Starring: Mike Colter, Mahershala Ali, Simone Missick, Theo Rossi, Erik LaRay Harvey, Rosario Dawson, Alfre Woodard.

“Who could have thought a black man in a hoodie could be a hero?”

The above quote doesn't come until the end of the series, but it's an apt one. With the release of Marvel's Luke Cage on Netflix, the story of the “bulletproof black man” is something that is not only relevant in terms of the series, but of the world as a whole. While Cage has been around since 1972 (when he was imagined by George Tuska, Archie Goodwin, and John Romita Jr.), his presence is just as important now as it's ever been, if not more so.

Like the canyons and mesas that form its beautiful, if artificial, backdrop, Westworld is full of echoes.  One can see and hear many, many other texts resonate through this one, including, but not limited to, Battlestar Galactica, Quentin Tarantino films (most notably Kill Bill and Django Unchained),  The Hunger Games, Terminator, and any number of “killer robot” films, including the original Westworld.  (Tangentially, was Michael Crichton beaten up at a Six Flags or something? Between this and Jurassic Park (also echoed), we get it - theme parks are evil. I’m still keeping my season pass to Universal Studios!)  References to other texts, to history, and to our world abound (not like in Stranger Things, in which virtually every reference is for nostalgic purposes, but rather to give us a world we think we know, but don’t really). Yet for all these echoes, what results on screen is a highly intelligent and original (if a little slow), unfolding narrative with great promise.   Part of the pleasure is playing spot-the-allusion (especially the music - the player piano rendition of “Black Hole Sun” is worth the watch alone!), but much of it comes from learning about this world and then seeing everything we think we knew (both from assumptions while watching and from presumptions based on earlier texts that do similar things) reversed or erased.

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear, is fear of the unknown. ~ H.P. Lovecraft

Last year marked the 125th anniversary of H.P. Lovecraft, and, as a result, there has been a renewed interest in the horror writer who explored the strange and horrific world of slimy, tentacled monsters that inhabited a world he created through his Cthulhu Mythos stories. He also created the Dreamlands (or Dream Cycle) world that sometimes intersected with his mythos tales via a character’s dreams. During the celebratory year, a number of retrospectives analyzed Lovecraft’s stories, and creators ranging from Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Joe Lansdale, and Joe Jill created adaptations of the original source material or were inspired to spin their own Lovecraftian yarn. There have also been mash-up stories that brought together unexpected licenses such as Mike Mignola’s Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham or the less-surprising teaming of Army of Darkness vs. Re-Animator from James Kuhoric, Sanford Greene, and Nick Bradshaw.

With Hockey Karma, the third and final book in the “Forever Friend’s” trilogy, author Howard Shapiro weaves a tale touching on the themes of the struggle of growing older, passing on your knowledge to the next generation, and the necessity of leaving behind a better world for those who will come after you. While readers of The Stereotypical Freaks and The Hockey Saint (Read my reviews of those books here and here.) will be eager to see where life has led Tom Leonard, much like his previous tales, Shapiro is not content to merely provide a soap opera-like dramatic detailing the trials and tribulations of his lead character as he tackles true adulthood. Instead, he offers a tale with a far deeper and more important message for the turbulent and divisive times we currently live in.

I have this really big pile of unread books and comics in my office, but I was delighted when the anthology The Sea is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia finally got to the top.  It came from a successful Indiegogo campaign that I backed some time ago, and it feeds into my desire to read Steampunk set anywhere but in England.  (Full disclosure: One of the editors took my “Crowdfunding for Independent Creators” class.)  Coming from an aesthetic very different from British-dominated neo-Victorianism and Steampunk, these stories explore technology, alternate history, and retrofuturism from a Southeast Asian viewpoint. I’m happy to say that each of these stories succeeds in their own way.

“I prefer not to know what it’s like to not be in awe of the stars.”

I love that Dark Horse has been collecting Eric Powell’s Goon trades into these library volumes.  It’s a great way to see how his work evolves over time and really be able to appreciate the man as an artist with a longer perspective than just in the trades or single issues.  This volume picks up right after the Chinatown storyline, and you can see the heavy influence of the story on our hero as well as the gravitas on Powell’s work.  The result?  First, we get a return to the crude humor and sensational horror that we’ve been used to, but we also get to see Powell open up more ideas, allowing himself more creative license within the framework to tell unique stories that continue the tradition of Chinatown’s growth, while still acknowledging the roots of the series as a whole, and turning it into something far greater than one may have expected from its humble knife-in-the-eye beginnings.

Kurtis Wiebe, creator of Rat Queens, collaborates with Mindy Lee and Leonardo Olea to bring a space adventure to Dark Horse Comics. Bounty has a futuristic Robin-Hood-in-space kind of thing going on, along with some bright neon colors and one extremely funny robot, giving it an overall fun feel.

Has anyone else noticed that when franchises become too big, the creators only make them…bigger!!!

Well, that’s what’s happening in a specific dimension of New York City, and the timeline I’m referring to contains mutants and teenagers and pizza-loving ninjas.  Oh my!

If you’re interested in finding a comic book that combines humor with the strong will of three college friends, then Giant Days by BOOM! Studios is perfect. The cover, created by Lissa Treiman, tells you exactly what you’re in for when you open up these fun pages. Three friends, Daisy, Esther, and Susan, are lying in the grass with trash and red plastic cups scattered nearby.

Talk about a concept that nobody knew they wanted.  Big Trouble in Little China/Escape from New York #1 crosses over two cult classics by the legendary John Carpenter, both starring Kurt Russell.  The fact that both main characters are played by the same actor is actually a major plot point.  Let’s see if it holds up under it.

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