Archive for August, 2009

GUMO# 118 - Housecat 7 - Big Fat Furry Ginger Alarm Clock

He was fine and continues to wake us all up at stupid o’clock.

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The War Begins

The rowdy wave of deadly Pokémon washes over Eterna City like a blood-fuelled flood.
The flame Pokémon begin the first attack, as arcs of fire spout across the cold tarmac. The Pokémon centre catches fire, the inhabitants screaming and trying to escape as a Rapidash wait at the front door. It gives a mighty kick with its powerful hind legs, a hoof disappearing into an old man’s face.
The fire spreads and Eterna Forest lights up with the burning orange hues of hate.
Everywhere I look there is carnage.
A Buneary brings a fleeing woman to the ground with a kick. It begins stamping on her head. As the poor woman’s face is crushed into the ground, the Buneary becomes so happy it evolves into Lopbunny. It giggles and runs off to murder more people.
A host of screaming people barricade themselves inside a multi-storey building. The Pokémon gather outside, jeering and laughing.
The crowd of hate parts for a Machamp and a Golem. The two carry a Geodude between them. They swing it back and forth a few times, before hurling it with all their combined might.
The Geodude strikes the building in a corner right at the base. It shatters the building with enough force to cripple the entire structure. The Pokémon run back as the building begins to crumble and lean.
I can see the people in the windows, looking out in horror. The building pitches off at an angle, beginning its fall to the ground. It shudders for a second, just long enough to tip a young man out through a window.
The glass explodes around him as he falls through, landing in a crumpled heap amongst sharp debris and rocks.
Before he can move, the rest of the building comes down on top of him.
The Pokémon howl with delight and begin making their way through the wreckage, pulling out survivors and brutally murdering them.
I make my way to edge of the City, trying to slip off unnoticed into the shadows of the night.
A Pikachu, blood all over its face, smiles serenely up at me. It charges up some electrical current and summons a huge bolt of lightening from the sky, before flinging it out to the power grid, cutting off the City completely.
A dog-like Houndoom chases after a woman as she runs, pushing her baby in a pram as fast as she can. It catches her, biting a bloody gash out of her ankle. She falls, screaming. The Houndoom opens its mouth and spits a geyser of fire directly into her face. She writhes and struggles and screams but soon it’s over and she lies still.
The Houndoom moves around to the front of the pram and observes the screaming baby. It pushes its dark head into the pram and begins eating.
In the midst of the chaos, I slip away into the shadows.

GUMO #117 - Professionalism - Another Day at the Office

Luckily, Alex has now escaped the madness of IT work and will be entering his final year soon. Put off leaving as long as possible, mate!

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Thickening

I am tired beyond sleep. Exhausted beyond repair. Broken beyond mending.
I am marching in line behind a Bonsly, a heavily-muscled Machoke at my back.
I am wearing a Mr Mime costume and wearing the face of a dead Mr Mime over my own face.
It is the dead of night and we are marching into Mount Coronet.
I am so scared I want to piss myself, but it I do they will know and they will kill me.
Perhaps one of them will wear my face when I am dead.
Inside Mount Coronet, the mountain is claustrophobic and the passages cramped.
We are heading down. I have no idea if this section is even marked on our maps.
We pass several huge boulders, the size of which only a Pokémon could move. They must have opened up some hidden tunnels.
We keep walking down, getting deeper and deeper by the second.
Eventually the path levels out. I wonder how far down we are.
We keep walking until the tiny tunnel ends and we are–
Inside a massive cavern, hollowed out the in the centre of the mountain. Waterfalls trickle and cleverly placed fire Pokémon – Infernapes, Flareons, Ponytas, Rapidashes, etc – keep the place illuminated for the sight before me:
Thousands – tens of thousands – of Pokémon fill the chamber floor, gathering before a ledge built into the rock about ten feet up on the very far side of the cavern. Overhead flap the multitude of wings of the flying creatures, Wingulls, Pelippers, Starlys, Staravias, Swablus, Altarias, Togetics, Togekisses, even the bobbing balloons of Drifloons and Drifblims as they all circle the cave. Massive monstrous heads of Onixes and Steelixes emerge from holes carved into the rock cavern. Zubats, Golbats, Crobats, Gligars and Gliscors hang from the ceiling.
The noise is thunderous. The squabbling sounds of Pokémon grunts, murmurs and the sounds of the own languages echo around the cavern.
I keep following the Bonsly in front of me. It seems to know where it’s going as our line marches into the enormous gathering of Pokémon stretched out before us.
We keep walking deep inside the crush. We finally stop in near the middle.
The Bonsly turns and looks at me excitedly, jabbering away in some strange language. All I can hear is it saying its own name repeatedly. I nod and grunt. It turns back to face the ledge with the rest of the Pokémon.
I turn back. The trickle of Pokémon entering the cavern is dying. We seem to be all here.
The sound of the huge boulders, miles above and away, reverberate around the cavern as they are pushed back into place.
We’re all shut in.
The noises die away, silence consuming their places.
The only sound I can hear is my breath rasping through the hole where Mr Mime’s mouth once was.
The glow of the lights seems to fade slightly.
A Monferno climbs the ledge and illuminates it with the flame on its tail. A cave entrance is barely visible in the rock behind the ledge.
The collective breaths of thousands of Pokémon are held.
They walk out of the cave, onto the ‘stage’; fifteen humans, hands bound behind them, bags on their heads, adults and children, lead and followed closely by Scythers and Scizors.
The humans are forced to their knees, facing out over the vastness of the crowd. Even at my great distance, I can see they are all shaking with fear and that most of them have pissed themselves.
One more creature emerges from the black tunnel:
A Psyduck.
As it walks on stage, a ripple surges through the crowd.
The Pokémon bow down on one knee before the Psyduck.
I join them, hoping I don’t go too fast or too slow.
The Psyduck points at one of the humans.
The Scizor standing behind it rips the bag off its head.
I recognise him! Professor Rowan! The man who gave me the Pokédex at the start of this whole affair!
My gasp is drowned out among the collective growling that begins to echo around the chamber as the Pokémon get a look at the man.
He blinks in the light, his face bruised, a bloody wound to his temple.
‘What the hell is going on?’ His voice echoes around the cave, the projection perfectly clear across the whole ensemble.
The Psyduck points to another human in the row. The Scyther whips the bag off and her black hair falls down past her terrifyingly pale cheeks. I recognise her as well – Sandy. She worked with Rowan in the lab, developing new ways to catalogue the Pokémon.
The Psyduck’s eyes glow bright blue, the same colour that illuminates from the assistant’s eyes.
Sandy’s mouth opens and a deep, slow-speaking, unnatural voice comes out of it.
‘Speak when you are spoken to, Professor. We have all night to answer each other’s questions.’
Rowan shoots horrified glances between Sandy and the Psyduck. ‘What is she saying? Are you making her say that?’
The Psyduck nods.
The Scyther steps in behind one of the other people in the row. It extends a single bladed arm across the front of him. It slashes sharply across his throat. The man collapses, thrashing, his hands bound behind him, his blood spilling across the ledge, spilling down into the Pokémon at the front, sending them into a frenzy. The crowd roars with delight and Rowan tries to move towards the man. The Scizor behind Rowan cracks him over the head with a pincer, stopping his struggle.
The man kicks weakly, his death inevitable. The Scyther picks him up and hurls his dying body out into the crowd. The Pokémon that grab him rip him to shreds, pulling every piece of flesh they can grab in all directions at once. I swallow back some bile.
As the man’s pieces vanish into the crowd, the noise dies down. Sandy begins speaking again.
‘I take it that you understand now the seriousness of this congregation, Professor?’
Rowan shakes with fear.
‘You can answer me now, Professor.’
‘I… I understand.’
‘Excellent. We have brought you and everyone else from Sandgem Town here because we have some rather pressing questions that I’m afraid only you can answer. Our questions concern the Pokédex, the device by which you humans attempt to corral and catalogue our kind. Are you paying attention?’
Rowan nods slowly.
A bead of sweat makes its way down the back of my neck. I pray the Machoke behind is too busy watching the stage to notice my terror. Sandy’s booming voice echoes around the chamber again.
‘We want to know how it works, Professor, and how we can acquire one of our own.’
There is a pause. It feels longer than eternity. I can almost hear Rowan trying to think his way out of the problem. Finally he finds his voice. ‘It works by cataloguing the individual Pokémon’s DNA and analysing specific wavelengths within it. That’s how it can create a complex list of all types of… of… you.’
‘And how do we get one of our own?’
Rowan shakes his head. The Scyther steps in behind another bagged human.
‘No, no! What I mean is, there are only three in the whole of Sinnoh. I developed them all myself and gave them to three young explorers. They have the only ones in the region.’
The Scyther steps back. The Psyduck seems to be deep in thought.
‘Is it possible for you to recalibrate the Pokédex?’
Rowan sounds unsteady. ‘How do you mean?’
‘Say you want to catalogue something other than Pokémon. Can you change it?’
Rowan bows his head. He seems to already know the answer. ‘What are you thinking of cataloguing?’
A harsh, braying laugh comes out of Sandy’s throat. ‘Surely you already know the answer to that, Professor! There are four hundred and sixty two Pokémon in the world and over six billion people! You tell me which is the species that requires cataloguing!’
The jeers and laughter of the Pokémon in the chamber echo like thunder.
The Psyduck motions for quiet before continuing. ‘If we bring you the Pokédexes, can you change them?’
Rowan nods, painfully slowly.
The Scizor steps forward, clutching sheets of paper carefully in its pincer. It brings them close to the flaming tail of the Monferno.
‘Study these faces and learn them!’ bellows the evil voice from within little Sandy. ‘These three hold the key to our salvation!’
Scizor holds up the paper and the burning flame shines through them, projecting the images onto the walls of the cavern. There, at least twenty feet high, is my face, staring back down at me. My breath catches in my throat as the growling and hissing of angry Pokémon fills the air.
‘This one is particularly difficult,’ intoned the voice. ‘We’ve been after him for some time. He’s sent many of your brothers and sisters to early graves.’ A nearby Piloswine bellows in rage.
The sheet changes to the next face. Grinning moronically back at the collective is the young face of my Rival. The Machoke behind me beats its chest and roars.
The final sheet is raised up to the light. The sweet smile of Dawn, my love interest, shines down from above. Bonsly thumps its feet against the floor.
‘My friends!’ The Psyduck roars above the din of the bellowing, braying, roaring beasts. ‘Tonight our long-awaited plan shall begin! Any humans that resist may be slain according to your own desires, but we must have the three Pokédexes and their owners brought here immediately!’
The roaring of the Pokémon becomes a slow, steady chant. A wave of aggression passes through the crowd. They are all insane with bloodlust.
‘BRING ME THE POKÉDEXES! SLAY ALL WHO STAND IN OUR WAY!’
The chant becomes a scream, a tribal war cry. I join in stamping my feet on the ground, yelling out against the din.
‘NOW GO, COMPLETE THIS GLORIOUS MISSION!’
With one final bellow, the Pokémon begin charging for the exit. I run with them. The only words in my head are, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.

GUMO #116 - My Job - Test Monkey

Thanks to Alex for this week’s comic, cheers mate! He’ll be writing next week’s one as well, provided a small snipping of the dialogue takes place.

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Enemies

The knife swings just past my face, clanging loudly against the wall. Mr Mime slashes for me again, this time missing wilder as I fall back further into my prison.
He’s pushing me back. He’s got the advantage on me. He knows it. I know it.
He lunges for me again and I manage to duck aside.
We’re both in the cell now. I’m being slowly backed into a corner.
The look of furious victory on his face tells the story – he knows he’s won.
He keeps pushing me back until I’m in the corner.
He twirls the knife around and smiles.
‘Why?’ I shout.
He stops, tilts his head at me quizzically.
‘Why are you all doing this? Why me?’
He points the knife at my chest.
He shifts the weight on his feet.
Darts forward.
I step to one side and try to dodge.
The corner has me pinned.
I spin around and try and crash into him.
The knife catches me in the shoulder.
Glances off, tearing skin.
I scream.
He laughs.
But I’m in close and he can’t get me again.
I punch him in the face and claw at his eyes.
He staggers, tries to push back away from me
I dig my thumb in his eye socket.
He trips over and we fall down. The rattle of his knife echoes as falls to the floor and bounces away. His head cracks onto the solid stone floor and the momentum pushes my thumb deep into his eye.
I twist my thumb and pop his eye out. It hangs down his cheek loosely.
Black gunk washes over my hand as he screams. He thrashes wildly with his arms and tries to get at my face.
I club him with both of my hands.
In the chest.
Club. Club. Club.
Something cracks inside him.
He gurgles and spits black gunk at my face.
It hits my cheek.
It burns.
He writhes in agony on the floor.
I go for the knife.
As I take my weight off him, he pounces back onto his feet and rushes for me.
He tackles me down to the floor, hard. Tries to club me back.
I have my arms ready and block his attacks. I reach out to something and grab hold of the door frame.
He brings his hands up again for another blow. I punch him in the chin. He unbalances.
I pull myself towards the door. He grabs my foot, the two of us crawling pathetically around after each other. Him with his eye still drooling goo.
I get to the door and try and use it to stand. If I can lock him in..!
He knows what I’m going to do and grabs the knife, trying to stand.
He gets to his feet first and rushes towards me.
I manage to stand up and swing the door shut as hard as I can.
His hand gets in the way.
A sickening snap and his wrist is bent the wrong way.
The knife falls to the floor.
I open the door a little wider.
He tries to follow his arm through.
I shut it on him again, crushing him against the door frame.
He falls to the ground, half in and half out.
I slam the door.
Again.
And again.
And again and again.
He screams and screams and I hear things cracking and snapping inside him as he thrashes around and claws at the floor as the black mess flows freely from his body.
Eventually he stops moving, stops screaming, stops gushing that black gunk.
I slide down the wall.
Sweet darkness.

I wake.
It is dark again.
The body is long since cold on the floor.
Nurse Joy still lies upon the floor, frozen in beautiful desperation.
My head is thumping.
Footsteps outside.
I climb gently to my feet and look out the window.
There they are.
Pokémon.
A small army, walking quietly, orderly, in a row, heading away from the houses, out into the night.
I need to follow them… but how?
I won’t get close enough as I am, they’ll find me and kill me.
If only I was a Pokémon…
I look at Mr Mime’s broken body.
White gloves, pink foamy-looking body, big shoes. They sell those as costumes.
But the face? Where can I get one of those?
The knife on the floor glints in the moonlight, the tip pointing at my fallen enemy.
I pick it up, bend over the clown’s dead face, and begin cutting.

Fifteen later, and I’m pulling the skin away from the corpse’s face.
I hold it up and look at it in the moonlight.
It’s perfect. The light shines through the thin flesh, but it will fit me just fine.
Mr Mime’s skinned face is a mess of rotting muscles and broken tissue. The black gunk oozes through every available pore. He doesn’t have a skull; it seems to be more of a hardened shell.
A quick glance out the window–
The trail of Pokémon has slowed down, but they are still walking in a line into the night.
I step over the fallen Nurse Joy and root around in the boxes and boxes of various supplies.
I find my name written on one box. I open it up to find all my world possessions: the Pokédex and my lighter. I pocket them both and keep rooting.
I find one box labelled, ‘costumes’. Sure enough, it contains various Pokémon outfits, Happiny, Chansey, Pikachu and Mr Mime. I pull on the Mr Mime suit.
I stand by the door, looking like a ridiculous fucking clown with a broken hand hidden by a white glove with black, bloodshot eyes and bruises over most of my skin.
Luckily, my new face will hide all that away.
I stretch Mr Mime’s face over my own.
It fits.
The black gunk still inside the skin burns like hell but it seems to fix the dead face over my own just right. I check the mirror, wipe away the visible ooze and step outside.
The air is warm, the night deadly quiet.
The only sound is the Pokémon’s footsteps as they leave the village.
I don’t even know where we are.
In the distance, the silhouette of Mount Coronet fills the sky, blotting out stars and a chunk of the moon with its vastness.
I walk towards the Pokémon.
A Machoke sees me.
It stops.
Grunts.
Smells the air.
The other Pokémon behind it look curiously at me.
It grunts at me again.
It seems to be asking me something.
I nod and grunt.
It seems satisfied. It motions for me to get in front of it.
I hurry into the line and start walking after the others.
We march onwards.

GTA: Chinatown Wars Review

Rockstar’s last attempt at the world of handheld car stealin’, drug dealin’, civilian killin’ fun was the technically-brilliant-if-far-too-short PSP (and later PS2) Vice City Stories. Continuing the theme of big console releases making playtime for their smaller counterparts comes GTA: Chinatown Wars.

While not initially as impressive as the PSP releases, it is definitely in a league all on its own in terms of Rockstar’s mastery of the DS hardware. The Liberty City familiar from the massively overhyped GTA IV serves as the main hub for all your criminal doings, while the perspective has changed the classic bird’s-eye-view as seen in the early GTA games. The scope of the city is incredible – individual locations memorable from the last tour are all present and correct (save for the ‘haunted swingset’) and the entire premise has been completely redesigned around the DS’ touchscreen capabilities.

Cars can be hotwired in any of three different ways – unscrew the dashboard and connect the wires, stick a screwdriver in the keyhole and turn it on or even by connecting a computer to the security system and stopping the numbers as they flash by to hack the alarms. Explosive weapons can be thrown by tapping the icon and flinging it away with the stylus. Tattoos can be drawn on, cards can be scratched, Molotovs filled at gas stations, the list goes on. Just about the only thing you can’t do is chop up crack with a credit card and inject it directly into your character’s eyeball.

You play as Huang, a Chinese immigrant on the way to deliver a sacred family heirloom (a sword won in a card game) to Uncle Lee, who has taken over the Triad family in the wake of Huang’s father’s recent assassination. Unfortunately for Huang, he is robbed, shot and left for dead in the worst place in America… Liberty City.

From there the game delights in giving you an outlandish number of absurd missions and, while most of them involve driving, none of them are ever dull or repetitive. This is a massive contrast to IV, where seemingly every mission required ten minutes of driving to the opposite end of the map for one gunfight, followed by another lengthy drive home. This time, it’s all about the game and the fun. One moment you’re gunning down a drug lord on his boat, the next you’re dropping bombs on groups of suspected informers from a helicopter. The only real flaw to the game is that the gun’s aiming scheme chooses to aim at the closest person to you, even if that means you’re firing into a wall while a goon blows off the back of your head from a few feet away.

The world is so vast and stuffed with so many things to do that you’ll be playing long after the credits roll. In fact, the moment the game does come to its close is a real downer – the story is so good and the characters so brilliantly scripted it feels a massive shame to let it end. But end it must, and if there’s any justice in the real world, the DS will get many more truly excellent GTA games.

95%

Adam has completely dropped the ball on this week’s comic, so instead we’re going to take a detailed look at the teaser for Heroes Volume Five: Redemption. Is it redemption for the show? Or the characters? Volume Four took a battering for being poorly handled, poorly written and having the same pace as a snail with one eye. With that in mind, let us return like a battered housewife to the show that works to the opposite of the Star Trek rule: odd numbers good, even numbers bad.

Heroes Volume Five Trailer Breakdown

Story:

So, it seems that this time there’s going to be an actual overarching story, focussing on the Heroes equivalent of the Brotherhood of Mutants, led by new villain Samuel – or is he a good guy? It’s not yet been made clear, but you can bet that it won’t be entirely obvious from the outset.

What we can guess is that Samuel is gathering together a great fighting force of Specials for some unknown purpose, and Hiro Nakamura is a vital part of this plan, while several others are standing in the way of it. The plot device for the story seems to revolve around a Pirates-style compass, and it seems that the group of villains – or at least some of them – can travel through time.

His girlfriend has the power of magic tattoos, while Samuel himself, it seems, is psychic, as evidenced by his burying of a grave and throwing another man against a wall.

They seem to have acquired an assassin of some kind, a man armed with two knives reminiscent of Resident Evil: Extinction. Little is known about this man, apart from his super speed. He is shown twirling those knives at a rate of knots normally seen by fast-forwarding a VHS and knocking seven bells out of Tracey later on. It would be safe to assume that he has something to do with the dead man (the unseen Joseph – whatever the plan is, it seems to be entirely his) and is forced into becoming the group’s killing machine. His knives are shown frighteningly close to Bennett’s face.

Hiro:

Despite his body breaking down from his abilities in the closing scenes of the last episode, he appears to back to good health and up to his old tricks. He has magically regained the ability to teleport – maybe he’s unable to control time as a result? Whatever the reason, we’ll finally have more magnificent excuses to go back and forward in time. What is clear is that he’ll be doing it all alone – maybe bringing Ando along was why his body couldn’t handle it? Perhaps he got an injection of Claire’s healing blood? Or possibly a visit from the Plot Contrivance Fairy has sorted out all his problems?

Claire:

It seems that Claire’s dark side flirtations in Volume Three have been well and truly forgotten. In spite of the fact that she could go down the route of Dr Manhattan – and who wouldn’t want to see Claire lose touch with humanity? – we’re to be subjected instead to the young Miss Bennett instead go to college and find love with another woman. Clearly not happy with the ratings slide, Tim Kring appears to be turning Claire gay in exchange for media publicity.

What we do know about her story for the season is that, besides going gay, she will continue to experiment with her powers, as last seen in Volume Two. Her new lesbian friend suggests finding a dead body – who could this be? We’re shown boring bastard Denko crashing to the ground with a knife wound in his head, could she resurrect him? (Note to Kring: don’t let this happen.) Another shot shows an injured Bennett, could she save him? (She’s done this once already, so that’s a no.) Perhaps she’ll heal Joseph’s unfortunate case of death and we’ll find out more about the man one which the whole story seems to hang. Or, maybe, an entirely new character will come back from the dead. Whatever happens, it will either be a huge story-altering decision or a throwaway gag – what if she resurrects someone who committed suicide? Comedy gold, right there.

Ando:

In spite of the fact that Ando is one of the most likeable cast members, he only gets a short look-in on the trailer, shown kissing someone who appears to be Kimiko Nakamura, Hiro’s sister. Unless having the power of red lightening (or was it power enhancement? Get your facts straight, Kring) has managed to significantly alter his standing in Nakamura Industries, you can bet that this is a fantasy sequence.

He is also shown carrying Hiro on a hospital gurney. Perhaps he rushes to his friend’s aid when the aforementioned body breakdown gets too much?

Bennett:

The most consistent in terms of storyline and one of the only watchable parts of Volume Four, the Man with the Horn Rimmed Glasses is seen very little in the trailer. He seems to have a moment with Tracey in which the two reconcile and seem to be putting aside their differences. He even suggests that the two of them are looking for redemption, so at least he’s still divorced. He is also shown with a nasty gut wound lying on some steps – Claire’s college maybe? – and his fate is uncertain. Will HRG be on the receiving end of a cast cut-down? Pray not, his constant good-guy-bad-guy crossovers are endlessly enjoyable. He’s also shown trapped in a flooding car – is Tracey going to try and murder him? Or is this a vision of the future?

Peter:

Back to being a nurse and still appears to have all the abilities he borrowed from Sylar. Does this mean, though, that he can’t touch anyone else, like the X-Men’s Rogue? Or is it selective? Whatever the case, a brief shot of his hand holding the twirling plot device compass confirms that he is, once again, the crux on which the entire story will hang.

Sylar/ Nathan:

The most predictable of the lot, Sylar is set to remember who he is and finally oust Nathan from the cast forever. He will tangle notably with Angela Petrelli and Matt Parkman, as shown by his holding Parkman junior hostage.

We can hope that this means Nathan will finally be killed off – his story finished in Volume Three. Fingers crossed for a return to form for Sylar, who managed to become the greatest, scariest and funniest villain in TV history in the final parts of Villains (‘oooh… cake!’)

Matt Parkman:

Fatherhood has done everyone’s favourite policeman/ detective/ fugitive/ murderer no favours as he seems to believe that having a baby makes him exempt from the world of superheroes. Happily for us, Angela is on hand to bring him back into the game and, failing that, Sylar turns up to get his kid and, with any luck, bump off his annoying ex/ wife. Also shown freaking out in a police cell – does Sylar kidnap his kid?

Angela:

She’s still dreaming the future and talking cryptically to everyone involved. Let’s at least see the bloody nightmares this time around, okay?

Tracey:

Hell hath no fury like a woman who willingly freezes herself to death, gets shot into thousands of pieces and then reforms with power over water. Everyone’s favourite twin/ mental case is going around and killing those with abilities for some unknown reason. It’s shown that the knife-wielding assassin gets up close and personal with Tracey’s stomach. She won’t die, she’s made of water!

Denko:

Shown collapsing to the ground with a knife wound. Hooray!

Mohinder:

Not shown at all. Hooray!

And that brings us to the end of the trailer. Will it be any good? Only time will tell, and unless we manage to bamf into the future and watch the episode on September 21st, we’ll just have to settle for waiting. Come on, Kring, don’t let us down.

We Are All Prisoners

The wings of the angel flap and it lifts up into the air.
The sun shines in my eyes and I cover the glare with a hand.
I can see the angel and she is beautiful.
She looks down at me and she smiles.
She flies around over me and beckons me to join her.
I hold up my hand and she takes it in hers.
She smiles down at me and we start to lift up from the ground.
I look down and the ground is moving further and further away.
I look up at her and her face is changed.
She is not smiling and she is not beautiful.
She lets go of my hand and I fall.
The ground is getting closer and closer and I can’t look away.
She laughs and all I can hear is the screech of her voice.
I manage to look back up above me and she is not an angel anymore.
She is a Pokémon.

The white gloves slam my head down into the cold stone floor, once, twice.
I black out again.

I don’t know how long I’ve been locked in this small room.
Every now and then Nurse Joy returns to check on my hand.
It is healing.
She thinks the wounds on my head are some kind of suicide bid.
She has ordered twenty four hour guard by Pokémon.
They wake me up in the night by pissing on my face and beating me in the stomach.
It doesn’t matter how bad they hurt me, Chansey can heal the wounds they give me.

Night.
The door opens again.
The footsteps on the floor approach me.
I am not sleeping, not tonight.
The footsteps stop at my head.
I can hear Mr Mime getting ready to piss on me again.
I reach up and land a heavy punch right in his balls.
He gives a muffled cry and staggers back.
I’m up on my feet, rushing towards him, ready to fight.
Something heavy across my shoulders.
I’m brought to my knees by the force.
I forgot about Chansey.
I look up at the two of them.
Chansey gives Mr Mime an egg.
It heals his injured balls.
Mr Mime looks at me with a steely gaze.
They walk towards me.
They beat me to the floor.
Chansey kicks my legs.
Mr Mime punches me in the stomach.
I want to pass out.
Chansey heals me, just enough to keep me conscious.
Mr Mime moves around me to my injured hand.
Chansey holds me down, smiling serenely into my face the whole time.
Mr Mime lifts up one heavy clown boot.
Smiles at me.
Brings the boot down onto my hand.
Nothingness.

The crawling wakes me up
The scratching on my flesh.
Another poisonous bug crawls across me.
I open my eyes.
The dead eyes look back at me.
The Wurmple is sat on my face.
Its stinger poised behind it.
It cocks its head.
This is it, it’s telling me.
I open my mouth.
The creature’s midsection falls into my mouth.
I bite down, hard.
It shrieks and my mouth fills up with the hideous black goo. It’s thick like oil and tastes the same.
I spit its corpse onto the floor.
It wriggles still, the two halves moving pathetically.
I crawl away from it.
Where the hell are they coming from?
I look around me.
The window.
I crawl painfully towards it, stopping to spit out more black goo.
I use the wall to help me get to my feet.
I examine the little barred window.
There is dirt underneath the window frame.
I scratch away at it.
There’s a very small tunnel designed for bugs to come in and out of here.
It’s been dug underneath the window to get around the wire mesh that covers the outside.
I scratch away at it.
I can make the tunnel wider.
I stretch it along the width of the window.
I rip the small lining of dirt away.
I can get my fingers underneath the window.
I can touch the wire mesh.
I tear the wore, a strip coming off in my hand.
I pull the strip back inside to me.
A jagged weapon.
I wait in my cell for the chance to strike back.

Early morning light filters through the bars.
I hear footsteps.
Chansey will be coming in to heal me before Nurse Joy arrives.
I wait behind the door, the jagged wire a garrotte in my hands.
This is it.
The door scrapes open.
The pink creature waddles into the cell.
I slam the door shut as I rush towards it.
I wrap the wire about where I think its throat should be.
With all that remains of my strength, I pull.
The soft skin of the Chansey seems to be taking the wire with no problems.
It smiles at me, enjoying my efforts.
Rage flows through me.
I pull as tight as possible.
It keeps smiling.
It’s not working.
I pull tighter and tighter until the wire cuts into my hands and my blood starts to drip to the floor.
It’s not working.
I realise something–
Chansey is a healer.
Eggs are healing.
Chansey has an egg in the pouch on its stomach.
I spin the bitch around and before it can come to its senses, I punch as hard as I can, right in the egg.
It shatters.
Chansey screeches.
The egg bursts with the black goo. It runs own my hand, across the floor.
The Chansey puts a foot off balance. Black goo starts pouring from its eyes.
I step in behind it with the garrotte ready.
I wrap the wire around its neck.
I pull.
This time the wire slices through the pink foam and tears a rent through the soft skin. The black ooze flows freely all over the Chansey, all over me.
When it finally stops kicking, I drop it to the floor.
I spit on it.
Slowly I open the door a crack and look out into the corridor.
I can see a desk off to one side. Familiar shocking pink hair is visible. Nurse Joy! Finally!
I start to open the door but then I see it.
Mr Mime.
It approaches Nurse Joy from behind. Something glints in its hand.
I scream.
Nurse Joy looks at me for an instant, the look of shock frozen on her face.
Forever.
Mr Mime grabs her hair in one hand and pulls her head back.
The glinting in its hand becomes a knife as it slashes across her pretty throat.
Her hands go up to her throat and try to stop the pretty red blood from flowing out, across the floor, across her pretty white apron, across her pretty hands.
It lets go of her hair and she falls to the floor, face down in the deepening pools of violence, one eye fixed on me. Her mouth opens uselessly. Her hands grab and claw at the floor tiles.
Then she stops moving.
Mr Mime licks the blood off the knife and looks over at me. It smiles.
It points the knife at me and starts walking towards me.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review

As the Potter novels grew bigger, bolder and more adult, so too have the films. After the tricky first two stuck rigidly to the words on the page but produced nothing remotely memorable, fresher directors have added their own unique twist to the franchise, seeing every successive film become bigger, bolder and more adult. After the unexpectedly brilliant Order of the Phoenix – the worst book – was turned into the best film by the best director so far, surely the best book under the guiding hand of the same man would be a no-brainer?

Beginning with a short reminder of what went down in Harry’s last year (i.e., Sirius died, Harry’s life is in very serious danger), the film quickly picks up the pace to get things moving for the new school year as Dumbledore recruits new teacher Slughorn (the always excellent Jim Broadbent on fine form). Things get complicated for Harry as he struggles to uncover arch-rival Malfoy’s nefarious midnight activities, figure out who the ancient Potions book belongs to (the titular ‘Half-Blood Prince’) and get his tongue – sorry, his head – around his feelings for Ginny Weasley.

It’s all a bit of a let-down, to be honest. The mystery, thrills and suspense that so deeply soaked every page of the novel have been cut to make way for snogging and more bloody games of Quidditch. It even feels less magical compared to the other films – the staircases don’t move, the paintings aren’t alive, there is no background magic to speak of: the only things that mark this out are the occasional moving newspapers.

Instead of having a tightly wrought thriller oozing with tension, the filmmakers instead ignore the page-turning guessing game and show us every step of what’s going on behind the scenes. Malfoy’s plan is shown in detail from the early stages, unfolding into face-palming levels of obviousness later on, while the riddle of the Horcruxes and Voldemort’s intriguing past are skipped over and ignored. By the end of the film, the stakes for the next instalment are completely unknown, with the Horcruxes not even getting properly explained. Even the proper climax is cut – making the formation of Dumbledore’s Army irrelevant because they don’t even get to battle the Death Eaters.

That said, when it gets going, Half-Blood Prince can go it with the best of them. Alan Rickman’s extended screentime is used to maximum thespian-ness, while Jessie Cave outclasses all the other younger actors in the sizeable boots of Lavender Brown. Helena Bonham Carter’s bonkers Bellatrix Lestrange camps it up brilliantly and the inclusion of an additional attack on The Burrow is exciting, if annoying that it comes at the expense of the battle proper.

All in all, Half-Blood Prince is easily the most disappointing of all the films since Chamber of Secrets and we can only hope that the decision to turn a wizard-based thriller into a rom-com snog-fest is because director David Yates is holding all his trump cards for next time: Deathly Hallows Part One.

2 stars.