Sunday, 16 December 2012

Cardinal Crimson

Last time I reviewed a Kal Jerico novel I mistakenly thought only Will McDermott wrote it. It was in fact a combined effort of both Will McDermott and Gordon Rennie. So having completed Cardinal Crimson yesterday and given it some time to sink in, what differences did I notice? Oddly, none than would seem relevant to the loss of a writer. It’s pretty much exactly the same style of writing. Almost all the settings that were introduced in Blood Royal are revisited. Maybe Gordon was only responsible for the story and setting and McDermott wrote it up? I honestly can’t tell what part Mr. Rennie had his hand in.
Cardinal Crimson is, as one might suspect, an origins story. It puts a name and previous life to the Cardinal, which is originally introduced as part of what is intended to be a twist, but is as easier to guess than the ‘who is the Underhive vampire?’ mystery in Blood Royal. Despite this, the Cardinal remains a very cloudy figure.
Rather this book serves as a better origins story for two new characters and their strangely-found interclan friendship as they witness the Cardinal transformation and rise to power. Even McDermott can’t seem to find a way to follow on from the Redemptionist’s Story arc in The Nemo Agenda and Crimson Tide. Much to my joy, he opts to upend continuity in favour of a clean slate. Sometimes this approach works. It does here. The Cardinal is portrayed truly as the puritan nut-job he is.
The story starts in the past of Necromunda. Before Kal Jerico was born, at least that’s how I like to think it. Syris Bowdie is in one desperate last bid to end the gang war between his Cawdor gang, the Old Saviours, and their rival Cawdor gang, the New Saviours. Leaving his lieutenant Jobe Francks to look after his gang he heads off for talks with the leader of New Saviours, knowing well the chances of it being a trap.
Jobe doesn't trust the situation either, and isn't about to let Syris walk off to his death. So, despite his orders and his respect for his leader, he abandons the gang and pursues his old friend to keep watch over him. As he finds a good lookout spot he is confronted by Jerod Bitten – lieutenant of the New Saviours – who tells him that his leader has lost his sanity and plans on killing Syris, already having just killed his gang. Moreover, with the power he’s accumulated there’s not much anyone can do to stop him.
Sure enough the crazed new saviour leader turns up, and despite the best efforts of Francks, kills Syris. This intro suffers from being supposed to care for a character that you've only just met. Yet, it is still deeply interesting despite this flaw. No longer wishing to support his leader, and trying to defeat him, Bitten knocks Jobe unconscious to save him.
Jobe awakes from his recollection to find himself a wandering prophet in the Ash Wastes. He suddenly decides that after twenty years his time has come to bring justice and heads back to confront his past. This involves exposing the leader of the New Saviours, who is now Cardinal Crimson and bringing through this exposing – the un-rid-able body of Cyris Bowdie. Along the journey we find out more about the relationship between Jobe and Cyris and the Cardinal becomes more of a monster who we truly root for the demise of.
This rise of the Redemptionists and clash of religious ideals to the point of segregation makes for a smashing read. What’s even better is that the Cardinal finally seems to have become the Spanish-inquistion-styled malefactor that suits his persona best. His 'kill Jerico the Arch-Heretic is also joyfully gone.
Though, at times, you may have to Jobe’s preaching with a pinch of salt to get behind the story, it is worth it. His message may be a little simplistic, but he believes it. The Cardinal’s rise to power creates wonderful paranoia within the story, and when Bitten and Francks reunite, it’s very interesting to see the war veteran respect they've formed for each other. The two plot to bring to light what wrongs Crimson has wrought and let the hive know of the murderous wretch he is. Rather than take him head on, they must re-allocate the prophet frequently enough to keep assassins off his tail while he finds out more of his psychic gifts and uses them in his path to justice. This only becomes more intensely awesome when this stuff catches up to him.
By now you may be asking where the main protagonists in all of this are. Well, this is the thing; Kal is contracted by Nemo get Jobe first. Wotan is captured as insurance for this, and then for half of the book it's mostly boring filler, escaping goliaths and having chinwags at their favoured watering holes. Sure the action can be exciting at times, but when we have some legitimately well developed characters roaming around and these three are still as samey and confusing as ever then they become a third wheel in the story.
It seems to me by now that Will McDermott is a bad writer with some interesting ideas. This is evidenced by the lacking descriptive text that renders sections of writing incomplete or confusing. Also, 49% of the time he puts no indicator to who said what in a conversation when it’s evident. Fair enough. The other 49% he simply puts “, said [character]”. No ‘giggled [character]’ or ‘growled [character]’ or even ‘said [character] irritably’. But I digress; I've been over this before.
So Kal is as egotistic as ever, and thus hard to root for most of the time. Yolanda is still being objectified, and there’s a near embarrassing moment where they try making her seem a female chauvinist. That just comes across a little too weird seeing as she’s always in the company of Kal and Scabbs most of the time. But Kal and her get some good action bits and McDermott has been good enough to describe which Yolanda he’s portraying visually, and it’s the right choice.
Scabbs’ is left in a weird place from the relationship he had at the end of Blood Royal, which I find incredibly hard to follow, especially when McDermott is describing the foul stench he gives off and his flaky skin more frequently than giant spiders appearing in the comics. Honestly, the poor fellow never gets any slack. And it’s changed from banter to ‘look how horribly gross Scabbs is, it’s a wonder these two hang about him. At least he’s loyal, it’s just about his only redeeming feature, the little over-dependant coward.’ It’d work better if it weren't already established that he’d become quite efficient on his lonesome. Unfortunately, even the later comics weren't ready to accept that.
So Kal has about only one or two good scenes in the entire opening act, and a reason to continue that makes him seem like an overgrown baby. Look Kal, I'm with Yolanda, I couldn't care less about your robotic mutt. Some people have lost their dearest friends to the birth of a sinister new movement.
About the only point we become invested in the actual protagonists comes half way through as the set up starts focusing on a place to build one hell of a climax, and the prospect comes into play that Kal might actually end up helping Jobe fulfil his path. About this point it starts to come into its own element and the fights become a lot more interesting.
After a good few chapters more this illusion becomes sadly shattered. Ramifications be damned, McDermott tries to rid two major villains from Kal Jerico in a cheap pass off and make Cardinal Crimson about Kal Jerico again. Kal arrives to rescue Jobe as Crimson is about to dispatch him. Jobe having become more than self-sufficient has given into fate. In a move to rescue the prophet Kal tries scaring Crimson by the prospect of his now inevitable defeat. Light has been shone on all of his crimes. We have an actually interesting exchange of intellect and insight into Crimsons psychosis. Ultimately, Kal only makes Crimson more dangerous by the prospect of defeat. He sends the prophet to a slow and painful death and starts bringing down the dome around him with many stray plasma blasts. As things quickly get out of control, Kal talks to the prophet, who delivers a last minute piece of exposition that tells Kal that he’s the angelic saviour that can bring about Crimson’s end. Also, he gives him an easy way to get Wotan back and pay off all the debts he’s accumulated.
After the fight they do exactly this with Kal’s newly-gained psychic visions. They give Nemo all the information he needs destabilize the Cardinal’s power base and finally Kal and friends retreat to their favourite drinking den to clear loose plot ends up. Kal loses his ‘gift’ from the prophet. Here it is revealed that the information should at least keep Nemo and Crimson warring long enough that they never bother Kal or friends again. If Kal goes back to fight Crimson, however, HE’LL DIE. And with that the book tries to cut out all major villains from Lasgun Wedding. Furthermore, the book closes with Kal being invited to his own wedding. Probably the only actually satisfying part of Kal’s end of the ending.
After a day of reflection, I've come to an odd conclusion – I actually liked it. Maybe it’s because it didn't have any expectations for this book. It’s not quite as good as Blood Royal. But that doesn't mean there aren't parts that are as good as. It also serves to be an interesting insight into the continuation of faith in Necromunda with the open-to-interpretation ending it gives with two mysterious Cawdors. It suffers from not upping our interest in Kal Jerico. It would have been a great book without him. At least there’s just enough hype for Lasgun Wedding, which is hinted at occasionally by uphive arrivals, and I still have hopes that it’ll be good.
Cardinal Crimson is a 6 out of 10 in my books. Let’s hope Lasgun Wedding doesn't disappoint.


Friday, 7 December 2012

The More-Than-Possible Psychosis of Yolanda Catallus

What is it that makes me so warranted to explore the psychosis of Yolanda Catallus? I mean, I could try this with any of the characters. Maybe it’s because her changes have seemed to be all part of the plan for quite some time. It almost makes her irrational changes in character seem intentional.
We are, however, talking about a series that has had random character change for some time. Characters like Kal Jerico and Scabbs have remained almost coherent, even if somewhat nonsensically. Nemo only changed when a new author was given reigns to continue his story. Cardinal Crimson is a mess, and many others seem to have been killed off before they got old.
As I said not moments ago, Yolanda has also been through some strange changes: The out-of-the-blue change of colours, her undecipherable motivation and ways of getting ahead. But the fact that Lasgun Wedding seems to be attempting a full circle to the hinted Kal-Yolanda sexual tension started in Yolanda, it’s all too convenient.
It started with a thought: Could Yolanda have Stockholm Syndrome? Given a bit of research it only seems slightly possible. If anything, it’s the way Scabbs almost dispatches her that could even make this scenario possible. Kal, after-all, is actually in the sway of one of his more likeable moments. He may be an egotistic who craves adventure, but he is by no means a turrist. This also takes into no account, whether or not Scabbs was only joking about in cahoots with Kal. But the art didn't seem to convey it this way.
Stuff like this interests me, to be frank. Batman has always remained interesting by its wildly diverse rogues gallery and their backlog and character flaws (usually some form of psychosis involved). So it seems unlikely that Yolanda is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. So what could be her psychosis? There is definitely something unstable about her. Well, there’s a tie-in in this paragraph. You see, I searched what mental illness The Joker could be suffering from a while back. The answer was more than satisfactory; APD. Antisocial Personality Disorder – to possess this disorder one must display three of the following seven traits. 1) Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest; 2) Deception, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure; 3) Impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead; 4) Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults; 5) Reckless disregard for safety of self or others; 6) Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behaviour or honour financial obligations; 7) Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.
Let’s review this shall we.
 1) Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest. There’s a definite. Even after she gives up her path as an outlaw to be a bounty hunter, she’s still barely lawful by current standards. And that’s after giving up her life as a spire noble. I’d say she has a mind set on de-establishing conformity.
2) Deception, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure. Known back at the beginning of this comic as “Outlands Annie”, it’s more than possible she’s used a fair few aliases, although there’s no actual evidence of this. Lying? Not really, or at all, come to think of it. Not in a conventional sense anyway. Conning others for personal profit or pleasure? Would robbing a caravan of its most valuable possession for the untold riches in The Nemo Agenda count? I think so. Also see the end of Blood Royal. Not as extreme, but still counts.
3) Impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead. Vowing vengeance against Jerico at the end of The Nemo Agenda; Joining forces with Scabbs in Scabbs and Yolanda and later Jerico too in Homecoming. These are the major examples, but pretty much everything Yolanda does is impulsive and lacking significant forethought.
4) Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults. Oh boy yes. No second thought about it.
5) Reckless disregard for safety of self or others. How about pulling Scabbs against his will into an onslaught of Ratskins?
6) Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behaviour or honour financial obligations. This honestly sounds more like Kal. However, this does apply to Yolanda. The two, after-all are more than a little alike.
7) Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another. How about having Kal beaten by her lackeys in The Nemo Agenda? She never looked back on or apologised for that.
Okay, she displays all of the symptoms in some degree or another. She’s classifiably antisocial. Would that I know many mental illnesses off by heart then I could explore this further. Alas, accurate Wikipedia articles (y’know, the properly sourced ones) are all I have to go by.
Before I cordon this off, I'm going to refresh my Stockholm Syndrome allegations. It struck me mid-way through writing this that there is a scenario where she displays these exact symptoms. In Blood Royal she’s captured by a group who harass, beat and threaten her, and by the end of the book she only ends up sympathising with them and helping them out.
There we are, Yolanda Catallus – sufferer of APD and Stockholm Syndrome – just a bit of a psychopath.
Catch y’all soon for my Cardinal Crimson review.


Friday, 30 November 2012

Blood Royal

With the Kal Jerico comics having come to a close and Gordon Rennie having moved on elsewhere one could assume that it was best to leave Kal Jerico be. But no franchise remains untouched for long. At the mantle of three new books comes Will McDermott (I realised my mistake after uploading the review. I assumed that like Lasgun Wedding that this was only written by Will McDermott. Assumption is the mother of all what? Precisely. Hopefully I won't do this again, and I'll address this issue in the upcoming Cardinal Crimson review)
As you may’ve sussed, reading these at current has caused me to speak and view these writings in a past tense. Now I've downed the twelve-chapter Blood Royal, doing a bit of background delving on the named author has proven a little difficult. It seems his archives are fairly empty and what does exist of them is franchise related, being a writer behind Magic the Gathering novels and at least one Guild Wars game.
The story here deals with many different levels. What’s encouraging to see is, as an author, Will decides to put to play all of the words in “Kal Jerico, Necromundan Bounty Hunter for hire”. It’s something that has been haplessly void in the comics. I've complained about before. Necromundan only seemed to come into use to let us know where he resides. ‘To hell with the game that shows us the constant gang wars and power struggles’, the comics seemed to say, ‘Because there’s a really big spider across there.’
Blood Royal is not only a story following Kal Jerico & friends on a mission from high up to track down a rogue son of the Helmawr household, it is also the story of many other characters and how they get entwined in the biggest espionage war on Necromunda. I’ll confirm suspicions right here – Nemo is a big feature of this story.
Without any real spoilers the story goes that Armand Helward, heir apparent has gone bat-shit insane, gone on a killing spree and escaped with an exceedingly valuable item. Kal Jerico is called in by his father and ruler of the hive, Gerontius Helmawr, to track down Armand and retrieve the item. To this end he assigns one of his personal bodyguards, Valtin, to aid Kal on his mission and make sure he fulfils his objectives. Oh, Valtin is Kal’s nephew by the way. If you thought the family ties in Above & Beyond were a little out there, there’s a lot more of that in this. This isn't, however, one of the harder to swallow elements of the plot, as Gerontius is portrayed as a form of king of the ancient civilisations. He has had many wives and lovers thanks to his position of power, and thus has been able to satiate his carnal wants.
In this part at least we see a connection between Gerontius and Kal, but other than that there’s nothing else. This is in part due to Gerontius’s engineered longevity as a ruler in the Imperium. In turn, though, he’s become quite mad, slowly losing his mind. Whilst this has been happening, Katerin and Kauderer, two of his advisors, are scheming to overthrow him.
Kauderer is Gerontius’s spy-master, and the clear mastermind in this operation. So we have three characters all after this object that’ll effect whether or not house Helmawr crumbles: Kauderer, Nemo and Valtin.
There’s also the emergence of a vampire in the underhive, and the mystery surrounding it. As you realise that this vampire is consuming vast swathes of the story, it becomes pretty apparent who the vampire is. Not that this detracts from the fun of the large-scale vampire hunt this kicks up. Nor does it rob it of the fun of the mystery. When you figure out who it is, it only leaves you asking why he needs all of this blood as he feeds more and more frequently.
The pinnacle of what I enjoyed in this novella is Will’s readiness to explore the mentality and motivations of gangs and vastly different characters. He brings back places and people we do know and integrates a few wild, beautiful and exotic places that instantly absorb your interest. Also, by including such details that just seem too obvious to include, yet the comics never did, he further gains my appreciation. One scene where Kal visits his weapons-vendor is particularly nice. He does a decent job of making a believable, living, breathing Necromunda.    
This all seems very good, yeah? Well, that’s how I was hoping things would hold up. Unfortunately, for all of the greatness in this novel, every other scene has something to suck me right back out of the immersive & believable bits.
Firstly, Will seems set on being as loyal to the comics as he can be. For better or for worse, everything from the comics is dragged over: Characters whose motives and character change for no real reason – quite a few. Accident-prone characters who frequently and unintentionally end up as the butt of other people’s laughs – way too many. An ending that feels rushed and somewhat disappointing – just about, only due to some elements rather than others.
We also have Yolanda with the equipment she’d acquired in Homecoming. Luckily, a description showing which artist he’s going by doesn't seem to feature. With that in mind, I took this as an advantage and imagined her with her new equipment but old appearance.
At least some of the more important characters keep coherent enough in their motives. Kauderer, Katerin, Nemo, Armand, Kal, Scabbs and Yolanda all stay on track, just about. Here’s a gripe though: Will McDermott’s Nemo.
Our author clearly realises the potential of the spy, how to utilise this in the story and with all of the spyfare going on even gives us a good insight into his gadgets and methods of keeping tabs on people. However (!), he is just too damned out of character. The brooding, seething, behind the veil spymaster is completely outside himself in the good half of the scenes he’s in. Moreover, his characters traits seem to have been absorbed by Kauderer, who is doing a much better job of being Nemo.
At least there are some more redeeming features. 1) If a part of the gangs making up Necromunda from top to bottom hasn't been featured in the comics, they’re in here! 2) Armand’s motives round up in a really satisfactory way, making the whole maguffin quest make perfect sense. Moreover, it makes him one of the most relatable characters. Likewise his blood-sucking is explained in a very convincing and satisfactory way. 3) Watching the way the multitudes of characters out-do eachother until only a bare handful survive is quite engaging. 4) Keeping track of such a vast amount of characters is difficult enough that their popping up causes a good two handfuls of twists and turns, keeping things fast and exciting. 5) There is only one mention of giant underhive spiders in the entire book, and not once do they make an appearance!
As I got closer to the conclusion I also started noticing a lack in a range of words being used. At first this came to my amusement as I wondered how many women Will could describe as being “buxom”. But later on he seemed to be becoming less capable of conjuring the world he’d so efficiently magicked into my mind earlier. To take a sample: 
“He threw a punch that knocked the ganger onto the next table, and then jumped on top of him. 
“The table broke, and all of the drinks went flying.”
How exactly did he throw a punch to that effect? How exactly did the table break? Where did the drinks go? And how were they flying?
He could've employed a powerful haymaker that sent his opponent staggering backward barely catching himself by the shoulders on the round table directly behind him. As he begins pulling himself up, Kal lands on top of him snapping the disc top from it’s lone support, catapulting a hail of drinks into the barkeep’s counter.
Alternatively, he could've punched him square in the abdomen, dislodging the ganger from his feet and sending him arcing into the air, only to land flat on his back on a square four-legged table. As Kal jumps onto him, the already weakened table snaps at all four appendages causing a few drinks to spring slightly up, levitating briefly by the force of the downward bounty hunter before raining down upon the bar’s cobblestone floor.
Oft I found myself filling in the blanks as I did above. In conclusion, I wanted to like Blood Royal more than I did, and for good reason. At the start I was thinking about giving this something along the lines of a 7.5 or 8 out of 10. Really, this ends up scoring 6.5 out of 10. Despite all it improves on from the comics, the overall experience is passable. Sometimes it’s even really a great piece. I suppose this’ll enter my guilty sci-fi pleasures alongside The Chronicles of Riddick.
Do I have hope for the upcoming Cardinal Crimson? I don’t know. At first the writing of mister McDermott had me believing that Cardinal Crimson may end up being a really worthwhile read, what with his exploration into the mentality of gangs and individuals. But looking at how accurately he sticks to the source material, and how often he is not only great and well thought out but also clumsily able to break my immersion with Blood Royal, I can only read the novel and find out as I go.


Friday, 23 November 2012

Live-Action Kal Jerico - A Missed Opportunity

Before I start, I’d like to attribute this idea to its originator. A week or so ago now I was searching Kal Jerico in different formats, as has become the norm about reviews. Normally I'm interested to see where my page or the images I've uploaded rank on Google. How exactly I stumbled across this eludes my memory. It seems likely that it was to do with my Yolanda And Scabbs review. Somehow I ended up on this page.
Amid all the fangirls, animated gifs, and shirtless photos I came across, one comment stood out. To make the searching a whole lot easier, here’s a link. And since I read it, I've been unable to remove the idea from my mind.
I've never been a big Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. I never even got into it. But I have watched a good many episodes, and I can remember James Masters’ performance as Spike. It’s a near perfect match to the underhive bounty hunter. Sure, facially he doesn't look too similar, but his range of expressions is by no means far off. It’s quite spookily accurate to be honest.
Just sit down and watch an episode of Buffy featuring Spike after reading some Kal Jerico and tell me he doesn't possess the qualities to play the role. The way he jokes, acts, reacts, thinks and holds an archaic noble air – it’s all spot on. Even better his hair has been both hues that Kal Jerico's is, both naturally and with dye. Put him through a parkour course and ‘90s James Masters would've been a great Kal Jerico.
Unfortunately, here lies the problem. While James has aged well he’s evidently older than thirty. This paired with Games Workshop’s distrust of letting anyone make movies or series based on their material and you have one hell of a missed opportunity.

Catch you all soon.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A Brief Update on Posting Frequency

I've now starting consuming Blood Royal. I don't want to give anything away, so my likes and dislikes will be kept to nil in posts. There'll also be no sum-ups of the story and, well, anything revolving around the words in the book. In the meantime, an occasional weekly post will be delivered on whatever subject relating to Kal Jerico seems to take my interest.
With not-so-much to analyse anymore I'm a little low on things to post about. It's just the transition from comics to novels. That piled with my want to review each novel as a whole story, much like I did with the comics. The good news is each Kal Jerico novel clocks in at twelve chapters (if you include Prologues and Epilogues). They're novellas. I'll be through them in no time. To stay somewhat professional I'll hold back from using emoticons, but I'm smiling at this knowledge. I'll be starting the fourth chapter of Blood Royal later this evening. All feelings on the matter are also off limits (until the review, that is).
I'll be penning my previously announced waypoint post before this week is up. Hold fast.


Friday, 16 November 2012

Post-Comics Thoughts on Kal Jerico Characters

After my rather cursory insight into my opinions regarding things Kal Jerico last Monday, allow me to elaborate. Here’s where I look into each character and where I tell you what I think was done right, what went wrong, and where I’d like to see them go.  Here we go...

Kal Jerico

Since the start of the series Kal has been a character who has fluctuated in my favour. This really rubs in about Crimson Tide. How do you efficiently follow on from an episode like that? I mean Kal’s final thoughts are to go back and get the diamond-eyes of Shequel.
“Kal Jerico, underhive bounty hunter for hire” reads what I believe to be the most iconic picture of Kal Jerico. To be fair, there have been a lot more episodes covering this well than I remember. Somewhere along the lines he became less of the character I knew and loved. This briefly re-emerged in Homecoming. You see, the man in particular is defined by his boyish defiance. This can be a really likeable character trait. See Daniel Craig’s Bond for this. But as I read further and further in there seems to be something missing in the intelligent execution of this. Maybe that’s it. The further in we get, the less intelligent Jerico we get. Stories like The Delivery, Crimson Tide and even parts of The Nemo Agenda all portray Jerico as being, well, kinda predictable.
Then again, maybe most of this harboured apathy toward Jerico comes from Crimson Tide – the one story that feels like a bad Bond film. It would’ve been good if this episode hadn’t existed. I’m sure it would make transition from the comics to the books far easier. Not that Crimson Tide had a lack of potential, but it was lacking in so many departments.
For the most part, Jerico has been the savvy, roguish bounty hunter I’ve enjoyed so far. Maybe making him a little more Necromundan bounty hunter, or even re-aligning him with my comparative mix of two well-known screen heroes would be redemption enough. Those are my only wants for future Jerico adventures.


What a train-wreck this character has become. Not that he was particularly efficient at holding his life together before. More what I’m stabbing at is his three different character traits, one of which really clashing with the others. Scabbs is, in equal parts, a more than competent bounty hunter by his lonesome, a loyal look-out for Jerico who constantly has his back, and a whiny bitch who cowers like Scooby-Doo every time something scary comes along. So what’s off here?
It doesn’t take a genius to see it. The latter of these traits is utterly contradictory to the previous two. To be fair, when this started it was a reasonable thing. Scabbs wasn’t quite so competent, often lacking a weapon, and only ran when everyone else did. If he had a complaint, it was often valid, and you could feel like screaming at Kal for ignoring them.
Later, however, Scabbs became something to his own. He was trusted to go after targets, and often armed appropriately. For a while this trait vanished, like the comic had good character development in the wings. Every few episodes though, it re-emerged. Sometimes reasonable, other times not.
 The real offender appeared in Scabbs and Yolanda. You’d think Scabbs was insane by the multiple character disorder he was displaying. So it’s easy to see what should be cut out. No more clashing whiny bitch.
I honestly don’t know where I’d like to see this character go. Kal Jerico has already explored a good few stories with Kal and Scabbs, and some have been interesting divergences from the norm. Just keep it up, I suppose.

Vandal Feg

Vandal Feg was in interesting inclusion in the first episode. After a while though, it was appropriate he became a named henchman. Of all the villains, Vandal Feg has made a decent enough amount of appearances. He’s even had a good enough exit.
The problem with a character like this is you can easily replicate him with any number of other villains of the same archetype. I feel Kal Jerico has already done this with The Freak and Killing Time. The Freak, for one, was far more menacing, and as far as villains go, more imposing too. What Feg has that villains like The Freak doesn’t is an ability to appear just about anywhere. He’s not so hugely bulky he can’t pull of a good enough disguise.
Villains like this, though, exist to be mini-bosses. They’re hired muscle hired to take out the trash, and that’s all they are ever going to attempt to do. So count this assessment as my review for the steroid monkeys in The Freak and Killing Time too: I only ever expect them to show up for fights.
I think Feg has had a good run, ideally I’d like the writers to just let him die in Crimson Tide as it was one of the more bad-ass parts of it. Hell, one could say it was a redeeming feature. Cardinal Crimson just disappeared, along with the plot, and the fight with Feg on the sinking corpse of one gigantic spider honestly stole the show in the way Crimson should have. I think this one is a wrap. It’d honestly really disappoint me if they brought him back.

Yolanda Catallus

Originally the psychopathic feminazi punk with some of the most entertaining threats in Kal Jerico, not to mention one hell of an intimidating attitude by The Nemo Agenda, things have only gotten more confusing since she quite surprisingly teamed up with Scabbs, and then Jerico too. Of all of the plot twists emerging right outta the blue, this one comes close to Crimson Tide.
No matter what she’s in she’s always an enjoyable character. So my primary concern for future instalments is they clean up the plot holes left by her sudden and apparent change in character.


The best of all the villains and he only appears in two stories?! The last even set him up with enough for him to easily make another appearance.
From the get-go, Nemo has only ever been an intimidating, mysterious figure. He has back story, making him one of the few characters to have some development. On top of that, he poses the largest threat to Jerico of all the villains on Necromunda. Why on earth has he not made another appearance? I’d dedicate a whole book to Nemo’s quest vendetta against Jerico. Right now he seems to be the person in the best state to order something like this done. He has agents, gadgets, he’s a frikkin’ spy master (!)...
The last person to have a grudge this big has suddenly been nullified with no explanation. At least Kal doesn’t trust her. Maybe there’s something in the wings.
Okay, simply put: BRING BACK NEMO! If he doesn’t have a major story arc in at least one of the novels I will be bitterly disappointed.

Cardinal Crimson

Here’s a character I’m dreading seeing again. He should’ve died twice now and only ever shows up to be a forward driver of the plot. What’s worse is he’s a main villain.
Why is it these comics set on Necromunda can never seem to do Redemptionists right? Oh joy, there’s a book with his name on it.
My problem with Crimson is already explained in-depth on many reviews. If they’d wanted to do him right, he could have been a brilliant villain. A psychopathic religious nut-job is always scary as all hell. See Jim Jones as one of many real life examples, or watch Seven or Red State for movie examples.
Instead we have a character that isn’t even cookie-cutter anymore. Cardinal Crimson better be a bloody good book. I can only think of what a let-down it’s going to be.

The Van Saar Juve from Code of Honour

If Bioware games have taught me anything is that you can get attached to minor characters as easily as major characters. Half of the fun of Mass Effect 2 was spending time catching up with old faces. They may have been brief encounters, but it made the universe feel complete. It was a satisfactory feeling, and it brought out the depth the game had.
This unnamed Van Saar juve is someone I’d still like to see again, even briefly. We never really see how the events of the underhive affect living for the populace. Not with any real character anyway.
Maybe it was the naivety and innocence that a character like this has in a corrupt, scum-ridden hive. He’s instantly likeable. Something about him even makes you hope he’ll be alright. Short-hand, there’s some really interesting background-building and character going to waste here. Get on it Black Library.

Heleana Jerico

Here’s a well-written character. Why? You can both sympathise with her and loathe her. She’s a terrible mother, but a good inquisitor. It makes sense. In the long run she’s doing more for humanity with the Inquisition. She’s also a rare breed of Inquisitors you can actually get on the side of.
With the death of Lord Gerontius Helmawr in Lasgun Wedding I expect to see the Jerico family making an appearance. It may even be interesting to see a couple more outside-mission moments with Kal and Heleana as family. Unlike Cardinal Crimson, I’m deeply intrigued by what might come to pass in Lasgun Wedding. First things first, I have Blood Royal to tackle....

Merelda Jerico

This tomboy sibling relation of Kal’s is quite fun in the way she likes to wind him up. Obviously she’s quite fond of him. After all, she gifts Kal with Wotan at the end of Above & Beyond. Yet again, more Jerico family values in Lasgun Wedding. I’d like that.


The only character I had to look up the name of, but his character has remained with me. He’s another case of the Van Saar juve. Roll on Lasgun Wedding, please be good, and hopefully include even a cameo from this guy.

I think that about rounds this up. Take care, and next up will be a post on who I think could've been  an excellent live action Kal Jerico. ‘Til then.


Monday, 12 November 2012

Listed - My Favourite To Least Favourite Kal Jerico Comics

Originally I thought to do my post-comic thoughts on Kal Jerico characters. Seeing as my sleep has driven into the wrong side of lunacy however, my tired mind craves something a little less demanding. That’s where my mind tells me now would be a good time to list Kal Jerico episodes from my favourite to least favourite.
There will be no lengthy in-depth analytics that my autistic mind is most comfortable with as a format reviewing. No, I’ll be clearing up where each episode stands with me. This may seem a little strange as I've already given my opinions of Kal Jerico episodes along with a rating, but this is where my analytical side takes over. I’ll be clearing up which 6.5 out of 10 I like more than the other. This is me setting the record completely straight, and with no real explanation. Here they are:

1.      Nemo (8.5)
2.      Above & Beyond (8.2)
3.      Raintown (8.0)
4.      Killing Time (8.0)
5.      Motherlode (7.6)
6.      Yolanda (7.5)
7.      Code of Honour (7.0)
8.      +++Colours (7.0)
9.      The Nemo Agenda (6.5)
10.   Licenced to Kill (6.5)
11.   Homecoming (6.5)
12.   The Hit (6.5)
13.   Redemption (6.5)
14.   Scabbs and Yolanda (6.5)
15.   The Freak (6.5)
16.   Crimson Tide (6.5)
17.   The Delivery (6.0)

By itself, the comics section of Kal Jerico averages 7 out of 10. It’s good. Even the lowest on the list aren't bad. Sure, they have their faults, but they’re still enjoyable. Even the biggest slip-ups in these comics are evened out by some good, engaging story.
I did find that I preferred a lot of the earlier stories as lower scores originally were just down to how much cheesier one episode was from another. Later on the stories started to slide in how good they were. Low ratings were often caused by bad continuity, writing, or art. By the time I arrived at Above & Beyond it felt truly refreshing to get my gnashers into something not only good, but fresh. But no single story was entirely dreadful, they all have their qualities. 
That's it for this short post. My next rant will cover my opinions of characters after finishing the comics and what I want to see more of. Maybe even what I'd like them to avoid in the books too. Until then!


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Crimson Tide

So it's a little late. Yadda yadda. You know the routine by now. Hope y'all enjoy it anyway!

This is the last of the Kal Jerico comics. After this I've three whole novels to cover – Blood Royal, Cardinal Crimson, and Lasgun Wedding. Oh, there’s also a Warhammer Warped Visions imagining of Kal Jerico as a Warhammer Fantasy character. It is a comic, but not Kal Jerico. No, Cal Gerrico is who it is.
After this review I’ll get on reading the novels. It’s apparent to me, though, that my very in-depth method of analysis/reviewing won’t be as efficient for novels. A chapter-by-chapter review would be inane. Those only really work when I'm doing the comics because the multi-parters weren't presented as a whole story. No, they were spread out over several issues. So, I’ll be reclining to the more atypical generalised book reviews for those I think. It doesn't mean that everything will slow right down on here though. I still intend to post regularly. First things on mind while I'm reading the novels are my post-comic impressions of Kal Jerico, Scabbs and Yolanda. I may list the Kal Jerico episodes in order of favourites too. It’s still in the process of my thoughts.

Part One

Crimson Tide is truly the Kal Jerico episode that jumps the shark. It’s way out there. For the first two parts we’re re-acquainted with Wayne Reynolds art.
Anyway, the backdrop is the Sump: the toxic waters located at the deepest depths of the underhive. It frequently sees spider hunters, who seek the riches brought by the jewel-eyes of mutated giant spiders. We see one such party patrolling the Sump, when they’re ambushed by the mother of all spiders. Possibly “Old Shequeg”, who is named at the beginning (hell, I'm going to assume it is). She destroys the vessel and only one hapless hunter survives with a possible rescue in sight.

Cut to the Sump Hole and Kal is on one of his get rich quick schemes by dressing up Scabbs as a pirate captain? Wait, what? Well it’s not quite a pirate captain, but he sure looks and acts like one. Kal’s scheme is to fool gullible heavy-pursed outsiders into giving up their money on a “spider-hunting expedition” in The Sump, and they have quite the catch. It’s all pretty farfetched. Of all the story, this bit is the hardest to swallow. It’s 60’s Batman campy.
Cut back to the survivor from earlier, and we’re re-introduced to the villain we've all been expecting to see since the title. So, what happened to Cardinal Crimson? Following on from The Nemo Agenda Cardinal Crimson is filled with the spider’s venom and a thousand tiny spider eggs. He then believes his true purpose is upon him. No, the last true purpose wasn't the actual one. Like Harold Camping, Cardinal Crimson has a tendency to change his mind about the apparent “truths” shown to him.

He now thinks that Old Shequel is a manifestation of the Emperor himself, and he is her herald and prophet. After acquiring knowledge she is in the local vicinity by the survivor from earlier, he has him tossed overboard by Brother Beltane.
Whilst being entirely so out there that nobody could've seen it coming, I like it. Crimson, host of “Spider-Emperor” with spiders bursting from his pulsing flesh – I think it’s the look that does it.

Part Two

This part begins with Scabbs on a rant about Kal’s stupid ideas. Kal’s plan was to originally skirt around The Sump, avoiding any actual danger, and pretending that all the spiders were in hibernation. They’d walk out richer. However, they all end up being captured by Redemptionists, who bring them to Crimson and his base of operations.

Crimson now has a small army behind him, and within a few seconds of noticing Kal is aboard, he has him beaten. Here’s where we find out Beltane has been replaced by Vandal Feg. This affirms all the things I complained about in The Nemo Agenda. Firstly, Crimson needs an audience. Why else would he have replaced Brother Beltane? Secondly, his suddenly acquired want to kill Jerico personally was completely out of the blue. Here, Crimson has Kal right where he wants him, and doesn't kill him right away. Crimson Tide draws a few more parallels to bond films in this way.
While Crimson recaps on what we already know, Kal gets the snot beaten out of him by Feg. There’s also this line:

This is where a chance at a deep look into the psychosis of such a gang as this is missed, and we’re only left with bare-bones trying-to-be-comic villains. At least Crimson is back to his campy self from his original appearance, but as a character he never develops.
But where is Wotan in all this? We briefly saw him earlier in the flashback when they were boarded. He escaped the boarded ship and swam back to land.

Part Three

Wotan runs back to the Sump Hole and finds Yolanda. Then we have dialogue straight out of Scooby-Doo.

This is made even worse by our new artistic arrival. I said in Homecoming that Dylan Teague was my least favourite of the Kal Jerico artists. Browsing ahead I mistakenly thought the last three parts of Crimson Tide were drawn by him. So, I apologise.
What’s worse than an artist that seems to have no clue of what he’s drawing? – A less talented artist that copies him. Ladies and gents, Steve Yeowell – my actual least favourite of the Kal Jerico artists. It’s not bad enough his renditions are bland and featureless knock-offs. He also manages to make Kal Jerico himself look like an unkempt, middle-aged Viking. Oh God.

Kal and Scabbs have been imprisoned by Crimson, but in the same page they escape and garner themselves some new weapons. Racy pacing and all that and we’re right onto the swashbuckling and gunfights. There’s a pretty inventive bit where Kal dispatches a good deal of the Redemptionists by blowing a hole in one of their tin-can flamethrower backpacks. Yet again, bad artist strikes again.
Just as Kal is ready to head off, Shequel arrives. Here is Yeowell’s one redeeming quality; he does some really freaky looking eight-legged freaks, maybe the best seen in this comic series altogether.

Part Four

Spiders of all sizes swarm Crimson’s oil rig. Kal Jerico and Scabbs fight off those headed in their direction with scavenged flamethrowers. Kal improvises an escape leaving behind a volatile mix of sump toxic liquid and flamer fuel. Finally, Shequel ascends to where Crimson awaits, taking the joyous fanatic up in her mandibles.

Foreshadowing much?

Crimson serves yet again as a useless cog in the plot’s machinery, only there to forward the plot, and being dispensed of quick-smart shortly after. Shequel is caught in the earth-shaking explosion and is sent flying directly towards Kal and Scabbs who are midway through their disappearing act.

Part Five

The corpse of such a colossal spider impacting on The Sump causes a tidal wave of massive proportions. The protagonists’ makeshift raft is caught by the onslaught and Kal & Scabbs are just able to pull themselves onto Shequel’s corpse.

At that moment Kal comes face to face with Vandal Feg. Negotiating with the savage proves useless (Surpringly...) so the two fight to the death aboard a slowly sinking corpse. To make matters worse, Shequel’s children now see her dead as a free meal. Giant spiders flood the corpse.

Vandal Feg seemingly gets the upper hand. Unsurprisingly, Yolanda comes to the rescue, harpooning Vandal through the chest. Kal and Scabbs get to her boat by... running across the approaching spiders (I don’t know if this goes down well with me, if it does it’s in the same kind of way as the scene with the crabs in At World’s End does).

Kal's anti-gravity powers are at it again

We leave off with Kal typically having learnt nothing from his own folly. Rating... rating. Okay, Crimson Tide – 6.5 out of 10. It has some genuinely really enjoyable moments, and some of them are quite farfetched, and on that same note, that’s also what really brings it down. It does, however, remind itself to still be enjoyable, even while making little in the way of logical sense. What is really the major pity of this episode is the way it leaves off in the middle of nowhere.
Crimson may as well be dead, but he’s not, and I'm kind of dreading having to read a whole novel about him (knowing what the writers have churned out so far). Feg should most definitely be dead after what may well be one of Yolanda’s crowning achievements. There’s no indication here what’ll happen next, or even how it could tie into the first novel.
What I think happened was the comic was about to be pulled, so the team behind it decide to go out the way they always wanted. No consequences or any of that. Much later on a fan writes three books of what he wanted to see happen next, thus the open ending.

Well, it’s been fun so far in. I've really enjoyed finding out about this character. In honesty, I love all of the first four and wouldn't change any of it. But as the series goes on, I find myself thinking of more and more ways that I would've preferred to see episodes play out; more ways they could be improved. Still, it’s been fun, just not quite as I expected. A lot less Necromundan bounty hunter and a lot more flight of fantasy.

I’ll keep you posted until the book review for Blood Royal is ready. Hope you've had as much fun as I have.


Friday, 2 November 2012


Okay, last Monday technical difficulties returned. So fast-forward four days and now I'm uploading. I've been a little pre-occupied, and took a little time to do something for Halloween, but here it is...

Time well wasted with Merasmus

I'm going to jump right on where I left off last Friday. Dylan Teague – as a regular comic book artist he’s kinda decent. He can keep faces looking pretty coherent and he has a nice clean style that most regular people couldn't accomplish. There are my praises of this particular artist, but that’s where the line is drawn. I have quite a few criticisms of Dylan Teague, and they all seem to revolve around one particular problem: he doesn't seem to know much about the background.
This is a problem that has plagued all sorts of fantasy and sci-fi media over the years. Somebody gets their hands on a particular background and then tackles it with no real knowledge, and it is quite irritable. This is the sort of thing that can induce nerd rage, and it does make me look pretty lowly at Teague’s Kal Jerico work. However, as an able artist (not as a profession) I am okay to still acknowledge that Teague has his strengths. This must've still been quite time consuming. What he could have done with was some research. Then again, I feel he had at least some knowledge, but not enough to stop him making many glaring mistakes and to point them all out I'm going to be extensively reviewing his work on Homecoming. As a matter of fact I'm going to be reviewing his works in this more than the story itself. Why? Because the story is standard for Kal Jerico, it’s a fair stab, but the art is really, really off-putting.


So let me tackle the story first. Yolanda and Scabbs, fresh from their recent adventures have run into trouble with a Scavvy gang. Yolanda, having got carried away with her butcherous methods, has sparked the ire of the gang by attacking the gang at camp and beheading the chief and his three lieutenants. On the run, the duo collide with an old face and his new robot canine. It’s quite hard to believe when you see them clearly looking at each other whilst they run headlong into this accident-in-the-making. There are no obscurities, it’s pretty damned clear. At least Kal was looking the wrong way when he ran into Vandal Feg back in Motherlode.

So the four become quickly acquainted/reacquainted, and it seems Kal has become up to speed with the Yolanda-Scabbs situation before he ran into them. All of the characters seem in keeping with their most recent character developments, even Kal’s childish pride in his new toy. Yolanda is still really quite confusing. Only Scabbs seems to say anything of value. Clearly injured by Kal’s disappearance, his “welcome” makes the most sense, especially the way he’s usually the loyal backup. It becomes apparent that Scabbs is kind of like a dog in this, though only metaphorically. He obeys Kal to the letter and performs exactly what he asks, but he’s grown dependant and fond of him over their time together. Kal is after all the superior fighter, and frequently looks out for Scabbs. He keeps him from danger. But Kal is quite egotistic. Scabbs isn't.
Scabbs not only lost his closest friend and comrade (in his perspective) but also became quite vulnerable. To Teague’s credit he shows the injured child inside Scabbs very well.
Kal and Yolanda fill eachother in on their circumstances. Now Kal also was on a bounty hunt, and also sparked off the ire of a gang (in his case Orlocks). Yay! First appearance of the Orlocks, and yet again, Teague does these kinda spot on. All they need are those shades. 
Problems arise as the protagonists realise they’re surrounded by two separate forces. Uniting to up their odds of success, they take the high ground – only for Yolanda to jump right into the fray when the enemies get close. Kal worried about his ego being damaged follows en-suite. The following fight feels like it comes partially out of Scott Pilgrim, therefore I’m listening to this while writing:

The battle is won and Yolanda sets about gleefully collecting the heads of her bounties with much profit to be made. So a temporary alliance is made in the wake of victory, the four having so efficiently dispatched two whole gangs and made quite an earnings.
As Yolanda leads the way Kal and Scabbs fall just short of earshot. Scabbs asks if Kal really trusts her, to which he responds in all due honesty, “Of course not... but at least this way I know where she's going to be and I can keep a close eye on her.”
This final sentiment is a nice addition, at least it shows that Kal is thinking as most of us, the audience, are thinking. It also makes me think that her recent development isn’t bad writing and there will be ramifications down the line.
So the story doesn’t sound bad eh? I’ve deliberately left it devoid of Teague's handiwork to this stage. The story is decent. A 7 out of 10 is in order for the storytelling. The art is a different matter. 

First off, Dylan Teague’s art seems a little too clean for 40k. That’s more of a minor criticism, but Scabbs ends up looking like a schoolboy who went to a private school who is temporarily down with the chicken pox. He is however still identifiable as Scabbs, but he doesn’t quite look right. Wotan and Kal have been drawn up accurately, no criticism there. Yolanda – good God, glancing over this I had no idea who she was. Talk about a redesign.

Gone are her punk aesthetic and the body language of a crazed, blood-thirsty outlaw. She now is a scantily clad 70’s barbarian maiden sporting a katana and a space marine pauldron. If it weren't for her facial tattoos and her being called by name I’d not know who she was. Even worse she now either poses suggestively at every chance she has or puts on a worried furrow. Talk about out of character. Her appearance defies what she’s saying and doing. In short, this isn't Yolanda. This is some bimbo they pulled in as a place-holder. It’s an affront to what I know about Necromunda and 40k.

Even the letterer seems to be in on what Teague is doing. Thanks a tonne Fiona.

Then there’s what Dylan doesn't know about the background. The Scavvies I didn't even recognise. Some look closer to Van Saar gangers and others have awful 70’s “medieval armour”. Hell, one even has fangs. I know Scavvy ganags are home to many mutants but these are drawn so cleanly that this ganger may as well be a vampire.

He also seems to have no clue of what regular 40k weapons look like, the only exception being Kal’s laspistols. Well even those aren’t quite done right originally. The end result was edited out but I stumbled across the original frames when I was half way through these reviews.
Dylan Teague has a blogspot of his own ( On this site he’s uploaded many examples of his work, including Kal Jerico. In the frames shown ( it shows Kal’s laspistols ejecting casings from the side. A laser pistol that’s ammo source is a power pack. It operates much in the way of a torch with batteries. So that’s all wrong too.
Some things are sacred, and unfortunately Dylan Teague screws up a little too much here. As an artist in general, he may well be good. But as an artist for Kal Jerico, he’s bad, and not too well suited for the undertaking. This is why he’s my least favourite of the artists that worked on this. Dylan’s art brings Homecoming down to a 6.5 out of 10.

So I've almost covered all of the Kal Jerico comics. There’s just the five-part Crimson Tide and then I’m onto novels. As of yet I’m not sure how I’ll cover them, but I’ll tackle that issue when I get to it. See you Friday (Probably Monday now) for Crimson Tide.