I can say, without a doubt, that The Wicked + The Divine stands tall as my favourite title from Image Comics. I would go as far as saying it’s a close third to Dark Horse‘s Hellboy and Vertigo‘s The Sandman. But for all my undying love, I cannot presume to claim it’s easy to talk about this comic book, let alone write about it. And for all my consistent enjoyment, I must acknowledge when Kieron and Jamie (The Godly Daddies, I call them) make a decision which may encounter a mixed response. All in all, reviewing Twin Peaks: The Return got me accustomed to these exercises of candour.
Not gonna lie here, lovelies. This may be a somewhat shorter reread-and-review than usual out of the issue’s very construction. Some may either call it a lazy one, or a peculiar kind of brilliant exploit – the kind only people like Kieron and Jamie can get away with. Regardless of any possible controversy, do I think this is a worthwhile issue?
Absolutely. Especially if you love horrendous revelations. If you’ve stuck with us so far, I’m gonna take that as a “Yes, I am very much into that.”
“It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
The coherence of the Mothering Invention arc is simple enough: insightful revelation of stuff we didn’t know before. The mysteries surrounding Ananke become a bit more grounded on certain intention. Plus, we set some light unto the dark in which she has kept the Pantheon as us readers. Getting a proper well-handled look at the origins of a paradigm is a boon on its own. We shouldn’t really expect the history between then and now to unfold before our eyes when extrapolation on the reader’s behalf will occur organically. But that’s just what we get with the unveiling of the First Recurrence’s Persephone (the lovely woman gracing the cover) in Egypt, 3862 BC, and her immediate murder via Ananke.
Quite the familiar scene, isn’t it? We all know the adage that “history tends to repeat itself”. Well, almost as if to sarcastically mock the saying, we get a reprisal of the same dynamic across fourteen pages. The gimmick, as you can see below, is to have the scene’s basic construction reprised sixfold each page. However, in my personal opinion, this device is more clever than it would be lazy as the structuring is both tragic and even comedic. Furthermore, each scene features considerable variations; not only to match the time, place and culture, but also to detail how Ananke has changed her M.O. As some would-be victims played smart and thwarted her attempts, Ananke has started to disguise her intentions, opting for a subtler, duplicitous approach.
Mind you, the subversions and inversions in Ananke’s pattern leaves plenty of room for nice stories. Fanfiction writers, if you may… Anyway, this progression essentially shapes Ananke to the form we know. The final panel after her 2014 attempt to claim Persephone’s head shows her comforting a Minerva whose expression looks quite undecipherable.
Gimmick over, the story progresses as usual, picking up at that awkward little impasse between Persephone and Baal (Hammon). The latter gets on with the explaining by narrating (and flashback-ing) the state of affairs when he ascended as the first God of this Recurrence. It’s as glamorous as we’ve come to know if from other ascensions, but this one featured something else. Warning him about the Great Darkness, she fretfully reveals a sacrifice is required to keep it at bay: a child. Naturally, Baal refuses, earning an award winning performance on Ananke’s behalf for preemptive tearful mourning.
Then the Great Darkness did come, for his family especifically. Although he managed to save his mother and his siblings, his father succumbed. Ater cremating his father himself, Baal gave in to ‘necessity’ that very night. By now, ‘unreliable narrator’ is a major understatement when it comes to Ananke. But I’m not sure we can elevate Baal to that same degree at the moment. He’s likely still in useful-pawn territory. Regardless, in order to repel the enigmatic evil, Baal has taken to performing a sacrifice every four months. This is most likely also at Ananke’s instruction.
The reason? Probably to keep Baal yoked to her design. If we go by my personal interpretation that The Great Darkness is a phenomenon she trusted Woden (and Mimir) with creating, she has been manipulating events in order to keep a few Gods loyal to her by making fear and necessity one and the same. It’s masterful, evil PR right here if true. Otherwise, feel free to deem me a fool. Regardless, this zeal unveils the disturbing manner of Baal’s “Imperial Phase”. In order to defend this cause, he looks ready enough to kill Laura. Her brief inner monologue ensues, detailing an ambivalence to whether she wants to live or die. The crux of this conflict sits at the bottom of her stomach.
It’s then she releases the anvil. She’s three months pregnant. No knowledge on who’s the father. I mean, if there was a time to drop that revelation, it’s now. And it’s a somewhat predictable bombshell. But it still works well. Both as a narrative device and to let her off the fiery hook. Baal tells her then to leave as he annihilates Valhalla in a blaze. It’s a sour kind of end we get for this wicked den of divinity. Especially given how badass Rising Action was. But even the seemingly anti-climatic carries a weight of its own.
We don’t know if Baal is still alive. That’s one of the many questions pending for next issue, and for the unknown sender of the latest message in Laura’s phone. It’s probably Minerva. The message, however, does begs the question: Who really remains alive in this gig anymore? All aboard the Doom Express, the final destination draws near.
The Wicked + The Divine Issue #36 Credits
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art / Cover: Jamie McKelvie
All images are courtesy of Image Comics
GenCon Report: IDW Isn’t Just For Comics Anymore
For years now, IDW has been publishing comics adaptations of some of the biggest media properties of today.
The recent runs of Orphan Black, Dirk Gently, and My Little Pony have all been successful in comics stores around the country. One of their original comics, Wynonna Earp, has even been adapted to a successful television show that many writers here at the Fandomentals cry over frequently. But they’ve quietly been making a play on the board games as well, adapting their licenses (and some new ones) into cardboard and plastic.
Previous successes include X-Files: Conspiracy Theory, Rayguns & Rocketships, and even a board game of Atari’s Missile Command game. I’ve been a fan of IDW Games since they came out with Legend of Korra: Pro-Bending Arena, so I was excited to see what they had on offer this year. Luckily, I had the opportunity to chat with IDW Game & Event Marketing Manager Ross Thompson for the scoop on all of IDW’s newest games and for a glimpse at the near future.
Creative Uses Of Your Favorites
IDW takes pride in its games, which is clear in the enthusiasm Thompson shows when discussing the games. The staff of IDW Games doesn’t just make games, they play them too, and they put their love as players into the games they make. Whether it’s a hot license or something brand new, the team is dedicated to fun and immersive gaming on the tabletop. Their games help players relive iconic moments from their favorite series. This was shown in the new games debuting at GenCon as well as their newly announced games.
Gotham Under Siege is aimed squarely at my heart as an adaptation of what may be one of the best animated series ever made (and definitely the best adaptation of the Caped Crusader ever). The new game, designed by Richard Launius (Arkham Horror) and Michael Guigliano, is a co-op dice allocation game where 1-5 players take on the role of a member of the Bat-Family: Robin, Batgirl, Commissioner Gordon, the GCPD, Catwoman, and of course Batsy himself. The heroes must combat the villains and thugs who have overrun the streets of Gotham while handling new problems as they arise.
The game takes place across four acts, each of which is inspired by an episode of the first season of the show. Each player must use their character’s special powers to fight the crime that plagues Gotham. But there’s a decision to be made. Do they use their dice to fight the thugs and villains that infest the city, or do they use them to resolve special story cards?
The game features art taken directly from the show, but also supplements them with brand new art inspired by Bruce Timm’s iconic designs. Newly announced at GenCon, Gotham Under Siege will release later this month.
While the big focus at GenCon tends to be on the big multiplayer games, with the complex boards and the billion pieces. But there’s room for smaller games too, and Death Note: Confrontation is one such small game. Rather than the 4, 5, or 7 player games on offer at IDW’s booth, Confrontation maxes out at 2. Set at the exact moment where L and Light Yagami a.k.a Kira meet, each player takes on the role of either the quirky detective or the high-minded serial killer. It’s a battle of wits as Light tries to get his kill count up and L races to stop him. The game ends when either L gets enough evidence to find his target, or Kira gets enough victory points.
Death Note: Confrontation was released only last month for players aged 16+. It’s available in stores for $29.99.
Masque of the Red Death stands out amongst IDW’s newest offering, and not just for its beautifully gothic aesthetics. It also is unlike the other games in that is has no connection to a pre-existing property. Its genesis is unique as well, according to Thompson. The game was dreamt up by veteran designer Adam Wyse (Cypher, Gorilla Marketing) and pitched to IDW semi-informally after a game event. It sounded cool so they ran with it, bringing in artist Gris Grimly to do the art on his first full-length board game.
Masque was in our top 10 most anticipated games and just wrapped up its Kickstarter. I’ll have a full review of this game, with plenty of pictures and rule details, coming very soon to The Fandomentals.
Gaming In A Half Shell
It was hard to tell who was more excited about these TMNT games, myself or my host. Thompson was ebulliant when discussing the newest turtle games, describing how much love and fidelity to the original comics the new games have baked right in.
The Munchkin brand was everywhere at GenCon, with versions of it popping up seemingly every day. But IDW didn’t want to make just another Munchkin game, Thompson said. They decided to put a lot of work into their own version, with designer John Cohn making this Munchkin a much more story-driven game than we’ve seen previously. You don’t play as a generic mutant or human or monster; instead, you play as Donatello, Raphael, Casey Jones, even Johnson’s favorite Pepperoni, a baby triceratops adopted by Mikey who dreams of being a Ninja Turtle. There are villains to fight like Baxter Stockman (“as it should be”-Thompson) and other little references from across the over 30 years of TMNT history. But the love doesn’t end there. The game also features brand new art from the turtle’s co-creator and original artist Kevin Eastman. TMNT Munchkin releases at the end of the month for 3-6 players and will retail for $29.99
IDW also previewed their newest Turtles game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, miniatures based game just announced from IDW. The game is based on the Turtles In Time games, with mechanics updated for the board game format. Players can play as characters from across time in a full out miniatures adventure similar to IDW’s Shadows of the Past game.
It wasn’t just retail-ready games on display at the IDW booth. They also had games in early development for a passerby to get a sneak peek at.
Following the success of their Perfect Cell game, IDW has confirmed that they’ll be following it up with two more games in the DBZ universe. Over 9000 will be the first, a card game centered around deducing your opponent’s power levels while hiding your own. The winner is the first player to get their power level over 9000!
IDW’s newest adaptation of Sonic is, naturally, a racing game. Up to four players race around the board to collect all of the chaos emeralds. The main attraction at GenCon was the beautifully made, full-color figures of Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Dr. Eggman. The track builds as the game goes along so you’ll never have the same race twice.
Set to debut in February 2019, Crash Course will be a Gamestop exclusive and retail for $29.95.
IDW makes another play for us 90’s kids with a new board game starring all of the best characters from the shows of our childhood. Splat Attack! is a food fight game (sadly without food) designed by Jonathan Ying (Star Wars Imperial Assault, Doom The Board Game). Players take on a team of 4 characters, each with their own special powers, taken from Spongebob Squarepants, Hey Arnold, Invader Zim, Rugrats, Aaah! Real Monsters, Rocko’s Modern Life, Angry Beavers, CatDog, and The Wild Thornberrys. Players strategically throw their food to earn cool points while moving around the board to earn bonuses. But they have to be careful not to get too splatted, as when their splat board gets covered they are out of the game.
The new game reached nearly all of its stretch goals while on Kickstarter, which doubled the number of playable teams and added new items and goodies to play with. Intended for 2-4 players aged 14+, Splat Attack will hit shelves in November of this year.
IDW still has some tricks up their sleeve as the year goes along, and you can learn about all their game on their website. And make sure to keep an eye out here for reviews and updates on IDW’s hottest games, as well as my upcoming review of Masque of the Red Death.
All images courtesy of IDW Games
CW Taps Ruby Rose To Don Batwoman’s Red And Black
The question of casting has been up in the air ever since the CW announced that they were not only featuring Batwoman in this year’s Arrowverse crisis crossover but that she would be getting her own show as well. After weeks of speculation as to who they might cast, the CW has confirmed that Ruby Rose, Australian actress and model, will be taking on the role of Kate Kane for her upcoming television debut.
Rose first made her name as a VJ for MTV Australia after several years of modeling work. Her big break came in the 2014 short film Break Free, which she produced independently and went viral. Her acting credits include Stella in Orange Is The New Black, Wendy the service robot in Dark Matter, Ares in John Wick 2, and most recently as Jaxx Herd in The Meg. She also has released music and is a tireless campaigner for causes like veganism, climate change, and mental health.
Rose shares many characteristics with Kate Kane, including her tattoos and proclivity for short hair. She also reflects the casting call’s search for a lesbian actress to play Batwoman, as Rose is currently one of the most prominent queer actresses in Hollywood.
Rose’s casting as the CW’s first out lesbian hero comes on the heels of the announcement of its first out transgender hero, Nia Nal aka Dreamer, as actress Nicole Maines joins Supergirl’s fourth season. Batwoman will first appear in the big Arrowverse crossover with Supergirl, Flash, and Green Arrow this year and, should it get picked up, will debut in her own show in 2019.
Images courtesy of DC Comics and Lionsgate
Fantasy Webcomics Worth Reading
Greetings, readers of the Fandomentals. In the past, I have… well mostly complained about things, really. But we stick to what we do best, right? I have also introduced you to some things I enjoyed, and this time I would like to talk about some webcomics. Now, there’s no shortage of those, which means I have a reason I present you those three, specifically.
“Order of the Stick”
By Rich Burlew
Ah, “Order of the Stick.” This webcomic has been a journey for me. It might not be an exaggeration to say I wouldn’t be here without it… I certainly wouldn’t talk so much about tabletop gaming. But it hasn’t only been a journey for me. The comic itself has also had a wild ride.
You see, it began as a very simple affair, with one joke per page, and an audience consisting of about a dozen people on its author’s personal forum. But said author, Rich Burlew commonly called “the Giant,” wasn’t going to stop there.
The comic’s original focus was jokes about the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons. The very first strip makes highly specific references about the 3.5 rules revision, which had just come out back then. Needless to say, those jokes don’t hold up very well today. The edition is still alive and played, but D&D’s mainstream face is the fifth one. This may prove to be a barrier for new readers, together with a very simplistic and crude art style.
If you can muddle through the old dusty jokes, though, you’ll see a story that unfolds from them. In a different sense than usual. Those characters were originally vessels for jokes, without any particular continuity or depth. When Rich Burlew decided to craft a story, he had to build it around these simple origins.
Roy Greenhilt, the team’s leader, was originally just a human fighter who had to wrangle five less-than-stable elements he’d been saddled with. Durkon Thundershield was a dwarven cleric and a (as the comic itself jokes early on) walking band-aid. Elan the bard was just dim-witted comic relief, while Haley Starshine was a greedy, sneaky rogue. Vaarsuvius was the model of an arrogant elven wizard and finally Belkar Bitterleaf the halfling ranger was a vessel for darker jokes due to his deep-seated issues and unbridled aggression.
In time, this rather typical rag-tag band of misfits received individual character arc that resonate on a deeper level and turn them into a more coherent team in different ways. The comic has always been a comedy, and still is, but it’s become more… elaborate in many ways. The writing, the art, the characters. It’s not just entertainment, but a way to make a statement. Fiction matters, as we like to say on this here site, and Rich Burlew knows it well.
Which happens to extend to issues closer to reality as well. The representation of some groups, notably women and LGBT folks, wasn’t always great. But in recent years Rich Burlew took steps to rectify that, citing that it’s his responsibility as a popular author in a genre that still struggles with the subject.
The two overarching villains of the comic (not that there aren’t many more) underwent a similar process. Xykon was originally just a lich sorcerer the party was out to fight. Now… well, he’s not really that much more. Rich Burlew deliberately didn’t give him significant depth. Instead, he’s just a terrifying unstoppable force. He’s incredibly powerful and has no hesitation about taking what he wants with this power. He’s the kind of villain you cannot reason with, convince, or shake up.
Redcloak is a goblin cleric who started out as, well, a goblin cleric in a red cloak, and Xykon’s head henchman. Since then, he’s grown to be one of the best villains I have ever seen. He’s a monster, make no mistake. He’s been willing to sacrifice everyone except himself in pursuit of his goals. But he was pushed onto that path by the callous actions of those who claimed the moral high ground. His entire story is a challenge thrown into the face of the D&D convention that would treat goblins and other such races as conveniently evil XP fodder.
“Order of the Stick” has a unique history that elevated it from yet another forgettable D&D spoof into something one of a kind. Reading it will be an undertaking, but one worth embarking on.
By Ashley Coope
This webcomic is far from your typical fantasy story, even though it might seem this way at first. At first, we simply see a girl with a tail and a man in a hood, traveling through the wilderness. The girl claims to have been sent by her father, a mob boss, to collect dues from her cousin.
If sending your daughter almost alone to collect money from criminals sounds sketchy as it gets… well, you’re not the only one. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The man accompanying her is Duane Adelier, a scribe who once held somewhat loftier titles in other lands. However, his past remains mysterious to us for many chapters.
He is also undead. That in itself isn’t surprising in a fantasy webcomic, but in the world of “Unsounded,” the only other undead we see are zombies—people call “plods”. They’re mindless, used for menial labor, and prone to all-consuming hunger. So why is Duane sentient and capable of speech—in fact, frequently incapable of shutting up for two seconds? That’s a mystery you’ll have to discover on your own as you read.
Duane is also a highly proficient spellwright. Why not wizard, mage, or sorcerer? Well, the world of “Unsounded” has a rather unique take on magic. The physical world is governed and controlled by a skeleton of sorts, called the khert. Spellwrights are people who can “plug” into it and give it commands, much like one would alter a computer program by tapping into its source code.
This gives magic, or pymary as people in Kassalyne call it, unique abilities and limitations. They can’t create or permanently alter anything, because the khert steps in and reinforces reality to its proper state. But, they can take aspects of the world around them, shift them, change them, focus them… it’s a remarkably well thought-out system that emphasizes creativity and intelligence. Which is a monster of a thing to get across in a visual medium, and yet Ashley Coope comes out swinging.
Spellwrights, I should mention, are not people born with any special gift. Anyone can become one, thought it bears all the difficulties that access to higher education always comes with. Ashey Coope isn’t afraid to portray a world with warts and all, where social inequity, political conflicts, and religious zealotry all rear their ugly heads. And pymary affects it as technology would, according to its capabilities and limits and filtered through all the other societal factors.
The world of “Unsounded” looks like your typical European(ish) (pseudo)medieval fantasy, but it’s anything but. Between the pymary, the metaphysics, and all the other factors, it’s something much more modern, but also unique. The metaphysics of the khert, souls, and memories play a significant part in how the story has unfolded so far.
But what does “Unsounded” even mean here? I’ll let Ashley Coope speak for herself:
“Something unsounded hasn’t been plumbed yet. You don’t know how deep it is or what’s at the bottom. It’s an unknown – like Death, like the limits of a man, like God, like eternity.”
Or use the quote from Moby Dick that she used:
“By heaven, man, we are turned round and round in this world, like yonder windlass, and Fate is the handspike. And all the time, lo! that smiling sky, and this unsounded sea!”
Like “Order of the Stick,” “Unsounded” may be a difficult start. Sette is a fairly odious person to everyone around her, and while there are good and altogether too real reasons for it, you may still find it as difficult to put up with her as Duane does. But I encourage you to sound the unsounded all the same.
“Daughter of the Lilies”
By Meg Syverud and Jessica “Yoko” Weaver
Last but not least is a perhaps less notorious comic about a girl with no face and some friends of hers. It starts in media res, with a group of adventurers hunting down some cave elves, who are cannibals, and as such not terribly popular with their neighbors.
Later on, we jump back a little and find out that the girl’s name is Thistle… but that it’s not her first name and for some reason or the other she only picks names of flowers for herself. She then changes them after having to run away. Yeah, let’s just say she hasn’t had an easy life and there are reasons she hides her face.
Fortunately, after some rough spots, her team comes to have her back. Said team consists of Brent, a mostly-human lad with orcish blood, Orrig, the most dad-like orc to ever lead a band of adventurers, and Lydia, a foul-mouthed elven martial artist and archer who’s about as far away from your typical dainty elven maiden as you can get.
The comic’s world looks much like your typical fantasy one, but there are some fairly real and modern elements cropping up here and there, apparently from the world’s ancient past. What does it mean? We don’t know yet, and even if we did, I wouldn’t spoil it for you, would I?
“Daughter of the Lilies” draws us in with excellent art, writing, and characters. One other thing that makes it stand out is its treatment of mental illness and trauma. Thistle is plagued by voices that, while they have a supernatural origin (or do they?), bear a striking resemblance to anxiety, depression, and similar mental health issues.
Without spoiling anything, she has also suffered emotional abuse from someone acting as her guardian. The way she deals with both this and her voices indicates the kind of sensitivity that comes with familiarity. “Daughter of the Lilies” is a webcomic with something to say, and it’s not afraid of saying it.
Images courtesy of Rich Burlew, Ashley Coope, Meg Syverud, and Jessica Weaver
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