Comics

24_Underground_5

Comic Review: 24 Underground #5

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24_Underground_5

This is it, folks. The thrilling conclusion of 24 Underground is finally upon us. There’s a lot of action in this one including a big showdown in the end between the Russians, Jack Bauer, and the CIA. Will Jack escape both groups that are after him? Considering how Live Another Day starts, you can kinda take a guess, but it’s still some edge-of-your-seat excitement right up until the last page. My only complaint was that the ending wasn’t totally satisfying for me but that’s probably just me not wanting to let go. This miniseries did a great job of filling in the gap between seasons of the show, and was a lot of fun to both read and write about. I’m going to miss having Jack Bauer in my life, but I know it’s time to move on to other obsessions (like the new season of Doctor Who that is starting. Are you with me?) I hope you’ve enjoyed this series as much as I have. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

starwarsrinzler

Comic Review: The Star Wars

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Comic Review: The Star Wars by Rinzler, Mayhew, et. al

Review by Prof. Jenn

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So this is a comic trade that is based off of George Lucas’ original-original rough draft of the screenplay for The Star Wars. That is, Star Wars before it got edited for quality and way before it got re-purposed for less quality and more busy unnecessary additions.

What.

I have my opinions, more as a literature expert than an old-school Star Wars nerd, though I must confess I am equally both. It’s important that Han shot first, but I can actually explain to you literarily why. The scene at the Millennium Falcon added in w/Jabba? Completely unnecessary. But I’ve got the literary chops to explain why, beyond my nerd rage.

Now, it seems that several geek-culture favorites these days tend to fall into the trap of the fan-service. The fan-service is the thing that happens in the story of a new episode of a thing that does nothing for the actual plot except show a thing that will make fans squee. See: the entire movie Phantom Menace. See also: the ending of Doctor Who episode “Deep Breath.” (We can talk about this later if you like.)

This comic story is based on Star Wars before it was Star Wars: we’ve got snippets of images of all three of the older movies (Tatooine, betrayed youg’uns, snippets of Yavin and the Wookiees very similar to the Ewok uprising in RotJ, a Leia and, well, Annikin romance but he’s really the Luke character in this story), some themes and dreary plot points from the newer movies (politics, trade embargoes, wily and lying politicians, overly ornate headgear for the Princess/Queen), and all the art smacks of the concept art all us Star Wars nerds know and love from the pen of Ralph McQuarrie. The oddly androgynous C-3PO, the Luke Starkiller with the buzzcut mullet, the green-skinned amphibious Han Solo, and the oddly bug-eyed Chewbacca all come from McQuarrie’s starwarsrinzlerillustrations we all know and love.

Thing is, when you read this, you can really appreciate the changes made to Episodes 4-6. You really can. You can appreciate the available charm of its characters, its streamlined Hero’s Journey of an action-based plot, and its iconic tropes buffered to a new sheen. The story of this comic is tired, too complex, too wordy in ways no one speaks (okay well all the movies are like this too) and, well, basically, nothing really…happens.

What this is is fan service: for those of us who were obsessed with this epic series and who wanted more from the prequels, those of us who appreciated the streamlined storytelling before Lucas got the tech and was allowed to add in extraneous whatever-he-wanted, this is a window into the writing process and indeed the creative process itself.

It’s interesting.

It’s not a great comic.

Bottom line: I don’t recommend this to anyone but the most completionist collector or the most die-hard Star Wars fan. It’s a dreary, plodding, clunkily-drawn peek into an early draft of a movie series we’re glad got edited from it. It’s fun to see McQuarrie’s creations in a sort of action, though.

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Comic Review: Thomas Alsop #3

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boom_thomas_alsop_003The past is finally meeting the present in the Thomas Alsop comic, and now is when it starts getting interesting. With a deeper connection to his family’s past, I’m finally seeing the potential in Thomas and the lengths he might have to go to in order to set things right.

Starting off the comic this month, we got an admission from Thomas about how he doesn’t feel as deep a connection to the island as his ancestors did. We’ve seen it hinted at, but I’m glad that he finally came out and said the words. In fact, he’s been sliding on his family’s history for all his current success, digging into family journals to find old ghosts and make good entertainment for his media image. But he can’t just keep going like he has been. Thomas has a destiny, and he’s got to make sure he lives up to it by reconnecting with the island. His solution on how to go about that, though, doesn’t quite instill a feeling of mental stability.

Thomas’ solution for reconnection is to risk death by overdose. If he can get close to dying, then he can feel the connection better and maybe uncover why there’s been a constant darkness over it for all these years. Whether it’s a hallucination or reality, Thomas’ mind-trip does provide us with more clues and better visual connections between the past and present. He has a waking dream of drowning, thrust back to 1702 where he overhears the situation with Neziah Bliss and the implication that the boat he’s so afraid of is indeed cursed. Thomas knows this to be true, as he gets a clear image of the wood’s power when he touches it. Virgins drained the blood of good men to feed the forest, grow the wood, build the boat. Then the blood from the virgin daughters of the priests of The Black Ring was used to etch in spells to the wood, which was all used to keep Tunde under control. He is the dark force that brought death and destruction to the island, and continues to do so to this day.

The whole situation with Tunde is interesting, especially the yet-to-be-seen extent of his powers. We know he is said to be able to raise the dead, and The Black Ring wants to learn everything he can do, wants him to teach them his tricks. I have a feeling he’s going to be killing a few of them before willingly giving over his secrets, but I can believe that his overwhelming darkness has stained the island for all these years and continues to do so.

The implication that the 1992 burial of “The Box of Lost Things” with the sealed spell inside is connected to the tragedy on September 11th was a bit too thin to follow, though Thomas believes it has a strong connection to Tunde’s situation. We leave the issue with him ranting to the EMTs and his friend Marcus Rogers that he has to save all the 9/11 victims. How he’s going to do this is yet to be seen. Personally, I’d like to see the connection spelled out in more concrete terms, but for now I’m willing to wait.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

ST New Visions

Comic Review – Star Trek: New Visions “Times Echo”

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ST New Visions

I gotta say, I was a little thrown off at first by the style of this book. Having not read the previous issue of this series, I didn’t know what to expect. Once I got past that though, the story itself sucked me in pretty quickly. I also immediately recognized the fact that while I might not love the photojournalistic style of this book, other people would probably love it since it does make you feel like you’re watching an episode of TOS appear on the pages.

You can even hear the voices of the characters come to life in your head with each bit of dialogue. It also helps that the story is pretty solid and enjoyable to read. Overall I was pleasantly surprised with how this one played out, and would recommend it to the real Trekkies out there who would like a fresh taste of the old series.

DarkEngine_web

Comic Review: Dark Engine

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Dark Engine by Ryan Burton and John Bivens is a new comic that plenty of my friends have been waiting on, and after reading it, I’m reasonably certain that no one has been or will be disappointed. First of all, the cover art is really nifty, portraying the focus of the comic, a girl who looks fierce and incredibly intimidating with a giant sword. I’m certainly not an artist, but I really like the style of art being shown in this comic. It’s very otherworldly, and definitely helps to transport you into the chaos within the story.

From the beginning, this comic throws you into a world that is unlike anything that we are used to. There are a surplus of creatures that somehow fall between prehistoric and alien in appearance. We meet the girl from the cover rather quickly. As expected, she quickly starts slaughtering things, presumably because she’s a total badass. Directly following this, we start to see some other new characters talking about the girl, who we now learn is called: Sym. There is talk of the magic and sacrifice used to create her, and we are informed that she has been made to kill some enemy.

It’s divulged that she was fitted with some sort of engine (I’m assuming a Dark Engine, but that could just be me being presumptuous) by one of the characters. This character seems haunted by this engine, which we find out is being used to send Sym back in time in order for her to kill this enemy before they could ruin the world in the way that they did (which is only being expressed through the art at the moment). We learn that the engine is sending Sym into various periods of time until it can somehow right itself, and we’re given a glimpse into the possibility that the engine might actually think for itself.

The comic ends with plenty of mystery after a character nonchalantly states that Sym will likely kill anything she comes in contact with across these time periods (and we actually see her brutally slaying something). Already, I want to know more about how Sym and how she was created. I’m definitely interested in learning about the inner workings of this engine, and what it is capable of. I also want to know exactly who this enemy is and what he used to destroy the world. Really, I just want to know more about everything, and I’m really hoping that the next one comes with a little insight into this interesting world.

So, uh, read this. It’s a good one.

 

Daliya Risik

@TasteTheChaos

jet

Let’s Talk About Comics, Consent, and THAT issue of Captain America

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Originally posted via The Carnival of The Random the author’s personal tumblr. Opinions contained within are the viewpoint of the author and may not represent those of other members of NiB staff. 

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We’re going to talk about this now. My original response, not to Cap #22, but to the response to the response to Cap #22, is HERE and CBR’s article with links from a variety of viewpoints, is HERE.

I’m going to preface this by saying, (as it says in my About section) I’m a Marvel gal for life. Have been since I was a wee-me getting grubby fingerprints on my comics and grubby newsprint on my face after that. Ah, the days of literal pulp.

(Image description: Panel from Captain America #22 featuring Jet Zola, a young white woman in a black dress that is several bands covering her breasts, part of her abdomen, and groin/upper thighs sitting on a sofa with Sam Wilson aka the Falcon, in a black shirt/grey trousers, they are drinking wine and there is a background image that indicates Miles Davis music overlays the scene.)

Before ANYONE starts yelling, read what I have to say because it’s not going to be what you think.

TW: discussion of definition of rape, rape culture.

1. I don’t particularly like Rick Remender. I think he’s hostile to audience readings and assumes word of god means anything. It doesn’t. I don’t particularly dislike him in general, either. I think it’d be awesome if he (among others) learned to say, “Help me understand, because I’m not seeing it and you obviously feel strongly,” rather than jumping to rejecting the premise.

2. I don’t, and never have past reading the text, think that Jet was in any way coerced, assaulted, raped, or that her age was in question but I do get where other people might feel like it was shoe-horned in and I don’t judge them for that read.

3. I have never thought firing Remender was a good way to solve the problem of consent or hypersexualizing in comics. It’s a BIGGER problem than one person. Rape culture is as pervasive as air, we have to deal with that.

4. I view his remarks (and those of his supporters who used the same language,) of the questioning and crit regarding this scene as, “Libellous,” usually with something insulting tacked on, as not only overkill but the word choice of people who don’t understand what those words mean or are sending a message that dissent will not be tolerated. This is NOT productive, from a PR standpoint. Really.

Nobody accused Rick Remender of statutory rape, and people weren’t making things up. They just had a different point of view. One that might have lead to a spectacular leap forward in comics’ portrayal of consent if people would have listened.

So, let’s talk about the larger issues, shall we?

While a lot of the shouting may be borne out of the post-CATWS surge in Cap and Falcon’s popularity, it’s not without merit as a wholesale response even from non-readers. Historically, the portrayal of Falcon has had some highly stereotyped and racist features (whether intentional or not.) Portraying a black man as a pimp and thug is so entrenched that it is our dominant media narrative about black men in urban areas, rather than the socioeconomic factors at play or whether it’s even TRUE. If someone says a crime was committed by a black man, white people will believe it. The Susan Smith case is a prime example. (There is so much data on race and perception that I’m not even gonna dig up the links for you. GOOGLE IT.)

The matter of representation, in terms of both accuracy and quality is a major one in 2014. Whether we like it or not. And trust me, most of us who are doing a lot of talking about representation in media are NOT all that fond of having to do so. We’d much rather be able to enjoy media without worrying that something will make us want to tear our hair out.

As far as the text is concerned, Jet’s age is clearly established here. Alternate dimension or no, it’s part of the text. A cursory read might miss it, so I make room for alternate interpretations including that she’s LYING. Because I’m pretty sure most of us lied about our age at some point to seem cool, and one of the most frequently used excuses for statutory rape is, “I thought they were (over the age of consent.)”

It’s disingenuous to dismiss the potential to read this in ways that are not what the author intended, it’s there and authorial intent means doodly-squat when all’s said and done. Fundamental rule: We cannot determine how the message is received because intent is not magic and the audience isn’t psychic.

Moving on: the thing that had me hitting the mental brakes and spinning out here, is what’s in the text itself, specifically, the boldface, “ONE glass is enough for me… ” “Oh, C’MON, Falcon, live a little… I really like the effect that it produced.”

That set my flashing neon, nuclear accident alarms off. It’s so very much like tactics used by rapists to render their targets pliable or incapacitated. And that impression is not in any way ameliorated by the rest of the issue.

So the biggest question I had, factoring this in with Lorelei having sex with Grant Ward in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., is: Why are we not talking about men in the Marvel Universe being sexually assaulted? It may not be what’s intended, but that’s what’s happening.

If someone is unable to give consent by a legal definition, (and if you can’t legally drive due to intoxication, you can’t legally give consent to sex,) including due to magical mind-control, then having sex with them is legally rape.

Let that sink in for a moment, because this is me as a feminist and a survivor of rape saying that we are letting what reads to me and what in at least one case meets the legal definition of rape, slide because it’s happening to men. Whether that’s because we’re exhausted by trying to be heard about rape culture as it applies to women and the salmon-upstream nature of it, or that we’re being terrified and threatened on a daily basis and we’re overwhelmed at the task of emptying the ocean of male-dominant perpetrator/female victim apologism and rape culture, I don’t know.

Rape culture is excusing rape and harassment of men because we’re inculcated with the idea that men want sex all the time and that therefore any sex will be welcome, or that men can’t be raped because of physical strength, or that it’s impossible to rape a man because a man has to be physically aroused to engage in penetrative sex.

No. That’s not how it works.

And it is exhausting having to explain this, especially because during the, “Fire Rick Remender,” uproar, people were not listening to anything that might not toe the Marvel line on this.

Considering the subsequent announcement of Sam Wilson taking up the mantle of Captain America the following week, I get the united front and hardline, “Falcon is not a rapist,” stance. It doesn’t change the fact that there are nuanced discussions we need to have about not just representation and optics, but about the concepts of portraying consent, particularly in the context of drinking or other substances. Consent isn’t just saying, “No,” or fighting off advances. Consent isn’t just saying, “Yes,” either. It’s informed, aware, enthusiastic, “Yes’s” coupled with the ability to say, “No,” without fear. Adopting that in model in media could change EVERYTHING.

We need to talk about these things because in the real world, they happen and we can’t just say, “But it’s right there in the text.”

And I think we CAN have those conversations but there has to be a willingness of the people in power (writers, artists, publishers, and film/tv producers) to have that discussion even if it makes them uncomfortable.

I keep coming back again and again to the fact that what we see in media has the power to build empathy, to make us question the status quo, and inspire us to make changes in the real world or it can reinforce the status quo ad infinitum.

And don’t tell me it’s just a comic book. How often have comics been used to convey a message to readers like say, Spider-Man and the dangers of drugs? Facile arguments that reinforce the idea that comics are an infantile art form are not welcome here.

Superheroes have always given me hope for our capacity to do better, no matter how dark the circumstance or how fragile we may be, we can keep fighting with our last breath if it means making the world better and helping someone else.

I have faith that there are a lot of people making comics who want to do the best that they can to make them something that tells stories in the most authentic and inclusive way possible. I also know that learning the things we need to know to do that, is a little like having to battle our dark half while absorbing an encyclopedia’s worth of knowledge.

It takes time, and it’s not comfortable or easy to dismantle the parts of ourselves that have become things we consciously detest. It’s worth it, though.

The absolute, unfettered, screaming joy I felt at seeing an image of Sam Wilson as Captain America and knowing how much that means to kids who don’t often get to see heroes who look like them and what it means for people who may not think of themselves as consciously racist when they reacted poorly to that image but then started to ask themselves why, or even just for people who are fighting to see a world in media that looks like the world we occupy and are so often told isn’t what’s, “Real,” was practically an air raid siren.

It’s every step, you see. Every step we take towards the light, towards equality, and every step towards media reflecting the world back at us in a way that doesn’t erase people is a step towards being better in the physical reality we occupy.

Representation matters. Conscious awareness of how what we do in narrative media can halt, subvert, or feed into our actual culture and toxic bias, matters. Listening to each other, whether audience or creators, matters.

Can we do that?

*NB: Author would like to add that this is an issue that affects all media, and Marvel is simply the case in point at this moment in time. 

An old hero of mine, Emma Peel.

Comic Review: Steed and Mrs. Peel–We Are Needed

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Comic Review: Steed and Mrs. Peel: We Are Needed #1 by Edginton, Cosentino, et al Review by Prof. Jenn

An old hero of mine, Emma Peel.

An old hero of mine, Emma Peel.

Imagine my delight when I saw this title pop up on BOOM!’s forthcoming comics list! I didn’t know they were making comic versions of this old favorite of mine! Now these, kids, are the real Avengers, as far as I’m concerned, and I had high standards going into this first issue. The TV show was a delicate combination of weirdly out-there almost sci-fi and taut spy thriller/detective procedural, which is a difficult balance to get right (*cough* the 1998 movie *cough*). This writer/artist combo has nailed it.

We begin issue #1 by seeing a murder, not knowing who is involved or why, only that there are dollhouses about. Then we are introduced to our two heroes the way every Steed/Peel episode did on TV: the phrase “Mrs. Peel, we are needed” revealed in a cute and clever way. The story in this first issue unfolds and by the time we get to the end of the issue we definitely are clamoring to see what will happen next. Which is the way the TV show was, too.

The art is colorful and rather “mod” in style, which is perfect for the setting and characters. As you’ve heard me say many times before when reviewing Doctor Who and Firefly comics, it’s a special trick to comic-book-ize a live TV show, as you don’t want to do just an actor portrait, but you don’t want to draw the characters so unlike their actors that they are unrecognizable, either. This issue nails it, again.

Bottom Line: I highly recommend Steed and Mrs. Peel: We Are Needed (why aren’t they calling it The Avengers? Copyright w/Marvel?) and can’t wait for the next issue.

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STK_FAS

Comic Review – Star Trek: Flesh and Stone

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STK_FASIn this one-shot special, Space Station Diamandis 1 is hosting one of the biggest medical conferences ever held when a low-warp escape pod comes across their path.

Flash over to Drs. Bashir (Deep Space 9), Crusher (U.S.S. Enterprise), and Pulaski (U.S.S. Repulse) approaching Diamandis Station a bit behind schedule only to find it has been infected by a contagion of unknown origin. Everyone on board has been infected, so they are warning ships not to approach. It seems the only one who has not been incapacitated is “The Doctor”, the hologram that once was the medical officer on the U.S.S. Voyager and now is chief medical officer of Copernicus Station. The Doctor, along with Bashir, Crusher, and Pulaski, have to put their combined medical knowledge together to solve this problem. Things get even more interesting, however, when they find a connection to the original Constitution-Class Enterprise. As you probably remember, Dr McCoy was the medical officer on that ship. Coincidentally he is, at the time of this adventure, an admiral who is retired and living on a nearby planet. He tells the visiting Drs. a story of when he first encountered this illness, and how he worked with Dr Phlox to find a cure.

What I loved most about this story was how it was able to incorporate every doctor we’ve become familiar with throughout Star Trek history, seemingly without even trying. It was an especially nice surprise to see the doctor from the series Enterprise working with McCoy. The best part about this one-shot is you don’t have to be a super fan to enjoy it. Sure, the bigger fans will enjoy seeing history interconnect with itself, but a passing fan will get enjoyment from the story itself. I highly recommend picking this one up at your local comic shop today.

24_underground_4

Comic Review: 24 Underground #4

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When last we left our hero, he was trying to rescue his girlfriend from the Russians. Little did he know that she had already escaped. Jack also doesn’t realize the Russians aren’t the only problem he has to worry about. The CIA is on his tail and getting warmer…

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We start this issue of 24 where we previously left things. Sofiya may have escaped, but she’s not out of the woods yet. The Russians are tracking her down, but of course haven’t told Bauer she went missing. The CIA are tracking her as well, so that they can use her to find Bauer. Who will get to her first? Will Jack be able to outsmart the Russians during their meet? in true 24 fashion some of the answers will be revealed now, some will have to wait until the next issue.

I have to say that I have really been enjoying this story so far. Not only does it work well on its own, but it also was great information to have in the back of my head while watching Live Another Day. (Side note: not going to spoil anything but OMG DID YOU SEE THAT FINALE?! Only 24 brings you that kind of energy). I definitely recommend reading the back issues if you’re just starting out. Whenever Jack referenced his family on the show, I pictured the events happening in the comic and wonder if this is the family he was referring to. I assume that will be made clear when this story reaches its thrilling conclusion.

boom_thomas_alsop_002

Comic Review: Thomas Alsop #2

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Is he a perceived fake or is his power known? That lasting question was partially answered in the new new issue of Thomas Alsop. However, I’m more concerned with the fact that the family backstory is teetering on the edge of information overload. Keep the balance, keep my attention.

 

My question last month was how much does the outside world know about Alsop’s abilities. While his friend seemed to be in on it, I wasn’t sure how much the everyday population knew. Here was this old rock star who became a paranormal investigator. As expected, he’s more cast in the light of media celebrity than known warrior. If someone believes in him, that’s cool, but it seems like the majority see him as some fake who puts on a good show. I guess that makes it easier for him to slip in and out of cases?

 

With that cleared up, we move on to the family backstory. In this issue, we started seeing a glimpse of how dense that backstory really is, and I began to fear we’d be overloaded by too much too soon. The informational boxes about his family armory items was already intrusive, and then we had to keep up with the whole family mansion by way of mausoleum, disapproving uncle and sister, something about the Five Families Treaty, and a whole host of other drama that had me wishing for a notebook to keep track of it all. The one thing we did get out of all that, which sparked my interest, was the fact that Thomas seems to be on a recovery mission for family heirlooms that were previously lost. He replaces a gun that used to belong to his father and marks the item off a list in his ledger. If this is his underlying mission, I very much approve. It’d be neat to see him taking back what is rightfully his family’s, one item at a time.

 

Maybe we’ll soon get more information on the other story threads that were teased in this issue, too. Like Thomas’ old band, The Black Sheep, or his ancestor’s involvement with The Black Ring and Master Bliss. It feels like everything’s connected, but how? I’m looking forward to finding out.

 

Rating: 3/5 Stars

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