Birds of Prey

DC does not have a good track record with me for it’s movies. I was not interested in seeing Birds of Prey due to the bad press that it was getting. But, I noticed something on my social media feeds. Lots of the people that I followed were saying good things about the movie. Their perspective on the movie made me go to a more neutral feeling about the movie. A series of unfortunate events put me in a foul mood and alone, so I went and treated myself to Birds of Prey in the VIP section of my local theater.

I was so wrong about this movie!

Birds of Prey is a campy, queer, woman-power, action movie that gives the audience things they didn’t know they were missing, but they were.

I love that in the opening animation we are given the story or Harley Quinn. It sums up her origins and does not leave out the character’s bisexuality. It is a quick hit, but it is there. We get this again with the character off Renee Montoya. In the Comics, she is a lesbian police detective on Gotham PD and this is kept and presented in the movie as well! Bu wait, there is more! The villains of the piece are Roman Sionis, Black Mask and Mr Zsasz. Though not specifically called out as a gay, the coding is blatant. There is a scene where Roman is speaking with Zsasz and Canary arrives. Roman completely drop the conversation to show Canary all the beautiful things that he owns and the jilted lover act that flows from Zsasz just screams bitter queen!

The movie warns you very quickly that the level of camp in this movie will rival that of the first Batman TV show. There is a scene where Harley is drowning her sorrows in liquor and forgets that her situation has changed. She is insulted by a random man with his legs propped up on a table. She has a verbal altercation with him and then promptly jumps on to his legs breaking them. Instead of screaming in pain, he screams, “You broke my legs!” From this point on, we get fourth wall breaks, quick cuts, and many of the other tools of the campy trade. A good example is a fight where the characters gather up the weapons available and Harley carries a pair of skates with her. Canary has to go rescue the kid they are protecting and looks back to see Harley skating. She looks to the kid and asks, “How did she have time for a shoe change?” They shrug and go back to fighting.

It was giving me life!

Inside all this campy queerness is still a nice message too. The audience is given a birds eye view into the difficulties of a woman leaving an abuser. Harley has to confront all the things that she would have to take on herself. In the voice-over monologue, she admits that she has returned over and over as she didn’t have the means of dealing with the issues that she would be forced to handle on her own. You get to watch as Harley overhears what her teammates say about her attempt to leave this time, that it will fail like always. They take what is a silent decision and to destroy bridges and put yourself at extreme risk to leave an abuser and write it large across the screen in the explosion of the chemical factory. This is shown again in the story of Canary as she tries to leave the service of Roman Sionis. To leave, she must risk injury and loss while embracing her inner strengths. Quite literally in the end, by using her Canary cry.

My only quibble is that this is more a Harley Quinn movie. The Birds of Prey are introduced and you are given their origins. They are wonderful on the screen and treated well, but are not the focus of the film. I would have liked to seen more time given over to these other members of the team.

I am glad I went and saw Birds of Prey and hope to see it again. We are given a group of women superheroes that are treated as something more than set-dressing. They are given power and agency without stooping to putting them in skimpy outfits. We are treated to high camp that isn’t afraid to acknowledge its own silliness.

Four Bear paws out of Four! I bearly recommend it!

The White Trees 1&2

White Trees is a mini-series by Chip Zdarsky with Art by Kris Anka and Matt Wilson. I stumbled upon this book by accident. I saw the cover and had not read a fantasy comic in a very long time and thought I would give it a try.

I was not disappointed.

Zdarsky leans in to the monomyth of Campbell. There has been a great war. The lands are finally at peace and the heroes of the war have settle down to rebuild their lives. The Call comes to disrupt these pastoral lives ensconced in domesticity. The king has need of his greatest warriors and there is no time for them argue. I like that Zdarsky makes Krylos, our main character, a farmer. This tells you what to expect and sets you up for the surprises that are to come.

In the hall of the king, Krylos is brought back together with his fellow soldiers Dahvlan and Scotiar. He has brought them together to let them know that Krylos’ son and Dahvlan’s daughter have been captured by the enemy. They had been together when the raid happened but the soldiers nearby had not been able to rescue them. Sadly, the king can do nothing. The three must take up their weapons again if their children are to appreciate the future their father’s had fought to give them.

Zdarsky does an excellent job of playing with the tropes of the monomyth. He brings hardened warriors to the table and makes you watch as they work through what they lost in the war. He showcases the the trauma that is glossed over in the hero’s journey as these three work through the betrayals and hurt that have built up over the years. This co-opting of the tropes of the hero is seen best in the flashbacks of Krylos raising his son. They are on the farm and the boy is a wide-eyed innocent. His father’s scars form a barrier that makes it hard for them to bond. With his son’s journey not starting with the hero’s call, but a flight from heavy handed discipline and violence.

I love that this story presents the opposite side of this story as well. Dahvlan and Scotiar have built a life together. They care for Dahvlan’s daughter as much as her mother. They are accepted as a part of her life with not a bat of an eye. They are couple who have moved forward on from the darkness to enjoy this future.

The art of this book is good. Anka and Wilson have created a pallet that is both stark and gorgeous. The wilderness that the trio move through is haunting and yet begs closer inspection. Their character design is also solid. In particular, I appreciate how they have drawn Dahvlan. He is a barrel-chested bear/cat hybrid. .My favorite piece in this book are the panels where the three are confronted by spirits. They are offered carnal delights to sway them from their path. The colors and life in these creatures stand in stark contrast to the lands where the trio stand. Just wonderful!

Finally, Zdarsky provides some representation in this series. Dahvlan and Scotiar are a couple. They have a life together that is accepted as fact and there are no issues from this. Dahvlan had a wife and has a daughter. The only issues are that of a break up, nothing more. Both Scotiar and Dahvlan are a part of the daughter’s life. I should be so happy to see this in a comic book, but I am.

I know that this series has been out for a few months, But recommend that you pick it up and give it a read. It is hidden gem that seemed to be missed in everything that came out last year.

I bearly recommend this series!

God Country

What if you took Jack Kirby, Still Alice, and Ordinary People and threw them into a blender?

Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Jason Wordie, and John Hill provide a cogent response to this question in their comic book God Country.

I picked up the last few issues of this book and fell in love with everything about it. The art was dynamic, the colors rich, and the story both quiet and madcap bonkers. I had to wait for the trade to come out to be able to read the story from beginning to end and it was well worth the wait.

God country was to me a story about two families trying to hold themselves together in the face of great disasters. The Quinlan family lives in west Texas. Roy is trying to raise his family which consists of his wife and young daughter. He is also trying to take care of his father who is deep in the grips of Alzheimer’s. We meet the Quinlans as a storm approaches their home both literally and figuratively. Roy is called home by the sheriff as his father was found wandering out by the road. The sheriff wants Roy to come inside to discuss the issue when his father, Emmett comes out in full rage.Emmett does not remember his son, daughter-in-law, or granddaughter. He is screaming epithets at them to get them off his property.

Everything comes together in these pages to show you the blind rage of a man lost in his own head, the fear of family members that do not know what he will do, and the sadness of a son trying to do his best for everyone involved.

Heart wrenching.

When the calm of the family storm subsides, the literal storm hits brings tornadoes that tear the house apart and pulling Emmett into its heart. From the chaos of the storm comes a true demon standing twenty feet tall. Roy, desperate to save what remains of his family, bravely steps between his daughter and the approaching demon. With thunderous fury, Emmett returns with a sword the likes seen in Final Fantasy 7 or Werewolf: The Apocalypse to destroy the demon.

Thus is the second family drawn into the story.

The sword, Valofax, is the god of Swords. They were created by God of Kings Attum who keeps the Kingdom of Always from slipping into oblivion through sheer will. Valofax left his previous wielder, Aristus, God of War to kill the demon that destroyed the Quinlan farm. The Kingdom of always is an empty place, populated now only by its King and his two sons. The other gods had been sacrificed by their king to retain old glories in the face of eventual oblivion. Aristus, much like Roy, strives to be his own person while serving the will of his father and sovereign. Valofax has no such compunction.

The story trips off the charts into Kirby Crackle territory without ever losing the humanity at its heart. Valofax restores Emmett to his mind prior to the erosion of his memory due to Alzheimer. The story explores what it means to be given your personality back and what you would be willing to do to keep it. It also delves into what it means to be a soon and when the line has to be crossed to be your own person and let your father’s madness take them to where they are going and not let it destroy you.

The creative team on this book have created something special. The story is both a quiet piece about families and an epic tale of hubris amongst the stars. Cates captures both of these ends of the spectrum and all points in between with his story. The humanity of the characters, even Valofax is never in question. Even though Valofax speaks in a stilted manner, their voice is clear in it’s motivations and emotions. It cares about things and understands the consequences of actions. Cates made me care about everyone involved, even Valofax.

Shaw’s art is evocative. They capture the emotions that Cates story holds and stretch them across the page. The worn look of Emmet and the sharp edges of Valofax all capture the essence of Cates words and echo them from the page into your head. Combine this with the palette brought by Wordie and the visual imagery of God Country is just phenomenal. The pages both carry the heat of a west Texas evening and the cold of the depths of oblivion that the Kingdom of always teeters on. There are so many single pages scattered throughout this book that will just capture and keep you from moving on in the story while you appreciate the power of each one.

I enjoyed God Country immensely and have read the trade several times. It would make and excellent addition to anyone’s library.

I bearly recommend it!

Sacred Band

Representation in media matters.

I’ve said that often here and I am a firm believer in it.

One of the places where representation is sorely lacking for the Queer community is superhero comics. You can look to the Big Two and there are only a handful of queer characters and even less that are the star of their own books. I am a fan of superhero comics and the absence of characters that I could identify with is always a sore spot.

Joseph D Carriker Jr is a superhero in his own right and has swooped in to my rescue with his novel Sacred Band.

Joseph sets about creating a world similar to our own. The pivotal factor being an event that struck around the world causing devastation and creating the world’s first empowered individuals. These people, referred to as the originals, are very similar to the Justice League or Avengers of the Big Two but down play the god level abilities that are normally associated with these groups. After these events, there continue to be Echoes that occur around the world. These create more powered individuals some of which do not survive their empowerment.

Sacred Band picks up the story of a small group of queer super powered individuals in 2013. Gauss is a young man attending college in Portland Oregon. He is open both about his sexuality and his empowered status. Deosil is a young woman with deep roots in the pagan community who struggles with the difficulties of being trans while learning more and more about her elemental powers. Optic is an Ex-Seraphim. He was drummed out of the Air Force for being gay right before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He has used his ability to transform into light and fly to create a career in Hollywood for himself. Llorona is an older woman who works for the Golden Cross using her sound based powers to rescue victims of natural disasters and echo events. Last but not least is Sentinel. He is one of the Originals and very much a Superman Analog. He was a member of the first superhero team but has since vanished from the public eyes when he was outed back in the time when being gay was completely unacceptable from an icon.

Joseph gives the reader everything they would expect from a superhero novel. there is action that is well choreographed and flows well across the page. He treats it with a lyrical tilt that was refreshing to read. There are secret identities, vague yet menacing governmental agencies, conspiracies, and globe-trotting adventure. Unlike Icarus, Joseph keeps his characters grounded. They all have incredible powers which are put on display for the reader. Instead of dominating the narrative, they complement the humanity that fills each of these individuals.

There are poignant moments scattered throughout this book that make my heart weep and sing. There is a scene where Deosil is at a Pagan conference and is giving an interview. The interviewer pushes the point of asking about her dead name. The conference comes to her rescue and escorts the offender out but it highlights the struggles that a trans person faces every day and gives voice to it within the pages of this book. The narrative touches upon the difficulty of coming out and being outed at different times in history as we hear how Sentinel faced such public outrage for being gay while the cost, though steep for Optic, was not a life of exile. Joseph takes the time to delve into the difficulties of dating as a member of the queer community.

These human moments could have easily been overshadowed by super powered antics and melodramatic tentpoles. Instead, Joseph made them the heart of his story and has created something that transcends the genre. I was drawn into the lives of the characters and felt both their love and their loss. I was both sad and elated at the end of the book. I was sad that the story had ended but elated that I had found a story that both represented me in the story and embraced the superhero genre that I love.

Four bear paws out of four!

I bearly recommend this book!

Blade Runner 2049

I have seen Blade Runner 2049.

I had seen the trailers and I was intrigued by the imagery that they presented.

I love Blade Runner. The blend of old and new to create a gritty futuristic look. The noir aesthetic blended with the burgeoning genre of cyberpunk.

I wanted to see what this world would look like with the benefit of new technology and a different hand guiding the project.

I was highly disappointed.

It felt very much to me like Denis Villeneuve understood as much about emotions as the Replicants. Where Blade Runner was a symphony playing with ideas and questions while embracing the laconic feel of a noir mystery. Blade Runner 2049 has the shimmer of a diamond only to have the reality of a costume jewelry revealed upon closer examination.

This can be seen in the character of K, played by Ryan Gosling. K is a Blade Runner tasked with retiring the Replicants that are still at large despite the 30 years of hunts. In the opening scenes, K finds an older model Replicant hiding out on a farm in the wilds near Los Angeles. The conversation and fight reveals that there is something happening in the background that could shake the world to it’s foundations. Through the violence and revelations, K appears to be little more than a cardboard cutout who is taking up space on the screen. Gosling’s performance portrays someone little interested in the world around himself save to move on to the next thing. There are no hints to restrained emotion or hiding things to get by. Justa deep ennui that leads one to wonder why K is following any of these threads at all.

further disappointment is provided by this film in the characters of Love and Joi. These two characters are outstanding in an otherwise drab and emotionless expanse. Luv, played by Sylvia Hoeks, is the quintessential Femme Fatale of noir fiction. She is all smoldering emotions reined in to a greater cause. She steals every scene she is in even when she is just standing in the background. She is the villain of the piece, but as the story unfolds it becomes much easier to see her motivations and actually care about them and her. Joi, played by Ana De Aramas, is a companion program that keeps K company. She is the iconic damsel in distress in noir fiction with the twist that she has much more agency than those characters did. She provides the opposite end of the spectrum to Luv in that she actually cares for K and is willing to risk it all to stay with him. 

Luv and Joi provide well rounded, believable characters in an otherwise sterile and derivative world. They provide sharp emotional counterpoints to an otherwise empty and listless narrative. These two characters are also ill used in the climax of the movie; thus leaving the audience without either love or joy.

Couple this with the cinematography of film. The screen is filled with gorgeous scenes presenting a vision of this overpopulated future. The shots are gorgeous but create the feeling a barren and empty when we are led to believe that the world is suffering from overpopulation and a lack of living space. It is a ham-handed way of trying to comment on how people get lost as individuals in the great wash of humanity. Instead of showing us this in a new and unique manner, we are given a sanitized future that leaves me really just be watching the original.

Overall, Blade Runner 2049, is very poor substitute for the original. If the director had committed more to the characters of Luv and Joi, this vision of a dystopian future would have been a much better movie. Instead, I am saddened by the loss of Luv and Joi and wish I could get my three hours back.

One bear paw out of four. If you must see this movie, borrow someone’s Netflix so that you are not spending your money on it.

 

GenCon 2017: Talking Starfinder with Jason Keeley

Gen Con had one major release that had me all excited.

Starfinder.

It was a science fantasy game which I had heard so much about at the last Gen Con that I was chomping at the bit to get my hands on it. As more information came out, I was getting more and more excited to get the game and get to playing it.

This year, my plans for Gen Con had been in flux for some time. It took until close to the end of May for things to solidify that I would be attending the show for more than one day. This state of flux meant that I would not be able to get up to the convention on Wednesday. It was not until Thursday afternoon at around 3:30 that I was able to make my way into the Gen Con vendor Hall and make a beeline for the Paizo Booth.

When I arrived, I was to discover that the giant pile of books that I had seen on Twitter for Starfinder had been decimated. There were no more core books to be had.

I was, needless to say, a bit disappointed. I was glad that the game was so popular but I still wished that I had been able to get my hands on a copy.

Luckily, I had an appointment scheduled too speak with the developer of the game on Friday at 4:30 pm with Jason Keeley.

My first questions for Jason were; “What happened and Why do you think that Starfinder was so popular?”

Jason stated that Paizo had brought to this Gen Con 50% more books than they had ever sold for a book at any prior show. The thought had been that they would still sell out by the end of the show on Sunday. They did not expect to sell out of all the books they brought within the first few hours of the convention. Jason stated that the book would most likely be going to a second printing soon. Jason went on to state that he believed that demand for Starfinder might be attributable to a few things. He believed that the good press and hype that the book had been receiving over the past year had really primed the pump for the book. He went further to state that the hobby itself had a dearth of science fantasy games that are not tied to a specific Intellectual property. He pointed out that Starfinder provides a toolbox that allows a group to emulate most of the science fiction tropes with ease. These things combined to create a perfect storm for this convention.

One of the questions that I always have in regards to science fiction games that rely heavily on exploration is the idea of a planet builder. I asked Jason if there was such a thing included in Starfinder. He stated that there were rules for generating planets. These include some charts for environments and such, but no designated planet building section. He did not rule out a future supplement that would do just such a thing, but did say it was not on the schedule currently.

One of the things that I had always noticed about Pathfinder is that the storyline was never fully integrated into the rules. The Adventure Paths are where the setting would shine while the rules were a toolbox left to the players imagination. I asked Jason about this and Starfinder. Mr. Keeley stated that Starfinder was a bit of departure for Paizo in this respect. The setting material was much more integrated into the main book. It provides it’s own hooks for the game to move forward without issue. This can be found in the races, snapshots of planets, and the legacy integration of the fantasy races into the game.

This flowed easily into my next question. “What stands out in Starfinder to make it feel like a science fantasy game as opposed to just a few extra bits of set-dressing for Pathfinder?” Jason mused on this for a moment and then said that there were two things that stood out for him.

First were the Starships. He went on to say that the game begins with the presupposition that the group starts with one. The starship design rules stand out as they not only allow the players to create a ship that fits their needs at the beginning of the game but allows them to keep the same ship while upgrading it easily throughout the levels of the game. Jason pointed out that one of the major tropes of science fiction is that the ship never changes. This would be difficult in Starfinder as the character will continue to get more powerful and need a better ship at certain points. This design systems allows the characters to have a ship similar to shows from Farscape and Firefly and still allow it to keep up power-wise.

Jason also believes that the character classes and themes carry a lot of weight for Starfinder. These two things seem somewhat simplistic but allow for the creation of characters that cover all of the tropes of Science Fantasy outside of the Doctor himself. You are able to create an analog to Spock to Obi Wan Kenobi with ease and still have the flexibility to create anything that your heart desires within the Starfinder system.

Further discussion with Mr. Keeley revealed that Starships were both his favorite part of Starfinder and one of the things he found most challenging. JAson loves the starship combat system. The hex grid system makes it easy to understand how the fight plays out for starships of different styles. The rules are clean and simple with an ease of use that he found lacking in previous science fiction games. Making this happen was the difficult part as he wanted the game to be easily picked up by new people and the starship combat rules to not be so daunting that they would never be used. Jason stated that it was a design problem that he and the team wrestled with and are very happy with what they have created for Starfinder.

I asked Jason what was something about Starfinder that people might miss that he thought were worth noting. He took a moment to think on this and then stated that it were small changes that he loved that would go unnoticed. In particular he spoke of magic in Starfinder. He mentioned that people wondered if Magic Missile was in the game. He stated that it was but that there was a mechanical change that made the spell still iconic without being as overpowering as it can be in prior iterations of the spell. He also mentioned a change to Cone of Cold. He spoke of how instead of being a blast of just pure arctic cold, it was more of a heat sink. It allowed for certain classes to then store the heat stolen by the spell to be used to power spells at some later point in the game. It was small tweaks like these that gave Starfinder that Science Fantasy flavor but that they are easily overlooked when you have starships and space stations to play with now.

It was great to get to speak with Jason at Gen Con. It helped me get a better understanding of what to expect when I would be able to get my hands on a copy of Starfinder. It is a game that embraces the big ideas of Science Fantasy with starships and light swords but does not neglect the details. Every piece was designed to create the look and feel of a space opera and allow one’s imagination to soar amongst the stars.

I can not wait to get my copy of Starfinder.

 

GenCon 50

This weeks begins the 50th Anniversary of GenCon, The Best Four Days in Gaming.

Today and tomorrow, the vendors, event staff, and volunteers will begin to descend upon the city of Indianapolis. The news bursts from the convention itself are predicting another year of record breaking attendance. The badges for each day have sold out which indicates that the mass of gamers present for this convention will be epic.

With the number of people present going to be larger than normal, it is very important to remember a few rules for attending the convention.

Remember the 3-2-1 Rule.

This is a simple rule that keeps you at minimal functional capacity. It stands for 3 hours of sleep a night, 2 meals a day, and one shower.

I will repeat that this is a minimum requirement.

The three hours of sleep will make it so that you will not be nodding off during a game. You will want to push yourself to try to fit in as much gaming as possible and the first thing that gets sacrificed is sleep. Without sleep you will not be a the top of your game and will not only have a less enjoyable experience but will also impact the other peoples experience at the game. So, Please remember to make time for at least three hours of sleep.

The two meals will ensure that you have the energy necessary for GenCon. The convention covers a lot of real estate. You will be walking a lot to get to where you want to be. Keeping the necessary fuel in the system will ensure that you not only have the power to get where you need to be but will also make you more able to fight off the inevitable Con Crud.

The caveat here is that this is two meals. Chips and sodas do not count. Take the time to get a full meal and sit down to enjoy it. Not only will you fuel the human machine, you will give yourself a breather in an otherwise hectic day which everyone can use at GenCon.

Finally, one shower every day. This is Indianapolis in August with well over 60,000 people filling up the downtown area. The heat, if it was like last year, will be oppressive. The crush of humanity will great. taking the time to do some personal care will ensure that you start the day fresh and make it so that your bumping into other people at the convention a less off-putting experience.

Another important thing to remember is to be patient. The convention is going to be filled to capacity. People will be waiting in line to get into events, restaurants, and to make purchases. The likelihood of someone’s patience getting frayed is going to be high. If you take the time to breathe and realize that the person that might be irritating you is pushed to their limits, you will minimize the chance of a not pleasant experience turning into something worse. This extends to convention, hotel, and restaurant staff. They are going to be well over their capacity to be at peak performance. Being patient with them and those around them will ensure that things do not escalate. Taking the time to be kind and generous to everyone you interact with not only makes for a good time for you, but also increases the likelihood of the next person having that much better of a time as well.

Finally, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. This is a big convention. There will be walls of people that will ebb and flow throughout these four days. Take the time to check on yourself. If things are starting to fray, take a break. I know you may have spent money on that next even, but it is not worth having a breakdown. If things go wrong, you could end up ruining your entire convention as you pushed yourself beyond your capabilities. Take the time to have someone that you can reach out too for support as well. This way you can check in on each other and ensure that you both are doing okay as well as have someone to call bullshit when you are on the edge and really need a break.

GenCon 50 is going to be a very exciting time. There will be gamers of all stripes gathering to enjoy the hobby and the presence of other gamers. Taking the time to make sure that you do everything you can to enjoy the experience is well worth a little investment of your time.

I look forward to GenCon and having an excellent time!

Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: The Big Lie

Stop!

Don’t click the x button up at the right corner of the page!

Hear me out and all will be made clear.

So, you did read the title of this post correctly. I am going to talk about a comic that is based on the old time sleuthing team of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I know the name itself conjures up cute kitschy ideas of rich kids exploring safe mysteries in a manner more vanilla than Scooby Doo.

That is not the case here.

Del Col and Dell’Edera take a healthy dose of noir and blend it with the old stories to create something modern. They do this without falling into the trap of being ultraviolent.

The team does this by accepting the history of these characters and dealing with it quickly. They do this in their description of Bayport, the home of the trio. They call it a postcard, a place trapped in time designed to bring people to the area to enjoy an idyllic time gone past. The creators call out the feeling of these characters being frozen in place and then shatter the ice on the next page.

Gone are the perfect children that parents would hope for. In their place are modern young adults that are easy to identify with.

The Hardy Boys are young adults whom are suspected of their own father’s murder. They are now at the mercy of the same police whom their father had shielded them from prior. Gone is a relationship between two brothers that were inseparable. In it’s place is a more realistic relationship of two young men that have to figure out who they are and what they are going to do with the shattered life that they now live after the death of their father.

Del Col does an excellent job of blending in the bits and pieces of the history of all the characters that populated this long line of books. I was most amused by repeated references to the Bobbsey twins. He makes these characters accessible without being leaning heavily on nostalgia or over-top-antics. He brings in the tropes that I enjoy from noir and hardboiled detective fiction and gives them a softer edge that makes this book something that lovers of both crime fiction and these characters can enjoy.

All of this is supported by the wonderful art of Werther Dell’Edera and colorist Stefano Simeone. These two create a visual world that captures the essence of the covers of the Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys book covers. From the very first page you understand that these two have a grasp of the history of these characters. They use lines and a color palette that evokes these old books while also enhancing noir story that is running through the book. In particular, the very last page of issue one does a character introduction. It is a single page with the character framed by the Hardy Boys. To me, It has that feel of Bogart in the Maltese Falcon that screams classic noir/hardboiled detective and sealed my love for this title.

Trust me when I say that you should give this book a try. The creative team takes something that could be saccharine sweet and creates a mystery worth following.

Four bear paws out of four. I bear-illy recommend it!

 

Pride

This is last day of June and the last day of Pride month.

I have a lot of thoughts about Pride month.

I am hesitant to share them as I have not been out for very long and feel like I have the right to speak about Pride. These thoughts are also conflicting which makes it even more difficult. I am going to put some of them down here to help process and maybe help someone else who struggles with their identity and Pride.

It is hard to think of Pride without thinking about parades.

I am not a fan of parades but I see the value in our Pride Parades. We take to the streets and celebrate who we are. We do so knowing that even in this day and age that we will pay a price for being out and proud. We march to show those still trapped by fear what a life outside of the closet can be like. We march to show strength, community, and solidarity.

The Pride parade shows me both how far I have come and how much work I still have to do. The parade makes my heart sing with joy that I am able to be free of the need to hide or pretend. I join the others in the LGBTQ+ community in publicly embracing my identity and showing it to the world. We step out of the shadows to be visible and claim our right to exist. We also step out into the light and make ourselves a target because to hide from discrimination is to say that this type of treatment of another human being is okay. It is this that lays bare my own personal failings. There are people I know that aren’t truly out. They hide away from who they are due to the costs of what being out will have for them. I know the fears that they go through about taking that next step and yet it still bugs me that they aren’t out. It has taken some self-interrogation to realize that instead of being aggravated by those that still fear coming out I should be more compassionate. I should stand out more and be out, loud, and proud. By pushing forward, I and others will make it easier for those still afraid of the oh so real consequences of being LGBTQ+ in this day and age.

The Pride Parade highlights the idea of solidarity as well. We take to the streets and embrace our identity and the consequences be damned. We are joined in this march by companies, organizations, and politicians. They take up the banner of Pride to let us know that they recognize our right to exist as well as the need to stand up for a marginalized community. Once again, it warms my heart to see these people and organizations step up and support us. It just comes with the price that, in the past, these same people and organizations were just as complicit in our marginalization. These organizations and people still take part in practices that deny us the rights that are accorded to others people in the community. How do we applaud them for supporting us but still hold them accountable for treating us so poorly for so long? How do we say thank you for helping but explain that there are days that they are still hurting us?

Pride month and Pride parades bring us together as a community. We organize the parade. We gather together people to put on parties and charity events. We work with the communities that we live in to get them to give us time and resources to allow us to celebrate who we are and our right to exist. We show that we are community and are capable of organizing to support each other. We then gloss where we as a community ostracize the more marginalized members of our own community. There is Bi erasure as we talk about bisexual people as if they are confused or just lying. We don’t do enough for our Trans brothers and sisters who are murdered, commit suicide, and are legislated against. We turn a blind eye to those in our communities that continue to use bigoted language like “no fats/no fems, No blacks/no asians”. We create communities that state that they are inclusive and have members due petty distinctions that have no place in the queer community. I see it happen and am victimized by and don’t know what to do for my community.

Pride month comes to a close this month and I look back on with mixed feelings.

We have come so far.

We need to drop these things that hold us back and distract us from pushing forward. We need to embrace all of the letters in the LGBTQ+ and make sure that they feel welcome in the community. We need to continue to push forward and do better by each other. We need to take time to look at our community and embrace the positive but see the negative and take a step to changing it.

Take the time to do some self-examination this last day of Pride. Where do you stand strong? Where do you stumble? What can you do to be better in both areas?

I can do it and I believe that you can too.

Heathen

It’s pride month and I want to talk about comics.

To do this, I want to talk about a book that tells an excellent story while still embracing queer content.

Heathen is just such a book. It is written and drawn by Natasha Alterici. This is her creator owned title which she funded on Kickstarter back in 2015. She has done work on Gotham Academy and Grayson. She is also a member of the LGBT community.

Heathen is a reimagining of Brynhild legend from Norse Mythology.

Alterici does an excellent job of getting someone unfamiliar with Norse Mythology caught up on the story. Our heroine, Aydis, tells the story to her horse as she begins her journey. As she winds the tale up, she shares how long the story has passed down through her clan and laments that Brynhild has been waiting to be free for a very long time. The exposition feels very much like a story that a skald would tell over a fire to enthrall a mead hall. The art that supports the story is evocative. It has a rough hewn quality that feels like a gritty dream.

The core point of the myth is that Brynhild is rescued by a brave warrior whom she is then required to marry by the decree of Odin. Aydis has taken it upon herself to free Brynhild from her captivity and the consequences be damned. Aydis, you see, has nothing left to lose. Her village thinks her dead as she was condemned to death when she was caught kissing another woman and did not deny that she did this of her own free will.

I love this book!

It hits on all the things I love and want. We have mythology remade. I am familiar with the Brynhild story as well as the variations on the theme that can be found in Wagnerian operas. Alterici takes the story and blends in a modern sensibility with social justice themes. Her wild concoction is exhilarating. She gives us a book with a queer hero that is not afraid to be who they are and this makes my heart skip a beat. And in the process, gives us a modern Norse Myth where the hero is a woman to boot. It has been long overdo and the power of the story is amplified by this choice.

The art is gorgeous as well. It has a deep scratchy feel with rough hewn edges. It has a warmth and authenticity that adds to the story being told. In particular, I like how Alterici’s style makes the brief combat with a bull in issue one is handled. The action is quick and fluid without anything feeling blurry or hard to follow. The detail is never lost in the flow of the conflict.

Heathen by Natasha Alterici is a book that needs to be on your pull list. Great story, excellent art, queer content, A strong Heroine,socially aware themes, and mythology remixed. What’s not to love!

It is currently on issue four so it will not be difficult to get caught up.

Four bear paws out of four.

I bearly recommend it!