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[personal profile] odyle and I were have one of our regular talks about shitty wizards recently, and it made me realize the characters I like (and like to write) most aren’t shitty wizards but shitty people. Characters who do bad things with good intentions are so very much my favorite – I like when they’re in headlong bad-decisions spirals, and I like when they’re smacked in the face with self-awareness and try to pull out of the spiral and work towards atonement. That narrative tension is so interesting. It’s why Tony Stark and Marian Hawke (the purple version of her, at least) and even Mara Jade are my favorite POVs. I think it probably even informs the way I write Shepard; I tend to hit the atonement angle really hard with the ruthless/colonist/paragon combination.

That Shepard (as I write her) qualifies as a shitty person isn’t immediately apparent in stories set during the war, because her entire adult identity is built around her military career, which is in a lot of ways a safe environment for her. The Alliance provides focus and meaning to her life and allows her to indulge in some pretty dark impulses while still nominally acting in the name of the greater good. She can have the confidence – and very possibly all this knowledge is subconscious, at least at the beginning of her career – that the military acts as a limiting force that both can and will stop her from going too far.

That’s one of the main reasons I tend to write Shepard as someone with an interest in boxing; it doesn’t erase her effort to learn how to problem-solve through diplomacy and communication, but it does undercut it: she thinks with her fists, she has a lot of anger that comes out through violence, she wants to solve her problems by hitting someone in the face repeatedly until they take on all her pain and all she has to feel is release or strength or numbness. Boxing as a hobby also makes for an interesting contrast with Shepard-as-sniper; that’s her professional mode, the cold remove, attacking from a distance, but beneath it she still has the urge to get up in someone’s face and hurt them.

That’s also why I can’t let Aratoht go – Aratoht is the ultimate example of “Did I do this because it needed to be done, or did I just want to make the batarians bleed?” (”Both” is the answer – “both” is always the most interesting answer.)

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11 December 2016
Title: Zero Sum (Stark Disassembled 1/5)
Characters: Tony/Steve
Wordcount: 24170
Summary: Execute program.
Notes: This AU retelling is set in a kitchen-sink continuity based on the comics with elements from the movies. I really wanted the freedom to explore Tony's internal processes during certain arcs without being sidetracked by plot points that I find either too big or too clunky to retain without exploration, so there are no Skrulls, no amnesia, and no magic bullets here. The Ten Rings are both a terrorist organization and a set of alien artifacts, and Stark Industries stopped manufacturing weapons as soon as Tony returned from captivity, but Hank and Jan are founding Avengers, Rhodey is a Marine, and Steve has been one of Tony's closest friends for a decade or more.

My characterization is sketchy, my technobabble is sketchier skill, I did not show any work re: continuity, and the team line-up keeps slipping further and further into Ultimates territory, but [ profile] monsterharvest, [ profile] odylism, and [ profile] jedi-goldberry-with-the-force did a fantastic job of curbing my more egregious errors; this would be a measurably lesser story without their help and hard work. (Thanks, guys!!)

Content warning for suicidal ideation about in line with what you'd find in the source material, graphic fight scenes, discussion of alcoholism, and minor character death. This story is formatted with a custom skin and will (definitely!) look better if you make sure custom skins are enabled.

( Read on AO3... )
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31 July 2016
The more I think about it, the more I’m starting to believe that what Captain Marvel needs is a writer willing to do what Fraction did with Invincible Iron Man or Brubaker did with Captain America or even what Aaron is doing with his roster of Thor books. DeConnick did a really great job drawing on the early themes of Ms. Marvel + the stuff Brian Reed introduced to reconceptualize Carol, but now I think someone needs to take that concept and refine it in the context of plot-heavy stories – we need not only a writer willing to do comics-level psychological digging into the character but also someone who’s going to construct substantial, engaging arcs around Carol.

(Uh, maybe this is not “we need” so much as “I want”, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how Marvel has been using her in the comics, and I’m not convinced they’ve figured out the best way to push her as an A-list character.)

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12 June 2016
Here are six books I would make happen if I supplanted Axel Alonso at Marvel.

Tony Stark: Iron Man
Kelly Sue DeConnick & David Marquez

You asked for it and we answered – here’s an intense study of Tony Stark as he tinkers with his armor, banters with his A.I., and engineers a better filing system! Noted for its close attention to character continuity, this is the book that dares to put Tony’s demons to rest so he can finally get a good night’s sleep and I can stop worrying about him. Features a mysterious girlfriend who may or may not be a resurrected Rumiko Fujikawa and introduces Lila Rhodes as Tony’s protégé. James Rhodes appears in alternating issues!

Gambit and Storm vs. the World
Marjorie Liu & Kris Anka

In an effort to reconnect with an old friend, Ororo Munroe takes some time off from the X-Men to help Remy Lebeau with the start-up cat shelter he runs out of an abandoned Catholic church. When one of the cats goes missing, it’s up to Ororo, Remy, and guest-star Laura Kinney to track the feline to a sinister location… (Spoiler alert: the cat is unharmed!)

Captain Marvel Team-Up
Greg Rucka & Valerio Schiti

Carol Danvers is traveling the country to revisit her past and reclaim her lost memories – and it looks like she’s going to need some help! Watch as she works with Ms. Marvel, Wolverine, War Machine, Hulkling, and more to stop evil, do good, and break every speed record on the books. Did we mention that each issue ends with Carol splitting a tub of ice cream with her guest-star as they celebrate how great it feels to heal from emotional trauma? You better believe it!

Foggy Nelson, Avocado at Law
Mark Waid & Fiona Staples

Join Foggy Nelson, Marvel’s most decent attorney, as he takes on the biggest case of his life: convincing his best friend to listen to him! It’s an uphill battle, but someone’s gotta persuade Matt Murdock that his office doesn’t have to be at the bottom of an abandoned elevator shaft – and Foggy, armed with forgiveness, self-care packages, and the number of a good therapist, is just the guy to do it!

War Machine Rox
Ales Kot & Marcio Takara

Jim Rhodes, a.k.a. WAR MACHINE, is finally taking back the respect he deserves! This ground-breaking series challenges Rhodey to outfly and outgun Earth’s biggest threats while still making enough time to give the Young Avengers flight lessons and bake his niece a birthday cake. And is that the president asking Rhodey to put together his own hand-picked task force? You’ll find out in one of the next eighty issues!

Hawkeye Does America
Chelsea Cain & Annie Wu

Kate Bishop (Hawkeye, not Hawkguy) roams the country in her convertible while righting wrongs, sampling regional cocktails, and flirting aggressively with Miss America (Chavez, that is). Guest-stars Clint Barton (Hawkguy, not Hawkeye) and Pizza Dog in a sporadic backup feature where they call Kate for advice on how to complete basic household tasks!
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Iron Man: Execute Program: I really like this arc. It does a better job of exploring Tony's motivation than a lot of the other Civil War stuff does, the pacing is decent, and I'm happy any time Maya or Sal show up. (The part where Tony grumpily interrupts a conference on how to take him out while he's wearing a bathrobe is also pretty great.) I also like that almost immediately after Extremis is introduced, it gets turned on its head and pulled apart. Still not sure how I feel about the idea that Yinsen implanted a device in Tony's brain, but, y'know, there's also the part where Tony stops his heart to save Steve, which is fuel for at least two dozen hurt/comfort stories, so there's that.

Avenging Spider-Man #9-10: When these first came out, I took the issue to my hairdresser, pointed at Carol, and asked to have my hair cut like that. In retrospect, what a great choice -- Dodson's Carol is adorable. DeConnick also does such a snappy job of writing Peter that I'd like to see her try her hand at a Spider-Man book. This wouldn't have been the place to explore Carol's relationship with her family, but I wouldn't mind a little more of that; it's hard to imagine she was flying up to Boston for any other reason.

Captain Marvel (1989) #1: This is a oneshot starring Monica Rambeau, and it's AMAZING. Whenever I see the argument on Tumblr about Monica Rambeau and the upcoming Captain Marvel movie (one side of which is always, "Why is this movie about Carol and not Monica?" and the other of which goes, "Monica had no real connection to the name and hasn't used it for years"), I can't help but think that sure, maybe Monica didn't have the same link to Mar-Vell as Carol, but it wouldn't have been all that hard to work something in. Anyway, the real point here is that Hollywood has failed by not moving forward with movies about both Monica and Carol or possibly that this issue is the greatest thing. I was totally won over by, like, panel three, just because Monica's characterization is that wonderful, but THEN Monica goes back aboard an exploding ship to rescue Villain #1, and THEN Moonstone arrives on the scene, and THEN Villain #3 is an ARMORED WOMAN, and -- this was my favorite part -- THEN Rhodey shows up out of nowhere wearing a purple sweater to hand Monica a device that magically helps her win the day. 5/5 stars. Also, I'm terribly glad that comics switched to glossy pages over newsprint.

Iron Man 2.0: Speaking of Rhodey! My first purchase from In Stock Trades was this run, so the series is totally new to me. It gets off to a strong start, but then, like many of Rhodey's books, it's derailed by an event (in this case, Fear Itself) and has to rush through the rest of the plot because of a premature cancellation. I learned that Suzi Endo is underused, that no creator can stifle the come-hither looks Tony shoots Rhodey, and that Marine service uniforms are a weird olivey-brown color. What would happen if Suzi met Lila Rhodes? I don't know, but I desperately want to find out.
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  • Won't accidentally write Tony as a womanizing dick in the process of attempting to write him like someone who isn't a womanizing dick
  • Unafraid to embrace homoerotic subtext
  • Guaranteed to remember that Rhodey exists 100% of the time
  • Care about continuity
  • Two words: bisexual representation
  • Three words: resurrect Happy Hogan
  • Deep and abiding interest in armor minutiae
  • Let's face it, not enough women have written Iron Man