Author Archives: Ashley Leckwold

Dragon Con 2017: The “Men In Comics” Panel

Good morning, Dragon Con,” said Kelly Sue Deconnick, bright and bubbly to start the panel. “We’ve asked you here today to join us in our destruction of the patriarchy.”

It certainly felt like the type of crowd to be devoted to destruction of the patriarchy in the room. It was 11 a.m. on a Monday at Dragon Con, where everything feels exhausting and hungover, so you certainly have to be committed to be here. Not to mention it’s a Women In Comics panel.

At least so we thought.

As the panel began with Deconnick, Babs Tarr, Megan Hutchinson, and moderator Jami Jones, they revealed to us that after several discussions over the double edged sword of Women In Comics panels and a few last minute decisions, this was not going to be the rote but necessary Women in Comics panel. Instead, it was going to be a panel of all women talking about Men in Comics.

What then ensued was 60 minutes of sarcastic brilliance on a Labor Day morning.

Presented in the way of all-white or all-men panels on diversity or women in comics, the panelists took it to the next level, briefly transporting to a world where all the dense questions and bad takes about diversity in comics were applied to white men.

“People are understandably guarded about fake male fans,” Deconnick said during the Q&A when asked how to reach male readers, followed by a suggestion about testing the cred of said fake male fans a little bit.

Another attendee asked for advice as a queer woman about how to mentor straight men getting into comics. Tips about critiquing their art at their table or meeting up at “BarCon” after the show abound at that point. So did the laughter.

It certainly helped that the audience was all in on the joke, especially the men in attendance who were great sports about the way the panelists talked to them condescendingly in the way some male professionals speak about women. Deconnick even asked one male attendee a twirl for the room. It really all did feel too familiar, which made it even more ridiculous.

There was even two new character tests created during the panel! The first being “The Bendis Test,” which is to see if two named male characters talk about anything besides a woman. The other is “The Sexy Hammer Test,” which is if a man in a story can be replaced by a sexy hammer and still tell the same story. Still, the representation of men in comics shouldn’t just boil down to that, as Deconnick said. “Try to make men that men like, but women… also sort of like.”

Between all the jokes and Tarr sarcastically going “Who?” the first time Bendis was mentioned, the most telling moment of the panel was when Jones asked if they were going to talk about favorite male creators in terms of looks or their books. Deconnick paused and told of a Bleeding Cool message board thread that was FMK over women creators. She advised not to go that route, but concluded with, “I’m not bitter, but I have a long memory.”

While the rest of the panel continued from there, with the panelists commenting on how Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher were handsome in different ways along with being good writers and Deconnick making jokes about how Bendis has a big imagination for writing Spider-Woman when he is neither a woman nor a spider, the “I’m not bitter, but I have a long memory” comment stuck with me the most. I feel like that is something that could have easily been said by any of the women on the panel or in attendance. For all the jokes cracked and sarcastic comments made, it was all rooted in the reality of a community that still treats women as a sideshow attraction instead of as serious creators and characters.

Still, for a Monday morning at the end of a five day long convention, it felt good to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

For more quotes from the panel, my livetweet thread can be read here as well as in the #MenInComics hashtag.

HeroesCon Proves Good Comic Shows Don’t Have To Be Hard to Find

“Hello neighbors,” I say to the circle I’m standing in the middle of.

“Hello neighbor,” the circle intones back happily, including Bitch Planet co-creator Kelly Sue Deconnick, who is running this panel. This is just one of the games she’s taught us. The same games she teaches her Girl Scout troop to teach them how to set boundaries and learn about their community.

“I love all of my neighbors, but especially the ones who watch professional wrestling,” I say to the circle. I cover it professionally. I wanted to see if someone was at least interested.

Silence. No one gets up.

“Just me? Okay.”

I change my prompt to those who like combat boots and we scramble to find chairs, leaving someone else in the center to greet their neighbors. I’m not salty though. It’s not long before I’m talking to someone else about pro-wrestling at the end of the panel. It’s HeroesCon after all. Most of us are just neighbors who haven’t met yet.

HeroesCon is an annual comic book convention in Charlotte. Every Father’s Day weekend, comics creators and fans from all around the country descend upon the Queen City to mingle and to sell books and art. It was started by Shelton Drum, the owner of the local shop Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, but the con has extended beyond the reach of the shop. Especially 35 years on.

I went to my first one in 2014 on a whirlwind day trip from Atlanta to Charlotte, determined to meet my newfound comics heroes Deconnick, Matt Fraction, and Chip Zdarsky. Three years later, I’m still making friends and greeting friends every time I walk the floor, and that’s honestly part of the charm of HeroesCon.

The con is unique in this day of entertainment industry powered comic cons, where comics often take a back seat to television and movies. HeroesCon is comics and comic creator focused, still even after 35 years. The local CW affiliate sets up a booth where they give prizes away relating to the DC Comics TV shows on the network, but that’s about as far as the TV involvement goes. Walk a little further, and you’re bound to find some of your favorite creators sitting at tables, selling their books and art. Or maybe even your future favorite creator. That same con three years prior? That was the first con I met Babs Tarr, excited to see the Bosozoku Sailor Scouts art in person. This year, she was selling exclusive trades of Motor Crush that could only be found at the convention, with Domino and Lola blasting past Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find. It’s hard not to feel proud.

The games panel is different from the other panels I was able to make it to during the weekend. The other two were more traditional. Well, as traditional as you can get with Zdarsky talking about going undercover at a skeezy nudist resort as the long way of saying his parents are into Sex Criminals during his spotlight panel and Fraction reading quotes from his supervillain daughter Tallulah Louise during the Milkfed Criminal Masterminds panel (which I livetweeted here).

It feels like only a panel that could work at HeroesCon though. Laid back and concentrated on being open. There is no pressure to participate. It’s not crunched and stressful like Dragon Con and it’s not about promoting the next big property. We’re here to learn about our community. To share in a mutual love.

“I feel welcome in my fandom,” Deconnick asks the room in a game of Across the Room, where we cross to the other side of the room to join a line.

I stay firmly planted for the time. I feel welcome at HeroesCon. It’s not a con of exclusion. They’re here for all fans of comics. But comics fandom? I’m a queer woman. I barely feel welcome. For pro-wrestling? I constantly feel like I’m loitering around a door, screaming at the residents inside, even if I do write about it professionally.

“I want to make people feel welcome in my fandom.”

There, I take the opportunity to aggressively stomp across the room.

“My mom wanted me to give you a hug from her,” I tell Deconnick after the panel. She met my mom at a Bitch Planet signing in Toronto a couple of years ago and asks me about her every time we see each other at a convention. We exchange hugs and she ‘awws’ about my mom.

It’s one of those things I wish I could tell me of three years ago about, nervous about meeting her idols. It’s also one of those things I feel grateful to HeroesCon for. Helping break down barriers and anxieties to help me figure out my career.

Every year I’ve gone, it’s expanded a little more, but it still feels like a family reunion. It’s the con I look forward to the most every year just because I get to see my comics friends without the added extra stress of packing five days worth of cosplay or having to time running across five hotels to make it to a panel in a basement. It drains my wallet with good art and good food, but it’s welcome. Where else can Kris Anka make jokes about having to fix Joe Quinones’ art when I come to pick up a commission of Captain Marvel? Or the press liaison that I have not previously met recognizes me and thanks me for tweeting while he goes to attend to delivering extra books to creators from the shop?

HeroesCon is special in those ways. It’s not about the big press push, but reminding the world that comics and the people who make them can be pretty great. And that everyone can and should be welcome in their fandoms, despite whatever state laws exist in North Carolina or in the patriarchal confines of old fandom structures.

Review: The Mighty Captain Marvel #2

mighty-captain-marvel-2Confession from your reviewer: I didn’t read Civil War II except for the tie in books that occurred with the books I was already reading, the previous run of Captain Marvel included. Not just because I had no interest in the concept, but I also had no interest in reading Brian Michael Bendis completely trying to tear down all the work that had been put into my favorite superhero over the past four years just to make Iron Man look right.

Luckily, other writers have been trying to course correct with Carol during and after Civil War II, one of them being Margaret Stohl currently on The Mighty Captain Marvel. In the second issue, we see more of the issue Carol is running up against with the shapeshifter and the Kree refugee nicknamed Bean.

Stohl so far in the first two issues and the zero issue has done a great job at capturing the stubborn diplomat air that Kelly Sue Deconnick had all over her run of Captain Marvel, especially when running up against the “problems she can’t punch.” For this one in particular, it’s trying to figure out why Carol’s powers go haywire whenever Bean gets close to her and tolerating the “Cap’n Marvel” TV show that’s supposed to pay for Alpha Flight’s budget for the year.

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Admittedly, the TV show subplot has been my least favorite part of the comic so far. I understand what they’re trying to go for, with Carol confronting her newfound popularity in the Marvel universe that runs parallel to her rising star with comics readers over the past five years. Plus, this issue makes a subtle jab at whitewashing with showing the cast member playing Wendy Kawasaki being revealed to be “blonde” with curly hair (there’s a colorist error here, I believe since the cast member is redheaded in the comic despite multiple references to her being blonde). However, it’s a subplot that ultimately feels shoehorned into the book to make some statement about how wrong media gets about comics stories. It feels awkwardly done and doesn’t currently add much to the current plot besides awkwardness for Jessica Drew to laugh at. And Jessica isn’t even in this issue.

Ramon Rosanas has been on art duties for the comic and unfortunately, his work is very stiff and lifeless in comparison to some of the past artists on Captain Marvel books. Which is rough considering how nice Michael Garland’s colors are and how fun Stohl’s writing has been. Maybe he’s still getting used to the character, but it’s really disappointing when there’s only one page I like out of the whole book artwise and it involves a shape shifter impersonating Carol’s alien tentacle cat.

Criticisms aside, The Mighty Captain Marvel #2 has been doing a pretty decent job of getting Carol back on track after Civil War II. We do see some of her guilt still residing after the entire thing, but the series is more focused on Carol balancing her work and her newfound popularity. I can’t wait to see where the series goes next, especially in regards to the Kree refugee crisis.

Story: Margaret Stohl Art: Ramon Rosanas Colors: Michael Garland
Story: 7.0 Art: 6.0 Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Read

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

WWE, Linda McMahon and why she cannot be the new head of the Small Business Administration

wwe-logo-featuredI’m a pro-wrestling fan. Mostly WWE due to access, but I try to keep abreast of what is happening in promotions like Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro-Wrestling as well and I just started following my local indie fed Atlanta Wrestling Entertainment late last year. I unabashedly love Finn Bálor, Bayley and Sami Zayn, have been published by Paste Magazine with my thoughts on WWE, and I’m even going to Wrestlemania in Orlando this year to mark my two year anniversary as a wrestling fan.

So when WWE co-founder Linda McMahon was appointed by President Donald Trump to be the new head of the Small Business Administration, naturally I was asked what my opinion was on the matter.

Well, without my usual use of four letter words to pepper it, my opinion is such: Linda McMahon is an awful choice due to her own history with how WWE is run.

Let’s review, shall we?

  1. Linda McMahon donated six million dollars to a Super PAC supporting Trump. This is on top of the five million “donated” to the Trump Foundation by her and WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon between 2007 and 2009. While Linda has not actively been involved with the company since 2009 when she began her first unsuccessful Senate campaign, she still has some equity within the company (the McMahon family holds 90.4% interest). There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it, Linda McMahon bought her way into the SBA position with money earned from WWE.
  2. WWE classifies the wrestlers we see on TV every week as independent contractors, despite the grueling travel schedule that sees them on the road anywhere between 250 to 300 days a year and the amount of high risk that is involved in the position. While WWE has tightened up their medical care and wellness policy in the past decade, it still leaves the wrestlers without company based health insurance, social security, or unemployment. McMahon has tried to justify this in the past, speaking on the royalties, merchandising, and contract deals that are unlike any other sport that will also classify their athletes as independent contractors. However, unlike those other sports, WWE doesn’t have an off-season nor a union for its wrestlers. This also doesn’t include the multiple lawsuits brought on by former employees, including a recent concussion lawsuit, the fact former WWE wrestlers like Perry Saturn have had to take to GoFundMe to take care of medical expenses, or that current Raw General Manager Mick Foley has admitted that he is on a “handshake deal” with the company and currently doesn’t have health insurance to cover hip replacement surgery. It’s a gross misclassification, especially for a publically traded company that brings in millions of dollars every year.
  3. Out of the company’s ten highest paid wrestlers in 2015, only one was not white and none of them were women. Adding into the fact that non-white and women superstars only receive a fraction of marketing and merchandising that white men receive, despite WWE constantly bragging about how far they’ve come with women’s wrestling in the past few years. For example, current Smackdown Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss did not have a shirt available for purchase until two weeks after her championship win. She does now, but that leaves it down to one champion within the WWE that doesn’t: Rich Swann, the current WWE Cruiserweight Champion and one of two current black champions within the company (the other being Smackdown Tag Champion Jason Jordan). Behind the scenes, no women writers are currently employed. Despite small advances that have been made within the past couple of years, it’s obvious that WWE still has some ways to go in regards to race and gender but no way to address it as of yet.

The facts are clear: Linda McMahon has done and will likely do nothing to address issues within small business of misclassification, employee rights, and gender/race pay gaps. To place her in this position, especially when she still has equity within WWE, is dangerous. She bought her way into the position after her aspirations of politics failed and she is unqualified to address the growing concerns of small business in America.


Tell your Senators NO on Linda McMahon for SBA. Call your senators, especially if they are within the Senate Small Business Committee. A vote is expected within the week.

You can look your Senator up here and call, email, Tweet at them to not support Linda McMahon for this position.

 

You can watch the hearing below.

Review: Shade, the Changing Girl #3

stcg_cv3_dsWhen asked in interviews about the body horror of her series InSEXts, Marguerite Bennett would often describe the central conceit of the series in regards to how being a woman in this society is a body horror of its own. When asked by Paste Magazine about that common thread in her works, she said, “…If you are told that by virtue of your birth, you must offer your body and heart and compliance and emotional labor in the service of others and be grateful for the chance to be subservient to someone your society actually values and reflects in stories of heroism—you are going, very much, to be consumed by the ideas of monsters with power instead of human beings without it.”

I was thinking about that quote a lot when reading over this particular issue of Shade, the Changing Girl. While Cecil Castelucci and Marley Zarcone aren’t exploring body horror with Shade, they are taking more of a route of introspection, making it very clear that beneath all the Madness, alien visitation and the horrors of high school, Shade, the Changing Girl is a series about changing yourself and coming to grips with the person you used to be and the person you’re expected to be because of it.

While the reader still doesn’t know much about Loma Shade’s past, we and Shade are learning more and more about Megan’s. In short, Megan Boyer was kind of the worst. The palimpsest of Megan’s memories is becoming clearer and Shade struggles with the balance. “It’s hard enough to sit with your own thoughts. Even stranger to creep around in someone else’s leftover memories.”

Shade has been a dense work since it began a couple of months back, but this particular issue took me a couple of reads to fully appreciate. Now that Shade’s initial enthusiasm about being on Earth has faded off, she now has to begin to face the complications of actually being a teenage girl. Let alone a teenage girl who has been called a “toxic human” and a “sociopath” by her peers and distressed her parents to the point they were willing to pull the plug on her before Shade took over. Castellucci’s balance of telling finding oneself in the madness is gorgeous and made even better by Zarcone’s art and paneling. The two-page spread of Shade crawling around in Megan’s memories shaped like the plan of a house was particularly brilliant.

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As a result of trying to figure out the balance, Shade realizes that she’s going to have to start acting like Megan in order to survive the Madness and live on Earth. Probably not a moment too soon because not only is Meta getting closer to figuring out what is going on, but River starts to suspect that maybe there is something alien about her. Just in time for her to rise from the pool to strike her teammates, give into the Madness, get detention for it and for Megan’s spirit to feel the call of the Madness, of course.

Speaking of Meta, we get to see a bit more of life on the planet in this particular issue. Mellu Loran is trying to close in on the Madness Vest while Lepuck tries to figure out how to wake Loma up from her enclosure before it’s too late. Since I’m not as familiar with the original Shade, The Changing Man series, the importance of Loran was initially lost on me, but this month’s bio material includes a biography of her and what she’s been up to since she and Rac Shade called it quits. Between this, Mad Dog showing up in Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye and the brilliant and mostly silent Dial H for Hero backup in this issue from Tini Howard and Sanya Anwar, I feel like I’m learning more about obscure DC and Vertigo characters from Young Animal than I have anywhere else.

Shade, the Changing Girl #3 continues the brilliant work of the series as Shade travels deeper into Megan’s psyche and memories to try and understand both Megan and herself. It leaves a certain vulnerability that wouldn’t have been possible in any other setting besides high school and Castellucci and Zarcone tell a story that makes it worth revisiting.

Story: Cecil Castellucci Art: Marley Zarcone and Kelly Fitzpatrick
Story: 8.5 Art: 10 Overall: 9.25 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with FREE copy for review

Review: The Wicked + The Divine #24

tumblr_ohs9labcrg1uxdbsko1_1280As we head into a new year, the Gods are heading into theirs. Well, the beginning of 2015, but it has been a year since Laura found herself wanting everything Amaterasu had. Now she does, but at what cost?

A lot of The Wicked + The Divine #24, the first traditional issue back, is a lot of quiet reflection of where the Gods are now a year later now that Ananke is gone and they’re on their own. In the letters section, Kieron Gillen talks about how the Gods are very much in the same boat as the readers in that they don’t know what happens next. This seems especially true for Persephone, who spends a lot of this issue in her own head. While Amaterasu seems rather excited about the future (and no longer feeling ‘boring’ if her kiss with Persephone on the ledge of the Strand is anything to go by), the rest of the Gods seem less sure.

One of my favorite things about this issue is how much it captures the feeling of New Year’s Day. While the beginning of the issue captures a brief look at the revelry of New Year’s Eve with Matt Wilson’s glowing fireworks and a kiss, most of the issue is the eerily quiet hangover of the first day of the New Year. Some of it is literal with Persephone waking up in Baal’s bed with Sakhmet with Minerva warning her not to hurt Baal. Other parts of it are atmospheric, with the grey morning Persephone rides into past an adoring crowd and the silent work of Cassandra and the Norns in the ruins of Valhalla. It feels like that long, deep breath, where you seem to not just be recovering from the night before but the entire year, and taking a long pause before you tackle the rest.

Besides the atmosphere, the fashion in this issue is on point. It has to be a tough act to go back into the regular flow of the issue after the lush interiors from Kevin Wada on #23, but Jamie McKelvie is solid as usual creating fitting and believable street wear for Persephone, but also giving Minerva bright and youthful fashion befitting a 13-year-old in 2015. You have to wonder if her new fashion is a reflection of her new independent state, since she is not only without Ananke but without her parents. She also manages to be the most mature member of the Pantheon, but that’s probably to be expected with the Goddess of Wisdom.

Speaking of fashion, so much of this issue is what the kids would call “hair porn.” Persephone’s hair was the showstealer of this issue, even when it was messy the morning after a roll with Baal and Sakhmet.

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However, the quiet doesn’t last for long as Persephone and Cass confront Woden, who all lay their cards on the table, leading to the most silver age-esque closing scene of the issue.

As the “Imperial Phase” begins in earnest, The Wicked + The Divine #24 is much like the day it takes place on. A deep and quiet breath before jumping into the deep end. The calm before the storm. And if the last page is any indication, there are high stakes in play in this brave new year.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Read

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with  a FREE copy for review.

Review: Motor Crush #1

motorcrush-01_cvraEvery so often, when we’ve all begun to settle on our year-end best of lists for comics, a new number one comes along in December that shakes up those lists and causes you to happily go back to the drawing board as a reviewer. Bitch Planet #1 was that comic in December 2014 and now Motor Crush #1 from Image Comics is that comic for December 2016.

I got an early look at Motor Crush back in September when the creators Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr hosted a panel about the comic and gave away an ashcan that included the first half of this issue. While I was majorly impressed with what I saw, it didn’t really occur to me that I was looking at what was still a work in progress.

Between what I saw in September and what is being released on shelves has definitely been polished up. A new, cleaner lettering style from Aditya Bidikar and colorful designs from Tom Muller that are meant to immerse you in the world of Nova Honda completely. Fresh pastels from Tarr and added narration gives a way better sense of who Domino is as a character.

A lot of what you can expect from this first issue is learning about our hero Domino Swift. Inspired by Willow Smith in both terms of look and attitude, Domino is a tough and headstrong young woman with a lot of promise and a lot more secrets. Some that will even leave you gasping if the end of the first issue is any indication. However, Team Motor Crush does a good job at making her and her struggles rather complicated and nuanced instead of going straight for “brooding hero with a secret.” Plus, that wouldn’t match the bright neon setting of Nova Honda anyway. I seriously want to know how a book of ink and paper manages to actually glow the way this issue does.

I recently compared Mother Panic to the comic series The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys in terms of pace and tone, and I was nearly ready to do the same for Motor Crush. However, that isn’t true. It’s more like the album companion My Chemical Romance released three years prior titled Danger Days. Frenetic and joyful even in the darkness, Motor Crush is about finding your place in the world and trying to survive set against a futuristic backdrop of motorcycle racing. While the first issue is mostly set-up, it refuses to let off the gas as you follow Domino along on her journey and the jolt of the ending leaves you wanting another ride as soon as it is over. You owe it to yourself to take a ride with Motor Crush.

Story: Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr Art: Babs Tarr
Story: 9.0 Art: 10.0 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Graphic Policy was provided with a FREE copy for review

Review: Slam #1

slam_001_main_pressModern roller derby is a growing phenomenon. In consideration for the 2020 Summer Olympics and the focus of the 2013 film Whip It, it’s not hard to find multiple leagues skating in major cities these days. In fact, one of my roommates has competed as “Halting Problem” in men’s leagues in both Atlanta and Austin.

Which is why it’s surprising that there hasn’t been a comic series with a focus on derby until now. Sure, Harley Quinn has Harley skating derby in Coney Island sometimes and A-Force introduced Dazzler playing derby down in Florida, but there’s been no stories revolving around derby in the sense of Whip It. Lucky for all of us though, Pamela Ribon, Veronica Fish and Brittany Peer have brought us Slam! through BOOM! Studios’ BOOM! Box imprint.

Slam! #1 follows Jennifer Chu and Maisie Huff as they finish up their training for the East Side Roller Girls and get drafted to teams. The issue zips back and forth chronologically, showing how the two were drafted to the league and their individual lives before and after they were drafted to derby. Specifically, how derby has helped their lives. For Jennifer, it’s given her more connections outside of her originally lonely life getting her masters. For Maisie, it’s a sense of life and purpose after being dumped by her fiance, believing her to be “debateable.” Which, of course, doesn’t help when Maisie is put on a probational draft to a different team than Jennifer.

After one issue, I already love Jennifer and Maisie. Their loving and supportive friendship is one that is often hard to find in comics and to see it flourish over the first issue is such a joy, especially when Jen reaches her hand out to Maisie while she’s having pre-first bout anxiety. Friendship between women, especially in terms of competitive sports, is such an important thing to portray and one that should be portrayed more often.

Another breath of fresh air in the first issue is Fish’s art. The variation on athletic bodies is something that can easily be observed in derby and seeing it portrayed in comics form is pretty amazing. She also gets down to the nitty gritty, with bruised muscled backs, wedgies from derby shorts, and shaking nerves. Peer’s colors especially give life to this bright new world of violence and camaraderie in a way that I can’t imagine another colorist doing.

While roller derby is its own world, Slam! #1 gives a glimpse into how that world can have positive effects on the people in it. Following the journey of Maisie and Jen as they first start out and heading into their new lives on teams is absolutely joyful and should absolutely set precedent for how women’s sports comics handle competition and friendships. Of course, now that Jen and Maisie are no longer on the same team, how will they handle flying on their own?

Story by: Pamela Ribon Art by: Veronica Fish and Brittany Peer
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Read

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

Advance Review: Motor Crush #1

motorcrush-01_cvraEvery so often, when we’ve all begun to settle on our year-end best of lists for comics, a new number one comes along in December that shakes up those lists and causes you to happily go back to the drawing board as a reviewer. Bitch Planet #1 was that comic in December 2014 and now Motor Crush #1 from Image Comics is that comic for December 2016.

I got an early look at Motor Crush back in September when the creators Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr hosted a panel about the comic and gave away an ashcan that included the first half of this issue. While I was majorly impressed with what I saw, it didn’t really occur to me that I was looking at what was still a work in progress.

Between what I saw in September and what was delivered to me in my Twitter DMs a few nights ago has definitely been polished up. A new, cleaner lettering style from Aditya Bidikar and colorful designs from Tom Muller that are meant to immerse you in the world of Nova Honda completely. Fresh pastels from Tarr and added narration gives a way better sense of who Domino is as a character.

A lot of what you can expect from this first issue is learning about our hero Domino Swift. Inspired by Willow Smith in both terms of look and attitude, Domino is a tough and headstrong young woman with a lot of promise and a lot more secrets. Some that will even leave you gasping if the end of the first issue is any indication. However, Team Motor Crush does a good job at making her and her struggles rather complicated and nuanced instead of going straight for “brooding hero with a secret.” Plus, that wouldn’t match the bright neon setting of Nova Honda anyway. I seriously want to know how a book of ink and paper manages to actually glow the way this issue does.

I recently compared Mother Panic to the comic series The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys in terms of pace and tone, and I was nearly ready to do the same for Motor Crush. However, that isn’t true. It’s more like the album companion My Chemical Romance released three years prior titled Danger Days. Frenetic and joyful even in the darkness, Motor Crush is about finding your place in the world and trying to survive set against a futuristic backdrop of motorcycle racing. While the first issue is mostly set-up, it refuses to let off the gas as you follow Domino along on her journey and the jolt of the ending leaves you wanting another ride as soon as it is over. When the first issue comes out on December 7, you owe it to yourself to take a ride with Motor Crush.

Story: Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr Art: Babs Tarr
Story: 9.0 Art: 10.0 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Graphic Policy was provided with a FREE copy for review

Review: Mother Panic #1

motherpanic02From the moment the series was announced, Mother Panic has been on my most anticipated list for comics this year. With the Burnside Era of Batgirl and Black Canary coming to a close, there didn’t seem to be a lot coming up to take its place. With Mother Panic’s story about a celebutante turned vigilante, it seemed like it might just do that.

I’m happy to report that not only does Mother Panic fit in with Burnside’s punk rock vibes, but might add a bit of DC’s Young Animal curator Gerard Way’s The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys as well in terms of heart.

Mother Panic #1 introduces us to Violet Paige, a young member of Gotham’s elite who returns after some time away. It’s a familiar story to anyone who has read a Batfam origin story like Bruce’s or Kate’s. However, Violet has a decidedly different approach to her return to Gotham. She’s not looking to be a protector or to save Gotham. She’s looking to burn it down. Might be why she calls herself “a work in progress.” Not really a hero, but not certain if she’s a villain yet either.

For those familiar with Jody Houser’s writing through Faith might initially be surprised at the stark contrast in tone. Mother Panic is like a kick to the teeth in a dark alley. It hits fast, hurts and is bloody before you really get all of what’s going on. However, there are moments of humanity that ground you and make you understand just where Violet is coming from a little bit more. Particularly in the flashbacks involving her father and the moments she shares with her mother both as a child and an adult. As conflicted as Violet is about her position in Gotham’s grand scheme, it is these moments that provide absolute clarity about the kind of person she is and could become.

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Tommy Lee Edwards’ art, in particular, is perfectly fitting for this kind of mode. Dark and sketchy, with just the right touch of surrealism to keep your head spinning. The fact that the villains of this story are violent artists in unreal spaces is what really makes this story work in the Young Animal line. Not to mention that design for Violet’s vigilante costume. It keeps the lines and shapes we’re familiar with when it comes to the Bats, but it also feels a bit more armored and heavy. Like something that could really mess you up. Plus, the nice contrast of her in all white and not knowing what kind of masked crusader she is yet matched against Batman’s all black everything is the kind of duality in comics I live for. With the mutual hatred of Batman, can I get a meeting with Violet and Olive Silverlock at some point?

As a fan of Gotham stories and Young Animal, Mother Panic hits all the right notes. It’s an intense and punk as hell story about a young woman still figuring herself involving vigilantism and art. If you enjoyed the Batgirl of Burnside or Brenden Fletcher and Annie Wu’s Black Canary, you’ll probably find a familiarity in Mother Panic that will excite you. If you enjoyed The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, the similar lush tone and surrealism will jump out at you faster than Violet herself. Either way, Mother Panic makes Young Animal four for four so far and brings a new twist to the familiar Gotham story.

Story: Jody Houser Art: Tommy Lee Edwards
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

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