Archive for December, 2014

Which Planet?


Bitch Planet #1

Basically, it’s a women-in-prison comic — set in spaaaaace, and written by Kelly Sue DeConnick. It’s the horrible future, and there’s a whole planet where Earth sends women who are criminals or unpleasant or unattractive or inconvenient or no longer desired. Escape is questionable, survival is unlikely, and mercy is almost entirely impossible.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s still way too early — we don’t meet many characters — or at least we don’t meet them as anything other than stereotypes. But what we’re getting here is heavy focus on the setting and themes. We’ve got many issues to get to know the women here better, and if we know DeConnick, she’ll have lots of great surprises in store for us as to these people’s personalities.


Shutter #7

Kate Kristopher, her newly-discovered brother Chris, and her trusty robot cat pal are being attacked by a freakin’ gigantic dragon. But luckily, they don’t end up destroyed — they just get dragged off to Cambodia to meet up with another newly-discovered sibling — one with a particularly impolite method of greeting her long-lost sister.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of outstanding action and weirdness. Holy shmokes, the dragon is all kinds of freaky, and Kate’s sister is pretty dang weird, too.


Southern Bastards #6

More of the rotten childhood of Coach Boss, back when he was just a scrawny kid from the wrong side of the tracks who wanted desperately to play football. The coach didn’t want him, the other players didn’t want him, his dad didn’t want him. The only person willing to give him any help at all is Coach Big, an old blind black man who knows football better than anyone in Craw County. But even as he improves enough to let him play on the team, there may still be something serious that’ll keep him off the field.

Verdict: Thumbs up. More grungy Southern noir, with more emphasis on football and race in the South. And so very much more crime, seen close-up from Euless Boss’s point of view. It’s interesting to see the unloveable Coach Boss back when he still had a chance to be something other than a crime kingpin…

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Merry Christmas from the Avengers!
  • For your holiday sippin’, here’s Ike’s Eggnog.
  • This article about the ongoing D&D revival isn’t all bad, but it has a lot of the stuff that concerns me about the whole phenomenon. Ultimately, it’s not about much more than nostalgia, plus there’s a lot of weird anti-tech, anti-modernity, anti-younger generation bulldada wrapped up in this stuff. Playing in-person pen-and-paper RPGs won’t save the world, and the Internet won’t doom the world either. Anyone who thinks the younger generation is less imaginative because they grew up with computers instead of D&D is just playing the bash-the-youngsters game, and that’s one of the worst games out there.

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Holiday Gift Bag: Strong Female Protagonist

Alright, folks, it’s time for us to dive back into our Holiday Gift Bag for some great gift recommendations for the comics fan in your life. Today, it’s time to review Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag.


Strong Female Protagonist” got its start as a webcomic before recently being published in book form, partly thanks to a very successful Kickstarter campaign and partly due to a publishing deal with Top Shelf Comics. Our lead character here is Alison Green, a college student and former superhero with breathtaking superstrength, invulnerability, and, as the webcomic puts it, “a crippling sense of social injustice.”

As Mega Girl, Alison was a member of the Guardians, fighting supervillains and giant robots, but when her mind-reading arch-nemesis, Menace, presents her with evidence that other superhumans — who had powers that would let them drastically improve the world — had been murdered by governments and corporations because they’d upset too many rich and powerful people, Alison ends up quitting the superhero gig to try to learn something in school that’d let her really help people around the world.

That doesn’t leave her out of the superhero business entirely. She’s going to class, helping out with one of the local fire departments, trying to live a normal human life — but she still runs into the members of the Guardians, especially the shrinking super-scientist Pintsize, she socializes with Menace, and she tangles with a couple of supervillains, particularly the monstrously powerful Cleaver. She meets a fellow superhero named Feral, whose powers involve animal-like fighting skills and a beyond-Wolverine healing factor, and who has an unusual plan for saving the world by herself. And she also has her college friends, her professors, and her family back home, who help keep her grounded, and who sometimes help contribute to her superhuman sense of guilt that she can’t keep everyone safe…

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is a really fun series, and it’s really cool to have it all collected in a nice thick book.

I love Ostertag’s art, which is pretty wonderfully humanizing while still embracing some of the cool and sometimes bloody weirdness of the superhero world. And Mulligan’s writing is great, too, with lots of fun dialogue and plotlines that combine with Ostertag’s art to make some really grand storytelling.

The characters are probably the most fun part of the entire book. Alison is fantastically fun to read about, earnestly trying to be both a normal person and a hero — all while frequently showing off strength and sometimes furious rants that make her absolutely terrifying to everyone around her. Also great are awkwardly geeky Pintsize and the sometimes villainous, sometimes romantic Menace, whose mind-reading abilities are convincing, weird, and often fairly funny. Feral is an absolutely amazing character, rough-hewn and animalistic, but still probably the most purely heroic character in the entire book. Even Cleaver, who seems to be only a one-note brute, gets his moments of sympathy within his storylines.

Why should you get the book instead of reading it all for free online? Well, it’s got fantastic art and storytelling, and these days, we all need more fantastic art and storytelling. It’s a great way to support a couple awesome comic creators. And it’s easier to read in book form than it is online. And it’s a heck of a lot easier to give as a gift. You do want to give this as a gift, don’t you?

If you’re looking for a great gift for a superhero fan, this is going to make a great present. This may also make a great gift for teen readers — there’s some rude language and blood, but no nudity — and Alison is definitely the type of hero almost anyone can look up to. Go pick it up.

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Game of Secrets


Secret Six #1

Gail Simone is back writing a new “Secret Six” series, this time with Ken Lashley providing the art. The only character we recognize from the classic Secret Six is Catman, now much more bisexual than he was and also more unstable, with a severe dislike of confinement and captivity of any kind.

When Thomas Blake is abducted by an unknown organization, he finds himself in the company of five other people — Shauna Belzer, the new telekinetic Ventriloquist from Simone’s Batgirl comics; Porcelain, who can make things brittle; Damon Wells, a private eye called Big Shot who can make himself grow larger; Strix, a silent assassin; and Black Alice, with her vast stolen magical powers. The organization holding them demands to know the answer to the question “What is the secret?” and if they can’t provide an answer, they’re going to start killing people.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s nice to see Catman and Black Alice again, and some of the other characters look like they could be interesting. The art, however, is extremely uneven — sometimes really cool, and other times just slapped onto the page. We’ll need to see some improvement there quick…


Gotham Academy #3

Things continue to be incredibly weird around Olive Silverlock, including ghosts, secret conspiracies of teachers, secret conspiracies of students, stakeouts on the roof of the school, and heart-to-heart talks with her ex-boyfriend. When Olive and Maps see mysterious glowing eyes looking out from the closed North Hall of the school, they decide to break in and search the place, with the aid of a couple — well, not friends, really, but people who aren’t entirely hostile. What definitely is hostile, however, is the thing hiding underneath the floor in the North Wing…

Verdict: Thumbs up. The art and storytelling are both super-cool. And I love the way there’s so much weird stuff going on all around them. Will some of this stuff ever be explained? Seriously, I kinda hope not — I love the idea that there are some things that are just bizarre for no reason, and no one will ever think to mention them again…

Today’s Cool Links:

  • One of my friends did a TED Talk about her experiences with synaesthesia.
  • Soldiers in actual war zones are less aggressive than cops in American cities — and that means cops are just making things worse for themselves.
  • If you’re getting me anything for Christmas, I’d really love an Aztec Death Whistle.
  • A century ago, Thanksgiving was a lot more like Halloween.

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Friday Night Fights: Gooperangs Forever!

Whoa nelly, people, it’s been another rough workweek, ain’t it? But it’s Friday at last, and that means we gotta get us some weekend while we can — ’cause Monday’s coming, and it’s gonna stomp us into the mudhole if we don’t get some maxxin’ and relaxxin’ right now. So let’s get things started with some cartoon butt-whuppin’ and… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from June 2011’s Batgirl #20 by Bryan Q. Miller, Ramon F. Bachs, and Guy Major, as my very favorite Batgirl ever, Stephanie Brown, fights off a superspeedster called Slipstream with a little high technology and a lot of humor.



I really miss Steph, and I hope DC doesn’t end up screwing us all over with her appearance in the upcoming “Convergence” series.

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Holiday Gift Bag: Small Town Heroes

Time to check inside our Holiday Gift Bag again, to see some more ideas you can get for the person in your life who loves comics and superheroes. Today, we take a look at Wearing the Cape: Small Town Heroes by Marion G. Harmon.


If you’ve kept track of this series, you know most of the main characters already. Our lead is, as always, Hope Corrigan, better known as the superstrong superheroine Astra — she’s now leading the Young Sentinels branch of Chicago’s Sentinels superteam. There’s Shell, the techno-ghost of her late best friend, now residing in a robotic exoskeleton as the superhero Galatea — and there’s Shelly, her late best friend now returned to life, and a completely separate person from Shell. There’s Jacky, the vampiric (but also alive) superhero Artemis.

Hope has been having weird dreams — not normal dreams either, as they’re being telepathically sent by a maybe-hero, maybe-villain called Kitsune. The dreams warn of the fiery destruction of a small town in the Midwest that no one can seem to identify. Hope’s attempts to figure out where the town is and what the dreams mean put her in touch with some of the Sentinels’ contacts with the federal government — and that leads to Hope being recruited into the Department of Superhuman Affairs. They’ve got some serious secrets hidden at Guantanamo Bay — namely a little town that can’t possibly exist called Littleton. Can Astra keep a secret hyper-science town from its foretold destruction?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Y’all know I love the stuffing out of this entire series, right? I’m pleased to announce that this one maintains the high quality we’ve come to expect from these books.

Really, pretty much all the stuff I loved from the previous books is here in this new one, too. Excellent characterization, bone-rattling action, realism and superhero fantasy that fit side-by-side without breaking either one.

It’s rare that you get superhero fiction that doesn’t end up turning dark and grim, or just focusing on the supervillains, all for the sake of faux-maturity — but this series sticks to the idea that superheroes are the good guys, it does it unironically, and it makes the entire thing work like a dream.

Do you have someone on your shopping list who loves superheroes, especially ass-kicking female heroes? You’ll definitely want to pick this one up for them. And if they haven’t read this series yet, you may want to get the rest of the “Wearing the Cape” series for ’em, too.

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Closed for Business


Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #2

While the Mighty Avengers stomp on a gang of high-tech roller-bladers called the Fast Five, the newly villainous Captain America is plotting with the equally villainous Tony Stark to wipe out all the heroes. And the newly villainous businessman Luke Cage announces he’s just sold the Mighty Avengers, which gets him in trouble with the rest of the team and his wife. Luckily, the ever-savvy She-Hulk, the team’s lawyer, has a surprise for Luke — but he and Captain America have an even bigger surprise waiting in the wings…

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m not entirely sold on the Axis morality-switching, but the story seems just fine. I’ve got some doubts about the art, particularly in the way that the Blue Marvel is looking whiter and whiter in almost every panel.


Clive Barker’s Nightbreed #7


Trees #7


Colder: The Bad Seed #2

Okay, it looks like I just don’t have the patience to dig through the convolutions of the plots in these three comics. It’s not that I disliked them at all — they were all pretty good — but there’s lots of twisty-plot things and side-stories and such-and-all going on, and I’m too lazy to mess with ’em right now.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Midnight Madness


Gotham by Midnight #1

Here’s a new series from the Bat side of things, focusing more on the supernatural horror side of Gotham City. Our main characters are the staff at Precinct Thirteen, the Midnight Shift, operating out of a junked-out office building somewhere in Gotham. Some of them are cops, some of them are civilian consultants, including a forensics specialist and a nun — and one of them is Jim Corrigan, who is better known as the Spectre. New on the scene is Sergeant Rook, from Internal Affairs, who plans to get the precinct shut down as an obvious waste of money.

The team gets a case, the aftermath of a recent kidnapping. The Attwood girls were supposedly runaways who returned home a week ago — but the girls are now speaking in an unknown language, and they don’t seem to recognize their parents anymore. But Corrigan determines there may be a connection to the notorious Slaughter Swamp, and he takes Rook with him to check it out. And of course, what they find is definitely not good news.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nicely weird, claustrophobic story by Ray Fawkes, and wonderfully offbeat art by Ben Templesmith. It’s got a great creepy vibe, and I hope they keep that part of it running full blast.


Lazarus #13

As the Conclave between all the Families continues, it becomes more clear that the Lazarii are by far the most interesting people on board, as well as, for the most part, the most decent. It’s also clear, unfortunately, that if the Families order them to fight, they’ll all try to kill each other — and that at some point, they’re all definitely going to try to kill each other.

At any rate, Forever attends a poker game between all the Lazarii, and we get to meet a lot of really interesting people having a lot of fun, and a couple who are too cranky to have any fun at all. Forever gets to make some time for romance with Joacquim, but the fun times stop pretty quickly when the Families determine that Hock’s drugs are at least partly based on the Carlyles work. So Forever’s father has an assignment for her, and it involves her kidnapped brother.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is worth it entirely for the interactions between Forever and the other Lazarii. I know Rucka is setting us up to see a lot of them get killed, but there’s no question that it’s wonderful fun to watch them play cards together.


The Manhattan Projects #25

In what may be the last issue of the series, LBJ is sworn in as president, and he, Groves, and Westmoreland make their plans to take over the world; Feynman, Einstein, and Einstein continue their explorations of other dimensions; the Soviets work on their bizarre alien schemes; Von Braun is captured by aliens; and Gagarin may finally be reuinited with the transmogrified Laika.

Verdict: Thumbs up, I think. I don’t like the idea of this series going away, but they say it’ll be back somehow — and for now, what we have is a good way to leave the characters, all scheming, all discovering…

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