Review Roundup, 2020 Edition
September 28, 2020 Jamey Hampton 0 Comments
Dang, it really has been a long time since I’ve consolidated and shared some of my comics and gaming reviews and interviews. This is probably mainly because the world has been so on fire that I haven’t dedicated a lot of time to criticism during most of 2020. But especially after becoming an Eisner winner in this year’s (unfortunately controversial) Eisner awards, I’m getting back into it in a big way. Here’s some of what I’ve been working on, with a lot more to come soon! (Yes, it’s a lot of Star Wars. Star Wars is my happy place. Don’t judge me.)
Most graphic novels exist in the form of books, meant to be read, leafed through and live on your shelf. But Ezra Claytan Daniels’ Upgrade Soul isn’t most graphic novels. It originated as an innovative, serialized story on iOS back in 2012. It was brought back into the public eye last year, when it was republished as a traditional graphic novel by Lion Forge and was hailed with critical acclaim, netting a Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics, an Eisner nomination and a place on what felt like every year end list of best comics of 2018. Now, Upgrade Soul is available again the way it was originally meant to be experienced, with a relaunched and updated version of the original iOS app.
Star Wars #1, the beginning of the new ongoing series from Marvel, hit shelves on January 1st, just a couple of weeks after the release of The Rise of Skywalker in theaters. And if you’re feeling sad about the end of the Skywalker saga, this comic is a good way to dive back into it at a different point in time. It takes place just after the events of The Empire Strikes Back: Lando Calrissian just betrayed the rebellion to Vader, Han Solo is trapped in carbonite, and Luke is newly missing his hand.
As a Star Wars fan, one thing I love about the franchise is that there is always more media to find and take in. That’s doubly true if you’re willing to wade into media meant for kids, which I am, because kids media can be super charming and I love it. That’s how I found Star Wars Adventures: similar to the Marvel Action series, it’s IDW publishing an ongoing series of a Marvel property that’s targeted at younger readers. It has been ongoing since 2017 and has tied in with Forces of Destiny, a web cartoon also aimed at a younger audience that focuses on powerful women Star Wars heroes. The format for the comic is similar—each issue features one standalone story that highlights a main character and one shorter story about a side character or more obscure fan favorite.
In fact, this format is exactly what sucked me into Star Wars Adventures, because #30 focuses on my favorite character dynamic in the new trilogy: that of Supreme Leader Kylo Ren and his ambitious subordinate General Hux. This was extremely on my radar because of the seedy neighborhood of the Star Wars fandom in which I live—Kylux. Kylux, if you’re lucky enough not to live in hell like I do, is the ship name for the disaster of a romantic pairing that Kylo Ren and General Hux would be. It’s a trash ship and I belong in the trash can for loving it, but I love it all the same.
I’ve said it many times: Star Wars is a franchise that really excels when it focuses on stories and worldbuilding that’s not directly related to the Skywalker Saga, and when it uses mediums other than feature length movies to do it. This has been true of the television shows (like The Mandalorian and Rebels), the novels (such as the Aftermath trilogy by Chuck Wendig and the Thrawn books by Timothy Zahn), the video games (last year’s excellent Jedi: Fallen Order) and the comics too. The newest example? A new Doctor Aphra comic by Alyssa Wong and illustrated by Marika Cresta. The last Aphra series was great too, but it was also heavily intertwined with the story of Darth Vader, and I’m very excited to see Aphra shine in her own right in this new ongoing.
Vampire stories are a genre unto themselves. Bram Stoker’s vampires operate by different rules than Anne Rice’s vampires or Stephanie Meyer’s vampires. But for those of us who play Vampire: The Masquerade obsessively, the World of Darkness vampires are the end all, be all of the species. Not only do they behave by different rules, but their unlives are filled with different worries, different problems. They concern themselves with specific sects—the political machinations of the Camarilla, the reckless violence of the Sabbat. They are belong to certain clans and bloodlines; they are beholden to specific elders and antediluvians. Writing a Vampire: The Masquerade story specifically comes with a wealth of canon and a responsibility to hit on certain themes that are central to the World of Darkness. It also comes with fans, like me, to either impress or disappoint—and Winter’s Teeth #1 impresses.
If I know one thing from the World of Darkness, it’s that being a vampire is a tough life, filled with various dangers and crises. The difficulties are starting to pile up in issue #2 of Vault’s new Vampire the Masquerade comic—both for Camarilla enforcer Cecily Bane in the main Winter’s Teeth storyline, as well as the anarch gang in the suburbs of the twin cities from The Anarch Tales. And it’s happening fast! Just two issues in, there’s already a lot of groundwork being laid for the complex political machinations that are about to unfold in the Twin Cities.
Baking is a salve for the soul, right? Well, in Ash & Thorn, it’s a salve against eldritch monsters that want to eat the entire world, too.
Ash & Thorn #5 is the thrilling end to a charming series about a little old lady who would rather be in the kitchen baking tea cakes than living up to her magical destiny to save the world. But she’s come so far since issue #1 and the Lottie we see here, at the very end of days, is the confident Champion that she never thought she’d be at the beginning. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it really resonated with me. At the end of a crisis, do you really want things to go back to the way they used to be? Or could it be a chance to rebuild, better?
If you’re not aware of Wholesome Games, do yourself a favor and take a browse through what must truly be the most wholesome Twitter feed in the whole gaming industry. They did their most recent indie game showcase near the end of August, which saw the announcement of a couple new games from various studios and developers. Among them was Pupperazzi, an upcoming title from developer Sundae Month and publisher Kitfox Games, which puts you behind the camera—and adorable dogs in front of it! With the showcase over and the new Pupperazzi trailer released, we had a chat with game director Isobel Shasha of Sundae Month.