Adaptive Panels Presents… Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 2: Shadows and Secrets

(Sorry this is late everyone, I have been seriously burnt out this week. Hopefully by next week I’ll be out of this slump and back to my regular schedule.)

Shadows and Secrets does two things I never imagined would work in a Star Wars story: One, it riffs on Sherlock Holmes of all things; and two, it casts Darth Vader as Doctor Watson.

I’m making it sound like a parody, despite the scenario being played completely straight, and yet it works. It’s bizarre, but it works, and goes to show that a storyline genuinely comfortable with itself can make just about anything engaging, even making Darth Vader of all characters in many ways a sidekick in his own series. Okay, in truth it’s not quite as simple as that, but we’re still in very new territory. While Vader in a way has always been a subordinate (he is the Emperor’s apprentice and is technically outranked by most of the Imperial high command), throughout the Star Wars films he is easily the most threatening presence of any room he’s in, and acts like he knows it. He’s not the kind of character I expect to respect anyone as his equal, be they enemy or ally; and yet, on both counts, Shadows and Secrets proves me wrong.



Shadows and Secrets, naturally, has a lot of twists and turns to unpack in its plot. As a result, I may be skimming over a lot of it here.

After busting another crime syndicate in the Outer Rim (because there can never be too many of those), Vader confiscates a mother-load of Imperial credits, and makes arrangements for them to be delivered to Grand General Tagge. However, he then secretly hires a band of mercenaries through Doctor Aphra to steal the shipment while in transit, making the raid look like an accidental collision in an asteroid belt. HOWEVER, he then has Aphra fake most of the shipment getting lost in the vacuum of space during the raid, so he only has to pay the mercenaries a tiny fraction of the original take, and keeps the rest for himself to finance his continued scheming.

I wonder what part of Anakin Skywalker’s Jedi training covered con-artistry?


Reporting back to Tagge, a spanner is thrown in Vader’s plans when he is ordered, not to track down Luke as he had hoped, but to instead to investigate his own heist, Tagge’s intelligence having apparently seen through the ruse. To make matters worse, the man perceptive enough to suspect foul play, Inspector Thanoth, is assigned as Vader’s new minder. With an intellect to match, or possibly even exceed Vader’s, Thanoth proves to be far more of an obstacle to the Sith Lord’s plans than the last escort he was saddled with. Now Vader must find a way to succeed on three opposing fronts. He must find a way to succeed in his mission in order to score points with Tagge against the candidates to replace him, all the while removing any evidence that could implicate him from under Thanoth’s nose. Finally, he must also find a way of sabotaging his competition, as they target both the Rebellion and Luke. It’s a dilemma that pushes Vader’s cunning to the limit, and makes anyone close enough to him to be an asset also a potential liability. It isn’t long before Thanoth is hot on the trail of Doctor Aphra, whom Vader has sent to learn more about Luke and his whereabouts. Will loyalty to Darth Vader end up costing Aphra her life as surely as betraying him would?


While the whole ‘Vader gets a supervisor’ thing in the previous book was such a short and ultimately meaningless detour I’m honestly not sure why they even bothered, here it’s the main thrust of the narrative, and so it’s incredibly fortunate that it works. It’s not quite perfect. There are a couple of occasions where Vader should come off as looking guilty as hell but Thanoth lets it slide. However, it’s also entirely possible that he’s playing a longer game, because hey, if your mission is to prove Darth Vader guilty of treason to the Empire, you probably don’t want to make a move unless you’re going to catch him red-handed. That’s what makes the relationship between these two characters fascinating. They’re both playing games with each-other to an extent the audience cannot be entirely sure of, and yet we know is probably going to end badly for at least one of them. Yet, throughout it all there’s a genuine undercurrent of respect. You actually get the sense that, even though he is an adversary, Vader genuinely likes this guy, as much as Darth Vader is capable of ‘liking’ anyone. Thanoth in turn is fond of the manner in which Vader conducts himself. This culminates in a moment where Vader has a chance to use Thanoth as a scapegoat in front of Tagge, perhaps ridding himself of this most stubborn obstacle, but chooses not to take it. Is he trying to get Thanoth on his side? Is he sending him a message that he’s got nothing to hide? Is it simply not how Vader operates to try and vanquish his opponents in a debrief rather than on a battlefield? Whatever the answer, it’s clear that both of these characters enrich each-other, and I’m eager to see more of their dynamic.


Elsewhere, Aphra and the rest of Vader’s team that were introduced last time get somewhat of the short end of the stick. They’re still entertaining (Triple-Zero and Beetee in particular), they just for my mind don’t get enough to do. Aphra’s investigation doesn’t end up fielding anything that Vader doesn’t already know. Along the way, we get some back-story on her and are shown a little more about her nature, but to be honest I could have done with not knowing. The book even comments on itself that her ‘sob-story’ is nothing new, but the fact remains that her personality is more interesting if the audience is left to guess the reasons behind it.

I don’t want to nit-pick too much, but I can’t deny it’s easier to point out elements that fall short versus those that don’t, so as a final point I really wish Marvel, when given a whole galaxy to explore, wouldn’t take me to quite so many underground bars and gambling dens. I get it guys, the criminal underbelly of the Star Wars universe is a huge part of its law, many of its most compelling characters are scoundrels of one brand or another and a story like this in particular is ripe to exploit that. All that said, it is starting to get a little stale. You keep taking me to ‘new’ locales and then not showing me anything I haven’t seen before. A prime example here is when the various parties converge at a galactic holiday resort. When I saw that I was excited, because its something I’ve never seen the likes of in Star Wars before. However, all I ended up seeing inside was more shady drinking establishments and holochess tables. Really? Come on! You couldn’t have used your imaginations just a little bit? Is Darth Vader not allowed to go to the beach even once!


Despite a dew hiccups, Shadows and Secrets is an engaging and genuinely surprising read, and probably the best this series has to offer so far. Don’t hesitate to get your hands on it.

Do The Disney Remakes Get A Free Pass?

Well this week was a very slow news week indeed, at least as far as this space is concerned. Even YouTube hasn’t done anything particularly dumb since last Saturday (well, nothing new at least); and so, with only a few hours to go until I’m supposed to upload this article I’m still struggling to decide what it should be about, let alone what the most interesting angle to come at it would be. I very nearly decided to write about the ADL declaring Pepe the Frog a racist hate symbol, but even I have limits for how grumpy I can stomach being when writing these things. While we’re here, my only comment on the matter is this: If you know what Pepe the Frog is, and if you know why he has become seen as a symbol of hate, please do something better with your time. Get a job (if you have one, then get a better one); go to the gym; ask that girl (or guy) who serves you coffee out on a date; marry them and start a family; or go and conquer distant lands in the name of the Empire.

Please, do literally anything else, apart from asking me to comment on it, because I’m honestly ready to freewheel the rest of 2016 by now. I’ve had about as much as I can take.


So, something lighter this week, to cleanse the palette? Oh hey! Jon Favreau, fresh off his directorial success remaking The Jungle Book, has just announced he’ll be giving the same treatment to The Lion King. That’s… actually fairly exciting, and the first time I’ve ever decided without needing to hear any more that I’ll be going to see one of these live-action Disney remakes. Although, does that term really apply here? Mowgli was the only character in The Jungle Book who wasn’t CGI, and I’m guessing The Lion King will push that up to 100%.

Previous attempts by Disney to re-sell ‘alternative’ versions of its classic and 90’s renaissance animated films, such as Maleficent, Cinderella and Tarzan, received mixed receptions; however The Jungle Book was widely lauded, and became the highest grossing movie of the summer in the UK, and I’d be surprised if Favreau can’t beat his own record with The Lion King. We all have our favourites of course, but Lion King is probably the movie of its era for Disney, so this is going to be huge, especially if Favreau goes for an accurate-as-possible retelling of the original, with maybe just a little bit of padding for act two. Simba doesn’t need to grow up entirely in the space of one musical montage in this one, but otherwise, as little extraneous elements as possible (Jungle Book needed them, Lion King doesn’t). Do keep the musical numbers though. Absolutely.


While there’s no concrete release date yet, The Lion King will presumably follow on from Beauty of the Beast, Disney’s next effort starring Emma Watson as Belle. Now, I can’t say at this point if it will be a good film, but I can say, considering the public image Watson has cultivated since Harry Potter concluded, that it is perhaps the most perfect casting decision in the history of cinema. So yes, while I wasn’t convinced at first that Disney’s new line of live-action remakes would live up to their pedigree, it seems right now that they’re on something of a role.

It does give me cause to wonder though… do I, along with everyone else my age, give Disney preferential treatment? Entire generations of children have been practically raised by them after all, and regardless of whether or not you think that’s fine, do we now give a corporation a free pass for cashing in on our nostalgia, where we malign the rest of Hollywood, with its remakes; reboots; endless sequels and genre homogenisation, for lacking imagination? It’s no mystery why big studios want to remake every dormant licence they can get their hands on. We keep going to see them and making them profitable, and yet almost every time we do we complain. We complain that The Magnificent Seven is derivative and clichéd, with no aspiration beyond going through the same motions as its predecessor with today’s stars and production effects. However, when a remake dares to actually try and reinvent its source material, like Ghostbusters did, then it’s a betrayal of everything we loved about the franchise. Why the dissonance, one way or the other? What makes Disney so special?


Now, I’m not one to object to capitalists taking my money so long as I’m enjoying myself while they do it. That’s how fair exchange works after all. So long as Disney can hold my attention for an hour and a half or more, then they’ve earned the price of my ticket; and as soulless and corporate as the monolithic Disney conglomerate is at heart, they haven’t managed to build and maintain their quintessentially magical image in spite of that fact without really knowing what they’re doing. As much as any production company that has ever existed in Hollywood, the Disney brand is and remains synonymous with quality, which is all they really owe any of us. That reputation may be in part built on buying out the achievements of others, such as Disney have done when they brought Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm into the fold, however where other parent companies might have chewed up and spit out all of these names, under Disney’s wing they’ve continued to make good work.

Is that the end of the discussion then? Well, not yet, because I don’t think the odd remake is enough to mar Disney’s reputation for creativity, as well as quality. After all, it’s not like Disney has stopped making films for the current generation of kids, in favour of catering entirely to my generation’s nostalgia and disposable income. In fact, I’d go as far as to say the last five years or so have heralded a new Disney renaissance. Frozen revived and expertly subverted the princess genre; Wreck-It Ralph did the same for the Herculean Disney ‘hero’ all while being the closest thing we computer game nerds have ever had to a good game-movie adaptation; Big Hero 6 tackles grief, depression and acceptance, as well as showing children a vision of diversity and science as positive forces for a better world. Finally, Zootopia (it’s called Zootropolis here but for once I prefer the US naming conventions) turns talking animals into metaphors for racial profiling and affirmative action and never once lacks the confidence to pull it off. These films are creative, funny, bombastic, visually striking and important, both for children and adults, without ever forgetting that their target audience is very much the former. Yes, in many ways Disney is the last word in faceless, overbearing corporate entities, but in my opinion there really is no getting around the fact that they became the biggest by being the best, and they still are.


Even within the remakes, there are signs that Disney isn’t content to just leech of its past successes. Maleficent, for example, retells the story of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of its once one-dimensional villain, and can even be said to have been an allegory for rape survival. Whether or not this was a move that sat well with all audiences is beside the point and the reason why rage at remakes often confuses me. Yes, it can be frustrating at times to see Hollywood apparently so strapped of original ideas, but as I’ve said before that’s our fault as audiences for putting so much stock in brand recognition. If they didn’t make money, they wouldn’t get made. Regardless, if a remake is good, it’s good, and if it isn’t good, then so what? A remake never erases its source material from existence. The original will always still be out there for you to enjoy, so what does it matter if someone else’s attempt doesn’t measure up?

I could be wrong about all of this, but in any case, if there were ever a film studio in history that had earned the right to rest on its laurels, it would be Disney.

Okay Seriously, What Is WRONG With You YouTube?!

Oh YouTube, I was ready to let it go. I’d said my piece. You probably hadn’t listened but that was okay, because plenty of people with higher profiles than I were busy nailing you to the wall with the same arguments. Our point was made, and as far as I was concerned, we were ready to go our separate ways, and for me to move on to, I don’t know… attempting to comment as a white man with little to no experience of Polynesian culture on whether a children’s costume for an upcoming Disney film was racist or not? Yeah, that sounds like something I’d have probably been doing right now.

What happened? I’m genuinely interested. Did the interns get loose? Was it Larry the Office Gibbon’s turn to chair the weekly pitch meeting? Is somebody trying to inflate the fund of the Terrible Ideas Jar so you can really splash out on the Christmas party this year? I want to know YouTube, and you Google, what it takes to turn such monolithic organisations, employing a staff of thousands upon thousands of what I have to assume are adult human beings, in an industry lead by people we’re always being told are so clever, so breathlessly, window-licking, arse-from-elbow moronic with such regularity. The rest of us need to know so we can find you a cure for your stupidity, because it’s almost not funny anymore. You guys are responsible for a ridiculously large portion of online discourse, and I have to live here!


You may have heard about YouTube’s new ‘Heroes’ initiative. If not, it goes a little something like this: In a minute-and-a-half long video uploaded this week, YouTube announced its intention to mobilise its own user-base to monitor and moderate content on the site. Those volunteering to be a “YouTube Hero” (and can you not just picture the kind of over-inflated Little Hitler who would actually put themselves forward for such a duty), will then ascend through ‘levels’ of power to police content in accordance with their performance, from subtitling videos to mass flagging them for takedown, along with certain ‘perks’. This is, again, a likely well-intentioned approach to addressing the very real image problems some areas of the site have been garnering in recent years (‘Don’t Read The Comments’ has practically been YouTube’s unofficial motto going on a decade now). However, if you’re already raising your hand to ask who on Earth thought it was a good idea to turn to the community who’ve made YouTube such a wretched place to be in the first place and ask them to fix it… then you obviously have more common sense than whoever had final approval over this hare-brained scheme.

So how is this plan going so far? Well, at time of writing, YouTube has had to disable comments on its own announcement video, due to the tide of very negative feedback it’s received, as well as mass down-voting.


In case this initial response hasn’t convinced the architects of this lunacy that their idea is dead on arrival, let me try to cover, as succinctly as I am able, all the rotten, nonsensical bases of this initiative…

Firstly, being on online moderator, or a translator, or any of the other duties our new Heroes are expected to cover, is in most places considered a real, sometimes full-time job. A company as wealthy as Google should not be asking its own customers to do its job for it for free. That’s the sort of thing that last week I would have assumed was obvious. Remember those ‘perks’ I mentioned before? None of them are paid. In fact, from what I can see they seem to almost entirely consist of ‘opportunities’ to attend seminars to advance your skills as a moderator. So, even assuming a Hero actually does a good job and doesn’t abuse their position, their prize will be… more unpaid work to do. We’ve barely started but that alone should be enough to kill this idea in its crib. I mean really! Who thought this was okay?! If you want people to act like professionals (and God knows in this case you need them to), then you have to actually treat them like professionals.

Also, just as a matter of interest, if you want good law enforcement, the first thing you need is good laws. While YouTube has a terms of service agreement, naturally, it’s so vaguely written, poorly visible and inconsistently enforced as to be essentially meaningless, and doesn’t even begin to cover a lot of the site’s most recent problems. Even if you believe that a citizen’s militia is a good way to establish order (it isn’t, by the way), without a meaningful rule of law to enforce in the first place, they’re just gangs of people with proverbial nightsticks.

Assuming YouTube bother to address that little snag, what assurance do both viewers and content creators have that these rules and their enforcers will work for the community? Despite YouTube faux-casual presentation of the idea, ‘Heroes’ will stop being ordinary users the moment they are given power over the rest of us. Will they then be forced to give up their anonymity, so they’ll be visible to the people they’re accusing, and so people with accusations to make can engage directly with them? For their sake I hope not; but then doesn’t that present a bit of an ethical problem if the people responsible for ruling the community are anonymous and therefore unaccountable? Say I wanted to appeal a decision (assuming I even can), will I be allowed to see who I’m appealing against? Will I be able to talk to an actual person, such as their supervisor, or will my complaint just be entered into an automated, behind-the-scenes labyrinth as happens with Content ID claims? Hell, would I even be informed if I was penalised at all; or, as was the case with their recent ad-friendly initiatives, would posts/videos be removed without warning or notice of any kind, giving the offender no opportunity whatsoever to defend themselves?


One last question: Why am I even asking? This is YouTube, I think we all know how this is going to work. This move has been compared to giving everyone in town a gun and a badge because the Mayor couldn’t be bothered to organise a proper police force; and… well yes that’s exactly what it’s like. I would go further though. I would say that this is creating a town full of deputies with no Sheriff, and the town charter is written on the back of a napkin… that’s had coffee spilled all over it… and been buried down a local mine-shaft.

‘But David!’ I hear the bootlickers cry ‘It’s too soon to judge. The Heroes will obviously be supervised. They say Hero levels will only be increased on merit after all, and Wikipedia has managed with volunteer curation for years!’

Okay well, supervised by who; a higher level of invisible moderators, free to interpret propriety as they wish, or by more bots? Neither inspires me with confidence. Also, that raises the obvious question: If volunteer moderators need to be moderated by higher, presumably employed moderators, why can’t YouTube do the bloody job themselves, you twits!


Oh, and Wikipedia? Seriously? What kind of fever dream have I slipped into where people are sincerely holding up Wikipedia as an example of sensible curation? Wikipedia, which is known far and wide for having the exact opposite of that; where feuds between users frequently ruin articles; where corrections of their mistakes are unforgivably slow; and where the general volume of shoddy work has left the brand with less than zero credibility. Wikipedia? Spare me!

It’s clear to me at this point that YouTube is in dire need of new direction. A complete rethink of its managerial philosophy is what’s required. Its bosses obviously don’t want YouTube to be the Wild West anymore. They have too many corporate sponsors to afford to let their community run rampant; and yet, somewhere deep down I think they still see YouTube as ‘new media’, an outsider free of constraints where anything is possible. I’m sorry, but that’s just not how it works anymore, if it ever did. YouTube is big, it’s corporate, and it has the attention of the entire world, so meek half measures when it comes to managing its image won’t cut it. You need moderation? Hire an actual moderation team! Make them visible and easily contactable by the community at large, and make the rules that they are responsible for clear and well published. Enforce those rules strictly and consistently, but give the opportunity for those accused to defend themselves before they are punished out of hand.

None of this is impossible. It’s not even complicated. It’s common sense, and what websites with good reputations with their communities have been doing for years. If YouTube wants to clean up its act, first it has to get its hands dirty.

BearSleuth Week Geek Out

Like I said in my last post, it’s becoming a lot hard to find time for my normal Sleuthing, which is why this new feature is coming to you a little late. I wanted to make sure I gave it my full attention and due to a quick trip to A&E that became borderline impossible, I managed to tear some muscles in a fight with a bird table (don’t ask). Anyway, I have a lot to talk about so I think it’s time to stop faffing about and get stuck in!

The Week In Comics

It’s been a really good week in the world of comics. While the shelves were a little sparse, DC knocked out a few brilliant books with the new Tom King Batman Issue Six probably taking the top spot from the blue corner. Over in the red of Marvel is my top pick for the week, Jeff Lemire’s Moon Knight. This book is complex, intelligent and really shows what the modern industry techniques developed in the independent market can add to the mainstream. I also read Asterios Polyp this week and I can whole heartedly say that it is the only graphic novel to have changed my life. If you are able to get your hands on a copy you 100% should.

The Week In Film (And TV)

The run up to Doctor Strange is gripping a lot of comic book fans now with the inevitable ‘I want to get into Doctor Strange…’ posts slowly creeping onto reddit. For anyone looking for a Doctor Strange recommendation, it’s pretty hard as most of his stuff comes from the silver and bronze age of comics which can feel very dated. Check out ‘The Oath’ and maybe Jason Aaron’s new Doctor Strange series as they present the more modern take on the character.

In other news, Rogue One is struggling, to no one’s surprise (this is what happens when you put a Godzilla director on a Star Wars flick). Also a Dark Tower trailer will be airing next month so keep your peepers peeled. Turning to TV quickly, apparently the Luke Cage series looks good and the new Ghost Rider looks okay enough to get people to notice Agents Of Shield still exists.  Personally, I’ve been getting into Stranger Things and I’m going to surprise no one by saying it’s a great show, likely to become the next massive hit.

The Week In Gaming

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This week saw the world of console gaming reveal its massive throbbing erections for the PC master race as consoles take that one bold step into becoming computers. I don’t really care for 4k optimisation so I can’t say this affects me but if you are one of those graphics snobs then this…probably doesn’t matter to you because you already have a gangster rig (or whatever the cool kids are calling it). Deus Ex is gracing the shelves again, which is cool as we don’t have enough ultra-gritty cyberpunk dystopia running around. This week I’m replaying Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne because I’m a masochist when it comes to gaming.

And Finally…

Image result for trump custard pie

In other news, the world is teetering on the edge of destruction from the imminent threat of a mass custard pie orgy at the top of Trump tower and I am proud to announce that we are adding another writer to the BearSleuth roster. While I’m not ready to say much yet SHE is a perfect fit for the team and I’m sure HER articles are going to be a great hit!

Subtlety was always one of my strong points.

…That’s this week’s BearSleuth Week Geek Out!!! Check back on Friday for something new!!!

BearSleuth Announcement: Life And The Sleuth

I have been sitting at my keyboard for the best part of two hours now. After a lot of internal and external debate with myself I have decide to make a few changes to BearSleuth. I love this website but I am also overjoyed to tell all my loyal readers that I’ve just started a job as a copywriter and so my time is becoming very limited. BearSleuth originally started as a way for my to hone my skills while talking about all the stuff I love like comics and writing. Then it became a family with OpinionatedDavid, VuePoint and the Covert Coot. We have seen a lot of success and a lot of  support of the last years and it has been nothing short of amazing. I am not going to lose that.


The New Normal

After a talk with the rest of the team I have decided to keep BearSleuth running at a slightly slower pace so this is how your week is going to look on this most awesome of sites:

Monday: BearSleuth Week Geek Out: This is going to be my only article going forward and it will be a quick-fire rundown of all the geeky highlights from the previous week.

Tuesday: Nothing.

Wednesday: Adaptive Panels: OpinionatedDavid’s bi-weekly examination of comic book adaptations of films and other mediums.

 Thursdays: Nada.

Fridays: Occasionally Covert Coot: Your favourite Coot is currently on the road touring with his band so when he has time between rocking out he will attempt to get you your fix of anime and geeky observations.

Saturday: OpinionatedDavid: David’s weekly rant about everything wrong in the world of entertainment.

Sunday: Vuepoint: The jewel in the crown of gaming journalism that is Jack’s weekly observations on the state of gaming and it’s histories.


I am also assisting the writing team in learning how to use WordPress for themselves, so forgive any rookie mistakes.  This is a new and slightly more relaxed era for BearSleuth but I think it will be a step in the right direction for everyone involved including you folks at home as me and the team will be able to be more focused in our approach and writing. This is your humble BearSleuth signing off on my BearSleuth Opinion Pieces, Comic History 101 and The BearSleuth Spoiler Free Comic Book Bundle. I hope you have enjoyed them all and I hope you enjoy this next step.

…That was the BearSleuth Announcement!!! Check back over the weekend for a brand new VuePoint and Opinionated David!!!

BearSleuth Opinion Piece: Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Awhile back I was asked to do a game review for another project the review never got used so here are my thoughts on Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens…

This week I have been playing the newest nostalgia infused release from Tt Games, Lego Star Wars The Force Awakens, and I have to say I was mildly surprised. I was concerned that the game would simply not have enough source material when compared to previous instalments in the Lego games series. However, through a deep delve into the recently rebooted Star Wars expanded universe as well as lots of interesting new approaches to design, this game delivers a Star War experience that fans young and old can enjoy.

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The gameplay has had a facelift (even when compared to the previous Lego release, Lego Marvel Avengers) with a new first-person combat mechanic and a multi-builds system which adds a new sense of replayability. These mechanical changes add more depth and have given the designers more options for set pieces but there is only so far the game can stray from its predecessors.

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At its core, Lego Star Wars the Force Awakens is simply another strong instalment in the proud Lego lineage. If you enjoy the humour from previous Lego games, in all its pop culture referential glory, then there will be a lot for you to love here. On the other hand, hard-core gamers unfamiliar with the series will still find the same issues with thin gameplay and a lack of complexity that have always been both a blessing and a curse of the series. In conclusion, if you are a fan of Star Wars or the Lego games then I would strongly recommend Lego Star Wars the Force Awakens.

…That was this week’s BearSleuth Opinion Piece!!! Check back tomorrow for a new Comic History 101!!!

BearSleuth Opinion Piece: Starting out With Magic The Gathering

I don’t know whether it’s just me and my circle of friends but board games seem to be making a comeback! Not the tired Hasbro brand of antiquated fun but instead a new beast entirely. Board games such as Munchkin, Settlers Of Catan and even the humble Cards Against Humanity have all made their presence known at recent gatherings of friends and I don’t think this phenomenon is solely being experienced by yours truly. Board games are great, they create talking points and they are often much more inclusive than video games. However, if board games are making a comeback then what is the next step? My theory: Magic The Gathering.


Alright wipe that smug grin off your face, I completely understand why around 90% of the geeks in the audience don’t want to play Magic they don’t want to turn into that guy. If you have ever been near a Magic community you know that guy or girl who simply cannot talk or do anything without relating it back to Magic. My friends like to call them deckheads and it summarises them quite nicely. I once met a gentleman who was pushing forty, smoked about 40 a day and had to limit his spending to a mere £300 a week on magic cards. I couldn’t have a conversation with him that wouldn’t loop back to Magic somehow and after a while I actively avoided him. That being said, not everyone that touches the One Ring becomes Gollum and I know a lot of people who have played Magic and gone on to lead perfectly normal lives. This is because Magic rocks.

Social Magic

If you want a great game between mates where you are all attempting to scheme and play each other in an attempt to reaching a final goal of emerging victorious then look no further. Magic at a wider multiplayer level (games of 3-12 players) rely heavily on social skills to form alliances, make deals and co-operate against bigger threats. The game is pretty simple in that, at least in the majority of formats, you have to attack your opponent until you deplete his or her life total to this end a play can summon creatures to fight for them or use a wide variety of spell which are capable of everything from dealing damage to changing the way the entire game is played. This creates a great atmosphere as other players begin to react to each other and one guy can easily become the dick of the game by summoning a load of douche creature (think the Lannisters with more horns and tusks).

Getting Started

I’m hoping that will have sold you on Magic but in case it hasn’t the only way I really recommend for discovering is Magic would be good fit for you and your friends is by playing it. You can download Magic Duels, a free game on most app stores, and give that a go to get a feel for the game or you can go one step further and buy a starter pack for around £12.99 this will give you your first deck and two packs of cards which will contain a nice mix to get you started.

The Colours

Before I go, if you do decide to go down the starter pack route you are going to need to know which colour you want to be. Every starter pack comes with a deck that will be made up from a primary colour (the colour of the pack normally) and a secondary colour, you can check what colours your pack is by looking at the top of the box. Colours effect the way you play and what your deck says about you so I’m going to end on a quick rundown of the colours:

  • White

This colour normally symbolises order, it’s not necessarily about being good but it is about maintaining control through reasonable methods. You will never be sacrificing your own creatures or dealing damage to yourself with this colour. White tends to win tying down the opponents board in some way, gaining so much life that the opponent simply cannot win or creating an army of smaller creature.


  • Green

My personal favourite. Green represents life and vitality, this is symbolised by big creatures and a lot of energy (or mana) to cast them. Green players tend to win through rushing their enemies with huge creatures or being able to cast a multitude of spells on a turn which overpower their opponent. I would recommend this colour for starting players.


  • Blue

Every other player will hate you, the entire game will be focused around killing you quickly and yet you will still somehow come out on top. Blue represents logic and mind magic, it is the colour of illusion and control which makes it very powerful. I find blue decks can be a little slow and hard to put to full use when you are starting out but once you get the hang of them they are a lot of fun. Blue players win by fucking with their opponents and changing the way the game is played.


  • Red

Power, fire and more power. Red is all about smacking your enemy in the face hard and fast until they collapse in front of you. In most games Red will start strong, possibly tail off a little around the mid-point and them come back like a Phoenix to annihilate the competition. Red players win by dealing damage pure and simple.


  • Black

If you want to be vile and villainous then this is the only colour for you. Black is all about sacrifice and sly movements in the dark. While black cards and players aren’t evil their methods are almost certainly questionable and risky. Black cards then to work on a risk reward basis, requiring the player to give something away to gain a powerful boon. Black players tend to win through putting the opponent in a tough position or causing opponents to fight among themselves due to a change in the board state.


I may do more on this topic as time goes on so keep checking back and remember, never become a deck head!

…That was this week’s BearSleuth Opinion Piece!!! Check back tomorrow for a brand new Comic History 101!!!

BearSleuth Opinion Piece: Give Dungeons And Dragons A Go

By BearSleuth

Today your regularly scheduled article is coming a little late, there’s a lot of reasons for this but one in particular is that I have been spending a lot of time recently as a dungeon master. Yes, I know that sounds like the role of cult leader or a position in a medieval themed S&M group but it’s actually much more nefarious. A Dungeon Master is someone who creates and runs Dungeons and Dragons’ games, I like to think I’m a pretty good one but I prefer 4th edition so what do I know (a little joke for all the D&D players reading). The thing is, I am a Dungeon Master, a role that takes up a lot of my time and energy, but I am also a copywriter, a party animal and capable of following a hygiene routine on a daily basis. Furthermore, the group of people I play Dungeons and Dragons with is vast, in my eight person party there is a tax officer, a historian, a linguist, a geographer, a chemist, a musician, a cameraman for the BBC and a manager each with different reasons for playing. They all take the game seriously and they all have lives away from the D20’s.

Why Not Give It A Go?

I feel like Dungeons and Dragons, as well as other roleplaying games, have received a pretty bad rap in modern pop-culture, shows like the Big Bang Theory and even Futurama have categorised players as the lowest form of geek. There is a supposition that the players need to escape their own reality and so there lives must be somehow devoid of fun or importance. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you are able to take a couple of bits of card and plastic and turn it into an epic battle between the forces of good and evil, then just think what you are capable of in other aspects of your life. Dungeons and Dragons is a natural evolution of the classic ‘What if?’ or ‘Would you rather?’ games that most people play on a regular basis except it goes a stage further as askes you and your friends to consider scenario after scenario. This creates a safe theatre into which you are able to test your problem solving, your ethical understanding and even your communication abilities. The game encourages you to reconnect with that moment when you were a kid on the playground pretending to be a superhero or a great warrior and I feel that connection can only be positive.

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BearSleuth Reviews: Suicide Squad *Spoiler Warning*

By BearSleuth

It’s time for me to set the record straight. After my attack on the current sweeping nature of the critical industry it’s time for me to give my verdict on Suicide Squad. However, before I tell you my thoughts I have to say this is a hard film to review as it takes a very different approach to the action/ super hero genre therefore the only real way to tell if you like it is by going to see it. With that in mind, Suicide Squad is essentially four great films blended together into one okay film. The film attempts to cover the classic ‘Mad Love’ story arc from Batman, an origin film for Deadshot, half a Justice League Dark film with Katana and Enchantress as well as a Suicide Squad origin story. I think the best way to approach a review of the film is to look at each of these aspects and judge how the film approaches each.

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BearSleuth Opinion Piece: Critics, Can’t Live With ‘Em Can’t Live Without ‘Em

I promise my Suicide Squad review is on its way! I saw the film on day of release and there is lot to talk about with it, however the screening I went to seemed to have some sort of audio problem so I want to give the film a second chance before I tear into the sound design. If I’m being honest, the Suicide Squad review will probably take the place of the Comic History 101 slot this week for convenience. All that aside, there is a broader point I need to make before diving into Suicide Squad.

I’m Getting Fucking Tired Of Critics.

I know this is quite hypocritical of me so if I’m being more precise I am just tired of critics acting as sheep. Last week, before me or any of the general public had seen Suicide Squad, the critics seemed to have decided that the film would be a flop, Rotten Tomatoes was pitching it around the 27% mark and Metacric was fluctuating wildly minute to minute. When I asked around a lot of other comic fans, many claimed that they were put off the film or they would wait and see how others reacted to it before watching Suicide Squad themselves. I took this a step further and asked the cinema manager at the screening I went to and he said that the sales of the film has sharply declined after the reviews had come out. It all reminded me of a moment earlier this year when the industry came together to nuke Batman V Superman and in both instances the films in question didn’t deserve this treatment.

Put Down The BVS Pitchforks.

I’ve already defended Batman V Superman and without spoiling my entire review I don’t believe Suicide Squad is the pile of millennial excrement that the media would have you believe. Both films deserve to be watched and judged by your personal taste. My personal theory is that there is both industry biased towards the films being produced by Marvel and that there is a belief that the ‘Marvel formulae’ is the only way to create a super hero film. Whether this is true or not, these sort of industry bias have existed for as long as there has been a critical industry.

The Pillars Of Industry

There seems to be rules among critics such as ‘Waterworld was the worst film ever made’ or ‘no one can ever get Spiderman quite right unless it’s Marvel’ or ‘Quinten Tarrentino is good but whichever film is his most recent release is the one that signals his demise’. This has all evolved from the natural black and white ‘us and them’ mentality breed on the internet from various fanbases but that doesn’t excuse the behaviour. It’s my belief that if the critics of the film industry continue to all align themselves with these bias ideals, we will end up with nothing but cookie cutter reviews for every film and that is something we simply don’t need.

You Can Be Your Own Critic

While I am aware that Suicide Squad has still had an outstanding opening weekend I do feel it could have pushed even further if more people had decided to take matters into their own hands. Professional critics are important, they are barometer that give you a rough idea of the quality of a film from an industry standpoint but I think when it comes to how you personally feel about a film or whether you should go and see it there are only two critics you should listen to; those close to you who recognise your film tastes and yourself. Don’t just follow the natural good-bad swing of the internet, go out and forge your own opinions…and then read mine so that when I say I like Suicide Squad you can tell me to fuck off in full confidence and with that priceless sense of vindication.

…That was this week’s BearSleuth Opinion Piece!! Check back on Wednesday for a review of Suicide Squad!!!