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Comic Review – Goddess Mode #1

Goddess Mode #1 Cover

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A highly advanced dystopia where the corporations own everything and technology is indistinguishable from magic. A dying Earth where life is cheap and humanity’s best days are behind it, despite the zeitgeist being built around the next big thing. A misfit struggles to get by, wanting to be more than just another cog in the machine, despite society being built around destroying the squeaky wheel.

It cannot be denied that fans of the cyberpunk genre will find themselves in familiar territory upon opening Goddess Mode #1. Comparisons to various Ridley Scott and Denis Villeneuve movies will be inevitable. Doubtless some will describe it as a feminist answer to Ready Player One in a desperate attempt to summarize its plotThe more well-read will reference Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson. All of this will ignore Goddess Mode #1 for what it is at its heart – a damn good read.

Cassandra Price is a brilliant young coder whose talents are wasted in the most lowly position possible at Heremeticorp – tech support. While other hackers are crafting brilliant new artificial intelligences that build off the Azoth Network that powers the planet, Cassandra is stuck patching up old code and taking out the trash. It’s not glamorous but it pays for the nanotech that purifies the air and water she ingests so she isn’t killed instantly by the polluted slum she lives in and provides the healthcare that keeps her father in cryogenic suspension until a cure is found for his condition. Then one day, Cassandra’s alterations to her personal network are noticed by her boss, who decides to promote her rather than fire her. This leads to Cassandra being sent to meet with the elites of her society and a stunning truth about the reality of things in a world where nanotechnology alters everyone’s perceptions.

Zoe Quinn’s script leans heavily on the usual cyberpunk tropes yet it does so in a way that will be pleasantly familiar – at least to those who remember the old Shadowrun game fondly. What makes Goddess Mode #1 seem like something brand new despite this is the character of Cassandra Price, who is far from the usual riot grrrl or manic hacker dream girl we usually see starring in this kind of story. Cassandra probably doesn’t even own a pair of leather pants or spiked platform boots.

As for the artwork, it is phenomenal. Spider-Gwen co-creator Robbi Rodriguez creates an image of cyberspace and the dystopian world Cassandra lives in that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. This unique imagery is further enhanced by the colors of  Rico Renzi. The final effect is a neon-filled hellscape that looks uncannily like what I imagined the first time I read William Gibson’s Neuromancer.

In short, Goddess Mode #1 is a brilliant read and a must-have for your subscription if you enjoy vivid artwork, dystopian fiction, magic girl anime and manga or just want something different this week when you pick up your comics.

10/10

Goddess Mode #1 releases on December 12, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

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Comic Review – Shazam #1

Shazam #1 Cover

When it comes to superheroic alter egos, Billy Batson may have the most confusing real-world history of any comic book character in existence. Originally created as Captain Thunder for 1940’s Thrill Comics #1, his origin story was reworked and he was renamed Captain Marvel for Whiz Comics #2, later that same year. For a time Captain Marvel was the most popular superhero in America, until the declining popularity of superheroes and a copyright infringement suit from the owners of Superman led to Fawcett Comics ceasing publication of Billy’s adventures in 1953. Despite this, Captain Marvel still had a major influence on American culture, inspiring both Gomer Pyle’s catchphrase and Elvis Presley’s stage costumes.

Marvel Comics would later acquire the rights to the name of Captain Marvel in 1967 and DC Comics would license the Captain Marvel characters at about the same time. For the better part of four decades, DC Comics published the comic book adventures of Captain Marvel but was forbidden from using the title Captain Marvel, with all the comics of the time sporting titles like The Power of Shazam! This led to an entire generation of casual readers growing up thinking that Captain Marvel was called Shazam, even though that was the name of the wizard who gave Billy Batson his magical powers – not Billy’s code name.

In 2011, DC Comics decided to embrace the popular misconception, and created a new origin for Billy Batson as part of their New 52 revamp of the DC Comics line. The new origin changed very little of the key details, beyond modernizing Billy Batson’s background to reflect the modern reality of foster homes over orphanages and a more involved history regarding the magicians of the DC Universe. Apart from that the story was exactly the same. Billy Batson was a good-hearted orphan, chosen by a wizard to inherit a measure of his power and use it to fight evil and protect the innocent.

Thankfully, new readers do not need to know any of this going into Shazam #1 and I mention it only so as to educate you dear readers so as to prevent the confusion that is likely to erupt in early 2019 regarding both Captain Marvel movies.  Everything you need to know is explained within the first three pages of this book, along with the events of the original Shazam mini-series, which inspired the upcoming film. That would seem to make this comic series a sequel to the movie that isn’t out yet but new readers shouldn’t have any trouble regardless.

There’s two stories within this issue, both written by Geoff Johns, who organized the original Shazam reboot. The first story reintroduces us to Billy and his foster family and sets up two big mysteries for the series to explore. The second is a more personal tale focused on Mary, the oldest of Billy’s new siblings, and how she came to enter the foster care system and form a family with the rest of the kids in their foster home. Both stories are engaging and Johns proves to have a real gift for writing child characters who act like real kids. (i.e. arguing only seconds after seemingly getting along just fine.)

The artwork for this issue is as great as the story. Dale Eaglesham handles the first story with colorist Mike Atiyeh, presenting a heroic style that still allows for fluid slapstick and comedic expressions along with classic superheroic action. Those who are familiar with Eaglesham’s previous work on Villains United, Green Lantern and JSA will find themselves in familiar territory. The second story features artwork by Mayo “Sen” Naito and sports a shojo manga style well suited to Mary’s story. I dare say that should DC Comics decide to take another stab at producing original manga again, they would do well to have Naito illustrate a solo series devoted to Mary’s adventures as a superhero.

The Bottom Line?  Whether you’re a fan of the classic Captain Marvel, know Billy Batson as Shazam, or are a total newbie when it comes to the magically empowered superheroes of the DC Comics universe, this first issue of the new Shazam series will get you up to speed. It’s a darn fine book and family friendly to boot, though younger kids may need help with some of the bigger words. Still, whatever your age, this is one magical read!

10/10

Shazam #1 releases on December 5, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1

DC Nuclear Winter Special #1 Cover

An anthology collecting stories involving the end of the world and the holidays may well be the strangest concept for a comic book I’ve seen in my many years of reading illustrated fiction. Yet the idea has an odd merit, as one could draw parallels between the mindless hordes of consumers and the desperate masses warring over resources in the face of nuclear Armageddon, as we ponder what is truly important in life.

Given that, it’s surprising none of the tales in DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 involve Black Friday shopping. In fact, some of them don’t involve the holiday season and some of them don’t really involve the Apocalypse so much as they involve alternate futures and potential endings of different characters’ stories! And while I may be a bit of a Grinch for pointing this out, despite their appearance on the cover neither Harley Quinn nor Wonder Woman have stories in this special book. Thankfully, all arguments over the subject matter aside, DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 is no lump of coal.

Mark Russell (The Snagglepuss Chronicles) and Mike Norton (Battlepug) handle the frame story for the issue, in which Rip Hunter: Time Master finds himself cornered by cannibal tech geeks in the ruins of Silicon Valley while recharging his time machine. To stall for time, Hunter entertains the cannibals with stories of the many superheroes he’s worked with in his journeys across time and how they survived various end-of-the-world disasters and how those tied into the holiday season. Because it just so happens to be Christmas Day.

As with most anthologies, your enjoyment of DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 may ultimately come down to how much you like the characters, artists and writers involved. For instance, if you don’t care much for Kamandi, you probably won’t get much enjoyment out of Phil Hester’s story centering around The Last Boy on Earth and how the stories of Hanukkah and Christmas are remembered and honored by the intelligent animals ruling the Earth following The Great Disaster. It’s a darn good story with great art and a worthy tribute to Jack Kirby but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

It is worth mentioning that Aquaman fans will want to check this issue out, as it features a story that it says will be continued, despite being set in a dark apocalyptic world. Fans of the Injustice series will also want to pick this book up for Tom Taylor’s Supergirl story, which could be seen as an unofficial conclusion to the Earth of that reality. There’s also stories involving Batman 666 (the future version of Damian Wayne who sold his soul to the devil) and the future of DC One Million, though that particular story may be confusing to those who haven’t read the original event.

Despite this, most of the stories here can be enjoyed by anyone. Chief among these is “Last Christmas” – a Firestorm story written by Paul Dini with art by Jerry Ordway. Seemingly set in a darker version of the reality of the Justice League Action cartoon, the story pits Ronnie Raymond and Professor Stein against The Nuclear Family in a surprisingly touching story of togetherness and putting aside differences in the name of peace on Earth and goodwill towards all men. And robots.

Personally, my favorite story in the bunch is the last – “The Birds of Christmas Past, Present And Future” – and I can think of no reason for this other than it is a Green Arrow story. And not just any Green Arrow but a story involving an old-school, aging-hippie, George Carlin-with-a-bow, Old Man Ollie, who – in this reality – quit the Justice League, broke up with Black Canary and spent most of the last five decades trying to save society while the Justice League degenerated into a bunch of spoiled kids. I won’t say more beyond that, save three things – I want writer Dave Wirlgosz on the monthly Green Arrow book, the artwork by Flash artist Scott Kolins is perfect and you should have Dan Fogelberg’s Same Old Lang Syne on in the background as you read it.

So is DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 something you want stuffed in your stocking? On the whole, I’d say yes. Despite not all of its stories fitting its theme, there’s not a dud in the lot. At worst, some of the stories are inaccessible, being based on other books you might not have read. Still, there is far more good than bad here, making this book a wonderful holiday treat.

7/10

DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 releases on November 28, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

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Comic Review – Injustice 2 Annual #2

Injustice 2 Annual #2 Cover

Normally I try and review the first issues of new series or the starts of runs by new creative teams on long-running series. This is for the good and simple reason that, typically, that’s when people need a critic’s advice.

I’m making an exception this week for Injustice 2 Annual #2 for two reasons. The first is that the core of this book is an incredibly good Superman/Batman team-up story that stands on its own. The second is that this is said to be the final comic set in the world of Injustice and I felt the need to talk a bit about this little comic that could.

A quick bit of background for those who aren’t video game fans. Injustice was a fighting game utilizing various DC Comics characters, created by the same team responsible for Mortal Kombat. The series was set in a timeline divergent from the core DC Comics reality, where The Joker put his belief that “one bad day” could push anyone over the edge to the test on Superman. The end result was a dead Lois Lane, a Metropolis burned in nuclear fire and a Joker who laughed his last laugh as Superman punched through his chest. The action of the game opens five years later as the Batman of this world, one of the last free heroes left, summons the Justice League of another reality to help him retake his Earth from the army Superman formed to force peace upon the world.

Nobody expected much of the Injustice comic that was created as a link to the games. There’s a long history of terrible superhero video games and equally terrible tie-in comics. I myself ignored the title until an associate, who knew of my love of Green Arrow, said I had to check out Issue #5 of the digital edition. It was there that I read a silly little story that involved Green Arrow hunting down Harley Quinn and I instantly fell in love.

Injustice Green Arrow and Harley Quinn

It is worth mentioning that Injustice: Gods Among Us first came out at the height of The New 52 revamp, when DC Comics was busily trying to remake Harley Quinn into their version of Deadpool and Green Arrow into their version of Tony Stark. The book’s presentation of the classic Harley Quinn and Oliver Queen attracted many fans who were turned off by DC’s latest reboot and it is hard to say how much seeing the classic versions of the characters at a time when they were sorely missed may have boosted the titles’ sales in addition to its clever writing, which was both touching and hilarious in equal measure.

Writer Tom Taylor spun a five year saga plausibly detailing how a grief-stricken Superman might slowly transform himself into a tyrant in a bid to stop anyone from suffering as he had. He also explored many questions the video game didn’t cover, such as why Earth’s magicians or The Green Lanterns didn’t step in to try and stop Superman before he went over the edge. (The short answer is that they did and things did not end well for anyone.) Yet in the middle of all this, Taylor wrote flashback stories that showed a great understanding of Superman’s character and many critics called Taylor’s “For The Man Who Lost Everything” the best Superman story of the past decade.

Injustice Superman Helps A Kid Fix His Bike

The story of Injustice 2 Annual #2 is a similarly retro story, showing Superman and Batman in happier times. After Bruce Wayne is nearly assassinated on behalf of a nationalist Intergang cell unhappy with Wayne’s sponsorship of a refugee assistance program, Clark offers his teammate a place to rest and recover while he and the rest of Bruce’s friends and family hunt down those responsible. It’s not much of a plot, but it does afford Taylor the chance to tell the sort of story he excels at, playing off of the reader’s expectations as he uses his knowledge of these beloved characters to bounce themselves off of one another in unexpected ways.

To say more than that would spoil the game, so I’ll simply say that Bruno Redondo, Rex Lokus and Wed Abbott – Taylor’s artistic partners for the better portion of the runs of both Injustice comics – do a fantastic job on this issue, making it a worthy capstone for the series to date. If you want a good, old-fashioned World’s Finest team-up with solid writing and artwork, give this book a try. Then go back and see what you’ve been missing with the earlier Injustice comics. Even if you don’t care much for video games, they are well worth your time as one of the most interesting and well-developed Elseworlds in comics’ history.

9/10

Injustice 2 Annual #2 releases on November 21, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

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Comic Review – Uncanny X-Men #1

Uncanny X-Men #1 Cover

X-Men comics are a daunting thing to comic book newcomers. The franchise has one of the most extensive mythologies in history. There have been as many as a dozen X-Men books being published at any one time every month. And there are literally hundreds of characters, heroes and villains, making up the continuing saga of people born with genetic mutations, who use their powers to protect a world that hates and fears them.

Where do you start in all of that? It’s a fair question and everyone has their own opinions on the subject. The obvious answer is “at the beginning” but the classic Stan Lee and Jack Kirby X-Men is a totally different beast than what came after Chris Claremont and John Byrne revived the series in the 1970s. And even their stories are totally different than the more recent Morrison/Quietly or Whedon/Cassady runs often held up as the “Best X-Men Ever!

(You just read that in the Comic Book Guy’s voice, didn’t you?)

Unfortunately, for all that Uncanny X-Men #1 does right in trying to present a good-old-fashioned X-Men story, it also falls into the same traps that have plagued the series for most of the last two decades. If you are a newcomer and don’t already know who all of the characters are, you’ll quickly become lost trying to keep track of all the players. If you’re already an X-Fan and –do- know who all the characters are, much of what you see in this issue will be old hat.

Case In Point: The credits page for this issue explains the basic idea of the X-Men and how there is one team of superheroes led by Jean Grey and a school for young mutants run by Kitty Pryde. There is a roster of character names and pictures, but this won’t help much as there are characters in the story not listed on the roster. Indeed, the very first page of the main story introduces Jamie Madrox (aka Multiple Man) and shows multiple copies of him running around trying to avert some disaster. The fact that Madrox has had access to a time machine since the Multiple Men mini-series last year is not explained.

Herein lies the biggest problem with Uncanny X-Men #1 – it assumes too much of the reader and doesn’t allow for the possibility of a newcomer seeking entry into its world. This is something of a problem for a #1 issue!

Ignoring that, there’s way too much going on in this issue, with three separate plot-lines and 20 characters. And that’s just in the main part of the book! There’s also three back-up stories, which eventually meet and turn into a large single story. All of these stories are full of action, but there’s little chance to get to know any of the characters as being more than powers and a codename. Heck, some of the characters don’t even get that much and spend the story standing in the background!

Established X-Fans will fare slightly better, but may not find anything new here. The ideas of a vaccine to cure mutation and an anti-Mutant Senator turning the populace against mutants have been done before in the comics and the movies. Heck, even the characters themselves seem to be snarking on how “been there, done that” the story of this issue is.

Uncanny X-Men #1 - Speech

The artwork is competently executed throughout. Unfortunately, like the stories, there’s little that is truly fantastic that stands out or grabs the eye. The one exception to this is the Jean Grey story written by Kelly Thompson and drawn by Ibraim Roberson. Brief though it is, Thompson manages to convey everything you need to know about who Jean is as a person in one monologue and Roberson draws the most gorgeous Jean Grey I’ve ever seen, while fitting an amazing amount of detail into every panel without losing any sense of clarity.

Uncanny X-Men #1 Jean Grey

In the end, X-Men fans will find Uncanny X-Men #1 to be more of what they like. Newcomers looking for an entry point into the world of Marvel’s Mutants would do better to check out X-Men: Red, which I think may well be the most friendly X-Men comic in years, as well as one of the best. And bonus – the first TP just came out last month.

6/10

Uncanny X-Men #1 releases on November 14, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.