Critical Hits & Misses #103

Happy New Year, everyone! Thank you for sticking with Critical Writ in our first year, and we hope you'll be with us for years to come.

Have a fun weekend, drive safe, and get 2017 started on a brighter note!

This one's for you, 2016. Good riddance to a bad year. 

If you're still sore over recent outcomes of the democratic process, perhaps you might consider benign dictatorship? Then you could be like Aurora, looking for a "Conqueror."

Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: live and let live, preferably without horribly personal insults. 

TV That Didn't Suck 2016

In our final installment of Things That Didn't Suck in 2016, we list some of our favorite TV of the year. In case you missed the previous installments, we've covered news, comics, movies, and games too!

Without further ado, here are our top TV picks for 2016!

Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror is a dark anthology show that looks at current technological trends and socio-political tendencies and pushes them to the extreme, showing our darker side. And yet this year’s episode “San Junipero,” which is likely to be counted among the series’ best, is also its kindest and most hopeful (while still being undeniably a Black Mirror episode). Most importantly, it’s a beautiful tale of two queer women (Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw) discovering each other, with amazing, heartfelt acting from both of them. And in year with a record high of LGBTQIAP* characters killed on TV, it was a much-needed respite. (Dominik)

2016 is the year the creators of Welcome to Night Vale expanded upon it with Night Vale Presents, a fiction podcast network that launched three new serialized audio shows. "Alice Isn’t Dead," written by Joseph Fink and voiced by Jasika Nicole, is a story about a woman on a cross-country trip into a supernatural America on the search of her wife. "Within the Wires," written by Jeffrey Craynor and Janina Matthewson and voiced by the latter, is a story of an alternate world and a patient of research facility, subtly told via surreal relaxation cassettes. And finally, "The Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air)" is an absurdist variety show in the style of old radio shows, created by Julian Koster of the Neutral Milk Hotel – voiced by a bevy of guest actors, including Koster himself as Julian the Janitor. All three podcast are terrifically written and performed tales, sure to only increase in quality in 2017. (Dominik)

Despite a dearth of superheroes on TV these days, superheroes almost didn't make it onto this list at all. But despite a somewhat mediocre year in terms of writing, we would be remiss if we didn't mention the really fun and important moments in the CWverse. I mean, there was nothing ground-breaking about the CWverse's giant crossover event, but for all its imperfections, it did what it set out to do: give the CWverse fans their first taste of a CW Justice League. With all four of its powerhouse superhero shows joining forces to fight an alien invasion, the CW also nabbed its best ratings ever for each of these shows. What mostly made the crossover magic were the character interactions. Overall, it was fun, adorable, and sweet, although the crossover event suffered from a lack of real use for Supergirl, who deserved more screen time with her fellow leads Green Arrow and Flash. Still, it was delightful and entertaining, and it was clear all the actors had a blast doing it. We look forward to future crossovers. (Ivonne)

Netflix shows are going to dominate end of the year lists - and rightly so. Between Luke Cage, Stranger Things and so many other titles, new and returning, they’ve proven themselves a worthwhile creator of entertainment. And Voltron: Legendary Defender is among their best 2016 releases. Created by two animation veterans and the studio behind Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, this remake of a classic US/Japanese cartoon is a fun romp. Featuring a diverse and lovable cast of characters, this tale of rebels opposing an intergalactic empire will bring a welcome respite from the year we’ve had. And Princess Allura is one of the best and most exciting characters of 2016. (Dominik)

Westworld is life. Based on a cheesy (but awesome) 70s film and a Michael Crichton novel, Westworld is the latest in powerhouse HBO’s line of original series. Not only did HBO spend some serious cash (and it shows, as Westworld is visually stunning), but the talent involved was nothing short of phenomenal. Rachel Evan Wood and Thandie Newton star as Hosts (androids) that begin to realize that their world is bullshit. Sir Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris add to an already-talented cast, but I would be remiss in not mentioning the awesome Jeffrey Wright, who was freaking fabulous as two different characters. This series is about artificial life gaining sentience, but it is also about women who have been violently used deciding they’ve had enough and want to rewrite their stories. These violent delights have violent ends. It should be noted that while off-screen rape happens, and that there is a great deal of both male and female nudity, this isn’t Game of Thrones. Every violent act and every nude scene serves a purpose within the narrative, which is a nice change of pace for HBO. (Ivonne)

Did we miss any TV shows? Let us know some of your favorites in the comments!

Critical Hits & Misses #102 - Chanukah Edition

Happy Chanukah, everyone! To celebrate this most joyous of Jewish holidays, I've taken over Critical Hits And Misses for the day. Your scheduled programming will resume tomorrow. For now, enjoy the all-new, all-different festivities!

  • The Maccabeats have released another special holiday-related song parody, this time of Hamilton. It's a mashup of the popular play and holiday sure to get you interested in looking up their other work. (YouTube)

  • Two years ago, Mashable posted a list of interesting latke recipes. Check them out for some mouth-watering fun! (Mashable)

  • An awesome fan made an entire episode of Gravity Falls dedicated to Chanukah. It's become one of my Chanukah traditions. (YouTube)

For today's musical hit, a song parody that tells the story of Chanukah.

Today's critical roll:

I had a little dreidel, I made it out of mud. And when I tried to spin it, it turned into Elmer Fudd. What did you make your dreidel out of?

— Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: don't be a jerk. 

Games That Didn't Suck 2016

2016 is winding down and we're glad for it. But not everything about 2016 was awful. This week we've been trying to round-up the positives of the year, including news, comics, and movies. Today we're rounding up our favorite games of the year, and stay-tuned for tomorrow's TV edition!

Without further ado, here are Critical Writ's favorite games of 2016.

Every year, there’s one thing in video game releases I crave amid all the exciting title – a surprise. Something I didn’t know of/didn’t think about much that ends up consuming me for a long time. This year it was Overwatch, a game from a genre I never got into: FPS (first person shooter). I love its colorful and diverse cast of characters, its fun (if sometimes absurd) lore, and its surprisingly accessible gameplay. While not without flaws (the cash-grabbing nature of loot boxes, the lack of body diversity in its female characters, the occasionally culturally insensitive skins), it’s a game I just can’t stop playing. (Dominik)

I was giddy about the Tell Tale Batman game from the moment the teaser trailer first appeared, and now that I’ve played almost all of it, I can easily say that I am not disappointed. The focus on choices and story over action lets Batman feel more like a detective and less like a martial arts beat-em-up, but the game still delivers some exciting and impressive action sequences. The only slight complaint I have is that Bruce Wayne looks an awful lot like Archer, but I’ll take Archer over the angry hunk of granite that was a popular look for the character for far too long. (Miz Opifex)

I have been looking forward to Dishonored 2 since it was announced, because I love stealth games and I loved the grimy and bleak steampunk world of Dunwall.

Now, there are things that genuinely sucked about this game, mainly that it was so poorly optimized at launch that certain maps slogged even on the most powerful of gaming rigs. But the story was phenomenal. Whereas Dishonored’s main hero was Corvo, who was avenging the death of his lover the Empress and attempting to rescue his daughter, this game took a different stance. You had the option of playing either Emily or her father Corvo. But if you listen to the dialogue throughout the game, particularly from some of your primary targets, you really get the sense that this is Emily’s story first and foremost. She was a crappy Empress and her lack of care is what allowed her aunt Delilah to seize power from her. This game is about Emily’s redemption as well as recovering her throne. It feels like being able to play Corvo is a consolation prize for dudebros who hate female leads. Truly, this game is about Emily, and she is surrounded by powerful women (her ally, a black disabled woman voiced by Rosario Dawson, some of her assassination targets including Delilah herself, etc). In addition to story, Dishonored 2 is always an excellent stealth game that gives you lots of options in how you handle your targets.  (Ivonne)

Some games are exhilarating, some you can just chill with. ConcernedApe’s Stardew Valley -- a spiritual successor to the console-based Harvest Moon series -- is one of the latter. It’s a calm, fun simulation of a farming life in a small village. It’s a beautiful little title, that allows you pretty much unrestricted freedom in building your own little patch of heaven in the titular valley. (Dominik)

While last year’s Alien: Isolation -- a first person sneak/fight ‘em up -- is considered the best official Alien game, Duskers is deserving of the best Alien game unconnected to the franchise. A tense simulation of a drone operator, the game takes place in a similar lo-fi future, and allows control over your robotic helper by typing instructions (and exploring rooms with WASD keys). But you’re never alone on the ships you visit, and how well you end your visit depends both on careful planning and frantic typing of instructions. (Dominik)

What were your favorite games of 2016? Did we miss any? Let us know below!

Critical Hits & Misses #101 - Mourning Edition

    Photo credit
      The world is in mourning today over the devastating loss of Carrie Fisher. We here at Critical Writ are broken-hearted. She wasn't simply an actress. She was a powerful, strong, beautiful, and brave woman that influenced an entire generation of girls (including many of us now blogging here). 
      And later in life, she spoke out about mental health and her own problems, using her platform to bring awareness on important causes. We love you Carrie, and we shall miss you. 
      The New York Times has a pretty good tribute to her here, but really you can find many tributes, all over the internet to her. 

    Need a holiday from the present climate of awfulness? Thievery Corporation will take you on a journey to strange musical vistas.

    Today's critical roll:

    Was Carrie Fisher important to you? Why or why not? What did she mean to you?

    Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: don't be a cancerous excrescence on the Internet's insides.

    Movies That Didn't Suck 2016

    Yet another "Didn't Suck" list? Yes of course! This is Critical Writ's list of awesome movies for 2016! In case you missed it, we had a few samples of news earlier in the week, followed up by a mega list of kick-ass comics. Stick with us this week to also get our list of TV and Games that didn't suck in 2016.

    Disney’s Moana was perfection. This animated film is about a young woman from a Polynesian island that has to answer the call of the sea to save her people. Everything about Moana is awesome from a feminist point of view: a brown woman, with lush crazy-beautiful curly dark hair, heir to the position of chieftain of the tribe, and someone who actually gets to be a hero, instead of watching someone else do things. The soundtrack to this film is gorgeous, especially with star Auli’i Cravalho’s fabulous vocals, with music by Lin-Manuel Miranda. For the last few years, Disney has been diversifying its films, and Moana was easily one of the best efforts so far. If you haven’t seen this movie, you should. (Ivonne)

    It’s amazing to not only see two animated feature films from Disney in 2016, but to have both of them be amazing pieces of art and tell stories that needed to be told, is unprecedented. In addition to Moana, there's this: Zootopia takes the world of talking animals, and tells a crime story. But this isn't just any average crime drama; it tells a timely story of prejudice, both systemic and internalized. It’s brave of its creators to show one of the main characters as not only suffering from biases, but as guilty of them herself and becoming aware of her own shortcomings. That’s something we needed this year. (Dominik)

    Well, it's yet another Disney movie, but we can't not include Star Wars: Rogue One on this list. If you haven’t seen this movie, what are you waiting for? This is the story of how the Rebellion obtained the plans for the Death Star that allowed them to defeat it later in Episode IV. Rogue One features a diverse cast, including a female lead, and a bunch of fabulous POCs, including Diego Luna. And a droid voiced by Alan Tudyk, which is not something you realize you need in your life until you see it. Many a critic and Star Wars fan have spoken the words that could potentially be sacrilegious: this may be the best Star Wars movie yet. Or at least as good as Empire Strikes Back. (Ivonne)

    Star Trek Beyond was a pleasant surprise for me. Unlike the previous two movies in this particular version of the Star Trek universe, Beyond genuinely felt like it was crafted with fans of the original in mind. It had the original show’s heart and optimism for the future coming out of it’s ears, which I have needed in this shittiest of years. Also no gratuitous nudity. That was a nice touch. (Miz Opifex)

    You might have missed this one, especially since it's barely managing to register as part of the tail end of 2016 (limited release on Dec 25, but wider release in January 2017), but you really need to see Hidden Figures. Taraji B. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae tell the real story of three black women scientists who were instrumental in NASA's first space missions. Most people have never heard of Katherine Johnson (Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Spencer), or Mary Jackson (Monae), but without these brilliant mathematicians, it's likely the US would have lost the space race. That's right, in 1962, we had three awesome black lady scientists who have mostly been obscured in American history. Hidden Figures tells their story, with powerful performances delivered by the leading ladies. (Ivonne)

    As a feminist blog, it would be wrong to totally miss mentioning Ghostbusters, which caused such a fuss this year among the dudebros of the world. Incensed by the idea of ladies busting ghosts, the internet went on a hate-filled campaign to try to tank this film. It wasn't the success it deserved to be in terms of box office dollars, but as a lady-led film, it was still a damn fun time. Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Kate McKinnon star as the Ghostbusters for a new generation, and they were pretty hilarious. Ghostbusters was by no means a perfect film, but it was well written, well acted, and as a bonus, it pissed off a lot of internet dudes. (Ivonne)

    And finally... we're a geek blog, so we would be remiss to completely leave out any and all superhero movies, right? Well, not if they all sucked, or were mediocre at best. But thankfully, in a year full of Marvel (Captain America: Civil War and Dr. Strange) and DC (Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad), we have a clear winner in terms of awesome superhero movies, and it wasn't any of the ones I already mentioned. The Superhero Movie Award of 2016 clearly goes to Deadpool. Yes, it's filthy as hell, yes there are tons of off-color jokes, and yes the lead is a white guy (Ryan Reynolds), but Deadpool was hilarious and joyful and wicked fun. It helps that girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) was treated with respect despite originating as a sex worker, and that she wasn't entirely a helpless damsel. It also helps that one of Deadpool's sidekicks was badass Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), and that he lived with a blind and black lady (Leslie Uggams). So much about this movie was wrong, wrong, wrong, but so right. Most fans of the Merc with a Mouth would agree: this movie captured the character perfectly well. (Ivonne)

    Did your favorite movies this year not make it on the list? Let us know what we missed in the comments!

    Comics That Didn't Suck 2016

    And we're back with things that didn't suck in 2016! Yesterday we gave you a few smatterings of good news from the year, but today we're giving a doozy of a list! Check out Critical Writ's Comics That Didn't Suck in 2016 below!

    • In a world of madness, a talking duck is (seemingly) the only one advocating for sanity, albeit delivered grumpily. No, (INSERT POLITICIAN HERE) isn’t an Animagus, I’m talking about Howard The Duck! Throughout 2016, Chip Zdarsky provided a breath of fresh air to anyone who was tired of massive events, overpowering darkness, or typical superhero stories. (Zachary

    • Although it was released long before the initial teasers for DC Rebirth started popping up, I still feel that Poison Ivy: Cycle Of Life And Death holds up as a wonderful miniseries focused on the premiere plant-based antagonist in the DC universe. (Sorry, Floronic Man.) Specifically, it reminded me of the excellent Gotham City Sirens, which was ironically cancelled for the New 52. It has some great character moments with Poison Ivy and Catwoman, especially with Pamela’s relationship with her Sporelings. Additionally, a background photo shows Harley in her classic jester outfit, so I’m considering it the lost finale arc to Gotham City Sirens. Definitely check it out for a bounty of flowers and a suspenseful mystery! (Zachary

    • The intersectional feminist historical AU you didn’t know you needed—issue after issue, DC Bombshells continues to impress. The plot gives a lot of room for its leading ladies to find their place in WWII and assert their agency. Rather than affirming the usual “straight until proven otherwise” standard, we're made to expect every main character falls into the LGBTQ spectrum, from the usual suspects (Batwoman, Harley, Ivy, Alysia Yeoh) to the surprises (Big Barda, Dr. Light, Mera) and a canonically bi Wonder Woman before her sexuality was declared canon across the multiverse. It’s a story of badass ladies, solidarity and hope—something we all desperately need. (Stephanie) 

    • It feels like I’ll never write that Nighthawk review and will instead keep writing new mini-reviews. Regardless, it’s still the most important comic Marvel published this year, tackling systemic (and regular) racism, with a Batman-like vigilante at the center of it all. Its cancellation after a single story-arc remains an unspoken tragedy, but at least David F. Walker will get to continue Kyle Richmond’s story in Occupy Avengers, a similarly socially-conscious comic. (Dominik

    • This year, DC’s Rebirth is rightfully getting praise for fixing many of the issues of the widely-loathed 2011 reboot. But the most interesting thing the publisher did in 2016 was launching a mini-imprint helmed by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance. Kicked off by Way and Nick Derrington’s Doom Patrol, Young Animal is a small, surreal niche for weird and exciting titles, bringing back DC’s weirdest and most obscure characters. It even started their own ones with Jody Houser and Tommy Lee Edwards’s Mother Panic. The bleak and depressing final quarter of the year was immeasurably lighter due to the existence of Shade, the Changing Girl and Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye. The best part of the imprint is that it sometimes feels like anything can happen in its titles—and that it will be wondrous, insane and fun. (Dominik

    • Harper Row actually said she was bi in Detective Comics #945. I know that we’ve had bigger heroes with better brand recognition get confirmed queer this year, but for certain personal reasons the little blue-haired electrician who idolizes Batman is very dear to me. Also unlike a lot of DC’s bisexual lady leads, she actually said she was bi in the pages of the comic rather than being declared bi by an author in an interview. (Miz Opifex)

    • Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer is one of the best comics Dark Horse published this. While in many ways it’s a superhero story, it takes a group of Golden Age inspired characters (for instance: a female Captain Marvel stand-in and a gay Martian Manhunter) and puts them into a setting similar to Twin Peaks. All that filtered through Lemire’s somber and melancholic writing, and depicted in Ormston’s style, for a result quite unlike any modern superhero story. (Dominik

    • The financial operations of Wall Street always seem occult in nature, as if people working there conduct their own black magic rituals to shape the world to their will. Jonathan Hickman’s newest creator-owned title, The Black Monday Murders, makes that concept real and, through the author’s usual deft world-building, crafts an alternate universe of mysteries and dark magic, where corporations succeed thanks to ominous rites and elaborate deals with devils. We explore this world—which is presented like a noir film by Tomm Coker—through the eyes of a black male police detective and the prodigal lesbian daughter of one of the families controlling the world from the shadows. (Dominik

    • Traditionally, Western fantasy settings take Celtic-German influences to craft a Tolkien-inspired world. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda took a more creative route, by creating a setting inspired heavily by Eastern stories—and mixing a little cosmic horror for good measure. In Monstress, Maika Halfwolf’s search for her mother’s mysteries is an exciting, fantastically written story with a compelling, driven and imperfect protagonist. It’s also a tale of prejudice and how xenophobia and religious fanaticism can break the world. All that is drawn in Sana Takeda’s detailed, amazing style. (Dominik

    • While Brandon Graham’s 8house initiative didn’t pan out, a few good comics did come out of it. One of them is Mirror, an ongoing series written by the talented artist Emma Rios and similarly skilled Hwei Lim. It’s a beautiful fable, telling a science-fantasy story of humans and uplifted animals. It’s a delightful tale, gorgeously rendered with Hwei Lim’s masterful art. (Dominik

    • Simon Spurrier is one of the industry’s rarely spoken-about, extremely talented individuals. In 2016 he finished his amazing The Spire and wrote Weavers, a Boom! miniseries mixing a mob story with cosmic horror. But by far my favorite of his new series was Cry Havoc, which told the story of a lesbian werewolf (...sort of) going to Afghanistan as part of a special, occult task force. It’s probably the most creative and intelligent urban fantasy published by Image, mixing real world politics with insanely diverse bestiary of mythical creatures this genre has ever seen. (Dominik

    • Marguerite Bennett has had a good year. While Angela: Queen of Hel met an untimely end, she got to continue the ever delightful DC Comics Bombshells, write classic characters like Red Sonja and Josie & the Pussycats. But most importantly, she continued writing creator-owned stories at Aftershock, with InSeXts and newly started Animosity, drawn respectively by Ariela Kristantina and Rafael de Latorre. Both series—the first tells the story of shape-changing lesbian lovers in Victorian London, while the other is a post-apocalyptic tale of uplifted animals—are a masterful mix of righteous anger at injustices both past and current with her signature sense of humour. Both are definite standouts of Aftershock’s catalogue and a must-read for fans of socially-conscious and fun comics. (Dominik

    Did we miss any? Probably lots! Let us know what your favorite comics of 2016 were, in the comments below! 

    Critical Hits & Misses #100

    For today's musical hit, listen to the gentle sound of Kames Arthur's "Safe Inside."

    Today's critical roll:

    What natural disaster frightens you the most? Why?

    — Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: don't be an asshole!

    News That Didn't Suck 2016

    Editor's Note: this blog post came out about fifteen minutes before the awful news broke about Carrie Fisher; there are no words. We have lost our Princess and we are devastated. 

    No doubt about it. 2016 has kind of been an awful year. With a multitude of celebrity deaths, starting with David Bowie and Alan Rickman at the start of the year, and continuing deep into December with 80s icon George Michael on Christmas day (and it's still going!) And then of course, there was Brexit, which the United States felt obliged to one-up with the election of Donald Trump. And there was plenty of other crappy happenings around the world in between all of that: Aleppo, for example.

    But we here at Critical Writ want to encourage everyone to start the new year on a positive note, because 2017 is going to be the year to fight and fight hard to keep existing rights, and make whatever gains we can for marginalized folks.

    So for your positive reading pleasure, we have compiled a list of things that didn't suck this year in the following categories: news, games, TV, movies and comics. These lists are by no means meant to be definitive, and you might find that there is plenty missing, because a lot happens in a year (especially news-wise). But we picked out a few things that made us happy, and we hope they make you at least a little happy too.

    We've divided these each into their own posts, starting with the news. There is so much missing here! So feel free to link us to your own news that didn't suck, in the comments below!

    • Cheers, love, the cavalry’s queer! In news that definitely didn’t suck this year, Blizzard revealed that its banner character for hit game Overwatch is gay! Tracer, the very face of this fabulous and popular FPS, has a live-in girlfriend named Emily, and they are freaking adorable! While this fact was not revealed in the game itself (which would be silly, as the game focuses on military-style missions as characters shoot each other), Emily was revealed in a companion comic strip, part of the vast array of lore-related companion media that Blizzard is constantly putting out. Ibn further news that didn’t suck, the general consensus amongst fans has spanned from elated to *shrug,* (the latter is a good thing, as it suggests gayness is normalized for lots of folks these days). The little bit of ugliness on forums, Facebook comments, and even in-game, tends to be quickly shut down by impatient fans who have no time for homophobia as they pwn noobs. (Ivonne)

    • Thanks to Make-A-Wish, a sixteen-year-old teenager will have an all-star cast and crew for his very own film. Anthony Conti wanted to create a film and the foundation was happy to help. The film will be an apocalyptic zombie tale, co-written by one of the writers for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre film. As for stars, J.K. Simmons, Sam Raimi, Johnny Depp, Penelope Ann Miller, and many more agreed to help. (Zachary

    • Cool science news! Scientists discovered a new species of whale in Alaska’s Bering Sea! Considering the rate at which humans are causing various living species to go extinct, it’s cool news to hear that we are still discovering things and we haven’t totally killed everything yet with our carelessness! The oceans represent the final frontier on Earth, and it’s clear we haven’t discovered everything out there yet. A whale carcass washed up in Alaska and scientists sleuthed out the fact that it was a species we’ve never seen before. (Critical Writ staff)

    • Better late than never! Google waited until December 26, 2016, but they finally did it: they have fixed their search algorithm so that holocaust-denying results no longer appear on the search. For years Google has maintained that they do not alter search results, to prove they are “unbiased.” The algorithm has also been adjusted so that when you ask hateful questions in the search, (such as “are Jews evil”), the results mostly direct you to news about the search results scandal. It’s not perfect, but it is a step towards not normalizing racism, something we desperately need in the US after our presidential election. (Critical Writ staff)
    There are plenty more things that don't suck to come, so keep an eye out for the rest of the week as we countdown to 2017 with the best of 2016! 

    Archie #15 Review: A Beautiful Tale Of True Friendship

    Once again, the issue is divided into two separate parts, one focused on Archie and the other on Veronica. When we last left off, Archie decided to take a more lax approach to life, the "Jughead" approach, if you will. Unfortunately, as they are two very different people with different styles and personalities, this did not work out. It's up to Jughead to turn into Archie and take a proactive stance to helping out his best friend. Over in Switzerland, Veronica took her oh-so-gloriously sweet revenge on her newfound nemesis. But was it really that sweet? You see, spending so much time in Riverdale gave Veronica something of a conscience.

    The first story has some really sweet commentary on Archie's friendship with Jughead, including the lengths that the normally-lazy Jughead will go to keep him out of trouble. They depend on each other to keep life sane and enjoyable. They aren't afraid to discuss emotional issues, along with the usual goofing off and ragging on Reggie, homework, or the like.

    I also enjoy Betty's statement on one of the key differences between Jughead and Archie. I think it's really poignant.

    Veronica's story is equally heartwarming, but with a sting at the end. After a talk with her father, and some presumed advice from Smithers, Mr. Lodge finally agrees to let her go back to Riverdale. She just has to finish the rest of her semester at school first because they may be rich, but wasting money isn't prudent. However, due to some previous machinations from the Lodges, the Blossoms are now slightly less rich and Cheryl is leaving the school to go to Riverdale.
    I don't know who had the idea for designing Veronica's gleeful outburst, but major props to them. It is adorable.
    Real talk: When Veronica eventually returns, how ruined will Riverdale be? Are we talking 'burning down the town' levels of trouble or just 'Cheryl turns everyone against her' levels of peril? Given the way Mr. Lodge just up and left after his mayoral campaign, methinks that Veronica might have some making up to do. Still, that is a tale for the next issue. For now, I'm happy with an excellent issue.

    Archie #15 is written by Mark Waid and Lori Matsumoto and drawn by Joe Eisma. You can find it at your local comic book shop.

    Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or Harry Potter books.

    Critical Hits & Misses #99

    For today's musical hit, remember a music legend, by watching this fabulous live performance of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" with George Michael and Elton John. As a child of the 80s, as someone who grew up listening to Wham! and George Michaels, I can honestly say: you will be missed (Ivonne)


    Today's critical rolls:

    What celebrity death in 2016 has hit you the hardest?

    — Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: end 2016 on a positive note and don't be a jerk to your internet neighbors!

    The Unbelievable Gwenpool #9 Review: Tying The Continuity Knots

    It turns out that Vincent Doonan's origin is surprisingly complex, with ties to many different facets of the Marvel universe. This includes the pre-villainous days of the Tinkerer, alternate-future Squirrel Girl from Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #5, and even a background cameo from what looks to be the '92-era X-Men. True, they don't have too terribly large of a role in the plot, but it's interesting to flesh out the universe at the time.

    Not every villain necessarily needs an origin. Sometimes it's better to have them remain shrouded in mystery, in the case of the Mad Thinker. Other times, it's important to show the origin as an explanation for the character's actions and motivations. In this case, Victor Doonan was a former robot of Doom's who managed to escape during a squabble with Future-Squirrel Girl. Phineas Mason, otherwise known as the Tinkerer, took him in and helped him make a waterproof skin 'face.' In return, Vincent loyally helped him in his electronics store, leaving when he decided to embark on his quest to make the Marvel universe normal again. All of this is told to Gwenpool while she pays only the barest amount of attention.

    That can't be right, my collaboration with Aranwe isn't until February.
    Unluckily for Gwen, her plan doesn't work because she called Miles' home number and he isn't at home. Plus, there's that little matter of him thinking that she's a dangerous criminal. With her luck, he might try to call in the Champions to detain her.

    Thankfully, thanks to the luck of the power of narrative and a little bit of a distraction, she and Cecil manage to escape. Also, thanks to the power of luck, she discovers that M.O.D.O.K. had other agents in his organization. What, you think that any proper megalomaniac overlord worth his robotic salt wouldn't have a large abundance of allies? I don't know about you, but I think that they're all going to die. After all, we don't know any of their names, so they're probably going to die horrible deaths. Hut. hut, empty out the barracks, it's time to form G.W.E.N.P.O.O.L.!

    Again, I love the little doses of reality.
    The Unbelievable Gwenpool #9 is written by Christopher Hastings and drawn by Gurihiru. You can find it at your local comic book store.

    Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or Harry Potter books.

    Critical Hits & Misses #98

    We'll forego our musical hit and our critical roll today, to just pass along this message: this weekend is Christmas, but it doesn't matter if you celebrate it or not. Maybe you celebrated the solstice earlier this week (I did). Or perhaps you will be celebrating for days to come, in which case, Happy Chanukah! Kwanza perhaps? Or quite possibly, you don't celebrate at all this time of year.

    Regardless of what you do or don't do this coming weekend, we here at Critical Writ hope you have a fabulous time. 2016 has been rough for a lot of us, especially those of us "SJWs" who appear to have lost some huge battles of late. We haven't lost the war. Remember, we're on the right side of history. And maybe that won't be proven for decades. But never doubt that it will happen.

    Thank you for spending time with us here at our tiny little blog. Whether you're celebrating with family, or just catching up on your Netflix backlog this weekend, getting your gaming on or baking up a storm... take the time to reflect on the positive. Take the time to unwind. Take the time to spread love, to your family and friends and neighbors and especially to strangers. We're making the world a better place, step by step, and we'll keep doing so in 2017.

    — Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: love your fellow human beings.

    Scream Queens S2 E10 Review: "Drain The Swamp"

    Note: This review contain spoilers for the episode. You have been warned.

    No, to the best of my knowledge, the title isn't a reference to a certain presidental campaign's motto. It relates to a threat that has been made for the entire season thus far. If the swamp next to the C.U.R.E. Institute is drained, then the dead bodies will be discovered, leading to a boatload of trouble for the employees. Buckle up, pledges, it's time for the season finale.

    Okay, I'm fairly certain that Scream Queens has a finale problem. So far, both seasons have spent almost every episode building up to something grand only for the finale to run out of steam. Like I predicted earlier, Denise returned as a deus ex machina to save the day. Somehow, she manages to stop Offel's plan of killing everyone with a bomb. Cassidy sacrifices himself by saving Chanel No. 3 from getting skewered, completely getting rid of that plot. As for Brock's struggle with the shadow impulses of his serial killer hand, he's long since discovered that the hand didn't really want to kill Chanel Oberlin, he did. 

    Dean Munsch's fatal illness? Turns out that she's just an alcoholic and she needed to start drinking water again. Compounding the plot, Chanel Oberlin narrates the final moments of the episode, showing that she has learned absolutely nothing from the whole affair. Someone dressed up as last season's Red Devil mascot/serial killer shows up in the backseat of her car, but I'm not holding my breath for that to be relevant in the event that the show gets renewed. Just like a similar gag in the last season finale, it'll probably be revealed to be someone pulling a prank on her.

    Quite frankly, it's just disappointing. Maybe I was wrong to get my hopes up based on prior evidence, but it's still irritating. I also didn't like the way that Nurse Hoffel ultimately went out. I haven't seen a lot of slasher movies, but I know that horror movie villains typically go out in some amazing way. In this case, she just drowned in a random quicksand patch in the swamp. 

    In terms of good parts, well, I don't have a lot to say. The negative qualities definitely outweighed the positives. I did like Hester and Brock's plans to run away and start hunting people for sport on their own private island, as well as Chanel Oberlin's plan to kill Dean Munsch by throwing a pumpkin spice latter at her brain during a surgery. Still, moments of that quality were few and far between. Part of me hopes that Scream Queens will get renewed, but only so the cast and crew can prove to the audience that they can create a season with consistent quality.

    Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or Harry Potter books.

    Scream Queens S2 E9 Review: "Lovin' The D"

    Note: This review contain spoilers for the episode. You have been warned.

    Okay, this is what I want the show to be about. The three Green Meanies (Green Threenies?) have finally met and it was glorious. They accidentally interrupted each other's opening kills, letting Chanel No. 1 get away. Just the image of one of them shrugging and giving a "What the heck, dude?!" expression through the mask made me laugh. Aside from the great writing, it was also a golden example of physical comedy.

    It doesn't end there because Hester interrupts their petty squabbling to call a "Green Meanie summit." Said summit is conducted in the format of a mock game show where she divvies up the remaining kills for Hoffel, Cassidy, and Wes. Cassidy is still in love with Chanel No. 3, making Wes constantly make fun of him and insinuate that the only murder he'll do is "killing her with kisses." He just grumpily responds by saying that he'll kill her. Can we just have a series about competing horror movie killers? Forget the Chanels, I want to see that!

    Sadly, the alliance plot was too good to last. Wes betrays Offel by trying to kill Chanel, so Offel and Cassidy push him into a vat of frying oil, turning him into a disgusting corpse. Meanwhile, Cassidy sided with his mom by breaking up with Chanel No. 3. He just wants to be the serial killer that he was groomed to be. True love won't get in the way. As for Zayday, she's still in the clutches of Cassidy's mom, and no one knows about it yet. Uh, oh.

    Finally, I actually found the plot of the Chanels to be somewhat tolerable this time. In order to perform a surgery live on a daytime television show called Lovin' The D, they have to pass an important medical exam. Of course, Chanels No. 1 and 3 cheat on the test and pass, unbeknownst to Chanel No. 5, who actually studied and legitimately succeeded. I was impressed by that. If she applied herself and actually became a better person, she might actually become the only good Chanel.

    All of these plot developments point to a rollicking season finale, with the Chanels having their own show, and a tense cliffhanger with Zayday. I hope that it'll be good! See you then.

    Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or Harry Potter books.

    Critical Hits & Misses #97

    For today's musical hit, we're still rolling with the holiday music, because goddamit, we need joy in our lives. Here is Heidi Klum singing "Santa Baby" with Sal Valentinetti, on America's Got Talent.

    Today's critical rolls:

    Favorite Christmas song of all time? Or if you one of those Scrooge types (like me), un-favorite Christmas song of all time?

    — Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: it's the holidays, so act like a decent human being to one and all, ffs!

    Scream Queens S2 E8 Review: "Rapunzel, Rapunzel"

    Note: This review contain spoilers for the episode. You have been warned.

    Finally, the overall mystery of the Green Meanie is starting to unravel. Wes Gardner, a character from the first season, has been revealed to be the initial copycat Green Meanie. Due to the emotional trauma that his daughter suffered in the last season, he decided to suit up as the killer and get his bloody revenge on the Chanels. I do wish that we could have actually seen the flashback instead of just having him tell it to Chamberlain before stabbing him, but Grace's actress probably wasn't available.

    I hope that this is foreshadowing a possible duel between Hofffel's Green Meanie persona and his in the next two episodes, considering that they both have a strong motive. Then again, maybe there could be another alliance and some traitorous backstabbing involved, especially because Cassidy isn't entirely on board with Hoffel's plans anymore.

    The non-murder mystery side of the plot wasn't very interesting. I just don't care about Chanel No. 1's relationship with Dr. Brock. I think that his character is more interested when he's contending with the serial killer hand, but that plot thread seems to be gone. Equally uninteresting is Brock's affair with Dean Munsch because it just feels like a stale love triangle. I would rather have more screentime focused on her disease. Her simultaneous relationship with Wes is slightly more interesting, given his new status as one of the Green Meanies.

    My favorite subplot would have to be Zayday's continuing mission to find out who the Green Meanie is. She has no knowledge of Dr. Cassidy, Dr. Offel, or Wes's respective identities, making it very tense when she questions Dr. Cassidy's mother about the ongoing situation. I also like the potential deconstruction of a standard horror movie costume. She actually sets a trap for the Green Meanie and steals a bit of the costume in order to find out who made it. The trip leads her to a creepy costume shop filled with dozens of potential slasher villain personas. I can't help but wonder if any of them will be used on the off-chance that the show gets renewed. Given the unfortunate events of the end of the episode, I hope Zayday survives to see it.

    The comedy portion in the horror-comedy was present, but mostly crude in the tone. Raunchiness isn't necessarily something that I don't like in media, but it has to serve some kind of purpose. Lately, it seems as though the off-color references and euphemisms are just there for the sake of being there. Maybe it's me, but I would prefer something else.

    Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or Harry Potter books.

    Rebirth Holiday Special- "Light In The Dark" Review: Finally, A Chanukah Story!

    The solicitation for the DC Rebirth Holiday Special teased a "Chanukah crisis" for Batwoman. What could it be? Has a nefarious supervillain been weighing down dreidels, causing uneven and unfair distributions of gimmels? Are latkes everywhere getting burned? Has Darkseid come to her doorstep to preach about the joys of converting to Anti-Life? Let's find out together in "Light In The Dark!"

    At the beginning of the story, Batwoman is feeling depressed. She and her father had a longstanding tradition of meeting up in a diner for a retelling of the story of Chanukah and cherry pie. As a fan of both pie and Chanukah, I can relate to this. In fact, Chanukah is one of my favorite Jewish holidays, along with Purim.

    After an encounter with a mysterious baddie and some criminals, she contacts her old friend Kit for some help. I'm not sure if Kit has appeared in the pre-Flashpoint DC universe, but I do know that she is already awesome. I hope that she appears in the upcoming Batwoman solo series. Kit is a mysterious hacker, kind of like Oracle, and located in Gotham City.

    I too have known the horrors of the spinny wheel of death.
    Together, they manage to foil the plot and save the life of "Tributary". The three of them end the story back at The Corner Diner with a hastily-bought menorah, pie, and Kate beginning to tell the story of the Maccabees.  It's a great story, simple and filled with hope. I love being with my family during the holidays and it just so happens that the entirety of Chanukah falls during my winter break this year. If I had to nitpick, then I do wish that the story of the Maccabees was actually told, but I know that there wasn't a lot of space in the special.

    I also like the little short preceding the story with Harley Quinn's attempts to combine Christmas and Chanukah at the Justice League's Christmas party. I honestly didn't know that Harley was Jewish. Technically, Judaism is passed down through the mother's side, but the story implies that her father celebrated Chanukah, so I'll let it slide.
    Guilt? What guilt? Did you mean to say 'gelt?' I'm a college student, I don't know anything about guilt! -remembers that at the time of my initial reading of the story I had finals going on- Okay, so I have guilt. Sue me.
    I am elated to see more well-written representation for my religion in the DC Rebirth era, and I hope it continues well into 2017 and beyond. Happy holidays, everyone!

    Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or Harry Potter books.

    Scream Queens S2 E7 Review: "The Hand"

    Note: This review contain spoilers for the episode. You have been warned.

    I wish that the whole season could have been as engaging as this one. It has some surprising new developments on the multiple killers front, as well as some surprisingly fascinating insights into the minds of the characters. I think that the new trend in this season of starting off the episode with some narration by a recurring character vastly improves the quality of the show. Not only does it show their point of view of the events, it also expands their characterization. In this case, Dr. Holt narrated the opening, showing the deeper struggle that he has with his replacement hand. It came from a serial killer and he can hear the voice of the former owner, taunting him. Yes, it's that kind of show. The hand cartoonishly taunts him, keeping him awake and stressing him out. The more awake he is, the more he longs to kill.

    Speaking of killers, Chanel No. 3 actually finds out that Dr. Cassidy is one of the Green Meanies. This not only causes an interesting conflict in their budding romance but also strains his already-uneasy alliance with Hoffel. I genuinely liked the character developments in this episode. It had a good balance of seeing how everyone reacts to the tense situations and cases.

    In terms of humor, it's finally back to the point of manageable idiocy. It's just implausible enough to be wacky but also grounded enough to keep me invested in the plot. A highlight of the episode featured S.K.H. (Serial Killer Hand) saving Dr. Holt from one of the Green Meanies through inexplicable kung fu action. Additionally, S.K.H. tortures Dr. Holt and keeps him from sleeping by forcing him to watch religious telethons at ungodly hours in the morning.

    Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or Harry Potter books.

    Critical Hits & Misses #96

    For today's musical hit, get into the Christmas spirit with the fabulous Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, "Please Come Home For Christmas."

    Today's critical rolls:

    What are some of your favorite non-mainstream comics (that is, non-Marvel and non-DC)? Especially the digital kind! Let us know what you're reading online and why!

    — Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: don't be a jerk!