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.

Love, Addiction, Loss – A Deep Dive into Euphoria’s Special Episode

Alright, folks. It’s here. The post I’ve been dying to write since the start of this blog. Yes, that’s right. It’s a post about HBO’s Euphoria. It’s a fantastic hit drama that debuted last year, and with season two having been written before the pandemic hit, filming the rest of the series proved a little more difficult. The series grew so big that fans have been clamoring for new content nonstop, from sneak peeks to music soundtracks for the show. Thankfully, the show managed to put out a special episode that serves as a sort of epilogue for the first season, while also being a Christmas special. With many fans still reeling from the HBO gods appeasing them, it finally brought an opportunity to discuss the series, and new special episode, as a whole.

For those who aren’t aware, Euphoria is a show starring Zendaya as Rue, someone who struggles with drug addiction, and is in love with a girl named Jules. That being the central narrative, the series focuses on other characters, and the show follows storylines about students in school who struggle with relationships, sexual and queer identities, toxic masculinity and body image as well. While it may feel like a cable network’s mature take on a high school drama like Degrassi, HBO and Sam Levinson never holds back punches. The show is pretty raw. It’s real. In the first episode alone, Zendaya’s character says “I know a lot of you probably hate me right now…If I could be a different person right now, I promise you I would. Not because I want it, but because they do. And therein lies the catch.” She lets us know shit is going to get rough, and by all standards, it does. Without giving too much away of the entirety of the season, it’s worth noting that the show is pretty damn good. Leonardo DiCaprio likes it, too. With that said, go watch the series if you haven’t already, and then come back to read this, because we will be getting into FULL SPOILERS.

Trouble Don’t Last Always

Sobriety, and the Relapse

“The hardest thing about having the disease of addiction, aside from having the disease, is that no one in the world sees it as a disease.”

The episode starts with Zendaya’s Rue and her co-star in the episode, Colman Domingo, as N.A. sponsor Ali. They both are at a diner on Christmas Eve, just eating and chatting, as Rue discusses her newfound balance of her mental and emotional state now that she’s been clean and sober. However, Ali quickly notices strange behavior in Rue, which as it turns out, is because she isn’t sober anymore. After becoming sober for Jules, Rue gets her heartbroken and is abandoned by Jules and relapses. The two discuss the struggle of staying sober after falling back onto drugs. It’s sort of the entire focus of the episode, which bored a portion of viewers who were expecting this episode to have more than just the few characters. At the end of the day, this was not meant to be season two, and this episode was one of the few episodes that managed to actually have Rue gain true help over her addiction, despite how in denial she was at the beginning. The episode is, in its simplest form, an NA meeting and eventually, a full blown therapy session for Rue, and for us as well.

Second Step: “A Power Greater Than Me…”

“You ‘ve got to fall in love with the poetry. Because everything else in life will fail you. Including yourself.”

The episode goes deeper than addiction when Rue begins to admit something to Ali, who we later learn is a converted Muslim. She recounts the steps to achieving sobriety, which starts with putting one’s self first. The second step includes acknowledging a higher power above one’s self as well. Essentially, putting faith in God. For Rue, this proves to be difficult for her to do. It’s more than something like atheism; she has a genuine distrust in the notion of a higher power such as God. Rue recounts when she first lost her faith; it happened when she lost her father to cancer. She scoffs at the belief that everyone’s life has a purpose given by God, and argues that this is false; Rue believes that her father’s purpose in life was to raise her and her little sister. With him having passed, she resents the sentiment of this being a part of “God’s plan”. After all, bad things just happen, don’t they? Rue shuts down any acknowledgement of a power higher than herself, which leaves Ali feeling almost defeated. And God bless Ali, this character, because he really stuck around to let Rue open all wounds to him.

A Revolution: “Our Lives Matter”

“Chinese Muslims are sewing these Kaepernick sneakers for 7 cents an hour, and you’re telling me that my Black ass matters. Give me a fucking break.”

Ali tries to console Rue by reminding her that, with each life having a purpose, and each one destined to die for a “Greater Plan,” there is more to living. He compares this to those who have died for the Civil Rights movement to come to fruition, and how their deaths served such a high purpose. He begins to take a look at how revolutions used to change lives for everyone, and Rue jokingly suggests that she starts her own revolution to give her own life meaning. Ali scoffs and says, “Didn’t you hear? The revolution is already here.” Ali begins to explain how every cause spins out into a whole revolution, where it almost becomes a trendy fad for millennials and gen-z kids, and also for big names and companies as well. Ali makes a really funny point here, while taking a jab at capitalism for being “revolutionary” as a means of being popular. He walks into a Nike shop, seeing a mural on the shoe store’s wall saying “Our Lives Matter,” which pleases him. It makes him not only feel safer, but also loved for once. He sees kids, Black and white alike, taking photos with the mural, and he never questions the disingenuous love for the cause, and then he picks up a pair of Nikes and sees the $149.99 price tag, then says “What happened here? I thought you loved my Black ass.” With this hot take on capitalism, Ali brings the conversation back to the point of the matter, the root of it all. He speaks on what it means to start a revolution, and not a hot new hashtag, but a true revolution for yourself. A revolution in your soul, spiritually, can only happen when you change yourself as your core. It takes knowing who you are, who you want to be, and finding the connections between those two in order to make real progress and change.

“I Miss You”: What to Do About Love?

“Me in 20 Years”

At this moment, Ali steps out of the diner to give Rue a few moments to digest all of the heavy sage-like wisdom, and calls his ex-wife to wish her and his children a Merry Christmas. Meanwhile, Rue receives a text from Jules, the girl who broke her heart. The text reads, “I miss you.” This ends up bringing us back to Rue and Jules relationship, which, as it turns out, was a little different in Rue’s head than we were led to believe (she was high all the time, and probably not the best reliable narrator). We hear about Rue’s desire to fix things with Jules, but with Ali’s advice, she realizes that she will never be able to have a better life for herself if she puts her focus and energy into someone else. At the end of the day, she needs to put herself first for her own well-being, instead of this girl she loves; you cannot make a relationship work without fixing and focusing on yourself.

Forgiveness is the Key to Change – “Beyond Forgivable”

“You think, ‘Why change? I’m just a piece of shit. I better keep going now. What’s the difference?’ without realizing that forgiveness is the key to change.”

In order for Rue to begin to forgive herself for becoming sober again, she needs to learn to forgive herself for past mistakes; as Ali puts it, forgiveness is the key to true change. Rue struggles with this, feeling as though she has done things that are beyond forgivable (which is neat, considering that in the initial draft of the pilot’s script, she admitted to killing an abusive jock). The notion of hitting rock bottom is brought up, and Ali regales Rue in a story about his own abusive father, and how he swore to never become anything like him. Years later, Ali finds himself having struggled with the same abusive relationship with his ex-wife that his father had with his mother. He realized the generational trauma was deep, and he needed to break it. Rue sees that, if Ali is preparing to learn to forgive himself for something so unforgivable, then Rue would have to as well.

Dark Times (Forever)

Then, we hear the truth from Rue as she begins to contemplate whether or not she can forgive herself. She admits something to Ali. She says, “I just…don’t plan on being here that long.”

That is the dark truth. After everything that has happened to Rue, from her father she’s lost, the addiction she’s suffered through, and the heartbreak she’s endured, she has decided that she is not willing to forgive herself or start a spiritual revolution at her core. Instead, she would rather just give up on life altogether. But then Ali, being the tough and supportive mentor that he is, calls her bluff.

“Who do you wanna be when you leave this earth?” he asks. “How do you want your mother and sister to remember you as?”

Rue looks up at Ali with tears welling up in her eyes. “As someone who tried really hard to be someone they couldn’t.”

Faith

We do too.

And at that moment, we realize that Rue doesn’t need to have faith in herself; not yet. As long as she has loved ones who have faith in her…she’ll eventually make it, won’t she?

This episode of Euphoria was not only the best deep take into Rue’s character, but it was also some of the greatest content to be put out by the writers, especially during the pandemic with low budget costs, smaller casts, and a single set piece being used. It served as a great epilogue for the first season, and hopefully the next special episode does just as good of a job in that way.

Check out Euphoria on HBO, or stream it on HBO Max.

this is not a review for this is not a podcast the podcast

Do you listen to podcasts? It’s cool if you do, and even better if you don’t. The internet has been flooded with podcasts whose hosts get into all sorts of conversations. Joe Rogan gets into the controversially bizarre, Ben Shapiro gets into the politically conservative, and Alex Jones used to get into controversially conservative. Meanwhile, there are podcasts like The No Jumper Show for your underground hip-hop fix, Welcome to Night Vale for your horror fiction, and The Ace Watkins Presidential Hour for your political satire with the gamer twist. With each of these podcasts, there are a set of fans who these shows are written for. So what do you recommend to someone who doesn’t really know what sort of podcasts they would like?

it’s a podcast, but, it also really isn’t

Logan Lofgren aimed to make a podcast that was real and raw. He set to make a show that was genuinely funny and entertaining, and he somehow made exactly that, but all without forcing any comedy bit onto us, or struggling to follow a certain narrative or scripted structure. The content he gives you is exactly as it is titled: “this is not a podcast…the podcast.” Lofgren narrates this show in a cheeky Peter Parker kind of way as a look behind the scenes of the podcast’s creation. To put it simply, it’s a very meta podcast. We’re taking a look into this guy’s life as his show is being made in the duration of his recording sessions. You never know what will come up, or where his show will go next. Is it mundane? Well, sure, but life is mundane, isn’t it?

Just rip your eyes away from all of the screens it has a hard time peeling from, calm your mind as it struggles to cease from racing across thousands of thoughts a second, and sit with Logan for an episode of this podcast, which again, isn’t a podcast. Reality can be as simple, or as relatable as his reality is. You invest in what life throws at you, or rather, at Logan. The minor struggles, the confusion, despair, and yes, mild hijinks of creating a successful podcast become as riveting as any fictional show or podcast written. But that’s how Logan Lofgren gets you; the reality of it is…it isn’t fiction. What you hear is all actually happening, and the fourth wall crumbles as you chuckle and sigh in amusement as you and Logan journey with Irish musicians, K-Pop stans, the Chocolate Rain guy, and Keanu Reeves throughout these episodes. (Yes. Keanu Reeves.)

Take the opportunity to take in what there is to offer in this show. It is not a podcast, according to the title, but if it doesn’t become one of your new favorite podcasts to listen to, then Logan Lofgren will personally pay you $1. Loads of people end up loving it though; myself included. Hell, I’m not even much of a podcast guy myself, but I do love bingeing content.

If you’re interested, check out the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you’d like to do more to support the podcast, you can head over to the Patreon to learn more. Check out this is not a podcast on Twitter, and let Logan know if you like the show. Or not. Either way, maybe hit the guy up.

Top 5 Children’s Fantasy Book Series for Your Kids

Hi folks! Hope everyone is still taking the time to take care of themselves. Things are still really tough, so I figured I’d give an easy breeze of content this week. Let’s leave the logistics of this semester’s academic season behind and just kinda talk about books for your kids and family! Maybe some kids are readers at home, or maybe some students just need a new book to pick up, right? It’s 2020, and I can guarantee you kids are bored of the Harry Potter books and movies, or maybe Percy Jackson wasn’t cool enough. Maybe the pre-teens don’t like all those intense YA books like The Hunger Games, or Divergent, and are sick and tired of The Maze Runner always running the maze! (That’s a joke, that’s not how the book goes.)

Anyway, this year has definitely made me feel old, and has got me reminiscing over some of the books I grew up reading, and it made me want to share my top five children’s sci-fi fantasy books!

NUMBER FIVE – Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant

A Fun Horror Mystical Romp

A tale for those who thrive on mystic endeavors into the secret unknown, Skulduggery Pleasant was one of those classic middle-grade novel series. Focusing on a young girl named Stephanie Edgely and her sudden apprenticeship under the mysterious detective, Skulduggery Pleasant. And yes; he is an ancient magical skeleton. Pretty rad stuff. The first book had humor, dark fantasy elements, and an expansive mystical world built in London that can keep readers shuffling through the dozens of books in this series. A fantastic series to start any young reader on that may love this genre.

NUMBER FOUR – Jeff Smith’s Bone

Fantastic High Fantasy Comic Series

This comic series might actually be the first comic I ever picked up. Forget the superheroes, and forget the manga, because these old school fantasy comics made up the hot wave of middle-grade literature in the late 90’s. Aside from maybe one character smoking a tobacco cigar, this series is a great pickup for a young reader who loves treasure hunting high-fantasy stories about a Chosen one taking on magic evildoers to protect the villagers’ home. A great series for middle-grade readers on that can help them branch out into reading fantasy novels and Western comic books.

NUMBER THREE – Michael Scott’s The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel

This Book Series Has Groovy Historic References

So, for those of you who read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, this book series takes the legend of that philosopher, Nicholas Flamel, and brings him to the modern era where he mentors a pair of twins with his wife in their small little bookstore. When other ancient evil immortals track Flamel down, they steal a book that contains most of his hidden secrets, and the twins are then thrown into a race across the country, meeting many magical and historically well-known characters in the series like Joan of Arc, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, and Mars, the Roman God of War. This series explores fantasy magic, sci-fi mythos and ancient legends that make Harry Potter seem like a snore fest. Highly recommend this series for any fantasy lovers and readers who love history.

NUMBER TWO – Z Brewer’s The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

Perfect Teen Angst and Drama

This series is a classic. Yes, it is a teen vampire book series, but it stands out from the other cheesy vampire romances; The Chronicles of Vladimir Todd has humor, angst, and intense drama that kept me as a reader wanting more and more. The lore of vampirism, and even being half-vampire (which is interpreted as a culture in a very neat way) doesn’t feel dramatized or even forced in this series. Vlad’s story is just the story of a young teenager struggling to get by in a really difficult life, given his circumstances; between murderous teachers and students, to vampire hunters, and the general anxieties and depressions behind being an orphaned kid in a small town. It became a bit of a comfort series to read for me as a young kid, if I’m being honest. I feel as though other kids might enjoy this series as well, and would definitely recommend this to others as well.

NUMBER ONE – M.T. Anderson’s The Game of Sunken Places

“The Game of Sunken Places” by M.T. Anderson

M.T. Anderson’s The Game of Sunken Places was an amazing children’s fantasy novel because of the sheer imagination and concept behind it. It’s like Jumanji, but with three times the mysteries and plot twists, with dangers and terror that made this fantasy sci-fi book series a wildly underrated top tier series. With a game that two boys come across during a vacation trip, they discover that the rules of the game aren’t so clear after all, and if they don’t work together, then they may not make it out alive. M.T. Anderson deserves more praise for this series than he’s ever gotten, and it stays firmly on top of this list of fantasy children’s book series.


And there you have it. Some great new sci-fi fantasy children’s books to pick up (for you or your kids) and not a moment too soon either, which each of these carrying enough spooky vibes to make this fall a great reading season! Thanks for sticking around, folks. Stay safe, and stay lovely ✨

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!

Super-Gods, Sick Mixtapes, and a Surreal Universe: Leaders of the Free World Review (#1 – #2)

If Gods blessed you with powers, would that make you one? Or does that just place you on a tier-level below the source of your abilities? It’s okay, don’t dwell on the existential question for too long, because thankfully we’ve got the answers for you. Hi, folks, and thank you for being patient with this anticipated post (just getting back to the day job grind) and welcome to my first ever Official Stars and Monsters comic review!

I was honored to be offered an opportunity to review the comic series Leaders of the Free World by one of the creative minds behind it, Corey Pruitt (better known as Task on Twitter) and quite frankly, it might have been the one of my most exciting experiences since the initial launch of this blog. Task is not only a comic writer, but also a podcast host on Supersuit Show, but also a major source of influence in the vortex that is the comic twitter community (Spider-Man fans hate Spider-Man, it’s the truth!) Task allowed me to preview his first two issues of his series, drawn by Elijah Johnson (also known as @artbyatlas0 on Twitter), and share some of my thoughts on Leaders of the Free World #1 and #2. So without further ado, let’s jump right into it!

Leaders of the Free World #1 – “A Surreal World”

I dove right into the first issue with the same initial thought that new readers to any series worry about; “Will I be overwhelmed by the world that was built before me?” I suppose the breakdown of the Free World mythos stems from the origin of the Godsend, a group of super-powered gods who arrived to the planet, each instilling themselves in one nation, and essentially committing to their nation’s image, government policies. In return, the Godsend provided tech and knowledge to help advance the world, which inadvertently birthed a new generation of super-powered beings: the Archetypes, a less powerful group of people who created more conflict than safety in the world. After a war killed a third of the world’s population, the Godsend issued laws to limit an Archetype’s activity to only their respective country. This is the lore of Leaders of the Free World.

This series starts with an excellent brief look at the world’s history in the form of a history class, narrated by Surreal, a teenage Asian-American descendant of the an ancient god known as the Monkey King. He fits every relatable aspect of being a teen whose heritage holds more power than they realize. With great power comes great responsibility, and thankfully, we don’t have another Uncle Ben-esque character to reminds Surreal of that. Instead, he meets Eco, the Son of Gaia, who is a superstar wrestler with abilities drawn from, well, Gaia. When these two characters meet and share scenes together, there’s definitely an undeniable chemistry between the two when it comes to the hilarity in their bantering back and forth, and Eco’s unconditional support towards Surreal. The young Monkey King doesn’t know his own true worth yet, and thankfully, the powerful and wise Eco stands beside him from the very beginning, showing a kind of trust that makes me reminisce about the days when Luke Cage and Iron Fist teamed up in Marvel’s Heroes for Hire series.

“Timber”, Eco’s wrestling signature move. Also named after my dog.

As I continued through the issue, I enjoyed the spotlight on these two characters a lot, while also finding myself more enthralled by the joy in seeing Surreal’s old school hip hop playlist scattered across text-boxes in the comic. It creates an entertainingly new and fun experience in a comic book that feels as authentic as a classic comic series as you go through each panel. It was one of the things I was most excited about discussing with Task. When asked where the inspiration for this came from, Task said, “I always listen to music when I write. So I thought ‘What if each issue had its own soundtrack?’ It’s a way for the reader to see where my headspace was at during the creative process.” Nicely done, Task. We love it.

One of my other favorite story threads in this issue specifically included the introduction of Moonshine, the wildly erratic and drunken female superhero whose abilities appear to rival even Superman. It was just one of the many things I enjoyed in this first issue, and I could easily list more, but I have LOTS more to gush about!

Leaders of the Free World #2 – The Beginning’s of Freedom

Aright folks, this is my favorite issue of the two for sure! In Leaders of the Free World #2, we are introduced to my absolute pairing of characters in this set universe. Like Ying and Yang, we meet Medic and Doctor Seance. Medic is, well…if God was a woman, to put it perfectly. As an angel of war and peace, she’s a balance between life and death. In nothing but merely scrubs, she manages to kick enough ass to make Jessica Jones second guess her career as a comic book badass. Alongside her is Doctor Seance, an evil necromancer whose character visual design homages aspects of Robbie Reyes’s Ghost Rider, with a symbiotic relationship to Medic like that of Venom, and a sinister and calculating villain mind that crosses between Lex Luthor and the Batman Who Laughs. These two characters, joined together by a holy and flaming halo over Medic’s head, embark on a quest to join the other lead heroes as they prepare for a crisis of epic proportions.

This, however, prompted me to ask Task about the bonds between the various characters, like the development between Surreal and Eco, or between Medic and Doctor Seance. Task’s response was, “When I came up with the characters I had to ask myself ‘Who would get along the most? Who would hate each other?’ Surreal and Eco are both mythical beings born into a life that they never asked for. So they relate to each other the most. Medic and Seance have history that will be explored throughout the series. I don’t want to reveal everything now but let’s just say you will be surprised.”

Comics can mend ya heart, kid.

As I continued on in this issue, completely enthralled by the concept of Medic and Doctor Seance (and Surreal’s Mix scattered through this issue as well to help set the tone), we soon learn more about the hardships that some of these characters hold in their personal lives. Medic, being a superhero and all that, is still a medical doctor, and has a duty to both the world she saves and the world she inhabits. When she turns to work from battle, she unfortunately fails to save her patient’s life. She storms out, completely broken, and her coworker consoles her by stating a sad, but accurate fact of life. She says, “You can’t save everyone all the time.” When I read this comic panel, it was then that I knew this was going to continue to become a really powerful story, with a really exceptional writer behind this stunning and beautiful line work. And, just as the moment on the page was beautifully had, it was interrupted by a beautifully nostalgic shot…

*CUE FREEZE FRAME*

FREEZE FRAME!

The story returns to the initial group, with Surreal. Eco, Tech-Neek, and Moonshine briefly meeting, but it’s just as an invasion brews in the sky above them. From that, to their hilarious first encounter with Doctor Seance, we get really funny dialogue, awesome action sequences, and super dope nostalgic homages to things in nature of, say, giant mechas, or Power Rangers, or maybe even Dragon Ball Z, or just plenty of West Coast classics to keep the action seamless like a swift breeze under Surreal’s feet. Another one of my favorite shots out of this back half of this issue is most definitely Eco’s greeting to the invaders, known as the ominous Outreach. We get some top-tier Samoan representation, some more amazing character moments amidst the action, and an epic finale shot that may tease an epic clash between two of the most powerful beings on the team. Both beautiful and strong women, might I add.

One of my last questions, more of a fanboy-gushing moment, was me asking about what could be teased to other fans of this series, whether it be epic shonen-styled fight scenes between certain highly powerful characters, or the brief tease of the mysterious Mr. Excellent. Task answered with, “I’m trying to make this world seem as big and alive that I can. And that there’s more going on than what is happening in the books. Mr. Excellent’s story will lead to another story arch that I am excited to share. And it’s funny how you brought up the fights with Lunar because let’s just say she’s not entirely sold on the idea of this team up yet. Where she comes from she reigns over these beings, not collaborate with them. Issue 3 is on the way folks. Stay tuned.”

Well done, Free World. You have a special place in my love for comics now, and I cannot wait to see what an amazing franchise this becomes soon.

A Cybrogi. That’s it. ‘Nuff Said.

No weekly plugs this week, folks. Not like I usually do, I mean. No, all I want to suggest to my readers is to check out this new comic book ASAP. This is seriously one of the most enjoyable comic reads I’ve had in a very long time, for sure. It’s pretty amazing, and the series is available on Comixology right now, or, if you’d like, you can follow the writer @uptotask, or the artist @artbyatlas0 on Twitter.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Leaders of the Free World #3!

Switchin’ up my outro like I usually do too, folks. This time, I’m quoting Gamer Presidential Candidate, Mr. Ace Watkins.

*ahem*

Not solo; squad.

A Post-Apocalyptic Bundle of Joy!

Hey folks! Hope everyone is having a great week. I know I am! Met up with some great people, just got my first paycheck, have been in a really great state of mind, and have gotten to enjoy some REALLY GOOD television this last week! Just peeped the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths and Arrow‘s series finale, and I have THOUGHTS! Also came across some good animated shows recently, notably, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts.

Wonderbeasts is a wonderful world!

The show is a Dreamworks show, so expect the beautiful worlds that they create, like She-Ra’s world designs, with a whole other level of fantastical imagination. Kipo is set in a world where humans live underground now, and at first, we don’t know why, but quick into the first episode of the show, we learn that the surface world is now overrun by mutated monsters, or “mutes” as they’re referred to in Kipo, or as I like to call them, “the Wonderbeasts”, as per the wholesome title! The mutes are the sole reason for roping me into this new age that Kipo exists in, and you’re amazed EVERY episode when a new mute is debuted, from lumberjack kittens and mafia frogs, to lesbian metalhead snakes and a sentient body of water.

Kipo & Pals are the cutest!

This show also does something I didn’t think would happen for me, which is create another group of friends that I’d love as much as I did with She-Ra‘s group. I fell in love with the dork that is Kipo, the killer smol bean Wolf, and the hilarious pairing of Benson and Dave. They all have such lovely chemistry, going from a group of kids just trying to survive through an adorable post-apocalyptic world to becoming a found family that would fight tooth and nail for each other. Not to mention they are all POC, one is biracial, one is LGBTQ+ AF and I love it!

A soundtrack that rivals Into the Spider-Verse

A reason I stuck with this show, not knowing it should fill my She-Ra shaped hole, is the soundtrack. The music is SO good, and when I say it’s on par with Into the Spider-Verse, I am not exaggerating. The music is hip-hop influenced with some songs taking folk country inspiration and even some rock and R&B too! My favorite thig about this show, which I wished more shows would do, is they acknowledge the dope music that comes on in each sequence by having a character play it off of a cassette tape. It’s smooth i how it transitions from a plot detail of “Oh, I’ve got the PERFECT track for this trip,” to the immersion of an action sequence with hype music, similarly to Spider-Verse and their ost.

Dreamworks does She-Ra action but really well

As I said before, the action is stellar! No cap, it is by far the most interesting and visually exciting action oriented animation that I’ve seen from an American animation studio since Young Justice, going as far as to almost borrow some anime visual designs as well! After just coming off of MFZK, this show does that thing I loved from that movie, which is do the most dope action sequences with banging music! If there’s any good show that you wanna start that is lighthearted, but carries stacks, while taking you on an wondrous journey of imagination with an amazing setting and fun characters and sick beats, then check out Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeats on Netflix!

WTF is MFKZ?

Hi there, folks, it’s ya boy. I’m back after a week and, honestly, I feel bad. I told myself I’d post weekly, but I just had a rough time trying to piece together a post last week, so I needed some time to let some ideas mull over. I was tempted to do another Crisis on Infinite Earths post after the Arrowverse crossover ended, but I might hold off on making another big fanboy post about that for a while, just to let things sink in.

Instead, I wanted to talk about what I was aiming to write about last week, which is this animated sci-fi action movie on Netflix called MFKZ. It was originally an animated short called Operation: Blackhead, then a comic series that went by MFKZ, which all got made into this collaborative anime styled movie between a French production company and a Japanese animation studio. It’s directed by the same anime director that worked on Batman: Gotham Knights (which was anime-inspired, at least) and a French rapper.

Now, when you ask anybody about this movie, they’ll tell you one of two things. Either you’ll be told that the movie is a must-see for its visuals and animation style, which I agree with, or you’ll be told to not watch this movie because it’s an incoherent mess of a plot, and a ludicrous waste of time, which is, like, partially true. This movie is an aesthetically pleasing trip with sick visuals and an amazing soundtrack, with the occasionally jarring sequences that are definitely meant to act as a sort of vibe check for the viewers, as a sort of way for the movie to ask “Hey, are you still with us?”

Welcome to Dark Meat City, Mutafukaz

So, if I were to provide a synopsis for MFKZ, I would describe it as sci-fi action/crime thriller about this cartoony kid, Angelino, and his equally cartoony flaming skull headed companion, Vinz, as they endure misadventures through the crime-infested corrupted Dark Meat City, which is this weird urban combination of Los Angeles and São Paulo. We see what it’s like for these two outcasts living in a city with issues like poverty, gang-related crime, and oppressive police forces, all through the perspective of an anxious and self-conscious kid. Looking at the world from this viewpoint makes the movie really enjoyable for the first half of the time, considering how refreshing this sort of environment is for an anime styled flick.

Lino’s head throbbing like this is such a mood.

The characters are my one of my favorite bits about this movie, even though some people argue that the characters aren’t written well at all. You’ve got these three, the most goofy looking cartoons, reminding you to not take this movie so seriously, even though there are moments where the movie asks you to do so. With the orange cat named Willy, you’ve got the friend in the trio that is a literal vibe killer, banging on your front door shouting loud enough for your neighbors to hear. He’s the character that is kind of just…in the way of everything? Like, he’s the friend that’s just there, but you go to when you need a favor or something. His first appearance sums this up a lot. Aside from him, you’ve got Vinz, the flaming skull. He’s voiced by Vince Staples, so, cool tidbit there! He is Lino’s best friend (and arguably is in love with Lino, but that’s another conversation) and is sort of the ride-or-die that you grow to rely on. Vinz lives with Lino as they both struggle to make their roommate situation work, which is actually a funny scene with well written irony sprinkled there, but as plot progresses, Vinz sticks by Lino, regardless of what happens, and believe me, a LOT happens. He’s the MVP for sure.

Lino, the hero and prodigal messiah or whatever, is the guy just trying to live his life, and gets thrown into battle with sketchy suit thugs, local street gangs, and a conspiring government made up of aliens in disguise. He’s arguably a poorly written character, but I don’t necessarily agree with this, mainly because while others see his lack of interests and goals make him a bad character, his entire character is written around the fact that he doesn’t know what he wants. There’s this cute anime-looking scene where the trio is resting after a chase sequence with the suited thugs, and as they see shooting stars, Willy asks Lino what he’d wish for, and the guy says “I dunno…I just wanna be a somebody.”

And that’s sort of where Lino’s character is rooted in. He’s anxious because he’s lost his job, he’s on the run all of a sudden after a run-in with thugs in suits (which, after watching the scene during several rewatches, I’m convinced it all happened because Lino was genuinely paranoid and spooked the thugs), and he’s losing control over his life, control over these prophetic visions he gets (which leave him convinced he’s tripping, just like I did my first time watching) and over powers he starts to gain after each violent encounter (these moments are depicted with a shot of his heart bursting into flames in his chest and his eyes grow animal-like, which was actually a really cool detail for each action sequence). Lino is a mess from the start of the movie, because he and Vinz want to leave DMC, but they don’t. Lino says something along the lines of them having “No jobs, no money, no car, ain’t got a shadow of a prayer,” and it sort of sums up Lino’s anxieties. As the movie progresses, we see Lino exhibit these anxious tendencies, starting from an accident and him losing work to gaining these visions, trippin’ out, convincing himself that police and priests are monsters (more on that later), to taking charge in these encounters with thugs, cops, and other adversaries, and you can see the anxieties in those situations shift from him to Vinz, the only other person with him throughout all of this, and Lino ends up, as he so cleverly puts it in the sickest car chase ever, “fucking handling it”.

Who Are Those Mysterious Masked Wrestlers?

Okay, I mentioned the visual aesthetics of this movie, but what if I told you that there was LORE? Yes, we get a brief scene at the beginning of the movie that alludes to, like, “plot,” but then the first half really is just focusing on Lino and Vinz getting through everything. Towards the middle of the movie, the plot shoves lore at you by introducing the antagonist, which is a government suit who is actually the leader of an alien race called the Macho (which might be commentary on toxic masculinity, but that could be just me), and we also have the Luchador sequences, where they’re wrestlers, but are also, like, ancient guardians tasked with fighting against evil, but they are waiting on ANY evil to emerge? And they randomly team up with a scientist (who is visually very cartoony, which makes me wonder if using cartoon-looking people is an artistic choice or if there’s lore attached to that too) who defects from the Macho scientists or whatever, and there’s stuff there. Meanwhile, we learn the origin of Lino’s powers, stemming from being half Macho (it’s why he’s a black ball headed cartoon I think) and his mother died at the hands of some enforcer as she protected Lino and his father, who is Macho, but…takes the form of a dog with an eye hanging from his eye socket? So Lino MIGHT BE HALF DOG? ALL UNCLEAR.

See, this is the thing that people begin to complain about. The story makes no sense when you REALLY buckle down and try to digest the lore and plot that’s handed to you after a while, because a lot of it is just weird. Like, you can tell there were a lot of ideas and creative story elements at some point, but they really don’t mesh well after a while. Luckily, none of this is the movie’s strong suit.

This Is Why I Watched MFKZ

The action is why we stay for this film, though, along with the music it’s accompanied by. This is what took me a while to really figure out. The movie is great for so many reasons, while also being stupid. Watching it is most definitely a trip as you start being spooked around the same moments Lino gets spooked with dark visions, trippy visuals, feeling a wave of mild hypnosis with a cleverly done black and white hypnotic sequence, but the real fun lies in the action. As I mentioned, Lino gradually becomes more and more capable with each action sequence, with the first stemming from true paranoia as he takes down threatening thugs stooge-styled to horror music, followed by a sick dubstep fight sequence with Nazi-looking SWAT police (which confuses me because the next action sequence has a normal looking police officer on the street, which might be the first time the local authorities got involved in the antics in the film), and then we get my favorite scene, the ICE CREAM CAR CHASE (the music makes the scene the best, with the synchronizing of the ice cream truck’s music with a sick beat), and, like, a few scenes shot to hip-hop and reggaeton, which ALL are great. Even the songs playing in these character’s downtime rules! It’s calming, it’s urban, it sort of brings the world to life a little more (excluding mythical wrestlers and alien goo monsters).

The soundtrack for the movie really proves to be the highlight of the movie, which really is only enhanced by the action sequences. That being said, the story might’ve been written AROUND those scenes, but I can live with that. Visually, the movie is great, and like I said, there are a lot of cool creative story elements thrown into MFKZ. I wish I could go on about the romantic subtext between Lino and Vinz, the Macho-alien being an analogy for toxic masculinity, and the subliminal details that all seem to allude to entirely different ideas that most viewers would ignore because of the mindfuck that the movie is, but as I went through my notes that I jotted down about the plot during my second viewing of the film, I realized how much of a mess those thoughts are, and as much as I tried to capture and articulate the ideas that MFKZ is trying to express, it’s just so hard to do. So we’ll just say that the movie is a fun time if you maybe, like, smoke a bowl, turn your brain off for an hour and a half, and enjoy the visual trip and sick music.

Anyway, stay tuned next week because I’m gonna go on about ANOTHER amazing animated property that utilizes music in a similarly sick fashion, but maybe better!

So, a Mandalorian and a Witcher Walk into a Bar…

Greetings! Hope everyone had a lovely holiday season. Classes start up again soon, and people are getting back into the work grind, and I have been ITCHING to get through the week and find time to write another post. I was debating what the first post of the year should be about, but after having went through all of The Witcher on Netflix and slowly watching The Mandalorian on Disney+, I realized what I had to talk to you guys about.

It’s no secret that these two shows started to take the world by storm, really. With Disney+ being a big step as far as streaming services go, getting all of the content that Disney now owns onto one platform for families was exciting. That being said, majority of the content really is just for families. Like, The Simpsons are there, and it might be the only FOX property as far as I know (which is weird because they don’t even have FOX’s X-Men movies or anything, just their old cartoons), but majority of the content really is tailored for family oriented viewers and, like, a stupid amount of unscripted series and documentaries. Like, this might very well be a streaming service for your grandparents. That being said, Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian fits in that demographic and then some, seeing as it’s an expansion of Star Wars lore (your grandparents’ franchise), while also creating a solid and enjoyable series for fans who pretty much know nothing about Star Wars. I’ve considered myself a casual fan of the series, having seen all of the movies excluding the latest (just haven’t had time), and I absolutely adored The Mandalorian.

“It’s easier to lie with this helmet on.”

There are really two kinds of viewers watching the show who know nothing about Star Wars. You’ve got people who start the series because of the hype it’s gained and go in entirely blind and find that they really can enjoy it without all of the context of the Star Wars universe, because what’s needed to be understood is in the series anyway. You’ve also got the people who want to watch the series, but believe that watching the Star Wars movies will enhance the experience and is almost required. That being said, I don’t think that’s the case, and I think that’s what made this series a real treat.

“This isn’t much of a Star Wars easter egg but rather more of an E.T. reference.”

On the other side of the nerd spectrum, you have fans raving about Netflix’s The Witcher. Now, not much needs to be said about Netflix at this point, it’s been around, it might always be around, and right now it’s Disney+’s biggest contender (sorry DC Universe, maybe just market your service a little better, because I’ve only ever seen ads for Harley Quinn on Adult Swim, and that’s after the platform has been out for over a year), and most of their credit goes to Lauren Hissrich’s The Witcher being one of the most streamed shows to date. That title also went to The Mandalorian for a while, both of which topped Stranger Things, which is a pretty big accolade to earn. Now, when it comes to viewing The Witcher, which is based off of a video game series that is based off of the book series, it kind of feels difficult to encourage anyone to say that they need to go to the source material to enjoy the series, because that’s not the case. I didn’t play the games, even though they seem super rad, and I haven’t read the books either, but this show was REALLY neat.

“I just think it’s neat!”

That could have something to do with the queer subtext I got to enjoy between Geralt, the titular character of the series, and Jaskier, the bard who would GLADLY toss a coin to the Witcher’s taut ass, or just seeing Henry Cavill shirtless that many times (as opposed to a dude who literally never removes his armor). It could have also been seeing these female characters completely owning the series, more so than Geralt himself sometimes, especially when there’s SO MANY OF THEM! I didn’t know who I desired to kick my ass more, the Princess Ciri, her dope (but arguably racist) grandmother and Queen Calanthe, Yennifer the Witch, or Renfri, the chick from the first episode that never come back (she might’ve been my favorite, hot take!)

“Well, I can’t think of any reasons why we SHOULDN’T have sex…so there’s that.”

There was a lot to enjoy in both of these series. A lot of which the shows have in common (sexy angsty freelance dads earnin’ big bucks while becoming adoptive fathers), but that isn’t to say that these shows don’t have critical differences (like one being in space and the other being in a fantasy realm).

Both The Mandalorian and The Witcher both feature protagonists who embody the warrior archetype; they both are seemingly the last of their kind, and carry the weight of that with them, which leaves these two with walls built between them and other people. They have been betrayed, and have had their trust broken, and now live their lives as nomads who kill for coin and credits, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake and tales of their endeavors told in rumors and songs. That is, until their journeys go from simply taking jobs in self-contained anecdotes to bringing children into Mando and Geralt’s arms. Mando is tasked with killing the child, but he’s not a heartless monster, so he decides to save the child! Geralt has no intention of having a child, but he sort of stumbles his way into becoming a godfather of a princess in comedic Stooge fashion.

Now, the only reason I’m not writing about how these shows are pretty much the same thing as one another and giving them shit for it is because, well, these shows really aren’t the same at all, despite the warrior-dads thing. And yes, it goes beyond the surface and is more than just the sci-fi and fantasy aesthetics. In terms of what the shows do, they have episodes that each focus on a singular event occurring, like, “The One About The Prison Break In Space”, or “The One Where I Join A Quest To Slay A Dragon”, which makes it feel as though each of their eight episodes truly are a single chapter, or a peek into these character’s lives in a journal of sorts. The structures of these shows are what really get me. In The Mandalorian, Mando doesn’t meet the child until the end of the first episode, which is sort of the inciting incident, but from there, the story progresses forward in a way where time isn’t necessarily tracked, but we know that everything is occurring sequentially. It doesn’t feel as though there are big gaps or time jumps between scenes or episodes aside from, but we don’t really get much detail as to how much time has passed. This doesn’t make for a jarring experience, though.

However, when one is viewing The Witcher, we are watching Geralt’s story occur, along with Ciri and Yennifer, two of the wonderful female characters I mentioned earlier. Now, each of these three characters’ stories all start at a certain point. Geralt’s story starts with him meeting Renfri in a village. Yennifer’s story starts with her as a hunchback being sold to witches and inducted in their academy of sorts. Ciri’s story starts with her fleeing her kingdom after it is conquered by an enemy kingdom (who don spooky black armor that couldn’t scream “we’re the bad guys” any louder). Now, as these stories progress throughout the episodes, there’s a lack of an overlap until a certain point. Like, we’re seeing things happening to Geralt, and to Yennifer, and to Ciri, and they all go places and do things, and for a while, we’re like “huh, when do they…?” and then we start to get to points where certain characters that, say, died in certain episodes reappear later, and interact with Geralt, or Yennifer, or Ciri (the Big Three, so to speak), and then it starts to dawn on us…the show’s structure isn’t linear at all.

See, that’s what got me. The Witcher is told from three perspectives, all of which pretty much start at different points in time, and only one of which is actually taking place in the present. This isn’t explicitly clear right off the bat, which might’ve confused some viewers, and would’ve upset me if it hadn’t all come together by the finale. It isn’t until the last episode that we see these three characters make it to the same point and place in time (and no, I don’t mean TIME TRAVEL, that’s another post I’m writing soon). The last episode is also when we finally get a child in Geralt’s arms, which is a wild contrast to Mando’s parental journey. One gains a child by the start of the show, while one gains a child by the end. One follows a linear plot, and the other jumps between years in the story. Favreau and Hissrich both follow drastically different writing structures, but somehow utilize wildly similar formulas in how their protagonist’s arcs progress, which in turn has created the new archetype we all love and appreciate now: grumpy warrior dad!

“Bonus eye candy: Aunt Cara shows us her GUNS!”

Anyway, that’s all I really have. I’m not over here writing essays, so this might be the cleanest wrap-ups I will write for a while. If you’re wondering which of the two my favorite was, it’s pretty close, but I’d have to go with the show with the dude who was naked more often (Sorry, Disney, your family-oriented marketing is wholesome, but that’s all it is). But in all seriousness, The Witcher is a series I went in completely blind for, which might of left me with a lot less expectations than I did for The Mandalorian. I knew Star Wars, so I might’ve expected a certain type of show, and despite thoroughly enjoying the series, The Mandalorian never made me go WOW (except scenes showing off Cara’s guns…as she holds her rifles and stuff). I did go “aw” a couple of times, but that’s what I’m talking about. It wasn’t saucy like I had hoped. The Witcher scratched that naughty itch for me, while also having me go “WAIT A MINUTE” when the plot lines converged, leaving me pleasantly more entertained than the former. That’s just my hot take, and anyone else’s take is just as valid! Let me know some of your thoughts. Stay lovely, folks!

(Sorry, I don’t have a punchline for the title. Maybe comment some if y’all think of one.)