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Here are the books I’m looking forward to seeing at my local comic store the week of June 19, 2019.

The No Ones

Publisher: Cave Pictures Publishing
Words/Story: Jim Krueger
Art/Colors: Well-Bee

“The Bastions are superheroes at the height of fame and fortune—their brand has captured the world . . . and corrupted their souls. When they accidentally kill a man and cover up the crime to save their reputation, their corruption becomes a curse that erases their very existence.”

Category: Return to a Beloved World

Why I’m Excited: There are people who feel that superhero deconstruction and fall-of-hero storylines are played out. I am not one of them. The saying that one “dies a hero or lives to become a villain” is still one that can be explored well. That it is still being explored through many kinds of stories is a testament to our appreciation for nuanced characters and the understanding that ambiguous morality accompanies us in every decision. What we learn about ourselves through flawed characters allows us more compassion for others (and ourselves) and to see higher possibilities in the choices we make every day.

Cave Pictures Publishing

Lab Raider

Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Words/Story: Matt Miner
Art/Colors: Creees Lee

“A pair of young vigilantes break into a black market laboratory where illegal tests are being run on animals. What at first seems like a simple rescue mission becomes more dangerous when they stumble on secret military experiments, discovering to their horror that the animals they sought to help have been turned into something different, something monstrous . . . and once the cages are opened, the rescuers quickly become the prey of these weaponized beasts. This high-octane action comic blends vigilante heroics with sci-fi horror for a brutal new adventure.”

Category: Support Emerging Creators

Why I’m Excited: In the solicit I am reminded of Grant Morrison’s We3—the best take on the mech-anime-infantry idea I know. Will this be a tale of triumph of the humane relations between creatures over the greed of militarized industrial capitalism? I’m looking forward to revisiting that protest narrative with a new set of characters that seem a little less naive than Roseanne, Charlie, Tinker, and Pirate.

Black Mask Studios

Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel

Publisher: Disney/Hyperion
Words/Story: Eoin Colfer, Michael Moreci
Art/Colors: Stephen Gilpin

“In 2001, audiences first met and fell in love with a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind named Artemis Fowl. Since then, the eight-book series about his adventures has sold over twenty-five million copies throughout the world. To coincide with the major motion picture coming from the Walt Disney Studios in August 2019, here is an all-new graphic novel adaptation of the book with crisp, accessible storytelling and clear, cinematic perspectives. Readers of all ages can now follow the siege at Fowl Manor between Artemis and the fairies in action-packed, full-color panels.”

Category: So there’s a movie this summer attempting to become the next Harry Potter.

Why I’m Excited: I’ve heard rumblings about this kid-lit book series from the niefling set. I’m excited for an easy-to-digest introduction to the the world and characters. A villainous kid might be something of a long shot in terms of relatability (for the 40ish me) but fairies and magic should draw the intended audience even if the movie this edition was intended to promote has been moved from August to May of next year.

Disney/Hyperion

Old Souls

Publisher: First Second Books
Words/Story: Brian McDonald
Art/Colors: Les McClaine

“Chris Olsen has a good life. He has a regular job, a wife and daughter who love him, and a promising future. By any measure this is a good life, but it isn’t his first. When a troubling encounter with a homeless man triggers something inside Chris, memories of his past lives bubble to the surface. A lost Chinese boy, a wailing grandmother, and a love so powerful it never left his soul—all compete for his attention. As Chris sinks deeper into the seedy and seductive world of “grave robbers,” vagrants known for their ability to relive their former lives, he discovers that he must find closure to a tragic episode in his past without losing himself in the process.”

Category: Support Emerging Creators

Why I’m Excited: It’s an intriguing combination of ideas about reincarnation, depression, and addiction; the uniqueness of the soul and the universality of human experiences. Is the life you have now better or worse than the one you may have had before? Is forgetting a gift? What role does memory play in the shaping of our identities? What do you want to come back as?

First Second Books

Also out is a new edition of the modern classic Prince of Cats by Ron Wimberly; the collection of the Archie 1941 mini; and if you’re into Frank Miller, a version of the Superman origin story from DC’s Black Label imprint.

See you at the racks!

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Welcome to This Week in Geek, your guide to events of interest to the Minnesota geek community for the week of Monday, June 17, to Sunday, June 23.

Monday Night Game Night

What: Gaming
When: Monday, June 17, at 5:00 p.m.
Where: Level Up Games (South St. Paul)

While it may be tough diving back into the workweek (at least for those of us with Monday-to-Friday jobs), this event seeks to add fun and levity to Mondays with games. This is your chance to game with your fellows in a fun environment, either bringing your own or borrowing from the store’s library. Decompress and make some new meeple-friendly pals.

Twin Cities Monday Night Backgammon

What: Gaming
When: Monday, June 17, at 6:00 p.m.
Where: Minneapolis Richfield American Legion

Enjoy a night of backgammon with two tournaments. Entry to this event is $5, and this is a great chance for both pros and newcomers to learn this classic game

GPS Figure Drawing Salon

What: Arts, Educational
When: Monday, June 17, at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Event Horizon at the Waterbury Building

The Geek Partnership Society’s Arts Initiative hosts a figure-drawing salon at the Waterbury Building on the third Monday of each month. For a $5 fee, attendees can participate in a three-hour drawing session that “will include short, medium, and long poses, which allow artists to engage with the subject in varying ways” and that “will use a combination of nude and costumed models to support and foster fantasy and science-fiction art.” The goal of hosting this event is to “cultivate a community of artists to share ideas, support each other, and create.”

Creative Night

What: Arts, Community
When: Monday, June 17, at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Event Horizon at the Waterbury Building

Let your creativity shine with drawing, painting, crafting, or whatever your heart desires at Creative Night, a weekly event put on by Crafty Geek and the Geek Partnership Society. This is a free event, so bring some of your own stuff to work on, bring some snacks, and hang out in a collaborative space.

Surly Cinema: Jurassic Park

What: Movies, Food & Drink
When: Monday, June 17, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Surly Brewing Co.

Surly Cinema will be lighting up Minneapolis nights with beer, food, and most importantly, free movies in the Beer Garden. Attendees are encouraged to bring a towel or lawn chair, and enjoy this summer’s theme of blockbusters. This week’s showing is Jurassic Park, so get ready for a movie which holds up surprisingly well, and, dino nerds, get ready to have quibbles (re: lack of feathers and size of velociraptors).

The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical

What: Comedy & Theater, Music
When: Tuesday, June 18–Saturday, June 22
Where: The Ordway

Being the son of a sea god is not always what it’s cracked up to, especially in world of monsters and quests. This musical adaptation of the immensely popular The Lightning Thief book series focuses on a teenage boy entrusted with a quest to prevent a war of the gods. Tickets start at $40, and run up to $85.

Terror Tuesday: Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

What: Movies
When: Tuesday, June 18, at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Alamo Drafthouse Twin Cities

Terror Tuesday, a horror-screening series at the Alamo Drafthouse Twin Cities, seeks to liven up school nights with blood-pumping terror. Tickets are $5, and as always, the Alamo Drafthouse has a variety of food and drink available to enjoy with the film. This week’s screening is Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, a film full of strange teenage anxieties, plus a dream-murder-demon.

GothiCoffee

What: Meetup
When: Wednesday, June 19, at 6:00 p.m.
Where: Steamship Coffee and Tea

The Twin Cities Elysium Society hosts a casual meetup on the third Wednesday of each month. This group is a “community and a resource for all manner of goth, not-goth, darksider, freak, punk, metal, steam, cyber, rivet, Victorian, romantic, grufti, espeluznante, emo, otaku, morbidly inclined, dark creative, what-have-you (you know who you are).

Mystic Dawn/Amtgard: Park Day

What: Gaming, Sports & Fitness
When: Wednesday, June 19, at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Oak Grove Park

Amtgard, a global organization focused on the sport of medieval-fantasy combat, will be hosting a gathering in Oak Grove Park. Participants can take part in glorious quests, battle, and more, all with the use of foam weapons for the sake of safety. Garb is encouraged, but not required, and loaner weapons are available. This is a free-to-play event, but long-term players are expected to support the organization with $6 or $10 dues.

Trash Film Debauchery: Starcrash

What: Movies
When: Wednesday, June 19, at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Trylon Cinema

Long-running local cult-cinema group Trash Film Debauchery returns to the Trylon for Starcrash, a marvelous slice of Roger Corman cheese with David Hasselhoff and Caroline Munro. Starcrash is a science-fantasy film that was frequently accused of ripping off a much more famous film about wars in space from 1977. Tickets are $5.

Trivia Against Humanity Wednesdays

What: Trivia
When: Wednesday, June 19, at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Modist Brewing Co.

This regular event at Modist, hosted by Sam Spadino and Bacon, represents the convergence of two geeky favorites: a brewery that geeks out for innovative beer, and absurd trivia. Trivia Against Humanity has other weekly events as well; see the Trivia Against Humanity Facebook page for additional events.

Crafty Geek/Make It Sew

What: Arts, Meetup
When: Thursday, June 20, at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Event Horizon at the Waterbury Building

The Geek Partnership Society’s Crafty Geek club and its sub-club Make It Sew meet Thursday evenings at the Waterbury Building and invite you to “bring your crafty stuff to do” or to “hang out and work with the crafty stuff we have here!”

Double-Blind Improv

What: Arts, Theater & Comedy
When: Thursday, June 20, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Honey (Minneapolis)

Double-Blind Improv, presented by Fearless Comedy Productions, is a “short-form improv show where you never know what might happen because neither do we!” Performers and improv games are chosen at random during the show. This show takes place on the third Thursday of every month.

TSL’s WAR

What: Movies, Sports & Fitness
When: Friday, June 21–Sunday, June 23
Where: Afton Park

The Saber Legion, an organization focused on the art of lightsaber combat as inspired by the Star Wars films, presents War. This weekend-long event will pit 40 v 40 in a park environment. Who will come out on top: the dark side or the light? Come on down for a whole weekend worth of excitement.

Friday Night Magic

What: Gaming
When: Friday, June 21, at 6:00 p.m.
Where: Mischief Toy Store

Mischief Toy Store in St. Paul invites you to experience some Magic with them this Friday night for this Magic: The Gathering draft event. Entry is $15, and all players will receive prizes, including a “fancy promo card.” This weekly event is limited to 24 players and typically lasts until about 9:00 p.m. All skill levels are welcome. Mischief Toy Store hosts other events throughout the week, which are listed on Meetup and Facebook (check out the full calendar on the event page linked above).

UGG FSA BattleTech Tabletop

What: Gaming, Meetup
When: Friday, June 21, at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Fallout Shelter Arcade

Come on down for an evening of tactical-mech combat! The United Geeks of Gaming meet Friday nights for a beginner-friendly session of the tabletop-mech game BattleTech at Fallout Shelter Arcade in Northeast. FSA’s Virtual World gaming pods also run the immersive video-game version of BattleTech.

Twin Cities Pride Festival

What: Community
When: Saturday, June 22, and Sunday, June 23
Where: Loring Park

Gather with the LGBTQ+ community and allies in Loring Park for Twin Cities Pride. There will be hundreds of booths, dozens of food vendors, along with free musical performances and fun for the whole family. There are a variety of other Pride-related activities going on throughout the weekend, including a parade on Sunday at 11:00 a.m., the Rainbow Run 5K, and more. The Twin Cities Pride website is a great central location to find Pride events that may be relevant to your interests. There will be a number of organizations present, including NARAL.

Weekly Comics Chat

What: Meetup, Comics
When: Saturday, June 22, at 3:00 p.m.
Where: Minneapolis Central Library

New or neck deep into comics? It doesn’t matter! Share what comics you’ve read this week, get plenty of recommendations, have a drink, share fries, sit back, and have a great time. Additional information about this event is posted on the Girls Only Comic Club’s Facebook group. Individuals interested in attending are encouraged to join.

Shieldmaiden Sunday

What: Gaming, Meetup
When: Sunday, June 23, at 12:00 p.m.
Where: Source Comics & Games

Shieldmaiden Sundays are a dedicated space for female nerds and geeks at Source Comics & Games. This is a recurring weekly event providing a space for women to play games, chat about comics, cosplay, or just enjoy the company of other geeks.

Stranger Things Costume Contest and Q&A with David Harbour

What: Arts
When: Sunday, June 23, at 1:00 p.m.
Where: Mall of America

Fans of the nostalgia-drenched Netflix series are in for a treat at this costume contest and Q&A session held at the mall. The event will feature David Harbour, one of the leads from the show, and participants in the costume contest are competing for possible entry to a private party held at the Hard Rock Cafe. The Q&A session with David Harbour will begin at 3:00 p.m., and participants will have a chance to submit questions to the star.

So, which of these events will you be attending? What events would you like to see featured in the future? Let us know in the comments section below or contact us via email. And don’t forget to add your events to the Twin Cities Geek Community Calendar!

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Our fathers are meant to be people that we look up to and can rely on in times of crisis. What they do around us can carry a lasting influence on our lives; they can mold us into normal, functioning members of society or they can doom us to lead dark and unsavory lives on the fringes. Fathers in anime are no different. Just like in real life, they can help or hurt their children to a variety of degrees, and this shapes them (the children) into the characters we know and love today. In honor of Father’s Day, here are five of the best fathers and five of the worst—biological, foster, or adoptive—in all of anime. Warning: Beware of major spoilers for the series listed below! The Worst 5. Mr. Ishtar (Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters) The unnamed patriarch of the Tomb Guardians has been nothing but cruel to the Ishtar […]
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In the world of anime and manga, few have seen the success Mashashi Kishimoto has with his smash hit Naruto. In terms of manga sale numbers, only Eiichiro Oda (One Piece) and Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball) have him beat, and perhaps only Toriyama can claim more international success.

Hachimaru is summoned from a scroll by Naruto. Viz Media

Maybe. Naruto was, and still is, a phenomenon. For many, Naruto is a coming-of-age story that was airing on TV during their own adolescence. Much of Naruto’s story depicts him struggling to be accepted by peers and adults alike. Few took him seriously, and his awkward brashness often made his problems worse. This made Naruto relatable in a way other shōnen heroes simply weren’t and contributed to the story’s success.

Kishimoto was able to use Naruto as a framework to try and tackle two deep and difficult questions: Can people truly understand one another? And if so, how? As the story progresses, Naruto learns how to understand others, then teaches his friends, his ninja clan, and eventually the world. When I think of Naruto, I consider these core philosophical questions to be the story’s greatest asset.

Naruto’s final arc is met with justified criticism as it is too long and messy, and Kishimoto’s burnout from 15 years of writing is easy to spot. But even with a problematic final arc, Naruto remains cherished by many in the manga/anime community, and even those outside of it.

It’s no wonder, then, the moment Kishimoto hinted at a new science fiction manga in August of 2015, the community was abuzz. Two years later at Jump Festa, Kishimoto showed a sneak peak of draft pages with a character holding a katana, which prompted many to assume the manga would debut in 2018. That assumption was off, and after one more year of waiting, Kishimoto’s return to Weekly Shōnen Jump was announced for spring 2019 with Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru, which would be illustrated by one of Kishimoto’s former assistants, Akira Ōkubo.

Though some fans were disappointed Kishimoto would not be drawing the manga himself, his choice is understandable considering just how strenuous drawing weekly manga is, and how poor health plagues almost all mangaka. The initial drawings shown by Ōkubo proved he understood Kishimoto’s art style and reassured fans that Samurai 8 would not lose that distinct Kishimoto flavor.

Caution: mild spoilers ahead.

Samurai 8’s first three chapters were a delight to read. Kishimoto has constructed a vulnerable and relatable protagonist who differs from Naruto. Hachimaru is a frail, sickly child who dreams of becoming a samurai, but cannot leave his house. His doting father does all he can to take care of Hachimaru and hopes to someday build a portable life machine so his son can explore the world. A lot of mystery surrounds the worldbuilding of Samurai 8, but Kishimoto has made good on writing a science fiction manga. Some of Samurai 8’s aesthetic reminded me of Ghost in the Shell, and it only served to heighten my excitement for this new adventure manga. Also present in the manga are virtual reality video games, multiple planets, and the threat of universal destruction if Pandora’s box is not found. It is the sworn duty of samurai to protect the cosmos, and their abilities have a science fiction flair that I will not spoil here.

Promotional art of Hachimaru first shown at Jump Festa 2019. Viz Media

Chapter two introduces a character called Nameless who has not yet decided whether they are male or female and, like Hachimaru, is a shut-in. Every character in this manga seems to have an element of mystery to them, and it’s clear Kishimoto has been stretching his character-writing muscles. Samurai 8 also seems devoid of the “middle school drama” which Naruto’s beginning was full of. Instead, Samurai 8 banks on optimism and adventure to drive the narrative, and I couldn’t be happier.

The only downside to Samurai 8 is the drafting. A manga’s composition is roughly made up of story, character designs, art, and drafting. Drafting can be broken down into manga panel size and placement, how action flows from one panel to the other, and black-and-white balance. During Naruto’s run, it was clear Kishimoto was not as good at drafting as his contemporaries Tite Kubo (Bleach) and Eiichiro Oda (One Piece), but he was still competent. Unfortunately, Samurai 8’s pages can be difficult to read because the black-and-white balance is completely skewed toward white. This makes backgrounds difficult to see and action gets lost. My hope is that Ōkubo will learn and improve his drafting with time, and the white pages will become a nonissue.

In the meantime, Samurai 8 is a welcome addition to the Weekly Shōnen Jump lineup. As a veteran, Kishimoto brings a lot to the table, and it’s clear his willingness to try new techniques and story ideas will only serve to heighten the magazine’s prestige. If I had to guess, I would bet Kishimoto will find new and important philosophical questions to tackle with this manga, and perhaps more than anything, it’s what I look forward to most. I don’t expect Samurai 8 to go on for 15 years as Naruto did, but I do expect a solid run, so long as health concerns don’t force Kishimoto to stop writing.

Whether you’re a fan of Naruto or not, I wholeheartedly recommend Samurai 8. This adventure manga is sure to make you smile, tantalize you with its mysteries, and make you cheer for Hachimaru and his friends. You can read the latest three chapters for free via Viz.com or the Weekly Shōnen Jump app.

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Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clark) before her army. HBO

On May 19, 2019, millions of viewers worldwide tuned into the series finale of HBO’s Game of Thrones, shattering previous HBO viewing records. After those 82 minutes, feelings on how it ended aside, I realized something that struck me. For several years now, I have proclaimed Game of Thrones as my favorite show on television, but once it ended, I think it became the greatest show of all time. Some may object to such a proclamation. “What about M*A*S*H or The Sopranos?” some may ask. However, think for a moment about what Game of Thrones accomplished. We could look at the numbers for analysis: over 18 million people tuned into the finale. That greatly exceeds M*A*S*H, which finished at a time when there were far fewer channels. Today, it is considered amazing when prime-time television shows reach 10 million viewers. This is HBO! People pay extra to watch this show. I think that says a lot.

Daenerys (Emilia Clark) & Jon Snow (Kit Harington) gaze into each other’s eyes. Helen Sloan/HBO

There will be a lot of heat with this opinion, because in case you haven’t heard, there are those who are less than thrilled with not only how the show ended but how the entire final season turned out. There is even a petition out there asking for the whole season be redone. I would be remiss if did not address this. Folks, with all due respect, suck it up. What did you expect to happen? Were there mistakes? Yes—that coffee cup should not have been visible. Should “The Long Night” have been lit better? I’ll definitely give you that one! But in regards to the quality of the season, I see things differently. Was the writing, for lack of a better word, different? I’d say so, but in its shorter six-episode season, think about how much of that was spent covering a battle or some kind of destruction. More than previous seasons. I saw it as necessary to prepare for where the show would eventually go.

Arya (Maisie Williams) fighting in King’s Landing. Helen Sloan/HBO

Speaking of the end, let’s just get there. Did Game of Thrones end how I predicted? No. Was I disappointed? Actually, not really. I would’ve liked certain things to be different, but in retrospect, most things made sense—which isn’t always the case when a show ends. Did the end of Dexter make any sense or make one person happy? Thrones at least flowed and made some sense, in comparison. I think the best way to sum up how I feel comes from the character Chuck from Supernatural during the season 5 finale, originally planned as the series finale:

Endings are hard. Any chapped-ass monkey with a keyboard can poop out a beginning, but endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end, but you never can. The fans are always gonna bitch. There’s always gonna be holes. And since it’s the ending, it’s all supposed to add up something. I’m telling you, they’re a raging pain in the ass.

If that that doesn’t sum the Game of Thrones finale and its backlash, nothing else possibly could. There is all this outrage over how things were not up to par, or that things didn’t go the way they should have. To that I say, Game of Thrones was a show designed to upset and devastate its audience. By that statement alone, the writers succeeded in exactly what they tried to do: upset the audience. Could things have ended differently? Sure. But then we’d risk being upset about that as well. Endings are hard, and television historically has had problems with them. Not many shows have had that perfect ending. What’s the saying? It’s not the destination, it’s the journey? I think that’s how Game of Thrones should, and ultimately will be, remembered by its audiences.

Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) embrace while the Red Keep is assaulted. Helen Sloan/HBO

Despite this season’s controversy, Game of Thrones was one of the most popular shows in history, was always unpredictable, and carried great emotion with the relationships between characters and viewers. It was a show that shocked and devastated us all on a constant basis, but always entertained. To me, it could go down as the greatest of all time. Whether you agree or protest, try to remember what the show gave you over these past eight seasons. Love or hate the conclusion, this great show’s watch has ended.

Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) drinks and knows things. Helen Sloan/HBO

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Mindi Abair has been at it a long time. A two-time Grammy-nominated vocalist and world-class saxophonist, she’s seen and done it all, including appearing on American Idol and performing with the Backstreet Boys, Aerosmith, and many other prominent acts. Yet she continues to reinvent, thicken, add and subtract, and refine her sound, molding a new version of herself that’s found a niche conquering a hybrid of blues, jazz and rock ’n’ roll with her band, Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers. Abair and bandmates Randy Jacobs (guitar and vocals), Rodney Lee (keys), Ben White (bass), and Third Richardson (drums) will take the stage at the Dakota in downtown Minneapolis for two sets on June 16, 2019, as part of their new tour to promote their new LP, No Good Deed. Recorded in just five days, the group’s third studio album features 10 tracks and will be officially released on June 28. […]
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I had a pretty big Will Smith phase back in the ’90s. So much so that I had a framed poster from, get this, Wild Wild West in my bedroom—yep, that movie with the mechanical spider and . . . you know what, no need to drag myself any further.

Two summers before Wild Wild West had come the intergalactic misadventures of the soon-to-be Agent J, a man who encouraged me to rock dark sunglasses and maybe, just maybe, believe what I saw in the National Enquirer. The original Men in Black was the perfect summer blockbuster, a simple, fun flick that came equipped with a catchy Will Smith jam we could all dance to. (Spoiler: it’s still a bop.) It was a nice, self-contained movie that didn’t really need a sequel.

Which means it got two of them.

Meet your new galaxy defenders. Giles Keyte/Sony Pictures Entertainment

I remember thinking Men in Black II would be cool, though, because the first movie had ended with J getting a new partner—the coroner, Dr. Laurel Weaver (Linda Fiorentino), now known as Agent L. Seeing Will Smith back in action would be one thing, but seeing a female MIB agent? Especially one who’d, frankly, saved J’s and K’s asses by blasting the remnants of their sugar-water-drinking nemesis? Yes, please.

Um. Pretty please?

So, yeah, neither sequel featured this alien slayer. Nor did they feature any female MIB agent, for that matter, with the exception of Agent O (Emma Thompson), who took Zed’s place in Men in Black III. Credit where credit’s due, a female leader for the group is fantastic, seeing as the first movie ended with a woman armed with a blaster, I wanted more women with blasters. Not to mention the sequels kind of spewed split-pea soup all over the ending of the original, since K’s entire purpose was to train J as a replacement, not, you know, come back from neuralyzed retirement. The original goal was to move on and let a new generation take over.

And that’s where Men in Black: International comes in.

Tessa Thompson (Agent M) and Chris Hemsworth (Agent H) gear up for another cosmic adventure. Credit: Giles Keyte/Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Nothing against my high school celebrity crush getting more work, but heading to the international headquarters feels like a proper continuation of the story. Instead of bringing back certain agents (seriously, let Tommy Lee Jones rest), we get new characters and a new headquarters. This is exactly what you’d expect from an organization that exists around the world. Why revisit the American branch when you can go global?

We’re no longer questioning the existence of life beyond our planet, so this movie cuts to the chase. We already know aliens are real, so there’s no need to try and convince us, or our lead character, that certain celebrities are not of this world. There are some familiar beats that call back to the original, but they never overstay their welcome, instead letting this new generation of MIB agents put on their shades and zip around on a motorcycle that can glide across the water like a Jet Ski. There are two layers of wonderment in this movie: one, the aliens, and two, the MIB tech. Seeing a man’s beard unfurl into an alien is cool and all, but can we talk about the subway system MIB has that transports you from the US to London in minutes? Listen, MIB, I know you wanna operate in secret, but can a girl get a trip across the ocean in the time it takes for my hair to dry, please?

Fine, I guess I’ll move on to our main characters. Just . . . DM me, Agent O.

Molly (Tessa Thompson) has spent her whole life trying to find MIB headquarters, and let me tell you, seeing her walk through the doors with her I found you swagger is oh so satisfying. Chef kisses to Tessa Thompson, who gets to rock that dark suit for about 95 percent of the movie. She is exactly what I wanted to see in the 2002 sequel—a smart, finely dressed woman who blasts away space vermin and proves her worth to the entire organization. Then there’s Agent H, played by Chris Hemsworth, who must have a clause in his contract to have at least one total heartthrob moment in each movie he’s in. I ain’t even mad about it. Neither is the internet, which has dubbed him and Tessa a bisexual/pansexual dream come true. H may have more experience, but it’s clear he needs the newly recruited Agent M to rein him in. It’s not that he’s stupid, he’s just a bit full of himself after saving the world this one time at band camp—erm, Paris. To be fair, his arrogance isn’t his fault. The agency’s leader, High T (Liam Neeson), is constantly making excuses for H, coddling him as he swears up and down that he’s good at his job, he just . . . makes a mess . . . sometimes.

Much like they did in Thor: Ragnarok, Thompson and Hemsworth have amazing on-screen chemistry. You get the feeling that they are true #friendshipgoals and are thoroughly enjoying these cosmic adventures they keep going on. Simply put, these two make the movie—along with, I’m surprised to say, their nonhuman sidekick. A lot of movies like this feel the need to insert the quirky mascot that’ll most likely entertain the kids as they munch on popcorn. Their jokes tend to be harmless but can wear out their welcome, the puns becoming the equivalent of jingling your keys in front of a baby to get them to smile. But Pawny (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) is actually equal parts funny and useful, making you appreciate the trio as a trio and not the two leads and that thing that’s grating on my nerves.

Pawny (Kumail Nanjiani) is ready to serve his queen. Sony Pictures Entertainment

Despite all this, I have two issues with the movie, and unfortunately, they are things that could potentially kill it for other viewers. The plot itself is, well, a bit meh. It’s not bad, but it won’t knock your socks off, either. And the same can be said about the movie’s villains. The twin aliens pursuing our heroes are dope as hell, and the choreography of Les Twins is at times mesmerizing to watch. However,  they don’t offer much beyond “Damn, those are some cool moves.” Basically, they’re like the Twins in the second Matrix movie—you’ll remember how cool they looked and their fluid movements, but you’d be hard-pressed to remember their names. (Which is fine, I guess, because neither movie’s set of twins gets actual names in the credits.)

This wouldn’t be a problem if Men in Black’s twins were just henchmen like The Matrix’s, but as it stands they’re the antagonists our heroes deal with the most. Sadly, this lack of personality is kind of a theme with the movie’s antagonists. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fun, but they aren’t particularly memorable. Riza (Rebecca Ferguson), for example, is built up as someone to be feared, but in the end she’s just . . . there.

Normally, this would kill a movie for me, as I need the story and the main conflict to be engaging. But honestly? Men in Black: International gave me exactly what I wanted: a chance to sit down, have some laughs, and stare at the visuals on the screen. The dynamic between Thompson and Hemsworth alone is worth the price of admission. Basically, I went into the movie the same way I did back in 1997—ready for a summer blockbuster with cool effects, an interesting world, and characters I adore. And if you go in with that mindset, you’ll have a good time too.

Agent O (Emma Thompson) is waiting for you. Giles Keyte/Sony Pictures Entertainment

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Few animated series make it as far as the Toy Story legacy while remaining sweet, smart, and genuinely heartfelt. It’d be easy to scoff at yet another sequel and to believe that Pixar is milking it, desperate to find something for these characters to do to keep the money train chugging. But Toy Story 4, like previous Toy Story sequels, finds something so clever and emotional I have no reservations about calling it one of the best entries in the saga. There’s still some unfinished business for Andy’s toy collective from the last film, having been turned over to the new little girl Bonnie. We learn in a flashback what truly happened to Bo Peep (Annie Potts), who belonged to Andy’s little sister, Molly; Woody (Tom Hanks) hasn’t forgotten her and still hasn’t come to terms with it. This doesn’t come about broadly but more through how Woody reacts to […]
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Mars continues to inspire curiosity in the most interesting of ways. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been circling the red planet in an effort to track the history of the presence of water for well over 10 years now. Over the course of its endeavors, the MRO has come across a number of natural wonders and oddities, from muppet-like rock formations to Pac-Man-esque craters—and the latest is sure to excite Trekkies across the globe. “Enterprising viewers will make the discovery that these features look conspicuously like a famous logo,” the MRO HiRise camera team at the University of Arizona wrote in a press release. The image, posted by the team on June 10, 2019, bears a striking resemblance to the iconic Starfleet delta insignia famously emblazoned on the uniforms and combadges presented throughout every Star Trek iteration. While the image might further ignite the desires of us Trekkies to […]
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Combining professional wrestling and comics seems like a match made in heaven. Over-the-top personalities and silly stipulations for matches could create magic on the pages. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) teamed up with BOOM! Studios to release comics based on their characters and history, inspiring a slew of independent wrestling-themed comics. However, they’re not the only ones: although not affiliated with the WWE, Suspicious Behavior and Starburn Industries’ Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia serves as a love letter to the history of the American Wrestling Association (AWA) and professional wrestling in general.

Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #1. Suspicious Behavior Productions/SBI Press

From the title page of the first issue, “A Date with Destiny,” it is evident the creative team is passionate about professional wrestling and this project. Before introducing the writers and artists, a note appears on the title page: “To anyone who’s ever taken a bump, done a job or left color on the canvas for our entertainment—this is for you.” To some this could be confusing. To wrestling fans and professional wrestlers, it simply means “Thank you.” By using wrestling terms such as bumping (hitting the canvas hard to sell a move) and doing a job (allowing the opponent to look good by beating you), writers Ed Kuehnel and Matt Entin establish credibility. In the first two issues every contributor has a ring name, the best belonging to colorist Marissa Louise who goes by “Col. Von Slamstein.” I hope they continue to do this for creators in upcoming issues.

Although this series is not a local creation, the story opens in 1984 at the St. Paul Sportaturium, which is a pleasant nod to Minnesota’s wrestling history. Minnesota was a hotbed for body slams and German suplexes from the 1960s to 1991. The AWA ruled the Midwest, establishing such superstars as Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura and Ric Flair, all of whom started in the league before moving to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in the ’80s. Main character ‘Rock ’n’ Roll’ Rory Landell, an amalgam of Flair and John Cena, wrestles for the American Wrestling Foundation and acts as a nice tribute for those who grew up with territorial wrestling. He spends the first few pages cutting promos—that is, talking instead of wrestling—in the same way that made Flair and Cena stars in the industry.

The first issue introduces Rory and Don, Rory’s manager, who is a Hawai‘ian man playing a Chinese character. It was, and still is to some extent, a common practice for wrestlers to usurp stereotypes to bolster the characters they portrayed. Don and Rory have a father-and-son dynamic throughout the first two issues as they face wrestling politics, getting old, and an eventual alien invasion. That’s right: Rory claimed in 1984 that he was the “Galaxy’s Champion” during a promo, unaware it would lead to an invasion 15 years later by the planet Wrestletopia.

The invasion begins. Suspicious Behavior Productions/SBI Press

After the alien reveal in issue #1, issue #2—titled “Two Worlds Enter, One Leaves!”—gives the reader a glimpse of what to expect from the series. Entin and Kuehnel’s writing mixes perfectly with Dan Schkade’s art as they create a world where professional wrestling is the key to saving the planet. The storytelling is ridiculous and nonsensical, aligning well with the absurd stories seen every Monday and Tuesday night with WWE productions.

I’ll admit I hesitated reading Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia. At first glance it seemed like something I would not enjoy despite the fact that I’m a lifelong wrestling fan. I felt that the premise would be cheesy and would not present an authentic representation of  professional wrestling. But my hesitations were misguided, as it’s more enjoyable than most of professional wrestling today. The book is flat-out funny at moments and crafts a story both wrestling fans and mainstream comic fans will enjoy. A good introduction in the first issue leads to a fun experience with the second and had me wanting more. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy seeing government officials suplexed outside the White House? I certainly did.

A Dan Schkade panel. Suspicious Behavior Productions/SBI Press

I would recommend this for any wrestling fan who longs for the zaniness of professional wrestling in the 80s. And for fans of comics, it’s enjoyable for all the reasons we love a book like Deadpool. Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia has a premise that may discourage some readers with its silliness and flippant tone, but the approach allows the reader to escape in much the same way professional wrestling itself does. Honestly, I never knew that a series like this was needed. I am glad that Ed Kuehnel and Matt Entin created a wonderful tribute to professional wrestling, and I hope it continues well into the future.

The first two issues of Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia are available on ComiXology. Issue #3 is out June 19, 2019.

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