Wednesday, 16 August 2017

So I Watched... Castlevania

So my daughter got me into anime a little while back, I have been watching shows like Attack On Titan whilst introducing her to the classic that was Akira. I became aware of the Castlevania series a couple of weeks ago but had too much on my plate in order to get around to it. Well, I finally got around to it and I am glad that I did.

Dracula falls in love with a woman and they marry. He teaches her how to become a doctor but whilst he is away, the church burn her at the stake because they believe she is a witch. Dracula returns, is royally pissed, and gives the land a year before he rains hell on them. A year later, he delivers and it is not pretty.

The series is a good one. It is dark, gory, tragic, but really compelling viewing and I watched the episodes all in one go. The animation is heavily influenced by the classic animes out there, the characters never bored me and Trevor Belmont is a great combination of sarcastic, reluctant and heroic. The main thing about this show that annoyed me though, was its length.

The series is only four episodes long, each episode only twenty-five minutes long. To be fair to the series though, the story (based on Castlevania 3) never felt to me like it had been rushed or compacted. A second series is due out in 2018 and I cannot wait for it because even though the series ended, it did not finish on a cliffhanger ending but an engaging one instead.

I highly recommend that you check this out. The series can be watched in one go if you want, binge watching seems to be a trend these days and Castlevania is certainly suited to that.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

So I Read.... Dark Knight 3: The Master Race

BE WARNED: Spoilers ahead but with good reason.

Frank Miller's original Dark Knight Returns story is, and always will be, a classic in my mind and many others out there. It has many standout moments, such as the final fight with the Joker and even with Superman himself. The Dark Knight 2 was a good follow up, but not as good as the original, such is the case with most sequels. Its best moment was introducing Lara, the daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman, and laying the foundations for an interesting character.

Now we have Dark Knight 3. Earth is invaded by a large group of Kryptonians intent on world domination. Batman and Robin emerge to help defend the planet with the eventual aid of Superman and Wonder Woman, but Lara is turned against the heroes, leaving the odds stacks against them.

I really wanted to give this series a glowing review, I really did, but I found myself more annoyed with it than anything else. First off, the lateness of this series was stupid, it started way back in November of 2015, and the final issue (9) has not long been released. Granted that the issues are bigger than normal comics, and have a minicomic in the middle, but I found myself having to reread previous issues to remind myself what happened. Wonder Woman felt like nothing more than a reserve character until she and the Amazonians joined the fight near the end, Lara felt like nothing more than a spoilt brat with her conclusion in the story feeling pointless, and there was even a damn Trump reference.

Then there was a number of variants.
Jesus Christ, I still have a job to believe the amount of them that were actually released. At the time of this blog piece, there is 164 of them, not counting the regular versions. The values of some of them are beyond stupid and, to save time I will not go through all of them, but a variant of issue 9 is currently valued at $650.

I might bring myself to reread the whole thing from start to finish and maybe I'll have a better opinion of it, but right now I'm disappointed. When a series such as this suffers from being as late as it was, with a stupid amount of variants as it has, it does leave a bad taste in my mouth. Am I being too harsh? Maybe. But with a number of people that were working on it, they could have at least got it out on time.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

So I Listened to.... Denied a Chance.

I don't think I would have ever come across this lady and her story had it not been for a random retweet that appeared in my timeline one day. I follow a few people who believe in the right to carry arms in the USA, one has even shown me her guns via Skype, and one retweeted a tweet from Nicole Goeser which caught my attention. She had tweeted about the loss of her husband, shot dead in front of her by a stalker, in a gun free zone. I saw that she had her book coming out at the time and tweeted that I was sorry for her loss and that I hoped the book did well. Later, I saw that she had liked the tweet and said to myself that I should buy the book.

I remembered about it a while later and decided to check on Audible to see if the book was on there. Sure enough, it was,  I purchased it and sat down to listen. The book covers her last day with her husband, his brutal murder, and what she went through afterward before the eventual trial of his murderer. I found myself really feeling for her throughout the listen and even after the audiobook had finished, she went through something nobody should but took a strong stance against it.

Gun control is obviously a part of this story as well is the ridiculousness of "gun free zones". I believe in the right to carry firearms and would if I could, but here in the UK, it is a totally different ball game. Goeser herself has given talks about this a few times now and I hope she continues because a bad person will always find a way to get a gun; a gun free zone really won't stop them. One thing that certainly should be taken away from this is that Goeser complied with the law by locking her gun away on that fateful night, because of that the law failed both her and husband.

The audiobook is narrated by Ann M. Thompson and she does a good job of it. At first, I was going to criticize the fact that her tone rarely shifted but then I realized that perhaps it was intentional. This really is not a story that could or should be dramatized and her approach to it is a respectable one. The run time for the audiobook is just over three hours, short but this really isn't a tale that can be dragged out at all. Goeser makes her points with no beating around the bush and does not waste time on filler of any kind. It is one of the best arguments for carrying a gun that I have heard yet.

Check this one out. It is not only a strong lesson in firearms and the weakness of the US law, but it also makes another point that recent events in the UK can back up.
Guns do not kill people. People kill people.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Ol' Painless is Waitin'.

Saturday was a good day for me.
My editor, Brian Niemeier, returned my corrections for my book and I began to have at it with them. I thought it was going to be a painful process, where there were errors or corrections needed, Brian had highlighted them and placed an icon for me to click on. Once I did, the icon would explain what the problem was and offer a correcting suggestion. I began to get worried when more icons appeared in the following pages and I thought to myself "This many mistakes? Oh man, I stink at this," quite often. To my delight though, a lot of these were compliments on what I had written and believe me, they were not only a confidence boost but they added a drive to keep going. Even better, other icons were for comical jokes or reactions to something I had written that struck a chord with Brian, such as:

When a character cannot find the energy to read a complicated document, Brian wrote: "Like a Scalzi novel".

When I wrote about food or drink he liked, "Oh man, you are really making me hungry/thirsty".

When my main character insulted someone, "sick burn!"

When one of my characters said "oh boy", Brian made a Quantum Leap joke.

These little moments gave me a kick to keep going and I cannot tell you how much it helped through this process. However, like a laser blast through my midsection that knocked me down, the real problem presented itself later.

Brian pointed out that some of the scenes or chapters in the book were ones I needed to either edit down or take out completely. It was a hard thing for me to hear but his reasons were solid, they slowed the book down too much. In my efforts to learn from the mistakes I had made with Nomads, I had overcompensated with Penance and it was showing. I decided that as I was half done with the corrections, I would finish them and then put myself through the task of cutting out what was not needed as it seemed the right thing to do.

That night, I did not sleep very well as it played on my mind a lot. I had become really attached to the story and really couldn't see where I could make these cuts. The next day (the day of writing this) I found myself coming at it more critically and the scenes that I could cut became a little clearer to me. I know it will still be hard, but I promised myself that I would get this as right as I could. Thankfully, Brian's style of editing has been a real helping hand here and I will always remember that.

Thanks, Brian.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Wonder Woman, I'll Pass.

There is a minor storm surrounding this film at the moment, mostly down to the fact that a certain movie theatre only offering women only screenings. Radical feminists are celebrating this and the "male tears" at the apparent reaction to it (not as much as made out either, I have seen more mockery than anything) and the fact that the film is being lead by a "strong female character". I've watched this film develop slowly for a while and at first I'll be honest, it looked good, but then I started to change my mind.

First off, I should point out that Wonder Woman was the best of Batman Vs Superman in my opinion. Her entrance into the film is its highlight and I was sold in terms of her being an awesome character on screen. I was one of the many who doubted Gal Gadot's casting as the character but was happy to have been proven wrong when I saw her in action. When I heard of her approaching film, I thought it would be interesting. However, when the story of the film became clear, I suddenly found myself being turned off to the point where I am no longer interested.

First off, it is set in the first world war and that is an overused setting for any story by now. Then there is the fact that the main villains are Nazis.
Give me a break.
Be it video games or films, Nazis have quite frankly been done to death now and for them to fall back on them once again was quite frankly lazy to me. I know that some people will point out this was her origin story in the comics and fair enough, it was the same with Captain America. The problem is that DC has revamped her origin story time and time again and it seems that using the world war origin was again, lazy. Such a big deal has been made over the movie of this character, it is not unreasonable to suggest a better origin story or villain could have been used here.

It bugs me that it is an origin story as I can't stand those things. I do not see the point in seeing a movie where we pretty much know how the story ends, who will live and who will die, and most importantly, that the main character comes out alright in the end. That makes this movie nothing more than a simple popcorn flick to me, and that made me lose interest.

Hollywood has long been on the path of making movies that they know will make money, whilst giving little effort to the content. For those who are going to see this movie and will enjoy it, I hope you really do. Sadly for me, this one goes into the same section as Rogue One; all style and no apparent substance.
I'll pass.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

So I Read... X O Manowar.

Valiant Comics.
Wow, I have not thought about any comics from that company for a very long time.
I was in my local comic shop, talking to the owner, and I wondered out loud what was new. One of his employees recommended the new X O series to me, a character I had briefly been aware of back in my youth. I humored him and picked up the first two issues and then the third the other day. To say the least, I was blown away by what I read.

The main character, Aric or "Urth", lives a peaceful life farming on the planet of Gorin. He has left behind his life of fighting, abandoned the powerful armor that made him what he was and lives with Schon, a woman of the Azure race whom he loves. Sadly, war comes to the planet and he is recruited to fight against his will to fight with Schon helplessly watching as he is taken away.

It is a great story. I always loved the theme of a hero who walked away from the fighting to live a peaceful life and Matt Kindt does a great job telling it. I found myself rooting for Aric as he was pulled away from his home to fight in a war where he was basically going to be canon fodder. The artwork by Tomas Giorello is nothing short of beautiful, I would usually point to a specific example but with this comic, I really can't because his efforts showed beautifully on every page. Be it either a scene where Aric is working the fields of his farm, in bed with Schon, or in the middle of the battle, it is great to look at. Diego Rodriguez's coloring enhances the artwork ten-fold, my favorite scenes are the ones in the night, especially in issue two. The production value is clearly seen with the covers too as so far, the issues have been glossy cardboard and I really liked that.

Sadly though, the series does suffer from the usual problem, of which I am about to complain about here. There are three issues in the series at the time of writing this, but there are twenty different variants. eleven for issue one, five for issue two and four for issue three. The pricing for some of them is pretty ridiculous too, one is valued at $100, another at $65, but the worst of all is the brushed metal variant for issue one that is valued at $1000. I can only look at that and shake my head as I cannot figure out how someone could come up with that kind of a price, so what if there are only five hundred copies available? I do wish that companies could price comics like this a little more sensibly because believe it or not, not all of us can afford something like that.

Forgetting that though, this comic series is really worth picking up because it tells a great story. Do yourself a favor and take a look, you won't regret it, just ignore the variants unless you have deep pockets.

So I Read... Rose.

These days I am always on the lookout for any new stuff from the independent publishers. As I have said before, it is where the better stuff can be found and Rose is a great example of this. I became aware of it after it was mentioned by the Image Comics Twitter account a little while ago and I am glad I did.

After her village is burned down by the forces of an evil queen, the titular heroine of the story flees for her life and meets up with a band of rebels who know the queen's evil. Rose wants revenge, and the rebels want to help her.

Granted, the story is only two issues in at the time of writing this, but I really enjoyed what I have read so far. The first issue started with a note of thanks from the writer, Meredith Finch, something I don't see that often. To me, when a writer puts a thank you note like that in their comic, it says that they really care about the product they have produced. I like that, I really do, because that is a writer who's work I want to follow. When it comes to the artwork, IG Guara does a brilliant job, either with the queen's evil looks or the look on Rose's face when her home burns around her. It is a far cry from the cartoony crap being peddled by Marvel comics these days.

Variant covers will always be a gripe of mine because some companies really overdo it. With Rose, there has been sensible with the amount done with only three for each issue so far. It must be noted that one for the first issue was a second print so that does not count. First off, two variants for issues one and two have been done by Dave Finch, the writer's husband. I have been a massive fan of his work since the days of CyberForce and Ascension, so I was really pleased to see that. One of the other variants for issue one was a gold logo edition, something we really don't get enough of these days and I find that a shame.

I will be collecting this series because it has started with a strong opening. It has a great writer and a great artist to keep it going, I will certainly be in it for the long haul. Want a good reason why the independent companies are doing it better than the big ones? Rose is a good place to start.