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Marvel Comics

Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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Marvel Comics

Every Wednesday, I preview the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, Comixology, Kickstarter and the web. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about.

1. Ms. Marvel #1

Written by G. Willow Wilson; art by Adrian Alphona
Marvel Comics

The new Ms. Marvel--a name created in 1968 to tap into the women’s movement of that era--debuts in her own title this week and it’s a very big deal (UPDATE: A reader pointed out to me that Ms. Marvel actually did not debut until 1977, even though her original alter ego, Carol Danvers, first appeared in 1968). Taking over from Carol Danvers (who now goes by Captain Marvel) is a sixteen-year-old Pakistani-American Muslim named Kamala Khan.

Women of color are generally under-represented in comics and characters of Muslim faith are especially few and far between. DC Comics deserves credit for introducing an Arab-American Green Lantern (Simon Baz) last year and Marvel introduced an Arab mutant named Dust in the pages of New X-men years before that, but this is the first American Muslim to be given the high-profile launch of her very own comic.

The new Ms. Marvel is the brainchild of Marvel editor Sana Amanat. She collaborated with fellow Muslim American, writer G. Willow Wilson, to use elements from their life experiences to pour into the character. Kamala Khan lives in Jersey City with her immigrant family. She is devout in her faith but refuses to wear a traditional hijab. She avoids eating pork products despite really, really wanting them. She goes to school, hangs out with friends and, like any normal teenager in the Marvel Universe, obsesses about the Avengers. Kamala is a 21st century version of a long Marvel tradition of ordinary teenagers with everyday problems suddenly gaining extraordinary powers and great responsibility. In this first issue she becomes a shape-shifter, gaining the ability to grow and shrink various parts of her body and change her appearance, which is sure to lead to some interesting meta-commentary on cultural assimilation.

A lot of people of Muslim heritage will be watching this title closely to see how true-to-life Kamala’s experiences are but also to keep an eye on how respectfully their faith and culture is handled in the context of a modern day superhero comic. 

You can read a couple of previews here.

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2. Ant Colony

By Michael DeForge
Drawn & Quarterly

If you follow indie comics, you've probably heard of Michael DeForge. Over the past few years he has risen to become one of the most interesting and respected cartoonists of his generation. From his self-published one-man anthology Lose to his various online comics and his recent short story collection Very Casual, he is a prolific creator with a lot of work to seek out. Yet, until now, he hasn't really had that one major work that you could point new readers to as your official Michael DeForge Starter Kit. With the release of Ant Colony from Drawn & Quarterly, we now have what is not only arguably DeForge's best work, but also probably his most accessible in a beautiful hardcover format.

Ant Colony was previously serialized on DeForge's website as "Ant Comic" before being picked up by D&Q. Much like his highly regarded short story "Spotting Deer" from the Very Casual collection, it reads somewhat like a nature documentary set on some weird alternate Earth. There are ants of course, but they are very stylized in their appearance. The queen is an enormous, very sexualized (yet alien) representation of a female body, lying in wait. Other creatures include dog-headed spiders, centipedes that motor around like stretch limos, and creepy earthworms that emit laughing sounds even when they are chopped into bits.

Through a series of vignettes, the book depicts life in and around the ant colony — the ritualistic fertilization of the queen, the dangers of spiders and toxic cubes of Sweet 'n Low, and eventual war with a colony of red ants. We meet a number of interesting and likable ant characters including a gay couple, a young boy who ingests ground-up earthworm and becomes sort of a prophet, a corrupt cop, and a female member of the low-caste "Infertiles."  

Chris Ware recently explored the life of a bee in an installment of his 2012 graphic novel Building Stories. It's hard not to draw parallels here as DeForge similarly depicts his colony of ants with a deadpan sense of humor even when dealing with horrifying situations. Deforge's work always tiptoes around the edge of body horror and grotesque sexuality, yet he does so here with wit and imagination and an appealing group of characters that help make this as much fun to read as it is occasionally icky to look at.  

You can download a preview and find out more at the publisher's website.

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3. Red Light Properties

By Dan Goldman
IDW Publishing

I've been a fan of Dan Goldman's Red Light Properties since he initially launched it as a webcomic many years ago. Since then he has distributed it as a digital comic through Monkeybrain Comics and this week he is releasing the first in a series of print collections through IDW Publishing.

Red Light Properties is about a Miami real estate agency run by Jude and Cecilia Tobin, who have found an unusual niche in a tough housing market. They flip previously unsellable properties that have been haunted by exorcising the ghosts, then selling the “clean” houses to new buyers. They get rid of the ghosts by helping the spirits find the closure they need to move on. The stress of their unusual line of work takes its toll on the Tobins' marriage, making RLP part family drama, part comedy and part paranormal thriller. It actually reads very much like the kind of high-quality cable TV series you might find on AMC or HBO (maybe with a little HGTV thrown in).

Goldman has an unusual process for creating this comic which involves shooting video, generating 3D backgrounds, photographing models, and digitally drawing and coloring over it all in a way that pulls it all together. A lot of other artists using similar approaches might push this too far into photo-comic territory but he makes it work by using trippy, eye-popping colors and off-kilter page layouts.

This first ever print edition from IDW features recolored, relettered artwork, some rewritten dialogue, and 20 brand-new pages. You can find out more at the publisher's website.

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4. Loki: Agent of Asgard #1

Written by Al Ewing; art by Lee Garbett
Marvel Comics

Marvel is starting off the new year by launching a bunch of new titles in what they've dubbed "All New Marvel Now." In addition to Ms. Marvel this week and a relaunched Wolverine comic, we get the first ongoing series starring a villain who has recently become more of an anti-hero and a real fan favorite thanks to the Marvel films: Loki.

The character of Loki, Thor's deceptive half-brother, has become more and more prominent over the years, starring in his own series of stories in Journey into Mystery and appearing as a regular member of the Young Avengers. In those stories he had been transformed into a precocious tween which made for an entertaining new spin on the character. Now he's been transformed once again into a young adult version of his old self. And, not by coincidence, he now looks a lot like the Tom Hiddleston version we've seen in the Avengers and Thor films.

In Loki: Agent of Asgard, written by Mighty Avengers writer Al Ewing and illustrated by Lee Garbett, Loki is working as a secret agent for a group of goddesses referred to as All-Mother, and his first mission is to break into Avengers mansion. Ewing promises an episodic nature where individual missions will be contained to one issue but will all feed into the larger story that he is telling.

You can read a preview here.

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5. Hourly Comics Day


Comic above by Dan Berry
Every year on February 1 cartoonists all over the world take part in "Hourly Comics Day" in which they draw a little auto-bio cartoon for each hour of the day that they are awake. The results are posted to blogs, LiveJournal, DeviantArt, Tumblr and Twitter under hashtag #hourlycomicsday. This is not to be confused with 24 Hour Comics Day in which cartoonists challenge themselves to complete an entire comic within a 24 hour time period.

Hourly Comics is treated as a fun exercise and the results are generally more about enjoying a peek into the process of comic creation than getting a finished masterpiece of a comic to read. That said, some cartoonists just can’t help but make really great comics to read.

There are too many Hourly Comics out there to mention but here are a couple I thought were worth checking out:

Vera Brosgol
Maris Wicks
Audra Furuichi
Graham Annable (Crossover alert! His and Vera Brosgol's comics feature the same group of people getting together to watch Sherlock on TV) 
Sarah McIntyre
Dan Berry 
Sarah Searle
Faith Erin Hicks 

Comic above by Vera Brosgol


Comic above by Audra Furuichi 

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Need to Calm Yourself Down? Try This Military-Approved Breathing Technique
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Whether you’re dealing with co-worker chaos or pressure to perform on a project, it’s difficult to excel at work when you're extremely stressed. Can’t escape the office? Take a cue from real-life soldiers and try a technique called tactical breathing—also known as combat breathing, four-count breathing, and diaphragmatic breathing—to lower your heart rate and regain control of your breath.

“It’s one you can use when things are blowing up around you”—both literally and figuratively—“and you need to be able to stay calm,” explains clinical psychologist Belisa Vranich, who demonstrates a version of tactical breathing in Tech Insider’s video below.

Vranich is the author of 2016’s Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve your Mental and Physical Health. Watch, learn, and—of course—inhale and exhale along with her until you feel zen enough to salvage the remainder of your workday.

[h/t Business Insider]

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10 Creepy Candles to Get You in the Halloween Mood
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GraveDiggerCandles

Candles are always a handy household accessory, but they're especially useful around Halloween, when they can be used to light jack-o'-lanterns, summon spirits, or simply brighten a long, dark night. These spooky lights are more suited for tabletops than pumpkins, or soirees than seances, but they'll still make your upcoming costume shindig extra festive (and fragrant, to boot).

1. KISA CANDLE

PyroPet’s cat-shaped Kisa candle looks like an ordinary wax feline. But as it melts, a hidden surprise reveals itself: a macabre metallic skeleton with charred bones and bared fangs.

The Kisa candle costs $34 and comes in three colors: pink, gray, and an ultra-spooky black. Not into cats? Additional PyroPet offerings include birds, bunnies, reindeer, owls, and dragons, all with the same silver framework.

2. BRAIN CANDLE

Brain candle by Creepy Candles
Creepy Candles

This specimen-inspired candle by Etsy seller Creepy Candles would look equally at place in a mad scientist’s laboratory as it would at a Halloween soiree. A wax brain is suspended in green-tinted gel that resembles formaldehyde, but the candle itself thankfully smells like grapefruit. The Brain Candle costs $25 and is handmade to order.

3. HUMAN SPINE CANDLES

Beeswax human spine candles, set of three, by Grave Digger Candles
Grave Digger Candles

Grow a spine this Halloween—or at least buy one. These notched beeswax pillar candles are inspired by the Victorian Era, a period in which physicians created detailed wax models of flayed corpses to teach medical students the literal ins and outs of anatomy. Etsy seller Grave Digger Candles sells them in sets of three for $76.

4. OUIJA BOARD CANDLE

LED battery-operated Ouija board candle by Twisted Nightmares
Twisted Nightmares

This Ouija board-inspired, LED battery-operated candle probably won’t summon spirits, but it’s still spine-tinglingly spooky. Sold by Etsy user Twisted Nightmares, it costs $20 and requires three AAA batteries, which aren’t included with purchase.

5. BLEEDING HEART CANDLE

Bleeding Heart Candle by Cozy Custom Candles
Cozy Custom Candles

Love guts, blood, and Gothic romance? Your heart might bleed for this candle, which turns into a gushing heart when lit. Sold by Etsy seller Cozy Custom Candles, the heart-shaped light source has a white outer shell made from a high-melt point paraffin wax, while its core is made of a red-colored wax blend with a low melting point. The candle hemorrhages vital fluids as it burns, making it the perfect accessory for a bloody good time.

The Bleeding Heart Candle costs $17 and comes in multiple autumnal scents, including caramel apple, pumpkin pie, and sweet cinnamon-pumpkin.

6. PICK YOUR POISON CANDLES

Pick Your Poison candle by Mr. Toad's House of Wax
Mr. Toad's House of Wax

The “Pick Your Poison” candles by Etsy seller Mr. Toad’s House of Wax appear to have been snatched from the shelf of a Victorian apothecarist. But while labeled “Poison Hemlock Oil” and “Tincture of Wolfsbane Poison,” they smell like fresh fallen leaves, pumpkin spice, and other autumnal scents when lit. Both candles cost $21, and are embellished with a sparkly jewel and black velvet ribbon.

7. CREEPY WOODS & GRAVEYARD DIRT CANDLE

Woods & Earth candle by Geeky Girl Scents
Geeky Girl Scents

There’s nothing quite like the aroma of trees and fresh graveyard dirt on a fall night. With hints of wood and earth, this candle by Etsy seller Geek Girl Scents will make your living room smell like a haunted cemetery. An eight-ounce jar costs $15, and a 16-ounce version is also available.

8. WITCH FARTS CANDLE

Witch Farts Scented Soy Wax Candle by The Candle Crate
The Candle Crate

If you’ve ever wondered what witch gas smells like (who hasn’t?), you can find out by purchasing The Candle Crate’s flaming ode to supernatural flatulence. The Etsy seller’s “Witch Farts” candle is more Glinda the Good Witch than Elphaba, with top notes of peach, apricot, and blackberries and middle notes of mandarin, cinnamon, and rose.

The soy wax candle costs $12, and is sold alongside other witchy, Harry Potter-inspired products like “Number 12 Grimmauld Place” and “The Leaky Cauldron.”

9. GHOST REPELLENT CANDLE

Ghost Repellent candle by Nola And Neighbors
Nola And Neighbors

Even if you ain’t afraid of no ghosts, you can still keep them at bay with this “Ghost Repellent” candle by Etsy sellers Nola And Neighbors. It smells like lavender and sage, and comes with an instruction label informing owners to light it “at dusk or dawn” for best results—although the ghost’s removal is “not guaranteed.” At $17, it’s still way cheaper than hiring the Ghostbusters.

10. ZOMBIE GOLDEN GIRLS PRAYER CANDLE SET

Zombie Golden Girls prayer candle set by The Eternal Flame
The Eternal Flame

Golden Girls devotees who’d follow the Fab Four to the grave and beyond can light up their lanais with these zombie prayer candles by Etsy shop The Eternal Flame. They come in sets of four (one for each Girl, naturally) and cost $40. Color choices include white, orange, and purple.

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