Russ Pirozek, Fanbase Press Contributor

Russ Pirozek, Fanbase Press Contributor

In a new reality where the United States has sealed itself off from the rest of the world, we step into a “black box” America, one that has changed dramatically. New territories have emerged, new leaders have risen, and shocking and terrifying creatures have begun to roam the lands that so many once called home. With that in mind, seven people - handpicked for a diplomatic mission to save the world from a deadly virus - have made their way past the massive wall that keeps America away from everyone else, with results looking a bit mixed at the moment.

Over half a decade ago, several voice actors with limited connections to one another began playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons as a birthday present to one of the cast members. Years later, the game went from a way to relax and have fun to a live-streamed show to one of the most popular programs on the internet. With the podcast and stream in full swing and an animated series on the way, fans have been clamoring for the characters' stories that predated their game. Thanks to Dark Horse Comics, we've gotten just that with the second Vox Machina Origins series that explores the home of our talented cast. With this issue, we get to meet another familiar face from the Vox Machina we've come to know, love, and laugh at when they do stupid things. So, so many stupid things.

Described in its simplest terms as “Goth Jumanji,Die is several things all at once. It's a comic book series, a role-playing game, a comic series about a role-playing game, and - like more popular fare such as Dungeons & Dragons - Die is a way for those playing or reading to exorcise some of their demons through the guise of a fictional world. Though, tell that to the group of long-suffering adults who've found themselves trapped inside the tabletop game created by their friend.

It's been about a year and a half since the last release of Sex Criminals. Those who know the series are well aware of the ridiculous and somehow also very heartwarming tale of Jon and Suze, two people who are very flawed but have found love and a shared ability to stop time when they reach sexual climax. This premise, as bizarre as it is, has proven to have major staying power in being both relatable and hilarious. Many people in relationships have dealt with what Jon and Suze have: the fights, breaking up and getting back together, using your sexual time-stopping powers to rob banks, getting chased and attacked by the time-sex police . . . all the usual relationship quirks.

America is widely considered an odd place to live, especially to those who don't live within its borders. Undiscovered Country ups the ante with a speculative, future version of the United States that has locked off its borders, both figuratively and literally, with a massive wall that has made the land a black box, with no information about it going in or out.

In the world of science fiction comics, there are few creative teams that seem to do as much research and put as much effort into the accuracy of their work as Matt Hawkins. In his prior series, he's tackled the worlds of military weapons design and research and even designed utopias; each time, he not only gave readers an in-depth look into the fictional world through the lens of his characters, but through the additional "backmatter" included in his series, dubbed “Science Class.” The amount of content generated by Hawkins in the past several years is incredible, since he not only publishes his work through the Top Cow imprint of Image Comics, but he also runs the company as its president. Such a busy life could seemingly lead to little free time, but Hawkins' new series, The Clock, looks at the incredibly dangerous and deadly disease that is cancer for a fascinating, yet terrifying, new tale.

As the popularity of Critical Role rises, the Dungeons & Dragons-based actual play show and entertainment studio has been asked for more and more content relating to the heroes portrayed by the incredibly talented cast. Not a group to lose out on a chance to do something they obviously love, Critical Role has teamed for the last few years with Dark Horse Comics to produce stories based on their beloved group of idiot adventurers, Vox Machina. Since the streaming show of the Vox Machina campaign started well after the titular group began their journey, there are plenty of stories to share. With that, the stories contained within the Dark Horse Comics series are all based on what happened when the group met and started working together to become the saviors of Exandria. Now on its second chapter, Vox Machina: Origins focuses on a well-told story of the time they saved Grog from a mind control spell, thereby saving the realm from an untold evil.

In the opening issue of Undiscovered County, the series helmed by acclaimed writers Charles Soule and Scott Snyder, we saw a world completely changed. With the United States creating an isolationist society, the former world leader has become an dystopian nightmare that has been a virtual black box for decades, leading the rest of the world to wonder what has happened inside the walls of what America has become.

Despite its name, Safe Sex (SFSX) is not a series for the faint of heart, and while it has connections to other media, it stands all on its own. Described (by me, to others) as The Handmaid's Tale but for the misunderstood members of the kink and queer communities, SFSX is an opus of sex-positive and queer-focused storytelling, with an added theme of standing up against the tyranny that attempts to starve you of your freedoms and tamp down any urges that are viewed as unseemly.

I came upon this series' release in an unusual way: during a strange saga on comic book artist Ryan Stegman's podcast, Steg-Man and Friends. On the show, Stegman speaks with his friends in the industry, but an odd and hilarious drama began to unfold as real-life lawyer Charles Soule was a guest on the show, which eventually devolved into Soule taking over the show for a week himself. (Please listen; it's bizarre and wonderful.) He had Scott Snyder on as a guest to talk about this series and its impending release.

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