Review: A-Force #1 (Or: A Lament On The Current State of Comic Books)

Ah, Secret Wars... Marvel's latest "Earth-Shattering Event" has certainly kicked off with much fanfare. One of the benefits of Secret Wars is that it's paving the way for a number of new series allowing an array of talented writers and artists to go in directions that were previously unheard of. Here we have A-Force written by Marguerite Bennett and G. Willow Wilson with pencils by Jorge MolinaA-Force features a line up of recognizable super heroines tasked with protecting the island of Arcadia.

Does any of this make sense? Good, then you're just as lost as me.

 Let me just start with saying that I love the concept. A-Force has a strong cast of interesting women with many characters that haven't been given the chance to shine because they've taken a back seat to the men, or just outright ignored. The series stars a few high-profile heroines like She-Hulk (acting as the Baroness of Arcadia) and Captain Marvel, but also manages to give some face time to lesser knowns, like Sister Grimm from Runaways and Young Avengers' Ms. America.

The premiere issue focuses on Ms. America's impetuousness and gives readers a taste of the rules and laws of the domains of Battleworld. When Ms. America breaks one of the immutable laws, she is banished from Arcadia despite She-Hulks protests. It's a simple enough premise for a 22-page story and works well to introduce readers to the layout of the universe. That doesn't make it easy to follow for casual comic readers.

The problem A-Force faces is not the same as most new series, being mired in continuity that new readers have a hard time to keep up. In actuality, the problem is that it's mired in an all new continuity, making it difficult for long time readers to keep up. Well, I shouldn't say "long time" as I have a feeling those that have been following the latest Secret Wars titles would be able to understand the back-story of A-Force. Even new readers who make this their first title would be able to keep up, their lack of comic history being to their benefit. But fans like me who have had to pare down their comic reading in recent years due to financial restrictions would have a hard time with this new direction, mostly because it features familiar characters in very different incarnations.

Take, for example, the two male characters that show up in A-Force. The first is Falcon. But not my Falcon. This one is imbued with the power of Thor, looking more like a Hawkman knock-off that the new Captain America. Then there's Doctor Strange, who appears as an emissary for Doctor Doom, the overlord of Battleworld, who imposes the ruler's laws on the island of Arcadia and its inhabitants. These are two characters that I know fairly well, but I spent way too much time wondering what the fuck was happening that it impeded my appreciation of the book.

I assume that these are versions of characters that I'm familiar with from a different continuity. So...how much effort do I need to put into Secret Wars for this to make sense? Will all of this be explained in A-Force or do I need to follow multiple series? Which ones? Do I have to abandon my dreams of retirement in order to give Marvel every last penny I've earned just to have my questions answered? Who the fuck knows?

But do I hold the writers responsible for this? Nope. I'm well aware that all of this is because of Secret Wars, in which Marvel takes multiple lines of continuity, from the regular line up of books that he been in print since 1962, to the Ultimate Universe that has been around since 2000, to the animated X-Men series from the early 90s, crumpled them all up together to create one massive new world for fans. Criticized for being a reboot, Marvel is calling this stunt a "reset", but I don't see much difference. They're taking decades of continuity and sending it on its head to see what sticks.

I...probably sound bitter over the move. I'm not. It's a hell of a bold move on Marvel's part to condense their different continuities into one easy-to-follow bundle. It's just kind of a shame that it came three years following DC Comics' same initiative, "The New 52".

Unfortunately, there isn't much else to say about the first issue of A-Force. While I like the few characters Bennett and Wilson have chosen for the line up, the action was rushed. The entire issue felt like a very tiny cog in an over-large machine. Sure, it may be integral to the way the Secret Wars universe works, but that's not obvious from this. I'm definitely interested in seeing how the events play out, as well as the additional characterization we're destined to get but for now, this just boils down to another tie-in. With that said, I will continue to pick up A-Force just to see where the story goes (and hopefully have some light shed on this whole "Falcon" thing).


Mac Tonight's Big British Adventure! (Part 2)

You may recall the first three days of fun and frolic Mac Tonight underwent across the pond in our first photo-filled post but he did much more than just drink fancy booze and stumble around a few castles. Not much more, mind you, but other activities occurred.

And here is where we round out the last of Mac's Big British Adventure, now with 100% more fictional detectives!

Day 4:
Remember when Mac was thumbing through the travel brochure for the Tower of London? Of course you do. Well, on Day 4, he had the chance to see that marvel! After catching a Hop-On, Hop-Off bus, which takes tourists to various stops around the city, we passed over the Tower bridge and stopped right outside the Tower of London. Serendipity!

Once inside, Mac wanted to pose for a picture in front of an old patinated cannon. For what reason, I don't know, but who am I to deny the moon-headed crooner a simple request.

After the cannon, we hopped on a line to see the legendary Crown Jewels. Since they don't allow photos in the exhibition, all I have is Mac standing in front of the tower that houses them. At least that clock looks pretty cool.

History lesson: Though most criminals were executed in front of a massive audience in the center of the city, a few people were executed within the walls of the Tower of London. One of these was Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn. To memorialize these events, there is a scaffold in the center of Tower Green around which it reads Gentle visitor pause awhile : where you stand death cut away the light of many days : here jewelled names were broken from the vivid thread of life : may they rest in peace while we walk the generations around their strife and courage : under there restless skies and includes the names of the famous victims to be executed there. Naturally, Mac wanted a picture with the memorial.

After a few of the exhibits Mac started to get a little restless. I threatened to put him on the Rack. He calmed right down after that.

Day 5:
How do we do better than the Tower of London? To be honest, I'm not entirely sure. But we had a few hours left on our Hop-On, Hop-Off bus ride so we took a ride around the city. The first stop: Hyde Park Corner, home of this amazing gate. (That's me in the picture, btw.)

You can't really see from that picture but engraved in the gate are small rats, perhaps as some kind of grotesque memorial to the Bubonic plague. So of course, Mac wanted a picture with one. Friggin' weirdo...

Back on the bus for more city-gazing! Here we are on the top of a Double-Decker, a must-do for the full London experience.

Who's one of the most famous fictional detectives to ever work out of London? If you said "Hercule Poirot", well, you're not wrong. But they didn't build a museum to Mr. Poirot. They did, however, build a Sherlock Holmes museum right at 221b Baker Street. And as that exists, we visited it.

The museum is pretty awesome. It has about 3 floors and a multitude of rooms, each one showcasing the lives and cases of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. Here's Mac posing with Sherlock's pipe and deerstalker...

And here he is with another pipe and deerstalker, as well as a book of some kind...

And here's Mac on a mantle showing a painting of...something that I don't recall how it relates to Sherlock but I'm sure it does...

And finally Mac with a bust of Sherlock himself!

But Sherlock Holmes isn't the only fictional character memorialized by the city of London. If you visit King's Cross Station, you'll be able to find Platform 9 3/4, the platform that took Harry Potter and the Weasley's to catch the wizard train to Hogwart's! Evidently, the attraction caught on so quickly that it's a whole big to-do, with employees from the nearby Harry Potter store taking pictures for tourists to purchase. They'll allow you to take free pictures too so you don't have to worry about getting fleeced to buy your keepsakes. (You will have to put up with a whole bunch of people gathered around the luggage trolley so don't hold your breath on getting a clear shot.)

On the bus back from King's Cross, we passed a McDonald's. For a wholly American fast food chain, I was taken aback by the surprising number of McDonald's we saw in London. Anyway, Mac pestered me until I took a picture of him in front of it so here he is.

Day 5:
This day was a bit of a bust for pictures. Not that we didn't do much. We did. Like visiting the Kensington Palace, the Princess Diana Memorial fountain and the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. So there was a lot going on and because of that, I simply forgot to take pictures of Mac. I did manage to get a shot of him with some fish and chips in The Sherlock Holmes, a pub right down from Trafalgar Square, which were some really great pub fish and chips.

Day 6:
Day 6 was our last day of the trip. We had a hotel check-out time of 11 AM and a shuttle to the airport coming at 11:30 so there wasn't much time to do much. However, what we were able to do was hustle down to Earl's Court Station to the crafty newspaper vendor who constructed a replica TARDIS next to his stand. What better way to peddle sodas and candy bars to tourists than with an unofficial Doctor Who tie-in? This dude was a genius!

After catching our ride to Heathrow, we had a few hours to kill before our flight, which was later extended by a flight delay, but I don't really want to get into that. One London experience we failed to undertake was tea time but luckily Dining Street Restaurant in Heathrow was able to correct that with the "Afternoon Tea" on their menu, which Mrs. Idiot didn't hesitate to order.

Tea time again, now with a side of Ariel photobomb...

And at this point we wave goodbye to London with a sweeping shot of Heathrow airport. At noon, the airport wasn't very busy so I was able to pose Mac just right to get a good view of everything.

Needless to say, Mac had a blast in London, as did Mrs. Idiot and I. It was fun breaking the little plastic man out to take ridiculous photos of otherwise beautiful and historical places and I can't wait until my next vacation to do it again. Mac Tonight may have become my new traveling buddy!


Mac Tonight's Big British Adventure! (Part 1)

Though the Hamburglar has been in the news recently after undergoing an extreme makeover and showing the world just how much of a pushover he is when it comes to his wife, 80s icon and McDonald's spokeman Mac Tonight has been flitting around London on a brief holiday. Many of his exploits can be found over on Twitter (through the help of @IdiotAtPlay, thank you very much) but for those of you who have no desire to sift through the hundreds of senseless and rambling tweets that I post (again, you're welcome), Mac has asked me to compile all of his vacation photos here on the site.

(Also, I need to thank Dinosaur Dracula for introducing me to my traveling companion. These photos wouldn't be possible without April's Funpack, which included a bunch of cool stuff. You should subscribe to future boxes and maybe you'll get something just as cool.)

Mac's flight was leaving out of JFK in New York. He managed to get there a few hours before take off, full of enthusiasm for his vacation.

As we come to find out, though, the flight would be delayed by an hour. Mac's enthusiasm dropped, though you'd never tell by the happy expression on his frozen little face.

Once on the plane, Mac dug through the seat-back pocket looking for the latest edition of SkyMall, hoping to find something cool to add to his ever increasing collection back at home. (I mean, who doesn't want a pair of Orbitwheels?) Mac would later learn that the SkyMall catalog is no more and had to satisfy himself with Al Buraq

Day 1:
Opting instead to sleep during the overnight flight, Mac arrived in London well rested and ready to face his holiday. But what was he to do? Thankfully, a rack of brochures at the hotel entrance helped him to plan his outings, choosing the Tower of London to be one of his stops.

But the Tower would have to wait since Mac had a reservation for the fancy 1940s Underground-themed bar, Cahoots, later that night. So the first day in London would just be spent walking the city and taking in the sights, such as Parliament and Big Ben.

Oh, so Cahoots... Yeah, that place was pretty cool. The right kind of swagger for a swinging dude like Mac Tonight.

I mean, get a load of these drinks...

Tossing back a few, Mac decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel to rest up for the next day. After all, he still had a full day ahead of him that he hoped to fill by soaking up the history of the city.

Day 2:
And what better place to do that than the Natural History Museum!

Mac was so enthralled by all of the exhibits, from the dinosaurs to the escalator leading up through a diorama of the interior of the Earth to the thousands upon thousands of precious stones and jewels on display, that he barely took any picture of himself in the museum! He did, however, snap a shot of his favorite exhibit: the life-size animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex!

After the museum, Mac wanted to see the London Eye, the massive Ferris wheel that gives riders a 40-mile view of the city. 

Once we got there, though, Mac was scared shitless at how high the London Eye went and chickened out. Mrs. Idiot and I bought a pair of tickets and rode the Eye, leaving Mac to miss out on this amazing sight.

As consolation, Mac wanted another dramatic shot of himself in front of Parliament and Big Ben. Since he missed out on the view in the London Eye, we couldn't really deny him that simple request.

Then we stopped at one of those red phone booths that are all over the city. Again, Big Ben in the background. (I'm seriously starting to think Mac wished he could have run for Prime Minister...)

By this point, Mac, Mrs. Idiot and I were pretty much beat and decided to head back to the hotel. The next day we had a full-day bus-trip scheduled and needed to be up early. So we grabbed a bus back to the hotel, where Mac wanted to take yet another picture of himself.

Day 3:
Big day! Day 3 saw us on a guided tour to Windsor Castle, the oldest occupied castle in the world. From there we would be heading to the city of Bath to see the Roman baths and finally Stonehenge! Needless to say, there was much excitement for Day 3.

First up: Windsor Castle. Mac posed for a few pics down into the Windsor gardens, a breathtaking display of care and detail.

Once inside the castle, we learned that the Changing the Guard ceremony would happen in just a few minutes. We rushed down to the courtyard to get a good view and watch the procession.

After the Changing the Guard, we went through the Queen Mary's Dolls' House and the State Apartments. Since they don't allow photography in these areas, I don't have anything to show. So it was back on the bus on our way to Bath.

The Roman Baths are absolutely amazing. As soon as you walk through the door, you feel like you've been transported back in time. As you arrive, you look down into the main gathering area, surrounded by stone figures that were important to the history of Rome, and history itself.

There's even a hands-on reproduction of a statue of Minerva, which Mac took a real shine to.

Our final stop on the tour was Stonehenge, one of England's most famous sites. Dating back 5,000 years, this was the stop I was most excited for, and apparently Mac as well judging by the grin on his face. We managed to get a nice shot of him in front of the stones just as the clouds were rolling in.

Which brings us to a close of Day 3 of our holiday. We still have three days worth of photos which include the Tower of London, the Sherlock Holmes museum and a special pop culture surprise, all of which I'm going to show in a second post. So be sure to stay tuned for that one!

(Don't forget to pop over and check out Part 2 of Mac Tonight's holiday in London!)


"The Non-Linear Flow" Now Available In Paperback! (And a Contest!)

I procrastinate. A little too much. It's one of my biggest flaws and I know this. One of the biggest, most detrimental things I could have done, however, was to procrastinate pushing my debut novel, The Non-Linear Flow of the Universal Tides, to paperback. Don't get me wrong; I didn't push back publication altogether. It's been available since 2013 in digital format (which you can get here...) But the paperback? That got back-burnered.

Recently, though, I had the bug to see my book in print. So I fired up the ol' CreateSpace website and set about making the physicality of my book a reality. I just got the proof copies in the mail the other day and, man...

Are those things beautiful. After spending a few days with it, I approved it for publication and now The Non-Linear Flow is finally available in physical format. You can get your copy at CreateSpace or Amazon.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, and to get rid of a few of these extra proofs I have lying around, I've decided to run to concurrent contests: one on Twitter and one on Facebook. To enter:

1) Like my Writer Page.

2) Like and Share this post:

That's it. Simple enough.

1) Follow @IdiotAtPlay on Twitter

2) Retweet this tweet.
And there you go! Keep in mind I will only be including entries that Retweet using the Twitter-style retweet, not manually retweeted posts. So use that ouroboros-looking icon to enter.

I will choose 2 winners, one from Facebook and one from Twitter, at random on Monday, April 6, and announce the winner the same day.

Thanks in advance to everyone who participates! Best of luck to all and tell your friends to pick up my book!
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