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God of Comics: Vampirella #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

March 15, 2017

Vampirella #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)

Huh. Two Dynamite comics in one month. That’s never happened before. Keep up the good comics, guys.

Dynamite goes back and forth between being simple TnA and in-depth stories where some skin gets flashed. They’ve been focusing more on the latter for years now, most notably with Miss Fury, the aforementioned Gail Simone comics, and others. They did a rather incredible send-up of every modern western vampire story a few years back using this character, and that was a lot of fun, but…

… well, it’s Vampirella. There’s some weirdness here because the character is weird. She’s had origin stories that make her an alien or make her a vampire or make her the daughter of Lilith or… she’s got a convoluted back story that involves gods, other planets, angels, demons, pretty much everything. Her root, though, her very start was in horror erotica and it was often genuinely terrifying, playing with concepts of monstrousness and humanity.

There’s something to the character that speaks to the heart of vampiric myth, an honesty born of the Victorian era while confronting and murdering the conceits of that era. She can be fun, she can be commanding, she can horrific – there’s very little that is beyond the character’s literary grasp given the utter chaos that is her history.

Many writers, when confronted by this, shuffle it all to the side and start anew. This is the real mythology, they say, and move on. The writer Dynamite has chosen for this iteration of the character, Paul Cornell, has a different view on the subject: they’re all true, he says. I like to imagine him laughing as he says it, perhaps even cackling.

He’s having Vampirella woken up after a thousand years of sleep, the subject of a prophecy in a world that we’re going to have to learn about as she does. At the same time, her own memories have been damaged and so she’s got to try and piece together who and what she is. Thankfully, the people that died waking her up left her a somewhat legible book of prophecies to work with, so she does have that going for her.

Paul has no problem letting his world and characters build themselves, and artist Jimmy Broxton walks a perfect line between camp, atmosphere, and epic. This is an incredibly powerful start to a new series and an entirely different take on a familiar character that snaps into what you might know of her perfectly, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

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God of Comics: Red Sonja #3

God Of Comics, Reviews

March 15, 2017

Red Sonja #3 (Dynamite Entertainment)

This title had a character-defining run a few years back when Gail Simone decided that she was going to take a stab at the She-Devil with a sword and took her through her whole life. It was fun and worked well with the legendary tone of the character, leaving enough blank spaces between story-arcs for anything and everything to happen.

And anything is the best word to describe what Amy Chu has decided to put her through.

So, here’s the story: Sonya is hired by a village to stop a mad sorcerer, Kulan Gath, from summoning up demons and elder things. She goes in and basically does her thing, being a high-level warrior in a mid-level campaign, and slaughters her way through to the sorcerer. They fight, he surprises her with a spell and she loses track of him and finds herself entombed somewhere.

Getting out isn’t a big problem because this is Red Freaking Sonya we’re talking about, but the tomb she was in? It’s a subway tunnel. She’s been transported to modern day New York. Typically when this sort of thing happens in a fantasy story it’s because the production is running low on money, but there have been good high-fantasy/modern day crossovers in the past (Elric was pretty big on them, come to think of it).

This is one of the good ones, playing to the paranoia of the modern world and the concepts that come with high fantasy. Sonya is Sonya, regardless of the world she’s in. She’s been shot at and arrested by cops (who had to remind one another to de-escalate the situation and utterly failed to do so), one of whom speaks a broken version of her language. There’s been beer and all sort of madness and that’s been fun.

More interesting, though, is the sorcerer. Kulan went and started a corporation and is doing all the things corporation CEOs and big banks do in the modern era – causing more misery and suffering than the most evil of his ilk could have dreamed of in the past. He’s also now in charge of the police and various intelligence services due to graft and political corruption, meaning he can turn the whole city on her without having to lift a finger.

Welcome to modern day America, Sonya. Its a dystopia both worse and better than you might have thought possible.

This issue is going to see Sonya confront the evil CEO from her time and maybe get some questions answered, but this isn’t going to be easy for her – because as bad and cruel as her world could be, this one can be much more worse.

Red Sonya might not be the hero we deserve, but here’s hoping that she is the hero we need.

Amy Chu is clearly having fun with the concept, and so is artist Carlos E. Gomez. The latter’s talent for juxtaposition comes to the fore here, as he gets to mix the madness of Sonya’s world with the madness of our own. The whole thing is pretty great and if you’re craving more fantastic in your urban fantasy, you’ll probably dig this.

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God of Comics: Injection #11

God Of Comics, Reviews

March 15, 2017

Injection #11 (Image Comics)

If you like horror – creeping intelligent gets-inside-your-head dread – then you need to be reading this comic.

This is Warren Ellis at his absolute best, giving artists Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire the perfect stories with which to play with their art and haunt the rest of us. This book is the purest sort of magic, a story that could only ever properly be told in this medium by three absolute masters of their craft.

It’s also been on hiatus for a bit while the three worked on other projects and plotted out the next storyline, of which this is the first part. The premise is simple enough – a think tank was put together to try and make life more interesting, the greatest thinkers and cultural scholars thinking that mankind was heading for a cultural and political plateau that looked pretty good but also boring.

The lot of them met one another and put together an AI that was supposed to make things more interesting, an injection into the technological consciousness, but one of their number wasn’t a scientist or strategist or what-have-you; he was a Cunning-Man (read: wizard), and his presence altered the injection somewhat.

What was created is no longer limited to computer systems, but is acting out in the confines of reality and changing what is real and what is not. It has no limitations other than perception and is an intelligence designed by some of the most intelligent people that have ever lived to be more brilliant than all of them.

Problem is, the damn thing went rogue and now the team that created it has to try and mitigate the messes it makes. The one person that’s doing this in any sort of official capacity, Maria Kilbride, has gone insane because of it and is basically let out of the asylum to fight a bodiless presences that is, quite simply, beyond the comprehension of most people.

It’s a sanity-shattering concept that’s writ and drawn to perfection, a philosophical/spiritual thriller that is unlike anything else you’re going to find, well, anywhere.

The new storyline starts with Maria sending one of the other creators of the injection, Brigid Roth (think a merging of Harold and Root from Person of Interest), to an archaeological site in Cornwall to investigate a series of flensed skeletons that have been chained to a wall. Brigid is there to separate data from legend and is putting her sanity at risk by doing so.

If you like intelligent horror you need to be reading this. Do so. Now.

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God of Comics: Ghostbusters 101 #1

God Of Comics, Reviews, Showcase

March 15, 2017

Well, this takes me back.

Erik Burnham was writing this comic when I first started the whole God of Comics thing for Living Myth Magazine. It had this weird stylized Dan Schoening art that made it instantly recognizable and tried to marry the various cartoons and comics that came before (excepting the one with the gorilla) and worked excessively well. It also set the stage for the themes IDW would continue to explore in the comics that followed: themes like integration, family, and diversity.

Without Erik Burnham’s work on Ghostbusters, there would be no TMNT, no Jem and the Holograms, no GI Joe. The modern IDW comics owe a lot to this title and Transformers, so the idea of Erik returning to work on the characters he did such a good job with before is exciting… especially following the fallout of the last feature film.

Let’s get this out of the way now: I enjoyed the new movie. It was not as good as the first but was loads better than the second and it could easily spark a whole new franchise. The deleted scenes are great, the themes explored therein are a lot of fun, and the characters are kind of amazing (I have a head canon that Patty is putting herself through college and is majoring in New York’s history and sociology).

The set-up here is that the original team – Venkman, Stantz, Zeddemore, and Spengler – are opening up franchises because of course they are, and that means bringing people into the home office to learn the ropes. Some of those students poke around where they shouldn’t and end up merging two universes together, a thing that happens in IDW quite a lot (and explains their weird and often excellent crossovers).

In practical terms, this means that Venkman, Stantz, Zeddemore, and Spengler will get to work with Holtzmann, Yates, Tolan, and Gilbert as equals, with respect to both iterations of the franchise being seen as equally valid. This is the best sort of writing, and this comic promises to be a lot of fun.

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God of Comics: Batwoman #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

March 15, 2017

Batwoman #1 (DC Comics)

ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod

I mean… er. I’m really excited that this is happening. Batwoman was one of the few bright spots in the nu52 until the powers that be decided that the title character couldn’t have a lesbian wedding because of a dictate stating that superheroes weren’t allowed to be happy because the nu52 was full of Dark and Grit, and it proved to be as idiotic a decisions as Marvel’s whole thing of turning Steve Rogers into a Nazi.

Things came to a head and the whole creative team walked. This was after the character’s creator, Greg Rucka, walked after having creative differences with the idiots that decided eternal darkness needed to be the theme of all their comics and not just a really great video game. Art duties went to someone awful, and writing duties went to someone who took Bruce Wayne’s equal and decided that rape-by-vampire was the best story ever.

All of it just compounded the problem, like Marvel is doing right now by having a holocaust survivor become a Nazi. Readers left the book in droves. It was sad. Eventually, the book was canceled and the powers-that-be said that the character was best left forgotten and couldn’t actually remember the character’s name.

I wrote a eulogy when the creative team left back at Living Myth Magazine that talked about some of the mistakes that DC was making back then. It seems someone at DC was paying attention – not to me, per se, but to the readers that were leaving them – and they’ve since rebooted their whole franchise (again) but this time gone back to the heroic elements that make DC Comics great.

Part of that process was handing Detective Comics to James Tynion IV, one of the better up-and-coming writers who is likely to be one of the best writers the industry has to offer in a very short time. He made Detective Comics a team book, and a big part of that team was Kate Kane – Batwoman.

Kate occupies a unique place in the Bat mythos; for a start, she’s Bruce’s cousin on his mother’s side, a military brat being groomed for an officer’s position on talent until she was drummed out under don’t ask, don’t tell. She had a random encounter with Batman while beating up some muggers and took one look at Batman and decided that was what she wanted to do.

She’s not a sidekick, not a reformed criminal, not anyone that had anything to do with Batman aside from maybe seeing Bruce at the occasional family dinner. She came to being Batwoman on her own, applying her own skills and talents, and this means that she’s not beholden to him: in many ways, she is his equal and he treats her as such.

James Tynion IV does, too, and he’s brought along “Evil” Marguerite Bennett on co-writing duties, and  Marguerite excels at working on titles that flirt with mythology, horror, and black comedy. This is a character that plays to all of her strengths. On top of that, Steve Epting – the artist from the gorgeous spy-thriller comics Velvet – is handling the art duties, so we’re returning to the lush visuals, deep blacks, and bright reds that gave the original series its dream-like quality.

Here, Kate is heading off to an island nation that acts as a criminal hub. The place is called Coryana, and it’s basically the most interesting bits of Madripoor from Marvel mixed with Tortuga from Pirates of the Caribbean. She’s there to investigate some of the fallout from decisions she made between being drummed out of the military and finding her calling. There’s people she left behind and other people that have developed a bioweapon that touches on the mythic mysteries that she handles better than Bruce does and this? This is going to be awesome.

Do not miss this comic. It’s going to be the best title the Big Two put out this week.

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632

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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640

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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794

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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496

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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474

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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