Tag Archives: women

Monstress: Issue 1

Monstress_01

I saw this comic advertised in the back of another comic I read recently, and it seemed like something that was right up my alley. I went to the comic store and picked up a copy from the shelf. The woman working there said it is an amazing graphic tale and that the first printing sold out so fast, they are already on the second printing (yes, I bought the second printing). Anyway, I read this first issue and was totally blown away.

The comic works for me on many levels. Firstly, the writing is excellent. The story immediately draws you in. I felt a strong connection to the characters, even in the primary development phase. This is a sign of impeccable craftsmanship.

Secondly, the artwork is breathtaking. This is some of the most vivid, beautiful, and creative artwork I have seen in a graphic novel. The intricacy and detail are magnificent. I cannot praise this enough.

I also love the blending of adventure and mysticism. I am intrigued by the story so far, very much intrigued. I love stories that incorporate the mystical, and I can see already that this is one of those stories.

Finally, I really love that this is written and illustrated by women. The central character, Maika, is a strong female character, and she is not sexually idealized as is too often the case with heroines in graphic novels. I did a quick search online and found out that the writer, Marjorie Liu, is an American New York Times best-selling writer, and the artist, Sana Takeda, is an acclaimed Japanese artist. Together, these creative women have come up with something unique and impressive. I for one am eager to follow this arc.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this comic, particularly if you have read it. I’d love to hear what you think.

Cheers!

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Star Wars Shattered Empire: Issue 3

StarWarsShatteredEmpire_03

I wasn’t much impressed with Issue 1 or Issue 2, but this one really pulls the story together. It’s like the frayed threads of the storyline have come together and it now feels more cohesive. In addition, I love that this installment features three strong women working together: Princess Leia, Shara Bey, and Queen Soruna. And I am also pleased that the women are not portrayed as sexual objects. As a parent of two daughters, I understand how important it is to have strong women role models, and this graphic novel delivers that.

I really don’t have a whole lot more to say about this issue. It’s very plot-driven and would be hard to say more without giving spoilers, and I avoid spoilers at all costs. I will say that it is worth reading this arc. It really does seem to be setting the stage for the new film, which is only a month away. I can’t wait! My geek heart is all aflutter.

Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to read some cool stuff today.

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Star Wars: Princess Leia – Issue 5

Leia_05

This issue concludes the arc. It was short, but sweet. I love the way Leia is depicted as a strong female leader. As a father of two girls, I appreciate stories with strong women leaders. Girls need role models, and Leia is all that.

What stood out for me in this issue is the ideology of what constitutes Adreaanian strength. Strength is exhibited by how one responds to difficult situations. And as is asserted here, it is not through violence that we demonstrate our strength, but in our abstinence from turning to violence.

We are Alderaan. We answer rage with wisdom. We answer fear with imagination. We answer war with hope. We are, each of us, important.

Thanks for stopping by, and looking forward to the new Star Wars installment hitting theaters in December.

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Star Wars: Princess Leia – Issue 3

Leia_03

I really love this series. Leia is such a great leader and we need more women leaders in graphic novels, literature, and in the real world. In this issue, Leia and Evaan locate another group of Alderaanian survivors, but they are suspicious of Leia. And when the imperial forces descend on them as a result of a traitor, then the group turns against Leia.

One section of this issue that stood out for me was a brief discussion on hope.

Evaan: Never seen you give up hope, ma’am.

Leia: Hope led me to the rebellion, and Alderaan paid for that. Now my hope has led the empire here. I don’t think the galaxy can survive much more hope from me.

I have grappled with the question of whether hope is a good thing or a bad thing. Hope can cause people to remain in bad situations, thinking that they will change. Hope can create expectations which can lead to disappointment and disillusion. Hope is one of the plagues in Pandora’s Box. But loss of hope can also lead to apathy, to despair, and to the diminishing of the determination needed to face challenges. Hope has certainly carried me through some dark times in my life. I think hope is one of those things that transcend good and evil, since both good and evil can result from it. At least, that is how I feel about hope right now. I suspect my feelings will change again.

One last word regarding hope as it relates to this tale. I do not think it is a coincidence that hope focuses prominently here, since the original Star Wars film was subtitled “A New Hope.” What are your thoughts on hope? Feel free to share them below. Thanks for stopping by!

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“Odyssey” by Homer: Book XVIII – Blows and a Queen’s Beauty

Statue of Penelope, Vatican

Statue of Penelope, Vatican

In this episode, Odysseus, still disguised as a beggar, fights with another beggar named Irus. The rowdy suitors cheer on the fight as entertainment, and Odysseus easily beats Irus. Then Penelope comes down to address the suitors and tricks them into bringing her gifts as a way of winning her. Penelope, like Odysseus, employs trickery and manipulation.

There are two things in this episode I want to point out. The first is the ideal of feminine beauty and the second is the symbol of fire.

Before going down to address the suitors, Penelope goes to sleep. While she is asleep, Athena heightens her feminine beauty. What struck me about this passage is how similar Penelope’s beauty is to Greek statuary. I have always thought of Greek sculpture as the ideal of physical beauty, so essentially, Athena is altering Penelope’s appearance so that she resembles a statue, or the ideal of what female beauty.

And while she slept the goddess
endowed her with immortal grace to hold
the eyes of the Akhaians. With ambrosia
she bathed her cheeks and throat and smoothed her brow—
ambrosia, used by flower-crowned Kythereia
when she would join the rose-lipped Graces dancing.
Grandeur she gave her, too, in height and form,
and made her whiter than carved ivory.

(Fitzgerald Translation: p. 342)

When Penelope appears before the suitors, she is praised for her beauty.

Penelope,
deep-minded queen, daughter of Ikarios,
if all the Akhaians in the land of Argos
only saw you now! What hundreds more
would join your suitors here to feast tomorrow!
Beauty like yours no woman had before,
or majesty, or mastery.

(ibid: p. 344)

What’s interesting about this passage is the claim that Penelope is more beautiful than any woman before. This would mean she is more beautiful than Helen, whose abduction started the Trojan War and led Odysseus from his home. So now, on a smaller scale, we have another battle ready to begin over a beautiful woman. It is almost as if the suitors symbolize the Trojans and Odysseus the Achaeans who went to fight in Troy.

So as I mentioned earlier, the symbol of fire was also significant to me as I read this episode. The first passage I want to discuss is when Odysseus takes his place beside the fire to tend to it while the suitors continue their revelry.

I stand here
ready to tend to these flares and offer light
to everyone. They cannot tire me out,
even if they wish to drink till Dawn.
I am a patient man.

(ibid: p. 346)

The first thing I thought of as I read this is that the fire represents illumination and that Odysseus is being likened to Prometheus. His adventures and tales serve as inspiration, lighting the way for generations of future poets and writers. But then as I thought about it some more, I found a second possible interpretation. The fire could also be a symbol of Odysseus’ wrath. If this is the case, then by standing and tending the flames, he is essentially feeding the rage that burns within him, and being “a patient man,” he will bide his time until he is ready to unleash his fury upon those who usurp his home.

There is another passage that supports the idea of fire as illumination. This is a quote by Eurymakhos as he observes Odysseus near the fire.

This man
comes with a certain aura of divinity
into Odysseus’ hall. He shines.

He shines
around the noggin, like a flashing light,
having no hair at all to dim his luster.

(ibid: p. 347)

As I read this, I had an image of Odysseus with an aura, almost like a halo. He shines with divine light, with an inner fire that makes him like a god.

I really enjoyed this book a lot. I found the symbolism to be intriguing and the flow of the tale to be brilliant. Check back soon for my thoughts on Book XIX.

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Star Wars: Princess Leia – Issue 1

Leia_01

I’ve had this issue for a while and have only just gotten around to reading it. My expectations were somewhat high, since I have heard only good things about this. Happily, I was not disappointed.

This is the first of a five-issue miniseries focusing on Princess Leia. The tale begins where the original Star Wars film left off, at the ceremony where Leia presented Like, Han, and Chewbacca with awards. The members of the rebel alliance are critical of Leia. They view her as cold and heartless because she does not display the “appropriate” level of emotion over the loss of her parents.

Rebel 1: That’s all she has to say? Man, what’s with the Ice Princess?

Rebel 2: You know royals. They don’t show emotions to the plebes.

As I read this, I could not help thinking about Cordelia in King Lear, or about Mersault in Camus’ The Stranger. It is like people expect a show of emotion.

Leia decides to disregard General Dodonna’s instructions to remain under protection and instead sets out with another woman pilot to search for surviving Alderaanians. By doing so, she establishes herself as a strong, independent leader.

I expect you to object, but hear me out: What is my alternative? To collapse in grief, as everyone seems to wish? To keep my head down and hide? To rule over nothing? I reject that. The last royal of Alderaan must be too strong to cower. Too certain to despair. And more than that, General, she must be too stubborn to quit—if her subjects—and her culture—are to survive. If you will not allow me to aid the rebellion, I can do this.

What I love the most about this is that Leia is portrayed as a strong woman who is a natural leader. As a parent of two daughters, I understand how important it is for girls to have strong women figures to look up to and be inspired by. Princess Leia definitely fits into this category. I am looking forward to the rest of this series.

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ODY-C – A Graphic Retelling of Homer’s Odyssey

ODY-C_01

I saw this on display at the comic store and it looked interesting. The owner said it was a retelling of the Odyssey with the genders reversed. I did not buy it at first, but after I got home and thought about it some more, I decided I should read it. So I went back and picked up a copy.

I’m kind of on the fence about this one. There are things I liked about it and things that didn’t work for me. I guess I’ll start with the things I liked.

The first thing that struck me was the map and timeline at the beginning. These are big multi-page foldouts that are lavish and detailed. The timeline, although a little confusing, builds the mythology on which the tale is constructed, while the map provides an overview of the area through which the female warrior Odyssia (the central character in this retelling) must travel.

Graphically, there is some interesting symbolism incorporated into the illustrations. There is a good amount of goddess symbols incorporated, which I found interesting. A great example is the title graphic that employs lunar goddess symbols to form the letters.

Finally, I thought the artwork was very good. The drawings are rich and vivid, and the color schemes are surreal and psychedelic. Visually, I find this comic stunning.

What didn’t work for me in this first issue is the actual storyline and writing. It is kind of choppy and disjointed. I am hoping that this is just the result of the writer establishing the foundation of the tale, which I concede is no easy task. For this reason I am going to reserve judgment until I am a few issues into the series. I feel there is potential and if the writer can focus a little more that it will be a great graphic series. I’ll commit to two more issues before I make my final decision on whether to continue or not. I do hope that the writing improves because I am very intrigued by the concept.

Thanks for stopping by and I will share my thoughts on issue #2 as soon as it is released.

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The X-Files: Year Zero – Issue #5

XFiles_YearZero_05

This issue concludes the mini-series and does so superbly. Unlike the previous issue, there is a lot of great stuff woven into this story.

Mulder and Scully discover Dorothy Sears’ identity in the present day. Having gained immortality by tricking the trickster Xero into giving her ambrosiac, she has lived below the radar and maintained her youth into the present day. There is a great panel where she relates to Scully what it was like to be a woman in the 1940s.

“But then, you don’t know what it was like in the forties, Agent Scully—for women, I mean. We had very limited roles, very few options. And a Cape Cod house with a picket fence was just a pretty cage—for me, at least.”

(p. 4)

During the climactic confrontation with Xero/Zero, Sears again tricks the trickster and escapes. Angered, Xero vows to hunt her down, but Mulder challenges him, claiming to know the tricksters true, secret name.

Xero: No! She will not do this again! She has broken her word—and so shall I! I will unheal her son, then hunt her down and—

Scully: You won’t hurt either of them!

Xero: No? And how would you stop me?

Mulder: By saying your true name!

Xero: You… play a card you do not have.

Mulder: Try me.

Xero: You are foolhardy, Fox Mulder. I like that in a man. It has earned you a reprieve. Until we meet again…

(Xero vanishes)

Scully: So… for future reference… what is his true name?

Mulder: Rumpelstiltskin?

(pp. 13 – 14)

I particularly loved the ending. It flashes back to 1947 where Ellinson and Ohio are setting up their new office space, from where they will begin investigating X-files. The two discuss how to set up their filing system.

Ohio: How should we have these sorted? The Sears case could go under “S”—or “L” for Long Island. But our Christmas trip—should that be “D” for Detroit? “H” for Hardin? “G” for gremlin?

Ellinson: Let’s keep it simple, keep them together so we can get at them quick. Bottom line is, these weird cases we’re looking into—past, present, and future—they’re all because of Mr. Xero. They’re all X-FILES.

(p. 20)

So this explains how the X-files got the name. Mentally filing that away for future trivia.

Hope you have an X-ellent day!!

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“The Garden of Love” by William Blake

GardenOfLove

I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen;
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And ‘Thou shalt not’ writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys & desires.

This poem, included in the Songs of Experience, is an attack against the church and ecclesiastic authority. The Garden of Love symbolizes the Garden of Eden, which Blake associates with sexual freedom. Sexuality is not sinful in Blake’s eyes, but a beautiful and natural part of the human experience.

The image of the chapel in the midst of the Garden implies that the church and religious dogma are preventing humanity’s return to the Edenic state. As a result, the statement “Thou shalt not” takes on two meanings. The obvious is “thou shalt not” have sex out of wedlock, which is contradictory to the natural human state as Blake sees it. But also, “thou shalt not” re-enter the Garden of Eden. The church is like the cherubim blocking the return to the Garden.

The other metaphor I want to point out is the image of “tombstones where flowers should be.” The flower symbolizes the woman who has reached sexual maturity. Sadly, in Blake’s society, a woman who gave in to her sexual desires was cast out and shunned, often left desolate on the streets and destined to die at an early age. For a woman back then, sex before marriage too often resulted in death.

Although we have come a long way in accepting our sexuality, there are still cultures that condemn women for engaging in intercourse out of wedlock and we see news stories of women who are murdered for doing so. The big difference is that most of us are horrified by these occurrences, which is a sign that as a society we are slowly moving in the right direction.

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Witchblade: Issue # 175

Witchblade_Issue175

This is a special edition and actually contains three stories. The first one, Into the Fire, basically moves the primary story along. Sara has reclaimed the Witchblade and is establishing a new connection with the mystical artifact. She also takes Deputy Rooney into her confidence and sits in the woods with her, ready to share her history with the gauntlet.

The second story, Temple of Shadows, is also written by Ron Marz and illustrated by Laura Braga. It tells the tale of a Japanese woman, Shiori, who was the bearer of the Witchblade during the 17th century. She does battle with an oriental beast that looks like a cross between a man and a dragon. The artwork is very good and it hints at a recurring cycle between stories and events, a concept which I personally find intriguing.

The third tale, 4 for 5, is written by Ashley Robinson and is told from the perspective of Patrick Gleason, Sara’s former partner. I liked this vignette because it explores a male character’s journey to acceptance that he is not as powerful as his strong female partner. I think that some men have difficulty reconciling their masculine roles when in a partnership with a strong woman, whether that be a work relationship or an intimate one. Fortunately, I feel that traditional gender roles are being challenged and that we are moving more toward gender equality. I hope that one day we get there.

The issue concludes with a bonus: draft sketches from Ms. Braga. I found these very interesting, particularly since I am not artistically inclined when it comes to drawing. I enjoyed seeing how the characters and scenes are sketched and outlined. It was enlightening for me.

Overall, this was the best Witchblade issue that I have read in a while. It’s worth picking up if you have not yet done so. Cheers!

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