Dark Souls III Diary - First Playthrough Journal - Part 4

While I'm a veteran Souls player, this is my first time playing through the latest installment, Dark Souls III, following the adventures of my pyromancer, Vedekka.

In the last episode of DSD, I met Greirat of the Undead Settlement who asked me to find "old Loretta" and deliver her a Blue Tearstone Ring. This got me thinking. The short amount of time I've been in this game has already felt like a massive journey, but I haven't even met the area boss yet. So, I put my nose to the grindstone and start trudging my way through the remainder of the zone, including backtracking to areas I haven't yet explored.

 Remember the rotund fellow circling the courtyard? He's toast now. Pyromancy is super powerful.
 Remember the zombies with living oil that explodes from their bodies to murder you? Found another one.
Remember that giant dragon? Yeah, he's still alive. But I stole all his treasure out from under him! See my new axe? It's very powerful and has dark magic damage on it. I still use it! I found it here, under the dragon...
...in this treasure chest! Except that's not a treasure chest. That is actually a mimic monster, which the user-shared hint on my left alerted me to. If you try to open that chest, it opens up to a massive set of bladed teeth, and you get to be lunch.
After clearing most of the level, I come to a long staircase leading to a cathedral. At the bottom of the stairs is a massive set of doors that I assume leads to other areas, perhaps even the Undead Settlement that Greirat referenced. I opt to look at the cathedral first as the way out which likely has the boss. I fight a pair of knights who are pretty tough. I DIE a few times, but I'm earning lots of souls, so it's okay. Then I see a knight with his back turned.

Now, see, NPCs in the Dark Souls series are often found out in the world and you are completely free to attack them at will, taking on any rewards and consequences that accompany that choice. I like to be nice, so I take a chance and approach normally rather than attempt to sneak in the first blow. He could have items to sell, a quest to give, or at least have some interesting story to tell--NOPE, HE HAS RED EYES AND IS CHARGING ME.

In hindsight, I probably should have given more credence to the fresh pools of blood in the area.
He chased me a remarkably long distance before finishing me off. :(
After he kills me, I decide to leave him alone. Seems wise for now. I still venture nearby to the cathedral to see what's inside but I get nervous. It's a dark, deep chamber and someone is sitting at the far end in a red cloak. Creepy. Could be risky and I'd rather go face the boss. I make my way down the massive stairs, flanked by the dead bodies of the devout, all of whom apparently expired before completing some long and brutal pilgrimage. I enter a huge chamber and... nothing. I'm sure this is a trick, but it's time to spring the trap. I head to the double doors which are choked by roots to have a look see.

How am I going to get through all this mess?
Suddenly, a humming sound heralds the opening of a strange and dark portal behind me. The boss climbs out of the portal and now I'm sealed inside the hall with a beast known simply as Vordt of the Boreal Valley.

Imagine a giant knight as a dog. Emanating cold magic and carrying a big mace. That is how we get to die today.
I DIE. A lot. After the first couple attempts, I use the player co-op system so I can learn the fight in other players' games with no risk to myself (and earn buckets of souls in the process). This also earns me Embers which are consumable items that allow me to "enkindle" myself so that I can summon player co-op helpers in my own world. Even after I get the fight down, I still make a lot of dumb mistakes and die a lot. I'm playing late at night now and I'm slipping, but I rally one last time and take Vordt down.

Reader, insert Xena battle cry here.
Success! Kinda. I head through the doors to find the bridge is out, completely collapsed. It's a straight drop down to death, but I notice that the game seems to want me to place an item here. I figure I  missed something, probably in the cathedral I avoided. Sure enough, I head inside and find Emma, High Priestess of Lothric Castle sitting in the red cloak.

Tell me about it, I climbed out of my own grave to be here.
Emma hooks me up with a mark of the Way of Blue covenant. See, when you're enkindled, there's a chance that other human players will be able to invade your game and gank you. If you equip the Way of Blue parchment, it will summon another player to defend you (those in the Blue Sentinels covenant, which we'll get to later). She also gives me a small Lothric Banner which is somehow going to help me leave High Lothric.

So, I head back to the drop and things... take an unexpected turn.

Okay, place the banner and... what's the scuffling sound down there?
"Uh, hey guys... I, you know what, I can just head back the way I came, I don't want to trouble anyone--"
"No, no, really, I can see myself out. Guys? Why, where are we--"

Adrian Martinez is a graphic designer, comic book letterer, hobbyist writer, and all-around geek living in New York City.

The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina #5 Review

Fans of the live-action Sabrina The Teenage Series, prepare for a massive paradigm shift. You have been warned. This isn’t going to be pretty.

The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina is absolutely horrifying. Every single issues features at least one intensely harrowing scene guaranteed to give you nightmares. Forget the zombies in Afterlife With Archie, Sabrina showcases even more ghoulish creatures. Discard everything you think you know about Sabrina. This is a new universe, a period piece taking place in the sixties, and unconnected to Afterlife With Archie. Despite some minor cameos from Archie characters in a few issues, it tries to be a separate, equally chilling entity.

How is it different, you ask? The main villain has no face, having to graphically steal one from an innocent victim. Hilda and Zelda practice cannibalism. Remember Salem’s cute jokes about trying to take over the world in the old TV series and how we all chuckled at his arrogance? Awww, look at the wittle kitty, he stupidly tried to become a dictator! Cutest Napoleon complex ever! Here, he actively tried to summon the end of the world. How he does this has yet to be revealed, but the solicits for the sixth issue promise to reveal his backstory. Cousin Ambrose? No longer a jolly middle-aged man, now he’s a creepy teenager who once used magic to remove someone’s hands.

Basically, I’m trying to say that the new series is a full-on horror story and a worthy addition to the Archie Horror lineup. It is most definitely not for the faint of heart. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve actually had a debate with my friend over which was more terrifyingthe horrors in Sabrina or the visceral gore and tragedies in Afterlife With Archie. We didn’t come to a conclusion, but I am of the personal opinion that Sabrina is more descriptive in its events. Afterlife With Archie typically has some of the main characters narrate the issue, while Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina either has Madam Satan recounting her past life or an anonymous narrator.

The time period also makes it more terrifying. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is unafraid to delve into the horrors of the past in gritty, vivid detail. Scenes taking place in an asylum are particularly blood-curdling, especially when the medical scenes are left to your imagination. One panel featuring police brutality is exceedingly intense. The most recent issue even broaches the subject of racism, although for an all too brief moment.

My main criticism of the series would be its release schedule. The fifth issue came out almost one year ago. It makes it harder to recall the previous events in order to write a proper review. Additionally, and this is more personal, I find it very hard to read the series due to the horrifying events. I grew up going through the Archie Comics and a small portion of the live-action series. But, I do know that this isn’t necessarily for me. It’s made for fans of all kinds of horror movies, a genre that I’m still dipping my toes into, so to speak.

If you want to experience this unique take on the character, I recommend it. If you’re on the fence, just read the first issue to see how much you can handle. It’s hard to get through, but beautifully written.

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

Scooby Apocalypse #1 Review

...Seriously? You’re making this? Come on, DC, I know you can do better. I’ve gotten volumes of Scooby-Doo Team-Up at the library. Okay, then. Let’s get this started. Rip off your nostalgia blinders, it’s Scooby Apocalypse #1.

First off, I have a few issues with the art. I don’t necessarily have a problem with making realistic versions of the Scooby gang. It’s just that the drawings look really ugly. Fred and Daphne are the most normal-looking out of the bunch, just with different costumes. I don’t terribly mind Velma’s re-imagining, apart from her goofy glasses and unnaturally small stature. Scooby, on the other hand, ranges from mildly ugly to ferocious and hideous.

Shaggy’s redesign is by far, the worst. I understand that the creators of the comic want to modernize them in accordance with the new universe. Making Shaggy into a ‘stereotypical hipster’ just seems inappropriate. He was always meant to be a semi-hippy, so why not keep the almost-beard? The new version has a Dick Dastardly mustache and a huge beard. Maybe they just ran out of razors.

I just don’t see why this needs to exist. Well, perhaps that isn’t accurate. This can be done perfectly well, but I just don’t see why the comic needed a revamp. The Scooby-Doo franchise has undergone many different makeovers, almost all unique. The series has had celebrity guest stars in The New Scooby-Doo Movies, kiddie versions in my nostalgic childhood favorite A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, a playful remake in What’s New, Scooby Doo?, a controversial series focused mostly on Scooby and Shaggy being superspies in Shaggy And Scooby-Doo Get A Clue!, and, most recently, a stylized reboot/parody in Be Cool, Scooby-Doo.

In fact, Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated proved that a darker re-imagining of the franchise isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It proved that you can successfully make a serialized mystery starring the classic characters, but balanced with familiar jokes and staples. This, on the other hand, seems practically mandated to cram in things appealing to young readers, no matter how unrealistic. Scooby wears a gadget that allows him to speak in emoticons. I can imagine an executive thinking, "These kids with their Twitters and their emojis, let's add that in to be relate-able! Hey, let's call up the film division, I have a swell idea! Marvel has a shared universe, DC has a shared universe, Universal had a shared universe, let's get into the game!" No, I am not kidding.

There have been early reports of a cinematic universe based on the Hannah-Barbera franchise. It would start off with an animated Scooby-Doo film in 2018, give or take a few months. According to early reports, it will be called S.C.O.O.B. and have the gang working for some kind of company. I can’t wait to see Yogi Bear team up with Secret Squirrel. Wait, wouldn't a HBCU film just be Wacky Races: The Movie?

The new comic seems to be dark just for the purpose of being dark. If you want to have a unique spin on the franchise, then more power to you. However, it’s important to keep in mind the reasons for why people enjoy the franchise. No matter how scary the monsters are, they’re called the Scooby Gang for a reason. They’re all friends, which Scooby Apocalypse seems to throw out the window. Velma is misanthropic, seeing the majority of people as useless and Fred and Daphne constantly bicker.

The one bright spot in the issue is Shaggy and Scooby’s relationship. It’s essentially the same as the usual version, except that Shaggy was hired to be a trainer for the Smart-dog prototypes. And I can’t believe that’s a sentence I just typed in a Scooby-Doo review. It’s adorable seeing them having fun and eating a lot of food. There’s even a genuinely funny moment where Shaggy is complaining about gluten-free pizzas. Overall, I think that I would like the series more if it had the regular Scooby-Doo adventures, just in a potentially apocalyptic scenario. Make it like the later episodes of Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated or outright make it a parody. If I do keep reading it, it’ll be for Shaggy and Scooby.

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

Afterlife With Archie #9 Review

Warning: This review contains spoilers for the end of the issue.

Even the most casual of fans knows that Reggie is Riverdale’s dirtbag. Rude, crude, and perennially booed, he is a jerk. While certain portions of his personality have been lessened or taken away over the years, he is still the go-to villain in any Archie story. Reggie loves pranking Archie and doing his best to manipulate Veronica into ditching him. He’s a sleazy dude with a greaser-style haircut to match. He’s the one you love to hate, even if he goes too far on some occasions.

If a Reggie-focused story isn’t based on his maliciousness, it is about deflating his massive ego. He is an extreme narcissist, dubbing himself ‘Mantle the Magnificent.’ He’s obsessed with personal grooming and making sure that everyone knows how talented he is. A common Archie Comics staple is Archie and Reggie competing in some activity, usually sports-related, and some blunder causes Reggie to humiliate himself. Also, he has commonly been portrayed as a womanizer; gleefully hitting on girls who are already in a relationship, especially Midge. Despite all of this, some stories show his good side, such as playing the piano for a church or standing up for his father’s integrity. With all of this, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has a Herculean task on his hands if he hopes to humanize him. (Yeah, alliteration!)

Thankfully, he seems to be up to the task. Afterlife With Archie #9 humanizes Riverdale’s biggest nuisance while simultaneously dramatizing him. The issue focuses on his struggles to redeem himself for (unwittingly) starting the zombie apocalypse, although he’s starting to suspect that it’s his fault. I went from feeling sorry for Reggie as he worries that he might be a sociopath, to disgusted at him creepily lusting after Midge, even literally having her as his first and last thoughts of every day.

Throughout the entire issue, I bounced between liking and disliking Reggie, especially near the end. Reggie is revealed to have a death wish. He leaves everyone behind to confront the horde of zombies, hoping that they would kill him quickly. Shockingly enough, they completely avoid him, even when he kneels before the zombified form of Hot Dog. Then, he hears a strange voice, revealed to be none other than Sabrina!

Sabrina, now completely under the thrall of Cthulhu after their marriage in the previous issue, convinces Reggie that if he just completes one simple task, then Midge would be resurrected for him to “do whatever he wanted, to her.” Putting that incredibly disturbing statement aside, what would Reggie have to do? Oh, nothing, just go back to the gang, repent, and then kill Betty. Yeah. Unfortunately, we won’t find out what’s going to happen after that huge cliffhanger until the eleventh issue, because next time, we’re getting treated to a one-off special about a band called Josie And The Pussycats.

I really enjoyed this issue. It hammers home just how despicable Reggie is and gives us a reason to potentially root for him in the future. Just after he sorts out all of his creepy Midge issues. One of my main complaints would just have to be the incredibly long hiatus between issues. Other than that, it’s all good.

Jughead #6 Review

Previously on...Jughead!

-Riverdale High has a new principal, Mr. Stanger, who immediately takes a dislike to Jughead and his lackadaisical ways. He even frames him by planting a knife in his locker. With some help from his pop, Jughead gets back into school, but it’s still dangerous.

-Principal Stanger’s other actions include hiring outrageously strict teachers, establishing a new athletics policy, drastically changing the school’s menu, and instituting some disconcerting new teaching practices.

-Said practices include building drones and hacking. This makes Jughead come to the conclusion that the principal is a spy. He gets Dilton to implement some spying technology on Stanger’s computer, but Stanger figures it out and sends a message to the gang, saying “HELLO, MR. JONES.”

-After doing some on-location research with a key witness, Jughead believes that after the school year’s Halloween dance, every single student will end up in a mysterious military division.

-The previous development also included a homage to a classic Betty & Veronica story where the gang met gender-flipped versions of themselves in Sunnydale. The modern version is even more hysterical, especially when they actually acknowledge the contrived weirdness. Well, some of them. Reggie just makes out with his alternate counterpart, Regina. I hope it wasn't an alternate version of his cousin.

-Despite being more lighthearted than the previous issues, it ends with the biggest cliffhanger yet. Somehow, Principal Stanger manages to shut down Pop’s Choklit Shoppe. This leads to a positively heartbreaking moment. Jughead, fully defeated by Stanger’s nefarious actions, starts crying and walks away, somberly declaring that Stanger wins.

-In every issue, Jughead falls asleep or gets knocked out, leading to dream sequences that either parody modern pop culture (i.e. Game of Thrones) or update classic Jughead series from the past. Yeah, for some reason, Archie Comics Publications really liked making Jughead go on wacky adventures. He ran a diner, became a member of the ‘Time Police’, and even turned into a computer program. Maybe. I can’t find any panels, but “Snax Headjug” does exist. If they don’t show weird Jughead tales from the past, then they parody old Archie stories, such as the universe where they’re all superheroes or agents of R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.

And now...the shocking conclusion!

Jughead #6 serves as the finale to the Principal Stranger storyline, as well as the final issue drawn by Erica Henderson. I’m going to miss her artistic style; it really helped to accentuate Chip’s humor with bizarre facial expressions and background gags. As for the finale, it wraps everything up nicely. The plan to expose Stranger’s machinations is fairly clever, if slightly implausible.

If I had to come up with any flaws in the comic, it would be the foreshadowing and characterization. Certain parts of the brainwashing gradually get less and less subtle, such as a party banner outright revealing Stanger’s ultimate plan. I realize that it was meant to be a joke, but I feel that in this case, less is more. Secondly, Moose Mason seems to be even less intelligent in this issue, even speaking in the third person at several points. The brainwashing serves as an in-universe explanation, but it still didn’t feel right.

Moose is meant to be a slightly more self-aware and evolved version of the ‘dumb jock’ stereotype. At the best of times, he knows that he’s not the brightest, but he does his best. At the worst of times, how he’s in the same year as the other characters boggles the mind. Several memorable storylines have revolved around him having dyslexia and doing his best to succeed. Continuity in the Archie universe is lax, to put it charitably, but several writers have been trying to do a better job of portraying him in recent years. I do know that this is a reboot and that it’s a partial parody of the Archie universe, but I feel that the character deserves better.

Despite my concerns, Jughead #6 is a fantastic comic. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next issue. Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson are a superb team. Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or the Harry Potter books.

Arrow S04 Ep 22-23 Recap

Ep 22, “Lost in the Flood”

The episode starts with Oliver and Diggle failing yet again to stop Damien, who in typical Disney villain fashion, explains what he’s doing and then leaves the heroes alive. Sigh.

Oh happiness, Curtis shows up! Did you hear the news that Echo Kellum was upgraded to full cast member next season? Yay! But in the meantime, Curtis teams up with Felicity and her dad to stop Rubicon. The Tech Dream Team is together! Damien needs a hacker too, so he picks up Felicity’s old college boyfriend, Cooper.

But all's not well in Felicity’s world. The Smoak family drama is actually fairly well-written. It helps flesh out Felicity’s character, as we kind of see two sides of her personality fighting in the form of her parents. It was nice to see Felicity’s character grow in a context beyond Oliver. Although Curtis had to ruin it by drawing a parallel between Donna and Noah's issues and Ollicity. Sigh.

Oliver and Diggle track Thea down to Damien’s Ark, and what follows is a pretty neat firefight with Team Arrow running over perfectly-manicured lawns while shooting down Ghosts. They find Thea, but she’s been drugged by Malcolm, because Merlyn is literally the worst.

Father of the Year, right here.
Ollie and Diggle manage to hide out in the home of some creepy Ark family. The patriarch explains that he didn’t need to be drugged; they came down willingly because Star City is a cesspool, so clearly the answer is to blow up the world. I mean, can’t you just move out of Star City and go somewhere more pleasant? I hear National City is pretty nice.

There is something to be said about this strange moment (and this entire plotline) being analogous to white flight, but I don’t think I have the room to discuss that here.

What bugs me about this scene is that despite the obvious trash this white dude is spewing, somehow Oliver is moved to say, “maybe he’s right. I haven’t been a symbol of hope.” Or, you know, maybe the guy is freaking nuts?

Anyway, Thea shakes off the drugs, and there’s a brief fight with Merlyn. But Anarky is still on the loose, and Oliver and Diggle decide to go find him. They make Merlyn evacuate the Ark because it’s probably going to blow, right before the world blows. Team Arrow fails to save Ruvé Darhk, but they do manage to save Damien’s daughter. Maybe that will buy some goodwill later?

Apparently batshit with grief, Damien shows up at Felicity’s apartment. This almost certainly means trouble.

Ep 23, “Schism”

And we pick up immediately where we left off, with Damien threatening Donna Smoak. Team Arrow shows up with Darhk’s daughter in tow, and they trade Donna’s life for the child’s. Curtis did get knocked out in the fight and hurt badly. In the heat of the fight, HIVE took Felicity’s laptop that had the Rubicon hack on it. Oops.

So apparently Rubicon is still a thing, even though the Ark’s been destroyed. Turns out that Damien is so mad about Anarky killing his wife, that he’s going to destroy the world anyway.

This might be the picture-perfect definition of overkill, Damien.
15, 434 missiles? Yikes! But we have something more important to worry about, because there’s a missile landing on Star City in 45 minutes! Chop chop, Team Arrow!

Felicity finds a way through Cooper’s Rubicon firewall, but at that moment, HIVE shows up to shoot up the Arrowcave, because anyone can walk into that place at any time. These people need a German Shepard or something. The security is terrible.

Anyway, with the Arrowcave destroyed, the situation is dire and Oliver has no hope. Curtis wakes up in time to give Ollie a pep talk about how he can be a symbol of hope. So Oliver bucks up and gives the speech of a lifetime to calm down the citizens that were previously running around in confused riotous circles.

[Editor's note: The "speech of a lifetime" turns out to be a few banalities about togetherness and standing strong. The odds are pretty slim that this trite allocution will ever be quoted on a Facebook profile.]

On a serious note, this scene is incredibly silly. The extras were terrible at trying to look like a rioting mob. 
Meanwhile, Felicity and Curtis figure out a way to divert the missile and save the city. Hurray! One down, 15,433 nukes to go! Before heading out to save the world, Diggle admits to Lyla how the Andy death went down. Lyla understands, because she’s a soldier and she knows John did what he had to do. John, however, still thinks of himself as a monster.

Oliver shows up at City Hall to fight Damien, and inexplicably, this ends up being taken to the streets. This puzzles me, because I thought we had proven that Damien was capable of crushing Oliver with a thought. Why is Damien willing to engage in fisticuffs 15 minutes before the end of the world? For the final lolz?

And On The Last Day, He Said LOL...
But of course it’s not that easy. Citizens appear to back up Oliver. Damien gives a speech about how humanity is a cesspool and it needs to be destroyed, and HIVE shows up to engage in hand-to-hand combat with unarmed citizens. Apparently the Ghosts, too, were looking for their last huzzah, because they don’t bother with guns and just run into the fray with fists. Did they run out ammunition? Maybe they should plan for the end of the world a little better next time!

So the final battle between the forces of darkness and light is... an all-out street brawl. This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends...

Felicity tracks down Cooper and convinces him to be a hero, so he dies horribly, and she magically diverts 15,000 missiles. (Supposedly they go into space, but come on, seriously? SERIOUSLY? This is how the writers choose to end this apocalyptic storyline? The silliness, it burns!). Anyway, the world is saved! Happily, Oliver does what needs doing, and puts an arrow through Damien’s heart.

Not so happily, Team Arrow is splitting up. Thea is afraid of becoming her father, so she decides to leave. Quentin Lance, who got fired, drives into the sunset with Donna. And John says he needs time away to get his head straight. So to deal with killing his brother, he rejoins the military, because killing brown people overseas will make things better I guess. So Team Arrow has been reduced to Oliver and Felicity.

I never bothered mentioning Lian Yu flashbacks in my reviews on this site, because season four flashbacks were pretty much worthless. The most meaningful scene is here, when Amanda Waller shows up to tell Oliver he needs the darkness in himself sometimes and she was totally teaching him a lesson. And oh, does he want a job? Oliver declines so that he can fulfill a promise he made to Taiana, which suggests that next season’s flashbacks will take us to Russia.

Oliver’s rousing speech earlier inspired the city council to make him interim mayor of the city, which is an interesting development. It remains to be seen how Oliver will balance being the Green Arrow with being the mayor next season.

Of course, it could be that none of this even matters, because if you watched The Flash finale, you are aware that Barry just massively changed the timeline. I mean, the Butterfly Effect of that event should ripple across all of the Berlantiverse, shouldn’t it? Here’s hoping Barry’s idiocy hits the reset button on the Arrowverse, because it rather desperately needs a reboot, if this awful finale is anything to go by. Bad enough this show killed off Black Canary, but the season ends on a whimper like this?

The finale has caused such an uproar on the internet that the Arrow sub-reddit changed its name to Daredevil in protest. Now that’s cold.

Stay tuned for a bigger in-depth analysis of all of Season 4, and what we might come to expect for Season 5. Meanwhile, what did you think of the Arrow finale?

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

Secret Six #1-14: Why You Should Read Gail Simone's Superhero Masterpiece

This week saw the end of Gail Simone’s second Secret Six series. And this is probably the last we’ll see of the team, as the title’s not mentioned in any of the Rebirth relaunch news. Which is a shame, because this was one of the best comics DC’s been publishing recently.

Part of this is my admiration of the original, pre-Flashpoint comic – but following a bumpy start (the opening issue was not among Gail Simone’s best), it quickly managed to gain its footing and improve on it. That’s especially impressive, as it’s among of the few New 52 that managed to take a character or team from the previous continuity and actually provide a fitting new take on the concept, as opposed to something that tries to fit an older one into a new story (i.e. the new Martian Manhunter)

The original version of the team was a mercenary team that became a family since its debut in the Infinite Crisis tie-in miniseries, Villains United. The new group, with a mostly different roster (Catman and Black Alice being the only two members from the previous incarnation that were members of the main cast), took a different approach. They’re not mercenaries anymore – they’re outsiders, people with difficult pasts who build a home and a family for each other. While the original team was actually a proper comic book team that went on missions they were hired to do – the new one just wants to build a home and take care of each other, only getting involved with the DC universe at large when it threatens one of their own.

The new team is also much more functional than the old one. While the old incarnation did form a family, they were primarily a work relationship. And if they found their individual goals to be more important? They had no problem stabbing each other in the back or leaving the team. Something like that would be horribly out of character for the new group. They might have doubts if they feel the threat is out of their league (as it generally is), but they’ll go through hell for each other. Which, admittedly, the original team did end up literally doing – but it’s even more believable for the new one.

It’s also even more LGBTQA-friendly than the original – and that’s saying a lot. The previous version of the team was led by Scandal Savage – a warrior lesbian who ended up in a polyamorous marriage with two women. It also featured two bisexual teammates, Catman and Jeanette – though this was more of a case of the author confirming something for the fans, as in-story they only got into relationships with people of opposite gender (which is a problem with bi characters in general). And, of course, there was Ragdoll.

Comparatively, the new Secret Six is much more open about its LGBTQA characters. For starters, Catman’s bisexuality is much more pronounced – in fact, that’s the very first thing we see in the first issue. There’s also Porcelain – a genderfluid new Black character who uses the "they" pronoun – with whom fans fell more and more in love as the series progressed. And once they’re reintroduced, the series is much more open about Jeanette’s bisexuality and continues the thread of Scandal being in a polyamorous marriage with two women.

Among all this, Secret Six also manages to bring back a beloved DC couple, that hasn’t been used at all since the New 52 started – that I won’t say anything more about, as I don’t want to spoil the series. It continues the story of Mary/Strix – the adorable and deadly female Talon created by Simone in her Batgirl run. It gives us a greater insight into a one-off Batgirl villain from the same run: Shauna Belzer, the Ventriloquist. And it tells a great story about Black Alice. I can’t recommend it enough, with the caveat that its first issue is the weakest in the series.

After that, however, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Dominik Zine is a nerdy lad from northeastern Poland and is generally found in a comfy chair with a book in hand.

Let's watch some trailers! - TV shows premiering next season

May has been full of new trailers for shows that start to air during the 2016-2017, fall/winter season of American TV. In this post we offer our thoughts on some of them.  

The Exorcist
Network: Fox
Starts airing: Fall 2016

Plenty of movies (Lethal weapon, Fatal Attraction, other deadly things) are being remade into TV shows right now, and many of these remakes use a lot of… artistic license. If you’re a fan of the original movies, it’s easy to be skeptical; but it’s hard to protest when we’re getting Geena Davis and a hot priest as part of the deal (I’ve had a thing for fictional priests since I saw Heath Ledger in The Sin Eater, and I’m going to assume this is a commonly shared experience). The trailer doesn’t quite live up to the creepiness of the original movie or its trailer, but hearing the original soundtrack does conjure up a certain feeling of dread. The scene where Davis’ character listens to whispers in the walls also gives me hope that the show will lean into the less gory parts of it’s source material, creating suspense from atmosphere and psychological tension rather than shock value. Then there’s a bird-flying-into-window scene, which is somewhat crude and lazy writing, but can be interpreted as a nod to Hitchcock if you’re feeling optimistic… The involvement of Geena Davis has a reassuring effect on me in regards to gender dynamics and female characters, as I just can’t imagine her signing on to co-star on a show which fails in that area. Still, the trailer focuses a lot on male characters as driving forces behind the action, while the women are either asking for help or in need of rescue. Hopefully this is because the trailer has been cut to appeal to a wide, mainstream audience, and the show itself will be more progressive. 

Tova Crossler Ernström

Imaginary Mary
Network: ABC
Starts airing: TBA (likely midseason)

Well, this is certainly one of the more unique television trailers. Honestly, only Rachel Dratch makes me actually want to see the show. She is very funny and talented. Still, the imaginary creature that she plays is just ugly. The animation seems out of sync with the live-action movements. Mary is some kind of unholy melding of a troll doll and one of the Gremlins. I don’t know how I’m going to be able to stand watching it during the show. Rachel Dratch has voiced hallucinations before, mostly on 30 Rock, and I wish that they had just gotten permission to use those instead. Wouldn’t you rather see this than the spawn of Kyubey and a Care Bear? As for the live-action portions, I’m not really feeling it. The jokes are substandard at best, and irritatingly predictable at worst. The trailer feels like whoever edited it just picked out random moments from the first episode. It just seems so disjointed and confusing. I almost want to watch the pilot just so I can make sense of it all. At some points, it feels like the entire plot of the pilot has been revealed, but then it just throws a curve ball at the viewers. Was that the intention? Oy, I need to wash my brain out with some of Rachel’s quality comedy. If you need me, I’ll be watching a “Debbie Downer” sketch.

Zachary Krishef

The Good Place
Network: NBC
Starts airing: Fall 2016

I’m going to fake some confidence in an area I have no expertise in whatsoever in order to tell you that I think this is the most perfectly cut out of all the TV trailers I’ve watched this week. It doesn’t give away too much, uses the right type of musical cues and keeps a good pace throughout. It’s so pleasant to watch compared to other trailers out there that I might be convinced to watch it simply because of that fact, but the show has more going for it: Kristen Bell. Ted Danson. Mike Schur. The afterlife as theme and setting is unusual (I can only think of one other show in that category) which automatically makes it more interesting to me than any show about crime solving, hospitals or high school kids. Based on what we see in the trailer, the writers have also used the theme in a fresh way: The “oops, I accidentally got into heaven” plot is simple, but full of opportunities for entertaining storytelling. There are plenty of neat details, like when the main characters attempts at swearing come out as “fork”, “bullshirt” or “bench”, since swearing is not allowed in the good place. Bell does funny, bad, funnily bad person well and is one of the few people I can imagine being awful throughout several season without making it a chore to watch her (though the show seems to be going in the direction of some type of redemption instead). William Jackson Harper - who I haven’t heard of before - has a combination of voice, intonation and body language that doesn’t remind me of anything else, in the best way. It’s always a plus when a comedy show makes you think both “oh, that reminds me of…” and “hey, that’s something new!”. I don’t have any remarks about Ted Danson except that I really appreciate his peacock bow-tie and his face. It’s difficult to find something to criticize, but if there’s one issue it is that the trailer gives the impression that there are only two noticeable female characters on the show: Bell’s character and the “bench” with a big mansion. Not every TV show needs to feature several relationships between women, but I definitely prefer it when they do, and I would like to see the apparently antagonistic one seen here be counterbalanced by something different (perhaps we can’t have another Mac/Veronica, but how about a later seasons Buffy/Cordelia?). Aside from that, I’m very optimistic about The Good Place. 

Tova Crossler Ernström

Making history
Network: Fox
Starts airing: Winter 2017

Chris Miller and Phil Lord, don’t fail me now. Making History looks okay. Maybe it’s just that I haven’t been in the best mood today, but I almost expected more. As it stands, I am pretty interested in the show. I’ve always liked learning about colonial times, and seeing that at least the first episode takes place in that era makes me happy. On the other hand, the jokes about using modern references to succeed in the past come disturbing close to the mediocrity of Hot Tub Time Machine

Finally, from a feminist standpoint, the scenes with Debra mostly seem to revolve around her in relation to the male characters. It does show her firing a gun and she was able to slaughter a bear, even if that was only off screen, but I’m hoping that she will be a character in her own right. I’ll give the show a try. I have to get my Fox comedy from somewhere while The Last Man On Earth is off the air, and this seems as good as anything.  

Zachary Krishef  

Network: ABC 
Starts airing: TBA (Either fall 2016 or winter 2017)

This one is tricky. Just as Veronica Mars fans want to follow Kristen Bell wherever she goes, those of us in mourning over Agent Carter’s cancellation want to love Haley Atwell’s new show. And the theme is intriguing! If you’re going to make me watch another procedural, focusing on exoneration instead of convictions is a good way to do it. Unfortunately the trailer is a little too slick - too “sexy” - and Atwell’s American accent breaks the TV illusion half the time. Focusing on yet another rich, depraved person is another choice which bores me - do we really need more shows about rich people, whether good or bad (or both)? They make up a fairly small portion of the population, and the abundance on our TV screens reinforces the idea that they’re more interesting than poor, or even average, people. Despite all the negativity here, there are things to like about the trailer: Atwell’s acting when she’s not failing at being American, race issues being brought up early (though given the subject matter of false convictions that’s more or less a given) and heavy hinting at real character development. Focusing on imperfect female characters is always welcome, and though the declaration that “Hayes Morrisson is a bad girl” is a bit on the nose, the show may still turn out to handle her with complexity and nuance. This may be a case of “bad trailer, good show”, and I think it’s worth checking out the first episode when it airs this fall.

Tova Crossler Ernström

Son Of Zorn
Network: Fox
Starts airing: Fall 2016

I previously reported on this bizarre show earlier in the month, and now an official trailer has been released. So far, the trailer only confirms my belief that the show will be incredibly weird. I have so many questions. Will we see more cartoon humans or humanoids? How does interaction between a live-action character and a cartoon character work? Does this fictional universe have racism and prejudice against cartoons? Is it even acknowledged that cartoons are sentient?! Most importantly, will the show actually be good?! 

Judging from the trailer, I think it has potential. The show promises to delve into the cultural differences between our normal human lives and an animated barbarian from a foreign land. Hopefully Zorn will become less of a rampant misogynist and discover that it takes more than freeing your slaves to be a good person. The slaves are only mentioned in a one-off line. They don’t appear in the trailer. Son Of Zorn continues to engage and perplex me. I can’t wait for it to premiere.

Zachary Krishef

Tova Crossler Ernström is a bisexual Swede, feminist, socialist, INFJ, Hufflepuff, HSP and Taurus. She is fond of personality tests, labels and lists.

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