Ben Reilly’s Back!!! – The Spider-Man Story I’ve Waited 25 Years For

Which comics go in my file/pull list is a decision I ponder regularly.  What must be read monthly in single issues?  Which stories/characters/creators can’t wait?  I ask myself this whenever I consider juggling the comics in my file because, well, money’s a thing and I only have so much for comics before they turn off my electricity and water and I use those all the time.  Despite Spider-Man being the fictional character I’ve had the longest running relationship with, The Amazing Spider-Man is rarely on my pull list simply because I favor newer characters (or characters new to me).  Miles Morales/Spider-Man or Cindy Moon/Silk or America Chavez or Jane Foster/Valkyrie don’t yet have as bedrock a status quo to reset to so their characters feel more dynamic and thus, with more potential for lasting change, there’s a greater sense of urgency to read those stories each month instead of waiting for them to pop up on Marvel Unlimited or be collected in a trade paperback.  However, last night I learned Ben Reilly was donning the webs once more so today I went to my local comic shop to add The Amazing Spider-Man to my file for the first time in years!

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Cleo Cazo / Ratcatcher 2 and the Power of a Story

This was not the piece I expected to write about The Suicide Squad.  I had a completely different idea in mind as the film began but as I watched the movie I realized this was what I needed to talk about.  I’ve always loved stories.  Who doesn’t?  Reading, watching, telling, and listening to them – I’m here for all of it!  I will reread and rewatch the stories I love again and again and again. The right story takes a place in our heart like nothing else can.  Years ago this blog was born, in part, as an outlet to write about the stories I love (so maybe I’d talk about them a little less in real life (but the exact opposite occurred XD)).  I love thinking about stories, talking about stories, analyzing and deconstructing stories, teaching with and through stories – I love it all.  So I needed to write about Cleo Cazo/Ratcatcher 2, played by Daniela Melchior and written/directed by James Gunn in The Suicide Squad, because never in my whole life has any character in any story ever moved what this character in this story moved within me.  And that is certainly something worthy of exploration!  This piece has a few minor spoilers for the film but you’ll be warned beforehand.

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Alias’ Jessica Jones is Marvel’s Most Authentically Human Character

Jessica Jones was one of the genre-redefining characters born during my hiatus from regular comic reading.  Created by Brian Michael Bendis (writer) and Michael Gaydos (artist), she first appeared in Alias #1, released in November 2001.  Coincidentally enough, I spent that fall falling for another Alias – J.J. Abrams’ cliffhanger and slow-mo running loving spy show starring Jennifer Garner.  At the time, I had no idea another Alias existed.  Once I saw (and enjoyed!) Jessica Jones on Netflix, I kept my eyes peeled for her comics.  Alias isn’t on Marvel Unlimited and I’d never seen the collected trades below $25.99 apiece (which I’ll spend but it’s a risky move without reading a single issue).  But then magic struck!  I found Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1, 3, and 4 (of four!!!) as I strolled Ollie’s Bargain Outlet last week!  I tracked down Vol. 2 as well, and then…well, you know how some books are overhyped?  It turns out, even after the endless praise I’ve heard about Jessica Jones as a character and Alias as a comic, it ended up being better than I imagined.

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Reconsidering Harley Quinn: Just Who Is the Clown Princess of Coney Island?

Harley Quinn has had legions of loyal fans for ages.  For a long time, I mainly knew her as the Joker’s girlfriend on Batman: The Animated Series.  I knew DC had brought her into their comics’ continuity.  I knew she and the Joker had broken up (maybe? sort of?).  I knew she’d shifted from villain to antihero to star in her own comic.  I’d heard her referred to as “DC’s Deadpool.”  But what about her brought such adoration among readers?  In a 2016 interview with Vulture, DC Comics’ Publisher and CCO Jim Lee said, “I refer to her as the fourth pillar in our publishing line, behind Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.”[1]  That’s HUGE.  Lee is equating Harley to DC’s Trinity, their Big Three, the foundation upon which DC is built.  After reading the near 100 comics comprising Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s run on Harley Quinn (yes, I got excited and bought them all (no, I have no regrets)) I get it.   

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A Doctor of Kindness: Doctor Who and a Universal Ethic

So…I may have a problem buying sonic screwdrivers.  I’m not going to say how much I’ve spent but I will openly say I’ve purchased eight.  But they’re worth it because I almost always have one on me and I almost always point them at any light as I turn it on or off.  Regardless of the financial cost, my life is obviously immeasurably better being able to do this.  On more than one occasion, while waving a sonic around at work, a student has asked if it was a lightsaber (an understandable mistake as a) Doctor Who isn’t as big in America as Star Wars and b) they know I love Star Wars).  I explain that, no, it isn’t a lightsaber.  It’s much better.  A lightsaber is a weapon, the sonic screwdriver a tool.  One has the potential to dismember and kill (which it’s often used for); the other to analyze, augment, and repair (which it’s always used for).  When it comes to heroes, I’ll take the Doctor over the Jedi ten times out of ten.  Early this schoolyear a student posed a question – If I had to pick just one fictional universe to enjoy for the rest of my life would I choose Marvel, Star Wars, or Doctor Who?  The answer was surprisingly simple.  There are many reasons I’d choose Doctor Who but the most important is the way the Doctor moves through space and time, always modeling an ethic of kindness and sowing the seeds of hope across creation.

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Thor the God of the Unworthy – Reframing the God of Thunder

Jason Aaron’s time writing Thor – from Thor: God of Thunder to Thor to The Mighty Thor to Thor (again) to War of the Realms to King Thor – produced the defining version of the character.  No one, at least in my humble opinion, has ever done more with Thor nor understood the character, their world, and its theological fertility more than Jason Aaron.  Jane Foster lifting Mjölnir to become Thor herself was the heart of Aaron’s run.  But for that to happen, Thor Odinson had to find himself unable to lift the hammer.  This idea – the idea of Thor being unworthy – ties together much of what Aaron did.  Its seeds were sown in his very first arc, as Thor faced the brutality of Gorr the God Butcher.  Its actualization would lead to Jane lifting Mjölnir and becoming the mightiest Thor and the greatest of all the gods.  Its effects would culminate in Thor Odinson’s climactic battle with Malekith the Accursed during the War of the Realms and it would shape the sort of king Thor would become.

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Nomi Sunrider – Fiction’s Fearless Females

By Jeffrey Cagle of The Imperial Talker

Seeking a refuge for healing and peaceful contemplation, Jedi Knight Nomi Sunrider returns to the planet Ambria and the dwelling of Master Thon, her former Jedi Master. Traveling with Sunrider is her beloved 4-year-old daughter Vima and fellow Jedi Knight Sylvar who, like Nomi, seeks the peace and wisdom which Master Thon can offer. The joyful reunion with Master Thon is brief, however, disrupted by the sudden ambush of reptilian creatures swelling with the Dark Side of the Force and controlled by Sith assassins. Commanded to destroy Master Thon and his company, the Sith-controlled creatures surround the Jedi and launch their assault.

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Norma Bates – Fiction’s Fearless Females

By Kalie Zamierowski of Just Dread-full

One thing worth noting about the horror genre is that it produces images that resist quick mental erasure.  From the statuesque model who turns into a decrepit, decaying old woman in the infamous shower scene of The Shining to the bloody womb hanging limply outside the skin of Nola Carveth in The Brood, horror does nothing if not supply us with grotesque images of often monstrous women.  Psycho’s Norma Bates, then, is no exception.  In Hitchcock’s original film, Psycho, we see Norma not as a mommy so much as a stereotypical mummy; all that is left of her is a skeletal, eyeless frame and some tousled hair pulled back in a bun. We hear her character, and therefore understand her character, only through Marion Crane’s ears as the delusional Norman voices her from afar in the antiquated Victorian house on the hill outside Bates Motel.  But Norma is a famous mummy, and a famous mommy, to be sure, one who lingers in the mind of the viewer long after the theater lights go on, and one who has lingered in the cultural imagination now for sixty-one years and counting.  Significantly, Norma Bates didn’t get to speak for herself until 2013, when the hit TV show Bates Motel rescued and re-invented her character through Vera Farmiga’s portrayal of her as Norman’s mildly cooky but vivacious and loving mom.  As a woman who navigates an excruciating past, a corrupt, drug-infested city, and a psychotic son with surprising sangfroid, Norma Bates in Bates Motel is who I choose to feature this year for the annual Fiction’s Fearless Females blogathon. 

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Lieutenant Nyota Uhura – Fiction’s Fearless Females

By Nancy of Graphic Novelty2

In celebration of Women’s History Month and for my entry in this year’s Fiction’s Fearless Females series, I am choosing Star Trek’s original fearless female – the one and only Lieutenant Nyota Uhura! This is the third year that Kathleen and I have participated in this series and joining us is Michael of My Comic Relief, Jesse of the newly revived Green Onion, Kalie of Just Dread-full, and Jeff of The Imperial Talker. Please give them a follow to catch their posts (all have great content outside of #FFF), or look out for them here, throughout the month. Continue reading

Martha Jones – Fiction’s Fearless Females

Happy International Women’s Day!  In celebration of International Women’s Month, I’ve joined with some other bloggers to write pieces spotlighting some of our favorite female characters.  Kathleen, of Graphic Novelty2, kicked off the festivities with her brilliant look at Kara Zor-El/Supergirl and, following me, we’ll have Green Onion, of Green Onion Revival Project; Nancy, of Graphic Novelty2;  Kalie, of Just Dread-full; and Jeff, of The Imperial Talker.  You can find all their posts here but you should check out their super sweet sites, too.  Anyhoo (or AnyWHO, as the case may be (stop…don’t reward that (I’m sorry, I’m so sorry (you deserve better)))), this year when I thought of what “fearless” means, my mind turned to Martha Jones.  Played by Freema Agyeman, she was the companion of David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor in Series Three of Doctor Who.  Martha did a great many things while travelling with the Doctor but, in her faith and her willingness to advocate for her own needs, she models the type of courage which could transform all of our lives if we, too, could be so fearless.

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