Planet Comicon Haul

For Planet Comicon, I set a budget. I knew if I didn’t set a budget for myself, I would overspend. Before the convention, I pulled out $100 in cash and told myself that I would only spend this much unless I saw anything I had to have. While roaming around the con, I made mental notes on anything I wanted to revisit. This allowed me to stick to my budget and purchase merch I was satisfied with. I wanted to share my haul from the con.

Plume by K. Lynn Smith Volume #1

This was my first purchase of the con. I’m a big fan of K. Lynn Smith and her work in comics. I helped back For Goodness Sake on Kickstarter which is a series I adored. Smith is mostly recognized for her webcomic, Plume which exploded in popularity. At Smith’s booth, she had the omnibus of Plume along with each printed volume. I decided to purchase the first volume to see if Plume is a series I would be interested in.

Hufflepuff Windbreaker

Not Topic is a fashion & collectibles online shop selling merchandise primarily from Harry Potter and Supernatural. I saw that Not Topic had these Harry Potter windbreakers featuring the Hogwarts houses. I walked by their booth several times but wanted to hold off from making a purchase. Ultimately, I couldn’t resist the Hufflepuff windbreaker especially because I don’t have a windbreaker in my closet. The attendants at the booth were kind enough to let me try on the windbreaker before purchasing. I ended up with a medium. I have broad shoulders thanks to years of upper body weight lifting, so it’s tough for me to fit into a women’s small. The medium fit me perfectly. I did check Not Topic’s website and I didn’t see that any of the Harry Potter merchandise was licensed by Warner Bros.

Unstable Unicorns & Llamas Unleashed

My final purchase was at Teeturtle’s booth. I had been eyeing purchasing my copy of Unstable Unicorns after playing it at a game night with friends. Unstable Unicorns is a game that’s perfect to bring to a brewery because there isn’t a lot to set up along with being easy to teach to friends. I bought the NSFW (not safe for work) edition. Along with Unstable Unicorns, I also bought Llamas Unleashed. I have no idea what the game is about, I saw it and wanted it because who doesn’t want a game featuring Llamas?

Attending Planet Comicon meant a lot to me. In addition to being able to go to a con post-2020, it was nice to be able to support smaller businesses and creators.

Codenames Meets Clue in Mysterium

As someone who collects board games, it’s normal for me to have an unwrapped board game waiting to be played. My brother gave me Mysterium two years ago as a birthday present and until last weekend, I never opened it. I was determined to finally open this game especially because it’s going to be Fall / Halloween season soon. Mysterium is one of my favorite games I have ever played and as someone who’s a big fan of Clue, Mysterium adds a supernatural element to the classic game.

Mysterium is a collaborative game meaning all players will win or lose. Mysterium is set in the 1920s with the characters playing as psychics performing a seance. One of the characters will play as the ghost who will display visions to relay to the psychics who killed him at this mansion twenty years before. The objective of the game is for the psychics to guess correctly what the ghost is trying to say in seven in-game hours. The ghost wants the psychics to guess correctly, so the murder can be solved. If the psychics cannot guess correctly within the seven in-game hours, everyone loses as their spiritual connection to the ghost is severed.

This is where the inspiration for Codenames comes in. The ghost has vision cards that the ghost will play in front of psychics to try and get the psychics to guess the correct person, location, or object. In all the games our group played, I was always in the psychic role. The toughest part is trying to put the pictures together to then make a correct guess. Both roles whether they be the psychic or the ghost are challenging for different reasons.

One of the major highlights of playing Mysterium is the art. The art on the vision cards was ethereal and mysterious. Each card genuinely fits into the setting of the game. The vision cards had so many artistic details to them that I wasn’t sure what on the card was important. Another highlight was the level of detail in the rest of the components of the game. On the front page of the rules, each psychic character has their own back story which I loved. I changed characters throughout our playthroughs to have someone different to play as.

In our three total games, our group only won one game. In Mysterium, there are three different difficulties. Our group played on easy and that still was tough. I like playing tougher, collaborative board games because when our group does win on a higher difficulty, it’s so satisfying. In future gameplay, I do want to try playing on the medium or the hard difficulty.

Mysterium was a blast to play! Everyone in our group had a fun time learning the game, setting it up, and making the guesses. Being a fan of both Codenames along with Clue, I felt Mysterium embodied both.

The House in the Cerulean Sea

Every booktuber I follow raved about The House in the Cerulean Sea. My local bookstore had this book on display as one of the best books released in 2020. I couldn’t be left out of the bandwagon. I purposefully planned to read this in summer because of the gorgeous cover along with the lighthearted premise. The House in the Cerulean Sea is a slow-burn fantasy novel about love, happiness, and fighting against prejudice.

CW for discussions of genocide against indigenous people.

Before I write my review, I do want to mention one more thing. T.J. Klune, the author of the book, based this book off of the “60’s Scoop”. The “60’s Scoop” is a real-life genocide where children were kidnapped and mistreated. There has been discussion about this and whether Klune is profiting off of a horrific event. I didn’t know this before reading The House in the Cerulean Sea. If you would like to read more, I suggest starting here: https://www.reddit.com/r/romancelandi… 

Linus Baker lives an ordinary life without much excitement. Linus works as a caseworker, visiting various orphanages along with writing reports about what he sees. Linus is sent away to spend a month on a rather unusual assignment. At this orphanage, he discovers the “anti-christ” lives there with other magical children. Linus’s goal is to write weekly reports, get to know the children, and decide if this orphanage should be shut down.

The character development in this book was heartwarming and emotional. Linus was somewhat unlikable and scared to break away from his mundane life. Towards the end of the book, he starts to defend himself and realizes that he has the control to decide what will make him happy. Linus develops a deep relationship with Arthur, who cares for the children at the orphanage. Each of the children have their own background and personality. In stories like these, it’s easy to have some characters blend into the background, but that wasn’t the case here.

When reading fantasy, I want to feel like I’m in this world. TJ Klune’s writing made me feel this way. I could close my eyes to picture the seaside town, the color of the water, and the little cottage where Linus stays.

The messaging throughout this book was lovely. There were various themes subtly presented throughout the book. One example was how children are taught hatred, they aren’t born with it. Another message in this book was self-love. Linus has a lot of insecurity over his weight. All of the characters reinforce the fact that Linus doesn’t have to change and he’s fine exactly the way he is. I also loved the fact that this book confronted how a society can be destroyed when we let preconceived notions get the better of us. This book had such great messages and it helped to read this at a slower rate, so I wouldn’t miss it all.

The House in the Cerulean Sea was such a lovely book. It was a feel-good fantasy I was really invested in. The House in the Cerulean Sea lives up to the hype and might be my favorite book I read this year.

Attending My First Convention Post-2020

Last weekend, I drove to Kansas City, MO to attend Planet Comicon. This was my first convention since Covid hit back in 2020. Before the pandemic, I attended C2E2 in February right before lockdown began. This trip was a bit spontaneous as I only planned it a couple of weeks prior. While I understand the pandemic isn’t over, I felt this was worth the risk. I was vaccinated, wore a mask the entire time, and tried to limit the time I was nearby people. I felt Planet Comicon did the best they could and I was grateful that this con was able to run. If there’s anything I missed in 2020, it was conventions.

Planet Comicon required masks. I didn’t see anyone take off their mask or wear it down to their chin. It seemed everyone took the mask requirement seriously. The only other improvement I could see was Planet Comicon could have required vaccinations. I brought my vaccination card in case someone wanted to see it. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect everyone including the immunocompromised. I know Lollapalooza required vaccinations or a negative Covid test, and I wish PlanetComicon did this as well.

My favorite part of Planet Comicon was the photo ops! There was a display of Predator, a Lego Baby Yoda, and the Ghostbusters were there with the Ecto-1. There were cars from Supernatural, however, I had to pay extra for that and I’m not a big fan of the show. I had a fun time running around taking photos and endless masked selfies. I will say, I found myself taking fewer pictures of cosplayers. I think the pandemic had something to do with that. With the masks, it’s more difficult to go up to someone or get their attention. I had more than enough fun hanging out by myself and doing what I wanted to do.

I would say the only disappointment was the lack of panels. I like attending panels because it allows me to sit down and relax. I walked 17,500 steps on Friday! I did sit in on the Star Wars Costuming panel about putting together Star Wars cosplays, but nothing else in the programming caught my eye. After spending my cash, I ended up leaving early because I didn’t see anything else worth staying for.

Reflecting on Planet Comicon, I’m thrilled that this was able to happen. I felt hopeful for the future of conventions. I felt so happy waiting in line and walking around the show floor. Conventions are my happy place and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

Pray Away (2021)

In one of my recent posts, I wrote about having a free weekend and being able to unwind. During this weekend, I devoted some time to watch whatever I wanted to watch on Netflix. One documentary I had my eye on for a while was Pray Away, a documentary detailing the rise of Conversion therapy and why it’s so psychologically damaging. For those who are unfamiliar, Conversion therapy is a form of “therapy” (I put therapy in quotes because I wouldn’t call this therapy) surrounding the idea that gay people can be cured and converted back into being straight. Pray Away was a heartbreaking documentary, but one I would highly recommend watching.

Pray Away interweaves the stories of survivors of conversion therapy along with several prominent Conversion therapy activists. As the history of Conversion therapy unfolds, it seems that what was being sold to the public was completely false. John Paulk was a major voice in Conversion therapy as he was a “former” gay man who was now married to a woman. His wife, Anne, also went through Conversion therapy and that’s how John and Anne met. John mentions in the documentary that he, “ached to be loved by a man”. Hearing him tell his story about how he was selling something he didn’t believe in made me feel for him. Today, John has divorced his wife and is now openly gay.

Another story that the documentary focused on was Julie Rodgers. Julie came out to her family at a young age and was taken to Conversion therapy. She was there for many years and was encouraged to speak at various religious conferences. During Conversion therapy, she was coerced into telling a deeply personal story in front of many people. Julie eventually was able to get out of therapy and has just married her lovely wife. This story showed clips of her wedding and how she was able to get married in a church. I will admit, I sometimes have a negative bias towards religion, however, seeing Julie reclaim her religion for herself was so endearing to me.

I couldn’t imagine what it must be like to not be able to love the person you’re meant to be with. As I spent time writing my vows this week, it made me think back to the lives shown in Pray Away. While many who survived Conversion therapy went to live long and authentic lives, so many didn’t because of the psychological damage of not being able to cure being gay. Suicide was prevalent amongst Conversion therapy, and I’m glad to see strides being taken to ban this form of “therapy” altogether.

Pray Away was a well-made, engaging and thoughtful documentary. This documentary did take an emotional toll, so I would only recommend it if you’re in the mood for something a bit more emotional. Pray Away can be watched on Netflix.

The Shadow Mission

As mentioned in one of my recent posts, I was able to use my free weekend to finish The Shadow Mission by Shamim Sarif. This is book #2 in the Athena Protocol series. I read The Athena Protocol last year and I loved it. I had high hopes for the sequel. The Shadow Mission was another fast-paced outing, however, there was one scene in particular that didn’t sit right with me. I do discuss this scene in quite detail and I have attached a content warning as well.

After Athena’s mission in Belgrade, Jessie Archer is debriefed for her next mission. The Athena team is tasked to take on a far-right group known as Family First who feel women shouldn’t be educated and belong in the home. After a terrorist attack at an all-girls school, Jessie is thrown into the investigation and connects with Riya, a detective who is also investigating the bombing. Together, they uncover another terrorist plot on a different all-girls boarding school, can they stop it in time?

Originally when reading The Athena Protocol, I wasn’t a big fan of Jessie. However, I felt Jessie has grown quite a bit since the first book. She seemed more calm and collected. She was more aware of the consequences of her actions. I found myself growing attached to her story and why she is the way she is. Caitlin and Hala, Jessie’s fellow Athena agents, were still as intriguing as ever.

While Jessie grew on me as a character, I found a certain scene in this book that made me uneasy.

CW: Outing of an LBGTQIA+ character *read at your own risk*

There’s a scene where Jessie and Hala follow this politician who they think has affiliations with Family First. As they approach, they recognize that this politician is having an affair with a man. To gain intelligence, Jessie blackmails the politician into helping them and threatening to release photographs to the media. Jessie isn’t straight, so I’m surprised Jessie doesn’t see this as being hypocritical. Additionally, this scene takes place in India which in some ways isn’t as progressive as other countries on LGBTQIA+ rights. This politician isn’t a good person, however, this crossed the line for me. I felt this scene left me with an icky taste in my mouth. I wish Sarif didn’t write this scene in the book to begin with.

With this being said, I did enjoy reading The Shadow Mission. When I wrote my original review on Goodreads, I ended up only rating this four stars. With the scene I discussed above, it felt out of place enough for me not to give this a full five star rating. Overall, I’m still excited that this series exists and I can’t wait for book #3

The Suicide Squad

The last movie I saw in theaters before the pandemic was Birds of Prey. It seems fitting that the first movie I see in theaters is The Suicide Squad. My fiance was all about watching this on HBO Max, but I missed going to a movie. I convinced him to see this last Friday and get out of the apartment. The Suicide Squad rocked and it’s probably one of my favorite movies DC has ever made.

The Suicide Squad is a ragtag team of supervillains sent out on literal suicide missions for the US government. Led aggressively by Amanda Waller (played wonderfully by Viola Davis), Waller puts chips in their necks. Any deserter gets their head blown off which is featured quite gruesomely in the first half of the film. The squad is sent to Corto Maltese to investigate Jotunheim where something of alien origin is supposedly housed. Their mission is to find what’s there and destroy it, so Corto Maltese doesn’t have access to it.

This movie is downright ridiculous. Harley (played by Margot Robbie) is flirtatious and fun to see on screen. Robbie does such a great job and seems to genuinely enjoy playing as Harley. While Harley is the one to watch, it feels like each of the main Suicide Squad members gets their time to shine. Ratcatcher 2 (played by Daniela Melchior) is one to keep tabs on. While controlling rats may seem like a silly power, she plays an important role later in the film. I found myself drawn to her when I didn’t think I would be. If you think controlling rats is silly, wait until you see Polka Dot Man. Yes, James Gunn the director of Guardians of the Galaxy brought Polka Dot Man into this movie. Polka Dot Man (played by David Dastmalchian) serves a purpose here. There are several hilarious scenes with Polka Dot Man that I won’t spoil.

John Cena plays the Peacemaker who is obsessed with peace and will kill for it. Hypocritical much? Peacemaker was written for Cena as he seems at ease playing this character. Rick Flagg (played by Joel Kinnaman) has a much bigger role in this film than the previous Suicide Squad movie. He comes off as a born leader and helps bring the team together to rely on each other, so they can all survive. As a fan of the Harley Quinn animated series, I was elated to see King Shark. King Shark is the MVP of this movie. He tears through enemies and gets to feast on flesh as he does so.

James Gunn does a marvelous job at balancing all these characters. There are several story lines going on simultaneously until everything converges at Jotunheim. This easily could have been a mess, but Gunn adds in various hints to keep the watcher aware of where everyone is at. There’s jumping around at certain times, but it doesn’t feel out of place. The Suicide Squad can be a lot to handle, and James Gunn was the perfect director to make this film.

Without spoiling, there’s a certain character death that completely shocked me. I was fully expecting this to be a joke and the character would get up and walk around, but no. This character was DEAD. This threw me for a loop.

Both me and my fiance were blown away by how good this film is. As many know, DC’s films are a hit or a miss. There’s no in-between. I’m happy to say that this is so worth the watch. I’m excited to re-watch this on HBO Max. Let me know in the comments who your favorite character is from The Suicide Squad.

Taking Time to Unwind

One of my weekend plans was going to my friend’s Harry Potter themed Bachelorette party! It was at my friend’s cabin.

This past weekend, I had no plans. This was the first weekend where I could do what I wanted whenever I wanted. Planning a wedding has made my weekends more unavailable much to the surprise of no one. It’s gotten to the point where I started to feel mentally drained. I would get off of work, eat dinner, work out and then spend an hour or two browsing Instagram. It felt like I didn’t have the energy to read, play Animal Crossing or watch Critical Role. This weekend helped lift my spirits emotionally, mentally, and physically.

One thing I did this weekend was finish a book I was reading. I read The Shadow Mission by Shamim Sarif. This is the second book in the Athena Protocol series. It felt amazing to be able to spend my day reading without interruption. It allowed me to fully commit and become enamored with the characters, the setting, and the action sequences. I went through a reading slump recently, but now this weekend allowed me to get back into my books. My TBR pile is slowly shrinking.

Besides reading, I watched a couple of movies. On Friday, I saw The Suicide Squad which rocked. It was the first movie I saw in theaters before the pandemic. I’m going to write my review shortly. I also watched a documentary recently released on Netflix called Pray Away. Pray Away is about gay conversion therapy and the history behind it. It also features a couple of stories from the survivors. One of the stories brought me to tears. It’s an emotional documentary, and I would highly recommend it.

Finally, I installed some new video games to play. On my PS4, I bought Far Cry 5 and Lego Harry Potter Re-mastered. For the PC, I installed Nancy Drew: Shadow at the Water’s Edge, and Death and Taxes. I wanted something else to play besides Animal Crossing.

This is a reminder to check in with yourself. I needed a break from all the plans I have upcoming. I feel so much better and more equipped to launch into my plans. From now until our wedding on October 2nd, I don’t have any more free weekends, wish me luck!

Nancy Drew Message in a Haunted Mansion

I’m on a Nancy Drew video game streak! I played this game right after playing through Nancy Drew Alibi in Ashes. I was looking for a creepier game with more jump scares. I still haven’t found a Nancy Drew game that’s scarier than Ghost of Thornton Hall. Nancy Drew Message in a Haunted Mansion wasn’t one of my favorite games as I found the gameplay convoluted at times.

In this adventure, Nancy Drew is asked to come to a mansion outside the San Francisco area. As she’s staying at the mansion, she interviews Rose Green who plans on turning the mansion into a bed and breakfast. The mansion has been plagued with several accidents which worries Rose. Rose has asked Nancy to help investigate as she’s on the verge of abandoning her efforts. Nancy is always willing to help and she begins exploring the mansion to uncover what’s going on.

In this game, Nancy has to rely on time. Each suspect she can interview is only available at the mansion from a certain time. This allows Nancy a limited window to interview or explore certain areas. Once I memorized the schedule, this didn’t become an issue. I did mention how the gameplay was a bit convoluted. Some of the next steps in the game didn’t unlock until I talked to everyone. For example, I was told to find this man’s briefcase and I couldn’t find it in the room. It wasn’t until I had a dialogue with one of the other characters that when I re-entered the room, the man’s briefcase was there to unlock. Without the help of a walkthrough, I would have been stuck.

I was hoping for more jump scares in this one. There was a ghostly figure wandering around the mansion and creaks as Nancy ascended the stairs, but that was about it. There also weren’t any mini-games either. The mini-games are fun and I find they often make a Nancy Drew game memorable. I felt this game was a bit boring to play at times.

Overall, I’m glad I played this as my goal is to complete all the Nancy Drew games, however, this one wasn’t the best. It was a bit boring and the gameplay left me feeling stuck at times where I felt I needed to use a walkthrough to get through the game. The next Nancy Drew game on my list is Nancy Drew Shadow at the Water’s Edge.

Vintage 90s Comics Haul

My fiance’s manager hosted a garage sale. Among the usual garage sale goods, there were three full cardboard boxes of random comics. My fiance knows how much I love comics, so he asked if he should pick them up for us. For three full boxes of comics, it was $20. Of course, I said yes because I wanted to see what was inside. As I dig through the boxes, I wanted to share the comics inside and what I have read so far. With three full boxes of comics, I suspect I will create a couple of posts as I read through these comics.

Wolverine Season One – Ben Acker, Ben Blacker, and Salva Espin

Wolver Season One isn’t a vintage comic but was included in the box. Wolverine Season One is a re-telling of Wolverine’s origin story. In the first few pages, Wolverine is seen fighting Wendigo in the wilderness. Gravely injured, Wolverine is rescued by couple Heather and James Hudson. They both work for Department H and look to recruit Wolverine to be the Canadian “Captain America” This story features Wolverine fighting the Hulk and Sabretooth along with detailing how Wolverine met Professor X.

I thought that this graphic novel was good, but it didn’t introduce anything compelling to Wolverine’s story. Wolverine’s backstory is so well known that I think it’s difficult to introduce a new take. Some critiques found this story to be too tame and not gory enough. I didn’t feel this way. Wolverine is a violent anti-hero, however, I think his complexity revolves around his moral compass.

Wolverine Season One would be a great graphic novel for new comic readers wanting to dip their toes into the X-Men. I rated this three stars on Goodreads.

X-Men Lost Tales Issues #1 & #2

I’m finding that there are a lot of X-Men comics in these boxes. Each issue of X-Men Lost Tales features four individual stories featuring one of the X-Men or the foes of the X-Men. My favorite story in issue #1 was the one that featured Magneto. This story details Magneto’s past, and how Magneto saves a family in a fire. Magneto is one of my favorite comic book villains because of his backstory and his complexity.

In issue #2, my favorite story was the one featuring Wolverine. I did have high hopes for the Jean Grey story, but it ended up being extremely disappointing.

I would rate both issues #1 and #2 three stars.

X-Factor Special Prisoner of Love Jim Starlin and Jackson Cuice

The last X-Men comic in this listing. This story features Beast as he’s walking around downtown NYC. He meets a woman who needs his help. After Beast helps this woman, he falls deeply in love with her which also transports him to a dimension in which he has to save this woman from a demon.

This story was uninteresting and confusing to follow. It’s my least favorite comic in the ones I have read thus far. I would rate this one star.

Avengers West Coast #86

This issue is the final issue of the “Spider-Woman at the Mercy of DeathWeb and The Manipulator” story. This features a mind-controlled Spider-Woman fighting Spider-Man to save her daughter from DeathWeb and the Manipulator. I’m not a fan of mind control in comics, so this issue didn’t interest me all that much. I liked seeing the appearance of Scarlet Witch, although she didn’t play a big role in this. I would rate Avengers West Coast #86 three stars.

Ms. Marvel Halloween ComicFest #1 2018 – Wilson, Alphoona, Herring

This was the last issue I read out of the boxes of comics. I was first introduced to Ms. Marvel when I played Marvel’s Avengers the video game. The game was mediocre, however, I did find Ms. Marvel as one of my favorite heroes to play as. Kamala Khan is a fan-fiction writer, Avengers superfan who dreams of being a hero. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Kamala breathes in blue gas. This blue gas is terrigen mist which turns Kamala into a hero with powers, thus Ms. Marvel is born.

I liked this issue a lot. Kamala is such a fun character to read and I love how light-hearted she is. Comics can be very dark to read, and this is such a breath of fresh air. I do want to read more of her story and this was a nice introduction issue. I would rate Ms. Marvel #1 four stars.

I’m still barely through the first of three boxes. Once I read another couple of issues, I will write another post about what I read. It’s going to take me a long time to get through all of these, however, I’m up to the challenge.