Second Chances and Social Callers – Commanders in Crisis #3 Review

Steve Orlando’s Commanders in Crisis #3 continues to bring us more mystery, sci-fi villainy, and wildly attractive superheroes in this addition to the series. While the action does die down a little bit more in this series, we’re finally given a few more answers about the murder of Empathy, its effects to our heroes on a cosmic level, and who exactly took the hit when the concept of Empathy was killed. Check out the issue first if you haven’t already, and be prepared for MILD SPOILERS.

Pretty Boys Cry Too

The first two issues of Commanders in Crisis centered on our heroes, the Crisis Command, trying to figure out the culprit behind the conceptual death of Empathy. The death, however, left behind the body of a man with no name or identity upon his discovery, and a means of murder that resembled that of a vampire attack. The questions were all we had for a while; “Who is this John Doe?” “Who could possibly do something as grandeur as killing all of Empathy?” and obviously, “Was it…vampires?”

Finally, issue #3 answers one of these questions. We find out that the mysteriously dead John Doe was actually one of our Commanders’ former lovers in “another world”- or at least a parallel one. We find out that Nina, also known as Frontier, had either been with this man or a version of this man, which at this point in the series, is fair game. The outcome and revelations will still be surprising, but in a multiverse-jumping story such as this, it definitely lines up. One of the bigger ideas that is mentioned in their scenes is the idea of second chances; what would you do if you were given another opportunity to live life, knowing you had the limited amount of time left in your world? What would you do if you knew you would die tomorrow? How would you spend the rest of your life? This issue touches on existentialism, and it works with Nina sort of grounding the John Doe as her anchor, along with the flashes of Nina’s past with him. With Nina’s relationship with this former living man teased, we also get a very brief glimpse at her connection to a certain corrupt politician in DC, who may or may not be wielding more pull than just scandalous knowledge and deceitful leverage.

My biggest eyebrow-raising awe moment was definitely at the introduction to a new villain, the Social Callers. It is phone-addiction made deadly. The notifications start off as a warning to his presence, which gradually become more and more frequent. They escalate into text messages, and then phone calls, and pretty soon he shows up.

His victims are all found dead and clutching to their cell phone devices, as Prizefighter puts it, “like they’re their wounded cubs.” If that doesn’t speak some level of volumes to you, the social commentary might have slipped over your head. This series doesn’t hold back punches with its sense of meta-ness and self awareness, and makes the effort to show and reveal things about us as people, as a collective society, and as an American country, and when the mirror is raised up to our faces in this book, you really can’t help but admire the poetry.

Canadian Tux Variant Cover? YES PLEASE.

Without giving too much away, please do yourself a favor this holiday season, and get Commanders in Crisis #3 OUT NOW from Image Comics and Arancia Studio! Between the Grant Morrison inspired world, and Davide Tinto‘s art popping off with lightning on the page, this series is one you don’t want to miss out on.

Who Murdered Empathy?: Commanders in Crisis #2 Advanced Review

I wanted to thank my readers for your support of Stars and Monsters this year. It is now November, and despite this year being almost over, we still have a long way to go before we see real change in our world. With that said, I wanted to give a big thanks and shoutout to Steve Orlando for allowing me to write an advanced review of issue 2 of his new series from Image Comics, Commanders in Crisis.

Commanders in Crisis perfectly touches on intense themes that are timely during our very real political climate this year. Set in a universe where a diverse set of former U.S. Presidents with superpowers from other realities act as the line between patriotic heroes and vigilante outsiders, this second issue continues to touch on out-of-this-world ideas with powerful and thrilling new turns.

American Individuality – Better Than Our United States?

Mind Muggers: Stealing Our Hope 77 Years from Now

One of the things that makes this topical issue exciting for new readers is its release post-election season this year. The series delves deeper into a version of America where a politician is aiming to pass a bill for all 50 states to secede from the nation and become 50 independent nation states. Dissolving the entirety of the United States in this way is argued to allow citizens to feel safer about being considered “evil” for having other beliefs and disagreeing with others.

What I love about this narrative is it allows us to view our own world’s problems with ideological disagreements and consider whether forcing separation from those opposing of us would bring about the betterment of America. In Commanders in Crisis, the politician enacting this plan feels as though this bill of American Individuality create less opposition. Where we have failed to force Americans to be great by being the same, we will be better off by not being united.

What do you think, folks? Will that save our nation? I suppose you’ll have to pick up this issue to find out more.

God’s Quantum Eye and Rewriting Reality – Beyond Our World

Ridiculously Hot Former Presidents – Variant Cover #2

Okay, now, politics aside, Commanders in Crisis is so gosh friggin’ awesome. My absolute favorite element of this superhero series has been the grand scale of the abilities shown here; the sheer powerhouse of — with her Quantum Eye, and — using her articulate knowledge of vocabulary to rewrite reality itself allows for each issue to feel as climatic as any other comic book event series. The kicker is that Commanders in Crisis doesn’t hold back when it comes to characters utilizing their reality-bending; these characters are the main defense against threats from the entirety of the multiverse and its secrets. There’s no room for error as the stakes are big in this series. A heavy weight burdens our heroes, and seeing how much each one is capable of in these issues is more of a reason to see how the rest of this story unfolds.

Answering to the People, Not a Flag – Heroes or Menaces?

Commanders in Crisis #2 – Out Now at Image Comics!

The Commanders are some of the most interesting and impressive new heroes to strike against evil forces in comic lore in recent time. From cosmic warfare to multiversal secrets, Commanders in Crisis #2 is a must-read that should be on every comic reader’s pull list, both for die-hard comic fans and those hoping to jump into something brand new. Check out the new issue at Image Comics, currently out now!

Jessa Furches: A Rising Star Among Us

I want to thank all of my readers who have supported Stars and Monsters and our blog site this far into the year. It began as a small endeavor to make use of a writer’s free time, and it became something more. Between discussions about books and comics to interviews with inspirational connections I’ve made, I knew there was nowhere else to go but up from here. Thankfully, that’s where we are headed now, thanks to my guest on this week’s blog post.

This week, I had the privilege of being able to interview someone very special; someone who has not only garnered so much internet fame and success in the music industry as an independent artist, but has also become an inspiration by fighting through dark battles, slandered reputations, and a chronic illness that has made living in a post-pandemic world a lot harder for her this year in 2020. Her name is Jessa Furches, of the singing duo, the Furches Twins.

Jessa Furches: A Star

Jessa and Gwynne, the Furches Twins

From Greensboro, North Carolina, Jessa and her twin sister Gwynne were both thrust into stardom and music at such a young age. When they were both only four years old, the Furches twins were brought into community theatre year after year, partaking in loads of different productions.

“The Wizard of Oz and the Music Man were always my favorite movies,” Jessa said, “and after I learned how to sing songs from the Wizard of Oz, we auditioned in community theatre productions for six years, and we did it until we were twelve years old.” They did Wizard of Oz every year, with Gwynne and Jessa both given identical roles as the Gatekeeper, having the two girls stand and walk side by side in unison. Audiences loved the twist in the character, and from there, the twins knew music was their calling.

Following those years, Jessa and her sister became victims of severely cruel bullying in middle school and high school. Between being made fun of for her body image, being called flat chested, or flat-assed, and being called too skinny, or ugly, nothing hurt Jessa more than being ridiculed and made fun of for her love of Michael Jackson. “People were not only mean to me, they were nasty,” Jessa described. “Around 2010, I had no group of friends to fit in with. The only ‘friends’ I had, told me I needed to eat cheeseburgers…they were the only friends I had because nobody else gave me a chance, and the ones we had bullied us.” There was little to no help given to the twins. Even when Jessa and her sister had to switch schools in the 8th grade in hopes of ending the bullying and harassment, nothing had changed. It got severely worse; it got so bad that Jessa and Gwynne had to fake an entire fight with each other during gym glass so they would be suspended and leave school. It was what they needed to do to get out of the awful environment. “One of the preppy, popular students encouraged the other students to yell and shout nasty, incestuous remarks about us, about my sexuality, and about my issues with my own self-harm. They’d target me when I was alone, asking ‘What do you like to do, cut yourself?'” This was something Jessa struggled with for the entirety of her teen years, up until she was 18 years old. By the time high school came around, kids were only more cruel.

One of the things that got Jessa through the harsh mean girls and hating trolls of those adolescent years was the fact that her twin sister, Gwynne, was by her side. “I vividly remember a guy who’d bully us in a class with Gwynne and I, where him and three other guys got the whole class to say ‘You don’t belong here! You need to go back to where you came from!’ And Gwynne and I just sat next to each other. Having each other made it easier for sure.” The bond that Jessa and Gwynne share, not only as twins, but as friends, is something that has saved these twins time and time again. Seeing their love and loyalty to one another brought tears to my eyes as we discussed Jessa’s childhood growing up.

Jessa and I went on to talk about what motivated and inspired her. “I adored Michael Jackson’s music,” Jessa said. “See, when I was ten, my dad left us. It was a huge blessing in disguise, to not have him around. He left a woman who loved him for 14 years and her two chronically-ill children, so I’d be inclined to agree as well. Jessa went on, explaining how her role model shifted when Michael Jackson’s Thriller came on the radio one night. “My mom was all like, ‘Listen to this! He is a legend!'” Jessa’s mother began to share all of his different albums with her and Gwynne, and played all of his music videos for them. Michael Jackson and everything he was became a safe haven for Jessa. “I’d cry by his posters, wondering why he’d gone, and my mother would hold me and, with tears in her eyes, she’d say ‘Listen to Michael; Keep the faith.'” He was always meant to be placed in her path, and it was Jessa’s single mother who gave her someone great to look up to.

Michael continues to be one of Jessa’s biggest influences in her music career. From when she was just starting out in choir, taking after Jackson himself to not sight-read sheet music, to drawing vocal influences in her music and covers of pop songs and classic ballads, her stylistic voice is what got Jessa and her sister the internet fame and stardom that launched their music career. They started uploading to YouTube, creating singing videos, and gained a following. By 2015, the Furches Twins had 100k subscribers on YouTube channel, and a combined Instagram follower count of over 900,000 followers. The two had garnered so much recognition from their music covers on social media, the twins were even able to sign with a record label in North Carolina called Othaz Records. Since then, Jessa has managed to begin writing and creating her own original music as a solo unsigned music artist, with new music available on YouTube, iTunes, and Spotify.

Gwynne Furches – My Other Half

Jessa, Gwynne, and their Mother

When Jessa told me about her music endeavors as a solo artist, I asked about her sister, Gwynne. After a traumatic vehicular car accident that cost someone their life last year, Gwynne was charged with a felony, and it shook the Furches family in ways that are almost beyond words. When asked about the night Jessa got the news of the incident, she said, “I didn’t know what was going on. My girlfriend at the time woke me up, because I was asleep. I was confused, and went to the hospital and received the tragic news.” As we talked, I realized we were dredging up memories that were best left alone, but Jessa faced this heartbreaking event in her life, and she reaffirmed that she was willing to confront this with me during the interview. She asked me to include the following statement from her:

“I, myself, and Gwynne as well, know what she has done, and she made a horrible mistake, but it was an accident. She’s willing to do whatever she has to do, however amount of times, for the family of who was hurt. I support my sister, but I do not support her actions on that night.”

With that, I ask my readers to be kind, considerate, and continue to help each other move passed horrible traumas, regardless of what they may be. As I told Jessa, 2020 has been a year that’s required so much reevaluation and insight into ourselves, that even facing the most discomforting moments are meant to better us and, eventually, others around us.

Admittedly, I shed a few tears as Jessa and I talked about her sister. As someone who has an older sister, I dread the possibility of losing her. With Jessa’s sister also being her twin, I wondered if, despite everything, she still feels as close to her sister as before. “I will always feel close to her,” she said, “no matter where she’s at. She is my other half. I cannot think of one moment when my world fell apart…other than that horrible tragedy that could have been prevented.”

With all of these sudden changes in Jessa’s life, between what changed for her personally, and the sudden changes that took place in our world this year, 2020 was all around a drastic shift in perspective and awareness. Jessa mentioned her desire to go and help make a difference with recent protests for the Black Lives Matter movement, to the racial conflicts and broken tension in the nation, and the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic. As I mentioned, she and her sister have chronic illnesses. “With cystic fibrosis, being immunocompromised makes things difficult for me,” she mentioned, “it’s hard to go to the grocery store, or go to work, and it’s been even harder because of the conflicts going on right now. I wish I could go and protest so much. I asked about her condition, and whether the pandemic has caused any issues in getting treatment. Thankfully, Jessa is still able to treat her cystic fibrosis twice a day, for twenty minutes a day. Because of her condition, however, leaving her home becomes quite difficult. Thankfully, her mother has been able to remind her to continue to move forward day in and day out. “‘You’ve got to keep going’ she’d always say. It’s why I won’t give up on this; the Black Lives Matter movement, the fight against COVID-19, the bullying and conflicts. It’s why I’ve continued to make music.”

One of Us

Sweet Sisters

So much lies within Jessa Furches. Between her passions and love that she brings into the world, and her adoration of legends like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Marilynn Monroe, she continues to forge success triumphantly. “Marilynn Monroe was trying to be taken seriously as an actress instead of a sex symbol. I myself want to be taken seriously as a singer, and not just a sex symbol. In that regard, I see myself in her, but I began to make money selling my photos of myself and other NSFW content.” In a post-pandemic world, jobs have become more difficult to come by, and whether it’s the new gig-economy that saves our asses, or the success of platforms like OnlyFans, people need lucrative ways to maintain sustainable income. For Jessa, it was more about empowerment for herself more than anything else. “Of course it’s empowering. It’s less about the money, but it has been good to save up for my family and such. The money doesn’t bring me happiness; the rich that comes from it means nothing when it feels like nobody cares about you.”

That’s the stigma with OnlyFans, it seems like. More people seem to have a lot more to say about empowered women taking advantage of a platform that allows them to profit off of their own body and image while maintaining ownership of their work, but keep quiet about the pornographic sites that exploit women and content without any accountability for those who steal from content creators and abuse platforms that way. Just my two cents as a fellow content creator.

Anyway, I lastly wanted to share a final word from Jessa Furches, who was so kind enough to say to my readers.

“I want whoever is taking the time to read my story, who may be a little inspired, or feel like they can relate to, we all deserve love, and we all deserve to be accepted. I ask that you all take care of each other, take care of yourselves, and wear a mask. I’m compromised with cystic fibrosis, and it’s BORING, and it’s lonely. Always worry about your families, friends, those around you, including your pets, and God bless all of you. So much love, no matter where you are, and who you are, and stay safe.”

I agree. Be sure to follow Jessa Furches on Instagram, YouTube, and OnlyFans, and check out her single, L.O.V.E, available on iTunes and Spotify now. If you’re a longtime fan of hers, then y’all will be pleased to hear, exclusively here at Stars and Monsters, that she’s got an upcoming new single being released sometime in November 27th, titled Seeing is Believing.

And, again folks, stay safe, and stay lovely to one another.

Protecting the Multiverse Head First: Commanders in Crisis #1 Advanced Review

From Midnighter and Apollo to Wonder Woman, Steve Orlando’s upcoming new comic book series is one that pushes the boundaries of superhero stories in a fresh and exciting new way. From vampires to psychic thieves, this book throws creative new foes at this brand new superhero team. Do your favorite superheroes fight universe-ending threats during those big annual crossover events? The Crisis Command does that for breakfast.

Image’s Commanders in Crisis, written by Orlando and art by Davide Tinto, is a story that takes the expansive scale that traditional superhero comics slowly build towards, and give it all to you in Issue #1. As the mantra goes in Dan Didio’s introduction for this book, “Worlds Live, Worlds Die, and nothing will ever be the same.” Cosmic destruction is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this ensemble of heroes, and Orlando manages to pace this book perfectly, balancing the rad action sequences with moments for each original superhero character to shine on their own.

This series debuts some of the coolest superheroes in this new epic saga. The Commanders, each with powers as diverse as the characters themselves, make up a united front that defends the world from reality-altering time travelers and blood sucking thieves. With the group’s collectively grandeur abilities like rewriting timelines and seeing the future to x-ray visions and super-strength, the Crisis Commanders are nothing short of powerhouses and strong leaders of their own worlds. It’s really fun to see the big-time heroes teaming up so early on in this big-stakes storyline. We get RIGHT to the good stuff in Commanders in Crisis.

Representation Matters

When it comes to our heroes, it’s the diversity aspect of it that sold me. Each lead is a character that comes from some marginalized community; Through representation of queer identities to BIPOC, this book becomes a lot more enjoyable for a reader like myself, because I see not just one character, but a GROUP of characters that all remind me of, well, me. As a biracial bisexual, that’s hard to say. Big props need to go to Tinto for not only helping bring Orlando’s vision to fruition, but also making everyone just so pretty. The character designs are also really cool, from Prizefighter’s stunning champion gear to Seer’s ethereal look. The art on these pages alone is enchanting enough to keep you hooked into the Commanders’ journey in this comic book.

C.I.C. #2 – Who’s Killing Reality?

Get ready for this series, folks. It’s the next big thing, but even bigger. The sheer scale of this book’s main conflict will surely excite new readers, and to back that up with an original team as fresh and unique as the Commanders, it’s gotta be the next thing you pick up. If you’re interested in getting your copy of Commanders in Crisis before the Oct. 14th launch, you may check out the order form below. Bring it to your local area comic book shop before the deadline on Sept. 21st to reserve your copy!

Harley Quinn: Chaotic S-Tier Heroine

Hi there, folks. I’ve got another one for you, and this one is all of the fanboys. That’s right; I’m calling on all DC comic, movie, and television fans, because I’m about to gush about the DC comics breakout star, Harley Quinn. Whether you’re familiar or not, Harley Quinn was famously known for her debut in Batman: the Animated Series, where she started off as the psychiatrist-turned-villain who teamed up with Joker who commit crime in Gotham, yada yada yada. Since then, the character has evolved beyond that, by standing out as own character outside of that shadow, and became one of the most fun and bad ass characters since Deadpool (a shout-out for any Marvel fans).

The character has been sweeping her way across all DC content this past year. She debuted in mainstream media and theaters this year with Margot Robbie as the titular character in Cathy Yan’s film Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (don’t worry about the really long name they gave it at first). Harley Quinn also stars in the self-titled animated series that launched on the DC Universe streaming service. Both of which were so successful, that Warner Bros. already green lit a sequel for the film, and the animated series received a second season only a month or two after the first season aired. Harley Quinn’s animated series is already being brought to the Syfy network, and the film has already been released for video on demand, and both were highly praised by critics and fans. If we’re being quite honest, the only people who didn’t enjoy either iterations are the fans who view Harley Quinn’s character arc as SJW propaganda. That being said, I am not here to discuss that flawed logic, because even from an objective standpoint, Harley Quinn, film or television iteration, is a character that kicks ass in every aspect.

Many Sides to Harleen Quinzel

In the 2020 film Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, we see Harley Quinn at a very interesting point in her character’s development. Margot Robbie plays the character in a point in her life in which she has left her psychology practice, became a part of Batman’s rogue gallery alongside Joker, was placed in a government sanctioned task force for expendable criminals, and finally gained her freedom in all sense of the word. As she descended into a downward spiral of insanity, the Joker took advantage of her devotion and love for him (granted, a delusional love, maybe even a distortion of Stockholm syndrome) and abused her physically, emotionally, and mentally, all for the sake of having another clown-themed lackey by his side. Even in the animated series that ran during the 90’s, we see examples of that abuse, despite the context shifted towards a younger audience; the abuse is apparent. The 2020 film shows the long-term effects of that abuse, after she finally breaks up with the Joker and embarks on her own solo journey.

Her True Origin Was Never at Ace Chemicals

In this live action iteration, she begins to learn what it’s like to step out of one’s shadow, and discover her own potential, from picking up roller-derby, getting her own cozy apartment in Chinatown, and exorcising her inner demons and tackling her trauma head-first by blowing up Ace Chemicals, where her ex bathed her in the acid that made them the way they are today. You know, typical post-breakup stuff. Of course, the film follows some other story threads, introduces the characters that would soon form the female-heroine group known as the Birds of Prey, and pits Harley against the infamous Black Mask (played by Ewan McGregor, for any Star Wars prequel trilogy fans). This film showcases exactly why Harley deserves to stand out on her own, way beyond being Joker’s sidekick, and way beyond being a part of the Suicide Squad. Hell, she received her own comic book series at DC more than a handful of times. She not only single handedly unites a cop, an assassin, a meta-human enforcer, and a thief together as a team in the film, but she also takes down the most terrifying and unhinged crime boss. Harley Quinn is a character whose origin was never based on the acid bath, or even her meeting, treating, and falling in love with Joker; her origin was always her earning her freedom. From Joker, from the law, from the crime world, and from the rest of the misogynist men who claim to own her.

“Because I’m Harley F*ckin’ Quinn!”

A true queen in every right. Margot Robbie reminded me why a character as chaotic and daring as Harley Quinn always deserved more exposure. Thankfully, after the success of her role in the movie industry, DC decided to push forward with an animated iteration of Harley Quinn in her own series on the DC Universe streaming service. With the humor and fourth wall breaks that make any Rick and Morty fan cackle in laughter, this version of the character not only highlights the character’s best traits, but justifies why she should’ve had her own series long ago.

Heads Up, Chaotic Clown Babe Comin’ Your Way!

This animated series takes a vastly similar approach when it comes to developing Harley’s character. It starts her off as Joker’s “partner” (I use that term lightly, seeing as they were never equals), committing crimes and fighting Batman in the name of love for Joker, only to find herself locked up in prison for a year, awaiting her clown prince’s rescue, which never happens. Instead, her best friend and one of Gotham City’s Sirens, Poison Ivy, breaks Harley out of jail. However, with any person in any toxic relationship, Harley goes right back to joker, to find herself making the same mistake she’s made over and over. After all, isn’t insanity just repeating the same thing, expecting a different end result each time? I’m sure Harley could tell you, since she’s got a degree in psychology anyway.

“Mistakes Were Made, but We Love You Anyway.”

Despite all of that, she eventually learns the same lesson that Margot Robbie’s Harley learns, in that with self-actualization of her own self-worth and potential, she can become her own top-tier villain in the DC Universe (for evidence, check out Sam Humphries Harley Quinn #45 from 2018, where she takes on Darkseid, the literal DC version of Marvel’s Thanos). She decides to break up with the Joker in an appropriate slaughtering of his clown goons, and teams up with her closest ally Poison Ivy, alongside Clayface, King Shark, and other goofball DC rogues. She grows, she evolves, and she continuously kicks ass in the show, embarks on the craziest set of journeys (more than was possible in the realistically grounded Birds of Prey film), and manages to earn her own freedom and respect as her own villain, or even anti-hero, the same way Robbie’s portrayal did. With the same support that the live action iteration found strength in allies and friends, the animated series shows Harley at her strongest when she has people she loves, and who love her too, backing her up.

This is What We Call “Growth.

So for anyone who believes Harley Quinn is just a character pushing some sort of feminist agenda, or can’t stand the sight of a Harley Quinn that isn’t sexualized by James Gunn or something, they are wildly misguided, and quite frankly, missing out on a hell of a fun time. Cathy Yan’s Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey shows the character’s independence from the Joker, and from outdated source material, to bring a fierce and gratuitously violent heroine to the big screens and mainstream media, for fans of action movies, comic films, or maybe just really tough and strong women. In the same way, DC Universe’s Harley Quinn series shows us a similar development of her character’s arc, while also providing genuine laughter and humor, proving that raunchy and adult humor is just as good, if not better, than other adult animated shows. Both at least deserve to be on your radar. I said 2020 would be an artistic renaissance, and this is just one of many examples of that truth.

Share This If You Stan Bisexual Villains, because I know I Do!

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk, folks. Hope y’all enjoyed this piece. If anyone would like to spread some love to other artists and creators, I encourage y’all to check out a good from of mine who is making her own clothing, done entirely with crochet! Check out @beas_artesania on Instagram. Products are being hand-crafted as we speak, so if you’re interested, place your orders soon! If you’re in the Texas area, and you’re having your seasonal withdrawals from not seeing the Gypsy Dance Theater girls belly dance over at the Texas Renaissance Festival, then feel free to follow those lovely ladies on Instagram as well, over at @gypsydancetheatre. And, lastly, if you’d like to support your fellow freelance writer, and are unsure how to go about that, then I’d like to humbly welcome donations over at PayPal, which aren’t required whatsoever, but would drastically help improve the quality of the content I’m working to start up and create, from digital comics to an animated series, and of course, help keep this blog alive. Thanks again, readers. Much love comin’ your way. ✨🙏🏽💫