though, or perhaps in defence of his speech writers: what could he say in his keynote speech? The speech is, traditionally, a chance for the president to send themselves up but where would Trump even start?

He's employing Nazis; he's cost the US taxpayer almost as much through his weekends off as Obama cost on holidays in a year; he's fed a deal of that money into his Mar-A-Lago resort which he calls “The Winter White House”; he signed an executive order that threw the entire immigration and customs system into chaos; he didn't consult with any of the agencies that would have to enforce that EO before signing it into law, hence the chaos; he's stripped trans kids of legal protections; he outed the officer who carries the nuclear codes by letting someone take a selfie with the guy; he carried out a sensitive phone conversation with North Korea in a restaurant; he keeps being caught on camera seemingly forgetting the presence of his wife; he's been indicted in the past for fraud, rape and paedophilia; he praised Frederick Douglass as if he were still alive; managed to release a statement on Holocaust Memorial Day that didn't mention the Jewish people; he keeps banging on about how big the crowds were for his inauguration including in a speech at the CIA's memorial to dead agents; there's the possibility that he has a sex tape sitting in a draw in the Kremlin; he's in a Twitter war with Saturday Night Live; he's also at war with his own intelligence agencies; he threatened a court saying he'd see them in court right after they beat him in court; he doesn't know the difference between national debt and deficit; he doesn't know the difference between refugees and illegal immigrants; he managed a record low approval rating; NASA and national parks staff have gone rogue on Twitter in protest at his policies; Teen Vogue and the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary troll him constantly; his plan to deal with ISIS in the first thirty days of his administration magically failed to appear; his VP believes you can torture people until they're heterosexual; he lifted the main slogan of his inauguration speech from 1930s isolationists and Nazi-appeasers; “cheeto-faced shitgibbon” has almost become his official nickname at this point, even being used by Senator Daylin Leach at one point; he invented a terrorist attack in Sweden to the astonishment of Swedes everywhere; oh, and let's not forget the Bowling Green Massacre now we mention that one; he has several times questioned the right of judges to interpret the law; once jokingly suggested the assassination of Hilary Clinton to protect the Second Amendment; there were co-ordinated protest marches against him on every continent including the penguin one, the largest protest in history, by the way; he persists in stating that millions of ballots were cast for Clinton illegally because undermining faith in democracy is always fun; he still wants to build a wall that, last I checked, was estimated to cost $25 billion with no clear way of paying for it and certainly no way of making Mexico do it; his press secretary keeps tweeting the White House wi-fi password; he threatened a chain store for dropping his daughter's jewellery line; oh, and once again, he employs literal Nazis.

That list of five hundred plus words just off the top of my head and only resorting to Google to fact check details. This man is beyond satire at this point, let alone self-satire. 

Sunday 26 February 2017

Hobby Goal: Social Gaming

I want to get back into social gaming. At the moment I have a small circle of friends I play Fantasy against and I love them but we don't have a chance to play as often as I'd like. Plus, going to a gaming club will be good for the whole meeting new people thing.

So, my goal for the week is to examine my options, not just in terms of where to game (local GW or local club?) but what game to break myself in with.

Fantasy is my favourite game and absolutely the one I'm most confident playing but who knows how receptive any club will be to playing an “OldHammer” edition?

Then there's 40k, which frankly terrifies me. In spite of years and years of everyone telling me its the easier system to learn I just can't wrap my head around the pages and pages of special rules and exceptions and fifty seven varieties of power weapon... too much damn rules flicking. Plus, I don't really have a functional army though it wouldn't take me long to get something up and running in the Flesh Tearers line. Still, the complexity of the ruleset (I really, really do find Fantasy easier, I'm not kidding) puts me off using it get back into social gaming.

Third option, of course, is to bootstrap one of my existing Fantasy armies into an AoS-compatible state. One of the big selling points people keep pitching to me is the simplicity of the ruleset which might be a good thing considering I'm doing this mainly to meet people. If I go that route my only real thought is that I'd much prefer to play one of the factions with a Battletome as I don't want to stumble into one of those horribly embarrassing rules the “get you by” battle scrolls tended towards like comparing moustaches, pretending to converse with your models, miming riding a horse and so on.

Yeah, of the many ways in which that wasn't one of Games Workshop's finest hours that was... one of them.

That proviso doesn't limit too much as I could probably kludge together something useable for Clan Pestilens, Flesh-Eater Courts, Bonesplitterz or Sylvaneth with the minimum of fuss or additional outlay in models if I go that route.

On a more practical note for the coming week, I have to admit that even after declaring February “Dwarf Month” I haven't made overmuch progress on that front. Still, I've nearly got the Rangers done and I have my small horde of Ironbreakers and Irondrakes sat to one side of my table waiting to go through the mass production process (and, in the case of the Irondrakes, a rather nice bronze method a friend showed me). So whatever progress I can make on that front is welcome until I find a new theme for March on Wednesday. 

Saturday 25 February 2017

A Nightwing movie, eh?

The big news is that Lego Batman director Chris McKay has been brought on board to direct this thing. That's a good sign, that fact they've picked a man who just had a big hit with a Batman-themed comedy to help a DCEU Batman spin-off gives me hope that we might get a film about Nightwing and not Batman-lite.

Because the thing about Nightwing is, despite the dark and brooding costume, that he's fun Batman. He's driven by his parents' deaths just as Batman is but he's actually managed to process his trauma and build a life outside the war on crime. Yes, some of that life is decidedly unconventional like the fact his best friends are a team composed of the other first generation kid sidekicks but... actually, that's not a bad place to start.

There's a fantastic issue of Nightwing where he's moving into a new apartment (in Peter J. Tomasi's run, I think) and the other Titans are just there helping him move. The Justice League don't do that sort of thing for each other. When the League meet up out of costume its either business or a really important event meant to promote bonding but the Titans just meet up to hang out randomly.

So, yeah, Nightwing is the Batman who has fun with his life: he hands out with his friends who are all superheroes, he leaps of tall buildings and survives instead of falling and dying like any normal person would, he grew up driving the Batmobile! That's fun!

Unfortunately, a large segment of fandom who have an outsized influence on the way DC thinks about their adaptations. There are a lot of people who are wrong and think Dick Grayson is too silly a character, that the whole Robin legacy is a terrible perversion of the Batman concept and must be expunged. Its a contingent of fandom that got a lot of unfortunate traction out of the whole mess that was the Batman and Robin movie.

So I'm kind of worried that instead of the fun-loving and emotionally healthy character I just spent a couple paragraphs describing what we'll get will be closer to this... 

Friday 24 February 2017

Weekly Comic Reviews

Detective Comics #951
League of Shadows part one: Unleashed

Lady Shiva is definitely the main event here. I've always associated her more with Tim and Cass, her being something of a coming of age test for the first and the supposed mother of the other (did they ever resolve that?) and its nice to see her used as the merciless badass I always thought she could be. The last I remember her turning up, Tim beat her using food poisoning which is a fantastic Tim move but doesn't do much for Shiva's credibility. Poor booking, frankly.

What is good booking is bringing back one of Tim's big villains because it gives me hope that he'll be coming back to the main action sometime soon. Tim is “my” Robin and Tim/Steph is one of the only ships in existence I have any sort of strong feelings about.

Also, as the situation in this issue spirals out of control you can just see the Tim-shaped hole in the team. No one is made to look incompetent or sloppy but you can see the lack of a multi-track mind as the League makes its moves and the team falls straight into the trap.

There's also a lovely moment of Batwoman wondering how much social contact Cass is getting now Steph is off the team. One of the things I like about this series is that it takes seriously the psychological problems of the Bats. I've always hated the stasis that DC insists on for the Gotham characters' trauma and its nice to see someone addressing it.

Infamous Iron Man #5

No, Victor, your mum!

No, but serious, though, this issue is all about Victor Von Doom's relationship with his mother. Its something that's underpinned his character for donkey's years. Last issue I rather assumed she'd been brought back to life in some Fantastic Four story I missed (I've always been rather patchy in following that series) but it turns out this was a big, massive revelation that went over my head!

This is the problem of coming back from the dead being a genre trope.

In typical Bendis fashion the confrontation between Doom and Momma Doom is related through two separate conversations about it: one between Ben Grimm and Maria Hill and the other between Doom and his love interest Doctor Perera.

It feel really weird writing “Doom and his love interest”. If nothing else it shows this series has novelty going for it. Okay, and being one of Bendis' better paced series of recent years as, in spite of being mostly people talking about people talking, this was actually a pretty satisfying single issue.

Spider-Gwen #17
Sitting in a Tree part 4

Is it just me or Spider-Gwen a title made out of pure joy? I mean, crossing over with Bendis' Spider-Man is rather slowing the pace of things but Jason Latour really crams in the fun. You've got Miles and Gwen meeting Ms. Marvel, who is a little matchmaker and it is so sweet! I don't think I really need to recommend this issue beyond that, frankly.

Justice League of America #1
The Extremists part one

I've never really connected with the New 52 version of the Justice League but this team, with its mission statement of being a more human and inspiring League rather than gods swooping in to the rescue, certainly appeals to me. With the Rebirth one-shot and its prequels doing the heavy lifting on establishing the characters, this first issue hits the ground running with a bunch of vignettes showing Batman's League working solo in pairs before an interdimensional invasion kicks off.

I have to admit, as silly and dated as his “coded” alien swearing is, I am rather glad to have the old Lobo back. He's over the top and silly but he's part of my childhood and I am rather fond of the main man. I'm also interested in Killer Frost, who is a character I don't know much about. In fact, I'm mainly aware of her because of the version in the Flash TV show who is so very different from this one it barely makes sense to think of them as the same character.

There are plenty of interesting conflicts and alliances between characters like Ryan Choi and Killer Frost both being scientists, Black Canary's clear mentoring role for newbie The Ray and so on but the one that interests me the most is that Vixen will absolutely be taking none of Batman's shit. As she says at one point, there's never been a Justice League Batman didn't end up fighting so I'm hoping that at some point she and Bruce come into conflict and she ends up leading the League.

Just a theory.

Thursday 23 February 2017

My resistance to Netflix is at an end

Its time to bow to the inevitable: there is too much stuff on Netflix I want to watch. They've got that Voltron reboot by the Legend Of Korra folks; Stranger Things; Orange Is The New Black; and, it takes them forever to put their Marvel series out on DVD. The thing that finally broke me, though?

Yes, the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 revival is coming to Netflix in April. A decades later revival of a low budget comedy mocking even lower budget movies is what has inspired me to join the digital revolution and sign up for a streaming service.

That's just so me, isn't it?

(Maybe they'll finally do Night Of The Lepus this time round. Seriously, look it up, there are couple of uploads of the full movie on Youtube. Its a horror movie about giant rabbits featuring DeForest Kelley, it is both terrible and brilliant and by repute the original MST3K always had it on the docket but never got around to it. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.)

I'm also looking forward to seeing what the new cast are like, mainly because I don't know their work very well. I know Patton Oswalt (playing the gloriously named TV's Son Of TV's Frank) from Agents Of S.H.I.EL.D. but new captive Jonah Ray is a complete mystery to me. Hell, I may be the only passingly heterosexual man on the internet not familiar with Felicia Day's work outside of that Buffy character she played for a few episodes.

(Although, looking at her IMDB I have discovered there's a Chew animated series coming out next year where she's voicing Amelia Mintz. Something else to look forward to...)

So, classic format, new cast, new terrible movies and this Voltron thing to tide me over until they arrive. Fun times. 

Wednesday 22 February 2017

The Lure of the Familiar (and Easy To Paint)

I'm enjoying painting my Kairic Acolytes and I look forward to diving into the Lord Of Change but I do feel the need for something more familiar. New models have a lot to recommend them: they're novel and interesting by default, its enormous fun to experiment with colour schemes and techniques, and there's the promise at the end of it of adding a new dynamic to your army.

Problem is that all that discovery and experimentation is a bit time-consuming. You're constantly finding little details you didn't notice before and sometimes the colour scheme doesn't work out and you have to go back to the drawing board. Fun, definitely, but after a while I know I get an urge to paint something simpler and more familiar.
Hence, me picking up some Chaos Warriors. Not only are they among my favourite kits of all time they're also very user-friendly in terms of painting. Plus, I definitely want at least one unit of them in the Tzeentch army so its also a functional purchase. I'll be building them basically straight out of the box aside from slapping a resin Tzeentchian banner on the standard bearer and, if I can find it, a head from the Chaos Marine upgrade sprue on the champion for extra flavour.

Beyond that the initial plan is to give them Thousand Sons Blue armour and Screamer Pink cloaks with pretty standard colours elsewhere. Quick and simple, I get to finish a key unit for the army whilst I chip away at the Acolytes and test out a few more techniques army-unifying before I head onto the daunting task of the Lord Of Change.

Simple plan, doomed to failure. 

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Wonder Woman's astonishing movie villain revealed!

(Fair warning, this post discusses the recent announcement-ish of the villain for the Wonder Woman movie.
If you want to remain entirely unspoiled, turn away now.)

Its bloody Ares.

Let's be clear: as unimpressed as I am by the very obvious, very dull choice of villain I am still interested in this movie. There are plenty of good ideas: putting Wonder Woman in the ultimate “man's folly” of the First World War; having a Suffragette Etta Candy; filming in something approaching colour... these are all things that interest me. However...

Setting aside the questionable taste of having a comicbook God Of War turn up in very real human tragedy of the Trenches (and likely being somehow responsible), isn't it just a bit obvious? A bit generic?

I mean, I get that there isn't a deep bench here. Wonder Woman's rogues gallery is a mess... as is her supporting cast... and her status quo... look, every creative team for 75+ years has felt the need to reinvent the wheel to the extent that the big Rebirth hook for her title is Greg Rucka hyperventilating into a paper bag trying to rationalise it all. And honestly? That gave me hope for this film.

You see, there's no Wonder Woman equivalent of The Dark Knight Returns or The Death Of Superman. No story that DC fandom has obsessively made the basis for the character.

Wonder Woman, funnily enough considering her real world origins, is not tied down to any one dominant interpretation and that was born out when they decided to shift her origins back a World War and play with the idea of her meeting the Suffragettes.

And then they decide Ares will be the villain. The God Of War versus the warrior princess...
yeah. It is a pretty standard go to for the genre. Again, I get that there isn't a deep bench here. Doctor Psycho and Egg-Fu are all kinds of problematic; guys like Angle Man and the Cavalier are a bit low rent; and, otherwise, its mainly just more classical gods.

But still, isn't Cheetah meant to be the iconic villain these days? Circe's there if you want a supernatural threat; Veronica Cale offers a lot of interesting angles; and, Giganta offers interesting visuals.

But, no, Ares.


Monday 20 February 2017

A short pictorial to do list

Well, here it is, and for the first time I'm not completing one of these Hobby Goals on Saturday night so the pictures benefit from something resembling natural light. This isn't exactly for immediate attention, the painting station is still rather crowded, but it'll give me something to dip into when I want to get something done on the side. This is by no means every half-painted miniature in my collection, just the ones that are something close to complete and that I actually feel some urge to finish:

Knights Errant Cavalier
Ser Daniel of the Young Companions”
To do: A few little jobs to do here. First, I need to freehand some basic heraldry onto his shield and barding. Nothing too extravagant, he's only a Knight Errant, just a basic field shape and maybe a small device. After that I just have to highlight the leathers and horse brasses and he's ready for basing.

The Tower Watch of Karond Kar”

To do: Main job is to commit some of the dreaded freehand on that banner. Aside from that there's a little highlighting to do on the armour and I find myself really wanting to redo that leather in something darker like Rhinox Hide or Dryad Bark, its far too light.

Terminator Lord
Siegemaster Scofulas Bezoar”
To do: Main job here is to do all that fiddly banding on the armour plus various other mettalics like the claws and those lengths of garden railing he's wearing on his head for some reason. Also, this is a model that's been sitting to one side for quite a while so first job is to, well... dust him, in all honesty.

Orvyn Godricson”
To do: Since this little fellow shuffled off the painting table I've completely changed how I do Dwarf armour so those silvers will need completely redoing before I even think about drybrushing that beard or filling in the bronze details or painting that book.

The Carroburg Greatswords”
(Oh, I know everyone does the Carroburgs but its a good design.)

To do: Well, the red cloth needs highlighting, all the metal detail on their armour (which will mainly be black lacquered and is, therefore, done) needs doing and I really need to freehand something onto their banner. Their beards need inking and subtly drybrushing, too.

The Bogenhafen Longshots”
To do: A few simple bits of tidying up on the dividing line between the pink and bone sides of the uniform and just a touch of highlighting on the handguns' wooden stocks before I can finish off the basing. Plus, there are a few areas of the chests behind the arms that need some paint applying to them, white being an unforgiving basecoat.

Light of the Old Ones”
To do: Lots and lots to do here but it will be so worth it. Had art block for a while on this little chap but now I think a grey carapace would suit the green I've used for the scales. Aside from that, the Skinks and Ark are simple jobs that I can paint using methods used elsewhere in the army. Though, I admit, the Skinks will take a while over a black undercoat.

The Spears of Heaven”
To do: Probably the most extensive job on this list. The skin is finished but not much else: I need to fill in the shields, the spear hafts and pick out all their teeth, claws and spines. Also, I really need to fix the sand on those bases where its flaked off.

Skink Priest
Kuchiki, Raptor-Priest of Tlaxtlan”
To do: More of the evil and unforgiving white undercoat: I need to choose a colour for that last line of feathers and tidy up the others, plus do the golds on jewellery and staff. Also, like the Saurus the sanding needs redoing because, apparently, Corax White doesn't keep the sand in place as well as Chaos Black.

Ogre Bulls
The Gut Punchers”
To do: Big simple models, big simple jobs. I need to fill in the boots and belts with a different brown than the trousers; drybrush trousers and bone bits; ink the metal; and, add some bronze or brass for contrast on the gutplates. Hair could do with an Eshin Grey drybrush for definition, too.

Gnarly Squigs
Da Chompas”
To do: Just a little highlighting on the flesh, mainly tidying up where the ink layer came out a little too thick, before I can finish up on the bases.

Amon Crookback”
To do: Literally just his basing, quick drybrush and paint the rim in Steel Legion Drab.

Glade Guard
The Blood of Anmyr”
To do: These I abandoned when some fine detail work proved too difficult. There are some very, very fine bits of binding on the models' arms and legs that I just kept missing with my brush point, smearing Steel Legion Drab over their skin. Now I have my Insane Detail Brush, hopefully the task will no longer be beyond me.

The Unquiet Souls”
To do: An easy one to end with. Most of the hard work on these is done, I just have to finish layering the flesh on the spites, drybrush the skulls and then pick out minor details like the vines and fungi. Probably just a single sitting's work

Sunday 19 February 2017

Hobby Goal

Hobby Goal #7
Basecoat some Dwarfs

Okay, they may still be the grey horde but they're a different sort of grey. There are couple of other colours I want to add as a group before I start working on them rank by rank but I did what I set out to do: get a start on the remainder of my gromril armoured troops.

I'll be continuing to work on them this week but they're not going to be my Hobby Goal for the week.

Hobby Goal #8
Make a list

I am terrible for leaving models half done. Usually its a simple problem of taking models off the table to use in a game and never putting them back where they came from or just suffering art block and moving on to something else. Regardless of why, it means I have a bunch of models and units I could probably finish in an afternoon each if I put my mind to it.

So, by the end of the week I will have gone through my army cases and boxes and made myself a list.  

Saturday 18 February 2017

Pokemon: The Legendary Quandary

Every time a pair of Pokemon games come out I choose which one to buy using a simple metric: which Legendary do I want more? Funny thing is, by the time I get to catching the thing I no longer want it. Sometimes I put it on my team, sometimes I don't but I never actually want to.

Take Pokemon Sun. I just got to the point where I get to catch Solgaleo and... I just don't want him. I beat him down, slap the Master Ball on him and then the 3DS asks me whether I want to add him to my party. I choose yes, mainly because the whole narrative of the last half hour has been guilting me into it and I look at my team as it asks me to choose which one will get boxed to make room.

And I just don't want to. “What kind of roleplaying is this?” I ask myself as I look at these six creatures I've dragged through hell in my quest to be the best that ever was.

There's Harvey, the Decidueye I raised from a little Rowlet who's been with me all the way across the Alola Region; Moira the Jolteon who joined me soon afterwards; my ultimate Flying-type tag team Scarlet the Talonflame and Knifeblock the Skarmory; Innsmouth the Mimkyu who took me hours to catch and has taken so many hits for the team; and, Bubbles the Araquanid who crunched his way through endless Fire, Dark and Psychic types.

I mean, in the cold light of day I'll admit Bubbles is my least favourite child of the crew but the little Water-Bug fellow's got type advantage all over the shop.

So, feeling like a monster because for once the Legendary is just a nice fellow who wants to travel, I press B and box the poor creature. An option, by the way, that dialogue indicates no one at Game Freak thought anyone would be heartless enough to choose.

At the end of the day, though, I value that the series basically allows you to play the team you want to play. Either by type advantage or over-levelling the opposition I don't think there are many bad combinations of teams. I still need to do my Sky Trainer roleplay run some day, probably as a rerun on Pokemon X since that's still, in my view, the most varied and interesting game in the series. 

Friday 17 February 2017

Comic Reviews

In which nostalgia turns up in some of the oddest places and I, mostly, get the explanations I've been demanding.

Batwoman: Rebirth one-shot

Fair warning, there's not much new in this issue. This isn't entirely surprising: Kate Kane doesn't have the decades and decades of history and half a dozen reboots that Rebirth one-shots usually have to untangle and rationalise so what we get here is a more or less straight “story so far” of her childhood kidnapping, military training and cashiering with a few new notes about her going travelling during her directionless years and a new take on her relationship with Renee Montoya.

Beyond that, the tease of the future direction of the series isn't much we couldn't infer from the Batwoman Begins arc in Detective Comics the last couple of issues.

Nevertheless, I liked it. Steve Epting remains as amazing an artist as he was on Captain America back in the day and Bennett and Tynion have already proved their skills with this character. This issue might not be “for me” per se but I don't resent its existence and I'm sure someone new to the character would find it a fantastic primer.

U.S.Avengers #3
$kullocracy part three

Oh, this isn't even subtle now! The Golden Skull just is Donald Trump writ large and in a solid gold Iron Man suit (I am not kidding!).

Anyway, my favourite series of the moment ends its first arc with an appropriate level of violence and satire. Every line the Golden Skull utters is a glorious stab at egotistical businessmen and con men. Toni Ho gets some surprisingly nice moments barking orders at the rest of the team, which was fun to see. I've always liked the concept and design of the characters but she didn't get an awful lot to do when this series was New Avengers and I look forward to seeing more of her now she's “front line” superheroing.

And Danielle Cage. Now there's another character I want to see more of. I think she's going to make more appearances over in Jessica Jones and I hope she turns up again here, especially after Ewing reminded me of the potential mentor role Squirrel Girl could fill for her. I mean, Doreen was her babysitter.

Mother Panic #3
A Work in Progress part 3

There's something about this series that makes me nostalgic, which is strange for a series about a new character by an author I've never read before guest starring the (to me) still new Batwoman. A cursory look at artist Tommy Lee Edwards' Wikipedia page tells me I haven't read much of his work but there's something that very much reminds me of comics from my youth in how he draws. All those jagged lines, harsh angles and charcoal-esque grading remind me of early Vertigo stuff.

Anyway, of the Young Animals titles this is the one that has kept my interest the longest, mainly because it doesn't seem to be in the weirdness for weirdness' sake business. Yes, it might be the most “traditional” superhero series under the brand but it still has that air of conscious mystery the its stable mates has but it seems less intrusive. Doom Patrol seems at times to just indulge in weirdness for weirdness' sake and I'm honestly not sure what to make of Shade the Changing Girl half the time.

Maybe I'm just getting conservative in my old age? I don't know but this issue gives us information on our hero Violet Paige whilst throwing out more interesting questions, not least of which how she did so well in a fight against Batwoman. The fight itself is brief but an impressive display of how Edwards' style lends itself to both atmosphere and action.

Daredevil #17
Purple part 1

Oh, a big picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on the cover, this looks promising! Okay, okay, so I knew this was the start of the arc that would explain how Matt Murdoch put the genie back in the bottle and ended up in the position we found him in #1 but stepping back into the world of the last Daredevil series felt refreshingly nostalgic after the last sixteen issues of “Matt Murdoch, Prosecuting Attorney Who No One Knows Is Daredevil”.

And, funnily enough, the whole story does flow quite well from where the last series left off before Secret Wars and the relaunch. We get to see Matt leaping through San Francisco in that ridiculous red tailored suit and doing domestic with Kirsten McDuffie, we see Foggy in full recovery after his cancer treatment and Matt living large on the advance he got for his autobiography.

And then it all starts to fall apart in the most Matt Murdoch way possible. After a villain intrudes on his San Francisco life he comes back to visit New York, the city where he isn't a local hero but a disbarred lawyer with an alter ego known for horrible violence. He tries to be the hero he was there and ends up in hot water with the law who no longer see Matt Murdoch as credible now they know he's Daredevil.

Its all set-up and we're far from seeing the “solution” he comes up with, I'm even convinced the cliffhanger is a red herring because its too neat but, as with last issue, Charles Soule writes another compelling character study of Matt with the pieces all just falling into place to finally get us from the character we knew to the character we've been presented with the last sixteen issues. 

Thursday 16 February 2017

Riverdale or bust?

Funny thing is I was never really into Archie Comics until very recently. Their Sonic The Hedgehog line has long been a... I won't say “guilty pleasure”... indulgence, maybe, as they inspire pleasant childhood memories but as to the main Riverdale line they were never a thing to me.

I knew they existed and their basic set-up from jokes in US sitcoms and it turns out one of my favourite kids' shows ever, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, was based on one of their properties but the comics don't have much distribution here. Still, I checked out the reboot when it happened and really bloody liked it.
I loved Archie's charming klutziness; Jughead's role as the beleaguered asexual straight man; Betty's aggressive practicality; and, Veronica's obvious desire to be useful in spite of her social cluelessness. I found Cheryl Blossom to be a gloriously vicious villain and I heartily look forward to reading Jughead's brief “romance” with Sabrina once I catch up on his title.

And then there's Riverdale...
I'm not going to lie, what I know about this series comes entirely from blogs and tumblrs which paint a... varied picture of the series that leaves me swinging between “Give it to me now!” and “Why would you do that?”

On the one hand, from the gifs and clips I've seen, Betty and Veronica have all the romantic and sexual chemistry in the world and that's an interesting angle: turning the most famous love triangle in comics into an equal threeway attraction instead of two girls pursuing one guy. On the other hand, the producers have literally come out and said it ain't happening so its queerbaiting on an epic scale.

That said, Kevin Keller is no longer the only gay in the village (no spoilers but it is a named character from the comics) yet Jughead Jones of all people got straightwashed out of the famous sexual disinterest that the comics only recently (as far as I'm aware) literally labelled as asexuality.

There seems to be a storyline involving Cheryl and Betty that goes quite hard into the psychological consequences of bullying and yet there's also, it seems, a storyline where Archie sleeps with a teacher that's... not so well handled, apparently. Like, literally, Archie is still a minor and nothing about the storyline makes out the adult to be in the wrong.

This series looks to be an absolute trainwreck and I'm more than capable of enjoying that but there's the teacher thing and the Jughead thing...

and somehow, after reading only a dozen or so issues of the reboot, I realise I have really strong opinions about these characters.

So, regardless of how the show turns out, I think we can call the comics reboot a creative success. 

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Elimination Chamber 2017 (spoilers)

A cheerful and psychologically healthy individual, yesterday.

After Royal Rumble it looked like they were planning to play safe with the Wrestlemania card. Not disastrously so, Cena/Orton is a reliable match even if we have seen it approximately a hundred and fifty times before. Plus, Cena's practically indestructible and Orton is famously the safest worker in the industry so the odds of having to call things off because of sudden shoulder are low.

I went into Elimination Chamber not expecting much change on the title front. When Alexa Bliss dropped the Smackdown Women's Title to Naomi (a little too soon for my tastes) I was convinced that Cena was just going to tough out the Chamber match and emerge the champion. After all, its his sixteenth world title run, his run to equal Flair's record, there's no way he'd be dropping it this soon?

There are times when I love being wrong.

Bray Wyatt is WWE Champion! After literally years of dicking around they have finally put gold around the waist of the most over heel in the company. And not some chickenshit cowardly heel like The Miz (much as I love him) but a proper batshit crazy monster heel with ramblings promos and a cult leader gimmick. Just the visual when he was clutching the title and the lights went down, his “fireflies” in the audience holding up their phones. That moment is going to be rerun in clip packages for years to come.

This man is so amazingly over, he's deserved a title for far too long and he's going to be headlining Wrestlemania against the Legend Killer Randy Orton. That's an amazing push, especially given how badly they've dicked him around in the past.

Now, there are no Smackdown pay-per-views between now and 'Mania and Bray only has to have one title defence under the thirty day rule. I am straining to find the faith that WWE won't fuck this up.

Straining, I tell you. 

Tuesday 14 February 2017

I should read the Artemis Fowl books again

The Chinese cover art has been doing the rounds on tumblr recently and just looking at them makes me remember how much I loved that series (and realise how bad the covers were in this country)...
I mean, its a YA series where the young protagonist is a criminal mastermind. Okay, one who tends towards the heroic in the end but he is still a criminal. A criminal who starts the series trying to extort money out of the faeries. I am perfectly serious: he finds out that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is, in fact, the fey folk's hostage fund.

I like Artemis because, at the end of the day, his redemption arc doesn't stop him from being a criminal. Even when he's firmly on the side of the angels (well, of the faeries, centaurs, gnomes and dwarfs, at least) he is still, at his heart, a criminal. He steals things, he comes up with elaborate schemes, he's arrogant and in spite of that he's still on a journey to becoming a better person.

Just about the only complaint I have about the series is that Juliet Butler disappears for whole books at a time when I would have loved to see more of her and Holly Short interacting. They had a great little caper plot in... The Opal Deception, I think?

Huh, all the more reason to reread the series, then.

Monday 13 February 2017

Some musings on fan fiction

I mean, there's a lot that future academics are going to have to dive into, isn't there? Not just the evolution of fanfic websites from personal projects to the early one subject archives (oh, I miss slayer.net) to the big modern archives like AO3.

No, what I'm talking about is stuff like sex pollen.

Sex pollen, for those unaware, is a literary device to get characters shagging. That's all. Its a literal handwave to start the sex and it is a legitimate genre of fan fiction. When people just want sci-fi characters to shag in what the tags of AO3 term “porn without plot / plot what plot” they roll out the sex pollen.

Then there's slash fiction as an act of consumer protest. Why are there so many stories of Kirk and Spock getting it on? Geordi and Data? Because for its first fifty years the most liberal franchise in mainstream science fiction didn't have a single LGBT character who was there for anything other than to be a one episode tragedy.

I mean, the whole concept of slash fiction started with a Kirk/Spock fic back in the fanzine days. Now its open to any pairing you can think of (and some you wish no no one had...).

The history of fan fiction is just one big exercise in reader response theory. People consume the official stories and respond to them with their own creative work. This isn't unprecedented, The Lord Of The Flies was actually written in response to another novel (RM Ballantyne's The Coral Island) with a pretty similar plot but with a happy ending in which the boys survive and thrive because they're British and civilised. The only difference now is that it can be done by anyone in response to anything.

There's a character in Steven Universe so far identified only as “Mystery Girl” that Pearl flirts with in one episode. She's appeared once, has no proper name (and is identified only as “S” in a note she writes) and she has no lines. There are a whole bunch of fanfics theorising about her future relationship with Pearl: how S will react when she discovers that aliens are real and how much danger the Earth is in or how she'll react to Pearl's past as a slave. I've read any number of great stories just speculating how a relationship the show might never revisit will go.

Its also a safe and largely anonymous space where people can work out their feelings about sexuality, gender and a number of other personal questions. Whilst it shouldn't be treated as a sole educational resource on the subject, I've read far, far more treatments of non-binary identity, gender transition, gender dysphoria, non-traditional relationship structures (monogamous and otherwise) and even discussions of sexual health in fan fiction than in officially published literature and I really hope that some of these authors break through and we get those sorts of discussion in more mainstream spaces. 

Sunday 12 February 2017

Hobby Goal

Hobby Goal #5
Build my Lord of Change

Pretty birdie built. Painting him will have to wait a while as I'm waiting to see how someone else's turns out. He has an interesting blue and yellow colour scheme going on for the feathers that I want to try my hand at if the finished product is as good as I think it will be. Besides, the Acolytes still need finishing up. And speaking of finishing...

Hobby Goal #6
Finish a bunch of basing


Horrible habit of mine, finishing models and not getting around to the basing. I mean, the interesting bit is done and paint takes so bloody long to dry on the sand. Anyway, the practical upshot is that I get the pleasing feeling of finishing a whole lot of stuff at once, such as...

five Ironbreakers, five Genestealer Metamorphs, five Renegades, a Flesh Tearers Librarian and five Tactical Marines. Twenty-one models. Bit of a crap batting average for a month and a half but its something.

Anyway, next up on the docket...

Hobby Goal #7
Basecoat some Dwarfs

This idea of batch painting base layers and filling in the details a rank at a time is something I really should experiment with. So this week I will be basecoating as many Dwarfs as I can, starting with the “gromril” armoured units: the remaining Iron breakers and my Irondrakes.

Nothing too strenuous, just get the base silver done and maybe the blue ink. Anything else I get done on them or on the rest of the army is a bonus. 

Saturday 11 February 2017

Ming-Na Wen holding a lightsaber

Now, here's the thing: I see this photo and I want to make all sorts of salient and socially responsible points. Points about how for all its improvement in terms of diversity the Star Wars franchise is still rather lacking in women of colour in leading roles; how this woman has been portraying a middle aged female action hero on Agents Of SHIELD for years and that's an archetype we could do with more of on the big screen; or, just plain how it would be nice to have an older woman as a Jedi now the chance to stick a lightsaber in Carrie Fisher's hands has passed us by forever.

Any of these points could make for a long and detailed blog post but I'm tired and my eyes keep drifting to her arms and suddenly coherent thought becomes impossible.

Also, I did not know she was the voice of Mulan until I looked her up on Wikipedia. Come on, Disney, metaphors don't come much more perfect than this: give Mulan a lightsaber! 

Friday 10 February 2017

Comic Reviews

This week: a long forgotten design disaster makes its return to DC continuity, Star Wars goes gentler on paternity than usual; Brian Michael Bendis treads water; and, the Outsiders cosplay as the Justice League.

Detective Comics #950
League of Shadows prologue

As much as I like having on-cover titles to tell me when a new story starts, calling this issue the “League of Shadows prologue” is just plain terrible advertising. This is an anthology issue, plain and simple, catching us up with focus stories for various members of Batman's crew.

The issue opens with an introspective piece about Cassandra Cain and her ballet obsession. Have I mentioned how much I love that idea? It seems so perfect and yet no one thought of it before Batman & Robin Eternal. This short really goes into the psychology of Cass and the feelings she has but can't express because of her limited verbal skills. There's also a moment that is absolutely meant to be platonic but just makes me ship Cass/Harper because I've been starved of adorable hero cuddling since Tim got himself blowed up.

Speaking of, a Tim flashback story ends the issue. Not as personal or revealing as Cass' story as its more a tease for future events and a recap of where the various Robins are headed in their own titles but there are some nice moments including, of all things, the return of Robin's car from waaaaaay back in the Chuck Dixon days.

It still looks bloody awful.

Between the these two stories there's a two-hander between Batwing and Azrael, the two newest members of the team and, personally, the two I know the least. I've only experienced Batwing as an occasional love interest in Batgirl and this version of Azrael has clearly been slightly rebooted since Batman & Robin Eternal. By and large its a science versus faith story, which I normally don't have much time for, but for a change neither side is portrayed as unreasonable or irrational and we get more background on the Order Of St. Dumas who could stand to have a comeback sometime soon.

Non-prologue status notwithstanding, a fine oversized anniversary issue.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #4
Book I, Part IV

As fun as this was, it was hard to ignore the feeling that not much happened. Most of the issue was Aphra and company running from last issue's cliffhanger and arriving at the next one. We're teased with a moment where it seems Aphra and her father are about to have the big row they've been headed for since he turned up but then it turns out she's too tired.

Still, Kev Walker keeps up the impressive visuals including an interesting riff on the standard template Imperial officer and no one ever accused Gillen of failing to deliver the character moments. Given price and infrequency, there are few creative I'll give a pass for a slow issue but this is one of them.

Guardians of the Galaxy

On the other hand...

Now, I like Bendis but I can't help but feel this arc is just marking time until the end of the run. This issue isn't as egregious as the one where Ben Grimm shuffles through set-up for his role in Infamous Iron Man but its close. Plus, the next issue is going to be about Angela, a character who left the team ages ago to go be a lesbian space angel in her own series.

I'll probably see the series through to the end in case the character cliffhangers actually amount to something though I'm not counting on it.

Justice League of America: Rebirth one-shot

Or, as I think of it, “The Outsiders relaunch” because that is blatantly what this series is. I also feel pretty vindicated at having skipped three of the four prologue one-shots (I only read the Atom one because I always liked Ryan Choi) since this is a pretty good done in one getting the team together story. I missed three quarters of the series set-up, missed the Justice League vs Suicide Squad series that I'm pretty sure Batman is talking about when he references Killer Frost's face turn and I'm none the worse for it.

This is either good brand management or terrible, I'm not sure which.

Anyway, its the Outsiders with a JLA lick of paint! Batman assembling a team of his own to do... well, that's not entirely clear. This issue is long on introducing characters but not so much on situation. In many ways that's more important, especially considering that someone who paid more attention than me probably knows what this series is about and so what most are spending money on here is the question of whether they'll like these takes on the characters.

I do, as it happens. I like how earnest and open Ryan Choi is; I like that we're back to grubby 90s biker dude Lobo and that Canary hates him; I like that the League has second string rookies again in the form of Ryan and the Ray; and, I like literally everything about Rebirth era Vixen as being a Bruce Wayne that everyone knows is a rich superhero.

Now I just have to pick up the actual #1 and find out if I like the series' direction as much as I like these characters.