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‘The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 3: Commercial Suicide’ Shines in Fragments

TheWicDiv_03-1The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 3: Commercial Suicide

Story By: Kieron Gillen
Art By: Jamie McKelvie
Art By: Kate Brown
Art By: Tula Lotay
Art By: Stephanie Hans
Art By: Leila Del Duca
Art By: Matt Wilson
Art By: Mat Lopes
Art By: Brandon Graham
Art By: Clayton Cowles
Cover By: Jamie McKelvie

Published: February 3, 2016 by Image Comics

The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 3: Commerical Suicide develops many of the still mysterious pantheon members, presents a subset of the responses to the deaths of the first two volumes, and progresses the story toward Ananke’s predicted war between the sky gods and the gods of the underworlds. Each issue focuses on a different pantheon member and is illustrated by a different guest artist, brilliantly highlighting the different personalities and music genres of each focus god. Together the volume delves into the dark side of fame and power as the pantheon tries to keep from falling apart.

The end of volume two left the narrative in lurch. Reader analog Laura was deified and then murdered. Who would be the new guide through the coming issues? The reader is left a bit lost heading into Commercial Suicide, a parallel to the pantheon gods still reeling from Inanna’s death. Baal is the first to escalate the situation, but not the last, trading an exclusive interview for the opportunity to capture the Morrigan and use her to find Baphomet, upon whom he intends to inflict a violent retribution. His act, however, splinters the group. Meanwhile, others deal with internal conflict. Woden questions his allegiance to Ananke and acts to block her next murderous move while also attempting to keep loose canons like Baal and Sakhmet from publicly committing commercial suicide.

Check out the rest of my review at

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Trade Paperback Review – Star Wars: Shattered Empire

Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars: Shattered Empire
by Greg Rucka illustrated by Marco Checchetto & Phil Noto

Star Wars Shattered Empire cover

Collects Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Shattered Empire #1-4, Princess Leia #1, Star Wars (1977) #1.

For the first time in the new Star Wars canon, journey with us into the time after the end of Star Wars Episode VI Return of the Jedi! Writer Greg Rucka and artist Marco Checchetto take us past the destruction of the second Death Star — and into the chaos of a Shattered Empire. It’s the explosive lead-in to this winter’s blockbuster big-screen Star Wars revival, and everything you need to know is right here!

Shattered Empire opens in the final moments of the Battle of Endor, quickly orienting the reader with images of Luke dueling Vader and Han setting the charges that will disable the shield protecting the Death Star. Literally and visually bursting into the story in her A-Wing fighter comes Green Four, Shara Bey, future mother of the best pilot in the resistance. During the victory celebration on the forest moon, she seeks out her partner Kes Dameron, member of General Solo’s Pathfinders, a sort of special forces unit.

We follow their stories as they deploy again and again against remnants of the now shattered empire. Through their adventures the reader gains a sense of of the scope and breadth of the Rebellion’s remit. Their lives touch and sometimes parallel those of Luke and Leia and our other old favorites, but only enough to keep longtime fans interested.

Star Wars Shattered Empire Shara and Kes

Shattered Empire sets the stage for the next generation, the personalities that will populate The Force Awakens. Shara and Kes serve and perform admirably and are adequately rewarded. The series offers an intimate answer to the question of what the rebellion fought for beyond the politics and the drama of the Skywalker family.

It’s the kind of story that deepens your enjoyment of the parent material, carving out a niche for new characters and weaving them into the primary mythology. When it ended, I found myself wanting, needing, to know more about Shara and Kes and their gestating son. Their family became a metaphor for the revitalization of the franchise.

The art is exuberant and dynamic. The characters are distinct and expressive. And there’s action even in the relatively still panels. Whether it’s the attack on the Death Star or the queen of Naboo removing her makeup, Shattered Empire is always in motion. Just like the films.

Recommended for completists, of course, but also for fans of the N-1 Starfighter and the Lambda-class T-4a shuttle.

The collection also features the first issue of Princess Leia, which follows on the heels of the events in Shattered Empire. That series is collected in its own volume as well, but it’s a welcome addition. We see Leia set herself on the path that will describe her conflict with the fledgling Republic in the new trilogy. Featuring clever, fully clothed women, I’ll definitely be checking out the trade.

And, finally, for whatever reason, they’ve included the first issue of the old seventies Star Wars comic. Clearly based on either the shooting script or an even earlier version, it’s something of a time capsule. Highlights include two deleted Biggs Darklighter scenes and Darth Vader’s relentless search for the stolen Imperial data tapes. It was worth reading just to remind myself that whenever I think a modern comic is wordy or full of exposition bubbles, I yet live in a golden age of brevity.

May the Force be with you.

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Children’s Book Review: Aaron and Alexander

Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History written and illustrated by Don Brown

Aaron and Alexander cover

I’m going to do something different. I usually include the promotional text before I get into my review, but I noticed a significant difference between what appears online versus what appears on the dust jacket. I think it’s important to share both. First, here’s the online text used by botrh the publisher and retailers.

Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton were both fierce patriots during the Revolutionary War, but the politics of the young United States of America put them in constant conflict. Their extraordinary story of bitter fighting and resentment culminates in their famous duel. For young patriots who may not yet know the shocking and tragic story, Aaron and Alexander captures the spirit of these two great men who so valiantly served their country and ultimately allowed their pride and ego to cause their demise.

Sensational, right? Fierce, manly, timeless. I would never buy this book for my children. At least at their current ages. Now here’s the dust jacket.

Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton were both orphaned at a young age, and they both became successful lawyers. The both fought in the Revolutionary War. But the politics of the young United States of America put these Founding Fathers in constant conflict. Theirs is a story of passion, patriotism, and pride, which culminates in the most famous duel in American history. Despite their similarities, it seemed the world was not big enough for both Aaron and Alexander, yet the outcome of their rivalry forever links their names.

Okay, honestly, dueling isn’t an appropriate subject for our preschooler or our infant. I still wouldn’t buy this book. Not yet anyway. But it does seem more thoughtful, more teachable.

The latter is what you see browsing in the store, and to me it encourages opening the book and taking a look. The former targets the history nerd, or teacher, with something exciting to share.

Anyway, if you’ve got some basic recall of high school civics, you probably know that Aaron Burr shot, or maybe even assassinated, the guy on the twenty dollar bill. If you spent any time online or watched late night television in 2015, chances are you know a little more than that. Have you heard about the Broadway musical Hamilton? There’s a cast recording. I highly recommend it. Our preschooler asked if we could listen to it while we fell asleep the other night.

And that’s why I’m reviewing this book. I checked it out from the library in a pile of books and audiobooks related to the principals. I used to look for the best book or whatever. Now I just read everything.

Luckily I took a look inside before sharing it with our child. And luckier still the art on the cover was a turn off. I can’t tell whether the style wasn’t attractive or whether it was overly evocative. Both are true, of course, in the eyes of a preschooler. Don Brown’s muted watercolors and soft lines are worlds away from the cartoonish primaries of the Little Golden Books we’ve been reading. But just look up there. Those two people are clearly going to to try to kill each other. They are both bad guys.

That itself is a sharp contrast to what’s in the book. Inside, they’re often so similar it hurts. And this is true even if you’re reading one of the eight books cited in the bibliography. Allow me a digression. Nonfiction picture books have bibliographies. Some have footnotes. Our children don’t get it yet, and we skip over them. But some day soon I’ll get to answer questions about them. Anyway, the range of reference material is good.

So good, in fact, that what I expected to be essentially Hamilton propaganda is quite fair and balanced. I have no idea how to turn this story into a children’s book. I can barely discuss it with people who have some background. But Brown has made an admirable attempt.

In a few years, the nuance on display will provoke some interesting conversations, Right now if there’s going to be fighting there needs to be a bad guy. An obvious one like Darth Vader, or better yet Darth Maul. Not this.

Aaron and Alexander dueling

I can’t explain dueling or why “Despicable” caused one or what that was actually code for at the turn of the nineteenth century and then why that, at that time, was something negative. Just, “is that blood?” and the subsequent questions are enough to shelve this one for awhile.

But, if you’re adventurous, or interested, or Clint Eastwood, maybe you’ll give it a shot. Too soon?

Recommended for fans of Hamilton, Daffy Duck, and folks who let their kids watch R-rated movies.

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‘Paper Girls’ #5: Now is Gone

PaperGirls_05-1Paper Girls #5

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art and Cover by Cliff Chiang
Colors by Matt Wilson
Letters and Design by Jared K. Fletcher
Published by Image Comics on February 3, 2016

Paper Girls ends its first arc offering a few answers: Who are Heck and Naldo? Where are the missing people of Stony Stream? What is Erin’s fate? How will the girls escape Cardinal and Grand Father’s cleansing?  But it also poses even more questions as it jumps to two new eras of time. Vaughan gives satisfaction in the answers but also a tantalizing peek of what comes next. I cheered. This is a winning arc conclusion to an outstanding new series.  

Spoilers follow.

PG3 Girls and cardinal

As the issues often do, the opening page is in Erin’s perspective. She regains consciousness, and we get a point-of-view frame of her seeing Heck and Naldo in what Heck calls their whenhouse, the place where they store their stolen tech from various eras. The place looks like it’s powered or maintained by a gigantic Apple server, linking first to the Nano Erin found in issue #1 and then back to Erin’s first dream of the astronaut and the apple. Naldo tells her she’s become an astronaut as well as a time traveler since location cannot be divorced from time lest a person ends up floating in space (or molecularly combined with someone else). At the close of issue #5, the astronaut-apple business returns one last time to give circular closure to the arc. Heck explains that they’re scavengers (time bandits, if you will), boosting tech to make a living. Sadly, when they return Erin to 1988, using one of the papers she was delivering that morning to guide them, an attack by the Old-Timers requires them to make a last minute shift in their trajectory, resulting in Naldo and Heck fatally fused together, though Erin is unharmed.

For the rest of my review of the conclusion of the first arc, click through to

If you’d like to see a translation of the “alien” language, check out our latest update.

I added two tracks to the Paper Girls playlist for this issue: “Grow Old With Me” by John Lennon and “Across the Universe” by The Beatles.


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‘Mirror’ #1 Makes Magic of Misery

Mirror_01-1Mirror #1

Story By: Emma Ríos
Art By: Hwei Lim
Published on February 3, 2016 by Image Comics

Lewis Carroll was famous for making up words, most notably in the poem “Jabberwocky.” One of those words is mimsy, which Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice in Through the Looking Glass is a portmanteau for miserable and flimsy. But I’ve always thought it was a mash-up of miserable and whimsy, and this error refuses to right itself in my brain. It is this meaning I kept mentally attributing to Mirror, which shares its use of looking glasses, transformations, plays for power, and talking animals with Carroll’s famous sequel.

The story centers around a boy, Ivan, who is the ward of a magician named Kazbek and is to be trained in magic himself. His dog Cena is the subject of magical experiments by Kazbek that over time give her human qualities including the ability to speak and, eventually, love. That love is seen as an abomination, and the two attempt to run away together, only to be apprehended and separated as Cena escapes into the wilderness. That early part of the story is mirrored with the state of things about 30 years later, when Ivan is a talented magician still under the watchful eye of Kazbek. Kazbek has now succeeded in creating a minotaur, a sphinx, and a talking lab rat, and has been attempting to reproduce the creations ever since. Ivan finds his work immoral and strikes out against him. Mirror #1 sets the stage for an emotional journey where Ivan, Cena, and Zun fight for dignity and freedom.

To read the rest of my review, click through to



Paper Girls: Logographic Language Decoder – Updated for Issue #5

Paper Girls #5 takes the reader all ever the place. The juvenile cyborg chrononauts communicate largely with one another, but the story finds an opportunity for some untranslated text. The first letter to appear initially in an entirely fictional word is Q, and we’ve dutifully added it to our decoder.

Paper Girls Time Traveler's Language Key Updated for 5


Every month it feels like reading the logographic language gets a little easier. However this issue not only reveals some unusual terminology with the characters, we also get an entirely fictional word. For folks who’d prefer not to look up and substitute every letter, we’ve translated what Naldo and the Cronebergian Tardis are saying in “Now is Gone” below.



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‘The X-Files: Season 11’ #6 Sets the Poisoned Pawn

XFiless11_06_cvrWritten by: Joe Harris
Art by: Matthew Dow Smith
Colors by: Jordie Bellaire
Letters by: Chris Mowry
Editor : Denton J. Tipton
Executive Producer: Chris Carter

Published January 20, 2016 by IDW Publishing

The X-Files mythology arcs have always felt like a chess game playing out. Mulder and Scully were the pawns, moving painfully slowly across the board, seeing the other pieces in their vicinity but never the board as a whole. The partial information could be put together to arrange a tentative map of the board’s arrangement, but in the meantime, pieces were still moving, often negating previously known truths.

Joe Harris understands this and pulls the analogy quite literally into the opening pages of issue #6 of The X-Files: Season 11. “Endgames Part 1” is the first of a two-part “season finale” for the latest arc/season of IDW’s comic book series continuing where the show concluded in 2002 with season 9. Let me clarify that this series runs a different future scenario than the newly revived television mini-season 10.

For the rest of my review, click through to

The X Files  Season 11  6 Mulder.png


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