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Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special Review

 

On another blog I post at, I recently wrote about the joys of the filler episode, aka the hangout episode. That’s an episode of television that doesn’t have a lot of plot revelations, but instead lets you hang out with the characters you love. 

With the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, James Gunn has given the MCU the gift of a marvelous hangout episode. 

So what happens in the special? Well, the team is on Knowhere, trying to fix the place up after buying it from the Collector. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is sad because Gamora has left, so Mantis (Pom Klementieff)  and Drax (Dave Bautisa) decide to go to Earth and bring him the best Christmas present ever. Namely, the great Earth hero Kevin Bacon (Kevin Bacon). Hijinx ensue. 

And it’s awesome. 

The plot is merely an excuse to hang jokes on and get the crew into some truly ugly Christmas sweaters. The trip to Earth goes about as well as you’d expect. Drax and Mantis land in Hollywood and cause chaos because no one can tell them where the great hero Kevin Bacon lives, before finally finding him and kidnapping him back to Knowhere. There’s music, jokes about Santa Claus, and some interesting reactions to Earth liquor. 

I’ve complained about this before, but too often Marvel movies and shows can feel more like homework than entertainment. (Watch all of Loki and Ant Man 3 or you won’t understand the arc in Avengers: Kang Dynasty!) The Marvel one off specials – like this and Werewolf by Night – are great since they don’t care at all about fitting into the larger continuity. It’s just a chance for the cast to breathe and have a little fun. 

And fun it is! Kevin Bacon gets to play a Christmas song. Drax gets mistaken for the God of War at Grauman’s Chinese and punches out a GoBot. Mantis beats up people with a giant candy cane. There’s a rotoscoped flashback to Peter’s childhood with Yondu. All this in only 44 minutes!

It’s funny, it’s sweet, and there are tender character moments. It’s just about anything you could want in both a Christmas special and a Guardians of the Galaxy special. And it’s a little bittersweet that James Gunn  will soon be ending his tenure with the Guardians after the new film comes out next year and he goes off to run DC movies. 

And what could be more of a holiday message than that? Hold the ones you care about close, because they won’t be here forever. 

5 out of 5

Dead Seas #1 Review

 

Ghosts are real, in a sense. They’re around us every day. An old picture, a scent of perfume or baked goods, a favorite song, all of those can bring back a flood of memories. They can haunt us, remind us of things unsaid, promises broken. Now what if those ghosts were physically real? And not exactly friendly? 

In the new comic series Dead Seas, from writer Cavan Scott and artist Nick Brokenshire, ghosts are extremely real. Since the Dios de la Muerta event three years ago, ghosts are a very real, and very dangerous, presence in the world. 

The storyline is as follows. In order to shave time off their sentences, convicted prisoners can volunteer for service on the R.C.V. Perdition (a floating research facility). Which doesn’t sound so bad! But what exactly are they researching?

Just ghosts.

Ghosts that have been captured and imprisoned (because ghosts can’t cross moving water). The prison laborers have to obtain some sort of ectoplasm for the researchers. Which sounds like no big deal… though why the prisoners seem to prefer a plunge into the Pacific over another day with the spirits, tells a different story. 

Enter Gus, a hustler and a thief desperate to get back home to his daughter he’s willing to deal with malevolent ghosts. He gets dropped into the middle of this shady research facility and has to fend for himself, discovering the mysteries of the supernatural. 

Cavan Scott is probably best known for his work on the Star Wars High Republic series. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of that comic, the writing here is at least, more grounded and intriguing. There are plenty of strands here that can get picked up on – such as, why did the ghosts suddenly appear in the first place? What are the researchers trying to find?

Meanwhile, Brokenshire’s art is amazing. Particularly the ghosts. They are disturbing yet beautiful nightmares. Frightening and familiar. Terrifying yet mesmerizing, with haunted details and a color-palate that blends reality into the the surreal, working well with the comic’s layout and design.

This is a promising start to a new series and I look forward to following it to some scary places. 

The Winchesters: Season 1 Episode 6 “Art of Dying” Review

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John Winchester a little stabbed
Drake Rodger as John Winchester...a little stabbed but otherwise, OK

We open on a fairly standard horror movie scene – a woman is running, terrified, from some unseen monster. Meet Darla (Jacquie Schmidt), she manages to find refuge in a barn only to die grimly shortly thereafter.

In an unlikely follow-up, we see Latika attempting to meditate but her efforts are thwarted by John and Carlos fighting (vs the usual John and Mary flirting scene). Mary interrupts the argument at a critical juncture, and a phone call sends our Monster Club members off to an ex-hunter friend of the family. Tracy Gellar (Audrey Marie Anderson) is something of a beacon for Mary – she got out of the life, which gives Mary hope she can do the same. Unfortunately, her escape plan came at a steep cost, which the gang suspects with the help of a cute taxidermist (Carlos’ new crush, Anton as played by Nicholas Duvernay). When confronted, Tracy comes clean but it’s too late. The ghost of her terrible past possesses John and nearly kills our heroes until Latika intervenes with an impassioned speech about her battles with anger. Surprisingly, this works. The ghost, Tracy’s one-time friend Mack, decides to talk it out with his traitorous cohort and they patch things up enough for him to release John alive and relatively well. Tracy is pulled back into the hunting life, though now with a purpose, while John finally confronts his anger issues, and as a cherry on top, the club has located the Akrida.

This episode is pretty good, John gets a nice chunk of growth, Latika finally has her moment in the sun, and we even see Carlos twitterpated! For those of you not in the know, that term derives from one of my favorite old-school Disney movies: Bambi. Carlos experiences the kind of crush that leaves him dumbstruck, and it is highly entertaining. Mary’s growth is minimal but no less significant. I’d say a solid B.

Why not an A? First off, we get an unnecessary and frankly unsuccessful emotionally manipulative scene with a hunter’s funeral – sorry, show, I don’t know this lady so I don’t give a shit that she died. And yes, I know this could be any of the Monster Club’s members’ fates but that doesn’t make it any more relatable. Secondly, Latika, because, despite her opportunity to shine, I just don’t feel it. Maybe it’s a case of the wrong actress in the wrong role, or maybe I’m just a hater, but I was hoping Nida would step up to the plate here, and, for me, she just doesn’t. Earlier in the episode, there is a moment where Lata talks to Carlos about her contributions to the group. Sure, she’s academically useful, but being a pacifist means she’s not exactly a conventional hunter, right? Right, but Carlos is always there to pump her up – he essentially tells her not to lose hope. Naturally, when brute force fails, Lata’s brand of “hunting” comes into play – we learn that her father was irrevocably changed by going to war, and his anger led to her anger which led to her unspoken sin (oh yay, another mysterious piece of Latika’s puzzle). It was after this tragic mistake that Lata decided to deal with her rage and ultimately embrace pacifism.

This is all grand but unfortunately, Nida doesn’t sell it. You know when I saw Latika come alive in this episode? It wasn’t her talks with Carlos or her speech changing Mack’s mind, it was in the scenes with Anton. Nida has a natural skill for bringing out Lata’s intelligence that she sells 100%. I fully believe that Lata is fascinated by science, research, and the macabre (with respect to understanding it rather than fighting it). If Nida and the writers are smart they will lean more into this aspect of Latika’s personality because, again, it is the one Nida is best at presenting. That isn’t to say this is all Nida’s fault – the writers and showrunner have been weirdly stingy regarding Latika as a character. We’ve been given tiny pieces of her whole picture, but not nearly enough to really know her. Which is a problem, especially when you decide to do a personality dump out of nowhere. Oh, Latika’s dad suffered from PTSD, wow…uh how come she hasn’t been more involved in trying to help John then? She’s suffered from rage issues that caused her to fuck up her life? Ok…again, why has she not brought this up to John??? Seriously…a few minimal side conversations could have set up perfectly for this episode’s reveal instead we get Mary butting heads with John over his building aggression, and Carlos holding his tongue about the whole thing – which also doesn’t track for Carlos.

Speaking of…Carlos is a fantastic palette cleanser here. Amid the heavy material of Tracy, Mary, and John, we get Lata and Carlos as our comic relief with Carlos really doing all the work thanks to the introduction of Anton. Now, the last episode we got a tease for Lata in the relationship department (the most minuscule of teases mind you), but in this episode, we get Carlos – smitten! It is hilarious to see the normally confident and garrulous Carlos rendered speechless in the presence of what I hope isn’t a one-time guest appearance. Anton is adorable, and Carlos is even more adorable in his immediate affection. What’s even better? Carlos is only dumbstruck around Anton, with his fellow club members he’s fine – normal – but once he sees Anton or even thinks Anton might be around his giddiness kicks in and we see an almost childlike bashfulness overtake him.

Having Jojo play Carlos so well, makes Nida’s failure with Lata even more evident. There are definitely times when Meg and Drake might dip here and there but for the most part every actor except for Nida has found their groove here. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but her performance really brings down the experience for me. Carlos, in the hands of the wrong actor, could be an insufferable stereotype but Jojo plays him with just the right amount of loveable sass. The only thing in Nida’s favor is that her portrayal is toned down so much that her character mostly disappears – trust me, this is a lot better than being painfully bad. This is a point I’d like to make here – Nida isn’t a bad actress per se, but I don’t think she’s skilled enough to pull off what they want Latika to be. Yes, Carlos, by those standards almost seems easy to play – after all his personality is practically stitched onto his clothes, but Latika? Latika is a much more subtle character, akin to John in a way. Drake may occasionally go a little overboard with his depiction of papa Winchester but at least he swings! Nida seems too afraid to really try with Lata, except, again, with respect to her intelligence. Lata is fully engaged when she’s playing scientist with the vampire’s disembodied arm.

Moving on, Mary’s dream of being free of the hunting life is a big part of this episode, and the subsequent endangerment of that dream isn’t to be ignored…yet…it basically is. See, when Tracy finally comes clean about her real retirement from life, Mary is instantly distraught yet she’s not allowed to really feel those feels because John’s gone missing! It wouldn’t hurt the show to breathe here and give Mary a chance to embrace the conflict. In the end, her decision to leave hunting behind wraps up in a neat little bow with the warning label of making sure you don’t do anything you can’t come back from.

John gets the bulk of character development here, next to Lata, with his being noticeable and significant. This works because John’s feelings have been built up for the past two episodes – granted the last episode didn’t see him as enraged as I would have liked, and in a way you can see Drake overcompensating for this. John is way too enthusiastic about going after the Akrida to the point of getting into an argument with Carlos. Carlos sees what John’s ignored emotional baggage is doing to him though for some unknown reason he doesn’t bring this up to Mary, Lata, or anyone. When Lata presents meditation and Carlos presents therapy, we see John considering the options until Mary gives him an out.

Later though, after Latika’s confession, and his possession, John decides to revisit meditation – it makes sense given his family’s reluctance for talking. The only thing that doesn’t exactly track here is how willing John is to try Lata’s method. Yes, it isn’t therapy, but I’m a little surprised he doesn’t pull the old “you wouldn’t understand” or “it’s not the same” cards. After all, Lata wasn’t in a war, her father was, and her father didn’t meditate. That’s not to dismiss Lata’s feelings as less than John’s, that’s only to say given John’s personality I’m simply hesitant to buy he’d go for Lata’s method when her anger isn’t derived from a similar place as his own. However, that may be the point. After all, Carlos shares John’s brand of PTSD yet John will not give therapy its due. To each their own, eh? Will meditation be the key to John’s salvation? I’m hopeful they explore this instead of just having this one scene and then moving on.

Guess we’ll have to keep watching to find out!

Alligator Loki and Hulkling and Wiccan Kickoff Thanksgiving

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Happy thanksgiving Marvel fans! Just earlier in the week we had gone from X-Men Unlimited House of X meets Age of Apocalypse stories, to thanksgiving dumpling recipes on T.E.S.T. kitchen, and an epic new Black Panther introduction that takes the alien meets terminator approach to vibranium. Now, we’re kicking off this holiday with two more specials from infinity comics. Available now on the Marvel Unlimited app right now.

First, Alligator Loki attends a fun cookout with friends! We’ve got some familiar faces and a Hawkeye who just wants to serve the little guy some treats. Though our little green friend has some other… friends he’d prefer in mind with whom he’d rather spend time with.

Then, available on the Love Unlimited run of Hulkling & Wiccan, we see Hulkling and Wiccan greeted by a certain Maximoff family. Whom, with words of wisdom, sort of imparts some advice to Wiccan how with great chaos comes great responsibility. Especially, given how dangerous and reality altering chaos magic tends to be.

Keep in mind this is shortly after a world where Wiccan created a reality where Hulkling and he fell in love with other people effectively ending the shipping that made this comic run. So fans are glad to see things have gone back to normal.

Sort of…

Because there is that strange alternate universe boyfriend Goebig issue. Whom in this issue, may be knocking at the door… longingly seeking a familiar face. Join, Josh Trujillo as he joins artist Tokitokoro for a dreamy and drama-filled follow-up to the hit Infinity Comic HULKLING & WICCAN! 

 

ALLIGATOR LOKI #13 
12-issue arc launches on Thursday, November 24 
Writer: Alyssa Wong 
Artist: Bob Quinn 
Colorist: Pete Pantazis 
Editor: Katelyn Gregorowicz 

 

LOVE UNLIMITED: HULKLING & WICCAN #25 
6-issue arc launches on Thursday, November 24 
Writer: Josh Trujillo 
Artist: tokitokoro 
Colorist: Matt Milla 
Editor: Alanna Smith

‘Marvel’s Voices: Black Panther #26’ Sees Debut of Cheryl Lynn Eaton and Artist Nelson Daniel

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Black Panther

 

Talk about your best new stories! The latest Marvel Voices infinity comic is a complete focus in on Black Panther. It’s an absolute gem for a single issue. An absolute must read for fans of the voices series, and more importantly, any fan of the Black Panther comics.

The story jumps almost right into the action seeing T’Challa battle in space against a foe of epic, yet strangely equal, proportions. It’s a unique take to a lot of the old Black Panther narrative, mostly by using the fictional approach of giving a voice to something so influential to the Black Panther universe (that I’ll omit saying for spoilers), and seeing how this would respond and feel about everything that’s happened in Wakanda in relation to it.

Especially in regards to the country’s champion, T’Challa…

Now, the writing is excellent and ties into the world rather seemlessly. Boarder strife and mistrust still resonate between the people of Wakanda, though what happens, sort of (if only temporarily) reminds everyone about their roots and the shaky foundations of peace. A soft yet earthly space meant to be tended with care.

I must say, Eaton’s dialogues and attention to detail with both tone and lore makes this issue feel more grounded to Wakanda than I was expecting. The story, though short, is surprisingly compelling: giving us a full arc and three acts somehow in the span of a vertical comic. With a lot of attention given to a certain item of interest from T’Challa’s past that sort of gets this journey started.

On the art side, what immediately stands out is the sublime coloring by Ceci de la Cruz. Vibrant blends of yellows, pinks, and purples that really accentuate the spread. The vertical feels like we’re in the midst of battle both above and within Wakanda and its surrounding environment. With background art that’s sublime and pops in the vertical panels feeling three dimensional and alive.

I can’t stress enough that this is one of the best infinity comics I’ve ever read on Marvel Unlimited. Not just for the action but the settings, pacing, and dialogue too. A must-read for any fans out there.

 

Black Panther

MARVEL’S VOICES: BLACK PANTHER #26 
One-shot launches on Wednesday, November 23 
Writer: Cheryl Lynn Eaton 
Artist: Nelson Daniel 
Colorist: Ceci de la Cruz 
Editor: Sarah Brunstad

Nadia Pym and Ironheart Meet Paragon in Avengers Unlimited #21

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In the latest Avengers Unlimited #21, fans of the Infinity Comic Avengers are in for a treat. The vertical comic series sees Nadia Pym and Ironheart working on some new tech over at Y.E.T.I., the Stark-sponsored Youth Engineering Technology Interchange. Lectures, technology, and youthful hijinks galore, we see the duo women very much in their element while talking about their latest projects, where Ironheart showcases some brand new skins during a lecture; when suddenly, the duo are greeted by the strange, Paragon. An alien champion of a now failing race who’s come to earth seeking the Avengers.

This new story arc will run for four issues straight form November into December. It is written, penciled, and inked by Patch Zircher, with colors by Javier Tartaglia. Part one of the “The Doomsday Man” issue ends on a cliffhanger regarding a call to action for Earth’s mightiest heroes. Though who exactly is Paragon, and why does it look like an albino version of the human torch but with psychic abilities as well, remains a complete mystery.

The Avengers Unlimited comic series follows in the footsteps of the X-Men Unlimited infinity comic series. Both take the same approach with a vertical comics approach that de-emphasizes both panels and page turns. All while running along down for a scrollable screen for a approach that’s very accessible on tablets and phones.  Like most unlimited series, the approach doesn’t necessarily bind a single story together, but rather, brings on a whole new cast and creative team between arcs all to showcase some of Marvel’s latest talent.

“The Doomsday Man” issue opens with quite a bang for readers interested in checking it out. Issue #21 has just debuted and is available right now, with one more that’ll continue next week in issue #22, dropping on Marvel Unlimited November 29, and then two more the following weeks after.

AVENGERS UNLIMITED #21  
4-issue arc launches on Tuesday, November 22 
Writer/Artist: Patch Zircher 
Colorist: Java Tartaglia 
Editor: Tom Brevoort 
 

 

 

Marvel Unlimited Releases a T.E.S.T. Kitchen Thanksgiving Special

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For those who enjoy seeing things about the culinary arts, T.E.S.T. kitchen is an infinity comic available on Marvel Unlimited that’s created by chef Paul Eschbach and artist E.J. Su. Equal parts comic book as it is recipe book, T.E.S.T. kitchen was originally announced over the summer during the Marvel Fanfare panel at SDCC and follows the story Anna Ameyama, a high-end chef chasing her dreams and running her own food truck.

One fateful day, Iron Man crash lands on her truck by during an epic battle. Having lost everything, Ameyama is soon greeted by Tony Stark for lunch, and of course in a moment of generosity, is given a shot to be a chef at a position over at Stark Enterprises.

“As Marvel continued to expand our efforts into the culinary space—from our original Food & Comics panels at comic-cons; to developing our food-centric Eat The Universe brand, products, and content; to the culinary concepts you see at places like Avengers Campus—creating an in-universe character to be at the front of all these endeavors only made more sense,” Cebulski told Bloomberg.

“A comic like T.E.S.T. KITCHEN, which contains both stories and recipes, will hopefully appeal to a different kind of viewer/reader than we traditionally reach at Marvel,” he added.

So far there have been three issues of the T.E.S.T. Kitchen comic. What’s neat about it is just how different it is from vertical comics that’ve come before, mostly in that it’s part comic book but also, a full-blown recipe instructional book set with pictures of food and a how-to-make instruction manual written in notebook paper that are surprisingly, delightful and informative. There’s also been a Halloween special though this week’s comic, we learn from chef Anna Ameyama, the magical art of turning your thanksgiving leftovers to delicious delectable dumplings.

And maybe… also see some mentions of Wakandan Coffee.

T.E.S.T KITCHEN: THANKSGIVING SPECIAL #1 

One-shot launches Monday, November 21 

Writer: Paul Eschbach 

Artist/Colorist: E.J. Su 

Editor: Ellie Pyle 

X-Men Unlimited Issue #62 Review: The Best of Two Legendary X-Men Titles

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The latest infinity comic over at Marvel Unlimited, this brand new vertical reimagining takes a brand new look at the X-Men. The first of six issues that takes two X-Men classic storylines and combines them together, with Age of Apocalypse and House of X. Though both set during the Krakoan age.

For those not in the know Age of Apocalypse is a very popular storyline from the 90s adapted in both game and original animated series format, and for many, was a high mark in X-Men history. In Age of Apocalypse, Charles Xavier is accidentally killed in the past instead of Magneto due to a botched assassination attempt by Legion. What results is an era where Apocalypse arrives about a decade earlier than when the X-Men could be ready to stop him, and thus, En Sabah Nur succeeded in taking over the earth creating the dawn of his own Apocalypse.

Meanwhile, House of X is arguably the most popular X-Men storyline since, ironically, Age of Apocalypse. It’s set in the age of Krakoa, a living mutant paradise nation/state away from the rest of humanity. During an era where mutants were nearly almost entirely extinct, Charles Xavier and Magneto surprisingly had teamed up to accomplish both of their dreams: fulfilling a promise to make a place where Mutants could prosper and live in peace independently from humanity, though oddly along the way, by having found a way to crack what any person concerned for the survival of their species could ask for: immortality.

Led by Professor Xavier and co-founded by both Magneto and Moira McTaggert (whose influence in this story is absolutely killer and a complete character reimagining but I’ll omit for spoilers), what makes House of X a fascinating read is just by how many themes it takes on in the Jonathan Hickman run.

You’ve got the nature of Gods and monsters, genetic experimentation, corporations, what it means to have a legacy, asks when does science go too far, and of course: features storylines from the X-Men, including a soverign Storm and a swooning Scott and Jean. So what happens when this paradise is threatened by the very Apocalypse who wanted to make this reality his own for the almost entirety of his own character continuity?

Well that’s sort of what gets introduced in this comic along with a whole plethora of introductions and characters as we focus in on a day in the life of one professor Charles Xavier. All for a storyline that seems to introduce the best of both of these respective storyline worlds and ending on a cliffhanger you won’t want to miss.

Writer: Jordan Blum 

Artist: Salva Espin

Colorist: Israel Silva

Editor: Jordan White

The Winchesters: Season 1; Episode 5: “Legacy of a Mind” Review

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Tuesday’s episode opened with a man (councilman Gordon Baxter as played by Ryan Reilly) troubled by his dreams, so much so that they killed him. We then cut to the usual flirtatious banter between John and Mary before it’s off to the Scooby gang where they are split between pursuing their lead on the Akrida or investigating the councilman’s death. Surprise, surprise Ada casts the deciding vote in the monster of the week’s favor. Why? We soon learn the “monster” is a djinn*, and he is also Ada’s son (Tyler Lofton) – hi Tony! This comes in handy after John bribes officer Betty for a lead on the Akrida’s next target (Anthony S. Goolsby playing contractor Derek Fisher). Tony, not being a bad monster agrees to help save Mary after she gets bit by an Akrida. There’s some convoluted BS about stingers and deep dark trauma but with some help from John, Mary is A-OK. We end with some new insights into the Akrida’s master plan and Ada leaving the group to get to know her son better.

I wasn’t a huge fan of this episode for several reasons, the main one being that it is all over the place. There’s growth and insight for Ada, an out of nowhere love interest for Latika, and subpar performances from Meg and Drake in one scene versus the entire show.

See, for most of the episode, John and Mary’s evolving relationship is handled well. The scene with them in the garage after the monster-tease opener is a good example of this. Drake does a fine job of showing John’s cautious optimism with regard to Mary and its subsequent dashing when she tells him she plans on leaving Lawrence altogether. Meg is good at playing Mary all walls up when she’s around John but vulnerable when talking about love with Ada. Yet, later, when Mary is under the spell of the Akrida and forced to face some of her most traumatic childhood memories, there’s a scene that – for me at least – fails on all cylinders.

Following a decent scene of Mary at 10 (Anabelle Holloway) standing over the body of a werewolf she slayed, we come upon a five-year-old version of herself (Jophielle Love). It’s the night her parents told her she’s gonna be a monster-hunter, and I gotta say Meg’s delivery feels forced and hollow. Drake’s John isn’t any better here. His lines come off as bored, for lack of a better word. There’s a chance that since this episode focuses so heavily on John and Mary’s evolving relationship anything that detracts from this far more interesting storyline simply wasn’t acted with as much dedication. It would be my best explanation as I thoroughly enjoy Meg and Drake in every other scene but here.

But it’s a stark contrast given Demetria delivers a nuanced performance in an episode that reveals probably the most we’ve seen from her character so far. Though human with witch tendencies, Ada is revealed to have had a romantic relationship with a Jinn (*spellings vary), and following that a child who is half-human and half-monster. Her vulnerability at failing this child, along with her wisdom to keep his existence a secret from monster hunters really endears this character to me when before I didn’t have much investment in her. Naturally, they capitalize on this newfound depth by getting rid of her…uh the fuck? Though, I can’t say that entirely unexpected, what’s the old saying? Leave them wanting more – success!

Legacy of a Mind | Politics

What is unexpected is Latika’s contribution to Ada’s storyline. See, while her and Carlos are largely sidelined for most of the episode, they do manage to provide a huge chunk of information about the big bad: the Akrida. Thanks to being pointed in the right direction by Tony, they manage to discover all the people the Akrida have been targeting are connected to the construction of a radio tower. Pulling numerous public filings they unearth the name Roxanne – aka Rockin’ Roxy – and seem to conclude that she’s possibly the leader they’ve been looking for. But, this isn’t the contribution I was speaking of, no, Latika’s surprise comes after Mary has been rescued and Ada is about to depart on a bonding trip with her estranged son. Turns out Tony has developed a thing for Latika, though there’s no reason given for this. It definitely blindsided me, especially since Tony words it as if he wants to keep up communications with Latika, as if they have been talking this whole time and he doesn’t want to lose the momentum. Maybe the scene hit the cutting room floor? Maybe it’s just designed to be a “love at first sight” type deal, but whatever the case it really comes off as out of left-field. Hey, Latika doesn’t have anything going for her, let’s throw her a bone yeah?

Overall, this episode just didn’t do it for me. It was OK in terms of Mary and John, useless in terms of Carlos and Lata, and obviously a boon for Ada. I like the way they are building John slowly but I’m not thrilled with how they keep trying to make Mary happen. Mary comes from a hunting family, and fans of Supernatural have seen Samuel Campbell in the flesh, but people who are strictly watching The Winchesters don’t know him like that and these emotional manipulations are not helping. Using a djinn for flashback purposes is fine but then fully use it. Having Mary and John walk into what amounts to black box theatre sets where there’s a little girl providing exposition over a dead body, and another one in a bed with a knife saying jack-shit doesn’t help things. You could have done full scenes here, blocked it so the identities of Mary’s mom and dad were obscured enough for an adequate reveal later, and then have Mary react to it, but this!? It felt cheap and hollow – which could explain why Meg and Drake’s performances felt the same.

Legacy of a Mind | Family

With respect to budgeting, I have seen complaints on the poor CGI of the monsters but to that I would say, I’m not exactly surprised. Let’s not forget that this is the pilot season to a spinoff for a show that ran for 15 years and only really got good SFX maybe what? Three, four seasons in? Hell, even the last couple of seasons were lacking in that department, so maybe we give this first season a break, yeah? The first season of Supernatural has horrible CGI and SFX, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. I might even make the argument that it’s done in homage to the original, but that’s probably not true. Bottom line? This isn’t AMC or Netflix or HBO where the design budget is sky’s the limit, it’s network TV on a channel that may or may not exist a year from now, calm yourself. Unless it’s hurting the actors’ abilities to do their jobs well, let it go.

Finally, my last gripe with this episode is about John. See, when Sam and Dean go a hunting they have the mentality that all monsters are bad. This mindset doesn’t get challenged for a while in the original series, and it is established that their father John taught them all monsters are bad and need to be killed. Period. No questions asked. However, once again, we’re getting some canon shifting with respect to John. While he initially sticks to the idea that all monsters = bad, he resigns to work with Tony to save Mary. This gets me to thinking, particularly when you factor in the VO’s by future Dean, that maybe none of this is supposed to be real. Is it possible that this whole series is nothing more than Dean Winchester re-writing the past as he wishes it had been? I mean, again, as I said when writing the pilot’s review, it’s entirely possible that all of these canonical inaccuracies can be fixed through angelic or godly intervention, but failing that the most obvious solution is to just St. Elsewhere it. Also, since I’m bringing up Dean’s voiceovers for the first time, allow me to say that this week’s VO seemed more apt for last week’s episode. Though in fairness, I haven’t been keeping track of them. Supernatural never had VO, and while I get the need for it in the pilot, I don’t think he adds anything all that useful to each episode.

Easily a C, maybe the werewolves in next week’s episode can bring us back up?

The Return of Spider-Gwen Features Gwen’s Greateset Threat: Herself!

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Gwen Stacy sees a return to action with the Ghost-Spider multiverse version of Earth-65. Now in a limited series, the new comic run written by Silk and Tiger Division’s writer, Emily Kim, with art by Edge of Spider-Verse creator Kei Zama, will see Ghost-Spider face off against a cavalcade of clones modeled on Spidey’s rogue gallery. All designed by comics artist and Marvel darling, Peach Momoko!

The story kicks off in an alternate reality where Gwen was bitten by a radioactive spider granting her spider-powers. Ghost-Spider, as known in her run that dates back to 2014, is a story that’s seen Gwen really come into her own as a girl in the modern world. Facing off against villains like Venom, while becoming a great role-model and kick-butt drummer as one of the most entertaining runs Marvel’s done in the past decade.

But when she’s faced against Doc Ock, Sandman, Vulture, and more of the Spider-Rogues, a shocking secret smacks Gwen in the face: they’re all her! It’s a dark story about clones, set in one of Marvel’s favorite storylines, and most definitely one of my favorites having read the entire line since 2014.

“I was a little nervous taking on Spider-Gwen because she’s such an iconic hero,” Kim said in Marvel’s latest press release. “But the rich story premise and fantastic team has made the process a blast. I’ve quickly fallen in love with Gwen and her unique voice and am excited for people to see how she handles a crazy slew of Gwen clones.”

“There’s a lot of fun things about drawing Gwen Stacy and Ghost-Spider,” Zama added. “I’m especially exciting to draw bold battle scenes of Ghost-Spider and come up with ways to create exciting compositions. It’s also really fun to draw the expressions of Gwen Stacy. I’m really glad to draw these new villains designed by Peach Momoko. I didn’t expect to collaborate with her in this way.”

SPIDER-GWEN: SHADOW CLONES #1 (OF 5)

Written by EMILY KIM

Art by KEI ZAMA

Cover by DAVID NAKAYAMA

On Sale 3/1

Emma Frost Cover by Artgerm Shows Who’s the True Queen in Sins of Sinister #1 Variant

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Talk about your sinful covers! Featured as Marvel’s newest story of the X-Men, Sins of Sinister is the newest mutant-related event that will see a new Comics run and complete change as to where the fate of mutantkind is heading. It’s one that sees Mister Sinister take the reign, with a a one-shot series that will later spin off into three limited series: Immoral X-Men, Storm and the Brotherhood of Mutants, and Nightcrawlers. Which are basically, more or less, all of the big X-Men titles announced for 2023 and beyond.

Originally Announced at NYCC 2022,  the series sees Mister Sinister’s plans forever change the X-Men universe. One that sees the stories of Immortal X-Men, X-Men Red, and Legion of X forever changed into the upcoming iterations to come, as told in a quote at Comic Con by Screenrant:

“POWERS OF ESSEX! It’s the end of the world as we know it, and at least Sinister feels fine. For now. Can that last? Especially when we discover that he really is his own worst enemy… The universe-melting X-event begins here, in a horror timeline that makes Age of Apocalypse look like the X-Men Swimsuit Special. Join Kieron Gillen (IMMORTAL X-MEN, AXE: JUDGMENT DAY) as he kicks off the X-Men crossover Sinister has been planning since the beginning…and is going to have to see through to the bitter end.”

In this one-shot by beloved Marvel creators Kieron Gillen and Lucas Werneck, this timeline will in fact feature a story where Mr. Sinister that’s been teased as being darker than Age of Apocalypse. Emma Frost will be one of the heroes featured in this story, and in a new variant cover for the upcoming story, the White Queen sits atop her throne as she wonders the best way of taking down Mr. Sinister.

To mark the occasion, Stanley “Artgerm” Lau has brought a variant cover for SINS OF SINISTER #1 featuring Emma Frost looking… well, just take a look. As it’ll also be available as a virgin variant cover as well. For thirsty fans of… more art!

SINS OF SINISTER #1

Written by KIERON GILLEN

Art by LUCAS WERNECK & MORE

Variant Cover by STANLEY “ARTGERM” LAU – 75960620434200121

Virgin Variant Cover by STANLEY “ARTGERM” LAU – 75960620434200131

On Sale 1/23

The Peripheral Episode 6 Review: Fuck You and Eat Shit!

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Alexandra Billings (right)

 

In what’s been an up-and-down midseason for The Peripheral, episode 6 picks the series back up for an upwards beat. Good, with lots of characters progressing forward, and more fun science fiction reveals that make the signature really cool. 

This episode’s opening scene sort of continues last week’s opening with Grace and Aelita, revealing that the group of military marines we saw during those tested neural chips in Grace and Aelita’s flashback last week? Those were in fact Burton and his marine crew including… Conner. It’s a big dramatic reveal that was heavily hinted at last week. 

The big takeaway course is seeing Conner’s full journey as a character. A look back at Conner’s past sort of motivates him to make the big decision he makes in this episode, especially now, given that he’s now both seen the future and is the only other person to try out a peripheral from the more recent timeline. I won’t spoil what happens but will admit: this was definitely something foreshadowed since the very beginning of his arrival as a character. 

That said, in the sixth episode, we get a nifty reveal that’s pretty big for the series’ worldbuilding again. This time, with the utilization of augmented VR/AR projectors in future London that are… most definitely hiding a dark truth of sorts underneath (though that’s yet to be confirmed).  It’s a concept I actually have always wanted to write about as an author: this idea of a virtual augmented reality being overlaid over a functioning city. 

Why do this is rather obvious: because the future is heading toward a place where life on this planet will become unsustainable. Civilizations will decline, and with it, the histories and architecture of the old world. The natural science fiction conclusion would of course be to preserve that with a VR/AR portion of our major cities, and while we don’t know the full details, London in this show does something just like and it’s absolutely cool. 

As for the main story, Wilf and Flynne continue their investigation of Aelita and it’s pretty badass. Whereas last week saw a major conflict for Flynne, this week’s focus is more focused on the sentimentality between the two, which is anyone’s guess. If this is the haptic drift of Flynne’s schoolgirl crush on Wilf, we don’t really know.

Also, there was more follow-up regarding the deputy Tommy storyline but it’s mostly the fallout after the “car accident” that liberated Bob, who’s very much still alive and working for the exact bad guys you’d expect: Corbell Pickett. He makes a fun appearance again with his wife though there is one… really bad scene regarding a fish tank with an unrealistic ocean of water inside that brings the biggest tension to this episode. It’s…uh… brilliant if you sort of don’t think about the science behind it, which is kind of hard, given the amount of science fiction in this series (though the fact that the amount of water in a fish tank is the scientific complaint is the complaint is telling how good the science has been).

The biggest and final takeaway though in this episode is the introduction of Ainsley Lowbeer, who’s sort of the futuristic police of the future and one heck of an intimidating character. Where this is leading to is anyone’s guess but mine but I will say that the added tension in check makes it so that, whatever the cause of all this turmoil in the future is, looks like it’s finally being addressed even though we won’t know as to what ends…

Oh and yes… F*ck You and Eat Sh*t is used in this story. You’ll never guess how though.

 

The Final Verdict

It’s been a blast reviewing this series and I can’t wait to see the final two episodes when they air (as that’s the end of our screeners). I think the science fiction is well paced and the tensions are distributed well, even though most of it seems to be leading toward a bad-guy shootout. I will say though that the series does lack a few character losses, making it hard to sympathize with how well the Fishers do have it. Still, The Peripheral continues to be a promising series that’s more heavy on the science fiction than the rest of the story.

 

New Scarlet Witch #1 Trailer and Announcement to Introduce Darcy Lewis (Thor & Wandavision) Into Marvel Comics

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An upcoming solo series starring Wanda Maximoff has been announced with a brand new trailer for Marvel comics. Written by Steve Orlando (MaraudersDarkhold) and drawn by artist Sara Pichelli (Ultimate Spider-Man), Scarlet Witch #1 will reintroduce the beloved hero on January 4th with a mysterious magical door concept. One that’s featured as a place to turn to when all hope is lost, as a means to summon the Scarlett Witch for those most in need.

It should be interesting and the featured artwork looks quite different as seen in the trailer above. The story is meant to also incorporate not only Wanda’s most powerful magical abilities, but also, see her family reconnected including moments with Quicksilver, Polaris, and Viv Vision. There are also bits that see Wanda face off against the Corrupter along with a brand-new costume designed by Russell Dauterman.

“Two of the major crosses that she’d been bearing for a long time had finally been lifted, so it really felt like a new moment,” Orlando told Polygon in a recent interview. “We talked about setting her up in a new place where she could put her power to service for all the people that she’s realized she could have helped if she had actually taken the time and done the work to reckon with herself sooner.”

But that’s not all…

Darcy Makes Her Debut

The biggest takeaway though is that Darcy Lewis will finally be making her official comics debut in Marvel comics. For those not in the know, Darcy is a pretty beloved character introduced in the original two Thor MCU movies. Most recently, she also played a role in Wandavision and made a reappearance in Thor: Love and Thunder. She is also played by actress, Kat Dennings.

Apparently, it’s been told that Darcy will play a large role in this comic run as Wanda’s sidekick for the brand new series, as apparently, in typical Darcy fashion: the character has stumbled into trouble and has entered the enchanted reality door herself. According to Marvel’s announcement in their press release, there are also promises that Darcy’s got a major role to play regarding Wanda’s new story. One that involves her un-yet-told character backstory.

SCARLET WITCH #1
Written by STEVE ORLANDO
Art by SARA PICHELLI
Colors by MATT WILSON
Cover by RUSSELL DAUTERMAN
On Sale 1/4/23

X-Men and Captain Marvel face-off against Aliens in Crossover: Revenge of The Brood

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Upcoming issues of X-MEN and CAPTAIN MARVEL will intersect as they both deal with the emerging threat of the BROOD!

 

The Brood, a race of parasitic pillagers, has returned to the Marvel Universe and their presence has been felt. Unfortunately, their plan to contaminate the cosmos is not only Captain Marvel’s problem, but the X-Men too!

As shown in Kelly Thompson’s celebrated Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers’ latest mission to respond to a cry for help found her face to face with her old nemeses the Brood! Lucky for Captain Marvel she’s got friends in high places! Following a story arc guest appearance by some well-known X-Men like Rogue, Gambit, and Wolverine, Gerry Duggan’s current X-Men title will feature a cross-over with Captain Marvel beginning with February’s X-Men #19. Artist Stefano Caselli joins Duggan for an arc that sees the X-Men grasping the reality that the Brood, regardless of their efforts, still poses a huge danger and needs to be dealt with swiftly and permanently.

Both arcs, titled “Revenge of the Brood” and “Lord of the Brood”, recall the original Brood saga by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and Paul Smith where Captain Marvel and the X-Men came together in this epic struggle. This seminal chapter in Captain Marvel’s history saw the introduction of her Binary form, while the X-Men experienced some devastating losses. What will this new war bring? Surely no one involved will leave untouched.

“Lord of the Brood” finds the X-Men getting an S.O.S. from deep space that reveals the galaxy’s Brood issue is definitely STILL an issue! Ah, it all seemed so figured out, Broo (a close friend to the X-Men) was the Brood King and could keep the vicious alien race in check since he was one of them – kind of. But, things have quickly gotten out of hand and now Broo has no power to stop the Brood from killing those he loves! Groups of rogue Brood are causing chaos, and the X-Men mean to figure out why!

“Revenge of the Brood” sets Carol Danvers on a one-way trip to her own personal hell! And frankly, that’s the way the Brood Empress likes it, she’s happy to make sure Carol and her allies get there post haste. The Captain had a simple goal: rescue the team and high tail it out of there, but now the cards are stacked against them all. The Brood get the upper hand, cornering and converging on our heroes forcing them to make a terrible choice to survive. But, one loss won’t be enough for the Brood, they know what happens if you make an enemy of Carol Danvers and they don’t plan on having her live to fight another day.

In honor of this epic crossover, upcoming issues of both series will have one huge connecting cover by Juan Frigeri that will run from CAPTAIN MARVEL #46-48 and X-MEN #19-21. This amazing Captain Marvel/X-Men team-up will conclude in CAPTAIN MARVEL #49 with both stories clashing in a galaxy-altering finale!

“I have been wanting to write the Brood and have some X-Men guest stars since we started this CAPTAIN MARVEL run in 2019!” Thompson told CBR in an recent interview. “The Brood were off the table for a long time due to some changes to their role in the Marvel Universe — and that was true, a little, of the X-Men too. So it’s really exciting to have all of it coming together finally in one story — our biggest Captain Marvel story yet — feels right, y’know? It especially feels right because The Brood are truly [some] of Carol’s greatest nemeses. [Considering] how we’ve been pushing on her powers, her role in the Marvel Universe, and her commitment to being a hero –it feels like things all coming to a head.”

“The Brood are back, and they’re worse than ever,” Duggan explained. “The X-Men must make some hard choices about their pest control services, and what about Broo, the former student at the X-Mansion, we thought he was the Lord Of The Brood? The problems are galactic and it’s all hands on deck including Captain Marvel, Rogue, Gambit, and Polaris. Check for parasites.”

Will Captain Marvel and the X-Men finally stop the galaxy’s biggest threat? Find out by picking up both CAPTAIN MARVEL and X-MEN in the upcoming months!

Upcoming issues of X-MEN and CAPTAIN MARVEL will intersect as they both deal with the emerging threat of the BROOD!
X-Men#20; Captain Marvel#47

On Sale 2/8

X-MEN #19

Written by GERRY DUGGAN

Art by STEFANO CASELLI

Cover by JUAN FRIGERI

On Sale 2/15

CAPTAIN MARVEL #46

Written by KELLY THOMPSON

Art by JAVIER PINA

Cover by JUAN FRIGERI

On Sale 3/8

X-MEN #20

Written by GERRY DUGGAN

Art by STEFANO CASELLI

Cover by JUAN FRIGERI

On Sale 3/15

CAPTAIN MARVEL #47

Written by KELLY  THOMPSON

Art by SERGIO DÁVILA

Cover by JUAN FRIGERI

Miracleman: The Silver Age #3 Sees The Return of beloved stories by Neil Gaiman and Buckingham to Marvel

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The highly anticipated Miracleman: The Silver Age #3 returns this December after nearly 40 years since its debut. After a revolutionary run that made Miracleman one of the most coveted collectible comics of all-time, and a subsequent complicated history regarding Miracleman’s IP history, Marvel comics is finally able to see the return of the hero along with original run’s creators, Gaiman and Buckingham, where a young Miracle Man returns to tackle on a brave new world.

“This script was written 30 years ago and has never been seen until now. It feels so liberating to be able to bring people new Miracleman for the first time in three decades,” Gaiman said in a Marvel press release.

“We’re back! And after thirty years away it is both thrilling and terrifying,” Buckingham said. “Neil and I have had these stories in our heads since 1989, so it is amazing to finally be on the verge of sharing them with our readers.”

The remastered Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham: The Silver Age #1-2 will serve as a reintroduction leading into the new chapter of #3. Where the Golden Age hero tackles the complexities of today.

As a first look, fans are treated to see an opening atop the Himalayas where Dickie Dauntless, aka Young Miracleman, is on a desperate search to find his place in the Age of Miracles. All for a harrowing tale where he’ll have to confront his past with Johnny Bates.

“I have pushed myself to my limit to craft something special for these issues,” Buckingham continued. “Cinematic in approach, clean and elegant, drawing on the best of my own style, but also paying homage to the exceptional talents of all who came before us, whose unique visions have shaped this ground-breaking series over forty years, and the 1950’s MARVELMAN foundations on which it was built.”

The original run of Miracleman ended in 1990s after Eclipse Comics, ended. The original plan was for a Miracleman saga of multiple ages but only The Golden Age was finished. This comic will pick-up where the Silver Age left off.

Jason Aaron’s Historic Finale for The Avengers Showcases Doom The Living Planet and The Original Phoenix Host

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Marvel fans are witnessing the end of an era with the epic conclusion to the saga of Jason Aaron’s five year run. Fans were already witness to that hot new trailer, and later this month fans will see the beginning of the biggest battle to take place for the Avengers in Avengers Assemble Alpha #1!

This one-shot is a crossover of Avengers and Avengers Forever where the two storylines collide for an epic war at Avengers Tower at Infinity’s End. Now under assault by both the Multiversal Masters of Evil and Mephisto, Earth’s mightiest unite not just the current Avengers, but the heroes from the past, present, and future to defend the entire history of the Marvel timeline. All for a bold tale that will redefine Marvel’s own history with the greatest Marvel superhero showdown ever depicted in its comic run.

The story kicks off with Avengers #65, where fans will learn all about Avenger Prime: the greatest Avenger in the Multiverse and protector of the watchtower at the heart of all creation. No longer all alone, as there’s a series of Avengers who’ve assembled to support, fans can see Prime with nearly every amazing hero in Marvel’s history for a showdown for the stake of all of existence.

But that’s not all. The story is then followed up in Avengers Forever #14, where the protectors of prehistoric Earth and the present-day Avengers gather for a last stand against a common enemy. The greatest villain in Marvel’s history: Doom the Living Planet!

Atop of this, Marvel’s also released new cover art by best-selling artist Stanley “Artgerm” Lau featuring the original Phoenix Host from 1,000,000 B.C. All for Avengers #64 and Part of of Avengers Assemble. Part of the Prehistoric Avengers, Firehair, Phoenix will play a critical role in the story.

And let’s be honest: she looks fire in this cover art.

AVENGERS #65 – Part 4 of “Avengers Assemble”

Written by JASON AARON

Art by JAVIER GARRÓN

Variant Cover by STANLEY “ARTGERM” LAU – 75960608857706451

Virgin Variant Cover by STANLEY “ARTGERM” LAU – 75960608857706461

On Sale 1/4

 

AVENGERS #65 – Part 6 of “Avengers Assemble”

Written by JASON AARON

Art and Cover by JAVIER GARRÓN

On Sale 2/1

 

AVENGERS FOREVER #14 – Part 7 of “Avengers Assemble”

Written by JASON AARON

Art aby JIM TOWE

Cover by AARON KUDER

On Sale 2/15

‘I Am Iron Man’ is Tony Stark’s Best Battles

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Murewa Ayodele and Dotun Akande team up on I AM IRON MAN, a new series launching in March

 

Whether you’re an old fan or a newcomer this upcoming Iron Man series will give you a glimpse at peak Tony Stark through his most amazing adventures over his storied career as the Golden Avenger!

I Am Iron Man, from writer Murewa Ayodele with art by Dotun Akande, is chuck-full of Armored Avenger action. These two rising Marvel stars have been blazing trails in Moon Knight: Black, White & Blood #1, the Avengers Unlimited Infinity Comic, and Nov 16th’s Iron Man #25. Now they’re bringing you a collection of Tony’s greatest hits from each iconic Iron Man era in celebration in Iron Avenger’s 60th anniversary, where Tony battles some of the most intense conflicts of his life.

Monster battles fathoms, attacks from outer space in the desert, a rescue mission where no one can hear you gloat, and more can be seen in this amazing new series. The issue will look throughout ol’Shellhead’s rich history – from the Silver Age, through the Archie Goodwin eras, to the ’90s, back to today. With a look at what’s in store ahead, as fans look back into the life of Tony Stark.

War hero. Inventor with a genius-level intellect. Billionaire. And… helpless romantic?!

“Iron Man has been my favorite character in all of fiction for years now,” Ayodele said in Marvel’s most recent press release. “I’ve loved the character for so long that I had written a proposal for this series even before Dotun and I broke into comics. So, we are super grateful that Marvel made our wildest dreams come true by giving us this opportunity to tell stories that celebrate 60 years of the awesome existence of Tony Stark.”

“Every issue of I AM IRON MAN is set in an iconic era of Iron Man, explores some deep emotional wounds of Tony Stark, is adrenaline-pumping with exciting set pieces, and is rendered in beautiful illustrations by Dotun Akande (my favorite comic book artist and best friend),” Ayodele continued. “It’s the series for Iron Man fans and anyone that has ever wanted to get into Iron Man comics.”

“Working on an Iron Man title—and an anniversary series for that matter—is a dream come true,” Akande added. “That dream is a little over a decade now. Every single line of artwork is a decade-long itch scratched and a very personal love letter to Tony Stark (Iron Man), his creators, other inspiring and amazing storytellers that have worked on his comics, and his very passionate fans. Luckily for me, I found an equally enthusiastic fan of the character in my best friend, Murewa. We have a series of exhilarating, heroic tales we’re sure will be enjoyed by both Iron Man stans and new readers. It’s going to be a thrilling ride. Steel yourself.”

Suit up and take off through some of the Golden Gladiator’s biggest wins and most astounding encounters when I Am Iron Man lands in March!

I AM IRON MAN #1 (OF 5)

Written by MUREWA AYODELE

Art and Cover by DOTUN AKANDE

On Sale 3/1

La Brea Season 2 Episode 7 Review: 1988

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LA BREA -- "1988" Episode 207 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jack Martin as Josh Harris, Natalie Zea as Eve Harris, Eoin Macken as Gavin Harris-- (Photo by: Sarah Enticknap/NBC)

 

It feels odd covering the fall finale of La Brea after a two-week hiatus. I’m not a fan of the fall finale phenomenon in general. I get it, businesses like to milk November and December for all the holiday moolah they can get with TV specials, but it just really hurts the momentum of a season 2 that had been going swimmingly all year. That now unfortunately skids to a screeching halt.

LA BREA — “1988” Episode 207 — Pictured: Zyra Gorecki as Izzy — (Photo by: Sara Enticknap)

1988 starts moments after the earthquake we saw last time, a portent of the massive tidal wave that’s only 40 hours away from destroying Santa Monica and the surrounding area. Since the Harris family still has time and are finally back together, they’re reminiscing about the good times, especially Eve and Gavin. But Levi’s clearly not happy about that and breaks up the good vibes with his discovery.

The device Dr. Clark left hidden is a radio transmitter. By following the progression of the beeps, they can locate where she was taken. To my huge surprise, they do so instantly. Sam and Levi take out her guards. Gavin rescues his mother. Levi goes total action hero to clear out the rest of the guards in the building before a gunshot goes off, as his reckless behavior, got him shot. Even though the bullet went through he needs immediate medical attention. Luckily, Sam and Riley are around who know how to repair the damage.

One group stays to help heal Levi while the other goes with Caroline to finish her virus. Izzy is worried about splitting up again, but there’s nothing that can be done for it. Though she’s desperate to have her family whole, Izzy doesn’t want her parents to reunite for the wrong reasons. I will say, I appreciated her sibling bond with her brother Josh, and especially enjoyed them trading barbs and talking about the past. In particular, they note that their dad seems like a whole person now even if Josh still feels guilty for not believing him earlier. Though they’re both acting, they do a great job of expressing familial love.

As for poor Levi, he’s not ready to let Eve go and even tells her again he wants to start a new family with her despite the good advice from Sam to let her make up her mind and spend some time with her husband and children. However, that’s all is secondary to the new problem revealed by Dr. Clark. Her virus will shut down all the portals, eliminating the threat of the sinkholes entirely. There’s just one issue: no portals mean everyone has to decide if they’re going to remain permanently in 1988 or return to the dangers of 10,000 BC.

LA BREA — “1988” Episode 207 — Pictured: Villagers — (Photo by: Sara Enticknap)

Speaking of which, things are pretty tense in the prehistoric hellscape. Though it starts calm with Ty and Paara managing to capture Taamet way too easily, there’s a problem. Lucas is dying and only Taamet knows how to cure him. He tells Paara to let him free once he saves Lucas, or allow him trial by combat. When his ex-wife foolishly agrees, he challenges Ty instead of her. She refuses, but it’s clear it’s only a matter of time until Lucas dies, and Scott is desperate to save his once bully, now friend.

Despite the odds clearly stacked against him, Ty gives a brave speech about how he found life again in 10,000 BC and he’s willing to die to save Lucas. So he’ll do the trial by combat. However, he’s not going in without a plan. Meanwhile Lucas himself is really in a dark place. He feels he deserves to die for dealing heroin, and only the urgent counsel of Veronica (and an unexpected kiss) gets his head out of the shadows momentarily.

LA BREA — “1988” Episode 207 — Pictured: (l-r) Josh Martin as Jack Harris, Eoin Macken as Gavin — (Photo by: Sarah Enticknap/NBC)

Back in 1988, things get complicated just as Dr. Clark finishes uploading her virus to a thumb drive. Lazarus agents return to her home, and the Harris family has to escape the house. Later Gavin hatches a plan to get the threat off their tails. Levi and Clark act as decoys when Gavin comes zooming by, knocking the three agents into the Hollywood sinkhole.

The most exciting action scene in the fall finale is the trial by combat. It’s clear Paara wasn’t joking when she warned Ty that her ex is sadistic and deadly. They’re both armed with spears, but only Taamet is proficient with one. Ty has a good plan, though, and uses his long-honed therapy skills to get in the Exile’s head. He makes him sloppy and angry, and manages to trip the man when he’s asking for recognition of his victory. The end result is they get the undisclosed cure for Lucas’ condition, which has to be due to some prehistoric toxin.

There’s just one tiny problem – Taamet didn’t get beaten. He threw the fight thanks to a deal Scott secretly made with the man. If he threw the fight, Lucas would get the cure and the Exile would be let free. Scott tries in vain to wriggle out of the deal, saying Ty beat him fair and square. But then Taamet says he left one ingredient out of the cure. When Scott rushes to let him free, he knocks the pothead back, promising vengeance when he returns.

LA BREA — “1988” Episode 207 — Pictured: (l-r) Lily Santiago as Veronica, Rohan Mirchandaney as Scott — (Photo by: Sara Enticknap)

As expected, 1988 ends with the Harris family making a big decision. While they were eager to start over in the 80’s, there’s a problem. For Dr. Clark to upload her virus, she needs to override a genetic lock. Which means Gavin will need to return to 10,000 BC with her, essentially stranding himself there once the portals are closed. Eve isn’t willing to let him go, despite their complicated history. So the entire Harris family agrees to return to the past. So does Sam and Riley, since they want to reunite with the rest of their family in their own time as well.

Before everybody (except apparently Levi) jumps into the sinkhole, La Brea throws one last curveball our way. Right as they’re about to jump, Gavin has his first vision in quite a while. It seems to show Eve dying. What’s unclear is how he’s having a vision again, since previously they were his memories streamed through time by his younger self, Isaiah. But now that child is safely adopted in 1988. Does this mean it’s a vision of the future? Or perhaps something more sinister? All I know is it’s going to be a long wait for the second half of La Brea season 2.

‘Broken Pieces’ Review (PS5): It Comes Together Well Enough

cover art of broken pieces where Elise look at lighthouse in the distance

 

For a good psychological thriller to work, there needs to be an imprint left behind on the audience that makes them question their own sanity. Questioning of the human mind and a mystery behind the shattered states of what makes us human. Themes of morality, reality, dissolution, the unreliable narrator, and the overall impression that not everything is what it seems, are sort of paramount to picking up the remains of what’s meant to be a very fragmented story. Which is exactly what Broken Pieces tries to accomplish in its about 10 hour playtime.

Created by French game development studio Elseware Experience and published by Freedom Games, Broken Pieces is an isolated mystery puzzle-adventure with occasional shooting mechanics. A lonesome psychological thriller about a woman named Elise and the strange occurrences that have confined her to the French coastal village of Saint Exil. The game is in every fashion an attempted creation of something akin to Resident Evil (classic) but set in an almost Eldrich terror town mystery, where a lighthouse overlooks something ancient from the depths. A beautiful game that has promise though ultimately falls a bit flat on its final impact. 

In Broken Pieces, you play as Elise, a woman in her 30’s looking for her long-time partner, Pierre, of whom you’d just moved-in with in a seemingly quiet yet quaint coastal village town in France. The survival horror begins two weeks after a military abduction during the town’s yearly festival, when a cult’s behind the scenes involvement created chaos leading to whatever strange reality you’ve awaken in.

Exploring the mysteries of the town on your own, Elise’s journey unravels a tale that involves not just Saint Exil, but the government, revealing secrets kept hidden for generations. Much of this is told through found cassette tapes, both at your home, as well as scattered throughout the city, as documented journals and secrets regarding the story’s lore are littered throughout the town. 

These tapes serve as much of the lore featured in the game. You can listen to each one while playing, and for those creeped about by the town’s eerie silence and creaking doors, there is also some of Pierre’s music that you can play in the background just to cut the horror ambiance. 

Narratively, the world building in this game is pretty fantastic, creating a creepy mystery where solving puzzles, finding clues, and traversing to a new town location feels naturally integrated with the story. The more mystery that gets revealed, the more gameplay and puzzles Elise unlocks to reach the ending. For example, in the game it’s revealed early-on how the cult had taken all of the town’s circuit breakers to limit mobility across town, requiring Elise to find and hoard her own to unlock different electric gates and doors. Keys have to be found. Valves and levers need to be utilized. All to unlock areas of the map later in the game that, upon first glance, are seemingly harmless or unrelated, though are revealed to be anything but…

On top of this, there are a few intriguing side quests to check out in the game. The train arcade video game is easily the most entertaining thing about Broken Pieces as its a seriously challenging switch-based test of awareness and dexterity. George’s tables, the main side quest of the game, is a difficult puzzle where a chain of balls need to land in a hole while also maneuvering a switch of blocks that need to be cleared of obstructions. 

Finally, George’s Workshop is easily the best-looking location, as the toymaker had crafted a house of wonders to go with his ‘Nico the Hungry Robot’. A mechanism whose side quests are the most interesting thing about the game. Beating these puzzles grants notes, poems, loose collectibles, and some gun upgrades, along with a few collectors items needed for a platinum run. 

While this is all fun and games throughout, I will admit that story-wise there is a major twist revealed at the end which… sort of fizzles. The payoff feels less than the sum of its parts leading up to it and, without spoilers, the mystery of the town’s explanation delves into the nature of Elise’s reality and the nature of the crystals around town. Unfortunately, the ending feels more like things were revealed for the sake of moving the story forward where, for the sake of plotting, the game concludes in its inevitable end.

Now, I played ‘Original Mode’ as this was how the game was intended for the developers, a balance between combat and puzzling. Players can opt to do just the puzzle mode though, if they’re in it simply for the sake of reaching the end. I will admit, given Elise’s very slow run mechanic, Original Mode does get tedious towards the end of the game, when it’s required to trek back to all of the town’s locations and the random encounters become more annoying than menacing. Especially as the game’s in-game timer, where you must be home before 8pm (or else face a lot of ghosts in the dark), sort of forces you to rest way more than feels necessary, ineffectively repeating the game’s traveling process. To make matters worse, going from one area of the town to another can sometimes sacrifice time, making players lose up to 3 hours or more traveling back and forth between the town’s different locations, such as the lighthouse or church.

Solving puzzles seems to be the game’s priority, as there are a lot of environmental ones atop of the ones mentioned above. Sometimes it’s weather related. Sometimes it’s unlocking a door passed earlier on. Fun at first, but it gets redundant later on, as some of these are literally going from one end of map to another just to find clues and documents/tapes, some of which you can only listen to at home (meaning you’ll lose a day to move the game forward). 

The most ethereal element featured in the game is an interesting mechanic regarding Elise’s stone. A gift from Pierre that has special abilities, the stone can summon a storm to push trees down or charge wind turbines to open electric-powered doors. Under certain conditions, the stone is also able to change the season from summer to winter when used in a pool of water later in the game, which is a big function in solving the game’s endgame puzzles. 

Combat is limited to just a pistol whenever the moment is triggered during the game. There’s basic ammo (which is infinite) and high quality ammo (crafted at night if you leave junk in the item chest overnight) for Elise to use. Maneuverability is low and, much like the original Resident Evil games, Elise can’t move when aiming down sights. 

While aiming the reticle does get smaller and turns red the longer she’s locked onto a target, which when fired at the right time, does extra damage and guaranteed hits (as shooting repeatedly tends to miss). For the PS5 version of the game, there is some degree of resistance triggers and some haptic feedback when firing the pistol. 

When enemies spawn, the location locks down and a ghost (usually 1-3 at a time) try to physically attack her. These ghosts appear as static-looking soldier monsters attacking with blunt objects, all for a basic combat that’s more tedious than enjoyable in my opinion. 

You can also repel a single attack with the circle button using Elise’s stone. This forces that enemy to retreat but at the cost of a small bit of energy points. Elise can also use up even more energy points by holding the triangle which causes an AOE damage explosion that hopefully takes out a few enemies. This does have its risks, however, as enemies may still spawn afterward, and there’ll be less energy left to use a repel if necessary.

You can heal Elise by resting at a bench for 2 hours (in-game time) or by drinking something from a refrigerator. Besides this mechanic, the item wheel is something to pay attention to in the game not just because it scrolls in a strangely similar interface as The Last of Us, but is also limited in carry capacity. This is particularly tedious with heavy objects which can only be carried one at time (heavy objects are levers, axes, and valves).

 

Given the small team of five, I’m actually rather impressed with how great the game looks. It was powered by the Unreal Engine over Unity, which is why it’s pretty graphically impressive, as you can do more with it aesthetically than the accessibility of a Unity engine. This results in seamless cutscenes and an environment that’s incredibly well-detailed. Visuals that are creepy in a dilapidated older architecture sense of setting, filled with dark-lit houses and cult-like church paraphernalia. All for what’s definitely a great accomplishment of level design. 

Checking drawers and examining objects, much like the Resident Evil games, are so important as there are a couple of missable gun upgrades and a whole lot of desks and drawers to search for important items. The narrative fits so well with these levels as hitting X makes Elise interact with so much in the environment causing her to comment on all things. Kudos as well to the voice actress, as well as the script team for these moments, as it gave Broken Pieces a lot of story bits to feel like a fleshed-out environment. 

The use of camera angles is very distinct in this one as well, just like the original Resident Evil, for the sake of adding horror ambiance. Your point of view is stuck as a camera on the wall meaning your sights are almost always limited. However, you can at least control what angle you see, as Elise can use R1 to adjust to a separate second angle, or use the R3 to scroll the room and see from her first person point of view. 

The strangest graphical element in the game is the usage of portals that take Elise to an alternate reality. While visually intriguing, I’m not entirely certain as to their point in the game. They have entirely separate inventories and are strangely more difficult in terms of combat. There are also movement problems in the game, mostly in that going down the stairs looks… pretty funny and stoic-shouldered in motion, and at certain parts of the game there were freezes and crashes. Though in my playthrough, it was unfortunately more towards the end though not-at-all confined to combat. Which is actually kind of bad for a game to freeze in the puzzle solving and less action-driven moments, though this could have just been my experience.

I will say that visually, the reveal at the end does have some very Final Fantasy vibes, but I won’t delve into which one, for the sake of spoilers. It’s a dark story that goes in places visually that make it rather compelling, mostly in that you probably wouldn’t have expected to see some of these visuals when you first began the journey. Which is a good thing in psychological thriller.

The Verdict

 

Broken pieces does some thing right and some things wrong. As a puzzler, it’s a decent game but the combat feels like a bad attempt at Resident Evil. The atmosphere is great though and the story has promise… just don’t expect some groundbreaking conclusion.

Final Score: 3/5

Marvel Reveals it’s Free Comic Book Day Titles in 2023

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Free Comic Book Day is coming and with it Marvel Comics is offering up a little of everything with four special titles designed to introduce new readers to the current Marvel mythos! Along with these titles – which include Fall of X, and Summer of Symbiotes – 2023’s Free Comic Book Day comics are putting creators and characters from diverse cultures, communities, and identities front and center!

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2023: AVENGERS/X-MEN #1 Cover by JAVIER GARRON

Free Comic Book Day 2023: Avengers/X-Men #1 tells a set of new tales that set up the next incarnation in mutant exploits, Fall of X, introducing an uncanny (get it?) roster for a new team book coming next year. There’s also a preview of Jonathan Hickman and Valerio Schiti’s upcoming mystery project.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2023: SPIDER-MAN/VENOM #1 Cover by PATRICK GLEASON

Free Comic Book Day 2023: Spider-Man/Venom #1 will web-sling readers into the current thrilling happenings of Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr.’s Amazing Spider-Man while setting the stage for the Summer of Symbiotes. Also, also a preview of a new Marvel epic heading your way.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2023: MARVEL’S VOICES #1 Cover by CHRIS ALLEN

Free Comic Book Day 2023: Marvel’s Voices #1 Gives readers a peak into the revolutionary and critically hailed Marvel’s Voices series – focused on highlighting creators and characters throughout Marvel’s diverse and ever-changing universe. The book contains a collection of series from past Marvel’s Voices issues as well as a brand-new one!

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2023: SPIDEY & FRIENDS 1

And finally, Free Comic Book Day 2023: Spidey & Friends #1 returns! Swing into action with Spidey, Ghost-Spider, and Miles as they battle Green Goblin, Doc Ock, and many more in this amazing special. Chuck-full of easy-to-read comic stories in the vein of the Disney Junior show, this book is ideal for readers ages 5-7. There’s even an interactive element for young fans to exercise their wall-crawling skills. It’s the can’t-miss perfect primer for the next generation of Spider-Fans!

Arcade Hosts A Killer Game in The Upcoming Murderworld Saga!

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Along with a team of all-star artists, Jim Zub and Ray Fawkes are putting the “murder” back in Murderworld come November 16th! They’ve written a thrilling series that starts with Murderworld: Avengers #1 and concludes, in March, with Murderworld: Game Over #1. Over the course of five one-shots, readers will behold the most sinister Arcade yet as he subjects a new cast of characters to his horrifying Murderworld.

“When I first saw Murderworld in an issue of Uncanny X-Men, I was fascinated by its colorful corniness mixed with deception and violence,” Zub explained. “Many years ago, Ray and I chatted about a twisted thriller-survival story set in Arcade’s deadly playground and now, starting with MURDERWORLD: AVENGERS, we’re finally getting the chance to unleash it!”

Two hundred contestants vie for a one hundred million dollar prize but to get it they’ve got to survive a series of ruthless trials in Arcade’s new and improved Murderworld. Sure, Arcade may have been a bad joke in the past but this time he’s for serious and the bodies will hit the floor with each twist and turn throughout his new game. Is the diabolical game master’s challenge unbeatable? Paul Pastor, an exceptional documentarian, is poised to throw a wrench in the gears but he can’t do it on his own. As it happens, the Black Widow is no fan of Arcade’s and is happy to help our intrepid reporter, but how high will the body count rise before she can stop this insanely bloody plot??

“Murderworld is one of those stealthy, ultra-compelling concepts that always made the Marvel Universe so fascinating to me – the gaudy, family-fun veneer slapped over a deadly threat. When Jim and I were discussing it, ideas to make it more and more frightening and exciting just kept coming to us. I’m thrilled to bring them to readers in all their horrible glory!” Fawkes added.

Step right up to the deadliest game in the Marvel Universe when MURDERWORLD: AVENGERS #1 hits stands on November 16!

MURDERWORLD: AVENGERS #1

Written by JIM ZUB & RAY FAWKES

Art by JETHRO MORALES

Cover by PACO MEDINA
On Sale 11/16

 

MURDERWORLD: SPIDER-MAN #1 – 75960620487800111

Written by JIM ZUB & RAY FAWKES

Art by FARID KARAMI

Cover by PACO MEDINA
On Sale 12/28

 

MURDERWORLD: WOLVERINE #1 – 75960620488500111

Written by JIM ZUB & RAY FAWKES

Art by CARLOS NIETO

Cover by PACO MEDINA
On Sale 1/25

 

MURDERWORLD: MOON KNIGHT #1

Written by JIM ZUB & RAY FAWKES

Art by LUCA PIZZARI

Cover by PACO MEDINA

On Sale 2/15

 

MURDERWORLD: GAME OVER #1

Written by JIM ZUB & RAY FAWKES

Art by NETHO DIAZ & MORE

Cover by PACO MEDINA

On Sale 3/1

Atlanta Season 4 Episode 10 Recap: It Was All A Dream

“ATLANTA” -- "It Was All a Dream" -- Season 4, Episode 10 (Airs Nov 10) Pictured: LaKeith Stanfield as Darius. CR: Guy D'Alema/FX

“The last breath.”  “The last chance.”  “The last waltz”…

“There are no second acts in American lives,” is very myopic because it came from the brain of someone in his infancy of literary genius.

“Drive it like you stole it” seems more our speed…

Atlanta Series Finale Recap

We open up to Judge Judy on the TV as the dreamy “Skyscrapers” by Bruno Nicolai guides us. Earn (Donald Glover) chats it up with Al (Brian Tyree Henry) as Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) fixate on the two, as if in a trance once the music transitions to Kami’s “Lift Yourself” before noticing a Popeye’s commercial. This is a chef’s kiss in a beautiful slow-motion scene.

They snap him out of it. Darius takes his cans off, assuring he’ll catch up with them later, for he has a date with a sensory deprivation tank.

At the spot, Al has eyes for Popeye’s. Earn tells him to calm himself and support the first black-owned sushi restaurant in Atlanta. Demarcus studied under real sushi masters in Japan, it’s fucking on point. Who could argue with a bit of culture injected into their lives?

Besides, Van’s friend invested a lot, so in kind, they’d be helping her a lot. Rolling up on the joint, Al calls it out for being a former Blockbuster.

At the pharmacy, Darius’ prescription (for ‘Eeze’) isn’t found. Wandering about the store while the pharmacist checks the back, he’s stopped by a woman (Cree Summer) overhearing him.

Don’t think I didn’t notice the beautiful, talented Cree Summer who played Freddie in A Different World.

Freddie. Who was the Dream Master also known as?

Well played, Atlanta, well played.

Her erstwhile book club transformed into a sensory deprivation club now dubbed the ‘Flo-Teps’. She stopped going as the visions inside were getting too deep, causing her to lose sight of what was real. Darius’ solution for that? Anchoring himself by imagining a thicc Judge Judy.

Silly as it sounds, the logic tracks. She’s always on TV, so if he sees her and she appears to be packing something fierce, he must be under.

Darius asks the woman if she’s there for anxiety meds. It turns out her baby needs antibiotics. She does claim to have tried everything, but she believes she’s back to normal, having changed her lifestyle. Though her baby’s father thinks she’s nuts, she’s at peace with it.

She used to view the world as a battle, but she concedes that if she’s a part of the same world as well, she’s allowed to dance in it as she sees fit. This seems to rock Darius to his core until his prescription is called.

Right before he leaves, Darius takes the initiative to tell the woman she has a beautiful spirit and thanks her. She seems smitten and maybe a Dep Sesh is in their cards down the line…

After parking and handing the keys off to the valet, Al and Earn meet up with Van (Zazie Beetz) at the spot. Al seems completely out of his element in his own city, like finding an undiscovered microcosm he doesn’t care for adjacent to the one he does. Van knows he’s got Popeye’s on the brain.

Though supporting her friend, even she can’t stop thinking about deep-fried bliss mere feet away, vindicating Al.

Chef Kenny (Damian White) introduces himself. He’ll be serving omakase due to the special occasion. This is when the customer relinquishes control, leaving it to the chef to serve only the best in seasonal cuisine. To a gourmand, this is basically an MDMA-fueled handjob.

The owner Demarcus is a big fan and is honored to have Paper Boi in his establishment, exemplified by a concerted ‘What’s up?’ from the staff. Al looks concerned.

On his way to the session, a car pulls up calling Darius’ name. The driver inside asks why he’s been dodging her. This is London (Naté Jones). He tried to hit her up, but she apparently changes her number every few months. She asks him to hit her up on email ‘like the underground days’ but he claims to have put those days behind him. This causes pause, literally, as she pumps the brakes.

She knows he used to be wildin’ back then. He knows she was, but asserts that he’s always been the same ol’ Darius. He tells that he’s going uptown to a Dep sesh. She demands he get in as she’s headed there anyway. Not one to disrupt the flow, Darius obliges.

On the way, she offers him weed. Normally, he refrains before a session, but he seldom sees London from the southside, so he partakes. He asks for a swig of her water, but it’s actually vodka. Oh, boy.

Sirens are heard from behind. Darius has to step on an empty beer bottle as she speeds up to air out the car. Oh, boy.

As she’s pulled over, she affirms being sober. As the cop approaches the car, she’s all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. The stop was for illegal tint, but after claiming it’s her mother’s car, she’s questioned on if she’s been drinking. Darius knows they are fucked, but she claims it’s water and downing it as if she’d just finished a 10k. Oh, bwoy.

After successfully (with panache) completing a field sobriety test with the added kicker of answering how many seasons Homeboys In Outerspace exist (one), she’s given a citation and bade a good day. All seems well, on-

Well, think again. She grabs the dude’s gun, and rushes to drive off but ends up hitting a cyclist before running away, apologizing but asserting that it’s all Darius’ fault, leaving him holding the gun.

Darius ascends from his vision in the deprivation pod. An assistant (Daniel Chung) rushes to him. He’s just a little shaken from staying not stirred. The staffer offers a break in their tea room, which he happily accepts. Remember, the last time Darius had tea, strange things were afoot.

In the tea lounge, he’s met by three older white women. He informs that he’s been coming once a week to cleanse his spirit. The woman claims to come for the tea room and when asked why they keep calling it the ‘tea room’, they simply laugh and say, that it just is the tea room to their endless howls of laughter.

This prompts Darius to grab the woman, screaming at her to wake up. This prompts the assistant to kick him out with his clothes. Poor guy thought it was a dream.

At the sushi joint, Al isn’t feeling the food as he longingly stares at Popeye’s. Van’s not even feeling the lukewarm food, but Earn’s trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. Al just wants to rip the band-aid off quickly by just dipping into what they know and love.

Earn wants to support Afro-Asian fusion, but the straw that breaks the camel’s back for Alfred is when he’s asked for a refill of Hot White Hennessey. He asks for the “bathroom.”

Darius is texted by Earn. The group’s not complete. Is he coming?

He simply has one last stop- a sick friend (Kevin Iso) to drop off the medication. He invites Darius to a proper bowl of Jollof rice (which he was robbed of last season in England) and though initially declining, he relents to half a bowl. How could he refuse his own brother?

He does notice the television with Judge Judy on and once she gets up, she saunters off with a nice big booty in tow. They both admire it before Darius ascends once again from his soul slumber, gasping.

The staffer rushes to his aid. Darius turned over in the tank which the assistant had never seen before. He claims he was under for 30 until Darius ascends once more from the salt water session, screaming in frustration.

Once Al comes back from the john, literally across the street, he tosses over the bathroom key, ready to head over to Popeye’s before the high school crowd storms it.

The most delicate of dishes are now served: fugu.

Though the trio attempt to squirm out of the situation, a gentleman calls them out on booking it for Popeye’s. They all do.

Relaying a story of the night Queen and Slim premiered, they were booked solid. People were riding the high, supporting their own. Fifteen minutes later that night, they were empty, as not a single soul ate the blowfish. Every Yelp review just said it was just black people serving ‘poisoned fish’.

Real sushi is made with bare hands and served at room temperature. Any other reputable place on earth wouldn’t be questioned, but when a person of color holds himself to the same standards, they are considered unsafe.

Al tries to interject but while school’s out for the teens in that Popeye’s, school is in session for him. He’s informed that one of the world’s most exclusive sushi joints is tucked away in a Tokyo subway station. His master studied there. This is Demarcus (Calvin Dutton).

God-level sushi could come from anywhere, but Demarcus is saddened that his master didn’t have the experience of being “just another nigga from Florida.”

Al is met with 151-proof rage from the owner. He calls him out on staring at a modern-day “coon chicken” restaurant served to them by a modern ‘Aunt Jemima’ telling the masses she’s benefitting from a recipe that’s all hers.

The cold, hard truth of the matter is the person who owns the recipe is an Italian man and his family, none of which have married black.

Al seems to have ‘gotten it’ but must prove himself by eating that declaration through the fugu. Demarcus demands they look to the future by staring at the Popeye’s. In his eyes, the reason shit like this exists is that blacks were taught to be mistrustful of each other, only looking after themselves. With that, he commands his staff to lock the doors.

Like a blazing hawk, Darius swoops in, decking Demarcus, and shooing the trio into his pink Maserati.

They peel out to the tune of Marvin Gaye’s “Dream of a Lifetime” and excitedly cruise the Atlanta streets with an Ellen moment of looking under their seats to find Popeye’s.

At the crib, it wasn’t all a dream. As Earn puts it, “Food tastes better when you think you’re about to die.” Truer words were never spake.

High-spirited, they ask Darius where he got the ride. Easy. He stole it from the valet to looks of consternation pursed on their faces. He claims it to be alright, still being in the tank.

Everybody’s concerned, but Darius confidently posits that maybe it was all just a dream and all of them are just players on his proscenium.

With that, they all go outside to smoke something nice. Darius assures Al he’ll join in a moment. He observes them from afar on the couch, just as he did in the beginning, coming full circle.

With Judith Scheindlin on the tube, Darius perks up and waits. Upon Judy’s exit, we’re greeted by his diminishing grin.

Atlanta Series Finale Takeaway

The final piece of the puzzle was Darius, having tied up Earn and Van’s situation and Al’s newfound peace.

He was always my favorite of the series and someone of a quizzical nature and with the Afro-surrealism of the series as a whole, it was always fun figuring out where he factored in as the glue to the other three.

Filled with wanderlust and out-of-the-box thinking, I believe Donald Glover (who fittingly wrote the fitting ending to his series) and directed by the only co-pilot I’ve ever seen him with from start to finish, Hiro Murai, Darius’ sayonara was nothing short of brilliance.

I believe he’s seen himself in Darius as much as he’s seen himself in all of the Fab Four he’s created. I mean, it was his dream, after all, and he seeps through it.

The overall arc of the narrator in the episode’s descriptions was spot on and hilarious, ever and lent to the overall surrealism of the viewing experience. It’s as if someone was conversationally telling us what they thought of the episode we were about to watch.

This series is dedicated to dreamers, those who have their heads in the stars. Remember, a dream is just that until it becomes reality.

Our grading star system is only limited to 5. However, since 7 is the number of completion:

7/5 Stars.

The Peripheral Episode 5 Review: What About Bob? What About Our Story!

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the peripheral banner

 

We get to the second half of the season and wow is it grim. Whereas last week had the big revelation as to what effectively ended the world, this week takes a step back, with a look at the side characters involved and a grave new threat to the Fisher siblings.

In the fifth episode, we see a bunch of side character backstory seeing a surprising ex-romance between actresses Grace (Amber Rose Revah) and Aelita (Charlotte Riley). It’s a moment that’s equal parts flashback and exposition. The purpose of which serves as an explanation of how implants can influence the behavior of a character, resulting in rather explosive conclusions, as viewers will find out.

This episode introduces Bob the Butcher O’Connel (Ned Dennehy) mostly as a means throw in conflict. He’s a type of sneaky assassin for hire who’s seemingly the new hired gun for the powers that want to kill the Fisher family. This story arc is the best thing for the show in terms of the action and gets us back to what I think drew in most people initially: heart pounding thrills and a surprisingly large amount of gunplay. While it’s not an entirely different angle from what we’ve seen in the past, seeing Bob be a terminator-like assassin (I mean, how else could you survive multiple shotgun wounds?) was rather compelling. 

I’ll also just sidebar and admit seeing Amber Rose Revah (Punisher), Aelita (Peaky Blinders), and Ned Dennehy (Good Omens) in a series together, where each actor all had rather important side roles, was very pleasant to watch. Amazon really knows how to utilize their talent pool but I do worry that by spreading their plot lines too thin it’s getting to be too much for the show.

Why I stress this is because both Jasper and Tommy’s storylines seem almost as equally weighted as this strange Bob sidebar. That’s a problem that’s run-on for two episodes now and it’s seeming like they’re more bumps in the road than anything of substance that needs more time to actually build conflict. It’s almost as if Jasper and Tommy arcs were artificially put in to be there for the sake of keeping secrets to artificially create tension and it’s showing itself pretty obviously now. 

First, with Tommy’s butting-in to discover what actually happened regarding what Fisher’s are actually up to given the signs of the military feud in the forrest and ‘close encounters’ Tommy seems to just conveniently keep missing. While on the opposite end, you then have Billy Ann’s knowledge about what’s going on while keeping it a secret from Jasper, her husband. 

Both of which are arcs about secrets though neither of which… feels all that interesting because both are dragging out a few episodes in now. It’s definitely here for the sake of driving tension but I think this might be the first time it’s so blatantly evident in the series. Which kind of ruins the immersion as I’m not longer watching, I’m sort of just fast forwarding through these hurdles to get to the plot points. Moments which are rather shallow in this episode as honestly, not much happens, the sciencey bits are best in the first 15 minutes, and the confrontations, while enjoyable, ultimately still hold little stakes. 

Still, ultimately, the assassination attempts and Sheriff’s department arcs seem to be driving a wedge between Flynn and Wilf, which is strange, because Flynn apparently has feelings for someone she haptic connected to… just once. To make matters worse, is how future-persons are interfering even more in the past, all causing a series of events leading to a premature encounter between Flynn and Doctor Cherise finally meeting face-to-face. 

The Take

Whereas last week was possibly the best episode of the series, this episode may be the worst. As it’s pretty cliche in terms of everything that led up to the big encounter that the series was building up to and oddly, though I hate asking for things like this, I think what the show needs is a death or sense of defeat right now because there’s not much reminding us what’s a stake. I should also stress, the science fiction elements were also pretty tame this time around which is why I found it less enjoyable. Hopefully next week provides for a better episode.

 

‘Asterigos: Curse of the Stars’ Review – More Like Princess of War meets Souls-Lite

 

Culture. Intrigue. Tyrants. War. There is just something to western civilization rooted in our everyday forms of storytelling; especially, in video games where every empire and axe to grind is met with an Elden Ring or God of War. So when I was attending Pax East 2022 over at the TinyBuild booth and found that they’d designed a Greek and Roman culture-themed video game featuring a cutesy female protagonist, I was absolutely interested in writing about it. Little did I know… I’d also absolutely love everything about the game. 

Developed by a group of industry veterans as a passion project in Acme Gamestudio, and published by TinyBuild, Asterigos: Curse of The Stars is Elden Ring meets God of War starring a Northwind Legion young warrior named Hilda. On an epic quest to find her father and his missing warriors, this journey sees Hilda explore the magical city of Aphes, which was sort of the apex of Western Civilization before a mysterious magic befell its denizens, now cursed for an entire millennia due to the magical yet mysterious nature of starite, which is sort of the source of magic in the game. 

Getting to explore these mysteries of Aphesian culture, who’ve maintained order only by maintaining martial law, Hilda soon finds herself in trouble and is only able to find aid in a rebel group of insurgents called The Adherents. A group of survivors led by an ex-noble aristoi whom in exchange for their aid in saving the city, will help Hilda locate her father. 

While this is just the premise of what kicks off the journey, fans of traditional RPGs and Lore will find this to be one of the richest stories ever created for an indie game. The dialogue trees are incredibly branched and loaded with details regarding characters, history, ranks, beliefs, magic, and status. There are also ghost recaps called Echos that Hilda can find and activate triggering flashbacks that reveal the tragic history of what’s occurring in Aphes. 

Its hours of lore that surprisingly does so much to establish the world of Asterigos. An achievement in terms of the writing and contextualization of why Hilda’s actions matter as they influence the outcome of what happens to each segment of the city, summarized in brief cutaway scenes much like the closing chapters in The Witcher 3. Overall there’s this weighted consequence regarding causality and casualties, with quite a few kill or don’t kill decisions that determine your outcome in the game. With 30 hours of playtime, and 60+ hours for a full platinum running trying to finish every sidequest (which are essential for a good ending but very fetch-quest) the consequences of each action, makes it so that Asterigos has a great deal of replayibility in New Game+ mode. 

In total, there are over 250 documents regarding the lore in Asterigos along with a great amount of detail taken into the design of every cobblestone, building ,and crevice in a city of interconnected areas very obviously designed off both Greek an Roman architecture and models. 

The designs of the town centers and marketplaces, the usage of crates and vases, and really the highly praised Hilda outfits (they should release more), make it for a well-design world with graphics to boot. I also think people will also like the aphisians character designs, as they’re tall and cursed with secondary mutations taking on appearance of things like foxes, wolves, or harpies humans. Though the PS5 version doesn’t do much to upgrade on a base PS4 model, the cutscenes do appear better in the console upgrade, and the people look a lot less night elfish than in the less-refined version by comparison. The details on textures also look great on a zoomed in character.

The voice acting is also pretty neat even though not everything is dubbed, just the most important scenes. However, the music in the game sometimes is surprisingly well-done and incredibly sentimental. Very reminiscent of Kingdom Hearts or Zelda to me.

With a handful of updates, visually, this could’ve visually been a modern AAA game competitor. The environment could use more intractable items and there’s a lot less platforming in the game than there should be, along with some closed off areas withheld because of an obvious lack of resources. Still, it’s incredibly worth the time to play for the graphics and design alone, even if some of the more animated portions during combat aren’t always visually smooth.

Souls-lite has been the popular comparison for Asterigos: Curse of The Stars as it’s essentially an easier-version of a Souls game. Though one with a much lighter penalty where all that’s lost in 10% of your stardust (the currency in the game) whenever you die in combat. The ‘save points’ where you respawn are stone-like structures called conduits, that when registered with a single touch, Hilda can use as a location to teleport back towards. 

You can also choose to rest at a conduit which fully restores health, but that also, restores all enemies which get placed back on the map. It should be noted that one benefit to having conduits be both healing and respawn is that you can easily farm materials from combat in the game.

Asterigos itself feels incredibly diverse with slums, a downtown, sewers, and academy. It’s easy to underestimate just how big it is, not just in size, but in design as traversing always can lead to many pathways and areas. There are also, so many little trinkets and treasures find, along with a plethora of doors to knock-on to check-in on NPCs and trigger side quests. If that wasn’t enough, there are also 122 treasure chests littered across the entirety of the game, many of which, are hidden but contain necessary materials for upgrades.

Getting lost is sort of an intentional design choice as it’s indeed a gorgeous city with plenty to enjoy whose designs look like an actual segment of Rome or Italy. The problem is the game is definitely missing some in-game radar or map for guidance and lack of a ping system, which while not included in Souls-games, still feels like a disservice here mostly because objects in room layouts aren’t as diverse as they would be in a AAA-sized title, so it can get confusing. To make matters worse, it takes forever to run one end of town to the other, so those stones to teleport really will matter as the more overwhelming lost characters can get as Hilda… especially, when it comes to side quests where you’re fetching back and forth. 

The best thing about Asterigos: Curse of The Stars is it’s combat system, which feels super advanced for a first-title of a studio. You can fight your way through 60 different monsters and encounter 22 unique bosses, each with scaling difficulty depending on difficulty mode. The boss battles in the game are easily the most enjoyable element to them, as each have unique patterns, and there are a ton of them in this game (which when defeated, unlock some achievement trophies if you’re into that). Making matters more complicated though is that some perks will also make others weaker, making character design key to victory (though there are potions where you can reset and reallocate your points but they are expensive).

Speaking of which, Hilda has an assortment of six different weapons for her to try out. These are all upgrades great for empowering weapons damage up to 10. The armor though, may be debatable depending on play style because complex as the specials are in the game, the dagger-dodge does make you invulnerable for a brief second and the sword/shield, seems to protect Hilda from most attacks when her guard is up. 

A breakdown for each weapon: Hilda’s Shield and Sword is a rounded choice of both attack and defense that can block all sorts of blows and stab/slash back in return. All for a very balanced approach. Then, you have the magic staff that can send balls of elemental damage or use a sort of beam-snipe mechanic to strike enemies from afar. The hammer decimates shields, spin-damages and causes knockback, while Hilda’s gauntlets that do a lot of area of affect magic combos and sets mines for an enemy to trip on.

A visually cool-looking speer can parry and counter enemies blow-for-blow so long as you time it right. Then there’s everyone’s favorite: the daggers, which makes Hilda a slicing and dicing combo machine with speedy strikes, and a brief invulnerability dodge that can combo into a multitude of slashing combos. All of these weapons mind you: can be elementally powered-up at a whim in the game once the right items are unlocked.

I should stress, most combat encounters are executed with 3-4 hit combos. What’s nifty that makes the game unique,  is that depending on what two weapons you have equipped (can only use 2 at a time), you can actually switch the style seamlessly into the other for fascinating combinations, which when executed correctly, allows for different power finishers. For instance, Hilda could be firing a series of fireballs with her staff but then switch into her shield mode for a stunning shield strike to daze an encroaching enemy next to her. Or, a very popular combo, is to run in stabbing with a dagger multi-hit combo then transition to the magic staff, whose finishing blow not only does a ton of elemental damage, but also, pushes Hilda backwards effectively retreating against an enemy for massive DPS hit-and-run tactics.

The leveling system is an experience-based one that’ll see Hilda gain 1-2 attribute points along with a talent point per level gained. Attribute points can boost precision (damage), constitution (HP), or arcane (skill damage and AP recovery rate). Talent points can be used to unlock Hilda’s Talent Disk skill tree. You can also beat up bunny creatures for to unlock Morning Star Elixir, potions that give you bonus attribute or talent points.  

 

The Verdict

Asterigos: Curse of the Stars is an amazing achievement of a game that’s well worth its price of 34.99. There is also a surprising lot of lore to get lost in, easter eggs to find, and storyline scrolls to read that it’s rather easy to lose hours in all the fun this game has to offer. Atop of this, the best thing about the game are its boss battles, which are challenging though not as punishing as a full-on Dark Souls kind of game. Apparently, there’s also a difficult-to-achieve glorious ending making replayibility of this game very high for fans of adventure RPGs. 

With Great character. Great story. Great gameplay. This is one you should grab if you have time.

SCORE: 4.5/5

‘F.A.R.M System’ Comic Review

The Cover of Page One. PC: Top Shelf/IDW

 

Ever wonder where superheroes come from? 

Not the part where they mutate, or get bitten by radioactive insects, or even, stand too close to a gamma bomb, but rather, that next part. Like how to fight against enemies or work as a team? A dose of spider venom doesn’t impart self-defense skills. And so, unless you’re a Batman with a spare billion to travel the world and learn martial arts, what’s a young person with fantastic powers supposed to do?

Well, in the new comic from Rich Koslowski, you join the F.A.R.M. System. 

Modeled after the farm teams of major league baseball, the F.A.R.M System (Free Agent Recruit Management) recruits young superheroes, trains them, and places them with big time super squads (For a commission, of course).

It’s an intriguing premise in that The Avengers can’t just put up a LinkedIn ad if they need a replacement to fill in for Hawkeye. It’s also interesting to think about what would happen if, say, the Justice League and the X-Men got into a bidding war for a prize recruit. And imagine a Scott Boras type playing both sides to get the best possible contract and commission. 

There’s a lot of room to explore in this idea – How do they find recruits? How do the contracts work? What are their jobs like with the professional teams? – and this comic covers a lot, especially in regards to the exploitation of these recruits. However, I felt like it was only skimming the surface in parts. 

The story covers a couple of main tracks. There’s the Gymnast, the first ever hero recruited by Alexander Ellison to his system despite his having no super abilities aside from sheer determination and will.  He’s at the end of the line, having failed to hook on with any super team and is now on the wrong side of 40. There’s a brand new recruit, who is the entry point to seeing the farm in action, with super powers that are apparently both awesome and yet not defined. And then there are other prospects giving Ellison headaches. The Grind has disappeared right before he was supposed to start a new contract, which could cost Ellison a fortune. 

That’s a lot to cover in 160 pages, and some of it gets quite short shrift. The Grind mystery, in particular, doesn’t seem to be at all connected to the rest of the book until it suddenly is. The New Kid’s (that’s his name) journey into training camp doesn’t have a ton of weight.  It all feels very episodic and a bit disjointed, and there are points that feel like they should be parody, but doesn’t commit to it. For example, one super team is called the Revengers… but is also a world where the X-Men and Wolverine exist. 

There are also a ton of characters, like Channel who can talk to the dead, and Brixx, who is an analogue for The Thing, and many, many more. The problem is, with dozens of heroes, most of them get barely more than a cursory mention. 

There are also some very moving sections here. Diving into the Gymnast’s past and all the sacrifices he made to pursue his dream is heartbreaking. And there’s a short vignette with an older hero named Bullet Prof (not Proof) that really gets to you. And the panel layouts are inventive and used very cleverly. 

Overall, there are some interesting ideas here, but I don’t think they get fleshed out enough. If you are a fan of the behind the scenes mechanics of the superhero world, it’s worth checking out.

Quantum Leap Episode 8 Review: Stand by Ben (Spoiler-Free)

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Ben, Addison's hologram, and three teens run through a dry forest

 

Thank goodness, Quantum Leap seems to have found a way to balance its classic premise and its new one in its eighth episode. After a Halloween episode that relegated the 2022 why-did-Ben-leap mystery to a handful of short scenes and a few that reduced the history-fixing adventure to background noise in favor of said mystery, “Stand by Ben” found a way to make us care about both.

Ben’s latest leap is to 1996, into a 16-year-old boy who, along with three other teens, is trying to escape an abusive disciplinary school – the kind of punitive institute that troubled kids get sent to in order to, purportedly, use outdoorsy knowledge to “straighten them out.” The school is in the middle of nowhere in the American West and the kids have hijacked the director’s car in hopes of reaching Reno to start new lives. But when the car rolls off the road, the teens get stranded in the wilderness with only a single bottle of water between them. Addison then pops up to inform Ben that all four – including the one he leaped into – died of heat exhaustion in the original timeline.

Jenn and Magic in an elevator with red emergency lights

Meanwhile, in 2022, the team is trying to figure out who disrupted their system in the last episode (keeping things vague in case anyone isn’t caught up). At the same time, Jenn is seen ignoring calls from her father.

Part of the challenge with the 2022 Quantum Leap is that it’s been trying to tell two stories at once while also developing two sets of characters with very limited space. Because of the 2022 sci-fi mystery, less screen time is spent with the guest stars Ben tries to help each week. Whereas the original had the luxury of 45 whole minutes to introduce new characters and get the audience to care about them before Sam figures out how to save their futures, the new show gets maybe two-thirds of that time. And because this is still Quantum Leap and the adventure-in-the-past is the entire premise, the 2022 characters (and there are four) get a handful of minutes each per episode to show you who they are.

That’s a lot of character development to squeeze out of a one-hour time slot, and kudos to “Stand by Ben” for pulling it off.

Ben, Addison, and the teens look concerned in the woods at night

What makes this latest episode stand out from others is that Ben seems to genuinely care about the teens he’s trying to save. Because he cares, so do we. And because we care, the stakes feel sky-high. That caring has always been the heart of Quantum Leap, and while Ben has always had a big heart, previous episodes made each mission feel more like a stepping stone to be hopped off as efficiently as possible. In this one, Ben is in no rush to get out, and earnestly wants to help these kids.

In 2022, the episode spotlights one of its characters, Jenn, and takes the opportunity to tell us more about who she is. It’s been a slow burn getting to know the 2022 team, but it’s starting to pay off. Unlike the guest stars, the regulars get the luxury of returning week to week to reveal a little more about the person behind the function.

The consequence of this week’s character focus is that the plots, in both the past and the present, are a bit straightforward. A few ex-machina-feeling moments in the past, a bit of a treading-water feel to the present. But I’ll take that over a plot-ier episode that reduces some characters to plot devices and others to background noise. Especially since the appeal of Quantum Leap has always been its giant, optimistic heart.

Keep it up, Quantum Leap. I’m rooting for you.

Brand-new Invincible Iron Man #1 covers usher in a new age for Tony Stark!

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Winter is coming, and with it, a new Iron Man comic series arrives on the scene to coincide with the armored Avenger’s 60th anniversary. Written by Gerry Duggan with art by Juan Frigeri, Invincible Iron Man will challenge Tony’s limits after a crushing loss from a looming villain that’s been creating havoc throughout the Marvel Universe.

“Tony will be tested, as will the armor,” Duggan told CBR in a recent interview. “As a longtime Iron Man fan, I’m very happy to be throwing everything from my years of notes on the character into one big story. I’ve only pitched stories with beginnings, middles and ends for a while now, and I’m getting to execute on my favorite ideas for both Tony and Iron Man. There is an attempt by our villain to make Tony his own worst enemy.”

No spoilers, but rest assured that Tony Stark is up against a more than adequate foe! It’ll take quick thinking and unpredictable moves in the upcoming months to regain his footing, including making some unusual allies that could teach Iron Man some new tricks.

In honor of this new age, we’ve got both a new trailer and some of Marvel’s best artists working on variant covers for the first issue! Here, we can see Tony in magnificent pinups and fans can also get covers that will focus on his timeless influence.

We also can see Ivan Tao’s Ironheart cover and get ready for this spotlight-stealing hero to shine in the new series! If you really want a meal, Bob Layton’s fantastic connecting covers will leave you stuffed! It’s the house party protocol in print with Tony’s various armors from his 60-year history on full display!

“I think it’s safe to say that there has not been a reckoning for some of the secrets that Howard Stark had. And so very much, it is a family drama, even though Howard is gone. [Jonathan] Hickman left a lot of gifts behind. Cantwell is leaving a lot of gifts behind. And the gift that I intend to bring to Tony as a forever gift, hopefully, and obviously future creators and future editors will get to decide this, is whether or not this new Iron Man villain that’s coming along is going to be a forever gift. I certainly intend it to be,” Duggan told IGN in a recent interview.

Check out the covers now, including the full Layton connecting cover that will grace the first eight issues of the series!

IRON MAN #1

Art by JUAN FRIGERI & BRYAN VALENZA
Cover by KAEL NGU – 75960620424300111

 


Variant Cover by MARCO CHECCHETTO & MARCIO MENYZ – 75960620424300161

 

Variant Cover by PEPE LARRAZ & MARTE GRACIA – 75960620424300151

 

Connecting Cover by BOB LAYTON & PAUL MOUNTS – 75960620424300131

 


Hidden Gem Variant Cover by JOHN ROMITA JR. & FRANK D’ARMATA – 75960620424300141

 

X-Treme Marvel Variant Cover by DECLAN SHALVEY – 75960620424300121

 

Variant Cover by IVAN TAO – 75960620424300181

Virgin Variant Cover by IVAN TAO – 75960620424300191

 

Variant Cover by LUCIANO VECCHIO –75960620424300171

On Sale 12/14

Spidey and Black Cat Need to Heat Things Up in Dark Web and Amazing Spider-Man!

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Attendees of Lucca Comics & Games festival got an exclusive sneak peek of what’s to come for Amazing Spider-Man – thanks Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski and artist extraordinaire John Romita Jr.! Fans were treated to the incredible cover of February’s Dark Web Finale #1, the surprising culmination to the X-Men/Spider-Man crossover that’s about to kindle the holiday season this December!

Among the revelations: Joe Kelly and Terry Dodson will guest on the two-part Amazing Spider-Man #19 and #20! As we’ve seen Zeb Wells’ has cultivated the love affair between Peter Parker and Felicia Hardy, but how will two of Black Cat’s most definitive creators take it to the next level?

The sun is rising on New York City following its demonic invasion, but what will the dawn bring? Dark Web Finale #1 by Zeb Wells with art by Adam Kubert has the answer. The epic double-sized issue will showcase Chasm’s trump card and the new citizens of Hell he brought forth to battle Spider-Man and the X-Men! See the very real effects of Limbo on the city’s landscape! That’s not all, gear up for the Insidious Six, a gnarly evolution of the Sinister Six set to trouble our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and on display in Kubert’s latest cover as well as the Amazing Spider-Man #18 variant cover care of Ed McGuinness!

On the bright side, Dark Web is over, but it didn’t leave Spider-Man unscathed. Needing a break, Peter Parker and Felicia Hardy take solace in an exclusive upstate spa in Amazing Spider-Man #19-20! Their romantic getaway is sure to go smoothly, right? Guest creators Joe Kelly and Terry Dodson helm this special two-parter featuring the Web Head and Black Cat growing as a couple without the threat of death…for now.

These exciting issues will take readers from one disaster to another – with a little sweet time in between – when Amazing Spider-Man drops in February!

 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #18

Written by ZEB WELLS

Art by ED McGUINNESS

Variant Cover by ED McGUINNESS – 75960620200301831

On Sale 1/25

DARK WEB FINALE #1

Written by ZEB WELLS

Art and Cover by ADAM KUBERT

On Sale 2/1

 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #19

Written by JOE KELLY
Art by TERRY DODSON & RACHEL DODSON
Cover by JOHN ROMITA JR.

On Sale 2/8

 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #20

Written by JOE KELLY
Art by TERRY DODSON & RACHEL DODSON
Cover by JOHN ROMITA JR.

On Sale 2/22

Young Rock Season 3 Episode 1 Review: “The People Need You”

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Key art for Young Rock Season 3

In a plot-obsessed entertainment landscape, where the obsession over spoilers reduces stories to only their beats and twists, Young Rock has always been a refreshing reminder that it’s not just what happens that matters, but how it happened, and who it happened to.

Look, we all know who Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is. We know how his life and career turned out. There’s no spoiling a show about a guy whose fate is public knowledge. Okay, so the framing device of the show—that Johnson is a presidential candidate in 2032–includes imagined events whose outcomes are uncertain, but that’s not why anyone watches Young Rock (To my knowledge. If you were really invested in Johnson’s fictional presidential run as something more than a humorous framing device, then more power to you).

Maybe because its subject is so famous, the show has had the freedom to rip up the usual linear storytelling playbook and jump around to different times in Johnson’s life: As a child (Adrian Groulx), a teenager (Bradley Constant), and a young man (Uli Latukefu). Johnson of course plays himself in the near-future framing device, though the show never bothered with age make-up to make him or his contemporaries (including Randall Park playing a version of himself) look older (they also barely bothered making the actors playing Johnson’s family look older or younger as the show bounces between decades). It’s an interesting and theatrical treatment, and says something about how all of one’s life experiences, in a way, exist at once, shaping our present.

Though some past episodes have focused in particular on one of the three eras in Johnson’s life, the third season kicked off by re-introducing all of them. The bulk of the episode follows Johnson as a child when his father gets on the WWF’s bad side by breaking his contract. Then, we see him as a struggling early-career wrestler whose setbacks feel awfully familiar to those his father faced. Lastly, we jump back to a teenaged Johnson whose father has recently fallen from glory but is still doing his best to make it work.

I didn’t bother with a spoiler alert for that paragraph because, like I said, we know what happens. The show itself has visited these moments before—Johnson’s father breaking his contract, then struggling as a washed-up wrestler, then Johnson himself struggling to break into wrestling. Plot-wise, the episode is a refrain of stories the show has told before. What’s new is how the story is being told, to tie together moments of failure from Johnson’s life to make a broader point about perseverance.

This being the show’s third season, most people watching are already plenty familiar with its players. And so it was nice getting to see them all again in the season pilot, before the show inevitably starts focusing on one or another era in each episode. With its fun, friendly tone, Young Rock has always been a comfort watch, and seeing these characters again felt like visiting old friends.

For wrestling fans, there are plenty of cameos by famous figures to delight over. For those, like me, who are only tangentially aware that professional wrestling exists, it’s still lots of fun to visit these titans of a bygone era (and to realize the cultural impact they’ve had in that I recognize any of these names at all).

It seems likely that the season will follow Johnson’s early wrestling days, with flashbacks to his childhood and teenaged years to illustrate points about family, persistence, and other generally inspirational ideas. That would be absolutely fine by me. Because it almost doesn’t matter what happens, as long as we continue to care about these characters, which isn’t hard when your subject is one of the most likable celebrities on the planet.

The Peripheral Episode 4 Review: Jackpot… Maybe?

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Chloe Grace Moretz in her Peripheral wearing black
(Photo by Sophie Mutevelian/Prime Video)

 

The Peripheral only keeps getting better the further it delves into its science fiction. Authentic, yet also… terrifying, what works best for the William Gibson written series is how the show’s become one of those foreboding tales about what happens when technology takes it too far; as much of it feels like the natural next step of where technology is currently going, especially regarding VR and Robotics.

For a society glued to smart phones and search engine results, the hook for the series is how it’s only slightly off-kilter to the technological realities of today. Which is sort of what the consequences of this episode showcases: when we’ve gone over the line, also known as, what happens when technological breakthroughs hit the JACKPOT of human progress (the answer is simply: regress, though I’ll avoid the whys for spoilers’ sake).

When we last left off with episode 3’s Haptic Drift, the audience was left to learn more about the series more villainous players, particularly in a well-portrayed Corbell Pickett and doctor Cherise, both of whom, have obviously excelled in their roles as stoic bond villain (Cherise) meets breaking superbad (Pickett). What this leads to in this week’s episode revelations are less direct though more implied, all for ways that raise the stakes of the series’ direction heading to its ultimate end.

Continuing on their seasonal arc, Wilf continues to look for his sister Aelita. Through some flashbacks, slow dancing, and a lot of hints we learn a bit more about… well not a whole lot. What we do learn, regarding some of the more science fiction storyline thrown at the audience, is that without Aelita’s necessary immunity booster (the device apparently everyone has in future London) we don’t know how long she can last before she dies of, what I can only assume at this point, will be ultra-covid-variant-17 given the series is predicting a future reality (also kidding, but watch the episode to find out what the great future threat is in this episode).

That said, some storylines seem like they’re not going anywhere. Police deputy Tommy grows suspicious given he saw Pickett and Burton’s handshake but that’s about it regarding that story. Though it’ll likely be details meant for a more present-centric conclusion to the Pickett-centric storyline, it’s growing to be the less interesting of the plots given that the only real thing drawing us in for that story was when there’s a southern-styled gunfight much like the series’ first two episodes. I’ll also admit, the stakes for the stories from the main timeline versus the future one feel unevenly weighted, because with their mother’s cure and the threat of Pickett being at bay thanks to last week’s payoff, there’s not much to worry about just yet.

For the better storyline, it’s obvious Flynne herself is losing it due to peripheral technology as there’s weird things she’s beginning to struggle with such as simple tasks like squeezing the toothpaste tube. This episode delves into the costs of haptics and synergized technology, as though she could transfer her data into the future, coming back is starting to showcase some neurological effects. A hard black eye. Losing her shit. This episode is a bit of a recuperation episode for Flynne, causing her to take it easy and re-explore some home movies, giving the viewers some sincere backstory about her and Burton growing up.

What’s nifty is that because she’s out of commission we see Conner step up in a big way. As characters get pushed to the edge take action. From a screenwriting perspective, I will admit: this is what makes this show fantastic. It levels up the stakes every time. There is always something new at risk in every scene and this tension, is what keeps the plot moving forward. I also really like how every ensemble member is proactively trying to help or contribute, as each person gets a mini-story arc and no one feels like they’re there simply to uplift or provide context to a separate character. Oddly, The Peripheral is a show about people… and their strange loss of humanity in the face of technological adversity, as it’s the very progress of tech that’s killing off what it means to be human.

The science fiction mind you is only even cooler this week. The passive usage of futuristic technology that accentuates the drama is a very good look at what’s done well, with this week, showing off not just bots and VR… but something game changing, as we get one of the biggest reveals of the series regarding what’s happened. Fans of time travel and Back to The Future logic, see the sort of the inevitable conclusion given the inherent time loop in the series. What happens as a result though… is going to be the big takeaway for the series. Speaking of which…

 

Takeaway 

Though The Peripheral is definitely much more slow-paced now compared to how it started, what’s great about it is the science fiction. It’s our strangely very realistic world of tomorrow that’s as equal parts beautiful as it is bleak. Jackpot was not only a perfect title for this episode, but a culmination of what’s been really great sci-fi. Kudos to the world the team has built here at Amazon.