My 2022 Reading Stacks #4: The Big Finish

Two graphic novels by Tillie Walden, reviewed below.

Two of my favorite reads this year, both by the same writer/artist.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Welcome once again to our recurring MCC feature in which I scribble capsule reviews of everything I’ve read that was published in a physical format over a certain page count with a squarebound spine on it — novels, original graphic novels, trade paperbacks, infrequent nonfiction dalliances, and so on. Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text, though I do try to diversify my literary diet as time and acquisitions permit.

Occasionally I’ll sneak in a contemporary review if I’ve gone out of my way to buy and read something brand new. Every so often I’ll borrow from my wife Anne or from our local library. But the majority of our spotlighted works are presented years after the rest of the world already finished and moved on from them because I’m drawing from my vast unread pile that presently occupies four oversize shelves comprising thirty-three years of uncontrolled book shopping. I’ve occasionally pruned the pile, but as you can imagine, cut out one unread book and three more take its place.

I’ve previously written why I don’t do eBooks. Perhaps someday I’ll also explain why these capsules are exclusive to MCC and not shared on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites where their authors might prefer I’d share them. In the meantime, here’s me and my reading results…

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My 2022 Reading Stacks #3

Three Star Trek books, reviewed below.

Our Star Trek renaissance year, felt most deeply at conventions and our Paramount+ subscription, extended into my reading matter, as we showed in Part 2 of this series.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Welcome once again to our recurring MCC feature in which I scribble capsule reviews of everything I’ve read that was published in a physical format over a certain page count with a squarebound spine on it — novels, original graphic novels, trade paperbacks, infrequent nonfiction dalliances, and so on. Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text, though I do try to diversify my literary diet as time and acquisitions permit.

Occasionally I’ll sneak in a contemporary review if I’ve gone out of my way to buy and read something brand new. Every so often I’ll borrow from my wife Anne or from our local library. But the majority of our spotlighted works are presented years after the rest of the world already finished and moved on from them because I’m drawing from my vast unread pile that presently occupies four oversize shelves comprising thirty-three years of uncontrolled book shopping. I’ve occasionally pruned the pile, but as you can imagine, cut out one unread book and three more take its place.

I’ve previously written why I don’t do eBooks. Perhaps someday I’ll also explain why these capsules are exclusive to MCC and not shared on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites where their authors might prefer I’d share them. In the meantime, here’s me and my reading results…

…okay, so this is supposed to be a recurring feature throughout the year. Instead it became among the many things I’ve let linger unattended in my life. Now my annual season of capsule reviews is upon me, and the large stack of finished books next to our PC looms over and demands a year-end catch-up. Let’s see if I can shorten these so I can get the complete list posted ASAP and move on to all the other year-in-review stuff…although every time I think to myself, “This will be a short review,” I am nearly always lying to myself. Wish me luck?

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Yes, There’s a Scene During the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” End Credits

Danai Gurira and Letitia Wright as Okoye and Shuri, wearing expensive non-superhero fashions to "blend in" with mixed results, from Marvel's "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever".

Okoye and Shuri learned everything they know about “going undercover” from James Bond parodies.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: after going 2-for-2 on his first feature films Fruitvale Station and Creed, director Ryan Coogler raised the bar in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Black Panther, and in turn gave Chadwick Boseman a long-overdue boost into super-stardom after years of his own fine works such as 42 and the still-underrated Persons Unknown. His death was among the many, many, many reasons we will never forgive the year 2020 for its endless curses.

Though we were blessed with chances to celebrate his life and talent posthumously in Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and the grand surprisie of an alt-timeline Panther reprise in What If…? season one, the MCU proper never got a chance to say goodbye, to give King T’Challa of Wakanda the big sendoff he would’ve deserved if only Boseman could’ve had a couple more years to perform the honors. Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole return for that very purpose — and so, so much more — with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

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Yes, You Know There’s a Scene During the “Black Adam” End Credits

Dwayne Johnson IS Black Adam!

The People’s Furrowed Brow.

Longtime MCC readers may recall a quainter era when sitting through the end credits of every single film used to be my thing, a longtime viewing habit I share with my wife that the resulting traffic stats kept encouraging me to indulge here. Sometimes that still works for me, as borne out in the first few months of 2022 when search engine users wouldn’t stop clicking on my months-old, disposable entries for Venom 2 and Encanto. (The latter didn’t even have an end credits scene — just a single fancy clip-art image that amused me. And yet, for weeks strangers kept clicking and clicking and clicking, like hundreds of twitchy-fingered Energizer Bunnies.)

Now every geek-news site has at least one fan-writer on retainer who’s more than willing to sacrifice ten extra minutes of their lives to sit all the way through films in case of any clickbait opportunities. I can’t fault those gig-economy freelancers for getting paid to crank out what I’ve been giving away for free for ten years now. Nice work if you can network with the right people to get it.

For the sake of my mental health and sensible allocation of my free-time resources, I try not to treat the end-credits thing as a competition. If I did, after last Sunday’s nonstop busyness I’d have been neck-deep in despair the next morning when the scene during the Black Adam end credits took mainstream entertainment headlines by storm. The sincerely shocking surprise had already been ruined online by boorish bigmouths over a week earlier, but after opening weekend Warner Brothers and Dwayne Johnson jointly decided it was cool to spread the same major spoiler to anyone with narrower internet feeds who’d missed out. So my pro bono end-credits monitoring services aren’t needed here.

Fun trivia, though: did you know if you pay to see the scene during the Black Adam end credits in theaters, you also get a whole movie for free? It’s true! It’s called Black Adam. I sat through that too, for better or worse. It’s miles ahead of the worst thing I’ve seen in theaters so far this year, and a few streets ahead of Justice League, but it isn’t making my Top 10.

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My 2022 Reading Stacks #2

Kate Mulgrew Memoirs!

Our year-long personal Trek-fandom revival keeps on rollin’.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Welcome once again to our recurring MCC feature in which I scribble capsule reviews of everything I’ve read that was published in a physical format over a certain page count with a squarebound spine on it — novels, original graphic novels, trade paperbacks, infrequent nonfiction dalliances, and so on. Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text, though I do try to diversify my literary diet as time and acquisitions permit.

Occasionally I’ll sneak in a contemporary review if I’ve gone out of my way to buy and read something brand new. Every so often I’ll borrow from my wife Anne or from our local library. But the majority of our spotlighted works are presented years after the rest of the world already finished and moved on from them because I’m drawing from my vast unread pile that presently occupies four oversize shelves comprising thirty-three years of uncontrolled book shopping. I’ve occasionally pruned the pile, but as you can imagine, cut out one unread book and three more take its place.

I’ve previously written why I don’t do eBooks. Perhaps someday I’ll also explain why these capsules are exclusive to MCC and not shared on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites where their authors might prefer I’d share them. In the meantime, here’s me and my reading results…

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A Dream Journal, As It Were: Too Many Thoughts on “The Sandman” Season 1

Tom Sturridge IS the Sandman!

Remember, kids: don’t dream angry!

I was in high school when The Sandman #1 hit comic shop shelves in the fall of 1988. Springing forth from the mind of Neil Gaiman, whom I chiefly knew from Miracleman and Black Orchid, it was unlike anything I’d read before in comics or other media, and was a must-buy over the next seven years — through its transition to DC Comics’ subsequently inaugurated Vertigo line, in its rise to alt-culture superstardom, and even during some of the least favorite parts of my life. The Sandman lasted longer in my life than I lasted in college. I still have all 75 issues, the special with Orpheus’ story, the two Death miniseries, the lovely hardcover edition of my favorite arc (Season of Mists), and some (not all) of the other ensuing spinoffs. (Of most recent vintage, I loved the Gaiman-approved two-issue crossover with Locke and Key, which may have meant more to fans of the latter but contained key prequel scenes to the world of Dream, including front row seats to the fall of Lucifer.)

I rarely allow myself high expectations for anything anymore, but The Sandman left a deep enough mark on my psyche that I insisted the all-new Netflix adaptation — closely supervised by Gaiman — simply had to be The Greatest Netflix Show of All Time. Nothing less would do. The jury’s out on that for now, but after having watched all ten episodes within a 21-hour span (with wasteful intermissions for sleep and life, not necessarily in that order), I can enthusiastically say for now it’ll do. It’ll very much do.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Thor: Love and Thunder” End Credits

Tessa Thompson and Natalie Portman in "Thor Love and Thunder".

“Y’know, if we let Gorr end him, we could have the movie all to ourselves…”

Unlike some actors we know who used to earn eight-figure paychecks from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and now probably have to subsist on seven-figure residuals, Chris Hemsworth isn’t going anywhere. The star and Executive Producer is back for Thor: Love and Thunder, as is Taika Waititi, costar and director of Thor: Ragnarok, the Best Thor Movie Ever and possibly the funniest MCU film to date. Perplexingly, he’s followed up with my least favorite Waititi film to date.

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Fan Expo Chicago 2022 Photos, Part 3 of 4: Apollo and the Clone Wars

Ashley Eckstein and Matt Lanter!

“Snips and Skyguy”, as the delightful Star Wars panel was billed.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

This past weekend Anne and I attended the inaugural Fan Expo Chicago, the comics/entertainment convention formerly known as Wizard World Chicago, and before that the unbranded Chicago Comic Con. As a proud continuation of that chain of comic-con provenance, a 50th-anniversary logo featured in their decor and con souvenirs. Their initial guest-list game was strong enough to lure us back to the suburb of Rosemont for our first time in four years to see what we could make of this latest iteration. Would it be an all-new all-different Chicago Comic Con, or Wizard World under a bed sheet with two eye-holes poked in it?

If we reused headline formats from our past comic-con write-ups, this one would be the Friday edition of “What We Did and Who We Met”. Once we emerged impatient and unscathed from Chicago construction traffic, Friday was a laid-back stroll around the exhibit hall because most of the action was scheduled for Saturday, when nearly all the scheduled guests would be around. Friday, they weren’t so much, but we had the pleasure of attending a pair of Q&As with actors who graciously dropped in a day early.

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My 2022 Reading Stacks #1

Barry Windsor-Smith Monsters!

Maybe not the best place to start while writing over July 4th weekend…or is it?

Welcome once again to our recurring MCC feature in which I scribble capsule reviews of everything I’ve read that was published in a physical format over a certain page count with a squarebound spine on it — novels, original graphic novels, trade paperbacks, infrequent nonfiction dalliances, and so on. Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text, though I do try to diversify my literary diet as time and acquisitions permit.

Occasionally I’ll sneak in a contemporary review if I’ve gone out of my way to buy and read something brand new. Every so often I’ll borrow from my wife Anne or from our local library. But the majority of our spotlighted works are presented years after the rest of the world already finished and moved on from them because I’m drawing from my vast unread pile that presently occupies four oversize shelves comprising thirty-three years of uncontrolled book shopping. I’ve occasionally pruned the pile, but as you can imagine, cut out one unread book and three more take its place.

I’ve previously written why I don’t do eBooks. Perhaps someday I’ll also explain why these capsules are exclusive to MCC and not shared on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites where their authors might prefer I’d share them. In the meantime, here’s me and my reading results, which I should’ve begun tracking months ago…

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The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 3: How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way

Amazing Spider-Man #252 cover!

I was 11 when Amazing Spider-Man #252 debuted his black costume and blew my mind. Art by Ron Frenz and Klaus Janson.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

I’ve just now lived to see 50, and after weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio, which had cool stuff that this now-fiftysomething geek wanted to see. Columbus, then, would be the setting for our first outing together as quintagenarians…

Now we’re to my favorite part of the Marvel exhibit at Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry. The statues were fun and the MCU film props and costumes were quite a sight to behold up close, but original comics art is a rarity for me to see in person. Growing up, buying original art was something rich comics investors did for fun and showiness, nothing a poor kid like me could ever afford. In adulthood I’ve climbed up the ladder high enough that I now own a few modest pages, nothing fancy.

The Marvel exhibit features over six dozen pages drawn by the original artists across 80+ years of the medium’s history — not just reproductions, the real thing, largely loaned by private collectors identified below each frame for provenance and gratitude. Some were autographed by the artists; in a few of the older pieces, you can see where artists (and Stan “The Man” Lee) autographed them years after the fact. The following gallery, less than half the total works on display, is a selection of those that stuck out to me for various reasons and didn’t succumb to blurry photography. One of them even has color. (Painted, at that!) A few have behind-the-scenes Easter eggs, such as our lead photo — if you click on the cover to ASM #252 you can read Klaus Janson’s notes in the margins addressed to George Roussos, the colorist who handled all Marvel covers at the time. For me, the little details add to the thrill of comics art appreciation.

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