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God of Comics: The Unworthy Thor #5

Books & Writing, Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

March 22, 2017

The Unworthy Thor #5 (Marvel Comics)

While Marvel continues to copy DC Comic’s plan of fail (controversy equals cash! Everything needs to be dark and gritty! Let’s reboot the universe! Captain America is a Nazi! Magento is a Nazi! Nick Spencer is a Nazi! Wait a minute…), some of their books have managed to avoid the terrible and quietly do incredible things. Few have managed to do the incredible as well or as long as Jason Aaron’s entire run on the mythic side of Marvel Comics.

Jason’s been working on a proper set of myths, building and expanding the visions set forth by luminaries like Walt Simonson and others. He’s turned a house into a mansion, and the one event Marvel let him plan (Original Sin) gave us Heven, a background for Angela, new Nick Fury, and the new Thor. It created new stories that made sense in the context of the world and added new facets to the heroes involved, as opposed to some other more recent events (Captain Marvel screwed over all her friends because she doesn’t like Phillip K. Dick!)

Part of the consequences of Original Sin led to Thor Odinson losing his hammer. Thor, now simply the Odinson, is no longer considered Worthy. We don’t know what caused this, but he went out and tried to fight without the hammer and lost his arm in the process. His arm has since been replaced, and after giving the new Thor his blessing, went off to look for a replacement Mjolnir.

So, funny story: remember the Ultimate Universe?  It was a mostly successful attempt to place the Marvel superheroes in a more realistic setting, modernizing and condensing some classic Marvel comics. The Ultimates, their Avengers analog, was basically the template for the Avengers movie. It was good times. The Ultimate line also has Jonathan Hickman at his very best, and as critical as I am of him, his Fantastic Four is amazing.

Anyway, their version of Thor was never considered unworthy, so that Mjolnir never had a curse put on it. Anyone with the strength to do so can pick that thing up and it looks super weird and awkward, but someone as strong as Odinson isn’t going to sweat those details. There is a hammer, he wants it, and he’s on the verge of getting it.

Jason Aaron simply gets the Odinson in a way no one else does. He’s been rocking at this for years, instilling all the mythic Marvel comics with pathos and humanity. They are some of the very best that Marvel has to offer on an epic scale, what with Doctor Strange and the Mighty Thor and the Unworthy Thor, and if you’re not reading this and want to see what sort of magic Marvel is capable of you should pick this up.

All those comics feature some of the best artists that Marvel can get their hands on, and the Unworthy Thor is no exception; Olivier Coipel is doing some amazing things with this book, so if you’re in this for the pretty you will not be disappointed. Check it out.

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God of Comics: Iron Fist #1

Books & Writing, Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

March 22, 2017

Iron Fist #1 (Marvel Comics)

uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh.

So, the Netflix series happened. I’m about halfway through it not, and it’s… there, I guess? The better side of okay, maybe? There’s just a lot of stuff that they touch on that doesn’t seem to pay off with the main story: everything they’re doing with the Hand is great, but the main story is just kind of there. Nothing happens. There’s chances to talk about corporate greed in more than just a superficial way.

Daredevil was about legal and political corruption. Jessica Jones was about rape culture and PTSD. Luke Cage was about institutionalized racism and crime. Iron Fist is about… what, exactly? American Exceptionalism?

It’s frustrating. The show introduces the concept of heaven and time-displaced cities, hints at talking about corporate greed and the burgeoning class war, touches on colonialism and stereotypes, and even brushes in some talk about PTSD in a different way than Jessica Jones does. There’s mention of reality and expectation and then none on it is followed up upon.

Danny is joyless, laughless, exhibiting a sort of douche-bro cool that comes from a cishet white rich high schooler who went backpacking for the summer and just has to tell you about it. He doesn’t struggle. There’s no danger of him starving or dying of cold or being harrassed when he’s poor. And he comes across as a rude jackass Harry Stu, what with his moralizing without humor, lack of self-awareness, and walking into someone else’s dojo and trying to take over.

The whole thing is irritating.

And yet, I still have high hopes for this series.

Writer Ed Brisson has a proven track record and digging into the guts of a character’s themes, especially characters like this. Look at the work he did on Sheltered or the Violent, or his other big Marvel comic, Bullseye. He gets it, the view from the trenches, the utter destruction that an entire generation is enduring, and what are superheroes if not a means of fighting back against the corruption that is killing us all?

The set-up sounds like Ed has that very concept in mind: to start, K’un Lun is in ruins. Heaven is ruined. Because of this, the flow of chi – the life force of everything on the planet, the pure life energy that gives Danny his powers – is flickering away into nothing. Danny Rand is pushing himself to the breaking point trying to find some means of fighting the decay of his immortal power but the implications are terrifying.

If the life-force of the planet is fading, then so is the life of the planet. Danny might be the only person with the training to recognize the damage being done, but as his strength entropies he might not be in a position to do anything about it – not physically, anyway. Not through brute force. He might need to turn to a battlezone he’s unfamiliar with, the war that is politics, to save us all.

No idea if that’s where this is going, but it feels like a very Ed Brisson thing to do and I kinda wanna see that story. Social martial arts? If someone doesn’t write that I’m going to. Mike Perkins is handling art, and you might remember him from the awesome Ed Brubaker run on Captain America that Marvel and Nick Spencer betrayed when they turned Captain America in a Nazi.

Anyways, this sounds like a lot of fun. Check it out.

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631

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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473

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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480

God of Comics 2015-12-09

Culture, God Of Comics

December 8, 2015

All-New Hawkeye #2All-New Hawkeye #2

The previous version of Hawkeye is one of the better comics that Marvel has ever published – pretty much the whole run of individual issues were either top five winners or honorable mentions. This follow up is a little odd, hopping between different timelines and employing different aert styles for both, and highlighting a conflict between the Hawkeyes that feels a little forced. It’s pretty, but is a serious contrast from the previous series. Worth checking out.

 

Batman #47Batman #47

DC Comics is getting ready to deliver Bruce into the waiting arms of the Bat-God that rules him, so we’re going to be paying attention to that to watch how that plays out. Bat-gum Crisis – Jim Gordon in a hard suit – continues to be the GCPD-friendly version of Batman, and is getting in a little over his head. This is Gotham, though, so that should shock no one. These comics are, generally speaking, fun, but it’s clear the creative team is ready to do something amazing.

 

Batman and Robin Eternal #10Batman and Robin Eternal #10

It’s interesting that the limited Batman series – this and Batman Eternal – have had a stronger narrative drive than the titles they revolve around. It might be because there’s a finite story involved, one that adds to the mythos while still having a definitive beginning, middle, and end. Jason and Tim are teaming with Bane, while Dick and Harper go to meet a person that can craft personalities in people. That’s kind of horrifying, and Bruce had history with these people…

 

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

You know, I don’t even care how ridiculous this sounds. Not one whit. IDW’s TMNT is one of the strongest comics being published today, and DC Comics can do amazing Batman stories when they feel like it. This crossover starts with the Foot coming to Gotham and the TMNT following, and I’m hoping this is before Saki died because I need – I need – to see Batman take on that version of the Shredder. This can, should, and must be fantastic.

 

 

Birthright #12Birthright #12

Imagine your pre-teen child goes missing, and a year later re-appears as a hulking thirty year old warrior. That would be troubling, right? And then his very pregnant winged girlfriend – she looks like a freaking angel – shows up looking for him, saying that something has gone wrong. What would you do? How would you react? This is one of the most original fantasy stories period, a tale full of consequence and weight, and if you like fantasy at all you should read it.

 

Black Knight #2Black Knight #2

Marvel continues to push some of it’s lesser known characters in the wake of Secret Wars, so at least hat unholy quagmire has that going after it. Dane Whitman has a cursed sword that makes him powerful while devouring his morality, which makes him a perfect for a world where nonsense rules and everything is chaos. He’s finally home, in a world where he fits, so naturally the Uncanny Avengers show up to bring him home. This should be fun.

 

Catwoman #47Catwoman #47

Fuck. I should probably explain that. Catwoman evolved – out of Batman Eternal, we saw Selina grow up, saw her change and evolve and struggle with who she was becoming. It was the most interesting Catwoman has been since Dixon, Loeb, or Brubaker. It was a fascinating study of someone who thinks in terms of solitary tactics being forced to thing about groups and strategically. Now? Now, we’re back to base thievery. Given what came before, my hopes are not high.

 

Codename Baboushka - The Conclave of Death #3Codename Baboushka: The Conclave of Death #3

There’s been a boom in spy comics – Velvet, Black Widow, Lady Killer, all that sort of thing. A lot of them feature female leads, and all of them do different things with the concept: Velvet is a serious Bond movie, Black Widow a meditation on morality and cost, and Lady Killer a critique of gender roles and politics. This is very much Burn Notice, a fun send up starring someone who is very good at what she does but works for the other side. Cool beans.

 

 

Constantine The Hellblazer #7Constantine: The Hellblazer #7

This comic has managed to strike a happy medium between the old Hellblazer comics and the lighter (comparatively) Constantine comics, which folded John into the main DC continuity. It’s done so mainly through the writing talents of James Tynion IV, though the sharp art stylings also help. John is a terrible person and a worst friend, and we’ve seen him mangle old contacts left and right in this series so far, so it should be interesting to watch him try to screw over Swamp Thing.

 

The Eighth Seal #1The Eighth Seal #1

We’ve all seen this, right? And we all know what they’re referencing? The New Testament has a book called Revelations, which details the end of the world in Christic lore. There’re seven seals that need to be broken for the world to end, so an eighth seal is sort of intriguing, especially given the political back drop this book is going to have. A woman running for office sees nightmares leech into reality. Is she mad or a prophet? We look forward to finding out.

 

Giant Days #9Giant Days #9

One of the best slice of life comics we’ve ever read, this comic deals with people doing their best to live their lives while being both exceptional and ordinary. It’s what Archie aspired to be before Archie got Mark Waid writing, only this is written by the guy who wrote Scary-Go-Round and Bad Machinery, which are weird web comics about being exceptional and ordinary. Adorkable defined. Hunt it down and mount it in front of your eyes.

 

Gotham Academy #13Gotham Academy #13

DC Comics has two major Bat-things going on right now – Batman and Robin Eternal, which we covered above, and Robin War, which spins out of We Are Robin. Basically, imagine if Anonymous was a bunch of kid vigilantes who ran with a Robin motiff, and you end up with that comic. Various police incidents have led to the corrupt government making Robins colors illegal, which got one of the Robins sent to Gotham Academy, where she’ll be safe. Or not.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy #3Guardians of the Galaxy #3

Gamora returns to her team book but still hasn’t been given her own solo book when everyone else has – even the Tree gets a solo series, but the most dangerous woman in the galaxy? Nah. About eight months have passed in-world since Secret Wars was inflicted on us, and she’s returned to let us know where she stands on, well, everything. There’s a lot of everything. Quill’s a Star King, for instance, and married, and we’re in the middle of a Bendis Build and you know the climax is going to be intense.

 

Monstress #2Monstress #2

Buy this comic. Go out, grab a copy, and buy it. The first issue was one of the most beautifully horrific things we’ve ever read, a tale mired in a post-apocalyptic steam-punk Victorian utopia, where gods are created and science~! is capable of anything and also there are kaiju maybe. This took the breath of everyone in the office away last week, so to say we’re looking forward to this is an understatement. First comic we’re reading this week, and it should be yours, too.

 

Ninjak #10Ninjak #10

Shadowman was important but terrible. It assumed too much, explained too little, and introduced some important concepts to Valiant comics that have been touched on a few times since, like the Deadside. British Intelligence tried to go exploring the realm of the dead and had things go, well, poorly, and so the sole survivor of that expedition teams with Ninjak to head into the world of the dead. This should end well, perhaps strongly enough to resurrect Shadowman in the process. Fingers crossed.

 

Scarlet Witch #1Scarlet Witch #1

Here’s a character with an ill-defined set of powers who is nonetheless interesting because of who she is as a character and what she means to the Marvel Universe in general. She’s a mutant, a magician, the daughter of Magneto, an Avenger, a villain, a hero… and the best person this side of Stephen Strange or Illyana Rasputin to fix the broken magic of the Marvel Universe, and maybe even figure out why it’s broken. This is either going to be incredible or awful.

 

Snow Blind #1Snow Blind #1

This sounds like it could be fascinating – a kid in Alaska posts a picture of his dad on Facebook, because what’s the harm in that, right? Social Media FTW. Well, turns out dad is in the Witness Protection Program, and there are people looking for him and now they’ve found him and put out a hit. Dad’s got some explaining to do, the FBI goes into panic mode, and there’s a hitman coming to this sleepy little burg in the middle of nowhere. If you like noir, this is worth a look.

 

Spider-Gwen #3Spider-Gwen #3

Back in Spiderverse, the various spider-people realized that dimension hopping was a thing. Some of them kept transporters so that they can move from one dimension to another, and Gwen’s feeling a little out of sorts so she’s going to go visit Jessica Drew. No, not that one, the other one. 616 Jessica Drew, who was in a damn interesting comic before Secret Wars. You’d think Ultimate Jessica would be more interesting in this instance, but in Latour we trust.

 

Star Wars Annual #1Star Wars Annual #1

Marvel’s Star Wars comics have been some of the best comics they’ve put out in a long while – and this is saying something, considering the strength of, say, Loki, Thor, Angela, Uncanny X-Men, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Punisher… and it’s those last three this comic is going to draw on, as a deep cover agent for the Rebels has to move a host of sympathizers from the Empire as the senate is dissolved and Palpatine claims all the power. That’s a hell of a set up.

 

Tomboy #2Tomboy #2

Action Lab, what are you doing to me? First, you nabbed my attention with Exit Generation, which had me giggling and enthralled. This is more the latter than the former, as a literal magical girl gets to deal with corruption on corporate and political levels after police murder her best friend and his father to sate the greed of the oligarchy. This is, simply put, amazing comics and incredible storytelling with art like you ain’t never seen and it’s likely going to be in the top five. Again.

 

Ultimates #2Ultimates #2

Okay, this? This right here? This is awesome. Black Panther. Spectrum. Blue Marvel… the team here are all a-list powerhouses, and they’re starting off their series by approaching Galactus with intelligence and respect and a plan to actually actively fix a problem. The only thing that kept this from a top five spot last time was some weird art and pacing issues, but they’ve had a month to settle in and get everything in order. This could be incredible. Fingers crossed.

 

Unity #25Unity #25

Valiant is ending their team-book with a bang… following the events of Book of Death, the members of Unity are going their separate ways. For now, at least. But now that the team is done, some of the more secret missions of the team can be disclassified, like that time they went on mission with Quantum and Woody. Or that time Faith helped them fight United. Or Bloodshot did between Armor Hunters and the Valiant. This is gonna be a lot of fun, peoples. Read it.

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858

God of Comics – Top 5 for 2015-12-02

Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

December 3, 2015

Doctor Strange #3

Doctor Strange #3

Doc Strange wakes up naked and without magic in Central Park and needs to figure out how and why. It’s a strange tale, which fits this comic and character perfectly while subscribing to a mythic rationality that only a handful of writers could pull of successfully. Thankfully, Jason Aaron is one of those writers. This gives us further insight into the Doctor and his world while also showing how he problem solves and giving us some nice character moments amid the madness and one-liners. This also gives us a glimpse of the consequences to the world when people muck about with magic, or try to get rid of mysticism entirely: the dull, colorless, and violent villains are given a hint of culture here, and the stakes of a conflict they very clearly do not understand. And if there was ever a story that was going to push Chris Bachalo to the limit while playing to all of his strengths, this is it. His use of color and insane style weaves into this story in a way that accentuates the magic. It’s unreal. This is already awesome and it’s just going to get better.

 

 

Harley’s Little Black Book #1

Harley's Little Black Book #1

I love being proven wrong when I naysay something. I mentioned that I didn’t think Harley would ever crack the top five, but Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palimoti and Stephanie Hans and everyone else on this book proved me wrong: this is about as good and fun as pure superhero comics get. The set-up for this series has Harley teaming up with the best and brightest in the DCYou – whether they like it or not – and right from the get go that concept is played with perfectly. Harley learns that there’s an assassination plot to bag Wonder Woman, and it turns out Harley is a closet Wonder Woman fan, so she decides that she’s the only one that can save her hero. She does this by knocking her unconscious and pretending to be her, only to get rescued by her. Then they team up and stomp the bad guys. It’s the little touches in this that make it, though, from kid Harley dealing with bullies to the bad guys being ridiculous to the pub crawl that happens afterwards. Everything about this is perfect. If you like fun you will like this.

 

 

Star Wars #13

Star Wars #13

The Jason Aaron hit train continues here. We’ve gotten to see what everyone’s been doing between Episodes IV and V, and we were lulled into a false sense of security by how these tales were being written… and then this happened. Someone let Kieron Gillen and Jason Aaron talk and the result is that Vader Down is happening right now. Vader’s crew – Dr. Aphra and her droids – go toe to toe with Han, R2, and Chewie over the unconscious Luke and no one wins. Meanwhile, Leia heads out to join the fight against Vader. There’s a whole planet full of soldiers that have been trained to take down Vader specifically, and Vader cuts through them like a hot knife through air. These fighters, the Alliance’s best warriors, armed with tanks and drones and everything they could possibly want, go army-on-one with Vader and lose, and Leia arrives just as Vader is walking out of the wreckage. Wow. The art on this book is unreal, capturing the look and feel of Star Wars, the dialogue is spot on, and you could see this as a part of the movies.

 

Tomboy #1

Tomboy #1

Finally managed to track down a copy of this (thanks, Pete!), and it was very much worth it. Detailed manga style artwork with a bloody heartbreaking story? Yes, please. We get the end first, setting up the utter rampage that is to follow. And let us be clear: this is going to be a rampage, a rage fueled roar against corporate greed and police brutality and corporate corruption, even if those things are a backdrop to the bloodbath of someone that (a) doesn’t know, and (b) doesn’t care about either. She knows that her best friend and his family died for nothing but someone’s bottom line, a few scraps of information that would make already wealthy people wealthier still. Writer and artist Mia Goodwin gives us an unblinking look at what happens when a freaking magical girl runs across actual real world corruption, and it is outstanding. I need more of this comic, and you might, too – cute, ruthless, adorable, and utterly without mercy. This is an emotional gut-punch that picks its moments before it breaks your heart.

 

The Woods #18

The Woods #18

And then there’s the Woods. This comic focuses on two brothers whose lives were changed forever when their parents died, and the unwitting words of a police officer that bound one and poisoned the other. Brother the younger has been catching the blame for the older’s crimes, and the older has been doing his level best to be the absolute worst person. The situation of the Woods has given the elder free reign to do what he wants, and he’s politically devastated everyone and is probably going to get them all killed just to sate his own ego. This comic gives us the reasons for his actions while putting his plans into actions, and the price of his arrogance and avarice is the blood of others, including people that brother the younger cares deeply for. No one gets off easy in this world, and how could they? This is Lord of the Flies for the modern world, a place where humanity falls apart because of the worst of us killing the best, and the rest believing in comforting lies and soundbites and dogma. There’s few stories as powerful as this one, regardless of medium.

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

 

All-New X-Men #1All-New X-Men #1

This is nice. Extraordinary is sort… not good… but this title continues to be interesting. The time-displaced X-Men that Beast brought to the present to piss of Cyclops are out on their own, and they’ve picked up Kid Apocalypse because why not? Wolverine and Angel are adorable and Young Scott finds a bunch of people that’re calling themselves the Ghosts of Cyclops and gets to deal with unexpexcted racism. This is everything an X-book should be.

 

Invincible Iron Man #4Invincible Iron Man #4

It’s nice to see a Tony Stark that isn’t written like an insufferable prick. Seriously, Marvel, your fans were complaining that Tony was being written like a villain – that doesn’t mean we wanted him to be one. That was about as fan-deaf as the WWE is when booking their main roster. This, though? This is awesome. MCU Tony having fun, tracking down a terrifying Madame Masque, teaming with DOOM, visiting sick kids, and bumping into MJ. Also, ninja beach party.

 

Prez #6Prez #6

The sad part about this comic is that it’s supposed to be satire, but the current Republican candidates are so over-the-top cartoon evil that this comic is hard-pressed to out do them. Still, it tries. If you want to see what the world will look like if the corporate corruption of politics continues, this is it… mind you, it’s not taking into account the environmental damage those short-sighted buffoons would love to cause for a few pennies more. Still, this comic should be taught in schools.

 

The Sheriff of Babylon #1Sheriff of Babylon #1

I wasn’t even going to read this. I told myself that I didn’t care, that it probably wasn’t going to be any good, but then I read a preview for it and had to. I sat down, opened the book, was immersed in it, and now I need to make sure you don’t make the same mistake I almost did. Go out and buy this comic right now. Read it and understand the mess that was made so hopefully we don’t do it again.

 

 

Unfollow #2Unfollow #2

There’s a lot of scary things in this world. One of the scariest is the idea of oligarchy – rule by an entrenched aristocracy of a wealthy few that are so far beyond rule that consequences simply do not apply. Their ideas of entertainment can be devastating to anyone and everyone else, and that’s what we’re beginning to see here. This is one of those comics that has a slow build, and even the slow build is amazing. Get in now and strap yourself in. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

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379

God of Comics 2015-12-02

Culture, God Of Comics

December 1, 2015

IXth Generation #7IXth Generation #7

Okay, get this – the actual big bad of the series was revealed eight comics ago, at the end of Aphrodite IX. Over the course of that comic we were shown the significance of the name and number, introduced to the world, and shown what was at stake. This series has shown people shirking their responsibilities and now we’ve gone from nine people to save the world to five, and if those five can’t get their shit together than the Darkness will devour all that is. That’s how you set epic level stakes. Also, Stjepan Sejic does art, and I’ll read pretty much anything he does the art for.

 

Batman and Robin Eternal #9Batman and Robin Eternal #9

Remember when Bane was an interesting character? It feels like years have passed since then… when was it? The last version of Secret Six? Something like that. Someone among the writers seems to have remembered that Bane can be great, and given this writing team that’s not surprising. I’d pick up this comic just for that, but we’re also looking at what Bruce Wayne was up to back during his first year and what his connection to Mother is… and what the process is for this organization that makes custom people. Is DC Comics about to get their very own Purple Man

 

Daredevil #1Daredevil #1

Can we all agree that the Mark Waid run was inspired, and one of the better things to happen to the character since the Brian Michael Bendis run? Yeah? Yeah. Also, the Netflix original series helped jumpstart interest in the character, and in the wake of Secret Wars that means putting Matt back in New York. Interestingly, though, Matt is now working with the District Attorney’s office in Hell’s Kitchen, which should make for an interesting change of pace. Daredevil has a lot of expectation to live up to, and it’s going to be interesting to watch where this series goes.

 

Doctor Strange #3Doctor Strange #3

Jason Aaron is writing this, which is as close to a guarantee of excellence as comics can offer. He’s a master of epic-level storytelling, and this is a character that lends itself well to that. The first couple issues of this new series have established who Strange is and what he does, what role he fills in the Marvel Universe as a whole. This issue is going to go one better than that, and get into the core of his identity by stripping him of his magic and home and forcing him to make due with an impossible situation. That sounds like the best sort of Strange story, pun certainly intended.

 

Exit Generation #3Exit Generation #3

One of the best ideas for a comic ever is happening right now and you need to be reading it…! Ninety percent of humanity leaves Earth, and the remnants find themselves living in a Utopia. One boy becomes addicted to eighties action movies and wants to be an eighties action movie hero for real, and is given the chance when ALIENS INVADE. They’ve come to eat humans because that’s how they roll, and it’s up to a handful of humans to band together, invade the alien spaceship, and punch the invaders in the face~! This is sci-fi punk rock at it’s finest, and it is amazing.

 

Extraordinary X-Men #3Extraordinary X-Men #3

The evil that is Fox has caused all mutants to become sterile. The stupid that was Secret Wars brought Old Man Logan into our more familiar reality, where his younger self is dead. The interesting writing of the Bendis Uncanny run saw time-displaced Jean Grey leave the X-Men, which lasted about a week before ashe was roped back in. Also, Storm remembers that hating Scott Summers and fighting with Rachael Grey doesn’t make for an interesting character, Iceman is Iceman, and Magik is the most interesting character in this book. Will this be good? Does Marvel care? We’ll find out together~!

 

Gotham Academy #12Gotham Academy #12

So, our favorite kids at Gotham Academy decided to go exploring while on a field trip and one of them has gone missing. Instead of, say, going to the authorities or the demon-hunting headmaster for help, they’ve decided to take care things on their own. The mystery is leading them to the ruins of Arkham Asylum, which went from asylum to demon-infested hellhole back in Batman Eternal, but apparently we’re going to get some more background on Olive’s mom, the forgotten Bat-villain known as Calamity. This is how you instill dread and stakes in kid’s comics; this is pretty much the textbook example of how you write kids comics. Pick it up.

 

Harley's Little Black Book #1Harley’s Little Black Book #1

Speaking of things to pick up, I’ll grab pretty much anything with Harley on the cover at this point. Harley’s been kicking ass in her own series and her team-up with Power Girl, which was such a good idea that DC Comics has decided to pair Harley up with other heroes and villains. We’re starting off with a bang, as Harley discovers a plot to assassinate Wonder Woman and decides she’s the only person that can possibly stop it…! Because Harley…! Zaniness will ensue, also because Harley. This is going to be bi-monthly and is almost certain to be awesome.

 

Invincible Iron Man #4Invincible Iron Man #4

I never thought I’d be saying that an Iron Man comic would be awesome, not after Civil War and everything that followed. Tony was such a failure as a hero that even Marvel decided to make him a villain, which made him even less readable. If there’s one thing that’s really worked coming out of Secret Wars, though, it’s Tony becoming a hero again. This is very much the Tony of the movies, fun to read and be around, and they’ve turned Madame Masque into an a-list villain again and that’s a great thing. Also, Mary-Jane Watson escapes the quagmire of One More Day and moves on with her life.

 

John Flood #5John Flood #5

Things we know: there is a sinister agency that did something to the title character, and robbed him of his ability to sleep. This has given him an ability to see patterns that no one else notices, one of which allowed him to see a mass murderer that was also created by that same agency. Problem: the murderer noticed and is hunting him, so John framed himself for a crime to be taken to a police station to keep himself safe. Further problem: the murderer is killing his way through the police station. John’s bodyguard and friend is going to have to get him out before death. Neat. I love this comic.

 

Nailbiter #18Nailbiter #18

And on the note of crazed killers who are more than somewhat interesting, a small town in the middle of American nowhere has just given rise to its seventeenth serial killer, and those in the best position to stop things from getting worse have been stripped of the ability to do anything by other people that think they’re doing the right thing and are being taken advantage of. This all begs the question – what would you do to fight evil? How far into the darkness would you venture, and what sort of mark would it leave on your soul? This comic is incredible. Hunt it down.

 

Prez #6Prez #6

Speaking of incredible comics, Prez is one of those titles that is probably hitting a little too close to home. It isn’t getting the attention it justly deserves, so here goes: a young woman gets voted into the American Presidency be default when the corporate ogliarchy that controls a corrupted congress fails to notice. A Bernie Sanders stand-in gets in as Vice President, and they go about trying to save a world so lost in corruption and propaganda that nothing can be controlled anymore. This comic is insane, but so are the American Presidential Primaries. Read one to understand the other.

 

Red Wolf #1Red Wolf #1

Coming fresh from the idiocy of Secret Wars… something interesting~! Okay, okay, Secret Wars itself was idiotic and unnecessary, but some of the mini-series that killed time between when that mess began and when it ended were cool, and one of them stared a Native American Sheriff in 1872 acting as the lawman over a town populated by western versions of different Marvel characters, including a mayor by the name of Wilson Fisk. It’s an okay concept that had some great writing and good art to support it, enough to grant it an on-going and it’s been awhile since the 6th Gun gave us anything new.

 

Robin War #1Robin War #1

Gotham’s been kind of a mess since Batman and the Joker killed one another. Yeah, Bruce Wayne is still kicking around, but he isn’t Batman… Jim Gordan is wearing a Bubblegum Crisis-like hardsuit and is calling himself Batman while working with the GCPD. A bunch of kids have taken to calling themselves Robin, but Damien Wayne is back and he is not happy. The other former Robins (minus Steph Brown) are also back and not impressed. Oh, and the Court of Owls is there and they might do something to make people think they’re relevant. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

 

Rowan's Ruin #3Rowan’s Ruin #3

So, there’s a girl named Katie that did a house-swap and is chilling across the pond and she disturbed a room that was never meant to be disturbed. Ghosts have ensued, and hauntings, and it hasn’t been nearly as much fun for Katie as she might have thought it would be. Her parents, meanwhile, are trying to make friends with the person that swapped houses, and that should go along just smashingly. As in, something is going to get smashed. Maybe Katie, maybe her parents. It’s a haunting fable, and these things don’t end well for anyone that isn’t a necromancer, or into necromancy.

 

Spidey #1Spidey #1

Ughhhhhhhhhh… okay. In another effort to recapture the energy and awesome of the original run of Spider-comics, Marvel is rehashing Peter Parker’s high school days again. It’s a retelling of stuff that’s been retold and retold, and, fine, whatever, I’m sure it will be fun and all and this is one of the things comics can do really well, revisit old concepts and make them relevant again. I just would rather see a comic where Peter didn’t sell his marriage to Satan, or at least a story where that actually mattered. I’d actually kill to write the latter. Just a twelve issue thing to kick start another new Spider-title for those of us that liked the marriage.

 

Star Wars #13Star Wars #13

Alright. You know how Marvel doesn’t seem to understand what to do with Spider-Man? The opposite holds true for the Star Wars comics: they know exactly what they’re doing. They took a year to show what everyone was doing between Episodes IV and V, setting the stage with entertaining tales, finally leading to their first event – Vader Down. Vader went hunting Luke and crashed on a small planet where the Rebels were training people to take down Vader, and Vader cut through them. Now, Leia gets her chance to meet Vader for the first time since Vader tortured his daughter. I am almost certain that this will make this week’s top five comics.

 

The Storyteller - Dragons #1The Storyteller: Dragons #1

So, a while back Boom Studios teamed with Jim Henson productions to give us the Storyteller, a series of tales that looked at old witchy fables and gave us some truly awesome stories to share. The second verse features more of the same, only instead of witches we get dragons. Told by a variety of writers and illustrated by a bunch of artists, this comic will look at draconic legends from around the world, starting with the Native American lore detailing the Horned Snake and the Thunderbird. This is going to be stupidly epic, so give it a look when you go comic shopping.

 

Toil & Trouble #4Toil & Trouble #4

Boom Studios continues to explore a war between the witches of MacBeth, where the three of them are engaged in a contest using the peoples of Scotland as pawns in a much larger game. Two witches stand against one another, with a third keeping the rules between them – they are family of a sort, and so much more than mere witches. There’s some awesome stuff going on here, the slow build of the first couple of issues laying the groundwork for the bloodbath we know is coming and the strange conflict between the Wyrd sisters. This is awesome stuff.

 

The Woods #18The Woods #18

This, though… this is in a league of its own. The Woods deals with a high school that was transported from earth to some other place, and everyone is trying to make due in the wake of that change. Problem is, there’s some people that are in it only for themselves and they’re making some impossibly shortsighted deals with outside powers to satisfy their own greed. There really isn’t anything else like this book on the shelves today, either in terms of emotional guy-punch writing or the insanity of the art. Pick this up; you won’t be disappointed.

 

Unfollow #2Unfollow #2

Here’s one of those ideas that you know someone, somewhere, is rich and terrible enough to find funny. A multi-billionaire is going to leave his money, evenly-split, among one hundred and forty strangers, or however many of them are still alive at the time of his death. Does this mean that some of them are going to try and kill the others? Yes. Does this mean there’s a good chance for character development, pathos, and ethical horror? You bet. This comic is unrelenting and promises to ramp things up quickly. Can anyone hold to ethics in the face of this sort of temptation?

 

X-O Manowar - Commander Trill #0X-O Manowar: Commander Trill #0

Aric of Dacia had a rough go of it, sure, but he’s the most powerful hero in the Valiant Universe because he was chosen by a god-like suit of living plant armor. You want to see someone who’s had a really rough go of it, look at the alien that would be his nemesis, Commander Trill of the alien Vine. Dude watched his god choose a member of a slave race, and a slave that he captured and crippled. He could do nothing when the God Hand came for his people and had to watch that slave save some of him. Now, he’s going to try and conquer the earth… and Aric again stands in his way. Valiant doesn’t like one-dimensional baddies, though, so expect this comic to dig deep into the layers of Trill’s psyche.

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603

Review: Jessica Jones

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

November 30, 2015

Jessica Jones, the second of the original series being produced by Marvel and Netflix, has been out for a little more than two weeks. We’re about to dig deep and talk about the guts of the thing, why it works and what makes it excellent. So, spoilers they are ahead, obvs, but we’ll try and keep them to a minimum.

There was some concern about how Jessica Jones was going to be translated from comic to screen. It’s a dark story, about a hero who get co-opted her first time out, and is physically, mentally, and spiritually destroyed by one of the scariest villains Marvel has ever produced over an eight month period. There’s a real sense of darkness throughout the tale, grounded by who and what the villain is, and his taint touches everything that happens. Would Netflix be willing to host something this disturbing.

Well, yes. They’ve done it before, even if they did caper off with a whimper at the end.

But it’s still different. This is not your standard Marvel fare; it’s not your standard anything fare. It’s radically different from pretty much everything else you’re going to see, and it hits every point it wants to make while staring you in the face and daring you to blink.

You won’t, by the way. You won’t blink. You won’t be able to tear your eyes away from the screen. This is just as good as Daredevil was, and has an even greater impact than that masterpiece did.

Right from the start, Jessica Jones establishes that the main character is female, that the characters that are going to have development in this tale are all female. The male characters are mostly static, eye candy, or obstacles to be overcome. Their agency is tied to Jessica’s story, and any catharsis they experience is only through the advent of her presence and tied to her growth.

What’s remarkable about this is that the inverse is often true: female caricatures on traditional television have served subservient roles to male characters, helping them to grow, providing obstacles, or being prizes to be won. Instead of looking to be lauded for strong female characters, Jessica Jones opts to give us strong characters that just happen to be female.

JJ 003

“We’re pretty great, you know?”

And not all of these characters are good, or strong. Jessica Hogarth, a lawyer that contracts Jessica for various jobs, is shown to be callous, selfish, and generally horrible. Pam Walker, Jessica’s adopted mother, is a self-involved woman who abused her daughter and adopted Jessica for publicity’s sake. Jessica herself suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder the likes of which you will see nowhere else.

Which is another thing that Jessica Jones does exceptionally well: portray what it is like to live with PTSD. The paradigm under which our society lives is based on materialist-nihilist principles, meaning that our culture accepts physical reality as the sole truth. In this case, that means that society typically sees mental illness as either a moral weakness or something that simply isn’t real, despite any evidence to the contrary.

Recently, we’ve been re-examining our cultural beliefs, and mental illness has been getting a lot of attention and is now being equated to physical illness. Depression, anxiety, and other ailments are being given the same consideration as their physical counterparts, and being seen as sicknesses rather than failings. Jessica Jones gives us a variety of characters that are suffering from PTSD and doing the best they can, from the villainous Kilgrave to Trish Walker to Jessica Jones herself.

Jessica spends much of her time trying not to let her world overwhelm her, having to take moments to separate and ground herself as life goes on around her. She’s dealing with an eight month period where her agency was taken from her, where she was raped in every possible way with no end in sight, and where her escape from that situation came about because of happenstance rather than rescue.

The truth is that mental illness is real; it is a struggle to live with depression or anxiety or anything of the other illnesses that can afflict a mind. Some people are born with these illnesses, and others – like PTSD – happen because of experiences in life. Like physical scars, they never go away, but they can be lived with. Trish overcame her trauma to become a celebrity. Jessica is still coming to terms with things, but she’s getting there.

And if Jessica Jones treats mental illness with respect, it stares unblinking at the horrors of rape. Compare this to Supernatural or Agents of SHIELD or any of a dozen other narratives where someone is mind controlled and raped and the situation is played for laughs. A woman was raped in Supernatural and her life was destroyed by it and her trauma is used as a punchline. Agent Ward is raped by an Asgardian in Agents of SHIELD and the other characters mock him for it.

Willing to wreck anyone that thinks stealing agency is a punchline.

Willing to wreck anyone that thinks stealing agency is a punchline.

Jessica is destroyed by what was done to her. The character of Hope and her whole family are entirely undone by what was done to her. Jessica has to remind Hope that nothing that happened to her was her fault, while society is ready to condemn her and blame the victim. We see this happen in our own world, where people are raped and then blamed for it; what were you wearing, why didn’t you fight, you knew him so it couldn’t have been rape

There’s a male character that lost his jacket to Kilgrave, and equates his pain to that of everyone else. He had no choice in what was done to him and can’t get over it, and no one makes fun of him for his inability to do so – a narrative choice that acknowledges that any loss of agency is horrible, regardless of the scale.

By that same token, however, rape, mental illness, and trauma are never used as an excuse for poor choices. Everyone is culpable for the things they do and the choices they make, and serious weight is given to every action in Jessica Jones in a way that very few other narratives manage, regardless of medium.

Kilgrave himself is a monster, yes, and we’re shown that he has a tragic backstory that explains what he is without excusing it. He is evil on a level that we haven’t seen in Marvel before, and is treated as the terror he is without exception. No one sympathizes with him specifically because of what he does: his actions and continued monstrousness make it okay to pity him without forgiving him.

An apology only has weight if there’s no excuse behind it and the offending party intends to be better, two qualities that Kilgrave lacks utterly. He is a charming, pretty monster, a predator that no one believes in and who leaves a trail of broken lives in his wake, and is all the more terrifying for how everyone around him accepts him.

Kilgrave would like to remind you that everything he does to you is your fault.

Kilgrave would like to remind you that everything he does to you is your fault.

The slow reveal of Kilgrave – and Jessica herself – help to ground this tale in the real world. Jessica Jones, at its heart, is a detective story. She has to uncover the truth of things methodically, discovering new facets of the crime she’s investigating while taking us along for the ride. Taken purely on that front, this is brilliantly done and executed, but it’s everything that happens around the story that makes the story so much more than it might otherwise be while also laying the groundwork for both a sequel and the next of the Marvel/Netflix collaborations.

And the next collaboration? Luke Cage.

If the character of Jessica Jones is a study of a cultural failing, the character of Luke Cage is one of the most important power fantasies imaginable: he is a black man whose power is to be bulletproof. Given the terror that African-Americans live in of being shot by police officers or crazy white fundamentalist terrorists and the way the media portrays these incidents, it’s not hard to imagine why so many people might dream of having that super power.

All evidence points to this series being breathtaking.

All evidence points to this series being breathtaking.

Jessica Jones gave us fully fleshed characters, firmly grounding in reality, who happened to be female. Given this, we fully expect Luke Cage to give us grounded main characters who just happen to be black. It’s hard to imagine a more timely or necessary narrative.

The acting of everyone involved is brilliant. Krysten Ritter’s turn as the title character is based around a tough fragility – someone who looks strong but might break at any moment, and everything she does, from walk to silence, reflects Jessica’s pain. Rachael Taylor and Mike Colter both bring their a-game, inhabiting their characters with a vulnerable depth that Jessica can rely upon. David Tennant’s performance perfectly captures the solipsistic horror that Kilgrave is.

A special shoutout needs to be given to Eka Darville, however, as it’s the character of Malcolm Ducasse that truly ties everyone else together. The revelation of who he is and what’s been done to him is the purest motivation anyone could give Jessica outside of her own experiences, and he handles his role with a pure sense of hope and tragedy in equal measure.

There’s some subtle and not-so-subtle ties to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, too, mentions of Thor and Captain America, kids playing at being the Avengers, and Rosario Dawson resuming the role of Claire Temple from Daredevil. All this gives the series an increased sense of depth without requiring anything more than what’s present and without taking away from this specific narrative.

In short, Jessica Jones is just about perfect, and you should watch it.

And season two. We need a season two.

And season two. We need a season two.

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500

God of Comics – Top 5 for 2015-11-25

Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

November 26, 2015

Archie #4

Archie #4

One of the things that crosses people is expectation versus reality. We believe in things that we’re told to believe in, and doubt our own experiences in favor of expectations that may or may not have any reality to them. I’ve seen this destroy friendships, relationships, marriages… and I’ve rarely seen this conflict so well illustrated as it is here. We finally delve into the very heart of the lipstick incident, the moment that crushed Archie and Betty and drove them apart, and it’s entirely tied into preconceived notions of gender, identity, and popularity. Archie overhears some girls making fun of Betty and tries to come to her aid; the girls respond by trying to remake Betty into someone she isn’t, but it’s fun to experiment and kind of necessary to do so. We learn who we are as much by figuring out why we aren’t. The girls make changes to Betty and Betty goes along with it because it’s fun, it’s a game of make believe, but it’s Archie’s reactions to the change that hurt her and drive them apart. Excellent tragedy that resonates because it’s real.

 

Black Magick #2

Black Magick #2

Combing the writering of Greg Rucka with the art of Nicola Scott isn’t fair to the other comics. You’re pretty much guaranteed to come up with something that will be, at the very least, exceptional. Rucka has a talent for sifting out some really interesting history and crafting lore with it whenever he delves into fantasy, and Black Magick is no exception. A cop who happens to be an actual witch is nearly set on fire by a group of people that hunt witches because they use magic, but the hunters are now using magic themselves. There’s a lot of politicking and double-speak going on here and there has to be; the witches are trying to live among the rest of humanity, and very few really believe in magic any more. Humans, that is. Animals know better. So does the thing lurking behind you right now. Nicola Scott’s art, as always, is the perfect sort of haunting for this tale, all soft shades with few edges. The sum is a comic that reads like a gentle dream, one of those strange overlays where everything feels real. This is beautiful stuff.

 

Darth Vader #13

Darth Vader #13

And this is about as far from the previous two comics as you’re likely to get while still keeping the same level of quality. Vader got sick of the Rebel Alliance being a thing and decided to take them out on his own, which is an unfair fight. Vader proves this quickly, even after Luke crashes into Vader’s ship. If the Alliance was smart, they’d destroy everything, pack up, and leave – instead, they try to fight Vader en masse and then they die en masse. There’s some clever moments around Vader as the people he’s cultivated from the beginning of this comic quickly find themselves in a bind and go to his rescue, even going so far as to capture Luke so that Vader will hopefully not obliterate them. There is nothing – nothing – that has given Vader back the dread and dignity he had before the prequel movies like these comics. This Vader is a force of nature, and everything around him reflects that, from the facial expressions and body language of everyone around him. This is the best of the Star Wars comics, and you need to be reading this.

 

Moongirl and Devil Dinosaur #1

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1

I’m not sure when intelligence became vilified in popular culture, or why. Perhaps it’s an idea of enslaving those gifted with a high intellect, to keep them subservient to the status quo. Regardless of the origin, there is an ideological war going on in our modern world, where conservatism goes out of its way to punish intelligence, curiosity, and passion. Witness the blatant lies, the blind adherence to staid dogma over question and seeking. And, yes, there’s a matter of representation: there are some intelligent heroes that are allowed to be, but they’re usually white and male. There’s exceptions, but this is the first time we’ve seen someone whose superpower is intelligence and curiosity who is also a young black girl, and that’s fucking awesome. Her world reacts poorly in its groping stupidity, but she’s made friends with a giant red Tyrannosaurus Rex, so I think she’s going to be okay. This comic is a puzzle of time travel, of the joy in discovery and the escape from a gray mundanity that sucks all life from the world. As great and important as Ms. Marvel, and for the same reasons.

 

X-O Manowar #42

X-O Manowar #42

Oh, look, X-O Manowar makes the Top Five again. It’s not like this isn’t earned; Valiant goes out of it’s way to make certain that this comic is one of their best, and the strain of quality this forces on all other comics is tremendous. Aric of Dacia has come a long way spiritually from the violent maniac he once was, having learned that all of his actions have consequences and that the god-like power that he now wields comes with a price. Aric is a warrior who has seen and become disillusioned with war while still acknowledging the occasional necessity of it. Here, he drives a hard peace among the factions he has sworn himself to while recognizing that there are other powers at play that are manipulating them all. There’s complexity here, philosophy and meditations on faith, violence, and real-politick all set against a sci-fi superhero backdrop that is unique for the sheer weight of everything that happens. We have called this the best of all comics time and again, and Valiant continues to prove us right. Thanks, guys. Please keep this up.

 

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

 

Angela - Queen of Hel #2Angela: Queen of Hel #2

Right from the start, this book is gorgeous. We described Black Magick, above, as having very soft shades with few edges, but this is very much the opposite: hard lines, stark colors, this book resembles a stone relief that is trapped somewhere between a church wall and a viking campfire. The story follows suite, standing firmly on an epic playing field, and starts building towards the means by which Angela will be able to overthrow Hel.

 

 

Switch #2Switch #2

Stjepan Sejic’s art is in a class by itself. There is no one who is better able to convey emotion through facial expression and body language like he can, and it makes anything he works on incredibly distinct. His writing style is also very much different than anything else you’re going to find on the stands. English is very much his second language, and there’s a weird flow to his narrative because of it. Oddly charming, like all his works. Definitely worth checking out.

 

 

Venom - Space Knight #1Venom: Space Knight #1

It’s weird how all the Guardians of the Galaxy – except Gamorra, and now the Thing – have gotten their own series, and each series has been stronger than the book they all share. Groot, Rocket, Drax, and Star-Lord have all ended up being fantastic reads, but I had my doubts when it came to this. I really shouldn’t have: this is both weird and excellent, with Venom becoming something like a Jedi by way of symbiote. Weird and excellent.

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