“Now… your blood would be a different story, I bet it’s dark, rich, full of iron… What do you say, care to indulge in a bit of… transfusion?”
Uh, maybe later Durham… Welcome fellow fans of fantastic fiction to another episode of “Great British Comic Book Characters” our occasional series that aims to acquaint you with some of the classic dramatis personae that originate from this tiny island known as the United Kingdom.
Durham Red was originally conceived as a sidekick and possible love interest for 2000AD’s mutant bounty hunter Johnny Alpha, the character proved so popular to the fans that after Johnny’s untimely demise she was given starring role in the spin off series “Strontium Dogs”. Created by the astonishing alumni of John Wagner, Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra, Durham made her first appearance in prog #505 of 2000AD in 1987.
In the aftermath of a devastating nuclear war in 2150, that left over 70% of the British population wiped out, an increase of mutated births was prevalent due to high radiation fallout. As time progressed the mutants found themselves increasingly persecuted, facing a high degree of racism which included laws precluding them from owning businesses, sending their children to schools attended by “normal” humans and ultimately found themselves segregated from society and housed in ghettos, which included a giant mutant settlement established in the town of Milton Keynes.
One of the very few jobs available to the mutants was that of a bounty hunter, known as Strontium Dogs, named after the Strontium 90 fallout and their distinctive search destroy (S/D) badges. These positions were deemed too dangerous for “normal” humans and were offered to the most dangerous and strongest of the mutant society. SD agents operated out of an orbiting space station known as the Doghouse, tasked with hunting down the galaxy’s very worst criminals.
Mutations in the 2000AD universe differ greatly from their other comic book counterparts, most mutants rather than being gifted with extraordinary gifts and powers (a la Marvel’s X-Men) were usually hideously malformed, but a few benefitted from non malformation and incredible physical and mental gifts. Durham Red is one such mutant, her mutation resembles that of the classic literary vampire, her body must intake a constant supply of blood to continue existence. But the gains ultimately outweigh her bloodlust in that, as long as Durham drinks the life giving plasma she is infused with super strength, lightning fast reflexes and near immortality, yet she shares none of the classical drawbacks of vampirism (inability to venture out in daylight, silver, garlic, etc).
After spending decades hunting down the very worst the galaxy had to offer in it’s frontier planets, Durham grew weary of the constant cycle of death and devastation and voluntarily put herself into cryonic suspended animation, that lasted centuries.
She finally roused to a new order, a war had broken out between human and mutants and through the intervention of various alien races, a Pan-Species accord was reached, giving mutants the same rights of equality that “normal” humans held. Durham found that during her protracted slumber a cult had grown around her venerable legend, with her now known as the Saint of Mutants. The saint fanatic who awoke her, Judas Farrow, quickly found that the real item differed greatly to the legend that had been borne about her, but still found himself accompanying Durham on her many excursions in this new timeline.
Durham indirectly was the catalyst for the sterilisation of human kind after being betrayed by the mutant telepath The Offspring, who used Durham as a pawn to seek his revenge on human society. Durham filled with remorse for her part in this, retreated from the world, becoming feral, using her great gifts for survival only purposes.
A century passed before Durham was tracked down by one of her saint followers Godolkin, who needed her help in finally destroying the Offspring. After confronting Offspring in a distant section of space known as the Fracture, where time itself was ruptured, she realised that Offspring could not be killed by any normal means, so Durham dragged him down with her into a singularity, and within this space/time vortex Durham beheld many different instances of past and future selves.
Like most storylines barrelling out of 2000AD, Durham Red was a politically and racially charged tale of parochialism and intolerance, British comics have often moved along this paradigm, with the 1980’s giving birth to some of the greatest tales of fundamental liberalism and forbearance.
Durham Red lived for another millennia, adopting the identity of Empress Redwina and ultimately lived to see the time when the mutant race outnumbered their oppressive human norms.
They may both be Superheroes, founding members of the Justice League and all round crime-fighting bad-arses, but Batman and Superman aren’t always the best of buddies, and, unsurprisingly, neither are their progeny.
The last time Precinct1313 caught up with Damian Wayne’s rambunctious Robin, and Jon Kent’s Kid of Steel, they were involved in a bout of fisticuffs worthy of their powerful patriarch’s many clashes throughout the decades… like father, like son seems apt. However, again like their respective parents, these two wannabe Superheroes were always destined to fight crime together, and it’s their irrevocably conflicting personalities that makes Super Sons #1 such a joy to behold.
Written by Peter Tomasi, with art duties falling to the fantastic Jorge Jiminez, Super Sons #1 focuses primarily on this direct clash of disposition between the “lil” costume crime-fighting sidekicks, and it’s glorious. Damian Wayne may be the son of the Batman and League of Assassins’ Talia Al Ghul, a highly trained martial artist and nifty ninja of notable nature, but he’s also a narcissist with severe delusions of grandeur who likes nothing more than to mess with Jon Kent’s mind. Whether it’s secreting himself in Jon’s bedroom, before confronting him after he’s just about to fall asleep, or impersonating Jon’s school bus driver, Damian really does revel in freaking out his prospective ally, much to Jon’s annoyance.
Jonathan Kent is Damian’s polar opposite (well of course, he was raised by none other than that big blue boy-scout Superman) a kind and considerate son, who genuinely wants to help his fellow humans, a responsible, straight laced kid with caring and sensitive parents in Clark Kent and Lois Lane, who have endeavoured to instil into Jon a sympathetic understanding of the world around him… which is in stark contrast to Damian’s own upbringing, I mean, he is the son of the goddamn Batman after all!
Damian’s childhood was vastly different to Jon’s, an isolated upbringing with nary a kind word from his father. Bruce Wayne is a distant and austere patriarch, a solemn guardian of the night, whose only true mission in his life is to fight crime in a desperate attempt to avenge his parent’s death and appease his guilty conscience. Which makes it no surprise that Damian should ultimately reach out to Jon for companionship, even though the only way he knows how to do this is by being an annoying arse!
Super Sons is a fantastic first issue, an exceptionally fun and zany comic that combines perfectly the burgeoning friendship between the two antithetical heroes, and their relevant parental nurturing’s (or lack thereof) ultimate effect on their prospective psyche. A must buy.
In Honour of 2000AD’s 40th birthday, I offer this repost from our ‘Great British Comic Book Characters’ series… Happy Birthday 2000AD.
American comic books in the last ten years have become a much more mainstream field of interest, mostly due to the popularity of their recent celluloid successes. Though characters such as Batman and Superman have been with us now for over seventy five years, and are as readily recognised even by non comic book fans by their symbolism and deeds, their popularity before the movie adaptations was nowhere near the stratospheric levels they have now reached through their cinematic endeavours.
Superheroes are now en-vogue and comics as a medium are now more widely accepted than ever as a legitimate and serious form of story-telling. Of course it wasn’t always this way, I have been collecting and reading comics since I was six years of age and have lost count over the years of the amount of times I have had to defend my choice…
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A young woman struggling with a self destructive multiple personality disorder uses an experimental machine known as ‘The Siamese Burn’ to extricate her numerous identities one by one. However as the process progresses, one of her most dangerous persona wrests control.
Cast: Katie Cassidy, Gina Gershon, Michelle Trachtenberg, Eliza Dushku, Gareth Dillahunt. Director: John Suits. Writer: Dan Schaffer.
Based upon an original 96 page graphic novel released by Image Comics in 2006, The Scribbler is an unusual and intense ride through the mind of a troubled girl suffering from multiple personality disorder. Katie Cassidy brings the character of Suki to life memorably in an ardently impassioned performance that is a million miles away from her more recent role as Laurel Lance/Black Canary in the CW TV series – Arrow.
The film is a grim and gritty exploration of psychogenics, a fantastic combination of both extreme psychological and physical horror. Like it’s comic book counterpart, the movie succeeds on many levels and the complex tale becomes clearer through multiple viewings, with each successive watch adding even more layers to an already elaborate diegesis.
The movie is visually resplendent, and reminds me, to some degree, of Zack Snyder’s criminally underrated Sucker Punch in both tone and attitude (though I do believe personally that Snyder’s movie is the superior of the two.) For ultimate enjoyment I highly recommend the Blu Ray version of the film as the transfer quality is astoundingly good, and the film is a tour de force in fantastic visuals. Colours are muted beautifully throughout, which adds an epically understated feel to the proceedings, in line with it’s original source material.
Joining alongside Katie Cassidy’s admirable performance are a group of consummate actors who also turn in some rather mesmerising performances, especially the great Gina Gershon, and the always electrifying Eliza Dushku.
I am committed to keeping this review intentionally vague and short so as not to spoil the film for first time viewers. Like the aforementioned Sucker Punch, Scribbler has been plagued with some unfortunately scathing reviews, which does make me wonder to some degree whether the professional reviewers who marked it down really understood the direction and depth of the the original comic book, as this film is an almost perfect rendition of that tenacious tome.
The Scribbler really is more than the sum of it’s parts, with each consecutive viewing really drawing you into it’s darkly disturbing world. Beautiful to behold, solidly acted and appropriately disquieting and perplexing… why not get drawn in by The Scribbler.
Welcome fellow agents of Precinct1313 to another episode of The Week In Geek, where we love to share our favourite, Comic Book, Video-Game, and Cult Movie news for your perusal and pleasure…
Lara Croft Returns…
Lara Croft, the quintessentially English raider of tombs will be returning to the silver screen in 2018 courtesy of Swedish actress Alicia Vikander. The adventurous archaeologist was last seen at cinemas in the 2003 “Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life” starring Angelina Jolie. The new movie seems to be following heavily in the footsteps of the recent reboot of the game itself in 2013, right down to digital Lara’s actual outfit, as these recent set photos confirm.
The movie is set for release in March 2018, starring Alicia Vikander, Walter Goggins, and Dominic West. Directed by Roar Uthaug.
2000AD Gets Set To Celebrate It’s 40th Anniversary…
Stalwart British Sci-Fi/Fantasy anthology comic (or Prog, as we call it here in jolly ol’ Blighty) 2000AD is preparing itself for celebrating it’s fortieth year in print! The Zarjaz zine was unleashed onto the British comic book scene in 1977 and has gone on to be the biggest selling and most loved comic book in the UK’s history, the classic comic has introduced such legendary creations as – Judge Dredd, Nemesis the Warlock, Slaine and Zenith amongst a cavalcade of others too numerous to mention.
Not only has this groundbreaking comic given us a cadre of classic characters, but it was also responsible for letting loose some of the UK’s most famed comic book creators, such luminous lights as – Alan Moore, John Higgins, Brian Bolland, Alan Grant, Grant Morrison, Simon Bisley, Pat Mills et al. And on February 11th, these creators and more will be attending Hammersmith, London in a celebration of mighty magnitude for a “Forty Years Of Thrill Power” festival that includes panel discussions, live drawing exhibitions, exclusive film screenings and prop displays. Happy Birthday 2000AD!
Netflix To Unleash Castlevania TV Show…
Netflix have announced an upcoming series based upon Konami’s much loved video-game franchise Castlevania. The Japanese action adventure game debuted way back in 1986 to instant acclaim, it is centered around the Belmont family, a clan of vampire hunters and their protracted war against Count Dracula and his minions.
Apart from this initial announcement (contained within a press release) very little else is known about the project, except one tantalising nugget, that the first season will be penned by none other than the great Warren Ellis, Comic Book author extraordinaire, who has given the world such astonishing series as Hellblazer and Transmetropolitan. If this turns out as great as I hope, maybe we could see more production companies mining the vast annals of video-game lore… Dark Souls TV series anyone!
Why not join us next time friends, for more Week In Geek…
Welcome fellow agents of Precinct1313 to another exhilarating episode of World’s Finest, the series that introduces you to some of our very favourite convocation of comic-book characters, of, all, time. Each episode we cordially invite one of our most treasured Superheroes, Supervillains, Costumed Crimefighters, Dimension Dwelling Demons, and of course… Super-Pets (Ace the Bathound has been sniffing around for an interview recently it seems) to answer a quotient of quintessentially quirky questions about life, the universe and biscuits (’cause everyone loves biscuits)
And so let us welcome to Precinct1313’s sanguine sofa of sardonic satire, that banteringly bemused bastion of blustering bravery… Blue Beetle.
Precinct1313: Welcome to the Precinct Ted, it’s great to have you here.
Blue Beetle: Thanks so much, it actually took me a while to find it to be honest, I mean it exists “at the edge of existence” and my Sat-Nav doesn’t seem to have that particular setting.
Precinct1313: Yeah, sorry about that, I always find that if you bypass the Nth dimension and take the matter reality highway you tend to get here much quicker.
Blue Beetle: Are you for real?
Precinct1313: ‘Fraid so, anyhow as I said it’s fantastic that you could stop by, I have been a personal huge fan of yours since the 80’s, especially your co-starring role in Justice League International.
Blue Beetle: Why thank you, I… wait a minute, co-starring!?
Precinct1313: Uh, yes… I mean there were a lot of other heroes involved, including The Batman.
Blue Beetle: Hmmmph! well to refute that, I happen to have on me an old photo of the League from back then clearly showing me front and centre, here…
Precinct1313: You just ‘happened’ to have that old photo on you… hey wait did you have this laminated!?
Blue Beetle: Yeah, so?
Precinct1313: Riiiight! anyway onto our first question, and this one was actually sent in by your old Super-Foes, The Madmen, they ask, why are you such a douchebag?
Blue Beetle: I’m not, they are.
Precinct1313: Uuuum, did you want to expand on that at all?
Blue Beetle: Nope!
Precinct1313: OK, well this is going swimmingly then.
Precinct1313: Now, you’re actually the second person to take on the mantle of Blue Beetle after the unfortunate death of original BB Dan Garrett, and it was his dying wish that you took over, a huge responsibility I’m sure.
Blue Beetle: Yes, it is. Daniel was a great man, a true hero, and as braggish as I am, he’s left one hell of a reputation for me to follow in. I’m not sure I can ever do him real justice, but I do try.
Precinct1313: You do just fine Ted, now it was during your time in Justice League that you met your BFF, Booster Gold correct?
Blue Beetle: Yes indeedy, ol’ Booster and I are inseparable, you know like Batman and Robin (he’s Robin, by the way) or Butch and Sundance…
Precinct1313: Laurel and Hardy??
Blue Beetle: Hmmmpph! no.
Precinct1313: Well you guys do have reputation for buffoonery right?
Blue Beetle: I prefer to call it playful exuberance.
Precinct1313: You were originally created by one of the comic-book medium’s true aristocracy, the great Steve Ditko, I mean, just wow!
Blue Beetle: Ooooh, oooh, the fourth wall thing, Starfire told me all about this, it sounds like fun. Yes I did indeed originate from that great man, it is a distinct honour to have such a distinguished creator.
Precinct1313: I bet, well we seem to be running out of time, so I would once more like to thank you for joining us this evening, any last words?
Blue Beetle: Just remember kids, stay out of trouble, crime is bad… and I’m definitely way cooler than The Batman… OK?
Precinct1313: Sigh… yes, OK.
In our next episode we shall be joined by Etta Candy, best friend of the awesome Amazon Wonder Woman, World War II freedom fighter, and leader of the Beta Lambda Sorority – “Holiday Girls”. Until Then.
Welcome fellow agents of Precinct1313 to the inaugural episode of “World’s Finest”, this series will be introducing you to our favourite convocation of comic-book characters, of, all, time. Every episode we will cast our celestial spotlight on one of our most treasured Superheroes, Supervillains, Costumed Crimefighters, Dimension Dwelling Demons, oh and… Super-Pets (because everyone loves Krypto, right!?)
So let’s begin our passionately personal preference of peerlessly popular paragons with… Princess Koriand’r of Tamaran, or more popularly known as “Starfire“.
So take your seats fellow fans of fantastic fiction and let’s acquaint ourselves with this episode’s extra special guest star…
Precinct1313: Hi Koriand’r, and thanks for joining us at Precinct1313 for our first episode of World’s Finest.
Starfire: Thanks so much for inviting me, it sure is an impressive structure.
Precinct1313: It surely is a marvellous mystery of malevolently malefic mansions.
Starfire: Uh, do you often talk like that?
Precinct1313: It’s a, uh, thing I do, alliteration is king here.
Starfire: Well I’m all for individuality, I am an alien to this world after all.
Precinct1313: You are indeed, from the planet Tamaran, I believe.
Starfire: That’s correct, a beautiful peaceful planet, that is, up until it’s destruction by The Blight.
Precinct1313: An awful tragedy, yet you seem to have found your feet here on Earth.
Starfire: I have always had my feet, they weren’t here on your planet but at the end of my legs.
Precinct1313: Uh, it’s sort of like a saying, you know, an aphorism…
Starfire: Aphorism? Ooooh, are they like related to the Aphorians from Quaxxel 7?
Precinct1313: I have literally no idea what you are talking about.
Starfire: Sigh… yeah, that happens a lot, did I mention I came from another planet.
Precinct1313: Yes you did, anyway can we start by asking actually who, in DC’s pantheon of creators was your particular favourite chronicler of your amazing adventures?
Starfire: Oooooh, we’re really breaking that fourth wall here huh, I would say,by far, the astonishing Amanda Conner, such an amazing talent.
Precinct1313: Agreed, she really is fantastic. Now, your initial introduction to the world of DC was in 1980 in – DC Comics Presents #26, did you feel nervous during your debut?
Starfire: Mmmmm, not really, I mean I was lucky to have been created by two of comicdom’s most prolific architects, marvelous Marv Wolfman and glorious George Perez.
Precinct1313: Ah yes indeed, they really are comic book royalty, if I can maybe get a little more personal, during your time with the tenaciously terrific Teen Titans, you were engaged in a rather passionate liaison with fellow member Nightwing, also known as Dick Grayson, former Robin to the Batman. Do you miss those halcyon days from your past?
Starfire: I love Nightwing, he was my first real relationship here on your beautiful blue planet, but I don’t lament what was, I celebrate what is.
Precinct1313: Mmmmm, profound. You recently starred in a 13 issue series by the aforementioned Amanda Conner and astounding artist Emanuela Lupacchino, it has actually become one of my favourite comic book runs of all time, and was a particular hit with your fans, to what do you attribute it’s success?
Starfire: Mainly down to Amanda’s peerless writing talent, I find she knows me better than most creators, I mean, it’s almost like, she’s inside my head.
Precinct1313: Well, she sort of is…
Starfire: Oh yeah, ha ha, of course, comic book character and all. Sorry, it’s not too often I have to breach that fourth wall, it takes some getting used to.
Precinct1313: I understand, well Koriand’r it’s been fantastic having you as a guest on World’s Finest and we wish you all the best for your future in crime fighting capers and planet saving escapades.
Starfire: It’s been a literal blast, uh, how do I get back to my reality from here again.
Precinct1313: Yours is the second universe on the left.
Starfire: Ooooh, *hugs*.
In our next episode we shall be joined by the azure avenger, Ted Kord more popularly known as the second hero who has held the mantle of The Blue Beetle. Until then.
In 1967, at the behest of the producers of the classically camp sixties Batman show a new Superhero was born, Barbara (Babs) Gordon, better known as the feisty flame haired vigilante – Batgirl!
Bab’s creators – Julius Schwartz, William Dozier, and Carmine Infantino called for a female analogue to the Caped Crusader, who could be simultaneously introduced into both the comics and the popular television series. Technically though, Batgirl wasn’t a new character, she was a variant of the original Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff created persona from earlier that decade. The original Batgirl appeared in Batman #139 in April 1961, the niece of Kathy Kane aka Batwoman.
Batwoman and Batgirl were originally created to be romantic interests for Batman and Robin, as well as costumed crime-fighting associates. In 1964, Batman editor of the time Julius Schwartz erased Batwoman, Batgirl (and other supporting characters – Ace the Bathound and Bat-mite) from the timeline on the grounds that the characters were “too silly”. Both Batwoman and her niece Betty (now known as Bette) Kane eventually and triumphantly returned to the DC Comics timeline, with Kate Kane reprising her role as Batwoman (with a few fundamental changes to her character) though Bette returned not as Batgirl, but as Flamebird, a role that had previously been inhabited by several other DC creations that included Jimmy Olsen and Kara Zor-El.
Babs Gordon though has always been seen and celebrated as the Batgirl by her millions of adoring fans, debuting in Detective Comics # 359 in a story entitled “The Million Dollar Debut Of Batgirl” by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino. Babs was introduced as the daughter of long time Batman aide – Commissioner James Gordon, she retains a doctorate in library science, is employed as the head of the Gotham City Library and possesses a photographic memory and genius level intellect.
Aside from being a popular recurring character in many DC publications, Babs didn’t get her first starring role until the “Batman Family” comic series in 1975, where she took centre stage alongside other members of the bodacious Bat clan including original Robin, Dick Grayson.
Bab’s continued her well loved run as the masked avenger up until Alan Moore’s Eisner winning one-shot “The Killing Joke“, where, in a controversial sequence of events, she was shot through the spine by the genocidal jester himself, The Joker, ultimately causing paralysis from the waist down, with the paraplegia signalling the end of her crime-fighting career… or did it?
A subsequent storyline by John Ostrander and Kim Yale established Babs in a new role, as the wheelchair bound Oracle. Forming a formidable team of female Superheroes (that includes amongst its members – Black Canary and The Huntress), Babs became a behind the scenes leader and information collator as her Birds of Prey fought crime and corruption on a global scale. During this time two other ongoing versions of Batgirl took over the mantle – Cassandra Cain and then later Stephanie Brown, both had a modicum of success as the character.
In 2011, DC Comics heralded a comic wide reboot of their entire Universe of characters known as “The New 52“, the major revamp followed the “Flashpoint” paradox which brought extensive changes to their classic cadre of characters, including Batgirl/Oracle. Babs was eventually given back the use of her legs after receiving experimental surgery at a South African clinic and through rigorous physical rehabilitation. The decision to allow Babs to regain her mobility was seen by some fans as somewhat of a shame, as she had become one of the few very prominent disabled heroes in comics, but most fans were (myself included here) ecstatic to see the Batgirl prowling the rooftops of Gotham once more.
And so “Happy Birthday Babs” and here’s to another fifty years in your awe inspiring presence, oh and “hey DC Comics, how about some live action love for Babs huh? the only actress who has ever done her justice onscreen was the lovely and very much lamented, Yvonne Craig, I think it’s about time… Batgirl Returned!”
Author, Kevin Grevioux is bringing his love of strong female protagonists to a new mini-series for DC Comics with “Odyssey Of The Amazons”. Grevioux is probably best known as the co-creator of the smash hit “Underworld” series of movies, the Kate Beckinsale led film franchise that dealt with the ongoing, millennia spanning conflict between Vampire and Lycan (werewolf) clans.
The six issue series is set many years before the birth of Princess Diana, and follows a group of Amazons as they set out on an expedition to discover others of their ilk, along the way they encounter mythical beasts and legendary creatures. But the crusade eventually turns into a rescue mission as two of their party are captured by Norse Storm Giants.
A solid first issue kicks off a previously untold chapter in Amazon lore as we follow the group of Amazon warriors and their fearless leader Hessia, as they scour the world outside of Themyscira on a search for more of their kind. Feeling very much in the mould of an epic tale of antiquity such as Jason and the Argonauts, Grevioux’s mythical tale is fantastically well rendered and is an exciting and welcome addition to Amazon mythos.
The series is in essence an Amazon origin story, exploring their existence and beginnings. Though the Amazons themselves are primarily a race derived from ancient Greece, they are also a diverse group comprising many ethnicities, and Odyssey aims to explain their eventual formation as the immortal female race of warriors, artisans, and scholars we all know and love.
Our first encounter with the adventurous group of Amazons is in battle, as they face off against an invading troop of O’Kungians in the fictional African country Zhu’Kara. It’s here that we first meet the group’s stalwart leader Hessia, a strong confident character revered by her Amazon peers, tasked by Queen Hippolyta with gathering Amazons from different cultures and nations, and returning with them to Themyscira. The visuals by Ryan Benjamin are fantastic, beautifully detailed, they especially shine during the hectic battle sequences, where his art flows almost as if animated.
Odyssey Of The Amazons #1 is an engaging and exciting first look at Grevioux’s take on Amazon history, strong characterisation, an awesome central character in Hessia and sublime artwork by Benjamin. Highly recommended.
With our usual quotee Rorschach on an extended leave (due mainly to Dr Manhattan literally obliterating him on the spot!?) he has handed over the reins to fellow masked avenger and valorous victor of the valiant vox-populi – “V“, and V believes this quote to be rather judicious at this juncture.
“V – bringing masked vigilantism to the UK masses since 1987!”
Precinct1313 and Wonder Woman support today’s Women’s March across the globe for equality, fairness, and emancipation. To the marchers throughout the planet, you are the real Wonder Women and we salute you.
I have been a gamer for over thirty years, which means that I have not only seen the respective technology of said medium grow and become more complex over this time, but also the inherent gameplay, graphics and storylines become more intricate and mature. The one thing that really defines games of the earlier generations for me, such as Sega’s Megadrive (Genesis) and Nintendo’s SNES, weren’t the less complicated pixel form graphics but the relative difficulty of the actual games themselves, modern games in contrast to these 80’s classics are ridiculously easy… then Dark Souls happened.
Dark Souls was released by Japanese video-game creators “From Software” making it’s debut in 2011 and is an action role-playing game set in the perilous lands of Lordran. It is technically the second game in the souls series, a spiritual successor to From’s former “Demon Souls.”
“Prepare To Die” are the ominous words that greet you on Dark Souls box art, and it’s no lie, you will die again, and again… and again! Now if you’re thinking to yourself at this moment “well that doesn’t sound like fun”, I say au contraire my fellow gaming buddies, it’s this difficulty that makes the game the gem it is. A real sense of achievement and progress is gained from defeating that ‘impossible’ boss character that took you fifteen tries to take down, learning their strategies and just purely surviving make for a really satisfying sense of accomplishment when you finally do fell the big beastie.
Difficulty aside, the world and lore of Dark Souls is rather fascinating but unlike many role-playing games does very little through direct exposition to the player bar the initial introductory story cut scene. Dark Souls lore is embedded in it’s characters, architecture and items, all the vital knowledge and exegesis can be derived from multiple conversations with the NPC’s (even then, the ambiguity of their replies requires you to really dig even deeper) or the description that accompanies the various weaponry and items you acquire as you adventure (read: barely survive!) through the treacherous lands of Lordran.
In fact the story is so well hidden that you could be excused for thinking that the creators had decided not to add one, yet, if you’re willing to dig really deep you will find one of the most cerebral and emotional tales that gaming has ever wrought. But if plot holds no interest for you and you only really want to venture into these perilous lands for the combat, then that’s fine, because the fighting system in Souls is glorious.
Dark Souls combat really is it’s defining feature – weighty, precise and intricate. Though it can initially feel a somewhat shallow fighting system, it slowly forms into quite possibly one of the greatest combat engines to ever grace an RPG. Of course the weaponry open to the Soul’s titular hero begins with the player’s choice of class, do you prefer to enter this dangerous land as a steel clad Knight or a leather bound assassin, maybe sorcery is more your thing, whichever role you choose there is an expansive amount of weaponry, armour, spells and shields (which are your absolute best friends in Souls) available to your chosen avatar.
Of course all the lore, combat and cool armour is for naught if there aren’t any memorable antagonists to pit your courageous hero against, and the adversaries in Souls are some of the largest and most unforgiving any persistent Paladin has ever faced. from the humble undead to the terrifying half arachnid-half witch Queelag, the foes you face down are some of the most relenting and remorseless you will have ever encountered.
The Boss characters are relentless in their pursuit of your demise, from the aforementioned Queelag, through gilded knights Dragonslayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough, your gaming skills will be tested to their utmost limits, but each and every time (many times!) you will learn a little bit more of their inherent weaknesses and pattern, giving you more confidence in their demise with each successive visit to their lair.
There was also an extremely popular online duelling mode where the Dark Souls aficianados could test their mettle and levelled avatar against others, though this rarely interested me personally, but I did enjoy the ability of being able to call in one of my Dark Souls brethren to join in jolly co-op and hopefully down a boss or two (or at least share in my torment!)
The game itself has so much depth, intrinsic lore, customisation and complexity that this review could easily become an epic of encyclopedic proportion, so I will just say this: Do you adore – video-games, fantasy, bloody huge swords, intricate storytelling and are a bit of a masochist at heart? then you’ll fall in love with the world of Dark Souls, just be Prepared To Die… again, and again, and again, and again………..
Welcome fellow agents of Precinct1313 to another episode of ‘The Week In Geek’ where we love to share our favourite Comic Book, Video-Game and Cult Movie news for your perusal and pleasure… and so once more unto the breach dear readers, once more…
Nintendo Switch Release Date And Launch Games Announced…
You know, I have always been more of an Xbox than a Nintendo (and previous to Microsoft’s beast of a console, I was a SEGA… in fact I still am.) But the one thing I have always loved (and bought) were Nintendo’s handhelds. I have owned virtually every portable device they have launched since the classic Gameboy in 1989, which is why I am genuinely excited for the Switch, Nintendo’s first hybrid console.
The Nintendo Switch is the incoming flagship console from the legendary Japanese gaming giant, which effortlessly combines home and portable play into one very cool package, and I want one… right now! Set to be released worldwide on March 3, 2017 at a very reasonable £279.99 ($299.99) with a strong launch line up that includes – Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, Dragon Quest XI, and Skyrim (that’s right folks, a portable version of Bethesda’s classic RPG… there goes my life.)
Geoff Johns And Dr Manhattan – Dream Team…
DC Entertainment’s President and comic book author extraordinaire Geoff Johns is returning to writing comics again this year, and has (heavily) hinted that he may be exploring the intriguing connection between Watchmen and the DC Universe. In a series of tweets Johns has confirmed his return to his oeuvre, with an accompanying image of Watchmen’s Dr Manhattan. Johns’ last comic authorship was last May’s “DC Universe Rebirth #1” in which he eluded that the electric blue super-human may have had a hand in creating the rebooted Rebirth timeline.
The highly enjoyable one-shot also portrayed Batman discovering the iconic blood spattered smiley badge from Alan Moore’s groundbreaking 80’s mini-series, in the Bat Cave! Hold on tight dear readers, for this promises to be one hell of a wild ride!
Constantine Set To Return, In Animated Form…
Everyone’s favourite chain smoking, mystical, demon fighting anti-hero – John Constantine is set to return to the small screen in a new CW animated series. Following on from his fantastic (yet criminally short lived) NBC live action show, the new animation will find Constantine actor Matt Ryan reprising his role in voice over form and is being produced by Greg Berlanti. We were honestly hoping for another live action depiction of the magical man of mystery, but I guess an animated rendering is better than no return at all, plus CW’s animated Vixen series has been rather wonderful, so all the signs point to this being equally as great.
Why not join us next time friends for more Week In Geek!
Welcome my comic collecting cohorts to another instalment of ‘Comic Cover Of The Week’ and this week’s illustriously illustrated issue is brought to you by the astonishing Amanda Conner. Conner is, and always shall be one of our favourite artists here in the depths of the Precinct’s colossal comic crypts, her peerless mastery of pen and pencil is almost unmatched in the industry, her alluring artwork always oozes emotion and style, and her character’s facial expressions are worthy of the great Keith Giffen himself.
Justice League vs Suicide Squad is the first major storyline event since DC’s Rebirth relaunch, with the titular team up of the world’s greatest superheroes finally discovering the existence of Amanda Waller’s Task Force X (Suicide Squad) the government sponsored team of supervillains and disgraced superheroes who perform covert black ops missions off the radar, and are kept under control through an implanted micro explosive lodged in their brains.
Issue #3 finds the Justice League imprisoned in Belle Reve penitentiary by Amanda Waller who delights in telling the captured Leaguers of the crisis revolving around them. The Joshua Williamson penned mini-series has been a delight thus far, and the interior visuals by Jesus Merino are fantastically well realised and at times spectacular to behold. It’s also awesome to see the return of some of my very favourite villains including Maxwell Lord, Killer Frost and the Main Man himself Lobo! This really is required reading.
Justice League vs Suicide Squad is available at your local comic book emporium right now.
2016, oh how we lament thee… ’tis been a rollercoaster of a year it has to be said, the world outside of the Precinct’s impenetrably darkened walls has seen many moments of both grief and utterly incredulous disbelief (as an example of this, being a Brit, I am still astonished that the larger populace of my home actually voted for Brexit!?) Some well loved and talented individuals passed away, and the political climate across the globe has shifted in a rather uncomfortable direction. Now more than ever we really need our alternate realities to hide in, be that comic books, movies or video-games and for this at least, 2016 was a great year.
2016, for me, was the year that I had been waiting for since I was six years old… as my beloved DC Superheroes finally burst forth from their comic book shackles, and onto the silver screen. Sure we’ve had plenty of movies throughout the decades that have brought us DC’s big two… Batman and Superman, and quite a few of them have been amazing, but the scale that DC have thrown their much loved characters onto the big screen this year has been literally stratospheric.
These Were Our Favourite Moments From 2016:
Bats and Supes Had A Disagreement…
The Year began with a disagreement between The Dark Knight and The Man Of Steel. In March the world’s two biggest Superheroes clashed head on in Warner Bros and Zack Snyder’s epic ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ and it was awe inspiring. Forget what the critics said, the film is a deep and psychological look at how the world would react to Super-humans amongst them, but for all it’s depth, it was also an outstandingly awesome action movie with stand-out turns from Ben Affleck as Batman, and the unforgettable big screen debut of the Themysciran Titan – Wonder Woman, a role actress Gal Gadot seemed born to play.
Suicide Squad Broke Their Bonds…
In August Task Force X escaped from their well deserved incarceration in Belle Reve penitentiary to inflict all kinds of mayhem and mirth at the cinemas in David Ayer’s spectacularly fun take on DC’s ‘Suicide Squad’. John Ostrander’s classic comic book series about a group of Supervillains and disgraced Superheroes who are recruited by the Government for fully deniable black ops tasks in return for clemency was masterfully translated to the big screen by Ayer. With an eclectic cast of characters, an overtly powerful and enigmatic antagonist, and great performances from Jared Leto, Margot Robbie and Will Smith, this is an exemplary exercise in bringing a comic book series to vivid life (and Batman’s in it… and you can never have too much Batman!)
The Phantom Turned 80…
2016 marked the astonishing 80th anniversary of Lee Falk’s genre defining Superhero ‘The Phantom’, it was The Ghost Who Walks who first donned a mask and colourful costume to fight an eternal and ceaseless battle against corruption and injustice with only his quick wits, martial skills and faithful companions; Devil his pet wolf and Ghost his trusty white steed. The Phenomenal Phantom was the progenitor of what later became a deluge of Superheroes and preceded peers Batman and Superman by a full two years.
Wondy Celebrated Her Anniversary…
It’s been an awesome 75 years since Diana of Themyscira first burst onto the scene, wielding her golden lasso of truth and inspiring female empowerment and emancipation, Wonder Woman has proven to be the most important fictional female ever wrought. 2016 not only marked her 75th anniversary but also her big screen debut in Batman v Superman, and she was a huge highlight of that exceptional movie, and with her own solo movie set to appear at cinemas in mid 2017, there appears to be nothing stopping our immortal idol from ruling the roost for another seventy five…
The DC Universe Was Reborn…
May 2016 marked a humongous relaunch of DC Comics’ entire line of monthly comic books aptly named ‘Rebirth’. It was primarily intended to return the DC Universe to a time prior to ‘Flashpoint’, a time paradox storyline that altered DC’s timeline and led into the 2011 ‘New 52’ reboot. The reboot itself was divisive amongst fans and some creators alike, and though initial sales were strong, the titles began to lapse in sales as fans yearned for their favourite heroes previous incarnations pre-52.
Rather than a reboot though, Rebirth was more of a soft relaunch retaining much of the history and happenings of the New 52 continuity, but returning characters back to their more popular personas prior to the paradox. And it’s been a hit! Rebirth has proven so popular that DC Comics for the first time in many a year has been soundly thrashing it’s closest rival Marvel in sales month in and out. Detective Comics, Wonder Woman, and Red Hood and the Outlaws have been stand out the best of these for this particular DC fanboy, but all titles have been fantastically written and engrossing, with both superstar veteran creators and upcoming stars scrabbling to join the DC Rebirth fold.
Happy New Year To All Our Followers, Special Agents, Readers And Everyone Else, 2017 Is Set To Be Even Bigger For DC With The Highly Anticipated Wonder Woman And Justice League Movies, Not To Mention Yet More Marvellous Comics From The Rebirth Line, Kicking Off With Batwoman Rebirth In March, Until Then… Make Mine DC!