Saturday, December 31, 2011

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, Vol. 1 - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, vol. 1

Despite my having spent three years working in a comic books and games store, the Yu-Gi-Oh! phenomena largely passed me by. Oh, I was familiar enough with the game in general – I certainly sold enough cards for it! But I never paid much attention to the animated series or the comic books based upon the card game. Why? Because I’ve been around long enough to know that out of all the comics and cartoons one can enjoy in this wonderful world, the worst are typically those built around a game.

Trust me. As a survivor of the dark days when Saturday mornings brought us cartoons based on Pac Man, Donkey Kong, and The Rubik’s Cube, I know of what I speak. What’s the point of these shows and comics, apart from promoting the game to those who aren’t already playing it? Wouldn’t you rather be playing a game rather than watching or reading something about somebody else playing a game?

The first volume of Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s has done little to make me rethink that generalization. Set in the not-too-distant future of the same universe as the original Yu-Gi-Oh series, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s ups the ante (no card game pun intended!) by eliminating the drab scenes of teenagers standing around and playing card games and replacing them with scenes of teenagers riding special motorcycles called Duel Runners while playing card games. This is nowhere near as exciting as you might think, even with the added mechanic of “Sense” – a variable that increases the psychic damage a duelist experiences whenever they take damage in the game. In short, the faster a duelist is moving when they attack, the more Sense they knock into their opponent. *rimshot*

Our Hero, Yusei Fudo, is a good-natured boy from the poor side of New Domino City. As the novel opens, he is competing in a friendly duel against his sidekick, Sect. Upon losing, Sect performs a ritual to summon The Skeleton Knight – a figure of urban legend who is equal parts Grim Reaper and Bloody Mary. It is said that The Skeleton Man will give rare cards to anyone who summons him after a duel.

To everyone’s surprise, The Skeleton Knight does appear but it turns out he only gives cards to winning duelists and he is ill-pleased to have been summoned by a loser like Sect. And that is just the start of an increasingly strange day, in which Yusei will risk his own soul in a duel to save Sect’s life, fight a duel against the world champion Jack Atlas, meet a girl who is an even better duelist than he is and get an invitation to an exclusive card tournament.

The script by Masahiro Hikokubo is serviceable, but does little to develop the characters past the usual stock stereotypes. Yusei is The Hero. Sect is The Bumbling Sidekick. Jack Atlas is the arrogant jerk loner who preaches that friendship makes you weak and that the strong must stand alone to win. The artwork by Masashi Sato is similarly competent but only that. If this book were a card, it would be strictly common. Yu-Gi-Oh fans will probably enjoy it but the rest of us would probably rather play the game than read about it.

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, vol. 1
by Masahiro Hikokubo
Art by Masashi Sato
ISBN: 9781421539638
Viz Media, 2009
Publisher Age Rating: T for Teen (13 )

Thursday, December 29, 2011

FAME: The Cast of Glee (unauthorized) - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: FAME: The Cast of Glee (unauthorized)

I believe there are several things I should state at the beginning of this review, in the interest of full disclosure. First, despite sharing a name with a certain popular star of stage and screen, I have no relation to “the other Matthew Morrison.” I should also note that I am not a “Gleek” – which is to say I am not a fan of the popular television series Glee. I have watched the show a few times and while the production values are good and the actors involved are obviously talented, the show is just not my cup of tea as I’ve never been a big fan of musicals. I mention this because I think it is important to note that I went into this book as a neutral party, who had no particular fondness or animosity for the TV series Glee and the actors and creative people involved in that show before I make the following statement.

FAME: The Cast of Glee is a complete failure on every level and it is easily the worst graphic novel I have read in recent memory.

Unlike previous Bluewater Productions graphic novel biographies, which featured such creative frames as Dracula telling the life story of Twilight scribe Stephenie Meyer, there is no plot to speak of in FAME: The Cast of Glee. All of our information comes from an unseen, unidentified and omniscient narrator. The book consists of a series of information dumps, which dispense random factoids on the lives of six of the actors from Glee and show-creator Ryan Murphy.

Curiously, there is quite a bit of inequity in just how the 36 pages of this graphic novel are distributed, with Chris Colfer, who plays the character of Kurt, only receiving one-and-one-half pages. I would chalk this up to his being a relative newcomer compared to many of his cast-mates, but the experienced comedian Jane Lynch only gets four pages, with one-half of one of those pages being devoted toward recreating a scene from The Forty Year Old Virgin. This seems curious to me, given that with what little I know of Glee, Kurt and Sue Sylvester are easily the two most popular characters and the two people fans of the show would like to know more about.

In terms of information, these biographies are about on par with the average biography written about a hot young star written for a juvenile or young-adult audience. One could glean the exact same information from these celebrity’s Wikipedia pages. Indeed, after a quick web search, I suspect that is exactly where writers CW Cooke and PR McCormack conducted most, if not all, of their research. I should note, however, that Wikipedia apparently has stricter guidelines for spelling and grammar than Bluewater Productions, as I found the word “lead” being used in place of the word “led” on two separate instances in FAME: The Cast of Glee.

I’m not sure what to make of the art in this book, which apparently required the efforts of an artist (Beniamino Bradi) and “Graphics” (Darren G. Davis). Apparently Bradi followed the example of his writer colleagues and turned to the Internet to find photo references for the various actors he depicts. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that – a lot of artists use photo references for their art. But many of the scenes depicted in this book appear to have been traced over from the original photo… badly. Indeed, only one thing prevents me from thinking that the art team just pulled pictures off the Internet and then used the filters in Photoshop to create their art and that is the fact that if they had done that, the artwork would look much better than it does.

FAME: The Cast of Glee (unauthorized)
by C.W. Cooke and Patrick McCormack
Art by Beniamino Bradi
ISBN: 978-145074429
Bluewater Productions, 2010
Publisher Age Rating: Kids, Teens, Adults

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Hobbit Trailer!

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Thirteen: Kick My Heels Up And SHOUT!

Me: And hello to you too.
Arngeir: Ah, my apologies, Dragonborn. I am unused to greeting visitors. Indeed, I am unused to speaking at all, save to read the prophecies of the dark times to come or to shout the Thu'ums. Why, the last time I DID speak...
Me: Yes, yes. I understand. So... you wanted to see me?
Arngeir: Indeed. We must test you - to see if you are truly a Dragonborn and then train you that you may use your fabulous powers.
Me: So... what do I do? Hold my sword over my head and shout "By The Power Of High Hrothgar?"
Arngeir: Well, you DO shout. Indeed, I sense you have already learned one of the dragon powers... The power of Unrelenting Force.
Me: I have?
Arngeir: Indeed. With that power, your voice will force the mightiest to fall before you.
Me: Awesome!
Arngeir: Indeed. Let us try it now. Simply focus your will and aim...
Me: FUS!

Arngeir: Agggh!
Me: Woah! Cool!
Arngeir: NOT THAT KIND OF SHOUTING... AHEM.... not that kind of shouting. Just... lower your voice. Please.
Me: Sorry.
Arngeir: It's okay. Now... let us go outside... where if that happens again, at least it will not be echoing off our walls.

From The Saga Of Matthias The Bather; Written by Sven

And so, after a shaky start, the Greybeards did teach Matthias how to focus his shout of force. More, they taught him how to harness the Thu'um to move like the wind and dash forward at tremendous speed. Finally, after a day of intense training, Arngeir took The Dragonborn aside.

Arngeir: Your quick mastery of a new Thu'um is... astonishing. I'd heard the stories of the abilities of Dragonborn, but to see it for myself...
Me: It's nothing. I have a lot of experience running quickly.
Running head-long into danger, no doubt.
Me: This from the woman who set off how many traps in the Felmar cave?
Uthgerd: Point taken.
Arngeir: Regardless, I believe now that you are The Dragonborn - the one the prophecies spoke of. Only one thing awaits before we can complete your training.
Me: And here it comes... the part where you ask me to kill the man who nearly destroyed your order, corrupted your teachings and even now threatens to destroy all you hold sacred... yet only I, an untested student, have any hope of defeating him when you four experienced wizards .
Arngeir: No, but that does sound like a good story. We merely require that you retrieve a horn.
A horn?
Arngeir: Retrieve the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller, our founder, from his ancient tomb in Ustengrav. Then we shall complete your training!
Me: Tomb?
Arngeir: Yes.
Me: Filled, no doubt, with some form of restless undead guardians?
Arngeir: Dozens.
Me: And no doubt probably infested with some sort of giant insectoid vermin.
Arngeir: Almost certain.
Me: Do I have a time limit on that?
Arngeir: Well, the dragons do fill the skies and boldly attack large cities. The portents bode ill. The end times are nigh and the doom of the world approaches. But, we have nothing else to do but read the prophecies and await your return...
Me: Right. Well, I'll try not to die then.
Arngeir: Good plan.

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Twelve: Top Of The World.

From The Saga Of Matthias The Bather; Written by Sven

The journey to Ivarstead was a treacherous one, filled with dangers. Bandits... necromancers... and yet another dragon lay upon the roads. But Matthias and Uthgerd did survive these dangers. Moving around the Throat of the World, they came to Darkwater Crossing - a mining camp set near a cave known as the Darkwater Pass - the fastest way to Ivarstead, it was said. Pitting his wits against the treacherous Falmer - the lost tribe of barbaric snow elves - The Bather did brave the pass, facing their poisoned arrows and the giant insects called Chaurus, which they raised as herd animals.

Me: That's it, Gerd! Just hold them off a bit until they forget I'm here and I can sneak attack them!
Me: Oooh... did the paralysis poison kick back in again? Tough break.

And so it was, after much hardship, that Matthias and Uthgerd did come to the village of Ivarstead. After a night's rest, and much prompting from Gerd (whose back was quite heavy with Felmar weapons), Matthias did search for a general store. It was then that he was to have a fateful encounter with a woman in urgent need of a hero...

Temba Wide-Arm: BEARS! BEARS! BEARS!
Temba Wide-Arm: The bears! They are always working against me!
Me: Are they?
Temba Wide-Arm: Oh yes! Mauling my workers! Destroying my trees! Stealing my pic-a-nic baskets!
Me: Uh-huh. Well, clearly you are busy with your insane rantings...
Temba Wide-Arm: Why, I'd pay anything for someone to go out and kill some of those damned bears!
Me: So, you need someone to kill those damned bears, then?
Temba Wide-Arm: Yes. Or at least deliver unto me the skins of ten bears.
Me: Right. Fear not, madam! I shall not rest until those bears are dead. Or at least shivering in the snow!

After parting ways with the mad woman and agreeing to deliver some supplies to the Greybeard temple on behalf of a local merchant, Matthias did begin the long 7,000 step pilgrimage up the side of The Throat Of The World, making the treacherous climb to High Hrothgar.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Eleven: The People In Your Neighborhood

From The Saga Of Matthias The Bather; Written by Sven

And so it was, having nearly scaled the Throat of the World on bare foot, that Matthias The Bather did return to Whiterun. It was there that The Jarl informed him of a far easier path up the other side of the mountain - a pilgrim trail leading directly to the temple of the Greybeards from the village of Ivarstead. There was some arguing about whether or not the Jarl had mentioned this path before and The Dragonborn had not been listening.

Regardless, Matthias decided to wait a while before journeying to Ivarstead, his pockets fat with the bounty of the many giants and trolls slain upon the mountain slopes. And so it was that he decided to make the acquittance of some of the peasants he was now charged with protecting and sell them his junk.

And so it was that he came to the shop of one Belethor...

Belethor: Welcome! Welcome!
Me: Hi there. I have some loot I need to sell.
Belethor: Ah, well I can give you a fair price for anything you'd like to sell. I'd even buy your family members if you had one to spare!
Me: Really?
Belethor: Well, no. Not really. I'm playing the part of the sleazy but loveable merchant who would sell his own sister to make a better deal but truly has a heart of gold.
Me: Really? Because that's just the sort of line I'd expect to hear from the head of a vast conglomerate of slavers who was playing the part of a sleazy bit loveable merchant.
Belethor: Ha! Too true. *glances around* So do you have any family members?
Me: No. I DO have a rather surly housecarl.
Me: Oh. Well, how about some dragon bones and other assorted bits of stuff?
Belethor: Oh, well I'll buy that, sure. Everything except for that stolen iron mace.
Me: That's not stolen!
Look, me lad. I've been a merchant forever. I know stolen goods when I see them.
Me: How could you possibly know that?!
Belethor: I've got a sixth sense about these things. All merchants do.
Me: So - hypothetically - even if I had stolen from a completely different village from halfway across Skyrim, you'd know it was stolen goods?
Me: So how would I get rid of stolen goods - if I had any?
Belethor: I think you'd have to go find the Thieves Guild in Riften. If you had anything like that.

And so it was that Matthias The Bather did wander about the common folk of Whiterun, listening to their troubles and agreeing to aid them as best he could. He promised to look for two missing swords, a mammoth's tusk and ran an delivery for the Jarl's personal wizard. And once his pockets were heavy with coin, he returned to the Steward of Whiterun and purchased a house for his housecarl to tend to. And so it was that Matthias The Bather and his stout companion Uthgerd the Unbroken did set forth for Ivarstead.

My next Skyrim War Journal entry was posted on

SOURCE: The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Three. Skyrim Follies

I'm afraid I haven't been entirely honest with you all. While it was true that my blogging of late has been curtailed by computer problems, internet provider problems, my need to find a new image host and some busy days at my day job, there was another reason my Skyrim War Journal was put on hold.

The main reason - and I said nothing for fear of jinxing it - was because Doctor Who & Demon Knights scribe Paul Cornell had put out a call for funny Skyrim stories and I applied.

My story of how Matthias the Bastard tried - and failed - to make his way to High Hrothgar by scaling the Throat of the World on foot... only to then be informed of the 7000 step pilgrim trail on the other side of the mountain made the cut. :)

Enjoy. I'll be posting another adventure or two before the end of the week!

Itsuwaribito, Vol. 1 - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: Itsuwaribito, Volume 1

“Someone who steals by sneaking into some place quietly without anyone knowing is called a burglar. Someone who steals by using words to trick someone is called a swindler. Someone who steals by using violence to beat someone up is called a thug. Someone who has perfected all of these… sneaking, tricking, beating, stealing… someone with this most evil, most awful occupation is called an Itsuwaribito.”

The first volume of Itsuwaribito opens with this helpful definition, though we quickly get to see several of the titular villains in action, looting and pillaging an orphanage. One of the orphans, Utshuo Azako, is a young man who swore an oath to never tell the truth ever again after he inadvertently brought about the deaths of his family by honestly answering the questions of a gang of thieves seeking a way into his house. Since then, he has devoted most of his time toward fishing and creating small bombs and poisons rather than doing his chores, much to the annoyance of “Gramps” – the monk who took Utshuo into the orphanage.

Offered a place among the gang of Itsuwaribito as they attack, Utshuo refuses to join them. Trickster though he is, he does not like the Itsuwaribito way of preying on the weak and helpless. After defeating the gang with his own lies and tricks, Utshuo makes a vow to follow the example of the monk who took him in and use his unique gifts for treachery to help at least one thousand people. As his journey begins, Utshuo tries to help (and eventually adopts) a talking tanooki he calls Pochi, who will become his closest companion.

Writer/Artist Yuuki Iinuma has come up with a winning concept here. Granted, as a life-long fan of trickster tales, my opinion may be biased and suspect, but there is much to recommend this story even if you aren’t a big fan of “heroes” who are lying, cheating, sneaking, stealing con-men. Utsuho is a truly unique character, being an earnest and open young man despite his commitment to treachery as a way of life. Ironically, the only things he is truthful about are his desire to help others and his position as an Itsuwaribito. Pochi too, is an oddity among Manga characters, being a wacky talking animal sidekick who manages not to be annoying or completely disconnected from the true action of the story. Iinuma’s artwork is fantastic too, seeming more thin-lined and elegant than the standard manga style requires.

I would recommend this series highly for older teens that may have been fans of Naruto or One Piece but are looking for something a little more sophisticated. The first volume has several graphic scenes of violence, with lots of blood and action as Utshuo pits his wits against other Itsuwaribito who favor the “thug” aspect of the occupation over stealthy and word-play. While this first volume is somewhat tame by the standards of what I usually associate with Older Teen manga, I would still plead caution, despite my own desire to read as much of this series as possible.

Itsuwaribito, Volume 1
by Yuuki Iinuma
ISBN: 978142153756
Viz Media LLC, 2010
Publisher Age Rating: T+ (16+)

New The Dark Knight Rises trailer officially released on-line.

SOURCE ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ trailer #2 officially online in HD

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Legend: The Labors Of Heracles - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: Legend: The Labors Of Heracles

I’ve always been a fan of Greek and Roman Mythology but I have never been a big fan of Hercules – a.k.a. Heracles, a.k.a. Herkales, a.k.a. Hercle. Maybe it’s because I grew up with the image of Hercules being Lou Ferrigno and most of the Hercules stories of the time being built around the image of Hercules as the quintessential jock – strong of limb and slow of wit. This was an unfair portrayal, I found out later, when I finally saw the much better movies starring Steve Reeves which were more mythological accurate. It was in these films that I first saw a Hercules who showed off a head for strategy as well as his mighty muscles.

The “Herc” of Ryan Foley’s Legend: The Labors Of Heracles falls neatly into this later mold. He is a man of action but also a man of wit and cunning. Told through the frame story of a Roman teacher speaking to her pupil as they wander the city, this volume tells us the story of Heracles – a bastard son of Zeus, born to a great destiny. Despite this, Zeus’ wife Hera was jealous of her husband’s affairs and continually sought to kill the women involved and the resulting children.

Heracles proves to be too hardy for this, strangling the snakes Hera sent to kill him as an infant. Hera bided her time, waiting until Heracles was grown and married with children of his own. Enchanted to see his family as monsters, Heracles killed them in a rage. When he recovered his wits, he wandered until he came to Delphi, where Apollo’s oracle charged him to do ten tasks for his cousin Eurystheus as penance. And so begins one of the greatest epics of all time, condensed into eighty illustrated pages.

Foley’s script is a good one, neatly conveying all of Heracles’ struggles without seeming rushed – a mind-blowing task given the space involved. Sadly, the artwork of Sankha Banerjee doesn’t hold up quite so well. Banerjee’s realistic style suits the subject matter well but it is unevenly inked, appearing far too sketchy. The coloring is also inconsistent, with Hercules hair shifting between brown and blonde at different points in the narrative. But worst of all is the lettering, which employs a number of inappropriate fonts for the “WHACK!”s and “SLASH!”s in the action scenes.

This book, like all the Campfire Graphic Novels series, is meant (and I am quoting from the Campfire Mission Statement in the front of the book) “To entertain and educate young minds…” This suggests this series is aimed at children but there is a lot of content in this volume that seems remarkably out of place in a graphic novel for elementary school students. Hercules’ Ninth Labor, for instance, makes no bones about the fact that Hercules slept with the Amazon queen Hippolyta in exchange for her girdle. While there is no nudity, I found the images of Hippolyta in a form-fitting diaphanous robe romancing Hercules to be rather risqué and the narrator notes that Heracles’ was “a virile man” when discussing what Hippolyta demanded of him. Mention is also made of the ivory bull that became the obsession of the wife of King Minos of Crete and how his queen’s display of “uncontrollable passion” for the animal gave birth to the Minotaur.

I’d advise any librarians in conservative communities to be cautious about including this book in their collections. This is all true to the original myths, of course, but there are many illustrated guides to Greek and Roman Mythology that cover the same subject matter without being quite so explicit and are equally fun to read.

Legend: The Labors Of Heracles
by Ryan Foley
Art by Sankha Banerjee
ISBN: 9789380028279
Campfire, 2010

Harry Houdini Graphic Biography - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: Harry Houdini

Harry Houdini is as much of a conundrum as his many tricks. He was an illusionist who hated dishonesty. He was a magician who didn’t believe in magic. He was, at the height of his fame, one of the most famous and beloved men in the world and yet nearly 100 years after his passing he is largely forgotten to the general public, save as the ultimate example of the “the show must go on” mentality of theater folk. All of these contradictions and more are explored in Campfire’s graphic novel biography of Harry Houdini.

Our tale is told through the perspective of two fictional characters –skeptic Dr. Buster Harper and his nephew William, an aspiring magician. We are told that Houdini and Dr. Harper cooperated on a number of efforts to “bust” phony psychics and that Houdini owed Harper a favor. Noting the increasing depression of his young nephew, Dr. Harper asks Houdini if he would take William on as an apprentice. Houdini agrees and as the final days of Houdini’s life play out, he tells William of his life, his illusions and his motivations. At the same time, Dr. Harper muses about what he knows of Houdini’s past in a series of journal entries as he ponders writing a biography of Houdini but despairs over what details should or should not be omitted for fear of embarrassing his dear friend.

The script by C.E.L. Welsh spares us little of these details. From his beginnings putting on shows for the other children in his neighborhood to the final performance he gave in defiance of a doctor’s instance that he must be hospitalized immediately, we are told every fine point of Harry Houdini’s life. I even learned a thing or two from this book, such as the suggestion that Houdini’s zeal to go after fraudulent fakirs came about not because of a skeptics’ commitment to logic and reason but because of a deep guilt that he and his wife were forced to work as mediums, conning people out of their money during the hard times before he became a household name.

Sadly, the art by Lalit Kumar Singh fails what might have been an otherwise excellent graphic novel. Singh’s attempts at photo-realistic drawing are competent enough when he is aping famous photos of Houdini but the character proportions are inconsistent and off-putting throughout. There are several pages where Harry Houdini looks less like himself and more like Flat Top from Dick Tracy! But what really makes this book an artistic failure is the lack of continuity. At one point we are treated to a depiction of Houdini’s great Milk Jug trick – a stunt where he locked himself inside a milk jug, escaped and then had the jug filled with water thus increasing the need for speed in picking the locks when he escaped a second time. And yet, in drawing this scene, Harry Houdini is depicted as soaking wet before the water is poured into the jug! Houdini may have been the greatest magician of all time but it will take more magic than even he had to make this graphic novel an acceptable purchase for any library.

Harry Houdini
by C.E.L. Welsh
Art by Lalit Kumar Singh
ISBN: 9789380028255
Campfire, 2010

DC Superheroes: Green Lantern Series - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: DC Superheoes - Green Lantern Series

In spite of my mother’s best efforts to limit my exposure to comic books as a boy, I became a superhero fan. And somehow, out of all the more popular heroes I was exposed to through the cartoons and action figures of the time, my favorite superhero was Green Lantern. Why? To this day I’m not quite sure. Maybe it was the appeal of the costume, dark green being my favorite color. Maybe it was because when the chips were down for The Superfriends and Superman was powerless it was usually Green Lantern’s Power Ring that saved the day. Or maybe even then my pre-school self admired the power of imagination and realized that of all the super powers a person could have, the ability to will into existence anything you could think of was a darn good one.

I couldn’t help but think back on this while reading a number of Green Lantern books from the new DC Super Heroes line from Stone Arch Books. Having read through four of the series so far, I can only wonder how much easier it might have been to explain just how awesome Green Lantern was to my classmates if I’d had these books back then. Each book establishes the basic concept of The Green Lanterns well enough – how they are police officers armed with rings that allow them to make their thoughts reality, appointed by the alien Guardians of the Universe and assigned a different sector of space. The Green Lantern of our sector is an Earthling named Hal Jordan – an honest and fearless (though somewhat reckless) fighter pilot for the US Air Force. It is the duty of each Green Lantern to protect their sector. Protection, in this case, is not limited toward capturing criminals and fighting vicious space beasts but also involves diplomatic duties such as settling conflicts between interplanetary governments.

One of these conflicts lies at the center of Web of Doom, in which Hal must supervise the signing of a peace treaty even as he deals with the manipulations of an agent of the fear-empowered Yellow Lanterns and then finds himself needing to make an unlikely alliance with the Yellow Lantern to put down an even greater threat. In The Light King Strikes!, Hal returns to Earth and must match wits with the fiendish Dr. Light – a super-villain whose powers allow him to absorb any energy a Green Lantern can throw at him and grow stronger as a result. In Savage Sands, Hal Jordan is dispatched to Egypt as the immortal Vandal Savage attempts to raise an army of mummies and an animated Sphinx as part of a mad scheme to take over the world. Finally, in Fear The Shark, Hal Jordan tries to enjoy a rare day off only to have his day ruined as the beast known only as The Shark goes on a rampage.

Admittedly there’s not a lot of depth to these stories but they are good for what they are – simple chapter books for beginning readers with an interest in superheroic action. These books are novels, with illustrated pages depicting the action intermingled among the text. Curiously, the text is punctuated with colorful cartoon-balloon style fonts every time there is an instance of onomatopoeia. It is strange to see all the WOOSHes and KA-POWs in the text rather than in the artwork but this is a small distraction.

The artwork by Dan Schoening is reminiscent of the Bruce Timm style of drawing, with overly broad shoulders on the men and a simple, streamlined approach in depicting everything. Every book of this series looks good though I can’t help but think it might have benefited from being rendered as a true graphic novel rather than a hybrid. Despite this, I would recommend this series to anyone who has or cares for beginning readers that have a fondness for superheroes.

DC Super Heroes – Green Lantern Series
Green Lantern: Savage Sands
Written by: J. E. Bright
Art by: Dan Schoening
ISBN (Hardcover): 9781434226198
ISBN (Softcover): 9781434234056

Green Lantern: Web of Doom
Written by: Michael Anthony Steele
Art by: Dan Schoening
ISBN (Hardcover): 9781434226211
ISBN (Softcover): 9781434234070

Green Lantern: The Light King Strikes!
Written by: Laurie S. Sutton
Art by: Dan Schoening
ISBN (Hardcover): 9781434226105
ISBN (Softcover): 9781434230836

Green Lantern: Fear The Shark
Written by: Laurie S. Sutton
Art by: Dan Schoening
ISBN (Hardcover): 9781434226204
ISBN (Softcover): 9781434234063
Stone Arch Books, 2011

The Iron Saint - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: The Iron Saint

Our story begins at the height of Prohibition on an Earth that resembles nothing less than a steampunk Chicago, with flying cars, steroids that grant superpowers and mechanical limbs commonplace. Michael Iron is a “problem-solver” for The Syndicate – one of the three rival interests fighting for control of the city. After one of his fellow gangsters double-crosses him on a debt-collection job, Iron wakes up three months later with a price on his head, a cybernetic arm and an unlikely ally– Angel, the virginal daughter of the debtor he was supposed to collect from. Together, they will have to find a way to pay Iron’s debt to The Syndicate and avenge Angel’s father, even as every bounty hunter in town starts hunting for them.

The story behind The Iron Saint is as interesting, if not so action-packed, as the story within the comic itself. Originally published in 2007 as a four-issue mini-series called Iron And The Maiden, the book was beset by troubles almost immediately as the band Iron Maiden threatened legal action over the title It was also during this time the creators at Top Cow Productions suffered the loss of a great artist and a greater friend – Michael Turner. Beloved by both his colleagues and his fans, Turner’s passing is noted by author Jason Rubin in his heart-felt introduction, where he also relays the story of the lawsuit and other details that offer a brief but fascinating look at how the comic industry functions behind the scenes. Michael Turner fans might be interested to know that the cover gallery at the end of this volume contains some of Turner’s last work before his untimely death; including the only comic cover he ever colored himself.

This cover gallery itself is worth the price of the book, boasting pieces by not just Michael Turner but artists such as Jim Lee, Chris Bachalo and Joe Madureira. Interestingly, Madureira did the initial character designs for this series and the main book art by Francis Manapul and Joel Gomez greatly resemble Madureira’s work on Battle Chasers, with lots of big men with big weapons. Most of the male characters are at least twice the size of the women and Iron looms most impressively over his Angel. But Manapul and Gomez are somewhat more grounded in reality than the more mangaesque Madureira, despite a number of characters having gravity-defying anime hair.

Fans of Film Noir and Steampunk will each find a lot to like about The Iron Saint. However, librarians would be well advised to shelve this volume in the same section where they keep Frank Miller’s Sin City books. There is one character, Mushmouth, whose manner of speech involves quite a few run-together and misspelled curse words, including the dreaded f dash dash dash word. While there is no outright nudity, there are several scenes set in a strip club, where Angel takes a job as a dancer so as to spy on The Syndicate. There’s also more than a few depictions of women wearing pasties that are close enough to topless to make this book inappropriate for most young adult graphic novel collections.

The Iron Saint
by Jason Rubin
Art by Francis Manapul, Joel Gomez and Michael Turner
ISBN: 9781607060796
Top Cow Productions, 2010

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Nine: The Quickest Way To A Man's Heart (Through His Chest, With A Dagger)

With no shops opening until dawn, I went to the one place a wanderer can always count on being open - the local pub. It was then that I was reminded of a certain mission I'd agreed to take on for a certain lady, who was looking like my best chance of getting laid.

Me: Excuse me, but are you Mikael the Bard?
Mikael: Aye, I am! Perhaps you've come to learn the bardic arts? There's a whole college up in Solitude where they teach the arts. Song. Lute-playing. Poetry.
Me: That's not why I'm here.
Mikael: Uh-oh. You have a sister?
Me: No.
Me: No.
Mikael: Wife?
Me: No.
Mikael: In my cups, did i mistake you for a woman and propose marriage?
Me: No.
Mikael: Did I propose something else?
Me: No.
Mikael: Then what do you want with me?
Me: You know a woman named Carlotta?
Mikael: I know of her.
Me: Quit trying to get into her pants. She's not amused, anymore.
Mikael: Bah. I know I can win her over!
Me: (Speech 30) No, you can't. And trying to do it over and over just makes you look desperate in front of the other wenches.
Mikael: Huh. I hadn't thought of that. Very well, I'll leave her alone. I just didn't want it to be said that there was a Nord woman alive that Mikael The Bard couldn't tame.
Me: And how many Nord women have you tamed so far?
Mikael: ... nearly one.

As I moved away from the sad, pathetic bard, I noticed a red-haired woman in full-plate watching from the next table over, chuckling at the display.

Uthgerd: Nicely done, though I would have preferred to see you bloody his face a bit, first.
Me: Well, I thought it best to save that honor for the ladies he bothered.
Ha! Well spoken. I am Uthgerd, called The Unbroken.
Me: I am called Matthias, called The Sexecutioner.
Uthgerd: Indeed. Want to hear a little Nord wisdom? You don't really know a woman til you've had a strong drink and a fistfight with her.

Me: Is that why you're here? Seeking a man who can prove your better in combat so that you can offer yourself to him as a prize?
Uthgerd: What a stupid idea! No, I'm here because those stupid Companions won't accept me.
Me: They don't want you in the Whores Guild?
Uthgerd: No! The great guild of fighters!
Me: You mean The Champions?
Uthgerd: No! They are The Companions!
Me: I'm pretty sure they are The Champions.
Uthgerd: I know damn well what groups won't take me and it is The Companions!
Me: You mean The Whore Guild?

If Uthgerd had had a strong drink or two early in the night, it certainly didn't impede her ability to fight. But I've had to fight my way out of many a bar and the day I can't win a fist fight with a half-drunk valkyrie will probably be the day I die.

Had enough?
Uthgerd: Indeed. No man has ever punched me like that. I feel a great respect for you, Matthias.
Me: This isn't going to get weird, is it, with you getting all obsessed with me, is it?
Uthgerd: No. But I would like to see how you handle a few trolls now. If you ever need a blade to serve you, I will answer your call.
Me: Well, I do have this quest I need to go on. And I don't have anyone to accompany me.
You have me, milord.
Me: Correction. I don't have anyone to accompany me who is good for something besides carrying my loot.
Uthgerd: Just let me know when and I will follow you anywhere.
Me: Awesome.

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Eight: Holding Out On A Hero

As I got back to Whiterun, I heard a great shout echo forth from the mountain tops. I couldn't quite make out the words, but it sounded something like "GET OVER HERE!" I was surprised to find the Jarl awake and on his throne when I returned to his palace.

Jarl Balgruff: So... it is true. The Greybeards have called. The Dragonborn is among us.
Me: The moose bit my sister. The cock crows at midnight. Could you please give me a straight answer as to what is going on?
Jarl Balgruff: In short, you are The Dragonborn - a prophesied hero of great bravery.
Me: Ok.
Jarl Balgruff: The Dragonborn is said to have the power to slay dragons but also to claim their powers, usually brought forth by speaking the dragon language in a series of shouts we call Thu'ums.
Me: I can do shouty magic. Got it. And the Greybeards?
Jarl Balgruff: Great wisemen, who live in the monastery at High Hrothgar. They devote their lives to studying the Thu'ums and it is said that a single word from one of them could destroy mountains. If they have called for you, it would be wise to visit them as soon as possible.
Me: Yeah, I'll get right on that. The guards said something about a reward?
Jarl Balgruff: Of course. I owe you much for slaying the dragon and defending our town. Therefore, I bestow upon you the title of Thane.
Me: What's a Thane?
Jarl Balgruff: A hero of great honor and prestige.
Me: ... that's it? I thought there might be something more... substantial, to go along with a noble title.
Jarl Balgruff: Of course! I will also give you permission to settle here in the city. Indeed, a believe a house is available for purchase right now.
Me: Purchase? As in... pay for myself?
Jarl Balgruff: Yes.
Me: I'd think... slaying a dragon and all... maybe you'd just GIVE me the house. Not that I'm not grateful, but...
Jarl Balgruff: I understand. Which is why I will also give you a housecarl.
Me: A what?
Jarl Balgruff: A servant, to watch over your house. I have already summoned them to meet you here.
Me: *mumbled* ... great.
Jarl Balgruff: What's that?
Me: I said, great. Great. Don't want to speak too loudly until I get this dragon shouting power thing under control.
Jarl Balgruff: Ah! Good thought! Wouldn't want to accidentally knock down a mountain or something onto the keep.
Me: *dead pan* No. Of course not. That would be horrible. *muttering* Stupid Jarl. Stupid housecarl without a house. Probably some stupid, moldy old bureaucrat like that Precious guy.
Woman's Voice: Excuse me...

Lydia: ... but are you Matthias The Bather, Thane of Whiterun?
Me: ... oh gods yes!
I am Lydia. The Jarl has appointed me to be your housecarl. It's an honor to serve you.
Me: ... serve me?
Lydia: Indeed, milord. Your every wish is my command.
Me: Okay. I officially take back every nasty thing I was just thinking about The Jarl. I thought he was going to give me some moldy old butler but you... you are quite the nubile little slave girl.
Lydia: Begging your pardon, milord but I am a freeborn woman.
Me: So I can't order you to dust my house wearing nothing but a dog collar and a smile?
Lydia: You have no house yet, milord.
Me: Details, details.
Lydia: But your burdens are mine to carry, milord. In all ways not involving sexual depravity, I am yours to command.
Me: ... all my burdens, you say?
Fine. I've got about 400 pounds of iron weaponry you can lug around until tomorrow morning.

Watchmen Prequels in the works.

SOURCE: We Warned You: Watchmen 2 is really happening.

My response?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Seven: Dragonborn To Run

I left the Jarl's keep as the sun was just starting to set, raining pouring down and my pack heavy with loot. I swung by the Merchant's Square to lighten my load a bit Sadly, most of the merchants had already closed up for the night, but I did have a most interesting encounter with one of the street vendors - a very attractive young lady, who was just closing up shop.

Carlotta: So, another wastrel has come to try and "score a quickie" with the single mother?
Me: Uh... no?
Carlotta: Oh, I'm sorry. It's just that so many men in this town have been proposing to me.
Me: How many of them were proposing marriage?
More than you'd think. But Mikael the Bard is the worst of the lot.
Me: Sounds like he has trouble respecting women. Perhaps if I were to have a word with him, man to man.
Carlotta: Would you do that for me?
Me: Yes. And then we can totally have a quickie!
Carlotta: Ha! That's a good joke.
Me: ... yes. Joke.

Unable to sell anything yet, I followed the trail out of town and moved after the Jarl's troops toward the West Watchtower. When we got there, the tower was aflame and a dying soldier told us that a dragon had attacked. There was a great flapping of wings and a now familiar roar as the dragon swooped down on us.

I stayed out of the way, for the most part. Hey, I'm no warrior and protecting the city isn't my job! But I did still get a few shots in as I established a line of retreat back toward Whiterun. Suddenly, as I shot one arrow at the beast as it landed before me, something miraculous happened! The dragon burst into flame as another wave of energy - like that which touched me in the ruins - washed over me. I screamed in pain, my shout emerging as a wave that shook the ground in front of me! As the flames died down, the soldiers ran up and looked at me in shock.

Whiterun Guard #1: ... Dragonborn!
Me: Huh?
Whiterun Guard #2: You! You are... Dragonborn!
Me: I am not! My mother and father were both human!
Whiterun Guard #1: No, no, no. Dragonborn are blessed by the gods! Legend tells us are chosen ones granted the power to slay dragons, claim their amazing powers and shout really loud!

Me: You have some really screwed up legends in this country.

Whiterun Guard #2: You must return to the Jarl at once! He must know that The Dragonborn now walks among us!
Me: Well, I would love to... but I had a bard I needed to go rough up because he won't stop hassling this babe I just met.
Whiterun Guard #1: You desire to defend children does you credit. Surely you are the chosen one we have awaited!
Whiterun Guard #2: Aye. I'm sure the Jarl can wait to heap honor and gifts upon him for saving our city.
Me: ... gifts?
Whiterun Guard #2: Oh yes. The Jarl is quite generous to those who defend the city from dire peril.
Me: On the other hand, I wouldn't want to insult the Big Man. Let's head back to the Jarl's hall!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Be Right Back

Due to some unexpected computer issues at home, My Geeky, Geeky Ways will be on hiatus until such time as I can freely write from home again.

I will continue to post on Twitter as time permits, as I can do that from my phone.

Thank you.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Six: Take The Money & Whiterun


The trip to Whiterun was difficult. Even with a clear road, mostly free of dangerous animals, a sudden rainstorm made my journey all the harder. But in time, I finally made it to civilization. What the great building was, I had no idea. Was it a temple? The house of a great lord? And then I saw the barrels stacked outside - barrels filled to the brim with the life-sustaining liquid I needed to survive. With my heart full of renewed hope, I struggled to open the great doors. And so it was that I saw the master of that place and I knew my prayers had been answered.

It WAS a brewery/tavern!

Refershed for my journey, I headed west, having spied a farm I hoped might be willing to feed a hungry hero. The sound of conflict filled the air as I moved on. I stopped to investigate, having time enough to see three heroes fell a frost giant.

Aela The Huntress: Well, that's taken care of. No thanks to you.
Me: It looked like you had it under control.
Aela The Huntress: Hmmph. We did. But a true warrior would always be ready to prove his worth.
Me: And who are you that I should feel the need to prove myself?
Aela The Huntress: I am Aela The Huntress - proud member of The Companions.
Me: The Champions?
Aela The Huntress: No, The Companions.
Me: *singing* Yooooou are The Champions, my fri-ENNNNNNNND!
Aela The Huntress: I am not your friend and we are not The Champions!
Me: *singing* And you'llllllll keep on fight-tin, TIL THE ENNNNNNND!
Aela The Huntress: Well, yes we will, but we are NOT The Champions!

After giving me some recruitment speech about The Champions being a local group that was routinely hired out for monster control , I moved on and headed for the gates of Whiterun proper. The guards required some convincing but I was able to convince them that I was delivering news of the dragon attacks to the Jarl. It was then I got my first look at Whiterun proper.

Me: What a festering rat-hole! You'd have to burn this place down just to condemn it!

Deciding not to waste any more time here than I had to, I made my way to what was obviously the home of the Jarl, being the biggest house on top of the highest hill behind the city walls. Night was beginning to fall as I made my way inside. I was quickly taken into the Great Hall to stand before the Jarl himself.

Jarl Balgruff The Greater: You had best bring important news to be asking for me directly, boyo.
Me: Well, that depends. Do you consider an entire Imperial outpost on your southern border being destroyed by a dragon to be important?
Jarl Balgruff The Greater: ... yes!
Me: Well, there you go then.
Jarl Balgruff The Greater: So the rumors were true! I had thought the guards at the West Tower had too much mead, but now... the dragons have returned!
Proventus Avenicci: With respect, Jarl, I do not think you can trust the words of this so-called messenger. He wears the armor of a brigand and carries himself as a wastrel.
Me: Well, with respect... sorry, who are you?
Proventus Avenicci: I am Proventus Avenicci - Imperial adviser to the Jarl!
Me: Well, with respect Pretentious...
Proventus Avenicci: Proventus!
Me: Whatever. With respect, I don't think the Jarl can trust you as you are clearly an evil vizier!
Proventus Avenicci: What?!
Jarl Balgruff The Greater: He is a piece of women's clothing?
Me: No, Jarl. He is a servant of evil, plotting treachery and wickedness! How many times have we seen this story? A lone messenger comes in bringing warnings of doom to a leader. The leader's adviser dismisses the messenger as a trouble maker, knowing full well that the danger the messenger speaks of is real as the adviser is a servant of those dark powers. And so he keeps the leader complacent, assuring him that all is well up until... *makes a throat slitting motion*
Jarl Balgruff The Greater: Hmmm... he raises a good point, Precious.
Proventus Avenicci: PROVENTUS!
Jarl Balgruff The Greater: I was joking, Proventus! Gah, you Imperials have no sense of humor. Clearly our messenger is a bard of great humor.
Me: Uh... yes! Well spotted, Jarl!

After calming down his adviser (who I'm pretty sure IS an evil vizier), the Jarl escorted me personally to speak to his court wizard, saying that he had been researching dragons and that my expertise (i.e. I had seen one and lived) might help him with his current task.

Farengar Secret-Fire: So the Jarl thinks you can be of use to me? Oh yes, he must be referring to my research into the dragons.
Me: Yep. I'm something of an expert.
Farengar Secret-Fire: In what respect?
Me: Umm... I've seen one. And I didn't die.
Farengar Secret-Fire: ... seriously? That's it?
Me: Well, it's more than anyone else has done so far!
Farengar Secret-Fire: Sadly, this is true. But I need more concrete information. But there is still a way you might help me. I just need you to fetch something.
Me: Fetch something?
Farengar Secret-Fire: Well, when I say fetch I mean "delve into a dangerous ruin full of various traps and undead abominations to all that is holy in search of an ancient stone tablet that may or may not be there at all."
Me: Ah. Adventuring.
Farengar Secret-Fire: Yes. It is in a place known as The Bleak Falls Barrow, some cubits to the southwest of here.
Me: Oh, do you mean this old stone? *pulling stone slab from backpack*

Farengar Secret-Fire: ... The Dragon Stone! How did you...?
Me: Eh, I was in the neighborhood. It looked valuable. Funny story, really.

Suddenly, a dark elf woman ran into the room. I found out later that she was Irileth - another of the Jarl's advisors, this one a war leader. It seemed that once again a dragon had been sighted near the West Tower. The Jarl asked me once more, as the man in the city who knew most about dragons, to go forth and aid them in seeking the beast out.

I agreed. But not before helping myself to the Jarl's silverware. Hey, a hero has to eat!

(EDIT NOTE: For future reference, I have no problem with being corrected on details of the game I unintentionally get wrong, such as wrongly recalling the name of a group as The Champions rather than The Companions. If nothing else, I can probably work that into a joke later on. I do, however, have serious problems with anyone who attempts to insult a person by using technical terms for mental disabilities starting with the word "r". It's just rude and disrespectful. Rant over. Thank you.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Paid For By The Skyrim Board Of Tourism.

Hullo.  I am Ralof - proud warrior of the Nords, asking you why not try a holiday in Skyrim this year?

See the lovely lakes.

And many interesting furry animals

Including the majestic moose.

A moose once bit my sister...

No really! She was carving her initials on the moose with the sharpened end of an toothbrush given to her by Svenge - her brother-in-law - a Whiterun barber...


Mynd you, moose bites Kan be pretti nasti...


Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Five: Unfinished Business


With Sven on his way, I turned to the business of looting the bodies of the hired goons, looking for valuables but also for some clue as to who had hired them.

Me: Orgnar? The barkeep?! But what did I ever do to him? Besides steal an apple that was already half-rotten! Oh, there will be a reckoning... oh yes...

But that reckoning would have to wait. For in trying to help out the local shopkeeper, I had been distracted in the cause that had brought me here in the first place - getting everything I could from a reportedly generous sister.

Me: Hail, fair maiden!
Gerdur: Hardly a maiden, but hail to you too, stranger.
Me: You are Gerdur, sister of Ralof? Your brother and I escaped from Imperial imprisonment and certain doom.
Gerdur: Yes, he's been in my home for a day now. But he spoke madness... something about a great dragon.
Me: Oh, that's no madness. A huge dragon totally destroyed the Imperial outpost.
Gerdur: Really? If this is true, you should go speak to the Jarl of this right away!
Me: The Jarl?
Gerdur: Our warchief. He rules us from the keep in Whiterun to the north. You can't miss it. Just follow the road.
Me: Ralof said that you might give me something...?
Gerdur: Yes, you are welcome to anything our home has to offer.
Me: Well, not quite what I had in mind, but that will do.
Gerdur: Also, if you seek honest work, my husband could use some help at the mill.
Me: Oh, no, no... I couldn't impose that much. I'll just take whatever I need from your home and be on my way... pressed for time and all that.
Gerdur: Well, if you come back this way you might speak to our trainer. He might be able to teach you a trick or two with that bow.
Me: Well, I might be able to spare time for a quick lesson. Who is this trainer?
Gerdur: Oh, you can't miss him. Faendal is the only elf in town.
Me: ... D'oh!

Faendal: You want to talk to me? After everything you've done?
Me: I think you have me confused with someone else.
Faendal: Oh no! Camilla was quite clear about how it was the stranger who delivered the "love letter" that got me banned from her store.
Me: To be fair, I just delivered the letter. You can't shoot the messenger.
Faendal: Bad words to be saying to an elf with a bow.
Me: Look, would it help if I said I was sorry and paid you for a lesson?
Faendal: Oh, I'll teach you a lesson alright... at the severely hiked up rate, of course.
Me: Of course.

I stopped by Gerdur's house on the way out of town and helped myself to everything I thought was reasonable for my time - i.e. everything that was not nailed down. After "harvesting" some fish from the river on the way out of town, I was on my way to Whiterun.

Small Ironies - Frank Miller and Occupy Wall Street.

SOURCE: - Anarchy

Now, I personally find the assertion that anti-American terrorists would take joy out of American citizens expressing their Constitutional right to free speech to be ludicrously ill-informed. Particularly as the main target of their protests is the corporate interests whose actions made The World Trade Center a target for those terrorists in the first place. But last I checked, this is a free country and Frank Miller is just as free to speak his mind as the Occupiers.

But I am free to speak my mind as well. As are all of my friends.

Friends like W. J. Walton of The, who noted the irony of a man who made his living in the comic book industry playing the "parent's basement' card.

Friends like Roy Buckingham of Sassycast, who noted the irony of a man who became famous writing stories about idealistic outsiders trying to fight the systematic corruption of government, big business and the military is now telling idealists to shut up, get a job or put on a uniform.

Mr. Miller, incidentally, has never served in any branch of the American Armed Forces.

And me? Well, I find it ironic that the character who Frank Miller is most famous for writing - when you get right down to it - lives in his momma's basement, doesn't have a real job and... well, I think I'll let Mr. Miller's work speak for itself.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Four: That Was Sven, This Is Now.


After breaking my fast with some fruit "procured" from the back room of The Sleeping Giant, Sven and I headed north back to the ruins.

Sven: You know, Matthias - this adventuring is turning out much more different than what I learned in the songs.
Me: How so, Sven?
Sven: Well, all the old songs spoke of brave men, facing great dangers and winning glory.
Me: And have you not fought more undead creatures today than you have friends?
Sven: Oh aye... it's just... I thought there would be more of the fighting and less of the carrying all of their heavy stuff while you keep all the gold.
Me: Ah, but I'm letting you use that big heavy sword AND that nice armor.
Sven: Well, that's true...
Me: And is valor not it's own reward? Far greater than any riches?
Sven: Well, that is what the tales say...
Me: Exactly! So by keeping all of the gold, I'm letting you reap the far greater spiritual rewards of heroism.
Sven: So... what you're saying is that by taking on more of the more tangible benefits of adventuring, you are indirectly ennobling me by forcing me to be altruistic?
Me: Yes!
Sven: Oh, well that's alright then. Say, did you hear something behind us?
Me: GAH!

With Sven's help, the rest of the dungeon proved little challenge, with his... unique talents helping even the odds in battle and my own skills in spotting and avoiding traps doing the rest. Even the odd puzzle rooms, which required rotating symbols on doors proved no challenge as we finally came to the great treasure chamber.

Sadly, there was little treasure to be had. Indeed, the only thing of note was a strange wall that - when approached with the golden claw - yielded some strange symbols glowing in an odd script. Sven did not react but I could swear I heard voices singing and an odd shouting before the light faded away. Deciding that some other thieves, long ago, must have already looted the barrow, we made our way back to town.

Sven: So that was an adventure, eh?
Me: Pretty much. Except there's usually more money or a magic sword at the end.
Sven: Well, I had hoped to fight more worthy opponents than a few rotting corpses.
Me: Well, who knows? Maybe someday you'll get a chance... hold on, I don't think I've seen them before.
Sven: Nor have I.

Hired Thug #1: Excuse me? Are you Matthias The Bastard?
Me: Who wants to know?
Hired Thug#2: Uh... we do. We're supposed to kill him.
Me: Ah. Then HE is Matthias The Bastard.
Sven: What?!
Hired Thug #1: Get him!
Me: So long, suckers!
Hired Thug #3: Wait... that weaselly one trying to run looks like the description we were given! And he just called us suckers!
Me: Oh poopie!
Hired Thug #1: Get HIM!

Me: Fast escape.... fast escape... I know! The river!

Hired Thug #1: Did you see that?
Hired Thug #2: He jumped over the bridge and went into the water!
Hired Thug #3: What?!
Hired Thug #2: Just... letting it all run over him!
Hired Thug #1: And he's still standing there! Go after him!
Hired Thug #2: What? You mean... into the water?
Hired Thug #1: Yes!
Hired Thug #2: I'm not going in there.
Hired Thug #3: Me either!
Me: Of course! Bathing! The one thing that no Nord warrior can abide!

Knowing their weakness, it was an easy matter for me to move from the shores, drawing them close before sending them running as I showed them that clean water and hygiene held no terror for me and peppered them with arrows as they ran. Curiously, they ignored Sven after that, even as he collapsed in the street after a meager half-dozen blows.

Me: On your feet, Sven.
Sven: Ouch... so that is what a real fight is like!
Me: Yes. I'm sorry for the ruse but I needed a distraction while I ran for the river.
Sven: Nah, tis fine... though you must have powerful magic indeed to survive the water.
Me: Well, you know what they say about we Bretons and magic.
Sven: Aye. Well, this was fun and all but I think I'm not cut out for this heroing business. And I do have Camilla to think of. But rest assured - I shall tell all who pass through about... what was it they called you? Matthias The Bather?
Me: ... yes. Yes, that's it exactly.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Three: There And Back Again. And Again. And Again.


And so it was, well rested the next morning, I went to the general store.

Lucan: And I say you are NOT going to the old ruins to try and get our claw back!
Camilla: But we know the bandits are up there! Who else could have stolen it? I mean, it's not like a thief just came waltzing into town!
Me: GoshwouldyoulookatthatsundialIreallymustbegoing...
Lucan: Aha! A customer! Please forgive my sister. She isn't usually so hellbent on getting herself killed.
Camilla: *blows raspberry*
Me: Yes, I heard you got robbed two nights ago?
Lucan: There's a gang of bandits hiding out in the old ruins. It must have been them that done it!
Me: Wouldn't bandits have taken everything in the store if they'd managed to get in here instead of just one valuable doodad?
Lucan: Not these bandits! They've been after my golden claw for years!
Me: Well, that is a shame. Still, if you won't go and defend your own property...
Lucan: I'd pay all the gold we have to get that claw back!
Me: ... I'll gladly go and recover it for you for exactly that much money!

Me: Say, that reminds me. You are Camilla, yes?
Camilla: Yes?
Me: That elf bastard - ah... ah...
Camilla: Faendal?
Me: Yeah! He asked me to deliver this to you.
Camilla: Oh, a letter? He's never written me a letter before!
Me: Oh, really?
Camilla: *reading letter* Oh! Why that's.... The very nerve! He calls me a round-eared strumpet who never bathes and goes on to say that he wouldn't marry me if I was the last female of any species on all of Tamriel!
Me: That elf bastard!
Camilla: Indeed! Though, this doesn't sound like Faendal...
Me: Well, many put their words differently on parchment than they do when speaking.
Camilla: Yes, but this looks nothing like his handwriting...
Me: Clearly he was in such a rage that he could barely hold the pen steady.
Camilla: It's written in crayon.
Me: Obviously he did that to suggest you were childish!
Camilla: And he signed the letter "That Elf Bastard" and then crossed it out and wrote "Faendal", Spelled F-A-Y-N-D-L-E.
Me: That's how you spell Faendal in Elvish.
Camilla: Oh! Well, you can tell that Elf Bastard that he's no longer welcome in my store!
Me: Is that what you call it?
Camilla: Well, yes. But I meant this shop.
Me: I'll be sure to pass that on next time I see him. Now, where are these ruins you were talking about?

Camilla escorted me to the edge of town and pointed out the ruins on a nearby mountain top. I snuck my way along the treacherous mountain path, surprised as the relatively cool grasslands suddenly transformed into jagged, rocky earth, covered in snow.

Most of the animals had already gone to ground. The only predators that stalked me were the humanoid kind - presumably part of the gang of bandits that had robbed the store or perhaps other random outlaws. I usually didn't like fighting my fellow thieves. But if these idiots were trying to rob people on a deserted mountain road or breaking into shops to only steal one item, I figured I owed it to the profession to cleanse the job pool.

Getting into the ruins was easy enough. I walked in on two of the bandits arguing. A bolt from the shadows silenced the first. The other fell to my sword easily enough. They had a nice camp set up, which I decided to make use of in gathering up my loot thus far - the gear I'd liberated from the bandits on the way up the mountain was already pushing me to my limit.

I made a quick trip back to town to sell what I had taken so far before returning to the tomb. I found another bandit and several giant rats but nothing too difficult for a thief of my skills. It was not until I got further into the cavern and saw large cobwebs that I began to worry. And then I heard the screams of a dark elf.

Thankfully, the giant spider that had claimed him proved unable to fit through the cavern mouth I fell back toward. The beast eventually fell to my arrows and I was able to turn my attention to the bound and webbed thief.

Arvel The Swift: Get me down from here!
Me: Hand over the claw first!
Arvel The Swift: I can't move my hands! You'll have to cut me down first!
Me: ... fine! *SLASH*
Avrel: Ha-ha! You fool! I'll never share that treasure with anyone! Let me show you why I am called Avrel The Swift!

I pulled my bow and shot an arrow after him. Swift he was but not swift enough to dodge a cloth-yard shaft through the back of the head. I searched his body and found the golden claw as well as a journal. Reading through it, I discovered why Avrel and his companions had only stolen the claw - it was the key to a great treasure in the center of the ruins!

With visions of a great vault full of gold coins I could swim through filling my head, I pressed on. Suddenly I heard a great groaning behind me. I had assumed it was just the bad cooking at the Sleeping Giant but spun around just in time to avoid the blow of a zombie clutching an ancient greatsword. Two more of the beasts joined their undead brother and it took all my skill to evade and down the monsters once and for all.

Finding myself overburdened again. I returned to town once more. I was faced with a serious problem. I could sneak past traps and decipher old scripts easily enough. But fighting the undead was not something I was trained for. In order to have a chance at winning past the last of the tomb's guardians, I was going to need a companion. A compatriot. A meatshield to stand between me and the slathering undead hordes at the very least. I mulled this problem over in The Sleeping Giant as I ran into my new best friend.

Sven: It worked! I spoke with Camilla earlier and she's much more agreeable than she was before.
Me: Well, I'm happy for you, Sven. Really.
Sven: Here's the cash I owe you! And if there's anything else I can do for you, just name it.
Me: Anything?
Sven: Anything!
Me: As luck would have it Sven, there is something I think that would benefit us both. You see, it's one thing to tell about great sagas and sing of adventure. It's another to have one of your own! So I'm thinking... maybe you should come on a quest with me. Just to get experience for your own ballads.
Sven: Really? You'd have me as a companion?
Me: Well, you're no Rose Tyler but you know which end of a sword to hold, right?
Sven: Oh yeah. I took fighting classes at Bard College.
Me: Well then... we leave at dawn!