DC This Week: ‘The Legend of Wonder Woman’ Soars

It’s rare when Ray and I rave about a book for multiple issues, and for the same reasons. When that happens, it usually means we’re reading something extraordinary. That’s the case with The Legend of Wonder Woman #3, our book of the week, and those superlatives apply to the series. The series is so good, and so what Wonder Woman has needed that I basically teared up reading that.

Sounds silly, right? But Wonder Woman means a lot to many people. There’s a reason everyone smiles at me when I wear my Wonder Woman shirts or hoodies or shoes: people love her. It’s about time she has received a story deserving of that love.

Overall, it was good week for DC issues, too, including one of my favorite issues of Batman & Robin Eternal for a long time, Constantine musing on how awful fairies are, Superman getting to be Superman again in Action Comics #50, and some good stuff from Gotham Academy, Starfire, and Batman/Superman. Plus, the crossover between Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles continues to work, even showing some character depth.

Yeah, there were a few that mucked it up for the rest. See the bottom of our list. Continue reading DC This Week: ‘The Legend of Wonder Woman’ Soars

‘The Legend of Wonder Woman’ Chapter 18: Exclusive Preview

If you’re not reading The Legend of Wonder Woman, I urge you to start because it’s the best Wonder Woman origin story that I’ve ever read. (Issue #3 of the print series is on sale this Wednesday and, go, BUY IT.)

The digital chapters are well ahead of the print chapters, however. Check out this exclusive preview of chapter 18, which will go live on Thursday.

As the Duke’s legion of undead warriors attacks, Diana must decide whether to chase her answers of home, or use her new strengths to defend the Outsiders.
Writer & Penciller: Renae De Liz
Inker & Colorist: Ray Dillon

Cover Artists: De Liz and Dillon
The chapter will be available for download Thursday via the DC Comics App, Readdcentertainment.com, iBooks, comiXology.com, Google Play, Kindle Store, Nook Store, and iVerse ComicsPlus.

LOWW_18_D_SFCover[1]
Continue reading ‘The Legend of Wonder Woman’ Chapter 18: Exclusive Preview

One Green Lantern Shines But Not the One With 50 Issues

Before we begin reviews of this weeks issues, I wanted to mention that Martian Manhunter: Vol. 1: The Epiphany is now available. This is one of the unexpectedly awesome books DC has published lately and it stands alone as a great SF invasion story.

Also of particular interest this week is Omega Men #9, another terrific issue spotlighting Green Lantern Kyle Rayner in what’s fast becoming a modern classic, so much so that there’s a scene this week that Ray compares favorably to the classic The Watchmen.

Martian manhunter, mr. biscuits
Martian Manhunter’s multiple selves. Panel copyright DC Comics

As for the more well-known Green Lantern? Hal Jordan’s series hits issue #50, a milestone for the new 52 reboot. Ray finds that the whole series was rewarding but I’m not even close to Hal Jordan’s biggest fan.

Plus, Swamp Thing, more Bat-kids, and Batgirl has a trippy issue that is my favorite in this run. And don’t forget to check out the bonus Batman ’66 and Scooby Doo reviews. Continue reading One Green Lantern Shines But Not the One With 50 Issues

DIY: When There’s Not Enough Gender Representation In Our Favorite Stories

Our guest blogger: Heather Massey searches for sci-fi romance adventures and writes about them at Galaxy Express 2.0 and Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly. Her SFR musings have appeared at a variety of places including LoveLetter magazine, Coffee Time Romance, Tor.com, Heroes & Heartbreakers, SF Signal, and SFR Galaxy Awards.
She’s also an author in the genre. To learn more about her published work, visit heathermassey.com. When Heather’s not reading or writing, she’s watching cult films and enjoying the company of her husband and daughter.

Hey, moms, you know the drill: you’re the parent of a daughter(s) who goes wild over a female character, but when you try to find merchandise, action figures, additional content, or heck, just anything to feed her new passion, there’s nothing there. Zip. Nada. Zilch.

In 2015, this scenario happened to me. My daughter was finally old enough to watch the Despicable Me franchise, so we consumed the first two films in rapid succession. For the uninitiated, the least you need to know about the series is that it’s about Felonius Gru, a supervillain who finds redemption after adopting three orphan girls.

Shortly thereafter, the prequel in the series, Minions, was released. My daughter was developing a love for the little deviled eggs, so I took her to see the movie. I expected a mildly entertaining cash cow—I mean, pastime; what I did not expect was for her and I to develop a seriously hardcore bond over the film’s main female character, namely, supervillain Scarlet Overkill.

Scarlet is the supervillain boss-turned-antagonist for whom the three main Minion characters steal Queen Elizabeth’s crown. Putting aside her villainous nature for the moment, Scarlet’s resume is a collection of amazing abilities. She’s a master thief, an accomplished pilot, and an expert fighter. Her huge, fairy tale castle fortress towers over London and includes a treasure-filled loot room. An ambitious woman, she’s skilled at marketing her brand and building a criminal empire. In fact, compared to the franchise’s other villains, Scarlet’s skill set is by far the strongest.

Scarlet is married to Herb, a groovy inventor with a penchant for warm milk and cookies. Though Scarlet is strictly a plot device, the filmmakers gave her just enough backstory, sympathy, and edginess to become a cult-worthy character.

Much as my daughter and I adore Scarlet Overkill, she isn’t without her problematic elements. Among them are her hypersexualized nature, ableist portrayal (co-director Kyle Balda has, unfortunately, described her as “bi-polar”), and weak characterization (of the “mile wide, inch deep variety.”). Based on my extensive research, the only woman who seems to have had significant input into her character development was Sandra Bullock, the voice of Scarlet. And thank goodness for that.

If nothing else, the Minions experience has given me an opportunity to discuss some of the issues related to gender representation in animation with my daughter (at an age-appropriate level, of course). There’s vast room for improvement regarding female animated characters, the most important of which is making more of them the leads in animated films (so we don’t keep ending up with gender-lopsided lists like this one).

I don’t have the power to influence animation studios, but I can sure as heck influence at least one member of the next generation of animation fans. Our daughters deserve far better.

As many of you are probably aware, female action figures for various franchises are difficult to come by. Avengers’ Black Widow and Star Wars’ Rey are recent cases. This is merely one of many examples regarding the scarcity of merchandise for female characters, animated or otherwise. It’s a pretty rampant situation and if the article cited above is any indication, the scarcity seems to have been deliberately orchestrated on an epic level. The toxic message that girls aren’t worthy has to stop.

My daughter and I bumped up against this scarcity when it came to Scarlet Overkill. Except for an expensive t-shirt, there’s currently no merchandise for her. My daughter, whose Minion figures are collecting dust, keeps asking me things like, “Can we get a Scarlet Overkill action figure?” “What about a poster?” And with a heavy heart, I keep having to remind her that such merchandise doesn’t exist and likely never will.

So what’s a parent to do? I can’t draw fan art, sculpt action figures, or make animated music videos. Neither do I have the budget to extensively commission such things.

DespicableScarlet_cover_small
Image via Heather Massey

But I can write, so that’s what I did.

When it became apparent that neither merchandise nor future Scarlet Overkill film content would likely be forthcoming, I seized the reins and wrote a female-centric adventure I could enjoy with my daughter.

The result: Despicable Scarlet, a free, all-ages fan fiction redemption story about Scarlet Overkill. You’ll notice I wrote it as a screenplay. Why? Mainly to keep in line with the spirit of the story’s visual medium. Plus, I could include many elements that wouldn’t be possible in prose.

I also commissioned some beautiful art to help illustrate the story. Created by the talented Bananataffy, it includes a cover, a striking bonus illustration, and a collection of the early sketches.
Here’s the cover and story description:

DESPICABLE SCARLET picks up the adventures of supervillain Scarlet Overkill where MINIONS left off. Scarlet, along with her trusty inventor husband Herb, embarks on a revenge mission against Felonius Gru in order to reclaim “her” crown, with plans to take down the Anti-Villain League in the process. When an unexpected betrayal throws her plan into chaos, Scarlet suddenly faces the most difficult battle of her life.
***

I read the script to my daughter. She provided additional ideas and then surprised me with a drawing based on one of the scenes! I was so thrilled I included it as an illustration.

Despicable Scarlet is available as a free PDF download from my author site. It’s very readable, so don’t worry about encountering too much technical jargon.

Despicable Scarlet is especially geared for parents and guardians who crave more female protagonists for their daughters. Some will be old enough to read it themselves, and for others it’s best read to them. If your daughter was old enough to see Minions, she’s probably old enough for this story! Of course, feel free to vet it first.

My story includes progressive and subversive elements that not only entertain, but are also an attempt to counteract the sexism and problematic elements in Minions. In other words, Despicable Scarlet is what a Scarlet Overkill story would entail if a female creator had control over the project. It’s about reclaiming and re-imagining a faulty character and giving her not only agency, but new life altogether.

Download your copy here, and then share it with all your friends and family! And when you’re done, try creating your own stories with your favorite characters that might be ill-served by their corporate owners.

You can follow Heather on Twitter: @thgalaxyexpress @TheOverkills

Lois & Clark Rule This Week in DC

This is an odd week for DC. First, an alternate universe story featuring classic Lois & Clark is our favorite, Frank Miller seems to have a more hopeful view of superheroes than many of DC’s current comics, Neal Adams goes back to 1970s style storytelling and the big Darkseid War saga is falling flat, even for Ray, who loves his Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern.

Perhaps some of it is the creative teams being shuffled before DC goes into its Rebirth event. We don’t know that much as this event, save for the continued statements that it’s a not a reboot. Methinks DC doth protest too much?

In any case, pick up Superman: Lois & Clark. You won’t be sorry.

Superman: Lois and Clark #5 – Dan Jurgens, writer, Neil Edwards, penciller, Scott Hanna and Edwards, inkers. 

Ray: 9/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Love This Couple.

Ray: This is Superman. This is the purest Superman comic I’ve seen since the Johns/Frank run, and it does an amazing job of reminding everyone who reads it exactly why this guy is DC’s greatest hero.

So why didn’t it catch on? I blame Convergence, the “AU stigma” of the book not really mattering (although that certainly didn’t hurt Spider-Gwen), and the relative lack of hype. Well, let’s just hope that this is simply a low-selling teaser for a big presence for the real Superman in Rebirth. This issue continues its interesting format of showing us both snapshots of the older Superman’s early days on this world, as well as his adventures in the present day. A segment where he watches this world’s Batman (who is still beginning his career) and rescues him from a dangerous situation without ever being seen is great for people who like these two heroes acting like friends and respecting each other, rather than being at each other’s throats.

As always, every scene involving Clark and Lois and their relationship is top-notch and makes me hopeful that DC will realize this is the only relationship Superman fans really want to see. In the present day, Blanque and his unwilling partner Hank Henshaw continue to hunt Superman, but make the mistake of taking the fight to Lois and Jon – something that Superman will not tolerate. After defeating Blanque, we see a nice display of Superman’s compassion – both towards Henshaw and some of his other residents in his fortress. And the last issue brings a big but sort of expected status quo change for the family. This reminds me a lot of the weekly Superman era, much of which was by Jurgens, and that’s an excellent model to build on. I hope Jurgens gets a shot on Action Comics come Rebirth. Shouldn’t it be vintage Superman who crosses that 1K barrier?

Corrina: How do you write Superman? Like this! Just like this. Quick, someone shove these comics into Zach Snyder’s hands. Okay, that’s probably not going to happen but could we force the Superman Group Editor for DC comics to admit that this is the kind of Superman that works, not that crazy-angsty hero over in the other books? I would say maybe it’s just old-school me but it’s not like the regular Superman titles have been setting the sales world on fire. Continue reading Lois & Clark Rule This Week in DC

Geek Speaks Fiction: On Researching Prosthetics

Lizbeth Selvig lives in Minnesota with her best friend (aka her husband), and a gray Arabian gelding. After working as a newspaper journalist and magazine editor, and raising an equine veterinarian daughter and a talented musician son, she won RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart® Contest in 2010 with her contemporary romance The Rancher and the Rock Star. In her spare time, she loves to hike, quilt, read, horseback ride, and spend time with her new granddaughter. She also has four-legged grandchildren—more than twenty—including a wallaby, two alpacas, a donkey, a pig, a sugar glider, and many dogs, cats, and horses (pics of all appear on her website www.lizbethselvig.com). She loves connecting with readers—contact her any time!

Geeking Out on Prosthetic Legs

Hi, GeekMom readers! I’m so honored to be here today—this is such an amazing, smart blog site, and I thank you so much for inviting me to be part of it.

I’d like to start by admitting that I know how unromantic the title for my guest post sounds—especially when I’m here to talk about a romance novel! But when I was working on my newest book, The Bride Wore Starlight, I understood I was trying to write a love story built around a difficult and generally un-romantic subject: the loss of a limb. I knew, too, that I had to get my research right or risk writing a story about a hero that was, at best, cliché and, at worst, insulting. Naturally, I didn’t want either to happen.

The Bride Wore Starlight is about two people dealing with both emotional and physical wounds: Joely Crockett, a former beauty queen, who has recently been injured in a serious car accident, leaving her permanently lame and scarred, and Alec Morrissey, a former rodeo champion who lost a leg in Iraq.

Lizbeth Selvig, image copyright LIzbeth Selvig.
Lizbeth Selvig, image copyright LIzbeth Selvig.

Although the issues they face are difficult, the book is not too serious and definitely not sad! In fact, some of the things I discovered while researching for Alec, especially, were not depressing but quite uplifting and led to some fun in the story.

But I did have to start from ground zero when it came to writing about a hero who was missing his leg from just below the knee. Here’s just a little of what I learned. Continue reading Geek Speaks Fiction: On Researching Prosthetics

This Week in DC: Harley Quinn and the Joker Have It Out

This week in DC Comics, Harley and the Joker have an epic throwdown, Martian Manhunter turns into a giant Earth-saving machine, the Secret Six and Batgirl make nice, there’s another installment of Max Landis’ origin of Superman and Doctor Fate goes topical.

Which ones should you buy? Read on to find out!

Secret Six #11, writer, Gail Simone, artists, Dale Eaglesham and Tom Derenick

Ray: 9.5/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Most. Fun. Dysfunctional Family Ever.

Ray: This is a breather issue in a lot of ways after the big magic-based arc that just wrapped, but in many ways it feels just as significant – and even better – than any of those issues. Because there’s nothing more enjoyable than watching this weird band of misfits interact and become a bizarre family. We’ve got Porcelain and Strix arranging a trade of skills, as Strix tries to teach Porcelain to fight (in a scene that reminds me a lot of Cass and Steph’s old “training sessions” that lasted a few seconds) and Porcelain gives Strix a makeover. This is the first time we get to see Strix without her bandages, and much like Damage in the last Justice Society of America run, the truth under the mask is far less horrific than what was hinted by the time of the unveiling. She’s got scars, but the structure of her face is far more intact than I assumed. Meanwhile, Ralph/Big Shot gets a phone call from Sue, claiming she’s starting to remember and asking to come home. I’m hoping this is genuine, but this book tends to be twisty, so who knows. The makeover scene is sort of sweet, but as usual, Ventriloquist is the spanner in the works, convincing Strix that she should be proud of her scars. Continue reading This Week in DC: Harley Quinn and the Joker Have It Out

DC This Week: Bruce (Batman) Wayne is Back

It was an excellent week for female heroes at DC, with new issues of The Legend of Wonder Woman, the best thing to happen to the character in years, a new issue of DC Comics Bombshells, and a team-up story with Vixen and Black Canary that delves into Canary’s past and the mystery surrounding her missing mother.

Oh, yeah, and this guy named Bruce Wayne took back the mantle of Batman. Plus, Constantine continues to be a magnificent bastard and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have fun in the Batcave.

As always, we review all the DC titles published this week. I’ve put them in order my preference, rather than Ray’s ratings, so you may note that I’ve pushed the latest issue of Batman & Robin Eternal down a bit. Mind-controlled teammate fights are not my thing.

The Legend of Wonder Woman #2, creators: Renae De Liz and Ray Dillion

Ray: 9/10

Corrina: Fantastic Story.

Ray: This reinvention of the Wonder Woman origin continues to be the best thing to happen to the character in years. It’s two oversized issues in, and we’re still on Themysrica, which is very refreshing. I’ve never seen more than a few pages devoted to the formative years of Diana’s character.

That’s not to say there’s not a lot of action and suspense in this issue, though. The first segment focuses on a young Diana’s training with the mercurial Aclippe, as Diana struggles under her teacher and demands to know where Aclippe’s hostility comes from. The answer lifts the curtain on a lot of the political intrigue in Themysrica, something that only continues after a time jump. Diana is about eighteen in the second segment, and danger is starting to build as forces begin to plot against Queen Hippolyta. Antiope and Melanippe, the high priestesses of Ares and Hades, are planning to oust the Queen in their favor, and make for compelling new villains – something Diana is very much in need of.

As Hippolyta faces this uprising, she prepares Diana for the possibility that she may need to step up as queen – something that will include petitioning the Gods for infinite life. The arrival of Steve Trevor on the island only complicates things, and gives the evil Antiope her opening to put Aclippe in a coma and move her plan to depose Hippolyta up. The classic elements of Diana’s origin are starting to slip in, but unlike so many other origin retellings, I don’t feel like I know where things are going. Highly recommended.

Corrina: Absolutely agreed, this is the Diana that Wonder Woman fans have been wanting for years. Now, I can only cross my fingers that it sells. However, while De Liz’s story is obviously original, I see echoes of Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman: The Circle arc in some of the concepts, especially that of Amazons who resent Diana’s creation. But the best part of both stories is, like The Circle, it focuses on individual Amazons, instead of making them some faceless horde behind Queen Hippolyta. Continue reading DC This Week: Bruce (Batman) Wayne is Back

DC Comics: Buy ‘Midnighter’ Before He’s Gone

This week in DC Comics, we might be seeing the last gasp of a few titles. In some case, like Batman Beyond, it’s not a huge loss, but in other cases, such as Midnighter, it’s a damn shame. But Suicide Squad fans, here’s your chance to check out Midnighter with an issue that shows how unique this run has been.

What else should you grab? If you like horror, Swamp Thing. Batgirl fans, the new issue is out and Black Canary’s back. Fans of Scott Snyder’s run on Batman should check out Batman & Robin Eternal, as there are major doings with Harper Row. But Ray and I won’t limit ourselves to just those comics. We read them all.

MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THIS WEEK’S COMICS BELOW.

Swamp Thing #2, Len Wein, writer, Kelley Jones, illustrator

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: Great Start Especially For Swamp Thing Newbies

Ray: I was a bit disappointed with the first issue of the relaunch, since it seemed to pull back all the development the character’s world went through in the previous series and set him back to the lone monster he used to be. Fortunately, this issue makes it clear that the goal is to pull Swamp Thing back into the sphere of the dark, supernatural characters in the DCU. When we last left off, Swamp Thing had been ripped in two by a rampaging zombie, a vengeful victim of a resurrection experiment gone wrong. Continue reading DC Comics: Buy ‘Midnighter’ Before He’s Gone

Black Canary’s Space-Time Sound Warp

Topping the list of our DC Comic reviews this week is an issue of Black Canary that utterly belongs to Annie Wu, as she draws a wordless battle of sound, a concept that reminded me of Superman singing the world back to life in Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis, though this is more coherent than that meandering book. Still, being in the same room as Morrison is always good.

The stories starring lesser known DC heroes this week are also of high quality, including the soon-to-be-classic Omega Men, couple-crime fighting in Superman: Lois & Clark,  Dick Grayson back to his punny self in Grayson, and Vic reevaluating his life in Cyborg. For a change of pace, check out the Scooby-Doo review at the bottom.

Alas, with change coming to DC comics yet again, Ray and I will likely lose most of these books or have already lost them. (Lois & Clark! Sob!) Read them while they’re here because word is that the new focus will be only on the movie/television characters.

As always, Ray handles the plot recaps, giving me a chance to praise, snark or bury the issue.

Black Canary #7, Brenden Fletcher, writer, Annie Wu, artist.

Ray: 9/10

Corrina: Fantastic.

Ray: What started out as a quirky, entertaining road trip/band comic giving us a new take on Black Canary has quickly morphed into one of the most mind-bending – and arguably important – comics in the DCU as we peel back the layers of the post-Convergence DCU. When we last left off, an epic battle of the bands between Black Canary and Bo Maeve ended with a sonic effect that resulted in Ditto and Kurt Lance disappearing into the ether. They were then found, with Kurt mysteriously 50 years older. This issue answers a lot of the mysteries surrounding Ditto, revealing her as a mysterious sound-based creature, from the same world as the mysterious monsters who have been chasing the band for the entire run. And to make matters worse, a giant beast made from the same material is now bearing down on their location. Annie Wu’s art is absolutely fantastic in this issue, and there’s several interesting segments that give us sneak peeks at possible alternate versions, pasts, and futures of Canary’s life.

Between Bo Maeve returning (and maybe taking a few more steps towards redemption), Amanda Waller still trying to claim Ditto, and the giant sound monster, things don’t slow down for a second in this issue. Eventually, the monster is defeated by two Canary cries, but Dinah winds up unconscious and rescued by our mysterious White Canary – who hints strongly that she may just be Dinah’s mother. Are a lot of the things people didn’t like about the post-Flashpoint Black Canary being subtly retconned away? I hope so – just in time for another reboot? Excellent issue that wraps up most of the main plots in a satisfying fashion while opening the door for some interesting future adventures. Bring it on.

Corrina: Time, space and dimensions are relative in this stand-off that is a showcase for Wu’s art. The final confrontation is wordless and it’s perfect. I didn’t think Wu could top herself but she does and if I ever find her at a Con, I am going to scrape all my savings together for a Black Canary commission. Continue reading Black Canary’s Space-Time Sound Warp

‘Downton Abbey Season 6’: Saying Good-Bye

And they say romance writers are sentimental. They have nothing on Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey.

That was my overall reaction to bing watching on Downton Abbey, season 6, via my review copy over the weekend. You can do the same, as the DVD releases today, even though PBS just aired part four on Sunday night.

I’ve stuck with the show through thick and thin, though I nearly quit after Anna’s rape that somehow became all about her husband instead of her. Yet, I couldn’t completely let the show go. Why? Because as any good watcher of a soap opera does, I grew attached to the characters. Oh, not all of them. Mary could die horribly, drawn and quartered, and I wouldn’t care. (I’m also lukewarm about Daisy, Denker and Spratt.)

Oh, but there’s Edith, the Jan Brady of the Crawley clan, who has tried mightily to find happiness and keeps falling short. My one requirement for this season was  “Edith gets a happy ending.”

There’s also Carson and Mrs. Hughes, who are lovely, Anna, Baxter, Mrs. Patmore, Molesley, the Countess, and, of course, the Dowager Duchess/Grandmama, who gets all the best lines.

MAJOR SPOILERS AFTER THE CUT
Continue reading ‘Downton Abbey Season 6’: Saying Good-Bye

Poison Ivy: Plant, Human Or Something Else?

Last week, I talked about some of the books that star the lesser-known DC characters need more love. That’s even more evident this week, as Martian Manhunter, Titans Hunt, Poison Ivy, Secret Six and Doctor Fate come out this week with good issues. Yet Ivy is only a miniseries, Doctor Fate’s sales have bottomed out and the rest aren’t doing the sales that their quality indicates they should.

Then I read that the seventh issue of my fangirl favorite, Titans Hunt, will be written by Scott Lobdell, who wrote the awful Doomed and made a mess of the regular Teen Titans title. Worse, it appears the book will be ending the month after. Nooo…..

Which brings me to why readers may not be buying these quality books: if their cancelation is inevitable, why get invested in these characters? A cynical way to look at it but given that DC has a habit of using its lesser-known characters as cannon fodder in crossovers, understandable. But, I have to say, ya’ll are missing great stories.

As always, I’m joined in the recaps by Ray Goldfied, where we have a serious disagreement about an issue of Batman that includes a big turning point in the life of the new Bruce Wayne.

Happy comic reading!

Page 4 of Poison Ivy, image copyright DC Comics
Page 4 of Poison Ivy, image copyright DC Comics

Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death #1, written by Amy Chu, pencils by Clay Mann, inks by Seth Mann

Ray: 8/10

Corrina: Everyone loves the Joker most of Batman’s villains but I’ve always the female antagonists more interesting, starting with Catwoman. However, Poison Ivy is in a class by herself, a villain motivated not by money or power but by scientific curiosity and her strange ability to commune with plants. She’s creepy and I had no idea if she would make a good protagonist. But she does, mainly because all her many facets are on display in this book, from her fascination with science to her boredom with humanity and, even, surprisingly, her relationship with Harley Quinn.

I’d not expected I’d be so intrigued but I am. That bodes well for this miniseries.

Ray: I’m a sucker for stories about villains trying to turn over a new leaf. They can be dark, like Magneto’s accounting for his violent past in Cullen Bunn’s run, or lighthearted like Riddler’s Detective agency in Paul Dini’s books. This new Poison Ivy miniseries seems to fall right in the middle of that spectrum, and delivers an entertaining story in the process. When we open, Ivy and a friend of hers are in Africa to obtain a rare specimen of an ancient long-lived plant, only to be accosted by local soldiers. Ivy makes short work of them and the plant returns safely to her new base, the Gotham Botanical Gardens, where she works as a scientist under her mentor, Dr. Luisa Cruz.

Cover to Poison Ivy, image copyright DC Comics
Cover to Poison Ivy, image copyright DC Comics

The Gotham Academy kids drop by for a tour, and we see Ivy settling into her new role as a research scientist – until a more noticeable visitor shows up. It’s Harley Quinn, who isn’t quite sure how she feels about her girlfriend’s new direction in life. I felt like anything here involving Harley was probably the weak link. I enjoy their banter and it’s always fun to see them beat up goons together, but the conflict felt very forced. Harley’s done the secret identity/normal job thing in her solo title – in fact, it’s the main thrust of her book – so her questioning of Ivy’s decision to go back to her old line of work was weird. And Ivy throwing Joker in Harley’s face just felt like a way to force a breakup. But Amy Chu has a great voice for Ivy, and does the perfect balance of smart and sinister. The issue ends with a sudden death that sets up an new miniseries involving the mysterious genetically engineered plants that Ivy’s been working on. There’s a few rough edges here, but it feels in line with the stronger work done on Poison Ivy, and I’m glad to see her finally get her spotlight.

Titans Hunt #4, Dan Abnett, writer, Stephen Segovia, pencils, Art Thibert, inks, Scott McDaniel, adult coloring book variant cover.

Corrina: My Titans!

Ray: 7.5/10

Corrina: I can’t separate my inner fangirl from my reviewer self with this one, so..::My Titans, SQUEE:: Continue reading Poison Ivy: Plant, Human Or Something Else?

The DC Comics You Should Be Reading

Each week that we recap the latest offerings from DC Comics, we invariably gush over a B-list book or character that deserves a much wider readership. That’s true this week too, as Constantine: The Hellblazer, Gotham Academy, and Starfire all are given high marks but all except Starfire are at the back of the pack in sales.

In print, Deathstroke‘s ‘meh’ title is selling more than Grayson, DC: Bombshells, Black Canary and We Are Robin. Martian Manhunter, Secret Six, Doctor Fate and Omega Men are bottom sellers. Gotham Academy, one of the freshest and most interesting ideas in the Batman mythos in ages, is selling only 16,000 print copies a week, which boggles my mind.

Either regular DC readers are unwilling to read anything even slightly  different than their basic superhero story, non-DC readers haven’t gotten the word that these non-flagship titles are inventive and fascinating, or people are buying a bunch of them digitally and, hence, the sales aren’t reflected in print.

It could be a combination of all three but I hope it’s the last reason because that means more people than it seems are reading the lower-selling print books. (Comixology.com doesn’t release exact sales numbers.) But, otherwise, some of my favorite books are going to be canceled. No! If you haven’t tried any of the above, please give them a shot.

(These figures are from November 2015, with a few sales figures taken from the October 2015 rundown. Let’s hope, at least, that the Robin War crossover spurred some interest in the lower selling Bat-books.

Now back to our regularly scheduled reviews….

Constantine: The Hellblazer #8 – Ming Doyle & James Tynion IV, writers, Riley Rossmo, finishes and cover, Brian Level, breakdowns

Ray: 9/10

Corrina: Buy It!

Ray: This book is absolutely at its best when it’s delving into the dark and creepy underworld of the DCU and balancing it with some twisted humor. When we last left off, Papa Midnite had Constantine’s new flame Oliver held hostage in order to get his attention. Turns out Midnite’s dark magic club has been taken over by some corrupt demons who stole it from under him, and he needs Constantine’s help to get it back. To “motivate” Constantine, he has his Basilisk bite Oliver, necessitating an antidote that can only be found in the Club. Although I don’t particularly like a same-sex rehash of the same old “love interest in peril” spotlight, one scene where Oliver refuses to take the Basilisk’s bait and condemn Constantine was good.

However, the issue really takes off when the two anti-heroes break into the Midnight Club. Rossmo is SO good at creating elaborate, creepy settings, and with Constantine and Midnight under glamours as demons, they’re able to have the run of the place. I loved how Constantine was able to figure out a near-impossible problem using his street-wise guile – the building is built over a non-magical shell, so it’s possible to bypass the dangerous magical traps by…taking the stairs. And on a personal note, I am thrilled to see one of my favorite ’90s villains, the pompadoured demon Neron, back in a major role. This feels like a fascinating horror twist on Ocean’s 11, and I can’t wait to see how the two reluctant allies get out of this. This is one of DC’s most underrated books.

The MIdnight Club, image copyright DC Comics
The MIdnight Club, image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: I spent a good five minutes examining all the artwork in the Midnight Club, hoping to spot easter eggs. Alas, I’m not steeped enough in Constantine’s mythology to have recognized any but I bet there are some in there. The story also, as Ray says, highlights John’s intelligence and outside-the-box thinking. He’s human, he’s sort of a demon, and he belongs in neither place. His disguise as a fun-loving demon with an agenda is a good metaphor for Constantine himself and the beauty of the character is that he knows this himself. Continue reading The DC Comics You Should Be Reading

The Legend of Wonder Woman: The Story We Need

If you read these reviews each week, you’ve likely noticed that Ray and myself shake our heads whenever we get to the regular Wonder Woman title. The quality of it verges from ‘meh’ to ‘awful.’

Even the quality story previous to the current creative team,  an imaginative, mythic-fueled story by Brian Azzarello and drawn magnificently by Cliff Chiang wasn’t one I could read, given that it morphed the Amazons into killers who preyed on unwitting men in passing ships, killed them, and sold the male children into slavery to a god. If Wonder Woman is supposed to show the best of humanity, how does she learn any ideals when being raised by flat-out murderers? This tale sidelined Wonder Woman’s relationship with her mother, Hippolyta, and instead gave her “daddy issues” by making her the daughter of Zeus, rather than the embodiment of Hippolyta and the Amazons’ hopes and dreams for children.

The Legend of Wonder Woman #1, written and drawn by Renae De Liz, has everything I could want from a Wonder Woman title. I’m sorry I missed the digital-first chapters and I’m only reading it for the first time now but part of me is not sorry because the art and the colors pop beautifully in print. It’s a work that I want to own, not to have live in my computer screen.

This series reinvents the Amazon and Princess Diana and, yet, the female-oriented society of hope and peace is intact. The story provides little Diana with intelligence and compassion as well the promise of warrior skills. It’s all detailed beautifully without any of the male gaze oriented-art featured in the main Wonder Woman title. Little Princess Diana who longs to be more than she is is a hero to root for, and a story to root for. It reminds me, in a good way, of Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman: The Circle, which also focused on Amazon society and how the need and love of children affect them.

As Ray says in the full review below, “after one issue, this has the chance to be one of the all-time classic DC origin stories.”

However, be warned, spoilers after the cut!
Continue reading The Legend of Wonder Woman: The Story We Need

Swamp Thing Oozes Into a Zombie Mystery in This Week’s DC Comics

Welcome to our reviews of this week’s DC Comics. As always, Ray Goldfied handles the plot recaps, while I riff on the highlights and lowlights. (Looking for last week? Look here!)

Swamp Thing is back, Hal Jordan and Parallax are both on Earth and Superman in the video game is still evil and now we have the full slate of reviews, including the latest issue of Batman & Robin Eternal, plus more Bombshells, and a fine detective story for Jim Gordon in the latest issue of Detective. 

Spoilers for all issues. 

Batman and Robin Eternal #14 – James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, story, James Tynion IV, script, Fernando Blanco and Roger Robinson, art 

Ray: 9/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Finally Sold on the Series

Ray: I know Corrina named this issue as her favorite of the series, and I’m really curious to see why. I’m partial to last week’s Cass-centric issue. That’s not to say this issue isn’t excellent, though. The story is split fairly evenly between flashback segments and present-day segments. In the past, Bruce and Dick take the fight to Scarecrow and Batman dispatches Robin to defuse a bomb on the roof – so he can confront Scarecrow personally. Scarecrow makes an attempt to surrender, saying Mother’s deranged plan to essentially lobotomize a generation of children with intense trauma goes too far, but Batman has other ideas. He agrees to give Scarecrow protective custody only if Scarecrow goes back inside Mother’s organization and reports back to him. It’s pretty clear at this point that Batman’s involvement with Mother is all a deep-cover operation, and any regrets he had are all about not being able to do enough.

Meanwhile, in the present day, Mother has set up the base to terminate with Dick, Harper, Cass, and the evil Orphan inside. Orphan, however, isn’t willing to cooperate to get them all out alive, as he’s still a true believer. Cass’ penchant for self-sacrifice becomes clear as she willingly takes a knife through the hand to protect Harper without flinching, and the bulk of the issue becomes a mad dash to escape an army of killer robot defenses that the lair has set up to take them out. In between the chaos, though, we get some great scenes between Harper and Cass and a fantastic speech by Dick Grayson about why he still has faith in Batman. It’s like Tynion wanted to put all the worries people had about the portrayal of Bruce to rest with this issue. If the person closest to Bruce still believes in him, shouldn’t we? It doesn’t have quite the emotional punch of last issue, but it’s another fantastic installment in one of DC’s best books. I’ve never seen a weekly that maintains this level of quality on all fronts.

Corrina: My fondness for this issues goes to this scene, and full credit to Tynion, because he is great with dialogue.

Dick Grayson, Nightwing
Panel from Batman & Robin Eternal, image via DC Comics.

Continue reading Swamp Thing Oozes Into a Zombie Mystery in This Week’s DC Comics

The Heroines Who Paved the Way to Rey

Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, much as we love her, doesn’t stand on her own. She’s the latest in a long list of heroines on the large and small screen who have paved the way for Rey to be the lead in the biggest science fiction franchise on Earth.

Why do I feel the need to point to those before Rey?

Because, in their time, each of these heroines was pointed out as evidence of a new trend, that there could be female leads in science fiction, and no one would care anymore. Yet here we are, almost thirty years after Ripley and Sarah Connor, and Rey is viewed as revolutionary instead of the norm. My biggest fear is that the Hollywood reaction to Rey is “Well, Star Wars is a huge franchise, it can afford to take a chance on a female lead. We can’t.”

In some ways, I’d be more excited if Star Wars: A Force Awakens had been directed or written by a woman because that would be evidence of true change. (This is why I’ve been so excited at the success of Jessica Jones and Marvel’s Agent Carter, which both not only feature female leads but have women creating the shows.) I mean, we still don’t have a Black Widow movie and Captain Marvel has been pushed back for yet another Spider-Man film.

So in the interests of history and in the hope that Rey is finally is the heroine who breaks the “great, loved her but…” trend, here is my idiosyncratic list of Rey’s predecessors.

I imposed two conditions: they had to be leads or co-leads and they had to be from television or movies. (A book list would be a whole other post.) I also divided them into three categories: Pioneers, Trailblazers, and Modern Leads.

Unfortunately, my conditions leave out Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl, which kills me, but that wasn’t her show, and also leaves out Ivanova from Babylon 5, though we could argue that she is something of a co-lead. But, in the end, that is an ensemble show.

Pioneers:

Emma Peel–the day I saw The Avengers and Mrs. Peel trading quips with Steed and taking on the bad guys with equal aplomb is the day I viewed women as heroines differently.

Jaime Sommers–The Bionic Woman is somewhat forgotten now but Lindsay Wagner won an Emmy for her portrayal of a woman who might have had bionic parts but who was fully human. Her struggle to forge her own path, separate from the men who simply want to use her as a weapon, resonates even today.

Watch Jaime start her first day of teaching. This is from the pilot, by the way.


Continue reading The Heroines Who Paved the Way to Rey

Women Lead This Week’s DC Comics

Welcome to our reviews of this week’s DC Comics. As always, Ray Goldfied handles the plot recaps, while I riff on the highlights and lowlights.

It occurs to me that this week’s favorites feature women. Cassandra Cain is spotlighted in Batman and Robin: Eternal, Lois is the co-lead in Superman: Lois & Clark, and Black Canary, of course. Sadly, Superman/Wonder Woman and the Wonder Woman title suffer by comparison. On the good side, Plastic Man gets an excellent story that highlights just how dangerous he can be.

WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR TODAY’S COMICS BELOW.

Note: We’ve updated the list to include Omega Men, Doctor Fate, Harley Quinn/Power Girl, and Superman/Wonder Woman.

The Omega Men #7 – written by Tom King, art by Barnaby Bagenda

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: I remain a staunch supporter of this inventive series.

Ray: One of the most straight-forward issues of this series, it made me realize there’s a perfect parallel for what this book is trying to be – it’s Star Wars by way of Quentin Tarantino. Less violent than he often is, but that same sort of dirty, suspenseful thriller set against the backdrop of another genre. The world that King and Bagenda create manages to be distinctly alien, but full of familiar things that show that no matter how far the cast travels, some things never change. This issue turns the focus on Kyle Rayner and Princess Kalista, who have formed a tight bond since they both wound up as captives of the Omega Men – with Kyle, of course, not knowing that Kalista is the mastermind of the entire group. I’m a bit iffy on Kyle being seemingly okay with Kalista’s main problem-solving technique being stabbing people to death, but I suppose being a space captive changes your view on things. This issue finds them planning to make an escape from the planet on a smuggler’s vessel, despite being the most wanted faces in the galaxy. After trading a family heirloom of Kyle’s for passage to a shady smuggler (and reminding the audience that Kyle’s latino heritage is still continuity!), they pass through an alien version of the TSA that makes ours look friendly, only for Kyle to be the victim of a rather nasty double-cross by his “team”. Another great issue, and King manages to work in some cool Grayson crossover elements in the process. This book was never going to sell well in this market, but with DC allowing it to reach its conclusion, I suspect it’ll do well in collections for a long time.

Corrina: I’ve always said this should have been an original graphic novel rather than a series because every issue builds perfectly on what has gone before. To describe it as intricate wouldn’t be doing the plot justice. It mixes complicated politics with similarly complicated characters on all sides of this rebellion.

That’s why I disagree with Ray’s comparison to Tarantino. His movies are many things but his characters never feel real to me, only over-the-top people put in over-the-top situations. The Omega Men, despite their alienn-ess, feel all too human. This is basically a look inside a terrorist organization that passes no judgment on their cause but pulls apart their methods.  I’m glad to see the focus spring back to Kyle this issue. We’ll see what he becomes by the end of the series.

Once this is in trade, it’ll be talked about in the same breath as Grant Morrison’s Animal Man and the other inventive, experimental comics that have passed the test of time. Continue reading Women Lead This Week’s DC Comics

Try These DC Adult Coloring Book Variant Covers!

DC Comics, in a nod to the adult coloring book craze, is producing four variant covers next week that can become your own personal coloring project.

I’ve already received the Green Lantern variant. It’s a high-quality paper and it’s placed over the regular comic cover, so no worries about tearing the cover off and wrecking the comic.

Here’s the other three: Green Arrow, Superman: Action Comics, and Detective. DC’s press release encouraged printing out of the covers, so you don’t have to wait until next week to get started. Download, print, and have at it.

Note: the comics include the front and back covers, so that’s an incentive to buy the actual book. Continue reading Try These DC Adult Coloring Book Variant Covers!

DC Bombshells: The Perfect Stocking Stuffer

Welcome to our reviews of this week’s DC Comics. As always, Ray Goldfied handles the plot recaps, while I riff on the highlights and lowlights.

DC Bombshells is spectacular this week, as is the final issue of Gotham by Midnight, Ray and myself are in love with the Titans Hunt series (the less said of the regular Titans series, the better), The Robin War zooms toward an ending, Bryan Hitch gives us spectacular splash pages in Justice League of America, and Dark Knight III: The Master Race goes in an unexpected direction.

Warning: Total Spoilers for this week’s issues. 

DC Bombshells #7, Marguerite Bennett, writer, Mirka Andolfo, artist.

Ray: 10/10 BOOK OF THE WEEK

Corrina: So Much Fun To Read.

Ray: This is a full-length adventure and I can’t say enough about how excellent this book is. It’s not just the best issue of the series, it’s one of the very best single issues DC has put out this year. I don’t know the last time I’ve seen a comic that tackles so many serious issues – many of which are still very relevant today – while remaining a fun, breezy read that’s incredibly accessible to young readers. The issue opens with a Jewish family in Gotham being robbed and evicted by their cruel landlord and his thugs for hiding refugee family members in their apartment. The daughter, Felicity, speaks up – yes, it’s that Felicity Smoak! – but the landlord boasts that he has the law in his pocket – until the team of Harper, Kathy, and Nell show up, in full Batgirl costumes, and give him a much-deserved beating. He calls on a corrupt officer friend of his – who turns out to be the same officer who rounded up Harper and Cullen years ago and dragged Cullen off to an orphanage.

After escaping, this chance encounter leads the girls to plan a break-in at the Orphanage, which has gone from a decent place for kids with nowhere else to go to a mysterious hellhole run by a cruel headmistress. To get in, they recruit a new ally who has history in the place – Alysia Yeoh, who is more than ready to strike back at the place that stole years of her childhood. In the institution, a boy named Tim Drake is starting up a rebellion, as the Headmistress is making the children build war machines which she plans to send abroad to help enemies of the US. One thing that impressed me here is the realistic way this book portrays Nazi sympathizers in the US – most of them didn’t actually see themselves as enemies of the US, but rather as “patriots” who were helping what they saw as the US’ true ally. That sort of twisted disconnect from reality is very accurate and rare to see. Pretty much every character in this issue gets a shining moment, from Bette Kane rising up in her cousin’s absence and using the power of her family name to make a difference, to Cullen Row being the tiniest one there and yet just as brave as everyone else. This issue has Alysia Yeoh finally getting to be the costumed hero she was meant to be in Gail Simone’s original plans, and her energy just lights up every scene she’s in. We get Nell and Kathy, two obscure characters who never really got to shine like they should have, making a perfect team. And Harper. Oh, Harper. Every line out of her mouth is a blast. Even this title’s Tim Drake is more likable than he often is in the main line!

My only quibble? Would have loved to have Steph and Cass added, but there’s still time! By the time I got to the last page of this issue, I was grinning from ear to ear. DC, there needs to be an ongoing title featuring these characters, in the main line in the present day. And it needs to be by this exact creative team. This may only be a one-off story in an alternate universe book, but there’s something special about this issue. This is the Bat-kids book I’ve been wanting to read for years.

Corrina: There’s not much add to Ray’s superlatives because this was an awesome issue from start to finish. This would be a great one-shot issue to give kids to get them into comics. It has the perfect blend of action and dialogue, plus protagonists to love and an antagonist to hate.

This is the perfect stocking stuffer for the kids. Get ’em hooked. Continue reading DC Bombshells: The Perfect Stocking Stuffer

This Week: DC Tackles the Question of Where Robins Come From

Welcome to our weekly recap of DC’s latest releases.

Batman and Robin Eternal and We Are Robin explore the issues around having Robins in the first place as Jason Todd and Tim Drake throw down, while Harley Quinn has no qualms about expanding her army of Harleys for her nefarious? purposes.

Alas, Superman: American Alien fails to live up to the promise of its first issue, while the Darkseid War segment proves confusing, at best, and the Secret Six features Aquaman as the guest-star. In another guest-appearance, Spoiler teams up with Batgirl.

As always, Ray Goldfied handles the plot recaps, while I riff on the highlights and lowlights. Warning: Total Spoilers for this week. 

Secret Six #9 – Gail Simone, writer, artist, Tom Derenick

Ray: 9/10

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: I never knew I wanted a comic where an offbeat gang of anti-heroes traveled the universe awakening elder Gods, but here we are. The fusion of the Secret Six with what’s left of the Dark line was a brilliant move, and has given this already-great title a new burst of energy. Ferdie, usually my least favorite part of the series, manages to get one of the best scenes of the issue as he narrates the opening while Catman and Aquaman fight in the background, as Porcelain eventually lands their killing blow on the pillar, showing how their “brittle” powers work in epic fashion. From there, it’s on to a small New England town straight out of Lovecraft, as the team is after the second pillar and are greeted by a particularly creepy starving child. It seems a shapeless monster that reminds me a lot of Lovecraft’s shoggoths is lurking in the mines. Catman finds a rather hilarious loophole to destroy the pillar and release the creature – while not actually letting him out into the world.

The issue in general has a great balance of action and drama, with such absurdity as Ferdie’s narration and Strix’s choice of attire as they head to the town. And I was definitely pleased to see the phone message Scandal got from her wives. However, the heart of the issue is in Black Alice’s segments. While Ragdoll and Scandal watch over her, her powers continue to spiral out of control and summon all sorts of monsters. Eventually, she comes to a grim decision, putting Scandal in an uncomfortable position. I doubt the book will go through with it, but this is still some seriously dark territory to go into with a young character. No slowdown here, and as a fan of cosmic horror, I am enjoying the hell out of this arc.

Corrina: Simone seems to have all the DC characters she wants for use in this story or, at least the ones that fans of the series will be happy to see. I know there had to have been a few happy moments among readers as Scandal’s wives were definitely placed in continuity.

I love the touch this series has on characters, even in brief appearances like Aquaman. I’m even warming to Black Alice, who I’ve never enjoyed much. About the only negative thing I have to say is that Catman’s trick on the monster seemed a bit too convenient to actually work. But that’s a minor niggle. Continue reading This Week: DC Tackles the Question of Where Robins Come From

Ninja Turtles and the Robin War Make Gotham the Place to Be This Week

Note: This article has been updated with reviews of Constantine the Hellblazer, Starfire (featuring Dick Grayson), Catwoman’s first issue with a new creative team, and some Star Trek/Green Lantern crossover goodness. c

Welcome to our recaps of this week’s DC Comics. Ray Goldfied is our resident prototypical DC Comics reader, while I pick and choose among my favorites and whatever quality story grabs me from week to week.

This week, as the title suggests, Gotham as the place to be. The Robin War goes down as the police get the upper hand in a series of issues that were an improvement (at least to me) from the beginning of this crossover event. Then the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hide out in Gotham’s sewers, still ordering pizza, while trying to stop the bad guys and get home.

Plus, more DC Comics Bombshells!

Batman and Robin Eternal #10 – James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, story, Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly, script, Roge Antonio and Geraldo Borges, art.

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: Without missing a beat, this issue continues the story of Jason and Tim’s mission in Santa Prisca, in the Church of St. Dumas, as they come face to face with the new incarnation of fan favorite Azrael. Surrounded by powerful goons who can terminate their technology, Jason and Tim struggle to hold their own against the evil Priests while their temporary ally Bane goes up against Azrael – and quickly gets dismantled, his Venom strain severed before he is subject to Azrael’s strange brainwashing power that gives him a painful form of clarity.

Jason and Tim escape and dig into the Church’s computer history, finding the records of Jean-Paul Valley, one of Mother’s children who is now Azrael. Before they can decide on a plan, Azrael attacks, and Azrael gets the drop on Tim, subjecting him to the same form of brainwashing. This is a weird acid-trip of a segment, with bizarre visuals that leave Tim nearly catatonic and rambling about how they failed Bruce.

Continue reading Ninja Turtles and the Robin War Make Gotham the Place to Be This Week

Choosing a Mattress: Being Specific Matters

Science says that there’s no one perfect mattress, just the perfect mattress for a particular person. In my dealings with Saatva Mattress, and their memory foam division, Loom & Leaf, I discovered that is exactly their focus: finding a suitable mattress for each individual.

Saatva advertises their product as “America’s best-priced luxury mattress,” promising to provide a top quality coil queen-size mattress for $899, while the memory foam Loom & Leaf line starts at $999. If you haven’t seen Saatva or Loom & Leaf  mattresses in stores or the name is unfamiliar to you, that’s not a coincidence, as they are an online only retailer.

Ron Rudzin, the CEO of Saatva, said the company philosophy is to provide a clear, high-quality product at a lower price by eliminating brick and mortar costs.

When Saatva offered to send me a mattress for review, great, I thought. A new mattress? I need queen-size. What else is to decide?

Turns out, a great deal.

Loom & Leaf mattress, image via Saatva
Loom & Leaf mattress, image via Saatvia

First, I had to decide between the coil mattress from Saatva or the memory foam from their Loom & Leaf division. I spent time googling information on mattresses in general and browsing the Loom & Leaf website before deciding.

I picked a queen-size memory foam. Why? Because I’ve slept on coil mattresses my whole life and while they seemed fine, they never did anything for my periodic insomnia. I wanted to take a chance that a different type would help.

Also leading to my decision was the promise of no motion transfer with memory foam. My husband is a heavy sleeper. My tossing and turning rarely wakes him. But I’m a light sleeper, and his tossing and turning wakes me. A solution to this issue seemed a godsend.

The research told me that the two biggest issues with memory foam are chemicial smells and overheating. However, Saatva, aware of this, have taken steps to eliminate both those issues.

“We have 16 companies in United States that put together our product. Some companies ship wet and  shrink-wrap, to save on shipping. We don’t,”Rudzin said.  That practice, shrink wrapping before the foam dries, contributes to  unpleasant smells.

“We do not allow the foams to come to any of our factories, moist or shrink-wrapped, we prefer to have any small amounts of off-gassing happen at our supplier before the beds get put together,”Rudzin added.

As for the overheating, a solution to that is built into the design.

“Our top layer is an inverted foam, which create air chambers,”Rudzin said. “There is also a medical grade cooling gel in the center of the bed to help keep the body cool, plus and organic cotton cover.”

Satisfied with my choice, I thought the call to customer service to order my mattress would be quick and easy. Not so. I ended up talking to them for about half and hour, and that was a good thing because without going through all the details with Darlene, my customer service rep, I might have ended up with the wrong bed.

Among the questions Darlene asked:

How high was my current bed? Did I sleep alone or with someone else? Was I a side sleeper? What about my husband, how did he sleep? Did his sleep disturb mine? Did my headboard have anything that might be covered up by a higher mattress?

Darlene walked me through the various firmness choices for memory foam.  I ended up going with their most popular, the Relaxed Firm. During the course of the call,  I had to decide on the height, both of the mattress and the box spring, and Darlene was patient enough to wait for me to grab a ruler and double check those heights. Estimates were not enough. Without measuring beforehand, I would have been surprised at the height of the mattress when it arrived.

This way, I knew it would be higher and that I would likely have to buy new sheets to fit the mattress. And, yes, there were several different heights available, for both the memory foam and the accompany box spring.

“The first qualification for people working for us is someone who is naturally nice,” Rudzin said of my experience. “We don’t try to sell the product. We explain the product so they know what they might like or might not like. If someone likes a real soft bed, we might not be the right people for the job.”

Darlene provided the kind of service they insist from all their representatives, Rudzin said.

“We are very adamant about heights because people can make errors when they buy. We train our people to go over this with our customers. We can’t resell anything we take back, so we’re being careful for the consumer but also for us too, as we get hurt anytime we do an exchange. That’s why we prefer not to have a true sales system but more of a customer service/information system.”

After that, comes delivery.

“Seventy percent of our customers need the old product taken out,” he said. “We have 112 fulfillment centers and, in most cases, we’re building the product fresh for you, so that takes 7-15 days, depending on where you are.”

I was informed the night before delivery when to expect the truck, they arrived on time, and then set up the mattress and box spring on my bedframe quickly and efficiently.

As promised, there was no unpleasant memory foam smell. And, as promised, my new Loom & Leaf is a comfortable but firm mattress. Best of all, no motion transfer. I don’t feel my husband rolling over any longer. That’s a huge relief.

Would I buy my next mattress from Saatva/Loom & Leaf? Yes, for several reasons:

  • It’s been a quality product that has performed as promised so far, especially with the lack of motion transfer on the bed.
  • I like companies that provide great customer service, like Southwest Airlines. Saatva did so. If I have any problems, I’m confident I could call them and they’d resolve the issue.
  • The company is attempting to be as “green” as possible. The products are America-made and use plant based foams. The foams are 30 percent soy and corn oil/bio-based, cutting down on the petroleum in the foams.

 

‘Gotham Academy #13’ Sneak Preview

Over the past twelve months, my co-reviewer Ray Goldfield and myself have been extolling the virtues of Gotham Academywhich deals with the perils of attending a private residential school in the midst of the chaos that is Gotham City.

In this exclusive preview of Gotham Academy #13, the series crosses over with the Robin War. So far, one of the Robin gang has been involved in the death of a police officer, triggering a mass crackdown on the teens imitating Batman’s sidekick, Robin.

GOTHAC_13_1
Continue reading ‘Gotham Academy #13’ Sneak Preview

Robins, Robins, Everywhere! Plus ‘Prez’ & More in DC This Week

Welcome to our weekly DC Comics reviews. Ray Goldfied is the prototypical DC fan, while I’m looking for books I can recommend to non-DC or even non-comics readers.

This week features all the Robins of nearly every iteration except, hey, Stephanie Brown who is absent this week from Batman and Robin Eternal. However, another seemingly forgotten Bat character is back instead!

Beyond the Robin War, there’s also Gotham AcademyPrez, Gotham by Midnight and then a whole host of DC books that are only middling to fair and on their last issue or two.

First, let’s check in the the Bat-kids:

Batman and Robin Eternal #9 – James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, story, Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly, script, Roge Antonio, artist

Ray: 9.5/10

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: A pretty big change of pace this issue, as this excellent series switches gears and brings in a pair of creators new to the DCU. That would be Lanzing and Kelly, the writers behind Hacktivist, on script duty for this arc.

The main plots we’ve been following until now mostly take a backseat this issue, with Cass Cain still absent after her traumatic flashback last issue, and Harper Row and Dick Grayson only appearing in a short segment where they discuss Harper’s absence and battle it out over Harper’s recklessness and anger. There’s also a flashback segment where Bruce infiltrates Mother’s lair as a customer – only for her to reveal she already knows he’s Batman and hint that she expects him to come back for a custom Robin at one point. It’s a creepy segment that continues to deepen the mystery of Mother, but the flashbacks are definitely a slow burn.

The meat of the issue, however, is in the main story involving Jason and Tim infiltrating Santa Prisca and quickly coming face-to-face with its most famous resident, Bane. Bane’s kicked the Venom, which probably explains why the boys are able to hold him off for so long. I’ve got to say, this is the best-written Bane since Gail Simone’s Secret Six, bringing him back to the complex but ruthless warrior who holds a fierce loyalty to the army he leads. His country’s been taken over by the Church of St. Dumas and his former loyalists recruited into their number, which leads Tim and Jason to reluctantly agree to a temporary team-up against their common enemy.

The Church has an interesting mix of a creepy sci-fi vibe with hints of genuine healing magic at work, but before Tim and Jason can fully explore, they’re exposed as intruders and find themselves up against the Church’s secret guardian – the religious fanatic Azrael! So Cass isn’t the only long-lost Bat-character returning, and I’m impressed with both Azrael’s design and just how well the writers call back to his…less lucid periods early in his run. In general, it’s extremely impressive just how well Lanzing and Kelly slip right into writing these characters despite never writing a DC book before. The consistency on this title is incredible, and despite the absence of the character I’m mainly here for, this was one of the best issues of the run.

Corrina: I wouldn’t say one of the best issues, simply because I’ve no idea who Tim Drake is supposed to be anymore, with the last three reboots and his somewhat inconsistent characterization in this series, but I suppose he and Jason Todd make enough of an odd couple to be interesting and the addition of the anti-hero Bane (instead of villain-style Bane) is a nice touch. Continue reading Robins, Robins, Everywhere! Plus ‘Prez’ & More in DC This Week

We’re Thankful for ‘Lois & Clark’, Bat-kids & ‘The Omega Men’ This Week

Welcome to our weekly recap of DC Comics’ latest releases. Ray Goldfield is the proto-typical DC reader, while I’m the lapsed DC reader who needs to be pulled back in.

This week, when the stories were good, they were excellent but when they were bad, they were awful. The Batman line, of course, remains strong, but The Omega Men and DC Bombshells pull their weight. And we split on book of the week, with Ray going for Robin, Son of Batman while Superman: Lois & Clark is my favorite.

As for the worst, it’s good that Superman has the book mentioned above and that Wonder Woman has DC Bombshells because and the less said about their regular weekly books, the better.

Oh, and yet another sequel to the great Dark Night Returns came out. How doe sit stack up to the original? See below.

Robin, Son of Batman #6 – Patrick Gleason, script and pencils, Mick Gray and Tom Nguyen, inks,

Ray: 9.5/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Not Book of the Week For Me But I Still Recommend It for the ‘Aww..”

Ray: The end of the first arc, before Damian heads back to Gotham to take part in the upcoming Robin War (which gets teased in another book this week as well). Surprisingly, the arrival of new Big Bad Den Darga actually takes a backseat this issue, with the villain fleeing to put his plan into motion, and the focus being on Damian and his odd supporting cast.

The opening segment shows one of Damian’s missions in the Year of Blood, which leads to him slaughtering a colony of Man-Bats. However, one young Man-Bat (who is sure to get all the fan art on Tumblr) survives, and Damian can’t bring himself to kill it. So he takes it back to his mother and gets approval to keep it as a warrior companion. It grows up into Goliath, natch. The powerful heart of the issue, though, is in Damian’s reunion with his mother now that they actually have time to talk. Continue reading We’re Thankful for ‘Lois & Clark’, Bat-kids & ‘The Omega Men’ This Week

GeekMom Deal of the Day: Kindle Under Fifty

I’ve been keeping an eye on Amazon for special deals, particularly on cool but not-too-expensive gifts for the four minions and spotted this one today.

Amazon Kindle 6″ Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers.

Not bad. For that price, I could get a couple for the younger minions and keep the iPad we’ve been fighting over to myself.

‘The Rise of the Tomb Raider’ Exclusive Art Giveaway

The revitalization of Lara Croft returns in Rise of the Tomb Raider, available exclusively on Xbox One. In celebration of this monumental sequel to the reimagining of Lara Croft, we have an awesome set we to giveaway.

The Rise of the Tomb Raider wooden crate is filled with four pieces of limited edition artwork as well as a digital download of the game to go with the prize pack. Check out the widget below to enter to win. Continue reading ‘The Rise of the Tomb Raider’ Exclusive Art Giveaway

Martian Manhunter Destroys Earth & The Secret Six Take on Aquaman in DC This Week

Welcome to our recaps of DC Comics’ latest issues. Ray is the prototypical DC fan. It takes a great deal for him to give up on a title. I’m the one who tends to have the quick hook, especially for titles are are just ‘meh.’

This week, the Bat-kids keep chugging along in Batman and Robin Eternal, the Secret Six get wet in a terrific issue featuring Aquaman, Martian Manhunter‘s many selves argue with each other about saving the Earth in a great whacked-out story, and the original Teen Titans try to get back together in Titans Hunt.

On the bad side, the title character of the Telos gets the most random origin ever, the aptly-named Doomed closes its run, and Jimmy Olsen gives in to the Dark Side in Earth-2 Society.

Batman and Robin Eternal #7 – James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, story, Genevieve Valentine, script, Alvaro Martinez, pencils, Raul Fernandez, inks

Ray: 9.5/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Buy the Series.

Ray: I was waiting for this series – which has been consistently strong since it started – to truly wow me with an issue. Valentine’s first issue as the script writer does just that as it turns the spotlight on Cassandra Cain and Harper Row and their growing friendship. The team is a bit splintered, as Tim Drake has gone off the grid and is following his own leads – accompanied by Jason Todd, who tries to get the young genius Bat to open up about his issues with Dick and Bruce in his own snarky fashion. I’ve really enjoyed the interaction with these two in this series, even though it’s a pretty clear indication that we’re wiping out their previous hostility.  The flashback segments continue to show us how Bruce got closer and closer to Mother in the past, but they’re brief.

The meat of the issue is in Harper and Cass’ undercover mission for Dick. Continue reading Martian Manhunter Destroys Earth & The Secret Six Take on Aquaman in DC This Week

DC This Week: Definitive Green Lantern, New Superman Origin & Constantine Gets Naked

Welcome to our weekly recap of DC comics’ new releases. Ray is the protoypical DC reader, while I’m always searching for that comic that will appeal to new readers and might make them a comic fan for life.

This week has a strong candidate in that vein in the Darkseid War Green Lantern book, with a story that Ray and I loved unequivocally. There’s also the debut of a Hollywood-connected origin story for Superman, American Alien, which focuses on Clark’s childhood and struggle to control his new abilities. Ray feels it treads familiar ground but I loved the optimism in the book. Too bad Max Landis’ take on Jonathan Kent wasn’t on the big screen.

Also, more fun with DC Bombshells, the Bat-kids, and Starfire, while Gordon Batman looks to be in over his head again, and we take a walk with Constantine through his daily life, which is as weird as you might guess.

Justice League Darkseid War: Green Lantern #1 – script by Tom King, art by Doc Shaner

Ray: 10/10

Corrina: Buy It. Brilliant Hal Jordan story.

Ray: King is riding an incredible hot streak right now, with a popular run on Grayson, Omega Men being critically acclaimed, and Vision getting the best reviews of the Marvel relaunch.

Now he can add the best Green Lantern comic since Geoff Johns bid his farewell to that list. This one-shot focuses on Hal Jordan as he prepares to take on the mantle of the former New God of Light, Lightray. However, where it even outdoes the excellent Batman issue is in its compelling portrayal of the psychological toll that this kind of power would take on a man – especially a man, like Hal Jordan, who has been tempted by unlimited power before. It’s not mentioned explicitly in the book, but it’s impossible to read without remembering Hal’s fall from grace with Parallax. Continue reading DC This Week: Definitive Green Lantern, New Superman Origin & Constantine Gets Naked

Exclusive Preview: Scooby-Doo and the Prehistoric Ghost

The Scooby Gang has faced any number of ghosts but being chased by a phantom dinosaur is a unique situation. In this exclusive preview of Scooby-Doo! Where Are You #63, due out Wednesday, they have to go digging (literally) for the clues.

From the official blurb:

Rinosaur!! When an archaeological dig site is haunted by a phantom dinosaur, Mystery Inc. is called in to debunk it. But can they exorcise this prehistoric poltergeist, or will they go extinct in the process? Continue reading Exclusive Preview: Scooby-Doo and the Prehistoric Ghost