Book Review and My Take On-Scarred:The True Story of How I Escaped NXIVM, the Cult that Bound My Life

All that Sarah Edmondson wanted to do was self-improve as a human being and help others along the path. An aspiring actress from Vancouver, Canada, she was educated on self-improvement by her parents. And while she was struggling to get acting gigs, she came across an organization that seemed to align with her self-improvement mantra. That organization was NXIVM.

However, after 12 years of being a part of an organization that was aimed at changing the world, Sarah realized that she was living in a nightmare after she was branded (with a cauterizing pen) on her pelvic area with the initials of the Keith Raniere, the founder of NXIVM. And it is in the book, How I Escaped NXIVM, the Cult that Bound My Life, she tells a story of her ordeal and her eventual emancipation from a cult.

After reading this book, I often forgot that I was reading a book. It was almost like reading a letter from a friend.  And that was what I enjoyed about the book. I saw that Sarah’s writing voice is like that of someone genuinely writing to the reader. It is very personable and relatable. The writing style is used by Sarah is a mixture of questioning, since she was a part of a cult that turned out to be an organization aimed at sex trafficking, and imagery, since it showed many person-to-person interactions with family, friends, and loved ones.

As Sarah writes, it seems like she is warning the reader of what can happen if someone ends up walking into a cult by explaining her joys and horrors while in NXIVM. One of those joys being that she thought she found her purpose in life after struggling as an actress and found love. However, the horrors she experienced were NXVIM pulling her away from her family, being told to strip naked for a photo, providing collateral (in the form of false damaging information about her), and her eventual branding.

There is one thing that got me to almost say “Thank you!” aloud while I was reading the book (thankfully, I just said thank you in my head). It was the part where she beautifully, and somewhat hilariously, described Vanguard (the name NXVIM members called Rainiere) himself. One of the ways Edmondson described Raniere was that he talked in a way that reminded her of “word salad.” Word salad, according the Merriam Webster dictionary means “a string of empty, inchorent, unintelligible, or nonsensical words or comments. Before reading Scarred, I saw one of Rainiere’s conversations with Smallville actress, Allison Mack and I could barely keep up with what he was saying. I wondered if he was just trying to sound intelligent. Or was he just pontificating his opinions on the state of acting in a way that didn’t make any sense or perhaps to mind trick Allison Mack. Just check out that conversation here and you be the judge.

When her breaking point starts, we also see Sarah and her friend, Mark Vicente question Rainiere. Raineire was praised by many as one of the worlds smartest men and that he was a Judo champion, an excellent pianist, and among other accolades. Sarah and Mark questioned if Raineire really did accomplish those things. And if he really was smart, how come he lost so much money in the stock market? Money that he was given by Sara and Clare Bronfman, two heiress to Seagram Company and also a part of Rainere’s inner circle who would later get arrested along with Rainiere and Mack.

Another person that Sarah wrote a lot about was Lauren Salzman, the daughter of top NXIVM executive Nancy Salzman and also a member of Raniere’s inner circle. Sarah wrote that she saw her as an instant friend. Sarah was so close to Lauren that she made her a godmother to her newborn son and she was the maid of honor in her wedding. But when Lauren introduces Sarah to the women sorority DOS, an acronym for Dominus Obsequious Sororium (Latin term that translates to Master Over Slave Women), that was what led to the breaking point. To me, Salzman is seen as somewhat of a foil to Sarah. Even after Lauren had her strip naked, provide her with collateral (one that could damage her reputation), and get branded, it can be seen by Sarah’s writing that she hopes for Lauren to find peace and even seems to have started to forgive her.

In addition to reading this book, I have been following the NXVIM story for sometime through watching documentaries and reading Frank Parlato’s blog, The Frank Report. One of the things that got me interested in this story was Allison Mack’s involvement. As a Superman and Smallville fan, I was flabbergasted and I felt betrayed. I admired Allison Mack who beautifully played the intrepid and dauntless Chloe Sullivan, friend and confidant to Tom Welling’s Clark Kent. As I watch reruns of Smallville, I saw that Chloe was a reliable friend and someone who would go to bat for Clark. Perhaps, Allison went to bat for Raniere, a real-life supervillain that would make Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex Luthor seem like a choirboy.

I didn’t want to believe that it was Mack that joined DOS and was responsible for carrying out Raniere’s disgusting mission but, it was her. I even had a crush on her but after finding out what she did, I felt repulsed. In a sense, this was almost like a warped real-life episode of Smallville. I could picture poor Clark finding out that his friend did something so terrible and against everything they stood and fought for. Its very safe to say how Clark would react because, I can tell you how I was feeling when I first learned the news.

Years ago in Los Angeles, I almost joined an organization similar to NXIVM but, I left at the very last second due to them trying to pressure me into purchasing one of their self-help curriculums which was a whooping $800 USD (Probably as cheap as rent would get in Westside Los Angeles). And after seeing Sarah’s account on an interview with ABC News, I feel that I might have dodged a bullet by not joining that organization and giving them my money.

This past Sunday, I spoke to my pastor about NXVIM since he knew I was reading the Scarred. We talked about just how easy it can be for anyone to get ensnared into a cult despite intention or emotional state.

Sarah Edmondson wanted to help herself and anyone out. Even when she she began to detox from NXIVM, she did just that by helping people find a way out and being the very person who helped put Rainiere behind bars. She became like a North Star to those who were lost in the dark. To me, she is more of a hero than Allison Mack. She was intrepid and said no to Rainiere despite the collateral that he and his NXIVM cronies had on her. And many people who once carried the NXVIM flag followed suit and all that culminated to the arrests of Mack and Rainere.

As someone who once admired Allison Mack, I hope that Mack find peace and rebuilds herself to be a better person.

I definitely hope to meet Sarah Edmondson one day and just tell her how brave she was. She is a real superhero and one that even Clark Kent would praise for her mission to help others and seek justice.

I see this book not only as a warning but as a healing for Sarah and many others who had to endure the hell and torment NXVIM had put them through.

This book taught me that even people with the best intentions can get mindtricked into something that is seemingly wholesome while in reality, sinister. I encourage anyone who is going through, or even suspects, a similar ordeal to read this book. You will learn about loving yourself, helping others, and forgiving yourself and others.

For those of you who are reading this, especially if you had went through the crap NXVIM dished out or something akin to it, please understand that you are not bad or evil. You are loved no matter what and to not be afraid to seek those who truly love you and want to help you. You have my support.

-Brian From Earth-16

sarah
Sarah Edmonson: Survivor and the Real Superhero of the Story

 

 

 

A Decade of Fun and Self-Discovery

As 2019 draws to a close, I look back and realize how grateful I am. I live with people who support me and my aspirations. I have a flexible job. I live in the greatest country on the planet, the United States of America. I am in good health despite having to deal with Von Hippel Lindau Syndrome. I have a roof on top of my head and food to put on the table. I also have this awesome growing side hustle I am doing that lets me blog, vlog, and talk about comic books. Despite many twists and turns, I have to say, the 2010s was a a crazy decade but one of fun and self-discovery.

In the 2010s, I slowly but gradually developed a visceral view of the man I was becoming. During the time when the economy was in the crapper, and Justin Beiber was basically being seen and talked about as if he was the Second Coming, I wasn’t quite prepared for what this decade was going to throw at me. I was on a long road to self-acceptance, I was beginning to understand one of the true meanings of creative writing, I had to comprehend the trajectory of my purpose, experience living with a disease, meeting new people, trying new things,  moving to a different state, and learning self-love.

First off, I do not describe myself as an “Aspergian” or an “Austic” man. I see myself as someone who has to live with Aspergers or High Functioning Autism (HFA). I do not believe in the idea of labels. I am not Aspergers or Autism. Aspergers or Autism is not me. Some people who have Autism may not agree with me and may see themselves as an “Autistic” or “Aspergian” and that’s okay. I just don’t put the label before me. However, this notion has also gotten me to push aside that side of myself and even deny that I have Aspergers. I would barely tell even those who I was closest too outside my family that I had to deal with HFA. It was not until stress at my current job that the jig was up and I disclosed that I had autism. My disclosing was analagous to Superman revealing his identity in Brian Michael Bendis’ Superman #18. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life and looking back, I should have done the same in college. I write that because the people that I work with were very understanding and supportive. I have no doubt that my peers and creative writing professors back in UC Riverside would have been just as supportive if I really let them know about me. I do suspect that some could tell that there was something about me but I regretably hid that part of me.

I originally studied creative writing to help me get a career in journalism. However, I look back and I am starting to understand why the field gravitated towards me. I don’t think that it was neccesarily the career aspects that drawn me to it. It was that it was just fun to not only write but create a universe or a view of a universe through one’s lense. Creative writing has had helped me develop a vicarious view of other people’s lives and to remind myself to not see things in black and white. Plus, another reason I did it was because in my first year, several of my hallmates were doing it and they had such joy in their faces discusing many aspects of a story: characterization, plot, imagery, style, voice, theme etc. And I have enjoyed taking part of the workshops where I learned from both the professors and peers. However, that all ended around 2011 after I graduated.

As a result, I abandoned my creative aspirations and tried out careers in the education, medical, and financial fields due to not getting an opportunities in the journalism field. I wanted to work in a “real job”  and just make money. And because of that notion, all endeavors had ended with little to no success.

In the year 2011, I worked as a substitute instructional assistant for children with special needs. While the position was rewarding, I knew that I wanted to do something creative. Although I was promoted to a full-time instructional assistant in 2012, I did not last long in the position since it was not really for me and got let go. I was back on as a substitute but left around 2013 to move back with my family in Los Angeles. However, the most reward aspect of that experience was that it, along with watching Smallville (mentioned from a previos blog post), had positioned me to slowly helped me accept my autism.

While working as an instructional assistant, I also decided to pursue a career in the medical field by studying sonography. However, I had zero interest in the filed and I failed physics, which was a pre-requisite for the program.  Apparently, I did learn my lesson from my previous experience taking chemisty from my first year in college; I was legitimately not a science guy. While I was in physics, I paid very little attention and bombed two midterms. I did do some studying, but I was not getting the material. I ultimately did not take the final and abandoned the class on June 2013, the same time I left to go back home in Los Angeles.

After struggling financially, I took several computer programming courses and decided to get back into journalism. I eventually found a job working at a credit union which was emjoyable since it was near the beautiful beach of Santa Monica. As a result of that, I thought I could pursue a career in accounting. While I did manage to get an accounting job in addition to taking several courses, I ended up getting fired due to incompetence on the job.

It did not take me too long to rebound back to employment. I have gotten a new job which is the place I currently work at now and it has been a good experience. There is a great amount of customer service involved in this job but it has also helped me learn how to communicate well with others in a tactful and vicarious manner. The position is also great since it allows me to leave earlier than 5pm. As a result, I have enough time to do my side hustle and pursue freelance journalism.

Those experiences, although most have lead to failure have taught me that I am a creative and that I needed to realize that the world owes me nothing. It did not matter if someone was chosen over me to get a position, if I had all the qualifcations under the sun, or if I was not liked for who I am. Only I owe myself all the love and support that I need; the rest can (or doesn’t have to) fall into place.

There were other experiences that had me take a hard look at who I was becoming. Around 2014, I joined a Toastmasters in Santa Monica called Club 21. I learned a great deal about public speaking and also the importance of listening. It was there that I slowly started to embrace my creativity and a sense of myself. I learned that I was not afraid to go infront of a crowd and speak.

Another huge moment in this decade was learning that I also had a rare condition called Von Hippel Lindau Disease. This disease can cause tumors to develop on the eyes, brain, spinal cord, pancreas, kidneys, and reproductive organs. So far, I have had several surgeries but I have been doign very well. I have doctors that look at my case periodically to make sure that I am on track. I also learned a valuable lesson when it came to worrying about this diease from a brain surgeon. He told me that I need to focus more on my “why,” or my purpose. It made a lot of sense. My purpose, my reason for living should be my focus over even the seemingly scary things in life.

Moving to Arizona was one of the craziest things that happened to me in this decade. I didn’t think I would ever move out of California but I did. If I were to steal the Doctor’s TARDIS and go back in time to tell myself from 2010 that six year from that year, he would be moving to Arizona, he’d laugh his ass off. And that move was amazing. It was a scenic drive as my family and I drove through the desert from Los Angeles and through Riverside County. Other experiences included going on several stops for food. One funny experience involved my cat crapping in her travel carrier and me having to clean her up as well as the carrier.

After settling in Arizona, I have also learned about self-love and how integral it is to ones life. This goes back to accepting myself for who I am: a man who has Aspergers and Von Hippel Lindau Disease and yet is creative, gregarious, intelligent, and awesome (did I mention handsome to all you ladies out there? *Laughs!*) But yes, I have been learning how to love myself more by listening to myself and even learning to say “no” to some people. Even as a Christian, I had to understand that if I am to love God and Jesus most high, I need to also love myself because God made me.  And self-love also taught me to not blame others or anything else for my failures or mistakes. I am the reason for my failures and mistakes. No one else.  Furthermore, self-love reminds me to never look back into the past but learn from it and move on.

And this decade was also where I discovered how much love and passion I have for comic books, Star Wars, pro-wrestling, and anime. I eventually ended up going to my first comic convention in Los Angeles where I met Hayley Atwell, the actress who played Agent Peggy Carter from Captain America, and got her autograph. Three years after moving to Arizona, I started to go to Pheonix Fan Fusion where in 2019 this year, I met Ray Park who played Darth Maul, Amy Jo Johnson, who played Kimberly the Pink Ranger, and comic book writer Christopher Priest. Later that year, I also met actress and gamer Felicia Day.  My passion for comics made me start this very blog, the Earth-16 Comics Wire (Previously known as the Boy Wonder Press) and the Flashcast podcast with the DC Comics Geeks Nation.

In closing, This decade was an adventure and one I would never forget. It was a helluva decade. I’ve started to learn how to accept myself for who I am. I have no idea what the 2020s will bring but I am certain that it is going to be full of adventures and happenings worth writing about. Heres to a good decade to all in the multiverse!

 

-Brian From Earth-16

My Thoughts on the Candice Patton and J.R. Smith Controversy

I am a regular viewer of The Flash on the CW Network. Even before the show premiered in Fall 2014, I have read some comics in which the Flash was in. As a kid, I watched the 1990s Flash TV series starring John Wesley Shipp. When the CW announced that The Flash would return to the small screen, I was excited. A couple years after the show premiered, I joined the DC Comics Geeks Nation Podcast to run the Flashcast, a podcast dedicated to The Flash. As I watched the show, I became devoted to it and it’s characters as much as I did when I watched Smallville.

Ever since its inception, The Flash has gained so much buzz alongside comic book based shows like Arrow, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Gotham, and The Walking Dead to name a few. The Flash, along with Arrow, has also been a part of several crossovers. Notably, it has been a part of the live action adaptation of Crisis on Infinite Earths, a major DC Comics crossover event in which heroes and villains from various Earths in the multiverse congregate to fight an evil that threatens their existence. Crisis has been gettiing a lot of buzz, probably as much as Avengers: End Game. However, there is another crisis that has been getting a lot of buzz.

This crisis involves the alleged affair beteeen married NBA basketball player J.R. Smith and Candice Patton, the actress who plays Iris West-Allen, the wife of Barry Allen, the Flash.

The news hit around the beginning of this week and fans were obviously very shocked. I have to admit, I was having an myriad of emotions when I saw news of the alleged affair. I also saw the now infamous Instagram video in where Smth’s wife Jewel Harris prayed about the affair and her husband and Candice Patton. I talked to several of my co-hosts on the podcast who were also shocked. Then I began to give my two cents on the situation. However my two cents became a little judgmental which made me decide to write this piece. I am writing this piece to advise you to not judge Candice Patton, J.R. Smith, or Jewel Harris for their actions.

We may be fans of The Flash or the NBA but that does not give us the right to cast stones on these three people who are human beings. They are no different than we are except their bank account. They eat, breathe, crap, work, sleep, repeat just like we do. They are human.

Candice Patton fell for a married man who somehow charmed her. Evidence of this was from several Instagram pictures that show Smith walking her puppy and with just him and her. However, to judge her for this would be wrong. Wrong because we do not know what was going on in her head or her heart. Maybe she was mind tricked? Maybe she wanted to break up a marriage? We don’t know.

Jewel Harris took to Instagram to pray about what happened. Some people praised her for praying. Others bashed her for doing a public prayer and Bible thumped her by saying that she should do the prayer in private. Whether she prays in public or private is her prerogative. As a Christian, I can say that the people who are bashing her are not God. If she prays on Instagram, great! It’s a free country and it is none of our business.

And for J.R. Smith? I am definitely not going to judge his character. However, I will write this. I feel that if someone that I swore to be with for the rest of my life cheated on me, I would want to end that union immediately. If the cheating allegations are true as Jewel Harris says, then she should divorce Smith and go after his money. Smith is going to have to learn from his mistake not as NBA star J.R. Smith but as J.R. Smith the man.

Now I am in no way sugar coating this issue. What transpired this past week was not okay for anyone involved. Jewel Harris made a good point when she said that she, her husband and Candice were all hurting. I think that another take away from this is that we as humans make mistakes.

Yours truly has made a lot of mistakes. You have made mistakes. The people we look up to have made mistakes. Not too long ago, The Flash himself Grant Gustin got kicked off an airplane for vaping. It wasn’t right but he made a mistake and owned up to it. Hulk Hogan uttered the N-Word and had to pay for it greatly by getting stripped of his WWE contract and Hall of Fame status until he got it back last year. And mistakes make us reflect on what we can do different.

Instead of judging Candice Patton, J.R. Smith, and Jewel Harris, we should hope and pray that they learn from their mistakes. We are all human and well all make mistakes. Its okay.

And in the words of Jay Garrick, the Flash of Earth-2 (Earth-3 in the Arrowverse), we can only learn from our mistakes and go forward.

Jewel-Harris-J.R.-Smith
JR Smith and Jewel Harrris

Veteran’s Day Review/Tribute: Superman Up In the Sky #3 Story-Just A Little Farther

Superman Up In the Sky#3-Just A Little Farther

Writer: Tom King

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Artist: Andy Kubert

I have always enjoyed the stories my Grandma had told me about my Grandad. I never met him but he was a hero who answered the call to enlist in the United States Army during World War II. Grandma also told me that Grandad fought in the Battle of the Bulge which was a huge battle that escalated the end of the War in Europe.

Sometimes, I tell people that Grandad was Captain America. When doing so, people often give me funny expressions and I just smile. I tell them what my Grandma told me: he fought in the war and returned a hero. Maybe my Grandma and her storytelling was why I love stories about heroes or superheroes. Heroes like Superman. Heroes like Captain America. Heroes like my Grandad.

But on this Veteran’s Day, as I think about Superman: Up in the Sky-Just A Little Further, I begin to wonder if Grandad was perhaps, Sgt. Rock? My mom told me a story where he had gotten shot at like any other soldier, seen many of his buddies die, and probably seen a whole lot of narly shit that only could be birthed from war. As Rock narrates his meeting with the guy in the red cape, he explains how “when you’re in the hurt of it, you don’t have time to think.” I am certain that Grandad thought the same thing after seeing the men he likely considered his brothers get hurt.

When I think of Just A Little Further, I think of two generations meeting in a time of uncertainty. I am also reminded of those stories my Grandma and Mom had told me. Now that I think about it, this story is similar to just that but with one of my favorite heroes added in it.

Just A Little Further is the meeting between a hero from the 21 century and a grizzled American soldier in the 20th century. It is a part of the Superman: Up in the Sky issue where Superman goes on a quest to find a young girl name Alice who was kidnapped by an unknown alien.

The very first scene of Further was moving. It showed Sgt. Rock carrying a knocked out Superman while shooting Nazis. A real bad ass drawing and one of my favorites next to Superman taking a green car and smashing it on a boulder in Action Comics #1 or Spider-Man saving a man on the cover of Amazing Fantasy #!5 (Just to name a few).

As Superman comes about, Rock asks who he is and where he is from. Superman response that he does not know who he is but that he is from Kansas. What is so funny in this comic is Rock calling the Man of Steel “Kansas” and gives him an army uniform to hide his costume and “long underwear” plus a pair of glasses.  The sargeant was probably thinking “who the hell says they are from Kansas and dresses like a circus person in a red cape?”  Nonetheless, Clark Kent becomes a memeber of Easy Company and takes part in the Company’s mission to take St. Ruth’s church.

What I enjoyed about this story is that Tom King wrote Sgt. Rock as this man who, despite obviously not having superpowers, is hellbent on completing the mission by going further. Rock even saves Clark’s life of several occassions until Clark becomes Superman again and helps out Sarge whoop some Nazi ass.

Tom King’s Rock narration had a lot of references to comic books and even Action Comics. I also loved how King wrote Rock and Superman being respectful toward each other as men and as heroes. Sarge’s narration of Clark telling him that he had read a lot about the war reminded me of my high school self reading a lot about the U.S. involvement in the war when wanting to learn what it was like for my Grandad. Another cool thing about the narration was when Rock said that he believed in the mantra of Truth, Justice, and the Amercian Way and that he also believed in Superman. The story ends with Rock bidding farwell to the Man of Steel, or Kansas and Superman thanks Sarge for saving the world.

To all the veterans, past and present (Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel and definitely Grandad), men and women, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, neices and nephews and also to Tom King (who served in the CIA)…this day is for you. Like Superman, I want to thank all of you for answering the call to fight for our country and for saving the world. You guys have a special place in my heart.

Thank You.

Happy Veteran’s Day

Review: Tales From the Dark Multiverse-The Death of Superman

Tales From the Dark Multiverse-The Death of Superman

Writer: Jeff Loveness

Pencils: Brad Walker

Inks: Drew Hennessy &Norm Rapmund

Colors: John Kalisz

Letters: Clayton Cowles

Cover: Lee Weeks & Brad Anderson

 

Warning Spoilers Ahead:

Could you imagine a love interest of your favorite superhero taking matters in her own hands after the death of the former? And when I mean take matters in her own hands, I am talking obtaining near cosmic powers that can potentially kill someone. Well, a Dark Multiverse version of Lois Lane has done just that in Tales of the Dark Multiverse :The Death of Superman.

There have been several comics or other mediums that depicted Clark Kent’s love interest as a Superwoman, In All-Star Superman, she temporarily had the same powers as Superman and fought crime alongside him. In Earth-3, Lois is an evil version of Superwoman who is the wife of Superman’s evil counterpart Ultraman. In the New-52, she was also Superwoman until Lana Lang took on the role. But in this twisted and dark Earth where the events of The Death of Superman play out, she does become a Superwoman but she takes it up a notch when she becomes the Eradicator after absorbing the powers from the Kryptonian Eradicator entity.

Jeff Loveness truly made the story that was penned by Dan Jurgens in a twisted dark story. I honestly did not see this twist coming but Loveness makes the reader understand why Lois had her reasons for becoming the Eradicator. He wrote a greiving, vulnerable, and angry Lois Lane hellbent and getting back at the world she felt let the love of her life down. At this point, we begin to see Lois’ gradual transition from the fearless journalist to a woman on edge.

Loveness also wrote Lois’ narration of the events in a poignant manner. In her nattation, Lois points out the hypocrisy of the Justice League when they are present at Superman’s funeral. She also notes that Luthor creating a golden statue of the Man of Steel would disgust Superman. What makes this sadder is that she is talking to Superman as if he were still alive and listening to her. She mentions that despite Superman having loved the world so much, the human race did not “try to be better.” We also see a scene where Lois is looking at Clark’s empty desk. Even more deep is the scene where Lois visits Martha Kent who has already become widowed after losing her husband Jonathan.

When Lois becomes the Eradicator (or EradiLois as I like to call her) she is more enrage and blood thirsty. Loveness writes a Lois who has no boundaries and is willing to protect the world by any means neccessary. Lois feeds the hungry, ends corruption, fights crime in a brutal and lethal manner which is very contrary to Superman’s less brutal method.

I also found the character of Tempus Fuginat very interesting. He is like a watcher of sorts who keeps track of the Mulitverse. His questioning on why the dark is growing and his lamenting of the light being warmth. Perhaps this is the allusion to the growing darkness within Lois as she grieves for Superman’s death. The use of Tempus at the beginning and the end of the comic was a great touch since he is used to question the darkness in the beginning and to justify it as a lesson in the ending.

In addition to Loveness’ writing, Brad Walker’s art also gave the Death of Superman story a dark twist. Lois’ Eradicator is drawn as a grieving and enraged Lois who is wearing Superman’s battle worn cape. The cape and House of El symbol, usually symbols of hope, are now symbols of loss. The Eradicator Lois is a complete 180 from the firebrand journalist we all know and love. The art used to depict Lois’ powers are more darker than the original Eradicator’s. And let not forget the coloring of the darkness metasizing onto the Multiverse as Tempus looks on. The darkness is a black and purple mesh that is enveloping the many Earths in all the Multiverse.

As a huge Superman fan, I enjoyed the story and it makes me want to read the Death of Superman. Reading a comic like Tales from the Dark Multiverse- Death of Superman has made me wonder if other love interest would have done the same exact thing Lois did. Could you imagine Mary Jane Watson going crazier beyond Superior Spider-Man (minus the body swap with Doc Ock) and killing the Green Goblin after Peter Parker dying? Or how about Princess Leia embracing the Dark Side and confronting her son Kylo Ren after Han Solo’s death. Or (for Image Comics fans), if Mark “Invincible” Grayson died and Atom Eve became Invincible and killed Thragg and all the Viltrumites. Or in the Walking Dead, after the death of Rick Grimes, Michonne killing Negan in full view in front of all the communities of Alexandria, Hilltop, and Kingdom looking on in horror?

It’s one thing for a hero to go bad when things get dark but a hero’s love interest going bad? That is a rather new crazy twist and Lois Lane sure pulled it off.

Review:Cyrus Perkins and the Haunted Taxi Cab

Cyrus Perkins and the Haunted Taxi Cab

Writer/Colorist/Letterer:Dave Dwonch

Artist:Anna Lencioni

Published by: Action Lab Comics

Cyrus Perkins and the Haunted Taxi Cab has got to be one of my favorite graphic novels I have read this year. I decided to give this graphic novel a shot and it did not disappoint, The story has crime, noir, and supernatural elements blended into it’s writing and its art which also evokes emotion.

The story starts off with the titular protagonist Cyrus Perkins, a taxi cab driver living in New York City, who is driving a fatally injured teenage boy to the hospital. The boy reveals himself to be name Michael Bernbaum. Before Cyrus’ fateful meeting with Michael, he is seen to not like his job as a taxi driver due to dealing with the same passengers.

Cyrus’ life begins to change when he takes Michael to the hospital only for the latter to die in his car. He feels remorse for not saving Michael and as a result, he doesn’t drive the cab for a month. However, his girlfriend Iris and his boss urge him to go back to work. Cyrus eventually drives his cab again and seems to have gotten over Michael’s death. That is until Michael’s ghost appears.

Cyrus learned that Michael does not remember how he died nor does he remember anything about himself. Michael’s spectre also reveals that the reason why he has not crossed over was that he seems “tethered” to the taxi cab that he died in. It is here where Cyrus decides to help figure why Michael was killed.

Cyrus’ mission to find out how Michael, or Mikey as many of his loved ones called him, died leads him to many of Michael’s loved ones and friends. The scene with Michael’s mother kicks off the start of Cyru’s investigation. This was an abovious emotional scene as we learn that Michael, while a good kid and an 4.0 student, started to go on a sownward spiral after his father passed away. The investigation also leads to seeing several of Michael’s friends from his prep school.

Cyrus’ quest to solve the mystery behind Michael’s death makes him quite a detective. In every interview he has with several people, he gets a new lead. A notable scene where this happened when Cyrus interviews Michael’s friend Samuel and Chad.  Samuel blurts out that a girl name Hayley liked Michael which gives Cyrus a new lead and leads him to interview the girl who not only reveals that she had feelings for Michael but also advises Cyrus to find Chad’s brother Mitch.

The character of Cyrus Perkins reminds me almost of the social worker Chandler Jerell, Eddie Murpy’s character from the move The Golden Child. Both characters are taken out of their day-to-day and tasked with helping adolescents while dealing with the supernatural. Both characters’ careers also further their mission. Chandler’s career as a social worker leads him into helping the Golden Child and Cyrus’ career as a taxi driver leads him to gaining leads into solving the murder of Michael.

Cyrus also has a lot of wisdom that sometime makes him look as if he does not practice what he preaches. There is a scene where Michael tells a passanger, who is complaining about a relative, that people change. After getting the bad vibe from a the passanger who tried to kill his girlfriend. Michael reminds Cyrus of those words despite the latter refusing to get involved with stopping the crime. With Michael’s reminder, Cyrus eventually stops the crime by trying to talk down the passenger only to eventually knock him out after he does not listen to him.

Micahel “Mikey” Bernbaum’s character is a comic relief and a foil to the more grounded Cyrus. He acts more juvenile by making faces at several Cyrus’ passengers. However, Michael not only serves as a motivator for Cyrus to solve his murder but he is also a friend and confidant to the reluctant cabbie. When a passenger comes into the cab, Michael warns Cyrus that there is something odd about him and encourages him to stop the passenger. Cyrus follows the passener who is revealed to be a man about to kill his girlfriend. Cyrus stops the attempted murder and the passenger is arrested. We also see that Michael’s friendship with Cyrus is further solidifed when after`Mitch shoots Cyrus, the ghost has a resolve to save his life; simlar to how Cyrus tried to save his.

The characters of Samuel, Chad, and Mitch are seen as potential suspects. When we meet Samuel, he is a nerdy and overweight character who seems timid while Chad is more intimidating and snobbish. The comic did an awesome job by revealing that it was in fact, Samuel who killed Michael after he had the boy perform an satanic ritual and get possessed by a demon. Mitch was seen as a villain who really was not the villain after Cyrus’ figures out the real culprit behind Michael’s murder.

Another character that was interesting was the Claimer of Souls, a ghost-like character that poses as a male detective at the scene of the crime Cyrus stopped. The Claimer is a tall man in a tailored suit and he is seen as someone watching over Cyrus’ actions. The Claimer helps Michael get Cyrus to the hospital safe and sound. He also appears sitting inside Cyrus’ cab telling him that he is “here fo you.”

Cyrus’ girlfriend Iris is seen as a supporting character and a rock. She cares a lot for Cyrus’ well being, notably when he is grieving from Michael’s death. She also constantly reminds him to not smoke. Cyrus loves his girlfriend and muses that she sometimes sounds like his mother. Iris also appears to be either white or some other race while Cyrus is African-American which shows that Action Lab Comics embraces diversity (which I like).

Mors is another character that seemed interesting. We see her in the beginning of the comic speaking to Cyrus. She seems to be a character that offers wisdom to Cyrus involving his life with Iris and his well-being. There were some pages that made me wonder if in fact she and the Claimer are the same character or if she is somehow connected to him. Notable scenes are when Cyrus tells her that “every day is the same, Mors,” only for her to respond “Not today Cyrus” which foreshadows Cyrus’ fateful meeting with Micheal.  Another scene that further piqued my speculation was when she encourages Cyrus to open up to Iris about his ongoing investigation of Michael’s murder. After Cyrus thanks her for talking to him, Mors notes that maybe Iris will “tell you some of her secrets.”

Dave Dwonch has written an awesome story that shows that even a person, like Cyrus Perkins, who is dealing with the day-today can make a huge difference. Dwonch made an average joe cab driver into a bad ass slueth who is driven by empathy for those who are struggling like him.

The art done by Anna Lencioni was really awesome. It reminded me a lot of the Nickolodeon cartoon Danny Phantom, maybe because of the dark colors and the fact that this was a supernatural story. I liked how Micahel’s apparition was green or a teal color which, to me, symbolizes that he is not of the living. I also enjoyed the designs of the characters including Cyrus, Iris, the Claimer and many more.

If you guys have not read this book or if you need a break from the mainstream comics, this would be the book to read. I really enjoyed Cyrus Perkins and the Haunted Taxi Cab and I am looking forward to reading the sequel Cyrus Perkins and Death Brigade whenever it comes out.

Understanding Mike Bennett’s Decision to Ask for His Release From WWE

When we grow up, we all have dreams of being who we want to be. Growing up, my dreams had took on several forms. At first, I wanted to be a firefighter, then an archaeologist, then a teacher, and then I decided that I wanted to be a writer. As we reach adulthood, very few of us actually reach our goals. We begin to live the lie that our dreams are nothing more than dreams.

As Mickey Goldmill from the Rocky movies so eloquently puts it: we “become civilized!”

Fear kicks into overdrive when people from parents to other people outside our lives tell us that our dreams are ridiculous and to give them up before we suffer. We begin to put our dreams in the backbunner and we become realistic. Getting a “real job” or livng paycheck to paycheck becomes our dream while our creativity suffers for it.

One person who I feel is brave enough to express his angst with that sentiment of security over a dream is a pro-wrestler and WWE Superstar name Mike Bennett, also known as Mike Kanellis.

Today, Bennett did something brave and unprecedented of a WWE Superstar. He announced on social media that he asked for his release from WWE. From what I read from the post, Bennett did not say anything bad about the company. He only expressed frustration with not working “one day a week” which was “not going o cut it” for him. He noted that he only resigned with the WWE  because he though it was “best for my family, and maybe from a finanical standpoint it was.”

The one part of the post that caught me attention was when he mentioned the lack of work affecting his home life and family. Furthermore, he added that after battling drug addiction for four years, he had came to the epiphany that he wanted to work more wrestling matches and travel the world like he did when he was on the independent scene. Another part of the post that really hit me was the mention of wanting to be an example to his daughter of what it is like to earn a living doing what he loves rather than “collecting a pay check.”

What I read from this post is a man who wanted to do nothing more than become a pro-wrestler and entertain crowds.

And Mike Bennett, if you are reading this. I understand where you are coming from.

I too have been in too many situations where I have had to put my dreams on the back bunner due to financial security. Now don’t get me wrong, it is always good to earn gauranteed money but if you are not living your dream and you are working in a job that you don’t like or at the very least doens’t allow you to live your dream, then there’s something wrong. I’m currently in a job that allows me to leave early so that I could work on creative projects like this blog and go to evening writing or comic book events. I am very grateful for that job. However, in my previous job whch was at a civil service organization that must not be named (out of respect), it was the opposite. Like Mike, I was there just earning a paycheck and not happy but unlike Mike, I was not brave enough to get real with myself and tell my supervisor that I want to call it quits. Actually, the civil service job fired me and even though I was upset, deep down, I was free and my creativity was returning slowly but gradually.

Working in a job or place that does not align with your goals or mission can sap your creativity. It can also make you angry to the point where you may need to seek counseling.  I have Asperger’s Syndrome coupled with Anxiety. Every month, I make it an effort to see a counsellor while my family and my co-workers encourage me to embrace my Aspergers everyday. I still deal with some of the struggles but I know with dealing with it and having a great support system, I can learn to cope with it in a healthy way.

However, what is not okay is living paycheck to paycheck to the point where your mental and physical health is at risk. That’s how some otherwise healthy people end up getting cancer or some other sickness. This is because some people live in fear that they would end up in a bad place if they decided to attempt to live their dream. But there are some who look in the mirror and decide to seek help before its too late.

And Mike Bennett is doing a great job dealing with his struggles. As he mentioned in his post, he bravely fought drug addiction for four years and won. He won the battle not only for his wife, Maria Kanellis, his children, and his career, he won for him. This is a man who loves himself. Why else would he bravely ask for his release from one of the biggest wrestling companies in the world? Maybe he feels more comfortable working in the independent scene where he would have more opportunities and respect. If I had a promotion of my own, Bennett would be one of my top guys and his wife would be included.

I enjoyed his character the “Miracle” Mike Bennett in Impact Wrestling. The character was a scoundrel/swindler type with a suave personality that exuded confidence. Not to mention that thee character had the coolest taste in clothing: sneakers, a two-piece suit, with a fedora plus a gorgeous looking red head at his side…captial “A” awesome!  If Mike Bennett could pull it off, why couldn’t I? Maybe a certain girl I have a crush on might take notice…

But in all seriousness, I have a new respect for Mike Bennett for showing me what it is like for a man to love himself. I have been struggling with loving myself all these years until I decided to seek help and follow my goals at the behest of family and co-workers. Mike, if you are reading this, you have a fan and whereever you will go, I will follow your carreer because you have become one of the people to inspire me to love myself more and embrace my Aspergers.

I know wherever it is you go, you will be successful. Whether its here in the US, Europe, Japan, Sibera, Earth-2, the Moon, you’re going to be awesome.

I don’t know about anyone esle but, I can only speak for myself. Mike and Maria Bennett, I am right behind you peeps and I understand your reason to request your release from WWE.

Go on and live your dream and remember…never stop believing and fight and work for a better tomorrow!

Brian from Earth-16

Mike and Maria
Mike Bennet  and his wfe  Maria Kanellis. Credit: WWE