Tuesday 31 October 2017

Black Legion "born of" conversions

One of the most interesting aspects of the Black Legion is that they aren't just a corporate rebrand of the Sons Of Horus. Rather, whilst a lot of them originated in the Sons Of Horus, they're recruited from all nine traitor legions and a few other places besides. Aaron Demski-Bowden in his two Black Legion novels includes in his dramatis personae notes on which world the cast members were “born of”. Since their origins inform a lot of their personality and how they interact with other characters this is a useful list to have around.

It also means that Black Legionnaires can be more than just bog standard Chaos Space Marines (because I hate the bog standard Chaos Marine models).

I had an idea a few weeks aho to build some Chaos Marines using Betrayal At Calth Marines and Raptor heads. My idea was that being on the bottom of the ladder favour of the Gods-wise they wouldn't be that changed. Also because they'd be armed with bolters and so nothing I did to their bodies would be that visible. As you can see, it worked... sort of.

They look good but, probably because I used Raptors, they don't look as “generic” as I'd hoped. Instead, what I clearly have is a unit of Night Lords or, to put it another way, Black Legion born of Nostramo. So, not the replicable conversion I was hoping for but one that gives me a distinctive, characterful little unit.

So I started tinkering. I had a plastic Chaos Lord left over from Terminator Lord Cadre box I got to make some Forge World Plague Terminators and a set of MkIII Space Marines picked up cheap on eBay. The Chaos Lord ended up hybridised with some Chaos Terminator parts (I don't like any of the actual Lord heads) and a MkIII thunder hammer to make my General for missions too unimportant for Abaddon to deal with:
I rather like how the thunder hammer looks, even though I did have to try and get the two hands as far apart as possible so people wouldn't notice the different sizes. I am currently resisting naming him after Donald Trump. Anyway, he's born of Olympia because I rather like the idea of Abaddon noticing the ability of an Iron Warrior since that was the whole motivation for their fall (and because Perturabo is actually really, really bad at noticing the abilities of those serving in his legion because irony).

Finally, I traded for some spare Skullcrusher heads and turned the MkIII Marines into a unit originating in the World Eaters legion. I gave them a long range load out because a) I don't have enough close combat weapons for a whole MkIII squad and I'm not paying Forge World prices for parts that will be distorted beyond use and b) it occurs to me that an Iron Warrior would prize self-control so this squad would have to be not frothingly insane to keep their place in his warband.

He's getting recognition, it might have lightened him up but he's not going to any less of a controlling, micro-managing bastard. He's an Iron Warrior, after all. 

Monday 30 October 2017

Thor: Ragnarok Ramble

[Plot spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok. None of the major revelations but if you want to go in completely cold just ignore this one. Good film, though]

First up: judging by the presentation of Hela and Valkyrie the director of this film has some very specific fetishes and I approve of all of them.

On a more serious note I felt this was a very strong movie. I'm of the (mildly unpopular) opinion that the Thor movies are rather the weak link of the MCU: I found the first one a bit bland and the second one had a lot of issues, not least of which was its determination to waste just about every actor who wasn't Hemsworth or Hiddleston. Now, I like Loki as much as the next man (and members of every other gender regardless of orientation, Hiddleston's just that hot) but there was a lot more I felt could be done with that cast. Giving Christopher Ecclestone more lines in English, for a bloody start.

I was worried going in that the film might be biting off more than it could tell. I mean, the trailers were promising a story about Hela attacking Asgard and an adaptation of Planet Hulk. They also had to pay off the cliffhanger to Dark World and resolve the teaser from the end of Doctor Strange. That's a lot of plot but damn me if the movie didn't absolutely deliver.

Yes, its a lot funnier than the previous two even though Thor has probably been the most comedic member of the Avengers. There were a lot of laugh out loud moments in the cinema. Not least of which were the scenes where Anthony Hopkins is obviously loving playing Odin-who-is-secretly-Loki. The man doesn't get enough chances to play comedy since he became a venerable, wise looking old man several years before I was born and I hope people see this and realise there's potential there.

Loki, of course, is a big draw and his actions in this movie make me hope for a permanent face turn in the future. I say that as an unabashed fan of Keiron Gillen and Al Ewing's work on the character and wanting to see Hiddleston play the Agent of Asgard version of the character. The scene, released on YouTube and such as a teaser, between Thor and Loki in the elevator finally discussing their issues, is pitched perfectly and actually rather affecting.

Immigrant Song is actually a fantastic choice for a recurring song in this one, I can't say why but it works amazingly every time its used (and its used a lot). That wasn't just a trailer thing.

As the MCU goes on I begin to wonder if the Avengers films work as well as all that. The first one was a party in celebration of its own existence and the second was really just the first one again but with robots instead of aliens. Seeing as how well Hulk works in this film it might actually be a better approach to just have people turning up in each other's movies than just saving it all for a big team crossover every couple of years. Just a thought.

But, yeah, the Hulk works great here and there's even a scene where Banner and Thor talk super-science because even though Thor is a self-confessed non-scientist he comes from a culture so advanced that “not good at science” translates to “capable of rattling off theoretical physics” by Earth standards. Its also fun to have Thor and trying to bring Hulk down enough to get Banner back because of all the Avengers Thor is the least capable when it comes to emotions and this the funniest to put in a position where he has to be emotionally supportive and caring.

Speaking of Sakaar, Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster is Jeff Goldblum and if he isn't improvising half his lines its because the part was written perfectly for him. The whole set-up of Sakaar and its absolutely perfect live action adaptation of Jack Kirby's art style is a joy to watch, Its nice that Marvel managed something appropriate to the King's hundredth birthday somewhere. Pity it wasn't in an actual comic but there we are, let the Distinguished Competition corner that market.


Oh, not to say how and why but at bloody last Marvel does something with the fact that Odin, as well as being a white bearded Christian-style paternal god, is also a trickster figure. That is a genuine problem I've always had with the Marvel version of Odin: the fact that he's only fifty percent Odinic. There's also a wonder moment of parallelism between Thor's development and the mythical origins of Odin but, again, can't say how because spoilers.

Cate Blanchett, of course, is amazing as Hela and if he sees this Peter Jackson is going to be kicking himself that he thought shooting a scene in green photographic negative was the best way to portray evil Blanchett. She's also ably assisted by an unexpected (at least to me) Karl Urban.

No Sif, sadly. Not for any great reason, it turns out. They just didn't contact the actress with filming dates soon enough and she was working on something else on another continent.

Still, we get Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and she is glorious. Appropriately for a character who is an independent hero in the comics she clearly has her own storyline and issues coming into the movie, some of which parallel Thor in the first film and come of which don't. If Marvel workshops this character for a while I think she could support her own feature, I really do and I'm not just saying that because she's a gorgeous woman in command of substantial firepower. Valkyrie being bi, incidentally, is entirely a decision of the actress (probably based on researching the character's recent comics history) and not actually something in the plot of the film. I mean, she does what I'm told is known as the “bisexual strut” in the final battle, Wonder Woman-style, but that's genuinely it.

All in all, a strong movie, one of my favourites of the MCU and, I'd argue, the strongest of the Thor movies by far. 

Sunday 29 October 2017

Doctor Who: the show that dies again and again

Recommendation algorithms are a trip, aren't they? Take YouTube, a website I spend hours on every week listening to podcasts, watching movie reviews and subscribing to mainly liberal arts sort of channels. I watch Keith Olbermann's Resistance videos, Moviebob's various series, a bunch of wargaming series, let's plays and the two Extra Credits channels.

Somehow this has led YouTube in the past to recommend me videos by white supremacists, doomsday preppers, Alex Jones (you know, the right wing commentator who claimed he lost custody of his child but we all know that was just a child actor. I know, I was shocked when I found out, too), and now, a video entitled “The Day Doctor Who Died”. The thumbnail had Capaldi's angry eyebrows from the 50th anniversary special on it.

Doctor Who dies a lot.

I don't even mean that maliciously. Okay, yes, we've all seen hysterical blog posts and videos and forum threads with that very sentiment time and time again since the day Russel T. Davies was announced as showrunner. Hell, there's a very famous review of The Deadly Assassin from 1977 that ends with the author's overwrought cry of “What happened to the magic of Doctor Who?” I'm not talking about that, that's the predictable act of fandom, especially in this day and age.

What I'm talking about is this: Doctor Who dies a lot. Its not a bug, its a feature.

Doctor Who kills its own premise on a regular basis. The original lead actor had to leave because of heart problems and not only did they recast the lead with a completely different actor but in Troughton's first story they almost completely rebooted the Daleks and in his second they completely dumped the pure historical model of stories. Three years later the budget of the series was through the roof and the production team decided to just drop the entire time travel aspect of the show.

Doctor Who without time travel! And its one of the most beloved eras of the show.

Now, I'm not going to begrudge anyone resenting that their favourite era of a show they like has ended. I'm just, twelve years later, more than a little ground down by the internet belief that “different” equals “the show has died and what is being broadcast is a pathetic sham that doesn't deserve the name”.

Its just... different.

I hated Enterprise. It didn't mean Star Trek had died. It didn't mean nothing good would ever come from the franchise again, it didn't even mean that Enterprise had no greater meaning. I know people who loved Enterprise and good on them, it was a show that meant something to them and that's great.

So here we get to where the argument usually winds up. I don't think people who like Enterprise are bad fans or bad people. I don't think anyone deserves “internet hate” for liking the show (or for making the show, let's not forget that disgusting aspect of the modern internet). Its just a show I don't enjoy and you know what that meant? More time for me to enjoy things that I enjoy. I gave up after the first season and so that was three more year of not dedicating about twenty hours a year to a series I wasn't enjoying.

And, the thing is, that was the time I was saving and putting towards other things just by not watching. Not only do people waste their time “hate watching” series they give up on in order to write bad meta and complain about the SJW agenda of women and people of colour existing at a higher than one in five ratio to white men. There are people who dedicate endless hours not only to experiencing art that makes them angry on purpose but making themselves feel worse by reliving it again and again.

I've said it before but this is a psychology I worry about falling into. If I don't like the next season of Doctor Who then my plan is just to give up, wait for someone I vaguely respect to tell me its got better before trying it again. In the meantime? I'll be enjoying things I like or trying new stuff. I have a backlog of box sets and a massive stack of books.

So I'll just be enjoying myself and let other people do the heavy lifting on the declaration of Doctor Who's death. 

Saturday 28 October 2017

Two reasons to watch the Fullmetal Alchemist movie

For a start, I really want to know why there's a cat inside Alphonse. Now, I admit I know the series mostly by reputation (I've only seen about five episodes of the original and none of the supposedly superior Brotherhood) so there may be some context here but just for my part that is an arrestingly bizarre and fascinating visual.

Also, there's just the sheer twisted joy that we're finally getting a live action anime adaptation with Japanese actors and its a story set in a fantasy version of Germany (I think) in the industrial revolution. Anime adaptation set in Japan about Japanese characters? Scarlet Johannson. Anime adaptation set in 1900s Europe? All the Japanese actors ever.

No, but seriously though, this is actually a trend in Hollywood I find utterly baffling. Japan has a longstanding hunger for US media and the Chinese market is increasingly all-important for the major studios and yet somehow capitalism hasn't cracked that employing more Asian actors in Asian roles might be a good selling point?


Friday 27 October 2017

A Lonely Place of Living: picking up the breadcrumbs

First of all, this moment is very, very sweet. One of the changes to Cass' character I do like in the Rebirth continuity is that she's a lot closer to the family in emotional terms. Back in the day there was affection, yes, but she always held herself a little distant. Also, someone whose primary language is physical should probably make more use of physical contact than she usually did.

Anyway, as sweet as this (and Tim and Luke being complete comp-sci nerds) is what I'm really interested in talking about is the latest little breadcrumb in the mystery of Conner Kent. Here it is:
So, more confirmation that Tim does not remember Conner. Considering that, contrary to my memory, the New 52 Superboy did use that name for a while this might indicate that he has been removed from history. After all, no one's so much as mentioned him since Rebirth started. Either that or Tim literally cannot connect the concepts of “New 52 Superboy” and “friend” which... is not totally out of the question.

The guy was an epic tool, let's face it.

However, this does suggest that somewhere deep in Tim's subconscious he does remember Conner, that there is an emotion tied to the name. A rather shippy, slashy emotion apparently.

This could conceivably be the same process as we saw with Wally West the elder at the very beginning of Rebirth, another consequence of that “stolen decade” business. We know from the experiences that Barry Allen and the original Titans had that memories can be restored from the old history even if it can be a bit oddly selective (none of the Titans remember Cyborg or Beast Boy being on the team back in the day) or perhaps indicates that this is not quite the pre-Flashpoint history that was changed.

The plot thickens and we're only halfway through this arc. 

Thursday 26 October 2017

Sarek of Vulcan is Batman (Discovery spoilers)

Think about it, especially in reference to the most recent episode of Discovery: he's a member of his people's aristocracy; he's a lot better at martial arts than you'd expect a man of his profession to be; and, most importantly, he keeps gaining new children.

Honestly, though, Michael: if you think you're Sarek's greatest disappointment I question how well you observed hims interactions with his biological children. (Yes, plural, I acknowledge Sybok's existence even if Paramount never will).

Though, seriously, it is probably for the best that no canonical or spin-off media will ever revisit the disaster that was Star Trek V. It was not a good moment.

It introduced rocket boots to the franchise. That's the only legacy that film deserves.

Wednesday 25 October 2017

The Kanto Diaries: Teatime in Kanto

Pokémon games are meant to be easily accessible for all ages but every now and again there crops up a puzzle that is suck obtuse bullshit you have to consult the internet.

There is a hut on the Route between Celadon City and Saffron City with a guard who tells you the road is closed and that he's thirsty. After returning to Celadon and turning the Team Rocket Hideout upside down in search of drinkables I broke and brought up a the Bulbapedia walkthrough.

Turns out there's a random NPC sitting at a table in the Celadon Mansion (which is actually a hotel) who just gives you some tea. For some reason Drake, my trainer, decides to simply pocket a cup of tea for later like she's Doctor Who and uses it to bribe the guard who shares this tea with the other guards and leets you through.

The road that is closed, by the way, is six steps long. It isn't even a Route you step out onto, you just exit the building and you're in Saffron City.

The current team:

Shelby the Wartortle, my bashful starter. (Lv32)
Lucretia the Nidorino, who has a female name because I don't remember those symbols right. (Lv33)
Karai the Arbok, whose Bite is worse than her bite.(Lv28)
Digby the Dugtrio, whose probably getting dropped in the near future. (Lv27)
Faraday the Pikachu, bane of all Flying types. (Lv26)

Floof the Growlithe, a serious fellow and my newest acquisition. (Lv20)

Tuesday 24 October 2017

A crowded TARDIS

MOAR SPOILERS! This time for next year's new era of Doctor Who because there have been more casting announcements and they're... interesting. Not good or bad as yet but interesting. More under the photo.
From left to right we have Mandip Gill (Yasmin), Bradley Walsh (Graham), Jodie Whittaker (the Doctor) and Tosin Cole (Ryan). Four regulars, its been a while.

Actually its been thirty-five years now I think about it. The last time there were four in the TARDIS was the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Adric. So basically I'm looking forward to seeing what can be done with a crew that size under a vaguely competent writing team.

For reference since we don't know who aside from Chibnall is writing this series: any modern writing team, compared to rambling incompetence of Season Nineteen, would be seen as competent. The Master was wearing the corpse of one of the companions as a skinsuit and somehow this failed to come up in the season finale when the two characters met multiple times. They killed a companion and consciously chose the one nobody liked and still gave the episode silent credits.

And that was probably the best written of Davison's three seasons.

But, yes, four regulars. Potentially a bit crowded given the length of modern episodes but seeing how it didn't work too badly in any River episode from Matt Smith's first two and a bit seasons there's more than enough reason to hope. Also, Bradley Walsh will be the oldest companion ever (actor-wise, because obviously Romana...) and I am interested in what that's going to bring to the role. 

Monday 23 October 2017

Wherefore art thou, Hawkmoth

Spoilers ahead for the first episode of Miraculous Ladybug season 2 which I watched because I was bored and YouTube threw it at me. I watched a couple of episodes a while back after stumbling across some fan fiction that really sold the characters to me and found it... pitched a little young for me which isn't a surprise since I'm thirty-three and this is a kids' show.

Still, I have some thoughts which are spoilery and happen under the photo of a Privet Hawk-Moth which is the closest “Hawkmoth” I could find to the colours the character in the show has...
Okay, so Hawkmoth is revealed to be Gabriel Agreste as 99.99% of the fandom thought he was. As fond as I was of the idea that Gabriel might simply be the jaded and retired holder of the peacock miraculous he is literally the only remaining character Hawkmoth could be.

And you know what? Good on the creators for not dragging this out any longer. At a certain point mysteries become annoying and even if the whole episode was constructed to keep Marinette and Adrien in the dark, at least the viewers know.

That having been said... Gabriel Agreste is an absolute bellend. The reason I liked the Peacock!Gabriel headcanon was because it gave the man some redeeming qualities, it was the hope that hidden somewhere beneath the layers of grief and privilege was a decent father who was just really, really bad at expressing his emotions.

No, he's just a dick who would happily hunt down his own son in order to entrap Ladybug and Chat Noir. He's a dick who would destroy the life his son has built out of spite over the loss of the Guardian's spellbook (or whatever it is actually called).

Speaking of the Guardian, it was interesting to hear that Master Fu lost the butterfly and peacock miraculous a long time ago. From the dialogue in the Origins two-parter I assume Hawkmoth was someone Fu had gifted the butterfly to in error but it seems not that Gabriel found them and the book some time after they left Fu's possession. Also, Tikki and Wayzz playing on the gramophone was adorable. Now I think about it, I wonder if Gabriel “renouncing” his miraculous is a necessary step. After all, the akuma have always been insistent that Marinette and Adrien give up their miraculous rather than just snatching them (though obviously I'd imagine part of that is censors would have a problem with someone tearing a girl's earrings out, understandably). Of course, it could just be Hawkmoth being super extra on an almost Anakin Skywalker scale.

It was interesting to see that Nathalie was in on it all. Again, I had given that character a lot of credit as Adrien's surrogate mother figure. Of course, as with any minion she might not be 100% willing but it lends a really sinister overtone to her position as Adrien's tutor/keeper.

I think I might actually try to keep up to date with this series. Its rather fun. 

Sunday 22 October 2017

Capitalism, morality and getting the best Abaddon for your buck

I am not going to mince words or dance around it: this is an Abaddon model. This is Abaddon the Despoiler wearing his Terminator armour armed with Drach'nyen and the Talon of Horus. Its Abaddon. Officially, of course, this is the Chaos Master Of The Crusade from Grimskull and sold by Wargames Exclusive via their eBay store. They're a Ukrainian company and so IP rights can go hang.

(Actually, funny thing, one of the eBay listing for this model was simply titled “NotAbaddon”).

Let's address the moral gray area here: there is an existing Games Workshop Abaddon the Despoiler model. It is, however, awful. Its old, its chunky and its built on a smaller scale than almost anything you're likely to stand next to it. Its only selling point compared to the Grimskull version is that its cheaper (£15 against £26-ish including postage and packing) and quicker to acquire just because of distance.
But I just don't want it. It looks awful. I don't game much in GW clubs so the blanket (and understandable) ban on third party miniatures doesn't really stand to inconvenience me plus the local GW club has a 1000 points / 50 power army limit so I'd likely not use Abaddon there anyway. The fact that this isn't an official GW miniature doesn't inconvenience me in any immediate sense other than the fact it took three weeks to arrive.

And, finally: capitalism is not a moral system. It is not my job as a consumer to put up with an inferior product for the benefit of Games Workshop. I have no doubt that if GW decided to replace their Abaddon model it would be superior to this; made of plastic with a greater selection of options; have the right iconography sculpted on; been usable in club environments should I choose to; and, more convenient to buy. If that model existed, I'd have probably bought it even though it would likely have weighted in at £5 to £10 more than the Grimskull version.

They did not provide that option. My money went to the Ukrainians. That's capitalism.

Now, obviously, I can't argue that Grimskull are in the right in making and selling this thing. It is obviously Abaddon and that's IP infringement. If and when a GW lawyer braces the oblast to serve a cease and desist... well, you pays your money you takes your chance. That is also capitalism.

And I got a good Abaddon out of it, that's all that matters. 

Saturday 21 October 2017

There are 6 Elites choices in a Battalion detachment

This changes everything! I had it in my head that the Battalion was just the old Standard Force Organisation Chart with an extra HQ slot.

Well, this makes army selection a little easier, doesn't it? My only real complaint about eighth edition was the sudden proliferation of buff characters competing for my Elites slots. The Noxious Blightbringer springs to mine or all those mini-characters who used to be mere components of the Space Marine Command Squad who are now independent characters in their own right.

Honestly, I am really glad this is a thing. One of the best things eighth edition Fantasy did was increase the Special Choice limit to 50% of your army. Generally speaking most of the big theme units are in the Special choices. Usually this means units that are from somewhere like Swordmasters of Hoeth or units that represent a specific sub-faction like Plague Monks.

This is less the case with 40k but Elite choices tend to be where the specialists live whilst your Troops choices tend towards generalism (unless the army itself tends towards a specialism). For one thing I imagine Eldar players are happy for the chance to take a wider selection of Aspect Warriors. For my part there are so many cool Elites choices available to my Death Guard and Black Templars that I'm glad I no longer have to skimp on the cool stuff.

Hey, everyone likes more cake. 

Friday 20 October 2017

Comic Reviews

This week Batman's first day as an engaged man ends in massive bisexual orgy (for someone else); Gwen Stacy finally gets to experience the sort of grimdark reinvention she missed out on in the Eighties by being dead; Thor provides some fanservice for French readers; Cable indulges in some unexpectedly appreciated artistic nostalgia; and, Iron Man undergoes a merger.

Batman #33
Rules of Engagement part 1
For serious, though, the colourist could remember to give Talia dark skin but not Damian? For real this is a thing that happened. On another note, the art does a terrible job of distinguishing the Robins, relying on you remembering who is wearing what colour shirt rather than making any real distinction of hair, height or facial structure.

Like, for instance, that one of the Robins is of Arab descent.

Anyway, this is another of those issues that shows how well Tom King writes for the serial format. The issue has two threads: Batman and Catwoman travelling across the desert in search of something with the Tiger King of Kandahar and Alfred gathering the Robins and Duke to tell them of this utterly insane thing Bruce has done (and also that he's in the desert). Aside from the aforementioned problems of keeping track of which Robin is which the b-plot is a good showcase for the family dynamic including a rare chance to see Duke in the group without Bruce. The desert plot is a whole lot of walking and talking and people being mysterious at each other which is great and atmospheric (including the decision to just skip an entire fight scene) but really needed the Wayne Manor stuff to keep the attention.

And it all ends with the revelation that what Talia has been doing since we last saw her is enjoying a comfortable retirement with her harem of twenty or thirty men and women and a very large bed. Nice work if you can get it.

Spider-Gwen #25
Gwenom part 1
I admit to finding it slightly odd that this got a Legacy storyline. I know Gwen herself has existed for half a century but Spider-Gwen is such a different (read: superior) character to the original I tend to forget that. Anyway, so now she has the Venom symbiote and never has Robbi Rodriguez's art been a better fit for an idea. His jagged lines and flowing shapes are perfect for this, its amazing.

Otherwise its exactly the story you'd expect it to be with Gwen hunting down the man who put her father in a coma and laying out a more savage than usual beating to the man. This might sound like a bad thing, predictability usually is, but it works and taking only a single issue to get Gwen to the place she is at the end of this one likely means the plot will go to more innovative places very soon.

The Mighty Thor #700
The Death of the Mighty Thor part 1
I'm not usually one to equate horrific permadeath with a good story, in fact I find the idea that the only good closure for a character is ruthlessly slaughtering them for shock value to be incredibly immature, but if they brought back Throg only to satisfy the “[a] Thor will die” promise of this arc I will be pissed.

Otherwise, this issue was a big tour of various Thors who have existed over the years including the young and old versions Jason Aaron introduced earlier in his run. The Throg bit is really fun, actually, and I hope we get to see more of the little fellow somewhere. The only downside really is that since Jane is only one Thor among many she gets rather the short end of the stick storywise. The Odinson gets to fight Malekith's army for the fate of the Norns; his past and future selves have nice little mini-adventures; Loki has a short side story with his biological (?) father Laufey; whilst Jane is left fighting Jennifer Walters in full-on PTSD episode Hulk mode. As even the narration notes, that's a story that''s been told again and again just with a different Thor and Hulk this time and not much more to say about it than that.

I'm not stupid, Jane's on her way out as Thor whether she survives her cancer or not, that's just what this whole Legacy business is about, I just don't like seeing her sidelined like this even for an anniversary that's about the larger concept of Thor than just her incarnation.

Cable #150
The Newer Mutants chapter 1
It worries me how much nostalgia Jon Malin's art inspires in me. I grew up during the bad times of comics, aka the last time they were a profitable industry, and so the Rob Leifeld house style was basically the look of comics to me for oh too many years. I've not read anything of Malin's before so I don't know if he's consciously aping the style for this one gig or if this is how he normally works but it definitely scratches an itch of nostalgia I'm almost guilty to admit exists.

(I'm not sure why Blink and X-23 look as stoned as they do on the cover, though.)

Anyway, the issue goes all-out on the Leifeld nostalgia with Cable reuniting with Shatterstar to investigate the mysterious death of Candra, one of the immortal Externals, in the distant past of 2004. Longshot and Doop are also there with others promised by the cover down the line. Like a lot of the nostalgia the Legacy imprint is trading on how well it connects with the reader is 100% tied to whether it was a thing for you first time round. I was never big on X-Force in the Leifeld era (the local newsagent didn't carry it) and I only know Candra from one random Gambit-centric X-Men arc. I seem to recall Cannonball was an External or might have been one or was one and then it got retconned or something... oh, the continuity! Anyway, the long and the short of it is that James Robinson is off the title now, there's a new writer and a plot I don't care for particularly so this series has one more issue to prove itself interesting enough to keep or its culled off the list.

Invincible Iron Man #593
The Search for Tony Stark part 1
First of all, I had forgotten how cool the classic Iron Man logo is. I adore the rivets. Painting Warhammer 40,000 miniatures you tend to hate rivets but when they're a design element you don't have to pick out in Boltgun Metal they actually look really, really cool.

Moving on...

From here on out it seems that Invincible and Infamous Iron Man are merging into one series complete with the Doom and The Thing part of this issue keeping the art style from Infamous. Its jarring, to say the least. Still, there is one upside to Infamous Iron Man ending (if it is ending) because that means there might be an opportunity for an Ironheart ongoing once Tony Stark is again fully installed as the straight white cisgender male Iron Man that fanboy retailers have been humping their pillows at night hoping to see return (along with every other straight white cisgender male protagonist who took some time off recently).

Because I'm resigned to losing Jane as Thor, let's not lose Riri as well, Marvel. 

Thursday 19 October 2017

Design Notes: the Basic Chaos Space Marine Problem (and a possible solution)

The Problem
One of the real problems of the Chaos Space Marines range is that the basic troops are by far the worst looking things in the range. What's more, I'd be prepared to swear that the sculpts are degrading: I bought a box a year or so back and the armour trim on the legs was barely distinct in several places which made them an arse to paint. 

And I HATE heavy bolter! I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. Whose smart idea was to have it be a three-part assembly with the heaviest component hanging down from the other two? If Nottingham HQ has a woodshed, take that guy out the back of it, please. 

The Dark Vengeance box set didn't help either. That starter box had a set of amazing Chosen that showed just what could be achieved by applying the modern design sensibilities of Chaos to the idea. To wit: not just Space Marines in Viking hats. Sadly, its been a few years now and the only model to actively benefit from the new aesthetic those models pioneered was the Aspiring Champion clampack character who came out a week later. 

So, what to do, what to do? Waiting has proven ineffective as we've just had a Chaos Marine codex with no model release attached. So its time to kitbash my way out of the problem. 

Keeping It Simple:
A Hierarchy of Mutation

The key phrase here is “basic Chaos Space Marine”. Heroes/villains of legend they may be but they shouldn't be so fancy they overshadow the presence of more elite troops like Terminators, Chosen or Possessed. 
The basis of the unit will be the plastic Horus Heresy Space Marines in MkIV armour. Its simple enough to kitbash, being a Space Marine kit, and has the benefit of being an armour mark most of the Legions would have had in abundance. Its also the closest to “modern” power armour so its easier to swap loyalist or other Chaos parts into than MkIII, which has a much more distinctive silhouette. 

Now, as I mentioned, I don't want to mutate this unit's armour too much. For one thing, it would be hard to do without replacing more parts than I want to spend money on. Keeping legs, torsos and most weapons from this kit intact. Now, I have plenty of old Chaos Marine shoulder pads lying around if I choose to use them but what's really going to sell the conversion is the heads. To be specific, these heads:
Bought off eBay as a set, these are the heads from a box of Chaos Raptors. Mutated, certainly, but also distinctly recognisable as Space Marine helmets (and with a glorious lack of silly, chunky horns). This way the unit gets to look mutated but not overly so. Even if I do the rest of the army straight out of the box the more elite units, the ones higher in the favour of the dark gods, will still look more baroque and changed. 

Its also an easily replicated trick if I decide I want to do multiple units like this. Alternatively, its a look I can easily take in a different direction if I want each unit to look like its own warband. 

Now I just have to wait for the parts to arrive in the post. 

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Christmas Warfare

(Content warning: Trump, also Alex Jones' face).
"Mine now. China!"
It really is the most tiresome of all conservative talking points this idea that there's a war on the idea of Christmas. Donald Jodocus Trump, the Woody Allen of US presidents, recently used it as a talking point in a speech to the Pseudo-Christian Hypocrisy Values Group (or some such bunch of cretins, anyway) to huge applause because these people are so desperate to feel oppressed its pathetic.

Of course, Trump had to go as far as possible in making his goat-bothering audience feel as masochistically oppressed as possible by claiming you never heard anyone say Christmas anymore. Bearing in mind this is the same man who recently claimed he invented the word “fake” we should be grateful he didn't claim that Christmas was itself a Trump-branded event.

There is no war on Christmas.

Every Western government maintains Christmas as a bank holiday (or whatever the local equivalent is); every corporation that sells product to the public spends millions upon millions on Christmas branding to the point that a particular Coca-Cola advert is literally considered an absolutely mandatory component of the season; every broadcaster has dozens of special projects made for broadcast over Christmas; an entire Hollywood genre exists to make movies about Christmas.

No other holiday gets that. Easter comes close which is, again, a Christian festival.

But these people are so desperate to feel oppressed that they'll take whatever they can get. They see people who are actually marginalised getting attention and concessions and actual legal rights and they feel left out because they have the collective emotional maturity of a five year old noticing their baby sibling (gender neutral phrasing there, suck it, social conservatives!) is getting more attention than they are.

So they latch on to the fact that the Starbucks coffee cups have “Happy Holidays” written on them instead of “Merry Christmas” (yes, this is an actual thing these people lost their shit over last year, I am not even slightly joking) because this is such a blow against the fact that the whole of Western society rearranges itself to accommodate this one religious observance. In their minds the mere acknowledgement that other winter festivals exist (and they exist in almost every culture) and that people might celebrate them is an act of terrible censorship and probably also somehow tied in with issues of ethics in games journalism.

Its fetishistic, this desire they have to be downtrodden, it really is. I remember the good old days when socially conservative pseudo-Christians just stuck to being self-loathing closeted homosexuals. Bonus points if they were also a televangelist!
"Lister... DO. YOU. HAVE. A CAT!?"
Also, is it just me or is Alex Jones (who claimed recently he lost custody of his son but we all know that was just a child actor hired to garner public sympathy. I know, I was shocked when I found out too) starting to look like Captain Hollister from Red Dwarf?

Not relevant but I was on a roll. 

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Jason Isaacs' mean, alt-right trolling machine

(Spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery in general and Monday's episode Choose Your Pain in particular. Also trigger warning for discussion of sexual abuse survival).

I am rapidly coming to adore Star Trek: Discovery. I love the look of the show; the plot is interesting; there are some great actors and fantastic character interactions; and, to be petty about it, the show is doing things that annoy people I hate.

Also, there are gay people in the show now and they aren't there for one episode epic tragedy storylines. They're an actual couple who both have names and speaking roles jjust living their lives and being in space. Up to now the best representation of LGBTQ+ people in Star Trek was Sulu's silent husband in Beyond and before that we only existed to facilitate the aforementioned epic tragedies about how we faced ostracism and horrible consequences.

Which, don't get me wrong, were important stories to tell but there comes a point where it just wears you down only seeing yourself in terms of your oppression.

And let's also address some other interesting aspects of representation: we have a male sexual abuse survivor in Lt. Ash Tyler. I know we're all meant to crow about how subversive Cadet Tilly saying “fuck” was but this is so important. Hopefully it will be dealt with sensitively but even where we are now, with the huge cathartic moment of Tyler getting to beat on his abuser in what he thinks is the last moments of his life, has some significance.

Also, not going to lie, the f-bomb moment was actually pretty funny and shocked me and both my housemates into silence. 

Monday 16 October 2017

That time Jean Grey was a tentacle monster

No, seriously, this was a thing at one point and I want it to make a comeback. Just imagine it: Marvel's making all these moves right now in preparation for the “original” Jean to make a comeback and instead of the 90s blue and yellow suit or the green bodysuit and gold sash of the classic Phoenix costume we get this...

Wouldn't that be glorious?

Okay, this is mostly just me trolling but I think there is something to be said for bringing back Little Miss Perfect in a slightly different form, especially as the younger Jean Grey is largely just the same character but a bit more assertive. The other original X-Men have pretty big differences between their time lost selves and their modern day selves (being less dead; being less evil; being more confident in their gayness; being Doctor Strange with big feet) but the difference between the two Jeans seems to be little more than the younger Jean is reaching some deep, personal realisation a bit sooner than the original did.

So what would be a better way to distinguish the two than to give one of them massive hentai tentacles?

Let's face it, boys, Logan would still be into it. 

Sunday 15 October 2017

The Kanto Diaries: Vermillion City (dickishness in game design)

Most of the times I find the Pokemon games to be pretty fair. After all, there's no in-game fail state and the only strategy guide you really need is the type chart. However, FireRed just pulled a spectacular dick move on me when I reached Vermillion City.

Now, Electric-type gyms are difficult at the best of times but never more so than when you haven't even had the chance to get a Ground-type on your team. Like, for instance, if you play FireRed because seemingly the only Ground-type before Vermillion City is Sandshrew which is LeafGreen exclusive.

My team when I went into the gym to fight Lt. Surge “The Fighting American” (no seriiously) was a Wartortle. A Rattata, a Nidorino, a Pikachu, an Oddish and a Butterfree. Of that list two are weak to Electric attacks, my Oddish was absolutely useless, a Pikachu is basically useless against other Electric-types and that left me with two passingly effective fighters who nevertheless kept getting paralyzed.

I got beat. Twice.

So, in a funk I decided to pursue the route of the screwed over: power levelling. I stomped my way back the way I came and leveled for a bit then returned to the gym.

Where I was beaten a third time.

Fuming, kicking my Pokeballs down the street in front of me as I went, I decided to try and get some decent EXP by skipping ahead to the next route and picking on some trainers. This was when I passed Diglett's Cave.

Yers, “Diglett's Cave”. Literally a cave named after and infested with a Ground-type Pokemon, five or six steps outside the city of the Electric gym.

Dick move, Game Freak. Dick move. 

Saturday 14 October 2017

Ta-Nehisi Coates' Storm: a wishlist

I am so stoked for this series. Storm is one of my favourite characters, she has such a deep and rich history to draw on and so, with all respects to Ta-Nehisi Coates

#1: a twelfth issue

Ah, yes, Ta-Nehisi Coates spinning off a title from his Black Panther run, we all know how well that usually goes, don't we? I admit, I didn't bother with World of Wakanda but I did my part for Black Panther & The Crew. I just hope that this issue can somehow find the audience it needs to keep going because just based on Storm's appearances in Coates' other work he has so many ideas for her that it would be a crime for this series to get the “one arc and then chopped” treatment.

Also on this subject...

#2: bitch ass manbabies to shut the hell up

Attention, cretins! This is Storm we're talking about here: she's not a new character and she's not taking a precious bloody name away from any fictional white men you might be emotionally invested in. Could you please, just this one, shut the bloody hell up about “forced diversity” with this one. Go back to crying into your cornflakes about how the Hulk is now an Asian kid and/or a woman.

We cool? Moving on.

#3: Cairo

One of the really interesting parts of Black Panther & The Crew was exploring Storm's relationship with Harlem, her parents' home that she only experienced as an adult. The previous Storm ongoing had a lot to say about her relationship to Kenya (if I'm wrong about it being Kenya, I apologise, I remember it being Kenya that she lived in between Cairo and meeting the X-Men). One part of her life that hasn't been touched on in some time is her childhood on the streets of Cairo where she was a pickpocket.

#4: The Further Adventures Of The Crew

A man can dream. But if not the whole tea, then maybe just...

#5: Misty Knight

I was wrong, it turns out. When I was reviewing Black Panther & The Crew I completely forgot that Misty and Storm know each other really, really well. Back in the olden days of Chris Claremont's original run, Misty was Jean Grey's roommate in New York city and so she and Storm interacted quite a lot. This throws that relationship I enjoyed so much in The Crew in a whole new light.

#6: Special Agent Ororo Munroe, FBI

I am sure this was brought up recently in some X-title or other but once upon a time, in a much later Claremont run, Storm and several other X-Men were deputised to the FBI as the XSE (yes, it was really called that, Xavier's Security Enforcement). She is, or was, a legitimate agent of the government. Food for thought.

#7: Doom

So there was this very odd arc in the Claremont days where Doom captured the X-Men and subjected them to all sorts of trials and tortures but in the end he lets them go in exchange for a dinner date with Storm. It sounds like I'm making this up but I swear its true. There was a similar situation with Dracula.

#8: Bruno from Ms. Marvel

He's in Wakanda, Storm spends a lot of time in Wakanda and what's more Storm is a teacher so she could easily be brought in to lecture at his polytechnic on mutant rights or agriculture or something. This is the most fannish idea on the list and that's why its last, a little whimsy to go out on, but just think about how cool it would be. 

Friday 13 October 2017

Untangling Detective Comics #966

[This post MAJOR SPOILERS for Detective Comics #966 as well as recent events in the Batwoman ongoing which also has implications for the whole meta-narrative of Rebirth as well as my own unsupported speculation, be warned, they begin right after the header picture.]
Oh, sweet Jesus, time travel in a multiverse involving the timeline of a character I have an unnatural in-depth knowledge of. Its Christmas come early!

Context: this week's issue of Detective Comics, the second part of A Lonely Place Of Living, features the current Red Robin version of Tim Drake (as seen since the dawn of the New 52) and a future version of himself who is Batman (as mentioned in the recent flashforward issue of Batwoman) being chased through Mr. Oz's prison by Doomsday (the New 52 version that killed Superman except he didn't because there was only one Superman now not two so that's sort of undefined at this point).

Mixed up in all this was a recent promise by James Tynion IV that this issue would bring us some answers on the question of Conner Kent, the pre-Flashpoint Superboy. The issue sort of delivers on that but also uses these answers to set up more mysteries.

So, where to begin?

Tim!Bats: Who He Is And How He Came To Be

Firstly, the future Batman who is Tim Drake and uses guns including the gun used by Joe Chill to kill the Waynes. This Batman originally appeared in a Teen Titans storyline by Geoff Johns over a decade ago. In that story Tim, along with a bunch of the Titans, have turned all-out fascist. In fact, one of the first glimpses we get into how bad things have gotten for the characters is Tim executing Duela Dent, the Joker's Daughter (she was a nicer, more whimsical character in those days and wasn't wearing anyone's face but her own).

Except maybe he's not quite that version of gun-totting Batman Tim Drake. This future Tim says he remembers “an echo” of the conversation he has with present day Tim, a conversation in different context but where he (future Tim) was equally horrified by the depths to which his future self had fallen.

The conversation he is referring to is quite specifically not the one he's currently having with his past self here. Logically, then its the conversation Tim had in Teen Titans with his own future.

The future Batman here is Tim from the pre-Flashpoint continuity who remembers meeting his future self and, in spite of all the warning, still chose to go down this route of being a Batman who kills because he felt driven to it after Bruce's death. However, he also remembers events from the life Tim is now living (or was going to before his abduction) as he refers to getting maybe a couple of months into his life as a student in Ivy Town before being drawn back into the world of costumed vigilantism. In the flashbacks to his native time we also see a conversation between the future versions of Anarky and Spoiler which ties in to the recent Utopia/Dystopia two-parter, though clearly a version of events where either that relationship didn't fall apart or the two reconciled in later years.

Future Tim claims that certain events are fixed so the obvious conclusion is that if the pre-Flashpoint continuity had continued it would have reached the status quo Johns set out and it would have passed through at least some of the events of Rebirth.

Considering that the whole premise of Rebirth was to restore a whole bunch of pre-Flashpoint continuity this isn't surprising. Presumably then the future we're dealing with here is one unfiddled with by whatever “stole a decade” from the DC universe.

It is also the future as seen in Batwoman, a Rebirth-continuity series.

Two options: either this future is inevitable (as it happens in both pre-Flashpoint and Rebirth continuity) or something is going to happen now future Tim is loose in the present to make this future happen, Terminator-style.

Then there's Conner Kent.

Kon Artistry

The big twist at the end of the issue is that future Tim remembers Conner but present Tim does not. This isn't much of a surprise as even the New 52 version of Conner (who never adopted the name, I don't think) hasn't even been referred to since Rebirth. Neither version was even present in the flashback to The Death Of Superman during the recent tour of Superman continuity that established what was and wasn't canon in the new continuity where the two New 52-era Clarks have been merged into a single history.

This might or might not be meaningful. It might tie into what we're talking about here or if might just have been editorial buying themselves time over a character they had no real use for.

So, is Conner coming back? It all comes down to whether we're dealing with two distinct futures with similar aspects or some unified future no matter which timeline we're looking at. The future we see in this issue has both Conner (not a part of the future we see in Batwoman) and Commissioner Montoya of Free Gotham (both featured in the Batwoman issue).

If the future Batman Tim comes from is exactly the same future we saw in Batwoman, if it is the future of the Rebirth continuity, then it makes sense that Conner's presence within that future means there's some future planned for the character. If, however, the lack of Conner in the Rebirth continuity is just a good mechanical way to establish that time is mutable and this dark future can be prevented (as Batman Tim actually says in the issue) then it makes sense that he'll stay gone.

Or both these theories could be way off because Tynion is a better writer than me or just because this was all a cute nod for fans rather than something deep and meaningful that a sane person would spend the better part of a thousand words trying to noodle out.