I adore HBO Max’s Harley Quinn: The Animated Series. It fundamentally shifted my relationship with the character. Before I watched the show, I enjoyed Harley Quinn. After watching it, I began tracking down every Harley comic I could find! In the process, she became a very important character to me. Naturally, I was excited when I heard of Tee Franklin (writer) and Max Sarin (artist)’s Harley Quinn: The Animated Series: The Eat. BANG! Kill. Tour, billed as Season 2.5. The comic captures everything I love about the show and features serious character development for both Harley and Poison Ivy, something all too rare in stories set between films in a series or seasons of a TV show. This development, woven through a story with all the profanity, insanity, and hilarity you’d expect from Harley Quinn: The Animated Series, enriches the characters and serves as a beautiful model for readers. Any comic which can do all that while also including the line “Piss cakes of a dick” is a true gift :D.
One of my favorite marks of the Doctor’s character is the way they respond to meeting all manner of monsters. When I first began watching Doctor Who this was one of the earliest signs of how different a hero they were than I was used to. Time and again – no matter how scary or threatening or unapproachable whatever the Doctor finds in the universe may appear – their first reaction is never one of fear or judgment. They certainly never attack. Rather, they marvel at its beauty. They are overcome with joy and excitement at seeing something they’ve never seen before. And, if what they encounter appears frightened or injured, they are moved by compassion and offer help. In all this they are a beautifully important model for us, too. As Steven Moffatt, the Doctor Who showrunner for Series 5-10, rightly observed, “There will never come a time when we don’t need a hero like the Doctor.”
As soon as I saw Black Widow last summer I felt this thought wiggling around in my brain. Is it…? Could it be…? Is…is Black Widow now my favorite Marvel movie?! Because I’m me, I certainly couldn’t say definitively. First, I’m not the type of person who can throw a term like “favorite” around lightly. To say I like or love something is one thing. But to say it’s “my favorite” or “the best” or “the greatest” of all-time? That requires a lot of thoughtful discernment for me. Second, there’s this odd reaction/habit within our culture, especially within our fandom cultures, where whatever is newest is automatically the best. It’s new! It’s shiny! It’s the best ever!!! So, while that’s never been me, I wanted to be sure I wasn’t having that sort of reaction when I first saw Black Widow on July 8th. I said I loved it. I said it was easily one of the best films the MCU has to offer. And I said it may be my all-time favorite movie within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Still, I needed time before I could say that with any certainty. Now I know. Black Widow is the best Marvel movie of all-time! And here’s why…
We love a good team-up, don’t we? The Avengers. Justice League. Even Godzilla vs. Kong. Part of me expects a movie where Annabelle, the Nun, and La Llorona team-up to haunt Ed and Lorraine Warren (which won’t happened as the Conjuring Universe has more narrative integrity than that and the stories are based on true events (or at least truth-adjacent)). Doctor Who has been doing the multi-Doctor team-up for decades in TV, novels, audio dramas, and comics. But there is a fascinating dimension to different Doctors teaming up that none of these other stories have. When the Doctor encounters other incarnations of the Doctor it’s not just a group of our favorite heroes coming together. Rather they are, in effect, meeting themself at different moments in their life! Can you imagine that?!!? I can’t stop imagining what it would be like if I found myself in the same situation! Can you imagine meeting yourself at different points in your life, some younger than you and some having seen things you’ve yet to see? The idea is captivating and this is exactly what happens whenever the Doctors team-up.
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.