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‘Rat Queens’ #15 Asks Demon or Queen?

RatQueens_15-1Rat Queens #15
Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Art by Tess Fowler
Letters by Ed Brisson
Colors by Tamra Bonvillain
Cover by Stjephan Sejic

Rat Queens #15 finishes out the “Demons” arc with revelations and character rebirth, all driven by the question: demon or Queen? At the heart of this is a he said/she said retelling of how Hannah got kicked out of Mage University that ends with miscommunication and missteps. This final issue of the arc slams the reader in the best narrative ways and puts an emotional cap on what has been a stellar arc by Wiebe.

Hannah’s backstory has been at the forefront of the “Demons” arc, with the secondary story belonging to Dee. In both, the characters have grappled with their estranged families. In both, they’ve reunited with a family member and reevaluated the relationship based on the new encounter. And here those two private backstories collide with heavy consequences.

Read the rest of my review on PopOptiq!



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Cell by Cell: ‘Bitch Planet’ #6 Part 5

BitchPlanet_06-1In Cell by Cell, I look deeply into the panels of an issue, appreciating and analyzing the story and artistic composition.

Bitch Planet #6
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by Taki Soma
Cover by Valentine De Landro
Colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics on January 6, 2016

See Cell by Cell: Bitch Planet #6 part 1 here.

Click here if you’d prefer to see my review of the issue.

Page 9BP6-9

Now the comfortable, happy family stuff falls away when Mr. Braxton calls Makoto at the office. The panels are layered and unaligned, creating a faster pace and chaotic mood. Cell 1 gives an establishing shot of the skyscraper that houses Maki’s business. The panel starts in lighter shades of yellow, blue, and pink with heavy contrasting shadows. This is a conversation that seems pleasant but has dark threats underneath. Cell 2 re-establishes the scene’s layout with a medium-long framing of the office interior. Braxton appears on a video screen. Makoto is initially standing, showing his position of power in the moment. In the next row of panels, he will sit as the power shifts. The many blues give the scene a coolness, reflecting the blackmailing that is being slowly delivered to Makoto.

Cell 3 is Makoto’s point-of-view of Braxton on the vidscreen. He’s a young, blond man, his finger wagging in accusation and disapproval as he mentions inconsistencies in the plans that concern him. There is a condescension implied in Braxton’s manner. His youth accentuates his privilege as a white man. Though he barely seems old enough to have finish college, he is overseeing Maki’s work. In cell 4, we see Braxton’s point-of-view of Makoto’s reaction. It’s a small panel, implying the small estimation of Maki’s power in this situation. Mack is initially speechless, perhaps trying to figure out how best to respond. His background has gone black, showing the mental and emotional abyss he’s in contemplating being caught at sabotaging the space ship.


For the rest of my analysis on pages 9-10, click through to PopOptiq–

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Looking at Remakes Side-by-Side

Hollywood loves to recycle–both foreign films and its own. Jaume R. Lloret, a video essayist I just discovered, created a short video (only 3 min!) that pairs images from a series of original films and their remakes to explore the similarities and differences. And because there is no commentary, the viewer is able to make their own evaluations on whether the original or remake is superior and how. Of course, often these things are a matter of preference for the style choices of the filmmakers, and I enjoyed noting my own responses. For instance, I have a strong preference for the originals of both Psycho and The Omen, and not always the reason to back it up. With other pairings, like Cape Fear and Infernal Affairs/The Departed, the progression towards more camera movement and faster cutting is obvious.

Definitely worth three minutes of your time.

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Black Canary Vol. 1’s Punk-Rock Heroics

CanaryCoverBlack Canary Vol. 1: Kicking and Screaming
Written by Brendan Fletcher
Art by Annie Wu, Pia Guerra, Sandy Garrell
Color by Lee Loughridge
Letters by Steve Wands

Since I was first introduced to this new iteration of Black Ca
nary through Batgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside, I can’t help but make comparisons. In that first introduction to Dinah, I didn’t think much of her. She came off as haughty in her irritation with Babs, and without prior sympathies built up, Dinah never won me over, instead remaining an annoyance through her appearance in that volume.

Her solo volume does much to reverse that, giving Dinah the chance to build sympathy while maintaining her tough, feminist, loner leanings. While Babs has friendships aplenty to keep her connected to the world and a lightness of being in her crime-fighting, Dinah stays aloof and carries the world’s weight on her shoulders. She’s a mystery, even to her band mates in Black Canary. And she’s trouble in a way that Babs never is. She’s quickly becoming a persona-non-gratis with her band, frequently leaving venues in states of disarray and destruction after her enemies take the opportunity to call her out. Her band mates, non of whom are superheroes, are becoming disillusioned with Dinah. She may be a kick-ass vocalist, but the fights are cutting hard into their tour profits.

Adding further complication is Bo M, the former lead singer of Black Canary who Dinah replaced. She’s a diva, clearly foiling Dinah’s more practical nature. Bo is out for vengeance against Dinah and acting the pawn for some big players indeed. Then there’s the mysterious, mute drummer Ditto who looks 12 but has some truly incredible musical abilities. Like with Batgirl, Brendan Fletcher makes most of Dinah’s central antagonists female, creating storylines that center heavily on the relationships between women, both positive and negative. Of special interest to this volume is an exploration of surrogate motherhood and how that changes a person’s perspective.


For the rest of my review, click through to PopOptiq


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Kanye | Kubrick: A Video Mash-Up Comparison

Kanye West, surprising no one, exhibited the size of his ego once again when he ranted on SNL that he was more influential than many artists, including Stanley Kubrick, whom he has also said has influenced him. As far as current artistry goes, he’s probably not wrong, but if we’re looking more historically, Kanye should probably wait to take the tally of influence.

His rant, however, offered inspiration to one of my favorite video essayists, Nelson Carvajal, who has edited together both Kanye and Kubrick to deliberately explore their relationship. However, Carvajal leaves any evaluation of what that relationship is up to the viewer. For my money, it largely seems to come down to self-importance and the objectification of the female body.

Warning, this video is NSFW.

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Responding to the ‘Ghostbusters’ Trailer

The newly released Ghostbusters trailer doesn’t break a lot of new ground, except for it’s gender-swapping. In fact, I suspect it was put together to offer only that major change, because much of it is entirely familiar, calling back to the 1984 film through settings, slimings, and character types.

Considering how reactionary a large portion of the public has been concerning even switching up the gender roles, I suspect making everything else look familiar was a good bet. I ended up mostly enjoying the allusions and callbacks. The trailer knows it owes the source material too–it gives credits for the original film. Kate McKinnon appears to be an even goofier Egon, and Melissa McCarthy fits into the mold of Ray.

More problematic is the clear connection between Leslie Jones’s character, Patty Tolan, and Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddmore. Tolan, like Zeddmore, is the not-a-scientist of the group and also the person-of-color. Plenty of people have criticized the repetition, stating outright that Tolan could have been a scientist quite easily. Instead she’s an MTA worker, which is at least one step better than Zeddmore, who almost entirely lacked backstory.

Jones has spoken back to the naysayers, pointing out that the trailer isn’t much to go on. She also points out that there’s nothing wrong with being an MTA worker and shared a message she got from an MTA worker fan celebrating seeing the representation.

Although the portrayal of white women as scientists and black woman as street wise MTA worker is definitely problematic, due to the focus on similarities to the original film, I can’t help but hope that all these tropes of the first film will be twisted in the new one. After all, not turning these tropes would make the film mostly pointless. Furthermore, Leslie Jones is spectacularly funny. She exudes strength no matter what character she plays. Case in point: the muffin-missing manager on the SNL skit “Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base.”

Only time will tell, but for now, I remain hopeful in my anticipation of the new Ghostbusters.

For fun, I link for you the teaser recut with the original theme song. Enjoy!



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Transcending in the Poetry of e.e. cummings

i carryHow excited I was when I saw that the most recent Nerdwriter video was going to examine one of my favorite poets and one that I teach in class each year: e.e. cummings. Cummings is a tricky but beloved poet because he is inventively flexible with language. Sometimes his poems seem nonsensical until looked at from the right angle. He plays with spacing, capitalization, and punctuation to force his reader into a new perspective to take in his words. He uses wordplay and pun, layering meanings to amplify ambiguities.

Evan Puschak looks specifically at cummings’ love poem “i carry your heart with me (i carry it in” which is one of his most accessible and universal poems. Puschak examines the universal concrete images of the poem, the two spaces of inside and outside the parantheses, as well as the transcendental philosophy cummings presented throughout his poetry.

I will excitedly show this video to my students. Puschak has once again taken a complex piece of art and clearly shown how it creates its meaning. If you have any love for or interest in poetry, check this one out.