Comics That Keep Me Awake at Night – by Renee Thompson
Through my years of shuffling through yard sales, swap meets and comic store clearance bins, I’ve found several interesting titles that are near and dear to my heart. I think that underestimating the potential of buying comics in this way is one of the biggest mistakes traditional comic consumers can make, as they are anxious to stay up to date on current favorites. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find the following issues, leaving me faithful to the clearance bin and hoping to catch the issues I have missed, which have kept me up at night sometimes. But I urge you to go outside your comfort zone and try buying a cheap comic for the heck of it. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Reviews contain some spoilers.
1. The Atlantis Chronicles, Issue One
Debuting in March of 1990, The Atlantis Chronicles is a seven issue series depicting the magical metropolis of Atlantis, which has been abandoned by its patron, Arion after the seas destroyed a large part of the city. Created by Peter David and Esteban Maroto, the series main characters are the King of Atlantis Orin and Shalako, a high priest and brother to Orin, and Rajar, a prophet and friend to Orin. Rajar foresees great pain and destruction coming to the peaceful city, but none listen until his prophecies begin to come true. The main conflict of the first issue is a mix of combatting fate, invaders, and the dark corners of humanity. The use of primary colors seems a bit out of place for a serious fantasy comic, but I feel that the color scheme adds a brilliant contrast to some of the darker topics discussed in issue one.
2. Sky Doll: 4 Sudra, Issue One
Set in the futuristic metropolitan planet of Sundra, and released by Titan Comics, Sky Doll focuses around the character Noa who is a cyborg-type life-form that contains the remnants of the goddess of pure love: Agape. On Sundra, all religions from the known universe are practiced making it a hub of acceptance and diversity, but social disparity is still seen throughout the planet. Making it a perfect environment for Noa to escape the oppressive government that wishes to experiment on her. Noa still has some of Agape’s magical powers, and is able to build a reputation as someone who can revive things from the dead. Noa is seeking refuge with some friends, Jahu and Roy, who are also in hiding. I personally enjoyed the unique alien character designs, as well as the cityscapes.
3. Heartthrob, Issue One
Set in America in the 1970s, the series opens with the heart transplant of the main character Callie who enjoys dating and drinking. Shortly after completing her physical therapy, Callie finds out her boyfriend has been cheating on her, and that her job refuses to pay for her surgery due to her pre-existing heart condition. Let alone and angry, Callie meets blond haired Mercer. Callie becomes increasingly angry at her dull day-to-day life and decides to leave it all for a life of crime with Mercer. Things turn out fairly okay, until Callie discovers that Mercer is the spirit of her heart donor making her question her new career field. The setting, music and clothing is very reminiscent of the ‘70s and the illustrators do a great job of representing that time period.
4. Limbo, Issue One
When Clay wakes up in the middle of town, he’s not sure which one but then again neither are the other citizens. They all randomly awaken in the city and fall into place, because what else are you going to do when you’re a ghost in purgatory? Clay starts up a private investigation business and begins solving mysteries throughout the town. One night, he is approached by a singer in a popular night club who believes the gang leader and owner wants to kill her after she witnessed some shady business. Clay takes the job, not knowing he will face more mysterious spirits and trials.
5. Geisha, Issue One
Jomi is a young android who is trying her best to make on her own as an artist. She is the only one of her kind to have been raised as a human. Although her adoptive family doesn’t think much of her being a robot, the rest of the city is quick to stereotype and discriminate her. Even the art critics believe she is incapable of creating art since she is not human. After seeing her brother doing well as a musician at a local night club, she decides to give the family security business a try in order to pay rent. Geisha is a wonderful example of comics comment on the status quo and how dominant society can ignore genius simply because it is different.
Avengers: Endgame and its Problem with Women – by Jasmin Davis
Major spoilers ahead for Avengers: Endgame as well as Marvel’s Agent Carter. Proceed with caution!
Over the weekend, like many, I experienced Avengers: Endgame. I laughed, I cried, I mourned for the end of an era. Most of all though, I mourned for the female characters in Endgame, many of which who got the short end of the stick in order to let the men shine a little brighter. I mourned for two of favorite MCU ladies in particular.
My favorite Avenger has always been Captain America. What appeals to me most about him is that the core of his character comes down to the idea that he is not “the perfect soldier, but a good man.” He does what he believes is right, and is willing to go against orders and protocol to do so, but always does so with the best intentions. So the idea that he would choose to selfishly inject himself into Peggy Carter’s life, knowing already – as we saw in Captain America: The Winter Soldier – that she moved on from him to live a full life of her own is troublingly out of character. In taking this opportunity, Peggy Carter’s entire arc became stunted. This is assuming his remaining in the past hasn’t created a separate timeline entirely, considering that this likely the breaks the admittedly confusing time travel rules Endgame lays out. Don’t get me wrong, at first I was okay with this ending. It’s ideally what Peggy Carter and Steve Rogers always wanted. If they had given better circumstances, it’s what they would agree to. But the point of their story is that they weren’t, and the reconciliation of this idea and overcoming of grief is an overarching themes of Peggy’s entire character, which we see in her short-lived TV series. One of the most powerful scenes in the MCU happens during Agent Carter, in which Peggy chooses to pour out the last vial of Steve Rogers’ blood to keep the serum which gave him his enhanced abilities safe from recreation by Hydra. This is the closest she would ever come to a proper burial for him, the only flesh and bone piece of him left that she had access to, and thus marks her stepping away from his memory’s hold on her life. With the knowledge of how Endgame concludes Steve Rogers’ arc, this scene is rendered empty, and her development happens all for naught. Not to mention, there’s the itty bitty detail that in Captain America: Civil War, Steve briefly romances Peggy’s niece. Is this something they ever discuss? Did anyone on Endgame consider this when they were deciding how to end Cap’s story?
One of Endgame’s more clear examples of mistreatment of women comes in the form of Black Widow’s death. Watching Natasha Romanoff die left me in a state of utter disappointment. Not just disappointment in her dying at all, but the fact that her death had limited originality having happened in the same manner in which Gamora died in Infinity War. To add insult to injury, this repetition also means another woman dying for the sake of a man, just as Gamora did. It’s important to contend with the fact that even though Gamora was sacrificed unwillingly and Black Widow died because she wanted to, that doesn’t make the latter’s death somehow justified. Just because there are in canon reasons for these choices don’t make them good reasons. These characters do not exist in a vacuum; they have large production teams behind them calling the shots, a whole swath of eyes that can make decisions and have some input into what happens. Really, this comes down this: Black Widow as a character has been given little to work with since her introduction. Her character essentially boiling down to her femininity and femme fatale status existing to offset the otherwise all-male dynamic among the original Avengers. Even though she’s one of the few characters to keep some semblance of productivity in the five years post-Snap by becoming a capable acting director of S.H.I.E.L.D in Nick Fury’s absence. This is an aspect of her character which could have been further explored, or at least been another avenue into which she could have been retired, had Hawkeye died in her place. Despite being one of the founding members, its both interesting and very telling that Black Widow was not set up to do more in this regard. Instead, as with many female characters in the past, once the male writers have no idea what do with her, they simply kill her off rather than try and do their job properly.
I don’t want to be completely down on Endgame. Tonally, it hits some of the right notes. I was going out of my mind when Peter Parker hands off the Infinity Gauntlet to Captain Marvel, who is flanked by every major female character and then proceeds to throw down capably with Thanos’ army. When Thor graciously tells Valkyrie that she’s better fit to be leader of New Asgard than he is in the penultimate moments of Endgame, I cried the most proud and bittersweet of tears. But I’m also enough of a fan to realize it could be better, especially to its female characters. These moments don’t make up for the message that killing off Black Widow, and freezing the development of Peggy Carter sends. If anything, these moments of triumphant are stifled by the lack of proper characterization and respectable treatment for its female protagonists. Despite strides that films like Captain Marvel have made, it’s too soon to think that the Russo Brothers and Marvel as a franchise could have done this perfectly. But this kind of treatment is tired. I’m tired. I’m tired of this new wave of female empowerment in movies that gives us scenes like those while still undermining those same characters. Do better Marvel.
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