Monday 29 January 2018

Project Log: Nurgle Questor Traitoris Knight #1

The other day I found a brand new Imperial Knight Warden kit on eBay for a respectable discount. Its a lovely model but I just can't justify paying as much as GW wants for it, especially as I intend to spend extra on converting it for blasphemous purposes.

This is me we're talking about. My soul belongs to Chaos and no way am I getting a centrepiece model this good and building it for the good guys. Rather, this knight will be made to accompany my Death Guard into battle and I'm going to try writing a project log series along the way.

Right now, of course, I'm waiting for the kit to arrive and sorting through my bits box for Nurglesque components. Here are my resources so far:

1x Imperial Knight Warden (brand new in box)

spare parts from the Great Unclean One kit
including all Rotigus components

spare parts from Death Guard Plague Marines and Blightlord Terminators

one unbuilt Dark Imperium Putrid Bloat-Drone

one Chaos Vehicle Accessory Sprue
(those wrought iron fence bits need not apply)

misc. spare parts of Putrid Blight-Kings
(possibly useless)

many, many Nurglings

There will now ensue several days of frantic sketching as I decide how best to turn the noble Imperial Knight into a massive, pustulent daemon engine. 

Sunday 21 January 2018

Hux should join the Resistance

[Some mild spoilers for The Last Jedi, if that still matters right now.]

To be clear: I don't want him to have a redemption arc per se. I adore Hux for what he is and what he is happens to absolutely despicable. I love how awful he is and never more so than in that little moment when he finds Snoke dead and Ren unconscious and just casually reaches for his sidearm. Sadly for him, Ren wakes up and you can see the exasperation on Hux's face.

Hux hates everyone. He hates the Republic, he hates the Resistance and he absolutely despises Kylo Ren.

He obviously needs to betray Ren sometime in the future and the funniest version of this would be him defecting to the Resistance. Not because he has any sort of change of heart or positive character development. No! Out of spite. Pure, unadulterated spite because that's why Hux runs on. Well, spite and daddy issues.

No, seriously, just listen to how Domhnall Gleeson delivers the line about receiving his orders directly from Supreme Leader Snoke at the beginning of TLJ. Daddy issues, you don't even need to read any of the Eu stuff about his abusive father.

Now imagine him working with the Resistance. Imagine him standing at a holo-table with Finn, Rey and Poe as he describes how to take out the latest First Order superweapon. He starts off reasonable “As you can see the weak spot is here at the base of the power converter array,” but he can't quite keep old habits out, “and so if your MONGREL REBEL SCUM FIGHTER SQUADRONS focus fire on the...” and then he trails off as he sees the looks everyone is giving him. Then he delicately clears his throat and very, very quietly apologises.

And of course there'd have to be compulsory scene where he and Poe are trapped together in a ship arguing about an immediate life or death situation.

In desperation for that sense of power he misses so much he starts drilling the Millennium Falcon's porg population into an elite fighting force. 

Saturday 20 January 2018

One week project: Deathwatch Kill-Team

My POP Goes The Monkey Deathwatch shoulder pad sets arrived in the mail yesterday and I spent a pleasant afternoon building a six man Kill-Team. There's a fantastic reinvigorated to being able to expand beyond the one provided in the Kill-Team box set.

So I'm going to try and paint this Kill-Team across a couple of sessions this week.

Aside from the shoulder pads they have a simple and uniform colour scheme. This team (known informally as Team Shifty) is led by a Star Phantom and features an Exorcist, a Marine Malevolent, an Emperor's Hand, an Angel Sanguine and a Black Dragon. All chapters with dark secrets or suspicious reputations (apart from the Emperor's Hands who it turns out have no background whatsoever and I was thinking of someone else).

This will also be the final test phase for these 3D printed shoulder pads: they fit the models perfectly, were easy to remove from their sprue and have excellent detail. Now I just have to see how easy they are to paint. They are a little more delicately detailed than the GW equivalent so it may take extra effort to paint them properly (there's an Angels of Vigilance symbol so minutely detailed I genuinely worry about getting to that one). 

Friday 19 January 2018

Ahsoka Tano: this is going to hurt, isn't it?

One of the best ideas that The Clone Wars has, by far, is Ahsoka Tano. Giving Anakin a padawan of his very own does a lot for the characters. In the prequels I never felt like Anakin was ever a Jedi Knight. In Episode I he's a child, in Episode II he's Obi-Wan's padawan and then, in Episode III when he's meant to be a fully qualified knight and general, he's still basically Obi-Wan's sidekick.

Watching this series I finally have a feel for Anakin Skywalker the legendary general, the great Jedi, the man whose friendship Old Ben Kenobi still goes misty eyed thinking about in Episode IV. I've seen him fly with Shadow Squadron and Gold Squadron, displaying the prowess he was supposedly famous for but got to demonstrate only rarely in the films.

And I'm getting to see him with his student, a young woman he calls Snips and who calls him Skyguy. I've seen her light up when he praises her and get frustrated when he tells her off. The very first episode they appear in together he tells her off for mouthing off at Mace Windu and Palpatine and then, a couple of scenes later, gives her a very different lesson in how to disobey orders only once your superiors are no longer looking.

For her part, Ahsoka is very much Anakin's student by which I mean she every bit of the flare for the over-dramatic that he does, not to mention a lot of repressed anger and an insubordinate streak a mile wide. I adore her.

And that's why ehat Anakin is going to do one day will hurt more.

Before I knew about Ahsoka I could see where Anakin was coming from betraying the Jedi: their rules cost him his mother, forced him to marry in secret and (as far as he knows) the restraint of the Light Side will cost him the life of his wife and children. Furthermore, they have repeatedly lied to him, refused to trust him, and been unduly harsh on him because of his supposed destiny as the Chosen One (which I'm not even sure he knows about). He was inducted as a child into an order supposedly dedicated to justice that nonetheless refuses to quash the slavery he was brought up in (and that he dreamt as a child of destroying).

The fact that he was sometimes a bit fond of Obi-Wan just didn't cut it in the tragic stakes.

Now Anakin's decision means betraying Ahsoka. He obviously cares for her and tries very hard not to repeat the mistakes Obi-Wan made with him. He values her input and makes an effort to let her know this. She clearly operates on a longer leash than Obi-Wan allowed Anakin and is more in touch with her emotions than he was at that relative age.

I have over five and a half seasons of this brilliant, doomed dynamic ahead of me.

This is really going to hurt. Well done, Lucasfilm!

Thursday 18 January 2018

Giving (Clone) War A Chance

Last night, my housemate and I decided to watch The Clone Wars. As I write this we're five episodes in (if DVD orders aren't standard across regions that's Ambush, the Malevolence trilogy and Rookies). I went in with pretty high hopes because two friends recommended it.

And I love it. Funnily enough at least one person told me the first season was a bit of a slog but I've no complaints so far. In fact, there's an awful lot to love as far as I'm concerned.

I adore the 1940s news radio voiceover that does the continuity recaps at the beginning. I guess the traditional text crawl was too time-consuming for a cartoon and this is a fantastic compromise between saving time and harkening back to the series' film serial roots. I do sometimes wonder if the voice actor is going to ask me if I want to know more, of course...

I greatly enjoy the comedic stupidity of the Seperatist battle droids. I always found them vaguely annoying in the films but the series dials their stupidity up to eleven and adds in a rather charming weary fatalism.

Padme's one appearance so far indicates they're going with the more competent side of the character. Also, in just the few scenes she and Anakin have shared I do get more of a feel for how their relationship works during the war: stolen moments few and far between (and, incidentally, less chance for Anakin's obvious maddery to show through).

Anakin and Obi-Wan's relationship is definitely clearer here. Because of the huge time gaps between the prequel movies I never really got a feeling for the friendship that made Obi-Wan go misty eyed. I'm starting to feel it, though, even though Obi-Wan's main emotion towards Anakin is still persistence face palming. Eh, I can't pretend I don't have friends like that I'd miss.

Ahsoka is (how to put this delicately?) very much what I imagined from the phrase “Anakin Skywalker's padawan” and I love that the first interactions we see between her and her master are Anakin ticking her off for backtalking her superiors before going on to teach her how to disobey them without quite disobeying them. She is also a fantastic way of building up Anakin the general and legendary fighter pilot because it allows them to portray him as something other than a student.

All in all, a series I am very much enjoying. 

Wednesday 17 January 2018

The 50/500 Challenge: ground rules

I'm putting the finishes touches on the first models of the year and since I have this little goal of mine it seems a good idea to lay myself some ground rules. So, here we go...

The Objective
To complete 500 points or 50 power levels of miniatures for each of my hobby projects.

Rule #1: Points and Power Levels
The goals are 500 points of models for Fantasy and 50 power levels for 40k. This will not include intangibles: magic banners, extra wizard levels, wargear items not represented on the model and so on. Firstly, this locks off a potential avenue of “cheating” for me and, second, means that ultimately I'll have even more of an army finished at the end of the challenge.

Rule #2: The Definition of “Complete”
The model has to be fully painted and its basing complete. That seems pretty obvious when I come to write it.

Rule #3: Starting From Scratch Not Compulsory
This is all about dealing with backlog so any model that needs finishing can count towards the Challenge. Whether it needs painting from scratch like my shiny new Great Unclean One or something that just needs their bases sanded and painted like the rank of Squigs I found in an army case the other day it counts as completing a model and it adds to the total.

Rule #4: Whatever I get finished is good
I'll be honest with myself: I have a lot of different projects and not all of them are going to hit the goal. There are projects that won't reach the goal (I don't have 50 power of Nurgle Daemons and there's only about six models left to finish for my 1000 points of Sylvaneth). Whatever progress I make, whether I reach all my goals or not, is good.

Also, because there are some projects I really want to go to town on (most especially my Death Guard and Tyranids) I won't necessarily stop once I've reached the goal amount. 

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Pikachu annoys me

I hate the perishing sight of him. I just had my first post-Trial trainer battle with Hau in UltraSun and his Pikachu almost annihilated me. Admittedly, this is what comes of having a team that is two thirds Flying types but the almost invincible nature of Electric types gets to me sometimes, especially Pickahu with its Static ability that paralyzes you for daring to use a physical attack against the little yellow git.

Ground types, that's the only sort that gets a super effective against Electric.

Guess what type I've never particularly enjoyed using?

Underneath all the bitching and moaning here I do feel there is a serious point here. Pokémon has always had a “play as you like” ethos and, for the most part, you can. Electric types, though, are a very real exception to this rule. Obviously they can be dealt with but it tends to take a lot of Paralyze Heals.

Still, I have plenty more encounters with Hau to work out a strategy. 

Monday 15 January 2018

The Great Unclean One and the Easy Build philosophy

Yesterday I built my Great Unclean One. Even considering I was watching a film and taking the odd break to let some assemblies dry before attaching them to the main body it still only took me about an hour. Considering my less than fond memories of building the Lord Of Change, I was agreeably surprised.
It is a stunningly simple model. According to this little infographic GW shared on its Facebook page it has a grand total of 59 components. That includes three alternate builds and six Nurglings who are just embellishments. In fact, there are a lot of significant spare parts, all sorts of horns and hands, a bell and a big knife as well as the hilarious collection of Nurglings, all of which I'm keeping aside for when I make a Death Guard Knight.

Now, part of this simplicity is that a Great Unclean One is a big, round dude. In fact, whilst building him I was reminded of a hollow Easter egg. A really, really ugly and yet somehow adorable hollow Easter egg.

Still, I think part of the philosophy here is owed to the recent Easy Build kits. Obviously there's a lot of differences between this kit and the actual Easy Builds (optional builds and the massively higher price spring to mind) but a lot of thought has seemingly gone into cutting the main body into as few pieces as possible.

I certainly can't argue with the results. I finished the building model in a little more than an hour, didn't once have any trouble finding a component and even have bits left over for a future project. If this is the direction GW are planning to go for future huge monsters I heartily look forward to them.

Especially if there's going to be a plastic Keeper Of Secrets because my Dark Elves Cult of Pleasure army would greatly appreciate a one of those. 

Sunday 14 January 2018

A couple of Attack Of The Clones thoughts

Two things occurred to me whilst a friend and I rewatched the film the other night. The first thought was just that Anakin and Padme's scenes on Naboo are just so full of red flags. Its painful to watch. Do neither the New Republic of the Jedi Order have psychiatrists who should probably taken a good hard look at the traumatised kid they were pinning all their hopes on.

This is not new. I mean, every time I revisit this film I gain a new and deeper appreciation for how damn screwed up Anakin is and how unhealthy his and Padme's “romance” is.
The other thought that occurs is this: I adore the character of Dex. I love that Obi-Wan has this old friend who runs a greasy spoon diner and apparently knows so much about exotic ammunition that he can identify where a dart comes from just looking at the little cuts on the side.

That little detail and how fondly he greets Obi-Wan speaks of a colourful past.

So, what I'm saying is this: when Disney eventually do a Star Wars Story for Obi-Wan (preferably whilst Ewan McGregor is still young enough for the role) they could do a lot worse than some sort of buddy cop road movie with his chubby, four-armed alien short order chef friend. 

Saturday 13 January 2018

Baby Mimics

For the last couple of days I've been fiddling with a cufflink box I found in a drawer, just something for my hands to do whilst watching films and the like.

And now I keep thinking about baby mimics. Like when Daenarys has her cute baby dragons, what if mimics had a baby stage? Instead of starting out as giant metal bound wooden chests they start out as earring boxes, snuff boxes, makeup compacts.

And what if rogue characters trained them to, say, hold a set of lockpicks and come when whistled at.

I really have to find an excuse to use this idea. 

Friday 12 January 2018

Well, bugger

My order of 3D printed Deathwatch iconography has been cancelled at the seller's end. Sadly, he was served a cease and desist on the product by Games Workshop or so says the e-mail I was sent.

Oh well, them's the breaks when you buy third party. Pity. Still, most everything else the seller offered before is still available so I took my refund and a little extra money and bought a couple of sets of his Deathwatch shoulder pads. I won't get as many individual marines out of the set as I think I would have got out of the sprue (between repeated shoulder pads and “commons” you also get on the Deathwatch Kill-Team sprue there are 25 of the 30 pads I've ordered are useful to me).

On the plus side these specific sets have some interesting chapters the sprue didn't like the Marines Malevolent, the Iron Lords and the Angels Sanguine. I'm really looking forward to creating interesting teams out of these new options. 

Thursday 11 January 2018

Deathwatch: the fun of choosing

One of the fun things about Deathwatch is creating units out of mismatched chapters. I admit, I like my teams of oddballs flung together by fate and if they're some form of spies or black ops then so much the better. Some of my favourite books every are Aaron Allston's Wraith Squadron novels for the X-Wing series. I also just enjoy writing background for my armies and the fact that every Space Marine in a Deathwatch army is a visually distinct individual (even if it is just a shoulder pad) is an absolute gift.

Before those 3D printed shoulder icons arrive from Shapeways, I decided to take out the Deathwatch I had and get some naming done.

The Watch-Master of this station, Watch-Station Rubicon, is Caldon Gerhardt of the Iron Knights. Serving under him (but yet to be built) are two Watch-Captains, Cirus Calhoun of the Red Wolves and Luther Zalamea of the Blood Drinkers (if that sounds like an odd name for a Sanguinary Space Marine its because he's named after two Max Schreck movies, one of Shreck's characters having lent his name to the Blood Drinkers' chapter master).

Rounding out the command staff are Chaplan Tiberius Tigris of the Ultramarines and Librarian Trayvan Delios of the Blood Ravens, courtesy of the Kill-Team Cassius box set.

Down the ranks from them are the three Kill-Teams I have built fulfilling the roles of Focus Characters, the Friendly Allies and the Rivals.

The focus characters of my background are Kill-Team Germanicus led by Yehven Germanicus of the Novamarines and comprised of Lucas Mannheim of the Raptors, the Black Shield Morden, and Aemar Badstar and Gunnar Gunnar Lionsbane of the Space Wolves (who join the Deathwatch in pairs). The pairing of a sergeant from an ultra-Codex chapter with three marines from non-Codex chapters and a disgraced Black Shield is deliberate because that's the sort of tension that's fun to write.

Filling the role of the friendly allies are Kill-Team Karashi, the team Germanicus served on before his elevation to squad command. Led by Karashi Nito of the Mentor Legion and comprise of Hektor Dravian of the Ultramarines, Reihan Trier of the Silver Skulls, Lorvan Aurech of the Iron Hands and Javier Morales of the Crimson Fists. Karashi is the longest serving Watch-Sergeant at Rubicon Command, a potential future Watch-Captain and trusted advisor of Master Gerhardt.

Finally, the role of Kill-Team Germanicus' eternal rivals (I grew up on Sharpe movies and bad longform anime) are Kill-Team Marak. Led by Varil Marak of the Flesh Tearers it is comprised of members of the most dickish chapters I had iconography for: Aenir Dalus of the Brazen Minotaurs, Zakaroah of the Dark Angels, Julio Raklan of the Subjugators and Vantak Thule of the Sons of Medusa.

There are, of course, some more models from Kill-Team Cassius who still need homes: the Raven Guard and Blood Angels Vanguard Veterans, the White Scars biker and the Salamanders Terminator all need squads to call their own (I'm not sure I hold with these mixed team builds). Those will be the first priority for the 3D printed iconography. I also want to make a Vanguard team armed entirely with power weapons and storm shields because there is a lovely piece of art with a Dark Angels Kill-Marine armed like that and I just want that visual more than anything, perhaps using some of the more knightly chapters as team members. 

Wednesday 10 January 2018

She's, like, a strong and stable genius

No matter how engaged you are with politics there's always something that'll blindside you, especially in a governmental system as old as ours.

You see, the way popular culture has always portrayed cabinet reshuffles is as basically the most dictatorial thing a prime minister can do. You watch the likes of Yes, Minister or The Thick of It and whenever the mere possibility of a reshuffle comes up everyone's scrabbling for favour, seeking out the slightest rumour of who's going up or down or not moving at all.

At no point has anyone told me a minister can just refuse to be moved and yet a good portion of the government reacted to Theresa May's (the prime minister, not the pornstar) decision with a resolute “Nope. I'm happy here, I live here now.”

So, yeah, that's the strong and stable leadership this country is counting on to get us a good deal on Brexit: a prime minister who can't even tell her ministers what job they're meant to be doing.

At this point a vote of no confidence would be a mercy to the woman. 

Tuesday 9 January 2018

The Legion of Substitute Miniatures: Deathwatch insignia from Shapeways

In particular, the store of one POP Goes the MONKEY (spelt like that) aka Matt Sweitzer. Shapeways is a digital marketplace for 3D printed products and there are so many knock-off bits for 40k.

I am serious, if there is a super obscure Space Marine chapter that you love and you want an army but you can't freehand the chapter emblem to save your life just go on Shapeways. They're all there! I am perfectly serious. Most of them, in fact, are available from this POP fellow. His store is actually pretty well laid out because, obviously, none of these shoulder pad and insignia sets have the right names because of trademark law so it can take some searching.

However, POP Goes the Monkey sorts their insignia by not only by armour mark but by general categories of the emblem: animals, body parts, general shapes and the like.

He also does mixed sets for Deathwatch armies. Previously they were ten assorted chapter-specific shoulder pads but he also has this...
which contains thirty distinct chapter heraldry designed to be glued onto the shoulder pad. Okay, some of them are ones from the Deathwatch Kill-team set itself but alternate uses can always be found. That Ultramarines ultra? Stick it onto the shoulder pad upside down and you have the Sons Of Orar. Do that same thing and shave the wings off that Angels Sanguine skull at the bottom? Stuck it in the middle of the upside down ultra and you have the Omega Marines.

Plus, it has the Rainbow Warriors chapter badge. That deserves a recommendation all on its own.

Once these arrive I'm going to have to trawl Lexicanum to see if any of the doubles can be used for alternate chapters (the Guardians of the Covenant crossed swords can also be used for Sable Swords, for instance). Hopefully this “Deathwatch Set1” will be just the first of several such deals. Not that I'll be in any hurry, I can likely get four or five Kill-Teams out of this set. 

Monday 8 January 2018

This week's hobby goals

Its going to be a busy work week this week with not much time for hobby so I'll be starting off the year with some small, simple tasks I can get done in simple sessions. This is something of a New Year's Resolution for me: to get more hobby done by being realistic about the time I have available and trying to get something done, even if its just a little something, every week.

So small, simple jobs:

Undercoat the remaining models
for my Flesh Tearers 100 power list

I actually had a 100 power game on Sunday (I lost, got tabled but learnt some valuable lessons) so I have the models easily to hand. Its basically a zero effort job though it will take a while because we're talking about something like thirty models including a Dreadnought and a tank (I was not kidding about how bad my “grey horde” problem was, folks).

Paint the bases on some “finished” models

I have a couple of models (six Skinks, a Hive Tyrant and three Tyranid Warriors) that have been basically finished and just waiting to have their bases finished since before Christmas. If I can get those all the way finished that's the first drop in the ocean of the 50/500 Challenge.

Finish building some Grey Knights

After a frustrating hour trying to get one Grey Knight's daemonhammer built I decided to give it a rest for a while. That was a week ago and I should probably get back on that horse. I want to say the hard part is done because I have all the bodies built but I know that isn't the hard part because Grey Knight weapons come in so many different co-dependent builds. Still, if I break it up into a couple of sessions it shouldn't drive my too far down the path of insanity.


It seems a realistic amount to do in a busy week. Obviously, this doesn't include much actual painting and if I do get some done it'll be a nice extra. 

How a fuzzy bat saved my UltraSun playthrough

Its funny how my engagement with Pokémon UltraSun has completely changed through the capture of two pokémon. I bought the game a few weeks ago so I'd have something to play over Christmas when family was being a bit trying. I didn't actually get that far over the festive period beyond jumping through all the initial hoops (picking my starter, learning how to battle and catch pokémon, the usual). I found myself moderately annoyed that Zygarde cells had been removed from the game and was a little intrigued by the little robot chap and chapess wandering around but I wasn't really engaged.

Then, just this weekend, I wandered into the Pokémon Centre on Route 3 and one of the NPCs wanted to trade a Spearow for a Hawlucha.
Now, I love Flying-types and there are some that are just must haves for me when they appear. Hawlucha is one of them: its a hawk that looks like a Mexican professional wrestler. How could I not want that. I dutifully wandered into the high grass looking for a Spearow (about the only Flying-type whose design I utterly despise and will not have on my team under any, any circumstances). I caught one, having accidentally one hit killed about seven because I was stupidly over-levelled, and returned to the Pokémon Centre to claim my prize.

I was a little annoyed that because of getting him in trade I didn't get to name him but, nevermind, I had one of my favourite Pokémon on my team. It was a definite pick me up.

Then came the real turning point. After beating Captain Ilima's Trial I was wandering around Verdant Cave looking for a Gumshoos I was going to name “The Donald”. Sadly, I never found that Gumshoos but I did stumble across something even better...
A Noibat! A pokémon I had never seen or heard of before but that looked so cool I had to have it. Its funny how that happens sometimes. I had no idea what it did or what type it was (being Flying), I just latched on to how cool the design was. On the strength of design alone I think this little chappy is going to remain a permanent fixture of my team.

As it turns out its a Flying/Dragon-type and I've never had a Dragon-type before. I've had my arse kicked by them on many an occasion but never had one on the team before. He's only Level 8, the little fellow, and has bugger all useful attacks but I hope that all that stands between it and being as awesome in a fight as it is to look at is a little power leveling.

Between this and the little robot chap and chapess turning out to be a more substantial new plot thread than I anticipated I'm feeling rather re-energised about UltraSun.

Erika's Pokémon Team
(circa Melemele Meadow)

Barnrum the Popplio
Weatherwax the Murkrow
Diamondback the Ekans
Sqidgy the Inkay
Cha the Hawlucha

Snuffles the Noibat

Sunday 7 January 2018

The Exiles return

Exiles is something of a special series to me. The original run started in 2001 and was part of Marvel's great turn of the millennium creative renaissance. It was my first experience of Judd Winick's writing and introduced me to two of my favourite comics artists: Mike McKone and J. Calafiore. I adored the series for its endless invention of not only interesting alternate versions of familiar and obscure characters but also the interesting situations they were injected into: alternate universes that needed something nudging back into order.
Hell, this was the series that even brought the best out of Chuck Austen whose other work for Marvel I was... significantly less fond of.

Oh, and it also did the Spider-Gwen thing years before Spider-Gwen was a thing. Exiles had a version of Mariko Yashida, in the “normal” Marvel Universe Wolverine's rather boring martyred true love, and reinvented by giving her her cousin Sunfire's powers and making her gay. The issue where she comes out to her teammate Morph remains, to this day, one of my favourite done-in-one character study issues up there Brian Michael Bendis' best one-shot Ultimate Spider-Man issues.
Her love interest, by the way, was a Mary Jane Watson who was Spider-Woman so more proto-Spider-Gwen there.

The series has been revived a couple of times. There was a not terribly exciting run by Jeff Parker that lasted all of six issues in 2009 and a pretty damn good revival of the concept as X-Treme X-Men in 2012 under Greg Pak. The later I highly recommend checking out, especially if you ever wondered why people are so fond of the Dazzler character.

The fun of the series has always been reinvention, which is probably why the Chris Claremont run and its odd decision only to feature versions of characters originally created by Claremont didn't sit well with me (though I did like that run's take on Mystique). Seeing the new line-up, especially an older Kamala Khan, really interests me. Plus Saladin Ahmed is attached as writer and this guy made me care about Black Bolt! I didn't think anyone could make me care about Black Bolt and he managed it.

Seeing what he has in store for Blink, Iron Lad and Kamala Khan is going to be a sight to see. 

Saturday 6 January 2018

How to make a plastic Leviathan Dreadnought (in theory)

This was a conversion idea that occurred to me yesterday. Though I won't have the funds to pursue it for a while I thought I'd put it up here on the off chance that someone might be able to make use of it.
The Leviathan Dreadnought is a Forge World model I adore. I love me my Dreadnoughts, in fact part of the reason I'm collecting a Blood Angels/Flesh Tearers army right now is that they have so many Dreadnoughts. The problem with the Leviathan (aside from the Forge World resin which is evil) is that the body is £47 and then you have to pay £13 per arm on top of that.

So, how to make one for less and in plastic, aka a material that is actually workable and comes with some sort of quality control.
Firstly, the basis: a Primaris Redemptor Dreadnought. One of the great design features of the Redemptor is that that massive front plate with the aquila on it is designed to swing up to reveal the Dreadnought's sarcophagus. If you built it leaving the sarcophagus exposed and perhaps replace it with one from the Venerable Dreadnought kit to give it the helmet present on the Leviathan.

As to weapons the plasma incinerator cannon would make a passable substitute for the Grav-Flux Bombard whilst the power fist could be augmented with any number of claws (perhaps blood claws from the Furioso).

Hope that helps. 

Friday 5 January 2018

Comic Reviews

Batman and the Signal #1
It has taken a damn long time to get this far: Duke Thomas in his own series (albeit with Batman co-billing for some reason even though he's at best a cameo in this issue). He's been around since pretty early in the New 52 (yes, some good ideas happened even then), was a major figure in the big Zero Year storyline and the lead character in We Are Robin plus all sorts of cameos and back-up features over the years.

Now he finally has a limited series and a name: the Signal.

And, even better, all that waiting meant something, writer Tony Patrick isn't treating him as a blank slate but as a character who comes into this series with some real history. We even get to see a couple of the other former street Robins, Iz and Riko, hanging out with him and helping him with cases.

The whole unique selling point of Duke, it seems, is that his stories take place during the day, this is a big thing repeated until its hammered into the reader's skull. We even have a day shift GCPD detective, Aisi, who is so obviously destined to be Duke's Jim Gordon. She also has a prosthetic arm which even looks like they might be portraying an actual physical disability rather than just slapping a science-fiction perfect cyber-arm on someone. I could be wrong, it does look a little science-fiction cyber-y but then look at some of the prosthetic limbs around these days and a few of them actually do look like that.

Duke also has metahuman powers to do with light: being able to see it in different ways, get glimpses of the past like a mental replay button and the like. Its rather vague in places what he can do but its also clear that he's still exploring his powers and that they'll be a major part of the series going forward. Looks like its going to be fun.

Rogue & Gambit #1
I admit I ship these two characters almost out of habit. By the standards of '90s cartoons they were the big (albeit sexless and sometimes dubiously consensual) romance of the old X-Men show. One of my ongoing frustrations with Marvel is that they just will not bloody let these two have a happy ending. Rogue lost her powers in X-Treme X-Men and they retired to a nice town in California and then she goes and gets her powers back (on purpose, no less). In X-Men: Legacy she finally gained control of her powers, which lasted until whoever wrote Uncanny Avengers decided that was boring, and in the intervening years she barely said two words to Gambit.

Now they have a mini-series to themselves and... well, it could be worse.

The set-up is that there's a tropical island therapy retreat for mutants and Cerebra is losing track of the mutants who go there. Kitty, a sucker for true love if ever there was one, decides to save lives and matchmake at the same time by sending in Gambit and Rogue to work on their relationship problems. Gambit is pleased as punch, Rogue is annoyed as hell and the guests at the retreat are creepily happy even for people staying on a tropical island.

Now, the island retreat thing is a nice twist but also a pretty standard X-Men plot (there is a nice place for mutants to go, mutants go there and it turns out not to be nice after all) but what fascinates me is the relationship counselling issue. It can;t be denied that these two have issues and not just Rogue's obvious problems with physical intimacy. Gambit has issues to in that he often comes off as a bit of a creeper with boundary issues. He just won't stop trying to touch Rogue! She keeps explicitly telling him not to, as well. Bad Gambit!

Its also clear that this series is really invested in the pair's past with a big splash page dedicated to edited highlights of their relationship that stretched from moments as iconic as Gambit's trial (and that lovely pink and yellow Shi'Ar costume Rogue was rocking at the time) to ones as lost to time as Rogue being stabbed back in the X-Treme days. Hopefully, that's more than just fan service and there's a real plan here to take that history and move the characters forward some.

Hawkeye #14
Sadly, this title just got cancelled so I have to enjoy it while I can. The big thing in this issue is that Kate has been kidnapped by time travelling villain Eden Vale and Clint has a plan.

This is as bad as it sounds.

Thankfully, the highlights of this terrible plan are a) Clint working with Kate's supporting cast and the gang getting a full bore education in the human disaster that is Clint Barton and b) Clint abducting Madame Masque (who is now walking around inside a clone of Kate's body) so he can switch her out for Kate as part of a big rescue.

If you can see exactly how this was going to go wrong from the get go, congratulations, you are exactly as smart as the writer. Its actually interesting to have Kate and Clint in the same title again if only for the fact it brings into sharp relief that as bad as Kate screws up sometimes she is nothing compared to the absolute disaster that is Clint Barton. It was also a cute move to have Masque try to freak out Barton by coming on to him whilst looking like Kate. The teasing and continual rejection of Hawkeye/Hawkeye romance is the gag that keeps on giving and I'm glad Thompson decided to continue it from the Fraction days.

I really am going to miss this title. 

Thursday 4 January 2018

This is the grim dark future liberals want

The first models of the year: the Death Guard Blight-Hauler and Grey Knights Grand Master Voldus. Fantastic models to build, especially the Easy Build Blight-Hauler that took me all of twenty minutes (though the face panel is a little difficult to get all its securing pins to play ball).

I'm looking forward to painting these two. Voldus is going to be challenging for me: lots of bright metallic colours and fiddly gold detailing to pick out. The Blight-Hauler, by contrast, is a relatively simple I'll mostly finish with drybrushing. Plus, I've painted a few Death Guard models already so I have the techniques pretty much down.

They'll also be a good start for what I'm now calling the “50/500 Challenge”, my goal to finish 50 power level or 500 points of models for each of my armies by the end of the year: single high value models that I'm really invested in getting done.

Now to get them undercoated and slap some base colours on them.

Admittedly this post existed mainly to justify the joke title. 

Wednesday 3 January 2018

The First Order: the power of the pathetic

Is it okay to do spoiler posts for The Last Jedi yet? There's stuff I want to discuss and first and foremost is the clarification we get on what the First Order actually is so BEWARE, SPOILERS BELOW!

One job I felt The Last Jedi did very well was clarify what the First Order is. It helps that most of the rise of Trump and the fallout of Brexit happened inbetween production of Episodes VII and VIII because the exact dynamics of this sort of fascist nostalgia movement are better know to us now. I'm not completely throwing Abrams under the bus here but I feel we have a much better handle on where these characters are coming from now the banal mechanics of this sort of thing are better known.

It all starts with that first scene of Hux (a character best described by a tweet I saw calling him “the personification of British foreign policy circa 1950”) breathlessly informing a subordinate that his orders come directly from Supreme Leader Snoke. You can just feel the daddy issues pouring off him as he says it.

Then there's Kylo Ren going full-on Reddit MRA incel negging pick up artist on Rey with his “You mean nothing to anyone except for me” routine which is a textbook emotional manipulation device.

Meanwhile there's Snoke himself sitting on his throne in his Hugh Hefner dressing gown going so far as to describe how he's manipulating Hux right to Ren's face to make Ren feel special and valued even though its also pretty much how he's manipulating Ren.

There are those who feel that reducing the main antagonists to an old man blatantly and shallowly manipulating two needy manbabies into repeated acts of pointless aggression devalues them somewhat.

Have these people met the modern far right? Because that's a pretty accurate portrayal of what they are nowadays. The last US election presented a New York real estate billionaire as the anti-establishment candidate who would make it socially acceptable for white people to say “Merry Christmas” again and build a wall to keep those Mexicans out of all those border states who ever so slightly economically rely on immigrant labour. My own country regularly mistakes the likes of Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and Nigel “I love foreign tax havens but not foreign people” Farage for salt of the earth sorts who understand the struggle of the working man because they said something mildly amusing on Have I Got News For You or drank out of a pint glass for a photo op.

So, yeah, portraying the foot soldiers of the right wing as easily led useful idiots bowing to any authority that flatters their personality defects strikes me as pretty bloody fitting right now.

And that's really effective. It can't be denied that Hux, Ren and the First Order in general are a threat. They kill a lot of people over the course of the two movies. They hunt the Resistance to the point of extinction (there may be more space puffins on the Falcon than dissidents) They have access to huge numbers of weapons and, let's face it, pathetic young white men with access to huge numbers of weapons are something that especially US audiences have reasons to have anxieties about.

So, yeah, I liked all of that. Nice to see someone portraying the fact that these people are completely pathetic and yet a genuine threat to life and limb. I feel that sometimes the awful harm these people are capable of causing is diminished by how bloody stupid they are and perhaps that mixed message has helped them achieve as much power as they have. 

Tuesday 2 January 2018

New Year, New Army: Grey Knights

This whole project came about more by accident than design. My father asked for a list of miniatures I might want for Christmas, he read the list (written, in fairness, in my terrible handwriting) and went completely off script to get me a Grey Knights Strike Squad.

Fortuitous mistake.

It didn't take me long to convince myself I wanted a Grey Knights army. For one thing they're super-elite which means I can make a decent size army relatively quickly alongside my other projects. They're painted mainly in bright metallics which is unusual for me and a chance to grow my skills. Tactically they make enormous use of psychic powers and teleport assaults as central tactics which, again, is unusual for me.

Now, its usual in these circumstances to begin with a Start Collecting set. Unfortunately, Grey Knights don't have one (or perhaps fortunately as it would almost inevitably include a Stormraven) so I put together my own:

1x Grand Master Voldus
1x Grey Knights Strike Squad
1x Grey Knights Terminator Squad
Its a solid starting force. Using Voldus as a generic Grand Master, the Terminators a bog standard Terminator Squad and splitting the power armoured Grey Knights into a Strike Squad and a Purgation Squad it comes to 37 power. They have a very uniform colour scheme so I can start batch painting them as soon as they're built (which might take a while, the co-dependent assemblies on some of their weapons builds are just plain evil).

I also need to look into either kitbashing or ordering from Forge World a Grey Knights Dreadnought because, as far as I'm concerned, no Space Marine army is complete without a Dreadnought. 

Monday 1 January 2018


Last year was horrible, wasn't it? I briefly thought about going back to my 2017 New Year post to see how things went and... I can't be bothered. Last year was so horrible on so many levels I just want it gone.
Luckily for me, its a new year (yes it is!) and that means new goals and new projects.

Moffat Watchthrough

Its the end, but the moment has been prepared for. One of my favourite eras of Doctor Who has ended (certainly my favourite one I was actually around for) and so its time to see how it all stands up as a body of work. I'll be blogging my impressions episode by episode from The Eleventh Hour to Twice Upon A Time stopping at all stations. It'll be fun to revisit old favourites, re-evaluate the less-loved episodes and finally watch some of the early Capaldi stuff I skipped because I was a little burnt out on the series in 2014.

Address the backlog a bit

I have a stack of books, comics and DVDs I just plain haven't touched since buying them, not to mention a list of Netflix recommendations from friends. I bought these things to enjoy them and they're just sitting there. And some of this addressing will involve just chucking things away because I've realised if there's one thing I need to avoid its the sunk cost fallacy. In complement and contradiction of this...

Read Many New Things

I want to expand my reading horizons, especially with comics. I've fallen into a bit of a superhero rut and I want to vary my diet a bit. So I'll be regularly trying out new series, graphic novels, some manga and suchlike.

New Year, New Army: Grey Knights

My father misunderstood my Christmas list (not his fault, my handwriting is awful) and now I have Grey Knights. Not that I mind: its an army I've always liked the idea of so I'm rolling with it. If nothing else they'll make a nice allied detachment for when I take Imperial armies against Matt's Death Guard.

On the subject of hobby...

Paint Many Things

I continue to want to grow my miniature painting skills. I also want to put armies down on the table with more painted miniatures. To this end I have a simple goal:

By the end of the year I want to have completed 50 power (for 40k) or 500 points (for Fantasy) of all my current projects. That's a relatively small number of miniatures for each project which is a better fit for my magpie attention span than trying to concentrate on big, longterm hobby goals. This is also why I'm doing an elite army for New Year, New Army.

I also want to try and have at least one decent painting session a week so I can do a hobby log post every weekend with at least some progress.