Comic Recommendations: November 25, 2015

DC published Frank Miller’s most recent homage to his own previous Batman work with Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1; IDW delivered another solid build-up issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; as if Thanksgiving weren’t enough of a holiday, this week was the return of Saga (Image Comics); and Marvel hit hard with Guardians of the Galaxy #2, Silver Surfer #15, and the continuation of “Vader Down” in Darth Vader #13.


  1. Silver Surfer #15 (Marvel Comics), Unspoiled Edition.

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It is difficult to bid farewell to Dan Slott and Mike Allred’s Silver Surfer, but much less difficult knowing that a new volume is starting in 2016. Norrin Radd, Dawn Greenwood, and Toomie have survived the end of the Multiverse at the hands of Dr. Doom. Now, they are faced with an even more complex problem — deciding between an ideal universe and a real universe. This may sound a little heady, but trust me, Slott’s Silver Surfer #15 promotes just as many feels as it does thoughts.


  1. Silver Surfer #15 (Marvel Comics), Spoiled Edition.

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All-New, All-Different Marvel has been the standard for a few weeks now, but we still know very little about what exactly this new universe is and how it has come about. Silver Surfer #15 gives us a rare glimpse into the construction of the new universe when it refers to the consequences of Secret Wars #9. To give you perspective, Secret Wars #8 will be released — AT THE EARLIEST — two weeks from now, with an optimistic estimate of December 23 for the event’s conclusion. Considering the first issue came out in May, this means that we have waited over six months for the conclusion of Marvel’s summer event!

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What does Silver Surfer #15 tell us about the future of Marvel’s continuity? The universe is largely the same as it was before Secret Wars began, but there are small differences.

One small difference is that series like Dan Slott and Mike Allred’s Silver Surfer were forced to halt their forward momentum in order to deal with this new universe. Slott’s decision to have Norrin and Dawn witness the end of the multiverse and have the choice to create a brand new universe was an interesting offshoot of this decision, but the comic started taking longer and longer to come out. From the publication of Silver Surfer #1 in March of 2014 to the publication of Silver Surfer #13 in July of this year, the comic averaged 40 days between issues, or just over five weeks. Considering the fact that Slott was putting out two issues of Amazing Spider-man during this entire time and plotting Marvel’s most successful crossover events at the same time, one week over the monthly comic release can be excused. However, after the release of Secret Wars, the release dates got more and more spaced out. There was 35 days between #12 and #13, 49 days between #13 and #14, and a whopping 84 days between #14 and #15. Compared to the previous average of 40 days between issues from Silver Surfer #1-13, issues #13-15 averaged 67 days between issues. In other words, there was approximately four weeks between the expected release date and the actual release date.

I don’t think this is the fault of Slott and Allred. I think there is a basic fundamental error with these giant, multiverse-encompassing event comics. Personally, I would rather see smaller events that encompass a handful of titles and doubling down on support for Marvel’s TV shows and movies. I think this is a good intermediary that satisfies the long time fans who HATE these giant events while exciting younger crowds who use Marvel’s multimedia empire as a gateway to its comics. Whenever these two crowds are happy, Marvel makes money. Perhaps more important, though, is the fact that this decision will give creators more freedom to tell longer, uninterrupted stories with fewer gimmicks or scheduling problems. The stock shares can keep going up while preserving the integrity of the stories being told.

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Silver Surfer returns in 2016. I am looking forward to it.

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After a few weeks of intensive reading, I have finally caught up with Tim Seeley’s Revival (Image Comics). The story takes place in the Wausau environs of Wisconsin, a completely believeable snapshot of the Great Lakes states. The community is plagued by an unsurprising lack of diversity, a seemingly everlasting winter, and dead who come back to life. When I say “come back to life,” I mean life in its fullest sense, or at least moreso than the shambling beasts of most zombies stories. “Revivers,” as they are called, are almost indistinguishable from the living, but nobody knows why they have returned. Our main characters are Officer Dana Cypress and her younger sister Martha, who goes by the nickname “Em.” One of the more memorable moments in recent comics happens when Dana takes her sister along to investigate an incident and Em takes a sickle to the chest… LIKE A PRO, revealing that she too is a Reviver.

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Because this is a comic book about zombies, we have to ask ourselves the obvious questions: Why should I read this comic book? Why not just read The Walking Dead again? The only things that Revival and The Walking Dead have in common are zombies, intensely human drama, and Image Comics. Revival has much more in common with David Lynch’s Twin Peaks or the Coen Brothers film (and later FX series) Fargo. Seeley describes the series as rural noir, and as much as I love a good noir story, I think Revival is a little too big for this description. It may be what Seeley imagined, but it is not what he delivered. As I mentioned earlier, Seeley’s zombies are almost indistinguishable from living humans. They may be slightly uncoordinated, but not in any major way — one of the more entertaining Revivers is a fairly skilled skateboarder. Whenever a Reviver is injured, even by a classic shotgun to the brain, they are able to regenerate completely. They are also described as fearless, but that is only in reference to physical harm. The unique contribution of Tim Seeley’s Revival is that we actually learn more about ourselves as humans from the perspective of the zombies themselves. This stands in stark opposition to the traditional zombie setup, best represented by the mall setting of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, where we learn just how mindless we can be from living characters who witness the mindless activities of zombies.

In previous recaps of comics that I overlooked, I have written quite a bit about series that haven’t even started a second story arc. I could certainly recap every issue of Revival and have a blast going through it once again, but in this circumstance I think brevity might be better. Revival #35 should be coming out next week if I’m not mistaken, and if it is as good as some of these issues have been we’ll spend a lot more time with it. Despite the fact that I have rarely read a solo Iron Man comic that I have enjoyed, I should have something to say about the most recent volume of Invincible Iron Man next week.  At the rate I readRevival, it shouldn’t be too hard to get through the four issues of the series that will have been released byDecember 2. Until then, please hit me up with any questions or comments you have. We can talk about the comics I have written about or we can talk about the comics that are on your mind. Whatever we do, let’s just talk about comic books.

Better Base Pay: The Fastest Way to Leave Your Debt Behind?


A few weeks ago, I announced that I had targeted debt and debt liberation as my main research focus. As of the beginning of this month, I have moved on to the second phase of my own personal debt emancipation plan. Whereas Phase I involved setting up a budget, reading popular resources about personal finance, and cutting expenses where possible, Phase II emphasizes researching peer-reviewed resources, conducting a top-down review of new revenue avenues, and carrying out a complete audit of all banking activity. As part of my monthly bank statement review, I have identified base pay rate  (not including overtime, shift differential, bonuses, or on-call, special assignment, incentive, holiday, vacation, or sick pay) as the first topic I want to analyze. There are circumstances where base pay is considered by itself, like debt-to-income calculations that require a current pay stub rather than a previous year’s W2, and your base pay can affect major life events, like securing a mortgage loan for a house. In other words, the topic of regular wage earnings is not merely academic.

The most common ways people free up money in their budgets to pay down debt are increasing income and decreasing spending, although I would add education and social action as debt solutions of equal importance. Though the idea of increasing your base pay fits into the income bolstering part of the equation, I would like to caution readers against adopting a belief that increasing revenue alone is the solution to financial woes. If that were the case then every time our nation’s GDP increased the ratio of national debt to GDP would decrease, but that hasn’t happened once in the past 15 years. Similarly with personal finance. If you increase your family’s income without also making changes to your spending habits, you run the chance of spending all the extra money you’re taking in. This is something to keep in mind during the discussion ahead.

There are four basic options for increasing base pay, and I have listed them from most to least comfortable. All of these choices assume you have a full time job. If this is not the case for you, feel free to skip forward to the section dedicated to part time and temporary jobs.

1. Request a pay raise at your current job.

There are a lot of life hack articles online that will tell you that getting a pay raise is easy if you are bold enough to ask for one and smart enough to provide clear examples of extra work you have done and ways you have saved the company money. For many of us, this is not actually an option. Within many corporations, the review process has been streamlined into a yearly process, assessment is conducted by managers who have little to no interaction with you throughout the year, and while general criteria for pay increase may be available in handout form there is usually little transparency regarding specific reasoning behind management’s ultimate decision. There are even businesses out there where employees are penalized with up to and including termination for discussing pay rate with another employee. As it is, the single most effective means of securing a pay raise is to simply wait.

Is this portrait I have painted of pay raises accurate in your experience? Whether you answer yes or no, please feel free to contact me either publicly or privately with your thoughts. Please accompany your story with details about your employment situation and whether or not you feel comfortable with me using this information in future posts.

Raises do happen, but they seldom happen on your schedule and they rarely increase your pay to your satisfaction. They benefit those patient enough to wait, but for many of us standing still is not an option.

2. Request a promotion at your current job.

In many ways, requesting a promotion is much like requesting a pay raise: it is usually a great way to increase your base pay rate (unless we are talking about horizontal “promotions,” which are not really deserving of the name), and it is usually not as easy as lifehackers will have you believe. While both require a certain budgetary allotment from the company, the additional complication for getting a promotion is that, unless business is booming or your employer is sitting on a pile of savings, higher paying positions usually only become available when current positions are vacated.

If you have applied for a promotion, there are a few things that you can do that will give you an edge in the competition. In many companies, management will speak to supervisors and other senior employees to get an idea of the internal talent pool, so if you can lock down a supervisor’s recommendation this can go a long way. Often, this begins by expressing your desire to take on extra responsibilities and move up the ladder early on. A good supervisor will recognize your intentions and give you opportunities to prove yourself. The other half of the equation involves having a great resume / application, but we will cover this issue in more depth in the next section.

job interview 4

If / when you are set up with an interview, you want to dress to impress and give a great performance. While I do agree that you have to be yourself, you also need to sell yourself. This starts with knowing your audience. Does your interviewing manager believe personal expression benefits the team or does he / she favor strict adherence to prescribed behaviors? The answer to questions like these will help you to determine how to present yourself in the interview. You will need to be able to answer fundamental questions (What makes a good leader? What is your leadership style?), but you also need to answer situational questions as well. When doing so, keep your answers grounded in specific examples. With each answer you want to identify a problem, explain your solution, and describe the consequences. Finally, you need to prove you’re skilled at time management. While the interviewing manager may express a desire to hear an exhaustive list of your questions — and you should make sure that you’re actively asking questions in any interview! — you want to be just as punctual with leaving as you are with arriving. If the interview is scheduled until 10am, you want to make sure you are wrapping things up at 9:55.

It is unfortunate, but there is a chance that you won’t even get an interview. In the past decade I’ve experienced a shocking trend of employers expressing preference toward external candidates over internal candidates. If this is the case with your employer, you may want to seek outside training and / or certification to make yourself more competitive, or you may want to get a job somewhere else at a company that values developing from within.

  1. Get a new job.

In my experience, the most effective method of increasing your base pay is getting a new job. There are many resources out there — Craig’s List, Indeed, etc. — but they are often impersonal, and I’ve found that these “opportunities” tend to be dead ends. Your most important resources are your friends, family members, and former colleagues. These are the people who can see if their own employer is hiring, guide you through the idiosyncracies of the application process there, make sure your resume is looked at by Human Resources, and recommend you for positions. They paint a picture of you as a person, which is nearly impossible to do with a resume alone.

You also want to research the business and position that you are applying for. If it is a large enough corporation, you can start with their Wikipedia entry, but otherwise the company’s web site, news searches, the Better Business Bureau, and Glassdoor are probably your best resources. You want to know what this company is all about and what you’re potentially getting yourself into. Regardless of how desperate for extra money you may be, you need to go into this with the attitude that the business in question needs to convince you they’re right for your needs just as much as you need to convince them that you are right for theirs. This will be perceived as confidence in an interview and confidence tends to work in your favor.

Your resume ought to be targeted rather than broad and all-encompassing. If you are an experienced sales representative looking to get a sales job, you need a sales resume. If you are changing from one career field to another, you need a resume that shows this. It doesn’t hurt to know someone in HR who can help you with a resume, but a Google search will do in a pinch. Instructions and examples for any type of resume are available immediately so long as you are typing in the right keywords. When you get down to typing out your resume, your wording ought to mirror that of the company’s mission statement and the verbage you see on the onling job posting. This is especially important as many larger companies have begun to screen their applicants with a keyword search, so you can lose a possible opportunity simply for excluding “integrity,” “teamwork,” or “excellence” from your resume.

As we discussed in the previous section, you want a great interview, but it is worth discussing here since there are some key differences when you are interviewing with a new company. First of all, the people at this company do not know you, so be prepared to explain any shortcomings in your resume like periods of unemployment or reasons for leaving previous jobs. Second of all, despite all of your research, you effectively know nothing about this company. You need to know how much you will make, what the hours are, what the day-to-day expectations will be, what the benefits will look like. You want to make sure all of your questions have been answered to your satisfaction before you say yes. You cannot assume anything.

The best tip I can give you is, if you want to be employed, you must already be employed. For example, if you are looking for a job in accounts recievable it would be better to do so while already working part/full time at McDonalds or Subway than it would be if you were unemployed for an extended period of time. You will have less time out of the day to look for jobs in this situation, but your resume is going to look better to anyone who picks it up. Despite what we hear on the news about unemployment rising or new jobs plummeting, there are always jobs out there. In 2008, amidst the country’s economic crisis, I was working at a fast food fried chicken restaurant in Texas, and my manager once said something to me that really stuck. He said, “I don’t know what they mean when they say there are no jobs. I have more job openings than I have people to fill them.”

There is no shortage of unfair or predatory practices when it comes to hiring, but I feel strongly that the biggest obstacle to a new job is you. Maybe its too much work for a new job or you’re secretly afraid of change. Perhaps you have some insecurities about putting yourself out there or you’re worried that your next boss will be worse than the last. Whatever is going on in your head, you need to get over yourself. It is the only sure fire way to get a higher paying job.

  1. Social Action


The only public movement I know of that is attempting to tackle the issue of raising wages is the nationwide protest for a $15 minimum wage or, as it is often called, a living wage.

If you know of other instances of social action where the participants are attempting to help others gain a better wage please share your wisdom. Furthermore, if you have protested on behalf of a Living Wage or any other similar movement please drop me a line and share your experience. My beliefs align with many of these causes but I am remarkably inexperienced with oranizing and protesting, so I am really going to need to lean on a few of you for this and future discussions.                       

The idea here is that it is unethical that the cost of living should continue to go up in price without the minimum wage increasing at the same rate.

It should come as no surprise that the financial sector has come out in opposition to this little bit of policy with claims that it would be detrimental to the economy and the very people that it is meant to benefit. This strikes me as a conflict of interests, as many of these money gurus are the very same individuals who have benefitted the most from this nation’s income inequality. It does stand to reason that there would be some short-term negative consequences. However, if I have learned anything about American economics in the 20th and 21st centuries it is that the path to recession and depression is paved by those who are only looking at quarterly gains and losses. A living wage is an investment in infrastructure that strengthens the middle class and makes our economy more fluid, and  moreover it is a long needed dose of ethics into our economic system.

We ought not be divided about this issue. I have heard too many people badmouthing the idea that some “burger flipper” should get $15 an hour as if the McDonalds employees who have come out as the leaders of this movement don’t deserve to be able to take care of their families working 40 hours per week. This is how the wealthy keep money out of the hands of the poor and middle class, by turning us against one another. If you are living — burger flipper or otherwise — you deserve a living wage.

These four suggestions for improvement are quantitative and practical, but behind them lurk some issues that are qualitative and theoretical. This is certainly not an exhaustive list of issues associated with the search for a higher base wage. They are merely the first four discussion topics that I brainstormed in outlining this post.

  1. Meaningful Employment


Most of us spend more time with our co-workers than we do with anyone else in our lives, and many of us put in more hours working than we do sleeping. If our life stories are defined by the things that take up our time, then we are more our jobs than we are anything else.

What are we doing while we are at work? Many of us are just wishing we were somewhere else. We spend all day looking at the clock, counting the minutes until we get to go home. We love our weekends, but at some point on Sunday night (or the equivalent for people working atypical schedules) our blood goes cold and we start dreading the unstoppable force that is Monday. There is nothing healthy about keeping our minds forever in the future, especially because it means that we never truly get the chance to enjoy the present. Why do we even go to work in the first place? There is a parable about a boy who got a job to save up some extra money, but he needed a car to get to work. He ended up spending all of the money from his hard work paying for a car that he only ever used to drive to work. This is an exaggerated situation for most of us, but at least a few of us fee like we’re in a situation with a zero net gain. We need to find a way to break the cycle.

Ultimately, we need to find a way to make our work meaningful in itself. Furthermore, we need to find a way to spend our money in a meaningful way. How we do this is going to vary from person to person, but I’ve found that it is important to value the people you work with. Have a real concern for their lives and cherish the opportunities to engage them in conversation. Try to have some pride for what you are doing. If you’re in sales, you’re going to have to do some predatory things quite often, but you can also help people with their concerns at other times. If you’re good at getting your sales numbers up, there’s no reason you can’t also be good at being good. Just because you are stuck somewhere doesn’t mean you can’t find joy.

How do you live in the moment while you are at work? If you’re currently “working for the weekend,” what can you do to enrich your workday? Do you feel like there is a spiritual side of work? How can we activate that sense of peace while at work? I am looking for real examples and practical suggestions to these questions, but I also think further philosophical discussion has its own value. Let’s have a conversation.

  1. Temporary Work

The history of American labor reached its pinnacle when basic rights were established for all full-time employees in the United States. This movement was hundreds, if not thousands of years in the making, finding inspiration in the sabbatical legislation of ancient Jewish scripture among other precedents, but it was ultimately defeated by the concept of the temporary employee. With temporary employees you don’t have to guarantee benefits, fair wages, or fair hours, and at the end of the day if you don’t like the cut of their jib you can just let them go. All of a sudden, we have a class conflict between real employees and a shadow group who come and go. Not only is there division among employees who are supposed to be working toward a common goal, but there is a massive leak in the wage delivery system. Temporary employees tend to get paid very little, despite their relatively high cost. Not only does the employer usually have to pay a temp service for providing on-call temporary labor, but each company that makes use of a temporary workforce loses massive amounts of money training employees who will not be around long enough to show a substantial return on investment. (This is not always the case: sometimes employers will just skip the training process and lose money due to inefficiency and error.)

Temporary employment is one of the biggest evils of America’s current economic situation. It devalues the people who make up our workforce while reinforcing economic shortsightedness. When you work in sales, they say that you are never actually selling a product or service; every sale requires you to sell yourself. When you run a business, your product is only as good as the culture of your factory, warehouse, showroom, or office. If you are not willing to invest in a long term workforce, then you are selling yourself short. We need to stop seeing these deeply ethical problems merely as statistics. I strongly believe that if we start with the human concern, the numbers will follow. You just have to have a desire to make it work in everyone’s favor rather than in the favor of the select few.

  1. Deferred Compensation


While we are certainly going to cover many portions of this topic in later posts, it is worth taking a moment to talk about deferred compensation. By this, I mean additional benefits such as retirement savings, pensions, and stock options, things that you are generally going to enjoy not immediately, but later (hence deferred). During a discussion of regular pay wages, one has to wonder whether we might be better off simply getting a higher rate of pay than getting money that we cannot enjoy immediately. If we received higher wages instead, we would be more likely to qualify for mortgage and other loans and we could potentially pay debt down quicker. The downside is that we might have to pay higher tax rates on the extra money and we might spend all of the money instead of saving for retirement.

This section is clearly lacking. If you have any knowledge about the financial implications of deferred compensation, I could sure use your help. In fact, if you have any good links about this topic these would be helpful as well. As is, I have no reason to suggest that the current prevalence of deferred compensation needs to be changed, but it never hurts to raise the question. Let’s have a discussion.

  1. Small Businesses

If the situation with increasing our rate of pay is so problematic, why aren’t we all starting small businesses? I think there are plenty of excuses. Massive student loan debt keeps most young people from starting their own business, thus preventing economic stimulus and job growth. Health insurance also isn’t a walk in the park for small business owners. In many industries, there are further difficulties with competition. Many large businesses are able to avoid taxes altogether through loopholes for multinational corporations and lax enforcement of tax laws for too big to fail companies. Furthermore, many goods can be acquired online for cheaper because online goods are not always taxed the same as those bought at brick and mortar stores. If new business is such an important part of kick starting a struggling American economy, we have to wonder why so many things stand between intelligent, savvy, and driven young adults and job-creating businesses.

I know that many of you actually own a business. In your opinion is it better to start your own business or work for someone else? How are these things affected by debt, be it consumer, educational, or medical? Would you be better off in terms of health care if you worked for someone else? Is competition from larger corporations and online businesses a real threat to your business? We would all benefit from your input as business owners.

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At the end of the day revenue alone is not enough. It is only through the combined forces of revenue and discipline that you will get anywhere financially. We will deal with both of these things in the upcoming months.

Just in writing this post, I have brainstormed quite a few options for future posts. Forthcoming are articles covering people’s experiences with small business and asking for raises, preparing for a promotion starting with day one (or earlier), some well-researched pieces on the living wage movement and deferred payments, and posts that expand the discussion into all of the other components of your average paycheck.

The Strike Debt Collective raises the question of what we owe and to whom, suggesting that our responsibility is, first and foremost, to one another, in our families, groups of friends, and our community. We may have different opinions about how to solve micro- and macro-economic issues, but we are in this struggle together. This means that we need to lean on one another, and the easiest way to do so is to engage in a constructive conversation. I value whatever you choose to contribute, so long as we can hold to a code of mutual respect. Let’s get this conversation started, people. I think we can really help one another.

Journey to the Force Awakens: The Star Wars Rewatch


On November 15, I finally re-watched all six Star Wars films in one sitting. Not only that, but I got to re-watch them in what I call the Godfather order. We started with Episode IV: A New Hope and Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, which take young Luke Skywalker from a moisture farm on the desert planet of Tatooine to a lightsaber battle at the Cloud City of Bespin in which Luke finds out that Darth Vader is his father, the former Jedi Anakin Skywalker. From here, we flash back to Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith to learn of Anakin’s fall from grace. Finally, with both our hero and villain fully fleshed out, we conclude with their final battle in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

The order that you watch the original and sequel trilogies is an important component of any re-watch, because you will notice different things depending upon the sequence. I chose the Godfather order (IV, V, I, II, III, VI; there is also a variant where I is excluded), but there are two other lineups which are much more popular, the Cinematic Release order (IV, V, VI, I, II, III), and the Numerical order (I, II, III, IV, V, VI). If I were to have another Star Wars marathon, I would be more likely to watch them in the Numerical order, and this is because the viewer is rewarded for sitting through the prequel trilogy by getting to watch the much stronger original trilogy. With any movie marathon, motivation is key, which is why I would want these cornerstone movies closer to the end of the schedule.

After watching all six films, I came up with a fourth re-watch option. I call it the Parallel order, alternating original and prequel films (IV, I, V, II, VI, III) to reveal similarities between the first (thirty plus minutes before we meet Luke / Anakin), second (Millennium Falcon / Slave 1 use an asteroid field for evasion), and third (Ewok / Wookie doing a Tarzan yell) installation of each trilogy.

As I mentioned earlier, your re-watch order will affect the meaning of the films. Here is a brief summary of what I gleaned from the Godfather-style marathon.



Who is the main character of A New Hope? My knee jerk response is to say Luke Skywalker. However, at the request of Master Yoda (“You must unlearn what you have learned.”), I thought I would leave behind my preconceptions and approach the series with a beginner’s mind. My first thought was that the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO were co-leads. It was a huge risk, after all, to spend the first thirty minutes of this film following a pair of robots — only one of which actually speaks a decipherable language! — but to the credit of George Lucas and company, they really pulled it off. The droids are two of the most dynamic and engaging characters in the entire original trilogy, but they are not the main characters. As the story develops, it feels like we have an ensemble piece with multiple main characters, each with an interesting arc: Luke Skywalker is the whiny teen who wants to see the universe, Leia Organa is a rebel leader trying to escape the clutches of the Empire’s finest soldier, and Han Solo is a cocky smuggler who is in too deep with the wrong people. Even Darth Vader has a meaty story, trying to prove his worth in a military that values technology over his outdated religious order, and yet none of these people are the main characters of A New Hope.

From Aunt Beru’s fortuitous request for a droid who speaks Bocce to the magic missile Luke casts into the darkness of the Death Star’s hull, the key character of A New Hope and the invisible hand behind all that happens therein is The Force. This is not the case for Episode V and VI, which closely follow Luke Skywalker on his hero’s quest, and this is largely because Episode IV presents a theology of The Force different from all of the following films. It is a personified element that is with you moreso than a tool that is wielded by you. The choices and actions of The Force are the same coincidences that the uninitiated make fun of, the imperial soldiers who uncharacteristically allow an unmanned escape pod to launch, for example. In this way, The Force is like Shekhinah of Jewish Kabbalah or the Holy Spirit of Trinitarian Christianity. It is the god among us. The reason Luke appears to be the protagonist of this episode is because he has been chosen by The Force to serve as its actor. That’s right. I’ve taken a side. Luke, not Anakin, is the chosen one prophesied to bring balance to The Force.

As the trilogy unfolds, you can see that each of the original films presents the chosen one, the new and only hope, Luke Skywalker, with a new teacher, each unique in his approach, each meeting his death shortly after teaching Luke one final lesson. Obi Wan Kenobi is a wizard of the Tatooine desert and he is also Luke’s first teacher. Years of isolation and a natural proclivity toward recklessness put Kenobi at odds with the traditional teachings of the Jedi order, but I would argue that they make him more receptive to the workings of The Living Force. Kenobi’s choice to take on Luke as his apprentice is radical — the kid is much too old to begin learning the way of The Force — but Kenobi’s submission to his fate here, and then once again in his final battle against Darth Vader, gives Luke an object lesson in destiny. One of the true wonders of the Star Wars trilogy is whether or not Obi Wan Kenobi had a vision of the exact moment of his demise the instant Luke arrived in the canyons surrounding his cave. Either way, it is Kenobi’s death at the hands of Vader that finally brings home the idea of the personified Force. Obi Wan says to Darth Vader, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” In his death, Kenobi becomes the mouthpiece for the greatest power in the universe, The Force that, until that moment, voicelessly moved its constituents about like pieces on a chess board.



In The Empire Strikes Back we are once again thrown into an unfamiliar situation. Our heroes are on the snow-covered planet Hoth where they appear to have assembled a new base. Months have clearly gone by since the Battle of Yavin as witnessed by changes in the relationships of Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo: Leia and Han have developed quite the spark between them whereas she and Luke seem to have an even stronger intimacy, and despite the tension this must have caused, Han has come to value Luke’s friendship so deeply that the normally selfish scoundrel risks life and limb on scant evidence that young Skywalker may be missing in the tundra. The news reel gimmick of the later CG animated TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars seems appropriate here, as we find ourselves quickly ensconced in a battle between imperial AT-ATs and AT-STs and Rebel T-47s. There is a clear choice here to shun weighty political discussions in order to focus on the feelings of the characters wrapped up in the struggle for freedom, and the pay-off is one of the most unique films of all time.

The reason that The Empire Strikes Back is so impactful is because George Lucas dared to make a movie where the good guys lose. On the tail of A New Hope, one would think that the Rebellion would have the momentum to turn the tides of battle, but Vader responds like a wounded animals — with his teeth, not his tail. From the get-go, tragedy is the main theme. Vader’s instincts regarding a missing probe put the Rebels on their back heel, with initial casualties hitting close to home with the death of Luke’s own rear gunner Dak Ralter. Evasive maneuvers allow the fleet to launch before their base is destroyed, but the imperial Star Destroyers become their shadows through space. Just when things start looking upward, Han’s old buddy Lando Calrissian betrays his guests, selling the Rebels out to Darth Vader and his newly hired Bounty Hunters. Han Solo barely survives being frozen in carbonite, C-3PO is torn to shreds, and Luke Skywalker escapes his first battle with his life but without his right hand.

I have to wonder if this victory for the dark side is meant to coincide with a new prevailing interpretation of The Force as a tool that is wielded by the force attuned. Empire Strikes Back shows us Darth Vader throwing inanimate objects with The Force or choking people from afar. Luke uses it to pull to himself his light saber from the floor of the Wampa’s lair. Yoda lifts an entire X-Wing out of a swamp with it. The Force is less an invisible being who walks beside you as it is a means for power, and with the situation framed this way it is not hard to see why The Sith are winning. If The Force is merely an implement for a Jedi’s will, then Obi Wan Kenobi is not its voice. He is no longer more powerful than Darth Vader can imagine. In fact, the more frequently we see the Jedi ghost of Kenobi, the more easy it is to realize that he is not a transcendent being. He is just as flawed as anyone else. Even Yoda, arguably the most powerful Jedi of all time and the second of Luke’s three teachers, is not without his imperfections. His lesson of discipline preserves Luke just long enough for him to meet his third teacher in Return of the Jedi, but he is ultimately wrong with his judgment that Luke’s decision to abandon his training and save his friends will end in ruin. I attribute this to Yoda’s strict adherence to the code of the Jedi Order which has served to distract him from the actual workings of The Force.

Luckily, Luke followed his own compass, because otherwise we would never get to see him battle Darth Vader in Cloud City, which is probably my favorite part of either trilogy.



The Phantom Menace is equal parts overwhelming political talk, cinematically pretty fluff, and fodder for future video games, one of the most epic anticlimaxes of all time. The long awaited prequel to the original Star Wars trilogy suggests that George Lucas threw away all that made him great — his masterful storytelling skills and attention to detail — in search for the idol of better visual technology. In many ways, his own descent into darkness and obsession makes for a better story than Anakin’s escape from funny, happy, silly slavery on Tatooine. The crowning victory of The Phantom Menace is the confrontation between Obi Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn and a double-bladed lightsaber-wielding Sith apprentice named Darth Maul.


Between the action choreography and the force field gimmick that kept the fighters from all being in the same room at the same time, I think my jaw was dropped for the entire span of the battle. At the conclusion of this film, I had a new hope: that Attack of the Clones would cheer me up, or at the very least keep my attention.



The second installation of the prequel trilogy shares in many of the faults of the first. We are still drowning in politics, and both films are all over the place structurally, but Attack of the Clones also has its redeeming qualities. Because this trilogy was created during the era of instant Internet feedback, we get to enjoy a film with much less Jar Jar Binks, fewer instances of aliens speech sounding like racist stereotypes, and absolutely no pod racing. It is also during Attack of the Clones where it becomes hard to tell if George Lucas intends for this trilogy to be about Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Darth Vader or Obi Wan Kenobi’s struggle with leadership. There are easy answers to this question. We could say that it was always intended to be both of their stories or Lucas always intended for the trilogy to represent Kenobi’s perspective on Anakin’s fall from grace, but I think what this comes down to is the fact that Ewan McGregor stole the show and George Lucas decided to run with it in order to save face.

Anakin Skywalker is a brooding young Padawan who has gone from zero to evil in the span of one movie. There is no subtlety to his character development. He simply wants to do terrible things and nobody seems to see the problem before their eyes. This kid is expressing some clear signs of corruption even before Palpetine gets his mitts on him. What he lacks in characterization he lacks even further in narrative development. The story of Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala on Naboo is basically a montage lacking its proper ’80s pop soundtrack and rife with horrible CG like the impossible body angles of Anakin riding the beast in the field or the amateur visual effects during the scene where the Jedi plays fruit ninja with The Force. Meanwhile, Obi Wan Kenobi is a multi-faceted action hero from the moment he dives out the window of Amidala’s Coruscant suite in pursuit of an assassin’s drone. We are intrigued as he attempts to unravel the truth behind the clone production on the ocean planet of Kamino (a mystery that is completely dropped, only to be resurrected years later during the series Star Wars: The Clone Wars). We are spellbound by the footrace, battle, and space pursuit between Obi Wan and Jango Fett, and boy were Jango’s sonic bombs cool! Moreover, while everyone else is killing time, it is Obi Wan who brings us to the climactic battle between the Republic and the Separatists on Geonosis. Stepping back, Obi Wan Kenobi also had the only remotely interesting dramatic arc in The Phantom Menace, transforming from Padowan to Master with the death of Qui-Gon Jinn.

Though Revenge of the Sith will provide further positive tweaks, like a much more balanced Anakin Skywalker (ironically), Attack of the Clones is probably the high point of the prequel trilogy.



One of the most interesting things about the prequel trilogy is its artful inversion of the original trilogy. Where the original touts A New Hope, its shadow The Phantom Menace shows its face. The villains win in The Empire Strikes Back just as the Republic gains a critical advantage over the Separatists in Attack of the Clones. Finally, we experience, on the good side, the Return of the Jedi, and on the bad side, the Revenge of the Sith. If corruption is the intention and Anakin Skywalker is the protagonist, then the three mentors become inverted as well with Darth Maul in Episode I, Count Duku / Darth Tyrannus in Episode II, and Senator / Chancellor / Emperor Palpatine / Darth Sidious in Episode III. It becomes difficult to understand what perspective we ought to adopt in response to this inversion. Are we supposed to feel sorrow that a once great co-mingling of planetary of authority has been toppled or are we supposed to actually view the Jedi themselves as the enemies?

There is something to be said for this latter, more controversial, interpretation. As I mentioned in the section about The Empire Strikes Back, I firmly believe that Yoda was distracted by the power of the Jedi Order to such an extent that he ignored the workings of The Force. I think the prequel trilogy proves that this bias was prevalent on the Jedi Counsel. How else would they be so blind to Palpatine’s deception? How come the secretive origin of the clone army was not put to further scrutiny? Why wasn’t action taken against Anakin’s obvious dark side leanings? I believe that the Jedi became cocky, believing that the Dark Side could never again amass enough power to be a threat. I believe that a combination of systematic teachings and political power distracted them from the working of The Force, especially in their emphasis of selfless utilitarianism over the directives of human emotion. With the simple mathematics of practitioners and power, the prequel trilogy predicts that bringing balance to The Force will not benefit the Jedi. If that balance intends the destruction of dualism so that selfless tendencies can be balanced by selfish tendencies, then the massive Jedi machine is the biggest thing standing in the way. As we hope to bring balance to The Force, we realize that the Sith must first put an end to the hypocrisy of the Jedi. Even suggesting this makes me feel dirty, though, so let’s move on to the final movie in the marathon. I’d much rather talk about the end of the Sith Lord’s rule and the destruction of the intergalactic empire.



The Ewoks were a fun, if controversial, distraction — some people really hate those fuzzy little guys — but the truly original contribution of Return of the Jedi is the dialogue (and ensuing action) between Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader, the protagonist of the prequel trilogy, and Luke Skywalker, the protagonist of the original trilogy. Put bluntly, Anakin wants to bring Luke over to the Dark Side, Luke wants to redeem his father, and, as per usual, Palpatine is behind it all.

The motivations are much more complex. Much of what makes Darth Vader easy to control is the implied death of his wife Padme and the child she had carried inside of her. Vader learns of the existence of his son Luke in the aftermath of the Battle of Yavin. He realizes that the only way he could keep his child safe from the Emperor would be to prove how valuable an asset the powerful young boy would be to the Empire. Though the prequel trilogy gives conflicting accounts of what ultimately pushed Anakin Skywalker over to the Dark Side, I think the Jedi Order’s rejection of a Jedi Knight having a family played a strong part. Like any father, Darth Vader simply wants his boy by his side. On the flip side, Luke has become incredibly powerful and incredibly cocky. As he dances closer and closer to the line between the Jedi and the Sith, he becomes more and more confident that he can save his father from the Dark Side. All of the stories he grew up on emphasized that Anakin Skywalker was a good and noble soldier for the most positive force in the universe, possibly the strongest individual the Light Side had ever seen, but it is possible that none of this matters. Anakin Skywalker was his father, and there are few things more powerful than a boy’s love for his father. I have faulted Yoda, and to some extent Obi Wan Kenobi, for ignoring the workings of The Force and being blind to the possibility of Darth Vader’s redemption, but it is very likely that the only one who could possibly see the good in this fallen man is his son.

Ultimately, Luke’s suffering at the hands of the Emperor reawakens the good in Darth Vader. The same thing the Jedi Order saw as a weakness is what ultimately brought down the Sith. Anakin Skywalker creates and solves the problem simply because he loves his family. With Luke’s help, he enacts the second step in restoring balance to The Force — putting an end to Palpatine’s Empire. In so doing, he also affirms his position as Luke’s third and final teacher, the one who teaches him the value of emotion. If he hadn’t taught Luke anything, I don’t think they would have let him join the Jedi Ghost party with Obi Wan and Yoda overlooking the victory party on the forest moon of Endor.

* * *

The reason everyone is re-watching the original and prequel trilogies, regardless of the order, is because Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens debuts in theaters on Friday, December 18, 2015. This is the first film to be released since George Lucas sold the rights of his franchise to Disney, and with it is the promise of a new way of doing things. This is seen as both good and bad. After all, many people think Lucas punted it when it came to the prequel trilogy. There is good reason to believe that this is because he took too much of the creative process on his own shoulders. What would have happened if Lucas had focused on general story and trusted everything else to the most skilled people in the business? Maybe this is what is going to happen now that Star Wars is in the hands of Disney. On the other hand, there is a strong anti-J.J. Abrams movement on the Internet, with people faulting him for his lens flares and other issues. You can watch all of the US and International trailers and TV spots, buy all of the merchandise, and read every article you get your hands upon, but will that tell us what to expect when it comes to the new Star Wars film? Probably not.

Here is what I think we can expect. Say what you will about J.J. Abrams, but the guy does his research. There are few people out there who are as dedicated to delivering an experience consistent with previous franchise work as J.J. Abrams. What I think we can expect from him is a continuation of many of the parallels between the preexisting films. Already, The Force Awakens delivers a similar title when compared to A New Hope and The Phantom Menace. Each of these titles suggests that something was lacking from the world and in a very small way it has just appeared. Where A New Hope introduces an up-and-coming Jedi in world dominated by the Sith and The Phantom Menace suggests that the Dark Side of the Force has found a crack in the Jedi world order, The Force Awakens promises that the power behind both the Jedi and the Sith is returning to a world that has forgotten it. Does this mean that The Force itself inverts both its light and dark side? Are we to believe that the primordial power of the universe wishes for something other than that represented by the Jedi and the Sith? I think (or maybe hope is a better word) that Abrams’ vision, and possibly George Lucas’s original vision as well, is that the dual nature of The Force needs to be overcome. This is what is meant by balancing The Force. We got a sense of what this would look like with both Anakin and Luke Skywalker who, each in his own way, embodied the balance of impartiality and concern. How will J.J. Abrams embody a balanced approach to The Force that shuns both Light and Dark? Who will represent the next generation of Jedi? Is it Luke Skywalker our protagonist’s first mentor, and if so, does this mean Luke is going to die in Episode VII the same way that Obi Wan died in Episode IV and Darth Maul died in Episode I?


Personally, I don’t trust anyone who isn’t excited for The Force Awakens, but you’re all entitled to your own opinion.

Comic Recommendations: November 18, 2015

Dark Horse’s Buffy-verse is beginning to heat up as the march toward the season finale (issue #30) begins in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #21; DC has Batman and Robin Eternal going for it, so there’s that; Image comics gives us a couple of hits with Huck #1 and I Hate Fairyland #2; and Marvel’s comic portfolio is filled with some volatile stocks (even more brand new #1s) and stable bonds (Star Wars books).


1. Huck #1 (Image Comics), Unspoiled Edition

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If Mark Millar had intended for Huck to be an ensemble piece, the title character would have ruined it and stole the show. Brave and Innocent, Huck represents everything good about humanity and none of the bad. His mission is clear: make sure you help somebody out every day. But stories begin when routines end, and Huck is about to learn that the world beyond his simply small-town utopia is far different than anything he has ever experienced.


1. Huck #1 (Image Comics), Spoiled Edition

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Huck is a Superman devoid of nationalism, idealism, and pretences. In many ways, he is the true Superman for all seasons (not to be confused with Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s A Superman for All Seasons), a big, strong man with the heart and mind of a child, maybe more of a Shazam, in truth. He is a local legend like Paul Bunyan or John Henry. People have witnessed his feats of strength, stamina, and speed, but they don’t make much of it. They just know that they don’t have to worry, because there’s always a kind young man looking out for them. Huck has devoted himself to doing a good turn daily — and they called Superman a boy scout! — and he doesn’t ask for anything in return, because someone loved him instead of leaving him to die.

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Whereas Superman came to Metropolis, it seems that the drama behind Huck is what happens when Metropolis comes to him. While pondering what to do as his daily good deed on a Friday, Huck notices that 200 girls have gone missing in Nigeria as a result of a series of kidnappings by the militant group Boku Haram.

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What does Huck do? He gets on a plane and he saves every single girl. Just as Captain America (another good parallel for Huck) punched Adolf Hitler in the face, Huck took on one of the more insidious evils of modernity, and he won! In other words, he metaphorically punched Boku Haram in the face.

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The result: Huck finds himself face-to-face with another militant group that may just turn into his arch nemesis — the American media.

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I expect that I am not doing Huck justice in my review. It is just an all-around charming comic book and you ought to check it out.

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* * *

We’ve seen a whole mess of new series and mini-series released by DC and Marvel comics both during and after Flashpoint and Secret Wars. What are your favorite new series? What are your thoughts on the current state of comic books? Are you more excited or less excited to pick up your comics every Wednesday? There’s no need to confine the discussion to the Big Two. What are you loving at Dark Horse, Image, IDW, and company? Let’s just put it out there: What are your favorite current comic series?

Thanksgiving is next Thursday and Black Friday is the next day, but the consumer holiday I am the most excited for is Comic Book Wednesday. After all, it only comes but once a week, so we ought to make the most of it.

March to the Primaries


I don’t really want to spend any more time on the Democratic and Republican Debate schedule. The only reason I originally broached the topic was because the Democrats sounded like they were taking student debt and crime on Wall Street seriously. After three debates, it sounds like the Republicans are willing to even give some air time to these issues as well. The reason I want to stop covering the debates is because it has been giving me some really negative feelings, and one of the reasons I started this blog was to bring some positivity into my life even as I face some of the more difficult topics like personal debt and predatory financial practices.

There have been a couple of debates since I started writing follow-up articles, and I am not going to cover them in detail. Rather, I want to wrap-up the whole concept by putting everything in perspective. In Michigan, the primaries for both the Democratic and Republican Party take place on March 8, 2016, and I want to be prepared when they happen.


As of the latest debates, there are three Democratic candidates — Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders — and eight Republican candidates (with a 2.5% or higher in an aggregate of polls) — Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump.

This may not properly represent the candidates we are going to see on the tickets in March, and this is mainly because there are still four candidates campaigning in the Republican Party with an aggregate pole percentage of 1-2.5% — Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum — and potentially others in either party with lower percentages still.

We will deal with the undercards and misfit toys if/when it comes to that, but for now I want to develop a strategy of dealing with the eleven candidates who are in the running right now: Bush, Carson, Clinton, Cruz, Fiorina, Kasich, O’Malley, Paul, Rubio, Sanders, and Trump.


As a show of my patriotic spirit, I have divided the candidates into three categories: red, white, and blue.

Red represents the candidates who I do not under any circumstance want to proceed to the general election. These include Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Carly Fiorina. The phrase I associate with this group is “In the Red,” because these are the candidates that I think would be detrimental to our country in the highest degree. Businesses don’t want their ledgers in the red, and I don’t want this election to go that way either.

White represents the candidates who I would not generally vote for, but who I would consider voting for if it is between them and one of the candidates from the previous category. These include Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. The phrase I associate with this group is “White Elephant,” since they are both Republicans and the elephant is the symbol of the GOP.

Blue represents the candidates who I would vote for in the general election. This does not mean that I believe in everything that they stand for. Rather, it suggests that these candidates are relatively acceptable and with the push of activists they might actually get some good policy passed. These include Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley for the Democrats, and John Kasich, and Rand Paul for the Republicans. The phrase I associate with this group is “Out of the Blue,” mainly because I thought Paul and Kasich would have been knocked out of the running by now and they pulled it together enough to leap frog over Christie and Huckabee and stick around.


Hillary Clinton – There are some serious problems associated with Clinton. I have no problem admitting to that. Her email scandal suggests problems with government transparency and she leans a little too far to the side of the hawks for my taste, but with the exception of maybe Rand Paul I think the issues of aggressive war-mongering and dishonesty probably apply to all of the candidates equally. The fact of the matter is that we have a Republican majority in the House and the Senate, and as long as that is the case I am going to support a Democrat who actually has a chance. That’s who Hillary Clinton is to me. She is also, as Marco Rubio suggested, probably the most experienced candidate out there.

Bernie Sanders – There are plenty of people out there lining up to show that the numbers don’t add up when it comes to Sanders’ policies, but I am enamored by the fact that he approaches economics from the perspective of ethics first and foremost. The seemingly endless supply of Sanders Facebook memes proves that he has lived his platform for decades, and the excitement young people feel for him is reminiscent of the activist college movements to support Obama in 2008. Beyond that, the other candidates yap about their issues with special interest groups but Sanders has an average campaign donation of $33.51 with 99% of his funds coming in under $250.

Martin O’Malley – I think O’Malley would probably make a better Vice President than a President. In fact, a mock election at Western Illinois University boasting 100% accuracy since 1975 predicted that a Sanders/O’Malley victory in the 2016 Election. On his own, I think he would make a better candidate than most of the Republicans, so I wouldn’t mind seeing O’Malley as the Commander in Chief of this nation.

 John Kasich – Kasich feels like the old-school traditional Republican that we’re used to, with a reasonable distaste for big government but a natural tendency toward bipartisan solutions. He has a proven record for balancing some really tricky budgets on both the state and federal level, and that is something that nobody on either stage can claim. He spits in the face of trickle-down economics by presenting bottom-up solutions for the American people. I have been getting ready for the tragic moment when the Republicans oust Kasich — their best hope for a legitimate President — from the running, but it hasn’t happened just yet and I consider that a victory for democracy.

Rand Paul – Where I describe Kasich as bipartisan, I would call Rand Paul anti-partisan. Where does this place his allegiance? It would seem that he is in pretty tight with the Constitution and sensible solutions to world problems. Paul is one of a few candidates who appears to have a clear, well-researched plan for tackling most of the nation’s big ticket issues and his campaign against hypocrisy in his own party makes for some interesting debates. He turned the November Republican debate into an object lesson on what it does and does not mean to be fiscally conservative. SPOILER: Fiscal conservatism does not resonate well with ever increasing Defense Department spending.

Marco Rubio – Rubio has a terrible attendance record in congress, a fact that I overlooked from the get go but which bothers me more and more daily. I’m not worried that he would be an absentee President — in fact, I don’t think that is possible. My concern is that Marco Rubio has been accepting a paycheck for not doing his job. On the other hand, I see Rubio as a subtle politician who is much more progressive than he appears, especially in terms of immigration. If you read between the lines, Rubio is more concerned with reforming the legalization process and getting to the root of the issue than building any walls. I started out thinking Rubio might be the Republican for the job, but at this point in the Primary cycle his strongest qualification seems to be that he is not Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, or Carly Fiorina.

Jeb Bush – Jeb Bush is awkward as f*&$, but he may be the most qualified candidate on the current GOP Primary ticket. Though Trump and Carson have shown some early surges of support, the same Western Illinois University mock election that predicted a Sanders/O’Malley ticket to win the general election predicted Jeb Bush to win the Republican primary elections with Rubio as his running mate.

Donald Trump – If we have learned anything from the last several months, it is that Donald Trump is racist, sexist, he speaks at a fourth-grade level, and he has bankrupted four companies, putting thousands of people out of jobs. If you want someone who speaks his mind, vote for Sanders or Paul. The writers at South Park got it right when they said that Trump’s run for presidency was a joke that we all took a little too far.

Ben Carson – When I heard Ben Carson was a highly accomplished neurosurgeon, I immediately liked him, but I liked him less and less with every word that came out of his mouth. I don’t know if his highly specialized training blinded him to the verifiable truths of economics, archaeology, and science in general, or if a misguided religious fervor is at fault here, but I cannot believe the things this guy can get away with saying. He makes a fool out of the Christians in America that he claims to represent with his caricature of the belief system, and that’s not something we should be rewarding him for. Also, the guy has no charisma. One of my most Conservative friends said he wouldn’t vote for Carson simply because he looks like he’s asleep even at lively public debates.

Ted Cruz – Cruz has a preacher’s voice and a car salesman’s attitude, and so far it has kept him in the race despite his supreme lack of substance. When I think of Cruz, I see him as a one trick pony. The nearest he has ever come to significance was the moment when he called out CNBC for trolling the candidates during their GOP Debate. That is not the makings of a President. It is the makings of an auto-tuned YouTube video.

Carly Fiorina – While I don’t think Fiorina would make for a good President, I also do not condone the ad hominem attacks that keep flying in her direction simply because she is a strong woman. Donald Trump doesn’t get accused of not smiling enough. Donald Trump does not get torn down because of his strong stances on issues. Donald Trump does not get judged by his wardrobe (his hairpiece, maybe…). Fiorina is a woman, and for some people out there this means that she is not a human as well. Shame on you. I have a problem with Fiorina’s politics, not with the fact that she doesn’t have a Y chromosome. While she will start many of her speeches with well researched details, sensible criticism, and much needed outing of hypocrisy of both parties, she always finds a way to tie these thoughts together with some scary iron fist policies that don’t actually benefit the people she claims to be speaking for. Is Fiorina better than Trump, Carson, and Cruz? Yes. But if that were a qualification for public office then there are probably at least a million people over 35 in this country I’d rather vote for.

* * *

The debates have already gotten out of hand, and the terrorist attacks in Paris are just going to turn this Primary Election into even more of a circus. As such, I don’t think I could have found a better time to step away from writing on politics. As you can see, there were a few people in the list of candidates that I didn’t have much good to say about, and that is exactly why it is time to back up and reassess. Once we know who is going to be on the Michigan Ballot, I think I might pick up on some of these themes once again, and if the topics of college education and Wall Street criminality don’t get completely dropped from the discussion maybe we can talk about each candidate’s stance on these issues. Until then, pay attention to what is going on and think for yourself.

Comic Recommendations: November 11, 2015

DC has me wanting more Geoff Johns Justice League with all these spinoff short stories concerning the “new gods”; Image has me wishing Robert Kirkman would release a new issue of The Walking Dead every day (seriously the best current comic, better even than Saga, which is saying something); and Marvel delivered a heaping helping of #1s with a side of Star Wars. It was a hell of week for comics, so lets get into it already.


1. Batman and Robin Eternal #6 (DC Comics), Unspoiled Edition

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The centerpiece of Batman and Robin Eternal #6 is a flashback to Dick Grayson’s first year as Robin in which the dynamic duo embarks on a strange international sortie in search of the Scarecrow. The overall plot of mind control and mayhem takes a short breather while Dick catches fellow former Robin Jason Todd up on the players involved in the current game, but this is not your usual “clip show” issue. In fact, Batman and Robin Eternal #6 is the strongest to date for the series, and hopefully a sign of what’s to come.

2. Constantine – The Hellblazer #6 (DC Comics), Unspoiled Edition

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After a surprisingly human first story arc, Constantine – The Hellblazer #6 sets a tone for a John Constantine who is (hopefully) here to stay. Tynion and Doyle continue to write to Riley Rossmo’s artistic strengths, presenting a bright, fun Constantine who is tempted by a normal life but whose dark past threatens to swallow him whole. Constantine – The Hellblazer combines the positive tone of Marvel’s Amazing Spider-man with a pinch of darkness, mostly in the form of Constantine’s own self-defeating ways, and delivers what could be considered the most accessible John Constantine ever to grace the pages of a comic.

3. The Walking Dead #148 (Image Comics), Unspoiled Edition

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The survivors have stood strong in the face of small-scale betrayals, modest committees who question Rick’s authority, and miniature insurrections, but they have never had to deal with rioting mobs with enough sheer momentum to take down experienced fighters like Rick, Michonne, and Jesus. This is the consequence of Alpha introducing the possibility of an imminent threat into a population no longer accustomed to keeping up their guard. The Whisperers have everyone scared, even Rick Grimes, but perhaps more frightening is the lengths Rick will go to in order to keep the peace. Things are about to get very interesting in The Walking Dead.

4. All New, All-Different Avengers #1 (Marvel Comics), Unspoiled Edition

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All-New, All-Different Avengers #1 is comprised of two stories, the first following Captain America (Sam Wilson), Iron Man (Not-So-New, Not-So-Different Tony Stark), and (Ultimate) Spider-man (Miles Morales) as they battle an intergalactic conqueror (and, in Cap’s case, bad publicity), and the second following hormone-driven A-teens Miss Marvel (Kamela Khan) and Nova (Sam Alexander) as they attempt to determine how to act around fellow superheroes of the same age but of the opposite sex. Mark Waid injects fun into a tried and true storytelling formula — the classic “assemble the team” arc — promising that this volume is going to be a blast to read.


1. Batman and Robin Eternal #6 (DC Comics), Spoiled Edition

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Batman and Robin Eternal #6 takes a classic no frills approach to its art and storytelling, something that feels like second nature to a publisher that’s been around as long as DC Comics, and yet the suspense is starting to build in a way similar to Brad Meltzer’s brilliant Identity Crisis mini-series (which is extra scary considering the fact that we just met Tim Drake’s parents last issue). We could talk about what happened within these pages in a little more depth and that would be a fun conversation, but I want to take a step backwards and discuss what the series Batman and Robin Eternal means for the Batman imprint and its future in the New 52. Many of the big event comics of the past few years have existed not just to make money but to facilitate various editorial changes (ex. folding Wildstorm characters into DC canon, resurrecting deceased characters, etc.). When poorly delivered, this editorial incursion can take the reader right out of the reading experience, but even at its worst it affords us a glimpse into the organizational side of our favorite comic companies. Here are a few things about the future of Batman that we can logically conclude from Batman and Robin Eternal.

Scott Snyder Isn’t Going Anywhere

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Months ago, while Scott Snyder was blowing our minds with “Endgame,” the Batman writer made it clear in interviews that he and Greg Capullo’s future with the title was up in the air. The fact that the Bloom arc doesn’t look like it will conclude before Batman #50 certainly cast hope that we wold have more time with Snyder and Capullo, and Batman and Robin Eternal seems even more promising. We essentially have a guarantee that Snyder is going to be with the Batman franchise plotting stories for at least one more year (46 more weeks to be exact). That said, we can probably safely extrapolate that Snyder and Capullo will be paired up on Batman the entire time, and I base that on the fact that “Endgame” and Batman Eternal both concluded at approximately the same time.

Disclaimer: I read the comics but I don’t spend a lot of time checking up on comic news, so if these thoughts have already been either confirmed or denied, let me know.

Cassandra Cain as Batgirl

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There is a theme developing in these “Eternal” titles, and that is expanding the bat family’s numbers in the New 52. Batman Eternal gave us Spoiler (Stephanie Brown) and turned Harper Row into Bluebird, and now Batman and Robin Eternal is porting Cassandra Cain back into continuity. In fact, now that I think about it, we’re really talking about expanding the ranks of the Batgirl family, as both Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain were Batgirls in the previous iteration of DC Comics. I’m calling it now: Batgirl Eternal is next. It’ll be plotted by Scott Snyder, thus renewing his lease on Batman for two years, and we’ll all be super happy.

Who else are we missing from the bat family? I guess there’s Azrael to consider, and I wouldn’t mind Damian Wayne playing a bigger role in Snyder’s bat books. We could maybe see Terry McGinnis under Snyrder’s loving care, or the female Robin from Frank Miller’s bat continuity. Am I leaving anyone out, fellow bat fans?

Doubling Down on Grayson

(NOTE: The original title for this subsection was much more alliterative but sadly it was also much more inappropriate so I scrapped it.)

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When Snyder’s first couple of arcs involving the the Court of Owls were still new and we were getting a secret history of both Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, I felt like the New 52 was going to be kind to Nightwing. You could tell that DC was committing energy at that time to making Dick Grayson important, but it wasn’t long before it felt as if that energy had been diverted elsewhere. I understand Batman and Robin Eternal as a kind of renewal of vows between DC Comics and Grayson, a promise that he is once again going to feel like the quality of character we are familiar with from previous incarnations. Personally, I think Dick needs to put this spy thing behind him. What he becomes next isn’t what concerns me. I just want growth. I want to remember that Dick Grayson is like Bruce Wayne only with the power of hope, that when this circus boy flies through the sky it is not just a thing of duty but also a thing of joy, and I want to remember Dick as the brilliant tactician and leader who inspires respect rather than commanding it. Is that so much to ask for?

More Flashback Comics?

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The New 52 debuted with a Justice League story that took place three years ago, and it was awesome. The following week, Action Comics #1 featured a flashback to a social justice Superman who couldn’t even fly yet, and it was awesome. Am I certain that Batman and Robin Eternal #6 signals a return to flashbacks in the New 52? No, but the issue was awesome. What these “period pieces” provide is depth and history toa  universe that used to be backed by decades of story. Not only that, but most people who love Batman, whether through comic book, TV, or film representations, fell in love with Batman (Bruce Wayne) and Robin (Dick Grayson). The New 52 suffers from a lack of the dynamic between the original dynamic duo, an ailment that could be cured by presenting more of these well-woven tales of real consequences that take place during Dick Grayson’s early years as Robin.

2. Constantine – The Hellblazer #6 (DC Comics), Spoiled Edition

What is not to love about the sleeper success that is Constantine – The Hellblazer? In a universe obsessed with invented locations (Metropolis, Gotham, Coast City, etc.), this series takes place in a believable New York City with a hero who needs to pay absurdly high but believable New York City rent.

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John Constantine’s neighbors are demons that he vouched for to help them overcome the stigma of jail time served (in hell), and his clients’s needs range from exorcising the strip club’s buffet to live trapping a completely natural (as opposed to supernatural) mammalian foe. But all of Constantine’s “ghost busting” adds up to nothing more than an excuse to keep him away from his feelings.

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While the premiere issue probably could have handled Constantine’s romantic hopes more subtly — John is not exactly the type to wear his heart on his sleeve — the initial sharpness has rounded its edges over time and become a new status quo for the character. In fact, with the re-murder of the ghosts of Constantine’s past, the obvious symbolism points to the possibility of the first appearance of an emotionally available John Constantine.

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By the end of the issue, I found myself rooting for this relationship between John and his broad shouldered beau to work out even in spite of Constantine’s demons.

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By the way, did you get the vibe that the demons lurking just inside Constantine’s apartment were real, existing demons that pose an immediate threat to the two, or did you interpret them as symbolic demons that John must deal with in order to keep from screwing everything up with this guy?

In 2011, the first issue of Catwoman featured a romance scene between the titular anti-hero cat burglar and her sometimes “ally” Batman which had so much promise for a theme that was never fully developed. Later, Geoff Johns was slightly more successful delivering a short-lived tryst between Superman and Wonder Woman both in and out of the pages of Justice League. What both of these stories flirted with but never fully committed to was a superhero story where romance (and all of the self-realization that comes with putting yourself out there) was the ultimate goal, a bold new direction that we might just start heading toward with Constantine – The Hellblazer.

3. The Walking Dead #148 (Image Comics), Spoiled Edition

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Right after Rick defeated Negan in single combat, The Walking Dead took on a utopia / dystopia feel. The survivors had created the perfect civilization with one dirty secret — its success depended upon the imprisonment of one man, Negan himself. When summarized this way, it feels like Rick and company are actually the antagonists in this New World Order, but Negan is the kind of villain who makes the Governor look like a boy in short pants. After all, the Governor’s reign of terror ended with the deaths of Lori and Judith whereas Negan’s reign began with the far more brutal murder of Glen. Now, Rick wants to loose this monster for the sake of the community? We’ll go into the details about this turn of events later, but for now lets dive into an in-depth discussion of the problems posed in The Walking Dead #148.


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In my review of The Walking Dead #147, I pointed out that this issue (#148) is the 100-issue anniversary of the deaths of Lori and Judith Grimes during the war with the Governor. I further indicated the threat this parallel might imply for either Andrea and Carl or Lydia and Carl’s hypothetical unborn child. Luckily, I was wrong. Andrea, Carl, and Lydia resolved their emotionally charged dispute with peace, love, and understanding. However, the theme of losing your family that was introduced in the previous issue is still a live grenade of sorts. The survivors want a sacrificial lamb, so heading into issue #150 I wouldn’t assume any of these characters are secure. The only safety net we have is that we don’t have much distance from the latest Great Tragedy (the deaths of Ezekiel, et. al.) so it might be another 50 issues, give or take, before Robert Kirkman makes us truly ache with sorrow once agan.


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In culling the population of Alexandria and its sister cities, Alpha was essentially placing a bet. She wagered that Rick’s strategy for survival — walling survivors off into well-policed communities — not only is weaker than hers — living among the zombies with just a few simple rules and a clear pecking order — but that it fundamentally misunderstands human nature. The events of The Walking Dead #148 suggest that Alpha might just be right. By killing a few select individuals from different communities, she has created the conditions for an all-out riot and brought Rick to his knees. All this, and Alpha hasn’t had a single casualty in her ranks for her treachery.

For the most part, I think that Alpha is right in her analysis of civilization and human nature. In the years since 911, I’ve witnessed a wholesale abandonment of  personal freedom for strong, overreaching security programs, and that is just one example. I don’t think this is the end of the discussion between Alpha and Rick’s methods, though. First of all, Alpha’s belief system is descriptive whereas Rick’s is prescriptive. Hers speaks to the cold calculus of dispassionate philosophy whereas his speaks to the undying hope of a beating human heart. Second, Alpha is currently experiencing a crisis of her own due to her daughter Lydia’s decision to join Carl and the survivors, which forces the question — can Alpha’s Whisperers fare better without Alpha than Rick’s survivors would without Rick? I would have to say no. The burden of proof is still on Alpha, and it is far from the only burden she is carrying.


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Some police these days are giving the rest a bad name, and this is unfortunate. One of the most endearing qualities Rick Grimes brings to The Walking Dead is that he has never abandoned his duty. Though law went away while Rick was in a coma, Rick became a monument to order in a world consumed by chaos, but disorder is winning and things haven’t felt this bad since after the Governor’s war left Rick wifeless, daughter-less, deathly ill, and delirious. The current issue was about as foreboding as a George R.R. Martin novel where a Stark is separated from his / her direwolf. Rick is without his wife (Andrea) and his child (Carl) again and there is danger everywhere.

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Rick’s decision to solicit Negan’s help seems insane, but stepping back there is a classical ideal from over 2500 years ago that predicts this exact tactic. Plato believed that, in search of greater freedom, a sovereignty would go from tyranny (ruled by one) to oligarchy (ruled by few) and eventually to democracy (ruled by the many / all), but when threatened by a strong enemy this democracy will embrace its own strong leader and revert back to tyranny.

As a Kirkman loyalist, however, I don’t think the results of Rick’s decision to seek Negan’s assistance will be quite so black and white. Negan is much more complicated than we tend to give him credit for, and if that’s not enough, Rick’s decision not to kill him has likely lead to some sort of transformation. Furthermore, Rick himself is more of a compassionate tyrant than a democratically elected president, and that inverts the darkness that we assume is on the horizon. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Negan’s solution was to call for an election. Maybe even a constitution. This dude is just insane enough to restart the experiment of democracy.

4. All-New, All-Different Avengers #1 (Marvel Comics), Spoiled

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As I mentioned earlier, All-New, All-Different Avengers #1 is just a straight-forward story that with a perfect delivery. I want to discuss each of the two story arcs that take place in this issue.


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Before we get into the main story of this issue, I want to say that I have a lot of love for the tone of the backup story featuring young Miss Marvel and Nova. Some of the best comic stories of all time came out of the 1963 X-Men title, and much of the appeal for Stan Lee’s early X-Men writing came from the fact that he laid bare the thoughts of Scott Summers and Jean Grey for any reader (or nearby telepath) to read. The interplay between Kamela and Sam had that same feeling. Lee used this technique to humanize his mutant superheroes, and there is no reason Waid can’t use the same technique to get us on board with unfamiliar heroes like Kamela Khan and Sam Alexander. In fact, I think he should be applauded for it.


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It is hard to tell if Marvel intended to roll out their All-New, All-Different line of comics before Secret Wars concluded or if it happened as a result of delayed publication or bad planning, but the confusion behind the whole debacle makes getting into these comics a little weird. Are we to assume that nothing has changed since pre-Secret Wars continuity? Amazing Spider-man and Uncanny X-Men seem to suggest this, but All-New, All-Different Avengers features Miles Morales, the “Ultimate” Spider-man of Earth-1610 interacting with Earth-616 characters.

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However everything plays out, All-New, All-Different Avengers takes place, as Tony Stark implies, during a period where there are no current Avengers teams. This is actually pretty nice because the post-Civil War continuity was infested with Avengers teams.

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The narrative gives us an Avengers roster of Captain America (Sam Wilson), his pet falcon Redwing (who Tony Stark rightly suggests should be replaced by an eagle), Iron Man (Tony Stark), and one of the many Spider-persons (Miles Morales), the backup story (which we will talk about shortly) adds Miss Marvel (Kamela Khan) and Nova (Sam Alexander) as likely future members, and the Alex Ross cover completes the ranks with Thor (who is the female Thor? — I stopped reading that comic pretty early on…), and The Vision. It has been a while since I read a comic that didn’t feature its entire advertised team in the first issue, and to tell the truth it was refreshing. Devoting the whole first arc to the assembly of the team fees very ’90s, but there is one artistic principle that should be kept in mind while judging the merits of All-New, All-Different Avengers — it doesn’t matter how it is done so long as it is done well.

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* * *

I was hoping to give you an update on my read-thru of Image’s Revival, but I haven’t gotten caught up yet and I think maybe that review is the sort that I should save for a rainy day. (In other words, it is likely to be long.)

In the mean time, I have a question for all you comic book readers. Are any of you reading The Amory Wars, published by Evil Ink Comics? This series, from what I have read, is written by Claudio Sanchez of the band Coheed and Cambria, and it attempts to reinforce the story told by the band’s music. A friend of mine asked if any of the comics are any good, and since I didn’t have an answer for him I thought I would throw the question out to all of you. Have you read The Amory Wars? What did you think?

Now for the obligatory questions — what did you think about this batch of comics and what awesome comics have I clearly missed the boat on? I’ve gone back and caught up on I Hate Fairyland and Constantine – The Hellblazer because of great suggestions, and I’m working through Revival with Invincible Iron Man and Extraordinary X-Men on deck. I have no problem adding a couple of more titles to that list if you have any in mind.

Comic Recommendations: November 4, 2015

This week: Dark Horse Comics delivered perhaps the most exciting issue in Whedon’s most recent Buffy volume with Angel & Faith Season 10 #20 where we see another side to Nadira and the power she represents in Magic Town; Darkseid War takes center stage at DC with Justice League: Darkseid War: Superman #1 and Justice League: Darkseid War: The Flash #1; Image Comics gives us a double-shot of bridge issues with Paper Girls #2 and We Stand on Guard #5; and Marvel Comics presents a pair of winners from the architects of the last four years of X-Men comics, Jason Aaron’s Doctor Strange #2 and Brian Michael Bendis’s Uncanny X-Men #600, which also happened to be my favorite comics of the week.


1. Doctor Strange #2 (Marvel Comics), Unspoiled Edition

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In what could only be described as a mystical open house, Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo expertly introduce audiences new and old to Dr. Strange, Wong, and the Sanctum Sanctorum through the eyes of a woman named Zelma Stanton who has an other-dimensional parasite growing out of her head. Aaron has hit his stride with a clever balance of comedy, intrigue, discomfort, and terror (though Bachalo’s cartoonish art often sacrifices the latter for the former, and we’re OK with it because is is Chris Bachalo) and establishes Doctor Strange as a must read.

2. Uncanny X-men #600 (Marvel Comics), Unspoiled Edition

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It could be argued that this book not only concludes Brian Michael Bendis’s tenure with the X-Men but also ties together the thematic threads set up for the X-verse during Jason Aaron’s schism (schism starts with the cancellation of Uncanny X-Men; ends with the return to the original numbering). Despite all of this, Uncanny X-Men #600 feels like less of an ending than a beginning. Each tied up loose end creates another path for readers to traverse in a post-Bendis X-verse. This may not be the wraparound foil cover milestone issue you are used to, but if you’re concerned with a good story this is just what the doctor ordered.


1. Doctor Strange #2 (Marvel Comics), Spoiled Edition

Doctor Strange #2 plays into the strengths of both writer Jason Aaron and penciller Chris Bachalo. In a chaos of moving parts, Aaron is able to duck away from traditional, often boring, linear storytelling and instead embrace rapid anecdotal character development. In the process, Aaron’s native humor is liberated, resulting in interactions with flirtatious serpents and pornographic insinuations regarding the good doctor’s mustache, just to name a few of the short comedic asides.

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The same flux gives Bachalo a sandbox of impossibilities to draw, enabling him to essentially turn in a sketchbook of misfit shapes and figures and call it a finished product, Hunter S. Thompson-style. I am reminded of Aaron and Bachalo’s vision of the Jean Grey School in Wolverine and the X-Men #1 with its floating Shi’Ar buildings, its ice tower, and its very own living landmass, though Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum might take the cake for weird locales.

It is possible that the myriad meanderings of Aaron and Bachalo’s Doctor Strange #2 have set up for every story line Aaron intends to tell during the span of this volume, or maybe he just wanted to have some fun in one of Marvel’s more interesting hot spots. Either way, there were five moments in this issue that I want to give a second look.

Guys, Where Are We?

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The splash page that starts this issue features a quaint picture of a residence on Bleecker Street with a brief history of arcane significance (briefly written, that is; this haunted house has been around for a long time). The residence in question is the Sanctum Sanctorum of Doctor Strange, and I would argue that this building is actually the main character of this second issue. Re-reading this issue, I noticed two interesting factoids about Strange’s spooktacular home — 1) that it is unclear who or what first built the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Sorcerer Supreme, and 2) that the building has actually regrown itself in the past after its assumed total destruction. It would be easy to skip over the significance of this page, but it is highly likely that we were just educated about a main theme (if not the main theme) of Aaron’s unfolding story, namely, the nature and purpose of the Sanctum Sanctorum.

Velma, I mean Zelma

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By the end of this issue, Zelma the librarian is established as a regular character and Aaron sets up a new normal in which Zelma will return weekly to the Sanctum Sanctorum in order to organize Doctor Strange’s disheveled (UNDERSTATEMENT!) library. However, it is immediately revealed to the reader that Strange has ulterior motives for Miss Stanton. While the Doctor (and Aaron is clearly playing with the word “doctor”) here is clearly going to be giving Zelma a weekly checkup to make sure she is rid of her inter-dimensional parasite, I’m actually rooting for our gateway character to experience a transformation of Cronenberg proportions (Altered StatesThe Fly).

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That said, if we skip over the symbiosis between Zelma and the beasties from beyond only to have a trained librarian discover undiscovered country (possibly literally) amidst Strange’s various tomes and grimoires, I would be equally happy.

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For the most part, I trust Jason Aaron in this sense. Perhaps she might stumble across a certain history of the Sanctum Sanctorum in one of these piles, and perhaps we might get to learn more about this charnel (I’m digging into the Lovecraftian lingo for this one; maybe next issue will give me a chance to use the word “cyclopean” or “bas-relief”) residence that keeps “popping up.”

I’ve Lost My Mojo!

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Early in the battle against other-worldly infestation, Doc attempts to cast the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak spell, but it does not work. There is a hint that Strange believes that Zelma is connected to this supreme lack of mojo, but it is unclear if she is seen as a direct cause or just an element entangled in the same situation. The big cliffhanger ties into this plot point when a green-tinted portal-jumping sorcerer enters the Sanctum Sanctorum looking to warn Strange about a trans-dimensional threat called the Empiriken which is characterized as a dangerous force looking to eradicate sorcery from the macroverse.

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It sounds like Jason Aaron may be rebranding The Purifiers of X-Men fame as some sort of psychedelic Harry Potter Haters. However, if Strange’s powers were already failing, there might be something much more insidious at work than the force that gobbled up Gandalf the Green at the end of this book.

Cellar Door

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Strange and Wong are not exactly subtle in suggesting that there is something truly disturbing in the cellar of the Sanctum Sanctorum. At this point I’m not sure we have enough information to even guess what it might be, but knowing Jason Aaron it could be something huge and earth shattering, or it could be Doop.


I guess only time will tell.

The Room

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W. T. F.

2. Uncanny X-Men #600 (Marvel Comics), Spoiled Edition

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Through a series of flashbacks, Brian Michael Bendis expertly (if a little awkwardly near the end) tied together five separate short stories that represent major themes in the post-Schism Bendis X-Men world. While I haven’t read anything about the future Uncanny X-Men creative team, judging by the initial direction set by Bendis, the future may be quite bright.

The Trial of Henry McCoy, Part I

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The central part of this milestone issue is the idea that Henry McCoy (the Beast) needs to be confronted regarding his reckless disregard for the laws of physics, the space-time continuum, and genetics, and this intervention / trial was lead by Jean Grey School headmistress Ororo Munroe (Storm).

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As an X-Men classicist, I was initially alienated by how Schism turned the rivalry for leadership into a battle between Cyclops and Wolverine while the traditional rivalry in terms of leadership (the rivalry between Cyclops and Wolverine is over love for Jean Grey and masculine ego) was between Cyclops and Storm. I’m not sure if I can put the responsibility for the mishandling of Storm since Schism squarely on Jason Aaron’s shoulders, but except for Chris Yost’s volume of Uncanny X-Force Storm has been underutilized for four or five years now. Whether or not Uncanny X-Men #600 signals a return to prominence for Storm is unclear — Storm was a vocal critic of Cyclops when she was on Team Utopia and she even began the headmistress when she returned to the school and yet she still didn’t get any significant character development — but a guy can hope.

White Wolf in the Fold

When I came back to reading X-Men comics in the early 2010s, it was difficult to see Piotr Rasputin (Colossus) transformed into this evil, anger-driven prisoner of Cyttorak, and it was nearly as difficult to see him fall completely off the map. However, as he is reunited with Kitty Pryde and his little sister Illyana, it is easy to remember the young Russian who would exclaim “By the white wolf!” in surprise, spend hours sketching butterflies and panoramas, and who pulled his punch against the Dark Phoenix because he knew his friend Jean Grey was in there somewhere. It was sweet when Colossus (former demon of anger) responded to Kitty’s (his long-time true love) engagement to Peter Quill / Star-Lord by saying that he only wants her to be happy. That story will no doubt get further developed under Bendis in Guardians of the Galaxy. It was also touching when Illyana wanted to make right with Piotr but her big brother demanded neither an explanation nor an apology from her.

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Illyana explained that she would be training to become a responsible magic user under the tutelage of Doctor Strange. I would love to see her in the pages of Jason Aaron’s Doctor Strange: it was a whole lot of fun when she showed up in Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men, after all, and Aaron seems to be one of the few writers who can pen convincing dialogue for a woman who is both young and Russian-born. As for Colossus, I think he needs some time at the Jean Grey school among friends (Storm and Nightcrawler would do just fine!) so he can sort through his life and gain some degree of peace.


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There are a couple of reasons I think Bobby Drake / Iceman’s coming out scene was probably the best in comic book history. First of all, it not only fills a 40-something gap in significant character development, but it explains that gap, casting his incessant joking as a diversion and his history of short-lasting male-female relationships as a cover. In fact, Bendis makes it feel like Stan Lee conceived of Bobby Drake as a young gay man back in 1963. Second, the coming out storyline was organic and well-founded. The seeds for this scene were planted in All-New X-Men #1, which came out in 2012 after all. This method made Bobby’s transformation feel less like an executive decision to arbitrarily make an important gay and more like good, old-fashioned story-telling. Third, the amount of sci fi that was required to bring Bobby out — transporting young X-Men from the past, travelling across the Universe for a Shi’Ar Trial of Jean Grey, encountering future X-Men who are trying to change the past, Jean Grey’s ESP-assisted thought-snooping — was really fun. Finally, Bobby’s explanation that he would just wait until life was easier as an “outed” mutant before coming out as gay was the bit of honesty and reality that put a bow on this significant moment in Bobby Drake’s history. What breaks my heart is the fact that Bobby’s father passed before he could see what he thinks. Perhaps this is a theme that will be explored in the future of Uncanny X-Men.


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The fact that Scott Summers concluded the mutant revolution by bringing every single mutant on the face of the planet to the steps of the White House and then nothing happened feels odd. There are international terrorists like Mystique and the Blob who I’m not convinced are completely against exploiting not only their kind (like they did when they kidnapped and harvested Dazzler’s mutant growth hormone) as well as the humans (too many examples to list). There are mass murderers (Magneto, et. al.) whose powers amount to deadly weapons and whose presence outside the White House would be enough in anyone’s eyes, human and mutant alike, for them to be arrested. And where are all the people? Is Bendis suggesting that this gathering wouldn’t draw a crowd of humans or that the secret service or other Washington authorities wouldn’t intervene? My hope is that this is just a teaser of a much larger story that explains Cyclops’ motives (and how he transported the entire mutant race) and that concludes with more than just — here’s the mutant race all together, your biggest fear, and nothing bad has happened.

The Trial of Henry McCoy, Part II

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Ultimately, Henry McCoy leaves the X-Men. Where he plans on going is anyone’s guess. I believe that he might be secretly harboring a desire to find Jean Grey once again. After all, young Henry McCoy and Jean Grey admit their love for one another in this issue and the outing of Bobby Drake proves that what holds true for the youth is also true for the adults.

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When Avengers vs. X-Men originally concluded and Cyclops was imprisoned, I had imagined that a crazy Scott Summers would kidnap his old buddy Hank and they would travel the universe as new Star Jammers looking for relics of Phoenix cults throughout the universe. This plot would work fantastically for a Henry McCoy who no longer feels like he belongs with the X-Men. Logically, he knows that Jean is tied to a universal force of rebirth and that there is a history of interactions with the Phoenix as old as the universe itself — why wouldn’t he use the universe as his laboratory in order to find his friend and potential lover? Of course, Marvel probably has something else in store — likely a return to the Avengers — for Beast, but like I said in Part I, a guy can hope.

* * *

Is it just me or have the recent events in Amazing Spider-man and Uncanny X-Men set a new path for Marvel Comics marketing? Each issue of the former has concluded with the set-up for a potentially huge story-line, while each flashback in the latter screams killer character development on the horizon. When you tie this together with the feeling that Secret Wars is the event comic to end all event comics — it literally made a mini-series out of nearly every event comic published since the original Secret Wars in 1984/85 and then concluded those mini-series — I wonder if Marvel has run a risk assessment on shaking the foundation of the entire universe/multiverse every summer and found their current modus operandi lacking. What I would like to see more of is a Marvel Comics with big events that are limited to a specific portion of Marvel-616 like either X-Men, Avengers, Fantastic Four, or Spider-man Diaspora (Dan Slott’s “Spider-verse” is a good example) or smaller crossovers that intersect the four corners of Marvel (Bendis’s crossovers between the Guardians and the X-Men in “The Trial of Jean Grey” and “Black Vortex” come to mind). I’ve done a lot of wishing in this post, but this should be seen as a plea for the sake of good stories. I’ve seen too many fantastic runs get cut short or forcibly prolonged to align with the timeline of an event comic, and that really needs to stop.

Steps off soap box. I don’t read every single comic book that is out there, though for the major publishers I at least attempt to read the first issue of every comic. I read more comic books than most people you know, but I have already run into two pretty fantastic comics that I have overlooked in the past. If you think I’ve missed a good issue, series, or mini-series, either because it started slow or is by an independent publisher that I don’t pay enough attention to, let me know. I plan to get around to all of these suggestions, and as you saw last week — some of these suggestions are great to delve into on those off weeks where nothing is really inspiring me.

Because it took a while to piece together this post, next week starts tomorrow. See you then.

Comic Recommendations: October 28, 2015

There was a really great kitchen battle scene in Batman and Robin Eternal #4 (DC Comics), an intriguing concept to Tomasi’s Justice League: Darkseid War: Batman one-shot (DC Comics), some great situational humor in Chewbacca #2 (Marvel Comics), and a lot of heart in Kanaan: The Last Padowan #7 (Marvel Comics), but I didn’t encounter one book this week that was fantastic from cover to cover.

Luckily, I’ve received some recommendations from personal friends and friends of the blog for just such a rainy day as this (both metaphorically and literally: as I draft this post, it is pouring outside in Grand Rapids, Michigan). I want to thank my friend and former supervisor Kyle from Texas for recommending that I give Constantine – The Hellblazer a second chance.

Constantine – The Hellblazer #1-5 (DC Comics), Rainy Day Edition

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Antiheroes (think: Deadpool, Grifter, etc.) can be really difficult to get behind. You usually need one of two things to drive the type of morally ambiguous story that usually surrounds such scoundrels: 1. a character with an incredibly relatable backstory and motivation (The Punisher, The Crow, for example), or 2. a truly fantastic creative team (which, if I’m being honest, solves all problems, so maybe it isn’t even worth mentioning). Constantine – The Hellblazer doesn’t have either of these qualities to the nth degree — Doyle, Tynion, Rossmo, and Del Rey are unarguably talented, but they have yet to reach the status of Alan Moore and Alan Davis (Captain Britain FTW!), for example, and John Constantine’s guilt over past sins can only drive you so far — but it does have enough of each quality to make Constantine’s antics quite enjoyable.

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The writing team of Ming Doyle and James T. Tynion IV start John Constantine’s story intelligently. Rather than vaguely giving lip service to the people who have died as a result of Constantine’s arcane hubris, the first arc of this new volume gives The Hellblazer’s self-loathing a place and time of origin, and three names: Gary Lester, Georgiana Snow, and Veronica Delacroix. As a proper English bloke — with proper English parlance to boot — the only time Doyle and Tynion’s Constantine shows any emotion (aside from his longing to be with the attractive man in issues #1 and 2, which showed a “heart on his sleeve” side of Constantine that felt somewhat out of place) was when he breaks down in issue #4 and gets proper drunk. Overall, the writing for this book is strong.

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I do have to admit a slight bias when it comes to Constantine: The Hellblazer. I am a big fan of independent horror writer Dirk Manning’s Nightmare World series of short comics that was originally published on Image’s Shadowline Comics online hub before the web host was taken down, and Constantine artist Riley Rossmo was a regular contributor to this series prior to his work with Marvel and DC Comics. In other words, I’m a little bit of a Rossmo fanboy. While Rossmo’s sketch-driven, cartoonish figures aren’t as dark as those of Bill Sienkiewicz’s during his famous run on The New Mutants (“Demon Bear” FTW), I don’t personally believe that the 2010s need a goth Constantine as much as the late ’80s/early ’90s did. This is not Vertigo Comics. John Constantine is a full-fledged, card carrying member of DC’s New 52. e has the wit of Spider-man and he’s on a first name basis with many of the heroes of the light. With a character like this who exists in the margin between good and evil, versatility and grit are now preferred to moodiness and the macabre, and this plays right into Rossmo’s drawing wheelhouse.

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A convincing Constantine is difficult to deliver, and that is why the team at Constantine: The Hellblazer ought to be applauded. Here’s to hoping the second arc is at least as good as the first.

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Was there anything this week that blew your mind? Is there something that I ought to be reading and writing about? Give me some feedback already. I may need it for a rainy day. Next week’s comics are November comics already, and I say bring on the November comics.