The PQ Archive: ‘Power Up’ #3 Feels Slow, But Oddly Warm

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


Written by Kate Leth
Illustrated by Matt Cummings
Published by Boom! Studios

The Leth/Cummings magical girl miniseries has hit its midpoint, and our heroes celebrate this by stopping at Sandy’s house for tea, trying to parse out their powers. Much like ascending into adulthood, neither Amie, Kevin or Sandy really what to do with their powers, or where they came from. Sandy knows that she’s really strong and that she can fly (which her two teenagers wish was genetic). Kevin has some magical girl type uniform and powers that swap out with his regular clothes whenever he transforms, but the swap doesn’t work in reverse. Amie, however, can’t seem to understand why her powers haven’t come back. This meeting at Sandy’s house gets cut short by another attack on the pet shop that they come across when they go to get a tank for the superpowered Silas. This leads to Amie getting fired from her job. Poor girl…

While the character moments and interactions in this issue were nice and made the characters more relatable, especially with Sandy being a totally adorable and sweet mom and Amie’s struggle to get by as a former art student in debt, the pacing of this issue just felt off. With only one action scene starting 12 pages into the comic, it doesn’t feel like the reader is any closer to understanding the backstory. Hopefully, later issues could prove that wrong with the reveal at the end that video was captured of the three earlier that day. At least put an interesting spin on the typical magical girl story.

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Cummings’ art is gorgeous and dynamic as usual, but his strengths definitely lie in action scenes. His colors on the quieter scenes in Sandy’s house feel warm and lived in and the character designs and expressions are absolutely delightful, but it doesn’t feel like (and pardon the pun) the full blast of what Cummings is capable of. Once the characters start fighting with the Toriyama-esque villain of the issue, and Silas turns into a killer blast whale again, the issue picks up considerably.

Between the odd pacing and quieter moments, Power Up #3 doesn’t feel like the best representation of what the comic could be capable of. There is potential for the story to pick up further in the last three issues, but it feels slow for a story that only has three issues left. With the ending of Amie getting fired and their identities leaking onto the Internet, Power Up still has potential of picking up before it ends.


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The PQ Archive: ‘Lumberjanes’ #18 Is A Fun Transition Issue

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


Lumberjanes-018-A-Main-e1266Written by Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh
Art by Carolyn Nowak
Colors by Maarta Laiho
Letters by Aubrey Aiese
Published by Boom! Studios

It’s a new arc and a new adventure for the intrepid Lumberjanes in #18, but that’s not the only thing new. Joining the creative team after co-writer and co-creator Noelle Stevenson’s departure is Kat Leyh, creator of the webcomic Supercakes, but not Power UpThat’s Kate Leth.

With the start of a new arc and a new writer, there is a somewhat obvious tonal change. The last arc did get a bit dark in the latter issues as former Lumberjane Abigail became obsessed with the Grootslang that lived in the mountains outside the camp. It was a very Stevenson touch that recalled back the end of her webcomic Nimona. This arc opens on a sunny day on the lake with some ducks… as some merpeople get into a violent fight as our girls look on. Or rather, they look at April rather pointedly instead.

The issue flashes back, showing the girls hanging out by the lake fishing when Jo catches a leather jacket in the lake. Up to the surface comes Harlow, a merwoman with a purple mohawk, who’s not very happy about Jo “stealing” her jacket. April becomes starstruck because she’s been obsessed with mermaids her entire life. This is immediately where it feels a bit different because the arcs so far have not really had spotlight characters. There have been characters that have had leads in certain parts, but it still always felt like an ensemble book. It was bound to happen eventually when the book switched from a miniseries to ongoing, and it makes sense to do it now after a big arc like the previous one. Plus, Leyh is very good at character beats, both silly and poignant, in a way that’s complementary to the style set up by Watters and Stevenson.

However, it does feel like her voice is still working its way into the comic. It is her first issue after all, but a lot of it is spent on exposition of Harlow’s background of her friendship with her fellow merwoman Taylor and their falling out after Harlow left their band after signing a record deal and less on the shenanigans of the Lumberjanes. It does set those up for future issues though after April declares that they’re going to get the band back together, much to the annoyance of her friends, who just want to go to the Bandicoot Bacchanal back at camp. There are also some great character moments though with the tension between Harlow and the other merpeople and the loving look Jen gives Ripley after pulling her out of the lake. Actually, all of the moments with Jen in this issue are pretty great. As it should be.

Back on art for this issue is Carolyn Nowak, who illustrated the mini arc in issues 10 through 12 about Mal and Molly getting sent back in time with the Bearwoman as Jo, April, and Ripley tried to get as many badges as possible in one day. Nowak is very good at the more “zany” style of cartooning, which is what this arc about punk rock mermaids needs. Complemented by Maarta Laiho’s soft and vibrant colors, Nowak’s character faces are expressive and hilarious. I laughed out loud at April’s slow and wide-eyed realization that she was talking to a merperson, and the girls’ reaction to the giant lake monster that nearly attacks them before Harlow interferes. These are moments that would not quite hit the same with Brooke Allen’s style so it’s nice to see Watters and Leyh playing to Nowak’s strengths.

While it does feel like a transition issue, Lumberjanes #18 was a fun start to a new arc with a new writer. With April taking lead and Nowak’s expressive artwork, it should be fun to see where this mermai- er, merwomyn arc ends up.


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The PQ Archive: ‘The Wicked + The Divine’ #14 – An Issue With A Lot To Process

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Jamie McKelvie
Colors by Matt Wilson and Dee Cunniffe
Published by Image Comics, Inc.

Taking the concept of having a DJ god to a new level, Gillen and McKelvie deliver an issue using mostly previously used art and remixed it to get inside the head of Woden, the actual worst member of the Pantheon. In this issue, we learn that he’s the lapgod of Ananke and confirms she really is as evil as the readers thought she was. Maybe even more so.

Just as wicked as her, is the focal piece Woden. After the last issue featuring the tragic story of Tara, I was worried that Woden was going to suddenly be treated as sympathetic in that way that the treatment of Grant Ward made Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D infuriating to watch all of last season.

In the structure of the story, Gillen and McKelvie use similar structure to issue #13, getting inside Woden’s head and having him be the narrator of his own story and making you feel kind of complicit in his actions. However, instead of being the sympathetic tragedy of Tara and the commentary of pop star martyrdom, it was like taking a trip inside the head of a Redditor with godlike powers and the fame of a superstar DJ. By the end, you feel like you need to take a shower from just how awful being in that hot seat feels. There’s even one stomach-churning scene where Team WicDiv finally gets their revenge on Team Sex Criminals for The Licked + The Divine as Woden gets off on images of Luci and Amaterasu, but it’s not anything that you would have expected. What makes Woden’s attitude and treatment of women even worse is knowing that there will be some reader out there who looks at what he’s saying and doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with it.

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While the issue does mostly use previously created art with really only two pages of new art, it still feels kinetic. With creative use of color and glitches, not only do we get a look inside of Woden’s head in the words, we get to see it visually as well. Everything around him and his memories is a remix. It feels jumpy and unsettling and takes unreliable narration to a new level. It’s hard not to imagine Woden as the kind of DJ who likes to mess with his audience, delaying a bass drop or mixing in J-Pop with some deep house track because he thinks it’s funny. Even with the disgust in sinking into Woden’s mentality, the issue warrants multiple reads to process the art and catch where it was all previously used.

The end of the issue leaves off on a cliffhanger that’s going to leave the fandom that inspired the look of this issue speculating for a while. With no definitive answers and a look into the head of Ananke’s number one, the scent of betrayal is definitely lingering around. Or is that just the smell from Woden’s leather?

Not shying away from experimentation or just how awful Woden is as a person, Gillen and McKelvie bring forth another stellar issue of The Wicked + The Divine that solves a few mysteries and yanks back the curtain on two of the most mysterious members of the Pantheon, and the use of recycled and remixed art adds a clever touch on telling the story from the DJ’s perspective, even if he is the actual worst god-human alive. To paraphrase Cassandra, he’s not stupid, he’s just evil, and thankfully, this issue isn’t trying to make excuses for him. It just goes to show that just because you’re a douche doesn’t mean you’re going to be tragic.


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Headbands and Heartstrings

This is another old Tumblr post, but I’m making a concentrated effort to save a bunch of my old Tumblr posts that I’m proud of to a central place. This one is from when I went to the NXT show in Atlanta.


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Let me tell you a story about Bayley from tonight.

Bayley had a match with Daria Berenato, which she won. Afterwards, she went around the ring, giving hugs and giving her merch away. She gave her tassels to two sisters in the section across the ring from me and they proceeded to wear them on opposite wrists. It was adorable.

Anyway, she sees a girl in the row behind me in the handicapped section with a “Master of Hugonomics” sign and proceeds to jump the barrier to give her her t-shirt and a hug.

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Then Bayley looks right at me, seeing me in my full Finn Bálor gear, but wearing the pair of tassels I bought during intermission on and tosses me her headband. Which in my shocked state, forget to catch, but a guy in a Shinsuke Nakamura shirt in the row in front of me hands it back to me and I clutch it close like a holy grail.

The girl next to me, who is all decked out in Bayley merch, got one of her slap bracelets from her and we proceed to squeal at each other like pre-teens in our complete excitement. Later, I flash the headband to Izzy, who gasps in excitement still, despite her leagues worth of experience with Bayley.

And the thing is, I know it’s just a thing. I own a headband like this already. But it’s like what my friend Jen wrote about once with the meanings we imbue in things. The hubcap Finn performed a Coup De Grace on in Chicago was no longer a piece of junk, but the shattered remnants of a moment in time. For me, it’s that Bayley, one of my biggest inspirations in the past year, threw me a headband I already own and it was like a precious token from on high.

Bayley and Finn mean the world to me. They helped me in ways they’ll never know in a year where I learned a lot about myself. Through them (and lots of other wrestlers, but they’re the big two), the lessons I learned through Kelly Sue Deconnick and Captain Marvel about self-love and respect were strengthened. I told Kieron Gillen once about how ‘Style’ by Taylor Swift was my curse song, but it was at an NXT show months later when I heard it and realized that curse had been broken.

Bayley gave me a headband tonight, but she’s also given me so much more than that.

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Reverence

This is actually an old Tumblr post, but since I recently wrote about the second NXT show in Nashville that I attended for Paste Magazine, I thought I would share something I wrote about the first.


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Man, I wish I could have better captured in pictures just how magical tonight was. Just how amazingly responsive and loving Bayley was with the crowd. Finn’s cool new Prince Devitt-esque swagger and his pride in NXT that eventually lead to him leading the room in a group “SUCK IT!” Asuka just being the rainbow murder queen that she is.

Really though, the most magic of all was Sami Zayn’s match with Baron Corbin, which might have been match of the night.

Not to say the other matches weren’t great. They were all pretty great. Finn vs. Joe and Bayley vs. Emma were solidly fantastic, Asuka literally chased Alexa Bliss around the ring, Nia Jax and Billie Kay are improving leaps and bounds (Nia has even added a somewhat familiar looking elbow drop to her moves),  Jason Jordan was getting so into the match against Dash and Dawson that he pulled his straps back up to pull them down again, and I’m partially certain Johnny Gargano might have knocked Murphy’s tooth out.

But that match…

From the moment Sami entered the ring, he just seemed in awe of just how over the crowd was for him. He just had this look on his face of like “Wow, all of this for me?!” He was clearly getting emotional during it, admist all the “OLÉ” chants and noticing the guy on the front row of the balcony wearing the mask of his good friend El Generico.

And god, just the back and forth between Sami and Corbin. While Corbin is no Kevin Owens, he’s a pretty damn good heel match for Sami. Sami cares and loves and is a beacon of hope and positivity, while Corbin only cares for himself and wants to break everything apart. And of course, he hates anyone he sees as a threat to what he believes is his own ascendency. Sami falls in those parameters.

So Corbin tries to stalk Sami like a wolf. He tries to make him stay down. He even delivers the End of Days. Everything that should trap Sami and remind him of just how worthless he is.

But Sami… Sami…

Sami counters Corbin’s stalking with his own, trapping him in his own game. Sami refuses to stay down, shaking his head no each time he gets back up. He kicks out of the End of Days at two and a half.

Of course, it isn’t that easy to put Corbin away. Sami delivers a Blue Thunder Bomb and Exploder Suplex, but Corbin bounces back. He even runs and flips onto him off the stage when it proves to be too cramped to do so with the ring set up. Corbin refuses to go quietly. However, when Corbin is running back and forth across the corners of the ring to slam Sami into the turnbuckle, Sami runs after him when he turns his back and hits him with a Helluva Kick, FINALLY putting him away.

The crowd explodes of course, and there’s emotional Sami again. Oh man, it’s too much for my heart to bear. But Sami, ever the sportsman, beckons Corbin back into the ring. The ref is wary of this, of course, but Sami takes off his elbow pad and visibly throws it off to the side, showing that he means no harm. Corbin comes back and Sami signals to the NXT crowd while he addresses Corbin, somewhat similar to the way Cena did for Kevin after their match at Money in the Bank. It’s like he was saying “Listen to them. You did good. You belong here.”

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And he holds his hand out for him to shake. It seems like for a split second, Corbin just might…

But then he just rolls out of the ring. Typical.

Sami doesn’t take offense to it though. He just shows his gratitude to the crowd, emotions still visible in his face. He gets out of the ring and pulls himself back onto the stage. Before he stands up though, he props himself on his hands and knees and kisses the wood of the stage before him. I’m not sure if it’s a prayer, respect to the room, or paying reverence. Perhaps its all three.

I don’t know what the future holds for Sami. I can’t pretend to know if those emotions were just about him just being in awe of how the crowd received him or if this could be one of his last tours with NXT. I can project it all later when he gets his call up, but for that match and those moments, we were all just riding that wave of the here and now. We cheered because we love Sami and we missed him greatly those months he was gone, and Sami loved us and missed us too.

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The Weight of Her

The sky has been grey since the election. I wish it would rain so the dust on my car will finally wash off. Maybe it will match my emotions as well.

I checked my Facebook memories at past midnight today and saw posts from eight years ago. Shortly after Obama was elected, but I remember having a lot of similar emotions of uncertainty around then. Not for our then-incoming president. I voted for him in 2008 and 2012. I ran into the streets of Atlanta in celebration with other Georgia State students after the results came in. No, my emotions were centered around my home life, when my dad walked out on my mom and everything I knew up until that point was thrown in the air without a certain place to land. Moving away from Cartersville into Atlanta was supposed to be exciting, and it definitely was, but school was more of a refuge away from dealing with my parents and people looking at me, as Carrie Fisher would say, like their hair was heavier on one side.

This is the kind of stuff my new therapist wants to talk to me about.

Towards the end of my first semester ended up becoming a cultural mile marker for me. It was the release of Sycamore Meadows by Butch Walker, my favorite musician and all around great human. At that point in my life, I had only been listening to him for two years and Sycamore Meadows was the first album of new music he was putting out since I started listening to him. A bunch of the songs had been floating around as demos for like a year and a few songs had released prior to the album’s release. In fact, I heard ‘The Weight of Her’ on the radio for the first time as my mom was driving us to the restaurant where I was about to be the last person to find out that my dad walked out.

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Sycamore Meadows is an album about uncertainty and life transitions. A good chunk of the album was written after the Malibu wildfire in 2007 that took Butch’s house, but he later admitted in Drinking With Strangers that portions of the album were written in response to a rough patch in his marriage. When you’re an 18-year-old dealing with not knowing if your parents are going to stay together after nearly 20 years, those kind of themes aren’t exactly lost on you. I imagined what it had to be like for my parents a lot when listening to ‘Here Comes The…’

However, there is a lot of hope in that record as well and a lot of love for Atlanta. When settling into my new home that I’m still in eight years later, to hear songs like ‘ATL,’ ‘Ponce De Leon Ave’ and ‘Going Back/Going Home’ felt like acceptance. Like this was the place I had to be. That it didn’t just have to be college or running away. That it could be a home.

Plus, ‘The 3 Kids In Brooklyn’ still makes me laugh. Like it wasn’t running through my mind this year while sitting in some hipstery barbecue place blocks away from the Barclays Center before Takeover this year. When your life is falling apart, laughing sometimes feels like the only way you can pull it back in.

I want to feel hopeful again. These past few days have been such despair. I’m scared for many reasons. For myself as a bisexual woman and those I love who don’t look like me.

I look back on that mile marker and remember 18 year old me looking for something to hold onto and finding it in that red covered album with her hero’s face staring back at her. Maybe this is the beginning of something. We’ll see in eight years. Today, I’ll put the album on. My turn table hasn’t seen action in a few months anyway.

Right now, I just wish it would rain.

Write-O-Ween, Day 7: Until Death Do Us Part

“DEVIN!”

Moira raced across the park, jumping over a bench as she spotted him.

Devin. The once love of her life. The one who broke her physically and mentally in the name of some long lost God. The reason she had to make this choice.

He was going faster than normal. She figured that was the demon in him. Lucky for her, she knew how to keep up.

As he ran towards a stone bridge, Moira closed the gap between them. “DEVIN,” she shouted again. “You have nowhere to run anymore.”

He stopped and turned, facing towards her with an evil grin. Moira felt a pang in her center. One of familiarity. One of love. One of fear. “Oh, but darling, you know that isn’t true.”

Moira reached behind her head for the hilt of her sword. “I really don’t want to hear why, but I know you’re going to tell me anyway.”

Devin chuckled at that as he walked over to the side of the bridge, leaning against it. “It’s because of power, my dear. I know you have it now too, but mine is more ancient. More primal. Means I always have an escape.”

“Doubtful?”

“Plus you? You can’t kill me. Face it, Moira dearheart. We are forever intwined. Till death do us pa-”

Moira withdrew her sword, causing Devin to fall silent for a second, then laugh again. “Well, I guess that’s my cue.”

“Don’t you da-”

Before Moira could finish closing in on him, Devin jumped up onto the railing of the bridge before jumping off of it. Quickly, Moira scrambled up it to look down the side.

The creek ran smoothly. No sign of him anywhere.

Moira sighed as she sat down on the railing. Once again, he was gone, and perhaps she only had herself to blame.


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