The Mix : What are people talking about today?

Book-A-Day 2018 #188: Royal City, Vol. 2: Sonic Youth by Jeff Lemire

Any self-respecting family story needs a flashback. Whether it’s a Ross Macdonald novel finally explaining just what horrible thing happened twenty years ago in Canada or a family saga that stops in the middle of Chapter Two to explain just how Sadie McGuffins first came to the Maritimes from Scotland as a teen domestic servant so many years ago, before too long the narrative needs to roll up its sleeves, dive into the past, and dramatize the things that are still casting a shadow over the present-day cast.

(It’s even required if a family story has no connection to Canada, though I’m not sure if that’s even possible.)

Jeff Lemire’s currently ongoing comic Royal City is a family story. And this second volume, Sonic Youth , is the big flashback — to 1993, when Tommy Pike was still alive.

(See my post on the first book, Next of Kin , if you’re not familiar with it.)

Lemire is either writing for the trade or his publisher (Image) is matching the books to the plotlines — either way; the first book was one “chapter” of this story, introducing everyone in the present day, and this whole second volume is set in 1993, in what the back cover calls “the last week of Tommy Pike’s life.”

This isn’t a spoiler for anyone who’s read the first book: we all know Tommy is dead, he know he died in 1993, and we basically know how he died. But now we get to see him alive, when we only saw him as a ghost or a memory in Next of Kin. The parents circle the main plot this time but are less connected to it, which is only to be expected in a story about teenagers. It’s all about the four Pike siblings: aimless recent grad Patrick, hell-raiser Richie, secretly pregnant Tara, and thoughtful, clearly doomed Tommy.

Tommy’s been having severe, debilitating headaches — more and more often, complete with hallucinations. He sees a doctor, has a scary giant machine scan his head, gets the “there’s something here that we need to explore more” speech, and is given a prescription for pills to take when his headache is bad. He’s told to absolutely avoid any drugs or alcohol wile taking those pills, but he’s only fifteen, so that shouldn’t be a problem, right?

But that weekend is the big blowout party — with most of the teenagers in town, in an abandoned factory outside this decaying industrial town. All of the Pikes will end up there, eventually. And will Tommy take other intoxicants on top of his medication?

Well, we know he dies, don’t we?

Lemire is telling a single longer, complex story here: it’s being broken up into single-issue comics and then collected into these books for cash-flow and market-need purposes, but it’s clear that Royal City has an overall shape and structure behind it. Unlike some creators, he’s not spinning out a single issue of complications at a time, or even one plotline. It’s difficult to say, at this point, how long that will be, but I’m confident that Lemire basically knows — he may have already written the last scene; he strikes me as the kind of writer who might do that.

I try to avoid predictions, mostly because I turn out to be wrong more often than not. But I don’t think we’re done with the flashbacks in Royal City. The next volume might return to the modern day (or maybe not), but I’m sure we’ll return to 1993 eventually, to see what happened after Tommy died.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Book-A-Day 2018 #186: Paper Girls, Vol. 4 by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang

So there’s a time-war, right? People further up the timeline (the “kids”) are trying to fix things they don’t like in history, and people closer to our time (the “parents”) are trying to keep history as they experienced it. It’s not entirely clear if they really are two subsequent generations of the same population — or, actually, if that concept even makes sense in the context of a time-war to begin with. But one group is “younger” and the other is “older.”

This is a universe where time is infinitely malleable, so each change rewrites the timeline until it’s in turn rewritten by the next change. But maybe the people in the middle of the time-war know what the changes were, so they can keep reverting them, like some transdimensional Wikipedia edit war.

Well, maybe not infinitely malleable — there’s at least one zone where time travel can happen spontaneously, which is the kind of thing that a writer may later mention was caused by some sort of “wearing out the tape” metaphor, that the successive time-changes actually start to break down the fabric of space-time itself.

That explanation hasn’t happened yet. It may never happen. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see it.

Four tween girls, all out delivering newspapers early in the morning of November 1, 1988, were in that zone, and have been jerked around that time-war for four volumes now. (I’ve written about the first three volumes: one  and two  and three .) They’ve been to “our time” and to prehistory, and in this volume they make it to Y2K land, where the time warriors are using stealthed battle mechs to fight it out in the sky, for no apparent reason other than it is Really Cool.

It’s a comic book — Paper Girls, Vol. 4 , written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Cliff Chiang. It’s an action story mostly about women, which is nice. And it’s pretty smart and twisty so far, though a cynical reader (such as me) may wonder if there are actual answers to the mysteries — the thing about a time-war is that you can always wipe out one set of explanations with another (better, we hope) one at any time.

So, this time, the girls get back to the early moments of The Year 2000! and the two sides are battling in giant robots — something we haven’t seen before. Why?

Why not?

And why do the future people speak a jarring horrible pseudo-leet-speek jargon — both the younger side of the “parents” generation and all of the “kids” generation? And why do the older parents speak standard English? And are the group that speak in an alphabet that looks very vaguely Korean yet a third generation, or just an offshoot from the two warring sides we sort-of know?

(It’s Cool! And distancing! And futuristic! But mostly Cool!)

We are twenty issues and over four hundred pages in at this point, and answers are still thin on the ground. One begins to suspect the whole point is to depict a time-war where everything changes continually, so there can be new stunning reversals and surprises into the future forever.

I’d take Paper Girls‘ occasional feints at an undertone of “look how your adult life turned out — not what you wanted, huh?” more seriously if they connected — to each other, to the main plot, to anything. More and more, it feels like a collection of moments loosely arranged, with a common theme and set of characters, like a Tarot deck than can be reshuffled and dealt out, over and over again.

They’re still good moments, true. The characters are well-developed and as real as any people in modern adventure comics. And Chiang draws all the strange technology and people as solid and believable. So I might just be back for the next book.

But I do expect that we’ll be talking about Paper Girls issue #50 before too long, with a brand-new shocking revelation that’s completely different from the shocking revelations in number 40, 30, and 25. And that it will stay in that mode as long as people keep buying it. And I’m getting to an age where I don’t like encouraging behavior like that anymore.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Legends of Atlantis Sends DC Super Hero Girls Under the Sea

BURBANK, CA (June 28, 2018) – The students of Super Hero High dive deep into their latest adventure as Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and DC Entertainment bring you DC Super Hero Girls: Legends of Atlantis, the newest feature in the popular, groundbreaking universe celebrating young girls. The journey with the toughest class of female DC Super Heroes will be available on Digital ($14.99 SRP) and DVD ($19.98 SRP) on October 2, 2018. Special bonus content on the release includes the 44 minute previously-aired television special, “Super Hero High.”

It seems like an uneventful day at school until the powerful Book of Legends is suddenly stolen from Super Hero High. In order to uncover the mystery, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Supergirl, Bumblebee and the rest of the Super Crew must journey through the depths of the ocean to Atlantis. There, the girls encounter Mera and Siren, the ocean-dwelling thieves, who prove to be a formidable match. In order to recover the stolen tome and return it to its rightful place, DC Super Hero Girls must band together and use their collective powers to successfully get back to land…and back to class!

From Warner Bros. Consumer Products and DC Entertainment, the DC Super Hero Girls universe encourages young girls, ages 6-12, to explore their own powers and strengths through original content, including all-new films, webisodes and TV specials. The franchise offers young fans inspiration and encourages teamwork, friendship and empowerment. DC Super Hero Girls: Legends of Atlantis will connect with fans throughout the world via waves of digital content, including, the DCSHG App, YouTube Channel and Instagram, as well as a global licensing and merchandising program.

DC Super Hero Girls: Legends of Atlantis features some of the top voice actors in the industry including Grey Griffin (Wonder Woman), Tara Strong (Harley Quinn/Poison Ivy), Anais Fairweather (Supergirl), Mae Whitman (Batgirl), Teala Dunn (Bumblebee) and Stephanie Sheh (Katana) as they join forces to portray the youthful versions of some of the world’s best known Super Heroes.

Cecilia Aranovich Hamilton and Ian Hamilton direct from a script by Shea Fontana.  Jennifer Coyle serves as producer with Sam Register as Executive Producer.

“TheDC Super Hero Girls return to fight new villains of the deep in the all-new movie DC Super Hero Girls: Legends of Atlantis,” said Mary Ellen Thomas, WBHE Vice President, Family & Animation Marketing. “This exciting new adventure continues to spread the important message of female empowerment to young people – everywhere!”

DC Super Hero Girls:  Legends of Atlantis – Extra Content

  • “Super Hero High” TV Special


Digital & DVD Street Date: October 2, 2018

Run Time: 72 Minutes

DVD Price: $19.98 SRP

Digital HD Price: $14.99 SRP

Digital SD Price: $14.99 SRP


On October 2, 2018, DC Super Hero Girls: Legends of Atlantis will be available to own for streaming and download to watch anywhere in high definition and standard definition on favorite devices from select digital retailers including Amazon, iTunes, PlayStation, Vudu, Xbox and others. Also on October 2, 2018, DC Super Hero Girls: Legends of Atlantis will be made available digitally on Video On Demand services from cable and satellite providers, and on select gaming consoles.

Book-A-Day 2018 #182: Young Frances by Hartley Lin

I don’t want to oversell my expertise here: I’ve never worked in a law firm, and my professional work is generally marketing to attorneys within companies rather than firms. So I may be just saying that one thing I’ve never experienced personally matches another thing I’ve never experienced personally. [1]

But Hartley Lin’s Young Frances  is a remarkably nuanced, detailed, smart look at the pressure cooker that is a major Big Law firm, smart about office politics and full of off-handed details about both how bruising and all-consuming it can be and about how it used to be so much worse. Ever more exciting, that’s not the point of Young Frances: that’s the world she lives in, and the work she’s doing and trying to make meaningful, but the story of this graphic novel is about her personally.

Like all of us, her work life is not her whole life — but it’s a huge piece of that life, and influences everything else. She struggles with insomnia, and worries about what she should do with her life, and has a complicated friendship with her roommate Vickie, a gorgeous actress on the verge of a huge career breakthrough. In lesser hands, Young Frances would be a “quarterlife crisis” book — yet another story about someone young and aimless.

But Frances Scarland is not aimless. She just doesn’t have much confidence in her aim, and wonders if the life she’s building for herself is worth what it costs. We all wonder that, at least now and then, and I think most of us are not as confident as we look, either. She’s a hard worker, focused on details, and cares about what she’s doing — and she’s also embedded in an organization that is designed to bring in large groups of young, hard-working people every single year, run them ragged, and then spit out most of them within three to five years. A big law firm is a brutal place to work, even if you’re not an attorney — maybe even more so, since shit proverbially flows downhill. Frances is support staff, a law clerk: she’s very far downhill.

But firm politics also lead to alliances and schemes and favoritism. At the beginning of this book, Frances is given the kind of thing that can pass for promotion in an organization like that: asked to support another practice group and given more work as others are let go. So she’s soon working mostly for the chilly rainmaker Marcel Castonguay, head of Bankruptcies — and he seems to favor her, to want to further her career.

But the core of Young Frances is that question: is this her career? Is this really what she wants to do, or is it just what she happens to be doing now? How does it affect the rest of her life? And does any of that matter?

Her roommate Vickie pulls her in other directions — sometimes frivolous, work-shirking ones, sometimes scarily major, change-your-life-entirely ones. Frances Scarland needs to decide who she is and what she will do. Like all of us do. And, like all of us, it’s not a one-time decision: every day is another choice, another step in one direction or another.

Lin tells this story in quiet comics panels, three tiers to the large pages and a precise semi-ligne claire style. This is a book full of words — these are lawyers and their support staff, with a subset of actors! — but his open pages and crisp lettering makes it all flow smoothly and evenly throughout.

Young Frances is simply astonishing as someone’s first book: Hartley Lin has arrived, fully-formed, as a mature artist with a strong story to tell and a deft hand at handling characters. We’re only halfway through 2018, but this will be really hard to beat as the debut of the year.

[1] ObligatoryReference: “So, what you’re telling me, Percy, is that something you have never seen is slightly less blue than something else you have never seen.”

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

#FairUseFriday: Jeeves & Wooster!

As part of our campaign to highlight our ongoing battle against Dr. Seuss Enterprises (and we hope you can help us out) we’re highlighting examples of art that wouldn’t exist without fair use.

Here’s one from Roger Langridge, well known for his work on Snarked!, The Muppet Show, Mugwhump the Great, Popeye, and Doctor Who, doing his own version of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories.

According to Roger:

The rights issues are a bit confusing: this particular story is in public domain in the USA, but (apparently) not in the UK, so I’m not sure if a book is even a possibility. Nevertheless, I’ve adapted it as a comic (originally published in 1916 in the Saturday Evening Post under the title “Leave It to Jeeves“) to show what I could do with it if given the opportunity.

Go to his site to read the full 20 page story. And give us your favorite examples of fair use in the comments!

Harlan Ellison: 1934-2018

“For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I mattered.”

A legend has passed. Harlan Ellison, Grandmaster of the Science Fiction Writers of America and member of the SF Hall of Fame, died in his sleep overnight. He was 84 years old. His published works include over 1,700 short stories, novellas, screenplays, comic book scripts, teleplays, essays, and a wide range of journalism and criticism covering literature, film, television, print, and the life and times we live in.

In the next few days, you will hear many stories about Harlan. Listen carefully. Many of them are true. A proper retrospective is coming from us. We’re big fans of his work, and have interviewed Harlan in the past.

For me, he was one of two people to whom I dedicated my first published story: “To Harlan, who taught me that anyone who can write, should write.”

To get a sense of the man, here’s the trailer to the documentary Dreams With Sharp Teeth:

To get a sense of his writing, read his writing, dammit.

Our condolences to his wife, Susan, and his many friends and fans.


Book-A-Day 2018 #178: On the Camino by Jason

Why does someone go on a pilgrimage in modern Europe? The obvious reason would be religion, but that’s rarely the central purpose these days. It’s not part of general cultural life for Christians — not the way the hajj still is for Muslims — and many of the people who make those journeys aren’t particularly Christian to begin with.

But pilgrimages continue. People find a reason to walk, and find something for themselves at the end of the walk. The Norwegian cartoonist who works as “Jason” trekked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago in northern Spain in 2015, soon after his fiftieth birthday. And he made a book out of it, On the Camino . He doesn’t say why he went; it’s not clear he knows, or has a single “why.” And he doesn’t tell us what he found out, for the same reason.

What he does is tell us the story of the trip, placing us in his head and shoes for that month-long walk, and to let us feel what it was like to be Jason on the Camino. (Well, his real name is John, and that’s what he tells people his name is in the book. But you know what I mean.)

It’s all told in a very Jason way: matter-of-fact, almost affectless, with animal-headed characters moving through a world depicted fairly simply. He works entirely in black-and-white for this book as well. Jason himself is at the center of the trip, obviously, and is the viewpoint the entire time. This is what he saw and did in thirty-three days of walking, told like a Jason graphic novel. He even gets in his abrupt shifts of points of reference, as when he sees a giant slug on the trial — first drawing it “giant” and then it’s actual size.

The story is inherently different from Jason’s fictional works: there’s no twists to the plot, obviously, and he can’t throw in genre elements for complications or interest. On the other hand, how do we know this is all true? We think it is because Jason tells us so, and because it has the everydayness and banality of real life — but that’s justification rather than proof. That’s the case for any non-fiction story, of course: how can we believe the teller and the tale? If there’s no reason not to tell the truth, we assume it is the truth — we’re all lazy, both as storytellers and listeners.

Jason is an introvert, most comfortable alone — as you would expect from someone who spends his life sitting in a room to think up stories and draw them — and much of On the Camino, starting from the very first page, is his struggle to be more open, to come out of his shell and engage with the other pilgrims and the locals. He has no gigantic epiphanies — we wouldn’t expect them from Jason, anyway. His hopes aren’t dashed, either, which would be more in keeping with his fiction.

Instead, he walks. He meets some people, and runs into some of them repeatedly. He has some good conversations and interesting thoughts while walking alone. He also has blisters and bedbugs and food that doesn’t agree with him. Every life and journey has good and bad, yes? It’s a cliche even to mention it.

And he tells that story, in his four-panel grid, with his stone-faced characters with animal heads — this is a Jason book, and it looks like one. He will not tell you what to think of it in the end; he’s never told you what to think of any of his stories. But you can take the trip with him. I think it’s worth the time.

(Note: this book does not credit a translator. And, in the story, “John” speaks English much of the time. So my guess is that Jason translated it himself, or wrote a text for this edition in English. I think I’ve found the original French edition, Un norvégien vers Compostelle , published only four months before the US edition.)

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Ringo 2018 nominees announced; “Mine!” nominated for Best Anthology

The 2018 Mike Wieringo Comic Book Industry Awards Nominees have been revealed, and we at ComicMix are proud to announce that Mine! A Celebration of Liberty and Freedom For All Benefiting Planned Parenthood has been nominated for Best Anthology. The awards are to be presented at the Ringo Awards Banquet and Ceremony in conjunction with the 2018 Baltimore Comic-Con on the evening of Saturday, September 29, 2018.

Voting on the 2018 Ringo Awards Final Ballot is now open, and is restricted to the comic book industry creative community — anyone involved in and credited with creating comics professionally. Final ballots can be submitted via their website, and voting will close on August 31, 2018.

The Ringo Awards are named for the late Mike Wieringo (June 24, 1963 – August 12, 2007), who often signed his work “Ringo”, an American comics artist best known for his work on DC Comics’ The Flash, Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four, and his co-creation Tellos.

Mine! has previously been nominated for a “Best Story” Eisner Award this year for “Ethel Byrne” by Cecil Castelluci and Scott Chantler. Mine! also includes work from previous Eisner Award winners Neil Gaiman, Mark Waid, Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, Eric Shanower, Shannon Wheeler, Mike Norton, Andrew Aydin, Paul Levitz, Dennis O’Neil, and many other Ringo nominated creators.

Mine! is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Comixologycomic shops everywhere, and directly from us. For retailers, the book has just been re-solicited through Diamond— use code JUL181745 and you’ll get your books when July orders close; if you need them immediately, use NOV171491 (Diamond will charge a restocking fee). Hardcovers are available via Ingram, 978-1939888662.

Congratulations to all the nominees! We look forward to seeing you in Baltimore.

Fan and Pro Nomination Categories

Best Cartoonist (Writer/Artist)

  • Guy Delisle
  • Emil Ferris
  • Monica Gallagher
  • Joelle Jones
  • Quimchee
  • Jillian Tamaki

Best Writer

  • Jason Aaron
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Matt Kindt
  • Tom King
  • Jeff Lemire
  • Aline Brosh McKenna
  • David Pepose

Best Artist or Penciller

  • Gary Frank
  • Mitch Gerards
  • Chris Samnee
  • Stjepan Sejic
  • Lee Weeks

Best Inker

  • Jonathan Glapion
  • Mark McKenna
  • Danny Miki
  • Mark Morales
  • Scott Williams

Best Letterer

  • Colin Bell
  • Justin Birch
  • Todd Klein
  • David Rubin
  • John Workman

Best Colorist

  • Dijjo Lima
  • Laura Martin
  • Dave McCaig
  • Jasen Smith
  • Dave Stewart

Best Cover Artist

  • Michael Cho
  • Fay Dalton
  • Simon Fraser
  • Joelle Jones
  • David Mack
  • Jorge Santiago Jr.

Best Series

  • Batman, DC Comics
  • Lady Killer, Dark Horse Comics
  • Mister Miracle, DC Comics
  • Spencer & Locke, Action Lab Entertainment
  • Sunstone, Image Comics

Best Single Issue or Story

  • Batman Annual #2, DC Comics
  • Batman/Elmer Fudd Special, DC Comics
  • Doomsday Clock #1, DC Comics
  • I Am Groot, Marvel Comics
  • Mister Miracle #5, DC Comics

Best Original Graphic Novel

  • The Aggregate, Split Decision Comics
  • The Best We Could Do, Abrams ComicArts
  • Hostage, Drawn & Quarterly
  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Fantagraphics
  • Spinning, First Second

Best Anthology

  • Magic Bullet, D.C. Conspiracy
  • Mine! A Celebration of Liberty and Freedom for All Benefiting Planned Parenthood, ComicMix
  • Mirror, Mirror II, 2dcloud
  • Overwatch: Anthology Volume 1, Dark Horse Comics
  • SpongeBob Comics: Treasure Chest, Harry N. Abrams

Best Humor Comic

Best Comic Strip or Panel

  • Bloom County, Berkeley Breathed, Andrews McMeel Universal
  • Mutts, Patrick McDonnell, King Features Syndicate
  • Peanizles,
  • Pearls Before Swine, Stephan Pastis, Andrews McMeel Universal
  • Sarah’s Scribbles, Andrews McMeel Universal

Best Webcomic

Best Non-fiction Comic Work

  • The Best We Could Do, Abrams ComicArts
  • Everything is Flammable, Uncivilized Books
  • Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York, Bloomsbury Publishing
  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Fantagraphics
  • Poppies of Iraq, Drawn & Quarterly
  • ReDistricted,
  • Spinning, First Second

Best Kids Comic or Graphic Novel

  • Bolivar, Archaia/BOOM! Studios
  • Cyko KO: A Comic Book Adventure You Can Color, Alterna Comics
  • DC SuperHero Girls, DC Comics
  • Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties, Graphix
  • Home Time (Book One), Top Shelf Productions
  • If Found…Please Return To Elise Gravel, Drawn & Quarterly
  • Jem and the Holograms, IDW Publishing
  • Pizza Tree, Arcana Comics
  • Red’s Planet: Friends and Foes, Harry N. Abrams

Best Presentation in Design

  • Jane, BOOM! Studios
  • Monograph by Chris Ware, Rizzoli
  • Monsters Vol. 1: The Marvel Monsterbus, Valiant Entertainment
  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Fantagraphics
  • Saga, Image Comics
  • Skybourne, BOOM! Studios
  • X-Men: Grand Design Marvel Comics

REVIEW: Black Lightning The Complete First Season

Did we really need another DC Comics super-hero on television? That was pretty much the thought rattling in most minds when Fox first announced development of a series based on Black Lightning. When they passed on it, the CW snatched it up (of course), and ran the short first season starting in January.

The answer is a resounding yes. The show is most certainly heroic, but whereas the other Greg Berlanti-centric series fully embrace their four-color roots, this series pivoted for delving into its ethnicity. The production team of Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil wanted something more urban, something more “street”, exploring the black experience with heavy doses of super=powers to keep you riveted.  In the special feature Art Imitating Life: The Pilot Episode, Salim Akil described an all-too-familiar incident of being pulled over by a police officer and the choices a black man has at that moment. He wanted to translate that to something dramatic and make viewers understand in tangible ways.

The 13-episode series is now out in a two-disc Blu-ray set from Warner Home Entertainment well before the second season debuts in the fall. In case you missed it, this is a good chance to get familiar with the story. While there are heroes and villains, they are more relatable in some ways and they serve the black community well by showing a wide array of types.

We have the title star, Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams), a high school principal, his estranged wife, Dr. Lynn Stewart (Christine Adams), the albino criminal Tobias Whale (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III), and Police Inspector Henderson (Damon Gupton), all petty much as depicted in the comic book cocreated by Tony Isabell and Trevor VonEeden. However, another way this show differentiates from the Arrowverse is that Pierce has two daughters, teenage Jennifer (China Anne McClain) and her older sibling, Anissa (Nafessa Williams), a lesbian and counselor at the school.

Nafessa Williams as Thunder and Cress Williams as Black Lightning — Photo: Annette Brown/The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

The notion of Pierce being older, with children, went beyond Isabella’s original plan but enriches the character and setting. Pierce retired nine years before the show started, in order to give his girls a normal life. He threw himself into his work at Freeland High School, making the school a safe place for its predominantly black population.  That all changes when Jennifer gets caught up with a boy tied to The 100, the mob controlling the underworld, and is held against her will. Pierce suits up and gets back to work as Black Lightning, recognizing his city needs a hero.

Supporting him, in the most Berlanti-esque way is Paul Gambi (James Remar), no longer the humble tailor, but a covert operative who was involved in the government program that gave Pierce his powers and was now searching for ways to create more metahumans. Between this and the 100 spreading a drug called green light that addictively gives people temporary powers, Black Lightning has his hands full. With Gambi operating from a secret base, guiding Pierce and being a computer whiz (of course), the two pick up where they left off.

They need help and it first comes from Anissa, who has discovered her super-strength and invulnerability, suiting herself up to strike her own form of justice. When she and Black Lightning faceoff, secrets are revealed and an alliance is formed. Jennifer wants nothing to do the family business, preferring to work towards college and having a good time. However, an adrenaline surge reveals her own powers and like it or not, is caught up in the fight.

The series’ thirteen episodes touch on life in Freeland, which is where it excels. We see all strata of people and the difference good people can make. There’s the flipside, the dropouts and wanna-be thugs who contrast nicely with those just trying to get by. Most of the good guys and bad guys are of color and race is not avoided. The show is less interesting when it comes to the government conspiracy stuff in the background and with luck, it’ll be less relevant in the second season. Pierce is a little too perfect, a little too much the role model as a principal but he certainly commands the students’ respect (if only…)

The writing is certainly a cut above the Arrowverse shows with the Salim Akil setting the tone with the first two episodes then letting Jan Nash, Charles Holland, and playwright Kelli Goff among others run with it. Akil also directed the first and final episodes, again, bringing his vision to life.

While OWN’s series like the admirable Queen Sugar do a wonderful job treating the black experience with the respect it deserves, its noteworthy that many of the same issues and themes are on display here, a series more likely to be seen by a wider range of viewers, letting its message waft over us, seeping in between bouts of electrically-charged action.

The high def transfer and DTS HD audio track are just fine. The other special features include the too-short A Family of Strength, the obligatory Black Lightning: 2017 Comic-Con Panel, and Gag Reel. It would’ve been nice to have the source material explored giving Tony, Trevor, and DC their due but maybe next time. The bulk of the Special Feature time is well over half an hour of Deleted Scenes, clustered together rather than interspersed episode by episode. They’re worth a look since there are some nice character moments among the family.

Book-a-Day 2018 #174: 5 Worlds, Book 2: The Cobalt Prince by Siegel, Siegel, Bouma, Rockefeller & Sun

I don’t read enough books aimed at kids to really know the shapes of subgenres these days, and so it’s dangerous for me to speculate. But I’m pretty sure the 5 Worlds series is not the only graphic novel series these days marching down the trail that Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet  series blazed.

I’m not saying that to point a finger: the opposite, in fact. I think there’s a whole bunch of books like this: fantasy adventure stories for middle-grades readers, told in graphic novel form, with groups of spunky kids and their quirky adult allies racing to save their entire, weirdly-constructed worlds from some manner of Dark Lord that particularly resonates with kids.

What I am saying is that I won’t be able to explain the places the 5 Worlds series breaks away from that subgenre, and what ways it’s faithful to it. I can only say that I see a dim territory stretching out behind this book, full of other wonders, and then describe what’s right in front of me.

What is right in front of me is the second book in that series, The Cobalt Prince . (I didn’t see the first one, The Sand Warrior.) It’s co-written by brothers Mark Siegel (Editorial Director of First Second and cartoonist of the excellent graphic novel Sailor Twain ) and Alexis Siegel (writer and translator of various things, including Joann Sfar’s The Rabbi’s Cat), and drawn by a team of three: Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun. Neither the book itself nor the cover letter explained how the three divide art duties, so insert a graphic of me shrugging here. Maybe it’s the old pencil-ink-color, maybe it’s figures-backgrounds-finishes, maybe they all work in the same style on different pages, maybe something entirely different.

Our Chosen One this time is Oona Lee, a preteen girl who is one of only two Sand Dancers — the particular kind of magic used in this universe — who can call the Living Fire. Our universe is made up of five worlds: it seems to be one large planet and four moons, all habitable. (I don’t see how that can be possible, but this is not hard SF.) Each planet has a magical beacon which can only be lit by the Living Fire, and Oona believes the beacons of all five worlds must be lit to make everything right. (It is not hugely clear in this book exactly what was not right, though there is a big evil thing called the Mimic lurking around and threatening everyone.) In the first book, she lit the beacon of Mon Domani, the central mother world.

So, at the beginning of this book, she’s off to the next world — Toki, the blue one, seat of a militaristic blue people — to light the next beacon, along with her friends Jax Amboy (a popular professional athlete who is secretly an android) and An Tzu (who is slowly disappearing because of some mystical disease which will definitely be plot-important).

Possibly new in this book is Oona’s long-lost older sister Jessa, who went away with the Toki people when Oona was very young, Jessa has since become blue, like the Toki people, lost her ability to call the Living Fire and may have been ensnared by a body-possessing spirit of evil called the Mimic (the Dark Lord of the series).

There are shocking revelations, several Everything You Know Is Wrong moments, lots of magical and physical battles, at least one noble sacrifice, and one character coming back from what seems like certain death. It’s a good adventure story in this middle-grade mode, and will be very appealing to fans of Amulet or The Last Airbender (which seems to have seriously influenced the magic system here). Its appeal to adults is not quite as strong; we’ve seen things like this many times before. But it’s good at what it does, has nicely rounded, attractive art, and delivers on what it promises.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.