MYTHIC INJECTION

INJECTION/MYTHIC

Written by Warren Ellis and Drawn by Declan Shalvey

Written by Phil Hester and Drawn by John McCrea

Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

What does Image Comics do best?

Give top-notch creative talents the freedom to do whatever they want to do. And when that works… damn, does it work well. Such as in the case of two new outstanding books that have hit shelves in the past couple of weeks.

There are those who still mourn Warren Ellis’ masterpiece PLANETARY, and those people should go buy a copy of INJECTION #1 immediately. Set in modern Britain and revolving around a group of people whose charge was to explore the strange and unknown, INJECTION most assuredly has a bit of the old Planetary flavor going for it, minus the superpowered humans. Indeed, the characters here are all too human. Maria Kilbride, the leader, is currently in a mental hospital due to her work. Robin Morel has become detached from humanity and attached to the land, forsaking anything like responsibility to his fellow man. Brigid Roth has become a reclusive computer hacker, drowning herself in a bottle.

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Yet in flashback, we see that this is not who these people were meant to be. What went wrong? What destroyed them?

Ellis isn’t telling, beyond the hint he gives with the title of the book: The Injection. Whatever it was, it had staggering consequences for our would-be heroes.

Layering mystery upon mystery, Ellis’ script captivates the reader, but as good as the writing is, the book goes up by numerous notches when you throw in the art by Shalvey (and Jordie Bellaire’s colors). The entire comic is truly a work of art. Gorgeous pages galore for the eye to feast upon. There is very little waste here, and each page is worth examining carefully to see what Shalvey put in and what he left out, as it provides keys to story and character. In short, I loved everything about this. Can’t wait to read the next one.

In the past I have referred to Phil Hester as comics’ most underrated talent, a guy who just makes everything better. John McCrea was the artist of HITMAN, a comic I consider a desert island need, one I will reread over and over for the rest of my life.

MYTHIC #1 brings the two together to work on the same series. How could it be anything less than awesome?

Answer: it can’t. It’s awesome.

MYTHIC introduces us to a trio of characters who work for Mythic Lore Support, and for lack of a better way of putting it, they are essentially janitors who clean up after magic when it goes astray. In this world, science is merely a smokescreen for magic’s true role at the heart of the universe, and it’s science that helps most humans cope. That alone is a nice zinger from the creators, satirizing religious zealotry with a wink and a smile.

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After a cool prelude, we jump ahead to the crew being stationed at Yellowstone, investigating a lack of rain. To tell you their solution would be criminal, but needless to say, when the story gets around to telling the reader why there’s no rain, it’s a laugh out loud funny moment in a book already full of them.

With a clever concept, a witty script, and amazing art, Hester and McCrea show that they are as formidable as any duo working together in comics right now. This book is a gas from start to finish. It’ll be at the top of the reading stack with each successive issue.


ROGUE ELEMENT 126

Rogue Element #126: C2E2 2015 – The Panels

By Avril Brown

As with whirlwind vacations in exotic locales, every year at Comic Con I tend to struggle over which activity to pursue given my limited time frame. Naturally, the only panels I was interested in attending overlapped one another, so I had to make Sophie’s choice between seeing some of my favorite male fantasy authors and seeing some of my favorite female television actresses. I went with women power, and I was well-rewarded for my choice.

Fierce Females of TV

Despite the semi-lame name and slow start, this was one fantastic panel. There was a broad sampling of women who each brought their own unique voice and experiences to the table, and each starred on vastly distinctive shows, ensuring an interesting blend of fans. Maria Doyle Kennedy from ‘Orphan Black,’ Jewel Staite from ‘Firefly,’ Leah Pipes from ‘The Originals,’ and Neve McIntosh from ‘Doctor Who,’ with Clare Kramer from ‘Buffy’ as moderator comprised the panel and all play rather badass women in their respective shows. I heard the word ‘fierce’ about fifty times in the first five minutes, which got old really fast, but each actress had an interesting response to the word fierce. Jewel shied away from it, calling it ‘scary’ and referring to her coworker Gina Torres (who played a warrior on the show). Neve referred to her character on ‘Who,’ a lizard warrior queen, and says, “She eats people, which is kind of fierce…and they gave me a sword.” Leah plays one of the only humans on a show rife with witches, werewolves, vampires and hybrids, and bemoaned, “I would love to eat people, but I don’t get to.”

All women agreed there is discrimination in the workplace, and some shared personal experiences along with advice on how to confront such a situation. Jewel recounted a time she was working ungodly long hours on a gig in South America and asked to check the time sheets (something she’s been doing since entering the biz at the age of eight). They had brazenly whited out the hour she had actually clocked out at and wrote in an earlier time. Instead of confronting the people in charge directly, she went the smart, legal route and issued a former complaint to the Union, and to this day that production company cannot work with Union people. Neve also told us of her mother’s initial struggle to find work because there were so many ‘men only’ jobs, but then she applied for one anyways, got the job and rocked it.

Though they also concurred there is an increase in the number of quality roles for women because there has been a surge in good television writing, the ladies also encouraged the use of the word ‘no.’ “I’ve said no to more jobs than I’ve said yes to because they were rubbish and didn’t represent women well,” stated Maria. “We need to reject the notion that limiting roles are all that’s there, and instead shape what we want rather than complain about it.”

When asked if they knew who they were, if they were fully confident in themselves, Jewel and Maria had great responses. “I’m just a smart ass,” Jewel said, to approving laughter. “I used to be a people pleaser, but I jumped ship on that one. I don’t have to be liked by everybody, which is crazy liberating.” Maria has also evolved over time. “At twenty-five you think you have it all down. At thirty you realize: what was I thinking?! Now at fifty I still have no clue, and that’s ok.”

All had various characters that inspired them in their youth, and different, yet similar, reasons why. Leah admired Jo March, from ‘Little Women,’ as someone who “went against the grain.” Neve dug rock and roll chicks, because “they knew who they were.” Maria looked up to anyone who did someone unexpected…and Patti Smith.

Above all, it was rewarding to hear these beautiful, talented and hilarious women speak about their colorful lives and careers with such passion, frustration and excitement, and how their gender does not define who they are and what opportunities should be available. Almost all expressed an interest in writing as a future endeavor, and some already do (Jewel has an ongoing blog, and Maria is cursing up a storm on Twitter). They encouraged young women everywhere to discover who you really are and ignore the haters. As Maria so eloquently put it, “Anytime someone says you can’t do anything, you just turn around and bloody well do it.” Amen sister. Amen indeed.

Kick-Ass Women of S.H.I.E.L.D.

When Ming-Na Wen took the stage, complete with bicep flex, the first thing I thought was, ‘I NEED to get her arm workout.’ That woman is sporting some serious guns, and not in the stage prop kind of way. Hayley Atwell had already endeared herself to everyone in the room by briefly appearing on stage before the panel began to greet and hug every Peggy Carter cosplayer who was invited up to show off their power suits. These women had quite the entrance.

Ming-Na plays Agent Melinda May on ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,’ unarguably the most badass (human) woman on the show, and Hayley Atwell is Agent Peggy Cater, former British Armed Forces officer, valued Strategic Scientific Reserve agent, friend and love to Captain Steve Rogers and founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. Both are strong, sexy characters who are unafraid to fight for what they want and what’s right, and who can shut down naysayers with smarts, a strong right hook or both, depending on what the situation calls for.

Both of these actresses were obviously here to have fun and it showed in their somewhat silly attitudes, particularly Ming-Na, who clearly knew her audience. The panel started out with a focus on their characters and interesting ‘what if?’ scenarios. When asked what villain they would love to face, both agreed that a May/Carter team up vs. Loki would be hella fun. Also, Hayley showed some love for Melinda May when she stated she didn’t think May would need any advice from Peggy Carter; they would just need to find a bar and get drunk together.

Speaking of libations, when asked what their characters favorite drinks were, Ming-Na replied scotch, as evident by a first season episode of ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ when May had a bottle dangling from her fingertips, gave hottie Grant Ward a ‘come hither’ look (which he followed) and walked into her hotel room without a glance backwards. Own it, girlfriend. Hayley figured Peggy’s drink to be an amaretto sour, or perhaps a shot of absinthe. When asked what they drink, Hayley’s was a dirty martini. Ming-Na: “Tequila, baby!” I NEED to hang out with these gals.

One fan asked what aspects or abilities of their particular characters they would love to possess, and Ming-Na said she’d love to be able to fly a plane like Agent May. “I wish I could tame a person like Howard Stark…he’s so naughty,” replied Hayley in reference to the womanizing, arrogant playboy inventor, and the man who portrays him. “And Dominic Cooper is as well, so to be able to tame someone like that is a real power.” With regards to the powered up opposite sex, Hayley adorably named her Cap as her favorite superhero, but Ming-Na has her eye on the Hulk. “He turns into this big angry green man who still keeps his pants on.” What’s not to love?

Unsurprisingly sexism in the workplace was mentioned during this panel as well. “Equal pay would be handy,” Hayley stated with a Carter-level dash of sarcasm. She mentioned how her show, set in the late forties, features the obvious sexism which existed more prominently back then, but now we need to root out the more subtle double standards. Ming-Na praised Marvel as being a beacon of opportunity to showcase strong female characters, and shared a story from her past. When she was in college and just starting to dip into acting, a student production company wanted her to star in their movie, which had nude scenes. She refused. One man asked, “How do you think you’re gonna make it if you don’t do any nude scenes?” Several years and a successful career sans nude scenes later, she’s on stage talking about her hit show declaring proudly with a hip shimmy and arm snap, “Well I proved them wrong!” Ming-Na, you are my spirit animal.

As powerful and dangerous as their characters are, both actresses cited fancy dress scenes as some of their favorites, highlighting the fact that it is OK for a strong woman to put on a slinky dress and be sexy as well. “That’s the beauty about being a woman,” Ming-Na said. “We can be soft, and we can be hard.” When asked for another adjective she would use for ‘strong,’ Ming-Na’s alternative was, “How ‘bout ‘take no shit?’”

The panel closed out with another standard, but still important, question for both women: what advice would they give young women today? “I tell my daughter: love yourself,” Ming-Na said. Also, “It doesn’t matter how old you are; take care of yourself.” Hayley quoted her own character in the finale episode, after being overlooked for her efforts yet again: “I know my value,” encouraging people to believe in themselves and don’t let anyone hold you back.

I am fiercely glad I attended both of these kick-ass panels. Power words and clichés aside, and ignoring the fact the DJ played Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding Out for a Hero’ as we walked out of ‘Fierce Females’ (seriously dude, wtf?), these panels were EXACTLY what women at a Comic Con, or hell, women EVERYWHERE needed to hear. All of these incredible women stood up and said in one voice, We can do this. We can do anything. Now that is a strong – I’m sorry, “take no shit” – message all women can get behind, and I am proud to pass it along.

ROGUE ELEMENT 125

Rogue Element #125: C2E2 2015

By Avril Brown

After a long, cold year, the sun has finally arisen once more. The warm, encompassing rays of light have ensconced us within their welcoming embrace, and we are, at long last, home again. No one is left out in the bleak; all are included in this bosom of love and acceptance, for we are family. We are nerd culture, and Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo is our mecca.

That’s right, Chicago nerds and a fair amount of determined out-of-towners gathered en masse to celebrate the sixth annual C2E2, the comic and pop culture convention sensation that is sweeping the nation. Every year the size and scope of C2E2 is swelling, and every year brings a slightly different experience I simply love being a part of.

As per my typical Con schedule, Friday was spent in plain yet nerdy clothes walking the floor and getting a lay of the land. One of the many signs I married into the right family: I wore a t-shirt I received from my mother-in-law for Christmas which depicted a Dalek, an Ood, a Weeping Angel and The Silence walking out of a blue box across a striped road. Who has two thumbs and the coolest Doctor Who/Beatles t-shirt ever? This gal! (Speaking of t-shirts, one of the best I saw all weekend proudly declared in bold black letters: ‘Basic bitches buy Marvel.’ You know it.)

The very first order of business was attending the Chicago Swordplay Guild demo. Eleven AM on the first day of the Con is an unfortunate time slot if one is looking to garner a fair amount of attention, but there were still a couple dozen curious individuals who turned out to see how true medieval knight fights went down. One of the main points stressed during this demo was as cool as they look on TV, broadsword fights typically didn’t carry on for the full five minute brawls we see in fantasy shows. If you get cut with one of these big ass swords, odds are it’s not just a flesh wound. Also, as Guild founder and Dean Greg Mele stated: “If you could afford armor, you WEAR armor.” Makes sense.

Everyone seemed to be in a positive mood on Friday. I overheard a gentleman talking to someone on the phone trying to find a place to meet up and he remained in good humor, despite slight miscommunications: “I’m coming right at you; trust me, you’ll see me. I’m a fat guy in a red hat….and he hung up on me.” The feel-good vibes carried on through the rest of the weekend as Saturday started out with a laugh: Avoiding the exorbitant parking fee we found a spot on the street and had to walk through the entirety of McCormick Place to reach the West building. During our journey we passed by a group of people waiting for Starbucks who clearly were there to attend the automotive convention as one man blatantly took photos of everyone exiting the elevator (which including a Megaman and a ‘Dragonball Z’ cosplayer), while another simply stood there gawking, mouth agape, brain clearly unable to process what he was seeing. I found great amusement in his expression, though a part of my heart broke for his stunted awareness of such a beautiful and fun culture.

However, the merriment continued with a band greeting the Saturday morning Con goers with acoustic renditions of classic nerdy music, including ‘Star Wars’ themes and the intro song to ‘Game of Thrones.’ There were some great panels (see my column C2E2: The Panels!), marvelous costumes and a variety of vendors. Several fit ladies in cosplay spent a significant amount of time twirling about a large, elevated golden hoop, showing off some serious core strength, and there was an exceedingly tall gentleman who was a dead ringer for Leonard Nimoy asking for donations for ALS research. Knives, swords and trinkets of all sorts were on display, and of course, the magnificence of talent that is Artist’s Alley, which was bigger and better than ever.

By the time Sunday came around I was elated but exhausted, despite being a hermit all weekend (apparently I now have a low tolerance for dehydration), yet I still managed to muster up the strength to walk Artist’s Alley for the nth time and do some shopping. I found a ‘Doctor Who’/’Nightmare Before Christmas’ mash up sticker for my dad, as we share a love of both fandoms. My brother-in-law received several bacon-related items (his love for bacon runs deep; he mentioned it in his speech at my wedding), while my sister-in-law was thrilled with her Minion Kitty button. I even found a Mother of Dragons pocket mirror for my mostly non-nerdy sister. Good haul, great weekend, unforgettable times, as always.

Cosplay

The cosplayers were out in full force, seemingly determined to make Chicago’s Con a central hub of jaw-dropping geeky garb. There were more Harley Quinn’s than you could swing a mallet at, as well as a plethora of Jokers and Doctors, as per usual. I always try to focus on the unusual, obscure or particularly well-done costumes, and the only disappointing aspect of this year’s contenders was I did not see them all. I always feel this way, and this feeling will continue to fester with the number of attendees at C2E2, but thank heavens social media is there to showcase what we missed.

1) Best cross-gender cosplay: A woman cosplaying as Lucian from ‘Underworld: Rise of the Lycans.’ She was neck-to-toe brown scrappy leather, complete with werewolf-proof, spike-lined slave collar. I’m still kicking myself I didn’t run back and get a photo.

2) Best cosplay I witnessed via Facebook: Every year there’s some costume so BIG I’m shocked I missed it, and this year it was someone dressed up as the Infinitely Gauntlet. This dude was walking around dressed as a large, puffy, golden glove, studded with the Infinite gems, with his head poking out as the middle finger. The gauntlet must’ve been at least four feet wide and as tall as he was. Seriously impressive, and creative, commitment.

3) Best cosplay overall: I saw this guy and his adorable progeny an aisle over and road runner-ed over there to get a photo. If there was an old lady in my way, I would’ve knocked her aside. Not only was this fine gentleman rocking the bestest David Bowie as the Goblin King wig I’ve ever seen, his baby ‘Toby’ was just too squishy and ovary-exploding for words. Such excellent ‘Labyrinth’ cosplay will always be noteworthy.

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4) Best cosplay quote: “I’m so happy to be wearing underwear today.” Costumers don’t mess around, yo; and it makes us appreciate the little things.

5) Best simple action made more difficult, but not impossible, by cosplay: I saw a guy using his nose to swype-text someone on his phone so he didn’t have to take off his gloves. Win.

Then there was moi in my first cross-gender cosplay.

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As expressed in my rather glowing review, I am a big fan of the Marvel/Netlflix ‘Daredevil’ series, and almost as soon as I started watching it I decided this year I would become Daredevil for C2E2. In the show he sports a slowing evolving set of threads, but the universal component for nearly the entirety is full body black. Yeah well, that doesn’t do it for me as I tend to take my clothes off every cosplay chance I get, so I went with a ‘sexy fem-Daredevil’ incarnation. That didn’t mean I wasn’t as close to the ‘real’ thing as possible (I do enjoy looking authentic, after all): gym shoes, black cargo pants, demi-black shirt (that’s ‘half’ in French, as in only half a shirt), arm guards, hard knuckle tactical gloves, a semi-see through black head scarf and wooden batons (excellent for posing menacingly). I covered enough skin to be recognizably Deardevil (though there was one guy who kept bowing at me saying, “As you wish”) but bared enough for me to show off some of my hard work. I’ve been hitting the weights like I mean it, and it feels good to be strong. I may not be as skinny as I was when I was Red Sonja, but for the first time in, well, ever, I consider that to be a good thing. While I always cosplay for me more than anyone, this year I felt like I was doing it for my health, and it felt empowering.

C2E2 is, and hopefully always will be, a weekend filled with some of my favorite things and people. I get to hang with oodles of fun folk, see a bunch of nerdy stuff, play dress up and listen to people speak about a job they love, whether it is writing, drawing, acting or other. Every single person who shows up at a Con WANTS to be there, making it one of the happiest places on Earth. So cheers, C2E2, and see you next year!

ROGUE ELEMENT 124

Rogue Element #124: Avengers: Age of Ultron

By Avril Brown

Most of the nerdy world has been looking forward to this movie since its predecessor blew our minds three years ago. While Marvel had been putting out damn decent superhero flicks for a few years by this point, ‘The Avengers’ reached a new echelon of cool. ‘Avengers’ was smart, funny, explosive, addictive and unique. It managed to pull together several strong leading characters and not only give them all their own five minutes of film, but turn them into a cohesive team and give that its chance to shine. ‘Avengers’ set the bar so high, not even its sequel could quite reach it…but then again, how could it?

‘Age of Ultron’ is a super fun movie, filled with snappy one liners, a great running gag (“Language!”), oodles of blow ‘em up action sequences, James freaking Spader voicing the villain (his vocal timbers are straight up sex, even as a psychopathic murder-bot) and most excellent special effects. There’s a lot to love about this movie, and I do love it, but I cannot quite sing its praises like I did ‘The Avengers.’

However, comparing the two is like apples and oranges. Quite frankly pitting any two films in the same franchise against one another is an exercise in futility as they are telling different types of stories. All one can critique is whether or not the movie as a whole had a greater coherency, pacing and general storytelling. ‘Ultron’ certainly clipped along and took the time to explore the individual characters as well, but it wasn’t quite enough to feel complete.

While ‘Avengers’ took a handful of heroes, each with their own specialized baggage, and turned them into a team, ‘Ultron’ had to take this established team, rattle their cages, spilt them up, then bring then back together to save the world. Again. That’s quite the tall order in a short time frame. Personally, I’d spend half the day in front of the big screen if it meant I got a fully fleshed out superhero story (as long as there was an in-theater bathroom so I wouldn’t miss a minute), but I get that timing is an issue, particularly with a movie that is kid-friendly. So that means scenes get cut and certain aspects of what was originally a completed story get left out, leaving fans with what the production company, director, and test audiences could agree on.

One of the stories that broke after the release of ‘Ultron’ was director Joss Whedon coming forward with a broken record tale: he had one idea, the ‘money’ had another, and the project suffered. This is not Joss’s first rodeo with this particular heap of horseshit, and it really needs to be shoveled. ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ the movie, was originally scheduled for a fall release, but the Powers that Be wanted a summer blockbuster, so the film ended up being a mish-mash mess (albeit still an entertaining one with a cult following). When you watch it you can actually see where there should have been a systematic story but instead was chopped up and tossed together. ‘Firefly’ STILL has rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth fans hoping (in vain) for a resurrection of this epic sci-fi/space cowboy masterpiece, yet Fox aired the second episode as the premiere, leaving potential new viewers confused as to who and what the hell was going on. If they had originally dropped the two-hour pilot as the premiere, they may have gotten a strong surge of new viewers ever so eager to board Serenity.

Joss had to fight to include the farmhouse scene in ‘Ultron,’ where we glimpse Hawkeye’s secret life. This is one of the most human scenes in the movie and acts as a grounding point for all of the costumed, powered up super people. It is real and gives everyone, most particularly the viewers, chance to take a breath. Not even comic book movies can be non-stop action with no true emotional elements. The most gripping superhero stories are the ones which focus on the humanity of the superhuman, giving the person with powers a flaw, wound, weakness, or whatever which is relatable to everyone.

Some folks complained about the Black Widow’s portrayal in the movie, which I simply do not get. She can fly a plane, rock a motorcycle through busy city streets, tame a Hulk, help deliver a package from one aerial conveyance to another AND win the hearts of children. Yeah, she gets captured (IN FLIGHT) by a flying robot, but what does she do? Secretly make contact with the Avengers to pass along her coordinates. Boom. My only objection to her love story angle with Bruce Banner was the lack of chemistry during a key moment. The flirting was hot, the sharing was touching and added a true human aspect to her character, but the much anticipated final kiss lacked the fire to make a fan jump on that ‘ship. Yet all in all the Black Widow got much love, and respect.

Not surprising the story got a bit cheesy here and there, but let me reiterate a key point: This is a SUPERHERO COMIC BOOK MOVIE. Cheese is a given, it’s a taken, it’s seeped into your overpriced movie ticket. Also, not all cheese is bad; when done properly, as was more often than not in ‘Ultron,’ it makes you want to cheer. Go Team Avengers, GO!

Some scenes do feel repetitive, or simply there for the wow-factor. As the trailers clearly indicated, at one point Tony Stark dons the ‘Hulkbuster’ armor (aka ‘Veronica’) to help subdue a tweaked-out Hulk. Been there, done that, watched Fury have an aneurism over the heli-carrier repair bill. The armor was nifty and there was one definite laugh out loud line which made the new ‘take down tweaked-out Hulk’ scene bearable, but for the most part it was the same ol’, same ol.’

The movie on the whole, however, was tons of fun. I saw it twice in the same weekend, making sure to attend a screening at the Webster Theater with its deluxe reclining seats for a more relaxed second screening. I internally cheered at the mid-credits scene (another Thanos teaser!) and audibly sighed at the lack of end-credits scene (I wanted more shawarma!). While I’m not clamoring for a third screening quite yet, I did enjoy myself immensely, and that is what really matters. That, and the rumored extended director’s cut set to be released probably around Christmas. Oh what a present that shall be!

My final thoughts on ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ are simple: See it, enjoy it for what it is and don’t over think it. It is in essence a comic book movie, and in that aspect it does not disappoint. For two-plus hours ‘Ultron’ will take you to a world where superheroes are real, they kick ass and they are shiny. What more are you really looking for?