War of Kings is a blog dedicated to my favourite comic books, books, games and movies.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Star Trek!

Finally saw Star Trek. It was awesome. And I only call something awesome if it fills me with awe. It was, in fact, the best Star Trek movie I have ever seen. And I have seen all of them except Wrath of Khan. Kirk was awesome. Spock was awesome. Old Spock was awesome. Sulu was awesome. Chekov was awesome. McCoy and Scotty were good, but not awesome. Uhura was passable. It was nice that she had a slightly better role than 'chick who presses button so Kirk can talk to other ship', and my sister certainly enjoyed the xenolinguisitics angle. But unfortunately I still think the Uhura character is past redemption. Oh, and Captain Pike? He was awesome. It is nice, for the first time ever, to see Pike actually do cool stuff instead of hearing about how cool he was before he became wheelchair-bound. I'm not sure I can do an actual review of it that doesn't sound like fanboy gushing.

My sister loved it. She's always been more of a Star Wars fan, but she really enjoyed it. When I asked, she wouldn't say it was better than Wrath of Khan (which she has seen) or Nemesis, but she said it was up there with the best.

My dad also really liked it, and he actually watched the original tv series beck when it came out. if anyone was going to complain about them changing the way the Enterprise looked, or how they destroyed the entire Star Trek timeline, it would have been him. But he liked it.

Though Star Treek 11 is called it Star Trek without a subtitle, it is actually new name, as the first movie was called Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Which shows you how old Trek actually is. If they can make a Star Trek 12 as good as 11 was, they may be able to rescue this series.

By the way: Beam me up, Chekov.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Fantasy Twist - Dark Elves

Because May is Magic Month, I'm going to look at a couple of staple fantasy races that the Warcraft franchise, especially Warcraft 3, managed to twist in a new direction. I'm afraid I'm not a fan of the online game World of Warcraft, having played Iron Realm MUDs like Achaea and Lusternia combined with a vivid imagination means that I find WoW boring. But I did enjoy the strategy games and books. So, first up, elves.

I already mentioned in my review of Lorwyn that Magic: the Gathering took elves back to their roots by portraying them as dangerous creatures who are likely to kill you on sight. But on further thought I realised that this isn't as unique as I thought. There is a version of elves like this that has become a fantasy staple - dark elves. Sometimes they are called drow. Their exact nature differs from place to place, but they are generally blue- or purple-skinned and evil. In fact, the makers of Warcraft 3 decided that they were such a fantasy staple that they could twist the entire concept and surprise the players of the game.

If you play through the campaign, your first encounter with Warcraft's dark elves happens whilst leading Grom Hellscream's orcish clan, the Warsong, into Ashenvale Forest. Due to Hellscream's insubordination and battlelust, Warchief Thrall has sent him and his clan to collect lumber to build a large warcamp. As soon as you enter the firest, some of the orcs get nervous and complain that it feels like they're being watched. This should be an indicator that something is badly wrong - these are orcs. They do not jump at shadows. But Hellscream laughs it off and tells them to get back to work. Do not believe him. Build up your defenses. Build a second base. Or you will, like I did, get annihilated by the dark elves.

If you carry on, you will manage to defeat the dark elves, who are called night elves, and kill their leader, the demigod Cenarius. But then comes the night elf campaign. As you continue playing them you discover that they are not, in fact evil. After all, when you were playing orcs, you did try to cut down their forest. What did you think they would do? And as you carry on, you realise that the night elves are not only nice people, but that they defeated the Burning Legion thousands of years ago. In fact, they are probably the only people who can stop them this time. Except, you killed their demigod. Oops.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Book Review: Lorwyn

Lorwyn (Book one of the Lorwyn cycle) by Cory J. Henderson and Scott McGough

Reece is a rather popular name in South Africa. Most people spell it the way I just have. In fact, I know only one person who spells it the old way - Rhys. Why am I telling you this? Because an elf named Rhys is the main character in Lorwyn, and in my experience, when most people see 'Rhys' they don't know what to dow ith it. Perhaps that is why so many people use the new age spelling.
We all know what elves are. Professor Tolkien told us, and we all believed him. But his version of elves is not quite what the ancient Teutons and Celts believed in. Sure elves were elegant, beautiful beings. But they were also capricious and fickle. They were often selfish. And sometimes they were downright murderous. The came from the otherworld, and our rules and morals did not apply to them. This is the inspiration for the elves of Lorwyn. And the faeries (fey, by the way, means the same thing as capricious). And, to a lesser degree, the boggarts, who here are a species of goblin.

But there is another difference. The elves in Lorwyn have hooves and horns. Yes, they look like fauns. Think Mr Tumnus from Narnia.

And the final piece of the puzzle is the obsession of todays society with evolutio. survival of the fittest. Lorwyn is all about survival of the fittest, with one difference. The elves decide who is fit to survive. Yes, the capricious, fickle elves. And you think your government is opressive.

So, cool setting. The characters are cool too. There's even a cool overarching storyline about why the world never has night (which I assumed is resolved in the third book, Eventide). but what about this book? Well, it doesn't quite live up to expectations. I'm beginning to suspect this is a trend in Magic books - cool setting, characters and storyline, but the book doesn't quite live up to the rest of it.

Don't get me wrong, I really really enjoyed the book, and Rhys and Ashling, the other major character, are written well. I love how the flavour of Welsh mythology shines through. But it meanders a bit in the middle, as if they're treading water, trying to streach out a one- or two-book storyline into a trilogy. And so many mysteries are set up, but not one of them is resolved here. Sure, I'm all for keeping secrets for the next book, but Lorwyn treads dangerously close to incomprehensiblity, which I'm certain will scare people off. It's good, but it has the potential to be so much better.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Where did all the columns go?

By now I'm sure you have noticed my new header and colour scheme. This marks a new direction for my blog. Actually its not a new direction, its more of a formalisation of the direction I'm going already going in.

When I started this blog I had the idea that I would do regular columns. That is a pipe dream - partly because the method in which I obtain comics means that thier arrival is highly erratic, and partly because I am highly erratic. Its just the way I am. So no more columns. And no more fancy warlike titles of posts. Whilst fun, it is difficult for me to kee the names both clever and consistant, so from now on my posts will be titled according to what they are about. if it is, for example, a review of the movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it will be titled Movie Review - X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

So these are the kind of posts I will be making in no specific oder or time schedule:

Comic Book Reviews - See the list on the right for the comics I am buying. Marvel has recently upped the price of many of these comics - but the Rand/Dollar excange rate is the best it has been in the while, so I'm not sure if I'll have to drop any or not.
Book Reviews - I've been pretty bad with this, having read a lot of books recently, but not having reviewed any. I hope to do some of these.
Movie Reviews - I don't watch a lot of movies, but ever so often a whole slew of ones I want to watch come out. I saw Wolverine and Fireproof last week, I'm hoping to see Coraline (in 3D) this week, and I'll be watching Star Trek (does it really not have a subtitle or number?) sometime on the weekend. My sister wants me to watch Angels and Demons with her when it comes out, but I'm not too sure about it.
Magic: the Gathering - Not too sure if i'll do anything about my latest addiction. I have an idea though, I'll see how it pans out.
DotA Allstars - I'll write reviews when important updates occur to DotA, though at the moment i only get to play against AI.
Op/Ed - ever so often i'll feel like saying something about an issue or topic. I belive this is what you call those.
Theme Months - Also ever so often I'll do a theme moth where most of the posts for that month will have to do with a central theme or topic. May is Magic Month. No, not just the game. I'm writing a review of Warcraft: the Last Guardian by Jeff Grubb, which I finally got around to reading, and which features Medivh, the most powerful sorcerer Azeroth has ever seen. I'm also going to write an Op/Ed on the portrayal of magic as a corruptive force, which Warcraft has always done rather well.

So thats it for now.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Movie Review - X-Men Origins: Wolverine

No new comics yet, but I did get to see Wolverine on Monday evening with two friends who don't read comics. MAJOR SPOILER WARNING, but you've already seen the movie, right?

I have to start by admitting that I enjoyed all three of the X-Men movies. I'm not so worried about them changing stuff - the way I see it, there are already a number of alternate universes in the comics, so this is nothing more than another one. Besides, I've never been a big fan of Wolverine, so when they change stuff about him, it doesn't affect me.

I really enjoyed Wolverine too. In fact, I would go as far as saying it does a better job with Wolverine's origins than the comics do. No Romulus conspiricy here.

I have two major complaints. One is about the part where Gambit attacks Wolverine, whist Wolverine is fighting Creed, thus allowing Creed to escape. Surely Gambit knows who Creed is? They hint as much when Wolverine mentions him and Gambit stops dealing cards for a moment. I don't know much about Gambit, but I'm assuming he has a decent amount of intelligence. The second is that Wade is killed (or at least incapacitated) off screen. After his scene in africa, I don't buy that anyone could take him down.

So...I'll do this character by character

Hugh Jackman is still good as Wolverine. I don't know what more I can really say. I really liked how the ethos of "I'm good at killing people, but that doesn't mean I like it" came through. (If you've read my bog at all you will know I have issues with superheroes killing people.)

Liev Shreiber does a really good job of showing us a Victor Creed who is one step away from being an animal. I generally dislike it when thay change actors for a character, but towards the end Shreiber really looked as if a few more years would easily turn him into Tyler Mane (though I'm not quite sure if Creed is meant to be the Sabretooth in X2). Initially I was going to say I would have preferred it if the fight against Weapon XI had been a team-up withh Gambit instead of Creed, but I've changed my mind. Their teamwork was a good moment that reflected the intro sequence (wars through time) and showed that they were still brothers. Oh -the brother thing. As far as I know Sabretooth was always meant to be Logan's brother in the comics, but at the last moment they changed it, deciding that would be too corny. I think that was a mistake. Regardless, we knew from the beginning of the movie that they were brothers, so there was never any question of having a corny reaveal.

I didn't like Danny Hudson's Stryker, but I think that was due to my dislike of actor-changing rather than any fault of the actors.

Daniel Henney's Agent Zero was pure badass, and even his subservience to Stryker added more to the character than it took away. Zero was awesome.

will.i.am's John Wraith seemed incongrous at first - because he was the only black member of the team, and he wore a cowboy hat. And he didn't do much in the scences of the team fighting. But the fact that he decided to go with Wolverine to confront Gambit, and his short but cool battle with Creed won me over, and I was actually sad he died.

I was worried about Freddie Dukes being in the movie, as I was worried they'd play him a a comic character rather than the very credible threat he actually is (really, he is). It threw me when he first appeared, as he was not fat. An un-fat Blob? But I think it was a good idea to only make him fat later in the movie. Make tank blow itself up? Check. Blob is dangerous.

Taylor Kitch's Gambit was really good too. I got a kick out of the fact that if you go back to X2 and watch the scene where Mystique hacks into Stryker's files in the island facility, the name Remy LeBeau pops up, so his presence here makes a lot of sense. I just wish they had found something better for his second appearence than saving Wolverine from being crushed. Being crushed is not a credible threat to Wolverine, so this moment was not as good as it could have been. I am beginning to see why people like Gambit. But I still don't like Rogue.

I didn't think Ryan Reynolds was a good choice for Deadpool - until I watched the movie and saw him play him so well. Deadpool was awesome - until they made him into the X-Men Super-Skrull. The Weapon XI fight was good, but I hope they will be able to return him more to his original form in the Deadpool movie.

The wierd thing is that my three favourite scenes in the movie have nothing to do with the main storyline - Cyclops blasting through multiple floors of his school, Emma turning to diamond, and the Prof rocking up to rescue the kids. Yeah - not a Wolverine fan.

The female member of our group said the ending was so sad. Well, I must say I was expecting it. This is the drawback of sequels - I expected Silverfox to die, and Logan to loose his memories. Thats why the twist reveal of Silverfox being alive was so unexpected, and so good. Though, I knew she would have to die again when she told Logan she loved him the whole time.

Verdict: if you're not a major Wolverine fan, but you like comics, go watch it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

War Correspondence: Retracing the Steps

Today's post is about me, and what I have been up to recently. Because, if I am starved of my comics, I must turn elsewhere for entertainment, right? And I couldn’t go to Yu-Gi-Oh, as I have stopped playing it since the contract for Europe and the USA (and cause we get our stuff from one of those two places, South Africa) was ripped away from Upper Deck Entertainment. That is not the only reason I stopped playing, but it is a big part of it. Sure, if one of my friends pops over with a deck, I'll play against them, but I'm not buying any more cards. But despite all my good intentions, the universe wasn't going to let me escape from card games. Oh no.

About halfway through last year I bought (on impulse) the Duel Decks:Elves vs Goblins set from Magic: the Gathering. Unfortunately, I discovered that it was not beginner-friendly. And I couldn't pop around to the nearest Friday Night Magic event, because we don't have that in South Africa. And besides, I help out with Junior Youth at the church on Fridays (that is relavent, as you will see later). So the elves and goblins sat in my cupboard for a couple of months.

On my last visit to the Stable's Market, former home of Kick Ass Komix, I found an old tattered copy of a book calle Saviours of Kamigawa. It had fox-people in it. At one stage, the main character in the book I am writing, was a were-fox. So I bought the book for R10, mainly for research purposes, as I knew little about Japanese mythical fox-people, or how they are portrayed in modern fantasy novels. I then discovered that it was a novel set in the world (or rather, multiverse) of Magic: the Gathering. Imagine my surprise. They wrote books set in the worlds the cards came from? The books were good?

I had looked at the cards that I had bought, of course, and couldn't help noticing that many of the elves had horns (pretty deer or antler horns, that is, rather than the other kind). I eventually discovered that many of the elf cards came from a world called Lorwyn, based on Welsh Mythology. I also discovered that there were books about Lorwyn. So I ordered them from the nearest bookshop. After all, if I was stealing so extensively from Welsh mythology for my book, surely I would find these books useful. After all, I'm already stealing ideas from many other books I've read. (Though, hopefully, I'm doing it in a way that won't have people suing me.)

And then one of the other guys who helps at Junior Youth rocked up wearing a Lorwyn T-Shirt. I discovered he was a judge, and suddenly I've found myself meeting at Westville Library every Saturday to play Magic with a group of other guys (including guys I knew from the comic shop). And I'm actually enjoying it, so much so that I'm waiting eagerly for the novel Alara Unbroken (by Doug Beyer) to be published.

Apparently, some people play Magic to win. Others play it for many different reasons. Me, I like the stories. I've always been addicted to stories with a sci-fi or fantasy bent. I now read and enjoy Doug Beyer's weekly column about the stories of Magic (and how fantasy stories are written in general) . I even wrote him an e-mail in which I disagreed with him on how one of the lesser game mechanics (called retrace) should be seen. I knew it was presumptuous of me, having only played the game for a short time, and expected either no reply, or one explaining how I was wrong. So, imagine may surprise again, when he published the entire (rather lengthy) email in its entirety at the end of his column this week, and said he enjoyed it. So I'm gonna do a shameless self-plug and provide the link to it here.

So where to from here? I'll try to do a Quartermaster with the rest of Marvel's solicits soon. If I have time, I'd like to post some reviews of a number of novels I've read recently (I haven't only been playing and reading Magic). And I shall reveal a bit of stuff about my book. In fact, I shall go write something about why elven knights ride cats. I do not know if anyone cares, but I shall do it anyway.