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.

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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!

(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)

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!