Posts Tagged ‘Kelly Sue DeConnick’

PrettyDeadly_Vol2-1What is the point of the “natural order” if the world appears to operate in chaos? Can we change our role, our destiny, or are we servants to a greater calling? What is courage in war? What is fear? Is there a difference between the two or are they companions of a sort?

These are only some of the questions the second arc of Pretty Deadly poses.

None of them have clear answers. Well, most of them.

What I admire about Pretty Deadly and its creative team of writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, artist Emma Rios, colorist Jordie Bellaire, and letterer Clayton Cowles is the ambiguity, deliberate or otherwise. We ask big questions all the time, drilling our own psyche on ideas too vast and nuanced to have an ultimate, or, at the very least, satisfying conclusion. Art is one of many platforms we use to tackle those questions; making sense of what seems impossible to understand and still we only scratch the surface. Pretty Deadly‘s sophomore tale doesn’t worry itself with definitive answers. Instead it lives and breathes in a realm where equilibrium is constantly in flux, allowing for even the smallest action by the smallest of creatures to alter the course of events.

Before diving in, however, it’s important to acknowledge the craftsmanship of Rios, Bellaire, and Cowles on the unique and devastatingly powerful images in this book. In case you didn’t know, it’s gorgeous! Rios is a master of implied motion, which make for some amazing fight sequences, but it’s in her two-page layouts and splash pages where the enormity of her talent is on full display. Her repetition of patterns is stunning, specifically the gnarled rivulets of blood that feed the faceless Reaper of War contrasted with the intertwining branches and brambles of Sissy’s pastoral realm. It’s life and death performing the same dance. Equally strong and unique is the color palette, which Bellaire turns into its own form of storytelling. The heavy blues of the WWI trenches hauntingly contrasts with 640the bright green of oncoming mustard gas and the heightened red of the War Reaper so well that when they all come together the clash of color amplifies the intensity of the wartime setting. And Cowles’s skill as a letterer remains a constant and vital component of the storytelling process; one bubble out-of-place and the flow stops, the mood dies, the story falls flat. These three artists, combined with DeConnick’s prose, make Pretty Deadly what it is, a piece of art.

That being said, the plot goeth thusly: It’s been about twenty years since the events of the first arc and Sarah Fields is on her deathbed. Fox, now a Reaper, arrives to bring her to the flourishing World Garden but Sarah’s daughter pleads for more time to give her baby brother Cyrus a chance to return home and see Sarah before she dies. Unfortunately, Cyrus is fighting in the trenches of France and the errant Reaper of War has him and his fellow soldiers in his sights. Devastated by the flood of deaths, Sissy sends her Reapers to protect Cyrus and end the war.

 

Man on the Run

The themes of change and adaptation are mapped out from the very beginning. Still engaging in their stories in the Soul Garden, Deathbones Bunny and Butterfly happen upon a bee. Bunny just barely recognizes her noting that she was once a nurse but is now a forager for her hive. When Butterfly asks why Bunny didn’t recognize her old friend, Bunny replies, “Her changing role has changed her.” When Butterfly asks how, Bunny remarks, “It’s changed her body. We are all shaped by what we do.” Fittingly, the words hover below the approaching Sissy, Death Incarnate, whose body changed when she embraced her role in the natural order and who, in turn, changed the Soul of the World.

Her story finds its parallel in Cyrus as the young man contemplates the chaotic world around him. Like Sissy before him, Cyrus is hesitant to embrace his future. He may not be a supernatural Ascendant, but the unknown of a war-torn world inspires just as much fear and anxiety. And with that anxiety comes a crisis of identity. Throughout the story, but more specifically under the gentle razzing of his fellow soldiers, Cyrus is identified by several nicknames and personality traits. His home in the American West and affinity with horses make him a “Cowboy” while his mile-long, dreamy gaze into the moon dubs him “Moon-Man.” In his protest of the Cowboy moniker, a 9French soldier teases that he’s a knight searching for adventure and nobility, noting that his kindly treatment of a mouse in the trenches indicates he has a soft heart. Though he protests being called soft, Cyrus self-identifies with the horse that knocked him in the head. He’s a runner, willing to go halfway around the world to escape whatever it is that spooked him.

What becomes apparent by the story’s end is that Cyrus is the sum of his disparate identities and, like Sissy, it’s only when he understands how they work in tandem that he is able to make the greatest impact. As the Knight with a soft heart the mouse he kept alive goes on to spook the corrupted Reaper of Fear, a ghostly horse mounted by the Reaper of War, causing Fear to buck War from his back, severing his heightened power. And as the Cowboy and the Runner, he forms a bond with the equine reaper, easing his anger and calming him enough to send him into the fray once again. This time on the side of the better angels, so to speak. These facets of Cyrus culminate in his true calling, a final identity, the Reaper of Courage. Like the bee, like Sissy, Cyrus is given cause to adapt in the wake of change. It makes good on the Moon-Man name as well – an apparition of bravery in battle riding a mount made of eerie moonlight.

 

Always Two There Are

Duality plays a significant role in the world of Pretty Deadly. In the first arc, Fox and Death’s parallel treatment of Beauty led to one’s downfall and the other’s redemption. Their shared story served as a window into the state of the supernatural world and how the previous Death had subverted the natural order. The second arc offers a similar window, this time into the machinations of the Reapers. They ride in pairs, though their partnerships fall somewhere between the complimentary and the combative. Molly Raven and Johnny Coyote are the Reapers of Good and Bad Luck, though it’s never quite clear which is which. Deathface Ginny is the Reaper of Vengeance and Big Alice is the Reaper of Cruelty, which doesn’t sound like a good fit until one considers that vengeance can easily turn to cruelty and cruelty can be conducted in the name of vengeance given the right circumstances. If anything, Ginny and Alice keep each other in check. The creation of these dynamic duos, however, is essential to understanding how they operate and how they influence each other and the mortals around them.

The setup leads to the big reveal that the Reaper of War’s gas-mask toting horse is actually the Reaper of Fear and it’s their spurious partnership that keeps blood spilling on the battlefield. A veiled metaphor for the incomprehensible death and destruction surrounding WWI, War’s success lies in his corruption of Fear, taking away the flight instinct of otherwise sane men and leaving only the push to fight. It fuels his blood lust and the fervor of war experienced by soldiers, without a healthy sense of fear, ensures that Sissy’s garden of souls remains unnervingly full. When War is thrown from his mount, thanks to Cyrus’s mouse with an assist from Molly Raven, Fear is free of his control. It’s when Cyrus calms the spectral stallion, though, that he becomes the Reaper of Courage. Yes, he masters Fear, but he also respects it with an understanding that Fear is necessary, if not vital, to survival. Through the symbiotic partnership of Courage and Fear, sanity appears to have returned. For a while, at least. Duality, however, goes beyond the Reapers and is constantly reinforced through the discussion and presence of more relatable and “observable” concepts like luck and fear.

 

God Bless the Cowards

Thematically, fear presents an intriguing obstacle within Pretty Deadly. Its manifestation as a horse rings true considering the quiet, almost calm, exterior of such a majestic beast can easily swing towards panicked outbursts in a split second. How we interpret fear and our response to that interpretation makes all the difference, which DeConnick and Rios capture beautifully as Ginny struggles to overcome her potentially mortal wound delivered by War. She’s hindered, however, by the suffocating spiral that fear creates in dire situations. Beautifully rendered by Rios, we see Ginny fold into herself, naked and afraid, falling into an abyss of her own mind. The focus on her hands gives her struggle a visceral quality as she tries to claw her way out despite the weight of fears dragging her down. She manages to snap out of her fugue, but only because Molly Raven’s warning is so sudden and startling. It’s the power of fear, which makes our ability to surmount it all the more courageous. But is courage only found in overcoming fear or is there  just as much, if not more, courage in acting on fear?rios-pretty-deadly-10-cowards

There’s a fascinating moment, probably my favorite of the series, between two nurses discussing cowardice. The two are clearing the battlefield of bodies but one, Claudia, can’t stop crying over the thought that the soldiers – brave, young men – died alone and afraid. The other nurse, let’s call her Kelly (wink, wink), rebukes the idea that fear is something to be pitied. Instead, Kelly praises fear, commenting that there’d be more living men if they’d had the good sense to be afraid sooner. She drives her point home with the example of German soldiers opting for mutiny instead of drowning in a sinking ship. Not only did they save their own lives out of fear of death, but their actions turned the tide of the war by sending the Kaiser on the run. It’s also worth mentioning that this nurse sports one of my favorite expressions in the whole book.

Like Inside Out‘s conclusion that Sadness is a necessary and healthy part of growing up, Pretty Deadly turns Fear into a facet of heroism, subverting the typically conditioned response of patriotism in wartime. Courage and cowardice are two sides of the same coin. They exist simultaneously, but we make the conscious choice to interpret them one way or the other. Claudia calls Kelly’s notion that cowardice should be praised “disgusting” because her idea of heroism and courage can’t accommodate a positive place for fear. We claim to support our troops, but it’s amazing how fast that support turns to opposition over any perceived cowardice. The very thought that someone wouldn’t want to sacrifice themselves becomes offensive when it’s really more disheartening that we measure bravery based on that willingness. The conversation between Claudia and Kelly could easily be shifted from the trenches of France in 1918 to the blast walls of Afghanistan in 2015 and remain relevant.

 

Chaos, Luck, and the Like

One of the many reasons I admire Kelly Sue DeConnick is her fearlessness when it comes to storytelling. She’s willing to kill her darlings, but there’s always purpose behind the loss. The events of this book, however, have the feeling of a preemptive strike, a means of preparation and reassurance from DeConnick that something else is in the works. For the time being, though, this is the story that needs to be told.

Once again, the opening pages set the tone for the second act of this four-part story. The perceived chaotic madness of the bee hive troubles Butterfly, but Bunny is quick to remind her that order isn’t so easily seen except in hindsight. As the story progresses, the nature of luck is explored through the parable of the Lucky Farmer. Roughly told by Molly Raven to Johnny Coyote, then retold by Bunny to Butterfly, the story within a story posits that luck is neither good nor bad until the story ends. In fact, it’s both at thetumblr_o23dsquo1g1qeeerco4_500 same time; a construct used to make sense of what cannot be explained but only takes on meaning after the fact.

As the story of the farmer unfolds, the ups and downs of war play out. Cyrus and his fellow soldiers fight the enemy and the Reaper of War’s influence with each moment punctuated by a similar occurrence of good or bad luck within the parable. As readers we believe we have a certain amount of savvy when it comes to storytelling and the rules of drama, which makes Cyrus’s death that much more excruciating despite DeConnick’s early warning of his impending demise. There’s a cinematic quality to the writing and the art that gives us hope Cyrus will survive. It’s a war movie, right? Surely the hero survives since so much effort was made by Sissy and all of her Reapers to get him home?

The salve on the wound, however, is the nebulous duality of this world as seen in the spiritual hymn recited at the beginning and the end of the arc. With Sarah close to death, the wording and imagery takes on a menacing, fearful tone as flames engulf the people sitting vigil outside her home. But by the end of the story, when Cyrus arrives to help usher his mother into the afterlife, the hymn becomes a joyful eulogy as a ghostly mist fills the panels. Like the Farmer’s luck, like our perceptions of fear, Sarah’s passing is both a time for mourning and a time for celebration of a life long-lived. How we frame it alters the tone. Cyrus is dead, but he “lives” on as the Reaper of Courage. Will more come of his new role? Or does his story end here? It remains unknown until the next event and, like the Lucky Farmer, Pretty Deadly has yet to have its ending.

One has to wonder, though, if the world, or Ginny, could possibly survive without Big Alice? And does Alice’s absence mean Fox, the Reaper of Grace, and Ginny are destined for a dynamic duo of their own? Would there be any survivors of such a pairing? We’ll have to wait to find out.

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If you happened to have your finger on the pulse of the comic book community, then you might be aware that Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction found some time between writing some of the best comics of the last five years (seriously: Pretty Deadly, Bitch Planet, Sex Criminals, ODY-C, and Satellite Sam to name a few) to create their own production company, Milkfed Criminal Masterminds Milkfed(MCM). With comic book adaptations on the rise and showing no signs of stopping where Hollywood is concerned, DeConnick and Fraction first made headlines last year when it was reported that their newly conceived of company would be used to adapt Fraction and artist Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals for television after signing a deal with Universal Studios. Going forward, MCM would serve as a platform for adapting other comic book properties, specifically creator-owned books.

A year later and Milkfed Criminals has moved on from a tumblr page to a full blown website with the recent official launch at HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina. Complete with a Milkfed panel, signings, fun and games, the team of DeConnick, Fraction, and the many collaborators and staff of Milkfed Criminal Masterminds began what looks to be like an exciting development in the world of comic book adaptations.

When I reached out to Kelly Sue DeConnick to gauge her level of excitement moving forward, she could only articulate it thusly:

 

Crazy excited. And scared. That’s a kind of excited, yeah?

 

And though Sex Criminals was the big property she and Matt Fraction signed on for last year, it seems that, though it’s still in the works, other properties might take precedence. Kelly didn’t offer up any other names but I’ve got my fingers crossed for Bitch Planet or Pretty Deadly finding their ways to television or a digital platform. I’m biased, so sue me.

I also asked if she and Matt would gift me a country of my choice when they took over the world, but Kelly is nothing if not an honest woman about her management style:

 

Oh, I’m not built for world domination.  I’ve got my hands full running our household, shit.

Matt-Fraction_Kelly_Sue_DeConnick

If you’re a loyal reader of Maniacal Geek or a frequent listener of That Girl with the Curls podcast, you’re probably aware of my love for the DeConnick/Fraction household and burgeoning comic book empire. So, yes, I’m excited about the possibilities going forward for some of my favorite books being handled by some of my favorite people. Congrats to Kelly Sue and Matt and all those involved with Milkfed Criminal Masterminds for not throwing away their shot! Long may they reign!

And you should all go pick up the latest issues of Pretty Deadly and Bitch Planet that came out last week! Also, you can listen to Kelly Sue’s episode of the podcast here!

 

kellysue

 

Sam talks with Kelly Sue DeConnick about ALL THE THINGS! Specifically Bitch Planet, Pretty Deadly, and Captain Marvel but there’s always plenty of awesome when Kelly Sue is around!

Intro: “The Captain” by Adam WarRock 

When we look at feminist texts in the category of fiction, brutality and the subjugation of women are common themes in which authors explore how women strive for or gain agency within a world that has no qualms about denying or silencing them. The realm of science-fiction allows for a more heightened realization of these themes through the fears women have about their BITCH PLANET LOGO 1place in society and how institutions of power reinforce those notions. Science fiction also allows authors to take the combination of fear and reality to their most logical, or illogical, extremes; exposing the raw nerve of women as pawns, and sometimes perpetuators, of corrupt, fundamentalist societies intent on keeping them compliant. In this vein, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro’s Bitch Planet strikes the right balance between over-the-top prison movie exploitation and biting social commentary.

In the future, not sure how far off but that’s really not important, Earth has taken great leaps to ensure that society is well-ordered, free of “sin”, and most importantly compliant by shipping criminals and radicals off the planet to a prison known as Bitch Planet. Unsurprisingly, all of the prisoners are women who didn’t exactly meet the compliance standards via the rule of law or the perceptions of society. Among the new batch of prisoners are Penelope Rolle, a large woman unafraid to speak her mind and throw her weight around, Kamau Kogo, the fight-saavy presumed volunteer on the station, and Marian Collins, the innocent caught up in the planetary victimization of women.

The CatholicTo be fair, all of the women in Bitch Planet are victims of society in one form or another. While we know some of the prisoners are murderers, we’re not certain of the circumstances that led them to kill. The rest are referred to as radicals, implying that they are political prisoners, demonstrators exposing the reality of a society enforcing compliance whether through speaking out or practicing good old civil disobedience. There is, however, a third category of prisoner, the women who don’t adhere to what men want. While that could come down to just about anything, this particular type of prisoner is mostly embodied in Marian. We learn through dual conversations, one between Marian and the prison’s “Catholic” construct, the other between Marian’s husband and Mr. Solanza, that the two experienced some marital difficulties, which Mr. Collins resolved by having an affair because Marian didn’t excite him anymore. Marian feels guilty that she drove her husband to have an affair, but we’re led to believe that Mr. Collins is trying to get Marian back because of his own guilt in having the affair. The bait and switch occur when we learn that the Mrs. Collins mistakenly being held in detention isn’t Marian, but the youthful and exciting Dawn with whom Mr. Collins had the affair. It strikes a chord immediately because this is how women are already treated in the real world, viewed as nothing more than a means for men to feel good about themselves until they wear out their welcome and are replaced by a newer, younger model.

bitchplanet1-2-05769What hurts the most is that Marian believes it’s her fault for not being compliant to her husband’s desires. It has nothing to do with what she wants or desires. We get a sense of how Marian would fall into this mire of self-esteem in the opening pages as the voice over artist rushes through an unknown city to her job. In the background are advertisements encouraging women to “Eat Less, Poop More” so there’s “Less of You to Love”, “Buy This. It Will Fix You”, and most blatantly “You’re Fat”. All of these ads are aimed at women, drowning them in expectations to be thin and beautiful, devaluing them through body shaming and not-so-subliminal messages. When the voice over gal gets to work, her job is to pose as the voice of a history teacher with the intention of using the recording to play while the Non-Compliants (NCs) are asleep in transit. It’s revisionist history used to indoctrinate these women into the compliant way of thinking.

The religious connotations in Bitch Planet #1 bring to mind Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale in which Judeo-Christian fundamentalism is used to justify and enforce class systems and sexual practices, placing women in the lower classes by virtue of being women. As the “history teacher” speaks, we’re given the “In the beginning…” opening that immediately frames this society within a religious context. Mother Earth is no more. Instead, Space is now the Mother and Earth the Father. The women en route to Bitch Planet are being expelled by their “Father” because of their trespasses of gluttony, pride, weakness, and wickedness, sins revised to specifically speak to gender. They’re beyond correction and so are cast out into the “loving embrace of the Mother”, which further reinforces the idea of women as outsiders. Father Planet is where society thrives, but Mother Space is where the cancers on society go. Their nakedness during transport and upon arrival further shames them as they’re watched over by male security techs and “guarded” by men in masks without discernible features. It’s voyeuristic and uncomfortable, which is indicative of how women feel under the scrutiny of men.

Furthermore, the issue of race isn’t specifically stated, but can be viewed through most of the issue. Marian is the only character referred to as the “white girl” while the rest of the prison is predominantly occupied by black women, which is on point according to Danielle Henderson who states in the back matter that “African American women are three times more likely to be incarcerated than white women, and most often for offenses related to men”. The diversity of the cast, as well as the final BP02twist are done explicitly to show the disproportionate population of women of color who visually represent non-compliance.

Bitch Planet‘s timing couldn’t be more perfect in regards to race and gender issues that are still at the forefront of women’s rights and representation in the media. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro (whose art is amazing, by the way) have hit the ground running with their unapologetic look at society and women through the lens of science-fiction. This is not a subtle book by any means. Its message is loud and clear from cover to cover, ready to hit you over the head in a way that would make Penny Rolle grin with delight.

Oh yeah, baby, it’s a good time to be a comic book movie fan! Only two weeks after Warner Bros. announced their DC Cinematic Universe through 2020, Marvel decided to roll out the entire Phase 3 of their cinematic universe during the “Marvel Event”. Hyperbole aside, this was definitely a showcase that genuinely surprised fans of the Marvel movies. Though we’ve already had several casting and movie rumors made, debunked, and confirmed, it’s fantastic to see that we can still be blown away by the scope, scale, and ambition of a universe that continues to expand.

So here’s what the timeline looks like:

Marvel timeline

 

 

But let’s break it down a little more since there are a few corrections to be made.

 

Captain America: Serpent Society Civil War – May 6, 2016Civil War

Yeah, that was a weird fakeout on the board. According to a few people I follow on Twitter the Serpent Society is an old-school Cap enemy, but I’m not sure why they bothered to do that unless in Kevin Feige’s way of being cheeky. Either way, Cap’s third solo film will be Civil War, based on the comic book event that pitted Cap against Iron Man over the registration of superhero secret identities with the US Government. As has also been pointed out, with the lack of mutants or Spider-Mans in need of hiding who they are, everyone in the MCU is already known to the world. Well, maybe not Hawkeye. Poor Hawkeye. Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see where they take this since Winter Soldier ended on Cap and Sam Wilson, aka Falcon, setting out to find Bucky.

 

Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016Doctor Strange

While Benedict Cumberbatch was recently announced as Marvel’s choice to play Stephen Strange, his absence from the event so soon after his confirmation either means it’s not entirely set in stone, or the actor wasn’t available to show up at the event. As far as I can tell from various articles, Cumberbatch is their choice and the “final negotiations” are being hammered out. Take that for what you will. As far as characters go, Doctor Strange is the Marvel Universe’s neurosurgeon turned Sorcerer Supreme – protector of Earth against all forms of magic and sorcery. In light of the fact that the Thor films skirted the issue of magic as being interchangeable with science, it’ll be interesting to see how Doctor Strange is handled given there isn’t a lot of leeway to just say “ALIENS!”

 

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017Guardians 2

This was a no-brainer after the first movie did so well at the box office. Moved up only slightly from its original summer release in July, it looks like Guardians 2, which will again have James Gunn directing and writing along with co-writer Nicole Perlman, is going to kick off the summer movie season for Marvel instead of closing it out. And if all goes well, the film may pick up a new audience in the wake of the animated series slated for release in 2015.

 

Thor: Ragnarok – July 28, 2017Ragnarok

After the less than stellar sequel, it’s not surprising that Thor’s third solo film was moved to the closeout of the summer, but if the title delivers on what it promises, then there’s all the possibility in the world for the Thor franchise to bounce back. Ragnarok, for those not caught up on their Norse mythology, is the Nordic version of the Apocalypse only instead of absolute destruction, the result is the renewal of the Earth. First it’s all gods fighting each other, natural disasters, dog and cats living together, and the Earth submerged in water, but then it turns into sunshine and rainbows as the only two surviving humans repopulate the Earth. Good times! Or, more likely, this movie will be based on the comic book character Ragnarok who first appeared in Civil War – a cyborg clone created by Tony Stark when the real Thor went missing for a while. Either way, good stuff!

 

Black Panther – November 3, 2017chadwick-boseman-black-panther

And this is where things really got interesting. There had been plenty of hints that a Black Panther movie was coming, even from Stan Lee himself, but for the most part we could only piece certain things together from the Easter Eggs in the movies. Wakanda, the country from which T’Challa/Black Panther, hails from was briefly seen on a map in Iron Man 2, and the very presence of vibranium, the material that makes up Cap’s shield, tells us that Black Panther showing up was likely since it’s primarily mined in Wakanda. That and in the recently released Age of Ultron trailer, Andy Serkis briefly appears and has a very striking similarity to Ulysses Klaw, one of Black Panther’s rogues. And not only did Marvel announce the movie, they also brought out Chadwick Boseman in order to confirm that he’d be taking on the role of T’Challa. This will be the first superhero movie from Marvel featuring a person of color as the lead, but let’s hope that they get a devoted creative team to bring the King of Wakanda to the big screen.

 

Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1 – May 4, 2018Infinity Gauntlet

Anyone paying attention, regardless of their level of fandom for Marvel comics, knows that the build up to the Infinity Gauntlet storyline started all the way back in Thor, although it took Guardians of the Galaxy to actually explain it in a way that made sense (sorry Thor 2). So, yeah, this is a big story with a big villain primed and ready in Thanos, so I’m not surprised it’ll be split into two movies.

 

Captain Marvel – July 6, 2018Captain_Marvel_Vol_8_1_Textless

Other than Black Panther, this is the film that made a whole heck of a lot of Marvel fans squeal in delight right before they screamed with passionate joy. Though the Marvel films have sported several prominent female supporting characters, Black Widow is the only featured player in the Avengers and Cap 2 and even she hasn’t gotten her own movie despite being the most recognizable female character in the MCU. But after Black Widow, Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, has been the female hero most desired to show up among the ranks of the Marvel films. Well, now we’ve got it! And thank God it’s Captain Marvel, not Ms. Marvel. This means we’re most likely getting the rebooted version of Carol as depicted by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, Dexter Soy, and David Lopez, depending on which volume you’re reading. It’s about time Marvel added another kickass woman to their universe of films.

 

Inhumans – November 2, 2018Inhumans

Of all the movies, this is the one I’m the least knowledgeable on since I’m not a diehard Marvel reader. But, from what I can piece together through a rapid Google search, the Inhumans are superpowered beings whose ancestors were genetically experimented on by the Kree, an alien race, back in the days of early Homo sapiens. Deemed the inhuman race, they developed a society of their own separate from normal humans. Technological advancements allowed them to create a mutagenic mist that gave them powers but also caused deformities, which pushed them to practice selective breeding.

So, for all intents and purposes, the Inhumans will probably function as a stand-in for mutants, since Fox isn’t giving that up for a while. Still, I’ll be there to watch it. I didn’t know anything about Guardians of the Galaxy and I was all the better for it!

 

Avengers: Infinity War, Part 2 – May 3, 2019thanos_avengers

The conclusion, which I assume will be epic!

 

So that’s Marvel’s Phase 3 and I’m all kinds of excited. For me this doesn’t boil down to Marvel vs DC, it’s all about getting the next six years worth of films coming out and seeing how Marvel continues to build their franchises and DC starts to build theirs. I can only win.

What are your thoughts on this lineup? Excited? Underwhelmed? Overwhelmed? Just whelmed? Let me know!

Oh yeah, I’m gonna spoil some stuff on this one. If any of you are familiar with my reviews, then you know I analyze these books to within an inch of their life and Pretty Deadly is definitely a book that requires deeper analysis. This is the end of the first arc and there’s plenty to unpack, which makes someone like me delightfully giddy to dive into what is, in my opinion, one of the most pretty-deadly-05ambitious and challenging works of literature I’ve read in a while. Which is also my way of saying that I’m smiling like an idiot as I write this because this is fun for me.

Right, you’ve been warned. Spoilers ahead!

In Pretty Deadly #5 Deathface Ginny, Fox, Sissy, Molly Raven, Johnny Coyote, and Sarah confront Big Alice at the entrance to the Underworld. Alice and Ginny have another go at each other before Johnny gets the better of Alice and scatters her butterfly form to the winds. Upon entering the Underworld, the group is confronted by the Shield Maids, the divided guards of Death’s realm who’re the last line of defense between the world of the living and the neglected garden where souls have passed under Death’s care. Ginny is denied passage, but Sissy asks to be let through. She’s the Ascendant, the one who will replace Death, and in accepting her role in the story, she unites the Shield Maids and rejuvenates the Soul of the World, which Death need only destroy in order to stop death from ever happening again. Death and some of his followers confront the group and everything seems lost, even for Ginny, until her mother, the great Beauty desired by Fox and Death, ends her captor’s existence and allows Sissy to assume her place as the new Master of Death’s Domain.

Johnny and AliceLike I said, there’s a lot to unpack here. Though Kelly Sue DeConnick often refers to Pretty Deadly as a “weird little book”, the themes of the story are as old as the genres of fantasy and the western. In the case of this story, those themes of love, obsession, defiance, sacrifice, and redemption are just steeped in a new mythology and symbols.

Death, in the world of Pretty Deadly, is not a single entity that rules for all eternity. In this world Death is a position taken on by someone so that the garden of souls is always maintained. It establishes that death is a part of the natural order of the world, but Death is a finite job, one that has a clear ending before someone else takes over. It’s implied that those who take on the role understand their place, but when Death falls in love with Beauty during her captivity by the Mason/Fox, he begins to warp the natural order. Like Fox, Death’s love turns to obsession and he puts a plan in motion to ensure that no one will ever die, including him, thus ensuring he’ll always be with the woman he loves.

It’s through Fox’s redemption, however, that the world is actually saved. Though his obsessive love ultimately led to Beauty’s death, his inability to keep his end of the bargain with Death to see his love one last time results in Sissy remaining alive, preventing Death from putting his plan into place. Fox is a man who sees the error of his ways and devotes the rest of his life to taking care of Sissy, knowing full well that his life is forfeit to Deathface Ginny when she comes to get her revenge on the man who destroyed her mother in life. But Fox doesn’t fight against his ultimate fate, instead he fights to remain alive so that Sissy can reestablish the natural order. Fox comes to terms with what he’s done and knows that what he did to Beauty was an unjust act, one that denied a woman her freedom all for his own pleasure. Death, however, takes his obsession to an entirely different level, if not a heightened parallel to Fox’s actions. He’s willing to defy nature and end death, all to be with Beauty for eternity, but at the cost of millions of souls who would still experience suffering and pain without the release of death to carry their souls to a final resting point.Death of Bunny

But at the heart of this story are three women: Beauty, Ginny, and Sissy; each with their own role to play. Beauty is, for the most part, a passive character. She was a prisoner to the Mason’s obsession and remains a prisoner to Death because neither could let go of her. It isn’t until the end, when she stabs Death in the back, that she gets her revenge while also acting as a protective mother not just to Ginny but to Sissy. In freeing her own soul she saves the Soul of the World and ushers in a new Master of Death who respects the natural order, someone who has told her story her entire life and learned from it.

Ginny, on the other hand, is a woman dead set on avenging her mother. She’s a Reaper committed to revenge. At first, we believe her goal is to kill Fox, but as the story progresses, there’s more to Ginny’s vengeance than just killing the man who imprisoned her mother while she was alive. In the first issue, the opening sequence showed a young Ginny coming across a bunny and shooting it in the head. While the fear in her eyes is palpable, her actions seem to take on greater meaning within the context of the completed narrative. Yes, it sparks the story within a story between the dead Bunny and Butterfly, but was there more to what Ginny was doing than we Death and Beautyrealize? Is it purely coincidence that Ginny kills a rabbit and her father’s form as Death is the skull of a rabbit? One could interpret the scene as a child exerting their curiosity about death or it could be an angry young girl taking out her aggression on an animal that represents her father who has also imprisoned her mother’s soul.

Sissy is obviously the connecting thread as it’s her role as the Ascendant that ends Death’s reign and saves the Soul of the World. From the moment we meet her we know there’s something different about her. Her different colored eyes and vulture cloak immediately invoke other-worldliness as she bounds around telling the story of Beauty and Deathface Ginny. But she’s still a little girl, one who finds out her place in the world is much bigger than she ever thought. When she finally learns about her origin, she fears that she’s a “monster”, equating herself to the monstrosity that Death has become. It’s a child’s perspective of death as a concept, something to be feared, but by the end of the story Sissy has matured to the point that she understands how crucial her role is and what that means for the rest of the world. When she asks to be let through by the Shield Maids, she still fears becoming a monster, but sees that this commitment will give her purpose and a place to call home. For the first time, she accepts death as a concept and her lot in life.Underworld

Even with all of this analysis, it still feels like I’ve only scratched the surface of Pretty Deadly, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s the best thing you could ask for from a work of art. It forces you to think about things over and over again. DeConnick weaves a complex, and as I said before, ambitious story that still leaves us with questions yet to be answered. Ambitious, however, doesn’t begin to describe Emma Rios’ art. More like epic. The two-page spreads are as complex as they are beautiful with Rios flipping the art on certain pages as our heroes enter the Underworld, forcing the reader to either change the angle of the book or accept the altered reality on the page. Rios’ signature frenetic and flowing style seamlessly blends the story together as she defines the reality created by DeConnick. I especially love the way she draws Sissy, but all of the characters have a way of melding with the environment as if emphasizing the connection between them and the world they inhabit.

Rating – 10/10

Final Thoughts: Ginny in the world of the living might aim to misbehave. Can’t wait.

Previously published at Word of the Nerd.

Ya know, for all the good that can come out of the comic book community, sometimes it really sucks. So I’m just gonna dive into this one because I don’t feel like any fancy setup intro. Even after a couple of weeks to mull things over I’m still pissed and the only way I can convey that, in the least destructive way possible, is to write about it.teen-titans_1-600x911

Two weeks ago Janelle Asselin, a former editor for DC Comics and Disney, did a guest article for Comic Book Resources in which she critiqued the cover art for the upcoming relaunch of Teen Titans that will debut in July with a new #1. In the article, Asselin was highly critical of artist Kenneth Rocafort’s depiction of the new Titans cover: the odd relation of characters to the background, the position of the single person of color, and the highly sexualized rendition of Cassie Sandsmark, a.k.a. Wonder Girl, standing front and center with her very large and unnatural looking breasts prominently featured. In dissecting Rocafort’s version of Wonder Girl, Asselin was also able to branch out and discuss not just the purpose of a comic book cover, but also talk about the demographic for which the comic is being made and marketed. Suffice it to say, women weren’t the target audience.

This critique, based on Asselin’s experience within the industry, however, came under fire from artist Brett Booth, artist for The Flash and former artist for Teen Titans. In some strange form of artistic solidarity, Booth began attacking Asselin’s credibility on Twitter, which then turned into a series of tweets from Booth and his supporters calling Asselin’s critique a biased nitpick with some sort of hidden agenda towards bashing DC Comics. The Outhousers has a great breakdown, including the tweets, of how this all escalated. The final tweet from Booth, however, is something I want to address. Because a woman dare question the costume choice and sexualization of a teenage girl on a book being marketed to a largely male demographic, Booth concluded:

 

 

Now, in all fairness, I’m not trying to demonize Booth. I would hope he’s a good person and he has said that his statements towards Asselin were in reaction to her criticism of the artwork, not the sexualization of Wonder Girl. While those two issues aren’t mutually exclusive in the context of the article, I suppose I can see where he’s coming from, but as with most things on the internet, intention gets lost in the translation. But even if he was just coming to Rocafort’s defense, his remark about putting female characters in burkas as a non-solution is in and of itself presenting a false dichotomy of how superheroines should be depicted in comic books.

Harley QuinnWhen women criticize how female superheroes are depicted in comic books is isn’t necessarily a THIS OR THAT situation. We’re not prudes and we can appreciate the male and female forms in a variety of ways. Sexuality is not the issue, but the context of that sexuality and who that sexualized rendition of a female superhero is meant for are of greater concern. When Brett Booth uses the burka as the extreme opposite, he creates a duality that ultimately undermines the real issue. It’s the comic book equivalent of the Virgin/Whore dichotomy. Women are either pure as fallen snow OR wonton Jezebels. There’s no middle ground, no gray area, no actual understanding of human nuance. Just a nice, neat package complete with an easily identifiable label. I’m sorry, but no. Thanks for playing, now please exit the planet.

Sex sells. We all know it, we get it, and female readers of superhero comics specifically understand this because it’s pretty much shoved in our faces. Though we make up almost half of the reading audience, with our numbers continuing to grow, women and girls are still marginalized when it comes to marketing comic books. The same can be said for movies and tv shows involving superheroes or anything believed to be “for boys”. Don’t believe me, take a look at Giancarlo Volpe’s short comic about the focus groups for Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Three groups for boys of varying ages, one group for girls of all ages. Guess who gave the most thoughtful feedback. Or go back and listen to Paul Dini on Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman where he lays it all out that girls are considered unwanted afterthoughts when it comes to marketing products. The point is, women and girls, are still looked at as outsiders. Despite our growing presence, when we look to the superheroines of Marvel and DC, most of them are being written and drawn by men who’re catering to an audience that the companies at large perceive as, or want to believe is, predominantly male.I am Wonder Woman

I want to be clear on this, I’m not saying men can’t write or draw nuanced and dynamic superheroines. One of my favorite books is Wonder Woman, written by Brian Azzarello and drawn by Cliff Chiang. This actually presents us with an interesting surface comparison of Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl. Chiang’s Diana is proportionally sound with her body type a reflection of her life and training as an Amazon. She’s athletic and muscular, but still possesses her femininity. And save for a brief glimpse of side boob, Wonder Woman, as depicted by Azzarello and Chiang has never been shown as a sexual object. Even her costume, by all accounts a one piece bathing suit with knee-high boots, looks more like plated armor with the silver eagle atop the corset covering her breasts in order to prevent spillage. Diana’s sex appeal is ostensibly left to the reader to interpret through the actions of the character. Cassie, as drawn by Rocafort, is, as pointed out by Asselin, proportionally wrong. She says:

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Wonder Girl’s rack. Perhaps I’m alone in having an issue with an underaged teen girl being drawn with breasts the size of her head (seriously, line that stuff up, each breast is the same size as her face) popping out of her top. Anatomy-wise, there are other issues — her thigh is bigger around than her waist, for one — but let’s be real. The worst part of this image, by far, are her breasts. The problem is not that she’s a teen girl with large breasts, because those certainly exist. The main problem is that this is not the natural chest of a large-breasted woman. Those are implants. On a teenaged superheroine. Natural breasts don’t have that round shape (sorry, boys).

So, yeah, Cassie’s one-piece costume stops exactly mid-breast. This is a girl who can fly and has to regularly throw a magical lasso and punch people. Unless she has some Acme-strength superglue on hand, the second she swings her arm or breaks the sound barrier she’ll be experiencing a wardrobe malfunction. This depiction of her is overtly sexual for the sake of being sexual with no consideration given to the character.

Ms. Marvel to Captain MarvelFor another comparison, let’s look at the costume change for Carol Danvers, formerly Ms. Marvel now Capt. Marvel. As Ms. Marvel, Carol definitely had a few costume changes, but the most iconic one was the one piece black bathing suit with a lightning bolt, sash, arm-length gloves, and boots. Carol Danvers, a former United States Air Force pilot, though superpowered but not invulnerable, was flying around in a uniform her former superiors would probably classify as unbecoming of an officer. So when Kelly Sue DeConnick took over the newly minted Capt. Marvel with Carol as the titular character, she made sure the costume reflected the character, making Carol’s new costume more in tune with something a soldier would wear even if they happen to associate with mutants, aliens, and a giant green Hulk. Does it cover her up? Yes, but so what? It has everything to do with how the uniform is an extension of the character. When we see a superhero in their outfit it’s supposed to evoke specific feelings: hope, fear, inspiration, etc. When we look at Wonder Girl, what’re we supposed to think of her? Who is she being drawn for?

The depiction of superheroines and how artists draw them extends, to no one’s surprise, into the world of cosplay. Cosplay is itself a fascinating sect of fandom and the time and effort people put into their costumes is something to be commended. Women who cosplay, however, have to deal with more unwanted attention than men who cosplay simply because the costumes available to them are derived from characters who are regularly drawn with more skin showing than their male counterparts. The amount of anti-harrassment and zero tolerance signs that go up during conventions, if they bother to put them up at all, is a direct correlation to the actions of men who think that because a woman dresses sexily it gives them the right to ogle, harass, or solicit them. She dressed like Power Girl, so that means she wants the attention, right? If she didn’t want the attention she wouldn’t have chosen to dress like that character. Never mind that the woman in question is dressing as a character she identifies with who happens to have a costume with a boob window and no pants. Nope, clearly anyone dressed as Power Girl, Black Canary, Huntress, Starfire, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, or Harley Quinn wants people to stare at them to validate their sexuality, not because the character means something to them.best-of-cosplay-power-girl

This leads to the final point I want to make regarding the Scantily Clad OR Burka dichotomy: the double standard of sexuality, superheroines, and female readers. The standard male response to women criticizing the sexualization of most superheroines is that male superheroes are equally as sexualized or presented as an unrealistic ideal because COMICS! Again, it’s people making assumptions who don’t understand the issue. Are comic books essentially power fantasies? Yes, but with the dearth of female creators, especially at DC and Marvel, this means that most of these power fantasies are coming from the male perspective. Heroes like Superman and Batman get to be muscular, tall, and handsome while exhibiting strength of body and mind. They’re also entirely covered up. Female heroes like Power Girl, Black Canary, Huntress, and Wonder Woman are shown in one-piece bathing suit outfits, thing-high boots, fishnet stockings, boob windows, and bare midriffs. They’re idealized, but they’re also highly sexualized. Let’s face it, we’ll always get the fan service bare-chested man, but you know what will never happen in a DC or a Marvel book? Dick slip – and I’m not talking Dick Grayson slipping on a banana peel. There will never be even the slightest notion of a male character’s fly being down or his pants being ripped off while going commando based on the design of his costume. They will always be covered up, no matter what.

Wonder Girl -Cassandra-Sandsmark (2)In the case of female readers, our power fantasies are being dictated to us, but our means of ownership or reaction to those fantasies put us in a no-win situation. A lot of women identify with superheroines who dress in the aforementioned style of dress. In fact, those women own that sexuality and find it and the costume empowering. And what do they get for taking ownership of those characters? The words “slut”, “whore”, “attention-seeker”, and “fake” get thrown around a lot. Hell, even in Justice League: War Wonder Woman is called a whore by the leader of a mob who’s hanging her in effigy based on her costume. In an animated movie supposedly for kids! And should women go the opposite route and critique the costumes of superheroines, we’re called “prudes”, “femi-nazis”, and told we’re “over-reacting” and “nitpicking” because we have an agenda against men in general.

God forbid female readers just want to enjoy reading a comic book without having to think about how Starfire’s spine bends like a snake or how low the zipper goes down on Catwoman’s outfit. That’s our agenda, folks. We just want to be able to read our comics and enjoy ourselves without having to explain to our daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, friends and family why we feel uncomfortable talking about or showing them our passions.

And if you’d like to see a more distilled version of this argument, I’d highly recommend the Nostalgia Chick’s look at the Charlie’s Angels movies.

Since I reviewed Manifest Destiny, it got me thinking about comic books that use historical eras and figures as settings and main characters respectively. Looking to the past can be a great source for relating present day issues to days gone by, but it’s also a fun excuse for true escapist literature. I mean, do you want to read a comic about Abraham Lincoln as he truly lived or would you rather see his steampunk equivalent traveling through time? Yeah, you heard me. That’s a thing and it exists. The point is that history can be as fun and off-kilter as it is relevant and heartfelt. So, with that in mind, let’s look at some history comics I’d recommend to history buffs and people looking for a good comic to read.

It’s also worth noting that a lot of this is lifted from a previous post I did on a former website. I make no excuses for the fact that I’m a lazy self-plagiarist.

Time Lincoln – Story and Art by Fred Perry, Coloring by Robby Bevard

I told you it was a thing! Yes, Time Lincoln, a fantastical journey into The Void where some of history’s most beloved and loathed figures are engaged in an epic war of epicness! At the moment of his assassination, Abe finds that it’s not John Wilkes Booth but Joseph Stalin about to pull the trigger! Stalin, having learned all of his secrets from Rasputin, has seen and taken power from “The Void” and knows that, in the future, Lincoln will be his most formidable foe. And before the deadly bullet ends his life, Abe is thrown through The Void, tearing through time and space, to begin his epic journey. This comic is just pure fun! Not only is Abe decked out in all his steampunky goodness, but he’s joined by Benjamin Franklin, George Washington Carver, Albert Einstein, and a boombox wielding Isaac Newton! And, I kid you not, Lincoln fights Hitler atop Mount Rushmore! Yeah, you heard me!

Marvel 1602 – Written by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Andy Kubert, and Digitally Painted by Richard Isanove

Can we just take a moment to thank the Pantheon that Neil Gaiman exists? Anyway, say what you want about Marvel and their penchant for holding on to continuity in the face of abject confusion, when something like this graphic novel exists, I’m glad they keep everything! Set during the tumultuous transition between the houses of Tudor and Stuart, Gaimen skillfully weaves a plot of mystery and intrigue as a great and dangerous power threatens the world, both Old and New. Ascending to the throne upon Elizabeth’s death, James I actively persecutes the “witchbreed” – those magically gifted as opposed to genetically evolved – who may be the only ones capable of saving the world. Aside from the superb writing and art, how Gaiman establishes each Marvel character within the Elizabethean era is just as delightful. Elizabeth consults with Sir Nicholas Fury, Peter Parquagh is apprenticed to Doctor Stephen Strange, and Carlos Javier’s students consist of Scotius Summerisle, Roberto Trefusis, Hal McCoy, Werner, and “John” Grey. Familiar, yet different. It was so popular that Marvel based stories on The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man in the same universe.

The Five Fists of Science – Written by Matt Fraction, Art by Steven Sanders

Anyone familiar with the Tesla vs Edison battle that flares up from time to time will love this comic! Basically, Tesla and his best pal Mark Twain are engaged in a great battle for world peace against Thomas Edison, Guglielmo Marconi, J.P. Morgan, and Andrew Carnegie. The plot involves giant robots, the dark arts, and Tesla being…Tesla. Plus, it has my all time favorite line from any comic book: “Quickly, to New Jersey!” And according to Matt Fraction himself, artist Steven Sanders likes to add his own sound effects while he draws, so you can only imagine how much fun he had with this comic! It’s fun times for all as history comes alive to deliver a swift fist of SCIENCE! to your gut.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne – Written by Grant Morrison

Grant Morrison is one of many polarizing figures in the comic book community, but whether you love him or hate him he has a way of telling a good story. In this case, we have Bruce Wayne hurtling through time after supposedly dying at the hands of Darkseid during Final Crisis. Finding himself at humanity’s beginning, Bruce moves forward in time (Cavemen, Puritans, Pirates, The Old West, anywhere from the 1940s-1960s, and beyond) in order to solve the ultimate mystery, that of his own identity and his mysterious connection to all things bat-related. Morrison, by this time, had already planted the seeds of Bruce’s time travelling journey long before his supposed death. This book served to fill in the blanks, elevating Batman as a legendary figure, an archetype, always present and necessary. Even if you’re not all that into the mythos of Batman, at the very least you get to see Bruce head butt Blackbeard!

300 – Written and drawn by Frank Miller with colors by Lynn Varley

Yet another polarizing figure, Frank Miller has joined Alan Moore in the “Cranky Old Man” club, though for far different reasons. But before senility set in, Miller was respected for his groundbreaking interpretations of Batman in The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, as well as his run on Daredevil. Outside of the mainstream heroes, Miller has been just as influential with works like Ronin, Sin City, and 300. Influenced himself by the 1962 film The 300 Spartans, the graphic novel is Miller’s interpretation of the Battle of Thermopylae. King Leonidas, along with 300 of his best warriors, hold off the Persian forces under Xerxes as he tries to conquer the city-states of Greece. It is their sacrifice that rallies all the people of Greece as a united front against the Persian army. Though made more popular by the movie, the comic itself is still a fun read. It’s wildly inaccurate, way over the top, and kinda racist, but at least Miller has the decency to include a recommended reading list for those interested in what actually happened.

Revere: Revolution in Silver – Written by Ed Lavallee, Illustrated by Grant Bond

I’ll be honest, this one is on my radar, I just haven’t had the chance to pick it up. But I’ll be damned if I don’t want to read it! You can have all the Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunters you want but of all the historical figure meets the supernatural stories out there I would’ve thought Paul Revere versus anything would have been first on the list! I mean, come on, the guy was a silversmith for crying out loud! A silversmith!!! The story practically writes itself. The graphic novel is definitely making use of the premise, casting Revere as a renowned monster hunter tasked with hunting down a supernatural killer in the midst of the revolution. Though Sleepy Hollow recently debunked all the myths of Paul Revere, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy what would have made for an awesome spinoff.

Hark! A Vagrant – Written and drawn by Kate Beaton

I absolutely adore and love Kate Beaton’s work. Her webcomic is one of my favorites and I was lucky enough to meet her at Emerald City Comicon a few years ago before she really started blowing up all over the place. In a few short panels, she’s capable of reducing an historical event, person, or piece of literature to its bare essesntials while making you laugh the whole way. She’s a history lover’s dream and I most definitely had a number of her comics taped to my desk in the history office in college for the enjoyment of all! If I had to pick a favorite, it would be a strip consisting of a fan letter written by Jules Verne to Edgar Allen Poe. The look on Poe’s face at the end is priceless!

47 Ronin – Written by Mike Richardson, Art by Stan Sakai, and Editorial Consultation from Kazuo Koike47 Ronin 1

A passion project of Richardson, 47 Ronin is a book that tells a fairly faithful version of Japan’s most defining stories. It’s as historically significant as it is culturally. What Western society knows of Japan, and how the people of Japan view themselves, comes from this story of 47 warriors who avenged the death of their daimyo (lord), after he was forced to commit seppuku, and committed seppuku themselves in order to uphold their code of honor. This isn’t a book that takes the premise and runs in a different direction. Richardson wanted to tell the story through the medium of sequential art and he does so without the need to embellish what’s already fraught with plenty of drama. Stan Sakai’s art creates a book that reminds you of Japanese woodblock paintings, lending an authentic look combined with the cartoonish style that made Usagi Yojimbo so fun. It’s obvious that both Sakai and Richardson wanted to do right by the story and it shows in every page and every panel.

These are just scratching the surface of what’s out there in the realm of historically inclined comic books. If you’re interested in alternative versions of DC Comics characters, check out the Elseworlds books where you get to see a Victorian era Batman in Gotham by Gaslight, Green Lantern stories ala Shaherazade in Green Lantern: 1001 Emerald Nights, and the Justice League as inhabitants of the Old West in Justice Riders. A personal favorite of mine, however, is Superman: Red Son where writer Mark Millar imagines what would happen if baby Kal-El had landed in 1950s Ukraine and grew up under Stalinist rule. Outside of the Elseworlds, my favorite book is Darwyn Cooke’s Justice League: The New Frontier where Cooke depicts thesuperman_red_son transition of Golden Age heroes to the Silver Age through the mirror of post-WWII idealism, the Red Scare, and Cold War politics. Of course if Marvel is more your style it’s not uncommon for their characters to travel through time on occasion. Though if you’d like a nice standalone story, pick up Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel: In Pursuit of Flight to get some badass female fighter pilots during World War II.

There are also numerous books through Dynamite Entertainment that continue the stories of pulp and Golden Age heroes like Flash Gordon, The Phantom, Green Hornet, The Lone Ranger, etc. during their appropriate time periods and one of my favorite historically set comics is Peter Panzerfaust by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tyler Jenkins that reimagines the characters and story of Peter Pan during World War II. Beginning to sense a common era of interest?

But those are my recommendations. Feel free to recommend some of your own and happy reading!