Jane Foster: Valkyrie – Glimpsing Transcendence in Death

The centerpiece of Jason Aaron’s epic seven year run writing Thor: God of Thunder/The Mighty Thor/Thor was Jane Foster lifting Mjölnir when the Odinson found himself unworthy to do so.  She became Thor, the Goddess of Thunder, and the stories that followed were the best Thor comics I’ve ever read.  It may be the best executed single story arc I’ve ever ready in any comic ever.  When the Odinson eventually reclaimed his title as the God of Thunder, Jane returned her focus to her civilian life, medical career, and – most importantly – fighting the cancer raging inside her.  However, her superhero career was far from over and the stories Jane Foster now finds herself in (written first by Jason Aaron and Al Ewing and now by Jason Aaron and Torunn Grønbekk) dance along the mysterious, wonderous, frightening, sacred threshold that is the dividing line between life and death. Continue reading

Batwoman: Free of Guilt, Driven by Faith

Kate Kane, the Batwoman, is a remarkable character.  Even after a lifetime of being bored by Batman, I found her so compelling James Tynion IV’s Detective Comics – with Batwoman leading Batman’s team in Gotham – became a permanent part of my pull list.  Her solo Rebirth Batwoman title, penned by Marguerite Bennette and Tynion IV, soon followed.  Last Christmas I was excited to find trade collections of her earlier New 52 adventures had made their way under the tree.  What draws me to Batwoman is, while she wears the bat symbol, she transcends the most serious faults we see in the Batman.  In so doing, she’s not just a character I connect with and love reading about.  She’s also one who instructs and inspires transformation in her readers, as only the most important characters do. Continue reading

The Doctor and the Devil

One of my favorite Doctor Who tropes is the use of alien creatures to explain legends and myths (as well as integrate these creatures – in a very Doctor Who-esque way – into the show).  We’ve seen a Haemovariform crash-land on Earth and be mistaken for a werewolf in Scotland in 1879 (S2,E2).  There was a band of Saturnyns creating vampire-like “brides” for their remaining male population in 1580 Venice (S5,E6).  The reason beings on most planets are instinctively afraid of the dark is explained with the presence of the flesh-eating Vashta Nerada, who we see as the dust in sunbeams (S4,E8).  The occasional movement we see flicker, out of the corner of our eye, when we look in mirrors is the “daughter” of “the Family of Blood,” forever trapped in all mirrors by the Doctor (S3,E9).  The list goes on.  But the one most fascinating to me is when the Doctor and Rose encounter “the Beast.” Continue reading

Ghost Rider – A Vision of the Spirit of Vengeance in 2020

As a character, the Ghost Rider fascinates me.  But, with the exception of the ‘90s Spirits of Vengeance title that teamed the Dan Ketch-possessed-Ghost Rider with his (then) demon-free first host Johnny Blaze, I’ve read very few of his comics.  Looking back, outside of movies like Ghostbusters 2 (which scared the $#!T out of me), Spirits of Vengeance was really my first foray into horror.  Well, horror-lite.  Well, horror-lite for a comic book.  Well, after I’ve come to enjoy things like Penny Dreadful, It Follows, and The Shining and have had to endure horrors like Hereditary (WORST THING EVER), I wouldn’t really call Spirits of Vengeance “horror” anymore.  It’s more a supernatural thriller.  But for young me, it was the first time I willingly and intentionally entered the (Ghostbusters-free) world of demons, possessions, and fiery hellscapes.  Lately, I’ve found myself thinking of the Ghost Rider.  A lot.  I can’t stop imagining what shape this Spirit of Vengeance would take if it flamed into being in 2020. Continue reading

Goodbye Squirrel Girl, Thank You for Everything

Once upon a time, Mom bought li’l three-year-old me a copy of Web Of Spider-Man #12 at the grocery store.  So began a lifelong love affair with the character Spider-Man, the medium of comic books, and the world of superheroes.  When I turned sixteen my comic budget turned towards gas money.  But then, four years ago, I decided to return to my local comic shop and something magical happened.  I rediscovered an old love and found something I never expected in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.  This month Ryan North (writer), Derek Charm (artist), Rico Renzi (colorist), Travis Lanham (letter), and Wil Moss (editor) – with a surprise dash of Erica Henderson (artist) – have brought this remarkable title to an end.  That leaves me with a lot on my mind.  How do I say goodbye to something that’s come to mean so much to me?

There will be no significant spoilers for the final issue/arc here, just lots of feelings :). Continue reading

Team Cap: A Realization

This is a sequel of sorts, to one of the earliest pieces I ever wrote on this site.  However, it isn’t a piece I was planning on writing now or, if I’m being honest, ever.  I wasn’t planning on writing tonight as I’m in D.C. for the PCA/ACA National Conference on Popular Culture.  My week’s focus is attending exciting panels and presenting my paper on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.  So writing wasn’t on the agenda.  However I HAD to write because something’s been gnawing and I had to express it.  You see, last night my pre-Avengers: Endgame marathon came to Captain America: Civil War and, well, something struck me – something I never thought I’d see or say or believe.  But here we are. Continue reading

“The Death of the Mighty Thor” – My Eulogy for the Best Comic I’ve Ever Read

This is a milestone for me :).  This piece is my 300th post on My Comic Relief!!  I’ve been trying to figure out which comic was worthy of such a tribute since about my 256th post.  Then, like a blinding flash of lightening it hit me.  I adored Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson’s work with Jane Foster in The Mighty Thor.  She’s become my definitive Thor.  I’ve written several pieces exploring the brilliance of this run but I’ve never written about the end of Jane’s time wielding Mjölnir.  To do so, I wanted it to be special.  Instead of another analysis, I aim to simply pay tribute, to eulogize in the wake of “The Death of the Mighty Thor,” to talk about why I fell in love with this character and this comic.  In short I want to explain why Jane’s time as Thor became MY FAVORITE COMIC BOOK STORYLINE OF ALL TIME.  In my heart, she’ll always be who I mean when I invoke the name “Thor.” Continue reading

The Greatest Kraven Story Ever Told

Sergei Kravinoff, a.k.a. Kraven the Hunter, was created in 1964 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko for The Amazing Spider-Man #15.  The son of a Russian noble family who fled to America in 1917 in the wake of the February Revolution, Kraven’s self-identity was defined by being a big game hunter.  In an attempt to prove he was the world’s greatest hunter, Kraven became obsessed with defeating Spider-Man.  He hunted the web-head from his creation in ’64 until his death in 1987’s critically acclaimed “Kraven’s Last Hunt” story arc.  As with many comic characters Kraven would ultimately be resurrected, in this case by his family in 2010’s “Grim Hunt” storyline.  In the fifty-four years since his creation, Kraven has featured in some of Spider-Man’s most iconic storylines and stood among the web-slinger’s fiercest foes.  But which is the greatest Kraven story ever told?  To my mind, dear reader, there is only one answer.  (Oh, there will be spoilers, obvs.) Continue reading

Ten Surprises I Found When I FINALLY Read Marvel’s Civil War

That’s right world, I finally did it!  I FINALLY read Marvel’s “Civil War.”  It only took me twelve years to do it :).  This was, arguably, the biggest thing to happen to comic books during my seventeen year break in reading them.  It was a company-wide crossover unlike anything Marvel had attempted before.  It was a story working perfectly in-universe while also serving as one of the defining allegories of the times.  Parts of it worked as comic books do when they are operating at their highest level.  It was a shining example of a modern myth.  Naturally, I’ve always been intrigued by it and it was certainly impossible (well impossible if you’re interested in comic books) to not have heard all about it.  So it’s been a treat, as I’ve spent the last few months reading this modern epic, to find a few things which legitimately surprised me. Continue reading

Spider-Man’s Modern-Day Frankenstein Tale – “Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy”

Alright, originally I intended this as a Halloween post.  I was going to finally read “Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy” and write about it, analyzing how Dan Slott expands the premise of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in a modern setting.  However, life and work got in the way and I just got around to finishing reading it the other day.  I contemplated saving it for next year but I’m impatient and it’s more fun to keep the spookiness alive anyway.  When I finally jumped into Dan Slott’s world of Spider-Man tales, I avoided this storyline.  I’d heard conflicting reports about it and wasn’t ready for something with that sort of “baggage” as I was meeting his Spidey for the first time.  What I found upon finally reading it was a haunting tale that left me more emotionally shaken than I could have expected. Continue reading