So, after my post last week
, I did get around to watching all of Attack on Titan,
and potentially dumping on more popular things. And only looking back through older posts
that I made do I realise that it's been over a year and a half since I last saw new anime.
Maybe that's why I'm so impressed by Titan. The title is still silly (it doesn't make any sense, and doesn't have the excuse of being a direct translation of the Japanese, so what were they thinking?), but the other points that irked me last week have passed. It is another case of having to sit through the first few episodes of a series before realising that it is really good.
The speed-lines don't appear beyond the first few episodes, and after discovering the varying fashion styles as one goes past inner walls, even the jackets make sense. Well, except for the fact that they can't possibly button up, making them something of a liability for a military force whose members swing around like Spider-Man...
The show chalks up a fair few traditional mecha tropes, and even zombie ones, but for all that the central mysteries are still intriguing. Not all (are any?) are answered before the end of the season, but not in a frustrating manner. The plot is basically a few heavily detailed set-pieces spread out over several hours, with only a coiple of 'stnad-alone' episodes to allow for bretah-catching in-between. They're so intense (really good animation, even if the effect of the Mobility Gear doesn't quite make sense visually) that the questions that add on top rather than being distracting. And it makes me want to see what happens next. Maybe even read the original comics...
The titans themselves were a pleasant surprise. Prior to watching the series, the only images of them in promotional material seem to be of the armoured and female titans, so I had asumed they all followed that skinles bone-and-muscle aesthetic. I was pleasantly surprised and creeped out to find that they're actually much better than that: naked, sexless giants that lumber around as if not familiar with their own skin.
Massive, fixed-grin zombies fighting web-slinging heroes in the remains of a strangely medieval post-apocalyptic society. Yeah! Pretty gory in places, but it's not all senseless violence, with a nice selection of characters placed in these horrifying circumstances to cope as they will.
The highest compliment I can give is wanting to watch it again right now, to pick up on bits I may have missed first time through. I don't get what's made it especially popular, though; it's good, but hardly the best thing ever.
I have now finished reading Marvel's reprints of the Miracleman
series from the eighties. It's been out of print for a very long time thanks to rights battles, and has a reputation for being quite influential on the comics industry that followed. It was written by Alan Moore, after all.
Personally, I found it quite dull. That could just be due to the thirty years of time that have passed, with more 'extreme' things being commonplace now (although the devastated London spread is still plenty grim), but I put it down more to the fact that it gives up on having a sense of narrative partway through.
It transitions to being told as a flashback at the halfway mark, with the tale being related at differing paces at different moments, the speeding up and slowing down making it dreamlike, I guess, but also rendering it hard to get too attached to anything or anyone. Events just happen, in lucky instances explanations being given as at the command of beings beyod our ken. By the end, it's just a outline of a way of governing the planet with superpowers, little more than a manifesto with some illustrations.
For all it lacks narrative, it makes up for with narration. I've realised that I really don't much care for Alan Moore as a comicbook writer. He's a good enough author, but he falls on the wrong side of the 'show, don't tell' fence. Comcbooks are meant to be collaborative, art and words working toether to tell a story, but here there're just walls of text crawling over the images. Written out in full are concepts that would be far better served by being drawn out to be seen; it's a picture book more than a comicbook, and perhaps would have been better served as a novel or series of poems. The art doen't really serve any purpose here, and that's sad.
It may have been revolutionary at the time, but I'm finding it nothing special at all now.
For my next 'bah, humbug' approach to things I've started cynically watching the 'modern classic' anime Attack on Titan
, and besides that terrible title (who thought that was the best way to phrase it?) those 'speed dashes' at the edges of the screen at random times are really annoying me. (and why are the soldiers all wearing cool modern military jackets when everyone else seems to be all medieval-like?)
Maybe I'm just in a bad mood.
I have realised that I do have a lot of comics built up now. Many of which I've only read the one time. I always intend to go back and re-read some of them, but there's always some distraction to prevent that, it seems.
The nearest I seem to get these days is when I decide to buy the same stuff I already own in a new format, upgrading to a durable (to withstand the repeated re-readi - huh...) and space-saving hardback. And with Christmas come and gone, some of that extra money in the bank went toward a couple of hardbacks from IDW
They're both very high-quality; lovely thick paper, bookmark ribbons, no silly dust-jacket... And somehow, both have a slightly irksome problem, but a different one in both cases!
So, firstly I bought a Transformers book - The IDW Collection, Phase 2 Volume 1
. I gave up on buying single issues of the series a while ago and tradewaited instead, and this volume collects together the first 2.65 (yes, really!) TPB. Slight problem there, as given the irregular page-count of the paperbacks, it's not a simple case of just swapping two of them off the shelf for a lovely hardback.
That's fine. When the next hardback comes along, it'll make up for it. No, the real probklem is what's missing. Normally, one would expect a deluxe hardback edition to include some extra content right? Not in this case! The original TPB contained full cover galleries of the individual issues, as well as concept sketches, creator interviews, script excerpts, cast bios...
All of that is absent from the big ol' hardback! In failing to render its predecessors obsolete, it has not saved shelf space at all! Unless I just tear the relevant pages from the originals...
The other book was
It does have a gap in the reading order. The old annual story, 'Run Makita, Run' is missing. Not a problem, as IDW published a 'treasury edition' comic prior to this hardback, with that and a few other hard-to-find bits and pieces. Excellent! Except where it comes to lining these books up on the shelf...
They're all different sizes! Even the RPG setting book
Left to right, the original collected volumes 1 & 2 TPB I bought back in the day, the larger original format of volume 4, the treasury edition and the new hardback. That is going to be hodgepodge on the shelf, isn't it?!
I brought it on myself, though.
Captain America and the Mighty Avengers
is doing a much better job at portraying this 'inversion' malarky than the main Axis
series is. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, since one is written by Al Ewing, and the other by Rick Remender, but there you go.
Luke Cage and Sam WIlson have been 'inverted' in CA&TMA, yet despite using some overly brutal methods to get things done, are still recognisably the same people. In AXIS, every single one of the inverted heroes is acting like an identical kill-crazy psychopath with no personality at all. Once again, this Marvel event looks like all the side tie-ins will prove superior to the main book.
Bonus points to CA&TMA for having someone burst through a window and shout "Stand and deliver!", villainous minion banter ("We're not office workers! We're urban pirates! Desperadoes on the road to nowhere!") and a much better variant cover:
This week, the final issue of the Azzarello / Chiang (mostly Chiang, but a lot of Akins as well) run on Wonder Woman came out. Over three years of story, and while there have been an unforgivable number of atrocious puns in every issue, and Wonder Woman herself hardly ever seemed to do anything herself, it has been quite the epic, full of Greek gods and monsters. Now that it is complete, I will have to find time at some point to go back over it again.
I just get the feeling that this conclusion issue, Wonder Woman #35
is a bit rushed, getting the whole business done with so that they can move on to the new 'superstar' creative team (yuk
Why? Well, that big fight scene, with an army of gnolls and human mercenaries fighting amazons and giant mechanical elephants from the previous issue was wrapped up off panel with one throw-away line. We don't get to see it, we don't get to know who lived and who died (there were a LOT of major characters involved!) and the aftermath is not felt.
The big shock entrance at the end of last issue is resolved quickly, as if there wasn't enough time to deal with the repurcussions while also cramming in the final showdown with the First-Born. Did he die? Come to think of it, what happened to his brother? His death caused a lot of problems that surely need a solution of some sort - oh, well.
One big twist I had guessed from an early stage (what happened to Zeus?), but the one that was wrapped around it was a pleasant surprise that I didn't see coming. But it came so far out of nowhere and took up so much space that could have been better used on those missing aspects that it gets made worse by association.
The other reveal? That, beneath the mask of the minotaur lies the face of... the minotaur. I'll be honest, I didn't see it coming either, but it was pretty disappointing. All that trouble to conceal the face as if it was someone different! Oh, well. Again, maybe it would have had some impact with a little more room to do its thing.
The final fight was a let-down as well. The First-Born is defeated because he can't fly. He falls, Palpatine-style, to his death. He has vast, godly powers that he has displayed in hunting down his family and subjugating armies, yet he can't fly. A little disappointing. Good thing he couldn't though, as otherwise Wonder Woman's plan would have done precisely nothing. When dealing with beings of such immense power, not knowing exactly what they are and aren't capable of can make certain developments seem entirely arbitrary.
And, wait... wasn't his body largely covered in/composed of prehensile veins? Wonder Woman ripped a whole fistful off, sure, but he should have had more than enough to grab an edge, arrest his descent, something... Now I'm picking holes.
Maybe it'll read better in one sitting, but I'm unsure as to how far I would be able to get before I throw the book across the room at a particularly annoying pun, spoken by some character that has no reason to, because all the characters in the book make them and they weren't funny the first time...
The re-release of Doomtown as an expandable card game came not long before the newest version (3rd?) of a 40k card game, now a Living Card Game itself. Both starter sets cost the same amount of money, but side by side one can immediately see a glaring difference:
Unsurprisingly, the Doomtown box being bigger does mean that it has more cards, but it also uses that space to include good qaulity learn to play boards and a widescreen rulebook. The box insert is also better; rather than the flimsy piece of folded cardboard in 40k, Doomtown has a plastic tray with plenty of room to put many more card in the future.
Neither box contains a full 'playset' of cards, the maximum number rerquired to be able to build any deck you want. 40k has a maximum of three copies per card per deck, and Doomtown four. Therefore, you should have to buy fewer extra sets of 40k to get a full playset, right?
Nope. 40k has some cards at a 1x quantity, so to get a playset you'd have to buy three boxes. In Doomtown, there's 2x of all the game cards, so two sets gets all the cards.
Both games have some cards that don't really get used to construct decks, and whose quantity can't be altered. When buying multiple copies of the game, these excess would be a waste. Two lots of Doomtown would get four jokers and two of each 'home' card. Two playsets of jokers is not a bad thing, as that allows including them in two decks. And four excess cards that don't get shuffled into decks? Personally, I used them to make my home cards double-sided, so they're not a waste either.
40k, on the other hand? There are ten planet cards, representing the worlds that the battles are fought over. Both players share this set, from which they set out the game. Two extra copies of the game get twenty more useless copies of these, and they have to be shuffled, so you can't do the backing trick with these.. The game also has seven different factions in it, each with their own warlord and squad, nine card sets that can't be alterted or included in other decks or double-sided (since the warlords have a 'hale' side and a 'bloodied' side. So each additional set gets SIXTY THREE totally useless game cards with it, in addition to the planet deck. We'll leave aside the fact that buying enough copies of the game to get 3x of all cards wil also net 6x of some, since extra game cards can at least be used to build multiple decks.
In conclusion, 40k costs more to get all the options, and for that price also comes with more useless junk that may as well get binned straight away. And yet it is the game that is made by the much bigger compnay that makes enough of this style of game to have trademarked LCG, licensed from a fairly popular intellectual property, and Doomtown is re-branding of a game that went out of print over a decade ago from a relatively tiny gaming company. Wow.
I watched The Equalizer last night. It had a 15 certificate. That certificate apparently allows for people being killed with power drills, corkscrews, and nail guns, and being hanged using barbed wire. If this were a horror movie, with some monstrous psychopath doing all this, it would have gotten an 18 for sure. Does the certificate somehow get lowered because it's the hero killing very bad people? Does morality somehow figure into how highly a movie gets rated?
The preparations for the big day took some time, as the posse assembled their previous contacts for aid. Colonel Jeffries organised some 'manoeuvres' that would keep the Lost Angels fleet occupied. Chin-Hsueh Wong and a passel o' martial artists offered their services. Hamumu got the Necessity Alliance shamans to aid their struggle in the spirit world. The mad scientists of Elspethtown, the russians of Felicity Peak, even Doctor Ernest Weissmann - all were enlisted. Missives were sent to the Agency and Texas Rangers, even with little hope of reply. It was Hogleg Dunstan - rescued from The Rock way back when - who proved pivotal. With his contacts in the Men of the Grid (
terrorists freedom fighters that rebelled against Reverend Grimme's rule) he could get the posse into the city, and aid in getting innocents out before the big end came.
A couple of days before the Big Day, there was another: Cal and Clara got married on the Big M Ranch, with him writin' a will as well, just in case...
The posse smuggled themselves in under cover of a Gridder explosion a day before the ritual, with Cattlegirl Jill in tow, eager for vengeance for what happened to Bill.
The day, August 23rd 1880 (American calendar) saw the posse striding through the streets of the city toward the cathedral in the Golden Circle. They gladly gave money to the unwashed, starving masses that thronged around, hoping that a crowd of locals would mask their approach.
A lone figure approached them, tearing through the crowd to grab Cal and give him a dire warning! It was Steve, another of the cattlemen from the Big M, with news that the night before a winged figure had smashed into the ranch and made off with Mister Shelton! Clara had tried to save him, and been snagged as well!
Grimme and his Thirteen Ghouls were planning a feast that day, and who better to dine on than the man who had been feeding their enemies...
With renewed speed, the posse made it to the cathedral square, where Cal called out a challenge as he slit his palm, bleeding onto the bare earth. The glass of the cathedral front shattered, shredding the guardians that stood outside, but Grimme and his Thirteen Ghouls walked calmly from the front door, ready to kill. It looked like the flood would not be immediate, and the heroes may have to hold out against all the forces of Hell.
The posse was prepared, opening up with everything they had, gunning down villains who had previously only been names. Andrea Baird, Grimme's right-hand matron, and Lily Spratt, schoolmarm, were shot by Trent; Horace Mosely, commander of the Lost Angels fleet, was drowned by Elworthy's water gun; Vertiline Miller, Grimme's thief, was electrocuted by Marty; Ernie Miller, Lost Angels chamber of commerce, and George Woolbright, chief missionary, were shotgunned by DImitri; Mordecai Noss, land baron, took a rifle round from Cattlegirl Jill.
Grimme rallied his forces, opening with a sermon whose power left the posse reeling as he and his remaining Ghouls walked calmly down the steps, guns and black magic striking out. A gargoyle tore itself from the front of the cathedral, a deluge of stone that threw itself at Trent. Two flights of guardian angels approached from opposite sides, rapidly surrounding our heroes.
The land answered in kind, four stone hoodoo emerging from the ground to interpose themselves, their hides being torn apart so that fragile flesh might live. They tore apart Michael Coulter, ruler of half the city, and Darcy Wardlow, Wasatch liaison, and the other Ghouls took pause. Grimme strode on, determined to kill Cal, and with him followed hunger, a famine that tore at the guts of the posse.
Elworthy kept up his science bolts, taking down the one-armed Darren Ambrose, commander of Jehosephat Valley, Cal claiming Gabriel Fannon, a similarly duel-wielding Ghoul, and Journey and Dimitri held one flank, keeping the encroaching guardians at bay. On the other side though, Marty experienced a catastrophic malfunction with his lightning gun, blasting himself, Jill and Hamumu from their feet. The guardians approached this weak link, their devilish fear spells striking at Dimitir and causing him to run in panic. Trent moved to plug the hole, and Cal kept the demon off his back, his bone-handled revolver the only thing doing damage as Hamumu was stuck healing his comrades and Elworthy was trying to distract Grimme.
As the demon fell, Grimme called more to his side, but his last two Ghouls were irreplaceable, Cal taking down Daniel Rotten-Belly, a berserk murderer, and Journey putting a bullet through the skull of Caroline DeCarlo, harrowed reformer of prostitutes. With an opening, Cal made a break for the cathedral, shouting for his wife as he rolled past the swings of Grimme's hickory stick.
Elworthy kept the demons under control, even as the charges on his weapon began to drain and his non-harrowed companions began to succumb to the hunger, necessitating switching to his resuscitation devices every now and then. Hamumu aided him with this, but Marty kept passing out each time they revived him. Dimitir was deep into the guardian angels, breaking them with the butt of his shotgun, and Trent took down half a dozen more, his concentration not broken by the sulphuric fiend not three feet behind him.
Cal entered the cathedral to see mass in full swing, and as he paused to question and execute the two guardians at the door Grimme caught up to him, laying down a punishing blow that threatened to drag his soul from his body. Clinging to consciousness, he tripped the reverend with his lariat, running further into the building, shouting for Clara.
The church-goers didn't take kindly to the intrusion, swarming the bounty hunter and holding him down. The rest of the posse, external foes dealt with and injured being helped along, were coming to his aid, but as Grimme tore free from the paltry impediment he turned to consider them, striking them blind with his righteous prayers. Then he turned to stalk toward Cal, held helpless by the throng and destined to be added to the menu.
The hickory stick broke bones but the soul held, and even as Cal fell unconscious he could hear his comrades bursting in, Dimitri's shotgun and Hamumu's bow taking down some of the parishioners. They couldn't harm Grimme, but they had delayed him lomg enough.
The Flood came.
The City of Lost Angels was washed clean, the posse miraculously surviving. Clara was alive, her father was only missing an arm, and a whole new California lay waiting for tomorrow...
The posse stood firm in the face of the Mexican army, blasting away at the cavalry and gatling guns. Santa Anna couldn't hold himself back and charged forward, shortly followed by two-dozen loyal men. All attempts to dismount him met with failure, but as the cavalry drew closer the shotguns, flamethrower, six-shooters and lightning gun made a mess of them.
The cavalry engaged, yet the power of the leg kept the posse standing tall, and Hamumu assumed the form of a mountain lion as he began pouncing on the Mexicans and dragging them from their steeds.
Santa Anna himself went for Cal, knowing that it was he that bore the leg. The bounty hunter attempted to shoot the weapons from the general's hands, yet he kept a firm grip and drove his sabre through him, leaving him incapacitated and the leg within Santa Anna's reach.
Doctor Elworthy intervened, bathing Santa Anna in the fire of his flamethrower. While the horse collapsed beneath him, the general strode defiantly on, even as he burned. He cut Elworthy down for daring to kill his companion, leaving the scientist dead in the dirt, and then turned back to Cal, determined to have his leg.
Trent opened up with his pistol, fanning the hammer and blasting great holes from the Mexican general. Finally, Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón died.
The Mexican forces, having seen their invincible general die, and finding that their weapons were not having the desired effect upon their foes, turned tail and ran, leaving the posse to pick up the pieces.
Stanley demanded rights to Santa Anna's body, seein' as how he'd died on his land, but settled for four hundred dollars in emotional damages. The posse kept both corpse and leg. Cal was revived and able to limp, and enough horses were rustled up so that they ride away, taking Elworthy's corpse with them back to his boat. Doctor Journey was most upset.
The doc was given a moving eulogy once the posse reached the steam-launch that he had hand-built and customised. Then he popped up behind them to give one of his trademark insane cackles, thank everyone for their kind words and get huged by Journey. Turns out that Big John wasn't the only posse member looking like a decent ride for a manitou...
With their pilot still capable of piloting, the posse ran up to Shannonsburg, stopping at 'most every port on the way to spread the good word of the Mexican general's defeat. Colonel Jeffries congratulated them when they arrived, with medals all 'round!
Then it was time to pop in on the Explorers' Lodge, to see the construction coming along nicely, with a memorial wing for the fallen members ready, plaques beneath a personal token from each. Holly, Garrett, Ryan, Renard...
With calm restored, and everyone healed up from their serious injuries, they returned to the tomb of the Archangel Sabtabiel. The being congratulated them on their success and asked that the worthiest of their number be left alone with it to receive a reward. They refused, running off when it started to get angrier. It pursued them from the tomb, the unveiled majesty of its glowing form causing Cal to collapse with a heart attack. The others rallied to fight back, Dimitri finding that his shotgun was having no effect, but the spells of Hamumu and gadgets of Marty tore the angel apart, leaving it to disintegrate with a distinctly sulphuric odour...
After Cal recovered, they returned to the tomb to take a look behind Sabtabiel's sarcophagus. There was the seventh and final glyph, and now that it was blooded they would have to prepare for the appointed day when they would have to travel to the centre of the City of Lost Angels and trigger the flood that would destroy Reverend Grimme and his Thirteen Ghouls forever!
TO BE CONCLUDED!
is, so far, well worth the wait of about seven years since the lead-in series to it - FInal Crisis
- ended. It's also worth the price, twice as many pages as a regular comic (and with so very few ads eating up that count!) for less than twice the price. In fact, it's twice as many pages as a Marvel book for only 125% the price. How about that?
It's Grant Morrison doing yet another riff on his familiar tale of Lovecraftian entities threatening the multiverse and only a rag-tag group of superheroes able to stop them, but he does that so well, who cares? This time there's a pirate chimp and a super-bunny around, and the first world to be attacked is an ersatz Marvel universe with some... interesting takes on the Avengers.
The format of the series is to be a whole bunch of one-shots with some underlying them before an epilogue ties them all together (and there'll be some form of multiversal guidebook!)so I'm prepared for quite the line-up of bizarre alternate universes.
Other noteworthy things I got this week include the much-delayed fifth volume of the Transformers Classics UK
, which continues to feature some pretty amazing insights from James Robinson and this time has one of the greatest fight scenes ever: Death's Head ("This makes me feel sick") and Shockwave ("Bring me the Psycho-Probe!"). It's not very long, but that is some astounding Geoff Senior artwork right there. How disappointing to learn from an interview in this book that he'd have preferred to work on the Death's Head
solo comic rather than Dragon's Claws
. Gah! Why didn't you let him, Marvel? That would have been amazing!
Also, 2000ad prog 1895
reveals that some things will never die, as Mega-City One has tv shows 'The Mega1 Show' and 'Pantone 18-3949 Peter'.