Archive | February, 2013

Icebreakers: Leah Rae Miller Talks About Comics and How She Became a Nerd

12 Feb

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I had a hard time trying to figure out what to talk about in this post, and after many different thoughts, the one that kept sticking out was, “Geez Louise, I love comics so much.” And isn’t that what it boils down to for all of us. The characters, the stories, the art, etc., all these things culminate to create one of the best forms of storytelling ever.

My love of comics started at a very young age. My brother used them (specifically X-Factor) to teach me how to read. I’d read the girl parts and he’d read the boys’. It wasn’t long before I was daydreaming about being a superhero, about what type of powers are the best to have (that would be telekinesis and telepathy, just so you know). I like to think comics shaped my view of women and what we can do. Sure, I have a very strong mother who cemented my belief that women are not the weaker sex by any means, but this blog is about comics not how awesome my mom is.

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Seeing Jean Grey and all the other X-ladies be strong and smart definitely had an impact on the six-year-old me and the now thirty-year-old me. I didn’t graduate from college, I have two kids, and I decided I could write a book because if Jean Grey can come back from the grave a million times, well, I can write a novel.

Not only did these characters help build my confidence in being a woman, they also inspired me. In fact, I can say with all honesty that if I wasn’t a comic book lover, my first novel, a young adult romantic comedy entitled THE SUMMER I BECAME A NERD, wouldn’t even exist. It’s about a girl who is secretly a huge comic fan. The guy behind the counter at the local comic shop finds out and hilarity ensues.

So, yeah, I guess you could say I owe a lot to comic books and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Born and raised in northern Louisiana, Leah Rae Miller still lives there on a windy hill with her husband and kids. She loves comic books, lava lamps, fuzzy socks, and Cherry Coke. She spends most of her days reading things she likes and writing things she hopes other people will like. Her YA novel, THE SUMMER I BECAME A NERD, releases May 7, 2013, from Entangled Teen

Find out more about Leah’s book THE SUMMER I BECAME A NERD, or pre-order your copy here:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Summer-I-Became-Nerd/dp/1620612380

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14744489-the-summer-i-became-a-nerd

Follow Leah on Twitter @LeahR_Miller or follow me @comicsonice

If you are interested in becoming next week’s Icebreaker, please contact me at comicsonice@gmail.com

Until next week; keep chiseling!

Greatest Hits: Sexism in Vintage Comics

11 Feb

 

 

 

I originally tracked down all these images to create the banner for my site. Every time I looked at them, I wondered if people who viewed the blog were actually able to make out what they said. I couldn’t stand the thought that people might be missing out on these spectacular instances of vintage sexism in comics. I am so glad that these are humorous now, women in comics have come such a long way.

 

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Here we see Marvel Girl (Jean Grey) using her superpowers for housework. Interestingly enough, this backup feature “The Female of the Species!” featured in X-men #57 in 1969, was written by Stan Lee’s assistant Linda Fite, in an attempt to include a feminine perspective. In this same piece Jean states that it doesn’t take telekinesis to turn heads. You’ve got to love that. Jean was the only member of the original team not given a backstory in these backups.  

 

 

 

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In this frame we see Batman telling his new wife, Kathy Kane (Batwoman), that she is not invited to join them on their adventure. This was published in Batman #122 in 1959. Prior to their marriage, Kathy had been an ultra-femme crime fighter. She carried a purse full of gadgets in lieu of a utility belt, and of course wore a dress. Batman seemed to find her more of an annoyance than an ally.  

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Sue Storm doesn’t see how she can be of help, but she is quickly reminded that she is always of help because she is beautiful! She can help keep morale up, of course, thank goodness. This panel comes from Fantastic Four #12 published in 1963. 

 

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This images are all from Detective Comics #371 published in 1968. Throughout the issue, Batgirl repeatedly jeopardizes the mission by worrying about her appearance. Silly Batgirl. 

Its nice to see that creator’s are willing to let the girls play now. Each of these characters has evolved to be an individual, with an independent motivation and personality. They are all tough in different ways, and have such a long way .

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Here’s Jean being dark and powerful.

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And Batwoman, being decidedly uninterested in Batman romantically.

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And Sue doing more than boosting morale.

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And Batgirl, not worrying about her makeup.  

As attitudes toward women continue to change, these characters will continue to evolve. Certainly now, they are great symbols for how far women have come in the last half century. 

“You Sexist Twit,” of Course Women Should be Allowed in Active Combat: All New X-men Makes a Point

10 Feb

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Brian Michael Bendis current run of All New X-men, published by Marvel comics, provides interesting insight to the way that views on women’s capabilities and function in society have changed over time. The art is currently by David Marquez. One instance in the last issue reminds me of the current ongoing chatter about women in the military being allowed to serve in active combat zones.

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In a heated exchange with “Old” Bobby, Kitty demands that he hit her. She says that if he does not need conditioning and training, he will be able to land the punch. He sheepishly replies, “I am not hitting a girl,” to which Kitty responds, “I’m not a girl, I’m a fierce competitor, you sexist twit!” Bravo Mr. Bendis, well said. 

On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta gave a briefing about the United States military’s decision to remove the ban on women serving in active combat.

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Our purpose is to ensure that the mission is carried out by the best qualified and the most capable servicemembers, regardless of gender and regardless of creed and beliefs.  If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job — and let me be clear, I’m not talking about reducing the qualifications for the job — if they can meet the qualifications for the job, then they should have the right to serve, regardless of creed or color or gender or sexual orientation. – Sec. Leon Panetta January 24, 2013

As many of you know, women have been serving for years in a variety of positions, the removal of the ban functions primarily as a removal of roadblocks. It is important because it recognizes that women are capable of military service in a number of capacities. The premise of removing this ban does not function on some flimsy hypothetical; it invests itself in results that women serving in the armed forces have already produced. 

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It’s clear to all of us that women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission of defending the nation.  Women represent 15 percent of the force, over 200,000.  They’re serving in a growing number of critical roles on and off the battlefield.  The fact is that they have become an integral part of our ability to perform our mission. – Sec. Leon Panetta, January 24, 2013

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The idea that female super heroes face the same obstacles as female members of the armed forces is not novel. Neither is the apparent “discrimination” that Kitty faces in this brief exchange. In fact even within the X-men franchise there has another example of subtle sexism, even within the fan-base. Brian Wood is working on an X-men (Olivier Coipel will provide the art) book featuring an all female cast. Some readers are complaining that the book should be titled X-women. Wood expressed his disdain for this idea in a recent interview with Newsarama Wood said: 

And the title… I’ve been talking about this quite a bit online, because there are fans who can’t wrap their mind around the fact this book is called X-Men. I sorta can’t wrap my mind around that, that the absence of some alpha male somehow invalidates these six women’s identities as X-Men, identities that go back decades through continuity. As my editor told me early on, these women are X-Men. They just are, period, always have been. So we sometimes get accused of “segregation,” a truly ugly word, or whatever, but I truly feel that to call this book X-Women or something like that, only suggests that these characters are a subset, or a spinoff, or even just off to one side, when I think any X-Men reader would admit that these women have more than earned the honor of being called X-Men.

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Again we see that women have already earned the right that is now being called into questioned. The cast of that book have earned the right to be called “x-men;” the women of the armed forces have earned the right to serve in active combat. These are rights that were not handed out blindly, and that makes them all the more important as reflections of the struggles and successes of all women. 

Follow me on Twitter @comicsonice

Read the full transcript of Panetta’s press conference here: http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=5183

Read Brian Wood’s full interview here: http://www.newsarama.com/comics/x-men-brian-wood-marvel-now.html

Find All New X-men here: http://marvel.com/comic_books/issue/43462/all-new_x-men_2012_1 

And look for X-men #1 in April. 

Review of New Avengers #3

7 Feb

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Four men stand gazing at their feet, and a shield lies stripped from a warrior… you can hear a rumble coming from off in the distance that says, ‘something has happened, and its going to change everything.’

And that’s just Jock’s cover.

He tells us lightning has struck; we are left with visual thunder.

Hickman has been building to this moment, and what an architect he is. This team feels at home in the universe, all of the recent events occurring throughout other books anchor the points that actually move the plot along.

And here begin the SPOILERS

Dr. Hank McCoy joins the team in this issue, after inheriting the Mind Gem from the late Professor Charles Xavier. Hank stands in the place of the reader, learning as the story progresses what the team is planning, and the methods they will use to enact those plans. He is confronted with the realization that there is a shadowy group of heroes making the worlds decisions behind close doors. Flawed characters hold the fate of universes in their hands, Hickman continually questions the moral ramifications of this; but again and again asserts the necessity of this evil he has created.

One could question Hickman’s pacing, he moves to what might be perceived as the culmination of this three-issue arc abruptly, but it becomes clear that this series is less driven by action; and more focused on moral dilemmas, ethical questions, and character analysis. During the moment of incursion, the team makes a hasty decision that Captain America must wield the Infinity Gauntlet. Cap, or maybe Steve, hesitates for a moment.  This moment feels epic, it is the moment that the hero must step up to the challenge that faces him; the moment in which the choice to turn back has been taken away. Hickman is fittingly throwing down the gauntlet, and in the tradition of a true champion, Cap picks it up and accepts the challenge.

Cap accomplishes the task of saving two universes. However, as does all of the gems shatter (except for the Time Gem which disappears) and the celebratory tone is marred.

Back in Wakanda, the team sits down to discuss strategy. Cap tells them that he will not stand by and watch them toy with fate. He believes that the needs of the many do not outweigh the needs of the few. Cap’s character is his greatest asset, and in this instance, his greatest weakness.  He is Caesar before Brutus, Abel before Cain; despite their history, Tony executes the order to remove him from the team. Doctor Strange wipes Steve’s memory, and the group effectively silences their conscience.

I cannot separate the quality of this story from its events. It feels so important. The themes that Hickman touches on: the moral responsibility of leaders, trust and betrayal, the coercive nature of power, and moral gray area, are the stuff of parables and legends. What he accomplishes here is truly outstanding. After building a crisis situation that threatens two universes, he pauses and says; ‘no it’s bigger than that.’

The tension created by Captain America’s character has been essential to keeping the enlightened ones out of the dark. I am so curious to see where the series will go in his absence.Image

Actually if you look closely at Jock’s cover, you can see that Jiminy Cricket is squished under Iron Man’s boot. They will no longer be letting their conscience be their guide.

Epting’s artwork prevents the complicated story from reading to densely. He adds clarity to points that could have easily been obscured, and the quality of his work is artful and consistent throughout. I particularly enjoyed the way he represented the scene between Reed and the Black Swan.

As I end this long and winding review, I would like to highlight a few questions we might need to be asking ourselves:

  1. Why do the Swan’s eyes glow?
  2. Are they going to remember to take the communication device out of Cap’s hand?
  3. What happened to the Time Gem?
  4. When will they face the next incursion?
  5. Is there a McDonald’s in Wakanda?
  6. If Reed had time to whip up those nifty charts and graphs in the last issue, and feed a caged woman French fries; why did he not have time to bring up who would wield the gauntlet at the strategy meeting?

Follow me on Twitter @comicsonice

And pick up New Avengers #3 here: http://marvel.com/comic_books/issue/43517/new_avengers_2013_3

Jean Grey And Pants: The History of Modern American Women in a Flash

7 Feb

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In Brian Michael Bendis’ series All New X-men, Jean Grey, along with a team of  her peers travel to the modern world from “the past.” Bendis remains purposely vague about when exactly the team hails from. I suppose, judging from the costuming choices, we are to associate them with the original 1963 team. However, Bendis is smart, and realizes that readers can do math, and readers will realize that no man who was old enough to legally drive a car in 1963 could look like Scott Sommers does now.

So let’s follow Jean’s costumes over the years and see what her appearance tells us about Women’s History.

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Jean Grey’s original uniform was a utilitarian garment, not unlike swimwear popular in 1963, but with the added coverage of tights and long sleeves. She wears pants, in that she does not wear a skirt, but it is function over form. When not on duty with the X-men, Jean wears shirt waist dresses, and occasionally hats.

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For the time Jean’s appearance is not out of the ordinary, Title IX which prevented public schools from prohibiting girls to wear trousers was not enacted until 1972. It is likely that most women at that time were wearing pants only for function, not for fashion. Pants were considered “loungewear,” and deemed inappropriate for wearing in public among most circles. In fact in 1960, a judge ejected a woman from his courtroom for wearing slacks; not in the Deep South, but in New York City.

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So it is no surprise that When Jean later takes it upon herself to update Marvel Girl’s appearance, a sensible, albeit short skirt injects some femininity into her ensemble.

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Marvel Girl’s new look premiered in X-men Vol 39 in December of 1967.  That is the same year that the Supreme Court ruled that states banning unmarried women from purchasing birth control pills were unconstitutionally invading those women’s privacy. It was beginning to be acceptable for women to possess their own sexuality. Perhaps this has something to with Jean’s gams and décolletage being so prominently displayed.

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So time moves on, women stop connecting their worth to housework, and start taking ownership of their sexuality. Jean evolves, becoming Phoenix in 1976. In the nine years that passed had seen everything from the Summer of Love (1969) to the landmark decision of Roe v Wade (1973), more and more women were delaying family life in lieu of pursuing careers, the phenomenon of single motherhood was on the rise, and there was disco. Jean returns from the dead, empowered with a new force, much like her real world female contemporaries.

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But as good things will, the Phoenix Force went the way of disco, leaving people scratching their heads, wondering why they ever thought it was a good idea in the first place. Women began to demand equal pay for equal work; it became clear that two working parents in a household meant more out of home child-care, threats like AIDS loomed right around the corner (1981). All of these things meant that the novelty of the women’s liberation was wearing off and the patriarchal society was left making the walk of shame, from the one decade stand they shared. So, Jean gets dark.

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Jean came back too powerful, so naturally she was corrupted by evil. She steps in place as the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club in mid-1980. Scantily clad in black leather, she may represent a woman, left to her own devices, unchecked by social mores. She is hyper-sexualized, incapable of dealing with her own power, and hopelessly impressionable.

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Jean is ultimately corrupted in this arc as she becomes the Dark Phoenix

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Jean is planning on consuming the world, but in the end, decides to sacrifice herself so that things can continue on the way they were. If that is not a comment on the modern woman’s dilemma I don’t know what is. There is more of course, but lets stop there, and just consider for a moment, what face’s Bendis’ Jean as she learns her future.

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These women exist, the ones that watched our world change, they were Rosie the Riveter, and June Cleaver, and bra burners, and workin’ 9-5; they were our mothers and grandmothers, and us… and for some of them; I imagine they felt they watched the changes happen at this speed.

Follow me on Twitter @comicsonice

And find Brian Michael Bendis’ All New X-men here: http://marvel.com/comic_books/issue/43462/all-new_x-men_2012_1

Review of Green Arrow #17

7 Feb

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Green Arrow #17 by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino published by DC Comics

At first glance, the seventeenth issue of a title I have not been reading should hold no interest for me, but the creative switch up caught my attention. I am so glad I picked up this book.

Sorrentino’s artwork soars. Removed from the darkness of the I, Vampire series and thrust under the fluorescent lights of Queen Industries; Sorrentino’s work retains that same ineffable foreboding quality we have seen in the past.

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This art is on par with the best in the industry. Through layered frames and unique layouts he builds a tense pulsing rhythm for the melody of Lemire’s writing to play over.

Lemire is systematically scrapping the infrastructure he inherited. He has big plans for Oliver, and they start with stripping away nearly everything he regained at the launch of The New 52. It is important to realize that Sorrentino’s art reaches the height it does because it is perfectly paired with Lemire’s methodically plotted action. I love what they have created together.

The issue ends as a sightless character tells Oliver that he was never supposed to leave the island. Oh, Mr. Lemire, what do you have in store for us? I for one cannot wait to find out.

A brief aside, if you were able to read the sentence, “You were never supposed to leave the island!” not in the voice of Jack Shephard you are a better fan than I.

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Hats off guys, this issue is full of promise and possibility.

Follow me on Twitter @comicsonice

Get this issue here:

http://www.readdcentertainment.com/Green-Arrow-2011-17/digital-comic/DEC120180

Also I am willing to bet this is going to be important.

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Icebreakers: Blair Wade Writes About Feminist Themes In Wonder Woman

5 Feb

This week’s Icebreaker is Blair Wade

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About Blair

My name is Blair Wade and I am a second year political science student in Alberta, Canada, with a fascination with all things feminist and superhero Gail Simone and Barbara Gordon are 100% my biggest feminist inspirations.

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An excerpt from her essay: 

The Wonder Woman Complex: 

How The Most Iconic Super-Heroine in the DC Universe Demonstrates The Positive Impacts of Radical Feminism

Created from the imagination of William Marston in 1941, Wonder Woman emerged as a fierce super-heroine in the overwhelmingly male-dominated sphere of comics. Described by Robert Greenberger as a “cultural juggernaut”5 she proved herself from her origin as a resilient competitor, equal, if not superior, to her male rivals. Using her astounding physical and mental strength to fight for truth and justice, she took on the mission to help alleviate oppression around the world. Consequently she became an empowering figure for her audience. Greenberger fervently argues that she “espoused the equality of women in every aspect of society”6 as heroine, career woman, and romantic companion. Just as soon as she entered the DC Universe, she became symbolic in popular culture of the entire feminist movement; she was even used by prominent feminist figure Gloria Steinem in her campaigns. In the recent re-boot of her character by Brian Azzarello in The New 52, Wonder Woman and her fellow characters continue to encapsulate both explicit and implicit feminist messages. The series and its iconic heroine demonstrate how radical feminism has the power to end female oppression by overthrowing patriarchal society, redefining reproductive roles, liberating female sexuality, and ending sexual violence.

Please read more of her thorough and thoughtful essay by clicking here.

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Follow Blair on Twitter @CeremonialStars & follow me @comicsonice

Keep the great contributions coming, cannot wait to hear more from all of you!

Again my email address is comicsonice@gmail.com and any media goes for this project.  Until next week, keep chiseling – Sam

What’s Love Got to Do With It? Attitudes Toward Sexuality in Revival

5 Feb

My, oh my, these girls have interesting ideas about the function and nature of sexuality. This post examines the role that sexuality plays in the series Revival by Tim Sheeley and Mike Norton, published by Image comics. You should know that if you are not caught up on issues 1-6, you should be… no really, go pick them up now, and this contains *SPOILERS* so be warned.

All images below are from Mike Norton’s interior artwork.

Let’s start with Dana. She had a child, as a teenager; this apparently left her with a litany of torments that manifest in attitudes toward her body and her sexuality.

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Above, we see Em referring to the strain that Dana’s pregnancy placed on her relationship with her father. Em believes that Dana is driven by a need for her father’s approval, this makes her so interesting. Its possible that she has passed down her own hang ups about her father, to her son, Cooper.

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When addressing a childlike entity he has seen in the woods, Cooper lays out the aim of the game he has created starring his action figures. Admiral Peppercorn wants to make his dad proud. These are Dana’s words in Cooper’s mouth.

Dana’s words tell us more than she means for them to as she complains about her body.

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She is continually self-deprecating in the face of compliments. An unplanned pregnancy can leave you feeling a bit violated. The damage or scars you wear as a result of the pregnancy feel like they are blazing neon, and screaming louder than anything else about you. I am not sure if the creators realized how on target they were in putting this detail in, but I applaud them. Then we get to the really interesting stuff. Image

After a rough day, Dana seeks comfort in anonymous sex. Her personality is remarkably different in this episode. She is confident, playful, and authoritative. The encounter ends when she receives a phone call and Ibraham realizes that they will be working together. Her coquettish demeanor is terminated along with the prospect of consummating in the back seat. The next time she sees her would-be-lover, this happens. Image

 

Though Dana was fully invested in the initiation of the tryst the pair share, she now resents the unspoken implications that the event will have on Ibraham’s opinion of her. She believes that he sees her as weak, oversexed, and under-qualified. There is no reason for her to draw these conclusions; as readers we have to assume that she is referring to a past episode that actually did play out the way she is presuming this will. Again, I will bring up the sense of violation she might have internalized as a result of her unplanned pregnancy. Dana does not like being vulnerable, she becomes combative when she feels that someone might have insight to her personal struggles. For her, anonymity in sexual encounters preserves her power and agency.

 

Em’s feelings about her affair with Professor Aaron Weimar inform her choices throughout the series.

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The affair has ended, and I assume that the experience of being cast aside has left Em feeling devalued. In response she continually seeks out dangerous scenarios to either relive, or distract herself from, the lasting pain this relationship has caused her. Her high-risk behaviors become beautiful symbol; harkening to that old adage, sticks and stones may break my bones… She can survive anything, but this is killing her.

Lastly I’d like to take a look as Jamie Hettinga. She is involved in an extramarital affair with her step-brother, Justin Hine. Jamie’s life is a hectic onslaught of threats and public scrutiny. The affair seems to resent an escape from the pressures she faces, an indulgence taking place away from the public eye.

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Jamie seems empowered by the source affection and attention she has found in her step-brother Justin. However, she finds Justin disemboweled, not sleeping, and the reality that she is involved in something insidious begins to set in. It seems that the aim of the murderer may have been to make her feel ashamed, and point out the element of betrayal that underlies her actions.

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Jamie throws her bloody lingerie in the trash after finding Justin’s body. Is this action the result of shame, or just Jamie trying to escape the consequences of her choices?

It seems that in the case of Dana and Jamie, sex provides an escape from the consequences of stress and violence. For Em, however; violence may represent the escape for the consequences of sex. The varying degrees of shame and secrecy that surround all of the relationships in the series only add to its mystery. Now seriously, if you haven’t already, go read it. I could not write this much about something that was not truly stellar, thought provoking, and original.

http://www.comixology.com/Revival-1/digital-comic/MAY120495

 

Follow me on twitter @comicsonice

Icebreakers

5 Feb

First of all I want to talk about what I have planned for the blog. Every week I will pick a new series to explore. I’ll try to provide some food for thought, maybe even make a point or two, no promises.

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This week, I have chosen to write about the Image Comics series Revival by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton, I should have at least one more post coming up on the topic.

On Wednesdays I will review some new books that came out that week.

There’s another piece in the plan though, I want to start including contributions from women and girls who read, write, draw, or otherwise touch the comicsphere, I am calling the series ‘Icebreakers,’ because I aim to gain support for the idea that there are fangirls out there too; to ‘break down,’ the assumption that the world of comic books belongs to boys.

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So starting now, right now, this instant; I am accepting emails at comicsonice@gmail.com, or tweets @comicsonice, or carrier pigeons carrying words from women who love comics. Write an essay, a poem, draw something, video an interpretive dance, anything goes! Get creative, tell the world about what comics mean to you, why you love them, and how they inspire you. I really look forward to seeing what you create. Grab an ice pick and start chiseling your way out of the fridge.

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iFanboy Pick of the Week Podcast

4 Feb

<a href=”iFanboy Pick of the Week Podcast ” title=”iFanboy Pick of the Week Podcast”>iFanboy Pick of the Week Podcast

The guys were nice enough to feature a review I wrote for The Unwritten on their weekly podcast. Please check them out. Its a great active community, get involved and support your fellow fanboys (and fangirls too) Follow me on Twitter @comicsonice

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