Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Wonder Woman's astonishing movie villain revealed!

(Fair warning, this post discusses the recent announcement-ish of the villain for the Wonder Woman movie.
If you want to remain entirely unspoiled, turn away now.)

Its bloody Ares.

Let's be clear: as unimpressed as I am by the very obvious, very dull choice of villain I am still interested in this movie. There are plenty of good ideas: putting Wonder Woman in the ultimate “man's folly” of the First World War; having a Suffragette Etta Candy; filming in something approaching colour... these are all things that interest me. However...

Setting aside the questionable taste of having a comicbook God Of War turn up in very real human tragedy of the Trenches (and likely being somehow responsible), isn't it just a bit obvious? A bit generic?

I mean, I get that there isn't a deep bench here. Wonder Woman's rogues gallery is a mess... as is her supporting cast... and her status quo... look, every creative team for 75+ years has felt the need to reinvent the wheel to the extent that the big Rebirth hook for her title is Greg Rucka hyperventilating into a paper bag trying to rationalise it all. And honestly? That gave me hope for this film.

You see, there's no Wonder Woman equivalent of The Dark Knight Returns or The Death Of Superman. No story that DC fandom has obsessively made the basis for the character.

Wonder Woman, funnily enough considering her real world origins, is not tied down to any one dominant interpretation and that was born out when they decided to shift her origins back a World War and play with the idea of her meeting the Suffragettes.

And then they decide Ares will be the villain. The God Of War versus the warrior princess...
yeah. It is a pretty standard go to for the genre. Again, I get that there isn't a deep bench here. Doctor Psycho and Egg-Fu are all kinds of problematic; guys like Angle Man and the Cavalier are a bit low rent; and, otherwise, its mainly just more classical gods.

But still, isn't Cheetah meant to be the iconic villain these days? Circe's there if you want a supernatural threat; Veronica Cale offers a lot of interesting angles; and, Giganta offers interesting visuals.

But, no, Ares.


Monday, 20 February 2017

A short pictorial to do list

Well, here it is, and for the first time I'm not completing one of these Hobby Goals on Saturday night so the pictures benefit from something resembling natural light. This isn't exactly for immediate attention, the painting station is still rather crowded, but it'll give me something to dip into when I want to get something done on the side. This is by no means every half-painted miniature in my collection, just the ones that are something close to complete and that I actually feel some urge to finish:

Knights Errant Cavalier
Ser Daniel of the Young Companions”
To do: A few little jobs to do here. First, I need to freehand some basic heraldry onto his shield and barding. Nothing too extravagant, he's only a Knight Errant, just a basic field shape and maybe a small device. After that I just have to highlight the leathers and horse brasses and he's ready for basing.

The Tower Watch of Karond Kar”

To do: Main job is to commit some of the dreaded freehand on that banner. Aside from that there's a little highlighting to do on the armour and I find myself really wanting to redo that leather in something darker like Rhinox Hide or Dryad Bark, its far too light.

Terminator Lord
Siegemaster Scofulas Bezoar”
To do: Main job here is to do all that fiddly banding on the armour plus various other mettalics like the claws and those lengths of garden railing he's wearing on his head for some reason. Also, this is a model that's been sitting to one side for quite a while so first job is to, well... dust him, in all honesty.

Orvyn Godricson”
To do: Since this little fellow shuffled off the painting table I've completely changed how I do Dwarf armour so those silvers will need completely redoing before I even think about drybrushing that beard or filling in the bronze details or painting that book.

The Carroburg Greatswords”
(Oh, I know everyone does the Carroburgs but its a good design.)

To do: Well, the red cloth needs highlighting, all the metal detail on their armour (which will mainly be black lacquered and is, therefore, done) needs doing and I really need to freehand something onto their banner. Their beards need inking and subtly drybrushing, too.

The Bogenhafen Longshots”
To do: A few simple bits of tidying up on the dividing line between the pink and bone sides of the uniform and just a touch of highlighting on the handguns' wooden stocks before I can finish off the basing. Plus, there are a few areas of the chests behind the arms that need some paint applying to them, white being an unforgiving basecoat.

Light of the Old Ones”
To do: Lots and lots to do here but it will be so worth it. Had art block for a while on this little chap but now I think a grey carapace would suit the green I've used for the scales. Aside from that, the Skinks and Ark are simple jobs that I can paint using methods used elsewhere in the army. Though, I admit, the Skinks will take a while over a black undercoat.

The Spears of Heaven”
To do: Probably the most extensive job on this list. The skin is finished but not much else: I need to fill in the shields, the spear hafts and pick out all their teeth, claws and spines. Also, I really need to fix the sand on those bases where its flaked off.

Skink Priest
Kuchiki, Raptor-Priest of Tlaxtlan”
To do: More of the evil and unforgiving white undercoat: I need to choose a colour for that last line of feathers and tidy up the others, plus do the golds on jewellery and staff. Also, like the Saurus the sanding needs redoing because, apparently, Corax White doesn't keep the sand in place as well as Chaos Black.

Ogre Bulls
The Gut Punchers”
To do: Big simple models, big simple jobs. I need to fill in the boots and belts with a different brown than the trousers; drybrush trousers and bone bits; ink the metal; and, add some bronze or brass for contrast on the gutplates. Hair could do with an Eshin Grey drybrush for definition, too.

Gnarly Squigs
Da Chompas”
To do: Just a little highlighting on the flesh, mainly tidying up where the ink layer came out a little too thick, before I can finish up on the bases.

Amon Crookback”
To do: Literally just his basing, quick drybrush and paint the rim in Steel Legion Drab.

Glade Guard
The Blood of Anmyr”
To do: These I abandoned when some fine detail work proved too difficult. There are some very, very fine bits of binding on the models' arms and legs that I just kept missing with my brush point, smearing Steel Legion Drab over their skin. Now I have my Insane Detail Brush, hopefully the task will no longer be beyond me.

The Unquiet Souls”
To do: An easy one to end with. Most of the hard work on these is done, I just have to finish layering the flesh on the spites, drybrush the skulls and then pick out minor details like the vines and fungi. Probably just a single sitting's work

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Hobby Goal

Hobby Goal #7
Basecoat some Dwarfs

Okay, they may still be the grey horde but they're a different sort of grey. There are couple of other colours I want to add as a group before I start working on them rank by rank but I did what I set out to do: get a start on the remainder of my gromril armoured troops.

I'll be continuing to work on them this week but they're not going to be my Hobby Goal for the week.

Hobby Goal #8
Make a list

I am terrible for leaving models half done. Usually its a simple problem of taking models off the table to use in a game and never putting them back where they came from or just suffering art block and moving on to something else. Regardless of why, it means I have a bunch of models and units I could probably finish in an afternoon each if I put my mind to it.

So, by the end of the week I will have gone through my army cases and boxes and made myself a list.  

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Pokemon: The Legendary Quandary

Every time a pair of Pokemon games come out I choose which one to buy using a simple metric: which Legendary do I want more? Funny thing is, by the time I get to catching the thing I no longer want it. Sometimes I put it on my team, sometimes I don't but I never actually want to.

Take Pokemon Sun. I just got to the point where I get to catch Solgaleo and... I just don't want him. I beat him down, slap the Master Ball on him and then the 3DS asks me whether I want to add him to my party. I choose yes, mainly because the whole narrative of the last half hour has been guilting me into it and I look at my team as it asks me to choose which one will get boxed to make room.

And I just don't want to. “What kind of roleplaying is this?” I ask myself as I look at these six creatures I've dragged through hell in my quest to be the best that ever was.

There's Harvey, the Decidueye I raised from a little Rowlet who's been with me all the way across the Alola Region; Moira the Jolteon who joined me soon afterwards; my ultimate Flying-type tag team Scarlet the Talonflame and Knifeblock the Skarmory; Innsmouth the Mimkyu who took me hours to catch and has taken so many hits for the team; and, Bubbles the Araquanid who crunched his way through endless Fire, Dark and Psychic types.

I mean, in the cold light of day I'll admit Bubbles is my least favourite child of the crew but the little Water-Bug fellow's got type advantage all over the shop.

So, feeling like a monster because for once the Legendary is just a nice fellow who wants to travel, I press B and box the poor creature. An option, by the way, that dialogue indicates no one at Game Freak thought anyone would be heartless enough to choose.

At the end of the day, though, I value that the series basically allows you to play the team you want to play. Either by type advantage or over-levelling the opposition I don't think there are many bad combinations of teams. I still need to do my Sky Trainer roleplay run some day, probably as a rerun on Pokemon X since that's still, in my view, the most varied and interesting game in the series. 

Friday, 17 February 2017

Comic Reviews

In which nostalgia turns up in some of the oddest places and I, mostly, get the explanations I've been demanding.

Batwoman: Rebirth one-shot

Fair warning, there's not much new in this issue. This isn't entirely surprising: Kate Kane doesn't have the decades and decades of history and half a dozen reboots that Rebirth one-shots usually have to untangle and rationalise so what we get here is a more or less straight “story so far” of her childhood kidnapping, military training and cashiering with a few new notes about her going travelling during her directionless years and a new take on her relationship with Renee Montoya.

Beyond that, the tease of the future direction of the series isn't much we couldn't infer from the Batwoman Begins arc in Detective Comics the last couple of issues.

Nevertheless, I liked it. Steve Epting remains as amazing an artist as he was on Captain America back in the day and Bennett and Tynion have already proved their skills with this character. This issue might not be “for me” per se but I don't resent its existence and I'm sure someone new to the character would find it a fantastic primer.

U.S.Avengers #3
$kullocracy part three

Oh, this isn't even subtle now! The Golden Skull just is Donald Trump writ large and in a solid gold Iron Man suit (I am not kidding!).

Anyway, my favourite series of the moment ends its first arc with an appropriate level of violence and satire. Every line the Golden Skull utters is a glorious stab at egotistical businessmen and con men. Toni Ho gets some surprisingly nice moments barking orders at the rest of the team, which was fun to see. I've always liked the concept and design of the characters but she didn't get an awful lot to do when this series was New Avengers and I look forward to seeing more of her now she's “front line” superheroing.

And Danielle Cage. Now there's another character I want to see more of. I think she's going to make more appearances over in Jessica Jones and I hope she turns up again here, especially after Ewing reminded me of the potential mentor role Squirrel Girl could fill for her. I mean, Doreen was her babysitter.

Mother Panic #3
A Work in Progress part 3

There's something about this series that makes me nostalgic, which is strange for a series about a new character by an author I've never read before guest starring the (to me) still new Batwoman. A cursory look at artist Tommy Lee Edwards' Wikipedia page tells me I haven't read much of his work but there's something that very much reminds me of comics from my youth in how he draws. All those jagged lines, harsh angles and charcoal-esque grading remind me of early Vertigo stuff.

Anyway, of the Young Animals titles this is the one that has kept my interest the longest, mainly because it doesn't seem to be in the weirdness for weirdness' sake business. Yes, it might be the most “traditional” superhero series under the brand but it still has that air of conscious mystery the its stable mates has but it seems less intrusive. Doom Patrol seems at times to just indulge in weirdness for weirdness' sake and I'm honestly not sure what to make of Shade the Changing Girl half the time.

Maybe I'm just getting conservative in my old age? I don't know but this issue gives us information on our hero Violet Paige whilst throwing out more interesting questions, not least of which how she did so well in a fight against Batwoman. The fight itself is brief but an impressive display of how Edwards' style lends itself to both atmosphere and action.

Daredevil #17
Purple part 1

Oh, a big picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on the cover, this looks promising! Okay, okay, so I knew this was the start of the arc that would explain how Matt Murdoch put the genie back in the bottle and ended up in the position we found him in #1 but stepping back into the world of the last Daredevil series felt refreshingly nostalgic after the last sixteen issues of “Matt Murdoch, Prosecuting Attorney Who No One Knows Is Daredevil”.

And, funnily enough, the whole story does flow quite well from where the last series left off before Secret Wars and the relaunch. We get to see Matt leaping through San Francisco in that ridiculous red tailored suit and doing domestic with Kirsten McDuffie, we see Foggy in full recovery after his cancer treatment and Matt living large on the advance he got for his autobiography.

And then it all starts to fall apart in the most Matt Murdoch way possible. After a villain intrudes on his San Francisco life he comes back to visit New York, the city where he isn't a local hero but a disbarred lawyer with an alter ego known for horrible violence. He tries to be the hero he was there and ends up in hot water with the law who no longer see Matt Murdoch as credible now they know he's Daredevil.

Its all set-up and we're far from seeing the “solution” he comes up with, I'm even convinced the cliffhanger is a red herring because its too neat but, as with last issue, Charles Soule writes another compelling character study of Matt with the pieces all just falling into place to finally get us from the character we knew to the character we've been presented with the last sixteen issues. 

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Riverdale or bust?

Funny thing is I was never really into Archie Comics until very recently. Their Sonic The Hedgehog line has long been a... I won't say “guilty pleasure”... indulgence, maybe, as they inspire pleasant childhood memories but as to the main Riverdale line they were never a thing to me.

I knew they existed and their basic set-up from jokes in US sitcoms and it turns out one of my favourite kids' shows ever, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, was based on one of their properties but the comics don't have much distribution here. Still, I checked out the reboot when it happened and really bloody liked it.
I loved Archie's charming klutziness; Jughead's role as the beleaguered asexual straight man; Betty's aggressive practicality; and, Veronica's obvious desire to be useful in spite of her social cluelessness. I found Cheryl Blossom to be a gloriously vicious villain and I heartily look forward to reading Jughead's brief “romance” with Sabrina once I catch up on his title.

And then there's Riverdale...
I'm not going to lie, what I know about this series comes entirely from blogs and tumblrs which paint a... varied picture of the series that leaves me swinging between “Give it to me now!” and “Why would you do that?”

On the one hand, from the gifs and clips I've seen, Betty and Veronica have all the romantic and sexual chemistry in the world and that's an interesting angle: turning the most famous love triangle in comics into an equal threeway attraction instead of two girls pursuing one guy. On the other hand, the producers have literally come out and said it ain't happening so its queerbaiting on an epic scale.

That said, Kevin Keller is no longer the only gay in the village (no spoilers but it is a named character from the comics) yet Jughead Jones of all people got straightwashed out of the famous sexual disinterest that the comics only recently (as far as I'm aware) literally labelled as asexuality.

There seems to be a storyline involving Cheryl and Betty that goes quite hard into the psychological consequences of bullying and yet there's also, it seems, a storyline where Archie sleeps with a teacher that's... not so well handled, apparently. Like, literally, Archie is still a minor and nothing about the storyline makes out the adult to be in the wrong.

This series looks to be an absolute trainwreck and I'm more than capable of enjoying that but there's the teacher thing and the Jughead thing...

and somehow, after reading only a dozen or so issues of the reboot, I realise I have really strong opinions about these characters.

So, regardless of how the show turns out, I think we can call the comics reboot a creative success. 

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Elimination Chamber 2017 (spoilers)

A cheerful and psychologically healthy individual, yesterday.

After Royal Rumble it looked like they were planning to play safe with the Wrestlemania card. Not disastrously so, Cena/Orton is a reliable match even if we have seen it approximately a hundred and fifty times before. Plus, Cena's practically indestructible and Orton is famously the safest worker in the industry so the odds of having to call things off because of sudden shoulder are low.

I went into Elimination Chamber not expecting much change on the title front. When Alexa Bliss dropped the Smackdown Women's Title to Naomi (a little too soon for my tastes) I was convinced that Cena was just going to tough out the Chamber match and emerge the champion. After all, its his sixteenth world title run, his run to equal Flair's record, there's no way he'd be dropping it this soon?

There are times when I love being wrong.

Bray Wyatt is WWE Champion! After literally years of dicking around they have finally put gold around the waist of the most over heel in the company. And not some chickenshit cowardly heel like The Miz (much as I love him) but a proper batshit crazy monster heel with ramblings promos and a cult leader gimmick. Just the visual when he was clutching the title and the lights went down, his “fireflies” in the audience holding up their phones. That moment is going to be rerun in clip packages for years to come.

This man is so amazingly over, he's deserved a title for far too long and he's going to be headlining Wrestlemania against the Legend Killer Randy Orton. That's an amazing push, especially given how badly they've dicked him around in the past.

Now, there are no Smackdown pay-per-views between now and 'Mania and Bray only has to have one title defence under the thirty day rule. I am straining to find the faith that WWE won't fuck this up.

Straining, I tell you. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

I should read the Artemis Fowl books again

The Chinese cover art has been doing the rounds on tumblr recently and just looking at them makes me remember how much I loved that series (and realise how bad the covers were in this country)...
I mean, its a YA series where the young protagonist is a criminal mastermind. Okay, one who tends towards the heroic in the end but he is still a criminal. A criminal who starts the series trying to extort money out of the faeries. I am perfectly serious: he finds out that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is, in fact, the fey folk's hostage fund.

I like Artemis because, at the end of the day, his redemption arc doesn't stop him from being a criminal. Even when he's firmly on the side of the angels (well, of the faeries, centaurs, gnomes and dwarfs, at least) he is still, at his heart, a criminal. He steals things, he comes up with elaborate schemes, he's arrogant and in spite of that he's still on a journey to becoming a better person.

Just about the only complaint I have about the series is that Juliet Butler disappears for whole books at a time when I would have loved to see more of her and Holly Short interacting. They had a great little caper plot in... The Opal Deception, I think?

Huh, all the more reason to reread the series, then.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Some musings on fan fiction

I mean, there's a lot that future academics are going to have to dive into, isn't there? Not just the evolution of fanfic websites from personal projects to the early one subject archives (oh, I miss slayer.net) to the big modern archives like AO3.

No, what I'm talking about is stuff like sex pollen.

Sex pollen, for those unaware, is a literary device to get characters shagging. That's all. Its a literal handwave to start the sex and it is a legitimate genre of fan fiction. When people just want sci-fi characters to shag in what the tags of AO3 term “porn without plot / plot what plot” they roll out the sex pollen.

Then there's slash fiction as an act of consumer protest. Why are there so many stories of Kirk and Spock getting it on? Geordi and Data? Because for its first fifty years the most liberal franchise in mainstream science fiction didn't have a single LGBT character who was there for anything other than to be a one episode tragedy.

I mean, the whole concept of slash fiction started with a Kirk/Spock fic back in the fanzine days. Now its open to any pairing you can think of (and some you wish no no one had...).

The history of fan fiction is just one big exercise in reader response theory. People consume the official stories and respond to them with their own creative work. This isn't unprecedented, The Lord Of The Flies was actually written in response to another novel (RM Ballantyne's The Coral Island) with a pretty similar plot but with a happy ending in which the boys survive and thrive because they're British and civilised. The only difference now is that it can be done by anyone in response to anything.

There's a character in Steven Universe so far identified only as “Mystery Girl” that Pearl flirts with in one episode. She's appeared once, has no proper name (and is identified only as “S” in a note she writes) and she has no lines. There are a whole bunch of fanfics theorising about her future relationship with Pearl: how S will react when she discovers that aliens are real and how much danger the Earth is in or how she'll react to Pearl's past as a slave. I've read any number of great stories just speculating how a relationship the show might never revisit will go.

Its also a safe and largely anonymous space where people can work out their feelings about sexuality, gender and a number of other personal questions. Whilst it shouldn't be treated as a sole educational resource on the subject, I've read far, far more treatments of non-binary identity, gender transition, gender dysphoria, non-traditional relationship structures (monogamous and otherwise) and even discussions of sexual health in fan fiction than in officially published literature and I really hope that some of these authors break through and we get those sorts of discussion in more mainstream spaces. 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Hobby Goal

Hobby Goal #5
Build my Lord of Change

Pretty birdie built. Painting him will have to wait a while as I'm waiting to see how someone else's turns out. He has an interesting blue and yellow colour scheme going on for the feathers that I want to try my hand at if the finished product is as good as I think it will be. Besides, the Acolytes still need finishing up. And speaking of finishing...

Hobby Goal #6
Finish a bunch of basing


Horrible habit of mine, finishing models and not getting around to the basing. I mean, the interesting bit is done and paint takes so bloody long to dry on the sand. Anyway, the practical upshot is that I get the pleasing feeling of finishing a whole lot of stuff at once, such as...

five Ironbreakers, five Genestealer Metamorphs, five Renegades, a Flesh Tearers Librarian and five Tactical Marines. Twenty-one models. Bit of a crap batting average for a month and a half but its something.

Anyway, next up on the docket...

Hobby Goal #7
Basecoat some Dwarfs

This idea of batch painting base layers and filling in the details a rank at a time is something I really should experiment with. So this week I will be basecoating as many Dwarfs as I can, starting with the “gromril” armoured units: the remaining Iron breakers and my Irondrakes.

Nothing too strenuous, just get the base silver done and maybe the blue ink. Anything else I get done on them or on the rest of the army is a bonus. 

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Ming-Na Wen holding a lightsaber

Now, here's the thing: I see this photo and I want to make all sorts of salient and socially responsible points. Points about how for all its improvement in terms of diversity the Star Wars franchise is still rather lacking in women of colour in leading roles; how this woman has been portraying a middle aged female action hero on Agents Of SHIELD for years and that's an archetype we could do with more of on the big screen; or, just plain how it would be nice to have an older woman as a Jedi now the chance to stick a lightsaber in Carrie Fisher's hands has passed us by forever.

Any of these points could make for a long and detailed blog post but I'm tired and my eyes keep drifting to her arms and suddenly coherent thought becomes impossible.

Also, I did not know she was the voice of Mulan until I looked her up on Wikipedia. Come on, Disney, metaphors don't come much more perfect than this: give Mulan a lightsaber! 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Comic Reviews

This week: a long forgotten design disaster makes its return to DC continuity, Star Wars goes gentler on paternity than usual; Brian Michael Bendis treads water; and, the Outsiders cosplay as the Justice League.

Detective Comics #950
League of Shadows prologue

As much as I like having on-cover titles to tell me when a new story starts, calling this issue the “League of Shadows prologue” is just plain terrible advertising. This is an anthology issue, plain and simple, catching us up with focus stories for various members of Batman's crew.

The issue opens with an introspective piece about Cassandra Cain and her ballet obsession. Have I mentioned how much I love that idea? It seems so perfect and yet no one thought of it before Batman & Robin Eternal. This short really goes into the psychology of Cass and the feelings she has but can't express because of her limited verbal skills. There's also a moment that is absolutely meant to be platonic but just makes me ship Cass/Harper because I've been starved of adorable hero cuddling since Tim got himself blowed up.

Speaking of, a Tim flashback story ends the issue. Not as personal or revealing as Cass' story as its more a tease for future events and a recap of where the various Robins are headed in their own titles but there are some nice moments including, of all things, the return of Robin's car from waaaaaay back in the Chuck Dixon days.

It still looks bloody awful.

Between the these two stories there's a two-hander between Batwing and Azrael, the two newest members of the team and, personally, the two I know the least. I've only experienced Batwing as an occasional love interest in Batgirl and this version of Azrael has clearly been slightly rebooted since Batman & Robin Eternal. By and large its a science versus faith story, which I normally don't have much time for, but for a change neither side is portrayed as unreasonable or irrational and we get more background on the Order Of St. Dumas who could stand to have a comeback sometime soon.

Non-prologue status notwithstanding, a fine oversized anniversary issue.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #4
Book I, Part IV

As fun as this was, it was hard to ignore the feeling that not much happened. Most of the issue was Aphra and company running from last issue's cliffhanger and arriving at the next one. We're teased with a moment where it seems Aphra and her father are about to have the big row they've been headed for since he turned up but then it turns out she's too tired.

Still, Kev Walker keeps up the impressive visuals including an interesting riff on the standard template Imperial officer and no one ever accused Gillen of failing to deliver the character moments. Given price and infrequency, there are few creative I'll give a pass for a slow issue but this is one of them.

Guardians of the Galaxy

On the other hand...

Now, I like Bendis but I can't help but feel this arc is just marking time until the end of the run. This issue isn't as egregious as the one where Ben Grimm shuffles through set-up for his role in Infamous Iron Man but its close. Plus, the next issue is going to be about Angela, a character who left the team ages ago to go be a lesbian space angel in her own series.

I'll probably see the series through to the end in case the character cliffhangers actually amount to something though I'm not counting on it.

Justice League of America: Rebirth one-shot

Or, as I think of it, “The Outsiders relaunch” because that is blatantly what this series is. I also feel pretty vindicated at having skipped three of the four prologue one-shots (I only read the Atom one because I always liked Ryan Choi) since this is a pretty good done in one getting the team together story. I missed three quarters of the series set-up, missed the Justice League vs Suicide Squad series that I'm pretty sure Batman is talking about when he references Killer Frost's face turn and I'm none the worse for it.

This is either good brand management or terrible, I'm not sure which.

Anyway, its the Outsiders with a JLA lick of paint! Batman assembling a team of his own to do... well, that's not entirely clear. This issue is long on introducing characters but not so much on situation. In many ways that's more important, especially considering that someone who paid more attention than me probably knows what this series is about and so what most are spending money on here is the question of whether they'll like these takes on the characters.

I do, as it happens. I like how earnest and open Ryan Choi is; I like that we're back to grubby 90s biker dude Lobo and that Canary hates him; I like that the League has second string rookies again in the form of Ryan and the Ray; and, I like literally everything about Rebirth era Vixen as being a Bruce Wayne that everyone knows is a rich superhero.

Now I just have to pick up the actual #1 and find out if I like the series' direction as much as I like these characters. 

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Nostalgia is as nostalgia does

Its been a while since I've cared about the X-Men, which is sad because they're my favourite superheroes. Its no big secret that Marvel have been keeping the X-Men at something of a remove from the rest of the Marvel Universe the last few years. You can't blame them: they make millions and millions out of their own Avengers movies and sod all out of Fox's X-Men movies.

Still, something seems to have changed and now there's a big relaunch in the offing: ResurreXion. Encouraging news but by Marvel's current standards its a bit... traditional.

I mean, this is a company currently aggressively pushing female leads in Thor, Hawkeye, Captain Marvel and Iron Man; changing the races of the Hulk, Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel; pushing characters out of the closet left right and centre; and, Spider-Gwen. Against that background we get...
a straight up reunion of the first generation X-Men...
and a similar one for the Claremont generation. Not the worst pitches in the world and there are some interesting ideas off to the side with Iceman and Jean Grey solo series and a Generation X revival with the Jubilee leading the “Wolverine & The X-Men” generation of kids.

Still, I can't help but think the fact there's not a potential Marvel Studios movie being workshopped here is holding the line back from the sort of innovation that's happening just about everywhere else in the Marvel Universe.

I'm always willing to be surprised by things and if this works no one will be happier than me. I dearly want to care about these comics again. It was the original “Blue & Gold” era that got me into comics in the first place, the original GenX were (alongside DC's Young Justice) “my” generation of teen superheroes.

Hell, maybe somewhere in this relaunch there's secretly a place for Chamber, the greatest British mutant superhero of all time. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The Curious Case of Mimikyu

The best Pokemon ever.
Every Pokemon game has a fake Pikachu, an Electric-type rodent of some sort that tries to repeat the winning formula of the original mascot. It never works. Don't get me wrong, some attempts have been better than others. Pachirisu looks awful, Dedenne is kind of sweet, and Emolga is my favourite Pokemon ever ever ever!!!
A football waiting to happen.
Togedemaru is the “official” knock-off Pikachu of this generation. Not the best design, not the worst, definitely no Emolga. The funny thing is, this game also features Mimikyu...
Don't you just want to tickle both his chins?
who is a shy Ghost-Fairy type hiding inside a Pikachu costume and everyone loves it. Every Pokemon player on the internet, it seems, is united in their love of this little fellow. I'm right with them, Mimikyu was the only Pokemon I went into this game thinking I absolutely had to have one on my team.

This does not seem to be the intention. We were meant to find it creepy. The Ghost trial where it first appears presents it as a creeping terror luring people in by pretending to be a cute little Pikachu and its Pokedex entry reads like something out of Lovecraft: “It's actual appearance is unknown. A scholar who saw what was under its rag was overwhelmed by terror and died from the shock.” I called mine Innsmouth, by the way. Hell, the anime even has one willingly joining Team Rocket just because it wants to beat up Ash's Pikachu.

But people love the little guy in a way you just can't manufacture. After six generations of trying to replicate the Pikachu formula they finally hit on it by just creating a Pokemon that's literally pretending to be Pikachu and I find that hilarious. 

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Started watching Legends Of Tomorrow

I'm four episodes in and I love this series already. The reason is simple and the very definition of personal bias: this show seems to be an unending succession of miniature heist movies. I love heist movies. A team of characters following a plan that goes inevitably wrong: conspirators clashing, that one little detail no one anticipated, personal agendas getting in the way... I love that stuff.

All this and time travel as well. Okay, economy time travel at the moment but the production values on this series are so good you hardly notice that most of the team's destinations (so far) are the United States somewhere in the last forty years.

Actually, I was pleasantly surprised by how good the series was from a production standpoint. I always assumed a team like this was too expensive for network television. Of the nine main characters, four have pretty CGI-intensive power sets and another two have weapons achieved through special effects. They have a big CGI spaceship.

Speaking as someone who remembers when the best superhero team show was Mutant X (“best” is an intensely subjective term), I never thought we'd get something this good on TV. Its an impression reinforced by the fact that even the all-powerful Marvel Studios launched their TV offerings with a show based entirely on non-powered government agents and even now are doing solo series largely about characters with no powers or powers that don't require extensive special effects.

But, no, here we are with a show that will probably be a better team story than the Suicide Squad or Justice League movies. Which is fair since Supergirl is the best thing to be done with the Superman license since roughly 1980 and Arrow shows how much could be achieved by a Batman series that has the main character make some headway in dealing with his issues.

Between them Arrow, Flash, Supergirl and Legends Of Tomorrow are creating a shared universe to rival the MCU and, sadly, one that absolutely trounces the cinematic DCEU. That last part is less fortunate for DC but rather fortunate for me, a fan of the DC characters who is rather glad that there's some decent version of them in live action. 

Monday, 6 February 2017

What even is satire, anymore?

Admit it. You don't know if that's a real screencap. I don't know if that's a real screencap. We live in a world so insane. You know why I don't know? Because I know THIS is real:
I saw this retweeted a couple of days ago, clicked the link and found myself on the real Sean Spicer's Twitter where he really endorsed an Onion article about himself. The White House press secretary not only doesn't know that The Onion is a satire site, he didn't even read the whole thumbnail before enthusiastically endorsing the article. Also, he keeps tweeting out the White House's wi-fi password.

No, I'm not joking! You see how hard this is, now? 

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Hobby Goal and a change of philosophy

Hobby Goal #4
Paint the Kairic Acolytes


The Kairic Acolytes turned out to be more work than I anticipated. They looked so simple and then I got to the gold. All the bloody gold: the edging on the shields, the edging on the armour plates, the belt buckles, the hilts of the swords, the masks. There's just so much fine detail they're too damn hard to batch paint beyond the basic block colouring. So, right now, three quarters of the unit look like this...
with another rank just starting to get all their gold edging halfway to done. Didn't help that I ended up wasting my first couple of painting sessions on a colour scheme that didn't work and had to start from scratch but I have learnt a valuable lesson:
Clearly I need a change in philosophy here.

The days when I had the time to finish a unit in a week, let alone a unit I've never painted before, are done so from now on there'll be no more “finish a unit” goals. I'll start this week with a simple, immediate goal and work my way up, see how far I can reasonably take this instead of making myself grumpy because I just don't have enough time.

Also, I like the method that's arisen here through practicality. I decided I'd go mad trying to do the gold edging as a twenty model block so I'm doing it a rank at a time. I might try this out with another unit: base coats as a block then do the detail work rank by rank. If it works I get to have that high of “I finished something” sooner and more frequently.

We'll see.

Hobby Goal #5
Build my Lord of Change

Well, it arrived in the pre-orders yesterday and I want to get some momentum behind this project. With any luck I can plug away at the Acolytes for the rest of the week and have them done by the time I've finished building the Greater Daemon. I also want to write some background for the army, work out who they are and what they're doing.

But also...

Hobby Goal #6
Finish a bunch of basing

I said this month would be about Dwarfs and a Lord Of Change is not a Dwarf. Where there are some Dwarfs is on the basing shelf. There's also a lot of other models dating back to just before Christmas who need their bases finishing. The shelf currently contains five Ironbreakers, five Flesh Tearers Tactical Marines and a Librarian, five Traitor Guardsmen and five Genestealer Metamorphs.

If I get these done I can put twenty-one models in the finished column. 

Saturday, 4 February 2017

There's something about Roboute

In quick succession the contents of the third Triumvirate box set leaked, were confirmed by GW and now we have high quality pictures of the models.
And I just don't like Roboute Guilliman. There's a distinct lack of Roman about him, a distinct lack of... well... this:
Some characters need restraint and Guilliman is one of them. He's a grand strategist, a statesman, an emperor in his own right. Also, the plastic one has a tiny, tiny head. Okay, its not like Space Marine anatomy has ever worked if you dedicate any thought to it but that is one tiny blood head.

I just don't see him as a flaming sword kind of guy.
On the plus side, Cypher looks fantastic. The armour is baroque, the mismatched collection of weaponry sells the idea of a roaming, lone crusader. Hopefully these characters come out some day as individual boxes and blisters because I='d really like to paint this one.
As for Voldus he's a nice sculpt of a pretty standard Grey Knights character. That's not really a criticism, the Grey Knights have a very fixed aesthetic and there's really no reason to break it for this character. That said, this is a three character box set for three factions I don't play and only one blows me away.

Still, I would love that Cypher model just on his own and will be scouring the bots stores for him. 

Friday, 3 February 2017

This Week's Comics

Unstoppable Wasp #2
This series is just so charming, its wonderful. After last issue's manifesto, Nadia Pym has started recruiting for her girl genius operation. As the cover suggests this involves fellow young lady genius superhero Moon Girl but writer Jeremy Whitley makes the smart decision not to lead with her.

Instead we meet Puerto Rican New Yorker and robotics genius Taina Miranda and her sister Alexis. Now, I like Moon Girl as much as the next guy but I think its better this series establish its own supporting cast over an attention grabbing guest star. If every member of Nadia operation offers dynamics as interesting as Taina and Alexis do then we're in for even more of a treat with this series than its already delivering. Plus, being a Puerto Rican woman with mobility issues means that just by existing Taina will be irritating to all the right people which is always a bonus.

On the subject of supporting cast, Edwin Jarvis turns up in his role as slightly grumpy surrogate father figure just as he was in All-New All-Different Avengers. Nadia is definitely a character who benefits from a straight man and they don't get much straighter than a button up butler.

Anyway, moving on to the “title fight” as it were. If nothing else Jeremy Whitley knows how to provide a study in contrasts. Nadia has a wide-eyed enthusiasm about everything whilst Lunella has a huge cynicism born of never being listened to. Whether this team-up is going to last is up in the air but I for one would like to see them bounce off each other at length based on this issue.

Old Man Logan #17
Return to the Wastelands part II
Well, this got to the point admirably fast. Shan't spoil but after a second issue of chopping back and forth between a one story of Logan fighting Brood on the International Space Station and another of him back in his home time, Jeff Lemire has the decency to tell us what's going on. Now, I like the device at this length but I'm sure after more than maybe another issue of it the whole thing would have started to try the patience.

(That having been said I could look at Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo's art all day).

And the cliffhanger does what good cliffhangers do: not provide you with a fake moment of suspense but an intriguing new piece of the puzzle to wonder about and try to fit into your understanding of the story.

Batman #16
I Am Bane part one
Tom King continues his run of being the best Batman writer in years with an amazing war council between Bruce and the extant Robins in a burger joint. Now, I love me some Nightwing being sassy and Damian being rude and aloof but, for once, I even liked Jason. I've never really clicked with the Red Hood incarnation of Jason and I think I much prefer this version, the one that can sit down civilly with the family in times of need, to the grouchy outsider I'm usually presented with.

Most of this issue is character moments, ramping up tension for when Bane makes his move. Its smart, a quieter first chapter than the other two I Am stories which goes to show that King is a good enough writer not to trap himself in a formula just because it works.

Between Catwoman in Rooftops and the Robins in this I hope that King has a long and extravagantly sprawling run on this series.