Aquaman – King of the DCEU

Last night I was out with a couple friends enjoying a double feature for one of their birthdays. We took in the new addition to the Transformers Franchise Bumblebee and the newest addition to the floundering DCEU, Aquaman. While I immensely enjoyed Bumblebee, it’s by far the BEST Transformers movie, I had a few more reservations for Aquaman. After the disappointing Justice League and the terrible Batman V. Superman, Wonder Woman was the only thing keeping the DCEU afloat, until the king of the seven seas arrived.

Directed by James Wan (of Saw fame), this movie was the first salvo in the soft reboot currently underway from Warner Brothers and their DCEU. This review will be spoiler free but I will discuss several key aspects of the film and their relation to the source material.

STORY

The first thing I have to say and it can be taken a slight negative for the film, the story is all over the place. While they make it work for the film, they basically took the first five collected issues of Aquaman’s New 52 comic run and made it into the plot for the film. The main pull is the Throne of Atlantis story line which has already been made into an animated feature as part of the DCAU (DC Animated Universe). The story centers around King Orm (Aquaman’s half brother) a full blooded Atlantean and his bid for the throne of Atlantis. Wan’s film is a very ‘Shakespearean’ tale of family betrayal and political trickery with a healthy dose of comedic undertones. Arthur Curry (Aquaman) fresh off his defeat of Steppenwolf with the Justice League has decided to become the unofficial protector of the seas. This brings him into conflict with a particular group of pirates. These pirates have been operating with maximum casualties for quite some time and Aquaman has had enough. Those familiar with the storyline for the Throne of Atlantis arc will be able to see what will happen before it does; however, Wan and co. have worked enough subplots into the mix to provide some surprising turns wherever they can.

Left: Nereus and Xebel Forces; Right: Orm and Atlantean Forces

CAST

Jason Momoa returns as Arthur Curry (Aquaman) for his second foray into the DC comics world. He builds on his persona established in the Justice League and we are shown his origins with a great exposition at the opening of the film. As the film progresses we are also shown why he holds Atlantis in such low regard and refuses to help them in any capacity. It allows for a great heroic origin as Arthur goes from occasional vigilante to the full blown hero we’ve been waiting for.

Amber Heard straight up knocks it out of the park as Mera. There is a particular scene in the middle section of the movie where you really get to see why Mera is such a respected warrior and queen in the comics. She brings a very authoritative quality to the role which helps to balance out Momoa’s ‘bro take’ on the classic clean cut Atlantean king. Her arc through the film is one we’ve seen before in plenty of other works; however, Heard makes it her own and shows that Mera is worthy of her own movie.

The standout star for me is Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as David Kane/Black Manta. At the beginning of the film we are shown a ruthless Kane as he and his pirate crew work to hijack a submarine. Through a turn of events he is left alone and blames Aquaman for it. This sets him on a path of revenge that has him crafting his Black Manta persona through the entirety of the film. When he finally confronts Arthur and Mera in Italy, he has emerged fully as the supervillain that has plagued Aquaman since his first appearance in Aquaman #35 from 1967. Abdul-Mateen II delivers a dark and gritty performance in an otherwise fairly light-hearted film which helps to cement Manta as someone who will continue to appear in future DC films.

Black Manta

Patrick Wilson gives us our main villain by his portrayal of King Orm/Ocean Master. A conflicted ruler who just wants to do right by his people, Wilson brings a certain gravitas to the role that helps to establish Orm as a force to be reckoned with. Wanting to preserve his people and their way of life he has grown tired of the mistreatment of the oceans by the surface world and he is through playing nice. Wilson’s protrayal of Orm helps to provide some sympathy for the young ruler but ultimately helps to give a villain you can’t help to love.

Other notable members of the cast are Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanna, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus and Temuera Morrison as Tom Curry.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Despite 90% of the film taking place under water and in front of a green screen, Wan manages to deliver some stellar shots. One scene which appears to be a continuous shot (in the vein of the various Marvel Netflix series’), really showcases Wan’s keen eye. He created a living and breathing world at the bottom of the ocean that makes you believe in the might and magic of the fictional kingdom of Atlantis. As I said before in my review of Black Panther, I’m not a cinematographer and don’t pretend to be, but I can tell what shots look amazing and help to convey the emotion and feel of the scenes, and in that regard, Wan knocks it out of the park.

Amber Hear (Mera), James Wan (Director), Jason Momoa (Arthur Curry/Aquaman) and Willem Dafoe (Vulko)

COSTUMES

The costumes in this film were perfectly done. Each character has a costume that directly references back to their comic roots and helps to provide a great feel for the overall tone of the film. I was extremely giddy when Arthur finally dons his orange and green comic accurate costume at the climax of the film. Mera’s costume is a direct recreation of her comic source material and Orm/Ocean Master’s full purple and silver battle garb is a perfect counterbalance to Arthur’s orange and green. Black Manta and the Atlantean soldiers take the cake for costume design. Giving us a great armoured and vibrant colour scheme for the costumes of the Atlanteans, Kym Barrett, worked closely with Wan to bring his vision to life. Manta’s costume was heavily influenced by the source material while adding a very apparent Atlantean touch to it to provide a truly menacing character.

“The Trench” which are an ancient race of Atlanteans since mutated into a cross of humans and Angler Fish, were truly horrifying and provided some very terrifying scenes.

Trench Drone
Trench Swarm

MUSIC

The score for the film worked extremely well to create and translate the mood and feel from the shots to the viewers. There were a couple of misfires with some of the music, in particular a horrible cover of ‘Africa’. In a movie of fantastical underwater civilizations and wondrous technology, it felt out of place and a cheap way to bring a small laugh from the audience. With the exception of that small misstep the music fit the film really well and even the inclusion of a Greta Van Fleet chart topper worked to immerse the audience in the world of Aquaman.

ACTION

It’s hard for me to accurately describe the action in the film. It’s not that it wasn’t apparent or well done, it’s just that the majority of it was done using CGI. For obvious reasons they needed to use CGI to convey the 360 degree combat that the Atlanteans and the other kingdoms of the sea are fluent in, not to mention their amazing powers, it just left me a little wanting. The up close and personal action scenes with Arthur,Mera, Manta, the Atlanteans and Orm were very well done and choreographed, but they were few and far between. There is a big CGI slugfest of a fight at the climax of the film that delivers on the building tensions throughout the run time and showcases the various kingdoms of the sea beautifully. I’m not sure if Patrick Wilson and Jason Momoa went to trident combat training, or if there even is such a thing, but their work with those tridents is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Arthur and Orm before ‘Ring of Fire’

OVERALL

As someone who has seen every comic book movie to come out since the release of the Dark Knight in 2008, I can say that this is (in my opinion) the best DC movie since Nolan’s trilogy. While I did thoroughly enjoy Wonder Woman, the villain just didn’t capture me like Orm and Manta do. I love Gal Gadot and think she’s perfect for the role of Diana, but Momoa knocks this one out of the park. I would rate it as the top DCEU movie and overall I would give it a solid 9.0/10. Shazam and Wonder Woman 84 are going to have to really step their game up to even come close to this gem that Wan delivered. I highly recommend that if you’re a fan of the character or any of the cast listed that you go and see the film. If this is the first salvo in a new and improved DCEU, then the MCU could be getting a run for their money.

Aquaman movie poster

See you next time!

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Secret Empire – Captain America’s Greatest Betrayal

“We were supposed to be heroes. We were supposed to stand for something. It’s hard to say when it all started going wrong, but at some point, we let the fight become about us, not the world we’d sworn to protect. We found ourselves divided, and under siege. So many threats, so many dangers but the one that would end us, was the one we trusted the most.

Funny how the world can change in a day. How something so horrible can sneak up on you so quickly. And Stark was right. We’d won so many times against impossible odds. We started to take it for granted. Started to believe we were destined to come out on top. But something felt different this time.

We’d been pushed beyond our breaking point, slowly, methodically. And just as we were thinking we’d almost survived it, they struck the real blow.

As the battle began, there had already been suspicions. Whispers. Some knew who it must be, Hydra’s New Secret Leader. There was only one person who could’ve orchestrated all this, after all. Even still, they refused to believe… Until they saw it with their own eyes.

And so we fought. We fought because we believed we were right… And we fell because we were wrong.

We thought we were there to stop him, but the truth is… We were right where they wanted us to be. They had made plans for us… Found ways to turn our most powerful against us, again and again.

Later, when the stories were told, they’d all remark on the same thing.. how quickly it happened. We thought we were so strong, so unbeatable. That we could never collapse so quickly. So completely. So when we did, all we could do was watch it unfold, helpless as the day we were born. And with the world slipping away around us, we gazed into the face of our enemy, finally seeing them for what they really were.

They were stronger.

They were more powerful.

In that moment…They were worthy.”

Victorious Cap lifts Mjolnir

This was the moment, the moment when all the readers of Marvel Comics and the heroes contained within knew, that the world they knew had changed forever…

Captain America has been one of the most stalwart comic characters in all of history. He never wavered in his beliefs and he could bring out the best in everyone regardless of circumstances. So why did Marvel use this opportunity to make him evil? To answer that we have to go back to the prelude to Secret Empire.

HOW IT HAPPENED

The First thing you have to understand is that the history that we know since the beginning of Marvel Comics publication, was in fact false. The Nazis and Hydra were the victors of WWII. Captain America was a double agent trained by Kraken and Madam Hydra to act as the Allies’ saviour while secretly providing the Axis with information that could be used to win the war. This worked for pretty much the entire war before Cap’s double nature was discovered, and resulted in a much different world than we know. The ace in the hole was this, The Cosmic Cube. Now after the allies had driven Cap away, they had discovered the Cosmic Cube and its reality warping powers. (The Cosmic Cube and the Tesseract from the MCU are two VERY different artifacts).

Following his exile from Allied territory, Captain America had arrived to Japan high up in the mountains and entered a cave where he was greeted by his father figure/trainer Kraken. Kraken explained that this was where Hydra had begun and where it will continue its legacy. Captain America is led inside where he sees a pool and an old man stirring the waters. He is shown a vision of the allies preparing the Cosmic Cube to alter history and he is told that by submerging himself in the pool he will be protected from the change. Kraken went on to say that he would wake up in a world unfamiliar to him but that he would retain all of his memories and ideals.

As the allies began their change, Captain America submerged in the pool and was bombarded with memories and history that collided with his own. He awoke in a world where the allies had won and where he had been lost in the arctic for 70 years following his foiling of Red Skull’s final plan.

Now while there were various ticks and nods to Cap’s true nature through the beginning of the run by Nick Spencer. If you read the culmination of the previous 2016 event titled Avengers: Standoff! Cap’s change came as less of a surprise (Red Skull influenced the sentient Cosmic Cube ‘Kobik”, to rewrite Cap’s history making him a champion of Hydra as it restored Cap to his youthful appearance). In the first issue of Marvel’s new Steve centered comic run titled Captain America: Steve Rogers,is when his allegiance alteration is confirmed. In the final panels of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 (July 2016), Steve pushes his longtime ally Jack Flag from an airplane to fall to his apparent death, Rogers then turns to Dr. Selvig and says “Hail Hydra”.

Cap’s official turning point

WHAT CAME AS A RESULT

The opening to Secret Empire showed us one of the most complete and utter defeats of the Marvel heroes we have ever seen. The Guardians of the Galaxy, The Ultimates, Hyperion, Quasar, Captain Marvel and her Alpha Flight Space Program are trying to stop a Chitauri invasion of Earth and are fighting a losing battle. While they can beat the Chitauri en masse, the aliens just keep coming in endless waves. Iron Man and Iron Heart are attempting to repair the planetary shield to stop the invasion but they are not having any luck. The Defenders, Uncanny Avengers and some of the X-Men are attempting to quell a breakout from the Supervillain rehab center Pleasant Hill, with some success. One of the SHIELD helicarriers has gone missing and Hydra forces are waging a large attack against SHIELD all around the globe.

Nitro (the supervillain famous for starting the Civil War event, the REAL one, not the MCU version), exits the facility and proceeds to detonate himself in downtown New York City causing massive damage. The rest of the villains are teleported away while Baron Zemo and Blackout drop the entirety of the island of New York into the Darkforce dimension bringing on an endless night. The President then awards Steve Rogers (the Director of SHIELD) control over the United Stated military to help combat these threats. Once Steve has the power of the United States Armed Forces behind him, he sets his plan into action. He activates the planetary shield locking Captain Marvel and the ‘heavy hitters’ outside the planet at the mercy of the Chitauri. He crashes the missing helicarrier, now filled with Hydra soldiers, into another helicarrier and uses the hypnotic suggestion of Dr. Faustus to cause the defending SHIELD agents to become hypnotized and unwilling to fight. Iron Heart and her Tony Stark AI realize that the next target would be Washington D.C and have all the heroes rally there to defend it. Hydra sieges the city in an attempt to destabilize the government and the spirit of the American people. Steve Rogers, Now Hydra Supreme Commander, arrives and asks the Avengers to stop fighting and join him. When they refuse, his army moves in and attacks. He uses undisclosed methods to take out Thor, Vision and Scarlet Witch while the rest of the heroes are slowly beaten, one by one. As he stands victorious above them he reaches down and lifts Mjolnir high into the air. 

RAMIFICATIONS

This turn for the The Captain left a sour taste in a lot of fans mouths. Not only did they take one of the greatest heroes in all of comics and turn him into a Nazi, they also ripped down everything he stood for just to get some more sales and provide even a small semblance of competition to DC Comics with their Rebirth Initiative.

The bit that really stuck with most fans was the blatant disregard for the original creators of the character. Joseph Henry “Joe” Simon born Hymie Simon and Jack “King” Kirby born Jacob Kurtzberg, who created the character, were both of them members of the Jewish faith, both of their families having experienced persecution at the hands of the Nazis in WWII. By turning their creation of a man who stood for what was right and fought for the little man, literally against the Nazis, into a Nazi commander who took over the world, showed blatant disrespect to them.

Steve Rogers as Supreme Commander of Hydra

With all the backlash that Marvel experienced after writer Nick Spencer affirmed that this was not some trick, and that this was the original Captain America, they were (in my opinion) forced to rectify the situation. I won’t spoil what they did, but it kind of just sugar coated the entire ordeal and really ended up making the entire event a terrible run. Not only did they sugarcoat the run, but they kept the Hydra Cap! He still exists in the main Marvel universe (Earth-616) and is going to stir some shit up later on, they foreshadow that at the end of the run.

There’s a lot of things that I’m not a fan of with this event but one thing I can say for sure is that despite its flaws, it’s incredibly well written. The exposition and character development in this story is top notch, and as made evident from the opening speech of this post which was taken directly from Issue # 0, it delivers some hard hitting dialogue.

Cap vs. Cap

When all is said and done, the main betrayal of Captain America is not to any one hero, his long time friends and allies or the universe as a whole, it was to the fans and the legacy of the character. Marvel has worked very hard to rectify this situation and bring the faith of the fans back. I know that, personally, I haven’t purchased any Marvel comics since the release of Secret Empire because of how far out in left field they took it. I will be purchasing in the future, especially the new Moon Knight run but with their new Legacy imprint, I feel like they’re finally listening to the fans and going back to what worked for them for decades.

Hydra Cap armoured for battle

That concludes this post! check back soon for my review of Aquaman and Bumblebee!

Godzilla: King of Monsters

Yesterday we were given another trailer for the upcoming monster mashup of Godzilla: King of The Monsters. It provided more exposition into the plot of the film and some more concrete shots of the kaiju that will be making an appearance in 2019. The first trailer was very cryptic and provided very little in ways of actual monster shots. The most standout piece of the first trailer was Charles Dance’s (of Game of Thrones fame) epic line “Long Live the King”.  This time instead of a very whispered “Let them Fight” from Ken Watanabe we get an equally as hushed “No.. we would be his” in what appears to be a testimony delivered before several senators. I will say this, epic one liners tend to be the bread and butter of this new “monster-verse” that Legendary Pictures has created.

For those who haven’t seen the trailer, check it out right here:

Instead of giving a rundown of the trailer, I’m going to give some slight background to the various Kaiju in the film. Let’s start with the boss himself/herself Godzilla.

GODZILLA

Godzilla 2014 movie poster

Along with the rest of the Kaiju for this film, Godzilla is dubbed a ‘Titan’. These Titans have existed on Earth since primordial times and have been responsible for keeping the planet spinning. As referenced in the first trailer there were several extinction level events that were halted or started (potentially) by these titans. in the first film we are told that the first sightings of Godzilla dated back to WWII specifically the Pacific campaign. We are told that the nuclear tests in the French Polynesian Pacific weren’t tests, and that in fact the government and military were attempting to kill Godzilla before it could cause any damage. In the first film Godzilla is noted to be exactly 100.8 meters tall (330.71 feet for Americans), which apart from the Netflix anime Godzilla, is the tallest one to date. Godzilla possesses the ability to swim and remain submerged for quite a long time. Extremely strong and quick thinking, Godzilla was coined the ‘King of the Monsters’ in several of Toho’s films as well as at the conclusion of the 2014 film Godzilla by Legendary Pictures. Godzilla’s ultimate attack is its Atomic Breath. This attack focuses atomic energy which is stored in Godzilla’s body releasing it in a blueish/white flame that has devastating power. The attack is preceded by the spines and fins on Godzilla’s back lighting up with the same blueish/white glow before the discharge. There’s not much that can be said for Godzilla that most people don’t already know. Having been around since the first film in 1954, Godzilla has become a pop culture icon and known by several generations of people the world over.

RODAN

Rodan concept art for upcoming Godzilla: King of The Monsters

Rodan first appeared in the 1956 film titled Rodan. His first appearance with Godzilla was in the 1964 film Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, in every depiction Rodan resembles an irradiated Pteranodon. His original Japanese name ‘Radon’ is a contraction of Pteranodon and also represents the word radiation. As previously stated, Rodan resembles a large irradiated Pteranodon with a brownish/burgundy body, spiky chest and two or three horns atop the back his head. He has a large wingspan measuring between 150-200m (492.13 – 656.17 feet).  He has been shown to walk upright on his two hind legs. His legs end in powerful talons that are capable of grasping large heavy objects (like Godzilla) and holding onto them in flight. In Godzilla: King of Monsters, Rodan apparently lives in a volcano that goes by the name of Devil’s Nest somewhere in South America. His wings are so powerful that they create a whirlwind and back draft capable of wiping the earth clean in his wake. It is unclear if he will be an ally or enemy to Godzilla but lots of the footage from the first and second trailers shows the military actively trying to shoot Rodan down, with little success. I never watched any of the old films with Rodan but a giant flying dinosaur is okay in my books.

MOTHRA

Mothra mid dive

The third contender in the giant monster battle is none other than Mothra herself. Known also as ‘The Queen of Monsters’, Mothra is a Divine Moth and frequent ally of Godzilla. Typically cast as a heroic figure, Mothra is one of the few Kaiju that openly embraces humanity and tries to protect them. She resembles a colossal Imago Moth and has been known to reproduce offspring. Her wingspan in Lengendary’s Godzilla:King of Monsters is estimated to be roughly 244.75 meters (802.99 feet). Typically in the Toho universe, Mothra has resided on her own island but in Legendary’s universe they have marked her domain as the Yunnan Rainforest in the People’s Republic of China. A small blurb released as part of the marketing campaign for the movie has stated that ‘Mothra possesses the ability to emit beta wave bioluminescence that can be used to illuminate the patterns on her wings or focused in very powerful and blinding destructive ‘God Rays”. We are shown Mothra’s bioluminescence in the trailer as well as her in some sort of dive during a (presumed) climactic point in the film. Like Rodan I never watched any of the classic Mothra movies or even the older Godzilla films. I learned about her through pop culture and her inclusion in this upcoming film.

KING GHIDORAH

Ghidorah as he faces of against Godzilla in 2019’s Godzilla: King of The Monsters

Now, I’m going to be straight with you, a three headed flying dragon that shoots lightning…I would call him king as well. Traditionally Ghidorah was the main antagonist of Godzilla and various other Kaiju throughout history. He has had a couple different origins throughout his film run, most commonly he is an alien that travels the universe killing planets at his leisure; although, he has also been shown to be a fusion of three monsters called Dorats as a result of a future nuclear explosion. In his first appearance (and what appears to be similar to Legendary’s upcoming movie) Ghidorah arrived to earth in a meteor before his rampage across much of Japan.  Mothra attempted to stop him but was savagely beaten by the dragon, Godzilla and Rodan then allied together with Mothra and expelled Ghidorah from the planet. He is a massive creature. In Legendary’s Monster-verse, Ghidorah stands 158.8m (521 feet) tall and has roughly a 100-150m (328.08 – 492.13 feet) wingspan. In the trailers we are shown him frozen in a massive glacier which is where he must have been for the millions of years since the ‘Titans’ last walked the earth. In the film they will call him’Monster Zero’ but apparently they will address that ancient civilizations called him ‘Ghidorah’. It’s clear he is the main villain of the film as the second trailer shows him and Godzilla facing off against one another in a climactic battle sequence. 

PLOT PREDICTION

Based on what I’ve read and found out about the various Kaiju to make an appearance in the film, I think that while the earth will be facing an extinction level event that Ghidorah is going to be unleashed. The rest of the Titans will be attempting to use their powers to fix the extinction event and Ghidorah is going to show up and just muck everything up. Initially Rodan will be an antagonist but once Ghidorah shows up he’ll ally with Godzilla and Mothra to take on the bigger threat. We are shown a brief clip in the trailer that shows several squadrons of fighter jets over Washington airspace. In the clouds you can make out the image of Rodan as well as the massive image of Ghidorah when the lightning strikes illuminating the clouds. Ultimately I don’t really care for a plot or storyline, I just wanna see some giant monster beat downs!

Due out on May 31, 2019, this epic film is going to set the stage for the next film Kong v. Godzilla in 2020!

Godzilla’s Atomic Breath in action

Avengers: Endgame – Trailer Breakdown & Plot Prediction

Earlier this morning we were gifted with an early Christmas present, the new Avengers trailer! Originally it was supposed to be released on Wednesday earlier this week; however, due to the untimely death of past President George H. W. Bush, it was pushed to today to accommodate his televised funeral service in Washington. I was not familiar with his policies and and acts as president of the United States  but from what I understand he did a lot of good for the country and he will be sorely missed.

Onto the trailer!

Ever since the ‘snappening’ at the end of Infinity War, fans have been speculating as to what will happen to the defeated team. With Ant-Man and the Wasp, we were shown a probable solution to the Avengers’ problem of dealing with a fully powered Thanos with all the Infinity stones, Quantum Time Wells. In the post-credit sequence of Ant-Man and the Wasp, original Wasp (Janet Van Dyne) was coaching Scott on what to look for in the Quantum Realm. One of the anomalies that she cautions against is Quantum Time Wells, which (I think) is how the Avengers are more than likely going to beat Thanos. 

Let’s breakdown the trailer…

We start with a lonely Tony recording a voice message in hopes that Pepper will one day see it and know that in his last moments he will be thinking about her. He states that his oxygen will run out by the next day and power a few days after that, but he wants her to know that in his final days she was all he could think about. Which shows a lot of personal growth for Tony, ever since we were first introduced to him in 2008’s Iron Man he has been a fairly narcissistic person. Pepper was the one person that he could care about and who he wanted above all to protect. 

Tony recording the message for Pepper

The title card for Marvel Studios got a bit of a redo since the ‘snappening’ and now shows the title discarding into dust much like some of the heroes did after the snap.

We are shown Thanos’ armour arranged on a stand to represent a scarecrow as Thanos walks through a field of alien plants still wearing the damaged gauntlet. Apparently after Thanos murders half of the life in the universe he decided to become a farmer?

Thanos scarecrow

We are shown some exterior shots of the Avengers compound while Widow is summarizing what Thanos did to a startled Bruce Banner. We see a shot of a now beardless and groomed Cap shedding a tear for either Bucky or his friends and allies. Banner is amazed at everything that happened and see all the people they lost as their faces begin rotating through a wheel on the holo-screen in front of him.

Cap sheds a tear for the fallen

We get a shot of the empty Avengers compound and then more shots of the survivors from the ‘snappening’ as they mourn their friends and loved ones. We get a nice voice over from Captain America as he states that they all lost someone either friends or family and that they all lost part of themselves when it happened. 

Ronin

We cut to a shot of a hooded figure cleaning a bloody sword on their sleeve while Widow watches in a town somewhere in Asia. The figure removes their hood and mask to reveal Clint Barton who has adopted his Ronin alias. Cap’s voice over then says “This is the fight of our lives” as we see him looking at the picture of Peggy Carter he keeps in his compass. Inside of a Quinjet, Widow turns to him and says that their plan will work while Steve says ” I know it will, because I don’t know what I’m going to do if it doesn’t”.

Cap in Quinjet

We then get the title card for the movie where the avengers “A” is being put back together from broken stone on a purple background. The Avengers title appears on the screen with the subtitle “Endgame” appearing out of a purple flash. The final shot of the trailer shows us Scott Lang arriving at the Avengers compound and talking to the security camera asking to be let in. He introduces himself as Ant-Man and that they would remember him from the airport in Germany. Cap stands up with a determined look in his eyes asking if it’s an old message with Widow stating “No, this is at the front gate”. We then get a purple title card stating April 2019 with the ‘A’ in April as the Avengers ‘A’. 

April 2019

My prediction of the plot is as follows:
Scott Lang arrives along with Clint who has assumed the Ronin persona to the Avengers compound where Captain America and Black Widow are thinking up a counterattack. He explains how everyone (Hank, Hope & Janet) were wiped out and he needs to get them back. Cap and Widow will then explain what happened with Thanos and they will take some time coming up with a plan.
Tony is floating in space in the Milano (Peter’s ship from Guardians of the Galaxy) but without any fuel or knowledge of how the hip works/to fix it, he is set to drift in the void between Titan and Earth. He will be found by Captain Marvel who is answering Fury’s call from the post-credit scene in Infinity War. They return to Earth where the remaining Avengers and those that survived the ‘snappening’ are formulating their plan. 
Thanos is a farmer? and he is happy at what he has down knowing the universe will spin on. Though he knows something isn’t quite right.
The remaining Avengers decide to use Quantum Time Vortexes to go back in time to the battle of New York from the first Avengers film. Tony poses as a SHIELD security agent in order to help break Loki out so he can tell them where Thanos is. The original avengers and the new squad ally together during the battle of New York. The new squad are responsible for protecting the city while the original crew head through the wormhole to confront Thanos on the Chitauri station when he doesn’t have any of the stones.
In the climactic battle the portal will need to be closed . The original crew will still be fighting Thanos and they’ll make the sacrifice to hold the line while the new squad closes the portal to Earth, stranding them in Chitauri space. Cap and Tony will make a final stand against Thanos with both dying in the fight. With Thanos being defeated and not lasting to get both the power and space stones, the other stones are then returned to their rightful places and the timeline is reset. 

There you have it! My breakdown of the trailer and my prediction of the plot. I am super excited for this film and hope that it’s going to be even better than Infinity War was! See you next time!

The Flood – Halo’s Unstoppable Infection

Picture this…

You enlisted in the United Nations Space Command. You wanted to do your part and help to protect humanity against enemies both foreign and domestic. You went through boot camp with hundreds of other aspiring young marines like yourself and formed some good friendships along the way. 

Near the end of your stint in training, it came over the comms, humanity was not alone in the universe. Harvest, one of the outermost colonies Earth had established in the Milky Way, was under attack. Not from insurgents or splinter factions, from an unknown alien enemy calling themselves “The Covenant”. What followed was something you hadn’t in your wildest dreams ever thought would come to pass.

A war spanning nearly 27 years in length against an enemy that was vastly technologically superior and resolute in their beliefs. There was a glimmer of hope, The SPARTAN-IIs. They helped to stem the tide, but there were too few of them to make a real impact. Finally the Covenant found Reach, the Human military stronghold housing nearly the entirety of the UNSC armed forces. They attacked without mercy and with overwhelming force. The ship you were assigned to, The Pillar of Autumn, fled the battle carrying, what was believed to be, the last SPARTAN-II and made a blind jump through hyperspace. When the ship emerged out of hyperspace the Covenant were not far behind, but there was an object positioned in geosynchronous orbit around a gas giant, the Halo ring. Having escaped certain death at Reach and not wanting to die in the cold vacuum of space, your Captain decides to abandon the ship and land on the ring. 

It’s a rich lush world full of plants, running, water and unknown ancient alien tech. 

One day, a comms tech overhears the Covenant talking about a weapon they discovered buried in the ring; something that could wipe them out. Not wanting this weapon to fall into the Covenant’s hands, your captain hand picks a squad to storm the bunker, retrieve the weapon and bring it back. As they storm the bunker they find a mass of dead Covenant and a single locked door. The squad brute forces their way through the door and unknowingly unleashes The Flood on the galaxy.

The Flood sweep across the Halo ring killing everything in their path, Human and Covenant alike. You watch as your friends are lost underneath a swarm of infection forms and slowly begin mutating into flood themselves.  This isn’t what you signed up for… even with the Master Chief, there is no escaping this. 

Your magazine runs dry and you draw your sidearm. There’s only a few of you left, your backs against the wall waiting for Echo 419 to brave the airspace to evac your squad. There is no end to the Flood. For every single one you kill, a hundred more take their place. You watch as your squad are overrun, you fire your pistol until it runs dry as well, you load your last mag and begin counting the shots squeezing off rounds until there’s only one left in the chamber. Your squad’s bodies begin to move and thrash around as they mutate and begin reanimating as part of the Flood’s endless wave. You turn the sidearm and place the end of the barrel against your temple, this isn’t what you signed up for… you never signed up for this nightmare…

Anyone who has played any of the main trilogy of Halo games knows full well who the Flood are and what they can do. But not everyone knows their origin and how they nearly conquered the galaxy long ago during the time of the Forerunners.

HISTORY

Despite what the Halo games have led us to believe, the Forerunners were not the most technologically advanced species in the Milky Way galaxy, The Precursors actually held that title for millions of years. The Precursors actually created the Forerunners and assisted them in their advancement to space faring species. When the Forerunners attempted to take the ‘Mantle’ from the Precursors, the Forerunners were deemed unworthy. This caused a great war between the Precursors and Ancient Forerunners that resulted in the Precursors being expelled from the Milky Way galaxy all together.

‘The Mantle’, or as it is referred to in the games, “The Mantle of Responsibility”, refers to the belief that the most technologically advanced species was charged with the protection of all other life in the galaxy. With the Precursors having been expelled by the Forerunners  from the galaxy, the Forerunners assumed the mantle and set to work, work which lasted thousands of years. 

Outside of the Milky Way, some of the remaining Precursors entered stasis while others decided that dying was a better end. Those that died eventually dissolved into a dust that was stored in cylinders. Ancient space faring Humanity found these cylinders and opened them. The dust entered the humans’ bodies and began to mutate them from the inside out, eventually giving birth to the first Flood forms and proto-Gravemind. Initially the Flood attacked Humanity but the collective memories of the Precursors deemed Humanity worthy of the mantle and thus, the Flood ceased their attacks, instead moving to attack the Forerunners in the Milky Way. Humanity still fleeing the Flood’s advance, entered the Milky Way ahead of them and began attacking the Forerunners in hopes of breaking through and putting more distance between themselves and the Flood. 

Unbeknownst to the Human fleet, a large portion of them had been infected with the Precursor dust. 

Around roughly 98,379 BCE, The Flood arrived in the Milky Way.  Utilizing captured non military vessels, the Flood managed to bypass the Forerunner defense fleets and land on Forerunner worlds. As the infection took hold on the Forerunner planets, the collective intelligence of all biomass the infection assimilated was provided to the Proto-Gravemind.

After over 300 years of war, the Forerunners began to realize that their extinction was a real possibility. While the Forerunners would win every engagement against the Flood, they were unable to halt the spread of the infection. Eventually resorting to detonating the stars of entire systems to stop large infestations.

The Forerunners began saving and cataloging species to make sure the Flood would not destroy them. One such example was ancient humans. The Forerunners took specimens from ancient space faring humans and after some light modifications, seeded the planet we know as Earth with a new wave of humanity. Some specimens were kept and stored alongside various alien species, such as Elites and even some flood samples in their vaults on the Shield Worlds. After the initial contact, the Forerunner-Flood War entered into a stalemate for several hundred years.

During the stalemate, the Forerunners constructed many different AI to assist in the construction of solutions and deployment of their navy to combat the infection. One of the AIs that was created by the Forerunners was known as 05-032 Mendicant Bias. Mendicant was tasked with interrogation of the captured Proto-Gravemind to determine if the Flood could be reasoned with. The Proto-Gravemind identified itself as the last Precursor when it was interrogated by Mendicant, stating that the Flood was the last salvo in the Precursor-Forerunner war and that they would end the Forerunner race. As the interrogations continued, the Proto-Gravemind began to question Mendicant’s masters until it ultimately swayed Mendicant into believing that the time of the Forerunners was over. This came to be known as ‘The Logic Plague’ which affected not just AI but some of the Forerunner race as well. Mendicant allied with the Flood against the Forerunners sparking the beginning of the end of the war.

As the Forerunners scrambled to fight not just the Flood but now their rampant AI as well, a meeting was called to discuss how to proceed. The Diadect advocated for militaristic action against the Flood. To do this, he would need to compose some of the newly settled humans and turn them into his Knights (of Halo 4 & 5 fame); meanwhile, the master builder proposed the construction of more Shield Worlds and the Halo array. The assembly approved of the master builder’s plan and the Diadect was turned down; though, he would attempt to go behind the assembly’s back and make more knights, he was ultimately stopped and imprisoned in the Cryptum you find him in at the beginning of Halo 4.

As the Flood continued through the galaxy, the Forerunners ran out of options and the Librarian was unable to determine a cure for the infection. Ultimately, the Forerunners activated the Halo Array. The array functioned as it was meant to, killing all living beings with a sufficient biomass for infection. This in turn stopped the Flood and killed off all but the samples the Forerunners had kept in vaults on each Halo ring and on the Ark.

The activation of the array destroyed all Precursor and Forerunner tech that was not protected by either a shield world or a Halo ring. The Flood was starved out with the Proto-Gravemind dying as well. Eventually automated Key ships began ferrying the samples the Forerunners had stored in their vaults to new planets so life could once again foster in the Milky Way without the problem of the Flood.

This is where we start the Halo series. Thousands of years have passed and the Flood have laid dormant in their vaults on Halo.

Precursor

BIOLOGY

The Flood is a parasitic species of extragalagtic origin which is very virulent in its natural state, its Latin name is Inferi Redivivus which translates to “The Dead Reincarnated”. It can only be classified as an anomaly as it does not follow any known structure of function or organization. It represents the unstoppable force of nature and cannot be contained by conventional means.  As the infection takes hold, the parasite forces the host biomass through several stages of “evolution” until it achieves a massive biological breakdown in the host. Once this breakdown occurs then the infection can really take hold and work its magic. While the Flood infection is able to reproduce A-sexually without the use of a host, this is normally seen as a last ditch effort and is only really possible for “Pure Flood Forms”. The Flood has survived for as long as it has by the use of Lysogenic Replication. This is a process wherein the viral cells infiltrate and corrupt the healthy cells infecting them with their own genetic code. This allows the viral cells to mutate the healthy cells into new viral cells to infect other healthy cells. This process occurs until all healthy cells have been turned. 

The infection absorbs all biomass indiscriminately with only a very few species proving to be immune from the infection, Hunters and Drones have been shown to be immune to the infection for various reasons. One of the Forerunner’s plans, before the activation of the Halo array, was to utilize the Lekgolo worms that make up hunter colonies to consume the Flood biomass. While it proved effective in isolated cases, it was unable to be deployed on a large scale and the Forerunners were forced abandoned this plan. 

Flood infected Brute

The Flood are able to infect any organism with a biomass that is sufficient to house their infection, though, they do tend to prefer organisms with large brain capacity. This helps to accelerate the formation of the Gravemind to control the infection. Since the Flood’s Gravemind intelligence is only as smart as the organisms consumed by the infection, the more intelligent a species is, the more dangerous the infection can be. Having developed in severe conditions, the Flood infection is very resistant. It can survive on all known habitable worlds, temperatures ranging from 75 – +53 degrees Celsius, and can even survive underwater for a short time. 

As the Flood assume control of an area, they begin to alter their environment to promote further growth and incubation. They will begin attaching themselves to walls to create pods for breeding the infected virus as well an expelling spores into the air. If left alone for a long enough time and with enough raw biomass to work with, the Flood is able to completely turn a location into a Hive which can house a Gravemind or an entire army of forms (as seen with High Charity following Halo 2). The Flood infection tends to thrive in humid & lush environments which is why during the campaign of Halo 2, the “Quarantine Zone” used to contain the Flood infection is desolate, cold and snow covered.

NEUROLOGY/PHYSIOLOGY

Infection Form

The small bulbous squid looking “infection forms” are the Flood’s basic infectious hosts. They move across the ground looking for dead or wounded biomass with a sufficient sentience that they can add to the collective. Possessing several long tendrils they attack and overwhelm the host before using the tendrils to enter the host and find it’s spinal cord. The infection form then syncs it’s own nerve signal to that of the host and kills the host. From there it assumes control of the host and infects its brain wiping all personal memories. Some information such as combat techniques and technical intelligence is kept by the Flood and added to the Gravemind intelligence.  This process is so complete that despite a few small lingering memories, the host is now completely subservient to the Gravemind. It’s only purpose to infect new hosts and protect the Gravemind.  

There is another tactic used by the Flood to obtain specific information from a new host. This is the tactic that was used on Captain Jacob Keyes during the campaign of Halo: Combat Evolved. Rather than brute forcing their way into a hosts mind, they ‘burrow’ and slowly take over their memories and thoughts until they obtain the specific information that’s sought. In Captain Keye’s case, the Flood were looking for a starship to take them away from the Halo ring (Installation 04) or to show them the location of the ‘new and rich feeding ground’ (Earth). While Keyes fought them for as long as he could, eventually he was taken by the infection and the Flood gained the information they were after. 

A Gravemind is able to override the primal/basic instincts of the Flood and coordinate them into an effective force once enough biomass and intelligence has been obtained through infection.  A Gravemind is also able to control the actions of each individual infected host and even use their vocal chords to communicate with other species.

Gravemind concept art

While the neurological infection and assimilation is the same regardless of species, the physiological mutations are species specific. “Higher evolution hosts” such as humans, elites, and forerunners are used as a means of combat and thus their mutations generally result in “combat forms”. These forms retain the basic profile of the host species while still being significantly mutated. Most common mutations are: corrupted organ systems, decayed body cavities, internal organs displaced and decaying outer skin. The nature of these mutations render high powered ammunition, such as sniper rifles, largely ineffective and allows a combat form to remain functional even after being decapitated or maimed. Combat forms also generate large tentacles from their extremities and central core. These tentacles are used as melee weapons and can sometimes contain bony protrusions for added damage. 

COUNTERMEASURES 

As it stands in the Halo universe, there are no known countermeasures to the Flood infection. Once an infection takes hold of a host there is no way to stop the infection from spreading and there is no known method to reverse the effects of an infection. Flamethrowers are effective in destroying the infection before it attaches to a host, but the most effective form of controlling the Flood is isolating the infection and starving it out. 

Certain neurological disorders that affect the neural frequencies of the hosts have proven to render individuals immune to Flood infection. One such disorder is Boren’s Syndrome. This condition which is caused by radiological exposure creates electrical anomalies in the nervous system which the Flood cannot mimic. Sergeant Avery Johnson is the only known individual with Boren’s Syndrome to have come into contact with a flood infection. While he was attacked and was attempted to be assimilated into the Flood, he survived. He does have some Flood DNA in his system but it is unable to mutate him; however, it did gift him with some advanced healing capabilities.

All known Flood forms

There you have it, the unstoppable infection that is the Flood. It’s rather reassuring that this is a fictional virus and not something we’re dealing with right now.  I have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours playing various Halo games and can say that I am terrified of the Flood. It’s something that I hope we would never have to deal with… ever.

Until next time!

Modern Villains & The Complexity They Represent

2018 has been an amazing year for movies. No contest. One of the greatest things that came around this year in particular is that the villains being chosen for movies are not the classic villain. While some do have a “Take over the world because I want to” vibe to them, most of them are compelling and interesting characters. They represent an alternative way of thinking and while they might choose the wrong path they aren’t necessarily wrong. Let’s look at some of the great villains from movies this year. 

THANOS

The biggest movie event of the year, and probably the last 20, was Avengers: Infinity War that premiered on April 27, 2018. The last 10 years of Marvel films have been building up to this event and it paid off (for the most part) extremely well. The big bad in this movie was the Mad Titan Thanos, but this Thanos was MUCH different from his comic book counter part. In Marvel Comics, Thanos is evil for the sake of it. He doesn’t have any real ulterior motivations other than wanting to be reunited with Lady Death, whom he has fallen in love with. Thanos thought that if he could prove to her that he deserved her love she would admit that she belonged with him and they would finally be united in love. Yes, comic Thanos wants to bang a busty skeleton and that is why he kills half the universe. While this does work to make a great villain to have the Avengers go up against, the maniacal overlord trope has been used and abused so many times in film that something else needed to be done, enter the Russo brothers.  

Until they directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Russo’s main directing credit came from the paintball episodes of Community. With their success at crafting (arguably) the best Marvel movie to date, Kevin Feige gave them the reigns to bring Thanos to the big screen. The Russos dove into their work and brought us a mad titan that you could sympathize with. In the MCU, Thanos begins his quest to get power sure, but having the power wasn’t his goal it was a means to an end, he wants to bring the universe back into balance. His main argument is that he is the only one who can see that eventually life will cease to exist if left to prosper unchecked. We find out that this is what led to the downfall and extinction of his home planet. He states that the universe only has a finite number of resources and that those resources are being used at an alarming rate. So, to ensure the longevity of life, a culling must take place. 50% of the entire universe, chosen indiscriminately to ensure fairness, needs to die to ensure life continues.  This draws an interesting parallel to our own planet where we are using resources at an increasingly fast pace and Global Warming will become inevitable in less than 50 years unless we do something about it. The redeeming quality of Thanos, is that he knows he is also part of the problem and he is willing to sacrifice himself if it means the universe spins on. 

KILLMONGER

On February 16, 2018, we were introduced to the nation of Wakanda through Ryan Coogler’s epic film Black Panther. Having been introduced to T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War, his solo film was where Black Panther was really allowed to shine. Part of what made the movie so great was its compelling villain, Eric “Killmonger” Stevens also known as N’Jadaka. Now Killmonger spent the first good portion of the movie manipulating his way into Wakanda proper before executing his plan. He attempted and succeeded in a coup of the throne by exploiting his right to challenge the king to one on one combat for the throne. While he missed the official day where all the tribes were permitted to present a challenger, his cousin T’Challa accepted his challenge. Killmonger was a vicious fighter and had been trained by the CIA to work as a black ops member to destabilize foreign governments. He racked up over 2,200 confirmed kills and decorated his body with ceremonial “crocodile” markings for each life he took. When Killmonger defeated his cousin and assumed the throne his first act after ingesting the heart shaped herb for himself was to burn the garden where it was grown. His second order was to arm the “Dogs of War” Wakanda had stationed around the globe so they could arm the disenfranchised descendants of the African people to take control. Having grown up in the slums of Oakland California after his father, prince N’Jobu was killed by the king T’Chaka for betraying the people of Wakanda, Killmonger knew the conditions his people’s descendants were living in. Wanting to end the subjugation of his people he believed that the only way to accomplish this task was to create a series of coups around the globe and arm the revolutionaries with Wakandan tech, which is way more advanced than the rest of the world.

His belief in the ability and requirement of the Wakandan nation to end their ruse of appearing as a third world country and assume their rightful place as rulers of the world, caused a shift in the people of Wakanda. While some like the Border Tribe allied with Killmonger, most didn’t agree with his way of thinking. When T’Challa returned and took his throne back, he agreed that it was time for Wakanda to step out of the shadows and take a more active role in the affairs of the world. In the end, Killmonger was right even if he went about it the wrong way, and his people took their place as major players in the affairs of the world. 

GRINDELWALD

Say what you will about the second installment of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, but the villain Gellert Grindelwald, played by the great Johnny Depp, stands as one villain you can’t help but sympathize with.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

The movie starts nearly immediately after the first one ended, I believe there has been a few months of time that passed but nothing has really changed. We start with the American Ministry of Magic holding Grindelwald in a cell before the British ministry representatives arrive to transport him to Europe for his crimes. They never specify what his crimes are but it appears he is like most of the mafia bosses in history, linked to many crimes without direct evidence to place him there. While his followers do utilize the unforgivable curses to their full extent and with wanton disregard for the muggle population, Grindelwald doesn’t use any of the curses himself. It also appears in the film that in certain circumstances, the 1920’s Ministry of Magic condoned Aurors utilizing the killing curse to stop large threats to the Wizarding World.  Now none of this really has anything to do with Grindelwald but it is important to know because of how the movie plays out. The reason that you sympathize with Grindelwald comes at the climax of the film. Grindelwald is hosting a massive congregation of witches and wizards from across Europe in order to recruit them to his side. While most people think Grindelwald is just a Voldemort analogue, they could not be more wrong. While Voldemort wanted to extinguish muggles and all muggleborns because he viewed them as dirty or unclean, Grindelwald wants to control them.  He understands that in the beginning there will be death and that is the price they must pay for their ultimate goal which is harmony through wizard rule. Now while this definitely sounds “Take over the world villainy”, give me a moment to explain…

The movie takes place in the 1920’s which comes on the tail of the ending of the First World War. Now we learn that the wizarding world didn’t take part in the war in any capacity but countless witches and wizards were killed because of it through collateral damage. Grindelwald provides a vision to his congregation at the end of the film that predicts WWII and the dropping of the atomic bomb. He goes on to say, that if left to their own devices, muggles could destroy the planet within the next 20 years and calls for witches and wizards from all countries to ally with him to bring the muggle world to order to stop unnecessary death.  This causes a lot of the congregation to ally with him and chant his name in unison, which is something he relishes in. It’s obvious Grindelwald is an egomaniac, but being an egomaniac doesn’t mean he was wrong in his beliefs. 

There you go, three fine examples of how modern films are moving away from traditional villainy and giving us more complex villains. As I’ve said before, while some of them went about it the wrong way, none of them were wrong in what they thought.  See you next time!

The Road So Far

*Cue track of ‘Carry On My Wayward Son’ by Kansas*

With the second portion of the campaign being played in a couple of weeks, I thought it would be prudent to provide the background on our heroes and the road they’ve traveled so far.

OUR HEROES

Raygar – 
Raygar is the grandson of Torgar the Undying, a general in the rebel armies of the Dragonlord war. Fighting alongside Paladine and the Solamnic Knights, Torgar, and his Waraxe Cometfall, reigned terror over the Dragonlord armies. Torgar had become a legend among the dwarven clans and it is that legend that Raygar is trying to live up to. At 216 years old, Raygar is reaching the end of his peak physical years and is eager to prove that he can live up to his grandfathers name. With the legendary Cometfall at his side, Raygar has never wavered in the face of battle. However, given this time of peace, he has never had the opportunity to be truly heroic. Upon receiving a mysterious letter inviting him on a journey, with the fate of the world in the balance, Raygar is hoping this is the chance he has been looking for to write his name in the history books and make is family proud.

Draeda – 

While still relatively young by Elven standards, Draeda is 852 years old. Having been born during the final push to extinguish the nightmare, she has seen what evil can do to the land. Trained as a druid by the elders of her people, the Kagonesti of the Western isles, she is more in tune with nature than any other species on the planet. When the Chromatic Dragonlords seized control of much of Krynn, she, and her people, faded into the wilds. When the call went out from Huma Dragonbane himself to stand and fight, she refused to take part, believing that neither side was in the right. Deemed a nomad and a lone wolf by even her own people, Draeda has kept to herself since the dragons disappeared from the planet, taking most of the wild magic with them. She learned the skills necessary to track and hunt while maintaining her own seclusion from all outside influences. When she awoke on the eventide in her camp, this letter was sitting beside her bedroll. noticing that none of her traps nor her familiar had been disturbed she wondered what could have left the letter. She decided leave her seclusion and re-enter the world to discover what this mysterious stranger has in store for her and gain more knowledge in her quest.

Dragmaur – 

On the island of Northen Ergoth high in the Vingaard Mountain ranges lived a clan of fierce orc warriors. One of them, Dragmaur, was the leader of their elite warriors. For generations they were constantly at war with the giants that inhabited the mountains and surrounding hills. Dragmaur lead many missions to push back the giants and bring some peace for his people. One night, Dragmaur and his elite warriors conducted a night raid on the giant camp, in the raid, Thragmar, the only son of the Giant king, Throngir, was slain. Wracked with grief and filled with a burning rage, Throngir assembled the remaining fighting giants in the mountains and laid siege to the Dragmaur’s clan’s stronghold of Narzulbur. The siege of Narzulbur was long and bloody. It ended with Throngir and Dragmaur going head to head in single combat. Throngir ended the battle, striking Dragmaur with a mortal wound, crushing his chest cavity with his mighty warhammer. Dragmaur laid there among his fellow dead orcs bleeding and crushed. His clan of orcs were destroyed, their stronghold sacked and in ruins. Throngir and his surviving giants left Dragmaur to die of his wounds amongst the bodies of his kin. Dragmaur’s final thoughts were full of regret, that had he not slayed Thragmar, his clan might still be alive. With his last few breaths and his vision fading, a mystical figure appeared gleaming in light and silver enameled armour. The figure knelt down and placed his hand upon Dragmaur’s chest. Instantly, oxygen filled his lungs and he was able to breath. Dragmaur rose to his feet healed of all of his wounds. Dragmaur dropped to one knee pledging his life to his mysterious savior who vanished in a flash of white light. A year later Dragmaur now roams the lands cleansing it of evil and helping the poor and weak keep their lands safe from pillaging. After routing out a group of particularly brutal bandits threatening a peaceful village in Anchorge, Dragmaur found a mysterious letter in his pack stating to meet in the Inn of The Last Home in Solace. Dragmaur left for Solace at dawn riding his only companion, his warhorse Hank.

Thoramin – From an conclave of clerics in the secluded forests of the island of Northern Ergoth. The enclave spend their days meditating, practicing healing magic, weapons training, and trying to live peacefully among nature. They avoid conflict and violence at all costs, reserving themselves for the ‘final battle’ – originally the reason for forming the conclave, but now just a vague prophecy.On night when he returned home from a trip to the village to the south, he found a band of halfling thieves inside his house. Driving them off, it wasn’t until he was alone that he noticed his brother was kidnapped. He returned to the conclave to request help to return his brother home. The enclave, forever strapped by the bureaucracy that is destroying it from within, refused to assist him in retrieving his brother, so he went on his own. By the time he found the camp, the raiders had lit the sacrifice pyre. Unable to save his brother and consumed by rage, he sliced through their entire clan, cleansing the forest of their evil. With his anger compounding upon itself with every strike of his longsword, he forsook his vows and allowed the rage to consume him. The rage flowed through him into his sword and was not sated until the husk of every man women and child was also on the pyre.Because of his use of violence the conclave refused his return – because of their bureaucracy he didn’t return anyways. Having seen the effects of true neutral behavior, and feeling the full guilt of his unholy actions, he sought atonement with the followers of the God, Kiri-Jolith, the Sword of Justice. He began to devote himself to action against evil at any cost. After years of atonement, and with the guilt of his rampage still on my conscience, he felt the call to begin traveling the greater world – seeking adventure and to bring the word of the mighty Kiri-Jolith to the masses. Having discovered the letter in his pack he took this as a sign from his God and began the journey to Solace to meet the mysterious benefactor at the Inn of The Last Home.

Thurman – Born at the highest point in the Dwarven Kingdom of Grondir, the son of Queen Mira and King Thurman II, Thurman III was destined for great things from an early age. As is custom with all births in the Dwarven kingdom, Thurman III was reviewed by the holy oracles of Majere. Upon conclusion of their review it was foretold that while he would be responsible for greatness, he would suffer immensely with his personal relationships both Dwarven in nature and with other races. This hindrance came to fruition in his youth where he was also bullied for not listening and doing things his own way. While he was attending the Dwarven Academy he excelled in woods craft and nature lore. Able to analyse any terrain instantly and familiarity with almost all creatures that inhabit those regions, he finished at the top of his class.  His social awkwardness was a hindrance to him being able to craft meaningful relationships but not in his ability to track or hunt. For all his work he did helping to catalog the western region of Grondir and his aptitude in his schooling Thurman III was gifted on of the Seven Elemental Stones of Majere, while being tasked with finding the others. As he exited the kingdom of Grondir he was approached by a messenger bearing a letter requesting his presence at the Inn of the Last Home in Solace. Tucked in with the letter, he was surprised to find a single white chicken feather. 


THE ROAD TRAVELED SO FAR

Our heroes congregated at the Inn of the Last Home where they were met by their mysterious benefactor Fizban the Fabulous, a dottering old mage who somehow knew everyone despite never seeing them before. Fizban explained that the legendary sword of Huma Dragonbane was being used in a nefarious ritual at the tomb of Lord Soth to allow The Nightmare to be unleashed again. As he showed our heroes a vision of the sword being used to access the Nekro-plane, several goblins who had been disguised and listening while seated at another table in the inn, attacked. Dragmaur provided close protection for Fizban while the rest of the heroes dispatched the goblins taking very little damage themselves. Fizban thanked them for their helped and disappeared from sight in a flash of light. The heroes headed east out of town on the path described by Fizban. As they neared the massive boulder on the right side of the road, Thurman found the game trail and the party proceeded into the woods. As they neared a clearing they stopped on the edge of the woods and observed the entrance of the tomb of Lord Soth. Several goblin patrols were guarding the entrance which our heroes engaged in combat. After a misfired ‘Grease spell’ form the party’s freelance Sorcerer that struck our heroes, they were able to defeat the goblin patrols and enter the tomb. 

As the heroes made their way through the tomb dispatching several more Goblins in a hodge podge camp they set up in a prayer room, they turned down a long corridor. As they ventured down the corridor they noticed a pressure pad on the floor. Not wanting to trigger any traps they argued as how best to proceed before Draeda’s wolf companion jumped on the pad. Spears sprang out from the sides of the hallway and struck the wolf wounding it enough for Draeda to use some of her magic to heal it. 

As the party came to a door, they could hear the sound of blades being sharpened. As they peered in they didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary except for some stone piled in the corners of the room and another door on the far side of the chamber. Raygar and Draeda ventured across the chamber while the rest watched on. As they neared the door on the far side of the room, they were set upon by unknown creatures that looked like rocks with six blade like legs. These creatures seemed to hunt by sound and remained immobile sharpening their legs when not actively attacking. Through some quick thinking and a few spells, the party made it through the room and entered the Throne room to encounter a Goblin Chieftain and his hobgoblin honour guard. After a pitched battle wherein a mortally wounded Thoramin was saved by Draeda and her magic, the heroes managed to defeat the Chieftain and claim the tomb for the Gods of light.

As they searched the throne room, Draeda discovered an inscription on the dais behind the throne. The inscription read “I open for those of the wild”. Through some trial and error, Draeda and her compatriots discovered that the language needed to answer the riddle was Draconic. After uttering the Draconic word for ‘open’, a portion of the wall slid to the side revealing a small passageway that descended into darkness. As the party journeyed down the passageway the temperature dropped and a faint green glow began to shine from around the final corner of the passage. As they entered into the room at the end of the passageway, they discovered it was a tomb for several knights and one knight of particular importance. In the middle of the room the sword of Huma was suspended in the air and a portal that was emitting the green light was open on the ground. Through it, was a greenscape pockmarked by bolts of lightening and a Large Black Dragon watching as more of the rock creatures came through the portal. The heroes deciphered that the portal was being held open by the sword and moved to close the portal, which in turn shattered the sword. With the portal closed, the heroes moved towards the large sarcophagus at the end of the chamber and read the inscription  “Here Lies Lord Soth”. 

Raygar pushed the lid off the sarcophagus and a darkness filled the room. A dark shape with glowing red eyes emerged and said “I am Nekros, Lord of the Void. Bow before me.” Draeda bowed in reverence while the others remained steadfast. The shadow moved out into the chamber and said ” You are all of you, beneath me. BOW!” with that, the other members were forced down into a bowing position before Nekros parted the chamber taking with him the cold temperature and the darkness. 

Finding a staircase out of the chamber they emerged near the entrance of the crypt and exited back out into the clearing. As they healed themselves and Dragmaur’s horse Hank, they looked to the west. As they turned their gaze westward their mouths dropped open in shock, Solace was burning.

That’s where we are currently in our ongoing Dungeons and Dragons storyline. For the setting of the campaign, check out my previous post titled “Campaign Setting”