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God of Comics 2015-12-30

Culture, God Of Comics

December 29, 2015

All-New Wolverine #3All-New Wolverine #3

I really like Laura. I dig her character and I’m glad she’s stepped in to fill Logan’s absence, even if the traditional Wolverine outfit looks kinda ridiculous on her. Still, I like what they’ve done with her pretty much from the get-go, and this comic continues that trend – we’re getting stories that explore concepts of personhood and agency, and adding a little spy thriller melodrama to the mix. Her relationship with time-displaced young Angel is presented as a healthy thing here, two characters that know and trust one another. It all makes for good reading, unlike…

 

All-New X-Men #3All-New X-Men #3

… this. This is not good reading. This is not good reading because everyone but Young Time Displaced Scott feels like they’re being written out of character. All that interesting stuff between Laura and time-displaced Warren I mentioned above? Short circuited here for some trite melodrama. Also, pretty much everyone else is relegated to comic release, or forced so far outside of what they were or what you’d expect them to be as to make them unreadable. The artwork is good and there’s some really not concepts here, but slogging through the mire of this dialogue is tedious at best.

 

Batman and Robin Eternal #13Batman and Robin Eternal #13

Okay, so Bruce maybe sorta ordered himself up an heir after a young Dick Grayson kinda screwed up enough for mother to realize who Batman was. We got to see the two of them chatting and talking about murder and other things, and I’m assuming that there is a trick coming – every writer on this is too skilled not to have something up their collective sleeves. This continues to be an excellent little mystery, an even keel that is ramping things up as we return to the DCYou version of Cassandra Cain. This is fun and if you like DC Comics you should be following it.

 

Black Magick #3Black Magick #3

If you like comics, however, or incredibly strong stories with a rich history and mythology implied on every page, then you really must be reading this. It’s Greg Rucka inventing another world in which to play in, this one involving a witch who is also a cop and the politics of a centuries out coven that is running from a group of witch hunters who are now using magic, or getting someone to use magic for them. There’s a real sense of menace here, some awful and thus far unseen power that is wrecking havoc on people’s lives. It’s great stuff, is what we’re saying. Check it out.

 

Drax #2Drax #2

We told you. We told you last month that CM Punk was going to write something awesome, and he went out and wrote something awesome. Drax is the muscle for the Guardians of the Galaxy, but all of them are going off and doing their own things in their own titles. Drax, of course, gets a turn, and heads off to find and kill Thanos because that is what Drax does. His ship cuts out, stranding him on a world with Terrax, so they go to get drunk and maybe go on a crime spree so they can raise some money to fix the ship and go kill Thanos, maybe even together~! Comics are amazing.

 

Harley Quinn & Power Girl #6Harley Quinn & Power Girl #6

Jimmy Palimioti and Amanda Conner have quietly been writing one of the best runs with this character that has ever been, and one of the best titles that DC Comics has ever published. This run is part of her epic team-up with Power Girl, when the two of them went galivanting through other dimensions and saved a Seventies Disco Sex God from an alien invasion led by aliens that are against fun in all it’s forms. Having done this they now have to find a way home, which might involve Power Girl marrying the aforementioned Sex God. There are no words for this. You must experience it. Yes.

 

Jughead #3Jughead #3

Wow, this comic is weird. Like, really, really weird. Jughead is the classic character we all know in love, now updated (again) for the modern world by… not really changing very much of anything. Jughead is one of those characters that is iconic because he fits into any situation. There’s something very Zen about Jughead. He is, of course, still subject to the vicissitudes of fate, and this comic is exposing him to the horrors of crumbling personal freedoms and enforced mediocre conformity within the modern American school system. He is, however, armed with his imagination, so my money is on Jughead, but then I hate people that abuse the authority they think they have.

 

Rat Queens #14Rat Queens #14

Has there ever been a tighter fantasy comic than this one? Rat Queens hit the world at the exact best moment for itself – a high-stakes fantasy adventure starring a foul-mouthed, life-loving, all-female mercenary band. It’s given us some of the deepest characters in the medium while exploring a number of absurd and harsh realities, all while never losing sight of itself. Take Hannah, the necromancer half-elf, half-tiefling who is sometimes the voice of reason but is now getting lost in some pretty terrible family stuff that was wide-reaching implications for her world. The timing of this – right after Christmas – is magic, the sort of thing we could all use.

 

Southern Bastards #13Southern Bastards #13

One of my favorite books growing up was a science fiction novel called Illegal Aliens: some aliens land in Central Park in the mid-eighties, and an entire chapter is dedicated to explaining how the world responds. When these reactions are summarized for the UN, it’s explained as “America during Superbowl Sunday.” There is nothing more important in the American consciousness than Football, especially when you leave the trappings of civilization behind for the ever-present heat of the broken south. This is a tale of that broken south and football. This will not end well.

 

Star Wars #14Star Wars #14

Do you ever think that, perhaps, a company decides to drag something on longer than they should? Sometimes, events happen on their own, necessitated by story: that’s what appeared to be happening with Vader Down, but aside from the last few pages in the last part of this event, well, there didn’t seem to be much happening. A holding pattern. I’m not sure why – the art is good and the writing is Gillen, and even bad Gillen is better than some people’s best. Let’s see if we can get this thing back in track with the one thing we all need: Wooke Wrestling Entertainment. BAH GAWD.

 

Sunstone Vol. 4Sunstone Vol. 4

Stjepan Sejic was goofing around on hid deviantart page and accidentally created one of the best romance comics, period. Sunstone is a mature and honest look at love and knots, the absurdity of kink mingled with the trust that any healthy relationship needs to be built on, and how insecurity and a lack of communication can kill even the strongest ties: let’s be clear, love never dies, love is murdered when people aren’t clear with one another. There’s a little something in hear for everyone, and if you’re not familiar with this book you really should look into it.

 

Welcome Back #4Welcome Back #4

Imagine reincarnation. Imagine lifetime after lifetime, bound to repeat some of the same events with the same people, but imagine, too, that this is no love story. Imagine you are in a war, a war without end – born again, die again, forever and ever. Is there any room for change there? Any room to be anything other than a victim, a killer, a corpse? And if the road ahead looks like death without end, is there a point? Where does it begin? That’s what this comic seeks to answer: what fate looks like, the importance of beginnings in understanding the present and changing the future.

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425

Fiction – Love is War 03-00-03-02

Books & Writing, Culture, Projects, Short Fictions

December 28, 2015

Every week, we’re going to post some new fiction for you to devour and read, with original art as a header, and then a collected version for purchase from our store when the book is complete. Questions? Comments? The writers are right here, and they’ll respond as they’re able. 

***

Click here to read previous entry.

***

– 03:00:03:02 –

“Are you doing okay?” Risue asked, looking at the ragged woman that stood beside him.

“I’m fine,” Veskur whispered. “Fine.”

Risue was polite enough to say nothing.

He knew all about Veskur and Endrall’s falling out. He had heard the story from both sides, but tended to favor Endrall; he was prettier, better spoken, and more fun to be around. Veskur was, at best, a lunatic that meant well. An idiot savant – someone to be used, perhaps liked or even appreciated, but never fully trusted; the insanity that threatened to overtake her was so much more promise than threat.

“Did I tell you I’ve been talking with Figo?” Veskur asked for what felt like the ninth time. “I was tired and contacted him on a whim nine days ago. We’ve been in pretty much constant contact since then, talking about all kinds of things. Silly things. Light things.”

That degree of happiness was something that Risue was not used to hearing in this woman’s voice and he was not certain what to make of it, or of her.

She’d shown him some of those missives, hastily scrawled on both their parts, paper passed back and forth through scientific means long since established. He wondered how the Ethcinos she was blathering on about would effect such tried and true sciences, but he bit his tongue and read the single sentence responses. There was more wit than he’d expected from with party, even if he did not know the particulars of what they were discussing, but Risue had met Figo enough times to know that if he didn’t want this conversation then he would not be having it.

If the circumstances surrounding this conversation had been reversed, however, Risue was not so certain that Veskur would have had the presence or wherewithal to entertain no as an answer.

The Coeecians had stepped up their aggression in recent months, Jesam the First hammering his Vanir betters with a series of hit and run assaults that had forced the nobility back and back and back again. None of the other leaders had been able to pick out a pattern to the onslaught, but he had been acting as a go between for Hekro and Veskur. Those two had taken to drawing the strikes out on a map, weighing the days and patterns and distances that lay between one attack and the next. The two of them theorized that there was a pattern, just one they could not see.

Risue stared, his eyes going wide.

“His pattern is based on a Coeecian folk song,” Risue said.

“Really?” Veskur did not look convinced. “How can you tell?”

Risue walked around the table they had drawn the map upon, humming a tune, hitting the table with an amhr in time with the music. Veskur’s eyes went wide.

“Brilliant. Utterly brilliant.”

Risue smiled, shrugged, and did not mention that she had been the one to introduce that tune to him. She was forgetting more and more these days. He wondered if there was anyone still around her enough to notice it.

Turning back to the map of Midgard and its tributaries, the two nobles plotted out where they thought the next attack would come. It didn’t take them long to figure out – a forested area in the south, flatland with a keep towards the north and east. Risue made certain to send a copy to Hekro, the two of them waiting to see what the Golden Champion with a question.

“Do you know who’s posted there?” Risue had written.

“Figo Jera,” Hekro wrote back.

“I know this,” Veskur said, the excitement in her more infectious than any virus. “I knew I knew this, I knew. He told me this. Figo did. I know how many troops he has, their movements, their arms, when they watch, who goes on patrol, all of it.”

“That’s a lot of information.”

“I know.” Veskur licked her lips.

“We could send a message to Figo, warning him.”

“Or we could go ourselves.”

Veskur looked at him, her eyes burning with an intense mania.

“He did give me all that information, like an invitation,” Veskur pleaded. “This is just an excuse to go there. Besides, if we’re right and Jesam the First does attack, well, we can see that attack firsthand. We could figure out how to counter his raids, take back the parts of Midgard that have been lost.”

It was the idea of seeing the Coeecians’ new formations that got Risue to agree.

They took Risue’s carriage – House Raido had the best transportation technologies in all of Midgard, no disputing that. They rode in comfort, talking over what they had discovered, double-checking the evidence that supported what they now knew.

No one challenged their passage and there was no sign of the horror that they thought was coming so very quickly to this place. Risue was recognized by some of the troops, those soldiers that had fought with him back when he had not needed a cane to walk. He was greeted with smiles and clasped wrists, a greeting of one soldier to another. Most recognized Wyrd, as well, but there were fewer greetings for her. She was known for her strangeness, for her power and her madness, and these three things would always set her apart.

Figo was giving a speech when they arrived, rallying the troops. They found him easily enough. He was a young commander who stood tall and proud, a power and a presence that deserved love, admiration, and respect. On his left hand was a glove similar to the one that Endrall and Veskur both wore, a tool that Risue knew had something to do with Veskur’s invented and advanced Sciences but a tool that he did not yet possess. There was talk of someone having figured out how the gaurn worked and how to make them, but those that had heard those whispers knew better than to repeat them around the Good Lady Wyrd.

03-00-03-02

Figo was in mid-sentence when he noticed Veskur. He paused ever so briefly; staring, he shook his head quickly and resumed his speech as though nothing had happened. Risue caught the moment because he was good at reading people, as good as any of the more politically minded nobles that frequented the courts and not the killing fields. He turned to the woman beside him, wondering if she had noticed the response and saw instantly that she had.

“I shouldn’t have come here,” she whispered.

Then she turned and left.

Risue went to Figo and gave him the warning they had come to give, but he could tell that the other man was not really listening, that he was badly shaken by the appearance of his former lover. He asked a few polite questions and then excused himself, clearly not wanting to be around anyone at that moment, and Risue was kind enough to let the young commander retreat. There was terror in his eyes where there had been none before, a resignation that was terrifying in scope.

He searched for the woman he had come with but she had vanished. No one had seen her and no one seemed to have any idea as to where she might have gone. Risue gave up after some time; Veskur spent much of her time walking in the wild places and was almost as good as an Elhaz at not being found when she did not want to be. He returned instead to the troop formations, leaning heavily on his cane, speaking with the soldiers as they lazed about.

Not one of them believed that the Coeecians were coming. Not one of them was willing to listen to what he had to say to the contrary. Irritated by this lack of respect, Risue retreated to a high point and paused to watch and wait – and when the attack came he was in the perfect position to see everything that happened under the mad leadership of Jesam the First.

It was only his quick thinking and Figo’s leadership that saved the Vanir from being overrun completely.

***

Click here to read the next entry. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

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638

God of Comics 2015-12-23

Culture, God Of Comics

December 22, 2015

Angela - Queen of Hel #3Angela: Queen of Hel #3

You ever meet an over-achiever? Someone who just, by their very nature, tends to reach higher and farther than other people ever think to? That’s Angela. Born to Asgard and adopted by Heven, she doesn’t really feel comfortable with either, having learned about the flaws of both. Those flaws have sent her on a new quest, one to carve out her own place and her own realm, so she’s looking to take over Hel and become an equal to her adopted parents – Odin and Frigga – and her adopted mom – the Queen of Heven. This is who is starting a rebellion in Hel. Needs a metal OST.

 

Arcadia #7Arcadia #7

How great is the Expanse? The answer, of course, is “pretty great.” I was chatting with a friend and he was like “ity’s been so long since we had good sci-fi” and I was all “are you reading Arcadia?” And that is why, Casey, you’re going to be getting the Arcadia trade for Christmas, the moment that it comes out. Anyway, a terrible disease has ravaged the world and ninety-nine percent of humanity has been looked in cyro-storage, their minds shuffled into an MMO hellscape that is falling apart, because the tech they’re using was not meant for what they’re using it for. Awesome stuff.

 

Batman and Robin Eternal #12Batman and Robin Eternal #12

We now know exactly how horrific Mother is, and how terrifying her ability to sculpt minds is. They’re not kidding around with what they’ve built here, either, with some of the best writers in comics coming in and adding so much to the Bat-mythos. Jason and Tim are working with Bane and have just bumped into an Azrael, which should go poorly for Jason and Tim and maybe Bane, while Dick and Harper try to understand the horror that nearly swallowed Bruce back during the earliest days of the Bat. This is awesome and heady stuff, a rather awesome spy thriller.

 

Bloodshot Reborn #9Bloodshot: Reborn #9

I need to know how this ends. An unstoppable golem was created by the military industrial complex to kill god, but somewhere a long the way it gained a soul, questioned the violence of it’s being, and gave up the power of itself. That power went elsewhere, infecting others and turning them into almost unstoppable killing machines, and he’s had to go and reclaim his power from those that never wanted it… except for one guy, who did want it and came to the same conclusion the golem did: kill everyone, get all the power. These comics are insanely good existential action-terror.

 

Daredevil #2Daredevil #2

Matt Murdock is back in New York, has managed to hide his secret identity (again, dammit), and is still moonlighting as Daredevil. Good on him? He has changed a little bit, though, as he’s now working for the district attorney in New York as opposed to running a private practice. To show him how much they love him, they’ve stuck his office at the bottom of an elevator shaft, with the excuse of not wanting to waste windows on a blind man. Interestingly, studies show that blind people can tell – they need Vitamin D just like the rest of us. Could be okay. Was liking him in LA.

 

Dark Knight III - The Master Race #2Dark Knight III: The Master Race #2

No, no, don’t walk away, it’s readable, I promise. Yes, Frank Miller’s name is on the cover, and, yes, he’s got some creative input. Someone else is translating his ideas to paper, though, making this a much more interesting comic than it has any business being. The art is very much in line with the original Dark Knight comics, though things are a little more detailed here than they are in, say, Sin City. Anyway, Bruce is dead, the new commissioner forgot what she learned in the Dark Knight, and Carrie Kelly just got herself good and captured. Far better than it has any business being.

 

Darth Vader #14Darth Vader #14

Holy God but the Force Awakens was good. We can all agree with that, right? The D-Cast (link) thought it was incredible, and this? This comic here? Just as freakin’ good. Marvel has done an incredible job of getting from the end of Episode IV to the beginning of Episode V, particularly with Vader re-establishing himself following his loss of a whole Death Star. Along the way, Vader discovered Luke and has been actively hunting him, leading to him crashing on a planet where the rebel alliance was training an army specifically to deal with Vader. They failed just as Leia arrived. Also, Vader’s hench-people just had a battle with Han, and we get the fallout… now. Do not miss this.

 

Deadly Class #17Deadly Class #17

Things have not gone well for Marcus. He fell in love with two girls in a school for assassins, abandoned one as the other got killed, and has since fallen apart. He’s going through some terrible things and feels utterly alone, falling in with the wrong crowd as everything good in him erodes. It’s not just me thinking this; the faculty agrees, because final exams for the year include hunting Marcus down and executing him. This book is haunting, hunting, the sort of thing that is difficult to read but impossible to put down, the unblinking grit of slivered goodness in humanity’s worst.

 

Dr. Mirage Second Lives #1Dr. Mirage: Second Lives #1

It’s a Valiant comic, which I think should be enough of a recommendation on it’s own. Dr. Mirage is a medium who deals with the dead, like her husband, and the two of them work together to perform exorcisms, banishments, and other forms of benevolent necromancy while pondering the weight and circumstance of death itself. Here, she’s discovered a means of giving her husband flesh once more, but it’s an ancient rite that was never meant to be performed and you can already see where this is going… but, like life, this comic is about the journey, not the destination.

 

He-Man The Eternity War #13He-Man: The Eternity War #13

In order to win, in order to defeat the Horde that threatened to devour everything and everyone forever, He-Man had to give up the Power of Greyskull. This left him little more than a broken Adam while his uncle, Skeletor, stepped in and claimed that power. He now dominates everything and everyone, trapping Adora to keep himself on a throne that was never meant for him. Now, Adam must take back his power before King Hiss devours his soul in a series of comics that are far better and deeper than they have any business being. This is science-fantasy opera and it needs to be read to be believed.

 

Justice League 3001 #7Justice League 3001 #7

Speaking of science-fantasy opera, this comic features soul-devouring genetic overlays of various Justice League members teaming up with other immortal Justice League members a thousand years in the future, where things have gone weird. Also, villains have brought back other Justice League era villains to fight the new Justice League, which is going about as well as you’d expect given that a lot of details have become sort of muddled. Also, there’s some kind of robot invasion and they just killed Superman. That can’t be good. And this Superman? Not coming back. No one is safe.

 

Lazarus #21Lazarus #21

Oligarchy took over – this is the world of President Trump, a corporatist dream where the rich rule and the rest of humanity is referred to as ‘waste,’ used to the last drop. The corporations have gone to war, the CEO of the best of their lot poisoned and taken down while his company flounders and their chosen champion struggles to make a difference in the field. There’re powerplays and politics and ruthless plans all coming to fruition, written by one of the best writers in the game and illustrated in a haunting style that will follow you into your dreams and stay there. Poignant, intelligent, and very much a must-read.

 

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #2Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #2

This is insane. Okay, a smart girl who is being vilified for being smart and believing in science and being ahead of the curve makes friends with a giant indestructible Tyrannosaurus Rex in modern day New York, which should make bullies a little easier to deal with. This is her school’s faculty’s fault for fiddling around with her science projects when they had no idea what the hell they were doing, which is something some of us might have experienced and gotten in trouble for. This comic celebrates intelligence and ingenuity while also showing how both qualities are mucked about with by a system and society that embraces conformity. Important in the same way Ms. Marvel is. Did I mention the genius girl is black?

 

Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat #1Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat #1

You saw Jessica Jones, right link? Of course you did. It was incredible, one of the best things to come out of Netflix for a long while and a nice apology for that third season of Hemlock Grove link. Jessica’s adopted sister in that series was Trish “Patsy” Walker, an old and established character who is now getting her own series and that should be awesome. Trish used to date a literal partially reformed anti-Christ and is a partial celebrity and street level hero who’s kinda good at the martial arts thing. She’s pretty great, and this sounds like it could be a lot of fun. Give it a chance.

 

Pretty Deadly #7Pretty Deadly #7

Deathface Ginny returns to stare down the barrell of the Great War – which is what World War One was called back before people knew they were supposed to name them. This comic is a weird meandering treatise on the weight and responsibility of death, both from the perspective of the living and dying. It’s odd and beautiful and terrifying all at once, edged in with the scripture of the old west and married to the narrative of the early twentieth century. There’s a lot going on here, in other words, and this book is dense, the sort of thing you could use to prove comics-as-art.

 

Rai #12Rai #12

This is the weirdest book… okay, you know how Aphrodite IX and IXth Generation and Justice League 3001 are all about the futures of their respective universes, using the mythos of today to build a landscape set in the far future? That’s what Rai has done, taking the disparate parts of their various titles and making them more important by showing what the eventual consequences of those people, places, and things are. It’s beautiful and detailed and stranger than a badly cut eighties anime, moving at a breakneck pace and expecting you to keep up with introduced concepts.

 

Rocketeer At War #1Rocketeer: At War #1

Somehow, this character is still a thing. The movie link holds up pretty well, and there’s enough here that a company like IDW Publishing should be able to put out something cool – a stunt pilot discovers a jetpack back in World War II, and goes from being a nobody to being a major player because of the technology he has mastered. The man in question, Cliff Secord, gets by on his wits and is very much a chip off the Han Solo block, a guy who just wants to be left alone to do his thing, but given the proper circumstances can be a hero. I’m curious to see how this plays out.

 

Star-Lord #2Star-Lord #2

I’m trying to decide of I care. This is now young Peter Quill by way of John Crichton, having stolen a space ship and gotten himself stranded in space. This goes against the movie – and wasn’t Secret Wars supposed to do two things? One was fix the mistakes of Jonathan Hickman, and the other was to being the comics closer in line with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This serves neither, but still could be interesting if we weren’t comparing it to the series that came before Secret Wars, which was, well, stellar. We’ll see if this gets any better this month. I’m hoping it does.

 

Switch #3Switch #3

Stjepan Sejic is one of the most gifted artists working in comics today. He’s got a knack for writing engaging characters, even if English is not his first language. The trick is that in looking past his weaknesses to view his many strengths, and few comics illustrate those as well as this one. The Witchblade falls into the hands of an ordinary school girl who has no idea what she has or what she’s gotten into. Like spider-Gwen, this comic then takes familiar faces and puts new spins on them, so if you’ve never read Witchblade, this might be something you’ll dig. We dig it quite a lot.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #53Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #53

Hamato Yoshi killed Oroko Saki. It happened – we all watched it happen, and Saki welcomes it at the end. It brought an end to a struggle that traversed lifetimes, and might finally allow Saki to overcome with karma and evolve. Everyone who was watching understood… except Michelangelo, who fled to an old enemy for succor. He doesn’t know how bad Old Hob can be, because his family protected him from the worst of Hob’s excesses and he’s buddies with Slash, but without that barrier he’s likely to learn some things he might not like. The only sure thing is that this will be excellent.

 

Venom Space Knight #2Venom: Space Knight #2

So, Flash Thompson went to the planet of the symbiotes and got the madness within his other half expunged, aligning himself with the monastic heroic order the symbiotes are supposed to be. Now, he gets to wander like a knight errant throughout the cosmos, writing wrongs and fighting evil whenever he’s not hanging with the Guardians of the Galaxy. The first issue was a surprising pleasure, setting the stage for a strange heroic space opera, which is exactly what this feels like. The art is also gorgeous, matching the quality of the writing into an incredibly strong whole. Recommended.

 

Velvet #13Velvet #13

Every week, it seems, there’s one comic where we stop and say simply read this. So, to wit: read this. Velvet is a female James Bond operating in the early seventies, cutting a world-wide swath to expose a double agent in British intelligence while clearing her own name. We don’t know the full scope of the conspiracy, but neither does she – what we do know is that she’s good at what she does, an expert in the field and dangerous in every way conceivable, and that the people that messed with her made the mistake of forgetting who she is. Don’t make that same mistake. Read this.

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560

The D-Cast Episode 54 – The Force Awakens

Culture, film, Opinion, Reviews, Why Aren't You Watching This?

December 21, 2015

Andy and Dale return to the D-Cast to talk a little movie that really came out of nowhere to dominate everything forever. You may have heard of it… Star Wars, the Force Awakens? You can and should check out the movie in theaters now, and then check out the spoiler-laden latest episode of their podcast right here, right now. The video version is sure to follow.

podcastcover1

The D-Cast can be found by clicking their name, and you can chat with them on twitter, too.

And you can check them out on itunes. Awesome.

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341

Fiction – Love is War 03-00-03-01

Books & Writing, Culture, Projects, Short Fictions

December 18, 2015

Every week, we’re going to post some new fiction for you to devour and read, with original art as a header, and then a collected version for purchase from our store when the book is complete. Questions? Comments? The writers are right here, and they’ll respond as they’re able. 

***

Click here to read previous entry.

***

– 03:00:03:01 –

Thea had yelled and yelled at her, calling her a coward, a hypocrite, a liar. He had belittled everything she was while telling her again and again that they were meant to be together and that it was only with him inside her that she would ever be complete, that she would ever be whole, that she would ever be at peace. Veskur had sat with her head bowed and listened, offering no defense.

She had told Thea everything, hoping for some moment of peace and getting none. The boy had traveled across the breadth of Midgard to come and see her and she had ended up telling him what had happened with Endrall. This was not something she had wanted to do, but Thea was not and never had been an idiot – he was able to read her moods, knew that something was wrong and had wanted to know what it was.

“Are you sure?” Veskur had asked him. “You’re not going to like it.”

“You can tell me anything.”

So Veskur had told him everything and now Thea was hurt and upset and lashing out, his wit sharp as any dryw. He ripped her apart with words, flaying her mind, unable to see anything past his own desires. Veskur accepted this. She deserved it. She deserved all the crosses and nails and agonies that Midgard could offer her for the crimes she had committed, the things she had discovered, the sins that were so very uniquely hers. All ten thousand swords of humanity’s hatred could be sheathed in her and then, perhaps, she would begin to pay the penance for all that she was.

Dropping everything to go get Endrall had been a big part of the problem. Thea had screamed and cried and hit her, told her that she was abandoning him for a man that did not care about her, had never cared about her, and was incapable of caring about her. Veskur had considered all that was said and finally decided that whether what Endrall felt was truth or lie did not matter; what mattered was what she herself felt, and she knew above all other things that the passion she felt for Endrall Sahr was truth.

She had called upon the Ethcinos and created storm and steed, riding out to save the man that had come so very close to destroying her. It had hurt to see him so badly wounded and she mended him on the way back to Midgard, making sure that he was safe at home with his father before retreating back to her keep. Thea was waiting to berate her, injured and insulted that she had once again left him behind to deal with what crossed her.

“You only like him because he’s taller than me,” Thea claimed, sniffling all the while. Veskur was uncertain how to deal with the degree of that insult – belittling her emotions by claiming that they were based on nothing more than some physical attribute. The shallowness of it… Her guest continued to be insulting, to push boundaries, to hurt both himself and his host. He expressed remorse but then continued to cycle through the same sins, the same sins, the same sins.

It was intolerable but still Veskur did nothing.

Thea eventually left and then she was alone again, but there was no peace in that solitude. She discovered that she did, indeed, have a bedroom in her own home and went nervously inside it. The stone walls felt cold and empty, the bed something that she had never touched. There was probably some method for creating light in that small space but Veskur did not know what it was and did not care; she wanted to curl in the dark, alone and empty, both inside and out.

She was not certain how long she lay like that, trapped in a void of her own making. She shook and shivered and did not sleep, did not rest, did nothing but quiver in an echoing agony of her own making. Endrall and Thea’s words rang accusingly in her head, Figo and Sotaas’ absence a burning lack that she was all too aware of. Her servant checked in on her, bringing her food she did not touch. She withered, muscles atrophying as no one called on her, no one wanted her.

It had been so easy before, to be alone. It had been so easy for her to know no one and dwell within the equations that had once been her passion. It had been a mistake to let people into her life, she could see that now. It had been an error to love Figo, to care for River, to rely on Sotaas, to welcome Thea, to hear Deeam, to embrace Endrall. She should have known better but she did not and now she was stuck with this terrible sense of absence.

“Where is my ending?” she would sing to herself, her broken voice a rasp in the endless shadows around her. She started hallucinating shades of darkness, terrors that she welcomed and hoped would be her death. “The thing that defines us? The sense of closure, the only thing left… to us…”

Her lips bled when she smiled.

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When the light came, she was too far gone to fight. Her servant took her in his arms and washed her, forced her to eat, and took her on walks. Slowly, slowly, her mind came back and she was once again aware of the pain that had driven her to a starving ennui. Her servant looked at her and she knew he would save her from that slow suicide no matter how many times she gave into it. She scowled at him and he smiled at her with thin eyes, daring her to try and escape him.

She took to the land, walking the woods that had been her comfort and company back when she had been ignorant of all that she had missed and now was far too aware of. The forest and the night were not the solace that she had hoped for, not quite, but they did soothe the ravaging wounds of her soul. There was comfort to be had there and she accepted it, began to rebuild herself, and for the first time in her life she felt anger on her own behalf.

It scared her. She was uncertain what to make of this swelling emotion, this terrible fury that rose out of her like a reaping whirlwind. She went into the drifting snow around her home and screamed into the wilds, taking a savage delight when her rage caused avalanches. She wondered how those around her could claim that this was love when all they had done was take and take and take, when all they had tried to do was define her as something that she would and could never be.

Still, when Endrall contacted her there was a fluttering in her heart, a joy that sang to her and wanted to lay that simmering anger to rest. They spoke only briefly, setting a time and place for their meeting.

Humming to herself, Veskur cleaned up, dressed up, did everything she could to be everything that Endrall deserved. They met at neutral ground and Veskur took the younger man out for an evening meal, the two of them discussing what had happened and the fallout of it. His father and he were estranged, Endrall claimed, and he laid the blame for that estrangement at Veskur’s feet. Veskur paid for their food and they walked outside and began to discuss everything else.

“I don’t have to apologize for what I said,” Endrall told her. “I just hate when you’re like this. I hate you. I have every right to say what I said. I’m sorry, but I don’t mean that, not really. I stand by my statement.”

For two days Endrall said exactly that. They walked and spoke about everything, but where once their conversations had been a flowing and lively process whereby all seemed understood, now Endrall refused to understand how there could possibly be anything resembling even the tiniest sliver of an iota of wrongness in what he had said. He drove that point home again and again, that he had been right to say what he had said, and that whatever pain Veskur had suffered because of it was her own affair.

When Veskur tried to express any opinion that did coincide directly with Endrall’s, he mocked her and laughed at her, touched her the way a lover might while telling her that she was in the wrong and always would be, would whisper that whatever she felt counted for nothing.

“I meant what I said,” Endrall told her, holding her. “We’re not friends. You get that, right? I don’t have to apologize for that, but I will anyway. I want you to understand that I’m not actually sorry.”

The repetition sank into Veskur’s head and into Veskur’s heart and she fell into silent acceptance. Hekro came to collect Endrall eventually – the two had become lovers at some point – and he left in her arms. Veskur walked away and did not look back, could not have looked back even if she had desired to. She found somewhere quiet and curled into a ball and shivered and shook, tearing at her arms, wishing she could pull her veins from her flesh, wishing for silence unending.

She made it home somehow, screaming and kicking with an insanity that she could recognize without the ability to do anything about it. She managed to hide her gaurn and her levl, told her servant to flee and then lost herself to the madness. She did not know how much time had passed when she was next able to recognize her own thoughts, but everything in her keep had been destroyed and her body was covered in scars and blood. She was standing in the main hall, dressed in rags and looking into a window, the light behind her turning the glass into a mirror – and what she saw there terrified her, a nightmare granted skin. She fell to her knees, hugged herself and wept.

I meant what I said. I don’t have to apologize for that but I will anyway. I’m not actually sorry.”

***

More is coming next week. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

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793

God of Comics – Top 5 for 2015-12-16

Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

December 17, 2015

Clean Room #3

Clean Room #3

This isn’t a comic. A comic is a collection of colors and words that are passive – they sit on the page and allow you to look upon them at your leisure. This? This is a work of magic, some fell ritual that will devour your attention right from the start, suck you in and keep you there. This is Gail Simone revealing herself as a warlock of some sort, her wordsmithery tying all who look upon this work into the arcane heartbeat of the universal unconscious, where the really real reality dwells, unseen except by those of us with true grit. In tome – in the trap that has been put in your hands – a self-help guru has made a machine that allows her to view the perspectives of others as realities, touching and changing them as serves her needs. She knows what lays out there, in the spaces that man cannot see, and she stares at them without fear no matter the form they take. I would warn you, but there is no warning adequate. I would prepare you, but nothing can prepare you. Stare into the Clean Room, and know that it stares into you.

 

Hacktivist vol.2 #6

Hacktivist Vol2 #6

Some of us know: there is a war being fought for the soul of the internet. Many of us have learned that the internet is the greatest tool yet devised by man, a means by which information can be shared and reality itself can be shaped, for good or ill. The entrenched powers see nothing but ill, a challenge to the status quo that they have controlled and are losing control over. They roar and rampage attempting to legislate silence, to turn the first gasping breaths of dialogue into a monologue once more. Those that have spoken know the truth, however; the cat is out of the bag, neither alive or dead, and the world has changed. I can tell you that every single issue of this series, both volumes one and two, have made it into our top five comics list. There’s a reason for this, and those with the eyes to see will read this and understand what it is; record, logos, manifesto. A call to arms, to the celebration of intelligence and creativity. A battlecry against the old evils grasping for the loss of power as their paradigm dies. This explains so much.

 

Imperium #11

Imperium #11

I was at a friend’s house earlier, and my friend recommended Y: the Last Man to a friend of his. Quoth he, “Just lend me the whole series. It’s just comics. How complex can it be?” There are some people that do that, confuse the medium with the message, looking down on a whole means of sharing information from base misunderstanding or a false expectation. Comics are for kids, right? This title is a refutation of that idea. This is a superhero comic, yes, but it is very much a superhero comic for mature audiences – not the simpering gropery of adolescent power fantasies, the boobs and explosions that so many think make a mature book, but the measured understanding of real politick and the consequences that comes with power. Like Hacktivist, this series looks at various entrenched powers of a dying paradigm and challenges them, only to find consequences that make sense. Joshua Dysart is writing one of the most important and thought-provoking comics you’re ever going to read, and you should be reading it.

 

Ms. Marvel #2

Ms. Marvel #2

Modern fears are so much different than the fears of the past. Any of us can be taken at any moment, the flickering fiction of a single image broadcast anywhere, copyrighted, and used in ways that it was never intended. There are few secrets, little privacy, and the old and aging powers feast on the young – demanding free labor and growing angry when that labor demands to be paid, when that labor can’t afford things, when so many things go wrong. Ms. Marvel is a hero because she stands for essential decency, for the nobility of the human spirit in a world that sometimes equates the worth of an individual with their bank account. Material value is fun, sure, but trying to help others find happiness, based on their definitions of that word, without hurting other people? That’s the better option. Abandoning fear, reaching out to those that need it, helping those that can’t stand to stand for themselves. And that’s what this comic is about – finding a place in the world based on nobility, dignity, and strength. We need more like it.

 

Wayward #12

Wayward #12

We call ourselves Living Myth. There’s a reason for that – we believe that myths are living writhing things that never truly go away, the building blocks upon which we both our selfs and our stories. We are all mythic to someone, all of us living mythic lives that are tied to other concepts both ancient and new. That’s the core of this book, which is about Japanese kids becoming the gods that culture imagines. Cat girls and psychics and fate walkers, oh my, people that can tap into the internet and become machine gods, all mingled with the old legends of yesteryear – the kappa and the kitsune, the monks and spiders of folklore, and mangled together into something that is so much more than the sum of its parts. The explanations of history and context are worth the cover price alone, but it’s the characters that will hold you, trap you, keep you reading and wanting to know more. And you will want to know more. You’ll curse this comic for ending, especially given everything we learn in these pages. Buy the book. Buy it. Buy it and love it forever.

 

Didn’t quite make the Top Five. Still worth your time.

 

Axcend #3Axcend #3

Actions have consequence, usually larger ones than we can readily see – and actions that cause harm often cause greater harm down the line. When a person learns to live with pain it sometimes breaks them, but other times forces them to excel, or – worst of all – makes them worse than what was harming them in the first place. The victim becomes a monster, and those that caused that pain wonder why they’re now in pain. This is why.

 

 

Batgirl #46Batgirl #46

Fallout from the gang war in Catwoman brings Spoiler to Burnside, where she gets to hang out with Babs. This is great, because it puts two characters that compliment one another back together again, and adds the drama of someone else getting in on the action, a character action that adds to the story, and Barbara learns that sometimes her actions have unexpected consequences. There seems to be an on-going story in several comics about society smothering youth.

 

 

Dragon Age - Magekiller #1Dragon Age: Mage Slayer #1

Greg Rucka is writing this. I had no idea; I’m on my third playthrough in Inquisition and picked this up on a lark, started flipping through it and thought wow, this is good. I flipped back and saw it was Rucka and smiled because, hey, it’s Rucka – and there is are few finer writers in the world, and the Dragon Age mythology is a perfect fit for someone who likes details this much. Captures the look and feel of Thedas perfectly.

 

 

Huck #2Huck #2

Power does not come from nowhere – it is always fostered, grown, cultivated. It comes from adversity, from hardship or madness, because happy and content people change slowly, if at all. The powerful may not know their origins, but sometimes they know their power and sometimes they seek to do right, no matter the cost. There’s an essential sweetness here, a dignity that speaks to both the best and worst in humanity. I hope Mark Millar doesn’t go for an easy out.

 

 

Jem and The Holograms Holiday SpecialJem and The Holograms Holiday Special

There are tales of soldiers putting their guns down on Christmas and playing soccer with one another for a day. Just a friendly game before going back to murder the next day, because sometimes people are enemies for very stupid reasons. The bits between the various Misfits and Holograms are lovely, and the reasons how they got one another as Secret Santa’s were perfect, but it’s the interaction between Pizzazz and Jem that makes this comic. Barely missed the top five.

 

 

The Mighty Thor #2The Mighty Thor #2

Loki returns. There was some interest in seeing how Loki – the God of Stories – was going to play post-Secret Wars. The Al Ewing run was some of the funniest, cleverest, and most heart breaking comics of the modern era, and firmly established a new and fantastic direction for the characters – all truths that can be applied to what Jason Aaron has done with Thor. Loki and Jane have a history together, very little of it is good, and this sets the terms of engagement.

 

 

Lucifer #1Lucifer #1

Mike Carey wrote an incredible series of comics back in the day, using the Devil as established by Neil Gaiman, and bringing an end to both God and Satan. It’s a fascinating read. This comic acknowledges that one and the time that passed between them, re-establishing a Devil who is still very much himself and yet different. It also features the broken Gabriel last seen in the pages of Hellblazer, and forces the two of them together. Interesting. Very interesting.

 

 

Spire #5Spire #5

This comic does something that very few others manage to accomplish – because of the lettering, who can read the accents, the volume, the voices of the characters in this world. And it is a mass world, a mess of flesh and emotive chaos barely holding itself together in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s beautiful and strange and full of anger, resentment, and beauty, all building towards a not-so-distant end. What is the Spire? We’re finding out. Oh, yes.

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690

Why I’m Dreading Star Wars

Culture, Opinion

December 16, 2015

A new hope. A new love. A new franchise. The Force was strong with this one.

A new hope. A new love. A new franchise. The Force was strong with this one.

I can’t remember a time when Star Wars wasn’t a part of my life. Snowball fights where the big kids were AT-ATs. Light saber duels with wrapping paper tubes. My brother making Darth Vader jokes while being hooked up to breathing machines. Star Wars ran like a river through my childhood – an abstract knowledge, bits and pieces acquired like overheard conversation.

Then it happened. A cold spring day in 1997, my dad took me to see the Special Edition release of Star Wars: A New Hope. A red velvet rope attempting to class up an aging cinema, my dad, reassuring, as we wove our way through the crowd, down stairs coated in aging purple carpet, past bored teenagers popping corn, into the theatre. The lights dimmed and those first words scrawled past; “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away…”

I was hooked. Books, comics, games, I devoured it all. From the Junior Jedi Knights to the Old Republic, I consumed it all. Looking back on my childhood, most of it was spent with a Timothy Zahn novel. Other girls were spending their allowance on mascara or miniskirts: I obsessed over the release dates of new X-wing novels. Being a huge nerd and a Star Wars fan quickly became integral to my identity, especially as the internet grew. From my computer in Smalltown, Canada, I could connect with other fans across the globe. We chatted and gamed, spending years in a SW MMB RPG.

I’d found my tribe.

Although, yeah, we all did a Dark Side run, didn't we?

Although, yeah, we all did a Dark Side run, didn’t we?

Being “That Girl Who Likes Star Wars” in high school was isolating, and yet it gave me a world to escape into. A place where I could dream. In the Star Wars universe, no one ever tells Jaina Solo she can’t do something. Mara Jade overcomes the influence and manipulations of the Emperor. Corran Horn explores the complicated relationship between Law, Justice, and doing Right. Through these characters, I learned to understand a world much larger than the one I lived in.

When George Lucas announced the prequels, I bought in hard. Opening day tickets with my dad, prepared to relive that first magic moment – and nope. Instead of the world I’d known, I got two hours on a trade dispute featuring more plot holes than CGI. Even the supreme hotness of Ewen Mcgregor could not save it. My soul was crushed. Still, I could not give up on Star Wars; too much of myself had I given it.

Maybe, I thought, I could just restrict myself to the post expanded universe, write off all that prequel nonsense, and focus on the characters I love: Anakin Solo, Wedge Antilles, Kyp Durron… they were safe. So I built my knowledge, showing off to nerds and smiting casual fans. Was I kind of a brat about it? Totally. Was I a little overly emotionally invested? Definitely. I loved Star Wars, but Star Wars never loved me back.

Remember these things?

Remember these things?

Sometime in high school, the Yuuzhan Vong invaded. A major event that wiped out several key characters, including Chewbacca and Anakin Solo, just for dramatic effect. I cried. I raged. I stopped reading. Slowly, the books were packed away. The RPG died off as players grew up and I started to find other ways to define myself… but in my heart, I couldn’t let go. I’d catch myself glancing over titles at the book store, making sure my favorite characters were still okay.

When Disney bought Star Wars, I knew it was the end. They removed the pre-existing books from canon, marking my childhood “Invalid.” They turned R2-D2 into a humidifier. They started selling Star Wars branded oranges. I watched as they took this esoteric thing I loved and gave it to everyone. Don’t get me wrong, Star Wars has always been a marketing machine. It’s a fantastic vehicle to sell toys and I get that. It’s just hard to watch. The fact is, for better or for worse, now that Disney has Star Wars they’re going to keep making movies, tv shows, comics, and toys until the end of time. We’re going to have new Star Wars forever… and there’s something terrifying in that.

The Force might be strong with this one, too.

The Force might be strong with this one, too.

Suddenly, everyone is a Star Wars fan, and I just want to scream, “No! That’s not true – that’s impossible! You’re not a REAL fan! You’ve come late to the party and are claiming it was yours the whole time. You didn’t live through it like we did – you don’t even know who anyone is!”

And yet I don’t. Who am I to deny someone the chance to love something I love? Even if it hurts to hear people mispronounce names or places, I don’t correct them like I would have 15 years ago. If you truly love something you need to let it go. So, I’m trying. I’m trying to accept that the thing I love has changed, and maybe? Maybe it’ll be okay… and if I’m lucky? Maybe better.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from Star Wars, it’s that good is stronger than evil.

Unless they change the underlying themes… but then, I guess I’ll have to wait to find out.

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492

Review: Civil War, Dawn of Justice, and Apocalypse Trailers

Culture, Fail, Reviews, Videos

December 14, 2015

Ho-hum. Another day, another trailer.

That looks like something. There’s people in in that resemble the X-Men, certainly. When you talk to people that liked the recent x-movies, though, the thing they mention is the complexity of the relationship between Charles and Erik. Does it look like there’s much of that here?

No, there’s some blue thing who is doing… something? Something bad, maybe? There’s a lot of sparkle and jingle-jangle, like keys being dangled before a toddler, but after the initial wow dies down – the second the trailer ends – everything about the trailer is gone. It’s forgettable, interchangeable with any of a dozen other trailers.

Like, say, this one:

You know, I’m going to go out on a limb: Ben Affleck’s take on Batman looks interesting. I think he’s going to pull that character off, and I’d be interested in seeing his movie, preferably before Dawn of Justice, but DC Comics is playing catch-up to Marvel and instead of taking their time to craft a story using their incredible backlog of characters, they’re just going to jam everyone into one movie like throwing shit at a wall and hoping that something sticks.

The problem with this approach is that it relies on spectacle rather than substance, and spectacle is increasingly meaningless on it’s own – effect based movies have become increasingly boring because every movie has special effects, and so the only thing to set one movie apart from the others is the characters within those movies.

It’s funny that character driven movies, which fell out of favor because of spectacle, are now making a comeback due to the super-saturation of spectacle.

And that’s why we’re excited for this movie:

Yes, the Black Panther looks awesome for those of that know who he is, but every beat in that trailer is character based. Cap, Bucky, Falcon, Natasha, Iron Man. We care about everything in this trailer because of who these people are and what they mean to one another. They have a mythos behind them, history, so everything they say and do is given weight.

X-Men Apocalypse could have focused on the strained ties between Charles, Erik, and Raven as they deal with one another and a new threat, but instead we get what looks like a confused mangled mess. Dawn of Justice could have focused on the fallout from Man of Steel resulting in Batman and a panicked response from the world, but instead we get what looks like a rushed outline that will cram too much style with too little substance.

Civil War hits a perfect median by having every bit of spectacle be character based.

It’s a difference born of different philosophies of movie making. Fox and DC Comics are making superhero movies, whereas Marvel is making good movies that just happen to have superheroes in them. It’s a design choice that informs everything all three of those studios do, and it’s made all the more frustrating when it comes to DC Comics because of how good Arrow and Flash are.

Yes, I’m going to go see all of them in theaters, but by the time they come out on blu-ray I’m only going to remember Civil War, and Civil War is going to be the only one I’m likely to buy. I hope I’m wrong. I hope Dawn of Justice and X-Men Apocalypse buck the expectations set by the trailer and give us solid, interesting characters.

I’m just not going to hold my breath.

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324

Fiction – Love is War 03-00-02-09

Books & Writing, Culture, Projects, Short Fictions

December 11, 2015

Every week, we’re going to post some new fiction for you to devour and read, with original art as a header, and then a collected version for purchase from our store when the book is complete. Questions? Comments? The writers are right here, and they’ll respond as they’re able. 

***

Click here to read previous entry.

***

– 03:00:02:09 –

Endrall tended to the wounded. It was what he did out on the front lines, far from where his father’s long shadow would drape over him. He worked under an assumed name and though some of the nobility he tended to recognized him, they respected his desire to remain incognito. He was there when the survivors from every battle came round; he was there when the Coeecians pushed forward with a large invasive swarm. The other lords barely discussed strategy with him, telling him that healers had enough to think about what with all the healing, but he snuck into a couple of their discussions anyway.

Veskur had taught him how to lurk unnoticed in the background.

He tried not to think about Veskur too much.

Life was difficult but good. He had lost the weight of Sotaas weighing him down; the Wanderer of Ygg had consistently missed the obvious, and had proven to be much less interesting than Veskur had insisted he was. He’d gone into Ygg lands a handful of times to collect old things, but none of the faltering nobles there seemed to know where Sotaas had gone. Not that Endrall cared. He just felt it was good to feign an interest in Sotaas’ well-being. He knew the nobles of Ygg were too stupid to recognize his performance for what it was – had he actually cared, well, he might have done more than simply ask after him.

It was arguments with his father over Sotaas that had finally driven Endrall out, arguments about Sotaas and Veskur. He didn’t want to discuss either with anyone but people kept bringing them up relentlessly, as if either of them were worth talking about outside of their relationships with him. It was frustrating. It was intolerable.

Veskur kept sending him missives, begging to be allowed back near him. He looked at them with the amusement they deserved and watched as she tried to mend the damage that lay between them. He insulted her and she flinched, saying nothing like the pathetic toy she was. Endrall kept her around on his terms, showing her the occasional flash of affection before insulting her thoroughly and reminding her of just how utterly without worth she was.

She deserved such treatment. Both of them knew it. Neither ever stopped to wonder why.

The only problem with Veskur was that occasionally she would stand up for herself, or express her feelings – as if her emotive state was something that Endrall was supposed to care about.

“You treat me like an ailing pet!” she would wail, staring up at him.

“I hate when you say that.” He did not deny the truth of her words. “I hate you.” He loved the hurt in her eyes. All he wanted, all he ever wanted, was for his favorite toy to be silent and accept whatever he chose to give her.

He ignored her most of the time. When he felt bad he went to her and she made him feel better, explaining anything, justifying his every want. She was wise in any way that was not immediately related to her, able to see and explain connections and events with a clarity that always amazed, and yet she was unable to do so much as walk into a room without doing something wrong or breaching some bit of protocol. She was an embarrassment, really, a connection that Endrall sometimes felt ashamed of in ways that he would never express or admit.

However, after he had finally grown tired of her pathetic begging and the ceaseless questions about her that others asked, well, then he had left the world he knew behind and entered the world he had been groomed for all his life. The work was difficult, yes, but he made real headway. There were nobles that knew his face and not his name, nobles that sought him out and spoke of him and owed him so much. They trusted him with their lives and their hearts and he healed both, soothing their hurts and calming the raging demons that sang within their veins.

It was Figo Jera that brought things to a head for him. Lovely Figo, one of the most successful of the Vanir Lords, one of the warriors that held the line on the killing fields of south and west Midgard. Endrall had made his way there only gradually, not knowing what to expect and not truly caring – what would be would be, and he was not trying to control his destiny so much as letting himself drift and learn from wherever his path took him.

Figo was holding a rocky cliff that was covered in brambles and thorns. In more peaceful times, those thickets would flower into a cascading fall of roses, daffodils, and ivies, but now those plants were trampled underfoot as men and the barbarians that assailed them made war. This cliff was widely considered an indefensible position by the entire host of the nobility, but here Figo was, holding it, keeping it safe, keeping the Coeecian mass out.

Losses were heavy. House Suwilo was already spread thin, the three lines borne of the House cast all across the borders of Midgard. Endrall could have ended up anywhere among the Vanir armies but he had ended up here and Figo had recognized him and retained him as a personal healer, respecting his desire for secrecy in public and granting them moments to satiate their hungers in private. They clung to one another, whispering secrets to one another.

Endrall wondered what circumstances would be required to destroy Figo utterly.

Figo wept sometimes when Endrall was holding him, clinging back with a painful strength. Endrall allowed this, stroking the general’s hair and whispering in his ear, calming him, offering solace as only those of House Suwilo could. Figo accepted this comfort and flung all the harder, desperate for even the smallest measurement of comfort.

“What is it?” Endrall would ask, when the sobs had left Figo and he had regained a measure of calm. “What is it that strikes you?”

“It’s just…,” Figo would pause, his grey eyes growing distant as his gaze turned to the gaurn on his hand. “You know what it’s like. What she’s like.”

“All too well.”

“I can’t help but wonder what I could have accomplished without the tool she gave me, but more than that, well, do you know what she can do? Yes? I wonder how many of my victories are mine, how many of the choices I’ve made were truly meant for me. I wonder if she’s influencing me even now, violating everything that I might ever choose to be or become.”

“And this upsets you?”

“It makes everything that makes me – me – invalid! There’s nothing I can do, no choice I can make, nothing that I will ever be that has not been defined or chosen by her! She’s ruined me, ruined me, and there’s no way to know if I’m right or wrong because even if I were to ask her I know she would lie to me, I know it.”

Endrall was all too aware of how often Veskur said she never lied.

“You could just walk away from everything.”

“I could never do that.” Figo licked his lips. “I could never do that. I could never walk away or put down my levl and gaurn and let them overtake me. There’s nothing in me or in who I am that would ever let me make that decision, which only raises the question of whether it’s me or something that she put in me.

“How much of who I am is who I might have been? How much that I have accomplished is actually mine? Even if she only did it once that would make me fundamentally different, because every decision that I would have made afterwards would have been predicated on the decision or the outcome that she made sure would come to pass. She’s violated everything that might ever define me – my will, my choices, my life. She’s violated me on such a fundamental level and there’s no one that will ever truly understand what it is she’s done.

“How am I to explain this to Deeam or Hekro or anyone else? No one really knows what she’s capable of, not even you or I. We think we know but she can radically change anything any time she feels like it. All the paths of our lifetimes are hers to play with, all the decisions and outcomes and eventualities are open to her, and she can write any of us any way she feels like it. And every time she does that to one person she does that to everyone, she invalidates everyone. Even if she changes something simple, it will ripple out and touch everything, change everything, make everything that follows a shape that she has sculpted.

“Do you see the scope of what she is? The monstrousness? I love her. I count my time with her as good and gracious. She was never anything more than willing and supportive and caring, but I cannot help but think that she manipulated circumstances in all those instances to make me believe that was what she was.

“And I know she was manipulative in her dealings with me. I know she never looked to anyone else for years, even when I told her I was leaving her, even when I told her that I had taken on other lovers and did not want her anymore. We’d speak or part ways and within the span of a moon or three, we’d be back together like nothing ever happened.

“She made that happen. I know she made that happen. Do you remember when you and Farrell told me just how badly she was using me? Do you remember that? I went home and thought about it and realized it was true. I was talking with her and she was telling me of her plans to celebrate me and I just couldn’t take it anymore, I couldn’t be around her. I asked her not to contact me or touch me or have anything to do with me and as far as I know she hasn’t and yet I can’t help but think that she’s just biding her time.

“She’s a monster, an utter monster. I don’t know what to do or think or feel. I drown myself in work. That’s what I do. That’s all that’s left to me.”

Figo was shaking at the end of this speech, his eyes glazed over and his skin pale. Endrall held him and held him and soothed him to sleep, using the Science that his gaurn gave him access to. He narrowed his eyes, waited for Figo’s breathing to steady, then took his leave to go and find the nobles of House Elhaz. They did not know him. When he asked them to take him somewhere quiet and alone they simply nodded, guided him there, and left.

Night had fallen. He was unsure when that had happened. Veskur had been trying to get a hold of him now for some time but he had ignored her, caring nothing for her, but now the Good Lady was going to get a piece of his mind. Endrall pushed his left hand forward and cut into the very fabric of the world, wrestling it to his will. His Science shaped that energy and he opened an avenue of communication with Veskur Wyrd, heard her intake of breath when she realized who it was that called upon her.

“You’re a monster,” he hissed. “You’re a beast, a savage, an animal. I do not trust you. You’re no better than Jesam was. I hope you die in horrible, horrible pain.” He severed the connection without another word. He could feel her trying to contact him but he did not answer, would not answer, ignored her until the war turned and the Coeecians pulled back. He could have gone home but chose not to, turning instead to the east and north, bordering the lands of the Zaerm.

It was from there that he called Veskur and bid her come to him.

She was working on something, that was clear. There were people in her home and, undoubtedly, whatever she had devoted herself to was something that she considered important. Still, she abandoned everything and came to see him, following his orders as she always did, appearing before him like the failed pet that she had become.

He motioned her closer and she came, hesitant, so very clearly wanting to touch him. Endrall held her at arm’s length. He looked into her eyes as deeply as he was able, watched her tremble, watched her shoulders slump, her lips part, and heard the beat of her heart thrumming like the pitter-patter of a weeping sky.

“Every time I look at you I’m going to see a rapist.”

The words rolled off his tongue, searing the air between them before striking her.

Fascinated, he watched as she collapsed in on herself. He saw it in her eyes, the trust she had for him, the way that she accepted his words as truth over anything she might believe of herself. He recounted what Figo had told him, twisting it slightly, perfectly, knowing how to hurt her.

She crumbled, fell to her knees and shivered so hard that Endrall thought she would break apart right then and there. She rocked back and forth, her breathing shallow, a low moan leaking past her throat.

She believed him, he knew, believed him more than she believed in anything else, believed in him more than she believed in herself.

Every time I look at you I’m going to see a rapist.

The words echoed between them.

Veskur’s eyes went dark, her musculature instantly slack. She tried to run, stumbled, mumbled incoherently, stopped herself and stuttered. She heaved forward and Endrall thought she might vomit but she didn’t, she didn’t, she just lay there and shivered and didn’t even hold herself and he thought he might have gone too far.

When he tried to move closer, to hold her, she waved him off and he narrowed his eyes at her. How dare she do this, deny him her, deny him the right to touch her. He tried again and she denied him again, this time a terrible violence barely held in check caught in that denial.

Endrall kept his distance after that.

He walked about for an hour, Veskur listlessly trailing after him. She shambled like a marionette, the core of her absolutely destroyed under the weight of what he had accused her of. He smiled at her and explained to her again why she was a monster as she meekly followed him back to his carriage.

“Did you want me to help you get home?” he asked her. She blinked, shook her head, fell away from another offer of physical contact, arms hanging limp at her sides. He shrugged and left her there, looking back at her as the carriage started away. She stood, shivering and alone, no longer one of the Vanir but a simple empty husk, a broken creature made of shells and shards.

He went back to the frontlines after that. The Coeecians had all but retreated. Months passed and there was no sign of the incursion that had once threatened all of Midgard. House Elhaz searched and searched but found no sign of them and the Vanir returned to lands they had been forced out of, began to rebuild.

During this peace Endrall fell into the company of a Nauthiz noblewoman named Secu, and the two of them got along splendidly. They were of similar age and temperament, sensualists assured of the world and their place in it. They went to markets and balls and dances, Endrall still hiding his name but basking in the glory that his skills had earned him. So many nobles knew him or of him, so many nobles welcomed him at their tables. It was intoxicating and wonderful to have such admiration.

When the Coeecians struck anew it caught everyone off guard.

They came seeking hostages as much as victims, killing Vanir peasantry as they went, binding the unprepared nobility as they were caught. Endrall knew his way around a levl but he was no warrior; he and Secu were taken, bound, dragged away past the confines of Midgard and deep into the Coeecian camps. He had heard Figo’s accounts of what happened to captive Vanir and he felt himself trembling and horrified. They brought him before a grinning warlord and forced him to his knees, interrogating him and beating him and keeping him bound for hours and hours.

He was locked away with Secu. They had established and confirmed her nobility by speaking with both her and others, but though Endrall Sahr had told them his name there was no one there who knew who he was and no one there that could vouch for his identity. A ransom was paid and Secu was given back to her parents, but Endrall was left alone on his rocky plateau.

The Skie, rulers of the Coeecians, did not believe in locking people away in the dark. They were the people of the storm and their ways were far more frightening and far more barbaric. Caves in their mountain fortresses were pushed out onto the mountain, facing a sheer incline thousands of feet up. There was no hiding from the wind and the rain where the Coeecians kept their captives; there was only a forced appreciation for the forces that they claimed were divine.

Four by four times the sun set and rose after Secu was sent home. Endrall was cold and wet and miserable, the foods they brought him tasteless and empty. His captors looked in on him only to see that he was still there, bringing him food once a day and expecting him to subsist on that. When he had complained they had told him that he could always go and kiss the storm. They smiled when they said it and gave him no more food that week.

03-00-02-09

He heard that there was talk among them concerning which of their lords would get to keep him. The thought terrified him but not enough for him to step out of his prison and plummet to freedom. He held himself, hoping that someone would come and save him.

No one did.

He was alone.

They had left him his gaurn.

Why wouldn’t they have? The nobles were all left with their weapons. There was no chance to use them. Besides, they did not recognize the tools for what they were and why would they do even that when only four such gloves existed in all the world? Endrall thought about saving himself but he could see no way to use the Ethcinos that he had been granted; what use was healing others in a situation such as the one he found himself in?

He could, however, cleave the energies and so find someone to come and get him.

He thought of his father, first, and used the Sciences he knew to craft the sending. His father looked at him with cool eyes over the distance that separated them, listened attentively when Endrall began to tell him all that had happened.

“You thought to make it on your own, child?” His father sighed, sat down and rubbed his temples. “A fine mess you’ve made of it, traveling without your name or my leave. You have nothing now and your life is over. Do you understand? Your life is over. I will not pay for you even if they were to believe me – my resources must go to healing those children that listen to their parents. You have built yourself a tomb. Perhaps you will make it out on your own, child. Perhaps.” His father looked at him, smiled, and severed their connection.

Endrall wept.

There would be no salvation. The one person that loved him, the one person that truly cared had left him here to this. He sat on the cold stone and cried until there were no more tears and then he heaved and was sick over the edge.

He considered jumping.

What was left to him, truly? What destiny could the world hold for him now?

He thought of Figo crying because all his choices had been taken from him and Endrall laughed with bitter mockery. He was the one that had been robbed of choice, left with only two options – suicide or submission. There was nothing else, nothing else that could happen, no one else he could turn to, unless…

Endrall stood and walked to the very edge of life. He held up his gaurn and tapped the energies once more, sending a desperate missive out into the world. It reached its destination, he could feel the response.

Veskur stared back at him in her laboratory, Thea behind him for some reason, and she looked at him with a hatred that melted the moment she saw him fully.

He tried to speak, failed, fell to his knees and wept. He heard Veskur telling him to breathe, to just breathe, and to tell her where he was. He heard Thea in the background saying that it didn’t matter, demanding that Veskur leave him to rot, but Veskur waited and waited, prayed and repented until Endrall was able to give her the knowledge she needed.

“Be strong, Love,” Veskur whispered. “I will be there as soon as I am able.”

The connection severed.

Another sun rose, all the promised warmth contained therein a lie. He froze and held himself, too exhausted to sleep or eat as the wind came, whipping all around him, and a violent rain arose from nothing to pelt the world with an unrelenting fury. Thunder doomed down all around him, shaking the earth and making him jump as lightning as thick as any keep slammed down into the earth, an onslaught that he would never have imagined possible had he not been there to witness it.

Not a drop of moisture touched him. Not a single breeze ruffled his hair.

Staring from the eye of the storm, he he could understand why the Skie dominated the Coeecian people and why the Skie worshiped the storms that ravaged their lands, but even they had seen nothing like this. He blinking, looking at roiling black clouds that shifted like an ocean tide, narrowing his eyes to see the impossible.

Riding the storm was a figure on a horse with hooves of lightning. She carried no levl, wore little more than casual clothing and a glove on her left hand. When she moved the storm went with her. The horse circled the mountain once, twice, blasting the stone and peak, and every time the horse went by electricity crashed into rock and Endrall could hear Coeecians scream and die.

Veskur Wyrd had come for him and she would not be denied.

***

More is coming next week. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

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472

God of Comics – Top 5 for 2015-12-09

Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

December 10, 2015

Batman #47

Batman 047

See, the strength of this comic is something that comes from having a continuity. Everything in this comic builds upon years and years of mythology. Yes, you have Jim Gordon running around in a Bubblegum Crisis Hardsuit and having to put the thing down in order to stop Mr. Bloom, and, sure, Bloom is scary. You get the introduction of Bullock’s Gotham Style Poker, which just become a new favorite variation in our offices. But you also have the We Are Robin movement getting sick of Bruce being on the sidelines, and calling him out. After months and months of hinting you get Bruce being forced to confront his own mind, followed by the potential consequence of him remembering. The writing here is a thing of beauty, and the art accentuates every twist and turn, making those last few pages absolutely chilling. This is how you build to a climax, this is how you tell a story, this is the slow burn that’s been simmering for almost a year coming to fruition, and it is a majestic thing to witness. Well done, DC Comics. Well done.

 

Birthright #12

Birthright 012

For those of you that don’t know, Samael is the actual angelic name of Lucifer. The other named mages – Mastema and Enoch – are mythic figures of importance, and given how long it’s hinted they’ve been here and how time moves, the implications are staggering. We’re literally getting Mikey fighting the devil of Christic mythology, and the build to that battle is sinister enough even without the reader knowing what the name refers to. If you do, though… Lucifer is known as the Prince of Lies, but his real weapon is twisting the truth – and it’s the secrets between Mikey and his family that are destroying them. Aaron is behind bars by an FBI agent that seems to have a personal hatred for him, and the reveal is something that makes perfect sense, all things considered, and is one I refuse to spoil. Wendy is finally trying to heal the rift in her family, helped along by the angel that is about to make her a grandmother. This comic is incredible and cool and twisted, and if you’re not reading it that needs to change.

 

Spider Gwen #3

Spider-Gwen 003

It should be pretty clear by now that we’re fans of character and stories that make sense. So, Gwen putzing off to get some insight on her life? That’s interesting. Going to where her counterpart died, and meditating on that and what it means and questioning the power she has? That’s interesting. Sending her back home and having an Osborn enter her life, finding out that Harry went to the military and trained up to avenge Peter’s death? That’s tragic. The pacing is a little off here, which tends to be true of this title in general, but the depth of the characters and the world they inhabit more than make up for the pacing issues. The way the cops are investigating Spider-Gwen, the importance given to Captain Stacy and showing us what he could have done if still alive, the sheer sinister glee that Matt Murdock has every time he prances into panel, all of it adds up to something that feels utterly different from anything else. The art is also stellar, conveying weight, emotion, and momentum, and the character bios are a thing of beauty.

 

Star Wars Annual #1

Star Wars Annual 001

Casual Star Wars fans might wonder how bad the Emperor is, really. Nothing in the Phantom Menace made any sense at all, for example, so what exactly did the dude, you know, do? Was he really so terrible? That’s the question this book seeks to answer, and it does so in a roundabout way that works. This tale is told from the perspective of a deep cover agent, someone that we see is good at his jobs and has to do questionable things to maintain his cover and struggles with the monster he believes himself to be. And he does think of himself as a monster right up until the Emperor makes a mockery of him, out-thinking him and out-maneuvering him, killing hundreds of people for the sake of a favorable soundbite and to demonize the Rebellion. It’s thrilling, amazing, and utterly horrific – and I’m hoping that the character introduced in this comic makes it into at least some of the other comics, if not the upcoming movies. A James Bond character running around in Star Wars? That’s a license to print money.

 

Tomboy #2

Tomboy 002

My favorite anime is Revolutionary Girl Utena. It’s a brightly colored fairy tale with shiny primary colors that deals with abusive relationships, incest, twincest, thwarted expectation, identity value, and more… in the first four episodes. It just gets weirder from there, eventually becoming a subversive critique of the magical girl trope and fairy stories in general. This comics reminds me of that in the best possible way. The girl in question is a magical girl – we know that now, and we know that there are other people that are aware of her existence somehow. And we also know that the world she inhabits, like our own world, is full of official corruption that sees the worst criminals in the world exonerated, set free, or even idolized for their crimes. If that horror was visited upon your doorstep and you were aware of how bad things had gotten, if you had the power to fight for justice – real, actual justice – would you? How would you know what that looked like, or what it would cost? This comic delves into those topics. It’s tremendous.

 

Didn’t quite make the Top Five. Still worth your time.

 

Batman-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 001Batman / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1

I’m not sure what more I could ask from this comic other than maybe some better art. The style here is weird, but everything else is spot on – the characters, the way they act and behave, even hints at motivation. The Foot and the TMNT are stranded on Gotham and DC Comics is not their world, so both parties are looking for a way home. Batman gets involved because it’s Gotham, and nothing happens in Gotham that the Bat doesn’t involve himself in. Awesome.

 

 

Monstress 002Monstress #2

Oh, gods, the art. The pretty, gorgeous, unreal art. The sense of history here is glorious, too, playing with politics and propaganda, some people being in on things to know just how badly they’re screwed and others being utterly ignorant of the monsters in their midst. Of course we’re going to like that, and the build towards the confrontation at the end, and the revelation that happens through that, is nice. Needs to explain a bit more, I think, but there’s so much here.

 

 

Scarlet Witch 001Scarlet Witch #1

Wanda is one of those characters who gets by despite no one really knowing what her powers are, and the idea of actually addressing that is nice. I’m wondering about the logistics of showing up in costume (and it’s a nice redesign, by the by) at a crime scene, but her probability based powers can actually be used to explain quite a lot, and hand wave even more. Art style is a little messy, and the magic feels banal compared to, say, Strange.

 

 

Ultimates 002Ultimates #2

The art is a little cleaner this month, which is nice. The story does a bunch of interesting things, tackling a bunch of philosophical issues dealing with everything from creation to the ethics and realities of translocation to the idea of things man was not meant to know. This is heady fucking writing, is what we’re saying, and a direct challenge to the idea that superheroes can’t handle hard questions within their own universes and have everyone win. Fantastic.

 

 

Unity 025Unity #25

Okay, if you’ve never read a Valiant book, this will give you some idea of what the company has on offer. If you are a Valiant reader, however, this book is chalk full of in-jokes, character moments, and references that feel like a giant thank you to long time readers. This is Valiant poking fun at itself and the absurdity of comics in general, and the GI Joe-style Unity PSAs are worth the price of admission alone. This was a lot of fun.

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