Comic Review – Dredd: Underbelly

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Sometimes he will review them, with potential minor spoilers.

This week I picked up the second printing of the Dredd: Underbelly one-shot comic from 2000 AD and Rebellion. This originally came out back in January, but I was a bit slow on the uptake (and it also sold out pretty much before it even came out). Lucky for me, such high demand meant a further printing (with a very nice variant cover by Jock no less), so I grabbed it on my usual visit to the comic book shop.

Dredd: Underbelly was written by Arthur Wyatt, with art by Henry Flint, colours by Chris Blythe and letters by Ellie De Ville. This works as a sequel to the film, set at an unknown duration of time later. The story is fast paced, bringing in elements I recognise from the limited amount of old Judge Dredd I have read (slowly working my way through the Complete Casefiles collections) and mixing them into the movie universe. With parallels to illegal immigration and abuse of people in such a vulnerable position, mutants (or ‘muties’) are brought into Mega-City One from the Cursed Earth radioactive wastelands that surround the mega-city, to find work and send money back to their families, or just to escape the harsh conditions outside the city walls. These people are lied to, and effectively sold into prostitution or slavery to be worked to death producing drugs. The main thrust of the story comes from a Judge raid on the arrival of a truck load of muties, where Anderson (now a member of the Psi division) encounters a woman who has followed her son to the city and is trying to find him. The case is brought to Dredd, and a brief interaction with Anderson (along with the fact that Anderson is actually listened to as a member of the Justice Department) is the only real indication of how much time has passed “I hear your arrests are up to quota. Good.”. The rest of the one-shot follows the case through to the end.

The book is a very quick read, and at times the story feels a bit rushed. There are all sorts of interesting elements introduced, but we don’t get a huge amount of time to get to grips with much of it. I think that this is very much more an issue with the format of being a one-shot story, rather than with the writing itself which is solid and in line with the Judge Dredd we saw in the film. I feel that this could have benefited from being a 3-5 issue mini series, to make it feel more like a sequel and a complete story in itself. As it stands, it feels like an episode of a procedural cop show in its pacing and conclusion. In fact I think that a Judge Dredd series like that, with stand-alone cases (and possibly an overarching plot brewing in the background) would work really well, either as a comic book series or as a live action show. I found it impossible to read all of Dredd’s dialogue without hearing Karl Urban’s gruff tones, especially when selecting ammo (“ricochet!”). The art is dark, gritty and ugly in the best way, as it completely suits the bleakness of both the Cursed Earth and it’s denizens, and Mega-City One itself. I particularly enjoyed the double splash page near the end involving multiple Judges raiding a compound, and the representations of Olivia Thirlby and Karl Urban’s chin work well.

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I really enjoyed this comic, but it was all over too quickly for me. I’d be really interested to see an ongoing or a mini series as a sequel. If you liked the Dredd movie, or Judge Dredd in general, I would recommend this book (available in all decent comic book shops, and if it sells out again I’m sure a 3rd printing will come out). We here at TLL were pretty big fans of Dredd, and would welcome a sequel. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the film didn’t perform brilliantly at the cinema (be it bad marketing, lack of interest/laziness on the part of those interested etc.), though it has seen more success on home release. There is an official 2000 AD ongoing campaign to get a sequel made (and there is a full page advert for it inside the comic), so you should definitely sign the official ‘Make A Dredd Sequel‘ petition if you haven’t already. The campaign sounds like it is actually making some real headway with 100,000+ signed already and Judge Dredd himself Karl Urban actively pursuing it. So fingers crossed!

If you didn’t like Dredd, I recommend getting the hell off our website.

Score – 8 Judges out of 10

Review: Tom Baker’s Ultimate Sci-fi Quiz

So, I was the lucky competition winner. Last year I won Welcome to Rapture’s competition to win the truly spectacular Tom Baker’s Ultimate Sci-Fi Quiz (with a note at the bottom telling me it has a “Galaxy of Clips and Images”). Damn I felt lucky! After many months of chasing, begging and threatening they finally sent it out to me… Last week. Now is my chance to sit down and see what I think! But I won’t be selfish with this, I feel bad for having robbed the rest of the listeners of this DVD quiz, so I’ll finish rambling and get on with a review of it!

It begins with a generic looking alien race (weird how aliens can look ‘generic’ but they are the green, featureless big eyed martian type). They tell me that this quiz will push my feeble brain to the limits. I am trembling with anticipation.

I am immediately faced with a problem. There is a two player mode! Of course my girlfriend has no interest in this and think it’s a waste of time (I’ll show her!), so I think I’ll have to miss out on the opportunity to share this experience with someone else directly for now.

One player mode is go. So the aim of the game is to answer questions, apparently right answers power my ship and move me towards Earth.

Appearance wise my spaceship already looks pretty phallic. I guess my character is over compensating for something?

Tom Baker did the intro, his voice is of course pretty majestic. My ship, AKA Amy is now trying to boss me into taking the quiz. She also insults you when you answer something incorrectly. I feel my self-esteem shattering by the second.

So the gameplay revolves around answering questions within a time limit. Then a clip seems to play, one of them had dinosaurs, so that was cool.

Well the first section was Literature, other than the Jurassic Park question the only ones I got right I did through blind luck. I am way out of my depth on this one. I pretty much nailed the Crazy Science section. My favourite answer was to the question “Why does the Terminatrix have the advantage over the Terminator?” “Because she has large breasts?” Hearing Tom Baker say Large Breasts is now in my top 3 sound bits ever. I hopped around the other sections and answered what I could, each one is virtually the same as the others of course.

In the end, it seems my casual sci-fi knowledge fell just short of getting me home safely. I died just short of Earth, 2,000 lightyears (two right answers). To be fair, if I had noticed the second page of categories relating to more modern things I’ve actually watched or read then maybe I would have made it. But no, I’m just doomed to drift into nothingness forever, with Amy… sigh….

Overall, this DVD quiz was certainly an experience. It took half an hour to finish, although I don’t think I’ve still got the best out of it having not tried to two player mode. For that I’ll need a volunteer! Once I’ve found a victim we’ll give it a play through and give a second review, I’m sure you’ll all be right on the edge of your seats, brimming with excitement and anticipation until then! Overall I’ll give this a three brain slug rating.

That’s all for now! I’ll be back with more articles later!

Kit

I don’t know who these Welcome To Rapture clowns are, but they sound like jerks!

Shouting At An Abyss That Just Stares Back – Contrarian Commenters

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Adam yells about people on the internet, knowing full well the futility of it.

I am an individual pretty much consistently consumed with rage. Anger is the only basic emotion I have mastered, and I am known for my misanthropy and fury. I’ve decided to turn this into a semi regular article called ‘Shouting At An Abyss That Just Stares Back’ in which I will discuss something that has irked me particularly that comes under the umbrella of topics that The Lost Lighthouse covers, really as an outlet. I won’t as a general rule rant about every day occurrences, mainly because I live in London and really don’t have time to write a new article every time something pisses me off, which averages out about once every 37 minutes. I’ll also round off each instalment with a list of the things I’m enjoying at the moment, to end on a positive.

So the thing that has been p*****g me off this week is people that are intentionally contrary or combative in comments threads for no f*****g reason. I know comments are a wretched hive of scum and villainy at the best of times, and a shower of c***s the rest of the time, but for now I specifically mean someone who reads an article or a comment from someone else, then contradicts or points out something totally f*****g pointless for no other reason than making themselves look better or to p**s people off. I’m not just talking general internet trolls either (though I f*****g hate those time and space wasters too).

One example of what I mean was when finishing a recent game, there was a particularly great story moment that was both natural and unique in its own way, for which the developers received a fair few deserved pats on the back including from the LGBT community for the particular story elements involved. Even the majority of the comments were particularly positive for once, nothing heinously homophobic. But then some d**k starts saying how it isn’t a big deal at all saying (paraphrasing) “Oh my god, why are people praising this? This should be something that is happening everywhere already, this isn’t newsworthy”. Correct, it should be something that should be accepted. It would be great if one day we don’t need a news report about LGBT issues in games (or other media too really, gay superheroes make news headlines) highlighting the achievements of those willing to push the boundaries to include this stuff, because those boundaries will have already been pushed and this will be as acceptable and expected as anything else in the media we consume. But we aren’t there yet, so the people that get us closer to that absolutely should get the props they deserve. It just struck me as someone being contrary ostensibly just to show how much more progressive they are, so progressive in fact that they don’t even care about the issue.

Another recent example was following the very sad news of Harold Ramis passing away, on a retrospective piece looking at his career. The piece was on a relatively nerdy website, so there was a focus on Ghostbusters and his role as Egon Spengler in both the article and the comments. Then some p***k decides to intentionally rile people up/try to make themselves look more knowledgeable or insightful by pointing out that Ghostbusters wasn’t the only thing he ever did (something clearly discussed in the article) and that it wasn’t that great anyway. It being that sort of site, of course there would be an Egon focus because that is the role that meant the most to people like us. That is what people will miss the most. Being contrary and arsey about it specifically in that forum doesn’t achieve anything. I guess I don’t post opinions often enough in comments threads, but I really see it in the same way as in normal conversation. If I don’t have something positive or interesting to add to a discussion, on or offline, I just don’t f*****g say anything! Just because you don’t have to open your mouth to say something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give the same level of basic thought about what you are saying as you would if you were verbalising it

Maybe my problem is just a larger one with comment threads. They can be full of pointless little fan-boy wars that don’t hurt anyone, or they can be minefields of the most deplorable arseholes that use the anonymity of the internet and hide behind cowardly little prefaces like “I’m not (blank) but…” to be disgustingly prejudiced against people they have never and will never meet based on their gender, race, sexuality or religion. Spouting toxic s**t about any of that stuff isn’t acceptable in a group conversation, why should it be OK just because you’ve got a witty username concealing your real identity? Anyway there are much better reasons to hate someone, like their personality. Or how s**t their witty username is.

*Disclaimer – rants can and will stray off topic, and then end abruptly.*

What I’m playing – Mass Effect 3 Insanity playthrough

What I’m reading – Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre

The Last of Us: American Dreams by Neil Druckmann, Faith Erin Hicks and Rachelle Rosenberg

What I’m listening to – Altered State by Tesseract, Something Witchy (new He Is Legend track), Howlin’ Wolf: The Collection

What I’m watching – Star Trek the Next Generation Season 2

Some Motherf*****s Are Always Trying To Ice Skate Uphill

Adam takes a look back on one of his favourite action trilogies for no apparent reason.

After re-watching the Blade trilogy recently, I decided to do a very timely retrospective about why I enjoy it so much, because this website is all about bleeding edge stories and breaking news. Blade II was one of the first comic book films I saw and really responded to. My Dad and I rented it from Blockbuster (remember when that was a thing?) when I was about 14 on a weekend when my Mum was away visiting her folks, and as an 18-rated film that really reflects my Dad’s approach to parenting (he also bought me Doom II when I was about 7). We both loved it.

So I obviously watched them out of order, but I got hold of Blade very soon after so lets start there. I am of the opinion that the first Blade film has one of the best opening scenes in any film. It opens with some clueless moron being lured into a secret club which turns out to be full of vampires. The sprinklers start spraying blood all over the revellers, and their intended victim is knocked to the ground. Things are looking bad for him as he crawls through the blood, when he arrives at a pair of unblemished boots. Everyone backs off from this newcomer, as the camera pans up to the only man who has ever managed to wear sunglasses indoors without looking like a d**k. It being fairly clear that this is our titular character Blade (Wesley Snipes), we are then treated to an excellent action scene in which he dispatches half of the clubgoers with a dizzying array of fantastic weapons, including a badass sword and a throwing glaive. Even if the rest of the film was s**t it wouldn’t matter.

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We are soon introduced to several other characters, including Blade’s friend and mentor Whistler (played for some reason by country singer Kris Kristofferson) and the big bad Deacon Frost who is trying to turn himself into a vampire god. The film culminates with another pretty decent fight, with some now pretty shonky looking special effects (it was 1998 admittedly) and an excellent victory line of “Some motherf*****s are always trying to ice skate uphill”.  Everyone should check out the alternate scene in the DVD extras “La Magra”, in which Blade basically fights a blood tornado with Frost’s face occasionally poking out to taunt him. They claim it is unfinished, but I can’t think of any “finishing” that would make it not s**t.

Blade II came out in 2002, and starts off again with a great couple of scenes, one with Blade hunting down vamps to discover the whereabouts of Whistler, and another setting up the threat of the film,“Reapers”, which are a new breed of vampires who hunt other the normal kind and have faces that are a terrifying combination of the Sarlac and very aggressive female genitalia. The vampires panic and recruit Blade to help them kill the reapers for reasons, teaming him up with a squad trained to hunt him that includes Ron Perlman and Danny John Jules which is excellent. Blade also picks up a new tech sidekick played by Norman Reedus, long before he became a one man zombie killing machine. Shockingly they betray him, even though he says “You obviously… do not know… who you are F*****G WITH!”. Also somewhat predictably, the vampires plans go to s**t because they were idiotic anyway, Blade takes a swim in a pool of very thin blood and once again kicks all sorts of ass (throwing a suplex into one of the fights for good measure). The special effects are considerably better, but seem to be overused in the last fight and don’t quite look right, but it is still a fun smack down.

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Blade Trinity then came out in 2004. Despite some issues with plot holes (and a weird scene introducing a really cool weapon that is never used in the film), I saw it a couple of times in the cinema. 17 year old me thought it was a brilliant film, and to be honest 25 year old me still enjoys the hell out of it. The film opens with another hunt, with Blade getting filmed killing a human. The FBI rock up and arrest him, then he gets sprung by a group called the Nightstalkers. The only two properly fleshed out members are the ones on the posters, Jessica Biel playing Abigail Whistler (sponsored by Apple) and Ryan Reynolds playing Hannibal King. Reynolds gets a lot of flak for some of the poor films he’s been in, but he is the best part of this film (also one of the only good things in the Green Lantern film, and before the film goes to shit he plays a great Wade Wilson in X Men Origins: Wolverine). Consistently funny, has a great brawling fight with Triple H (who is not terrible in this) and he delivers with excellent venom what remains my favourite ever insult – “you c**k-juggling thunderc**t!”. The films plays out with Blade fighting Dracula (or Drake, whatever) because why not, when asked “are you ready to die?” responds with “I was born ready motherf****r”, then we get a keep fighting the good fight sort of ending. Definitely the weakest of the three, but a very easy watch.

So there are some thoughts on a trilogy that I have always had a lot of time for. They may be a bit cheesy and predictable, but they are brilliantly stylish and violent vampire flicks that were some of my favourite action films growing up, and even now I think they are incredibly fun to watch.

Don’t Bother Mate

Batman is hands down my favourite superhero, possibly my favourite character in fiction, and I’m fairly sure I’m not alone in thinking that. Most people that have met me know that. I once drunkenly gave my very patient girlfriend what can only be described as a 45 minute lecture on why Batman is so brilliant. Lucky girl.

It all started when I was very young, watching Batman the Animated Series (I still hear Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill when reading the comics). I was so taken with the show, that for a piece of early classwork that I recently dug out from around age 7 I basically state that I prefer the Dark Knight to my parents. Priorities. Then for a while I must have become more interested in something else, being a fickle child (I think it was Power Rangers), until about 10 years ago when I started getting into the comics and films in a big way.

I remember soon after Batman Begins came out, making the character credible in the cinema again, standing in line to see one of my favourite bands. The lead singer was hanging around outside chatting to people he knew behind us, including us along too, and he had just bought a book with a photo of Bale’s Batman on the front. He pointed out that Batman doesn’t really need to do anything because he looks so badass, then held up the photo in front of his own face and said “Don’t bother mate.”

I think the main appeal of the character comes from the distinction between Bats and his superhero counterparts, in that Bruce Wayne is ostensibly just a man, and yet he fights crime and often super-powered villains just as well as any big blue boy scout, Amazonian princess or power ring wielding arsehole. This is captured well in one of my favourite moments in Grant Morrison’s huge run in the comics following the events of ‘Batman R.I.P.’. He gets a priority call from the Justice League (leading up to the series ‘Final Crisis’), despite having just been buried alive, nearly drowned and forced to rely on a back-up personality he prepared in advance just in case he was mentally compromised. Just before heading out to an even worse fate, he tells the readers that ‘I’ve worked so hard to gain their respect, they sometimes forget I’m flesh and blood’.

That’s the crux of it, being mortal somehow makes being Batman an attainable thing, even though it absolutely isn’t. People (yes, I am people) like to think that if they had preposterous wealth, took a gap year or two to train to be a ninja, replaced sleep with working out and read a f**kload of Sherlock Holmes that they could be Batman. The same can’t be said about Superman, even though the characters are equally fictitious. This is of course ridiculous, but it does make the character more appealing. You would also have to be a lunatic to dress like a bat and want to be a vigilante every night and day.

DC comics have clearly realised that Batman is their main money maker. The Nolan films were hugely successful (even if the third one was a bit of a mess), and they certainly seem keen to get a new iteration on the big screen as soon as possible. It certainly helps that the main Batman title from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo is f*****g great every month, and tends to outsell most other titles on the stands. There seems to be a lot more going on this year too, being the 75th anniversary of the character’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27 way back in 1939 (just a year after Superman). That’s a hell of a long legacy for any character.

So there are some reasons why I love Batman. To the extent that I got a tattoo of the symbol 2 years ago, and have yet to regret that decision at all. Maybe someday I will stop enjoying the comics so much, and I’ll look at it and think ‘what a moron’. But I hope not, because that would be boring.

Also, the animated series completely holds up on rewatching. It is f*****g brilliant.

Adam

The Real Folk Blues

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I really struggle with lists. Desert island discs; top-fives; to-do lists; for whatever reason there is always a part of them I just can’t finish. With to-do lists I never have enough time to do everything, especially the important stuff like work or cleaning myself, so I inevitably put extra tasks on like ‘read new Justice League’ or ‘have a sandwich’ so I get some sense of achievement. Desert island discs I always think this will be dead easy. I know the bands I want, but then get stumped as to which of their albums I’d want to spend my days listening to while I cultivate my beard and yell at a volleyball.

Top fives are the worst, being too restrictive. I try to distil all of my favourite films, bands, video games, types of bacon or lengths of string into five measly choices and even then I can’t rank them. I usually just give up and say “these five, in some discernable order. No follow up questions”, failing even to decide what would top each list as it is so interchangeable. This is almost entirely true for my top five anime series of all time (I’ll save that attempt for a later post), except for that last part – I do know my number one: Cowboy Bebop.

Cowboy Bebop is a 26 episode series originally broadcast in Japan in 1998 by Sunrise, directed by Shinchirō Watanabe. Set in the year 2071, it follows a crew of bounty hunters aboard the spaceship Bebop as they take jobs around the solar system. The crew itself is a small eclectic (but still relatively standard) mix with Spike Spiegel, a former member of crime syndicate; Jet Black, an ex-detective; Faye Valentine, another bounty hunter they pick up on the way; Radical Edward, a master hacker; and Ein, a ‘data dog’. Throughout the series the characters have their back stories fleshed out always to exactly the right amount of detail, with their individual mysteries and motivations never becoming the focus of each player unless the episode calls for it. But each member of the Bebop still gets an arc that develops fully and feels genuine. It also, in my opinion, has one of those perfect endings, leaving you immensely satisfied but simultaneously wanting more.

The tone of the show can shift from quirky fun (there is an entire episode about the crew getting off their faces on mushrooms) to more serious noir-esque episodes, and it is consistently slick and stylish as hell. All the good stuff is in there too – life and death, drugs , tech cults, terrorism, people being kicked in the face, existentialism, a scene where a man uses a lift while on horseback, chess and bloody crime syndicates.  The animation still looks good 15 years on, with some great looking fight scenes and dogfights in space. It also remains one of the very few animes where I actually prefer the English dub too (the other probably being Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex), the entire cast really brings their characters to life.

Special mention definitely needs to go out to the music too, which is a brilliant mix of jazz and blues that always suits the tone and is a constant delight throughout, right up to the final confrontation. The music was arranged by Yoko Kanno and played by her along with The Seatbelts, a band basically created by Kanno for the series. It is a constant delight throughout, and the opening theme ‘Tank!’ remains one of my favourite starts to any show which I never find myself wanting to skip no matter how many times I hear it.

I really can’t express the love I have for the show. My screen name on everything from playstation network to Twitter is based on it. If you haven’t seen it, track it down on all the normal internet based retailers, or for an unnecessary mark-up if you can actually find it on the high street. The series is actually being released on Blu-ray, and I am going to have to have words with myself about whether or not buying it is a good idea (even though the boxset I already own is gorgeous). It is a great, self-contained show, and while I say it definitely should never be continued as it is perfect the way it is, I know I’m lying and would love to see more (though you can always check out the film, which is also great but with even better animation).

See you space cowboy…

Adam