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Comic Review: Buzzkill TPB

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A superhero who gets his powers from addictive substances? Interesting! The main character’s ongoing battle between giving into his addictions and gaining the ability to be more than he was versus overcoming his addictions and returning to the (weaker) man he once was. Which side will he choose? And which side would you choose, if you were put in the same position?

I’m doing double-duty with this comic because, a few days after I received me review copy, I found out we would be discussing it in the SuperMOOC that I’m currently enrolled in, Social Issues Through Comic Books. So not only do I get to talk about it with my fellow classmates, I get to see their perspective of the comic in relation to my own.

First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.”

The comic takes an interesting approach to addiction, as it takes the concept and expands it into a much more visual and moral realm of the struggles addicts go through. When you take addictive substances, it changes you into someone else. Your concepts of reality are altered and you may feel like you are stronger and better than you once were. But what if this were true? What if you became super, able to bring forth good as a result of your addiction? That’s what the main character, who we first know as Reuben, is faced with. He feels that he becomes a better person because of his addictions. However, he also becomes a more violent person, as do many addicts, and that counteracts the good he feels that he’s doing. Knowing this, he tries to overcome his addiction, but it’s also difficult to knowingly walk away from something that changes him into the man he seeks to be. What would you do in that situation?

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The ideas that somehow he will control and enjoy his liquor drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.”

Reuben feels like he can handle his addictions, but it’s immediately clear that he cannot. While he asserts that he can control the powers that he gains, it’s evident that he can’t. He was pushed to seek help after a bloody battle that put his opponent in the hospital. In group, it’s clear he has strong anger issues. How can he control something that’s ultimately controlling him? But on the opposite side, how can he cast aside the advantage it gives him when there’s bad guys out that that want to use his weakness to their benefit? If he gets help, he’s putting others in danger. If he doesn’t get help, he’s putting others in danger. It’s a no-win situation. Added to that is the idea of inherited addictions and inherited personality traits, as we see with his father and how Reuben turned out. Can he break out of the destructive cycle that he’s in or is he forever destined to be his father’s son? It’s a fascinating illustration of the battles addicts go through. Even when the intention of being better is there, the journey is difficult.

Pick up your copy of Buzzkill today. You will not be disappointed.

Rating: 5/5 stars

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Comics Review: Serenity–Leaves on the Wind

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Comics Review: Serenity–Leaves on the Wind #1-2 by: Zack Whedon, various

Review by: Prof. Jenn

 

…and if the title of the new comic series set just a little while after the events of Serenity doesn’t make you cry, go back and watch the whole series of Firefly, then the movie. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Tragically, it won’t take long…

Also: SPOILERS if you’re not a Browncoat, so be warned.

 

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The first two issues of Dark Horse’s new series Serenity–Leaves on the Wind takes up just a little while after Serenity the movie left off: River is still odd but much stabler in her new role as pilot, Zoe is about to have her baby (and is haunted by the ghost of her beloved husband), and everyone’s favorite Firefly-class ship and its denizens is in hiding. The ‘verse is reeling from the exposure of what the Alliance had done to Miranda, and rumors (and rebellions) abound. Some of the spunkier rebels will do anything to lasso Mal and co. into joining their cause, including conscripting Jayne (who’s not still on the ship but doing who knows what when we encounter him again, though apparently money still talks when it comes to Jayne) to run Mal to ground.

The storyline is engaging of course–I mean, who hasn’t been wanting to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT in the ‘verse–and the dialogue is written masterfully, with that same unique cadence heard in the television series. The art is what I would call “posh-comic” style: a semi-realistic look with muted colors amid the dark outlines. Overall as a sweeping statement, I would say the series is very high quality, and is shaping up to be an excellent mollifier to all of us still wanting to live in “the black.” One teensy little nitpicky thing I can mention is that sometimes the characters don’t look, well, like them. It’s a tricky balancing act, the comic based on a TV show, as I’ve been saying about the Doctor Who comics: there’s a fine line between doing actor-portraits and just portraying the character himself. In this series so far, it works most of the time, but every once in a while when we look at Mal or Simon especially we get yoinked out of our suspension of disbelief. This is a minor point, however, in light of the exciting tension and warmth of character continuing in this series. I cannot wait till #3!

Side Note: such a cute moment when Zoe reveals what her newborn daughter’s name is. That scene could have been right out of the TV show, if it had continued (/sniff).

Bottom Line: This series is highly recommended, though I would not start on it till after you’ve enjoyed Firefly in its entirety, including the movie Serenity. You’ll get spoilers and just won’t understand what’s going on unless you do.

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Hellboy The First 20 Years

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Editor Scott Allie and his crew have created a grand tribute volume that will delight fans. Within this 137 page handiwork we encounter the superb art of the man that has been inventively drawing Hellboy for 20 years, Mike Mignola. This opus invites the fan to view the interiors of Hellboy evolution.

Among the exceptional pages are covers like Hellboy: Wake the Devil #2, The Goon #7 and Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever #4.  Mignola’s genius is displayed as we view sketches for an unfinished Hellboy painting and then the unfinished watercolor painting.  We are given an equal appreciation for the coloring of Dave Stewart, as we view his work, especially with the inclusion of the Trickster Print, and Hellboy in Hell front covers.

This is a welcome addition to the Hellboy body of work, but it is not a sequel to Art of Hellboy (released back in 2003). It is a tender tribute to the integral, unique work Mike Mignola has created over these 20 years.  Lighting struck the pencil, when Mignola created a downward shoulder, trench coat wearing colossus that we adore as he roughs his way through his world of monsters with humor and one massive fist.

This collection reminds us how fresh originality, can evolve and continue to inspire while entertaining the reader. Can’t wait to see what Mike Mignola has in store for the next 20 years. Hellboy The First Twenty Years is a must have for every shelf.  Happy 20th  Hellboy!

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Sage Escape

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Warning: Mild spoilers await you in this review. If you don’t mind getting a general idea of the plot, then keep on reading. If you hate knowing even the tiniest little thing then please wait until after you’ve read the comic before continuing any further. If you’d just like to know if I recommend the series: yes, yes I do. Thus ends my disclaimer. Enjoy the review, nerds.

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I have to admit – it took my awhile to figure out exactly what I was reading when given the first issue of the Sage Escape mini-series – but once I got the whole picture (well, mostly) I enjoyed what I had read.

Sage Escape (story and cover art by Damian S. Simankowicz) takes place in the future, where there are many technological improvements. Friendly Corp, the biggest military provider in the Universe, manufactures cybernetic/human hybrid warriors called “salesmen assassins”. Our main Character, Sage, is a new prototype of one of these hybrids who has gone rogue. Sage is the first teenager they have upgraded, and when she came online she was convinced she had memories. It takes a long time, but eventually you connect everything together and realize that Friendly Corp isn’t so friendly. In fact, they are potentially involved in the massacre of an Earth colony. Just when you think you’re about to get to the bottom of this mystery, Sage Escape pulls the rug out from under you, and you are left to imagine what just happened and how it will be resolved.

The first issue of this miniseries is currently available to download on their website. The second issue is due to be released April 8th, so you don’t have a terribly long wait to get your next fix. It’s a good thing too, because while I’m not going to spoil the ending, I will say it will leave you wanting more.

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Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Rift: Part 1

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Warning: This one was hard to review without having a bunch of spoilers. I definitely leave the biggest surprises a secret, but if you don’t want any prior knowledge at all beforehand then I advise you to read the book first. If you were looking for help in deciding if it’s worth investing in, short answer is “yes”. Go buy it and devour before enjoying this extremely positive review. Thanks, and happy reading.

 

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The Rift is an Avatar graphic novel which takes place after the events of the TV series. The script is by Gene Luen Yang with art and cover done by Gurihiru and lettering by Michael Heisler. All of them combine to do a splendid job in creating a great story with vivid colors and drawings to match.

In the novel, you see a world where the Earth and Fire nations begin working together in a new era of peace. Toph is teaching at a metalbending school that she has started, and Aang also has a group of young airbenders he is training. During a celebration of the newly-found peace, Aang sees a vision of a past Avatar, Yangschen, who was the last Airbending Avatar before him. This leads him to what was once a sacred land to the air nomads, but now has a small town and the Earthen Fire Refinery. It seems like a great place, where Earth and Fire nation are working together to collect resources. Aang and Toph, who are no strangers when it comes to butting heads, argue over what is more important – preserving the past or creating a future where the whole world is united. There’s also a big surprise at the end as to who one of the people involved in the project is. I’m not going to spoil it, but they’re connected to someone in the group.

This story was great for people who wondered what the Avatar would do once he no longer had to fight the fire nation. It shows that while there is an overall peace between the warring nations, there is still plenty Aang can do with his time and talents. Part one was released on March 5th, and the follow-up will be coming out in July. If it’s as good as the first chapter I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait.

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Comic Review: Breath of Bones: A Tale Of The Golem HC

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Being a World War II historian and a fan of the golem legend, Breath of Bones was a perfect combination of good storytelling and fantastic line art that held my interest the whole way through. The tale is told from the point of view of Noah, an Allied soldier who is going to take care of the upcoming attack with a repeat of something that happened to him as a young boy. And, so, we get pulled back to his childhood and a recounting of how his village survived with faith and strength.

When Noah was just a child, his father went to war along with the other able-bodied men of their village. Noah was left to live with his grandparents and wait, everyday, for his father to return. Sadly, the stark reality of war is that he will never see his father again. The monsters of Nazi Germany has stolen away this young boy’s childhood and made him grow up way too fast. But pretty soon the war is not some far-away threat, but one that is knocking on their village’s front door.

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An Allied soldier by the name of Simon Richards crashes his plane near the village. Noah and his grandfather, along with the rest of the villagers, hide him away and put out the fires of the crash, but pretty soon the event draws the attention of the Germans who send two soldiers to check it out. The villagers almost get away with the secret they are keeping, but after accidental exposure of Simon during a search and a resulting shootout that leaves one German soldier dead, one German soldier injured yet able to escape, and Noah’s grandfather bleeding from a gunshot wound, it is evident that the monsters outside will soon be coming into their home. It is up to them to fight or run away scared.

This is where the golem legend comes into play. Noah’s grandfather, Jacob, gifted him with a small clay figure prior, one that has been passed down from grandfather to grandson for many generations. Jacob is going to use the golem legend to build a large clay figure that will come to life through the power of faith and protect them from the oncoming Nazi attack. He gets the townspeople’s help to create the figure and then sends them on their way, hoping that they can escape to safety before the Germans come back. Choosing to stay behind, Noah, his grandmother, Jacob, and Simon all stand their ground and watch as the golem does indeed do what it was meant to do. And once his mission is completed, the golem goes back to being just clay again. The village is safe, for now.

And it is this memory of faith and safety that Noah uses again in present day. As we close the series, he is beginning to shape another figure out of clay so that the golem can rise up again and defend good men against the monsters. It’s a wonderful ending to a wonderful story. If you’re a fan of WWII, or the golem legend, or just a fan of great artwork and great storytelling, you cannot go wrong with Breath of Bones. Pick up your copy today and revisit the notion that good can indeed triumph over evil.

Rating: 5/5 stars

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Loki: Ragnarok and Roll #1

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Note: There might be some mild spoilers in this review but nothing too serious. Still, if you haven’t read it yet and want everything to be a surprise then maybe give it a quick read first. Thanks, and enjoy.

When reading Loki: Ragnarok and Roll #1, the first word that came to mind to describe it was “whimsical”. This is a fun and different take on Loki and the sibling rivalry between him and his brother Thor. One thing that is different about this one is that it is sympathetic to Loki, so if all you’re used to is Thor always being the hero then you’re in for a treat. Here we have Loki constantly vying for his father’s attention and being overshadowed by his brother. The comic almost makes us feel sorry for him, especially when the two brothers go on a mission together and Loki gets punished for failures that were totally his brother’s fault. So not fair! He turns his lemons into lemonade though, which seems to be what further issues will focus on.

Overall this first issue was a lot of fun. My favorite random part of the comic was a scene where you see Odin in a banquet hall with literally every god you could think of, including the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Yes, even the internet gods are real. I look forward to more adventures with Odin’s other son.

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The Gang’s All Here: My Favorite Fictional Mobsters

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“Aw, shoot. I got my hat and forgot my gat…” (image via Buy Costumes)

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Being fanatic about real-life gangsters is a touchy subject. Following the lives of say, Al Capone, Griselda Blanco or Carlo Gambino is an interesting read, for sure. Until your stomach starts to twist a bit. Luckily, there’s been a whole host of fictional mobsters to captivate our imaginations and deep-seated need to be bad to the bone. These are personal favorites and there’s a noticeable lack of anyone named Corleone or Soprano listed on here (though, to be fair, I considered Tom Hagan and Sylvio Dante)…

The Kingpin

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(Image via Wikipedia)

Mega-sized supervillain Wilson Fisk, otherwise known as the Kingpin, is a badass among badasses within the Marvel universe. Stan Lee’s creation came to life in 1967 and has since gone up against Spiderman, Daredevil and the Punisher, among others. The Kingpin doesn’t possess superhuman powers. It’s simply his brute strength and tactical mind that contribute to his masterful Machiavellian scheming. Even as an enemy to the reigning Maggia and terrorist group HYDRA, the crushing fists of the Kingpin are nothing to scoff at. His ‘look’ has been reappropriated by Hollywood at large: we now expect all gangsters to be fat, bald and toting a cigar.

Johnny Boy

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(Image via MovieCrazed)

Martin Scorsese clearly loves gangster culture more than I ever will. He’s crafted a life out of shining light on the decadent underworld of every era. In Mean Streets, a fresh-faced Robert Deniro plays Johnny Boy, a reckless, goofy hothead with a rather visceral swagger for a small-time thug. He practically charms his way off the screen as the strutting, obnoxious sidekick to Harvey Keitel’s straight man. At the risk of sounding superficial, my favorite thing about the character is the way he looks. Between the jaunty hats, plaid suit coats, scruffy locks and one of the biggest guilty grins to grace the silver screen, I’d be in love…if I didn’t want to punch him in the face.

Keyser Soze

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(Image via EmpireOnline)

Motor-mouthed, limping Kevin Spacey wins for simply being renowned as a semi-fictional gangster, inside a work of fiction. In 1997’s The Usual Suspects, tales swirl about international heavy, Keyser Soze, throughout the course of the unfolding plot. It’s hard for me to think back to fifteen years ago, when I didn’t know the ending to this movie, but I’m pretty sure it caught me off guard. Surprise plot twists aside, Keyser Soze is the kind of omnipotent, grudge-holding villain that makes for cinema gold. He shows true gangsters are all about the long game. Though, if he weren’t simply a small-time crook, this paragraph would definitely be about Benicio del Toro’s character instead.

Jabba the Hutt

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(Image via Wikipedia)

Jabba the Hutt is totally gangster. Star Wars’ space-slug hoodlum is ‘our kind of scum’. Plus, his hard-partying palace is my kind of joint. I read somewhere that it took six separate operators to portray the worm-like warlord at any given time. Rumored to have been based on Orson Welles in his obese later years, this intergalactic thug is surrounded by packs of interesting groupies, followers and slaves. Salacious Crumb is no Paulie Walnuts, but hey, you take ‘em where you can.

Gus Fring

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(Image via HowsYourRobot)

The soft-spoken Los Pollos Hermanos kingpin put a new spin on gangster gravitas. Gustavo Fring ran a tight ship. Very few actors can walk the line between polite and threatening – Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito drew that line and silently tap-danced on it. His calm demeanor was enchanting and his cool, aloof manner most unnerving. Though he dies at the hands of protagonist Walter White, his character was the true professional of the whole bunch, displaying zero ego and maintaining perfect posture.

 

 

Lydia Mondy is a freelance writer with absolutely zero ‘gangster’ qualities. Unless you count her penchant for pinstripes and bourbon. You can find her blogging about everything from her Jem obsession to the big business behind all things ‘geeky

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Loki: Agent of Asgard #1

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Beware: There be spoilers ahead.

I am a big fan of Loki, and not just the superb version in Marvel’s cinematic universe, but also the original. The one in the Poetic Edda, who is the Norse God of Fire and Mischief. Who is known as Loki Silvertongue and The Trickster. So I decided to pick up Marvel’s newest Loki story, Loki: Agent of Asgard. I went in, having read a preview of the series, with some pretty high expectations. I definitely wasn’t disappointed.

The issue begins with Loki stabbing Thor in the back as he says, “Trust me,” to the reader. It’s such a classic Loki/Thor moment that the reader assumes Loki has a nefarious purpose. It turns out he had a purpose but it wasn’t really nefarious, just self-serving. As a somewhat newly-minted teenager, Loki is attempting to purge all the evil he committed and replace it with acts of good. Of course being Loki, he goes about it in his own special way. Including singing a Loki-ed version of The Wizard and I from Wicked, that I think shows some real promise, running up the side of Avengers tower in stolen Seven League boots and a coat made from shadow thread, and hacking the internet to delete all traces of his old self.

But the moment that really stood out for me was when the reader realizes something is wrong with Thor. He can apparently sniff Loki out and, after Loki causes a Hulk-Sized(literally)distraction to reach the Avengers database, Thor attempts to attack his brother with Mjolnir but he can’t lift it. She has deemed him unworthy because he meant kill Loki. This scene brings us back around to the beginning where Loki stabs Thor in the back. Turns out Thor had been possessed by a dark force and the sword Loki stabbed him with caused him to see the truth of his possession and force the darkness out.

We are treated to a glimpse of the All-Mother, three goddess, who make up a powerful triumvirate and are the ones who sent Loki on the mission to help Thor. The last frame features the All-Mother releasing the darkness from it’s magical prison, and from the smoke comes the Loki of old with his green spandex and gold horns and evil grin. And he wishes to talk about the future.

This comic made me laugh out loud, it made me cringe and it made me sing. All in all it was a great first issue and it gives me hope that Loki can become a mainstream COMIC character again, and not just be known for being played by the delicious Tom Hiddleston.

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Comics Review: Doctor Who Skyjacks and more

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Comics Review: Doctor Who: Skyjacks Vol. 3 by various

Review by: Prof. Jenn

This is a fun TARDIS-dimension-loop story which are enjoyable because of how timey-wimey theydownload get. This is an 11th Doctor/Clara story, and we get more about the Time War, information and fun images re: the various rooms in the TARDIS, and get to hobnob with some valiant WWII soldiery. There are various references to the previous Hypothetical Gentleman storyline, but not so much they’ll get in your way if you’ve missed it.

There’s an extra, unrelated story attached to this volume called “In-Fez-Station”, which is an 11th Doctor/Amy & Rory tale which involves the Slitheen, and mind-controlling fezes. Yes, you heard me, the fezes are evil. Or at least tools for such. Really bouncy and light-hearted fun after the epic, timey-wimey feel of the longer Skyjacks story.

Bottom Line: recommended, especially for fans of the 11th Doctor.

 

Bonus Review: Dead Man’s Hand #3 by various

Now I haven’t had the pleasure of catching the first two in the Dead Man’s Hand story, so admittedly I was a tetch lost re: who’s who and what’s happening. What I can say is that this is a fun romp in the Wild West with a meta twist, referencing Westerns all over the place. It does get a tad long-winded, as all the Doctors explain his philosophy to Sondrah. But oo, look: the War Doctor actually makes an appearance!

Bottom Line: definitely only if you’ve been following the story till now. But I do recommend it.

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