I awake as if from a dream – One Year On

I wrote this as a little tribute from me to the Wonderful Dark Souls video game.  I had been avoiding it and its precursor Demons Souls as I no longer have the same amount of time to play video games any more.  So I prefer smaller, easier games so that I can enjoy myself and feel I am progressing.  The idea that I would play a game that relentlessly punishes you time and time again, seemed alien to me.

However I am also affected by what is happening around me.  So many positive reviews and articles about Dark Souls made me think “What if I’m wrong?”  Then one day I say it on Ebay and did what I always do, put in the maximum I would be happy to pay for it (In this case £10) and forgot about the auction.

I won it and when it arrived, I installed it to my 360 as I read the instruction manual.

I miss actual instruction manuals.

The game started and something clicked.  It was hard but not overly so.  Every play session, I felt as though I had achieved something.  When I died in the game, it was never because of bad game design, it was always a mistake I had made.  I had gone for an extra attack instead of dodging, or I had not kept track of my surroundings and walked off a cliff.  The difficulty of the game is no joke but it never feels unfair (Yes even Ornstein and Smough!!) .  I was inspired to pen some fan fiction.  Re-reading it now, it still makes me remember the thrill each new area brought me.  The joy I got when I finally took down a Boss (Four Kings – 1st Time – no help – I rock!!)

Since that time I have bought Demon Souls, Dark Souls 2 (twice…well technically 3 times!) and Bloodborne.  In an attempt to support this type of game, I also bought Lords of the Fallen – It is good, just not as good.   I have not completed any of them but each time I play, I am enveloped in the atmosphere and I discover something new.  I will buy Dark Souls 3 in time but for now, I will complete at least one of the above games first.

So in case you missed it first time around, here is the short story.

Praise the Sun.

 

For a split second, all I can see around me are lush green trees and grass.

Then the reality sets in and my surroundings are rubble and mud.  My fire has almost burnt itself out and I shift slowly from my prone position to get closer to its warmth.  I do not remember going to sleep here but the evidence is there in front of me.  Despite my tiredness I had built a fire and arranged a camp for the night, seemingly on auto pilot.

I eat some meagre rations, not enough to tame the hunger inside me and I am left feeling as hollow as before.

Todays plan, go and find something to eat it seems. Standing up hurts parts of me that I did not know existed.  My chain mail creaks softly as I stretch, the links have seen better days and will need to be repaired soon.  If only I knew how.

Starting my trek to the broken down building that I can see at the top of the hill, I pass through an area of such desolation, that I wonder if anything had ever lived here.  The ruins ahead of me would seem to indicate that life had existed here, but it must have been so long ago.

What am I doing in such a place?  My memory is as rusty as my armour.  Images flash but they do not help.  The ruins are important, that much I am sure of, but the why escapes me.

By the time I reach the outer rubble, the sun is high above me. Its light provides no warmth but does allow me to see most of the way inside the building.  It looks like something from a dream.  Ornate carvings seem to decorate the walls, untouched it seems, by the passing of time.  Taking my time I crouch under what seems to be a half collapsed archway and venture inside.

This was some palace, that must be it.  Such glorious decoration could only have been paid for by the very rich.  A grand mirror stands unbroken off towards the end of the room I have entered.  Approaching it, I can see that the dust of the ages has covered the surface.  Using my fingers I brush as much of the detritus away.  The reflection has dulled with the passage of time but I can still make out my reflection.

It horrifies me.

My face is sunken and aged, my eyes wizened and tired.  I look as if I had died years past.  My travels have taken a heavy toll on me. If only I could remember what I was searching for, then maybe I could get some rest.

I hear the clang of metal on stone behind me and I turn quickly to face whatever has made it.  My sword slides out of its scabbard smoothly and glistens in the light.  It has served me well and I have no worry about putting my faith in it again.

The monster looks at me as I would look at a bug.  It is easily four times my height.  Its lips peel back to show blackened teeth as it moves towards me.  Looking around my position, I realise that it is now between me and any means of escape.  Gripping my sword on two hands, I slowly try to circle around the creature.  It anticipates this and thrusts forward with its weapon.  I see the lance strike the ground beside me, the force of the blow knocks me off my feet.  Scrambling up, I realise I am standing in a patch of green mist.  A side effect of the creature no doubt.  The mist seems to swarm around me, covering me in its fingers.

Then it is gone.

I feel slightly better, at least it was not poison.  I reassess my position and try to circle the other way but once again the monster reacts, his strike this time crashing off of my raised guard.

Then I see it, As the creature moves towards me, I can see a gap between its legs.  Not a large one but possibly enough to roll through if I time it right.

I start to run towards it and just as it attacks me, I roll myself underneath its vast bulk.  The pike shatters the stone where I had been just a moment ago.  Standing up, I see the exit ahead.  Do I run and have it follow me, or do I fight?

Slashing at the creatures legs draws thick black blood.  Its scream of pain reverberates throughout the stone walls and emboldens me to keep attacking.  Slash after slash draws blood from the monster and I lose myself in my possible victory.  Lose myself for just long enough to not notice that it had turned to face me.  Too late I see the point of the pike bear down on me.

I awake as if from a dream.  For a split second, all I can see around me are lush green trees and grass.

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Comics, the “So” album and me

This is, without doubt, my favourite song of all time.

Like many others back in the late 80’s, I had bought Peter Gabriel’s “SO” Album for the incredibly catchy “Sledgehammer”.  The video had plasticine stop motion and was quite unlike anything else I had ever seen.  When I got home, I placed the vinyl carefully on my little record player, set the correct RPM and lowered the stylus onto the starting grooves.

The above song is the first thing on that album and as the opening played through my tinny speakers, I was sitting reading the lyrics on the sleeve.  There was something about the whole musical atmosphere that the song had created that captivated me.  Not long before I had picked up a whole heap of old 2000Ad comics at a bring and buy sale.  Having not read it in years, I had devoured the stories that were contained within.  For those that know these things (and are interested) most of the issues were from the apocalypse war storyline of Dredd.  A pretty good place to start and it gave me a love of Dredd that continues to this day (and contributed to my arguing with an Ex about the merits of the Stallone Dredd film….it has none if you were wondering!!).

Also in that stack of issues I had got (20 comics for 5p) were various parts of the Rogue Trooper strip.  I was struck by how harrowing some of these stories were.  The chem clouds that had devastated Nu Earth and the pointless war that the Norts and the Southers were fighting.  It was whilst reading these stories that something happened.  I had been playing both sides of “SO” on almost constant repeat for days and as “Red Rain” started, it somehow became entangled in my mind as relating to Rogue Trooper.  I would change the words in my head as it played

“Chem rain is coming down, all over me”.

Well it is the sort of thing that teenagers do, so I make no apologies.

Even today, when that song is playing, there is that part of me that will forever be a teenager that is smiling, changing the words and thinking himself clever and remembering how good Rogue Trooper was.

As for Dredd and the Apocalypse War, well that became entangled with “Don’t give up” on the same album and still brings back memories of that story.  That is how powerful music can be.

So why is it my favourite song ever?  To be honest I cannot give a definitive answer.  There are other songs that are close to taking that title, like this one , this one and this one but they are all relating to specific moments in my life.  There is just something about Red Rain that gets me every time.  That is all I have.

To be honest, that is all that is needed.

“Hit him again Bats.” – Or why I loved Batman vs the boy scout

Full disclosure here.  I have never liked Superman as a character.  I find it hard to care about someone who is invulnerable (Magic and Kryptonite aside) and is so powerful, the very idea that there needs to be a Justice League is laughable.  That aside, I loved All Star Superman, Superman Red Son and the first 17 or so issues of the post 52 Action Comics, so I can like a comic he is in, just rarely.

The comic fans out there will have noticed that the above titles were written by Mark Millar and Grant Morrison, who are Scottish and you probably think there is bias there….you may be right.

Ok with that out in the open, strap yourself in.

Spoilers ahead – you have been warned!

Back in the late 80’s/early 90’s (I forget which), during a day trip to the granite city (I lived in a very small town back then) I wandered into a bookshop and picked up the Dark Knight Returns.  I had started reading superhero comics a couple of years before but as they were all uk reprints, they were older stories.  The editorials and features in these comics kept mentioning The Dark Knight Returns (TDKR) as a landmark series, so I felt I had to buy it.

What was contained in that book forever changed me.  It contains my favourite depiction of Batman by far and is a really good story too.

What I saw on tuesday night was parts of that Comic Book, reproduced perfectly on the big screen.  Snyder managed that previously with his take on Watchmen, so he has good form here.  There were a lot of little nods to the comics and I would like to geek out and share them with you.

Seriously…spoilers…..

The Nightmare scene in the Injustice future (go play the game) with the Omega symbol, the Parademons, evil Superman – all perfect.  I did not like Batman using a gun….that was a bad move by the film.  Batarangs – yes.  Smoke bombs or mini explosives – yes.  Guns – no.  if the directors cut digitally replaced the gun with the above, I would not be disappointed. Superman unmasking Bats and talking about the death of Lois….all done with attention to detail that made me a happy fanboy.

Flash appearing from the future to warn Batman – Crisis on Infinite Earths right there.  Although I initially thought it was Waverider.  A Flash with long, dark hair….It made me hope that Ezra Miller is playing Bart and not Barry (I don’t like Barry.  Wally is my Flash.  Yeah I’m fickle!)

Wonder Woman sounded Greek – yup that works.  The fight at the end, she fought like a warrior and that is exactly how I hope her movie portrays her.  The little smile before she leaps for her sword…..that is an Amazonian princess.

Lex….the cleverest man in any room at any time, years of being so above others has driven him slightly mad.  The ticks (both physical and verbal) of certain types of mental illness, struggling to cope with it all…perfectly captured by the guy from Zombieland (which is the only other film where I have liked his acting).  He had it planned out from the start.  That line about “You do not want to pick a fight with this guy” deliberate and brilliantly placed in the movie.  I can understand why some fans don’t like this Lex but let us be honest.  Lex was already portrayed to perfection, it is just that it was in the Daredevil tv show and he was called the Kingpin.  They had to go for a different style and personally, I like this one.

Superman – I liked Man of Steel and think Cavill was a good choice for Clark / Kal.  This film may have not given him a lot to do but he pulls it off well enough.  His face after the court hearing is blown up, the utter realisation that he failed….that is the moments I like the character.

Batman – I would watch Affleck read the phone book out, so I am biased.  However he does give Cinema a great Dark Knight.  The opening with the destruction of Metropolis and how Bruce reacts, just sets up the reasons why Batman must take down Superman in such a believable way.  When the fight comes, it is perfect.  Batman has planned ahead, as he always does.  He hits Supes with the sonics first, knowing that it will just slow him down.  It is in TDKR.  Then the Kryptonite gas (again TDKR) then the battering begins.  Like wrestling, the match has to have a switch and Supes recovers enough to start beating Bats.  Oh No…what is happening…oh yeah…Batman just hit you with Krptonite gas again…boom boy scout…now stay down.

The ending of the fight had two effects on me.  Firstly was the realisation that despite over 30 years of reading superhero comics, I had never noticed that Bruce and Clarks mum have the same first name!!

Secondly….it was one of the badly scripted bits and there are a lot of badly scripted parts in this movie.

Then  Doomsday shows up looking like the cave troll from The Lord of the Rings…I was confused as I had been sure that the trailers had shown him with spikes etc.  Thankfully it is explained and soon we get spikey Doomsday.  His creation kinda makes sense in the spirit of the movie, in much the same way that the Watchmen movies ending made sense in the context of that film.  I still hoped there would be a giant squid ending to that on the dvd but otherwise I was content to let it slide.  Same goes here.

Supes fights Doomsday and they end up in space where the nuke hits and we have skeletal supes all deathly thin and pale.  Then the sun light hits him and he is fine…yep…TDKR again.

Lois was really badly used in this film.  In fact you could have cut her out completely and not really lost anything.  This is a shame because Amy Adams can act and my only quibble with Lois from the Man of Steel, was that she patently had never used a camera before…which given that she was supposed to be a photojournalist, was jarring.  However I know how to use a camera and that was the only reason I noticed that.  Much like musicians can tell if someone is actually playing on film.  Anyway Lois throws away the kryptonian spear and then goes to get it again…..way to use that character!!

The Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman fighting together to take down Doomsday was a highlight for me.  also when the inevitable death came, I was glad they did not wimp out.  It happened in the comics back in the 90’s.  It was no suprise to any comics fans.  However it would have shocked those viewers who did not know that story.  That is how to end a movie, with a glimmer of hope that he will come back (he will) and with Bruce and Diana looking for the other heroes.

About them……I am a bit sad that TV Flash wont be the movie Flash.  Also when they inevitably cast a Green Arrow, I will be sad for TV Ollie.  The little introductions were just enough to show the wider universe.  Aquamans went on just a little bit too long personally and Flash…well it just seemed a strange one.

The for some reason they showed the creation of a Titan character.  For reasons I have never understood, WB and DC keep trying to make Cyborg relevant.  He isn’t.  My step kids like him but only the Teen Titans go version because “he’s funny”.  As a titan, he works.  A powerful body, mostly cyborg, teaching kid heroes.  He may be powerful enough to go toe to toe with the higher level bad guys but really there are many other heroes that would be a better fit for the Justice League.  Still Geoff Johns likes him and that explains why he keeps getting pushed to the forefront.  The fans ignore him and yet WB and DC keep pointing to him “look…he is a walking tank.  Is that not cool?”

No….no it is not.

However He will be in the Justice League movie anyway and his creation by Motherboxx was pretty cool.  I believe that is his new 52 origin anyway.

The final scene with Batman and Lex and the reveal that “He is coming”.  That excited me.  Darkseid should hopefully be the big bad that the fans deserve.  Hell just do the film version of the first 4 issues of Final Crisis and you have a great first JL movie.  Evil wins.  Then you have the perfect starting point for part 2 of the JL movie.  Just don’t use the the last 3 issues of FC for that.  I love Morrisons work but that was not his best.

I was not keen on the Bat Branding though….thought too many people died fighting Bats.  KGBeast was a nice touch though, even if he was probably put in the movie as a throwaway character.  Finally Mr Fishburne is a really good Perry White too.

 

So while I can totally get why some people hate this movie, I loved it.  right down to the coffin with the correct colour scheme too.  I look forward to the Directors Cut just so I can own a film (loosely) based on my first ever Graphic Novel purchase.  It will sit proudly beside my ultimate edition of Watchmen on my shelf.