Monday, January 31, 2011

The Buffy Comic Project: "She's No Lady" Part 2

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 18

Dark Horse (Volume 1, 1998-2003)

Creators: Andi Watson (writer), Cliff Richards (penciller), Joe Pimentel (inker)

Setting: Season Three

T.V. Character Appearances: Joyce, Oz, Giles, Xander, Willow, Cordelia, Buffy, Angel

Major Original Characters: EvilBuffy (doppelganger), DeformedBuffy (failed doppelganger), Dr. Flitter (mad scientist), Selke (vampire)

Summary: Buffy wakes up and realizes that not only is she in the sewer, she's being tended to by the deformed result of the original attempt to create her doppelganger. DeformedBuffy wants Buffy to return to the surface and kill Selke & Dr. Flitter, but EvilBuffy appears in a not-so-startling cliffhanger. Subplots: the Scoobies continue work on their Mardi Gras float, and Xander finally starts to suspect that maybe something strange is going on with Buffy. Angel continues to interrogate vampires, and finds his way to Dr. Flitter's lab; although Flitter & Selke aren't there, Angel finds a vial of the blood that is making vampires stronger along with notes from Dr. Flitter speculating that the current batch might be poisoned somehow.

Review: I think editor Scott Allie received so many letters early on in this series' run complaining about the one-shot stories that he overreacted and commissioned this nine-part serial. Frankly, Selke just isn't interesting or original enough to carry almost a year's worth of stories and I'm glad next issue is the big conclusion.

Next Issue

My RC Racing Hobby

When I was maybe 9 or 10, radio-controlled cars was a popular hobby for teenagers (so much so it spawned a short-lived Archie comic). My brother, who was a few years older, was really into the hobby and had one or two of the cars plus a big stack of RC racing magazines. I don't think we ever shared any hobbies as kids, but I remember spending a lot of time talking to him about radio controlled cars and flipping through the magazines, and eventually we decided I should buy an entry-level car. Unfortunately, it cost something like $ 80 which may as well have been $ 10,000 to me at the time. I resolved that I would save up, so I taped an envelope to the wall of my room and started putting some of my leftover allowance into it.

I think I had saved around $ 3.50 before my self-control gave out and I spent the money on something else.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Torchwood Online Game Mission # 10

You don't need to be a good detective to solve Mission # 10, but you do need a good memory and quick reflexes. Torchwood is about to raid New Eden and the Venus Clinic, but first they want to know the location of where the ultrasonic signal is going to be sent from. There's a lot fewer sources of information than usual:

1) A short video from Tosh about the Rift Activity Detector, the tool you'll need to solve this mission.

2) A marriage certificate between John Winters & Laura Campbell.

3) The usual e-mail from Ianto reminding you to listen to Dark Talk.

4) This week's episode of Dark Talk, the theme of which is whether aliens are abducting people for sex. After one believer calls in, Wendy, the witch from last week's episode, calls back. Wendy says she has peered into the future and has seen death and someone plotting against Torchwood.

The Rift Activity Detector mini-game is one of the more challenging ones. One by one, a series of eight different lights come on in a particular sequence and the goal of the game is to match the sequence before a certain period of time runs out. The sequences get longer and more complex, but after successfully completing five of them the signal will be triangulated to the solution of Mission # 10: "Dark Talk".

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Century: Distant Sons [Comics]

Century's a fairly obscure super hero, probably known only to hardcore readers of 1990s Marvel comics. Basically, he looks like a really wrinkled, angry, long-haired hippy (with a cosmic battle staff). The character first appeared in the short-lived super group Force Works, then had the one-shot discussed here, and then more or less vanished into limbo after a brief storyline in the Avengers. The one shot, Distant Sons, provides an origin for Century: he's the genetically-created combination of the one-hundred greatest warriors of a civilization that was facing annihilation from invasion. Century, in other words, is an instrument of revenge; but some unknown trauma erased his memories and left him clueless of his purpose. The story in Distant Sons is set entirely in space, as Century finds himself captain of a former slave ship and travels the galaxy to return the slaves to their home planets, one by one. The ship's former master, The Broker, manages to regain control of the ship through the old standby of mind-controlling parasites. He sells Century to a villainess named Imogen who is questing after some sort of artifact of cosmic power called the Crucible. Century escapes, of course, and decides to head back to Earth, and I don't think the deal with Imogen and the Crucible is ever resolved.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Torchwood Magazine # 11

Stepping back a couple of years to get caught up on issues I missed the first time around. Here we have issue # 11 from December, 2008:

* An interview with Eve Myles. The magazine calls Gwen "the 21st Century's Emma Peel", which I think even a lot of Torchwood fans would have to disagree with. I mean, Gwen's okay and all, but I've never really seen the appeal, nor can I understand how Eve Myles is seen as some sort of sex symbol in Wales . . .

* An interesting feature on the heavy edits made to try to get a version of the show that could be shown to a "pre-Watershed" (all ages) audience. The article acknowledges that there are some silly rules in this area--for example, showing a mangled corpse in a car is okay, but only if it's depicted wearing a seatbelt (safety first!). The whole process seems like more trouble than it's worth, as the whole idea of the show is that it's science fiction for an adult audience.

* An interview with Gareth Thomas, of Blake's 7 fame, about his role in the episode Ghost Machine. Thomas seems rather dismissive of science fiction and implies that he wishes he would be remembered for something other than a decades-old genre show.

* Part eight of the Rift War comic strip. I've talked about this elsewhere, but to reiterate quickly: utter shite.

* Part one of the short story The Book of Jahi by David Llewellyn. Good stuff here, as Torchwood finds a corpse completely mangled and starts to realize there's a connection with a collector of artifacts from the Rift. Nice atmosphere and quality dialogue, and perhaps a villain (Mr. Glee) that makes the idea of Blowfish aliens worthwhile.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Buffy Comic Project: "She's No Lady"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 17

Dark Horse (Volume 1, 1998-2003)

Creators: Andi Watson (writer), Cliff Richards (penciller), Joe Pimentel (inker)

Setting: Season Three

T.V. Character Appearances: Buffy, Oz, Willow, Cordelia, Xander, Principal Skinner, Giles, Angel,

Major Original Characters: Selke (vampire), Dr. Flitter (mad scientist), EvilBuffy (doppelganger)

Summary: The Buffy doppelganger (whom I shall cleverly refer to by the moniker EvilBuffy) is instructed by Selke and Dr. Flitter to kill Buffy and th
en kill Buffy's friends. Meanwhile, the Scoobies are instructed by a strangely drawn Principal Skinner to prepare the school's Mardi Gras float, but they have trouble deciding on a theme. Angel's busy torturing a vampire to get information on who the Big Bad in town is, so the real, honest-and-true Buffy is all by her lonesome when EvilBuffy attacks, ambuscade style. The fight rages on the streets of Sunnydale and into a beauty parlor, but EvilBuffy gets the upper hand and, thinking she's killed Buffy, dumps the "body" into the sewers. EvilBuffy, her face partially scarred during the attack, pretends to be real Buffy and arrives at school the following morning. Her suggestion for the float's theme (much to Xander's dismay) is "clowns."

Review: Another issue that, like the series so far, is amiable without ever really being excellent. Most of the plot, including the big fight scene, is by-the-numbers storytelling for genre fiction. Buffy and her sidekicks stick closely to their assigned roles on the show, and nothing particularly special or surprising happens. Content-wise, the comic seems pretty clearly aimed at an early-teens audience, even though the show started to get darker and skew older starting near the end of the second season.


* Is celebrating Mardi Gras something that usually happens in the U.S. outside of New Orleans? I'm not saying it's not, it's just that I've never heard of it happening before . . .

* Two more reminders on the letters page about t
he upcoming "Seth Green Day." O-kay.

* This issue also appeared in two different special Valentine's Day covers, one with purple foil and the other with red foil. You'd think they would have planned it better so that the interior had a Valentine's Day theme to match instead of going with Mardi Gras . . .

* I think it's fair to predict that next issue will see Buffy meet up with the failed doppelganger that was also dumped in the sewers a couple of issues ago. The artwork from the "Next Issue" page makes me think that the monster needs advice on what constitutes a "bad touch"--check out its right hand in the picture below . . .

Next Issue

Monday, January 24, 2011

Captain Marvel (1994) [Comics]

After a 1989 one-shot, Monica Rambeau/Captain Marvel next got a solo adventure in 1994. She's still figuring out her new powers (which allow her to project electromagnetic radiation but no longer become it) and has developed a new wrinkle, the ability to become more or less invisible. While attending a conference on the campus of Empire State University (Peter Parker's alma mater), Rambeau comes across a hate crime in progress, perpetrated by a group of masked racists called the Sons of the Serpent. Captain Marvel disposes of them in traditional super hero fashion, and learns that the attack was just one of a recent spate of hate crimes on campus. One thing leads to another, and before long C.M. is up against a strange, amorphous blob of a super-villain named Skinhead. Comic books have a goofy habit of attaching a costume and codename to real-world evils and then "solving" the problem through super heroic intervention, but that being said the comic isn't preachy or completely inane (by comic book standards). It's actually pretty good, and I wouldn't have minded seeing more Captain Marvel solo projects.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Clone Wars Campaign Extra: "Drowning in Sight of a Distant Shore"

Drowning in Sight of a Distant Shore is the last short story I wrote set during the events of the Clone Wars campaign. The idea here was to give some insight on Tarn Tamarand's mindset since his "rescue" from The Waiting Place (the ancient temple used to worship the Anomaly). During this period, Tarn was locked in a deep trance, and seemed to all intents and purposes as if he were comatose. His mind still processed sensory information, however, but in a confused and opaque way--thus, the experimental writing style used for the first part of the story. The second part tells of Tarn's epic confrontation with Jocasta in a bid to regain the Force-imbued lightsaber that acted as a "key" to unlock the prison of the Forgotten Sith. The last part is a voice-recording from Tarn's captivity at the hands of the Accelerated, who you'll read more about in the next story-arc.

I wrote this story because I wanted to make Tarn interesting.

Most of what the gaming group remembered about Tarn from his days as an actual PC were the humorous events that happened (most famously, his inability to levitate a pebble to prove to someone he really was a Jedi). They never seemed to tell stories of all the really damned exciting things the character did, from destroying a whole squadron of battle droids single-handedly in the very first session to dueling with Siege Commander Korg in the open doorway of a moving shuttle to running the gauntlet of mutated creatures on a skyhook. From his days as an NPC, they quite wrongly thought of him as a victim who always needed to be rescued (in fact, he wanted to stay in the Waiting Place and enter the Anomaly in order to stop the Forgotten). But as a major player in the campaign and a driving force that tied the only two original characters still in the game (Arresta and Marpa/Daal) together, he needed to be someone who evoked interest and even some respect. And perhaps most importantly, after the moral morass of the Mongui storyline, I wanted the PCs to have at least a glimpse of what a truly heroic character looked like. Of course, whether I succeeded or not is up for debate, but I always have a soft spot for the underdog and in this campaign, Tarn was definitely that.
Drowning in Sight of a Distant Shore

Part 1: Shadow & Light

Tarn Tamarand had become shadow, with glimpses of light.

Shadow. A blade that was not a blade, a voice in the darkness, the key to a prison that should not have been opened. Enticing with power unknown, different and beyond the Force, embodied as Veris Saak, a Jedi once and still? All things have balance, and to take one out one prophesied must stay. Questions repelled, goals set, love deferred. Tempered into steel, cunning and fierce. Understanding, finally, and resolve to say goodbye with smoldering heartbreak. Questing to the Waiting Place, parlay and submission and sacrifice, degradation and pain, time ticking as heartbeats. The cusp of redemption, then utter defeat. Taken by the Naïve, given to the Uncanny. Torn away, and pieces remain behind.

Light. A ship—an airlock. Light brighter than three suns. Arresta? Don’t go—I can put the pieces back. Stay. His love is jealous, diminishing and demeaning. Mine will set you free, painful, pure, and real. A hand reaches. This hand is my hand! If you should stay, I can become whole again. If I could see you, this darkness would turn to light.

Shadow. The Force revealed as a force, but one of many. Nine Forgotten pale to the Altered. Times grows short. Pieces on a Dejarik board, all of us. Uncanny to Altered, Master to Uncanny, Assassin to Princess. Reflections on cracked crystal: resolve made, he will come for me now—but not how one would expect. Too soon, still pieces scattered like leaves. Broken but must walk, finish once and for all. Find her, take it, be done with it! But failure foretold, rock geyser and lightning strike. Uncanny at her strongest, but a chance exists. Princess becomes Queen, checkmates Empress.

Light. A ship—a medical bay. Safety and healing. A Jedi like I once was, but bone weary visits every eve, gathers pieces and reassembles—slow-going but steadfast. Here I could one day be myself, but time is run out. There is something I must do. What is it? Escape, follow the currents of the Force flowing to where the key lies. Take up the key, lock the gate before shadows lengthen. My sin, my duty: redemption. Strike the healer—but softly, to sleep, not to kill. One must hunt monsters without becoming one. Draw the lightsaber into hand—a paltry thing compared to Saak, but it will suffice. Corridor after corridor, a ship is a maze but the Force is my guide. Guards slump to the ground. They will betray all of you—slit their throats! a voice says, one thought gone but remaining still, an echo. Drown out the voice and climb inside. Fly away. Spare no speed. The End of Days is coming, and I must not tarry.

Shadow. Sleep, and reach out. Stars are nothing to the Force, and I am more than I was. Dream, interrupted. Part of me is already there. Something of our creation, that will live on after I fall. Her hands are tiny, grasping mine. She knows me though we have never met. Focus on the mission: the Princess. Dreams flow into dreams and nightmares result. I need you. Balcony knives. Why has she hardened her heart against me? There is no hope, but there is no fear. There is the Force, and I shall not falter.

Part II: Geyser and Lightning

Tarn Tamarand was neither awake nor asleep. Minutes turned into hours, and the hours into days. He sat with his hands on his knees, waiting for the moment to arrive. Behind him was a starfighter, its once shiny chrome armor pitted and scored by the merciless atmosphere. In front of him lay a vast plain of jagged rock, blackened as if burnt. Above him lay the twin-star, and elsewhere in the sky was something else—something that sideslipped the Force, though he paid it no mind. It was not why he had come.
In time a tiny speck appeared on the horizon, moving quickly towards him. It began to take shape as it drew near, and Tarn knew it carried his undoing: it had been foretold. But he stood nonetheless, surprised at the amount of dust and rock debris that had accumulated in his lap. Had he always been in this moment? Wasn’t there someone he wanted to see before the end? But destiny had betrayed desire—better to be done with it.
The speck was a ship, and it landed nearby. From its belly a mouth opened, and the Corsair appeared. There were others—one seemed familiar—but he paid them no mind. Even at a distance, he knew she had it with her—it had been violated in some way, but remained who it was. The wind began to pick up, thick clouds appeared in the sky. Daytime turned to night in seconds and a cold rain began to fall. Was this his doing or hers? Or its? She said something to him then, trying to shout over the wind. Something conciliatory, but her slight mockery could not be hidden. The Stranger spoke as well, but all their words fell limply to the ground. A lightsaber—the one he had stolen from the healer—appeared in his hand, ignited.
There was a moment of hesitation. A moment of regret for a love betrayed, for a daughter left behind, and for a life not fully lived. And then the moment had passed, and in its place knowledge that death would finally bring peace through a dreamless sleep. The ground began to tremor and split, geysers of rock erupted. The others fell to the ground, defenceless against such fury, but the Corsair kept her feet and drew her blade.
Tarn leapt towards her, and she him, and behind them lightning framed the sky.

Part III: After the Fall


As I lay dying, my life didn’t flash before my eyes but my failure certainly did. Everything had happened exactly as in my vision. I fought the fight of my life—I was clever and fast, brutal and courageous, but in the end it amounted to less than enough. My proficiency in the Force was a spark compared to her bonfire. Master Creen must have known that, must have known there was little he or anyone could teach me of those mysteries. He could not make me a Jedi Master, so he made me a thug, a street fighter. She was surprised, I know. Surprised when I dropped my lightsaber in mid-leap, surprised when blood blossomed from her broken nose, teeth embedded in my knee. Her body cushioned mine when we fell, and I heard a rib crack. A punch to the throat left her gasping, an elbow to the pressure point in her bicep and her hand spasmed, the lightsaber that was more than a lightsaber rolled to the ground. It appeared in my hand without conscious thought, the blade coalescing into corrosive salvation, and I could have ended everything there. But although Creen made me a warrior, he could not make me a murderer. I hesitated for just a moment, thinking I could make it to my ship before she recovered. And from hesitation came defeat, as the earth and sky threw themselves at me: lightning barely turned away with the blade, gusts of wind nearly knocking me from my feet, the ground shaking like waves of a turbulent ocean. I had lost the advantage and as she stood before me, there was a fury and a respect in her eyes that made me terrified and proud.
She reached out, and the lightsaber tore itself from my gasp. Although I had removed it from its prison those years ago, it did not want to go back. The ground tore in two beneath me and then closed again—my legs were crushed. The Force flickered in my consciousness, shock and pain making it impossible for me to focus. From the corner of my eye I could see Marpa in his new face restrained by her crew. Jocasta walked towards me then, and I could tell she would at least make it quick.
And then a hole in the sky opened, and figures stepped out. They descended without moving, faces impassive except for the hint of a cruel smile. I fell into darkness then, and when I woke they had taken me somewhere else.
And then their games began.
They healed me, body and mind, to maximize their amusement.
They’ve given me my comlink and told me to record a distress call. I know it’s another of their games—they’ll erase it in front of me, or play it back interminably, or make me believe that rescue has come a thousand times. They don’t talk, but I hear their voices in my head, scrabbling around. They think of us as pets, and to them we’re barely sentient.
My memories of what happened to me after the Waiting Place are dim—there are some things even they can’t fix. I think I spoke to you, Princess. And I know, that during the worst of it here, you spoke to me too. I know it was real and I know you still care about me, despite everything. I shouldn’t hope for you to come here, but I do. I can endure anything if it means seeing you again.



My Easiest Job

The easiest job I've ever had in my life was during my freshman year of undergrad at the esteemed Chadron State College (of Don Beebe & Danny Woodhead fame). After having spent all of one day stacking books at the library and deciding it was too much work, I looked around and with a careful search found the easiest job on campus: sitting at the front desk for a sparsely-inhabited residence hall. This "job", as it were, required only that I sit at the desk and, once or twice per four hour shift, answer the phone. Otherwise, it was my prerogative to eat, study, sleep, read comics, watch t.v., or go for a really long bathroom break. I actually got paid for this, pretty much the easiest job in the world.

And I still resented it and grumbled about having to show up!

As an adult, I have learned the error of my ways and would never turn down such an opportunity to be paid for loafing about. Now that I'm moving to Kingston and trying to find a part-time job, maybe I should stroll by Queen's campus and see if any residence halls are hiring?

Nah, they'd probably think I was weird . . .

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Torchwood Magazine # 24

The penultimate issue!

* An interview with Julie Gardner, Executive Producer, on what it's like to move to L.A. to work on Torchwood with American writers and producers. Not surprisingly, she works so hard not to say anything offensive that she doesn't really say anything interesting.

* "Red-Handed" a short story by Kate Orman featuring a mobile, possessed hand like that famous scene from Evil Dead (the second one, I think).

* A really interesting feature on "The Lost Episodes": scripts and treatments prepared by writers that, for one reason or another, never ended up being filmed. Many of the ideas ended up being turned into novels, audiobooks, or short stories, including Deadline, Skypoint, and Into the Silence.

* A short story by Richard Stokes titled "Cultural Firsts." This one sees Leonardo da Vinci coming through the Rift and becoming fascinated by modern technology. Torchwood tries to keep as much from him as possible while they try to send him back. Didn't really work for me, and I'm glad the show avoided having historical figures on the show.

* A haunted house story told via comic strip. Much improved artwork, perfectly average plot.

* "The Mind's Eye", a short story by James Goss. If nothing else, I have to give this one some points for originality. A demonic influence from the Rift has taken over a beginner's poetry group and is feeding on it.

* This issue's Beyond the Hub feature is on shapeshifters in various cultures throughout history. Not as interesting as some previous entries.

Captain Confederacy (1991) [Comics]

Captain Confederacy had a fascinating premise: what if the Confederate States of America survived into the modern age of super-heroes? In an alternate history devised by writer Will Shetterly, what we think of as America fragmented into several pieces after the Civil War: the U.S.A. still exists (controlling most of the central and northeast part of the place), the South is controlled by the Confederates, and new countries have arisen such as the Republic of Texas, Deseret (Mormon country in real-world Utah), the People's Republic of California, the Great Spirit Alliance (a federation of Native American nations), Pacifica (Washington/Oregon), and the Louisiana Free State. The different countries have developed national symbols out of their super heroes, and the focus of the book is (as the title indicates), on Captain Confederacy.

The book originally ran for 12 issues on an independent press called SteelDragon--I haven't read these issues, instead coming across the four issues printed by Marvel's Epic imprint in 1991. The Captain Confederacy of the SteelDragon issues is dead at the beginning of the Epic series, with an interracial couple sharing the title of Captain Confederacy. The story of the Epic series concerns a summit meeting of the various countries in Central North America, along with mundane and super-powered representatives from other global powers like Germany, Japan, and Mexico. There's a lot of political intrigue, assassination attempts, espionage, and more, and the series as a whole has nice dialogue and characters that seem individualized and interesting. Artwork is serviceable but not amazing, and the fourth and final issue is a little bit of a talky letdown after the first three.

As much fun as the comics are the text and letter pages which are full of discussion and speculation about the alternate history Shetterly has created. I'm not a historian or Civil War buff, but I will say Shetterly seems far too certain that the war had nothing to do with slavery and that the South would have abolished it sometime in the 1870s anyway, eventually emerging with race relations similar to the North. The Civil War is thus portrayed in the classic "War of Northern Aggression" vein, and the bad guys in the story set in the modern day are meddling northern Yankees up to no good.

So . . . dicey politics, but a fun read nonetheless.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Check back Tomorrow

Long time no post, finally finished grading several hundred pages of student assignments! High-quality entertainment to follow over the next couple of days. In 3-D!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Buffy Comic Project: "The Food Chain"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 16

Dark Horse (Volume 1, 1998-2003)

Creators: Christopher Golden (writer), Christian Zanier (penciller), Minor, Owens, & Arnold (inkers)

Setting: Season Three

T.V. Character Appearances: Buffy, Willow, Xander, Oz, Giles,

Major Original Characters: Brad Caulfield (student), Quafongg (demon)

Summary: Something is attacking and dismembering students in Sunnydale. A little investigation shows that the victims were members of the cult of Ylisandroth scattered by Buffy in Issue # 12. A search shows of the house where Ylisandroth was summoned before shows a new summoning circle in place, and some surveillance reveals that Brad Caulfield (one of the original cult members) has been turned into a massive two horned demon and is seeking revenge on his old cult buddies. Turns out Brad tried to summon a new entity, Quafongg, but as usually happens in these sorts of things, got the bad end of the deal. Quafonng itself materializes as a fiery demon, but Buffy and crew manage to banish him by reversing the spell. Brad lives to see another day, and hopefully won't mess with demon summoning again, unless he goes with the "third time's gotta be the charm" idea.

Review: A break from the on-going Selke subplot, and an interesting choice of an issue to write a sequel to. Most of the elements are pretty basic: discover deaths, discover demon, destroy demon, deploy wisecracks, da' end. Golden writes dialogue fairly well and has fun with the larger-than-life combat scenes, so it's hard to complain. It's not Shakespeare, Whedon, or even Espenson, but it fits the four Buffy food groups. Solid artwork to boot.


* In one scene, Willow explains to Buffy that she wanted to buy a little habitrail for rat Amy but her mother said no.

* The epilogue reveals that Brad "turned himself in" and will "spend some serious time in jail" for the murders he committed while he was turned into a demon. I guess it's Sunnydale, so the cops won't wonder how he ripped his victims' arms out of their sockets?

* On the letters page, a reader requests adaptations of episodes. [Back when I first moved to Toronto and spend far too many evenings as a telemarketer (doing consumer research surveys), I used to idly daydream about writing episode adaptions and sending the scripts to Dark Horse as a way to break into comics and escape my ho-hum life, but I never got around to it before I found a better job] The editor responds to the letter that "nothing could interest me less than doing adaptations of the show and history shows that the audience feels the same way I do." Now of course, IDW, which has the rights to Angel, has been publishing episode adaptations of that series and as far as I know they've been selling pretty well . . .

* There's a fun little scene where Giles drives to the beach to find the Scoobies playing volleyball. As this picture indicates, Buffy should turn pro--looks at those ups!

Next Issue

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Torchwood: "Meat" (S2, E4)

"Imprisoned, chained, and drugged. Welcome to Planet Earth."

Meat, Season Two, Episode Four

("Rhys discovers the truth about Torchwood and joins them as they battle to save an extraordinary creature.")


* Rhys showing some initiative--secretly questioning Gwen about her whereabouts, and then following her to the alien meat plant.

* Owen's "alarm deactivator"--a bullet.

* Rhys' quick thinking when captured.

* Jack engaging in a blustery argument with Rhys and then declaring: "This is quite homoerotic."

* Jack flirting with the receptionist, full of truck-related double-entendres.


* Nothing I can pin down; just felt a little flat is all.


* At the accident site, cops are telling civilians like Rhys that Torchwood is on its way. Is Torchwood secret or not?

* Why this alien whale creature, which Owen identifies as a water dweller, seems to be doing okay chained up in a warehouse for weeks.

* The idea that this alien keeps growing and regenerating tissue, even though it doesn't sound like it's getting fed (feeding something that size would certainly cut into the operation's profits!). Where's the extra mass coming from?


* Jack walks in on Ianto holding a gun in front of a mirror and trying out catchphrases. They decide against giving Rhys a gun, and then Jack and Ianto get very flirty in a completely inappropriate-for-the-workplace but funny way.


* Concept designs for the alien whale creature. The original ideas were far more "alien", and then grew more (in my opinion) mundane over time. Although presented as a creative choice, I'm guessing the realities of budgets and CGI had more to do with it.

* Filming the warehouse scenes without the presence of an actual alien whale, and creating the CGI effects in post-production.

* A bit on Rhys, his discovering Torchwood, getting shot, etc.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sans rien ni personne [Book Review]


It's been a while since I've posted about a French book, mainly because I've been slowly slogging through Québec author Marie Laberge's 434-page Sans rien ni personne ("Without Anything or Anyone"). It's a cold case mystery novel with a decent hook: in 1972, a young woman was murdered shortly after delivering a stillborn baby. Twenty-five years later, a detective from France arrives in Québec to assist local police in solving the case. One of the themes of the book is the cultural difference between French and Québecois detectives, with the French detective chain-smoking, sleeping with witnesses, and pursuing intuitive leads, while his partner is a more by-the-book sort. Anyway, it's all for nought as this is a talky, talky book that is quite slow to develop. The detectives don't get a good lead until about halfway through the book, it turns out the killer has actually been dead for years, and the "big twist" is mostly foreseeable. Good mystery novels don't need car chases and explosions, but they do need an intriguing plot that moves forward at a decent pace.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Check This Out

My good friend and favorite back-in-the-day Tecmo Super Bowl* partner has launched a new blog, An Av in Nebraska, in which he talks about sorts of interesting things: recent books like King's Under the Dome, movies like Shutter Island, and more general topics like advice on dating single parents. Good stuff, so check it out!

* Said friend once played a season as the 49ers in which every single offensive play was a pass between Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Torchwood Online Game Mission # 9

After opening Fischer's laptop, Torchwood discovers several documents which point to a terrible truth: an alien invasion is under way! Alien DNA has been implanted into clients of the Venus Clinic by New Eden scientists. For now, the DNA is inert, but it will be activated by some sort of signal, and once activated the alien cells will take over their hosts' bodies. The goal for Mission # 9 is to find out what that activation signal is. Unfortunately, the clues for this mission aren't particularly helpful, but going over research from previous missions provides the answer. Here are the documents provided:

1) A secret memo written by New Eden's CEO, confirming that alien DNA has been implanted. Apparently, the four deaths of cosmetic surgery patients (discovered in a previous mission) occurred from failed implantation. New Eden has named their plan "Project Prometheus" and reports that activation of all carriers will take place on March 21st.

2) Notes written by Fischer about his discovery of Project: Pegasus, the March 21st "Metamorphosis" date, and his speculation that the alien cells must have arrived via meteorite.

3) A newspaper clipping reporting on a meteorite falling to Earth and being recovered by New Eden.

4) A magnified look at an "alien stem cell."

5) A letter to New Eden from university scientists complaining that New Eden hasn't made the meteorite available for outside research.

6) The usual note from Ianto reminding the investigator to listen to Dark Talk.

7) A short video by Tosh reminding the viewer that New Eden does stem cell research.

8) This week's episode of Dark Talk which is devoted to the theme of witchcraft. A psychic calls in claiming to be able to predict what will happen next to Torchwood, but she's mysteriously cut off before she can say more. A woman calls in saying she arrived at a fancy hotel only to discover all the staff dozing and a black SUV peeling off (i.e., Gwen & Rhys' big wedding).

None of this material seemed particularly promising, so I hazarded a few random guesses. The game is nice enough to give you a clue after a wrong guess, and one of the clues is "What else has New Eden been working on?" I went back to my first post on Mission # 1 and saw they've been working on ultrasonic research.

The answer for Mission # 9 is "ultrasonic".

Monday, January 10, 2011

Clone Wars Campaign: Doxen, Undetectable Sniper

Mechanically, Doxen is a masterpiece of min-max character creation. With an extraordinary ability to sneak into places and remain undetected, and an unmatchable ability to kill enemies from a distance, he was the perfect sniper. He regularly did 30 to 40 points of damage per shot, and was able to pop up, fire, and hide again before enemies could figure out where he was shooting from. He even shot down a freakin' starfighter with just his rifle!

I was a little hesitant at first to allow an Ewok into a campaign set during the Clone Wars, but the player who created Doxen did a nice job with the character background (even created the stats for a new planet, Melosia) and it seemed like a story worth exploring. I probably should have been a bit firmer and not allow the character to use modern weapons, but hindsight is 20/20. I was able to bring in Doxen's patron, Senator Orelus of Melosia, at a few points during the campaign. I was never able to fit in as much of Orelus and Melosia as I would have liked--sometimes it's hard to address a single character's background with so much happening during a campaign unless a story-arc is devoted specifically to it like I did with A'tel and the Corporate Sector.

Personality-wise, Doxen was a lot of fun: gruff, but with a deep down fondness for innocents and children. He had trouble getting along with allies he saw as weak or naive, but developed a grudging respect for those who showed themselves capable.

As the campaign reached its final stages, Doxen's player wanted to take the character in a new direction by having him begin to learn the mysteries of the Force as an Ewok shaman. Again, story wise I don't think I did as good as job with it as I would've liked, but everything turned out well; and if it wasn't for his Force powers, Doxen would never have been able to take the crucial step in the final session that saved his and everyone else's lives.


Male Ewok, Age: 23, Height: 4'10, Weight 155

Scout 5/Soldier 4/Scoundrel 2/Assassin 5

Hit Points 178

Damage Threshold: 31

Force Points: 9

Strength: 14 (+2)
Dexterity: 20 (+5)
Constitution: 16 (+3)
Intelligence: 18 (+4)
Wisdom: 12 (+1)
Charisma: 10 (+0)

Defenses (add 10 if not using house rules): Fortitude +21, Reflex +26, Will +18

Attacks: Blaster Rifle +18, d. 3d8+7

Languages: Ewokese, Basic, Bocce

Skills: Acrobatics +18, Climb +15, Deception +7, Endurance +15, Gather Info +7, Initiative +18, Jump +10, Knowledge (Life Sciences) +17, Mechanics +17, Perception +14, Persuasion +7, Pilot +13, Ride +13, Stealth +28, Survival +19, Swim +10, Treat Injury +9, Use Computer +12, Use the Force +13

Talents: Improved Stealth, Hidden Movement, Total Concealment, Devastating Attack, Dastardly Strike, Manifest Guardian Spirit, Evasion, Sniping Assassin, Sniping Marksman, Sniping Master, Guardian Spirit

Feats: Shake it Off, Weapon Proficiency (Simple), Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Sniper, Weapon Proficiency (Rifle), Skill Focus (Stealth), Skill Focus (Survival), Far Shot, Deadeye, Careful Shot, Weapon Finesse, Skill Training (Mechanics), Stand Tall, Force Sensitive, Force Training, Skill Training (Use the Force)

Force Powers: Cloak, Combusion


Doxen is one of the rarest creatures in the galaxy at this time in history as an Ewok. While the larger galaxy would not know of the existence of this race until the downfall of the Empire during the battle on the moon of Endor, there were a small number of this species who had left many years before the epic battle.

So although Doxen and his village (or at least what was left of it) had left Endor, with such a small number in the vastness of the galaxy very few met the reclusive Ewoks until after the destruction of the Death Star. The story of Doxen's village is a tragic one, the great unseen destroyer (disease) came to their village one autumn and was slowly killing the entire village. Within two months, 1/3 of the village had died and another 1/3 was fatally sick. The Ewok elders gathered and prayed to the great star god to show them a way to save their people. In the midst of their ceremony, a star fell from the sky and landed on Endor. The elders were convinced it was a sign from the sky god and that their salvation would be found at the place where the star struck the earth. They immediately began packing the entire village and by the next morning they were ready to begin their great pilgrimage. The journey was long and hard, lasting two weeks, during which 1/2 of the sick died and the remaining population began to show early signs of being touched by the unseen destroyer.

When the survivors reached the falling star they were amazed to discover that the star was a fallen piece of metal with a small number of lightly furred tall creatures (humans). When the Ewoks arrived, the creatures were under attack by some of the natural predators on Endor. Grossly out-numbered and with very few weapons, the creatures had already begun to be killed by the predators. The Ewoks still strong enough to fight attacked the predators and killed or scared them all away. Through the use of one of the metal creatures (a droid), the Ewoks were able to communicate with the star creatures. One creature claimed to be the chieftan son from a distant moon, while another claimed to be a healer. The doctor used the instruments and supplies on the ship to diagnose the disease and assist the most severe of the cases. The doctor did not have enough supplies or medicines to treat the remainder of the survivors but promised when their rescue ship arrived they would be able to provide more help.

Two days after the Ewoks arrived, a rescue ship landed to save the young noble. The noble and doctor offered to take all the surviving Ewoks with them, promising to give them the medicine that would save them--but they would have to travel into the stars to get it. The Ewoks, still believing they had been led to these star travelers by their Sky God did not hesitate to travel into the stars to be saved. They traveled to the noble's home world Melosia, where the doctor was able to cure the diseased Ewoks by using modern antibiotics. Once they were all cured and recovered, the Ewoks were given a choice: they could return to Endor or begin a new life on Melosia. The Ewoks decided to stay. The noble granted them a large piece of the royal forest right behind the palace. This served to both give the Ewoks land similar to their native planet so they could feel at home while giving the noble a large number of woodland scouts and protectors to prevent anyone from sneaking into the palace through the woods.

Doxen was one of the oldest youth at the time of the migration and therefore was the most interested in learning about the new tools and ways of their new friends. He became good friends with the noble they rescued and eventually began serving as one of his bodyguards and protectors. Doxen was one of the first ever Ewoks to be trained in the use of modern weapons. But it was his natural gift to disappear that made him an exceptional guard and protector. Doxen served his friend for many years until friend Orelus left to become a Senator. All of the Senator's bodyguards were native to his home planet, so the Ewok was left with no job. Doxen decided that instead of returning to the woods, he would travel and learn about other planets in the galaxy.

Return to Clone Wars Campaign Main Page

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fantasy Football 2010 Playoffs Round Two

Before I briefly report on the second and final round of the fantasy playoffs: Wow, wasn't Marshawn Lynch's 68 yard dash yesterday an amazing play? Definitely the most impressive, powerful game-closing TD I've ever seen in the post-season, a highlight that will be shown every time the greatest playoff upsets are talked about on T.V. After watching the Seahawks upset the Saints, I couldn't wait to watch the Jets play the Colts. But my DVR decided not to cooperate, and I missed a great game. Now I am sad, but I have learned a valuable life lesson: don't let friends and a social life interfere with live NFL football.

I got handled pretty soundly in the second round of the fantasy playoffs, losing 183-137. I actually had a four-point lead after the first week (each playoff "game" is two weeks), but in the second week only scored 51 points while my opponent scored 101. With the loss, I finished up # 4 in the 10-team league. A disappointing finish, and an interesting reversal from last season where I did much worse in the regular season but won both playoff games.

The Wife's team won in the second round of the consolation bracket, and finishes the season as the # 9 team.



QB Tom Brady: 18
RB Ahmad Bradshaw: 5
RB Peyton Hillis: 3
RB/WR LaGarrette Blount: 16
WR Danny Woodhead: 18
WR Deion Branch: 2
TE Marcedes Lewis: 3
D/ST Jets: 3
K Sebastian Janikowski: 18


QB Philip Rivers: 12
RB Michael Turner: 2
RB Michael Bush: 2
RB/WR Greg Jennings: 14
WR Pierre Garcon: 9
WR Dwayne Bowe: 21
TE Tony Gonzalez: 1
D/ST Packers: 14
K Robbie Gould: 7



QB Tom Brady: 15
RB Ahmad Bradshaw: 2
RB Peyton Hillis: 1
RB/WR LaGarrette Blount: 4
WR Danny Woodhead: -1
WR Deion Branch: 0
TE Marcedes Lewis: 6
D/ST Falcons: 17
K Sebastian Janikowski: 7


QB Philip Rivers: 10
RB Michael Turner: 10
RB Michael Bush: 22
RB/WR Greg Jennings: 9
WR Pierre Garcon: 13
WR Dwayne Bowe: 6
TE Tony Gonzalez: 11
D/ST Packers: 17
K Robbie Gould: 3

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Captain Marvel (1989 one-shot) [Comics]

This 1989 "Giant-Sized Special!" (really double-sized, at 48 pages) explains how the Monica Rambeau Captain Marvel got her powers back after they were lost during her time with the Avengers. Rambeau, one of the Marvel Universe's few New Orleans-based heroes, takes on a job as a ship captain after moving back in with her mom and dad. On her maiden cruise, said ship is attacked by Powder Keg, a generic super-villain in an ugly costume (according to the Marvel Chronology Project, he has only made one appearance in the 21 years since this, his debut). Rambeau realizes her powers have not disappeared after all and soundly thumps him by burying him in six tons of wheat (the source of the quotation that ran on top of the Bullpen Bulletins page of every Marvel comic that month). It's never really explained how/why Rambeau has powers again, or how/why they are substantially different than her original energy powers (now she can't turn intangible, but has super-strength). Anyway, it turns out the ship was attacked because a crimelord named Ramos wants to steal a create belonging to Stark Enterprises. Ramos dresses up in a stolen power-suit to mess with the new and improved Captain Marvel, and also gets soundly thumped. The end.

It's not really bad. I actually kind of liked it. Just feeling snarky, I guess.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Were my 2010 NFL Predictions Any Good? (SPOILER: No They Were Not)

Back in August, I posted about some magazines' predictions on who would win each division in the 2010 NFL season. I also posted my own predictions, on the theory that "[i]n several months we'll see whether or not the big-time magazines should have drafted me[.]" But in order to "have a little fun and distinguish my picks" I stated that I was "gambling big in the AFC West and NFC East and (even bigger) in the NFC West." So let's see how everybody did.


Sporting News: Jets
Pro Football Weekly: Patriots
Jhaeman: Patriots

Actual Winner: Patriots

Bill Belichick continues to impress. Year after year the Pats dominate the league, even with turnover in personnel and his coaching assistants becoming head coaches elsewhere. If only Belichick was the Browns head coach. Oh wait, he was.


Sporting News: Ravens
Pro Football Weekly: Ravens
Jhaeman: Steelers

Actual Winner: Steelers

Right now I look pretty smart. Don't worry, it won't last.


Sporting News: Colts
Pro Football Weekly: Colts
Jhaeman: Titans

Actual Winner: Colts

There was a point about half-way through the season where the Colts were playing dismally and the Titans were 5-2, and then the Titans imploded and Payton Manning got his act together.


Sporting News: Chargers
Pro Football Weekly: Chargers
Jhaeman: Raiders

Actual Winner: Chiefs

Nobody got this one right. I picked the Raiders on the thought that Jason Campbell would improve their passing game, which was kinda true, but not enough to overcome the surprising Chiefs. The Sporting News should get some credit for predicting the Chiefs would go 9-7, only one game off the 10-6 they actually posted.


Sporting News: Cowboys
Pro Football Weekly: Cowboys
Jhaeman: Redskins

Actual Winner: Eagles

Well, we all whiffed on this one. I for one completely failed to foresee the Donovan McNabb/Mike Shanahan conflict.


Sporting News: Vikings
Pro Football Weekly: Packers
Jhaeman: Packers

Actual Winner: Bears

Even though they won the division and have a first-round bye, I still don't think the Bears are very good. I'm stubborn that way.


Sporting News: Falcons
Pro Football Weekly: Saints
Jhaeman: Saints

Actual Winner: Falcons

The NFC South put it together in 2010, with the Falcons, Saints, and Buccaneers all winning at least 10 games each.


Sporting News: 49ers
Pro Football Weekly: 49ers
Jhaeman: Rams

Actual Winner: Seahawks

I was *this* close to having my biggest longshot prediction pay off.


As I noted back in August, there are four teams in each division so "pure random chance would result in about a 25% success rate" in picking teams. Let's see how everyone did.

Sporting News: 2/8 (Colts, Falcons): 25%

Pro Football Weekly: 2/8 (Patriots, Colts): 25%

Jhaeman: 2/8 (Patriots, Steelers): 25%

THE BOTTOM LINE: Nobody knows anything. But I know just as little as professional sportswriters do.

MISCELLANEOUS: For Super Bowl predictions, the Sporting News picked the Jets beating the Cowboys, Pro Football Weekly picked the Packers beating the Colts, and I picked the Titans playing the Packers. PFW still has a chance for validation.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Browns 2010 Year in Review

First, let's put the Browns 41-9 thumping by the Steelers in the final game of the season to one side. It was an ugly loss that was unrepresentative of the season and is inconvenient for my purposes. Thank you.

Second, despite having the same 5-11 record as in 2009, the 2010 Browns were much improved. They beat last year's Super Bowl winners (the Saints) and this year's Super Bowl favorites (the Patriots). They lost a hell of a lot of close games: by 3 to the Bucs, by 2 to the Chiefs, by 7 to the Ravens, by 6 to the Jets, by 4 to the Jaguars, by 7 to the Bills, and by 2 to the Bengals. The Browns had a lot of trouble closing out games that they were leading in during the second half, but they played hard, kept games within reach, and surprised some people. A far cry from 2009's Derek Anderson/Brady Quinn debacle!

Third, I predict the Browns will be at least 8-8 in 2011. In Peyton Hillis, they found a running back that puts fear into the hearts of opposing defenses (even if he did seem to wear down near the end of the season). In Colt McCoy, they found a surprisingly good quarterback who shows a lot of potential to keep drives alive. In other words, they finally found an identity on offense. Their draft picks from last season were solid and they'll get high draft picks again this year. And perhaps most importantly, their schedule is much kinder to them: they play each team in the weak NFC West and each team in the up-and-down AFC South.

Fourth, the Browns aren't tough enough to play a conservative, run-heavy, strong-defense style, nor do they have enough talent at the skill positions to play a pass-happy run and gun style. Mangini seemed to want to match the Steelers and Ravens physicality and the team made some strides in that direction, but still ended up far short. Then again, with Holmgren or his hand-picked favorite at head coach, I have no idea what sort of offense will be installed.

Fifth, I'm putting this sentence introducing my miscellaneous points in bold in order to be consistent with the rest of this post.

* Josh Cribbs is a great player, and was injured for much of 2010. However, special teams super-stars are not a reliable source of points and the frequently heard "get your best players the ball however you can" has never produced a lot as far as Cribbs is concerned. He's a nice asset, but the Browns need a lot more than Cribbs if they want to be successful.

* Points-wise, despite Hillis and McCoy, the Browns offense really sucked in 2010. They scored 14 points or less in eight games. Only twice did they score 24 points or more. Conservative, ball-control offenses are good if you have a great defense and can avoid making mistakes, but the Browns just aren't there yet.

* My favorite play of the season was Browns punter Reggie Hodges' fake, which led to a 68-yard scamper in the big victory over the Saints. It was like Moses parting the Red Sea of the Saints' defensive line. You should've heard me jumping up and down shouting, in complete disbelief and joy. Here it is on YouTube.

* Finally, the picture is of the massive, pizza-sized cookie The Wife got me for my birthday. Isn't she brilliant?

Guest Post: Series Review of "Alias"

Guest Post: Series Review “Alias”

The Wife here, with another Guest Post to please our Resident Blogger.

In my previous post, I mentioned the joy I take in re-watching various programs. Lately, I have been thinking of doing a re-watch of the TV series “Alias”, of which I was a huge fan. Be warned, the review below contains SPOILERS.

For those not in the know, this was a J.J. Abrams series about a young woman named Sydney who is working undercover for what she believes is a covert branch of the CIA. What she learns, after the murder of her fiancé, is that she is working for the bad guys. She turns double-agent for the real CIA and sets out to put things right.

As with many programs that I enjoy, I didn’t start out with the series from the very beginning. I actually started watching at the beginning of Season 2. I think I had heard that Sydney was going to see her presumed dead mother for the first time and I decided to tune in. I was quickly hooked.

The series had attractive people, great special effects, solid humour, lots of action and some romance. I am a girly girl. I love romance. HOWEVER – I hate “romance shows”. I could never get into Abram’s previous show “Felicity”, because I loathed the back and forth “which guy this week” drama. This is odd, considering my love of soap operas, but I like my romance in the midst of something else – mob drama, sci-fi, etc. I mean, I watched the X-Files mostly for the love story…but would have been really bored without the aliens and monsters.

Alias definitely had its faults. The show’s Mythology seemed to run away from it. Plus, Sydney was the weepiest spy I have ever seen. Girl cried at the drop of a freaking hat. Not that she didn’t have some pretty messed up sh*t happen to her, but you’d think she could at least hold it in on missions. And, the show didn’t seem to know what to do with her “regular” best friends Will and Francie as the show progressed.

The pluses, however, definitely outweighed the minuses. The stunts were amazing and the supporting cast was truly phenomenal. Dixon, Marshall, Weiss, etc were great characters and their relationships with Sydney and the others were believable. Terry O’Quinn of Lost fame played my favourite of Sydney’s CIA bosses and there were some great recurring villains/antagonists. (Anna Espinosa, Sark and one of my favourites “Creepy Asian Dentist”).

Three actors/characters made the show truly great, in my opinion.

  1. Ron Rifkin as Arvin Sloan. The man you had to love to hate. He managed to be demented, cultured, loving, creepy and awesome at the same time. Much like Lena Olin as Irina Derevko, Rifkin created a character that you could never pin down. Was he evil? Probably. Did he care about Sydney and Jack? Definitely. Should you trust him? Long-term, no way, but short-term….hmmm…it depends.
  2. Lena Olin as Irina Derevko/Laura Bristow. Ahh, Spy Mommy. Lena Olin is gorgeous and kick-ass in this role. Much like Sloane, you can never truly pin down her motivations. She definitely seems to love her family – but her obsession with Rambaldi (myth arc alert!) and his “artifacts” often pits them on the opposite sides. Still – her chemistry with Victor Garber as Jack Bristow? A thing of freaking beauty.
  3. Victor Garber as Jack Bristow, aka Spy Daddy. The highlight of the show, at least for me. Garber brought a level of intensity and coolness to his character that made it clear that he was a professional – but his weakness was his love for his baby girl. The way that love came out – in moments and hints, was lovely to watch. Jack Bristow was the man – and the audience knew it. We knew why Sloan admired him, we knew why others feared him, why Irina couldn’t “quit” him – and of course, why Sydney loved him.

In reflecting on the series as whole, I’ve come to see Alias not as Sydney’s story alone, or even the story of her love affair with Vaughn – but the story of a father and daughter finding their way back to each other. At the beginning of the series, Sydney and Jack rarely speak and are in a period of estrangement. Throughout the run of the show, Sydney slowly comes to understand that her father really did put her first in his life – despite the many hardships it cost him. They slowly develop a new relationship and discover each other as adults. By the time of the final season, when Sydney is pregnant and alone, it seems natural to watch Jack play the expectant Grandpa – helping Sydney build a crib and being there to hold her hand when she goes into labour.

If I could change one thing about Alias, it would be that fifth and final season. As I understand it, the episode order was unexpectedly cut, forcing the producers to short-circuit their plans to complete the run of the series. That shows in the writing and delivery of that last half-season. Sloan turning on Nadia, Irina’s final decisions, etc, all felt rushed and somehow off-kilter – as though part of the story was missing. I still regret that – but it doesn’t stop me from fondly remembering Alias as a whole.

To that end, some of my favourite scenes/line from Spy-Barbie’s Many Adventures:

  1. “Francie doesn’t eat coffee ice-cream”. Followed by the greatest girl-fight ever.
  2. Discussing the imposter who is posing as Sloan: “We’ve been calling him the ‘Sloan-Clone.’ Or ‘Arvin Clone.’ Or the ‘Rolling Sloans.’”
  3. Sydney realizes at the end of Season 1 just who is standing in front of her. “Mom?”
  4. Jack’s beard, at the beginning of Season 3. That thing was CRAZY!
  5. Jack and Irina falling into bed together in Season 2. Sex-ay!
  6. Irina, announcing that she (Irina) would not be the one injecting her evil sister Elena with the crazy red-eye virus. She points at Jack: “I’m going to let him do it – and he really doesn’t like you.” And Jack’s response: “I’m trying to have more fun.”
  7. The Spy Family, including Vaughn and Spy-Skipper (Nadia), jumping out of a plane at the end of Season 4. You’ve got to love family time.
  8. Almost any scene with Marshall.
  9. Jack gets an old friend, played by Richard Roundtree of Shaft fame, to join he, Sloan and Vaughn in rescuing Sydney. Love the line Roundtree’s character throws back at him. “Look who’s getting the band back together.”
  10. And ultimately, who could forget Will’s awesome line after he is tortured by Creepy Asian dentist and manages to stab the villain in the neck with the syringe he’d been threatened with only moments before. “One in five you little b*tch!”

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dungeon Crawl Classics # 45: "Malice of the Medusa" (Part 2)

See here for Part One

Our second session of the module was definitely more entertaining than the first. All five characters from the first session returned, and there was also a new character, a cleric. In order to introduce the new character, I went with the classic "the party stumbles upon a hero being attacked and decides to help him" routine. Because the group was in a snake-filled valley called "The River of Venom", I chose the weakest monster on the random encounter list: a "Tiny Viper" that had only two hit points.

And it was the toughest encounter of the session!

The viper latched on to the cleric and started draining hit points every turn, while the cleric and the other PCs just couldn't hit the damned thing (it had a decently high AC of 17). Between the fangs, poison, and accidental hits from the other characters, the cleric ended up being knocked down to negative one before someone finally hit killed the snake.

A two hit point snake!

Anyway, things went more smoothly after that. The PCs encounterd the first sizable dungeon in the module, an ancient tomb containing the sarcophagus of an ancient ruler named Shishak. To get into the tomb, the PCs used some clever magic to trick a group of evil cultists into thinking bad omens from the tomb had risen up against them. Inside, various undead creatures were soundly returned to their graves. The only problem in the dungeon was something I think is a real flaw in the module. The PCs come to a (fake) sarcophagus that contains a riddle written on it, and only by solving the riddle will a secret door open that leads to the real sarcophagus that contains the magic staff they're looking for. Here's the riddle:

"Here lies Shishak, before whom serpents in the fold quiver. His glory be unto the wise . . . but to the simple goes but everlasting damnation. No sooner spoken than broken."

Think about it for a minute before reading on.



So the players quickly hit upon the idea of trying to figure out what could be broken once spoken, and came up with an answer of "silence." They tried saying "silence", being silent, and more, but the correct way to solve the riddle according to the module is to cast the spell Silence on the sarcophagus. This would be a pretty damned hard riddle as it is, but it's even worse because none of the characters happened to have the spell Silence. And in Pathfinder (and D&D 3.5), Silence is a second level spell so no first-level characters could have had the spell to begin with, and even higher-level characters might not have the spell on their spell lists.

Fortunately, the PCs made (by taking 20) the absurdly high DC 30 check to notice the secret door and used the brute force method to break it down and find the real sarcophagus.

Anyway, a good time was had by all and hopefully sometime soon we'll manage to get together for Chapter 4: "Scorpion Rock."