No-one reads this anymore, so that's why I haven't written anything here for a while. Yet there remains a lot of stuff I wanted to write about and have to get out of my head, if only for my own satisfaction.
A while ago I posted here — and subsequently deleted — my going through some old Legion of Super-Heroes comics that I'd managed to get my hands on. Specifically, the out-of-print Keith Giffen run on the book prior to Zero Hour. The 'five years later' Legion, as they are often known.
I started off writing about just the first issue, with the intent of covering one per post. Hah! That would take far too long, and I couldn't be bothered with all that nonsense! So, perhaps a shorter summary of opinion...
It's often been criticised for being dark, and it does indeed begin with the Legion split up and involve lots of death and an important planet being painstakingly destroyed over the course of a single issue. The letters pages (which are hilarious to read) show that the readers had no patience for this — or for Giffen's Watchmen-esque ALL THE PANELS style — and one can see the changes taking place from issue to issue, much more delightful than it would have been originally with a monthly gap between each.
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I've read the novel Frankenstein again recently, for the first time in years. And I've realised that its not very good!
There's very little detail to anything that happens in the book. The construction of the creature, the wedding, Victor concocting an excuse to travel to England - each is brushed over in a single line. Far more time and attention is spent on repetitive ansty whining from both Victor and his creation, paragraph after paragraph of anguished whining.
The name Frankenstein doesn't even get used until Chapter 3 - 4, if you count the prologue letters, which are in total greater than any individual chapter! And then, you can only realise it refers to Victor through context, as he chides himself! Were it not also the title of the novel, that might even be a doubtful conclusion. His mother's maiden name, the surname of Elizabeth's family, even Henry Clerval, all get name-checked before the eponymous character's name! That's just shoddy.
The basic idea is great, as the many works it's inspired over the centuries can attest to, but this initial presentation of it is pretty poor. Stripping out all the repetitive introspection would leave a tight short story. It's padded out, and in all the wrong places. Everything is told, not shown (makes sense, given the framing device, I suppose).
Death's Head was in a comic this week! Guardians of the Galaxy: Dream On
by Marc Sumerak and Andrea de Vito (the latter was the artist on the awesome Dungeons and Dragons comic). http://marvel.com/comics/issue/61146/guardians_of_the_galaxy_dream_on_2017_1
Unfortunately, it's not very good (and neither if this photo):
So, they seem to have gone with the design used from Keiron Gillen's run on Iron Man and SWORD, but specifically the low-detail renditions of Greg Land, lacking the cool glowing emoji-mouth he originally sported with that look. Also, he seems to have shrunk down from his thirty-foot plus size he had then to being, what, ten feet? Also, the speech pattern doesn't work, right? Ninety percent of Death's Head's dialogue should be questions, yes? Just throwing in a 'yes' here and there doesn't cut it!
There's even a part where someone calls him a bounty hunter to his face and he doesn;t respond by attempting to kill them! #NotMyDeath
Still, the non-DH art is nice? And the story is an unoriginal take on the perfect-dreamworld-inducing machine.
Yeah, I only bought the issue because of the promise of Death's Head, and I found it disappointing to my expectations.The Wild Storm
issue 3 however, was pretty exciting. The opening sequence showing someone with the power to travel between visual media was beautiful, and worth looking over multiple times. The story is still moving at a tremendously slow pace (and the issue endings seem random, as if it was all being written for trade only...) but I'm still sticking the course for now! http://www.dccomics.com/comics/the-wild-storm-2017/the-wild-storm-3
This year of 2017, I actually went back to buying single issues of comicbook series. I stopped doing that in 2016 when the comic shop I bought from closed, and got by on just trade paperbacks, saving money and cutting back on the quantity I was reading at the cost of being a bit more behind on 'current' stories.
This year, I went back a little. Only a little. I've mainly been sticking to the TPBs, except in a few instances. I've started reading the new Justice League of America (featuring a cool team line-up plus Lobo) and The Wild Storm (weird 'superheroes' in an Ultimates / NextWAVE mashup), but the big one is Transformers.
The re-launching of 'Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye' as 'Transformers: Lost Light' is a great jumping-on point for starting reading it in singles. The comic, written by James Roberts, is the best thing ever. Reading through it, I do start wondering why I bother reading anything else and just don't go back and read older issues of the book that is witty, dramatic, clever, moving and still features giant robots fighting. It does have an intricate storyline, and part of tradewaiting means that I'll be having to avoid internet spoilers, wich can be annoying.
So! Now I'm up to date! And finding that the book reads pretty differently in single issue form. It's still just as witty, dramatic etc. as before (see above for proof), but the beats seem off. This last issue, number four, has several 'cliffhanger' moments, but they don't have the tension they should. In a TPB, where the reveal will be a few pages later, they're not bad. With a monthly wait, there's not enough there to justify breaking off the story there. The panels I put above, for example? Drift and co. follow Rodimus and react in shock to something off-panel. Were I able to turn the page tpo find out what it was, that would be cool. If there was some hint as to what it was, there'd be anticipation for an explanation in a month. With nothing to work on, I'm left empty.
Also, new character Anode seems to be all over the story, and I can't find any ability to care about her at all. Every other character in the series has inspired some sort of feeling (even that asshole Getaway), but Anode comes out of nowhere and doesn't seem very compelling to me at all.
Since I am as up to date as I am, I shall write down here a guess at one of the mysteries in the story: Rung transforms into an actual rung, a missing step on a ladder of some special sinificance. Why not?
One of the Marvel TPBs I've been reading has been the Unbelievable Gwenpool. I buy it in its localised, UK-printing by Panini publishing (as I do Thor, and any other series popular enough to warrant it). As you can see from the picture above, the UK printing (to the right, the US on the left) is made of thicker, less 'wavy' paper, with a neater trade dress. It costs less, as well. Word to the wise, there...
">Volo's Guide to Monsters</a> is a Dungeons & Dragons book that is intended to give a lot more detail to the more iconic monsters of the setting. Well, the Forgotten Realms setting, at least.
It starts off covering a few of the bigger species in detail, from Beholders to Yuan-Ti. There are lots of random tables for varying monster personlities and appearances, and a few maps showing example lairs, but most of it is given over to describing the lifestyles and motivations of the creatures.
And here's where being Forgotten Realms-centric is bad. Most of the monsters are described simply as mindless servants of their gods. The various races of goblinoids war and enslave only because their own gods were conquered by another. Orcs live only to destroy in the name of their gods. Gnolls go a step further, not even being a naturally born species, but one whose new members are transformed from regular hyenas.
They certainly do a good job of de-humanising the creatures - they are unmistakably monsters, with no fear of moral worries over sluaghtering them as a hero. Good in some ways maybe, but it kinda makes them all run together. Gnolls, orcs and goblins are all god-driven warmongers. Not much room for distinction between them.
The details on giants are interesting, but a lot is stuff that was already covered in the Storm King's Thunder adventure, so why they didn't just fold it into there are give a bit more space to some of the other monsters, or add another, I don't know.
There are some new player races described in the book, of two types. Some are fully written up, others are half-hearted write-ups of monsters - so orcs and goblins are here, but not given as much attention as goliaths or aasimar. A bit weird that lizard-men get the full treatment though, even when the text itself goes to great length to say how their 'reptile brain' makes them incapable of properly functioning with warmbloods!
One point worth noting: the kobold backstory in this book matches up with past ones, saying that they live in communities where they all work together for the greater good. There's even a mention in this book of how humans think kobolds are stupid when a single warrior will try and fight off superior numbers, when all they're really doing is buying time for the rest of the tribe to escape. And yet, under the kobold character creation bits: "Kobolds are fundamentally selfish, making them evil". Is a race where every member works together in unity, and is willing to sacrifice itself for its family, really something that we're meant to see as 'selfish'?
There are new monsters rounding out the book, both expanded examples of the monsters that had the big write-up, as well as some other weird ones (froghemoths and flail snails?). The formatting in this book is horrible. In some cases, the descriptive text for one monster will run over next to illustration for the previous creature and the stat block for the following beast! How hard is it to ensure that text, numbers and picture all match up on a page?
I can't hep but compare this book to the 4th edition Threats to the Nentir Vale book, which had a similar intent. But rather than give general overviews of species it gave detailed write-ups on specific groups in the world, with locale and motives, named leaders... All fit to distinct pages, to boot! Much more useful for creatures that could be slipped into a campaign.
Neogi are in the book. But as a final insult, this line is included: "Ships that sail between the stars? Next ye will spin tales of a talking hippopotamus that walks on two legs and carries a bow." Bah! So, the froghemoth is a legitimate, serious monster to include in the book (which also has cat-people and mer-folk as player races) but hippo-dude gifs are too silly? Bah!
Speaking of silly, the reason for that 'ye' in the quote is that the book is peppered with comments from Volo and Elminster. The latter, being an annoying wizard that no-one likes, uses 'ye' a lot. Neither adds much to the book, and for Volo having his name in the title, he doesn't contribute a lot. The book is not written 'in-universe' at all, but from the usual omniscient GM voice. Volo, if his lines were all compiled, might be able to fill just two pages. None of it as funny as intended.
The thrilling conclusion! Not that it took this long to play the second half of the were-shark adventure, just that long for me to bother to type it up.
The bar-crawling trio o' sharkboyz get lured outside by the bouncers, and from there led on to the park. The meditatin' pair are there already, and it turns out that both groups are being attacked by the same team. Who, you ask?
A pack of silly werewolves, who though that shark people were a crazy monstrous mutation of some kind. Pff, as if dog-men are any better, right? So they attack us, one of them drawing a magic knife of some sort. We soon wrest this away from him, and use it to gut all but one of the attackers, a red-dressed wolf-woman who scarpers pretty sharpish.
Unfortunately, our shaman was pretty beat up in the scrap, so we accept the offer of the friendly woman from the restaurant to head to her place to get patched up. So, a group of humanoid sharks sit around uncomfortably while one recovers slowly, and a knock comes at the door. The very guy that we'd been looking for - the bad guy, not the Shark Jesus - is there waiting for us, with a group of cultists!
He'd come to get the girl, but we were haing none of that. He gets a gut-full of magic knife and expires pretty quickly, reverting back to his natural form of a hulking great shark. His underlings scurry off with his body, and one of out number gives chase through the streets. Another chooses to cut them off y jumping through the window into the street, but takes such an impact upon landing that she freaked out and went on a rampage...
The cultists are caught up to, their leader about to sacrifice Shark Jesus, and our single present member is just too slow to stop him. The ritual was completed, and the city of New York was exposed to the terrible force of a wersharknado.
Failure? Who knows?
The Deadlands campaign is over, but still there was an RPG session last week. And I wasn't running it! Instead, I was one of a posse of JAWSOME WERE-SHARKS rampaging through the wibbly-wobbly World of Darkness.
So, there we were, swimmin' through the sea, bein' sharks, and we find some fishin' cage smashing up a coral reef! We're having none of it, and tear the thing to pieces. Followin' it to the surface, we decide to scare off the crew of the ship to which it's attached, but while bashin' against the side goes well, tryin' to leap over it leads to one of us gettin' stuck in the captain's cabin, freakin' out and capsizin' the whole thing.
So, we end up killin' and eatin' the crew, and rescuin' the fish and crabs and stuff in the gold. The mystic and magic crustacean committee inside thanked us with a warning and a mission. Sendin' us on a wander where a mussel ends up informin' us of a shark-jesus (or somethin') lost on the un-sea who was bein' hunted by a killer. We ought to rescue him, or somethin'.
We head ahsore, turnin' into our best hoo-man forms and stealin' some clothes from a boat. Findin' out that two of our number can neither speak nor understand anything while hoo-man, we none-the-less continue, interrogatin' a helpful angler-hoo-man about where we could start a search.
Endin' up in a restaurant, we ask a nice-smellin' lady for people that may act like us totally-normal home-from-the-sea hoo-mans. Strangely, she does recall someone as odd as we, named 'Finn', at a place called the 'Laughing Man'. Stumblin' away, we discover that it is a bar.
Our resident no-hoo-man-speaky shaman feels a spirit and strolls to a park with a friend, whereupon they get jumped by some land predators.
The rest of us retire to the pleasant Eye-rish bar, which is rather crowded. Knowin' exactly how to deal with this, our biggest an' meanest push their way to the front of the shoal and demand to speak with Finn. This attracts the attention of a hoo-man in a 'nice suit', who invites us to step outside. How helpful!
Over the course of two months, as the various native tribes gather at Medicine Rock, the posse gathers its allies as well, from far and wide across the West: the blessed travellin' show of the Wonderful Chestnutt; the Candianised Iron Dragon defectors led by Mu Kwan; scientist Elizabeth Burns and her stout womanservant Ingram; the Agency gyro-pilot they know as Otto; Texas Ranger Millicent Crowne; the Deadwood miners' defence force led by Gideon Gorrell and Mortimer Johns; Agent Petersen and Bigfoot; Colt's former cattlegirl colleagues from Amarillo; and Henry Stiles, undead eighteenth century highwayman cosplayer.
While they meet and catch up, the shamans of the Ghost Dance under Wovoka work on the ritual centred around the summer solstice, to call the four Thunderbirds and end the conflict. Custer's forces, now with the support of Hellstromme, advance toward the site to strike a killing blow on the opposing forces...
While the armies prepare for battle, Wovoka calls the posse aside to let them know that he has a special mission for them. Just as War's servants approach in the physical world, so too in the Hunting Grounds. He requests that they defend the shamans in the spiritual world.
Backed up by a hundred native braves volunteering, the posse steps through Wovoka's portal, and sees the approaching mass of demons being lashed forward by the Horseman War himself. Colt can't take it and jumps back through the closing portal, while Law collapses from a heart attack!
The martial artist is helped to his feet by a spectral figure, and around them the posse can see that nature spirits and the ghosts of the dead have gathered to aid them in protecting Medicine Rock.
Battle ensues, and the posse fights as best they can in the press. Law tends to the wounded with his healing, Nathaniel inspires the troops with speeches and his authentic Brock Payne hat, Jim and Mick bomb the horde with dynamite, Charles snipes for important officers and Steele directs cavalry charges. Their presence turns the tide, although none emerges unscathed.
A small force breaks through their lines, and our heroes move to intercept, an unknown hooded figure probing at the area where their entry portal had been. It is accompanied by a number of Ravenites and manitou, and a mass of snakes forming a cloud in the shape of a snake that is a cloud.
McLean guns down the manitou with a quick slapping of his six shooter, but the Ravenites return fire to send him scurrying, as well as downing Ingram. Steele shoots the hooded figure full in the face, but it merely answers with an arrow from its bow, knocking the mountie clean off his feet. Fay and Mick begin to choke as the snake cloud envelops them, and Nathaniel can only look on his native ally is sliced up and scalped by the hooded figure.
Law rushes in to free his sister from the cloud as Charles blasts at it with his elephant gun, all the while Ravenite gunfire keeping the posse's collective head down. A bitter fight ensues, Charles just managing to overcome the snake cloud before it gases him to death, Law duelling the hooded figure with the axe of Jordrava. But the Last Son's scythe is too fast, and the martial artist falls...
Inspired by the hat of Brock Payne, Nathaniel rushes in to snatch up the tomahawk and hold off the Last Son, although he fares even worse. As he, Law and Fay duel the hooded figure, the others trade bullets with the Ravenites.
The posse triumphs, McLean wrenching the scythe from the monstrous Last Son even as the Thunderbirds fly overhead, and they return to the physical world...
There, modern science proves to have been overturned by the nature spirits, and the resurgent native tribes are driving off the defenceless Custerite and Wasatch forces. The posse finds their own guns useless, but more importantly, Ingram is dead!
Charles does have a syringe of revitalising fluid, bought many moons ago from Smith & Robards, and injects it into his trusty manservant. His eyes do indeed open, but his hands grasp for Charles' throat!
Without firearms, the posse is at a loss for what to do as the walkin' dead bites at Charles, but Nathaniel brings the tomahawk down on its skull and ends it forever.
Wovoka approaches to congratulate them for their assistance, and a limping Steele reiterates his request that this not be taken as a chance to wipe out the white man, but as an opportunity to forge peace. No promises are made, but the posse, now light one member, is free to go on its way...
The ritual affects the entirety of the Sioux Nations, and the natives enforce the Deadwood treaty stricter than before, now without high-ranking Ravenites to subvert it. The town stands, the miners are allowed to continue their way of life, and special excetions are made to allow Kang's railroad to keep running.
Mike returns to the town himself, going back to being a humble miner and turning aside any talk of him taking a bigger role in Deadwood. Of course, he also has to bury Mortimer, whose mechanical augmentations shut down the moment the ritual concluded...
Law stays in Deadwood as well, working on taking down Kang one step at a time as a secretive night-time vigilante. His sister heads west, pursuing vengeance nearer Kang's headquarters in Shan Fan.
The others go their separate ways. Steele returns to Canada as a much more imprtant man than when he left, taking charge of the situation develping around the discovery of precious metals around the Klondike...
Sir Charles departs the North American continent entirely; having conquered the greatest beasts it has to offer, he heads for the Amazon and mysteries that it holds.
Nathaniel writes up accounts of all that transpired, the truth as he saw it. The story, both in newspaper form and fictionalised as the further adventures of Brock Payne, spreads the word of peace. While those Back East may not believe the literal truth of the message, peace talks do begin to calm down the Rail Wars and the War Between the States...
And Jim McLean? He takes that scythe that he found in the Hunting Grounds and goes on a killing spree to rival that of the Butcher Needham. It is a tearful Colt Light that has to track him down and stop his rampage, even going so far as to work alongside Jim's enemy Milford Slake to put that killing shot through the maniac's brain.
So, not a happy end for everyone, but the Reckoners were thwarted in their efforts to consume the world in warfare, and 1881 promises a brighter future.
With Laughing Bear's guidance, the posse tracks down Crazy Horse and his warriors as they patrol around the sacred Bear Butte, where the shamans are gathering. Their impassioned speeches about the deep betrayal of Sitting Bull galvanises him to immediately charge away to get revenge.
Our heroes follow in his dust, making the argument that Sitting Bull is working for Raven, and the war is what the Ravenites want: to defeat them, there must be peace. Crazy Horse has murder on his mind, and is unwilling to commit to anything until the Bull is dead.
They ride up the immensity of Bear Butte, seeing war between the Sioux and Custer's forces unfolding on the distant plains. As Crazy Horse sees the mechanical abominations of Hellstromme fighting alongside the gun-totin' native braves, he rides even harder for the summit.
Atop Bear Butte, Sitting Bull stands over the white buffalo calf, surrounded by Ravenites, an unknown hooded figure and some cowpoke with a shotgun. He and Crazy Horse shout for a while, Bull having no regrets over allying with Hellstromme and his New Science: every native saved is a good thing. Once he sacrifices the white buffalo, he will become the saviour of America and drive the whites away forever. Steele says no to this by shooting the sacrificial knife from his hand.
Naturally, a fight breaks out. Sitting Bull evokes a great fear in Laughing Bear to send the man running from the sacred site, but then Crazy Horse leaps at him and they duel as their two native groups trade bullets for arrows across the rugged mountain top. The posse get involved too, thinning the numbers of the Ravenites and gunning down the anonymous man with a shotgun. Nathaniel is interested in geting some action shots, but Sitting Bull flees in desperation behind a cage, blurring the images a little. Mick charges forward, blasting away with his shotgun and swinging his pick rather than reloading, and wades through the tide of bullets shot his way.
Crazy Horse's warriors are cut down by the Ravenites, despite the efforts of the posse to save them. The last one manages to stick his axe into the hooded figure and drag him down, revealing the Raven-tattooed face of Hungry Wolf, Last Son of the Tonkawa.
With a few elephant gun shots from Charles, a hail of lead from McLean and the divine inspiration of Steele, the posse puts down the greater part of the Ravenite force. Crazy Horse isn't doing so well, but Law stands by his side to bring Sitting Bull's terror to an end with Jordrava's tomahawk.
The buffalo calf lives, and within the cage is Wovoka, herald of the Ghost Dance. He thanks the posse for the rescue, and informs them that most of the shamans left when Sitting Bull announced his alliance with Hellstromme: most of the warriors fighting and dying on the plains are Ravenites. The tribes loyal to the Old Ways will meet at Medicine Wheel at the summer soltice to invoke the Ghost Dance, and end the threat of War across the Disputed Lands.
The posse are invited to attend, for they have a part to play. They have almost two months before then, and send out messages to their friends and allies across the West, ready for the final showdown with the Reckoners' dark forces, and the hope of future peace.
As the posse members pick themselves up, they are relievd to find that only Mick got hurt in the ~twenty foot fall, although Laughing Bear and his comrades are all unconscious. They have rope though, and it shouldn't take much effort to climb back up out of the hole.
Nathaniel flashes his torch around, and notices a large mechanical surface in the darkness, moving accompanied by the sound of mechanical grinding and rocks falling. As the machine swings back around to reveal the immense drill on its face, the posse begins to run.
To their credit, the posse grabs the unconscious natives as they take to their heels, McLean and Mick taking their time to fling bundles of dynamite. The explosives roll underneath the machine and explode rather harmlessly, and the two have to dive to the side of the tunnel as the machine rolls past.
Nathaniel dives to the other side and finds a hatch, which he wrenches open and enters. The machine ploughs onward, and Ingram falls before its churning blade, blood spraying into the air..
Inside, Nathaniel sees a four-armed figure operating the controls, recognising Victor Horsley from their trip to Devils Tower. Before confronting him, he opens the hatch opposite, allowing Mick and co. to pile in. Then the reporter politely asks Horsley to stop the vehicle and places the barrel of his gun against the back of his head.
The mad scientist flinches, and flips the driller. The passengers are thrown around, and the treads shaken loose as the drill ceases advancing. The rest of the posse mounts up inside the machine, and Horsley rises. He rails against the posse for ruining his earlier plans, and promises that they shall not escape him this time. He resists Steele's attempts to handcuff him and prepares to attack.
From the engine area another figure emerges, roaring and swinging a wrench. Colt spins around and fires with his gatling shotgun, but his shots go wild and one plugs the enine head on. As steam begins escaping, the wrench-wielding engineer screams that "it's gonna blow!'" in a familiar voice, brains Colt with his weapon and leaps out the side hatch. Horsley follows suit, and a few posse members jump out to catch him, bullets richocheting off his metal hide. An elephant gun shot stops him, though.
Nathaniel pauses to try and halt the death of the engine, but realises that he doesn't have the time, helping McLean grab Colt as the three jump from the machine in time to avoid the explosion that flings scrap metal everywhere.
Ingram turns out to be alive; it was the native he was carrying that got caught in the drill. The other natives are fine, and the posse gets back to working out a way to extract themselves from the tunnel, now with the added burden of Horsely's unconscious form.
While that's being worked out, Nathaniel gathers some bits of machinery, and finds the engineer cowering in the shadows. He too is familiar: under the metal implants is the face of Mortimer Johns, the miner who had been undergoing brain surgery back in Devils Tower. He is angry at the posse for abandoning him, and would rather die than live on as an abomination.
Nathaniel explains why they got delayed in coming back for him, and persuades Mortimer to at least climb out of the hole with the rest of them.
The posse regroups above gound, bringing the natives to consciousness, tending minor injuries and making sure that the four-armed aumented Horsley is secure while he's out cold. Charles, Mick and Nathaniel talk with Mort, and the wretched former miner realises that he can live on, even as a clanking, steaming abomination. He ends up covering himself with a poncho and big hat, and heads off to wait at Mick's mine for future business opportunity.
As for Horsley, he is all too happy to talk when questioned. He wants revenge on them, and now works for Hellstromme, from whom he gained the tunneling machine. He was willing to take the job to kill them for free when Hellstromme wanted the posse dealt with on behalf of Sitting Bull.
The scientist is unrepentant about his expereiments on human life, and is hanged by the neck until dead, to the disagreement of none present.
Laughing Bear talks with the posse, and agrees that the chances of either group getting close to Sitting Bull or anyone else in the Sioux. But if they can talk to Sioux war chief Crazy Horse and convince him of the hunkpapa wicasa's treachery, they may be able to turn the tables on the man that betrayed them!