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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.

Comic Review: Martian Manhunter #1

MARTIAN MANHUNTER #1
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
WRITER:
Steve Orlando
ARTIST:
Riley Rossmo
COLORIST:
Ivan Plascencia
COVER PRICE: $3.99

J’onn J’onzz aka The Martian Manhunter is a superhero’s superhero. Since arriving on Earth in Detective Comics #225 (1955), this red planet native has helped save his adoptive blue rock time and again, earning him a place on the Justice League as well as the respect of champions from around the globe.

The newest maxi-series from DC Comics is bringing one of the greatest unsung heroes of their Multiverse to life: The Martian Manhunter! This first of 12 issues gives us a horrific look at the detective’s life on Mars through a series of flashbacks as he investigates a homicide scene in Colorado with his human partner, Diane. The memories seem to connect with his current investigation, however, and the parallels trigger something similar to a PTSD event with a detrimental outcome. Something has him rattled – the presence of “fright foam” on the Earth.

The publisher has done a terrific job of forcing their readers to question what they thought they knew about the straight-laced Martian Manhunter up until this point. Insinuations that J’onzz may be a corrupt cop on the take push against the grain of our psyche in a way that any telepath would pick up on from a block away. Depictions of J’onn dealing with the seedy underbelly of the Sehne’mhoo’t slums will further congeal the crooked visage of our hero. We find an egocentric Manhunter shaking down drug peddlers, doling out beatings to the insolent with no apparent restraint. Implications of prostitution, betting on illegal fights, money laundering… the narrative does not leave much of a good name to besmirch.

The intimate look into martian home life shows us that families mean the same thing on Mars as they do Earth. J’onn tries to leave the darkness of his career outside the walls of his home, but when you hail from a telepathic species your wife knows when you’ve blocked her out of a section of your mind.

The mastery of Rossmo’s artistry becomes apparent in this book. Not just in the subtle dichotomy of the subdued tones and vibrant colors, but his ability to bring entirely alien concepts to life. The jaw-dropping, face-squinching scene of J’onn making love to his wife M’yri’ah in the kitchen is straight out of a horror film. And it’s freakin’ awesome!

Make no mistake, the book finishes asking more questions than it answers, but the questions are far more exciting than the answers you received. Orlando’s creativity is expertly executed by the pacing of the story. He doesn’t let you wade too far into the waters of uncertainty, throwing you just enough line to get you back to the next “what the heck” moment. If the first issue is any indication, this series is going to build up to some amazing stuff.

SCORE: 10/10


Just because Harvey owns The Multiverse doesn’t mean he knows what he’s talking about. Most of his good ideas end up as silly songs he sings for his kids once before being lost forever. Whatever’s left, well, ends up here.

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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 – Dead Man Logan #1

DEAD MAN LOGAN #1
PUBLISHER: Marvel Comics
WRITER: Ed Brisson
ARTIST: Mike Henderson
COLORIST: Nolan Woodard
COVER PRICE: $4.99

Old Man Logan is DEAD…again, sort of…but not really. Ever since the Old Man Logan character was introduced as a self-contained story arc written by Mark Millar and with art by  Steve McNiven, the character very became popular with fans and gained an ongoing series within the Marvel Universe after 2015’s Secret Wars, where he found himself in a new world. But now it seems as though the Old Man Logan series may be coming to an end, but it seems as though the elder Wolverine’s story is not finished as he has returned to his own timeline.

“Transported to the present from an alternate timeline where villains triumphed and the world devolved into lawless wastelands, Logan used his second chance at life to rejoin the X-Men and avert catastrophes like the ones that befell his world. However, his advanced age has caught up with him and his famed healing factor is severely reduced, leaving him slowly dying of adamantium poisoning…”

If all of this sounds familiar, it should because much of the premise was used in the 2017 movie Logan directed by James Mangold, which became a record-breaking release that surpassed all other X-Men movies (except Deadpool). Which saw an aged Logan/Wolverine in a very bleak near future, where his healing factor has weakened and he cares for a mentally ill Charles Xavier, while also defending a young mutant named Laura, who just so happens to be (SPOILER ALERT!) his cloned daughter, also known as X-23 or the All-New Wolverine in the comics.

In the beginning of this 12-issue limited series entitled “Sins of the Father” we are shocked to see Logan face down in the snow in Canada and very near death after a violent battle with the future version of the Hulk, Maestro and found by fellow/former X-Men, including Forge, Cecilia and Glob, who take him back to the X-mansion. There he recovers and learns that he has been unconscious for 11 days and explains to him that his system has overloaded and his healing factor can’t keep up. Therefore, he has only 12 months left to live. Despite the warning Wolverine heads out to find Mysterio and get revenge for tricking him into murdering the X-Men in the other universe.

This year has certainly been a busy one for Wolverine, after dying in the “Death of Wolverine” in 2014 and “Hunt for Wolverine” this summer, Wolverine has now returned from the dead, but there is also this alternate timeline version of him. For those who haven’t been keeping up (and I’ve really tried!) this series follows the Old Man Logan series which takes place in Earth-807128 while the main timeline is the Earth-616 universe (I think?). While Mysterio (who is usually a Spider-Man) villain had made Wolverine think that he was protecting the X-Men when he made it seem like the mansion was being attacked, Logan’s rationale is that if Mysterio could use his illusions to do that in the other timeline, then he could also do it in the current timeline.

While Marvel has certainly had their share of alternate universe troubles, but since there are two “main” ones in the comics Earth-616 and Earth-1610 that include the bulk of the Marvel story lines. There is also Earth-199999, which is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Written by Canadian (appropriate) comic writer Ed Brisson (Old Man Logan, Cable and Iron Fist) and with art by Mike Henderson (Daredevil), for X-Men and Wolverine fans alike, Dead Man Logan is going to be an interesting story as the two universes come together in what will no doubt turn out to be an adamantium slaughterfest! SNIKT!!!

 


Dave “Chernobog” Whiteman is a life-long comic book collector, metalhead, part-timer writer, Funatic and a die-hard Star Wars fan!

Titans Episode Review S01: E08

After watching Episode 8 of Titans — titled “Donna Troy” — I can only ask myself one question. Where has this quality been all season? Why have we been flip-flopping between “plot episodes” and “character episodes” when, as made clear by this week’s episode, an effective combination of the two could be so easily accomplished?

After some much needed recouping from the hell that was the Asylum, the team has to move on from squatting in Batman’s safehouse. Dick is feeling a little lost at this point, so he decides to head off on his own for a little while, with the rest of the group migrating to a house that may or may not belong to Rachel’s birth-mother. From there, the story is divided between two paths — one in which Dick pals around with Donna Troy and one in which everyone else is stuck on a train for the majority of the episode.

Character-building is the best it has been all season with everyone getting something concrete and interesting added to their identities. Even though Gar gets the short-stick again, the subtle nuance in his body-language and mood is a prime example of the old adage, “Show don’t tell.” It’s executed so effortlessly that, again, it’s a shame it’s so underutilized. Rachel’s development is a tad stagnant, but it’s exploring what seems like an earnest relationship between her and her birth-mother. This will most likely end badly for Rachel, but the show is investing time into that relationship to make that eventual turn much more effective — you know, how you should generally build character dynamics.

Conor Leslie as Donna Troy is great, and her friendship/ confidante-role with Dick is something new for the brooding hero. The main issue with Dick’s character so far is that it’s pretty one-note; beyond being angry or sad, we haven’t seen Dick really be a person. Donna helps show how much of a character Dick can actually be. He’s inquisitive, he’s vulnerable, and — gasp — funny. There’s a throw-away gag about a well-known Batman villain that not only had me chuckling but also further illustrated Dick’s inability to just live life. He’s constantly in “vigilante-mode” due to Bruce’s own obsession, and this kind of multipurpose story-telling is littered throughout the episode. It’s simply a breath of fresh air.

This leads into Kory’s portion of the episode, and on it’s own, it’s a fine internal character struggle. I derided her treatment in the last episode as serving no purpose, and I’ll be the first to admit that some patience would have benefited my viewing (though the show has mustered very little goodwill in that department). We do see that Kory has by no means escaped her torture unscathed, with the experiments sort of unlocking PTSD-laden memories from her past. Kory struggles with these new, painful memories that exacerbate her worst tendencies — paranoia and violence — and that makes sense. It’s when her seemingly unrelated  narrative coalesces with Dick’s that everything really clicks. It’s bit of a deus ex machina, but it ultimately serves the a purpose and is, frankly, fun.

Episode 8 is, so far, the best Titans episode to date. It expertly weaves plots, character motivations, and relationships that would normally all be relegated to separate episodes. It’s exactly what a show about a team should be — all of our heroes being connected even when they’re apart. It’s a little late in the game to say this will be the turn-around for the show as a whole, but it’s a shining example of what Season 2 can aspire to be.

9/10

Titans is released every Friday only on DCUniverse!