03 July 2015

FWS Comic Review: SHRAPNEL Volume: I and II (Radical Comics)

When Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising originally published back in 2009 by Radical Comics, it was believed to be the beginning of an military sci-fi franchise that would include a trilogy of comic series, movies, and video games. The concept was developed by Zombie Studios head Mark Long along with Nick Sagan and written by Zachary Sherman. The original five issue limited series was quickly praised and given all kinds of positive reviews and healthy sales. So much so, that Radical ordered a three part sequel in 2011 and rights were secured for adaptation in other media, including a major movie deal. While Shrapnel is often touted as one of the best military science fiction comics, is it really that good? In this comic book review, FWS will be looking at Volume I and Volume II of the Shrapnel comics and answering that very question along with what happened to the film and video game based on the world of Shrapnel.

The Plot of Volume One and Two of Shrapnel
It is the 23rd century, and humanity has spread out among the planets, moons, and asteroids of the solar system. As man is conquering space, man is also reordering their own DNA to improve themselves and better the species as a whole...but at a price. The ones that can afford genetic modifications for their children are at the top tier of Terran society, while the ones that cannot afford the modifications are left out in the cold. The Solar Alliance, based on Terra and lead by the genetically modified are using the strength of the Terran military to impose their type of society and government on the settled places in the Solar System. In 2250, an ex-Solar Alliance Marine by the name of Samantha Narayan, is living on Venus, and attempting to avoid the Terran government, but they coming knocking to control Venus. The 2nd rock from the sun is the last free colony in the Sol system, welcoming all under equal citizenship, and it has become a place of people seeking relief from the harsh social laws and rules of the Solar Alliance. When the Marines coming to Venus, Sam is forced back into an XO powered armor suit to defend her new home and lead the ragtag volunteers of the Venus milita.

The GOOD
Some say that all science fiction derivative, that there are no new ideas, and how the creator(s) mix the elements and their skills to reinvent these familiar themes and ideas, determines the results: either it is good cocktail or a hollow shell of limited imagination. Shrapnel is one of those works that does synthesize something more than its derivative original elements. In some ways, Shrapnel is a mixed cocktail of  Gattaca, Starship Troopers, the Classics, Joan of Arc, the French and American Revolutions, and Mark Long's own experience in the US Army. The basic universe of Shrapnel in the 23rd century is also a good setup for the war between Venus and Terra, and you can really believe that Shrapnel is the world that first began in Gattaca. It is also nice to see a military sci-fi future war scenario being set in our own solar system, with a realistic issue that could trigger wars on other worlds. Our core character of Shrapnel is ex-Marine Sam Narayan, another female soldier character in military sci-fi, and she is a well-done female character that does not descend into trope territory until later in the first volume and does transfer some of traits of the Gattaca character of Vincent into Sam Narayan. The design of the world of Shrapnel is well done and this includes the Marine XO armored powered suits, making for some iconic images.    

The BAD
I will discuss Volume One Aristeia Rising first, and follow up with Volume Two Hubris. The good elements I discussed above for Volume One become the bad elements as the comic goes deeper into the war between Venus and the Solar Alliance. Main character and ex-Marine Sam quickly becomes the savior of Venus and the only one who seems to have any military experience and her actions alone are the saving grace for the Venus government. This grows tiresome and overplayed. Then there is the writing. Some of it is fine, some of it is not. But, during the battle scenes, it is downright comically. The words written seems more like kids playing with toy soldiers and mimicking things they've heard in war films. with shouts of commands and directions. It just doesn't work here, nor does the art support the dialog, making for a disconnect. While these elements of Volume One are negative, Aristeia Rising is better as a whole than its 2011 sequel: Hubris. Volume Two is simply flawed on every level, and simply fails as a comic and sequel. The art, story, dialog are all lacking. It is filled with bad dialog, a weak uninteresting story, and a solar system road-trip trope. I was simply amazed that some of the same creative staff were involved with this mess as the first 2009 limited series. It really seems like the creative team ran out of creative gas when it came time for a sequel. The worse thing I can write about this comic series, is that  when you read Hubris, it makes want for something better. I wish Radical Comics had extended the first series with more issues to deepen the story, because it seems that is where the organic story of Sam and the attack on Venus should live and stay. I honestly do not think that Shrapnel needed a sequel. In some ways, Shrapnel: Hubris is The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or ALIEN: Resurrection of the Shrapnel comic world: it is something that simply should not existence and only born out of greed. It was a sequel that was not suppose to exist and it's poor concept is proof positive of it invalid nature.  

The UGLY
There can be no bigger crime committed against both volumes of the Shrapnel comics than the art. Plain and simple: the art, coloring, and the page layout cripples these comics (especially Volume One), preventing the comics from achieving the higher level that was desired by Radical and everyone else involved. Instead the art regates Volume One to an just "okay" comic with an interesting concept. While Aristeia Rising may have the stronger storyline and writing, it is plagued by this very dark, BLADE RUNNER-like inspirited art that lacks clarity and appears muted. The art and coloring is bad enough in more dialog-intensive scenes where the faces of our core characters are obscured by the shroud of darkness and blurry nearly watercolor profiles; it is even worse in the battle scenes. These exo-planet battles where the money-shot for the Shrapnel comics, paraded across the brilliant cover art in the original limited series, but in the actual pages of the comic, the art washes out any notion of intensity or grandeur, creating a darkly hued mess. This makes the first volume a painful and confusing to read and it also deeply betrays the much clearer concept art and the overall design of the world of Shrapnel. Another art team was hired for the second volume; Hubris, and while it is better than Volume One, it still is not good enough for what Radical Comics was hoping for. While everyone and everything is much more clear, and I can actually see the core characters faces, it still is lacking. However, Volume Two has greater problems than the art, as mentioned above.  

Should You Read Shrapnel?
I was certainly disappointed in both Volume One and Two of Shrapnel to say the least, and I honestly wished I had not the spent money on these comics. In the long term, I do not believe that I will reread the comics in the near future., causing them to be placed, along with Marvel Comics Universal War One in the "to sell" pile. I would advise that if the story sounds interesting, read Volume One Aristeia Rising and forget Hubris, but don't pay too much for Aristeia Rising. I am hoping that a long-awaited film adaptation of Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising makes better use of the concept of the Shrapnel universe than the half-baked comics.












The Shrapnel and Oblivion Connection
During the research phase of this blogpost, I ran across some other reviewers and websites charging Radical Comics with using Shrapnel has a vehicle to get a Hollywood deal, much as they did with Oblivion. Everyone knows that Oblivion is a 2013 sci-fi movie starring Mr. Tom Cruise, and some may know that it was some sort of graphic novel published by Radical Comics...but that is not what really happened. While there was a promised graphic novel for 2012 by Radical Comics, what was given away at the booth at the San Diego Comic-Con was a called an "pitch kit" by Oblivion creator Joseph Kosinski and was developed during the Writers' Strike of 2007.
What does this have to do with Shrapnel? These sites say that Radical Comics and Zombie Studios was attempting to do the same thing with Shrapnel, selling the idea of the comic via impressive concept art and action scenes to peak Hollywood's interest and help Radical Studios to create these films. This formula has worked several times in the past for Radical, and this makes me wonder about if Shrapnel was ever intended to be "a real comic" or the art-book/sales-brochure that the Oblivion "graphic novel" was? Is this why the comic book limited series sequel to Shrapnel Aristeia Rising sucked? 

Wasn't There Going to be an Shrapnel Movie and Video Game?!
In July of 2011, it was announced that  Hillary Swank was going to star as Captain Sam Narayan along with being one of the producers of a major live-action film adaptation of the Shrapnel comic. The film was yet another feather in the cap for Radical Studios...but what has happened since 2011? A whole lot of nothing. There is simply no news on the Shrapnel film, and could be dead in the water. Why? My only guess is that it could be due to the disappointing box-office performance of the big military sci-fi film Edge of Tomorrow/Live, Die, Repeat. The studio could have seen the blood on the wall and decided to wait for more favorable conditions. It is likely that the Shrapnel movie could never be made. Which is a shame. Shrapnel could be a great military sci-fi film and the adaptation itself could have solved some of the issues with the comic itself.
What about the video game promised by a stunning CGI trailer by Zombie Studios? The very genesis of the comic was by Zombie Studios head Mark Long, and it was natural that he would develop a video game around the comic...but what happened to it? Once again, nothing. The big console military sci-fi game promised by Zombie was never developed in any tangible way before Zombie Studios folded up shop in 2014. There is little on the game that would have been developed for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC. However, one Shrapnel game was developed and released: the Shrapnel game for the iPhone/iPad. This was 3rd person shooter game have the gamer take control of Sam in her XO APS that was a more simplistic vision of the dark world that Sam operates in. The interviews were positive, but once again, when Zombie folded, it dooming the game to stagnation. 

Next Time On FWS...
It is clear to all of us that lived through the wildfire that was Star Wars, that it altered the way movies and toys were made and what they made for. Like any game-changing event, there are some examples that ride the trend and profit from these events, and then there are examples like the LJN's 1984 DUNE toyline for that failed film. This failed toyline is one of the best-worst examples of how a toyline can be designed for a film that shouldn't have a toyline in the first place. Join FWS next time as we attempt to explore and explain the 1984 LJN DUNE toyline.

23 June 2015

FWS Ship of the Line: The Missile Cruiser


Technology seems to be the friend and foe of the naval warship, and often, advancements in technology alters the types of naval warship constructed by a government. While rockets have been used by military organizations since the Mongol Invasion of the 13th century, the more modern guided missile was one of those pieces of technology that forced the evolution the navies around the world. No more was naval weaponry dominated by larger bore cannons, the guided missile became the dominate ship-killer. This advancement in rockery allowed for more offensive and defensive power in the hands of smaller warships. But, this also meant that those larger warships with massive naval artillery cannons doomed, and became a thing of the past. Today, the missile is the primary weapon system of most global navies. Of course, the naval rail gun could alter that...In this installment of Ship of the Line, we will looking at the Missile Cruiser.

What is an Missile Cruiser?
Missile Cruisers are warships around 500 feet long and uses advanced early-warning systems to find and target incoming threats from the air, the surface of the water, or below it. As their name implies, the missile cruiser uses missiles of various types and roles to counter the threat. Also being a cruiser, allows for longer ranges. Most missile cruisers are actually called "guided missile cruisers", and these are the only type of cruisers constructed for modern navies. The old light, medium, battle, classifications of cruisers have been replaced, due to advancements in technology, and the guided missile cruiser continues the tradition. The Missile Cruiser is a dying breed with only a few still in service, due to the guided missile Destroyer.

Modern Naval Guided Missile Cruisers and Its Future
The missile cruiser is one of the most deadly surface warships modern navies have, and they are packed with technology to deliver their missiles on-target and to protect their battle-group. This protection of their battle-group involves locating possible threats from all fronts on the battlefield, gauging the threat level, and then strike the target(s) with accuracy at a distant. In some ways, the missile cruiser is the sniper of the seas, especially those equipped with the AEGIS Combat System. These ships are very expensive, costing over a billion dollars, but are more deadly than a World War II era battleship.
The modern guided missile cruiser are designed around being a grand protector of their group with weapons to counter threats of different types with all manner of weapon. This is not just limited to seaborne threats or even aerial threats. With guided missiles like the American Tomahawk, land targets up to 1500 miles away from the missile cruiser can be engaged, aiding friendly forces on-land. This was famously seen in First and Second Gulf Wars. The first Tomahawk guided missiles fired in the Gulf War of 1991 were fired from the USN San Jacinto (CG-56), an Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser. This speaks to tactical flexibility of the modern guided missile cruiser.
The future of the guided missile cruiser could be in jeopardy. Due to the changing face of naval warfare, budgetary limitations, and lack of clear enemy, we could see the end of the guided missile cruiser, and the role and duties of that class being rolled into the guided missile destroyer. This is true in many navies around the world, who have just guided missile destroyer in service, and it looks like the US Navy is following. The US Navy's new futuristic guided missile destroyer, the Zumwalt class will be the taking the place of the iconic Ticonderoga class as more Zumwalt class are constructed. This new class will also see another addition in armament, the EM naval railgun. All of these factors could mean the end of the last of the cruisers...well, until Starfleet is created, and it will builds nothing but cruisers.       

The Science Fiction Missile Cruiser
In the modern naval missile cruiser, one missile is sufficient to destroy most targets, and given the mission of the missile cruiser is to locate and engage targets well away from the naval taskforce, they are not armed with dozens of launchers or banks of rockets, like some World War II warships. With this role of the missile cruiser being the long-arm of the fleet, and as to have eyes to match. This is does not match in the realm of sci-fi, and while they fulfill some of the same role, they are much different.
The missile/torpedo cruiser of science fiction is not as surgical as the modern naval missile cruiser, and nor are missiles/torpedoes unique to a certain class of spacegoing warship. Take the majority of starships seen in Star Trek as an example. Nearly all of them use an directed-energy weapon and some sort of missile/torpedo system. This makes the role of the missile/torpedo cruiser somewhat different, especially, if the sci-fi universe has energy shielding.
The Star Trek Federation Akira class missile cruiser was designed to shower it target(s) with photon torpedoes, crushing the shields, and destroying the ship. The key ability of the Akira class was in the rapid-fire delivery of these missiles/torpedoes. While the standard Federation starship has one to three photon torpedo launcher, the Akira class has 15 launching tubes that puts down a heavy spread of torpedoes. This means that it can lay down more fire than an Galaxy and Sovereign classes or any other warship in the Star Trek universe. In other works, the missile cruiser is the long-range artillery of the fleet, designed to pound the enemy, but lacks the close ship-to-ship weaponry, relying other ships for protection.    

The Difference between Missiles and Torpedoes
In Space Battleship Yamato 2199 and in Star Trek, we see warship carrying both torpedoes AND missiles. Why would a spacegoing warship carry both of these similar weapon systems and what is the difference between the two? In modern naval warfare, missiles and torpedoes occupy important but separate roles in naval combat. Missiles are used for surface-to-surface and surface-to-air naval engagements, while torpedoes are used for underwater engagements. Some surface naval warship and aircraft use torpedoes to engage other surface warships or underwater targets. Torpedoes are not used to attack land targets like missiles, or airborne targets.
Of course, submarines use torpedoes in submarine-to-submarine engagements. Another difference is in propulsion. The Missile uses a rocket motor, while torpedo uses a propeller and supercavitation to move them through the water. In terms of their use in science fiction is mixed, often criminally mixed. Some works use the term torpedoes, like Star Trek, but there is no real difference between their spacegoing torpedo and a missile. This is another example of creators using naval combat as a basis for space combat. In realistic terms, no real space warship is just going to carry missiles and torpedoes. Maybe missiles, drones, kill vehicles, but not torpedoes.

The Weapons of the Missile Cruiser

Surface-to-Air Missiles
The primary function of most missiles on naval missile cruisers is to used their SAMs to engage incoming aerial threats, like bombers, fighters, and drones. This allows the missile cruiser to be the defender of the naval group, however, what makes the SAMs of the missile cruiser more effective is the AEGIS system onboard the American missile cruisers. The most common SAM in the USN is the RIM-66 Standard missile. This can be used against ships as well.

Surface-to-Surface Missiles
With naval warships being the offensive arm of any nation's military, it makes sense for them to be an platform for attacking land-based targets. Naval artillery via guns or missiles were used to soften up amphibious landing sites. With modern technology, missiles like the United States Tomahawk long-range, all-weather, subsonic cruise missile can engage land targets like specific buildings in a major metropolitan area, as seen in the first Gulf War.


Anti-Ship Missiles
It is used to be that naval warships pounded each other with massive long-range artillery cannons. After World War II, naval warship launch anti-ship missiles like the Harpoon and the infamous Exocet to knock out hostile warships. Unlike naval gunfire, the anti-ship missile can be one-hit effective, and can cripple a warship as was demonstrated in the Falkland War of 1982.  

Naval Artillery Guns
Despite the use of missiles, there still a place for naval artillery guns, and like many of the US Navy surface, the Mk. 45. This rapid fire naval cannon chambers 127mm shell and can fire them many kilometers out from the ship. Similar cannons are used on most modern surface warships. Not only are these cannons used for ship-to-ship engagements, but also amphibious landing support and even some limited anti-air defense. It is likely that railguns could replace the guns.
Close-In Defensive Weaponry
Unlike in sci-fi spaceship engagements, naval warships lack energy shielding. To protect themselves, most naval warships are equipped with the Close-In Weapon System. These Gatling style electric rotary guns spit out vast amounts of lead due to very high rate-of-fire (1,000+) and these rounds are normally tungsten or other hardened metals. The CIWS is normally fully computer-controller, but is not always a gun system. There is missile point-defense systems and even laser DEW CIWS as well.

Anti-Submarine Torpedoes
Since World War One, the submarine has been the hunter of surface warships, and to counter that, missile cruisers and other surface warships are armed with anti-submarine torpedoes. This allow some defense against roaming submarines, even if they do not hit the target. These torpedoes are launched via deck air-compression launchers, but anti-submarine drones armed with torpedoes are become more common, and could replace these deck launcher systems.



Examples of Modern Naval Missile Cruisers

The US Navy Ticonderoga class Missile Cruiser
This is likely the best missile cruiser class in the world, and the Ticonderoga class missile cruiser is also most likely the last missile cruiser to be built by the US Navy. While the Ticonderoga class does look like much on the surface, she is loaded to bear with all manner of weaponry and the technology to land those missiles on target with the AEGIS system. First launched in 1978, there are 27 of this class are in-service with the USN, and are the most expensive cruisers in the world at over one billion dollars. This class launches their missiles via vertical launchers on the deck, hiding the power of this warship. This class is tasked with protection duty of a carrier battle group, escort missions, and support of landing operations. This class was to be decommissioned, but budget issues prevented the replacement, allowing the Ticonderoga class to continue service. The very futuristic Zumwalt class destroyer will most likely replace the Ticonderoga class when there is enough of them.

The Russian Navy Slava class Missile Cruiser
One of the only other nations that has guided missile cruisers in service is the Russians with the Slava class. Much the USN Ticonderoga class, the Slava was designed for the Cold War, and while 10 were planned, only three were built before the collapse of the old USSR. However, unlike the more technologically advanced Ticonderoga class, the Slava has its launchers on the deck, and this makes the Slava "heavier" than the American guided missile cruiser. It is believed that the Slava class will be the last of the guided missile cruisers used by the Russian Navy.


The Hard Science Missile Cruiser
With the modern navies of the world slowly streamlining their surface warships, will there be a place for an missile cruiser class in our future? Maybe. I think do to the massive expense of a real-world space navies, there will a limit to warships, and most of them will be armed with everything needed on the cold battlefield of outer space. While I think there will be battleships and cruiser, it could stretching things to say that specific type of hard science ship will be constructed to fire a specific weapon system. It could be that hard science cruiser type warships could be armed with more missile systems and other KEWs to keep the heat generation lower than if the warship was armed with DEW. Cruisers could use more missiles and KE weapon systems to allow the smaller ship to take on larger threats if needed. Missiles could allow a smaller ship the firepower without the heat costs and the need for larger heat radiators. In larger engagements, these cruisers could fire all manner of missile types at the enemy that larger warships with DEW systems would not possess.

Science Fiction and the Missile Cruisers
When we examine the missile cruisers that appear in sci-fi, we can see that there are few examples that do not exist outside of a RPG wargame or video game. For the most part, only the Akira class from Star Trek and the alien Exterminator class from Space Cruiser Yamato are only two. Why? Most starships that appear on television, animation, or movies are normally going to be generalized warships or from a widely known classification of naval warship, like carrier or battlecruiser. These familiar classes carry a public precipitation that creators used to give this fictionalized warship an identity.
Also, there are few non-written works were a complete space fleet is featured and that the creators attempt to show a variant of warship classifications, hence Star Trek. The shame of it is that missile cruisers are one of the few surface warships classes being still built by countries, and it seems that sci-fi has not caught up. I am sure that some of the reason that works like Babylon 5, Space: Above and Beyond, and Andromeda did not include more warships is simply budgetary, and thus caused creators to be choosy about what types of starships are seen on-screen. All of this means that sci-fi missile cruisers are exceedingly rare and will remain that way.

Examples

The Andor class Missile Cruiser from Star Trek FASA RPG
For us Star Trek fans growing up in the 1980's, there was two Starfleets. The one we saw in films and the television, and the other one in created by FASA. The FASA Starfleet was filled with warships of all classifications that we never saw on-screen, and this Starfleet was more constructed around a hostile galaxy. Some of the more offensive-minded warship including this alien designed missile cruiser, the Andor and the Thufir class Destroyer.
According to the 1985 FASA profile, the Andor class was the creation of the Andorian race have their "blue fleet" within the ranks of Starfleet that forms the offensive arm of the FASA vision of Starfleet. This Blue Fleet squadrons uses the Andor class to attack targets at 160,000 kms with the impressive torpedo spread due to its 8 launchers. These Federation warships were so feared by the Klingons and the Romulans that they would run from the Andor class after a few exchanges. This class was buried in the sea of Federation starships in the FASA game, and I only knew of the Andor class due to owning the Federation Ship Recognition Manual, and I always thought it was an interesting idea wrapped up into a badly designed (ugly) starship. The ship was redesigned by fans of the old FASA combat game, but it pales in comparison to the 24th century Akira class badass missile cruiser. In the end, the Andor class is a relic of that other Starfleet presented in the FASA games.

The High Guard Righteous Fist of Heaven Stand-Off Attack Ship from Andromeda
In the television show Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, the High Guard was the military force of the Systems Commonwealth that fell hundreds after an invasion. One of the primary warships in the High Guard was the Righteous Fist of Heaven that served as an artillery vessel that stood off from the main engagement zone and bombarded the enemy with sixty electromagnetic launching tubes along with other missile launching systems, making this class a heavy hitter in space engagements. These vessels operated in packs of two, and could also be used against planetary targets as well. There is some controversy  about what the Righteous Fist of Heaven looks like, and since it was never seen in the series, this is the only image available.

The Akira class Missile Cruiser from the Star Trek Universe
The Akira is a straight up badass little ship. So badass is this Federation ship that they should have one called this class the Samuel L. Jackson, because it is one bad mother fucker. Unlike many of the Federation starships, the Akira class is designed for combat duty, and lacks what FWS reader Christopher Phoenix called "the bipolar" nature of most Federation starships. Due to the mostly combat role of the Akira class, Starfleet only has a limited number of these warship prior to outbreak of the Dominion War. In peacetime, Akira class starships are used for patrol, showing the flag, and escort duty.
This is one of those Federation ship classes that grew out of the Battle of Wolf 359 and was under development in the 2370's. This class was heavily used against the Borg, the Klingons, and the Dominion. Everything about the Akira class was developed around offensive power, and that theme is continued by the 40 Peregrine class attack fighters, allowing the Akira class to serve as a light carrier. The ship class was named for the landmark anime film of the same name and was designed by ILM artist Alex Jaeger for the First Contact film. Unlike other Trek ships, the Akira class was a CGI model, leading to continued debate on the size of this unique Federation starship. This vessel has become a fan favorite, and is one of my personal favorite Trek ships.

The Avalon class Missile Cruiser from the Battletech Universe
The massive McKenna Shipyards and Universal Air created a joint project, the Avalon class missile cruiser in 3061. Several Inner Sphere governments bought the Avalon class and rightly so, the Avalon class has 14 launchers for AR-10 missiles, along with over 1,000 tons of armor. This class can mount dropships and some aerospace fighters, rounding out the ship. Only a few were sold to the Word of Blake, Federation Commonwealth, and the Federation Suns...because the fucking thing costs 20 billion c-bills!

The White Comet Empire Exterminator class Space Attack Missile Cruiser
In the second series of Space Cruiser Yamato, the enemy is the dickbag White Comet Empire that filled the power vacuum left over from the fall of the Gamilon Empire. Instead of the blue-skinned Gamilons, the White Comet Empire aliens are green. This group of aliens wasn't fucking around and mounted a serious offensive space navy with tons of warships. On of the most commonly seen warships was the Exterminator class space attack missile cruiser. This 240 meter long missile cruiser was crewed by 90 and armed to the goddamn teeth with all manner of laser pulse cannons, missiles, and torpedo launchers.
The most iconic feature was the massive twin anti-matter missiles that dominates the forward section of the warship. The White Comet Empire constructed hundreds of these ships, and the Earth Defense Force combated many of these during the bloody battles over the Sol System. These were also the primary assault ship for the zealot General Radnar attack in 2201, which came only a few weeks after the devastating invasion of the main White Comet Empire assault. This class is one of the symbols of the White Comet Empire and a favorite among fans. It is unknown if the White Comet Empire will be in the next rebooted Yamato series, and if this class will return.

The Missile Ships of EVEonline
Missile ships are common among all of the races in the game, but the Caladari use the most missile ships in the game. Unlike other missile cruisers, the missile ships of EVEOnline are not a class onto themselves. The missiles of the game cannot miss their targets if the launching vessel is in range, and come in four warhead types with several missile classifications. The missiles used in ship-to-ship or ship-to-drone engagements appear to be firing in swarms, and hit the target vessel at various points. It would have been easier for this blog article if they just used missile cruisers.

The High Guard Siege Perilous class Stand-Off Attack Ship from Andromeda
Another missile ship of High Guard fleet that served the massive Systems Commonwealth is the Siege Perilous class stand-off attack ship. This class replaced the aging Righteous Fist of Heaven. This has been considered the most lethal ship-killer of its era, and fought against the Magog and the Nietzschean Uprising. Only four of the star-shaped warships were built before the fall of the Systems Commonwealth. The preferred tactic of this class was to emerge from Slipspace, and bombard its target with a massive storm of outgoing fire of kill-vehicles, missiles, torpedoes being fired from 180 EM launchers. 180. Fuck me. This ship could end a taskforce if properly targeted. This class was under consideration, and had not been formally named. When a Magog raiding party hit the colony of Brandenburg Tor, the testbed Siege Perilous was in the area and responded to the Magog attack. Sadly, despite the bravery of the crew, the ship and crew were lost. The High Guard named the entire class after that heroic ship and crew.

The EarthForce Sagittarius class Missile Cruiser from the B5 Universe
The Sagittarius class missile cruiser class is one of the older surviving classes of Earthforce warships that fought in the pivotal Dilgar Invasion and the bloody Earth-Minbari War. Between the Dilgar Invasion and the Minbari War, the Sagittarius class was armed with greater anti-fighter defensive weaponry and interceptors, with greater armor. The primary weapon of this class is missiles, and two ranks of 20 missiles are stored in the forward firing arch. This ship seems to be designed to lay down the hate from a distance which explains why the Sag class suffers from poor defensive and offensive capabilities (save for the missiles). It will not operate along.
The really queer thing about "Sag" class is that it lack jump-engines. This means that this space navy missile platform completely dependent on other EarthForce ships to open a jump-point for the Sag class. That would suck. Of course, if the system has a jump-gate then problem solved. Due to the budgetary limitations of the show, there was limit on how many ships could be seen on-screen, and the Sagittarius class was one that only appeared in the B5 combat game, Call to Arms.


Next Time on FWS...
Shrapnel is a series of military sci-fi comics that tells the story of a war between humans in the solar system printed by Radical. When originally published in 2009, the limited comic series were popular enough to warrant a sequel, and there was also interest from Hollywood and a video game company. The next installment of FWS, we will reviewing both of the Shrapnel comics.












17 June 2015

Future Military Profiles: The IMPERIAL KNIGHTS (WH40K)

Science fiction is filled with fictional military organizations that control lightyears of space and field hundreds of warships, like Starfleet. I felt it was time for FWS to profile these fictional military organizations. One of the largest military organizations in military science fiction is from Warhammer 40,000, the Imperium of Man's vast imperial military forces. In this first of many articles that guest author Galvars, he will present the numerous military organisation inside the Imperium of Man. This time, one of the more unknown: the Imperial Knights. The Knights are one of the latest addition to Warhammer 40.000 universe, they feel in the gap between the mighty and iconic powered armor wearing Adeptus Astartes and God-like Titans of Collegia Titanica.

Who are the Imperial Knights?
In vast galactic space in which Imperium exist there are many colonized worlds. As everything in the Imperium every planet have its classification according to the role it fulfil. Some of them are no more than mining colonies or whole planets devoted to food production. Others are covered by continent sized cities that towers pierce the atmosphere. The one we are interested are Knight Worlds the subclass of Feudal World. Those strongholds build on the remains of ancient colony ships that sail through deep space in the Golden Age of Expansion are one of not that many human settlements that survive collapse of Golden Age and Age of Strife that came after it. That don't mean that every Knight World survive, most of them also fall under attack of hostile Xenos forces or internal struggle. Those who survive own their lives to unique warrior caste of nobility, the knights. Those mighty warriors control fast moving ancient battle suits, protected by powerful ion force fields and armed with array of mighty weapons. Those war constructs are the living wall of adamantium and fire that stand between human colonists and nightmares of Old Night. When Age of Strife end and Imperium was reborn under guidance of Emperor and his legions the Knight Worlds become priceless asset.
In new Age of the Imperium that start with monumental Unification Wars every card in the deck was important, especially when it is an ace. Many technological wonders were lost or forgotten, societies move back from highly developed to almost feral in many cases. Knights Worlds were unique mixture of primitive Feudal Words and technological advance Nobility. Even if the ability of construction of new battle suits were lost and every one of it was treated as sacred relic, some of noble houses were able to maintain them. Some of suits are old as whole colony itself. This put the Knight Worlds on high position on the list of worlds to be integrated in to Imperium. Especially Mechanicum of Mars was intense searching for them or to be more precise, the technology they possessed. As always adepts of Red Planet try to find and take under own supervision every piece of technology they can find, no mater if they gain it by peaceful means or not.
Generally, Knights Worlds join Imperium by their own free will, use of force was not needed. There are cases when nobility refuse and they were forced to compliance by Imperial Expedition Fleets of Great Crusade or Mechanicum fleets working outside Imperial jurisdictions. Way of reintegration also define the nature of cooperation between nobility and rest of the Imperium. If planet was discovered by Imperial forces knights receive large autonomy under Terra rule and they were obliged to serve under Imperium banner. But if it was discovered by Mechanicum, it was bind by highly complicated oaths of Sidon Protocols. That complex web of obligation and duty bound Knight house to nearest Forge World of Mechanicum. With time it grows from symbiotic relation as Forge World did serve as maintenance and house as elite shock troops, to almost relation master - slave. In most extreme situation some of houses were treated as attack dogs and were released from underground prisons only to punish enemies of particularly Forge World.
Knight Household is based on single world and exist as elite class of society on it. The first one, Crysis was rediscovered by Rogue Trader Militant Jeffers at the start of Great Crusade and represent the strickt feudal system that is common for every Knight World. On the top of pyramid sit the nobility, they ruled from mighty ancient fortresses mostly built in place where first colony ship land. Inside of them still exist ancient artifacts and mighty power generators from those ships that give the nobility power to conquer and rule the planet. Nobility are descendants of first colonist, the upper echelons of colony ships command and the most important persons on board of it. Only having that blood relationship can give privilege to be member of that class. They are also bound by ancient oath to protect those under them. By accident or highly possible intentional actions this create a interesting relation. Nobility relay on lower classes in terms of supplies and them rely on nobility in terms of protection. This symbiosis create system that is highly resistant to armed uprising. But that do not mean that nobility is always fair, as always power can corrupt and arrogance of nobles lead the to downfall from time to time.
Below them sit the class of Sacristans, main role of artificers is to maintain the battle suits of nobility. Ranks of that group can be drawn from every class, from nobility to common peasants. In opposite to the nobility the bloodline is not important, only the skill of single person is taken in to account. After rediscovery Sacristans became more powerful faction on Knight Worlds, they became more than simple artificers with time and take role of diplomats and advisers that stand as counterpoint to more warlike nobility. The training that Sacristans take on Forge Worlds also in secret integrate them in to Cult Mechanicus and they became agents of Mars on household domains.Another level is occupied by soldiers of household, drafted outside the nobility, men-at-arms. Mainly recruited from lower class of town folks or peasants they stand on guard for the nobles. In many cases they represent the same level as Imperial Guard regiments from less advanced worlds. Limited to only light weapons like laser or slug rifles and most basic heavy ordnance they are tasked with maintain order inside household. On the bottom are town folks, servants, peasants and drovers. All those men and women provide higher classes with food and raw materials and in response they are protected by nobility.

Knights Ranks
The main formation that Knights operate is wing, consisting of senior knight with two adjutants. The numbers of suits in cadre is not strictly determined, it always depends on number of suits available in service or in this theatre of war. Some Houses especially the Great one's can muster large numbers of knights, other only a handful. But even in small numbers Knights are very potent weapons, serving in shock troops role. Knights can operate independent or even solo, without support from Imperial Guard or Adeptus Astartes. They are used as heavy support to fight against enemy heavy units when serving with the Space Marines and/or the Imperial Guard. In service of Mechanicum they fight alongside Forge World Taghmata or as escort and skirmishers of Titans.
Nobles hierarchy is generally similar to every house, the titles can vary in names but generally they are the same. The Household war cadre is usually commanded by Seneschal. This rank is reserved for old veterans who represent full of martial and aristocratic tradition of house. Those who bear the rank of Seneschal are not only seasoned warriors but also skilfull commanders. Under them is rank of Lord Scion, they are somewhat similar in role of Seneschals but knights of that rank did not get achieve the fame to be nominated as one. Rank of Veteran Knight bear the leaders of wing, those as other knights are veterans of many conflicts and battles. If Scion of that rank gain special favour of commander he can be raised into the rank of Scion Martial, the one who carry the Houshold banner in to battle. The bulk of ranks in cadre are reserved for Scions that past the all tests and training and are ready to fight. They are assigned to Veteran Knight wing and train in real combat under his watchful eyes. In particularly dangerous situation when Knight World is in danger the house can muster the battle line of Scion Aspirants, but as they are only recently start training in battle suit this is a desperate move of last resort.
There are also some specialised ranks inside cadre that vary in names. One is the Preceptor, particularly skillful in arcane technology Scion that master the use of battle suit systems. Preceptors are valued as expert scouts as they can use the potential of augur sensors of the knight suit on higher level then ordinary knight. Or Aucteller that can be described as berserk of old. Scion Dolorous that are expert hunters or Scion Uhlans, the most hot headed Knights that favoured use of lance above all. Some of Knights prefer to fight from range then eye to eye, those are Scion Arbalester who is an expert in long range attacks and Scion Implacable expert in siege warfare. The Noble that was chosen to fight inside the battle suit is taken from the brightest of sons, usually the oldest one. But he need to pass many other tests and rigorous training before he even will be taken into account. That's way every future knight is trained from child to become professional warrior. But mental and physical tests are only the beginning of the long road. Next phase is the chirurgical implementation of sacred neural sockets in to the body and joining them with central nervous system. They are needed to integrate pilot with the machine interface. Whole process is done inside the Sanctuary in the heart of Household stronghold.
This system is smaller version of Mind Impulse Unit used in Titans and Astartes Dreadnought. After connection to suite manifold pilot became one with machine, augurs became his eyes and adamantium armor his skin. Interface man - machine must be perfect, any deviation from that doom pilot as not compatible with battle suit. Only one of ten men survive this process, rest died from neurological feedback or driven mad. The imprinting process have side effects, candidate need to be perfectly calm and concentrated. If he is afraid, then flaw of fear can be transferred into the suit's manifold. The emotional state of the Knight at the time of transference, those also will be transferred. Every emotion can affect how machine will act in combat. Every pilot ad a little from himself to machine manifold, some part of his mind and emotion, and after generations of use and different pilots suit can create some kind of personality. After the success of implantation and integration with Throne Mechanicum this element is send to Communion Dome where he awaits for action. When Knights are called to war pilots enter Dome and instigate Protocols of Joining. They are connected to the Thrones and closed in theirs armored shells, then capsules are transported to the massive hangar of Vault Transcendent where suits awaits for command Thrones.

Knight Armor

The Battle suit of Knight is complicated and ancient technology machine. Hard to replicate and maintain every loss is a tragedy. Retrieve of fallen Knights and returning them to House stronghold is no less important task then fighting the enemy. Vulnerable sacred relics all of them are surrounded by aura of power created by sometimes millenia of combat records and uncounted foes they killed. Suits comes in variety of size, colors, and roles; each possessing their own weakness and strength. But they all combine the speed, protection and firepower on unparalleled level for that size and mass. Knights are protected by thick adamantium skin and potent but rare ion force fields. Ion field is work different then powerful void shields of Titans, it don't absorb full power of enemy attack but only slow them down and deflect. In this form the quality of protection depend of setting and position of shield in relation to the enemy, that means that effectiveness of shield is dependent on the skill of pilot. Some types of suits use additional solid or energy shields in one "hand" like human knight of old to increase protection.
Weapon systems are generally installed in two "arms" and they can vary in role, from male like power or chainswords to battle cannons and heavy flamers. Typically one type of armor is designed to operate with specific combination, pilot try to perfect use of those systems in the best way. Additional weapons are integrated in to armor itself, the more heavy the suit the more weapon he can carry. Knight Paladin is the most common type of battle suit, also most of other versions is based on Paladin chassis. He is an universal platform that can engage variety of targets from long range and close combat. Typically it is equipped with battle cannon that had an co axial heavy stubber and chainsword, also another heavy stubber is mounted in the swivel on the left side of suit torso. It's universal weapons and proven construction is favourite amongst Knight Households.
Other version of Paladin is Errant, that type of suit is preferable by more aggressive Scions. Errant are the spearhead of attack, they move fast in to battle and attack enemy from close range. As Paladin is flexible the Errant is close combat specialists, armed with chainsword and terrified thermal cannon. This short range weapon generate intense level of heat that can melt even the strongest armor and fortification. Knight Warden is more heavy version of Paladin, it's armed with Avenger Gatling cannon and massive Thunderstrike gauntlet. Additional he possess a carapace multiple missile launcher, smaller version of Apocalypse type mounted on Titans. Heavy stubber in chest is often replaced by Meltagun. His variant, the Gallant replace Avenger Gatling cannon with Chainsword. Both Knights are designed to close quarter fights.
Knight Crusader and Castellan are the heaviest and the most powerful types of suits. They are the less nimble and fast then other models but they are the favourite of Scion Arbalester. Packing the long range firepower they are perfect in support of other Knights. Crusader is armed with two heavy weapons systems, typically one battle cannon and one avenger Gatling cannon. In addition to standard mounted heavy stubber in the main body he have a double barreled autocannon turret on his back to engage air targets. This level of firepower is more then enough to break even the best enemy defense line. And if the battle cannon is replaced by heavy lascannon he is a potent armor killer. Castellan is design to anti infantry role and typically replace the battle cannon with additional avenger Gatling cannon or heavy flamer.
Knight Lancer is based on different chassis then Knights from Paladin line. The Cerastus pattern is designed to be more light and nimble then Paladin pattern. This also made him rather rare and uncommon type of battle suit in service of Houses. Lancer is purely melee combatant, armed only in close range Cerastus Shock Lance mounted on magneto hydraulic system it can generate electromagnetic plasma blast of enormous power. Single discharge can eliminate even the heaviest enemy with ease. Lance is single type of weapon this suit have, for additional protection Lancer have Ion Goutled Shield. Those Knights have opinion of hot headed and extremely aggressive.

Knight Castigator is more flexible than Lancer, but he is also designed to fight on close range. Especially deadly for infantry, armed with twin linked Castigator bolt rotary cannons. Castigators shine if fight against massed waves of infantry, like orks or tyranids. When enemy is close enough Knight can use a power sword that can cut through most armor. Knight Acheron is even deadlier pattern of Castigator. Armed with fearsome Reaper Chainfist linked with twin heavy bolters and Acheron pattern flame cannon he is a terrified weapon of destruction. Knight Magaera is unique pattern of Paladin used by oath bound Households of Mechanicum. They are less decorated then Imperial Houses battle suits and wear of large sigil of Adeptus Mechanicus. Also their appearance is more mechanical than regular Imperial Knights.
Megaera have bad opinion of dark and ill-omened relic, only a handful of them still exist. They are extremely powerful but... cursed. They were gifts from Mechanicum and accused of being the element of enslave the Houses. Pilots of Megaera were often permanent seal in to Throne without the ability to live the life outside the suit.
Armament of this pattern is very impressive, including extremely rare and forgotten technology. It use a complex lightning cannon, using focused EM beams to vaporise infantry and blast apart armour. Phased plasma fusil and Hekaton Siege claw linked with Rad cleanser. It's defence is also rare Ionic flare shield, more powerful then standard ion shield of other Knights and a advance self repair system. To fuel every of those systems reactor of Megaera is pushed to the limits creating dangerous situation of overcharge. Knight Styrix is pattern of Knight Magaera, even more heavily armed with arcane Volkite Chieorovile and backed up with a graviton gun and twin linked rad cleanser. At close range he can eliminate enemy with powerful Hekaton siege claw.

In Conclusion
Knights are priceless asset that can't be ignored on any battlefield, they represents a link between the mighty God Machines of Adeptus Mechanicus and powerful dreadnoughts of Adeptus Astartes. Overall they are smaller version of Titans, immune to most weapon systems the enemy of Imperium can throw against them, in the same time possessing the enough firepower to take care of any danger. Knight Armor is a serious card in the deck, but also one of the rarest. Numbers of combat ready Knightholds is very limited and in most cases they are bound to servitude under command of Adeptus Mechanicus Forge Worlds. In vast span of Imperium and innumerable theatres of war Knights represents less then fraction of fighting forces.
Also the complexity of Knight Armor arcane technology put them in the slowly dying breed. Only the handful of Forge Worlds can replicate those technologies and the demand is always much larger then production capability. Every loss of construct is deep wound for Knighthold. That's why Knight never will be a serious game changer on larger scale, they can turn the table in one battle or theater but overall impact is limited by number of Knights. In the Warhammer 40.000 universe Imperial Knights are not new addition, they first appear in limited form in 1990. Lack of almost any lore about them and use in Epic scale put them out of memory of most people for more then two decades. The latest resurface of Knights in truly impressive way is dictated by overall trend and new wave of popularity of Warhammer 40.000 'verse. Also this time models are presented in more detailed and larger way. Knights even if not new idea, are definitely something different, new element in already massive universe.

Next Time on FWS...
In the final blogpost about cruisers (thank the gods!), the next installment of Ships of the Line, FWS will discussing the Missile Cruiser, its history, the modern naval missile cruiser, and the sci-fi missile cruiser. In this blogpost will we be also looking at the sci-fi variant of the missile cruiser: the torpedo cruiser.