Running Commentary 1/8/2024
11 min read

Running Commentary 1/8/2024

The Flash (2023), Stackpole's Rogue Squadron books, Warframe (Gargoyle's Cry and Qorvex), Fischer's Turaco


Well, it's a new year, which means it's the season for improvements. I have some improvements to make to The Edwards Edition that you should be seeing in the coming weeks.



Still from

The Flash (2023 Film)

For some sort of money-making reason, many DCEU movies are currently on Amazon Prime Video in addition to their usual place on HBO Max. This led to some family wanting to watch The Flash over the holidays. The Flash was the third or fourth nail in the DCEU's coffin, an underperforming entry in a franchise that has somehow both already been cancelled and is still being made; there's another DCEU movie in theaters right now. Anyway, I had not heard good things about the movie, but I like superhero stuff more than most critics, so I thought I'd give it a shot. It's...not great. The critics were right to dislike this one.

I will say that, despite several other superheroes making appearances here, this says a Flash movie. Barry Allen's choices and actions drive the whole plot, and the action scenes feature the Flash's powers well and are suitably fun and cartoony, especially an early scene where he has to rescue a crowd of babies falling from a collapsing tower. But, boy, I was confused what I was looking at for much of this film. Why was that tower collapsing? Batman says something about someone trying to steal smallpox or something, but why would that open a massive sinkhole? Was that the thief's power? Is there a Sinkhole Man? Flash seems to think it's Batman's fault, though I'm not sure why. Maybe Affleck's late-stage Batman had secretly dug Batcaves under all of Gotham, for his convenience, and now the city's collapsing. I really don't know. It's also not quite clear what's going on when Flash runs outside of time, or whatever.

Actually, speaking of that: it's not really The Flash's fault that the sort of timeline-hopping stuff that Flash has been doing for decades is now the in thing in superhero/sci-fi media, but it is true that this is not the only story like this to come out last year, and this is not the best one. Loki not only was better thought out and presented, it also had a great cast, where The Flash has Ezra Miller being deliberately irritating, and then Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons, and Michael Shannon collecting one last paycheck from the shop that's closing down. Their heart isn't in it. Michael Keaton puts a bit of heart into his reprisal of Batman, but he doesn't get a whole lot to do besides chauffer the Flashes to the climax, which is, for a while, a somehow more drawn out and vacuous version of Man of Steel's third act, then turns into a cameo-and-sparkle-fest, then, finally, becomes an actually touching and effective scene of Barry saying goodbye to his mother. That scene, and the earlier scenes involving Barry's family, are all, improbably, effective drama in the middle of an otherwise slapstick and metareferential film.

I didn't hate watching The Flash, but I'm glad that DC superheroes won't be stuck in their current cinematic form for much longer. The DCEU has consistently been the brand of movies that are less than hte sum of their parts. The Flash is as clear a case of that as you could hope for, a compelling human story lost in a heap of incomprehensible crap. 4/10


Covers of Essential Legends Collection re-releases

Stackpole's Rogue Squadron books

The X-Wing series was one of the first true multi-media projects in Star Wars, comprising books, video games, and a comic line. The root of it was the novel Rogue Squadron by Michael A. Stackpole. That book got three sequels: Wedge's Gamble,The Krytos Trap, and The Bacta War, before the X-Wing books got handed over to a new author and a largely new cast of characters with Aaron Allston's Wraith Squadron. I've just gotten done reading those first four X-Wing books, and while I don't feel up to giving them a full review (There's already a Darth Bane Trilogy review I need to type up forthcoming here at EE) I do want to say a few things about them.

While I'd never read these books before now, I've read around them quite a bit. Later Star Wars books like the Legacy of the Force series or the Hand of Thrawn duology made a lot of use of characters first introduced in these books, and it was interesting to finally see them get their starts here. The books do a good job of laying out these characters, their motivations and natures, which is a feat given how many Rogues are featured. Wedge Antilles and Corran Horn are the main ones, but there are about a dozen other pilots, all of whom are distinct presences on the page. Sometimes they aren't the most creative characters, but they're memorable.

The one character I really didn't care for was, sadly, the main villain. Ysane Isard is a bit of a one-note Imperial villain; she's very cruel, she's overconfident, and she's personally ambitious to the detriment of her cause. She works as an antagonist, in that she presents a serious challenge to our heroes, but she's a very flat character, and the scenes she's featured in aren't very engaging. I can't help but compare her to Imperial Intelligence officials who've come later in Catalyst, Thrawn, and Andor. Compared to them, she doesn't seem very intelligent. Like, initially she seems pretty clever. The Krytos virus plot should have worked, except she fails to follow through with nailing down the bacta supply, instead getting into a personal conflict with Wedge Antilles and getting baited into losing her fleet. A lot of the plot of the series falls apart in The Bacta War, when Isard just runs out of plan.

Still, Stackpole put together a solid series, and I can see why these books were chosen for re-release in the Essential Legends Collection, and why there was movement toward a Rogue Squadron movie (which would be in theaters now if Patty Jenkins and Lucasfilm hadn't had a falling out). The starfighter battles, usually very visual spectacles, are brought quite effectively to the page, in a way that keeps them existing without getting too bogged down in details or being so vaguely described as to be incomprehensible. I think the Alphabet Squadron trilogy are by far the better books, but X-Wing were more fun reading. I'll have to get to Allston's Wraith Squadron books and Stackpole's Corran Horn follow-up I, Jedi some other time; but for now, count me a fan of these four.


Gargoyle's Cry
Art from


Just after I published my thoughts on "Whispers in the Walls" update, DE started up yet another farm-a-thon event: Operation: Gargoyle's Cry. This event is pretty simple: play the new boss fight, and every time you win, you get a token that you can spend on operation rewards, which, like Scarlet Spear, include Eidolon-hunt arcanes. That'll get people farming.

Actually, let's do some math. The good arcanes (namely Energize and Grace) each cost 12 tokens, and you need 21 for a full set, so if you don't have any to start, you'll need to kill the boss 252 times to get a full set, which is a lot. The new boss fight is a good time, but I don't know if it's a good two-hundred-some times. So I just played Assassination bounties to rank up with the Cavia and didn't worry too much beyond that. The event ends on the 15th; I've already gotten the cosmetics I'm interested in and I'll probably spend what I accumulate on Energizes as an investment (with Loid's Arcane shop, Energize probably won't ever reach the prices it once did, but it'll go back up once the event is over.)

On to Qorvex (who I called "Qorvis" a bunch last time, since I had him confused with a raven, I guess.) He's not great, though he's not terrible, either. He looks really cool, to be sure, and his theming is very good; he very much looks and feels like a walking nuclear reactor. But he does not perform well at high-level combat. I leveled him up doing mostly Fragmented assassinations for the event, and he didn't fail at that, but on Steel Path or other endgame missions, he just doesn't work well.

His passive was changed from when he was first introduced on a DevStream; instead of dealing rad procs with his weapons, he gives them inherent punch-trough. This is not only a cleverer thematic fit (electromagnetic and neutron radiation can go through people and most walls in real-life), but also more broadly useful. It also keeps his 1 and 2 more relevant, his 1 especially, though that's not a great power.

His 1 puts down a stationary pillar that kicks out radiation procs and a nominal amount of damage in pulses. Rad procs will confuse enemies, making them attack each other and, more usefully, stop attacking you or defense objectives as much, so this ability isn't worthless. But again, the damage dealt is nominal; it won't kill anything by itself. Hitting the column with either his 2 or his 4 will make it pulse quicker, but next-to-no damage coming quicker isn't really worth much.

His 3 is also weirdly under-useful. It protects him and his squad mates from status effects, which is fine. But it's tied to a complex system of getting a limited number of status cleanses on cast, then getting more as you kill enemies affected with rad procs. And it doesn't prevent incoming damage, just the procs that would be inflicted.

His 2 and 4 are better. Built for power strength and range, they'll take care of mobs, especially down hallways. His 2 will group enemies into a straight line in front of him, and his 4 will cause a chain reaction of rad damage to a crowd. His 4 is a beam but holding it on to an enemy won't continue to damage them; instead, you'll want to tag as many enemies as you can with your reticle, like when you're casting Ash's 4. Using his 2 to group enemies makes his 4 easier to use. These abilities can clear most of a crowd, but elite and eximus enemies will still be standing, and none of Qorvex's abilities will do much of anything to them, really, besides confuse their attacks. He can't kill them outright, he can't make his weapons more effective, and he can't protect himself from direct damage or to heal himself.

On lower-level content, Qorvex is fun to play. I'm certainly more of a fan of him than of, say, Caliban or Gyre, similarly late-game frames that really don't differentiate themselves from the pack. I don't think he needs big changes, but he needs to be buffed, in damage output and ideally in direct survivability as well, before he's ready for the game's more serious levels. Until then, I'll be re-equipping Kullervo.

Bird of the Week

As is tradition for Christmas, I drew a green-and-red tropical bird. Now, as I mentioned last year, "green" and "blue" birds generally aren't truly green and blue; they are yellow or gray, and the structures of their feathers cause blue light to be scattered, making them appear blue (or green) in the way the truly colorless sky appears blue. In this sense, there are no truly blue birds. There are, however, some truly green birds: the turacos.

The birds of the turaco family are found only in Africa; while Africa has many birds, few of them are so unique to the continent. There are eighteen species of turacos, with the family also including a genus of plantain-eaters and "go-away" birds, which are less vibrantly colored and less shy but otherwise the same sort of thing. They are tree-dwellers, living in forests as well as on savannahs, depending on the species. The family name, Musophagidae, means "banana-eaters",1 and all species primarily eat fruit (though not primarily bananas).

The turaco I've drawn is the Fischer's Turaco. This is, to my eye, the most beautiful of the turacos, and among the most Christmasy-looking. It lives along the coast of East Africa, from southern Somalia through the seaside of Kenya to the island of Zanzibar, where a separate subspecies lives. They are not very numerous; there are only a few thousand, though this scarceness is more a function of their limited range than a sign of eminent extinction.2

The turacos have long been a special point of interest for ornithologists, due to their feathers. There are two unique pigments produced in turaco feathers: the magenta turacin and the bright green turacoverdin, both copper-based porphyrin compounds. Turacoverdin is the only green pigment found in birds, in the green turacos and also, it's been found, in the green wings of certain wetland birds. It is understood that turacos must accumulated copper from their fruit-rich diets; the turacos and related birds found in open country aren't the same green-and-red colors.3,4 The bright red wing feathers of turacos have long been popular as decorations in human garb. To this day, the king of the Swazis (currently Mswati III) wears a crown of turaco feathers.5,6

The Fischer's turaco is known to science simply as "Touraco fischerii". The name "turaco" comes from the local name of the green, or Guinea, turaco. This species is named in honor of Gustav Adolf Fischer, a German physician and explorer who charted parts of the African Great Lakes region and who collected birds along the coast of East Africa.1,7

  1. Jobling, J. A. (editor). The Key to Scientific Names in Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman et al. editors), Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Ithaca.
  2. BirdLife International. “IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Tauraco Fischeri.” IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, October 4, 2021.
  3. Moreau, R. E. “Some Aspects of the Musophagidae.” Ibis 100, no. 2 (April 1, 1958): 238–70.
  4. Dyck, Jan. “Reflectance Spectra of Plumage Areas Colored by Green Feather Pigments.” The Auk 109, no. 2 (April 1, 1992): 293–301.
  5. Unwin, Mike. Around the World in 80 Birds. Hachette UK, 2022.
  6. BBC News. (2018, April 19). Swaziland king renames country “the Kingdom of eSwatini.” BBC News.
  7. Reichenow, Anton. “Zur Erinnerung an Gustav Adolf Fischer.” Journal of Ornithology 34, no. 4 (October 1, 1886): 613–22.

2023 was the year that AI and pickleball came for humanity | Dave Barry, The Miami Herald (via AOL)

Humorist Dave Barry takes a month-by-month look back at 2023’s biggest stories.

2023 Photomicrography Competition | Nikon Small World

One last photo award from 2023. I might be said to have saved the least for last, given the subject matter, but these photos are perhaps the most interesting as they provide views otherwise denied to the naked eye.

The Snowflake Man of Vermont | Keith C. Hierdorn, The Public Domain Review

Profile of Wilson Alwyn Bentley, a Yankee farmer who used a home-built camera to capture some of the first decent images of snowflakes, finding the now well-known phenomenon that no two were alike. Pairs well with the photomicrography award-winners.

Down the Waterfall | Cécile Cristofari, Clarkesworld

[FICTION] "On nights when the time traveler’s body has knitted enough of itself back up, she remembers what it feels like to sleep like a human. She abandons herself to a sluggishness she knows will come without pain, tastes the relief of no longer watching out for lethal dangers hidden in every thought. She dreams, and she forgets."

See the full archive of curations on Notion