Blog

What I'm Reading: Space Prison, by Tom Godwin

More commonly known for his short story "The Cold Equations", which has been infuriating people who think life is fair and kind for 65 years, he wrote a number of other novels and short stories. I've read this probably 20-30 years ago, but not as a single piece since then.

Spoilers ahead, go read the book, it's VERY short, a novella by modern standards.

Earth is being blockaded by an alien empire called the Gern, a colony ship of 8000 is sent to a newly-discovered planet Athena with rich resources which can be used to make weapons protecting Earth. They're defeated and half the population are set down on an inhospitable high-gravity planet Ragnarok, the other half taken as slaves to Athena to work for the Gern.

The Gern (derived from Hugo Gernsback?) caricature is, uh, problematic:

"The were big, dark men, with powerful, bulging muscles. They surveyed her and the room with a quick sweep of eyes that were like glittering obsidian, their mouths thin, cruel slashes in the flat, brutal planes of their faces."
… (much later) …
"Narth, like all the Gerns, was different from what they had expected. It was true the Gerns had strode into their town with an attempt at arrogance but they were harmless in appearance, soft of face and belly, and the snarling of the red-faced Narth was like the bluster of a cornered scavenger-rodent."

Well. And none of the Earth people are described in any racial way, except one Germanic psychopath.

As for the Humans, most of the "rejects" left on Ragnarok die in the first few days and are whittled down over years to 49, before the new generations acclimated to the gravity and atmosphere, harsh conditions, and carnivorous diet increase back up to 6000+ over another 200 years, which requires a rather high birth rate and low death rate; I don't think it's quite plausible.

It's notable that the first viewpoint character is a woman. She doesn't last long, and after that few women even get to speak, only one about anything except babies, and most of them die young. The final state of the Ragnarok barbarians is a totalitarian tribal society where women and children hide in caves, men go fight; the women are physically and mentally competent, as shown in one animal fight scene late in the book, but not consulted in war.

The transmission of knowledge, in a handful of books somehow written and preserved by these not-quite-paleolithic barbarians, is exceedingly implausible. They make technical and scientific leaps which would be extraordinary in societies of billions, let alone a few thousand. Meanwhile neither Earth nor the Gern make any technical progress in the 200 year course of the book, allowing ancient written knowledge of their blasters and ship systems to help 10th generation barbarians.

I'm not going to criticize a book from the '50s for having FTL drives and communications, but I roll my eyes at it anyway, especially when they propose building spaceships and FTL communicators with stone knives & prowler-skins, as it were.

Native life of Ragnarok consists of: Prowlers (wolf/big cat type hunters), Unicorns (psychotic bison with one horn), Wood Goats, a few species of small and large scavengers, and Mockers (telepathic squirrels), and plants not dissimilar to Earth. It's not much of an ecosystem, and is never explained sufficiently. To some extent, Godwin didn't understand the ecological energy pyramid. I have an untested, almost unsupported hypothesis that the erratic orbits of Ragnarok and its suns may be a post-apocalyptic situation, where these are the few survivors of a more complex ecosystem; that would help explain the intelligence of the few survivors.

They have a series of strong male leaders, willing and able to execute anyone who doesn't share everything with the group, are incorruptible, and single-minded on survival and the long-term ideal of defeating the Gerns. This is, to be blunt, maybe the least plausible thing. I can buy one or two such leaders, but getting a third is beyond impossible. Humans fuck everything up with politics and religion, there's no way they wouldn't.

The barbarians do make good use of all their resources, despite an almost total lack of metals on the planet. And yet at no point are cannibalism or hierarchical resource distribution discussed, which are the usual Human solutions to extremely tight resources. The Aztecs would be very disappointed in Ragnarok.

The rapidity of them adapting to spaceship technology and developing a new tactic against an ancient spacefaring empire is very unlikely; ridiculous, even.

And here's the thing, most of this I can criticize as unrealistic. But the idea of a Hell world breeding up super-soldiers who then seize power from the civilized and establishing their own Empire, that's an idea that appears in many other places.

Historically, the Spartans tried to make this work, despite being in one of the most fertile and pleasant places on Earth, and did make superior warriors… at a cost of crippling their economy and culture, and eventually twice being defeated by coalitions of everyone else in the region who hated them for it.

Germanic barbarians lived in much more difficult environments and had more meat-heavy diets than the Romans, and were physically more powerful; but that generally didn't help them win wars against civilized people until Rome started collapsing for internal reasons (maybe lead pipes, but just as much the abandonment of military traditions by filthy ignorant Christians).

The Zulu Empire rose with Shaka Zulu and his Spartan-like ideals, and almost immediate collapse after his murder by his idiot brother. South Africa ranges from Hell world to some of the most fertile places on Earth, so there wasn't an environmental pressure, only one strong leader.

So the reality of this idea does not work.

In Dune, obviously, with both the Fremen and Sardaukar. The Fremen women, unlike the Ragnarok barbarians, fight like the men do, and Leto II's Fish Speakers, descended from both Fremen and Sardaukar, are all women. Herbert revisits this in The Dosadi Experiment, though the Dosadi survivors are more politically treacherous than superhumanly dangerous.

Harry Harrison's Deathworld series has easily the most dangerous planet, vaguely habitable but every form of life trying to kill invaders, but the successful colonists adapt to the environment, rather than trying to fight and control it.

I honestly don't know how to rate this. It's a very enjoyable read, but there are so many cultural, literary, political, ecological, and technical things I object to that it shouldn't pass.

★★☆☆☆ / ★★★★☆ depending on how I think about it.

There's a sequel, The Barbarians, which I'll likely read soon, and see if that addresses anything or makes it worse.

What I'm Playing: World of Warcraft Classic

There's been a pre-launch stress test open now until Monday, so I levelled a test character:

I got to the red mohawk in char creation, and somehow flashed back to Return of the Killer Tomatoes and named him FuzzyTomato, which would've been an almost topical joke back in 2004.

WoW Stress Test-Fuzzytomato

And it's been fantastic. The game is moderately hard and grindy, but rewards caution, good play, cooperation with other players, gearing up, and resource management.

Pros:

  • FOR THE HORDE!: Thrall is still in charge, and all is right in the world.
  • Challenging gameplay: I'm Level 14 now, just soloed Skull Cave which is meant for a group at 10-12. Fighting more than one mob of equal level at a time is dangerous. Some players have hit the level cap of 15 and are doing dungeons, I'm likely to try that tomorrow.
  • Resource management: As a rogue, I go thru a huge number of throwing daggers, and now carry 2-4 stacks at the start of a run. Food is a little better since I can fish and cook, but until I got Strider Stew I had no reliable source of buff food. Hunters need arrows and food for their pets. Warlocks need a huge space for soul shards. Mages need reagents for many spells. Bags are rare, small, and expensive. I have: one 8-slot bag, three 6-slot pouches, and the 16-slot backpack. That's it. The biggest bags you can buy are 12-slot, I think, and after that it's very high-level crafting. I'm often dumping low-value loot at the end of a run.
  • Shopping: NPC vendors have varied items, unlike most modern games, so it's useful to check anyone you pass. Never know when they'll have an obscure recipe, a healing potion (SUPER vital for dealing with bosses), or a green item. And then there's the Auction House. Even on a limited-time stress test, there's good sales going.
  • Game runs fantastic at high graphics settings (on iMac 5K I set 50% render scaling, and then cranked everything to 7 or 8)
  • Quests are text-based, not spoken, and don't mark your map, you have to read the instructions and figure it out. Sometimes that's not super clear, but usually they say what you need to do. Quest markers don't show up on your map, turn-ins are just a little dot. The default setting has very slow quest text drawing, but that can be turned off in settings.

Cons:

  • Classic models are blocky and bend weird, like an N64 game rezzed up. You can enable "retail" models, but they looked really out of place in old terrain and buildings.
  • Competition for bosses and some quest mobs can be extremely heavy, and it might be better to skip some quests than try queueing for it; I'm not exaggerating, some bosses there's literal lines of a dozen 5-person groups waiting for a chance to hit a boss.
  • Run speed is abysmally slow, the world is huge and often vast empty spaces. You don't get riding until Level 40, and it takes 100 gold, which you likely won't have. Every 5 minutes I get to hit a Run Faster for 15 Seconds button on my Rogue, and it just reminds me how annoying normal speed is.
  • Don't think you can just use Wind Riders, either. There's a single one in the starting zone, in Orgrimmar; Sen'jin Village and Razor Hill don't have one. There's three in Barrens, but it's a long ways to pick them up. The zeppelins and ships have limited routes, Undercity to Orgrimmar, Orgrimmar to Grom'Gol, Ratchet to Booty Bay. Note no Thunder Bluff zeppelin. Walking to Mulgore and up is a long long hike.
  • Guilds don't have banks or perks. They're just chat rooms. And since mail takes an HOUR to deliver, doing trades requires meeting in person or long waits.
  • Alliance is still terrible, by all accounts; I haven't bothered to make a char there but if you were bothered by fantasy Nazis in 2004, wait until it's real Nazis in 2019.

Unclear:

  • Everything is exhaustively documented on Thotbot, er, WowHead Classic. means no surprises, but also the wiki is correct.
  • Many players are dedicated to recreating just how stupid Barrens chat was in 2004. Briefly funny, hopefully dies down a bit in the real launch?

If you're at all interested, it's worth getting a 1-month subscription, installing and playing this stress test, and see if you like anything.

Expanse Plot Holes

I forgot about these when writing What I'm Watching: Expanse S3, but these annoyed me to no end:

During high-G maneuvers, Prax's suit hose gets cut, and he immediately can't breathe. Amos unplugs his suit and gets up, spends 2 minutes crawling over to him and plugging it back in. Why can't Prax's suit hold 2 minutes of air? Also Amos is apparently such a badass he can hold his weight at maybe 3-10G by the fingertips. Don't arm-wrestle that dude.

Just before they rescue the kids, a scene establishes that Bobbie Draper's power armor is just about out of thruster fuel, and Holden says they have no hydrazine, they ironically don't need rocket fuel. Bobbie then spends the next 30 minutes flying up shafts and across vast expanses of open Ionian sky.

So, where'd the fuel come from? First, even an advanced Martian fusion torch spaceship probably would have hydrazine or some equivalent for maneuvering thrusters, and all the spacesuits have thrusters with kind of ridiculous amounts of thrust and range. Second, it's easy to make hydrazine with common chemicals, it's the easy part of rocket science (also drug manufacture). But there's no scene of them refueling Bobbie's armor.

Wednesday '80s Metal Music

One album a year (a couple of these are more hard rock, but I steered it away from hair metal mostly):

I started off today with Sound System, by The Clash, but quickly dumped it. Aside from their top 40 hits, they all sound the same and their lack of singing talent and failure to discover anything past three chords on the guitar, really gets on my nerves. They're like the worst caricature of "punk" you'd do as a joke, but carried on for a decade and roughly 500 "best of" albums. You can't listen to any '80s playlist without 25% of the songs being Clash, 25% being teeny little Prince (or whatever he called himself as he crawled further up his tiny butthole), neither of whom I want to hear more than one track a day from ever. And I suppose my Anglophobia doesn't help; English wankers preening about English mob politics. I ain't even mad right now, or this rant would go on longer.

Journey

Lovely game, and if you get a good companion one of the most friendly gaming experiences you'll ever have. This was pretty much the reason to get a PS3, now a lot more accessible.

Hm. When it was released in 2012, the fact that it's cooperative multiplayer was actually a secret; you had to discover this, and often led to people abandoning their "NPC" who then had a rougher game. So I'm not going to spoiler-hide that. Find your friend and help each other.

I've replayed it several times now, sometimes being a better guide to a companion, sometimes just wandering around and exploring every nook and cranny. I think I have all the 'cheevs on PS3, or very close. It's unfortunate that it's such a short game, 8 zones and done.

Their prior games, Flower and Flow are also lovely, but much less engaging. I haven't started Sky yet, I may wait for the Mac version.

What I'm Watching: The Expanse S3

So, I read these when they came out, some years ago. They ("James S.A. Corey" is a pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck; I don't know why they didn't just use both their names) wrote a good hard SF STL setting, then there's an unfortunate "space zombies" episode, and then they kind of blow that up for a more traditional space opera thing.

The first season was great, but took a lot from the 1st & 2nd books; the second season was the rest of the first two books. Minor improvement in not having space zombies, but so much of the books are skipped for more standing around talking time.

So finally S3 is free with 'Zon Prime. Well.

The space battles and gunfights are generally very good, when you can see them; about half the time you can't see anything happen except on a tactical scanner, which is "realistic" in that there's no camera handy, but dull storytelling. The "Prax tries to rescue his daughter, but he's a botanist which isn't very useful" story works well.

Unfortunately, this is a politics-heavy season, and Earth politics are incredibly dull and preachy, and have maybe the most annoying character ever introduced since Jar-Jar Binks, Preacher Anna Volovodov (also, shitty translation, it should be Volovodova), blonde bimbo savior. Every scene she's in is a Boomer ex-hippie preaching about love and peace and ideals, or how scared everyone is but it's OK because "god" is with them. Ugh. She contributes nothing, has no real useful skills (supposedly she's a nurse but in the two times that matters, she doesn't do anything but "comfort" people; no medical skills exhibited) but fills about 30% of the screen time of the season. All her Earth scenes are created for the show, they have nothing to do with the books.

Once the politics are resolved, maybe we'll get rid of Preacher Anna? No, she shows up at the Big Dumb Object for no reason (which is where she comes in in the books), and preaches about how "There are things in the Universe much bigger than we are", but none of them are her god, so it's utterly pointless. The military characters try to ship her off with the other civilians, and she finds a way to stay just to annoy me.

I'm impressed that there's two full-on mutinies and lunatic captains shooting their own people rather than the "enemy". In real navies you don't get that kind of action too often, because nobody that insane is ever given control of a multi-billion-dollar vessel. Actual military people at upper ranks tend to be selected for calmness and sucking up to hierarchy, any rebellion is beaten out of them when they're cadets, but here we get a traitor and an actual space pirate deciding who walks the plank.

Bobby Draper is still very cute, and keeps showing what dicks the Martians are. Earth people are assholes with no redeeming traits, Belters are piratical but generally fun, but the Martians are like the Mitchell & Webb Nazi sketch, but none of them realize they're the baddies.

Finally a dumbass Belter, a girl hopped up on drugs screaming for "vengeance", two annoying paparazzi, James "What the Fuck Have You Done Now" Holden, and a hallucination of Joe Miller's Stupid Hat turn on the Big Dumb Object and go have the magic space opera part of this season. Most of this doesn't make a whole lot of sense, physics-wise or in Human psychology. But it turns on the Plot Device so they can go explore 1300 star systems next season.

★★★☆☆ but I fast-forwarded over a lot of Preacher Anna's preachin', I'd probably give it ★☆☆☆☆ if I had to sit thru all of it.

New Twitter UI

Speaking of social fucking media. The new Twitter UI is ridiculous. It's now impossible to have a bookmark to your "Latest Tweets" view or set a preference to only see that instead of "the algorithm" picking shit for you, have to manually click a star icon which has no mouseover text, title, or hints, I want you to see the source for this button (turn away if you're squeamish):

<div class="css-1dbjc4n r-1awozwy r-18u37iz r-1h3ijdo r-1777fci r-1jgb5lz r-sb58tz r-utggzx r-13qz1uu">
<div class="css-1dbjc4n r-16y2uox r-1wbh5a2 r-1pi2tsx r-1777fci">
<div class="css-1dbjc4n r-1habvwh">
<h2 aria-level="2" dir="auto" role="heading" class="css-4rbku5 css-901oao css-bfa6kz r-1fmj7o5 r-1qd0xha r-1b6yd1w r-1vr29t4 r-ad9z0x r-bcqeeo r-qvutc0">
<span class="css-901oao css-16my406 r-1qd0xha r-ad9z0x r-bcqeeo r-qvutc0">
Latest Tweets</span>
</h2>
</div>
</div>
<div class="css-1dbjc4n r-obd0qt r-1pz39u2 r-1777fci r-1joea0r r-1vsu8ta r-18qmn74">
<div aria-label="Top Tweets off" role="button" data-focusable="true" tabindex="0" class="css-18t94o4 css-1dbjc4n r-1niwhzg r-42olwf r-sdzlij r-1phboty r-rs99b7 r-1w2pmg r-1vuscfd r-53xb7h r-mk0yit r-o7ynqc r-6416eg r-lrvibr" style="margin-right: calc(5px + ((-1 * (41px - 1.5em)) / 2));">
<div dir="auto" class="css-901oao r-1awozwy r-13gxpu9 r-6koalj r-18u37iz r-16y2uox r-1qd0xha r-a023e6 r-vw2c0b r-1777fci r-eljoum r-dnmrzs r-bcqeeo r-q4m81j r-qvutc0">
<svg viewBox="0 0 24 24" class="r-13gxpu9 r-4qtqp9 r-yyyyoo r-1q142lx r-50lct3 r-dnmrzs r-bnwqim r-1plcrui r-lrvibr">
<g>
<path d="M22.772 10.506l-5.618-2.192-2.16-6.5c-.102-.307-.39-.514-.712-.514s-.61.207-.712.513l-2.16 6.5-5.62 2.192c-.287.112-.477.39-.477.7s.19.585.478.698l5.62 2.192 2.16 6.5c.102.306.39.513.712.513s.61-.207.712-.513l2.16-6.5 5.62-2.192c.287-.112.477-.39.477-.7s-.19-.585-.478-.697zm-6.49 2.32c-.208.08-.37.25-.44.46l-1.56 4.695-1.56-4.693c-.07-.21-.23-.38-.438-.462l-4.155-1.62 4.154-1.622c.208-.08.37-.25.44-.462l1.56-4.693 1.56 4.694c.07.212.23.382.438.463l4.155 1.62-4.155 1.622zM6.663 3.812h-1.88V2.05c0-.414-.337-.75-.75-.75s-.75.336-.75.75v1.762H1.5c-.414 0-.75.336-.75.75s.336.75.75.75h1.782v1.762c0 .414.336.75.75.75s.75-.336.75-.75V5.312h1.88c.415 0 .75-.336.75-.75s-.335-.75-.75-.75zm2.535 15.622h-1.1v-1.016c0-.414-.335-.75-.75-.75s-.75.336-.75.75v1.016H5.57c-.414 0-.75.336-.75.75s.336.75.75.75H6.6v1.016c0 .414.335.75.75.75s.75-.336.75-.75v-1.016h1.098c.414 0 .75-.336.75-.75s-.336-.75-.75-.75z">
</path>
</g>
</svg>
<span class="css-901oao css-16my406 css-bfa6kz r-1qd0xha r-ad9z0x r-bcqeeo r-qvutc0">
</span>
</div>
</div>
</div>
</div>

Are you fucking kidding me.

They removed the ability to set your own profile's background color & image some time ago, back in the day everyone's Twitter pages (if they knew what they were doing) looked unique and like a home page, but now it's entirely gone. There's a little swatch of image behind your profile photo, but nobody'll ever see it.

Conversations are even harder to read, but the site's been just broken for conversations for years. Kara Swisher's interview/monstering of Jack proved that.

I'm sure there's more to hate.

Come over to Fediverse, if you actually want a quieter place to have a few conversations, and a relentlessly non-algorithmic timeline; Mastodon's more baseline what-Twitter-was-like for good and bad, Pleroma's a better server and client but often smaller, isolated instances (porn and weirdos, yay!). Don't be a gigantic flaming asshole there and it'll be fine; well, and Gab is sorta federated except everyone blocks them, so even flaming assholes have a home.

What I'm Watching: The Boys

So, The Boys comic by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson is my 3rd favorite comic of all time (right behind Transmetropolitan and The Invisibles ). It carries on in Garth's inimitable tradition of showing how rotten everything is from The Pro.

A band of CIA-funded wankers based in the scenic Flatiron building, led by appropriately-named psychopath Billy Butcher, recruits conspiracy freak and recently bereaved Simon Pegg, er, "Wee Hughie", an organized freak NCO Mother's Milk, and two insane killers, The Frenchman and The Female. They power Hughie up like they are, and go fuck up superheroes who deserve it.

Wee Hughie knows nothing about superheroes or comics, so he goes on a Heart of Darkness style voyage of discovery into deep dark shit. The comics are heavily about the nature of comics and the superheroes they "report" on; they're from an age when superhero movies were pretty crap and nobody cared. Stan Lee is The Legend, now a useless old man in a comics shop basement, but he knows shit. Vought-American is very clearly doing the same Nazi-science-for-America thing we did with rockets, but there's supes all over the world, and everyone (well, anyone in "the industry") knows how they're made. And the supes are all insane with power, as they would be. The Seven live in a flying citadel full of awesome tech and everyone's flunkies and whores, because of course they do.

The Boys comics cured me of superheroes as a serious genre, and they can cure you, too. I can enjoy one for a laugh now, like Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy, but any serious preaching and I wonder who they're literally fucking to death. I know how they got that way.

But now we're in a more vapid, useless age, full of shitty superhero movies worth literally billions of dollars, comics conventions bigger than religious revivals, fucking jocks pretending they're superhero fans instead of nerds, bobbleheads, and social media. Especially social fucking media.

The Boys on Amazon Prime reflects this shittiest of all Human eras, the final death throes of the Anthropocene. It's not even terrible, just all the mediocrity of this decade shat into streaming.

So here, the Boys are vigilantes on the run; this reduces the number of sets enormously to just a few shitty warehouses and abandoned diners, no need for on-the-street shots of New York City, they can use shitty parts of Toronto instead, and boy do they. The Seven get an even worse downgrade, being in a mid-size skyscraper in a CGI "matte painting" (nobody paints them anymore) background, with only the Seven's conference room, one corridor, and a bathroom; we never see their lounges and bedrooms full of sluts, or the hangar for the plane Black Noir can't fly. Doesn't matter, you can't see anything because the cameras are permanently tinted dark orange/dark cyan. For shots with chipper superheroine Starlight, they go back to bright colors, because that's real subtle filmmaking.

Wee Hughie instead becomes a 6' tall Billy Joel-listening douchebag "l33t haxxor"/mom-and-pop electronics store guy (most implausible background of anyone: There are no mom-and-pop electronics stores anymore), who's madly into superheroes, especially A-Train. I think the vapid video producers thought this would provide "pathos", but it's just stupid. Lives at home with his Dad (actual Simon Pegg), not in the shittiest transient hotel in New York like Wee Hughie does. Does not rescue a gerbil. I suppose Richard Gere is tired of that story, but I never will be.

Billy Butcher is just a confused loser here. And short. No dog. Doesn't fuck. A couple references to Guinness and tea from other people, but he never brings it up. He's useless. I didn't like Karl Urban as Judge Dredd, either, he was more like Judge Mediocre Honky Cop on a Talking Dirt Bike in Generic Skyscraper "The Raid" Rip-Off, but that title was too long for them; in any case here he shows the same lack of menace, talent, or ability to enunciate; he mostly stands around while actors read their lines. Decent beard and trenchcoat; he's the only one who gets a trenchcoat in the show.

Mother's Milk gets some of the NCO personality, but he doesn't have his namesake's background, no powers, and still has a wife and a tiny daughter, not a junkie ex-wife and a teenage skank daughter; the point in the comic was he has all his shit together for everyone else, but his life's a disaster. No, here he's just good and professional. Whitewashed.

The Frenchman is… he's fine. Not quite enough insanity about France, but he's a violent, passionate lunatic anyway, and close enough that I won't complain.

The Female looks and works great, and the actress does a good job with the "behave like a mad dog" role, but in the comics she's independent, she's perfectly capable of taking jobs on her own and will if they don't have a supe for her to kill.

The supes are a mixed bag. Homelander came out OK; he has more of a plan this time, he's less overtly rapey, but on a scale of 1 to Genocidal Superman, he's pretty far up there.

Black Noir is more useful and less creepy silent stalker than the original; I doubt his backstory's been left intact. But he does nothing; I actually forgot he was there when I started writing this, "wait that's six, where's… OH!"

Starlight's great, she's as perky and stupid as possible, and seems like a decent girl-next-door in her sorta romantic scenes.

A-Train's great, an A-grade asshole murderer with no conscience; but he has a "reason" for being that out of control, which somewhat dampens it.

The Deep is changed from a probably-crazy black man in a diving helmet who can fly, to a white hormonally-bitchy rapist low-rent low-IQ Aquaman who can actually talk to fish (uh, including dolphins and lobsters… so he has general telepathy, he's just insane and only uses it with aquatic creatures?). He's useless and offensive to rapists, and they half write him off the team by the end. Every scene with him in it could be deleted and this would be a marginally less shit show.

Jack from Jupiter is replaced with "Translucent" the naked invisible man with diamond skin; it's such a stupid name that even the show tells him how stupid a name partially-transparent is for invisibility. I loathed Jack, so this is a good change, but then they just use it to have characters talk to empty air and an occasionally CGI shot of him fading in and out.

Queen Maeve gets hosed. From being the queen bitch of the Seven's station, with a harem of naked men, who literally cares about nothing except her next drink or fuck but can kill anything short of Homelander, to a mopey bi woman doing Xena cosplay, in therapy and AA, who's just kinda strong and tough. Just appalling writing, losing the whole point: What does absolute power do to someone that damaged?

James Stillwell ("The Man from Vought American") is replaced with Madelyn Stillwell (played by Elisabeth Shue, "Replacement Jennifer" from Back to the Future II-III; she's never the original). James is a cold, stoic, perfectly rational machine for optimizing profits and killing anything that gets in the way, the one mere Human the Homelander is wary of. Madelyn is a mommy-figure for sad broken little Homelander (and by extension all the Millennials who made incest porn so popular), and a doormat for Starlight (though if she wasn't a doormat, Starlight would have to act like she could plan and be sneaky… which she can't). Her arc is terrible, she's stupid and fallible, the writers are idiots. She's a goddamned catastrophe.

All the secondary stuff falls down bad. Popclaw goes from an active party girl (girl, maybe 18-20) to a middle-aged sad has-been kicked out of a team. She does have one of the more spectacular kills, but her story is garbage. A fat Doogie Hauser wanker not from the comics is introduced to provide exposition that shouldn't be provided. Tek-Knight is mentioned but never seen. The mad scientist just has a cinderblock room, probably filmed in Jeff Bezos' basement sex dungeon, not a silo and a nuke.

No other teams are seen or really mentioned; that ecosystem of D-grade teams feeding C-grade teams feeding B-grade teams feeding The Seven isn't touched on at all, when that's the pyramid scam behind the entire setting. In the show there's just a few villains planning everything, not an entire industry of scumbags using superpowers.

The Jesus freak event is sad, a tent show which cost them nothing to make and it shows. I can't imagine these cheap Amazon assholes making Herogasm, the annual party for supes, look good.

The politics show up and then vanish. In the comics, there's a pro-supes VP "Vic the Veep", like Ahnold Shwazzanagga crossed with Rain Main crossed with George W. Bush, with less IQ than any of them, and he's involved. Here, there's a governor and a senator seen at various times, we're told but not shown anything about a vote on military supes. Cheap and lazy and bad writing.

★½☆☆☆

I'm beyond disappointed. I had a real hard-on for this, but now I'm utterly flaccid. Occasional moments of characters doing something interesting interrupt an endless orange/cyan fog of nothing.

Shows have improved between seasons, superheroes especially. Sony's Powers (another good "superheroes are dicks" comic) adaptation on Playstation+ was unbelievably terrible in S1, decent in S2; Sharlto Copley as Diamond was ludicrous, but they wrote a good plot for him. Amazon's The Tick in S1 was the most depressed, mopey, unheroic, unfunny thing I have ever seen; S2 was less bad, though still inferior to the comics, the cartoon, or the first live-action series.

But for now, please go read the comics instead. They're fantastic.