Wait… Which Blade?

Hi, Everybody!

I know it’s been a long time. Let me do some catching up. Let’s see …

Guardians of the Galaxy 2: Fun, heartwarming, and not at all what I expected, but not as funny as the first movie and felt a little like they were in plot purgatory until Infinity War.

Wonder Woman: It was great! Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot are a rock star duo. I wish they would just hand over the DCEU reigns to Patty Jenkins. The movie was funny, well-written, and truly showed what we have been missing since… the dawn of Superhero movies: a female look at a female superhero. The only place it sort of fell apart for me was in the climax… where it kind of felt more like a normal DCEU movie.

Spider-Man Homecoming: I expected a lot out of it. I was a little disappointed on first watching, but subsequent watchings, I really enjoyed it. My takeaway is it’s my favorite Spider-Man movie, but maybe I didn’t like the other Spider-Man movies as much as I thought? Anyway. It’s fun, and Tom Holland is great.

Thor: Ragnarok: Really fun, but… maybe they could have cut the goofy jokes down by like 1/3, because it sort of started to feel like a parody of itself at times. Still… Great fun to watch. I’ve seen it twice now, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

Justice League: The last 20 minutes of this movie feel more like a comic book than anything DC/WB has put out in theaters yet. The first 100 minutes are… mediocre! Which is an improvement over everything they’ve done except for Wonder Woman! So good job! It’s the second-best DC movie, but that isn’t saying much. There is clearly some disconnect between the things that Snyder was in charge of and the things Whedon was in charge of. They removed the Snyder washed-out palette, but the movie clearly was shot intending for it to be there, so there are times where shots look wonky.

OKAY! Housekeeping out of the way… On to what I came to talk to you about: Witchblade.


Yes. I know. We’re on a real rollercoaster of emotions here. Bear with me.

So first a history lesson.

Witchblade was a comic that was started in 1995 by Mark Silvestri who co-founded Image comics, and was the founder of the Image imprint “Top Cow.” She’s a badass, “Strong Female Character ™” from the mid-90’s, and that means she… doesn’t wear a lot of clothes.


The basic story here is Sara Pezzini was a homicide detective who was killed in the line of duty… or well… nearly killed, and then saved by a sentient gauntlet known as “the Witchblade,” which also gave her the power to strip out of her clothes at a moment’s notice and put on living armor! And also like… enhanced strength, regeneration, combat ability and the like. It can transform into weapons for her, too, and shoot energy. Basically, it can do all the good stuff you expect a living armor and weapon to be able to do. She’s feels a bit like Spawn, except… a woman and, therefore, not as popular *sigh*. There’s also a deep mythology and history about previous owners of the Witchblade that I’m not going to get into now, but anyway! Here’s the point of all this.


Witchblade has recently been relaunched and the NEW Witchblade comic is written by Caitlin Kittredge and drawn by Roberta Ingranata. That’s right. It’s an all-female creative team. And it shows. The first issue dropped this week, and let me tell you, it’s like watching Wonder Woman again. It’s amazing what a female perspective on this concept can do. The new protagonist, Alex Underwood, (as this is a full reboot) is interesting not just as a fighter, but also as a person. She’s conflicted, confident, but rightfully afraid when she should be (like when a strange man approaches you in an alley and tells you that you have an ancient artifact on your arm) in short: she feels human. You can tell right from the first issue that, shockingly, this is something we haven’t seen before with this character. The perspective feels completely different and not just because we aren’t inexplicably staring at her butt every three pages (I may be being a bit harsh. I think the earlier Witchblade comics were fine. Some of them are even drawn by some of my favorite artists, but you gotta call them out for what they are). I am more interested in Alex Underwood as a character after one issue than I think I ever was with Sara Pezzini. Underwood just feels more real to me. But what really makes me excited is the future of this comic. Ingranata and Kittredge have promised to give a fresh perspective on this character, both by giving us a cool look to the classic armor that will be less sexualized and also by giving us a story about a female superhero that is created by women.

I don’t think I mentioned on here before, but my first experience seeing the Wonder Woman movie was so bizarre, because I was seeing her do these things that male superheroes always got to do: busting into buildings, beating up bad guys in droves, taking charge of a situation. And while watching it I realized that I had never seen this kind of scene with a female superhero done this way. It felt like I was seeing something totally new, which is rare in a world where it feels like everything in film has been done and redone half a dozen times. I’m absolutely convinced that Wonder Woman wouldn’t have felt that way if it hadn’t been directed by Patty Jenkins, and I’m seeing the seeds of something very similar with the new Witchblade comic. Please check it out!

Posted in Comic Reviews, Film Review | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Top 10 Spider-Suits

There have been a LOT of suits worn by Spider-Man and other Spider-Peeps through the years. Some look silly, some look awesome, some are classic, and some are modern and sleek. These are my ten favorites!

#10 Cosmic Spider-Man


Image Source

This suit has so much going on, but it was also like the coolest thing that ever happened when it showed up. Spider-Man has the powers of Captain Universe! What!? Yes, the standard Spidey mouth is ridiculous on it, and yes, it seems totally weird, but dammit. It’s cool! This also has extra special significance to me, because it was the character resurrection card in the Overpower card game, which I played a LOT of when I was younger.



Image Source

#9 Iron Spider


Image Source

Once again, this is a lot of additional power on Spider-Man, but really this made the list, because it’s a color scheme you don’t typically see on spider suits, and it ACTUALLY has functionality IN the suit. This was the suit that Tony Stark made for Spider-Man, and was worn for a while until he switched to the anti-registration side in Civil War. This suit had a slew of gadgets from additional arms with camera attached, to a glider, to just enhanced armor that was a significant stylistic improvement over Spidey’s classic armored look


Image Source

This had to make the list, just because it was the probably the most effective Spider suit that’s been made.

#8 Spider-Girl


Image Source

In a lot of ways, Spider-Girl shares a meta-narrative with Spider-Gwen. She was a one-off character that was kept around because the fans loved her so much. A lot of that, I think, had to do with her writing, and the fact that we hadn’t had the spotlight on a female Spider-person very much at that point, but it doesn’t hurt that her suit looks so damn cool, and it was the first time we really saw something resembling the traditional Spider-Man suit on a female character. Also, for my personal feelings, the fact that she used an alteration on the Ben Reilly sensational Spider-Man suit doesn’t hurt.

#7 Classic Spider-Man Suit


When I started this list, I had to make a decision on what kind of list this was going to be. If I based it off of influence or sort of overall importance of the costume to comic history, this suit HAD to be at #1, and if I based it off of what is cool or interesting then it was going to be much farther down the list (I love this suit, believe me! But there are just cooler designs now). So that’s what I chose, and it ends up at #7. Make no mistake, though, there is no Spider-Man suit that is more iconic than this one. Especially as above, drawn by John Romita Jr, who is responsible for some of the most iconic Spider-Man stories in the late 20th century. Though, I have a soft spot for Todd McFarlane’s version, below, as it was the cover of the first superhero comic I ever bought.


#6 Sensational Spider-Man


Image Source

I remember when Ben Reilly took over the Spider-Man mantle and donned this suit, I thought it was the coolest thing since his Scarlet Spider suit. Looking back on it now, it’s just a slightly more visually interesting traditional Spider-Man suit, but I still love the alternating colors and patterns on his fingers, which are really highlighted when he is doing his web-slinging, because of the way that he presses his web shooters, and I just love that this was the first time we saw someone new taking up the mantle of Spider-Man in the main marvel continuity.

#5 Ultimate Spider-Man (Miles Morales)


Image Source

Why does everyone do better Spider-Man suits than Peter Parker? Miles Morales’ suit just works so well visually, I love the black and red, and I think it’s a great way to take those dark colors, but put them on a brighter character, but still one dealing with some heavy stuff. It’s both instantly recognizable as Spider-Man, and also instantly recognizable as NOT Peter Parker. It helps that Miles is just such an incredible character, and I am so glad that he’s currently headlining the Spider-Man title (which, as I mentioned earlier, Spider-Man #1 in 1990 was the first Spider-Man comic I ever bought, so I have warm feelings for this title).

#4 Spider-Man 2099


Image Source

Everything about this suit works. I love the Dia de los Muertos face on the mask, I love the darker blues and red spider pattern, and I just love how different it looked from any suit we had seen in 1992 when he was created. I think in general the 2099 series is underrated, and, suit aside, it doesn’t hurt that Miguel O’Hara was the first POC Spider-Man in comics.

#3 Black Suit


Image Source

I mean… It’s just cool, right? For those of you who don’t know, Peter Parker picked up this suit when his own Spider-Man suit was damaged during Secret Wars, and he didn’t figure out it was an alien symbiote until he got back to earth and it started really messing with him. But it allowed him to shoot organic webbing, it could repair itself, and it made him more powerful. It was cool, and it was all black. When this suit first showed up in comics, everyone just loved the change to the darker, sleeker look, and it continued to be so popular that it spawned, perhaps, the most popular Spider-Man villain of all time: Venom.

#2 Scarlet Spider (Ben Reilly)


Image Source

I fully admit that my personal nostalgia is the entire reason this is so high on the list. But I mean, just look at my About Me section? I have a hoodie of this suit. I love it. It reminds me of when I was 10 years old. I loved the hoodie, I loved the darker red, I loved the external web shooters, and the fact that Ben Reilly had tweaked them to include impact webbing and stingers to his arsenal. Just everything about this suit takes me back to being a giddy 10 year old eagerly anticipating the next Spider-Man comic (which at the time came out once a week, because there were 4 titles). If given the opportunity in a video game or something, I ALWAYS opt for this suit… That is, unless there is an option to play as…

#1 Spider-Gwen


Image Source

Yeah… I mean, if you are a regular reader, you probably knew this was either #2 or #1. I love Spider-Gwen as a concept, for sure. And I love Robbi Rodriguez’s art and I think that Jason Latour is a great writer for this character and has created such a deeply fleshed out alternate universe, but the first thing that sold me on her, the first thing that sold EVERYONE on her was the suit. It’s just the coolest Spider Suit they’ve ever done. It’s colorful, but still mostly monochromatic so the splashes of color really pop, the hood looks cool, the blue shoes are an amazing touch. Everything about it is great. I love that it’s not sexualized, and just looks good on her, and, like Spider-Girl, this is a character that fans loved SO MUCH that she went from a one-shot “what if” character to a major marvel property. It’s just the best Spider suit, and one of the best superhero costumes in comics. Hands down.

Posted in List | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Top 10 Comics of 2016

Okay so before I start. Some disclaimers: 1.) I do not have infinite money. As a result, I did not read as many comics this year as I wish I had (maybe some day, I will put in some sort of tip jar or Patreon or something, and people can give me money to read comics and talk about them), so if there’s an amazing comic that came out this year and it’s not on here, it’s possible I just didn’t read it. 2.) My rules for this list are that in order to qualify, it must be a comic that was published, at least in part, in 2016, and it must not have been a comic I included in a previous year’s list (unless there’s some fundamental change in the title that makes it worth revisiting). And finally 3.) I went back and forth on the order for this list a LOT, so this is my order, but it may not have been my order yesterday, and it might not be tomorrow. It just is for the moment. With that said, before we get to the list proper, let’s do some honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

Spider-Gwen – Jason Latour, Marvel Comics


This is a title that I technically could have included here, but it felt like cheating. The title relaunched post-Secret Wars, and so it’s a “new” title, but it’s really not. As I result, I didn’t include it, but it has been amazing so far. The first arc of the new run is a step up from the already fantastic story telling from pre-Secret Wars, and Robbi Rodriguez’s art just keeps getting better and better (which is one reason it’s so sad that he will be leaving the title, and comics in general, later this year). I particularly love the way they are fleshing out Earth-65. I love the Earth-65 Captain America, and the twist on Matt Murdock continues to be more and more compelling, too. Just love this book. It may not be AS groundbreaking as it was last year, just by virtue of being around for a bit and other titles becoming more inclusive, but it continues to push boundaries in new and interesting ways. If you were waiting to check this one out, now is a good time, and 2016 was a great year for it.

Princess Leia – Mark Waid, Marvel Comics


This title wrapped up in 2015, disqualifying it from the list, though I read it in 2016. It’s a great mini-series that follows Leia’s effort of gathering the survivors of Alderan after A New Hope, and it does a commendable job in bringing some new lore into the series while fleshing out Leia as a character in a way that gives her a bit more agency than she had at that point in the film series. The passing of Carrie Fisher just made this more important to highlight. It’s a great treatment of that character. If you are a Star Wars fan, give this one a read.

Namesake – Isabelle Melancon and Megan Lavey-Heaton, http://www.namesakecomic.com/


I haven’t decided if comics that are pure webcomics are going to be included on this list, and until I do, I will reserve them for honorable mentions (it also makes my job easier, because it limits my choices). Namesake is one of the most beautiful webcomics out there, though. The use of splashes of color on black and white is a technique that is often done poorly, by relying on it too heavily, but here is done with care and expertise. If something is colored, it matters. And it makes the full color volume covers pop out even more. I should point out that like most webcomics (or comics in general) the art and writing gets better as the artist gets more practice, so if you are not in love with it at first, give it some time. In addition to the gorgeous art, the central conceit of the comic that of there being “Namesakes” who are able (and destined) to affect their respective “fictional” realms is a really cool and well-done look at the “drawn into a fictional story” genre. I thoroughly enjoy this comic, and I highly recommend it. Plus there’s a character whose look is inspired by Daveed Diggs’ Thomas Jefferson. Gotta give it a read, just for that.

Old Man Logan – Jeff Lemire, Marvel Comics


I really struggled on if this was going to be #10, ultimately I decided that while it was one of the better comics I read this year, I ultimately enjoyed the comic at #10 more, so this got relegated to honorable mentions. In part, because I wanted to say that if you are looking for a dark and gritty look at Wolverine that does not sacrifice the joy of reading comics, this is a good place to turn. I’ve never been a big fan of the Frank Miller Dark Knight Returns method of gritty comic book creation. It seems to sap the joy out of the experience for me. But here we have a Logan who is completely broken in a world that is not. We have humor and some light in the other characters in the series, and that makes his actions and tragic backstory even more compelling.

Now without further ado…

The List

#10 Spider-Man/Deadpool – Joe Kelly, Marvel Comics


This comic is just fun. It has an interesting plot, sure. And the art is what I would call “inoffensive,” which is to say, it isn’t amazing or ground breaking, but it’s not risky. It’s art that people will like. Nice and clean and comic-booky. Where this title shines, though, is in the fun factor of its concept, execution, and writing. Spider-Man being forced to be the straight man (because Deadpool is so over-the-top) is entertaining as hell, and the fact that there is some real heart in this comic under the current of humor just helps the concept along. Also, on a meta-level (and when dealing with Deadpool, you gotta go meta-level), I love the idea of taking Deadpool, a character that has always been a parody of another character: “Deathstroke” from DC Comics, and then remarking on all the ways he is a rip off of Spider-Man. It is just a wonderful bit of humor in and of itself. This is an idea that was cooked up in some random “wouldn’t it be cool if we did this mash-up” idea at a bar, and it just worked better than it had any right to.

#9 Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – James Tynion IV, DC Comics/IDW


Speaking of “wouldn’t it be cool if we did this mash-up” ideas that work better than they have any right to… Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles feels like something I would have thought up in my bedroom when I was 8, except executed in a way that I enjoy in my 30s. Everything about this comic is wonderful, and the whole time you are just thinking “This shouldn’t work, but it does.” I am especially impressed with the art of Freddie Williams II, which does an excellent job of melding these two franchises in a way that serves both character designs extremely well. The plot is well-executed, the jokes are hilarious, the character’s reactions to each other calls to mind the old cross-over cartoon episodes of the 90s in a way that creates a strong sense of warm, pleasant nostalgia for me. That was my overwhelming thought while reading this comic, “I could definitely have seen this as a cartoon crossover episode when I was a kid.” Which is funny, because, apparently, DC and IDW were thinking the same thing.


#8 Wonder Woman Earth One – Grant Morrison, DC Comics


The Earth One line of comics is an interesting concept that has always intrigued me, but I haven’t read much from it as of yet. The basic premise here is that DC created this new continuity to retell classic stories with modern storytelling sensibilities, and in a form that is released as a graphic novel only, as opposed to issue by issue, so that the full season’s story is created to be consumed all at once with a clear arc. It’s an interesting approach to what is often called “writing for the trade,” which is to say writing in such a way that it will make sense as a trade paperback, but not necessarily at the start of the run. By releasing the whole volume at once, and have it created to be released AS a graphic novel, and in a season format, It’s basically the Netflix TV series structure of comic books.

In this case, I was especially drawn to this volume, because it is Grant Morrison writing it, and it’s Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman has actually gotten a LOT of love in comics recently. If you look at some “Best Comics of 2016” lists, you will notice that almost all of them include a Wonder Woman comic, and they aren’t all the same comic. This is my pick. It started out as a good comic and turned into a great one. I loved the frame narrative structure of Wonder Woman being on trial for going to man’s world as you hear several sides of the story from the history that led up to this point, and I love how the layout of the panels supports that narrative style. I loved the fact that now, in a post-comic code world, and in a graphic novel where there is even more freedom, we can have a comic that overtly makes Diana a lesbian (or at least bisexual), and, in fact, is not shy about showing that the Amazon society she comes from is full of women in same sex relationships and that love between women is a big part of their society. I love how very alien some things seem, and I mean that both in the way that some things are strange and different in ways that don’t make sense to readers (who are, after all, from “man’s world”), and in the way that some things seem utopian in a way that makes readers wish the world was a place that could support such ideals. It’s a wonderful blend that makes a reader feel like an outsider, while still making them appreciate the society that Diana is coming from. But the book REALLY turned around for me when Steve Trevor used the plight of African Americans and the African slave trade as the reason why he sided with Diana against his superiors. The thought that “those of us who are or will be subjugated by those with privilege and power have a responsibility to stand up to that power together” is a powerful one and was an unexpected inclusion.

Once it happened, though, the whole book came together for me. The sort of thesis of the book became clear. This is a comic that is interested in Wonder Woman as a champion for equal rights and representation, of course. She’s a warrior, and she will fight for what she feels is right. But it is also interested in exploring her role as a positive and optimistic force of change, who can be a banner to gather around and unite those who would fight against oppression. And, most importantly, the comic makes it clear that fighting against oppression and offering a hand to those who would fight with you, even if they come from the group that you are fighting against, are not things that are mutually exclusive. It’s a careful line to walk, and it risks a lot by braving it. But this is not a comic that is saying “don’t blame men for the terrible things men do.” It’s a comic that is saying “if you do not want to be associated with the men doing these terrible things, and you are a man, it’s even more important for you to stand with us, and when you do, we will unite.” This is an idea that has become even more politically relevant since this book was published, and I hope people are listening.

#7 Descender – Jeff Lemire, Image Comics


Man this comic is pretty. Descender is a comic that is basically what you would get if you took the “giant alien apocalypse” angle of Mass Effect and blended it with the “we created evil Robot AI” angle of Battlestar Gallactica, and it’s great. It’s engrossing and moving and has deep, interesting character development and an amazingly fleshed out world. And to top it off, Dustin Nguyen illustrates the comic in a gorgeous water color style that just makes every panel look like it could be framed and put on your wall. For Sci-Fi fans, especially, but really just for anyone who wants a complicated, mysterious, and character-driven story and gorgeous art, this is a comic you must be reading.

P.S. If you would like the first two volumes of Descender, along with a bunch of comics from last year’s list. The current HumbleBundle is the Image Comics 25th Anniversary Bundle and has them, AND you can donate to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation while you are at it! But it ends in the next 2 days! So hurry!

#6 The Vision – Tom King, Marvel Comics


Oh man… this comic is a trip. In a lot of ways, this feels like it should be published over at Image, and coming from me, that’s a big compliment. So the basic premise of this comic is Vision decides to create a robot family for himself: A wife, a son, and a daughter. Then he takes them and settles down in suburban America. Seems a little creepy, but whatever. This is a universe where we have dudes made of orange rock walking around. So a robot family… not terribly out of the ordinary. But… then the book takes a sharp turn right out of Tomorrowland and into Murdersuspensethrillerland. In addition, the narration is a haunting reminder of the ever growing darkness of the plot, constantly reminding you that things are not going to end well in this comic.

This comic should be used as a blueprint any time that someone wants to explore what it would be like to do a dark comic within an established universe with an established hero, because it does it right. Vision is still clearly a good person, but he has to make hard decisions, because of his love for his family. Things cascade in a way that make characters both sympathetic and also morally wrong, and, most importantly, unlike most comics that try to pull the “dark twist on a good character” angle, it accomplishes it without resorting to making the world a bleak and desolate place to live. It’s just engaging as hell to read. I couldn’t put it down. In fact, I read this at the end of issue 1 of Spider-Man/Deadpool, because it was just included there, and then I immediately went and read all of this, instead of reading Spider-Man/Deadpool. So… yeah… It’s really good. I saw this on a lot of people’s #1 spots for their lists, and I don’t blame them. It could very well be the most surprisingly well-done comic of the year. As far as new comics go, it’s certainly in the top 3 most well written comics of the year.

#5 Black Panther – Ta-Nahisi Coates, Marvel Comics


Another one of the best written new comics of the year, Black Panther is a great example of what happens when you place value on the writing talent for your comic book. Ta-Nahisi Coates is not a comic writer, but he is an established writer with a serious number of accolades. As a result, this comic reads differently than your typical Marvel comic. This is another comic that would feel right at home over at Image. It’s character-driven, it feels interested in different aspects of Black Panther than we are used to seeing. It’s not really a super hero comic so much as it is a comic about Africa, and about being a King, and about interpersonal relationships in an epic world.

The premise here is T’Challa has returned home to Wakanda to take up the mantle of king once more after the death of his sister. But it has much more to do with the state of Wakanda as a country than the antics of a superhero.  All of the characters in this comic have understandable motivations, and no one seems wholly evil. Even the villains are at least understandable as characters. This is a comic deeply concerned with problems that are very real to Africa today, in addition to basic human problems like parental connections, the responsibility of authority, the problem with being a marginalized group, choosing love over duty, etc.

On a more technical point, this series doesn’t shy away from its dark colors, which is actually very progressive of it. Often, you have black characters presented as lighter-skinned, because society’s messed up perception of attractiveness sees lighter skin as more appealing. But not only does this comic allow for darker skinned characters, it actually embraces them and incorporates the darker skin into gorgeous imagery by playing with light in ways that artists who are shyer about their use of dark skin would not.


I would also like to point out how much I love the characters portrayed in this panel. They are a lesbian couple who are on a mission to liberate women from the systematic oppression they face in Wakanda. They are just incredible, and their arc has been a joy to read. The real strength in this title is in its ability to create various groups of interesting, complicated, and engaging characters whom you can sympathize with as a reader and grow attached to. It feels like a smaller scale version of Saga in that way. And if that kind of comic writing is a growing trend, it’s certainly one I can get behind.

#4 DC Universe Rebirth – Geoff Johns, DC Comics


This is bar none the best single issue of a comic I read this year. I’m a big fan of rewarding writers for excellent structure. And this is structured masterfully. The basic purpose of this comic was to revitalize the DC Universe in more ways than one. Yes, it was designed to sell some comics, and win readers back by doing a sort of soft reboot of their titles, but also the DC Universe had begun to feel drained of joy. The New 52 really brought with it this reliance on gritty realism and darker, bleaker storytelling about disconnected and solitary characters, and that just doesn’t work for these characters. What is so wonderful about this comic is it breathes that life back into the DC universe, but it does so in such a way that doesn’t ignore the spectacle. It acknowledges the bleakness, and it creates an in-universe reason for it: a villain that our heroes need to band together and fight against. And that’s a fight that we, as readers can get behind, because it’s a fight to bring back the universe we love.

But that isn’t the only reason why this was such a great issue. The actual individual plot of the issue was also phenomenal. We see Pre-52 Wally West trying one last desperate time to warn of the danger he saw to his universe, and to tell people that everything in their world is wrong. This leads the reader through a tour of sorts of the current DC Universe, and it also makes you really care about Wally and his ever shortening time in existence. It’s beautifully written and included moments of heart break and joy. The last triumphant moment of the comic is so momentous that you can almost hear the uplift in the soundtrack as you read it. It worked as a story, it acknowledged a mistake and worked to fix it (something you almost never see publishers do), it brings back a well-loved character without sacrificing his more diverse New 52 incarnation, and it jumpstarted the Rebirth series of comics, which have, by and large, been top notch. Best individual issue of the year, easily.

#3 Superman: American Alien – Max Landis, DC Comics


Another comic on everyone’s list and for good reason. This is such an original and refreshing take on Superman. Max Landis makes this comic NOT about Superman, but about Clark Kent. It’s a comic about what it’s like growing up as an alien in a small town in Kansas, and what it’s like to have friends who know you are an alien, but are also just your friends from high school who are worried about you. It blends genres, and it shifts in tone as Clark enters different stages of his life. It reads like a bildungsroman with Clark’s journey to adulthood being the main point of the plot. We begin with Clark as a child, afraid of his newfound powers, trying to learn to control them, and we see how it impacts his family, and his community. We see him as a teenager, making mistakes, doing things teenagers do, it’s a comic about Superman the way that The Walking Dead is a comic about zombies. Sure, it’s there. He has Superpowers, but it’s more focused on how the existence of those powers affects Clark’s daily life and the lives of those around him than it is about him using them to fight crime. It’s about the Clark’s struggle to deal with those powers and find a place for himself within the world.

Visually, the comic shifts from chapter to chapter. Seven chapters with seven different artists all picked to capture the tone that Landis wanted in the comic. I’m more of a fan of some of this art than others (I have a personal preference for art with more definition, rather than less. I don’t typically like the sketchier, or wispier, less defined comic art, and there is some of that in this book), but even when I wasn’t a huge fan of the art style, the writing was top notch. I was so deeply interested in the character of Clark Kent and his journey. When I finished, I immediately wanted to flip the comic over and start again (I didn’t. Instead I wrote this. You’re welcome). Definitely the best Superman comic I have ever read, and almost certainly the best written new comic to come out in 2016.

#2 Injustice: Gods Among Us – Tom Taylor, DC Comics


So I knew this comic existed, but I didn’t actually start reading it until this year. I always assumed it was just a cheap tie-in comic to a fighting video game, which, I figured, couldn’t possibly have a good story. When’s the last time someone played a fighting game for the story? I would ask, especially one that is based on comic book characters. As it turns out, I was wrong on all fronts there. The video game is actually great, and it has a fantastic story (can’t wait for the next game to come out in a few months), and the comic is even better. This comic is some of the best writing I have seen in a multi-year spanning title from the Big Two in the last 20 years, probably. The writing is so good in this comic that when someone delivers a piece of dialogue that would be an average level of cliché in a normal comic, I find myself first kind of groaning and then realizing that I only have a problem with it here, because the average level of writing is so high. The premise, if you aren’t aware, is: What happens if Superman is pushed to break his moral code and decides to take a more authoritarian approach to protecting earth? He is enticed to kill joker right at the onset, after being tricked into killing Lois and his unborn child in the first few pages of the comic, and that’s the tipping point. From that point on, the comic becomes about the five years leading up to the video game and how the universe changes throughout those five years. We see, as readers, who chooses what side and why, and how those who choose Superman’s side justify their actions, and, perhaps most importantly of all, how Superman changes as a character to justify his own actions.

Sometimes, this is better executed than others, but the character writing is always superb in this comic. This is true of all of the characters, but there are definitely some standouts, Harley Quinn being chief among them. If you are a fan of Harley Quinn, and you want to see someone write her extremely well, read this comic. This is a comic that tackles difficult character issues with a level of care and gravity that you usually don’t see. A lot of that comes from the freedom of writing a limited run series in a separate timeline. Characters can die here, and when they do, they stay dead. That adds a kind of weight that we don’t usually see in big superhero comics where nothing, it seems, is permanent. This comic got me thinking a lot about what it is that makes comics like this and the comics over at Image a higher average quality than your typical superhero comic, and I really think it is the need for those in-universe comics to maintain a kind of status quo for the sake of the continuing universe. And, as a parallel point, the fact that said universe doesn’t have an end to write towards, so you can’t plan a coherent arc for it. You can’t kill Spider-Man in the main Marvel continuity, because people want to read Spider-Man comics. And they want to read ABOUT Spider-Man in them. But if you had a comic series that had a clear end in sight, you could, and it would be tragic and heavy, but you could do it for the sake of your story, and you would have an easier time finding the right place to do it in, because you can map out a large arc for your comic. As they do in Injustice

The comic is split up into years, with the final year wrapping up in 2016 (a new comic is now being released called “Injustice: Ground Zero” that bridges the gap between Injustice and Injustice 2), and each year has a sort of theme to it, Magic, Lantern Corp, etc. As a result, every year has a slightly different tone, but they are all excellent (the earlier years, which are written by Tom Taylor are a little bit higher quality, but all of the writers to an good job of continuing his work). And they are all working to build towards a set end. It’s clear that the story was mapped out ahead of time with an idea of how to get from point A to point B. Point B, in this case, being the start of the Injustice video game. That makes for a better story, and it makes for smoother character development. Overall, it just makes this a great comic.

#1 Sunstone – Stjepan Sejic, Top Cow/Image


Quick warning here, Sunstone is definitely not for children and not safe for work. It has nudity, explicit sexual content, etc. So if you are offended by that stuff, give this one a skip, even though it’s amazing, but if you aren’t. Check it out, and also read on…

This is a comic that I don’t think anyone has on their list, and that’s a shame. Sunstone is a comic that started on a Deviantart page where you can still read all of it for free here: http://shiniez.deviantart.com/ (WARNING: NSFW), but is also being published in beautifully retouched and re-edited graphic novel format by Top Cow, a partner studio to Image, (seriously, these books are gorgeous, and they are worth picking up, even if you already can read it for free). It’s a comic about two girls in a BDSM relationship, which, I’m aware, sounds like I’m recommending porny fanfic, but I’m not. This comic is adorable, heart-warming, and just… real. It just feels real.

Stjepan Sejic while, perhaps, a bit slow to release new strips (mostly due to some chronic health problems), is so good at writing real, complex characters and reminding us how great of a story life is. Lisa, one of the protagonists, and the narrator of the story, laments that her story has very few twists and not much plot, because it’s “just life.” And she’s right! And it’s a great story, because life in its incredible mundanity is an amazing story in and of itself, and this is a story about character exploration and development. Like Superman: American Alien, it’s a story about how a person deals with their life. That kind of story doesn’t need big plot twists. It just needs to be well-written, beautiful, and make you care about the characters, and this comic does that better than any other comic I read this year.

Sejic is on record as saying that writing Sunstone retaught him how to write character driven fiction, and I think it retaught me how important character driven fiction is, and how deeply it can resonate with its readers. In fact, just reading this comic helped me through my own personal troubles earlier this year, so I have a sort of personal fondness for it. I don’t reread comics, like… ever, and I reread this one from start to (nearly) finish (it wasn’t done at the time) five times. It’s a shame that more people aren’t familiar with this wonderful little indie comic. It’s definitely the best one I read this year. Check it out.

Posted in Comic Reviews, List | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Streaming Resident Evil 7

I’m going to be streaming Resident Evil 7 in about 15 minutes at around 3:15 Central. Hopefully, over at https://www.twitch.tv/criticalgeekery If you want to come check it out, go for it! We can hang out and you can watch me scare the crap out of myself. I haven’t played any of this game yet, so it will be an experience, to say the least.

Posted in Announcements | Leave a comment

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Full Spoiler Review


This review of Rogue One contains MASSIVE SPOILERS for the film. If you do not want to be spoiled, and you have not seen the movie, do NOT read past this point. Go watch it! Then come back. If you are having trouble deciding, read my spoiler-free review here.

Continue reading

Posted in Film Review | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Carrie Fisher…

So, I was going to finally post my full Rogue One review today, but now, it just seems so meaningless next to what happened this morning. So it will be up sometime this week, when I am feeling more up to writing…

A lot of times, I deal with deaths (both celebrity deaths and deaths in my personal life) by writing something about that person and what they meant to me and how much I miss them, but I can’t find the words to talk about Carrie Fisher. She was wonderful, of course, and she was a big part of my childhood. There’s something about the actors in Star Wars that makes them seem superhuman, like they are legends in a way that other actors aren’t. At least to me. Star Wars was such a huge part of my childhood. It was one of the first fandoms I belonged to, before I knew what a fandom was, and before we started throwing that word around as often as we do now. My VHS tape of Return of the Jedi was one of the first VHS tapes I can remember wearing out, and A New Hope was one of the first movies I can remember memorizing every line of.

Star Wars is and always has been bigger than a movie franchise to its fans, and it was such a big, defining part of my life when I was younger that I have a hard time imagining my childhood without it. I know that sounds silly, but it’s true. Between Star Wars, Spider-Man, and Nintendo games, my nerdy childhood was pretty much formed, but of those three things, Star Wars is the one most closely tied to the people who created it. I remember watching a behind-the-scenes VHS tape back before you could watch behind-the-scenes videos for everything called “From Star Wars to Jedi” as I recall? And that was just as fascinating to me as the movies themselves were. It was from that video tape, probably, that my aspirations to become a film maker came from (an aspiration, I later abandoned, but not until I spent a semester trying to go to college for it, so it lasted a good long time).

All of this is to say that the people involved in making these films are special to me in a way that other celebrities aren’t, and the thought that one as major as Carrie Fisher could be dead is something that still bounces off that 7-year-old part of my brain that doesn’t quite understand mortality. Part of me wants to say “That’s impossible. She’s Princess Leia. She can’t be dead. She’s like… immortal or something.” But, of course, she’s not. She’s a human being, and she’s as mortal as anybody else, but I feel the same sort of crashing realization with her death as I did the first time I had to deal with the death of someone close to me, when I had to struggle to understand the concept of someone being gone forever.

And like when I was a kid, it’s going to take time for me to adjust to that realization. I will, of course. We all will, and we will all be there for each other as we grieve for the loss of someone who helped define so many of our childhoods, and who was just a badass of a human being. We are so lucky to have had Carrie Fisher for the time we did, and that she helped to give us a piece of popular culture that was so crucial in so many of our lives is something that we should never take for granted.

Rest in Peace, Carrie Fisher.

May the Force Be With You…

Posted in News | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Rogue One: A Spoiler Free Review


Spoiler-free review for today! I’ll write a full-on spoiler review on Wednesday, after I watch the film for a second time on Tuesday (hopefully, this time in a theater that doesn’t have projector issues like this one did. *grumble*). So… let’s get right into this.

Warning: I will endeavor to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, only spoiling details that we knew before going in to the film, either from trailers or from the press surrounding the movie. That said, if you were avoiding all of that to keep yourself thoroughly unspoiled, this review WILL spoil you. So please wait to read this until after you’ve seen the film.

So… Rogue One had a big challenge ahead of it. In some ways, it was even more important to get this right than The Force Awakens. This is the first Star Wars movie that is not part of the main sequence of movies. It’s not following a Skywalker or anyone in the line of Skywalkers, it’s not about their journey, and it’s not even about the jedi really. This was the movie that was supposed to prove to audiences that there is room in the universe for other stories to be told, and that those stories will be interesting and engaging for audiences to watch. Did it succeed? I would say “yes,” but I want to talk about the ways in which it succeeded.

This movie, as you can tell from the trailers and the basic concept, is, at its core, a heist movie. As a result, it carries many of the same tropes and pitfalls of heist movies, but also plays to the genre’s strengths. The first act is kind of slow. It’s all about introducing you to the team and trying to get the wheels turning on the inevitable big job that we’ve all shown up to see. In a shorter movie, this isn’t such a hurdle. If a film is 90 minutes long, then by the time you realize that the film has been crawling for a half an hour, it’s moved on to the action. This movie, however, clocks in at over two hours, and it’s the first 45 minutes to an hour of it that crawls. Don’t get me wrong! It’s still an enjoyable hour for the most part. The casting is great. Felicity Jones knocks it out of the park as Jyn Erso, and there are some great action sequences to keep you from dozing off, but it still drags a bit in the beginning, and there’s no getting around that.

All that said, heist movies ultimately succeed or fail on their ability to create unique, memorable characters, and Rogue One has that down. Every single one of the main team members is memorable, and they all feel like they’ve been given just enough time to leave the impression they needed to by the end of the film, which culminates in a powerhouse of a third act that was well worth the wait.

Ultimately, this is a film for Star Wars fans. And while I imagine it will be enjoyable for anyone for whom the words “heist movie in space” sounds like a good time, when it comes down to it, any Star Wars fan is likely to enjoy this movie a great deal. I certainly did! It hits on all its marks by the end, and it helps to give us a more detailed look at parts of Star Wars history that we’ve never seen before, but have often heard about. If the point of this experiment here was “Can we make a Star Wars film outside the main series and make it fun and interesting?” I’d call this is a success.

I’ll have much more to say in detail in my spoiler-full review on Wednesday. For now, if you haven’t seen this movie, and you enjoy Star Wars, go out and see it. It’s worth it.

P.S. As this is a spoiler-free review, please refrain from spoilers in comments. Thanks!

Posted in Film Review | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Holiday Gift Guide for the Comic Book Fan in Your Life

I meant to get this out earlier, but… I had to move, and life has been crazy busy. But hey! There’s still one week left until Christmas. I know SOME of you are still shopping for gifts, and maybe there is a comic fan in your life and you have NO IDEA what to get him or her. It’s cool. I’m here to help. Here are some ideas, in no particular order.

(For the record, I am going to provide links to Amazon for these things, but if you can support your local comic shop by buying them there, please do so!)

Injustice: Year 5 Vol. 1

This is one of the best comic series in the last few years, and it is coming to an end. The first volume of the last year (it is split into 5 different years) came out on December 13th. If you are buying a gift for someone who is already reading Injustice, obviously, this volume will help to continue their collection. If they are a comic book fan and they have NOT read Injustice yet, just start getting them the whole damned thing. They will not be disappointed. This series has incredibly well-crafted writing (to the point where when there IS a piece of dialogue that seems cliché, but would be totally normal in a comic book I take note of it, and then realize that I’m only noticing it, because the other writing is SO GOOD), it has some of the best representations of characters like Harley Quinn and Black Canary that I’ve seen, and it’s just a great look at a potential alternate DC universe. THIS is what I wish Warner Bros would have made a movie out of, instead of Batman v Superman, but alas, they did not.

Saga Alana and Marko action figures

There are Saga action figures now!? (as I heard one fan exclaim in my local comic shop) Yes. Yes there are, and they are beautifully constructed. They were a comic-con exclusive, but you can pick them up on Amazon or at some comic book stores, if you are lucky enough to have a local comic store that has them (as I do). This may be a bit pricey, but your gift recipient will love it if they are a fan of Saga (and who isn’t, really? People who haven’t read Saga. That’s who. You can fix that by buying them Saga… and then these!).

DC Universe: Rebirth Deluxe Edition

This issue was one of the best individual comic issues I read this year. It helped to revitalize DC comics after the universe had lost its way and diverged from what always made it so great. Not only does this issue facilitate the transition into the Rebirth series and work to shine a light on the problems of the new 52 within the contexts of the universe itself, it ALSO is just a fantastically written story which is both touching, heart breaking, and sometimes funny. This deluxe edition would be a great addition to any comic fan’s collection.

Justice League Tarot Cards

(I would like to point out that these, especially are annoying to buy on Amazon. The price varies greatly. See if you can find them in a store)

The art on these cards is so cool. This may be kind of a niche item for someone, but if you know someone who likes Tarot cards and ALSO likes comics, this would be a great gift for them. That’s pretty much all I have to say on that front.

Captain America: Civil War

It would be weird if I didn’t put this on here. It’s one of the best movies in the MCU. Certainly the best comic book movie this year. I never got around to reviewing it, but it pulls off some miraculous stuff within the confines of its runtime, giving each character an individual, fully fleshed out story arc in a movie PACKED with characters.

Marvel Legends Series: Edge of the Spider-Verse: Spider-Gwen

One of the best new marvel characters. Spider-Gwen is so amazing that the fans basically forced Marvel to give her a comic. She’s basically the Harley Quinn of Marvel, in that respect (and in no other respect). And now there is Spider-Gwen merch everywhere! Any of that merch would make a great gift, but the 11-year-old comic fan inside of me particularly loves this, because it’s like an old-school action figure and of such a great progressive character!

TPBs of Basically Any Image Title

You can almost just throw a dart. Start them on a new one, buy them the newest TPB of Saga. Buy Sunstone (one of the best comics I read this year, and the final volume of THAT is coming out soon), get them Descender… Whatever you feel like they will like. Honestly, Image just doesn’t publish bad comics anymore. This is the publisher who publishers The Walking Dead, which is a great comic, and one of the biggest hits in independent comics in history. And that, in my opinion, is one of their worst books. That should tell you how good Image is on average. So if all else fails, just buy the comic fan in your life any trade with an “i” on it.

Posted in List | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Luke Cage Review


This review contains spoilers for Marvel/Netflix’s Luke Cage. I have a brief spoiler free review below, but then after the cut is spoiler city. If you have NOT watched Luke Cage yet, and you care about spoilers, go do so before reading the rest of this review. 

The first seven episodes of Luke Cage may be the best seven hours in the MCU. It’s certainly the best seven hours of Marvel television. Unfortunately, some momentum is lost in the back half of the season, but it still ends strong, and I would place it at second place, just below Jessica Jones, in the Marvel/Netflix offerings. Even if you are not usually interested in comic book or superhero television, you will probably find yourself intrigued by the deep, compelling characters, brilliant performances, and stunning cinematography. If you do not check out this series, you are doing yourself a disservice. That’s the end of the spoiler-free review. Below the break, I will get into spoilers.

Continue reading

Posted in TV Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Luke Cage is coming this Friday!


So in a few days, we will have the next installment in the Marvel/Netflix Street-Level Heroes television shows: Luke Cage. If you have watched Jessica Jones, you already know this character and why this show is exciting, if you haven’t, what are you doing? Go watch Jessica Jones. I’ll wait here and sip my coffee…


You back? Good. Okay. So let’s talk about Luke Cage. Luke Cage has a complicated and sordid publication history. He first came into comics in the 1970’s at the height of the popularity of the Blaxploitation genre, along with several other black superheroes that were created during the 70’s. As a result, his original representation is somewhat problematic, to say the least, and I don’t have the time to get into the complicated history of Blaxploitation films nor do I feel my race really qualifies me to comment on it, really, so I won’t. What I do want to talk about, though, is how Luke Cage, as a character, changed throughout the years, and why his current incarnation as played by Mike Colter is such an achievement.

So, as I said, initially, Luke Cage was created to cash in on the growing popularity of Blaxploitation films, and his original character design is indicative of that…


But as the popularity of the genre died down, and more and more people began to point out the inherent social problems with the genre, Luke Cage underwent a shift in characterization. He was paired up with Iron Fist (to be seen headlining another TV series we will be seeing from Marvel/Netflix), and was eventually rebranded as “Power Man,” and we would see several reinventions of the character from that point on, with varying degrees of financial success and several costume changes, eventually seeing him developing a relationship with Jessica Jones (which you watched right? Okay. Just checking). But amidst this complicated and shifting persona that struggled to find a place on the comic shelves that was at once successful and respectful, we see the evolution of a hero with some really unique roots, and THAT seems to the focus of the upcoming television series, so let’s talk about them.

First of all, Luke Cage is a hero from Harlem. You might be thinking “What’s the big deal?” but it IS a big deal. We don’t get heroes from disenfranchised neighborhoods very often. Heroes seem to mostly populate metropolitan epicenters (see Superman, Spider-Man, etc.), or if they do patrol poorer neighborhoods, they still come from outside those neighborhoods like some sort of guardian angel from without (i.e. Batman may help the people of the poorer areas of Gotham, but he’s a billionaire who lives in a mansion). Luke Cage is a hero of Harlem from Harlem. He is a victim of an experiment that he was coerced into, and he is turning that victimization into something empowering for him and his community. And while that’s not something that the comics often focused on, it is definitely something that the upcoming Netflix series seems to be focusing on. If the trailers are any indication, we are going to see Luke Cage acting out of a sense of responsibility to his friends and neighbors. A responsibility to use his powers to help those who, like him, are victims, and, like him, are invisible to those in power.

Now this does ignore what I feel is one of the more interesting aspects of Luke Cage’s character: That he was a hero for hire. That is to say, he would help you, but only if you could pay his rate, but I don’t actually think that’s a bad move on Marvel’s part. I like this aspect of his character in concept. We often talk about how saving the world doesn’t seem to pay very much for these heroes. As a result, they often need a billionaire to bankroll them (Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, etc). So I have always loved the idea that Luke Cage needs to make a living somehow, as anyone in his position would, and he does so by charging for his help. But it does seem like that would sit poorly with the mainstream superhero audience, and ignoring it allows for the development of the above mentioned “savior from within,” rather than “savior from without” a systemically disenfranchised community. Now, I do hope they include a reference to this, because I think it would be interesting. One of the things that Marvel and Netflix seems to have done with this character is placed him in a similar position to Jessica Jones. Jones’ story starts post-superhero. She was Jewel, she tried the superhero gig, things didn’t work out, now she’s retired and is just trying to make a living as a P.I. Cage seems to be in a similar situation in this universe. We saw hints in JJ that maybe this isn’t the first time that he has had to reveal himself. I don’t know if we will see flashbacks of him donning a Powerman costume and asking for payment for his services, but I like to think that maybe a reference to his former attempts at heroing are not out of the question.

So in the end, I am extremely excited for this series, because I feel it comes at a particularly good time. We are seeing an upsurge in the demand and success of POC superheroes. Ms. Marvel is selling extremely well, the new Black Panther series written by Ta-Nehisi Coates is selling extremely well, Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War was praised by audience and critics alike. We are seeing more diversity in comics than ever, and the fact that we get to see this really interesting character emerge out of the middle of that with a great actor and a great supporting cast is very exciting, not the least because if it is as successful as the previous ventures of Marvel and Netflix have been, it can stand as evidence that audiences are eager to see racial diversity in their superheroes in the same way that the success of Jessica Jones demonstrated the demand for gender diversity.

Edit: I forgot to mention that I will be watching Luke Cage this weekend, probably on Friday and Saturday. I’ll be live tweeting while I’m watching it over at https://twitter.com/criticalgeekery so if you guys want to watch along with me, or just follow my reaction, feel free to check that out!

Posted in TV Analysis | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment