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Hugh Likes Comics: The Unstoppable Wasp Unlimited Vol. 1: Fix Everything

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The Unstoppable Wasp Unlimited Vol. 1: Fix Everything
Written by Jeremy Wihitley
Drawn by Gurihiru
Published by Marvel Comics

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The Skinny: After escaping from the assassin school where she was raised and establishing a lab for teenage scientists, Nadia Van Dyne discovers that her greatest enemy may be herself.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the over-too-soon first volume of Unstoppable Wasp, I was delighted that Marvel revived the series. This book collects the first five issues of the second volume, and is even better than the first, mixing superhero action with personal drama and super-science in a way that is accessible and compelling.
One of the things that really drew me to Nadia as a character was her optimism and sunny personality. In a world filled with gruff badasses whose personal traumas made them into tough loners, Nadia relished the opportunity to finally live the life she was always denied. She was a constant delight in a grimdark universe.
But of course nobody can be happy all the time, and Nadia’s father, the original Ant Man Hank Pym, had a history of mental illness that wasn’t presented as thoughtfully or carefully as it maybe should have been. When an unexpected super-villain attack catches Nadia by surprise and puts her friends in danger, she cracks. But Whitley and Gurihiru do an amazing job in how they present and resolve Nadia’s mental health crisis, as well as the reactions of her friends and mentors. This is rarely handled well in a medium where so many rogues galleries are littered with the ‘criminally insane,’ and it is all the more an achievement that it was handled so deftly and so frankly in a comic with a YA audience.
Whitley has managed a rare comeback with a character: building on the first volume and raising the personal stakes without falling back on the status quo. That’s an easy trap for comics to fall into, and I’m glad that he not only avoided it, but vaulted it. Gurihiru’s art is a perfect fit for the book as well. Their style is fun and poppy but still has that edge to it that the book needs. This book is a must read for its hidden depths.
Unstoppable Wasp Unlimited Vol. 1: Fix Everything is available digitally from Comixology, and you can also find it on Amazon and at your local comics shop.
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Fiction: The Invader

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The mech suit rumbled along the sandy track, making more noise than the pilot liked. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. The foundation of the colony was supposed to be glorious, even easy!
He had been assured that the locals would be either awed by their technological majesty or cowed by their firepower. So why was he the only unit left?
He spotted something laying in the road and paused. It was a broken toy, a mech suit action figure with the arms and legs ripped off. By the time the message registered, it was already too late.

This story originally appeared in Everyday Drabbles, a daily free fiction project on Wattpad. Visit the link for more free stories. And if you enjoy my writing, support my work by buying me a coffee!
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Hugh Likes Fiction: Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye

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Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye
Written by Christiana Ellis
Published by the Author
ARC provided by the author

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The Skinny: This serial fiction project edited into a novel crosses genres as quickly and easily as the characters move between worlds.

To me, serial fiction and genre mashups go hand in hand. This tradition goes back to the pulps, where heroic adventurers were as likely to stop mad scientists and alien invasions as they were to travel to hidden lost civilizations and battle classically inspired monsters. It continues with superhero comics to this day, but Christiana Ellis’s delightful Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye brings things back around with a modern twist.
Collected and edited from a web serial, the story follows the eponymous detective as she travels between dimensions with the help of the portal generator implanted in her arm. When an elvish femme fatale hires her to track down her missing brother, however, she’s soon caught in a web of intrigue involving dwarven gangsters, malevolent AI and a clairvoyant sorceress/loan shark. And soon, it’s not just her client, but the whole multiverse that’s in danger.
Split into three books, the first is the most traditionally structured as a detective story, and is my favorite of the three. But the whole collection is chock full of charming characters, clever writing, and most of all, unexpected consequences. It’s a fun romp around the multiverse, although if the author ever continues the project, I’d love to see this crew of characters travel a bit more widely than the ‘slices’ of multiverse we get to see here.
Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye is available from Amazon and is a great addition to your Kindle. Why not take a trip to another dimension this summer?
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May Update: Digging Ditches

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Hello readers!
It’s been a wild May. It was a busy month, but like many times where I’ve got my head down working, it feels like I’m running in place.
I’m still working on Everyday Drabbles and the associated ebook, as well as not progressing as much as I’d like on my other fiction writing, and made my goal of releasing two Nostalgia Pilots episodes this month. So while I’m not super pumped about my progress, I’m still taking steps to reach my goals, and that’s the important thing. I’m still working on the first Everyday Drabbles ebook, but I feel like the cover is missing something. Please let me know what you think.
I did participate in this year’s Sky Ride, and it was a beautiful day, for the most part. I did a lovely ten-mile route over Route 5 with the view of the lake and grain elevators before winding back through Canalside and La Salle park. I feel like I hadn’t really trained as much as I should have, but didn’t do too badly. I’m looking forward to a long season of riding ahead of me.
On the baking front, I was busy this month. I made lemon lavender cutouts and strawberry sandwich cookies for Mother’s Day and gingersnaps and matcha shortbread for Memorial Day, and was happy with all of them. I also made another try at blueberry pie, which turned out much better this time.
May’s a difficult month because even though I got a lot done, it was all incremental. It didn’t help that I skipped Balticon again this year. The Maryland convention has been harder for me to attend since it moved to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and this is the second one I’ve missed. On the one hand, it was nice to have a quiet Memorial Day weekend baking, cleaning, and grilling with friends, but there is a lot of validation that comes from seeing my podcast family that I sorely need these days.
June’s goals promise to be much of the same, with more head-down writing and practice time and the real start of summer weather. See you then!

Hugh Likes Video Games: Castlevania Anniversary Collection

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Castlevania Anniversary Collection
Published by Konami
Played on Nintendo Switch

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The Skinny: A bare-bones but cheap and well-emulated collection of vampire-slaying classics.

Regular readers of Hugh Likes Video Games will know that I like me some vampire killing, and I was saddened by Konami’s decision to move away from making new games. This collection of eight retro games isn’t a full reverse course, but it’s still a welcome development.
The $20 digital-only collection is a grab bag of the first eight games of the series, from the ubiquitous NES titles to the obscure Kid Dracula, which was never released in the U.S. The collection features games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Gameboy, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis.
This digital collection is pretty bare-bones compared to a lot of recent collections and retro devices like the NES Classic. While it does have a single save state for each game and a playback feature, along with a few different display options, that’s about it. There’s no rewind function, and the menu is very basic.
The emulation itself feels spot-on, and is as just as smooth, and in the case of the two Game Boy entries, just as clunky as you remember. The games look and feel great on the Switch in handheld mode. It also includes a digital book that serves as a manual, but has few interesting production art and interviews.
The Castlevania Anniversary Collection is a mixed bag of titles that is a bit ephemeral, but the low price point makes this greatest hits collection a steal for classic Castlevania fans. The collection is available from the PS4, X-Box One, and Switch online stores, as well as Steam.
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Podcast: NP 38 – A Circus

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Welcome to Nostalgia Pilots! This episode, Spence, Jurd, Jason and Hugh consider Gundam Wing Episode 38 The Birth of Queen Relena
Apologies for the audio quality in this episode. One of our mics was cutting in and out and it wasn’t discovered until editing. We did what we could to fix it, but it still drops out in places.

Click HERE to listen to the episode!

This week: Quatre visits A Circus, Dorothy’s new outfit is goth as hell, and Relena fails upwards into ruling the world. Plus, Wu Fei doesn’t need the zero system to murder people or be a jerk to Noin and Duo is still living on his girlfriend’s couch.

Promo: The Fantasticast

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Hugh Likes Comics: Crowded

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Crowded Vol 1: Soft Apocalypse
Written by Christopher Sebela
Drawn by Ro Stein and Ted Brandt
Colored by Triona Farrell
Published by Image Comics

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The Skinny: A contract bodyguard has her work cut out for her protecting her latest client from crowdfunded assassins.

In a future where anything can be crowd funded, and the gig economy has taken over, even assassinations can be crowdfunded. But when wild girl Charlie’s finds herself with a million-dollar bounty on her head, her only hope may lie in bodyguard for hire Vita. If they don’t kill each other, anyway.
Equal parts action movie, dystopian thriller, and buddy comedy, Crowded is a wild ride.But the character work is what really sets the writing apart. Sebela delivers a lot of depth to these characters with very simple strokes. He takes stock tropes like the world-weary bodyguard and transforms them into deep, complex characters that you come to care about. Even the villain of the arc, slimy livestereaming assassin Trotter, is if not sympathetic, complicated in his motivations.
Stein’s art, with inking by Brandt, is expressive, bold and easy to follow. Farrell’s colors are a mix of glaring digital neons and the grays and browns of urban decay. The art really sells the story, which walks a fine line between goofy action and cyberpunk horror.
Crowded juxtaposes over the top action sequences with the very real cyberpunk horrors of a rising gig economy, omnipresent digital surveillance, and collapsing American infrastructure. As ridiculous as it all seems, it is a frighteningly plausible near future.
Crowded: Soft Apocalypse collects the first six issues of the comic, and is available from Comixology, the usual digital retailers, or your local comics shop.
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