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Alex Brown

Pull List: Catwoman

Catwoman s been around nearly as long as Batman, but often gotten short shrift. It takes a deft hand to write a character who can use her sexuality to influence others but prefers her wit and cunning. Which means Selina usually gets reduced to the sexpot, victim of the male gaze, and sex object (links NSFW). Put it this way: men like to draw her half-naked and sex-sated, but Eartha Kitt’s Catwoman would never be caught in a post-coital haze saying “I’m better than okay. You couldn’t hear how ‘okay’ I was?” *Gag*

I wasn’t sure what to expect with the current run of Catwoman, but I didn’t think I’d like it, the great Genevieve Valentine notwithstanding. I’d never read any of the previous titles or really much of anything from the Bat family (for reasons that will become clear soon), so I had no notion of tone, style, or dialogue traditions. As luck and my immense relief would have it, Valentine’s Catwoman is crisp, razor sharp, and brutally crafty.

[“On desperate ground, fight.”]

Fear the Walking Dead, S1 E5: “Cobalt”

Oh Fear the Walking Dead. Why must you be like this? The penultimate episode of the season should spark and crackle with dramatic tension, not flail around in expository dumps and unsubtle critiques of torture. As per usual, a few isolated segments shine but the  rest of the material ranges from dreary to dull to downright dumb. There’s always one kickass shot in every episiode, and this one was at the very end: Daniel standing at the stadium as the chained doors bulge at the strain of thousands of hungry walkers. The look on his face was perfect, a mix of revulsion, horror, and disbelief.

Too bad we still have to talk about the rest of the episode.

[“I can do whatever I want. I got guns.”]

Fear the Walking Dead, S1 E4: “Not Fade Away”

We’re now over halfway through the first season of Fear the Walking Dead, and while it continues to struggle with, well, basically everything, it seems to be congealing into a not entirely awful show. If the first episode was the best and the second and third the worst, then the fourth is right smack dab in the middle.

Nine days have passed since we last saw our not so intrepid heroes, and stuff is shaking up in the LA ‘burbs. Ask Travis and he’d tell you things are looking up. Ask Chris or Alicia and they’d pout and give you some rambling pseudo-poetry about how much everything sucks. Maddie would mutter something about repainting the living room, and Lt. Moyers would laugh then threaten to shoot you.

[“What I saw was godly, and I think it’s overdue.”]

Warm Glowing Warming Glow: Fall 2015 TV

Welcome, my lovelies, to the semi-annual fest of inanity and repetition that is the new television schedule. Most of the shows premiering this season you’ve seen before in some boring iteration or another – loose cannon cop/doctor/lawyer/federal agent butts heads with a rules-driven superior and maybe gets it on with some hot chicks; period piece where gruff bearded men fight other gruff bearded men and maybe get it on with gruff but hot warrior maidens; zombies; movie translated to the small screen and even smaller budget, thus losing what little was actually interesting to begin with; superheroes; etc. – but there are some bits of gold dust scattered in the mud pile.

Who here isn’t filled with rapturous glee at the prospect of Ash vs. Evil Dead, Jessica Jones, Supergirl, The Man in the High Castle, and The Wiz Live!? (OK, so no one actually believes that last one will be quality television, but I loved that movie as a kid so shut up, don’t judge me.)

[“If television’s a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who won’t shut up.”]

Fear the Walking Dead, S1 E3: “The Dog”

JFC this show. I’m trying so hard to like it. I really want to like it. But Furiosa help me, the writers ain’t making it easy. I tend to give new shows a lot of slack in their first few episodes. Pilots nearly always suck, what with setting up an entire season worth of plot, introducing all the relevant characters, and establishing tone, and the second episode usually rehashes the pilot but on a smaller scale. By the time the third episode rolls around, because it’s the first episode that’s just an episode, independent of any larger structural concerns or network machinations, the audience gets a real look at the heart of the show. And if “The Dog” is where Fear is headed then we’re off for a bumpy, uneven, and largely frustrating ride. Much like TWD, as it were.

[“It’s already too late.”]

Magic, Murder, and Microaggressions in Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown

Zacharias Wythe has just received a rather unexpected and unwanted promotion to Sorcerer Royal—the leader of the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, magical protector of England, and the face of English magic. His job would be hard enough if his sole task was uncovering the source of the precipitous drain in his nation’s magic, but it’s made worse by the growing contingency of rich, old white guys who don’t think a former slave is “English enough” to boss them around. His dark skin color makes it easy for them to accuse him of murdering Sir Stephen, his guardian, mentor, and the man who bought his freedom, in order to usurp his power.

Prunella Gentleman, meanwhile, has had just about enough of toiling away at a school for magical girls that insists on teaching young women how to eradicate their powers rather than use them. The answers to the mystery of her parentage and the secret treasures of her inheritance await in London, but as respectable woman with unrespectable brown skin, her opportunities are limited. She attaches herself to Zacharias and the two set about trying undo centuries of systemic racism and sexism and preventing an all out war between Malaysian lamiae, racist British thaumaturges, powerful French sorcerers, and mercurial fairies. All in a day’s work.

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Pull List: Island and Phonogram

We all love comics, but sometimes it’s nice to get outside the mainstream, and what better publisher to do that with than Image Comics? This summer, the creator-ruled publisher released Island by Emma Ríos and Brandon Graham and raised from the dead Phonogram by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. Neither series could exist in the Big Two; they’re just too far from anything Marvel or DC or any of their subsidiaries are doing. Neither publisher has done anything in the way of a comics magazine in years, even though some of your favorite superheroes were born in anthologies (looking at you, Spider-Man). And while urban fantasy and magical realism are crowding the literary field right now, there are few mages in comics. So, if you’re looking for something new, exciting, and unlike anything else out there, you’re in luck.

[“Trust me: epic covered in sparklers and win-flakes.”]

Fear the Walking Dead, S1 E2: “So Close, Yet So Far”

The series premiere of Fear the Walking Dead last week smashed the record for best cable premiere ever, with more than 13 million people watching (albeit still shy of its parent property’s average viewership). With ratings like that, it’s safe to say we’re stuck with Fear whether we like it or not. And if last night’s episode is anything to go on, the ride won’t be so bad after all.

[“This doesn’t end.”]

Dread Wolf: Teen Wolf Season 5 Midseason Finale

Oh Teen Wolf, how did you go so horribly awry? The show has never been good at internal logic, but at least it was fun. It was a wild, bizarro ride that dragged you along whether you wanted it to or not. The fourth season was dire as all get-out, and while season five isn’t quite as bad as its predecessor, without a powerhouse forcing the characters into terrifying situations and desperate decisions the whole thing falls flat.

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The Dead and the Dying: Fear the Walking Dead Premiere

I like to consider myself a bit of a zombie nut, but even I’ll admit I approached Fear the Walking Dead with more than a little trepidation. Its very premise—the dawn of the walking dead pandemic currently plaguing Rick in Georgia—is an obvious cash grab, and given the ever-increasing ratings for its parent property, you can’t really blame AMC for wanting to rake it in while they can. More to the point, The Walking Dead isn’t exactly a beacon of quality television. Entertaining? Sure. Solidly crafted? Mostly. Sharp scripts? Eh. Well-drawn characters with interesting backstories and consistent personalities? Rarely. TWD is the kind of show that wants to be Breaking Bad but is either unwilling or unable (or, likely at this point, both) to put in the effort. It’s no wonder people were so anxious about drawing from the same dry well but with a shiny new bucket.

[“Nature always wins.”]

Wayward Pines Is Half Paradise, Half Lost, All Crazy Town Banana Pants

Welcome to Wayward Pines, Idaho, a small town with a big secret. After a terrible car accident, Secret Service agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) wakes in the town hospital completely cut off from the outside world. Everyone is aggressively pleasant and suspiciously welcoming, especially kindly Dr. Jenkins (Toby Jones). He butts heads with a hot-tempered ice cream enthusiast (Terrence Howard) and the moustache-twirling Nurse Pam (Melissa Leo) before running into the woman he was sent to rescue—his ex partner and part-time lover Kate (Carla Gugino). He’s shocked to find her a decade older and happily married to a toymaker named Harold (Reed Diamond) despite having only been missing a short while.

Soon Ethan learns the immutable rules of Wayward Pines: “do not try to leave; do not discuss the past; do not discuss your life before; always answer the phone if it rings; work hard, be happy, and enjoy your life.” With the unexpected arrival of his wife Theresa (Shannyn Sossamon) and son Ben (Charlie Tahan) and the sudden deaths of allies and a nemeses alike, Ethan’s moral compass is thrown out of whack. Monsters abound within and without the town, and it is up to the Burkes to uncover the truth before the lies destroy the town from the inside out.

[“Where paradise is home.”]

Pull List: Hawkeye

When I first pitched Pull List, I intended the column to look at the bad stuff as well as the good, but somehow it’s morphed into monthly love notes. Which means that this is the perfect time to talk about Matt Fraction and David Aja’s absolutely fan-flerken-tastic run on Hawkeye. It’s one of the rare few superhero comics I’d readily and without hesitation put near the top of my Best Of list. It’s that good. No, it’s that incredibly great.

[“Okay, this looks bad.”]

Pull List: Young Avengers

I wish I could trace back how Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers first came into my life. A rec from the guy who owns the comic book shop I go to? Or maybe some random entry I came across on a list of must-read comics? No matter how it appeared, reading it is one of the best comics-related decisions I’ve ever made. There is nothing I don’t love about 2013 Young Avengers. It has just about everything: amazing art, fantastic dialogue, an exciting story, engaging characters, and is practically brimming with diversity. And what makes it the perfect Pride Month topic is that the team is literally the gayest superhero team in the whole of the Big Two. Not only that, but Billy and Teddy are quite possibly the most adorable couple in Marvel. It’s like they’re made for each other (hint hint).

[“I’m not going to spend the rest of my life in the phone booth. I’m not living a lie.”]

Pull List: Pride Month

June is, of course, Pride Month, and while it’s vital we remember Stonewall—or Harvey Milk and the Compton’s Cafeteria riots if you’re from my neck of the woods—how we as a culture conceptualize, express, and discuss LGBTQ issues is just as important. And since this is a column about comic books, that’s the medium we’re taking a crack at here today. Like just about every other minority group in comic books, LGBTQ people haven’t exactly had an easy go of it.

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Il Mostro: Hannibal Season 3 Premiere

It’s been said a thousand times before, but Hannibal is the best television show you’re not watching. And by “you,” of course, I mean the non-Fannibals who have stumbled upon this post and said to yourself, “Oh yeah, Hannibal, the show about that cannibal guy who threatened that Clarice chick with fava beans and a nice chianti.” Except no, this Hannibal isn’t your peepaw’s cannibal shrink. The vision Bryan Fuller (the auteur behind Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies) hath wrought is a lucid nightmare. His Hannibal is a macabre menace out to deconstruct love, trust, and hope, to shatter and pulverize our humanity, and to force us to redefine what precisely makes humans human, through psychological warfare and emotional torture. It’s an oasis in a desert of mediocre television, and you’ve never seen anything like it.

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Failed Expectations: Supernatural Season 10

Supernatural has been on for 10 years. Ten long, long years. Some of it has been fun, a bit of it incredible, and most of it grating, unfulfilling, and regressive. Season 10 wasn’t the worst thing ever created, but it was far from good. We need to have a heart-to-heart, Supernatural. Your fans, we love you, but you’re throwing away your best years on pointless distractions and meaningless philosophizing. You’re 10 years old now, you’re too old for this nonsense. If you want to stop re-enacting the past and grow up, here are 6 ways to do it.

Spoilers for season 10 ahoy…

[“Can you think of a worse hell?” “Well, there’s Hell.”]

Pull List: ODY-C

People have been retelling, reimagining, and recontextualizing the Odyssey ever since Homer figured out the easiest way to memorize long stanzas of poetry was through dactylic hexameter. James Joyce’s Ulysses is an obvious homage, as is the Coen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the French-Japanese animated series Ulysses 31. Twelfth-century Irish writers tweaked the Greek classic into Merugud Uilix maicc Leirtis, Dante dabbled in Odysseus fanfic in his Inferno, and the great and glorious Margaret Atwood let Penelope tell her side of the story in The Penelopiad.

Now with ODY-C, it’s Matt Fraction and Christian Ward’s turn, and trust me, it’s the interpretation you’ve been waiting for.

[“Sing in us, muse / Of Odyssia / Witchjack and wanderer / Homeward bound / Warless at last”]

The (Welcome) Invasion of the Whippersnappers

The most wonderful time of year for comic book geeks is almost upon us. No, not the opening of comic book movie season, even one that includes premieres of the new Avengers world domination story, the awesome-looking Fantastic Four movie, or Batman and Superman Have a Pissing Contest while Wonder Woman Gets Bored and Goes Off to Save the World.

In a few short days, the first Saturday of May to be exact, is Free Comic Book Day! It is the day we give thanks to our ancestors for bestowing upon us this glorious medium by descending en masse on our local comic book shops and scrabbling to get everything on our wishlist. This year is also the first time Children’s Book Week and Free Comic Book Day are joining forces to help get kids interested in reading, which this librarian thinks is pretty darn great.

[“A great nation is a reading nation.”]

Bending Shakespeare

As a woman of color who spends an absolutely ludicrous amount of time reading fanfic, I’m a huge nerd for gender, queer, and racebending. I’ve read some amazing fem!Destiel, adore racebent Harry Potter fanart, and to the OP who first came up with the brilliant idea to cast Taylor Swift and Kristen Stewart in an all-girl remake of Grease, I love you. In a lot of cases, I tend to prefer the bent versions over the original canon. I mean, if you don’t think Lucy Liu is the greatest Watson to ever Watson, well, I’m here to tell you that you’re just plain wrong.

I’m also someone who grew up in the 90s, which means I was drowning in a sea of hormones and emotions during the peak of America’s Shakespeare movie adaptation phase. To this day the soundtracks to Romeo + Juliet and 10 Things I Hate About You are on my iPod…and I still have the original CDs, even if they’re too scratched to ever play again. Julia Stiles’ Kat made me fall in love with Shakespeare, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Romeo sealed the deal, Ethan Hawke’s Hamlet made me reconsider my life choices, and Mekhi Phifer’s O set my heart a’flutter once again. And now, with the magic of the internet and several streaming services with extensive catalogues, I can combine my obsession with Shakespeare with my passion for bending.

[“Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.”]

Series: Shakespeare on