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Y’know, maybe if I wrote my intros when I start the article, instead of when I finish, I’d still have something interesting to say. Maybe! But it’s like they say: If maybies had rabies, we’d all be House Atreides, and I have too many shares in CHOAM to ally myself with Baron Harkonnen’s ancient foes, who earned his eternal hatred by [checks notes] existing? That doesn’t sound right. I’m sure they did something. Where was Duke Leto on January 6th. What about Chani’s emails. SIETCHGHAZI.
Barbaric, Vol. 1: Murderable Offenses
by Michael Moreci and Nathan C. Gooden
HAHAHA HOLY SHIT WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST READ, OH MAN, THIS RULES, and I knew it was going to rule the earliest I’ve ever known I would love a comic: in the friggin’ frontpapers:
Now, based on the looks my wife gave me when I was describing it, this book might have made me a worse person by reading it, but given that it’s explicitly a story about terrible people acting as extremely upsetting forces for good, I’m prepared to accept that ruling.
Meet Owen, a completely amoral barbarian in the Conan of Cimmeria mold: content to steal, kill, drink, and womanize his way through life, which everyone else recognizes as the habits of a maniac who cannot be trusted or reasoned with, and whose definition of “best behavior” is “not burning down a tavern after he drinks it dry”.
Okay, so, who here has played Dungeons & Dragons or another tabletop RPG? Raise your hands, cowards, and/or Bigby. (Not that Bigby; fuck that guy.)
That’s what I thought. So y’know when the Game Master puts some kind of magic item or geas or other binding on your chaotic character that forces them to be lawful, or your righteous character to be neutral and tolerate injustice, etc.? Everybody knows that’s really, really bad GMing, and it’s zero fun for the player in question. However, what this comic explores without curtailing anyone’s agency is the absolute fact that as bad as it is for the players, it is AWESOME for the actual story, and it’s precisely that story in which we find ourselves because Owen, we will see, has been bound body and soul to Do The Right Thing and help anyone who requests it under any circumstances, and accomplishes this noble goal through the power of incredible violence.
To aid him in this noble endeavor, he’s been gifted with an axe named Axe who is quite literally bloodthirsty and also just a delightful asshole:
For those of you who agree with myself and Brian Vaughn that simulated violence is fucking awesome but does not a meal make, rest assured: There is PLENTY of super-cool fantasy bullshit to steal for your next tabletop campaign.
Also! The swords-and-sorcery genre is historically noooooooot great about how it represents women, and Barbaric corrects that to an extent that’s effective without being preachy by making the Witch, a wo-man, competent, non-villainous, and actually-clothed:
A lesser title would’ve been content with that, but Barbaric is apparently a fan of Garth Marenghi and decided to say the quiet part loud:
Barbaric! Ask for it by name at your pharmacy, haberdasher, or Bubs’ Concession Stand today!
Guardians Of The Galaxy By Donny Cates
by Donny Cates, Al Ewing, Tini Howard, Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler, Geoff Shaw, Cory Smith, Yildiray Çinar, Ibrahim Moustafa, Filipe Andrade, Patch Zircher, and Yildiray Cinar
Like most people, even among the Community, I had never even heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy prior to the first movie, much less read any, and frankly once it turned out to be one of those “ran for 30 years in the background” titles I wasn’t especially interested in trying to crack into it. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If there’s anybody who can get me to read a superhero story, it’s my boi Donny. Well, and Tom King. G. Willow Wilson. And Tom Taylor. And Erica Henderson. And Jeff Lemire. And Gail Simone–LOOK MY POINT is that Donny is the fuckin’ man and he doesn’t miss, and given that his complete run was 1. Collected in a single volume and 2. Available to borrow in Comixology Unlimited, and 3. Explicitly described as a newbie-friendly jumping-on-point, I found myself simply without excuse, friends and neighbors.
Shit’s lookin’ pretty rough for the galaxy: Thanos is dead (praise be to the One Above All) but made arrangements for his…mind? Soul? Aiúa?…to be downloaded into someone else, some other person in the, y’know, whole universe. How can the Forces of Good and the Reasonably-Priced Helpers Of Good figure out what pair of eyes the Mad God might be sizing them all up with now? Could it be one of them? Did he even do this at ALL, or is this whole thing just a Moriarty’s Revenge designed to shatter the already tenuous trust and alliance between this group of impossible weirdos?
Only one thing is certain:
by Nick Roche
Having a human child who depends on you to not die every day is, frankly, already one of the scariest things I can imagine; this poor Irishman does not need additional spookums on his plate. And yet, here Cormac finds himself: beset by time-jumping spectral shenanigans that make him late to pick his tiny daughter Beth-who-is-called-Scoops up from dayschool.
The school moms–and Flynno, the incredibly foul-mouthed other dad at the school–persist in dragging poor Cormac deeper into the phantasmal tomphoolery that seems to be centered on the old community center where their kids go to school, which perhaps not coincidentally is also where Flynno’s brother went permanently missing when they were kids. Cormac just wants to do his work! He shouldn’t have to defend his tiny daughter from goddamn wraiths or some shit while trying to get her to eat the friggin’ rotini bolognese she asked for but suddenly doesn’t want.
Star Wars Legends Epic Collection:
The Old Republic, Vol. 1*
by John Jackson Miller, Brian Ching, Travel Foreman, Dustin Weaver, and Harvey Tolibao
*(I try not to link to the Bezosphere if I can help it despite the fortunes I’ve spent on Comixology, but any physical copy I can find to link to runs at least a hundred bucks and even for this thick a book that is a bad page-to-cost-ratio)
WHO AMONG US has not been replaying Jedi: Fallen Order and felt an itch only the invisible hand of the Force can scratch?
I was terrified and overwhelmed and also hungry when I considered the sheer body of Star Wars comics and daunted by the task of figuring out where to start; fortunately, my hero Trevor over at How To Love Comics had me covered, and you would do well to take a gander and see what he might be able to help you with.
I decided to start with the Old Republic, which began with a series specifically set in the Knights Of The Old Republic setting of Taris eight years before the events of the game, thoughtfully providing a handhold for a world there’s a decent chance the reader is at least passingly familiar with. Our main guy is a Padawan named Zayne–y’know, like from the 90’s!–and things are going…poorly for him.
That’s what you get for bein’ a space-cop, dude! You get drenched in awful goops! And before I am accused–perish the thought–of going full AJAB, allow me to say that in this time and place the Jedi are literally cops on the Republic payroll, arresting folks and just pulverizing the idea of any separation between church and state. Peacekeeping and lawmanning are one thing (even ACABers like myself don’t claim we don’t need law-enforcement, just that the current system is irredeemably corrupt and racist), but given that they’re a religious order empowered to act and slice fools in twain on behalf of their government, we have unfortunately entered theocratic territory. (Even given the democracy implied by ‘republic’, votes kinda don’t matter when you have wizards on-staff to make sure the right people win.)
But Zayne himself learns that quis custodiet ipsos jedistotes when, like so many idealistic young rookies who just naturally assume their side is the Good Guys, he’s about to see something he shouldn’t and maybe never be heard from again:
Awwww, you hate to see it. And so Zayne is left to figure out what to do, whom to trust, and whether having the Force on his side will be enough:
The characterization is great, it’s fantastic to see Taris again, it sheds a lot of light in the gap between what the Jedi are supposed to be and what they are, and we get to root for a dork with a yellow lightsaber, what more do you want. Oh, a show-stealing secondary character? You got it, citizen.
I think we can all agree it’s pretty considerate that I stopped playing Tears of the Kingdom long enough to get any reading done, much less write this; if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go get pretty confused and try to attach my cat to a tennis racket and see what my Limp Bizkit-blaring neighbor drops when he’s defeated.
–The Bageler, Private Jedeye