When the Phoenix Force is given a host that isn’t a mutant you tend to get a lot of unhappy X-Men fans. Being wildly unfamiliar with the Daredevil comics, I picked up two random middle issues of “Phoenix Song: Echo” thinking that she might be a new X-character. I saw that Echo, aka Maya Lopez, was deaf and indigenous and said “Yes, please!” without really investigating further. It wasn’t until I mentioned my find to a friend that I realized she wasn’t an X-character and promptly went through the five stages of grief.
However, I am now here to encourage all disgruntled/suspicious X-fans concerned about a non-mutant Phoenix Force host to give Echo a chance. We actually see that same sort of suspicion play out in canon with Forge, who decides, based on past familiarity with the Phoenix Force, that he knows best and that Maya needs to give up the Phoenix Force. While Maya is having trouble with control, Forge should frankly know better. I can’t think of a single time that trying to forcibly subdue the Phoenix Force has gone well, like… that’s literally how Jean Grey went Dark Phoenix.
“Phoenix Song: Echo” is all about the ‘who’ and ‘why’ of Maya and the Phoenix. Who is Maya that the Phoenix felt she was the right host? With the Adversary looming large and wanting the Phoenix Force for himself, Maya has to go back through the past to figure out who she is as the Phoenix and if her ancestors can help her. But it’s not that simple, because it never is. Maya is being helped by River, the adopted grandson of a family friend, and River… River is all tied up with the Adversary.
I found Maya’s journey of self/Phoenix discovery to be incredibly compelling, and it was compelling even before we get to the reveal of her (spoilers) Phoenix host ancestor. The Phoenix Force has long been tied to questions and dilemmas of self and personhood, from Jean Grey to Quentin Quire, and Maya Lopez slots very neatly into this.
This mini-series was also a breath of fresh air for me regarding indigenous and disability representation. Marvel has historically not been particularly good about either of those things, Native characters get reduced to stereotype and disabilities get ignored. Maya, as she is portrayed here—I cannot speak to earlier iterations of her character—is well written to both points. Key for me, is that her ability to read lips isn’t perfect, even bolstered by her powers. She struggles with unfamiliar accents, can’t read lips in the dark, and knows sign language when lip reading is impossible due to language barrier.
I will say that I would have liked to have seen more of Maya learning from her ancestors, particularly the Phoenix Force ancestor. The narrative jumped very quickly through Maya’s past, her talking to her ancestor about the Phoenix powers, and then to Maya fighting the Adversary and a weird hallucination, which I think boiled down to the fact that there was a lot to cover for a five-issue mini-series. Personally, I would have loved to see this as a longer run series, since Maya is now probably my favorite non-X character.
I have found the Star Wars extended universe a fascinating place since childhood. I read every Star Wars book our library had and then I created my own Stars Wars encyclopedia out of the information contained within — the result of having access to a computer, but limited connection to the internet. The official Star Wars universe has changed a lot since then, and the new tie-in books don’t really interest me, so I thought, why not check out the comics. I picked up “There is no Fear” at my local comic shop primarily because it was volume one of a trade paperback. It promised good art and the beginning of a story and that was all I needed.
“There is no Fear” takes place during the High Republic, before any Skywalker nonsense, and follows Keeve Trennis as she becomes a new Jedi. It’s a good place to go if you are like me and wanting to avoid any of the canon-fuckery caused by the sequel trilogy. “There is no Fear” does a really good job of introducing you to new characters and helping you fall in love with them, which is a credit to both good writing and compelling art. I was deeply invested in Ceret and Terec from the moment of their introduction.
The only place I really felt like I was missing something was in references to a “great disaster,” and just generally how the Jedi had reached the point of launching a space station outpost in the Outer Rim. I feel like there are probably storylines that precede “There is no Fear” that I’m going to have to seek out to get those answers. That’s more-or-less how comics work though, you pick a starting point and then, in reading, you find where you want to go next to learn more, and this story is a super interesting one that brings a lot of new and exciting things to the greater Star Wars universe. It’s definitely going to be one I pick up as it continues weekly (it also doesn’t help that volume one ends on a cliffhanger that I must find out the resolution to).
The story feels, to me, very much like a classic EU Jedi story, where the emphasis is that, above all, the Jedi help, though that is something that provides resolution and conflict alike as characters struggle with being, maybe not human, but people with complex emotions. All of the characters, even the side characters, are incredibly well presented both in terms of writing and art. I greatly enjoyed the expressiveness given to the alien faces. I won’t spoil too much about the new antagonists introduced by this story, but I will say that they are a particular flavor of eldritch abomination that I greatly enjoy. It’s a similar kind of horror as found in “Bountiful Garden,” so if that interested you, this may too, though as this is Star Wars, it’s going to have more action alongside the creeping eldritch horror.
Hello, hello! I have returned with another recommended reading list, this time covering what I read behind the scenes from December 2021 through February 2022.
SM 101: A Realistic Introduction by Jay Wiseman – In progress last time, now finished! This is a really, really excellent introduction to the basics of BDSM. It goes into thorough detail without being overwhelmingly technical and discusses a wide range of practices while also acknowledging that it is only the tip of the iceberg. If this book interests you, there is plenty more reading out there. The back of the book has several lists of organizations, books and other publications where a person could get more information.
That said, this second, revised edition was published in 1998, so contact information has likely changed in the 20+ years since. My general recommendation is, if something in the resources looks interesting, google it, because chances are it may still exist in some form, even the old urls. Other areas of the book impacted are the chapter on meeting people, discussions of internet resources, and HIV/AIDS safety. This revised edition came out right at the advent of online dating and chat rooms, so they aren’t covered in depth, and long before the advent of PrEP and PEP pills for pre- and post-exposure to HIV.
Eat Prey Love/“Bambi” is Even Bleaker Than You Thought by Kathryn Schulz – This article is a really interesting look at the original “Bambi” story before Disney butchered it, now rediscovered as it entered the public domain this year. It caught my attention because, as I was skimming the article, it mentioned that there was a reading of it that saw the book as an allegory for the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe prior to World War 2 and that was more than enough to get me to read the whole thing. It wasn’t quite enough to get me to pick up an English translation of the book, but it was a fascinating read nonetheless.
Marauders, issues 26-27, by Gerry Duggan and Marauders: Annual by Steve Orlando – We reach the end of an era with a major team swap. Bobby and Christian are going off for a romantic vacation, Pyro’s got a book tour and a horrible mullet (I still can’t get over Pyro as a romance novelist), and there’s a corporate shake up at Hellfire Trading. That’s said, while I’m sad to see my faves leave the team, I am excited to see that the new team isn’t going to be any less gay, as we’ve got Daken and some dude named Somnus who I’m not familiar with, but is in love with Daken, so I will be continuing to subscribe to the series.
Harley Quinn The Animated Series: The Eat. Bang! Kill. Tour issues 4-6 by Tee Franklin – There’s so many wlw y’all, just oodles. On top of Harley and Ivy, these three issues give us Livewire and Nightfall, who are admittedly broken up atm, but still were a thing; Vixen and her girlfriend Elle, who is disabled and has a prosthetic leg; and Peaches, the stripper with vitiligo who gives Harley a lap dance and would really like to give both Harley and Ivy a private show. Anyway, from the queerness to the general diversity of background and side characters, I’m utterly thrilled and sad to see the series end, as I will not be watching the animated series anytime soon.
Tut-Tut/Why King Tut is Still Fascinating by Casey Cep – An interesting article about the history of King Tut and the field of Egyptology, why King Tut still captures the imagination of people around the world, and how to grapple with the colonialist origins of Egyptology and decolonizing the field today. I would love to read something, article or book, that goes more in depth, because the colonialism inherent in the discovery of Tut’s tomb always horrified me, even as I was interested in learning more about the history. What Carter did to Tut’s mummy always makes my stomach turn.
Close Encounters/A Holocaust Survivor’s Hardboiled Science Fiction by Caleb Crain – I was fascinated by the conceit of Stanislaw Lem’s “Solaris” when I saw it used as an au setting for a fanfiction and further fascinated when I started reading it properly. It was dark and haunting, which is how I like my science fiction, frankly, and discovering that Lem was a Holocaust survivor made an awful lot of sense in terms of the book’s themes and musing on humanity and this article digs even more into that. This is a really great biographical sketch of Lem and his works and if you have even a passing interest in Lem’s books I’d recommend it.
The Wilds Beyond the Witchlight – My players have made it through the first chapter! We have left the Witchlight Carnival and moved into the Feywild, specifically the first splinter realm within Prismeer, Hither. This chapter is more complicated than the first, but is also a bit more guided, which is good for me the DM, because it means that I can actually make proper session plans now. The first chapter was very much a free for all exploration time at a carnival, so there was minimal prep I could do, which drove me a bit bonkers.
Sealed with Honey by the Magpie Artists’ Ensemble – This should have been included with the last list too, but it completely slipped my mind, due, in part, to it’s nontraditional story telling method. “Sealed with Honey” is a completely epistolary queer romance set in the 19th century. Simon Ward and Gabriel Shaw, two young men, one in England and the other in France, strike up a correspondence after an introduction from Simon’s sister. The story is entirely told though letters that get mailed out on a twice monthly basis. The first letters went out late last year and it’s been a delight getting the letters in the mail and seeing new and tantalizing details revealed.
Different Loving: The World of Sexual Dominance & Submission edited by Gloria G. Brame, William D. Brame and Jon Jacobs – This book is an interview collection about, as the title implies, more BDSM stuff. It’s another older one, so, as with “SM 101,” certain aspects have changed. I’ve only just made it through the introduction though, and it does look promising, but I have had to put the book on hold while I do some other research reading for a short story I’m working on.
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett – A classic detective novel that I have long wanted to read. I love the movie and I love the old Sam Spade radio drama. I wasn’t prepared to be punched in the face on page four by the line “Her body was erect and high-breasted, her legs long, her hands and feet narrow.” I was expecting some sexism because it’s typical of the genre and of 1929, but this really just sent me.
Welcome to the first post of what I am calling “Behind the Scenes Reading,” where I discuss my bookshelves and what I’m reading when I’m not working on reviews for this blog. As a reminder, if you didn’t read the end-of-the-year wrap up post, this post will feature books/comics/articles I read from September through November 2021 and patrons will get a spicy little extra section of anti-recommendations. Let’s dive in:
Franklin’s Passage by David Solway – This is a poetry collection thematically concerned with Franklin’s lost expedition. The poems are stunning and haunting and deeply impactful. I think poetry is honestly one of the best mediums to try and capture the legacy of the Franklin expedition, as there are so few concrete answers about what happened. Poetry doesn’t need answers, and can be open ended in a way that narrative fiction can’t always be. This book was very hard to get ahold of, but if you’re interested in poetry and the Franklin expedition and willing to take a gamble on a book that appears to only exist in a nebulous state of “perpetually on backorder,” you can order it directly from the publisher.
Harley Quinn The Animated Series: The Eat. Bang! Kill. Tour issues 1-3 – Tee Franklin of “Bingo Love” fame, has been writing a limited Harley/Ivy series for DC that picks up where the animated series left off, which I’ll admit I haven’t seen, but issue one of the series gives you a brief recap, so no worries there. I adore Tee Franklin’s writing and how she approaches queer relationships and when I found the first two issues at my local comic shop I was thrilled. It is ongoing, with the next issue coming out on December 14, so there’s still time to add it to your pull list.
Marauders, issues 23-25, by Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto – I’ve never really kept up with current X-Men comics cause it can just get so confusing, but I have a local comic shop now and I saw from the issue 23 preview that Banshee (my beloved dad/son) was in it, and I like the Marauders team (Kitty Pryde, Bobby Drake, St. John Allerdyce etc etc)… and issue 23 turned out to be a really good place to pick up the series actually. It gave a good summary what had been going on for mutants, and was a good quick one-shot feeling story, before it switched tune for the next two issues, which also had their own self contained arc. The last issue came out on December 1st and will certainly be appearing in the Winter 2021/2022 list.
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel – A Hanukkah classic, featuring the Jewish folk character Hershel of Ostropol. This has been my favorite Hanukkah book since I was a child who didn’t even celebrate Hanukkah. Despite not being from a Jewish family my mother got me holiday books from a wide variety of cultures and “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins” was always my favorite. I cannot recommend this book enough, between the wonderful story and the stunning illustrations courtesy of Trina Schart Hyman it’s just a gorgeous look at what the holiday of Hanukkah means.
Love in the Time of Scurvy: A Terror Fanzine and Brave New Worlds: A Terror AU Fanzine – You might be asking why I’m including fanzines here, well that’s because the first is 152 pages, proper book size in my opinion; the second has four discrete volumes; and it’s not like I haven’t discussed fan works before. I have a whole post about fan content for “The Terror” already, a post about fusion fanfiction, and I’ve even reviewed published fanfiction of works in the public domain. Fanfiction isn’t a lesser form of fiction and fanart isn’t a lesser form of art, and there are a ton of incredible writers and artists in the Terror fandom and they deserve appreciation.
SM 101 by Jay Weisman – I have spent a lot of time delving into queer theory and queer history and there has always been kink and BDSM present in the background during those studies and I figured it was about time that I delved into that area properly. “SM 101” came to me as a highly recommended introductory book, and so far it has lived up to the hype.
The Wilds Beyond the Witchlight – This is the D&D campaign book for the game that I am running for a handful of local friends + my brother. This is my first time running a D&D campaign, though I have run/moderated games for other systems before, so I’m reading through the book slowly, carefully and repetitively, with “The Dungeon Master’s Guide,” “Player’s Handbook,” and “Monster Manual” at my elbow to cross check things. It’s a really exciting campaign though and takes place in the Witchlight Carnival and the Feywild, and supernatural carnival + ethereal fairy world are like… two of my favorite fantasy tropes.
So I went into this excited because I’ve love Jay’s work already and I also trust Jay as someone with good opinions and thoughts on the Summers brothers.
Now I’ve read one-shots/minis series’ of Scott Summers’ origin story before, the two that come immediately to mind are “X-Men: Children of the Atom” and “X-Men Origins: Cyclops,” but “Snapshots” rapidly outpaced them as my favorite. It’s not the most comprehensive look at Scott’s backstory, it doesn’t even begin to touch on Mr. Sinister, but what it does do is create a tangible look at how Scott’s past has impacted his present, in particular his past prior to Professor X and the X-Men.
The story is focused on Scott during his time at the orphanage where he lived after the plane crash that “killed” his parents prior to and immediately after his mutation manifesting, and the main plot is Scott trying to figure out where he fits in the world and struggling with a slew of mental health issues after the plane crash.
At the same time superheroes emerge on the world stage, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, etc. and we get to see Scott view superheroes through the eyes of a civilian. Not Cyclops, not even knowing he’s got powers of his own yet. One line I particularly loved was, “They talk like the Fantastic Four are movie characters, but they’re real people,” which I think is just a fantastic thing to think about considering the kind of public perception Scott himself attains as an adult.
The main thread that the story follows is Scott hyper-fixating on superheroes and the idea of superheroes being born from tragic circumstances, but helping people. The experiences of the Fantastic Four gaining their powers through a freak accident is paralleled with Scott’s plane crash: “Four people climb into a cockpit. Strap in. Take off. Something goes horribly, horribly, wrong.”
This leads to Scott going to see Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic speak, where he winds up involved in his first superhero/super villain fight as a bystander. This leads to Scott’s budding interest in tactical planning and then his mutation goes off.
The flashback section concludes with Scott struggling once again with who he is. Is he a monster that the Fantastic Four would fight? Or is he like them, can he help? And, because this is Scott Summers the answer is the latter. Something else I really loved about this scene was that Scott came to that realization on his own, he didn’t need Professor X to validate his worth.
Which brings us to the very final scene: in the nebulous “present” Scott is giving orders for what appears to be a mission to rescue three of the Fantastic Four, and we see Scott as Cyclops taking to Reed Richards and he quotes to Reed something that Reed had said during a TV interview while Scott was at the orphanage. That, for me, brought everything together absolutely perfectly. In one speech bubble, we understand the importance of the entire rest of the story and how foundational these early experiences were for Scott. It’s also just a great ending from a storytelling perspective too, it’s a beautifully wrapped one-shot that doesn’t leave you wanting for anything.
One more thing of note, if you are neurodivergent like myself, you may have noticed my use of the word “hyper-fixation” which is a term used in describing certain behaviors characteristic of autism and ADHD. Scott reads incredibly neurodivergent and not just in a throw away sense and it’s very easy to pick up if you are familiar with those kinds of neurodivergencies. Furthermore, this is intentional, Jay has stated himself that he was writing Scott as autistic. Of course, Word of God only means so much, but in my opinion, the proof is more than there.
While this issue came out several weeks ago, you may still be able to find it by reaching out to your local comic book shop — I got mine through Books with Pictures — and you can get it in digital through comiXology.
So, full disclosure, aside from Miles Morales (Spider-man) and Kate Bishop (Hawkeye) I had no mcfucking clue who anyone else on this cast was. I mean I knew who Balder was, but only because I really, really liked the Norse story about Baldur’s death as a kid.
That said, if you’re like me and only coming to this story because of the McElroys, issue one gives enough of an introduction to the characters that you don’t feel lost reading a story about them.
The team is as follows:
Balder: Norse god, brother of Thor.
Miles Morales: Spider-man, the main protagonist of Into the Spider-verse (the spider-verse is actually referenced in issue one)
Kate Bishop: Hawkeye, not girl Hawkeye, just Hawkeye. She did spend time training with Clint Barton though.
Rebecca Ryker: Death Locket, teen girl Deathlock (who I also know nothing about)
Sebastian Druid: part monster, has magic powers, a coat of holding and a nanny license
Simon Williams: Wonder Man, retired superhero and pacifist
Thori: Thor’s dog, really likes to fight NOT a babysitter
Now, the baby. The baby is Thor and Baldur’s babiest sister and the plot is basically: Baldur recruits a team to keep the baby safe from the big bad which leads to chase/roadtrip, which is a good and entertaining plot.
Baldur, like any child of any parent, is horrified by the idea of Odin and Frigga boning. It’s very Griffin McElroy “I’m in Hell!” every time Clint makes a dirty joke in the Adventure Zone.
On that note, if you enjoyed the writing of the Adventure Zone graphic novel you’re definitely going to enjoy the writing in Journey to Mystery.
Other moments, I found highly enjoyable:
The background gays. Like any good McElroy content, it’s flush with background gays. You’ve got the cosplayer boyfriends in issue one and the very obviously butch lesbian trucker in issue two.
The cosplayer goof is actually good. It’s not comic book writer mocks the fans, which happens an unfortunate amount.
Thor’s dog is named Thori and also everything about Thori.
The baby just effortlessly charms a bunch of Skrulls
I’m frankly super pumped for the next issue and…… cowboy ghosts?
This is an essay I originally wrote for a rhetoric and writing class in 2015 and cleaned up in 2017. As a result, the tone of the paper is skewed towards the perspective of someone who is unfamiliar with the X-Men, because of this it may come across as over explanatory to fans familiar with the issues and plotlines discussed.
In the first issue of X-Men: Schism, mutant leader of the X-Men, Scott Summers, codename Cyclops, delivers a speech to the International Arms Control Conference in Switzerland. This speech fails quite spectacularly for multiple reasons, many being out of the rhetor’s control. The speech concerns decommissioning the Sentinel weapons that have been created by humans for the purpose of hunting and tracking down mutants, because many humans fear and hate mutants. Scott explains in the speech that he wants to protect the remaining mutants since their numbers have been decimated, going from millions of mutants to just a few hundred, and he states that he believes that there are now more Sentinels than mutants themselves (Aaron #1-8/2). This decimation event, called M-Day within the comics, occurred when the Scarlet Witch depowered 90% of the world’s mutant population (David #1-9/1).
In my consolidating of the content I’ve created I figured it would be a good idea to get these puppies circulating again. This is episode one of the two episode demo of the podcast I assembled for a class in college. They’ve been wasting away on my Soundcloud since then, but they’ve got some good things to say.
(repost, because I’m an idiot with two thumbs who deleted the original)
[Edit: Originally published June 22, 2018]
Love from parents is the trickiest kind of love. You want to love your parents and you want your parents to love you. I think that’s something that every child wants, no matter how badly their parents might treat them.
Throughout “Thawing Out” Bobby’s antics as Iceman of the X-Men, antics that vary from attempting to help a recently manifested mutant to having to fight the Purifiers or Juggernaut, are set against multiple interactions and conversations that Bobby has with his parents. Conversations that deal with Bobby being a mutant and, in the last two issues of the volume, him being gay. The conversations are difficult to say the least. The Drakes’ reactions to Bobby’s being a mutant and being gay remind me somewhat of my parents reactions to me and my variety of queerness.
There are few things I respect more than a writer who can handle such painful conversations with nuance and care that doesn’t leave the reader overwhelmed and hurting. I have had to put down so many books that I was hoping to enjoy because of writing that left me too hurt to continue, books that I have seen lauded as Peak Representation™. To that point as well, one reason the writing is so careful and poignant is that the writer Sina Grace is a gay man himself. The books that have left me hurt and disappointed? Written by cis people (in the case of trans books) or straight women (in the case of the gay books).
In some respects the 2017 Iceman run might be a confusing place to start for a queer kid looking to get into comics, it does drop you into the middle of things, but it can also be a really great place to start. If you start with this? Every other comic you read with Bobby, even the ones written before he came out, are bathed in a whole new light. I know I’ve found great enjoyment in reading older comics with this knowledge and I’ve been reading comics for years. I can’t imagine how wonderful it must be for new readers with gay Iceman being the only Iceman they know.
First things first, it’s frankly criminal that Marvel canceled Iceman. I know I’m late making my opinion known about that but I’ve been busy.
I wanted to look at issue 11 for a number of reasons. Firstly, and this ties in with Iceman being cancelled, it doesn’t feel like the last issue of a series. It feels like a bit of an abrupt ending. However, I feel like it’s safe to assume that everyone involved was probably hoping for a longer run and therefore, you can’t really blame anyone but the Marvel higher ups for that.
Second, the double narrative it provides with Bobby and Mr. Poklemba, which is illustrated fantastically with two different art styles. You have a very traditional modern art style for the current day story with adult Bobby and Mr. Poklemba the Drake’s neighbor across the way, who is struggling with his mutation and being a mutant, and you have a very ’60s style of art, like that of the early X-Men comics, showing Bobby as a child, when he’s first dealing with his mutation. For the most part I liked this juxtaposition, but at first it was jarring, because none of the other issues in Absolute Zero were like that.
Third. This Tumblr post:
Got me thinking about the portrayal of Mr. Poklemba. He’s paralleled to Bobby through the flashbacks, neither of them wanting to think that they’re mutants. being told by parents and society to hate mutants. Now in terms of LGBTQ things in Iceman, I have no complaints, my little gay heart loves every bit of it. However, if we’re looking at the portrayal of mutant as minority. This pattern in the above post plays out to some extent here.
Iceman and Rictor go over to Mr. Poklemba’s house to try to calm him down and he immediately attacks him, because he was “warned about mutants” and he’s “not like them.” Things do not remain that tense, because it is after all a single issue, and Bobby talks Mr. Poklemba down and brings him to The Xavier Institute (they have got to stop changing the school’s name, the last time I read any recent Marvel comics it was still the Jean Grey School).
Now there is more than that to unpack in that scene, because with the paralleling of Bobby and Mr. Poklemba we also see how one breaks out of the teachings of parents and society. And in this issue too, we also see some character development on the part of Mr. and Mrs. Drake. Especially considering the disastrous dinner in the previous issue.
The next review will be out in just under two weeks on Wednesday June 6th.
I read Iceman issue 11 compiled in the trade paperback Absolute Zero.
Related Reviews: X-Men Rarities: The Winter Carnival and The First Night and The X-Men issues 1-10, Iceman: Thawing Out