What I thought of The Wicked and the Divine #19

wickedandivine-19Last issue, things were starting to kick off as Gillen and McKelvie moved into the final phase of this splendid comic. In the previous issue Laura has returned from the dead with some unexpected companions, while Annake is using what’s left of the Pantheon to try to stop her being exposed as the person that’s been killing gods.

This issue starts with Dionysus being taken to the Underworld to meet with Laura, or the god Persephone as she’s now calling herself.

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As for Annake she’s ready to go to war with Persephone/Laura, and she also drops a hint that Laura’s return isn’t all it seems.

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This leads to one half of the surviving Panethon fighting the other half in the Underworld..

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There’s a large battle, and Minerva is taken by Annake’s side of the Pantheon, but they’ve not got a clue what she’s got in store for Minerva when she gets her back.

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There’s a real sense of this comic rocketing towards a climax, and now with the introduction of the threat of Minerva’s death at the hands of Annake, there’s a countdown Laura’s group are working to in order to save her and stop whatever it is Annake is planning to do.

All the slow build up and characterisation is over now. The Wicked and the Divine has turned into a fast paced action filled comic while still retaining the feel of everything that’s come before it. This really is fantastic stuff.

What I thought of Cinema Purgatorio #1

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As the blurb for this new comic from Avatar Press won’t let us forget, the anthology comic is something readers in the US at least seem to be contemptuous of. In Europe we’re used to such things thanks to the likes of 2000AD and Heavy Metal, but in America in the modern era it’s fell by the wayside hence why Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill decided to bring back the concept with Cinema Purgatorio; an attempt to do something different with the format.

From the off this feels different, almost grubby as Moore and O’Neill set up the idea of one of those filthy little cinemas that used to infect the UK decades ago that’s show anything from horror films, to porn, to melodramas, basically anything. In this case it’s a worrying pastiche of old silent comedies.

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Moore and O’Neill start this as a zany silent film but it quickly becomes something more real and grimmer while still keeping the conventions of silent comedy.It’s a horribly effective and disturbing story that works to set the tone, and having the stories as part of a cinematic programme dispenses with having a Crypt Keeper or Tharg type character introducing the stories.

Next up is Garth Ennis and Raulo Caceres Code Pru. A story about a paramedic, not someone you see as a leading character in comics, but this is a paramedic in a world where vampires are real…

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As an establishing episode it’s pretty good, but this isn’t any more than just setting up the concept that vampires are real, people know about it and Pru’s not one of them.

The third story is Kieron Gillen and Ignacio Calero’s Modded. This is a post-apocalyptic science fiction tale set on a ravaged Earth and I’ve seen this concept more times than I’ve taken a piss in my life, This though is something a wee bit different that feels like a post apocalyptic version of Pokemon with a touch of Final Fantasy.

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So far it feels very British and very 2000AD in places, especially Gillen’s story, but Max Brooks and Michael Dipascale’s A More Perfect Union gives a chance for a more American voice to be heard in this crowd of noisy Brits.

Set during the Battle of Gettysburg, A More Perfect Union is a historical tale that stands out as there’s nothing seemingly supernatural in this but there’s something interesting about the story as the historical war comic is a nearly extinct species.

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It’s back to a more SF/horror tale with Christos Gage and Gabriel Andrande’s The Vast. A kind of Pacific Rim story of giant monsters and the people trying to stop them. It’s the thinnest story in terms of plot, but it’s fun stuff, even if it’s been done over and over before.

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Cinema Purgatorio is a nice revamp of the anthology format. It doesn’t especially change anything here as it’s really taking the idea of the old British weekly comics as it’s inspiration but the entire thing is enjoyable, not to mention, interesting enough to read on to see where the various creators take these stories. The stand out stories are Moore’s Gillen’s and Brooks. Ennis’s story is fine but feels like he wrote it on automatic, and Gage’s is OK, but it’s nothing really special.

This isn’t a cheap comic however don’t let the cover price put you off. There’s some excellent stuff in here and it’s also nice to see artists that can draw and not just that, draw in black and white. Too many mainstream comic artists don’t seem to have grasped these basic talents.

So good first issue. Certainly interesting enough to pick up the next couple of issues. I’d give it a try if I were you….

A quick word about Leicester City winning the league (hopefully).

I’m a supporter of Partick Thistle, Glasgow’s non Old Firm team. It’d have been stupidly easy for me to support either Celtic or ‘Rangers’ but I decided to support my local side because they had the mighty Alan Rough!

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I lived in Leicester from 1988 to 2000 with some time off for good behaviour in London, Bristol and Nottingham in there too, but I occasionally ventured down to Filbert Street to see a Leicester City side sometimes win. but mainly whenever I was there it was grinding 0-0 draws.

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For those out there that have supported Manchester Utd since ‘‘that glorious night in Barcelona’‘, or Arsenal since they won things, or Chelsea or Man City since the money tap was turned on, clubs like Leicester are the sort of places they turn up to for a few seasons before they end up being relegated. They’re places where these fans turn up and wonder why fans of a club like Leicester stick with them and they don’t rush down the nearest J.D Sports to buy a replica Chelsea top ASAP as after all, in the modern age of football these sort of clubs win nothing at the top level so what’s the point of sticking by them?

Well, today Leicester play Manchester United at Old Trafford and if they win then Leicester win the top flight of English football for the first time in their history.For a fan of Leicester this is going to mean something more than a fan of a wealthy club jaded on success moaning that they didn’t win something that they think they’re entitled to. Sticking by a club like Leicester takes commitment because you see the bad times, and the club will have seen some awful times but the hope is always that your club bounces back and that maybe you’ll end up in a comfortable place in the top flight.

Yet today Leicester could win the league. As a Partick Thistle fan who last won anything three years ago and looks at the trophy cabinet moths with as much pride as our scant few trophies. But you stick by your team. You’ll be slagged off, laughed at, mocked and when relegated, crushed, but you can come back. You might even win the league as may happen today.

Leicester City is the closest I’ve got to an English team I’ll be interested in looking at their results first, but they’re not my team but for fans of clubs that will never do anything major, we can live vicariously through them. Yes they’re a relatively well off club, but in the modern era having a club like Leicester stand on the cusp of winning the biggest prize in English football is an astonishing achievement.

So at 4pm today, people like me and most importantly, the thousands of fans who’ve stuck by Leicester for years are hopefully going to see the club prove the impossible can happen. Whatever happens in the future these fans will remember this for as long as they live.

All Leicester have to do today is win….

What I thought of Binary Noise #1

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My weekly trawl through Comixology for interesting comics of quality is increasingly a harder task every week. Far too many bad superhero comics that are badly drawn, or fantasy comics which all look the same, or tedious crossovers or reboots from big publishers. The interesting stuff seems thin on the ground which makes it harder to spot.

This brings me to Mauricio Pommella’s Binary Noise, a SF comic compilation of three stories, Infused Man, Distant Argos and Electric Body.The first story, deals with a homeless man rescued from his life in a drunken stupor living in the streets for some mysterious purpose.

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The second story, Distant Argos, is about a mining spaceship that arrives at the distant asteroid Argos which they intend to strip bare.

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The final story Electric Body is about a prison robot on Europa that starts hearing strange noises and sees a new prisoner who looks oddly familiar to it.

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All three stories are linked so there’s an overarching plot which pays off very well, but it’s not just Pommella’s melancholy tone of story that’s something different, it’s his art which wears it’s influences on it’s sleeve. Binary Noise is a fantastic comic that tries to do something different from the norm in regards the sadly maligned anthology comic. Patching together three stories to create a larger one isn’t unique but in this case it’s interesting and certainly better than reading about spandex or fur clad heroes fighting each other.

Binary Noise is on Comixology for a mere £1.99. It’s worth a try.

The first cut won’t hurt at all-The ongoing story of my stroke/cancer

Today has been a dizzy spin of swabs, needles, pills and incredibly heavy conversations as the pre-operation appointment before my thyroid and cancer is removed takes place, something that will happen next Friday, the 6th May. To say they’re moving faster than Usain Bolt after a dodgy bit of chicken is an understatement and I’m in full Jeff Goldbloom mode as of now….

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I received a call late this morning saying that my pre-op would be tomorrow, but then that was changed as I need to stop taking one of the drugs (Clopidogrel) that stops me having another stroke. The pre-op then was moved to this afternoon with a couple of hours notice! This makes the surgery incredibly risky so it’s like a juggling act, though hopefully not a Crusty Juggler..

What I need to to is stop taking Clopidogrel now, and from tomorrow start taking Aspirin which is a stopgap but it’ll mean they can monitor my bleeding, because a full neck dissection as you can imagine is going to be messy which leads me to this Clive Baker quote…

“Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we’re opened, we’re red.”

Essentially the doctors are going to read my flesh next week. See what’s wrong and take out the corrupted flesh. Today made it clear how risky this is in my current position and how hard it’ll be for the anaesthetist (who was a very nice woman who I feel totally safe with)  to read things if there is a serous problem. Make no mistake, this is a routine operation (thyroid and lump removals from the neck are common) but the after-effects of the stroke make this a riskier operation than usual. However there’s no option as they can’t afford to spend another six months waiting for me to be totally out the danger zone for another stroke.

So next Friday morning a friend will drop me off with my stuff  at the hospital. I’m bringing my old laptop but sadly the Bristol Royal Infirmary blocks WordPress so I’ll be unable to post til I’m discharged, so if anyone thinks the worst, don’t be worried, it’s just I’ll be blocked. if people want updates follow me on Twitter @FakeGlennMiller as long as you don’t mid a bit of football plus some Scottish and UK politics too.

The operation is a 3-4 hours op, so if I get seen early I should be on the ward and awake from around midday-oneish. Next weekend will be one where I’ll be recuperating and having some astonishing people look after me as I have to make the point again that the NHS is an amazing bloody thing and we should fight as much as we can to preserve it.

Wish me luck, don’t say break a leg, I’ve got enough wrong with me….

A few words about Hillsborough

The Hillsborough inquest verdict came through yesterday, and it completely vindicated what the families of those 96 dead have been saying for 27 years that their loved ones weren’t responsible for their deaths. In fact the authorities failed and then spent decades systematically covering up the facts so the idea that ticketless Liverpool fans rushed gates, or were drunk or were pushing others to their deaths (if you let a crowd into a confined space they’re going to push ahead, so that’s not the fault of the people, but those that didn’t read the situation properly) have been shot down in flames yet a cursory look at Twitter today reveals people still push these lies and frankly, offensive bullshit.

Throughout the decades the people of Liverpool and fans of Liverpool F.C took reams and reams of abuse and insults. In fact the lies started piling up quickly with that infamous Sun newspaper cover which today’s Metro scathingly parodies with brilliant effectiveness.

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I wrote at the start of this inquest of how the 96 should be remembered, but now the truth has been exposed it’s hopefully a matter of time before people face criminal charges, but they’ll be people who’ll escape legal action who deserve to be remembered in their part in all this.

I hope I’m wrong but Kelvin McKenzie will probably avoid any legal action (some are talking of him being charged with perverting the course of justice and aiding in a cover up) but his role in the cover up and smearing of the living and dead should never be forgotten. The uncharacteristic silence from a man who talks shite in the same way the rest of us breathe is deafening, but I don’t imagine it’ll last long.

Then there’s Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s former press secretary who blamed the disaster on drunken Liverpool fans and didn’t mind telling people that.  There’s Boris Johnson, who leaped upon the people of Liverpool in this column in the Spectator in 2004, that was partly written by Simon Heffer.  I could mention Jack Straw who decided within five weeks of Labour coming to power in 1997 that there wasn’t a need for a new inquiry.

There’s also the thousands upon thousands of Keyboard Warriors who’ve bravely slandered the dead from the safety of anonymous user names on message boards and social media for most of this century. Most of all though it’s The Sun’s role in ensuring that the lie got embedded from the off that’s going to be remembered for as long as this story drags on. There’s many good reasons never to buy The Sun, but this is by far the biggest because it’s a matter of solidarity and well as hurting an organisation that contributed in making people’s lives hell for 27 years and slurring the names of the 96 dead fans.

A lot of people and organisations are going to be consulting lawyers today and they’ll be worried, even scared of their own future but I have no sympathy. If you played a part in helping this develop from a grotesque act of negligence to a criminal cover up then I hope you get your day in court.

I missed the verdict unfold live yesterday as I was going through my own personal drama but when I did eventually see the images from yesterday I was struck but the sheer sense of relief and the dignity of the families, who have been fighting this from generation to generation. Hopefully the fight ends with this generation and justice is finally served.

Out of the blue, into the fire-The ongoing story of my stroke/cancer

So, today was results day for the tests I had last week. I went to the dental hospital this afternoon here in Bristol (there’s a specialist head and neck unit there) to be told what the results were, and what the next steps were. An hour and a bit later I emerged knowing I have a form of thyroid cancer called papillary cancer. This is the most common type of thyroid cancer, and I can’t even go and get something rare and unusual, tsk.

Having ‘The Conversation’ about cancer is nothing like you see in films or TV. There’s no X-Rays or impossibly glamorous doctors with brilliant white teeth and blow dried hair telling you news, though sadly there’s no chance of me becoming a superhero with some experimental treatment.

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My treatment is more down to earth and at the same time, complex.

Here’s the deal. The cancer is centred round my thyroid and has caused a mass to grow on the left side of my neck and is possibly growing around the jugular on the left side of my neck. Because they think it’s at an early stage (until my thyroid and the mass is removed from my body and dissected by pathologists they can’t say for sure) the hope is that an operation followed by some radioactive iodine being injected into my body will kill off the cancer. Sadly the radioactivity isn’t going to give me superpowers either. Stan Lee is such a liar…

The timetable is this. In 7-10 days I’ll go into the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI)for a pre-op appointment. Because of my recent stroke they need to firstly make sure it’s safe to operate on me. Assuming this is the case, in the next 7-10 days after that I’ll go into the BRI for the surgery and this is a wee warning that if you’re squeamish to maybe skip the next bits………..

 

Assuming the weak of constitution are gone I’ll continue.

 

What the surgeons will do is essentially dissect my neck. They’ll open up my left side and my front exposing most of my neck so they can access it fully. Then they’ll remove my thyroid and as for the mass they’ll take that out, and hopefully it’s not growing round my jugular on my left side. If it is then they’ll remove that side of my neck’s jugular vein. I’ll still have one on the right side but it’ll mean more massive lifestyle changes to go on top of the ones post-stroke.

They’ll also remove some lymph nodes and that hopefully is that. They’ll then reassemble my neck and I’ll spend a day or two after the operation being drained and making sure that I don’t suffer a calcium problem as potentially this may cause a problem with the distribution of calcium in my blood. This will also leave he hoarse as the thyroid is here:

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As any layperson can see, this may affect my speech and indeed, I’ve been told it will almost certainly change my voice afterwards. My ability to adjust tone and pitch may be lost completely and if that weren’t bad enough, they’ll have to cut through nerves on the left of my neck which will affect me so I’ll be left with a numbness in my left shoulder and the lower left side of my face.  There’s a very, very, very, very slight chance I’ll need a tracheotomy, but I’m more likely not to but this is a possibility the doctor made me aware of as they tell you all the things that may happen just so you’re informed. It’s done in the best way possible but there’s no bullshit and I like that.

This operation isn’t a short one as you can imagine. If all goes right it’ll take around four hours and obviously I’ll be knocked out for all of that as this isn’t the sort of surgery you stay awake for.

Then the rest of my stay in hospital will be to make sure I’m healing and to ensure the neck is drained of fluid. After another week’s recuperation if all goes fine I’ll be back on my feet, all husky and scarred.

The squeamish can now rejoin this blog…..

I’ve also had and will have support from MacMillan who I’ve supported for some time, and I’d recommend if you’re looking for a charity to support then these people do an amazing job. After the doctor had finished explaining things to me, I had around 20-30 minutes with the nurse who explained what they can do and translated some of the medical terms into layperson for me. I also have a DVD to watch and no, it’s not called, So You’ve Got Cancer! or anything trite like that.

During the chat I mentioned about moving back to Glasgow to care for my dad and that’s something the doctor isn’t willing to sanction until I’ve had my surgery and recuperated enough. If all goes to plan that’s the end of May, start of June. Now I’ve mentioned radiotherapy but he’d be happy for me to have that in Glasgow and to continue my treatment there where I’m sure I’ll get the same high level of care I’m getting in Bristol.

Today means there’s no more uncertainty or false hope I’m magically all clear. The cold hard facts have been laid in front of me and I’ll not pretend it’s not a tad terrifying but had I never had a stroke the mass could have been sitting in my neck getting bigger, malignant and worse for a decade before it was found there was nothing they could do. Discovering it now gives me a fighting chance and I’ve every faith in the NHS to sort this out for me.

One other thing. Today was the all-out junior doctor strike in England. We’ve had Jeremy Hunt and various Tory mouthpieces warn about how people with life threatening conditions won’t be seen today and that’s bollocks as this blog is testimony to. I had the same level of care today that I’ve had on days when there’s not been a strike on and I fully support the doctors in their stand here. If they fall then in five or ten years people like me aren’t going to get this level of care and treatment from the NHS and that means people like me will die younger than they should.

As for now it’s a waiting game for the phone call to go to the BRI for the pre-op. I don’t expect it this side of the bank holiday but I’d imagine it to be the end of next week, start of next and in for my operation around the middle of May. Husky voice and kewl scars by the end of May.

And it snowed in April today in Bristol….