Thursday, October 30, 2008

Countdown to Final Crisis Vol. 1

DC's first experiment with a weekly "Big Event" comic (52) was a well-written and interesting series that could easily be read as a standalone comic without buying various spin-offs. Unfortunately, its sequel (Countdown to Final Crisis) is quite poor in comparison. The writing is bog-standard, the characters are flat, and (most annoying to my mind) the stories don't make sense unless (presumably) one were to have bought and read several other series at the same time. The overall big idea is that a race of super-powerful aliens called the Monitors are trying to kill the various time-travellers, dimension-hoppers, and other heroes & villians in the DC Universe that are messing up continuity. I know the writers want me to side with the victims, but I can't help rooting for the Monitors--kinda like rooting for Lucifer in Paradise Lost I suppose. I always find that my interest in super hero comics waxes and wanes every few years--an exciting storyline or series (like Marvel's Civil War) will draw me in, but then the realization dawns that nobody ever really dies and nothing ever really changes, and then I gravitate back toward creator-ran non-shared universe series like Preacher, Transmetropolitan, and Sandman where the author is able and willing to tell a complete story.
UPDATE (Feb. 16, 2009): Hmm, for some reason, when I re-read this and it's sequel, most of the things I complained about above didn't bother me nearly so much. I think that knowing the story's flaws in advance made them far less irritating. I still wouldn't call this a good read, but I probably wouldn't be so quick to label it as terrible.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Clone Wars Campaign: Recap # 4

This was the final session in the Mongui story arc, a planet which I created mainly to have a very controlable location in which to start the campaign and because the Arresta character needed to be a Princess somewhere. The reveal that the Regent himself (Arresta's father) was actually a Separatist went over well and was a good surprise for the players. As a good surprise to me, I had no idea they would try (and succeed) in taking over Seige Commander Korg's shuttle (I had a whole spaceport battle scenario in mind). This session also marked that last one for Ycram as a PC, as his player dropped out of the campaign (though she remains friends with us to this day).

Episode 2.1, The Shadow Rising, Session 4

Although the Clone Wars rage elsewhere throughout the galaxy, the city-moon of Mongui is at peace. Jubilant residents crowd the street during the day to celebrate the withdrawal of the Separatist siege. The Republic fleet had withdrawn to aid in the defense of Kamino, leaving only orbital satellites and a small garrison of clone troopers to defend the city. But rumors are beginning to spread about a surprising amountof activity in the small Separatist camp that remains outside Mongui's energy shield, and even more ominous stories are told about murder and betrayal within the palace itself. And a few hours before dawn, as a cold rain pelts the city, a solitary figure makes his way through the darkened streets.

Ycram has a secret rendezvous with the head Republic spy on Mongui. The spy passes Ycram a data crystal but is then killed by mysterious attackers. Ycram manages to bluff his way out of danger. The group is then summoned to the throne room, where Ycram plays the data crystal, which among other things instructs Tarn to take the Regent to the Ansion system where additional encrypted information will be unlocked. The Regent activates an energy shield around his throne, signals a Separatist shuttle to begin landing on the roof, and reveals to the group that he is the "traitor." He has made a deal with the Separatists that he will be made Governor of the entire sector if he helps them out. To ensure his loyalty, he must deliver his daughter to them to be put into suspended animation as collateral. He broadcasts a fake message to the populace saying that the palace has been captured by the Separatists and that everyone should surrender and lay down arms. Tarn and Marpa rush to the roof to see the Separatist shuttle landing. It contains Seige Commander Korg and his contingent of B-2 battle droids. Tarn is stunned unconscious and taken aboard, but Marpa sneaks into the ship's cockpit and begins the take-off sequence. After stunning her father, Arresta surrenders and is taken on board, but then tries to escape and joins Marpa in the cockpit. Tarn regains his senses and fights off one of the B-2s and the shuttle rises, but Korg leaps and grabs the landing ramp. Tarn joins the others in the cockpit and they take evasive maneuvers and presumably shake Korg off. Quickly reaching orbit, the group decides to set hyperspace coordinates for Bothawui. Meanwhile, Ycram is left behind. He makes his way out of the palace and heads to the spaceport.

Return to Clone Wars Campaign Main Page

Friday, October 24, 2008

Nuclear Tape

I know what you're wondering--is there really such a thing as nuclear adhesive tape? According to Captain America # 103 (1968) the answer is: YES! That evil Red Skull places a strip of it on the back of Cap's neck & plans to detonate it! An exact quote: "Just in time. And best of all--he cannot be aware of the deadly nuclear tape upon his neck!"

I'm wearing turtlenecks for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I'm surprised by the number of people I meet who were fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 who have never heard of Rifftrax. Mike Nelson & the actors who voiced the bots have gotten together and made MST3K-style commentaries for dozens of recent movies. The tracks can be downloaded from their website and automatically synch up with the movie when played on a computer. I haven't seen them all, but my two favorites so far are Battlefield: Earth (yes, it's as bad as you've heard--the massive codpiece worn by John Travolta's character makes me smile just thinking about it) and The Fifth Element.

Monday, October 20, 2008

L'Avventura Meets the Philistine

Through my Rogers Netflix-style delivery of movies, I've tried to broaden my filmic (?) horizons by getting more "Classic" movies. After watching several, my only conclusion is that I'm simply a Philistine. L'Avventura, for example, which won several 5-star reviews in the guide books (and apparently "invented a new language of cinema" or something) seemed to be simply slow, plotless, and incredibly boring. By summoning unbeknownst reserves of willpower, I managed to finish it. But man, it was not easy.

The Way It Works: Inside Ottawa

On the whole this book by Eddie Goldenberg (Senior Advisor to Jean Chretien) was fairly bland and contained fewer surprising insights into how government works than I expected. There's also little in the way of the political gossip or drama that can liven up a dry read, and Goldenberg is so devoted to Chretien that he has almost nothing critical to say about the PM. It was interesting to see a view of Stephane Dion written before the Liberal leadership race of a couple of years ago. Dion comes across as an enormously respected, principled, and successful advocate of Canadian unity, with the ear of Chretien and a major role in how the Federal government dealt with Quebec--definitely a different picture than I gathered over the past several months from newspaper accounts.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Tale of Two Sisters

I recently watched A Tale of Two Sisters, a great horror movie dubbed into English. It's one of those movies where you don't know what's "real" and what's the paranoid delusions of the characters, where you don't know which characters are the victims and which are the threats, etc. It has stuck with me in the days since watching it, unlike most movies. The ending was a bit flat, but this is definitely one worth watching.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Under Arrest

Ironically, a few weeks after turning in my edits in my forthcoming UBC Law Review article Not Dead, Just Sleeping: Canada's Prohibition on Blasphemous Libel as a Case Study in Obsolete Legislation, I came across this 2007 book by Toronto lawyer Bob Tarantino: Under Arrest: Canadian Laws You Won't Believe. Although it's too late to integrate the book into my article, I'm glad I found it in plenty of time to use in my dissertation. It's a fascinating, well-written book on a wide variety of obselete but still-in-force Canadian criminal laws, including bans on comic books that depict crimes ("real or imaginary"), witchcraft, dueling, and yes, even blasphemy. If you're a devotee of the obscure like I am, this is a boon.