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Getting back on the horse (with fun links!)

Slowly getting a handle on things where I want to write again, instead of just prevaricating and finishing off long gesticulating pieces like I have of late.

So this post isn’t a complete waste of your time tuning in, with all the talk over the new Fantastic Four trailer, here’s a great thing written about them on the Too Busy Writing About Comics site.

Also, a friend of mine is retiring her long running character, OCD Girl, for the time being. Today is the last strip, so go check it out will you?

That’s all for now. Expect some more words on this blog soon.

Too posh to push

As we get closer to election time and the nasty side of the Conservative party fully emerges from its hibernation, I’ve a feeling this incident speaks volumes about current attitudes within the party.

Too posh to push.

Why I both love and hate Jerry Only

I hate Jerry Only, lead singer, bassist and last remaining original member of the Misfits.

I love Jerry Only, lead singer, bassist and last remaining original member of the Misfits. Read more…

(Nearly) 6 years

So my partner and I split up last night.  Read more…

The Kill Screen #1 Review

Whilst I’m away at LSCC, here’s a review of a UK indie comic, which lets face it, is a scene that doesn’t get enough coverage as it is. Helps it’s a good comic as well :p.

Mike Garley
Josh Sherwell
Michael Stock
Mike Garley Comics

Despite some grumblings amongst Daily Mail readers, videogaming is pretty much a common thing we all do these days. The current generation won’t have known a time without the internet, streaming services, iPads and the looming monolith that is the AAA games industry. In amongst that is the Zombie genre, which is it wasn’t undead already would have been flogged to death by now. Kill Screen takes both those ideas and fuses them to create one of the more fantastical post apocalyptic worlds I’ve seen in a while.

I’m being a little unfair when I say that Kill Screen is just another take on Zombies. Whilst you can feel some of Mike Garleys last work Dead Roots influencing Kill Screen, the characters live in a very different world. Set two years after ‘The Kill Screen Event’, humanity is left on the brink of extinction, with the remaining having to fight for survival in a deadly 8-bit world.

For all the elegant simplicity of Mike Garley’s script, its Josh Sherwell and Mike Stock’s work that are the breakout stars. Sherwell’s work is reminiscent of Cory Rydell’s with an added layer of grit and thanks to Stock’s lettering you really get a sense of inhabiting a world where the natural laws have broken down, replaced by the schizophrenic hyperactivity of the videogaming one instead.

From the infected themselves with their kaleidoscopic body parts, to the double page spread early on in the issue, you can really tell how much thought went into designing and realising the world the characters live in. That’s great, because when you are taken on a flight of fancy, you deserve the best.

Kill Screen delivers.

Cover image courtesy of Mike Garley

Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising Review

A repost of the review for a very good Fantasy novel by Sarah Cawkwell. Worth a read for the second half changing up of events as outlined below. Some editing has been done to remove the hocking of the book via a sponsored link (though I’m sure the author may have preferred it remain!), but otherwise it’s intact.

I’d heard of Sarah Caheirs-of-a-demon-king-uprisingwkwell from her work before with the Black Library and the very good short story from Fox Spirit Publishing, but until this point I had never read one of her full length novels. Her first non franchise published book, I was eager to read it as I had heard very good things. I wasn’t disappointed.

Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising imagines a history where at the Battle of Bosworth, Richard III sold his and his descendants’ souls to the Devil in order to win. We catch up with one of them, Richard V, as he tries to squeeze the last traces of magic from England. It’s his puritanical desire to do this that sets off the events of the book and how we meet our protagonists Mathias and Tagan, two lovers who suddenly have the fate of England thrust upon them. Together they are sent on an ill defined quest to reunite the elemental powers of Europe to try and stop the rise of the Devil himself.

Let’s get the preliminaries out of the way first; Uprising is a wonderful book. If you want to avoid any accidental spoilers just buy it already. For the rest of you who need more convincing, read on.

As Mathias and Tagan travel through Europe the novel begins to unfold its various layers, it becomes more than just your typical swords and sorcery book. The characters met along the way, from a swashbuckling water god to a grouchy earth elemental, are characters that bounce well off one another and make the journey a very enjoyable one, even if by the end it feels the need to have a pyrotechnic finale that, to me at least, seemed a little unnecessary and not really in keeping with the rest of the book.

It’s in Mathias and Tagan that I personally found the most interesting parts of the book. The events, be them a metaphor for one person outgrowing the other in a relationship, or just an incidental event, were pretty powerful. Reading a few other people’s reviews actually surprised that Tagen isn’t touched upon more, as she’s the best character of the book.

Its also a nice twist to slowly discover that whilst Mathias (your generic white dude that typically stars in most fantasy novels) may be the protagonist to start with, by the end of the book its no longer really his story, relegated as he is to more of a passive observer to powers greater than him.

These interesting changes to a book that could have fallen into the easy role of playing it safe made it stand out for me. It boosted the book much higher in my esteem too. If you want a book that isn’t just your average romp around a fantasy kingdom by a band of rouges and the predetermined Destined One, check this out.

Cover image courtesy of Abaddon. 

The Edge of Tomorrow is the best videogame film so far.

Having seen the Robocop remake in the past week, I finally got what some film critics mean when they say that films can descend into a videogame.  I thought I would repost a piece originally written for about The Edge of Tomorrow, an example of taking videogame story construction and using it the medium of film well.

edge-of-tomorrow cover imageIn the world at large, when people talk about how ‘a film turned into a videogame’ it tends to be a derogatory comment. The idea being, that videogames are flash and no substance, too busy throwing pixels at the screen to engage in any kind of plot. Yet Edge of Tomorrow, in which Tom Cruise has to save the day by dying enough to gain the experience needed to defeat an alien menace, seems to realise this idea is rubbish. It’s just that videogames themselves have different narrative structures than some critics are used to.

There’s a theory in the videogame world that I’ve heard called ‘context through the mechanics of play’. This idea establishes that the act of playing the game itself, with the retries, rage quits and different ways of approaching solutions to each puzzle, creates a separate narrative between the player and the character on screen to the one provided by the game itself.

It’s why, for protagonists such as Samus Aran (created before cutscenes and plot written by professional writers became an established part of the industry) there are wildly different interpretations of who the character is, both between the players and developers themselves.

Edge of Tomorrow recognises this and uses its non traditional narrative to weave the tale of Cruises’ character slowly becoming a better person (you could argue there’s a big theme of Hinduism here, with Cage slowly reaching a state of Nirvana through his many lives) and in the process humanises the normally superhuman Cruise. As we see his fuck ups, we begin to see all the small little quirks that make a character recognizably human and relatable.

In the same way that we get to know (or rather, imbue) many a silent protagonist with characteristics through perseverance on tricky parts of a game, we see Cage come alive as he replays the same day, forced to think up of new strategies to extend the time between this death and the next. Edge of Tomorrow even mimics the rote learning of many a harder game, as he and Emily Blunt memorise patterns across a battlefield that will ensure they avoid it’s dangers.

As we spend more time with him we slowly peel back the layers of the selfish, cowardly man we met at the beginning of the film, until, finally accepting death, he emerges as someone at peace with himself. We see a fully realised person and in doing so, we glimpse that winning smile that has made Cruises’ career.

It’s the films very own end game screen. Cue credits.

Cover image courtesy of Warner Brothers.


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