“Everything is Perfectly Fine” – Part 2

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This time, the meeting was on Val’s turf. And by turf, she meant a lakefront house that her family owned and used to visit when she and her sisters had been children. She stood in the living room in front of floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out over the lake. On a bright summer day, it held a beautiful view: the sparkling waters of Lake Michigan, white sailboats drifting across the distance like clouds. Today, though, it was dark and gray, and the only view she had was of sheets of rain pounding against the lake’s surface.

The furniture was covered in white sheets to protect from dust, and the heater hadn’t been turned on long enough to warm the place. At least the heating worked, though, and so did the electricity. Yet the house remained eerily silent and empty-feeling, and Val felt like a ghost within its walls. How many years had passed since the last time she’d been here?

Her thoughts went back Dave, as they’d been doing all day no matter how much she tried to think of something else. She’d wanted to go check on him in person, but she’d already taken one stupidly huge risk today, so she’d settled for tracking him down and sending flowers. Northwestern Memorial Hospital was the best in Chicago. He’d be okay.

Except no, he wouldn’t be okay for a long time, no matter how good the medical treatment. Val should have gotten him out of there a lot sooner. She should have never allowed Blueblood to torture him. He probably hated her, and he had every right to. Val had stood by and done nothing but watch as he got hurt. How could he ever forgive her for that?

The floor creaked as Joey approached her from behind. But even if she hadn’t heard him, she would have sensed his general aura of grumpiness before he spoke. Continue reading

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Turn Back the Pages: Agents of Atlas

Turn Back the Pages is a new biweekly feature where I spotlight a comic that is not fresh and new. It may have come out a few months ago or even a few years ago. Maybe it was hyped and popular, or maybe it was an underappreciated gem. Whatever the case, it’ll be a great comic that’s well worth a read.

Agents of Atlas Cover

Superhero comics are like Nutella—they go with everything. You can mix superheroes with science fiction, espionage, urban fantasy, or even 70s kung fu movies, and it works. On a superhero team book, genres get thrown into a blender (Superman’s sci-fi roots plus Wonder Woman’s mythical origins, with a dash of Batman’s crime noir, for example). But few teams encapsulate that delightful hodgepodge of different elements better than Agents of Atlas.

The Agents of Atlas were the Avengers before the Avengers. Formed by the government in the late 1950s, they saved the world a few times and disbanded soon after. Now, over fifty years later, they’re pulled back together to face a shadowy new threat. The team is as follows:

  • Jimmy Woo: FBI agent and team leader. Got old, nearly died, and got young again, but lost his memories in the process. Figuring out who or what nearly killed him is the driving force of the plot.
  • Venus: Self-proclaimed goddess of love. Sweet and adorable. Often topless. Voice can mesmerize people and make them stop fighting.
  • The Uranian: Dude with a complicated backstory from the planet Uranus. Kind of mopey, but has a cool spaceship.
  • Namora: Cousin of Namor, prince of Atlantis. Swims, flies, and punches things really hard.
  • M-11, the Human Robot: Mysterious yet helpful robot. Doesn’t talk much.
  • Gorilla Man: A man who got turned into a gorilla by a curse, and as a side effect is immortal. Can shoot guns with both his hands AND feet. The best.

Agents of Atlas #1-6 tells a complete story, and considering that it’s only six issues, it’s amazing how writer Jeff Parker manages to make each character so well-rounded and pack the plot with so many twists and turns. It starts off with a flashback to the team’s golden age, goes to Jimmy on the brink of death in the present day, and then it’s off across the globe to get the team back together and track down leads.

This is a fun book. Not that there aren’t dark moments, and the characters are forced to acknowledge truths about themselves that they’d rather not face, but it’s wrapped up in action, adventure, and a twisty espionage plotline with an ending you won’t see coming. The Agents of Atlas just seem to enjoy each other’s company and saving the day, and it’s a treat for the reader to go along for the ride.

I’d recommend you buy the graphic novel, since it has cool extras in the back like character sketches, author’s notes, and reprints of the characters’ first comics from the 40s and 50s. Bonus material is important, because once you finish this story, you’ll definitely be wanting more.

Have you read Agents of Atlas? Interested in checking it out now? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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“Everything is Perfectly Fine” – Part 1

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Dave drifted in and out of consciousness for a while. Every time he woke, he’d keep his eyes shut, feeling an overwhelming and nameless sense of dread. Then he’d remember that he’d escaped, that no one was waiting to torture him more. Eventually, he opened his eyes. The off-white, rectangular ceiling tiles of a hospital room greeted him, and he could hear muffled voices from the people in the hallway.

“Hey, man.”

Dave turned his head, which was cushioned by a thick pillow. Harris and Moreen sat next to his bed.

“How long—” Dave coughed, his throat scratchy. “How long have I been out?”

“A couple hours.” Harris tried to smile, but it didn’t quite stick. “Which really isn’t enough. You should get back to sleep.”

Sleep sounded nice. Dave’s head felt cloudy, and his limbs were heavy and numb. But something nagged at him. He was forgetting something, or there was something he needed to do and….

He jerked up. “They’re working together. Blueblood, the Black Valentine, and—” Continue reading

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Top 5 Wonder Woman Comics You Need to Read

In honor of the new Wonder Woman movie (and because it’s summer vacation and I have more time to write), I wanted to make a post about my top 5 Wonder Woman comics. This isn’t meant to be a universal list but just my personal favorites. If you loved the movie and are looking for more stories about Diana, Princess of Themyscira, these are great places to start.

5. Wonder Woman by George Perez

Wonder Woman Cover

Honestly, this one could make the list based on art alone. Perez’s art is stunning, even if you don’t read the words—and you should definitely read the words, because the stories are great, too. There are so many good ones, so I’ve linked to Vol. 1 for simplicity’s sake. It’s got the origin of the Amazons (or make that one of the many, many origins the comics have gone through over the years), our favorite god of war, and the supervillain Cheetah—who I’m hoping will be the antagonist in the next movie. Well, her or Circe. Both are great.

Perez’s run on Wonder Woman is a classic, and there’s a reason for that. Check it out on Amazon here.

 4. Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman

Sensations Comics Cover

Sensation Comics is a collection of short Wonder Woman stories by different writers and artists. There are good ones, great ones, and some that are pretty meh, but overall it’s a wonderful collection (pun intended). My favorite is Brace Yourself by Jason Bischoff in Issue #2. It’s about a young Diana’s quest to defeat her mother in combat and earn her Amazon bracelet, and it’s heart-warming and adorable. It you enjoyed little Diana on Themyscira in the first part of the movie, you’ll love this story.

There’s a huge variety of stories from silly to serious, but they all have something to offer. You can download it here.

3. Wonder Woman: Eyes of the Gorgon by Greg Rucka

Eyes of the Gorgon Cover

There’s only so much I can say about this storyline without spoilers: the richly developed supporting cast (Ferdinand is the best!), the fantastically-written Diana, the mix of myth and modern-day. But I need to spoil you to really sell it, so don’t click on if you want to be surprised. Continue reading

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“FUBAR” – Part 8

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Val didn’t pour herself another gin and tonic. She put the empty glass to her lips and leaned back her head, getting a small swallow of melted ice with just a hint of flavor. No more alcohol. She was going to need every fraction of her brainpower to stay alive. She gazed around the room, sizing up the few men who’d come to watch Joey and Cleto’s game, a crumpled wad of fifties waiting on the side of the table for the winner. She’d be able to mind-control one of them, maybe two, to cover her exit if things went south.

The heavy pool tables would make decent cover in the event of a firefight, and the cue sticks could be close-range weapons in a pinch. She’d already mapped the layout and knew about the man Blueblood had out front. That only left Blueblood himself, the most dangerous of them all. She had to keep distance between them at all costs.

Speaking of Blueblood, he walked jauntily out of the kitchen while munching on potato chips. “Ready to have at him?” he asked her.

Val set her glass onto the bar with a resolved thunk and stood. “Lead the way.” Continue reading

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“FUBAR” – Part 7

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Dave was starting to like the concrete floor. Sure, it was hard against his skull and back, pressing each link of chain further into his flesh. And yeah, it was filthy. But letting his muscles go slack as he rested on it felt like a little slice of heaven.

He didn’t know how long he’d been lying there. He didn’t know how many times Giordano and Werecat had dunked him. It felt like it had been a lot of times, but he didn’t want to think about it. If he could have found the strength to lift his head and look at the tub, a shudder of revulsion would have passed through him. He forced himself not to think, not to remember in excruciating detail the feeling of water up his nose and rough hands on his head. He wanted to lie on the floor in a haze and think of nothing at all.

He hadn’t talked. Or at least, he didn’t think he had. He would remember, wouldn’t he? So he had to brace himself. Because when Val came back and tried to get into his head again, he was going to be tempted to tell her everything as long as they stopped, as long as they never brought him anywhere near water again. He couldn’t let himself do that. They were going to kill him anyway, and he didn’t want to die betraying everything he stood for. David Del Toro might dread what came next, but White Knight was strong. He had to be White Knight. Continue reading

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“FUBAR” – Part 6

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Val would have given anything to leave the room, but she forced herself to stay. For one thing, she’d lose Blueblood’s respect if he thought the Black Valentine couldn’t stomach watching someone get tortured. But more importantly, this was her fault. She hadn’t been able to break through Dave’s mental shields, so she could at least bear witness to the price he was paying for her failure.

Joey had stepped into the kitchen behind the bar earlier, rolled up his sleeves, and pressed his forearms to a hot stove to put himself in enough pain that he’d be strong enough to hold Dave’s head under. Even with Werecat’s help and Dave in chains, it was a struggle. The two men crouched awkwardly over Dave’s kneeling position, their hands grasping his arms, shoulder, and head. Dave bucked and thrashed beneath them, but it wasn’t enough to throw them off. Not since Madame Morphine had gone up to him before the torture started, leaving him conscious enough to experience it but in enough of a stupor to have trouble fighting back.

When Dave’s movements began to slow, they pulled him out and threw him back onto the floor. Dave hit it hard, his head rolling back, and immediately started coughing up water. His eyes were squeezed shut, his shoulders curled in, every inch of his body language screaming torment. He looked frail, a word she’d never associated with him before. She should have scorned that show of weakness, but the world seemed to have turned upside down. She wanted to go to him. She wanted to hold his head in her lap, smooth back his wet brown hair from his face, and make sure none of these bastards touched him again.

Val hurt. She could blame some of that on her telepathy, on how she could psychically feel his pain and physical shock, but that didn’t explain her nausea or the ache in her heart.

“We should take a break.” Giordano looked down at Dave’s trembling form impassively. Continue reading

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“FUBAR” – Part 5

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Walter Franke sat in the small interrogation room, comfortable in the way of a man who’d been in this situation a thousand times before. It didn’t matter that he’d never stepped foot into this particular room before today, or that he’d never met the supervillain handcuffed to the table across from him. Everything about this was familiar, up to and including the tangled knot of anxiety his guts had twisted themselves into.

“I don’t believe you,” he said.

“That’s not my problem,” said the supervillain.

He called himself Dr. Blood. He wasn’t a doctor. He hadn’t even made it through a full semester of college. The local agents had found him at home, thankfully, so Walter wasn’t subjected to whatever disastrous eyesore he called a costume. He wore a black T-shirt with some kind of pentagram-type thing on the front, and his dark hair was drowning in gel. The small strip of facial hair going from his lower lip to the tip of his chin might have technically been a goatee, but it didn’t deserve the designation. In short, everything about him made Walter want to punch him in the face.

“It’s most definitely your problem,” Walter said. “If you want to walk out of this room, you need to make yourself useful.” Continue reading

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“FUBAR” – Part 4

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Dave had been ready the first time. Even half-conscious, it hadn’t been hard to figure out their plan when he saw the tub of water they’d brought into the room.

Dave wouldn’t call water his “weakness” exactly, but it was something his super-strength didn’t protect him from. Beating him was a good way to break your knuckles, and trying to cut him was like attacking a tree trunk with a butter knife. His skin was fairly burn-resistant, too, and bullets famously bounced off of him. But he needed to breathe like everyone else.

The tub was big and metal, its sides smeared with dirt. Giordano and the other one—the cat man, Dave couldn’t remember his name—grabbed him and dragged him towards it. Dave didn’t resist, his legs dragging limply across the floor. Part of that was because Madame Morphine had made his limbs feel stiff and distant, but also, he knew he should save his strength.

They dropped him into a kneeling position in front of the tub, the chains around him clinking together at the sudden movement. Dave’s head bobbed unsteadily, and he stared into the tub, seeing individual dirt particles moving in the water. Then hands gripped his shoulders and head, and he took a deep breath. Continue reading

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“FUBAR” – Part 3

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Val was a telepath, and telepaths who survived learned to control their emotions. Dave’s gaze found hers, though his eyes were unfocused. As she took in the purple bruises on his face and the way he swayed even though he wasn’t standing, she ruthlessly stomped down on the emotion welling up in her stomach. She pursed her lips in a thoughtful manner, hyper-aware of Blueblood and the Fox Woman watching her reaction.

“Well,” Val said, “That’s not what I was expecting.”

She could shoot Distortion. Shoot Distortion, take out the others telepathically, and free Dave. No, she didn’t know the whole situation yet, and besides, that was…that was a huge sacrifice to make for someone who didn’t even want to kiss her.

“Grabbing unexpected opportunities when they come up is the secret to success,” Blueblood said cheerfully.

Val looked at the Fox Woman. “You disagree?” Continue reading

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