Critical Hits & Misses #167

For today's musical hit, we have an oldie from the late 80s, but it's one of the "safe" and feminist rap songs that you could jam with your kids to back then, when rap was getting nastier for commercial reasons. It's Queen Latifah and "Ladies First"

Today's critical rolls: What were some of your favorite childhood books, or books that you read to your kids/students/whatever today?

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

Reggie And Me #4 Review: A Grim, Yet Compelling, Installment

Warning: This review contains full spoilers for the issue.

In Reggie And Me #4, Reggie finally puts his diabolical plan into action. In the past issues, we've seen him scheme to take down Moose so he can date Midge. To make this happen, he has pretended to befriend Moose in order to find out what makes him tick. As the issue starts, he's palmed Archie's phone and is sending Midge messages and gifts. Naturally, Moose isn't happy about this. Reggie wants to manipulate Moose into beating up Archie under the bleachers.

Reggie, seen here sowing the seeds of mistrust.
Reggie's behavior in this issue is awful. He's definitely crossed the line from being a slightly sympathetic villainous character to being outright awful. His plan, if executed correctly, would lead Midge and Archie to meet near the bleachers, with Midge there to confront her "secret admirer" and Archie there to get his phone back. Meanwhile, Moose would see them, assume the worst, and beat him up. Mr. Weatherbee would expel Moose and Archie, eliminating Reggie's two main obstacles.

Hey, that bat was innocent! RIP, baseball bat, 2017-2017.
Fortunately, his plan does not work. It's rather disturbing that Moose outright showed up wielding a baseball bat, but that could be attributed to believing that Midge's stalker was dangerous and wanting to keep her safe. He does think that Archie is trustworthy and he loves Midge, so he shakes Archie's hand and tells Midge that he just wants her to be happy. It's surprisingly touching and a wonderful character moment for Moose, showing that he's not just a jealous boyfriend. Midge, of course, sets him straight about the whole mix-up.

Unfortunately, the grim specter of violence still looms over Riverdale. Reggie gets hurt by one of the bullies from another school. The issue also shows some more glimpses from his past. "Little" Ambrose is reintroduced into the New Riverdale universe, desperately wanting to tag along with his idol, "Little" Reggie. One simple act of kindness, and he follows Reggie around, almost like a puppy. An act of cruelty drives him away, in tears. History ends up repeating itself in a gut-wrenching cliffhanger. Twice, Reggie yells at Vader to leave him alone. The second time, poor Vader runs into the street and gets hit by a car.

Reggie And Me #4 is a fantastic issue, both subverting the expected plot and setting up a horrifying conclusion. I'm a dog lover and I winced as I read that last panel. We don't see what happens to Vader, but the next issue's solicitation promises that we will "learn his fate." Tom DeFalco continues to create an amazing character study of Reggie Mantle and how he affects the lives of those around him, especially the one being who loves him unconditionally.

Reggie And Me #4 is written by Tom DeFalco, drawn by Sandy Jarrell, lettered by Jack Morelli, and colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick. You can find it at your local comic book shop.

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

Archie #18 Review: Perfect For New Readers!

If you think that this cover looks oddly familiar, you would be correct. It's a reference to a few of the recent promotional images for the Riverdale tv show. Similarly, Archie #18 introduces a new arc, tailored to introduce Mark Waid's version of the characters to new readers. I think that the comic works very well as a jumping-on point for anyone unfamiliar with the source material. It has all of the main cast of the show living in Riverdale, as well as Jughead demonstrating his expert detective skills.

Jughead Jones? More like Jughead Holmes!
If that actually happens on Riverdale at some point, I will be very pleased. For the most part, this issue feels like a lighter version of the show, and, in my personal opinion, what the show should be. It weaves engaging drama with slapstick humor and doesn't have to get overly dark and melodramatic. For example, Archie is reunited with Veronica, but it's shown that they have either grown apart during her absence from Riverdale or possibly romanticized their relationship. Archie doesn't understand it when Veronica talks about the trials of being rich and she finds his sports chatter boring.

Similarly, I enjoyed seeing more of Dilton Doiley in the issue. He and Betty bond at a car convention as they respectively geek out over the cool technology seen in cars. Betty is an expert with fixing cars and Dilton loves finding out how they work.  It's a match made in car heaven! Sure, Archie notices and it makes him sad, which upsets Veronica in return, but that's the nature of a love whatever-gram.

Archie #18 is written by Mark Waid, drawn by Pete Woods, and lettered by Jack Morelli. You can find it at your local comic book shop.

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

Critical Hits & Misses #166

For today's musical hit, we have Lorde and "Liability"

Today's critical rolls: Discuss some of your favorite feminist fiction, whether it's sci-fi or not!

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

U.S.Avengers #4: Monster Mash

Wasn't Monsters Unleashed fun? I definitely thought so! Evidently, Al Ewing also loved it because he delivered an issue jam-packed with monsters! It's billed as a mega-Marvel event all in one issue, but unlike a recent Deadpool issue that did the same thing, this one has the same number of pages and it's all done by the same creative team. In fact, the other comics involved in the crossover don't exist and fake covers were designed purely for the comic.

If you're worried about not understanding what's going on, fear not! It's a stand-alone issue and the opening sequence effectively explains who the new Red Hulk is and what kind of mission he's on. He's on a hunt for a rogue agent, one of my favorite recent debuts in the Marvel Universe. Get ready, the American Kaiju's coming to town!

He has no underlying issues to address, he's certifiably large and scaly under duress! K-A-I-J-U, Crazy Ex-Kaiju! My apologies to Rachel Bloom.
Meanwhile, Deadpool guest-stars in the issue, getting caught by the resident mad scientist and turned into a monster. Savvy comic fans can guess that this will lead to a confrontation with Todd Ziller's patriotic alter ego and the Red Hulk. There's even a Dawn Of Justice joke!

U.S.Avengers #4 is a great breather issue. It's pure fun and a great break from the usual comic. Next time, it appears as though things will get serious, as Captain America appears. No, not Luke and Jessica's daughter, but Steve Rogers. Secret Empire is almost upon us. This issue was written by Al Ewing, drawn by Paco Madina, inked by Juan Vlasco, colored by Jesus Aburtov, and lettered by VC's Joe Caramagna. You can find it at your local comic book shop.

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

Jughead: The Hunger Review: You ARE The Menu In This Supernatural Tale

This is the official cover for Jughead: The Hunger. It's okay, if slightly generic. The faces look slightly more realistic than usual, adding to the menacing tone of the story. Personally, my favorite cover for the special is this variant by Robert Hack.

I think it's amazing. I love the way that it's designed to mimic the style of an old-school horror movie poster. Every time you look at it, some new detail pops out. I especially love the fading at the edges. It really helps to sell the feeling that you're looking at a classic poster. Most of all, it has an aura of menace and danger, showing the contrast between Jughead's serene face and the slavering, monstrous werewolf.

Make no mistake, this story is not your happy, go-lucky Archie's Weird Mysteries story. The story won't reset at the end. This story has deadly consequences. Essentially, it's paced like a movie, complete with a suitably gory cold opening. Poor Mrs. Grundy. It seems like she gets killed in a lot of alternate universe stories, including Riverdale, Life With Archie: The Married Life, and Afterlife With Archie.

The art is amazing. Michael Walsh is able to project a creepy aura into even the most innocuous of images. Even a simple drawing of Jughead chowing down on a burger is filled with disturbing foreshadowing. The small flecks of blood that dot several panels are tiny, but effective. The little touches also help to set the mood, along with the main visuals.

The fish isn't as out of place as you might think. It's an all-you-can-eat buffet.
I also like the twist that Betty Cooper is actually an undercover werewolf hunter. It added a fun Buffy-esque tone to the story, which I find especially amusing because some reunion photos from the show were just released today. I do wish that we had more time to focus on that plot in the story. I want to see more of Archie's reaction to the revelation that one of his closest friends initially came to town to kill his other closest friend. The comic went by so quickly. I'm interested in seeing more of this universe. I think it has the potential to be Archie Comics, Inc.'s equivalent to Marvel's Marvel Zombies or Deadpool Killogy comics.

In every generation, there comes a new slayer. This summer on The CW, it's Betty The Werewolf Slayer.
In an interview, Frank Tieri said that he could picture this being expanded into a series of some sort. I certainly hope that one is given the go-ahead. I want to know more. (Spoilers- move to the final paragraph to avoid them.) At the end, Jughead left town after brutally slaughtering Reggie. Why did the wolfs-bane seemingly not work on him? Given that he seemed angry with Reggie earlier, could he just control the transformation by then? How do Jughead's parents, if they are alive in this world, feel about this? Will Jellybean become a werewolf?

Jughead: The Hunger is written by Frank Tieri, drawn by Michael Walsh, lettered by Jack Morelli, and colored by Michael Walsh and Dee Cunniffe. You can find it at your local comic book shop.

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

Critical Hits & Misses #165

For today's musical hit, we have Bruno Mars latest, "That's What I Like"

Today's critical rolls: What are some great (and not so great) examples of movie posters, for any genre and any point in Hollywood history? Share pics!

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

Critical Hits & Misses #164

For today's musical hit, we have The Chainsmokers and "The One"

Today's critical rolls: Tell us about your favorite hero of color, and why they are your favorite! Brownie points if you happen to like a hero written by a person of color too!

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

Brother's Ruin Is A Kind Of Magic

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of magic, must be in want of a school of witchcraft and wizardry. Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman is the first installment of a new gaslamp fantasy series. In 1850 England, Charlotte Gunn is leading a double life. Not only is she a successful illustrator under a male pseudonym, but also a mage who has yet to be discovered by the Royal Society of Esoteric Arts. She works hard to hide what she does and what she is, lying to most everyone but her brother. When she finds that her father owes a great debt, and her brother may also be a mage, she must guard her secrets even more carefully than before—while working to make sure her brother receives the best offer from the magic colleges.

In a post-Potter world, it is prudent to explain to your readership exactly why your mage doesn’t want to go to Hogwarts. Newman does provide, in time, justification for Charlotte’s reasoning, but readers who are still bitter that they never received their letter may have a hard time empathizing with Charlotte. The Royal Society of Esoteric Arts are servants of the Crown first and foremost; these sons and daughters of the Empire may not marry or pursue careers that are not magical in nature. I still felt like that would be a small price to pay to play with magic and be among peers who do not treat you differently because you are a woman, but you do you, Charlotte.

The romance, what there is of it, feels very weak. Charlotte’s fiancé George is a major reason she does not want to join the Royal Society of Esoteric Arts, but she hardly seems to like him and lusts after another man. In a rare reversal of literary tropes, George contributes so little that he could be replaced with a sexy sensible lamp and the plot would lose nothing. It’s fine to have extraneous characters that contribute little to the plot, but as an anchor for Charlotte it’s hard to see the appeal of his sensible nature and mutton chops. She also lies to him incessantly, not only about her powers but also her career as an illustrator and her sleuthing adventures. How can we root for a love interest the heroine doesn't even trust? Magus Hopkins, while not nearly as nice, seems to light Charlotte’s fires higher and I foresee adultery in Charlotte’s future.

Brother’s Ruin is a quick, entertaining read, but ultimately it feels like a prologue rather than the first full book in the series. 183 pages is not a great amount of real estate to map out both plot and world-building, and something’s got to give. We are not informed about the issues within the Royal Society until quite near the end, and even then it’s a lot of telling but little showing, aside from one corrupt Magus whose motivations are still a mystery at the end. There is a lot of potential in the premise this book sets up; I do hope the sequel will be meatier.

Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman was published on March 14, 2017 by It is available wherever fine books are sold.

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

Critical Hits & Misses #163

For today's musical hit, we have The Weekend and "I Feel It Coming"

Today's critical roll: Gatekeeping sucks. And it's not just in the comic book fandoms. Tell us about gatekeeping you've seen or experienced in your fan or hobby groups.

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

Critical Hits & Misses #162

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

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

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

Nasty Women Is Mandatory Reading In This Political Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Critical Hits & Misses #161

A color to die (dye?) for.

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

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

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

Amberlough Is A Beautiful, Gut Wrenching Dream Of A Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

That's not what we got.

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

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

I make this bad guy shit look good...

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Critical Hits & Misses #160

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spoilers over the fold.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Vanity Fair/CW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Critical Hits & Misses #159

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

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

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

Critical Hits & Misses #158

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

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

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

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

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

Critical Hits & Misses #157

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

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

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

Reggie And Me #3 Review: Moose's Backstory- Revealed!

This is the official cover for Reggie And Me #3 and it's perfectly fine, but I want to give some special attention to this variant cover. Not only does it have a cool metaphor for the story within, but I also like the visual of Reggie as a conniving psychiatrist with Moose as his troubled patient.

The art is wonderful, with every single scene crackling off the page. I really like the vibrant colors and crisp scenes. I want to give special praise to some of the fantasy sequences, particularly the scene depicting Moose and Archie as eight-bit video game characters. Additionally, I have to commend Sandy Jarell and Kelly Fitzpatrick on the art and coloring. Several pieces in the book are made in different styles and they all feel unique, from Moose's paintings to the standard story.

The story is also exemplary. The issue promised to reveal a hidden side of Moose Mason, and it definitely didn't disappoint. It's subtle, but effective. We see that Moose isn't just a jock, he's also one of five children. He crafts lovely paintings of everyone in Riverdale and plans on giving Midge a special one for her birthday. He even helps his siblings with their homework.

I'm also pleased by Vader's ongoing development. The earlier issues have made no secret of the fact that he's an unreliable narrator, having been adopted from the pound by Reggie. He trusts him implicitly and thinks the world of him. However, he slowly begins to doubt that Reggie is all that he says he is after seeing Moose's home life. He even stops Reggie from defacing Moose's portrait of Midge. It is very well-done.

Reggie And Me #3 is written by Tom DeFalco, drawn by Sandy Jarrell, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, and lettered by Jack Morelli.

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

Ghost in the Shell - The First 15 Minutes Preview

The Ghost in the Shell film is an endeavour that has been mired by controversy since its inception. I highly recommend reading the hyperlinked articles in order to get a bird’s eye view of the problem. That aside, I do want to comment on the first fifteen minutes of the film, that I was very lucky to have seen on March 9th. I have to say, it did look very interesting. So, beware, this is going to be a spoiler for the first quarter-of-an-hour of the Ghost in the Shell Hollywood blockbuster. (To be honest, I don’t feel like I am spoiling much; even the trailer is a spoiler for the first fight, we just didn’t know it was the first fight.)

The first thing that is worth noting, is that the Scarlett Johansson film adheres to a stricter chronological order than the original Ghost in the Shell film, starting the film credits very sedately with what I assume are neural filaments growing to connect to The Major’s brain. What follows, after the director and main actors have had their slides, is something that’s an almost shot-for-shot remake of the following sequence from the original film:

Then, we cut to a close-up of Johansson’s face. She is being gently woken up by a female doctor, and she chokes up. Dr. Ouellet tells her that she was drowning and that they couldn’t salvage her body, but now The Major has a new body—a better one. The Major starts to hyperventilate and the doctor isn’t able to calm her down, so she is sedated and left in a room. Then we cut to an ominous shot wherein The Major is centered in the frame, while Dr. Ouellet and a man (who is from the corporation that finances the experiment) talk about her. We cut again to another shot that copies the original animated film; the one where The Major is crouching on top of the building, hooked with cables to a comms network and assessing the situation of a possible assassination attempt on the President of the African Federation, while he holds a meeting with a high-ranking member of the Hanka corporation.

This is where the robo-geisha fight happens, with gangster men outright shooting the security guards and bodyguards. The situation goes FUBAR, and The Major decides to disregard orders to stand by from Chief Daisuke and takes a leap of faith and crashes into the window. She then starts being a complete badass shooting everything on sight, taking damage and dominating the fight. One of the robo-geishas turns into the spiderbot we see in the trailer, and drags the Hanka corp rep away and hacks into his brain. It’s at this point that a strike team lead by Batou (played by Michael Wincott) enters to support The Major.

Ghost in the Shell, brain hacking, robot, geisha, science fiction, gif

The Major is stuck in a difficult position by the robo-geisha who is hacking into the Hanka rep’s brain, not before The Major shoots it fatally. The robo-geisha scuttles back while begging for her mechanical life. ‘Please don’t shoot me,’ I think the robot says. This unsettles The Major, so the robo-geisha has to be shot by Batou. Batou then tells The Major ‘you are not like it, you’re not a robot,’ which angers The Major and she storms off, turning on her cloaking device.


Subtle, this film is not. I don’t expect much from a Hollywood cyberpunk flick.

The film immediately sets up its main narrative theme: Is The Major human? This happens in the scene where Dr. Ouellet is speaking with the shady corporation businessman.  At least, I assume the man is from a corporation since the narrative clues us into that, with his slick business attire and his dehumanisation of Scarlett’s character. This man outright calls her a ‘weapon,’ while Dr. Ouellet insists The Major is ‘special’ and ‘more than human.’ This is a cyberpunk staple, after all.

What I find interesting is that the film also points us in the direction of a big difference between the original Ghost in the Shell film and this live-action film, which is The Major’s characterisation. In the animated feature, The Major displays her emotions in a very subtle way, and her internal humanity, or ‘aliveness’ is contrasted with the way she is animated. One of the things that make The Major so eerie in appearance is that she doesn’t blink at all while she’s awake and has a constant wide-eyed stare paired up with her blank face. Yet, the case is made in the animated film that, if not human, she definitely qualifies as ‘alive.’

In the Hollywood film, on the other hand, The Major is immediately established as human to audiences. When she wakes up, she gasps, struggles breathing, starts having a panic attack about the drowning and Dr. Ouellet has to sedate her again. Clearly, we are meant to sympathize with her from the start.

Scarlett Johnasson, Ghost in the Shell, science fiction, gif

I’m not a big fan of this change because it means that the fundamental question the film grapples with has been resolved from the start. It removes the thematic conflict from the narrative, by dumbing down the themes of personhood in service of a more standard internal conflict about identity.

This is also shown with the aftermath of the fight scene. The Major is clearly affected by the pleas to spare it, coming from the robot. After Batou shoots the robot in the head and outright tells The Major that she is human, unlike the robo-geishas, she leaves straight away, even bumping into some kind of Section Nine SWAT teammate on the way out. She clearly struggles with seeing herself as a human. Motoko Kusanagi, on the other hand, brings up the question of whether being alive necessarily equals being human in her advanced, technological world, especially after the encounter with the Puppet Master.

There’s also a small contrast between gentle femininity and harsh masculinity paralleled in the duplets of Dr. Ouellet and the corp rep at the beginning of the film, and The Major and Batou. It’s not a particularly subversive scene. However, I believe this will be something present in a superficial manner in the rest of the film.


Before diving into the specifics, we really need to talk about filters. Between the influence wielded by Michael Bay’s Transformers films, and Disney's TRON: Legacy, the Ghost in the Shell live-action film didn’t stand a chance. Remember the good old days when sepia or brown filter was gritty, a green filter meant teh future!!!!/cybernetics, blue was horror or night and so on and so forth? Yeah, no, I think The Matrix poisoned till the end of time the well of ‘green is for cyberworld.’ This film is so blue-tinged and washed out it doesn’t make for a very interesting colour palette. The live-action film looks good, but it’s not memorable.

The overall look of the city looks like a crossover with futuristic Gotham from Batman Beyond with the city from the first episode of The Animatrix. It’s not a very original look, but what makes it interesting are all the holo-ads livening up the background. It gives off a very Tokyo vibe. In the live-action film, the city looks a bit too clean compared to the grimy underbelly as shown in the animated feature. I don’t think it detracts from the film, I’m just jotting it down.

Then there is the scene about the meeting between the President of the African Federation and the rep from the Hanka Corporation. I like this set piece. It really looks like a futuristic Japanese tea salon. The robo-geisha’s design is also warmer than the rest of the aesthetics in the film; they look more steampunk, like clockwork machines. It gives a feeling of the robo-geishas being antiques, which lends itself very well to the appearance that the meeting is happening in a very upscale place. Very interesting.

ghost in the shell, steampunk, film design, robot, geisha, science fiction

Also, TRON: Legacy, why do you do this to me? In the Ghost in the Shell live-action film, just like in the 2008 Disney film, whenever there is a sequence that takes place in the digital world, it is all orangey. This Scarlett Johansson film is orange and blue, same old, same old for contemporary action films. I was expecting the digital world to be green as a reference to the original films. I am disappoint.

Other Quibbles

Sometimes I felt as if the CGI over Scarlett Johansson’s body wasn’t all that well done. They removed the nipples of the naked body in favour of a more cybernetic look in order to get the PG-13 rating, albeit it looks really inconsistent. Even her back is supposed to look a bit mechanical, and sometimes Scarlett just looks naked. I guess we need to have those titillated eyeballs paying cold hard cash to look at Scarlett’s butt? This is even more evident in the fight scenes.

About the robo-geisha fight scene. Yes, it’s with the President of the African Federation, not the meeting with the programmer asking for asylum of the Galvess Republic. Maybe out of guilt, but the film seems to take a more multi-cultural approach, at least when it comes to to secondary characters. Too bad it doesn't  have more of a diverse main cast. Also, would the African countries have unified under a single banner considering the vast cultural differences between them? It feels like the done-to-death ‘Africa is a country’ spiel. I would like to know for sure if there’s more diversity in this film. At this point, it’s difficult to say.

There’s also the fact that the fight scenes are not as surgical. This Major is not as precise as Motoko. I don’t know whether it’s because the fights are not as well choreographed or because the producers don’t want The Major’s fights scenes to look like Black Widow’s in the MCU. For some reason I don’t think Scarlett Johansson’s character is as tactical as Major Kusanagi. I have to remind you all that I only watched the first fifteen minutes, and I may be mistaken about the way the fight scenes are structured.

In Conclusion

The Ghost in the Shell live-action film seems to be a more easily digestible, high budget version of the Ghost in the Shell animated film. I recommend it, but I wouldn’t go into it expecting any sort of cerebral fare. It clobbers you in the head with the main narrative themes. So far it seems a more dolled-up Hollywood sci-fi action flick, but I’m sure it will be a lot of fun to watch.

Remember, Ghost in the Shell premieres in theatres on March 31st.

Rosario is an early-twenties, outspoken woman, who likes to burrow between piles of books, and store miscellaneous trivia in her head.