Phoenix Song: Echo, written by Rebecca Roanhorse

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. 

Image ID: A comic panel. The X-Man Forge is walking out of a bunker where Echo, aka Maya Lopez, Phoenix host, has been immobilized in a chair with psionic restraints. Forge says, over two speech bubbles, "I have to act, for the sake of...well, everyone. These psionic restraints are matched to the Phoenix's energy wavelength. They will hold you until I can investigate your powers more, understand how the Phoenix bonds to you and how to uncouple it." The Snapchat captain reads, "Hey Forge, Mr. so called Phoenix expert? When the fuck has forcibly restraining the Phoenix Force ever ended well." End ID

“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. 

Image ID: Two comic panels. In the first Maya stands on some stairs with a Mayan village behind her and asks, "War games? Who are you, exactly?" The second, larger panel, shows a woman in a dress that combines both Mayan aesthetic and the pattern and color of the original Dark Phoenix costume. She says, "My name is Ohoyo Luak. but you may call me... the Phoenix!" End ID

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. 

As always, check your local comic shop for trades and single issues, but “Phoenix Song: Echo” can also be purchased online here.

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Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero, written by E. Lockhart

[Image ID. The cover of Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero. A young girl with curly brown hair stands next to a white great dane in front of the Gotham skyline in blue and orange. Up the left side of the book in large lettering is the title "Whistle" and above that sits the subtitle "A New Gotham City Hero" To the right of the subtitle the author's name is listed as "New York Times Bestselling Author, E. Lockhart." Below the title is "Illustrated by Manuel Preitano." The snapchat caption reads "The first explicitly Jewish superhero in 44 years LET'S GO." End ID]

“Whistle” is a fantastic introduction for a fantastic new superhero. It is at once a classic origin story and a breath of fresh air. Willow Zimmerman and her mother have struggled to makes ends meet as her mother’s (presumably adjunct) job as a professor doesn’t give them health insurance and she hasn’t been able to work as much because she is battling cancer. At the very beginning the mother mentions stopping treatments because of medical debt and I almost had a heart attack that she was going to hold the same narrative place as Uncle Ben. She doesn’t, but that is ultimately the catalyst for what eventually lands Willow in the annals of superherodom. 

In my personal opinion, Willow was activist minded enough that I think she would have found her way into the superhero conversation eventually. I think there’s a lot to be said for those superheroes who really do stand for community, activism and change even before they get their powers, and that’s Willow in a nutshell. She’s fighting for her community from page one. 

[Image ID: In the first panel, Willow, a teenage girl with long curly brown hair, approaches a deli counter with a friend, Garfield, a Black teenage boy. Willow says to the man behind the counter "This is my new friend Garfield. We desperately need Reubens." Transition to the second panel, Willow and Garfield are sitting at a table biting into their sandwiches. Mouths full Willow intones "Grhmmm?" and Garfield replies "Umm hmmm!" The caption reads "Show interest in a girl's activism and you've got a friend for life."

What takes her from activist to superhero, however, is one Edward Nigma, former friend of her mother’s, who offers Willow financial help when he hears that her mother is ill. Whether this was truly altruistic or if there was an ulterior motive there from the beginning isn’t entirely clear, but, regardless, Willow winds up working for Nigma as a runner for his less than legal poker games, which leads to a whole lot of guilt when she finds out who Nigma is and when Willow realizes that he and Poison Ivy are targeting her community with intent to buy up all the local property to gentrify the area. 

[Image ID: A comic panel of Willow's hands working open a puzzle box with the onomatopoeia "Twist!" The narration box reads "My mom's best childhood friend, Eddie Nachtberger, renamed himself E. Nigma in high school." The snapchat caption at the bottom of the image reads, in all caps, "Welp." End ID]

However, it was none of this that first drew me to “Whistle.” I picked it up because Willow Zimmerman is the first explicitly Jewish superhero to be created by DC in 44 years and her Judaism is important in a way that clearly impacts her worldview, something we don’t always see even with the existing Jewish heroes—I’m thinking specifically of Kitty Pryde of the X-Men whose Jewishness only recently started to play a larger role in her character again. 

The only thing that gave me a very brief moment of pause was when it was stated that Willow wasn’t particularly observant, which is a trope that is frequently used as a cop out to not have to deal with any actual aspect of Judaism, but that isn’t the case here, quite the opposite actually. Willow may not be as ritually observant as her mother, but she is still undeniably Jewish and her story deals in Jewish guilt, history and community. When she is conflicted about her work for Nigma, who gave her the money to save her mother, but is also the Riddler and involved directly with the destruction of her community, she seeks solace at her local synagogue, and it is the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, repairing the world, that influences why and how she operates as a superhero once she gains her powers. 

[Image ID: In the foreground Willow is rummaging through her dresser drawer for something to wear. Behind her, in the doorway to her room, is her mother, who looks gaunt and is wearing a headscarf indicative of chemotherapy induced hair loss. Her mother says, "I think you can lie and be a good person. You know the phrase tikkum olam?"  Willow replies, "Hebrew for world repair. Kinda like social activism." Her mother continues, "So, the key thing isn't truth or lies. It's that a person feels some responsibility for fixing what's wrong in the world." The snapchat caption is a drawn out "Yes." End ID]

This is a young adult graphic novel, but it’s very enjoyable for adult adults too and I would say probably also a decent read for kids as young as middle school. I would definitely recommend it if you need more Jewish heroes in your life. You can get it directly from DC here. 

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Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood

The cover of "The Complete Angel Catbird" by Margaret Atwood, Jonnie Christmas and Tamra Bonvillain. In the center of a red cover there is a white and orange cat man with owl's wings and gold feather pattern shorts. 

Snapchat caption: The title fucking sends me, but also I know what Atwood writes so.... excited to see where this goes

“Angel Catbird” is a campy and wildly entertaining superhero romp, from the classic chemical accident origin story to the wide range of eclectic characters such as Neferkitti, Count Catula and Babushkat to the super villain with questionable motives and even more questionable plans. 

Our hero, Strig Feleedus—and what a name that is—starts the story as a normal human before he’s hit by a car and spills the sensitive gene splicing concoction he’s carrying on himself, his pet cat (who had escaped and he was chasing out into the street), and an owl (who had been going after the same mouse as the cat). 

Which brings me to my first warning for interested parties. Animal death. There is more to “Angel Catbird” than a simple entertaining cat based superhero romp. The book also draws attentions to the dangers of allowing cats to free roam outside, and, as such, discusses and shows cat death, the endangerment of loss of a number of animals as a result of pet and feral cats, and the costs of poaching as well. 

The one full visible panel shows Strig Feleedus (Angel Catbird) torn about lifting a baby bird back into its nest. His thought bubble reads "Do I rescue it, or eat it?" while the bird parents cry "Thank you! Thank you! Put him back in the nest!"

Below the panel there is a shadow of a black cat and the blurb: CAT-BIRD MATH, Part 1: Cats are estimated to kill 100-350 million birds a year in Canada, in the US, the figure is roughly 2.6 billion, and in the UK, about 55 million. Feral and stray cats are thought to be the cause of more than 60% of those estimated fatalities, despite the fact that their population is smaller than that of pet cats. Protect your cat-save birds! www.catsandbirds.ca
A small dialogue box tells us that the image on the page is of Castle Catula. A classic looking medieval castle, with turrets flying flags and surrounded by a wall and hidden in a forest of pine trees. The road leading into the castle goes through a gate that is shapes like Count Catula's face, with humanoid cat structure and large bat ears. 

Snapchat caption: Not to quibble about your decor, sir, but....

This gives the story a tendency to feel a little heavy handed in those moments, but it’s hardly out of place in the overall tone. There are many fairly bonkers and heavy handed twists. Like, Count Catula has a whole ass castle within walking distance of a city and was sired by the Actual Dracula; the hacktivist group Anonymouse comes to the rescue to help the cats save the day; the villain is a rat-man and his plans are dramatic, over the top, and plotted with what I can only call mildly-competent buffoonery. There’s a lot to get across in a short amount of time, so I think we can forgive any fast paced heavy handedness. 

A panel with two female rats standing behind a mouse in the foreground. The mouse is wearing a V for Vendetta mask like the online hacker group Anonymous uses.

The rat on the right says, "Anonymouse is a secret mouse hacktivist group."

And the mouse says, "An a filthy good one, I must say!"

Snapchat caption reads: Absolutely losing it.

While I found the relationships a tad heterosexual to my tastes I did appreciate that polyamory wound up being portrayed as the Best Solution for a number of relationships. Count Catula thought that Dracula having three wives was too stingy and says that he has more than enough love to share amongst his many many wives (and he has like so many). The love triangle surrounding out protagonist Angel Catbird was also less irritating than many comics love triangles I’ve encountered. AtheenOwl (half-owl) and Cate Leone (half-cat) are both vying for Angel Catbird’s attention and it’s a hard choice, because his owl instincts veer toward AtheenOwl while his cat instincts veer toward Cate. It’s a non-traditional love triangle conundrum.

The answer reached at the end seems to be that AtheenOwl and Cate manage to get over their species differences and are going to share Angel Catbird, which sounds great to me. 

AtheenOwl, an owl woman with brown hair and tawny wings, wearing a Roman inspired helmet and chest plate over a red flowing skirt and is meant to invoke the image of the Goddess Athena, is shaking hands with Cate Leone, who has black hair and is in her human form wearing a red dress.

The dialogue goes:
AtheenOwl: Okay. I'm in. 
Cate Leone: Shake on it.
AtheenOwl: We can settle our dispute over the feathered fur guy later. 

Snapchat caption: Or ignore the feathered fur guy and date each other, though I would settle for a polyamory resolution.

Some of my other favorite bits include the entire existence of Babushkat who adopts my other favorite character Fog, who is a little abandoned kitten who looks spot on like a Victorian orphan boy.

Babushkat, a brown cat who is dress like a traditional Russian grandmother, with a colorful red and blue dress and white headscarf, is reaching out to a small cat-boy, Fog, who is gray and wearing a white shirt, waistcoat and newsboy cap. 

Babushkat's speech bubble says, "Here, little half-cat--I'll adopt you. I'll carry you in my apron." 

Snapchat caption: BABUSHKAT TO THE RESCUE

The long and short is that if you’re looking for a fun, campy comic with an emotional animal motivated through line that still retains a classic comic book feel, I would definitely recommend “Angel Catbird.”

StarLion: Thieves of the Red Night by Leon Langford

The cover of StarLion: Thieves of the Red Night. Front and center is a young black man, Jordan Harris, with black hair with two blond stripes shaved into the sides. His fist is clenched in front of him and the back of his glove reads "be your own hero."

He, and the other four characters behind him are all wearing black superhero suits with gold shoulder and chest plates. Behind his left shoulder is a Black girl with long purple hair, Alicia Jackson, and her hand outstretched and to Jordan's right is a white girl with blue shoulder length hair, Sydney Asimov, who is grinning sharply with her hand under her chin.

Above Alicia is Reuben Alvarez, who has short red/black hair and his extended hand is black with red cracks, like magma breaking through cooled rock. Next to him is Cooper Greene, a white ginger boy mid stride with ears and the tail of a red panda. 

There is a white star in the center of the cover between all the figures over which the title "StarLion: Thieves of the Red Night" is placed. 

Caption: Greek mythology! Superheros! Get hype!

Fast paced and absolutely riveting, “StarLion” is the story of Jordan Harris, a young man with powers derived from the gods, who dreams of being a hero, but has been told to hide his powers and so resorts to vigilante activity in his spare time. The origin of superheroes as descended from the gods of various pantheons gives the book a unique twist that is very, very refreshing in the face of what feels like endless stream of superhero movies that seem to rehash the same plot elements and problems. It also creates a fascinating alternate history, where major historical figures, George Washington, Napoleon, etc. had superpowers, and makes for some really cool world building moments. 

Quote from the text reads: The halls of West Memorial High School were painted with various historical figures, running chronologically through history. From Zeus standing on Mount Olympus, to Julius Caesar glowing with light in Rome, to Napoleon on a winged horse, to George Washington hovering over Washington, D.C.

The caption reads: THIS is the kind of fictional history we love to see

Though the most lauded superheroes are called Olympians and the school Jordan attends (as an alternative to prison after he’s caught doing vigilante work) is called Fort Olympus, the Greek gods are not the only gods represented. My two favorite minor characters, who I really hope we see again in a sequel, are Tobe and Osin, who are descended from the African god, Ogun.

And the characters, oh boy, there’s so much to love. Everyone, villain and hero alike, is well-rounded and dynamic. Everyone has flaws, people have to work to get along, and sometimes they just don’t get along. Relationships are complex and characters’ inner conflicts are complex, and I really enjoyed the choice to have the main team be so large and so dynamic. Not one person is alike, though they all share some level of similarity, Jordan and Alicia and Sydney all have family who were or are professional superheroes, but well, let’s just say it takes bit for them to get along, and Cooper and Reuben, whose powers manifest as being creature-human hybrids, could not have more polar opposite personalities, though they share some level of struggle (with varying severity). 

Quote: "What?" Reuben shot back. "Are you telling me you all knew who his uncle was?" 
Alicia nodded. "Yeah, Jordan told me." 
Battalia nodded, too. "My dad told me." 
Cooper admitted bashfully, "He's buying my silence with toys." 

Caption: Poor Reuben, but the framing of this is hilarious.

Large casts like this can be very difficult to pull off, especially when you need to develop them all quickly, but through the use of third person omniscient narration, we get to learn quickly and effectively just where all the points of conflict between our leads comes from. This, in turn, allows for rapid movement forward as they all learn to work together and grow as friends and team mates.

While Jordan is the primary POV character, the dip in and out of other characters’ POVs also adds some really wonderful layers to the story and sets up some really great tension and suspense. This allows for a really great blend of both foreshadowing and learning information that our protagonists just don’t know. 

Quote: "I panicked. It was just the two of us and -- I was just 20-years-old, barely an adult. So I hid him. I told him to hide his powers. I - I thought about putting him in a hero school. I thought about telling him the truth. I thought about all these things, but god, it was just so much easier to hide. I told him to hide who he was. I - I hid myself and --." Khadija stopped. She was out of breath. She sunk back in her seat, a decade of lies weighing on her. "He's going to start asking questions, Darius. Questions about the Green night. Things I don't want to face." 

Caption: Oh I am intrigued [followed by three eye emojis]

Some other things I enjoyed:

1. The artwork. There is absolutely gorgeous, full-color artwork throughout the book, and the uniforms are completely unisex. There are also little character bios, which are really great. 

A picture of Jordan in his black and gold uniform punching the Red TItan in the face. A rainbow of light swirls behind him and is punctuated by pale blue and gold starbursts. The armor on the Red Titan's face is in the process of shattering. 

Caption: Oh wowza that's stunning.

2. A very diverse cast! There are multiple characters of color—Jordan and Alicia are Black and I believe Reuben is Latino—and multiple disabled characters too! Jordan’s best friend Nathan walks with crutches, and superhero Red Wing, who is Jordan’s squad leader is an accomplished hero who started his hero career already missing one arm. 

3. How very obviously their age the main five leads are. They’re teenagers and it shows, though again, in different ways for each character, no one has the same sort of background. 

There’s so much more. I could go on and on. “StarLion” is a wonderful and fun read.

The biggest warning I would give is for genre typical violence, and one description on page 362, first full paragraph on the page, of an open, compound fracture.

“StarLion: The Thieves of the Red Night” can be found in paperback here and as an ebook here. (The paperback is gorgeous and incredibly satisfying to hold.)

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Opal Charm: Melody of Astronomical Dusk by Miri Castor

Snapchat of the cover of Opal Charm: Melody of Astronomical Dusk. Opal and her brother Jermaine are being attacked by pillars of blue ice shards. Opal, is controlling two glowing golden fists to punch the ice while Jermaine is wielding a rope of golden water.

Above the scene in soft blue outline is the figure of Samael, the novel's primary antagonist, arms raised like he's controlling the scene. 

A grey bar across the cover indicates the book is "Not for Resale" owing to the fact that it is an advanced reader copy.

The snapchat caption reads: Can we just talk about this cover art? Like... this series has always had top of the line cover art, but this is next level and I'm in love.

Not spoiler free.

This is my new favorite installment in the Opal Charm saga. Everything from cover to the final page left me absolutely thrilled. 

We pick up where we left off at the end of “Hope in Nautical Dusk.” Anza is gone—though she lives on in a way inside of Opal—and Opal is still working as a spy in Samael’s palace as Upala Valora. Our large cast of queer side characters returns, with my personal favorite, trans man Hinata, getting quite a bit of attention—we learn about his motivation and reasons for working for Samael and he gets a bit more sympathetic as far as a guy on the bad side of things goes. 

Now before we get into the plot I would just like to recommend that if it’s been a while since you read “Hope in Nautical Dusk” you should revisit it, because “Melody of Astronomical Dusk” drops you right back into the middle of the action, and oh boy the action.

Excerpt from the novel: "She found Iman standing in front of the band with a bejeweled blade pressed against her cheek. The man with the lump on his back had her pressed to his one side and Ngoc on the other, the smiling boy far too carefree despite being held hostage. His smile remained unchanged as the blade sliced across Iman's cheek."

The Snapchat caption: "Oh boy, page 5 and things are already popping off."

At the top of the page, the page number is circled in blue.

Opal’s relationships have always been in important throughout the series, but they carry particular weight in this book as they become more complicated. We see Opal struggling with her interactions with her co-workers as Valora, because while these people are working for the man who has tried to kill her and her family, working alongside them means that she is exposed to them as people with all the associated complexities as opposed to simply monsters complicit in a cruel and oppressive regime. 

We also see Opal’s personal life become more and more entangled in her work on Athre with JAEL. A mild reveal is that Opal’s grandmother inherited the family’s power of Twilight, which she uses to cultivate a luscious garden. A less mild reveal is that Opal and Jermaine’s cousin Gabriel, who has been mentioned throughout the books as having gone missing, is embroiled in Samael’s schemes. That reveal was absolutely stunning and had me gasping. I won’t spoil more there, as it’s far to delicious a reveal to spoil in its entirety. 

Novel quote: "Pebbles rained from beneath the chunk of the ground Mira stood on. She leaned up and plucked the ripe mangos from the branches, dropping them into her basket. When the tree was free of ripe mangos, she brought her golden platform to the ground, gently shaking the earth again. 'We have a lot to talk about, don't we?'"

Snapchat captain: "GRANDMA'S GOT MAGIC POWERS"

Crucially to Opal’s development with her powers of Twlight, she learns more and finally figures out how to connect with Philomenos, her great-great-grandfather and the source of their powers, after she, Jermaine and Addy travel to Philomenos’ home country of Thesan to determine if the leaders of Thesan have sided with Samael and get a much more complicated and detailed answer than they bargained for (in a good way though). It’s an important step for Opal, who has been struggling for a while with how the revelation of Twilight and her family’s legacy has impacted her sense of identity. 

“Melody of Astronomical Dusk” was released on April 2nd and can be purchased in ebook and paperback format through Amazon. 

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Iceman: Thawing Out written by Sina Grace

(repost, because I’m an idiot with two thumbs who deleted the original)

image

[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.

You can find Iceman Vol 1. Thawing Out here.

Related Reviews: Iceman issue 11X-Men Rarities: The Winter Carnival and The First Night, and The X-Men issues 1-10

Snaps:

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Iceman issue 11 by Sina Grace

image

[Edit: Originally published May 25, 2018]

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:

image

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

Dreadnought by April Daniels

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[Edit: Originally published June 23, 2017]

Dreadnought is the coming of age story of Danny, a young trans girl who finds herself with the body of a girl after she inherits the superpowers of the hero Dreadnought. 

It blows every other trans coming of age story I’ve ever read out of the water. Probably, because, unlike the other trans coming of age stories I’ve read. This one was written by an actual trans person. 

This also isn’t just a trans coming of age story. Yes, Danny has to navigate a new body and how she’s suddenly viewed differently by her peers, while her parents (her father in particular) are desperately searching for a way to reverse what’s been done. But she’s just been given superpowers and the super villain who killed the previous Dreadnought is still at large. She’s also being pressured by some of the previous Dreadnought’s team members to take up his mantle when she’s old enough to do so.

One of the things that I appreciated about the book was how it dealt with transphobia. There’s a lot of it, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed. The transphobia was not the primary focus of the story though it certainly fed the plot. 

There were two things that really struck me:

One, it did not stick to the narrative often portrayed in novels by cis people of the One Big Bad Transphobia. It came from everywhere. Angry parents who could not accept that their “son” would want to live in a female body. One of the previous Dreadnought’s teammates has a very terf like ideology when it comes to how she treats Danny, she sees Danny as being deceptive and that Dreadnought being a trans woman would be damaging for “real women.”

It’s intense stuff, but as I said I never felt overwhelmed, which leads me to point two. The transphobia scenes are all relatively short and are juxtaposed by Danny finding people who do accept her and support her, both gender wise and in her early heroing attempts. Because let’s not forget, this is a superhero story. 

One of the big questions for Danny is does she take up the title of Dreadnought? She could become her own superhero, or she could not go the way of the superhero at all and just use her newly gained abilities in whatever job she gets down the road. Not every person with powers wants to be a superhero, after all.

It’s also just, incredibly well written. The book is written from Danny’s point of view and as such we are graced by some very funny and witty inner dialogue. I would definitely consider this a must have for any one looking for good trans fiction. 

Warnings:

  • Transphobia, as I mentioned.
  • Misogyny 
  • Violence, I would say that the amount of violence is pretty normal for the genre. 
  • Death. I don’t think any were super graphic, but there is one major on page death.

You can find it here.

Book two, Sovereign comes out on July 25!

Related Reviews: Eggshells

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“Eggshells” by Ziggy Schutz from Behind the Mask

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[Edit: Originally published May 19, 2017]

When Pen falls and gets a concussion (and not even while superheroing) the repercussions are a lot more long lasting than she maybe expected. 

There’s this trope in action genres, that’s basically, hit a person on the head as an easy and harmless way to knock them out. Except that’s not how brains work. If you go unconscious you have a concussion. 

I’ve followed Ziggy on Tumblr (from my personal) for a while now, and she is nothing if not passionate about concussions being treated appropriately in fiction, because fiction surrounding concussions has a direct affect to how concussions are dealt with in real life.

“Eggshells” has some of the best representation of a person dealing with a concussion and post-concussion syndrome in fiction that I have ever read. And that’s not the only amazing thing about this story. It is beautifully written. The characters and their relationship are so incredibly well formed and vivid. The relationships are diverse and incredibly well written.

I think one of my favorite relationship dynamics was between Davie and Pen. 

There is a scene between the two of them when, they’re both holed up in Pen’s room because their parents are arguing and they’re trying to avoid getting dragged into it. It’s in this scene that my favorite exchange in the story takes place.

“Davie snorts. ‘How should I know? I’m adopted.’
‘Careful!’ She reaches over and slaps a hand over his mouth. ‘Say that too loud and they’ll decide it’s time to revisit nature vs. nurture.’
He promptly licks her hand.
Because she is a veteran superhero with hundreds of hours of training under her belt, she does not shriek.”

It tells you so much about the characters in such a small moment.

If this isn’t enough to get you on board, Pen’s a lesbian. We learn this in a beautiful moment that highlights the obliviousness of straight people. It’s A+ and not at all tropey.

@hulklinging

You can find the whole anthology here.

Related Reviews: Falling in Love with Hominids, Love in the Time of Global Warming, Dreadnought

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X-Men Rarities: Deal with the Devil, Man in the Sky and Open Volley

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[Edit: Originally published January 28, 2017]

Deal with the Devil written by Chris Claremont

A dark meeting in a club, between Ororo Munroe and Raven Darkholme. I gotta say Mystique has some Looks in this issue. It’s got dual narration from both Ororo and Mystique which honestly is super cool. The purpose of the meeting is Rogue. Mystique is passing information to Ororo in an attempt to help her daughter. There is also a truly lovely scene at the very end of Mystique and her wife Irene Adler. It’s very sweet and romantic and touching and it’s probably my favorite part of this whole issue.

Man in the Sky written by Stan Lee

A very short little comic about a young man named Tad Carter, who is a mutant, and the discovery of his powers. It is in fact, the original mutant story, published a year before the first X-Men comics. It’s interesting to see where it all began.

Open Volley written by Scott Lobdell

It’s the start of Generation X, which is a run I’ve wanted to read for awhile because Banshee. This issue has Jubilee writing a letter to Logan and telling him about all the students she’s met now that she’s returned to school. Banshee and Emma Frost are the ones running the place, which is actually the Massachusetts Academy, not the Xavier Institute. It’s a generation of students I know very little about and this issue basically takes you through meeting them. I know some of them from other places, like Husk and Monet St. Croix, but other’s I’d never heard of before like Synch and Mondo. All in all it’s a very good introduction to this student set.

You can find this collection here.

 Related Reviews: X-Men Rarities; Winter Carnival and The First NightThe X-Men; issues 1-10

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