Russ Pirozek, Fanbase Press Contributor

Russ Pirozek, Fanbase Press Contributor

America is widely considered an odd place to live, especially to those who don't live within its borders. Undiscovered Country ups the ante with a speculative, future version of the United States that has locked off its borders, both figuratively and literally, with a massive wall that has made the land a black box, with no information about it going in or out.

In the world of science fiction comics, there are few creative teams that seem to do as much research and put as much effort into the accuracy of their work as Matt Hawkins. In his prior series, he's tackled the worlds of military weapons design and research and even designed utopias; each time, he not only gave readers an in-depth look into the fictional world through the lens of his characters, but through the additional "backmatter" included in his series, dubbed “Science Class.” The amount of content generated by Hawkins in the past several years is incredible, since he not only publishes his work through the Top Cow imprint of Image Comics, but he also runs the company as its president. Such a busy life could seemingly lead to little free time, but Hawkins' new series, The Clock, looks at the incredibly dangerous and deadly disease that is cancer for a fascinating, yet terrifying, new tale.

As the popularity of Critical Role rises, the Dungeons & Dragons-based actual play show and entertainment studio has been asked for more and more content relating to the heroes portrayed by the incredibly talented cast. Not a group to lose out on a chance to do something they obviously love, Critical Role has teamed for the last few years with Dark Horse Comics to produce stories based on their beloved group of idiot adventurers, Vox Machina. Since the streaming show of the Vox Machina campaign started well after the titular group began their journey, there are plenty of stories to share. With that, the stories contained within the Dark Horse Comics series are all based on what happened when the group met and started working together to become the saviors of Exandria. Now on its second chapter, Vox Machina: Origins focuses on a well-told story of the time they saved Grog from a mind control spell, thereby saving the realm from an untold evil.

In the opening issue of Undiscovered County, the series helmed by acclaimed writers Charles Soule and Scott Snyder, we saw a world completely changed. With the United States creating an isolationist society, the former world leader has become an dystopian nightmare that has been a virtual black box for decades, leading the rest of the world to wonder what has happened inside the walls of what America has become.

Despite its name, Safe Sex (SFSX) is not a series for the faint of heart, and while it has connections to other media, it stands all on its own. Described (by me, to others) as The Handmaid's Tale but for the misunderstood members of the kink and queer communities, SFSX is an opus of sex-positive and queer-focused storytelling, with an added theme of standing up against the tyranny that attempts to starve you of your freedoms and tamp down any urges that are viewed as unseemly.

I came upon this series' release in an unusual way: during a strange saga on comic book artist Ryan Stegman's podcast, Steg-Man and Friends. On the show, Stegman speaks with his friends in the industry, but an odd and hilarious drama began to unfold as real-life lawyer Charles Soule was a guest on the show, which eventually devolved into Soule taking over the show for a week himself. (Please listen; it's bizarre and wonderful.) He had Scott Snyder on as a guest to talk about this series and its impending release.

I've mentioned in my reviews before that I am a huge fan of the Dungeons & Dragons show, Critical Role. I've been a fan of the show for a long time, and as its popularity has grown, so has the desire for more and more content related to the tales of the group of plucky adventurers known as Vox Machina. While their story wrapped up quite awhile ago, the public version of the show began in the middle of things, as Vox Machina had already become a well-known adventuring party as fans began to get to know these characters. With that, the cast and creators of the show struck a deal with Dark Horse Comics to share the team's pre-live-streaming adventures. These are the beginnings of the group, how they met and what became of them as they grew from a band of bumbling idiots to the saviors of the world.

Image Comics is one of those companies that really innovates within the realm of comics, thanks to their willingness to take chances. Without this, we wouldn’t have some of the modern classics of our time, such as Saga, The Walking Dead, or The Wicked + The Divine. Thanks to their desire to allow the work to shine, regardless of subject, they are a varied and illustrious company. I say this because the publisher has taken a chance once again, this time with well-known erotic writer Tina Horn for an brand new series, SFSX (Safe Sex).

As we move farther from the end of Critical Role's first campaign which ended after 115 glorious episodes, we also move farther away from the time between the start of the show's streaming episodes and the time spent by the cast prior to becoming a full-fledged phenomenon. During that time, the group met, began their journey as an adventuring party, and had their own share of dangerous antics.

It's happened before. It will never happen again. So goes the final issue of the years-long epic, The Wicked + The Divine. After several years of exploring this world of gods, secrets, lies, and a weaving story, this beloved series is coming to a close. As someone who has followed this series since its first issue, this is a bittersweet moment for me. I've loved this series since issue #1 and have followed it through every twist, turn, and big reveal. While the contents of this issue are important, I think the bigger picture to look at here is the celebration of this crowing achievement of media, storytelling, and creativity.

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