Sunday, September 17, 2023

Invincible Vol. 4: Head of the Class

 Title: Invincible Vol. 4: Head of the Class

ISBN: 9781582407784

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Image Comics, 2012

Artist:  Ryan Ottley

Writer: Robert Kirkman

Collects: Invincible #14-19

Rating: 4/5

This continues the story of Mark Grayson born of Earth and Viltrumite parents, who’s inherited superpowers including invulnerability from his father. Mark is Invincible, and along with other more human superheroes, flies about the world righting wrongs, often of extra-terrestrial origin. The first three volumes deal with Mark gaining his powers, leaving school for college and enduring a cataclysmic family breakdown. Unlike other tales of marital discord, the government steps in to support the Graysons and provides Mark with federal approval and endorsement. The payback is that Mark is directed by Cedric, the head of a really top secret government agency also directing human superheroes who have passed auditions for the reconstituted Guardians of the Globe.

Invincible undertakes various missions for Cedric, visiting the bottom of the ocean to marry the Queen of Atlantis – escaping by use of his wits as well as his strength – and off to Mars to ensure a manned craft returns safely. Most of them do and although he counted them all out and counted them all back in again, they are not all necessarily who they appear to be. In the meantime Angstrom Levy, an evil genius (and with a name like that, suspicions linger that any other career path was always a non-starter) is collecting versions of himself from alternate dimensions with the help from the permanently bickering Mauler Twins. If Oasis hadn’t so glaringly failed to conquer the USA, you would be forgiven for thinking they had been inspired by the Gallagher brothers. Mark also graduates from school and encounters some justifiable questioning from those nearest and dearest to him. Added to the mix are a collective of super-villains whose leadership changes are inadvertently facilitated by Invincible and the Guardians.

In Head of the Class Robert Kirkman continues Invincible’s story at a breakneck pace, and the skillful fusion of many disparate plot strands demonstrates Kirkman’s confidence in the world(s) he has created. Artist Ryan Ottley displays a similar sense of fun with the new heroes, villains and aliens that are so assuredly introduced. Invincible continues to show a real swagger and surefootedness in taking plots off in unexpected directions, keeping the story fresh and moving forward. This volume also helpfully highlights the disadvantages of snacking in the vacuum of space, which is a public service that few graphic novels provide.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Invincible Vol. 3: Perfect Strangers

 Title: Invincible Vol. 3: Perfect Strangers

ISBN: 9781582407937

Price: $12.99

Publisher/Year: Image Comics, 2012

Artist:  Ryan Ottley

Writer: Robert Kirkman

Collects: Invincible #9-13

Rating: 4/5

Perfect Strangers continues the story of Mark Grayson, son of extra-terrestrial superhero Omni-Man and a human mother, who has recently acquired his new powers courtesy of his Viltrumite heritage. In the previous books Mark enjoyed the sort of childhood that would be the envy of many teenagers: a stable, loving home, doing well at school and the added bonus of invulnerability and the ability to fly. This world accepts superheroes as a normal part of everyday life and news items often feature them rescuing hapless folk caught in some catastrophe or dispatching some bellicose aliens intent on global domination.

Unfolding events pick up on the content of Eight is Enough, wherein the problems of the Guardians of the Globe, and the unmasking of the perpetrator, dominate and will clearly reverberate through the series. It also plays havoc with Mark’s domestic world, and all these seismic changes play out against his burgeoning love life and the complications that entails. With a seeming inevitability, the government’s toppest secret agency manages to muscle its way in to the story and Mark’s life, and this is a continuing plot device as the series progresses.

Co-creator and penciller Cory Walker has now left the title, his place seamlessly taken by Ryan Ottley who settles in for a twelve year run. The only discernible difference may be a slightly finer line, but even that is debatable. When a section from Family Matters is replayed, this time with the truth rather than the story that had been first told, panels are repeated with a more menacing tone to suitably reflect the darker content.

Despite a bleaker story, or perhaps because of it, the jokes stand out more clearly and there is a superb visual gag with a comic writer in chapter two that’s worth the price of admission alone. Somehow, the referencing of other sci-fi characters (in this case Star Trek: The Next Generation) in this iteration becomes a welcome riff rather than a jarring intrusion. A previous bit player Allen the Alien (yes, really) makes a welcome reappearance and will become a regular supporting character.

In Perfect Strangers Robert Kirkman takes the story on and develops the sharper edge previously hinted at, which bodes well for the rest of the series, which continues in Head of the Class. Thoroughly recommended.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Invincible Vol. 2: Eight is Enough

 Title: Invincible Vol. 2: Eight is Enough

ISBN: 9781582403472

Price: $12.99

Publisher/Year: Image Comics, 2012

Artist:  Corey Walker, Ryan Ottley

Writer: Robert Kirkman

Collects: Invincible #5-8

Rating: 4/5

Invincible’s second collection picks up with Invincible, aka, Mark Grayson balancing superhero activities with school and a normal home life. A favor for Dad, planetary protector Omni-Man, sends Invincible into space, holding his breath literally and metaphorically to tussle with Allen the Alien, a character who’ll feature throughout the series. The story clatters along taking in visits to college, a marital alone-time interlude for mom and dad, teenage relationship breakdown, and the type of eventful interment that even puts Johnny English into the shade.

Having set up a seemingly perfect situation for Invincible, writer Robert Kirkman now starts to shake the tree just a little. A catastrophe for the Guardians of the Globe turns out to be the early stages of Invincible’s life being turned upside down and inside out. Cracks are starting to show in Mark’s once  idyllic life, but along the way, some naturalistic (if that epithet could ever be used in this universe) humor plays out very well. That’s after a reveal so dramatic you’re not immediately sure if you have read the calamitous event properly. Or whether there is a case of mistaken identity.

Cory Walker’s art continues to highlight little nuances that could be otherwise overlooked, such as being caught between two ex’s determinedly trying to ignore each other, but to counter that, the inclusion of a character who dresses very similarly to and speaks in the same manner as Rorschach from Watchmen is a jarring element. The appearance of the Guardians in chapter three features a range of different pencillers and inkers for sections relating to individual team members, which is effective in establishing their own identity. The final chapter has the arrival of Ryan Ottley as artist, equally good, and someone who’s around for the long haul.

Invincible is a light confection that doesn’t trouble itself with any larger issues beyond the story itself, but it’s a good confection and one that is pretty near irresistible.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Rose City Comic Con Announces Full Schedule of Programming and Additional Guests


Rose City Comic Con Announces Full Schedule of Programming and Additional Guests 

Three Days Packed with Special Celebrity Appearances, Industry Expert Panels, Fan Meetups, and More Take Over the Oregon Convention Center September 22-24

Portland, OR (August 29, 2023) – Rose City Comic ConOregon’s premier comic convention, is proud to announce three days of packed programming complete with exclusive panels, celebrity appearances, over-the-top cosplay, and more, taking over the Oregon Convention Center from September 22-24. More than 50,000 pop-culture enthusiasts will unite to celebrate the strong creative community in Portland, while bringing together passionate artists, creators, gamers and fans from across the country. Rose City Comic Con continues to grow and position itself as an annual can’t-miss-event in the Pacific Northwest. Attendees can start planning their Rose City Comic Con experience and view the full schedule online at:

Highlights from Rose City Comic Con 2023 include:

Celebrity & Comic Guests

Hear from some of the biggest influencers from the world of pop culture and comic books at panels, screenings, Q&As, and more. Our star-studded lineup includes Zoe SaldanaKaren GillanFelicia DayRalph MacchioRebecca RomijnTravis McElroy, the cast of Critical Role, and many more. For a full lineup of confirmed guests, visit:

Main Stage (Portland Ballroom) events include:

·  Anne Yatco, Kaiji Tang, and Adam McArthur Spotlight (Friday - 1:30PM)

·  Eric Vale Spotlight (Friday - 2:45PM)

·  Anjali Bhimani Spotlight (Friday - 4:00PM)

·  Steve Blum Spotlight (Friday - 5:15PM)

·  Travis McElroy Spotlight (Friday - 6:30PM)

·  Critical Role Spotlight (Saturday - 10:15AM; reservation required)

·  Karen Gillan Spotlight (Saturday - 11:45AM)

·  Jess Bush Spotlight (Saturday - 1:00PM)

·  Mark Sheppard Spotlight (Saturday - 2:15PM)

·  Rebecca Romijn (Saturday - 3:30PM)

·  Felicia Day (Saturday - 4:45PM)

·  Cosplay Competition (Saturday - 7:30PM)

·  Alex Kingston and Arthur Darvill Spotlight (Sunday - 11:45AM)

·  Ralph Macchio Spotlight (Sunday - 1:00PM)

·  Wonder Woman Historia: Creator Spotlight (Sunday - 3:00PM)

Star Wars Fan Experience

The Star Wars Fan Experience features over 3,000 square feet of pure Star Wars magic in Destination Cosplay. Located in B113-116, Star Wars Fan Clubs transports guests to a galaxy far, far away. The experience includes a Mandalorian throne, jail cell and forge set, an X-Wing cockpit, and a behind the scenes look at the incredible props and costumes!

Weird Stage
An exciting, unusual, brand-new experience awaits guests at the Weird Stage! Located in the Oregon Ballroom (203-204) and next to the VooDoo Ranger Beer Garden, the stage is an explosion of fandom focused trivia and quirky content that is uniquely Portland. Guests are invited to celebrate all things weird, while also enjoying pints from the beer garden and lawn games like corn hole and horseshoes. Highlights include:

·  FOGTOWN Unveiled! A puppet-based mystery-comedy (Friday - 2:00 PM)

·  Weird Bagpiping 101: A Q&A Tell-All with The Unipiper (Saturday - 12:45PM)

·  USS IMPROVISE: The Next Generation, the musical (Saturday - 8:00PM)

·  ChefPK's Reverse Maid Cafe (Sunday - 11:45AM)

·  Talent Show Battle! Hosted by @chewycosplays (Sunday - 3:30 PM)

Book Fair

Rose City Comic Con Book Fair is proud to partner with the world’s largest independent bookstore, Powell’s Books! Book Fair is a headquarters for lit lovers featuring author guests Terry Brooks, Travis Baldree, Lauren Beukes, N.E. Davenport, Fonda Lee, and more. Guests can head to Room E145-146 for Book Fair panels throughout the weekend, and enjoy signings right after the panels at the RCCC Bookstore, powered by Powell’s – Booth #1007. 

Creator Pro 

Calling all aspiring pop culture professionals! Unlock your potential and dive into the world of comics with the Creator Pro track at Rose City Comic Con. Fans will have the opportunity to have a Portfolio Review conducted by Editors from Dark Horse Comics and DC Comics (applications are now closed), as a way to kick start their career in the world of comics. Immerse yourself in a lineup of engaging events designed to help you break into the business of comics. Guests can head to Room E145-146 for Creator Pro panels throughout the weekend. Highlights include:

·  APHNN: Black Creators vs the Alphabet Gang (DEI & AI)  (Friday - 3:15 PM)

·  Indy Asian Creators- Self published works from the start (Friday - 4:15 PM)

·  Mastering the Art of Script Writing with Kelly Sue DeConnick (Saturday - 2:45 PM)

·  So you want to work in comics? The Fine Print Crew! (Saturday - 6:30 PM)

·  From Idea to Execution: A Crash Course on Indy Projects with Weird Enough Productions (Sunday - 1:00 PM)

Rose City Jr
Rose City Jr provides hours of fun with entertaining and educational programs for families, including interactive workshops with characters from hit shows, costume parades, an entire stage dedicated to kids activities and more.

·  Kids Cosplay Parade - (Saturday and Sunday - 12:00PM, Hall E)  Kids will have the chance to strut their stuff and show off over-the-top outfits in not just one but two costume parades inside Rose City Jr. Entry is limited to the first 30 registrants. All kids will receive a keepsake for participating.

·  The Force Experience - (Hall E) The Jedi of Saber Guild Felucia Temple are looking for younglings to train in the ways of the force! Come see the Jedi demonstration of force and saber handling, followed by a hands-on training class. Foam training lightsabers will be provided for use during instruction. Please note that this event has a capacity of 30 children and requires a safety waiver to be signed. 

Additional Programming Highlights:

·  Destination Cosplay - Cosplay panels all weekend long in D137-140, Cosplay Meetups in B117-119, and the RCCC Cosplay Competition Saturday 7:30 PM on the Main Stage

·  Comics panels all weekend long in E141-144 including:

o Spotlight on Blacksad with Juanjo Guarnido and Diana Schutz (Friday - 3:00 PM)

o Spotlight on Matt Kindt (Friday - 5:00 PM)

o Exploring the world of Hellboy ft. Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson, Michael Avon Oeming (Saturday - 12:00 PM)

o The Mimi and Greg Show Live! Ft. Mimi Chan and Greg Rucka (Saturday - 3:45 PM)

o Dark Horse Manga ft. Carl Horn and Zack Davisson (Sunday - 2:00 PM)

·  GeekFest Film Fests (Saturday - 7:30PM - 9:30PM, Room D135 - 136)

·  Wacom Stage (All weekend long, Booth 1001)

·  Tabletop Gaming (Friday - 1:00PM - 8:00PM, Saturday - 10:00AM - 9:30PM, Sunday - 10:00AM - 5:00PM, Oregon Ballroom 201 - 202)

·  Video Gaming (Friday - 1:00PM - 8:00PM, Saturday - 10:00AM - 9:30PM, Sunday - 10:00AM - 5:00PM, Rooms C120 - 122, C123 - 124, C125 - 126)

WEBSITE: is updated regularly with new guests, exciting exhibitors, and special programming.

MOBILE APP: Available for download on the App Store or Google Play store, fans can access information, schedules, maps, and more on their phones plus receive live updates.

Download official logos and access photos from past Rose City shows here

(credit LeftField Media)





About Rose City

Founded in 2011, Rose City Comic Con is Portland’s largest and most diverse comics convention. Building from the strong, independent creative community in the city and combining well-known artists, creators, celebrity guests, and cosplay enthusiasts in a family-friendly atmosphere, RCCC brings together a variety of passionate fans in one epic weekend. Rose City Comic Con is a creation of LeftField Media.

About LeftField Media 

LeftField Media, LLC is an events company focused on developing face-to-face events in a range of communities rooted in contemporary culture and shared passion. LeftField was formed in 2014 by Greg Topalian (CEO, Clarion Events) and Kelly Comboni (President, LeftField Media) and is now owned by Topalian and Clarion Events Ltd. With a keen sense of the evolving needs of businesses and their consumers, as well as new opportunities created by change, LeftField takes a clean slate approach to its work. LeftField’s portfolio includes Awesome Con (, Washington D.C.’s Comic Con; Rose City Comic Con (, in Portland, OR; Anime NYC (, New York City’s Japanese pop culture festival; and Anime Frontier ( in Dallas-Fort Worth. LeftField Media is headquartered in Shelton, CT (


Sunday, August 27, 2023

Invincible Vol. 1: Family Matters

 Title: Invincible Vol. 1: Family Matters

ISBN: 9781582407111

Price: $12.99

Publisher/Year: Image Comics, 2015

Artist:  Corey Walker

Writer: Robert Kirkman

Collects: Invincible #1-4

Rating: 4/5

Mark Grayson is the son of Nolan and Deborah Grayson. Nolan is an extra-terrestrial who has committed himself to being a hero on Earth having left his own planet as part of their version of National Service. Nolan is taken by planet Earth and against his superiors’ better judgement, settles on earth in an independent role doing good by averting natural disasters and rounding up the baddies, be they terrestrial or just visiting for a spot of mayhem. Nolan can do everything Superman can with the additional gift of a rather splendid moustache. That crucial difference has won Nolan a wife, Deborah. Although his square jaw and the fact that he removed a car from Deborah may have contributed…

Mark is told about his father’s occupation whilst still young and gains his superpowers whilst at work in a burger outlet, soon after meeting the local teen group of superheroes, the Teen Team. Taking the name Invincible, together with the Team, he solves a bombing spree based not on ideologically-based terrorism, but the bullying of the perpetrator’s son by High School Jocks.

Despite similarities with Superman which initially appear a little trite, the story veers off in its own direction with a verve and an occasionally tongue in cheek approach which gives ‘Family Matters’ a brio which is very welcome. Mark comes from a loving family so doesn’t have to avenge a family tragedy; his mother recognises his superpowers and apparently accepts his new-found status with a phlegmatic acknowledgement that evening meals may be even more erratic with two family members flying about the place heroing and generally saving the world.

Cory Walker’s art is clear, clean and simple and yet is capable of intermittently surprising by conveying depths such as the hidden worries of Mark’s mother, his gaucheness with attractive female superheroes or in dispatching pesky aliens whom, as he correctly surmises, don’t belong here. A potential quibble could be the matter of fact way in which issues are identified, faced and overcome, but Robert Kirkman starts as he continues, dropping some cracking surprises, embracing change and keeping matters light-hearted and fun.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Locke & Key Vol. 6: Alpha & Omega

 Title: Locke & Key Vol. 6: Alpha & Omega

ISBN: 9781613779965

Price: $29.99

Publisher/Year: IDW Publishing, 2014

Artist:  Gabriel Rodríguez

Writer: Joe Hill

Collects: Locke & Key: Omega #1-5, Locke & Key: Alpha #1-2

Rating: 4.5/5

I feel like my re-read of “Locke & Key” went by in a flash. It could be because my re-read of “Sandman” was a few volumes longer, but I think that it’s also the fact that Joe Hill has created something that has depth, complexity, and some great horror and fantasy moments that is well packaged and easily digestible. I found myself kind of dreading the end, as I knew that it was going to pack an emotional wallop, but once I picked up “Alpha and Omega”, I basically devoured it in a sitting, taking breaks only to weep into my hands because of said wallop.

I don’t even know where to begin as I review the end of this series. Hill has built up to this moment, and you know that there are going to be a lot of casualties and a lot of collateral damage as Dodge makes his final moves into trying to open the Black Door, but when it centers around graduation night and a high school party in the caves, the stakes are raised to the highest point that the series has seen. It’s up to Tyler and Kinsey to try and stop Dodge, though they have no idea that Dodge has inhabited Bode’s body. So when Dodge does start wreaking havoc, all through the body of a child, it’s just heart-rendering to see. Especially since all the chaos that unfolds involves teenagers, and therefore other children. No one ever said that Hill was sunshine and rainbows, but I had forgotten just how goddamn bleak this last arc is as the horrors unleash and demons do their best to overtake Lovecraft, and perhaps the world at large. It’s a great reveal, it all comes together and makes sense in terms of what we’ve seen so far, and it is a fantastic climactic story arc for this series with awesome horror moments and full fledged mythology. And a whole lot of death, a lot of it coming for characters we have come to care for.

But there are also a lot of wonderful bits of hope throughout this tale. We’ve followed the Locke children (as well as their mother and uncle to lesser degrees), and now we get to see them come to the end of their journey and to live up to the potential of who they are meant to be, as Lockes and as people in general. Tyler and Kinsey have come so far as characters, and through the highs and lows of both I came to just fall in love with them both all over again, just like I did the first time I read it. They are teenagers with a lot of pain in their hearts, and they are messy and damaged, but they are also, ultimately, great people who love their family, even as the family has gone through something terrible and hasn’t figured out how to come through the other side just yet. Hill writes them both as incredibly human, and as such sometimes they just made me want to throttle them, and other times I want to hug them and never let them go. By the time we got to the end of their journeys, Tyler’s in particular, I was a weepy mess.

There are a couple things that don’t work. One is how Hill writes Jordan’s, Tyler’s girlfriend’s, final storyline. I feel like we never really got to fully explore Jordan as a character, as she was relegated to ‘bad girl with a heart of gold who pushes those who care for her away’. We’ve seen it before. She’s more there to give Tyler the ability to learn and grow, and I felt like she deserved more than that. There is also one big moment (no spoilers here) that didn’t really get the explanation I think that it needed, but ultimately these things are minor within the grand scheme of what does end up working. Because so much works.

And one more shout out to Gabriel Rodríguez. His artwork is so fantastic, and there are a lot of moments in this book that have emotional beats that fully rely on the visuals as opposed to what is being said.

“Locke & Key: Alpha and Omega” is a near perfect ending to a fantastic series. I am so glad that I decided to revisit it, as I feel like I got even more out of it this time than I did on my initial read. I imagine I will revisit the Locke Family in the future, as they and the story they have is a wondrous dark fantasy horror creation with so much heart.

A practically perfect ending that made me weep, “Locke & Key (Vol. 6): Alpha & Omega” brings it all to the finish with emotion, horror, and hope.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

New Horizons

I stopped counting how many years I've been writing for "Zanziber's Point of View" and "RPG4EVR". Recently, I've decided that I want to make a change and merge my writing of reviews of graphic novels and trade paperbacks along with my experiences at various events and my almost 40 year fascination with role playing games, card games and the like.

By the end of 2023, these blogs will be merging into a single site called "The Nat 20".

I hope to be able to bring over everything that I've already written over the past 10+ years, but it is also likely that the only way I'll be able to transfer everything is to re-post from the beginning. While I have not issue doing it this way if I have to, I hope that I am not forced into that choice.

I will make sure to post about the change when it happens across all my social media accounts. I will also be working on developing new accounts specific for TheNat20. So stay tuned for every update.

Thank you!