‘Commanders In Crisis #1’ review

So far on the site, I’ve only covered the big two in the comic industry, Marvel and DC Comics. However, there is a much wider world of larger-than-life characters coming from the other comic book companies, especially Image Comics. Image Comics is the largest publisher of creator-owned titles. Thus, it is no surprise that Steve Orlando, the writer of 2018’s Martian Manhunter mini-series for DC, has jumped over to Image to be released from the shackles of company-owned characters. What likely started out as a pitch for the Justice League of America, has turned into one of the more interesting new series to come out of Image this year. The first issue of Commanders In Crisis is a masterclass in how to introduce readers to a new team of colorful characters. Mild spoilers for Commanders In Crisis #1.

Commanders In Crisis introduces us to a world that is quite similar to our own. It has divisive politics, an increase in progressive viewpoints and time travelling super-powered maniacs. Okay, maybe not that last thing, but Commanders In Crisis seems to have a firm grasp on the political climate of not just the United States, where the comic is based in, but the world at large as well. This is best symbolized in how different each member of the comic’s premier superhero team, the Crisis Command, are from each other.

The Crisis Command battling supervillains in Commanders In Crisis #1

The Crisis Command consist of five members, each with unique skill sets and personalities, making them essential to the team. Frontier is the hyper-intelligent engineer of the group, designing their tech and aiding their missions from behind a screen. She acts as the eyes and ears of the team, alerting the team of potential threats.

Prizefighter seems to be the face of the group, likely due to his physical strength increasing due to the amount of praise he is receiving from bystanders during his heroic acts. It seems the true prize is the adoration he gets from his fans.

Seer, at first glance, appears to be nearly omnipotent due to her powerful telekinetic abilities. However, her powerful mind can not stop her physical body being drained due to overexerting herself. Luckily, Originator seems to make up for Seer’s weaknesses with her unknown magical abilities. While I hope Originator’s abilities are explained later in the story, I don’t mind being in the dark as the dynamic between the group is more important than exposition about their specific powers.

The last member of the group is Sawbones, who appears to be an expert combatant with goggles that enhance his eyesight. He may not be as smart as Frontier or Seer, but he knows his way around the human body and the quickest way to disable it. Sawbones is definitely not a hero you’d want to pick a fight in a dark alley with.

These heroes protect the Earth as it is the only home any of them have, defending it from various threats. Most of the enemies they face in this issue are small in scale, being a small group of enhanced opponents or a malicious potential serial killer. However, the team seem to think these threats appearing so close to each other is no mere coincidence.

Frontier answering a distress call from Prizefighter in Commanders In Crisis #1

Steve Orlando may be writing this story, but it is artist Davide Tinto and colorist Francesca Carotenuto who bring these characters to life and fill them with charm. I particularly love the costume designs for everyone, especially Frontier whose design is elegant yet blocky, giving it a futuristic mechanic feel. Many of the character’s designs are influenced by their respective backgrounds, with Prize Fighter’s looking like a mashup between a gladiator and a pro wrestler, Seer appearing like a goddess, Originator having a mythical middle-eastern look and Sawbones’ design being made up of military and tactical clothing. This along with the beautiful action panels displaying a large range of color give Commanders In Crisis a classic team-up book feel despite all of these fantastic characters being introduced within this issue.

Commanders In Crisis seems to be an excellent play on the many “Crisis” events that have occurred at DC over the years, while diving head first into modern politics. The characters are excellent and although I won’t talk about their backstories here, they have heavily intrigued me. It should also be noted that letterer Fabio Amelia did a brilliant job throughout this issue, especially during the Crisis Command’s introduction. I am curious to see how the creative team will use this bigger-than-the-universe threat the heroes might be facing. I cannot wait for the next issue.

Rating: 8.5/10

Buy the comic: https://www.comixology.com/Commanders-In-Crisis-1-of-12/digital-comic/881284?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC9pdGVtU2xpZGVy

Fewkes’ Fortunes: United States Men’s National Team

United States soccer has seen its successes but has also seen its many failures. No, I am not talking ab the U.S. women this time around; we are looking at the U.S. men, arguably one of the most disappointing countries when it comes to success in the World Cup tournament. The best finish that the USMNT (United States Men’s National Team) has had was in the 1930’s when they placed third. There were only 13 teams in the tournament.

Since then, we have seen a country that continues to disappoint at the world stage. A country that has seen legends like Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Brian McBride, Tim Howard, etc. rise and fall without the glory of holding the World Cup. We have come close on many occasions, only to have the sweet taste of world victory taken from us. We thought that 2010 could have been the year when Donovan scored the thriller counterattack goal against Algeria, only for the Yanks to be ousted by Ghana in the round of 16. There was even a span of time when during international friendlies, we beat Germany on our soil and the Netherlands on theirs. Was it possible that we were making a turn? The 2014 World Cup was the chance the U.S. needed with the group of death that no one thought us to make it out of. A win over our previous enemies in Ghana, a draw against Ronaldo’s Portugal and just a one-goal loss to the eventual champions, Germany. The U.S. looked primed to make a real run toward the World Cup Finals. But again the dreams were short lived and we lost in the round of 16 to Belgium when Tim Howard did everything he could with a 15-save performance. The woes go on.

Time to bounce back for 2018 right? Wrong. The U.S. were in the driver’s seat of their own destiny and they crashed the vehicle. After winning the 2017 Gold Cup over a strong Jamaican side, they ended qualifying by losing to Trinidad and Tobago, ultimately ruining their chances at the 2018 World Cup. This would be the first time that the United States would not be featured in the World Cup since 1986.

So the eventual “Golden Age” of American soccer had come and gone, or so we thought. While we were facing the disappointment of not qualifying for the World Cup, some young Americans began to take the world by storm. Some youngsters began making their names in the Bundesliga and even on the MLS stage. Young with the last names of Pulisic, McKennie, Sargeant, Adams, Morris and Steffen. These young Americans were putting their stamp on American soccer lore. These players would eventually start getting global attention for the threats that they could pose to not only the American neighbors in the North and the South, but to other countries around the world.

When the U.S. fell to Trinidad, these youngsters were on very different paths. Christian Pulisic was a winger for Borussia Dortmund. Weston McKennie was a defensive midfielder for Schalke. Tyler Adams was on his move from New York Red Bulls to RB Leipzig. Zack Steffen had just signed on to play for English giant, Manchester City. Jordan Morris was two years off of being named MLS Rookie of the Year. Just when the Red, White and Blue thought their hopes were gone, the youngsters said we are not going anywhere. But this was then, let’s look at now and the future.

Gone are the days of USMNT terrors, the new breed of Americans are ones to be feared. Pulisic currently finds himself holding the reins at Chelsea as their number 10. McKennie just made a big move going from Schalke and being their catalyst, to Italian giants, Juventus. That is right, an American playing with Cristiano Ronaldo. Another American teen, Sergino Dest, just made the toughest choice of his life and is now playing with Barcelona, alongside Lionel Messi. You are reading that right. Two Americans playing with the two greatest soccer players of all time. The future is bright but just how bright and what will this new potential pool of Americans look like? Let us take a look.

ESPN.com (https://www.espn.com/soccer/united-states-usa/story/4079205/usmnt-big-board-the-23-who-will-represent-the-us-at-qatar-2022) recently released what 23 players will represent for Gregg Berhalter’s 2022 World Cup squad. The squad could potentially look like the following:

  • Goalkeepers: Zack Steffen, Sean Johnson, Jesse Gonzalez
  • Defenders: Reggie Cannon, Matt Miazga, John Brooks, Sergino Dest, Miles Robinson, Tim Ream
  • Midfielders: Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Christian Pulisic, Sebastian Lleget, Paxton Pomykal, Gio Reyna, Paul Arriola, Brenden Aaronson, Jackson Yueill
  • Forward: Jordan Morris, Tim Weah, Josh Sargent, Ulysses Llanez, Jozy Altidore

Personally I think some changes could be made to this ESPN article. Maybe switch Gyasi Zardes with Llanez or Ream with Aaron Long. But let’s stick to what ESPN has for now. Here is what my ideal starting 11 would like for Qatar 2022.

Say what you will but the future of United States soccer is bright. Everyone supporting the Red, White and Blue may not have to fret much longer because better days are coming everyone. We have had to endure our hard times and decades of disappointment. But as Sirius Black said “I’ve done my waiting…” Waiting is something we will not have to do anymore. The trophy is close and if it is not this next World Cup, how appropriate would it be for us to get our first one in 2026 in the United States? We can dream, right?

Five Takeaways from the NBA Bubble

Photo via CBS Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers have just won the NBA Finals. They defeated the Miami Heat in a six-game series to win their 17th championship in franchise history. The two teams were in the bubble for a little over two months, an honorable feat in pursuit of completing this historic season. The Lakers were undeniably the best team, with their superstar duo of Lebron James and Anthony Davis, proving too much for the rest.

Now, as the season has just wrapped up, I thought I would look at some of the things the bubble taught us. Here are the five biggest takeaways I have gotten from watching the last two months of bubble basketball.

1. The Lakers are the best team in basketball, and they have zagged in a potentially league-altering way.

By winning the championship, the Lakers have established themselves as the model for NBA success. But how did they do it? By going against everything the last five years have taught us. They played a supersized lineup that struggled with three-point shooting, the staple of the recent champions in the NBA. While every other team was busy trying to copy the Golden State Warriors model of shooting and small ball, the Lakers went the other way. They started 6’10 Anthony Davis alongside a seven-foot center, with 6’8 LeBron running the point. They ranked 12th among the 16 playoff teams in three-point percentage. With this result, the rest of the team will be faced with a tough question. Are the Lakers the new model for success, or was this a fluky year during which the Warriors were simply out of contention? This will be a hard question to answer, but given the Lakers success, and the success of a team like the Denver Nuggets, whose best player is a center. I think we will see a bigger variance in strategy among NBA teams. Some will undoubtedly continue their pursuit of the Warriors model, but some will divert their efforts and model themselves after the supersized Lakers. This should lead to an interesting clash of strategical ideologies.

2. The bubble was an extreme circumstance that exacerbated both hard-working culture and chemistry flaws in certain teams.

This is a note about the bubble, so it won’t be something useful to take into the future, but it did reveal which teams have good culture and chemistry. In a normal year, the Los Angeles Clippers would probably have beaten the Denver Nuggets, but the bubble exposed their chemistry issues. The Milwaukee Bucks were similarly exposed. The teams known for continuity and culture, namely the Portland Trail Blazers, the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets, all outperformed expectations. This became a season where chemistry and culture were more important than ever, and this revealed the flaws in some teams, while revealing the strengths in others.

3. Young teams defied NBA history during successful bubble.

Throughout the history of the league, teams built with veterans almost always outperform young teams. This year’s playoffs flipped that narrative on its head. The Denver Nuggets made the conference finals led by two players in their mid to early 20’s. The Boston Celtics achieved the same, led by a 21-year-old Jayson Tatum. The Miami Heat made the Finals with Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, and Duncan Robinson playing key roles. The Lakers won it all with a veteran team, but they were the exception in this year’s postseason. What was the reason for this? Probably the fact that all these players had to focus on in the bubble was basketball, instead of temptations young players normally face. This whole bubble was also exhausting to the players, favoring those with younger legs. This is a trend that I don’t expect to carry into the future, but for this unique season, the historical dominance of veteran teams was completely reversed.

4. The team with the best player in the series rarely loses.

When I was making my series predictions, a common trope I fell back on was picking the team with the best player. Unfortunately, sometimes predicting which teams has the best player is just as difficult to project. In the Bucks/Heat series, it would seem reasonable to assume the league MVP would be the best player. However, due to matchups and play style, Jimmy Butler was the best player in that series, and his team ultimately won. There is definitely wisdom in picking the team with the best player, but the best player can change from series to series based on matchups, among other reasons. The Nuggets beat the Utah Jazz in the first round because Jamal Murray prevailed over Donovan Mitchell as the best player in the series. In the following round, the Nuggets beat the Clippers because Nikola Jokic was the best player. Moving forward, while leaning on the best player in the series argument almost always works, more thought will need to be given to projecting which player will be the best in that given series.

5. The West could be the best it has ever been next season.

This is a takeaway that became apparent during the seeding games, where the lowly Phoenix Suns went 8-0 and showed that they will be a threat in the West next season. But which team won’t be a threat? I would contend that all 15 teams will enter next season with playoff aspirations. The Sacramento Kings almost made the playoffs last year, had a good second half of this season and will hopefully be getting a full season of Marvin Bagley. The Minnesota Timberwolves have the number one pick in the draft, and will find out how the Karl-Anthony Towns/D’Angelo Russell pairing plays. The New Orleans Pelicans are a team on the rise, with a promising young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. The San Antonio Spurs always find a way to playoff contention. All of the perennially bad teams in the West have reason for optimism next season, and it will be fun to see whether the playoff mainstays remain at the top, or if we will be seeing a few new teams in the playoffs next season. Either way, the regular season will have much fewer games where the outcome seems settled from before the tip, and this should lead to a very competitive regular season, as well as postseason.