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.

“Stars and Monsters: Tales” Announcement

Hiya, folks! I’m finally back! I wanted to post an update about some things on this blog, with how I’m going to organize things here and how regularly I’m going to post. I only realized I needed to do this because I had two weeks where I had started posts for Stars and Monsters, one Arrow related and one Bojack Horseman related, and failed to finish either, and have spent what free time I do have working on these projects that I’ve hardly mentioned. That being said, this post will also address what these projects exactly are and such!

In regards to the weekly post format, I may have to just start posting whenever I’m available instead. I found myself struggling to meet my “post-every-Wednesday” schedule and end up posting, you know, weeks later or something. Also, I don’t always post on Wednesdays either, so posts will just start coming periodically. And with that, I want to share what has been keeping me busy these past few weeks!

The Dark Within Us is my upcoming fantasy sci-fi story on Wattpad. It follows 17 year old Ronnie Reid, a kid from Chaseville, California, as he joins a band of monster slayers on a journey through a hidden dark world. It’s sort of going to be like a novella, one that touches on what it means to find a family, and to discover the truth about your life for the first time ever. This is going to be the first part of a trilogy that follows Ronnie and the rest of his family as they encounter entities of darkness and evil in the world. So far, part one of this trilogy is in its early stages of development, with a prologue available to read on Wattpad for free right now!

Beat Inside My Soul is an upcoming sci-fi animated series that follows a group of teenage ravers who gain the ability to weaponize sound from a new deadly party drug. The teens, led by by thriving DJ Simon Bates, unite their abilities and efforts to stop a drug epidemic. With the story in the final stages of development and in the early draftings of the screenwriting process, I am also reaching out to animation designers, musicians, dancers, and other artists to help develop visuals for the animated series. My hope is to have a finished script for the pilot pitched to animation studios or streaming services like Netflix.

“Anomaly” is an upcoming sci-fi superhero comic series that follows Seth Gibson, along with his best friend Jordan, and his little sister Reina, as he learns to harness his newly discovered ghost-like abilities, and fights to take down a local street gang called Erebus and their leader, Adonis. This crime action series touches upon trauma, sexuality, addiction, and other themes. Once I’ve secured artists to work on at least the first comic issue, I hope to pitch the series to some comic book publishing company, or perhaps just post online as a web comic, maybe on Webtoons.

These stories all take place in different points in time, with The Dark Within Us having early 2000s setting, Beat Inside My Soul taking place in the 2010 era, and Anomaly taking place in the 2020s. At some point, these stories will address their connections with one another.

With these projects being lined up, along with this blog, I’m going to start posting updates on each of these stories through this blog, with the occasional fanboy posts about other stuff being released! One that I’m excited to write about is Harley Quinn – both the new movie AND her animated series in DC Universe. We’ll also talk about other stuff, other music, shows, and Doctor Who too! OH GOSH Doctor Who is so good right now.

Anyway, out of the two projects, I do have one chapter up for The Dark Within Us and a link to music for Beat Inside My Soul, which also just features my music made under SyckBeat. There is one song, a mashup, made for the animated series posted on there as well, so check that out! Will post again soon when I can. Thank you, everyone, for keeping up with my erradict posts and all that jazz! Stay amazing, folks! ✨

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!