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Moon Knight Episode 1 Review: The Goldfish Problem

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oscar isaac deep in thought in moon knight

In the pilot episode of Moon Knight, we see the wondrous range of Oscar Isaac’s acting chops in an episode set up for what may be a promising season.

Moon Knight is not meant for kids. You should watch with this set expectation. With the bringing on of the grittier Netflix Marvel original series of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, The Defenders, and Iron Fist, it was obvious how Disney+ was pivoting more towards some adult comics territory. Looking for that older demographic. Especially, with the changing of their logins where you now have to verify your age before viewing, and rightfully so, as I don’t think it would be appropriate to have my 4-year-nephew stumble upon a superhero series where Oscar Isaac blacks out and wakes up covered in blood.

What works for Moon Knight is that it centers on the collapsing world around Steven Grant, who is a small-time giftshop retailer at a museum. Steven oddly knows quite a bit about history. His life is not all that interesting and he’s a very shy and quiet introvert. Someone who constantly calls his mother (whom we never hear) to update her. An eccentric that is doing odd things like putting sand around his bed and blacking out for periods of time. 

On the outside, it seems like Steven’s life is collapsing and he’s losing all control. Upon deeper look, one has to question if there ever really was any sort of control–as we’re entering entirely unfamiliar territory, both as a Marvel superhero, but also, as a genre on the whole for Marvel’s MCU.

Again, this is going to be gritty. We’re sold on that. The problem is that I’m not sure that Disney is. These cutaways, which I really hope serve as more substantiative rather than convenient plot skipping devices, highlight two things in the pilot: 

  1. That Steven Grant is not fully in control. 
  2. That whatever is in control seems incredibly violent and leaves Grant in moments of confusion.

Let’s break down the rest below in our Moon Knight episode 1 Review.

What Is The Premise of Moon Knight?

oscar isaac as mark spector/steven grant as he looks at the audience from inside his museum job
Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector/Steven Grant in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Moon Knight is complicated. Set in London, the socially awkward Steven Grant is a small-time gift shop goods seller who is stepped all-over upon via his boss and is awkwardly looking forward to things like dates and phone calls updating his mom. How much of this is real or accurate, I think we don’t really know, as there are really just a lot of convenient information gaps pretty early on into the series. Making everything that you see: from the point of view of an unreliable narrator. 

Soon into the pilot we see gaps in Steven’s memory. He does things like sleepwalking, where he’ll wake up in the middle of a strange place, mistake his Goldfish for a different fish, and worse: he’ll hear voices. That’s sort of the big thing about this series, as for those who’ve read Moon Knight: the big confusing selling point is that this is a hero with dissociative identities. What people used to call: multiple personality disorder.

Moon Knight has almost always had three alters in the comics, and in the pilot, we start to see Oscar Isaac unconsciously become one of them when he’s asleep. Atop this, there are talks of different Gods and Deities, 2 of whom, seem to be conveniently missing either from the record or from the museum’s artifact, as showcased early on in the series (making me wonder if Mark/Steven are the 2 referenced themsevles?)

Steven Grant seems to also be living as a man named Mark, who is, from what the pilot is implying, likely an alter as well. Atop of this, while sleepwalking, Steven transforms into what we believe to be Moon Knight. A character semi-based on some ancient Egyptian Gods backstory of sorts, though for right now, seems to be convenient forward-moving blackout moments filled with loads of implied violence and gaps of fill-in-the-blank yourselves backstory.

My biggest fear is if the series leans too far into comedy as I don’t think this should try and be a joking series. I’m also terrified about Konshu, the voice in Steven’s head played by F. Murray Abraham, and if this will turn D.I.D. into a buddy comedy in the style of Venom. Because right now? I do find him funny, as was the show’s bit about Avatar. I just worry if gone too far in this direction, will it hurt the more adult-themed Marvel comics adaptations?

So Moon Knight is about an Egyptian-themed superhero/badass that might be an alter of Steven Grant. An awkward nobody that hears an odd dictating voice known as Khonshu, who perhaps, has always been like this from the beginning as we’re not entirely certain? Regardless, he blacks out and gets violent, that’s sort of Moon Knight’s shpeal thus far. 

Moon Knight Cast

oscar isaac as marc spector/steven grant trying to give back a golden scarab to Ethan Hawke's character Arthur Harrow
Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector/Steven Grant in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Saffron Hocking, who’s had an underrated career in the TV series Top Boy and White Gold, plays Dylan. Who is implied to be the love interest in the show, and in the short time she’s available on-screen, is the only thing that’s a positive driving force in Steven’s life. Where she goes will be intriguing as she’s credited in every episode in the series.

Ethan Hawke was a surprise casting call as Arthur Harrow but absolutely nails it as this strange occult leader. At first, it seemed like he was your prototypical bad guy. But then, when we see how the scale tattoos work, he seems to also serve as an interesting plot device that’ll incorporate more of this strange mythos into the series. 

Though in the end, this is really the Oscar Isaac show. As not only does the actor carry the series, but he showcases a good deal of range. Both in his awkward reservedness, but also, in his ability to be someone else entirely. Someone we don’t fully know but see at odds with strangely: himself.

The Take on Moon Knight Episode 1

steven grant shares his day to his only friend: a statue mime that can't move
Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector/Steven Grant and Shaun Scott as Crawley in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Gabor Kotschy. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

It’s a good start but reception overall has been mixed. I hear the pilot is better than the subsequent episodes (I was not given screeners); which has me worried. But I’ll cover this one from beginning to end anyway. The use of soundtrack in this was pretty epic and I actually loved every single musical choice; a feature in Marvel that I haven’t felt since Luke Cage Season 1.  It also makes sense because music is a major part of the tone-setting in this as mental illness, particularly in people with auditory hallucinations, is a big thing.

If you’ve never seen Moon Knight, then yes, this satisfactorily works… though more as an Oscar Isaac showcasing his acting abilities story than a superhero series. The setting is weird. The violence is going to be bloody. Here’s to hoping it’s a solid ride.

Moon Knight is available every Wednesday on Disney+

 

 

Atlanta Season 3 Episode 2 Review: Sinterklaas Is Coming To Town

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Bad dreams aren’t always nightmares. They psychologically hold a mirror to us and what we harborour loves, our hates, our desires, and our fears. However, the truth is many a time stranger than fiction, especially when you’re a stranger in a strange land. The reality of the situation one may find themselves in may feel closer to a fever dream; a discernable difference between slumber and waking life isn’t so crystal clear. Welcome to the second episode of Atlanta (FX) titled “Sinterklaas Is Coming to Town”.

As Earn (Donald Glover) wakes up next to a different woman in a luxury suite he couldn’t afford in the States. Europe may be causing the kid to be more in line with adulting, right?

With his phone blowing up, from Swiss Air reminding him of Van’s arrival to Al needing 20K to Darius bragging about consuming a persimmon tasting like avocado, the crew is all waiting on their boy. In a mad scramble, he asks his one-night stand where his underwear and belt are.

Though the romantic notion that a change of scenery can inspire growth may be true for some, it’s not a flip o’ the switch for others.

Fela Kuti’s “Shakara” sets the stage perfectly, as Earn’s a hot mess. He’s still in Copenhagen with Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) in Amersterdam and Al in the clink. Van’s touched down in Amsterdam, so Earn implores Darius to pick her up just before the cell quits on him. The dude should count his lucky stars at least his friends haven’t yet.

At the airport, just before Earn can make it through security check, he suffers one last indignity, as lifting his hands will only drop trou, but he’s already cutting it too close anyway. Without a choice, up they go and down they fall. Hey, in Europe, it’s nothing they haven’t seen before. In fact, in some parts, if you’ve dressed a hair too much, you’re overdressed. “Maiysha” by Miles Davis sets the tone for a more lighthearted plot to follow.

Van (Zazie Beetz) worriedly waits around at the airport terminal, but loa playful and most likely very high Darius jumps out from a white van as if to present her with a chariot. Since Earn hooked them up with a driver for the day, the first thing on Darius’ agenda is to find Van some new digs since the airline lost hers.

Slicing a swath through the silence, Darius catches up with Van with some small talk. It turns out her daughter Lottie is good, but she doesn’t plan to have another with Earn as she now has a boyfriend. We also learn Darius can’t procreate, as his balls were crushed as a kid. He takes it in stride.

With Molly Lewis’ jazz-drenched “Oceanic Feeling” among a beautiful top-down view of Earn’s cab ride through the streets of Amsterdam, Earn arrives at the club and approaches event promotor Dirk (Matteo Simoni), who is smiling ear-to-ear. With the concert sold out, Dirk lobs out one suggestion. It includes Paper Boi dressing up in a ridiculous get-up that the Bard himself would don. Since Paper Boi is a lyricist, the ‘writer’ angle would make sense, but Oh! I can hazard a guess.

After he demands the taxi driver be paid by Dirk, all seems good for the moment. The only thing not accounted for from Helsinki is the laptop containing all the music. Earn assures the laptop will be taken care of, but he also requests an advance for the concert to the tune of 20K, to which Dirk without question gives him. Look at Earn, making money moves with confidence!

Before Earn leaves, Dirk assures him that Amsterdam is great and that they tolerate people, “not like in America.” Hmm. If you have to state it…

At one of the boutiques, Darius apologizes to Van for bringing up Earn. Van changes her tune by inviting Darius to ask her something of substance. After querying why she came to Europe, she confesses after not getting a job she was up for, a trip abroad may help her find a path.

Speaking of, in finding a coat that suits her, Van discovers an address in the pocket. Darius feels a frisson of excitement, instructing them to follow it, ensuring that’s it’s her destiny. She’s down, so off on their journey they go!

Though locked up, Al (Brian Tyree Henry) is put up somewhere nice. He gets a goddamn menu for food, including the real Coca-Cola. He even has his own audience before the concert, with a throng of cheering fans outside chanting “Free Paper Boi”.

Before he can get comfortable in his “cell” which is about as close to comfort as you can get, including a desk, two windows, and a pretty sweet bathroom setup, the bail’s been paid. Shit, I’ve resided in college dorms more prison-adjacent than that!

He’s treated like a fucking king in there, so he’s going to make Earn wait, wanting his lunch and nap, which includes an ambient noise lamp, for Chrissake.

Van and Darius roll up to the address, where Feena (Anniek Pheifer) is only too happy they are on time. Van introduces Darius as the photographer and before either can surmise what will come of it, out spills a group encased in white robes. Hey, when on an adventure, if there’s no time to call into question what’s happening, there’s no sense in tapping out either!

At the police station, Earn waits. After blowing his nose, he’s met with a garbage receptacle in the form of a human hand, attached to a human arm, attached to a burly police officer. That, combined earlier with Earn sneezing at the venue and everybody saying ‘gezondheid’ in unison, and Al’s holding cell, the Dutch seem like hospitality was infused in their bloodstream since birth.

Al exits, and Earn sneezes once again to the chorus of ‘gesundheit’. Maybe the guy’s just fucking allergic to kindness.

Paper Boi, not Al emerges, asking for that 20K. Bail was super cheap, but before Earn could take action, his cousin takes a fistful and makes it rain on his adoring fans before continuing on down the road. They pass a white dude with a red cape and miter, a big pillowy beard, white as snow, and spectacles pushed down along the bridge of his nose walking with his bike. The true surprise comes in the form of a baby in blackface in a seat on his bicycle, waving to Paper Boi and Earn. That is the true spectacle.

Approaching their driver (Ruben van der Meer), they are informed of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) or as he puts it something “for the children,” being a long tradition passed down for generations. His explanation for the offensive sight was ‘coal from falling down the chimney, helping St. Nicholas’. Yeah, I wouldn’t buy it either. I’d much rather call it a reskin on something very racist/plain ignorance.

In the van, Darius and Van sit quietly, trapped amid nothing but white and white, clothed in white. They approach their destination. As the rest continue on, Van, and Dar are adorned with white scarves. Upon heading up, they are greeted with calming music and crying onlookers. They’ve stumbled on a funeral.

With Darius convinced the deceased on the bed is Tupac, he’s asked by what I would assume is the funeral director to take pictures of the living with the deceased while Van sits and stares out of the window until she makes conversation with his Death Doula (Elisa van Riessen). She’s there to help the bereaved let the person go. Think of them, as an intermediary between life and ultimate release.

It turns out this gentleman isn’t dead but dying. Death Doulas work with, not against hospice or funeral directors and complement all involved, especially the mourning. They facilitate the transition from one world to the next, as an on-hand therapist.

This might be the medicine Vanessa needs right now. She opens up more calmly than she had in a long time to this perfect stranger who actually isn’t a stranger at all in the optics of it.

Before fully opening up about her increased panic attacks, she chooses to toe the line. The Death Doula does see Darius but more than see, she feels him. She’s glad she’s with “someone that could comfort” her and though Van asserts Darius is not her boyfriend and she’s not even supposed to be there, being aimless and all, the Death Doula assures her that she’s exactly where she needs to be.

Al brings Earn to his hotel, complete with black-faced bellhops, but comes across women Al knows from the night prior. A few moments later, we find out what transpired while Earn was away. This includes the beginnings of a threesome, one white girl Hedy (Amalie Gissel), one black Ida (Rachel Coutinho). The white woman cites it’s a ‘Happy Sinterklaas’ to her, but after Ida gets offended by the saying, a brawl ensues between both, leaving Al suspended in awkwardness, ultimately spending the night in jail with the girls enjoying breakfast together.

Taking a seat among the wreckage, Earn phones air ambulance transportation to deliver his laptop from Helsinki.

As the congregation gathers ’round, the Death Doula leads them in a round of telling the man that it’s okay to go onto greener pastures, leaving this blue spinning marble onto that great white unknown.

Van volunteers. Holding his hand, she tells him it’s okay, repeating the line as if seeing herself in that bed. Serenity washes over her, only to be interrupted by a loud buzzing. The Death Doula has set the process in motion and what ensues is a countdown to silently loud suffering. It is violently spasmodic but mesmeric. Sometimes letting go isn’t all Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbow Bridges.

With Earn getting delivered the laptop in a vessel most reserved for organs, the life of the party is savedonly Paper Boi refuses to go on. One look at the crowd and it’s pretty ostensible. Earn assures Al he’ll handle it so long as he with Darius (clad in clogs) make a discreet exit. Earn’s stepped it up in a big way, going to Dirk, man to man, breaking the news. Maybe he has garnered unforeseen maturity.

What he hasn’t done is take it literally on the chin. Dirk races after him but loses sight in the sea of the painted visages. To bro though, one black face is as good as another and pummels the shit out of the nearest attendee to take out his anger, cryingly asking why he’s making him resort to violence. Hearing that, Earn’s fine with the Ouroboros in the lobby as Auld Lang Syne blasts. Maybe the New Year’s resolution ought to be to gain some cultural perspective for the guy.

After one of the longest days of his life, Earn trundles to the hotel room before coming across Van in a towel getting some ice after having one of the longest days in her life. She’s glowing and bids him good night.

Collapsing on the bed isn’t an option for him though. Al wants some food.

Van may have found her center through Darius and what they’ve experienced, but Earn is SPENT. He deserves a good night’s rest. But hey, I guess a good manager’s work is never done.

This episode was the perfect follow-up to the season opener. We get the band back but in different pairings. We get the feeling of a different culture because we’re experiencing it with them throughout one day. We observe Earn getting off to a bumpy start, and through the morass, he delivers for his cousin in the end. Even hungrier than Alfred, wanting that 300 pieces (which don’t exist). A good manager will move heaven and earth though, and that’s exactly what he’s primed to do. Though he initially shanks it, with all that went down, he at least should get a mulligan.

Bridgerton Season 2 Gloriously Brings Love, Scandal, and Everything Else In Between

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Bridgerton, you’ve done it again. The second season of the Netflix show follows the love story of eldest Bridgerton sibling Anthony and Miss Kate Sharma, a headstrong and independent woman who challenges the viscount every step of the way resulting in fiery emotions that confound them both. Based on the Bridgerton series of novels by Julia Quinn, this chapter is adapted from The Viscount Who Loved Me.

*****LOTS OF SPOILERS FOR BRIDGERTON SEASON 2 AHEAD

Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) has decided that it’s time to find a wife and his mother the dowager viscountess is more than happy to help him find a suitable match. Except that he views the entire business as a transaction meant to fulfill his familial duty to continue his family line. He has a strict list of qualifications he wants in a wife and arranges interviews with the eligible ladies of the Ton to find his bride.

Enter the Sharma sisters who have come from India with their own agenda in the marital department. Elder sister Kathani “Kate” Sharma (Simone Ashley) who is determined to see her sister Edwina (Charithra Chandran) wed in a true love match. However, she withholds important information from both her sister and stepmother Lady Mary Sheffield Sharma (Shelley Conn). Her mother had been ostracized from society when she had chosen to marry their father and absconded to India. Now they were in the brink of financial ruin and have come to London not only to find Edwina a match but in addition to secure the support of her stepmother’s family, the Sheffields. Kate wants her mother to have monetary security and that would only be possible if Edwina married into a nobleman’s family.

Edwina enters the viscount’s circle and he finds that she embodies the qualities he is looking for in a bride. However, Kate hears him declare to his friends that he isn’t interested love and only sought a lady with a pleasing face, acceptable wit, and genteel manner. This rubs her the wrong way as she only wants the best for her sister.

From the moment that Anthony and Kate meet while horseback riding in episode one, vexations were aplenty. They are both very strong-willed and fiercely loyal to their families putting them above all else, themselves included. In Edwina, the viscount sees the amiable relationship to fulfill his duties, but Kate will try to thwart him at every step of the way. Through this however they are forced to more time together and eventually their intense feelings of dislike morph into love.

As a fan of the novels, I had high expectations of how Kate and Anthony’s story would be brought to life on screen and this season absolutely blew me away. It diverged a bit from the book but done so in very interesting ways that only added to the wonderful complexities of the narrative for both the leads and the supporting characters. For instance, originally Kate and Anthony were caught in a compromising situation and were forced to marry, but this was changed in the series. Having the two decide on their own that they loved each other and wanted to spend their lives together made a larger impact to this viewer because it showed the power of choice despite circumstances.

Speaking of choice, it was such an important theme this season for so many characters. Both Anthony and Kate made choices that they felt were right for their loved ones and they were willing to forgo their own happiness out of their sense of duty. It ends up being Edwina to tell the viscount and her older sister that she was done being told what to do and how her life was going to be like. She was going to live her life for herself and no one else.

Meanwhile Eloise (Claudia Jessie) and Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) were struggling with the limitations of their own choices. Eloise was going through her first season with so much pain and discomfort because she did not want to conform to society’s views of a woman’s purpose being to get married and have children. She ends up meeting a commoner in her continued search to find the identity of Lady Whistledown and develops feelings for him. Things get more complicated when she is seen visiting the printshop by the queen’s footman and the monarch now thinks that she is the gossip monger. Queen Charlotte (Golda Resheuvel) personally tells her to either align herself with the crown or she will reveal to the Ton that Eloise is behind the scandal sheet.

She shares this all with Penelope who is then placed in a difficult spot herself. Miss Featherington wants to help her friend but is uncertain on how to do so. This season she has elicited the help of Madam Delacroix to supply her with more tantalizing gossip as the modiste after she was spotted at the print shop. The two women come to an understanding though and Penelope uses Lady Whistledown to help the other woman regain her customers. Madam Delacroix suggests to Pen that she should write something about Eloise that the other woman would never write about herself to prove to the queen that she could not possibly be the author. At first Penelope says she could never do that but ends up doing so after being unable to find any other way to help.

This decision proves disastrous for their friendship as Eloise eventually puts the puzzle pieces together and confronts Pen. The two have a very heated exchange and it’s uncertain if they will be able to get pass this. Eloise feels horribly betrayed while Penelope says that Lady Whistledown is all she has given her own difficult circumstances.

The most surprising choice of this season though must go to Lady Featherington (Polly Walker). She has always been focused on improving her and her daughters’ standing in the Ton. After the death of Lord Featherington, his heir arrives, and the man appears to be as conniving as her. To protect herself and her girls, she orchestrates a meeting between Prudence and the new Lord Featherington (Rupert Young), accusing him of impropriety with others present. He is forced to propose to Prudence but reveals to her mother that he is in fact broke. Jack had been working on Cressida Cowper to secure her large dowry. Lady Featherington though is tenacious and she devices a scheme to dupe the men of the Ton into investing into Jack’s fake ruby mines in the Americas. As their plan works, he tells her that they need to leave London as it’s the only solution for people will want a return of their investments soon. On the eve of when they are to leave for the new world, Lady Featherington turns the tables on him. In a show of true love for her daughters, she tells him that he clearly doesn’t care about them and so she has had his bags packed so he can depart alone. She’s going to keep a portion of the money so that her family can survive and has had her housekeeper forge his signature on a contract to say that her future grandson will be the heir to their title. Bested, he leaves without further discussion.

As for Benedict (Luke Thompson) and Colin (Luke Newton), they too faced challenging choices. For the brothers it was finding their purpose in life. Benedict took the leap and decided to apply to a prestigious art school to seriously pursue his passion in painting. While he was accepted, he later finds out that Anthony had made a sizable donation and there are those who believe this was a big factor.

Colin in the meantime was stuck in the past for a bit and goes to visit Lady Crane (the former Miss Thompson) who now has two children. She admonishes him for indulging in foolish fantasies and refuses to get dragged back into them. While her marriage to Sir Philip may not be perfect, she’s content in her life and she suggests that he look to those who love and care for him instead of going to her. Lady Crane singles Penelope out as one of those people. This seems to make an impact on him as he confides in Pen more but at this point it seems that he still views her as a very close friend. He does though also realize that he needs to find something to do with his life and was close to investing in the fake ruby mines. It was the interfering of former boxer Will Mondrich that clued him in on the Featherington scheme. While he pretends to trust Pen’s cousin, he secretly investigates and discovers that the rubies are fakes. He even threatens the lord with revealing the truth unless he returns all the money he’s taken from others and leaves the country immediately. Colin as an honorable man brings over patrons to Will’s new club to repay the other man’s kindness.

It was honestly so thrilling to see so many memorable scenes from The Viscount Who Loved Me in live action. Standouts are the Pall Mall game (of course duh), the library scene between Kate and Anthony (be still my heart!), the bee sting, and Kate falling from the horse (though it was a carriage accident in the book). The last two especially really made my insides tense with so much emotion because of the gravity of those two situations.

The bee sting it was such a pivotal moment in the book where Anthony ends up trying to suck the venom from Kate’s neck and they are caught and forced to marry. This was altered in the series, but it was just as powerful because this time Kate realizes how distressed Anthony and even though she doesn’t understand why, she makes him feel her steady heartbeat to calm him down. She of course doesn’t know at this point that his father had died of a bee sting before his very eyes.

In episode seven when Kate is angrily riding her horse in the rain and Anthony goes after her, he witnesses her fall and, in that moment, realizes how much she means to him. In the book the accident makes the viscount admit to himself that he cannot live his life without her. He is terrified though because he’s seen the pain of what losing a loved one is like after his father died. It takes a conversation with Lady Violet for Anthony to understand that it’s better to love and go through the pain of loss than to have never attempted it at all.

Both Simone Ashley and Jonathan Bailey were just brilliant in their roles and captured their characters so well. Anthony finally crying after hearing that Kate was awake from her coma displayed how much he had been controlling his emotions for so long after losing his father. It took nearly losing Kate for him to be honest with himself and talk to his mother.

For Kate being told by her sister that they need to stop caring about what society thinks and to do what they want is finally what gives her the courage to dance with Anthony in the final episode at the Featherington Ball despite so many judging eyes upon them.

What a fulfilling relief it was when these two kids finally admitted their love for each other after all the drama.

Family, duty, love, and honor were ever-present in season two of Bridgerton and it was glorious. It pulled on the heartstrings and reduced me to a weepy mess at various moments but oh how worth it. For those who are debating whether to watch it or not, just do it! I for one will never hear Wrecking Ball the same way again.

The Batman Review

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The Batman Marks an Edgy New Era for the Dark Knight

The Batman, the latest movie iteration of the iconic comic book series, is an autopsy. And the body lying cold in the morgue is none other than Gotham City. Don’t mistake me, the city is still vibrant and full of life. But hidden beneath the sewer grates and lurking in dark shadows is a rot that’s slowly strangling the decency and humanity from its inhabitants. And the only detective that can unearth the cause of his city’s woes is none other than the Dark Knight himself.

I did not expect to enjoy The Batman very much. I thought Robert Pattinson was poorly cast after the likes of Christian Bale, and worried the onetime Twilight actor would drop the ball. Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong. While it’s true his pale, lanky frame doesn’t immediately bring to mind the playboy millionaire shown in the comics, he does justice to the part of Wayne’s identity that matters most – the cape-wearing vigilante that is determined to make a difference. Whether it kills him or not.

While it took me about half the nearly 3-hour movie to finally mellow on Pattinson, chafing whenever he hurled a cruel line at his beloved manservant Alfred or stood there staring a bit too long at a suspect or victim, there was a method to his madness. This is a Batman that still contends with the raw pain of his parent’s murder every single day. He’s felt it for the last two years that he’s been fighting crime. He hurts, and channels that hurt into raw fury. When asked who he is by a bunch of clown-faced goons early in the movie, he simply calls himself “vengeance”. And he means it, too. This iteration of Batman is not one that’s content to sit idly by. He’s motivated by his pain and uses fear to paralyze the foes in his way.

Unfortunately for Batman, there are dangerous forces arrayed against him. Worse, they seem to know more about the secrets of Gotham City than he does, including how it’s all tied together. Which brings me to the primary villain in the movie. They call him the Riddler, but this is like no Riddler I’ve ever seen before. Hell, even the sociopathic, murderous Riddler from the Gotham TV series had nothing on this guy. He wears a black gimp mask, uses duct tape to horrifying effect, and leaves bloody clues for the Dark Knight and GCPD to decipher. To put it simply, he’s utterly terrifying, and yet it’s impossible to take your eyes off him.

The other main villain is none other than The Penguin. I didn’t recognize him as Colin Farrell during the movie, but afterwards I looked him up, and was astounded by his acting skills. Even with the elaborate makeup and grotesque skin suit, Farrell creates an accent that expertly hides his Irish twang. He sounds and acts like a mobster, though admittedly one with an appreciation for the finer things in life, like his bar and lounge. He caters to a great deal of different clients, and might even sling something a little extra on the side, for a price.

Though not primary movers and shakers, I feel obligated to spend a little time talking about Alfred and Gordon. This version of Bruce Wayne’s manservant is played by none other than Andy Serkis, who many lovingly remember as the twisted voice of Gollum. Regarding his looks, he still sports a similar hairstyle as Klaue in Black Panther. Thankfully, they mellow him out with more traditional attire, and he even sports a jaunty cane. He does a really good job of bringing Bruce down to earth, or at least trying his very best.

As for Gordon, Jeffrey Wright does another amazing job. While I might prefer some of his more incendiary roles in the past, he brings enough gravitas to the character that I didn’t even care that traditionally Gordon is a white man. Who cares about color when the acting is this superb? He’s almost a partner to Batman and helps him follow leads that only the GCPD can ferret out. My only complaint for both characters is that we don’t get more of them in the movie, but that’s to be expected for side characters.

Now, the biggest surprise in The Batman is the inclusion of an element often used in the comics, but rarely, if ever, in the movies. That element is none other than the mafia presence in Gotham. Mainly the Maronis and Falcones. Sure, they’re not as sexy as the likes of The Joker or Mr. Freeze, but they’re still very active and very dangerous. Especially for a young Batman full of fury but not yet armed with all the experience necessary for his violent calling.

Another pleasant surprise was how much the movie embraced Batman’s role as a detective. They establish early on that he has been working hand and glove with Jim Gordon for a while now, despite the rest of the GCPD not much tolerating it. Their relationship is why Batman is called in by Gordon when the mayor turns up dead as the first of the Riddler’s victims, and follows his bloody breadcrumbs as more and more corpses start piling up.

One of Batman’s coolest toys in the movie are contact lenses that record everything he sees and hears. He wears them on many occasions and even provides some to Selina Kyle at one point. This is a vital, albeit Big Brother-y, crime-fighting tool, and shows that this Bruce Wayne wants to get the facts. And he’ll need all of them, since The Riddler is slowly unraveling the truth of Gotham City murder by murder, and might drown the entire city in a tide of blood and mayhem. While that premise is reminiscent of Heath Ledger’s turn as Joker, the plot still manages to distinguish itself.

Despite the movie’s long runtime, I hardly noticed as the seconds turned into minutes and then hours. It really flew by, mostly because The Batman is action-packed, and has some stunning fight sequences. Bruce isn’t shy, and uses his fists to open doors when his words won’t suffice. And though he refuses to use guns, he has no such compunctions about his grapple gun, which he uses to painful effect on a few goons. He even gets into an amazing chase sequence with The Penguin.

The movie isn’t all action, thankfully. There’s lots of dread and mystery, but we also get more human moments courtesy of Catwoman. Kravitz does a truly admirable job of representing the character, even if her outfit looks more like a knockoff sex suit than an actual costume. Much as I love Anne Hathaway’s portrayal as the feline vixen, I think Kravitz is probably the best live-action Catwoman we’ve seen yet. She’s sultry, nimble, and determined to fight for the people that she loves. She and Pattinson have some real chemistry once they finally start fighting on the same side.

Musically, The Batman is no slouch either. There’s a lot of musical variety, from the haunting notes of Ave Maria to bone-crunching beats and the ominous echo of the Dark Knight’s heavy boots. Visually, this is the first Gotham City that felt like a real, cohesive place, at least to me. Sure, it’s suffering and beset by horrors, but it felt less like a collection of dioramas and more like a place you could actually live.

The movie is a rollercoaster ride from start to finish, and it culminates in one of the most catastrophic sequences I’ve seen in a Batman movie. And just when you think it’s all over, they reveal the true stakes at play, and Batman is forced to make a key choice. By the time the credits roll, I couldn’t wait to see the next movie that’s likely already in production.

Honestly, my earlier assertion isn’t quite accurate. The Batman isn’t an autopsy of Gotham City, but a life-saving operation to remove the cancer lodged in the heart of the city. Bruce might start as an agent of vengeance, but he ends as an agent of hope. Because us humans can’t just live off anger and hatred. We all need something more to sustain us. So I’m glad that’s where the movie ends, since Gotham City will need this renewed Batman to survive what I suspect is coming next, which is no laughing matter.

You can officially stream The Batman on HBO Max starting on April 19th

Why You Should Play Oaken 

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oaken logo

If you like roguelike-driven card games inspired by trees and Celtic mythology, then you’ll more than likely enjoy Oaken. 

Oaken, the tactical roguelike card game from Laki Studios and publisher Goblinz Publishing, hits early access on Steam and GOG on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. You should play it if you like indie video games, nature, strategy, or fantasy fiction. 

The game is set in the mythical kingdom of Oaken, a place filled with magic and set inside the branches of a Great Oaktree. Populated by wisps, seedlings, and wanderers all guided by the spirits of the Great Oak in keeping the peace, this paradise gets disrupted when the Oak’s voice suddenly goes silent and a series of cursed events threaten to destroy everything.

The world of Oaken was inspired by Celtic mythology and even features a folkloric-inspired soundtrack. The player’s adventure begins with an adventure to save the Great Oaktree.

It starts by picking one of the guides, mighty spirits with distinct abilities to aid the hero in battle. There is Aya and her spiky seeds that can inflict damage at the end of every turn and Enju and their miracle cure that strengthens allies each time they heal. There is much to discover and each experience is unique, as a randomly generated world map ensures no run is ever repeated. The hexagonal battlegrounds also provide freedom to move, rotate, and coordinate attacks. Battles feature unique spells, strategic placement, and line of sight management, all to protect the hero at all costs.

 

Victories advance the game with new branching paths forward. There are also unlockable cards with every battle, where you can, under different circumstances, upgrade units and spells. Excess cards can also be destroyed to create Lumi Dust and improve unit stats, allowing for increased performance on the battlefield. 

“We are extremely excited to help bring Oaken to peoples’ computers, as it captures a lot of what Goblinz represents,” said Johann Verbroucht, founder and manager at Goblinz Publishing. “It has magic, tactical battles, deck management, tons of strategy, and it is a lot of fun. We hope players of all ages can enjoy this adventure as much as we do!”

Oaken lands on PC Early Access via Steam and GOG on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. It supports English, Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, Spanish (Europe and Latin America), Japanese, Korean, Russian, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), and Polish languages.

Definitely check it out or visit the Oaken Discord to learn more.

 

 

 

 

Atlanta Season 3 Episode 1 Review – Three Slaps

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After an insufferable amount of time, we’ve finally touched down. Atlanta (FX) is back! We’ve all been on tenterhooks and this opener slaps. It slaps thrice, which makes sense as the title is “Three Slaps”.

We open on a gorgeous shot of two people in a boat. At night. A singular, solitary light fares the two gentlemen. There’s only one problem. Gentility isn’t on the table, as the white man waxes philosophically on how the lake, the very buoyant surface they are drifting on was built on a town. A town comprised of Black men.

There are those that are born lucky and there are those that harbor guilt in spite of that and the monologue, amid the black water lapping along the sides of the boat just channels the mood for what is to be on fucked up ride.

It was all a dream.

For Black history month, Loquareeous (Christopher Farrar) is just overtly enthusiastic. His parents are called to the principal’s office because he was acting out in class. Well, not so much acting out as making his aggressions and sadness corporeal in the form of dancing on a desk.

Though the guidance counselor was trying to be his better angel, his parents saw through it.

Three slaps.

His mother (Nicole Lockley) is more than livid for having to make an appearance. His grandfather gives him three slaps as an exclamation point so as not to pull that shit again.

This is in front of Counselor Grier (Lauren Halperin)a legally employed witness to childhood trauma. Although their tactics may seem militant if not downright abusive, it’s his harsh reality of life. His parents weren’t handed anything easily, and the savings was passed down to him.

Cut to their house. Welfare comes to a knocking at their door and though the kid swears he didn’t tell on his folks, his mother fucking wants him out and implores Child Services to take him away.

Is this supposed to be a teachable moment or just unmitigated assholery? Was he never wanted, or is this a simulacrum of life, and if so, when does the lesson end? It matters none, though, as the poor kid is taken into the custody of the State. In this case, a hippie lesbian couple.

This is his new domicile… along with a lot of other children. The thing is a house is not a home unless it’s lived in and this ain’t lived in for all parties involved. In fact, it’s downright upsetting, as the couple only has black kids as their adopted kinfolk. It’s almost as if they are collectors.

Speaking of collectors, these women haven’t been paying the bills. Never mind that supper time means raw chicken and a few measly vegetables. It’s enough to make anyone pine for a fat, juicy hamburger, which Loquareeous demands. This is part of a bigger picture though. He craves normalcy like he craves actual food. The poor kid is hungry and he’s starving for something. Maybe it’s purpose. Maybe it’s familial. Maybe it’s love. He wants something that was not given to him yet, but being born under punches makes his plight that much more tragic.

Every kid deserves a good childhood, but in his mind, the shambolic nature of the house only makes him lash out. Oh, hate is a strong word, but he deploys it with fervent intent. This is evident when it boils down to their household duties.

I mean, it wouldn’t be a hippie-dippy, lovey-dovey couple if they didn’t grow their own produce. Plus, they have free labor! Yes, they force the kids to work in their garden for no money. They inculcate them with a respect that hard labor bears results (i.e. when you pick for us, we can sell it at the market).

Oh, by the by, at the farmer’s market, they have the kids out with sandwich boards, trying to entice people to their table. Oh, and also, because they don’t want to pronounce Loquareeous, they call the poor boy “Larry”. That is but one step away from “Toby”.

It pains me to spell it out, but these are modern-day slave owners, only with a better alibi.

Yes, he may have a roof over his head, but is it keeping him safe?

Seeing a prime opportunity, Loquareeous races to the one person no black person wants to huga cop. He tries to get arrested because anything would be better than another minute with his cracked-up caretakers. He risks death for the sake of a hot meal and something more appetizingpeace of mind.

Literally, anything would be better than these kombucha-making psychopaths, though Amber (Laura Dreyfuss) and Gayle (Jamie Neumann) defuse the situation by offering the lawman some of their tea and, because he’s white and they are too, all is copacetic.

Their wellness check couldn’t come a moment too soon, however. Gayle calls the kid a snitch, but before this could go Midsommar level, Family and Child Services is at their door. Talk about good fortune literally knocking!

Though Gayle is none too pleased about a complaint from the neighbors, she welcomes in the caseworker and is greeted with some repulsive shit. One of the girls is sick and they have no salvo. They’re hippies, über alles, and their modus operandi is to just let nature take its course. I mean, the body course corrects without the need for big pharma, right?

The situation is repulsive and three slaps seem like a goddamn dream compared to what these kids are being put through. Including their ‘dinner’ of fried chicken, which is just basically salmonella.

In his bed, that night, Loquareeous has bad dreams and it makes sense. The house is a horror show.

From seeing his mother’s head in a pickle jar to seeing the head of their dog Popcorn, their dog that eats like a goddamned king on the body of his grandfather (Timothy Tinker Sr.), who administered the three slaps.

Waking up with hunger pangs and ultimately sick, Loquareeous is now on a new journey, with everybody. Call it a family trip to the Grand Canyon. The mere mention of it had my stomach in knots and it didn’t help that there’s nothing more disturbing than seeing a caseworker’s pen and pad next to a bunch of black garbage bags in the early morning hours.

As they all drive in the rain, the kids have an unspoken shorthand for how crazy their ‘parents’ are. They are all victims under the umbrella of ‘white saviors’. The silly thing is that though crazy knows no color or no scent, you can taste it in the air.

It’s night and the van has stopped. We stop because we’ve arrived. Cornpop is set free. So are the kids.. or so we are led to believe. This belies an evil masquerading as clemency. They see their children as lost causes, a novelty to society.

The only plan is sweet release. They can die as a ‘family’.

This is a suicide pact and though Amber isn’t on board with the final denouement, she’s making her peace with fate. They are conscripting souls to an afterlife before having lived one. At least the dog got a chance at another.

What ensues is one of the most beautiful and haunting moments before two people are choosing to go to their maker, backed by the mellifluous and gorgeously morose Jessica Pratt songs. They have one aim in mind, and it just so happens that it’s in that foreboding lake (Whoah. Be gone.).

Fortunately for Loquareeous, self-preservation kicked into high gear, when the getting was good. Unfortunately, the dog went with them, as Loquareeous is a clever kid and isn’t one for leaving a traumatic situation without one last parting gift.

Off the bank, they go and cash out, which funny enough they couldn’t. They just became fodder for the next night’s fishing trip, and for an impoverished couple, ain’t that rich.

Tired and hungry, Loquareeous hoofs it back home. Yes, all throughout the dusk and into the dawn.

He’s welcomed back with that patented cold reception that somehow feels warm. Her whole reason for him going through shit was to crawl before he could walk. The world can be frigid and dismissive, harsh and unforgiving. Though he’s a little iced out, his mom still loves him and that is something earned.

Speaking of which, this happened to be all from Ern’s (Donald Glover) brain, who just had one of the most vivid dreams in television history.

Hey, welcome to Europe, I guess. New surroundings make for new thought processes, and we’re only getting started.

The episode was intense. After four years of laborious patience, we are back. As season openers go, this is easily one of my top five of all time. Based on the story of Devonte Hart, this is a tough watch but required viewing, with the scattered moments of levity serving as a palliative salve on a larger, more sinister issue in the world today.

 

And just like that… Thor turned 60! An issue 750 sneak peek

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A sneak peek at some of the art along with Mjolnir’s new look in THOR #24, the giant-sized spectacular arriving April 27

As announced in Marvel’s press release, next month fans are in for a thunderous achievement! The release of THOR #24 will mark 750 total issues and just in time for Thor’s 60th anniversary. The special will be a 74-page epic of momentous occasion, featuring the return of Walter Simonson and Jason Aaron, along with a bunch of Thor’s greatest legends for an anniversary tale celebrating the Thunder God’s legacy.

The main story will continue to be told by Marvel all-star storytellers Donny Cates and Nic Klein and will feature guest contributors adding all-new tales.

In this 750th issue, fans are left picking up the pieces of in the aftermath of “GOD OF HAMMERS,” the latest epic in writer Donny Cates and artist Nic Klein’s hit run on the title. Where, after a scorched-earth victory has cost the God of Thunder both his hammer and his father. All of Asgard mourn over the loss of Odin unaware that the former All-Father lives on in Thor’s newly reforged hammer!

Things fans should look forward to in Thor #24

  • Writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Oliver Coipel reunite for a story set during their redefining Thor saga
  • Legendary comics creator Dan Jurgens writes and draws an incredible Thor and Balder teamup
  • Comics icon Walter Simonson makes his grand return to Thor, writing and drawing an all-new adventure that explores the origin of his beloved creation, Beta Ray Bill
  • Al Ewing and Lee Garbett collaborate for the first time since LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD to bring you an all-new chapter for the god of mischief that leads directly into Ewing’s upcoming DEFENDERS BEYOND series
  • And prepare for a revelatory tale about Odin that only writer Jason Aaron and artist Das Pastoras can deliver!

You can check out some of the interior pages and Nic Klein’s design sheet for Mjolnir’s new look now and pick up THOR #24 when it arrives on April 27!

 

How to Write Sci-Fi Scripts for Streaming Television

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A free Netflix and Stage 32 webinar details how to write Sci-Fi screenplays from idea to TV series, via the Netflix way.

Through Stage 32’s EdTech partnership with Netflix, creators are being given worldwide access to webinars on ‘How To Create Television for a global marketplace’. Now in part four of this five-part series, Stage 32 is featuring a free next-level webinar on storytelling from showrunner Mikey Fisher on how to develop compelling sci-fi content for streaming television. 

This fourth webinar in this exclusive series begins on Monday, March 28th, and will run from 10 AM to 1 PM PST. You can sign in using the designed software from Stage 32 and you must have a Stage 32 profile to attend. The event will be recorded and uploaded within 24-48 hours after air, though if users attend live online, they’ll be able to ask questions in the Q and A.

In this webinar, Stage 32 welcomes educator Mickey Fisher, TV Creator and Showrunner for CBS’s EXTANT, NBC’s REVERIE, and National Geographic’s MARS. Mickey broke out onto the scene when his contest-winning TV script Extant caught the attention of Steven Spielberg and later became the science fiction series on CBS starring Halle Berry. Mickey has since firmly implanted himself in the world of science fiction television, creating the NBC series Reverie and National Geographic’s Mars. He has also served as a consulting producer on Amazon’s Jack Ryan and a writer and co-executive producer on Guillermo Del Toro’s acclaimed FX horror series The Strain.

 

The Syllabus For Monday’s Event is as Follows

Case Studies: EXTANT, REVERIE, STRANGER THINGS, DARK, GAME OF THRONES, SQUID GAME, MONEY HEIST (not sci-fi but there are some relevant points), YELLOW JACKETS, THE MANDALORIAN, PEACEMAKER

1) Choosing a Sci-Fi Series Concept

  • Story Darwinism – 5 questions to ask about your series idea
  • Starting with a concept / hook
  • Starting With character
  • Serialized vs episodic
  • Finding your voice
  • Fuel and friction – maximizing your chances for a success (scope, budget)

2) Core Elements of Your Sci-Fi Series

  • Worldbuilding
  • Characters (great characters are subconsciously at war with themselves) C) Setting up A,B & C stories
  • Importance of relationships
  • Story engine – powering your series through multiple seasons
  • Tone
  • Theme / premise
  • Series logline — your north star

3) “On the Axis” – Planning Character Journeys (pilot, season, series)

  • External goals and internal obstacles
  • Setting the stakes – the basic questions of drama

4) The Pilot

  • The pilot is a contract with the audience
  • Hooking the audience early
  • Landing your premise by the end

5) Season One and Beyond

  • The curse of the “10 hour movie”
  • Episodic structure, or “the episode where”
  • Tentpole moments of your season and series
  • Plot twists
  • Common pitfalls (such as unearned character turns, tonal shifts)

6) Thinking Globally – common elements of worldwide success stories

7) Owning Every Word

8) Q&A with Mickey

Screenwriters should check out the event to learn how to write some good Science Fiction scripts. You can learn more on www.stage32.com

Matt Reeves’ The Batman Deleted Scene Suddenly Revealed

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the joker behind the glass in the batman
Warner Brothers

Apparently, The Joker had a much longer speaking role than any of us realized. 

The Batman has become the biggest Hollywood release in 2022. For weeks, the film has dominated the box office, raking in over six hundred million worldwide. Not only this, but Robert Pattinson’s role as the caped crusader has gone down as one of the most comically accurate depictions of Batman to date. In what many deem as an homage to all Batmen portrayals both past and present. There was, however, just one thing about the movie shrouded in mystery…

*Spoiler alert for The Batman incoming*

 

The Deleted Scene

 

The moment that has drawn a lot of ire in regards to popular opinion is of course the film’s mysterious ending. Because during The Batman’s end, after The Riddler is defeated and locked away at Arkham, audiences are greeted with a familiar cackle. A person with tousled hair whose cell sitting across the hall was all but confirmed to be The Joker played by Barry Keoghan.

For weeks, director Matt Reeves has claimed that there was a longer deleted scene where Batman visits the Joker to help on the Riddler Investigation. Well, that reveal of the Joker’s deleted scene is finally here as was updated by the director himself.

Everything about this moment feels reminiscent of the silence of the lambs. This makes sense given how much of this movie was inspired by The Long Halloween. However, whereas The Riddler took liberties in adapting parts of this along with the Hush storyline, one could say, moments with the Clown Prince of Crime here feel somewhat reminiscent of The Calender Man’s role in the comic. What this means, however, fans are not entirely certain. Because even though the Joker made a bigger appearance than realized, there are still no commitments as to what the next movie will be about.

What are your thoughts about the deleted scene? Feel free to comment below. 

 

Ms. Marvel Beyond The Limit: Issue #4 Review

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In Beyond The Limit’s penultimate issue, we learn the harrowing truth about Qarin origins as we pop this Bollywood Bubble.

Ms. Marvel Beyond The Limit has been a fun Kamala Khan story with a little bit of everything. Since its humble beginnings in issue one, fans have gotten a hint of multiverse Kamala, science background stories meant to empower young women, and a whole lot of yummy foodie references. Basically, everything you’d expect out of a Ms. Marvel story.

Everything seemed like it was coming together in Beyond The Limit issue #3, as fans got to remember Kamala’s journey over the years. From controlling her early transformation powers to Kamala’s multifaceted backstories as a space hero, it was refreshing to recall all of it through the eyes of this brand new character, Qarin. At least, until last week’s cliffhanger that changed everything.

Beyond The Limit Issue #4 deals with the immediate aftermath. It features some of the most enigmatic action sequences drawn by Genolet and Farrell and there’s a lot of movement that flows naturally on the page. Atop of this, there’s also a pretty action-packed cameo from Nadia Van Dyne–A.K.A. The Unstoppable Wasp. 

If you’ve been curious all along as to where this run has been going, then you will most definitely like this issue, as this is the one that ties it all together. Issue #4 explains Kamala’s tingles, the strange Bollywood Loki bubble, and even the numerous multiversal Kamala images seen throughout the run so far. 

It’s a story about loss, familiarity, and friendship. One where we learn about Qarin’s life, which more or less, has been a pretty sad tragedy. We learn via a flashback, the accidental circumstances that surround this new character’s life. One, where the conflict makes Qarin all too relatable, as her journey is revealed to be strangely reminiscent of Kamala’s. 

Whereas Kamala Khan’s reverence to Carol Danvers’ Ms. Marvel played heavily into her origins, in an ironically twisted and tragic way, the same could be said about Qarin’s in her love and respect to her Universe’s Kamala Khans’. It’s all oddly reminiscent of the multiverse material happening in Marvel right now, but also, in Spider-Man: No Way Home–in that you really start to feel for this villain and hope for a way this can peacefully resolve itself. 

Where it goes and how it resolves can only be determined in next month’s final issue. Suffice to say, this definitely hits home as one of the more enjoyable Kamala stories.

 

Avengers Forever Infinity Comic #1 Debuts!

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doom in avengers forever unlimited comic

The Avengers Forever Infinity Comic #1 debuted yesterday.

Yesterday, marked the beginnings of AVENGERS FOREVER INFINITY COMIC #1 now available on the Marvel Unlimited app! This series is written by Jason Aaron, with art drawn by Kev Walker, and colors by Dean White. This comic is a tie-in to the current AVENGERS FOREVER saga and continues the story that was set in the Multiverse Avengers comics. A  storyline happening in the Marvel comics line right now.

The comic story continues the main Avengers series, with the Masters of Evil’s war on the multiverse. Where a mysterious character called Avenger Prime and his army of Deathloks sets out across the universe to warn others about this impending threat. Whereas across the whole of all creation, war is being waged between the Multiversal Masters of Evil, who are a collection of the greatest scourges in the Multiverse, and the forces of Avenger Prime. Who leads an organized resistance against their destruction from Avengers Tower at the heart of the God Quarry. This…is AVENGERS FOREVER!

Before reading AVENGERS FOREVER #1,  readers should get ready by reading the Infinity series that also builds on Aaron’s landmark AVENGERS (2018). Which hits the Marvel Unlimited on March 28,

New issues of the 4-part series will be available weekly on the app.

doom in avengers forever unlimited comic

AVENGERS FOREVER #1

Writer: Jason Aaron

Artist: Kev Walker

Colorist: Dean White

Editor: Tom Brevoort

‘The Principles of Pleasure’ Netflix Review

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a black woman's hand touches the tip of a V in the principles of pleasure netflix logo

Because ‘Beyond The Pleasure Principle’ Knew Nothing About Pleasure nor Principles.

Netflix has a new series that most of us (by us, I mean men) should watch. It’s called The Principles Of Pleasure and it’s a three-part documentary that breaks down topics regarding women’s sexual intimacy that get explored, researched, and honestly talked about, both openly and accessibly. All for an honest and oftentimes, funny take, featuring testimonials and research, about women’s sexual pleasure.

Hosted by Michelle Buteau, each episode features interviews from a different set of women of different ages, races, and beliefs who want to educate others about sexual pleasure. This includes factual-based talks about the female anatomy by scientific experts, a topic which has been shockingly understudied for years, but also, dialogues with everyday people who are cis, trans, and non-binary. All for a well-rounded representation of what arouses and gets a partner off. 

a brain scan of a woman's arousal in the principles of pleasure documentary on netflix

In the early episodes of the documentary, the women talk about their first learnings of sex – mostly of their own accord, due to our poor sex education system – and how sex has historically been portrayed as something shameful, dirty, and undesirable for women. With the topic almost always lacking a focus on the aspect of female pleasure.

The documentary also talks about the orgasm gap (the disparity between sexual satisfaction of men versus women) and how studies for the longest time, have always focused on the male climax in terms of sexual achievement. With most heteronormative male views of pleasure having dominated western thought as again: women statistically, are often left unsatisfied by comparison. 

The later parts of the series then look at the nature of relationships in relation to pleasure. What we look for, want to share, experience, and most importantly: consent to with a partner. All for a fun and imaginative journey of sexual discovery without judgment. 

Though easily the biggest reveal for those who watch this documentary, was that what most people think of as the vagina is actually a woman’s vulva, which is the entirety of the labia, vagina, and clitoris combined. The details about how the vulva works as a whole is actually something only fairly recently to have been known, as even an entire mapping of the entire clitoris (including the internal) was only achieved in 2005.

Overall, it’s a very informative and engaging documentary that women, or those who are sexually active or just sexually curious, should check out.

Still, the biggest takeaway of this series, which is what’s been stressed a lot lately on other Netflix series such as Sex Education or all of their ‘Explained’ series documentaries, is that sexual satisfaction is always about open and honest communication. That sexual education is definitely about the conversation and the principles of pleasure can only be known once that idea, and really comfort within us and about ourselves gets shared.

You can watch the Principles of Pleasure on Netflix right now

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortnite x Marvel: Zero War #1 debuts on June 8th

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The crossover of all crossovers! The Marvel x Fortnite: Zero War #1 will be a multiversal game-changing battle that you don’t want to miss

Announced in today’s Marvel Press release, this June sees Marvel and Fortnite in another epic battle involving multiple dimensional conflicts featured in FORTNITE X MARVEL: ZERO WAR #1.

This June will see writer Cristos Gage (Spider-Geddon) team up with Epic Games’ Chief Creative Officer Donald Mustard, and artist Sergio Davila (Captain Marvel) to depict this long-anticipated five-issue limited series run, in an event whose stakes are even bigger than ever before. If that wasn’t enough to entice you, fans can get an exclusive look at the variant covers by Ron Lim (Cosmic Marvel) and Bill Sienkiewicz (New Mutants), which even features: a young cable.

With the very successful crossover in 2020 of FORTNITE X MARVEL – NEXUS WAR: THOR, this upcoming pair-up with the Fortnite universe will feature some of Marvel’s most popular heroes pair up in their own storylines, including Iron Man, Shuri, Wolverine, and everyone’s favorite neighborhood, Spider-Man.

In Fornite x Marvel, the comic’s story plotline follows the native inhabitants on the Island, who are deadlocked in what seems to be a never-ending war. Much like in secret wars but with different stakes. The only thing that has the potential to turn the tide and end it all—a crystallized fragment of the Zero Point that was cast into the Marvel Universe.

This leads to the hunt to find the elusive Zero Shard before time runs out and the universes go bye, bye, in what’s promised to be a catastrophic end. The question is can the heroes of Marvel and Fortnite’s realities hold off the Imagined Order long enough to give them a fighting chance?

Read it to find out.

FORTNITE X MARVEL: ZERO WAR #1 (OF 5)

Written by CHRISTOS GAGE & DONALD MUSTARD

Art by SERGIO DÁVILA

Cover by LEINIL FRANCIS YU – 75960620430400111

Variant Cover by BILL SIENKIEWICZ – 75960620430400121

Variant cover by RON LIM – 75960620430400161

On Sale 6/8

Bridgerton Season 2: Ivana Alawi Wants You to Visit Villa Bridgerton

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bridgerton phillipines resort

Ivana Alawi Promotes a Philippine resort called Villa Bridgerton for Netflix Philippines, days before the release of Season 2

Ivana Alawi is a Filipino-Moroccan influencer, actress, and businesswoman. She has a successful vlog and Instagram account, as well as a massive following of over 14 million followers, with almost 1 billion total views on youtube. Suffice to say, when Ivana Alawi promotes something on the internet, it tends to matter. Especially, when she promotes something in regards to one of Netflix’s biggest hit series, but even more so when she showcases something for Bridgerton Season 2 while dressed as… well, you can check it out below.  

 

Alawi is promoting Villa Bridgerton. An ancestral luxury home based in Quezon City that was converted into a fancy estate much in the styles of the series, Bridgerton. 

This re-decorated villa is adorned in English regency attire with elegant draping, servants, garments, and cutlery of 19th century London. All meant to simulate the world of Bridgerton. The experience being sold is essentially a luxury pop-up experience, so long as you are vaccinated. 

One booking accommodates two guests. As of now, it seems much of the dates are filling up fast for March and April, so it’s best to check as soon as you can.

Personally, my family (whom I used to visit almost every other year) is from just outside of Quezon City, Philippines. So, I can honestly say that I know the area better than most. Seeing something like this in the providence is actually really cool! As my memories of Quezon are more about seeing cityscapes and designs like something out of Trese, with traditional Spanish colonialization architecture and vibes, rather than anything involving British Royalty. Meaning, that I think Netflix Philippines really seems like they went out of their way on this makeover and partnership. 

 

You can look at the full tour on their website: https://villabridgerton.com. Bridgerton Season 2 releases very soon, in two days in fact, on March 25th 2022.

 

 

 

The Endgame Episode 5 Review: Gold Rush

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Val’s Advantage Doesn’t Amount to Much in the Latest The Endgame

At the end of last week’s The Endgame, I was hopeful that Val finally had an advantage over Elena Federova. And while that seems to still be the case, Elena manages to tie Val and the FBI up in knots in Gold Rush. Spoilers ahead.

It all starts with a flashback. Elena and Sergey in 2018 are busy torturing a man named Pasha Antonov. He’s the man who set the explosive that destroyed their church and killed Sergey’s mother in the process. Federova starts cleaning the tools and then sets to work talking to the cowering man. I have to say, Baccarin channels all her intense V energy and is both alluring and terrifying at once. She promises the man that if he tells her who sent him that she won’t kill him. And once he does, she keeps her word. Unfortunately for Pasha, she said nothing about Sergey killing him, which he gladly does.

Back in Fort Totten, Val is talking about Pasha with Elena. Apparently, the people that hired him worked in the Cutler presidential administration. And the photo they recovered, which featured two of the now removed members of the cabal as well as the newsman, has them all huddled around looking at drone footage of the destruction of the church. So yea, Elena has no sympathy for the people that destroyed much of her life, and honestly, I sympathize with her a little. When Val tries to make common cause, asking Federova to hand over some of the 7 banks as a show of working together, she laughs it off, saying that would remove her leverage. And besides, Val is already doing what she wants, so why bother?

THE ENDGAME — “Gold Rush” Episode 105 — Pictured: Ryan Michelle Bathe as Val — (Photo by: Ralph Bavaro/NBC)

One of the two men not accounted for in the photo is Ahmed Abdel. As Réal coordinates with the White House, they realize that Ahmed worked for Titan, which had a hand in designing the security for the Federal Reserve. Which is exactly where new mischief is afoot. Snow White has gathered two people with security clearance and plans on using them to gain access to the gold vault. First, though, they have to blowtorch their way through an external gate.

Val heads to Ahmed’s house to talk with him. After essentially pushing her way in, armed men appear outside. They’re wearing the same masks Snow White uses, and they’re ready and willing to murder Ahmed. Luckily for Val, Ahmed has all his security tapped into his phone, and she uses it to good effect as the man hides in a panic room. A Roomba saves her life twice, and she manages to take down the armed men, killing all but one of them.

When Elena is confronted about why her men tried to kill Val and Ahmed, she’s utterly perplexed for the first time we’ve ever seen. She says they weren’t her men, and Val believes her. She wasn’t coy or mysterious, which means something odd is happening. And it all ties back to the Belochs.

THE ENDGAME — “Gold Rush” Episode 105 — Pictured: Jordan Johnson-Hinds as Flowers — (Photo by: Ralph Bavaro/NBC)

Snow White wasn’t supposed to be able to get through the Reserve’s security, but a series of flashbacks show how they acquired fingerprints and other metrics to manage it. Plus, they have two bank members, and that’s most of what they need to get farther and farther through the layers of strict security measures. The FBI and White House are going crazy as this happens since if the world thinks America can’t safely protect their own money, the value of the dollar will plummet.

The FBI uses what Val learned last week to good effect, and realizes Elena is receiving secret messages from all the banks, plus one other location – Peekskill Prison. They assume the man using the phone is Owen (they still don’t know Sergey is alive), so Anthony goes to visit his former friend. Owen is pleased to see Agent Flowers at first but quickly clams up when Anthony starts asking about his involvement with Elena, and whether he knew that doing so would put his wife in danger. Owen is angry and tight-lipped. Once Anthony leaves, Owen goes up to Sergey and promises him that if anything happens to his wife, he’ll murder Sergey and Elena himself.

The FBI manages to get Ahmed to the Reserve so he can tap into the security and keep Snow White out. There’s just one problem – he’s actually working with Elena. We get a couple more flashbacks to 2018, and at first, we see Elena and Sergey were planning on killing the man. But then a surprise pregnancy changes her course. Now she wants to make the world better for the child growing inside of her, and so she recruits Ahmed.

We never learn how exactly, but it’s clear she was successful in convincing the man to join her cause. Once Ahmed is situated inside, he scrambles the communication between Doak and Val and sets to work. Eventually, when everyone is distracted, he uses his phone to read his own biometrics, opening the last gate to the gold vault.

THE ENDGAME — “Gold Rush” Episode 105 — Pictured: (l-r) Morena Baccarin as Elena Federova, Costa Ronin as Sergey Vodianov — (Photo by: Ralph Bavaro/NBC)

Afterward, Ahmed immediately unscrambles the phones, and Doak realizes he was being played. Val and Doak rush into the vault and find a member of Snow White there with a suitcase bomb. He only gives them a minute to disarm it. They realize they can’t safely move it without knowing if there are any tripwires. And if the bomb goes off, all the gold in the vault will be vaporized. So Val teams up with Doak to remove the firing pins, and miraculously it works.

I immediately felt that was way too easy, and turns out I was right. Later on, we get a final flashback showing that before Val and Doak got into the vault, Elena’s man took out a piece of fake gold and placed it amongst the rest. And it looks like that fake bar is actually another bomb, slowly ticking away.

Gold Rush ends with Elena once again playing with Val’s head. She had been talking a lot about Isaac Bigby, the man who killed Val’s mother. Asking Val what she would do if she had a chance to get vengeance. Turns out, those weren’t hypothetical questions, since she presents an address to Val, and says Bigby is alive. Then it ends with Elena saying how next time Val will tell her a story.

Overall, Gold Rush was a good episode, though I was a bit frustrated that Val’s advantage meant so little. Also, I find it a bit hard to believe that Val didn’t see through Federova’s ruse with the gold vault, since she’s been so keen on uncovering other deceptions. But here’s hoping next week’s episode of The Endgame puts things back on track.

‘Turning Red’ Review

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The newest movie to release straight to Disney+ (which does not speak to quality the way “straight to DVD” once did) is “Turning Red”. The story of a spunky 13-year-old girl who is forced to endure a bout of “magical puberty” thanks to her family’s ties to red pandas.

Meilin (voiced by Rosalie Chiang) is a Chinese Canadian girl who recently turned 13. She is uninhibited, shameless, and fantastically alive. Mei’s life is a delicate balance between who she is at school and around her friendsan in-charge individual not afraid to rock the boatversus who she is at home – a dutiful straight-A daughter/assistant temple keeper. Mei thinks she’s slick, ditching her friends to fulfill her domestic duties, but they bemoan her obedience once she’s out of sight.

Things start to spiral, however, when Mei suddenly finds herself drawing the Daisy Mart clerk Devon (Addison Chandler), a guy she’s never been into until that very moment. Not gonna lie, I can totally relate to this. Who among us hasn’t insisted that so and so is “gross” publically, then, randomly out of completely nowhere, so and so doesn’t look too bad…is…kind of…ok…very hot. Now, the trajectory this revelation takes is pretty drasticMei goes from drawing innocent anime depictions of herself and Devon to drawing a full-on mermaid Devon complete with hat! Worse still, her mother comes across these drawings and completely freaks.

Many a teen fears embarrassment at the hands of their parents, but poor Meilin gets a genuinely mortifying moment care of her mother, Ming (Sandra Oh) confronting Devon with her daughter’s drawings. Why does Ming react in such an insane way? Because, like many parents who pray their child never grows up, Ming is in denial about her daughter’s steady march into adulthood.

Now, I’m going to take a moment to point out that turning 13 does not make anyone an adult. This old-school definition is more biological than anything else, seeing as how once puberty hits you reach “sexual” maturity. I.E.: you can breed. But, making babies doesn’t make you an adult. The threat, however, does make your parents super worried, which goes a long way to explaining Ming’s outburst at seeing her daughter’s budding sexual drive.

Following the destruction of her world, Mei is understandably upset. The weird thing is she’s upset with herself. Instead of yelling at her mother, Mei yells at herself. It makes sense, given her loyalty to her family, especially her mother. Hell, she tells us at the beginning of the movie that honoring your parents is goal #1! It isn’t great for her in the short run since that night she has a terrible dream and wakes up as a giant red panda.

Naturally, Meilin panics. Ming questions her daughter’s distraught scream from the bathroom and comes to the conclusion her period has arrived. Mei manages to escape to her room without being seen and even gets her panda vaguely under control. Strong emotions *POOF!* the panda into being, so all Mei needs to do is remain calm. She succeeds until Ming shows up at her schoolwith pads no less. Ouch. Two majorly embarrassing moments in under 24 hours, it’s no wonder Mei loses it and the classroom fills with pink smoke as the panda emerges. Luckily, Ming is peeping into the window and sees her daughter’s transformation. She pursues her daughter on a fun chase through the school and the neighborhood until it ends back at their house. Here, Ming reveals that turning into a giant red panda isn’t as strange as Mei thinks, at least not for their family. There’s a good reason their family temple has two panda statues in frontMei’s ancestor, Sun Yee asked the gods for the power to turn into a red panda to protect her family when she was their only defense.

The information is a bit of a double edge blade. On one hand, there’s a cure, on the other hand, her normally vigilant mother now has a reason to be downright overbearing. However, this is the point where the movie takes an important turn. See, while the immediate knowledge leaves Mei devastated her friends eventually come a-knocking, with the news that their favorite boy band 4*TOWN is coming to Toronto, and discover her truth. They are, understandably, shocked by it but they don’t abandon her. Instead, they sing a song from the band (which, despite its name has 5 members) in a show of solidarity. This provides Mei the confidence she needs to truly rein in her panda. It’s enough of a boost that she’s able to prove to her parents she can contain the beast and is allowed to go back to school.

Now, each girl has asked their respective parents for permission to go to the concert, and each one was rejected. Well, Miriam (Ava Morse) got a yes with the caveat she has to buy her own ticket. 200$ is a lot for a jobless 13-year-old to scrounge up. But, the friends are determined to go to that concert, and with the help of Mei’s panda, they devise a perfect fundraising hustle. Their work brings them just 100$ of their goal, but there’s a whale about to put them over. Bully, Tyler (Tristan Allerick Chen) has half-blackmailed Mei into appearing at his upcoming birthday partyI say half-blackmail because he still pays her for the appearance. Unfortunately, the night of Tyler’s party Mei’s Grandma and aunties all arrive at her house (Grandma is played by Wai Ching Ho, Aunts Chen, Ping, Lily, and Helen are played by Lori Tan Chinn, Lillian Lim, Mia Tagano, and Sherry Cola respectively). This hiccup causes Mei to be late, but more importantly, it brings back her doubts about using her panda so cavalierly (Grandma reminds her that the panda is no joke and the ritual to suppress it won’t work if the panda is too strong).

When Mei arrives at the party she tries to get around turning red, but Tyler and his guests aren’t having it. Eventually, things come to a head and Mei attacks Tyler. Her mother arrives, blaming Miriam and the others for Mei’s bad behavior, and sadly Mei doesn’t fess up to her part in the mess.

At home Mei’s father, Jin (Orion Lee) finds the camcorder with a video of Mei and her friends embracing her panda. He explains that people have many sides to themselves and Mei shouldn’t be ashamed of her panda. Hearing this, Mei ultimately rejects the cure that would seal her panda and defies her mother to go to the concerthaving finally revealed that it was her idea to use the panda as a fundraising tool. Ming is livid, her totem (which is what holds the sealed panda power) is cracked and breaks allowing her panda to release. Jin hinted earlier in the movie that Ming’s panda was not to be trifled with and we learn now how true that isPanda Ming is a kaiju-sized monster bent on retrieving her daughter from the concert. Mayhem ensues but Mei, her friends, her family, and even 4*TOWN all come together to help Ming get her panda under control again.

The movie ends with Mei keeping her panda. Her mother, grandmother, and aunties all seal their pandas away again, but now with perhaps a bit more understanding for who they really are. Also, hilariously, Mei’s family needs to pay back the Skydome for all the damages her mother caused.

 

What Turning Red Is Really About

A lot of people who review this movie take it at face value: the red panda clearly signifies puberty, or, specifically, a girl’s first period, but consider the panda as something more conceptual. For one thing, there’s this idea that suppressing who you really are to live up to someone else’s idea of who you are isn’t a real solution. When Mei initially controls her panda it’s a shallow grasp. However, when Mei’s friends accept all of her, including her panda, it makes controlling the beast effortless. In every moment where Mei might break she has only to think of her friends singing to her and the panda is no longer an issue.

There’s also the panda as a metaphor for female empowerment and how society deems it useful until it isn’t. Sun Yee gains the panda power when all the men of her village are off fighting and need a way to defend the ones she loves. Sound familiar? Because during the world wars, women were suddenly thrust into the workforce, and even sports, in order to “support our boys on the front line, at home”, but, once the wars ended women were ushered back into their respective “places” and told to repress any of the empowering feelings they may have gained.

I’m not gonna pretend that last point isn’t a bit lofty for an animated children’s cartoon, but given the current climate of #metoo, and #seeherbeher, I don’t think it’s an outlandish claim. This is only the second Pixar film to be helmed by a womanthe first, unsurprisingly, being Brave. Watching the “Making of” film about Turning Red, one of the women on the production even comments that this was the first project she’d worked on where all the major players were women.

I will say that I’m not a big fan of female lead movies always having to be about familyspecifically the mother-daughter dynamic, but I am glad that this movie has a lot more going for it than just that one note. Especially if you take the time to see it. The importance of female friendship for a girl is one I hope every girl who watches this takes away. Self-acceptance is fantastic, but it is helped along in leaps and bounds by having a strong support system. Movies about female friendship love to focus on the strain these relationships experience as the girls grow into teens and then into adults, but I wish more of them would embrace healthy friendships.

Turning Red is also a good movie for parents and children to watch together. It provides a jumping-off point for mothers and daughters to have what can be an uncomfortable conversation. It also helps parents, in general, to open a dialogue about the can of worms that is puberty.

Overall I enjoyed this movie a lot. It reminded me how much I miss my friends from middle and high school, not to mention the simple pressures of tests and papers vs real-world bills and work.

Marvel’s Hellfire Gala 2022 Covers Revealed

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x23 variant cover by dauterman

We reveal all the beautiful variant covers including many by artist, Russell Dauterman.

A treat for all you Marvel art fans: this June marks the X-Men and Avengers attendance of Marvel’s second annual Hellfire Gala. An event that is basically Marvel’s fashion show, which coincidentally last year, almost saw the world end for the X-Men. 

This time around is a bit tamer but never-the-less stylish, serving as mostly an event foreshadowed by the current X-Men Elections, while also, adding new bodies into the fray of the Green Carpet showcase. Everyone is stunningly gorgeous, as numerous Marvel characters are joining in this time to show off their wear. 

 The magnificent Russell Dauterman leads this fashionable campaign along with artists Carmen Carnero, Iban Coello, Chris Bachalo, Jen Bartel, Mateus Manhanini, Mahmud Asrar, Miguel Mercado, Meghan Hetrick, InHyuk Lee, and Eric D’Urso. Each of whom, adds a little something special to each piece.

 “I’m thrilled to be back designing costumes for the mutants!” Dauterman said in Marvel’s Press Release, “And this year we’re expanding to include more of the Marvel Universe — I jumped at the chance to design one of my favorite characters, the Scarlet Witch! I’m lucky to be in such stellar company, surrounded by the other artists working on this project. I’ve been excited every time new art shows up in my inbox, and can’t wait for everyone to see!”

Fans looking for an invite to the HELLFIRE GALA need look no further than June’s X-MEN: HELLFIRE GALA #1, a 72-page one-shot by Gerry Duggan, Russell Dauterman, Matteo Lolli, C.F. Villa, and Kris Anka. Check out the first batch of HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVERS

 

On Sale 6/1

SHANG-CHI #13 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by CHRIS BACHALO – Namor

X-FORCE #29 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by MIGUEL MERCADO – Forge

X-MEN #12 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by INHYUK LEE – Cyclops

 

On Sale 6/8

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by RUSSELL DAUTERMAN – Spider-Man

BLACK PANTHER #7 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by ERICA D’URSO – Captain Marvel

FANTASTIC FOUR #45 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by RUSSELL DAUTERMAN – Doctor Doom

 

On Sale 6/15

IRON MAN #21 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by IBAN COELLO – Iron Man

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #39 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT by RUSSELL DAUTERMAN – Black Widow

MOON KNIGHT #12 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by RUSSELL DAUTERMAN – Scarlet Witch

WOLVERINE #22 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by RUSSELL DAUTERMAN – Wolverine

 

On Sale 6/22

AVENGERS #57 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by CARMEN CARNERO – Captain America

CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #2 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by MATEUS MANHANINI – Captain America

GAMBIT #2 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by RUSSELL DAUTERMAN – Gambit

HULK #8 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by RUSSELL DAUTERMAN – She-Hulk

KNIGHTS OF X #3 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by MAHMUD ASRAR – Rogue

MARAUDERS #4 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by RUSSELL DAUTERMAN – Synch

X-MEN RED #4 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by JEN BARTEL – Jean Grey

On Sale 6/29

IMMORTAL X-MEN #4 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by MEGHAN HETRICK – Emma Frost

LEGION OF X #3 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by RUSSELL DAUTERMAN – Havok

NEW MUTANTS #27 HELLFIRE GALA VARIANT COVER by RUSSELL DAUTERMAN – Magik

 

 

 

 

‘SPIDER-VERSE UNLIMITED #1’ Review and the ‘Beyond Amazing: 60 Years of Spider-Man’ Recap

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Debuting during the ‘Beyond Amazing: Celebrating 60 Years of Spider-Man Virtual Event’ yesterday, this Spider-Verse Unlimited series kicks off with a look into the unlucky lives of all the Spider-Characters.

Yesterday was Marvel’s ‘Beyond Amazing: Celebrating 60 Years of Spider-Man’ virtual event. A celebration of the wall-crawler filled with giveaways, Trivia, Q+A, and figurine reveals. The online mini-convention featured panels with some of the top voices of Spider-Man’s legacy and was exclusive to users of the Marvel Unlimited app. 

During the event, two exclusive items were announced. A Funko Pop of Spider-Man 2211 along with a Hasbro Marvel Legends Series Silk figurine. Both are available on Amazon, with pre-orders live at the time of this posting. 


To top off the night, was a surprise announcement about a brand new Marvel Unlimited comic line: Spider-Verse Unlimited. A six-issue run available on the Marvel Unlimited App that weaves together a story featuring all your favorite Spider-Men.

 

SPIDER-VERSE UNLIMITED INFINITY COMIC #1

Writer: Anthony Piper

Artist: Bruno Oliveira 

Colorist: Pete Pantazis

Editor: Nick Lowe 

In the first issue, you can sort of see the average life of your every day Peter Parker. Which also, coincidentally, happens to be just as unlucky as the life of your everyday Miguel O’Hara, Gwen Stacey, and Peter Porker… Because The Spideys seem to never be able to catch a break!

The Infinity Comic, like all unlimited comics, will be told on a vertical plane (the kind of comics you read on your phone, tablet, or webtoon). It will come with the Marvel Unlimited App and will release new issues every Tuesday. The Spider-Characters and their journey will kick off with a Miles Morales story, co-starring Peter and Gwen that begins next week. If that weren’t enough, Writer J. Holtham (whom we interviewed months back about Marvel’s Wastelanders) and illustrator Nathan Stockman, have likewise, signed on for Miles’ first Infinity Comic!

There’s plenty of more Spider-man news to come this year for the wall-crawler’s 60th anniversary. We’ll be sure to post the latest updates as we get them, so stay tuned.

‘The Endgame Season 1 Episode 4’ Review: #1 With a Bullet

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THE ENDGAME -- “#1 With a Bullet” Episode 104 -- Pictured in this screengrab: Morena Baccarin as Elena Federova -- (Photo by: NBC)

#1 With a Bullet Reveals How Long Elena Has Been a Part of Val’s Life

The latest episode of The Endgame, #1 With a Bullet, does things a little differently. Which is a welcome change after how formulaic the past few episodes have been. Granted, the general flow of this episode is very similar, with a story, a flashback and drama related to one of the banks. But where it starts differently is that Val starts putting the pieces together before Elena becomes involved. And it’s all thanks to her imprisoned husband, Owen.

At the end of last week’s episode, Owen’s cryptic words led Val to a thumb drive hidden in a book in her own home. She’s immediately listening to it in order to ascertain what her husband was trying to tell her. And at first, it seems like a lot of nothing. It’s an audio file that features gunfire and then ends with Val’s own words. By listening to it, Val realizes it was recorded while she was in Gambia, about a year after her husband’s run-in with Elena and Sergey.

Val does the smart thing, and has a FBI tech analyze the recording in-depth, but the woman is unable to unearth any hidden secrets. So Val goes right up to Elena and asks why the recording is relevant. Elena retorts that’s when their partnership began. Val doesn’t like this answer. In her recollection, Elena nearly shot and killed her in Gambia. Val was there to rescue some NGO teachers held hostage by a warlord.

THE ENDGAME — “#1 With a Bullet” Episode 104 — Pictured: Noah Bean as Patrick Doak — (Photo by: Ralph Bavaro/NBC)

Meanwhile, Doak decides he’s done playing by Elena’s rules, and is about to rush into the first bank when the hostages suddenly come streaming out. They had been hearing loud thumps for a while when Snow White finally lets them go. As Doak and the FBI rush in, they discover a hole in the wall. As they investigate, one of the technicians with Doak trips a device, causing them all to rush away from it. And once they do, a lattice of deadly lasers appears, locking all three men in place.

So not only did Doak miss the bank robbers when he foolishly rushed the bank, but he managed to get himself caught in the process. Turns out the laser device was made using diamonds, two of which Val found on the bank premises. They think the only person that can disable the device is the one who installed it, which is one of Elena’s lieutenants. Val does some sleuthing, and finds a wedding ring, realizing that some of the communication between the first and second banks indicates a romantic relationship between Elena’s lieutenants. So she goes hunting for him to help get Doak loose.

THE ENDGAME — “#1 With a Bullet” Episode 104 — Pictured in this screengrab: Morena Baccarin as Elena Federova — (Photo by: NBC)

Elena may be behind bars, but she’s still able to get information from the outside. She’s really getting under the skin of the last man standing, FBI Director Réal. The other two members of his little cabal may have been outed as corrupt, but so far he’s remained clean. Meaning he may be as honest as he seems, or he may have skeletons buried very deep in his closet. Regardless, he’s starting to figure out Elena’s methods, and even realizes that she’s been reading lips. Unfortunately, that’s only one of the ways she’s staying informed, and the other is an open question for her captors.

As Val hunts down Elena’s lieutenant, she also has some suspicions that the latest bank activity is related to Gambia. Normally the people put in danger by Snow White are the ones outed as corrupt, but Doak doesn’t seem to fit the bill, regardless of his nervous self-doubt as the laser lattice creeps closer and closer. Val thinks the man who owns the bank might be the latest target, but she doesn’t have time to look into him further.

THE ENDGAME — “#1 With a Bullet” Episode 104 — Pictured: Ryan Michelle Bathe as Val — (Photo by: Ralph Bavaro/NBC)

When Val finally finds and corners the lieutenant, an Asian man who goes by Louie, he rapidly types some info into his phone and tosses it into the water. They find him at a boat harbor, about to take off. Unfortunately, he also has a grenade, and isn’t willing to back down unless he hears from Elena. Director Réal uses Elena’s lip reading against her, and tells his men to shoot and kill her lieutenant, which causes her to scream for him to wait. She agrees to tell Louie to stand down, one of the few times she’s seemingly backed down. Hard to say if that’s part of her master plan or if it was just a rare miscalculation on her part.

#1 With a Bullet also deals with the latest drama in Peekskill Prison where Owen and Sergey are serving time. The creepy little Russian bastard from last week is making trouble for Sergey, since he recognizes him. Turns out, Sergey goes by Collins in prison, and he might have difficulty if anybody else knows his identity. He’s ready and willing to kill the little weasel, but Owen convinces him to try another method. So while Sergey is talking to the man and revealing himself, Owen drops some liquid in his drink. When the little ferret takes a sip, he falls to the ground twitching. Owen remarks that should put him in the medical ward for at least a week, more than enough time for their secret plan to progress.

Right as the laser lattice is about to melt Doak and company, Elena reveals there’s nothing to be afraid of. Turns out, it’s not a hot laser, and was just a psychological trap. But it did succeed in pushing all three men against the wall where they discovered a hidden safe. When the FBI asks the man who owns the bank, a Mr. Moustakas, he says he has no idea what’s inside. Val isn’t buying it, and Doak orders the safe ripped open. Inside, they not only find a connection to Gambia, but something much more significant.

THE ENDGAME — “#1 With a Bullet” Episode 104 — Pictured in this screengrab: Costa Ronin as Sergey Vodianov — (Photo by: NBC)

It turns out, Elena wasn’t being cute when she said Gambia was the beginning of her and Val’s partnership. Elena wasn’t shooting at Val to kill her. She was doing so to stop her from walking into an ambush by the warlord’s armed men. And funnily enough, when Val hears this and listens to the recording again, she realizes the gunfire is coming from American weapons. Running the lead down further, she finds the bank safe has tons and tons of information, including some that shows Moustakas was arming the warlord with guns from the US. When they arrive at his posh penthouse to take him away, they find a picture with Moustakas, as well as the now removed Attorney General and the Homeland Secretary from the cabal that captured Elena.

Val is putting the pieces together, and realizes that nearly everybody in that picture has been proven to be corrupt. Using the resources of the United States government to sponsor terrorism or worse. There’s a couple more people unaccounted for in the picture, but when Val asks Elena about them, she plays coy. More important is when Val finally realizes how Elena is making contact with the outside world, via the binary beeps of the flashing red light overlooking her cell. Meaning for once, Val has an advantage that Elena doesn’t know about.

THE ENDGAME — “#1 With a Bullet” Episode 104 — Pictured in this screengrab: (l-r) Morena Baccarin as Elena Federova, Ryan Michelle Bathe as Val — (Photo by: NBC)

Overall, #1 With a Bullet was a great episode of The Endgame. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come, and that the pattern we’ve been seeing might be changed up more significantly in the future. I’m also very much looking forward to Doak continuing to unravel as he is frustrated by Elena, maybe becoming a villain in his own right.

Why Netflix Should Buy Telltale Games

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netflix logo and bigsby from the wolf among us 2

Given their preferences for episodic storytelling, Netflix acquiring Telltale would make sense.

The progenitor of the television streaming era, Netflix is easily the global leader in adapting new IPs. Hollywood’s greatest project green lighter since the early 2010s, the streamer’s pivot to original content has not only made Netflix one of the world’s most recognized studioswith a powerful international presencebut has also redefined the entire industry. Netflix will forever be known as the destroyer of Blockbuster and movie theatres. It is also, the most prestigious award-winning studio today, sweeping a majority of Oscar and Emmy nominations since 2018.

But in an era where Amazon Prime has made itself a challenger, not just as a streaming competitor, but as a subscription service with rentable video, music, and delivery services for their e-commerce platform, the future of Netflix become quite murkier. As each competitor seems to provide more than just streaming. 

Apple TV tends to come free with every new Apple device. Disney has their Disney Bundle, along with theme parks and an overall entertainment monopoly. Even newcomer HBO Max now has shorter 45-day release windows for all of their theatrical movies (they get first dibs afterward), as well as a content library with IPs from Warner Bros., DC, Discovery, and somewhat surprisingly, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim.

Netflix has had to find an edge to compete with these up-and-coming services. Not just against rival streamers, but also, against services such as TikTok, Twitch, and really, anything that consumes a user’s downtime that it isn’t Netflix. 

This is why Netflix has taken a pretty strong pivot into gaming these past few months. Starting mostly with mobile games even though their initial designs thus far have been rather basic and reminiscent of the flash-era games of the early 2000s. Still, the company is doubling down on gaming.

Netflix has already bought out Night School Studio, a diverse game developer of hits such as Oxenfree and Afterparty, founded by two former Telltale employees. Netflix has also produced Minecraft: Story Mode, a Netflix original series developed by Telltale in 2018. If that wasn’t enough, who could forget about Bandersnatch. The first-ever choose your own adventure TV series, poetically about a video game choose your own adventure story, set inside the parameters of a Netflix TV series. 

The Problems With Streaming Videogames

Selina Will Remember Bruce's Kiss in Batman A Teleltale Series

Still, adapting streaming for the gaming world is far from easy. For starters, global internet speeds still aren’t up to date for high-resolution gaming, nor will it be anytime soon for slower internet speed countries. 

5G networks, which are ideally the first largely capable traffic pathways for optimized gameplay streaming, are still undergoing a very slow release in terms of their network of access. There are patches due to infrastructure problems such as airplane signal disruptions, and of course, construction delays of 5G towers along with material supply chain issues due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

That being said, I personally do believe Netflix can pull this off if they get involved with the right partners. Particularly one company that has always worked well with them in the past regarding adaptions made from comics and TV intellectual properties. 

 

I am talking of course about Telltale Games, who are currently in the development of hits such as The Wolf Among Us 2. Still, it’s been a rocky road for Telltale. Which is the only reason I can see Netflix being hesitant to throw money at this project.

What Happened To Telltale Games?

Lee and Clementine she will remember that in The Walking Dead

Telltale was once the king of story-based episodic gaming. Using a multi-episode release format while having characters perform in a story setting with active choices and quick-time environments, Telltale’s games were like having a living comic book in your hands. One where you had to be mindful of choices… because someone would always remember that!

Beginning in 2012, with the Game of The Year winning The Walking Dead series, this harrowing tale starring Lee Everett and eventual series lead, Clementinebecame the staple of what choose your own adventure games could be in modern gaming. Not only accessible on consoles, and on Steam, but also, on mobile as well! Becoming one of the biggest multiplatform hits of the time during what would be the peak of The Walking Dead hype.

After the success of that series, the original Telltale company expanded, releasing a barrage of groundbreaking hits. Creating what may be the funniest video game of all-time, with Tales from the Borderlandsan offshoot of the Borderlands seriesthe company also created the game they’re most publically known for The Wolf Among Us. Doing yet again what they do best, by adapting a critically acclaimed graphic novels series. This time, with the hit comics created by Bill Willingham: Fables (imagine ABC’s Once Upon A Time but as darker noir).

Seeing how this was working well, Telltale then continued developing adaptations of hit stories with Game of Thrones and, eventually, the property that cost them all their development money: Batman. Telltale was also, already, in the works of developing a Minecraft adventure series for Netflix (later known as the Minecraft: Story mode interactive series). Though the biggest news of what could have been was in their supposed project to adapt Stranger Things as an adventure game.

This was of course before the company had gone just shy of bankruptcy due to underperforming sales of Batman and the cost of adopting such high-quality IP while using, what was essentially, the same game engine throughout this entire time period of games development. About 250 people lost their jobs. It was heavily believed to be mostly the fault of former CEO Kevin Bruner, and really, just the toxic crunch culture that is being heavily stigmatized in gaming today.

But just when everyone thought Telltale was history, LCG Entertainment happened one year later. The holding company had purchased the rights to the Telltale name, along with the studio assets, trademarks, tech, and IPsminus The Walking Dead, whose rights have gone back to Robert Kirkman (the series creator) and his Skybound company. The new Telltale CEO, Jamie Ottilie, had this to say regarding the merger, as taken from the original report via Business Wire:

“All of us were big fans of the games Telltale created, as we strongly believe in games as a storytelling medium and nobody did it better. Even now, when you see a game with strong narrative, it’s always compared to Telltale, so it’s no surprise that players and industry colleagues alike mourned the studio’s closure. We believe there is still so much life to the brand and its franchises, and we look forward to building upon the company’s storytelling legacy.”

This new Telltale company will have a lot to prove but is continuing to take its beloved narrative approach to gaming. The company is growing again from the ground up, with half of its development team officially rehired (but under new management). They’re also working on several projects behind the scenes, along with a brand new game engine. All for what’s promising to be a more distributed and sustainable model. If that wasn’t enough, the company has also hired back, or are working with, their former creative leads. 

Right now, LCG Entertainment/Telltale is working on a game adaptation for the critically acclaimed science fiction series: The Expanse. Though things do seem to be improving, it could be a lot more streamlined if a bigger entity were to buy them out. This year alone has already seen the looming buyout of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft and Bungie’s buyout by Sony. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a big player like Netflix make a move as well soon too.

Why The Ownership Would Make Sense

Ever since the release of the Black Mirror: Bandersnatch series, it’s pretty obvious just how desperate Netflix is in wanting to foray into gaming. They have the users. They have a platform. They just need the developers, and more importantly, the people who know how to make TV shows into video games. Something, historically, that Telltale has done admirably throughout their lifetime as a company.

Atop of this… well, it’s really just a numbers game. Last year alone, Netflix had spent 17 Billion in content spending. An obscene amount to many, until you remember that this is a global brand. Netflix brokers deals on a by-country basis. With physical studios and offices in every corner of the globe minus Russia and Africa. They also, historically, have been able to maneuver around tricky international tax laws. Why? Because at the end of the day, Netflix is a digital application. Or a production company. Or the world’s biggest entertainment studio, depending on who’s asking. 

More than anything else, if Netflix was already willing to spend over half a billion dollars on The Crown alone, which is just one of their IPs, then it’s pretty simple to see a buyout for small gaming that only generates about a bit over 1 million dollars in revenue.

Simply put, if Netflix is planning to venture into games using their Bandersnatch choose your own adventure type of model… Telltale is probably the company to work on this with.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – What’s Important About Lenny Bruce’s Carnegie Hall Performance? 

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PC: Amazon

We explain the significance of this pivotal nod to the career of Lenny Bruce featured in Mrs. Maisel’s Season 4 finale. 

Despite a lukewarm start to this season, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel absolutely slays by its end. With Midge’s oddly parallel journey to the real-life Lenny Bruce finally coming to a head, fans finally get to see the satisfying conclusion of four seasons of will-they-won’t-they, mentor-mentee cat-stringing, brought to a climactic conclusion.

*Spoilers ahead*

This is all addressed in the season finale with the relationship between Midge and Lenny Bruce. Which has oddly been a healthy and supportive force often pushing Midge forward behind the scenes. The season 4 finale sees the two finally consummate their relationship the night before Bruce’s gigantic performance of Lenny Bruce at Carnegie Hall. 

For those who don’t know why that’s important

Lenny Bruce’s Carnegie Hall performance, which was conducted during a packed-house snowstorm in real life and driven by the desire to see this so-called ‘degenerate’ comic of the time, is widely considered to be the greatest performance of the young standup’s brief career. One where his controversial topics — heavily considered taboo due to the comedian’s frequent arrest record, and often, closed-off club opportunities marred by his own offensive material — finally gets accepted in the grand public eye.

What The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has done thus far in portraying Bruce, is shown the bright side of what was a rather tragic comic’s career (whom many consider could have been one of the greatest). And Carnegie Hall represents the moment every artist dreams of: to sell out in one of the most classical stages of NYC.

Introduced as a ‘sick’ comedian both in real life and in the show. We the audience can still see what’s happening in terms of the narrative shift towards acceptance versus reluctance capped off in the series. Tastefully, you can actually hear the beginnings of Lenny Bruce’s real-life performance redone for the TV series as much of what you see by Luke Kirby was taken from the real Lenny Bruce’s actual performance that evening. Here’s proof:

 

Now, any artist living in NYC knows that performing in Carnegie is huge. It’s a pivotal moment for both Lenny Bruce and the series, as it’s sort of a metaphor of what could be, showing Midge that to be here: performing on this classic stage… well, it requires sacrifice and work, as the window of possibility is open only for a limited opportunity. 

At the heart of this has always been Midge’s stand-up story front and center. This plotline has felt sort of at a standstill due to Midge’s constant self-sabotaging and the constant: ‘I want to be the headliner’ toxicity that has, this season, ruined her opportunities. Midge often destroys her opportunities for the sake of having her cake and eats it too. If that isn’t enough, she also accosts Lenny for his little stash of narcotics she’d found while staying at Lenny’s place. A foreshadowing event that at this moment, in Carnegie, was the high mark for the comedian. The real-life tragedy of Lenny Bruce will soon come after.

It’s a perfect device that drives the series onto its next legs: by showing what the possibilities could be for Midge. While also, sort of reminding us, that time is in fact limited – just as it was for Lenny in his final years.

A Deep Dive Into Peacemaker

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Peacemaker: The Best Worst Superhero
Peacemaker: The Best Worst Superhero

Let’s talk about Peacemaker, or as James Gunn put it, “The Best Worst Superhero”.

Six years ago I knew little about Peacemaker. I saw his character make an appearance somewhere in the twelve-issue limited series of Crisis on Infinite Earths. All I could think was that there had to be more to this guy than a gun and a funny hat.

The only thing I knew about the character was that he was part of one of DC Comics’ acquisitions from Charlton Comics. His character goes back to The Fightin‘ 5 #40 (1966) before he got his own five-issue run from Charlton before being canceled. He came to DC with a bunch of other properties, like the Blue Beetle, the Question, Nightshade, Thunderbolt, Judo Master, and Captain Atom.

Watchmen's Comedian was based on Peacemaker
Watchmen’s Comedian was based on Peacemaker

Here’s a bit of trivia that you might not know: many of these properties were used as the basis for Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Peacemaker, Blue Beetle, the Question, Nightshade, Thunderbolt, and Captain Atom were the blueprints of the Comedian, Nite-Owl, Rorschach, the Silk Spectre, Ozymandias, and Doctor Manhattan, respectively. So, when you think of Peacemaker, you might also want to think of Jeffrey Dean Morgan with an automatic weapon.

Plus, don’t knock Charlton Comics. They had some pretty outstanding talent working for them at one point. Names like Steve Ditko, Dick Gordiano, Pete Morisi, and Joe Gill were part of their creative team. There’s some serious DNA in those heroes.

But I digress. Let’s dig into Peacemaker and a bit of Vigilante as we know them.

Peacemaker and Vigilante in the comics
Peacemaker and Vigilante in the comics

Three men have adopted the identity of Peacemaker in the comics

In an interview before the release of The Suicide Squad, James Gunn was inspired to make Peacemaker much like the Captain America television show character of the seventies (starring Reb Brown as Cap). He described writing Peacekeeper as “looking at current world issues through the lens of this superhero/supervillain/world’s biggest douchebag.”

That’s not quite who our hero is in the comics.

Three men have adopted the Peacemaker name and like all the men who have donned the pretty silver helmet, each has used heavy personal artillery to fight for peace. The comic book character’s origin was just a little different from those in the HBOMax series.

Charlton's Peacemaker Issue 1
Charlton’s Peacemaker Issue 1

Christopher Smith, portrayed by John Cena in the show, was the first Peacemaker. Initially, Smith was a diplomat who was so dedicated to peace that he’d use non-lethal weapons to achieve it. He founded an organization called the Pax Institute. While the show makes it a point to say that the White Dragon, who was the head of a neo-Nazi organization, raised Smith. This was not the case in the comics. What was true is that Smith’s father was a Nazi commandant in a death camp. In both the show and the comics, Smith is haunted by his father, who criticizes him from beyond the grave.

The helmet is an interesting part of Smith’s character. Whether it is part of Smith’s mental illness or whether it is true, he believes that because of either his victims or deaths that happened nearby him; he absorbs all those spirits into his helmet and gets advice from them. Smith eventually meets his end when he uses a helicopter to crash into some tanks during a battle against the villain, Eclipso. His soul is seen in purgatory afterward.

The second Peacemaker was an anonymous man who took up the mantle. Presumably, he worked for the U.S. government as a member of the League Busters, an organization made to destroy the Justice League. He disappeared after that story and no one knows what has become of him.

The third Peacemaker was a man named Mitchell Black, who was recruited for “The Peacemaker Project”. Black was a surgeon. He united with the other “Charlton Comics” heroes for a mission and was presumably killed.

The people who were Vigilante

Several people have taken the name “Vigilante” in the DC Universe, including one old western gunman as well as Adeline Kane, who was Deathstroke the Terminator’s wife. The original modern-day incarnation of Vigilante as portrayed in Peacemaker is Adriane Chase.

Adrian Chase aka Vigilante
Adrian Chase aka Vigilante

In the comics, Adrian Chase’s backstory is very much like the Marvel character, The Punisher. Chase, a New York district attorney, dedicates himself to a war on crime when mobsters kill his wife and daughter. Much like Peacemaker’s character, he has conflicting emotions regarding the justice of his actions.

Eventually, Vigilante hung up his goggles to become a judge where he felt he could serve justice better. During his absence from crime-fighting, two other men, Alan Wells (a fellow judge) and subsequently, Dave Winston (a bailiff), took up the mantel without Chase’s knowledge.

Ironically, Winston met his death in a battle against Peacemaker, and the original Vigilante killed Wells. It was after that Adriane Chase returned to being Vigilante, as it seemed to be the best way to protect his loved ones.

Chase found it increasingly difficult to handle the guilt of operating as Vigilante and as his mental instability grew out of control, he eventually took his own life.

Other men who took Chase’s mantle were Pat Trayce, Justin Powell, Donald Fairchild, and Dorian Chase (Adrian’s brother)

Vigilante/Chase: Judge and Executioner
Vigilante/Chase: Judge and Executioner

Unlike Peacemaker’s adaptation to the HBOMax series, Adrian Chase was nothing like his comic book persona. Chase’s character on the show was both comic relief and a mentally disturbed character. While we do not know the character’s backstory, what we know is that he is obsessed with two things: Peacemaker (being his BFF) and killing people. We also know that if he killed some innocent people as collateral damage, he would not spend too much time grieving over them.

Vigilante in Peacemaker is a sociopath or a man with Asperger’s Syndrome, as he completely cannot distinguish between actual conversation and sarcasm. He cannot to pick up on visual social queues, either.

Why Peacemaker is deeper than you think

One of the biggest obstacles I have in enjoying any film or television show in my house is my wife. As she is both an animal rights activist and a Buddhist, she cannot watch any media where 1) an animal gets killed or injured or 2) extraordinarily violent shows. The website, www.doesthedogdie.com gets a lot of traffic from the Peruzzi household.

There is stuff she just cannot watch with me. For example, while I have watched the entirety of Amazon Prime’s The Boys, I am convinced that any episode would drive my wife into a catatonic state.

Such is life.

Doesthedogdie.com
Doesthedogdie.com is a resource for people too sensitive to see people smoking cigarettes.

That said, I had to watch both the Suicide Squad and Peacemaker back-to-back to get the full gestalt of the character. Within the first few minutes of watching The Suicide Squad, I came from it and told my wife that it was not for her.

Animals get killed and people explode. I won’t even go into how gorillas and chainsaws don’t mix.

But you absolutely need to see that movie to understand where the character is at the beginning of the Peacemaker series. Why? Because one of the biggest rules in storytelling is that characters must evolve or devolve in a story. They need to grow or change through their experiences.

Peacemaker is a portrait of how a hero survives a dysfunctional past.

So, this is where I give a fair warning to SPOILERS.

When we first meet our hero, we see him as James Gunn described him. He’s a douche. It’s a good word. We know everything we need to know about him for this movie within the first few minutes. We know he’s a deadly killer and we know that he’d eat a bag of dicks in the name of peace.

A consequence of the movie is Peacemaker had to kill Rick Flagg. The problem was that Flagg was not his enemy. This was where the character would have a psychotic break between two conflicting beliefs. He does not like killing people who aren’t his enemies and the other is he will kill to preserve peace.

While five months have passed since the Suicide Squad mission, our protagonist has not dealt with this trauma. Despite staying in a hospital for that time, Chris Smith is still recovering from his injuries in Corto Maltese. Thus, he is damaged goods. There is also an emotional wound within the hero that eats at him like PTSD. Hours after his release from the hospital, he met the ARGUS team, headed by Clemson Murn, and was told that he must work with them, or they will set off the bomb still inside his skull.

Peacemaker showdown
The final showdown?

By the end of the first episode, we come to realize four things about the character. He doesn’t get along with the team. He doesn’t get along with his father. His only human friend is Vigilante. And lastly, he has only emotionally bonded to is his pet bald eagle, Eagley.

Why? Because he has never had a meaningful relationship with a human adult.

However, let’s get back to his father, Auggie Smith (aka The White Dragon). We see that this modern adaptation of the character is a neo-Nazi rather than a Nazi. They establish he is a shitty human being who would rejoice in how someone like Bloodsport was tortured as a child. What we discover is that this is not that much different from how he raised his younger son.

When I had time to binge-watch this show, it became apparent that the mental and emotional abuse are the roots behind Peacemaker’s douchey-ness. It all comes from his backstory.

Chris Smith’s scars are cumulative. His father made him stab an adult man to death and pit him against his older brother in a bare-knuckle fistfight that resulted in his brother’s death. That he accidentally killed his brother, who was probably the only person who loved him, resonates with him deeply—to where he still listens to the hair bands they used to rock to.

Rock music is how he honors his brother, Keith. It is also a continuing reminder of the Peacemaker’s sin against him.

“There is no one home in my house of pain.”

Peacemaker Breakdown
Peacemaker has his emotional breakdown

In the second episode, Chris Smith has an emotional breakdown when he listens to the rock albums he stole. Everything is coming to a head. The protagonist sees he is on the wrong path. He chastises himself because he cannot connect to his team. He doesn’t have the social skills to do so. Through Auggie Smith’s parenting, Peacemaker became a bully who did nothing but make fun of others. Why? It’s what his father would do. He cries because he knows he could be John Economos’s friend, but he realized he pushed him away.

Why is Peacemaker a douche? He is a douche because it was the only way he could bond with his father—by being douchey.

But our hero has some scruples.

He knows Murn by reputation. From what Peacemaker has heard, Murn cannot be trusted and knows that he’s done horrible things. This leads to another crisis in values. Remember, he would do anything for peace, even kill for it. Only this time, he’s told to kill kids, and no one is telling him why. He has lines he won’t cross.

I thought the character development of the protagonist and the supporting cast was superb. As the antagonist was not a definitive villain (outside of the White Dragon), the story became more a philosophical story rather than one from a typical comic book.

We even got to sympathize with the butterflies.

The Butterflies
Our Butterfly Overlords

When Gunn finally gets on his soapbox to critique society, we can sympathize with the antagonist. The butterfly message was, “We’ve seen this before. We failed the same way you are failing. If you let us steer you in the right direction, we can save your planet.”

What is unspoken is “all it will cost you is your free will and that we will rule you.” Ultimately, this is what would happen. Each butterfly/human amalgamation would be faster, stronger, and more durable than any ordinary human, and each would be in a position of power.

If they could survive without the cow, how would we survive?

The end of Peacemaker is a gamble. The viewer, much like Peacemaker himself, asks, “Did he do the right thing or are we doomed to follow the same course the butterflies originally were on?”

Like a good story, Peacemaker gets the viewer to think about bigger issues. Gunn pulls no punches in showing that the fascist world of tabloid news and conspiracy theories is taking our attention away from things that matter.

Our Flag Means Death – Pilot Review

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The position of a Captain in any capacity is fraught with stress and trying times. Whether you’re trying to lead your squad to glory in the World Cup, the Model U.N., or just trying to convince people your cereal doesn’t lacerate the inside of their mouths, the role of a Captain is perilous. All eyes are locked in on you, waiting for you to falter.

What if that amount of scrutiny resulted in mutiny? An event so rarified and special, it takes a team to plan for what the leader should have been excelling at in their sleep: keeping the machine oiled.

In Our Flag Means Death (HBO Max), we’ll see that even though inexperience and ineptitude are white-hot ingredients for any justified overthrow gives us an overview into two things required for any legend: Moxy and loneliness.

Isn’t the Captain supposed to go down with his ship?

The year is 1717, and Piracy is having its golden moment. Gold, ha! That’s what Stede Bonnet’s (Rhys Darby) crew is dearly missing. As they are regaled with the dulcet shanties of Frenchie (Joel Fry), the crew sits down to a nice game of cards. Black Pete (Matthew Maher) has a problem, not with the game, but rather because the operative word is “nice.”

Oh, the crew isn’t bereft of treasures due to failed raids on enemy ships. Stede, wealthy in his own right in the flurry of a mid-life crisis, decided to capsize his life of unearned privilege and become a pirate. That’s right, a pirate. Nope, not a privateer sanctioned by the Government. A fucking foul-ass, grog swilling, blood-shedding god among the high seas. There’s only one problem- he isn’t.

He pays his crew a salary! There’s no hunger for earning your pay when you’re just biding the time in a ship outfitted with a fully stocked library (though if I were on that crew, soo much excitement is to be had in having my proboscis in a good read.) It doesn’t help that Stede rocks bespoke garments while his crew is draped in piecemeal coverings.

Though morale is not a complete loss, avast! A plundering is afoot, but not even the announcement of a vessel approaching by his Chief Mate Buttons (Ewen Bremmer) can wrest the wind from the sails of the crews’ excitement, as it’s but a small fishing boat. Even Stede’s boarding has the crew embarrassed with the spoils of war from a dropped cannonball (which Stede considers a warning shot) resulting in a fucking plant.

In his quarters, Stede narrates to his secretary Lucius (Nathan Foad) the adventure of the day for posterity. His whole approach to lawlessness is pirates don’t need to be as salty as the water they tread, so he basically created a floating Club Med. This includes a proto-tennis court, a bathroom (where you can shit while another bathes not a foot from you), a zoo, a ballroom (for cleaning cannon fodder), a jam room (for when you want to take out your aggression with mellifluous sounds instead thoughts of bygone carnage) and the library (though Lucius is the only literate one).

In his daily address to the crew, he wants elevated energy in his mates. Gee, I wonder why rolled eyes and sighs are the height of their aggression. These guys live for the high, and Wee John Feeny (Kristian Nairn) calls bullshit on the whole operation. He points out they don’t even have an identity in the form of a flag. Craft time!

With this huge supply of materials, everyone is to create a flag that will be held to a vote as to which will fly. Though most of them don’t know how to sew, save for Roach (Samba Schutte) who had sewn his own shoulder up, and Wee John, who used to make dresses for his mother. Though Roach and (Nat Faxon) get into a small scrap over a large sheet, a calm and expressive time was had by all through creativity. It’s a very My Fair Lady Moment, without any moment of Stede looking at his crew as lesser than.

Black Pete isn’t having it and wants to kill the Captain, which has Buttons’ ears burning. A mutiny is in play, and Black Pete is at the head of it, though it sounds like he was only a contract worker on his crew and much like the world of today, loyalty isn’t guaranteed, so you could be ‘let go’.

Lucius has informed the crew that the Captain was notified, but he wants in along with Roach and Wee John.

Mr. Buttons has permission to speak freely, and it seems, the crew he conscripted wants it as such. They want a leader whose belly won’t tear open at the tickle of a feather. Oluwande (Samson Kayo) has no beef with the captain, as he reads them stories at night and there’s one story they haven’t finished yet.

The thing is nobody can truly be Captain if they kill their own, except for Jim who is a mute. It really is the least of Stede’s worries, as he’s Spy-Glassed out a really nice looking vessel. If it’s excitement and pillaging they want, the ragtag group shall be granted their wish.

Growing a bit of growl in his nethers, Stede promises a nice haul and a nice day, which promises action, adventure, and fire. As the various weaponry is prepared and sharpened, including Jim’s knives (which have an alarming accuracy) Captain Stede has second thoughts as to what carnage can occur in a no man’s land of open water. The amount of wanton bloodlust takes us back, back in time.

A young Stede experiences his first butchering of a fowl, splaying his and his father’s face with blood. The blood that gives us life. To wear that is honor among warriors, to know that it’s either eat or starve, but he’s a sensitive soul. He would rather pick flowers, but his father immediately cuts to the chase and tells Stede he will be soft and will forever be in the favor of good fortune- not because he earned it, but because he didn’t. It’s the type of toxic masculinity that’s permeated so many, but now, faced with a hardcore situation, he’s having flashbacks.

This causes him to bunker up after the big raid, thinking he ain’t got the GUTS to see it through or worse yet, get his crew captured and/or killed. Oluwande and Jim both check on him to ensure he’s ready for the battle. Jim shows him all the cuts, with samurai precision in a few seconds, Stede opts for something more of an incapacitated touch, which they inform him, occurs at the back of the head.

Both Jim and Oluwande know he’s not cut out for this, as exemplified by them saying it’s not out of love but out of necessity. Stede’s just a fucking rich man wanting to play out fantasies. They see through him but before he can make a true breakthrough of his idiocy, a warning shot’s been fired.

It’s a Naval English warship and at this point, they have no time for pests. A fleet of that nature could take over an entire enemy with just a warning shot, but Officer Wellington realizes that because the vessel has no time to move, it’s Captain Badminton (Rory Kinnear) move to obliterate them before he notices that Stede is on it.

Sending out a tender, an invitation is demanded, not extended, to come aboard. Captain Stede has no choice. This gives him and his crew enough time to put on airs, raiding his closet for the deception, which Black Pete thinks is weak. This grants him the opportunity to host someone he’s not seen since boarding school and just enough time to give his crew posh backstories for the sake of face.

At dinner, the crew, the raw dogs they are at sea, hate Badminton’s douchey energy. Stede’s crew is subjected to ridicule and mockery but not more than himself, with Badminton’s regaling of Stede’s torture in the privileged childhood, including torturous bullying at Badminton’s hands, gaining his nickname of ‘Baby Bonnet.’

With Captain Badminton wanting a tour of the ship he feels so sorry for, he dearly wants to mock it, but tensions are rising among the non-existent ranks. They are starting to rally behind such a gentle and benevolent soul, but it’s not grown to aggression yet. It’s more a reflection on them as well as him, though aimed at the most polarizing backgrounds within a crew.

With his childhood nemesis enamored at the silliness of his seafaring craft, Badminton doesn’t think the scuttlebutt of Stede is true. It can’t be in his mind that someone so ‘soft’ and ‘fey’ can be the Captain of a group that would leave his wife and children for murder for gain.

With a thunderous laugh, all of Stede’s trauma from him suffering at the command of his school cronies at someone so defenseless has Stede actually contemplating a knockout with a brass whale at the base of his dome piece, but relents.

At the dining table, though Black Pete is cocked and aims to the other guy’s, well, cock as the flags are finally revealed. Each is cute and represents death to the designer. This is getting the real tough guys riled up. Don’t fuck with our psyche.

While Badminton shits on Stede in his own quarters, push has come to shove and the sea never looks out for you… until it wants to.

When Officer Wellington calls Frenchie a slave, a knife is driven through his hand. Hey, pirates gonna pirate and they have the impetus they need for making the blood flow fast. This is inclusive to Stede, who bashed the guy on the other head with pretty decent results.

Turns out, in trying to incapacitate, he killed, making the Captain fall on his own sword (ha!) through the fucking eye and into the brain!

With I guess his brain-trust now, both Lucius and Oluwande have a fun mess to clean up, also telling him to claim the kill as his own, earning the crew’s faith.

With that, and an ever crying Wellington to take back something funny, the crew has their first hostages. Though he’s a terrible leader, Oluwande knows that they’ll be paid and fed. It’s not the best under the crew’s noses, but the subterfuge can last for a little bit… and least they were able to be read to bed among the lapping waves with the reading them Pinocchio.

With the added twist of Moondog’s “High On A Rocky Ledge”, we realize that Stede truly misses his family and his big mistake was choosing adventure for what adventure was in front of him- his former family.

The last note was that Jim isn’t really Jim at all…

I judge this only as a pilot, and with that, it very much has promise. It’s based loosely on a true story, but the ridiculousness is replete with comedy, especially with Taika as EP. It ensconces elements of Taika’s style, but this isn’t his. It has room to grow and within a very limited space on a vessel, which I believe it can sail.

O Captain, My Captain!

Black flags signify no allegiance, but when does the sea?

‘The Endgame Season 1 Episode 3’ Review: Bury the Lede

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THE ENDGAME -- “Bury the Lede” Episode 103 -- Pictured in this screengrab: (l-r) Ryan Michelle Bathe as Val, Morena Baccarin as Elena Federova -- (Photo by: NBC)

In Bury The Lede, The Endgame goes back in time

The latest episode of The Endgame, Bury the Lede mixes things up a bit. Instead of starting with another of Elena‘s delightfully twisted stories, it starts with a flashback. Val is trying to figure out when her husband crossed paths with Val and Sergey, and all she has to go off is a picture. Anthony takes a look, and they narrow it down to a period between 2015 and 2016. Thanks to Owen’s iconic soul patch, Val figures it was most likely taken in 2016 when he was undercover in Argentina.

We get a great flashback where Owen is pretending to be buying guns for his boss. He sits down to dinner at a fancy Argentinian restaurant with Elena and Sergey, and it’s immediately clear why they work as a couple. They have an easy shorthand and both are mischievous and wily. Owen introduces himself as Peter, and at first, it seems he might have fooled the criminal couple. Elena has an interesting view of those that use guns, despite selling arms herself. She says guns make men cowards, and thus she can read whether or not someone is holding just by their demeanor. And sure enough, her instincts warn her when a couple of men arrive at the restaurant, moments before they open fire on Elena, Sergey, and Owen.

THE ENDGAME — “Bury the Lede” Episode 103 — Pictured: (l-r) Costa Ronin as Sergey Vodianov, Morena Baccarin as Elena Federova, Kamal Bolden as Owen Turner — (Photo by: Ralph Bavaro/NBC)

In the present, something strange is happening at the fifth bank. We get the beginning of a story about two close friends right before Elena’s mercenaries grab a woman, put her in an unventilated vault, and slam the door shut. Then Elena manages to hack a broadcast by an iconic news anchor named Tyler Erickson, and offers a deal. He can come himself to the bank, and in so doing save the life of the woman in the vault, who only has a few hours of oxygen left.

As a quick side note, I have no idea how Elena’s Snow White goons manage to see through their masks. They all have a checkered black and white pattern covering their entire face. Which you would think makes walking about without running into a wall difficult, yet they seem to manage just fine. But that’s probably a mystery for another episode.

THE ENDGAME — “Bury the Lede” Episode 103 — Pictured: Noah Bean as Patrick Doak — (Photo by: Ralph Bavaro/NBC)

The FBI works with Erickson to get him into the building safely, but they also have a contingency plan. The idiot assistant director, Doak, wants to use Arkon gas to knock out everyone in the bank and then save the woman. Problem is, unless the dosage is done perfectly, there’s a good chance they’ll accidentally kill some people, as Val reminds him. Nevertheless, they agree that’s plan B, and hope that the Erickson situation will release the hostage.

Unfortunately, that plan quickly goes awry. The masked goons say they’ll keep to the deal, on one condition. Erickson needs to answer a question first. And their question is to have him tell them about ‘the Swan’. He claims to have no idea what they’re talking about and starts to run down the clock.

Meanwhile, Val remembers a phrase Elena said earlier, about “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”, and suddenly spies smoke coming from a nearby building. Turns out it’s a storage unit, and black smoke is billowing out. After Val works with the manager to get the door open, they find a refrigerated box that blew a circuit. And it smells like death. Once Val and Anthony open it up, they find a long-deceased Asian woman. Stranger still, the translated name of the storage facility is Swan. And since coincidences don’t exist where Elena is concerned, Val is positive there’s a connection between the dead woman and Erickson.

THE ENDGAME — “Bury the Lede” Episode 103 — Pictured: Ryan Michelle Bathe as Val — (Photo by: Ralph Bavaro/NBC)

As Val strives to research who the dead woman is and what her connection to Erickson might be, the Snow White goons start playing games. They blindfold the hostages and start moving things around with the camera placed so the broadcast doesn’t show what they’re doing. Erickson is getting more and more infuriated by the criminals and doesn’t seem at all willing to answer their one question. Finally, Val finds the dead woman was named Ming Lee. She supposedly committed suicide and washed away in the river.

We learn that Owen did get shot back in 2016, but survived thanks to the efforts of Elena and Sergey. Worse, we learn they knew he was FBI the entire time, and that’s also why they decided to meet with him. His boldness impressed them. And most important of all, they are looking for “American friends” to help them with a competitor called the Beloch family. Owen says they’re just a small Ukrainian outfit, but Elena implies their reach is much broader than that, perhaps even extending to the American government and beyond.

In the present day, there’s a new complication for Owen and Sergey in prison. Sergey notices a new inmate, and it’s someone he used to know. Both men are worried he’ll recognize Sergey, who’s supposed to be dead. And sure enough, he comes up to him on the basketball court, but Sergey plays dumb. Owen is worried it will mess with their timetable, but Sergey convinces him that he’ll deal with the complication.

When the clock is almost out of time, the FBI decides to storm the bank and not use the Arkon gas. They get in, and find all of the masked menaces are gone. When the FBI opened up the vents to potentially use the Arkon gas, they forgot to close them up. And so Snow White used that opening to escape into the crowd, after creating some chaos by tossing cash out the windows. Luckily, they manage to get the vault open with seconds to spare.

THE ENDGAME — “Bury the Lede” Episode 103 — Pictured in this screengrab: (l-r) Noah Bean as Patrick Doak, Ryan Michelle Bathe as Val — (Photo by: NBC)

As the woman is recovering, Val thinks to ask her if she knew about Ming Lee, since Elena’s story involved two friends. Turns out, she was close friends with Ming, and was heartbroken when she disappeared. She got a text before that with a number, which leads Val to a safe deposit box in the bank. There she finds information that implicates Tyler Erickson in her death.

Val cunningly finds a way to get Tyler Erickson to talk, despite not having concrete proof he killed Ming. He starts talking, and it turns out he had someone dispose of the evidence after he killed Ming. When pressed by Val if he knew anything about the Beloch family, he clams up. The now-discredited news anchor is taken away in cuffs, and Val is left with a mystery from her husband. When she last saw him in prison, he said she’d need luck and gave her a four-leaf clover. And as she’s looking at her bookshelf at home, she sees a clover on the spine of a book that has a hidden thumb drive inside.

THE ENDGAME — “Bury the Lede” Episode 103 — Pictured in this screengrab: Morena Baccarin as Elena Federova — (Photo by: NBC)

Overall, Bury the Lede was another good episode of The Endgame. I appreciate they mixed things up a little, though I hope they start making some more dynamic changes to really keep things fresh. I don’t mind the episodic slow burn, but we need it to lead somewhere truly exciting. If nothing else, the new mystery threat of the Beloch family has me intrigued, as does how keen Elena is to have Val as a ‘friend’.

Thoughts on Love is Blind Season 2

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A pair of rooms, or
A pair of rooms, or "pods," for contestants on Love is Blind

Recap and opinions on the 5 final couples of the very scientific experiment that is Love is Blind season 2

With another February behind us, so is another season of Love is Blind on Netflix. Another group of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes entered the “pods”—pairs of rooms with a wall in the middle that allowed them to hear, but not see, each other—and conversed for hours on end to try to find a life partner. After ten days, they had to get engaged if they wanted to progress to the next phase of the show.

“Is love truly blind?” hosts Nick and Vanessa Lachey asked whenever they popped up like rare Pokémon. “Will you marry the one you chose, sight unseen?”

The show isn’t really about whether emotional bonds can overcome physical preferences alone, though. The first season already made this abundantly clear. Although some of the participants did struggle with their partner’s appearance, other roadblocks were more likely: families, friends, finances, and quirks that only became apparent through time spent physically together (homemade toothpaste, anyone?).

Incredibly, not a single participant in either season has complained about their partner’s body odor or sweatiness. Am I just overly sensitive about this?

Anyway, now that this season’s reunion episode has dropped, let’s recap and reminisce over the five final couples’ journeys to matrimony. Of course, expect spoilers through episode 11.

Danielle and Nick

There was no doubt in my mind that these two would go through with tying the knot. Sure, there was drama at the couples’ retreat in Mexico with her having a panic attack and his staying out late without her. They got into some arguments later about Nick not being present enough or Danielle being too self-centered.

These just seemed like everyday conflicts that any halfway compatible couple should be able to work through. Factor in their highly unusual situation of going from strangers to spouses in 38 days, and then layer on the typical reality-show editing that was undoubtedly applied to spice things up. Of course, these are going to end up looking like ~*dramatic deal-breakers*~, and of course, they’re really not.

According to her Instagram post, Danielle has been “dragged down on the internet for [her] mental health,” which is disheartening. With her video games, full-body costumes, and table-breaking friends, Danielle seemed like a nice, fun person I would probably befriend. Nick seemed okay, more like a coworker I’d view favorably. At the reunion, it was heartwarming to see the clip of their shared home and that they were going strong.

Danielle and Nick show off the table of memories in their shared home
Danielle and Nick show off the table of memories in their shared home, including an image of the happy couple

Deepti and Shake

Deepti was my favorite contestant this season. She was warm, genuine, funny, and cool. I hate to admit, her refusal at the altar was a big twist to me. It shouldn’t have been, because she said point-blank in an earlier episode that she knew Shake was still irresolute. She hated feeling as though this gave him “all the power.” I thought she would try for an I do anyway, which I later realized meant that I was underestimating her strength. I felt so proud when she chose herself and made it clear to the world that she could do better.

Deepti stands up for herself
Deepti says after rejecting Shake at the altar, “I don’t think he realizes what he just lost. And a little time from now, he’s gonna look back and realize that he lost the best thing of his life. And when that day comes, I’ll be long gone.”

As annoying as Shake was, I did feel a little bad for him during the reunion episode when he tried to “keep it real.” When he pointed out that the desire to stay on the show could be a driving factor, everyone else groaned and piled on him for being crass, but I thought it was a fair point (*cough Shaina Kyle cough*). If you get engaged, you get a vacation in Cancun. If you don’t progress past the pods, you miss out on a tropical trip, the opportunity to see everyone else from the other side, and the additional airtime.

Nor was it fair for Vanessa to berate him for signing up for the show in the first place, spicy and entertaining as it was. Shake was obviously well aware of his fixation on looks and wanted to test whether he could overcome it. That’s the point of an experiment: to see if something works, not to manifest an alternate reality. I think he did make a genuine effort to suppress his shallow side, but the effort was overshadowed by his poor attempts at humor and deflection.

Still, there was no excuse for his constant degrading remarks about Deepti and the other women on the cast. He lost what few points he had remaining in my book about two-thirds of the way through the reunion, after constantly insisting that he was “turned into” the villain and showing no remorse for how he’d acted throughout the show. I really hope he heeds Iyanna’s recommendation to find a psychologist who can help him “navigate relationships as a narcissist.” 

Natalie and Shayne

Here was one couple that made me think, Thank goodness that’s over; they can both do better. They clearly have different love languages: Shayne’s being words of affirmation and Natalie’s a violent flavor of physical touch. Shayne wants compliments and verbal reassurances of love, while Natalie wants to be Jun Ji-hyun’s character from My Sassy Girl (if you haven’t seen the film, here’s what I mean).

Natalie slaps Shayne while Shayne chuckles
Natalie slaps Shayne for calling her beautiful

Both of them were emotional rollercoasters for me. At first, I was rooting for Natalie as a fellow Asian sick of being stereotyped in the dating scene. I found Shayne obnoxious and silently urged her to go with someone else, especially with the way he was flirting with Shaina in parallel. Their first scene in Cancun, I figured she was being rude to Shayne because she was regretting her pick. Then she kept doubling down on her claims of being in love, so I had to conclude that this was simply who she was. Since I thought Shayne was annoying anyway, they seemed appropriate for each other.

But Shayne grew on me after a while. He was goofy but well-intentioned, and didn’t deserve all the insults that he was somehow supposed to interpret as love. At the beach in episode 6, he held steady despite an attempted homewrecking by Shaina.

Shaina tells Shayne that his compatibility with Natalie is comical
Shaina tells Shayne their compatibility is “comical,” their relationship “fake-ass” and “a joke”… with nothing supporting her claims except racism, probably

We learned at the reunion that he had told Deepti about the disparaging things Shake was saying behind her back, something I didn’t expect him to do (“bro code” or whatever, you know?) but earned a lot of respect from me.

My opinion of him dropped back down in episode 10. Out of the blue, Shayne got hammered the night before the wedding and told Natalie that he hated her and that she was the worst thing that’s ever happened to him. I felt so sad for Natalie as she recounted their fight in her wedding dress, and even sadder as she broke down in pain and regret at the reunion. But you know what? Now she can find her Gyeon-woo—that’s another My Sassy Girl reference—and hopefully he believes in saving for retirement.

Mallory and Salvador

Here was another couple where each person could do better. The conversation that Mallory had with Jarrette at the bar in Mexico was inexcusable and unforgivable. She said outright that she wanted someone more sporty and masculine. (If only she could have seen Sal swing a baseball bat!) She didn’t defend Sal’s ring choice or try to shut down the discussion. I had the vague impression that she would have preferred someone more career-driven, as well. I saw zero chemistry from her end. Was she just “awkward” as she was so fond of saying, or was she just not that into him? If Sal hadn’t said no at the altar first, Mallory definitely would have.

Mallory telling Jarrette she is awkward
Mallory tells Jarrette at the bar how awkward she is

I don’t think Sal did anything wrong the whole show. The only thing they tried to put on him was the weird ex-girlfriend or -hookup showing up at his sisters’ apartment in despair like a jilted lover. He might have seemed a little shady about it, but I believe he was more passive than anything. He is extremely romantic, but so passive. May he someday find someone who appreciates him for who he is.

Iyanna and Jarrette

I liked Iyanna a lot. I liked that she was self-aware, self-deprecating, introverted, and strong yet vulnerable. So I felt really bad for her when Jarrette told her she was his second choice for a proposal. Just as Shake’s mom said about Deepti, I believed Iyanna didn’t deserve someone who would give her even half a percent less than full devotion.

Jarrette came across as someone who 100% wanted to get married, but had trouble following through with some of the things expected of a serious relationship. He was part of that inexcusable and unforgivable conversation at the bar in Mexico. Up until the wedding day, he was still going out with his friends all the time. It seemed he wasn’t even inviting her along or asking if she would like to do something together, instead. Her “one thing” for the wedding was that he not show up drunk, which he laughingly relayed to his groomsmen as they took shots together in the dressing room.

If he could grow up and prove his commitment to her, then they could be a cute couple. Even though he had hurt her, Jarrette had good intentions and wanted to do right by Iyanna. He also warned Deepti against marrying Shake, and I respected him for that, too. At the reunion, it looked like happily ever for the two.

Jarrette saying he wouldn’t want to ride the rollercoaster of marriage with anyone other than Iyanna
Jarrette says he wouldn’t want to ride the rollercoaster of marriage with anyone other than Iyanna

Final Thought

Each season saw 8 couples engaged. Uncannily, the breakdown in this season was exactly the same as in the previous:

  • 2 tied the knot
  • 3 broke up at the altar
  • 1 split up during the couples’ retreat
  • 2 didn’t get air time because they weren’t interesting enough, but they also split up anyway, so whatever

This scientifically proves that love is 25% blind.

On Making ‘Space Bastards’: A Conversation with Eric Peterson and Joe Aubrey

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logo for space bastards

Writers Eric Peterson and Joe Aubrey share their journey from idea to publication, what it’s like working with artists like Darick Robertson, and why nothing beats that feeling of getting your creation out there.

Published by the French publisher Humanoids, Space Bastards is what you get if you took something like The Boys but placed it in Futurama. Where the postal delivery services in the future are fueled by violence and corporate greed. Co-created by Darick Robertson, whose work on Happy! and Amazon’s The Boys has trailblazed a path of: “Wow, did they go there?” statements across comics and TV, Space Bastards is a journey of non-stop action and shockingly good entertainment. 

The trade for Space Bastards: Volume 2 is available via Humanoids as of today and covers issues 7-9 along with some special one-offs, though is not to be confused with the Director’s Cut special editions of Space Bastards Volume 2 available on SpaceBastards.com

Below, Eric and Joe share with us their backstories along with their intense journey of what it’s been like making Space Bastards. You can listen to the full interview in the podcast below.

For anyone unfamiliar with the comic… What is Space Bastards? 

ERIC: “It’s the story about an intergalactic postal service where in the future, it’s very difficult to get packages between planets, and so postmaster general Roy Sharpton comes up with the new rules that change the industry. Kind of like Lyft or Uber, but violent. Whoever delivers the package gets cash. Postal workers can use any means necessary to steal the package or deliver it themselves. The more times a package exchanges hands, the more you hear ‘parcel transferred’, the more fees are collected from the customer… so the bigger the courier payout.

This originally only attracts ex-convicts and folks used to getting shot at but where we enter the story is when Space Bastards starts to attract anyone disenfranchised. People tired of the 9-5 or unhappy in life who want to be masters of their own domain.”

So when did your creative partnership begin and what do each of you bring to the series? 

ERIC: “I had an aspiring TV and filmmaking background working with a lot of friends to get stuff done. Joe was just super attentive and a partner interested in what I was doing. Eventually, we made these Space Bastards movies but the problem with filmmaking is that every explosion costs money. There’s only so far you can take it with no budget, whereas in comic books, you can do whatever you want. We really thought a comic book would make sense in terms of the next step.”

Wait. Did you actually have actual explosions in the early makings of Space Bastards?

ERIC: “I was pasting after-effects for not-so-great movies that I eventually erased. But if you have our Humanoids issue 1, on the very back there is a QR code you can scan, and it shows some of that stuff.”

JOE: “I remember once when shooting in an elevator, we had a scene that required a smoke machine and live wires where we almost electrocuted Eric’s balls.” 

ERIC: “That was the last Space Bastards things we ever shot. It’s funny, we were trying to do a shot where people walk out of a smoke-filled elevator but what we didn’t realize was that the elevator’s default setting was: Doors close. Then move. So all of a sudden, the wire sticking out of the thing starts dragging all of the lighting equipment. The door opens, as Joe yanks the wire out of the smoke machine before it breaks the elevator, which would have been a big issue. I run up to him asking him if he was okay right when the livewire sparked next to… my genitals.” 

This comic started out as a Kickstarter project. How long was that in the making and how long did it take from idea to publication?

JOE: “The original release was in 2013-2014. We had the issue 1 script and the outline for the first year then had Gabo make for us a prototype. We sent it to Diamond and a few publishers though ultimately decided to kickstart that and use the capital to make the rest of the series. 

The Kickstarter was successful, but Gabo became engaged with other projects, and that’s when we swung for the fences and got Darick.”

When you got Darick onboard how important was he to the process? 

ERIC: “Integral in terms of the visual look of the universe all-around but also as a sounding board. We write Space Bastards primarily with ourselves as the audience. I’m trying to make Joe laugh. Joe’s trying to make me laugh. But one of Darick’s earliest and most surprising contributions was in giving us feedback. Telling us what could be tighter in terms of pacing. A lot of those ideas were critical and really helped informed the direction.”

Looking back, would you guys do anything differently?

ERIC: “Everything other than the story itself. We’re proud of the work but launching a comic book is pretty hard. Space Bastards has an esteemed collection of artists, and it takes a lot of money to get that thing up and make the hardcovers that are super high quality. We had to learn as we go. Then, of course, the book was released during the Covid years. This changed how we marketed it as up until recently, there were no conventions.” 

You took bounty hunting in Space Westerns and replaced it with the idea of courier executions and postal delivery. Can you tell us how instrumental this plot device was in the tension building?

JOE: “Eric had thought about this universe since he was really young. He always wanted to have this universe of Han Solos and shady characters in a sci-fi setting doing something. The idea of the postal service and moving packages was necessary because we needed something that needed to be transported. We needed a time limit. We needed stakes. We needed characters as it became evident this was more-and-more of an ensemble. So we needed them to be in danger all the time and the movement of packages across space felt like the right idea. 

It took a while to refine those rules. This was pre-uber and you know, I think in another universe, Eric and I would have created Lyft or Uber and we would be really wealthy right now. But instead, we made a comic book about a gig economy that really didn’t exist when we started.”

This question is for Eric. You went to film school. Can you convince our listeners why they should never go to film school? Or better yet, why they should blow all their hard-working delivery money… on film school?

ERIC: “I went to a community college. I couldn’t afford to go to UCLA or USC, so I went to Scottsdale community college. The cool thing about Scottsdale or SCC, besides that Bill Hader went here, is that it’s super vocational. You shoot a film on 16mm and edit it within the first 6 weeks of being there. Very much the get-up-and-do-it type of teaching. 

Then, I got hired as an editor and then producer of a local TV show. Stressful as hell, having to raise revenue, but it’s kind of the same thing you do with creative enterprises. It was all vocational training where you have to do things quickly. Not the answer you’re looking for, but in my case, it worked out and was totally worth the experience.”

This question is for Joe. I’m a former psychological caseworker. You’re a board-certified psychiatrist. Knowing all the dirty in-betweens and legal paperwork, do you find any struggles in keeping these worlds separate?

JOE: “I really enjoy my job but it’s very different. It’s nice to have a creative endeavor on the side as no one really listens to me all day. I’m figuring out what to do, prescribe things, provide guidance, answer questions, and serve in an educational role all day, but nobody’s really interested in what I’m thinking about or my opinion. There’s also a limit to the type of humor I can use in a clinical setting. I’m a sole practitioner so I’m not in there with colleagues, I’m with people I’m treating so you have to maintain that boundary and certain decorum. 

So I’ve enjoyed the comic with Eric and the audience. With the characters, I can push things to the extreme. It’s great to have a creative outlet and I think anybody who’s in any kind of science or service industry, would really benefit to have a creative outlet with writing. When you deal with people this much it helps in a therapeutic way for me and gives me a good balance I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Pivoting to art. For both of you: What’s the difference in your scripting styles, and do you script differently with Darick than you would with Clint Langley or Simon Bisley?

ERIC: “Yeah completely. I think that’s one of the more unique things we do is that we’ll have the outlines for all the issues figured out and then try to figure out which artist is best for which type of story. Full-script. Then a lettering script after all the art is done. The thing we do is, I’ll read nothing but books featuring the artist we are working with so that sequentially when we script, panel-to-panel, I’m thinking in terms of their visual language. Then Joe comes in and helps me clean up the dialogue and shifts any of the fighting or plot points.”

JOE: “I think Eric’s familiarity with the 2000 AD artists was critical. We kept Darick for the main story arc, but then we get into these other stories you can glimpse at in these Humanoids releases that are interspersed more frequently in the hardcovers we sell where we use these other artists to sort of explore singular characters or situations. We have the general idea of the story but Eric is really the tailor. He’s the guy who takes the suit and makes it fit the artist we’re using and it makes the issues distinctive from what Darick has done but it also stamps that particular character and enhances their personalities. So that when you get back to the Darick arc, you feel like you’ve lived with these characters a little bit.”

What has it been like working with Humanoids in terms of art and production?

ERIC: “They’re wonderful. It’s been a treat working with our editors and they’ve been supportive. With us launching last year, it was a tough year, but the response was far beyond what I was expecting in terms of reviews. Especially with a year with minimal conventions.”

JOE: “We came in finished with almost 500 pages worth of stuff before getting together with Humanoids. A large parcel of completed work which they could’ve ripped to shreds or said, this isn’t the way we wanted it to go, but they actually read through it and they were receptive and complimentary and good to us. It was a crazy thing to do. Working for that long with so many different artists churning out stuff that no one’s really read except for us, and then, just handing it to Humanoids. Thankfully, they got what we were pitching and it’s been a great partnership.”

What is the difference between the Directors Cut trade paperbacks on Spacebastards.com versus the ones being released via Humanoids? 

ERIC: “Really, the thing is, since we have an ensemble cast, we have a lot of flashbacks and chronological events to cover. What we choose to do with Humanoids is to do the fastest direction of suspense and everything else through the single issues and trade paperback orders. At the same time, we have these direct cut hardcovers that actually tell the full score of these stories and provide a little bit more extra content.

For example, in the Humanoids edition, the Chuck story happens in issue 6, which is Simon Bisley’s first story in that line. In the hardcover, it’s in issue 3. We show you that right after the story it ties into. It’s the more expansive reading order where you take a moment so that you can understand things.” 

JOE: “The special editions are huge. 13 by 9 inches. Large door-sized hardcover. 130 pages.” 

ERIC: “If you need to kill somebody with a copy of Space Bastards it is the best version to do that.”

You guys wrote a lot of the series already. How many issues do you have planned?

ERIC: “As many as readers permit. We outline things in terms of like TV seasons. The four hardcovers, which volumes 3 and 4 are on their way, cover season one for us. To be honest that’s kind of the logical stopping point if finance doesn’t permit it. But then, depending on the number of hardcovers we sell, allows us to make further years. 

Every dime was taken from the Space Bastards merch, especially the hardcovers on spacebastards.com, that directly goes into funding year two. We love our artists but it is expensive producing this stuff. Honestly, if we could figure out a really good model to move enough of these hardcovers out there, it would result in us writing it. I’d write this until the day I die as it’s a super fun process. It’s great working with these artists and with Joe, but we’re trying to be smart about it. We do have an ending written though so it’s not flying by the seat of our pants.” 

Fans of the series are curious (okay… just me) are we shipping Layla and Proton together?

JOE: “I thought so. I wanted a moment between them, and I remember talking to Eric about it, that I think we need a moment between the characters but Eric flatly shut it down saying: she would not be interested in him! And he said it so definitely… we were at a bar in San Diego, a few drinks in, and he was like: there is no way she would be interested in him. There’d be no fuckin’ way she’d do that and like… he was right. It would’ve made me happy but it wouldn’t be true to the character. That’s made me think differently about her and Proton. I think deep down in Eric’s lizard brain and my subconscious, we have a different path for her.” 

ERIC: “My personal take on it is like, I take it there is some sort of attraction due to the intimacy of the situations they end up in. But she has so many big mountains to climb.”

JOE: “She’s got business. She has another agenda. You were right.” 

ERIC: “I can’t say the same for Davey. I can’t say he looks at that the same way but yeah… Depending on where you are in the story.”

Do you have any words of advice for people like myself who are seeking to kickstart their own dream comic book projects? 

ERIC: “Don’t. Just give up. Just kidding. So, way back when, I got to run into Steve Dillon and Garth Ennis through a mutual friend my first time in NY and we got to hang out until 8 in the morning. I wasn’t really asking him about Space Bastards at the time but I knew I wanted to do this kind of story. I wanted to have it cost a little more money to produce. 

Steve was telling me all these horror stories about how he had this anthology, which was where Tank Girl is from, and all this crazy stuff about all these fires that had to be put out. So I asked him: “You’re saying I shouldn’t invest money and do this?” and he said, “No you absolutely need to. The bottom line is no matter how difficult it is, or whether it’s a financial success or self-sustaining or not, there’s just nothing like it. There’s nothing like getting those stories out there under a certain condition after working them on a long time trying to make them the best that they can be. There’s just nothing that replicates that.” 

JOE: Yeah don’t give up. The main thing is to make something and complete it. If you can complete it and get someone to read it and you’re happy with it, that it makes you happy or makes you smile and you think about it and you spend more time thinking about it than you do at your job or whatever else, than you got it. You can’t give up on it. Put it on Kickstarter, make it digital, and try to get ads or a Patreon or whatever you can to get people to read it.”  

I ask this for every guest on the podcast. What is the biggest thing you’d like fans to take away from the series?

JOE: “That there’s a place for this type of dark humor. You can have unsavory characters who aren’t necessarily politically correct but it’s fun and it’s not harmful. I’d like for readers to take away a desire to see more as we think there are a thousand more stories that we can tell in this universe. I want people to get the same kind of exhilaration we do, like what you said about it feeling like a video game. We want people to feel that and laugh and be surprised. We just want people to be entertained.”

Finally, where can people help support the creation of more Space Bastards?

ERIC: “SpaceBastards.com and you can find our links to social media there on the site along with lots of merchandise and those deluxe hardcovers as well which is the director’s cut way of experiencing Space Bastards.”

JOE: “We’ve got some individual issues including the issue 1 prototype that Gabo drew for sale. You buy a patch, a button, or a book, anything helps. We already paid our artists in advance and everyone who worked on these books has been paid. Any money we make now goes to paying them again and making more.”  

‘Space Bastards: Volume 2’ Review

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space bastards volume 2
PC: Humanoids

A comic series filled with grit and humor, we take a look at Darick Robertson, Eric Peterson, and Joe Aubrey’s ‘Space Bastards’ Volume 2.

The first thing you’ll notice about Space Bastards, after reading it for the first time, is its unrelenting parodical grit. An entertainingly violent and funny take on corporate greed, much in thematic tones of The Boys, the galaxy of Space Bastards is what happens when you take humanity’s unrelenting desire for space travel and left it up to the whims of unfettered corporate billionaires (much like in real life) causing space expansion to become excessive, highly profitable, and incredibly exploitable. Due to pirates, the transportation of prized parcels between planets is now a lucrative yet dangerous business venture, leaving only the cunningly desperate, toughest-of-the-tough, and overall: stupidest bastards in space left to deliver.  

The release of Space Bastards Volume 2 continues Humanoids’ trade paperbacks of this story. Written by Joe Aubrey and Eric Peterson, The Cost of Doing Business is the second trade paperback of Space Bastards to be released in-stores via Humanoids and covers issues 7-9 along with some special one-offs, though is not to be confused with the Director’s Cut special editions of Space Bastards Volume 2. Which are 130 paged self-published 13 x 9 extended edition hardcovers that feature bonus art available on SpaceBastards.com

Originally a successful Kickstarter, Space Bastards features the work of artists Simon Bisley, Clint Langley, and Dan Panosian. The series is also co-created by the classy Darick Robertson. The highly talented artist who has worked for almost all the major publishers and is renowned for co-creating Transmetropolitan, Happy! and The Boys. When asked about the series, Robertson had this to say to The Workprint:

For now, my work here is done, but I’d love to see a world where the Bastards come back and my pals Joe, Eric and I can do some origin stories with this insane cast of characters.

The comic series has easily been one of the most excessive things I’ve ever read. Entertaining, guttural, and in-your-face: filled with action, grit, and over-the-top shit. In a world driven by greed where profits dominate and quality of life declines. Action, explosions, machine guns, and betrayal? Par to the course. All beautifully colored and designed to draw the reader’s eyes to both its paneling and coloring. This comic is nothing shy of superb in its action sequences.

I guess the best way to sell Space Bastards is this: what if every Bounty Hunting trope you’ve seen in science fiction was suddenly replaced by violent package delivery services? Space Bastards is the violently silly answer to that question. Necessary? No. Entertaining? Absolutely.

‘Space Bastards Volume 2: The Cost of Doing Business’ Review

The cost of doing business space bastards cover
PC: Humanoids

Because the demands for deliveries are so high in the Space Bastards universe, every time a parcel exchanges hands, the payout increases… in what’s essentially the most action-packed science fiction game of hot potato ever created in the comics medium. Suffice to say, the series feels like a video game. Where anyone you meet in just about anywhere you see the characters go, always leads to the chance for action. As such, the comic is always in a state of momentum in every scene. This synchronizes with the artwork rather well in that it’s very action-driven with over-the-limit violence and obscenities. 

Space Bastards Volume 1 follows the story of David S. Proton, a disheveled accountant turned postal worker who, like most of the ensemble of the main series, got screwed by corporate society. He, along with the epitome of badassery: the ex-convict Manny Corns, have a bit of a violent back-and-forth throughout volume one. As mentors and mentees become betrayers and cut-throat entities, audiences get to understand the origins of this new mail delivery system-driven reality led by a con man and postmaster general, Roy Sharpton. 

Roy Sharpton is a charlatan. A man who appropriates everything in the most distasteful ways imaginable, failing his way upwards on the corporate ladder, all by mooching off the laurels of those who’d come before him. A man who turned the failing mail system into the most violent parcel delivery service on the planet, Roy frequently butts heads with the wealthy Wayne Powers, who more-or-less, is what you’d get if Jeff Bezos inhabited the body of Bruce Wayne and decided: Space. Let’s do it. Fuck the consequences. 

In volume 2, we see the series pivot its focus. As we go back into the origins of the deuteragonist, Resurrection Mary. All while Manny, the psychotic Manicorn, takes a holiday and is not doing so well. Whereas volume one was pretty much non-stop intensity, issues 7-9 involve a lot more exploration of the world and its universe. A place where people can be considered as cargo and buddings of space violence has only just begun. 

The most noticeable thing about these issues is the pivot in terms of the art style, as Colin MacNeil has a distinct stylistic approach that fans of his will recognize regarding his standalone with Mary. Likewise, Clint Langley’s take on some of the backstory of the series, adds for a visual appeal that will have fans nostalgic over 2000 AD

I think what’s the greatest part though about these volumes is just how much resolution each delivers by its end. As a lot of arcs come full-circle in ways I think fans will be genuinely surprised about. People become different types of people, friends become enemies, would-be-lovers become beloved, and I’m actually lying about half of these descriptions though you’ll have to trust me: that there are some serious changes made in volume 2’s dynamic by its end. I genuinely think it opens the door for more Space Bastards, though it also, provides a bit of a… happy ending? Which I think will surprise a lot of fans.

Still, this is by no means the end. It’s pretty evident that Space Bastards becomes stronger as an ensemble in the styles of Pulp Fiction or Sin City by the ending issues of Volume 2. Here’s to hoping for even more!

You can support your fellow Space Bastards by purchasing goods and comics over at SpaceBastards.com

 

Gaming Wall Street: On HBO’s Wall Street Bets Documentary and American Gambling

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Set to debut Thursday, March 3rd. This HBO Max original documentary looks at last year’s short squeeze phenomenon.

A Wall Street Bets documentary has been made by HBO. Aptly titled: Gaming Wall Street. This HBO Max original series is narrated by Kieran Culkin of HBO’s Succession and takes a look at the historic 2021 short squeeze of GameStop, where a group of Reddit investors and self-proclaimed ‘apes’ (based on an internet meme) had made a bunch of money using the same exact tactics hedge funds are well known for using when gambling with other people’s, often million-and-billionaires, pools of money.

To be fair, last year, was a remarkably volatile (aka stupid)  year of investing. There was a lot of money to be made across the board due to historically low-interest rates, an abundance of stimulus money, and the promises of unfettered growth that never really came to fruition. 

From crypto to NFTs, and even a collapsed hedge fund called Tiger Mangement, which lost all trading options on the same company that makes South Park and MTV, there was a lot of money being moved around in 2021. Much of which ended up in the hands of billionaires, who’d sold large chunks of their positions in their own companies at the end of last year, such as Elon Musk and Satya Nadella.

In Warner Bros’ press release, director Tobias Deml had this to say:

“I wanted to create a compelling documentary about a niche online community which grew into the movement behind GameStop and momentarily shifted the balance of power on Wall Street. I saw a great need for access to education about investing. We have the opportunity to right a decades-old wrong created by powerful firms that have been gaming the system to the detriment of society. I hope that viewers will feel empowered to see themselves as investors and be part of a much-needed reform to Wall Street.”

 

Let me be clear from the get-go why I personally care and know about this topic: because I was accidentally a part of the Wall Street Bets fiasco too. Not intentionally. Because I had just invested in movie theatres thinking that they’d make a rebound from the pandemic, quite literally, weeks before the beginnings of what was to be the first WSB short squeezes. 

I was lucky. I was also smart, in that, having lost lots of money in my 20s in the market, I knew what was too good of a thing to be true and sold, making up for my losses from almost 10 years ago. Unfortunately, many still hold onto their shares of Gamestop and AMC dreaming of an overthrow of the rich that’ll more than likely: never happen. There was also an unprecedented amount of options trading, which is more or less, gambling, as they’re all-or-nothing trades that hold high payoffs if you can time it right (FYI: most people can’t time the market. Even hedge funds. They just have a lot more money to play with).

That said, this documentary is a thin slice into the world of this weird tale between retail and hedges. The part that I think most people don’t understand though, is that most Americans were sold on this promise that the money would run hot in a post-pandemic society. The beginnings of a Biden presidency of what we thought would be a return to civility and the hopes of a vaccine ending the pandemic—packaged, marketed, and sold on the promise of a roaring 20s—where covid was over. We would spent every moment like it would be our last, and life would be one giant celebration of the year that we’d make it.

A dream which didn’t fully happen… Though this documentary will highlight a bit of how that story got semi-started.

“Gaming Wall Street peels back the layers of one of the most talked-about news stories in 2021, revealing the systemic issues and underbelly of the financial world,” says Joanna Zwickel, SVP, Documentary Features and Series, Gunpowder & Sky. “It’s an honor to have this series live on HBO Max.”

 

 

 

Peacemaker: A Season 1 Review

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Peacemaker is something else. Though it was incredibly buzzworthy in more ways than one, that ending was a bit of a cop out.

If you didn’t see The Suicide Squad let’s catch you up quickly. In the movie, the titular gang of assorted villains is sent off to a fictional island. Task Force X head, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) needs them to retrieve some top-secret intel to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Once they arrive on the island they learn their mission isn’t what they were expecting – not dissimilar from Suicide Squad – and make the decision to go against orders to do the right thing. Well, not everyone. Peacemaker (John Cena) has vowed to protect peace no matter how many people he has to kill, and in this case, it turns out one of them is on his own team. His actions don’t go well and the audience assumes he’s dead…until the after-credits scene.

Peacemaker show
Peacemaker promo image

Welcome to the after-credits show. Chris was a fairly cut and dry character in The Suicide Squad, but in his own show, he’s given much more agency and allowed to grow as a person. This all begins with his discharge from the hospital where his near-death experience has left him questioning his most firmly held belief: Peace at any cost. A talk with the janitor (Rizwan Manji) doesn’t help, though it does lead to a hilarious show and tell scene later on. So how does a person like Peacemaker grow? Can he? The answer turns out to be more of a maybe.

The first three episodes establish all the major players and the general plot of the show. Amanda Waller has created a new Task Force X. Peacemaker isn’t off the hook, getting re-recruited soon after leaving the hospital. The new mission? Project Butterfly – which, if Project Starfish is any indication, could be about hunting down a giant butterfly. Close: butterflies are actually aliens (which look a lot like the insect codename they’ve been given) that take over human hosts. Naturally, as with any plot involving hidden aliens, the butterflies want to take over the world.

In the pilot, we’re introduced to the members of the new task force. Two of whom we’ve met before, A.R.G.U.S. agents Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland), and John Economos (Steve Agee), were among the brave few willing to turn against Waller and help the Suicide Squad in the movie. They view this assignment as punishment for their actions. Heading up the team is mercenary leader Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji), and rounding it out is new agent Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks), lastly, of course, is Peacemaker. The next two episodes flesh out the full team, including unofficial members, so we can get to know them throughout the season.

Peacemaker team

Harcourt is an extremely capable agent who is tired of being punished for just wanting a beer – men feel like they should be able to hit on her because she’s attractive and if she acts in any way other than grateful she’s seen as a bitch. We witness this thrice, once when a stranger attempts to “compliment” her and doesn’t take kindly to being rejected (it does not end well for his friend who follows up on his behalf), and twice when Peacemaker shoots his shot. Like all “tough as nails” ladies, Harcourt is smarter than your average blonde, professional in the execution of her duties, and slow to warm up to those around her though once she does she is fiercely loyal.

Economos is a computer-savvy agent whose skills are overshadowed by his physical appearance. Without any real reason, Peacemaker chooses John as his target for ridicule. But, if we’re being honest, it’s not too surprising. John’s a middle-aged man, overweight, wearing glasses, whose beard is suspiciously two-toned. Whereas with Harcourt, Peacemaker is consistently trying to get in her pants, with John, Peacemaker is consistently trying to get under his skin, and his use of the moniker “dye-beard” does so with precision cruelty. Throughout the events of the series, John’s dry humor and precision sarcasm make him one of my favorites, not to mention his realistic growth trajectory (he learns he’s capable of more than he thought, but also knows his limits), and his eventual emotional payoff is that much richer for it.

MurnWe don’t learn much about Murn in these first three episodes, or over the course of the series to be honest. He’s the Amanda Waller stand-in with perhaps a smidge more tolerance for the antics of his posse. The way he interacts with the rest of the team harkens back to any number of 80’s and 90’s action movies where an exhausted Sergeant or Captain must deal with a wild-card hero cop. Funnily enough, Murn becomes more of a fleshed-out character after a very big twist is revealed.

Then there’s newcomer, Adebayo, who is a married woman with fur babies that only took this job because she needed the money. Also because her mother, Amanda Waller (yes, that Amanda Waller), has been trying to get her into the family business for years. Why? Because Waller needed an insider she could trust on the team (which, coming from a woman who trusts no one seems unlikely), also, supposedly this gun shy, painfully awkward individual is a “natural”, and born to be an agent. I personally disagree, and Adebayo is my least favorite character in the show next to Judomaster, possibly because of the forced friendship between her and Peacemaker, but mostly because of her incredible ineptitude throughout the season. There’s only one thing she’s actually shown to be good at – manipulating people – and she only does it once.

PeacemakerFinally, we have Peacemaker. Though he views himself as a hero, his treatment of his fellow teammates and even his “friends” contradicts this. Take for example his relentless bullying of Economos, or his persistent harassment of Harcourt, even after both of them make it clear they are bothered by this he doesn’t stop. Like most bullies, Chris can dish it but he can’t take it. Any time anyone points out a flaw in Chris’s logic, personality, or beliefs, he either redirects or strikes back. Not too strangely, his most brutal backlash is reserved for Economos.

This might be due to what Economos represents to Chris – mainly: failure. Here is a man who, while not overtly vulnerable, hasn’t exactly done much to avoid being the target of ridicule. Why does Peacemaker hate this so much? It could be because he’s a shallow, thoughtless asshole, or, it could be because his father is an abusive, white supremacist (August “Auggie” Smith, played to perfection by Robert Patrick) who’s never missed an opportunity to remind Chris what a failure of a son he’s been. Ah, another classic bully trait – Chris abuses because he’s been abused.

But, let’s get back to the task force for now. There are two unofficial members I should mention. One is Eagly (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker), Chris’s pet eagle. August, albeit a horrible person for sure, did do his son one solid by taking care of the bird while his son was in prison for the past four years (if only he’d remembered to cancel that cell phone plan!). Eagly can’t speak, naturally, and only sometimes seems to understand what Chris asks of him, but he lends support where and when he can – this includes straight-up murdering some cops. Though, when his help is clutch to the team’s success, he does let them down. On the bright side, Chris doesn’t hold it against him.

The other member is Vigilante (aka Adrian Chase played by Freddie Stroma), your friendly neighborhood sociopath, who operates on a very strict code of conduct and considers himself Peacemaker’s BFF. Vigilante is both sweet and brutal, ditzy and well-informed, a real contradiction of terms at times. Amazingly, Adrian has managed to maintain his secret identity despite being Peacemaker’s longest-running friend. This is probably because Peacemaker dismisses his friend at every possible turn, appearing to shun the label of “friendship” to their relationship. But make no mistake – Vigilante is very much Peacemaker’s friend, and perhaps the only person in the whole series who truly understands and accepts him.

This is why it bothers me that, within the first three episodes, Adebayo and Peacemaker are pushed together. He’s supposed to like her because she’s the only “real” person on the team, while she just finds him another hilariously out-of-touch white guy. The only real defense for this combination that I can think of is that Adebayo does manage to break through to Peacemaker on a lot of his erroneous stances. For example, it’s Adebayo who gets Chris to consider how cruel his nickname for Economos is, this crack in his mental armor allows for the emotional breakthrough later in the finale when Economos explains why he dyes his beard. So, I’ll give Adebayo credit there, especially since Adrian really isn’t concerned with helping Chris grow as a person (he seems to be staunchly against it, particularly where killing is involved). Although there’s one instance where Vigilante makes a helpful observation of Chris’s behavior when he points out that Chris likes to surround himself with “friends” who can’t talk – like Eagly or Goff (I’ll get to her). But, for the most part, Adrian truly accepts Chris for who he is.

Having all of the “good” guys established, let’s turn our attention to the other colorful characters that populate this series.

White DragonPeacemaker’s father, August, is essentially Iron Man if Tony Stark was a racist. Despite the animosity towards his son, August still creates high-tech gadgetry for him to use in the field – in the form of helmets, each of which has a special trait. The most frequently used of these is the Sonic Boom helmet. We see its effectiveness during two important moments in the season. One, when Chris encounters his first butterfly, and two, when Chris and the team take down The Cow. Among the other helmets is a Scabies variety (this gives everyone within a certain radius Scabies…why? A safe bet would be Auggie’s disdain for sins of the flesh), an Anti-gravity variety (this is accidentally activated during a pivotal moment), an X-Ray vision variety (which leads to the revelation that Murn is actually a butterfly!), and an Underwater variety (it is never used, but I can’t help thinking it’s meant to be a dig at Aquaman). Auggie is also the man responsible for Peacemaker’s uniform, which is very different from his own White Dragon costume – yes, you read that right. August Smith used to be a costumed…uh…villain by the name of White Dragon. At least, I’m gonna safely assume he was a villain. August, we come to realize, is the main source of Chris’s toxic masculinity, though his son has definitely rebelled in some ways there are other aspects of him he can clearly trace back to dear old dad. His penchant for finding someone’s sore spots and stabbing at them? Thanks dad! His stubborn resistance to personal growth? Hi August! His tendency to discount those closest to him? Oh…that’s 100% Auggie doggie.

JudomasterAnother villain that comes and goes is Judomaster (Nhut Le). An enigmatic figure who never removes his costume has an insatiable hunger for Flaming Hot Cheetos and has allied himself with the butterflies. This is all we know about him for the entire series. There are two scenes that speak to a deeper understanding of the man in green, but one of them gets cut short when Adebayo shoots him, and the other is very random. Two obnoxious assholes on their way out of a convenience store run afoul of the small soldier after one makes fun of his demure size before going into the place. It’s one of the few moments in the series where you are definitely meant to root for the little guy. Overall, I’m not a huge fan of Judomaster for the sheer fact that he’s never fleshed out, but in his defense, I get the feeling he was just one of those “look at this old, weird, DC character!” jokes. Fun fact: there has been a female Judomaster, and, she’s the only incarnation from the comics that was of Asian origin.

Annie Sturphausen (Crystal Mudry) is a short-lived but very important villain. She enters the series as a one-night stand following Harcourt’s rejection of Chris’s advances. While Peacemaker is thrilled after their lovemaking, she is motivated to kill him once she’s glimpsed the top-secret dossier he left in her room (because he felt leaving it in the car wouldn’t be safe…). What sets her off? She’s one of the butterflies, though she gets vaporized by the sonic boom before Chris sees this.

Song and FitzgibbonLess enemies and more inevitable side characters are Evergreen police detectives Sophia Song (Annie Chang) and Larry Fitzgibbon (character actor Lochlyn Munro), who get involved following Chris’s run-in with Annie. The sonic boom isn’t subtle or focused so the other people in Annie’s apartment complex have obviously called the cops. Song and Fitzgibbon start off as simple foils, arresting August during their investigation of Annie’s murder when the fingerprints from the crime scene come back as his (maybe not the best move by Economos to cover Peacemaker’s tracks), with Fitzgibbon happy to leave the racist in jail while Song is bothered by conflicting evidence. Her efforts to do the right thing are held up by Murn’s mole Captain Casper Locke (Christopher Heyerdahl who you might recognize from Supernatural), and though she successfully goes over his head it ultimately backfires on her.

Goff once she’s taken over Det. Song

This brings us to Goff. In the third episode, the team is tasked with assassinating the United States Senator Royland Goff (Antonio Cupo) and his family – assuming they prove to be butterflies, which they do. This encounter provides the first appearances of Judomaster and a butterfly. Judomaster does his best to protect his charge but is felled by none other than Economos while trying to escape. Peacemaker has a crisis of conscience which allows Vigilante to show his worth, taking out Mommy, sister, and brother bear (Natalia Safran, Juliette Ferguson, and Jackson Ferguson respectively). I will say, I’m not sure why Harcourt couldn’t do this she was right there unless she’s not a skilled marksman (something I highly doubt), but more likely it was to give Vigilante a reason to join the team. Either way, Peacemaker’s inability to do his job when given the opening and Judomaster’s painful intervention result in Chris and Adrian being captured by the enemy – once again, they leave Harcourt behind…not sure why.

Senator Goff tortures Vigilante in an effort to get thePeacemaker to talk, which fails miserably, but Chris does manage to get the upper hand eventually. Upon killing the Senator, Chris, and the audience, are treated to their first view of the thing they’ve been chasing – a butterfly. True to its codename, the tiny alien looks a lot like a butterfly. The episode ends with Chris presumably shooting the bug, but we learn by the end of the next episode that he didn’t actually kill it. Instead the butterfly, now known as Goff, is being kept in a jar at Chris’s trailer. Why did Peacemaker seemingly choke again? I’ll be honest, there’s no real answer given. Near as I can guess, he felt lied to by the team (they haven’t yet told him what a butterfly is), and has a soft spot for flying creatures that can’t talk. This moment is also paired with memories of Peacemaker killing Rick Flag and his father yelling at him for having killed his brother, Keith (Liam Hughes), who we see in flashbacks.

Speaking of Keith, I’d like to take a moment to point out how strange this aspect of Peacemaker’s backstory is. The third episode is the first time we’re really teased by the tidbit that Chris killed his brother. It leaves the audience guessing about when and how he killed his brother. Was it an accident? Did his father pit the boys against each other and Chris happened to win out (this was my guess and I still think it’s what they should have done given August’s personality)? Did Chris hate how much his father favored Keith and ultimately murdered him only to instantly regret it? Not long after the tease we’re told that Chris’s brother died when they were kids and it was an accident. Then we get the flashbacks – Chris and Keith in a pit bareknuckle fighting each other. Smiling and laughing while doing it. Out the window goes my theory, along with several others I’m sure, but more importantly once the truth is revealed it only brings about more questions. Like…why the fuck did Keith froth at the mouth? Best guess is one of two impossibly convenient things happened: 1. Chris hit his brother at just the right point in his skull to cause a short-circuit in his body that ultimately killed him or 2. Keith happened to land on a rock or other lethal debris in the pit that set off a massive brain hemorrhage. A third potential involves some unseen poisoning – which would explain the frothing, but so would an undiagnosed seizure disorder. Whatever the case may be, the truth is that Chris didn’t really kill his brother, not the way August accuses him of doing so. It was August that set his boys against each other in a dirt pit to fight for the amusement of his friends – Chris finally realizes this by the penultimate episode and subsequently murders his father once he does.

August’s death is easily one of the most satisfying moments in this whole season. Here is this man who, in no uncertain terms, is evil. Just that. Is he intelligent? Clearly. Does he understand the law enough to avoid incarceration? If Adrian’s failed attempt to kill him proves anything it is this. But he is not a man capable of growth or change. August represents the old, stubborn, set in their ways Americans who climb atop their high horses and judge the rest of us while remaining blind to their own massive flaws. Chris may not be prefect, and he may have a lot of his dad’s negative qualities, but like most new generations Chris is reachable. He can listen to his teammates’ points and take them in for consideration. Will he change completely? Probably not, that’s not honest to how people are (save for a traumatic head injury working some magic), but he can change here and there. Chris can learn to see Economos as a human being, with real skills that he contributes to the team. August Smith was never going to see Chris as anything other than a pebble in his shoe (yes, those of you who recognize this line, I am 100% stealing this from Anjelica Huston in “Ever After”). It is, without a doubt, the highlight of the season. Mind you, not just August’s death, but the entire sequence of events.

That’s not to say there aren’t other amazing moments in this show. Chris dancing nearly naked to classic hair metal right before being attacked by a woman straight out of the era from which those bands came is a delightful action cap to an otherwise standard episode. Adrian’s attempt at killing August in jail, after antagonizing his white supremacist posse, is another fantastic set-piece. Chris, Adrian, and Eagly fleeing into the woods after narrowly escaping police custody put to bed any doubts someone might have about having an eagle as a sidekick/pet (Eagly is indeed, hardcore!). There’s also the massive butterfly infestation that takes place at the Evergreen police department and local prison care of Goff’s new host Det. Song. The Peacemaker one-man army shooting at the honey bottling plant, complete with Gorilla chainsaw evisceration packs a memorable punch. And, of course, the after-credit scenes, which provide additional chuckles for some of the more throw-away jokes in the show.

One more thing I’d like to bring up is the surprise reappearance of August Smith. After Chris kills his father, has a good cry, and then rushes onto the next mission (killing the Cow) he begins to see his dead father. He is aware that August isn’t actually there – him and ghost dad have a fun little argument about it – yet he also can’t adjust to the situation either. Granted, he ignores it and his father goes away, but later, once the mission is a success and Chris has returned home, his father appears to him again. I found this curious and did a little digging to discover that in one of the comic book storylines Peacemaker is in fact haunted by the ghost of his dead father. This dad isn’t a neo-Nazi but rather an actual Nazi (note, in the comics White Dragon isn’t Peacemaker’s father). Comic book Peacemaker is also haunted by the victims of his “quest for peace”, so I wonder if that will come up in season 2.

Overall, I liked Peacemaker. Was it a perfect show? Not by a long shot, but I can’t name a perfect show yet (ok…maybe Pushing Daisies). The strength of it lies in the in-between conversations that take place before or after the huge action sequences. These allow the characters to grow, to get to know each other, and to reveal more of themselves to the audience. This is the thing I believe James Gunn is best at – building a rag-tag team of idiots and somehow making them work by the end of it. Granted, it’s less believable in a movie given the time constraints, but an eight-episode season really lets his skill shine. Much as I’m not an Adebayo fan, and do NOT think she should join the team by any stretch of the imagination, I can believe that by the finale she’s become a fully integrated member (with regards to how the other team members see her).

Things I didn’t like? A lot of plot holes, and an ending. As I’ve mentioned, maybe once or twice, Adebayo bothers me. She stumbles her way through much of the show, being incapable of murder until she’s suddenly very capable of it, I mean…to a hilarious degree (see that bottling plant shooter sequence I mentioned earlier). The only two things she happens to succeed at are discovering the name of the bottling plant, and almost getting Adrian to kill August. Which brings me to another complaint: why the fuck did Murn care if August died? I mean, I get that having Adrian kill his father would have been a hard pill for Peacemaker to swallow, but given his eventual revelation about August, I can’t see Chris not ultimately getting over it. Plus, how would Chris even have found out it was Adrian who killed August? Well, actually, I could totally see Adrian confessing this to Chris. Still, Murn’s ability to assess Chris’s unhealthy entanglement with his father is a bit uncanny. I mean, the guy’s been in jail for four years, and I doubt in all that time August ever visited his son. Also, how does that dimensional pocket closet work? Like, seriously: the fuck?

Another good question: why not directly recruit Vigilante? Murn allows Vigilante to follow them to the Senator’s safe house, but why? Vigilante will literally go anywhere that Peacemaker is. All he has to do is ask. Maybe it’s for Peacemaker’s sake? Perhaps allowing Vigilante to worm his way onto the team is more believable for Chris…easier to accept? Though he never says anything against Adrian joining the team, even if his reactions are fairly reluctant once it becomes clear Vigilante is a member. Hell, maybe it’s for Vigilante’s benefit – give the guy a win?

You’re late!

In the realm of nitpicking would be my annoyance at some of the juvenile humor of the show. It does come off as if a fifteen-year-old boy wrote a lot of them. Some of it seems to attack “woke” culture, while other instances condone it, but this could be explained by the diversity of the personalities on the show. I actually enjoyed the running gag of Peacemaker outting the different Justice League members for taboo traits – each of which is laughed off as online bullshit until the one about Aquaman fucking fish. Would it really be that much of a surprise? Though, Futurama makes a great case for why fucking fish, or mermaids, wouldn’t be the fantasy we’ve all imagined. Still, the ending treat of having actual Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and actual Flash (Ezra Miller) show up was beautiful. Hell, I even appreciated the silhouette cameos of Superman and Wonder Woman.

In terms of the larger storyline, I have a bias here. Whenever an enemy in a show/movie declares that their motive is to “check” humanity in some way I’m always on the side of the villain. And considering the butterflies don’t even want to eradicate the human race, I’m even more on their side. At first, I thought Murn’s being a butterfly was going to add some nuance to what is largely a clobber-you-in-the-head show. After all, most shows that introduce aliens just go in one direction: invasion followed by subjugation. Murn saying that he was turning against the others gave us a fairly unique plot twist. However, once I learned why the butterflies were doing what they were doing, I was on their side albeit without Judomaster’s skills. The fact that Chris kills Song Goff is pretty surprising given what we know about his quest to preserve peace. But, more than that, it’s lazy and sad in my opinion.

I know a lot of people won’t agree with this conclusion, but Gunn took the easy way out. He also took the Whedon way out. As in Joss Whedon, whose show Angel and movie “Cabin in the Woods” both came down to a similar choice: save humanity by allowing something greater than it to take the reins but at the cost of a few individuals, or, allow humanity to fuck itself over as it has chosen to do every step of the way so far. You go ahead and take a guess which choice is picked in both scenarios. While a lot of the show did remind me of Whedon with respect to its juvenile humor, quippy protagonists, and embattled female characters, I was hoping it would take the road less traveled here. But, maybe that’s more honest…Peacemaker, for all his flaws and complications, loves his friends and is so grateful to have them that he’s willing to sacrifice the entire world for them. You can bet Vigilante wouldn’t have made the same choice. Oh, no doubt Adrian would have mourned the loss of his friends, but when push comes to shove the sociopath understands the greater good (which is saying something).

Lastly, and I’ll leave this for you to contemplate: How the fuck is Adebayo not dead? I mean, how the fuck Harcourt didn’t die is a good ask too, but…well, I’m bias.

‘The Endgame Season 1 Episode 2’ Review: Fairytale Wedding

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the endgame Elena Federova and Sergey get married
THE ENDGAME -- “Fairytale Wedding” Episode 102 -- Pictured in this screengrab: (l-r) Morena Baccarin as Elena Federova, Costa Ronin as Sergey Vodianov -- (Photo by: NBC)

Morena Baccarin continues to steal this show, this time, with a wedding backstory! We’ve got that and more in our episode 2 review of The Endgame.

We’ve all heard of Orange Is the New Black, regardless if you’ve actually seen the popular series or not. And now thanks to The Endgame: Fairytale Wedding, I’m gonna update that title to Orange is the New Blue. Mostly thanks to the fashion choices of one Elena Federova.

This week began with a flashback to happier times for the criminal mastermind. She’s rolling naked about under a blanket with her soon-to-be husband, Sergei. They’re having so much fun they almost miss the actual wedding at the church. Once there, her new mother-in-law warmly welcomes Elena to the family, as well as to the criminal family. She says that the man is always the face of their organization, but the woman runs the show as the queen. And Elena is ready to be the new queen. What she’s not ready for is the sudden explosion that levels the church right as they’re about to step inside, killing her new mother-in-law in the process.

In the endgame, Elena holds Sergey, both looking beaten at the wedding.
THE ENDGAME — “Fairytale Wedding” Episode 102 — Pictured in this screengrab: (l-r) Morena Baccarin as Elena Federova, Costa Ronin as Sergey Vodianov — (Photo by: NBC)

Fiery demises aside, Fairytale Wedding also had some key developments for Val and the FBI. Turns out, Snow White didn’t just take 7 banks. They’re still holding them all. And they’re not interested in money. In one of the banks, they manage to copy information from a hidden server farm right before the FBI cuts the power and sneakily plant it on a struggling hostage. When he’s taken outside for nausea and other symptoms, the woman who treats him palms the drive, right before Val arrives and takes it back at gunpoint. What’s especially interesting about that exchange is the woman with the drive was former police. Somehow, Elena keeps drawing qualified professionals to her cause. But arguably the one she wants most is Val herself.

It’s not clear yet why Elena is so obsessed with Val, but it’s obvious that there’s a personal stake in her wellbeing. So much so that when the Homeland General’s son gets kidnapped and strapped with an explosive device, Val stumbles onto the right password through her own life trauma. Her mother was killed years ago by a random criminal, and his name manages to disarm the bomb with seconds to spare. Val also faces a bit of a paranoid moment when she realizes Elena used a phrase to describe her that she herself had used earlier that day in her car. She has her partner Anthony search for bugs, but he doesn’t find any. Instead, he finds a box of clothing placed in her car trunk when she was walking through the cemetery where her mother was buried.

On the topic of clothes, Elena complains about wearing the same blue dress for two days straight. Instead, they give her prison orange, which she still makes look damned good. One of my favorite moments in the episode is when Elena is being snarky in her new suit. They ask her for the password to disarm the bomb, and she says polyester makes it hard for her to think. Yes, she’s not just beautiful and dangerous, but funny too.

The main twist in Fairytale Wedding involves the Homeland General. Turns out, the drive they tried to move out of the bank, which Val intercepted, has damning footage on it. It shows the General talking with a criminal named Veracruz, and guaranteeing a fat paycheck for turning a blind eye to his portside activity. The woman instantly tries to wiggle out of the problem, trying to convince the remaining 3rd member of their little cabal it will reflect badly on him if she quits. He’s not having it, and has her cuffed and taken away. Meaning that if Elena’s earlier prediction holds true, he’s the next one out of the job.

sergey now in prison in the endgame
THE ENDGAME — Pictured: Costa Ronin as Sergey — (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

I’m still not sure what to make of the fact that Elena’s supposedly dead husband, Sergei, is actually visibly alive and well in the same prison Val’s husband Owen resides in. Nor what to make of the fact Owen is seemingly working with Sergei, though it’s clear he doesn’t like the man. And the most shocking moment was at the very end. Sergei tells a horrible joke to Owen, who doesn’t laugh. Sergei then says he knows someone that will appreciate it, and picks up a flip phone. As he’s hitting keys, the scene shifts to show Elena looking through the window at a flashing red light, and laughing delightedly. Meaning somehow this supposedly dead criminal is able to communicate with his nefarious wife via electronic Morse code.

THE ENDGAME — “Fairytale Wedding” Episode 102 — Pictured in this screengrab: (l-r) Morena Baccarin as Elena Federova, Costa Ronin as Sergey Vodianov — (Photo by: NBC)

So far The Endgame is still an enjoyable ride. And though there was a lot less frantic energy in Fairytale Wedding than the pilot, that’s not a problem. So long as Baccarin is captivating and infuriating, I’ll keep on watching. Especially cause I’m curious how she expects to turn Val into a willing partner in her schemes.