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    George R. R. Martin's musings on the Fantastic Four say a lot about his own writing.

    Feature John Saavedra
    Sep 19, 2018

    While the young Fantastic Four were preparing to challenge the mighty Molecule Man in 1963, a teenage George R. R. Martin was busy writing a letter to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the book's creative team. Martin, who was destined to become the scribe of many great works of genre fiction, was just a boy from Bayonne, NJ who had fallen in love with Marvel superheroes -- the boldness of their stories, their relatable origins, and the audaciousness of their colorful get-ups, courtesy of geniuses like artists Kirby and Steve Ditko. And like many other youngsters growing up in the '60s, Martin had strong opinions about these characters. 

    His letter to Lee and Kirby, published in Fantastic Four #20 (1963), demonstrates a precocious and loquaicious eloquence that might even be a bit on the sarcastic side. You can decide. Either way, it's quite a piece of work for his first published piece. 

    Here's Martin talking about the letters himself:

    The letter concerns Fantastic Four #17 (1963), in which the team defeats their archnemesis for what seems like the final time. Doctor Doom falls to his death, which must've been a shocking conclusion for readers of the time. Of course, Lee and Ditko would reveal two months later, in Amazing Spider-Man #5 that Doctor Doom had survived the fall from his airship via a secret jetpack. 

    If the letter is sincere, Martin expresses his admiration for the issue and the book in general as "the world's best mag!!!" Or if it's a gripe about the ridiculousness of Lee and Kirby's creations, it at least showcases his early mastery of sarcasm and his talent for being sardonic, even back then. For more examples of Martin's strong opinions, visit his LiveJournal

    Here's the letter, courtesy of the Marvel archives:

    Martin talked to writer John Hodgman in public radio's The Sound of Young America about what made Lee and Kirby's characters unique and huge influences on his later work:

    The Marvel comics that I was writing letters to were really revolutionary for the time. Stan Lee was doing some amazing work. Up until then, the dominant comic book had been the DC comics, which at that time were always very circular: Superman or Batman would have an adventure, and at the end of the adventure they would wind up exactly where they were, and then the next issue would follow the same pattern. Nothing ever changed for the DC characters.

    The Marvel characters were constantly changing. Important things were happening. The lineup of the Avengers was constantly changing. People would quit and they would have fights and all of that, as opposed to DC, where everybody got along and it was all very nice, and of course all the heroes liked each other. None of this was happening. So really, Stan Lee introduced the whole concept of characterization [chuckles] to comic books, and conflict, and maybe even a touch of gray in some of the characters. And boy, looking back at it now, I can see that it probably was a bigger influence on my own work than I would have dreamed.

    Looking back at the Fantastic Four's earliest adventures (and the stories of many of Lee and Kirby's other stellar creations, such as X-MenThe AvengersIron ManThor, and Hulk), you can see the tales that influenced Martin's work. The strange worlds of Martin's early science fiction short stories (take a look at his stellar debut collection, A Song for Lya), his focus on the exotic scenery and supernatural threats, undoubtedly stem from the interdimensional adventures of the Fantastic Four. A good first sign of Martin's White Walkers beyond the Wall can be found in his short story "With Morning Comes Mistfall," (published in Analogin 1973) in which tourists eye a misty valley full of killer wraiths from the safety of a castle. You can already imagine the Night's Watch.

    Buy all of your Game of Thrones boxsets, books, and swag here!

    Lee and Kirby's preoccupation with underdogs who are destined to reach their full potential, honorable men and heinous villains with human desires, made it into Martin's pages as well. Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, and Ramsay Bolton, for example, must all rise to the occasion of destiny. The men of very different beginnings journey to find their place in the world, much like the "freaks and mutants" that inhabited '60s Marvel comics.

    At the forefront of Lee and Kirby's work is the family dynamic of books like Fantastic Four and The Avengers, stories in which we watch the world's greatest superheroes unite, fight, struggle, forgive, mourn, and grow together. Reed Richards, Johnny Storm, Susan Storm, and Ben Grimm were constantly in flux, teaming up to save the world, but also facing their own personal struggles. They're a highly dysfunctional team, petty at times, holding deeper grudges than others, and going through the stages of insult, anger, and forgiveness. But the constant was that they ultimately loved each other. 

    Family dominates Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, as the Seven Kingdoms are separated into houses. Even if we might consider the Starks heroes and the Lannisters villains, we feel for them on a family level. There's little more tragic than Cersei's love for her ill-fated children or Jon Snow's quest to live up to the name he was never given. This dynamic continues with the villainous Greyjoys and Boltons. And don't forget the Night's Watch, which might be most powerful example of family in the entire series: lost, cowardly, bad, and honorable men from all over the land coming together to protect the world from a common threat. If that doesn't scream Avengers to you, then I don't know what. 

    further reading - Game of Thrones Season 8 - Everything We Know

    Perhaps more overtly, Martin learned from the work of Lee and Kirby that heroes, no matter how great, could fall. This is a lesson that the writer definitely hasn't forgotten while working on A Song of Ice and Fire

    Several "by gumbos" later, Martin wrote another letter, this time published in the pages of The Avengers in 1965. The second letter concerned The Avengers #9 and Fantastic Four#32, issues he hoped to "have mounted in bronze and set on a pedestal in the center of his living room." 

    Avengers #9 introduced a new member of the team: Wonder Man. The story, "The Coming of the...Wonder Man," was framed around the introduction of this strange man, who'd been tricked by the evil Baron Zemo into becoming a superhuman in exchange for his services in his plot to defeat the Avengers. In order to ensure Wonder Man's obedience, Zemo also altered his metabolism in such a way that he could die within a week unless treated regularly with an antidote (silly). But when the Avengers help Wonder Man find a cure, he turns on Zemo and sacrifices himself to save the team. The newest Avenger, gone in the same issue he arrived.

    (I also have to quickly note that Wonder Man is from Paterson, NJ!)

    In his interview for public radio, Martin described his deep appreciation for Wonder Man and his fate:

    I liked Wonder Man. And you know why? [Laughs] Now it’s coming back to me vividly! Wonder Man dies in that story. He’s a brand new character, he’s introduced, and he dies. It was very heartwrenching. I liked the character — it was a tragic, doomed character. I guess I’ve responded to tragic, doomed characters ever since I was a high-school kid.

    Of course, being comic books, Wonder Man didn’t stay dead for long. He came back a year or two later and had a long run for many, many decades. But the fact that he was introduced and joined the Avengers and died all in that one issue had a great impact on me when I was a high-school kid.

    We've seen no shortage of "tragic, doomed characters" in Martin's work, and even one or two that have returned in posthumous form -- no doubt a little nod to comic book deaths. Fortunately for his countless powerful scenes, that has not been usually the case. 

    These letters allowed Martin to enjoy a sort of celebrity among comic book fandom. Other fans wrote him letters in reply, and he eventually began writing critical essays for comic fanzines, such as YMiR, Batwing, and Countdown. Martin later went on to write some stories for Star Studded Comics, a fanzine that published original fiction. One fan even offered to buy Martin a car at one point...

    It's odd to think about your idols (and he has become one of mine) as fans themselves, but that's who Martin was and is still today, reaching the epitome of fandom by speaking to the comic book gods he worshipped and eventually putting what he'd learned to work to become a god himself. That might be the world's greatest story of all. 

    John Saavedra is an associate editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9

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    Justice League is bringing back Starman with some new wrinkles to his origin that have ramifications for DC Universe continuity.

    FeatureMike Cecchini
    Sep 19, 2018

    Few characters define legacy in the DC Universe quite like Starman. Sure, there have been plenty of Flashes, various members of the JSA have passed their mantles down to younger heroes, and every now and then someone new puts on Bruce Wayne’s pointy cowl. But Starman has been a near constant presence for almost 80 years of DC history, although depending on which decade you’re looking at, you’re likely going to be looking at a different Starman.

    While Justice League #8 once again puts the focus back on Lex Luthor and the Legion of Doom (which we discussed with writer James Tynion IV in more detail right here, it also continues the book’s tradition of adding new details to the DC Universe, and even subtly rewriting little pieces of DC continuity. It does this via the reintroduction of the Will Payton version of Starman.

    The Will Payton Starman first appeared in 1988, launched in the pages of his own solo title by Roger Stern and Tom Lyle. The book ran for four years, and Will Payton vacated the title when he was apparently (but not actually) killed by Eclipso, and has languished in relative obscurity since. But Justice League #8 not only brings Will Payton into the current era of DC Comics, but also offers some subtle changes to his history and the nature of his powers. And it does it while paying loving tribute to his early stories.

    “If you actually go back to the 1988 first issue of Starman, you'll see that some of those images in the first pages of Justice League#8 are actually based on the panels from the original,” James Tynion IV says. “That is the original design of the Stellaron-5 satellite that gave Will Payton his powers.”

    The source of Payton’s powers in that original story, however, has changed. Originally just your typical cosmic radiation getting harnessed for various purposes (comics are awesome, everyone!), it was later revealed to be the energy essence of a previous Starman, Steve Ditko’s brilliant Prince Gavyn version of the character. With Justice League #8, the energy beam from the satellite is revealed as an attempt to harness the power of the Totality, the cosmic event that has been at the center of recent issues of the book.

    “From the first page of Justice League #1, the idea that the Totality, as it made its journey to Earth from the Source Wall, flitted through every moment of time backwards and forwards,” Tynion says. “We're starting to see what exactly that means, and the ways that that mystery is built.”

    The concept of the Totality moving through time is even more relevant here, as Justice League has now fixed Will Payton’s origin in the DC Universe of 1988, the time of his origin story’s initial publication. This has ramifications both for the Starman legacy and how certain facets of DC continuity function in the post-Rebirth era. The best way to describe this is how the Justice Society have always been associated with the DC of the 1940s and early 1950s, when the majority of their adventures were published. While older versions of them were later brought into modern continuity, other characters, such as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, operate on a “sliding timeline” where their origin stories are always set roughly 20-30 years before currently published adventures, and they always exist alongside modern events.

    “One thing that tends to happen in the evolution of DC continuity is there are characters who kind of pop up in a moment of continuity but then the mythology pulls away from them and starts focusing on new facets,” Tynion says. “The way I've always processed it is that once the mythology moves on, it's like the character is almost left in that era because they represent that era, and they don't necessarily become a part of the sliding timeline.”

    Using this model for Starman is a natural evolution of how the various incarnations of the characters have been portrayed through the years. Ted Knight, the original Starman, was a Justice Society member, and it is generally accepted that his adventures took place between the early 1940s and mid-1950s. James Robinson’s essential Starman series established that one of the shorter-lived incarnations of the character, Mikaal Tomas, was essentially “fixed” in the 1970s, the decade when his initial adventure was published. Placing Will Payton in the era in which he was published, rather than as a contemporary of the current Justice League, feels like a continuation of that tradition. “We did want to sort of let the character embody the moment that he stood in,” Tynion says.

    further reading: DC Universe Streaming Service Review

    I couldn’t help but note that the Jack Knight Starman is a character who feels right at home in the mid-to-late 1990s when he was published. While Tynion is quick to point out that he isn’t “making any definitive statements about how DC continuity works,” he does have ideas about where the other Starmen and related characters throughout history fit in DC's timeline. We’ll have to wait a little longer for those answers, though.

    Tying Will Payton’s origin into the Totality is going to fuel elements of the Justice League story over the next year. “I am a tremendous fan of the Starman mythology and the character,” Tynion says. “The power that's inside him is connected to the Totality in really interesting ways, and it will fuel a lot of mystery over the next year in Justice League. We are telling a huge story that stretches to every moment of DC continuity, and we have incredible mysteries. Starman is going to be key to all of that.”

    Mike Cecchini is the Editor in Chief of Den of Geek. You can read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @wayoutstuff.

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    Eddie Brock and his symbiote have been through so many adventures. Here's a Venom comics reading order for beginners.

    Feature Gavin Jasper
    Sep 20, 2018

    On October 5, we are getting a Venom movie. Kind of crazy, right? At least this one won’t have any dorky dance sequences in it. Anyway, if you want to read up on Venom before he hits the big screen again, it’s a bit of a tall order because there’s been a handful of different guys under the black goo and many comics with his name on the cover. Luckily, we have a streamlined list of stuff to get you going.

    Now, we’re going to focus on Eddie Brockstuff because that’s what Sony is doing. That said, if you’re interested in the Mac Gargan era, I highly recommend Dark Reign: The Sinister Spider-Man. If you want some Flash Thompson Venom action, read the Rick Remender run of the 2011 series. If you come across the 2003 Venom series by Daniel Way, run in the opposite direction unless you’re one of those people who gets their kicks from reading bad comics.


    The origin story of Spider-Man’s black costume isn’t too imperative. It says something that every later retelling of that story had Peter Parker wanting to bite people’s faces off when the original take was, “Man, I sure am tired for some reason!”

    It helps here that Eddie Brock wasn’t an established character before attacking Spider-Man as Venom. He offers a flashback during his first storyline to get us up to date and from there we get plenty of fighting with an interesting dynamic. Not only is Venom stronger than Spider-Man, but he’s invisible to his spider-sense and knows his identity, meaning that in order to even survive, Spider-Man has to think outside the box at every turn.

    For these first couple of years, Venom gets increasingly interesting, especially in the ways Spider-Man has to deal with him. This culminates in the creation of Carnage, which not only means Spider-Man has to undo taking Venom off the table, but the two have to team up against the big, new villain.

    In terms of trades, there are two ways to go about it. Spider-Man: Birth of Venom has all of his origin appearances and Carnage Classic has that initial story arc, but you aren’t going to get that cool fight on the island or the other early Venom appearances. They’re releasing a hardcover called Spider-Man vs. Venom Omnibus that will have pretty much every Venom appearance pre-Lethal Protector. It’s really expensive, but it’s an option.


    Amazing Spider-Man #374-375 is this great two-parter that temporarily wraps up the Spider-Man/Venom rivalry and sets the stage for Venom to spinoff with his own solo run. It’s just a shame that it’s part of the previously-mentioned omnibus and not part of the Venom: Lethal Protector trade. As a prologue with the same creative team, it really makes for a perfect companion piece.

    Anyway, Venom movies to San Francisco for a while to get in his own adventures. Co-creator David Michelinie starts this off with Lethal Protector, where he builds up a new status quo with supporting characters, villains, a more sympathetic rewrite of Eddie’s backstory, and a new home where he guards an underground society of squatters. Afterwards, the series becomes a revolving door of creative teams with each writer essentially turning it into “Venom Team-Up.” Soon the whole San Francisco concept is dropped completely and he returns to New York City to make these crossovers easier to handle.

    The whole thing is very mixed bag, but there’s some fun stuff in there. If anything, it shows that we really need more Venom/Morbius team-ups.

    Eventually, Larry Hama starts penning the series and mostly remains on it until cancellation. That gives it some much-needed stability, even if we get some bizarre storylines like Venom and Carnage duking it out inside the internet and Venom and Wolverine flying through space inside a silver football.

    What makes it all work is the take that Venom is a more sci-fi, yet honest Punisher. Frank Castle tends to be perfect in his behavior. Argue about his morals, but if the Punisher thinks a bunch of drug dealers need to die, he will succeed in only killing those drug dealers and not a single innocent civilian. Venom is the kind of guy who will mistakenly kill a guy he thinks is a drug dealer then move on with his life because at the end of the day, this is just an excuse for him to give into his violent impulses.

    The true highlight of this run is when Len Kaminski and Ted Halsted do an arc called Venom: The Hunger. It’s easily one of the best Eddie Brock Venom stories, based on the idea of the symbiote leaving Eddie and Eddie deciding that it’s too dangerous to leave alive. Eddie proceeds to go full prep work in an attempt to kill the creature, only with the challenge that the two of them can see things from each other’s point of view.

    Oh, and at one point, Venom kills some dudes while singing David Bowie. Sure.

    In terms of reading these, there’s a hardcover Venomnibus Vol. 1with Venomnibus Vol. 2 coming in February.

    With paperbacks, the order is Venom: Lethal Protector, Venom: The Enemy Within, Venom: Separation Anxiety, Venom: Carnage Unleashed, Venom: Along Came a Spider, and Venom: Tooth and Claw.


    With his anti-hero series winding down, Venom goes back into straight-up villainy. The stories that come out of that are...not so good. More specifically, it’s Spider-Man writer Howard Mackie coming up with cool concepts but never following up on any of them. In other words, any given Mackie comic.

    It isn’t until Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos’ Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 1: The Hunger that we get something worth reading. In this story, it’s retconned that Eddie Brock has been suffering from cancer since his very origin. The symbiote is the only thing keeping him alive and part of Eddie’s drive to kill Spider-Man comes from knowing that it prevents the costume from choosing the better host and leaving Eddie to die.

    This leads to the events of Marvel Knights Spider-Man Vol. 2: Venomous by Mark Millar and Frank Cho. Eddie comes to terms with his situation and decides to auction off the Venom symbiote to the criminal underworld while giving the money to charity. This alters the status quo like crazy and separates Eddie and the symbiote for well over ten years.

    Within the pages of Peter Parker Spider-Man: Back in Black, there’s a two-parter from the pages of Sensational Spider-Man called “The Last Temptation of Eddie Brock.” This Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa/Lee Weeks joint is about a withered Eddie discovering that he share the same hospital as a comatose Aunt May. With the "voice" of Venom constantly egging him on to kill the woman in order to get revenge on Parker, Eddie ends up on one hell of a crossroads.


    In the late 00s, a book came out called Venom: Dark Origin. Ignore that book. Not only is it not very good, but it was a story that made Eddie look like a total asshole, released in a time when Eddie was being reintroduced into Spider-Man comics as a decent guy.

    This brings us to one of the cooler stretches of the character’s existence, the days of Anti-Venom. Dan Slott and John Romita Jr. give us Spider-Man: New Ways to Die. The cocktail of cancer and the symbiote remnants in Eddie’s bloodstream meet with the powers of Mr. Negative to create a new kind of organism that cures Eddie and turns him into a violent vigilante with the power to heal. While he has no intent on killing Spider-Man, unfortunately his very healing presence has a negative effect on Spider-Man’s powers and shuts them off when they’re near each other.

    Anti-Venom gets his own miniseries in New Ways to Live, where he teams up with the Punisher during the days when Frank is hanging out with Jigsaw’s son and has access to a lot of villain tech. It’s a small dose of throwback to the 90s anti-hero stuff that really works, but man, three issues just isn’t enough.

    Anti-Venom would make another appearance in Spider-Man: The Return of Anti-Venom, where we finally get some closure on the whole Mr. Negative storyline. Anti-Venom would then be written off via Spider-Island, but that’s not exactly high on the list of Venom stuff you should check out. He’s a minor supporting player for the most part and his role is more of a plot device to keep the game-changing healing powers away from the Marvel public.


    Back during the whole Venomousstoryline, a miniseries came out called Venom vs. Carnage. The Venom symbiote was such a hot potato at the time that the comic didn’t even make it apparent who was under the fangs and tongue. Anyway, the series introduced Toxin, the spawn of Carnage. Toxin got his own miniseries and then fell into obscurity around the early days of Bendis’ New Avengers.

    Fast-forward to the Flash Thompson era of Venom. There’s a good guy Venom in existence, but he’s a far more respectable figure to the point that guys like Captain America respect him and allow him into the Avengers. Eddie Brock ends up the new Toxin host during Venom: The Savage Six and gets a return in Venom: Toxin with a Vengeance.

    Honestly, while they’re fine stories, Eddie’s time as Toxin is little more than a footnote. He does have a supporting role in the Gerry Conway Carnageongoing series (featured in Carnage Vol. 1: The One That Got Away, Carnage Vol. 2: World Tour, and Carnage Vol. 3: What Dwells Beneath). In it, there’s a task force put together to capture Carnage and, ultimately, prevent him from unleashing some kind of religious, Lovecraftian apocalypse. Eddie doesn’t get to do too much, but his Toxin appearance is kicking rad and it does give us some closure on Toxin as a concept.


    After two cancelled ongoings and a finished tenure as a Guardian of the Galaxy, Flash Thompson’s role as Venom host comes to a close. Mike Costa is given a new Venom book and it starts off with a new host in Lee Price. While the symbiote really wants to be a hero based on its time with Flash, Price is actually a terrible person and wants to use this newfound power to take over the criminal underworld.

    This is all a roundabout way of bringing Eddie Brock back into the picture and giving us a new era of the original Venom. Through Venom Vol. 1: Homecoming, Venom Vol. 2: The Land Before Crime, and Venom Vol. 3: Lethal Protector – Blood in the Water, we see a modern attempt to retry the old anti-hero days. There’s even a subplot about Venom being the protector of an underground society, only this time it’s a bunch of dinosaur people.

    To give Eddie a supporting cast, he ends up acting as muscle for Liz Allen’s organization Alchemax, in return for Dr. Steven trying to figure out why the symbiote has been acting so erratic lately.

    There are two big crossover stories through this run. One is Amazing Spider-Man: Venom Inc, which is a big team-up between Spider-Man, Venom, Agent Anti-Venom (Flash), and Black Cat against Lee Price as the new symbiote criminal Maniac. It’s basically Peter Griffin’s Big Jaws, only with Venom.

    The other crossover is Cullen Bunn’s Venomversesaga. As a cash-in answer to the Spider-Verseevent, there’s this multiversal war involving alternate universe Venom hosts and creatures called Poisons. Poisons are usually harmless creatures, but if they make physical contact with a symbiote and its host, it turns them into an even more powerful creature with the Poison in control and none of the usual weaknesses. So regular Venom has to join the war alongside Captain America Venom, Rocket Venom, Mary Jane Venom, and so on against Poison Thanos’ attempts to subjugate the multiverse.

    For this one, the order is Edge of Venomverse, Venomverse, Venom & X-Men: Poison-X, and Venomized. Yeah, the X-Men Blue team gets heavily involved for the latter half of that. Mixing the symbiotes’ ability to see in all directions and Cyclops’ powers leads to some fun shit.

    The main Venomseries then comes to an end with Venom Vol. 4: The Nativity. It has a strong ending that acts as a cliffhanger, but it’s apparent that it isn’t for the next writer to take on. Released concurrently with the newer Venomongoing is Mike Costa’s Venom: The First Host. This miniseries follows up on Costa’s run by introducing a Kree warrior who used the symbiote originally as a way to fight fire with fire against the shapeshifting Skrulls. Years later, this warrior ventures to Earth to get his weapon back and violence ensues.


    Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman give us Venom Vol. 1: Rex, a beautiful and darker direction for the character. Since Brian Michael Bendis threw the symbiote race’s origins out the window to come up with his own, Cates decides to retcon THAT origin as well and reveal a new big bad with Knull, God of Symbiotes. Through this book, Eddie discovers that there is much, much more to his costume than he ever knew, mainly in terms of Knull’s insane backstory.

    Like, there’s a giant dragon made of symbiotes called the Grendel and it’s coming to wipe out Earth. Comics!

    He also discovers that the government was using symbiotes since way back in Vietnam. This not only introduces new character Rex Strickland, but a one-shot spinoff called Web of Venom: Ve’Nam gives us a good look of where he came from.

    And that’s all I heard about Venom and Eddie. Can’t tell you more ‘cause I told you already, and here we are waving Venom and Eddie goodbye.

    Gavin Jasper writes for Den of Geek and feels that you should read All Access #1 for the sake of seeing Venom hand Superman his ass while boasting about the time he beat up the Juggernaut. Yeah, that was a thing. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @Gavin4L

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    Tom Clancy novels Rainbow Six and Without Remorse will be adapted in a movie series, with Michael B. Jordan set to star as hero John Clark.

    News Joseph Baxter
    Sep 20, 2018

    Tom Clancy live-action adaptations aren't exactly in short supply in this epoch of the entertainment industry. Indeed, another iteration is being planned for the big screen, this time brandishing the ever-escalating stardom of Michael B. Jordan as the headliner for what’s being telegraphed as a film franchise.

    Michael B. Jordan is set to play Tom Clancy novel hero John Clark in at least two films for Paramount that will adapt the late author’s novels Without Remorse and Rainbow Six, reports Variety. The franchise-building efforts will be headed by Akiva Goldsman, current maestro of the Transformers film universe, joined by producers in Josh Appelbaum, Corin Nemec and the star himself, Jordan. Paramount is reportedly meeting with writers and directors for the first outing.

    The would-be film franchise will launch with Without Remorse, adapting Clancy’s 1993 novel, chronicling the origin of CIA operative John Terrence Kelly, whose nom de guerre is John Clark, a character introduced in 1987’s The Cardinal of the Kremlin. The second film will be Rainbow Six, Clancy’s 1996 espionage novel, in which Clark heads the titular counterterrorism unit. For connoisseurs of late-1990s/early-2000s video games, the name Rainbow Six is undoubtedly more associated with the vast series of tactical games based on the novel.

    The John Clark character – almost as prolific in Clancy lore as Jack Ryan – was purportedly inspired by David Morrell’s 1972 novel, First Blood, from which the Rambo films were adapted, and has been featured in 17 Clancy novels. Moreover, Clark has been played on film by Willem Dafoe in 1994’s Clear and Present Danger (opposite Harrison Ford’s Jack Ryan,) and by Liev Schreiber in 2002’s The Sum of All Fears (opposite Ben Affleck’s Jack Ryan).

    The starring role in the yet-again rebooted Tom Clancy film universe is another major coup for the career of Michael B. Jordan, who is coming off an acclaimed villainous turn earlier this year in Black Panther and is the center of a rumor about the Superman film franchise. He will return to another hit franchise – again joined by Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa – in Creed II, which hits theaters on November 21.

    Meanwhile, the arena of Tom Clancy live-action adaptations is currently flourishing in the form of Amazon Prime series Jack Ryan, which received a Season 2 renewal months before its August premiere. Yet, it will be interesting to see if John Krasinski’s new small screen version of Jack Ryan will ever share the screen with Michael B. Jordan’s John Clark.

    Joseph Baxter is a contributor for Den of Geek and Syfy Wire. You can find his work here. Follow him on Twitter @josbaxter.

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    Speculative fiction master Brandon Sanderson explores the many "aspects" of Stephen Leeds across a collection of riveting novellas.

    ReviewBridget LaMonica
    Sep 21, 2018

    Legion: The Many of Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson is one of Den of Geek's Most Anticipated Science Fiction Reads of September 2018This edition collects the first two novellas—Legion and Skin Deep, both previously released as individual volumes—and the final, new installment, Lies of the Beholder.

    It’s not often that you get called to review a book that is actually three novellas put together. It’s like meeting a stranger who is actually three kids inside a trenchcoat... OK, maybe it’s nothing like that. But what we have here is not just a book; it’s a collection of three interconnected novellas, all about the interesting life of Stephen Leeds.

    Legion, a novella collection from The Stormlight Archive's Brandon Sanderson, is centered around Stephen Leeds, a man who has the amazing ability to learn and become an expert on subjects almost instantly. The catch? His brain can’t retain all that massive amount of information without driving him insane. Stephen's solution? He creates imaginary people he can interact with in real time who hold on to various subjects for him. These imaginary people, called "aspects," have their own personalities and quirks, and they guide him along on whatever impossible task has been set before him.

    Stephen’s subconscious is a vibrant and diverse cast of characters. Common players are Ivy, the psychologist; J.C. the gun-toting mercenary-type; and Tobias, the calming presence who is an expert on architecture, gardening and random histories. Any time Stephen needs to learn a new skill or, say, a language, he reads a few books on the subject and a new "aspect" comes into being to harness that information for him. See kids? Reading is fundamental.

    Stephen is a likeable character who understandably comes off as a bit kooky to those around him. He is a relatable everyman thrust into extraordinary circumstances because of an inherent talent for learning. The book presents a fascinating study of the human mind, or “psychology-as-superpower,” which Brandon Sanderson notes is a recurring theme in his writing in the book's preface.

    Stephen is aware of his imaginary world, and actively engages in it to achieve whatever task has been set before him. But these "aspects" are far from perfect. Each one comes packaged with their own neurological disorders. Ivy is trypophobic (that thing you’ve seen on the internet with tiny holes creeping people out), Ngozi is a germaphobic forensic scientist, and Tobias has his own imaginary friend.

    Stephen’s own mind surprises him often, as "aspects" start doing things previously thought impossible, such as video chatting on a cell phone. It’s scary because we wonder if Stephen might go over the deep end if the rules are broken too much. This is an important through line that we follow in the three novellas. The "aspects" and their behaviors change as time goes on, and Stephen is threatened with losing control over his abilities and his mind. It’s a subject that gains intensity as we progress through the three novellas.

    Having Stephen interact in a real world while constantly occupied by his entourage of imaginary experts is fun. People like Wilson, his servant, understand how to interact with them, pantomiming handing imaginary drinks or holding the door for people he doesn’t see. There are times when the illusion breaks down, and Stephen is at risk of losing his marbles. For example, someone throws a real thing to an imaginary person, and Stephen has to imagine the "aspect" catching one and dropping another.

    Sanderson is careful to follow the rules of his world. It’s part of what makes the deviations (like the camera phone thing) so surprising. Stephen’s "aspects" don’t just appear when he needs them. He needs to plan ahead, choose who he wants with him, and leave room for them in a vehicle when they travel. He has to act like they are real people in order to use their talents. The limitations are part of what make Stephen more relatable, more human. It’s also a challenge, because he can be forcibly separated from his "aspects" and left helpless, unable to access the hordes of valuable information his brain has tucked away.

    Sanderson makes a good move by continuing his story in several novellas. Not only do we get to revisit a great cast of characters and add new ones to the mix, we also get through lines that suggest a bigger story. Hints about an "aspect" that went rogue and died, which was how Stephen lost his knowledge of chemistry, are particularly intriguing.

    There’s also a constant yearning for a lady love who disappeared long ago but who taught Stephen to harness his abilities before she left. The character is brought up a few times, enforcing the idea that Stephen’s affections went unrequited. If Stephen’s story ended at the first novella, it would have felt unresolved. We are teased with hints of who Sandra was to him until part three. No spoilers for you. Just know that if something is mentioned more than once, you best file it away in your brain somewhere because it will be significant later, much like how Stephen files away everything he reads.

    For a book that could be heavy on the psycho-babble, Legion is a truly accessible read. Part of that is due to the novella format—there's less room for extraneous information than in a traditional novel. The novella formula works for Stephen Leed’s story. We check into his life when interesting cases come up, and are therefore not burdened down by superfluous scenes or filler. There's also the nature of Stephen’s character: He’s a really casual guy, so having his story inundated with lofty prose wouldn’t fit.

    This is an easy read, with lots of witty dialogue and really likeable imaginary characters. It won’t leave you hanging because resolutions are right around the corner. Each novella builds upon the last, making the stakes more dire and morphing Stephen’s worldview along the way. We might even have some revelations about the human psyche in the process.

    Legion includes the novellas “Legion,” “Skin Deep” and “Lies of the Beholder.” It is now available to purchase via Amazon or your local independent bookstore.

    Bridget LaMonica is a contributor at Den of GeekRead more of her work here or follow her on Twitter @BridgetLaMonica.

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    Tieryas channels Heinlen and Dick in this new alternate history novel set in the world of The United States of Japan.

    ReviewAlana Joli Abbott
    Sep 21, 2018

    Mecha Samurai Empire by Peter Tieryas is one of Den of Geek's Most Anticipated Science Fiction Reads of September 2018

    A friend of mine in the army once shamed me for not having read Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers. To him, the questions posed by the speculative fiction novel—of citizenship and soldiery, of what role the defenders play in larger society, and philosophies about the nature of war and humanity—are ones everyone should have a chance to explore.

    I thought a lot about him while reading Mecha Samurai Empire because it resonated with me in the same way that Heinlein's novel did all those years ago: In Tieryas's excellent second novel in the United States of Japan universe, Makoto "Mac" Fujimoto tackles all of those questions, sometimes with earnestness, sometimes naivety, and sometimes with rage.

    I don't think the questions themselves are ever really answered—can questions about the nature of war and humanity ever really be answered satisfactorily?—but Mac's insight into them, and the world in which he's asking them, are sure to stay with me. If Tieryas's first novel, United States of Japan, was a successor to Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle, Mecha Samurai Empire is the heir of Heinlein's Starship Troopers.

    And also, there are really freaking cool mecha battles.

    In the universe of Tieryas's United States of Japan and Mecha Samurai Empire (both of which stand alone, but which share a few recurring characters), Japan and Germany won World War II, and divided the Americas between them. On the west, the United States of Japan prospers, feeling like a weird and delightful hybrid of Japanese and American culture that might have developed with 50 years of cultural merging. In the east are the German Americas, where non-Aryans are second class citizens (or worse).

    There's an uneasy truce between the Japanese Empire and the German Reich; they've fought battles before, where Japanese mecha met German biomechs in combat, the mecha typically ending up on top, but the border staying stable along the Quiet Zone that runs through Texas. Tieryas introduces the setting details as the story moves forward, never falling prey to an info-dump, but always making the setting feel like a natural part of the story, with characters who can hardly imagine that history might have gone another way.

    The story begins with Mac in his senior year of high school, struggling to get his grades up, but also training with portical (video) games at the local arcade, sure that mastering the latest sims will give him the edge in the mecha examination that will make or break his chances of ever realizing his dream of becoming a mecha pilot.

    Mac's parents both worked on mecha, and both were killed in The Battle of San Diego, leaving him an orphan attended to—not well—by the state, in the care of a foster family that hates him, and sent him to boarding school at the earliest opportunity.

    Mac's best friends are Hideki, who wants to be a game designer, and Griselda, an exchange student from Germany, with whom he shares a very subtle, budding romance. Mac is overweight and an uninspired student; his desire to one day join the mecha corps is greeted with derision by a Lieutenant of the corps who is recruiting students, and who later serves as one of the mecha test proctors where he takes out his grudge on Mac's perceived disrespect for the corps on Mac himself.

    Hideki, sure that both he and Mac, with their test scores and without influence in the world, are bound to fail at their dreams, encourages Mac to cheat. He can get them the answers in advance. Mac refuses, but Hideki's plan sets into motion one of the most important events in Mac's life—one that will leave him floundering, wondering about the sacrifices the Empire will make to keep the United States of Japan safe, even if it means sacrificing one of its citizens.

    It also leads to Mac's first experience serving on a mech: he accidentally becomes a hero against an uprising of American terrorists in Los Angeles, which gives him a different opportunity than the one he always wanted: unable to get into the university of his dreams, he becomes a member of the civilian defense force that also pilots mecha.

    From there, another tragedy gives him the opportunity to fulfil his life goals—but also the questions of how many loyal citizens and soldiers are sacrificed by poor leadership, or military leaders whose goals are only based on the big picture, not on those individuals who suffer from their choices.

    Despite the penchant for philosophical exploration, Mac isn't a truly deep thinker: he willingly accepts a lot of things at face value, and struggles with how people could view his friendship with a German as potentially treasonous. Tieryas keeps hidden the loyalties of Mac's peers, and though most are stalwart companions, there's reason to doubt where others' loyalties lie.

    The characters from the USJ have Japanese names, but many are of different heritages, and the number of strong female characters in the cast surrounding Mac is a pleasant departure from earlier military alternate history novels. The mecha battles—whether in simulation, in competition, or facing real combat—are cinematic in their scope, and a delight to read.

    Tieryas combines martial arts with giant, smashing, stomping action typical of the MECH/Kaiju genre. The German biomechs are appropriately horrific, and the sacrifices made by those pilots is equally gruesome, its almost throwaway nature in the novel a testament to how the German Americas and the Reich treat their soldiers even more expendably than the Empire.

    It's also worth mentioning that the descriptions of food are among the best I've read, outside of Redwall (Brian Jacques) and the Vlad Taltos series (Steven Brust). I have never had a book inspire me to crave Japanese take-out quite as much as this one did.

    The takeaway? I missed United States of Japan when it came out, and it's now at the top of my to-be-read pile. Spending time in this setting, even with the looming threat of war and the horror of the biomechs, is a delight, and Mac is a sympathetic narrator surrounded by complex characters with their own unique takes on why the world is the way it is. Add big robot vs. monster action, and this is a sure winner.

    Mecha Samurai Empire by Peter Tieryas is now available to buy via Amazon or your local independent bookstore.

    Alana Joli Abbott writes about books for Den of Geek. Read more of her work here.

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    From Spider-Man and Eddie Brock to Groot and Sub-Mariner 2099, the Venom costume certainly gets around.

    FeatureGavin Jasper
    Sep 24, 2018

    It’s fitting that the Venom costume is a liquid entity because the creature and the Venom identity have been used for all sorts of different roles. Spider-Man’s edgy new costume, Evil Spider-Man, violent antihero, corrupt government soldier, rogue government agent, space knight, and so on.

    With the big Venommovie coming up, let’s look at all the different heroes and villains that have worn the spidery blob. I’ve split it into three different types. We have the main hosts, such as Spider-Man and anyone who was treated as actual Venom in the mainstream books. Then there are the others, who wore the costume in continuity, but are considered more like footnotes. Lastly, it’s the ones that happened in alternate realities.


    Back in the '80s, Marvel had their big Secret Wars event, created to sell toys and ultimately shaping how Big Two comics would be designed for decades to come. In an attempt to give the story extra importance, they used it as an excuse to change up Spider-Man’s costume into a black and white ensemble with some cool extras like unlimited webbing that came out of the back of his hands instead of the wrists.

    Fighting it out on Battleworld, Spider-Man’s red and blue costume got shredded up and he found what he thought to be a machine that stitches new outfits. What he unknowingly got was an alien parasite kept in a prison. It jumped onto him and took to him, wanting to live in a symbiotic relationship.

    While later versions of the story – especially in different media – would focus on how it made Spider-Man more aggressive, the big deal was more that it was controlling his body in his sleep and the very idea of it being alive freaked Peter out something fierce. Spider-Man rid himself of the creature, only to be antagonized by it for years.

    further reading: The Many Spider-Men of the Spider-Verse

    In main continuity, he became the host for Venom during the time when Peter’s body had the mind of Doc Ock. That led to a cool take where he had goo-based octopus tentacles coming out of him. He also had Eddie Brock loan him the symbiote at the end of Dan Slott's Amazing Spider-Man run in order to combat the Carnage-clad Green Goblin. Out of continuity, he became the host in one of the early Spider-Girl issues and in a disturbing What If storyline where it took over Peter’s cocooned body from The Other and transformed him into "Poison."


    When people think of Venom, they mainly think of Eddie and the movie will solidify that more than ever. A journalist, Eddie Brock’s life took a bad turn when he misreported on a masked murderer named the Sin-Eater and got the identity wrong. Acting like the antithesis of Peter Parker, he shifted the responsibility and blamed this tragic mistake on Spider-Man rather than himself or the unfairness of the world. When praying for forgiveness for considering suicide while at a church, Spider-Man’s discarded symbiote jumped onto him.

    From there, the two brought out the worst in each other and fueled their mutual hate-on for Spider-Man. Venom became Spider-Man’s cool, new, popular villain for several years, constantly stalking him in his personal life. Then for a time he got over his flawed axe-to-grind and moved to San Francisco to become a murderous vigilante.

    Venom’s time as Lethal Protector lasted five years and had a big collection of miniseries that was secretly a sixty-issue ongoing (restarting at #1 whenever a new arc started). As an antihero, Venom was essentially a less-competent Punisher. A monster using his vigilante status to justify his bloodlust, all while seeing himself as Adam West Batman.

    Further reading: A Beginner's Guide to Venom Comics Reading Order

    Brock went back to being a thorn in Spider-Man’s side, but not for long, as he simply stopped showing up in comics for years. When he did come back, it was for the sake of passing the torch to the next host.

    Since then, Eddie’s been given a new lease on life as Anti-Venom and later Toxin. Neither identity lasted too long and he eventually rubber-banded back to being Venom.


    Ugh. This catastrophe.

    In the early 2000s, Marvel was doing their Tsunami imprint and one of the books to come out of it was an eighteen-issue Venomongoing by Daniel Way. It had incredibly little to do with Eddie Brock and instead was a rather mean-spirited mess of a series that didn’t get referenced again for about fifteen years.

    Here’s the gist of the plot and I swear I’m not making any of this up: the biblical story of Noah’s Ark was inspired by a bunch of nanites from space coming down and plotting to wipe out all of humanity. The nanites decided at the last second not to and left, but a handful of them stuck around and didn’t get the memo. So they spent centuries laying low in the form of a man with a bushy mustache, biding their time. Their master plan was to wait for an alien symbiote to be loose on Earth and then use it to cause the apocalypse. Somehow.

    In a fight with the Fantastic Four, Venom lost his tongue. A random dude found it and tried to sell it on eBay, but it was immediately stolen away by shadowy government people led by the bushy mustache nanites man. The tongue was used to clone the Venom costume and it was let loose in an arctic lab in a blatant ripoff of John Carpenter’s The Thing. Army lieutenant Patricia Robertson survived the massacre thanks to the help of The Suit, an Agent Smith knockoff with a weaponized smartphone.

    He is also made of nanites.

    Patricia ultimately became the host for the Venom clone and got jerked around and shit on far more than your average superhero character with absolute zero catharsis. This all led to an abrupt ending where Eddie Brock’s Venom symbiote merged with Patricia’s and the evil nanite man was all, “Heh heh. All according to plan.”

    Further reading: 15 Craziest Venom Moments in Marvel History

    He was never mentioned again, nor was Patricia. We didn’t see if she died, escaped, or what.


    Angelo did not last long at all, but he came with enough fanfare that he was sort of a big deal, mainly because of the Mark Millar/Frank Cho creative team behind him. Eddie Brock was slowly dying of cancer and decided he just wanted to end it all. Knowing that the symbiote would just find another host, he decided to use that as a final act of goodness by auctioning it off to the criminal underworld and giving that money to charity.

    Angelo Fortunato was the lacking son of a high-ranking mobster. The idea was that the symbiote would make a man out of him and he liked the idea because it meant girls would write fanfiction about him.

    ...Mark Millar wrote this, remember.

    As the new Venom, Angelo went after Spider-Man and did pretty well for himself, but the moment Spider-Man was able to get an advantage, Angelo folded and tried to escape. The symbiote – disgusted with his cowardice – removed itself from his body and sought out a new host.

    Further reading: Venom, Riot, and the Life Foundation Symbiotes Explained

    Angelo was in mid-swing during that decision. He...ummm...he did not survive.


    Gargan spent many years as the Scorpion and during the Marvel Knights Spider-Man storyline that introduced Angelo Fortunato, Gargan reappeared as finally free of his green armor. Acting as a henchman for Norman Osborn, he had a non-violent confrontation with Spider-Man and was apparently going to be refitted with a new, better Scorpion suit.

    Instead, the Venom symbiote found him. Gargan gladly became the new host, much to Osborn’s initial chagrin. As time would show, Venom would be Osborn’s go-to goon and would serve him as both a Thunderbolt and a Dark Avenger.

    In a time when Carnage was believed to be dead and Eddie Brock had his own thing going on, it made sense to have Gargan as a brutal, purely evil Venom with no shades of gray. While a bit of an afterthought in Dark Avengers, he did have his own miniseries called Sinister Spider-Man that was absolutely brilliant and featured having a tiny dog thrown into his eye via Bullseye.

    With the end of Dark Reignand Osborn’s time in power, the government decided to just remove the alien costume and figure it out from there. Mac Gargan went back to being the Scorpion and nobody’s cared about him since.


    Formerly Peter Parker’s high school bully and later his rehabilitated friend, Flash Thompson was reintroduced with a story that showed him as a soldier losing his legs in Iraq. The government decided to make him the new host for Venom, though with enough precautions. He could only wear the symbiote for 24 hours before being separated. As Agent Venom, he did the government’s dirty work while keeping it a secret from loved ones.

    As this new Venom starred in his first of two ongoings, they played up his own addiction to Venom’s powers (namely the power to walk) and how it related to his preexisting alcoholism. This is something only vaguely touched in the Brock days, since most times he was separated from the creature and was forced to rebond, he treated it like a recovering addict having alcohol poured down his throat against his will.

    Flash’s initial status quo didn’t last too long and he became a fugitive from the law for a bit. By working alongside Captain America and earning Cap’s trust, he ended up getting a spot on the Secret Avengers. Shortly after, he joined the Thunderbolts until Cap asked him to join up with the Guardians of the Galaxy.

    When on Earth, Flash kept the symbiote in check via drugs and appealing to its nature, but in space, the costume became more erratic. Turns out it just needed to go back to its home planet and Bendis wrote a big pile of retcon about how the symbiotes are called Klyntar and they’re actually quite peaceful, but sometimes they need to be recalibrated. The symbiote got cleansed, lost all memories of most of its hosts, became docile, and started looking like something out of Ben 10. Afterwards, Flash started having solo space adventures as the Agent of the Cosmos.

    His second ongoing just ended with him back on Earth, where the two ended up splitting up. Flash has moved on and found a new identity as Agent Anti-Venom.


    When the symbiote was separated from Flash Thompson, it was hungry, weak, and desperate for a new host. It wanted to do heroic things for the good of humanity, so of course it ended up getting stuck with a man who wanted none of that. Lee Price was a former army ranger with intent to not only be part of the criminal underworld, but to one day run it. Bending the symbiote to his will, he made plans to climb up the ladder and gradually take over New York City.

    This Venom seemed short-lived at first as his brand new series was more of a means to reunite Eddie Brock and the symbiote. Lee was put in prison for a stretch until being let off on a technicality. He and his gang captured the Venom sidekick Mania and stole her costume. Lee Price became Maniac and made another go at ruling the world of crime. Even though this led to him having a "final form" of being a giant version of Venom, he was still taken down by the team of Spider-Man, Agent Anti-Venom, Venom, and Black Cat.


    Ann was Eddie Brock’s ex-wife. We never got to know too much about their married life, but Ann always held a candle for Eddie and hoped he’d get well. As a lawyer, she became the target of a new Sin-Eater, who put her in critical condition. Venom rescued his ex and took her to his sewer hideout, but her internal damage was too much and she was moments from death.

    Eddie coaxed the symbiote into bonding with Ann and healing her. While that was happening, a couple of scavengers broke in and beat down Eddie. Ann, in the form of the voluptuous She-Venom, horrifically tore the two interlopers to pieces. It’s suggested that she was a more violent host than even Eddie. When she split from the alien, she was disgusted by her actions and blamed her ex-husband for putting her in that position.

    Ann donned the costume once more and her experiences as the host drove her to madness. She became a total shut-in and Eddie’s intent to patch things up (along with seeing Spider-Man swing by the window in his black threads) caused her to go over the edge and she killed herself.


    Spider-Man was briefly able to talk some sense into Eddie and convinced him that maybe the symbiote was clouding his judgment. Eddie figured the least he could do was spend some time separated from the costume and told it to get lost. The symbiote let out a sonic howl of loneliness, which accidentally alerted the rest of its race that it was on Earth.

    This was many years before Bendis’ take on the whole Klyntar race being good, so instead we got a big symbiote invasion in New York. Coincidentally, Bendis would also write a symbiote invasion in New York storyline that ignored this.

    Spider-Man, Scarlet Spider, and Eddie Brock worked together and Scarlet Spider appeared to have a seventh sense about what was going on. They later discovered that although it hadn’t fully bonded to him, the symbiote was posing as his sweatshirt and was feeding him info. Eddie reluctantly recombined with the symbiote and the three went and fought off the invasion.


    Yeah, so back to that Daniel Way story about the nanites and the Venom clone. After the Thingstoryline, the Venom clone was loose in Canada and Wolverine happened to be hanging out there because, you know, Wolverine is everywhere. The whole storyline was peak Wolverine bullshit, since Wolverine had a nuke dropped on him and all it did was knock his shirt off. Then The Suit zapped him and put his super-powered cell phone into Wolverine’s chest cavity.

    On the hunt for Venom, Wolverine was ambushed by the costume and was overwhelmed. It took him over with no problem and found itself the perfect host, considering Wolverine’s healing factor and never-ending adrenaline. WolVenom attacked Patricia Robertson, but then The Suit’s cell blasted it from inside Wolverine’s body, causing the costume to evacuate and ultimately attach to Robertson.

    Wolverine grumbled, “Can you hear me now?” because we all have to suffer sometimes.


    Brian Reed really, really wanted to make Peter Parker + Carol Danvers a thing. Just him. When Siegewas going on, there was a collection of one-shots about stuff going on during the penultimate battle before the Void became the final endboss. One of these stories, written by Reed, had Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel take on Mac Gargan Venom.

    Ms. Marvel beat him fairly easily and simply tore Gargan from the symbiote like she was pulling someone’s towel off. The symbiote then simply attached itself to Carol and took over her mind. What we got was a flying Venom with fiery Kirby dots exploding out her head. Spider-Man fought his possessed friend and freed Carol via kicking her into some power lines.

    The symbiote then went back to Gargan and the big battle continued.


    Remember the New Fantastic Four? That thing where Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk, and Ghost Rider briefly replaced the actual Fantastic Four as some kind of preemptively meta look at how Marvel teams would work in the future? During Rick Remender’s Venomrun, they did a storyline called Circle of Four that gave us what was essentially the Dark New Fantastic Four. We had Flash Thompson Venom, X-23, Red Hulk, and that crappy female Ghost Rider that nobody cares about.

    They ended up teaming together to fight Blackheart, who at one point fought them with the Bizarro Dark New Fantastic Four. Comics rule.

    After our heroes were taken out by Blackheart’s forces, they were brought back by Mephisto. In order to hit Blackheart with everything they had, they went with the most ridiculously awesome idea ever by having Red Hulk possessed by both the Spirit of Vengeance and the Venom symbiote. Too bad there was no easy way to give him Wolverine claws, but such is life.

    The pure brute force alone didn’t stop Blackheart, but they ultimately beat him and saved the world. Red Hulk’s upgrades were returned back to their proper hosts and they all went their separate ways. The problem, noticed only by Daimon Hellstrom, was that all four heroes were marked by Mephisto’s demonic magic.

    Which brings us to...


    Before his space adventures, Flash moved out of New York City and went to Philadelphia, where he became a high school gym coach. Andrea Benton was both a neighbor and a student with a chip on her shoulder. She was also quickly aware that Flash was secretly Venom.

    Venom’s arch-nemesis Jack O’Lantern appeared at Flash’s apartment complex to cause trouble and murdered Andi’s father. Venom attempted to protect her from noxious gas, but the symbiote did more than that. It split itself and bonded with her. As Mania, she became Venom’s angry, teenage sidekick.

    Flash later discovered that there was a reason why the symbiote split itself. In order to appease Flash, the symbiote figured it would spit the clone symbiote (from the Patricia Robertson series) back out and onto Andi. The clone symbiote was carrying the mark of Mephisto, meaning it was no longer Venom’s problem. Flash didn’t see it like that.

    Venom and Mania remained a team and they even discovered that one of the silver linings was Mania had control over demons. When Venom went to space, Mania gradually lost control. Venom was able to bring her back to her senses and promised he’d find a way to cure her. Eventually, Lee Price stole the symbiote from her and became Maniac. Regardless, Andi retained her demon powers and currently uses them to help keep the peace in Philly.


    Ooooookay. This one is a little weird.

    In the beginning of Jeff Parker Thunderboltsrun (which eventually became Dark Avengers), US Agent took some serious body damage. He lost both an arm and a leg during the Siegetie-in. Afterwards, he became this badass prison warden who could mess up a room full of prisoners regardless of how much biology he was missing.

    During the final arc, US Agent and the Dark Avengers crew were stuck in a rewritten Earth where New York City was split apart by a dystopian superhero gang war. In this world, Hank Pym had been experimenting on the Venom symbiote and effectively lobotomized it. Dark Avengers member and Scarlet Witch stand-in Toxie Doxie used Venom to attach itself to US Agent and grow back his missing limbs, returning him to the status quo.


    The Deadpool/Venom connection has been done a few times. The first was a comedic series of backup stories in What Ifcomics that showed a reality where Deadpool became the host for Venom. It gave him an evil jheri curl and became a commentary for event comics, it was out there.

    In a somewhat more canon appearance, Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars revealed that Wade was actually there for the initial '80s event and everyone forgot about it due to a reality-altering wish from an emotional and heartbroken Wasp. One moment showed that prior to Spider-Man stumbling upon the alien costume, Deadpool tried it on first. It was a brief melding as the Klyntar couldn’t handle Deadpool’s mind. The suggestion was that he probably warped the symbiote’s personality before anyone else.

    Cullen Bunn has revisted the idea of Venompool a few more times. Back in Black showed that in-between Peter Parker and Eddie Brock, the symbiote did join Wade again for a short while to help him fight with and against 80s staple characters. They split up due to their disagreements with whether or not to kill Spider-Man and it was revealed that Deadpool convinced Eddie Brock to visit the fateful church in the first place.

    Otherwise, the connection was brought up in Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe Again, which was secretly part of Old Man Logan continuity. In it, Deadpool killed Eddie Brock, reunited with the symbiote, devoured Spider-Man, and then told the creature to go away. There was also a Venompool in the Venomversestoryline. Although he was infected by a Poison creature (more on that later), he retained his mind and sacrificed himself to stop the bad guys.


    As mentioned earlier, there was a Guardians of the Galaxy story based on Venom going back to the costume’s planet of origin. It didn’t make the trip without conflict. Joined with Flash, Venom became more unpredictable until a fight with the other Guardians finally nullified the threat. They kept the goo in a containment jar, which easily escaped when carried by Groot.

    Constantly shouting, “I AM VENOM!” the new hybrid alien took on the other Guardians of the Galaxy until being knocked out by Drax.


    The symbiote left Groot and the others figured he’d just go back and find Flash’s unconscious body. Instead, it leaked onto Rocket from the vents above and took him over, looking like some kind of Venomized Sonic the Hedgehog.

    I checked Google Image Search for fanart of that very idea. There’s a lot of it and I’m really not far off.

    The possessed Rocket, speaking a bit more clearly than the previous host, insisted that everyone get off the ship ASAP. He admitted that he didn’t want to kill anyone, but he needed to commandeer the ship immediately.

    Then it got really interesting...


    Although Quill warned him not to, Drax decided that grabbing Rocket from behind was a good idea. Nope. The costume slinked off Rocket and jumped onto Drax. The issue ended with the cliffhanger image of Symbiote Drax looking metal as fuck.

    By the beginning of the next issue, Flash woke up to find everyone unconscious except for the victorious Drax. Smiling madly, Drax basked as they arrived in the Klyntar homeworld. Through Drax, the symbiote said some cryptic stuff about their journey to Flash before leaving Drax’s body.

    Drax didn’t take this well and nearly murdered Flash until Quill talked him down.


    During Flash’s short-lived adventures as an Agent of the Cosmos, he quickly came into conflict with the obscure Thor villain Mercurio. An interstellar conqueror, Mercurio’s plans were thwarted by Venom a couple times, so he sent a murderous space panda named Pik Rollo to take care of this new thorn in his side. Rollo – blackmailed due to her son being captive on Mercurio’s ship – ended up striking up a deal with Venom, which included a fake back-stabbing. As part of the plan, Venom was captured.

    Mercurio stripped the costume from Flash and wore Venom himself. Unbeknownst to Mercurio until it was too late, this was all a trick for Venom to uncover information via bonding. Venom split from Mercurio and viciously beat him down until Flash pleaded with him to stop. Although they successfully tricked Mercurio, being part of such an evil being returned some old habits to the Venom symbiote, as its addiction to rage and violence started to bubble back to the surface.


    I’m splitting hairs, but I’m not even sure which sub-list to toss this one. It’s a character from an alternate future thrown into another alternate future, only it’s as a member of a mainstream X-Men team.

    Anyway, during The Apocalypse Wars, the X-Men got stranded a thousand years into the future. As always, Earth was a dystopian mess, this time run by Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen: Colossus, Deadpool, a female Moon Knight, and the Venom symbiote.

    Using the Fastball Special, Colossus threw the blobby creature onto Old Man Logan. After a couple of issues, Jean Grey realized the secret wasn’t to try and mentally coax Logan, but to mentally attack the alien itself. With Venom purged from Old Man Logan’s body, Iceman froze it in place.


    In the brilliantly titled "Land Before Crime," the Eddie Brock version of Venom found out that Stegron had an army of dinosaur people living underneath New York. He teamed up with Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur to stop them, but Stegron had the ability to mentally control Devil Dinosaur. At first, Venom wanted to call it quits, but he saw a kindred spirit in the relationship between Moon Girl and her dinosaur friend and came up with a plan. Venom allowed Devil Dinosaur to eat him as a rope-a-dope. The symbiote attached itself to Devil Dinosaur, undoing Stegron's psychic hold. Venom Dinosaur went on a rampage long enough for Moon Girl to foil Stegron's plans to turn everyone in NYC into dinosaurs.


    When Lee Price became Maniac, he gained a new power. By coughing or spitting on someone with his symbiote, he would mask them with an extension of said symbiote and it would put them under his control. He used his mind control to take over various super-criminals. His victims included Black Cat, Scorpion, Hammerhead, Looter, 8-Ball, Killer Shrike, The Brothers Grimm, and the Melter. He also took over Spider-Man for a time. The drawback of his power was that once someone was free of his hold, he could not control them all over again.

    When faced with the team of Spider-Man, Agent Anti-Venom, Venom, and Black Cat, Maniac absorbed all of his inkling masks into himself and became a giant.


    After defeating Maniac, the Venom symbiote was finally cured of its mental instability. Venom went back to fighting crime, though chose not to kill the lesser criminals. Spider-Woman didn't see this as a reason to let him off the hook and tried to capture Venom a couple times. At the time, the symbiote was carrying a secret from Eddie: it was pregnant and scared that its child would turn out evil and vicious like its other children. Only with Eddie as a host did it feel optimistic that its offspring could be brought up well. The symbiote briefly joined onto Spider-Woman to show her the truth. Spider-Woman had recently given birth herself and understood to an extent. For the time being, she would allow Venom to roam free.


    The Kree and the Skrulls have been warring with each other for so many years and while the Kree pride themselves as being the ultimate military species, the Skrulls have the advantage of shape-shifting. An idea came to acquire that ability for the Kree empire. A warrior named Tel-Kar went to the symbiote homeworld and discovered an outcast. Considering it a perfect choice, Tel-Kar became the first host to wear what would one day be known as the Venom costume. He went undercover as a Skrull, but turned on them the moment he was tasked with killing Kree refugees. Going into a suicide run, Tel-Kar made the symbiote leave him so they could not be captured together. Tel-Kar fought the Skrulls head-on, but survived in the end.

    Years later, he'd come to Earth to reclaim his old partner. Forcing the symbiote to rejoin him against its will, it was revealed that Tel-Kar plans on using it to commit genocide against the entire Skrull race.


    What If the Alien Costume Possessed Spider-Man told the tale of Peter Parker waiting too long before having the Fantastic Four investigate his animated black tights. By that time they got him under the microscope, it was too late and the creature had already bonded to him. It took over his body completely and escaped, staying under the radar so Reed Richards couldn’t track it down.

    After several days, the controlled Spider-Man found the Hulk going on a monstrous rampage. Knowing a good meal when it saw one, the symbiote left Spider-Man behind as it jumped onto Hulk, who could do nothing to save himself. Symbiote Hulk laughed and jumped off into the distance. Peter’s body was so used up by this point that the situation rendered him into an old man who died within a day.

    While Hulk may seem like a perfect host, the symbiote was only using him as a stepping stone...


    It didn’t take long for Thor to come across Symbiote Hulk. While the symbiote insisted that what happened to Spider-Man was an accident and that it was actually helping Banner with his Hulk issues, Thor wasn’t fully trusting and they got in a big fight. Thor won, but the symbiote simply attached itself to him, which was the plan all along.

    The two entities battled mentally while hiding out inside Mount Rushmore. Reed Richards sent Black Bolt after them, who was able to overpower Symbiote Thor with one word. The symbiote was then destroyed by Black Cat, armed with a sonic gun.


    One of the best What If issues, What If Venom Had Possessed the Punisher, showed a reality where Frank Castle stopped at that one church moments before Eddie Brock. He had Spider-Man on the mind at the time and the symbiote latched onto him. Initially, Frank didn’t think much about the symbiote’s origins. He figured it was some slick SHIELD technology and went with it. He even did away with the webbing ability and had the costume shoot bullets made of symbiote goo.

    This comic came out years before Garth Ennis got his mitts on Frank, so while he was depicted as a pragmatic mass murderer, he wasn’t the grindhouse sadist that he is now. In other words, it was treated as a big deal that he was far more gruesome with his kills, such as biting off half of Tombstone’s skull and spitting it out.

    The symbiote gradually took over his life. He started lashing out against Microchip and found himself trying to kill Spider-Man against his will. After being hit with a sonic blast, Frank was able to go into a dreamlike state and confront the symbiote mentally. In the end, Frank made it an ultimatum: the symbiote would do what he wanted and get a piece of the violent action Frank’s known for, but if it didn’t listen to his orders, he’d kill them both. The symbiote agreed to the terms and the Punisher escaped capture from the heroes by using the symbiote to glide into the night.

    Another version of Symbiote Punisher would show up in Edge of Venomverse. This take was that the symbiote agreed to help Frank win his war on crime as long as Frank would agree to help him commit one murder. That turned out to be Spider-Man. Frank resisted the situation, but never got a chance to fight Spider-Man due to the events of Venomversekicking in.


    "Kron Stone! Meet the Kron Stone! Just your average man of vill-ai-ny! From the... '90s future...he’s a man from altered hi-sto-ry!!!!"

    Kron was the evil half-brother of Miguel O’Hara and made his debut by killing the family of Punisher 2099 and getting away with it. I mean, getting away with it as much as you can before Frank to the Future stabs you and leaves you dying in a sewer.

    Luckily for Kron, the Venom symbiote had been nesting in that sewer for decades, trying to evolve itself. It bonded with Kron and gave him the usual Venom perks, along with acidic touch and a fully liquid body. So, like, a T-1000 made of xenomorph spit.

    Hearing that his father Tyler Stone was hospitalized from an assassination attempt, Venom 2099 went to go finish the job, which caused him to cross paths with Miguel, otherwise known as Spider-Man 2099. The two fought it out for several issues, notably causing the death of Miguel’s love interest Dana (which simplified Miguel’s love triangle predicament).

    Once Spider-Man 2099 figured out the symbiote’s weakness to sound, the authorities just pinpointed Venom 2099’s location and focused all the speakers in the area on him. Miguel then beat him down and prepared to kill the creature until discovering Kron underneath.

    Due to the future’s lack of prisons, Miguel just kept Kron in a tube in his lab and had him separated from the costume.

    SUB-MARINER 2099

    Late into the Spider-Man 2099 ongoing, our hero fought the future’s Namor counterpart, an Atlantean terrorist. He was also brought in and made a captive in Miguel’s lab.

    In the final issue, Sub-Mariner 2099 escaped and the chaos from all the armed guards trying to stop him caused the Venom symbiote to be released. It jumped onto Sub-Mariner 2099, gave him teeth at the end of his tongue, and they escaped into the ocean.

    Being that it was the end of the comic, they never followed up on that.


    In the alternate future of Earth-X and its less-interesting sequels, Peter and Mary Jane’s daughter became the host for Venom and at some point tamed the beast while taking its name. Just one of the many reasons why she and her father didn’t get along.

    The symbiote itself factored in very, very rarely in the stories outside of a one-shot called Universe-X: Spidey, which involved the psychic villain Spiders-Man (not a typo!) putting Peter into a comatose state where he lived out his fantasies. Using her symbiote, Mayday attached herself to her father and dove into his reality. She intended to save him, but seeing that his guilt-based fantasy was to have a son with Gwen instead of a daughter with MJ kind of broke Mayday for a moment and she almost beat Spiders-Man to death until Peter woke up and stopped her.

    Afterwards, father and daughter bonded via bad jokes at dire situations.


    Speaking of Spider-Girl, the Venom symbiote had a bit of a Joker in Dark Knight Returns thing going on in the MC2 Universe. It was dormant for years until it found out there was a new spider-person swinging around and it woke back up. It ended up possessing the middle-aged Peter the first time around, creating a Spider-Man/Venom hybrid.

    Normie Osborn was the son of Harry and started out as a villain, obsessed with avenging his bloodline and killing the Parkers. Mayday helped him get over these feelings, although he still had a body full of hate-filled tattoos. Normie became a big brother figure to Spider-Girl, but was eventually bonded to the Venom symbiote against his will.

    Normie overcame its influence and insisted not to have it destroyed. He became a hero for a while, albeit one with no codename because he wasn’t comfortable being called “Venom.” It was a moot point, since by the time they hit Spider-Girl #100, they ended up killing off the costume. It sacrificed itself to help Spider-Girl defeat the Hobgoblin, playing up that Normie as a host helped reform the creature.

    Coincidentally, before leaving Normie, the symbiote’s parting gift was removing all of his tattoos.


    In the Marvel Adventures universe, they did their own lighthearted version of the Spider-Man black costume story. In this take, after the Fantastic Four removed the symbiote from Spider-Man’s body, Human Torch decided he’d try it on for size. Upon turning on his powers, the creature freaked out from the fire and escaped.


    This one’s probably not considered canon, but right now I don’t care enough to argue either way.

    Ancient wizard Kulan Gath transformed Manhattan into something more fitting to the Hyborian Age. Everyone started talking like Thor outside of Spider-Man and for whatever reason, Venom (Eddie version) decided that Kulan was totally worth working with as part of his murder vigilante ways. Then Mary Jane became the host for Red Sonja's soul/existence, which included ripping off her dress to reveal her chainmail loin cloth underneath.

    Kulan became intrigued by the dark, powerful properties that came with the Venom symbiote and stole it from Eddie in a fight. As Kulan Venom, don’t really know. Having a symbiote doesn’t really help out much when you’re a sorcerer. It’s like if Magneto became Venom. What’s he going to do, throw metal around angrier?

    If anything, the so-called upgrade was Kulan’s undoing. When Eddie begged the symbiote to return to him, it threw Kulan off and allowed Spider-Man and Red Sonja to defeat him and send things back to normal.


    In the '00s, Marc Sumerak and Gurihiru did an all-ages miniseries of Spider-Man/Power Pack, a cute story about Spider-Man teaming up with the youthful Power siblings. In the third issue, it showed Spider-Man defeating Venom with a sonic blast gun early on. Although Eddie Brock was taken into custody, the symbiote wasn’t apprehended. Instead, it was taken in by a freshly-fired fashion artist. He had the creature altered in a way that he could monetize it.

    Six months later, Mary Jane was one of four models working for said fashion dude. Peter brought Power Pack with him for the fashion show. The models’ outfits were able to morph and all was going well until Mary Jane’s dress sensed Peter nearby. All the models became full-on lady Venoms and mindlessly fought against the heroes.

    Lightspeed flew circles around them fast enough to create a sonic boom. That freed the models. Mass Master took over the DJ booth and maxed out the volume to destroy what was left of the symbiote outfits.

    Being that it was an all-ages comic, Mary Jane and the others were wearing slips under the skintight symbiotes. That had to chafe.


    After that fashion show incident, Spider-Man and the Power Pack left. Unbeknownst to everyone, a surviving piece of Venom hitchhiked onto Katie Power.

    Soon after, Katie started having nightmares about being Venom and capturing Spider-Man alongside the Sinister Six. Others tried to rationalize the dream, but the truth was that the costume was taking over her body when she slept. They really did have Spider-Man in captivity.

    Despite being down a member, Power Pack and Spider-Man had little issue stopping the Sinister Six and a Half. Spider-Man tricked Rhino into running into Electro, who accidentally zapped all his allies. This fried the symbiote and freed Energizer.

    Afterwards, she felt guilt over what happened, but Spider-Man reassured her that it was all the costume’s doing and none of hers.


    Rick Remender’s What If: Age of Apocalypsewas an exercise in Remender coming up with ridiculous shit and loosely tying it into a narrative. It took place in a reality where Legion accidentally killed both Xavier and Magneto during his time-travel assassination attempt. In the vastly different present, a team of heroes led by Wolverine and Captain America (armed with Mjolnir) would go through a ton of off-the-wall threats like the most badass Four Horsemen of all time: Namor, Storm, Hulk, and Juggernaut.

    At one point the heroes found themselves in a black web where the Venom symbiote had bonded to a nest of Peter Parkers who didn’t seem to have any will of their own. Knowing that they weren’t the real deal, Cap demanded they be destroyed before they moved on to the next bad guy.


    The Venom symbiote has latched onto various different animals over the course of its history. A husky, a bunch of cockroaches, and even a zoo gorilla. But in the dystopian reality of Old Man Logan, Venom went high up the food chain by taking over a tyrannosaurus.

    The story dealt with Wolverine and Hawkeye going on a road trip in a destroyed world where evil won. In one foreboding moment, the Venom symbiote was shown to be watching over them from on top a mountain. Later in the adventure, Venom Rex showed up and gave chase.

    Luckily, the heroes were able to outrun him long enough with the Spider-Mobile until they found Black Bolt, who downed the creature with one word. Basically, Black Bolt is the rock to Venom's scissors.


    This one can only be assumed, but judging from the weirdness going on around it...

    In the alternate reality where Age of Apocalypse happened, Wolverine became infected with Apocalypse’s powers and megalomaniacal sickness. Calling himself Weapon Omega, this darker Logan had his own super team to carry out his orders. The Black Legion featured a lot of odd mashup and altered characters like Iron Ghost (Iron Man + Ghost Rider), Zombie Sentry (Simon Garth + Sentry), Grimm Chamber (Thing + Chamber), and so on.

    When the mainstream X-Force team visited this reality, one panel showed that one of those Black Legion members was Captain America wearing the Venom symbiote. No information on him outside of that.

    Black Legion was kind of forgotten about in general shortly after that.

    Looking less monstrous, a version of Venom America would lead the resistance in Venomverse.


    With the new, black Ultimate Spider-Man who wasn’t based on a preexisting character, we got a new, black Ultimate Venom who also wasn’t based on a preexisting character.

    At some point, Norman Osborn hired Dr. Conrad Marcus to recreate the accident that created Spider-Man. As far as Marcus knew, his attempts were constant failures. Months later, he found out differently when Betty Brant confronted him for a story and helped him piece together that a missing spider created the new Spider-Man. At the time, Marcus was working at Roxxon and his obsession with knowing more led to him releasing the Venom symbiote and becoming one with it.

    His first acts were murdering Betty and then blowing up an abandoned Osborn Industries lab. Going by Betty’s false information, Venom went after Jefferson Morales, thinking him to be the new Spider-Man. Instead, the actual Spider-Man – Miles Morales, Jefferson’s son – appeared to fight him. Venom escaped into the sewers, though he succeeded in gravely wounding Jefferson.

    He reappeared at the hospital, demanding Jefferson be offered to him. Spider-Man fought him and was briefly consumed by the hulking beast. Miles’ mother Rio, a nurse at the hospital, bought him time to escape and blow up the symbiote from within with a venom blast (fittingly enough). The authorities arrived and riddled Marcus to death with bullets.

    Unfortunately, Rio was shot during the fracas and died in her son’s arms.


    Man, the Marvel 100th Anniversary month. I totally forgot you even happened. Everyone did.

    In 2014, Marvel did this thing where various creative teams would put together "100th anniversary" issues of various comics. In other words, a series of one-shots that were supposed to predict what certain comics will be like in the 2060s. Honestly, the only one worth reading is James Stokoe’s trippy Avengersstory.

    Sean Ryan and In-Hyuk Lee teamed up for the Spider-Man issue, which was supposed to be the final chapter of a story arc called “Great Power.” According to the recap, Venom had been biologically upgraded into being the Techno-Symbiote. Eddie Brock tried to become host to it once again, but he and Spider-Man came to realize that it needed to be destroyed. Then Wilson Fisk appeared and shot Eddie.

    The actual issue started from there with Kingpin becoming the host to the futuristic symbiote, all while admitting that he had it created. As the new Venom, Fisk not only had the usual bells and whistles, but he could tap into all sorts of technology. He did that to stalk the underwear-clad Parker through New York City for the remainder of the issue.

    Finally, the two had their final battle in the woods, where Parker shoved a torch into Venom’s face, tore Fisk out, and sat quietly as the Techno-Symbiote was burned to death.


    As part of the 2015 Secret Warsevent, one of the various alternate-universe-turned-kingdoms was one where Civil War never concluded. It instead led to two civilizations led by Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, constantly unable to reconcile due to an unseen puppet master.

    Mac Gargan was dead in this reality and we’d see a mute Venom working on Captain America’s side. Venom was given just enough panel-time to be treated as a mystery as he joined Peter Parker’s covert mission into Stark’s kingdom. As they faced King Ock (Kingpin’s corpse controlled by Dr. Octopus’ tentacles), Venom quietly appeared behind the threat, created a goo-based bow, and fired Daredevil’s billy club through King Ock’s skull.

    He was finally identified as “Clint” and stopped factoring into the story. I guess that would explain why his symbol looked like an arrowhead.


    Spider-Island, another Secret Warstie-in, showed a Manhattan where the Spider-Queen’s plot to turn people into spider creatures under her command wasn’t initially foiled. Flash Thompson as Venom became the leader of the resistance and helped save the minds of other heroes by turning them into different kinds of monsters, thereby giving them back their willpower. Captain America became a werewolf, Hulk became a lizard, Captain Marvel a vampire, Iron Man got pumped up with Goblin serum, etc.

    In the final battle, Venom was able to fight through the Spider-Queen’s sonic scream enough to get onto her back. Pleading with the symbiote, Flash convinced it to leave his body and latch onto the queen. Flash got smashed into a wall and took massive internal damage while the Spider-Queen desperately struggled with the symbiote.

    Venom sacrificed itself to weaken the Spider-Queen enough to allow an army of dinosaurs led by Stegron to feed on her. As it died, it swore that Flash was more than just a host to it, but a friend.


    In one of the many alternate realities looked over in Spider-Verse, there was one where Norman Osborn became President of the United States. To help clean out America’s imperfections, he created the Variable Engagement Neurosensitive Organic Mesh for himself and his enforcers.

    That world’s Captain America led a protest against the fascist hybrids. President Osborn’s undoing came from Spider-Man, who weakened the symbiotes with punk rock and brained Osborn with his guitar.


    This comes from the gnarly multiversal series Contest of Champions. Various heroes and villains from different realities were forced to fight it out as part of a big plot by the Maestro. Amongst the contestants, there was an alternate universe version of Eddie Brock Venom who was driven even more insane after killing Spider-Man. It caused him to start speaking to Peter as if he was there while wearing scraps of the Spider-Man costume around his neck.

    Another hero was the Sentry, who had a tendency to slip into his Void persona. While infamously near-impossible to kill, he and Stick were seemingly wiped out by Punisher 2099’s giant future gun. Afterwards, Punisher 2099 separated the symbiote from Eddie and executed them with the same gun.

    Unchecked, a remainder of the symbiote bonded with a remainder of the Void. An army of savage creatures called Symbioids appeared in its wake, looking much like Venom while having the raw power of the Void. The army did battle with the mainstream universe’s Ultimates, but Maestro eventually gained power over them in a psychic battle.

    During the final battle, Stick revealed that he survived Punisher 2099’s earlier ambush. With the Symbioids nearby, he merged them all together and helped the Sentry break free from within via energy manipulation powers. The experience freed the Sentry of both the Void and the symbiote.

    Afterwards, Sentry was instrumental in bringing down Maestro.


    So, the Spider-Gwen universe. Not really the easiest thing to explain other than Gwen Stacy was bitten by a radioactive spider and everyone else is different from how we know them in main continuity. In one story, Harry Osborn was being turned into a monster via Lizard serum. The Lizard serum was mixed with some of Gwen's essence to create this reality's version of the Venom symbiote. Gwen was quick to tame it, or so she thought. With her father in a coma, she started becoming erratic and went after those responsible. She became wanted by the authorities and although she calmed the creature, the damage was done and she ultimately had to turn herself in.


    Now we get to Edge of Venomverse, which showed a bunch of alternate universe Venoms via one-shots or short stories. This one showed that the complex that experimented on Laura Kinney also experimented on the Venom symbiote. During an escape attempt, she unleashed the creature and bonded to it, making escape that much easier and more violent. She then befriended a handful of homeless youths and helped protect them by giving them pieces of the symbiote. When the government agents went after them, the symbiote pieces pulled back into X-23 and she was unceremoniously teleported out of that dimension.

    She was one of the few survivors of Venomverseand returned to her home world.


    The self-aware heroine became Venom's host in one world, though it wasn't really explained. Instead, we got an amazing team-up story about Gwenpool fighting ninjas, dealing with her evil boss, and trying to hit on Daredevil...all while her symbiote tries to both help her out and give her advice in the form of, "Kill them." Really fun issue, but Gwen's Venomversefate wasn't a happy one.


    Exacting vengeance in a badass muscle car, Robbie Reyes always had to deal with the voice of his evil Uncle Eli in his head, trying to take control. While Robbie tends to have that under control, this version was joined with the Venom symbiote. The three-way war for dominance ended when the symbiote and Eli decided to work together and turned Robbie into nothing more than a "motor." Calling himself "Host Rider," this monstrous entity spent the tie-in hunting down Calvin Zabo and making him suffer with the Penance Kiss.

    Host Rider was pulled away to help with the Venomversesituation, but was forgotten about pretty quickly during the main miniseries.


    Ngozi was a Nigerian girl who had a promising career as a track star ruined by a bus accident. Resigned to a wheelchair, she was trying to catch a grasshopper one day while ignorant to the Black Panther vs. Rhino fight going on behind her. Whatever it was about, it involved a capsule with the Venom symbiote in it. Said capsule got loose and rolled up to Ngozi's wheelchair. As Rhino killed Black Panther, the symbiote oozed onto Ngozi and told her to run. She instead used her newfound gift to turn herself into a half-woman/half-grasshopper and took down Rhino.

    Soon after, she was put through trials and was accepted as the new Black Panther, replacing T'challa as the ruler and protector of Wakanda.


    Victor Von Doom told the Avengers that he was turning over a new leaf and that he prepared a massive peace accord. Whether he was telling the truth or not was only background as Doom was in the middle of a massive war of willpower with the Venom symbiote. Venom wanted to help him crush his enemies. Doom insisted that, "There is no we." Once the dust settled, the demonic Doom showed himself and revealed that the symbiote was bent to his will. Doom vanished as part of the Venomverseplot, but he'd soon be assimilated by the Poison race.


    The plot of Venomversewas that there was a multiversal threat known as Poisons spreading through the worlds. This race was mostly harmless unless it touched a bonded symbiote. Suddenly, it would completely take over, make them stronger, remove their weaknesses, and absorb the host like they were food. The Poisons attempted to conquer the multiverse, led by Poison Thanos and Poison Dr. Doom. Venom hosts from various worlds would be brought in to help fight them, but many would lose and fall into their ranks.

    At the beginning of the miniseries, the resistance included the likes of Spider-Man, Mary Jane, Flash Thompson, Andi Benton, Captain America, Dr. Strange, Old Man Logan, X-23, Ghost Rider, Black Panther, Ant-Man, and Rocket Raccoon. Only a handful of them survived.

    As for listing the Poison hosts...yeah, I'm going to pass.


    In an alternate future created by one of Spider-Man and Deadpool's adventures, the Fantastic Four is made up of Valeria Richards, The Last Devil (who carries an Iron Fist's hand on a chain), the rock giant Reed Grimm, and Venom Vision. Venom Vision only seemed to speak in ones and zeroes with only Valeria able to understand it. The team helped the elderly Spider-Man and Deadpool fight a legion of Deadpool LMDs. They were under the control of the LMD messiah Master Matrix.

    The Venom symbiote went for a desperation move by leaving Vision for Reed, but it was no use. The Deadpools tore Vision to pieces. Master Matrix singlehandedly destroyed Reed and Last Devil. Then he created synthetic symbiotes to enhance his LMD army. Before being overtaken, Valeria sent Spider-Man and Deadpool back in time to prevent this future from ever happening.



    Howard Mackie is a writer who likes to come up with sweet, high-concept ideas and then slink away rather than follow up on it because payoff is hard. When Spider-Man was enjoying his 30th anniversary in the '90s, Mackie penned a storyline about Mysterio messing with Spider-Man's head. The whole thing seemed like an excuse to have a splash page where Galactus appeared to him, clad in the Venom symbiote. So it doesn't really fit in with anywhere else on the list, since it's just Peter Parker tripping balls, but it is such a silly and awesome image that I can't help but include it.

    Gavin Jasper writes for Den of Geek and wonders what kind of horrors would occur if Rogue became Venom. Would she just absorb it and turn into some kind of flesh-colored ooze? Read Gavin's other articles here and follow him on Twitter @Gavin4L

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    The Metropolis Illuminati get their hands on Kryptonite, and Batman returns to Metropolis in Action Comics #1003

    NewsJim Dandy
    Sep 24, 2018

    Where is this arcade and how do I purchase the cabinets available for play in it?

    As you'll see from this exclusive first look at Action Comics#1003, the next issue in Brian Michael Bendis' ongoing Superman epic, the Metropolis illuminati he's been building up since taking over the book is getting their hands on what we can only assume is a piece of Kryptonite from the sickly green glow. And while that's exciting, it's not the main draw of the book right now. Neither is the utterly gorgeous art from Yannick Paquette. It is, of course, stunning to look at, and this preview has certainly moved Wonder Woman: Earth One v.2 up to the top of my to read pile. 

    No, what is making me irrationally excited for this issue are the arcade games that are hanging around in the background. The Batman pinball game has filled me with questions: who licensed it? It has to be Wayne Enterprises, right? What era is it from? Is that Nightwing next to him? Does Dick get a cut of the merchandising? (lol j/k it's comics of course he doesn't).

    Meanwhile, this Flash game looks like it has no buttons. Is it just really fast Snake? Why isn't there an Injusticecabinet somewhere? And why are these in the back and Sugar and Spike pinball and Ambush Bug: The Game are out front? Could those possibly be bigger draws in the DC Universe than a Batman or a Flash game? Is Ambush Bug: The Game just a DCU port of Roy: A Life Well Lived? HOW DO I GET HERE AND PLAY THIS?

    While I am dragged down by these questions and particularly figuring out what this Ambush Bug game is about (what if it's just Drug Wars for a graphing calculator, only with the drug names replaced by Miraclo and Gingold?), take a look at what DC has to say about this issue.

    cover by PATRICK GLEASON
    variant cover by FRANCIS MANAPUL
    variant cover by DAVID MACK
    How well does Clark Kent know his own city? Are the threats targeting Metropolis new or something older and more dangerous than they seem?
    With mobsters being killed off and the Daily Planet staff hunting for answers, it’s up to Superman to discover what lurks in the underside of the city he thought he knew so well. Who is the Red Mist, and why has Superman never heard of someone so powerful and dangerous? And what is Lois Lane doing with Lex Luthor?

    Now take a look at the preview. And for more on Action Comicsor the Ambush Bug game (an arcade point and click about playing an arcade point and click?), stick with Den of Geek!

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    Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween returns to the spooky world of R.L. Stine! Here's a new trailer...

    News Chris LongoJoseph Baxter
    Sep 24, 2018

    Goosebumps 2 is arriving with more spooktacular cinematic goodness to reinvigorate the childhood memories of '90s kids and haunt a new generation. Now the film finally has an official title: Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween.

    The first Goosebumps, based on R.L. Stine's children's horror series of the same name, was one of the best family films of 2015, and was a box office winner for Sony after raking in $156 million. Now the studio is gearing up for the sequel. In the latest report from Variety, actors Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ken Jeong, and Chris Parnell are circling the project. We'll update when we have official confirmation.

    Until then, here's everything we know about Goosebumps 2...

    Goosebumps 2 Trailer

    A new trailer for Goosebumps 2 has arrived, brandishing a big reveal.

    The new clip, while brief, finally clears the air regarding the heretofore unconfirmed status of Jack Black's return as R.L. Stine, showing the return of an "old friend" in the form of the onscreen author.

    And here are the previous trailers:

    Goosebumps 2 Release Date

    Goosebumps 2 has been goose-bumped to the later release date of October 12.

    With this move, as reported by Deadline, the sequel – previously booked for September 21 – will arrive conveniently closer to the genre-appropriate Halloween holiday.

    Interestingly, the date bump shed some light on the then-mysterious sequel status of star Jack Black. While reports from as recent as November implied that Black was not yet locked in to reprise his role as author R.L. Stine, the move away from the September 21 date seems to telegraph his return, since the actor was already booked to appear in the recent gothic fantasy film, The House with a Clock in its Walls; a major production directed by gore auteur Eli Roth in which Black co-stars with Cate Blanchett and Kyle MacLachlan, and happened to debut on the September 21 date originally occupied by Goosebumps 2.

    Consequently, the moving of Goosebumps 2 away from that date to October 12 seems to imply that the studio is attempting to avoid awkward box office competition between two Jack Black films.

    Goosebumps 2 Cast

    The now-confirmed return of Jack Black, who starred as a fictionalized version of R.L. Stine, was initially up in the air. Stars Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, and Ryan Lee are back for the sequel. Rob Letterman will return to direct.

    Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ken Jeong, and Chris Parnell are also part of the cast.

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    A lifetime of letters from Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson will be auctioned off.

    News Tony Sokol
    Sep 25, 2018

    Okay you deranged pile of scurvy buzzards, we may not be proud of what we learned from the Godfather of Gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson, but we never doubted it was worth knowing. The Rolling Stone and ESPN reporter didn't contain himself to stories, he also spewed wisdom he stuck in envelopes and licked the stamps, possibly hoping one may have been misplaced blotter. A collection of 182 letters written by Thompson will be auctioned by Nate D. Sanders Auctions on September 27, 2018.

    "The letters begin in 1955 when a 17-year-old Thompson wrote to his Louisville, Kentucky childhood friend Paul Semonin, who was attending Yale University," according to the official statement. "All but two of the letters in the collection were written to Semonin.

    The other two items include a letter to an unnamed friend and a telegram from Thompson to author Tom Wolfe. Wolfe edited a volume of work by writers including Thompson, Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Norman Mailer and George Plimpton, titled The New Journalism. Usually called Immersive journalism, Warren Beatty’s reporter character in the film The Parallax View labeled it creative irresponsibility.

    Further reading: Happy Birthday, Hunter S. Thompson

    “I am not going to be either the Fitzgerald or the Hemingway of this generation," Thompson wrote in a letter from 1965. "I am going to be the Thompson of this generation."

    The letters Thompson wrote to Semonin span from 1955 through 1974. The auction house describes them as "highly personal, providing a clear look at Thompson’s view of the world. Nearly every sentence in the letters features Thompson’s hallmark Gonzo journalistic style including riveting details about his experience at Slates Hot Springs in Big Sur as well as his time embedded (including the brutal beatings he suffered) with the Hell’s Angels."

    "Among the highlights of the archive is Thompson’s famous letter written the day of President Kennedy’s assassination," reads the statement. Twenty-five of the letters being auctioned were published in Thompson’s collection, The Proud Highway: The Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman 1955-1967. One hundred and twenty six letters were typed and include handwritten notes. All of the letters are signed.

    “This is a rare, personal, first-hand depiction of Hunter S. Thompson’s life," auction owner Nate Sanders said in a statement. "It is clear in reading these letters that Thompson believed it was imperative to document the turmoil of the 1960s and share his perspective with his best friend from childhood.”

    Further reading: Hunter S. Thompson Authorized Bio Coming From MGM TV

    There are also letters documenting Thompson’s travels while writing The Rum Diary. The archive includes letters Thompson wrote while visiting or residing in Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Mexico, Aruba, Puerto Rico, New York, California, Colorado and Kentucky.

    Hunter Stockton Thompson, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot at his fortified compound which he loving called Owl Farm, in Woody Creek, Colorado, learned journalism in the army and rose through local papers until landing a copy writing job for The New York Times. He built his reputation after moving racing, drinking and drugging with a biker gang in the story that launched him, “Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs” in 1967. Thompson was portrayed by Bill Murray in the film Where the Buffalo Roam, and Johnny Depp in Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998).

    The bidding for the archive begins at $110,000.

    The Thompson letters will be auctioned by Nate D. Sanders Auctions on September 27, 2018.

    Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City's Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.

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    Darth Maul is the Star Wars villain everyone loves to hate. Here's what you need to know about this Sith and crime boss!

    The Lists Megan Crouse
    Sep 26, 2018

    This Star Wars article contains spoilers.

    From the Prequel Trilogy to Star Wars Rebels, Darth Maul just won't quit. The short-lived villain from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace became a standout fan favorite because of his appearance and acrobatic lightsaber moves, and after his return in season four of The Clone Wars, he moved into other mediums like the four-part Son of Dathomir comic series.

    His surprise resurgence in Rebels brought the villain to a whole new era of Star Wars, as Maul clashed with the heroes of the early Rebellion. His particular interest in young Jedi apprentice Ezra Bridger made for quite a few interesting appearances. In his final episode, Maul faced off against his old nemesis, Obi-Wan Kenobi, under the twin suns of Tatooine. Maul was finally defeated, but that doesn't mean we'll never see him again. If the villain has proved anything, it's that he's not one to stay down. In fact, Solo: A Star Wars Story has already set up yet another Maul storyline waiting to unfold...

    Here are some important facts you may not have known about the former Sith villain, either behind the scenes or in the galaxy far, far away:

    His design was created by Iain McCaig

    Ian McCaig is the same designer whose art would eventually inspire the witches of Dathomir in The Clone Wars. Early concept art for the character showed a villainous-looking woman with hair falling in strands across her face. McCaig experimented with ink-blot “Rorschach” designs as well as flayed-looking faces before finding the right look for Darth Maul. The tattoos on his face follow the muscle structure beneath.

    A canonical connection between the Dathomiri witches and the Sith would only be established later on in The Clone Wars, and now continues into the new canon, but the connection was always there in the art. Iain McCaig also designed many of Padme’s outfits in Episode I.

    Darth Maul wears an earring in the film - but this wasn’t planned. 

    Actor Ray Park put on a small, silver earring before sitting down to do the Darth Maul makeup, and only noticed it later. But George Lucas said he liked it, so the earring stayed. Park has said that he sees the earring as an aspect of himself, not of the character - and in an Expanded Universe where every doodad and costume piece usually has a story, there has never been a canon explanation to give this particular detail a role in Maul’s history.

    Ray Park also had a hand in developing Maul’s fighting style, and asked that the hilt of Maul’s double lightsaber be lengthened so that he could use it more efficiently.

    He’s had two different mothers.

    In Son of Dathomir, Talzin says that she’s Maul’s blood mother. This is different from his history in Legends, but only slightly.

    Maul’s original mother, from the young adult novel, The Wrath of Darth Maul, was a human Nightsister named Kycina, from a region called Blue Desert City. It’s still possible that Talzin is lying, but The Clone Wars gave Maul an entire family.

    Related Article: How The Clone Wars Can Be a Better Show

    We’re not precisely sure how the brothers Feral and Savage are related, but they could all be blood-related from this same family. Who is the father? We don’t know yet.

    Maul, like many other villains, earned his cyborg parts.

    In Star Wars, cybernetic implants are like battle scars. This isn’t unique to antagonists, but Darth Vader and General Grievous had extensive cybernetic reconstruction. Darth Maul goes through this in The Clone Wars, too, although it isn’t overtly obvious in Son of Dathomir. Maul’s original artificial legs are of a similar design to Grievous’, and were built out of Nightsister magic and scrap parts by Mother Talzin.

    A similar design for Darth Maul appeared many years earlier in Old Wounds, a non-canon comic (even in the Legends timeline) that told the story of Maul's rematch with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine. The Clone Wars featured an entirely new design for Maul: an eight-legged body made out of scrap metal. By the time Maul appeared in Rebels, he had acquired more refined parts. His metal legs were almost human-like.

    He sought his master's approval even while trying to destroy him.

    Sure, Darth Maul was a bit of a pushover for getting cut in half by a teenage Padawan. But in Son of Dathomir, he and his combined forces of Mandalorians and criminals capture both Count Dooku and General Grievous without lengthy battles. Once they're in his clutches, Maul parades his success in front of Darth Sidious in one of the most telling parts of the comic.

    Listen to the Star Wars Blaster Canon podcast:

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    Maul displays Grievous and Dooku to Sidious so that the Sith Lord can see their failure. For someone who opposed Sidious for years on The Clone Wars, Maul is very quick to show off to him - which makes for a bitter, twisted moment in Maul and Sidious’ long-standing Master-apprentice relationship.

    In that way, the Son of Dathomir comic doesn’t just make Maul more powerful, it also tells a lot about how Maul seeks both revenge on and approval from his master - and that’s a story thread that started all the way back in The Phantom Menace.

    Some of Maul’s Clone Wars stories are still unwritten, but not for long.

    The novel Ahsoka opens with a short scene showing some of what Maul was up to around the time of Revenge of the Sith. We don’t know the exact timeline of how he got to Mandalore where he faced her. After the original Clone Wars ended after six seasons, we thought we'd never get that story, but with a final season announced, it's likely we'll finally get to see the siege of Mandalore and more of Maul's story. 

    Related Article: How Ahsoka Became One of the Best Star Wars Characters Ever

    The verbal barb Maul throws at Ahsoka — “One last attempt at glory to impress a master who has no further use for you” — is telling. He showed that very same weakness throughout the Clone Wars when he tried to return to Darth Sidious, so it seems natural that this particular effort would be on his mind when he faces Ahsoka. 

    Ahsoka saved Maul’s life.

    Without Ahsoka’s appearance in Rebels, Maul’s fate might have been very different. Executive Producer Dave Filoni originally planned for Maul to die at Darth Vader’s hands during the season two finale. However, Ahsoka’s history with Vader was deemed more appropriate for the big season two finale.

    A duel between Maul and Vader would have satisfied fans’ desire to see a fight scene between these two heavy-hitters, but Ahsoka’s story had more emotional weight, Filoni said. Without enough time in the episode to do both, Filoni decided to send Ahsoka to fight Vader, and, therefore, keep Maul alive. 

    Maul never really finds himself.

    Star Warsfeatures many stories of young people growing up and finding their true destinies. Luke Skywalker set the example, but Ezra Bridger and Rey followed suit. Maul, on the other hand, is a perpetual apprentice, never able to move past the manipulative relationship Darth Sidious trapped him in. The partnership between Maul and Ezra in Rebels is as much about Maul finding a direction as it is about him giving orders to Ezra. 

    Related Article: 28 Star Wars Rebels You Need to Watch

    Filoni said, “Maul is waiting for someone so that he can be his own Sith Lord. Everything he does is a reflection of Palpatine. He hasn’t really done anything that’s representative of who he is.”

    Maul's search for himself leads directly to the culmination of his story...

    Maul believed in the Chosen One prophecy.

    Remember that Old Wounds comic? Rebels took Maul's final chapter in a similar direction. The specifics of the face-off between Maul and Kenobi were very different from what happened in Old Wounds: the episode "Twin Suns" is less focused on their battle and more on the long bond of enmity between Maul and Obi-Wan.

    In the poetic and melancholy “Twin Sons,” Maul expresses a dying wish to know whether Obi-Wan was on the planet to guard the Chosen One. Obi-Wan says yes, and Maul dies believing that there is still hope for the Sith to rise when the Chosen One brings “balance.” In the end, Luke Skywalker brings hope to everyone — even his master’s old enemy. 

    Game developers keep trying to make a Maul story. 

    Maul’s dramatic visual design and simple motivation have made him a popular choice Star Wars video games as well as other media. Revenge drives him, so he provides an immediate hook for a video game that could pit him against Jedi and other dark siders.

    A game that would have been a collaboration between LucasArts and Red Fly Studio was poised to tell a dark tale about Maul after Return of the Jedi, but was never completed. Concept art for Battlefront IV also features Maul, albeit a light side version who trained as a Jedi (and, since he wasn’t canonically Dathomirian at the time, didn’t have his tattoos.) 

    Now that Maul has finally died in canon, it seems like his story might have ultimately wrapped up on a message of hope. Even Maul, a tragic villain, was granted hope by a Jedi.

    Megan Crouse writes about Star Wars and pop culture for, Star Wars Insider, and Den of Geek. Read more of her work here. Find her on Twitter @blogfullofwords.

    For discussion of all things Star Wars, subscribe to the Star Wars Blaster Canon podcast! Subscribe on iTunes | Stitcher | Soundcloud or simply listen below!

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    Doomsday Clock is finally revealing, piece by piece, why the Justice Society has been absent from the DC Universe.

    NewsMike Cecchini
    Sep 26, 2018

    This article contains Doomsday Clock spoilers.

    A key mystery of the DC Universe since Rebirth breathed new life into the entire publishing line in 2016 has been the fate of the Justice Society. The world’s first superhero team (don’t come at me about the Shadow’s agents or Doc Savage’s team, I love them all, but they don’t count) were unceremoniously removed from DC continuity in the wake of the events of Flashpoint. JSA and most related characters, the Alan Scott Green Lantern, the Jay Garrick Flash, and others, were instead shunted off to a new, modern Earth-2 (and series), which was cool enough, but bore little resemblance to their 1940s mystery men roots.

    The absence of the JSA in the New 52 timeline was never explained. Instead, it was generally accepted that the age of superheroes began about 5 years before the events of 2011’s Justice League #1. That compressed timeline caused all kinds of havoc for other legacy characters, from Wally West to Dick Grayson and beyond, and Rebirth was a corrective, explaining that a mysterious force used Flashpoint as an opportunity to tamper with reality at key points, thus explaining assorted inconsistencies in the timeline, absences of characters, and general continuity shenanigans.

    Rebirth, of course, also revealed that the interfering entity was none other than Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan. But it also was the first DC book in years to acknowledge the existence of the JSA in the timeline, with the return of an elderly Johnny Thunder, wondering why nobody remembers his friends. Other JSA teases have followed, notably the briefest of returns for Jay Garrick in the pages of The Flash during its Doomsday Clock prologue, The Button. More recently, Johnny Thunder has become a key player in Doomsday Clock.

    But Doomsday Clock #7 comes the closest to actually answering the question of what happened to the JSA. Its first three panels, in which Dr. Manhattan narrates what should be the Alan Scott Green Lantern origin story, and his role in preventing it from coming to pass, pack an astonishing amount of information and revelations into just a few dozen words. The rest of the page continues to play with elements from the earliest Green Lantern stories, made unsettling by Dr. Manhattan’s detached narration/confession and the continuity Butterfly Effect of his presence in the DC Universe.

    The first issue of Doomsday Clock was one of the best single issues published by the big two in 2017, and was a virtually perfect continuation of the Watchmen tone. If there must be a Watchmen sequel, that Doomsday Clock chapter was the way to do it. But once Adrian Veidt and the new Rorschach arrived in the DC Universe, not to mention a thus far unsatisfying Comedian return, the story has wobbled a little, occasionally in danger of collapsing under the weight of its own ambition. The story has worked best when building out the Watchmen world, such as the introduction of new villains Marionette and Mime, but its DCU elements haven’t always held together.

    But Doomsday Clock #7 changes all of that. It's a genuine turning point not just in the story itself, but in the entire “Watchmen meets the DC Universe” concept that has been building since that first Rebirth special. Dr. Manhattan interfering with the formation of the Justice Society, who Watchmen’s Minutemen were clearly based on, has far reaching implications. Without Alan Scott as Green Lantern, the JSA never forms, delaying the age of superheroes, and with his death in 1940, he also never fathers the children who go on to become the heroes Jade and Obsidian, removing another key "legacy" aspect of the pre-52 DC Universe. The implication, of course, is that Dr. Manhattan made similar, seemingly small choices throughout the history of the DCU. We've known for years that he was responsible for changes to continuity, but it's the seeming mundanity of his actions, rather than some broad use of reality-warping power, is what makes it so chilling.

    And, of course, through it all we have Gary Frank’s art. Frank utilizes the famed Watchmen nine-panel grid more frequently in this issue than perhaps any of the previous ones, and when breaking from that, it’s always with maximum dramatic impact, such as the proper introduction of Dr. Manhattan to the story (who at one point appears to turn the page for the reader as he teleports). While Frank’s art is always gorgeous, and Doomsday Clock is always easy on the eyes, from a storytelling perspective, it feels like he has leveled up yet again.

    Doomsday Clock was met with skepticism from all corners of fandom, and the story itself promises to get far darker and stranger before it concludes. But here, with a renewed grasp of everything that worked in the first issue and what seems to be the first clear acknowledgment that the Justice Society, and thus, another crucial piece of DC history will be restored to their rightful place before we reach the finish line, Saturn Girl’s optimism doesn’t feel so misplaced.

    Doomsday Clock #7 is on sale now.

    Mike Cecchini is the Editor in Chief of Den of Geek. You can read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @wayoutstuff.

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    The second book in the Villains series doubles down on the X-Men parallels, but remains its own rich storytelling experience.

    ReviewKayti Burt
    Sep 26, 2018

    This Vengeful review contains minor spoilers for Vengeful and major spoilers for Vicious. Come read and discuss Vicious with us as part of the Den of Geek Book Club.

    Men don't have a monopoly on villainy, whatever pop culture may tell us. They don't have a monopoly on revenge, on anger, on ambition, on the effects of power as a corrupting force. This truth is at the heart of Vengeful—the highly-anticipated follow-up to V.E. Schwab's 2013 novel Vicious—out this week and not a moment too soon.

    Vengeful picks up five years after the events of Vicious, and those years have not been kind to this world's central characters. Victor is suffering from the increasingly-serious side effects of having been brought back from the proper dead. Eli has been locked inside of a cell at ExtraOrdinary Observation and Neutralization (EON), an organization set up to catch and contain EOs. Sydney is struggling with her part in Victor's condition, as well as the isolation that comes from being an 18-year-old stuck in a 13-year-old girl's body.

    If Vicious was reminiscent of Frankenstein (unintentionally, on Schwab's part), the story of two men who create monsters in themselves and each other, and then hunt each other to the ends of the Earth to vanquish that villainy, then Vengeful is X-Men: a fight for the future of EOs as a species, one defined by two differing opinions from within the EO community of what that future should look like. If Victor and Eli agree on one thing, it is that EOs belong in the shadows, they must never draw attention to themselves. For new character Marcella Riggins, EOs are the superior species—they deserve to shine.

    If Victor is the Charles, desperate to protect the innocent EOs (represented here by Sydney), then Marcella is the Erik, desperate to prove the superiority of the EOs and herself at any cost (save for the cost of her own power, of course). We even have a Mystique-like character in the form of June, an EO who wears other people the way you or I wear clothes. When she is injured wearing someone else's body, it is the person who suffers, not June. 

    Of course, as should be true with any original work of storytelling, the comparison fits poorly in places. This isn't X-Men, even if it shares some of the same narrative interests; it is its own rich, complex immorality tale. This story doesn't give us the relief of a Charles Xavier. As Schwab wrote in Vicious, "There are no good men in this game." In Vengeful, there aren't any good woman, either. (Save, perhaps, for Sydney.)

    Vengeful does a wonderful job of expanding what was already a textured world in Vicious. Through the continued exploration of familiar characters like Victor, Eli, Stell, Dom, Mitch, and Sydney and the introduction of new POV characters like Marcella, June, and Jonathan, we get new perspectives, new systems of morality, and different sets of priorities to measure against one another.

    Schwab has crafted a story about villainy, but, within that theme, she explores the resilience of attachment, of family, of love, of belonging—even for those who actively rail and struggle against it. Vengeful's characters fall into two categories: those who can love and those who cannot (or at least choose not to).

    Most fall into the first category, but, even for characters like Eli and Marcella, who fall firmly into the second, Schwab is not interested in dismissing their lack of empathy, their disinterest in accumulating social wealth, as less complex or less relatable. Vengeful looks at both ways of being through the same discerning lens, treating them as different degrees of humanity rather than different species altogether, and setting this story apart from more black-and-white tales of villainy and anti-heroism.

    Men don't have a monoploly on villainy, but power is an integral ingredient to any effective villain and men do disproportionately hold power in our society. This is a reality Villains series doesn't discount when bringing women more fully into the antagonist fold in Vengeful.

    "How many men would she have to turn to dust before one took her seriously?" Marcella Morgan asks in Vengeful, highlighting the fascinating, often cathartic complexities of this terrifying character. Marcella has no empathy. She craves power above all else and doesn't particularly care who has to die for her to get it. That being said, she takes a special delight in killing the men who have continually underestimated and belittled her, and there is something deeply cathartic about that.

    Marcella's EO powers exist because her husband beats her, then leaves her to die in their burning home, and it's not hard to root for his comeuppance, even while understanding that Marcella's motivations extend beyond simple vengeance.  

    "People looked at [Marcella] and assumed a whole lot. That a pretty face meant an empty head, that a girl like her was only after an easy life, that she would be satisfied with luxury, instead of power—as if you couldn't have both."

    Schwab excels at walking this tricky narrative tightrope between empathy and sympathy or, worse yet, glorification. She doesn't encourage the reader to revel in the destruction and pain her anti-heroes and antagonists cause, but she doesn't dismiss their actions as random acts of violence or cruelty divorced from relatable human emotion and motivation, either. She doesn't dismiss the addictive qualities of power. She simply says: power is rarely sustainable, and often not enough.

    We learn much more about Eli's tragic backstory in Vengeful. Schwab has spoken before about how much the Harry Potter book series meant to her growing up, and we see parallels between Eli's own backstory and Lord Voldemort's backstory in the Harry Potter series. Both were orphans, born to cruel fathers and robbed of stable family lives at a young age. (Eli's childhood, notably, included a deep connection to religion and, more enduringly, faith.) Both learned the art of charisma and likeability to compensate for their lack of belonging, learning how to wear affability as a disguise that tricked almost everyone. 

    Of course, Eli's mask of geniality never fooled Victor, which is what made their relationship so addicting to Eli when they first met at college. If to love someone is to truly see them, then Eli and Victor love each other—but what a twisted love it is. Our popular culture often confuses obsession with love, romantic codependency with committed monogamy, so it's refreshing to see Schwab continue to treat the dynamic between Eli and Victor as unhealthy and undesirable without sacrificing any of its narrative importance.

    "[Victor] turned toward Eli like a face toward a mirror. Like to like. It frightened and thrilled Eli, to be seen, and to see himself reflected."

    Their relationship is not a romantic one—Schwab describes Victor's asexuality in Vengeful, an identity that was only hinted at in Vicious—but it has the kind of all-consuming quality of fascination that is traditionally only reserved for romantic love stories in our culture. Eli sees Victor as a ghost when he believes him to be dead. When he has gone mad from torture and confinement, Victor is the hallucinatory companion he chooses for himself. It's not love, but it is something related: The desire to see and be seen. The addictive wonder of being chosen free of any social obligation. Again, there's something inherently human in the yearning for that privilege.

    We don't get more of Victor's backstory in Vengeful, aside from his first meetings with Eli from Eli's perspective, which means we must judge him mostly in the context of the book's presents. Victor, who hates the word "miracle," who doesn't believe in luck, who is slowly learning to take responsibility for his actions, even while methodically, stoically taking more lives and causing more pain.

    We do get more outside perspectives of Victor, one of the many ways in which Schwab's third-person narrative voice excels. From ex-soldier Dom, back again in Vengeful to do Victor's bidding in exchange for a life free of pain: "In Dom's head, Victor went around acting like the world was one big game of chess. Tapping people and saying, 'You're a pawn, you're a knight, you're a rook.'" Like Eli, Victor has a strict code of logic and morality, one that he sticks rigidly close to.

    Unlike Eli, however, Victor has a greater self-awareness of the subjectivity of that code. "There is no harm in seeing a creator behind the creation," Eli muses to Victor during one of their conversations at college, always ready to give responsibility for his actions to a higher power. Meanwhile, Victor spends the book lamenting the fact that he is the maker of his own fate, his own misery, his own consequence. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between? There is space for the reader in the exploration of this question, room to decide where your own personal belief system falls on the fate-to-free-will spectrum.

    June is the book's greatest mystery, seemingly intentionally so: a professional killer who wants a family to replace the one she refuses to go back to. "Blood is always family, but family doesn't always have to be blood," June tells Sydney, and we get the impression that June's story would have turned out very differently if she'd properly met Victor, Mitch, and Sydney earlier in the story. But also maybe not? June may not be lonely, or so she claims, but she chooses to be alone until she can find someone worthy.

    June is a question Schwab refuses to fully answer in Vengeful, and presumably we will get her backstory in the final book in the Villains trilogy. For now, much of June's character is defined by her relationship with Sydney, who she has decided is someone, amidst this group of struggling EOs, she longs to call family. (Frankly, it's a good choice, which tells us something else about June.)

    June's power grants her many advantages, but, unlike some of the other EOs in this book, June realizes that it is a hollow, broken kind of relationship that is based on power or force. June doesn't simply want to choose Sydney; she wants Sydney to choose her back. Of course, no one ever really listens to Sydney, a side effect of still being seen as a child. "I don't want you to save me," Sydney tells June at one point. "I want to save myself." Sydney's subtle arc in Vengeful is one of the book's most emotionally-rewarding.

    Schwab is a writer who values both form and content, both storytelling and style. Her prose is efficient, yet poetic—some of the best in the business, up there with Neil Gaiman. There is a confidence in structure, one that has previously been backed up by execution in Schwab's work, that allows readers to follow Schwab where she leads. This book is told in third-person, but its tapestry of perspective is so much more complex than that. Schwab weaves perspective like a French braid, pulling in new points-of-view, but never losing track of the story.

    All books race towards an ending, a climax, a point, but Vengeful does it with the weight of inevitability. It does it with a magnetism that suggests fate, but is actually the mark of a highly skilled writer. In her relatively short career, Schwab has proven herself time and again as a storyteller we can trust to have a worthwhile plan and to know how to effectively execute it. We trust Schwab like we trust any good writer: intuitively, with a kind of faith. With each page, the story grows faster, denser, and more inescapable, like all good books should. Vengeful, like Vicious before it, is one of those books, and Schwab is one of those writers. 

    Vengeful is now available to purchase via Macmillan, Amazon, or your local independent bookstore. Come discuss the Villains series with us over at the Den of Geek Book Club.

    Kayti Burt is a staff editor covering books, TV, movies, and fan culture at Den of Geek. Read more of her work here or follow her on Twitter @kaytiburt.

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    When DC has a Crisis, characters have to die.

    NewsMike Cecchini
    Sep 26, 2018

    This article contains Heroes in Crisis spoilers.

    For the last two years, DC has wisely kept their “event” schedule pretty light. Dark Nights: Metal was the first post-Rebirth DC Universe event story, and even that managed to be relatively self-contained (there were some non-essential crossovers to fill issues across the line), and its impact, while far-reaching, is still primarily being felt over in the Justice League books. Nobody’s buying habits were disrupted, and the “nothing will ever be the same” mindset that drives most comics events was instead focused more on the nature of reality in the DCU, rather than piling up a body count.

    But Metal was Metal, and Heroes in Crisis is, well, a Crisis. And with a DC Crisis comes a pile of character deaths. Specifically, any time you put the word “Crisis” in a title, it probably spells bad news for a Flash. In this case, bad news comes for the elder Wally West, only back in DC Universe continuity since 2016, found dead next to his Titans teammate, Roy “Arsenal” Harper. Both were killed during an apparent mass shooting by an unknown perpetrator. Whoever is responsible was able to take out a farmhouse full of metahumans including a Flash (in full costume no less) and apparently did it so quickly that Wally didn’t have time to exit a cozy living room.

    While minor heroes like Hot Spot, Blue Jay, and Lagoon Boy are expected cannon fodder in events like this, adding Wally West and Roy Harper to the list of off-panel deaths is a curious storytelling choice. Wally was the central force behind the DC Universe’s 2016 Rebirth, a symbol of all the “legacy” characters who were lost to time in the New 52. Since then, however, Wally has been adrift in a world that only half remembers him, and perhaps directionless in a publishing line that is already committed to a different, younger Wally West entirely. Wally’s frustrations came to the fore in the pages of Flash War, which ended with his seeking help at Sanctuary.

    Whether this issue reveals the true fate of Wally West and Roy Harper remains to be seen. The identity of their murderer will likely be the central mystery of the book, with this issue pointing a finger at Booster Gold and Harley Quinn for the horrific crime. This "the killer could be anyone...even you" yarn almost recalls the Armageddon 2001 days, when the identity of the villainous Monarch drove a multi-part story that drove DC fans crazy over the course of a summer.

    Heroes in Crisis is meant to spotlight Sanctuary, a technological retreat for the heroes of the DC Universe who need a place to process the trauma of their constant battles. But Sanctuary itself is such a new concept that I’m not sure how dramatic its fall is supposed to be here. Of course, these questions will be answered in future issues. Tom King is too talented a writer to dangle issues like this without a satisfying solution at the ready, but it’s an off-putting opening chapter (although a gorgeous one: Clay Mann’s art and Tomeu Morey’s colors are enthralling, and the warm, September afternoon feeling of the book only adds to the overall sense of dread).

    As other fans have pointed out, Heroes in Crisis feels like the kind of Crisis prelude we’ve seen before. Notably, 2005’s Identity Crisis, a wrongheaded exercise in “mature” superhero comics that fridged one superhero spouse after the rape of another, all in the name of an unfolding murder mystery and a “grounded” Justice League story. Its implications were all meant to lay the groundwork for the bigger, cosmic Crisis waiting in the wings (that was Infinite Crisis). While DC hasn’t officially confirmed that there’s another cosmic Crisis coming, recent events in The Flash and Justice Leaguesure point to something brewing, and whatever burdens our heroes have to carry in the wake of the tragic events of Heroes in Crisis will surely carry over into this mystery event.

    DC has been on a spectacular hot streak in recent years, producing book after book that gets the essence of their characters right at a frequency and with a consistency that I haven’t seen in a decade or more. King has been a key factor, with his ongoing Batman series drawing critical acclaim (and headlines) and producing (with artist Mitch Gerards) a genuinely groundbreaking comics masterpiece with Mister Miracle. But there’s something missing from this first chapter of Heroes in Crisis, as well as an unwelcome familiarity from years past. King, his body of work, and the sincerity with which he wants to approach the issues that would make Sanctuary necessary in the DC Universe, all deserve both our attention and the benefit of the doubt, but Heroes in Crisis is off to a perplexing start.

    Mike Cecchini is the Editor in Chief of Den of Geek. You can read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @wayoutstuff.

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    We take a closer look at how this modern retelling of epic poem Beowulf gets creative with point-of-view.

    Feature Megan Crouse
    Sep 26, 2018

    The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley does what the best genre stories can: illustrates the real world in a new way through fantastical elements.

    A retelling of Beowulf, the new novel from Susan Bennett combines evocations of monsters and myths with the contemporary story of the clash between two suburban mothers—one an affluent housewife, the other a war-haunted veteran. But it is The Mere Wife's use of the collective point-of-view—in particular, a group of five women serving as both a classic Greek chorus in addition to characters in their own right, as well as the perspectives of an ancient mountain—that is the novel's most unique and powerful element. 

    I was initially skeptical thatThe Mere Wife would suit my usual genre-heavy reading tastes. As it turns out, its lyrical wording, deeply felt anger, and emotionally rich characters makes it one of my favorite literary novels. I'm also happy to point out the fanastical elements below. It's a book about monsters that aren't quite monsters and people who become monsters and people trying to escape monstrousness, a conversation about modern society as well as about Beowulf.

    Beowulf as a text is fertile ground for reinterpretation and changes in emphasis. Author John Gardner mined it in 1971 for his novel Grendel, which painted the titular monster as violent and philosophical. Beowulf in its original form (or at least, the form considered standard) is an epic poem in which the monster known as Grendel terrorizes Heorot, the great hall of a Scandanavian king. The hero Beowulf slays Gredel. Similarly he kills Grendel's mother, after a battle in a cavern under a lake. Lastly, Beowulf returns in triumph to his homeland, where he also slays a dragon.  

    Read The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley

    From this framework, Headley added musics on what monstrousness and humanity means today. She also emphasizes the importance of characters' placement in their world. “I want the world to talk,” Headley said, speaking at the Brooklyn Book Festival in September. She said that she was interested in the ways in which characters interact with the natural world, and so used the mountain’s point of view to directly show those interactions.

    The mountain which contains the titular mere also emphasize one of the many injustices the book deals with. Dana Mills, the soldier who returned home from Afghanistan with a baby from a father she can’t remember, used to live on land now occupied by a luxury gated community called Herot Hall.

    Dana Mills takes the part of Grendel’s mother. Her son’s name is Gren, and the degree to which he resembles the monstrous Grendel is one of the many careful ways the book plays with the original story. Their enemies in Heorot Hall are recast as ambitious, ferocious society wife Willa Herot, our other main mother character, and police officer Ben Woolf. 

    Using the mountain’s perspective brings poetic beauty to the text. It also gives the prose some unique capabilities that the human characters’ singular and collective perspectives could not do. It emphasizes the importance of narrative to the story, adds depth and resonance, and creates distance between the reader and the characters in key moments. 

    For genre readers, it adds an element of magical realism. Whether or not the perspective is a literal creature or creatures isn’t part of the novel’s purview, but it does read like the voice of another monster or set of monsters. If the land is a monster, it is one that has been abused, its body trod over and changed beyond its will. The themes of injustice enacted upon the people in the book are present in the land’s perspective as well. The mountain remembers the people who once lived there, and the glory of their constructions.

    “Earth’s a thieved place,” it says. “Everything living needs somewhere to be.” 

    The mountain has a bias, one that is connected to Dana Mills’ story. Dana’s PTSD-rattled experience moves in and out of her connection to the land. "There isn’t enough earth for everyone … Parts of the world are secret and parts are sour. Parts are drenched and parts are dust—" She grew up on this land, which has since been built over to make the gated community. The horror of this theft is felt upon Dana, who now lives in the abandoned tunnels, and also upon the land itself. Its relationship to the suburb is antagonistic: Willa thinks of it as a haunted place, full of wild animals.

    This perspective also adds distance. During a scene in which Ben Woolf attacks Gren and his mother, the perspective of the mere puts space between the reader and the horror of the situation. Were the reader in Ben’s perspective, it could become an action scene. Were the reader in Gran’s perspective, it could become a slasher movie. As neither, the mythic aspect is preserved. Ben Wolf remains frightening: “…we feel the man’s memories of violence, places he’s been in the past, bodies he’s buried, sand he’s scraped over secrets.” ... But this horror is not immediate. The mountain contextualizes and mythologizes it.

    One of the themes explicitly called out later on is the question of how a hero or a monster is defined. “Their world isn’t large enough for monsters and heroes at once. There’s too much danger of confusion between the two categories.” The mere does not define which one Ben is, although its sadness guides the reader to a conclusion. Using the mountain’s perspective here dissuades the reader from thinking of Ben as a hero. He’s an intruder, a murderer, no matter what he thinks his own motivations may be. 

    The mountain's perspective has its own unused agency, a sense of potential movement. It increases tension. “We consider a flood. The mountain quivers and material falls from above him, fine dirt hourglassing down over his face.” This sentence increases that potential in many ways. It "considers," but does not act. As well as the physical threat of movement, the word “hourglassing” gives the impression of a countdown. This sense of potential movement continues as events at the end of the book accelerate. 

    This perspective also adds depth. Some of that is literal: the mountain is aware of its own caves and pits, of the history of the land. The mere is a natural place, a bastion of animal and human history. The mountain is cluttered with fossils as well as human detritus, including an abandoned train inside a still mostly-furnished station. In a less literal sense, it invites the reader to think about the effect the land has on human bodies and human effort has on the land. 

    Overall, the mountain’s perspective enhances the hauntedness of the book. Combined with Headley’s poetic and smooth prose, it contributes to making the novel a powerful and effective blend of fantasy and realism. 

    The Mere Wife is now available to purchase via Amazon or your local independent bookstore. Check out our hubs for more recommended science fiction and fantasy suggestions, or head over to the Den of Geek Book Club to talk speculative fiction!

    Megan Crouse writes about Star Wars and pop culture for, Star Wars Insider, and Den of Geek. Read more of her work here. Find her on Twitter @blogfullofwords.

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    S.L. Huang, author of science fiction thriller Zero Sum Game, finds inspiration in the female mathematicians who have come before.

    NewsDen of Geek Staff
    Sep 26, 2018

    This is a guest post from S.L. Huang, debut author of Zero Sum Game, a near-future science fiction thriller about a math-genius mercenary named Cas Russell.

    As part of Tor’s #FearlessWomen campaign, and as the author of a near-future thriller that’s about an anti-heroine whose superpower is doing math really, really fast—and who uses it to kill a few too many people—I want to talk about #FearlessWomen in mathematics!

    The real ones, that is.

    I’ve loved math since before I could remember. And since I was little, one of my favorite things has also been reading up on the biographies and personal lives of mathematicians. Did you think mathematicians were all emotionless logicians? Heck no! Mathematicians are some of the most fascinating, emotional, and nonsensical people, and they are so fun to read about. The massive controversies about the Axiom of Choice, the feud between Newton and Leibniz, the long friendship of Hardy and Littlewood…

    And though I myself never felt ostracized as a woman in mathematics, I also found myself seeking out the stories of female mathematicians. History is full of women who have made amazing discoveries in the world of mathematics, and they are badass. Here are just a few...

    Ada Lovelace

    Ada Lovelace wrote the first ever computer program—for a machine that hadn’t ever been built. That’s some kind of abstract thinking! She was buddies with Charles Babbage, and somehow I feel this excellent comic by Sydney Padua that depicts them as teaming up in a steampunk pocket universe and fighting crime is exceptionally spiritually accurate.

    Lovelace struggled with many personal demons, including mental illness, and has a way of emphasizing words in her surviving personal communications that tickles me—it endears her to me as a real human being instead of only a towering historical intellect.

    Sophie Germain

    Perhaps best known for her investigations of the eponymous Germain Primes in number theory, Sophie Germain mathematical studies had a rocky start: her parents felt mathematics was inappropriate for a girl and denied her warmth or light to work by.

    Undaunted, young Sophie would hide away candles in her room and study while shivering in blankets. I think I would have given up on some of my textbooks if I had to read them in freezing candlelight! Fortunately, her mathematical contemporaries—including Lagrange and Gauss—did not let the fact that she was a woman stop them from recognizing her brilliance, and she was able to make major contributions despite being barred from official studies at the École Polytechnique.


    Hypatia was who Young SL Huang found when I looked up the earliest recorded female mathematician in history. A mathematician and philosopher in ancient Alexandria, Hypatia was well-recognized within her time—until she was violently murdered by a mob (possibly... probably?) by being flayed to death by oyster shells. To my knowledge, however, this didn’t have to do with her being a woman, but was a politically-motivated murder committed because Hypatia was just that much of a mover and shaker in intellectual Alexandria.

    Katherine Johnson

    An African-American mathematician most recently made more famous by the movie Hidden Figures, the real Katherine Johnson is even more interesting to me than her (brilliantly written) film version. Johnson was a critical mind in making the early NASA space missions possible, and has talked about how aggressive she had to be as a woman working on a team of predominantly male scientists in the 1960’s.

    Johnson has also been candid about how, while doing the job, the math was what mattered—that she knew the segregation and prejudice surrounded her, but she didn’t really feel it. Her film version makes a great protagonist, but reading about Johnson herself—she feels so much more like a real person, and an incredible one.

    The above four mathematicians are only a few of the people who captured my imagination as a child and young adult. Mathematics is full of #FearlessWomen. Even beyond the lists of the famous, I met plenty of women doing my own math studies who are brilliant, creative, and downright impressive people.

    Now, as an author who writes about the cool side of math—I must immediately disclaim that the violent, mercenary, slightly kill-happy mathematician who’s the heroine of my Cas Russell series is based on none of these real women. (I dare say they wouldn’t consider it a compliment if she were!)

    But neither is the act of writing a badass female mathematician something that exists in a vacuum for me. My own journey studying mathematics, and my eventual fictional creations, are all part of the fabric of a world in which a broad diversity of real, amazing, human women have helped shaped the field I love.

    Zero Sum Game is available for pre-order via Amazon or your local independent store. It hits bookshelves on October 2nd.

    SL Huang is an Amazon-bestselling author whose debut novel, Zero Sum Game, is upcoming from Tor. Her short fiction has sold to Strange Horizons, Analog, and The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016. She is also an MIT graduate, stuntwoman, and firearms expert. Follow her at or @sl_huang.

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    The Walking Dead season 9 could arrive with the comic series’ most infamous time jump. What will “A New Beginning” look like?

    Feature Alec Bojalad
    Sep 26, 2018

    This Walking Dead article contains spoilers.

    If you watched The Walking Dead season 8 finale, "Wrath," you may have noticed an interesting trend. Rick Grimes had quite a bit to say about "a new world" or a "new beginning."

    In fact, the entirety of season eight and its finale seemed to be setting up the arrival of a very different world. A world where not only is there no all out war against the Saviors, there is no war at all. 

    Well, season 8 may have been foreshadowing something very specific. The next saga in The Walking Dead comic universe looks very different from everything that came before it. Robert Kirkman tried something rather experimental in terms of storytelling and time jumps. 

    Given what we've seen in footage from Season 9, it's clear that The Walking Dead season 9 will be adapting "A New Beginning" this season.

    Read on to find out what "A New Beginning" entails. But beware - the following contains HUGE spoilers for The Walking Dead comic series and possibly the TV show.

    New Faces

    The Walking Dead’s Volume 22 “A New Beginning” represents a dramatic time jump for the series that allows writer Kirkman a chance to interact with his characters in a new context. On a capitalistic level though, it also conveniently provides an easy jumping on point for viewers of the TV show who want to give the comic a shot but are intimidated by the 126 issues already in circulation. 

    To help with both those artistic and financial goals, “A New Beginning” introduces several new characters right off the bat to serve as our guides to this new world. Issue 127 opens with a new group of survivors we haven’t met before. A woman named Magna is their de facto leader and other members include Luke, Yumiko, Kelly, Connie, and Bernie. Magna’s group is experiencing a bit of a crisis. They’ve survived the zombie apocalypse by traveling around with a trailer that was hitched to horses. The trailer is no longer a safe haven as Magna’s group quickly and unexpectedly becomes surrounded by a group of walkers that emerge from the woods. 

    Magna nearly gets bit on the arm before our old friend Paul “Jesus” Monroe arrives to rescue them, though sadly Bernie is killed by the horde. Jesus shepherds (hehe) Magna and her remaining crew to Alexandria where they act as the reader’s cipher, being introduced to a world and a community that is completely foreign to us now that two years have passed (though producers say the time jump in the show will be one and a half years).

    Since Magna and her friends’ introduction, the comic series hasn’t found many relevant or interesting things to do with them. They largely functioned as an introduction into this new time-jumped storyline and have operated only as tertiary characters since then, though Magna and Yumiko have seen more opportunities as of late. Still, they’re an important part of the time jump and the show may even find some renewed uses for them beyond that. 

    “A New Beginning” also introduces the character of Siddiq, but we’re already pretty familiar with him. The only question is whose role from the comics will he take on in season 9? Another character the volume introduces is someone we may have already seen. Dante (more on him in the fourth section) is a head-strong and charming Hilltop soldier who develops feelings for Maggie. Dante kind of resembles a current character on The Walking Dead season 8 - the captured Savior soldier turned sympathetic Hilltoper named Alden (Callan McAuliffe). He certainly seems to harbor a lot of respect for Maggie Rhee. With Lauren Cohan leaving the show midseason, maybe they'll find someone else for Alden. I hear Michonne will soon be available...

    New Looks for Old Faces

    The Jesus who rescues Magna’s group looks a bit different from the Jesus we’re used to. As it turns out, people can change quite a bit in two years. Take a look at the man that fans have endearingly referred to as “Bushido Jesus.”

    Paul has let his hair grow out and it makes him look more badass than ever before. Almost all of the key characters look different in “A New Beginning.” Not only that but they are sometimes slightly different people overall from who we’re used to. 

    Rick is now “Old Man Rick.” He’s shaved his graying hair, walks with a limp thanks to Negan, and now has a prosthetic hand covering up his stump. That likely won’t be a part of the show, as Rick’s hands remain accounted for.

    The old Sheriff has essentially retired from the life of adventuring and has settled into the role of Alexandria’s full-time leader. He’s a welcome face for all new potential citizens.

    His son, Carl is growing into a pretty relatable young man himself. 

    Pictured: “relatable.”

    The show, of course, has made the baffling decision to kill off Carl, so maybe when season nine opens, Siddiq will be missing an eye and take to wearing cool bandanas.

    Like Rick, Maggie has embraced her leadership role at the Hilltop. Her appearance and demeanor changes as a result. She appears to be more “motherly” while the general aura she projects is that of a resolute leader more than ever before. 

    Rick and Maggie actors Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan will be departing the show at some point next season so our appreciation of their new looks will be fleeting.

    Dwight has finally realized that growing his hair out will cover that ugly burn. He is now a full-time Alexandrian and is an important deputy and ally to Rick, much like Tyreese and Abraham in the comics and Daryl on the show. Dwight's role in season nine will likely change now that Daryl has scared him off. He may not appear next season at all.

    No character, however, has undergone a bigger change than Negan. Once the “swinging dick of the world,” Negan is now a prisoner at Alexandria. His hair and beard are overgrown and unkempt but he does maintain his rather dark sense of humor. Both Rick and Carl like to visit him in his cell during times of need as though he is their own private Hannibal Lecter. He’s an asshole and therefore knows how other assholes that Alexandria might encounter will act.

    Other characters haven’t had extreme makeovers physically but do begin the new arc in quite different places. Eugene has gone from cowardly pariah to one of the most important men in the new world. His ability to carefully read and follow instructions have made him Alexandria’s foremost scientist and engineer.

    Michonne has quite simply run away after the traumatic events of All Out War. She now lives in Oceanside and spends her days fishing for the network of communities. Since Michonne’s role on the television show has evolved quite a bit, it remains to be seen if she will run away from Rick as well. Carol seems like a stronger bet to have been emotionally affected by war and to prefer the fishing lifestyle, although we see her return to the Kingdom at the end of the season eight finale.

    Alexandria Block Party

    In addition to most major characters receiving a makeover, Alexandria receives one itself. Following "All Out War" in both the show and comics, Alexandria is in rough shape. It's been attacked by gunfire, grenades, and more. Many houses are just burnt out husks. By the time "A New Beginning" roles around, Alexandria has largely recovered.

    Buildings have been rebuilt for one, but more importantly, the Alexandrians are building new things on their own. Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom all have thriving agriculture and trade with each other. Even Oceanside and the Sanctuary are involved in this trade network that is meticulously maintained through well-guarded and patrolled routes. 

    Thanks to the genius of Eugene, Alexandria has windmills, grain houses, irrigation, and many other Medieval-era luxuries. In the comics, Kirkman correctly assumes that all readers will accept these modest technological advancements within a relatively short timeframe. The show, however, has already introduced an agent of change to quicken the pace. Remember Georgie and her gift of knowledge to Maggie? That knowledge comes in the form of books and Eugene is still around to read those books - should he finally switch sides.

    So what do the Alexandrians do now that they have an extended era of peace and prosperity? Throw a party of course! The three volumes that season nine is likely to cover are "A New Beginning,""Whispers into Screams," and "Life and Death" (or issues 127-144). All of these volumes deal with the Alexandrians planning a spring festival for members of all the communities to visit. The festival finally comes around in "Life and Death" and all in all it goes pretty well! 

    Alexandrians, Hilltoppers, Kingdomers, ex-Saviors, and Oceansiders are all able to trade their wares with one another. Eugene even finds a nice CB radio that could come in handy. Things turn dark, however, when people start to go missing from the festival and then a line of heads on stakes are discovered on the outskirts of the communities' territory. The Whisperers have arrived.

    The Whisperers

    Nearly every era of The Walking Dead is defined by a singular villain. The early years were the Governor and Woodbury and then Negan and the Saviors. At first, "A New Beginning" looks like it will just be a leisurely study in agriculture and farming techniques for our protagonists. Alas, that is not to be, as the end of the volume introduces a new, dangerous, and - quite frankly - disgusting threat. 

    The Whisperers are a group of individuals who have chosen to survive the zombie apocalypse by becoming the dead. They remove the flesh and viscera of corpses and wrap it around themselves as gruesome coats and masks. This is the strategy of masking one's scent from the walking dead that Rick and the other characters sometimes use. The Whisperers, however, take it to the absolute extreme - living most of their lives within those undead "costumes."

    The Whisperers received their name from frightened Hilltoppers and Alexandrians who hear their "whispers," as the villains walk among the dead. A group, led by new character Dante, is ordered by Maggie to go find and rescue a member of a missing caravan. They eventually run afoul of this group of Whisperers, making first contact. Dante is taken hostage and the communities must gather together to negotiate his release. 

    The Whisperers will offer a fascinating new dynamic for the show. Their "society" is somewhat bestial and completely amoral, similar to the TV show's "The Wolves." They eschew names altogether. Their leader, a middle-aged woman, is named "Alpha." And her second-in-command, a hulking seven-foot tall man, is called "Beta."

    Alpha and Beta have both been cast for Season 9. As has Alphas's daughter, full steam ahead on the Whisperers.

    The communities and the Whisperers eventually go to war, but that might be a story for another season. The Walking Dead season 9 will be jam-packed as is with just these few volumes.

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    Anne Rice's vampire Lestat receives his Blood Communion. New trailer promises he bows to no one.

    Trailers Tony Sokol
    Sep 27, 2018

    "This is my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. Take this, all of you and drink it," an old superstar once said. The rabbi Jesus of Nazareth also offered up at least a quarter pound of flesh but current Eucharistic recipient Lestat is no cannibal. The breakout star of Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles novel series will receive a sanguine transubstantiation when her upcoming book Blood Communion: A Tale of Prince Lestat spills out on October 2.

    Lestat didn't bow to the devil, god or the Children of Satan or the dwellers of Atlantis, the trailer reminds us. He is not about to start bowing now, except maybe in conquest. He writes for all blood drinkers even as he takes his throne as the Brat Prince of bloodsuckers.

    You can watch the trailer here:

    The eleventh book in the series will tell how Lestat came to rule the vampire world. He didn't do it by hosting Goth nights. He went toe-to-toe and fang-to-fang with all usurpers. The book will also get into how the Blood Communion was created so already doubly departed Vampire Chronicles characters can be resurrected for long-time readers.

    Further reading: Anne Rice Drops Snippet of Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis

    It just might be the dawn of a new vampire era for the Rice dynasty, Anne and her son Christopher have also been dropping teasers for the Interview with a Vampire-inspired series coming to Hulu.

    "I frequently post about the forthcoming Vampire Chronicles TV series, but Lestat's adventures continue this October in print with the release of BLOOD COMMUNION." Christopher Rice tweeted on August 14. "Barnes & Noble is releasing a special SIGNED edition. You can pre-order it here."

    The publisher offered up the following synopsis:

    The Vampire Chronicles continue with a riveting, rich saga--part adventure, part fairy-tale--of Prince Lestat and the story of the Blood Communion as he tells the tale of his coming to rule the vampire world and the eternal struggle to find belonging, a place in the universe for the undead, and how, against his will, he must battle the menacing, seemingly unstoppable force determined to thwart his vision and destroy the entire vampire netherworld.

    In this spellbinding novel, Lestat, rebel outlaw, addresses the tribe of vampires, directly, intimately, passionately, and tells the mesmerizing story of the formation of the Blood Communion and how he became Prince of the vampire world, the true ruler of this vast realm, and how his vision for all the Children of the Universe to thrive as one, came to be.

    Further reading: Interview With The Vampire and the Origin of Remorseful Bloodsuckers

    The tale spills from Lestat’s heart, as he speaks first of his new existence as reigning monarch–and then of his fierce battle of wits and words with the mysterious  Rhoshamandes, proud Child of the Millennia, reviled outcast for his senseless slaughter of the legendary ancient vampire Maharet, avowed enemy of Queen Akasha; Rhoshamandes, a demon spirit who refuses to live in harmony at the Court of Prince Lestat and threatens all that Lestat has dreamt of.

    Further reading: The Vampire Chronicles TV Series Set to Arrive on Hulu

    As the tale unfolds, Lestat takes us from the towers and battlements of his ancestral castle in the snow-covered mountains of France to the verdant wilds of lush Louisiana with its lingering fragrances of magnolias and night jasmine; from the far reaches of the Pacific’s untouched islands to the 18th-century city of St. Petersburg and the court of the Empress Catherine.

    Lestat was supposed to have finally been put down in the final installment of Rice's Mayfair Witches book series. But long time fans didn't have to hold their breaths very long. Certainly not as long as Lestat did when he visited the mythical nautical kingdom of Atlantis in the previous book, Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis.

    Further reading: Underworld’s Vampire/Werewolf War Is Not a Universal Battle

    Blood Communion: A Tale of Prince Lestat will be available for purchase on October 2.

    Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City's Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.

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    Batman: Curse of the White Knight brings Sean Murphy's unique take on Batman back to DC Comics.

    NewsJohn Saavedra
    Sep 28, 2018

    Batman: White Knight, the limited series from writer-artist Sean Murphy, is getting a sequel in 2019 called Curse of the White Knight. The new series, which was unveiled by Paste, will be published under DC's adult-oriented Black Label imprint.

    Curse of the White Knight sees the return of the Joker, who has relapsed back to his villainous ways after being rehabilitated in the first series and becoming a social activist named Jack Napier (that name should ring some bells). This time around, he's not content with just exposing Batman as Gotham's true menace, though. The Joker knows a secret about the Wayne family and plans to use it to break the Dark Knight. 

    Here's the official synopsis from DC:

    In this explosive sequel to Sean Murphy’s critically acclaimed blockbuster Batman: White Knight, the Joker recruits a savage partner to help him expose a shocking revelation about the Wayne family’s legacy and run Gotham into the ground. As Batman rushes to protect the city and his loved ones from this corrupt conspiracy, the mystery of his ancestry unravels and deals a devastating blow to the Dark Knight. Exciting new villains and unexpected allies will clash across history in this unforgettable chapter of the White Knight saga—and the truth about the blood they shed will shake Gotham to its core!

    Related Article: The Joker Is Dead in New Batman Limited Series

    Murphy will also introduce his version of Azrael, the assassin-turned-vigilante who took over as Batman in the early '90s after Bane broke Bruce's back in the "Knightfall" story arc. While Azreal (real name Jean-Paul Valley) took a villainous turn in the tail end of "Knightfall," he eventually became one of Batman's allies in Gotham. But Murphy plans to do something a little different with the character.

    "I want to unlock his full potential," Murphy explained in an Instagram post. "Reinvent him a bit."

    Murphy also told Paste that he's "rewriting a former Batman ally to become a threat far greater than the Joker ever was. But more on that later." 

    Whether he means Azrael or another character remains to be seen. We suspect we'll hear more about this new book as we approach the release date. We'll keep you updated!

    John Saavedra is an associate editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9

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  • 10/01/18--09:05: Batman Hunts the KGBeast
  • In this exclusive preview of Batman #56, The Dark Knight takes on his deadliest foe: election interference. Lol/jk he's an assassin.

    NewsJim Dandy
    Oct 1, 2018

    I'm not one to get excited for solicitations, but when DC sent over this exclusive first look at the next issue of Tom King's Batman, the solicit text took me on a bit of a roller coaster ride. 

    See for yourself...

    BATMAN #56 written by TOM KING
    art by TONY S. DANIEL
    enhanced foil cover art by TONY S. DANIEL
    variant cover by FRANCESCO MATTINA
    The Dark Knight’s looking to drop both the hammer and sickle on the KGBeast, whose rampage across Gotham City takes a toll on Nightwing when he’s injured in the fray. Blaming himself for his ward’s fate, Batman gets grimmer than usual—and vows to take the Russian assassin down like the Berlin Wall. Is even Gotham City ready for that much violence? The streets will run red like borscht if the Dark Knight gets his way against this Soviet scourge.

    Let me take you on the ride I went on.

    1. "Oh shit, the KGBeast! Hell yes, I'm in for this." Every time the KGBeast shows up in a Batman comic, it's at a bare minimum a ridiculous amount of fun. The most recent was I think in All-Star Batman, Scott Snyder's intro to the absurd and beloved Metal, where he was hunting Batman along with the rest of the world.

    2. "Whoa, Tony Daniel is at a whole new level." Look at these pages! This is a far cry from the "slightly more dynamic David Finch" that we got back when he was working with Grant Morrison during Batman: RIP. The faces are more cartoony and exaggerated while still retaining Daniel's usual thickness and density in his figures. It's almost like he's taking his cues from Greg Capullo, or aiming for Jim Lee-drawing-high-school-manga. And man it is great to read.

    3. "Wait shit that was KGBeast?" It's my fault really, that I didn't read Batman #55closely enough. I assumed the one-handed man who came into Gotham and shot Nightwing in the head was just a random mob/supercriminal assassin. Not THE one-handed mob/supercriminal assassin. Seriously, his appearance in the last issue was so subtle and understated that this was one of the best surprises I've had in comics in a while.

    Take a look...

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