The Battle For State Supremacy II

The battle lines have been drawn. The combatants prepare to enter the battle field. It’s The Battle For State Supremacy II!

Reigning Battle For State Supremacy Champion Tim Jousma, representing the state of Michigan, faces off against Professor Aubrey, representing the state of Tennessee, and The Reverend Tracy, representing the state of Texas.

You, our wonderful audience, will decide the winner. Vote in the poll above so you can help determine the victor in The Battle For State Supremacy. Below are the three playlists we discuss on this episode.

The Reverend Tracy’s Playlist:

Professor Aubrey’s Playlist:

Tim Jousma’s Playlist:

Great Lakes Avengers Misassembled #1

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Having been born and raised in the Great Lakes State, you come to expect a lot of things. You expect great college football. You expect really cold winters. You also expect lots of rural areas in between the big, or semi-big, cities like I grew up in. What you don’t expect are superheroes patrolling your neck of the woods.

Marvel put an end to that when they brought together the Great Lakes Avengers. This was a quirky little book but it was quite put together. This particular issue revolves around the leader of the group, Mr. Immortal so my focus in this review will be his story.

We start off, after a funny little PSA from Squirrel Girl and Monkey Joe, with Mr. Immortal at birth. From there, we learn some bullet points of his life story, how he continually gets to see a creature named Deathurge who over the course of the issue brings people that he loves into the afterlife. Craig Hollis, Mr. Immortal’s real name, sees Deathurge as more of a friend at first which puts him into some funny situations, like playing patty cake in the middle of the road or thinking some alligators behind a fence are doggies. (Funny of course because nothing happens to him.) The fun stops when Deathurge encourages him to play with matches under his home and his father is killed, brought to wherever he is taking people.

Craig is brought to live in abusive foster home where he happens to meet the woman of his dreams, the real daughter of the abusive foster father. When they grow up they escape and move out on their own. But we get to a point where we see Craig come home one day to find a letter. After reading the letter, he tells us his love is gone and we see he tried killing himself by throwing himself out the window.

Well, that didn’t work. He rises, his neck clearly snapped, but he is none the worse for wear. He tries a few more times until realizing that hey, this is a superpower and decides to become a hero. His one and only instance of trying it alone ends with the criminals shooting him in the head. Once he gets up, he realizes that maybe he’d better off in a team so he puts an ad in the paper and the Great Lakes Avengers are born.

They fumble through some basic little adventures where we see the general public either take them as a joke or are frightened of them. When they finally encounter a big problem with enemies that are running amok at a convention center, they ride into action only to find the Real Avengers have shown up and they are relegated to being spectators.

Just as Craig contemplates ending the group, the improbable happens. The real Avengers break up. AND real supervillain shows up in town for them to stop. The Great Lakes Avengers show up to fight Maelstrom.

Craig is the first one attacked. His girlfriend, who in the group is called Dinah Soar, because he is a walking, talking dinosaur (they could have done better with the name), comes to console him but then the writer decides to hit us over the head and take a sharp left with the story. Dinah is killed. Craig is devastated. From there, we flash back to his old girlfriend. We find that she didn’t leave a Dear John note, she left a suicide note. Deathurge comes to take Dinah. Mr. Immortal somehow has a gun handy and the last image of see of him is of him holding the gun to his head.

I like where they’re going with this story. Maybe I would have written the piece a little more organically and explored some of the characters before I got to this point but being that we’re talking about a bunch of second rate heroes, I can get why they chose to skip to the good parts. It is quite jarring to go from goofy little comedic piece to the brick in the face suddenness of the emotion and reality of the story but they make it work. For Mr. Immortal, we know enough, and care enough, about him by this point that when he is faced with the death, again, of a woman he loves, you understand why he breaks down and tries to off himself.

The art work was fantastic. Especially at the end when Deathurge is taking Dinah away and we see Mr. Immortal, small in the frame, reaching out and begging to be taken to wherever Deathurge is taking the people that Craig loves. The desperation in the frame just pulls at the ol’ heart strings.

The little PSA with Squirrel Girl at the beginning was drawn particularly well too. I remember it mainly from an early Treehouse of Horror episode of The Simpsons but they cribbed it from Frankenstein I think, but the PSA with her on stage gave off the same vibe. The little bits with Monkey Joe are funny as well.

Bottom Line:

Compared to other titles from Marvel, this is a quirky piece. It’s not meant to rival any of their titles in the big lines they run. You’ll never see The Great Lakes Avengers mentioned alongside Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, or The Avengers in terms of popularity. But it is a nice character piece of average people and how they would react if tossed into the mix that the superheroes typically deal with. The story with Mr. Immortal is especially well done, albeit a little jarring for how the piece was setup. If you keep in mind that you’re not reading a typical superhero story but a story involving a guy who just so happens cannot die, you will get the most enjoyment from the story.

Ms. Marvel #14

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I’ve been waiting every week for new issues of Ms. Marvel. This is my new favorite comic from Marvel today. The story just keeps getting better and better each issue. This one is no different.

This picks up from last issue when Kamala discovers the boy she has a crush on is an Inhuman as well. Before they really have a chance to commiserate about everything Kamala’s brother catches up with them. At this point he is their chaperone. I really appreciated how Kamala’s brother was portrayed in this issue. In the hands of a less skilled writer he could have come across as heavy handed and stern for the sake of being stern. Yet in G. Willow Wilson’s hands he comes across as nothing more than a brother who loves his sister and is concerned about her well being.

The beauty of this comic is the light it shines on an average American Islamic family. Guess what? They’re just like every other family out there. Kamala, like any teenager, goes through the same insecurities anyone else would go through. And like many folks, her faith helps guide her decisions. It also helps her realize that sometimes the decisions she makes may not be the best decisions but her heart forces her to go through it anyway. Like when Kamran, the boy she is interested in who is also an Inhuman, shows up at her window in the middle of the night and takes her out to talk.

Kamala has struggled through the series to balance both her duties as a superhero, as someone with power who owes it to the public to protect them from threats they may not be able to face on their own, as well as her duty to her family and her faith. So when she encounters a boy she is interested in she struggles like anyone would with the new feelings that rush over her like a tidal wave.

I remember being in love for the first time. The girl was nice enough and all and deep down I think I knew we had no future but I fell head over heels for her and got smacked in the head with reality quite quick. It was just…a relationship that should not have happened. I am glad it did in the grand scheme of things because this particular relationship I feel helped me wisen up and eventually find the right woman for me (Almost 13 years of marriage!). But again, I overlooked things that if they were happening to a friend I would have been screaming my voice hoarse that they were getting screwed over and making a horrible mistake.

Over the course of the issue we discover that Kamran is not all he is cracked up to be. By issues end he’s revealed himself to be in league with other Inhumans who, similar to Magneto in X-Men, feel that they deserve to be rulers of humanity, not its savior like Kamala is trying to be.

Kamala’s brother has another great scene when he tries his best to let Bruno, another boy who has a crush on Kamala down by telling him that he should not try and pursue a relationship with her. Whether you agree with what Aamir has to say or not is irrelevant. The issue is not trying to be a pamphlet for Islam. It’s just stating what immigrant families the world over would consider to be fact. I don’t see Aamir’s actions as being negative. I see him trying to do what Italian families or Irish families said to their kin back in the day. As immigrants, they want to be able to keep their culture alive despite being in a new country. I never got the sense that Aamir was trying to insult Bruno. Apart from religion, I think Kamala’s family would probably not have much of a problem with Bruno. But immigrant families can be quite protective. Being in a new country, they still find themselves wanting to keep their old ways and traditions. Hell, I’m originally from Michigan and am now living in Oregon and I find myself feeling similar feelings. While I am a citizen of Oregon, my home will always be Michigan. It pains me a bit for my kids to not like the same sports teams or call Pepsi Pop (when they call it soda I want to send them to the door. It’s not soda. It’s POP damn it!) You don’t want your vision of home to disappear. If you added in religion into that mix, I am quite sure that my feelings of sadness would probably border on despair. The future can be a harsh bitch. Not knowing how things turn out can be a motherfucker for control freaks like me.

The art was pretty solid. One feature I really liked was one little feature they dealt with in regards to Kamran. Throughout the story when he exhibits his powers the action lines on his powers show themselves to be white. Yet when he reveals himself to be not as nice as Kamala thought he was, he knocks her out with his powers. The action lines for his powers are drawn black. I know, a very small detail. But it’s little things like this that make this comic so good. As I stated in a review I wrote for the previous issue, I love how this comic really does come across as if Kamala is drawing it herself. It has that simplistic quality you expect from a beginning artist but it has such power in the small things like the action lines that you know there is real skill at work here. Well done.

Bottom Line:

If you are not reading Ms. Marvel you are missing out on one of the best comics going today. The characters are all well done and quite realistic. You can picture these people actually existing. In fact, I said it before that the superhero parts of the story end up being more of a distraction from the real story at hand which is a wonderful story about a young girl from an immigrant family trying to adjust to life in a new country while her family is trying their best to raise her in the old traditions. This is an important comic too because it portrays Muslims as people. Nothing more, nothing less. You don’t have the Afterschool Special type of lecturing some stories can give when they’re trying to create an “important” story. I think of 80’s sitcoms that had that very special episode. That one episode that dealt with a very serious topic but was dealt with in such a ham fisted way that the point they were trying to make was lost in the cheesiness of the garbage you were seeing. (Like Diff’rent Strokes and the bike molester episode.)

The reason I bring this up is this. America has a problem with Islam. Stoked like a campfire by pieces of shit politicians, the actions of a small group of Saudi Arabian men have now turned into a silly religious crusade that is simply being used by big corporations to make money off the lives off poor people around the world. I am not naive in thinking that there are not Muslims in the world who have done and plan to do very bad things. But the fact that I am more likely to die from a white guy who has one too many guns when he should be locked away being fed his medication through an IV instead of at the hands of a terrorist says a lot about our countries priorities. We want to demonize people just for the hell of it. The ONLY way that demonization will come to an end is when folks open their damn eyes and see the world for what it is. It’s filled with people who want to simply live their lives in peace. We may all have different philosophies on how to live life. In the end, most of us just want to be happy. This is a comic about just such a family. You have to read this series.

The art again is beautiful. Drawn as if Kamala herself drew it in a journal, the power in the details really brings out the emotions of the story. Like when Kamala holds Kamran’s hand for the first time. When she almost kisses him. This entire work is so alive. You are reading a series that will be studied for years to come. I love Ms. Marvel.