Well, file this under “we knew you when!” The Beat’s former New Media Editor/Managing Editor Alexander Lu has just announced his first graphic novel! Goodbye to All of You will be drawn by Tara Kurtzhals with colors by Maarta Laiho and it’s coming from Abrams in 2022.
This middle grade graphic novel follows two Chinese American siblings who feel untethered by the death of their mother. The night of her funeral, they wake up in a place that looks like Chinatown but is actually a space between Earth and the afterlife, populated by animal spirits. Terrance and Delilah must adapt to a new world while learning to make peace with their mother’s passing—and with each other.
The deal was repped by Inkwell Management’s Charlie Olsen and Jessica Mileo.
This sounds totally awesome and we couldn’t be happier for Alex!
Since leaving the Beat last year, Alex has been very busy working on this and also editing graphic novels for First Second — including the multiple award winning Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang. In fact it’s definitely Alex Lu Week since you can also listen to him talk editing on the podcast Portrait of an Editor!
Feeling a little teary here — Alex was such a huge support for me and the rest of the team as an editor, contributor and friend during his time at the Beat — we’ve shared so many ideas, convention adventures, and spicy Chinese soups. I knew immediately on meeting him that he was a comics lifer, and seeing his career take off is no surprise — his talent and dedication guaranteed that.
I’ve said this many times in interviews and podcasts and panels, but seeing talented people forge their creative journey, and being a part of it, no matter how large or small, is the best thing about being in comics for me, and the main reason I keep doing this.
Congrats, Alex, Tara, and Maarta! I’m sure there will be much more to come from them all.
Tomorrow it’s Comic Arts Brooklyn from 11-7 at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and as is Beat tradition, we are here to presentn the 2019 CAB Debuts! These are by no means the only new books debuting at the show, but it’s a parade of fresh faces, fresh books and fresh looks, and perhaps something here will tickly your comics reading fancy.
An absurdist, art brut rumination on society’s structures presented in Patrick Kyle’s singular style.
After the sudden death of a beloved patriarch who promised eternal life to his followers, a topsy-turvy society attempts to reconcile the deluded teachings of their late leader with the harsh reality he left behind.
Hands Up, Herbie! follows the author’s father, Herb Perr, from a mob-linked Jewish family in Brighton Beach of the 40s and 50s, through the studios of Helen Frankenthaler and Mark Rothko, Reagan-era art activism, and a reckoning with the responsibilities of raising a family.
This book is the product of Kriota’s artists residency at the New York Academy of Medicine Library, and it includes a graphic memoir and her images of embroidery based on historical medical illustrations.
16 year-old Justin wants to forget a humiliating robbery while his father is hell-bent on getting even, so they embark on an ill-conceived, all-night manhunt that exposes glaring differences in their attitudes toward conflict, violence, and masculinity.
VENOMYTHS 00 is an arts and culture mag from the underground intergalactic resistance at least three hundred years in the future. When every thought and even biological minutia are regulated via a vast digital network, a printed book is an act of rebellion in and of itself.
In five short stories Anna Haifisch blurs the boundaries between humans and animals in a subtle way: carnivores and herbivores meet at a nerve-wracking congress, we get to know a merciless, art-collecting lizard, meet dancing ostriches and a melancholy meditating octopus.
In the second installment of this quirky, heartfelt LGBTQ adventure comic, war is brewing across the thirteen planes, and as always, haunted house attraction (and portal to hell) Dead End is right at the center of it.
Boutique Mag #4 is a community newsletter written for these, our end-of-empire times. Steeped in a half-hearted nihilism, and geared towards a community that may or may not even exist, this mag is packed full of plenty for it’s hypothetical audience to pour over!
A book edition with work by over twenty artists from across the world. The theme centers around ambiguity in spiritual encounters, religious icons or worship imagery.
Ron Rege Jr.
Juli Majer & Cristian Hernandez
Enormous Face/Kalan Sherrard
Joel Skavdahl/Seagull Invasion
Hayley Dawn Miur
Another Saturday has arrived, and that can only mean one thing: The Beat team is locked inside, reading. Hey, why would Weekend Reading 50 be any different than the last forty-nine?
As usual, we’d love to hear what you’re paging through this weekend, as well! Please let us know, either on social media @comicsbeat or here in the comment section!
AVERY KAPLAN: This weekend, I’m going to be checking out The League of Super Feminists by Mirion Malle, translated by Aleshia Jensen. Then, as far as prose goes, I’ll be checking out Blood Sugar by Daniel Kraus from Hard Case Crime. These books always have arresting covers, and Blood Sugar’s witchy pin-up painting by Paul Mann is no exception. I need a little Halloween in March!
TAIMUR DAR: Much like Captain America in Winter Soldier, I have a list of movies, tv, and books I’m only now getting through in the past year. With the WandaVision finale, seems like a good time to finally check off the Vision series from writer Tom King from my last.
DEAN SIMONS: Been dipping my toes back into reading Star Wars tie-in novels for the first time since i was a teen after the season finale of The Mandalorian. Read Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn and found it very deftly handled so started the second in the trilogy where he pairs up with Lord Vader in Alliances. It isn’t as good but I hope to finish it off this weekend so i can move on to something else (likely short stories from Clarkesworld or Nightmare magazines).
Also got into the interesting in-depth explorations/biographies/histories of classic videogames from Boss Fight Books. Final Fantasy V was well written and so I picked up the book of a game I tried but never managed to finish – Resident Evil.
GREGORY PAUL SILBER: for my latest Silber Linings, I mentioned that my sister doesn’t regularly read comics despite giving me three weird ones for my birthday. Well, she happened to tell me this week that she started reading Nimona by She-Ra and the Princesses of Power creator Noelle Stevenson, so I figured now’s the time for me to finally finish reading it. I read quite a bit of Nimona years ago, back when it was still a webcomic, but I prefer print too much to be able to keep up with webcomics for very long. Reading the graphic novel edition now, it’s just as funny, irreverent, and sneakily sweet as I remember.
BILLY HENEHAN: I have been waiting for this week since April of last year, when IDW first announcedJim Lee’s X-Men Artist Edition. Since then, I have followed along to editor Scott Dunbier’s Facebook updates, as he crisscrossed the country, tracking down and scanning new pages for the volume. When IDW announced a limited edition, signed and numbered variant, signed by both Jim Lee and Scott Williams, I knew I’d be buying it, if only to save my back from aching while carting the regular edition around NYCC looking for their signatures. The joke is on me though, as I’ll be carrying this hefty tome to at least one convention when they return to get X-Men writer Chris Claremont’s name in here too. I received #93 of the 175 signed and numbered copies. I wish it was #91, just because that’s the year Claremont, Lee and Williams’s X-Men #1 debuted, but I’m happy settling for the WildC.A.T.S #1 year as my number. I’ll be poring over this Artist’s Edition all weekend (and all week too). Thank you, Scott Dunbier and IDW for making this book happen!
Set in the time after the Raleigh Beckett and Mako Moris of the world, Pacific Rim: The Black tells a bleaker tale about a world overrun by Kaiju. The Black starts off with an evacuation of the continent of Australia, as two jaeger pilots Ford (Jason Speak) and Brina Travis (Allie MacDonald) board their jaeger Hunter Vertigo to get to Sydney, leaving their two children, Taylor (Calum Worthy) and Hayley (Gideon Adlon) behind, promising their return. But, of course, time passes and soon five years have gone by and it’s still radio silence.
The best thing about The Black is that we get to jump back into the world of Pacific Rim. Created by Travis Beacham and Guillermo del Toro in 2013, Pacific Rim has a dedicated fan base and did well both critically and among audiences. It’s popularity spawned a less successful Pacific Rim: Uprising sequel (there’s not enough time to talk about the problems there) but the love for the universe still endures. The strength in The Black comes from diving into the lore of the universe. The drifting, the jaeger piloting, the callbacks to film characters, it give us more of what we want and what we crave.
The Travis siblings’ jaeger, Atlas Destroyer, is an antique, a far cry from the deadly mechs of the early days of the war. Atlas is a test jaeger and has been stripped for parts. I has no weapons, meaning it can only engage in physical combat. This mean battles are up close and personal, and although jaegers are strong, they are no match for the ever evolving, increasingly powerful kaiju. Determined to find their parents, the siblings take Atlas toward Sydney and in a desperate attempt to find their parents. Along the way, they meet a couple curious figures.
The first is The Boy (Ben Diskin) a curious test subject they find in a tank at the PPDC center in town. He spends the series mostly silent, but develops a close bond with the siblings, specifically Hayley. Small hints here and there eventually lead to the major reveal of his identity. The problem with The Boy is that his plot is the most interesting, but we only get a bit of it near the end of the season. It’s definitely the most intriguing and bizarre plot but it’s that one that feels very in-universe.
Instead, most of season one, focuses on Mei (Victoria Grace) and Shane (Andy McPhee), and it’s made weaker for it. In a poor man’s Mad Max situation, we meet Shane, a mean, violent, and unrelenting leader of a posse of survivors. He’s the mustache twirling villain. Nothing likable about him and nothing dimensional either. He’s the kind of guy who threatens everyone with a bullet — even in the case where shooting said person would doom himself and the rest of his men. It makes no sense why this guy is at the top, but we have to tolerate him after he comes into contact with the siblings and realizes they have a jaeger. There’s an interesting concept with how Shane conducts interrogations, but mostly with Shane it’s a pissing match, and it’s exhausting.
Even more exhausting is Mei. Set up as the broody, angsty cold-hearted foot soldier of Shane, there are moments when Mei shows a lot of potential. But again, because none of Shane’s threats make sense to me since he seems to be the weakest link, the people cowering beneath him make less sense. Mei spends a majority of the time complaining, throwing a gun in a person’s face even though we know she won’t shoot them, pushing people away, and acting emotionally stunted. Yes, there is a lot of emotional baggage to explore here, and once we’re away from Shane, I feel hopeful for Mei. But, for the most part, she’s underdeveloped.
That’s one of the key problems of The Black. It’s far too short. There’s not enough time spent with anyone. Even after seven 20ish minute episodes, I feel like I don’t really know the main characters beyond their basic motivation. But, that’s not to say that The Black is hopeless. The series is a magnificent set up, but that’s all it is. It’s setting the board and preparing us for a better second season (or at least, I can hope). Showrunners Greg Johnson and Craig Kyle do a good job of showing the world after the big heroes are gone and it is enticing. I can only hope that its second season will prove more fruitful now that everything is set up.
Stop what you’re doing and get ready for some outstanding Rick and Morty prizes! Today, Saturday, March 6th, 2021 at 10:00 A.M. Pacific Time, you can take part in a giveaway that could land you an Ultra-Signed™ copy of Rick and Morty Presents: Jerryboree! #1, a crew-exclusive Rick and Morty skate deck signed by some of the crew, a zoom call with some of the Rick and Morty writers, or other fun surprises!
Best of all: the money raised by the fundraiser will go towards supporting Trans Lifeline. If you’d like to participate, entries cost $4 each and the event begins at 10:00 A.M. Pacific (click through this link for the donation website), and winning entries will be selected by raffle.
Grace Freud, writer on both the upcoming season of the Rick and Morty television series and on the Rick and Morty Presents: Jerryboree! one-shot from Oni Press, hosts the giveaway.
One of the possible prizes in the giveaway is a copy of Rick and Morty Presents: Jerryboree! #1 Ultra-Signed™ by Freud (this means that her signature is an acrostic poem, and also includes an illustration of her late father’s ex claiming, “I did not kill your dad” – as you can see, these are top-tier prizes we’re talking about here).
If you haven’t had a chance to pick up this issue from your local comic shop yet, it is also by Gina Allnatt, Leonardo Ito, and lettered by Crank!, and it includes one of the funniest Scarlet Witch references in this or any other dimension. And if you’re a fan of either the Jerryboree! or Blips ‘N Chitz gags from the animated series, you’ll defintiely want to secure a copy (whether Ultra-Signed™ or not).
It’s official, Raya and the Last Dragon is out! Get it fired up on your devices, people! The Beat attended the press conference for the film, where cast and creators talked about the creation of the story. From working from home during the pandemic to the character and world-building, to recent events in our world today, there was a lot to learn.
As a film made from over 400 homes, created during the pandemic, Raya and the Last Dragon faced a lot of new challenges in its conception. For the actors, this meant recording had to be done on their own and pieced together after the audio is all received. For some, like Benedict Wong, who was in Western Australia at the time, this meant going to a studio and recording his parts. But for others, like Daniel Dae Kim, this process had its ups and its downs. Living in Hawaii, Kim lamented that shooting often requires five to eleven hours of travel, and being able to record from home was pretty great. However, he recounts one day where a tech issue lead to a disaster. “Okay, so I recorded for an hour,” Kim explained, “We did some great stuff. And at the end of the hour, we were supposed to upload our packets to Team Disney. And as I was uploading my packet, I realized that I had recorded none of that past hour. So this is what happens when you leave the recording and the technical stuff to the actors. So, we lost that hour, but I learned my lesson. And, it was kind of hassle-free the rest of the way.”
Much of the magic of Raya also lies in the character interactions, and a lot of the praise for the film should also go to the story and editing teams, as Kelly Marie Tran noted. Having recorded her scenes in isolation, experiencing the final product was different than shooting a live-action film. “To have seen the movie now totally finished and to see all the chemistry that these incredible characters have, I think that says a lot about the expertise of Disney animation and the incredible talent working behind this movie,” she praised.
And all that expertise is definitely on display in Raya. Awkwafina remarked that after seeing the first clip at D-23, she was nearly fooled by the realistic nature of the animation. “We would come in. We’d do the job. One Croc on, and that’s what we’re doing,” she joked. “But then you realize, all that really goes into this, and we’re recording kind of simultaneously as it’s being animated. So when I first saw the human version of Sisu, I was like, ‘Okay, all right, that’s me.’ […] That looks like me. And so, those nuances are very, very trippy and very, very mind-blowing.”
The characters of Raya and the Last Dragon really jump out at you. And for many of the actors, playing these characters meant developing a connection to them. When talking about his character Chief Benja, Kim said, “He’s someone that I aspire to be. It’s nice when you can really take a lot of pride in the person that you’re playing.” On the flip side, for Sandra Oh and Gemma Chan, who had to play a slightly more antagonist role, this mean seeing the complexity in their characters. Oh explained, “There’s no black and white in these characters, which I greatly appreciated. […] I was extremely moved by the message of this film because I feel myself struggling to learn how to trust as well.” She added that she appreciated the nuance when it came to their characters and the story telling.
Agreeing with Oh, Chan noted, “[O]ne of the things that really drew me to this story and resonated with me is the fact that Namaari is the antagonist, but she’s not a cutout villain. It’s not black and white. I just-I find that really interesting. She and Raya are also kind of two sides of the same coin. You could imagine them having each other’s upbringings and easily taking each other’s place.” This type of character complexity is something that we as viewers strive for in a story. It’s what makes a story layered and it was fantastic to see that portrayed in both of these characters.
Kelly Marie Tran, whose character is often at odds with Chan’s Namaari, also emphasized her love for the two characters and their growth throughout the film. “When I really think about my life when things like that have happened to me, I think about just how difficult it is to get out of your own biases when you’re looking at someone who you see as an enemy and then just how incredibly, by the end of the story, Raya and Namaari are then suddenly willing to step outside of themselves. They risk everything for this idea of community, this idea of what their relationship could have been this entire time. It’s really, really inspiring. It’s something that I want to do in my own life. But their relationship in this movie is probably one of my favorites, just because of how complicated it is.”
With Sisu, the titular dragon of the film, we get our introduction into the Eastern dragon, who we see in her character design. Drogon, this is not. Eastern dragons, or Nagas as they’re sometimes referred to as, are water deities and symbols of auspiciousness. Like Sisu says in the film, dragons give life and are like water while the Druun represent death and fire. Writer Adele Lim talked about the symbology of the film when it came to Sisu. “Raya thinks she’s going to bring forth this water dragon who’s going to snap her fingers and just solve all the problems in the world. Instead, what she finds is this zany, crazy creature voiced by Awkwafina, and she’s vulnerable and needs to be protected. And also, she’s quirky and always sees the good in people,” Lim said.
At the heart of this story is Raya’s friendship with Sisu, and Sisu brings out the best in Raya. As Lim explained, “[Sisu’s] humor comes from a place of seeing the best in people, the best in Raya, the best in the people that Raya thought were her enemies, in all these people who you think have let you down and betrayed you. The dragon is the one who can see that spark and that potential. And it inspires everybody to sort of come together and really get past it.” Producer Osnat Shurer also clarified that the decision to make Sisu female was a decision made early on, one that was embraced, especially when Awkwafina was casted.
The worldbuilding and creation of Kumandra is based on multiple different South East Asian cultures and it shows. Although some have criticized this as a melting pot of cultures, there is still something to be said about seeing things in a Disney film that have never been seen before. With both Adele Lim and Qui Nguyen as writers, it was important to them that the multi-faceted nature of South East Asia be represented. As Lim explained, “If you look at even one country, like the country I grew up in, Malaysia, there are so many races, cultures, religions. So many ways for us to view each other as the enemy or view each other as the other. But when you truly look at what makes our culture amazing and sings, whether it’s our arts or our food (the best street food in the world) it is because of all these different elements really coming together and creating something transcendent.”
Izaac Wang marveled, “It’s amazing to see all the things that are included in this movie, including the food and some of the weapons that you see, for example the Kali sticks that I saw, which really stood out to me. And there’s a bunch of other different things that I can’t even name because I don’t even know the name of them because I’ve been centered around a couple cultures my whole life, and just to see all these different cultures is really amazing to me.”
For Nguyen, he related the story more to one of mythic proportions. “It is a fantasy, and I always equate it to like the Arthurian legend or Dungeons and Dragons. These Western fantasies based on like a mishmash of Western cultures,” he said. “This is our chance to kind of create our Excalibur and our Arthurian legend. And so it was something to celebrate a culture that Adele and I grew up in and to make legendary heroes that our kids can aspire to.”
There’s no denying the impact of Raya on a cultural level. The first Disney animated film since 1998’s Mulan to feature a story about an Asian character is bound to leave a lasting impression on a new generation of people. And in this cast, which includes younger actors like Izaac Wang and Thalia Tran alongside seasoned Hollywood leads like Sandra Oh or Benedict Wong, it’s inspiring to see. For Oh, who grew up in the 70s and 80s, the landscape has changed drastically. “I’m actually just glad that I’m still alive to be a part of this type of screen where you see the people who have made it. So in that way, it’s very exciting. I mean, Izaac and Thalia, it’s just so great to see you and to hear what you have to say. Mostly, that’s really what it is, and to give them an opportunity to have their voices heard. Because, especially for the much younger generation, to have a space for them to be heard. It’s an exhilarating change for someone like myself to be a part of and to witness.”
And in this time where Asians and Asian Americans are facing racist and targeted attacks, perhaps Raya can offer something of a takeaway for audiences currently struggling. Oh commented, “The theme of the story, which is we cannot go on as a society, the world cannot continue, without this openheartedness. The truth Raya learns and also Namaari learns, is that you have to be willing to have your heart broken again and again and again just to keep it open. Because I think that we know hate is not finished by hate. It is only won over by love.” On that same note, Kelly Marie commented, “Acknowledging that there’s a lot of pain that happens there and recognizing that the only way to really get through it is to look for the bits of hope in your community.”
Nguyen also added, “It’s hard not to appreciate that this movie’s coming out and-and kind of giving a counterpoint and just telling a positive story that just celebrates Asian American skin and Asian American lives, and Asian American people. Because with any group that’s underrepresented, when you only see stories where you’re seen as the bad guy or a thug or what have you, it starts to paint a very negative picture of you for those who don’t ever get to know you, who never get to be in the room with you. And so, I think step one is representation and really being out there, both behind and in front of the camera, with the stories we tell and then just being out there, so we can acknowledge that this world is all of us, not just any one of us.”
Based on the sci-fi trilogy by Patrick Ness, Chaos Walking tells the story of a girl named Viola (Daisy Ridley) who has crash-landed on a planet currently being colonized and settled by humans. There, she comes into contact with “the Noise,” an atmospheric natural force on the planet that puts all men’s thoughts on display. She meets a boy named Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) who comes from a village where all the women have been killed by the native species. The two encounter dangerous obstacles as they embark on a journey in order for Viola to contact her people and warn them about the Noise.
The following review contains spoilers for the film, proceed with caution.
To start off with, Chaos Walking actually has a fantastic premise. Unlike a lot of properties based on YA novels, it does not split our main characters into personality groups and it manages to sidestep some stereotypes when it comes to stories of this nature. Still, despite a great universe with decent worldbuilding, the plot feels aimless. Yes, Viola and Todd are headed toward a communication tower so she can contact her ship, but not enough really happens in between to keep the pacing consistent.
The main villain of the film is played by Mads Mikkelsen, the Mayor of the town that Todd is from, David Prentiss. The problem with the menacing Mikkelsen, who gives a middling performance, is that he is actually one of the easiest characters to read despite his control of the Noise. When we learn that Todd’s town, Prentisstown, is devoid of women, we’re told that Prentiss blames the native species called the “Spackle” for killing them all. I don’t know about you, but that sounded like the most obvious lie to me. Of course, these men who keep talking about killing and “being a man” were the ones who killed all the women because they were jealous that women could still hide their thoughts. It’s extreme toxic masculinity, you see the twist coming a mile away.
What’s odd is that no one in the village, not the older men who participated, seems to remember or think back about this memory. There are no dreams of this massacre? I doubt it. And when Viola crash lands — being part of the “second wave” of settlers from Earth — it’s hard not to fear the worst for her. Todd, who is the youngest in the village and has never even seen a girl or woman in his life, is instantly curious and smitten by her. Of course, years of grooming from Prentiss has made Todd eager for his approval so his and Viola’s relationship starts off rocky.
It doesn’t help that she can hear all of his thoughts. I’m not sure if this is just a symptom of being a teenager or Todd himself, but his Noise is particularly loud. In order to hide his loud thoughts, he repeats his name over and over again but he can’t help himself. This lends itself to some of the comedic moments in the film but also some of the more frustrating ones. Holland is youthfully charming and amusing as a lovestruck puppy while traveling with Viola. A lot of his Noise with Viola is about how pretty she is and fantasies of kissing her (no one other than Holland could have pulled this off without being annoying), but his Noise also puts into words his self-consciousness in a way that you don’t often get in the film.
I actually think this is a strong part of the film. Being able to understand Todd’s inner thoughts is important in understanding him. This is normally a pitfall when we switch from the page to the screen, a lot of a characters’ inner dialogue is lost in the translation. The Noise gives him a depth that unfortunately Viola doesn’t get. We understand that he struggles with his own masculinity, repressing his feelings, and his loyalties to the Mayor and his adoptive fathers. Todd is a mess, but we understand him. Viola is a little less complex. We don’t know much about her life before landing on the planet. We know she was born on a ship and that she wants a new home, but much of the story revolves around her simply surviving.
But, the dubbing and reading of minds can get a little tiring when in groups, and each person’s use of the Noise is inconsistent. Although I love the visual effect of the Noise, looking like iridescent oily smoke swirling around someone’s head, it is often more annoying than useful. Some characters can create realistic-looking illusions, some can’t. How is it done? We’re never really sure, but Todd seems to be a master at it. Regardless, I can see this movie being impossible to understand for the hearing impaired without subtitles (as movies played in theaters so often are).
The Noise aside, there is a lot that is left underdeveloped here, particularly the Spackle. The native species plays a larger role in the latter two books of the trilogy, but Chaos Walking is so loosely based on the book series, that it would have benefitted them more to include more Spackle plot. This is a species that communicates only through the Noise and although they are perceived as threatening by Todd and the men of Prentisstown, Viola easily points out that the humans are the invading alien species in this situation. I could have done with fewer chase scenes and animals getting hurt, and a bit more about the Spackle and maybe about Todd’s gay dads played by Demián Bichir and Kurt Sutter.
Chaos Walking might lure in fans with its star-studded cast, but nothing in Doug Liman“s production hits quite strong enough. The potential was there and the concept is great, but ultimately it left me feeling unfulfilled.
The Beat’s Gregory Paul Silber has been accused of having a bit of an… obsessive personality. Each week in Silber Linings, he takes a humorous look at the weirdest, funniest, and most obscure bits of comics and pop culture that he can’t get out of his head.
My little sister, Jenny, is not a comic book reader. Not the way I am, at least. She’s read a handful of graphic novels like Bone and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, and went through an Archie stage in middle school, but comics aren’t an everyday, or even every month, thing for her like they are for me. She hadn’t heard of Onomatopoeia before I wrote about him, nor was she familiar with Helena Wayne’s controversial sartorial choices, and that’s perfectly alright.
But she knows me, and knows what kind of weirdness I enjoy. So when she sent me a trio of weird comics as a birthday gift, I had a feeling I would enjoy them. Sure, my birthday already happened two weeks ago, but I saw my shadow when I woke up that morning, which means I’m entitled to six more weeks of birthday content. I already celebrated then with five weird comics that I stumbled upon in the Anyone Comics’ dollar bins. The results were mixed, to say the least, but maybe the problem was that my methods were too random.
All three of the comics I’m talking about today were chosen based on the strength of their wacky covers alone, and while you can’t judge a book by its cover, sometimes you can tell if it’s about teenage Clark Kent turning into a merman.
The Avengers #239
Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Al Milgrom & Joe Sinnott
Colorist: Christie Scheele
Letterer: J. Novak
Cover Artists: Al Milgron & Joe Sinnott
I never read it before today, but I saw this cover by Al Milgrom and Joe Sinnott in 2018 when David Nakayama paid tribute to it with his West Coast Avengers #4 cover featuring the titular team meeting Jimmy Kimmel. I don’t think Kimmel was featured in more than one page within the story itself, but that whole Kelly Thompson/Stefano CasselliWCA run is woefully under-appreciated and ended way too soon, so read it regardless. Either way, that wasn’t Hawkeye’s first time on a late night talk show — at least not for original Hawkeye Clint Barton.
I’m not a huge David Letterman fan, but he’s kind of the perfect celebrity cameo for a Marvel comic, right? Especially for 1984 when this “Assistant Editor’s Month” story was published (Marvel used to have this tradition of publishing odd, usually humorous issues that they could playfully “blame” on the assistant editors). Letterman is nerdy, sure, but in a hip, knowing way similar to the branding Marvel’s tried to have since the Stan Lee days of the 1960s.
So I was disappointed to find that David Letterman himself doesn’t say anything particularly funny in this comic. Which isn’t to say it’s not an entertaining read, as Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Black Widow, Wonder Man (hoping his Late Night appearance boosts his acting career), Black Panther (here for no apparent reason beyond boredom), and Beast visit the NBC studio for a talk show appearance that inevitably goes wrong. Roger Stern is a talented enough writer that this would still have been a fun issue even if Letterman was replaced by an off-brand analogue instead.
Obviously, the celebrity gimmick is part of the appeal, but I almost wish we got “generic talk show host” instead. Stern can be a funny writer; there’s a solid gag where Hawkeye overcompensates for his hearing loss by memorizing Letterman’s prepared questions before taping. And I’m sure it would’ve been asking too much to expect the man himself to consult on his dialogue here.
That doesn’t make it less disappointing that the Marvel Universe’s version of Letterman doesn’t tell any jokes that really land. Perhaps part of the problem is that Letterman’s signature deadpan delivery doesn’t translate in print.
Also, is it just me, or does David Letterman as drawn by Milgrom and Sinnott look creepy?
If you’re a Marvel fan, you’ll probably have a good time with this. I am and I did. It’s just a shame that one of the era’s most beloved comedians didn’t tell any good jokes.
Writer: Leo Dorfman
Penciler: Bob Brown
Inker: Murphy Anderson
(No letterer or colorist credited)
Cover Artist: Nick Cardy
When you engage with comics fandom as much as I do — not just reading comics themselves, but reading about comics — you see a lot of wild covers that get permanently seared into your brain, even if you never read the pages within. So I have to give Jenny credit for sending me a comic with an insane cover I’d never even seen before.
The startling cover suggests body horror, and that’s pretty much what we get from the story itself. The opening splash has our hero getting sucked into the sea by some unseen force so strong that even The Boy of Steel is forced into the ocean’s depths. I should note that this came out in 1973, so we’re talking pre-Crisis Superboy, not Connor or Jon Kent. This is young Clark Kent in “THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN WHEN HE WAS A BOY,” a subtitle I always found funnier than it should be.
Anyway, as much as I expected this issue’s gimmick to be played for laughs, the first few pages are surprisingly distressing. I don’t think the creators were going for horror, which the Comics Code still effectively banned at that point. But as much as I love horror, I don’t do well with body horror, and this story definitely plays up how existentially terrifying it would be to wake up and discover that a mad scientist merman replaced your legs with fins. Superboy spends several pages lamenting his horrifying transformation into a “Super Freak.”
None of this is to say that, like so many DC comics of the era, this issue isn’t (probably unintentionally) hilarious. Superboy lost the powers we all associate him with in his transformation, but they’re replaced by new powers in the most contrived way possible. I laughed out loud at lines like “holy hat! I forgot my new telepathic power!”
It’s disappointing that we don’t get an appearance from Superman’s erstwhile mermaid girlfriend, Lori Lemaris. Still, there’s some genuinely impressive stuff here, especially from the art team of Bob Brown and Murphy Anderson. The scene in which Superboy passes out from the potion that turns him back to a Kryptonian is represented visually with a panel that resembles stained glass art. Still, this is just a tad more self-serious than I wanted from a comic with such a ridiculous cover.
Luckily, I have one comic left, and it does not have that problem.
World’s Finest #186
Writer: Bob Kanigher
Penciler: Ross Andru
Inker: Mike Esposito
(No colorist or letterer credited)
Cover Artists: Neal Adams & Gaspar Saladino
Every page of this 1969 issue is a goddamn masterpiece. The cover is ludicrous and gut-bustingly funny, but I’m here to tell you that the story inside is even better.
After a flash-forward opening splash page, we start with Billionaire Playboy Bruce Wayne reading up on his ancestor, “Mad” Anthony Wayne (did you know Bruce Wayne’s middle name is Anthony? Maybe you should?) when he gets a call from Commissioner Gordon. This panel made me burst with laughter: “Yes, Commissioner Gordon, you want me to guard a priceless bust that’s being unveiled at the Gotham Museum this afternoon? Will do!”
First of all, the idea that Gordon would ask Batman to clear his schedule to protect a museum artifact is patently absurd, because aren’t security guards already paid for that kind of thing? But I suppose it makes as much sense as anything else in the DC Universe, as we all know that unveiling a priceless anything at a Gotham City museum is just asking for trouble.Whether it’s an ancient Egyptian cat statue or a prized bird fossil, chances are there’s a colorful villain out there who needs to uphold their brand. But here, hilariously, the priceless bust of Mad Anthony Wayne isn’t threatened by Catwoman or The Penguin, but an ordinary, clumsy man.
This is apparently enough of an emergency for Batman to call Superman over in Metropolis, who immediately flies over and uses his super-speed (and I guess superglue?) to put the pieces of the bust back together. He also uses the excess dust to restore the bust even better than it was before, so that Anthony Wayne now looks exactly like Batman: cape, cowl, and all. It doesn’t make a ton of sense, but Silver Age DC comics are unconcerned with silly things like “plausibility.”
Superman decides that he and Batman must investigate the origins of the bust by dressing up in 18th century garb and traveling back to Colonial times. How Superman can time travel is never explained. “Going through the time-barrier!” is just a thing he can do now.*
(Editor’s Note: He flies real fast and breaks the time barrier. This is known. —JG)
Almost the moment they land in “a New England village of Colonial Times,” they come face-to-face with Mad Anthony Wayne himself, who looks exactly like Bruce Wayne. Anthony Wayne being a major character here is especially amusing to me: I spent most of my childhood in Wayne, New Jersey, named after the Revolutionary War hero. There was even a fancy now-defunct event space called Wayne Manor, which perhaps could’ve brought in more business if they had a giant penny, a T-Rex, or the Batmobile.
Anyway, Mad Anthony assumes Bruce and Clark are Redcoats and attacks them accordingly. “Let me handle him, Superman!” Bruce says. “After all, he is my ancestor!”
“Okay, Batman!” Superman replies. “I don’t want to interfere in a family scrap!” I love how this is presented like a totally normal response. I didn’t realize it was uncouth to get in the way of your best friend beating the shit out of his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.
After their brawl with Mad Anthony, Superman and Batman decide they’re better off in their classic “action uniforms” than trying to fit in as locals. They claim their outlandish capes and spandex come from being actors in a traveling theater company. “I’m going to play Hamlet, see?” Superman says. “See? ‘S’ for Shakespeare!” World’s Finest Heroes, folks. Wild.
You’d be forgiven for assuming from the cover that this story took place about a hundred years earlier during the Salem witch trials, but sure enough, accusations of witchcraft still run wild as a beautiful woman is forced to prove her innocence by drowning. “Unperceived by any human eye because of his incredible speed,” Superman dives in to save the woman, allowing the townspeople to assume a sea monster was responsible for the phenomenon.
That leaves Batman to look like the real hero when he pulls her ashore. He even takes off his cowl for her, because screw it, what difference could that make 200 years later? But they kiss, and that makes Superman seethe with anger. In fairness, Batman’s pretty shitty about getting the girl, but somehow that doesn’t seem to merit Superman’s response: framing the Caped Crusader for witchcraft.
As you could probably guess, Superman doesn’t actually let his best friend die. Silver Age Superman had a habit of pulling convoluted pranks on his friends, including Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane, to try to teach them some sort of lesson, but his reasoning here, if he had any, is left for next issue.
I don’t really care. One thing I love about Silver Age DC, and why I often enjoy them more than the better-regarded Marvel comics of the same era, is that they’re unapologetically unhinged. I laughed out loud several times while reading this comic, yet I’m still not sure if Robert Kanigher was playing for laughs, or if he wrote this in such a berserk fit of creative energy that he didn’t stop to think about the farcicality of lines like “this judo-hold will counteract the horse’s force!”
Creating a great comic book cover is an art unto itself, but at its core it all comes down to a simple goal: get people to buy the comic. Naturally, many a great cover has promised more than the interior pages deliver. Here we had three great covers that resulted in two stories that were merely decent, and one absolute exemplar of the madcap spirit of its era. I’d say that’s a successful ratio. Thanks, Jenny!
Welcome to The Beat’s crowdfunding round-up: a collection of some of our favorite campaigns from the week including one-shots, on-goings, anthologies and everything in-between. This week, we’re checking out the emotional and atmospheric Where No One Grows, the print debut of Sacrimony, and more.
Let’s get started!
GREEN INFERNO: The World Celebrates Your Demise
Creators: Tenebrous Press Goal: $9,500 End date: April 1, 2021 Goodies: A PDF is $15, a print version is $25, and higher tiers include posters, stickers, and more.
A 200 page anthology of original Horror Fiction and Comics from an international group of creators; launches Tuesday, March 2, 2021!
Green Inferno is the newest anthology from Tenebrous Press and – as you might have gathered from the subtitle – it’s got some existential dread. The 18 creators contributing to this collection are working in the realms of literary horror stories and underground comix in a way that that editor Matt Blairstone likens to creators inclduing Alan Moore and Jeff VanderMeer. The final product comes to 200 pages, and is certain to scratch your end-of-the-world itch.
Sacrimony # 1 – A Fantasy Comic About Love, Life and Death
Creators: Matta Sorcier (author) Goal: $1,500 End date: March 23, 2021 Goodies: A PDF is $5, a physical copy is $15, and higher tiers include enamel pins, magnets, and more.
Sacrimony is a tale of a demon-winged girl trying to find her place in the world.
Sacrimony: A Tale of Love, Life and Death is a character-driven fantasy series following Khajad Laohua, a girl with magical powers of unknown origin, and a mother who doesn’t want to help her figure it out. Originally a 2016 webcomic, this Kickstarter is funding a 30-page, full-color printed edition of the first issue, with fully remastered pages showing Sorcier’s growth in the time since its inception. Check out the new art on the campaign page, or see the original version on the Sacrimony website.
HUNT FOR THE SOLAVORE – A Space Opera of Cosmic Horror
Creators: Lane Lloyd (artist), Grant DeArmitt (writer) Goal: $10,000 End date: April 1, 2021 Goodies: Grab the PDF for $5, get the physical version for $10, or pledge more behind-the-scenes content, extra comics, and more.
A 42-page sci-fi saga about a beast that devours suns… and the king who dares to defy it.
Do you ever feel like the universe is fragile, like if the wrong ancient evil came along, it could all be over? That’s King Theosis feels in the upcoming sci-fi saga, The Hunt for the Solavore. This series takes place in a universe where a beast known as the Solavore has reawakened and is out to satiate its hunger for suns. Theosis, with help from his husband, will have to go on the offensive and figure out how to protect his people from this existential threat.
Creators: Zorika Judith Gaeta (author) Goal: $1,116 End date: April 2, 2021 Goodies: The digital version is $7, physical is $14, and higher tiers include back issues and additional comics.
A metaphorical and atmospheric, 24-page full colour comic journey.
Where No One Grows is a story of forming new friendship and finding a new home. We follow Marlo, a young woman who carries a chair with her wherever she goes, and Flame Monkey, a passionate and impulsive new face. It’s the third volume in Gaeta’s eponymous series, although each story stands on its own and only connects to the others in small, subtle ways. This volume, like the others, is a 24-page, full color story. Check out what that looks like in a preview on the campaign page.
Creators: Jake Smith (writer), Hiram Corbett (artist) Goal: $3,500 End date: April 1, 2021 Goodies: Grab the PDF or a signed copy for $10, claim your back issues for $20, or pledge more for prints, shirts, and more.
Lightnin’ Legs Jones must train Zap Daniels and teach him some DEVESTATING abilities if he’s going to defeat the Hell Prince VENGANZA!
If you like neon and high-stakes fighting, Blood Force Trauma is the series for you. Coming up on its third entry, it follows Atomic City’s most popular fighting tv show, where warriors from every dimension duke it out to the death. It’s made by a pair fighting game fans and is dripping with style. Stay up to date with the story, or, if you’re new, check out some preview art on the campaign page and grab the previous two issues.
Writer: Chris and Laura Samnee
Artist: Chris Samnee
Color Artist: Matthew Wilson
Cover Artist: Chris Samnee & Matthew Wilson
Publisher: Oni Press
I love when a story opens rambunctiously. The first issue of Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters, the new series by Chris and Laura Samnee with colors by Matthew Wilson and letters by Crank!, starts in just such a way. After a gorgeous scene-setting page displaying a few wonders from a fantasy world that seems to sprawl along the coast of the continent of Ghibiland on the planet Mononoke IV we meet Rainbow, who just cannot seem to keep up with her little sister. That little sister is Jonna. You know, from the title. And when we first see Jonna we learn she’s a small girl with hair that would make Dragon Ball’s Goku envious. With impetuous energy and superhuman strength she’s leaping and tumbling through the trees and running free… until she encounters some kind of vast creature. You know Jonna’s full of pepper because instead of fleeing she blasts right at it.
This comic’s intended for audiences aged nine and up, but that’s engaging and rambunctious enough an introduction to the sisters to put a smile on anyone’s face.
Cut to a year later and now Rainbow spends her days wandering a dustier, dryer place searching for the missing Jonna. People here live on the margin. Food’s not as plentiful. What happened in the interim? The characters know and we’ll find out as we explore this setting that’s at once mysterious and new but also reminiscent of some book we read many years ago, or was read to us by someone we love. You know, the fabulous one whose title you can’t quite remember and so you’re looking for it everywhere and you’re not even sure it exists. But of course it does. Oni Press just started publishing it this month.
The first issue of Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters is a visual treat. Which is what you’d expect from Chris Samnee and Matt Wilson, after all. Their superhero art has a timeless quality to it, but infused with the same kind of fresh enthusiasm for the medium you find in Mike Allred or Darwyn Cooke drawings.
Samnee’s storytelling here is an incredible Jonna-worthy leap as far as I’m concerned. Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters finds Samnee working in an Avatar: The Last Airbender mode, or after having read the Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind manga by Hayao Miyazaki a thousand times without sleeping. Samnee renders the characters and world in a fun open line look which allows colorist Matthew Wilson to work atmospherically, with natural tones, lush greens and blues in the early going giving way to paler browns and grays later in the story. Along with Samnee’s assured rendering comes his intense editing, of choosing which visual details to include and which to omit. This means an emphasis on character expression and body language against backgrounds rich in content but far from busy. There are plenty of spaces where our eyes can linger and explore. From the wide panels of the brisk opening sequence giving way to epic two-page spreads to the quieter interlude in a tent where Rainbow and her cheerful benefactor Gramma Pat share a meager meal while having a chat Samnee’s art confidently moves in and out of varying scales.
As writers the Samnees wisely leave a lot unsaid for now. After their vigorous beginning they follow up with character moments, with conversational tidbits and pieces teasing a wider world and full of various mysteries and adventures to come. There’s a missing sister. There are gigantic monsters. People in the tent village seem to know more about Rainbow’s quest than we do, but they also just quietly go about their daily routines, puttering away on rattletrap-looking contraptions, or cooking their food. A stomach’s gurgle provides incitement. The story promises something grand in the future and in the present delivers something more intimate, something intriguing.
What more do you really need to know at this point? Obviously we’ll see Jonna again sometime, possibly sooner than later, and we’ll learn about these monsters and what happened during the previous year. Rainbow is certainly equipped to carry us along on this quest for discovery. With her purple hair, her practical overalls and sensible boots she’s ready for adventure even if she’s not exactly courting it the way Jonna did.
But I do have questions and concerns of my own.
What exactly is an unpossible monster? A possible monster, I suppose, is one you might actually meet. A terrible person. A great typhoon. An impossible monster is one that could never exist. A monster confusing cause and effect. A monster created by an omnipotent god but so large even that god couldn’t lift it. But an unpossible monster must be something else entirely. One that maybe violates the laws of probability in some way so that it exists when it should not. And more than one?
Not sticking around to find out after this fun a first issue?
Now THAT’S what’s unpossible.
Published by Oni Press, Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters #1 is available in print and digitally now.
After taking us through six decades of television aesthetic and nine episodes of fantastic television, WandaVision ends the series with a finale about deaths and rebirths, introducing us to new versions of the same characters we have grown to love while simultaneously setting up the MCU for even more shenanigans in the future. Although it got off to a slow start, WandaVision ends on a high note. The following review is for the full season of WandaVision and is totally spoiler-filled, proceed with caution!
It was clear from the onset that WandaVision was going to be about more than just Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and The Vision (Paul Bettany). In fact, we knew from Avengers: Infinity War that Vision was dead-dead, not just snapped away. As each episode unfolded, it soon became clear that the town of Westview, New Jersey was not suffering under the hands of an unseen villain, but Wanda herself. The overwhelming trauma and cumulative grief of having to lose her parents, her twin brother, and the love of her life left the very powerful Wanda very hurt and lost. In “Previously On,” we watched as Wanda arrived at Westview to visit a lot of land that Vision purchased for the two of them before his death; on the housing plan, written in red ink is “To grow old in V.”
This house is the epicenter of Wanda’s magical manifestation. Drawing from her own sadness, she created the hex and a new version of Vision (having not stolen Vision’s physical body, as Hayward claimed). But we learned in the series finale that Wanda’s suffering is not just her own, but the people of Westview are also enslaved not only by her powers but her grief. When they sleep, they are plagued with Wanda’s nightmares, they feel her pain and her grief. For Wanda, who sees her mind-control as a form of protection, this thought that she is hurting people is devastating. But now destroying Westview comes with a price. Not only will she lose Vision, but also her sons, Tommy and Billy.
Elizabeth Olsen really shines in this series. I’ve always been in love with Scarlet Witch, mostly as a character from the comics, but in her film adaptations, she always felt like a severely untapped mine. After all, Scarlet Witch is one of the most powerful mutants in the comics. In the MCU, I was in love with Wanda for what she could become, not really for what she was. Often relegated to a supporting role, WandaVision gives her a chance no only to shine as a thoroughly developed character but also to evolve into her final form: The Scarlet Witch.
From a technical front, Olsen has fantastic chemistry alongside her co-stars. She jumps from effervescent to haunting with ease, one of her best episodes is “Previously On” where we watch as she explores her past, watershed moments that altered her life and forged her into who she is today. In that episode, we get pieces of Wanda from previous films but with the sort of depth that you would expect from the character instead of simply a caricature. Instead of paprikash and a girl in a cell, we see the scenes through Wanda’s eyes and it allows us to understand and empathize with this character who always was distant on the big screen.
Storywise, this series sees Wanda coming into her full power and embracing her chaos magic. This isn’t just through her creation of the Hex, but also through meeting the incomparable Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn), posing as her nosy neighbor, Agnes. Aside from having the catchiest theme song (it was Agatha all along!), Agatha also brought with her a boatload of lore. She inadvertently acts as a bit of a mentor to Wanda, who knows nothing about how to control her magic. On the flip side, Agatha has had centuries of practice honing her craft. She’s obsessed with it and craves power more than anything. Her schtick has to do with draining magic from fellow witches and, after identifying Wanda as the Scarlet Witch, she can’t wait to set her sights on Wanda.
We learn from Agatha that the Scarlet Witch is a powerful witch that is forged, not born. She doesn’t need a coven, and she doesn’t need incantation. Her power exceeds even the Sorcerer Supreme. She’s a harbinger of chaos and doom. This is far from the “miracle” status she gained in the post-credits of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. We’ve seen her create the Hex, we’ve seen her mind-control hundreds of people, we’ve seen her shuffle through decades, hell, she made Vision out of vibranium and created her sons out of thin air. This is god-level magic. And it’s fantastic. By the end of the series, we see Wanda as completely reborn. Yes, she is still struggling with her grief, but she is no longer crippled by it. She embraces her role as the Scarlet Witch, finding solace in isolation and consumed by studying the Darkhold. (Which, considering it’s the book of the damned and basically a source for dark magic, might not be the best news…)
But this isn’t just a story about Wanda, it’s also about Vision. Hex Vision, the one we’ve had the pleasure of seeing all season, has been created by Wanda, but he’s not just that. He’s the piece of the Mine Stone that lives in Wanda. As he reasons with White Vision while discussing the thought experiment of the Ship of Theseus, he both is and is not the true Vision. His parts have been replaced, he no longer truly possesses the Mind Stone, he has his memories, but he is not in his original body. Meanwhile, White Vision is in Vision’s original body, but he has been pieced back together. When Hex Vision unveils Vision’s memories in White Vision’s mind, this becomes a rebirth for Vision. Yes, Hex Vision must die. He can’t exist outside the Hex, but that doesn’t mean Vision is gone for good.
Even as a fierce Wanda/Vision shipper before the series, I could admit that the films hadn’t really done the couple justice. The most emotional depths we explored were probably in Infinity War and we all know how that ended. But in WandaVision we’re really given time with the couple, and it reaffirms what a great pairing Bettany and Olsen are. In their final moments together, Wanda and Vision declare their love for one another not tragically, but with hope. As Wanda says, “You are a body of wires and blood and bone that I created. You are my sadness and my hope. But mostly, you’re my love.” He is a memory made real by Wanda. But, even though he has to say goodbye to her again, Vision reasons that they will say hello to each other again. We know no one ever really stays dead in comic books, but damn if this goodbye didn’t have me tearing up even knowing White Vision was out there somewhere finding himself.
It’s hard for me to find much fault in WandaVision. Aside from everything mentioned above, there’s also the introduction of Teyonah Parris‘s Monica Rambeau, whose transformation through the Hex has turned her into Spectrum and given her amazing powers. It isn’t just that Monica is a Rambeau that makes her perfect for WandaVision, but also her tie to Wanda. Having returned to earth after the Blip to learn that she lost her mom during those five years, Monica is also struggling with her own grief. She knows what Wanda is going through and advocates for her when dealing with Hayward (Josh Stamberg) and the rest of S.W.O.R.D. Her transformation in “Breaking the Fourth Wall” and her phasing through bullets in “The Series Finale” only hints at the potential of her power.
Of course, additional applause has to go to Kat Dennings‘ Darcy Lewis, Randall Park‘s Jimmy Woo, and Evan Peters‘ Pietro/Fietro/Ralph Bohner. There are a lot of great comedic moments to WandaVision, and a lot of it is thanks to these three. It’s great to see Darcy now with a doctorate in astrophysics, figuring out the Hex with ease and smart-mouthing off to Hayward. Similarly, it’s good to see Jimmy Woo back on our screens. I’m hoping he remains as a recurring character (FBI has to come into contact with Falcon and Winter Soldier right?) and we get a new and improved Phil Coulson — with no deaths! And, who can forget the Pietro recast? So many fan theories out the window the moment we see Monica pull up a picture of Evan Peters, revealing him to be Ralph Bohner, aka Agnes’ “husband Ralph”. Yes, his last name is Bohner. Goodbye, to the hours I spent on Reddit.
WandaVision improves on a second viewing. With plot twists revealed and truths uncovered, it was wonderful bingeing the series again and seeing what I missed and what I should have seen coming. Obviously, it’s hard to tell what we’ll see in the future. With Wanda now in possession of the Darkhold and hearing the voices of her sons calling for her help, it doesn’t seem like this is the last we’ve seen of Tommy and Billy. And with Young Avengers on the horizon, might we see an older version of the twins alongside Kate Bishop and Cassie Lang? I hope so. Agatha is also out there still, even imprisoned as Agnes, we know she’ll always be a threat. Plus, if this is the last time we see Kathryn Hahn as Agatha, I will riot!
And what about the people of Westview? Will we see any of the after-effects of what happened her bleed into the other show? Will we hear mention of it in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, what about in Loki? So many questions, so many possibilities. WandaVision has kicked the door wide open for Phase Four of the MCU, with stand-out performances and outstanding thematic storytelling, I can’t wait to see what comes next.
The episode title “Rules of Engagement” refers to the plot line about the Russians taking over a mining site run by the Americans, and the fact that Reagan has tasked NASA with reclaiming the site…which, as General Bradford and Ed both point out, that means they’re going to be bringing guns to the moon for the first time. That’s the only way they can hold the site. They get the bright ideas to send Marines to the Moon, and Margo and Thomas O. Paine (Dan Donohue) both think the idea is ridiculous, but they do have their orders. The plot is dropped after this, with the rest of the episode finally dealing with Kelly’s desire to go to Annapolis and Tracy and Gordo’s troubled relationship. Oh, and Aleida (Coral Peña) is all grown up and back!
The real highlight of “Rules of Engagement”, and of the season so far, is a very long scene between Karen, Ed, and Kelly where Ed kind of explodes after learning about Kelly’s desire to join the Navy. Karen had a similar reaction at the beginning of the episode; she was stunned into stammers, and she expresses her fears for Kelly joining that life. Ed’s taken a toll from both being in the Navy and being an astronaut…does Kelly really want that life? But Kelly, bless her, is determined, because she wants to make a difference in the world as Ed has. Karen does not respond “what am I, chopped liver?” but maybe she should have.
Anyway, Ed explodes when he discovers Kelly’s desire because he gets the deep feeling he’s going to lose her as soon as she announces this. See, Ed never really got over Shane’s death from last season — remember him kidnapping that cosmonaut? Yeah, turns out the cosmonaut was able to plant a bug on the original section of Jamestown. Clearly, Ed’s actions during the period following Shane’s death and leading up to Shane’s death haunt him. The scene is one of the most intense this show has had, with Ed telling Kelly to go ahead and leave and enlist in the Navy and that he’ll block her admission effort. Kelly fights back, and Karen even gets violent.
But Kelly, bless her heart, gets between the two of them and pronounces “Now whatever that was we’re not doing it anymore!” Kelly really has grown on me. The family then has a really well-written and acted heart-to-heart, ending in Ed accepting Kelly’s going to Annapolis if she gets in. The family sings “Anchors Aweigh” together as the scene fades away. If they could all get Emmys for the scene, I’d give them to them. Sadly, I’m not sure the Emmys even know this show exists.
Tracy and Gordo’s plotline in “Rules of Engagement” is less joyful. Tracy and Karen have a mini-reunion, where it’s clear Karen is still wary about Tracy’s new marriage. Tracy crashes her car after driving drunk and calls Gordo for assistance. Her new husband is out of town. But that still doesn’t mean her ex-husband should be her first call. Especially since she tells him to take her to their former house, where she crawls into bed and forces Gordo onto the couch. Gordo’s clearly done with Tracy in her current state—he’s got bigger fish to fry. He’s going back to the moon, after all. He takes her keys to the house.
It gets revealed that Tracy and Gordo will be on the moon at the same time, a fact which Tracy places the blame for solely on Ed’s shoulders. To be honest, Ed probably didn’t even consider the difficulties it might cause, because he hopes his astronauts will be professional. Tracy’s outburst to him isn’t professional at all, but she still chooses to stay on her path to the moon. Maybe she’ll make it.
The final “Rules of Engagement” plot has to do with Aleida and Margo, in another tense scene where Margo offers Aleida a job at NASA to save her from getting deported. Aleida thinks Margo’s both pitying her and feeling guilty about essentially abandoning her when Aleida’s father was deported. Aleida ends up breaking up with her boyfriend who called Margo and taking the job anyway. Aleida and Margo will surely butt heads—and from the look and sound of grown Aleida, she’ll butt heads with everyone else, too.
This episode is mainly about getting people into position, but the amount of boiling over that happens makes it an intense, gutsy episode. “Rules of Engagement” could have slowed down the season’s momentum, but it just feels like things are getting ramped up to an even higher level.
Watch For All Mankind Season 2 Fridays on Apple TV+.
The Alamo Drafthouse franchise has long been a home for cinephiles and casual moviegoers alike. A chain with a strict no-noisemaking and cell phone policy and food and drink served, the various Drafthouses established themselves as a fun spot for enjoying the movies. They hosted Rowdy Cats screenings just before the start of the pandemic. And, like so many movie theater chains and franchises, as well as independent film theaters, they’re struggling during this pandemic. It was announced on Wednesday that Alamo Drafthouse was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, as a result of a sale to Altamont Capital and Fortress Investment.
This, does not, however, mean the end of Alamo Drafthouse, thank goodness—for now, at least. While we all know the market is volatile for movie theaters, the fact that there are willing investors to keep it alive is promising. Admittedly, Alamo Drafthouse is a much smaller chain than say, AMC or Regal, but that should make its odds more challenging.
But this isn’t a column about business affairs, because, frankly, I still don’t quite understand this story. I wasn’t a finance major. But what I am is a lover of film, a fan of movies, and a formerly frequent patron of the Alamo. It was announced that their Ritz location on 6th Street in Austin, TX would be closing, one of only three that would be doing so. This is heartbreaking to me; I have a fond memory of going into this historic if refurbished, theatre with a dear former friend to watch Baby Driver in 2017 during a visit to a convention. The Ritz was also their oldest original location.
I also have fond memories of visiting the Brooklyn location many, many times during my time in New York, including making a special trip to go to their Heathers movie party, a film with which I have a loving relationship. They served Corn Nuts, gave out mugs with a special “drain cleaner” cocktail, and for movie parties only, allowed the audience to yell favorite lines and dialogue at the screen. They also screened many cult movies, as well as arthouse films and major blockbusters.
I hesitate to speculate that changing hands will make Alamo Drafthouse become a better company for employees—rarely does making any brand more corporate make a company more progressive—if anything, things like sexual harassment just get more easily swept under the rug. But I hope Alamo survives this latest storm. There’s no place quite like it to watch movies, and as movie theaters struggle to keep their heads above water, it would be nice if at least a few chains, as well as many independent cinemas, get a second chance at life.
Writer: Matt Kindt Artist: Doug Braithwaite with David Lapham
Colorist: Diego Rodriguez Letterer: Dave Sharpe Publisher: Bad Idea
One thing that has emerged in the long long longpandemic-extended run-up to new publisher Bad Idea’s first comic launch, is that comics folk bristle at deliberate scarcity, regardless of the reasons for it. Comics is and long has been inextricably tangled with commerce, and we have all largely accepted that — but we want that commerce to feel as egalitarian as possible. Bad Idea’s business model all but guarantees a degree of unavailability.
The publisher is distributing its own comics, doing so only to shops it has vetted as Bad Idea destinations, and — in the name of cost-saving — it is also foregoing digital releases and collected trades (for now, anyway…I doubt this extends in perpetuity). By the time Bad Idea’s first comic, ENIAC #1, hit this week, the comment I’d heard most about it online was, “Nobody will be able to read that book.” Or some variation. This notion that a comic might be hard to find due to intentional business decisions? Well, it got a reaction on Twitter, that’s for sure.
So, that’s where Bad Idea is coming from with its first release, this week’s ENIAC #1. But you know what? Once I got ENIAC #1 in my hands (I was able to pre-order it at my local comic shop, Big Planet Comics, easy), I quickly forgot the distribution questions, the marketing criticisms, and all the harsh Twitter dunks.
The reason? ENIAC #1 is a good read. ENIAC #1, in fact, is a rich and immersive read, one that combines a smart sci-fi concept with flourishes of classic genre pulp and clear graphic sequential storytelling of the highest level, carried out by writer Matt Kindt, artist Doug Braithwaite, colorist Diego Rodriguez, and letterer Dave Sharpe. The premise of this book is that the American military created a super computer during WWII to predict enemy bombing routes. The American military (as is its tendency) next got carried away with said computer’s power, and it fed that computer every piece of knowledge known to man (what could go wrong with that?). The computer then gained sentience and went rouge, subsequently orchestrating some of the biggest events in modern human history (which I won’t reveal here because there’s a fun montage that does so in the actual comic).
The other relevant background about Bad Idea as a publisher (which gets overshadowed by the grumbling around distribution) is that the publisher’s leadership is the same group who ran Valiant Comics until corporate maneuvering pushed them out a couple years back. They’ve brought in many of the same creators from their time there, and — if ENIAC is any indication — they’re now making comics that play to the same strengths as their old storytelling interests. Now, however, they are creatively free of whatever shackles came with corporate ownership and using someone else’s original IP.
ENIAC #1 has complex geo-political framing ambitions, similar to Kindt’s work on Divinity, one of the best comics of the revived Valiant era. ENIAC also has some truly excellent comics being comics moments, replete with lines like “Area 51 got all the press by design, but it was really Area 23 everyone should have been worried about.” Or, “They were codenamed The Cutthroats and they’d killed more Nazis than the entire 82nd Airborne.” Or, “You have three days left to find out what it’s doing, kill it, and save humanity.” Or…look, it just goes on from there.
So yes, whatever you’ve heard about Bad Idea, put that aside — ENIAC #1 is good, very good, and it’s a story that plays to the strengths of comics as a medium, dependent on big ideas best told in prose snippets paired with sweeping imagery. There are not enough linear scenes to make it feel like a veiled film pitch, and there’s not enough character moments (yet) to make it possible as a novel. ENIAC #1 had to be a comic, and I’m very glad it exists.
The last bit that needs mentioning with this book is that for the cover price of $3.99, it contains a backup story written by Kindt and illustrated by David Lapham. Lapham is a master, and both creators seem to understand the bonkers fun to be had running backups through several issues, as I think this one is slated to do. This first snippet is a little bewildering, but that feels very much by design, presaging madcap antics to come that might involve a take on superheroes that falls somewhere between wacky and tasteful grittiness.
Publisher by Bad Idea, the first issue of ENIAC is available now exclusively at Bad Idea destination stores.