Best Of (February 2016)

I’m pretty much obsessed with lists—books to read, movies to watch, books and movies already finished, plans for creative domination, etc. I also seem to experience painful bouts of withdrawal if denied a semi-regular outlet to shout out all the cool, amazing things I’m consuming every month that give me those unmistakable hits of excitement and inspiration. There is so much greatness all around us, and this new monthly feature is all about taking a moment to say, “Thank you for existing, and providing an example of why I do what I do.”

My schedule has been interesting lately, so these are things I finished during any given month, which sometimes happens way way way after things originally came out. The list is almost in chronological order, and I’ve got things separated into two brackets, which might change a bit as I refine this new thing over the coming months.

Thanks everyone!



Shaft: Imitation of Life #1

Power Man and Iron Fist #1

Southern Bastards #13

Low #11

Imperium #13

Spider-Woman #4

Clean Room #5

Bitch Planet #7

Sex Criminals #14

Chew #55



Tony catches the Winter Soldier’s bullet

That final Batman v Superman trailer


Star Wars: Episode VIII Production Announcement

Marvel’s Agent Carter, “Monsters” (by BRANDON EASTON!)

American Crime

The People v O.J. Simpson

Phonte’s verse on “Clap Shit Up”

Sneakerheadz documentary

Black-ish, “Hope”

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Orders Due February 18th


Sorry for the delay in posting this up (last week I was writing the best script of my entire life), but here once again is a Previews Short Form, pre-filled with order codes corresponding to the work of some fantastic writers and artists, who also happen to be black. Again, this is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but there was so much stuff that it nearly filled two sheets this month. Exciting times, if you know where to look. You’ll also notice some random ancillary items here like the Static Shock figure, the Black Panther Stelfreeze poster, etc.

Due into your retailers next week, and hope everyone is well. Thanks!

Previews SOF- February 2016

Previews SOF- February 2016 (2)

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First Scene of Star Wars: Episode VIII (One Fan’s Fiction)

My retailer threw out this great idea at the shop a few weeks ago and it’s been stuck in my head ever since. Notion is that in the wake of yet another Jedi massacre, Luke has been secretly rebuilding his order by inverting the Sith’s famous “Rule of Two,” traveling all over the galaxy to personally train new operatives one at a time, and then hiding their abilities and knowledge of them behind powerful memory blocks that only he can safely remove.

This brilliant theory exploded in my head like a grenade, and I started fantasizing about how perfect and awesome that kind of staging point could be for Episode VIII. The Jedi Order turned into a sleeper cell is probably too politically charged for Disney, but wow that could make for some legitimately new stories, and it would explain how Rey’s wielding of The Force is a little more advanced than we’ve previously seen from young Jedi. Either Luke, or Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow’s character) and his Church of the Force have been continuing her training for years on Jakku, and Kylo Ren’s mind probe weakened the memory blocks, “awakening” these dormant abilities. Or maybe Kylo’s probe allowed her to “borrow” some of his abilities, since there were a few memories that also came through the link.

So with this all in mind, here’s my completely made up, speculative, fan fiction style take on how I’d personally like to see Episode VIII open…


Lucasfilm Ltd. logo materializes onto the screen, holding for a couple beats longer than usual, as we hear the piece of John Williams’ score that ended The Force Awakens. On the official soundtrack, this song is titled “The Jedi Steps,” and it masterfully blends new, yet familiar elements with one of the most recognizable pieces of music in film history, something that personally hits me right in the guts every single time I hear it. EVERY. TIME. And boom, we’re right back on the mountaintop with Rey holding the saber out to Luke, still no words exchanged, but her eyes saying clear as day, “WE HAVE TO GO BACK, LUKE—WE HAVE TO GO BACK!!!”

The battle-hardened and emotionally scarred Master Skywalker isn’t so sure though, and all of a sudden, before he can prepare himself, he experiences a Force Vision of his own.

It’s his Jedi Academy, Kylo Ren and his Knights (more of Luke’s former students turned renegade) slaughtering their former friends, brothers, and sisters in a frightening, visceral display of Dark Side ferocity. No one is safe, and right before Kylo can strike down a young terrified Rey, whose slightly older alien protector has just been viciously killed, Master Skywalker is there, blocking the attack with his father’s blue saber. He pushes Kylo Ren back, summoning his other saber (the green one from Return of the Jedi) into his other hand, and we can see that the anger and rage is pouring off of him. He dives into the Knights, going HAM with both sabers, surrendering himself entirely to The Force and becoming a blur of lightsaber strikes, parries, and Force pushes.

They’re fighting on top of a field littered with bodies and it’s clear that Luke has truly failed. He’s failed them all, and even though this display from our hero is glorious and exhilarating, the pain driving it is visible and breaks our hearts into pieces along with Luke’s. The movie has only existed for a couple minutes, and we’re already in tears.

Knights of Ren

Skywalker kills a few of them, but Kylo himself cuts away Luke’s entire right arm, and his Knights regain the upper hand. Kylo is taunting his former teacher, telling him that the Light Side of the Force is inherently weaker and will always be extinguished by the power of the darkness. Luke has never felt anger like this before, and he feels the Dark Side calling to him, offering him the power to destroy all of the enemies before him. Skywalker is looking down at the ground while on his knees, his shoulders and body gently shaking, and when Luke looks back up at his awful, spoiled, traitorous nephew, his eyes are that of the Sith.

With his remaining hand, Master Skywalker throws lightning.

The power of the attack sends Kylo and his Knights toppling through the air, overwhelmed and completely taken by surprise. Their injured, mangled bodies are twitching as the energy tendrils dissipate, and Luke advances to finish them off, until hearing the cries of Rey behind him. He blinks and comes back to himself, looking down at his hand wondering what has he done as the Knights limp away, swearing vengeance, but wanting no further parts of Luke Skywalker.

Back to the present and the mountain, and both of them are on the verge of completely breaking down, because this horrible, powerful vision was shared between them and Rey’s memories are finally coming back to her. She remembers everything now, and says to Luke, “Father, please…”

That does it, and after another few seconds, his robotic hand opens up. He breathes in deeply and calmly exhales and the saber is yanked from Rey’s grasp and flies to his hand with incredible speed, and a split second before it touches his now opened robotic palm, the music comes in like a freight train with that familiar logo and that music.

The crawl begins, and the first words read




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Final Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Some final thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens after my third time…

Since my second viewing, I’ve devoured the beautiful art book and the visual dictionary, both of which fill in a ton of critical blanks that you could argue the movie should’ve devoted some time exploring. Also just read the prequel novel by the awesome (as always) Greg Rucka, which digs into some important events in the lives of Finn, Rey, and Poe immediately before the events of the movie. The most important entry delves into Finn and the lives of his squad mates, two of which have fairly significant roles to play during The Force Awakens, one of them contributing the bloody handprint during the Jakku assault, and the other, well, let’s talk about the other in a minute.

Finn (or FN-2187) is introduced as something of a Luke/Han amalgamation—equal parts bold and eager, pretty good with a blaster, and a natural born leader, even though there’s something a little different about him. He’s beginning to seriously doubt the nonsense The First Order is feeding him. This newfound sense of hesitation and conscience is referenced several times, and it’s clear that the door is still very open on him developing some Force sensitivity in the future, and that he and Captain Phasma are headed for a serious showdown. They have a great, contentious relationship, as he continuously garners the wrong kind of attention and develops close bonds (a big no-no) with his teammates.


Star Wars: Before The Awakening (by Greg Rucka)

Most interesting thing is that this prequel story version of Finn is pretty amazing at everything he does, which is not how he’s depicted during the movie in many instances. In this prologue, he’s fairly confident, though considerably unnerved at the idea that he’s the only one starting to find some of this First Order business pretty objectionable. His scores and conduct during simulations have him on the First Order fast track, and he’s an absolute boss with a blaster and in hand-to-hand combat, dominating a string of opponents while wielding an energy mace and a shield.

Even before reading this, I thought him not winning his fight against the trooper now dubbed TR-R8 was a mistake, and would’ve put a little more “oomph” into his character. And it turns out this guy was actually part of Finn’s former squad, which provides a little more context for him shouting “Traitor!” at Finn, and attacking the runaway trooper with some additional enthusiasm. Finn was his leader, perhaps even his role model, and knowing that adds an additional layer to the scene, though knowing that wasn’t as necessary as Finn winning a head-to-head fight with him.

Even if the sequence had to be reframed so that Han (using Chewie’s crossbow thing) disarmed the guy, or took out another trooper nearby, giving Finn a distraction or an opening for the kill shot, I think the whole thing would’ve gone down much better. This tiny alteration would’ve had a massive narrative result, netting Finn a critical hand-to-hand victory over an opponent he should’ve beaten, to go along with his already impressive body count. Seriously, past The First Order, no one blew people away like Finn, which is why this whole “Finn was a weak nigga” narrative is more exaggerated emotional projection than actual fact.

Finn Vs

Finn vs. FN-2199 (Sixth Scale Figure Set by Hot Toys)

I do understand the conversation though, and I was much more enthusiastic about the Finn we got in the deceptive marketing, and in Rucka’s prequel story, than the one we saw in a few questionable elements from the actual movie. I know that the arc of “brainwashed disillusioned child soldier finally stops running” isn’t as prominent if his fear and desperation isn’t so present, but past all the Will Smith hollering and terrified expressions, if he strikes down TR-R8 in a sloppy, yet furious display with that lightsaber, all (most) is forgiven. Cause the Kylo Ren thing was never going his way, and anyone that didn’t see Rey being the primary Force wielder wasn’t paying attention. But I wanted that power shared and still do.

So why am I okay with it, ultimately? Because John Boyega was fantastic, and held the screen with everyone he shared it with, bringing a sense of warmth, humor, morality, and (eventually) raw nerve that’ll be great to watch develop further over the next couple movies. And because I’m clearly drowning in Star Wars material, I always knew that he’d be coming back, and that he was initially imagined as a white character, who was always destined to play a critical, yet supporting role in the adventures of a young, female Jedi. Since the movies have never featured a female Jedi of any real significance ever, the writer in me just can’t be too mad at that, even though the black dude in me is a little disappointed to have “Black Han Solo” and not “Black Luke Skywalker.”


Early concept artwork of Kira (Rey) and Sam (Finn) by McCaig, Lindberg, Tiemens, and Chiang (from The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Seeing the movie a third time really hardened my thoughts on it into stone, and I am now content to sit back and wait for the Blu-Ray and deleted scenes. I liked it a lot, but did not LOVE it, and despite the above, the Finn thing wasn’t my biggest criticism. As a kid, I had a very complicated history with The Empire Strikes Back, because the good guys got their asses handed to them, and as a child, that was highly offensive and off-putting to me psychologically. This new movie triggers something very similar, and though obviously I know that “there are no happy endings,” and that in a lot of ways, our parents screwed things up, the weight of absolute failure and loss draped onto these iconic heroes was a little sad to see, you know? A little too much like actual real life, but which makes for a better story, as we watch them finally get it almost right over thirty years later.

Last tiny thing I would’ve tweaked is the reveal of Kylo Ren’s parents, which I think should’ve been held until that great scene where Han and Leia reconnect after what seems to be a very long time. Imagine if they had strung us along until then, playing with the idea that Ren’s father could’ve been either Han or Luke, and having the reveal happen there with the old smuggler growling out, “I saw him. I saw our son.” That would’ve been more than a gut punch, more like someone reached into our chests, removed the heart, and then stomped on it with both feet. Harrison Ford did great playing the tortured, regretful father, and every time I think about the little wry smile that came to him with he said, “Yeah, I knew Luke,” it gives me all the feels. So much implied and expressed in a single moment there.

Solo & General Organa

General Organa & Han Solo

The character work was on point, even when parts of me didn’t agree with what they were doing or had done. This movie gave them a rock solid foundation to build on, and say what you will about J.J. Abrams (I love his work to death, personally) but his eye for casting is remarkable. He excels at making unconventional choices seem glaringly obvious (Quinto as Spock, Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, etc.) and the mind explodes at the infinite possibilities for the incredible actors now taking Star Wars into the future.

I’ll grade everything much harsher in the next episode, but this one is steeped in over eagerness, which is far from a cardinal sin. The Force Awakens is soooo very desperate to be liked that it didn’t take near enough risks, or reach quite far enough. The shadow of the prequels looms largest, and the mission for this movie seemed pretty simple—Bring Star Wars Back, by any means necessary. And it does so in all the most important ways.

Now that everyone is back on board and feels great about Star Wars movies again, I expect the real deal next time, packed with new planetary environments, weapons, ships, and Force powers. I want them to consider changing the classic opening a bit, and possibly even moving on from John Williams doing the music. Embrace the new whenever possible, and get the older fans (like myself) all worked up because they took things too far.

We’ve got an amazing cast of fantastic new characters, and almost everything around them deserves to be something new as well…


Oh, and in a few hours, I’ll post up my version of the very first scene from Episode VIII in all its fan fictiony glory, so be on the lookout for that. Thanks.

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Orders Due January 18, 2016

Trying another new thing for the New Year. Revived my “Stackology” feature a couple months back, mostly to shed additional light and love onto books that I’m into, with an obvious slant towards hyping the work of my fellow black creators. But given how the comics industry actually works, and the demonstrated importance of pre-ordering comics months in advance, a release day shout-out might be too little too late.

So what I’m going to do every month is publish a Previews Short Order Form, pre-filled with my own personal orders for comics written and illustrated by some of my contemporaries. Feel free to download this PDF and adjust as necessary for your own pre-ordering needs, keeping in mind this is by no means intended to be an exhaustive, comprehensive list.

There are certainly people and products that I’ve missed, but I still think this makes for a fine start, especially for fans (and other creators) that honestly have no idea just how many talented black artists and writers are out there right now.

And in order to stay out there, you have to buy their work.

Hope this helps, and most retailers will happily accept these forms by e-mail, or just printed out and handed in. Anything I’ve missed can be referenced in the thread below, and apologies in advance for that.

Thanks, and so excited for this upcoming year! Good luck to all of you, and I’ve said over and over again that 2016 is going to be HUGE, so let’s get out there and prove it…


Previews SOF- January 2016

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Fear Leads (27 Days Until The Force Awakens)

There’s only one thing about Star Wars: The Force Awakens that scares me…

It’s not the question of whether or not it’s going to be any good, because I know it will be. It’s not the possibility that the movie will birth an everlasting big screen dynasty, because it’s too early in the game to speculate on that. It’s not the intentional absence of Luke Skywalker from everything, because I think it’s admirable to preserve such a fundamental question for the actual movie. It’s not even minor spoilers, though I am taking some protective measures, and have sworn off any further clips, now that I have my Finn focused TV spot  to watch over and over again.



No, what I’m afraid about more than anything else, is the true revelation of Finn’s overall role within this new trilogy. Because I know what I want it to be, what I need it to be, but I still wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t. And that would make for a missed opportunity of an unimaginable scale.

If Finn is not what they’re clearly suggesting in all the posters, teasers, and press, it will go down as the cruelest trick ever played on black fandom.

Seeing the image of a young, black man, holding and then wielding what is essentially the skeleton key of the entire Star Wars universe? That right there is a powerful and undeniable symbol of the future so many people are still today fighting against. It means that intolerance and intellectual cowardice loses another stronghold, and that we are not going back into the cave for anybody.

For those that think I’m overstating, you need to spend a few minutes in the comments section of some of these John Boyega/Daisy Ridley stories. Yes, I know you’re never supposed to read the comments, or give much credence to assholes and bigots, but I think it’s important we never lose our willingness to look the enemy right in their diseased hearts. To stare into that ugliness, and remember that these feelings are real and tangible and above everything else…the most honest shit anyone’s ever said. This is what they really think about us in the safety of their own homes and the anonymity of their message boards. It’s not all just kids, crackpots, and degenerates. If you really believe that, you’re a fool, and welcome to follow them.

The most dangerous forms of hate, intolerance, and misogyny are the ones that have become utterly casual. I’ve watched what are likely well-intentioned people get into furious arguments over which of the two main characters are force sensitive, when it’s always been obvious to me they likely both are. This argument is really telling though, and plays into this idea of “only one of us can have the special thing,” causing me to wonder if it’s naiveté on my part to have ever assumed different. Why does everything always devolve into some tired, backwards “us vs. them” narrative? Have our collective imaginations become so hardened and limited that some of us can’t even conceive of a reality where both diverse leads are gifted? Does one of them automatically have to be less? In a lot of discussions found online, the answer is resoundingly “yes.”

Now, on the flip side of this, are many fans of color that simply can’t believe what this movie is telling us about itself. The very real possibility of spending the next several years anticipating and living with Star Wars movies at least partially focused on a young black Jedi feels almost too good to be true. Even in 2015, it feels like a mind trick, and from there the natural conspiracies begin flowing like water. Thoughts like, “I bet they’re just gonna kill him first chance they get. I bet he’s not really going to be a Jedi, and is just carrying the saber until someone else more important gets it. They’re just using him to hide the importance of Rey’s character. There’s no way in hell that he’s the special one.”



I’ve been laughing at these kinds of assertions for months, even publicly doing so alongside Brandon Easton during our podcast. But the closer we get to game time, the more my own faith and spirit wavers, and I start to believe that it is too good to be true. That Boyega paired with that very particular lightsaber is one enormous diversion, a carrot only to be snatched away at the very last minute. For so many of us, it’s soooo important that Finn is the real thing—that he’s favored, like all the Jedi in all the movies before him.

But emotionally, I’ve been preparing myself for the opposite these last few weeks. Throughout the obsessive re-watching of the newest trailer and TV spots, and EW’s full throated coverage all last week, I’ve been trying to control the intensity of my own expectation. Trying to drown out that familiar Star Wars line, just in case my dreams are ultimately dashed. If by the close of the movie, Finn is just a cool, honorable, heroic young brother with a blaster, smack dab in the middle of a trilogy I never imagined we’d ever be seeing, I suppose that’s a notable victory, right?

I trust J.J. Abrams as a storyteller implicitly (and that’ll actually be the focus of an upcoming piece) but I’m hoping that he and everyone involved haven’t underestimated the power of fully embracing the diversity they’ve placed at the fore of this new installment. And that they realize what some people, dying to see themselves fully reflected in one of the greatest stories ever told, will feel if The Force Awakens says to them “Yes, you are special…but you’re not that special.”

One of the recent spots is captioned, “Discover The Force Within.”

Here’s hoping…



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The Stack- 11.18.15


Leading the way is the critically-acclaimed graphic novel Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven, written by friend and co-conspirator Brandon Easton. Artwork is by Denis Medri, and it’s an IDW/Lion Forge production. Did I mention it was critically-acclaimed? Congrats to Easton, Denis Medri, and Lion Forge for what looks to be THE signature release from their company.


Brandon Easton (writer- Andre the Giant: Closer To Heaven)


Final seven for 11.18.15– Huck #1, Rat Queens #13, The Mighty Thor #1, Tokyo Ghost #3, Invincible #125, Star Wars #12, Star Wars: Vader Down #1


How does all this work? Check Stack Science for more details.

Thanks, and back next week!


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