Fus-Roh-Dahnksgiving! (Pre-Gaming)

Part of the challenge of moving to a completely new part of the country is the extreme distance that I’ve put between myself and my family during the holiday season.  In the short-term this is a difficult situation; because moving was expensive, Rachael and I can’t afford to fly back to Georgia to see family this year for Christmas.  The hope is that next year we’ll have rebuilt our savings and have enough extra disposable income after making progress towards our own personal financial goals that we’ll be able to do a visit or two, but that’s a long way off when you’re in the tail end of November, the sun sets at four-thirty, and your only close friends are the ones who had the same cockamamie idea to move across the country this year.

Still, we’re making the best of a less than ideal situation, and so that’s why the theme for our Friendsgiving this year is something in keeping with our collective experience of the Pacific Northwest: Skyrim.

The going joke among my friends is that the Oregon countryside is absurdly evocative of the evergreen Last Game You’ll Ever Need.  Gigantic conifers, vibrant moss, and scenic mountain vistas are staples of the landscape around here, and with the chill tinging the air and the snow gathering on Mount Hood, it feels more and more like we’re living in the middle of Bethesda’s land of the Nords.

So, in that spirit, we all decided that we’re going to make a bunch of food for Thanksgiving that’s inspired by the fare of Skyrim.  Rachael and I spent part of Sunday making some lemon curd to top the boiled creme treats we’re planning to make (as you read this, we’re probably busily prepping for a pastry recipe we’ve never attempted before in a tiny kitchen).  We’ll also be roasting some (sweet) potatoes and grilling some leeks.  Our hope is to have a nice spread of finger foods on the day of to pick at while everyone completes their feast preparations: venison pate, smoked salmon, an assortment of cheeses (at least one blue and derived from goats’ milk).  The traditional Thanksgiving food will be present, of course; there will be a roast turkey (alas, we couldn’t find pheasant on short notice) and stuffing (I’m going to miss having dressing, but some things are sacred, and dressing is a family thing) and mashed potatoes and our homemade cranberry sauce that is the best because it’s actually mostly pears and brandy with just some cranberries thrown in for color.  The desserts will include a traditional array of pies (apple and pumpkin are a must).  All in all, I expect that we’ll be feasting to excess, which is exactly what a proper Thanksgiving should be, particularly when you’re far away from home and missing some of the old comforts.

The food isn’t the only part of the festivities, though.  It is true that I and my friends enjoy a spot of gaming from time to time, and the chief pastime of the day, while we’re busily preparing our feast, will be round robins on Skyrim to help maintain the proper epic mood.  The hope is that this gaming marathon will lead to glorious misadventures as the only rule for each player’s turn on the console is that they roleplay the character in the way they would want to personally.  Whoever comes next in the rotation will just have to deal with the consequences of the previous personality.  Here’s hoping that it will be an adventure that the bards will commemorate in song for ages.

Assuming I’m not overcome with major gastrointestinal distress, I’ll revisit how it’s gone later this week.  In the meantime, what kind of celebrations are you putting together for Thanksgiving this year?  Is there a particular theme you’re adopting to make things a little more festive, or are you sticking to tried and true traditions?

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Critical Sunburn

It’s not often that I write a post where I discuss the happenings of my personal life, but it’s been that kind of week, so here we are.

One of the things that I was a little anxious about when Rachael and I decided to do this whole moving-to-Portland thing was the fact that I was going clear across the country to essentially restart my career in education in a brand new state where there was a strong possibility that things might work a little differently.  A lot of my experience in special education is transferable because special education law is largely set at the federal level, meaning that if you know what rights and protections your students have in one state, you’ll know most of what they have in another state.  This is, as you can imagine, very useful for dealing with special education paperwork because all the core parts are always there no matter what system you happen to be working in; it’s just all the finicky local stuff that has to be re-learned and navigated when starting in a new district.

At the start of the year, I absolutely had one of those deer-in-headlights moments as I was doing new job training where absorbing all the new information became a futile endeavor because it feels like you’re trying to drink from a fully open fire hose.  The only reassurance that I had was that I had felt similarly years before when I first started teaching, and I figured that this was just a rehashing of that experience due to being in a new environment with its own particular rules that needed to be learned.  Things would feel rough for a little while, but I would adapt, and everything would be fine.  Honestly, I was so stressed about making sure the paperwork portion of my job didn’t end up getting too fouled up (individualized education plans are legal documents, and you really don’t want to make mistakes when you write them because that can affect what kind of services a student is able to receive) that the teaching portion of my job felt like a respite.  I had in my head this conception that because I was running three periods of resource room (that’s like a class period where students with IEPs can receive extra help on their work for other classes) that was going to be my respite from the stress of paperwork.

Flash forward to this past week where I had both my first informal observation and my first formal observation by two separate administrators, and the feedback I received from each of them was less than stellar.  Like, I read the comments and seriously had to ask myself if I know what I’m doing in my classroom.

This is a really new experience for me.  At my two previous schools I had regular observations (it’s just part of being a teacher that sometimes your boss is going to watch you work), and the feedback never pointed out this many deficiencies.  I’ve been teaching for six years, and this is the first time that an administrator has offered me significant critiques about the way that I run my classroom.

It stings more than a little bit.

More importantly, as I’ve been reflecting on the feedback I got, I’ve been thinking that a lot of the things that were pointed out were legitimate critiques.  The last two schools where I’ve worked have had significantly different educational models than the one that I’m working in now, and this feels like the moment where I’m starting to understand just how much of those other models don’t transfer to this new situation.  I have a lot to learn about what makes my current role the most effective it can be for my students, and that’s been a hard thing to grapple with for the past few days.

Of course, tomorrow is a new day, and we’re only a third of the way through the school year (yeah, starting school at the beginning of September is weird when you’re used to beginning in early August).  There is still time for me to learn from my mistakes and grow into the kind of educator that my new school needs me to be.  This feels like a setback, but it’s probably better to think of it as a course correction.  I can be better, and I want to be better, so I’ll do what I have to to be better.

Horizon: Zero Dawn Log 3

I think the game clock says that I’ve logged about twenty hours into Horizon: Zero Dawn since I first started playing, and it feels like I’m finally at the point where I’m running in the standard rhythm the game was designed to operate in most of the time.

The first four or five hours were heavily packed with story events and cinematics to help get me up to speed on what the deal is in this far future post-apocalypse, but since Aloy received her commission to just go explore the world, things have slowed down considerably.  The plot points that I’ve passed since the bit about the All-Mother actually being some sort of bunker that Aloy wants to get inside are thus:

  • Help the Nora war party get revenge on the cultists and their corrupt machines for ambushing the Proving and other various aggressions.
  • Clear out some corrupted machine nests to make Nora territory safer for its residents.
  • Leave Nora territory and start making my way towards Meridian, the capital of the Carja Sundom.

Meridian is a long way from the border (makes sense, given it’s the Carja capital), and about halfway there, I got distracted by stuff like hunting grounds and deciding to go searching for collectibles.  That feels like the point of the game, now that I’m solidly into it; you have your main objective, but there’s so much stuff between here and there that you’re bound to get caught up in doing something else.  In some ways it feels like a throwback to the Elder Scrolls series, but with a lot less character interaction.  Horizon is a beautiful game, and I’m loving wandering around the environments (from collecting artifacts and other things, it’s slowly becoming clearer that the story is set in the midwestern United States, probably in the Four Corners region), but character interactions are minimal and feel sparse when they do occur.  Aloy comes across someone with whom she can have a conversation, but these sequences are typically restricted to getting a bit of surface level information about topics related to her current objective without too much room for interesting character exploration.  Not since the Proving sequence have I encountered any dialogue options where the player gets to shape how Aloy reacts to people (her personality is pretty steadily set to “matter-of-fact cynic” which is fine, but disappointing in light of the game’s early promises to give the player a little bit of control over how she behaves in story moments).

Setting aside my complaints about the character interactions, the game play is still quite engaging.  While the early hours had Aloy feeling pretty vulnerable against the bigger machines, at this point in my play through I have a significantly more powerful arsenal and a better understanding of the combat mechanics.  Direct confrontations with machines tend to be more expedient and fun than sneaking around and setting traps.  Beyond combat, the other major activity is exploration and seeking out collectibles.  My opinion on collectibles tends to waver a lot, because I can see how they provide an impetus for players to wander into out-of-the-way areas of the world map, but I also know from my own experience that when they’re put in places that require a ton of searching, I will invariably get bored with wandering in circles and just look up where the thing is instead of appreciating the environment that’s been built around it.  Case in point, I’ve been going back through the Nora lands to find stuff, and I got irritated with one of the earliest metal flowers being hidden inside the game’s beginning ruins; it felt tedious to scour a location I’d already been to multiple times just to find one room that I happened to miss.  One side effect of all this exploration is that I’ve felt less inclined to take screenshots of interesting things as I wander through the game.  I’m sure part of that is just aesthetic fatigue; as I’ve spent more time with the game I’ve gotten used to the way things look in the world and there are fewer moments where I’m struck by something.  Another factor is the lack of cinematics in these more exploratory segments; players use the game camera for utility instead of aesthetics when they’re actually playing the game, so thinking about taking interesting screenshots just doesn’t happen with the same frequency as when the story’s on rails.

I hope that once I do get back on track with the main story things will accelerate a little in Meridian.  I’m certainly still interested in finding out about Aloy’s origin (still think she’s a clone of a scientist who worked inside the All-Mother bunker) and learning more about what’s going on with the machines, but for now that seems like an objective that the game doesn’t really care to pursue too closely.

Have a screenshot of Aloy rappelling off the top of a Tallneck, because that’s about one of the few unique things that the game offers when you’re not doing story missions.

Reading “Last Days (4 of 4)”

I’ve been racking my brain to think of a parallel to what G Willow Wilson does in this last arc of Ms. Marvel volume three, and the best one I can come up with at the moment is the final two episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer season four.  For anyone who isn’t familiar or doesn’t remember (that season was more notable for a few standout episodes than for a particularly strong macro plot), at the end of that season of Buffy, the Scoobies band together to raid the base of the season’s Big Bad, Adam, a malicious Frankenstein’s monster pastiche, in the penultimate episode.  It’s big and flashy, and it feels like a season finale, but then there’s one more episode left.  The finale of that season is a really trippy dream episode that foreshadows some stuff that the writers were setting up for the next season but is mostly just about exploring the weird disjointed nature of dreams.  After the big explosions of the previous episode, it’s a really quiet story more about exploring the characters than anything (it’s also not very good, if I remember right).

Goodbye, Ms. Marvel! See you in volume four! (Cover by Kris Anka; Image credit: Comic Vine)

And the fact that that’s a weak example of a big flashy climax set a little earlier than normal so the final installment of a story can be more meditative in nature very poorly serves what’s going on in Ms. Marvel.  There are no superheroics in issue #19; Kamala doesn’t do any super power stuff or even wear her costume.  It’s just her taking stock of her relationships and reflecting on what she’s accomplished as Ms. Marvel while she waits for the world to end.  The closest thing we get to a conflict is her temporarily avoiding having a serious conversation with Bruno about their feelings (even this isn’t much of a conflict because there’s no real suggestion that it isn’t going to happen; Kamala just wants to get her head straight first, and it makes narrative sense to end the issue with the resolution of the romance subplot).

You can break this issue down broadly into three or four segments, depending on whether you’re thinking in terms of distinct conversations with characters or grouping by their relationship to Kamala (I like the four part organization because Kamala’s conversations with Zoe and Nakia feel like they explore fundamentally different aspects of Kamala’s friendships).  There’s the talk with Muneeba about her having known for months that Kamala is Ms. Marvel; you have Zoe’s apology to Kamala; Kamala apologizes to Nakia; and lastly there’s the rooftop conversation between Kamala and Bruno.  A few other things happen in between those events, but they’re the major milestones for the issue in my mind.

As someone who’s married to a tea drinker, I relate to Muneeba here. Also, Kamala’s parents are the best. (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

The first big moment for Kamala is having it out with her mother over the fact that Muneeba knows that she’s Ms. Marvel.  The signs were pretty obvious in retrospect (Kamala does ask Muneeba where she can find her burqini late in the evening on a school night without any sort of explanation, and then it’s apparently never discussed again in the Khan family), and Muneeba has come to terms with the fact that her daughter is doing superheroics on the side.  She feels like it’s a far sight better than Kamala getting involved with something more in line with typical adult fears, like drugs or friends who would be bad influences.  As Muneeba points out, if the worst of Kamala’s “bad behavior” is sneaking out to help others in need, she can be thankful that her daughter has turned out so well (I’m not crying, you’re crying!).  Yusuf’s arrival sort of breaks the mood, but there’s still a sweet moment where Kamala and Muneeba try to comfort him after all the stress of Aamir’s kidnapping (it’s also weird how infantilized Yusuf appears in this issue; it’s like his general disconnected demeanor has left him unprepared for the emotional shock of having a family in crisis, which leaves me thinking, “Dude, pay more attention”).

Following a brief exchange with Bruno, Kamala retreats to the gym to see how her community is managing the crisis.  Generally, things are going better than you would expect.  As Kamala surveys the scene in the gymnatorium, she questions herself about the point of all the work she put in to get people together like this, given the imminent end of the world.  The resolution to that question that Wilson offers comes in the form of illustrating how Kamala’s work as Ms. Marvel has impacted and improved the lives of everyone around her.  Zoe Zimmer, who was a terrible character meant to be disliked at the series’s beginning, has had a major change of heart following all the times she was saved and protected by Ms. Marvel, both directly and indirectly.  She’s a kinder person now, and Zoe offers a genuine apology for the poor treatment Kamala used to receive from her.  She used to feel like she had to conform to a specific image that involved being mean to others who were different, and she’s gradually learning that that isn’t the case.

Kamala’s expressions are the best. Also, aw, Zoe. (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

They can only get away with this because Disney owns Marvel. Also, again with the delightful facial expressions! (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

Of course, being a part-time superhero isn’t all great things either.  Where Zoe has shown a lot of growth and maturation since the series’s beginning, Kamala’s encounter with Nakia is a little more difficult.  Things resolve well here; the two renew their friendship.  But Nakia’s complaints that Kamala sort of disappeared from her life over the last few months are valid (we see this as readers from Nakia’s decreased presence within the entire series in its latter half).  Unlike Bruno, who learned Kamala’s secret early on and was allowed to remain close to her through involvement with her superheroing, Nakia has been pushed out pretty much every time she’s tried to ask Kamala about what’s going on.  We’ve gotten a front row seat to Kamala’s justification for this distancing, but this scene is where Nakia has an opportunity to explain how it’s felt for her.  Kamala still doesn’t explain anything about Ms. Marvel to her, but the vibe here is good.

The final scene of the issue finds Kamala and Bruno on the roof of Coles Academic finally hashing out their romantic feelings about each other.  This is a fantastic scene, by the way.  It finally relieves all that tension between Kamala and Bruno in a way that I find really satisfying.  Kamala acknowledges that she’s taken Bruno for granted (he is super dependable to the point of endangering himself unnecessarily), and she apologizes for the way she’s treated him.  Bruno confesses that he’s in love with her, but he understands there are all these cultural barriers that make them being together unrealistic.  We finally see that Kamala would be willing to reciprocate Bruno’s feelings, but the reason she’s ignored it isn’t because of her family but because she just has way too much going on what with being a superhero.  A lot of this moment has echoes of the ending of Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie, which makes sense because Kamala’s story has a lot of the same beats as Peter Parker’s, but it’s better executed here because, y’know, Kamala’s not keeping any secrets from Bruno about why she can’t do the dating thing (honesty’s a good thing, y’all).  Having cleared all that up, they reaffirm their friendship as the Incursion finally envelops Jersey City in a bunch of white light.  For bonus feels, read this scene while listening to this song (it came up on my Spotify playlist while I was re-reading the issue for this post, and, well, it really works, or at least it did for me).

ABC’s

  • Someone hiding in a busted up locker outside the nurse’s office
  • All the barnyard livestock hanging out outside the school
  • “Water!  Blankets!  Zombie Screening Medical Assessments!”
  • Children climbing into airducts
  • Dude butchering a fish in the gymnatorium
  • Rat with a bindle
  • Girl in hijab with vampire fangs
  • Guy complaining to girl with eye patch about a rat in his coffee
  • “Fair & Pastey”
  • “Gorilla Milk”
  • “Quarantine Wagon”
  • Pirate lady with a pet pigeon
  • Vick holding up a boombox like something out of a John Hughes movie
  • “Go Sport”
  • Chatty Bob breakdancing
  • Mike looking at Bruno

And that’s Ms. Marvel volume three.  It’s a brilliant little set of issues, and I’m really excited to get into the stuff from volume four soon.  I’ve started reading the most recent trades, and they go in directions I didn’t expect.  I’m looking forward to hashing all that out real soon.

Yeah. (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

“Be Kind.”

Alrighty then. (Artwork by Jamie McKelvie, colors by Matt Wilson, letters by Clayton Cowles)

So I’m very into The Wicked + The Divine at the moment.  I read through two volumes in the space of a week (and re-read a third) and the stuff going on in this story is still swirling around in my head, so we’ll just muddle through more of my thoughts while I come down from the pop high.

Spoilers for The Wicked + The Divine up through volume five will be freely discussed in this post.

The developments in the latest volume of The Wicked + The Divine take a little bit of time to grok following the extremely high action arc of the fourth volume, Rising Action.  The end of that volume was a complete status quo shift for the main characters as the gods end up rebelling against their mentor Ananke, and Laura Wilson, now fully embracing her aspect of Persephone, murders Ananke in revenge for the deaths of her family.  The fallout from that event is a little unclear in the opening of Imperial Phase Part I as the Pantheon has chosen to tell everyone that they killed Ananke during the struggle to save Minerva from being sacrificed (this is almost true; the only significantly different detail is that Persephone had Ananke at her mercy and then decided to kill her after she was no longer a threat).  Apparently no one is looking to incarcerate the gods for Ananke’s death, which makes sense if everyone believes the self defense story, but it also leans a little heavily on the conceit that the gods are still subject to mortal laws; you’d think that with the fact that they really are supernatural beings becoming public knowledge, there’d be less worry about legal ramifications over an internal conflict among the Pantheon (don’t forget that Ananke murdered Lucifer on camera and then made a statement that amounted to, “Don’t try to control what the gods do”).

Urðr is the most foulmouthed of the Pantheon, but she’s so incredibly eloquent when she curses. (Artwork by Jamie McKelvie, colors by Matt Wilson, letters by Clayton Cowles)

Anyway, the point is that the one moderating influence on the Pantheon has been eliminated, and now they’re free to go as wild as they like.  Personally, I’d be totally fine with the series continuing from this point and exploring how the different gods cope with having less than a year of life left (if Ananke wasn’t lying about that) in a world that can’t constrain them.  We get to see some of that over the course of this arc, but there are a few complications.  The first one, which comes pretty quickly, is the revelation that there are these supernatural darkness monsters that Baal and Amaterasu have been secretly fighting on their own (it’s a sky god thing, apparently), which gives some credence to Ananke’s story about fighting back the Great Darkness through divine sacrifices.  It’s a weird development, and the couple issues where the darkness monsters take center stage feel so much more like traditional superhero comics than anything else in the series (even more so than all the stuff that happened in the last volume).  I’m trusting that things are a lot more complex than they appear here (poor Baal and Amaterasu are just incredibly guileless characters; it’s part of what makes them endearing even as they’re so easily manipulated by other folks), but I’m not a huge fan of the whole Great Darkness plot at this particular moment.  While that’s going on, there’s Urðr pursuing every avenue she has available to figure out what the deal with the Pantheon is and whether there’s more to what’s going on than what Ananke has told everyone.  I really want to see what she uncovers, and also, it’s fun to see her interacting with Dionysus (a self-proclaimed non-academic) and the unrelentingly terrible Woden (we learn Woden’s identity in this arc, but it doesn’t matter because he’s still a walking turd).  They make a compelling odd thrupple.

Aw, Minerva. (Artwork by Jamie McKelvie, colors by Matt Wilson, letters by Clayton Cowles)

Beyond those two subplots, the real meat of the arc falls in the small bits about how the gods are managing their newfound freedom.  There are hints of increased megalomania (Amaterasu decides to found her own revised version of Shinto–Shintwo(tm)), destabilized mental states (Laura’s depression comes back hard), and impulses towards abuse (the Morrigan begins physically and emotionally abusing Baphomet after he confesses to her that he had sex with Persephone a couple of times).  This is the sort of stuff that I’m fascinated with, because it gets more closely at what was originally so compelling about the series: the examination of how different personalities react to different regular life things while under pressure from anticipating a particularly early death.  The center cannot hold for these characters, not just because they’re gods, but because they’re young people struggling to deal with an incredibly lopsided situation that seems designed to exploit all the flaws in the thinking and behavior of people who are still in the late stages of human development and maturation.

That’s… not okay, Baphomet. Sometime I need to discuss how much I loved Baphomet and the Morrigan before this whole abuse plotline surfaced. (Artwork by Jamie McKelvie, colors by Matt Wilson, letters by Clayton Cowles)

It’s worth briefly addressing the interesting bit of medium bending that Kieron Gillen does in this arc (he’s done this before with other in-universe artifacts, but I don’t think ever quite on this scale).  Issue #23 acts as a bridge between the arcs of Rising Action and Imperial Phase Part I where we get a sense of the new status quo by way of a series of interviews of several characters written by real-life nonfiction writers (the bonus materials explain that this was achieved through an instant messenger and Gillen role-playing the part of the characters with each writer).  The issue’s formatted to resemble more a magazine than a comic, where the art is presented as fashion photos of the various subjects (each god interviewed gets about three pictures done by a handful of artists) with in-universe ads for products being marketed by members of the Pantheon bookending the whole issue.  The closest thing I can compare it to is the in-universe documents that Alan Moore wrote to accompany each issue of Watchmen, but in this case the documents are the entirety of the issue; there’s no comic besides a three panel gag strip at the end imagining what the Pantheon did after they realized Ananke was dead.  The whole thing is an impressive bit of work, and I hope that there are more experiments like this one in the future.

Analysis Fatigue

I’m in the middle of enjoying a very long weekend (this is apparently the month known as “No School November” in Oregon because we have so many days without students or completely off), and while I’ve spent my time doing productive things like cleaning up the apartment (ha! I conquered you, bathroom!), preparing delicious dinner, and doing the blogs, there’s also been a fair share of wasting time reading the internet (as opposed to using my time gainfully and reading comics that I want to read).  It’s an unavoidable part of our digital society that some time will always be spent navigating the confusing mass of tubes that are designed to distract and disorient at least a little bit.

The other morning, while I was on one of those time-lost tears, I wandered across this article from Slate: “Why Conservatives Are More Susceptible to Believing In Lies.”  I was feeling way more flush with free time than normal, and so I clicked the article and read it.  The whole time I was reading the article, I had one question going on in the back of my mind; it’s a question that I’ve asked a lot over the last few years as I’ve bounced around the problem of political division: How do you actually persuade someone with conservative views that a liberal outlook is less harmful, more helpful, and just generally better for society?  Yeah, discussing the psychological differences in the profile of a conservative and a liberal is an interesting pastime, but these sorts of articles always seem to stop short of interrogating how actual productive dialogue might be achieved.  Everyone loves to analyze the problem; no one ever seems to make cracks at solving it.

I know the different general opinions that folks have about the political situation.  You have the people who try to be centrists by venerating The Discourse above other practical matters like how to protect vulnerable groups from bad actors and empowered aggressors; you have the write-off faction who just want to discard political opponents out of hand as a lost cause; you have the vulnerable people who just want to survive and not have their very existence politicized.  It’s a big mess.

Depending on the day and my fluctuating level of cynicism, I vacillate between the former two groups (I’ve never felt like I belonged in the third group because, y’know, white straight cis dude).  I have a lot of family who are caught up in the conservative political milieu, and it’s painful to think about the things that they choose to believe.  I try to empathize with their misgivings about the social changes happening around them and the fact that they really are pretty screwed over by the economic system, but then I remember that they also just really don’t like Black and brown people.  It’s rage inducing and exhausting and so many other things that leave me disoriented and hesitant of going in any particular direction.  I commented to a friend the other night while we were celebrating the good news of this most recent Election Day that the last thing I wanted to do was start any more political fights with family members because I finally felt like my relationships with them were in a pretty good place after the massive fallout of 2016.

Still, the ever-present niggling in the back of my mind continues to say, “How do we fix this breach?  What can be done?”  At the same time that I feel like I’m on better terms with my family, I’ve also learned to just avoid the political landmines; negative comments about NFL players protesting pass unchallenged because I’m doing the relationship calculus that says an argument about misinformation and how it’s legitimately racist to demand silence from Black men because you only value them for their entertainment value is not going to produce the change I want.  It’s an unsettling feeling, and I don’t know what to do about it.

Ultimately, I just feel tired of running in circles around this problem.  It’s actually a relief when I’m having a cynical phase and I can just rationalize the whole thing as not being worth the energy that could be better spent elsewhere.  The irony of this week’s news, what with the genuine hope that Tuesday’s elections offer for the immediate future, is that as things begin to get better (even if only marginally) I feel like I’m going to slip more into that cynical space.  Bridging the gap and somehow salvaging a good faith discourse feels less and less like a priority for affecting positive social change, but then I can’t help but think about the third of the country that that means leaving behind to fester in their misinformation cesspool.  That’s a lot of people to write off, and even when I’m fully aware of their social transgressions, I can’t help wondering if it’s the right choice.  I don’t know if there even is a right choice in the face of a problem this big and complex.

And that’s why I get tired of political analysis sometimes.

Reading “Last Days (3 of 4)”

You might expect in a four part story that the big climax and resolution of the plot with Kamran and Aamir wouldn’t happen until the fourth part, but because G Willow Wilson is a good writer who knows that “Last Days” is a story about a lot more than the fallout from Kamala’s first crush, she takes care of that stuff here so that the final issue will be reserved for all the feels related to Kamala knowing that the world is ending.

This cover’s adorable, but it has literally nothing to do with this issue. (Cover by Kris Anka; Image credit: Comic Vine)

After the last issue where Kamala and Carol Danvers scoured the Jersey waterfront for Kamran’s hiding place, things open here with them trying to figure out what’s happened to Aamir.  He’s in a sort of catatonic state in the middle of a room filled with what appears to be Terrigen gas, but he’s not undergoing Terrigenesis.  Instead, he’s apparently having an allergic reaction to whatever this stuff that Kamran stole from New Attilan is, and it’s caused him to develop temporary, highly unstable super powers.  Kamran is also present (because of course he is), and while this should be a moment where Kamala gets to have a big throw down with her “evil ex-crush,” an unexpected explosion of Aamir’s powers injures her so that she can’t fight.  Instead, Aamir sticks up for Kamala and makes it clear that he only holds Kamran responsible for all the stuff that went down (y’know, minus the kidnapping and super powered hijinks that Aamir is clueless about), and then he beats Kamran up before passing out (unstable super powers are not fun).  It’s a fantastic moment for Aamir, and this one scene gives him a level of depth that has only been hinted at previously (we’ve come a long way from the jobless, overly pious layabout son that Aamir seemed to be back in Ms. Marvel #1).

You tell him, Aamir! (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

And that’s it for Kamran, at least for the time being.  I expect that he’ll be back sometime in the future, but he’s out of the picture for now.  The second half of the issue is focused exclusively on Kamala coping with the news that the incursion isn’t going to be stopped and no one knows what’s going to happen once it’s done.  Carol wraps up her guest spot by giving Kamala a pendant that features a design incorporating both the Captain Marvel star and the Ms. Marvel lightning bolt.  It’s sort of a thank you gift since Carol’s found herself so impressed with Kamala since their meeting.  Then it’s time for her to go, and Carol Danvers flies off to do what she does.

Now, this is the part of the post where I’m going to indulge in wild speculation.  I haven’t read any Ms. Marvel beyond the end of the next arc after this one, so I don’t know if this is something that eventually gets addressed (I’m actually really looking forward to reading Ms. Marvel‘s “Civil War II” story because the trade’s cover suggests a major plot point will be Kamala’s sudden disillusionment with Carol Danvers), but my going theory is that the Carol Danvers who appears in the “Last Days” arc is actually from the other universe that’s colliding with the 616.  There’s tons of evidence that she’s not the native Carol Danvers, from her black uniform (which is never commented upon) to her occasionally tripping up on something she was about to say that she realizes she shouldn’t to her already knowing what the incursion means to the pendant that she obviously meant to give Kamala from the start.  I think this Carol actually partnered with her universe’s Kamala, and something bad happened to her; when the incursion began and the universes started to merge, she decided to go find the 616 Kamala.  It’s pretty clear from their goodbye that Carol is way more emotionally invested in Kamala’s well-being than one would expect from someone who had just made a new acquaintance.

Kamala looks so adorable in this panel, the way she clutches her scarf. Carol clearly knows she’s about to deliver some bad news. (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

Anyway, Carol, wherever she’s from, gives Kamala one last bit of advice regarding facing the incursion: she needs to be ready for the possibility that this is the end.  Kamala takes that advice very seriously, and once she confirms that Aamir is okay (and back to being the obnoxious, oblivious older brother), she tries to figure out how she wants to spend her remaining time.  There’s some mild irritation first, because honestly Aamir’s a little insufferable after all his awesomeness in the issue’s first half; he proceeds to tell Kamala that she can’t possibly relate to what he’s going through with these sudden unstable super powers, and when Yusuf and Muneeba arrive, they fawn over Aamir while Kamala has to silently fume that she gets none of the positive attention as the family’s second child.  It’s a funny sequence, and Kamala snapping out of her grump to remember that she might not have much more time with anyone makes the whole thing sort of touching.  The issue closes with Kamala confessing to her mother that she’s Ms. Marvel, and Muneeba surprises Kamala by telling her that she already knows.

Kamala’s face, tho. (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

ABC’s

  • “Acme Shady Labor Series IV”
  • “Aunties And Androids 2”
  • “Astro Shark”
  • Another dude carrying livestock
  • “So You Were Wrong About the Zombie Apocalypse And You’ve Wasted Your Life”
  • A major award in the back of a car
  • Duck in a truck
  • “American Acupuncture Needles”