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This is it, the conclusion of Fear Agent.  The final five issues, twenty-eight through thirty-two, are brought together in Volume Six: Out of Step, and they perfectly tie up the series, not in a neat, little bow, but in a tangled knot of emotions, violence, pain, sacrifice, hope, and retribution that does justice to the sorrows, struggles, and successes of Heath Huston, the last Fear Agent.  This is the last hurrah for Huston, and everything is on the line.  Everything has been on the line for Huston before, but this time, here at the end, the entire universe is on the line, the fate of existence lies in the hands of Huston, and he’s up to the challenge.

It took a little while to get hooked into this story.  Terms of Enlistment promises to be an action-packed thriller but starts off more like a military memoir.  Sure, that assumes a fair amount of exciting stuff can happen, but I was beginning to despair that it would all be portrayed from a safe distance, instead of sticking me right into the thick of things.

I needn’t have worried.

Darkest Night is heralded as a tale of love, death, and revenge. These first three issues are the “Love” part, in three acts. It’s phenomenally depressing. So much so that I’m a bit concerned about what “Death” and “Revenge” will bring.

Ashley has been the target of bullying in her small community ever since a bid for popularity in middle school went disastrously wrong.  Her mother worries more about her daughter not fitting in, her best friend seems to think that Ashley should just try harder to see the good in her tormentors, and her artwork is the only chance of escape from the microcosm strangling her.  Ashley finds limited relief in her Older Self on the other side of the mirror who tries to give advice to prevent repeats of her mistakes; however, when you’re the only one who sees the person you’re talking to in the mirror, what’s to prevent everyone else from thinking you’ve finally gone mad?

A funny thing recently happened in the pop culture world in a rare moment of synergy (OMG! I dropped a Jem reference already, and we just got started!), when the world of comic books and Hip-Hop controversy collided. Marvel Comics released its arguably super sexed-up variant cover image for the forthcoming Spider-Woman series by renowned erotica artist Milo Minara at precisely the same moment Nicki Minaj dropped her new single, "Anaconda." The song is an ode to big butts and I cannot lie . . . and borrows heavily from the 1992 Sir Mixalot hit, "Baby Got Back," another tribute to titanic tushes. The artwork features Nicki in what could very well be reminiscent of a typical Spider-Woman pose with her barely covered, albeit surgically enhanced derrière front, center, and in your face. 

Billy the Pyro#3 picks up with Billy learning a little more about G.A.P.R.I. and its mysterious mission. Finally, the young man begins to show more emotions than rage or rudeness, and I can sense where the story may go with later issues. Combined with a mysterious, but understandable, antagonist, I see less angry teenager angst and more superhero-esque action in the coming issues!

Alien Legion: Dead and Buried is an immersive space opera with a cast of memorable and impressive characters. The art style is crisp and clean — large, rectangular panels with clear borders are set at right angles and colored with bright, primary shades. Characters are in constant motion: jumping, shooting, racing across weird landscapes, and everyone has a nearly unpronounceable name. The story is hokey— think Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen meets The Fantastic Four, but it’s so earnest that the reader can’t help but get swept up in the madcap galactic happenings.

“August Fenwick, one of the city’s wealthiest men, hides a secret life of adventure as his city’s mysterious champion.”
“Together with his trusty driver, Kit Baxter, who joins him in his quest as The Flying Squirrel, he fights an endless battle, that all those who serve evil shall fear the . . . Night of the Red Panda!"

It’s the end of summer.  You know what that means . . . all the blockbusters have come and gone.  Kids are going back to school.  The shorts and t-shirts are going back into the dresser for next year and are being replaced with boring ties and too-tight collars.  What is there to look forward to?

“Let’s just say, if you want to do business in the Gamma Quadrant, you have to do business with the Dominion.”
     -- Zyree

When working on a long-form project, writers are engaged in a sub rosa battle with their fans. Much like the Spanish Inquisition, that battle’s chief tactic and goal is surprise. The writer has to properly lay the foundation for crucial plot twists in advance, so that they feel organic, but not foreshadow them so heavily that the audience figures it out beforehand. Meanwhile, the audience desperately wants to be able to lean back with a smug smile, take a victory sip of their macchiato, and mutter into the face of a stunning turn, “Called it.” Who can blame them? It’s fun being the smartest person in the room, even if the price tag is having all your friends hate you. Writers hate these superior bastards more than you do, and there’s nothing we like more than the gobsmacked expression of a truly shocked fan. You think George R.R. Martin writes stuff like the Red Wedding for his health? To preserve surprises, writers will often resort to underhanded tactics. Stories have a language that we all understand from our years of listening, reading, and watching. This language informs a specific unwritten contract between writer and audience, and there are writers who love to violate this contract with intent of surprising people. In this week’s DS9, Ira Steven Behr did just that when he hid the first mention of the Dominion inside an otherwise innocuous Ferengi episode.

Someone sits across from you on the bus or at the bar. Walking down the street, you pass by that certain someone in the neighborhood who has always seems "off" to you in some way. As you intersect, just as the opportunity has all but diminished, you glance up to see them inspecting you out of more than just the corner of their eye. There is always that person. That person that views the world the same as you, but maybe the details are what doesn't match up, or they are catching something you chose not to notice. That's the feeling Milk for the Ugly elicited from me. Then again, who's to say that's what it wants.

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