Netflix's Daredevil May Be The Best Marvel Comic Adaptation Yet

Photo courtesy of Netflix
Matt Murdock: an attorney who'll fight for *you*.
Netflix has garnered mostly deserved praise for its original programming. "Mostly deserved" because for every Orange is the New Black or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt there's a season three of House of Cards (you know what this show needs? More brooding Doug Stamper) or final episode of The Killing ("Holder, you complete me!").

And when it comes to comic book-to-TV adaptations, DC Comic has largely held the advantage over Marvel. The Flash and Arrow are consistently entertaining where Agents of Shield continues to dragged down by having to tie in to the MCU. Sure, Gotham has that growing stink of desperation and it looks like NBC is going to cancel Constantine, but in general, the formula holds.

But as Julius Caesar once (probably) said, nothing lasts forever. Last weekend, the 13-episode run of Marvel's Daredevil dropped and, having watched every episode (after previously enduring that 2003 Ben Affleck atrocity), I feel safe in saying it's one of the best TV shows -- comic-related or otherwise -- to debut in recent memory.

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Best Comics in March Part 2: Jem and the Freakin' Holograms

Categories: Comics

Every month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics helps us select the best comics that come out. Check out Part 1.

Star Wars #3
I finally got a chance to catch up with the new Star Wars series being done at Marvel by Jason Aaron, and I haven't loved an expanded universe story so much since Shadows of the Empire.

The book takes place shortly after the Battle of Yavin, with the rebels starting to press their advantage. The normal gang is all here, but Luke is still a very novice Jedi with only a fraction of his eventual skills. He, Leia and Han go on a mission to destroy a huge weapons factory where everything promptly goes wrong.

Darth Vader is the true star of the book, being an unstoppable force that singlehandedly takes out an Imperial walker and commands his troops with an iron fist. He's terrifying to watch in action, and really gives a feel for how one-sided the war truly was. It's hard in a prequel to make you feel afraid for your hero because you know for a fact he or she makes it, but the danger to Skywalker isn't physical. It's how much of a toll fighting this bloody conflict will take on him.

Rating: 7 of 10

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Best Comics in March Part 1: Spider-Man and Thor Are Better Than Ever

Categories: Comics

Every month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics helps us elect the best comics that come out. Tune in tomorrow for part 2.

Thor Annual
I think it's safe to say that the shake-ups in the world of Thor have been extremely good for the God/Goddess of Thunder. The persistent mystery of Thor's current female incarnation's mortal identity and the quest of the Odin son to find out why he has suddenly become unworthy make for gripping stuff. I miss the latte jokes, but badass feminist hammer chick has been more than worth the trade-off.

The annual has three Thor stories that each look at a past, present and future version of Thor. Jason Aaron pictures Thor as the King of Asgard far into the future, long after the Earth itself has become devoid of life. Burdened by centuries Thor toils endlessly to try and bring his adopted home back to life, and is aided by his trio of granddaughters who consult ancient Bibles and magic books to help him. It's a sad story with an awesome payoff that proves Aaron remains a storytelling genius.

In the present Thor tries to make friends in Asgard and goes on a series of adventures with the Warriors Three. It's set as another stark contrast to the different approach she brings to the character and a celebration of what it truly means to be Thor at all. The last story was written by wrestler CM Punk of all people, and follows a drinking contest between Thor and Mephisto long before Thor was found worthy to wield Mjolnir. The debauched, hilarious yarn puts a nice exclamation point for the whole collection, and if you've been hesitant to give Thor a chance nothing will give you a better presentation.

Rating: 8 of 10

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Anime Matsuri Returns to Houston and It's Bigger Than Ever

Photo courtesy of Anime Matsuri Convention
Anime Matsuri features one of the biggest Lolita fashion shows in the United States.
Anime Maturi, the convention that anime fans of all ages love, returns from Friday April 3 through Sunday, April 5. It's now in its ninth year and there are several new features for 2015. The show has grown so large it will take up all of the first floor of the George R. Brown convention center and two-thirds of the third floor.

Deneice Leigh, who co-founded Anime Matsuri along with her husband, John, is excited about the additions. "This year, we have so many exciting new things for the convention!" she says. "For one, we've lined up one of the biggest Japanese names in rock music, Anna Tsuchiya, who will be our headliner for the live concert on Saturday. There are also several artists, voice actors and actresses from studio TRIGGER, one of the biggest Japanese animation studios."

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Feminism in Comics: How Wonder Woman, Lois Lane & Other Females Have Fared Over the Years

Categories: Comics

Image from DC Comics Wonder Woman via the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund web site
Not exactly the image of strength people have in mind when they think about Wonder Woman.

According to Houston's Taryn M. Gray, writer Brian Azzarello who just finished a 35-issue run of Wonder Woman, was successful because, "He didn't focus on the fact that she was a woman. For 35 issues, it was just her being her and not using her body to sell the point. She became the god of war and took over for Ares--beat the crap out of him, in fact. It was about her doing her job. In the past, she herself has been the "woman in the refrigerator." She's had to count on being rescued by Batman, Superman, Steve Trevor - any man who happened to come along."

Gray, an employee of Bedrock City Comics on Washington and lifelong comics reader, will tackle this and other observations at a University of Houston - Clear Lake lecture on March 3, entitled "From Wonder Woman to Ms. Thor: Feminism in Comic Books."

Gray also writes reviews on comics for the Dorkshelf web site. Her lecture will depict how popular representations of powerful women often reflect society's anxieties about female liberation.

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Sorry, Hugh, There's Just No Room for Wolverine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Categories: Comics

Twentieth Century Fox
We understand your frustration, Wolvie.
That Spider-Man will be joining his fellow heroes of the Marvel cinematic universe is a minor miracle worth celebrating. While his inclusion in the films was never in the realm of the impossible, it was thought by most to be pretty unlikely. Hollywood is a silly, complicated place, but in the end, money has a way of making complicated situations less so.

Whether they liked it or not, at the end of the day, Marvel needed Spider-Man to appear in these films eventually. Had they got to the end of Phase 3 with no Spidey involved, everyone would have understood, but it still would have been weird. It would be like DC making a universe of films with no Superman; they may not be at the same power level, but they're both the stars of their brand.

The side effect of all this is that the idea of Marvel bringing in other characters they sold the movie rights away to way back when doesn't seem so far-fetched anymore. Just imagine Hugh Jackman as Wolverine going toe to toe with Captain America.

No, seriously, imagine it. Because that's the only way you're going to see it happen for now.

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The Best Comics in January: It's Squirrel Girl Because Why the Hell Not?

Categories: Comics

Effigy #1
Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best books to review.

Effigy #1: I feel bad these days because I owe pretty much all my current interest in comics to falling in love with DC Vertigo at the turn of the century. If it had the Vertigo logo on it, I wanted to read it. Now that niche is mostly filled by the work coming out of Image, but 8th Dimension insisted I try out this book.

Effigy is definitely a one of kind title from writer Tim Seely and artist Marley Zarcone. It opens off the damned wall with a strange cartoonish space adventure where a team of teen space cops apprehend space pirates in order to save... space. Sound cheesy? That's the point because things turn south quick.

Turns out it was just part of a television show and we're introduced to former child star Chondra Jackson, who never escaped her teen idol typecasting and was forced to return home to become a cop in her little town of Effigy Mound. There she's struggling to matter and mean something as a real cop instead of a pretend one, but is little more than a meter maid and the butt of jokes from former friends amused by her fall from grace.

It's an extremely novel title with odd quirks you won't see coming. Chondra's fame-obsessed mother for example is a gift of a character that is so shallowly evil she's like some sort of super elegant maggot. Chondra herself is extremely likable and earnest, and when a chance to get involved in a real murder case comes along she jumps at the opportunity to prove herself. However, it gets real weird real quick. This is the sort of thing that used to make Vertigo the best place for comics, and it's good to say that once again.

Rating: 9 of 10

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The Best Comics in December Part 2: Welcome to Bitch Planet

Categories: Comics

Bitch Planet #1
Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Click here for Part 1.

Bitch Planet #1: Now this is the book that everyone is going to be talking about in 2015. Bitch Planet is the common name for a high-tech space facility where non-compliant women are sent to learn the error of their ways. The minds behind this marvel of misogynistic technology are called the Council of Fathers, and in the first issue we get a look at some of the women incarcerated there.

Our nominal heroine is an older white woman named Marian Collins, in for making threats against her husband when he had an affair. We see her story and his told like gears working into each other, and it paints this dripping red picture of how society has relegated women to their place as servile to men.

Joining Marian are Penny Rolle, a massive, Amanda Waller-esque figure who instigates a riot almost immediately with the violent battle cry of, "Where'm I s'posed to put my tits?!", and Kamau Kogo, a quiet but brutal capoeira fighter who uses her skills to try and make a difference on Bitch Planet.

Every page is just filled to the brim with a blistering commentary on the state of the world and how women are viewed in it. As writer Kelly Sue Deconnick says in the back, "The striking thing about Bitch Planet is that we're already on it." Hopefully this series will show some women who think feminism isn't necessary anymore just how wrong they are.

Rating: 10 of 10

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The Best Comics in December Part 1: Addressing the Transphobia in Batgirl

Categories: Comics

Batgirl #37
Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review.

Batgirl #37: It's probably the most controversial issue of Batgirl since Gail Simone took Barbara Gordon out of the wheelchair. #37 finds Babs pursuing a fake Batgirl using a blinged out costume, hard partying instagram account, and petty theft to draw attention to herself. Eager to try and salvage her reputation, Batgirl tracks the impersonator after seeing images of herself in a wheelchair at a local art show.

The impersonator turns out to be a desperate male artist going by the name Dagger Type, whose mysterious patron laid out his plans and told him to kill Batgirl and take her place. Obviously in a medium where trans people of any kind are thin on the ground this raised the hackles of a fair number of trans comic readers.

As a cis-straight white male I have enough sense not to wander in here and try and defend the actions of Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher, and Babs Tarr. The creators have already taken to social media to apologize and promise to listen hard to the stories being told by outraged and hurt fans. If you want a textbook example of how to compassionately respond to a controversy then this is probably the best you'll get.

I do see what they were going for, though. The book itself is a pretty interesting commentary on identity and more importantly the worth of a real one. The public of Burnside is happy to explore Batgirl as an icon through art, but when it comes time to have the big reveal Type was looking for they turn in disgust claiming "everything cool is always an ad". That's a very powerful message that is very relevant in this age of so much anonymous and misleading online personalities.

Maybe the creative team felt that having a man try to supplant Gordon was an interesting shake-up and twist. Heck, maybe it even is, but it was still a misstep in a book that has already done wonders for the positive portrayals of trans people in the form of Barbara's friend Alysia. The fact that Stewart and company could recover so magnificently from that misstep and still deliver a gripping read reaffirms my faith in a book I stopped reading when Simone left. Time to give Batgirl another chance, for all of us, I think.

Rating: 8 of 10

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The Best Comics in November Part 2: Tony Stark Is Such an Ass

Categories: Comics

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review.Click here for part 1.

Multiversity: Pax Americana
I'm one of the people that has called Grant Morrison's Multiversity this generation's Watchmen. It's still an incredible book, but I do think I'm going to have to walk back that statement.

Pax Americana is a fantastic read, don't get me wrong. The Question gets to take center stage for much of it, and Vic Sage is always worth reading about. He is such an unforgettable mix of genius and insanity that he damn near flies off the page. On the other hand, Morrison is so beholden to the Watchmen legacy that this issue is more of a homage than something that stands in its own right. Sage is essentially Rorschach more than The Question, and jokes to that effect never stop coming. His relationship with Blue Beetle is a mirror to the relationship Rorschach has with Nite-Owl, and even his speaking patterns take on the aspects of Alan Moore's creation.

Then there is Captain Atom as our Doctor Manhattan. He's a terribly fun character, full of meaning and depth, but no matter what he does it's clear that we're meant to simply be looking at Not-Doctor Manhattan. Add in the trendy, edgy backwards assassination in the first few pages and the homage feels kind of desperate.

Watchmen is the iconic book it is because it both explored things in comics that have never been explored before, but it also tapped into the world it was a part of of at the time. it was relevant (And remains so). Multiversity more and more feels like it's really just concerned with comics themselves and what they mean. That's fine and good, but it's navel-gazing when greater things could be happening.

Rating: 7 of 10.

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