Friday 31 March 2017

Comic Reviews Prime

This week, we say goodbye to the best series of a mediocre era; the X-Men relaunch over coffee; I give the Inhumans a chance to impress me; and (Bat)girl talk just isn't enough to sell me on an annual.

All-New X-Men #19
And so the undisputed jewel of this unremarkable era of the X-Men concludes. Its a nice, quiet character piece like Extraordinary X-Men went out on as the team (plus Inhuman boyfriend type Romeo) gather for a barbecue outside a random gas station. What plot there is tidies away the lingering ghost of time travel from the series forevermore and I'm glad of it. As fun as it is to see the original X-Men wandering around the modern Marvel Universe, this issue needed sweeping away.

And Jean Grey returns. I admit, I'm not as high on Jean Grey as most are. One woman of my acquaintance described Jean as her “comicbook waifu” and that's far from abnormal (in some senses, at least). That said, Hopeless does do us one final great service and pretty much confirms that she and Scott are not and do not need to get back together.

All in all, I'm sad to see this series go and I hope Oya and Genesis find a home in the X-books somewhere down the line but I'm still looking forward to where this team goes next.

X-Men Prime one-shot
I've been waiting a while for this Kitty Pryde to return to the X-Men. This is the Kitty Pryde that was around when I started reading comics. Not the teenager of Chris Claremont or the barely more than a teenager Joss Whedon brought back into the fold but the experienced adult from Warren Ellis' Excalibur. This is the Kitty who grew up as a superhero and has some serious game as a result.

This is a Kitty that Storm is happy to turn to as a possible successor. There's no two ways around it, this issue has a very poor opinion of the franchise's direction in the last couple of years. That's fine, I happen to agree, and there's a definite sense that bringing Kitty back into the fold is an attempt at spiritual renewal for the X-Men as a group.

There are other teases: we see the original X-Men talking about why they're striking out on their own again (even if only obliquely) and a short vignette with Lady Deathstrike that sets up Weapon X. There's also a sweet little moment with Jubilee and baby Shogo, which is an unsatisfying tease for Generation X but a charming little scene in and of itself.

And, whilst I won't spoil the last page reveal, it certainly promises that the X-Men are going to be at the centre of the Marvel Universe again where they justly belong.

Inhumans Prime one-shot
I pretty much just bought this just to see what was up with the new Secret Warriors, which is pretty much the only Inhumans series I knew was spinning out of IvX. As it happens, the Secret Warriors don't make much of an appearance outside of a big group shot of Inhumans on a splash page and the resulting fight scene.

And now that I have read the teases for what else is coming out?

Well... the issue starts and end with Marvel Boy pretty much as we last saw him in Young Avengers. I love that character and that he's going to be a fixture in Royals absolutely sells me on the series. I admit, the Inhumans themselves, especially the new ones, aren't characters I'm very familiar with aside from Ms. Marvel. I find Maximus the Mad rather charming, but not enough to sell me on Black Bolt, which I assume from much silent brooding in this issue is where Maximus will be appearing.

Ultimately, though, that's two out of three series I'm at least willing to give a try which is not a bad average for a franchise I have not much interest in.

Batgirl Annual #1
This annual was mostly fluff and a tease for an upcoming Supergirl storyline. To be honest, that's not much to base an extra long (and extra expensive) issue on, especially as half the issue tells a story set before the current ongoing and so has very little to do with what's going on with Batgirl these days.

And I'm not sure getting some quality girl time between Babs and Alysia, a too rare pleasure since Gail Simone left the series, is enough to compensate for all that. 

Thursday 30 March 2017

Forge World, why are you like this?

I am the first person to argue that background should influence miniature design. Take, for instance, the fact that no Warhammer Dwarf has been armed with a sword in years, just axes and hammers. That is the good side of background influenced design. However, sometimes it is taken too far. Just because the product line is called “Forge World” should not make building the bloody things a century long artisanal project.

I am rapidly going off Forge World. I am currently building some Mark III Space Marines with Death Guard conversion parts (to get them done before the plastics come out) and it is a slog.

For one thing, there's the matter of cleaning the parts, which involves soapy water and a toothbrush that has already broken one shoulder pad. There's the horrible amount of flash on the parts, the fact I have to mutilate the groin of the plastic Space Marines to make them fit into the torso join and all the little distortions in the cast.

This is Games Workshop's premium product and there is no reason for it to be like this.

I have bought resin models and conversion parts from a number of companies over the years and none have been as irritatingly time consuming and prone to mismolding as Forge World. I have bought better quality resin from Games Workshop itself. As many issues as I have had with finecast, the models could at least be built without having to scrub them to within an inch of their lives. GW charge way above the odds for Forge World kits, many of which require you buy other high cost plastic kits to use them. This conversion kit is £25 (though it was slightly cheaper when I bought it, many moons ago) and I am using it to augment a £30 plastic kit.

I do not feel it unreasonable to expect these kits to be user friendly at the asking price. Smaller companies with much more modest R&D budgets than GW have managed to send me clean, properly molded resin kits that fit together (including with GW kits) like a glove.

Is the difficulty somehow a selling point? I know FW are meant to be the “expert” product but usability should be a priority.

Still, they look sweet once they're built, I just wish it weren't such a struggle to get them there.

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Brexit means... well, we'll work that out later, no hurry

A man who is not the leader of a political party but keeps speaking for it... yesterday.

Today, Theresa May (the Prime Minister, not the pornographic actress) triggered Article 50 and officially declared our intention to leave the EU. Let me break this down so that I have a masterpost to refer people to when this all goes to shit:

1) The UK has two years to make a deal on all aspects of our relationship with the EU.

2) The deal must pass the EU parliament and our own parliament to come into force.

3) The deadline is not extendable.

4) Article 50 is not reversible.

5) Should a deal not come into force all existing treaties and trade agreements that rely on EU law to work will simply lapse. This in includes extradition treaties and the corporate laws that allow, say, the German companies who own more than half our public transport infrastructure to operate in this country.

6) The EU's incentive to treat us kindly in negotiations is practically non-existent.

7) I mean, they kind of hate us now.

8) We called them cunts for forty years whilst enjoying all the perks and privileges of the EU membership we constantly complained about.

9) And we have nothing to hold over them.

10) I mean, the EU is essentially a collective bargaining association. Any trade a member nation loses by cutting us off they can make their money back by leveraging a small price increase on their products in other markets including the over two dozen remaining member states of the Union.

11) I mean, if you've ever found yourself in a position of power over someone who has mistreated you? That's the position the EU is in with us right now.

12) Now imagine that person has been insulting you, using your stuff and spending your money (read: farming subsidies) for forty years.

13) Meanwhile, a quarter of the country is going to try and declare independence and we can promise them... nothing! We don't know what our future is going to be outside the EU so how do we convince the Scottish that they'd have a better future with us when they voted Remain practically unanimously?

14) And that's not even going into the fact that the Irish are talking about reunification.

15) And the idea of making concessions of any kind in our negotiations will be called out as treachery by the right wing press and the more hardline Leave voters.

16) Also, a bunch of things Leave voters are really, really passionate about aren't even on the table and never were. Refugees? Not EU citizens and so not EU migrants, Brexit does nothing to address the issue. Human rights? Our human rights legislation isn't only based on EU law, its based on the European Court Of Human Rights (not an EU body, not a factor in Brexit) and the UN Convention On Human Rights. Leaving either of those would be a whole other shitshow.

17) So what happens when the Leave voters don't get what they want?

18) Not that anyone in the UK will be getting what they want because we are in such a weak negotiating position.

19) We have no economic power because any financial loss an EU member makes can be made back from other markets whilst we are committed to telling them, our largest trading partner, to sod off whilst at the same time our second largest trading partner, the Unites States, has elected a man who declared that he will “Buy American and hire American”, a phrase Theresa May (the Prime Minister, not the pornstar) apparently cannot understand. He also said some things about cats and the grabbing thereof that are horrific but not immediately relevant to this conversation.

20) We have virtually no primary industry in this country, so its not as if we even make anything that Europe needs and, again, what little we do make will be no loss because every EU country has so many other possible trading partners they could get that stuff from. Cutting Europe off from our products isn't a threat, its an opportunity for other countries to grow their markets.

21) Our apparent negotiating position of wanting to keep our perks and privileges without our responsibilities or financial contributions is... impossible. Not simply difficult but impossible. I mean, no one would ever entertain a deal like that in the real world.

22) And why would the EU set a precedent for a deal like that on behalf of a nation that apparently hates them, where the press and political establishment regularly compare them to the fascist movements that dominated the lives of their grandparents, and blames them for every social problem going?

23) We have no power, no good will, no bargaining chips, a fixed deadline, a press and electorate that will willingly sabotage the entire process, and a set of demands so insanely entitled that no one would ever agree to them even if all of those other things weren't true.

24) We are screwed.

Seriously, there is no punchline here. This country has willingly picked a course that puts us in the weakest negotiating position we've been in since... I don't even know... the South Sea Bubble, maybe? And back then at least we had Robert Walpole, now we have Theresa May and she is no Robert Walpole (well, the Prime Minister Theresa May isn't, I can't speak for the political intelligence of the pornographic actress). The simple fact is that a huge number of people decided that economic suicide was better than having to queue up behind Polish people at the post office and they will either get what they want and suffer or the government will have to cave on issues like freedom of movement and right to work just to survive this in which case those Leave voters will still be queuing behind Polish people at post office but without having any say in how the EU is run.

And that's where we are. Brexit. Day One. 

The Sensual Experience of the Game Boy Advance

So, FireRed is the only game I'll be playing in this marathon on the Game Boy Advance. I'll be using the DS and 3DS remakes for Gen II and III. This, as it turns out, will be a bit of a shame. This is because the GBA has a feature the DS and 3DS lack: rounded sides for holding comfortably in your hands.
How is it that Nintendo, the market leader in handheld gaming for almost thiry years and not learnt to design the things to be held in human hands? Why has every other generation of the Nintendo handheld been a rectangle? A particularly hard-edged one in the case of the DS, on which I have four of these games to look forward to.

Okay, admittedly the screen is terrible and the slightest direct sunlight makes the image indeciperable but it is really comfortable to hold. I think the reversion with the DC to the brick design has more to with physical Game Boy branding than any practicality, which is a pity. 

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Completed Models: Judge Dread

Flesh Tearers Contemptor Dreadnought
I'm having a bit of trouble getting a good, consistent red on large areas. You can see I had to layer and layer and layer and it resulted in brushstrokes everywhere. I think it might be the black undercoat. It came out fine on all the man-sized models I've tried it on but for anything larger I might want to start from a red spray. I think GW do a Mephiston Red spray now. Also, whilst bashing my own paintjob, the brass on the shoulder armour came out a lot less well than the photo makes it look.

Plus, yay for actual sunlight! The model doesn't look pink! The photo came out not too bad and I only had to crop it.

Kairic Acolytes

and then the sun went in.

I have to say, these fellows are very time consuming to build and paint. I can't claim they aren't worth the effort but I am thinking that I won't be painting more than this one unit. They look fantastic but what makes them look fantastic are all those fine details I'm painting in unforgiving gold.

I tried out Kantor Blue armour for the plate, just to test it out before doing anything in heavy armour. I wasn't fond of how the silver armour came out on the Sorcerer so I want to try a lacquered look on my Warriors and Knights.
I have to say, I really enjoyed painting the Scroll Of The Dark Arts, its one of my favourite parts of the whole kit.

Completed Models (2017)
Chaos (Tzeentch) : 6
Dwarfs: 5
Flesh Tearers: 7
Genestealer Cults: 5
Renegades & Heretics: 5
Sylvaneth: 5


A third of the way to 100! Counting is fun! 

Monday 27 March 2017

The Comics Ramble: Superman Reborn: WHAT JUST HAPPENED!?

SPOILER WARNING: This post goes into the events, conclusion and possible consequences of the Superman Reborn crossover (that's Superman #18 - #19, Action Comics #975 - #976 and Superwoman #7) so if you aren't caught up on the Super-books this is really, really not the post for you.

That having been said...
… “WHAT JUST HAPPENED!?” to quote Adam Blampied.

To break down the result: it turns out that when the New 52 was created Superman and Lois Lane were split in two. One half became the New 52 Superman and Lois who wasn't married to him, the other became the Superman we've been following since Rebirth who remembers the pre-Flashpoint continuity and Lois that he is married to and has a child with. Now the two versions have been fused together and history has changed around them so that there's only one version of Lois and Clark and they've have been married for years, raised their son whilst working at the Daily Planet and the events of both the New 52 and Rebirth era Super-books happened to them.

This is the perfect platonic example of the DC retcon: it fixes the big problem and leaves us with a lot of little questions.
Now, I can't deny that something like this needed to happen. Superman is Clark Kent, he works at the Daily Planet with Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. People who have never picked up a comic in their lives know this as concrete fact so having to constantly explain that a Superman like that existed but died and now we're following his counterpart from another universe who is living under an assumed name on a farm in Hamilton County, Kansas for the benefit of confused new readers is more effort than its worth.

There's also the fact that this is a completely different attitude to the pre-Flashpoint/New 52 split than the rest of Rebirth has been exploring. Take the original Titans, who have recently discovered that their memories of being a team were taken from them and have now been reunited, memories restored. The same holds true for Barry Allen's memories of original flavour Wally West. Other series have either chosen to bring back pre-Flashpoint ideas as new events or just things that never rated a mention before and were totally always canon, honest guv. Either way, the message was that these comics were restoring something, be it restoring an erased past or re-introducing something fans remember fondly.

The Superman books, meanwhile, had this complicated (and, admittedly, pre-Rebirth) compromise of bringing back Superman's marriage but also jettisoning the Daily Planet status quo and there were alternate universes involved. It was complicated, it actively removed elements from the series readers expected to see, and it didn't work with the larger context of the company's line-wide relaunch. It had to go.

So it went and that is good. Superman should not be a series whose status quo is even close to hard to explain. It should be the most accessible, most straight forward series DC publishes: he's a superhero who has every power going and everyone knows who he's dating and where he works. Sometimes expectations are meant to be met.

And now they will be. What little we see of the new version of history, in a single splash page summarising Superman's new history, strongly suggests that the traditional status quo is back plus Superboy Jon. This is, on the larger scale, a good thing.

For those who believe in Rickard Stark's admonition that nothing that comes before “but” counts for anything that was around six hundred words of waste of time but here we go...

The problem DC has always had with these retcons is that whilst they usually do fix big picture problems they aren't that good on following through and figuring out how it affects the little things. Take, for example, Guy Gardner in the New 52. Guy Gardner, as with most of the Green Lantern characters, retained his pre-Flashpoint personality in the relaunch. This personality, however, was heavily based in the relationship he shared with Tora back in the Justice League International days, a relationship that was reduced in the new continuity to a couple of dates, no deep emotional connection and no bereavement because she never died.

Much as I love Guy Gardner, that is small potatoes compared to this.

The death of the New 52 Superman was used to launch Superwoman, New Super-Man and Lex Luthor's current status quo as seen in multiple titles. The fact that they're working with an unfamiliar Superman is central to almost every relationship Superman has with the Justice League, not to mention Nightwing, Batman and even Superwoman.

And that is what this is going to live or die on. Yes, there's a lot of foreshadowing about the big mystery of Rebirth and how the New 52 was created and how it all ties in to stopping Alan Moore getting his Watchmen rights back but, ultimately, what matters is the reader experience.

Are we going to be pissed off by whatever level of pointlessness becomes attached to the Hamilton County era? An era, let us remind ourselves, that covered almost forty issues of the core Super-books plus whatever else one of DC's most famous and widely used characters appeared in during that time. Will the new status quo make sense or will we just be asked to take on faith that all the elements of the characters that carry over from Hamilton County still make sense?

How does it affect Lana Lang and Kong Kenan, both characters whose series I am enjoying and whose origins just got scrambled? Superwoman, at least, had a tie-in that promises the next issue will answer those questions and I assume that with the current arc of New Super-Man is set in Metropolis we'll get some answers there.

So it at least looks like there's a solid plan to explore the consequences of this change up front, not let the questions fester as they did with the New 52.

I want to hope here. The Rebirth experiment, by and large, has been very well thought out. Unfortunately it has also largely ignored until now the Watchmen connection that Superman Reborn brings front and centre. With the Batman/Flash crossover The Button just around the corner, this might be the moment when the wheels start to come off and this very simple, very effective relaunch is about to fall down the same history-twisting rabbit hole DC relaunches all too often fall into. I admit I am cynical about the Watchmen thing for many reasons from its IP dispute origins to the questionable sanity of importing satirical characters into the continuity they were created to satirise.

I also worry about piling retcons on retcons. On that note, I do hope I'm right in thinking that Superman is a special case, a pre-Rebirth retcon that needed fixing to match Rebirth rather than the first in a series of such supplementary reboots.

For once, a DC line-wide reboot was simple, elegant and worked. It restored numerous beloved characters and relationships to the DCU whilst largely maintaining the simpler, more accessible continuity of the New 52. Half the characters and concepts that returned didn't even need extensive explanation. That simplicity was important.

What I am hoping is that DC, going against decades of instinct, keeps this simple. 

Sunday 26 March 2017

Hobby Goal #13: Tall Trees, Strong Trees

Behold the mediocre progress I have achieved on my Kurnoth Hunters...
Yeah, a little layering, some inking and drybrushing. Not spectacular progress but it just hasn't been a week when I could dedicate much time to painting. Still, its something and just about the only thing I managed to do this week. This week,, for the final Hobby Goal of Sylvaneth Month, I will be addressing the last model in my army that has no paint on it at all:

Hobby Goal #13
Work on my Treeman

Same rules as the last couple of Goals: doesn't matter about finishing him, I just have to work on him. Once I have some paint on this guy I can start going back through the other models in the army and polish off their details. Fingers crossed, I might even have something approaching a presentable army by the end of April.

Not sure what theme I'll be picking for my hobby in April. I might dedicate some time to the Flesh Tearers given how taken I've been with some of the ideas being discussed for 40k 8th edition the other day. That or the Tzeentchians, we'll see.

Saturday 25 March 2017

Reading tea leaves: 40k 8th edition reveals

Yes, reveals, not leaks. GW's commendable turn of telling people things continues with a preview of the mechanics currently being tested for 8th edition. Yes, its time to read some tea leaves and make some assumptions that are almost certainly wrong. Let's go!

Movement Characteristics

Yes! The basic sense here is that the generic unit types (Infantry, Jump Infantry, etc,.) will be going and replaced by a Movement characteristic on the unit's stat line. This knocks out a chunk huge of the main rulebook, which is just sensible, and puts more emphasis on the individual Codex. The less flicking between books the player has to do, the better.

Charging units fight first

An unfortunate reality of 40k's meta is that if you play a low Initiative army you're most likely to play against high Initiative (read: Space Marine) armies. If nothing else this rule is an inducement to dust off my Orks since my mighty close combat army might actually get to fight a combat round or two in this edition.

Armour Save Modifiers (for shooting)

Whether its a Strength based modifier or a Rending value as in AoS is unclear but I do think its sensible to bring this concept in. The fact that, say, an AP3 weapon completely knocks out the protection of power armour but has zero effect whatsoever on Terminator plate has always been a strange abstraction to me and modifiers are a simple way of bringing that concept into play whilst still keeping the spirit of how these weapons are meant to work (lascannons will still be the shit, lasguns will still be just shit).

3 Ways To Play

Definitely better to bring this in at the beginning than how they did it with Age Of Sigmar. Its the same tryptch of Open, Narrative and Matched play. Now, Open Play is still as unappealing to me here as it was in AoS but I can't pretend that having more options of play is somehow a bad thing.

Command Points”

Um... this one is a bit complicated because it isn't really explained. The basic idea is that if you build an army as the background dictates you get Command Points, a series of benefits like re-rolls and unspecified army specific special rules.

How army selection actually works under this system is left unsaid. Most likely, in my view, is that the Force Organisation Chart becomes optional and you get Command Points for following it. Also,perhaps the chart will be bespoke to each army, completely replacing the generic version rather than just supplementing it as the bespoke charts in this edition have.

Age of Sigmar morale checks

About the only one I'm not thrilled by. Its not a mechanic I'm super fond of in AoS and that's a game with the option of large units. 40K has always generally lent towards five- and ten-man squads so I suspect this mechanic will be a lot less forgiving, especially the high-cost elite units like Terminators.

Overall, though, I'm looking forward to this, which I wasn't expecting to be. 

Friday 24 March 2017

Comic Reviews

Horrible week, comics arrived a day late, capsule reviews, motley...

Lumberjanes #36
Might As Wheel

Yay! After an epic catch-up session, this is my first “as new” issue of Lumberjanes and not only do I get to enthuse about this great series in a timely manner, I think I almost understand roller derby. Watching the hardcore lady types from the world's most deeply strange girl scout camp playing roller derby against a team of sasquatches .

That's enough. That's enough weird to draw me in. That the hardcore lady-types are doing this on behalf of a family of yeti who the sasquatches have turfed out of their treehouse is icing on the cake. The fact that somehow the roller... ring? Circle? Thingy?... become a death trap for no readily apparently reason is the cherry on the icing.

Extraordinary X-Men #20

An underwhelming end to an underwhelming series that was the backbone of an underwhelming era of X-Books. Its not completely without virtue, going out on a rather sweet scene that either promises or threatens a return to more traditional X-Men stories in the new series depending on your taste. The main meat of the issue, though, is Storm having some meta musings that are pretty obviously Jeff Lemire bitching about the holding pattern Marvel had this book in through his entire run.

Still, a major theme of the issue was having Nightcrawler smiling again which is one hell of a step up from having him as some sort of morose avenger figure for God alone knows what reason.

Mother Panic #5
Broken Things part 2

Mysteries stack on mysteries with this series. On the one hand we get some concerete answers on how Violet got her powers and the nature of Gather House whilst on the other the actions of Violet's mother bring up further questions and not just in a “crazy person talks prophesy” sort of way. I hate that trope, I've seen too much of the real thing to find any romance in it.

Oh, and the Gotham Radio back-up finally got my attention by bringing back a minor league Bat-villain I always thought there was much more potential in.

Unworthy Thor #5

I guess it works.

Okay, for serious, I think the mystery of “What did Nick Fury say to make Thor unworthy?” just plain went on too long. I know they had to address who the new Thor was first but at a certain point you just end up in a place where no answer is going to be fully satisfying. The rest of the series? Very satisying, there's a reason Jason Aaron has been writing this character (and his distaff successor) for so long and if he could find an excuse to use Beta Ray Bill more often I'd be a very happy man.

So, I guess it works.

Invincible Iron Man #5

I may have soured a little on Bendis' style a little the last year or so but I love his Iron Man series, even if I question the logic in bringing in a villain from the last Tony Stark stories this soon in Riri's run. Everything with Riri and Pepper has been gold and there's something pleasingly real in how over-earnest Riri is in dealing with Sharon Carter when SHIELD turns up.

Detective Comics #953
League of Shadows part 3

A Cass focus issue? Yes, please. That this is turning into a very Cass-centric arc is very gratifying since there was a time when she (and Steph, for that matter) was brushed off by DC editorial as a “toxic” character that they didn't want to use. We also get yet more of her interacting with her biological mother Lady Shiva, one of the great dropped threads of the old DCU. There's also a lovely little scene with Clayface trying to connect with Cass over the fact that neither of them are particularly good at expressing their feelings verbally, which I hope bodes well for Clayface's continuing face turn.

I still don't like the Orphan identity, though, and I rather hope that this issue signals that Cass might eventually grow beyond it. I hope. 

Thursday 23 March 2017

In which Dan Floyd assures me I am not stupid

I love the Extra Credits and Extra Plays channels on Youtube and for the last little while Dan Floyd has been playing through various Sonic The Hedgehog games to get b-roll for an animation series.
He just finished up five episodes on Sonic Adventure and I have never been happier to see a man so confused.

This isn't sadism, its because I found that game to be the most obscure, unexplained and damn near impossible to work out experience of my entire gaming life. No Final Fantasy game has ever flummoxed me like this awful bastard half and half offspring of a mascot platformer and an adventure game.

It hides level entrances from you and watching Dan Floyd, with the greatest respect to the man, suffer as I did in 2003 has been enormously validating. The man is a professional, he knows his stuff and he's played a hell of a lot more games than I ever have so if he finds it obscure and poorly explained there's weight to the charge.

I swear to you this is true: Sonic Adventure DX is the only game I have ever bought a strategy guide for. Not Final Fantasy, not Pokémon... Sonic Adventure. It is one of the few “bad” Sonic games I believe deserves its reputation.

Also it introduced Big the Cat because, obviously, what the Sonic franchise needed to exploit the power of the Dreamcast was fishing mini-games. 

Wednesday 22 March 2017

The Kanto Diaries #0: Pre-Game

A little housekeeping before I launch into the first phase of my “Pokémon Grand Tour”. Just some decisions I want to write down before I get into the game proper.

My Trainer

When Professor Oak asks, I will identify myself as a girl called Drake. She wants to travel and study Pokémon, though unlike Red and Ash before her she dreams not of being a Pokémon Master or Champion but a Pokémon Professor someday, albeit a more successful one who has actually done some field work and research (which few, if any, of the series' Pokémon Professors ever seem to achieve before handing off a Pokédex to the first random child who turns up).

More background for this character will develop as I play.

My Starter

Back in the day, Bulbasaur was my boy, my dude. Fantastic design in all his evolutions, best of the starters in my humble. I used him in the original Gen I game (I am old) and chose him again in Kalos when I was given my choice of the original starters by Professor Sycamore.
Still, I want to shake things up this time around. That leaves me with Charmander and Squirtle and I hate Charmander. He looks bland, Charmleon looks worse and Charizard looks nice but he's a dragon who isn't a Dragon-type. So, as much as Wartortle looks like pants, I choose Squirtle.


I am not doing Nuzlocke, I have neither the discipline nor the patience and the objective is to play through these games from start to finish.

But I am going to institute one rule on myself: one capture per area. For one thing, not combing through the long grass trying to capture one example of everything in Kanto will cut down the time this will take. For another, it feels in keeping with the theme of following in Ash Ketchum's footsteps that I'd only capture one Pokémon per “episode”, as it were.

I'm not going to go into it blind, though, if nothing jumps out at me immediately (metaphorically, obviously things will be literally jumping out at me constantly) then I will consult Bulbapedia to see what's available in the area.
I want an Ekans, so that's Route 4 sorted for a start.

Also, I will be naming every Pokémon I capture. I like coming up with the nicknames and I do feel it helps to personalise the team and make it feel like its something that belongs to you rather than just a jumble of sprites and statistics.

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Why my Runemaster won't be ginger

(Apologies for any typos, my word processor has gone insane and is flagging everything with a red underlining so any misspelled words are just going to get lost in the shuffle).
Whilst I did buy this Runemaster before the Kharadron Overlords were announced I am determined to paint him. However, he is absolutely not going to be ginger.

Part of it, I admit, is resentment. I've wanted a Slayer army since I started in this hobby and when it finally comes along in plastic they aren't Slayers. They've got the right god and the right hair but, essentially, they aren't the same army I ogled when they were unaffordable metals. They're wearing armour, for a bloody start. Cowards!

As much of their background and aesthetic as I like I do prefer to view them as the new concept they are rather than as a continuation of an old concept they don't quite fit. The Battletome has no shortage (if you'll pardon the expression) of alternative colour scheme but none of them inspired me. However, a description of the Sepuzkul Lodge from the short story Four Thousand Days by David Guymer really grabbed my attention:

... this one's wargear was black, fluted and moulded into the appearance of bone. His face had been painted with white powder, except for the eye sockets where the brazen red of his skin showed through. His beard was an unnatural grey. The twinned plumes of his helm designating him a karl of his fyrd might have been a reassuring point of commonality, but the likeness crafted into the black helm was that of a skeletal wyrm and the plumage itself was short, white and brittle.”

Now, we don't learn much about this Lodge and its origins but given all the imagery and that some of its members swear using Nagash's name as well as Grimnir's I think its pretty obvious they're from the Realm of Death.

So let's break that description down and decide how the model will be painted: armour black, beard grey, crest white, I'll skip the face paint because that's too fiddly with the helmet and since I can't re-sculpt the dragon face on his helmet I'll simply paint it as bone. Also, to carry on the “Realm of Death” theme the flames coming from his brazier he's carrying will be that sort of luminous green used on Hexwraiths and Realmgates if I can find a tutorial. Also, to keep the model relatively dark any metal that doesn't have to be gold will be brass and bronze. Not sure what I'll do with the scale cape but I'm sure something will occur as I work through the other stages.

This is actually one of my favourite AoS models: commanding pose, lots of interesting and intricate detail and plenty of chances for experimentation. I'm really looking forward to tackling this for a bit of variety whilst I whittle away at the Kurnoth Hunters. 

Monday 20 March 2017

Conan the Postmodernist

Honestly, one of the things I love about classic sci-fi and fantasy, especially foundational stuff like the Conan stories, is how little of a shit these authors gave for what would one day be the “rules” that define the genres.

For instance, in a sword and sorcery series I do not usually expect to encounter an immortal flying elephant man from outer space.

I am not joking. This is a thing that is in one of the stories. This is, in fact, the thing that one of the stories is about, the revelation that its all leading to.

God, I love these stories.

Sunday 19 March 2017

Hobby Goal: Taller Trees

Whilst my very, very fun, very, very visually interesting and very. Very time consuming idea of doing as many different coloured leaves as possible on my Dryads meant I didn't get them finished this week they aren't far off. I literally just have to do the leaves and a little blue to pick out the eyes and mouths and I'm done.

So. seems like removing the stress of needing to finish the unit in a week actually got me further than trying to meet the deadline. This week...

Hobby Goal #12
Kurnoth Hunters

I have virtually nothing done of this unit even though they're my favourite models from the Sylvaneth range. I have the soft inner wood based and inked and that's it. So this week they're what I'm going to be working on whenever I sit down to paint.

Let's see how this goes. 

Saturday 18 March 2017

The Pokemon Grand Tour Begins

Having finished the story of Pokemon Sun (I still have to face the League) I found myself thinking about how much of this series I just haven't played. I've finished all other the 3DS games, played but not completed most others and I've never played any of the Gen II or V games at all. I also got talking to a friend who, unlike me, didn't take a huge break from the series between Gen I and IV and I decided I really wanted to try the “complete journey”, as it were.

So, on a whim, I trawled the local charity shops and Amazon to plug the gaps in my collection so I could do the “Grand Tour”, as I've decided to think of it.

So, the itinerary runs FireRed, HeartGold, Alpha Sapphire (though, having completed that game, I might spring for Omega Ruby), Platinum, White Version 1 and 2, and Pokemon X. I also, rather naughtily, got a copy of the fan game Pokemon Uranium from a friend, which I'll probably slot in between the DS and 3DS games.

There's also the matter of my player character. Given that I'm playing this as a single epic journey I feel the need to have a single character throughout it all, canon conflicts be damned, my own personal Ash Ketchum.

Her name (I always pick the female option) will be Drake. Hopefully she'll develop a personality and training style over the course of her journey.

She's certainly going to develop a lot of contradictory family backstory.

Friday 17 March 2017

Comic Reviews

This week a bunch of my favourite series came out including a new one. On with the motley...

Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! #16

America Chavez checking out Jubilee. Its only a little moment but it was rather sweet.

Anyway, I finally get around to talking about one of my favourite ongoing series and it ends with a note saying this is the last issue of the regular storyline and the next will be the end of the series. Bugger. Still, this has been a hell of ride, speaking of which...

Sadly, this issue's cover is 100% misleading. There is no pajama party, no playdate for Shojo Lee and Dani Cage, no Luke and Jessica, no Ian. Instead, we get group therapy in a hell dimension. This is the big idea the series plays out on. Mad but brilliant and a great way to deal with the issues between Patsy and low-rent series antagonist Hedy Wolfe.

I bloody love this series. Kate Leth has assembled such a sweet cast of characters that I just love spending time with. Most of all I'm going to miss Jubilee as a working single mum vampire. This is the best angle the character has had in years and I don't think losing that is a price I want to pay for a new Generation X. Oh, and Attaché, sweet little henchgirl that she is will be sorely missed.

I just hope that Kate Leth gets to return to the Marvel Universe some day soon.

U.S.Avengers #4

Surprisingly, not a Monsters Unleashed tie-in. Could have been. Wasn't. Its a done-in-one that's all about the title fight: the new Red Hulk versus the American Kaiju, an odd creation from when this Red Hulk was a villain in the previous incarnation of this series.

Its all done in this campy style with bite-size chapters like those “complete in one issue” stories in sixties comics. Deadpool's there for very little reason but he's used as a vehicle for some nice little meta jokes so that's okay. The issue continues Ewing's obsession with the mad scientist side of the MCU which, frankly, is what I love most about this series.

And just when it seems like this is just a nice little bit of fluff between story arcs, Steve Rogers turns up in Roberto DaCosta's office and he is pissed. Now that's a hook, even if the face off between the two top dog superspies of the Avengers franchise is bound to be a little tainted by the whole secret Nazi thing.

Guardians of the Galaxy #18

So, yes, a week of my favourite things and then there's this...

At the end of the issue it turns out that Grounded might actually have a point. Right at the end of the issue, in a way completely irrelevant to the rest of the arc and even this issue itself. Oh, and Bendis takes a quick moment to just dismantle the romantic happy ending Angela got at the end of her solo series for no good reason.

As I've said before, maybe I'm just getting old but Bendis' waffling is just getting on my nerves these days.

Batman #19
I Am Bane part 4

But if we want to talk about writing an issue to ratchet up tension on the way to final confrontation, right here is a perfect example. While Guardians had a pretty irrelevant mini-adventure for Angela leading to a revelation about a big bad coming their way, this issue is all about the big bad marching towards Batman and the anticipation for the big fight.

The entire issue follows Bane as he walks through the corridors of Arkham Asylum searching for Batman and the Psycho Pirate. To delay him, Batman has freed and armed the rogues gallery and so we get a series of vignettes with Bane confronting villain after villain after villain. Some of them are just one panel, one punch cameos but there are some with some real meat to them that I hope are quietly setting up coming events in the series.

King turns in a particularly nice twist on the Scarecrow, with good old Doctor Crane waiting behind a locked door for Bane to come charging through, scared witless and reciting the fears he's feeling as he feels them. He writes a good Riddler, as well, confident to the point of suicidal in the face of Bane's threats. I have no damn clue what's going on with Maxi Zeus but I hope we get to find out in greater detail later.

Every confrontation, every time Bane almost effortlessly bests one of the more classic rogues, serves to build up his threat level and the tension for the inevitable confrontation with Batman.

Which is how its meant to work, frankly.

Batwoman #1
The Many Arms of Death part 1

Bennett and Tynion bring back Julia Pennyworth, because between Maggie Sawyer, Harper Row and Renee Montoya I didn't ship Kate Kane with enough people, clearly.

Seriously, this issue sees Kate travelling with Julia on a yacht in search of black market Monster Venom. Its a black ops mission, as befits our ex-army vigilante and her special forces operator, and the two characters make great super spies. The issue is mainly setting up their operation but there's another tantalising flashback to Kate's “Lost Year”, the site of which they end up visiting in the present.

Sadly, there's not much more to say plotwise except that everything this issue sets up has me salivating in anticipation of where this is all going and I can't imagine I'm the only one. This is one of the fortnightly series, right?

To be honest, my one disappointment is that there's a startling lack of Doctor Victoria October given her prominence in the Batwoman Begins two-parter and the fact this series is continuing the Monster Venom storyline, but that's just my own personal gripe and no reflection on the quality of the finished product. 

Thursday 16 March 2017

Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns vs. audience sympathy

I don't hate Roman Reigns. Seriously, I don't. He's a perfectly competent wrestler and I've nothing against the man.

That having been said, if they're feeding him the Undertaker's retirement match, worse yet if Reigns wins, I will burn England to the ground (to paraphrase Adam Blampied). The problem is that you know that if this is 'Taker's last match he's going out on his back. He is the oldest of the old school and he is not going out on a win. No matter that not a wrestling fan in the world would begrudge him going out on a win. He's the Undertaker, only Hulk Hogan has legitimate claim to being more iconic than this man.

And even if 'Taker has to go out on a loss, why oh why does it have to be Reigns? I don't hate him but the WWE's obsession with selling him as a main eventer is what's burying him with the audience. They had to turn down the audience audio on Reigns/Triple H at the last Wrestlemania because of thunderous audience booing.

Now they're giving him the Undertaker match? Perhaps the final Undertaker match?

If they waste the retirement match of a legend on Reigns I don't think his standing with the audience will ever recover. I think the resentment will follow him forever and that would be sad. I genuinely believe Reigns could get over as a mid-card heel, at least on the evidence of his recent feud with Rusev. That worked, albeit in a funny way where the bookers thought Reigns was the face even though he ruined Rusev and Lana's wedding. Still, he acted like a bad guy and the feud fed off the existing heat he had with the audience.

Now, I don't think any final match will really equal the mythic status that 'Taker's last match should have but throwing it away trying to get a man over out of sheer belligerence is just squandering a unique opportunity. 

Wednesday 15 March 2017

A time consuming idea occurs

As much as I insisted I didn't care about finishing the Dryads for my Hobby Goal this week, it was starting to look tantalisingly plausible. I had the main body of them painted and drybrushed, I had the leaf loincloths done and the bits of skeleton in their branches done but for the drybrush. All that really left to paint are the little leaves on their branches.

I started off thinking of just doing them in Deathworld Forest like the loinclothes. Then I thought maybe Khorne Red for an autumnal feel, just to get some variety into the unit.

Then I think maybe mix it up a bit: some green leaves, some red ones, some yellow ones.

Then a friend got involved, a nature loving friend who reminded me there are a lot of different coloured leaves. I could put some purple ones in there.

This all means I'm going to go through my painting tutorial books for anything that could believably be a leaf colour. I want as many different colours in this unit as possible, mainly because the basic shape of the Dryad doesn't lend itself to variety.

So I'm probably not getting this unit finished this week but it will look bloody sweet once its finished.  

Tuesday 14 March 2017

Conan the Geneticist

"Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?"

I'm currently reading The Scarlet Citadel, a Conan “novelette” (so Wikipedia calls it) by Robert E. Howard. Its part of a Complete Collection edition I got cheap on Kindle because I realised that, as much as I loved the original Arnie movie, I'd never actually read any of this absolutely foundational fantasy series.

The fact that Conan not only knows the word “genealogy” but can use it correctly was a moment almost as brain-breaking as all those times Holmes and Watson would ejaculate towards each other after one knocked the other up.

No, I'm not kidding, those two phrases turn up again and again in the Doyle stories.

So, anyway, Conan knows about genealogy which surprised me but probably shouldn't. The thing is, the Conan I'm used to is the young adventurer of the Arnie film and the relatively decent '90s cartoon but the Conan presented here (and so far exclusively in the collection) is the older Conan, Conan The King.

The thing is, even from my limited knowledge of the character, I know that Conan is a smart guy and by this point in his timeline he's been king for a while and so, naturally, he would learn about kingly things like bloodlines and genealogy. In fact, he uses the word in a middle of a rant about how earned his throne in blood whilst the kings holding him captive simply inherited the thrones their fathers bled for.

I'm very much looking forward to see how else Howard is going to surprise me. 

Monday 13 March 2017

The industry conservatives should love but never will

A while back an article did the rounds bemoaning the fact that millennials were destroying the paper napkin industry. More recently a similar article lamented that the same looming fate hitting fabric softener companies. Another said millennials weren't buying enough breakfast cereal. On a larger scale, real estate is in crisis because the younger generation simply can't rely on the sort of longterm employment and stable wages needed to afford a mortgage.

To a certain sort of cold, calculating neoliberal conservative this is simply market forces at work: if your business can't create demand then it deserves to die. Never mind the unemployment and shattered lives, to people like this the perfect business is one that never needs a subsidy and adapts perfectly to fill the needs of a changing economy.

Few businesses actually manage this and, in practice, conservative governments sign off on bailouts all the time to banks, to manufacturing concerns and even sports tournaments; they subsidise whatever arts they see as worthy; and, they pass laws intended to protect businesses they can rely on for financial endorsement.

There is one industry, though, that perfectly conforms to the neoliberal capitalist ideal. An industry that has never needed a bailout, never claimed a subsidy, that has survived every technological shift that should have sunk it and weathered every attempt to legislate it out of existence:


No, I'm not kidding. Neoliberal conservatives should love porn, and not just because if they watched more of it they probably wouldn't get caught with rentboys quite so often. The porn industry quite literally does everything they think a business should do.

Porn has never cost the taxpayer a penny, it is entirely self-financing. In fact, it contributes huge amounts of tax revenue in California, ironically a place where conservatives constantly try to destroy it through legislation. It has weathered every recession the world could throw at it. When the print and video distribution models began to collapse it was one of the first (perhaps even the first) entertainment industries to seriously monetize the internet, saving itself from annihilation with no outside help and pioneering models of revenue now used by the likes of Netflix, Amazon and WWE Network.

Hell, they even do the “charity is good business” thing with Pornhub recently announcing that they were starting a sex education website. An actual, honest to God sex education website that will be written by actual doctors and psychologists teaching safe sex and consent.

Now its not a perfect industry by any means, of course, but the simple fact is financial conservatives should love it. They don't, of course, because it involves sex which is a filthy endeavour fit only for animals and so they'll never acknowledge the one place their business values are actually practised and instead continue to subsidise the corrupt and unethical behaviour of banks or handing out headline friendly loans to business that will never actually stop outsourcing labour to cheaper countries. 

Sunday 12 March 2017

Mark IX Power Armour? Well, Maybe...

Just to be clear because this seems to be a very, very contentious subject at the moment: I have no dog in this race. I have plastic Maximus and Iron armour kits, I am happy forever. Still, here's the image that's been doing the rounds purportedly featuring a new Mark IX power armour kit:
"Can you tell me the way to Amarillo?"
The thing is I'm pretty sure this is a conversion and the supposed larger scale of the model is entirely down to the other figure being a very old Last Chancer and therefore a bit smaller the modern Guardsman. The real killer is the new bolt rifle which seems to be bent like two components were glued without being properly filed one side of the join.

The thing is, though, its a pretty good redesign. It bulks out the arms and legs with additional armour plating, the backpack rides higher on the back giving it extra height, that gorget bulks it out forwards as well: its a real lesson in how to enlarge the armour in all directions for the illusion of size more than the reality. The new bolt rifle, whilst a bit squinty, looks like a more heavy duty weapon even than the standard bolter: more high-powered because of its size and more suitable for longterm deployment because of the huge drum magazine.

GW could do a lot worse than this: it adds a lot of visual interest and size with its new elements whilst maintaining the absolutely essential and iconic outline of the Space Marine.

Its not Maximus armour, though, which will always be the best pattern.