Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Title speculation is really interesting (Star Wars Episode VIII)

(Spoiler Warning: Look, its not like there's any actual information here. The one and only fact contained in this post, and every other one on this subject on the whole dang internet, is that Episode VIII now has a title but if you really, really want to hold off on learning even that just skip this one.)

We've got a title and that means it is speculation times now! That in and of itself is sort of interesting. We are something more than ten months away from this thing opening and a three word title is all we have and yet the speculation begins.

So its called The Last Jedi, which seems to be a callback to how Luke is described in the Episode VII text crawl. Ultimately, that doesn't tell us much more than we already know: Luke will be in this thing.
Then there's the fact the logo itself is red. Because Luke will die? Please no. Because Luke will turn to the dark side? Because he'll have a final confrontation with everyone's favourite whining edgelord manbaby Kylo Ren and his self harm sabre?

Then there's the plural issue because “Jedi” can be a plural so maybe Luke and Rey together are the last Jedi. I hope that's it because going for a Game Of Thrones wipeout of the original trio (however unintentional given the sad passing of Carrie Fisher last year) seems a bit too far. Just like its shocking death for shocking death's sake which, again thanks for Game Of Thrones, just doesn't work anymore, it just comes off as cynical.

But what really fascinates me is that this is part of the cycle now. This is absolutely the intended consequence of announcing a title for a big movie now. Fans have always speculated but now the way entertainment news travels so fast and how the internet has made things so much more accessible, well, the entry bar to being a “fan” has lowered considerably. On the one hand its cynical as hell but on the others its kind of heartening that more people are able to engage with their media this way. Just rather nice that there are so many more nerds now, I guess.

Monday, 23 January 2017

All aboard the Trump trainwreck!

If nothing else, we can credit the US electoral college (rather than, you know, an actual majority of the electorate) with providing us an interesting limit case study: just what will it take to sink Trump?

I mean, here we are, less than half a week in and we have a sparsely attended inauguration followed by a full 1% of the total US population turning out in protest across the country; sister protests in solidarity on every continent including Antarctica; Trump's press secretary (the oddly animatronic Sean Spicer) throwing a hissy fit at the press corps for daring to accurately report the low turn out; the US just doesn't have a diplomatic corps right now since Trump fired all the ambassadors without replacing them; and, Trump banning the National Parks Service from Twitter after they dared to post an unedited photo comparing the attendance of Trump and Obama's inaugurations.

Still, credit The Donald with something, he's made me feel sorry for Theresa May.

Thanks, Trump!

No, but seriously, folks: May has been banging on for ages about how once we piss of the EU and fail to get a trade deal for after Brexit (which will happen since this stupid old bat thinks threatening the people you're negotiating with is a good idea) that we'll be able to get a good trade deal with the US. In fact, she's going to Washington next week to talk to Trump about that very subject.

So what she's got to do is get a trade deal out of a man infamous for reneging on his deals, who just delivered an enormous policy speech where he basically said that he's going to look after US interests to the exclusion of all else.

And we don't have a US ambassador right now so how we're going to carry out the formal negotiations is anyone's guess.

By Twitter, perhaps?

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Hobby Goal #3

Hobby Goal #2:
Finish my Dwarf Rangers


Due to some unfortunate life-related business followed by crushing art block on how to paint the crossbows and axe hafts, I didn't get the Rangers finished, as you can see.
However, in random spare moments I have been able to make some progress on clearing the painting table.

Other Progress
A model I really want to be a production number, the Deathwatch Watch-Master nears completion with only some final metallic details and the Inquisitorial seals on his cape left to do. I rather like how to the drybrushing on the Guardian spear blade came out, which is good since I ruined a perfectly good drybrush that I can now only use for Sotek Green.
Sanded and moving to the basing shelf are five Flesh Tearers Tactical Marines including Sergeant, meltagun and heavy flamer, plus a kitbashed Librarian. The white on the chapter heraldry is still not as flat as I'd like but I feel I'm making progress.

I also can't help but feel that no matter what I do with inks, that blue on the Librarian is too flat. Still, I like how the conversion came out with the warding hand.
Finally, a test model for my Tzeentch Chaos Warriors. A lot of work to do on this one but I like how the Thousand Sons Blue looks on the cloth. I think the silver armour is going to have some sort of glaze over it to give it a “magical” sheen, probably blue but I'll decide once I have the gold layered up to Auric. Also, I need to look up a good stone method for that base from the How To Paint Dwarfs book.

Hobby Goal #3
Build my Kairic Acolytes

This might seem a little weak sauce and, honestly, it is. For one thing I do want to finish those Rangers and don't want to add anything large to the painting table but I do want to fiddle around with the models I just bought. That said, building them will be a little less than straightforward as they're for an old school Fantasy army so I have to get models designed for round 32mm bases to rank up on square 25mm bases.

Hopefully not too much of an ask as the scales don't seem too different but it might take me some time and fiddling about.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

First late comics reviews of the year

Thank you, Post Office, let's get this done.

All-New X-Men #17
Inhumans vs. X-Men tie-in

I want to care, I really do, but I don't. Oh, the stuff with Iceman going on cute dates with his pretty boy Inhuman boyfriend are all sorts of sweet and I would eat up an issue of just that but it all sort of tumbles down into one of those issues that's just context for a big fight scene in the main series.

I am, frankly, losing my patience with this sort of thing. I like a nice, big crossover as much as the next man but Civil War II just finished, IvX is ongoing and Monsters Unleashed literally started this week. I guess I just want normal issues more often because, really, this relationship needed more time. Bobby and Romeo met a couple issues ago and we get literally their entire relationship up to this point related in flashback between big fight scene splash pages I'm willing to guess I will see again when I eventually get around to reading IvX #2.

Monsters Unleashed #1

For all my moaning, superheroes versus kaiju was just a pitch too good for me to pass up. Plus, two of the big central character of this series seem to be Moon Girl and Elsa Bloodstone, two ladies I have a lot of time for.

For all the things I liked about this issue there is a lot about it that a bit... how to put this? “Standard crossover first issue”? We get a bunch of individual fights between big space monsters and various superhero teams: the Avengers here, the X-Men there, the Champions somewhere else. Actually plot important stuff happens off to the sides with a lot of foreshadowing and not a lot of actual explaining. There's the very consciously foregrounded new character and then the big sting on the final page.

I'm not saying this is bad, per se, its all quite entertaining but these events are running so frequently now that the formula is getting a bit obvious.

U.S.Avengers #2
$kullocracy part two

This issue gives us the big debut of the only character who didn't get a big set piece moment last issue: Danielle Cage, Captain America from the future and yet another character custom-designed to annoy the neo-Nazi alt-right wingdings. They hated a black Captain America? Here's a black woman Captain America! Even if Al Ewing's Avengers series weren't consistently one of the best thing Marvel have been putting out in recent years it'd all be worth it for the sheer right wing triggering character choices Ewing has populated his team with. Ewing gets an even better “deal with it” moment with Danielle than he did with Toni Ho last issue.

Anyway, we get some nice exposition here and I really mean that. I know big info-dumps are commonly considered the Devil but between Ewing's charming dialogue and Paco Medina's fantastically cameo-laden images of Danielle's future it was very, very entertaining.

And I'm not just saying that because Faiza Hussain turns up. I love that character and she absolutely needs to be used in a series again but I'm not that easily bought, Ewing!

But give me Faiza Hussain and a big panel of an entire Avengers team in tuxedos and you got me.

Batman #15
Rooftops part 2

More like this, please. If I Am Suicide didn't convince me that Tom King writes one of the best versions of Batman ever then this little two-parter certainly sold the deal. From the flashbacks where Bruce and Selina reminisce about how they first met, splicing the 1940s version with the Frank Miller version, to the absolutely wonderful conclusion of the story's mystery this was a very well-constructed little character piece.

And if DC ever gets around to commissioning another Catwoman series, King should be at the head of the line for writing duties. He writes the hell out of her relationship with Bruce, her relationship with one of her longstanding supporting cast and of Selina's own view of herself. He really does get her and this should be one of those times, like Gail Simone after she did that Wonder Woman appearance in Birds of Prey, where fans clamour for the writer to give the character more extensive treatment.

I just wish I loved the main I Am... storylines of this series as much as this.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #3

This series is fast becoming a comfort food sort of thing to me. Three issues in and I can feel guaranteed that I'll love Aphra's no-nonsense attitude, the murder droids will be enormous fun, there'll be some sort of heist action and the individual issue will satisfying in and of itself because Keiron Gillen is really good at writing for the monthly reader. Frankly, there's a damn good reason Aphra was the first Marvel-original Star Wars character to get a series.

And this issue has it all! The relationship between Aphra and her emotionally clueless father sings, Triple-Zero gets some fantastic one-liners and the whole plot revolves around the crew trying to sneak into the old Rebel base on Yavin 4 under the noses of the Imperial occupying forces. There's even a rather nice nod to Rogue One that reads less as “we have to advertise the new movie” and more as “of course Aphra would know about that, its her job”.

Friday, 20 January 2017

The man Trump wishes he was

Comics are late due to privatised Post Office so let's talk about the man who, so horrifically soon, will officially become President of the United States Of America. Specifically, let's talk about the man who is everything Trump thinks he is...
This is Vincent Kennedy McMahon. If you're unaware of this interesting individual he is the majority owner and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly the World Wrestling Federation before the pandas sued). He is, alongside WCW's Eric Bischoff, basically responsible for making the entire wrestling industry what it is today for good or ill. He and Trump actually had a wrestling match together once. It wasn't good.

The thing is that everything Trump tries to sell himself as, Vince actually is. Where Trump claims to have started from the bottom with a “small” multi-million dollar loan from his father, Vince actually grew up in a trailer park. Whilst they both run the companies their fathers made, Trump inherited his and has spent years losing money whilst Vince spent years gaining the money and influence to buy his father's company and grew it from a regional promotion to the largest and most successful company in his industry. What's more, Vince has taken pains to make sure his children knew how the company worked before they had active roles in it, having Shane and Stephanie working phones, merchandise stalls and small on screen bit parts before handing them any real power. Trump, meanwhile, wants to name his children to senior advisor roles in spite of their not having experience in politics and there being literal anti-nepotism laws meant to prevent this.

Where Trump has a string of bankruptcies to his name the worst that can be said about Vince is that he had a stupid idea for an NFL alternative that died after a single season. By contrast, however, he was a driving force in creating the pay-per-view system, the WWE Network is one of the most successful streaming services in the world and he has had successful interests in movies, music promotion and hockey to varying degrees.

Whilst Trump imagines he's loved for being plain spoken and direct (instead of being a gibbering idiot who couldn't construct a sentence with a set of step-by-step instructions), Vince McMahon is actually beloved for the bluff, old school businessman persona he projects on screen.

What's more, where Trump has a narcissist's desire for applause at all times, Vince glories in being booed. He has, basically non-stop since 1997, played a bad guy and put himself through some truly humiliating storylines just to rile the audience and get them invested. This is a man who contrived to give himself a pinfall victory over God so he could be seen as provoking a born again Christian into beating him up; he has pissed himself on live television on one of the highest rated shows in the world; been shown putting his wife into a medically induced coma; he's been covered in manure; knocked unconscious multiple times; had penis pumps delivered to him; and, legitimately, tore both his quads whilst trying to yell at two of his employees on air and still managed to do the segment.

Vince is far from perfect, he's known to have some troubles with empathy, tends towards over-reaction and like most businessmen at his level he has a ruthless streak you probably wouldn't want to get in the way of. In theory, all of this also describes Trump but Vince has the decency to provide a lot more entertainment, actually makes money for his shareholders, is actually a self-made man and has the thickest skin imaginable.

He probably wouldn't make a very good president, either, but he also probably has the sense to realise this and not try. 

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Xander, Willow and the awful, wretched affair plot

I've been re-watching the third season of Buffy, my personal favourite, and I've hit the second disc and the most wretched romantic plot of the show. Considering we just dispensed with Scott Hope, that's saying something.

Oh, I hate Willow and Xander's affair. It is, admittedly, a mercifully brief storyline but excruciating while it lasts. It never really has consequences, either. Willow and Oz have about one conversation about it total after which its never mentioned again, not that that relationship has long to play out. Xander and Cordelia do break up and have a pretty satisfying reconciliation in The Prom but Xander never really considers why he did it.

Neither does Willow. For a writer and showrunner obsessed with the emotional consequences of his characters' actions, this does seem like a pretty big unaddressed gap. It doesn't tie in with any of Xander's very real emotional difficulties, it doesn't shed any light on the development of Willow's sexual identity (which, with The Wish and bisexual vampire Willow just around the corner, was immediate) and aside from a snide comment by Anya way down the line its never mentioned again.

And, honestly... I just wish it could have stayed platonic all the way through. I'm a sucker for men and women as best friends and, this aside, Xander and Willow are the ideal of that relationship. Honestly, the fact that Xander gets over his crush on Buffy and Willow gets over her crush on Xander and they are friends who are friends and no one's planning and plotting to make it more... I wish there were more stories like that. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

James caught Araquanid!

As predicted my Stufful did not last long as a party member. I like the design well enough, the whole stuffed bear thing is cute, but he resolutely refuses to learn anything useful as it is a Fighting-type that seems allergic to learning Fighting moves. Honestly, the only thing that kept him in my party as long as he was was the fact that nothing I caught looked that interesting to me.

Until Malie Gardens. Until the Araquanid.

Just look at this thing! Its a Water/Bug dual type which is a fantastic combination I don't think they've ever done before. I love Bug-types, they always look so cool, and the only other Water-types I'd managed to catch so far were a Wingull (hate what they evolve into) and a Magikarp (and I have had a Gyarados in so many of these games its now boring). So, yay, Water type!

Admittedly, a Water-type that will die whenever a Flying looks at it but a cool looking Water-type and that's what counts! 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

WWE UK Championship Tournament

(SPOILERS for the event, which if you enjoy wrestling you should totally watch)
It was so good. As I've said before I don't have much experience watching British wrestling, even with WCPW so conveniently broadcast over Youtube I've somehow never got into it. That is absolutely going to change now. The evening's wrestling had a very different flavour to it than the usual WWE fair.

For one thing, just about every wrestler in this tournament was stiff as hell. I saw endless t-shirts in that crowd emblazoned with the phrase “British Strong Style” and, well... I can see why. There was a great mix of styles and personalities, the two day event told a concise and focussed story with minimal time spent on segments and lots of attention paid to in-ring theatrics.

As to the wrestlers involved: there wasn't a weak man among them but some definitely stood out to me: Trent Seven was a wonderfully theatrical performer with his moustache twirling playing to the crowd; Tyler Bate had a real honest charm to him; Wolfgang flying through the air in ways a man that are absolutely astonishing for a 255 lb man; and, Mark “Mandrews” Andrews was another fantastic high flier.

But the one who really stood out for me, more than any of the others, was Pete Dunne, our designated detestable heel for the weekend.

Given only the one weekend to get over with the crowd (at least the newcomers like me) he did an amazing job of making us despise him. With theatrical smirking, unprovoked attacks on his opponents before matches and more than one scuffle with an irate William Regal, including being thrown bodily back through the stage curtain into Gorilla, he made it fun to boo him.

And boo him we did, from the his opening match against Sam Gradwell, through his semi-final bout with Mark Andrews and into the final against Tyler Bate we booed him. And when, after a couple of very close near finishes either way, we finally got to count one-two-three with Bate pinning Dunne it was a hugely satisfying win.

I had a wonderful time, not only for seeing all these fantastic wrestlers I'd never heard of before but also the general experience of being there. The Empress Ballroom is a beautiful old building and there was a fantastic atmosphere in the crowd. Okay, the chants got a bit smarky at times but for a change it seemed even the smarks were there to enjoy the show and support the home grown talent.

Plus, we got a Neville match! Neville was the only established WWE talent wrestling the whole weekend and it wasn't a tournament match, which I think was for the best. Whilst Neville is absolutely one of the great talents to come out of the UK scene in recent years this event wasn't about celebrating the UK talent that's made it to the WWE but the talent that has been working away all these years right here under our noses, a job the tournament pulled off admirably.

Now, no one knows where this is going. We might get a 205 Live-style series for the UK scene or it might be a series of irregular specials. Hell, there might not even be a concrete plan for how this whole idea is going to work going forward but I heartily look forward to finding out. 

Monday, 16 January 2017

A petty complaint about Pokemon Sun

Too tired to write about the UK Championship Tournament. We'll do that tomorrow, today we'll deal with some petty griping I've been holding onto since Christmas by way of filler.

I am, by and large, greatly enjoying Pokemon Sun. Yes, I was originally going to get Moon but on release day Moon sold out and I didn't want to wait. Idiot me, though, it turned out Alolan Sandshrews were Moon exclusive. Sandshrews are one of the my favourite Pokemon. What's more, the Alolan form is an Ice/Steel dual type rather instead of a Ground type.

I don't like Ground types.

My team at present, just starting the third island, stands as follows: my starter, Harvey the Dartrix; Scarlet the Fletchinder, an old favourite from Pokemon X; Moira the Jolteon; Slinky the Salandit; Pinky the Stufful (box-bound as soon as something better comes along); and, my MVP Rasputin the Raticate. By and large I am very much enjoying this game.

I do, however, have a complaint about the game not based on my impatience and version exclusivity.

Firstly: did the tutorial stage have to be the whole first island? I get that I've played a lot of these games (every version except Black/White, I believe) and that there are new players in every generation but... well, there are going to be players like me so why not design around that? Why not make the tutorials optional. I know how to use the Pokecentre, I know how to buy things and use Pokeballs.

Hell, in Pokemon X, I had four Pokemon in my team before that random kid taught me how to catch things. At this stage its just a time sink and I really think it could stand to be skippable.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Hobby Goal 2017 #2

Hobby Goal #1:
Complete a project currently on the painting table

Yes, they still need basing but the paintjob itself is complete. Apologies for shitty camerawork. I finished these models yesterday evening and I'm away today so I was forced to use a desk lamp for lighting.

Regardless, these models have come out quite well. I've been trying to get a good “bone” effect on armour for some time, something sketchy and macabre that feels Chaos-y. These are the first models in a new incarnation of my oldest army, my beloved Traitor Guard, the Shadowen.

So, having finished one goal, time to set another.

Hobby Goal #2:
Finish my Dwarf Rangers

Another unit that has been on the painting table since before Christmas: twelve Dwarf Rangers kitbashed from a combination of Dwarf Warriors and Quarrellers. In the main I just have to do some metallics, the axe hafts and the crossbows. It'll also feel somewhat satisfying to finish a complete unit.

At the WWE UK Championship Tournament

By the time this posts I'll be well on y way to Blackpool to attend the second day of the WWE UK Championhip Tournament. I have never been to a live wrestling show, let alone a WWE one, let alone one where they'll be crowning their first UK Champion. The belt, by the way? Absolutely fantastic.
Now, I've not got much clue about British wrestling. American wrestling? Sure. Japanese wrestling? A bit. My own damn country? Not a clue and I really, really hope this'll inspire me to learn more about the national scene. Between fixing their Women's Division (and finally calling it that again) and re-opening the Cruiserweight Division the WWE have been doing great work recently not only in diversifying their product but interesting me in branches of the industry that previously passed me by.  

And just... I'll be there! The two people I'm going with have both been to live shows before and the way they describe it I really, really want to experience that feeling.

I will suffer on Monday for it. We're driving up, going to the show and driving back down that very same night. I will be shattered and so I don't promise anything like coherent content Monday here, let alone being able to speak in real life.

I'm also interested to see how a wrestling show works from the POV of the live audience without the commentary and with the backstage stuff on a big screen I might not even be able to see.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Twenty years late, Marvel, but thank you

(Spoilers for Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy and suchlike tie-in stuffs)

Nostalgia is a funny thing. I realise, intellectually, that the Clone Saga was crap. It was an incestuous, over-extended, poorly edited mess. By the end it was so confused that Marvel even published a parody one-shot about how desperate they were to end the thing.

And yet I started reading comics around the time of the Clone Saga. There is a part of me that will always feel, deep down in my gut, that Spider-Man is a blond guy called Ben who works in a coffeeshop not this Parker guy with his science and his journalism. I know I'm wrong, I know that I just happened to start reading during a replacement hero storyline but part of me will always believe (as I was, originally, meant to) that Ben Reilly is the one, true Spider-Man.
He also had the best Spider-Man costume. You can keep your classic look and your black costume, this is the best design.

True, he was only Spider-Man for a year but back then that meant four monthly series, team-up books, crossovers and the quarterly Spider-Man Unlimited oversized specials. There was, quite simply, a lot of material where Ben was Spider-Man and once he died he was just sort of forgotten. He just wasn't mentioned for about ten years, the forgotten Spider-Man.

Then, at some point, enough time had passed and suddenly Ben Reilly was a nostalgia object. He got a mention here and there; there was a Brand New Day storyline about his wilderness years; his nemesis Kaine made a comeback and even started using Ben's Scarlet Spider identity; and, an alternate universe version made an appearance in Spider-Verse. He was a legitimate part of the franchise's history and, as a fan of the character, that was kind of satisfying.

Plus, those appearances were really good. The Brand New Day storyline treated Ben's years as a homeless drifter with seriousness, looking into what a Spider-Man with a hell of a lot less privilege would look like as the Clone Saga-era stuff only managed on its best day. The Spider-Verse version took a different tac, examining the renewed optimism of Ben's time in the Spidey suit, a Ben reclaiming a life that wasn't Peter's but was a full and fulfilling life after his years on the road. Even the Kaine version of Scarlet Spider was pretty entertaining.
So, as much as I'm sure Ben will be a very different character after The Clone Conspiracy, I feel confident Marvel has a plan to honour the past and origins of the character. Plus, writing duties on this thing are with Peter David, a man basically known these days for coming up with innovative angles on existing properties that take them in different directions that still feel like natural progressions of past eras (X-Factor, Spider-Man 2099, Young Justice, to name a few).

Though I'm not entirely sold on the built-in hoodie. I know where they're coming from, referencing the original Scarlet Spider costume but... meh. 

Friday, 13 January 2017

Comic Reviews

Just a few quick thoughts this week as I'm packing for a trip this weekend.

Detective Comics #948

Maguerite Bennett joins James Tynion IV to set up her Batwoman ongoing. I was a bit worried that this would be another divergence from the series' ongoing concerns like the Night Of The Monster Men crossover. Frankly, I want to get to the bit where Tim Drake makes his dramatic return. And, well, this is a sequel to Night Of The Monster Men but I'm always up for a bit of Marguerite Bennett, even if the interviews she gave about her Batwoman series make me feel old because she says a character I think of as “new” was a great inspiration to her in high school.

Still, this storyline feels a lot more relevant than Monster Men did. Given this is half an origin story for Kate her father gets a lot of time in the spotlight, both in flashback and in his cell. The origin stuff concentrates on Kate's first days as Batwoman rather than her being cashiered from the army, which is good because we have that story already.

I do hope ARGUS post-human bioweaponry expert Dr. Victoria October is going to end up a regular somewhere. She drops a mention she's known Batman for a while so hopefully there's some history planned out for her.

Plus, the art is spectacular. Is Ben Oliver doing the art on Batwoman? I hope so, the art here has a fantastic painted look to it that really suits the character. He likes big panels and expressive close-ups on his characters.

Daredevil #15

Fifteen issues in and I'm still not sure about this incarnation of the series. I don't hate the return of the secret identity or the prosecutor angle, I don't dislike Blindspot as a sidekick, it just isn't clicking.

Still, this issue sort of took a break from the major themes of the series. Blindspot and his new status quo gets a little time but by and large the plot of this one is a scheme by Matt Murdoch to take a contract out on himself to lure out some assassins for... well, that's not quite clear yet. The tone is more whimsical than this series has been, rather more like the pre-Secret Wars version and that I very much liked.

Honestly, though, this series is living on borrowed time with me but I guess I'll see out this storyline.

Jessica Jones #4

This series, though, I am convinced by as things are finally coming together. Not only is this series making something of what I assumed to be the most pointless part of Civil War II but Bendis is getting around to explaining what the hell is going on with Jessica and Luke Cage after only four issues. For Bendis this is commendably fast.

Also, Bendis writes the hell out of Misty Knight and Luke Cage. I do so love Misty Knight and Bendis writes her as Luke's voice of reason here, down to Earth and sensible. She has a very poor opinion of Jessica, which is not surprising in the circumstances and not entirely unjustified even now we have an explanation.

There's also one of those Bendis police precinct scenes full of all the usual madness but also featuring a new detective character who promises to actually be interesting. Given how Jessica has become more of a mainstream superhero over the last decade, I think this character has the potential to be the outsider looking in on the world that the series needs. Frankly, Jessica who has been an Avenger doesn't have that anymore but this detective seems to have experience with the superhero world, just enough to fulfil that old role. 

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Sex, Lies, Trump, Russians, Prostitutes, Bedwetting, Blackmail, Putin & Videotape

On the one hand, its just so pedestrian. I mean, I get that I'm jaded. I'm English, our last prime minister apparently once shagged a dead pig's head and if all a peer of the realm gets up to in their spare time is crossdressing and cocaine parties we consider them quiet and dignified individuals. I'm generally not one to even care about political sex scandals unless they involve actual crime but this one...
Now we get to the other hand: there is the very real possibility that, as a businessman, Trump was led into a situation designed to create blackmail material and he fell for it.

Now, all sorts of... not-really-denials have surfaced. Reddit users claim to have originated the story, Wikileaks has thrown a tantrum about how they won't endorse the story, and The Donald himself has made a series of bizarre Tweets ending with the assurance that Russia (not anyone in Russia, just “Russia”) has told him the story is a complete fabrication. On a side note, isn't it so reassuring how Trump will just believe things when foreign powers tell him?

Now, call me a pedant but considering that the story concerns him, why does The Donald need to be told the story is a fabrication? Unless he's referring not to the story but the existence of the blackmail tape because that would make sense of the sentence. Just grammatically speaking without accusation.

So, honestly, whether this is all true could go one way or the other. Now, I don't trust redditors, I don't trust Wikileaks and I sure as damp ammonia-scented fuck don't trust Donald Jodocus Drumpf but I admit this could still be fake. The thing is, though, that its believable in some very compelling ways.

There's a lovely detail to the story that the bed Trump had all those Russian spy-hookers soil was one that Barack and Michelle Obama had slept in when they'd come to Russia on a state visit. Its just so petty and spiteful, just so... Trump, isn't it? And that's what sells it to me, that's what gives it the ring of truth. the petty spite.

Its like the sexual version of his Tweets.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Facing the test (model) of Tzeentch

Or, James Doles Out Fashion Advice To An Apocalyptic Sorcerer

I did want to get the actually Tzeentchian sorcerer model but he's out of production! Presumably temporarily pending a repackaging for the Disciples Of Tzeentch release but, still, for the moment the generic plastic Chaos Sorcerer will have to do...
image from GW webstore
So, how to paint this fine and handsome fellow. Now, the GW example above is absolutely rocking that Archaon's Horde bare metal and black cloth look. Now, that's very Chaos Undivided and I'm going for a Tzeentch theme but I am feeling the bare metal. Maybe I could try a blue ink or glaze to make it look a bit more magicky? I did something similar on the gromril plate of my Dwarf Ironbreakers and its a good effect. Part of me wants to go for a lacquered armour effect but none of the obviously Tzeentchian options really grab me as a colour I'd want on every bit of plate armour in my horde. Definitely keeping the gold trim, though.

As for the cloth? A medium blue, I think. Maybe the new Thousand Sons Blue or the Lizardmen skin palette.

Actually, talking of skin, how to do that head bothers me. I'm not sure about the stark white used here but I absolutely don't want to go with the vibrant blue skintones 'Eavy Metal have been using on the new Tzaangors. Certainly not in ordinary skin tones, it wouldn't suit the look of someone so mutated. Something to think on, certainly. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Just... As... Planned...

There's a plastic Lord Of Change on the Warhammer Community site.
Its actually really nice. I like how the stave is made out of coruscating energy. I like how the plastic construction means they could make the body and neck more sinuous and hunched forward than the old metal model. I like that it has loads of eyes. I like the detailing on the wings.

I love that, unlike the Bloodthirster, its standing solidly on its base and won't snap when you try and pack it away.

I'm getting a Tzeentchian Chaos army, aren't I?

Monday, 9 January 2017

River Solo

(spoilers for series one and two of The Diary Of River Song)
I'm three quarters of the way through the second Diary box set and, as much as I enjoy the novelty of it, I think the whole “River meets past Doctors” thing might have run its course. Time War-era McGann turning up in the first series was cool and I've enjoyed listening to Kingston bouncing off McCoy and Baker C but the thing is that I really, really want to get a proper solo adventure for River, one that has nothing whatsoever to do with her husband.

This isn't me banging the feminist drum but... okay, it sort of is. I get the attraction of banging the new series and classic toys together to see what happens but I rather wanted solo River adventures from a River series. Instead, fully half of her episodes so far have involved the Doctor (more if you count all that Doom Coalition stuff with McGann).

Sadly, I think having now done the Eight, Seventh and Sixth Doctors meeting River they'll want to at least complete the set of living Doctors with Davison and Tom Baker. I won't lie, part of me's looking forward to that, especially River in all her vampy glory squaring off with Davison's pleasantly open faced earnestness.

The thing is, given the life Big Finish have breathed into Bernice Summerfield, Iris Wildthyme and Jago & Litefoot away from the Doctor I'd love to see what they'd do with River by having her operating completely solo.

If nothing else they could have fun inventing lots of those numerous husbands and wives she apparently has over the years.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Hobby Goals 2017 #1

A simple one to begin the year: by this time next week I want to have finished something from the models currently on my paint station. No particular preference, just get something done to give myself some momentum for what I hope to be a more productive year in my hobby than I had last year. Doubly easy, one hopes, because everything sitting there has been tantalisingly close to completion for weeks.

There are the twelve Dwarf Rangers who really only need their crossbows and some metallic details filling in; five Traitor Guardsmen who I just need to work out what I want to do with those oxygen backpacks; a Deathwatch Watch Master who needs a lot of fine detail work but not much on the macro level; and, six Flesh Tearers Tactical Marines and a Librarian who need their blacks tidied and a checking over for any gold or parchment detailing I might have missed.

Anything from the list is fair game. Obviously, I'd like to shift those twelve Dwarfs onto the basing shelf but this week I'll take any victory as a win.

The Triumphant Debut of Arkhan Land

(mild, nigh-inconsequential spoilers for Horus Heresy: Master of Mankind, just background details, really)

Arkhan Land is one of those little details of Warhammer background that just fired my imagination when I first got into this hobby. He's the Mechanicus Tech-Priest who discovered the STC templates of the Land Raider and the Land Speeder (hence the names). The little background that existed for him before now portrayed him as an eccentric techno-archeologist who owned a cybernetic monkey and a collection of extravagant wigs.

Now, with Aaron Demski-Bowden's novel Master of Mankind, Land has made his first appearance in prose and it is glorious. He's a ball of arrogant self-assurance fully aware of how brilliant he is and how much he's contributed to the Imperium. He is, as I always imagined, very much unlike other tech-priests and this is all brilliantly represented in his monkey Sapien.

So, like most Earth wildlife, monkeys are extinct by the 31st millennium and Sapien is a clone engineered to resemble what people believe a monkey was. Now, some researchers believe that a monkey could hang from branches using its tail. This idea, Land believes, is idiotic as, obviously, the monkey's tail was a lashing weapon meant to break the skin of other creatures and deliver venom.

Yes, this tech-priest has pet monkey with a scorpion tail because he thinks this is historically accurate. This is why I always trust ADB to deliver the goods, stuff like this.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

The Tzeentchian Temptation Continues...

The new army temptation comes less often now. Over the years the instant attraction to the latest thing has lessened. There are armies I know aren't to my play style (Eldar) or where I simply don't like the aesthetics (Khorne Daemons) and, of course, I just don't play Age Of Sigmar so by and large those releases just pass me by.

That said, every now and again AoS brings out something I can use for classic Fantasy, in this case the Disciples of Tzeentch miniatures coming out this month.

One real complaint I had against the Fantasy version of Chaos was a lack of marked units. Now, I like the basic Chaos Warrior as much as the next man but given the wild variety of 40k's Chaos models they were a bit samey.

Yet here we are with GW finally making more god-specific Chaos miniatures. The Gaunt Summoners, especially the one on a Disc of Tzeentch, would make fantastic Sorcerer Lords, the Kairic Acolytes would be fantastic Tzeentchian Marauders (they're a bit too bare chested to be Warriors) and hopefully theyll have parts left over you could use to customise Warriors and Knights. Throw in a warherd of Tzaangor, that lovely Tzeentchian Sorcerer from a few years back and a few mutated looking monsters, maybe some daemons and you're got yourself an old-fashioned Hordes of Chaos Tzeentch army.


Like I say, I'm tempted. A few cheap square bases, some Darksphere discount to offset the expense and... maybe? I don't know, I'm in that “new year, new project” headspace right now.

The Power Rangers movie looks not crap, but...

I sort of wonder who the intended audience is?

I went to watch Rogue One (good movie, though I feel I've rather missed the boat on posting a review) there was a trailer for the Power Rangers reboot and it looked...not awful. It looked dark and a little self-serious but I could certainly see how this could be not the worst superhero movie coming out this year. I mean, I know its a trailer and its meant to look good but there are enough decent moments I'd be hopeful of an entertaining two hours.

But the thing about this reboot that makes it different from a lot of other reboots is that Power Rangers never stopped being a thing. I mean, it isn't the all-conquering super-franchise it was when it began but it is still running and it looks like this...
which is pretty much indistinguishable from what it looked like when I was a kid.
So, in theory there's two audiences for this thing: the kids who are into the show now and the adults (like me) who watched the series this movie is based on. I'm not sure either audience gets anything out of this thing, though. The modern audience is used to Power Rangers as it is in all its low-budget, bright and colourful glory. Meanwhile, people my age, whether coming back to it after years or still being part of the fandom, don't get their nostalgia kick because out of this dark, gritty and inevitably brooding version for pretty much the same reason.

So I worry that this might actually be a competent and entertaining movie that just isn't going to have the built-in audience it thinks it does.

Friday, 6 January 2017

This Week's Comics

This week, immigrants fight for America and women in STEM fields; Batman's up all night to get lucky; I have a small problem with the reborn Atom; and, Marvel's newest super-team gives me a nostalgia kick. Spoilers to be assumed.

U.S.Avengers #1

First off, I have no idea how to pronounce this series' name. Do I pronounce the A in Avengers the same as the A in USA? Because either sounds wrong.

Besides that this was a great first issue. Well, not really a first issue. This is one those times when Marvel just decides to re-number when there's a status quo change to get new readers onboard. Hopefully it works because this is great. Not only does Ewing continue his wonderful theme of mad science villains with the most innovative volcano doom fortress idea ever but he has a fantastic hook for what makes these the “US” Avengers.

You see, Ewing's continuing cast from when this was New Avengers contains Sunspot (Brazilian born naturalised US citizen); Toni Ho (Chinese-American); Aikku Jokinen (Norwegian) and Squirrel Girl (dual citizenship US and Canadian) and each of these characters gets a speech about what being a US citizen and being an Avenger means to them. Sunspot even waxes lyrical about how they're fighting for a flag that is theirs (and Aikku's, if she wants it to be) and no one can take it away from them.

I honestly can't think of a better message at the moment, especially as its said by a man from South America to his best friend the good old American white guy from Kentucky.

Batman #14

So you may remember back when the New 52 started, the number two sexiness controversy (after Starfire in Red Hood and the Outlaws #1) was a scene in Catwoman #1 where Batman and Catwomen bang. The problem was not so much that they banged but that clearly Selina didn't know Bruce's identity in the new continuity and there was a whole odd kinkiness about them keeping their masks on.

Anyway, this issue is all about fixing that. Its a whole issue, the first of a two-part storyline, dedicated to Bruce and Selina's relationship. Oh, they bang, but Tom King has a lot more to say about the relationship than that. Its Selina's last night of freedom before she spends the rest of her life in prison without hope of parole and so she and Bruce make a night of it. They do some Bruce stuff, they do some Selina stuff, there's some real give and take in this issue.

I certainly hope this two-parter isn't all we get to see of this pairing, Tom King has a lot of interesting insight into Bruce's relationship.

Oh, and the Condiment King makes his Rebirth debut.

Justice League of America: The Atom: Rebirth one-shot

Oh, I so wanted to like this...

Ryan Choi was one of my favourite characters from the post-Infinite Crisis crop of DC characters. Ray Palmer has really been growing on me as I get caught up on Arrow, so I reckoned this would be an easy sell.

Not so much. For one thing, I am absolutely sure I've read half of this issue before. Not sure where. Was it in DC Universe: Rebirth? Anyway, what we get here is a rather extended origin capped off by a tease that this'll continue in a new JLA series, which was rather disappointing. Not that I'm sure I would be any more onboard with an Atom series from this team or on this theme but I think it would be more of a sell than doing a single-character origin setting up a new Atom to do Atom things as a tease for a team book.

Oh well, maybe next time.

Unstoppable Wasp #1

Okay, so this issue makes a good point and I absolutely love it, for that and many other reasons.

So, in this issue the new Wasp, Nadia Pym (Hungarian estranged daughter of Hank Pym) meets Mockingbird. Now, I'm a massive comicbook nerd but writer Jeremy Whitley genuinely blindsided me. Mockingbird, I didn't realise, was a scientist, a biologist. In fact, she almost cracked the super soldier serum with Hank Pym before the whole superhero thing. Nadia, however, who has read everything the father she never met ever published, recognises her not as Bobbi Morse, Agent of SHIELD and superhero but as Barbara Morse, the biologist.

The whole issue has a theme celebrating not only women in science but also the idea of women supporting one another. Nadia has great scenes with Mockingbird, with Ms. Marvel, even with the woman handling her immigration case. Yes, amazingly, this issue even has a positive portrayal not only of immigrants but of the immigration process! Unprecedented!

Add to that the charming art style of Elsa Charretier, another example of the more clean, uncluttered art style that's been gaining traction in the last couple of years. Its a style I am an unabashed fan of and it really works for the Nadia character: her emotions are so big and direct, so uncomplicated and free of pretence.

A definite keeper, this series.

Champions #4

This was a nostalgia fix of an issue. The Champions gets shot down over the ocean, their plane becomes a boat and half the issue is spent on character vignettes so we get to know these characters and their relationships. It rather reminded me of those wonderful character issues of Chris Claremont's X-Men, rather helped by Mark Waid's absolutely spot on Cyclops. Viv gets a lot of focus in this issue, included a potted origin which was actually rather helpful as she's probably the character with the lowest profile (and the least publishing history) of the team. Actually, her history is really interesting. Really tragic but interesting and I might be tempted to try out the Vision series once it gets collected.

But, oh, do I not care for the character who gets introduced in the cliffhanger. 

Thursday, 5 January 2017

A Tzeentchian Knight (in theory)

I actually came up with this idea for someone else's benefit. I was in Games Workshop the other day and one of the staffers and I started talking about conversion ideas. He was looking for a project and was thinking of doing something with the Imperial Knight Crusader. My suggestion? Tzeentchian Renegade Knight by hybridising the Knight with a Heldrake. The thing is, as expensive as it is (I was suggesting this idea to someone with staff discount), I think it would look amazing and I'm quite tempted to try it.

So here's how I think it would work:
"I am the (K)night!"
The idea is to use parts from the Heldrake sprue to make the Knight look like a mechanical Lord of Change. Replace the Knight's head with the bird head from the Heldrake, most likely on the long sinuous neck in the middle of this sprue...
which should change the profile of the model considerably. I'll dryfit that just to be sure it won't look too ridiculous. Also on that sprue, centre top, are two shoulder pad things that, with a little cutting and filling, might well fit on top of the Knight's shoulder pads for extra Chaos iconography.

Also of use from the Heldrake are its wings, which I think can be spaced along the rear of the Knight's upper carapace and down its back, and its talons which I intend to add to the Knight's toes to make them more Avian. I'm also going to see if I have any plastic Marks of Tzeentch from the Chaos Vehicle Accessory Sprue knocking around. I should, I've only ever used the Nurgle and Chaos Undivided stuff from those sprues in the past. For sure I have the large Rubric of Ahriman that comes with the Thousand Sons Rubric Marines, which should fit well on the shoulder-mounted heraldry shield.

Now, even using a discount store like Darksphere (who are great, by the way) this'll set me back about a hundred pounds but it will look so good once finished that I am genuinely tempted. So, I'm going to take a couple of days to think about it, maybe work on those Rubric Marines to get the colour scheme right in my head and come back to it.

It would look awesome, though.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Doctor Who novel adaptations wish list

With the release of Original Sin and Cold Fusion, Big Finish's novel adaptations line seems to be over. Its been a pretty good run that hit most of the high points of the Virgin line: we heard the Doctor's first meetings with Bernice Summerfield and Sherlock Holmes; got to hear Gareth Roberts' rightly legendary Fourth Doctor trilogy come to life; Russell T. Davies' first Doctor Who story (which, space-cocaine aside was practically a manifesto for his TV series); we even got a Chelonian story out of the deal.

Still, with how good the last two were it feels like the series is over just as it was starting to hit its stride so here are a few... *ahem*, humble suggestions on where the line might go if it ever returns. Honourable mentions for books that can't be adapted because of the sad loss of vital actors: The Dying Days, Happy Endings, The Shadow of Weng-Chiang, Managra and First Frontier off the top of my head.

The Empire of Glass

The whole point of this novel is to place the staunchly non-interventionist First Doctor in the sort of adventure he'll have in later lives: a pseudo-historical set in Renaissance Venice with loads of different aliens knocking around because Irving Braxiatel wants to hold an intergalactic peace conference. Also Gallileo, Shakespeare and Marlowe are there. It sounds over busy and, frankly, it sort of is but it has the potential to be a fun little romp with lashing of Miles Richardson thrown in.


Whilst the “true origin” of the Doctor as Marc Platt writes it here might not be to my taste, it was the cap off to the Seventh Doctor's adventures back in the day. It tied off a lot of threads that had been seeded throughout the novels, including in Cold Fusion. Now, a lot of these ideas got re-used by Platt in other work for Big Finish, the Doctor's origins being something of a pet project of his, but I'd love to see the original story see the light of day again.

Set Piece

This was the book that wrote out Ace and had her become her own hero, Time's Vigilante (as opposed to the Doctor as Time's Champion). Given that Big Finish are muleheadedly dedicated to not giving Ace a definitive send-off she might as well finally get one in the canon grey area that is the novel adaptations. Its a good send-off, too, unsurprising given its written by Kate Orman.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

A high fantasy romp set in the early, anything goes days of Season One. A year ago this would not have made the list since it has a really substantial solo story for Barbara but with Jemma Powell taking the role in The Early Adventures the possibility is open. Its a great little novel that handles the four person TARDIS crew better than most of the TV stories they appeared in giving everyone something substantial to do. Plus, the First Doctor doing magic is just too delightful an idea to resist.

Andrew Cartmel's War trilogy

The “Cartmel Masterplan” is, of course, not a thing. He's been quite upfront about how he had no endgame in mind when he seeded all those hints about the Doctor's past into the episodes he script edited. If anything its the Platt Masterplan but we dealt with that earlier in the list.

But if there were a Cartmel Masterplan this would be it: unapologetically political, anti-corporate Doctor Who with a focus on how the Doctor affects the world around him.

So Vile a Sin

Never read it. Probably never will. Out of print pretty much the moment it came out and insanely expensive second hand. The grand sequel to Original Sin with Chris and Roz returning to their home time written by two of the NA's best talents Kate Orman and Ben Aaronovitch. Frankly, even if it didn't sound great on paper, just the fact that its stupidly hard to get hold of makes it a worthwhile addition to this list.

Vampire Science

Naughty, I know. This was a BBC novel not a Virgin one and so probably Big Finish wouldn't be able to get the rights but it is absolutely the best Eighth Doctor Adventure in the whole in the whole series (which, being the second in s eries if seventy three novels is praising with faint damnation) and if I could have only one novel brought to life in audio it would be this. 

Vampire Science is basically Kate Orman and Jon Blum writing a stage by stage guide on how the TV Movie should have been made. Its set in San Francisco, the Doctor teams up with a female scientist who's having relationship difficulties, it delves into the series back catalogue for an antagonist but it does all these things in fresh and interesting ways. I absolutely love this novel.