Author Archives: AJ
A few days ago I did my write-up of the 4th Middle East Film and Comic Con in which I talked about my experience playing in the Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier for Milwaukee. It was a huge event with some 60-62 players, and it also was the biggest Magic the Gathering event to be held in the Middle East, which in itself is a huge achievement for the game in the region. I played the tournament with a funky deck that, while not realistically competitive, was a lot of fun to play in a lot of different ways, especially given the kind of decks I faced off against.
As part of that entire play experience, there were some cards from my deck that were pretty much MVPs. Matches where these cards stuck out on the board, I was able to win most of the time, and in many of the matches I lost, I lamented not being able to draw them (except lands of course, which doesn’t really count!). I’ve talked about my deck before and even some cards that I’ve been looking forward to playing in a competitive tournament, and this was a great opportunity to find out whether or not my excitement was justified. Which it was!
In just eight months or so, we will have the first new live-action Star Wars movie since 2005. The Force Awakens is the name of this movie, continuing on from the legacy of both the original and the prequel trilogies. The trinity from the original trilogy will be returning in The Force Awakens, older and wiser, but still alive and kicking, and I think that it is going to be a glorious time for Star Wars fans. Some months ago, we had the teaser trailer that kicked everything off last year, and just today, we got to see the first proper trailer for the movie.
Before we start with the whole thing let me make one thing clear, while I understand Disney’s decision to scrap the Star Wars Expanded Universe canon, I am also completely opposed to the whole idea since the SWEU contains such a wealth of incredible lore shaped over decades by hundreds of people. To just throw it all by the wayside… well, that rubs me the wrong way. Either way, having seen the new trailer, I’ll be going into the movie with an open mind, largely because I love how tasteful the trailer is and how it completely pulls me in, which is invaluable.
Two episodes back The Flash finally addressed the question of whether Barry would get to time travel or not when he accidentally went back in time for about a day, and then ended up repeating that day (to a degree). The writers also did well in addressing the notion of what happens when you time travel, how you do it, and what the consequences can be. Of course, the time travel was important in more ways than one since in the “repeat” events unfolded in a manner conducive to Dr. Wells not killing Cisco, so that was a thumbs-up in my eyes. Some of the other things though, well, they really didn’t sit well with me.
And the two most recent episodes, “Tricksters” and “All Star Team Up” haven’t really done much to address those issues. If anything, things have kind of gotten worse, at least as far as Iris and her relationship with everyone is concerned. In last week’s episode we saw the amazing Mark Hamill return to the franchise as the Trickster, though now aged and past his prime when the CCPD gets him to consult on a case that ties into his legacy. Suffice to say, it was an explosive episode in the way that only an episode with the Trickster can be. And in this week’s episode, we saw yet another crossover with Arrow when Ray Palmer and Felicity arrive in Central City to consult with the STAR Labs team on Ray’s suit, and all sorts of hilarious shenanigans follow, including one of the most… well, weird villains the show has had to date.
The finale of Game of Thrones Season 4 came at the end of a rather troubling season in general, with the writers making some really questionable departures from the source material and the directors being a bit too convinced of their own infallibility with respect to the final product. Still, as such things go, the finale wasn’t all that bad and it ended on a fairly positive note for many of the arcs that it touched, such as where Arya ends up after she disposes off of The Hound and sets out for herself, or even Tyrion killing his father and Shae both, for betraying hmm in the worst ways possible.
And this all brings us to season 5, which began this past Sunday, and generated an immense amount of controversy from the get go, namely that the first four episodes had been leaked together from sources that HBO had sent them to for review purposes. Hardly generates confidence, that. Either way, the season 5 premiere is of the grim and somber variety. Nothing really happens in this episode other than he viewers getting to touch base with some of the storylines and seeing what consequences past events have wrought on the world of Westeros and beyond. The characters are trying to find their feet once again, and moving forward, things should be… interesting.
The first Middle East Film and Comic Con happened back in 2012, three years ago, and it was a huge success for fans of all types of entertainment media. We all are so familiar with the big conventions that happen in San Diego and Boston and London and other places all throughout the year, and so, having a “local” on a somewhat similar level is a great thing to have, by far. I’ve certainly enjoyed my three years of going to the convention and while there have been some hiccups along the way, as there were this year, the MEFCC is still a great force to reckon with and should things really work out at the top level, then we can make some magic happen I think.
This year’s MEFCC was billed to be bigger than it was last year, primarily on the back of a guest list that included as superb celebrities like William Shatner, Haley Atwell, Gillian Anderson, while also bringing in some top western comics talent like Charles Soule, Andy Suriano, Matt Hawkins, Tula Lotay and Mahmud Asrar. That was pretty much the reason I wanted to go this year, in addition to the fact that I was taking part in a Magic the Gathering tournament at the event, the PPTQ Milwaukee. Here then is my kinda-sorta log of the event, such as it was.
Just a few days ago I did a post in this series where I talked about some of my favourite cards to play from Dragons of Tarkir, cards that I’ve had the pleasure of playing with a fair bit and cards that I really like. Having played Magic for as little time as I have, barely five and a half very inconsistent months, I’ve nevertheless found myself getting attached to a lot of different cards and while I started out as a Sultai (BUG) player, I’ve since gravitated towards playing Abzan (WGB) and have stuck with that change as well. Sure, Dragons of Tarkir has seemingly simplified things for me by removing the black from the clan colours, but I still play full Abzan and I have a blast with it too.
This new article is something very different however. For a few weeks now I’ve been working towards building an entirely different deck, one that apparently used to be popular early last year but has since kind of fallen through the cracks with the incoming rotation of Khans of Tarkir last September. The deck is Blue/White Heroic, which counts as its staples a number of cards from the Theros block while supplementing in a few spells from Khans of Tarkir. Just this past weekend, Tom “the Boss” Ross piloted a version of this same deck to a Top 8 finish at StarCityGames Syracuse, and watching him play that deck, I got really excited because some of the amazing combos and finishers. So, that’s what this article is about, the deck named Bant Heroic.
A while back I did a small recap of my small forays into the world of Magic the Gathering CCG and I mentioned how exciting and fun I found the whole experience to be, despite my complete lack of familiarity or even any kind of expertise with the game. But that certainly hasn’t stopped me at all ever since. To date, I’ve done a number of events, including two prereleases (for the Fate Reforged and Dragons of Tarkir sets) and a Game Day, and I feel that I’m slowly starting to become a better player.
And that’s what it is all about, becoming a better player through experience. I make mistakes often, such as deciding when to play lands, or pulling off certain combos or what have you and often it comes back to bite me in the ass real bad. There are so many times when I’ve lost straight games, and even losing to the same person in four different events and all of them without a win to my name. But not so big a deal. Last time I talked about mostly my plays in competitive games. This time, I’m gonna talk about some of my favourite cards from the new set, Dragons of Tarkir, that I’ve been having a blast with.
In recent weeks, CW’s Arrow has taken a somewhat darker turn, and it all has to do with how the metaplot concerning the League of Assassins has developed and the large shadow that the season villain, Ra’s al Ghul, has begun to cast on the characters. He is a downright manipulative bastard and since Oliver has refused to take up his offer of becoming the next Ra’s al Ghul, the current incumbent has seen fit to take it upon himself to make sure that Oliver does what he wants, no matter who has to die for that, criminals or innocents or both.
Last week’s “Suicidal Tendencies“, while it involved the Suicide Squad for much of the episode’s running length, was pivotal in what it made Oliver confront when it came to the League. Maseo is wholly sworn over to the League and he is now on a mission to destroy the Arrow’s reputation in Starling, on orders of Ra’s al Ghul. And this creates problems, not the least of which is Ray confronting the Arrow while decked out in his brand-new ATOM suit. And on the other side of the world in Kaznia, the Suicide Squad team does a few really unexpected things, things that really made me love the likes of Deadshot and Cupid. Oh and there was a wedding involved, which was kind of fun amongst the darkness.
The Flash last week ended on a pretty exciting note: Barry doing some real time travel finally, amid a whole host of other complications for the scarlet speedster that leave him in some of the most complicated situations of his life as a superhero. With all that happened in last week’s episode, what I wanted out of the episode this week was to go big and go explosive because it is a pretty big freaking moment for everyone involved on the show, and the trip getting there was certainly one to talk about and go home to.
In this week’s episode, “Rogue Time“, we have the consequences of Barry time-traveling as he did. Like I said, it was a pretty big moment, with him going back in time almost an entire day, and this episode lays out just what that is going to cost him in the long run. For one, though Cisco doesn’t die in the “new” day, and Barry is able to ensure that Mark Mardon is caught well in time, the Rogues are back in town and they make life hell for Barry. And all the complications of time travel mean that it is not just Barry’s superhero life that is affected, but also is his personal life, especially his relationships to two other characters.
Note: This review contains some major spoilers about this episode.
When CW’s Arrow went on break back in February, the final minutes of the 15th episode of the 3rd season provided us with one of the biggest twists to date on the show: Ra’s al Ghul, the Demon’s Head and leader of the League of Assassins, wanted to make Oliver Queen his successor, the next Ra’s al Ghul. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Hold your horses there! What!? Yep, pretty damn big twist and something that needed a lot of clarification from a story perspective. Which is where the returning episode from last week, “The Offer“, came in.
The episode last week laid out exactly why Ra’s al Ghul chose Oliver as his successor instead of his own daughter, Nyssa al Ghul, who has been quite the force on the show ever since her debut in the middle of the second season. In a war of dual identities where much of the good he has done has been twisted and rendered ineffective, Oliver seriously considers the offer, and the journey to get to that point speaks volumes about how he and his friends and allies have developed over the last three years, and the long road that lies ahead of them all.
We currently live in one of the greatest periods in comics history. First, superhero movies have become the real BIG thing on the box office and there are several studios scrambling to get a slice of the big pie it is and create some lasting legacies. Second, superhero television has continued to grow at a breakneck pace in the last three years, surpassing most expectations I dare say, even after all the previous greats that we’ve already had. And leading the charge for superhero television right now is CW’s The Flash, which has done much to incorporate comic-book concepts in a realistic way for the audience and also balance the humour and the grim realities really well.
About a month ago, The Flash left us off with a great episode that did much to cement the place of yet another superhero in the incredible line-up of CW’s other characters, Firestorm. The episode also finally gave us a good view of Gorilla Grodd, in an epic scene that involved Harrison Wells and General Eiling as well. Returning this week, the show kind of got back to the basics as Clyde Mardon’s brother Mark Mardon returned to Starling to avenge his brother’s death, while also moving forward with the whole “identity of the Reverse-Flash” plot that has been swinging about in the story for a good while now.
There haven’t been any “Comics Picks of the Week” articles for a while, and the major reason for that is because I’ve just been too caught up with other stuff and I just can’t be… well bothered. It just takes too much out of my time to keep these titles going, especially when Wednesdays also see me trying to get through two TV shows and doing reviews for them. Though, that situation has kind of abated now.
Anyway, this week’s surprise hits were Batman: Arkham Knight #2 and Gotham Central Book 1 from DC. It was a relatively small week for me since I didn’t read all that many new titles and most of those were middling. Ongoing greats were Django/Zorro #4, John Carter: Warlord of Mars #4, Fantastic Four #643 , Inhuman #12, Aquaman #39 , Catwoman #39 , and He-Man: The Eternity War #3 among others .