Critical Hits & Misses #187

For today's musical hit, we have Buffalo Moon and "Machista"

Today's critical rolls: Are you more prone to preferring math and science over art and literature (yes of course you can like all of the above, but most of us are stronger one way or the other)?

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 #186

For today's musical hit, we have Crystal Kay and "Dum Ditty Dumb"

Today's critical rolls: Do you know of any good books that subverts the Damsel in Distress trope? Let us know!

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.

Dangerous Liaisons - Arrow Review

Arrow, you have failed this hacker.

Last night, as Arrow returned from a month-long hiatus, and after much hype, so hype yes, a bunch of lines were crossed and the result was kind of a snoozefest. Not to mention that Felicity finally gets a chance to "shine" as the focal character, and what we get is... kind of really disappointing.

Spoilers beyond the fold

Oh man, in the weeks leading up to the airing of "Dangerous Liaisons," the hype was real. If you don't normally keep track of this sort of thing and just show up to watch the episodes as they air, you might have missed the many interviews that Wendy Mericle and other people involved with Arrow had as they made the rounds discussing the dark path Felicity Smoak would be taking. And of course, how Oliver would have to confront her, and be there for her.

Not gonna lie: I fell for the hype hook line and sinker. I was so excited about Felicity getting a decent and cool story, although considering how little time the show spent exploring her motivations to go on this journey, I should have known better. Don't get me wrong, this season has been a startling about-face after the train wreck that was season four. But all I ever wanted this season was for Felicity to have a solid story that didn't involve her romantic relationship with Oliver. There's been this thing in the back of my mind throughout that has asked why Felicity went and did the things that she's done. I mean sure, Prometheus set up her boy toy to be killed by her former fiance. And Prometheus has done a lot of damage to her teammates. But Felicity didn't seem to spend a great deal of time grieving the dead boyfriend, or the betrayal of Artemis, and she didn't even seem all that broken up by how Prometheus has been playing Oliver like a cheap fiddle this WHOLE time.

Oliver: "Please don't do the thing."
Felicity: "But you would do the thing. That's why I fell in love with you."
Oliver: "Yeah , I know it's hypocritical, but don't plz."
Felicity: "Fite me."
This episode in a nutshell 
In fact, it kind of seems like the real reason Helix was so attractive to her was because a) Alena kind of hero-worshipped her, and b) Helix was providing Felicity with a means to feel useful to Team Arrow with all the information they were getting. Which, frankly, seems like some weaksauce reasoning to "cross lines" like hack the DHS and a myriad of other illegal activities, ultimately leading to Team Arrow getting caught up in making ARGUS look like fools in this episode. I mean, I get the need to feel useful, but it could have been done better than this.

But if lazy motivational and nebulous writing is the eyeroll-worthy part of Felicity's storyline this season, then the most egregious sin is probably the fact that the culmination of this entire thread came down to "Dangerous Liaisons" being nothing short of boring. We were lead to believe she would be going down a super dark path, and that she would "need" Oliver. And perhaps the latter might still play out in the remaining four episodes, because this one literally ends with a bang.

I'm not going to recap "Dangerous Liaisons" in great detail. The important thing to know is that Helix uses Felicity to obtain two security keys from ARGUS, which they need in order to release a super hacker that ARGUS has been keeping locked up. There's a good deal of espionage and shadow play, despite the fact that Alena and Felicity are two of the most goofy black ops agents ever (and they are quite adorable together, no foolin', although I never trusted that Alena girl. Couldn't trust her on The Magicians either).

Don't laugh. We're srz bizness hackz0rz, ok?

Oliver asks Felicity not to go through with the thing, but she does the thing anyway. And the thing is to rescue the inexplicably faceless hacker from ARGUS' shipping crate (sidenote: good lord, Lyla, even STAR Labs has more humane imprisonment-without-due-process facilities. An empty shipping crate that they sit in the dark in, tied to a chair? The hell? What is wrong with you? Even Lian Yu would have been better). Team Arrow tries to stop the thing from going down, but ultimately fail and Helix gets away with the super hacker. Sure, Felicity helped Helix do it, but she didn't do anything worse than fake-threaten Oliver. Nobody but a bunch of Helix-hired thugs died during the operation. And at the end, Helix cuts Felicity loose, because her connection to "Team Arrow is a liability" (IMO now that they have the super hacker, they don't need her anymore. Kind of a dick move). Helix did give Felicity a thing that was supposed to help her track Adrian Chase down, but the episode ends with the thing exploding in her and Oliver's face, so we'll see where this goes next week. Prediction: Helix will be next season's big bad.

If you ask me, the only person crossing inexplicably terrible lines in this story was Lyla, and her and Diggle arguing about it were ten times more compelling than anything Felicity and Oliver were doing. Bonus points for Diggle accusing her of becoming Amanda Waller lite. Although four episodes before the end of the season seems like the wrong time to introduce a new plotline for Diggle (his marriage may be ending over Lyla's ARGUS work). If you're thinking Diggle is a hypocrite, you're right, but he, like Oliver, was willing to admit that and to suggest that he knows the cost of going dark.

All in all, a mediocre return after a long hiatus, and an especially mediocre end for Felicity's Helix plotline. I desperately want her to have epic character development, and this simply wasn't it. If the previews for next week are any indication, we've circled all the way back around to Felicity and Oliver becoming romantically involved again. Don't get me wrong, I am an Ollicity shipper myself, plus I was really really angry by the ridiculous way the writers ended their relationship last season. At the very least Ollicity fans deserved some closure, if not outright making things right again. But I am not satisfied by the path Felicity has taken to get back to Oliver. She's had a whole season to grow as a person, and yet I feel like the opportunity for her story was kind of squandered.

One thing "Dangerous Liaisons" did do right was the side plot involving Quentin and Rene. Okay, when the heck did these two characters become so awesomely entrenched in each other's lives? Rene helped Quentin out earlier in the season, and last night, Lance returns the favor by butting into Wild Dog's business and forcing him to confront his daughter Zoe. All of their scenes together were a spot of genuine beauty in an otherwise mediocre showing.

How did this guy become the glue that holds this show together?

In case you missed the news recentlyArrow has upgraded Rick Gonzalez (Wild Dog) and Juliana Harkavy (Black Canary) to season 6 regulars. This is in addition to the news that Katie Cassidy is also back as Black Siren. I am okay with all of these things, but especially Juliana Harkavy, because Black Canary is fabulous and she's being criminally underused right now!


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.

Little Archie One-Shot Review: "Aw, Yeah", Indeed!

The new Little Archie one-shot takes a concept from the company's past and brings it back for new readers to read. In the grand tradition of Muppet Babies, it's the standard Archie Comics characters, but as little kids. Oftentimes, stories would feature grand adventures involving aliens, pirates, and escapades, most of which actually happened, even if the premise seemed ludicrous. Alternately, they would be stories actually rooted in the concept of childhood, with semi-dramatic tales meant to tug on your heartstrings and invoke childhood memories.

Put simply, it's absolutely adorable. The art style works immensely well with the writing, flowing almost like a movie. It's so expressive and really gives you a warm fuzzy feeling. Little Hot Dog in particular is the sweetest little puffball of a dog in the world. He looks like my adorable dog! From the tiny notes at the bottom, similar to Ryan North's writing, to the clever use of onomatopoeia, Little Archie, or Little Archie And His Pals, is a delight. It's perfect for a child of any age to read, but with just enough jokes sprinkled in to keep adults amused.

The plot has Little Salem accidentally produce a magical duplicate (or duplicat) that spreads static electricity all around school. Zombies! Spontaneous combustion! Burgers falling from the trees! These are all cherry-picked examples that may or may not come about as a result of the kitty. (Spoilers: Two of them actually do happen, one is just Jughead messing around.) Finally, on a more personal note, this special felt nostalgic for me in more ways than one. I kept feeling a strange sense of familiarity while reading the comic, almost like I had seen that particular art style before. As a matter of fact, I had!

Years and years ago, I used to check out Disney Adventures from the children's magazine section at my local section. I would always read the comics first, and one of them, known as Gorilla Gorilla, was made by the same creative team. In fact, reading this special led me to find several collections of some of the "Comic Zone" comics and put them on hold at the library, including Gorilla Gorilla. Thank you to Little Archie and Archie Comics, Inc. for not only producing a delightful story, but also for allowing me to relive and rediscover my precious childhood memories.

Little Archie is written by Art Baltazar and drawn by Art Baltazar and Franco. 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 #185

For today's musical hit, we have Dead Milkmen and "Right Wing Pigeons"

Today's critical rolls: List your top feminist movies and shows! We need more media to consume, before and after #Girlboss drops!

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.

The Once & Future Flash - Recap & Review

OMG the feels! The emo!

This episode of The Flash has it all! Get ready for an emotional rollercoaster of Flash proportions, with bonus vertigo from the freaks-of-the-week!

Spoilers beyond the fold

After a somewhat mediocre season with only a few highs, The Flash returns from spring hiatus after 4 weeks, and it did so with a bang (a flashbang, even #sorrynotsorry).

We begin with a quiet scene at Iris and Barry's place wherein she extracts a promise out of him that he will be there for her father if she dies. This is pretty central to the rest of the episode, so take note of that. It's also worth noting that this is pretty much just one of two lines that Iris has in this episode, because "The Once & Future Flash" is all about how her death makes all the men in her life feel.

Sigh. More on that later.

So this episode picks up right where the last one left off: Killer Frost is awake thanks to Cisco and Julian. When Barry gets to STAR Labs, she's cornered the crew. It's worth noting that she doesn't actually kill anyone, which may suggest there's still some of Caitlyn in her. She ends up running off.

That's the moment when Barry announces that he's leaving. Who with the what now? But as it turns out, Barry's plan is to travel to the future to ask his future self Savitar's identity, so that he can figure out how to defeat the big bad. As Barry points out, he can travel to the future and be back without any time really passing in the present.

He ends up eight years into the future, in 2024, in what appears to be the darkest timeline. Central City looks rough, covered in litter and possessing the same dreary greyness that seems a permanent fixture over in Star City. When Barry pops into the alleyway, he is almost immediately confronted by Top and Mirror Man, and proceeds to get his ass kicked, until he manages to scurry off. The villains tell him that Central City is theirs now, and they seem pretty surprised that Flash is around again.

Barry ends up at this penthouse apartment that in the present he lives in with Iris, and the place is trashed. That's where 2024 Cisco finds him, having sensed something or other. Anyway, as Barry discovers, his future self is a hot mess of emotastic proportions, complete with an awful greasy hairdo, and a total lack of care.

Barry. Dude. No. Just no. 
Future Barry disbanded Team Flash after Iris died, and sequestered himself inside STAR Labs after kicking everyone out. Cisco lost a fight with Killer Frost in which she freezes his arms and shatters them, so he's lost his powers because he's got cybernetic hands now. Killer Frost was caught, but she's imprisoned and Julian is apparently spending his time studying her and still trying to figure out how to get Caitlyn back. Wally went apeshit after his sister died and tried to take on Savitar by himself, and whatever happened, he had a broken spine and ended up in a vegetative state afterwards.

Y u do this to us, Flash? :(
And Joe West... if none of this other stuff has caused you to cry, the sight of Joe West placing a few sad flowers at Iris' grave will break you. Jesse L. Martin's performance is nothing short of amazing here, especially when 2017 Barry finds him at the grave, and Joe asks him why he's there now, after so long of not being there.

I just can't with this scene, it's heartbreaking...
Despite having to sit through all this sadness, Barry doesn't even get what he's there for. His future self doesn't know Savitar's identity, and he tells him to go back and enjoy the last remaining moments with Iris, because he will fail to save her no matter what. And while Killer Frost admits that she knows Savitar's real identity, she is clearly not going to tell him. So after much sad, Barry decides he needs to get the hell out of there and go back to his own time, because goddamn we need some sunshine. But Cisco, sad lonely desperate Cisco, prevents him from doing so, begging him to fix things in 2024.

Despite the fact that if he does change the future, the darkest timeline won't even happen, 2017 Barry decides he can't abandon these people like 2024 Barry did. He gets the team back together so that they can help him defeat Top and Mirror Man, and ultimately even 2024 Barry is moved enough to help.

Sidenote: I kind of hate HR Wells in this. He's the only one who seems to be thriving in 2024. He owns Jitters now, and he's a bestselling romance novelist. He is busy doing a reading while a bunch of beautiful women throw themselves at him. I'm glad when 2017 Barry cockblocks his threesome by whisking him away to STAR Labs to rejoin Team Flash. Wells initially complains about how Flash just interrupted "every man's greatest desire" aka the threesome, which actually seemed like a pretty gross line to me. Honestly, Wells and Julian do precisely jack shit to help either Flash defeat Top and Mirror Man, so maybe Barry should have left HR to his thing. I guess I'm also just salty that everyone else on the team is super sad and messed up and damaged, but somehow this clown is successful and glowing.

Epic slimeball
Sidenote: there are various fan theories out there that HR is actually Savitar, which I call bullshit on because there's a future vision where Wells is on the rooftop while Savitar stabs Iris. There's a more plausible (to me anyway) theory out there that HR is actually Abra Kadabra, who folks are speculating may be next season's big bad. While Wells-is-secretly-evil has been done before (and probably better, with Eobard Thawne), I'd be ok with HR being a villain, since I am kind of tired of him being around. They need to find a better character for Tom Cavanagh.

Anyway, after Team Double Flash take out Top and Mirror Man pretty easily, 2024 Barry reveals the identity of the physicist who helps him trap Savitar in the speed force four years after Iris dies. He also gives 2017 Barry a thing that apparently contains the physicist's notes and schematics for whatever it is they use to defeat Savitar. So in theory, Barry can track down this scientist in 2017 and maybe defeat Savitar early enough to save Iris.

Back in 2017, Killer Frost and Savitar meet up, and we get the reveal that Savitar's armor is just that: armor. Someone steps out of the armor, and the minute Killer Frost sees who it is (which of course, we don't), she's ready to trust him implicitly. Let the fan theories run wild, because the number of people Caitlyn trusts that easily are very few. The top theories I've seen out there is that Savitar is either Ronnie Raymond (which doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me), or some version of Harrison Wells (based on the fact that Savitar calls Killer Frost "my child," which is an awfully paternal thing to say).

Soooo, there you have it. The darkest timeline.

Let's discuss Iris.

I'm pretty sure that The Flash isn't going to kill her off this season, but we had to deal with her being fridged anyway in this episode, in order to explore all the manpain you can possibly handle and truly develop Barry's character. In fact, the existence of this episode suggests that she definitely won't be killed off, because the show desperately wanted to fridge her in some way so we can explore manpain, but they manage to cheat with time travel shenanigans so they don't actually have to kill her. They are getting the mainpain development for Barry & Co. out of the way right now. I suppose I should be grateful that they aren't going to kill her off for realsies.

I don't mean to suggest this episode is terrible. In fact, it's actually phenomenally well-acted, and Jesse L. Martin (Joe West) is particularly poignant, rivaled only by Carlos Valdez's (Cisco) performance. But as a feminist and a woman, it's hard not to roll my eyes at yet another use of the tired fridging trope. Across all fiction, across all genres, male character development very often comes at the expense of a woman's life, and usually gives her a gruesome death on top of that, for maximum manpain. Candice Patton was barely on the screen at all this episode, and neither was Danielle Panabaker, because while Killer Frost is apparently relatively important to the main plot, we still get very little of her.

So overall, a strong episode and one that moves the plot along nicely, and it was definitely fascinating to see this dark future, and heart-warming that 2017 Barry is still infused with enough light in his soul to reignite the hopes of the battered team in 2024.

One of my few complaints, besides the whole Iris thing, was the missed opportunity to make a Terminator reference out of 2024 Cisco's hands. But hey, I guess not even Cisco can laugh about the darkest timeline...

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.

Josie And The Pussycats #6 Review: In Which Alexander Cabot Acts Like Doctor Doom

Last issue, Josie and the Pussycats were taken to a secret fortress by Alexander Cabot, to be put on trial for Josies's alleged crime of stealing her songs from Alexandra. No, really. This is why I love comic books, anything can happen. In this case, because the Archie lineup is only slightly more realistic than, say, a superhero offering, it makes the really weird plots even better. It's a sovereign nation in Antarctica called Cabotopia, and polar bears reside there, geographic fallacies be darned.

Every issue of the comic features a large dose of pop culture references, and this one is no exception. From Frozen to The Golden Compass, it delivers a flurry (heh) of obligatory cold-themed jokes. There isn't a Mr. Freeze reference, sadly, but I'll just attribute that to the property not being owned by DC Comics. (Hey, why not do a crossover? You did one with Marvel, two if you count the Ninja Turtles special. Like I said, comics are weird.)

I, too, am sick of that song.
As much as the issue makes Alexander Cabot out to be a coldhearted villain, he actually does have some warmth in his heart. Everything that he does is to help his sister. Sure, she doesn't need his help and outright tells him so, but he did legitimately want to try to cheer her up. Even in the most chilling of situations, Marguerite and Cameron can still embed the crook of the week with nuance and I respect that.

Josie And The Pussycats #6 is written by Cameron DeOrdio and Marguerite Bennett, drawn by Audrey Mok, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, 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 #184

The fabulous Naomi Pilgrim

For today's musical hit, we have Naomi Pilgrim and "Racist Friend"

Today's critical rolls: Do you have a racist friend (or possibly, family member)? Have you ever had "that" discussion with them, or do you choose to ignore their racism?

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.

Archie #19 Review: Strange Bedfellows

Archie #19 deals with more of Archie and Veronica's changing relationship, and a surprising change for Jughead. It's a pretty good issue, but with one flaw. I know this is typically the case with comic books, but the situation on the cover is more figurative than literal. It is true that the cover has potential new romantic situations for Veronica, but Toni Topaz, the only confirmed lesbian character in this iteration of the Archie universe, isn't in it. 

That disappoints me, because representation matters, and it would be interesting to see more of her. Instead, the romantic entanglement depicted on the cover is represented in the comic through Mr. Lodge setting her up. He wants her to be happy, so he organizes a teen leadership program, with Veronica as the judge. All of the contestants are boys that he deems suitable for her, and it is treated as a speed-dating event. Naturally, she isn't happy with that.

Fortunately, Jughead actually takes it upon himself to help her out. This is actually a pretty important shift in his character. He can be pretty cynical, and Veronica isn't one of his favorite people. He sees her as a rich kid with no real life experience, while she just views him as a lazy bum. The "New Riverdale" continuity actually makes this more interesting by showing that Jughead's family used to be rich, but they lost most of their funds after a mistake. 

Still, Jughead is Archie's best friend, and he wants him to be happy. He goes over to Archie at his disastrous camping trip and helps him to get to the ceremony. They reunite, and a grateful Veronica gives him the award. It's these wonderful character moments that reaffirm just why the Archie comic is so good. Ultimately, it's optimistic. Meanwhile, the ongoing mystery with Jason and Cheryl takes an interesting new turn. 

Spoilers beyond this sentence: 

It turns out that "Mr. Blossom" isn't actually their father. I didn't see that coming and I can't wait to see where Mark Waid goes with that.

Archie #19 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 #183

  • Brittany Bronson at the New York Times discusses what happens when women legislate, using the Nevada state legislature as an example of why we need more women politicians. An excellent op-ed. 

  • Over at Waypoint, Jack de Quidt devotes one of his “A Postcard from…” articles to Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and bemoans how the game’s beautiful visuals and landscapes are ruined by its obsession with violence, malicious understanding of politics and proud hypermasculinity.

For today's musical hit, we have Awkwafina and Margaret Cho with "Green Tea"

Today's critical rolls: If you play video games, what are some hypermasculine games (for example, Duke Nukem comes to mind) that would benefit from a more feminine (or at least, equal) touch? Tell us how you would change the game and 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.

The Unbelievable Gwenpool #14: Happy First Anniversary, Gwenpool!

Thankfully, The Unbelievable Gwenpool has made it to its first year anniversary! To this, I say mazel tov! May many more anniversaries follow, especially if the future installments are as good as this one. Personally, I think that some of the best Gwenpool stories are the ones where she's interacting with established Marvel characters, especially heroes, and trying to make friends with them. This issue features Ghost Rider and Hawkeye, so it's great for any fans of Robbie Reye's dearly-departed comic. RIP, you were gone too soon. (Again.) Thankfully, Kate's comic seems to be doing well, as of the time of this writing.

I really like seeing Gwen bond with Kate in the comic. She hasn't made a lot of friends with the Marvel heroes. She almost became friends with Miles, but that went south almost immediately. Kate saves Gwen from the Ghost Rider and they team up to save Cecil. Doctor Strange might also count, but that was mostly business. Contrasting, when Gwen makes one of her standard comic book references, Kate just laughs it off and assumes that she's speaking figuratively.

Christopher Hastings, Kelly Thompson, maybe I please humbly request a buddy cop book?

Robbie doesn't have as much focus in the issue, but the scenes that he does have pop off the page. I like seeing him chase down mystical evildoers and make jokes as he condemns them to a lifetime in eternity. I'm hoping that the next issue will shed some more light on his role in the story, hopefully with more interaction with Gwen and Kate.

The story is fairly standalone, but the end does have some interesting hints for future events to come, potentially in the upcoming "Beyond The Fourth Wall" arc. What does it mean? Does Gwen have a counterpart in the Marvel universe? If so, was she sucked into the real world when Doctor Strange retroactively inserted Gwen into Earth-616 back in issue three? I guess we'll find out in the future.

The Unbelievable Gwenpool #14 is written by Christopher Hastings, drawn by Myisha Haynes, colored by Rachelle Rosenberg, and lettered by VC's Clayton Cowles. 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.

Booster Gold/The Flintstones Annual #1 Review: Featuring A Jetsons Backup Tale!

When you have a DC character who can travel through time at a whim, what better cartoon family to meet than the Flintstones? Well, I suppose you could say the Jetson family, but Booster is already from the future. A future, it turns out, that is surprisingly dystopian. Most of Earth's animals, including bats and cats, have been extinct for years, only one police officer is on patrol in Gotham City, and a background joke touts that the air is only "mildly toxic." Worst of all, the area where Batman's parents were killed has been turned into a cheesy tourist attraction, in one of the best jokes in the comic.

You might be wondering, how is Booster Gold going to fix any of this? Will he use his time-traveling skills to save the planet? Actually, he pretty much just lives a normal life, only springing into action when aliens invade and kill the one police officer. Going back in time to solve the problem coincidentally takes him to Bedrock, where he meets up with Fred Flintstone to help. It's a little too convenient, but I can excuse it in this case.

Fittingly, the true villain of the story simply turns out to be a time paradox. When Booster traveled back in time to find out the cause of the invasion, he killed their messenger of peace, Gorax. The issue is very funny, and it has a lot of jokes about time, naturally. Some highlights include other time residents being stationed in some very deadly places and the shenanigans that result from someone from a technologically advanced future ending up in the cave era.

The backup story features an eight-page teaser for an upcoming Jetsons reboot, led by the current creative team behind Harley Quinn. It's fairly short, so I don't have too much to say about it, but I already like the new twist that they're putting on standard concepts in the show. Similar to Mark Russell's work, it seems like a series that will put as much focus on current issues through a satirical lens. It bodes well for the future of DC's Hanna-Barbara line-up.

Booster Gold/The Flintstones Annual #1 is written by Mark Russell, drawn by Rick Leonardi, inked by Scott Hanna, colored by Steve Buccellato, and lettered by Dave Sharpe. The Jetsons backup, "Eternal Upgrade", is written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, drawn by Pier Brito, colored by Alex Sinclair, and lettered by Michael Heisler. 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 #182

For today's musical hit, we have Loone and "River's Our Blood"

Today's critical rolls: It's Friday! What are you big plans for the weekend?

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.

The Flintstones #10 Review: @#$% Their Ferns!

Warning: This review contains full spoilers for the issue.

This month's issue of The Flintstones has a refreshing return to Wilma's art career, some new developments in the ongoing saga of Clod the Destroyer, and musings on cinema. Who would have thought that something based on The Flintstones could have eloquent commentary on the differences between art meant to, ahem, titillate, and "true" art? Also, I'm sad to report, this issue contains the death of Vacuum Cleaner, one of my favorite recurring characters. Then again, should I have expected anything else from the issue that guest-stars Werner Herzrock?

This issue also puts an end to Clod the Destroyer's incompetent reign of wrath, hopefully for good. In a sequence that I hope real life chooses to imitate in some fashion, he's essentially kicked out of the office, left to stay in a position where he's fairly harmless. Wilma's wonderful artistry skills come into play here, producing a fake cave set for him to stay in.

The most heartbreaking aspect comes from the demise of a longtime supporting character in the comic, Vacuum Cleaner. Possibly the most innocent of the anthropomorphic gang, he meets his end in a horribly ironic way. Earlier, I mentioned the "artistic" films that Fred Flintstone discovered. He ends up taking many of his friends to go see them, under the cover of disguises, so no one would recognize them. Vacuum Cleaner develops a fascination for the art and also takes multiple trips to the theater. Unfortunately, the increased amount of visitors leads to an increased amount of dust and muck, causing a worker to grab V.C. and use him to clean it up. This, of course, proves to be too much for him.

It says a lot about Mark Russell's long-term writing that I can get attached to what amounts to a household object, only to get my heart broken when he dies. I also think that Steve Pugh's art for the particular scene is equally poignant, showing the heartbreak on all of the various appliances' faces at the improvised funeral and subsequent montage. Combined with the eulogy, it's a potent scene. It's been hard writing my review for this issue because it's so hard to read.

The Flintstones #10 is written by Mark Russell, drawn by Steve Pugh, colored by Chris Chuckry, and lettered by Dave Sharpe. 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.

Hunger Makes The Wolf Leaves You Hungry For More

I’m not going to lie, I picked up this book solely for the cover. Woman with an eye patch, motorcycle, and a fistful of flame? Hell yeah, sign me up!

Hob was an orphan plucked out of the sands of Tanegawa’s World, a desert planet owned by the TransRift corporation. She is saved and raised by Old Nick, leader of the mercenary Ghost Wolves that serves the mining and farming towns trying to scratch a living on a strange planet. After finding the body of Nick’s brother in the desert, Hob exposes a TransRift conspiracy that is covering just how strange the planet truly is.

The big comparison everyone seems to be making to this book is that it’s Dune, but with biker gangs. The setting is similar to Dune's in that Hunger Makes the Wolf takes place on a desert planet and some characters have access to odd mystical powers. There may be more similarities that could be picked up by someone who read Dune in the last decade, but I think ultimately the comparison sets the book up as something of a disappointment. While politics plays an important part of the plot, it pales in the light of strong character development and awesome action moments.

The first half of the book, personally, was a drag to get through. I have a rule that if I’m not enjoying a book by page 100, I stop reading. Far too often I gave bad books a chance and felt like I wasted my time at the end of them. I stuck with this because while I wasn’t itching to find out what happens next, I can’t say I disliked it. It just felt dull and flat in places and I couldn’t really see where it was going.

The second half picks up with more characters being introduced, and I found that irritating at first. A new Vice President from TransRift is installed, and so is a corporate spy who ends up a major character. This felt offhalfway through is very late in the game to introduce a perspective character, but ultimately the payoff works.

After some major events that I thought failed to impress (including the revenge plot of a character we barely saw), Hob transforms into an absolute badass. It isn’t a sudden change in her character that is unwarranted; the development is organic as Hob steps up to the plate to become the person she was always meant to bethe person she was pushed to be. By the end, I absolutely loved Hob. She isn’t your generic action female, she is no femme fatale and she is no Mary Sue. She has flaws and blind spots, and the unique flavour of a Western heroine on an unforgiving planet.

I also love the contrast between Hob and her best friend Mag. Hob smokes, dresses in men’s clothes and swears like a sailor, but being masculine isn’t what makes her badass. Mag, on the other hand, is feminine, sews and dresses in skirtsshe even has a damsel in distress moment early in the book, but it serves for her own development far more than Hob’s. Hob and Mag compliment each other and never is one held up as better than the other.

Hunger Makes the Wolf looks to be the first in a new series, and while I was lukewarm at first I am eager to find out what happens to Hob in future installments. If you pick this up, I urge you to stick with it. Despite setting up for a sequel, the ending is satisfying and feels rather self-contained; should the worst happen and no sequel comes, this book is good enough to stand on its own.

Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells was published on March 7th, 2017 by Angry Robot, 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.

Critical Hits & Misses #181

For today's musical hit, we have Andra and "Why"

Today's critical rolls: What are some of your favorite female-heavy (either on the character side or the creator side, or both) comics, and 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.

Critical Hits & Misses #180

For today's musical hit, the super cute dodie and this homemade but adorable video for "you"

Today's critical rolls: Happy Hump Day! How was the week been for you so far?

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 #179

Photo credit: Geeks of Color

For today's musical hit, we have Diet Cig and "Tummy Ache"

Today's critical rolls: I've asked about racebending before, but it's worth revisiting. What kinds of characters/stories do you want to see racebent?

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.

Life: A Space Horror Flick - Movie Review

I've mentioned this before (perhaps not here, but, you know, before) that one of the best lessons Hollywood has learned in the last few years is that a high concept horror film can actually be very successful if you keep the budget under control and market it right. Over the past few years, we've been inundated with a veritable cornucopia of good, low budget, horror flicks: Get Out, It Follows, The Witch, the list goes on.

But just because a horror film knows its limitations doesn't mean it's necessarily going to be good. The Paranormal Activity movies  kicked off this little wavelet, and they haven't been good since the first one. Also Ouija. Ouija sucks. Anyway, the end point there is that while I've been satisfied with low budget horror, it means we've had a dearth of horror flicks with good sized budgets, especially sci-fi. Come on guys, Prometheus was five years ago, let's get back to it.

Our plot concerns a small group of astronauts on the International Space Station, waiting for a probe full of samples from Mars. Our primary characters are David (Jake Gyllenhaal), chief medical officer, Miranda (Rebecca Ferguson), the quarantine officer, Roy (Ryan Reynolds) the systems engineer and Hugh (Ariyon Bakare) a biologist. Also Ekatrina (Olga Dihovichnaya) and Sho (Hiroyuki Sanada) are there.

"I'll let you out once you agree to watch Nightcrawler."
But we can't just have a movie about some dudes looking at soil samples for 2 hours, so it turns out there's alien life in the soil sample. The alien life, which they name Calvin for reasons, begins rapidly growing but eventually goes dormant due to an accident. When it wakes up, it decides it wants to be a horror movie villain, rampaging through the crew and ship, slipping past their attempts to contain it.

Life is a movie I was pretty satisfied with throughout most of its runtime, but as it went on, it gradually lost me more and more. It's not a particularly bad movie by any means, and it certainly has its moments, but it's also nothing in particular to write home about. Then again, it's April, i.e. the new dead zone between February/March good stuff and the summer blockbuster season so maybe "Yeah, it's alright," is all we can hope for.

If I had to identify a reason to see Life it's how it uses its setting. Plenty of horror flicks are set in or around the one place that hasn't been corrupted by capitalism, but most of them don't really use their space setting effectively. But Life actually does, putting a lot of effort into turning things like zero gravity, or the hostile outside into elements of the film, rather than just set dressing. I'd like to see Jason X do that.

"I'm just going to touch the unknown life form. What could possibly go wrong?"
Of course the flip side of that is, once you've adjusted to the setting being space core's favorite place, you start to see where the film gets its ideas, and how generic the actual horror moments are. There are a few exceptions (including a pretty unique spin on an established element) but for the most part, the scares are just vacuum effected variations on the existing horror lexicon. Sure it's in a sleeping pod, but how many times have we seen the killer menacing a victim it can see, but can't reach?

Still, the scare sequences are reasonably effective, and all the actors commit to their roles admirably, which carries the movie a lot farther than it might have gone otherwise. The effects used to create Calvin are solid, if not particularly remarkable, and the cinematography is surprisingly good. Not like, Coen Brothers level or anything, but for a middling budget horror flick released in April, they clearly put a lot of thought and effort into how the camera moves throughout the space station.

But now we come to my big issue, which is the ending. Already by the end of the movie, it was beginning to wear on me. The first half of the film is really well paced, so for the second half to begin to drag as much as it did is already disappointing, but not particularly bad. But the final minutes in particular are just frustrating, blowing past a really solid ending to extend the movie for another 10 minutes, on its way to an ending that's both kind of lame and renders the 10 extra minutes completely moot.

"Hey, have you ever played Alien Isol-"
"Yes, stop asking."
When talking about this movie with a friend, they made a comparison to last year's 10 Cloverfield Lane, which in retrospect I don't think is entirely fair to 10 Cloverfield Lane. Yeah it had a divisive ending, but it was a bold ending, and one I really liked, and on its way there it was creative, engaging and intense. Life has a lame ending, and it doesn't do all it could in the lead in to it. There are far worse things you could do with your time, but in the end, I don't really think it's worth paying theater prices to see. Maybe wait for Redbox?

Or don't; Get Out is still probably playing.

Elessar is a 27 year old Alaskan-born, Connecticut-based, cinephile with an obsession with The Room and a god complex. 

Critical Hits & Misses #178

  • We have feelings about this! Over the weekend at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, it was announced that the fourth season of Star Wars Rebels would be its last. EW has the story and the trailer for the final season. 

  • Get out your tiny violins, folks, this one is going to require an orchestra. Last week on the reality tv show Survivor, Jeff Varner outed fellow tribe member Zeke Smith as transgender in a failed attempt to appeal to the inner transphobes in his tribe, suggesting that Smith staying in the closet was a "deception" that the tribe ought to know about (you can read that story here). In a move that strengthened my frail faith in humanity, the tribe thought Varner was a right proper asshole and kicked him off the island. Varner came out last week with a wonderfully-prepared apology that he probably paid a lot of money to some PR firm for. But this weekend we've learned that Varner has since lost his real estate job, and this Entertainment Weekly story really begs for people to feel sorry for him (you know, instead of the guy who actually got outed to millions?). Trigger warning for cishet victimhood. 

For today's musical hit, we have The Avett Brothers and "No Hard Feelings"

Today's critical rolls: Happy belated Easter! Even if you don't celebrate it for religious regions, did you do anything fun yesterday, or eat anything special?

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.

Saturday Night Live Season 42, E18- Jimmy Fallon, Harry Styles: It's A Party, It's A Party, Oh Yeah!

Cold Opening: Why wouldn't the first live episode everywhere have Alec Baldwin as Trump? His inclusion has massively boosted the show's ratings, as evidenced by the episode that he hosted, so it makes sense. I'm still happy that Bannon isn't getting a proper impression, as he doesn't deserve one. Portraying him as a minion of the underworld is pretty accurate, anyway, if you're going by morals. I appreciated the reality show parallels as well as Trump offhandedly mentioning catching Steve Bannon eating a live pig. Overall, it was much better than last week's cold opening.

Monologue: I knew Jimmy would be singing. After all, it's a celebration of the historic, coast-to-coast event! Starting now, the rest of the season will be live in all time zones. Why not have a dance party with a guest appearance from Nile Rogers? Jimmy was slightly hard to understand during the actual singing portion, but that might be because I think he was doing some kind of impression.

Celebrity Family Feud- Time Travel Edition: Pete Davidson kills it as David Blaine, if he was the creepy magician from an episode of iZombie. It's really weird seeing Jimmy Fallon playing John Travolta from the seventies and his 2017-incarnation, especially because the latter sounds oddly like Alec Baldwin's Donald Trump. Overall, I thought it was a cool twist on a familiar sketch, but it should have had more jokes on how times have changed. For example, the Carter/Trump comparison.

Before The Show: Just like in the Lin-Manuel Miranda-hosted episode, the cast parodies badly-performed school plays in a short film. It's equally as effective here, contrasting mock-serious interactions backstage with awful on-stage interactions. From mumble-ridden singing to broken scenery, whatever can go wrong will.

Take Me Back: I guess tonight is a night for time travel on the show, as this features an incompetent attempt from Doug (Jimmy) trying to win back Cecily while she's on a date. Said attempts extends to wearing something straight out of the disco era, getting backup dancers and even a special t-shirt with her face. I would count the singing, but Doug's no singer. The ending United Airlines punchline nailed the sketch, as did the Pepsi joke. Looks like Beck Bennett played the same character as he did in last week's Pepsi commercial sketch. Nice continuity!

Easter Message From Sean Spicer: YES, more Melissa McCarthy! I was wondering if SNL would try to cover Spicer's most recent blunder, with a healthy dose of uneasiness about how they would do it. It's a very tricky event to make fun of and even harder to appreciate, especially because I'm Jewish. The irony of using VeggieTales dolls to portray Passover is absolutely delicious. Overall, despite a couple of questionable lines, it actually went pretty well. The Easter egg podium zooming away was brilliant. Also, was it just me, or did this sketch look pre-recorded? It had that feel to me.

Harry Styles Musical Performance #1- "Sign Of The Times": At first, I didn't realize that was Harry singing. It sounded like someone else. Then again, I've never actually heard him sing before, so there you go.

Weekend Update: The joke about Trump developing an immunity to most diseases due to a lifetime of waiters spitting in his food wins the award for the best Weekend Update joke. I'm happy to see more of Vanessa Bayer as Jacob. Aside from being intensely funny and relatable, it's a great way to educate viewers about Judaism. Even so, no VeggieTales references, zero stars. Finally, the newest segment with poor, pathetic Bruce Chandling was very amusing.

Civil War Soldiers: Jimmy Fallon sings ananchronistic pop songs in the Civil War. That's the joke. Bobby Moynihan's all too brief appearance made me do a brief double-take because I thought he sounded like Will Forte. Oh, and Harry Styles makes yet another appearance in it. At least this one was thematically justified.

New Shirt: Let's be honest, we could all use a Turtle Shirt. Everyone has an awkward moment that they would like to hide from.

Sully & Denise: Pat Sullivan, Jimmy Fallon's crude Boston character, returns yet again, just like the first time he hosted. The "Boston Teens" sketch has never really been one of my favorites, but it's worth it just to see Rachel Dratch on the show again. It's interesting to actually see the continuity from the last sketch, as one of Pat's children, now inexplicably years older over the course of only a few years, returns. Here's a fun trivia fact, Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch wrote it, according to this video from Jimmy Fallon.

Harry Styles Musical Performance #2- "Ever Since New York": I'm no music critic. I guess it was okay.

Basketball Scene: Once, again, we have a short film. This time, it focuses on the filming of a dramatic basketball scene in a film. Everything seems to be fine with Pete and Kenan's characters, but the background extras are notoriously incompetent.

Final Thoughts: So, that was the first-ever episode to air live for every single time zone! How was it? Well, there was still an issue with not seeing a lot of cast members. The double Jimmy Fallon appearance in the Family Feud sketch, having Melissa McCarthy put in a live appearance from Los Angeles- they were both suitably funny, but it creates less of a chance for other cast members to get screen time. For example, if this really is Bobby Moynihan's final season, then he's not getting a lot of chances to go out with a bang and deliver material that will be remembered for years to come. Other than that, the episode had a generally fun tone. Harry Styles also had a lot of performances

In other news, mildly awkward videos were posted to the official Twitter account after every sketch. They featured Jimmy either explaining the premise of the joke or explaining why he wanted to do that particular bit on the show. I think it could have been more efficiently utilized. If it was used to provide behind the scenes details about the making of the sketch, then that’s fine. But, most of the short videos didn’t do that, instead preferring to describe the joke. If the joke has to be explained, then it might not have been very funny in the first place. Additionally, if this is to help new viewers who can now watch it live, why ruin the surprise? Not knowing what's going to happen next is half the fun! The other half is actually seeing it, of course.

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

Critical Hits & Misses #177

For today's musical hit, we have Feist and "Pleasure"

Today's critical rolls: Do you have any favorite musical women artists, or artists of color, that you think everyone should know about? We'd love to feature more, regardless of genre! So feel free to post your suggestions in the comments!

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.