Categories
Comics Uncategorized

Discover What’s Missing: GC Webtoon Picks for November 2021

Are you a Webtoon reader? If you aren’t, there are plenty of GateCrashers who want to point you in the direction of this accessible platform to read webcomics. Don’t worry, we’ll be here every step of the way as your guides. To start you off on your Webtoon journey, the GateCrashers have three recommendations with characters who are creative and determined heroes with vivid worlds and impressive art styles. Whether you’re new to the platform or a devoted reader, we’re here to spotlight fantastic stories we think are worthy of your time!

The Strongest Florist
By Hyun hoo Joo/Kumtata
Platform: Webtoon
Genre: Action
Submitted by Simon

In a fantasy VR world, you can be anything you want to be. Of course, for a lot of players, this just refers to choices of class, character design, and the like, but Jaeho wants nothing to do with fighting. Instead, he just wants to use VR to enact his dream of becoming a world-famous florist and get away from the pressures of his family. However, fate has more plans for Jaeho than letting him be a simple florist.

I look forward to The Strongest Florist every week because I never seem to know where the plot’s going, but despite that, every event logically follows from one to the next. It’s fast-paced, never letting its reader base get bored, and watching how the people and world around Jaeho change over time is quite engaging. These fantasy VR Webtoon series seem to be a dime a dozen these days, but The Strongest Florist really is a cut above the rest, and I hope it stands the test of time.

The Strongest Florist updates every Saturday.

Third Shift Society
By Meredith Moriarty
Platform: Webtoon
Genre: Supernatural
Submitted by Matt

Third Shift Society by Meredith Moriarty begins with our protagonist, Ellie, who is trying to clumsily make her way through adulthood and unfortunately, not succeeding all that well. After being fired from her job and attempting to make some money on the side, a peculiar man named Ichabod crashes into her life. Did I mention he has a pumpkin for a head? Ellie finds herself thrown into the mysteries of the supernatural paired alongside Ichabod as they work as paranormal investigators for hire.

The beauty of the story is its introduction to the lore. Third Shift Society gives you crumbs as it explains the supernatural phenomenon hiding in the city. You aren’t overloaded with information and you learn alongside Ellie as she is thrusted into new situations. Ellie is an enjoyable lead as she allows you to connect to her with her down-to-earth personality, her can-do attitude, and her ability to get through sticky situations with all the grace of a fish out of water flopping hopelessly across the ground. Ichabod on the other hand is more serious and helps lead Ellie and the reader through the inner workings of the paranormal, while also giving us a bit of dry sarcasm and an air of mystery to keep the reader intrigued. Together the two make for an amusing pair.

If you’re a fan of the supernatural and crave a character driven story then look no further! Third Shift Society started its second season on September 30th and updates every Friday on Webtoons!

The Kiss Bet
By Ingrid Ochoa
Platform: Webtoon
Genre: Romance
Submitted by Ashley

It’s Sara Lin’s 18th birthday and she’s running through the streets of the city with her best friend Patrick and cousin Vicky having what is obviously the best night ever. As they descend the stairs toward the subway station giggling and goofing off, conversation turns to the revelation that Sara Lin has lived 18 years and she’s somehow never been kissed. Like the good friend that he is, Patrick challenges Sara Lin to the kiss bet! Five bucks are hers, so long as she kisses the boy they’ve found sitting alone on a bench in the subway station. Of course, the newly minted Subway Boy calls her a weirdo and Sara Lin remains kiss-less, but what comes after is a sweet romantic comedy now in its third season on Webtoon.

I stumbled on The Kiss Bet by Ingrid Ochoa by accident, but it’s one of my favorite Webtoons now. Sara Lin is a hapless romantic, unable to determine which of the three boys in her life is the right one for her; Swoony new boy Joe, best friend Patrick, or solemn Subway Boy who turned her kiss down? While there is romance at the heart of this webcomic, the characters inhabiting Sara Lin’s world are outstanding. Ochoa pens a hilarious background cast who give life and dimension to the story, keeping The Kiss Bet from feeling one-note. While Sara Lin’s predicament may sound a little trivial, she is kind, determined, and Ochoa gives her a wardrobe I wish I could summon into my own life. If you’re looking for a sweet laugh, you can’t go wrong reading The Kiss Bet.

Season three of The Kiss Bet began in October and updates every Saturday on Webtoon.

Categories
Video Games

Our Most Anticipated Games

Luke’s picks:

Frostpunk 2

The original Frostpunk looked into my soul and said, “This is what you want. Buy me.” As a steampunk survival game that took place entirely in the frigid cold, it appealed to the masochistic Chicagoan in me who always wanted to play survival games but was too busy being trash at them to enjoy them. This game seemed right up my alley, and so I took the chance (shoutout Steam’s refund policy).

I was going to comment here about X many hours later. Here I am, except I have only put in 19 hours, which makes me very sad because I have clearly underappreciated this game. However, there are aspects of the game that can be built and improved upon, and I am BEYOND excited to see what Frostpunk 2 is bringing to the table. The setting is absolutely up my alley as I am very biased towards the cold versus the heat (if there’s a Heatpunk, I’m not playing it straight up). The city management gameplay is simple enough on the surface, with enough depth to keep me interested and learning.

Once again, I cannot express my excitement at the announcement of a sequel and its inevitable arrival. I’m hoping it drops during the Thanksgiving or Winter Holidays period because having it be frosty outside absolutely adds to the experience, and Frostpunk 2 is one experience I will not be missing out on.

Achilles: Legend Untold

Achilles: Legend Untold caught my eye due to an I can’t even remember. It was probably a post in a subreddit. I honestly have no idea, but what initially drew my attention was “It’s a Soulslike ARPG,” and I thought to myself, “What the fuck? How does that make sense?” I’m a huge FromSoft/SoulsBorne fan, and I am very tired of the “Oh, this game is hard? It’s a Soulslike, baybee!” trope in games journalism (Yeah, I’m calling y’all out, I do not care). So I have a morbid curiosity about this game, but it has the bonus of diving into my interest with the Greek Pantheon/Mythology.

I’ve been itching for a very solid, modern ARPG ever since the Blizzard news came out, which turned me away from Diablo 2 Remastered/Diablo 4. And so I’ve kept my eye on this game, trying to marry a genre I’m madly in love with and a genre that I’ve been searching for something to love in. I’m hesitant due to my prejudices, but good gosh, I’m not sure if there’s any other game on my Wishlist that I want to succeed more than this one.

Dying Light 2

I left off my last preview by saying I’m not sure if there’s any other game I want to succeed more in, and I’d like to start this one off by saying, “Well, I might want this one to succeed more.” I bought an Arkham Knight PS4 in 2014 due to a few factors that landed cash in my pocket, and I bought Bloodborne and Dying Light alongside it. I intended to spend all my time playing Bloodborne, but due to me being absolute trash, I played more Dying Light instead.

Dying Light was everything I wanted out of Dead Island, which makes sense because they’re the same developer. I’d wager that Dying Light might be the most slept-on game of the PS4/Xbox One generation, because good gosh, this game is one of my favorites and I haven’t seen anywhere near enough people talk about it. Now, with all that said, Dying Light 2 has been mired in behind-the-scenes issues, with the Chris Avellone situation being top among them. This has led to many people being rather hesitant with Dying Light 2, counting me in those numbers.

Now, there is one thing that catapulted Dying Light from an 8/10 game to a 10/10 game for me, and if this one thing is missing from Dying Light 2, not only will I refund the game, but I will bully everyone I know who bought it into getting a refund as well. That one thing is the Grappling Hook. The Grappling Hook changed the way that Dying Light was played, and absolutely for the better. I cannot imagine a Dying Light 2 without it, and I refuse to play a Dying Light 2 without it. Make it happen, Techland!

Gabrielle’s picks:

Wolfstride

Wolfstride’s is an anime-inspired, pixel-art RPG with turn-based combat. These selling points wouldn’t usually be something I’d be interested in. While I love pixel art, and I’m starting to appreciate anime a lot more than I did, turn-based combat is a mechanic that I always rejected. If any game I wanted to play had it, it would be instantly ruined for me. Sometimes it was too boring, sometimes too complicated. However, there’s a reason why Wolfstride seems exciting to me.

The combat you experience in the game happens between giant mechas, which I think we all love. In this case, I feel the more structured and manual nature of turn-based combat helps with the immersion, making you feel like you’re the one inside pulling levers to throw a punch or dodge. It’s also very stylized, with fun animations reminiscent of the fights directed by Guillermo del Toro in Pacific Rim. It’s a weird case where I can see this type of combat and think ‘’I’m definitely going to enjoy this.’’

The other mechanics didn’t have to prove themselves as much to me. The RPG elements are always a great addition in my eyes. In this case, adding to the sense of being an underdog the game is going for, as you live in a hangar with your friends while you all decide how to build your giant mecha. You also get to walk the streets of Rain City, a beautifully designed setting with various NPCs to interact with and tasks to take on. While I don’t expect to find a world with much depth to explore, and it’s already confirmed that it will have six establishments, it’s always fun to run around and interact with everything you can, and I assume the change of scenery with the hangar and the arena where you fight will be more than enough to avoid repetition and offer a great playthrough. 

Mechajammer

This might just be the one I’m excited about the most. I’ve always loved the concept of isometric RPGs like Fallout or Wasteland but I could never get into it. I did play a lot of the first Baldur’s Gate and a bit of Wasteland 3, both of which I enjoyed a lot, but I always wanted something more and/or different. I think Mechajammer is that.

You wander an almost post-apocalyptic world influenced by the cyberpunk genre (with extra focus on the punk part) and the horror genre. But first of all, you have to create the character who you will live as, choosing the classic perks and stats, while also experimenting a bit by making you answer questions like which addictions or side-effects you developed from your past work. It’s also worth mentioning you get the opportunity to decide if you want to be female, male, or non-binary, an option that even AAA games that pat themselves on the back for their representation can’t seem to do, and as a non-binary person I greatly appreciate the decision at Whalenought Studios. 

Once you get to really play, you get immersed in this gritty world where you have to survive in any way possible. You recruit a team that will follow you and help you in a very fast-paced hybrid between real-time and turn-based combat. And of course, as it is with RPGs, you have various ways to achieve most tasks, so you could instead try to go stealth and avoid encounters. Your usual movement has an added rare jump mechanic, but you also can ride freely in cars or motorcycles. There are more details like being able to pick or break locks or decide which body part you want to focus on while fighting. I don’t necessarily need very deep gameplay to enjoy a game, but I think I’m with the majority when I say that having as many ways to solve a task is probably the best part about RPGs, as you get the feeling you have to work around the world, instead of the world working for you, helping you immerse in what feels like a real setting.

Funnily enough, I probably would’ve tried the game without all that, just going in based on how good it looks. It’s not meant to be pretty and is reminiscent of old games, but the art direction is simply amazing. There seem to be a ton of distinct places, all of them with a great atmosphere that, while still doesn’t want to make me live in this post-apocalyptic world, I would be lying if I said it didn’t want to instantly play in it.

Wytchwood

From games with action in the spotlight, we go to full-on exploration, puzzles, and crafting. In Wytchwood, you play as a witch (I know, shocking!) in a world of magic and fables. I’m not a big fan of puzzles and crafting, but if it wasn’t already obvious, you could get me to play almost any game as long as I like the art direction. And let me tell you, this game looks beautiful, with an art style that instantly puts you in the middle of these fables. 

I adore the idea of exploring this world and encountering all kinds of fantasy creatures in a deeper way than you might find in their classic tales, as your lives intertwine and you prepare potions and spells that will help you decide their fate. 

I do love that the game seems to be centered around this world and how you interact with the characters and affect their stories, more than in a grandiose main story for the protagonist. Don’t get me wrong, I love main single-player stories, and that’s what I look for in games almost every time. But more mundane everyday tasks, a kind of slice-of-life in a fantasy setting, is a pitch that I can’t avoid being attracted to.

Categories
Comics

GC52 News: DC Comics Released 11/23/2021

(Spoilers for DC Comics released 11/23/2021)

(Words in italics signify actions)

If you missed last week’s report, check it out here.


GC52 News begins at the old faithful time even if the program has been a bit different for the last few weeks. As loudly as last week’s program opened, this week starts at the other end of the spectrum. Lead Anchor Dan McMahon is putting his Fear State armor away into a case in their makeshift Batcave turned studio.

Dan: Good Morning, Good Afternoon, and Good Evening to all our wonderful viewers from the docks of Coast City to the furthest reaches of Oa, you are watching the multiverse’s best news show that brings you the news that you need to know! As always, I’m your host, Dan McMahon, doing my part to keep you updated on what is happening up to the minute. I have to say, it’s nice having some time to relax. It’s a holiday here in the US called Thanksgiving. I’m thankful that this whole Fear State thing is over.

Dan pushes the case of his armor into a large metal cabinet before closing it and making his way to the bat computer to take a seat.

Dan: Some things were missed as we were on the streets reporting on everything we could here in Gotham City. A few weeks ago, there were those reports of parasites living in people’s bodies but it seemed to go dormant after Bruce Wayne was arrested and such. But turns out, like any evil thing in Gotham, it was only festering below the surface. Out of sight and out of mind. 

Well, it came back as a very large monster and attacked Batman on the street where he was actually assisted by the Mayor himself… I hope that changes his tune to one more in praise of our masked heroes. Let’s check in with Ethan so I can grab myself a cup of everyone’s favorite comfort, hot coco.

The camera cuts over to another corner of the Batcave where Ethan can be seen shutting down the Batcomputer. He turns to the camera with a warm smile, even if his eyes show a weary, tired look from lack of sleep these last few weeks.

Ethan: Hey folks, good to see you all again. I’m busy shutting all this down so we can head back to our actual studio. But as Dan said, there was some stuff we missed while trying to keep track of everything during the Fear State. One of the biggest was the end of the Battle of Alleytown. Not only did Catwoman and her band of unlikely allies manage to outwit the Magistrate, but it seems in the process the Cat managed to get one over on Riddler and the Penguin, again.

Heh, that’s gonna be fun. Now, as you may know, I’m an Agent of the DEO and was sent to Gotham to assist in any way possible with the Fear State. The best way I found for that was to imbed myself with my old friends here at GC52. After some discussion with Director Chase, we’ve decided I’m going to be staying on as a permanent DEO Correspondent for the news channel. So don’t worry, I’ll be around for a while. Anyway, back to you Dan!

The camera returns to Dan who is scrolling through footage from a fight between Harley, Ivy, and Keepsake while drinking his hot chocolate.

Dan: It’s good to know that they dispatched that C-list copycat villain while getting the other half of Ivy back to make her whole again. Despite their pasts or what people may think of them, I’m happy they’ve found one another. Love is a big part of life and having someone who cares about you is very important. 

It seems as if Harley’s sidekick Kevin may have some lovebirds circling him as well as he was spotted with someone after escaping a fire. All is well in Gotham for the time being it seems. Time to check in with the home office before I return to my desk next week!

Dan punches in the digits to call the GC52 headquarters as the Janitor answers. 

Dan: Oh, Mitchell Mayo! Didn’t think I’d be seeing you on the monitor. Thanks for answering but where is Jerry?

Dan takes a big sip of his coco as Janitor Mayo explains that Jerry accidentally used a motherbox to send himself to Warworld. Mayo’s face on the monitor was distorted as hot chocolate was spat across the entire screen as Dan heard the news. With a heavy sigh, he lets out a small laugh.

Dan: Well, at least things are always interesting! As always… be it the Bat Symbol in Gotham, a red streak through Central City, or a golden lasso on Themyscira… GC52 has you covered with the news you need to know. Till next week, I’m your host Dan McMahon. Be strong in all your convictions.


Books Covered this Week:

  • Detective Comics #1045 by Mariko Tamaki, Dan Mora, Jordie Bellaire, and Aditya Bidikar.
  • Harley Quinn #9 by Stephanie Phillips, Riley Rossmo, Ivan Plascencia, and Derron Bennett.
  • Catwoman #37 by Ram V, Nina Vakeuva, Laura Braga, Geraldo Borges, Jordie Bellaire, and Tom Napolitano.
Categories
Episodes

Mike McMahan Interview (Solar Opposites & Star Trek: Lower Decks)

I hope you’re ready to let the holiday spirit into your heart as Mike McMahan stops by the show to talk about Disney’s Solar Opposites Holiday Special on Hulu! Mike teaches Dan how a writers room works. We also got to chat about Star Trek: Lower Decks and how Mike gets to flesh out the Star Trek universe. Listen to the episode, please? Will you just press play already?

Subscribe now or listen below!

Interview with Mike McMahan (Solar Opposites & Star Trek: Lower Decks) GateCrashers

I hope you’re ready to let the holiday spirit into your heart as Mike McMahan stops by the show to talk about Disney’s Solar Opposites Holiday Special on Hulu! Mike teaches Dan how a writers room works. We also got to chat about Star Trek: Lower Decks and how Mike gets to flesh out the Star Trek universe. Listen to the episode, please? Will you just press play already?
  1. Interview with Mike McMahan (Solar Opposites & Star Trek: Lower Decks)
  2. Justice League International
  3. WIFWULF
  4. Interview with Mark Tremonti
  5. Doctor Who
Categories
sports

Fast Five Picks From the GC Experts for NFL Thanksgiving Day

This week is a very special edition of Fast Five, as it is simply Fast Three, for we will only be covering the Thanksgiving Day games, and then will return back to our original format next week. NFL action on that special Thursday in November brings out some classic memories as generations are forced together to share meals and more during the day. Dr. Mitch and Rick would like to thank their readers for their continued support, and wish them all a very safe and drama-free Thanksgiving. Unfortunately for Rick, Dinah Danger is joining him and she is one tough cookie. A legend in the Green Bay community for not only being part of the original squad of Packers Cheerleaders, but for also designing the uniforms out of excess potato sacks.  This woman has babysat Vince Lombardi’s children, put Jim Taylor’s arm back in place, made soup for Reggie White, and open hand smacked Aaron Rodgers after hearing of his unvaxxed status. Here is to that one member in the family who makes every holiday a memorable one.

DR. MITCHELL POWERS

[In hushed tones]

No, you listen here you little cretin, I will not be belittled like that the next time I’m in the middle of making a sale. I’m a doctor, for Christ’s sake. Who the hell are you? A line cook at a Buffalo Wild Wings? What on Earth do you think gave you the right to try to punch up on Enzo during our negotiation in North Jersey? Oh, what’s that? Oh, you’ve got agita? Yeah, well good luck tellin’ that to Enzo’s goons when they’re stomping your canines three inches into the curb. – What’s that Bill? We’ve got company? Okay, hold on, hold on! – AND DON’T COME CRYIN’ WITH A BUSTED LIP TO HEAR ME SAY I TOLD YOU SO! [CLICK]

Hey… well hey there! Welcome folks! Looks like I nailed both of my picks last week, shoot, at least something is going right for me this week. I believe my “picks partner” Rick has some good news in this area as well, isn’t that right, Rick?

RICK DANGER

2-0! Just when some were beginning to doubt the Danger system, I pull out the perfect weekend. Listen, you can send as much hate mail as you want, but you know that Uncle Rick will always treat you right. Before I go further, let me address the fact that my grandmother will be staying with me for the holiday and then will go back to her retirement community in Florida. She is from a different time, and a very different place, I mean every time she sees me she tells me to either shave my beard / cut my hair / stop looking so ugly. I love my Gammy Dinah, but she also terrifies me. I’ve seen her make a Drill Instructor cry. She once made the bank give her money back after a transaction, and after refusing it from the teller, she made the manager go into his own wallet and give it to her. She is the special kind of scary that takes a magic book and an incantation to finally put to rest. Even worse, she keeps asking where she can get a nice slab of hog, but she’s not talking about BBQ… I’m shuddering.

GRANDMA DINAH DANGER (OUR SPECIAL GUEST)

Isn’t my grandson something special! We were all so worried he was going to end up living under a bridge, or perhaps smuggling goods across the border, but he turned out better than any of us could’ve imagined. Now listen here, before you start thinking that this old bird doesn’t know a thing or two about football, you basement dwelling jackasses got another thing coming. I was a Packerette from 1950 – 1958, and I remember when football actually meant something, not just a bunch of boys playing grab ass in the locker room, but real men going to WAR. Speaking of wars, I put divots in planes during WWII and sold war bonds outside my father’s hardware store until I couldn’t stand anymore. That was back when we knew what was good for us, and to sit down and shut up. Got my blood pressure all over the place, let me grab my meds and a Werther’s original, and get back to talking football.


RICK’S PICKS

Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions – Nov 25th 12:30PM ET

Watching Detroit every year on Thanksgiving is almost as miserable as the time spent with the people at the aforementioned holiday dinner. Now, I am all for tradition, but perhaps Detroit needs to let this one go as there are so many more interesting places to host. I for one would like the Eagles to host for two simple reasons. One, I believe that cold weather games are best played outdoors. Two, most of the fans knowing they had off the day after would drink themselves into oblivion and make for a much for fascinating spectacle. Also, rather than flip a coin, the two teams should pull the wishbone and base the kickoff positioning on that result. Regardless, Chicago goes in there and takes care of business. Welp, if you excuse me, my gammy wants to know how to install Hinge on her phone.

PICK: BEARS

POWERS’ PREDICTIONS

Buffalo Bills @ New Orleans Saints – Nov 25th 8:20PM ET

On the gridiron, a confidence-building game can mean everything for a team. It can turn around a season, crystallize a middling team’s chances at a solid playoff run, or even come in the form of the Philadelphia Eagles putting up 40 points and 242 rushing yards against the best run defense in the NFL. So in the case of the Saints, I think I’d call that a confidence-destroying game. Between that crushing blow, plus the additional injuries the Saints have taken on, I think they run a real risk of giving this one away to Josh Allen’s Bills. And if the Saints do decide to throw Taysom Hill into the mix, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has to regain some footing and momentum.

One other thing: Josh Allen has a 100% hit rate on Thanksgiving Day NFL games.

PICK: BILLS

THE GUEST GUESS

Las Vegas Raiders @ Dallas Cowboys – Nov 25th 4:30PM ET

From the days of Eddie LeBaron and Don Meredith to Roger Staubach and Craig Morton, I think these Cowboys need to revisit their history or they are doomed to repeat it. Having not been to the NFC Championship in 26 years, it is time for them to put up or shut up. Tired of this belly-aching over injuries and the difficulty of the schedule, I mean, I remember breaking my ankle after doing a back-flip during my routine and still standing out there in the -10F temperatures. Soft, SOFT I tell you! Always liked those rascals in the silver and black, so dangerous, so rough, just willing to go out there and lay their lives on the line to pick up a fumble. Looks like it’s a good think my grandson set me up on this dating app. Grandma’s getting wild tonight.

PICK: RAIDERS


LAST WEEK 

RICKS PICKS: 2 – 0

POWERS PREDICTIONS: 2 – 0

GUEST GUESS: 1 – 0

OVERALL

RICKS PICKS: 13 – 7

POWERS PREDICTIONS: 12 – 8

GUEST GUESS: 4 – 6

**DISCLAIMER** Like a conservative talkshow, the opinions and views here are a joke.

Categories
Music Uncategorized

GC Unplugged: Taylor Swift’s Red (Taylor’s Version)

Welcome to another edition of GC: Unplugged! Today we’ll be taking a deep dive into Taylor Swift’s Red (Taylor’s Version). If you’re a lifelong Swiftie like myself, you’re already familiar with the history surrounding Tay’s decision to re-release her old albums. If you’re new to the club, and wondering what’s going on here, I’ll keep it short and sweet: These re-releases are happening so Taylor can own the music that she wrote. The music industry (like much of the world) is a weird place and artists do not own the art that they create. Taylor is taking advantage of a clause in her recording contract that allows these re-recordings to happen after she was unable to purchase her original masters. However, Taylor is making the best of this unhappy situation. Because of the re-recorded album strategy, fans are feeling pretty blessed that they get to revisit the past, only this time with better production value, more mature vocals, and vault songs that never made the albums originally.

The public’s opinion on Taylor has been a bumpy road. The nature of the media and a long history of internalized misogyny against successful women is a wave that steadily built, crested, and finally began to retreat all during Taylor Swift’s long career. Think about it this way: Her debut album was released in October 2006, mere months before the media circus following a struggling Britney Spears captured her head-shaving incident on camera for the world to consume. In the 15 years that has past, I like to think that as a whole we can look at the flawed lens we view women through and acknowledge where we’ve been wrong. Taylor, like other female artists over the years, has often been on the receiving end of criticisms that male artists never suffer.

Taylor and I are only separated in age by a few months. I feel a deep kinship with her songwriting. Every heartbreak, joy, and moment of hope written in her music whispered to my heart and mirrored my own life’s experiences. From her debut album all the way to these re-releases, she has been a buoy keeping my head above water whether I was mourning a disastrous relationship at 18 or looking for a spark of joy and excitement in the middle of a pandemic at 32. I know I’m not the only one whose life has been affected by her words in this way, so when the opportunity arose to put together another GC: Unplugged, I knew the re-release of Red, one of my favorite albums, had to happen. On our panel today we’ve gathered together new fans, casual fans, and die-hards; making sure everyone was represented in this celebration of Red (Taylor’s Version)!

-Ashley

Ash: This song absolutely succeeds in setting the tone for the rest of the album. State of Grace is the joyous discovery of love, the bliss that it inspires, and the changes it unleashes. Whether it ends in a “Lover” situation or it’s an “All Too Well” doesn’t matter. State of Grace is all about your surrender to the fall.

Reagan: I want to say right off the bat that Red is and always has been my favourite Taylor Swift album. It came out when I was twelve, it’s been the first place I’ve gone to after every break up I’ve ever had because it’s so familiar and comforting at this point. 

“And I never saw you coming, and I’ll never be the same.” I am not the same person as I was when the original version of Red came out. I had no way of knowing what, or who was in store for me. I won’t get too personal but my first breakup was rough. Hell, my first relationship was rough; it fundamentally altered me as a person. There’s this idea in this song that when you give all of yourself to a relationship, when you mould yourself into a new shape to fit with another, you ultimately lose a part of yourself, no matter how small, to that breakup. And it’s scary at first, it feels like you’re missing something. Like you’ve rearranged your cells only to have them ripped apart. But the thing about cells is that eventually they regenerate. And eventually, you grow back into something that resembles your original shape just enough that you can keep going on as you did before, only stronger.

Brandie: “And I never saw you coming. And I’ll never be the same.” In State of Grace, Taylor does a great job in describing the feeling of meeting someone unexpected and having them change the course of your life. The lines “So you were never a saint and I loved in shades of wrong. We learn to live with the pain. Mosaic broken hearts. But this love is brave and wild” to me is all about how two people bring their experiences of the past together to create something new, which can be scary, but that love is worth the risk.

Joe: Ever since I got into Taylor after Speak Now, I’ve been making the argument to my skeptical friends that she’s got a lot in common with late 90s/early 2000s emo. When this single came out, I felt even more justified in that comparison. The chiming guitars and driving drums and overly heart-on-sleeve lyrics would fit right in on a Jimmy Eat World album. This song hits every sweet spot perfectly. I love how the drums and bass mostly stay steady throughout the song while the guitars weave in and out, building up over time, and the vocals get more and more intense until they really take off with “so you were never a saint…” It builds and builds and builds and then, instead of exploding, we get this calm chorus that suits the lyrics just right. Then the build starts again, drum fills peeking out from the sides, vocals layering on top of each other, until the feeling is almost too much to handle. Most days, this is my favorite Taylor Swift song. It’s got such an exhilarating momentum to it. She lets you know right from track one that this is going to be a special album. The drums on the new version somehow sound EVEN BETTER than they did before. 

RJ: Greetings, I’m the outlier, for I am the non-traditional Swift listener who only recently has come into an appreciation for her music and immense talent. Also, my interactions with her have been on such a strange timeline, that I can’t help but share. My father was a season ticket holder for the Philadelphia 76ers from 1997 to 2008 and we religiously went to every home game. In 2002, an 11-year-old Pennsylvania native sang the national anthem, the team that was playing the sixers escapes me, but the young woman whose voice echoed in the arena was none other than Taylor Swift. 

Fast forward a little over a decade and I find myself working at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as a floor nurse when we are informed that we can take our young patients’ downstairs to meet a surprise guest. My mind was thinking perhaps a member of one of the local sports teams, but the beefed-up security told me another story. I exited an elevator and brought my patient in line, and we waited patiently for our turn to interact with the mystery visitor. We came to the front and my eyes locked with Taylor Swift who was taller than I expected, but also one of the most beautiful people I had ever seen (excluding my wife). She was gracious and warm, with this sense that she actually wanted to be there (trust me, I had escorted patients down to certain celebs who looked miserable). I took a photo of the two of them, Taylor gave my patient a hug and handed the camera back to me. We locked eyes and she smiled. Gun to my head, I could not even have produced anything resembling intelligent thought if you asked me to at the moment. 

Well, the years passed, and I caught some songs here and there, but never had the chance to sit down and listen to full albums. Nevertheless, pandemics have that weird power of forcing you to slow down and actually appreciate what you took for granted. Folklore and Evermore come and knock me off my feet and I slowly began to understand that I am growing up with and alongside the greatest singer and lyricist of my generation. Now that we have that established, let’s actually talk about RED.

This song brings me back to my high school years, I cannot fully explain it, but Joe above me does a better job explaining this. It just has this reminiscent air of some of the bands I listened to in the early 2000s. I searched out Jack’s Mannequin and listened to Dark Blue and then this, and I began to understand where this enjoyment stems from. It’s like trying a dish you haven’t had in a while, and although your tastes may have changed, it still leaves that same spark in you.

Brandie: To me, Red describes a short lived romance perfectly. The highs, the lows, and how fast feelings can change. “Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street” – everything is new and fun, and yet you need to look at the bigger picture. Sometimes it goes nowhere and you have to do what’s best for you.

RJ: Not since Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ has a color-based song that also represents the album’s title been so encapsulating for what to expect from said album. Taylor is relatively upfront in her lyrics when it comes to how she feels about something. That’s not to say there aren’t certain interpretations and mysteries to uncover, but songs like Red are just an open window to her soul. I like to believe she understands even the brightest fires burn out fastest and that perhaps Red is not a sustainable type of love. I also like to believe that her inclusion of blue is her own subtle not to Mitchell’s own dive into the color. Perhaps the lesson of Red is like Tennyson stated: ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. The color she needs to talk about is ‘gold’ because that is this song.  

Brandie: “Nothing safe is worth the drive and I would follow you, follow you home.” Treacherous would be the song that plays when you’ve just met someone, who you know is no good for you, and yet you both have such great chemistry, you still have to see where it goes. It’s all about taking that chance even if it all falls apart, at least you won’t have to live with the “what if.”

Joe: I’m not sure if the backing vocals are more prominent in the new version of this song or if I’m just listening more closely, but they really add a lot. I’m assuming that’s Dan Wilson? I love how the bass follows the vocal melody for the “get you, get you alone” line, underscoring how important that is. The chorus really takes this song to another level.

Reagan: “I knew you were trouble when you walked in, so shame on me now.” My first relationship was with someone who I had rightfully been warned away from. I knew who he was, what he was like. I had been told that he was a pathological liar, that he had hurt other girls. But I didn’t listen because for the first time in my life I was being noticed by someone, I was being admired. There’s a line in the first verse, “I was in your sights, you got me alone.” That line sums it up best in my opinion. You had me in your sights, you took aim and saw me and you got me alone and God, I fell hard. Looking back, it wasn’t really love. But that didn’t stop him from hurting me, it doesn’t stop me from still feeling the effects of him.

Joe: I wasn’t really into this song when the album first came out. I like the production on the TV much better than the original. It sounds more modern and the bass isn’t so overwhelming on the choruses. The song feels like it flows better to me now and it fits in better with the album. It’s a more organic sounding arrangement all around. There’s a little whoa-oh-oh-oh vocal run near the end of the song that my wife loves and now I focus on it every time. It’s probably my favorite part of the song now, too.

RJ: All Too Well is probably the song that I know all too well because my wife has decided to give me the equivalent to a college course in her breakdown of everything behind the words escaping Swift’s lips. The song itself is so personal that it even feels wrong at times to be given this much access ‘behind closed doors’ of two people’s intimate lives. It’s one thing to write about the connection when it’s still fresh in your mind, but then to revisit a decade later, with a different mindset and understanding of what went down. She has the experience now. She knows what a real relationship is, and what it means to trust someone, so this song is also an apology to her younger self. Something along the lines of “I wish I could have shown you the red flags” or “I wish you could see us now.” People like to say how when singer’s get older, their voice changes or even their sound ‘changes,’ and most liken this to a detriment. Here, Taylor’s passion and wisdom is what makes this song so impactful to those who are finally ready to stop being led by some false hope, and realize that the something special in the relationship is themselves. I know some of that is rambling, but do hope this song helps the people who need it most. 

Brandie: 22 is just fun. Listening to this song really brings you back to the feeling of being in your early twenties, when going out was fun and you finally felt like an “adult” and yet at the same time, you’re still very young and naive and absolutely “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time.”

RJ: This song has such a different feel when you listen to it as a 20-something to when you are 33 and realize these times seem like generations apart. I’m sure Taylor had her own moment of self-realization looking at these lyrics and singing them now, especially it being such a fun song. It has been partially been ruined for me thanks to Tik-Tok, as now everytime I hear “I don’t know about you” without someone screeching “bitch I hope the fuck you do.” Aside from that, her voice hasn’t aged per say, but definitely matured, and I prefer this sound to the original. Also, I have used the line “This place is too crowded, too many cool kids” entering a bar before, so this is definitely the song for me. 

Brandie: I Almost Do has always been one of my favorite songs off this album. I think it’s just so raw and genuine. The lines, “I bet it never, ever occurred to you that I can’t say hello to you and risk another goodbye” absolutely KILL ME. You can feel the ache of missing someone so much, but knowing you can’t reach out to them again. So, you just sit and wonder how they’re doing, what they’re doing, and if by some small chance that they’re also thinking the same of you.

RJ:  This is my generation’s break-up song. Aside from how fucking catchy the tune is, there are some moments that absolutely hit all the right spots. Her deadpan “like ever” about a minute-in definitely had some harbored resentment in it, perhaps from some of the smellier people she has been intertwined with in her dating history. There is also a distinct imitation of the person she is referring to when she is rehashing the break-up conversation she had with him that definitely gives me a chuckle. I wish I was talented enough to talk shit through verse, especially about some of the lamer dating moments I have had in my life.

Brandie: Stay Stay Stay makes me so happy. The joy in Taylor’s voice is infectious. I can’t listen to this song without dancing.

Joe: This is such a fun song and really highlights the bass. The bass keeps everything bouncing along. When I saw her on the Red tour, the only time she introduced a band member to the crowd was during this song. She let everyone know who the bassist was while he did some cool fills. I believe the TV sessions are all being tracked by her live band, which I like a lot. They’ve got history with the songs and it brings a more “live show” energy to the feel of both Red and Fearless TVs. They feel more like hearing a band in a room.

Ash: This song shoots a cupid’s arrow right in my heart. Similar to Mine a song from the album Speak Now, this song inspires a deranged giddy feeling in me that keeps me humming along and singing (terribly I might add) because I can’t hear it without wanting to be part of it.

Reagan: The Last Time is one of the best and most painful songs on all of Red. It’s about demanding that your love treat you how you deserve to be treated by them, going so far as to beg them for it. It’s something no one should have to do and yet it’s so common to have to ask someone to put your name at the top of their list.

Brandie: The Last Time is a painful song. The need to beg to have someone treat you how you should be treated is gut-wrenching and you feel it from both sides in this song. It’s as if there is a misunderstanding that neither of them are able to realize or fix.

Joe: This one always left me cold on the original album. I wasn’t a fan of Gary Lightbody’s vocals and it felt like he took over the song. The TV made me totally rethink my stance on this song. The new mix highlights some guitar and string flourishes that I never noticed before. Taylor’s voice sounds a lot more confident this time around. And, for my own personal tastes, I think I’m now more used to hearing her do these duets with deep voiced men after folklore and evermore. It sounds so lush and full now and their voices work so well together. I’m glad I could come around to this one.

Brandie: “And for the first time I had something to lose.” Holy Ground digs in the feeling of being with your first real love. Even though it’s over, you’re able to look back and know you both had those feelings and cared. It didn’t last, but it was real.

Joe: This song nails the intense, giddy feeling of falling in love. It’s so hard for songs to get that exact excitement down, and she does it just right here. Like State of Grace, the drums stay pretty much the same through the whole song. They drive everything forward while Taylor sings just slightly ahead of the beat, too excited with too much to say to stay tethered to the rhythm. One or two well placed guitar chords add so much to the dynamics, like how a tiny gesture or comment from someone you have a crush on can be the biggest deal in the world. When the dense layer of guitars drops away for the “tonight I want to dance” part, it makes the song for me. The music falls back enough for her to make the mission statement of the song. I think this song is perfect. It’s usually neck and neck with State of Grace for my favorite Swift song (and Red overall is my favorite Swift record).

Brandie: Another painful song and yet another of my favorites. Taylor is phenomenal at pulling you into her stories. The emotions in these words cut you. You feel the longing she has for wanting things to work, “Good girls, hopeful they’ll be and long they will wait.” You feel the fear of giving up on someone you love when maybe this time they’ll actually change, but you also feel the frustration in her voice of not being heard and only in her dreams things feel right. The lines “And you’ve got your demons and darling, they all look like me” STINGS. Basically just pointing his finger at her and blaming her for all his troubles. 

Joe: There are a lot of moments on Red that predict where she’d go, sonically, on Folklore and Evermore. This song is a big one. I’d bring this up whenever anyone told me they were surprised by the sound of her more recent albums. The ingredients were always there, she just hadn’t done a whole album of it yet. This is a beautiful, crushing, intimate song. 

Brandie: The Lucky one just makes you realize that sometimes the things you desperately want aren’t how they seem and how easy it is to miss the things you used to have.

Joe: Another one I love because the drums stay the same the whole time but the instrumentation and vocals add all the dynamics. She was great at that formula on this album! This is another song that points towards what she’d eventually do with Folklore and Evermore. She steps outside herself for most of this song but then brings it around to her own viewpoint at the end. Taylor writing about herself is great but she starts showing on Red how well she can wrap other people’s stories into her songs as well. The bittersweet feel of this song fits right in with the lyrics. 

Brandie: “And all I feel in my stomach is butterflies. The beautiful kind, making up for lost time. Taking flight,making me feel right.” It’s the feeling of the first new crush after your heart has been broken.

Brandie: Just makes me dance.

Joe: This song is exhilarating and somehow manages to make a story about impossibly wealthy socialites sound relatable! The line “don’t you dream impossible things?” is the best part of the song to me, and I’m glad she brings that part back around for the ending. That right there sums up the song, and the feeling of being young and wide eyed in love and taking on the world. 

Ash: This song, similarly to Folklore’s The Last Great American Dynasty, allows Taylor to tell someone else’s story for a change. Starlight is based on the relationship of Bobby and Ethel Kennedy, and there is just a beautiful earnestness in their love that twinkles in the lyrics. Taylor recounts their summer romance beautifully, infusing it with their hopes and dreams we can all relate to, even if real life doesn’t end up fulfilling all those wishes. Starlight is big syrupy sweetness that transports me into the past. What else can I ask for in a song?

Brandie: Begin Again is the first date after a break up. It’s realizing how toxic the last relationship was and how you couldn’t be yourself. Meeting this new person is so refreshing. They respect you and your time. You realize how you have much more in common than you did with your ex.  

Joe: Taylor loves to end albums with songs about fresh starts. For me, this is the best one she’s written so far. That little turn of phrase at the end of each chorus can get me teary eyed on the right day. When this single came out before the album, I knew it’d be a special record.

Ash: Begin Again was one of the songs I was most anticipating with the re-record of this album. The original is one of my favorites in her catalogue, and I was itching at the opportunity to hear this reimagined with her more matured vocals. I was not disappointed. Begin Again has always ignited the embers of memories in me, beckoning me to recall exactly what it felt like to take a chance on someone new and make a fresh start. Being in a relationship changes you whether you want it to or not. And yes, Begin Again is about possibly finding someone new, but it is also about finding yourself again.

Brandie: “What do you say when tears are streaming down your face in front of everyone you know? And what do you do when the one who means the most to you is the one who didn’t show?” Pain.. all I know is pain.

Ash: I know this was written because of an incredibly personal moment, but it’s amazing to me that Taylor can diarize specific moments of her life in her songs, but they are still conduits of emotion for the rest of us to connect and feel through. I’ve never been stood up on my birthday, but that doesn’t mean I’m not aching with pain and righteous indignation while I’m screaming through the chorus of this on a car ride.

RJ: “The feeling you can know so much, without knowing anything at all,” this may be on either my gravestone or my family crest. This song makes me think about the love I put in to certain relationships that may have not been entirely reciprocated. It’s a shame that I did not have this in my early 20’s, as this song particularly (in addition to some others) possibly would have hit a bit different back then. But, again, this song, along with a lot of the others in that catalogue, were written in that exact mindset. She can’t change the lyrics, but she can change the inflection. Does she look back on this as a foolish young woman pining for something not real? We have questions Taylor! QUESTIONS! 

Joe: The TV of this song makes the original sound like a demo. I love that she totally changed up the feel and arrangement for this re-release. The way the first line of each chorus strips away a lot of the production before it comes booming back in is amazing. This has me even more excited for future TV releases to see what she might change around with other songs. 

Reagan: I can’t even name how many times I’ve laid in the dark with my eyes closed listening to this exact song on repeat. So much of this album has been a staple of every breakup I’ve ever had but this track specifically has been the most prominent of all of them. To the point that it’s been a staple of not just breakups, but rejections to. It has a calming effect as much as it just lets me get my emotions up enough that I can just heave and sob.

Ash: I’m the mother of a little boy, and even before I was ever that, I only listened to Ronan once. This song is so tender, sad, and raw, that I can’t get through the opening lines without openly weeping. It’s a testament to the relationships Taylor forms with people and the quality of her songwriting. Ronan is delicately crafted heartache through song. Listen at your own risk. And have tissues handy.

Brandie: Much like Soon You’ll Get Better off her album Lover, I tend to skip this song.. Because it’s just so insanely beautiful and heartbreaking.  

Joe: I’ve listened to this song exactly once, right after it was released. I won’t do it again. It’s the most heart wrenching song I’ve ever heard and I can’t handle it. It’s a wonderfully written song, though. The writing credit given to Ronan’s mother is a really nice gesture, too.

Brandie: “I know I’m probably better off on my own than lovin’ a man who didn’t know what he had when he had it. And I see the permanent damage you did to me. Never again, I just wish I could forget when it was magic.” Yup, pretty sure we can all relate.

RJ: Okay, here is my bit of pure honesty, I thought I was about to listen to Taylor’s cover of Pearl Jam’s Better Man. What I found was something unique, but could actually be linked to the infamous Pearl Jam song anyway, hear me out. PJ’s version is about a woman who trying to get rid of a man, but loses the courage to do it, and simply falls into the trap of believing the lie that he is a better man. Now Taylor’s version has us see this woman in another multiverse (why not) and this woman was able to have that courage, BUT, still has that same wish that the man was a better man so she never had to leave him. Listen, I’ll be the first to tell you that lyrical interpretation is right below woodworking on my list of skills that are completely absent from my repertoire. However, this link between the two songs, I think there is something to consider:

Pearl Jam’s Better Man: ‘Waitin’, watchin’ the clock, It’s four o’clock, It’s got to stop.”

Swift’s Better Man: “I wish it wasn’t 4 AM, standin’ in the mirror, Sayin’ to myself, you know you had to do it”

Same woman, different plane of existence. If someone else already made a big deal of this, I apologize, I thought I found something here.

Ash: I can’t believe I get to listen to Taylor Swift and Phoebe Bridgers on the same song. Now that I have that out of the way, I think I can draw some pretty direct lines lyrically from this song all the way to Folklore’s Mirrorball. Always trying to stay fresh and new has to be exhausting. The line “I wonder if they’ll miss me once they drive me out” breaks my heart. It’s inevitable. One day you’re the world’s ingénue and the next they’re on a witch hunt coming for blood. I can’t imagine growing up through my most formative years with that idea hanging over my head like the sword of Damocles.

Reagan: “How can a person know everything at 18 but nothing at 22”

Brandie: “They tell you while you’re young “Girls, go out and have your fun” Then they hunt and slay the ones who actually do it.” This song ruins me. Taylor AND Phoebe Bridgers?! My two girls collaborated on a breathtakingly beautiful song about being a girl, growing up, and trying to figure out life. From being young and fresh to wondering how long people will still think of you that way. The lines “And will you still want me when I’m nothing new?” really dig into the heart. I think that’s something we’ve all wondered about in different situations (relationships, jobs, friends, ect.)

Joe: I completely understand why this didn’t make the album. It’s almost too vulnerable. She’d be letting the cracks show, letting some uncertainty creep in. This song feels very emo to me as well, like a Bright Eyes song, the way her voice wavers and cracks on “what will become of me once I’ve lost my novelty.” It’s interesting to know that she was thinking about her future and her legacy at this young age. Between this and The Lucky One, she was obviously thinking far into the future about what her life and work would be like. Phoebe is a great addition here. Their voices sound so good together, especially over this stripped down arrangement. 

Reagan: Look. I’m going to be real. I prefer the Sugarland version. It just sounds better to me.

RJ: How about that. I’ve reached this song and am starting to see this album as this momentous realization for Taylor that the last thing she needs is just some man to up and ruin shit for her. It has this cohesive feel back and forth between these fun swipes to these deep cuts at whatever dickbag decided that they would play mind games with someone who could write a breakup song that absolutely slaps. “Taking down the pictures and the plans we made, yeah – and it’s strange how your face doesn’t look so innocent”. I’m here googling “Who did this to Taylor,” because I am so out-of-touch and I need the HBO series to run through all these albums. My own fault for waiting this long to get involved in this because I’m basically hopping into a show that is 6 seasons deep and rather than start with the pilot I am just going to wing it.

Joe: Imagine writing a song like this and then just sitting on it for 9 years. Not even giving it to a soundtrack or anything. I’m sure this would’ve sounded different if it came out in 2012; it’s a Max Martin/Shellback collaboration, and the other songs she did with them sound the most different on the TV. I wonder if that will ever see the light of day. This is so good. 

RJ: Let’s begin on this one because the music is absolutely entrancing. The rythym and sound here, I mean, play this in a club and I’m absolutely on the floor. I’m actually tapping my feet to the floor while writing this because I’m enjoying it so much. The lyrics are a bit lost in this song, perhaps an acoustic version or slowed down version would be more impactful because I am just too lost in this beat. After looking up the song and going line by line, maybe she picked that high-tempo music that grabs you because it’s meant to be a hopeful song, but actually reading into it you see more of a smile behind anxiety. “Cause now, You’re so far away and I’m down, Feelin’ like a face in the crowd, I’m reachin’ for you, terrified” Catchy tune for a sad song. 

Ash: This song gives me the same dancey vibes I get when I listen to New Romantics from the 1989 album. I think New Romantics is lyrically superior, but it instills the same urge to get up and move. Why has she been hiding this song from us? I’m almost offended.

Reagan: Ok right off the bat I want to say that it’s so cool to hear Taylor going back to her country roots, even if only for a song. And with Chris Stapleton, one of my top current country artists no less? What a treat. 

Now let’s get into the meat of this. This song is about the things in their backgrounds that separated Taylor from her lover. Their upbringings, their interests, their friend circles.

Brandie: “But now that we’re done and it’s over I bet you couldn’t believe when you realized I’m harder to forget than I was to leave and I bet you think about me.” Could listen to this on repeat.. Have listened to this on repeat. The lines “I don’t have to be your shrink to know that you’ll never be happy” and “I bet you think about me in your house with your organic shoes and your million-dollar couch” are just a big FU to Jake with this one.. And I’m LIVING for it. Can’t believe she’s been holding onto this song for so long. Well worth the wait.

Joe: Another excellent song that I understand excluding from the record. This feels closer to the sound of Speak Now or Fearless than Red, and she was pushing forward too much to include something so folksy on the record. I get it. Aaron Dessner’s production helps the song a lot, at least for me, in that it sounds more like mid-2000s folk/Americana than modern country. It’s decidedly not a pop arrangement or mix. This could’ve easily been a huge hit and she left it behind for the sake of forward momentum. This is why she’s great.

Ash: “Organic shoes and million-dollar couch” … ABSOLUTELY SAVAGE.

Ash: This song is a vault song addition, so hearing it on Red (Taylor’s Version) was my first experience listening to it. It ripped a chasm in me and it’s become one of my favorites on the album. As you get older, you lose people along the way, and this song specifically creates a twinge of regret and misery in me for the people I’ve lost to mental health issues. Taylor’s optimistic sounding lyrics keep this from turning into a sob-fest for me, but I can’t help but love something that makes me feel so much.

Brandie: Love this song is focused on loving someone with mental health issues and being young but still trying to learn and understand what they’re going through. You can feel the hopelessness in her voice of wanting to take their pain away. “If I was standing there in your apartment I’d take that bomb in your head and disarm it. I’d say I love you even at your darkest and please don’t go.”

Joe: This song also sounds to me like it would make more sense on Speak Now than Red. I was surprised to see she co-wrote this with someone else; it sounds very specifically Taylor Swift to me. “I’ll be summer sun for you forever” is a great line. 

Brandie: What I wouldn’t give to have a full album of nothing but duets from Taylor and Ed Sheeran. Their voices together are magical and so comforting. 

RJ: Ed Sheeran, my fellow ginger. Another singer who has slowly garnered my appreciation, a lot of it in part to I See Fire from the Hobbit Soundtrack. My wife played that song enough for me to finally catch on to just how pleasing his voice is, and how he definitely doesn’t need to ‘go away’ like someone once said – definitely not me. Now, duets have always been a tough task as you need someone to match you, never pull ahead, and never fall behind. The two of them and a guitar just puts their vocal power on display through this lovely and at times haunting melody. The song itself is an ode to that love that would make you leave everyone and anything behind just to be with that person. It slowly devolves into a Bonnie & Clyde mantra at the end, but isn’t that the love we search for our entire lives. The type of love that would hide the bodies for you and then join you on the run from the law. This topic may have ‘run’ away from me, but I genuinely enjoy this song, and their voices have a very soothing nature to it. I would suggest a light sweater and a cup of tea while listening to this one. 

Brandie: Fun song but I understand why it didn’t make it on the original album.

Ash: I actually agree and disagree with Brandie a bit. It does sonically sound a bit different than the rest of the album (Starlight and Stay Stay Stay aside) but I absolutely love this bop. It just goes to show how talented this woman is. Even the songs she cuts from the album sound as good as any single she’s put out on the radio. The Very First Night fills me with nostalgic memories about the fizzy butterflies you experience when you first meet someone you’re interested in. “Back then we didn’t know we were built to fall apart / We broke the status quo, then we broke each other’s hearts” I love the perspective in the song. This relationship is over, it didn’t work out, but there was magic in the meeting and The Very First Night encapsulates those feelings so perfectly.

Ash: “You kept me like a secret but I kept you like an oath” – Holy shit. I’ve been waiting almost 10 years for the transcendent 10-minute version of All Too Well to be released, and it was worth the wait. Every sublime addition to this extended masterpiece is a dagger to my heart. Did I immediately purchase a “Fuck the Patriarchy” keychain after the song was released? Yes, yes I did. I’m a freaking Swiftie for life and I’m ok with that.

Reagan: Jake Gyllenhaal found dead in Miami. 

There’s a lot to talk about but let’s start with “I’ll get older but your lovers stay my age”

Brandie: “Any time now he’s gonna say it’s love, you never called it what it was.” Talk about crying and throwing up. The fact that Taylor created this song at such a young age, it’s no wonder she’s stayed so relevant. She never fails to make sure her songs aren’t just songs, but actual stories. The way she brings back lines from old songs to new songs like “They say all’s well that ends well, but I’m in a new Hell” to “All’s well that ends well to end up with you” from the song ‘Lover.” She’s an actual genius. I bow down to my queen.. And again, FU Jake.

Joe: Is there any other artist that could release a 10-minute long version of a 9 year old song that wasn’t even a single and have it be a major event? That blows my mind. It really shows the genuine connection so many people have with her work. Ultimately, I think the edits were for the best. She made sure every single line that didn’t get cut really mattered. There isn’t a wasted word or breath on the album version. This is something a little wilder and less civilized. It’s like Bob Dylan’s epics, a repeated chord progression while the words do the heavy lifting. The lyric about the patriarchy keychain is such a brutal takedown of a guy that’s performing at being progressive. The “turning 21” lyric is just crushing. I can’t believe she actually had an EVEN SADDER lyric to end that bridge on. Most songwriters would kill to make this. She saw it as a starting point.

Categories
Comics

GC52 News: DC Comics Released 11/09/2021

(Spoilers for DC Comics released 11/09/2021)

(Words in italics signal actions)

If you missed last week’s report, check it out here.


GC52 News begins at the old faithful time even if the program has been a bit different for the last few weeks. The report opens abruptly as Lead Anchor Dan McMahon presses his back hard against the brick corner of a wall. His bean bag rifle is pressed close to his chest as he reloads.

Dan: Viewers, I am transmitting from what I think is a few blocks from O’Neil Boulevard in Alleytown. A heavy concentration of Magistrate drones have descended upon a group of citizens who have decided to fight back. The siege of Alleytown rages on, but no matter what we are going to push them back. Things are blowing up across the city… it’s the darkest hour. Stick with us tonight as GC52 is the ONLY news team coming to you LIVE from Gotham City. Let’s check in with… hold on.

The camera pans away from Dan and to the vines covering the city as they begin to blossom. A pheromone starts to seep out and into the air. Dan’s dirt-covered hand presses against his ear. 

Dan: Harley and Ivy… they’re back together. Good for them. Ivy is helping Gotham… those plants are restoring the peace. The tides are changing… I hope Batman is having the same luck. Let’s check in with one of our other correspondents.

The camera cuts to Mr. Tubes and his ghostly sidekick Zeb crashing into Magistrate Troops. Walls come crashing down as the duo comes upon an alley and sees the cheerful reunion of Nightwing, Robin, and the Batgirls across the street! Zeb grabs the GC52 camera drone and points it in the direction of the heroes.

Zeb: Look Mr. Tubes it’s the Batfamily! 

Tubes begins to type furiously, using his ferret paws tapping the buttons of his mech’s console to speak.

Tubes: They appear to be setting a trap! 

And they were indeed setting a trap to get some Magistrate suits to reach and infiltrate Skybase-01 to stop Seer. The heroes proceed to lure and take the spoils of the mugging for justice and fly upwards but there was a few extra troops on the ground when Tubes and Zeb show up! 

Zeb: Look, they took the armor for the jet packs! Do you have a jetpack? 

Tubes: No I do not think so. I have tapped all the buttons.

Tubes, as a ferret, does not know what a jetpack is. In his curiosity, Tubes leans down to touch an unconscious trooper’s armor and on the monitor, the words OVERRIDE and INTEGRATE popped on the screen. Tubes, still a ferret, doesn’t know those words, but having used the OVERRIDE function before clicks INTEGRATE. Upon doing so the armor is pulled apart by nanomachines and implemented into the mech. Now there are new buttons on the console, so he presses it. Mr. Tubes now has and knows what a jetpack is. 

Zeb: AWESOME!

The pair flies into the air only to reach Skybase 01 as Oracle announces that they have taken the base and will be crashing it into the ground. As they’re trying to jump back out the hole they made and entered, a bruised Simon Saint tries running past them until Zeb solidifies his body to trip the jerk rendering him unconscious. The two glide back to the ground. 

Tubes: It looks like this battle will soon be at its end. I need to get back to Blüdhaven in case my owner returns. But what will you do? Do you plan on haunting your family forever? 

Zeb: I…don’t know…

Tubes: It may be best you don’t. 

Zeb: Adventure? 

Tubes: Adventure!

The pair fly off in the direction of Blüdhaven! The camera feed cuts to Adam, fast asleep at his small GC52 desk in the corner of the cave.

Ethan: Um…Adam, you’re up now. Adam? WAKE UP!

Adam: …huh? What? I wasn’t sleeping, I was just…resting. Sorry folks, those Magistrate chumps blew up my house so I’ve had to stay in this awful hotel. I won’t name it but let’s just say it would go well with Watson.

The room was bad enough when these two teenage girls moved into the room beside me and didn’t seem to ever leave their room. I don’t know what the heck they were doing but I haven’t slept a wink in weeks because they were blasting their TV that damn loud. 

They started watching some creepy horror movie when frankly we’ve had enough fear in Gotham recently, and just when this spooky voice starts a weird nursery rhyme about killing Batgirls and things were getting interesting they threw their damn TV out the window. That was the final straw, I gave that place a one-star review and have been staying…not in the office. That’s for sure. Definitely no pillow under this desk!

Ethan: Do you have any actual news that isn’t about your housing crisis?

Adam: Oh yeah sure, the Batgirls have been about. But another thing! I rented this fancy new place in the Hill and am just about to move in when I see some guy is running around graffiting everything and the sign says “Welcome to Hell” now? What’s all that about?

Ethan: Yeah ok, we’re moving on now.

Adam: AND ANOTHER THING-

The camera quickly pans away from Adam as his housing rant continues in the background. When the feed cuts back to Dan, he’s firing his weapon towards a group of drones who seem to be on their last legs. 

Dan: Take that you bucket of fascist bolts! Check-in with Ethan. I have some robo-brains to bash in.

For the first time during the darkest moments of the Fear State, a smile paints Dan’s face and the camera cuts to Ethan in the Batcave. In the background, Adam can still be heard ranting about his housing problems.

Ethan: Evening folks, as you can probably tell we’re wrapping up business in Gotham tonight, one way or another. I’ve been doing some digging into this Gardener that’s been helping out with the Poison Ivy business going on lately. It seems she knew Ivy before her transformation, to what extent, that’s for them and only them to know. 

You may remember a couple years ago Ivy took control of everything, not just plants, but every single person around the world. Even the Justice League were taken over. This ended up being averted thanks to Batman, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn. But what my digging has found is that it was the Gardener who warned Batman about the approaching attack. It seems we owe our current free will to this person. 

Now we wait to find out what role she will play in concluding this Magistrate business. In the meantime, looks like we’ve got an update from Belle Reve. But first, let’s go to Rook, live from Metropolis.

The camera cuts to Rook standing on a street corner in Metropolis.

Rook: Another day, another disaster defused by Superman. At least, that would be the case if today was like any other; however, we might just be looking at a new record.

After being supercharged by one of Gamorran president Henry Bendix’s (likely off-the-books) technologies for some (likely nefarious) reason, Jon Kent had a lot of power. Almost too much, even, particularly for someone who can hear everyone calling out for help across the world.

So what did he do? Well, everything. For everyone. From saving the inhabitants of a small Luxembourg town from a flood, to helping a lost little girl in Costa Rica, to carrying a bridge full of patients to a hospital with room to treat them, to rescuing three journalists from kidnapping, to dozens of other daring feats.  

In fact, those might have been a few too many feats. The strain began to pile up, as did mistakes. Luckily, a…new friend intervened and insisted on Superman getting a chance to rest. After all, when you’ve got everyone, who’s got you? So a pair of noise-canceling headphones and nine hours of shuteye later, Superman was right as rain and ready to…well, save some other people, but with his head on his shoulders. Whatever Henry Bendix had planned will have to wait, but with Superman on the job, it won’t be waiting for long.

The camera cuts to Jordan sitting in a cramped little room rustling through old VHS tapes

Jordan: Greetings. Welcome once again to GC52’s Belle Reve branch. As always I’m here to give you top-secret updates on the current happenings of Task Force X, Amanda Waller’s own personal Suicide Squad. You’d think after the Squad’s last mission to literal Hell, they’d get a little time off. But no rest for the wicked I guess, because now Waller has sent them all to space. 

The Squad today consisted of Match (our former Superboy), Nocturna, Culebra, Talon, Black Siren, Ambush Bug, and the new field leader, Major Force. The Squad ventured to the remains of Green Lantern headquarters Oa. They were given the mission objective of finding and locating a certain prisoner deep underwater. 

In venturing down into the darkness the Squad encountered some massive squid monster and a Green Lantern, Jo Mullein. Ambush Bug and Major Force managed to sneak by and retrieve the prisoner though. A charming fellow with a name we can’t quite decipher, Ambush Bug seems to have named him Yorick. Unfortunately, the Squad’s victory seems to have been short-lived. Last contact mentioned an attack by the Thanagarians, so that can’t be good. I’ll be sure to update you when more word comes in. 

Back here at Belle Reve though there have been some interesting developments. I’m getting the feeling that Dr. Rodrieguez isn’t exactly following Waller to the letter. I’ve been intercepting pieces of strange transmissions outside the base. Perhaps to a certain Colonel Flag? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. 

Dan stands with his boot on the crushed head of one of the Magistrate’s drones as he checks in on the show.

Dan: That brings us to Thomas, our Oa correspondent, with an update on the still fractured Green Lantern Corps. Is it snowing in space? 

The feed cuts to Thomas sitting in front of a small writer’s desk, in a space smaller than a college dorm room. He is sloppily dressed and looks sleepless.

Thomas: Nothing of the sort, Dan. I was just about to catch up to Lantern Stewart a few days ago to ask about the latest developments with his New God friends when they disappeared through a portal to stop some sort of interdimensional brainwashing. 

Dan: How will we know if the anti-brainwashing mission is successful?

Thomas: That’s what has kept me awake for three straight days. How will any of us know? These are gods and meta-gods tussling over our heads! What about our simple biology even approaches the feats they accomplish before breakfast? Did you know some of these “gods” refer to themselves by mega-generations of “old” and “new?” We are less complex to them than building blocks. Our most advanced mathematics mean as much to them as a flea’s taxes do to us.

Dan: Heady stuff. Are there no more leads, then?

Thomas: Oh, I’ve been keeping tabs on Stewart via his LinkedIn profile. He recently changed his job title to ‘Ascended,’ whatever that means, and recently updated his banner image to some glowing hellscape or another. Or maybe it’s what heaven looks like to the latest generation of gods and blue-skinned patriarchs. However, nothing escapes the vanity of social media, not even Lantern Mullein laying down the law on Oa. 

Dan: Good old social media. Straight up replaced our Blue and Gold coverage. Makes me fret for the future of traditional media, like multiversal cable news.

Thomas: Television is still doing okay! I just saw Blue Beetle and Booster Gold on a talk show reminiscing about the good old days with their former teammate Guy Gar–

Thomas’s feed cuts to static. When it cuts back to Dan, he’s standing looking out over Morrison Harbor as the fires from the remains of the Magistrate ship rage from the waters as it sinks to the fathoms below.

Dan: It’s over… we won. The Bat-family did it. They beat Simon Stagg and his fascist regime. They beat Scarecrow. The city is saved once again by those vigilantes that the spineless Mayor refused to call off his witch hunt for. Those other news channels… the ones who lied and spread false information are now singing a different tune. But us… GC52… we were here. We were in the city doing what’s right.

Dan sits, letting his feet dangle over the water as he removes his bulletproof vest and Bat symbol headband, letting them fall behind him as he watches as the Bat symbol lights up the skies once again. A beacon of hope, a beacon of a brighter future for Gotham. The light that reminded him growing up that there was something better out there. The camera watches as he is unaware tears are stinging his battle-worn cheeks as the nightmare ends while a familiar face sits beside him. As he sits, he cracks two Miller High Lifes before handing one to Dan.

Ethan: Well, I’ve reported everything to Chase and closed up the Batcave as if we were never there. You gonna be alright? You’ve been on the streets for days…

Dan: They won’t know we were here. Hell, Batman himself may not even know we were here. But we will know. We did the best good we could with the tools we have. I hope it was enough.

Ethan: Being good is good enough.

Dan almost instinctively reaches for his neck scar but stops. 

Ethan: I know you don’t like talking about it but I saw the files that Bones has on you. We ever going to talk about your time on the Suicide Squad or no?

Dan: Another day, today I want to look forward. I’m glad you made it back super spy. Cheers, to GC52 brother.

The broadcast draws to a close as Dan and Ethan klick their cans together and the camera pans up to the Bat-Signal shining across the Gotham skyline.


Books Covered this Week:

  • Batman #117 by James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles.
  • Nightwing #86 by Tom Taylor, Robbi Rodriguez, Adriano Lucas, and Wes Abbott.
  • Batgirls: Fear State #3 by Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad, Jorge Corona, Sarah Stern, and Becca Carey.
  • Batman: Secret Files – The Gardener #1 by James Tynion IV, Christian Ward, and Tom Napolitano.
  • Superman: Son of Kal-El #5 by Tom Taylor, John Timms, Hi-Fi, and Dave Sharpe.
  • Suicide Squad #9 by Robbie Thompson, Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira, Dexter Soy, Marcelo Maiolo, and Wes Abbott.
  • Green Lantern #8 by Geoffrey Thorne, ChrisCross, Marco Santucci, Juan Castro, Michael Atiyeh, and Rob Leigh.
Categories
sports

Fast Five Picks From the GC Experts for NFL Week 11

The NFL cogs continue to turn as teams are put to the test and division leaders rise and fall on the gridiron. Our experts continue winning predictions as we roll on to Week 11, with the dreams of playoffs on each coach’s mind! The crew made it out alive as Waldorf and Statler really gave Rick and Mitch the business, from questioning the legitimacy of Mitch’s doctorate to making Rick believe that Disney needed a human Muppet. It’s all in good fun as the picks are in, and they can’t wait to help you have a perfect NFL weekend.

DR. MITCHELL POWERS

Ok, let’s get one thing straight: It doesn’t matter how many non-accredited, online, for-profit universities I had to attend to get it, a doctorate degree is a doctorate degree. Waldorf and Statler may have their, *ahem*… opinions, but if Vince Papale can become a Philadelphia Eagle, then I’ll be damned if someone tells me I’m not a doctor. The worst thing you can run into is someone who isn’t even a doctor but likes to strut around as if he’s got all the credentials of one, when really he’s just a long-haired quarterback from Wisconsin who played his college ball at U.C. Berkeley. No, I’m not off that topic from last week, and it’s my God-given right as an American to die on that hill, incorrect pick be damned.

RICK DANGER

Meeting Waldorf and Statler was the highlight of my life, and then I met them, and I can’t find a desk to hide. Setup, joke, punchline, setup, joke, punchline, and repeat. They torched me and my writing like I was at a roast that I had no idea about. Luckily, they get tired in the afternoon and spent most of the time napping, so there was some respite from the insults. I get it now Fozzy bear, I really get it. Well, it’s time to light the lights and beat the Muppets tonight. Don’t tell them I said that though.

WALDORF & STATLER (OUR SPECIAL GUESTS)

Waldorf: Greetings Readers.

Statler: Readers? You mean people lost on the internet who wandered here?

W: You’re right, I read some of this stuff and I wanted to wander off a cliff.

Together: (laughing maniacally)

S: Well, with Disney’s partnership with Gatecrashers we are, what’s that phrase?

W. Contractually Obligated.

S: That’s right, contractually obligated to deal with Rick and Dr. Mitch.

W: They are quite the odd pair?

S: Odder than the pig and the frog?

W: Odder.

S: Odder than gonzo and the chicken?

W: Nothing’s odder than that.

Together: (laughing maniacally)

S: Guess there’s nothing left to do, but sit down and talk football.

W: Could be worse.

S: Could it?

W: Yeah, the bear could be doing jokes.

S: We’re here, that’s the real joke.

Together: (laughing maniacally)


RICK’S PICKS

Baltimore Ravens @ Chicago Bears – Nov 21st 1:00PM ET

If Lamar Jackson plays, the Ravens bounce back against the Bears. If Lamar Jackson is on the bench, the Bears have a shot in this one. *BING* Sorry, just got another text from Waldorf & Statler, and it reads: “We were going to read some of your earlier work, but we were worried.” That doesn’t make any sense I…*BING* “But, apparently it’s the leading cause of death in the elderly.” THIS IS MY PLACE OF WORK, KNOCK IT OFF OVER THERE!

PICK: RAVENS

Indianapolis Colts @ Buffalo Bills – Nov 21st 1:00PM ET

Wentz is a dad for the second time, so he will ride that energy right into a win. I’d write more, but they are next door listening to what I’m doing, and I’m just trying to get out of *BING* “We really think you are going places in this business Rick.” That actually, that means a lot from these guys, it makes me…*BING* “Yeah, like picking up our DoorDash at the Deli across the street.” Well, they win. I’m going to grab some food, completely unrelated to that last text.

PICK: COLTS

POWERS’ PREDICTIONS

Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks – Nov 21st 4:25Pm ET

The Seattle Seahawks quite frankly do not feel like the same contending threat this year that they have been in the past. You are what your record says you are, and I simply don’t think a 3-6 team has what it takes to beat an 8-2 team. Say what you will about “any given Sunday”, but with Kyler Murray likely to return, I don’t see the Seahawks pulling a W out on this one. Although the extended regular season schedule has helped some teams keep their playoff hopes alive, Seattle just doesn’t seem to have what it takes this year. This game should be an easy victory for Arizona… if they play their Cards right.

PICK: CARDINALS

Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets – Nov 21st 1:00PM ET

Here we have it: a battle of two completely mediocre football teams, and that’s being a bit generous. There are essentially two points leading me to my ultimate conclusion on the outcome of this game. The first is that the Dolphins, with their 3 wins and 7 losses, have had a number of lost games which came very close to going the other way. They may be one of the best worst teams in the NFL right now. Make no mistake, they’re still a losing team, but they’re a losing team with aspirations that a couple of coin flips could go the other way in the next few weeks and shift their fortunes, however mildly.

The second point is that the Jets’ starting quarterback on Sunday will be Joe Flacco.

PICK: DOLPHINS

THE GUEST GUESS

New York Giants @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Nov 22nd 8:15PM

Statler: Looks like we are discussing the Giants versus Brady and the Bucs.

Waldorf: I’ve been to a Giants game before.

Statler: I didn’t know you went to one.

Waldorf: Yeah, good game too, they lost by the first quarter!

Together: (laughing maniacally)

Statler: I think Tom Brady has this one in the bag.

Waldorf: What do you think is in the bag?

Statler: A bunch of deflated footballs.

Together: (laughing maniacally)

Waldorf: Well, us and the Giants have something in common.

Statler: Being part of a team?

Waldorf: No, a free flight home from a nightmare.

Together: (laughing maniacally)

PICK: BUCS

LAST WEEK 

RICKS PICKS: 1 – 1

POWERS PREDICTIONS: 1 – 1

GUEST GUESS: 0 – 1

OVERALL

RICKS PICKS: 11 – 7

POWERS PREDICTIONS: 10 – 8

GUEST GUESS: 3 – 6

**DISCLAIMER** Like a conservative talkshow, the opinions and views here are a joke.

Categories
Television

CW’s Nancy Drew Could Do Something Great: I’m Afraid They Won’t

CW: This will contain spoilers for all of Nancy Drew up to Season 3, Episode 6 (which I will try my best to contain to the most relevant bits), as well as mentions of stigmatization of neurodivergence and mention of the murder of a queer woman.

[You can stream the current season on the CW’s app or their website at https://www.cwtv.com/search/?q=nancy%20drew and previous seasons on HBOMax.]

The CW’s Nancy Drew series is one of the most criminally slept-on TV shows right now. The spin on the plucky young detective novel series provides a thoughtful, timely, and entertaining teen drama/thriller/horror show at a level of quality I just haven’t seen anywhere else. Though off to a rocky start as it found its identity, the show majorly hit its stride with “The Hidden Staircase,” in which Nancy Drew (Kennedy McMann) revisits an old case. You see, the show updates its Scooby-Doo-like “magic is a trick of con artists” with actual, terrifying monster designs that are unique and compelling. So the criminals shrouding their acts in superstition are often actually harboring deeper metaphors about the darkness within themselves and society.

To add to this, the cast of characters is filled out with career-making performances of deep characters and clever scripts. Characters and motivations are clear, complex, and ever-shifting in believable and entertaining ways, and even the scariest of monsters and weirdest of souls can be seen as true people with feelings, wants, and needs. The cast is big but not unmanageable (this household particularly loves the ever-embroiled-yet-clear-hearted Ace played by Alex Saxon). You still get the occasional guy who was murdering people just because he thought a monster was cool or the racist cafe owner who mostly served as an easy plot motivator, but that’s not why we’re here.

A painting of a young French woman, Odette, shown on a smartphone.

We’re here for two characters. The woman in the picture, Odette Lamar (Anja Savcic), a young, wealthy French lesbian who was kidnapped and ferried to the Americas to be drowned for her fortune, became a vengeful ghost. George Fan (Leah Lewis), eldest of four girls to a drunken medium, is the owner, proprietor, sole manager, and overall pillar of the gimmick seafood restaurant “The Claw.” The two have a fateful encounter when George and her friends investigate the aforementioned ghost, and through a complicated series of events, George ends up dying from a falling harpoon in said gimmick restaurant.

Luckily, the ever-resourceful and knowledgeable Nancy Drew rushes to a storehouse of magic relics for a shroud known to raise people from the dead. George sharply inhales, and then we move to the group gazing contentedly across the water as the sun rises. George steps away to get the others drinks and begins to sing a song in French, a language she does not understand. Standing behind her reflection, we see Odette.

This happens because of a complication (among many others) that the shroud acted as a kind of “spiritual flypaper,” as one character would later put it. It captures every nearby spirit and forces them into the same body. Since George had recently died and Odette’s spirit was nearby, both spirits entered the same body. It serves as a dramatic stinger to bring us back after the show’s break, as well as a defining moment of both characters’ arcs for the coming twenty or more episodes.

Odette looks out from a mirror as George mindlessly sings a song in French, a language she does not know. (season 2, episode 5).

This happens because of a complication (among many others) that the shroud acted as a kind of “spiritual flypaper,” as one character would later put it. It captures every nearby spirit and forces them into the same body. Since George had recently died and Odette’s spirit was nearby, both spirits entered the same body. It serves as a dramatic stinger to bring us back after the show’s break, as well as a defining moment of both characters’ arcs for the coming twenty or more episodes.

In the next episode, George has her usual mannerisms, knowledge, and personality. But she keeps drifting off. She causes a kitchen mishap when she grabs olive oil instead of the oil she knew the recipe called for; she goes into a coughing fit and stares into the distance until the panic accompanying the smoke alarm pulls her back. And later, she gets lost in the middle of a conversation and sings a song to herself in French. She doesn’t remember any of this. On account of her death, her loved ones set up a sympathetic ear for her to talk out her trauma.

She describes her death as similar to sinking in water until she didn’t feel anything. Ace (love him) asks, “Is that where you go when you drift off?” to which she says that she doesn’t know where she goes. After George voices her concern of feeling “normal,” Ace says, “You’re still you, but you gotta keep reminding yourself that.” Later, George uses this strategy to confront her trauma. She looks into a mirror and says, “I’m still me. I’m here, and I’m still me.”

Offscreen, Odette calls, “I’m here, too,” revealing to George that she and Odette have been sharing a body since the accident.

George, out of focus in the foreground, makes eye contact with Odette, reflected in a mirror in the background.

Now we’re at the meat of it: The drama and the “horror” at this moment are layered. The audience is left with a lot of questions about what this means for George. Is Odette just pretending to be George to enact some kind of violence upon our beloved cast? Can we ever truly be rid of Odette? What control does George have? Can we predict what George or Odette will do next? Is George still George?

These questions are at the heart of a ton of stories you’ve no doubt seen or heard of before. The spectacle of possession or of multiple personalities is not new to fiction; it’s not even new to George! In season 1, she’d been possessed by the ghost of a recent murder victim. The possession was violent and draining, threatening to kill George in under 24 hours, yet Odette had been with George for weeks at the time of these events. When asked about it, she says that her relationship with Odette feels different, and she’s right! It is different in more ways than she knows, even. In my read, George and Odette have a relationship more akin to read-world plurality than to a typical possession.

Likely, you’ve not heard the term plurality mentioned about a person before, but you’ve almost definitely heard of it as a person having “multiple personalities” or Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). There’s a whole host of recognizable characters that fit the bill: Norman Bates, Frances Dolarhyde, Gollum, the guy in Fight Club, and James McAvoy in Split. Every single one of them is violent, unpredictable, and unstable. They’re monsters, manipulators, and murderers. They’re constructed to be easy to malign and hard to empathize with unless they “change channels” and mimic the mannerisms of a sad child.

Poster for M. Night Shyamalan’s Split (2016) depicting a man casting multiple distinct shadows.

But again, George and Odette don’t have that. They’re two people with distinct memories, mannerisms, interests, knowledge, histories, and even sexualities. Rather than a literal rampaging beast with super strength or a homicidal mother stapled onto an otherwise normal (if not a bit odd) person, George and Odette come off as two people who just happen to share the same body. It’s awkward and sudden but not horrifying. The great thing that the show is doing here is taking a reality for many people that is often used for horror and is giving it a kind of banality.

George, realizing that the previous person in her position was institutionalized, saying “He went insane?” (season 2, episode 8).

Yes, the real-world experience mirroring a literal ghost possession is far from a perfect metaphor, beyond the implication that this could only happen to a person through supernatural means. Not every plural system (meaning the collective of individuals who share one body) has distinct personalities in the way that George does, just as not every plural includes people with distinct histories or accents or sexualities. The experience is just as varied among those who identify as plural as it is between any group of people you could gather in a room. Just as with any other group, terms and preferences vary based on context and the individuals involved. Some people may identify as having multiple personalities, some may identify as having DID, but others may feel uncomfortable with referring to their plurality as being a “disorder.”

Outside of fiction, the most popular depictions of plurality have led to a host of horrible practices and discrimination with people believing plurals to be anything from mildly untrustworthy to subjects of full-blown demonic possession (remember that last one for later). You can find more info here.

Even within the show Nancy Drew, this stigma is prevalent. Ralph, the previous person to use the same shroud George was revived with, had what Nancy calls “two other drivers in his head” (though the more broadly-accepted term is “alters”). As they come to learn, Ralph’s position led to his institutionalization. What the audience is supposed to consider “horror” visibly shifts at this moment. The worry is no longer “What danger could they pose to us?” but rather “What horrific treatment might society impose upon George and Odette?”

Odette and Bess Marvin (Maddison Jaizani) ice skate together, holding hands.

The drama of their situation comes more in the adjustment and in how to tell other people more so than playing up the “horror” of having more than one possible voice or personality. And it makes for some great television! For the rest of the season, Odette is treated as any other character in this drama. She and George have their own character arcs, love interests, personal dramas, etc. They quarrel, they communicate, they set ground rules and healthy boundaries, and they learn to coexist with each other! Their at once intertwined and solo story beats play to the unique situations that only being plural and adjusting to being out as plural in various environments can provide. The show had two people living in one body in a way that I legitimately don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of in the media.

Above all else, I love the banality of it. For a short time, the show depicts multiple characters just living in a single body no differently than it would quirky roommates. I love it to the point that I was talking about it with my plural friends. I recommend it to so many people, and I think Season 2 especially is some of the best teen drama and pop-horror content available.

But, uh-

Ace and George sit in a diner booth. Ace, possessed by George’s grandmother, gives her a palm reading and says, “Your palm has changed.”

The show is far from perfect, especially in the first couple of episodes. Weird stereotypes and plot choices make it feel like a different show than the one I preach about. Towards the end of Season 2, Ace is possessed by George’s grandmother,  and his actor lip-syncs along with a Chinese voice actor as she warns George through voice-over. She delivers what I believe to be a relatively contrived plot device: Because of Odette’s connection with George, she says through Ace, George’s fate is driven to match that of Odette’s. From this point on, everyone in the story believes that George has a maximum of 10 years to live because of her soul’s tie to Odette.

The sudden, fated complication in their relationship was… weird. And sudden. It reads as the act of about a dozen people with writing credits across the series having different ideas of this plotline direction, especially since George doesn’t act on this information for quite some time. Odette, though…

Odette, reflected in a mirror, looks at George. George says, “What, like lock yourself up inside?”

In the season 2 finale, Odette and George share a number of fun conversations that show a healthy and entertaining partnership budding between the two. Then Odette basically says, “Okay, since I’m killing you, time to hide forever now. Bye!” Odette has an emotional goodbye to close out one story arc, and that’s just… it? Everyone kind of accepts that Odette as a person is now just turned off like a light switch.

 George’s arc in season 3 so far deals with her romance and attempt to build a life while reckoning with her severely shortened lifespan. In episode 6, she decides that she’s done dealing with this fate reportedly brought upon by her entanglement with Odette. She seeks out some dangerous methods to disentangle their souls, ultimately landing on one called the soul-splitter.

 Based on the history of the show to have characters making poor decisions course correct or realize their mistakes and make amends, I’m cautiously hopeful that the show is faking out and has better things ahead for Odette especially. Part of this optimism is based on the number of characters telling George how bad of an idea it is to use something called the soul-splitter! I’m predicting that this won’t “cure” George and will instead cause some other circumstances that bring her relationship with Odette into a new light. Hopefully, this won’t require Odette to make another sacrifice out of nowhere again.

Father Shane (Mackenzie Gray) tells George “The device wasn’t called a soul-untangler”.

George has a conversation with an expert on the soul-splitter who says that it was developed as a method to extract “any aberrant behavior from an individual” because they believed it to be the result of demonic possession (remember that one?). To top this off, the soul-splitter was conspicuously only developed by first-wave American colonizers and during the Civil War, times in which correcting “aberrant behavior” would’ve been extremely desirable to those with the means to do so.

This story going one way or another won’t make or break the show for me. I’m actually reasonably confident the writers aren’t even aware of the space they’re writing in, but they’re here. Despite all this, I worry that this really cool and unique plural-but-also-not-quite-plural representation is going down the drain in service of another story. With the episode airing November 19th being titled “The Gambit of the Tangled Souls,” I’m sure we’ll get some answers very soon, one way or another.

Here’s to hoping.

Written by @CaseyCrook

Categories
Comics

Spider-Man Beyond is a Great Starting Point for New Readers

Welcome True Believers and newcomers alike! It’s me, your friendly internet Spider-Dan! Glad you chose to check out our first installment of Spider-Crashers. If you know me, you know how much Spidey means to me. Along with so many people growing up in the 90’s, Spider-Man has been one of the biggest factors of why I am so deeply ingrained in comics. So I can’t tell you just how excited I am to introduce a new series on the site!

Spider-Crashers is going to be articles that focus on Spider-Man’s ongoing series that got a fresh start at Issue #75 with a full new creative team (listed below!) that includes a writer’s room approach to the series with powerhouse artists on the book as well as we head into the Beyond era of Spider-Man. The thing is though that we have 2 Spider-Men swinging around in NYC as our favorite clone Ben Reilly has returned! We wanted the initial article to explore our first impressions of the series with a couple of writer’s unfamiliar with the comics and one big Ben Reilly fan. Now it’s time to swing into our team’s first impressions of the Beyond era!

Minor spoilers ahead for Amazing Spider-Man Issues #75-77

Adam

The majority of my Spider-man knowledge comes from adaptations, so obviously Ben Reilly isn’t someone I know much about aside from him being the blonde, clone Spider-Man in a hoodie.  So I think the real strength of the Beyond era so far has been immediately setting Ben up as someone I care about and making him so similar to Peter in his core drive to be a hero while giving his own unique perspective too.  It would be all too easy to use Ben as a blank slate copy of Peter and avoid the burdens of past continuity but Beyond has struck a strong balance between using Ben’s past while leaving him easily accessible to new readers.

Peter Parker as Spider-Man is something that will never go away, and I appreciate that Beyond doesn’t pretend that he has.  Sure, we have some “Peter on his deathbed” moments but it’s mostly just a way to take Peter out of commission for long enough that Ben can thrive and allows you to really explore the contrast between the two.  Ben’s fancy tech-filled Spider-suit aside the two are pretty similar as Spider-Man, but behind the mask the two really separate.  There’s been a real focus on Ben’s memories so far, or rather Peter’s memories that Ben inherited.  The difficulty on Ben of having lived a life full of people who don’t know he even exists, especially his Aunt May who he remembers raising him is a really interesting angle to focus on and I hope this continues throughout this Beyond era.

The Beyond Corporation themselves are proving interesting so far.  The angle of corporate owned superheroes isn’t necessarily new but it’s an area that still has plenty of room for exploration and with the shady vibes of the Beyond Corporation so far I’d be shocked if they’re as good as they claim to be.  

Another strength of Beyond so far is the art.  With two issues by Patrick Gleason and Marcio Menyz and one by Sara Pichelli and Nolan Woodward, it’s easy to say that Beyond has been an absolutely stunning looking era for Spider-Man.  Both artists deliver exactly what you want from a Spider-Man book, the action is fast-paced and dynamic while the unmasked moments are cute and emotive with the Spider-Man humour and charm throughout the whole thing.  There’s really nothing more you could want from the visual design of a Spider-Man book.  The colouring is stunning through the issues too, and Menyz and Woodward enhance their respective artists perfectly.  Beyond also nails the real truth of Ben Reilly.  He may be Peter’s clone in every way but hair colour, but he’s significantly hotter none-the-less (especially when drawn by Sara Pichelli).  I’m a big fan of Gleason’s suit design too, a perfect blend of that classic Spider-Man look and Ben’s iconic 90s suit.

Overall whilst it’s not necessarily a ground-breaking new era, Beyond is delivering the exact sort of fun you want from Spider-Man comics and looking incredible whilst doing it.  It’s the beginning of an era full of potential that I hope gets explored.  Even if we already know it’s only lasting till Spider-Man’s big birthday next year there’s plenty of time (especially with the near-weekly frequency issues are releasing) for this to be a definitive run for Ben Reilly.  

Bobby

For me, the Clone Saga of the 90s was an interesting era. One of the things I loved about it was none other than Ben Reilly, aka the Scarlet Spider. He’s the guy who took on the identity of Spider-Man after Peter retires for a while. What I loved about Ben in the 90s Clone Saga was that he did struggle with the cloning blues. His memories weren’t “his” in a way; they belonged to Peter. But despite all of this, he played a role of contrast to Peter, who was going through his own personal crisis and became withdrawn from his life outside of Spider-Man.

Indeed, that is how I felt when I was reading The Amazing Spider-Man #75. In an almost similar situation with the 90s Clone Saga, Peter’s reeling from the death of Harry Osborn, or at least a duplicate of him, in Spencer’s run (don’t think about it too much). He’s trying to distract himself by going out as Spider-Man and Ben Reilly comes in, telling Peter that he can’t be Spider-Man anymore because of a trademark, which is explained in the issue. It reminded me of Ben upends Peter’s life in the 90s Clone Saga because the question of the “real” Spider-Man returned in the 90s.

Which is why it would have been easy to repeat that scenario, but Zeb Wells, and of the writing of this article, Kelly Thompson, don’t do that. They show that both Peter and Ben have gone through their struggles, like the 90s Clone Saga. The latter seems to be coping better, unlike the former, whose response to grief is to instead go harder into his role as Spider-Man at the possible expense of his wellbeing. But there are certain differences in that while Ben seems to be more stable in comparison to Peter, he does seem to struggle with his return to the role as Spider-Man, especially because he has his own share of commitments to Beyond, the company that hired him to be their Spider-Man.

The possibilities for this status quo are endless, as there are many ways as to how Beyond could go. But I must also temper that with a cautious optimism, as this is a nineteen-part story and we’re only getting started. That’s a lot of issues and I do worry about whether the creative team can stick the landing. I will also admit being a bit nervous about Kelly Thompson’s writing as I have a mixed experience with her comics, but she does a good job here and maybe she’s perfect for Spider-Man. And I like to be more optimistic than cautious here as the story has been good so far.

In terms of visuals, The Amazing Spider-Man #75 and #76 have been a great showcase for Patrick Gleason, whose penciling and inking mesh very well with Marcio Menyz’s colours. We also see the return of Sara Pichelli’s pencils with colorist Nolan Woodard. While I do like Pichelli’s pencils, including her overall look for Spider-Man, I am not particularly a fan of how she sometimes draws his eyes. It does sometimes detract from the story being told. And finally, Joe Caramagna is consistent as always with the lettering, ensuring that the words are readable; there’s a reliability that I tend to associate with Joe Caramagna when it comes to lettering and he delivers on it.  

I am aware that I might be premature in my conclusion, but after three issues, Spider-Man: Beyond feels like a return to form for the Spider-Man comics after the poorly written later parts of Nick Spencer’s run.

Jessica

I’ll be the first to admit that I am the exact opposite of a Spider-Man expert. Though I love Marvel books, I’ve never been a Spidey reader; in fact, these first three issues of BEYOND are probably the longest continuous Spider-Man run I’ve read so far. It’s been an intriguing jumping-on point, though. I know just enough from other comics — and from film and television adaptations — to pick up on secondary character moments, but the book is doing a great job of welcoming me as a reader new to Spider-Man lore and keeping me invested in both Peter and Ben’s journeys as they deal with the shadowy Beyond Corporation. 

As Adam noted, the idea of corporate superheroes isn’t a new one. However, the way the creative team is handling the idea has me very interested to see where the story will go next. The idea of a corporation trampling on creators’ rights vis-à-vis Peter’s trademarked identity is particularly appropriate for one of the Big Two comics companies, and I can’t wait to see how far the Spider-Man team is able or willing to go in driving that point home. Also, the issue of ominous, powerful companies manipulating and controlling well-intentioned and/or economically vulnerable people is nightmarishly relevant right now, and I’m just as excited to see where the story goes in its look at class, surveillance, and power. 

Beyond (ha, get it?) the analytical side of my reaction to these books, I’m having a lot of fun with them. I love seeing Aunt May be the scariest and most powerful person in the room when she steps up to protect Peter in the hospital. I love Spider-Man being quippy in a fight, and this run briefly gives us a double dose of that as Peter and Ben team up on the U-Foes. And to be honest, I love filling in a part of the Marvel Universe that I’ve been missing out on for quite a while. I knew nothing about Ben going into this book (I had actually forgotten that Peter even had a clone), and I enjoy seeing the small ways that the creators carve out a separate identity for someone who is, on paper, nearly identical to a character whose personality and backstory I have essentially absorbed through cultural osmosis. 

BEYOND is off to a good start for a new Spider-Man reader like me. I’m invested in Peter and Ben’s stories, and I can’t wait to see what the Beyond Corporation is really planning. We’re only three issues into a nineteen-issue run, so I won’t speculate, especially with my paltry Spidey knowledge. But with sharp writing, engaging art, and two of my favorite plot elements — creepy corporations and conflicted clones — this is a superhero book that has me eager for the next installment. 

Creative Teams

ASM #75:
Writers
: Cody Ziglar, Kelly Thompson & Zeb Wells
Pencilers: Patrick Gleason, Travel Foreman & Ivan Fiorelli
Cover: Arthur Adams
Colorists: Edgar Delgado, Marcio Menyz & Jim Campbell
Letterer: Vc Joe Caramagna

ASM #76:
Writer
: Zeb Wells
Penciler: Patrick Gleason
Cover: Arthur Adams
Colorist: Marcio Menyz
Letterer: Vc Joe Caramagna

ASM #77:
Writer
: Kelly Thompson
Penciler: Sara Pichelli
Cover: Arthur Adams
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: Vc Joe Caramagna