Critical Hits & Misses #162



For today's musical hit, Gorillaz just dropped some new tunes! We thought "Andromeda" seemed particularly pertinent today. Enjoy this art track!



Today's critical rolls: Happy Friday! What are some of your favorite non-superhero comic books?


Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.

Nasty Women Is Mandatory Reading In This Political Climate

When Trump called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” during a presidential debate, it instantly became a meme throughout social media. It also did not take long for merchandise announcing your feminine nastiness was available for purchase. I remember one article at the time saying that the moment was a good one for Clinton that would mobilize feminists everywhere around her and win her the election.

Spoiler alert: Trump won and “nasty woman” became more than just a cutesy phrase on your coffee cup. Now all women in America and abroad had to wonder how their “nastiness” was going to be targeted. Would he follow through and punish women who got abortions? Would misogynists feel emboldened, now that one of their own was elected the most powerful man in the country? Trans women scrambled to get their passports to reflect their real gender, sanctuary cities took a stand, millions donated to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, and a Kickstarter project was announced: Nasty Women.

Nasty Women is an anthology from 404 Ink, a UK literary magazine. 1,336 backers pledged £22,156, well over it’s £6000 goal. And now that the finished project is available for purchase, and I cannot recommend it enough.

I've read a lot of feminist anthologies over the years. Unfortunately, I have to say it’s rare to find an anthology this diverse; of the ones I read it’s only beat out by such wonderful anthologies such as A Bridge Called My Back where race or other minority demographics is the entire point of the collection. Too often when feminist essays are collected in a volume, there are a few token essays by women of colour and far more rarely, a contribution from a trans woman. The editors of Nasty Women have done a great job curating these essays; most of the authors are living in the USA or the UK, but their voices are myriad and their experiences and identities are diverse.

And their voices are powerful. The women who contributed explore what it means to be a “nasty woman”; that is, a woman that patriarchal norms deem unsuitable and improper. Race, immigration status, transness, disability, weight, faith, pregnancy, punk rock and witchcraft are just some of the facets of “nastinest” explored.

It is raw, it is powerful, and it is sorely needed right now. This book captures the sense of loss so many women felt last November and December, but also the rise of the fighting spirit that saw the Women’s March hot on the heels of Trump’s inauguration, not the first nor the last of loud protests that we have seen since. This is a very peculiar time in history; no one seems to know how stable our government is right now, how long it will last or what horrible policies they can actually get through. Because of this uncertainty, I have no idea how easy this book will be to read years later. Many of the experiences related in this book will surely be relevant, but the overall political worries over Trump and Brexit, if I may be willfully hopeful and naive, may be alleviated in the months to come.  But I can tell you, right now, you want to read this book.

If there’s anything I wish was included was essays from First Nation women. Their fights have been ongoing for hundreds of years, and when we thought we won at Standing Rock, it turns out it was just delayed. Their voices too, are sorely needed.

Nasty Women
was published on March 8, 2017 by 404 Ink and can be ordered from their website.

Megan “Spooky” Crittenden is a secluded writer who occasionally ventures from her home to give aid to traveling adventurers.

Critical Hits & Misses #161

A color to die (dye?) for.

For today's musical hit, we have kind of an oldie. It's Jewel and "Who Will Save Your Soul"



Today's critical rolls: The internet learned why Odinson became unworthy of his hammer (spoilers at that link). What do you think? A good reason to become unworthy? Or, if you don't want to be spoiled, make up your own head canon on why he became unworthy of the hammer, and Jane was more worthy than he. Feminist reasons for why Jane is worthier are always welcome. ;)


Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.

Amberlough Is A Beautiful, Gut Wrenching Dream Of A Book


It’s the end of an era for Amberlough City. The nationalistic One State Party is on the rise with a surprise election win, despite doing poorly in the lead up polls. The Ospies are against everything Amberlough City standards for, and are willing to do what it takes to crush it under it’s thumb.

I hate to say that Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly is timely, but it is just that. Most reviews compare it to Cabaret, and it really does seem to draw closely from the end of the Weimar Republic and rather than spend pages and pages explaining the political atmosphere, Donnelly allows the reader to fill in the gaps with real life references. I think many will find uncomfortable parallels with certain recent political events, as the Ospies crackdown on immigrants, racial and religious minorities and the LGBT.

The story centers around three protagonists: Cyril DePaul, a spy who has been out of the game for a few years and finds himself in the grips of the Ospies; his lover Aristide, cabaret star and criminal kingpin; and Cordelia Lehane, a firey dancer with a drug dealing side hustle. All three struggle as the Ospies tighten their grip around the city’s throat, and all three take radically different ways of resisting.

Readers may find Aristide and Cordelia’s predicaments relatable, even if their circumstances are fantastical. How many of us in 2016 thought, “this could never happen here?” How many of us saw the rise of the alt right coming, but dismissed it or, in hindsight, didn’t treat it as seriously as it deserved? Like us, Aristide and Cordelia in their own ways prepare for the tightening noose, hoping to slip out at the last minute if it comes to that, but the rapidly changing political atmosphere ultimately takes both by surprise. In the end, they are in two very different places, and I am left unsure whether I would do better than either of them.

Cyril is a frustrating character, and the book’s flaws are largely his flaws. We are to believe that he was an incredibly skilled spy being sent back out into the field, but he is incredibly naive enough to make a deal with the Ospies (and live up to it when he’s back in Amberlough City and out of danger) and he never informs Aristide of the deal he made. He also makes some very contradictory decisions near the end that made me scratch my head. I’m trying to keep this light on spoilers but it involves him refusing to receive very important information because he might talk under torture, then mere hours later he radically changes his plans because he says he never considered the fact that he might talk under torture. Whether that was him cracking up or an oversight, I’m not sure. Regardless, readers will struggle to remain sympathetic with him. The rise of the Ospies isn’t completely his fault, but if he had made different choices and stood up to them...well, it would be a much shorter book.

Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly  is sexy, fun and gut wrenching. The good times roar as we wait for the other shoe to drop, for the fascists to burst down the door and break up the party. This book will break your heart, and you will be grateful for it.   It was published by Tor.com on February 7, 2017 and is available wherever fine books are sold.

Megan “Spooky” Crittenden is a secluded writer who occasionally ventures from her home to give aid to traveling adventurers.

Arrow is not in a happy place - "Kapushion" Review

Wow.

Talk about a huge bucket of water in the face, to all the Berlantiverse fans who were glowing and tapping and singing after yesterday's fun The Flash musical episode. I mean, Arrow and The Flash have always been tonally different, since their inception, and that was a purposeful decision. If Arrow went dark, you could always count on Barry and the gang bring a touch of brightness in that universe. Even during their crossovers, Oliver is usually srz bizness while Barry is lightening the mood.

But never before has there been such an abysmally wide crater between the two tones of the show, in the same week.

Spoilers beyond the fold, and strap in, because it's a pretty bumpy ride.



I will admit, I wasn't expecting the dark, dark place this show went. I mean, it seemed pretty obvious that Prometheus was trying to turn Oliver dark, and I assumed that the episode would go like this: Prometheus abducts someone he cares about and tortures that person in front of Oliver, while the rest of the gang rushes to save them both from imminent death.

So I was basically predicting your typical run-of-the-mill superhero tv episode.

That's not what we got.

Last week, Adrian Chase had our hero chained up and promising to get Oliver to see what he really is. This week, Adrian spends the episode in a totally unhinged state, become increasingly furious that Oliver seems incapable of figuring out whatever it is Adrian's point is. Color me as confused as Oliver, because I didn't really understand what it was he wanted Oliver to admit.

If you've been ignoring the Russian Bratva flashbacks all season because of how incredibly slow they were to get to any kind of point, stop that now. This episode brought the Russia storyline front and center and made it integral to the current Adrian Chase plot. Back in season one, the flashbacks were an interesting and well-used gimmick that started to get real old, even downright obnoxious, by the time we got to season four. And in season five, I didn't necessarily mind them as much as I had season four's, but I tended to skim over them, even in my reviews.

I make this bad guy shit look good...

But they matter. Not just for plot reasons, but because goddamn Dolph Lundgren popped up every now and again and he is a scene-stealing force of nature. And he was front and center in "Kapushion" so it was totally worth not skipping over the Russia scenes. Basically, Oliver helps Anatoly take down Kovar, but in doing so, goes to a really dark place several times. And several times Anatoly tells him he can't separate the monster inside of him from the man, despite Oliver insisting that he can. Ultimately, Anatoly sees that when Oliver channels the monster, he enjoys killing.

And that's apparently what Adrian Chase sees too. But he can't just out and say that. He wants Oliver to get there, to admit that he is a monster and not a hero.

Fair warning, this episode contains a LOT of torture. Adrian puts Oliver through physical torture, and then decides to use some psychological torture as well, in the form of Evelyn Sharp. Does that name sound familiar to you? She was that silly girl they wasted the superhero name Artemis on, who starts out with Team Arrow and then ultimately turns on them because Oliver is a murderer, so of course it makes perfect sense to help out the actual psychopath instead of the guy trying to be a good person.

If I sound contemptuous, it's because I am. I have no use for Evelyn Sharp. She was a poorly written character who was never given a chance to shine, I was not overly impressed with the actress, and worse of all, her reasons for turning on Team Arrow were shoddy at best and incomprehensible at worst. If she had never come back to the show, I would have been fine. And Adrian pretending to snap her neck in front of Oliver barely registered on my GAF meter. Maybe a slight blip of annoyance that they were killing a female character, but then I don't think I ever really bought that she was dead. Turns out I was right, because it was all part of the torture and Evelyn was in on it. The minute Oliver admits he enjoys killing, she gets up with a snooty comment and walks off. Keep walking, hypocrite. You literally just watched a man get tortured for days in some of the most horrific of ways, and somehow you feel vindicated? GTFO.

I can't even muster up the care to write something witty for this screen cap, because I DGAF about this character so hard. 

Whatever.

I don't have a lot to say about the plot, because I honestly have no idea where the hell this story is going. As an audience member, what am I even supposed to do with the information that the titular hero of the story likes to kill? On one level, the debate over whether heroes should kill bad guys has been raging for decades among comic book fans. Some people think Batman is wrong to let the Joker keep escaping Arkham, because every time he does, new innocents die. And some people have thought since season one that Oliver isn't a real hero because he did kill a lot in that season.

So is this ultimately an anti-hero's story? Maybe. I mean, it's not like Oliver's journey hasn't been understandable. He started out as a snot-nosed rich brat who knew nothing and whose greatest dilemma was how to escape his loving girlfriend and sleep with her sister, to having to survive on a hellish island where survival absolutely meant kill or be killed. It's not really surprising that he learned to kill. I suppose the surprising part is discovering, during the Bratva scenes in this episode, that he appears to enjoy skinning enemies alive "for practice." Christ. At least The Punisher is content with just killing his enemies quickly so he can move on to the next bad guy.

At the end, Adrian just lets Oliver go, and our broken hero stumbles into the Arrowcave, much to stunned and horrified expressions of his team, and tells them that he's done with everything.

Team Arrow: "I literally can't even..."

I mean, after what he just went through, I don't blame the guy.

Ultimately, it appears that Prometheus has done exactly what he wanted to do from the start: he has broken Oliver's spirit completely. When Stephen Amell delivered the final line of this episode, it was heartbreaking: "I don't want to do this anymore."

Speaking of Stephen Amell, this episode featured him in every scene, and while "Kapushion" was hard to watch just for the sheer level of darkness and internal and external torture, there's little doubt about it that Arrow's leading man was at his peak here. He was nothing short of absolutely fabulous in every scene. When screaming at Adrian during the torture scenes, Amell was raw and powerful. When torturing Russians or beating the crap out of Dolph Lundgren, he was awesome. And when he drags his broken self into the final scene, I believe him when he says he's done.

Josh Segarra continued his A+ performance of the very scary Adrian Chase, although I must say... Prometheus seemed unhinged and almost out of control in some of these scenes, out of sheer frustration that Oliver Queen just didn't freaking GET the point of his master plan. Dude, Segarra is killing it this season.

I have no idea what's going to happen to Oliver going forward, but I'm with you, Arrow... it's been a helluva ride, but season five is shaping out to be some of Stephen Amell's finest moments, both in and out of the suit.

But after "Kapushion" I think I really need to go watch "Duet" again, just to shake myself out of that dark, dark place Oliver is in.

On a final note... Oliver totally got the raw end of the deal this week out of the CW shows:



Arrow airs on Wednesdays at 8/7c on the CW.

Ivonne Martin is a writer, gamer, and avid consumer of all things geek—and is probably entirely too verbose for her own good.


Critical Hits & Misses #160




For today's musical hit, in the spirit of The Flash's musical episode, here's the original Broadway recording of Guys and Dolls "More I Cannot Wish You"



Today's critical rolls: We're in a musical mood today. What are your favorite musicals, or musical episodes of tv shows? Or maybe you're a musical hater, tell us why!


Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.

"Duet" Hits the Right Notes - The Flash & Supergirl Crossover

That sound you heard last night was probably the sound of me squeeing in absolute delight for a solid hour of television.

Also, possibly, it was the sound of the tremendous amount of musical talent that you might not have realized exists in the Berlantiverse. And maybe even the sound of tap-dancing. Because, you guys, there was tap-dancing in this episode!!!!

Spoilers over the fold.



As with the previous crossover episode this season which involved all four Berlantiverse shows, it's probably worth noting right off the bat that the plot of "Duet" was very simple, and if really want to be critical, kind of silly. Music Meister, who appears at the end of Monday's Supergirl episode and "whammies" Kara unconscious, shows up on Earth-1 and whammies Barry as well. Later, Music Meister tells both our intrepid heroes that he's just there to teach them a lesson, and oh yeah, don't die in the dream world because you'll die in the real world too.

The "lesson" for Kara and Barry to learn is about love, which, if you're not interested in the silly romantically-contrived drama this season, may cause you to roll your eyes. Certainly I hit The Flash hard for it's CW-soap-opera-esque decision to play the "will they/won't they" game, with an honorable mention going to Supergirl for the same predictable melodrama between Kara and Mon-El. I will say that at the very least, Supergirl didn't drag the drama on for very long. We all knew the melodrama was going to happen, but it didn't happen until this past Monday's episode, wherein Kara discovers that Mon-El has been lying to her about his real identity as Prince of Daxam all this time, so she decides she simply can't be with him, or have anything to do with him. Meanwhile, Barry decided last week that he couldn't be with Iris because reasons, and that was after she had called off the engagement the week before that, because reasons.

I would be remiss if I didn't link to a post (again) at the Fandomentals blog about the problematic nature of the Mon-El and Kara romance. It's worth a read for sure.

Okay, so what all of the criticism out of the way, let's get real here about musical episodes. Unless you're Glee, the only reason to have a musical episode is a) because the fans would love it, and b) because it's fun, and c) because if your cast has the talent, it would be wasteful not to. Sometimes it doesn't work out (looking at you, Grey's Anatomy), but sometimes it goes down in history as being one of the most memorable things about a show (full confession: I still sometimes play the soundtrack to "Once More With Feeling," the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode, in my car).

Considering all the musical talent present in at least some members of every Berlantiverse cast, maybe the real surprise is that a musical crossover didn't happen sooner. Either way, and despite the simplistic nature of the plot, "Duet" delivered in a big way. It was visually gorgeous, between all the costumes and hair, and of course it was such a pleasure to hear the pipes on some of these actors, in all their full glory.

Costuming and hair, especially for Iris and Kara, were on-point here!
So basically, Music Meister traps Kara and Barry in a dream world where they are in fact in a musical, and they don't have their super powers. They have to play along with the plot and see it through to its conclusion if they want to get out. Meanwhile, back in the real world, Mon-El and J'onn crossover into Earth-1 to seek the help of Team Flash, bringing an unconscious Kara with them.

There is a little bit of action out in the real world, as J'onn, Kid Flash, and Vibe team up to capture Music Meister. There's a small sideplot involving Kid Flash being freaked out now about the superheroing thing after Savitar messed with his head, and Music Meister even taunts him about being scared, but ultimately, bolstered by his teammates, Wally gets it together.

The real action is happening in the dreamworld, of course. We start with Barry entering the dreamworld just as Kara is pulling off a beautiful number on stage at a nightclub set in the roaring 20s. Music Meister appears to tell them how the game is played, and there is another musical number that features Carlos Valdes (Cisco) and Jeremy Jordan (Winn) and Music Meister himself (Darren Criss).

I did not know this, but Jeremy Jordan (Winn) is a young broadway star. The hell is he doing playing the dork on Supergirl?
Then you've got the actual stage legends in the form of Jesse L. Martin (Joe West) and Victor Garber (Martin Stein on Legends of Tomorrow), who play the two dads of Iris' in-dream character Millie. Yes that's right, The Flash just slipped in a gay romance we didn't even know we freaking needed, but we so totally do. Anyway, Martin and Garber belt out "More I Cannot Wish You" from Guys and Dolls, along with the third stage legend in this episode, John Barrowman, who plays the rival father and gangster.

I accept this new head cannon
Millie, aka Iris, is secretly in love with the son of the night club owner, and that son is played by Mon-El. So yeah, we had Iris West and Mon-El in love, and neither Barry nor Kara were very happy about it. But they had to move the romance plot forward if they want to get out of this West Side Story knock-off.

Guys. GUYS. There's a tap-dance sequence, which Grant Gustin freaking nails. I was sitting on my couch literally squeeeing with sheer joy. This sequence featured Barry and Kara singing a silly Rachel Bloom (of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) piece called "Super Friends," and it was super fabulous.

Photo credit: Vanity Fair/CW

Ultimately, when Barrowman, Martin, and Garber get into a gangster shootout because they don't want their kids dating, Barry and Kara get caught in it and get shot, despite Music Meister's warning that they can't die in the dream world. Prodded along by Music Meister, Iris and Mon-El have to go save their sweeties by vibing into the dream world and giving the kiss of true love. I swear to God I'm not making this up.

Hokey as hell? Yes! All the yes! But it was so... joyful. 

The lesson Kara and Barry learn has something to do with love and forgiveness (I told you the plot was kind of thin). Music Meister, who apparently has channeled all of us in being sick of the will they/won't they, is pleased that they seem to be in love again, and so his job is done.

I mean, it remains to be seen how Kara and Mon-El will fix things, although Kara was probably on the right track when she threatened to geologically drop a mountain on him if he ever lied to her again. But Barry and Iris have fully resolved their differences here, because at the end of this episode, we get one final musical number, this time in the real world. Barry serenades Iris with a beautiful piece written by La La Land's Benj Pasek and Justin Paul called "Runnin' Home To You" as he presents her with the engagement ring once more.

If you're not into romance or musicals, the final scene was probably way too sugary-sweet for your tastes, and the rest of the musical numbers probably annoyed you. But then again, maybe not. My husband is no fan of musicals (how did I marry this man, when I adore them?), but he wasn't greatly bothered by this episode. It will probably never be his favorite episode, but it didn't cause him to leave the room.

But if you're like me, and you love musicals and think that Kara and Barry are the most adorable superheroes ever, then this episode will probably make you as happy as it made me. Because while it did nothing to move the Savitar plot, or any of the other story arcs in The Flash this season, "Duet" was nothing but sheer, golden joy. I walked away from it feeling happy and delighted, a feeling I remember from watching The Flash back in season one. After a dark season two, and an even darker season three, it's nice to know that this cast and these writers can re-capture it... once more with feeling.

The Flash airs on Tuesdays at 8/7c on the CW.

Ivonne Martin is a writer, gamer, and avid consumer of all things geek—and is probably entirely too verbose for her own good.



Critical Hits & Misses #159



For today's musical hit,we have indie artist SZA and "Babylon"



Today's critical rolls: Slowly we're seeing more women of color make it into the superhero narrative, even within the Big Two (such as America Chavez over at Marvel). What are some of your favorite WOC heroes? Or, tell us what kind of WOC heroes you would like to see created!


Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.

Critical Hits & Misses #158


  • Remember that statue of the little girl facing down the bull on Wall Street, in honor of International Woman's Day? Well it didn't take long for a gross douchebro to remind us why we need that statue, and more broadly, why we need feminism

  • We are stupidly excited about this new Clueless comic book from Boom! Why? Well, besides the fact that it's Clueless, it's being written by Amber Benson and Sara Kuhn. Yes, Amber Benson, of Buffy the Vampire fame! Check out the Vanity Fair interview with Benson and Kuhn!

For today's musical hit, we have Louis the Child and "Love Is Alive"



Today's critical rolls: Douchebros pretending to perform sexual acts with a little girl notwithstanding, what are some of the other reasons we need feminism? (yeah, it's an easy one today)


Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.

Critical Hits & Misses #157



For today's musical hit, we have Irish music of course! It's Gaelic Storm's "Scalliwag"



Today's critical rolls: TGIF and Happy St. Patrick's Day! What's on the agenda for the evening and weekend? Green beer? Corned beef and cabbage? Beauty and the Beast?


Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.