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

Friday, August 29, 2008

War Correspondence - Casualties of War

Kirk's Top Ten Comic Book deaths list, and Joe Quesada talking about ensuring that comic book deaths are meaningful, prompted me to think back on the deaths I've seen in comics. I came up with this list:

Deceased: Scott Lang
Perpetrator: Scarlet Witch
Circumstances: The 'death' of her 'children' having driven her insane, the Scarlet Witch lashes out at the Avengers. The first death she causes is that of Ant-Man Scott Lang - who is incinerated after the witch resurrects Jack of Hearts and then causes Jack to explode.

Deceased: William Stryker
Perpetrator: Elixir
Circumstances: Stryker's Purifiers kill many of Elixir's friends and then leads an assault on the Xavier Institute. In order to stop Stryker, Elixir reverses his healing powers, and kills Stryker by giving him multiple tumors and other nasty stuff.

Deceased: Unnamed Assassin
Perpetrator: Layla Millar
Circumstances: An assassin sent to kill Richter is accosted by Layla, who had broken the taps in an upstairs bathroom the morning before, causing the bathroom floor to collapse from water damage. This allows wiring to drop down and electrocute him.

Deceased: Professor Buchanan
Perpetrator: Guido
Circumstances: Guido is sent to escort the Professor to a safe house - but halfway there Guido kills him. It is later revealed that Guido has been brainwashed into becoming a double agent for Damien Tryp.

Deceased: Damian Tryp
Perpetrator: Jamie Madrox
Circumstances: During a battle in the headquarters' of Tryp's company, Madrox's powers create a duplicate of himself which embodies his 'dark side'. The duplicate sets off a bomb, destroying the headquarters and killing himself and both versions of Tryp.

Deceased: Elijah Cross
Perpetrator: Quicksilver
Circumstances: The depowered members of X-Cell were repowered by Quicksilver. Quicksilver neglected to tell Cross how unstable his new powers are, and Cross explodes whilst using his restored powers. Fearing the same will happen to the rest of X-Cell, Abyss uses his restored powers to send himself and the others to the darkforce dimension. Their fate is unknown.

You may note the trend here. In Young X-Men, Nicky stops Rockslide from killing Pierce, saying 'X-Men don't kill. And we're X-Men.' But the evidence is contrary - X-Men do kill. I know a lot of excuses can be made for the above deaths - but excuses could have been made for Jean Grey in the Dark Phoenix Saga. And it was decided that someone with that amount of blood on her hands couldn't be excused. If you think about it, surely Elixir could have just put Stryker in a coma? Surely Layla could have used her prediction powers to organise the assassin's arrest? Do I want to read about heroes who are unable to control that part of them that says 'kill'? Do I want to read books in which the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are redeemed? Now, sure, I can understand and even accept the existence of Wolverine and X-Force, the guys who do what the other X-Men can’t. But there's a reason I decided not to buy Wolverine or X-Force. Maybe I should change my mind and buy Young X-Men. Even if the writing is not as good as the other books, at least it has a message I can agree with: Heroes don't kill.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Togs of War - Stocking the Shelves

Being kind and considerate people, Artix Entertainment agreed to switch their DragonFable release day to Wednesday this week, seeing as how I’m away for the weekend. Actually, it has something to do with them being at Dragon Con, but I'm happy as I get to play it before I go. This weeks sees Galanoth’s ice elf/dragonslayer questline being put on hold, and instead we have the return of Nythera the…er…loyal apprentice of Warlic the Blue Mage. This might actually have something to do with the dragonslayer storyline, though, as Nythera is part dragon.

Nythera needs help restocking Warlic’s shelves, as she has…er…borrowed quite a few of his reagents. So it’s off to the not-haunted-in-any-way woods to look for glowy things. Some are more glowy than others, so keep a careful eye out. There you have to pick up three to seven plants whilst fighting fairies (sylphdrakes, ribalds and those annoying self-healing minx fairies) and undead (wisps and spirits) on the left side. The fairies are on the right side of the forest and resistant to light damage, and the undead are on the left and are resistant to darkness. Fortunately I know have both doom and destiny blades, so I can switch between them as necessary. The glowing blue mushrooms are full heals, and don’t count as plants. Its scaled, but seems to give more experience than most scaled quests.

In the forest is a dragon statue holding a Dragonlord shield. The statue opens a shop containing a new set of fire weapons called the Weapons of the Amulet, available in level 10, 20, 30 and 40 versions. There’s no level 50 version. At first glance only the level 40 type is significantly more powerful than the rares from Valentine’s Day, and not even that is more powerful than the fire weapons released last week. They do, however, have a special attack called Dragon Magic! which gives you a 7% powerboost for 5 turns, and this elevates them above the competition. Plus they look awesome and match my colour scheme. Interestingly, they have a incredibly high rarity value of twelve, unlike the supposedly rare doom and destiny weapons, which have a rarity value of one.

And finally, the quest can drop one of six rings or a necklace. Most of these aren’t anything to write home about. The necklace is interesting - it gives -50 to luck and charisma so you won’t be wearing it, but it sells for a whopping 350 gold. And now, the one thing that redeems this release – the level 27 Electric Orbit ring. Not only does it give +5 to dexterity and endurance, but also +4 to critical hit! Plus it has some standard bonuses to defenses and protection against energy. The only drawback is -2 defense against water, but that’s hardly anything drastic.

Verdict: Minor Victory. The ring is awesome – but we’ve seen Nythera before, we’ve seen the forest monsters before, and the weapons weren’t as good as they were hyped up to be. We want to see ice elves, people!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Salvo! - Comics Go South

As much as I love living in South Africa, it has its downsides. I know of only one comic store in Durban, Kick Ass Komix. Fortunately they can get any comic I ask them for. Unfortunately there's not a big enough demand in SA for them to be a full time store; the owners have other jobs, so the shop is only open on Wednesday and Friday evenings, and on Sunday. Last week Wednesday Guardians, Uncanny, X-Factor, and Layla Miller all come out in the states. Which means they'll arrive here this week. Unless I'm really lucky, they'll only be in store on Friday. I won't be in Durban on Friday evening. So I may have to wait till Sunday to get them (and review them). Le sigh.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Military Intelligence - Fan Expo

So lessee...what news did the Fan Expo weekend bring us? Well, first is Chris Yost's X-Men: Kingbreaker, the next chapter in the struggle between Vulcan and the X-jammers (apparently that's what they're called now) and a lead-in to War of Kings. It will be about Vulcan, now firmly entrenched as the leader of the Shi'ar, doing what Shi'ar do best and expanding his empire, whilst spending time torturing his brother, because he is insane. This will also apparently be new-reader-friendly, of which I'm glad cause I don't have Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire or Emperor Vulcan. If War of Kings is sparked by Vulcan's expansionist policies brining him into conflict with the Inhumans, it leads to all sorts of speculation - are the Inhumans still on the moon, or have they claimed somewhere else as their home? Will War of Kings involve Earth? Is this another invasion? Would it be better if the Skrulls took over Earth, as they'd probably stand a better chance of standing up to a Shi'ar invasion fleet than us?

The first thing I thought when I saw the announcement for Hulk Family was 'Hulk and Thundra have a daughter?' My second was 'Who on earth is Thundra?' I did have a vague recollection of someone by that name appearing in a one-shot called Hulk: Raging Thunder. Once again I found that Wikipedia is your friend, and that she's from a distant future in which the Earth is ruled by women, and that the one-shot explains the existence of the daughter. I don't feel bad about not knowing about characters from strange alternate futures. I'm considering getting this book for the Scorpion story though, in which Amadeus Cho apparently uncovers evidence showing that Scorpion is in fact a member of the Hulk's family. I've been intrigued by her ever since she popped up in the middle of Doc Samson's miniseries. While it would be cool if it was revealed that she's Bruce Banner's daughter, we would be getting to the stage of asking 'Just how many kids does Banner have?' I'd like her to be Doc Samson's daughter, but just because I think a 'Doc Samson and the Spectacular Scorpion' series would be awesome.

DC revealed that there is not one, but two weekly series in the works to follow Trinity. I'm not sure whether that means they're gonna have two weekly series going at the same time, or if they're just planning really far ahead.

Geoff Johns and Ethan van Sciver 's The Flash: Rebirth starts in January. It will establish the returning Barry Allen as the 'King of the Flashes', as well as defining a purpose for each of the four Flashes. Hmm, with all the good stuff I've heard about Johns, this looks tempting.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Togs of War - This Cold is Unbearable!

Togs of War is my weekly review of the latest update to DragonFable. DragonFable is the only online RPG I allow myself to play these days, as you don't actually interact with people in it, so no one actually expects you to do stuff. Plus its creators are completely insane and are apparently attempting to rip off…everything. By the way, the image on the left is what my pet tog looks like. Its kinda a reptile version of a dog, and for some reason is my favourite creature in the game.

This week's release rips off the only good thing about The Golden Compass - armoured polar bears! In the latest part of Galinoth's quest chain, you're off to the small village of Frode which has been destroyed by ice dragons, and subsequently taken over by bears and goblins. This is one of those quests where you actually have to defeat every monster (well almost, there's a three-in-one snowball after the stairs you can duck past). The generic snowballs and frost goblins who are merely annoying, but the bears (Ursice Savages) can take out a chunk of your health if you're not careful, as it seems they have a chance to stun you on every attack.I wasn't being careful and got stunned four times in a row on lowish health…not fun. So using your own stun/distract is advisable. The quest ends with you finding a strange circular weapon called a Shimat.

This causes Galanoth to think that maybe the Ice Elf race isn't as dead as everyone think it is. Sadly you don't get to keep it, only reward the quest gives is an Ice Dragon Scale, which will presumably be used to unlock Dragonslayer skills in the future. So it’s a good storyline quest, but I doubt you'll be doing it more than once. Looks like next week we're off to some Ice Elf ruins…would be cool to meet an elf for the first time in the game. No pun intended.

Other releases include the raising of the level cap to 50 (I'm not sure if this allows you to train alchemy higher) and 24 lvl 40+ weapons in Cysero's Superstore (which cost DragonCoins, meaning you need to pay real money of you want them).
*The Oscillation staff and Frequency sword look awesome, but they're light, so Destiny weapons are better. There's no equivalent dagger.
*The Dead Wave, Dead Fathom and Dead Water are now the most powerful water weapons in the game, with a nice accuracy boost, and look awesome to boot.
*The Fusion, Fusion and Fuse are now the most powerful fire weapons in the game, and also look pretty hot.
*The Schism, Divide and Cleave are much stronger than Bork's icy weapons, and have +5 crit. The Schism and Cleave look good, but the Divide doesn’t look nearly as cool as the Icy Dagger.
*Ironwill, Endure and Adamant look good, and are the strongest metal weapons..but they're metal. Even with +4 crit and boost, I don't think they were worth Cysero trading three of his right socks for.
*Pith, Xylem and Phloem have a simple elegance that's attractive…but do you really need the best wood weapon in the game? Seriously, what's weak against wood?
*I think the Nightli weapons are the strongest wind weapon…but I don't like their sickly green colour.
*Areten, Strath and Graben have +7 crit and do a bit more stone damage than the July 4th weapons…but they just don't stand up to the awesomeness of the rare holiday weapons.

Verdict: Major Victory! Ice Elves! Stunning polar pears! Ridiculously large and powerful weapons! More levels! What more could you want?

Friday, August 22, 2008

War Correspondence - Keeping Up With the Timeline

'…in an action story more than any other kind, the more up to date the setting, the more impossible it becomes to avoid being dated after a certain number of years. … Even if one could eschew every topical allusion...one would still be betrayed by what seemed at the time to be the simple basic assumptions of timelessness.'
- Leslie Charteris, Introduction to Saints Alive, 1973

Leslie Charteris' first Saint story was published in 1928. As you can see, almost 50 years later, he was still going strong. And by 1973, Charteris had inadvertently created a bit of a paradox, in that in every story took place at the time in which he was writing it - and though the years took their toll on him, the Saint never seemed to ever get any older. At the time of writing this introduction, Charteris says that he knows of no other fictional character to whom this has happened. And I haven't been able to prove him wrong. Nowadays it is a different story - just read early issues of Fantastic Four or the X-Men, or watch all the Bond movies and you'll see the same thing.

The reason that this was such a problem for the Saint was that most of his books were collections of short stories rather than full-length novels, and (especially in the later years when they made collections of the best stories) you had the Saint struggling to get messages to people on time due to the delays in the telegraph system, and picking up a radiophone in his car in the same book. As Charteris says, you can't get around this - eventually your action hero is going to want to use the fastest way to travel or communicate - and then you're stuck. Charteris looks back on the increases in car and plane speed, asking 'How fast is fast?' That depends on what the year is. There's inflation. The tip which renders someone speechless today will be scoffed at tomorrow. There's ethics. In the time of Sherlock Holmes, 'no pure girl would visit a bachelor's pad after tea, but a shot of cocaine was merely a quaint eccentricity.'

'The Saint,' says Charteris, '...is in the awkward position of trying to straddle the gap between being a period piece and a trend for tomorrow. As any such gymnastic, he must be in danger of splitting his pants.' He considers modernising the older stories, but decides that such a job would never be finished, having to be redone every few years just to keep up, and finally concludes that perhaps any future stories would have to fill in gaps between other stories rather than taking place in the present, where the saint's 'unquenchable vitality would become increasingly implausible and eventually ludicrous.'

Can you straddle the gap without splitting your pants? I gather that this was what the original Crisis attempted to do. Keep the characters young, but put them in the present so they're contemporary and relevant. The Ultimate Universe was more successful at it - except that leave long enough and it too is will suffer from the same time malady as everything else. And, ah, Spider-Man. I won't even try to talk about him.

So what's the solution? There are many, none of them entirely satisfactory. Probably the best was freezing Captain America in ice, and bringing him out again to join the Avengers. But you can't do that again. Nick Fury and Wolverine have slow aging - one due to science, and one to genes. Give every single superhero slowed aging? It would work, but how do you go about doing that? Have a new hero take over the old hero's mantle, the old hero dying or retiring. Works fine except for fan outcry or until someone comes up with the bright idea of bringing back the old hero, and you result in the mess DC had (has?) with their legacy heroes. A modified version of this could work on the X-Men, and has to a degree, have the old heroes eventually retire and a new generation (including their children) come to the fore to replace them. (It’s hypocritical of me to suggest this when I'm not buying Genext or Spider-Girl.) And the last solution I can think of is to set all the comic books in a specific time, instead of in the perpetual present. But I don't think anyone wants that.

So, all that is left is for me to follow Charteris' advice and remember how much time these sagas cover, make allowances for the changing backgrounds, and enjoy the fun just as it is.

All quotes from Saints Alive by Leslie Charteris, published in 1974 by Hodder and Stoughton Limited, London.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Salvo! - Marvel Pocketbooks

Salvo! is a quick thought that I'll post randomly when I think of it.

I'm liking these Marvel Pocketbooks. I got Fantastic Four: The Coming of Galactus a few weeks ago, and I've just bought X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, which I've wanted to read. Marvel Pocketbooks are basically half-scale trade paperbacks. I'm not sure such small writing is good for my eyes, but they're only R79.95. (It says £3.99 on the back) I can't read it today cause I've got band practice, but I'm looking forward to reading it tomorrow. I'm just not sure that all the pocketbooks should be sitting in the 'Children's book' section…

Tomorrow Evening: Leslie Charteris on the drawbacks of the Saint's elastic timeline.

Quartermaster - Why I Buy These Comics

Quartermaster will be a monthly column that I’ll post once a month when solicitations come out on the net, explaining, if any, the changes to my pull list. November’s solicits have just come out, so I thought, for my first quartermaster post, I’d explain briefly why I’m getting each comic (and a few I’m not getting anymore, and why).


X-Factor is my version of the nostalgia book. I restarted getting comics at the end of 2005, and the first book I bought was issue one of Peter David’s new X-Factor. It’s a book I’d probably keep getting even if I wasn’t enjoying it, but thankfully I’ve enjoyed every issue so far, even though Messiah CompleX derailed the storylines for a while. The book’s recently shifted its location from New York to Detroit. The only thing I know about Detroit is that it’s in the state of Michigan. I’ve seen some pretty pictures of places in Michigan, which I’m pretty sure has more coastline along the Great Lakes than any other state, so its fine by me.

Latest previews have X-Factor investigating something called the Karma organization who seem to be involved with Darwin’s disappearance, whilst trying to fend off Val Cooper who wants X-Factor to work for the government. This sounds like a parallel to the early days of investigating Singularity whist trying to hold a separate identity from the X-Men teams, so it seems X-Factor is returning to its noir detective-agency roots, which was what made it so cool to begin with.

Uncanny X-Men
This is my paying-my-dues book. I want to know what the X-Men are doing, therefore I must buy Uncanny. Ed Brubaker’s had an up and down run. I considered dropping Uncanny after Messiah Complex, but the preview artwork by Michael Choi and colours by Sonia Oback just looked so awesome I had to get it. And after that it was issue #500, so I had to get that. I foresee this sort of trend continuing. Here’s hoping Brubaker and Fraction’s work on Uncanny is as good it was on Iron Fist. Its off to a good start with Pixie joining up.

(With X-Factor in Detroit and Uncanny moving to San Francisco, it means that I’m not getting any comics that are set in New York. Its quite refreshing.)

Missing in Action: X-Men: Legacy
I picked up Legacy because it was about Professor X. And I like Professor X. I’d also heard lots of good things about Mike Carey too. I enjoyed the first two arcs with its probe into why the Prof really started the X-Men, and why he is who he is. So why did I drop it? Cause it’s crossing over with Wolverine: Origins and I couldn’t care less about Daken or why Wolverine really joined the X-Men. Maybe afterwards I’ll pick it up again if Carey continues with the Professor X stuff, though he’s strongly hinted that he may go for a Rogue and Gambit storyline instead, so we’ll see.

Missing in Action: Young X-Men
I put Young X-Men on my pull list cause I thought it was a continuation of New X-Men. As soon as I realized it wasn’t, I took it off again. I don’t care for anyone on the line up, except possibly rockslide, who was only good playing off Mercury or Anole. None of my favourite New X-Men (Surge, X-23, Mercury, Pixie, Trance) are in this book.

Missing in Action: Thor
I love Norse Mythology. I love comics. So, on paper, I’d love the Thor comic. I really wanted to. It had its moments, like Thor splitting a plain in half in some random African country to stop a civil war with a uncrossable canyon, the Warriors Three crashing the community meeting and asking for cake. But…I just wasn’t enjoying it. I’m still not sure why. Perhaps it was because I don’t know Thor’s Marvel history well enough, or because I knew I was spending too much money on comics, or because it wasn’t a team book. So I dropped it.

Guardians of the Galaxy
This is my I get it cause I love it book. I wanted to pick up a Marvel sci-fi book, cause I’ve always been a big sci-fi fan, but I wasn’t really keen on Nova. So when Guardian’s of the Galaxy came out, I snapped it up. And it is awesome. It’s completely ridiculous if you think about it – a talking raccoon with big guns, a plant from Planet X, a telepathic Russian cosmonautdog, a guy called Major Victory - but somehow Abnett and Lanning make it work. Latest preview teases a new lineup in the aftermath of Secret Invasion, but we’ve met all of the characters in the ‘new’ lineup already and they’re all awesome (and ridiculous).


X-Men: Manifest Destiny
I put this on my pull list cause I thought it was going to be more substantial than ‘Iceman travels to San Francisco’. Its Mike Carey, and I don’t have any good Iceman stories, so I’ll keep it on the list. And there are backups by Cebulski, Young and Yost, who are all good writers.

Civil War: House of M
Magneto. Taking over the World. Prof X. Namor. Black Bolt. Bucky. House of M. I think that says it all.

Solomon Kane
This will be my first non-Marvel comic. And I’m getting it for the simplest of reasons – I love Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane stories (the few that there are). For those of you that have never heard of him, he’s one of Howard’s lesser known creations (his most well-known one being Conan), and is a Puritan who leaves Europe for various reason and goes trekking through Darkest Africa meeting nasty monsters and evil magicians along the way. I think this mini series, based on the Castle of the Devil story, takes place in Europe just before he leaves for Africa.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
While I was getting Kane from Dark Horse, I thought I’d try some Star Wars. My sister is really the Star Wars fan, but I enjoyed all the clone wars novels, so with the movie coming out (only in September here *sigh*), why not? If I decide I enjoy Star Wars comics, I think I might get Star Wars: Dark Times when it returns.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Why a blog on comics?

For a while, I've wanted to write a sort of weekly newsletter about what I've been up to and interesting thing's I've read and e-mail it to my friends, but I've never got around to it. And then I realised that most of what I read is comic books, or about them, and not all my frinds would appreciate an e-mail about comic books every week. I've been reading Kirk Warren's Weekly Crisis blog for over a year now, and I thought, well, I can do that. Maybe not as well, or with as many comics, or as soon after they come out (as getting comics in South Africa is not easy) as he does, but I can try.

Next I needed a name. I threw some ideas around, but finally settled for War of Kings for the following reasons:
1. Seeing as how I'm copying Kirk and his blog is named after a major crossover, I may as well name mine after a crossover too.
2. War of Kings involves my three favourite comic book groups: the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Inhumans, and the X-Men (ok, its the Starjammers, but still).
3. I can play around with war and war corrospondent themes to my articles.
4. Its a sufficiantly broad name I can tie to in to all sorts of other non-Marvel stuff like: the first computer game I bought was age of Empires: Age of Kings.
5. I really am looking forward to War of Kings.

So you can expect regular reviews on the comics books I collect (see my pull list to the upper right), as well as normal books, movies, tv series (if SABC happens to be showing anything worth watching) and anything else I feel like posting on. Because I can.