Posted in comic book review

Comic book review: Doctor Strange (2015) 1-10

Who do you call when things are coming out of your dreams and trying to kill you? Or when your daughter is cursing in Latin and walking like a spider? Or when your dog keeps screaming at you to strangle your neighbors? Doctor Strange, of course.

As an avid D&D player, I always, ALWAYS, go with spell-casters. I don’t think I’ve ever played anything but sorcerer or wizard, and I don’t think I ever will. It just sits the best with me. That’s why, when it comes to deciding the best superhero of all time (from the Marvel Universe, that is), Doctor Strange is a natural winner. All hail the Sorcerer Supreme!

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Fist appearance, 1963

Doctor Steven Vincent Strange was an arrogant neurosurgeon who cared only for the money he got from being such a good doctor. After a car accident leaves him with shattered hands, which never completely heal, his career is ruined, and, being too arrogant to accept a position of a consultant or assistant, he spends all of his money trying to find a cure for his ruined hands. After hearing some rumors of somebody called the Ancient One (the Sorcerer Supreme of that time), he uses the last of his money to travel to Tibet, hoping the Ancient One would heal him. This does not happen, however, because the Ancient One finds Strange too selfish and refuses to heal his wounds. Strange is annoyed, but after the Ancient One is attacked by his disciple Mordo, Strange shows the change of heart, and becomes the Ancient One’s apprentice and Mordo’s mortal enemy. Strange spends years learning the secrets of magical arts, and upon finishing his training returns to New York, where he takes residence in the Sanctum Sanctorum, together with his assistant Wong. From this base, he fights all kinds of different forces of evil, finally becoming the Sorcerer Supreme himself after the death of the Ancient One.

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Sanctum Sanctorum as represented in the ongoing Doctor Strange series

During the last two decades (well, almost – from 1997 to 2015) he appeared only as a supporting character in different Marvel comics, and it took 18 years for him to finally get a new series. Written by Jason Aaron and penciled and colored by Chris Bachalo, the new series starts off with a bunch of weird magical cases, setting up the stage for The Last Days of Magic story arc which covers the issues 6 through 10, although the first six could easily be considered a part of the arc, if only as filler issues to introduce the new and old characters and the setting for the rest of the story. These weird magical occurrences turn out to be the reaction of the magical world to the Empirikul, a force intent on destroying all magic and magic users from existence with the help of SCIENCE (I like that part very much, even though it kinda feels like a critique of modern science).

doctor-strange-empirikul-imperator

Led by the Imperator, Empirikul is on a crusade across dimensions to avenge the death of Imperator’s parents by magic authorities of his home-world. It finally falls to Doctor Strange and his allies on Earth to put an end to this scourge, but this will prove to be a very hard and very costly endeavor, with several character deaths, as well as the very-near destruction off all magical items and resources in existence.

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There’s a new character introduced, one Zelma Stanton, a librarian who first comes to Doctor Strange for help, but decides to help him organize his books after he asks her to. This will lead to her being assaulted by sentient food from Strange’s refrigerator, the forces of Empirikul, and finally terrible pain she shares with Strange to help him defeat the Imperator, along with all the humans on the planet. I think she had a good time in the end. Sorta.

Anyway, issue number 10 marked the end of this story arc (kind of), and I find it really good! The story is interesting, quite original and refreshing, I think, and both easy to read and tense enough to make you crave for more. I like how well it shows Wong’s attachment to Doctor Strange and how far he is ready to go to save him from danger, even from himself. Strange is a really stubborn guy and I can’t even imagine how hard it must be to assist him along his path each and every day. I seriously do think Wong is the only person living that could do this job and not go crazy enough to murder Strange. I know I probably would. Well, I’d try anyway. Probably wouldn’t succeed. The story also shows the cost of using magic, which, apparently, is incredibly high (think bleeding out of your eyes, vomiting stuff that requires magic to clean up, and not being able to eat normal food because it turns to dust in your mouth – and these are the least of your worries!), and Strange’s reluctance to give up even if the price might be too high – his life. I had a slight problem with some of the Imperator’s thoughts on science, because it really feels (as I said before) like he is some kind of a caricature of modern scientists (“I grew up alone in a womb of science. All I ever cared about was finding the tools of technology that I needed to obliterate magic.” Sounds like and evil version of Neil deGrasse Tyson), but that might be just me being allergic to attacks on science. The art is fantastic, although it took me a while to make a switch from the 80’s Strange I’m used to.

I’m definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the series that came out so far (last issue is number 18), and I hope it will remain as awesome as it was so far. Don’t let me down, Aaron!

Verdict: 8/10

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Posted in comic book review

Comic book review: Marvel 1602

Marvel 1602 is an amazing 8-part graphic novel written by Neil Gaiman, penciled by Andy Kubert and painted by Richard Isanove. It was published in 2003 by Marvel Comics (obviously). The series was recommended to me by my cousin, and I can say with certainty this was his best recommendation so far (you know it was, cousin dear).

Marvel 1602 is set in 17th century Europe, where real history and fictitious Marvel universe merge into an incredibly intriguing story in which classic Marvel heroes such as Nick Fury, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four fight to save the Earth, as well as the universe (all of them, actually) from destruction by an unknown force that messes with the time-space continuum, which is never a good thing. Not only that, but there’s an ever-present danger that is Doctor Doom, and that pathetic crybaby which can’t deal with rejection, what was his name… oh yes, Magneto. Oh, and there’s even the Toad!

I will not write the full plot here, which I usually do, because, honestly, the story is so good that I do not wish to spoil it to anybody, not even all three of my occasional readers. I will say, though, that it has been a long time since a comic book amazed me so much. It’s not surprising – we’re talking Neil fucking Gaiman here, folks. His ingenuity shows in every aspect of the series, from simple jokes (Peter Parquagh, I’m thinking of your name here!) all the way to some quite profound insights by Reed Richards:

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I also like how perfectly he adapted the characters to the Elizabethan period. The Beast, for example, with his eloquent speech, or Carlos Javier serving the holy mass with his witchbreed (medieval version of mutants) pupils of the College for the Sons of Gentlefolk. Or Daredevil, portrayed here as a blind bard (yes, a bard – also, an adventurer for hire) Matthew Murdoch.

And not to forget the evil count that lives in a foreboding castle in the mountains, and calls himself “the Handsome”. Who might THAT man be, you ask?

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The art is also remarkable, if you haven’t noticed by now, so much so that I made so many screenshots to use as my smartphone background image that there is simply no way to decide which one is actually going to be my smartphone background image. It fits the story so perfectly, both in giving it that medieval feel that is absolutely necessary for a piece like this, and in providing the reader with some real eye-candy.

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Verdict: This is, without much thought, one of the best graphic novels I’ve ever read. The story and the art are so good that I will definitely re-read it at least a dozen times (I will re-read it more than a dozen times). 10/10

Posted in fanfic

Star Trek fanfic: Play God

This is a story I started writing a few years ago, and plan on resuming very soon. I’m currently re-watching Star Trek: Enterprise to get back into the story. Stay tuned!

Chapter 1: Prologue

T’Pol entered captain Archer’s cabin just in time to almost get hit by a water-polo ball. Her eyebrow formed a high arch, as she wondered whether she picked a wrong time to contact her captain. He, on the other hand, grinned widely, and motioned for her to sit down. Not surprisingly, she remained standing.
“What can I do for you, sub-commander?” Archer asked cheerfully. Rising from his bed to pick up the ball that rolled under his worktable, he patted Porthos, his pet beagle, whose presence in the room still seemed to unnerve the Vulcan science officer.
“We’ve spotted an inhabited planet in a near-by system. A pre-warp society, on a societal level of medieval Earth. We can be there in less than two days, assuming we keep our current speed. I thought you might be interested,” T’Pol answered, as cold as ever. Archer nodded in apparent approval.
“Do we know anything about them?”
“No. As a species incapable of faster-than-light travel, the Vulcan High Command never found it important to observe them more closely.”
“As curious as ever, eh? Well, we have been quite unoccupied for some time now. Might as well do some exploring. That’s why we’re here, isn’t it?” Archer said, welcoming the chance to explore a new civilization. He reached for one of the buttons on the wall of his cabin. “Ensign Mayweather, set course for… What’s this planet called?” he asked T’Pol, who seemed busy trying to avoid being touched by Porthos.
“We don’t know, since my people never…”
“Observed them more carefully. Yes, yes, I know. Ensign, you know what to do. Archer out.”

* * *

Stepping onto the bridge always amazed Jonathan Archer. He was a captain of Enterprise for almost a year now, but it still seemed more than a bit strange to posses a rank of a starship captain. Smiling to his crew, he approached Travis Mayweather, his navigator, and put a hand on his shoulder.
“We entered the orbit?”
“Yes, captain. I’ve put us into synchronous orbit above one of the largest cities on the northernmost continent, sir.”
“Excellent. T’Pol, have you scanned the surface yet?”
“Yes. The atmosphere consists mostly of nitrogen and oxygen, with a bit higher concentration of argon than the Earth, but still breathable. Temperatures vary with the latitude, with forty degrees Celsius at the equatorial band, and around twenty to twenty-five in the northern parts, where the city is located. Aside from the one continent we’ve picked as a primary exploration target, there are five more around the globe,” she said, checking her console.
“Sounds like a nice place. How many people?”
“Between seventy-five and one hundred thousand in the city, and approximately two million on the continent. I haven’t been able to scan the other side of the planet, but I estimate an overall population of less than half a billion.”
“Do we have visual? We can’t just jump in front of our hosts looking like this, now, can we?” He looked at the screen, where a picture of the continent gave place to a close-up of a city, its architecture solid and precise. He caught a glimpse of something that looked like defensive towers, but then the picture zoomed in even more, to show a crowd of people gathered on what looked like a market, with lots of tents in all colors. His eyebrows rose with surprise.
“Are those… horns on their heads?” asked the voice of Commander Charles Tucker, ship’s chief engineer, who peered in amazement over his engineering station. On the other side of the bridge, Hoshi Sato, communications officer, released a loud sigh.
“I… I believe they are, Trip,” Archer answered his long-time friend, referring to him by his nickname. “T’Pol, make some nice pictures of our friends down there and transfer them to Dr. Phlox. Tell him we’ll need his costume-making expertize once again,” he giggled. “You, Trip and Hoshi will accompany me on this most pleasant roundabout. Meet you in the sickbay in half an hour.”
“We’re going down there, sir?” Hoshi asked, shock apparent in her voice.
“I don’t see why not. What better way to learn about the culture than from the inside? Don’t worry, I’m sure they’re nice people, despite the appearance. By the way, it will be good to feel solid ground under our feet for a change.”
“Captain, if I may?” Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, tactical officer, rose up from his station. “You don’t know how these people are tempered. I would highly recommend that I accompany you to the surface, if you really have to go.”
“Lieutenant, too large a group will be easy to notice, don’t you think? Besides, we have no reason to assume they are some paranoids who will attack us the second we enter the city.”
“We have no reason not to, either. I just don’t think it’s a good idea…”
“I think Malcolm’s right, sir,” interrupted Trip from his station. “This society has no technology I might find interesting, except maybe some kind of crossbow I could hang on my wall. And, to be honest, their horns kinda creep me out.”
“It is decided, then,” Archer laughed. “Malcolm, you’re in.”
“Captain,” T’Pol now took the word. “Maybe it would be better if I stayed onboard too. If you run into trouble on the surface, you will need somebody on the ship able to resolve the situation in the best possible way.”
“What the hell is this?” Archer sounded more than a little annoyed. “Has everyone here forgotten what our mission is? Or are you just scared by the looks of this species?”
“I am not afraid,” T’Pol returned. “I just gave you the reason why my stay on the ship would be… a logical thing to do.”
“I believe the crew can manage any situation that arises. Trip is staying onboard, as well as Travis and Doctor Phlox. Even without them, this ship carries the best crew in Starfleet. You’re coming down with us. Don’t make me order you. Your people, and you yourself, have more experience in dealing with alien species than any of us. You wouldn’t want us contaminating their culture, would you? We’ll need a watchful eye.”
“As you wish,” the Vulcan said, bowing her head a little.
“Good. I’ll meet you in sickbay. Don’t be late, any of you.” He turned on his heel and left the bridge, wondering what happened to the usually all-too-ready-for-action crew that he knew. He believed, however, it had something to do with the horned lizardmen on the surface of the unnamed planet that silently rotated under the ship.
“This is the best I can do, captain. I think they look authentic enough, if you don’t get inspected by one of the natives. But with the crowd down there, I doubt anyone will notice,” said the Denobulan doctor, showing the pair of horns to Archer and his away party.
“Very well, then. Do your magic, doc. Make us pretty,” Archer replied as he jumped to one of the beds. “God, I love these missions,” he said to Malcolm. “Reminds me of Halloween parties back when I was young. You celebrated, Lieutenant? Any weird costumes you want to tell us about?”
“N-not really, sir. I never cared much for such things,” Malcolm said quietly, looking at his feet.
“Well, it’s good you ended up on Enterprise, then, isn’t it?” Archer laughed as Dr. Phlox started working on his makeover.
“Captain, I tried to process the natives’ language through the translator, but there is too much noise, so I couldn’t isolate enough words to start working with. We’ll have to do it with a hand-held translator on the surface,” Hoshi said, apology clear in her voice.
“Don’t worry about that,” Archer said through one side of his mouth, as the doctor glued scaly red skin to his face. “With that crowd on the marketplace, I’m sure you’ll be able to learn their language in a matter of minutes.”
“Yes, sir,” Hoshi replied, smile growing ever bigger on her face. “By the way, red scales look really good on you. Sir.”
“Just you laugh, it will be your turn to become a scaly horned monster soon enough. Malcolm, could you hit the comm for me?” he asked, then continued. “Travis, is the shuttle ready?”
“Yes, captain. We located a clearing in the forest a few kilometers east of the city. You can easily land there without being noticed. There’s a road near by, connecting a few villages with the city, so you won’t look suspicious while entering the city.”
“Sounds perfect. We, uh, will be ready soon, I think. If the doctor doesn’t make a hole in my head,” he said, his voice rising a bit.
“Sorry, captain, but I have to make sure the horns won’t fall off your forehead while you walk. From what I’ve seen from the scans, the natives can ram each other with their horns without as much as scratching them. This also looks like the way they solve their disputes. I’d recommend you not to make too much enemies down there.”
“I’ll try my best. I can’t guarantee for Malcolm, though…”
“Sir, I beg your pardon…” started the security officer, but then noticed the playful smile on his captain’s face, and Hoshi’s hardly suppressed laugh. “Oh.”
Behind them, T’Pol’s arched eyebrow threatened to jump right off her forehead.

* * *

Gathered in the launch bay stood the most unusual away team so far. A bunch of red-scaled humanoids with long dark brown horns that curved above their heads, almost touching the back of their necks, stood by the shuttle pod, checking their equipment. When Trip and Travis entered the launch bay they both hesitated for a moment, observing the figures dressed in long black linen robes.
“Well, cap, you look good in a dress,” Trip said, stopping a few meters away from the group, a smile playing on his face.
“Captain is inside the shuttle, commander.”
Trip and Travis exchanged surprised looks.
“T’Pol? Wow, uh, doc sure did a good job on you guys. You ready for the renaissance fair?”
“Renaissance fair is an inept expression, since this society certainly developed in a completely different manner than Earth. If anything, this would be more like a speculative fiction convention than a historical festival,” T’Pol answered without as much as glancing in Trip’s direction, which was probably for the best, as she couldn’t see him rolling his eyes and making grimaces at her. Before he got a chance to retort, captain Archer peered from the shuttle.
“Everybody ready? Nice of you to come see us off,” he said, turning to face the two normal-looking officers.
“We didn’t want to miss the show, sir,” answered Travis. Next to him, Trip took a camera out of his pocket.
“I just have to take a photo of this. Would you mind standing a bit closer to each other?”
“Oh, come on, is this really necessary? I hate being photographed,” Malcolm said, trying to slip inside the shuttle. “Especially looking like this.”
“Lieutenant, get back here. That’s an order,” Archer laughed as he put his hand around Hoshi’s shoulders and turned towards the camera.
“I’ll have to agree with mister Reed this once,” T’Pol uttered silently, but stepped next to the captain, knowing how stubborn he could be. The sooner they finish with human trivialities, the sooner their mission would start. Surprisingly, the whole procedure took only a few moments, after which Trip and Travis wished safe journey to the away party and left to attend their duties. Once everybody was sure they’ve packed all the necessary equipment, the launch bay door opened, and Archer slowly took the shuttle out. He couldn’t help but throw a prideful look up to the ship he commanded, taking a moment to remind himself of the importance and significance of data he and his crew collected in the last year of exploring the galaxy. The data which will soon be enriched by that collected on the surface of a new, unexplored planet, and its intriguing society.

Posted in just geek stuff

Soar like a comet!

A while back I started watching Steven Universe, an amazing cartoon by Rebecca Sugar, whom you might also know from Adventure Time. I am not going to review the show right now because it will require A SHIT-TON OF WRITING. Instead, I’m just gonna share a song from the episode Story for Steven, a glam metal masterpiece which really gave me an ear-worm and some serious goosebumps, and I just have to share it with the universe (get it? Universe? Steven Universe? Heh). Seriously, listen to it, it’s amazing.

Some…
say I have no direction, that I’m a light-speed distraction, that’s a knee-jerk reaction.
Still, this is the final frontier, everything is so clear, to my destiny I steer
This life in the stars is all I’ve ever known,
Stars and stardust in infinite space is my only home
But the moment that I hit the stage, thousands of voices are calling my name
And I know in my heart it’s been worth it all of the while
And as my albums fly off of the shelves, handing out autographed pics of myself,
This life I chose isn’t easy but sure is one heck of a ride
At the moment that I hit the stage, I hear the universe calling my name
And I know deep down in my heart I have nothing to fear
And as the solar wind blows through my hair, knowing I have so much more left to share
A wandering spirit who’s tearing its way through the cold atmosphere
I’ll fly like a comet
Soar like a comet
Crash like a comet
I’m just a comet

Posted in just geek stuff

How To Build Your Dragon

First of all, yes, I am older than 10. Second of all, that doesn’t mean I’ll ever stop playing with toys.

Okay, that being said, yesterday I bought a really cool toy! It’s a toy that you have to assemble! And it’s also a dragon! And it can move! How cool is that?

It’s this thing -> https://www.amazon.com/Build-Dragon-Dugald-Steer/dp/1626867143 <- I didn’t get it from Amazon, and mine is in Croatian, but it’s the same thing. It’s from Dragonology series, which I have never even heard about, but it has dragon toys so I guess it’s awesome.

And for those as nerdy as me, and with as much free time, here’s a quick video of me assembling and playing with it:

It’s cool, I swear!

As for the set itself, it’s not that easy to assemble, mostly due to really illogically numbered parts and not really precise factory-cutting of the cardboard pieces, but all in all, it’s fun, and it does look quite cool when finished. This was a fun little project for sure.

Posted in just geek stuff

Robin Hood Set in Dubrovnik

There’s apparently a new Robin Hood movie coming next year – Robin Hood: Origins. I myself care only for one Robin Hood ecranisation, and that is, of course, Robin Hood: Men in Tights. I really love the story of Robin Hood, and I believe it was one of the first books I ever read, so I would really like this movie to be good. It probably wont, considering the cast and crew, of whom I’ve heard only about that boy from Kingsman: The Secret Service (who plays Robin Hood, no less) and Jamie Foxx, who plays Little John, which makes perfect sense, since many of the medieval British warriors had dark skin. Leonardo DiCaprio’s name is also supposed to give some credibility to the movie, as he is apparently one of the producers, but I don’t really like him (at all) so I’m just gonna pass over that factoid.

Anyway, what *is* interesting is that one of the locations where the movie is being filmed is, get this, a few meters from my new apartment! Aside from Game of Thrones and Star Wars, this is one of the rare occasions where I won’t be an extra in something being filmed in Dubrovnik, because, honestly, I got quite tired of it after years and years of doing it. It is fun, and it is nice to see yourself on TV screen, but it’s also very tiring, very boring most of the time, and the money is not that good. So I’m skipping this one as well.

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Me (on the left) and Mark Ryder as Cezare Borgia in Borgia

However, even though I won’t be a part of the movie, what I will be doing is documenting whatever I can that has to do with it, because why not. So here’s a little gallery of how it looks so far:

Anyway, Dubrovnik seems to be quite a popular movie-filming location again, ever since it became King’s Landing in HBO’s Game of Thrones (nope, still haven’t seen it). I don’t know how to feel about that, considering that we have one of the richest histories in the world – seriously, we do – which seems to get pushed aside by all the movies and TV shows being filmed here. You wouldn’t believe how many people come here only because Game of Thrones, totally unaware of the fact that Dubrovnik Republic was the first country to recognize United States as an independent country, or that we had the first sewage system in the world (which still works, by the way), or that we were the first ones to abolish slavery, or that we had the first quarantine in the period when the Plague wrought havoc over Europe. On the other hand, I am a huge nerd after all, so I’m also quite excited by all the cool scenes being filmed here. So I’m kinda torn between hating and loving it, which is quite the default state for people from Dubrovnik anyway, so I guess it’s fine.

Posted in just geek stuff

Best video in the Universe

I have many hobbies, and I love many things. I’m a geek, so these things mostly fall into the geeky category, but there are two which I love the most – Star Trek and cosplay. There’s a few other things near the top of my interest-list, with boardgames and reading definitely in the top tier as well, but for this particular post Star Trek and cosplay are the most relevant. Why? Because I finally found a video that sums up these two things, and mixes them with auto-tuning, which I also love very, very much.

LOOK AT THIS THING! It’s perfect! It has everything – great rhythm, tune you can dance to, Captain Picard and Data cosplay, Klingon Victory Song, some of the greatest Picard quotes… Holy. Crap! It’s been on repeat the whole day today, and I can foresee a huge number of plays in the future.

I mean, everything is amazing – Pogo‘s dance-moves, lip-sync, and the Data impression is creepily perfect. My mind is completely and utterly blown…

Now, I know there are many amazing videos in the vastness of teh Internetz, but I dare you to find something better than this!