Wednesday 31 May 2017

The Lion as written by Chris Wraight

(SPOILERS for The Horus Heresy: Primarchs: Leman Russ: The Great Wolf by Chris Wraight)
I picked up Chris Wraight's Primarch's novella The Great Wolf on a whim. I don't follow the Horus Heresy series as closely as I used to, just checking in when a particularly attractive pairing of author and legion comes up. Usually, Chris Wraight writing Space Wolves would be a easy sell: I like Chris Wraight, I like how he writes Space Wolves. The only sticking point was the subject of the novella.

Its the duel with Lion El'Jonson.

Now, I get it. Its a hugely iconic moment in 40k history, its a big personal moment for both primarchs and there really isn't a place to slot it into the regular Heresy novels quite aside from the fact it isn't something that could really fill out a full-length novel. The Leman Russ novella was a natural home for it, especially as I'd bet the Lion novella will be about his relationship with Luther.

Still... Chris Wraight, Space Wolves, give it a try, I though. It started off great with the Thirteenth Company of all people being one of the main focuses of the story. Hell, Wraight even remembered the existence of Bulveye, now that's what I call fan service! Indeed, it took a while for the Dark Angels to turn up and I basically convinced myself that, okay, this was going well and was interesting and I could take the hit if the Lion bit wasn't as fun.

Well, I was wrong. The Lion bit is great because unlike most other authors, Chris Wraight has something more to say about the Lion than to wiggle his fingers and go “ooooh, untrustworthy and mysterious”. One of the first scene Russ and the Lion share has them basically comparing their ways of war. Russ, as long established, takes his wars very personally. He's the Emperor's appointed executioner, after all:

Ever world we burn is for vengeance. They are condemned, he is condemned, and we are the sanction.”

The Lion, meanwhile, has a far more impersonal take on the whole affair:

For me, the order was simple – go out, harvest worlds for Terra. I carry no hatred for those who resist. I barely see them. They are numbers, objects, obstacles to overcome. In the end the Great Crusade is all, and it stands or falls by our actions.”

As prosaic as it sounds, this is probably the deepest insight we've ever been granted into Jonson's mind. Most of the Legions gain their character from the personality of their primarch but Jonson has always been a mystery so Wraight works backwards: he takes the mindset of the Unforgiven and applies it to the Lion. He takes the cold singlemindedness with which the Dark Angels and their successor hunt the Fallen and asks what that would mean for a Jonson who has nothing to hide yet. Actually, the fact that Jonson has nothing to hide at this point, is a central theme of the novella and his conflict with Russ (hint: it has something to do with the Thirteenth Company).
Its certainly a more interesting approach than just having the Dark Angels always being untrustworthy dicks since day one which has tended to be how other authors treat them. And I'm not ust beating down on the “lower tier” Heresy writers here: Dan Abnett is just as bad for it in Unremembered Empire with Jonson forgetting to mention to anyone that he has bloody Night Haunter on his battlebarge because that's not the sort of thing that's going to come back and bite him on his knightly arse.

So, yes, for the first time ever I find myself interested in the Lion and it makes me want to dust off my Angels of Redemption. I've always liked the colours and the mechanics but now I have an insight into their psychology: the mission is everything without consideration of personal glory. Now, this gets a lot less heroic in the “present day” where that purity of purpose gets twisted into an endless quest of vengeance against the Fallen that has them regularly abandoning, selling out or massacring allies left and right but that psychology still holds true to a large extent.

Wraight's angle on the Lion also has the virtue of, just for once, not painting the Dark Angels as being entirely in the wrong. As much fun as I have tweaking our resident Dark Angels player's nose with the phrase “heretics in skirts”, a problem that comes up an awful lot is this:

How does anyone trust these guys?”

So having a novella that shows them on a good day when there's no reason to (intentionally) betray anyone is a breath of fresh air. It genuinely is the first time I've seen them portrayed with the efficiency for war that gives them value as a fighting force and not just a bunch of shifty guys who swoop in, mysteriously abduct a mysterious person for mysterious reason and then massacre a hundred thousand Guardsmen for having seen too much. Or, to put it another way, as an army that works outside of their one USP storyline. 

Tuesday 30 May 2017

The Undefeated Woman

Since this seems to be the week for women type news that will send male fanboys of things round the bend, let's talk about Asuka's undefeated streak, which is now the longest in WWE history.

Now, as people are so fond of pointing out, “wrestling is fake”. Now, this isn't true in the way people think its true (in that they think it means no skill or risk is involved which is very insulting to people I would never dream of insulting) but it does have to be admitted that results are booked in advance. What this means is that the largest wrestling company in the world made the conscious decision to let a woman beat Bill Goldberg's undefeated streak, the previous record.

That's big.
When the WWE chooses to equal or beat a record, especially one they talk about a lot, it means something. When John Cena won his sixteenth world title a few months back, equaling industry legend Ric Flair's record, it was a clear statement that the WWE views Cena as equal to that legend.

Not to be that guy but I do think they have a point. Please don't hurt my family.

Anyway, a woman now holds the record for longest undefeated streak in the history of the company. A thoroughly deserving woman, in my view. She's a fantastic in-ring talent and marvellously charismatic on the mic. Perversely enough, I do want this undefeated streak to end because then she can drop that title and finally move up to main roster where she belongs but I won't deny for a moment she deserves it. I just also think she deserves a big time match at Wrestlemania some time before she retires, is all. 

Monday 29 May 2017

A women only Wonder Woman screening and the men who just want to be there

As you can imagine, the usual brigade of dickhead men are angry about the idea that one cinema in the US is having a couple of Wonder Woman screenings for women only. So far I have seen some of them claim that this is as bad as racial segregation and one particular idiot go to far, far too much trouble to get himself a ticket to a screening where everyone else in the room will resent his presence which I'm willing to bet will not be a novel experience for the man.

Now, once again I just have to say: this is why I hate the whole Men's Rights Activist brigade because this is the shit they loudly waste their time on.

Its not even a preview. Its two screenings a couple of days after the film comes out, for goodness sake. Its literally just a couple of screenings they're being asked politely not to attend. In a rational, adult world, this is a minor inconvenience. Its a major feature film, there will be a dozen or more other screenings every day of opening week in any cinema you can find.

You know what? There are serious social issues affecting men that I would like to see addressed in my lifetime. Things like our sky high suicide rate; the massive under-diagnosis of violent personality disorders; the fact that emotional distance is considered a normal component of fatherhood; the chronic under-funding of prostate cancer research even though its the second most common cancer in men; the massive stigma surrounding physical contact between men; the way that media portrays “a useless idiot, but at least he's not abusive” as some sort of ideal relationship goal; the fact that domestic and sexual violence against men gets swept under the rug because of a belief we, as the “stronger” sex, should not be affected by it.

And I think anyone who calls themselves an activist on behalf of men's issues should probably be more concerned about issues that literally kill us or fill our lives with loneliness and misery that then likely kills us anyway than having a by now days long tantrum about there being two screenings in one cinema that most of them live nowhere near that they can't attend.

And they wonder why there are women who would like to see a movie without them. 

Sunday 28 May 2017

Detachment Issues (8th edition force org charts)

Just to be clear: as I queue this post these images are still “leaks” and thus rumours. They look legit but we've all been bitten before. That said, let's talk crunch!

Now, I hate the standard force organisation chart with a fiery passion. It doesn't work for me. I know what its meant to do. Its to provide balance by restricting every player to the same basic menu of unit types which isn't a bad design philosophy but it can be a little limiting that, say, no matter the context or importance of a mission your army isn't going to commit more than three units of elite troops to it under any circumstances.

This isn't to say the standard force org is going away but it is getting more versatile. For one thing, the “standard” version lives in a tiered system...
So, different sizes of chart for different sizes of game, I can get down with that. I also like that you get more Elites with six slots in the normal-sized game Battalion Detachment, a move that reminds me of Fantasy going to maximum 50% Special choices. I imagine that some of the more powerful Troops choices will find themselves bumped up to Elite status to compensate but I can appreciate the opportunities for army theming this represents. We also get an extra HQ slot (two of the three being compulsory), which is no bad thing since most armies now have so many HQ options that just two and only two was starting to feel very restricting.

Flyers are now part of the standard force organisation as their own discrete entity, which is nice.

The flipside of this trend seems to be raising the compulsory Troops choices from two to three which might seem unfair except for the fact that there are now force orgs that don't require troops at all.
So, basically, one themed chart for each of the other choices: Vanguard for compulsory Elites, Spearhead for compulsory Heavy Support and Outrider for compulsory Fast Attack. Each has Troops at 0-3 and the other choices at 0-2. These measures and dropping the HQ slots down to two again gives these charts a significant downside to the Battalion. These are charts for a more strict theming than the three-tiered standard and I like that. My mind is already brimming with ideas for a Flesh Tearers Outrider Detachment (all the Assault Marines...).
And then there's a page of various housekeeping exercises: flyer, fortification and super-heavy detachments that presumably slot along the side of a main army plus an HQ themed chart which seems designed for campaign theming and the like when you want the big boss man / woman / alien / robot / daemon present for a special game with his own cadre of hangers on and a big thing.

All in all, yet more reason to look forward to a very versatile edition of the rules, me thinks. 

Saturday 27 May 2017

Jinder annoys me less than Brock

Its been almost a week since Backlash. The main event had a divisive result and, initially, I hated it. I still think it was too soon and very cynically motivated but, ultimately, Jinder Mahal as WWE Champion annoys me less than Brock Lesnar as Universal Champion. Praising with faint damnation, I know, but that's where we are.

Brock, as good as he is, is a part timer right now. The main event for Extreme Rules is a number one contenders match because he's a part timer.

The thing is, on the off-chance that Jinder isn't a good heel champion, the WWE Championship can survive a bad title reign. This title has graced the waist of the likes of John Cena, Ric Flair and Stone Cold Steve Austin. It has legacy, it has staying power, it has Randy Orton to jump in when you need a decent transitional champion.

Then there's the jam belt...
The Universal Championship has graced a grand total of four waists in its less than a year of life: Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Bill Goldberg and, now, Brock Lesnar. Balor and Owens were fresh talent just up from NXT, the future faces of the industry being propelled into the big time with a top card title. It was sad that Balor had to vacate right after winning it but Owens was more than worthy replacement even if he spent too much of his reign as a chickenshit hiding behind Chris Jericho.

Then Goldberg defeated Owens in a match that lasted a matter of seconds bell to bell and for no better reason than to up the stakes of Goldberg/Lesnar III when it could have ridden on macho the honour grudge alone. Goldberg was a old guy coming in for one last series of three matches, only the last of which ran more than two minutes and he dropped it to another part-timer who now won't even be defending the title on the next pay-per-view down the line. I know the full card hasn't been announced yet but giving the Backlash plug to the number one contenders match is highly suggestive.

Hell, even as sick of Brock's ridiculous invincibility as I am, the idea of throwing that into an Extreme Rules match actually interests me. I'd love to see Brock, hopefully on a day he can bothered, is a street fight or a TLC match. It would bring him out of his comfort zone of pure athletics and give us something we don't usually get with him. We saw a hint of that when he had his match against Ambrose but then he beat Ambrose pretty quickly.

And whilst we're spitballing pie in the sky ideas, I'd love to see Lesnar do a Hell In A Cell against someone other than the Undertaker just to see how that would go.

But Brock as a barely there champion on a belt that started off being about the new, up and coming talent we hadn't seen in the main event scene before? I just can't get excited about that. At least Jinder has the intrigue of the new and unexpected about him.

Unexpected for a bloody good reason but unexpected nonetheless. 

Friday 26 May 2017

Donald Trump is a fucking idiot

Donald Trump and Theresa May (the Prime Minister, not the pornstar) at NATO,
behold the dignity of The Donald!
It was bad enough when his administration decided that, yes, they would give all the classified intelligence we'd handed over on the Manchester bomber to the press thus compromising the active investigation and jeopardising all future intelligence co-operation between the UK and US because, frankly, you're meant to be able to trust your allies.

I never expected to empathise with Benjamin Netanyahu but here we bloody are.

Then there was the speech. A normal person, or at least a normal politician, would just lead the moment of silence and launch into the platitudes. To the credit of Trump's handlers, he started well. I wasn't even that shocked when he decided that calling ISIS “losers” was suitable to the dignity of the moment.

No, what had my blood boiling was when Trump finally proved, once and for all, that no tragedy is so great or so distant that it can't be all about him. From the loser comment he segued into a rambling monologue about some of his favourite subjects: how NATO owed him money; unsubtle digs about how his Muslim immigration ban was a good idea and similar measures would have prevented the bombing (the bomber was born and raised in Manchester, so no); and reminiscing about how amazing his speech in Saudi Arabia was.

All this quite aside from trying to rip Emmanuel Macron's arm off when it looked like the French President was trying to avoid a handshake and literally grabbing another NATO leader to shove the man aside because The Donald has to be at the front of the shot, damn it!

He is a child. He is a stupid child who can't even conjure up the simple human decency to lead a moment of silence without finding a way to make it all about him.

Worthless orange shitgibbon. 

Thursday 25 May 2017

Dark Imperium thoughts

Okay let's start with the Primaris Marines because what I really want to discuss are the Death Guard. The Intercessors are basically what Marines should always have been and everything I said waaaaaaaaay back when we were debating what we now know to be a picture of the Primaris Lieutenant with auto bolt rifle was making the rounds still stands: the design adds height and width in all the right places; it adds visual interest to previously very dull flat planes like the legs and arms; and, most vitally, it keeps a lot of the iconic silhouette so it is still clearly a Space Marine. I'm not too sold on the new background that introduces them, I'm of the crowd that would be just as happy if GW had just said “This is a Space Marine now, your old ones are still cool but some day they'll all look like this.”, but its a nice design.
As to the rest of them: the Lieutenants are nice sculpts if a little bland; the Inceptors are a great idea even if their space suit power armour seems a little overdone; the Captain is great and I love the miniature Gauntlet of Ultramar he's armed with; and, I love the idea of a unit armed entirely with plasma weapons though I strongly suspect them of being a glass cannon if Gets Hot remains anything like it is now.

Right, good and righteousness all done, let's talk buboes...
Let's start with Big Daddy Disgusting here. This guy looks huge and his axe is one of the most over the top things I have ever seen this design team put out: its a giant corroded axe with three buzzsaw blades mounted inside it. It slices, it dices, it juliennes! Quite apart from that, there's such a sense of weight to the pose here: the way he holds the axe, the slight lean forward, the Nurgling being squished beneath one boot, it all adds to the impression that this is one slow, heavy guy. Also, he has one of those big nose blade things I so loved with the Blightkings.
And speaking of design cues nicked from the Blightkings, there's this chap and his bell. Apparently the equivalent of the Primaris Ancient standardbearer, this is one guy who really likes his “for whom the bell tolls” imagery. I also like the butcher's apron motif, that's cool.
Finally on the character front is the Malignant Plaguecaster. I'm not as sold on him as the other two Death Guard characters but that could just be a classic case of GW employing the worst angle to showcase a model from. He has a lot going for him but there's something about the head that puts me off. Still, given the way they've painted his staff it looks like they're going back to the very old idea of the Death Guard using a lot of wood in their wargear. No, seriously, the really, really old plastic Plague Marines had wood casings on their bolters. Speaking of...
Oh, look at them! Mutations everywhere, horns and tentacles and pitting on the armour. One of the big improvements this set has over Dark Vengeance is that there are no duplicate models in this unit. The Dark Vengeance Chaos Chosen had two identical Marines with bolters and in a unit that small it really showed. There is such unique character in each and every one of these fellows. My personal favourite is the plasma gunner with his cloak made out of corroded chain. I also like that they're all wearing mutated Mark III Iron armour because it suits them and not just because I really like Iron armour.
Then we get the peons of the army. Now, you know me, I love my Lost And The Damned and any effort to represent something mortal and squishy in 40k Chaos is fine by me. That said, if I had to guess I'd say these were more like mortals possessed by Plaguebearers than simply Nurglesque cultists. They look like they're going to be very fun to paint but also relltively simple, a must with hordes in my view. I mean, once you've got a flesh method that seems like half the model done and then its all detail in a limited palette of metallics and drab cloth.
And finally, the Foetid Bloat-Drone. I've always liked the look of Forge World's own Blight Drone but too many horror stories about building the thing and fixing the thing when it breaks have reached my ears to want one of my own. Now, there's one (or near enough) in lovely, lovely durable plastic.I actually think some improvements have been made over the Forge World version like giving it what look horrifically like a gas mask and working in more explicitly Nurglesque iconography.

Anyway, just a few random thoughts. I'm currently mulling over whether I want the Primaris half. The local store is doing one of those “swap shop” groups so I have a few days to decide whether there's something I want to do with the Primaris Marines or whether I want a double dose of XIV Legion. 

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Again (Manchester)

I have nothing profound to add. Innocent people are dead. People rallied round as they always do, offering help and support. Blood was donated in vast amounts. Manchester taxi drivers, many of them Muslim lest we get, working for free to reunite families. Hotels and Sikh temples opened their doors to give people shelter and a solid address for their relatives to collect them from.

The usual monsters crawled out of the woodwork to claim responsibility and the other monsters who exist only to feed them have already started showing that they're more than willing to prove the terrorists right. Katie Hopkins, who for American readers is basically Tomi Lahren with less innate class, has already taken to Twitter to declare that what we need in this country is “a final solution” because invoking religiously motivated genocide is fun, kids! I mean, let's forget that if this was ISIS (who are, of course, an utterly unimpeachable source that we have every reason to take at their word) there's an obvious reason they picked Manchester. That city is one of the most multicultural cities in the country, the target was a concert mainly attended by women and young girls. I wonder why ISIS would want to disrupt that?

By this evening I confidently expect the government will have decided to bomb a country the perpetrators of this atrocity will later turn out never to have set foot in, the press will have forgotten the many inconveniently brown people who acted with compassion and charity during this horrific business and the terrorists will have won,again. More fear, more anxiety, more white politicians telling us to fear the unlike right before a general election, the self-serving bastards. More public support for bombing Middle Eastern countries further and further back into the stone age.

Exactly what they want.


Tuesday 23 May 2017

Chinese knock-off Legos are a trip

In my ongoing search for cheap Battlefleet Gothic miniatures, I was directed to Ali Express. Its a website hosting mainly Chinese small businesses. Sadly, I keep missing the boat on BGF minis, which go up and come down on a seemingly random basis, but in the process I have discovered a source of comedy gold I never even knew existed:

Knock-off Legos. I mean, have you ever made a Lego diorama and thought that what it really, really needed...
was a WWII-era German anti-aircraft emplacement! This isn't even the only Second World War figures the store stocks, they do entire Lego infantry platoons for all sides of the conflict. Oh, and speaking of fascists rendered with plastic yellow skin, though somewhat more realistically in this case:
Donald Trump mini-figure with choice of hair or MAGA hat. Its the superhero branding that really makes the comedy. They even painted one of those meme expressions on his face. I have to admit, I kind of want one but not as much as I want this...
Someone made a Ben Reilly figure complete with hoodie! This one I might actually buy on the excuse of testing the oayment system and delivery time for this service. Also, just the fact that after all these years someone has actually made Scarlet Spider merch is more pleasing to me than it reasonably should be. In fact, the levels of nerd that some of these stores reach is actually half the fun. This character set was good for a lot of laughs when I showed it to some friends...
Yes, “Lt. Zulu” is a funny transliteration error but just take a look at Edward Rayburn in the bottom right. My friends and I had some real fun riffing on “The Adventures of Edward Rayburn” until I took a moment to Google him and discovered that, yes, there was actually an Edward Rayburn in Star Trek. He's only in one episode of Star Trek (TOS: What Are Little Girls Made Of?) but he is 100% a canon character, just some random one-episode security officer, and now he has a toy. That's sweet. No idea how it came to pass but it is sweet.

On a more random note...
there in the bottom right hand corner, the Edward Rayburn Position as it will now be called, South African Military Dictator Batman. This store actually has a wealth of strange Batman variants such as...
Pride Batman...
… “Glam Metal Batman”, which is perhaps the best deployment of the Joel Schumacher costume design ever conceived...
Fairy Princess Batman with tutu and painted on booties...
and, my personal favourite, Batman in a zebra costume with, for no logical reason, a luminous head component. This all pales in comparison, though, to the “Avengers Horror Movie Pack”:
This, as you can see, contains a whole two members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe plus the Joker, Ash, Freddie Kreuger, Chucky, Jack Skellington and some random Sith. If nothing else, this leads me to believe that in China there's a very different popular reading of Nightmare Before Christmas and Big Hero Six.

Now, if I can just catch this website in the ten minutes a week they have Space Marine Strike Cruisers up, I will be a happy man. And if I don't I'll just be a man with a Scarlet Spider mini-figure in the post, which amounts to the same thing. 

Monday 22 May 2017

The redemption of the transport vehicle

"Remember where we parked, Brother Domitian."
The other day, Warhammer Community put up the latest in their series of 8th edition rule reveals and it was the one I'd been most looking forward to: transport vehicles. Long story short, it looks like they might actually do what they're meant to this time round.

I've never really got along with the concept of transport vehicles, to be honest. There were some designs and concepts that grabbed me, to be sure. For instance, I genuinely believe the Imperial Guard Chimera is the best and most versatile light tank in the game. The problem is that transports in general just weren't that useful.

The simple shift in rules GW now proposes is this: embarked units get out at the beginning of the Movement Phase and have complete freedom to move, shoot and charge as normal. A transport vehicle is now, plain and simply, for rushing forward, absorbing enemy fire in their next turn, and then disgorging a large number of angry people right in the face of the enemy. Oh, and then the transport can move off to offer a second target to the enemy.

Hell, now they have combat statistics even a Rhino might offering interesting tactical possibilities. Who knows, maybe Guilliman's plan to make even more superhuman Space Marines will involve inventing a basic transport that's more than a motorised storm bolter. One can hope.

Also, everyone embarked on an open-topped transport can now shoot. That's going to do wonderful things for Dark Eldar and Ork armies. 

Sunday 21 May 2017

Dark Souls and me part 2: Liar Ahead

I'm slowly making my way through that castle in the Forest Of Fallen Giants and in the course of my explorations I met Pate. That is to say, I almost killed Pate because I mistook him for one of those Hollow Soldiers who lie around and lurch up the moment you turn your back to them.

Luckily, he had rather a lot of health so by the time I was four vicious shortsword slashes in he calmly tells me “Now stop that.”. After that, I honestly can't blame him for sending me into a trap which, in fairness, he did warn me about and gave me a soapstone when I got out.

I also have to say that I adore the flavour text that accompanies items you pick up. My current shield is a Crimson Parma, which is described thusly:

A standard wooden shield. The fancy name and nifty paint are surely a merchant's efforts to make this very ordinary shield more attractive.”

I have a rubbish shield and instead of trying to sell it as “starting gear” or something, the game is pleasingly upfront about the fact that I have picked up a rubbish shield. What's more, its a rubbish shield that some merchant once had to try to sell hence the rather charming red and white paint job. Its the sort of world building that makes the place feel lived in, somewhat ironically. 

Saturday 20 May 2017

Backlash predictions

Right, predictions time. Keep forgetting to do these so let's start these again with, to my mind, one of the most predictable cards this year:

Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin

I would personally prefer Sami Zayn to win this one because I always like it when Sami wins, its a great start to any show and the crowd really gets behind him. That said, he is also really, really good at swallowing a loss and I can't deny that Corbin rather in need of more for credibility reasons.

Corbin to win.

Luke Harper vs. Eric Rowan

Luke Harper is practically invulnerable and I am fine with that. I like Eric Rowan but Harper is being built and built and built right now, so...

Luke Harper to win.

6 Woman (and 1 Man) Tag Match
Becky Lynch, Naomi and Charlotte vs.
Carmella, Natalya, Tamins and James Elsworth

Do we seriously believe that the side that has James Elsworth on it is going to win? He will definitely interfere, he will definitely give his team an edge for about and they will definitely lose. The only way I see them winning is if Charlotte turns heel again in the middle.

Becky, Naomi and Charlotte to win.

US Title
Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles

Hmm... this is a hard one. Its a bloody dream match, don't get me wrong, and I think it could definitely go either way. Frankly, this is a match I'm looking forward to the a lot more than the main event (sorry, Jinder). I think Owens needs to retain, though, since he only won it quite recently. I think it'll be a screwy win so Styles can stay strong

Owens to retain.

SmackDown Tag Team Championship
Fashion Police vs. the Usos

Don't much care. I would like the Fashion Police to win since I like them marginally more than the Usos. Nothing against the fellows but they've just never clicked with me. That said, I don't think the Fashion Police have been terribly well used since they formed and I don't see them getting a title push until they've fought their way out of that rut.

The Usos to retain.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler

Now, I like Dolph. I respect Dolph. I think he should have had a slightly more extravagantly successful career than he's had. I think that the turn around the last couple of years with him feuding with the Miz and winning has been great and he deserved that win. However, I cannot imagine any sort of logic, even the sort that goes on in the Freudian nightmare that is a WWE booker's head, where Shinsuke Nakamura loses his first main roster PPV match to Dolph Ziggler, a man who has made something of a speciality of lying down for the deserving.

Nakamura to win.

World Championship
Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal

As much as Randy Orton is the designated transitional champion these days and Jinder Mahal is clearly someone WWE wants to push to the moon to snag the emerging Indian audience... I just don't see it. Sorry, Jinder. If this goes to a series and they can make a real showcase of it then I think it might happen but not on their first PPV match-up. It could happen but I don't think Jinder is quite finished cooking yet.

Orton to retain.

Battlefleet Gothic knock-offs: a review

My two knock-off Battlefleet Gothic ships finally arrived from Russia and they are a lot better than I anticipated. I was actually fine with what looked, on the eBay picture, to be a rather grainy finish to the resin. After all, I was paying about three pounds a ship and pretty much not much more on postage for dodgy recasts from some Russian guy. Meanwhile, an original metal one of these things from down the road was at minimum ten pounds.

The idea that I'd have to compromise on quality was fine by me but then they turned up and it turned out I hadn't compromised. These recasts are amazing. Just look at the detail fidelity on these things...

When I bought them I said you had to squint just a little to see them as a Nova and a Gladius but with them in my hands there's no need to squint at all, they just are straight up recasts of the original. Also, I got a free plastic soap dish sent as packaging. Result!

Okay, before anyone brings it up, yes this is technically miniature piracy. HOWEVER, its not like Games Workshop makes these models anymore. Choosing the Russian knock-off over second hand originals doesn't take money out of the hands of the people who made them. They want to bring this game back some day with a full product range I will support the shit out of it but I see no reason to pay above the odds for metal models that will chip and break over practically perfect lightweight resin models that won't. If they were recasting models currently in production then I wouldn't touch those, I think that's a step too far.

The only issues I have with the sculpts are that, as you can see from the soap dish images, there are injection points at some pretty delicate places. In fact, I did some small damage to the bottom of the Gladius removing one.

The other small issue was that arose, as you can see, is that the contact point for the flying base on the Gladius is fractionally too wide. The one on the Nova is the perfect size but it should be mentioned that some packing of the contact point might be necessary before affixing the base in some cases. Its a small flaw and one I'm more than willing to live with when a frigate is just over £7 including postage and packing.

Construction is pretty pain free, even the tiny side gun or whatever it is Nova has a pretty good tab design that helps you slot it into the exact right spot to match the one molded onto the other side of the ship. The rear fins on the Gladius also have a small detail on their side that allows you to line them up perfectly with a connecting detail on the main body of the ship that allows you to line them up right.

Purchasing details
The name of the seller is erinaceus_primus and his store can be found on eBay. His product listings are, not unnaturally, in Russian but incorporate the English class name of the ship so you can tell what you're buying without comparing the picture to a rulebook. He carries, as far as I can tell, recasts of all the frigates and escorts for the Space Marines fleet including the escorts that can also be used in the Imperial Navy fleet. They do not supply flying stalks but they can be easily ordered from Games Workshop.

All models are resin, please cut and assemble in ventilated conditions.

He accepts payment by PayPal. He has a 14 day returns policy with the buyer paying return postage. 

Friday 19 May 2017

Comic Reviews

This week DC buttons down the hatches; the ghost of Donald Trump comes up against Judge Dredd; the teen team of my childhood returns; Luke Skywalker and Doctor Aphra get their party clothes on; and, Brian Michael Bendis slips a surprise into my pull list.

The Flash #22
Boy, am I starting to hate events. I knew before I opened this that it wasn't the end, that Doomsday Clock was coming and this was just another tease on the way to the big thing. Still, up until this issue The Button was actually quite a nice, self-contained little story that looked like it was going somewhere. I admit, I did hope that where it was going was restoring Jay Garrick, if not the whole JSA, to the main continuity. As it is, that didn't happen and the story I'd quite been enjoying for the last few weeks just sort of fizzled out. I had a lot of fun while it was running and I do think that it was worth my time, especially the Batman side, though I do question killing Thawne again in a issue running an add for his return in three issues time.

2000AD prog2031
After months and months of being behind, I'm finally caught up on the best British comics ever, so here we go...

I can't tell you how much I love the Sons of Booth storyline running in Judge Dredd right now. 2000AD has never had any chill to speak of and seeing them take on the Trump phenomena in their own bitter, cynical is just beautiful. Plus, you just know, this being Judge Dredd and all, that a fair number of them are going to get shot in the had by the end of the story. Its interesting to see the typical “directionless white male” story that always seems to feed in to these things presented as a bad thing. Oh, young Kelvin is sympathetic enough in his basic situation (when you basic situation is Mega-City One, its hard not to be) but as we see him falling hook, line and sinker for the Sons Of Booth propaganda vids its clear that he is also very, very stupid. Then there's the moment when he dares to have an idea and the Sons' boss encourages him but one of the minions declares they don't need no experts telling them what to do, its perfect.

Aside from that, Scarlet Traces: Cold War book two has a bit of a filler episode with lots of people running around in the middle of an air raid and Defoe continues to broaden its list of suspected necromancers. Cursed: The Fall Of Deadworld is probably my favourite feature aside from Dredd this issue, mainly because of the beautifully twisted art design by Dave Kendall who has so many ideas for zombie Judges. Plus, there's probably the best installment of Brink yet as Kurtis and Gibrani wander through darkened corridors in the depths of the unfinished space station jumping at every noise and shadow.

Green Lanterns #23
Last issue, I said I was looking forward to seeing Guy Gardner training Jessica. Funnily enough, that's not the part of the issue I ended up liking. See, Guy's approach to training Jessica is just to keep shouting at her, the archetypal drill US Army sergeant, and unless there turns out to be more to it than that then I think Sam Humphries just doesn't get Guy.

On the plus side, Kyle training Simon in creative thinking is great. It hones in on something that's less a flaw in Simon and more of a limit: he's a very straight forward thinker and in this Humphries absolutely has it right. There's also a subplot with Volthoom reading about the New Gods which... eh, I can't say I've cared much for the New Gods since the New 52. Like the multiverse, they're an idea DC keeps fiddling with, doing nothing with the new version and then rebooting all over again. I mean, the initial New 52 version of them gave us the Orion subplot in Wonder Woman and then they got another reboot in Multiversity which, far as I can tell, no one has done anything with at all so I'm not sure I much care at this point. It would be nice if DC had a great idea for them for Jack Kirby's centenniary but I sort of doubt it.

Generation X #1
This issue might be the most wrenching transition between cover art and interior art I have ever experienced. Its not that the interior art is bad, after a couple of pages I was really into it, but it is so very, very much unlike the cover its almost painful.

As to story, its our first real glimpse at the “normal” working of the new Xavier's and the traditional new student, Nathaniel Carver, takes a long wander through the halls for cameos galore (Broo! Pixie! Shark Girl!) and the traditional bad first impression of the place as the rest of the book's teenage cast have a brawl that knocks down a wall and covers a room in goose droppings. Nature Girl was a bit of a missed opportunity in the Wolverine The X-Men days and I'm glad she's part of a main cast now.

Then, for the old bastards like me, there's the return of Jubilee and Chamber, original GenXers turned young teachers. I'm glad to see that Jubilee retains both her vampirism and her single motherhood even if neither are played quite as comedic as they were in the Patsy Walker title. This is definitely a funny title, I mean Quentin Quire's in it, it can't help but be. That said, the cliffhanger harkens back to one of the biggest traumas of Jubilee's life so this looks like its going to be a real tone rollercoaster.

Star Wars #31
Jason Aaron has certainly improved his Aphra since Vader Down (or was it Rebel Jail, the last time he wrote her?). I was actually a little worried that the Aaron-written parts of this crossover would be the weak ones but he does a really good job here of matching Gillen's tone, including a downright classic Triple Zero put upon quip. In spite of the title on the cover, this remains more Aphra's story than Luke's and I can't say I exactly mind. More Aphra is always welcome and more Triple Zero even more so.

Powers #8
Creator-owned series and their haituses... I'd completely forgotten I was subscribed to this. Not an unpleasant surprise but it did cost me money.

Okay, for a start I flat out do not remember anything that was going on in this series before the hiatus. I'm pretty sure this is the beginning of a new story and that it is a flashback. I only started following Powers with the beginning of this particular series so the fact that Walker is in a costume is my only clue that this is the past. On the one hand, that's interesting, seeing the world of our of control super people that I'd only previously seen the aftermath of is good. On the other, well, its a transition I wasn't prepared for and spent most of the issue until someone called Walker by name absolutely befuddled by.

Still, its an entertaining read and hopefully its going somewhere interesting that affects the present, otherwise I might drop this and follow it as trades which is probably the better way to read a mystery series. 

Thursday 18 May 2017

Dark Souls and me part 1

A woman who is very disappointed in me, yesterday.
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, what you could call a dedicated gamer. I am just about capable of beating a Pokemon game given a minimum of three months, a good quality print out of the type chart in front of me and my phone open on Google at all times. There are games I have been trying to beat on and off for more than two decades, one of them is Sonic The Hedgehog 3.

It might not be immediately obvious why I decided I really wanted to play Dark Souls II. It certainly isn't obvious to me but it was only a fiver at Entertainment Exchange so here we are.

I'm a little more than an hour in and so far nothing in Drangleic has proven quite so fatal to me as my own ineptitude. I've already wasted at least half a dozen lifegems because I keep forgetting the shoulder buttons do the killy things, not the proper buttons.

I'm also having real trouble with jumping. I either click the left stick too late and run off the edge of the world or click it in the wrong direction and leap blithely into space and those are the deaths where I feel I at least have some excuse. I've more than once simply wandered off the edge of Majula and Things Betwixt. I actually died rather a lot in Things Betwixt to the extent that I think I may technically have “skipped” the tutorial.

I also died to the little baby pigs in Majula whilst trying to find the Emerald Herald. Twice. I finally found her, got my estus flask and by the time I'd died twice more on my way to the Forest Of Fallen Giants I'd even managed to equip it.

I don't think I'm quite the hero the Emerald Herald was expecting to save Drangleic, to be perfectly honest with you.

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Rose Tyler tinted glasses

The other day, Big Finish announced that their second full cast Tenth Doctor box set will reunite David Tennant and Billie Piper (and Camille Coduri!) as the Doctor and Rose. I'm actually looking forward to it, especially as one of the stories promises to have the pair meeting an actual historical transgender person, the Chevalier d'Eon, which is an angle I'm actually surprised the modern series hasn't gone for yet (or historical individuals of any LGBTQ+ persuasion, jokes about Shakespeare's sonnets aside).

Hell, sometimes Big Finish has trouble remembering that not all recurring Doctor Who characters are straight (looking at you, inexplicably heterosexual Ace and Turlough).

That said, one thing makes me wonder: where is there left to go with Rose?

You see, one thing I'll definitely say in favour of the modern series is it doesn't tend to leave a lot of ambiguity in the companions' arcs. These characters are introduced for a reason and they leave when their story is done and that's especially true of the RTD companions. Rose had a very defined arc over her two seasons that was pretty much complete as is. I wonder if Big Finish are going to try to add to it or just leave it untouched?

Also, Ice Warriors. I'm really interested to see what Big Finish will do with Ice Warriors given how Mark Gatiss expanded on them in Cold War. Big Finish have done their own expansions of their culture and I hope this story presents some synthesis of the two. 

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Goodbye, Black Panther & The Crew

Patience, they said as they made Captain America a Nazi. Patience, they said as the situation got worse and worse, as they told us Magneto was joining Hydra, too. Patience, they said as more and more context piled moral offense upon moral offense on the road to Secret Empire. Patience, they said for more than a year as they geared up to fill my pull list with unavoidable Nazis.

Then they cancelled Black Panther & The Crew after two issues due to poor sales. The most promising team book I've seen Marvel put out in years, that I did not see one ad for in any of their comics aside from Black Panther, will now run for a single six issue arc.
All this has happened before and all this will happen again, as the saying goes.

This was genuinely the most promising team book I've seen from Marvel since Keiron Gillen's Young Avengers. Its Harlem setting was fascinating and well-researched, Ta-Nehisi Coates' angles on Storm and Misty Knight were interesting even beyond the sheer novelty of having those two very different women working together. It was all tied in with the history, both real and fictional, of Harlem which is just something you don't have reason to learn much about when you're a white bloke from the south of England. All that was great and at the end of the second issue Coates finally introduced Black Panther to his own team book and we were off to the races.

Well, not so much now.

This is a microcosm of something I've been banging on about for a while. You see, as I write this I have Coates' Wikipedia page open and I am wondering how a series written by someone like this, with past work like his, isn't one of the biggest deals in Marvel's publishing portfolio. His second book Between the World and Me won the (US) National Book Award For Nonfiction and was a Pulitzer finalist. He has a television deal developing a series for HBO about Martin Luther King being produced by Oprah Winfrey. Not being American, I don't know exactly how famous these distinctions make him but I think that there would be some potential in getting his name out there to attract new readers...

if Marvel, or any comics company, actually advertised anywhere other than inside their own publications.

So here we are again, with the insular nature of comicbooks coming back to bite the industry on its arse. Now, I'm as big a supporter of promoting internally and recognising when someone has paid their dues as you'll get but right now a title about a team of African and African-American characters set in Harlem written by a Pulitzer finalist who has written extensively about African-American history and philosophy has died on the vine. Meanwhile, a huge crossover event about Captain America being a Nazi at the worst possible moment in modern history is being handled by a man whose only claim to fame outside comics is a failed political career in Cincinnati and whose Wikipedia page refers to a 2011 one-shot in the future tense gets the lions' share of the company's meagre advertising budget, questions have to be asked.

Questions like: what the hell are you guys doing? Do you want new readers or not? Why did you bring Ta-Nehisi Coates into the comicbook industry if not to use his existing reputation to sell product?

Do you, in short, have any plans to actually grow your business or are you content to allow Disney to act as your life support system until they decide that just having the IP rights means they don't need your niche, barely profitable product cluttering up their portfolio?

Because that's what's going to happen at this rate.