Marvel 616 Review – The Amazing Spider-Man #1

The Amazing Spider-Man Issue 1 Photo Credit: Marvel

Without question, Spider-man is one of the most influential comic book characters of all time. He is able to give the reader a sense of real world problems while still displaying incredible powers and heroics. When Peter Parker is down on his luck, we all can relate to it, and at the same time, that’s when his best stories come about. This is not some alien from a distant planet. This isn’t someone bestowed with a power ring. This hero is not anything other than a regular person trying to make ends meet and live his life. And did I mention, he’s just a teenager?

He got his debut in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15. This was a short story in an anthology that turned massively popular. And while it’s likely Stan Lee has exaggerated the initial reaction to the character somewhat, it’s clear Spider-man has had an enduring legacy and continues to be wildly popular.

Apparently having the word amazing attached to Spider-man was inevitable because his own title becomes The Amazing Spider-man. This is not the debut of Peter Parker or Spider-man but it does lay some groundwork for the series for years to come.

The issue is divided into two stories which while connected, can be read as stand alone stories. Each one has some major events and significance to stories for years to come. I’ll be reviewing both stories here but they could have been listed as their own for the purposes of reading through Marvel 616 continuity.

The first story is titled, Spider-man. While one might assume the bulk of the story would be taken up with revisiting how Spider-man came to be or with Peter pulling off tons of heroics, there’s actually not that much of it going on.

At the start we do get a bit of a reminder of the previous story. Peter was bit and got his powers at a lab experiment. He went into show business to try to make some money. There was a robber Peter could have stopped but didn’t. Because of Peter’s inaction, his beloved uncle Ben was killed.

When we get caught up to the present, it’s the money woes that is the real enemy for Peter. His Aunt May can’t pay the rent. Peter briefly thinks about turning to crime for some quick cash but realizes that’s not something he is willing to do and something that would break Aunt May’s heart.

Peter again tries to cash in on his powers by putting on a public performance. As amazing as he is, when it’s time to get paid, Peter can’t cash in because he won’t give his real name. He tries to cash a check made out to Spider-man at the bank but has no luck.

Meanwhile, a certain newspaper editor has caught wind of this so called Spider-man. It’s in this issue we get the first of many headlines written by J. Jonah Jameson. This one just says, “Spiderman Menace.” As if that’s not bad enough for Peter, Jameson goes out on the lecture circuit to badmouth the hero. Jameson wants America’s youth to be like his own son, a test pilot, and a real hero, who is about to orbit the Earth.

Peter tries to get a part time job but is turned down because he is too young. And what’s worse is he sees Aunt May pawn her jewelry so she can pay rent. Peter starts to blame J. Jonah Jameson for his troubles because it’s now nearly impossible to cash in on being Spider-man.

Meanwhile John Jameson goes up in his rocket but there’s a problem. A navigation system of some sort falls off and the ship starts to fall back to Earth. NASA tries a few different things but they’re not successful. Spider-man shows up and tells them he can help. He gets a replacement part and commandeers a plane and a pilot to take him close to the rocket. Peter attaches it and saves the day.

Figuring he’ll be embarrassed by the compliments he’ll get for what he did, Peter leaves quickly. He also figures he’s repaired his reputation with J. Jonah because Peter just saved his son. But, J.J. seems to think the whole thing was a setup and conspiracy to make his son look bad. The press is even worse for Peter than it was before.

There are a few interesting things in this story. First, is the emphasis on money woes. This is a huge theme in Spider-man books and it’s smart to have it as a central point because almost all of us can relate to it in some way. Second, it’s not clear why a rocket would launch out of New York but we can let that slide for the moment. Finally, the public reaction to Spider-man is intriguing. It’s clear there are some people who like Spider-man. The pilot who takes him up to save Jameson thinks he is alright and there are a few other people in the background of panels who say positive things about him. But, it’s also clear Jameson is able to have a huge influence on how the public perceives him. The majority of people who read the newspaper do seem to think Spider-man is a menace, including Aunt May. I think it’s a really unique position at the time to have a hero who does heroic things but is generally not liked by about two thirds of the public. This is not like The Fantastic Four who are generally liked. They’ve had the occasional misunderstanding with the public but they are not outright hated. Thor and Ant-man really don’t have anything negative said about them. At this time, Iron-man has only barely come on the scene so the public is still mostly unaware of him. The only other hero who might be able to relate to Peter would be Bruce Banner but the Hulk is almost universally hated so he probably wouldn’t take the time to consider what Peter thinks at all.

The story ends with a warning by the F.B.I. saying there is a reward for the capture of Spider-man. Peter wonders if crime is his only option left. We all know that will not be the route he would take but I imagine for the first group of people reading this they may have had the idea Peter could have turned corrupt here.

The second story is title Spider-Man vs. The Chameleon.

This story is really interesting because there are a ton of things going on here. We’ll get to the heart of the story in a minute but can you notice something unusual in this panel early in the story?

We won’t know him as Peter Palmer for long. Photo Credit Marvel, story by Stan Lee, Art by Steve Ditko

Yeah, we almost had a hero names Peter Palmer. This misspelling of Peter’s last name happens at least three more times in this issue. It’s not particularly significant but it’s interesting to see how easy it was for a continuity error to happen in these early comics.

Also, as you can see above, the story starts with Peter having the idea of joining up with the Fantastic Four. It kind of makes sense. They live in a big skyscraper building in the middle of the city and they’re always flying around in the newest fantasticar so it sure looks like they pay well.

The most fun part of this story is seeing how Peter gets around the security measures in the Baxter building so he can talk to Reed and company. Of course, the Fantastic Four assume he’s there to cause some kind of trouble. There’s a bit of a scuffle and we see everyone use their powers. It’s a fairly even match all things considered. Finally Reed asks what Spidey is doing there and the fight ends.

Peter gives his pitch to the super team only to find out they are a non-profit organization and don’t pay salaries. With no other reason to stay, Peter promptly leaves. But as he goes Reed Richards says, “Somehow, I have a feeling we’ll be hearing more from that young man in the future!” Spoiler alert, Reed is one hundred percent correct about that. Just not in this issue.

After Peter leaves the scene shifts and we get our first ever glimpse at a real Spider-man villain. This is The Chameleon. He’s a spy who is able to change his appearance through extremely realistic disguises. We never see his real face in the story as it is always covered by a mask. The Chameleon easily breaks into a defense center and steals some secret plans. He walks right out with no one being the wiser.

On his way out, The Chameleon sees a report about Spider-man going to see The Fantastic Four on the news. With the F.B.I. warning out there, Chameleon sees a perfect fall guy for his crimes in Spider-man.

The Chameleon seems to know things about Spider-mans powers which are never explained here. He somehow knows Spidey has a type of spider-sense and sends a message to Peter only those powers could pick up. The message is just a setup to trap Spider-man into being at the wrong place at the wrong time, thus giving Chameleon someone else for the police to catch for his crimes.

Despite knowing about Peter’s spider-sense, Chameleon didn’t totally think it through because Peter is able to tell who the Chameleon is even when disguised. There’s a chase and a tussle. Spider-man actually makes himself look worse by webbing up a bunch of police officers. After a lot of acrobatics and inventive use of webbing, including the first appearance of a web parachute Spider-man catches up to the Chameleon.

Turns out Chameleon was going to sell the plans to communists on a sub-marine. For those of you keeping count, this incident adds up to every single 616 hero we have seen so far fighting communists at least once. Spider-man is able to capture Chameleon and takes him back to the police.

But Chameleon is able to change his appearance into a police officer. He almost gets away but Peter figures it out thanks to his spider-sense. There’s another chase but the cops do catch the right guy eventually.

We end the issue with Peter wishing he had never gotten his powers and the FF wondering what would happen if Spider-man turned to crime.

In this story there are tons of things going on that I find really interesting. First, there is the crossover appeal. I don’t know if Stan Lee thought Spider-man wouldn’t sell well enough on his own but the interaction with The Fantastic Four is great here. And it feels like the universe is really building with this story.

Also, everyone seems to know Peter is a teenager even while he is wearing his costume. I think this leaves us all to assume Peter just sounds like a teenager. He’s about the size of any other hero and he hasn’t shown his face so that’s the only way people must know about his age.

Another interesting thing here is Peter’s money issues are not resolved at all and if anything, he’s made his own reputation worse. It makes the audience wonder why Peter would try to be a hero at all. Except, if you remember Peter’s inaction leads to the death of his uncle. He’ll be a hero not because it is profitable but because as bad as things might be, if he does nothing, they will be worse.

While this isn’t the debut of Spider-man it is a great debut of his title which will go on to a whopping 441 issue streak in the first volume. The stories get better but the foundations really do start here. And while not all 441 issues are great, there will be some amazing stories (pun intended) to come with this character.

Next up on the reading list we’ll be checking back in on the family of super heroes once again with Fantastic Four #13!

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer – Movie Review

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Hello horror fans, it’s me, Slick Dungeon! I’m back to review another slasher film for ya. This time, it’s the sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer, the cleverly titled, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. We’re back with just half the cast of the first film because… well murder-y reasons from the first film. This time we have Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddy Prinze Jr. reprising their roles but we also get a host of new characters. Before we get too far into this review just a note of warning, there will be spoilers for both the first and second films in this franchise. And oddly enough a spoiler from Scream 5. So if you haven’t seen the movies, grab your rain slicker, bring your hook, and brave the bad weather to see the films and come on back here to read the review.

I Know What You Did Last Summer left us on a jump scare with Julie, played by Jennifer Love Hewitt, seeing the words I Still Know written on a fogged up shower window and then the sound of breaking glass as someone or something jumps through the window. It’s actually a rather effective end and leaves the viewer a bit disturbed and wondering what will happen next. Naturally, the makes of the sequel decide to… completely ignore that scene and just start with Julie in college having a nightmare. And the nightmare isn’t even that scene which would have made sense. After that bad choice, the movie gets kind of worse.

Julie is probably the least culpable of the group from the first film so the audience is more or less on her side and it makes sense that she’s the focus of the follow up movie. But Ray, who is the one who was behind the wheel when he hit someone in the first film, is also in this. He’s still dating Julie but the relationship is on the rocks. Julie doesn’t want to go back home for the fourth of July but Ray really wants her to.

Julie invites Ray to stay at her college for the weekend but Ray insists he has to work. And then, in what is almost completely unexplainable behavior, Ray gets really mad that Julie doesn’t want to come back to the town where she and Ray were almost murdered, on the anniversary of the day several of her friends and acquaintances were murdered, during a time she’s clearly having flashbacks and bad dreams about nearly being murdered in the spot Ray wants her to go to. But Ray thinks his anger can be justified because he, “has to work,” and because there is a guy on campus who is being relatively nice and understanding to Julie. I’m not here to give anyone relationship advice but if this is your situation, maybe think twice about who you are spending time with.

Ray goes back to his hometown and Julie and her friend win tickets to go on a vacation to paradise in the Bahamas. Julie promptly invites Ray to go but he won’t because he, “has to work.” And get this… Ray is still mad at her! She just invited him to go on vacation with her but somehow she’s wrong in this situation? What the heck?

Anyway, this is a horror movie, so let’s get into the horror, other than Ray’s weird attitude towards Julie. Long story short, the trip is a setup by someone who wants to kill Julie and maybe a number of her friends and acquaintances. Turns out the island is pretty secluded and no one can get on or off on the fourth of July because it’s the start of typhoon season and the seas will be too rough.

We meet a cast of oddball island characters from a hotel manager who seems to hate guests (this makes no sense considering they would be his only source of income) to a bar tender who can’t stand tourists (I get this a bit more but again shouldn’t she be trying to be nice to them to, you know, earn tips?), and uh.. Jack Black trying to deal weed to everyone. On the plus side, this movie has Jack Black in it so all good.

If you have ever seen a slasher film even once in your life, you know where this is going. Characters start getting picked off one by one, including characters the audience might have suspected were the killer.

Meanwhile, back at home, Ray gets attacked in the same spot as the accident from the first film. He pretty quickly realizes Julie is likely in trouble so he pawns the engagement ring he was going to propose to Julie with so he can get a gun and force someone to take him to this island. I guess we’re supposed to be on Ray’s side because, “he has to work,” so he could buy Julie a wedding ring. But like in the first movie, he does something so awful in the beginning (really getting on Julie’s case for feeling victimized) that it’s nearly impossible to like this dude.

The remainder of the movie is Julie and her friends trying to survive, Ray trying to save Julie, and the audience trying to figure out who the killer is.

**Spoiler warning here for both I Still Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream 5.**

If you’ve seen very many horror movies, and slasher horror in particular, you’re going to guess who the killer is immediately. We know it’s not Ray, although he could be a suspect if he was on the same island at the same time most of the murders happen. But he’s not. When I watched this movie this quote from Dewey Riley in Scream 5 immediately popped into my head, “Rule number one. Never trust the love interest. They seem sweet, caring, supportive. Then welcome to act three, where they’re trying to rip your head off.” This quote basically summarizes this whole movie perfectly. Respect for Scream 5.

Some of the deaths are interesting and there is a higher body count and definitely a bit more gore than in the first film. But the plot is not very strong and if a single one of these characters had asked if anyone heard them on the radio when they won this contest, the whole plot never would have happened.

There’s a twist at the end, like all good slashers should have, but it’s not a very inspired twist and it feels kinda lazy. Also, like any good slasher, we end on a scare. But if my guess is right, they will waste this one as well.

I wasn’t overly impressed with the first movie but not because the plot wasn’t believable. For that one, I just found the characters unlikeable. In this one, I find Ray super unlikeable and the plot unbelievable. The newer characters are for the most part fine, although some of them just seem like silly stereotypes of horror characters you might see in any horror movie, the stoner guy, the odd and creepy older man, the sort of angry bar tender etc.

It’s far from the worst horror film I have ever seen but it’s also nowhere near the best. If the franchise went downhill this fast, I can’t imagine what the third one will be like. I will be reviewing it so if you want my take on it, stay tuned.

Knowingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Challenge Check-in!

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. It’s been far too long since I have checked in on these challenges but there is still time to complete them. I wanted to do a check-in on how I am doing on the challenges I created for books, movies, and role playing games for this year. If you want to see how I did, this is the post for you! And if you have been doing any of these challenges, I would love to know how it’s going for you. Let me know in the comments!

Reading Challenge

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Book Challenge! Click the image to download your own copy!

The first challenge was to re-read the first book I remember reading. I completed that by re-reading The Cat in the Hat but I’m not putting a review here for that. It’s still a great kids book though!

For the second challenge, read a book more than 500 pages long, I read most recently The Ravenstones: Death and Life by C.S. Watts. I highly recommend the whole series if you like epic fantasy.

For the next challenge, a book with a complicated magic system in it, I am currently reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson which is the first of the Stormlight Archives books. The magic system is quite complicated but I’m not sure if I will meet this challenge by the end of the year because it’s a long book.

So far this year I haven’t read a book where the main character dies but if I don’t come across one towards the end of the year I’ll grab something where I know that happens.

I’m still deciding on the book to read I was assigned in school but didn’t read. I’m considering The Scarlet Letter or Animal Farm.

I’ve actually read several books this year which are under 500 pages long and are independently published. Check my prior book reviews on this blog to see those.

As far as a non-fiction book, I haven’t decided what to read so if you know of any really interesting books, let me know about them in the comments.

The last three challenges I’ll leave for October, November and December.

Movie Challenge

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Movie Challenge! Click the image to download your own copy!

I went back and forth on figuring out a movie about love to watch. Then I finally realized, The Princess Bride would be the perfect one to watch. I’ve watched it but I still haven’t posted a review here. I will at some point though.

For the second challenge, a movie about an issue you care about, I did watch Don’t Look Up. It’s more of a metaphor than a movie directly about an issue but it applies uncannily to so many issues I think this one counts.

It’s kind of tough for me to find a movie I have never heard of because I watch a lot of movies. Feel free to recommend some to me in the comments!

I love a good horror comedy but I just haven’t gotten around to watching one yet this year. Next month feels like the right time to do so. Watch for a review when the time comes.

The next challenge was a movie that is all character driven and no action. I watched the great Japanese film Drive My Car. It’s a real commitment at a three hour run time but it touches the depths of human emotion like almost no other movie can.

I’m lucky because the best picture winner from the year I was born happens to be one of the greatest movies of all time. I’ll be watching The Godfather II. I’ll post a review after I do that but I know it’s a film I love so it’s a win for me.

The first movie I remember watching in theaters is a bit of an oddball but it gave me the foundation to be a lifelong cinephile. I watched The Great Muppet Caper and I remember loving everything about the experience. As a kid I hadn’t understood just how big things could be until I saw a huge poster of Kermit and Miss Piggy etc. and then saw them on a giant screen. (I’m sure it was all normal sized but for a young kid that’s still huge). I’ll post a review once I’ve rewatched it but I’m not sure how well it will hold up.

The Godfather II also qualifies as a movie that’s better than the original but for my money, Empire Strikes Back is always going to be the best in that category. I’ll post a review of it here before the year is out.

There are tons of movies with incredible musical scores so I’m not sure which movie I’ll watch but you can bet your bottom dollar it will have been composed by John Wiliams.

The last three challenges I’ll leave for October, November and December.

Read, Watch, Play CHallenge

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Read, Watch, Play challenge! Click the image about to download your own copy!

The read, watch, play challenge is the one I am probably the farthest behind on. What can I say? It can be hard to find time to play all the games, watch all the movies, and read all the books I want to.

For reading a book that is set in the same setting as a tabletop game I am reading Vampire of the Mists which is set in Barovia, a gothic horror setting for Dungeons & Dragons. Once I’ve completed it, I will post a review here.

The next challenge on the list is to watch a movie where the characters play Dungeons & Dragons. I thought about watching E.T. but decided to go with Lloyd the Conqueror. The characters technically LARP but they roll D20’s and there’s enough D&D references in there I think it counts.

Play the first role playing game you remember playing was pretty easy. I played Dungeons & Dragons several times this year.

I haven’t yet come across a book where the characters play a role playing game so if you have an recommendations, let me know!

The Princess Bride has fantasy creatures in it so that one will count toward this challenge for me. I’ll post a review at some point this year.

I’m not sure what role playing game that I’ve never played I want to do. I’m leaning towards Flames of Freedom which is kind of a Cthulhu style game set in the American revolution and sounds pretty cool. But it will depend on if I can find others to play with me, so we’ll see.

I’m currently reading the core rulebook for Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition. Once I complete it, I’ll definitely post a review but it’s going to take a while because that’s a fairly long rulebook.

For a movie with a quest in it, I’m not sure what I will watch but it’s likely enough I’ll just end up rewatching Lord of the Rings movies because, well, I love those books and movies so I might as well enjoy them again.

There are a ton of sci-fi role playing games I’d love to get into but I haven’t decided which one I’m going with. Again, this will depend on who I can get to play what with me. I’ll report back once I have done it though.

The last three challenges I’ll leave for October, November and December.

In Conclusion

Well, that’s where I’m at for these challenges so far this year. Have you tried any of them? If so, how’s it going? Also, a reminder, if you complete one of these challenges and post about it on your blog and let me know, I will review anything you would like me to. (Within reason of course). If you want me to review your book or movie or role playing game or one you just really want to know my opinion about, simply put your link to your blog post in the comments, and let me know and I will contact you about reviewing something for you.

If you would like a copy of any of my challenges, feel free to download from the image, or click here for books, movies, and read, watch, play challenges.

If you enjoy my content and want more, sign up for my mailing list below.

Until next time, stay slick out there!

Challengingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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I Know What You Did Last Summer – Movie Review

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hello horror fans, Slick Dungeon, here. I’m back to review another horror film for you. This time I watched the slasher from the 1990’s with the dream cast of the 1990’s, I Know What You Did Last Summer. This is an old movie but on the off chance you have not seen it, be warned there will be some spoilers below. So, if you haven’t seen it, hop on a boat, grab a chunk of ice with a hook to cool yourself off, and watch the movie. Then come back here to read the review.

Still with me? Great. I Know What You Did Last Summer is a slasher film which has a lot of call backs to an urban legend about a man with a hook for a hand. Think of the original Candyman but not quite as good as that.

The movie stars some actors with major name recognition for the time including, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anne Heche, Ryan Phillipe, Freddie Prinze Jr., and Johnny Galecki.

It’s the 4th of July and a group of friends is about to finish high school and head off in various directions to start their lives as young adults. But before that, Julie James, Helen Shivers, Barry Cox, and Ray Bronson are going to party it up. These four friends go out to the beach and party down. They hang out with a crowd, then split off to tell campfire stories on the beach. One of the stories has to do with the hook handed killer and none of them can quite agree on the correct version of the story.

Barry, in particular starts drinking fairly heavily. At night, when it’s time to go home, the rest of the group do the responsible thing and don’t allow Barry to drive.

They pile in the car, with Ray at the wheel. But apparently Barry can’t help but be a bit of an idiot as he shouts out of the sunroof of the car and spills alcohol all over everyone else. Ray takes his eyes off the road for a moment due to the distraction and ends up hitting a pedestrian.

Rather than call the police or an ambulance, the group decides to hide the accident and toss the body into the ocean. Before they can do that, their classmate Max drives through but the group is able to send him on his way without too much trouble.

A year later, the group is not at all where they imagined they would be. Julie is failing her classes, Ray has become a fisherman, Helen is working at a retail store and Barry is just kind of existing at home. It’s clear at least some of this group feels guilty over what happened.

Things take a dark turn when Julie receives a simple note which just says, “I know what you did last summer.” It’s a simple but extremely threatening message.

The film plays out with people who were part of the group of four, or people who know them well, being killed or threatened in some way. In all of these instances there is a glimpse of someone wearing a fisherman’s slicker and holding a hook.

There are a few potential killers but no matter who it is, it’s clear this person has the whole story of what happened the summer before. The characters who are able do some research to figure out what is going on.

I don’t want to give away the end here in case anyone hasn’t watched it but there are some twists and turns and the reveal is potentially surprising.

This never quite elevates itself to a great horror movie but it is well acted and believable. One problem with it is it can be hard for the viewer to sympathize with a group who decided to hide an accident rather than own up to their own part in it. These aren’t completely innocent babysitters just trying to make it through Halloween, these are people with a pretty major secret.

That aside, there are some good scares and although there is a bit of gore it’s fairly tame compared to a lot of other horror franchises. The very end certainly leaves it open to sequel potential and I will be reviewing the others in this series.

If you want to watch a good popcorn slasher without having to overthink anything this is a solid watch. But, it’s not quite capable of reaching the greatness some horror franchises achieve.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Review – Tales to Astonish #41

Tales to Astonish Issue 41 Photo Credit: Marvel

By issue 41 Tales to Astonish has truly become Ant-Man’s book. He stars as the lead story in every issue although he still shares pages with one-off stories which have nothing to do with him. However, there are only so many stories one can come up with involving a guy who shrinks and controls insects.

This issue is by no means an inspired story. In fact, it’s kind of a lazy story, even by Ant-Man standards. Henry Pym is always fighting communists, street thugs, or aliens. This issue aliens are the enemy.

We start out with Henry Pym looking to visit a fellow scientist. Pym knows his friend Paul must be in because Pym was invited to see a new formula. When Pym knocks, there is no answer, so Henry figures Paul is in his lab and the most sensible thing to do is to change to Ant-Man to make sure his buddy is okay. After all, he could be ill.

We get yet another reminder that Henry Pym wears clothes made of unstable molecules so his clothes shrink with him. We also are reminded about the cybernetic helmet Pym has which allows him to control ants. Pym calls an ant and rides in through the keyhole. After a thorough search it becomes apparent Paul is not there. Henry figures something must have happened to him. He also sees on the news scientists are disappearing all over the place. Pym figures it’s likely to happen to him. But he also figures he can handle it as Ant-Man.

For a smart scientist who surely must work in a secure lab, Henry next makes about the dumbest mistake he possibly could, casually allowing a random window washer into his lab.

Henry Pym makes a mistake. Photo Credit Marvel, story by Stan Lee, Art by Don Heck

Well, to no one’s surprise this window washer is up to no good. He pours a chemical on Henry, thus paralyzing the scientist.

We next get to see a scene happening in another dimension of space and time. This is where all the missing scientists have gone because an alien warlord, named Kulla wants them to develop a weapon called an electro-death ray. Any scientist who speaks out or challenges Kulla ends up in the dungeons.

Back in our dimension the window washer puts a strange metal gadget on his and Pym’s head. This device transports them to Kulla’s dimension. The window washer is in on this scheme for the money and doesn’t care about the ethics of it all. The other scientists are concerned to see Pym also kidnapped and they have even more concern once Pym starts shouting, “Down with all tyrants! Down with Kulla!” He is immediately dragged to the dungeons.

This, of course, gives Pym the chance to change to Ant-Man and help everyone out. Henry does discover some alien insects on this world but his helmet doesn’t work right away because they seem to communicate on a different frequency than ants on Earth do. Lucky for our hero, he retains his full human strength so the bugs are no real problem.

It takes a moment but he gets the helmet adjusted so he can communicate with the insects. He then sneaks out of the dungeon. The other scientists have just completed the death ray and Ant-Man accidentally crosses an electronic beam signaling to Kulla there is an intruder.

Everyone in the room sees Ant-Man and the scientists are left to wonder how the hero arrived in this dimension. But, they’re quite happy to see him since he can likely save the day.

There’s a bit of hiding and a chase around the room until Kulla’s guards spot Ant-Man and douse him with the same chemical the window washer used. Ant-Man is not defeated because he has his helmet and he aims the electro-death ray right at Kulla with the help of the alien insects. The insects also open the door to the fortress Kulla was staying in and the regular people of the planet are overjoyed to see the warlord dead and his minions captured.

While all this is happening, Ant-Man dashes back to the dungeon so he can change back to Henry Pym and the scientists will be none the wiser about who is Ant-Man.

The window washer isn’t concerned with his own predicament because he figures the scientists aren’t police and he’s got no reason to worry. But, the people of this world decide to keep the window washer there until he truly reforms. With the use of the helmets the scientists get back to Earth and lament the fact Kulla could have put his scientific knowledge to use for good but did not. And then the scientists wonder once again where Ant-Man came from to help them.

Henry Pym answers, “Perhaps it doesn’t matter how the Ant-Man gets where he does! Just so we know that whenever he is needed… he’s always there!”

In all, it’s a fairly forgettable issue and about the only thing making this one memorable is that a brilliant scientist was easily tricked by a fake window washer.

Next up on the reading list, we’re finally going to catch up with the wall crawler himself once again in, Amazing Spider-Man #1!

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The Hammersmith Haunting: A Call of Cthulhu Adventure Review

The Hammersmith Haunting by Kat Clay
The Hammersmith Haunting by Kat Clay

Hello horror RPG fans, it’s Slick Dungeon and I’ve got a neat little Call of Cthulhu adventure to review for you today! It’s set in London in the 1890’s and was created by Kat Clay. The adventure was created for three to five players and is meant to take one to two sessions to complete. It’s a ghost story with a whole lot more going on and is called The Hammersmith Haunting.

I’m definitely not going to give everything away here but if you are a player who might play in this scenario, stay away, as there may be some spoilers. If you are a Keeper looking for an adventure to run, I’ll give you a short rundown of the scenario and let you know my thoughts on whether this would be a good one to run.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Keeper’s Eyes Only – What you Get

If you are a player and not a Keeper, don’t read past this sentence.

In this adventure you get five pre-generated characters for your players to choose from, five NPC’s with detailed descriptions and stat blocks, four player handouts, and three maps. There’s also a bit of historical commentary on a real world incident related to the events in the scenario, several photos and bits of artwork you could either show to players or keep to yourself for inspiration, and some tips and advice for running the adventure.

The author makes no secret that the scenario is a fairly linear storyline. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing and, in fact, may be helpful to newer Keepers who want to run something which won’t take months to complete and gives a bit of guidance on how the story should play out. But, it is something to keep in mind if you and your players really love more open ended scenarios.

The story is divided into three chapters and a conclusion, allowing for good stopping points if you can’t complete the scenario in a single session.

The scenario is set in 1890 so this is more suitable for those interested in playing in that time period.

The first chapter does a nice job of setting the mood and increasing the fear of both the investigators and those affected by the haunting in Hammersmith. There are a couple of rather memorable NPC’s in this section. Again, this is a linear storyline, so there may be instances where you’ll need to nudge your players in one direction or another a bit to keep the story moving. But, there are enough locations that virtually anywhere the Investigators end up, they’ll be able to get back on track to the main story.

In the second chapter the Investigators learn a little bit more about what is going on in Hammersmith and why. The creepiness factor increases and there’s a fairly intense scene which comes into play in the last chapter. This chapter also does a nice job of making the haunting personal but also connecting it with a larger cosmic mythos, so the stakes feel high.

The third chapter is the confrontation of the entity causing the problems in Hammersmith. This part is no joke and it will be a difficult confrontation for the Investigators. What’s more, depending on what actions the Investigators took in the first two chapters, they may be at more of a disadvantage against their enemy.

There are three given possible conclusions and an additional outcome depending on what the Investigators did. At least two of the conclusions could lead to longer campaigns and would be a good beginning to explore a lot more of the cosmic horror to be found in Call of Cthulhu.

While I don’t want to get much more specific for fear of spoilers, there is a lot of good horror to work with here so the scenario can definitely get that fun and creepy vibe that makes some of the best Call of Cthulhu scenarios.

Who is the Adventure for?

This scenario is suited well for those who like to play in the Gaslight era. It’s good for a group of 3-5 people who want to have a one shot scenario which takes one or two sessions at most. It’s also good for a Keeper who wants to have a bit of direction on how a story might play out, rather than having a sprawling sandbox for their players.

The adventure is quite well written, which is no surprise, as Kat Clay is also an author. This does lead to moments where perhaps more player agency could have been allowed but a good Keeper would be able to still improvise enough to get players to make choices where it feels like they are the ones driving the story rather than the Keeper.

The villain in the story is also nicely set up where, depending on how things go, they could make an appearance, or even be a major part of, future scenarios. I don’t know if Kat Clay has any plans to expand this but I could see this becoming a whole campaign if she wanted to make it into one.

If you are looking for a solid one shot scenario set in the gaslight era for Call of Cthulhu this is going to be a fun one to run. All you need is the adventure itself and the Keeper rulebook to run it.

How to get the scenario

The cost is quite reasonable. You can get the PDF version for $4.95, the softcover for $9.95, or the softcover and PDF for $14.90 all on drivethrurpg. If you are going to use the softcover at all, I highly recommend getting the $14.90 version so you get the PDF along with it, that way you can print again to play with another group if you ever want to.

Also, if you want a bit more background on how this scenario came to be and what inspired the author to create it, check out her video below.

The Hammersmith Haunting – A Call of Cthulhu scenario

Have you run this scenario? If so, what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Review – Tales of Suspense #39

Tales of Suspense Issue 39 Photo Credit: Marvel

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe there was a time when Iron Man was without question the most popular character Marvel had ever put on screen. This is largely due to the excellent portrayal of the character by Robert Downey Jr. and the deft handling of the adaptation by Jon Favreau. But none of that would have happened without Issue 39 of Tales of Suspense where the character was first introduced.

Tales of Suspense is yet another anthology comic book put out by Marvel comics. This seems to be one of the best methods the creators had to experiment and introduce new characters. It was easy to know what heroes were popular by the fan reaction. If there was not much reaction, they could just stop making stories with that character.

Oddly enough, this issue has two stories which are cannon to the Marvel 616 universe but of course Iron Man is Born! is the one most remembered. I’ll talk about both stories in this post but I’ll be digging much deeper into Iron Man than in the other story.

The story in Iron Man is Born! is written by Stan Lee but this time the art duties fall to Don Heck. While he might not be quite as dynamic as Jack Kirby was in his art style, Heck is a fine artist and helped bring several characters to life including the Wasp, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Wonder Man. In other words, he has an impressive portfolio and handles the introduction of this new character deftly for the most part.

The story begins at the laboratory of Anthony Stark where soldiers are on guard 24 hours a day to keep an eye out because, “the commies would give their eyeteeth to know what he’s working on now!”

For those who are keeping track, Reed Richards, Henry Pym, Bruce Banner, and even Don Blake have all had run ins with communists and the government has had to protect them in one way or another. I think we can presume from the very first panel in this story it’s likely these scientists know of each other and quite possibly have met one another. This will become important later when teams like The Avengers become established. We’ve still got a while until that happens but the introduction of Stark gets us a huge step closer.

Inside the lab, Stark is demonstrating small but powerful transistors that can intensify magnets he has developed, strong enough to open locked vaults from a far distance. In the modern era of the movies the power source of Iron Man’s suit is his arc reactor but in these early comics it’s a series of transistors, magnets and other small but clever devices.

Stark tells a general at the demonstration his transistors are capable of solving his, “problem in Vietnam.” It’s worth noting, this is the first mention of the real world conflict of Vietnam in Marvel 616. This grounds the story more in reality than some other comics might and it’s an interesting choice. While Vietnam at the time was seen as a proxy war between democracy and communism, all of the issues before have just mentioned, reds, commies, or some similar name to refer to communist enemies. It seems Marvel could no longer ignore real world events in their pages.

Reading the start of the story is interesting because in so many ways it does mirror the opening of the movie. We’re given a bit of background about Stark and find out he is handsome, glamorous, constantly in the company of beautiful women, a sophisticate, and a scientist, and a millionaire bachelor as much at home in a laboratory as in high society. Change the word millionaire to billionaire and this could be the Netflix description of the first movie.

But the narrator tells us he is soon destined to become the most tragic figure on Earth! I assume they forgot about Bruce Banner when they wrote that but this is Stark’s story so we’ll let it go.

Now, I would be remiss if I did not talk about the negative aspects of this first Iron Man story. We get some absolutely awful stereotyping against Asian people, and Vietnamese people specifically to set up the story. We read about a cruel military leader named Wong-Chu, the Red Guerilla Tyrant who is going village to village in South Vietnam to take over. The artwork here is as offensive as you might imagine and the story is fairly insulting at this part but we have to get through it to get Iron Man. Wong-Chu challenges anyone in a village he is about to take over to a wrestling match. If the challenger can beat Wong-Chu he promises to let the village go free. Wong-Chu defeats all challengers and talks in broken English, again in some of the worst of stereotypical ways. Anyway, we have our villain set up now.

We flash over to Iron Man who has landed in South Vietnam with some American soldiers. They tell him they could beat the Red Guerilla’s army but they can’t get their tanks through the dense jungle. In a typically arrogant and uniquely American way, Stark has miniaturized mortars so the army can bomb the hell out of a bunch of people. The weapons are, of course, effective.

Unfortunately for Stark, he stumbles over a tripwire and is injured in a blast as a result. In the movie, you’ll remember this as the armored vehicle scene where Stark is captured. This is definitely something the movie does better as the comic makes it seem as if Stark is just kinda clumsy.

Stark is captured and we find out he has shrapnel near his heart. This shrapnel can’t be operated on and he’s only got a week to live. Wong-Chu decides to try to trick Stark into working for him. Stark sees right through the ruse but agrees to do the work. Wong-Chu just seems to think Stark is being self serving, and considering what we know about him so far, it wouldn’t be that hard to believe.

Just as he does in the movie, Stark gets to work designing, and building a weapon. As he is doing this, another prisoner, Professor Yinsen, is thrown in the cell with Stark. Lucky for Stark, Yinsen is a physicist and Stark has read his books. The world thought Yinsen had died but instead he was forced into slave labor. It’s Yinsen who names the weapon Stark is building calling it, “An Iron Man!”

It’s a suit of armor which not only is capable of extending Stark’s life but also has a ton of firepower to it. Stark is pretty much knocking on death’s door when he puts on the suit for the first time. But as the suit is powering up, Wong-Chu arrives and Professor Yinsen has to buy Stark time. This proves fatal to Yinsen and Stark swears Yinsen’s death will not be in vain.

It takes Stark a few minutes to get used to moving and walking around in the suit but once he does, he’s got a bunch of tricks up his sleeves. He has suction cups which allow him to stick to the ceiling where he hides from his attackers. After they leave, Stark finds Wong-Chu and… challenges him to a wrestling match? Checks notes. Yep. He challenges his captor to a wrestling match. The newly made Iron Man has no trouble dispatching his enemy.

The army attacks Iron Man but small arms fire just seem to bounce right off of him. Stark uses his transistors to repel a bunch of the army and they flee from him. The next bit is a little chase and some more neat tricks Stark has built into his suit, including a buzz saw inside his finger container and transistors which increase his strength. All the use of the suit does drain it, however. A quick thinking Iron Man shoots out a stream of oil right near an ammo dump and lights the whole thing on fire, causing a major explosion.

Stark wins, even if he has doomed himself to a life living inside an iron suit. He goes to where Yinsen was slain and tells him, “Now, Professor Yinsen, rest easy! You, who sacrificed your life to save mine, have been avenged!”

Avenged, huh? Might make a good name for a superhero team somewhere down the line. I hope, Stan Lee remembers that one. Stark kind of walks off wondering what’s in store for him in the future. The reader knows more is to come because we’re told not to miss more of Iron Man in the next great issue of… Tales of Suspense!

While it is great we are getting closer to a full roster of Avengers, the terrible stereotyping in this issue makes it tough to read. I can’t emphasize how bad it is. Not only is the dialogue in broken English, every Asian character here is drawn not in a realistic flesh tone but in a sickly yellow color and with the most stereotypical features you can imagine. There will be great stories with Anthony Stark in them to come, but this one is only significant in that it establishes him as a character and a hero.

There will be more stories to come where the stereotyping is a major problem. And while we might say times were different back then and writers and artists weren’t as concerned with staying away from stereotypes as they are now, that still doesn’t excuse it.

The story does set up major elements which will be prevalent in almost all Iron Man stories to come. Stark needs the suit to live because without it he’ll essentially die of a cardiac condition. Stark is a brilliant, wealthy scientist, and a womanizing playboy. Also, the government wants and needs this man to be protected at nearly any cost. We’ll have lots of great stories with Iron Man soon enough but for now, he’s sort of waiting in the wings to really come into his own as a hero.

As I mentioned above, there is a second story in this issue which is Marvel 616 cannon. This one is the D story, titled Gundar! This is written by Stan Lee and drawn by Steve Ditko who first drew Spider-Man.

The story centers around a shipwreck survivor out on the ocean in a lonely lifeboat. He comes upon an island and thinks he is saved. It should be noted this is clearly a modern (for 1962) lifeboat with a modern sailor. He’s immediately found by a clan of Vikings. The man is understandably confused, thinking maybe he’s on a movie set. But the Vikings tell him they await the coming of Gundar.

It seems these Vikings sailed on a ship under a cruel master known as Gundar. This Gundar goes a little mad and attacks his own crew. They are able to subdue him eventually but not before he puts a curse upon them all. He condemns them to be cast away on an unknown isle, to spend eternity alone. He also says only he can lift the curse.

As we see a panel of the ship struggling through a storm, we see Odin in the background hurling lightning at the sea. This is the reason, and the only reason, this story is Marvel 616 cannon. After all, Odin is Thor’s father so his appearance counts.

Odin attacks the sea in Gundar! Photo Credit: Marvel, artwork by Steve Ditko

The twist of the story at the end is that the shipwrecked man is a descendent of Gundar and the Vikings all disappear and go back into the past. That’s the whole story. Not an incredibly memorable one but it was fine for a short story in an anthology comic.

Next up we’ll be checking in on a pint-sized hero with Ant-Man in the pages of Tales to Astonish #41!

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The Sandman Episode 1 Deep Dive Review

Dream is captured in episode 1 of the Netflix series The Sandman

Hello dreamers, day dreamers, and nightmare watchers! It’s Slick Dungeon here and I am back to review the first of The Sandman episodes. This one is titled Sleep of the Just. Before we get too far into this review, it’s my duty to warn you there will be heavy spoilers for the episode and some spoilers for the early issues of The Sandman comics. If you can’t stand spoilers then go watch and read and come back here for the review. I do plan on going pretty deep into the material so tread cautiously if you are not into that sort of thing.

In order for me to go as in-depth into this series as I want to, we need to take a little trip back in time to 1988 when the first issue of The Sandman comic book began. Back then, Neil Gaiman, the author and co-creator of the series was trying to revive a series about a character called The Sandman which was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Neil pitched the idea to his editor Karen Berger but she had one change to it. She wanted the series to be about a brand new character. This decision proved pivotal, allowing Gaiman to take a ton of creative license with how he handled his series.

It’s important to remember that this series, at the beginning especially, was tied to DC comics. While it was printed under a line meant for mature readers called Vertigo, DC characters do walk in these pages. I mention this because in the show, there are some things that absolutely had to be changed from the comics due to licensing issues and copyright problems.

While I may point out adaptive changes in the series, I don’t necessarily think one version is superior to the other. They were made in different times and much like the character Morpheus himself, the world has changed since the comics came out. Each telling of the story is what it needs to be. There are definitely things that would be changed in the comic if it were made now (there truly was not enough diverse representation in the comics) and if the show was made at the time of the comics it would be much different than what we have (and probably not a very good adaptation as Neil Gaiman himself would likely tell you). I’m absolutely not going to dwell on casting choices that certain portions of the internet have raged about. Gender swapping or casting actors who are a different race than what they were in the comics makes absolutely no difference in how well the story is told. And both the comics and the show tell a great story.

Okay, stepping off my soapbox now. After all that setup, let’s talk about the episode itself.

Much like the comic, this first episode is what you might consider the closest to conventional horror. It deals with old men in creepy old houses doing magic to gain power for themselves. If that was all this series was, I could recommend any number of shows exactly like it. It will take some time but both the show and the comic transcend the horror theme eventually.

The episode starts off with a bit of exposition from Morpheus, who declares himself, “the king of dreams” and we see a raven fly over a car and into the world of the dreaming. This is where Morpheus lives and it’s as fantastic as the real world is mundane. This immediately sets up Morpheus as other than ourselves and he seems to know something we don’t as he dismisses our notion as mortals that dreams make no difference in the choices we make.

We really only get the briefest of glimpses into this world of the dreaming but we are introduced to some key characters and the villain of the season is immediately established. The librarian of the dreaming, Lucienne, has a conversation with Dream, while Dream is looking at a stained glass representation of a nightmare of his own creation. This is a character called The Corinthian. In the comics we don’t even get a hint of him for quite a long time. I do think this change was smart because it shows Morpheus will have an adversary. Lucienne also tells Morpheus she has a feeling Morpheus won’t be coming back because in the real world, dreams don’t survive long, but nightmares seem to thrive.

I’d say that’s a rather pessimistic worldview but of course, it might not be wrong either. The story gets going with a group of people who seem to run a cult of some sort and their goal is to trap the angel of death. The time period is 1916 and the location is Wychcross England. In other words, war is breaking out and the world does indeed look bleak at this time. At this point in the show the timeline matches what we see in the comics but it won’t stay that way for long.

In the comic series we don’t find out much about this cult. But in the show we get a little window into what is going on. There’s a man who calls himself the Magus (meaning sorcerer) who will go to any length to bring his eldest son back from the dead. We also see his second born son, Alex, who seems to have a kinder heart than his father.

As Dream is about to confront the Corinthian and bring him back to the dreaming, a spell is performed by the cult. Instead of trapping Death like the Magus hoped, he has Morpheus, also known as Dream. But the Magus really has no idea what it is he’s captured.

There is another interesting change here. In the comics we essentially see the Magus flail about trying to figure out who he has. But in the show, the Corinthian shows up almost immediately to tell the Magus what he has and how to keep Dream from escaping. This gives the Corinthian a whole lot more power and reason to be there than the comic does.

One consequence of Morpheus being locked up is a “sleepy sickness” breaks out. There are a bunch of people who can’t sleep, always sleepwalk, or simply will no longer wake up. One of the most interesting things about this is this incident actually reflects a real illness that did break out at the time. If you ever wonder if Neil Gaiman did his homework for this story, that’s all you need to know.

We are also very briefly introduced to a character suffering from this sleepy sickness named, Unity. She’s an incredibly important character but we won’t know more about her until future episodes.

While the Magus may not have captured who he wanted, he does take what are called Morpheus’ vestments. A ruby, a bag of sand, and what amounts to a gas mask but is referred to as a “helm.” These items are exceedingly powerful so you know there will be trouble with them down the line.

One bit of kudos to the show runners here is the way they make Tom Sturridge look as Morpheus while he is trapped. He’s thin and weakened but also looks otherworldly. I’m guessing there was a good amount of CGI and a lot of messing around with lighting to get the look just right but they nailed it.

Dream is more than a god. He’s one of “The Endless” so Morpheus is able to play the long game against his captors. This allows us to move the story past the Magus and a simple revenge plot. While there are hints of Alex being kind and even potentially letting Morpheus out, he never does, either from fear of his father, or fear of what Dream might do.

Before the Magus dies, a woman named Ethel Cripps who is pregnant with his child absconds with Dream’s vestments and a small fortune in cash. This event is probably the most significant event in this first season. It leaves Morpheus with no knowledge of where his tools are. Ethel does escape the Magus and has the baby. This baby will also be a huge part of the series in episodes to come.

There’s also a moment where it almost seems Dream will escape with the help of his raven but the bird is shot by Alex. This gives Morpheus a strong reason to distrust Alex once the Magus is dead. And Morpheus still has all the time in the world to wait. All he needs is for someone to fall asleep near him.

Things were probably not easy for Alex as an out gay man in the 1920’s but that’s no excuse for keeping someone locked up in your basement. Ultimately, once Alex is old and no longer mobile, it’s his partner Paul who allows for Morpheus to escape. He pushes Alex’s wheelchair across the magic circle which traps Dream. This is all the opportunity one of the Endless needs to escape.

Morpheus is soon able to walk through the guards dreams and right out of his magic cage. Dream confronts Alex and as punishment grants him the gift of, “eternal sleep.” Presumably he’s given Alex the Sleepy Sickness.

If there was a single thing I could change from this episode it would be this adaptive change. In the comics Morpheus also gives Ales a gift. But this gift is the gift of eternal waking. Have you ever had a nightmare and when the worst thing you can imagine is about to strike you wake up and then you feel relief but then another nightmare comes and you realize you haven’t actually woken up? Take that feeling and imagine having it forever. Always a brief moment of relief before being once more terrified in an endless loop. That’s severe punishment.

While I understand why they made the change, I still think the original idea from the comic would have been better. They changed it because as the viewer we do get to know Alex a little bit and understand he has some kindness to him. He really does sympathize with Morpheus, even though he doesn’t allow Morpheus to escape.

My problem with the change is it humanizes Morpheus too much. Morpheus is Endless and in the comic series he certainly does have a character arc but his change is slow. Centuries spanning slow. To have Morpheus show any bit of kindness to his captors shows him identifying with humans too much at this point in the series.

Here is also where the timeline diverges between the comics and the show. In the show we advance all the way to our time. The comic advanced to its present time of 1989. I think there are a lot of reasons for this change, not the least of which would be having to film a period piece with only stuff from the 1980’s and 1990’s would bring the cost up on the whole production and it’s already an expensive show.

The episode ends with a very murder-y Corinthian realizing Morpheus is out of his cage. Morpheus goes back to the Dreaming where Lucienne finds him. But the realm of the king of dreams has changed. It’s a mere shadow of what it had been at the beginning of the episode and it’s clear Morpheus is going to need his stuff back in order to fix anything. Apparently, this disarray and decay is what happens when Morpheus is away for too long. There’s also a very small hint of something having happened to another one of the Endless in the past. If we find out what all that is about, it won’t be until later seasons.

Oddly, the end of the episode is a preview for what’s going to happen this season on The Sandman. It really feels out of place and I’m not exactly sure why they put it there but you can skip it if you’re watching the show because, well, you’re already watching the show.

All in all, this episode is probably the weakest of the series but it’s essential to have it so we can really get into the story. I think it was well told, superbly acted, and brought us into a world full of a lot of complex things going on rather seemlessly.

My biggest regret for the episode is this is the only episode we get to see Charles Dance who plays Roger Buress, aka, the Magus. You’ll likely recognize him as Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones. And just like in that show, every minute he is on screen, he is fascinating to watch. But we’ll have lots of other star power and phenomenal performances in future episodes so I can’t complain too much.

Well, that’s my take on the first episode. I’ll have plenty more to say about future episodes (and hopefully future seasons). Until then, did you watch this show or read the comics? If so, let me know what you thought about it in the comments below. If you could change anything about the adaptation what would it be? Or do you think it is perfect as is?

Dreamily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Arcadia Issue #5 From MCDM – Review

Arcadia Issue #5 From MCDM Artwork by Sean Andrew Murray

Hello dungeon crawlers, it’s me, Slick Dungeon! I’m back to review another issue in the awesome magazine put out by MCDM Productions, Arcadia issue #5. The magazine has delivered some great value in past issues so we’ll see how this one holds up.

The magazine is a good deal at $12 a piece right now but if you buy the bundle of the first three issues it’s $18 so I would recommend going with that. You can buy your copies here. Just a note that I am not associated with MCDM so I’m just recommending buying this because I think it’s good, not for any other reason.

I took a look at all the articles and want to give you my hot takes so far. If you don’t know what Arcadia is and you want to learn more about it before reading about issue #5 you can start at the beginning and check out my post for issue #1 here.

Also, if you want to go even further in depth about issue #5 you can see the Q&A with the creators below.

Arcadia 5e Magazine: Issue 5 Q&A with the creators

This issue features just 3 articles but it still comes in at a solid 34 pages. There are no adventures here. Instead, we get an article about long term curses, an article about a new subclass, and an article with some new spells. I’m going to go through each of these articles and give my take on them so you can see if this might be something you want to purchase for your own home game.

Guild Adept PDFs - Available exclusively @ Dungeon Masters Guild

THE ARTWORK

In all five of the issues I have read so far, there has never been one where I was not impressed with at least some of the artwork. Even the articles that I find only so so tend to still have fantastic artwork. And there’s always at least one piece of art which makes me think you could plan an entire campaign around that single image. Issue 5 is no different in that regard and it’s great to see it continue. I really like the art in the first and second articles in this one but the cover to me is flat out amazing. I have no idea what’s going on there but it looks downright deadly.

Artwork by Sean Andrew Murray

Long-Term Curses

In Dungeons & Dragons there are a lot of instances where curses may come up. One issue some Dungeon Masters have is the curses can become meaningless if a simple 3rd level spell, Remove Curse, can simply wipe it out. This article attempts to correct that by giving some curses which are a bit more permanent.

The article gives us six brand new curses we could use in our games. Most of them also have helpful GM tips on using these curses. Let’s take a brief look at each one.

The first curse is The Curse of the Betrayed. Basically this curse makes the player character think at all times they are going to be or already have been betrayed in some ways. This curse can also affect the whole party. While I think there are some settings where a curse like this might work (particularly some in Ravenloft) overall, I have some issue with this curse. I feel like unless you have players who are really good at not letting personal feelings come into role play, this is a powder keg for bad player behavior. Specifically, I would be afraid one problem player might feel like this curse is a license to act however they want at all times, consequences be damned. I’m sure most people wouldn’t try to do that but I could see it escalating.

The second curse is The Curse of Cassandra. It’s pretty much a curse where players see a little bit into the future about and event that is going to happen to them. It’s not a maybe kind of prophecy, if they have this curse, the negative thing is going to happen. Of course, they can try to stop it and if they do, that’s one way to reverse the curse. But for this one I think this makes things difficult for the Dungeon Master. It’s hard enough to keep a table of players focused on what is happening right now sometimes, let alone on something you may have to shoehorn into your campaign.

The third curse is The Curse of the Living Dead. This is hands down my favorite curse in here, and the only one I really might consider using in my own campaigns. Rather than a player or party being cursed, this applies to a whole town or village. And, just like you might expect, this has to do with zombies and other undead. There’s a pretty creative take here though where any dead anything rises at midnight. I could see a pretty good Pet Cemetery style campaign happening here, or just straight up Night of the Living Dead.

Next we have the Curse of the Sordino. This one has a pretty good hook for bards where sound really comes into play. But if you don’t have bards in your party, it’s probably not the curse for you. However, it does seem like a fun adventure hook. I would say more but I don’t want to spoil it for those who might buy the magazine.

Curse of the Watchers is one where I think it would work really well if you are running Curse of Strahd, specifically because it involves ravens. Don’t use this if any of your players have a bird phobia though, it could be traumatic! We do get a pretty neat stat block for a Swarm of Cursed Ravens which could be used in almost any campaign.

Finally, we get Slow Polymorph. In essence, this curse changes a player character to be a little more monster-like but usually with some benefit as well. It’s probably not a condition any player would really want to keep for long though. I think this one could be used at any table but only if you really talk to your players about it first because it’s going to change them, potentially permanently.

Out of the six curses here there are only two I see where you probably don’t need to have long discussions with your players before implementing and only if characters are playing in certain types of settings. While all the curses are unique and might make a nice change from the usual curses players end up with, I can only give this article a C+. There’s simply too much prep work and potential for players to end up in fights with one another over some of these. If you do use one of these curses in your game, let me know how it goes because I’m really curious how well it turned out for you.

GoldMonger Subclass

One of the odd quirks of Dungeons & Dragons 5e is you tend to accumulate a lot of wealth if you live long enough. After all, you are plundering dragons hoards, raiding castles for magic items, and plunging the depths of cavernous dungeons, snatching up whatever coin comes your way. This article creates subclasses for those who have greed as one of their main motivations for what they do in the game.

The article gives us a deity of deals, three subclasses, and an NPC to play with. Let’s dig into those.

The deity they give us is a god of deals. I could see this one being played any number of ways and it would fit into any campaign where any transaction might be important. It’s also a unique deity your players aren’t going to have seen before so it’s definitely something fresh. And since this god had to do with deals, not just gold, it doesn’t have to be a transaction involving gold to use this in a campaign. I haven’t played a campaign using this but it seems like it could be fun.

The first subclass is a new domain for Clerics called the Avarice domain. This introduces a lot of neat features for Clerics. There are tons of subclasses for Clerics already so I can’t say this one is better or worse than the others but I could easily see a player hamming it up as a Cleric who is all about material goods.

The second subclass is a Druid Circle: Circle of the Gilded. This subclass is all about gems. Druids use the elemental powers granted to them by certain gems in order to protect the precious natural resources where the gems come from. The gems become part of the Druid and deal some types damage (lighting, acid, etc). A lot of the features in here seem really fun to play and since Druids are all about nature and precious gems come from nature, this one really makes a lot of sense.

The final subclass is an Oath for Paladins: The Oath of Acquisitions. I think this one is really cool. It basically allows Paladins to become mercenaries. They’re not necessarily out there for good or bad but for payment. They’re going to help, certainly, if you need, as long as you will fairly compensate the Paladin. I can’t even number the amount of stories where a mercenary is the main character in all kinds of fantasy. It gives you some cool magic stuff but again I can’t say it’s better or worse than other Paladin classes mechanically. Thematically though, I love this.

There are three retainer stat blocks listed next but if you don’t have Strongholds & Followers this won’t mean much to you. Just think of them as potential NPC stat blocks with some really simple attack mechanics.

Finally this article has an NPC with a full stat block who I could see coming in handy both as a quest giver for a party and a sometimes battle companion. It’s got a bit of good flavor here but as always you’ll want to make your NPC’s your own.

I really found a lot to like in this article. I especially like the deity and NPC provided but the subclasses are good as well. However, with a plethora of good subclasses already available for Clerics, Druids, and Paladins, I’m not sure there is a ton of reason to go with these over any of those. All in all this is a good article and I like how the theme of avarice ties everything together here. I give this a solid B.

Alabaster’s Almanac

In this article we get new spells for Bards, Druids, Sorcerers, Warlocks and Wizards. These are presented in the form of an Almanac with some notes from someone named Alabaster.

I’m not going to go through each and every spell here but there are a few I want to mention so you can have an idea of what is offered here.

There’s a pretty potent 6th level spell for Druids and Wizards which essentially allows a creature to traverse “The World Below” without taking too much damage. It seems pretty fun and would be suitable for a setting like the Underdark so if you have a campaign set there this might be good to use.

Another spell is a sort of modified Mage Hand spell but instead of there being a spectral hand, you can teleport small objects to you. There are a lot of restrictions to it however, and it is a first level spell so it’s not always going to be the most effective of your spells.

The last spell I want to mention is really good counter to any scrying spells called Scryspike. With this spell not only can you stop the scrying spell from happening, you can also do some damage to the person who cast it in the first place.

There are several other spells listed in this article and most of them are really fun. Whether they are right for your table or not is going to depend on you and your party so definitely read through carefully before allowing any player to use them.

I think this was the best article in this issue, even if it was just more spells. But then again, who doesn’t want more spells? Spells are fun!

I’m giving this article an A.

If you’ve enjoyed this review and want to help out this blog, consider subscribing to my newsletter. If you want to find cool D&D resources and support this blog click on one of the DM’s Guild banners.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Classic Dungeons & Dragons back in print! - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

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The Ravenstones: Death and Life

The Ravenstones: Death and Life by C.S. Watts

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

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SUMMARY

Volume 4 of The Ravenstones saga (Gains and Losses) ended in setback: the enemy triumphant, our heroes on their heels, needing to regroup. Eirwen the polar bear and his Heimborn cousins had made great strides in their fight for freedom, gaining control of Aeronbed’s capital, Manaris, and the Kingdom’s heartland, winning support of formidable allies: old friends, the gray wolves and new ones, the lions. But these gains came with reversals: two of the Ravenstones lost and a bloody encounter with the panther general, Parthanyx, leaves the allies demoralized.

In Death and Life, Empress Dona Morana wields new weapons. Her agent, the fox Vulpé, insinuates himself into the allied camp, and the long-forgotten wolves of Blakvul rise from their slumber. Parthanyx goes on the offensive, with new allies to command.

Eirwen aims to keep his friend Fridis out of harm’s way. His misguided strategy brings both menace and reward. Uncovering the truth about the gemstones takes Fridis to distant and hidden locations, where she meets a creature who never was, threats she couldn’t have imagined and unexpected answers.

While Eirwen leads the defense of Manaris and of Heimborn, questions emerge in the lions’ camp over the alliance with the bears.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Ravenstones: Death and Life is the fifth entry in the Ravenstones saga. Eirwen, a noble polar bear who has fashioned himself into a legend, and Fridis an eider duck who is intent on discovering the secret of the magic gems she once possessed continue their adventures in this volume. Eirwen must fend off an attack from an enemy army with much greater power than his own while keeping his friend Fridis safe. Olwen, a lion queen who is still learning how to wield her own power has allied with the bear and must show strength to her people while still following direction from Eirwen. Meanwhile a crafty and persuasive fox named Vulpe has his own agenda and is willing to apply as much diplomacy, conniving and subterfuge as possible to come through for his empress.

Up to this volume, all of the books in the Ravenstone series have been intriguing, complex, and full of twists, turns, wins, losses and surprises. It’s an epic quest filled with battles, palace intrigue, shifting alliances, and magic. This volume is no exception. The story overall continues to hook the reader as much as any fantasy fiction can. C. S. Watts has delivered, once again, a book which leaves the reader wanting more while still neatly resolving many of the open questions of the series.

If you are not a fan of books that have complex plots, plenty of action, a decent dose of magic, surprises at every turn, and fine writing as well, then this is not the series for you. While it is definitely not recommended to start this series at the fifth volume in the series, Watts does do a fine job of reminding the reader of events and characters we have seen in past books and why they are important. Even more impressive, he does this while never taking away from the narrative of the current story. And he manages to introduce a large amount of new characters who I am sure will prove essential to the series.

While a book with talking animals may be off-putting to some, this book delivers for any fantasy lover open minded enough to read it. It’s got the feel of Watership Down while still delivering an original story. If you really are not into books where a lot of political intrigue is essential to the plot, this may also not be the series for you, but even with those scenes included, there is still plenty of action and magic here to come back to.

As a reviewer of many fantasy books, I must admit this series is one I think about a lot and I wait for the next volume in eager anticipation to see what will happen in the Ravenstones saga. If you have not picked up this series, you’re in for a treat, especially if you love epic fantasy. This series and this volume in the series is a must read.

The Sandman (Netflix) Flash Review

The Sandman. (L to R) Tom Sturridge as Dream, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death in episode 106 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hello internet, it’s Slick Dungeon here. I’m going to give my initial impressions of the screen adaptation of the comic book series The Sandman. This review will be for what I think of the series overall but in future posts I will do an in-depth review of each individual episode and talk about how the show relates to the comic book series.

I have to be honest to start here. This was a review I dreaded doing. A lot of people who are into comic books had the experience I did with Sandman. When I was a kid I absolutely loved comic books, especially super heroes. But when I went to high school these books dropped off my radar for the most part. Until I started to hear about a series called The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. It had a horror feel to it with some amazing art, a bit of a connection to the DC heroes, but still stood all on its own as a story. And, upon reading the series, it felt like this was one of the series that would help the medium of comics to grow up and be taken seriously. In a phrase, I loved The Sandman and I probably wouldn’t still be reading comic books now without it.

In my mind, the only thing worse than having no adaptation of the series would be to have a bad adaptation of it. It’s the one series I’ve always wanted to see but been much too afraid it would get screwed up. If that happened, I knew people would come to dislike the comic series and we’d never get another good Neil Gaiman story adapted. So, with all that in mind, I was very hesitant to watch this series. I would not be able to take it if it was done poorly.

I’m beyond happy to report this series turned out to be utterly phenomenal. That’s not to say there are no things I would change if I could, but there are so few that this is a nearly perfect series. And there is one episode which I think is maybe the best episode of television I have ever seen.

What’s more, this series is not only grand for those of us who love the comics, but also works exceedingly well for those not at all versed in the lore of The Sandman comics. I think the show will makes comics readers out of a good portion of the audience.

For this review, I really don’t want to get into spoilers in case anyone is wanting to watch but has not. The basic premise is that Dream, played by Tom Sturridge, is captured by mortal man and, let’s just say he is not happy about it. To say much more in this review would either be confusing or lead to spoilers.

The series is by turns dramatic, horrifying, fantastical, and brilliant. The acting performances here are knocked completely out of the park by everyone involved and I just felt like I was living in the world of Dream and his siblings the whole time I was watching it. Some episodes are more terrifying than others and some are slower paced than others but never did I feel bored while watching. There’s too much story here for there to be down time and I guarantee this is a series which will live in your mind long after you have finished watching.

What I want you to take away here is that the series is extremely watchable and a much better adaptation of a brilliant work than I could have hoped for. If you have not yet watched this show, put it at the top of your queue because it’s going to be better than anything else out there.

Next time I will get into the first episode with a deeper review, full of spoilers, but for now, if you watch the show, enjoy the ride because you are in for a fantastic time.

Dreamily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Final Destination 5 – Movie Review

Final Destination 5 2011 Film

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hey there, horror fans, it’s Slick Dungeon again. I’m back to review the last of the Final Destination franchise films, Final Destination 5.

It doesn’t seem like something with the title Final Destination could have five separate installments but here we are. Be warned this review may contain spoilers for the film.

As is true with all the films in this series, this one opens with a disaster that kills a group of people. This time it’s a bridge collapse where a bunch of people who are on a work retreat are inevitably killed in gory fashion. Also, as always it’s a series of truly unlikely random events that cause the accident. And someone in the group has a vision, warns everyone, and saves them from death.

Sam, the one who had the vision, has to put the pieces together as he and his friends start to die later, in the same order they would have died on the bridge.

Although most of the setup is the same, this one introduces a slight new twist, making it a bit more interesting than the last entry in the franchise. Tony Todd, the actor most famous for Candyman, reprises his role as coroner in this movie. He tells Sam that there is a pattern and it can be changed if one life is exchanged for another. This causes Peter, one of Sam’s friends, to realize if he kills someone, he can extend his own life.

The first two thirds of the movie plays out just like all of these do. But it does set up an interesting confrontation for the end.

However, even with this change, it still feels like this film is just on repeat until the very end. I won’t give away what should be the final twist in the Final Destination franchise but I’ll just say if you have seen the rest, you’ll appreciate it.

Also, like the other films, there is a good bit of gore here so if you don’t have the stomach for that sort of thing this is probably not for you. This one is no worse than any of the rest of them though.

All in all this turned out to be a solid franchise with pretty consistent quality throughout. I’d put these into the bucket of fun popcorn horror to watch sometime with your friends late at night.

If they ever decide to make another I will be terribly disappointed though because it ends in a way that feels inevitable.

Do you have a horror franchise you’d like me to review? If so, let me know in the comments.

Finally yours,

Slick Dungeon

Daemon Rises – Book Review

Daemon Rises by Christopher M. Knight

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

BOOK TWO OF THE REMNANT TRILOGY

THE CONSORTIUM IS ADVANCING

Encroaching upon the once-hidden world at the edge of Sol, scouring through thousands of kilometres of the void in search of some long-forgotten threat. It’s a threat that very few know of, that even fewer dare speak of, but it’s an essential piece in the puzzle of probability that the artificial god was designed to solve. What the Thread cannot comprehend, is whether or not that piece will fit.

BASTION IS CHANGING

Evolving, and not just in the fearful preparation that had overcome the isolated civilisation upon the arrival of two strange foreigners. While the Lu’um frantically prepare for a threat that doesn’t seem real, the planet they call home is preparing itself for something even bigger. Something that even the Consortium are not ready for.

THE DAEMON WAITS IN STASIS

A long and silent slumber that hasn’t been broken in centuries. It’s a daemon that slaughtered hundreds, maimed thousands, and carved an entire starship into submission. With its primary function fulfilled, the daemon now sits in dormancy, destined to stay there until the end of time. Unless someone is foolish enough to wake it.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Following straight on from the events of Bastion Awakens, the second book in the series, Daemon Rises takes us into the heart of battles both physical and philosophical. While many of the characters from the first book have been separated or changed significantly from where they started in the first book, we still are able to check in on them and how they fare in this volume.

In the last book a God carved from ones and zeroes woke. But the deeper truth of what it is might just be even more shocking.

Much like the first book, this one takes a while to get your bearings to understand the larger picture of what is going on but once you do, the payoff is well worth the read.

This is a giant space epic with a huge cast of characters so at times it can be hard to keep everyone straight. It would have been nice if near the beginning of the book there might have been a bit of a summary or recap of events just to refresh readers memories but this is only a minor complaint. As you read through the book the story becomes more and more clear and once again the ending is worth the effort.

At times it did seem there were a few too many space battles and the action is fairly relentless. However, all of the action in the book is fun and entertaining. Just make sure you have time to read because this one is a page turner.

All in all this is a fascinating sequel of an already excellent first volume. Christopher M. Knight is remarkably adept at surprising the reader and making a story with tons of pieces fit together properly.

If you are a fan of space operas, action filled novels, or just flat out good stories, this one is for you.

It remains to be seen if the third volume can live up to the standard of the first two but my guess is that Knight will knock it right out of the park on the whole series.

Bastion Awakens – BookReview (re-post)

HI all, re-posting this as I will be publishing the review for the second volume in the series tomorrow and thought people might like to grab a copy of the brilliant Bastion Awakens before I do so.

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

A sovereign empire, the Consortium, defies both science and religion in its race to colonise the Solar System. They carved a God from ones and zeros.
It searches for the Devil.

A hidden planet, Bastion, lies home to a descendant colony of humanity. Its original inhabitants are thought long gone.
But something stirs beneath the surface.

TAREV is a harvester. A moonblood. His life, indebted to the Consortium, entails trudging along the harsh, icy surface of Saturn’s moon, Titan. A life of struggle, harvesting methane for the rest of the Solar System to use, until he and his brother, Sevastian, discover something buried deep within the ice.

Something that will change their lives forever.

ELIA is a Weightless, a gravity wielder, after being injected with the biometal that litters the alien planet on which she lives. She’s also the genetic reprint of an ancient hero, a Catalyst, who paid the ultimate sacrifice over two hundred years ago. Elia struggles to live up to the expectations that come with being a Weightless. She struggles to live normally, while wearing the face of a Catalyst.

She struggles to live, when her planet refuses to die.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Bastion Awakens is almost two books for the price of one. In one story we follow Tarev, a methane harvester from Titan. His life is not easy and he and his brother Sev do the best they can to make a living. Things seem to be set to improve when they find a huge pocket of methane to mine but they discover something completely unexpected while they are at it. The other story deals with Elia, a so called Weightless from Bastion, a hidden colony that has no contact with the other colonized planets. Elia not only is able to wield and bend gravity to her will, she is also a genetic imprint from an ancient hero, a Catalyst, who died over two hundred years ago. Needless to say, she has huge shoes to fill and is doing the best she can to live up to enormous expectations.

It takes a little while to get your bearings in the book (at least it did for me) but once you see how the stories reflect one another and start to understand the nature of the current state of civilization, the book is utterly gripping. It’s a huge space opera that touches on thematic elements from expectations brought about by ones surroundings, to grief, love, loss and self sacrifice. All this while still having a ton of action and life threatening situations to keep the reader engaged the whole while. And while a reader might wonder what the two stories have to do with one another, by the end, all is made clear, while still leaving questions out there that make one instantly want to read another volume in the saga.

To anyone who loves a good space adventure with intricate complexities and deep human emotions, you have got to read this book. While I am tempted to compare this to something like Dune, in that it takes place in space and there are complex politics happening,this stands in its own right as a unique story. By the end of the book the reader cares deeply about Tarev and Elia and can sympathize with all they have been through, gained and lost. To me this can stand with the best of space fiction and is an absolute must read.

Space Operatically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Top 5 Space Themed Tabletop Role Playing Games

DriveThruRPG.com

Hi all, Slick Dungeon here. I’m not going to go into a long intro but I am going to give you a couple of caveats and disclaimers. First, I want to mention that although these are all space games, I did not include any Star Wars content. That’s not because those are bad games, it’s because I plan to do a different post about those games at a later date. Second, I don’t have Spelljammer from Dungeons & Dragons here because it is not fully released yet and would not technically be its own role playing game.

Alright, with that out of the way, let’s get into the list!

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5. Traveller

Traveller Core Rulebook

Traveller by Mongoose publishing is one of the first, if not the first, tabletop roleplaying game set in space. It’s been around forever and has a storied history of being played anywhere people love role playing games and want to go out into space to do it. While there is plenty of action and adventure here, it can feel a bit clunkier than some of the others on this list. It’s still one of the greats, however, and well worth playing, especially if you don’t want to play in a known brand like Star Trek or Alien. Because it exists outside of those types of domains you can be a bit more creative about what your campaigns are all about. I find this to be better with people who have at least some role playing experience to begin with but it’s usually a great time.

Get Traveller here for $30: Traveller Core Rulebook.

4. Stars Without Number

Stars Without Number by Kevin Crawford

Kevin Crawford is extremely adept at creating expansive role playing worlds, or in this case planetary systems, and Stars Without Number delivers an amazingly full experience here. It’s set in the far future but was inspired by old school sci-fi adventure. This was written from the ground up and the rule set is quite flexible for any kind of space campaign you may wish to run. The core rulebook gives you options for creating aliens, technology, and making your star systems more interesting. For anyone who loves a true sandbox style campaign this is an excellent system.

You can get the full set of rules for $20 for the PDF here: Stars Without Number

And while I do highly recommend getting the PDF (or even the hardcover book if you are looking to spend a bit more) the great thing is you can get most of the rules for free. Unlike most quickstarts or basic rules you can get for free these are very comprehensive and you could play for years with just the basic free rules.

That’s right, a ton of what you need to play is available for nothing right here: Stars Without Number Free Edition

3. Star Trek Adventures

Star Trek Adventure: The Role Playing Game

It’s nearly impossible to have a list of anything space related without talking about Star Trek. Fortunately for us there is a solid role playing game which allows you to boldly go where no one has gone before. This is what you would expect from a Star Trek game. There is plenty of exploration to be had and a fair amount of conflict. You can play as most of your favorite types of aliens from the core rulebook but there are also expansions that can add to your experience. If you are a Star Trek fan at all, this is a really fun game and Modiphius, the publisher of the series, did a great job of adapting their ruleset to the Star Trek franchise.

You can get the core rulebook PDF for $20 right here: Star Trek Adventures Core Rulebook

2. Dune: Adventures in the Imperium

Dune: Adventures in the Imperium: The Role Playing Game

If you are looking for something a bit more complex than a simple shoot-em-up space cowboy adventure you can’t go wrong with Dune: Adventures in the Imperium: The Role Playing Game. Dune has been adapted into an RPG before and it developed a strong cult following but for my money, I think the more modernized and updated rules from Modiphius in this current version are much more accessible and entertaining. Whatever you think of the books by Frank Herbert or the movies that have been made from those works, this game encompasses all of the greatest aspects of the Dune universe. It is chocked full of political intrigue, backstabbing, factional rivalries, and, of course, giant space worms. This one really does lean into the worlds of Dune so if you are looking to play this game, I do recommend reading at least the first book in the series. But if you are a casual fan who has just seen the movie you’ll still do fine, you just may not get quite as much out of the game. Anyway, this is all to say I really enjoy playing this one and it’s got hours and hours of role playing potential.

You can get the Dune: Adventures in the Imperium Core Rulebook PDF here for $25: Dune: Adventures in the Imperium Core Rulebook

1. Alien the RPG

Alien: The Role Playing Game

There are a lot of different reasons people play role playing games. I’m a fan of a bunch of different games for a bunch of different reasons. My personal tastes do lean a bit toward horror overall but that is not the only reason I have Alien: The Role Playing Game as my top pick. When it comes to sheer, outright fun in a space roleplaying game, I don’t think this one can be beat. While it feels like the universe of the movies, the game has enough variation and enough flexibility that it feels like nearly anything is possible. You won’t just be fighting chest bursters and Xenomorphs. As fun as those things can be, there’s actually a lot more to fight and explore. In fact, if you get the starter set, there isn’t a Xenomorph at all in the scenario they give you. To my mind, it’s better to start small anyway, considering a Xenomorph would be a big boss. And, much like in the best of the films, sometimes the most dangerous things you face are humans. All in all, this is just a fantastic game. Do be warned it does involve body horror (which should be no surprise if you have watched any of the films) and while you can ratchet the horror up or down to suit your party, I think this really is at its best when you can go into full scare/horror mode. If you play this one, you are going to remember it at night as you drift off to sleep, no doubt.

You can get Alien: The Role Playing Game PDF for $25 here: Alien: The Role Playing Game Core Rulebook

Or if you want just a bit of a taste of the game before you dive in, you can find the Alien: The Role Playing Game Starter set PDF here for $20: Alien: The Role Playing Game Starter Set

So, there you have it. Do you have any space faring games you love that I missed on this list? If so let me know in the comments.

And, if you like these types of posts and want more of this type of content, consider purchasing one of the awesome games listed above through this post. It really helps out this blog when you do.

Spacily yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Final Destination – Movie Review

The Final Destination 2009 Film

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hey film fanatics, Slick Dungeon here! I’m back to review the fourth of the Final Destination films. This was intended to be the last of the Final Destination films (see the irony here where something should end but just keeps coming back??) so they called it The Final Destination instead of Final Destination 4.

If you haven’t watched this, hop in your car and race yourself to the movies so you can get caught up because there will be some spoilers for this film. You’ve been warned.

Still with me? Great. The movie starts out in typical fashion for these films. A group of friends is about to do something. In this case it’s watch a NASCAR race when one of them has a vision of horrible death. Nick O’bannon, played by Bobby Campo has a freak out as he is predicting everything that is about to happen and he and a few other people end up narrowly missing certain death.

For a fourth film in a franchise this movie has some surprisingly recognizable faces. NIck Zano who you probably know from Legends of Tomorrow as Nate plays Hunt, one of Nick’s friends and Shantel VanSanten who you probably know as Becca from The Boys plays Nick O’bannon’s girlfriend Lori. And the security guard from the race track is played by Mykelti Williamson who you most likely know as Bubba from Forest Gump. This one does however lack Tony Todd who any horror fan knows played the extremely memorable title role in Candyman and was in the first two films and a voice in the third.

As usual characters who survived the initial incident start falling off through random accidents one by one. I will say in this one the deaths seem pretty inventive and there are a few times where it was genuinely surprising how the kill happens. And as usual, you do need enough of a stomach to handle some gore to watch this.

The characters find themselves sounding crazy and doing everything they can to try to prevent the impending deaths. This time the death order seems to be linear once again so as long as they can figure out the order of who dies, they can prevent a death. This skips to the next person though so they have to figure out how to stop everyone from getting killed.

The performances here are also a bit less cheesy than in some of the previous films and that helps make it believable. There’s even a moment where it seems like maybe the characters can win but it is turned right on its head.

And, as usual, it does seem like a lot of these deaths would be prevented by safety protocols and general upkeep. If you learn nothing else from these films, always remember, safety first.

Characters are killed off via impaling, dismemberment, and going through car washes.

While I wouldn’t say this is necessarily the best of the series it’s pretty good. And as usual, the real horror here is not at all how the characters die but the unsettling thought that these things could happen to anyone at any time. It’s a really crazy set of circumstances which usually causes the accident but for all of them they could potentially happen. This does elevate the horror a bit because you simply cannot fight inevitable death.

One thing I never get in this series of movies is there will at least one character who just refuses to believe they are next on the death list. This is always after the first character has proven they can see death coming and even possibly saved some people from it, yet they refuse to believe. I mean, why take the chance when someone who already proved they can predict this stuff tells you to get out of there. I’m not overly superstitious but I would leave a movie if someone had saved other people from a terrible death previously.

Anyway, this is a minor detail in an overall decent horror franchise and if you’ve gone this far with these movies you might as well continue. If you want to see something with a bit of gore and several interesting ways to die, this is worth watching as the franchise consistently delivers a decent, fun ride.

Marvel 616 Review – The Incredible Hulk #6

The Incredible Hulk Issue 6 Photo Credit: Marvel

Marvel 616 has a great history of introducing amazing and powerful super villains. Spider-man has the best rogues gallery outside of Batman comics with memorable menaces like Dr. Octopus, Kraven the Hunter, and the Vulture. The Hulk on the other hand, one of the most powerful beings in all of Marvel, has hardly any enemies worth remembering. However, there are occasions when we can see some experimentation with villains right in Hulk’s pages.

In The Incredible Hulk issue 6 we see what can only be considered a first pass at what Magneto will be in the pages of the X-Men comics down the line. Make no mistake, this “Metal Master” is no where near as interesting as Magneto but it is a first crack at an enemy who can bend metal to his will.

The issue starts (as so many Hulk stories do) with a missile test. General Thunderbolt Ross is waiting on Bruce Banner so he can test his newest rocket. Banner is already 15 minutes late and Ross is none too happy about it. Betty Ross worries something might have happened while Rick Jones realizes Banner’s had enough time to change back from being the Hulk.

Betty worries Hulk has taken Banner. Rick wishes he could let her know his secret but he knows how upset that would make Bruce.

When we see Hulk, he wants to get into his secret lab to change back but there’s a whole infantry of troops doing practice maneuvers there. He’s aware if he’s seen, the secret location of his lab will be exposed. However, it seems it’s also becoming harder for Hulk to go back to being Banner at all. If he doesn’t change he might be stuck in the form of the green monster.

He’s saved from having to fight the troops when the emergency alert from the base sounds and the soldiers all scramble back. Hulk is then able to use the machine to turn himself back into Banner but before he does it he says, “I hate havin’ to become that weakling Banner all the time!” I find this interesting because Hulk has most of the brain function of Bruce Banner at this point (he can speak in full sentences and make logical decisions so he’s not just a rage machine) yet he clearly sees himself as two distinct people. This further establishes the multiple personalities Bruce Banner will come to have. While this is pretty much a direct comparison to The Strange Case ofDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde right now, it becomes much more complicated in the future.

In addition, changing from one form to the other seems to become more painful for both of them as time goes on. Oddly, this time when Bruce changes he retains a bit of Hulk’s strength so they are sort of merging together a bit at this point.

After the change is complete and Bruce loses all the strength of the Hulk he checks in on the base through a video monitor and sees Ross and Betty in major distress. He sees the test rocket he invented completely melted. In the narration of the panel we see this it says, “Bewildered, the trembling viewer switches on the sound portion of his amazing set, and hears…” I point this out because it’s a reminder cameras were not common, and color cameras with sound were exceedingly rare at best, in the 1960’s. In other words, Marvel could sometimes be predictive about the future, much the same way Star Trek predicted automatic doors.

We get our first glimpse of the Metal Master, an imposing figure with yellow skin and a strange red outfit who hails from the planet Astra. Basically, Hulk fights two kinds of enemies in most of his books, either aliens or communists. Or sometimes aliens who sympathize with communists. Don’t hold your breath waiting for something better because it takes a while for Hulk to get past this.

Anyway, The Metal Master demonstrates some of his powers while telling everyone how most people on his planet are artists but he was deemed a criminal because he wanted to use his mental control over all metal to conquer. Ever since, this dude has been on the lookout for a planet with plenty of metal resources. He comes across Earth and the lightbulb goes off.

Despite having just destroyed a weapon and demonstrated his powers Ross just says, “Someone grab him! He’s nutty as a fruit cake!” You would have thought the military would have already opened fire on this guy but this is a kids comic and they needed Hulk to fight the guy. Plus, bullets wouldn’t be that effective considering there is metal in them.

The Metal Master melts some guns and helmets and then goes big time by melting a whole tank. One of the soldiers realizes this guy is, “the single most powerful force on Earth!” Of course that soldier must not have met Thor, or the Hulk if he thinks that.

Next, the villain traps Ross and company in a cage of his own making. He demands control of the base and subsequently of the planet within 24 hours. The Metal Master leaves using a steel plate as a flying platform (a move Magneto will definitely use in the future). They try to stop him with rockets but those are also made of metal so it doesn’t work.

Rick Jones realizes the only hope for humanity is the Hulk. Bruce is already changing when Rick gets to the secret lab. But for some reason, this time Bruce’s face doesn’t change. Luckily Banner made some plaster cast molds of Hulk’s face so he throws one on. (Don’t ask me how he got Hulk to sit still long enough to do that)

Hulk goes into action saying, “I can’t fly like a blasted Human Torch–but these muscles ain’t just for show!” He leaps into the air and lands right where the Metal Master is.

They have a pretty typical fight where the villain is throwing stuff at Hulk and Hulk is jut breaking it. That is until Metal Master offers to team up with the Hulk. Hulk considers it for a moment, realizing the human race has been hounding him forever and isn’t going to stop. He decides not to team up with Metal Master, not because he likes humans but because he figures the Hulk doesn’t need any help from anyone. While Hulk is ranting, Metal Master knocks him out.

A few minutes later a group of soldiers find Hulk and realize he has a mask on. They take it off to reveal… the same face as the mask. Banner’s secret is still safe. The soldiers manage to catch Hulk and put him in a special stone building made to hold the creature.

Betty is still worried about Bruce but Rick Jones realizes Hulk is the only chance against Metal Master. Rick goes to talk to the Hulk but the Hulk blames Rick for the soldiers taking off the mask. Hulk really starts to display some rage at both Rick and all of humanity here. This upsets Rick so much he asks about enlisting. Ross won’t let him though because he is only 16.

Meanwhile Metal Master goes on a rampage throughout the world destroying a bunch of metal stuff like oil rigs and bridges.

We check back in on Rick who is shown a ham radio by his friends. He then has the idea to form a club called The Teen Brigade who will keep in radio contact to help out the army, the police, and basically any good guys who could use a hand. I know it sounds cheesy but the formation of this group is actually important in the history of Marvel 616 and gives a bit more of a voice to the teenage audience.

Of course, Hulk busts out of his inescapable prison. Ross and Betty are talking and Betty realizes she cares pretty deeply from Bruce. They still haven’t found him so it’s upsetting her. Ross gets the news of Hulk escaping and Betty thinks Hulk has captured Banner.

Hulk goes back to the secret lab and changes back to Banner. This leaves him exceptionally weak this time but luckily Rick happens along. Bruce tells Rick he has a way to stop Metal Master but he needs help. Rick gets his teen brigade on the case.

While they gather supplies, Bruce recovers enough to turn back into the Hulk.

As this is happening Metal Master is stopping missiles and aircraft from all kinds of nations that are attacking him. When he destroys a group of airplanes he pulls a pretty odd move saying, “By merely melting the engine section of each plane, I permit the helpless pilots to bail out and float to safety!” Strange move for a guy trying to rule a planet but I guess he has a conscience? He says what he wants is for every living thing to serve him but I’m not buying that. The real reason is comics codes were fairly strict back then and you couldn’t actually show anyone in uniform (police, military, etc.) being killed or defeated. For that reason there were a lot of strange workarounds during what would likely be armed battle.

Hulk and Rick put together the device Banner cooked up while the rest of the Teen Brigade wait outside. The Brigade spots Metal Master heading to Washington. D.C. and the setup for the final battle begins as Hulk heads there. Hulk is armed with what looks like a huge gun. Metal Master tries to break it with his powers but nothing happens. The antagonizes the Metal Master and he gets closer to the Hulk.

Ross and Betty are still trying to find Bruce but obviously with no luck. Ross gets word of the showdown in D.C. and heads over there.

Hulk gets close enough to the villain to grab Metal Master and pretty much tells him he can get pounded by his fists or clean up everything he destroyed. Metal Master gets on his ship and heads off Earth.

Of course, the gun was just a decoy and not made of metal which is what tricked Metal Master. Hulk has moment where he actually gives credit to the Teen Brigade, proving Hulk doesn’t hate all humans. But the army moves in.

Hulk leaps off with Rick before anything can happen. The Teen Brigade tell Ross how Hulk saved humanity. That’s not likely to sway Ross but it’s some food for thought for him.

Hulk tries to use the machine to change back but he stays in Hulk form. He realizes the machine may have been used too much and now knows he is stuck in a form that will be relentlessly hunted by humans.

Betty is determined to find Bruce but still is having no luck. Hulk gets word he is getting a pardon because he saved the world. He’s unhappy because it’s not enough and he starts smashing stuff. And he suddenly changes back to Bruce Banner.

Bruce goes to see Betty but her father answers the door. Ross is enraged Hulk got a pardon and demands to know where Bruce has been. He says he felt under the weather so took a few days off in Bermuda. (Great excuse, definitely use that next time you miss a day of work)

Betty is overjoyed at seeing Bruce but Ross still thinks Bruce is a “milksop.” Betty knows there is some connection between Hulk and Bruce but he says he cares about her too much to tell her everything. Bruce hopes Hulk is gone for good but we all know that’s not the case.

After this issue Hulk loses his own title for a while and shares the pages of Tales to Astonish with Ant-Man for a while. But this is by no means the end of Hulk and his stories.

Next up in the reading order we’ll be introduced to a new hero, one who has his very own suit of iron, in Tales of Suspense #39!

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Final Destination 3 – Movie Review

Final Destination 3 2006 Film

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

It’s time for the inevitable yet again! It’s me, Slick Dungeon, back to review the next film in the Final Destination franchise. This is the film series where the only murderer is death itself. And eventually we’re all going to lose that contest. So if you haven’t seen this movie yet, get off that rollercoaster before it takes off because there may be spoilers to smack you in the face below.

Still here? Okay, let’s get into it. The first two films in this franchise centered heavily around the tragic crash of flight 180 to Paris where a group of people got off the plane because one of the passengers had a premonition before the plane took off. While the second film was less closely tied to the first one, there was a definite and rather interesting connection for all the characters.

This film starts six years after the original crash. The group of high school students in this film are not even tangentially related to the events of the first but they still experience an incident. Kim who is seen as a control freak among her friends has a vision of a gruesome and fiery death on a roller coaster. She gets off the ride after a bit of a freak out and a few of her friends do so as well, either willingly, or for other reasons. Kim’s boyfriend Jason stays and meets his inevitable fate along with a few other students.

Unlike the last two films, the deaths of Kim’s friends seems to really bother and stay with her and other students at the school. This does make the deaths feel a little more meaningful even if they are still shockingly bloody.

Like the first two there are smash cuts and jump scares virtually guaranteed to make you jump out of your seat. The group has to figure out how to outrun death. This is no easy task and as in the other films it doesn’t seem like anyone but death will win in the end.

There are a few clever twists and turns and the actors seem to be more committed to the story in this one but by the third time this is feeling like old hat. While the setup and payoff is rather familiar, the deaths in this film are even more inventive and bloody than the first two, and that’s saying something.

It’s still a fun ride (pun very much intended) and if you’re a horror fan this is worth a watch. Just maybe don’t get on any roller coasters afterwards.

Inevitably yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Review – Journey Into Mystery #90

Journey Into Mystery Issue 90 Photo Credit: Marvel

While The Fantastic Four have been busy meeting The Hulk, Thor continues to face off against everything from communists to Loki to space aliens. The 90th issue of Journey Into Mystery once again presents an alien foe to the god of thunder.

This time Thor ends up fighting a race of aliens called The Xartans. These are aliens who are able to copy themselves into anything they see. Thus the title of The Carbon Copy Man (although there are actually several Xartans so the name doesn’t exactly hold up.)

Before the fight begins, Dr. Blake is just on the verge of telling his love interest Jane Foster that he is secretly Thor. Before this happens, Odin comes to Blake in a vision and warns him against doing so. Dr. Blake continues to look like a coward to Jane and she, of course, is thinking about her hero, Thor.

Soon, Dr. Blake is encountering people in town he knows doing strange things. New laws have passed saying cars should drive on sidewalks, billboards should go over office windows instead of where they belong, and worst of all, if people are sick but can’t pay to see a doctor they should be kicked out of the hospital. (That last one can be uncomfortably close to the truth and it’s interesting it appears here but I digress)

Dr. Blake is, of course, none too happy about any of this. He decides to investigate and ask the Mayor, who he appears to be friends with, although there has been no real mention of him before. The Mayor also seems happy with these odd changes.

Blake changes to Thor and tries to find out what is happening when he is trapped by a huge electromagnet. This separates him from his hammer and Thor turns back into Blake. This is probably good since all the actual people are in a spaceship operated by the Xartans. Blake tells the Xartans they are no match for Thor and so they should destroy him to take over the planet unimpeded. Jane’s not very impressed with this.

It does give Blake the chance to pick up his hammer and become Thor once again, however. There’s a fight with two of the Xartans using different methods to try to beat Thor but, of course, our hero wins in the end.

At the end of the story Thor tells the Xartans they have to change into trees. They do it, thinking they will be able to change back whenever they want. Thor may have outsmarted them because he figures trees don’t think so neither can the Xartans when they are in tree form.

This is reminiscent of how Reed Richards gets the Skrulls to turn into cows. Neither change is permanent and I’m sure we’ll see more of the Xartans in the future.

Overall, this story is fairly forgettable, other than the fact Odin really doesn’t want Blake to spill the beans to Jane Foster.

Next up on our reading list we’ll be catching up with the big green guy once again in The Incredible Hulk #6!

Final Destination 2 – Movie Review

Final Destination 2 2003 Film

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hello internet! It’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review another movie about the inevitability of death, Final Destination 2. If you haven’t watched this before, buckle your seatbelts and strap in and watch it first because there may be spoilers in this review.

On the surface, it seems really silly to have something called Final Destination have a sequel. After all, wouldn’t final imply it’s the last? But the sequel does work and it actually connects fairly well to the first.

In the second film, we start off with something way more likely than death by plane crash. Instead, it’s death by car accident. Kim and her friends are about to drive out of town for a fun little getaway. She sees a huge, if somewhat unlikely, series of events resulting in a major traffic accident where she and a bunch of other people die. When she snaps to, she takes action and blocks traffic. Kim and several other people are spared death. Unfortunately her friends end up dead anyway.

Kim has heard about the events of flight 180 and the freakish deaths afterward and realizes she’s just experienced something similar. Clear, played by Ali Larter in the first film is still alive so Kim goes to see if she can be any help.

For the rest of the movie characters are trying, and mostly failing, to avoid their own inevitable deaths one by one.

I think the interesting twist in this one is how each character is somehow connected to the passengers who survived Flight 180. They come up with some rules for how to defeat death although, I’m not sure those rules really make much sense.

There are points where a lot of the characters simply ignore things they shouldn’t or take unreasonable actions. But, Kim and Clear for the majority of the film play it smart and Kim has the best idea of them all. I won’t spoil that here but her method does seem reasonable to defeat death in my opinion.

It’s a clever sequel and it once again has Tony Todd adding in an extra layer of creepy in the way only he (and maybe someone like Boris Karloff) can. If you liked the first film, this is not a bad follow up and I do recommend it. It’s just not quite as clever as the first, although I do think overall it is better acted.

Inevitably yours,

Slick Dungeon

Final Destination – Movie Review

Final Destination 2000 Film

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hey film fanatics, Slick Dungeon here! I’m back to review another horror film. This time I went with the movie that cuts out the middle man, Final Destination. So, before the flight that is this review takes off, make sure you’ve already watched the film because there will be some spoilers.

Still with me? Okay great. Final Destination is a horror/thriller film about a group of teenagers who narrowly escape death when they get off of a flight right before it explodes. While most horror films have a bad guy going around offing the characters in one way or another, this one completely cuts out the middle man. There is no creepy stalker with a knife, there is no nightmarish figure haunting your dreams, there is not even a mythical vampire trying to suck your blood in this film. Instead, the bad guy is the inevitability of death. As far as villains go, this one is pretty unbeatable.

The story centers around Alex, Clear and a few other random people who were about to board a flight to France for a school outing. Just before the flight takes off, Alex has a terrible vision of the plane exploding and killing everyone on it. He has a bit of a freak out and makes for the exit. A few other people follow and/or are kicked off the flight along with Alex.

While most of the people who got off the flight seem to think Alex is off his rocker, the plane does explode. Great, everyone is saved right? Wrong! Not long after, one of Alex’s friends is killed. The audience can see it happen and it’s no accident. However, it looks an awful lot like a suicide. Alex figures out this is the inevitable death of all of those spared from the fiery death on the plane.

The rest of the film is spent figuring out who will go next, how to avoid death and how to make seem like Alex is not a crazed killer.

While not all of the effects are perfect in this film, and the acting is only average for the most part (Ali Larter excepted) this movie really does leave you with an unsettling feeling. If you are averse to flying I don’t recommend watching this at all because it’s just going to increase your fear.

The movie has few smash and jump cuts likely to make anyone jump and there is definitely a bit of gore but it’s not over the top.

If you are in the mood for a spooky thriller/horror film you’ll keep thinking about long after it is over, this is the movie for you.

Inevitably yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Review – Fantastic Four #12

The Fantastic Four Issue 12 Photo Credit: Marvel

In all of comic book history there is one type of event which sells more issues than any other. The crossover issue. This is an issue where characters guest star in pages of one another’s books. A lot of times this is to team up and destroy some great evil. Other times there are heroes who are good at heart but have a slightly different view of the world and they end up butting heads. Nobody pulled the latter type of crossover off better than Stan Lee.

From the first moments when we knew there was The Thing and The Hulk fans wondered which character was stronger. The eagerness to see the answer to that only increases whenever Ben Grimm brags he could knock out The Hulk any day of the week. Hulk hasn’t specifically called out The Thing in his book before but we as the readers already know Hulk has destroyed a ton of seemingly indestructible things (pun intended).

The cover of issue 12 promises a “book-length epic” and we can tell from the beginning this is going to be a big deal.

The issue starts off with Ben Grimm on a date with his girlfriend at the symphony. He’s in his usual disguise of a trench coat, fedora, and sunglasses. It’s not a great disguise but I guess it works well enough. On the way out, they see a company of infantrymen. A man next to Thing knocks his hat off and Ben, in a fit of anger, lifts the man up with one hand. The soldiers see this and think they’ve just caught a glimpse of the Hulk. They try out a few gadgets to restrain Ben, including a snap cable contraption that wraps around him, and a gas grenade. None of it is effective for long. The gas does slow Ben down, however. The soldiers explain the situation but Ben is even more insulted they think he’s the Hulk and says, “You tryin to tell me you thought that brainless lump of lard was me?!! Of all the crummy…” So, yeah Ben’s in prime fighting mood by this point.

Ben Grimm drops Alicia off and heads back to the Baxter building. He can’t find his electronic beam to open the elevator so he just rips off the door and climbs thirty-five floors up the cable. Ben relates the story to Reed Richards and the gang. He says, “Next they’ll be takin’ me for Frankenstein!” This quip actually works on multiple levels because Frankenstein’s monster is exactly what Stan Lee based Hulk off of in the first place.

Coincidentally, the Fantastic Four had just received a call from General Thunderbolt Ross who wants to talk to Reed about The Hulk. Ben is skeptical of Ross and isn’t even sure if there really is a Hulk since he’d never seen him in person. Ross comes in and apologizes to Ben, explaining the only way to recognize the Hulk is by his superhuman strength. (I guess the green/sometimes gray skin is not enough of a tip off.)

Ben immediately states he can make mincemeat of The Hulk. Ross shows everyone a picture of the Hulk and lets the team know a missile installation in the desert has been sabotaged. Ross assumes it had to have been Hulk. Ross asks the FF to find and destroy the Hulk.

Ross then shows them some film footage of Hulk destroying a cannon. This frightens Sue Storm enough that she accidentally turns invisible. Weirdly, Ben seems kind of insulted Sue thinks Hulk is more terrifying than he is.

We’re next treated to some panels where Ben imagines ways he would beat Hulk. Johnny Storm does the same thing. Even Reed thinks of defeating Hulk by surprising the monster and smothering him. Sue thinks all she can do is go along for the ride, unsure how she might help.

In a panel that just shows how dismissive men were of women at the time, General Ross states, “A pretty young lady can always be of help–just by keeping the men’s morale up!” Reed agrees by saying, “That’s just the way we feel about Sue, General!” Keep in mind, out of all of these characters, the only one with a real shot of stopping the Hulk would be Sue Storm. She would just need to send a tiny force bubble of air into his bloodstream and no more Hulk. Plus she is the only one who could actually use the element of surprise against him.

Reed then shows off the fantasti-car to Ross. It’s got a new and more futuristic design thanks to Johnny’s tinkering. They hop in the car and head to the desert to try to find the Hulk. Ross shows them some debris he says the Hulk crushed.

The real crossover starts to happen when Reed Richards is taken to a meeting where Dr. Bruce Banner and Rick Jones are both present. Also there is an assistant to Banner named Dr. Karl Kort. Banner insists all the equipment was destroyed from the inside out and that a rampaging Hulk would have torn the device from the outside in.

Reed and Bruce do have a strong mutual respect and have ready one another’s work. Kort leaves the meeting early and is pretty freaked out by The Thing. Ben gets too bored waiting and barges in on the meeting. There’s a tussle to get control of the meeting again and Ross rages at the FF. The only person to defend them is Bruce Banner. Ross then insults Ben Grimm in the worst way possible saying, “Looks to me like you’re afraid of The Hulk!”

Banner offers his help to the FF to find “The Wrecker”. Banner and Rick say it’s a saboteur doing the damage. Ross pretty much just fumes the whole time. Banner finds himself wishing he could tell them why he’s so sure Hulk is innocent.

Back at Banner’s hideout he shows Rick a model of the device that was wrecked. Turns out it was supposed to make any city completely invulnerable to enemy missiles. In a sort of random series of events, Rick Jones ends up with Karl Kort’s wallet and sees a membership card to a “subversive communist-front organization!” Kort sees Rick though and pulls a gun on him.

This leads into the fourth part of the story, appropriately titled “The Hulk at last!”

Reed and his team have been fixing up army equipment in the form of some kind of rocket powered sled. Thing is easily able to withstand the g-forces as he pilots it for the first time. There’s a bend in the rails of the track for the sled and Ben goes flying but Johnny and Reed save the day. The army blames Ben even though it was clearly sabotaged.

Bruce Banner rushes to the FF to ask for help since he can’t find Rick Jones. He doesn’t tell them why he’s sure it isn’t The Hulk though and this leaves the team suspicious of Banner. Bruce decides to transform to the Hulk so he can save Rick.

There are underground tunnels Hulk, the FF and Kort all converge in. Hulk thinks he needs to fight the FF to get them to leave the area. This was Kort’s demand in order to release Rick. And at long last we get to see The Hulk face to face with The Thing.

Hulk gets in the first punch, knocking Ben to the ground. But Ben is hard enough to hurt Hulk’s hand. The Human Torch is up next but Hulk buries him in sand, thus dousing Johnny’s flames. Hulk punches his way up out of the tunnels and buries Ben and Johnny underneath him.

Yet the Hulk is not aware of just how good Reed Richards is at finding the smallest crack to stretch through to get out of a trap. Reed wraps his arms around the Hulk. Hulk breaks free but so do Johnny and Ben. Hulk throws a wooden frame house from an old west ghost town at the team. This doesn’t stop them at all. Hulk next tries to separate them. He’s about to power dive Thing when he gets wrapped up by Reed. Hulk spins his way out of it. But Johnny is right there flying at the Hulk. Hulk gives one of his thunderclaps which causes a sonic boom strong enough to knock down three out of the four of the FF. Thing socks Hulk right on the jaw and this time its Hulk who is knocked back.

Just as we’re about to find out who wins the fight Hulk is hit with some kind of atomic ray. Ben is really mad he didn’t get to finish his fight and seconds later is confronted with a giant robot. Ben realizes this is The Wrecker’s machine and he finds the door to the guy’s lab. Ben smashes the door in to find Karl Kort. By now, everyone has realized it wasn’t Hulk who did the destruction earlier.

Just as Kort is about to hit Ben with the same ray he hit Hulk with, Sue knocks the ray out of Kort’s hands.

The bad guy is captured. Hulk realizes he doesn’t need to fight The Thing and might be too weak to do it anyway and goes back to change into Bruce Banner once more.

Ross holds a little ceremony for the FF and Reed and Bruce say they would like to meet again. The end of the issue asks, “Will the Hulk again meet the Fantastic Four??” I think we all know the answer to that.

This was a fairly major issue for the 616 universe. It was test to see if there was enough appeal to have characters regularly cross over to other books. The formula must have been successful enough considering it’s still done all the time.

Next up on the reading list we’re checking in on one of the few people who might be able to beat both Hulk and Thing in a fight, the god of thunder, Thor, himself in Journey Into Mystery #90!

Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight – Movie Review

Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight 2020 Film

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hello horror fans, it’s me, Slick Dungeon! If you’ve ever seen a slasher horror film you know the title of the film I am about to review is good advice. Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight is a camper/slasher from Poland in the storied traditions of movies like Halloween and Friday the 13th. Be warned there will be some spoilers in this review so be warned before you read.

After a small intro scene from the past, the movie starts like most slashers. We have a group of campers out in the woods and the audience is pretty sure not all of these people are going to make it through the night. The people camping are here due to some problem or other they’ve had with technology. This is a sleep away camp where cell phones and other electronic devices are not allowed. The point is for them to get away from technology.

This is especially bad when there is a killer on the loose. While no one at the camp seems to know this is the case, there are some rumors of bad things that happened way back around World War II. We get to know the campers a little, most of them are not really surprising stereotypes. There’s a jock, a kid who is an online gamer, one who’s addicted to social media for the fame and influencers on there etc.

It’s not too far into the film we get the first real hint of something bad out in the woods. And soon students go missing. The audience knows what happened because we get to see the death before the other characters find the body. The film progresses like most of these where one by one people get picked off.

But, there is enough originality here to make this one stand out. While the film leans into the horror tropes, it does a decent job of twisting them just enough at the right moments to make it fairly disturbing. While not everyone is going to be impressed with the makeup and the look of the killer you can’t deny it’s an original take, even if it is a bit mashed up with other types of horror.

There are enough characters we come to care about for this to be worth watching if you want a pretty enjoyable horror film that’s never quite breaking entirely new ground. I may be a little biased because my favorite type of horror is films like these but I found it pretty entertaining overall and it’s nice to see a horror film that’s not American give it a go.

If you like stuff like Friday the 13th, the Fear Street films or any movie about campers who are in danger from lethal killers, this will be right up your alley.

Slashingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Flash Fiction Friday – Distracted Driving

Happy Friday internet people! It’s been a few weeks since I posted one of these. Hope you like it and let me know what you think in the comments!

Distracted Driving – By Adam Wright

Kevin’s pickup truck rattled down the highway. The black asphalt and white stripes on the road whizzed by in front of his eyes in a rhythmic pattern. He stretched his arm across the passenger seat and let out a yawn as he stretched.

He was singing along to some eighties song he’d heard a million times before. The name escaped him. Something about a movie he’d never watched. A glance at the clock told him it was near midnight. Another hour on the road would get him home. All he had to do was stay awake. 

A sip of coffee might be nice but then he’d need to pull over to pee. No way he’d be able to bring himself to keep driving after. Better to hold it.

His eyes were getting heavy when he saw a flash of white in front of his eyes. It was a barefoot woman in a white dress. She was beautiful with raven hair draped down her shoulders. She was in the middle of the road but when Kevin’s headlights shone at her they seemed to go through her, as if she wasn’t there at all.

Slowing the truck to a crawl, he wiped his eyes and opened them again. There was nothing there. Kevin convinced himself he was just seeing things when a voice rang out next to him.

“Jesus, Deep Blue Something? That band was old when I was still alive. Update your taste.” 

Kevin turned to see the woman from the road in his passenger seat. He yanked his arm back and opened his mouth. 

“Don’t scream. I’m so damn tired of screaming. Just get used to it. I don’t want to be here any more than you want me to.”

“You’re a…?”

“You’re driving late at night in an old truck on an open road. What did you expect? Yes, I’m a ghost. Happy now? Do you have a cell phone?”

Kevin tried to talk but a squeak came out.

“It’s not a complicated question. I know your truck looks like it’s from the 80’s but people don’t operate without cell phones anymore. I’m hoping to catch up on the news a little. Maybe watch some Tik-Tok videos. Where is it?”

Kevin pointed to the glove box.

“Can you take it out? I’m not solid anymore. Just start up whatever your favorite social media is. I’ll take anything. Hell, even if it’s NPR. Just hit play on something for me.”

“Uh… are you trying to haunt me? Did I do something to you?”

“Nope. Not trying to haunt anyone. Anytime one of these rickety old ass trucks show up out of nowhere, BOOM, I’m in it.”

Kevin jumped at the sound of the word BOOM.

“Don’t be so jumpy. I’m harmless, promise. I’m just bored as hell. The phone, can you?”

“Why are you here?” Kevin was twenty four years old but his voice cracked as he spoke as if he was fifteen.

“Do you want the long story or the short one? Short one’s easier.”

Kevin watched as a car drove towards his truck, the headlights flashing in his eyes for a brief moment.

“Uh.. short one?”

“I died, hoped to get revenge against my boyfriend. It didn’t work out. Now I’m here. Like, forever I guess.”

Kevin stared at the open road. He didn’t make a move toward the glove box.

“Fine, you want the long version. You’ve heard of the asphalt strangler? Yeah, turns out that asshole was my boyfriend. I had no idea. I found some gritty evidence in his truck one day and, well, you can guess what a dude called the asphalt strangler did to me. I swore with my dying breath I’d get revenge on him and next thing you know, I’m on this highway looking for trucks. Can’t help it.”

“But didn’t…”

“Yeah, that’s the part that didn’t work out. The asphalt strangler died of a goddamned heart attack. Can’t get revenge on a guy who is already dead and in hell can you? You’d think that would be the end for me but, oh no, here I am, night after night in random trucks with random dudes. Most of them are poor conversationalists too. Not like you though. I like you.”

“Thanks?”

“Seriously dude, the phone, like now.”

Kevin kept one eye on the road as he pulled the phone from the glove box. He looked away for the briefest of seconds. 

The world moved in slow motion as another truck slammed into the driver side door. Kevin felt himself tumbling, and saw his phone fly into the air.

“This is your fault, I’ll get you for this,” he spat the words at the woman in white.

The world went black.

Kevin opened his eyes. He was seated in a pickup truck, not unlike his own. There was a woman dressed in white next to him.

“What happened?”

“You wished for revenge. Welcome to the party.” The woman in white turned to the driver. “Do you have a cell phone?”

Book Review – Lightblade

Lightblade Book 1 by Zamil Akhtar

Note: This review was made possible by an advanced copy provided by the author Zamil Akhtar. Check out all of his books, including Lightblade and an incredible cosmic horror series called Gunmetal Gods here.

SUMMARY

In three days, Jyosh will slay the God Emperor, or die trying.

But first he must train his lightblade skills. While asleep. Each hour of sleep equals a day in a lucid dream, plenty of time to master the essential lightblade techniques and hopefully get skilled enough to defeat the monster who enslaved him and beheaded his parents and sister.

When Jyosh awakens to learn that the God Emperor has surrendered to an even crueler foe, a mysterious lightblade master who can summon divine dragons to burn whole cities, he’ll face a trial by fire against forces far more frightening than he could ever dream.

That is, if he’s not still in one.

Star Wars meets The Matrix in this progression fantasy adventure inspired by Indian and Persian mythology, featuring dragon gods, energy sword duels, ancient floating cities, and shared dream exploration.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Lightblade, the latest book from author Zamil Akhtar makes me wonder if there is anything this author cannot pull off. I’ve read all of his cosmic horror books and found them thrilling and fascinating. I was excited when I heard he was going to attempt a progression fantasy but wasn’t quite sure if the story would live up to my expectations.

I’m happy to say, the book surpassed all expectations I had and kept me constantly turning pages, immersing myself in this incredibly colorful and vibrant world.

Jyosh is a laborer at a camp where he spends his days using the green light in his world to create machine parts for an emperor who he has vowed to kill. Unfortunately for Jyosh, he has no combat training, and doesn’t possess a red crystal which would allow him to create a lightblade, an energy weapon which may have a chance at destroying the emperor.

What Jyosh does have is a modified dream crystal which will allow him to train in his sleep. In this world an hour of sleep is equal to a day in the dream. This may just be enough time for Jyosh to hone his skills and seek his revenge. But, there is something different about this training program.

Jyosh is going to have to figure out what he needs to do to survive and figure out what is dream and what is reality or he may lose everything he holds dear.

While the author makes the comparison here to Star Wars meets the Matrix, and that is certainly true, I was most reminded of Inception with this book. There are also fantastic creatures, some amazing illustrations, and tons of action.

If you like futuristic fantasy with elements of Indian and Persian mythology, you. are going to absolutely love this book.

Book Review – Doctor Glass

Doctor Glass by Louise Worthington

Note: This review was made possible by TCK Publishing who kindly granted me a review copy. Find out more about all their books by clicking on their website: https://www.tckpublishing.com/

To get your copy of Doctor Glass click on the Kindle preview above or click the link here: Doctor Glass: A Psychological Thriller Novel

To read more of Louise Worthington’s books check out her website: https://louiseworthington.co.uk/

SUMMARY

Psychotherapist Emma-Jane Glass has prioritized work over leisure for far too long. She does whatever it takes to help her clients, and it’s bordering on professional obsession. When she publishes a controversial article about unstable mothers murdering their children, an anonymous letter arrives on her doorstep:

I will expose you.
Then, I will mutilate you…
Wait for me.


After she is abducted into the night, Doctor Glass finds herself at the mercy of a dangerous sociopath. But being a relentless doctor of the mind, she feels an urge to help her fragile captor, even if it might shatter her sanity—and her life. It becomes a game of survival, and only one mind can win.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Emma-Jane Glass is a therapist who is not afraid of taking on controversial positions and challenging patients. She has a small practice where she does her best to treat patients with kindness, empathy, and understanding. She will also go the extra mile to help those in need whenever she can. Not everyone in the community appreciates her views on unstable mothers who murder their own children. After she writes an article on the subject she unknowingly puts herself in danger.

Doctor Glass is an intelligent, empathetic, and caring clinician. When she starts receiving threatening notes and letters she will need to use all of her professional skill to understand who might be threatening her and why.

Lucy, the nutritionist and longtime friend of Emma-Jane who has an office next to the psychologist has her own patients and circumstances to deal with. But when Emma-Jane seems to go missing, it is up to Lucy to see if she can find out what happened.

The book is part thriller, part mystery, and part exercise in human understanding. The beginning of the book ratchets up the intensity immediately. While parts of the story waver, for the most part this is a page-turner.

Emma-Jane Glass is a fascinating character in not only how she deals with others but how she deals with her own traumatic experiences. There were times in the story where it seemed like some more sensible choices could have been made but overall it’s a believable story with a lot of intense emotion.

There is a side story involving Lucy which some readers may not enjoy but it does contrast nicely with what Emma-Jane is going through with her own patients.

If you like tightly wound psychological thrillers where the protagonist has to user their own wits and experience to get out of serious trouble, you’ll enjoy this book.

The first installment of The Glass Minds series has strong potential to carry the story forward and become a reliable read for enjoyable psychological suspense thrillers and I look forward to reading more in the series.

Marvel 616 Review – Strange Tales #107

Strange Tales Issue 107 Photo Credit: Marvel

Here we have one of the first grudge matches of the Marvel 616 universe. On the cover you can see it is Namor vs. Johnny Storm, an epic match up of fire against water. This type of story will become a regular staple of Marvel comics but this one does have some unique features.

The issue starts with Johnny Storm coming home from school to see the rest of the team has had a meeting without him. This is definitely a boys club because Reed remarks how they were working on the notes for their next Fantastic Four adventure and, “Sue was nice enough to type them up for us!” It’s a little ridiculous that Sue Storm has one of the strongest powers in all of Marvel with her ability to become invisible and create force fields but she’s seen as what amounts to as a secretary even by her own team.

Anyway the team, especially The Thing, kind of antagonizes Johnny, reminding him of quitting the team in the last issue. Johnny then decides he’s tired of being treated like a kid and decides to set his sights on winning a fight with a foe single handed. His idea is to go after Namor all alone and beat the Sub-mariner.

He shoots out of his apartment and flies to the sea. His flame dies out and he has to land on a boat. He tells everyone on board who he is but they all think he’s just some stowaway. After the waters get foggy, Johnny is able to light the way for the boat and the sailors realize their mistake.

Johnny sky writes a challenge to Namor just above the surface of the water and Namor gets it. He’s none too happy with Johnny. The pair duke it out going back and forth as to who looks like they might win. Namor uses the power of a puffer fish to save himself at one point, while Johnny goes supernova underwater with his flames. Namor is able to hypnotize Johnny at one point and gets the upper hand. It doesn’t last long though and Johnny is back in the fight.

Johnny is able to flame on while he’s under the water. His powers are still rather loosely defined at this point in the 616 so this kind of thing happens often where it seems like he shouldn’t be able to use his powers but does anyway. Eventually Johnny traps Namor in an underwater cave and gets away.

Exhausted, Johnny meets the same boat he helped earlier, and they give him passage on the ship.

Of course, Namor is not stuck for long and he breaks out. He assumes Johnny has left since he doesn’t see him around anywhere and figures he would have flown back to the continent by this point. Namor is somewhat relieved as the fight has gone out of him a bit. He also realizes Johnny is much stronger than Namor thought. Add that to the fact Johnny is not fully grown and Namor understands what a powerhouse of an ally he could be.

Namor imagines the two of them joining forces to beat the FF and holding the entire world in their hands.

A lot of this issue is just typical fighting for the sake of fighting. But the end with Namor contemplating what could be seems like it could be the foundation for a What if? story.

This was the first real one on one grudge match with Johnny and Namor but it won’t be the last. I also think it’s interesting how Namor was minding his own business and Johnny decides to start a fight. That’s not typically a hero move but it seems to work out in this case.

Up next on the reading list we’ll be sticking with Johnny Storm and the rest of his pals as he and the team meet The Hulk in Fantastic Four #12!

Marvel 616 Comic Book Review – Strange Tales #106

Strange Tales Issue 106 Photo Credit: Marvel

In the pages of The Fantastic Four one of the more common storylines is for one member or another to leave the team. There have been times when this lasted a while but most often it is resolved in an issue or two at the most.

Strange Tales stars Johnny Storm in his own adventures but the rest of the FF have shown up here and there on several occasions. In issue 106, it’s advertised as a guest appearance for the Fantastic Four. There’s nothing unusual about this appearance but it does show Marvel is trying to tie a superhero universe together. One of the best ways to do this is to use the team that kicked off the 616 universe as much as possible.

It’s been a little confusing in Strange Tales for Johnny to live in Glenville but show up consistently at the Baxter building in the pages of The Fantastic Four as if he is living there. Johnny and Sue seem to be sometimes living in Glenville and sometimes at the Baxter building as well.

This issue starts off with Johnny zipping around an obstacle course Reed has created for him. Next a visitor arrives at Johnny and Sue’s Glenville home, asking to see The Human Torch. This should be surprising because Johnny has tried to disguise his identity in Glenville. This never made sense considering the FF are publicly known figures but Johnny tries to keep a secret identity anyway.

Johnny gets home and ditches his costume in an alley. (Side note here to mention a lot of Marvel heroes really do seem to think hiding their costumes in an alley is a great strategy.) Even as he is doing this, people are pointing out the Human Torch usually arrives home around this time.

As Johnny enters his home he is greeted by Sue and one Mr. Zante who knows Johnny is the Torch. Johnny is utterly shocked by this revelation but Sue admits “All of Glenville knows of your dual role!” This is one of the first times (but far from the last) when Marvel subverts expectations about secret identities not only to the reader but also to the character hiding a secret identity. This is similar to a future event involving Mary Jane Parker and Spider-man but to be clear, this type of revelation happens first in Strange Tales 106 with Johnny Storm.

A big question in my mind would be why Sue lets Mr. Zante in without knowing anything about him but she does. Johnny feels a bit embarrassed about everyone knowing his secret but Sue assures him everyone was just respecting his desire for privacy. She then leaves saying, “Now I’ll leave you two alone for your man talk!” Yeah, not exactly the most progressive of eras in publishing but it is what it is.

It turns out this Zante is an acrobat and thinks Johnny and he should team up and form their own super team called “The Torrid Twosome.” Not a name that would go over well now but might have made sense at the time. Zante recalls a bunch of adventures the Fantastic Four had and highlights all of Johnny’s biggest contributions. He tries to convince Johnny that Reed Richards is exploiting him because Reed keeps most of the money for research rather than paying Johnny more.

Johnny races over to Reed and starts to complain, going so far as to demand a salary. There’s a silly tussle with The Thing because, of course there is. In the end Reed says no, stating the money really does need to be used for research. Again, one of the biggest foes the FF face truly is money. It causes all sorts of problems for the team.

Johnny leaves the team and flies out of the window telling them he’s going to be part of the Torrid Twosome. When Johnny calls up Zante to tell him the news we get the first real impression Zante is up to no good. He thinks to himself, “By the time he learns the truth–It’ll be too late!”

Johnny next designs a rather ugly green and orange outfit, complete with beret made out of unstable molecules. Sue tries to convince Johnny not to join up with Zante but he just keeps going on and on about his new outfit.

Zante shows up the next day and tells Johnny there is a man stuck in a bank vault. The plan is for Johnny to melt through the vault and free the bank teller. The Torch flies through and melts the door to find no one inside. Zante follows and shoots Johnny with a liquid asbestos gun. He just wanted Johnny to open the vault so he could steal the money. As if that wasn’t enough, Zante shoots Johnny in the arm with a regular gun as he makes his escape.

The police attempt to catch Zante but because he’s an acrobat they have a pretty hard time of it. But when Zante gets to his getaway car it goes nowhere thanks to The Thing hanging onto the bumper to keep it from moving. Soon Reed and Sue show up to pitch in. They have him caught and all but arrested when Johnny comes out of the bank and demands the FF leave Zante for him.

There’s a bit of a chase but Johnny has a bum arm so it takes a bit longer than normal for him to catch the criminal. He ends up melting the pavement right under the guy’s feet, making it impossible for Zante to walk. Johnny then admits he never truly believed Zante but he had to string him along to find out what he was up to. The issue ends with Johnny back on the team and this time tossing away his Terrible Twosome costume in the same alley where he had been hiding his Fantastic Four uniform. With that, everything is back to normal and the FF can operate as whole team once again.

Next up on the reading list, we’re sticking with Johnny Storm for another story as we catch up with The Human Torch in the pages of Strange Tales #107!

Entropy – Book Review

Entropy by Dana Hayward

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

DESTINATION MARS! The Lunar Republic is on the run…

Life on Earth is dying from a mysterious cause, and President Kim bets her future on an obscure, young scientist whose theory can only be tested from outer space. The year is 2066, and the race is on against the Chinese to establish a viable lunar colony before the 100th anniversary of mankind’s first step on the Moon. Yet, the Moon is only the first step, the springboard for the permanent settlement of Mars.

“Entropy” is set in the near future where technology has evolved to an astounding degree. Human nature, however, has not; this futuristic novel reads like an expose on our own times.
“Entropy” is much more than a science fiction thriller; it is a running commentary on the times that we live. A dystopic, postapocalyptic, hard science depiction of epic space travel, colonization, and new beginnings for the human race: Entropy is a blockbuster, written by a new voice, waiting to be discovered.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

It’s been nearly one hundred years since humans first landed on the moon. The earth is dying and chances of survival both for the environment and humanity are getting slimmer by the minute. The world is not completely devoid of hope as a newly elected President Kim decides to shoot for the moon once again. There is a group of bright scientists, explorers, and military personnel will begin a lunar colony. As this is being established a young scientist has a theory the thinks may explain what is happening on Earth and find some solutions to keep humanity going. It won’t be easy and with a rival colony established by the Chinese government it will be a test of time, will, and deep thinking in order to move forward.

Entropy is hard science space exploration at its finest. It is engaging without becoming overwhelming. And while much of the science is still fictional, it is recognizable enough the reader of this era can relate to it. The events on Earth influence those on the lunar colony and vice versa. Geopolitics are not just window dressing here as they are important to the story.

There are also some military skirmishes but they don’t bog down the point of the story and are overall believable. Perhaps the one improvement which might be made is with the evolution of a wandering group who has some conflict with the government. While it’s still believable in the context of the story it was not always apparent how it related to the larger story but it does pay off enough in the end.

Although the story is about Earth literally dying, the reader comes away from the book more hopeful than they did going in.

If you like science fiction authors like Arthur C. Clarke, books like To Be Taught If Fortunate, or shows with deep thought and strong science such as The Expanse, you’ll find a great read in Entropy by Dana Hayward.

Jason X – Movie Review

Jason… in space…

Hello horror fans! It’s Friday the 13th once again and I’m here to review the outright weirdest of all Friday the 13th movies, Jason X. There will be spoilers in this review but at this point either you have seen this thing or you’re never going to. Still, you’ve been warned.

Jason Voorhees has been through a lot. He’s gone from a little boy who died in tragic circumstances, to the murderous maniac separating campers from their limbs in Crystal Lake, to the big apple New York City, and then all the way to hell. He’s been coming back from the grave for more in nine films and Jason X as the title implies is the tenth film.

The movie starts with a couple of people trying to cryogenically freeze Jason’s body. There’s a scientist there who wants to learn from the regenerative properties of Jason’s cells. Already we can tell this is a terrible idea and things just get worse from there. The woman who is in the first scene is able to trap Jason into the cryogenic chamber and starts the mechanism to freeze him. She leans against the wall and Jason just stabs right through the wall and the woman.

The movie flashes forward centuries and Jason is on a spaceship for, well, reasons I guess. Humans apparently don’t learn anything because the ship captain wants to profit from Jason. Also, the woman who was stabbed by Jason survives because of the modern science and the fact that she was also frozen. That way the crew can have one person to warn them Jason is bad news.

Her warning does not work. As you can imagine, Jason goes on a killing spree destroying every person who gets in his way. Also there’s some attempts at showing off cool (for the time) special effects and pseudo-scientific sounding language so we know it’s the future.

I’m not going to spoil the whole thing but I’ll say the deaths in this one don’t feel that imaginative, other than Jason, I can’t remember a single character name, and Jason is never truly done so people make really bad mistakes.

I do have some questions though.

  1. Why is this in space? I mean, I know there is a behind the scenes reason we have this movie. There were some licensing issues getting Freddy v Jason going and audiences still wanted more out of the franchise. They wanted to go for space horror like Alien or Predator but it so does not work.
  2. What machete is strong enough to pierce through six inches of steel? Forget studying Jason’s cells, just grab the machete cause that’s some serious stuff.
  3. This movie is missing someone warning people that the place they are in is cursed. That hardly counts as a Friday the 13th movie in that case.
  4. There are legends about Jason still known on this space ship in the future but only one dude knows what a hockey mask is. The sport was apparently banned in 2024 according to the film. So, did this movie predict the future? We’ll only know in 2024.
  5. Also, at one point there was reference to the “Microsoft wars” which were apparently violent. Again, is this movie actually predicting the future?
  6. Also, why is this in space? Do they not have local campgrounds in the future?
  7. I get what the film makers were going for here but the strength of Friday the 13th films has always been they were made for a small budget in a recognizable location. It’s certainly possible they could have made a good space horror film but it seems like these people never watched a good space horror film.
  8. There’s a part where they fool Jason with a Star Trek like holodeck and they don’t think to use it until really close to the end. I mean, come on, you have super modern technology and you aren’t even using it. What were these people thinking?
  9. There’s an android just like in Alien who looks human but of course this one is a woman, you know, so they can make a gag. And again it’s not until the end of the movie she’s used to try to stop Jason. Why didn’t the android think of this earlier??
  10. Why is this in space? Look, I can take a lot of ridiculous things in horror movies but Jason in space? I just can’t.
  11. Jason was in Hell at the end of the last movie. How did he get out? Seriously, did someone go down to Hell and dig him up? This needs an explanation.
  12. Also, and maybe I have asked this before but, why is this in space??? It doesn’t add anything to the movie.
  13. This is the tenth movie and we were totally expecting to see Freddy in this one because that’s what film 9 promised us. Why wasn’t Freddy here? You’ll just have to wait to see what happens with that until the next Friday the 13th.

Whatever happens in the next movie it can’t really get worse than this one. I’m not sure if this one is my absolute least favorite Jason movie but it’s in the bottom two for sure. I’m going to need a refresh on the Freddy movies before Jason meets Freddy though so you can expect some reviews of those films on here. Until then, don’t let any black cats cross your path!

Spacily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Hey Book Lovers Want to Earn $25?

Man walking in library

As many of you know, I write reviews on the website ReedsyDiscovery. I love this website because it’s full of independent authors who write great stories. It’s also got all kinds of resources for writers, editors, reviewers and just about anyone who might have anything to do with independently publishing books.

They’ve just started a program where when you write your first review on their site, they will give you $25. No joke, you can earn $25 for your first review.

You will need to qualify to be a reviewer. If you’ve ever done a book review on your blog, goodreads, YouTube, or anywhere else you can publish book reviews publicly, you’re likely to qualify. There’s plenty of genres and books to choose from too.

If that all sounds good to you, and you’re a fan of books and, you know, money, this is a great way to get $25. And as a reviewer you may earn tips, be able to compete in occasional contests, and get access to hundreds of free books. All you need to do is click this link and sign up. If you qualify, you’ll earn $25 for the first review you write.

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So, sign up now and get posting those reviews!

I can’t wait to see what you’re reading!

Flashbang! Volume III: Available Today!

Flashbang! Volume III Available today May 10, 2022

Hey internet people, I’ve got an exciting announcement for you. Today May 10th the
third volume of FLASHBANG! is available for purchase on DriveThruFiction.com.

What is FLASHBANG! and why are there three volumes you ask? This is part of a workshop run by the Storytellers Collective. A group of writers was given a prompt a day for the month of February. Then each writer wrote a flash fiction story based on that day’s prompt. At the end of the month the writers chose their best work and submitted stories to be published in this anthology. Editors then curated the anthology. This was the third year this workshop has run so this is the third volume.

Why am I so excited about this? There are over 50 authors who have contributed to this flash fiction anthology so there is going to be at least one story here any reader would love. And I happen to have written one of those stories. Mine is the first story titled The Librarian. But don’t buy this book just for my story. Buy it to support independent authors and to have something great to read. Each story is a thousand words or less so even if you don’t have a lot of time to read, you can take a few minutes, enjoy a story and go on with your day.

For $4.99 I would say you’re getting a great value. I hope you’ll take the time to check it out.

Purchase your copy here or at the banner above. I hope you’ll give it a chance and let me know what you think of the stories once you have read them.

And if you would like to read the story I wrote for the second volume of Flashbang!, titled Space Walk, get it here.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy!

(Note that if you do purchase through any of the links at this post I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

Adam Wright

Marvel 616 Comic Book Review – Tales to Astonish #40

Tales to Astonish Issue 40 Photo Credit: Marvel

Tales to Astonish always features a few stories but with the consistent use of Ant-Man as the featured character on the cover, the book basically belongs to him. Hank Pym has gone on several adventures as a costumed super hero and so far things have worked out fairly well for him.

The police see him as someone they can rely on, he’s getting paid by the government to invent new products, and in general, the public likes him. When you are this set up for success there has to come a point where you fail. Of course, as one might imagine from reading the cover, Ant-man is not actually going to fail. After all, what hero does? In the end the good guys and gals will win out.

This particular story reads very much like an old episode of Scooby-Doo.

It starts with Hank in his lab creating a gas mask made of unstable molecules. Sharp readers of 616 comics know unstable molecules are used in all kinds of things for superheroes. The Fantastic Four have costumes made out of these molecules so they can wear clothes and still use their powers. It was a way of explaining why Sue Storm could be invisible without removing her clothing, why Reed can stretch and his clothes don’t rip and why Johnny Storm’s clothes don’t burn up the instant he flames on. It’s also why Hank can shrink to the size of an ant and his clothes still fit him. It seems Stan Lee hit on what he thought was a good scientific sounding (but not actually scientific) reason to explain all sorts of things.

Anyway, this gas mask Hank invents shrinks to the size of the wearer’s head which I guess is something the government is looking for.

Next we see some security guards who can’t seem to remember what just happened. Their armored truck is gone and it seems a villain known as The Hijacker has struck once again.

Howard Mitchell, who owns the Mitchell Armored Truck company is furious at his guards and wishes he could contact Hank as he says, “Only the Ant-Man would be clever enough to catch the Hijacker!” Of course, ants are everywhere and it is no surprise Hank Pym does pick up on this message. He has a watch which picks up signals from the ants telling him to don his cybernetic helmet to find out what is happening.

From the background of the panel we can see Hank has a very sophisticated computer system set up. There are tape reels and everything plus lots of switches so you know it’s modern technology. Hank narrows down what sector of the city the ants are signaling from and hops into his costume and launches himself from his catapult. I’m still not certain how the catapult could be so accurate as to get Hank around corners but we’ll just let that go for the moment. He lands on a pile of ants, after nearly missing them, and makes his way to Mitchell’s office.

Mitchell gives Ant-Man the rundown of what has been happening and asks for help. Henry first asks Mitchell to announce one of his trucks is going to make a huge shipment. Mitchell reluctantly agrees and then Henry asks Mitchell about his, “primitive art” asking if it is Inca in origin. Mitchell answers, “I spent some time with the Indians in the jungle! But that’s unimportant now!”

Occasionally, (well sometimes frequently actually) you run into some pretty bad stereotyping in old Marvel comics. We probably do need to look at these through the lens of the time they were written in but this still does not excuse much of what shows up on the page. From the art being called primitive and drawn very stereotypically to the ridiculous false mysticism which will later be mentioned in the issue, these things are hard to read. But, as far as this goes, this issue is one of the milder instances of harsh stereotyping and not nearly as problematic as some of the characters which will show up soon in the pages of Iron Man. That being said, for the plot of the story, knowing Mitchell has Inca statues and was in the jungle for a year is key to the end of the book.

As Hank leaves he tells Mitchell, “Don’t Worry! Whoever he is– however he operates– the Ant-Man will defeat him! I promise you!”

The next day the guards are loading up the truck and very relieved when Ant-Man shows up. Before the shipment can leave, however, Hank says he is in great pain, likely with appendicitis. The guards are upset but can’t blame the poor guy because it could happen to anyone, including Ant-Man.

Hank rides off on an ant but Mitchell decides to proceed with the delivery. Thus, Ant-Man leaving the scene is, “The first time the Ant-Man’s ever failed anyone!” according to one of the guards. Soon the armored truck comes upon a moving van stalled and in the way. The guards think about getting out to help but before they do the back of the van opens and a huge magnet is used to pull the armored vehicle into the moving van.

The Hijacker appears and lets out a gas grenade, knocking out all of the guards. But, surprise, Ant-Man was only faking his appendicitis and snuck onto the armored vehicle. He uses a catapult and a model airplane to do it and he’s sure to put his gas mask on.

There’s a bit of a chase where Hank ends up in the ignition of the car and then ends up on the engine block. Unfortunately for him, the Hijacker thinks to blast the horn as loud as he can, making Hank grab his ears. It takes a bit and an editors note explaining once again how Ant-Man still retains his human strength when small but Hank pulls out some engine wires to kill the horn.

With the help of some ants, Henry Pym is able to jump onto the Hijacker’s gas mask and tear it open. Once the Hijacker falls to the ground unconscious, Hank pulls the mask off to reveal… It’s Howard Mitchell. Hank suspected Howard as soon as he saw the “primitive art statues” and knew Mitchell had spent time in the jungles of Peru. Apparently, according to Hank Pym, “the Indians there have an ancient vapor, the inhaling of which causes a lapse of memory!”

This explains why Ant-Man had to fake appendicitis. He needed to convince Mitchell he wouldn’t interfere, therefore allowing Mitchell to commit the crime Hank suspects him of.

While this twist is not very original and it’s ridiculous in a lot of ways, this will not be the last time strange things are blamed on mysterious vapors coming from any number of jungles in the Marvel 616 continuity.

Mitchell was losing money at his company and thought he could make it back by stealing it from his own customers. As Tony Stark might say, “Not a great plan.”

This prompts the guards to realize Ant-Man has not actually failed and one of them says, “Mister, even when that guy fails, He wins! That’s the Ant-Man for you!”

Something to mention here is this attitude is completely different than the public has for most of the rest of the heroes in the 616. The Fantastic Four are sometimes beloved figures but they also have a contingent of serious detractors and the public turns on them frequently. The Hulk is almost never seen as a real hero, even though he does things which are notably heroic, often things similar to what Hank Pym does such as stopping communists from stealing secret plans. Spider-Man is anything but loved at his debut. Probably the only hero who is also popular at this point of the 616 universe would be Thor. The majority of people who have seen him in action do appreciate Thor but so far Ant-Man would be polling best with the public in the fictional version of the 616 universe.

Next up on the reading list we’ll be checking in with The Human Torch as he stars in Strange Tales #106!

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Nightcrawler – Movie Review

Nightcrawler 2014 Film

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hello internet people, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’m here to review one of the hidden gems on Netflix, an old Jake Gyllenhaal movie from 2014. Fair warning there will be some spoilers ahead so if you haven’t watched the movie yet, pick up your video equipment, rush through traffic and go watch the movie before reading the review.

Nightcrawler is a tightly paced, tense, psychological thriller of a film. The whole premise is pretty dark and there is an overall sense of creeping dread through it. Some viewers may find it too intense not for the blood (although there is some) but for the relentless nature of the intensity of the film.

The movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom, a thief who finds a way to make some real money by filming bloody footage of newsworthy events and then selling the footage to news channels. The people who do this are apparently called nightcrawlers and the goal is to get the news footage before anyone else and sell to the highest bidder. Lou sort of stumbles on this profession but takes it up immediately.

He sells his footage to Nina, a news producer played by Rene Russo. Bill Paxton also stars as Joe Loder, a rival nightcrawler. Rounding out the cast is Riz Ahmed who plays Rick, a man Lou employs to help him navigate to crime scenes and take footage with him.

Throughout the film, Lou presents as a definite sociopath. He’s out for his own ends, not concerned with the health or welfare of anyone else, and has no trouble walking right past ethical lines.

The movie already starts pretty intensely but as Lou makes more and more reckless choices it gets downright uncomfortable. Even if you don’t like the rest of the film, Gyllenhaal’s performance is gripping. He gives off just enough of a villain vibe without being cartoonish and we’re still always able to relate to what he is trying to do even if we know he is going too far.

If you need a good thriller to watch, you can find this one on Netflix right now. If you haven’t seen it do yourself a favor and put it on your watch list. But maybe skip eating anything while you watch it.

Thrillingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Comic Book Review – Fantastic Four #11

Fantastic Four Issue 11 Photo Credit: Marvel

There were times when the early Marvel 616 comics could get a bit out there and experimental. Issue eleven of the Fantastic Four is one of these instances. There are two stories in the issue. For some reason the second story, the “B” feature, if you will, is listed in the Complete Marvel Reading Order is listed as happening first. I’m not sure if there is an actual story reason for this but I’m going to go through the features in the order listed on the website. Both stories do some sort of groundbreaking things and the end of the issue has a major tease which helps propel Marvel 616 into a more unified universe.

The second story in this issue is called The Impossible Man! It’s about an alien who lands in what is described as a “hobo jungle” where a bunch of vagabonds are having dinner. The green skinned alien with the pointy head asks for some food but is told he needs to pay for it with cash. The alien asks where to get cash and is told you have to ask for it at the bank. Not realizing what that means, the alien transforms into an airplane and pops into a vault at a bank. This freaks out the bank attendant enough for him to leave and the alien grabs some money. The cops immediately arrive on the scene and start firing at the alien but he turns to steel and the bullets bounce off of him.

The police realize this is more than a match for them and they can call the Fantastic Four to come help deal with the situation. They hop in the Fantasti-car and find the alien chowing down on a bunch of food in a restaurant. The FF demand to know what the deal is with this guy and he tells them he comes from “the planet Poppup!” The evolutionary processes on Poppup are so swift the inhabitants can change themselves into anything whenever the need arises to survive the constant attacks from predators and environmental hazards.

This idea of constant evolutionary change is actually a precursor to what we will see when mutants are revealed in the pages of The X-Men in the future. For now it’s a bit of a silly joke and an excuse for Jack Kirby to just draw whatever he wants to.

After his little backstory the Fantastic Four tell him he can’t just take money from a bank and it escalates into a skirmish pretty quickly. The alien, who is dubbed The Impossible Man by The Thing is able to evade capture by changing forms whenever he is attacked and negates all four of the member’s powers. Individually and collectively the team is not able to do anything to stop The Impossible Man.

Reed Richards is no slouch though and he has some ideas on how to deal with this guy. After Impossible Man does a few stunts and some major property damage, Reed tells the police and all the world to simply ignore the Impossible Man.

The Impossible Man first came to Earth because he was bored of his own planet. Reed figures giving him the silent treatment might just be enough to get this guy to leave. It takes a while but it works.

If you were to think of something else in comic books to compare this to, The Impossible Man is the analog of Mr. Mxyzptlk in DC comics who comes around to harass Superman every once in a while. Impossible Man is not quite as fun as Mr. Mxyzptlk but he showed the Fantastic Four are able to use their heads instead of their powers when needed. Also, for a while in the issue the world started to think Reed Richards was a coward but he didn’t seem to care. Instead, he just sticks to his plan, never bothering to explain his strategy or solution to anyone. This is a very typical Reed Richards move which sometimes lands him in hot water.

The last panel of this story teases a major milestone in Marvel 616. It tells readers to come back to read a “surprise-packed full length thriller– The Fantastic Four meet– The Hulk! Don’t miss it!”

This is the first major crossover from one Marvel 616 book to another. There were always suggestions and rumblings, including some pretty solid evidence in the way of newspapers and dialogue that these characters existed in the same reality. But to have a major Marvel character appear in the Fantastic Four will be a landmark event.

The first story in issue eleven of The Fantastic Four is in some ways much more interesting than the “B” story. While most issues of the FF deal with supervillains in some way or another, this one shows us a slice of life for the superheroes in a story titled, “A Visit With the Fantastic Four.”

Stan Lee proves once again here that Marvel is not afraid to try new things in comics. He breaks the fourth wall a bit when the FF meet some fans who are eagerly awaiting the next issue of a comic book magazine called The Fantastic Four. We also meet an important figure in the annals of Marvel history, Willie Lumpkin, the mailman who delivers mail to the Baxter Building for the Fantastic Four. In time he will become an important figure to the series who plays integral parts in multiple stories. Willie even tries to join the FF in this issue, telling Reed Richards that he doesn’t have any super powers but he can, “wiggle my ears real good.”

The story shows off a few secrets of the Baxter Building. The FF have special belt buckles which can send a signal to their personal elevator allowing them and only them access to their apartments at the top.

The team then spends some time opening their fan mail. The Thing gets a gag gift which is a boxing glove extender that punches him in the eye. He’s not real happy about it. Thing is convinced it’s from the Yancy Street Gang who we already know he has some beef with but this is the first time Thing has really called them out by name.

Reed gives Thing a serum and he once again turns back to the human form of Ben Grimm for a while. We then get a few flashbacks from before the heroes flew into the cosmic rays. We find out Ben and Reed were college roommates. Reed is the smart one but Ben was the football star. Reed made a name for himself by winning lots of prizes in the field of science and it probably didn’t hurt that he was the son of a millionaire. Ben becomes a marine fighter ace pilot and gets nationally known as a hero for it. It’s also revealed Reed worked underground for the O.S.S., the first independent U.S. intelligence agency.

While Reed was at the front of the war he would dream about the girl he left behind, Sue Storm. As soon as Reed brings this up Sue is conflicted. She has some mixed feelings due to her emotions about The Sub-Mariner. Reed gives her some space but of course, he’ll bring this up again in later issues.

After returning from the war, Reed decides, “We’ve got to reach the stars before the reds do!” and the fateful events are put into motion which result in the first team of superheroes in Marvel 616 continuity. This origin will get refined over and over again in later issues but this one shows us why Reed was so eager to have Ben pilot the spacecraft. He was a famous war hero pilot so it made sense and Reed knew he could trust Ben.

It’s ultimately Sue who convinces Ben to be the pilot. She and Johnny have agreed to come along and implies Ben is afraid to go. Ben is not one to back down from a challenge so he decides to go.

The rest of the flashback is the standard rehash of how they hit cosmic rays and got their powers using panels we’ve already seen several times in these first eleven issues.

Sue then tells Reed and Ben she’s been getting letters saying she isn’t contributing enough on the adventures of the team. Ben and Reed reassure her she is vital to their success and we get some more re-used panels of several times Sue has helped the team get out of different situations.

Ben suddenly turns back into The Thing. The serum lasted longer this time but nothing seems to be permanent with curing him. An alarm goes off and the team rush into the spaceship they kept as a memento of their adventure on Planet X. Turns out it was just a surprise birthday party for Sue. Still, small gestures like this show this team is more of a family than a superhero team. The story concludes with Willie Lumpkin complaining about his heavy mail bag full of comic magazine heroes and letters to the editor pages.

While you could argue this story isn’t super interesting, it does show more sides to the characters than most comic books at the time were showing. For all we know about Clark Kent in the pages of Superman there wasn’t ever just a story about him having a day with friends where no actual fights break out. This kind of storytelling is what makes Marvel stand out from the competition.

Make no mistake, no matter what you think of the story and issue itself, this is an immensely important moment in the history of Marvel 616 and comics in general. It just begins to scrape the surface of what superhero storytelling could be. There will be more slice of life stories to come but this is truly the first.

Next up on the reading list we’ll be shrinking down once again to catch up with Ant-Man in Tales to Astonish #40!

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Jimmy Chartron and the Lost Keystone – Book Review

Jimmy Chartron and the Lost Keystone by J.T. Michaels

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

The Great War ended a century ago. Peace reigns across the eight countries. Epic tales of heroic men and women of those times are recounted in song and story. Yet, history seems to have forgotten a young battlefield healer, Tessa Marlise…

Sixteen-year-old Jimmy Chartron has just enrolled at the Navale Academy of Eagleon, his mind set on becoming an electrician. A chance magical encounter binds him to the trapped soul of Tessa Marlise. As Jimmy struggles to deal with this shocking development, murder and mystery unravel in the academy. Caught in the middle of everything, Jimmy realizes that a larger evil is afoot and that only two things can stop it: himself and the ghost in his head…

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Jimmy Chartron is a hard working, sixteen year old, boy. He’s been accepted to the Navale Academy where he wants to learn to be an electrician. He also works on the docs. But a chance encounter with a bit of magic pairs him with a ghost named Tessa. Tessa is stuck in Jimmy’s mind and the two of them have to find a way to work together to keep Jimmy safe, unravel a mystery, and quite possibly save the world.

The book is a bit of a mix of Harry Potter and futuristic technology. At the same time, it’s got a unique feel to it and manages to tell an original story. While the relationship between Jimmy and Tessa is the main narrative there is a wide cast of supporting characters and J.T. Michaels does a good job of balancing the action with the characters.

Parts of the story do feel like something you may have read before but there is enough of an original spin here to keep the reader interested. It would have been nice to have just a little more of the background of the war which ended a century ago. But I believe this could easily be expanded upon in future installments of the series.

There is also a well thought out magic system in use here that feels like a good blend of traditional ideas of magic with a bit of technology thrown in for good measure. And there are some unique creatures populating the landscape as well.

This definitely feels like a book with good series potential where the stakes and action can rise in the future.

If you like fast paced adventure books starring adolescents such as Harry Potter, Septimus Heap or Rick Riordan books you will enjoy Jimmy Chartron and the Lost Keystone.

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Choose or Die – Movie Review

Choose or Die

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hey horror fans, it’s me Slick Dungeon! I’m back to review another creepy film. This time I watched Choose or Die and I’m here to give you my hot take on it. Do be warned there will be mild spoilers so if that kind of thing kills your ’80’s nostalgia, go watch the movie first and come back here to read the review.

Alright, for those of you who are still with me, let’s get into it. Choose or Die is about a cursed video game. Think Ring but instead of a video tape it’s an old copy of a text based game you might have found for computers in the 1980’s. While I think Ring is a fair comparison there are some major differences so even if you’ve seen Ring it doesn’t mean you can predict what will happen in Choose or Die.

The premise is pretty simple. A man finds an old copy of a game called CURS>R. It seems to be a game where there was the potential for prize money that is still unclaimed to this day. Beat the game and you might win $100K dollars. Whether or not the company which produced the game will pay up is anyone’s guess.

About three minutes into the movie things get pretty weird and bloody. While playing this game, the man who bought it at a clearance sale is asked to choose between a face and a tongue. See, his wife and son are loudly arguing upstairs. While the choice is a little weird the guy chooses “his tongue” and seconds later, the wife is cutting her own son’s tongue out, seemingly unable to stop herself. It’s a pretty disturbing scene and there are a few scenes like this so if you don’t like a bit of gore in your horror this is probably not for you. However, this is by far not the most bloody movie I’ve ever scene.

Next we see Kayla, who seems unconnected with the events of the game in any way, going about her day. She’s a wannabe computer programer who is played by Iola Evans. Her best friend, Isaac, played by Asa Butterfield is also an aspiring programmer but happens to be in love with Kayla. Kayla’s home life is pretty rough. She lives in a sketchy neighborhood, her mother is essentially checked out of life, and her little brother died at a tragically young age.

Isaac finds a copy of CURS>R and pops it into his computer where he hears the voice of Robert Englund start talking about the game. That’s right, good ol’ Freddy Krueger himself is in this. Well, his voice is anyway.

Kayla takes the copy of the game and starts playing it late that night in a cafe. Very quickly she realizes the game itself is affecting reality, and not in a good way. As you can imagine, the terror increases and Kayla and Isaac have to figure out a way to beat the game without doing major damage to themselves or others.

I don’t want to give too much away so we’ll just say it’s like a lot of movies where there is haunted technology. But, the end does come with a bit of an interesting twist making it worth staying for the end.

Some of the effects are not stellar here and it relies a bit too much on jump scares and silly tricks at times but it’s still a fun watch. While there are better horror movies on Netflix this one isn’t bad and it kills a bit of time if you just need a good fun horror movie. Just don’t look for anything super original here.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Comic Book Review – Journey Into Mystery #89

Journey Into Mystery Issue 89 Photo Credit: Marvel

Thor in all his thunderous glory has fought other dimensional beings, his own brother Loki, and even a group of communists. Until issue 89 of Journey Into Mystery he hadn’t fought the mafia. But that is exactly what he does here.

The issue opens with Thor returning to the office of his secret identity, Dr. Donald Blake. Dr. Donald Blake is a successful surgeon who uses a cane to walk around. He’s not much like the god of thunder so no one suspects their connection. When Thor flies back there are some patients waiting in his office so he decides to fly into a mannequin store, dress one up like Thor (I don’t know where he got the materials to dress it up either) and toss it through the sky toward the ocean where it will land without harming anyone. (I suppose it might annoy Namor though) This ruse is enough to give Thor time to get back to his office and transform before the patients are any the wiser.

We then get another recap of how Dr. Donald Blake stumbled onto the magical stick that allows him to transform while he was on vacation in Norway. We also get the rundown yet again showing Blake is in love with Jane Foster but convinced she could never care for him. Meanwhile, Jane loves Blake but he won’t take any initiative so she thinks he is uninterested. And then she daydreams about polishing Thor’s hammer and ironing his cape. Seriously, I am not making that up. This is what the men who made these comics thought women would imagine in their heads. Yeah… so anyway…

When we switch back to the present moment there is a shootout just outside the office of Dr. Blake. Turns out a mobster named Thug Thatcher was arrested and immediately his men shot at cops and helped him escape. Unfortunately for Thug, he was hit in the shoulder in the crossfire.

Blake was just a little late in telling Jane to go home for the day so now the two of them are stuck in the office while the gunfire happens. If Blake turns to Thor he gives away his secret identity. As fortune would have it, two of Thug’s uh… thugs… realize they “…gotta fetch him a sawbones!” and notice a handy doctor’s office in the vicinity. And yes, you guessed right, it was Blake’s office.

The mobsters take Blake captive and make him treat their boss. Blake does so because he has a duty to treat an injured person not because he was told to. In the process they do take his cane which means he can’t easily turn into Thor. Thug is fixed up and tells his boys to “Take care of the good doctor.” Seems Thug doesn’t want Blake squealin’ to the cops. But even with his cane out of reach, Blake has one trick up his sleeve.

Perhaps in his head is more accurate. He decides to use all his concentration to call out to the Norse gods. Odin, up in Asgard hears the call and sends a wave of force that targets the man who is holding Blake’s cane. The cane is dropped and Blake grabs it, turning himself into Thor. The mobsters are understandably confused as to where the doctor went but Thor tells a very thin lie that he tossed Blake to safety.

It’s now mob bosses versus the literal god of thunder. You can probably guess who wins. Thor blows hurricane force winds at them and wraps them up in a sheet and tosses the sheet into a tree. A couple of the thugs try to escape in a car but Thor throws Mjolnir through a bunch of trees which trap the car and the mobsters.

Still, not everyone has been caught. Thug and his loyal girlfriend have managed to escape while the tussle was going on. It seems the girl loves Thug and he knows she’ll never leave him even if he is a terrible, terrible person. Thug comes up with the plan to capture Blake, knowing he and Thor seem to turn up in similar locations often. Good luck with that, Thug!

Thor goes back to Blake’s office to untie Jane from when they first snagged Blake. Thug has decided Jane is just as good a hostage as Blake would be. Since Thug has a gun to Jane, Thor puts the hammer down, knowing it will expose his secret at the end of sixty seconds.

Thinking fast, Thor decides to use “his super-developed vocal cords” to throw his voice across the room, impersonating the police. I know, I know, this sounds really silly but you have to put this in some context. Thor is the closest thing Marvel has at this time to Superman. He’s got a lot of the same powers, flight, strength, gale force winds for breath, and he even has a mild mannered alter ego the way Superman does. Superman at this time had the super power of super-ventriloquism so Marvel is just kind of following suit here. It’s yet another power for Thor to use in the moment when he needs it to be forgotten about soon.

This ruse is enough to fool the gangster and Thor kicks his gun away and gets his hammer back. He then uses it to make a mighty updraft to get Jane Foster to safety. Thor rushes out the window behind her to make sure she is safe. The gangsters shoot at him but to no avail. Thug uses the opportunity to try to escape. His girlfriend, Ruby, begs him to stay and “take your medicine” going so far as to say she’d even wait for him. But Thug is a dumb Thug and just tells her to shut up and get lost. He then shoots at her. I don’t know about you but if I have the god of thunder after me, I’m not wasting bullets. Anyway, Thor blocks the bullets for her so she’s fine.

Thor pounds his hammer on the ground four times, causing lightning to hit the cables of the elevator Thug is on. He then gets onto the steel girders but Thor melts those. I don’t know why Thor doesn’t just fly up and get him but I guess they needed to fill some panels.

Thug finds a bucket of hot rivets and threatens to dump them onto the crowd. Thor promises he won’t try to capture Thug. The girder gives way under Thug and Thor flies up to save him.

As Thor comes down, Ruby swears she still loves Thug and doesn’t want to see him fall. The cop next to her says, “Don’t worry lady– Thor’s got him! But a crumb like that sure don’t deserve anyone as loyal as you!” Well said nameless officer, well said.

Turns out the steel girder Thug was standing on was faulty because it was steel from his own racket where he was selling sub-standard steel for buildings to make his illegal money. So he kind of captured himself.

Thor then asks Odin to erase all memory of Thug Thatcher from Ruby’s mind so she will be “Free to find one who will be worthy of her!” I know of a nameless cop who just might be interested.

The end of the issue has a little tease for the next Journey Into Mystery where Thor will fight the wonderfully named “Carbon-Copy Man!” I’m guessing it will be more of an interesting fight than this was.

To put this issue in some context, it does have a few notable things in the story. It seems it is getting easier for Thor to call to Asgard whenever he needs to. Also, the love triangle between Blake, Thor and Jane Foster continues and will do so for a fair amount of time still. Finally, with the introduction of things like super-developed vocal cords, Thor is rapidly becoming unbeatable in his own book. It’s clear he needs to be pitted against folks who have super powers, not run of the mill mobsters. We’ll get to that point but not for a while yet.

Next up on the reading list we’ll be getting cosmic once again with the famous Fantastic Four in issue 11 of the series!

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More Than Evil – Audiobook Review

More Than Evil
More Than Evil by Bill Richardson

SUMMARY

A supernatural entity that has been imprisoned in the Earth for millennia is released in a small town. It quickly spreads, leaving a trail of blood and carnage in its wake. Harlan is the local sheriff, and he is in a race against time to save the woman he loves, his town, and the rest of the world from this horrifying evil. 

More than Evil is a relentless story with a different kind of monster. It manages to feel both fresh and familiar at the same time. If you like high-octane action and nearly unkillable creatures, then you’ve come to the right place.

This audiobook features a 3D soundscape filled with music and effects. Richardson is a film and TV producer and uses his years of experience to make this audiobook feel like a movie for your ears. Horror is the perfect genre for this kind of rich sound design but rarely gets it. The atmosphere created by this treatment takes an already great story and elevates it to a whole new level. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Harlan is a small town sheriff in Appalachia. He and his best friend are on poor terms after Harlan starts a relationship with his best friend Andy’s wife. One day in the mines of the small town, Andy is seething in his anger over the situation. A mining accident occurs and unleashes an inhuman evil upon the town. Now Harlan has to figure out what is happening and how to save his town, his friends, and his family from being torn apart by ravenous undead creatures with an insatiable bloodlust.

There are many elements of this audiobook similar to other horror stories but this doesn’t entirely detract from the story. It should be noted to any squeamish readers/listeners there is a lot of blood and gore here so if that is not your thing stay away. If you have a stomach for some blood and guts though this is a fun listen.

I thought the sound effects would potentially detract from the story but I did find these to be well done and overall added to the story with only a few moments where having the sound effects were a bit of a distraction.

If you like shows like The Walking Dead, movies like Night of the Living Dead or books like World War Z you’ll have a good time listening to this. While it’s not perfect there are plenty of decent scares, twists and inventive turns here to keep you awake at night as you listen.

Marvel 616 Comic Book Review – Strange Tales #105

Strange Tales Issue 105 Photo Credit: Marvel

In Strange Tales #102 Johnny Storm met the supervillain known as The Wizard for the first time. He laid a series of traps but Johnny evaded them eventually and with a little help from Sue Storm he was able to trick The Wizard into thinking he had psychic powers. It wasn’t very wizardly for someone who claims to be smarter than anyone considering it’s pretty public knowledge that The Human Torch hangs out with The Invisible Girl.

Despite his less than perfect debut, The Wizard is back for round two with ol’ hothead. The issue starts with a brief recap of the events from issue 102. Then we’re shown The Wizard in prison. He’s been a model prisoner just so he could get placed to work in the prison hospital where there are a bunch of chemicals within reach. He concocts a mixture that is capable of eating through a wall and he proceeds to make a man sized hole in the prison. The guards assume he escapes out this hole but while they are busy looking around for him, The Wizard, who was simply hiding, waltzes right out of the cell door the guards left open for him.

The Wizard sneaks onto a train and heads in the direction of his estate where he observes police looking for him. It’s exactly what he expected and he’s smart enough to have created an electromagnetic force field to keep people out.

While The Wizard is smart, he’s dumb enough to challenge The Human Torch to battle and Johnny gets word of it on the news. He’s not about to give up on a challenge and the opportunity to show up an escaped convict. Sue Storm is not comfortable with the idea though and tries to talk Johnny out of it.

Johnny whips up a fire made double of himself to fool Sue while he goes and takes on The Wizard. The only trouble is his double can’t talk or respond to Sue. She calls up Reed Richards and Ben Grimm but they basically tell Sue to leave it to Johnny because “He has to grow up and stand on his own two feet sometime!” So, yeah, showing not a lot of concern for Johnny’s safety here.

The Human Torch makes it to The Wizard’s estate where he is let in but the police are still kept back. If I was a villain inside of an estate with an impenetrable force field the last thing I would do is to let my rival super hero in but that’s exactly what The Wizard does. His ego is just too big to allow him to do the sensible thing here.

He does have a pretty big rocket launcher though and he fires it at Johnny. The Torch just melts it. Next The Wizard tries to drop Johnny into an asbestos-lined dungeon. Of course, Johnny flies so that backfires. Next up is nerve gas but Johnny stops that with a wall of fire to insulate himself from the gas. I’m really not clear on how the physics of that would work but we’ll just assume it does.

The Wizard boldly claims he was simply testing Johnny when an alarm goes off. Someone else entered the house. He can’t see anything on his security cameras and figures it has to be The Invisible Girl. At least he learns from his mistakes. He goes to the room Sue is in and sprays the air with a special spray he made which reveals where she is. I mean, paint would have worked fine, but sure a special spray, why not? In the room she is in some walls come up and trap Sue. The Wizard then plants a device in the wall and heads back to check on Johnny.

Turns out the device in the wall is an explosive and if Sue can’t escape in five minutes, well, that’s the end of her. The Wizard offers to let Johnny into the room if he flames off. Of course Johnny is going to take that offer. And in a classic villain blunder, The Wizard has placed two heroes in the same deadly room, increasing their chances of escaping.

Once The Wizard is safely away he lets Johnny know if the temperature increases in the room by a single degree the bomb is rigged to go off. Johnny heats up just his hand and fires a small flame at the mechanism for the bomb. He melts the hammer that would hit the bell to cause the chain reaction of the explosion. It melts fast enough the bell is never triggered. Thus, Johnny is free to flame on once again without risking death. But the bomb is about to go off so he melts the wall as fast as he can. He gets lucky and exposes the bomb.

Then, in one of the more ridiculous parts of the issue, Johnny creates a “catapult of flame” which launches the bomb through the roof of the house and into the air where it can explode harmlessly.

After all that, Johnny is ready to grab The Wizard. He heats up the air vents to trigger the sprinkler system. And the floor gets wet enough The Wizard slips and falls. He draws some kind of gun but Johnny does what anyone would expect and… yeah… he… um… makes a saw out of flames and carves the roof above The Wizard so the ceiling falls on him to knock him out. A little silly but we’ll just go with it again.

Sue switches off the lever keeping the forcefield up and by the time the police enter The Wizard is being held by a flame lasso. Sue tells Johnny if The Wizard is smart “…he’ll stay in prison where he’s safe!” so we all know he’s going to break out again. Torch has to have some kind or rival in his own book so it makes sense.

Back at home Sue admonishes Johnny for going against direct orders. The issue ends with a little sibling rivalry as Sue throws a pillow at Johnny for making a joke about her help in the whole thing.

The issue is pretty interesting and does sort of expand Johnny’s fire powers even more. More importantly, it continues to set up The Wizard as a recurring villain who becomes a staple in the foes of not only Johnny but all of the Fantastic Four and several other Marvel heroes.

Next up on the reading list we catch up with the god of thunder once again in the pages of Journey Into Mystery #89!

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Book Review – The Scepter of Amon

The Scepter of Amon

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

Kill the treasure-hoarding monster, find the ancient artifact, and deliver it to the wizard. Every adventurer knows the drill. But what if that adventurer is a troll?

The wizard has run out of heroes to send after the Scepter of Amon, so he picks Kevrin, a troll who desires to be human. He is powerful, resilient, and just a little bit scared of fire. A simple magical disguise allows Kevrin to interact with other humans, but can Kevrin fit in? He can’t read. He doesn’t understand sarcasm. And he has no idea what a scepter even looks like. But since the wizard promised to turn him into a human if he is successful, he has all the motivation in the world.

Can Kevrin trust his new friends if they find out what he really is? Can he trust the wizard? Will he find what he is really looking for? Or will he eat his horse the next time he gets too hungry?

The Scepter of Amon is told in a classic fantasy setting and is the first book in the Hero’s Path trilogy.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Most adventuring stories, and most adventurers have something in common. They go on a quest to kill a monster, get some treasure and come back for a reward. Kevrin has set out to do these things as well. But he’s no common adventurer. He may look human but he’s actually a troll, more comfortable eating raw meat from a fresh kill than dining on cooked steak, stronger than most men, and unsure of what a scepter looks like even though he knows he is supposed to bring one back. Kevrin never fit in with the other trolls and he wants more than anything to be human. If he can complete his quest he may just get his wish.

The Scepter of Amon is a fantasy adventure with pretty intriguing twist. What if the adventurer was a monster? The story puts a lot of the standard fantasy tropes on their heads and makes for a fun read. The adventure has a fair amount of action, a smattering of romance, and a bit of a murder mystery in it as well. Kevrin is most certainly a memorable character who lives in the readers heart long after the story has been read.

While the story itself is well written and full of adventure it would have been nice to see more female characters in the story. The woman who is in the story is well developed and doesn’t just belong in the background, it just would have been better if there were more female characters at all here.

This is the first book in a trilogy and it comes to a nice conclusion while still leaving the reader eager for the next installment.

If you play Dungeons & Dragons you will especially relate to this book. Even if you don’t but like fantasy adventure books like Lord of the Rings, The Crystal Shard or even the Discworld series you’re going to find something here you like. It’s definitely worth reading.

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I’m Writing a Book! Here’s How You Can Follow Along

Hello out there internet!

Let me get right to the point. You probably know me on this blog as Slick Dungeon but my real name is Adam Wright and I have a bit of news to share.

I’ve decided to take the big leap and write a book! It’s an epic fantasy book and I want all of you who read this blog to be able to jump into the action early. I’m still writing the first draft but if you want to read the first chapter as it is now, you can join me on ChapterBuzz. Just click on this link to check it out!

If you join my fan club, you’ll get access to some exclusives in the future such as a prequel chapter to the book, early notification of when it will be published, and any other cool stuff I can think of between now and then.

If you like books like The Wheel of Time series, Lord of the Rings or The Sword of Shannara series, I’m hoping you will like my book.

It’s called The Man of the Daggers. Here’s a little blurb about it.

Feran Stormweather is a dark mage. His family has held off the forces of the Army of Radiance for generations. After Feran sacrifices everything he holds dear to keep his people safe he must go into hiding and becomes known as The Man of the Daggers.

This is still the first draft of the book so plenty may change but I’d love for you to follow along as I go through the challenge of writing the book. I took on the 365 Day writing challenge on ChapterBuzz so I would have a deadline to hold myself accountable. I’m hoping some of you will choose to share in this journey with me and maybe even find you enjoy the story.

Also, if you do like it, feel free to share it, post it etc. to spread the word.

Again, you can read the first chapter already by clicking here and if you click on the ChapterBuzz image above you should be able to join my fan club there if you so choose.

Thanks as always for reading and if you do read any of my book I would love to know what you think.

Sincerely,

Adam Wright

Flash Fiction Friday – Radio Hour

Happy Friday everyone! I’m back with another Flash Fiction story for you. When I was a kid my dad used to tell me about listening to old radio shows. One of the most popular of those was a show called The Shadow. This story was inspired by listening to one of those episodes. After the story, I’ll also point you to a great YouTube channel where you can actually listen to old archives of these shows. Hope you like the story and let me know what you think in the comments!

Radio Hour – By Adam Wright

Agnes adjusted the knobs on the radio, sailing past the static, twisting and tuning until the sound came in clearly. The large wooden box was still new but she had gotten used to sitting next to it every evening while she knitted. She looked out the window and saw the stars were out, the moon hanging low in the sky.

There was an advertisement, something about what kind of coal to buy. It reminded her she needed to tend the fire so she poked at it a bit, letting the warmth grow. She settled back in her chair and picked up her knitting needles. 

A narrator began the program. “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.” 

Agnes picked up where she had left off, her long fingers moving deftly as what was once a ball of yarn grew into the beginnings of a scarf. She would need it for these cold nights when the fires grew low. 

On the program, the hero was some kind of hypnotist. Listening to the sounds coming through the airwaves she was able to picture everything that was happening. The sounds of a door closing, a phone ringing. The radio was a marvel. Like living inside a book. She didn’t mind the story was a little silly, she just wondered how they were able to make it seem so real.

Soon the hero was in a battle for the control of his own mind. A rival hypnotist nearly got the better of him but the hero won out in the end. She smiled to herself as the next program began. It was a dance program. You were supposed to find a partner and waltz right from the comfort of your own living room. Well, when she got herself a partner she might just try it. For now, she was content to listen.

She glanced out the window again but this time it wasn’t the stars she noticed. There was the shape of a man. He was standing in the hedges peering in. Agnes froze. The man moved closer to the window. Like the hero on the program before, Agnes was determined to keep her head about her. 

The man must not have seen Agnes because he started to slide the window open. She saw something in his hand. It was black and heavy. A gun. She waited until the man had crawled halfway inside the room. Before the man could react she moved forward, knitting needle in hand and jabbed at his eye. She hit it. The man looked at her with shock as he stumbled back out of the window. 

She knew she should have been afraid but she wasn’t. She phoned the police station to let them know about the intruder. When they caught the man they asked Agnes how she had kept her cool during the whole affair. Her answer was simple. “I know what evil lurks in the hearts of men.”

Want to Hear some Old fashioned Radio?

If you do, check out this YouTube channel called The Late Late Horror Show. They have a bunch of great stuff for late night listening.

The Shadow Knows on The Late Late Horror Show YouTube channel

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Marvel 616 Comic Book Review – Tales to Astonish #39

Tales to Astonish Issue 39 Photo Credit: Marvel

While The Fantastic Four, Thor, and even The Incredible Hulk chug along nicely with their stories in the early days of Marvel 616, Ant-Man has sort of struggled to gain footing in the pages of Tales to Astonish. His powers are pretty interesting and what he does with them can be intriguing but he hasn’t gained a real nemesis and his stories are fairly run of the mill superhero stuff. Which leads us to issue 39 of Tales to Astonish where things get rather strange. That’s saying something for a guy who has insect based powers but the issue here really demands a lot of suspension of disbelief.

As you can probably tell from the cover, the story involves an oversized beetle with an attitude problem. Right there it seems the issue will be different, which is not a bad thing, but the story, unfortunately, doesn’t really live up to its potential.

The issue begins with Henry Pym, as usual, monitoring the activities of the insect world. He can see there is something brewing, something “strange– and dangerous!” He does the logical thing and hops into the Ant-Man suit to go investigate. We see him launch out of his secret catapult and there is a handy note to the reader telling us “Although unnoticed by other eyes, the building which houses Henry Pym contains many secret devices for use by an ant-sized human!”

After being catapulted onto a pile of waiting ants Henry rides an ant into the sewer. He finds hundreds of insects gathered together. Out of all those insects he notices there is a beetle glowing strangely and all the other insects seem to be paying attention to it. Luckily for us, Pym’s helmet can pick up mental telepathy which the beetle is using to communicate with the insects.

We get the standard explanation of strange stuff in the early Marvel 616 stories. This beetle has been accidentally exposed to radiation due to “one of mankind’s atomic experiments…” Radiation and radioactivity are pretty much magic in these comics and can do anything the writers and artists want. To be fair, it was the time of the cold war and atomic exploration so there was a lot of fear around it. The reading audience at the time probably had an easier time believing this could happen than we do now. Turns out the radiation gave the beetle human level intelligence on top of the mental telepathy.

This beetle wants to organize the insect world to rise up and become masters of the world. After all, they number in the trillions. Henry realizes he needs to stop this. Before he can get to the Scarlet Beetle a bunch of body guard beetles knock Hank out cold. The Scarlet Beetle is smart enough to realize he should use the growth gas Ant-Man has to become bigger.

A little later Henry wakes up without his helmet or his vials that help him change size. The Scarlet Beetle takes the opportunity to go on the attack. He has termites cut down telephone poles, taking out human communication systems. Several groups of insects steal boxes of dynamite from the most unobservant military guard in existence. Meanwhile the Scarlet Beetle has some of the more deadly spiders bite key politicians to take down the government systems in place. The only insects not participating in the nefarious deeds are the ants, who are loyal to the Ant-Man.

For a beetle, this dude is shockingly organized and well planned. Honestly, he seems like he has it together more than The Wizard did when he first attacked Johnny Storm, aka The Human Torch. Now that the Scarlet Beetle has had his minions wreak enough havoc he appears on the scene himself. He takes down television stations while his other insect pals go right for the police. The police are desperately hoping Ant-Man shows up at this point.

Luckily for humanity, the ants find Hank’s helmet and realize there is something wrong. They use their sense of smell to find Ant-Man and get him out of the ditch he is stuck in. Ant-Man comes up with a plan involving the ants. One of the text boxes reads, “After giving his ants their instructions, the tiny avenger goes into action…” This is sort of interesting considering Henry Pym will be one of the founding members of The Avengers soon.

Hank uses honey ants to slow the beetles, beats away grasshoppers with an ice-cream pop stick, and gets a group of ants to bring a bunch of DDT. For those who may not know, DDT was a type of insect repellant that was fairly commonly used in the 1960’s. In fact, it was used so much it turned out to be harmful to humans, and for the most part is no longer used. Back then it was everywhere though. The DDT does the job but the Scarlet Beetle remains. Hank’s plan is to go into a toy store. He hops in a toy car to outrun his enemy. Then he grabs a lance from a toy knight and chucks it right at the container of reducing gas the Scarlet Beetle is wearing. The beetle is reduced and Henry places him inside a balloon to take back to his lab.

Henry is able to counteract the radiation and remove the human intelligence the Scarlet Beetle has. There’s not really a thought of what an ethical dilemma this might be but since the bug is just a bug again Henry lets him out in his backyard.

The issue ends with the police wondering where the heck Ant-Man was in all this, never realizing it was Henry Pym who saved them.

I think this issue might have been intended to create a repeat villain for Hank. I’m not sure if that ever did happen but Ant-Man by this point does really deserve a true nemesis. It’s going to be a while before we get there so we can expect more odd and zany stories that don’t exactly age well from the pages of Tales to Astonish. This was definitely one of the less believable stories but it helped to keep Ant-Man popular enough that people were still reading the book.

Next up on the reading list we’ll see how the rematch between The Wizard and The Human Torch shapes up in Strange Tales #105!

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Flash Fiction Friday – The Fate of the World Rests in Your Hands

Happy April everyone! It’s the first of the month and a Flash Fiction Friday. I decided to play around with second person point of view for this one. Read to the end and let me know what you think in the comments!

The Fate of the World Rests in Your Hands – By Adam Wright

As you check your mail, you notice a letter and you stop in your tracks. Your armor jingles slightly as you move toward the table, the links clattering together. Looking down you notice the parchment on the tray is fresh and it appears to be written in the script of the King’s handwriting. His intricate seal holds the contents in place. It has been months since you were home and now, already, you are called to serve again.

You know you must answer this call. It could be anything from an invitation to dine with him, to an order to go back into the marshy fields, wading your way across miles of broken bodies, and leading more men to their doom. Before you pick up the letter you remove your helmet. Your gauntlets are removed by your trusty servant Roric. He moves to assist with the rest of your armor but you wave him off; this letter is too important to wait.

You tear open the seal, breaking through the wax depicting a lion holding a shield. The letter is long and a feeling of dread washes down your core, leaving you with beads of sweat trickling down your face. You think again of the restless nights, trying to defend against all enemies. You think of the cold nights you have spent, stirring at the slightest sound, always coiled to react in case your next action might become your last. You think of the stench of battles, the sound of steel clashing against steel, the sound of screams and pain. You think of all the crimson blood you have seen wash past your feet. You are not sure you can do this again.

You skim through the letter, past the initial greetings and compliments the King is so fond of using. Looking through the words you start to wonder if the King has gone mad. He is ordering you not only to take on another battle but to lead men into battles they are surely outmatched for. A thousand years and a million souls would not be enough to defeat the enemy. This is not a question of if men will die, but if any, at all, will survive.

The men you have been fighting, if indeed they can be called men, have an army so large that it cannot be numbered. Your spies have returned with reports they are performing rituals and acts that would summon creatures from the depths of Hell itself. The few spies who have returned have come back barely retaining their senses. Most of them have died by their own hand shortly after returning. And the King wants you to bring the fight to the enemy.

The letter tells you that you have one night to prepare. Only one. Your men need more rest. Immediately you start to think about who you should ask to fight with you and who you should let stay. You think of the men who might have come home to find themselves new fathers. The men who have returned to find a mother or father has passed while they were away. And of the men who are now so injured a return to battle is not possible for them. You decide how many of them you will let stay home. The answer is none.

This fight has been going on for as long as anyone can remember. It predates you and it predates your King. This effort might all be wasted. The battle will never cease. Yet the things you have seen give you pause. Creatures that could not be named, leaping from shadows, tearing with jagged claws and razor teeth. Shadows that looked like nothing more than simple darkness reaching out in physical form to wrap hands around throats until men were lifeless. You are asked to return to this. To stop this before it comes home to take your wife, your child, your mother and all those you care for. You know you must answer the call. You know you must put soldiers, warriors, mages, spies, even rogues and barbarians in harm’s way.

If anyone but your King had asked you to do this, you would refuse. Roric waits patiently for any reply you care to make. Initially you want to reply the King can damn himself to Hell. To tell him he should be the one to lead these men into battle. It should be his horse to travel all the miles you must be carried. You think of telling him what horrors will await him if he was to find his own courage and bring his own might into battle.

You give yourself a moment. You take a deep breath. You are about to craft your reply. Roric has a quill in his hand before you even ask for one. As you realize there is only one reply possible, you will fight the forces of darkness no matter the cost, a visitor approaches your door.

A woman in a forest green gown holds a paper in her hand.

“What is it?” you bellow.

“My Lord, a notice from Zack, er, His Grace the King, has arrived for you.” She gives a slight bow.

“I know, I have just read it. I am preparing my men as fast as I can, however the night is short and we are to march to battle soon.” You expect this reply to be enough and for the woman to leave. Yet she remains.

Dumbfounded, you stare at her. What could be so important she would interrupt your preparations? And the gall of this woman, addressing your very King by his first name as if he were some commoner. You wonder if she too might be a spy for the enemy. However, you wait patiently, for she must have some reason for being here. 

“Well, out with it. Why are you here?” you demand.

“Well, it’s like this Alex, er, I mean, my Lord. Zack, er, His Grace, the King, says we have to postpone.”

“Postpone? But he has just ordered me to attack. Why would we postpone? We don’t have much going for us but a renewed attack might be enough of an advantage to save us all. I was not overly fond of the plan at first, but it has its merits.” You wait for an answer.

“It’s just that the rain has come down so hard the road is washed out and now the state troopers are saying everyone in the area has to head home for shelter. Zack says we can reschedule, to say three weeks from now? The Live Action Role Play committee says we have to go due to safety concerns but we can call this one a draw since the allotted time hasn’t technically completed.”

You stare at the woman for a moment. You want to explain to her all that is at stake. All that is necessary to save the world from the forces of darkness. Just as you are about to refuse to leave, you realize you need to get your parking validated or you will be charged for an overnight stay even though it is only six in the evening. 

You decide the battle must wait for three weeks and plan to watch for an email from Zack… er, His Grace, the King to confirm the details.

Slick Dungeon’s Quick and Dirty Guide to the Oscars

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. The Oscars are about to start soon and I have watched each and every best picture nominee. I’m going to give you my take on them all and tell you what I think will win best picture and what should win best picture. Definitely don’t make any bets based on my picks because I am notoriously bad at guessing what the heck the Oscars will actually do. Also, I am only going to touch on the best picture nominees here and not go into best actor etc. because I have not watched every performance nominated so I would just be guessing in the dark on some of it.

Ready? Here we go.

Nightmare alley

Out of all the nominees for this year, I think this film is the most deserving. It’s an unforgettable story with superb acting and the closest to a perfect film in the whole list. I don’t think it will actually win but it would be my choice.

Don’t Look Up

If Nightmare Alley does not win this would be my next pick for best picture. It has major star power as you can see from the picture above. It’s about a relevant topic and feels almost too close to home. It’s entertaining while still being kind of depressing. Just the kind of thing the Academy Awards loves. I think there are solid odds this will get picked.

Dune

Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Javier Bardem and Timothee Chalamet.

Okay, this is great film. I loved it and it’s a decent adaptation of the first part of the book. But it’s not exactly a full story and it’s science fiction so that’s working against it. I don’t believe this will win for best picture and I’m not sure it should. But, in my mind there will be a good chance that Part 2 does when that comes out. They didn’t give Peter Jackson best picture on Lord of the Rings until the third and final film came out so no way Dune wins for part one.

Drive My Car

I would actually like to see this win best picture if Nightmare Alley and Don’t Look Up are not chosen. This is a hugely ambitious story with superb acting and it tells the story of human connection on a deeper level than any of the rest of these nominees. I expect it will not win best picture but I can’t imagine it not being awarded something. My guess is for screenplay but we’ll see. If you haven’t watched this, block off three solid hours of your time and watch it. It’s really good.

Belfast

This could win out of left field. If the Academy wants to go a little more “artsy” with their pick it might make sense to choose this one. While it’s a good film and worth watching, it’s not the best one on this list. Again though I think it is going to win something. I would not be surprised at all if it got Best Director.

Licorice Pizza

Look, I hated this movie but for some unexplained reason it is a critical darling. I think it’s just a disjointed mess of a movie and I can’t really get behind it in any way. And since I’m pretty bad at picking Oscar winners they will probably go with this one. If they do, I think it’s a shame. I liked the acting here but the story barely counts as a film.

The Power of the Dog

Can you buy Benedict Cumberbatch as a cowboy? Can you buy the backdrop of New Zealand as Montana? Neither can I. This western doesn’t feel very western to me but I will admit the end is shockingly good. You have to pay pretty darn close attention to the film for it to make sense though. I don’t think this is actually going to win.

West Side Story

This movie is fine. It’s not good, it’s not great, it’s just kind of there. I don’t think this would have been nominated if anyone other than Steven Spielberg had been involved. You’re probably better off watching the original here but if you love musicals you could do worse than this one.

King Richard

Watch this one for Will Smith and Jon Bernthal’s performances. It really should have been more about Venus and especially more about Serena Williams but Will Smith does do a great job here. Other than that, this is virtually every sports movie you have seen before.

Coda

This is clearly the most heartwarming of all the Oscar nominees. If you watch this you will only go away feeling good. There should be more movies like this and it’s great to see realistic representations of the deaf community here. It’s not going to win, not because it’s a bad movie at all, there is simply just too much star power behind the other films on the list. I highly recommend watching this but no way this gets chosen for Best Picture.

Well, that’s it. Now, I will say, if I could have my pick of all the movies that came out to get the Best Picture award I would choose Spider-man: No Way Home. It was hands down the most fun I had at the movies in all of 2021 and in my mind it was totally deserving of being at least nominated. Ah well, being a huge comic book nerd is tough sometimes.

Anyway, we’ll see what happens tonight. What are your picks? Do you know of any movies you wish were nominated? Let me know in the comments!

Predictably yours,

Slick Dungeon

Dune – Movie Review

Dune (2021)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hello film fanatics, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’m here to review the last of the Oscar nominees. This time it’s the sci-fi space epic Dune. Be warned there will be spoilers below so if you care about that sort of thing, button up your stillsuit and watch out for sand worms as you head back to the theater to watch the film. Then ride your ornithopter back here to read the review.

For this review I am going to start with the obvious. Nothing, not any media translation ever, will be better than reading the work of brilliance that is Frank Herbert’s Dune. If you have not read that book and you like science fiction at all, you are doing yourself a disservice. So be sure to read that.

Still, for years and years people have attempted to do a decent translation of the text to film. It had an older version that was… well… it’s a little dated and odd if you watch it now but it was a thing. This new version starring Timothee Chalamet tells the first half of the book. Well, not quite the first half actually but it tells the beginning of the book.

The film looks fantastic. And the acting here is extremely good. While there are definitely parts of the book left out of the film entirely, it covers enough of the story that you can get a basic picture of it.

The pacing is a bit slow but so is the novel at times. The book was never about the action but more about politics and deeper meaning.

It’s fairly hard to summarize a plot for the book but if you want to know the basics, Paul is a young man who is set to inherit a lot of wealth and privilege from his father the Baron Leto. Leto has been given a planet to rule over by the Emperor of basically everything. This planet is a desert planet which has an extremely valuable resource called spice. The spice powers interstellar travel and is a bit of a hallucinogenic when ingested. Paul knows his fate is wrapped up in this planet because he sees visions of his future. Paul’s family has a bitter rivalry with a rival house called the Harkonnens who have had to give up the Dune planet to Baron Leto. Everyone expects Leto to fail, the emperor included.

There’s a whole lot more to summarize but if I get too much more into it I am giving away important plot points.

One thing I found somewhat frustrating with this film was the sound quality. There were times when the music in the background literally overwhelms what the actors were saying, making it hard to understand certain parts.

But I will say as far as Dune adaptations go, this is the best one so far. I don’t think this is going to win best picture because they never give that to a sci-fi movie but it’s worth watching, especially if you do like the books.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Licorice Pizza – Movie Review

Licorice Pizza

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Hey film lovers, it’s Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review another Oscar nominee. This time I watched the 1970’s era comedy/drama/romance Licorice Pizza. There will be spoilers for this movie below so if you care about that run on back to the theater and watch the film before reading the review.

Ever since Boogie Nights Paul Thomas Anderson has been making films about people on the fringes of society doing odd and eccentric things. A lot of times those films work and make for good viewing although they do tend to have an excessive runtime. Usually in those films, by the end, things add up to a story that makes some kind of sense.

Licorice Pizza on the other hand is a confusing, jumbled mess of a movie which does not add up to a decent story. The basic plot is about Gary, a fifteen year old actor and entrepreneur who is in love with Alana Kane, a 25 year old woman. The movie is supposed to be about an innocent and heartwarming love affair. I’m sorry but a 25 year old woman dating a 15 year old is… child abuse. That’s just a fact and it’s emphasized over and over and over in this film that there is this age gap. If the genders were swapped this would be a film about a man stalking a child.

Gary is no prize in the movie either as he pesters and badgers Alana relentlessly. There is a back and forth of the two of them getting jealous over who they are hanging out with which just seems unhealthy.

And to be honest with you I can’t even understand why half of the scenes are in this movie. There are scenes where Gary is selling waterbeds in a really strange side plot, only to call it a side plot is to give it too much credit. Sean Penn and Bradley Cooper both show up out of nowhere, do insane things with their characters and then just kind of disappear from the movie.

It feels more like a series of random vignettes that don’t make much sense than it does a cohesive film. The acting is fine but the story is just bad.

And nowhere in the film do they explain why it is called Licorice Pizza. If you feel the need to watch a Paul Thomas Anderson film, go watch Boogey Nights or Magnolia. Those are not perfect films but at least you can understand what is happening by the end.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon