Wot I’ve been up to

It’s safe to say at this point that I won’t be getting back into the consistent swing of things so easily, a further two weeks having passed since my last entry on this blog in which I listed assorted thoughts. And guess what? That’s what this entry is too. Hopefully I can discuss a specific topic next time I hop on here. As you’ll have seen from previous entries and now this one, it’s not like I haven’t been doing things. So hopefully, perhaps just maybe, I’ll hone in on a particular subject for a change.

For now, though, here’s something that’s better than nothing: a list of stuff that I’ve been a-doing in my abscence.

Playing video games has been a recent time sink once again. One game out of those I’ve been playing that I’ve seen through to its completion has been RAGE, a game I may or may not talk about in the future. After finishing it I did go to Facebook and annoy my pals with a mini-essay on my thoughts on the game overall, which is nothing unique to be honest, hence why I may not bother giving it a serious write-up. It’s basically like this: in the end, I thought it was a pretty great first person shooter / weird racing hybrid that I would heartily recommend on the sole basis that you simply have to see these incredibly designed characters and the world – but it thankfully has great gameplay too, the game only being a small let down in areas from the limitations holding this gameplay, which involves a number of surprisingly great mini-games to play between all the shooting, back from being used to its full potential. Oh yeah, and it has an ending so shit that I fear Kane and Lynch 2’s equally abrupt ending may actually be better, which is saying something.

But even though none of those thoughts are exactly unique, I may write an entry anyway, if only so I can gush over the incredibly detailed world and those characters that, though with little depth, I find much more memorable than your average video game character, simply because they’re all so well designed, perfectly voice acted and look terrifyingly real. Trust me when I say that the first friendly NPC you run into, sad, sad Dan Hagar, is a character you’re unlikely to forget any time soon after playing this.

Other characters you’re not likely to forget any time soon either can be found in Season Two of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, which I completed in two days. Despite some scepticism that it could best the amazing first season of that series, the developers battered my expectations to smithereens and nailed it yet again. So now I’ll have to get all doubtful about the third season instead. Anyway, although I may not write an entry on the game per se, I may do so about episodic titles in general, and what my thoughts are on them. In this title’s case, I only bought it as it went on sale with the fifth and final episode released, which is what I tend to do with all episodic games, the exception being Kentucky Route Zero, an uncompleted game of only three acts out of five, but a game I’m tempted to write an entry on on why it’s already one of my favourite games of all time.

Perhaps, too, I’d like to talk about modding as a great advantage of PC gaming, seeing as several of those games that I’m playing right now are running one or more mods. On the one hand, you have the purely aesthetic mods that bring games fully to life, such as the Absolute HD mod I’m running for Doom 3 that ups the already great atmosphere, and Ice Enhancer 3.0 that has turned GTA IV into an astonishingly beautiful thing indeed. And on the other hand you have mods that vastly improve the gameplay of some titles, and here my example would probably be the George Romero mod for State of Decay, which I wrote about to my friends, who seemed rather impressed by my description of how this and a few other smaller mods turned the game into a much more challenging survival experience.

Oh, and speaking of survival, now that I’ve been playing the alpha of a game I Kickstarted called The Long Dark, I may talk about my interest in that genre, and why it is there are so few good games in it like there are in horror. Or maybe I’ll just talk about this particular survival game, which is unique in that it doesn’t have you fighting off zombies or anything. The closest thing to an enemy just now are the wolves that roam the landscape, but it’s the weather, if you can believe it, that will really kill you, the game – of which this is the first in a series of – pitting you against a brutal winter in what I think could very possibly be a realistic manner by the time the game’s finished. It’s got a number of other realistic mechanics besides its rather smashing weather simulation, so fingers crossed that they don’t fuck this up, as I think we have a very interesting game on our hands here.

It’s not the only game I’ve been playing which I helped Kickstart – Neverending Nightmares and Interstellaria are two more. But although I’m quite happy with the latter, the former’s actually been a bit of a disappointment, though instead of being too negative, I’m waiting to see what the small team of developers can do to improve it for release before passing judgement. Anyway, as I’ve funded a few other games, maybe Kickstarter or crowdfunding in general will be another topic for another time.

Moving on from video games, I’ve been watching stuff too if you can believe it. My main focus until a few weeks ago had been The Shield, a show that I’m hoping will remain consistently good until the end, but the latest season of Doctor Who has of course started, with Peter Capaldi, one of my favourite actors of all time, taking the role. Although I’m loving his much darker Doctor compared to the previous three, I do feel like the writing is fairly inconsistent tonally, the third episode on Saturday being particularly unusual.

They clearly want to make him a much harder man to read, and they’ve had some great scenes reflecting this -my favourite of which was a scene in the first episode where the Doctor seems to recognise his new face (Capaldi’s portrayed two characters in the universe before, once in the main show, and once in Torchwood) and then breaks into a monologue about his angry-looking eyebrows, describing them as “attack eyebrows” as he gets up in a homeless man’s face and frightens him – but it appears they desperately want to keep the juvenility of previous incarnations, which I frankly don’t think is working so well, especially when trying to do an almost all-humour episode like the third in this new series. Humour’s essential to the show, of course, but I’d think that, with a character like Capaldi’s, we’d be past some of the sillier stuff, focusing instead on the sarcasm we’ve seen his Doctor use a few times already instead, a sense of humour much more in line with his grumpier personality.

Then again, Moffat couldn’t make it to the end of the first episode without dropping to his hands and knees and seemingly begging the female side of the fan base not to abandon the show because they’ve replaced Tenant and Smith with someone much older. Yeah, that was a pretty terrible scene, the kind of thing that displays a lack of confidence in my eyes. For fuck’s sake, please don’t do that again.

Criticisms aside – and I could make some more, like how utterly pointless the dinosaur was in the first episode – I’ll continue watching. I may not be as big a fan as my dad or sister, but I do enjoy the show quite a lot. And it looks the fourth episode is a horror one, my favourites, so I’ll be seeing how that goes.

Finally, I’ve been reading, also shockingly enough. At long last I completed the Harry Potter series and…well, I’m not sure I enjoyed it. Although I suggested it would be something I’d write an entry about, I’m not entirely sure I will, as I’d frankly, and rather harshly, not wish to spend any more time on it. Indeed, I told my Facebook friends how I deleted the long rant I’d been writing in favour of what was basically: “It was all kind of crap in the end.” Apart from getting kids like me into reading at an early age, I’m honestly not sure what the big deal about the series is. It’s predictable; often very boring; poorly written a lot; and often frustrating. Although I never found this annoying, the friend I wrote annotations for on George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series once confessed that he found it irritating how whole pages could be spent by the author talking about food. This makes me wonder how he’d feel about seven whole books spent by nearly an entire cast of characters calling a shitty villain You-Know-Who or He Who Must Not Be Named. Fucking terrible.

Oh fuck it, let’s move on before I can’t control myself and burst into a rant. Having just finished this quite recently, I’m now reading Fight Club, which is a great fucking book. Not sure I’ll talk about it though, if only because I feel like I’d need to write an essay or two explaining the different ways in which it’s really quite brilliant. It is, however, one of those books written from the interesting perspective of a protagonist with a unique voice; and it’s also one of those books with such clear intent, both at being layered with more than one meaning, and with the intention too of making you ponder the questions it raises; and I love both of these things in a book. It reminds me of Trainspotting, The Catcher in the Rye and the only Cormac MacCarthy book I’ve read so far, No Country For Old Men, all at once, which I did not expect. I dunno. Maybe something to talk about, maybe not. I highly recommend reading it though.

As for comics, sure, I’ve been reading ’em; but what I’ve actually found is that my collection is growing at an alarming rate such that I’ve other stuff besides 2000AD to pay for, thankfully at least on a monthly basis. Oh, and speaking of monthly payments, 2000AD’s leading character, Judge Dredd is getting a partworks collection, which is pretty fucking great. The company that are publishing the books (only four at first, and more if it takes off) have done the same for Marvel in the past and I own a few of these. They’re well worth it, being surprisingly high quality hardcovers with unseen extras, also the confirmed case here. That they come in these nice hardcovers is what’s really sold me, despite owning many of these Dredd stories being collected already in one book or another. Indeed, if there’s one problem with 2000AD’s line of books, it’s that there simply isn’t enough hardcovers. The trade paperbacks are of great quality and all, putting the likes of bigger companies such as DC to shame, but they’re horribly designed and stick out very poorly on a shelf. So a well designed collection like this with even greater paper stock is right up my alley. Here’s hoping they’re a success.

And I think that will wrap up this post. God, I shudder to think how long it’s been – I can’t see the word count on WordPress’ slightly new design for writing these posts. But that’s not bad for an hour, is it? Hopefully quite promising of more to come, and perhaps then on a more regular basis. Until next time then.

Another week later…

Well, goddamnit.

I am entirely hopeless at regularly updating this blog – this I have accepted. It’s a thing at the back of my mind that I always pretend to intend to write up an entry on, but I always seem to be doing something else these days. And hell, even this is another “non-entry”, as I have nothing in particular to talk about once again. No matter though, for it’s better than nothing , or so I’ll pretend anyway. Let’s have another list (without the bullet points this time though, since those things look horrible with large paragraphs) about random stuff that pops into my head and see how that goes, shall we?

Well, perhaps not totally random. If there’s one thing I’d like to bother talking about briefly, it would have to be how fucking miserable the world is right now. If I’m being perfectly truthful, I’d have to admit that it took Robin Williams committing suicide for me to really notice actually, as terrible as that sounds. When I saw that particular headline – something which saddened me a great deal, because the poor man had fought through depression over the course of his life, and even alcoholism and drug use, neither things small feats to overcome, let alone talk about so openly, which I think is incredible of him – I guess that I was just hit by cynicism pretty hard. It was probably also seeing suicide prevention awareness spread throughout Twitter that did it too, the thought that so many people may also kill themselves after being “given permission” by someone much more famous than them being a tad depressing to say the least.

Whatever did it, I was no longer ignoring the madness going on in Gaza – something I and many others have become so accustomed to hearing about that we just shake our heads sadly and move on with the day – but before I could move it off my mind as usual, here appeared the hashtag #Ferguson all over Twitter and oh my god what the fuck are the police in America doing? Yeah, that was another downer all right, and still is, particularly as the media put their own spin on events, as was also the disgusting case with Williams’ suicide from a few outlets that sensationalised the tragedy.

But even as I considered avoiding the news this morning, on Twitter I read a few articles about Zoe Quinn, a games developer known best for her interactive novel (I think so anyway, as I’ve not actually played it), Depression Quest, who is being accused of sleeping with a former boss, a man who was married at the time; sleeping her way into good reviews with a journalist or two; and all manner of other, more personal things with names released to the internet and everything courtesy of an angry ex boyfriend. Honestly, I don’t even have much of an opinion on this one. It’s blown up hugely and the shitty gaming community has reacted as predictably as always, bar some sensible folk here and there. It’s a messy situation with issues worth talking about – if any of its’ true – but most of what I’m seeing right now is your usual shit slinging, mainly directed at Quinn of course, and feminism for good measure. More crap to make one feel thoroughly miserable at the world.

Oh, and there’s also the independence referendum here in Scotland mere weeks away, hanging over our heads like a fucking dark cloud – but that sounds like such a minor thing compared to everything else. All in all, it’s a sorry state of affairs right now, is it not? Hopefully the lunacy will die down before more crazy shit happens.

Moving on to slightly greener pastures, it seems rather suitable, given all the above, that I started watching The Shield around the same time, possibly the most cynical of shows I’ve ever seen. Having moved past Deadwood with tears in my eyes, I wasn’t sure what to watch next when I saw this and asked my dad if he’d seen it and would recommend it. He did, but he didn’t fucking tell me how miserable the damn thing is! It’s about a dirty cop, Vic Mackey, and his likewise corrupt strike team who do some very naughty things for the greater good in their eyes. It’s a show I intend to continue past the first season, having at first hated Vic as a main character, but then came to not necessarily outright like him (because make no mistake – this is a terrible man) but definitely understand him, and appreciate some of his smaller actions, the highlight of which, of all things, was him beating the shit out of a close friend, Connie – a prostitute he goes far out the way to help on several occasions in this first season – so that she wouldn’t be arrested for the murder she committed, but could plea self defence instead. He can be a surprisingly remarkable guy like that, as can the rest of the cast, who have notable revelations of their own that adds a great deal of depth to their seemingly ordinary exterior (in fact, one thing this show immediately did very well was make the characters seem like real people, which did grab my attention).

But it’s miserable. Utterly, utterly miserable. One very minor story arc of a three way love triangle ends tragically with one of the men murdering the other and the woman they’re both in love with as the song, All My Little Words by The Magnetic Fields, plays in the background, we seeing the result of the triangle I might add as we hear the lyrics, “And I could make you pay and pay / but I could never make you stay”. And that prostitute I mentioned? The last we see of her this season is as she fails to stop using drugs, abandoning the baby boy she had tried to kill during her pregnancy for them (which is how Vic first discovered her, and the reason why I find his going out of the way to help her, even if it means beating her, a lovely aspect of his character). Oh, and if you thought Vic was a character you’d be giving the thumbs up to for the finale, as he has an old friend arrested for his corruption, one of the things we subtly see throughout the season is he and his wife growing apart, eventually meaning that the final scenes are of him discovering a home empty of her and his two children as she runs away.

It’s that kind of show – beating you down every time you think there’s a silver lining in sight. In a way it’s actually a little similar to Deadwood, but I think that one is more hopeful, particularly with its focus on the town’s community drawing together during hard times, such as the large turnout for William Bullock’s funeral. On the contrary, the community of The Shield – which is set in L.A., the so-called “city of angels” suitably – revolt against the police for the first season’s last two episodes, rioting against the corruption and lack of justice, and then luring and killing a small number of cops in furious anger. Despite the sheer cynicism of it all – the word of the day apparently – it’s really quite good though with solid acting and filmography across the board, and of course very good writing.

Now on to truly green pastures, a cloudless blue sky overhead and everything – I have a job. It’s not exactly a super fun job and I get less than 16 hours for it, which means I still need to sign on with the Job Centre, but it’s something, and actively doing something instead of sitting indoors all day has cheered me up a bit. Add to that more time allocated to my favourite hobbies of reading and playing video games, and yes, I’m doing pretty good, the misery above considered.

And before I say something else that’ll ruin that, or start moaning about something or other, I’ll end this entry here and hopefully have better posts coming soon. Yet another new idea I had, for instance, was making short posts about very specific things about…things. Um. Okay, for example: I’ll maybe write an entry focusing on Doom 3’s jump scare tactics and why they’re maybe not so bad. You know, home in on one particular aspect of a game, book or what have you and perhaps focus on something else in another entry. Ach, who knows? This is dependant on me actually updating this blog after all, so who knows how that’ll go?

Until next time, whenever that is.

A week later…

Fuck, but I am hopeless with this blog, aren’t I?

Hello yet again. I think / don’t know that I’m back for more frequent writing this time, having decided that I do have topics of which I’d like to speak about…in, um, later entries. Alas, this entry will only be a brief rundown of some things I’ll be chatting about in the near future, which seems rather pointless now that I think about it, but it’ll give me something to do. Think of it as me giving myself a push to actually write more entries for this damn thing. But don’t consider it any serious attempt at practice because I’m going to be a terrible person and use bullet points, listing stuff I intend to talk about it soon and any other nonsense that pops in my head. So let’s begin, shall we?

  • For starters, the Artist’s Edition of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy in Hell (and other stories too!) that I mentioned having bought in my last post arrived this morning. And holy fuck but is it gargantuan! Of course, I knew it would be a massive book, reprinting Mignola’s artwork before it was sent off to be coloured and whatnot, but having not bothered to check the actual dimensions, I was taken aback when I dug it out its box (the signed copy I bought, that came with several comics and goodies as well as a limited shot glass is now sold out it seems, but it was a brilliant service, providing tracking service the entire time and arriving perfectly intact). Disappointingly, unlike other Artist’s Editions, captions are completely missing in all but the extra stories; but it’s an amazing book otherwise – and this does clear the artwork to be enjoyed completely, you could argue – and I’m certainly pining for others in the future now. A review with pictures is very likely indeed, although I’d also like to write a bit about Mignola as an artist, the book itself demonstrating how minimalistic his artwork has become compared to the past, which I find quite wonderful.
  • Image comics are fucking great! The first comic I bought of theirs was The Wicked + The Divine, a fantastic new series in which the reader finds Gods taking the form of pop icons, which is marvellous; and this being written independently (it’s a fully creator-owned comic) instantly piqued my interest for what else they had going on (I’d of course already read Saga), and I’m keeping up with other recently started series’, such as Warren Ellis’ Trees and Robert Kirkman’s Outcast (I’m surprised I’ve enjoyed the first two issues of the latter – believe me, one day I shall rant about how crap The Walking Dead is and it will be merciless). My favourite, however, is East of West, which I somehow got hold of all issues of through eBay, all first prints and at a very good price. But, yes, these are now essential comics beside my weekly dose of thrillpower through 2000AD. Fantastic.
  • One thing I forgot to mention in my last post when talking about expanding my interests simply beyond comics themselves is that I got hold of two very lovely prints from Forbidden Planet, which I’ve yet to have framed but already treasure. These are giclee prints celebrating Batman’s 75th Anniversary this year and are that moment in The Killing Joke when the Joker is born (you know the one) and Jock’s first cover for Detective Comics, which is a beautiful, stylish thing indeed. Both of these were limited to 200 copies and come numbered and signed by both artists (the former Brian Bolland, which I was particularly pleased with). Nice, eh?
  • For the past while now I’ve been reading J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series from the start, having finally caught up to The Half-Blood Prince, which is where I finished years ago, having had the last book spoiled. It’s not, however, been the enjoyable experience I expected it to be. As a kid I loved all these books, of course, but reading them now I’m struck but how amateurish Rowling’s writing is. At first I was okay with the very safely played writing, these after all being children’s books, at least at the start. But after the first three forgivable books I for some reason expected the quality of the writing to reach new heights with The Goblet of Fire, which I remember quite fondly as taking the series in a darker direction. But surprisingly it’s been my least favourite of them all. Yes, I enjoyed The Order of the Phoenix – the one book in the series I didn’t enjoy as a kid – more than it, which was a shock to say the least. It’s my new second favourite of the lot so far, The Half-Blood Prince still remaining the firm best as I make my way through it, but we’ll see how much I enjoy the last in the series. Hopefully a great deal, otherwise this will have felt like a waste of time. Either way, the topic of how poor a writer I’ve found Rowling, contradicting my enjoyment of her books as a child, will be a topic for the future.
  • What about that fuckin’ Deadwood, you cocksucker? Oh, yes, thanks to Amazon Instant Video, I’ve had the great pleasure of enjoying this show all over again and now at the halfway point of the final season (boo!), may watch it all over again and write about the show as I do so. Up there with The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Fawlty Towers, Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and hopefully a few more should Game of Thrones and Sons of Anarchy remain consistent to the end, Deadwood remains a show very close to my heart, one of my favourites of all time. Talking about it episode by episode would be great fun, I think.

Anyways, that’s all I got. A shockingly brief entry in this blog at under 1000 words, I know, but ah well. See you next time, I hope.

The Return

Clearly I left this blog much longer than I meant to. My last post was on the 31st of May and here I am two months later, despite having made clear plans of what I’d be doing once back from holiday. So apologies for that if you’re one of the less-than-ten people who seem to visit this blog irregularly, and apologies in advance for the entries I won’t be writing up as intended, such as a catch-up of the 2000AD issues I missed over my holiday in June.

The funny thing about that is that I actually did start and had very nearly finished it, at over 5000 words, a week after I’d got back before getting distracted by life matters, and it’s a bit of a shame because, now that I’ll probably not bother completing it (that would mean going beyond Prog 1887 that the post was meant to have finished with for another five issues), you’ll miss all the words I had to say about how fucking amazing Indigo Prime was. Did anyone not enjoy that? I hadn’t had the chance to read the two trade paperback collections of the series so far during my time in Greece yet I enjoyed it anyway, no idea what was going on in the background or not.

It also has what is possibly the best meta moment that I’ve ever seen. Weirdly, in the reviews I read for the particular episode that this happens, not one mentioned this, it apparently having gone over people’s heads. Let me state that I don’t really like when anything – books, films or games – tries to be meta because, nine times out of ten, it’s done for laughter’s sake, and not very well, often at the most inappropriate moment. Two examples of doing it right that immediately pop into my head are the TV show, Castle, and video game, Bioshock Infinite.

The former revels in being meta, the titular novelist played by Nathan Fillion – who dons his Firefly costume during a Halloween-set episode and makes several other references to that show – working with the NYPD to solve murders, his help usually coming in the form of ridiculous explanations that he borrows from other’s fiction or his own. It starts off innocently enough, I suppose, but gets progressively stranger to the point that they use their hundredth episode as a homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and have one episode in the same season use clips from previous seasons for half its duration in which the characters talk about all the fun they’ve had. Fun is the very simple point here, and in a show about a crime novelist working with cops, why not embrace the silliness to such an extent that Star Trek references simply work by the time you get to them in an episode set in a science fiction convention? Why the hell not, it asks?

On the other hand, you could make a more critical point, which is what Bioshock Infinite sets out to do. Well, its time travelling and parallel worlds is also Irrational’s way of tying their two Bioshock games together, but mostly it’s making a point of video games, namely how your individual choice in matters, where possible, don’t actually matter at all, you and many other players ultimately arriving at the same destination, which is the same end of game. What’s infinite, it argues, is your journey there, which will be somewhat unique to you. So there’s that, which works too.

In the case of Indigo Prime, however, neither of these things happen. Its meta moment is not played for laughs nor does it make a point. In fact, one could argue that it’s not a meta moment at all, so hard is it to tell what it could mean for the future of the strip. It arrives suddenly and doesn’t draw attention to itself, perhaps the reason why some people missed it. But it’s genius, so I simply must talk about it briefly. This is it:

In my review of Perfect Day’s first episode I briefly mentioned how I loved that the mysterious villain, here seen literally pulling Mariah’s strings, is called The Nihilist in a strip about an organisation that watches over the multiverse, a world filled with infinite possibilities and life. You simply can’t get a more perfectly named bad guy than that. But here’s the genius of this scene: not only is The Nihilist shown to be the real agent of control as he warns Danny through Mariah for his own purposes (and I might add that this itself is sudden – there were glimpses of him behind the scenes in previous episodes but no outright appearance showing what he’s up to) but we also see that the puppet master of The Nihilist himself is none other than John Smith, the writer of the series, seen here -and note how he’s not transparent like Mariah or The Nihilist but completely whole, the only real being of the scene – looking over his shoulder at the reader, his scripts and the computer he works from in front of him.

It’s so perfect that I’m astonished to have seen no one talk about it, so there you go. Once I get round to reading all the previous stories in the series I’ll probably talk about it once again, but I had to get that off my chest for now. As it’s never mentioned once in either this same episode or the remaining few after, I’m praying that John is hard at work on the next story because there are so many things going on by the finale that you’re left demanding answers, and quickly at that.

Alas, this is all I’ll be repeating here from that never-to-be-published blog entry. The only other strip I really talked about at great length in that partway complete post was Slaine but you can essentially read what I wrote in fewer and better words courtesy of this member of the official forums, who explains what the story was really about and why that ending, though abrupt, was perfection on Mills’ part. Where I’ll pick up on my 2000AD reviews without this entry, if at all, I do not know. That can be worked out another day, although I’m thinking of abandoning the format of reviewing each Prog as a whole and only talking about what interested me about the weekly episodes, even if that’s only one thing. Prog 1893 released today, for example, sees the return of both Walter The Wobot and Mrs Gunderson, neither of whom I’ve seen in Dredd for a long time; and, to respect her passing, sees the old Dredd logo of Jan Shephard used for the first episode of this story, which is nice; but nothing else really grabbed my attention.

So, with the possibility of me abandoning my weekly reviews of 2000AD altogether, that leaves the question of what will become of the blog since that’s been its sole purpose for quite some time now. And well, to be perfectly honest, it’s probably going to become far less review-focused in the strict sense that I talk about the writing and art of this or that as two separate things that must be mentioned, and instead become more of an all-purpose blog which I hope to keep more up to date, even if an entry only details some thoughts I had on this book I was reading or something that happened to me that day. Like more of a diary then, you might say.

That doesn’t mean comics will cease to be a big focus of the blog though. In fact, if anything, they’re going to become a bigger focus now that I’ve began to expand my interests further beyond 2000AD, having built a small collection of American comics that I’m really getting into. Those that I’ll especially have words to say about are several Image series’ that I’ve started collecting. That right there is an incredible publisher. Rarely an ad to be seen (unlike DC / Vertigo who frequently interrupt the story with their fucking adverts); no censorship at all that I can see; and complete creative freedom. Brilliant.

My book interests have also expanded and I’ll maybe have a few things to say about the rarer books I get my grubby mitts on. Indeed, I’ve now a small but good collection of hard-to-get graphic novels – mostly limited printings, but several are signed too, and I’ve a keen eye on for those sort of things on eBay.

In a moment of insanity I also bought my first Artist’s Edition, a signed copy of Hellboy In Hell’s version of that book. It’s not the SDCC Variant Edition that was limited to 100 copies but, for the same price, I’m having the standard book delivered to me signed by Mignola like that one, a shot glass that is limited (to 150, and I presume that’s also how many copies of the book were signed seeing as only this one seller has been selling them and with these glasses each time) and a mixed assortment of goodies, which will include some of the comics themselves. Oddly, the book itself is being published by IDW, who created the Artist’s Edition line, yet Dark Horse have just released the first of their versions of these books, Gallery Editions that are about half the price. This is something I’ll also probably be picking up – it’s Robocop V.S. Terminator by Frank Miller and Walter Simonson – and there a few more coming out this year and next that I simply must get my hands on. Who the fuck wants to miss out on The Dark Knight Returns in its original format before having being put together for release?

So by no means will I have a shortage of things to say about comics – just less frequently as I use the blog for other things (and yes, I mean it this time). Maybe you’ll see one such of these entries tomorrow depending on how my interview with the Job Centre goes. If it goes as I expect – being talked to in a patronising manner and practically ordered to search for jobs that I’d rather die than do – then believe me, I’ll have much moaning to do.

And that is the status of this here blog. Until next time.

Buyer’s Remorse and What’s Coming Up On The Blog…

A long, long time ago in this blog I slagged myself off for being a big money spending dumb-dumb, having almost finished writing an entry all about the massive amount of books I’d bought recently. Before starting the blog, however, it was video games that were my weakness.

Indeed, between Steam and GOG.com, I have hundreds of PC games, many of which I had to buy as part of a bundle and will probably never be played in my lifetime; but I’m not so naive to think that I’ll have enough time on my hands to play every single one I bought on purpose either. Looking through my list of those on Steam and my shelf on GOG, there are certainly a number of games there that I regret having bought. At the time I think I fairly justified the purchases, as I was a lot more interested in game design at the time, so even much older games from GOG seemed like a good purchase when they were cheap, if only to see how far games have evolved as a medium. But looking back, it terrifies me to think of the amount of money I must have spent.

Stupid stupid stupid.

That’s in the past thankfully. These days I buy video games a lot more carefully and on much rarer occasions. Apart from when I first got back into PC gaming and fell for Steam’s ridiculous sales like every other poor sap, I’ve always been quite careful, perhaps because I’ve always been “stingy” with my money; but I’m even more careful now, either deciding to pick a game up much later, seeing as I’ve a big enough backlog as is (did you know there’s whole websites to help you deal with that?), or going to great lengths to make sure that, if I am going to pick one up, I get it at the cheapest price possible, which I do anyway.

Besides, though I’ve most definitely been a dumb-dumb, my stinginess has allowed me to see through GOG and Valve’s sneakiness quite easily the whole time – I’m not like an idiot on my friend’s list who has over 2,000 fucking games on Steam alone (not including additional DLC, I believe), buying a ridiculous amount of games, that he probably doesn’t even like, whenever a sale comes around. No, I have 486, which is obviously quite a lot, of course – but keep in mind that many of those (I would think somewhere between 150 – 250) were part of bundles and that goes for any DLC I may have (which I typically don’t buy anyway).

That number has stuck around there for quite some time anyway, as I don’t even buy Humble Bundles that often any more, carefully considering if I really want or need the games included in those after all. In fact, the only two games I can remember buying in the past three months are Thief (which I pre-ordered at the dastardly cheap price of £15) and the Collector’s Edition of Dark Souls 2, which I found at a cheaper price at Tesco than other remaining retailers selling it.

So it has gotten better and, though I may have been prone to making some idiotic decisions in the past and cringe at some of the games I have in my “collection” (I find this term silly when you’re talking about a rather strict digital-only platform, though I do have some physical Collector’s boxes), I’m quite content now, having gotten past that initial lunacy, and that’s a very good feeling to have indeed.

Alas, I fear that books are my new buying addiction.

To be fair, I should point out as we come to this juncture that I don’t actually spend money on DVD’s, blu-rays, music or anything like that – it’s only my two favourite hobbies that I really use my money for. And, like those video games I’ve bought over the years, I am careful about how I spend my money, always checking what other sellers are charging for a book compared to Amazon itself, something a lot of people seem to forget to do. Likewise, I’ve recently started using eBay, which has been incredibly useful at saving money. But regardless of how careful you are, sometimes buying too much amounts to too much money spent.

Recently I have bought a ton of 2000AD comics, as I’ve mentioned in several blog entries briefly. From Prog 112 all the way to 763, with some missing issues, to be exact. The earliest Prog up until 536 were all from the same seller, six separate lots of about 50 that only I bidded on, which meant that, with this kind chap combining postage, I got these at really great prices (and all bagged, if you can believe it). From another guy I got Progs 532 – 763, not bagged, but for only £30, again being the only bidder. But total all that up, in addition to my recent purchasing of back issues of the Megazine and their floppies which you’ll already know of, as well as today’s arrival of Progs 2013 – Prog 1873 (that’s last year’s entire run until when I re-joined), and yeah, I’ve spent a lot of money to say the least.

It’s not good.

Yet like anything else, it’s through these mistakes that you truly learn your lesson. Although I’ve got a list of books I’m looking to buy as they come out this year – in fact, Volume 1 of The Mek Files, collecting every A.B.C. Warriors strip, arrived this morning too – my intentions are to be much more careful. There will certainly be no more purchasing of ye olde 2000AD comics – I’m done with those, particularly since the Prog apparently turns into a nightmare entering the 90’s, which is where I’ve ended – or, for that matter, the modern age.

It’s done.

Not just because my room is too small to hold all of these books and comics (though I intend to get proper boxes for the latter, which should stack neatly in the corner with a little tidying, in turn freeing room under my bed), but because I realise that, like my Steam and GOG lists, I’ve created a backlog that is going to take me ages to get through. Not as long obviously – video games take far more of your time up, especially if you play them as I do (if I find a game world immersive, I treat it as I would if it were the real world by playing in a slow paced manner) – but certainly quite a while. There is simply no need, in other words, to keep buying more and more at the speed I’m doing so.

We’ll make the most of it though. For a long time I’ve been fooling myself into thinking that this blog will have room for TV shows, films, novels and video games, but it really is a blog all about comics, now beginning to centre around 2000AD. So on the contrary of all my promises of talking about this or that, I think that’s what it will primarily be – although I still hope to do so one day, I don’t see myself talking about video games the way I do with my friends, as good as I think those posts could be. It’s a comics blog and I have a mountain of the damn things.

So here’s what’s coming up on the blog.

Right now I’m working on a four part series in which I catch up with the Judge Dredd Megazine, from issues 333 to 346, and will then begin to review them individually from 347 onwards. What I’m doing for the first three posts in that series is picking my favourite covers, Judge Dredd one-off’s, prose stories, etc. in catching up, then reserving a whole post to the floppies, of which I have many. Hopefully this is a post I’ll have done before going on holiday at the end of the month. Before you see that I’ll be reviewing all of Dan Abnett and Colin MacNeil’s Insurrection, having recently read the trade paperback in which the first two stories were collected and reading the last in the Megazine, which you should definitely see before I go on holiday.

Another few posts I hope to get done in this month are more of those using my own pictures. The one I’m undecided on bothering with is a look at the contents of my Collector’s Edition of Dark Souls 2 that arrived yesterday – you can, after all, find videos of what it looks like online and besides, I’m not sure anyone who didn’t buy it really cares. But those I’m certain I’ll bother with will be of the 2000AD lots that I bought, which are not only in very good condition but just fucking fantastic in general. Seriously, I can’t keep my hands off the damn things with all their amazing stories, and I think I feel a need to show ’em off.

Otherwise it will be business as usual, weekly reviews of the Prog still coming; and I’ll have a review of the Free Comic Book Day issue too.

After my holiday, and presuming I have the Megazine catch-up done before then, I have plans at the ready. As I mentioned in a few recent posts, I’ll be doing Retro reviews of these old Progs. Not all of them, of course, but I’ll be selecting a bunch, maybe even only a cover that I really liked, and having a chat about them. And similar to the Megazine catch-up, I’ll be doing one for the modern 2000AD stuff that I’ve missed too, making my way through Prog 2013 onwards until I get back to where I (re)started. Not individually, of course – I’ll probably just be picking some favourites again.

So there you have it. Madness. Absolute fucking madness. Guess I’d better make myself busy…

Until next time.

Up and coming in the blog

Being completely done with Grant Morrison’s Batman run means I can finally get round to doing a lot of other things that I’ve talked about to no end, but never actually started on this blog of mine. There will finally be posts about the video games that I’ve been playing, novels that I’ve read recently, films I’ve watched, et cetera. But I do think that this blog is going to remain quite focused on my comics collection, especially since my renewed subscription to 2000AD and the Megazine means I’ll be reading and reviewing those every week to four weeks that they arrive at my home. When it comes to the next series of comics that I’ll be reading, however, well, I’m honestly not sure what I’ll read next.

On the one hand I could read standalone some standalone but, on the other hand, I could start a longer series again, which I could do write ups for in the same way as Morrison’s run. The problem is, there’s so much choice either way. The only thing you can be certain of is that I won’t be reading more of Grant Morrison for a while, even though I’d really like to write a review for All Star Superman, and I will most certainly be taking a break from Batman, despite the fact that Scott Synder’s ongoing Batman run of his own is calling on me. But what that leaves us to read instead I don’t honestly know yet. Hopefully I’ll make a decision soon and it’ll be a fairly good one. What I’m also trying to keep in mind is that I’ll be going on holiday in two month’s time so I don’t want to start a longer series like Hellboy, leave it, then come back to it forgetting stuff.

The one post that I do know will be coming is a review of Dredd, the 2012 film, based of course on 2000AD’s lead character. This is because I recently bought my first limited edition book which went up for sale on 2000AD’s online store and sold out in three days. It’s a hardcover version of the film’s screenplay and “storyboard”, actually a comic of its own that artist Jock created in the time that he worked on the film. Incidentally, it’s he who signs and numbers this particular copy, seemingly limited to 500. It’s only the first 300 that have sold out, the rest becoming available on other stores sometime in the future, I believe. Either way, I’m quite excitied to get my mitts on it in July and thought that I might as well write a review for the film seeing as I’ve splashed out fifty quid for it. Indeed, I would not have done so if I didn’t love the film.

There’s been a lot of films based on comics released in the last few decades, most of which have been adaptations of popular superheroes. The people I know would probably say that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight series or some of Marvel’s films, particularly Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, are the best films based on their respective comics. Though I can’t speak for the latter, not exactly being a Marvel fan, I do believe that the former director is actually incredibly overrated for reasons I might discuss in the future, especially his Dark Knight trilogy. Which leaves us with Dredd.

When a friend of mine unfamiliar with the character told me it was being released I could not have been any less excited, Stallone’s version having tainted any hope I had for a good film based on the character. So no fair chance was given – I didn’t look up who was on board for it, didn’t check to see if John Wagner or anyone else who has worked closely with the character was involved, and I did not see it in the cinema. It was sometime last year, I forget when exactly, that my dad borrowed a copy from someone at his work. Though he still hasn’t seen it, the fool, I went into as a sceptic but, to my great surprise, fucking loved it. Not only is it easily my favourite comic book adaptation of all time, it’s also one of my favourite films of all time too, and I hope that I can explain the reasons for that quite well in my forthcoming review.

Until then.

Where Be Dem Posts?!?

The blog’s been a bit inactive for the past two weeks so I thought I’d at least post this short update. The Grant Morrison Batman run has not been abandoned. In fact, following my last post, I read R.I.P.’s very short prologue and was beginning the first part of my review when suddenly I was no longer reading the book or writing the review. Fret not for I shall return to it soon. But what have I been doing in the meantime? Well, besides unsuccessfully applying for jobs, I have been buying more books (obviously), but mostly playing video games. Quite a number of them actually. This should come as no surprise since I’ve suggested that I’d be talking about them at some point already seeing as they’re my other favourite hobby. Well, I’m not too far from doing so.

Possibly as a way to lead us back to Morrison’s run, but more likely running in tangent with it, expect to see reviews of the games I’ve been playing lately. Being two very different mediums, of course, these reviews will be a bit different than my comic reviews making up the bulk of this blog but, to be honest, I probably have more interesting things to say about video games than I do comics. Don’t get me wrong, I think I’ve done a fairly good job at noticing some of the finer points in many of the comics I’ve reviewed but games, for some reason, just click with me – I can differentiate between what makes a good and bad game, and can look at them from the perspective of the developers who made them.

That latter point will no doubt be a topic I’ll talk about at some point in the future. No, I’m not trying to sound like a smartass when I say that. There’s many posts I send to a group of friends over Facebook about games and it was they who first pointed out to me that I was noticing things about this game or that they didn’t when they played them, and I’ll maybe go through our posts to put some of them up here as examples. My father noticed this too and it was for these reasons that I studied Computer Games Development for two years at University. Alas, the course was utter shite for reasons I’ll get in to another time, but I can’t ignore the fact that my lower grades were for programming because fuck programming, yet I got straight A’s when it came to design.

My most fond memory was actually seeing that my design blog for a game two of my friends and I were designing was called something like the “perfect example” of what our lecturer was expecting. This would seem to be because my approach to the blog was very self critical, discussing what was good and bad about our game; the mistakes my team and I made; how my part of the work, which was the writing and art exclusively, with the actual game design being shared, was going; then finally ending the blog with an honest retrospective of how shite our team was. Indeed, we all got B’s for our presentation of the game and our design document, and both my team members either finished with that mark or a C. How I got an A was through my blog but, funnily enough, they would have pushed their marks to an A as well in the presentation and design document if they had actually listened to me about the things that both of those were missing.

Perhaps I’m entering into smartass territory now, but I honestly believe that I saved our project when I forced them to see that our original storyline made no sense, and knew what I was doing all along when it came to that and our agreed design approach, whereas they seemed to want our game to appeal to the masses in a really unoriginal way. For example, we agreed early on that there would be moral choices, but I suggested we make them very subtle, which meant that we would never communicate to the player that they’d made a good or evil choice because that shit is really, really dumb. Yet, I kid you not, when it came to putting our design document together, one of my team members thought, “Fuck it!”, and threw in a karma system as part of the HUD, which for some reason acted as a health bar as well as your character’s alignment. Game design fail right there. That kind of thing is why I’ve been so hesitant to start building a game of my own. Both team members, you see, are actually close friends of mine and I’d have thought we’d design a great game together, yet what I really took away from the experience was that it isn’t friends you need to work with you on something like that, but people who understand what makes good game design or can at least share the designer’s vision without doing anything illogical. That’s perhaps yet another thing to talk about more in depth another day.

What I’m really trying to say is that you  shouldn’t only expect to see straightforward reviews for the games I play but a lot of analytical posts for many of them too, some of which I hope will make for good reading. Trust me. Not because I studied any of this stuff – but simply because I just know what I’m talking about. A lot of subjects have never sat well with me, such as maths and programming, but the more creative ones – English, art and design, video games – are things I just seem to be attuned to. Hell, I might as well say right now that you might even expect to see some analysis of songs here and there because that’s a thing that’s on my mind quite often too.

Anyway, to draw this longer than expected post to an end, I thought I’d list what games I’ve finished lately and my general thoughts on them, as a sort of preview until such a time that I can get down to reviewing them. Note that I’m not sure of the exact order I played Dishonored and Max Payne 3 in. See you next time.

  • Dishonored – On Facebook I harped on at my friends about this one. An excellent game with only some minor flaws. Haven’t yet completed the DLC but that has actually remedied a few problems I had with the base game, most noticeably with its far more interesting protagonist who’s much easier to role play as. The best thing about this game, as I’ll talk about more when I come to writing about it proper, is its world. The city of Dunwall is probably the most original game world I’ve stepped in to for quite a while. Besides a review, I’ll be doing a post about part of this game’s excellent design which I should hope will provide some insight. Might even make a post about how women are portrayed in the game as that’s actually quite interesting and I don’t think, as I’ve noticed a few others suggest, misogynist at all.
  • Max Payne 3 – To be honest, I wasn’t very confident that I’d enjoy this one. When screenshots and trailers were first released my voice joined the chorus of people complaining that the noir look of the first two games was gone and Rockstar were about to screw things up (the developer of the first two games was Remedy Entertainment who have recently saw success with the Alan Wake games). Whether the latter is true is your own opinion but I’ve seen people insist that the former flew the coop. This isn’t the case at all. Don’t let the sunny streets of San Paulo in the screenshots fool you – this was as dark a game as any in the series, perhaps the most until the redemptive ending. Might make an extra post or two about this as well as it’s quite an interesting game.
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl – Simply one of the best games ever. Fuck knows how many times I’ve played it overall. Oh, yes, there shall be plenty of posts about this one, and the subsequent games in the series as I finish them too, all right. Incidentally, I finished this with the Complete mod installed, so I may actually review that in a separate post of its own. It’s a great mod for the most part, especially when it comes to the gorgeous visuals, but it certainly has its flaws and I’ll probably be playing the game with a different mod or two installed in the future.
  • Metro 2033 – This is a game I’d also played before and, when I first did, I loved it. It’s a very immersive game for a number of reasons with some really cool features, and I remember actually freaking the fuck out when mutants attacked me, something the game shares with the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series (it’s no coincidence that some of the developers of that game worked on this too). However, on my recent playthrough, I realised something a little sad: it’s actually kind of boring. You probably won’t be seeing any additional posts for the game with that being the case, particularly as I ended up speeding my way through it because of said boredom, but I will treat it fairly as I do believe it’s a game worth playing at least once. So far, however, the sequel which I’m currently playing is a great improvement, albeit with its own flaws too.