Critical Hits & Misses #38: Friday Skyday, September 30, 2016

"There should be a whole school of therapy just for people who won't allow themselves to love Buffy the Vampire Slayer." If you agree with this statement, or if you're deeply troubled by it, you should go listen to the source: Buffering the Vampire Slayer. Jenny Owen Young and Kristin Russo's new podcast takes on one episode per episode, with a mix of silly jokes, feminist analysis and original music. It can be found on many different sites and streaming services. (Tova)

Helen McNutt discusses how Emma Watson’s He For She speech made her a feminist mother, and taught her to do “boy” things with her sons, to prove to them that “girls can do them too.” (Ivonne)

It's Friday Skyday! Cast your eyes to the night sky tonight in the western hemisphere, and you might see (or rather, not see) a rare lunar occurrence: the black moon! No it's not the sign of the coming apocalypse; it's just the second new moon in single calendar month

In other sky news today, the UN will be launching its first ever space mission, in what some folks are comparing to the early days of Star Trek's Federation. 

Our Skyday musical hit is Kim Boekbinder's "The Sky Is Calling."

Today's Critical Roll: To roll with our Skyday theme, Elon Musk announced his plans this week on colonizing Mars. Would you go? What do you think about colonizing other planets? What kind of role would you play as a colonist?

Critical Writ has a draconian comment policy, and it offers this most dire warning: troll not, lest ye incur the wrath of the Powers that Be.

Penultimate: Vision #11 Review

Vision #11 is an insane rollercoaster of a comic in which so much happens, that it makes you wonder how it will be wrapped up in just one more issue. However, people who were worried about the treatment of a particular character may not be very happy with this one.

Spoilers beyond this point.

So, it finally happened. After 11 issues, we finally got promised confrontation between Vision and all the other heroes. Artist Gabriel Hernadez Walta gets to move beyond a suburban setting and show his skill and drawing action scenes and a diverse range of heroes, and he does so amazingly. Tom King meanwhile, forgoes most of the dialogue, and instead gives us a thematic narration of Vision’s creation at the hands of Ultron as the battle rages on.

As you can see, the small amount of dialogue left in the sequence was of the utmost importance.
Overall, while it’s a heartbreaking but amazing scene, it does also make you wonder how Vision was able to defeat all heroes. I mean, there are over a dozen of them, including incredibly powerful ones like Thor and Blue Marvel, as well as some super geniuses who would’ve known better than to bring just one security measure, one that Vision had already overcome in fact.

Back at the Vision household, things aren’t going so well. Virgina reveals to Viv her role in her friend CK’s death, and Viv… doesn’t take it so well.

See more of Viv in Marvel's Champions #1, on sale this October!
In an act of frustration, Virginia kills the family dog, Sparky (making it the second time this poor dog dies thanks to her), then uses the act of his murder to use the future seeing flower established a while back.

I feel like this panel kind of encapsulates the whole series.
Meanwhile the narration has switched from Vision’s beginning to Virginia’s, and the reveal that she’s been experiencing some of Wanda’s memories as well.

Wanda herself is the last defence between Vision and Victor’s cell, but even she can’t reason with him (or do thisCivil War spoilers)

Vision finally confronts Victor, who doesn’t even get a chance to speak before… Virginia shows up and kills him.

And all it took was a drug addiction and the murder of your nephew.
And with our faces matching the look of surprise on Vision’s, the issue ends.

Now, a lot of people are very understandably upset about the series’ treatment of Victor Mancha, and I kind of have to agree. In the end, despite his dying words, he was less a character than a plot device in the Visions’ story. Elements like his out of nowhere drug addiction and accidental murder of his own nephew are kind of out of nowhere for the Victor we know and love. Add to that the fact that Victor is a Latino character, and Vision considered to be a white one, and the whole thing just takes on a whole new layer of problematic issues.

That trouble aside, Vision #11 is as fantastic as you’ve come to expect. I’ll definitely be missing the series after next month’s concluding issue, and I’m genuinely curious as to what the lasting repercussions for Vision and his family will be in future appearances (notably the upcoming Avengers and Champions series).

Aranwe Quirke is a totally real, definitely not made up name. No, you may not see the birth certificate.

Scream Queens S2 E1-2 Review: "Scream Again" and "Warts And All"

Note: This article contains spoilers for character deaths in episodes one and two of the second season. You have been warned.

Scream Queens is one of the many programs helmed by Ryan Murphy, known for shows that feature unconventional plots and diversity not normally seen on network television. In this case, the plot is most definitely unconventional. The first season was a send-up of college slasher films, taking place primarily in a sorority. You have your standard “mean girl” characters, potential love triangles, and obvious red herrings. As the season progressed, it also became a cartoonish, ludicrous farce of a mystery. Characters were able to survive increasingly deadly attacks, bizarre personality quirks were revealed, and the last semblance of realism died a bloody death.

Just one memorable moment from the first season.
And yet, under all the stereotypical characters and offbeat plot developments, Scream Queens still has a progressive streak, even if it is hidden under a veil of exaggerated social satire. One notable scene has a group of sorority members taking a stand against catcalling by calling the frat members out on their actions. Of course, said ‘calling out’ involved beating them up: your mileage may vary. Additionally, the show’s first season had a pansexual character, very rare for the media to portray. The season finale even celebrated feminism: the college became a wonderful safe space and the dean championed a cause called “New New Feminism.” Of course, because this is a satirical show, it was immediately followed by the dean leading a chant of “Women are better!” at a book signing for her new book.

This new season seems to be partially moving on from feminism on campus to America’s healthcare system. Having grown bored of feminism (in her own words) Dean Munsch has now acquired the C.U.R.E. Institute, intent on making it the most successful hospital in the world. The show quickly sets up all of the new characters, showcasing Saturday Night Live’s Cecily Strong as a patient suffering from "werewolf syndrome" and John Stamos and Taylor Lautner as two doctors. Since the season finale, Zayday Williams has worked to become a doctor and is in training to complete her educational journey. Based on her request for more female workers at the hospital, Munsch has hired Chanel Oberlin and her underlings, all dubbed with her name and a number, as assistants.

The remaining Chanels, in all their glory, proving that mean characters can still be protagonists.

The first two episodes primarily set up all of the characters and how they feel about each other, with a few potential clues as to the new killer added in for flavor. Unlike last season’s "Red Devil," the new killer is known as the "Green Meanie," based on the legend of a mysterious swamp man. I have to say, while I was hoping for the name of the new killer to be the "Green Demon," I still like the assonance in the names of both antagonists.

“Scream Again” and “Warts And All” are both great episodes, showcasing the absurd comedy and tense situations that slowly made me a fan of the first season. While I still believe that Chanel and her compatriots are awful people—and they are—it’s interesting to see how they interact with the other characters. Zayday is an interesting protagonist: I’m rooting for her to complete her medical studies and become a full-fledged doctor. I don’t know a lot about music, but the background music in the show is absolutely excellent; from the keening screech that plays before something awful happens to the bouncy tunes that normally play, it all fits the situations perfectly. I especially enjoy the songs that play during the murder scenes, mostly for their comedic irony.

Now, because I adore "who dunnit" stories, I want to do something different with this review. I want to give my personal ranking of the characters from the least likely to the most likely to be the Green Meanie.

- Catherine Hobart, aka “Werewolf Lady” and Tyler: They are the least likely to possibly be the killer, as they are both very dead. 0/4 skulls

- Ingrid Hoffal: So far, she’s acted suspicious every time we see her, asking about the whereabouts of Chanel’s gang and harboring an extreme hatred of them. I think her character is a red herring. .5/4 skulls

Special Agent Denise Hemphill: Maybe she’s trying to frame Zayday Williams for the murders, seeing as she irrationally sees her as a suspect for everything. However, her incompetence most likely precludes homicide. 1/4 skulls

Chad Radwell: Somehow, he managed to break into the asylum that previously housed the Chanels merely to pull an immature prank. Additionally, he has certain morbid proclivities that make him fairly high on the list. 1/4 skulls

Chanel Oberlin and Sadie Swenson, aka “Chanel #3”: Chanel Oberlin seems to be on the friendliest with Chanel #3 and they have disparaged Chanel #5 multiple times. It’s possible that they’re sabotaging her. 2/4 skulls

Zayday Williams: Despite being relieved to see the Chanels, they have previously acted horribly towards her in the past. Maybe she has a secret motive in trying to discredit them. Chanel Oberlin managed to solve one of the medical cases through sheer dumb luck, making her look bad. She could want to eliminate them or scare them badly enough to make them leave, thus securing her position at the hospital. 2/4 skulls

Cathy Munsch: I don’t buy her excuse for starting the hospital. I think that if she really is dying, then she’s using this as an excuse to finally kill the Chanels, seeing as she hated them in the previous season. Hiring Zayday could be an attempt to frame her, or subtly lead her into mistakenly getting someone else arrested. 2/4 skulls

Libby Putney, aka “Chanel #5”: She was trapped while Catherine was killed and not present at the time of Tyler’s murder. Seeing as she saw the Green Meanie during Catherine’s demise and was dating Tyler at the time of his murder, I doubt that she had anything to do with the events. However, the past two episodes have mentioned that she was off her medication and she displayed extremely violent tendencies in the second episode. Seeing as the last season had multiple partners working together, it could be possible that she engineered Catherine’s killing with an ally. 2.5/4 skulls

Doctors Cassidy Cascade and Brock Holt: Cascade hasn’t had a lot of screentime thus far, but he wasn’t shown during the murders. As for Holt, episode two revealed that his transplanted hand comes from a notorious serial killer. Combining that with the way his hand seems to act on its own volition and his violent temper, I don’t think he’s trustworthy. Perhaps they are working together. 3/4 skulls

Hester Ulrich: She is the only surviving killer from the last season. Trained from birth to be the perfect slasher, I have no doubt that she could escape from prison or, at the very least, organize the affair from the comfort of her cell. So far, she knows about the killings, despite being trapped in jail. 4/4 skulls

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

Critical Hits & Misses #37: Thor's Day, September 29, 2016

DC Women Kicking Ass give us a peek at the Gotham Girls makeup line. Gotham Girls is available at Walgreens. (SecretAgentR)

Autostraddle have announced the winners of their very own Comic and Sequential Art Award! The results are full of comics you should absolutely check out. (Tova)

Today in unnecessarily-gendered-shit news: car manufacturer Seat and Cosmopolitan magazine have unveiled a new car for teh womenz! It’s purple, has handbag hooks, jeweled-effect rims, and eyeliner around the headlights. Huh? (Ivonne)

It's Thor's Day! Check out this fabulous Thor/Harry Potter mashup! Art by Ireness-Art

Today's Music feature is the always fabulous violinist Lindsey Stirling, and her post-apocalyptic vision, The Arena.

Today's Critical Roll: What Hogwarts house would you be sorted into and why? And forget the inexplicable Pottermore quiz... what would your Patronus be, and why?

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

SNL Scraps: Promos, Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda, And A New Trump!

SNL just keeps giving out information about the new season, much to my delight. First off, in case you haven’t been watching the show recently, the last season featured veteran comedian Larry David as Bernie Sanders in many of the episodes, even having him host the show for one of the episodes. This year, they are doing the same thing for Donald Trump, with the only change being that they are announcing it beforehand.

Yes, for once, there’s a promo for the inevitable presidential debate cold opening. Kate McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton with match wits with Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of Donald Trump, rather than Darrell Hammond, as in previous seasons. According to some reports, Darrell will continue to be the show’s announcer and might make an on-camera appearance in the future.

As a long-time fan, I’m mildly disappointed by this news. I’ve been a fan of Hammond’s Trump impression for years and it’s been refreshing and nostalgic to see him reprise his roles as Trump and Bill Clinton in the past seasons. Alec Baldwin has never revealed his Trump impersonation before, so I’m not sure how good it’ll be. Even if the material is funny, an inaccurate or boring impersonation could underhand any sketch. As evidenced by the video, he looks the part, but can he nail the voice?

In other news, the next two hosts have been announced. On October 8th, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the songwriter behind Hamilton, will make his hosting debut and Twenty One Pilots, a musical duo, will perform for the first time. I have a feeling that a good portion of the show will involve musical and historical skits. I guess I’ll finally listen to the Hamilton songs so I can understand any references. Next, Emily Blunt will host the program on October 15th to promote her upcoming film The Girl On The Train. As of this writing, the musical guest has not been announced.

Finally, aside from the aforementioned debate teaser, the standard promos for this week’s episode have been released. If you want to see Margot Robbie dance, now is the time!

Now, I want to know what you think! Will the promise of Harley Quinn, a Broadway sensation, and Emily Blunt’s awesomeness be enough to get you to watch the upcoming episodes? How many Hamilton jokes will they make in the promos alone? Can Alec Baldwin make Trump funny? Come to think of it, Jack Donaghy is essentially a smarter version of Donald, so maybe my slight pessimism is unwarranted. Comment below with your thoughts!

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

Star Wars Rebels Recap - S03E01-02 - "Steps Into Shadow"

Welcome to Critical Writ’s recaps of the third season of Star Wars Rebels! When we last saw the crew of Ghost they had finally found a secure location for the Rebel fleet and barely survived an encounter with Darth Vader on an ancient Sith temple world. Ahsoka is lost, presumed dead, Kanan lost his sight, and his padawan Ezra, under the guidance of Darth Maul, took another step into the Dark Side.

(Spoilers beyond this point)

The third season premiere, "Steps Into Shadow", takes place six months later and introduces the new status quo before future episodes (presumably) tear it all down. Following the loss of one of his senses, Kanan cut himself off from the rest of Phoenix Squadron and, most importantly, leaving his student without a teacher. This, and the feeling of blame over Kanan’s injury, in turn caused Ezra to seek Force training elsewhere: in the Sith holocron he found during last season’s finale.

Thanks to it, and the mysterious Presence dwelling inside it (voiced by Nika Futterman, also known as the voice of Asajj Ventress), Ezra grew exponentially more powerful. He also became more brash, bold, and dangerous. Which he proves during the episode’s opening mission: the rescue of Hondo Ohnaka, lovable scoundrel and a recurring character on both Star Wars animated series. When he and his team are faced with overwhelming odds, Ezra uses his new skills to take over the mind of an AT-ST Walker pilot and turn him against his fellow Stormtroopers. It’s unnerving to watch, both for the audience and other characters.

When finally confronted by Kanan, who finally finds about his new "study book," Ezra defends his choices by saying he’s going to use the Sith holocron for good. But he is definitely changing, the new powers and skills making him more ruthless and impatient. He proves it during a mission that’s the main focus of the episode: following up on Hondo’s tip about an Imperial Reclaim Station, where the Rebellion hopes to find a fleet of old Republic Y-Wing bombers that they could use in their war. What is intended as a quick recon mission goes sideways when Ezra and his team’s ship is discovered by an Imperial patrol, which in turn causes Station command to start melting down the Y-Wings.

Ezra, eager to prove himself after his fresh promotion to a Lieutenant Commander, practically strong-arms everyone into turning this recon mission into a recovery mission. And when the Station Commander (amusingly, a former Admiral that already had his life take a turn for the worse after meeting the Ghost crew) locks down the ships and destroys the console, Ezra doesn’t spare another thought before destroying the core powering the entire flying station. Naturally, everything takes a turn for the worse – the Y-Wings don’t have the hyperdrive, so Ezra’s team isn’t able to escape a newly arrived Star Destroyer. And Ezra himself ends up stranded on a falling station after his only escape shuttle gets destroyed.

Luckily, Kanan and Hera arrive to save everyone with three Rebel cruisers. Kanan is fresh after a lesson with a new Force-sensitive master, The Bendu (voiced by the Fourth Doctor himself, Tom Baker). The Bendu, named after George Lucas’s original name for the Jedi, "Jedi-Bindu," is effectively the Stick to Kanan’s Daredevil, teaching him how to replace his lost sight with the Force, and in the process helped him rebuild his connection to Ezra. That connection is what allows Kanan to find his wayward student and reach out from a light-filled vessel to the dark outside where his padawan was trapped, falling to his death.

In the end, Ezra gets seriously chewed over by Hera, and the salvaged Y-Wings are sent to General Dodonna, whom Star Wars fans might recognize as the head of the Yavin cell from A New Hope. The goal is to start building an intergalactic resistance movement that’ll be able to form a unified front against the Empire. It’ll be an uphill battle, especially now that they’re facing an antagonist like they’ve never faced before. And if you were following news about the show, you know who I’m talking about. Yes, Grand Admiral Thrawn: a mainstay of the now defunct Expanded Universe – makes his debut, and he’s everything we ever wanted.

Requested from Moff Tarkin by Lothal’s new Governor, Pryce, Thrawn (voiced by Lars Mikkelsen) proves his reputation by deducing from three seemingly unconnected facts (a sighting of a Ezra’s ship, recent rescue of Hondo and the identity of Hondo’s cellmate) what the Rebels aim for. And when later he learns his Star Destroyer engaged only three Rebel cruisers, he quickly realizes that it’s merely a fraction of the entire, and orders for them to be let go, not wanting to lose his new lead. The Rebels are facing their most dangerous foe yet, and they don’t even know about it.

Next week, we’re likely getting another Jedi-heavy episode with "The Holocrons of Fate." I’ll see you then!

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

Critical Hits & Misses #36: Wednesday September 28, 2016

Robert Lockhard, AKA the Deja Reviewer, figured out how the entire Back to the Future trilogy is one giant chiasmus. (Aranwe)

In a radio interview, iconic feminist Gloria Steinem discusses her past, how she ended up living most of her life on the road, Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and about her current projects supporting Native American women. (Ivonne)

Porn-streaming website Pornhub is offering a $25,000 scholarship to a woman pursuing education in STEM—no strings attached. Pornhub VP Corey Price says "We wanted to initiate meaningful change around the world and through our philanthropic endeavors we have provided happiness and, ultimately, changed lives." (Adrian)

Mick Jenkins' recent collaboration with BADBADNOTGOOD is positively haunting, much like its chorus: "I can't breathe." "Drowning" is today's musical hit. (Content warning: it's an allegorical connection between the contemporary American context and the colonial history of slavery.)

Critical Roll

Do you love reading? Do you hate reading and wish you liked it? Is it the cure for insomnia? If you're a reader, what inspired you into it? Was it Reading Rainbow, your mom, or Harry Potter movies? Tell us about your reading habits!

Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: be kind to your internet neighbors. 

Agents of SHIELD Open Thread, Sept 28 2016

Welcome to Critical Writ's newest feature: the Agents of SHIELD open thread and discussion forum!

Please be aware that while this post will not contain spoilers, the comments below very well might.

S04E02, "Meet the New Boss," had the reveal of SHIELD's new Director (as if you couldn't tell from the name), and a continuation of this season's mystery. We also keep hearing more about the Sokovia Accords and its effect on SHIELD agents, followed Daisy and her new fiery pal, and had some great Mack and Fitz action.

What did you think of the new boss? Are you enjoying Ghostrider? Are you creeped out yet by this season's mystery?!

Tell us in the comments below!

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

All-New, All-Different, All-Good: The Top 10 Best of ANAD Marvel (#5-#1)

This is it - the best of the best of All-New, All-Different Marvel. Here we go.

05. All-New Wolverine – Tom Taylor, David Lopez, Marcio Takara

Zachary: I didn’t know too terribly much about X-23 before I started reading All-New Wolverine. I knew a few bits of trivia about her backstory, but nothing too detailed. When I saw the cover for the first issue, I thought it looked compelling. One issue later and I loved it enough to do some research on the all-new Wolverine’s past appearances and check out the volumes at the library. Since then, the series has enthralled me with humor, feminism, and action. From the clones of Laura that represent paths she might have taken if she wasn’t used as a weapon to her burgeoning friendship with Old Man Logan, a shadow of her late mentor, it’s touching and wonderful.

Aranwe: Dare I say I kind of enjoy this more than the regular Logan Wolverine comics? Laura is no less ready to get dark and gory than her predecessor, but it’s her supporting cast that brings out a lighter, more fun side to her. Add to that story arc that are both suspenseful and compelling, and you’ve got a must read.

Dominik: If I were cynical, I’d point out how all the X-Men team books (minus X-Men ‘92, set in an alternate universe) have suffered since the end of Secret Wars - with the sole exception of Wolverine titles. But I won’t, because this book would stand out even in the days when mutants thrived. Laura’s adventures following her taking on the mantle of Wolverine are fun, well-written and drawn superheroics. She’s the best at what she does – and though what she does ain’t pretty, it’s done in her own, unique way.

Marvel Now! 2.0 status: ongoing


04. New Avengers – Al Ewing, Gerardo Sandoval

Zachary: Al Ewing is one of the most creative comic writers in the business today. Who else could have come up with the American Kaiju, who bellows “YUUU, ESSSSSS, AYYYYY!” in patriotic-colored font? He knows how to combine the wacky antics of the Silver Age with the modern-day interpretations of beloved characters for maximum entertainment value. Every bit of every issue, from the snarky character-descriptor captions to the villains, have something to smile about. Ultimate Reed Richards is an awesome villain and I really like seeing how the plot unfolds with every issue. Along with an ongoing story arc, we also get great character interactions between characters who might never have met in the hands of a different writer.

Aranwe: Speaking of Reed, don’t forget, he comes in slices! I had only a passing familiarity with most of the characters on this team, but I already love them all. The dynamics between the different players, and the constant manipulation and betrayal and double and triple crossing are a joy to read. It’s a comic that has no qualms about going from deadly serious to unbelievably wacky in the space of a few panels, and I love it for that.

Dominik: Who knew a comic following up a subplot from Jonathan Hickman’s run on the Avengers would be so very fun? Aside from those who read Al Ewing’s earlier titles, obviously. Fast-paced, insane and oh so fun (there’s a reason Squirrel Girl’s part of the team), New Avengers quickly rose to the top of Marvel’s most enjoyable titles. Now if only so many of the issues didn’t have Gerardo Sandoval’s annoying faux-manga art.

Marvel Now! 2.0 status: replaced by U.S. Avengers


03. The Unbelievable Gwenpool – Christopher Hastings, Gurihiru

Zachary: It’s hard to believe that The Unbelievable Gwenpool started off as a Gwen Stacy-themed variant just a year and a few short months ago. In the time since, the character exploded in popularity. I honestly don’t know how much more I can say, given that I’ve been reviewing the comic ever since it began. It has an intriguing mystery and an assortment of cool characters. What happens when you deconstruct a self-insert fanfiction and show the actual consequences? Fun, deadly violence, and emotional whiplash all wrapped up into a fourth-wall breaking package! I am of the opinion that The Unbelievable Gwenpool can only get more interesting as it goes on. A recent issue implied that her universe was ahead of ours by a few months, as the Doctor Strange film had already been released. What’s going to happen when Gwen’s knowledge of the Marvel universe is no longer accurate? When will M.O.D.O.K. make his inevitable return? How is Christopher Hastings so funny?!

Aranwe: What I thought would just be "Pink Deadpool" turned out to be so, so much more. Gwen Poole (who, despite popular belief, is not yet another Gwen Stacy) is one of the weirdest and most fun protagonists we’ve had in some time, as she hides her uncertainly and lack of skill in the Marvel Universe behind a wall of jokes and meta quips. Even so, whether through luck or genre savviness, she’s finding her place there, and is somehow not dead. Probably because she’s the main character.

Dominik: Let’s be honest, nobody expected a comic based on a variant cover to be any good. Sure, Gurihiru’s art was always going to be high quality (as seen in Gene Luen Yang’s Avatar The Last Airbender comics), but the comics itself? C'mon... The fact that it’s this good, this funny – well, frankly it would be annoying if didn’t bring a smile to my face so often. And a lot of it is thanks to Gwen, who makes for an amazing in-universe stand-in for  Marvel comics fans. You know, like Superboy Prime, except not a mean-spirited insult at a company’s own clientele.

Do yourselves a favor – check it out.

Marvel Now! 2.0 status: ongoing


02. The Vision – Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Aranwe: For over half of its run, Vision reads more like an indie comic than something set in the wider Marvel Universe. Everything from the premise to the style to the dialogue to the art is pretty unique among superhero comics. Its almost normal suburban setting multiplies the creepiness factor of the whole series, and slowly the ugly secrets and incidents everyone tries to cover up in Vision’s little artificial utopia begin to spill out and affect the world at large.

King does a phenomenal job of injecting each issue with a ton of suspense, which leaves you hooked on the series, desperate to find out what happens next.

An issue I have with the series would be its tendency to prioritize plot over character. Without delving into spoiler territory, creative liberties regarding one character in particular may understandably irk fans of his.

Zachary: The Vision is one of the creepiest comics that I’ve ever read. Despite my aversion to horror and frightful matters, one glance at the first issue’s warped sitcom cover hooked me. The macabre nature of the comic makes it incredibly addictive. Even though Tom King probably wouldn’t kill off Vision himself, due to the character’s popularity and film appearances, that doesn’t mean that his life can’t be horrifyingly torn apart. It’s such a brilliant comic, but utterly disturbing. I just have to keep reading it so I can find out what happens next. For months now, I’ve wanted it to get a gritty television show, preferably in the vein of the Netflix-Marvel collaborations. It’s the perfect fit.

Dominik: I was already a fan of Tom King’s writing after Grayson (admittedly, co-written with Tim Seeley) and The Omega Men he wrote for DC. Vision pretty much solidified my enjoyment of his work. The tension, the amazing atmosphere, Gabriel Hernandez and Jordie Bellaire’s haunting artwork, the fascinating look into one of Marvel’s least talked about character – all of these come together for an unforgettable experience. It’s a damn shame this is the last comic he’ll write for Marvel in a long time.

Marvel Now! 2.0 status: ends in October


01. Ms. Marvel – G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa

Aranwe: Nothing else was going to be the top pick, at least not for me. Ms. Marvel is a deeply personal comic on so many levels– for starters, it’s the series that actually got me into reading comic books when it was first released over two years ago. Since then, the popularity of Kamala Khan has skyrocketed, with the character appearing in games, cartoon, and even rumors of a cinematic debut. But the series has more than just a likeable lead. Not only does it have a brilliant supporting cast, all of whom get their time to shine at one point or another, but because it tells such incredible stories. Each arc intelligently, but not preachily, incorporates a moral message centered around a very important modern day issue, whether it’s gentrification or racial profiling. Add to that a fun set of powers, snappy dialogue, smartly handled cameos from other heroes, and some fantastic artwork, and you’ve got a series that I would put at the top of any list, any day.

Zachary: G. Willow Wilson’s second run on Kamala Khan’s continuing journey is equally as good as the first one, if not better. Not only does it expand on her pre-Secret Wars adventures and continue to develop her character, it pushes her into more and more complex situations. Having simple black-and-white situations is all well and good, but it’s even more interesting when you can see heroes confront real-life issues. This not only helps to expand Kamala’s personality and worldview but also provides a wealth of representation and catharsis for readers of all kinds. Ms. Marvel expertly infuses every story with a synthesis of humor and tragedy. (Especially tragedy, if you’ve been reading the Civil War II tie-in.) I hope that someday, G. Willow Wilson could be the writer for a live-action MCU movie adaptation.

Dominik: I started reading comics on a monthly basis sometime in 2013, after years of primarily enjoying them in collected form (the effect of living in a country without comic book shops). Thanks to digital releases I was finally able to check out comics faster and more regularly. The very next year the first issue of Ms. Marvel came out and it has been a part of my pull list ever since. I’ve followed Kamala’s growth as both a teenage girl, a Muslim and a superhero for almost as long as I’ve been buying monthly comics. There was no way I’d vote for any other comic as my number 1 and I’m overjoyed it ended up there in the final list. If you’re not reading it yet, what are you even doing with your life? It’s the best Marvel comic! It says so on this list.

Marvel Now! 2.0 status: ongoing


And that’s our list! Thank you for sticking to the very end.

And what, pray tell, are your favorite All-New, All-Different Marvel comics?

Aranwe Quirke is a totally real, definitely not made up name. No, you may not see the birth certificate.

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

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

Critical Hits & Misses #35: Seussday, September 27, 2016

After last night's US Presidential Debate, perhaps this anti-suffragette image from the Glasgow Women's Library is particularly pertinent, if you ask Donald Trump.

The Guardian showcases the Glasgow Women’s Library, a treasure trove of feminist (and anti-feminist, like the postcard above) historical domestic artifacts. Ranging from entire archives from suffragette campaign groups to old cookery books and knitting patterns that detail the lives of women from across the past century. Fascinating stuff! (Ivonne)

Fashion model Gigi Hadid was attacked in Milan when a strange man picked her up from behind, and is now facing criticism for physically defending herself. (Adrian)

Archie Comics’ reboot universe is launching a Reggie Mantle series, Reggie and Me, in December. The New Riverdale line’s biggest asshole and his titular series will be written by Tom DeFalco with art by Sandy Jarrell. (John)

It's Seussday Tuesday! 

Have you been searching far and wide for a cross between rockabilly and that 1990s riot grrrl sound? Well, search no more: the Regrettes have what you're looking for. Their new single "Hot" is today's musical hit.

Today's Critical Roll:

The temptation, of course, is to ask a question about last night's US Presidential debate. But instead we will talk about pizza. Because pizza is better than last night's trainwreck. What are you favorite pizza toppings? Pizza brand? Do you like "unusual" toppings?  

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

Game Review: The Turing Test Will Test Your Moral Fiber

The Turing Test is a new first person puzzle game, much like Portal and The Talos Principle. The player controls Ava Turing, a scientist who is investigating the disappearance of a ground team on Europa (a moon of Jupiter, and may I recommend the film Europa Report to those unfamiliar?). Assisting her is the Technical Operative Machine (T.O.M) AI, who helped build the underground base on Europa and up until 500 hours ago, ran the place alongside the base commander. Upon arrival, Ava and Tom discover that the ground team has arranged the base into a series of puzzles—Turing tests, only solvable by humans because AI lack the ability to think laterally.

To be clear, it doesn't exactly re-invent the wheel. The appeal comes from a plot that delves into the philosophical debate about artificial intelligence and freedom. The game is also utterly gorgeous. Developed on the Unreal Engine 4, my only real complaint about the visuals is that most of the puzzle rooms look the same, so any variety in environment is sadly brief.

The puzzles are fun, and new elements are introduced along the way. However, there are seventy puzzle rooms. For the most part, the puzzles are not very challenging. Only the seven optional rooms and a handful of the mandatory ones ever had me stumped, and I breezed through the chapters. After a while the game felt bloated, and I can’t help but compare it to Portal in that regard. Portal never overstays it’s welcome, The Turing Test does.

I also had a huge issue with the audio logs that you need to listen to in order to piece the plot together. Subtitles are an option for the real world dialogue, but the audio logs are not subtitled.  The audio logs are of terrible, terrible quality and taking away subtitles just makes it impossible for the hard of hearing to understand. I get that the human crew is intentionally trying to be hard to understand so they have some privacy from Tom, but what’s the point of not subtitling it for the player? I had to look up what was being said online.

I found it somewhat humorous that despite taking place centuries into the future, our technology has only developed so far. My PC looks more hi tech than the computers in their labs, and they’re using tablets more primitive that what is available now.

I also found it suspicious fairly early on in the game that Tom is allegedly incapable of solving these puzzles, and then after a certain point, Ava needs TOM’s help to operate various cameras and robots to solve puzzles. There’s even at least two puzzles where Tom does all the work. Why would the crew set up the puzzles that way?

Spoilers below, you’ve been warned.

After the second chapter, you enter the crew quarters. They aren’t there, but you can read their journals and notes. It turns out that the doctor, Mikhail, suspected that Tom controls the crew through implants in their hands, installed under the pretense that it allows Tom to monitor their health. He chops off his arm to get rid of Tom’s influence, and puts the rest of the crew on anti-depressants which allegedly dampens his abilities to control them. They have also discovered a virus on Europa. It has a symbiotic relationship with the organisms it infects; it repairs their DNA so that they can withstand the radiation on Europa. This makes the host organism biologically immortal. It can be killed, but it never ages. The crew is understandably excited, but then decides to test the virus on themselves to expedite the results of their research.

A record scratch sounded off in my head. That’s insanely unethical. That would never ever get past an ethics committee. What the hell were they thinking?

And this is also where Ava turns out not to be the greatest example of a female protagonist. She’s kind of a total dunce and needs Tom to help her understand anything. Chapters later, Sarah tells her about the implant and virus again. I know, I thought during Sarah and Tom’s dialogue. We read about this earlier in the game. But Ava acts like it’s brand new information to her, and she is angry with Tom. Tom, for his part, is trying to quarantine the crew on Europa since they infected themselves with a virus that can destroy the entire ecosystem of Earth if they ever return. There’s no way to kill the virus, so they must stay.

Maybe I’m heartless, maybe I fail at being a strong defender of personal freedom. But I feel like that’s a reasonable consequence for intentionally infecting yourself with a strange and dangerous virus. The moral quandary at the heart of The Turing Test was a no-brainer for me. It sucks for them to live forever on Europa, but maybe they should have thought about that first.

The mind control thing confused me a little so it was harder for me to take a stance on it. Tom says it’s there to prevent human error. But clearly it doesn’t work very well or Tom could have stopped Mikhail from chopping off his arm, or the team from committing mutiny. If he’s only slightly influencing the team, say through releasing hormones to relax them, then yeah that’s unethical and they didn’t have informed consent, but not exactly a reason to totally rebel and doom Earth.

The ending was unsatisfactory for me. Sarah’s single mindedness made no sense to me, nor Ava’s attitude. I decided I wouldn’t even file this game under “games with female protagonists” because ultimately, you are Tom. The only decision in the game is up to him, who you increasingly control and play as. There was little satisfaction in the decision I made, and I replayed the ending just to be sure. The dilemma failed to grip me.

Not even the destruction of companion cubes could move me.
But what if I just misunderstood what the game was really about? I do like the theory that the whole game was merely a simulation for Tom, much like Serial Experiments Lain, because that would excuse many of the problems with the plot. Ultimately the virus and the mind control doesn’t matter, because what really mattered was how Tom felt about it. Through his actions and dialogue with Ava, we can establish that Tom is actually a sentient being, not just a program. It is Ava who is the simulation. It was Tom who was solving all the puzzles all along, through his “mind control” on Ava. Yet I’m not entirely sold on that explanation. The implant and virus plot points don’t feel like red herrings, nor do the puzzles themselves. I can’t shake the feeling that the plot isn’t up to interpretation, but meant to be taken at face value.

As you can probably tell, I have my issues with The Turing Test. There were times when I was raging at the screen because I felt the humans were being so foolish. It was only long after I finished the game that I started thinking about the possibility that it was all a simulation, a game within a game, that I started seeing real value in the plot. I’m still unsure whether I liked the game as a whole, but I have to admit it's been a while since I gave a game this much thought. And, if you’re looking for more puzzle games, while it gets weary you can’t say that 70 puzzles for 19.99 is a bad deal.

The Turing Test was developed by Bulkhead Interactive and published by Square Enix. It is available on Xbox One and on Steam.

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

Critical Hits & Misses #34, Bunday September 26, 2016

Palmer Luckey, who founded and later sold Oculus to Facebook for $2 billion, has been secretly funding a non-profit called Nimble America. This non-profit supports U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump by creating and proliferating anti-Hillary memes. That's right: people are being paid to make shitty posts. (Adrian)

Bustle discusses the depressing fan theory that Harry Potter never actually left the cupboard under the stairs, and that Hogwarts was just his mad escapist fantasy. A theory, by the way, that J.K. Rowling has not shot down… just sayin’ (Ivonne)

The executive producers on Fox’s Gotham have stated that Maggie Geha’s physically aged-up Poison Ivy will not be a sexual character—whilst also saying that she will retain her comic counterpart’s seductive powers. (John)

It's Monday Bunday! Here is your daily dose of cute to start the week off right! 

Today's musical hit strikes a folk rock chord: Typhoon frontman Kyle Morton just surprised the Interwebs by releasing a solo album, What Will Destroy You. "Gestalt of Original Pain" reminds us of some of the best  songs by Simon and Garfunkel.

Today's critical roll:

Hogwarts? Westeros? Panem? Middle Earth? The MCU? What is your mad escapist fantasy? Maybe it's one of your own creation? Tell us what fantasy/sci-fi world you would escape to if you could, and why!

Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: behave.

Book Review: Certain Dark Things is a Certain Hit

As a fan of all things vampires, it is often too hard to sift through the massive amount of novels out there to find something good, something that hasn’t been done before. Blood-sucking apparitions have been a staple of horror literature since Polidori’s The Vampyre, almost two hundred years ago. But in those two hundred years, it seems like vampires have strayed far from their roots, that the struggle to remain relevant is increasingly taxing. From sexual predator to romantic hero—from monster to sparkly boyfriend—the vampire has been variously promoted to most fearsome creature of the night, or downgraded to a much-maligned teen fad.

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia takes a page from Vampire: The Masquerade in that there are many kinds of vampires and they all have their own agenda. There are several subspecies of vampires, from the aristocratic Revenants, the monstrous Necros, and the Aztec Tlahuihpochtli. The dynamics between the different species is exposed throughout the text, but also in a helpful glossary. The world-building is therefore quite direct—with a few info-dumps as characters ruminate over memories or what they know of vampires—but it always remains interesting, and is never done at such a critical point that the reader feels impatient for the character to move on. The different types of vampires are ethnically diverse, something that is often sorely missing from the genre.

The plot centers around Atl, a Tlahuihpochtli on the run from the Necro gang that killed her family. She flees to Mexico City, despite the fact that vampires are banned from city limits. There she meets Domingo, a street kid who collects garbage for a living. Together they avoid the Necros, the street gangs and the cops as they try to find a way for Atl to get out of the country.

The narration jumps around from Atl and Domingo to the Necros hunting them, and from there to the police officer just trying to protect Mexico City from a vampire invasion. No character of importance feels flat or one-note, but I did think that Domingo slips from cute to pathetic and annoying towards the end. Atl too felt dragged down by her deuteragonist near the conclusion, and I started feeling more attached to the creepy Revenant by the end of it all. If you wish to avoid spoilers, I’ll say that I still would recommend the book to fans of the vampire genre; my problem with it is a problem that is found in nearly every vampire book I’ve read in the last few years. Certain Dark Things merely repeats the trope. Despite that, if Silvia Moreno-Garcia writes another book in the universe, I will be more than happy to pick it up; there’s still enough that is intriguing, original and enjoyable to be left wanting more.

[Spoilers follow.]

Towards the end, Atl and Domingo develop a romantic relationship. While Domingo is very open about being attracted to Atl from the start, Atl for her part recognizes that it would be an inherently exploitative relationship. Not only that, but it’s taboo for vampires to copulate with humans (or, to put it less delicately: don’t fuck your dinner). Yet near the end, when there’s very little time left to develop a shift in their dynamic, Atl decides to enter a relationship with Domingo anyway, not long after she contemplates killing him to make her life easier. Atl does leave him at the end, in such a way I think the author would like the reader to feel is emotional—but I only felt relief.

My annoyance comes in part from the gender dynamics at play. Domingo is sweet and subservient to Atl. Atl, for most of the book, is distant. She’s manipulative and using him because her life is in danger and she needs help. For her to suddenly develop feelings just seems like the book is reproducing the “Nice Guy” narrative. If you’re not familiar with the term, it refers to men who believe that by being nice to women, they’ll eventually give them sex as a reward. If they don’t, the man has been cheated. By being loyal and loving, Domingo has been rewarded—but why? Atl never felt any attraction to him before.

Atl seems to realize her foolishness in the end, but the parting feels overwrought and over the top. There just isn’t enough prior emotional investment in the romance to do anything but cheer that it’s finally over. As a criticism of vampire/human romances, it just feels weak and a waste of valuable page space—and a distraction from more interesting plots and characters.

Of course, romance and vampires seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly nowadays, so Silvia Moreno-Garcia isn’t exactly committing any alarming transgressions against the genre here. It’s just that for a book that is otherwise a breath of fresh air, it’s disappointing for to see it go out on a stale note we’ve heard so many times before. I give Certain Dark Things three stakes out of five; it’ll take more than one overused trope to slay this Nosferatu.

Certain Dark Things will be released October 25th, and is available for pre-order from Macmillan.

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

SNL Scraps: Emmy Awards And The Season Premiere Host!

First up, congratulations to Kate McKinnon for winning the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series during the most recent ceremony. With her variety of impressions and eclectic characters, she definitely earned it.

Next, the details for next Saturday's season premiere have been revealed. Margot Robbie will make her hosting debut and The Weeknd will be the musical guest.

This episode will be shortly after the first presidential debate, and I suspect that the opening sketch will be heavily devoted to it.

Additionally, this isn't the first time that The Weeknd has performed on the show. I'm excited to see what surprises the premiere brings.

Keep checking Critical Writ for more coverage!

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