BearSleuth Week Geek Out

Like I said in my last post, it’s becoming a lot hard to find time for my normal Sleuthing, which is why this new feature is coming to you a little late. I wanted to make sure I gave it my full attention and due to a quick trip to A&E that became borderline impossible, I managed to tear some muscles in a fight with a bird table (don’t ask). Anyway, I have a lot to talk about so I think it’s time to stop faffing about and get stuck in!

The Week In Comics


It’s been a really good week in the world of comics. While the shelves were a little sparse, DC knocked out a few brilliant books with the new Tom King Batman Issue Six probably taking the top spot from the blue corner. Over in the red of Marvel is my top pick for the week, Jeff Lemire’s Moon Knight. This book is complex, intelligent and really shows what the modern industry techniques developed in the independent market can add to the mainstream. I also read Asterios Polyp this week and I can whole heartedly say that it is the only graphic novel to have changed my life. If you are able to get your hands on a copy you 100% should.

The Week In Film (And TV)


The run up to Doctor Strange is gripping a lot of comic book fans now with the inevitable ‘I want to get into Doctor Strange…’ posts slowly creeping onto reddit. For anyone looking for a Doctor Strange recommendation, it’s pretty hard as most of his stuff comes from the silver and bronze age of comics which can feel very dated. Check out ‘The Oath’ and maybe Jason Aaron’s new Doctor Strange series as they present the more modern take on the character.

In other news, Rogue One is struggling, to no one’s surprise (this is what happens when you put a Godzilla director on a Star Wars flick). Also a Dark Tower trailer will be airing next month so keep your peepers peeled. Turning to TV quickly, apparently the Luke Cage series looks good and the new Ghost Rider looks okay enough to get people to notice Agents Of Shield still exists.  Personally, I’ve been getting into Stranger Things and I’m going to surprise no one by saying it’s a great show, likely to become the next massive hit.

The Week In Gaming


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This week saw the world of console gaming reveal its massive throbbing erections for the PC master race as consoles take that one bold step into becoming computers. I don’t really care for 4k optimisation so I can’t say this affects me but if you are one of those graphics snobs then this…probably doesn’t matter to you because you already have a gangster rig (or whatever the cool kids are calling it). Deus Ex is gracing the shelves again, which is cool as we don’t have enough ultra-gritty cyberpunk dystopia running around. This week I’m replaying Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne because I’m a masochist when it comes to gaming.

And Finally…


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In other news, the world is teetering on the edge of destruction from the imminent threat of a mass custard pie orgy at the top of Trump tower and I am proud to announce that we are adding another writer to the BearSleuth roster. While I’m not ready to say much yet SHE is a perfect fit for the team and I’m sure HER articles are going to be a great hit!

Subtlety was always one of my strong points.

…That’s this week’s BearSleuth Week Geek Out!!! Check back on Friday for something new!!!

BearSleuth Announcement: Life And The Sleuth

I have been sitting at my keyboard for the best part of two hours now. After a lot of internal and external debate with myself I have decide to make a few changes to BearSleuth. I love this website but I am also overjoyed to tell all my loyal readers that I’ve just started a job as a copywriter and so my time is becoming very limited. BearSleuth originally started as a way for my to hone my skills while talking about all the stuff I love like comics and writing. Then it became a family with OpinionatedDavid, VuePoint and the Covert Coot. We have seen a lot of success and a lot of  support of the last years and it has been nothing short of amazing. I am not going to lose that.

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The New Normal


After a talk with the rest of the team I have decided to keep BearSleuth running at a slightly slower pace so this is how your week is going to look on this most awesome of sites:

Monday: BearSleuth Week Geek Out: This is going to be my only article going forward and it will be a quick-fire rundown of all the geeky highlights from the previous week.

Tuesday: Nothing.

Wednesday: Adaptive Panels: OpinionatedDavid’s bi-weekly examination of comic book adaptations of films and other mediums.

 Thursdays: Nada.

Fridays: Occasionally Covert Coot: Your favourite Coot is currently on the road touring with his band so when he has time between rocking out he will attempt to get you your fix of anime and geeky observations.

Saturday: OpinionatedDavid: David’s weekly rant about everything wrong in the world of entertainment.

Sunday: Vuepoint: The jewel in the crown of gaming journalism that is Jack’s weekly observations on the state of gaming and it’s histories.

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I am also assisting the writing team in learning how to use WordPress for themselves, so forgive any rookie mistakes.  This is a new and slightly more relaxed era for BearSleuth but I think it will be a step in the right direction for everyone involved including you folks at home as me and the team will be able to be more focused in our approach and writing. This is your humble BearSleuth signing off on my BearSleuth Opinion Pieces, Comic History 101 and The BearSleuth Spoiler Free Comic Book Bundle. I hope you have enjoyed them all and I hope you enjoy this next step.

…That was the BearSleuth Announcement!!! Check back over the weekend for a brand new VuePoint and Opinionated David!!!

Comic History 101: Flashpoint

There will only ever be one Flash. Barry Allen is the scarlet speedster we all love and he will forever be the fastest man alive. Geoff Johns knew that when he asked for Allen to be revived during the DC event ‘Final Crisis’. This brought back the Flash in a big way and brought a lot of attention back onto the series after a waning interest from the readership. Then, for his next trick, Johns wrote Flash Rebirth (in a similar vein to his previous Green Lantern Rebirth series which had been a resounding success) and blew fans away with a great story and origin redesign that is now considered to be the only Flash origin. With a Flash fever gripping readership the corporate higher ups wanted a big Flash event. Johns sat at his desk and then after several minutes began to pen the liquid gold that would be the Flashpoint script.

Alternate Realities


 

Flash had recently discovered an ability called the ‘speed force’ which gave him lots of new abilities and so Johns wanted to dig deep into how the character would react to such power. This lead to Barry using the speed force to time travel back to the past in an attempt to save his mother from her death. Barry managed this feat and then returned to the present to find himself in an alternative dimension. However, unlike many weaker alternative dimension storylines, this DCU was packed full of great characters and ‘what if?’ moments. We were introduced to a Thomas Wayne who had taken up the Bat-mantel I when his son had been killed in front of him and a warring version of Aquaman and Wonder Woman. It was a fun and vibrant universe that then lead to the Flash having to correct himself and allow his mother to die in an emotional climax you could find in few other books. The fallout carved the path for the new 52 and a completely different DC Universe.

A Flash In The Pan


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I searched across a lot of websites in preparation for this article and so I can say with absolutely certainty that Flashpoint has never received a one-star or below rating on Amazon and only 1% of readers from Goodreads gave it one-star or below. That’s better a better record than industry classics such as Watchmen or the Killing Joke. There are a lot of reasons for this of course, less people have read Flashpoint than either of those greats for example, but I think a main reason is that Johns manages to nail the emotional heart of the situation. In the main book we get all the set up and pay off needed for both the Barry Allen and Thomas Wayne arcs which is a sign of great writing. The sales of the time show Flashpoint selling out and topping the charts at release. This was a success in all directions and it didn’t stop there.

The Rise Of The New 52


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This book showed that comics can be crazy and play with high concept sci-fi, without resorting to the grim-dark ultra violence of the nineties scene. It heralded a new age over at DC where characters could undergo vast redesigns or backstory shifts, such as Snyder’s Swamp Thing or Azzarello’s Wonder Woman, as long as the plot was tied to great writing. It created a shift in the industry and left ripples that we are still feeling today with events like Secret Wars and Rebirth. This is a modern classic with a brilliant legacy to leave. Join me next time when I will be looking at The Walking Dead and how Image comics used a zombie apocalypse soap opera to rise from the dead.

…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Saturday for a new BearSleuth Spoiler Free Comic Book Bundle!!!

Comic History 101: Siege

In 2009 the Marvel Universe was a terrifying place. Secret War had dissolved trust between the heroes and Shield in 2005. The Avengers had been broken and then reforged into a more dysfunctional team across Avengers Disassembled and New Avengers. House of M hit in late 2005 and the universe lost almost all of the mutants. Then Civil War came and turned the heroes against each other, only to be followed by World War Hulk and Secret Invasion which left the entire Marvel Universe in tatters with most heroes underground and Norman Osborn at the helm. Under Editor-in-chief Joe Quesada everything had changed and now it was time to put it back, or at least a push in the right direction so that Joe could hang the keys of the universe over. Quesada went to Brian Michael Bendis one last time and asked the writer to pull out all the stops, to make this the comic book equivalent of 4 of July fireworks. With this brief Bendis went insane and created one of the greatest events in the history of Marvel Comics.

The Grand Finale


In Civil War we had witnesses a war between heroes, in Secret Invasion it was a war between heroes and aliens, same again with Planet Hulk except the aliens had Hulk so there was only one natural step left. In Siege Norman Osborn declared war on Asgard, which due to a variety of interesting circumstances was flying over Oklahoma, he would break Thor and any other god that stood in his way and his Dark Avengers would make short work of any hero who choose to help defend the gods. In the early phases of the battle Osborn struck quickly with the Sentry, who turned out to be an incredibly powerful being called the Void, and took down Thor on national television. However, instead of breaking down any resistance to Osborn this galvanised his opponents, bringing together the Avengers, Secret Warriors, Young Avengers and several other smaller factions into a tight fighting unit under the guidance of not one but two Captain Americas. The third act played out about how you would expect, with a huge battle raging across the halls of Asgard and the heroes eventually emerging victorious.

The Dawning Of A New Age


When it comes to reception, Siege got very mixed reviews when it hit shelves. While a lot of people really liked the actual event it represented the undoing of a lot of great events and history in the Marvel Universe, the final scenes showed the super human registration act being thrown out which undid most of Civil War. I feel that the aftermath was a necessity but I do also agreed that it could have been handled better, however, the way the event plays out is fantastic. The book still sold extremely well and most review sites pitch it at the 4/5 mark and while this event is rarely talked about as the best it still holds up for me and I think you could make a case for it being as good as World War Hulk or Secret Invasion. This was the end of an era but it was also the birth of the ‘Heroic Age’ which would take Marvel to new heights! Join me next time on Comic History 101 when I will be looking at the other side of the aisle with Flashpoint and the Rebirth of the DC Universe.

…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Saturday for a new BearSleuth Spoiler Free Comic Book Bundle!!!

Comic History 101: Secret Invasion

It’s 2008 and you’re Brian Michael Bendis and a few years ago you witnessed Mark Millar change the Marvel Universe for ever with Civil War. A couple of years before Civil War you managed to terraform the Marvel landscape with House Of M, an event that would continue to have repercussions all the way through to 2016. You’re editor walks into you’re office, smacks his hand on your desk and says ‘Brain, I want you to rock the world again!’ You pause. After a few tense seconds of internal deliberation you look up and stare your editor square in the eye and give him a two word response. ‘Fuck yeah’.

Tough Act To Follow


Whether that’s exactly how it happened I’m not entirely sure and I wouldn’t like to speculate too much but I am pretty sure that scene, or something similar must have played out in early 2008. It was another great moment in the world of comics and it resulted in a great piece of writer from one of the industry’s strongest workhorses. After Mark Millar had examined the fears of the patriot act and post 9/11 security paranoia, there was a lot of expectation on another Marvel event to bring a new level of introspection to the table and Bendis was more than happy to deliver.

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Comic History 101: Gotham Central

There are a lot of sad stories in every medium and genre. Opportunities where true greatness could have come through but was unrecognised. Critics or general audiences take a book or film or piece of art and shoot it down because it is too experimental or doesn’t fit with the mainstream of the time. Gotham Central is one of these stories as it is a series that both saw wide acclaim in its critical reception and a devastating lack of sales. This is a series which had real potential but unfortunately didn’t quite make the break and for that it is simply fascinating to talk about.

Working day and night


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In March 2001 Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker worked together on a Batman crossover entitled ‘Officer Down’ in which Commissioner Gordon was shot by an unknown assailant. The crossover was fairly successful and the two writers found that they enjoyed working alongside one and other. This led them to bounce around a few ideas and eventually pitch a series looking at the cops of Gotham. Gotham Central. The interesting aspect of the piece came from Rucka and Brubaker’s decision to split the writing and the characters so that Rucka would be writing the day shift and Brubaker would be writing for the night shift. This gave the two GCPD crews very different feels and created a series that could run two stories simultaneously.

Eisners and failure


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The series began to gain some critical acclaim as it worked with very human problems and gave a different view point on the world of Gotham. This led to an Eisner nominations for the series in 2003 for best new series, best writer (for both Rucka and Brubaker) and best penciller/inker. With these nominations also came the new that the series was beginning to fail. It was consistently struggling to place in the top 100 each month and seemed to be losing it following. While Brubaker is quoted as saying this never presented a danger of cancellation for the series, it was plain to see that the higher ups at DC did not consider the series to be beneficial to their bottom line and so they began to divert resources away from the project. Lark and Brubaker began to drift on to other projects and eventually Rucka decided to cancel the series after Infinite Crisis.

Lesson’s to be learned


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When looking into why the series struggled I’m honestly a little perplexed, most reviews seem to be pretty positive and even the slightly more negative ones have specific problems with certain characters instead of the overarching narrative. This book was one of the strongest DC were putting to the shelves at the time and my only thought is that there was either a deficiency in the marketing campaign. There can be an issue with more experimental titles finding their place in the industry but with the rise of companies such as Image I think this series would have be seen as a worthy competitor to the growing independent scene if it had hit shelves today. This is just a case of the right book at the wrong time and I am glad that I am able to share with you this hidden gem of a book. Next week I will be looking at Secret Invasion and how Marvel looked at post-9/11 fears.

…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Saturday for a new BearSleuth spoiler free comic book bundle!!!

Comic History 101: Batman Eternal

Some of the greatest pieces of comic history have come from experimentation, a creator pushing the medium one step further than ever before. Scott McCloud did this when he attempted the non-fiction genre in his book Understanding comics (which I will be covering very soon) and as recent as this week Mark Millar experimented by gathering together a group of amateurs for a brand new type of book. You can see it everywhere in our medium. Today I’m looking at one of those moments of great experimentation. Today I am looking at Batman Eternal and the rise of the weekly comic book system.

A Simpler Time


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If you jump back around twenty years in the comic industry you would find at the industry standard was monthly title release. Spider-Man would hit on the first Wednesday of the month then X-Men on the second, Avengers on the third and so on. Rinse and repeat. This allowed writers and artists to work with a fairly methodical pace and it spaced releases out so that readers could purchase pretty much every issue as long as they had a steady income. Then, as interest in comics waned toward the end of the nineties, the industry shifted. Both Marvel and DC decided to start releasing titles every two weeks. They changed how the writing and art teams were scheduled and they began to pump out slightly slimmer issues with speed. This swamped the market and resulted in readers losing interest in many monthly titles as there was just too much waiting for them to come out. Series such as Spider-Man and Batman, which ran bi-weekly, began to produce far more sales and profit. This led to 2014 when DC Comics announced they were going to step the game up a notch with Batman Eternal, a weekly Batman series. This was pure insanity.

Speedy Recovery


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There was only one man on the scene when it came to Batman in 2014, Scott Snyder, so it was only natural that DC put him in charge of making a weekly Batman series a reality. Snyder assembled a supporting team of writers and decided that each writer would work with one arc as a part of his main Batman story. The entire Batman family were drafted into the plot and Snyder began to pen a story revolving around the false imprisonment of Commissioner Gordon. This was a stroke of genius as it gave the book an epic feel and it let many of the creative team take breaks, easing pressure off each other, while also creating a spirt of one-upmanship. The final project was a yearlong, weekly, Batman story that will go down as one of the most ambitious successes in comic book history.

Influential Madman


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The series began to pick up a wide variety of positive reviews from many review platforms outside of the media, including IGN and USA Today. Fans split in two camps, some decrying the speed the comic was put out and the lack of pages in each issue while others enjoying the lack of wait time and the scope of the story. After a quick look through reviews the general consensus seems to be that the series is good not great but I think this overlooks the sheer achievement of Snyder and company. This achievement lead to a wider influence as DC commissioned another weekly series, Batman and Robin Eternal, while the wider industry began to look at following the organisation strategies laid down by Snyder. It’s my belief that Batman Eternal signalled a possible future of the industry with a push towards small bites of content at a higher rate and for that it deserves a place in comic history. Next week we will be looking at Gotham Central and how a normal person can still make a difference in a world of super heroes.

…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Friday for a new covert coot article!!!

Comic History 101: Superman: For Tomorrow

Sometimes the greats of the comic book world aren’t all that great. Sometimes a creator gets a good idea but something doesn’t quite work and other times everything works but the idea just doesn’t hold up. These project still deserve praise and, with the aid of hindsight and study, we can learn from such projects. Today I want to take a moment to look at a story arc from 2004 that deserves a little more credit than it was ever given. Superman: For Tomorrow. This storyline saw Superman reach into some of the darkest parts of his being as he decided to leave the Earth by essentially committing suicide. It’s dark, harrowing and yet there is still an air of optimism. For me, this is a piece that shows the best of what a Superman comic can offer, a look through the steel visage of most powerful man on earth.

Living In The Shadow Of The Bat


 

Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee released Batman Hush in late 2002 to rave reviews as they through the Caped Crusader through a whirlwind adventure, pitching him against some of his greatest villains in ways we have never seen before. After the legacy and boost in sales Hush created the higher ups of DC, along with Azzarello and Lee, where keen to maintain the creative teams momentum so they set them with a new task, writing for Superman. At the time there had been two big Superman stories, one involving the disappearance of almost a million people including Lois Lane and another set around the idea of Superman creating a pocket dimension to save Earth in the event of a Krypton, except Superman had failed to save the million. When the story opens we see Superman discussing his failures and thoughts with a depressed, possibly suicidal, priest and for the first time we see the imperfect side of Clark, the scared Kansas farm boy unsure about his place in the universe.

Heaven Is A Place On Krypton


 

Azzarello decided to run with these ideas, setting up a scenario where Superman could give up his life on Earth and live in the pocket dimension with Lois and an alternate version of his Kryptonian family, in the closest science fiction equivalent to heaven. The trade off being that neither Superman or Clark Kent could revisit Earth. This created a two part story, the first half looking at Superman’s life and who he consulted when deciding whether to live or go. Most readers assumed that Superman would choose to stay, but after much deliberation, the man of Steel crosses over to his own personal heaven. This move was a big leap for the character and it lead to second half of the arc which dealt with Superman’s realisation that his pocket dimension, Metropia, was partly the work of General Zod and that he had been responsible for the vanishing event. When faced with a new foe Superman realises that he cannot give up the fight and eventually returns to Earth, with the victims of the vanishing in tow.  The majority of the arc is told from both Superman’s and the priest he visited at the beginning of the arc’s perspective giving both a grounded and epic point of view.

What Can We Learn?


 

Superman: For Tomorrow sold well, by all measures it was a commercial success and it even saw some critical acclaim, but compared to most of the series and arcs I have covered in this feature it was weak. I think this fault lay in the complexity of the arc, Azzarello pulls in every corner of Superman’s universe and it all just gets a little too silly. The arc also overstays it’s welcome, lasting maybe a few issues too long. But at the core of this piece is a good story that could really strike a chord with the right reader and, if it had been further streamlined, it had every bit of potential as any other arc I have examined. This is the ‘what if?’ tragedy of some comic book runs but I doubt I am the first to examine this series and I have no doubt a that it has gone in to inspire many current writers for the Man Of Steel! Next week I will be looking at World War Hulk and the day the Hulk finally snapped.

…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Friday for a new Covert Coot article!!!

Comic History 101: 1602

By BearSleuth

Neil Gaiman has always had an interesting relationship with the world of comics. In the days of the late eighties and nineties, Gaiman rocked the world with his first fully solo series, Sandman, and then he pretty much vanished from the industry, most likely to focus on other writing endeavours.  Then in 2001 Neil Gaiman found himself in the middle of one of the biggest lawsuits in comic book history as he attempted to fight for co-ownership rights to Miracle Man. The case is much too complicated to explain here but essentially Gaiman had to form a company, Marvels and Miracles, to clear up the ownership rights in the long term. Unfortunately, that company needed funding. However, Gaiman knew exactly how he wanted to fund his company, he would simply create a new bestselling comic book that would go on to change not only how people think about writing superheroes but also how people approach the medium as a whole. Gaiman would write 1602.

Neil Gaiman And 9/11


 

It did not take long for Joe Quesada, the new editor in chief at Marvel comics circa 2001, to approach Gaiman with the opportunity of writing his own series. Gaiman had showed off his writing chops recently and it was no secret that he was looking for a new project with a view to funding Marvels and Miracles. Early in 2001 Gaiman accepted the offer to write for Marvel comics, regardless of the fact that he had little to no idea what he would write for them, he asked to take some time to think of a story and Quesada was gracious in turn. Gaiman put the Marvel script on the back burner and continued to pursue some other creative endeavours. Then 9/11 happened and shook the world like never before. As comic books are one of the truly American Mediums the events of 9/11 had a profound effect on many aspects of the industry, including the writing of Neil Gaiman. Gaiman said that he wanted to write a new type of comic book, one without buildings crashing or guns firing, with this aim he began to think about how you could write a super hero story with less violence and conflict.

A Super Hero Story Unlike Any Other


 

Two years after its original inception, November 2003 saw Neil Gaiman’s 1602 hit shelves, there is really no way to adequately summarise the entire piece so my best advice is to go out and buy a copy. Essentially Gaiman decide to take ask the question ‘what if the Marvel heroes we know and love had popped up four hundred years earlier than they did  in the reign of King James?’ This question provoked a story of mystery and intrigued as Gaiman played Stan Lee to the entire Marvel Universe, working with almost every major hero and super team in a story spanning the globe across only eight issues. There was still fighting and combat but intrigued, political dialogue and fantastical powers took the forefront of the plot. The story ran with extreme speed and elegance, striking a chord with many readers the world over. When combine with the amazing art work of Andy Kubert and the Scott McKowen’s brilliant cover art, it’s no wonder that the series had a resonating impact.

The Legacy Of King James Reign


 

Upon release the series was received with extremely mixed reviews, with some reviewers simply branding it as an average ‘What if?’ storyline while others claimed it to be one of the greatest retellings of the Marvel Universe and yet others pronouncing it the worse comic of 2003. This was all down to Gaiman’s alternative approach which was a great departure from the norm of marvel Comics. Personally, I think this book is a modern classic for the industry but there are many that would disagree. Nevertheless, the book’s presence can be felt in many Marvel series on the shelves right now as there is certainly more of a place for books that place fighting in the background, whether that’s the quirky Patsy Walker A.K.A Hellcat or the Vision series I can’t stop plugging. Gaiman’s work left an impact on the industry, especially with Marvel comics, and for that alone his work deserves merit. Next week I’ll be looking at Superman For Tomorrow, the day that the Man Of Steel killed himself.

…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Friday for a new Covert Coot Article!!!

Comic History 101: Preacher

 

The nineties was a troubling time for the world of comics. Frank Miller and Alan Moore had begun to move the medium the closest it had ever been to the mainstream. They inserted grit and gore into what had previously been seen as an immature medium and it struck a chord with readers. This in turn led to a scene filled with writers battling each other to be the most hard-core extreme comic book on the block. We saw Superman die, Spider-Man tackle the clone saga and Batman deal with heavy themes such as rape and the various psychosis attributed to his rogues gallery. With this background noise of gore and grit you would think it would be almost impossible to stand out with another book attempting to push the boundaries of taste. Not for Garth Ennis.

Porn, Priests And Philosophy


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