Friday, December 1, 2017

Paging Doctor Aphra

Doctor Aphra - TPB #1 "Aphra"

Kieron Gillen - writer
Kev Walker - artist

One of the more delightful surprises in my reading stack has been Doctor Aphra.  The recent incarnation of Star Wars comics have, overall, been good to excellent.  Marvel has put its full force of top quality writers and artists behind this corner of their comics division.  With Kieron Gillen writing and Kev Walker doing the art, you’d think that this would be a title that everyone is talking about but unfortunately it’s not getting the attention that it deserves.

The best way to describe Doctor Aphra is “a female Indiana Jones set in the Star Wars universe,” or “Tomb Raider in space with a sprinkle of Wookie dipped in the Dark Side.”  The titular character Doctor Aphra appeared as a supporting character in the revamped Star Wars and Darth Vader solo series.  She was hired / forced (depending on how you look at it) to work for Darth Vader.  After her role was complete, I didn’t think much would come of this character.

I put off reading the first trade, titled simply “Ahpra” (collects #1-6), for a while.  I enjoy the Star Wars books but when it comes to reading the offshoot titles, I’ll let them build up and go on a Star Wars binge.  This is when I’ll catch up on the Lando’s, Chewbacca’s, Princess Leah’s, etc. of the Star Wars universe.  Doctor Aphra was such a surprise because it is exciting, funny and expands on her own story.  

Taking place between during the time of the original trilogies, it’s a period we’re familiar with but Aphra’s story isn’t beholden to any of the plot points that sometimes traps the other character’s storylines.  We know where the likes of Luke, Leia, Vader, Solo… are heading but that’s not the case with the dear Doctor.  She’s even amassed her own rag tag crew of Triple-Zero and Beetee (the very evil versions of C-3PO and R2-D2) and the equally villainous Black Krrsantan (evil Chewbacca).  Mix in a few other familiar faces and her own family issues, Doctor Aphra is a great way to explore the universe and tell new stories not involving the Skywalker clan.  With the recent news that Disney is going to make new movies set in the Star Wars universe but are sans-Skywalker centric, this is hopefully the kind of adventures we can expect.    

@wkbear on Twitter 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

3 Good Reads / Must Buys

Eclipse (Image / Top Cow) #1-4

Zack Kaplan - writer
Giovanni Timpano - artist

For a newcomer, Zack Kaplan doesn’t waste any time.  Within the first four issue story arc, Kaplan’s got me hooked.  The premise of Eclipse is fairly simple but with artist Giovanni Timpano, they quickly drop you into this post-global warming hell-scape that Earth has turned into.  Oddly, Pitch Black has been on TV a lot lately and the basic premise of Eclipse reminds me of the failed idea of its sequel, Chronicles of Riddick which the sun is so dangerous everyone must find safety underground or at least in a secured covering during the day otherwise you’ll burn instantly.  

Instead of a convoluted (and poorly executed) attempt at a space opera, Kaplan uses this idea as a backdrop for a murder mystery.  Sprinkle in a little bit of a political thriller and you’ve got Eclipse.  Our main character is straight out of the Bruce Willis hero text book.  Put John McClane into an Armageddon spacesuit and you’ve got our hero.  

Add in the sci-fi element of our possible mystery villain who seems to be able to walk freely around during the flesh melting daylight, we’re ticking all the boxes.  There’s a chase scene, a fight, an assassination attempt, a damsel in distress, a rescue… you’ve got it all.  Again, this is all happening over the course of just four issues.  Trust me when I say, it all works.  I’m ready for the next arc and hopefully a little slower pace, even for one issue, so we can get more exposition on the world and the characters.  

The main thing I look for, especially with indy titles, is am I having fun reading this.  If you can take a brand new world, with new characters and have fun… you’ve got yourself a successful comic.  This is another BUY and Kaplan is a creator to watch.

Black Hammer (Dark Horse) #1-6

Jeff Lemire - writer
Dean Ormston - artist
Dave Stewart - colorist

Have you ever wondered what happened to a team of superheroes after an epic universe saving event?  What if the Justice League saved the world but was lost to a different reality?  Black Hammer tells the tale of a group of heroes lost with no way to return home after saving billions of lives.

Or so we are to believe…

Jeff Lemire (w) is telling a tale that could be a straight forward “fish out of water” take on a lost super team but my guess is that we’ve got a long way to go.  Not every hero that is lost seems to be cut from the Joseph Campbell hero’s journey.  Dean Ormston (a) and Dave Stewart’s (c) art sets just the right tone for a twist or two.  Everything about this book is off, just by a little bit, which I mean in a good way.  It seems that every “hero” has a secret or something to hide from their fellow castaways.  Some seem down right crazy and even until…well… they don’t.  With all this subterfuge we’re still learning key plot points and characteristics of each member.  Even the titular “character” Black Hammer is barely shown through the first six issues.  When we do get glimpses of their home world, the picture of who’s good and who may be evil becomes even less clear.

Lemire seems to be the guy who replaces “the guy” after a strong run on a series at Marvel (All-New Hawkeye / Old Man Logan / Moon Knight / Thanos) and DC (Animal Man / Justice League Dark / Green Arrow).  So far, Lemire continues if not surpasses the books he takes over.  His slow burn styles seems perfect for a crazy superhero mystery box series.  
Buy this book.  It’s an interesting story.  Even though the first arc is a tiny bit slow to unravel, it’s only because Lemire gives each character their chance to be weird and for the audience to get hooked in.  The story never bogs down and as soon as each issue was done, I was ready for the next one.  

Weirworld (Marvel)

- Secret Wars tie-in 
Jason Aaron - writer 
Mike Del Mundo - artist

- Trade #1
Sam Humphries - writer
Mike Del Mundo - artist

Two Trades, two totally crazy books.  The first reason to pick up these Trade Paperbacks is the art.  Del Mundo is one of the best cover artist over the last few years.  Now you get him for 12 full issues!

Del Mundo’s art is the only thing that connects the two books.  There are a few small connections and references that carry over from one book to the next but nothing of significance.  In fact, the second book stands alone better due to not being beholden to any other Marvel story AND just being batshit crazy.  While the first book is slightly better written and does reference the Secret Wars event that would eventually reboot the Marvel Universe, I enjoyed the second book more as a standalone story.  

Jason Aaron writes the first trade like an informal nod to a Marvel version of the Twilight Zone.  There are twists and turns and it’s not until the end when everything comes together and you realize what’s going on.

In the second Trade, Sam Humphries takes you on a completely wild ride around this crazy world.  What if I told you that the last chapter even contained homage to an old Tribe Called Quest song and album cover, and that would be the least “weird” thing that went on in this book?  Even as I describe the madness of this book, the second Trade is a more conventional story.  A girl finds herself lost in this world, she goes on a path to find home, gains friends and foes and the story concludes with a battle.  Imagine Wizard of Oz on acid.  

Both are definite reads.  Marvel cancelled the regular book but the initial story wraps up cleanly.  This is the kind of book that would have been a risk for Marvel to keep printing but done as an anthology series in which a new writer and artist could play in this sandbox for a six issue run would have been a fun ongoing series.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  But being a Marvel property for about 40 years, I wouldn’t count out a return by a new creator at some point.  

@wkbear on Twitter

DC Rebirths The Man of Tomorrow From The Ashes of Their Past

90% of The New 52 was crap.  I have long and short boxes filled with half read series and cancelled storylines.  Before The New 52, DC wasn’t doing much better.  Needless to say, if DC books were flying off the shelf and / or getting rave reviews they would not have felt the need to restart their entire DC universe.  

Before we go on, let me lay my cards out on the table.  You don’t need to be Mike McDermott to read me like KGB in order to tell that I’m not a fan of Superman.  No sir, I don’t like it.  Creating a compelling Superman story is one of the hardest jobs in comic book writing, if not in all of storytelling.  Don’t confuse the idea of Superman with the need of a good Superman story.  You can’t have DC without Superman, which makes him an even more daunting character to write. Superman is one of the world’s most recognizable symbols.  Every kid, even me, at one time wished he (or she, let’s be politically correct without shoehorning Wonder Woman in as a token) had the unlimited powers and strength of Superman.

And there lies the problem.  Essentially Superman is unbeatable.  In reality, any earthly problem could be resolved in a laser blink of an eye, a puff of frozen breath, a flick of his wrist or at the speed of a bullet.  With no apparent weakness, even the best of writers would inevitably lean on the same tropes; some new and unusual way to use Kryptonite (which for an element only found on an exploded dead planet lightyears away, seems to run abundant on earth…), an other worldly galactic enemy or a lack of exposure to a yellow sun (global warming couldn’t come soon enough for Supes) as being the only way to defeat The Man of Steel.  

There’s been some good Superman stories over the past few decades but it’s been few and far between for the main character in DC’s stable and a character that usually has no less than two solo books per month and is in various other team books.  Geoff Johns had two great arcs.  Grant Morrison ripped off a good 12 issue All-Star run.  Scott Snyder’s Superman Unchained was surprising good.  I might be one of the few to enjoy J. Michael Straczynski’s Superman: Earth One graphic novels.  In fact, the best part of The Death of Superman, was the aftermath and chaos that ensued when four separate characters all claimed to be “Superman” and the stories that unfolded.

How do you break the unbreakable?  How do you defeat… literally… The SUPERMAN?

DC Rebirth found a way.  Take his universe away from him.

On my regular monthly trip to my favorite comic book store (shoutout to Jud and crew @ Blastoff), I went through my pull list, checked out the various new books and Indy section.  Since the end of The New 52, I’d vowed to switch all DC pulls to Trade Paperbacks or Hard Covers only.  I wasn’t going to get caught up on monthly issues of a crap product, especially if they were going to now be putting out bi-weekly issues.  In the immortal words Roger Murtaugh, “I’m getting too old for this shit.”  Soon the new “DC Rebirth” Trades started to roll out.  I had read a few reviews online (as you are doing now) and was surprised to see more positive takes than in past years for many of the DC series.  I asked Jud, “So, is Superman still a complete shit show?”  Jud and I have known each other for years and our relationship extends into a personal friendship at this point (reason #1 to frequent your local comic book store).  I know he’s much more of a Superman / DC fan than I am and he knows my feelings (or lack there of) in regards to Superman.  There’s no bullshit.  He’ll tell me if I’ll like something or not at this point.

Again, get up, get out and go to your local comic book store, run by comic book people.  

I was shocked at what his response was, “Buy it.”  Not only that, he referred me to Superman: Lois and Clark.  “Start with that and pick up Superman Vol. 1, trust me.”  I’ll never forget his tagline that really hooked me, “It’s OUR Superman.”  That got me interested.  Never did I think a Lois and Clark Trade would be good.  I thought is was some sort of retcon of the old TV series.  Dan Jurgens has been writing Superman forever so what possibly could he have to say?  But I trust Jud so I picked up both Trades, added it to the rest of my stack and went home.  

I build up my comics in runs and will read them in Trades or when I’ve collected full arcs of 6-12 issues.  I also like to flip between Marvel / DC / Indy books just so I don’t get board.  I couldn’t get Jud’s words out of my head.  Reluctantly and with no expectations I started to read Superman: Lois and Clark.  God damn, it was really good.  It took an old version of Superman and set him in a post-New 52 world where the young / hip Superman had just died.  Somehow this older version of Superman had been able to escape the collapse of his universe, bring Lois and their newborn child with them this new universe.  Not to spoil anything, but once the “new” Supes died, this wiser family oriented Clark Kent emerged from the shadows to take up the mantle of Superman, because the world always needs a Superman.  This time, he was a reluctant hero.  This Clark would much rather stay at home with his family but with great power comes great… sorry, wrong book but you know what I’m getting at.  

There were touches of Robert Kirkman’s Invincible within the relationship and growth of his son Jon.  Superman Rebirth #7 is probably the best single “bottle” issue example of the family’s new universe dynamic.  Writer Peter J. Tomasi has always been an underrated favorite of mine.  His work with artists Patrick Gleason and Doug Mahnke have been some of my favorite works even when DC was at it’s darkest (Superman #7’s art was by Jorge Jimenez).  You can find some of their combined and solo works on Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps and Batman & Robin if you want some solid overlooked gems from past years.   What DC has done is stressed the “man” part of SuperMAN.  He’s older and wiser than his younger, now dead, counterpart was.  He may have lost a step or two but he’s still Superman.  His drive to have a good relationship with Lois and raise a decent son is more important than the “threat of the week” that befalls earth.  No longer treated as an invulnerable god, this Superman has died before and fears it could happen again.  This Superman has lost everything except his wife and child and will do anything to protect them.  He’s more vulnerable, inside and out, than he’s ever been.

In the second Trade of the latest Superman series, we get a great storyline between Superman and his son, and Batman and his son Damien.  This Batman still doesn’t totally trust the man that took over the mantle from his former friend.  What they do have in common is that they both want to raise the next generation of heroes the right way, and be the true fathers that neither of them had.  Not inconsequentially, Jon and Damien now have their own series, Super Sons.

Dan Jurgens is still turning out a solid story in Action Comics.  It is a more broad comic that shows Superman interacting with the rest of the world, including a maybe / maybe not to be trusted version of Lex Luthor?

I’m now a recovering Superman hater.  While I’ve found great joy in these latest offering of The Man of Steel, I found myself increasingly angry at DC comics.  I’ve spent tons of money and too many hours slogging through reading hundreds of horrible Superman titles.  For years Superman has been a mess.  The New 52 reboot was a disaster.  Not even Grant Morrison could lay the groundwork for a solid series in his initial run on Action Comics a few years back.  This more simplified Superman story and motivation has proven to be exactly what the character needed.  I’m still shocked and couldn’t recommend starting with Superman: Lois and Clark and continuing with the Rebirth Superman series more.  


@wkbear on Twitter

Spider-Man: Miles Morales TPB #1 and #2 review

Do you remember when Ultimate Spider-Man first came out?  Not only was Brian Michael Bendis’ quick-witted Sorkin-esque-lite writing refreshing but also this new Spider-Man didn’t have decades of exposition to tip-toe through.  BMB has captured that again with Miles Morales.  This time he’s able to expand storylines and characters by having Spider-Man be a minority.  Additionally, Morales has a few new spider-powers to explore.  And the return of web-shooters is never bad.     

None of this is completely new.  Miles Morales comes from the Ultimate Universe when the Ultimate Peter Parker was killed off (spoiler alert, oops).  Morales quickly became a fan favorite of the Ultimate Universe and was one of the few characters to make the leap to the 616, post Secret Wars company reboot.  

None of this matters when sitting down to read this new series.  All you need to know is;
  • Miles Morales is a new Spider-Man still learning his powers
  • High School aged
  • Black (father) / Hispanic (mother) mix
  • His best friend is Ganke (yes, he knows Miles is Spider-Man)
  • And he’s already an Avenger
Okay, so that’s kinda a lot, but you’re ready to go.  

I’ve read all of the past Miles Morales stories, including his origin from the Ultimate Universe.  They're enjoyable if you want to go back and read them but you don’t need any of it to start enjoying this series.  

Best read in Trade form due to the occasional issue where nothing happens except character development.  As with most BMB stories, his writing is enjoyable, humorous and most importantly a quick read.  

So far, I really haven’t told you anything you probably don’t already know.  

The real standout, especially through the first Trade, is Sara Pichelli’s art.  With inking assists from Gaetano Carlucci and coloring by Justin Ponsor, the first trade is beautiful.  Pichelli’s ability to handle fast paced dialogue and then transition to double page splash action scenes is fantastic.  The second Trade’s main arc is handled by Nico Leon (art) and Marte Gracia with Rachelle Rosenberg (color), which provide a slight drop-off from Pichelli but still very high quality and a similar style.  

The main drawback is most of the second Trade is bogged down with a Civil War II crossover story.  Join the club Spidey.  I can’t totally rip Marvel for dragging this Spider-Man solo book into the Civil War II storyline when Spider-Man plays a huge roll in the Marvel event but these are definitely the weakest of the 10 issues covered in the two Trades.  There’re also two sub-plots involving Miles’ father and grandmother, the father seeming to be more important to the overall Marvel universe but the grandmother’s is probably the one BMB is more interested in telling and exploring, since it includes BMB staples Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.  To BMB credit, even these “lulls” are good reads and you get through them quickly.  In lesser hands, the subplots and Civil War II tie-in’s would be a mess.

My recommendation is a huge yes.  As someone who is 5+ years behind on all the Dan Slott, Peter Parker Spider-Man stories, this is a great way to jump in a Spidey book that very much is intertwined with the current Marvel Universe.  I hear great things about Slott’s Spider-Man but I haven’t taken the time and effort to get caught up with the Parker world.  Sometimes you just want a good awkward teenaged Spidey who’s just trying to get through school while becoming one of the most iconic superheroes ever.  With BMB and Miles Morales, you can get right in and have fun.

@wkbear on Twitter

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

BearCast : The Trial of Batman vs Superman

BEARcast - ShowCast 2016-04-04 Trial of BvS

The definitive “Trial of Batman vs Superman”.  Not a regular review or recap.  Rather we debate the merits of the movie.  The BearCast family chimes in with five different contributors we span the spectrum of opinions and takes.  This podcast is FULL OF SPOILERS.  The result is up to you, the audience.  Let us know what you think!! Enjoy.

Please check us out at and on iTunes and don't forget to Subscribe!  Also, don't forget to spread the word to friends, family and fans.

@wkbear on Twitter or email the show at to send in ideas and comments.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Drax #1 - 2015

Drax #1
CM Punk & Cullen Bunn (w)
Scott Hepburn (a)

Bare with me, I’ve got to shake some rust off these fingers…

I’d love to say that the reason that I’m reviewing Drax #1 is for some huge fondness for the character or that I just HAVE to read everything Cullen Bunn writes and / or Scott Hepburn draws, but let’s face it… the former WWE wrestler CM Punk is co-writer to this book and that’s the hook.  

One of my tenets of comic book reviews is for them not to take longer to read then it does to actually read the comic book.  1) It’s just a comic book review, 2) You really just want to know if the individual comic is worth the price of admission and 3) If the reviewer has so much to pontificate on any one issue, it probably means he or she wishes they could have written the comic book themselves.  

So let’s get the meat-n-potatoes out of the way… Is Drax #1 worth your $3.99?  


The art is very good.  I’m not familiar with Hepburn’s work but he has a good action style and is very sound with his hands and facial expressions (two easy tells if an artist is good or not).  Granted, there’re a lot of “fists” going on because this is a Drax book and the man was reborn to kill and fight but having said that, he draws a mean looking fist.  Drax and his fellow Guardians are fluid and express a nice emotional range.  He definitely has an attractive style, which now that I’ve gotten a taste, I’ll be interested to see what’s next.

Bunn’s writing in other books (most recently on Magneto, Sinestro and Lobo) has been surprisingly enjoyable.  It’s rare to have someone be able to write villains so prolifically and not use the same tropes.  This give me hope that Punk is getting the right tutelage.  

But you’re here for the main event.  How’s CM Punk’s writing?  I suppose its good.  His last offering was short but solid.  Punk recently wrote a short story in the latest Thor Annual.  Like Drax, it was a story about fighting.  As the old saying goes, write what you know.  He’s doing that and is being helped by a good team.  Since Drax is an ongoing series, we’ll be able to get a truer sense of his storytelling over the next few months.  The banter between the Guardians was decent but could use some work.

The book looks good and it is a “#1 issue” by a celebrity writer.  Buy it, try it and I’ll be back after six or more issues to evaluate a full arc.  So far, a good start.  


Friday, February 27, 2015

Rewind Theater: Shameless - season 1

From time to time a TV show, movie, book (who am I kidding, a book?), comic book, music or piece of pop culture gets lost in the shuffle.  There are only so many hours in the day and I have yet to perfect the art of never sleeping.  This is my chance to take a look back and see whether it was good or bad that I missed the boat the first time an item came around.  Today’s topic:

Shameless, (Showtime TV series) - Season 1

As you may have noticed, I like to rank things.  With its cast of characters and multiple storylines, Shameless lends itself perfectly to a Top 10 Characters Power Ranking each season.  I’ll keep the spoilers to a minimum until we get to the Rankings at which point all bets are off.  You’ve been apprised of the rules.  Enjoy…

Initial Take: 

I’ve been urged by many people to watch Shameless, no more so than by my girlfriend, who have been telling me that I will love the characters, the humor and just how screwed up the Gallagher family is.  The problem?  If I wanted to see broke people scrounging around, having life shit on them and wondering how they’ll make it through the day… I’ll just look in a mirror and save myself 50 minutes a week.  Nevertheless, I agreed to watch the first episode, if only to shut the old lady up and to see what all the fuss was about.

Now, if you people (YOU PEOPLE!?) would have just described the show better, I’d have been all-in since day one.  The log line should have just said, “A total smoke-show, and girl you’ve never seen before, Emmy Rossum is naked and screwing guys while William H Macy (one of the top five underrated actors) does WHM-things.”  I wouldn’t have waited this long to check it out.

Normally, I’m not a Showtime guy.  Aside from Masters of Sex (probably the MOST underrated show on TV) and the new Penny Dreadful (second season starts soon and the jury is still out), I find most of their shows enjoyable but formulaic once they get past the first season or two.  I know Weeds and Dexter have diehard followings and everyone assures me that as the seasons go on, the shows get better.  The key word there is SEASONS.  Breaking Bad wasn’t BREAKING BAD until halfway through the second season but the first year was only six episodes and I’d put the worst Breaking Bad episode up against the best Weeds / Dexter episode in a Pepsi Challenge any day.  If you want me to watch SEASONS before it gets a slot on my dance card, it better be “Awesome with a capital A, baby!” (sorry, it’s getting near NCAA tournament time - props to my man Dickie V!).

The first word I thought of while watching Shameless was “frenetic”.  From the storytelling to the directing to the writing, the show moves fast and furious.  It’s hard work keeping up with the Gallagher clan.  They cram more into six episodes than most series will do all year.  By the 12th and final episode, you’ve forgotten many of the smaller storylines that helped build the main characters.  This isn’t a throwing shade on Shameless because you know what other show does this, Game of Thrones.  Granted both are about dysfunctional families, I certainly wouldn’t put the two shows in the same league, ballpark or even sport.  But both take the same muscle memory to keep track of who’s who and what they’re up to.  The key is that the important arcs stay and the ones that don’t matter get resolved, usually with a fist or a drink.  It’s an excellent show, that once you’ve gotten your sea-legs and know who everyone is, every episode is very enjoyable.  The show burns through so much, so fast that you don’t have time to tire on any one plot.  Everyone is so beautifully fucked up on this show.

I present to you the Top 10 characters of Shameless - Season 1:

  1. Frank Gallagher (William H Macy) – Oddly, he’s not the “star” of this show but he’s the character and actor that keeps his foot on the gas of the show’s engine and makes up for the young cast’s inexperience.  The producers, writers and show runners were smart to fill in the more outrageous parts and storylines with veteran actors.  There’s no way that Frank would be a functioning, let alone accepted, person in society but WHM sells you to the fact that he’s still everyone’s best friend (even after screwing them all over at some point) and that he’s able to still fuck his way across town.  He’s William ‘fucking’ H Macy for christ sake.  When has he not been great?    
  2. Fiona Gallagher (Emmy Rossum) – Every time I would see Emmy Rossum on a Red Carpet event or in the gossip rags, I’d have no idea who she was but thought she was a cute girl.  Everyone would always say, “That’s the girl from Shameless.”   Okay, fine, but every show has some hot young girl on it, what makes her so special?  Maybe it’s because she can act the fuck out of some of the series most emotional sequences.  When she goes toe-to-toe with actors that have more experience than she is old, it’s Fiona that is the MVP.  There was one scene when the entire Gallagher clan confronts the mother who abandoned them years ago and it’s not WHM who carries the load but Rossum who does all the heavy lifting.  From happy to sad, from sober matriarch of the house to 21-year-old party girl, from looking like a crazed hungover homeless person to the sexiest woman in the room, Rossum can flip the switch and pull it off.  The oft overused term “revelation” is the only word that fits when talking about Rossum’s performance.  She’s as good as advertised.  Oh, and did I mention she’s SUPER fucking hot.  That’s never a bad thing.  My only gripe is that she could work on her Windy City accent.  She sounds like she’s from the Bronx part of Chicago.  
  3. Phillip ‘Lip’ Gallagher (Jeremy Allen White) – This is the guy everyone who knows me said that I would love.  I’d never heard of this actor before.  At first glance he’s odd looking and didn’t seem all that interesting.  Well… everyone was right.  Lip is the shit and I love him.  At times I worried that he’d fall into the trap of being the reluctant genius and Shameless would repeat tropes that we’ve seen before.  It’s hard to avoid a few threads of that archetype in Lip’s storylines but White and the writers do a great job of always making you feel there are 1,000 unspoken thoughts running through is mind while he’s silently staring though someone or off into space.  The show runs through these tropes, not around them.  It would be easy to repeat a theme like Prof. Gerald Lambeau wanting to “help” Will Hunting.  Unlike in Good Will Hunting, Lip doesn’t need to prove he’s the smartest guy in the room.  Although that could come from Lip being told / treated like he’s white trash vs Will being beaten and abandoned like trash.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Good Will Hunting.  This is the first time a “genius” character has been played like a regular human since Good Will Hunting.  White plays Lip as someone who embraces being smart and uses it to help people in need and of course if it can put money in his pocket, all the better.  Lately we get train wrecks like Scorpion on CBS (aka McPhee and The Nerd Herd) where they’re all a bit kooky but they have to tell you how smart they are every 10 minutes and each genius knows their exact rank on the MENSA pop charts.  
  4. Sheila Jackson (Joan Cusack) – We all know she can play the oddball character but Cusack takes it to the next level in Shameless.  As an agoraphobic, emotionally beaten down, sodomizing, BDSM and Food Network obsessed housewife, she’s the ying to Frank’s yang.  While not completely aware of the destructive consequences of allowing Frank into her house and bedroom, she’s also not completely stupid.  There isn’t a character on this show that doesn’t have their issues but Sheila is the one with the most sincere heart.  Even if that heart is locked inside a box of Martha Stewart brand dildos.  
  5. Debbie ‘Deb’ Gallagher (Emma Kenney) – I couldn’t stand Deb through the first few episodes but then you realize that she might be the most savvy Gallagher of them all.  For every glimpse we see that Deb is smarter and wiser beyond her years, we’re also reminded that she’s not even a teenager yet and cannot comprehend the emotional spectrum of the adult world where nothing is truly black or white.  
  6. Karen Jackson (Laura Wiggins) – Initially we’re to believe she’s the wholesome daughter of Sheila and Eddie Jackson, and friend to Lip, but it immediately becomes apparent that she might be more screwed up than any of the Gallaghers.  She will be remembered for two thing; 1) making every man run to to verify that she and her beautiful body are over 18 (because she too is naked… a lot) and 2) had one of the best throwaway lines by calling WHM’s character “Daddy Frank” after he takes residence with Sheila Jackson.  Just like Rossum, she isn’t just a pretty face.  She’s tasked as the centerpiece of the Jackson family in this first season.
  7. Steve / Jimmy Lishman (Justin Chatwin) – There’s an alternate universe where Justin Chatwin plays Jessie on Breaking Bad and Aaron Paul plays Steve / Jimmy.  The “Steve is really Jimmy” twist isn’t so much of a surprise but the fact that Shameless didn’t play it safe by making Jimmy’s family a cookie-cutter affluent family is.  We only see a glimpse of Jimmy’s family but as Steve / Jimmy put it, they’re the Gallaghers of north-side Chicago.  We’ve only scratched the surface on the Fiona & Steve / Jimmy relationship.  By the end of the first season, all you want is for Fiona to run off with Steve and leave the Gallagher tribe forever.  Alas, Fiona chooses family over passion.  The good news is that tells us this is not the last we see of Steve / Jimmy.  The bad news is that once you get past his charm, what dark secrets are we going to find and will they be yet another burden to Fiona.  But like the great romances of years gone by, such as Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano, all We want is to see them together.
  8. Veronica ‘V’ Fisher (Shanola Hampton) – As Fiona’s best friend and neighbor to the Gallagher family, V is also a jack-of-all-trades which includes being the purveyor of a fledgling online fetish porn website.  She’s also Fiona voice of reason but she would be wise to listen to her own advice at times.  
  9. Kevin ‘Kev’ Ball (Steve Howey) – V’s long time boyfriend is the only character with a steady job.  I supposed it’s easy to keep a job as a bartender in a town full of drunks.  I can’t tell if Steve Howey is the best actor on the show or the worst.  While he plays V’s big dumb boyfriend with the heart of gold during the day, he’s acts as the wise sage at the Alibi Bar where he is often seen taking confessionals from the likes of Frank and the other drunks at night.  He and V are the closest thing Shameless has to a stable relationship, which isn’t setting the bar high considering in the same episode in which Kev proposes to V, you find out he’s still married from a previous relationship.
  10. Ian Gallagher (Cameron Monaghan) – The Gallagher that wants to do right is also the Gallagher that has the most secrets.  He finds solace and purpose in the ROTC.  He’s got a job and doesn’t fool around with any girls.  He’s the well adjusted one, right?  NOPE.  He’s gay and is having sex in the freezer with his married Muslim boss.  He comes to an agreement with his best girlfriend, Mandy, that they’ll pretend to be a couple to hide each of their various indiscretions and have alibis for each other.  Let’s not forget in a weird twist of fate, the youngest Gallagher, Liam (who is black), turns out to actually be Frank’s son while Ian turns out NOT to be Frank’s biological son?  Yeah, don’t hurt yourself trying to wrap your brain around that, you’ve just got to watch.  Meanwhile, Mandy’s brothers and father are lunatics but in yet another strange twist, Mandy’s most lunatic brother, Mickey, is also a closeted homosexual.  While you see Ian slowly come out to a few of his family members, Mickey cannot afford the same luxury.  At the end of the day, The Gallaghers love each other no matter what.  Monaghan's acting isn’t on the level of some of the older cast members but I assume his skills grow as the show continues.

Honorable Mentions: 

Carl Gallagher (Ethan Cutkosky) – Other than Liam, Carl doesn’t really have much to do in the first season.  It took me a few shows to even realize who he was and that he was one of the Gallagher children.

Monica Gallagher (Chloe Webb) – The biological mother to all of the Gallagher children.  At first, I thought no matter how screwed up she was, the backstory of her leaving her family would make me feel sympathetic towards her.  It turns out she’s a cancer to this family and even with Frank as the sole parent, they’re much better off.  Her lesbian lover “Bob” has a few dark comedic moments (no pun intended).  Baby Liam isn’t winning an Emmy anytime soon but being dangled as a prop was much more dark than comedic.  I suppose you’re going to have to be a truly heinous person to out Shameless the Gallaghers.  Seeing her drive off couldn’t come soon enough.

Eddie Jackson (Joel Murray) – I’ll always love Joel Murray as George from One Crazy Summer.  It’s funny to see the circle of life in Hollywood because 30 years ago he was playing John Cusack’s best friend and now he’s Joan Cusack’s husband.  Maybe Hoops introduced them after their big win at the regatta race?  Wouldn’t it be great if Hoops is now a struggling comic book artist and is forced to move in with Sheila after his divorce from Cassandra?  Okay, if you’re reading this and understand the connections I’m making, you’re just as big of a loser as I am and we both need to get a life.  But seriously, it’s not like Hoops was going to move in with the Stork brothers and for sure Uncle Frank burned through all his radio call-in winnings by now, right… RIGHT?!

Well, that’s it for season 1.  I’m excited for season 2.  I’ll let you know how that goes.  Until next time…