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Who is Raina?

raina002Perhaps lost in the near-certainty of the revelation of Skye’s lineage in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the question of who Raina is and where she fits in?  Now that the mysterious “alien writing” has turned out in fact to be the directions/blueprints to a city, and what many consider to be Attilan, the ancestral home of the Inhumans, it would seem that the answer to the question of Skye’s background of the character has never been very far away from Earth after all.  Skye is half-Inhuman.

As was introduced in the most recent episode “The Things We Bury” the Diviner (or obelisk) is shown for the first time that it is not truly lethal to everyone, and not even to those that have been trained to use it.  Skye’s mother was shown for the first time, and she was immune to the effects of the Diviner, and thus likely it is through her that Skye has lineage of something other than only human.  Forgotten among this though is that Raina as well has touched the object and also without any ill effects.  Perhaps she was taught how by Skye’s father, as he has said that he knows how, but maybe she wasn’t and maybe she didn’t need to be.

raina003Tracing back the character’s past is not easy as little has been revealed about her since the beginning of the series.  What can be tied together though might support the fact that she at least knew about this city, if she is not an Inhuman herself.  In her initial appearances she was working on behalf of Project: Centipede, run by the man known as the Clairvoyant.  As became known later this was in fact just the rogue agent John Garrett, except the question should maybe have been why Raina was so interested in him anyway.  As was proven by her discovery of his lack of powers, Raina was disappointed by his lack of true clairvoyant ability.  So was she acting in her own self-interest all along, not as a member of an evil organization (as she said, she had nothing to with Hydra) but instead trying to find her own keys to the city, albeit by less scrupulous means than others are.  The clairvoyant’s powers could have been a path to what she wanted, but when they weren’t she abandoned him quickly.  This same interest could have been what brought her to Skye’s father, clearly only a human, but still one in possession of knowledge which Raina required to complete her search.

Although she has been a small player so far in the series, she could in fact be a key to what the true meaning of the city is.  If the city is in fact Attilan, and if she is in fact an Inhuman, then she might even be related in some way to Skye, which could also explain her interest in her and knowing more than what she seemed to all along.  In what may not be a coincidence, removing the last letter of the names of both Skye and Raina reveal related objects (sky and rain.)  Fans of the series might want to be on the lookout for the character to resume an active role in the series, especially considering the intersection of so many other players and organizations.  As the story leads into the question of the mysterious city, both for this series and presumably spilling over into at least one of the Marvel movies, Raina seems to be playing a part, and perhaps playing a larger role than people might have suspected.

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The Best of 2014 Has Begun!

the best comics of 2014I attempt to hold off as long as possible before starting to cover all of the “best of” lists for the year. They’re already trickling out from various sites, even with more than a month and 6 Wednesdays to go! We’ll have our list on January 1 out of respect for all of the creators out there.

But, in the mean time, we’ll be covering the horse race in a couple of ways.

  • First, we’re compiling a list of all of the “best of” lists out there. Here’s this year’s list which has already started. The rest of the sites are all the sites we found in 2013. If you don’t see a list on ours, please let us know and we’ll add it.
  • Second, we take all of those lists, and make on master list. We’ve already started it. We mark how many times a series was mentioned, if they were ranked, and then we sort it out to find the best reviewed comic and graphic novels of the year.

To make this all easier to find, we’ve built a handy page where you can find the two posts above and check back for regular updates. You can also find previous year’s coverage.

Any guesses as to who will top this year’s list?

Review: Grimm Fairy Tales 2014 Holiday Special

GrimmFairyTales2014HolidaySpecial-coverOne of the common problems with the Grimm Fairy Tales Universe.  When it focuses on stories other than ones that it has tried to incorporate from a variety of fairy tales, literature and mythological pantheons, it tends to get a bit bogged down.  That is not to say though that original stories from this company are all bad, only they tend to do better whenever they come in a format which more closely resembles fairy tales.  That is the case here as once again Sela is forced to deal with Krampus at Christmas time instead of just being able to sit back and enjoy some egg nog and candy canes.

Over the past few years, it has been a common theme of Sela to intervene from Krampus attempting to kill as many people as he can over the holidays.  Usually this is a play on one of the good aspects of the holiday being distorted.  That is to say that Krampus has acted as an agent that punishes those that use (or misuse) Christmas traditions for their own interests.  While these previous issues have been of variable quality, the stories generally fit closer to the profile of what should be expected from this universe’s specials – a tale of morality usually involving a bit of gore.  This year’s story is a little different as instead of it focusing on those that Krampus wishes to punish, it focuses on the character’s background.  The effect of this is a story which is a lot more fairy tale like than most in the past specials, and it works well enough, especially with Sela trying to teach her disciples how to enjoy Christmas.

The end result is not amazing, but this fits better into the sequence of holiday specials than most of them have, for instance the relatively recent 2014 Halloween special.   Fans of the main series will probably find enough here to keep them happy, but this issue stands alone as enough of a creepy Christmas story for any readers interested in a little gore mixed in with their mistletoes.

Story: Anne Toole Art: Butch Mapa
Story: 7.8 Art: 8 Overall: 7.8 Recommendation: Read

TV Review: Arrow S3E7 Draw Back Your Bow

arrowOn this episode of Arrow Oliver must stop an Arrow-obsessed serial killer, Carrie Cutter, who is convinced that The Arrow is her one true love and will stop at nothing to get his attention. Unfortunately, her way of getting his attention is to kill people. Meanwhile, Ray asks Felicity to be his date for a work dinner with important clients. Thea auditions new DJs for Verdant and meets Chase, a brash DJ with whom she immediately clashes.

I’ve never heard of Carrie Cutter/Cupid before this episode, but watching the episode had me want to check out the character more and see the comic portrayal.

Amy Gumenick, the actress who plays Cutter/Cupid, does a fantastic job playing the Arrow obsessed nutter than a loon character. She’s pretty fun to watch, and takes what could easily be a goofy character and makes a little something of her. I’m kind of hoping we’ll see more of her down the road, especially since where she winds up.

The bigger story and theme of the episode is the relationships of a few characters, especially the triangle that is Ray Palmer/Felicity/Oliver. Who’s interested in who, and who will admit what is mixed around a bunch. Oliver is still struggling with his feelings towards Felicity, and to see things not going perfectly for him is actually really nice.

As usual the last moments of the episode is where it’s at. Not only do we get to see a bit of the rendering of Ray Palmer’s Atom suit, but also our first look at Captain Boomerang, the Flash’s Rogue, who’s debuting here instead, further intertwining the two series.

Overall rating: 7.75

Review: Wonder Woman #36

ww0036covThe Wonder Woman series takes a different turn starting with this issue.  So far since the new 52, the character has been controlled by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, but with this issue the new team of married couple David and Meredith Finch, the series is undergoing a change.  Since the launch of the new 52, the series has been one of the standouts for DC Comics, and many fans of the character list the previous 35 issues as some of the favorites in the character’s long publication history, rivaling those of George Peres and Gail Simone.  If there had been one criticism of the new series, it is that it was mostly as a standalone from the remainder of the DC Universe.  There was the occasional cameo by others, but mostly the series kept to itself and told its own story.  With the new creative team, the emphasis is now on how to balance what is now comic canon from the previous run in regards to her modified origin and history, while also trying to reintegrate the character into the mainstream DC Universe.

This doesn’t take long, after a nearly poetic entrance, and a short interlude by the Amazons, Diana is shown immediately surrounded by her allies from the Justice League.  No sooner is she appraised of the situation than she is off to investigate the disappearance of numerous villages around the globe.  This gives a chance for a short (and possibly out-of-place) fight scene, but the character of Wonder Woman is handled well throughout, as her true nature is shown versus the other characters.  She may be the Goddess of War, but as the Futures End series demonstrated, she is probably better suited to be the Goddess of Peace.  Seemingly the creative team didn’t want to thrust the character back into the DC Universe entirely, and so by the end of the issue she is back to Themyscira for a problem now rooted back into those of the mythology from which she is born.

Overall the issue does what it needs to have done.  Wonder Woman is thrown back into the main DC Universe with careful intention, and yet the ties to her stories so far in the new 52 are not simply forgotten.  Much was made about David Finch’s comment about the character and feminism, but those were apparently taken out of context, and really he does a great job drawing female characters (though I might point out that his male characters tend to be a bit boxy).  Focusing on the feminine is not a bad thing for this book, as long as it is not exploitative, and with one issue into this new direction, the creative team seems to at least be on the right track.

Story: Meredith Finch Art: David Finch
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Supergirl #36

supergirl coverAs one of the outliers in the Superman titles, Supergirl often gets the worst treatment of them all.  Throughout 35 issues the character has struggled to find a singular direction in its stories and character development, instead often getting caught up in the Superman crossovers.  While the initial issues were going along well enough, it eventually got stopped in its tracks by the H’el story arc, and once the series seemed to have recovered from that it was thrown into the Doomed story line.

Below it all is an engaging character that all too often has her character development thrown out the window for the sake of some easy cross-coverage.  While that is not exactly the case here, it is clear that the Superman titles cannot just leave the character alone, which is evident here even in the words of Supergirl, asking to be left alone as she addresses Kal.  There is incidentally relatively few moments in comics where reality imitates art as well as this.  Much as with Batgirl in the Bat-titles, the character of Supergirl really needs some space in order to grow into something more than just another tie-in to bigger Superman stories.  By the end of this issue that starts to take shape, but it is at the expense of other recent developments (such as her budding romance from the other recent issues.)  What happens here at the end is to throw Supergirl into yet another offshoot of her own story lines, once again drawn into space beyond her control, but this story arc at least looks to be engaging (including re-introducing Maxima.)

What happens is that the series once again seems to have some promise to stand on its own, something that it didn’t have since the first year of its stories.  While readers and fans of the character might be waiting a long time for some eventual stability within this title as opposed to outside interference, it would appear that this might be that issue where it starts, even if Superman is here for about two pages.  As one of the few titles featuring a female superhero, this title could definitely use the attention which it deserves from both the fans and the creators, but it is to the creators to make that happen, and hopefully this will be the first step.

Story: K. Perkins and Mike Johnson Art: Emanuela Lupacchino
Story: 8.5 Art: 9 Overall: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Spider-Woman #1

spider woman coverAfter much controversy and word-of-mouth, the new Spider-Woman series finally arrives.  It has now been a few years since Spider Woman headlined her own series, and a few decades since her first and most successful run in comics, and so a lot of fans are excited about the chance to be re-introduced to the character on a monthly basis.  The story follows Spider Woman as she jumps through various universes in the multiverse, trying to keep the newly introduced Silk alive.  As an introduction to the character this is one of the strangest that I have seen.  Comic book crossovers are an inescapable truth in comics, but this is one of the few times that I have seen the first issue of an ongoing series which incorporates in a large crossover, in this case Spider-verse.  It is a strange mix, because the series hits the ground running, and for the curious fans that might have wanted to pick up this issue because of all of the buzz, they might come in here feeling a little blind if they have at least not been exposed to anything else Spider-Verse related.

Because of that this issue faces a bit of an uphill battle in order to succeed, but it manages to do so, and on the strength of its characters.  Silk is a brand new character, but is immediately likeable.  Spider Woman, as the veteran superhero provides an anchor for the various comings-and-goings of other Spider characters in this book (of which there are three) which incidentally show three of the other “Spider-Women” (missing only a couple.)  This was a nice touch, to include so many versions of the titular character in one place and at least pays better homage to what has come before than many first issues manage to do.

The end result is a decent issue with some fun moments and fun dialogue.  It is maybe not the best start that this series could have gotten off to, but it was sort of forced into the larger story arc and forced to adapt, which it does well.  At the very least, with an ongoing series featuring Spider Woman, with Silk as her ally/sidekick, this series should be interesting, and without the crossover into Spider-Verse the future looks bright for it finding its own identity.

Story: Dennis Hopeless Art: Greg Land
Story: 8.5 Art: 9 Overall: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy

Kickstarter Spotlight: Bullet Gal: Kickstarting and Scratching the Comic Book Kingdom

BULLET GAL_Its Not You Its Me_Under Belly TPB Collection_COVERby Andrez Bergen

I have a Kickstarter campaign.

So do about a million other people and their dogs – I lie in wait for Snoopy’s request to upgrade his humble house in order that it truly could fly the dangerous skies over the Western Front in 1918.

My Kickstarter project involves a different flight of fancy taking place in another field of conflict: Heropa is a shiny old school metropolis in which people with special powers and union suits take the fight to gunsels, gangsters and femmes fatale – along with one another – in a realm that’s never quite what it appears to be.

Think traditional tropes sourced from golden, silver and bronze-age comic books mashed up with hardboiled noir, pulp and sci-fi elements, and a tongue that lingers gently inside cheek.

BULLET GAL page sample 120Bullet Gal started life this year as a limited-edition monthly comic book through IF? Commix in Australia, and the mash-up appears to have paid off.

The critical reaction from comic book and crime-related media, along with a surprisingly healthy roster of fans, has been enough to inspire me to pour my heart into the yarn and I just wrapped #12, the final issue in the arc, which is set to be published in June 2015.

Even more surprising was the reception from Canadian publisher Under Belly Comics, who were so rapt with the series that they licensed the lot for publication as a trade paperback – with a cover painting by the great Niagara Detroit – to hit up the North American market before the tenth issue even gets published in Oz.

That’s where the Kickstarter comes in, as Under Belly do their job as a champion of innovative indie comics by asking for like-minded people to support their cause.

The ulterior element that makes Bullet Gal that something unique, I hope, from other comic books is the manner in which it’s been cobbled together.

While I’m quick to cite ‘traditional’ influences like comic artists Frank Miller, David Aja, Jack Kirby, Steve Epting, Jim Steranko and their ilk, I also wear the baggage of an immersion in the ‘found’ object art of Dada, people such as Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, and I’m equally enamoured with the cut-up/staccato visual styles of Terry Gilliam and film maker Chris Marker.

And then there’s the text.

Having four novels under one’s belt helps in that department, along with a love for all things Raymond Chandler, Philip K. Dick, Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane and Ed Brubaker.

Cinema too is influential here, from classic film noir to B-grade science fiction romps.

So, yeah, there’re a gazillion other crowdsourcing projects out there – each with their own particular merit. But if you have a hankering for comics, noir, experimentation, a sense of humour and a definitive touch of the surreal, Bullet Gal may just be up there alongside Snoopy’s.

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While we’re no longer picking crowd funding projects to spotlight on our site, we’re allowing project creators to make their case for their project on our platform. We remind individuals, we don’t endorse any of these projects, and that by supporting any crowd funding project, you’re taking any risks associated with doing so. – the Management

TV Review: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2E8 The Things We Bury

Agents_of_SHIELD_logoCoulson and team find themselves in an epic face-off against Hydra to uncover an ancient secret, while Ward kidnaps his brother, Senator Christian Ward, for a violent trip down memory lane.

Coulson and his crew are in a race to find the city that matches the map they discovered in the last episode. At the same time Hydra is also on a mission to discover some secrets for their whole evil plan. There’s some solid action, some interesting moments as far as all of this, but it’s just a small piece to the bigger puzzle, and not really an interesting piece either.

What I really found interesting was Ward’s kidnapping of his brother the Senator. This season we’ve been lead to believe by Senator Ward that Grant was the crazy one that couldn’t be trusted, but maybe that’s not totally the case? The truth is found out here! The big question I have is where the show is going with Grant. There’s got to be some sort of redemption right?

My guess is the show is heading towards some Attilan city, and likely terrigen mysts, both tied to Inhumans who we know are coming. The show would get a big boost from Marvel cinematic fans by having the Inhumans debut here. We’ll see though.

Overall Score: 7.5

Review: Morning Glories #42

MorningGlories42This latest issue of this standout series is one of the intermediaries in the series.  Stuck firmly in the middle of one of the broader story arcs, this issue offers few clues to those interested in the ongoing storyline, but of course is an integral part of the overall experience, as every issues in connected, only the reader still doesn’t know how.  As with the plot development introduced in the previous issues, Casey is being pressured to run for class president, and the disappearance of one of her friends finally provides the motivation for her to reconsider her refusal of that option.  Meanwhile, other groups of characters (mostly grouped in pairs here) move other parts of the plot alone slowly and enigmatically.

This issue mostly focuses on Casey though, and that is to its benefit.  While some issues tend to become a bit lost in themselves, between time jumps and dreamscapes, this issue is at least told in a straight-forward manner, and as it focuses on Casey, the heart of the series, it is a bit more grounded than usual.  With any give there is some take though, and for instance some of the core group barely show up in this issue at all.  Regardless, the strength of the character established in Casey is enough to carry any individual issue, and that is the case here.  By the standards of other issues in this series, relatively little happens, but it is still a fun and easy read, if no better in terms of providing any real answers.

jade001Of course, anyone considering reading this series would be unwise to start here.  The series is as convoluted as any comic series that has ever existed, and the reader would be wise to go back at least as far as the start of the fourth trade paperback but ideally back to the beginning.  Those that have gotten as far as issue 41 don’t need to be told to read this, and those that haven’t started reading this series yet should.  This issue, like any issue after the first one, is not really a good jumping-on point, but this issue at least captures the plot of the series well enough, and those that haven’t been reading might like to pick up this issue to see if the concept interests them so that they can begin backtracking their reading of one of the most interesting comic series in recent years.

Story: Nick Spencer Art: Joe Eisma
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Image provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

 

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