One Minute to Impact: New Avengers #14


Having taken over every copy of Dum Dum Dugan’s LMD body, Agent Garrett confronts and traps Songbird (Da Costa’s triple agent), after revealing the Da Costa himself is going to apparently die. She manages to get a signal out to Roberto, who sends Max Brashear, Power Man and Cannonball to get her. Meanwhile Toni Ho connects with Pod and Pod’s operator, Aiko Jokkinen – which gets interrupted by the New Revengers attack led by Maker, a.k.a. Ultimate Reed Richards (he comes in slices!).


Well, it finally happened. New Avengers shed whatever connection it had to Civil War II and became a tie-in in name only, or a "red skies crossover," as it’s called in the comic industry. The term comes from the days of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths which was advertised as having an effect on every title published by DC at the time. Really what it meant was that for many of those issues, their only connection to the main event were red skies on the horizon.

What this means is Ewing can for the most part ignore Civil War II and focus on giving his title as explosive a finale as possible. The downside is that, this being the halfway point that’s primarily focused on Maker’s assault on A.I.M.’s Savage Lands base, this isn’t an issue that provides much to talk about.

The other, smaller portion of the issue is devoted to the Songbird rescue mission. As Max Brashear, Power Man and Cannonball reach her, we learn that she did reveal the location of the A.I.M. base (being connected to a polygraph and threatened to be shot in the head for lying does that to people); but if I’m being honest, with the mastermind record Roberto has by now, I don’t think she knew the actual location. So I don’t think that missile Agent Garrett fires from the helicarrier will actually end up anywhere near the base.

I don’t particularly expect (though I could be wrong) that Ulysses’s vision of Roberto’s funeral that we learned of last issue to actually mean that he’ll die by the series’ end. Considering our underdeveloped Inhuman clairvoyant friend only saw his funeral, not his death, I fully expect everyone to hold a fake ceremony and thus cheat "fate."

Thankfully, the chemistry between Vic and Max is fantastic enough that the portion doesn’t feel like a waste of time. The Stealth Zero sequence is terrific and I loved how Paco Medina presented Vic gaining power from the helicarrier’s history.

But let’s get back to the main portion of the issue. We finally get snippets of backstory on each member of the New Revengers, that give us some understanding on them while still leaving their individual histories shrouded in mystery. That’s probably for the best; they pretty much serve as a means for Maker to make his move. The only one of them that really matters is Angela del Toro, the former White Tiger resurrected by the evil ninjas of the Hand, who confronts the current bearer of this title, Ava Ayala. After their last confrontation Angela has the power of tiger gods from two universes, while Ava only has her martial arts skills. This means that she can be killed with one hit. However...

That’s my girl.

Elsewhere, Maker reveals the reason for his assault on A.I.M., and why it’s currently for the most part bloodless. Basically, every law of physics is different from what he is used to in his dead universe. Just a bit, but eventually this adds up to a difference he can’t overcome. So he needs to build a machine to solve his problem, and for that he needs scientific minds of this world. Thus, the takeover of A.I.M. that he prepared for so long, after months of successful surveillance with...

Oh, I love Roberto so much. He’s like an actually fun and super-powered Tony Stark.

This means A.I.M. could prepare for the attack – including a hidden toy Toni built for this occasion.

Her grandpa, Ho Yinsen, would be proud.

Meanwhile Roberto is trapped in mission control by Maker’s AI, O.M.N.I.T.R.O.N.I.C.U.S., which has turned the entire room into a trap filled with weaponry that it then starts firing. Let me repeat that. It trapped a graduate of the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters – which has a Danger Room as its training course – in a room filled with weaponry that it then starts firing. There’s many ways to call a situation like this. The New Mutants call it…

Unfortunately, Roberto’s showing off gets interrupted by his M-Pox symptoms and he gets shot at with a stun ray. Another one and he’ll be toast.

And that’s when his former New Mutants teammate Warlock shows up.

Like I said, there isn’t a lot to discuss this issue – but it’s still a well-crafted part of what promises to be the book’s grand finale. There are many great character moments, the exposition is handled deftly, and I’ve even grown to like Paco Medina’s art. We’ll continue the explosive final arc next month, along with the Ultimates.

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

Make a Solicit Check: Best of October 2016 Comic Solicitations

There are many comics coming out each month, so it’s easy to lose track of promising new releases. That’s why we here at Critical Writ have started Make a Solicit Check—a monthly column devoted to the most inspiring announcements.

This month, it’s Marvel madness, as we move from Civil War II to a second Marvel Now!—but there’s still room for alien girl bodyswappers and ancient conspiracies.

But before that, two quick notes. First, a reminder that on October 5 will be the release of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund book about female comics creators, She Changed Comics, that I wrote about last time. Second, last month I listed No Mercy #10 by Alex de Campi and Carla Speed McNeil as one of the Image comics returning in September. The title has since been delayed until October 5. With that out of the way...

12. Oh Thank God It’s Over

Civil War II #7 – Brian Michael Bendis, David Marquez (Marvel)

‘Nuff said.

11. ...You Gotta Be F***** Kidding Me.

Death of X #1-2 – Jeff Lemire, Charles Soule, Aaron Kuder (Marvel)

One crisis crossover where heroes fight each other instead of bad guys ends, another begins—and the Inhumans are in the center of both. And Marvel wonders why people aren’t excited about their position rising in favor of the X-Men.

Basically, since the ANAD relaunch, the Inhumans’ Terrigen mists have been encompassing greater swaths of land—and that's bad news for Mutants, because inexplicably the substance kills most of them and sterilizes the rest. So Mutants are on the verge of extinction (again) and would like to stop the mists, but Inhumans need them to live. So instead of reaching a diplomatic solution, they’re gonna punch each other (of course). The good news is, this seems to be restricted to the main 4-issue miniseries and apparently will not affect other Inhuman or X-Men titles. And with half of the series done in the first month (and a better writing team than Civil War II), this should be tolerable.

10. I Want to Believe – and Kick Butts

Romulus #1 – Bryan Hill, Nelson Blake II (Image)

Let’s leave Marvel’s madness for a while. If there’s one thing everyone seems to love, it’s ancient conspiracies, running everything from the shadows. This particular one is called the Ancient Order of Romulus and if there’s another thing people really like, it's badass warriors opposing shadowy conspiracies. This book's badass is Ashlar, a female assassin the Order raised, trained, and betrayed.

Female buttkicking is set to begin on October 5.

9. From Zero to... Wait, No, They’re Still Zeroes

Great Lakes Avengers #1 – Zac Gorman, Will Robson (Marvel)

With last month’s announcement of Howard the Duck reaching its conclusion and this month's information that October means the end of Nick Spencer’s The Astonishing Ant-Man, it might seem like funny books are on the decline at Marvel. But if Marvel taketh away, it also giveth: in this case, Marvel’s biggest losers get their first ongoing (and first longer series since Squirrel Girl and the Great Lakes Avengers). The team (consisting of Big Bertha, Doorman, Flatman and Mr. Immortal) gets reinstated as permanent Avengers and get back to work in their hometown, Detroit (which I hear is up for a resurgence!). Hijinks will most definitely ensue.

8. Sing O Muse of the Fall of House Atreus

ODY-C #11 + #12 – Matt Fraction, Christian Ward (Image)

ODY-C is one of Image’s most high concept titles—a retelling of the Odyssey in space, in a future with only women. Most of it is written in a style similar to its classic source, and everything is drawn beautifully and mindbendingly by Christian Ward. And it returns in October, with two issues, promising an arc focused on its Agamemnon counterpart—and if you know your classic literature/Greek mythology, you can probably guess what’s coming. Of course, this being a Matt Fraction book, it’s only prudent to expect at least one of them to be delayed.

If all goes, ODY-C #11 will be out on October 5, and ODY-C #12 – on October 26.

7. *Insert Your Own David Bowie Song Reference*

Shade the Changing Girl #1 – Cecil Castellucci, Marley Zarcone (DC/Young Animal)

October is the month when Young Animal, DC’s insane new imprint headed by Gerard Way, is in full swing. Doom Patrol will have its second issue and two more series join it. One of them is Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye, written by John Rivera and Way himself, and drawn by Powers’s Michael Avon Oeming. But it’s this title that sounds the most promising: written by Cecil Castellucci, drawn by Marley Zarcone (Effigy) and reimagining the classic DC and Vertigo title Shade the Changing Man, Changing Girl tells the story of a bored alien girl using a "madness coat" to inhabit a dying Earth girl’s body. And then things get messier.

It’ll be out on October 5.

6. From Cowboy to Punisher

The Vigilante: Southland #1 – Greg Phillips, Elena Casagrande (DC)

Vigilante is one of the oldest characters DC has rights to. Originally an Old West gunslinger, he’s reimagined in this comic as a Black man taking to the streets to avenge his girlfriend Dorrie, thereby  uncovering the conspiracy that killed her. So on one hand, we have a new Black character, written by a Black novelist—but the only way they thought of to motivate him is to kill his more socially- and politically-active girlfriend. Dammit.

The first issue of this miniseries will be out on October 26.

5. Everything Ends

Shutter #23 – Joe Keatinge, Leila del Duca (Image)

Shutter never got the reception some of its Image peers have, but it got enough to continue to its natural end. Because that's what this is: the start of the final, extended story arc, "So Far Beyond." The issue promises to provide an answer to every question raised during the comic’s run. I for one can’t wait—even though it entails the end of one of my favorite series.

The issue is set to be released on October 12.

4. A.K.A. The B Is Back

Jessica Jones #1 – Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos (Marvel)

I’ll be honest, I haven’t finished reading Jessica Jones’s debut series Alias. Plotwise I like what it did—showing the mundane and a touch more real side of the Marvel universe, and being probably the only good MAX imprint title. I just have a hard time tolerating Bendis’s dialogue style (Scarlet being the notable exception), and I’m not a fan of his pacing. But it’s a critically-accomplished title, and after the great and popular Netflix series put the character in the spotlight, it’s only natural the publisher would take advantage of it. Though I honestly doubt it will be as enjoyable and delightful as Jessica Jones’s recent cameos in Kate Leth and Brittney Williams’s Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!

3. *Insert Your Own Queen Song Reference*

Champions – Mark Waid, Humberto Ramos (Marvel)

Mark Waid’s All-New, All-Different Avengers is—controversial? It’s not horrendous or offensive, it’s just... there. It doesn’t feel like the series had any major concept beyond "make an Avengers team we can call the official Avengers”. It doesn’t help that Waid—who is a creator of many popular DC runs (especially The Flash) and the recently rebooted Archie (plus he knocks it out of the park with Chris Samnee on Black Widow)—just seems to be going through the motions.

Well, if it’s a central idea he lacked, Champions has a good one—the younger members of the ANAD Avengers (Ms Marvel, Miles Morales and Nova) are dissatisfied with the adult superheroes (and after Civil War II, I ain’t blaming them) and strike out on their own to actually do some good in the world. Joined by the new, totally awesome Hulk Amadeus Cho (angry after the death of his hero, Bruce Banner), the teenage Cyclops from the past and the Vision’s daughter Viv (presumably influenced by whatever happens in The Vision’s finale), they want to change the world. Here’s hoping, kids.

2. Sweet Christmas

Cage! #1 – Genndy Tartakovsky (Marvel)

It’s not every day you get an animation star to create a comic for you. And if it’s the creator of Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack (and, admittedly, the director of the Hotel Transylvania movies)—well, you just can’t say no. Sadly the downside is that said star’s work-schedule might get in the way of actually releasing the comic. But after 9 years, the satirical series about one of Marvel’s biggest black superheroes will finally be out.

1. Long Live the King

The Vision #12 – Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta (Marvel)

This is it—one of the best and most critically acclaimed comics released during the ANAD Marvel relaunch is coming to an end. This is also (for the foreseeable future) the last comic King will write for Marvel since signing an exclusivity contract with DC. This is—well, I don’t really have words. Let’s hope the big finale is as grand as the entire series thus far.

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

Nothing is Okay: Ms. Marvel #9 Review

Occasionally, a comic issue will have one big moment in it that shocks, amazes, or triggers some other strong reaction from you. It’s an important feature, often put right at the end, because individual comic books are pretty short, and they need to define themselves individually rather than just get lost in a much bigger series, or a much bigger universe.

This comic didn’t just have one of those moments. Pretty much every page was filled with such raw emotion and character exploration, and the best part is that every single line felt earned.

Yes, even this line.
Take Josh, for instance. Back in the first volume of the comic, he started off as nothing more than what seemed like the stereotypical dumb jock in every high school story ever. Since then, despite having nothing more than background appearances, the creators of the comic have managed to turn him, and a lot of the other side characters, into fully fledged, multi layered people each with their own stories and traits.

Josh isn’t a dumb jock, he’s a smart guy who feels misunderstood and upset. And Zoe isn’t a queen bee who enjoys manipulating people, she’s a young woman who is in the midst of discovering an important truth about herself (more on that later in the review).

Those are the two characters I liked least when I started reading this series, and Wilson has already taken them to such fascinating places that I am hooked onto their stories.

You are so much more than that
And I haven’t even moved onto the star of the book herself, Ms. Marvel. Last issue, she was pretty much all for Carol’s plan, but it’s in this issue that the cracks are beginning to form between them.

In the whole Civil War II narrative, Kamala sort of represents the fan in all of us. For most of us, the first instinct would be to side with the wise and powerful Carol Danvers over the guy who tried to force every superhero to register or be arrested.

But as her friends begin to get involved, Kamala’s rose tinted goggles begin to fall off. Because the truth of all the Marvel Civil War stories, even the recent movie, is that no matter how much you try to justify your position based on policy or morality, it always boils down to something personal.

The obligatory summing up of the major Civil War II conflict
Tony wasn’t spurred to action against Carol until his best friend was killed, Steve didn’t start opposing the Accords violently until his best friend’s life was at stake.

And Kamala didn’t start seeing how wrong what she was doing was until she arrested one of her friends, and her best friend was almost (please, please be don't be anything more than almost) killed trying to free him.

Despite the really downer ending, the rest of the book was no less Ms. Marvel than any other. The family history flashbacks continue, this time with Kamala’s mother, pregnant with her, on the cusp of moving to the United States from Pakistan. The art in these segments, done by Adrian Aphona, is absolutely phenomenal, as he manages to cram details in every inch while still giving the whole setting an almost dreamlike look.

Something... Metahuman? Mutant? Gifted? Enhanced? There's gotta be a better word...
The remainder of the issue is drawn by Takeshi Miyazawa, who uses a slightly bolder style, which is important for all the action packed moments.

Another important feature of the book was Zoe coming out to Josh. Having an LGBT character in a Muslim led (and written) comic book is a huge win for diversity and tolerance, especially considering the horrible events in Orlando that took place a few weeks ago.

And while I may not be a fan of secret crush stories most of the time, Zoe having a secret crush on Nakia completely caught my attention, and I am absolutely fascinated to see where this storyline leads.

My initial reaction was basically the same as Josh's
Captain Marvel also makes an appearance in this issue, and the differences (and similarities) between Kamala meeting her last time and this time are fascinating. Last time Kamala was excited, ready for action, ready to do anything her mentor says. This time, she’s a bit more subdued, a bit more frustrated, and even a little bit less trusting. While she agrees with Carol again at the end, it’s not with the same bright eyed enthusiasm as she had earlier.

Kamala is growing up, and she has to, but it’s breaking my heart.

She may grow up, but she'll never stop being adorable
Aranwe Quirke is a totally real, definitely not made up name. No, you may not see the birth certificate.

The Infinaut Cometh: Ultimates #9

Unlike the last issue, this one isn't particularly shaped by the events of  Civil War II—but even Al Ewing doesn't seem to be able to escape the ongoing derailment of one of the characters he's writing.

I'm talking, of course, about Captain Marvel, for whom the horrible personality forced upon her by Bendis's story finally starts to take hold even in better writers' hands. Try as Ewing might, he can't escape the simple fact that he's been painted into a corner by many other people, be they writers of tie-in issues, writers for this very blog, or just casual fans of Marvel comics: Carol Danvers is wrong. There isn't a case like in the first Civil War, where you could argue that Tony Stark was right (and he was right on the principle of his position) and it was Millar's writing that turned a logical position into a full-blown fascist dictator. Here, Carol is wrong—and the writer knows it. And all his work of the past two issues, where he tried to show how she might end up at the position the event forces her into, simply isn't enough to justify anything.

Thanks to that, cracks are beginning to show in the team. As the Ultimates prepare for the next mission, Adam expresses concern over the recent Clint/Banner debacle (the former shooting the latter in the head) and that this isn't what he signed up for. And Carol pretty much lashes out at him, telling him to keep his concerns in the future to himself, with little justification other than being tired of being second-guessed. I really can't wait for this dumb event to end.

There's also the ongoing hipocrisy in claiming that Stark wouldn't build himself something that might predict the future. Because he already did—in the one of the older comics he actually designed a machine that did the very thing Ulysses seems to be doing, and wasn't exactly torn about using it. But that's a problem for another time.

The Ultimates are following another one of Ulysses's vision—this time around, it's the Infinaut, a being from another universe that manifests every few decades. Blue Marvel has stopped him from entering the 616 universe himself. But now, having had enough to prepare thanks to Ulysses's vision and the help of the rest of the team (joined by the current Giant-Man, Raz Malhotra), they're able to provide him safe passage.

All this is reported to Voigt by one of his Troubleshooters, Colonel Jessup, formerly of Psi-Force— living psi-energy. He also informs his supervisor of the spat between Carol and Adam, which might mean that Voigt's fears of the team dissolving may come true.

Meanwhile in the Triskellion, Conner Sims, the Anti-Man, is in a terrible shape, plagued by visions of Eternity's jailer. In his broken state he's easy pickings for Thanos, who is able (thanks to telepathic abilities he apparently has?) to contact Sims from his cell and manipulate him.

There are good bits here and there, but overall this is the weakest issue of the series, thanks to the shadow cast by the ongoing event. On the art side, the series' regular artist Kenneth Rocafort is joined by Djibril Morissette for this issue—a new artist who will be drawing the upcoming Image horror series Glitterbomb. He's a fresh talent, though sadly the two styles clash with each other. Overall, it's not the best issue of the series.

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

Critical Hits and Misses #7: July 29, 2016

  • It was announced at SDCC this week that Disney’s upcoming Moana will not feature a love interest for the titular character.  As Bustle writer Kaitlin Reilly notes, this is not the first time a Disney princess has remained or ended up single (Elsa, Merida and Pocahontas are all single at the end of their films), but it is still an important message for little girls that you do not need to be married off at sixteen to be accomplished.

  • Jack Davis has died at the age of 91.  Comics Alliance delivers a touching obituary reflecting on his work.

  • A small group of comic creators birthed #BlackHeroesMatter at SDCC this year, highlighting the lack of diversity in both comics and their adaptations, and the importance of representation.

  • Humble Bundle is currently offering several Vampire: The Masquerade Revised supplement books at sweet low prices.

  • Jenni Avins breaks down Bill Clinton’s fetching pantsuit that he wore at the DNC to honor his wife Hilary Clinton’s nomination.
  • Archie #10 Review: Teaching And Politics Collide

    Isn’t that a beautiful cover? Archie and Betty stare lovingly at each other while Riverdale seemingly goes up in flames. I really enjoy the little details, such as the careful lines drawn on Archie and Betty and the small pieces of ash that fly up from the flames, even going so far as cover the main title. If more teen dystopian books had covers like this, I might have a more positive view of them. However, this probably won’t happen in the actual book, right? This is still Archie, and I doubt that Mark Waid would have any of the characters commit arson

    —whoops. The issue starts in medias res, with Archie explaining precisely how they got into this mess. In typical Archie-verse fashion, it all started with a small misunderstanding. Mr. Collier, a new character to the comics, has a controversial role as a teacher at Riverdale High. Some students like his somewhat abrupt teaching methods, others can see the warm heart underneath his gruff exterior.

    After Archie causes a popcorn-related mishap in class, Mr. Collier berates him while Veronica catches it on video. One thing leads to another, and the video is accidentally given to an associate of Mr. Lodge’s. She begins using it in a campaign video to help Mr. Lodge. It turns out that Mr. Collier is Mr. Lodge’s opponent in the current mayoral election. Naturally, this sparks a hotbed of controversy in the Riverdale community. Everyone has had some experience with the teacher, good and bad, and a lot of people have thoughts on Mr. Lodge’s campaign.

    In the end, it turns out that the burning down of Riverdale is metaphorical, merely referring to the burning of bridges between friends and loved ones. Even Archie and Betty, separated after a thoughtless remark from the former, are affected by the chaos.

    All in all, despite the splash page not being entirely accurate, Archie #10 is still a fantastic installment of the series. It brings up some wonderful topics about the roles of teachers in the lives of students and the appropriate ways to discipline. The art only adds to it, with funny moments looking appropriately cartoony and dramatic moments rendered in a perfectly serious style. It’s also wonderful to see Raj Patel, one of the few Indian characters in Archie Comics, having a supporting role. I hope that a future issue will have more focus on his filming aspirations.

    If I had to think of one criticism, it would be that I want to see more of Mr. Lodge’s politics, if only to gain more information about his character.

    Archie #10 can be found at your local comic book store. It is written by Mark Waid and drawn by Veronica Fish.

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

    The Invisible Code of Chaos - Mr. Robot s02e01 & s02e02 Review

    Hello friend! Welcome to my review. There will be more in the future, and I hope you’ll keep me company for all of them. Writing about TV can be a little lonely sometimes, you know—it’s always nice when that void you yell your thoughts into yells back. Or maybe not yells, but politely responds. Anyway, here are some of those thoughts, for you:
    The episode starts by showing us a little piece of the first season’s last memory gap (the one where Elliot launched fsociety’s attack and Tyrell disappeared), but doesn’t give us much new information, except that someone in Dark Army is really pretentious.

            In case you missed it: "the winds of the heavens shift suddenly. so does human fate. we will make an exception."

    It also shows us Tyrell being pretentious and telling us it’s like the hack has “come alive.” Perhaps the message here is that everyone is really pretentious, and we shouldn’t pay too much attention to what they are saying? That communication is futile, because most of us are fixated on style rather than saying something of importance? Or maybe none of it means anything, and the purpose of this scene is just to add some suspense and make us wonder what is in the popcorn machine? I could have done without it, and without the scene of Elliot being pushed out of the window as well. It’s nice to see some of the strange cinematography of the show on display though, and the scene at the doctor’s office is brilliant both visually and in terms of sound.

    This is what I’m talking about. This is a perfect opening shot. And then the story takes over, and Elliot’s narration draws us in.

    Did you immediately understand that the women Elliot lives with is his mother? I know they have a chilly relationship, but I’m still surprised that they act like strangers. It does not surprise me that Elliot’s life nowadays mostly consists of sitting silently, hollow-eyed, and listening to people talk at him. I just hope he finds a reason to talk back soon.

    Then we find Elliot in the therapist’s office, in a tense and quite depressing conversation. I was disappointed when I found out the monologue was Elliot telling Krista about his routine, and not addressed to the viewer—not because it’s a bad storytelling choice, but because it feels strange to be left out like this. It’s not about style, but about the relationship between the viewer and Elliot (either the real viewer and the character of Elliot or the real Elliot and his fictional viewer friend, depending on perspective). After we’re cut off from his appointment with Krista, Elliot starts talking to us again. He doesn’t trust us, he says. We should have told him what we knew. Of course, we didn’t actually know anything, though most of us had a hunch or two, but that doesn’t matter much here. How would Elliot know he’s the (unreliable) narrator whose perspective we see things from?

    Considering this recent mistrust, I wonder who his journal is directed at. It looks like it’s directed at a “you,” and though many people write their journals this way I suspect there’s a purpose behind it here. There usually is.

    Welcome back Mr. Robot! This guy does not like the journaling, or Elliot’s new lifestyle in general. As Elliot writes in his journal, Mr. Robot wants to get to work. What exactly it is he wants to do isn’t clear, but we can assume when he tells Mr. Elliot to lead the revolution, it means more chaos. I’m really enjoying the back and forth between Elliot and Mr. Robot, even if I’ve seen something similar before (again, this show steals shamelessly from Fight Club). The theme of control is tied to Elliot’s mind and mental health here, but it also relates to other aspects of the show. Elliot can’t control his life—his actions, his imaginary friends and foes—but he’s still expected to take charge of a global revolution. And the targets are exactly the people you would expect to be in control, but all the power and money in the world can’t seem to give them that now. In 2016, power structures need digital structures for their daily functioning, and those structures can be hacked. Towards the end of the episode we see the unease this creates among E-Corp’s top people, and it’s damn satisfying to watch even if I’m convinced this is a mostly temporary state of insecurity for them. But I’m getting ahead of myself!

    Elliot’s hallucinations have really gotten more advanced. Not just an unreal person, but a gun, and a bullet and being shot in the head with those two—which we learn from the journal has happened before. At the same time, he’s learned to understand that they are hallucinations while he is experiencing them. I find it interesting that even with Elliot seeing through his illusions, he still doesn’t see through them. They’re all there, down to details like blood dripping from his head onto the journal page. Unfortunately I don’t know enough about mental illnesses with distorted perceptions of reality to determine the accuracy of this—but I do know that unlike the illusions of some sci-fi or fantasy that the main character makes go away by declaring “this is not real,” hallucinations that come from the mind can’t simply be summoned away. I look forward to seeing more of how Elliot handles his illness, now that both he and us viewers are aware of it.

    The scene with the “smart house” could be another clever, if somewhat obvious, comment on control: a house built specifically for the purpose of controlling one's environment goes out of control. It’s scary to think of how many things we use that we don’t actually understand, and can only control when they work perfectly—meaning we’re not really in control in the first place. Aside from this, there’s not much to comment on. If you’re curious about smart homes, this article on The Verge goes a little deeper in analyzing that part of the episode.

    I’m happy to see Gideon, and sad to see him like this. Mr. Robot is such an asshole.
    He may be part of Elliot, but we see him as the devil on his shoulder, and I keep wishing for him to shut up and let Elliot do things his (probably less destructive and hurtful) way. This “infinite loop of insanity” may make for some good TV, but it’s damn frustrating.

    Aviary Photo_131141086564471410.png

    Darlene as tyrannical revolutionary leader, and the schmucks she leads, is less infuriating but also less intriguing. It’s definitely good to see her as some kind of leader, but the impression here feels flat. I hope we get more depth from her again later on in the season, and not just this juxtaposition of clichés, angry speeches, and crying in the bathroom.

    Aviary Photo_131141084011040483.png

    The episode ends with what I was referring to earlier: the demands from fsociety, which Scott Knowles, Phillip Price and Susan Jacobs discuss in a very gray, fancy office, coming to the conclusion that Knowles should go and give fsociety 5 million dollars (an amount the company can apparently find “between the couch cushions”—I’m not disgusted by this at all!).

    And intermission.

    Aviary Photo_131141085869601438.png 

    This is a powerful image. Burning money is an effective way to get people’s attention. But then what? What’s the message? The opening scene of this episode reminds me of something my favorite Swedish politician Gudrun Schyman, and her political party Feministiskt Initiativ (Feminist Initiative), did six years ago: Burning 100 000 Swedish crowns, equivalent to roughly 11 500 dollars, to demonstrate how much money women in Sweden lose each minute because of wage disparities between men and women. Now, I adore Schyman, and I’ve voted for FI in elections for both the Swedish and the European parliament before—but I felt ambivalent about this action.

    On a personal level, I’m anxious about money because I’ve grown up worrying about it, and seeing it wasted is unpleasant. On a political level, it’s a little distasteful when a party that claims to speak for the poor and marginalized takes money from wealthy, white men and uses it for spectacle. I would call it out of touch, except Schyman herself grew up in a poor working class family, so she knows very well what it’s like not to have any money. Darlene was never wealthy either—the backgrounds of other fsociety members are less clear.

    One thing these two actions have in common that makes them less offensive is where the money comes from: FI received them as a donation from two male supporters; on Mr. Robot, the money comes from a powerful corporation. But whereas FI had a clear message—and used this as a way to get attention to spread that message—fsociety’s purpose is not as clear. They’ve already got everyone’s attention, but instead of saying something they just keep pulling clever stunts. I hope the writers on the show are depicting the group this way intentionally, and that we’ll see some type of commentary on the methods used later on (without completely dismissing civil disobedience and resistance). The show is clearly showing its political activists as flawed, but I don’t think that’s a free pass to avoid showing the consequences of this type of appearance focused and rather narcissistic activism.

    Okay, I’ll shut up now. Enough with the political rambling.

    I absolutely loathe Phillip Price, and I think you do too. But it’s interesting to hear how similar his understanding of capitalism and corporations is to his opponents’ views:

    “That is the business model for this great nation of ours. Every business day, when that market bell rings, we con people into believing in something. The American dream or family values… It could be freedom fries for all I care. It doesn’t matter. As long as the con works, and people buy and sell - whatever it is we want them to.”

    Basically, it’s all bullshit. And Price wants to keep selling it. The music choice for this scene confuses me—I’m sure the “off” feeling of the scene/music match is a stylistic choice, but I’m not sure it works.

    Continuing on the theme of uncertainty, I don’t know what to think of the show’s treatment of Joanna and her sexuality. To me the scenes read like the BDSM sex is an extension of her sociopath-like behavior, and I imagine this might be offensive to many practitioners of BDSM (not to mention inaccurate). I’d love to hear what someone who knows more about the subjects thinks.

    Like Elliot, I don’t care much for sports. Musings on order, chaos and fear are much more fascinating. What mask do I wear? Maybe a DGAF one, to hide the fact that I give too many fucks. Or the mask of someone who’s trying to save the world, when a lot of the time I’m just tired and frustrated, and I don’t want to think about anything real or important at all, much less do anything about it. And you? Are you a badass or just a shitty basketball player? Ray sounds like he has read Elliot’s mind here, which is an interesting change from the other people talking at him, who don’t even seem to have noticed he doesn’t talk back. I hope Elliot lets him in eventually—he could use a friend too. Late night phone calls during Mr. Robot-blackouts don’t bode well though.

    Angela is wearing so many masks I don’t even know which ones are fake. She’s clearly not comfortable at E-Corp, but at the same time she seems to be taking the easy road when she decides to stay with the company instead of using the job to take them down.

    Everything Angela tells Nayar (the lawyer, whose name hasn’t been mentioned very often on the show) is blatantly untrue, and sounds rehearsed—especially when she echoes the positive affirmations she’s started using with a cliché “I have value.”

    So does that mean Angela doesn’t believe these things herself? Or has she completely forgotten what it’s like being honest with yourself and others, so that she doesn’t even notice when she’s talking bullshit? The low self-esteem might explain her readiness to adopt this new, skewed perspective, but is baffling in itself. I don’t remember Angela being this self-loathing in season 1, and I hope she doesn’t stay like that for too long. The first season introduced promising female characters; it would be a shame if the second one undid that work instead of progressing.

    I admire the writers on this show for how they weave their themes into scenes and conversations. It’s really smartly done. Within two minutes of Elliot looking through his journal and starting a conversation with Mr. Robot, the concepts of control and identity/masks return, with some additional twists. Eliot may put on a mask (mostly by being silent) to hide Mr. Robot, but in fact it’s Mr. Robot that they see, without knowing what he is. And somehow Elliot manages to get Mr. Robot to give him what he wants by making him feel like he’s not in control - but in order for that to happen, he has to lose control, so that Mr. Robot can take over and contact Tyrell.

    Oh Gideon—he certainly makes an honest and sympathetic impression, and I don’t think it’s a mask. Gideon manages to be a complex character while still being a thoroughly decent person, and I’m going to miss his presence on the show. He is also the only confirmed queer character, and though I wouldn’t necessarily classify this as a bury your gays type situation, it’s still unfortunate that the show’s world is now completely void of queer people. Here’s hoping the Trent/Darlene ship finally sails this season! I don’t know about you, but I’ve watched enough 100% straight TV. It’s 2016, and we can all do better.

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