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TV Review: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2E2 Heavy is the Head

Agents_of_SHIELD_logoHunted and running out of solutions, Coulson puts his team right in the line of fire in the hopes of saving them all. But with General Talbot, Hydra and Creel all on the attack, can they possibly survive? Meanwhile, a mysterious Doctor harbors some dangerous secrets that could destroy one of the core team members.

The episode kicks off right where the last one left off with some of the team in a car accident or dead, and Creel on the run. Coulson and his team are still in disarray, and Talbot in pursuit isn’t helping. It is a bit strange though that Talbot is more focused on Coulson and his team as opposed Creel and the stolen tech.

Creel isn’t doing so well though. His deal with Hydra isn’t going smoothly, and the item he touched is causing some issues for him and anyone that touches it. What the macguffin is still isn’t clear, but its got me intrigued.

What’s really interesting to me though is Fitz and his mental meltdown. His trying to work through his brain damage, is intriguing and both fascinating and sad to watch. Fitz as part of a duo in the first season was fun, all by himself though, it’s rather sad.

The ending wraps up rather quickly, and a bit too nicely, though there’s a nice mystery and scene that transitions us to what the season will probably be about. The episode is a bit flat compared to the season premiere, but still an improvement from last year.

Overall Score: 7.75

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Review: Fiction Squad #1

FictionSquad01_coverAAmong one of the many benefits which comic books provide as a medium is the ability to easily crossover between genres. Therefore we can get westerns mixed with science fiction or superheroes in the Middle Ages. Fiction Squad, from BOOM! Studios, writer Paul Jenkins, and artist Ramon Bachs, utilizes this advantage as well, but it does so in a less common way. Since about the mid-2000s, there has been a resurgence in fairy tales in comics, yet as far as I know this may be the first that tries to combine the genre of noir detectives with fairy tales. Even if it is not the first, it is at least unique in its approach, having the hard-boiled detective is trying to find who it was that shoved Humpty Dumpty off of that wall.

The story is of course absurd, but it is meant to be. As is common with fairy tales stories, some other related genres slip in, specifically that of literary nonsense. This small genre is comprised of a few noteworthy entries, including Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and the Dr. Seuss books, but because of its fantastical nature it is often thrown into fairy tales as well. Thus while this series is based in a world of fairy tales, nursery rhymes and other legends, readers would probably not be surprised to see some of the denizens of Wonderland to sneak in here. The interplay between the characters is fun, especially as there is the sole representative of the noir crime genre to interact with them.

hdwGenerally speaking when it comes to comics I am not very concerned with the art, only really getting critical of it when it interferes with the story.  In this case the art is thematically almost perfect except for one point. The depiction of the female characters in this fairy tale land is absurd as the three major non-anthropomorphic female characters wear clothing that highlights their breasts to a ridiculous degree, even ridiculous by comic standards. The art was therefore a mixed bag, both helping to tell the story but also acting as a distraction.

In the end, the story ends up being that same kind of mixed bag. On a fundamental level, this story is not taking itself seriously, and that is fine because it is not trying to. This makes it a fun and relatively compact read, but equally it is lacking a lot of depth as humor at the pre-established character’s expense often takes the place of good plot development or effective dialogue.

Story: Paul Jenkins Art: Ramon Bachs
Story: 7.4 Art: 7.4 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Read

BOOM! Studios provided Graphics Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review: Tomboy

Tomboy-a-graphic-memoir-by-Liz-PrinceTomboy is a memoir of…well, a tomboy.

It’s a memoir that follows the author, going through her childhood and teenage years while being not quite a boy, but not quite a girl either.

The author Liz Prince has a knack for the kind of narrative that makes you feel right at home;  the character being the kind you root for when the going gets tough.

However, it always seems the going is tough for Liz. Frankly there are some heart breaking moments in this story. Particularly when the spunky tomboy realizes during an elementary school sex-ed lecture that she really is a girl–and she will never become a free-living boy.

She then runs into the bushes at recess and prays to God to not make her into a girl but to please, please make her a boy.

The young Liz does not like playing house, or doing any of those “girly” things. Most of her childhood is spent running away from the idea of being a ‘girl’. Boys always seemed to have more fun, were allowed to be more aggressive, and being a girl was a detriment.

Some of the situations she gets herself into are not only funny, but have a heartwarming familiarity.While the theme is a tender one, the delivery is kind. Funny, quirky and interesting situations with an easy flowing dialogue makes this a wonderful read.

Though she got relentlessly tormented by her peers, and even encountered negative situations with friends, she kept her identity as a tomboy. Not quite a boy, but definitely not a girl.

Liz struggles with the idea’s of gender as well as the expectations they entail. She comes to terms with who she is with the help of an indie zine she picks up and is suddenly flooded with understanding.

“I wasn’t challenging the social norm, I was buying into it!” her adult self chimes in, as the reader is shown a scene of teen-aged Liz pouring over a zine.

The novel has a curious young girl wondering, questioning and thinking about who she is and why she can’t seem to fit in, with adult Liz stepping in and narrating some important scenes from her past–making sense of the events and their significance for herself and for the reader without compromising the feelings of confusion and discomfort that come from being in, or even remembering, these situations.

Being a girl didn’t have to mean dresses, butterflies and lilting flowers. That’s just what the social norm dictated. It’s a wonderfully crafted story that pulls at the hear strings and ends in bursts of understanding which were fifteen years in the making. Whether you are a life long Tomboy, the pretty girl at the prom, or a guy– this book has something for you. Everyone has felt confused growing up at some point.

Tomboy is a memoir of Liz. It is also a memoir of everyone who ever had trouble fitting in.

Story: Liz Prince  Art: Liz Prince
Story: 8.0 Art: 5.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Read

What You Need to Know About the New Female Thor

Thor_1_CoverTomorrow sees the official debut of Marvel‘s new female Thor in Thor #1. Announced in July on The View, the change has been met with the expected condemnation, praise, and skepticism. This is just one of numerous changes that have swept the comics industry lately, expanding the diversity of characters we see between pages.

Marvel alone is launching three big changes this week, with the new Thor, a new role for Bucky Barnes, and Sam Wilson taking over the role of Captain America, all part of Marvel’s Avengers NOW! initiative. While changes have occurred in the past, like death in comics, those changes were only temporary. Thor, and his brother Loki, have both been women in the past, and in Thor’s case, he’s even been a frog. So, you can understand the skepticism by many.

But even temporary, this is a big change. Unlike previous changes, this is a brand new person wielding Thor’s hammer Mjolnir.

During the announcement writer Jason Aaron emphasized what this actually means:

This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel Universe. But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.

For those that don’t know Thor is a god-like being who resides from Asgard, and is the son if the Asgardian King Odin.  Thor debuted in 1962 in Journey into Mystery, and though things have varied in his exact origin, generally Odin banishes Thor to Earth until he learns humility.

Whosoever holds this hammer, if HE be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.

 

nick fury thor whisperThat lack of humility prevents him from picking up Mjolnir, his hammer, which helps him focus his abilities and is his main weapon. Some other than Thor, have been worthy, so this change is nothing new. A horse faced alien named Beta Ray Bill, Captain America, Conan, Hulk, Magneto, Superman, Wonder Woman, and a few others have proven their worthiness. But, the hammer sort of makes the character the God of Thunder. No hammer, it’s not quite Thor (though Thor has wielded an axe in the past pre-hammer).

So what got Thor to no longer to be worthy? The specific reason is kind of a mystery. Recently Marvel’s event Original Sin saw some of Marvel’s best unravel the mystery of who killed the Watcher. Eventually it pitted the heroes versus a very different Nick Fury, who had plans to defeat the heroes, Thor being one of the first. With just a whisper, Fury caused Thor to lose his worthiness sending Mjolnir to the surface of the Moon, where Thor has attempted to pick it up (and failing at it) since. What exactly was whispered is still a mystery, the first of many, like what woman will be worthy!

The fact the next wielder of Mjolnir shouldn’t be a surprise. Aaron has surrounded Thor with a very female centered cast. After Odin’s fall as leader of Asgard, Thor’s mother, Odin’s wife, Freyja, the All-Mother, has taken over and renamed their world Asgardia shifting it to more of a matriarchal society. Sif, Thor’s friend and fellow soldier has played a larger role in her own series for a while. Thor’s long time love interest Jane Foster has returned front and center dealing with a new relationship and cancer. Thor’s own brother Loki was a woman for a while. And then theirs new characters like Thor’s own granddaughters who have been key players in flash-forwards looking at King Thor in the future. Then there’s S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Roz Solomon who has been a new love interest.

Who takes over the role of Thor has been a mystery, but here’s who we think are the most likely suspects:

Freyja – Thor’s mother would be an interesting switch. The All-Mother had been ruling Asgard, but with Odin’s return, her role is up in the air. This one is a long shot, as she might have a larger role settling Odin back in to rule. There’s now a council Odin will need to deal with, something he hasn’t before, and Freyja may need to stick around as a diplomat, and to ease Odin into the new ruling dynamic.

Angela – The character debuted in Image Comics’ Spawn, and after some legal battles is now over at Marvel. She has had a large role in Guardians of the Galaxy, and her history has recently been revealed as the sister of Thor and Loki, who was kidnapped by the Angels of Heven. She has her own series to focus on, and recent revelations should be sending her on a path to find her place in the Marvel Universe and Asgard. Being Thor too would seem to be a bit too much.

Jane Foster – Thor’s former love interest was last left on Asgard to help watch over things for Thor. She’s suffering from cancer and has refused mythical treatment. In the past, Thor has switched places with a human, so having Jane swap out with an Asgardian warrior wouldn’t be too crazy. It’s a bit too obvious of a choice for me though.

Valkyrie – is an interesting character that recently was leading a team of all-female Defenders. Generally she’s a warrior who Odin had chosen to lead the Valkyrior, but has held numerous roles, and has had her history muddled with to fit the latest version of the character. The last she was seen was in that Defenders series, and it seemed like the character was leading to something….

roz-2c741Roaslind (Roz) Solomon – A relatively new character to the Marvel Universe, she debuted by inviting Thor to her S.H.I.E.L.D. academy graduation. She’s a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent focused on the environment and protecting it. Most recently she stood by Thor’s side to battle the corporation Roxxon who was polluting the Earth among other things (and whose story will continue). Out of everyone, she’s the one I’m picking to wield the hammer. Her introduction is too recent to not be for a reason, and she’s shown a want of protecting the Earth, something Odin and Freyja, will appreciate. When Thor is confronted by his granddaughters about the change, he’s obviously hurt (or possibly ashamed) about it, and an ex would make that even more interesting.

This is a story that Aaron has been building towards in his run on Thor, and we can’t wait to see where he takes it next. Thor #1 hits stands October 1.

Here a Witch, There a Witch

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From 2014’s World of Archie Digest #43

Archie Comics has traditionally struggled more than other comics at staying relevant, modern and current.  As opposed to other comics which can update their settings within their storylines, there are certain elements of Archie which remain tied to the past. For instance, hanging around at the corner diner or the jalopy which Archie is often seen to be driving. In recent years the publisher has tried to break from this past by incorporating in a lot of more current events, be that a meeting with Glee, Vampirella themed crossovers, or introducing a more diverse group of supporting characters than is common in most comic book series. In so doing the publisher has been successful at turning itself into something different from its previous incarnation. The older stories dealt with Archie getting into trouble, Jughead eating burger, Reggie flirting with Midge and the girls flirting with Archie, but newer issues have dealt with more relevant topics especially for their fanbase and targeted demographics such as interracial relationships, rights for disabled people and ethics in sports.

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From World of Archie Double Digest #32

One key mechanic which has remained throughout all series is the topical subjects of the series and their covers, especially as it relates to the seasons. So the gang goes to the beach in summer issues and goes skiing or has snowball fights in winter issues. While there has been a topical focus throughout the course of the comics, one topic has generally been missing, and that is Halloween. Archie comics fluctuates between how many series it publishes focused on Riverdale, but it is usually between 6 and 8 regular series with other specials thrown in. From among the main series though since 2011, there has been a Halloween themed issue at least once a year.  Although Archie does rely on the past for some stereotypical inspiration at most times, the trend here is actually kind of weird. Over the course of these five covers, Betty and Veronica are dressed as either witches or as the Bride of Frankenstein in every case. Witches are even more preferred showing up in six out of nine of the character appearance (both Betty and Veronica don’t always appear). Although the cases are equally limited for the male characters they at least get to have some variety as zombies, firefighters, vampires, mummies, and Frankenstein.

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From Betty and Veronica Double Digest #195

In looking at these covers though, it is not that there is one cover artist that really likes witches. Dan Parent is involved with a few of them, but it would seem that even aside from that there is a tendency to resort to the cliché in this specific case, even when the two main characters have been defined as much more modern and independent in recent years. Perhaps though it is just easiest for the publisher this way. Archie struggles for its market share as much as the other smaller companies, and though its demographic is different, it is likely worth not veering too far off of the stereotype when it comes to Halloween. After all, the girls dressed as a witch is an easy visual reference, but them dressed as something else might only confuse and lose the point of the Halloween theme anyway. Perhaps though maybe the artists will realize this odd trend and maybe break the girls into something else next year. A skeleton? A cat?  Alice in Wonderland? Or maybe even a firefighter?

Review: Sherlock Holmes vs. Harry Houdini #1

shhhcoverDynamite‘s Sherlock Holmes Vs. Harry Houdini features two enduring characters that are famous representatives of the late Victorian era.  What is equally interesting about the series is that the characters share something in common only in reverse.  Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character that many think to be real, as evident by the fact that many people send questions to his mostly fictitious address of 221B Baker Street in London.  Equally Sherlock Holmes has faced off against a number of real life people in fiction, among them Jack the Ripper.  While it is the case that likely fewer people think of Houdini as a fictional character, despite having been a real-life historical character, he factors often into fictional works.  Without even getting to the first page of the issue, the savvy reader therefore would recognize this as an interesting mix of two characters with a similar though opposite affliction in common.

There are many different representations of Sherlock Holmes, and to this day new stories focused on the character continue to be written, long after Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his last story about the iconic detective.  One of the more dreary representations of Sherlock was the period in which he was under the influence of opium.  That was based in a time when opium was not as heavily regulated as it is now.  By itself this creates a strange setting for the series as for instance there are very few series with a modern setting that would set up one of the main characters as a heroin addict.  So too is the interplay between these characters a little strange, and almost forced.  The basic concept behind this series as far is based on two different ideas, that occultists are trying to force Houdini out of the business and that Sherlock Holmes is focusing on exposing Houdini’s escape as logical tricks.  The first of these will evidently form the main plot of the series, with the presumed eventual pairing together of Houdini and Sherlock, but it is the other aspect which is a bit hollow.  Instead of the escapes being well researched, Sherlock Holmes guessed at their resolution through a number of assumptions which may or may not be the case.  This aspect of the story thus ends up a bit dry and feeling a little forced.

While there are a couple of drawbacks to this story though, the magnetism of the two characters together is there, and while the story has maybe not been set up enough to truly do both of the titular characters justice, it still is not constrained enough to not let them be themselves.  The end result is engaging enough, especially as the two start to interact in a more realistic and organic way.  In the end the writers manage to get enough interest in the story to make me want to read more, even if the start was kind of rocky.

Story: Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery Art: Carlos Furuzono
Story: 7.2 Art: 6.5 Overall: 3.75 Recommendation: Read

Dynamite Entertainment provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Thor_1_Ribic_Design_VariantWednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in! Below are ten suggestions of comics, graphic novels, or trade paperbacks you should spend some extra time checking out and think about picking up. And this is a week that this list could easily be double the size.

Pick of the Week: Thor #1 (Marvel) – Could anything else be in this top spot? This week debuts the new female Thor, yes that thing you’re seeing in a lot of media outside of comics. It’s been a controversial move, but we’re betting writer Jason Aaron will pull this off like he does pretty much everything else.

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #1 (Marvel) – Original Sin shook up the Marvel universe radically changing Nick Fury’s role into a cosmic assassin protecting Earth. He has moved on, but it looks like Bucky will now be stepping into those shoes. Another radical shift, and it should be interesting to see how well it’s done.

Captain America #25 (Marvel) – Another passing of the guard this week sees Sam Wilson, The Falcon, stepping into the role of Captain America. A pretty important issue for sure.

Critical Hit #1 (Black Mask Studios) – Writer Matt Miner‘s Liberator continues in this new volume focusing on the previous series’ two heroines. It’s comics with a message, one you don’t see in comics too often.

Fiction Squad #1 (BOOM! Studios) – Spinning out of Paul Jenkin’s Fairy Tale universe. It’s a detective story that sounds awesome and looks amazing.

Gotham Academy #1 (DC Comics) – We’re guessing this is a perfect series for fans of Gotham. A new comic that looks at the students at a prestigious Gotham school. It sounds perfect for the tween set.

Guardians 3000 #1 (Marvel) – We’re old school Guardians fans, and this new series is written by our favorite Guardians writer Dan Abnett. Vance Astro, Yondu, Martinex, Starhawk and Charlie-27 are back!

Men of Wrath #1 (Icon/Marvel) – A gritty new limited series launching as part of Marvel’s creator-owned Icon imprint! Witness the story of Ira Rath – the coldest hitman ever to walk on Alabama soil and the black cloud that hangs over his family name. Explore the blood-soaked history of the Rath family as Ira embarks on a job that will decide the fate of his cursed family once and for all.

Ricky Rouse Has a Gun (Self Made Hero) – A graphic novel that skewers copyright and intellectual property, and at the same time pokes fun at the sub-culture that appropriates it all.

Skandalon (Arsenal Pulp Press) – Julie Maroh burst onto the scene in 2013 with Blue Is the Warmest Color, a tender, bittersweet graphic novel about lesbian love. Maroh’s new graphic novel Skandalon is a bold and literary look at sex, drugs, and rock and roll—and the cost of fame. “Skandalon,” a term found in the Gospels, refers to a persistent trap or obstacle.

TV Review: Gotham S1E2: Selina Kyle

gotham cast Fox‘s Gotham explores the world of Batman before Batman existed. We get to see the rise of his numerous rogues and allies, with the first episode showing off about a dozen of some of the iconic characters we now know. In this episode Detectives Gordon and Bullock investigate a child trafficking ring preying on Gotham’s street kids, including Selina Kyle. Meanwhile, Penguin resurfaces in the countryside and begins to make his way back to Gotham, leaving victims in his wake.

I’ve wondered how the series would flesh out those iconic characters, and it’s pretty clear from this episode’s title, “Selina Kyle,” which character this episode revolves around, sort of. While she appeared in the beginning of the episode, she really doesn’t show up much at all, appearing for maybe 20 minutes. Instead, the focus ins about her friends who have been abducted.

What we learn is, the abductions are for The Dollmaker, who has appeared in another DC television show, Arrow. Are these two series connected? Could be interesting….

The episode wraps up with more of Selina, that almost makes the episode’s title worth it.

Overall, the second episode is a solid one, not quite as good as the debut episode, but building out of it nicely.

Overall Score: 7.75

Demo-Graphics: Thor

This week sees a changing of the guard as Marvel‘s Thor sees a new wielder of the mythical hammer Mjolnir. It just so happens that new wielder is a woman. With the discussion of gender in comics, both the characters and who reads comics, I thought it’d be interesting to release the first benchmark to see where Thor is now when it comes to gender demographics, and then check again in a few months to see what has changed, if anything. To get this data I looked into Facebook’s data with each line representing a specific term.

I previously looked at Thor’s demographics back in November 2013 when Thor 2 opened in theaters. Using similar terms, back then women accounted for 36.5% of the population. In the almost year since, the female population has increased, now accounting for 37.31% for all the Thor related terms.

Here are the latest stats:

thor facebook dataThat 37.31% is below the 45% women that make up the general comic fandom. It is better than Marvel’s general 36.84%, but just barely. We’ll track this though and see over the next year how this might shift with a woman wielding the hammer.

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Review: Brides of Helheim #1

BRIDES OF HELHEIM #1Among the stories and characters based in the mythos of bygone cultures, there almost deserves to be a separate sub-genre in comic culture for Nordic inspired stories.  Usually centered around either the Norse mythological or Vikings, these stories are so prevalent in the industry that they give a good challenge in terms of exposure to the stories of the ancient Greek pantheon, even though the Greek stories are much more embedded in the public consciousness. Among the more obvious cases of Nordic inspired characters is Thor from Marvel Comics, but it is a popular enough setting elsewhere as well, such as in the stories of How to Train Your Dragon or even parts of the recently released series Sirens.

Brides of Helheim, from Oni Press, is another entry into this world of the north, where the harsh winters and dangerous conditions are faced by men of rugged strength and women of rugged beauty. The setting is common enough here, but the story is maybe a little different. It introduces two characters seeking help against a menace to their small town, and while fans of the previous series (Helheim from 2013) will probably be quickly familiar with some of the characters, this previous knowledge is also not necessary. As I was reading this issue I was struck by two things. The first was that it was quite light on actual literal writing, by which I mean that there are few words here to guide the way for the reader. The second thing that struck me was that this didn’t matter. The story was strong bohenough in its layout that it didn’t really need the actual words so much, and instead relied on artwork which was extremely complementary to the setting and the characters. The artwork was a bit of a surprise as well in the sense that there is a general approach to the smaller publishers to their choice of covers. Generally as they have less attention, they go for the idea that “sex sells” and the covers are also therefore usually the best artwork of the entire issue, but this is flipped on its side for Brides of Helheim as the interior is far more engaging than the exterior.

This ends up being a simple story, heavy on the artwork and not so much on the dialogue, but also one which was engaging enough with the visuals and the characterization to make it easy to jump right in. While reading this the story flew right past, but it left me wanting more right away. It is pretty fun, and definitely worth a look.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Joëlle Jones
Story: 7.8 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy

Oni Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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