Death’s Daughter & Deadly Secretaries: The Leading Ladies of October’s Comics

Just in time for the spookiest month of the year, and just as all the pretty flowery things of the Spring start to shrivel up and die, Kelly Sue Deconnick and Ed Brubaker are bringing us a little death and darkness to kick off the season.

Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue Deconnick, Emma Rios, & Jordie Bellaire 

Captain Marvel writer, Kelly Sue Deconnick teams with artist Emma Rios to bring us Death, bunnies, and a lot of skeletons in the dark spaghetti western fairy tale Pretty Deadly.

Not only are we completely won over by the all-female team creating an awesomely dark story with a hardcore “unpretty” female lead, but the previews look twisted and delightful. Deconnick’s work on Captain Marvel should be enough to recommend you this title, but if you need a little push, just check out all the preview art and influences they’re throwing out there on the Pretty Deadly tumblr before the comic lands on October 23rd.

Velvet by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting

Hitting the shelves next week, Brubaker and Epting’s Cold-War-era espionage story in Velvet has been hotly anticipated for months. Subverting the Bond woman stereotype, the lead character the comic takes its name from is the “personal assistant” at a top intelligence agency, but we quickly find out that she does more than data entry, she’s got the deepest well of information at her fingertips, and before she got stuck at a desk she was sipping shaken martinis and dancing dangerously with the best of the James Bonds.

Best known for his noir comics, Brubaker has always given us incredible female characters, usually slightly off-center to the down-on-his-luck noir hero, but with Fatale he broke out and gave a story to the most famous female trope in noir stories, the femme fatale. With Velvet he’s grabbing the spy genre by the cufflinks and giving us the cool, daredevil leading lady we’ve always wanted.

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An Outsider Review of Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ premiere

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So this is what it looks like when Joss Whedon gets a budget — hover cars and sniffing microbots.  Tuesday night’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D premiere was loads of high-tech fun. We got booms and bangs, plenty of shiny science hooblah, and loads of Marvel Easter eggs to satisfy our nerdy fan appetites.

Not to mention, for the Whedonites in the room, there was a lush offering of dramatic one-liner exits, mostly delivered in the awkward geeky snark of Agent Coulson, and that punchy overly-self-aware dialogue we all adore from any Joss flick.

And because it’s Joss, we also got women kicking ass, nerdy women scientists, one kind of annoying magic female computer whiz, and at least one scene of male debasement in the truth-serum afflicted Agent Grant Ward. Loved it.

Indeed between lead character Skye’s computer gymnastics, alien biology nerd Agent Jemma Simmons‘ quirky science diagnostics, cameo by boss S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill, and Agent Melinda May‘s epic baddie take-down, we’ve got the ladies sufficiently distant from any kind of metaphorical refrigerator or damsel trope.  Well done, team. 5 stars out of 5!

Melinda May takedown!

But what about our brownfolk/POCs? [spoilers]

Well, it does pass our Token Test –we’ve got Melinda May holdin’ it down for POCs on the S.H.I.E.L.D team and we got Michael Peterson, the factory worker who had “some tough breaks,” as our cast of saviors proclaims while looking downcast before rushing to the rescue… which naturally includes a shot to the dome piece for our tragic newbie “super”hero.

But not until our dear Mr. Peterson gives a heartfelt speech about underdogs like him getting “stepped on,” and then *boom* shot to head. Seriously. At that point, he was all calm and Coulson was giving his best “I feel you, bro,” couldn’t they have just been like “hey, now that we’re all full of feels, mind if I inject you with this thing that’ll keep you from blowing up? ‘Cause that’d totally make you a hero…” Or hey, maybe he isn’t impervious to bullets, ya know? That wasn’t actually established so, uh maybe try shooting him in the arm or something, ya? Jeez.

But nah, shot to the head is way better. Ya, I get it, dramatic effect. Shock! How Dare! Oh wait… phew, it’s cool. The slow music over the scan of shocked then suddenly relieved faces makes for better TV. Then again, I’d really love to tune into a show (or, oof, the news) someday where the black dude doesn’t get shot. Ah, someday.

As for other POCs, I was particularly charmed by Skye’s game-time use of stereotyping, when she kicks a dude from a stereotypically-dressed “gang” of Latinos (who just happen to be waltzing by)  in the balls just knowing that they’ll proceed to turn on the POC violent rage and fight the desperate Black dude strong-arming her into helping him. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like she would’ve had better chances yelling “help!” in the midst of a train station full of white folk, who probably would’ve stepped in the minute they saw dainty, shiny-haired white girl being man-handled by sweaty grungy Black dude anyway, than crossing her fingers that a group of “hot-blooded” minorities would walk by at the right time for a little chauvinism manipulation.

Yea… that 3 minutes of airborne Latino “thugs”docks ya at least 2 points out of five, 2 off for the head-shot ’cause I’m bitter, but back up one for the Shepherd cameo, because yes. So 2 out of 5 for the POC rep.  Do better.

But we’re holding out hope still. And we’ll be back for Episode 2, mostly out of fanlove for the Whedon team, and with hopes that Skye will try to snark Agent May and get her ass handed to her.

Other things we’re looking forward to:

More Easter Eggs!
Gimme some Hawkeye, gimme some Infinity War, gimme some Luke Cage Mighty Avengers refs!

What Made Melinda May Get Out of the Field?

Agent May‘s got that gruff thing going for her way better than Agent Ward. There’s just gotta be some juice on how she got so damn good at hitting things and why she would rather staple red tape together than body slam grown men.

What Happens in Tahiti Stays in Tahiti?

By now we know something wonky went down with Agent Coulson in this metaphorical “Tahiti,” and methinks it’s got something to do with the crazy Matrix moves he put on display when angry super guy threw a van door at him…

Also cause this awesome toy Coulson exists

Latino Heritage Month Spotlight on White Tiger! — 1st Puerto Rican Superhero & His Dope SuperLegacy

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Hispanic & Latino Heritage Month kicked off September 15th, and here in geekland we’re celebrating by shouting out superheroes of Hispanic & Latino heritage. While we’ve given a nod to some of the indie creators writing comics with Latino themes and/or characters in the past, today we’re talking mainstream superheroes, because if we don’t show some love to the Latino heroes already in the mainstream, we might find that the major publishers aren’t to keen to keep up what’s been a nice increase in the diversity of comics. Also, ’cause these heroes mad dope:

First up…

White Tiger!

The White Tiger identity has now been taken on by five different heroes, though only three of them gained their powers by inheriting the Jade Tiger amulet that endowed the first White Tiger, Hector Ayala, with his powers.

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Hector Ayala – the original White Tiger karate choppin’ the way for Latinos in comics

First appearing in Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu in 1975, Ayala became the first Puerto Rican superhero in comics and Marvel’s first Latino superhero. A college student at NYU, Ayala found the Jade Tiger amulets and used them to fight crime using a secret identity– White Tiger. He went on to fought alongside big wigs like Daredevil, Spider-man, and Iron Fist. Unfortunately he was later framed for a murder and shot and killed trying to escape capture.

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Angela Del Toro – sad tortured, magic-ed-into-evil White Tiger

But in 2003, the White Tiger identity was revived by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, when FBI agent and  Hector Ayala‘s niece Angela Del Toro discovered the Jade Tiger amulets and the White Tiger legacy.  Angela reluctantly takes up the mantel as the masked vigilante under the guidance of Daredevil, and soon finds herself fighting with her uncle’s old friends like Luke Cage, Spider-man, Black Widow.  However, she is later magically corrupted and now operates under the influence of The Hand as an assassin.

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Ava Ayala dunkin’ on some fools

All hope for the White Tiger legacy is not lost, however, as Hector Ayala had a younger sister… The young Ava Ayala took up the mantle of White Tiger in 2011 when Christos Gage and Tom Raney wrote her into the Avengers Academy series. Strongly tied to her legacy and her heritage, she has been critical of other Latino heroes who do not embrace their heritage (namely Reptil). She’s also very likely the dopest and most popular to take on the identity. Though Avengers Academy was later cancelled, she is a regular in the Ultimate Spider-man animated TV series, and she recently appeared as White Tiger in the brand new, promising (and awesomely diverse) Mighty Avengers series. Though issue #1 opens with her quitting Luke Cage‘s new Heroes for Hire revival, it’s looking pretty good that she’ll be back!

Super-Bookish! A Very Nerdy Superhero by Illustrator Gabi Anderson [Friday Find]

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Sometimes the best finds are right in front of you!

I recently moved on from my position as an editor at a publishing house, and apparently I didn’t hide my ubergeekery as well as I’d thought. In fact, it seems to have rubbed off on my colleagues a bit. As a farewell gift, the press’s marvelously talented designer Gabi Anderson drew up this incredible piece of a supernerdy supergeek that looks something like me (my nerdy is a shade uncool-er than this rendition)!  I can only hope that my future endeavors will look half as awesome as this.

Often here at Geek Outsider and other geek blogs we lament the lack of superheroes “who look like me.” Well… ask and you shall receive?

Now if only I can get her to write a whole comic based on this nerdy superhero. I’m imagining it’d be called Super-Bookish! Or maybe Super-Geek! Lady Thesaurus? …

As amazing as this is, Gabi’s talent extends far beyond this beautiful drawing. After seeing this beaut, I managed to squeeze out of her the link to her website and blog full of more amazing.

Enjoy! 

[Insert Pun About Heads Rolling Here]: Sleepy Hollow Premiere Captivatingly Decapitates

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And all  the ridiculous, punny headlines about Fox new Monday night show Sleepy Hollow are almost as absurdly enjoyable as the show itself.

The show premiered on Monday in a bombardment of historical hijinks, supernatural beheadings, witchcraft, and hot and heavy flirtation with threats of the apocalypse. You could hardly catch your breath to keep up with the break-neck pace of the plot, but apparently folk like their tv in a sprint, because more than 10 million viewers tuned in to catch the premiere, and the pilot rated better than any other Monday night show.

But is this just an ADD-nation love-fest or is the show actually good?

Well, oddly enough, there’s actually too much information to tell at this point. In just an hour the show introduced us to our main protagonists — Lt. Abbie Mills (the ridiculously gorgeous Nicole Beharie) and Ichabod Crane himself (Tom Mison) — beheaded 3 key characters, and basically unraveled every single mystery it had introduced in the first half of the show…. If they keep up this kind of narrative pace, it’s hard to imagine what they’ll have left to tell after 3 or 4 episodes.  Then again, there’s a chance the plan is to get all the plot/surprise/mystery stuff out of the way and really delve into the character’s relationships.

This is not a feeble hope either. There’s plenty of room for development there. Abbie and Ichabod made fast friends in this first episode, after a couple quick bumps in the road, such as when Ichabod’s 18th century misogyny is offended by Lt. Mills’ wearing “trousers” or when Abbie has to side-eye Crane when he questions how a Black woman is allowed to be a police officer.

In this more or less unprecedented case of a Black female lead and a White guy lead sharing screen time (equally!) and playing characters out of time and out of place respectively, there could be a lot to work with there. Likely in less profound ways than Octavia Butler’s Kindred, for example, but maybe in the brief reprieves from heads rolling, these two can establish a meaningful rapport… or at least a sarcastically hilarious one as a point of stability in the whacky whirl of supernatural tropes.

I mean, seriously, in spoilery summary: A time-travelling headless horseman abandons his magical axe for an arsenal of automatic weapons in order to fight a Red Coat superspy scholar revived from death by his good witch wife (whose spirit is stuck in a creepy la la dimension battling demons and evil witch covens) who’s supposed to stop headless baddie from getting his head back, waking up the four-horsemen of the apocalypse and getting his world-destruction on.

Jar head = most inconvenient key to the apocalypse ever

Regardless, this geek is tuning into episode two and holding out hope that a sci-fi series led by a Black woman hero will be ridiculously awesome (or at least awesomely ridiculous)… ’cause it’s about time.

Fine, also because I heart Orlando Jones. I mean, how can you not?

Boston Festival of Indie Games: Highlights

This past weekend MIT’s campus was overflowing with even more geeks than already grace its nerdy grounds. The Boston Festival of Indie Games (FIG) took over, bombarding Boston’s geeky masses with an offering of independently created tabletop games, digital games, and the wisdom of professional game developers.

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Although small in comparison to the numbers that show up to PAX and E3, the Festival featured an impressively diverse offering of games, from ninja dice games to zombie football to games for social change and games about depression. Gamers of every gaming style could find something to satisfy their geeky tastes at this gathering of daring developers.

Below are some of the highlights from the Digital Games showcase, but keep an eye out for upcoming features on some of the incredible developers we got a chance to chat with at the Festival:

Candlelight (Idle Action Studios)

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Featuring a beautiful silhouette design, this 2D puzzle platformer allows you to control two characters at the same time — a boy whose movement is limited by the lantern he carries and a taller young girl with greater mobility. The two characters must work their way through a dynamic maze whose puzzles they can only solve together, helping each other along the way and often taking vastly divergent paths in order to do so. The game will be available on Mac and PC late this Fall.

Demon Chic

Created by mom and son team Christine and Michael FrauenhoferDemon Chic is a delightful head-trip of an RPG that warps you into the freaky world of a trio of roommates navigating love, life, and the demons that come along with them. A creative mix gameplay folds perfectly into the immersive stories that touch on big bad ideas like race, gender, and economics, enriching the narrative.  As the three roommates Ashok, his boyfriend Gary, and his brother Devraj, all high out of their minds, get really real with each other, they’re constantly interrupted by various freaky demons, whom they battle using powers they acquire in an on-screen word-jumble. Alternately hilarious, weird, and touching, Demon Chic is as much a surrealist head trip as it is an honest look at real life and queer issues. The game is available in the iTunes App Store and is vying for a place on Steam (for PC & Mac).

The Time Tribe (ThunderSnow Media, Inc.)

Anthropologist Karen Bellinger Wehner is not a gamer, but, with an awe for the teaching power of games, she put her PhD to the test and created The Time Tribe, an RPG puzzle game that sets you off an adventures across continents and time. Designed with historically- and culturally-accurate artifacts, the game aims to endow young players with a greater cultural literacy in a society that often criminalizes or ignores whole cultures and peoples according to political interests. You can play different parts of the game as any one of the quirky cast of four young kids whose choices from the moment they arrive at an old mansion impact how the story unfolds. To bridge the real world with the game’s fun adventuring, The Time Tribe offers artifact packages you can get in the mail, an online community, a Time Tribe comic and short stories, and even a feature that lets players donate in-game currency to social justice organization around the world. But, with a great story and some mystery mixed in, the game is just plain fun for kids and adults alike.

Cognition (Phoenix Online Studios)

A point-and-click mystery thriller, Cognition follows FBI detective Erica Reed as she uses her ability to see the past when she touches an object to solve her brother’s murder by a serial killer who seems to have resurfaced just to taunt her. The game is now in its fourth and final episode, but all four episodes are available online for Mac and PC.

Revolution 60 (Giant Spacekat)

A self-proclaimed mix of Heavy Rain and Mass Effect, Revolution 60 features an all-female special operative team in the future on a mission to steal a space shuttle and prevent nuclear war. Heavily cinematic but boasting interesting gameplay and combat mechanics, the game is pushing the boundaries of what is possible for games on the iPad. You play as special operative Holiday, who can be as no-nonsense or as sassy as you make her, but every choice you make affects the next step and how the game ultimately ends. Part of a six-part series, the game will be out in March 2014 on iOS with PC and Mac soon to follow.

Depression Quest

Not exactly the most encouraging title, but the game has a great premise and offers an important look at what it’s like to live with depression. A free-to-play, text-heavy online game, Depression Quest takes you through the everyday experience of a person suffering from depression, from simply getting out of bed in the morning to conversations with a significant other. With five possible endings and over 150 unique encounters, every choice you make throughout the “quest” has impacts your depression levels and what comes next. At the Festival gamers crawled inside a sheet tent to get the full experience of the game. Created by Zoe Quinn to spread awareness about depression, the game is free to play online, but donations go to iFred, an organization that supports education and research on depression.

Get Water! (Decode Global)


InGet Water! players experience modern India as the young girl Maya, who only wants to go to school, but she is continually removed from classes in order to collect water. The faster you help Maya get water, the sooner she can return to her studies. Throughout the game, Maya acquires new tools and skills that allow her to collect more water faster. Created by Montreal-based team Decode Global, the game aims to draw attention to the dual-causes of water scarcity and girls’ education in India and other nations. However more than just becoming aware of the issues, players also learn about the efforts of real world charities like chartiy:water and the international work to bring water to developing nations. Get Water! is available on iPad in the U.S. and will be available on the App Store for India and Canada September 17th.

Review: Mighty Avengers #1 — Luke Cage & Monica Rambeau Shine As Leaders Again

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Featuring one of the most diverse superteams ever, Al Ewing and Greg Land’s Mighty Avengers has been one of the most anticipated comics of the Fall, and this first issue matches the hype with a just the right dose of action and a rich introduction to our new team’s leaders and the motivations of the new team-up.

Brian Michael Bendis really developed the character and storyline for Luke Cage in his New Avengers run, daring to do something few creators have worked into superhero plotlines — giving him a wife and a child, which not unexpectedly resulted in his retiring from the Avengers. But that didn’t sideline him completely. Cage has still very much been a part of Marvel storylines, presenting a conflicts of interest and new motivations for the character regarding his new role as a family man.

This issue really draws those strings together and gives us a relatable and real reason for Cage’s desire to lead a team again. Aside from the fact that the regular line-up of Avengers is busy fighting alien militia in space, Cage really wants to get back in the game to make his family proud. The brief glimpse we get of Cage’s relationship with the young hothead Powerman promises an interesting dynamic between the two, something of father-son like mentorship that is clearly impacted by Cage’s new role as a father.

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In this issue we also get a solid look at the return of Monica Rambeau, who’s underuse in the Marvel universe over that past 10 years has been criminal. An incredibly powerful hero and a smart leader with an interesting backstory, Monica was the first Black female superhero to have her own self-titled comic in Captain Marvel in the late 80’s.

After leading the Avengers in the 80’s when she was Captain Marvel, she quit when she briefly lost her powers and returned to her hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana.  Despite an appearance as the leader of the C-list superhero team in Nextwave, Monica never really quite made it back to prominence. It seems an odd fate for such a smart and incredibly powerful hero. Ewing and Land’s Mighty Avengers aims to bring her back with a vengeance… and a perm.

(Not gonna lie, it seems a little out of character to see Monica, who’s always sported natural hair, with her new straightened shaggy bob cut.  But it’s great to see her back, no matter the hairstyle.)

In this first issue, Ewing and Land certainly captured just how powerful Monica is, as well as her very serious dedication to her duty as a hero. Despite her new costume and her brand new moniker (that one can only hope she’ll manage to hang on to this time) as Spectrum, she’s still the same amazing Monica.

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This issue hints at many of the tensions and dynamics we’ll have to look forward to throughout the series, including that between Luke Cage and Superior Spider-man, who seems anything but on board when the makings of a team start to come together as Thanos’ thugs attack New York.  Otto Octavius’s snarky egotism is bound to clash with Cage’s no-nonsense leadership. And the youngins on the team, White Tiger and Powerman, already seem to have a clash of ideas about what it means to be a superhero.

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Add to all that our mystery Ronin who Monica seems to have a bit of a past with, and this first issue has knotted this team together intricately and it’s looking to be a ton of fun to unravel.

With Ewing’s historical love for two of the most dynamic Marvel heroes Luke Cage and Monica, it looks like we’re in for a lot more than trash talk and jaw breaking. Mighty Avengers #1 demonstrates that Ewing and Land intend to continue the focus on rich character development that Bendis brought to New Avengers. And here’s hoping we see the creative team bring up the tough issues with this awesomely diverse cast of heroes.

Verdict: Get it! Even if you’re a trade buyer, you’re gonna want to own #1 when this series gets all epic. A must-read.

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